Continuing Tales

Back to Us

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

Part 32 of 37

<< Previous     Home     Next >>
Untitled Document

“Mayor Fantoche, it’s been a week since the attack on the leader of Akumatized Victims Anonymous. Do you still stand by your statements that you were acting purely in self-defense?”

“Absolutely,” said Mayor Fantoche, pulling a tragic face that was only partially sincere. “I only acted because I feared my life was in danger. I never meant to cause anyone harm.”

“Members of AVA claim that the attack was not provoked, and that you acted because you are a secret member of the Anti-Akuma Taskforce.”

“That’s preposterous!” Blustered the mayor, not catching the frown that passed across the deputy mayor’s face as she stood back from where he was holding his eighth press conference this week, off to the right. Felix, who could usually be found on the left of the mayor during these press conferences, was nowhere in sight on this occasion. “Like I have said time and time again, I only acted in self-defense! I regret that there has been, er, lasting damage due to my actions, but it was never my intention to hospitalize the poor girl! Trust me, I am not at fault here! You can even ask Ladybug, or any other member of Team Miraculous! They were there; they’ll tell you!”

Marinette exhaled sharply, pinching the bridge of her nose.

“Alya, turn that off. Please,” she growled, gesturing at the T.V. with her free hand. She saw Alya glance at her with raised eyebrows before doing what she was asked. The T.V. shut off with a click, and Marinette breathed a little easier. Just a little, though.

“Sorry: I didn’t realize the mayor pissed you off so much,” Alya said, rubbing Marinette’s back in comfort. Marinette huffed again and dropped her hands with a shake of her head.

“He didn’t used to…until this whole disaster happened.” She sighed again, glancing to the side. “Besides…it feels tasteless to watch him claim that he did nothing wrong while we’re here…”

Alix lay motionless in the hospital bed, looking so impossibly small. She had seemed larger than life lately, so it was almost a jolt for Marinette to remember that Alix was actually still pretty short. Of course, she would hate Marinette for stating the obvious…

…If she were awake, that is.

Marinette let out a quiet sigh. She found that she herself was longing for a lengthy slumber these days, one that would last a thousand years, if it meant she could avoid the stress of her real life…but looking at Alix’s still form as she lay unconscious and unaware made Marinette feel selfish. She was willing to bet that Alix would gladly change places with her right now, if only she could.

There was a soft grunt from across the bed. Marinette glanced up, but Kim slept on, slumped over at Alix’s bedside. It hurt Marinette’s heart when she noted that his pinky finger was linked with Alix’s, as if he couldn’t stand to not be linked to her, even while he dreamed.

“The nurses say he keeps putting up a fight when they tell him to leave,” Alya muttered softly to Marinette, leaning over in her chair to whisper into her best friend’s ear. “I get why he doesn’t want to: since Mr. Kubdel and Jalil are still in Egypt on their dig, I wouldn’t want to leave Alix by herself, either. But they say he hasn’t been eating much, either…it might not be long before he has to be hospitalized too, if he keeps acting like this.”

Marinette sighed. Poor Kim. Now she felt horrible about snarling at him to get out of her way that night. If only he had been closer when it happened…if only she had seen the attack coming…it was a mess of ‘if only’s bundled in one thorny patch of regret, but basically, everything just sucked right now.

Alya’s phone buzzed; she hastened to muffle the sound, and Marinette saw her cast a quick, anxious glance at Kim. But he didn’t stir, and Marinette and Alya sighed as one.

“Adrien’s on his way,” Alya said unexpectedly. Marinette blinked, turning to raise her eyebrows at her best friend.


“Mm-hm.” Alya slipped her phone back into the pocket of her jacket, raising a brow at Marinette. “Is your phone on silent? He said he’s been trying to get a hold of you…”

Curious now, Marinette fished out her own phone, and then noted with a cringe that he had been trying to get in touch with her, only for her not to notice, since her phone was on silent mode. Oops.

“Sorry,” Marinette muttered to her phone, resolving to apologize properly once Adrien got here. As she put it away again, she asked, “How about Nino? Is he coming?”

Alya turned to blink at Marinette, the blank expression on her face confusing Marinette.

“What?” She pressed, frowning in response to the furrowing of Alya’s eyebrows.

“Didn’t he tell you? Nino’s not in town right now.”

Marinette stared.

“Not in town…?”

“Bob Ross Records is taking him on a mini tour through France,” Alya said, tilting her head as Marinette’s eyes widened. “He’ll be gone for a couple weeks—I thought he told you?”

“No!” Marinette exclaimed, and then winced as Alya shushed her and Kim grunted in his sleep, shifting his head a little on his folded arm. Thankfully, he slumbered on, drooling onto the crook of his elbow as his mouth hung open. Marinette released the breath she’d been holding and turned back to Alya with a frown. “He didn’t say anything about leaving town.”

Not that Marinette was upset about him leaving town for work—she was glad he seemed to be doing so well—but considering he was part of Team Miraculous, Marinette indeed needed to know these things…

“Really? But he just left yesterday. …Maybe you missed his call with your phone on silent,” Alya suggested quietly, and Marinette tugged her phone out once again, furiously searching through her missed messages for Nino’s name. As she did so, Alya shifted beside her. “I was hoping you’d heard from him, since he’s…not exactly talking to me right now.”

Marinette whirled on her best friend with wide eyes.


“Mfh? Wha?!” Kim yelped, wrenching up so quickly that he fell out of his chair. As he groaned and got to his feet, Marinette jumped to hers as well.

“Kim! I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean to wake you…are you all right?”

Kim groaned, rubbing sleep from his eyes as he righted his chair and resumed his guard position beside Alix.

“M’fine,” he mumbled sleepily, lowering his hand to glance over at Alix. Marinette couldn’t help but notice the way the light in his eyes dimmed when he looked at her unconscious form. The heartbreak was subtle, but it was there, and Marinette positively ached for him.

“Kim,” Alya began, and Marinette heard the Mom Friend tone in her voice, “when was the last time you ate?”

Kim paused, frowning.


Alya got up with a huff, circling Alix’s bed to approach Kim.

“If you have to think about it for that long, it’s been too long,” she insisted, grabbing his arm and pulling him to his feet. “Come on. Let’s go scrounge up something from the cafeteria.”


“Marinette’ll keep Alix company until we get back,” Alya assured him, and Marinette blinked at the way she was volun-told to stay behind.

“Alya,” she began, but Alya waved a hand at her as she practically dragged Kim to the door.

“We’ll be back later, girl. Adrien should be here soon, too. You can wait for him here.”

“Alya—” Marinette said again, more sternly this time around, because she was not about to let her best friend just act like she didn’t just say that she and her fiancé weren’t speaking right now for reasons unknown—

Not now,’ Alya’s eyes warned her as she opened the door and ushered Kim through it, him staring at her in bewilderment, as if surprised by her strength.

“We’ll be back later,” she reminded Marinette, her tone implying that she would explain what she meant about her and Nino not talking later. Marinette frowned, but she nodded, trusting the unspoken promise in her friend’s voice as she hauled Kim off to the cafeteria. The door closed behind them, leaving Marinette alone with only Alix and her own thoughts for company. And considering Alix was currently in a coma, there was nothing stopping all of Marinette’s current fears and concerns from rushing back to the forefront of her mind.

Tomorrow was the last day of Fashion Week, and thanks to Shade/Butterfly’s little stunt, Fashion Week had turned into the week from hell, with Marinette’s potential career balancing precariously between an object of intrigue and a pariah brand. Marinette, with Adrien’s help, was scrambling for ideas, to try and figure out how to come back from this, but it was hard with all the bullshit she was currently dealing with regarding Mayor Fantoche, who kept going on TV to say that he had done nothing wrong in his attack on Alix, and that even Ladybug could vouch that it was self-defense. She really did not appreciate him putting words in her mouth, and could only imagine what AVA’s response would be, once they mobilized again…if they mobilized again…

Marinette huffed as she sat back down, pinching the bridge of her nose again. If the world could just stop for one second, then maybe, just maybe, she could have the peace and quiet required to think long enough for a solution to all her problems. Figuring out a use for a Lucky Charm in the heat of the moment was child’s play for her at this point, but when it came to dealing with things happening in her civilian life—

The door swung open. Marinette glanced up, expecting Adrien…but the blonde hair protruding from that extravagant bouquet was too light to be his…

Marinette groaned as the bouquet lowered, and cool blue eyes met hers.

