Continuing Tales

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

Part 33 of 37

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“Ladybug, Ladybug, death comes for you. Paris is on fire, and your friends are all doomed. Even those two, the turtle and cat. And soon, I’ll squish you all like a gnat…”


Marinette jolted awake, gasping as her eyes sprang open. For a wild moment, she thought she saw eerie bright eyes staring at her…but then her eyes adjusted to the light in her room, and she realized there was nothing there. Still, her heart was beating way too fast, and she had to force herself to breathe, shifting uncomfortably as her clothes clung to her body, thanks to the cold sweat she had broken out in. God, that had been a terrifying lullaby to dream about…

“Are you all right, Marinette?” Tikki wanted to know, leaving her pillow to float next to Marinette’s face, regarding her with concern. Marinette let out a slow breath and smiled, stroking Tikki’s head, between her antennae.

“I’m fine. Just had a weird dream…”

“What about?”

Marinette paused to think about it…but the more she tried to recall it, the more details began to slip from her mind. After a moment, she was left with nothing but a faint, sinister melody that chilled her to think about, and so she stopped.

“I don’t know,” she confessed, cringing. “I guess it wasn’t important.”

Tikki’s indigo eyes were wide and worried, so Marinette smiled to assure her that she was fine. After all, it really must not have been important, if she forgot it immediately upon waking up…

Her phone suddenly began to buzz on her nightstand. Marinette grabbed it, frowning at the ‘Unknown’ display on her screen. Damn, she had been hoping it was Adrien calling…who was this, and what did they want?

As tempted as she was to let it go straight to voicemail, Marinette’s curiosity won out, for she was rarely ever called by telemarketers or anything of the like—something she attributed to her luck. Wondering if that luck was about to be tested, Marinette hit the answer button, clearing her throat.


“Good morning. Is this Marinette Dupain-Cheng?”

Marinette frowned at her floor. This voice…she knew this voice…but from where…?

“Yes?” She answered uncertainly. The voice on the other end of the line sounded amused as it continued,

Mlle. Dupain-Cheng, this is Amara Sainte de-Couquille. We met at my husband’s Winter Gala, do you remember?”

“Oh! Mme. Sainte de-Couquille!” Marinette exclaimed in surprise, nearly dropping her phone. She clung to it tighter and inwardly ordered herself to get it together. “Y-yes, of course I remember you! Uh, congratulations, by the way—I heard you’re having a baby.”

“Oh, thank you,” Amara said warmly. “I suppose Adrien told you the news?”

“Oh…yes,” Marinette answered, frowning to herself.

Speaking of Adrien…Marinette hadn’t seen a whole lot of him this week. Granted, she had been scrambling around on her own, making moves towards the dream of owning her own boutique, but still—

“I just spoke with him yesterday; he was the one who gave me your number,” Amara explained. “I hope you don’t mind.”

“No, not at all,” Marinette replied, waving a hand through the air before she remembered that Amara couldn’t see it. “Um, what can I do for you, Mme. Sainte de—”

“Please, call me Amara,” Amara interjected, sounding amused again. “My husband’s name is a bit of a mouthful, isn’t it?” Her tone was suddenly business-like as she added, “Speaking of my husband, we were discussing some things just the other day, and as it happens, he and I have a proposition for you.”

Marinette blinked.

“A…proposition?” She repeated, uncertain.

“Yes. I’m sure you’re quite aware of this already, but your superhero spring line has garnered a lot of attention throughout Paris.”

Oh, Marinette knew all right. While she hadn’t expected Alya would upload the footage she’d taken during Marinette’s impromptu fashion show, what was even more unexpected was the astounding amount of hits the Ladyblog kept receiving because of it. Alya hadn’t stopped gloating about it either—“somehow”, the CEO of Paris Today had found out that she had the scoop on the AVA fashion show before any other news team, and the news that Eric had vetoed posting the videos to their news website had landed him in some very hot water. Alya’s smug smirk was ever present as she kept Marinette updated on all the messages and comments people posted on the blog, which were overwhelmingly positive, to the point where Marinette was in tears from all this love and support. She still had a long way to go, of course, if she wanted to keep her dream alive, but seeing her first line get so much attention after she had slaved over it for months and months…Marinette could not be more grateful, nor more humbled.

“As I understand it, though your line was meant to be carried by Agreste Fashion, Adrien told me that this is no longer the case?” Amara spoke, pulling Marinette from her thoughts.

“Oh…yes, that’s right,” Marinette answered, frowning again at the mention of her MIA boyfriend. Seriously, she was going to have to track him down sooner rather than later… “While Adrien has helped me out a lot…this is something I need to do on my own. So I’m working towards starting my own boutique.”

“I respect that,” Amara said, and there was indeed admiration in her tone. “As talented as you are, I’m sure any boutique you start would be highly successful.”

Marinette felt herself blush, and she giggled nervously.

“Um, thank you. I hope so, too.”

“That being said, while I recognize your need for independence, I do wonder if you’re against accepting investors?”

Marinette nearly dropped her phone again; she managed to hold onto it, but there was no hope for her jaw as her mouth went slack.

Wait…Amara wasn’t saying what she thought she was saying…was she?

“I-investors?” Marinette cringed. Ugh, why did she have to go into a stuttering mess right now?

“Yes,” Amara replied, seeming unperturbed by Marinette tripping over her own tongue. “I am very intrigued by your designs—by the Peacock dress, especially. I’ve never seen anything like it before; it’s exquisite. So I spoke with Jacques and showed him your work, and he agrees that Marinette Dupain-Cheng originals would indeed prove to be a very lucrative investment.”

Marinette couldn’t believe her ears. There was no way, right? She had to be dreaming, right?

There was no way she had a potential investor just a week after her street debut, right?!

Just to be sure, Marinette pinched herself, wincing when it hurt.

Not a dream, then. Okay…

Marinette forced herself to take a deep breath before answering, as calmly as she could,

“I would be honored by your investment, Amara…but I’m afraid there’s not really much to invest in at the moment. There’s still a lot of legwork I have to do before I can get started—finding premises for my boutique, securing fabric suppliers, hiring staff—”

“I have the utmost faith that you will be able to accomplish all that and more,” Amara replied calmly and without hesitation. “Once you’ve narrowed down your decision for a place, feel free to contact me at this number. And let me know if you have any issues with suppliers—I may be retired, but I still have a few old friends with favors I may be able to call in.”

So this was really happening, then…

“Amara…thank you,” Marinette said, unable to truly express how much this support meant to her; she hoped a simple word of thanks would suffice, for now.

Amara laughed warmly.

“No no, Marinette, thank you.” She paused a moment. “…I don’t think you realize what it meant, for you to give your support to those who have been affected by the supervillain that plagues Paris. Seeing those videos featuring AVA members wearing superhero symbols…it meant a great deal to me, and Jacques as well. It’s lovely to know that someone as wonderful as you is compassionate enough to put your faith in people like my husband, who have suffered through such ordeals. From the bottom of my heart, I thank you.”

Marinette felt herself blush all the way up to her hairline.

Wow…admittedly, she hadn’t been thinking about what her decision to support AVA through her fashion line might look like to people who weren’t directly involved…but actually hearing such gratitude from someone who had indeed been affected by Shade’s madness…

“You’re welcome,” she said shyly. Amara bid her a fond farewell before hanging up, and Marinette lowered her phone to her lap, staring blankly at the floor for a few seconds.

And then she screamed.

“Marinette!” Tikki yelped, so startled that she fell out of the air and landed on her pillow, her tiny hands pressed over the sides of her head, where her ears would be. “What’s wrong?!”

“Nothing!” Marinette exclaimed, jumping to her feet, filled with so much restless energy that she danced in place, wiggling her backside in excitement. “Everything’s perfect! I just got my first investor for my boutique! This is great!

Immediately, she snatched up her phone again, wanting to call Adrien and tell him the news—

Her thumb stopped just as she was about to press the dial button on her phone, and as Marinette stared at Adrien’s profile picture on her phone—she had taken it back when his hair was still long—she felt her sudden excited bubble pop.

Adrien wasn’t happy with her. Though they hadn’t made time to discuss it yet, she already knew she was in trouble with him—the look on his face the day of her street fashion show had said it all. Sure, he had smiled and congratulated her afterwards on a job well done, and he had been answering the sporadic texts she’d sent him all week…but every time she tried to see him, he had been strangely busy. Marinette had been willing to chalk it up to their conflicting schedules—it wasn’t like she had been readily available all week, either—but as more days came and went, she was beginning to think there was a lot more to Adrien’s absence than she wanted to believe.

“Marinette?” Tikki asked, clearly concerned about her Chosen’s abrupt shift in mood once again. “…Is something wrong?”

Marinette sighed.

“…I think so,” she replied, slowly sinking down onto her bed again, still staring at Adrien’s profile picture in her phone. “But I don’t really know what to do about it.”

She knew how Adrien felt about AVA, because it was how she used to feel about AVA, so learning, quite out of the blue, that his girlfriend intended to center her impromptu fashion show around them could not have felt good. She probably should have told him instead of blindsiding him like that…

But on the other hand, despite all the terrible things they’d done that Marinette didn’t agree with, they were working towards turning their image around now, and Marinette couldn’t make herself regret putting her faith in this new AVA, not after seeing first-hand how hard they were working to change. She just couldn’t bring herself to hold a grudge against them—if she could forgive Chat Noir and give him a second chance, then certainly AVA deserved the same courtesy, didn’t they?

Marinette feared that she was probably the only one who felt that way, if Adrien’s conspicuous absence these past few days was any indication.

She sighed. They were going to have to have a very, very, very long conversation, and soon, if Marinette wanted to keep her boyfriend and her partner. Just…not now. They would talk later, once Marinette felt like she was treading water in the stormy ocean that was currently her life, instead of just struggling to keep her head above the surface.

Giving Tikki a reassuring stroke when she continued to look worried, Marinette scrolled down to the next contact in her phone: Alya. If anything, Alya was always hyped when Marinette gave her good news, so for now, she would limit this particular victory to her, her kwami, and her best friend.



“Dude, that’s like, the fifth time you’ve sighed in the past two minutes. Seriously, what’s up?”

Adrien groaned to himself. He wasn’t being very subtle about how down he was, was he?

“Sorry, Nino,” he apologized, wedging his phone in between his ear and his shoulder as he typed a quick response to the e-mail Sylvia sent him—something about a model showing up for work, drunk for the third consecutive day this week. Joy. “Just not in a great mood today.”

“I can tell. You wanna talk about it?”

Adrien smiled bitterly to himself.

“Aren’t you sick of being my constant relationship counselor?”

“So this is about ‘Nette?” Nino guessed, causing Adrien to cringe. Oops.

“It’s…nothing,” Adrien huffed, clicking ‘send’ on the e-mail before he removed his phone from his shoulder, getting up from his desk to stare broodingly out the glass wall of his office. “Forget it.”

“Doesn’t sound like nothing,” Nino persisted, his tone bordering on concern and exasperation. “What’s going on?”

Adrien frowned. Though he had been wishing for someone to talk to about this, his options were limited: Nino, though he was well-meaning, could never be told the whole story, for it would involve a lot of identity reveals that Adrien couldn’t get into for a multitude of reasons. Ivan, bless him, already had too much information without Adrien adding to the pile, so his vague frustrations couldn’t really be worked out with his therapist, either. And Alya, though she knew about as much as Ivan, if not less so, was Marinette’s best friend, and the instigator of this particular problem, so she was probably the last person Adrien would want to confide in.

Besides, Adrien didn’t want to confide in anybody else. He wanted to talk to Marinette about all this, but she was so busy running around and making plans for her new boutique that he found it hard to ask her for a moment of her time. Of course, she had tried to make plans with him on her own, but he always ended up saying that he was too busy to see her, a blatant lie that they were both choosing to ignore. But Adrien was afraid that if he saw her, that he would lose any and all composure he had left and demand that they finally, finally talk about all the unspoken things between them. Sure, he had believed that he could wait for as long as she needed him to, but he was finding more and more with every day that passed that his patience was beginning to run out. And if he tried pushing the issue before Marinette was ready…

“Adrien?” Nino called, his voice filtering through Adrien’s consciousness from far away. “Hello? Dude, are you still there?”

“Yeah,” Adrien huffed, closing his eyes to block out his frustrated expression in the glass before him, a hand reaching back to rub the back of his neck. “It’s really nothing, Nino. Just…something I have to work out with Marinette. Besides, don’t you have your own relationship problems to worry about without trying to solve mine, too?”

Nino went silent. Immediately, Adrien felt horrible, like he had thrown Nino’s current problems back in his face to deflect from his own troubles.

“Nino…I'm sorry. I didn’t mean it like that, I—”

“It’s fine,” Nino cut him off, though it sounded like it was anything but fine. “It’s not like you’re wrong…”

There was an awkward pause.

“…Have you talked to her at all, lately?”

“…No.” Nino heaved a sigh that made Adrien ache for him. “I just…need some space, right now.”

“Wow…she must have really upset you with whatever she said.”

Nino chuckled darkly.

“Yeah. She’s good at that. Not that I was fighting fair either, but…” He sighed again. “I dunno, man. I’m pissed at her for what she said, yeah…but mostly, I’m mad because it was stuff I was thinking all on my own, and…I guess it stung a lot worse to hear someone else say it.”

Adrien frowned. He didn’t know what words had been exchanged between Nino and Alya, only that they weren’t speaking at the moment. It seemed like a rough time for every couple in their group, currently, though Adrien couldn’t really be sure how distracted Alya was by this; she seemed to be keeping herself busy enough, lately…

“…You guys’ll be okay,” Adrien said, more to himself than to Nino. “I know I haven’t been around for most of your relationship, but from what I’ve seen, you guys always seem in sync. I think you’ll be fine…as long as you want to be, anyway.”

“…Yeah,” Nino agreed after a moment. “Relationships are hard, man.”

“I know,” Adrien replied wryly. “You just don’t realize how hard until you hit the rocky parts.”

He and Nino sighed as one. He wished his best friend was here so they could share a drink or something later…but he was busy bringing great music to the rest of France, and Adrien really couldn’t begrudge him that.

“How’re other things over there?” Nino asked suddenly, “y’know…supernatural-wise.”

Adrien frowned at his reflection in the glass wall. Oh, right…that.

“…It’s quiet,” he replied, wary. “Too quiet.”

“Hmm,” Nino hummed, and left it at that. Adrien was content not to say anything more on the subject—it was another thing he was on edge about, because the sudden silence after Shade had revealed herself was unnerving…doubly so because there was a high possibility that she knew the identities of two out of the three heroes of Team Miraculous. Adrien couldn’t be sure, but it almost felt like she was biding her time, waiting for the exact moment to strike, just when they least expected it—

“Ah, okay, I’m coming,” Nino said, apropos of nothing. Adrien gave his phone an odd look, but before he could ask, Nino was already explaining. “Hey dude, sorry, but I gotta go—they want me to do a sound check before the concert tonight.”

Adrien smiled.

“I don’t mind,” he assured his best friend, waving away the apology. “It’s cool how famous you’re getting. Promise not to forget us little people once you go platinum, all right?”

Nino gave a loud snort, the sound comforting to Adrien.

“Yeah, sure. Anyway, I should be back by the end of the week, so if you’re still in a shitty place by the time I get back, let’s go drown our worries in some alcohol, all right? And I mean the hard stuff, not that zinfandel crap you like so much.”

“What is with you and your hatred of wine?” Adrien wanted to know, shaking his head with a grin. “Did a vineyard kill your family or something?”

“Hey, you leave my moms out of this.” His voice was suddenly muffled, as if he had his hand over his phone as he spoke to someone in the background. “Okay, I really gotta go. Later, dude!”

“Good luck!”

Adrien hung up, marginally more cheerful than he had been all week. Nino just had that effect on him—his natural laid-back demeanor soothed Adrien when he was anxious, and it was one of his favorite things about his best friend. And, though he wished it wasn’t so, having someone going through the same thing he was in regards to their significant others made Adrien feel less alone in his problems.

…Now if only he could work out said problems with said significant other…

He sighed yet again, returning to his desk and slumping in his seat. His eyelids were very heavy, and he blamed that on not sleeping much as of late, but now instead of worrying about fashion stuff, he was worrying about Marinette. It was almost like he couldn’t win, no matter what he did.

He was so very sleepy…

Chat Noir, Chat Noir, your end will come. Paris is on fire, and your loved ones are gone. All except one, your sweet ladybug. But she will die in the grave you've dug.

Adrien jerked awake, blinking in a startled fashion.

That…what was that?!

“Plagg!” Adrien called, wrenching his desk drawer open to reveal his kwami, mid-swallow with a chunk of camembert. “Are you…singing?”

Plagg finished swallowing, giving Adrien a dry look right after.

“Barring the occasional musical, when have you ever known me to sing, kid?” He pointed out. Adrien frowned, supposing he had a point. But then…where had that song come from…?

“You sure you weren’t just dreaming?”

Adrien shook his head experimentally. He had been sitting here…his eyes had drifted closed…yeah. Maybe he had been dreaming.

Still, though…why would he have such a troubling dream? Was he not allowed to have peace even while he slept?

Adrien rubbed at his face, getting up to pour himself a cup of coffee.

He just needed a pick-me-up, that was all. And then he’d get back to work—with all he had to deal with right now, fretting about drunk models was a welcome release.



“How about this place, huh? Didn’t I tell you it was huge?”

“Yeah…but I’m beginning to see why it’s listed so cheaply. It doesn’t exactly look habitable, does it?”

“So it’s a fixer-upper,” Alya admitted with a careless shrug. “Come on, try thinking outside the box—this bay window here is perfect for a display window! And you could put the name of the boutique right above the door there…what are you going to name it, anyway? Have you figured that out yet?”

“First I need a place,” Marinette said firmly, eyeing the decrepit building up and down with a critical eye. “Then, I can have a name.”

“Well I personally don’t think you need to look any further,” Alya insisted, throwing her arms out as she gestured to the building. “With some fresh paint and a really thorough scrub, you could totally have yourself an amazing boutique!”

Marinette still had her doubts—the place looked like it had been involved in more than a few fires, and though she was only looking at it from the outside, what she could see of the floor suggested that one falsely placed step would create a hazardous hole of rotting wood underfoot. While Alya was clearly in love with the place, Marinette was having a hard time seeing the charm that had swept her best friend away…

“I really think I could do better,” she said, and Alya huffed at her, fixing her with an indulgent look.

“All right, Mlle. Fashion Designer, tell me—where do you want your boutique to be?”

Ah, well, that was the million euro question, wasn’t it? She and Alya had been spending the past two days looking for potential boutique locations, but considering their limited free time—senior finals were fast approaching—finding someplace suitable had been slow-going. Not to mention that Marinette was already spreading herself pretty thin, in between her job, school, Ladybug patrols, and spending time worrying about the persisting absence of her boyfriend…

Marinette gave a wide yawn and winced when Alya whirled on her.

“That’s the fifth yawn in the last two minutes,” she reported, adjusting her glasses as she frowned at Marinette, in full Mom Friend mode. “What time did you go to bed last night?”

“Not too late,” Marinette said defensively. “I’ve just been…having a weird dream lately…”

Alya raised an eyebrow, folding her arms.

“Define ‘weird’.”

Marinette frowned. How to explain…

“…It’s this weird song I keep dreaming about,” she said slowly, gripping her chin in thought. “It’s not familiar, and I forget the words as soon as I try to remember after I wake up…but it sounds so…ominous…”

Alya tilted her head to the side.

“Hmm…do you remember the melody?”

“Yeah.” Marinette hummed a couple bars of the strange melody. “I have no idea where it came from, if I heard it on the radio once or something…what?”

Alya had a strange look on her face.

“That’s weird,” she said, running a hand through her hair as she glanced off to the side, frowning. “I’ve heard that song before. Recently, too.”

“Really?” Marinette asked, blinking in surprise. “Where did you hear it?”

“Hmm,” Alya hummed, closing her eyes as her face screwed up in concentration. “…I think…I was at a café…I was taking a break from studying…and I think I heard someone nearby humming it…”

This only served to confuse Marinette more.

“Is it a song that’s popular on the radio right now?”

Alya opened her eyes, still frowning.

“I don’t think so,” she said, and Marinette watched as she plucked idly at a fine chain around her neck. “But hell, it’s been so long since I’ve actually listened to the radio that I could be wrong…”

Marinette hummed, distracted by the sight of the chain around Alya’s neck; it was tucked into her shirt, so that whatever was on the end of it couldn’t be seen. How curious.

“Alya,” Marinette began, tearing her gaze from the chain to focus on her friend’s face, “when did you start wearing a necklace?”

While Marinette knew that Alya didn’t necessarily dislike jewelry, she also knew that Alya didn’t really give jewelry that much thought, either. So it was rare to see her wearing anything other than her engagement ring…what was so special about that necklace that it was made an exception to the rule as well? A present from Nino maybe? Had they made up somehow while Marinette wasn’t paying attention?

Alya blinked, startled as she glanced down, as if she just registered that the necklace was there. The way she abruptly dropped her hand from the chain made Marinette stare at her in surprise. What? What was the big deal? It was only a necklace…

And yet…there was now a certain shiftiness to Alya’s expression that Marinette didn’t quite understand…but was immediately suspicious of nonetheless.

“Alya, what—?”

“Oh, look who it is!”