“Not you again,” she grumbled, feeling a vein beginning to pulse in her temple at the sight of Felix. She had been seeing way too much of him lately, as he was usually on television along with Bridgette whenever Mayor Fantoche appeared to make an impassioned speech about his innocence. She was getting pretty sick of all three of them, as a matter of fact. Bridgette never looked happy about what the mayor was saying, but she still stood by his side, didn’t she? And Felix, for that matter…

Felix quirked an eyebrow at her, as was his custom whenever they ran into each other.

“Hello to you, too,” he said dryly, setting the bouquet down on a surface that wasn’t already covered with flowers in Alix’s room. Marinette squinted at the bouquet. Daisies, peonies, pansies…and were those hydrangeas? What an odd combination…she couldn’t remember enough about the language of flowers to figure out what they were supposed to mean.

What she did know, however, was that Felix had no business being here.

“What’re those? A sign of goodwill from the mayor?” She asked cuttingly as Felix turned around to face her. “Is this a publicity move? Where are the cameras?”

Felix raised an eyebrow again, as if he found her ridiculous. God, he was annoying.

“This has nothing to do with the mayor,” he answered coolly. “I’m here on my own behalf.”

Marinette stared at him.

Here on his own…what? Why would he come on his own? It wasn’t like he knew Alix…

“…Isn’t that a conflict of interest?” She asked, folding her arms. Felix approached the foot of Alix’s bed, and Marinette bristled, keeping herself in her seat with effort. It was hard not to step in between him and Alix, hard to remember that there was no reason that he would cause her further harm…no reason that Marinette could figure out, anyway…

“Have you thought about what I said?” He asked her, apropos of nothing. Marinette stared at him some more, uncomprehending.

“About what?” It wasn’t like she bothered to catalogue every single word he said, after all. What the hell was he talking about?

A muscle in Felix’s jaw twitched, and Marinette wondered if she was annoying him. Ha.

“About…that woman,” he said, his tone clipped.

“What wo—” Before she finished asking, Marinette remembered. And then she snorted. “Oh. That. Yeah, I pretty much forgot about that right after I left the grocery store that day.”

“That isn’t wise,” Felix warned. Now Marinette got up, because she was annoyed at the way he towered over her, looking like an indulgent parent watching a child make the same mistake over and over again, expecting different results every time. What did he know, anyway?

“I don’t know what your problem with Desiree is,” she began, pointing an accusing finger up at him, “but you’re not going to turn me against her. I’ve known her way longer than you, so I know what she’s actually like. You’re wasting your breath, Felix.”

Felix let out said breath in a short puff, pinching the bridge of his nose. Marinette blinked at this. It wasn’t like she was the only one to make that gesture or anything, sure, but the fact that she shared a habit like that with Felix was undesirable, to say the least.

“Marinette,” he began after a tense second, lowering his hand and sounding as if he was working to keep himself calm. “You are making things difficult for me.”

Marinette’s mouth came open with a pop. Was he serious?

I’m making things difficult for you?!” She parroted him, unable to believe the words she was hearing. Had she assisted in his torture during his last days at Tres Bien boutique? Had she followed him around for weeks after quitting, showing up at random and freaking her out? What the hell was he on about?

Felix, it appeared, didn’t have the patience for her incredulity.

“Has it ever occurred to you, beyond your stubborn and unwarranted suspicion of me,” he continued, speaking over the loud snort she let loose (‘Unwarranted suspicion’? He could not be serious), “that I might be trying to help you?”

Okay, he had to be jerking her chain.

“Help me with what?” She asked him, frowning up into his face, which had suddenly turned neutral, as if he had said too much. She squinted at him. “And for what? What could possibly be your reason for wanting to help me with anything?”

Felix stared at her, hard, as if he was studying her…no, not studying…it was more like…he was trying to will her with his eyes to realize on her own, the questions she sought from him…as if she was missing a very vital piece of information when it came to him—

The door opened again.

Marinette glanced over and withheld her groan with some difficulty. Her boyfriend had terrible timing.

Adrien stood in the doorway, blinking rapidly. She could see him trying to process the scene in front of him, to understand what he was seeing, for there was no ready explanation for why Marinette and Felix were together, arguing in Alix’s hospital room, was there?

His gaze focusing on his cousin, Adrien frowned.

“…Felix,” he greeted carefully, stepping into the room, clutching a much smaller bouquet than the one Felix had brought, though this bouquet contained daisies as well. “What are you doing here?”

“Leaving,” he replied shortly, turning away from Marinette, a frown of disappointment on his pale face. “Pardon me.”

He walked swiftly from the room, brushing by Adrien as he went without so much as a goodbye. Marinette snarled under her breath. How rude.

“Can you believe—” she began as she approached Adrien, feeling only a smidge of guilt for venting about Felix to his own flesh and blood…but it wasn’t like he and Adrien were close anyway. Before she could finish, however, Adrien was suddenly thrusting his bouquet at her.

“Here,” he said, already turning from her, heading back out into the hall. “Can you hang on a second? There’s, uh, something I need to take care of.”


But he was already leaving, his long legs hauling him down the hall nearly faster than Marinette’s eyes could follow, to chase down his contrary cousin. A passing nurse reprimanded him for his speed, and he apologized hurriedly before rounding a corner and disappearing from sight.

Which left Marinette alone. Again.

Carefully setting down Adrien’s contribution to Alix’s well-wishes, Marinette frowned. What did Adrien suddenly have to say to Felix, after all this time? Was he angry that he had found his cousin antagonizing Marinette, after all the times she’d complained about him?

He…knew better than to start a fight in the middle of the hospital…didn’t he?

Marinette bit her lip. Adrien was perfectly reasonable, it was true, but when it came to Chat Noir, she knew that he became very protective if he felt that she was being threatened.

And him walking in in the middle of their argument, which wasn’t as heated as it could have been, still couldn’t have looked good.

She sighed. She was going to have to track them down, wasn’t she? It wasn’t like she’d be missed—Alya was probably in the middle of force-feeding Kim whatever food she could get her hands on, and Alix…


Marinette shook her head sharply and left the room. There was nothing she could do for Alix now. All she could do was hope and pray that she would recover someday, if not someday soon.

Quickly following Adrien’s path, Marinette slowed her steps when she heard low voices that sounded familiar, eventually stopping just before a corner, where she could hear them clear as day:

“…been following her. What are you doing?”

“It’s nothing you need to concern yourself with.”

“She’s my girlfriend, Felix. I am concerned.”

There was a pause, in which Marinette realized that, technically, she was eavesdropping.

Oh no…what was she doing? It didn’t seem like a fight was about to break out, but that could easily change with a cutting word or two…but what if a fight didn’t occur? How could she justify being plastered to the wall like this, listening in on a conversation that was clearly not meant for her ears?

She doubted Adrien would be happy if he found her waiting here, after all was said and done…

I should leave,’ she decided, sighing silently and sliding a foot to the right, intending to make as stealthy an escape as she could manage—

“…I mean her no harm, Adrien,” said Felix’s quiet voice, and Marinette paused. “Whatever she believes—whatever you may think—I mean it when I say I am only trying to help.”

Marinette frowned. There was that word again: ‘help’. Did he even know the proper meaning of the word?

Adrien must have shared her sentiments, for he replied, in a voice more wounded than Marinette was expecting,

“I know what you think ‘helping’ is, Felix. And trust me when I say that she’s probably better off without it.”

There was a very long pause. Marinette stayed were she was, intrigued.

There was something here…a history with scars that weren’t healing. Erika had confided in Marinette that Adrien and Felix had never gotten along…but did she know why?

And more importantly, if Marinette stayed to listen, would she find out?

She wished she could edge around the corner without being seen, to read the faces of the cousins as they faced off against each other. If only she had Camille’s powers of camouflage…

“So you have not forgiven me.” The voice was quiet, matter of fact, as if it was not a surprise that Adrien still bore a grudge. “It’s fine. I don’t ask for it…though I will point out that you took my advice…a little too literally.”

“What, so it’s my fault? I’m the dumb kid that turned into an asshole because I misunderstood you?” Adrien’s voice was icier than Marinette had heard it in months. “You told me that if I didn’t want to be seen as a demon, that I should show everyone what real demons looked like! How else was I supposed to take that?!”

“Adrien, I never meant for you to change,” Felix sighed, and the back of Marinette’s neck tingled as she stared at the pale tiles of the hospital floor, a strange inkling that she was hearing far more than she expected to... “What I meant was that you should just keep being you—this upbeat young man, optimistic nearly to the point of foolishness. Eventually, my parents would have realized that they were wrong about you, that you were nothing like Gabriel. I never said that you should have to prove yourself.”

“Well you should’ve made yourself clearer!” Adrien snapped, though there was a fragile note in his tone that hurt Marinette to hear. “Because of you...because of Father…because of me…I was so wrong, for so long. There’s so much I’m never, ever going to be able to forgive myself for, so why should you get off so easy?”

Wait a goddamn minute.

If Marinette was understanding correctly, even with only the context clues…

The reason Adrien had reappeared so warped…the reason Chat Noir had believed that killing akuma victims was acceptable—was because of some bad advice he had been given at the point in his life where he had lost his supervillain father, and had been lost, confused, and vulnerable?

And that bad advice came from—so that meant—

This whole mess was Felix’s fault?!

Marinette saw red, and for a moment she had to master herself, to keep herself from flying around the corner and flinging herself in a blind rage at that blonde, smug son of a bitch who had stolen the light from Adrien’s eyes and had tried to reform him into a creature like him—cold, unsympathetic, unfeeling.

Where did he get off, acting so high and mighty, like he knew what was best, when he had been the cause of Marinette’s misery only a few months ago, in way more ways than one?!

Whatever game he was trying to play here by trying to convince her and Adrien that he was ‘only trying to help’, Marinette wasn’t having it. Learning that he had been the catalyst for Chat Noir’s madness all along, even if only accidentally, pushed him forever from the harbor of Marinette’s patience. No matter what he said, no matter what he did, she would never forgive him. Never.

“I don’t ask to be forgiven,” Felix said again, and Marinette jolted; for one heart-stopping moment, she thought he had somehow heard her mental tirade against him. But she realized he was only talking to Adrien as he continued, “I know you have had…a difficult time, as of late.”

“You don’t know the half of it,” Adrien muttered bitterly, and Marinette’s heart went out to him.

“…Perhaps not,” Felix replied after a beat. “But…for whatever it’s worth, Adrien…I am sorry. I never meant to cause you such pain…and I greatly regret that you suffered at my hands.”

“You’re so formal,” Adrien grumbled, echoing Marinette’s thoughts once again. “It’s like you’re talking to a co-worker rather than your own cousin.”

There was a pause.

“…I am…not good…with feelings,” Felix said stiffly after a moment. Marinette almost snorted; that was the understatement of the century. “And…we have never been particularly close, Adrien.”

“No thanks to you.”

“Perhaps.” There was another pause, longer this time. “…But, despite how I have acted…if I ever have considered anyone a brother…it would be you.”

Adrien apparently had nothing to say to that. Another long pause ensued.

“…I would ask you to extend my apologies to Marinette for disturbing her,” Felix said, breaking the silence and pausing Marinette’s second attempt at leaving with the sound of her name. “But I doubt she would believe me.”

“Can you blame her?”

“…No. I suppose not.”

And that was that—with apparently nothing more to say, there was the sound of sharp footsteps clacking away against the tile of the floor, signaling Felix’s departure. Marinette took this opportunity to take her leave as well, and was back in Alix’s hospital room when Adrien returned, looking apologetic.

“Sorry. I wanted to see what Felix was up to,” he explained as he sat down next to Marinette, planting a kiss on her cheek in greeting. “But he wasn’t exactly forthcoming…”

“Typical,” Marinette grumbled, keeping her face as neutral as she could while her rage bubbled beneath the surface. The next time she ran into Felix (which would be sometime soon, no doubt), he was going to get either an earful, a beat down, or both at the same time.

“Yeah…” Silence filled the room, save for the tiny noises of the hospital machines monitoring Alix’s status. After a moment or two, Adrien spoke. “Where’s Alya?”

“She’s probably making Kim eat his weight in hospital food,” Marinette replied with a slight shrug and a faint smile that disappeared after a moment. “He’s…been having a rough time.”

Adrien remained silent at that. His expression was hard to read as he stared at Alix, his eyes tight. Marinette supposed she understood—with all the grief AVA had given them, Chat Noir especially, it still must be hard to see the leader cut down in her prime like this, lying unresponsive in a hospital bed rather than rallying her troops.

Funny, Marinette never thought she would be wishing for AVA to still be active. But when the alternative was this…

“Oh,” said Adrien after a moment, blinking as if he had just remembered something. “I talked to some of the coordinators for Fashion Week.”

A light, dim but sparking, lit itself in Marinette, and she turned towards her boyfriend eagerly, everything else shoved aside for the moment.


Adrien smiled.

“Well, it took some networking, but…I think I can convince them to give you some more runway time tomorrow.”

Marinette felt her mouth come open with a pop.

“Seriously?! But when I asked, they told me it would be impossible!”

“Yeah, well,” Adrien shrugged with a little smile. “Sometimes it helps to know a guy who happens to run a fashion empire.”

Marinette’s joy over this tiny victory was immediately overcome by trepidation. Ah, right…as pleased as she was by this development, there was something she had been thinking about lately, regarding Adrien and his career. It was one of the things keeping her up at night, in fact…and now seemed as good a time as any to bring it up…

“…About that,” she began carefully, her teeth moving to worry her bottom lip. “Adrien…are you sure you want Agreste Fashion to carry my line?”

Adrien stared at her, a corner of his mouth pulling down as he frowned.

“What do you mean?” He asked, uncomprehending. Marinette drew in a deep breath. Throughout this whole mess of a week, she had seen how stressed Adrien had become on her behalf. And she felt terrible about it, especially since she knew Adrien wasn’t passionate about fashion like she was. Sure, he wanted to see her succeed, but at what cost?

“Let me ask you something: do you like being CEO of a fashion company? Really?”

Adrien stared at her, in much the same way he had stared at her when she had asked why he continued to model, despite hating it. God…that Christmas party seemed like eons ago now…

“…Well,” Adrien began, glancing away as he rubbed the back of his neck. “I don’t exactly hate it…but…I think I could live without it, too…”

Marinette nodded. That’s what she thought.

“But you won’t quit,” she predicted, frowning up at him, “not as long as you’re helping me with my career, right?”

“…Oh,” Adrien muttered as comprehension seemed to dawn on him. “That’s what you’re worried about? That I’ll feel obligated to keep running Agreste Fashion as long as it helps you?”

“Well am I wrong?” Marinette pressed, searching Adrien’s face. He cleared his throat, glancing away from her as he massaged the back of his neck again.

“…Well…no,” he admitted, raising his hands when Marinette sighed. “But that doesn’t mean you should feel bad about it! I love that I can help you with your career!”

“But I don’t love the thought of chaining you to something you don’t love,” Marinette insisted, folding her arms. “It’s not fair. Just because I’m passionate about fashion doesn’t mean it’s okay for you to give up on your passions.”

Adrien snorted.

“Mari, I don’t really have anything that I’m passionate about,” he said, and then cringed at the look on Marinette’s face. “Okay, that came out wrong—what I mean is, I may not love fashion like you do, but I am good at it, and it fills my time. What else would I do all day?”

“Something you actually like?” Marinette suggested, her tone just a touch dry. “Like playing the piano?” She knew she had hit her mark when Adrien’s expression faltered, and he became thoughtful. She turned to fully face him, hands sliding over his to give them a squeeze. “That’s what you really love, Adrien. And while I do appreciate everything you’ve done for me, really…I would feel awful making you stay in a line of work that will only make you unhappy down the road. You deserve to do what you love.”

A blush filled Adrien’s face; Marinette supposed she embarrassed him with how strongly she felt about this. However, his golden brow furrowed in concern.

“But what about you?”

Marinette made herself shrug. It was true, the thought of her uncertain future scared her…but it wasn’t right to pin all her success on her boyfriend either, was it?

“I’ll figure something out,” she said, determined on this point, at least. “If it means I have to keep working at my parents’ bakery for a few more years to save up, I’ll do it…but I think it’d be nice to have my own boutique.”

“…A boutique…” Adrien mused, tilting his head to the side as he considered it. Slowly, a smile spread across his face. “I guess the desire to own small businesses runs in the family, doesn’t it?”

Marinette laughed.

“I guess so,” she agreed, before sobering. “Seriously, though: I do appreciate everything you’ve done to help me, Adrien. Thank you so much. …But this week has been a disaster, and while I’m willing to suffer through it, I don’t think it’s okay to drag you down with me.”

“…So, what are you saying?”

Marinette took a deep breath…and managed a smile.

“I’m saying…after Fashion Week is finally done, if you want to keep my superhero line for Agreste Fashion, then it’s yours. It’s the least I can do, after all your help.” Her expression firmed as determination flooded her. “But now I’m going to start my own brand. And the only support I’ll need from you is the emotional kind.”

Adrien stared at her. Marinette kept his gaze, her shoulders straight, wanting him to realize just how serious she was about this.

It didn’t take him long to figure it out.

“…You’ve given this a lot of thought,” he noted quietly, and Marinette smiled weakly.