Marinette jumped when a sudden arm slung its way around her body; she checked her immediate reaction—which was grabbing the arm and tossing the would-be attacker over her shoulder—when she recognized the laughing voice in her ear.

“Hello, Mari-doll,” Desiree greeted, looking as pleased as ever to see Marinette. She shifted back with a grin, her dark eyes sparking with delight when she took note of Alya. “And Mari-doll’s friend! I’m so sorry, sweetheart, but I don’t quite remember your name…”

“I’m Alya,” Alya introduced herself, looking strangely relieved as she shook Desiree’s hand. “Nice to see you again.”

“Likewise.” Desiree surveyed the area, a curious look crossing her features as she took note of the building in front of her. “Oh…what on earth are you two doing in front of this old thing?”

“Didn’t you hear?” Alya asked, grinning as she slung an arm over Marinette next, giving her shoulder a squeeze. “Mari-doll’s trying to open up her very own boutique.”

“Really?!” Desiree squawked, hands flying to her cheeks as she gawked at Marinette in surprise. “Marinette, why didn’t you tell me?!”

“Uh,” Marinette muttered, highly embarrassed by all the attention, “it was kind of, um, a recent decision…and we’ve been so busy preparing for finals—”

“Oh, right.” Desiree’s brows puckered at the mention of finals. “I’ll have to stock up on wine when it’s time to grade those.”

Alya snickered, and Desiree smiled wryly at her.

“Believe me, as much as you students hate taking finals, us professors suffer right along with you.” Desiree sighed, patting Marinette’s shoulder. “At least I won’t have to worry about my senior class—the hard part’s over for you all now, isn’t it?”

“Thank god,” Marinette huffed, and Desiree laughed.

“Oh! And I saw it!” She exclaimed excitedly, taking Marinette’s hands and squeezing them. “Your impromptu fashion show! Inspired! You’re absolutely brilliant, Marinette!”

Ah, the high praise that was lavished on Desiree’s favorites…very embarrassing. Marinette could feel her ears turning red at all the compliments.

“I-it wasn’t my idea, actually…” She mumbled, glancing at Alya, who shrugged, as if it didn’t much matter to her whether or not she got credit for suggesting the idea in the first place.

Desiree turned to her nonetheless.

“Oh, were you the genius behind the show at Plaza Pompidou?”

For some reason, Alya took her time answering; she was staring at Desiree for some reason Marinette couldn’t fathom…unless she was simply admiring the fashion professor’s looks, as she was prone to do when out of earshot of said fashion professor.

“…I guess,” Alya replied, the humble answer surprising Marinette. “It wasn’t a big deal, though; just helping a friend out of a jam, you know. Amanda was lovely in the Peacock dress, don’t you think?”

“Yes I do,” Desiree agreed, her smile fond as she thought of her girlfriend. “I was…a bit surprised to find out she was part of AVA, though…”

Marinette bit her lip. Uh-oh…had they inadvertently gotten Amanda in trouble with Desiree? Come to think of it, Amanda had been a touch reluctant to take such an active role in the fashion show…but Marinette had just assumed it was initial stage fright, for she had agreed in the end…

“Well, I think they all did an excellent job,” Alya said, her assertion firm as her hands rested on her hips. “We could all do with putting a little more faith in the citizens of Paris…especially the victims targeted by bigotry.” She smiled sweetly; a warning sign. “Don’t you think so, too, Desiree?”

“Oh, of course,” Desiree agreed…though—and Marinette was probably imagining it, but…there seemed to be something that was…rather forced, in her smile…hmm…

Oblivious to Marinette’s scrutinizing gaze, Desiree glanced down at her watch and gave a squeak of surprise.

“Oh! Speaking of my girlfriend, I’m late for a date!” She leaned in, kissing Marinette’s cheek, making her blush. “Good luck with the boutique, hun! I’ll be cheering you on in my own way…not that you probably need it, with someone as reliable as Alya in your corner!”

“Thanks,” Alya called after Desiree as she dashed away, flicking her fingers in farewell behind her. As they watched her go, Marinette noticed the way Alya’s lips pursed.

“What?” She wanted to know. Alya said nothing at first; her hazel eyes switched to Marinette, speculation in her gaze.

“…Nothing,” she ultimately decided, running a hand through her hair as she frowned. “I just realized: it was Desiree who was humming that song. I was in the café Amanda works in, and she was there, humming nearby."

Marinette tilted her head curiously.

"The song I've been dreaming about?" How curious...

"Yeah...maybe it's a popular song on the radio after all..." Alya frowned in the direction Desiree had disappeared in. "…Something’s bothering me.”

“About Desiree?”

“Yeah.” Alya tilted her head to the side, her frown growing more pronounced. “I don’t think she likes me.”

Marinette blinked at her best friend in surprise. Desiree, not like her?

“Why would you think that?” She asked, giving the dilapidated building before them one last glance of distaste before she decided it was time to move on, waving Alya behind her as she walked. Alya fell into step beside her, still wearing that frown of hers that indicated she was concentrating very hard on something.

“Just the way she talked to me, I guess.”

…Okay, that didn’t clear up anything at all.

“But she was so nice to you,” Marinette pointed out, and Alya gave a sigh, the sound frustrated.

“Well, yeah, it seemed that way…” She glanced over at Marinette, looking troubled. “But do you ever get the feeling that, y’know, when someone’s talking to you…like, they might be smiling on the outside…but you can almost see their teeth clenched together, like they’re just putting on an act, and it’s killing them to actually be civil to you?”

…Okay, Marinette could sort of see what Alya was talking about: Nathanael had encouraged Chloé to play nice during the collaborative fashion show, but it was still clear that she and Marinette would never be bosom buddies. Tragédie.

“…You got that from Desiree…?” She asked, still confused on this point. Alya gave a shrug.

“It might’ve been just me,” she allowed, her attitude suddenly lofty. “It could’ve been that she was worried about something else—she kept spinning that ring on her finger, so it might’ve had nothing to do with me, really—”

“Ring?” Marinette interrupted, staring at Alya in confusion. “What are you talking about? Desiree doesn’t wear a ring.”

The crosswalk before them turned red and they paused, Alya turning to stare at Marinette.

“…Are you kidding?” She asked, frowning when Marinette only continued to look nonplussed. “Girl, she always wears a ring. It’s on her left middle finger, silver? In the shape of an ouroboros?”

“A what?”

“You know: a snake eating its own tail.”

Marinette stared at Alya. There was a quiet, unpleasant creeping in the pit of her stomach, and her mouth was suddenly dry.

A snake…?

“…Desiree doesn’t wear a ring like that,” Marinette said, her voice sounding hollow and strange to her own ears. Alya raised her eyebrows so high they disappeared into her hairline.

“Marinette, she was wearing it just now. Remember, I said she was spinning it?” She folded her arms over her chest. “How did you not see it?”

How did she not see it…?

Because it wasn’t there. Desiree didn’t wear a ring like that, and Marinette didn’t know what kind of game Alya was playing, but it wasn’t funny—

A sudden, much different voice intruded upon her thoughts, unwanted, but making its presence known all the same:

“You shouldn’t trust that woman.”

Marinette shook her head, ridding herself of Felix’s hated voice.

No. He was not about to get his way and make her doubt someone she cared about like this. She didn’t know what his endgame was, but Marinette would be damned if she let anything he said get to her. She still didn’t know what his problem was with Desiree, but it had to be an issue all his own, right?

There was no way Desiree was guilty of anything, right?


“Marinette?” Hands slid over her shoulders, and she felt herself shake. Blinking, she suddenly found Alya in front of her, hazel gaze filled with concern. “Are you okay? You’re really pale…what’s wrong? Do you feel sick?”

Marinette swallowed. She did kind of feel like she was about to throw up…but she stubbornly suppressed the urge. There was no way she was getting upset over this; that would mean Felix won. It was best to just ignore the issue altogether…


“…Alya, can we call off the search for today?” Marinette requested, biting her lip. “There’s…something I forgot I have to do…”

Though Alya still looked concerned, she ultimately agreed, and they walked towards the metro in silence, each lost in their own thoughts. In the quiet, Marinette made herself recognize something that was very hard to acknowledge:

There was too much she was running from right now: her head was so full of secrets and fears that it was liable to explode at the slightest bit of pressure. This had to stop. There were things that needed to be addressed, so it was time for her to quit dancing around the issues and make her peace with them already.

The Desiree thing she shoved out of her mind, because no matter what Felix said, it was not an issue worth considering…though Alya’s words were a little harder to dismiss…

No, no, Marinette would not give the matter anymore of her attention. Instead, she would use said attention more constructively.

Starting with her boyfriend/partner, because Marinette feared that if she kept him dangling for too long, he would not be either of those things for very much longer.



Marinette (4:15 PM): Hey.

Marinette (4:15 PM): So, I know you’re busy…

Marinette (4:16 PM): But I really need to talk to you.

Marinette (4:16 PM): Can we meet up for breakfast on Saturday?

Marinette (4:18 PM): Please?

Adrien (4:23 PM): Okay.

Marinette (4:25 PM): Thank you. Meet me at my parents’ bakery; I’ll have your favorite waiting for you. <3

Adrien (4:26 PM): Sounds great. See you then.


This was stupid.

Marinette didn’t know what she was doing, but a feeling in the pit of her stomach warned her that she would dread it for days to come.

It had started out innocently enough—it was a rare Friday night where she had nothing to do. So, sick of the mess that her studio/bedroom had become, Marinette had gone on a cleaning purge, sorting through everything that had cluttered her room, either putting things in their proper places or tossing them unceremoniously into a bulging trash bag. God, how had she acquired so much junk?! How had she allowed herself to live like this for so long??

After she had cleaned out Tikki’s stash of empty cookie boxes, Marinette had moved on to her disaster of a desk surface, becoming a little more choosy about what she threw away, for there were important documents and sketches of new outfits on her desk that needed to be preserved, and she wouldn’t much like dumpster diving after anything important she had accidentally tossed.

It was after she had placed a clean sketchbook onto the shelf above her desk that Marinette had found it: an old picture she had forgotten about, featuring her and Desiree, when she had first gotten the job offer for Trés Bien Boutique. Oh, how full of dreams she had been back then…

As she smiled, reflecting on fond memories that had soured all too quickly, it had taken some time for Marinette to register a tiny, minute detail she had never seen before:

The glint of silver on Desiree’s left middle finger.

Marinette had paused, staring at the photo. She must have glanced at this picture dozens of times, but never before had she seen that glint of silver…

But then…why was it showing up now?

Half convinced that it was just a trick of the light, or a photography error, Marinette had fled to her computer, desperate to prove to herself that she was just seeing things, that maybe she was crazy due to overwork. Her trembling fingers had accessed IFA’s website, her mouse clicking on the staff page, and then the correct department…

And now she just sat there, staring at what her mind simply refused to accept, but what her eyes could clearly see…

The silver ring glinting on Desiree’s left middle finger as she posed with her hand on her chin, a sultry smirk aimed at the camera.

Enhancing the photo told Marinette what she already knew: the ring was indeed the shape of a snake with ruby eyes biting its own tail. An ouroboros, Alya had called it.

So Alya hadn’t been mistaken—Desiree seemed to always wear this silver ring, and somehow, Marinette had never noticed it before.

…So what did this mean?


“One second, Tikki,” Marinette requested, her teeth biting into her bottom lip as she stared at the inexplicable ouroboros ring circling her fashion professor’s finger. It didn’t necessarily mean anything that the ring was shaped into a snake…but why hadn’t Marinette noticed the ring until now? It didn’t make any sense…unless…

Feeling her heart pound despite the fact that she was just sitting down, Marinette hesitantly typed Desiree’s name into the search engine of her web browser. The first few pages of hits were things having to do with IFA, links Marinette scrolled past immediately; she doubted they would be helpful.

On the twelfth page of hits, Marinette lost patience. Clearly, this was a fool’s errand she was on—if there was anything to find about Desiree, then surely she would have found it by now, wouldn’t she have? The lack of anything suspicious linked to her beloved professor’s name just proved to Marinette what she already knew—there was nothing suspect about Desiree at all. She had let one minor detail she had failed to notice before get to her, and now she was sitting here feeling stupid. Felix would undoubtedly be laughing at her right now…if he even knew what a laugh was…

Marinette was about to shut down her browser in disgust, when a horribly familiar name caught her attention: Hawk Moth.

She stared, reading the full name of the link, which appeared to be a news article, dated…seven years ago?

The Identity of Hawk Moth: A Cover Up? American reporter Daniel Trace…

Daniel Trace…?

“Marinette,” Tikki called again, but Marinette barely heard her over her heart pounding in her ears; she stalled her kwami once again and clicked on the link, fingers twitching as the browser took its sweet time loading the article for her to read:

Just a week after Gabriel Agreste (alias Hawk Moth) had his fatal fall, revealing his true identity to all of France at last, new evidence has come to light that his identity had been discovered much sooner: when police searched his home, they discovered a series of what appeared to be journal logs written by Daniel Trace, forty-seven year old American reporter, who was found dead in his hotel room just a month prior, his death ruled a suicide due to overdose. In these journals, details of Gabriel Agreste’s whereabouts were carefully catalogued, matching his absences from notable functions to akuma attacks that occurred in Paris. Many of the entries were incomplete; sections were blacked out, making them illegible, though it is unclear whether this was Trace’s doing, or Agreste’s.

There was a picture included of some such log: cramped handwriting scratched into the page, the ink smudging in some places where the writers seemed to be in a hurry, capturing every one of Gabriel Agreste’s movements into a journal entry. And indeed, there were sections blacked out; whatever information they had contained could not be inferred from the surrounding context clues, so that information was lost for good. Still, Marinette squinted, as if she could just make out the hidden words from beyond the spoils of black ink…but no such luck. She might be Miraculous, but not even she could discern meaning from such chaos. So she moved on, eager to know the rest of the story.

A search of Agreste’s check book also indicates that he had been making monthly payments for nearly a year to an entity simply known as ‘D. T.’, which is damning evidence suggesting that Agreste may have been bribing Trace to keep his logs out of the public’s eye, to preserve Agreste’s image. Trace’s family could not be reached for comment on this matter.

Marinette made the mistake of looking at the comments section under the article: it was full of angry Parisians, incensed that ‘some greedy American hack’ had chosen money over his integrity as a journalist, that he should’ve done the right thing and reported Gabriel Agreste for what he was, and (Marinette’s stomach turned over) how some of them were glad that he was dead, because he had clearly been a waste of space if all he cared about was money. A hand covered her mouth unconsciously, and tears sprang to her eyes.

…If Daniel Trace was who Marinette thought he was…then how must it have felt, coming to the city who readily condemned someone you loved for not exposing the most powerful supervillain in all of Paris…?

Marinette couldn’t understand Daniel Trace’s reasons for taking the money in exchange for his silence…but surely he hadn’t deserved to die for it…


“What?!” Marinette burst out, startled, because Tikki had shouted directly in her ear this time; she nearly fell out of her desk chair, righting herself at the last minute as she massaged her ear and glared at her kwami. “What do you want, Tikki? I’m in the middle of—”

Tikki flew forward, pressing her tiny hands to Marinette’s lips, halting her speech.

“Shh,” she insisted as she floated back, Marinette staring at her in bewilderment. “Listen…”

Marinette paused, cocking her head to the side. At first, she didn’t know what she was supposed to be listening for—her balcony doors were open, so she could only make out the sound of the breeze filtering in, cooling her room. She opened her mouth to ask Tikki what she was supposed to be hearing—

Ladybug, Ladybug, answer my call. Paris is on fire; all are slaves to my thrall. Come; do not stall, or I will find you. I’ll be the Reaper who hunts for you…

Chilling fingers tip-toed down Marinette’s spine as she stared at Tikki, her shock and horror reflected in her kwami’s grim eyes.

That song…where was it coming from?!

Marinette jumped up from her desk and went to her balcony doors, throwing them open wider as she stepped out into the mild Parisian night.

There were people everywhere—they all were trudging forward through the street, their slow, uneven shambling resembling zombies. All their faces were blank, but all their mouths were moving, each singing the same chilling lyrics Marinette had just heard.

The melody that had been haunting her all week had somehow escaped from her dreams and threaded itself into a tapestry of horror that had been woven into her reality.

Marinette swallowed as the song continued—in English, no less. Another piece of evidence, circumstantial, but when combined with Alya's recollection from earlier that week, still attention-grabbing. But she couldn’t focus on it right now.

Dashing back into her room, Marinette forced herself to breathe through the panic that had seized her chest, still wide-eyed as she stared at Tikki.

“It’s Shade,” she said, the words trembling along with her body. Tikki gave a nod, her expression the most serious Marinette had ever seen it.

“She’s calling for you.”

Another shiver wracked through Marinette’s body.

“What do I do…?”

Tikki’s expression grew helpless. It was surreal to see such a look on such a normally positive entity.

“…I don’t think there’s anything else you can do, Marinette,” she admitted, resting her tiny hands on Marinette’s clenched ones that she held in front of her face, as if wanting to defend herself from an invisible assailant. “The citizens are in trouble—somehow, she has them all in a strange trance. And Ladybug has to stop her.”

Right. Ladybug had to stop her. This was Ladybug’s responsibility…

Sandpaper coated Marinette’s tongue, but she swallowed around it, willing herself to be brave. She could do this…she was Ladybug, after all. There was nothing she couldn’t do, once she set her mind to it.

One last deep breath…in and out…

Okay. She was ready.

“Tikki: transform me!”

The power of Miraculous was invoked, and Marinette left her civilian identity behind. Ladybug darted out onto the balcony once more and swung her way onto the rooftop, watching the citizens of Paris shamble aimlessly about…

…No, not aimlessly. They were all heading in one direction…

Ladybug followed this direction, occasionally calling from a rooftop for the entranced citizens to snap out of it. But no matter what she said, the people still followed the chilling siren call of Paris’ most dangerous supervillain since Hawk Moth, and Ladybug could do nothing else but obey the call as well, though knots twisted in her gut at the thought of what was waiting for her once the piper ceased her hypnotic melody…

Along the way, Ladybug spotted a familiar face. She dropped down onto the rooftop Chat Noir was crouched upon, his cat ears flat against his head as he watched the progression of hypnotized Parisians, all heading in the same direction.

“Hey,” he greeted her, straightening up to stand beside her. Dimly, Ladybug recognized that this was the first time she had seen her boyfriend/partner in days…but that was an issue for another time.

“You heard it, too?” She asked him, eyes searching his face, finding the same spooked feeling that rose goosebumps on her skin in Chat Noir’s eyes. His pupils contracted.

“Hard to miss when there’re a bunch of people wailing your name right outside your window,” he pointed out, casting a glance at the Parisian-filled streets. “Seems our snake is also a charmer. How ironic.”

“Where do you think they’re going?” Ladybug asked, biting her lip as she watched the slow progression of citizens follow the path to wherever the song was originating from.

“I have a hunch…” Chat Noir’s tone was dry. “But we’ll never find out for sure unless we follow them, will we?”

“Right…” Some of her misgivings must have shown up on her face, for Chat reached up, a clawed hand gripping her shoulder. She glanced up at him, and he offered her a small, non-Chat like smile.

“It’s gonna be all right,” he promised, giving her shoulder a squeeze. “I’ve got your back if you’ve got mine.”

Ladybug smiled, her relief strong at such words, no matter how simple they were.

“Always,” she promised, and Chat gave a nod.

“Good. Besides,” he continued, palming his baton in preparation, “if anything, Shell always comes through for us, even if it’s sometimes at the last minute.”

Oh, right…Shell…

“Chat,” Ladybug halted him with a hand to his shoulder, making him pause before he could leap to the next rooftop, “Shell…he won’t be coming. It’s just you and me tonight.”

Chat blinked at this; naturally, it was news to him.

“Why not?”

Ladybug opened her mouth to explain…but then she shut it, her misgivings getting the better of her. After all, did she really want to tell her boyfriend/partner that his best friend was also the superhero he’d been bickering with ever since he returned to Team Miraculous, right as they were about to confront the big, bad villain that had been complicating their lives for the past few months? No, Ladybug thought not. Best to keep their heads in the game right now.

“I’ll explain later,” she said instead. Chat’s eyes narrowed.

“Right,” he huffed, turning so that he was eyeing her from his peripheral vision. “Everything’s always ‘later’ with you, isn’t it?”

Ladybug flinched. She hated that he had a point, hated the disappointment she could see in his gaze before he flung himself off the roof, scrambling on all fours to the next rooftop, and the next, as if he wanted to outrun her. Biting into her lip, Ladybug followed him as they chased the source of the chilling lullaby all the way to the heart of Paris (figuratively speaking).

The Eiffel Tower blazed before them, a beacon in the night sky…or it usually was, anyway.

Tonight, it was nearly dead: all but a few lights were off, as if the symbol of Paris itself had been drained of power. The darkness didn’t stop the Parisians gathering in the square in front of Quai Branley, the eerie song they sang louder now, for there were more people concentrated in this one area. Ladybug and Chat Noir planted themselves in the middle of Quai Branley, Ladybug’s mouth coming open in horror as she saw the state her beloved landmark was in. Who had allowed this?!

Abruptly, all at once, the song stopped. Ladybug froze as the citizens all turned as one to where she and Chat Noir were standing, as if they had been expecting them. And there, near the top of the Tower, defiling the spot where she, Chat, and Shell normally gathered after a patrol with her mere presence…was Shade.