“It’s what I do instead of sleeping these days,” she admitted. Adrien frowned at this, and he raised a hand, his thumb brushing her cheek, as if he meant to rub the dark circles under her eyes away with his touch alone.

“And you’re absolutely sure about this?” He wanted to check. “There’s nothing I can say or do to convince you otherwise?”


Adrien frowned.

“I don’t mind helping you out, Mari—”

“I know you don’t,” Marinette interrupted, resting a hand over his wrist, his palm still pressed against her cheek. “But I do mind. This is something I love, so I’m willing to put in the work. But I’m not willing to let you get wrapped up in a world you’ve been stuck in for most of your life for the sake of others.” Marinette frowned. “This is something I have do alone.”

Adrien’s expression was unreadable. For a moment, Marinette worried that she had offended him, rejecting his help after they had fought so hard to make her dream become a reality. She opened her mouth to apologize, but almost as if he was anticipating it, Adrien pressed his thumb to her lips, halting any words she might have uttered. The action was unnecessary, though; his expression had softened to the point where it rendered Marinette speechless. It embarrassed her to look at him, at the tender glow in his eyes, but she couldn’t look away, even without his other hand moving to her face as well as he cupped her cheeks.

“…I may not love fashion the way you do, Mari,” he admitted softly, and Marinette felt her heart thud in her chest as his gaze grew intense. “…But…I love y—”

The door swung open, and both Marinette and Adrien jumped in surprise. Marinette turned her wide eyes to the doorway, where Kim and Alya stood, Kim staring at them with raised eyebrows, Alya with smug amusement.

“Whoa,” said Kim, blinking at the pair of them as he stepped into the room. “I know it’s been a while since we’ve caught up, but since when are you two a thing?”

“Oh, this has been going on since December,” Alya drawled, grinning as Marinette felt herself flush scarlet. “It took them a while to actually start dating, though, dense as they are.”

Kim sat down beside Alix’s still form once again, his smirk only half-hearted.

“Well, congrats, Marinette. You’ve only been in love with the guy forever.

Normally Marinette would quip right back at him, but the ‘L’ word had her feeling a bit more fragile than usual, and she could do nothing but cover her face with her hands to hide while she endured Kim and Alya’s snickering.

She couldn’t focus on them, however—the realization that Adrien had been about to tell her he loved her for the first time was too strong. It pounded through her, roaring through her blood, sending more heat to her face and her ears as she felt herself blush from head to toe.

True, she knew she loved Adrien, and she hoped he felt the same way, but when it came to finding a right time to express such sentiments to each other…well, those moments had been few and far between as of late.

There was a sudden warmth on her back; Adrien’s hand was there, rubbing soothing circles into her back. Her shoulders relaxed automatically, and she peeked over at him, finding him smiling at her, though he was just as red in the face as she undoubtedly was.

Oh…if only Kim and Alya had stayed in the cafeteria just a little longer…



“So? Are you going to tell me now?”

Alya’s shoulders slumped, but she kept walking a little ahead of Marinette, swallowing her bite of to-go sherbet with some difficulty.

“Tell you what?” She stalled as she and Marinette meandered their way through Plaza Pompidou, the street performers holding little to no interest for Alya whatsoever. There was a short huff behind her, and a hand caught her elbow. Alya had no choice but to stop and turn towards her friend, who was regarding her with some annoyance and a whole lot of concern.

“Don’t play dumb. You said earlier that you and Nino aren’t talking, and I wanna know why.” Marinette let go of Alya’s arm, resting her free hand on her hip as she held her milkshake in the other, her lips pursed. “What happened?”

Oh boy…how the hell was Alya supposed to explain?

The fight that had resulted in Nino discovering that Alya had been sneaking around with her Miraculous all this time had been one of the most explosive fights they had ever had. She didn’t think she had ever seen Nino so mad in general, least of all at her, but of course she couldn’t stop herself from arguing with him, the need to defend herself so far ingrained into her being that it was now a reflex reaction…



~A Week Ago~

“You lied to me! You’ve been lying to me this whole time!”

Ah—his patience had finally worn away. After he had made her detail exactly when she had discovered the powers of her Miraculous and how long she had been working behind the scenes with AVA, Nino had gotten up to pace around the room, leaving Alya to watch as the anger in his face had slowly built up, his jaw working until he had finally hurled the accusation that he’d been chewing on at her…

Despite herself, Alya snorted.

“That’s funny, coming from you,” she said dryly as she got to her feet, though guilt struck her as Nino clenched his jaw. She knew that was a cheap shot, but still… “Besides, it was you who didn’t say anything to me when you gave me the necklace—”

“That’s because you acted like nothing was wrong!” Nino shot back, throwing his hands in the air in frustration. “I’ve been driving myself crazy this whole time, waiting for you to tell me something was up, but you’ve just been off doing your own thing, hanging out with AVA—what the hell were you thinking, Alya?!”

“I was trying to help!” Alya burst out, crossing her arms tightly as she glared up at her fiancé, reacting to his anger with her own righteous fury. God, he was acting like she had betrayed him by keeping her powers to herself, which was rich, given all the hell he had put her through not two months ago… “And what were you thinking when you gave me the Fox Miraculous and didn’t say a damn thing to me? Were you trying to be funny or something?”

Nino opened his mouth, and then closed it again, just glaring at her. Even through the heat, however, guilt was evident in his eyes; his lack of retort confirmed her earlier suspicion that he probably didn’t mean for her to have the Fox Miraculous in the first place. She was still working out how she felt about that.

Alya felt Trixx emerge from her hair again, parting it like a curtain. She couldn’t see the kwami from this angle, so instead she watched Nino’s face as he took in the sight of the fox-like kwami, the glare fading in favor of curiosity.

“Um…can I interrupt?” Trixx requested, abruptly polite, and she flew out from the shelter of Alya’s red locks to hover in front of Nino, sounding concerned. “I don’t know what you were planning to do with me, Guardian tod, but I really, really, really don’t want another Chosen. I like Alya—she’s a lot of fun, and it’s rare for me to get a kit who thinks exactly the way I do. So…please don’t take me from her?”

Alya’s eyes shot to Nino’s face, stunned.

Are you going to take the Fox Miraculous away from me?” She demanded to know, because holy shit, she hadn’t even thought that was apossibility! He couldn’t take it from her now, could he? Did Nino—a guardian of the Miraculous or something, according to Trixx—have that kind of power? And was Alya about to find the answer to that question in the worst way possible?

Nino said nothing, frowning as he glanced in between Trixx and Alya and back again, evidently thinking. Reacting to his silence, Alya reached out and cupped Trixx in between her palms, holding her close as she stared at him defiantly. Nino was her fiancé, yes, and she loved him, but if he wanted the Fox Miraculous back, he was going to have to fight her fang and claw for it, because there was no fucking way she would be giving it up voluntarily. Not after she knew what she could do, what she was capable of. Besides, she had grown fond of Trixx, too, bonding in their mutual mischief. If Nino chose to take that away from her now

“…I probably should take it, on principle…” Nino grumbled after a moment, still frowning at her. Alya’s hands tightened around Trixx, who clung to her thumb. Seeing this, Nino let out a long sigh, scratching the back of his head. “…But I won’t.”

“Oh, thank you!” Trixx rejoiced immediately; to celebrate, she flew from the shelter of Alya’s hands to snuggle against the top of her head, where she promptly buried herself in Alya’s hair. Again.

Alya huffed and smirked. This ridiculous creature…

“But,” Nino began, the amusement fading from his face at Trixx’s display of affection, “there’ll have to be some ground rules now. Number one being that you have to stop fraternizing with the enemy.”

Alya raised her eyebrows.

“I have not had any affiliation with the Butterfly whatsoever,” she stated in a practiced politician’s voice. Nino’s scowl returned.

“You know what I mean,” he growled at her, folding his arms over his chest as he glared. “You gotta stop hanging out with AVA. I don’t care if it’s in disguise or not—you just can’t do it.”

“Why?” Alya questioned, matching Nino’s glare now. “Who am I hurting by trying to steer them in the right direction?”

“They burned an effigy of a member of Team Miraculous tonight!” Nino reminded her none too gently. “You really want to hang out with people who think that’s okay?!”

Alya frowned. He had a point—she hadn’t liked that idea at all, doubly so since she knew who was really under that black cat mask. But it wasn’t like her veto had counted for much; Alix had loved the idea too much to hear a word against it.


Alya shook her head, plucking at the chain of her Miraculous in a distracted fashion.

“AVA needs direction now more than ever, Nino. They just watched their leader get attacked by the goddamn mayor. If that isn’t anti-akuma—”

“Your purpose isn’t to help AVA,” Nino interrupted, “you’re supposed to be helping Team Miraculous!”