Ladybug. Chat Noir. So glad you could join us,” she said, her hissing voice carrying all the way to the heroes, despite the distance between them. “I am pleased to see that you knew better than to hide from me…though I wish I could say the same for your friend with the shell. Must I track him down as well before we begin…?

“You can try,” Ladybug challenged her, folding her arms tightly to keep herself from shaking. “But I doubt your power can reach through all of France.”

…I see. So he is not currently in Paris,” Shade deduced, her dark form shimmering in what little light she permitted the Eiffel Tower to give off. “Very well. It matters not; he will simply have to be dealt with at a later date.

“And how exactly are you planning on ‘dealing with us’?” Chat Noir drawled, letting his hands hang over his baton, which rested across his broad shoulders. “Gonna re-enact Night of the Living Dead with your choir army here?”

Of course not,” said Shade, surprising Ladybug. “They have nothing to do with this fight.

“Oh, that’s rich, considering you’ve been akumatizing people this whole time!” Ladybug spat; though she was grateful Shade didn’t seem about to use helpless citizens against the heroes, the nerve she dared to have, acting like she hadn’t been causing trouble using Parisian citizens! Ladybug would have laughed bitterly if she wasn’t so wound up.

The feeling worsened when Shade suddenly disappeared…only to reform herself in the air, just meters from Ladybug and Chat Noir. Ladybug hated herself for jumping in surprise, and Chat side-stepped, angling his body in front of her as he glared up at Shade. This made Ladybug’s heart hurt—still so ready to defend her, despite the fact that he had to be beyond frustrated with her at this point…

Shade tilted her head, as if she was considering the heroes.

…Ladybug,” she whispered, turning to her, her eyes as bright and eerie as ever. “Despite the…issues…we may have had in the past…I am willing to let you fly away from this battle.

Ladybug stared up at the supervillain, waiting for the punchline. When it didn’t come, her eyes narrowed in suspicion.

“You go through all the trouble of calling me here only to tell me to leave?”

My ire towards you is only obligatory—we are two forces on opposite sides, so naturally, we must clash…” Shade paused. “...But I will give you the chance to flee from punishment. If you leave now, I will not pursue you. Once my revenge is complete, you shall never hear from me again.” She waved a hand over herself, and the Butterfly Miraculous appeared once more. “I shall even deliver the Butterfly Miraculous to you afterwards.

An offer too good to be true…just how stupid did Shade think Ladybug was?

“I notice you’re not including Chat Noir in this deal,” she said darkly, watching warily as Shade’s bright eyes narrowed.

…No. The cat cannot prance free, for he is the object of my hatred.

Of course he was. The whole city was happy to hold Chat’s previous trespasses against him; why not the supervillain, too?

Chat tensed, and now Ladybug moved in front of him, assuming a defensive stance.

“Well, too bad for you, Shade, but Chat and I are a team,” she asserted, glaring defiantly up at Shade. “If you mess with him, you’re messing with me.”

…Unfortunate,” Shade replied, the sound a hiss of cold disappointment. “I do not wish to spill your blood, Ladybug, but if this is how it must be—

“And what, exactly, am I supposed to be punished for?” Chat wanted to know, attempting to step in front of Ladybug again; she blocked his movement, and he shot her an annoyed look before his cat’s eyes narrowed up at Shade again. “Why all the hatred, when I don’t even know you?”

Abruptly, Shade’s face split into that eerie grin that had haunted Ladybug’s nightmares from the moment she first saw it.

Have you ever heard the phrase, ‘the sins of the father will pass on to his children’?

Ladybug felt it when Chat tensed behind her, and she grit her teeth, her heart pounding double time.

So Shade did know who Chat Noir was…

…Well, that simplified things a tad, didn’t it?

“Does that saying also apply to you, Shade?” She demanded, watching with some satisfaction (and a lot of hidden sadness) as Shade’s grin disappeared as quickly as it came.

...I’m not sure I know what you could mean, Ladybug,” she said quietly, an undercurrent of danger laced through her tone. It was clear—Ladybug had plucked a nerve.

“Really?” She persisted, once again blocking any attempt Chat made to get in front of her; she didn’t want to be shielded from this, she wanted to face it head on, and he wasn’t about to stop her, damn it. “You really have nothing to add here, Shade? Nothing to report on…?”

Shade hissed softly, the sound low, but furious.

You’ve been a busy Bug,” she acknowledged, and Ladybug grimly accepted the despair that came from this confirmation.

She had so admired her…

“What’s going on?” Chat demanded to know, sounding frustrated. Ladybug couldn’t blame him, but she also couldn’t focus on him—now that things were (sort of) out in the open, if there was even a chance Ladybug could finally reach Shade…any chance at all…

“You don’t have to do this,” she said quietly, her voice soft and pleading as she stared up at her enemy, her mentor…her friend… “I know you’re hurting. But things don’t have to be this way. It’s not too late—”

Enough!” Shade spat, and she physically backed away through the air, as if to discourage any further attempts to reach her, sharp teeth bared in anger. “You will not sway me, hero! My path has been set for years, and I will not rest until all of Paris has paid! Starting with that damn cat you love so much!

Shade vanished in a swirl of darkness.

And then the citizens charged, war cries echoing through the air as they rushed the heroes, arms outstretched, their expressions twisted with rage and hate.

“She lied!” Ladybug cried, as she and Chat scrambled back to avoid the furious swipes of the Parisians attempting to capture them. Her first thought was to flee to Pont d’léna and figure out the next step from there, but all too soon, they were surrounded by brainwashed citizens.

“Big surprise!” Chat bit out, clenching his baton defensively as he and Ladybug stood back to back, watching the citizens they worked so hard to protect turn on them like savages. “What the hell do we do? We can’t fight them, and we don’t have Shell’s force field to protect us!”

There was only one thing for it, then.

“We run!” Ladybug decided, whirling her yo-yo as the citizens closed in, raging and spitting, nearly foaming at the mouth. From her peripheral vision, she saw Chat throw her a stunned look.

“Run where? The streets are filled—we have nowhere to run!”

“Then we fly!” Ladybug cried; she slipped an arm around Chat and pulled him close before she sent out her yo-yo to cling to the nearest street light, pushing off from the ground and swinging away from the crowd that threatened to overtake her and Chat. She winced as they swung through a barricade of bodies intended to prevent their escape; flinched as she heard the grunts of pain. She wasn’t really trying to hurt anyone, but what else could she do with them mobbing her and Chat like this? She couldn’t very well let Chat and herself be caught by them, because god knows what Shade might have ordered them to do, once they were trapped—

“We’ve gotta find a way to snap them out of it!” Chat grunted as Ladybug swung them around and around, refusing to stay in once place for too long, for the mob was relentless and very fast.

“How?” Ladybug asked, gritting her teeth as she kept swinging, Chat’s added weight not helping matters, even if she was very strong. And the mob followed, the citizens completely under the thrall of Shade, just like her song had forewarned. Well, at least Paris wasn’t literally on fire, though it might as well have been, with all the chaos occurring in the streets—

Chat Noir swore, and Ladybug looked back to ask him what the problem was—

And then she saw it: the blaze that started small, but yet somehow spread far too quickly. Before Ladybug knew it, a ring of fire surrounded the square, lapping at the trees and trapping her, Chat, and all of the hypnotized citizens within.

Ladybug muffled a cry of despair.

Shade really wasn’t about to let them leave alive tonight, was she?!

“It’s not real,” she heard Chat muttering to himself as he clung to her back; he seemed to be trying to convince himself of his mutterings. “It’s not real…it can’t be…”

Real or not, it sure felt like it—the air was humid and oppressive, and Ladybug felt like she was swimming through soup as she and Chat flew through the air, only landing long enough to cast her yo-yo out again, for the fire spread quickly, and consumed any spot she dared to dawdle in within seconds of her fleeing.

This situation was hopeless—she couldn’t very well fly around all night, for the fire would incinerate them all if she let it. But what could she do?

What was she supposed to do…?

“The tower,” Chat suddenly said, and Ladybug looked back at him, his eyes tight as he met her gaze. “Get to the tower, Ladybug. We’ll be safe up there—they can’t possibly climb that high.”

Ladybug wasn’t sure about that, but there was absolutely no time to debate the issue; she sent her yo-yo out to cling to a beam of the Eiffel Tower, and let herself and Chat fly towards it, fleeing for the safety the symbol of Paris might provide them. As they landed, she cried out when Chat jumped down a beam, but he ignored her, a clawed hand raised.


His destructive power sliced through a lower beam of the Tower, and it fell, blockading the bottom and discouraging the mob from approaching any further. They still tried to climb when no more beams fell from the sky, surrounding the Tower, but Ladybug, inspired by Chat’s example, tossed her yo-yo into the air.

“Lucky Charm!”

As if the goddess of luck knew just how desperate the situation was, for once, the Lucky Charm produced something immediately useful: a huge net.

“Yes!” Ladybug cheered, letting herself zip down to toss the net onto the bulk of the horde, trapping them like mosquitos as they clumsily bumped into each other, attempting to find their way out of the net. That was one problem solved, Ladybug supposed, while she and Chat tried to find a way to help the citizens of Paris regain their minds—


The shout made Ladybug’s head snap up, and her eyes widened as she spotted the large, black snake wind its way around her partner, its body slowly constricting, turning Chat’s face pale, almost blue—

“NO!” Ladybug cried, sending her yo-yo higher up the tower, not caring what it latched around as long as it meant that she could propel herself forward, into the skirmish—

She landed on the snake’s—Shade’s—back, wrapped both her arms around her throat and squeezed.

“Let GO!” She commanded, arching back and pulling with all her might—

Shade suddenly disappeared, her form crumbling into nothing. Without anything solid to hold onto, Ladybug found herself falling, shock coursing through her system and locking her body into place, thinking of nothing, not even the ready yo-yo still attached to her hand, for her surprise was still too great—


Suddenly, Chat was there. Ladybug watched, irrational, as her brain wondered why Chat Noir had flung himself through the sky when he had no wings to catch himself. His face was tense, wind rushing around him, and then, his arms were around her. Something silver flashed through the night, and Ladybug’s gaze was drawn to it as it embedded itself into the tower…

Chat’s baton.

Reacting automatically, Ladybug flung her yo-yo towards the baton. Her luck held; her yo-yo wrapped around the baton. The resulting whiplash was intense pain; Ladybug cried out as her right arm was yanked the wrong way, so forcefully that she thought it might pop out from its socket.