“Team Miraculous?” Alya questioned with a snort, completely side-tracked. “That’s what you all call yourselves?”

Despite the situation, Nino grew embarrassed, huffing as he shook his head.

“Wasn’t my idea,” he grumbled with mild indignation. Alya’s obvious amusement seemed to annoy him; his scowl returned all too quickly. “But that’s not what’s important. Point is, you’re meant to be helping the superheroes, not the vigilantes.”

“I thought the purpose of a superhero was to protect all of the citizens in their designated city,” Alya challenged him with a quirk of her brow. “Did that definition change while I wasn’t looking?”

This question seemed to make Nino uncomfortable. He dropped his gaze to the floor, and Alya watched his hand close over the Turtle Miraculous hooked around his wrist. Wayzz, the turtle kwami who had been silently observing them fight this whole time from the comfort of Nino’s shoulder, gave his Chosen a speculative glance, as if wondering how he would talk his way around Alya’s logic. Alya wondered the same, actually, and so instead of pressing her point, this time she chose to sit back and observe, watching as different emotions shifted the expressions on Nino’s face as he thought.

When he finally returned Alya’s gaze again, his expression was grim.

“…I know how you feel,” he said mutely. And he did know—Alya could see the shadows in his eyes that sometimes haunted him late at night, the horror shaking him from sleep; the darkness she, too, shared, though they merely clung to each other after the nightmares without giving those fears a proper voice— “But what they’re doing isn’t right, Alya.”

“Which is why I think they could use a positive influence,” Alya pressed, refusing to be deterred from her chosen course of action, no matter what Nino might have to say about it. Why was he fighting her on this, anyway? Didn’t he understand how important it was that people like AVA—people like her and Nino—were taken seriously? With half the city howling for their blood, wasn’t it important that they had at least one superhero on their side?

Nino clearly disagreed, if the look on his face was any indication.

“Alya, the purpose of the Fox Miraculous—”

“Oh stop it,” she cut in with a huff, losing her already thin strand of patience. “We both know that you didn’t mean to give the Fox Miraculous to me in the first place, Nino. Yes, I know it was an accident,” she said dryly when Nino looked as if he had been struck. “You were acting way too weird and jumpy that day for me to believe you actually wanted me to join your superhero crew.” She briefly frowned at this, wondering once again in her most jealous of hearts why she hadn’t been his first choice…ah, but that was a whole other can of worms, wasn’t it? She would let it go for now. “So since it was an accident, what do you care what I do with it?”

Oh, she had done it now: Nino’s irritation evolved as the tops of his ears turned red, a muscle in his jaw jumping as he seemed to hold himself back from saying exactly what was on his mind—

And then the flimsy dam for his words broke.

“What do care?!” He yelled so loudly and suddenly that Alya actually took a step back in alarm. “Alya, you can’t just do what you want!! Being Chosen doesn’t give you a free pass to fuck around and do whatever! And if you think it does, then maybe I should take it back, because you clearlycan’t handle the responsibility!”

Alya’s eyes widened.

No he fucking didn’t.

“Says the guy who gave me this power by accident!” She shot back hotly. “You wanna talk about responsibility? How about making sure you actually know what you’re doing when you give out magic jewelry! Seriously, if you’re supposed to be the guardian of these things or whatever, if I were in charge, I’d fire you for negligence!”

Nino’s expression froze, and Alya realized she had touched a nerve.

No, not touched—she had taken a metaphorical sledgehammer to that nerve.

With anybody else, namely some asshole bothering her, this would’ve made her smirk with vindictive pleasure.

But since it was Nino—the love of her life—the way his expression crumpled only hurt her. Her anger immediately faded, and she opened her mouth to apologize—

Nino abruptly turned on his heel, his shoulders hunched as he headed for the bedroom door. Oh god…she had made him so mad that he wasn’t even going to argue with her anymore. Fuck.

“Nino, wait,” Alya pleaded, going after him, but he refused to look back, refused to answer her. His steps didn’t slow, and before Alya could beg him to stay, he was out her front door, slamming it so hard that the frame rattled. Alya cringed at the noise.

Oh god. She had fucked up. She had fucked up so badly…

“Aren’t you gonna go after him?” Trixx didn’t emerge from Alya’s hair, but she could hear the concern in her kwami’s voice. It was weird, how serious she was acting…but then again, it wasn’t as if the situation didn’t call for concern…

“…” Alya sighed. What she should do and what she wanted to do didn’t often keep each other’s company. This was one of those times—while she wanted to go after him and apologize for the thoughtless words that clearly affected him more than she thought they would…

“I can’t,” she replied heavily, displacing her glasses as she rubbed at her tired eyes. “If he’s this mad, nothing I say right now will get through to him. If I want him to listen to me, I need to give him space until he’s ready to talk.”

Trixx flipped herself out of Alya’s hair like a trapeze artist, floating upside down as she regarded Alya with a tiny pout.

“How d’ya know that?” She asked, her fox ear’s twitching with curiosity. “You sound so confident…”

Alya smiled, the gesture weak because her heart wasn’t really in it.

“I’ve been with Nino for eight years. I know how he thinks. That’s just a natural part of a relationship when you’ve been with someone for a while…”

Alya glanced down, her discomfort with the situation growing as she stared at the engagement ring circling her ring finger.

…Hmm. Maybe the Fox Miraculous wouldn’t be the only piece of jewelry Nino would demand she return…

Alya balled her hand into a fist and lowered it, swallowing around the lump in her throat.

“…Unfortunately, because I know him so well, I also know how to hurt him,” she mumbled, ashamed.

This was so messed up—it wasn’t like she was trying to actively oppose Nino and Team Miraculous! She just felt that it was important for AVA to have a positive force, a voice of reason when they got carried away in their passion. True, Alya’s opinion had a hit or miss ratio, since Alix had preferred any radical decision to her level-headed alternative, but now with her gone, and with the lost expressions of AVA’s members so fresh in Alya’s mind…

Her opinion wouldn’t be swayed: someone had to help AVA.

But now troubling questions followed this conviction—was it truly right for Alya to be the one to help, under all these false pretenses of hers? Would her time and effort be better suited on the side of Team Miraculous?

And…and if she continued the way she was going…if she refused to surrender her Miraculous and continued to aid and abet AVA…could her relationship with Nino survive such a choice?

And if it couldn’t…what would she do…?



~Present Day~

…Yeah, that was a whole complicated mess of emotions and drama that Alya didn’t much feel like reliving, let alone burdening Marinette with such knowledge. Besides, it seemed like, for whatever reason, Nino hadn’t told Marinette about Alya yet…probably because he was worried she would react poorly.

Alya had already upset him to the point where he was refusing to speak to her; she wasn’t about to tattle on him to his teammate as well. But how to give an answer that would satisfy Marinette’s curiosity without her knowing too much…

“…I really don’t wanna get into it,” she warned Marinette, frowning. “The short of it is that we disagreed over something, then fought about it, and I said something stupid and hurtful and probably unfair, so now, he’s not talking to me.”

Marinette’s face grew anxious, and her eyes roamed over Alya, as if she was looking for something. A quick glance down told Alya that her Miraculous was hidden under her shirt as always, and so she allowed herself to relax.

“You guys aren’t gonna…break up, are you…?” Marinette asked in a voice so small that Alya wondered if she had spoken so softly on purpose, half-hoping that Alya wouldn’t hear the question so that there was no possibility of her giving a negative answer.

Alya smiled. Her best friend was so cute.

“I don’t think so,” she replied after a moment, watching Marinette fidget on the spot due to the slight inflection she placed on the word ‘think’. “It was one of our worst fights, yeah…but I still love him and want to be with him…ball’s pretty much in his court right now, though.”

“Oh my god, Alya,” Marinette whispered through her fingers as she eyed Alya in horror. “What did you say to make him so mad?”

Alya grimaced. The gesture seemed to be enough for Marinette to realize that she didn’t want to repeat herself. Her eyebrows pinched together, she tried for a different tactic.

“Well, have you tried talking to him at all?”

Alya snorted at this.

“Unanswered texts, calls that go directly to voice mail…” Alya sighed and shrugged. “At this point, I’d break into his apartment and make him talk to me, but since he’s out of town…”

Marinette bit her lip, and Alya drew comfort from the squeeze her best friend delivered to her shoulder.

“I’m sorry, Alya.”

Though Alya smiled in appreciation, she knew this sympathy was undeserved. It was her fault that Nino was upset in the first place…

“Anyway,” she said, not so subtly changing the subject, “you were saying earlier that you wanted to start your own boutique?”

“…Yeah,” Marinette replied, not completely sidetracked; the quiet concern was still there in her eyes, but she went along with the change of topic. “While I appreciate that Adrien wants to help me…I don’t like the thought of helping him chain himself to a career he’s not passionate about.”

“And it’s probably a bad idea to base your own career’s success on your boyfriend’s career,” Alya supposed, resting a hand on her hip. “One false investment, and you’re both sunk.”

Marinette’s freckled nose wrinkled.

“I don’t think that would ever happen…but you raise a very good point,” she admitted. Alya shrugged with a slight smile.

“It’s my job to be the realist in the group.” She tossed her melted sherbet into a nearby trashcan before turning to face her best friend fully. “So, your own boutique, huh? I love it. What’s the first step, a bank loan?”

Marinette cringed.

“Probably…and I’ll have to fill out all this paperwork, since this is a small business I’m looking to start…it’s going to be difficult. And complicated.” She sighed, massaging her temple. Alya hated how tired her poor friend looked. “But I can’t even worry about all of that right now, not with my superhero line still up in the air.”

“Oh, right,” Alya recalled with a frown. “Damn, girl, you’ve got too much going on. When was the last time you slept?”

Marinette’s expression told Alya everything she needed to know without Marinette having to say a single word. Alya cringed. Her poor fashion designer/superhero best friend.

“Okay…what are you going to do about your spring line? Is there anything that can be done?”

“Well,” Marinette began, her brows pinched together, “Adrien got the coordinators of Fashion Week to give me another shot, if I want it…”

“That’s great!”

“Yeah…except it’s not.”

“Why not?”

Marinette huffed and pinched the bridge of her nose.

“Because it sort of seems like bad luck, now,” she confessed, frustration seeping from her tone. “Call me crazy, but…I don’t know. I’m afraid that thing—Ladybug called her Shade, I think—will show up again if I dare to reschedule a new show. And I’m willing to bet not a lot of people will be lining up to watch a runway show that a supervillain crashed the first time.” The helpless look that crossed Marinette’s face hurt Alya. “I don’t know what to do. I’m officially stuck here…so…since it was your idea to start a superhero spring line in the first place, Alya…is there anything you can think of that could maybe help me out of this? Anything at all…?”

Alya was tempted to raise her eyebrows and point out that while she may be good, she was no miracle worker…but the pleading look in Marinette’s eyes softened her, and so she began to give the matter serious thought. Hmm…a re-do of Marinette’s fashion debut…but she was afraid anything official would bring her to Shade’s attention once again…so then—

Before the gears in Alya’s logical mind could really get going, something else interrupted—something loud, that sounded like a chant:

“We are not monsters! We’re people, too! We are not monsters! We’re people, too!”

Alya blinked, her surprise reflected in the face of her best friend, though she was willing to bet that hers was stronger, because she knew those voices a lot more intimately than Marinette did, no matter how much trouble they’d been giving Team Miraculous lately—

Alya turned as the chanting increased in volume, watching them marching into the plaza, their faces unmasked, their clothes normal, holding not goo, but honest-to-god protest signs. They marched tightly in a group, as if the thought of separating was terrifying beyond imagination, but they all wore the same determined expressions nevertheless.

It was Akumatized Victims Anonymous as Paris had never seen them before.

Alya loved the change.

Others in the plaza stopped they were doing to watch AVA march past, and Alya watched their expressions carefully. Most of them were wary at best, but it heartened her to see the surprised, even curious looks on a few faces as they watched this new AVA protest make its way to the center of the plaza.

When Marinette let out a groan, however, Alya began to worry.

“What are they up to now?” She complained, and Alya turned to watch her rub the bridge of her nose in agitation. “I really don’t have the patience for this today.”

Though Alya sympathized with what she understood to be Ladybug’s frustration, she couldn’t help the frown of indignation that crossed her face. Damn, was it too much to ask for her to give them a chance before she automatically assumed they were up to no good? Sure, given their past, her assumption would be a safe one, if circumstances weren’t different now…but still.

“Looks like they’re setting up for something,” Alya remarked, turning to watch them gather at the very center of the plaza. Nathanael was carrying a large crate, and he set it down before helping Myléne climb onto it. At the sight of the megaphone she held, Alya was suddenly surging forward, eager to get a front row seat to whatever was about to happen.

“Alya!” Marinette called from behind her, but other than a wave for her to follow, Alya didn’t pay her any mind, too busy pulling out her phone and readying her camera. She hoped they wouldn’t mind if she recorded this—it looked like it was going to be some prime material.

They didn’t seem to mind at all; Myléne even gave Alya a tremulous smile as she approached, and Alya reciprocated with a thumbs up. Even if she and Myléne talked all the time at university, she had no idea how much AVA’s movement truly meant to Alya…but it was still good to know that her presence was welcome.

As Alya knelt down to avoid blocking others’ view and to get a good angle for her recording, Myléne seemed to take a very deep breath, touching something pinned to her shirt—oh, wow, Alya hadn’t seen her wear that Ladybug badge in ages—before lifting the microphone up to her lips.

“…My name is Myléne Hapréle,” she introduced herself, her sweet voice warbling from nervousness. Juleka reached up to pat her arm, and Myléne seemed to draw confidence from the gesture. She swallowed, gave a tiny nod, and continued. “I’m a drama major in my university, and I’m going to be married next month.” Something like steel glinted in her amber eyes. “And seven years ago, I was akumatized.”

Alya felt a presence behind her. She glanced over her shoulder, and noticed with some satisfaction that people were beginning to draw nearer. In Alya’s opinion, it was a smart decision for Myléne to head this new protest direction—she had an aura about her that made others want to protect her, though she was anything but a pushover.

Myléne looked relieved, encouraged by the crowd that was gathering; her voice continued to grow stronger as she continued her tale.

“It was terrifying. I don’t know if I can really explain it in a way anyone who hasn’t been akumatized will be able to understand. But it’s like…a black hole just swallows you. And you don’t know what you’re doing—you don’t even know who you are—until maybe hours later, when it’s all over and…and you have to be told about what happened. What you did.”

Myléne shook her head, as if to rid herself of bad memories.

“But I am not the monster someone else made me,” she asserted, and Alya felt a chill go through her, recognizing the words, even if Myléne had no clue that she was the one that had spoken them. “I’m Myléne Hapréle. I’m a person, too.”

The members of AVA surrounding Myléne applauded her as she stepped down from the crate and passed the megaphone on. Alya would have liked to join in, but she didn’t dare stop recording, though she thought she could hear a couple of sporadic claps behind her. She didn’t turn around to make sure, too focused on her task as the next AVA member was passed the megaphone and jumped onto the crate—Myléne’s father, Fred Hapréle. Alya stared in interest. Huh…she didn’t remember seeing him at any of the previous AVA meetings…when did he join the cause?

“I’m Fred,” he introduced himself simply, removing his bowler hat with his free hand, revealing the silver streaks in his dark hair. “Seven years ago, I was akumatized, and apparently, I participated in vandalism of the greatest degree: I actually cut the Eiffel Tower in half. Can you believe that? These noodle arms did something like that! It’s crazy!”

There was some nervous laughter from the crowd behind Alya, as if they weren’t sure whether they should find this funny or not. Fred smiled and nodded.

“It’s okay. It’s in the past now.” His smile faded into a grim look. “But now history has repeated itself. We have a new supervillain on the loose, but instead of banding together, we’ve turned on each other.”

He quietly surveyed the crowd, and Alya had to admit that there was a certain weight to his stare that even she felt, despite being on AVA’s side.

“…Things shouldn’t be like this,” he said, quietly but decisively. “I think we can do better. And the first step is accepting what happened in the past, and moving on from it. We’re not monsters. My daughter, whom you just heard speak, isn’t a monster. We’re people, just like you.”

He replaced his bowler hat upon his head and stepped down, and Alya could hear a little more clapping behind her. She risked a glance back—wow. There were a lot of people behind her suddenly. Surprising…but there was no way she was complaining.

The crowd only continued to grow as the AVA members continued their peaceful protest, and soon Alya wasn’t the only one recording; there were phones everywhere, cameras recording, pictures being taken. It warmed Alya to know that AVA was finally getting the right kind of exposure, but she didn’t feel truly accomplished until Marinette, who had been hovering indecisively at the edge of the crowd, finally joined her at the front, sitting down carefully as she watched the protest, no anger or annoyance in her expression now…but quiet concern.

Alya grinned. There was her superhero idol, right there in that look. She was so glad.

But of course, that concern was about to be challenged, for none other than Chloé Bourgeois now took the stage—er, crate. Still, she stood upon it like it was a stage, her head held high as she observed the crowd, a queen taking inventory of her subjects. Someone tried to pass her the megaphone, but she waved them back, clearly confident in her carrying voice. Alya heard muttering behind her at the reality T.V. star’s appearance, and she bit back a groan. Just what were they thinking, letting Chloé open up her big mouth right now?