Chat hadn’t had a proper grip on her, so he slipped when her body was suddenly wrenched the other way; she grabbed at him, catching his hand just in time. Her right arm screamed in protest, but she did not let go of her yo-yo or her partner, her teeth clenched together from the strain. For a moment, they just hung there, suspended in the air, revolving slowly from side to side. Ladybug panted, watching Chat breathe, the motion heavy, as if his heart was racing just as fast as hers was. But they were okay. The situation wasn’t ideal, and they were in a bind, but nobody had fallen to their death…they were okay…

Chat Noir’s ring gave three chirps of warning, closely followed by Ladybug’s earrings.

She stared down at him as he looked back at her, his look of horror matching the roiling of her stomach exactly.

Their transformations were about to break.

And when that happened—

They suddenly bounced, the motion setting Ladybug’s arm on fire. Her head whipped around—

Shade was standing on the beam above where Chat Noir’s baton was lodged, her terrifying smile in place as she rested a foot made of shadows against his baton. She put pressure on the baton, and it squeaked, rubbing uncomfortably against the metal of the Eiffel Tower, tilting the wrong way. The wire of Ladybug’s yo-yo slipped, causing her and Chat to bounce again, wobbling dangerously.

Ladybug felt despair flood through her as she realized the horrifying truth: at this angle, she and Chat were too heavy for his baton and her yo-yo to hold them both, something Shade seemed smugly aware of, if the way she tapped the baton with her foot was a clue. As the baton jerked, coming loose, Ladybug’s earrings beeped again, the sound more urgent this time around. She glanced down at Chat Noir, her heart pounding so hard it threatened to burst from her chest.

They were trapped.

What’s the matter, Ladybug?” Shade drawled from above, sounding cruelly amused. “What happened to that abundance of luck you’re so famous for?

Ladybug bit her lip as she stared into Chat’s eyes, tears beginning to gather in hers.

They had no one but each other tonight, and even that hadn’t been enough, for now they were here, suspended in limbo, about to de-transform, and without allies to come to their aid.

Luck couldn’t help them out of this. Not this time.

And so the heroes of Paris, once believed to be indestructible, plummet to their untimely deaths from the Eiffel Tower.” Shade gave a dramatic sigh, and Ladybug grit her teeth in hatred, angry tears joining the ones of frustration and sadness now. “How utterly romantic. I am sure you two will leave behind such pretty corpses…

Chat Noir’s ring chirped again, the noise insistent. Ladybug glanced down at the hand she held, muffling her whimper of hopelessness: the last paw pad on his ring was flashing, soon to disappear.

Chat seemed to know it, too—his eyes roved over Ladybug’s face, as if he was attempting to memorize her features…

His grip on her hand slackened.

“Chat, no,” Ladybug ground out through her clenched teeth. She knew what he was trying to do, and it only made her cling to him more, her hand shaking as it worked to keep hold of him, though she could already feel him slipping…

The smile Chat Noir gave her in that moment shattered her heart.

“Don’t look that way, My Lady,” he teased, even as she saw tears spring to his eyes as well, “you can always find another Chat Noir.”

Ladybug shook her head furiously, a desperate cry escaping her as she clung to his fingers with all her might, praying for a miracle, for something, anything

Something else was coming loose—

“Goodbye, Ladybug.”

His hand slipped from hers, and her hand clutched nothing but air.

Air…and Chat Noir’s ring.

Time seemed to slow down as Ladybug watched Adrien Agreste fall away from her, his blonde hair flying around him, tears falling upward as the wind rushed around him. There was something unbearably beautiful about the fall—graceful, like an angel who had been cast out of heaven. Or like Icarus, in the aftermath of his fatal attraction to the sun…

Time meant nothing, so Ladybug did not know how long she hung there, her mouth open in a silent scream as she watched the man she loved fall, the ground seeming to rush up to meet him, eager to break his fall in the most crushing of ways—

He had let her keep his ring. She could always find another Chat Noir, he had said.

But he was wrong.

If Adrien Agreste was not Chat Noir…

Then Ladybug did not want to be Ladybug anymore.

It was so easy to just let go—unconscious, even. Ladybug just let her hand fall away from the end of her yo-yo…and then she was falling too.

But while Adrien was graceful, like a feather or a leaf, she was a bullet: tucking her arms and legs in, making her body as straight as a rod, Ladybug shot forward, the wind whipping through her ears. She didn’t register anything that wasn’t the distance between her and Adrien, and Adrien and the ground. She didn’t bat an eye when the power of her earrings gave out, and she was Marinette again—the sound of Tikki’s terrified cry of her name far, far away—falling through the sky without a super suit to shield her from harm—not that it would matter at this height.

All she cared about was the green in Adrien’s eyes, the way they widened as he watched her draw closer, and the warmth of his body when she was finally near enough to embrace him, holding him tight in the last few seconds they had together, wishing that there was time for her to tell him she loved him, wishing they could talk about everything she should’ve said a long time ago—

Marinette squeezed her eyes shut so she wouldn’t know how much time they still had. If she didn’t see the end coming, then maybe, just maybe, she could suspend this moment in time and make it last forever—

Suddenly, she was weightless.

The abrupt change from falling to floating was jarring. Was this death? Had Marinette and Adrien hit the ground so hard that she hadn’t even felt it?

No…no, that couldn’t be it. She could still feel her heart beating, hammering so hard that it matched the pace of Adrien’s heart, beating just as strongly in his chest as hers was.

Marinette opened her eyes…

They were flying.

No, wait—that wasn’t it. They were gliding.

Marinette looked up and stared, open-mouthed at the figure in blue that seemed to support her and Adrien effortlessly, though she could feel that he only had a grip on the back of her shirt. His other arm held a metal bar, and connected to that bar was what looked like a hang-glider, made of the richest color of blue Marinette had ever seen, patterned with red and black circles as well.

Her knees suddenly bumped something hard, and she abruptly realized she and Adrien were on the ground. She clung to him, still staring at the stranger in blue as he stood before them, his motions calm even as the hypnotized mob began to close in on them, free of Ladybug’s net now that her transformation was undone; he handled his hang-glider as it crimped, folding like a fan, and he hooked it into the back of his belt, where it hung luxuriously…

Like a peacock’s tail.

There was a sudden, sharp cry, and Marinette winced, her free hand clapping over her ear as she pressed her head into Adrien’s chest. The figure in blue’s back was arched; the cry seemed to be coming from him. The mob that surrounded them clamped hands over their ears as well, their expressions pained until the cry died down…

Light returned to the Eiffel Tower, and it shone as brilliantly as it was meant to. Shade hissed and fled from the light, and this time, she did not reappear.

“…Huh?” Said one of the Parisian citizens near Marinette, looking around in bewilderment as she blinked clear, surprised eyes. “Wh-what was I…?”

“What am I doing here?” Another man questioned, the confusion echoing through every single person gathered in the square. As they sort of drifted away, glancing around in a dazed fashion and taking no notice of the figure in blue, Marinette’s astonishment was only interrupted by the ball of red and black whizzing into her face.

“Marinette!” Tikki cried, and Marinette was stunned to find her kwami in tears as she clung to Marinette’s cheek. “I was so worried!!”

“It’s okay, Tikki,” Marinette muttered to her kwami. Wary of the confused citizens around them, she cupped her free hand around Tikki, scooping the poor creature into her palm and smiling down at her, rubbing the tears away from Tikki’s face with her thumb. “I’m all right. We made it.”

The heartwarming moment between kwami and Chosen was broken when Adrien sneezed.

This seemed to bring them to the attention of the figure in blue. He turned slightly towards them so that only his profile was visible, a cool, blue gaze surveying them from beneath a stylish blue mask, a miniature version of one of his feathers attached to a blue, Robin Hood-esque hat that was perched atop pale blonde hair…

Marinette knew him immediately.

“Pavone,” she whispered.

Pavone turned to face them, and Marinette took in more details of his appearance—the regal cut of his super suit, a black vest overlaying a dark blue, dressy shirt, with a burgundy cravat tied at the base of his throat, an extravagant brooch pinned to it, in the shape of a peacock; a black, heavy duty-looking belt that Marinette knew was meant to keep his hang-glider in place when he wasn’t using it; a dark blue cape fastened around his shoulders, short enough to allow easy access to his hang-glider when he needed it; dark blue pants semi-obscured by black, knee-high boots. The aura about him and the way he held himself suggested that he had just returned from swordplay, and was on his way to a war room somewhere to talk tactics for conquering a neighboring kingdom.

Marinette let go of Adrien, tucked Tikki into her pocket for the time being, and slowly stood, wobbling just slightly as she got to her feet, her knees not quite yet recovered from the shock of a deadly fall. Pavone regarded her silently, his hands clasped behind his back as Marinette eyed him up and down. She waited for him to say something…but he seemed quite content with the silence. So she attempted to break the ice first.

“…You saved us,” she said, unsure of how to begin, other than stating the obvious first.

Pavone inclined his head.

“…You appeared to require my assistance,” he said formally, speaking with a low, assured voice that further added to his regal look. Marinette tilted her head as she stared at him, frowning slightly. Something about that gaze of his was familiar…

“You saved me while I was battling Trinket, too,” she recalled, glancing down, where his hang-glider of feathers was situated. “I still have that feather you left behind.”

Pavone blinked. She seemed to have surprised him…but she couldn’t be sure, since his expression gave nothing else away.


Jumping at the explosive sound, Marinette turned to watch Adrien get to his feet, looking rueful as he sniffed and rubbed at his nose. Pavone glanced at him…and then turned his back, beginning his retreat.

“Wait!” Marinette called after him, taking a step after him. He consented to pause, peering at them from his peripheral vision once again.

“You are safe. My presence here is no longer needed,” he said quietly, turning to face forward again.

“What, so—sniff—just like that?” Adrien inquired, sounding as if he was speaking through a bad head cold. “You’re just gonna leave?”

Pavone turned towards them again, and Marinette watched as his eyes widened slightly…as if he would be raising his eyebrows if they could see them under his mask...

“…If you are concerned that your identities have been compromised,” he began slowly, “you needn’t worry. Your secrets are safe with me, and no one else here will remember this night.” He turned to stare at the Eiffel Tower, a corner of his mouth pulled down. “…There is something else you should know: that figure on the tower was not Shade.”

Marinette stared at him.

“What? Not—what are you—”

“I mean to say,” Pavone butted in, cutting through her confused babble as he turned to regard her and Adrien with a serious look, “that Shade did not appear in body. The ‘Shade’ you have been experiencing has been nothing but illusion—smoke and mirrors, if you will.”

Through her shock, a tiny detail came back to Marinette’s hazy brain: as soon as she grabbed Shade to make her stop strangling Chat Noir, her form had crumbled, much like the false akumas did when she tried to purify them…

Adrien swore around another sneeze.

“Well, that’s just great,” he grumbled bitterly. “She knows who we are, but we don’t have a damn clue who she is.”

Pavone’s gaze cut to Marinette, and she blinked at him, surprised at how…knowing his eyes were.

“…I believe the answers may be closer than you think,” he said simply, still staring at Marinette, who felt her mouth come open with a pop.