Predictably enough, Chloé’s ego took center stage the minute she opened said big mouth.

“I don’t really think I need to introduce myself; only people living under a rock don’t know who I am,” she said with a flip of her blonde locks, and Alya heard Marinette scoff beside her. She cringed. There went any credibility AVA was beginning to gain…

Nathanael nudged Chloé from behind, raising his eyebrows at her when she looked over at him. Alya watched, intrigued, as Chloé huffed and folded her arms, red painting her cheeks.

“…I’m Chloé Bourgeois,” she introduced herself anyway, curling a blonde strand around her finger. “Seven years ago, I was akumatized…” Her perfect skin wrinkled as she frowned at her designer shoes. “…And, while I don’t think I should be blamed for what a man with demonic butterflies did to a bunch of people…I suppose…I could’ve been kinder in the past, too.”


From her peripheral vision, Alya saw Marinette’s jaw drop, so she knew she wasn’t hearing things. But still, it was such a shock: Chloé Bourgeois, apologizing for her behavior??

Chloé huffed again, as if getting all this attention was putting her out.

“Listen, a lot of things happened that made me start thinking…well, maybe the world isn’t as black and white as I used to think.” She glared at the crowd. “And it certainly isn’t divided into akumas and other Parisians, if that’s what you’re all thinking. We’re all citizens of this city, okay? And while I know that I should probably take responsibility for my own actions…” She looked briefly uncomfortable before that haughty scowl returned. “Whatever I did as Anti-Bug is not my fault! No one can keep control when a crazy person with magical powers takes over your mind—get that through your thick skulls!”

Chloé stomped off the crate, to a smattering of confused applause. Alya shook her head, but supposed that it might be the closest thing to remorse anyone would ever get out of Chloé Bourgeois.

Though Alya knew there were still more members with stories to share, Chloé was apparently the closing act—AVA crowded together once again, and Nathanael picked up the crate as—whoa, wait, wasn’t that the guy known as Poseidon? When had he joined?! Alya needed to suit up again soon just to see what was going on, because apparently, Vixen was a bit out of the loop right now.

In any case, Poseidon lifted the megaphone next, and called to the crowd:

“There are more stories for us to share, but we want to hear from you, too. Akumas affect everyone, so if you have a story to share, whether it happened to you or someone you know, we want to hear it. Contact us at We can help you…because we’re just like you. Thank you.”

AVA departed to the strongest of applauses they had received thus far. Still, they left in as tightly-knit a group as they came in, and it hurt Alya’s heart to know that such caution was probably necessary. Inwardly, she wished them a safe trip home.

“Well,” she said, getting up and stretching her legs as she hit the ‘stop’ button on her phone, “that was…different. No persecution of certain superheroes, at least…”

Marinette said nothing as she climbed to her feet. Alya took in her frown curiously.

“What?” She asked over the chatter of the crowd that was slowly dispersing behind them; Alya dared to be encouraged by the intrigued babble she could hear, even if no exact words were distinct.

Marinette bit her lip, seeming to struggle with herself for a moment…and then she abruptly burst into speech.

“I should’ve been there for them,” she said, guilt turning her bluebell eyes dark. She looked away, at the place AVA had disappeared, cupping her elbows. “If I had done something earlier…maybe they wouldn’t have felt that they needed to take matters into their own hands in the first place.”

Alya blinked.

“…This isn’t your fault, Marinette,” she pointed out, worried over the way her friend seemed to be carrying this immense guilt around inside of her. “No one could’ve guessed how things would go down when a new akuma-crazed psycho resurfaced in Paris.”

“But I’m—!” Marinette abruptly stopped talking, turning wide eyes onto Alya, as if she just realized to whom she was speaking. Ah…she must have forgotten that Alya ‘didn’t know’ her dotty little secret. The reporter bit back her amusement at the irony and waited for Marinette to rework her sentence into something acceptable for the situation. “I mean…I-I know a lot of the AVA members. I grew up with most of them.” She shook her head, looking absolutely miserable. “I know it’s dumb, but…I just feel like I failed them, somehow.” In a smaller voice, she added, “Even now, though it looks like they don’t need my help…I wish there was something I could do for them.”

Alya tilted her head. Wow, one peaceful protest from AVA, and Marinette was all sympathy, her earlier irritation with AVA seemingly vanishing.

They were in for a big ‘I told you so’ when Vixen dropped in on them again.

Smiling a little, Alya stepped forward, patting Marinette’s shoulder.

“You know…I think all they really need is to be shown a little faith,” she said, pushing a corner of Marinette’s pouting lips up into an artificial smile. “Half the city’s been against them for a long time…I think it would mean a lot for you to support them.”

Marinette stared at Alya, looking anxious and lost; this was an expression Alya hadn’t seen on her in a while, and its reappearance was not reassuring. The poor thing really had too much going on.

“…But how do I do that?” She asked, her shoulders slumping. “I haven’t been akumatized, so it’s not like I can relate, exactly…”

“Mm-hm,” Alya hummed, supposing she had a point. And though Marinette knew the circumstances of each akumatized victim personally, thanks to her moonlighting as Ladybug, it wasn’t as if she could share said experiences, for the details would be way too telling for her own good…


In her mind’s eye, Alya once again saw the Ladybug badge pinned to Myléne’s shirt, something that surprised her, for she had believed the whole of AVA had turned their backs on Team Miraculous…but apparently, a select few still held onto their hero worship…

And then it hit Alya, a glorious stroke of inspiration that she would later pat herself on the back for…but only if she managed to get certain parties on board…

“A street performance,” she said under her breath, causing Marinette to frown.


Alya gestured around them.

“Plaza Pompidou! It’s famous for its street performances; people come here all the time to see musicians, performance art, even mimes!” Excited now, Alya seized Marinette’s shoulders, a huge grin splitting her face as her own genius ran away with her. “Marinette—you could hold your own fashion show here!”

Marinette blinked in rapid succession, looking like she was worried about Alya’s mental health.

“…Alya, we were talking about AVA—”

“That’s the best part!” Alya interjected, “you want to show your support for them, right? Then have them model your superhero line!”

Now Marinette’s eyes widened, her mouth slightly open as she stared at Alya.

“Wh…but…” Alya waited, watching as Marinette began to frown, speculation entering her gaze. Her lips pursed as she considered for a long while…

“…That’s…actually not a bad idea,” she concluded at last, sounding surprised by her own conclusion. Alya snickered and let go of Marinette, giving a mock bow.

“Thank you, thank you, please, hold your applause,” she said dramatically, and Marinette gave a giggle at her best friend’s antics. All too soon, however, her brow began to pucker again.

“…But Alya, wouldn’t having AVA members model superhero clothing be a conflict of interest?” She folded her arms, looking troubled. “I don’t think Team Miraculous would be very happy about being represented by a group that burned a Chat Noir scarecrow in front of City Hall just a week ago…”

…Ah. That was true. And Alya was willing to bet that a certain ex-model wouldn’t be keen on the idea, either…

“You have a point,” she conceded before pressing hers. “But think about it, Marinette—what better way to show support towards victims of prejudice than allying them with the image of Paris’ idols?”

Marinette still looked dubious, so Alya backtracked a bit.

“I know things have been tense between the heroes and the citizens,” she acknowledged with a solemn nod. “And I’m not saying you should rush into trusting your brand with AVA, especially if this new direction of theirs doesn’t last very long. I’m just saying it’s an option.” She smiled and patted Marinette’s shoulder once again. “Just think about it: if you were a previously akumatized victim, with half the city against you, and some crazy talented designer decided you were a perfect fit for a superhero brand she’d created, how awesome would you feel about yourself, knowing that there was someone out there who was willing to believe in you that much?”

Alya gave Marinette a wink.

“Personally, if it was me, I’d be thrilled.”

The look Marinette gave her…it intrigued Alya. It was like Marinette was looking at her for the first time, perhaps recognizing that Alya, too, had been there and done that when it came to being akumatized. The speculation returning to her gaze, Marinette looked away from Alya, at the spot where AVA had staged its first non-chaotic protest, gripping her chin as she thought.

“…I’ll think about it,” she decided.

Alya willingly let the matter drop after that. If Marinette was willing to at least consider featuring a couple AVA members in tandem with her superhero line, then Alya’s work was done.