How did he know…?

There was a chime, and Pavone glanced down as two of the tail feathers of his peacock brooch went dim. Abruptly, Marinette realized that she was not just looking at his brooch—she was looking at Pavone’s Miraculous.

“I will leave you now,” he said as he glanced up at Marinette and Adrien, unhooking and extending his hang-glider. “You two should retreat to somewhere safe for the night. I do not think Shade will attempt to draw you out again…but I would not test Fate either, if I were you.”

Marinette watched, astonished, as Pavone’s feet left the ground the minute his gloved hands clutched the bar—it seemed like he could fly (er, glide) from wherever he pleased, as long as he had the aid of his hang-glider. Marinette found herself envious over such effortless flying.

“Pavone,” she called after him, waiting until he consented to meet her eyes before she smiled at him. “…Thank you.”

Again, he blinked. Marinette wondered at that gesture; it seemed like he was incapable of expressing himself any other way…hmm…

Pavone said nothing; he merely nodded in acknowledgment of her thanks. At Adrien’s next sneeze, he was speeding away, gliding off gracefully into the night.

Marinette watched him disappear, stared after him for as long as she dared…and then, as if it suddenly struck her that they were alone within the dissipating crowd of confused citizens…she turned to face Adrien.

He was sniffling into a black handkerchief Marinette had never seen before—it must be new. Idly, she wondered what happened to the old one…but then she got distracted by the look on his face as he lowered the handkerchief, staring at her. There was a quiet marveling to his gaze that, despite herself, amused Marinette. Though they both knew—and Marinette suspected that they had both had their suspicions long before the subject was broached—she also knew that knowing something to be true and seeing it with your own eyes were two very different things.

Something hard was pressed into her hand. Blinking, Marinette lifted her hand and unclenched it, registering with some surprise that she still held Chat Noir’s ring. It was deactivated, but it was still familiar—she saw this same ring every time she was with Adrien. For as long as she had known him, it had never left his finger.

Until tonight, when he had forsaken it to save her.

Funny how such a little thing had caused so many issues in her life…

Marinette’s eyes returned to Adrien, watching as apprehension bloomed in his expression as he glanced at the ring she held. Mutely, she held it out to him, keeping his gaze as he slowly reached forward, reclaiming what was his.

The moment he put the ring back on, a black, cat-like creature appeared right before Marinette’s eyes.

And it was furious.

“Are you completely moronic?!” It hissed, startling Marinette back a step as it flew into Adrien’s face, hackles raised. “What the hell were you thinking, pulling a stunt like that?! If you ever do that again, Adrien, I swear on every single one of my millennium of lives—

“Plagg, shh,” Adrien hushed his kwami, shielding him from view with his hands, from the curious eyes of a pair of Parisians that had looked around at the noise. Plagg bared his teeth at them from over Adrien’s fingers.

“Buzz buzz!” He hissed menacingly, and Marinette had to clamp a hand over her mouth to stifle the hysteric giggles she wanted to release. Who in their right mind would see this creature—Plagg—and mistake him for a bug?

Before any more trouble could be stirred up, yet another superhero distraction appeared.

“Look! It’s Emerald Shell!” An excited kid cried as said turtle-themed superhero zoomed into the area on his hover board, his head snapping from side to side, as if he was looking for something. As Marinette stared at him in surprise, he spotted her a second later, and made his descent among the few citizens still present in the square.

“Keep it moving, nothing to see here,” he assured them, waving stragglers along with a smile that Marinette could tell was strained. “Just checking in with my number one fans, no need to panic…”

“What are you doing here?” Marinette asked him, the question blurted out before she remembered that perhaps the current audience was not ideal for such a candid conversation. She glanced over at Adrien, but he was busy stuffing something into his pocket—Plagg, she was assuming.

Oh, right…Emerald Shell only had half the story here, too, didn’t he…?

The acknowledgement of just how many secrets she had been keeping lately settled its full weight onto Marinette, and abruptly, she felt exhausted.Who knew not saying things would be so much work?

Emerald Shell sent a glance Adrien’s way as well, frowning as he folded his arms over his chest.

“Well, I know I’ve been…busy with some stuff…” he said vaguely, rubbing the back of his hooded head with a cringe. “But I got back just in time to catch the light show. I dunno what’s going on, but when I saw the akuma flying around, I figured I should see what was up.”

Marinette blinked.

“Akuma?” She asked, searching the night sky for the abominations Shell spoke of…but she didn’t see any of them flying around right now, and there were no akumatized people currently rampaging around Paris, as far as she could tell…

“Yeah…” Shell said slowly, his frown growing more pronounced. “They disappeared as soon as I got here, so I thought, maybe Ladybug had taken care of things…”

Now Marinette frowned too, confused. Shell saw akuma that disappeared the minute he arrived in the square? How strange…another one of Shade’s illusions? If so, what was the purpose?

“There were no akuma tonight,” Adrien said, and Marinette watched anxiously as he addressed Emerald Shell, giving him that same searching stare he’d given Shell the night of Alix’s attack, when too much had been said between them. “…You missed Shade and all the fun she had planned for everybody, though.”

Shell’s eyes widened behind his goggles.

“Oh shit, for real? Damn, I picked the wrong time to leave town. What—”

Abruptly, Emerald Shell cut himself off. For no reason that was discernible to Marinette, his gaze cut to the left, narrowing at something only he seemed able to see, for when Marinette followed his line of vision, she saw nothing of interest in that direction, just a big tree. …But then, what was he staring at…?

“…You know what, never mind,” he decided, glancing back to Adrien and Marinette. “You guys should head home. It’s getting late.”

Marinette shrugged, and then instantly regretted the careless gesture when pain lanced through her right arm, as if to remind her of everything she had put it through tonight. She winced, a hand going to her right bicep, and she felt rather than saw Adrien step closer to her.

“You okay?” Emerald Shell asked, his tone alarmed. Wincing in guilt now, Marinette made herself nod.

“Yeah…just was a little rougher on my arm than I usually am,” she confessed. Shell shot her a concerned glance, looking like he wanted to say something—

Warmth closed around her left hand, and Marinette looked up, blinking at the serious expression on Adrien’s face.

“Let’s go back to my place. It’s closer,” he said. Marinette thought about protesting for a second, but the glint in Adrien’s eyes suggested that he wasn’t about to hear any excuses tonight.

Marinette sighed through her nose. It looked like ‘later’ was officially here.

“All right,” she relented, nodding to him in affirmation before she turned back to Emerald Shell, whose gaze was bouncing back and forth between them, curious. “Well…we’re gonna go. Uh, take care, Emerald Shell. You should probably get some rest, too…maybe call somebody to decompress or something.”

Marinette shot him a look, and Shell made a face at her before huffing.

“Yeah, yeah,” he grumbled, waving a hand for them to beat it already. Taking the cue, Marinette allowed Adrien to lead her out of the square, silence falling between them. Inside, Marinette’s insides began to coil into an even more convoluted knot than they had been in all night.

Her stall time was officially up; there was no doubt in her mind that Adrien would be demanding a few answers from her tonight, the first chance he got.

That was fine. It was time for them to talk.

They should especially talk about that little stunt Adrien had pulled earlier, too, because now that her fear and anxiety had subsided…Marinette realized that she was every bit as angry at Adrien for doing something so reckless as his kwami was.

So, yeah, tonight was a good night for this conversation they needed to have.

And it was going to be a long one.



Alya had never been so afraid for her best friend in her life.

The minute she had realized something was going on—she had been reworking the theme of the Ladyblog with a pair of Nino’s headphones on, the volume cranked up high enough to block out the rest of the world until she paused for a break and heard the creepy song—she had transformed and followed the sound of chaos all the way to the Eiffel Tower, just in time to see the fall. Her heart had jumped into her throat, and she had clutched her flute so hard that it might’ve snapped in two if it wasn’t magic, her brain racing her legs as she propelled herself forward, desperate to save them by any means necessary—

And then her presence was rendered unnecessary by that big, blue, flying dude, and so she had hid herself in the shadows across the square, camouflaging herself behind one of the large trees, her relief at seeing her friends rescued so profound that she had actually sank to the ground, her legs turned to jelly.

But then the worry came again—what if this guy wasn’t as charitable as she was allowing herself to believe? Sure, he had saved her stupid, heroic friends’ asses just in the nick of time, but what was his endgame?

Just as she was trying to figure it out, one of her fox ears had picked up a familiar sound in the distance that made her think of jets, propelling a board of some type forward, through the night sky…

Emerald Shell.

Nino had been courteous enough, after ignoring her texts and calls for the past week, to let her know that he would be returning sometime tonight. She just hadn’t expected it to be this soon, but whatever, she would take what she could get.

To help guide him there, Vixen had sent a signal she knew would get his attention, without him having to know that it was her: fluttering akuma glinted in the restored light of the Eiffel Tower, and just as soon as the blue stranger had disappeared into the night, the darkness had produced Emerald Shell, and Vixen had eagerly patted herself on the back for a job well done.

But she froze now in that motion when Shell’s gaze cut to her, as if he could see her…though there was no way he could, she had made sure she was hidden well here…

After a while, he looked away, but it took her a minute to be able to breathe again.

Whew…that had been close. It wasn’t like Nino wasn’t already upset with her for what he felt was a misuse of her powers…maybe she should get out of here, just to avoid another potential conflict…

Even as Vixen thought that, however, she couldn’t stop herself from watching Marinette and Adrien walk away, his hand clasped firmly around hers, as if she would run off if he dared to let go. Vixen clucked her tongue at the sight. Damn. While she might be having problems with her fiancé at the moment, she knew for a fact that Marinette and Adrien would probably be having a doozy of a conversation later tonight…

Still, she wasn’t too worried; as soon as they let out everything they’d been keeping pent up this whole time, they’d probably dissolve into a mushy mess of lovey-dovey honeymoon butterflies after this, their relationship stronger than ever. Vixen almost wanted to gag at the thought, but it also pleased her to know that at least her best friend’s relationship would be without its complications soon…

Vixen turned to go—

Emerald Shell stood right behind her, his arms crossed across his chest, a deadpan expression on his face.

Vixen gave a yelp and jumped about a meter in the air, falling against the tree, feeling her fox ears stand up straight as well as her tail.

When the hell did he get there?!

“I knew I sensed you,” he said flatly as Vixen clutched at her abused heart, breathing heavily. She eyed him warily.

“You can do that?” She asked, bewildered. No fair, the turtle-themed superhero had the power to sense other Miraculous wielders? Wasn’t that, like, cheating or something?

“Well, the fake akuma trick wasn’t exactly subtle, either,” Shell pointed out, and Vixen frowned at the sarcasm in his tone. Well, she had thought it was a good idea…

“It got you here, didn’t it?” She pointed out, deciding to defend herself. Shell opened his mouth, looking like he was going to argue…but after a second, his expression shifted…and he shrugged.