The end of Fashion Week had come and gone, and while Adrien was more than relieved to have the whole thing over with, he couldn’t help but regret that Marinette had refused a second debut after all. It broke his heart to think about how her big moment had been marred by a creature such as Shade, and he burned with the injustice. If he ever found out who was hiding under all that darkness…

Ah, but now was not the moment—he had gotten a text from Alya to meet her at Plaza Pompidou for something, and he had agreed, though half of him wished he had been able to get a hold of Marinette. It was Saturday, so he had been hoping to maybe spend some time with her, see how she was doing…maybe discuss some things other than fashion that really needed to be addressed sooner rather than later…

When he entered the plaza, his eyes were immediately drawn to what appeared to be…

A makeshift runway?

“Yo, Agreste! Over here!”

Alya stood off to the side of the makeshift runway; he was just able to spot her in between the curious onlookers surrounding the area, grinning widely as she waved him over with her free hand, the other gripping her phone, as usual. Adrien waved back as he made his way over, stealing glances at the large red curtain that took up the center of the plaza, his curiosity growing the longer he stared.

“Hey. Do you know what the deal is with the curtain?” He asked Alya once he was close enough. Alya’s grin was mischievous, and suddenly, Adrien was on guard. Why did he have a bad feeling about this…?

“I do know—Marinette’s going to be putting on her very own fashion show,” she announced proudly.

Adrien stared, his mouth coming open with a pop.

“Huh?” He sputtered, uncomprehending. Her own fashion…what? When had this been decided? And more importantly, why hadn’t he been told?

“It was meant to be a surprise,” Alya told him, seeming to guess his feelings from the look on his face. Adrien regarded her carefully.

“You knew,” he said, hoping his tone didn’t sound as petulant as he feared it might. Alya gave a shrug.

“Well yeah, but I’m the one who suggested it in the first place.” Hooking an arm around Adrien’s, she pulled him towards the curtain. “Come on, come see!”

Adrien allowed her to drag him behind the curtain, where he was surprised at how...well, organized things were “backstage”, considering this was essentially a street performance. Still, there were a lot of people here, and while he thought he could hear Marinette somewhere, she was obscured from his vision by all the people running around…people that were awfully familiar—

“Oh, Adriho—I mean, Adrien,” said a startlingly familiar voice, and Adrien turned to find Chloé of all people here…in one of Marinette’s designs.

Chloé lifted the honeycomb mask from her face to eye him up and down, her lips pursed. They had fallen out of touch over the months, so Adrien supposed it wasn’t out of character for Chloé to regard him with her narrowed blue eyes, and ask in a tone that was almost waspish:

“What are you doing here?”

That was Adrien’s question…but he decided to be civil.

“I’m…here to watch Marinette’s fashion show, apparently,” he said with an uncertain glance at Alya.

“Oh, of course,” Chloé drawled, rolling her eyes. “I hear you two are an item now.”

“Something you have no business being sour about,” Alya cut in with a raised eyebrow. “Not after what I’ve been hearing about you and a certain red-head—”

“Mind your own business, Césaire!” Chloé squawked, turning a bright shade of pink before she stomped off, Alya grinning in triumph. Adrien almost asked…but then decided that that was probably a can of worms best left unopen. Besides, there were more pressing questions that needed answers…

“What’s going on? Why is Chloé here modeling one of Mari’s designs? She actually allowed this?”

“It wasn’t my idea,” said a weary voice, and Adrien turned again to find that his girlfriend had appeared, a pincushion strapped to her wrist, her hair tied up in a bun, and a weary but determined expression on her face. As she greeted Adrien with a kiss to the cheek, she gave a brief frown. “Chloé was the only one whose measurements fit the Bee outfit. …And it looks really good on her, unfortunately.”

Alya patted Marinette’s shoulder in sympathy.

“You only have to put up with her for today,” she reminded Marinette, who sighed but nodded.

“Right. Well, having Nath around to keep her occupied helps.” She shook her head in mild disbelief. “I still can’t believe they’re dating.”

“You must’ve ruined him for all the other good women in Paris,” Alya teased, laughing as Marinette swatted her in retribution.

“Marinette,” Adrien interrupted their banter, frowning as he surveyed all the people wearing her outfits, slowly connecting the dots… “Why are there so many AVA members here? And why are you letting them model your outfits?”

The playful mood vanished, and Marinette bit her lip as she looked anxiously up at him.

“Oh,” she began softly, fidgeting, “well—”

“It was my idea,” Alya cut in, raising a hand to take the blame. “I thought it’d be a cool idea—you know, show some support for the new direction AVA seems to be heading in.”

Adrien frowned. Yes, he knew the ‘change’ AVA had been going through—it had been on the news, though these new protests weren’t featured as constantly as their old ones…probably because they were less exciting when no one was rioting or flinging goo or harassing public authority figures…

Adrien looked away from Alya, focusing solely on Marinette.

“…You agreed to this?” He asked quietly, staring her down.

…Honestly? He didn’t like this. Not only had Marinette and Alya basically blindsided him with this, but to allow AVA members to be associated with Paris’ superheroes? After everything they’d put Team Miraculous through? After everything he’d had to bear from them?

He thought Alya would’ve known better than that, but what really hurt was Marinette agreeing to go along with this. That was what hurt, because, even if they hadn’t properly addressed it yet, she knew, better than anyone, how he’d been suffering in trying to right all the wrongs he had committed. And it wasn’t like he didn’t get why AVA was angry with him—he did—but he never thought Marinette would actually side with them like this…not after he had apologized to her and had been working to make amends ever since he rejoined the team…

Guilt. There was guilt there, in Marinette’s eyes.

So she knew what she was doing, knew that this choice wouldn’t please him…and yet she had chosen to go through with it anyway.

What was she thinking…?

There was a sharp clearing of a throat, and Adrien glanced over at Alya, who was regarding him with a flat look.

“This isn’t about you, Agreste,” she said shortly, her hands on her hips. “This is about Marinette and her career. She’s actually making moves to go out on a limb on her own, as well as making a statement by giving a platform to those who need to be heard. So, I don’t know what your problem is…” Her eyes said that she definitely knew what his problem was, but she couldn’t let on that she knew too much in front of Marinette… “…but get over it. The show’ll start soon.”

Alya left then, calling for everybody to get their shit together, because they had about five minutes before this thing was about to start. As the rushing around increased, someone called for Marinette’s assistance, but she did not move, her anxious bluebell gaze fixed on Adrien’s face. Slowly, she reached for his hand, and he let her have it, wanting to be reassured by her touch. But the shock was still too strong, so all he felt was numb.

“I’ll explain everything later,” Marinette said softly, giving his hand a squeeze. “I promise.”


Everything always had to be discussed ‘later’, didn’t it?

Adrien was really beginning to hate that word.

Nevertheless, he swallowed his feelings and nodded. Marinette gave him a hesitant smile before answering the summons of one of the models. Adrien watched her dark hair vanish back into the mob backstage, and then he turned, leaving the area to join the waiting crowd on the other side of the curtain, their intrigued chatter doing nothing to bolster his confidence in his girlfriend’s impromptu fashion show.

This was stupid—he really didn’t want to let this get to him, didn’t want to make it about him, like Alya said. He should be glad that Marinette was making strides to do something for herself, working tirelessly to accomplish this goal she had been chasing for so long…

Adrien knew what he was supposed to be feeling right now.

But what he should be feeling and what he was feeling were two opposite ends of the spectrum, spheres that would not touch.

Adrien knew he should be proud of Marinette.

But he just felt betrayed instead.



Alya scowled at her computer screen, incensed.

This had to be the maddest she had ever been at Eric—here she had prime footage of the human side of AVA, sharing their stories and modeling amazing fashions, footage that was practically a gold mine of hits just waiting to happen…and then her jackass of a boss said that he wouldn’t accept them!

It won’t sell,” he had told her when Alya presented her work to him, already cut and edited, ready to be added to Paris Today’s website as soon as he gave the okay… “Nobody cares about the human side of AVA—they were more interesting to report on when they were rioting and out of control. Besides, this is just a phase. I’ll bet you my editor-in-chief title that they’ll go back to the goo-flinging within a week, tops. Now, if you bring me some of that footage, I’ll allow it to be published to the site. Hell, I’ll even let you put your name on it!

It had taken all of Alya’s willpower not to slam her narrow-minded boss’ head into his desk and staple his ears to the wood. Oooh, she was pissed!

Nobody cared, huh…?

Seized by her vindictive fury, Alya had returned to her apartment and got to work right away, uploading videos left and right. Eric wanted to make a bet? All right, Alya was game. If these videos reached over a thousand hits before the week was out, Alya was gonna kick down his door, rub her personal blog’s success in his face, and demand either his job, or a raise that equaled his.

She was not the goddamn moderator of the Ladyblog for nothing, after all.

Back to Us

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

Part 32 of 37

<< Previous     Home     Next >>