“True,” he conceded. Frowning, his expression lost its hardness, replaced by the warmth of his concern. “Though it looks like I got here too late…what even happened here?”

“I’m not a hundred percent sure,” Vixen admitted, shooting a furtive glance over her shoulder at the Eiffel Tower, glaring at it as it dared to sit there and look innocent after everything that had gone down tonight. “By the time I realized what was going on and got here, everything was basically over.” Vixen turned back around to fix Shell with a frown. “You’d be better off talking to Marinette.”

“…Oh, right,” Shell said after a moment of stunned blinking at Vixen. “I forgot you knew about ‘Nette.”

She knew about Chat Noir, too…but given that it wasn’t her secret to tell, she was leaving that can of worms the hell alone.

…One thing she didn’t know, however…

“Hey, do you know who Boy Blue is?” She asked, her fist resting on her hips as she raised an eyebrow at Shell from underneath her mask. “‘Cause he made an appearance tonight.”

“Boy Blue…?”

“You know—the guy in blue who flies around with a hang-glider?” At Shell’s look of incomprehension, Vixen pulled the unfamiliar name she had heard Marinette call him from her brain. “Pavone or something?”

Shell’s jaw abruptly dropped. Vixen repressed a snort.

“Wait…you saw Pavone??”

“Apparently?” Vixen folded her arms, giving Emerald Shell a curious look. “Who is he?”

“He was the dude who Chose me for the Turtle Miraculous,” Shell said, waving his hand through the air, as if that was a minor detail. “You actually saw him tonight?”

“I take it this guy’s the elusive type,” Vixen commented, feeling herself warm when Shell snorted in amusement, as if everything was normal between them…

“The most we’ve seen of him is one of his feathers he used to save LB’s ass once…” The amusement faded from Shell’s expression. “Until tonight, apparently. Damn, I miss everything.”

“So he’s an ally?”

Shell paused, looking like he was chewing over the words in his mouth.

“…I guess?” He replied after a moment, the uncertain note in his tone causing Vixen to frown. “It’s not like he goes out of his way to help us a lot, but when we really need it, he’s been known to pull some deus ex machina shit from time to time…”

Vixen sighed, her head bobbing in a nod.

“Okay,” she hummed, relieved again. “Good, ‘cause I wasn’t sure what to do when he showed up, which was why I threw up the akuma illusion when I heard you coming, just in case he wasn’t someone that should’ve been hanging around Marinette…though if he had tried anything, I would’ve been on him so fast—what?” Vixen asked, cutting off her half-formed threat at the funny look Shell was giving her. He glanced away from her, but Vixen still saw that smile he was trying to smother as he rubbed the back of his hooded head.

“Nothing,” he lied, chuckling under his breath. Ah…Vixen missed that sound…

“…So,” she began slowly, leaning against the tree behind her as she regarded him somberly, “are we still fighting…?”

That sobered Shell; he took his time answering, his golden gaze fixed on Vixen’s face. She watched him just as intently, waiting for his verdict. If he was waiting for an apology, then she would give one; it probably wasn’t the same, apologizing over text or in voicemails. She wasn’t too proud to apologize again, if that’s what he wanted, and though he had yet to apologize for the things that made her angry, Vixen no longer cared about such foolish words that were said in the heat of the moment.

And she was unbelievably sorry—she never should’ve accused him of not doing his job, and if she thought about it, frankly, bearing such a heavy responsibility like that scared the shit out of her. So the fact that Shell had taken it on, despite the fact that he hadn’t even been a superhero for very long…

Vixen opened her mouth to let this spill from her, to let the words that had been whirling around in her head the minute he stormed out of her apartment two weeks ago flow, just so she could let him know just how sorry she was for saying something so hurtful and unfair, for failing to recognize that this whole superhero thing was hard all on its own without her running around behind his back with her Miraculous all on her own, to tell him that she loved and admired and respected him so much—

Before she could get any of that out, suddenly, Shell’s expression changed, and he was closer to her, his tall frame folding as he leaned into her, strong arms sliding around her…

The kiss was all warmth, love, and sweetness, encompassing everything that Vixen—no, Alya—had fallen in love with the day she first saw through to Nino’s soul. It was everything she cherished about him, everything she wanted to protect.

And it was also everything she didn’t deserve in this moment.

“Nino,” she mumbled against his lips, pulling back briefly so she could speak. “Nino, I’m sor—”

“We can talk later,” Shell mumbled, not even letting her get the full apology out before he was kissing her again, like he refused to hear a word of it. Vixen tried again, but suddenly she had his tongue to contend with as it swiped across her lips and slipped into her mouth. She let out a muffled, breathless laugh and pulled back, blinking as she tried to clear her head, keeping the fire that such kisses from her fiancé stoked within her at bay, with some difficulty.

“W-wait a minute!” She huffed, laughing as Shell kissed her cheek next, his body pressed against hers, pinning her to the tree. “We can’t make out here! What if someone comes through here and sees? D’you want to start a superhero scandal?”

Shell muttered something about where the good citizens of Paris could stick their superhero scandal, cutting Vixen’s laugh short as he kissed her again. And she let him, giving into the heat and tenderness of the moment.

Ah, fuck it—so what if someone came along and saw them? It didn’t really much matter, did it? No matter what they said, the citizens of Paris would believe of them what they wanted to believe.

Besides, no matter what they thought about the relationship status of Vixen and Emerald Shell, the citizens of Paris would never be as in their face about it as they were when discussing the relationship status of Ladybug and Chat Noir.



“Let me see it.”

“It’s really not that big of a deal—”

“Let me see it, Marinette.”

Marinette raised her eyebrows at him—it was possible that she did not appreciate his tone. But Adrien did not care. Now was not the time for her to act tough; if they were going to do something about her shoulder before any permanent damage could set in, then they had to do something now.

Still, Marinette dragged her feet on the issue—metaphorically speaking, that is. Since she was currently sitting on the high counter in Adrien’s kitchen, her feet weren’t close enough to the floor to drag them. In a less tense situation, he would’ve found it adorable how her legs dangled as she sat there, lips pursed in a pout. He folded his arms and arched an eyebrow, waiting.

Finally, Marinette huffed and gave in. The wince that crossed her face as she carefully moved her right arm through her t-shirt hurt Adrien; he stepped forward to help, but she lifted her left hand to stall him.

“I’ve got it,” she huffed, sounding impatient. He supposed, in a way, he could understand why she might be put out with him—Ladybug, requiring help with taking off a shirt? It probably didn’t help that he had practically dragged her to his house in the first place, either…

Instead of hovering as Marinette carefully removed her shirt, Adrien went to the freezer, where his ice packs were stored. As he passed, he felt something whizz past him, and he managed to snag Plagg’s tail just before the mischievous creature entered the freezer.

“There’s no cheese for you in there,” he reminded his kwami, who turned to give him a dry look, swatting Adrien’s thumb with his tail the moment he let go.

“I was heading for the cookie jar,” he drawled, jerking his head at the island that sat in the center of Adrien’s kitchen. “Tikki’s finished hers already.”

“Oh, you don’t have to get me more,” piped the red and black creature with the pretty indigo eyes that hadn’t left Plagg’s side since they had arrived at Adrien’s house. The kwami of the Ladybug Miraculous, huh…Adrien hadn’t known what to expect in regards to said kwami, but seeing her, and witnessing how polite and caring she was, he wasn’t surprised…although he was just the tiniest bit envious…

“After everything these suicidal kids put us through tonight?” Plagg scoffed, skirting around the freezer to the cookie jar. “You’re getting more cookies.”

Adrien raised an eyebrow. Rare were the times when Plagg showed concern for anything that wasn’t cheese…was he on his best behavior because Tikki was here? Hmm, maybe she brought out a better side of him…

“Move,” Plagg hissed at Adrien when he returned from the cookie jar, laden down with a couple cookies. Startled, Adrien stepped back, though Plagg could’ve easily flown around him, and the kwami glided past with his nose in the air. Adrien rolled his eyes. So much for his previous assumption…

The cold of the ice packs in his hands reminded him of his previous purpose in going to the freezer; he turned around and moved back to Marinette. Her shirt rested on the counter, and while Adrien normally would’ve spent some time focusing on that lacy pink and white polka-dotted bra she was wearing, his attention was immediately stolen by that dark bruise that was spreading around her right shoulder. Adrien let out a hiss at the sight.

“Does it hurt?”

“Not if I don’t move it,” Marinette admitted, and Adrien shook his head. What a disaster this night had turned out to be.

Still…he supposed it could have been worse…

He carefully positioned the ice packs on Marinette’s shoulder, rummaging around in a nearby drawer until he found some gauze to wrap around her shoulder to hold the packs in place. As he worked, he could see Marinette eyeing him from her peripheral vision. Her eyes were intent on his face, and her lips were pursed, but she wasn’t pouting this time—by the set of her jaw, Adrien could tell that she was trying to hold back from saying something. He made himself finish what he was doing, for sooner rather than later, Marinette would spit out what was on her mind…

His prediction came true the minute he finished securing the gauze.

“Adrien,” Marinette began darkly, pausing until Adrien dared to meet her eyes, their normally bright color dark to match her grave expression. “…What the hell were you thinking?”

Adrien frowned. Boy, this was going to be a fun conversation…

“I wanted to protect you,” he said simply, looking away from Marinette’s burning look as rebellion and shame battled it out inside him. While he didn’t feel he had done anything wrong here, he knew Marinette wouldn’t see it that way.

Sure enough, she gripped his jaw to make him look at her again, her scowl fierce and unrelenting.

“That doesn’t mean you do something like that!” She protested hotly. “Do you realize what would have happened if I hadn’t caught you in time, or if Pavone hadn’t shown up?!”

Oh, yes…that was another thing…

“So it wasn’t okay for me to let go,” Adrien said slowly, pulling his chin from Marinette’s grasp and frowning at her, “but it was fine for you to do so? Even though I let go so you’d have a chance to survive?”

“I wouldn’t have let go if you hadn’t let go!”

“Really? Not even if our positions were reversed?”

Marinette opened her mouth to argue, but then she shut it again, her glare failing to cover up the fact that Adrien had a point, and she knew it. She quickly found a way around it, however.

“I hate it when you do stuff like that,” she growled, wincing when she jostled her right shoulder as she folded her arms. “Always jumping in the way or something…it’s not like I can’t take a hit. I’m not helpless, you know.”

Adrien’s eyes narrowed as he stared at her. Did she just…?

“I know you’re Ladybug,” he said, and the relief of actually being able to acknowledge this fact out loud was unfortunately short-lived, giving way to Adrien’s greater irritation. Marinette twitched, but Adrien went on. “I know what you’re capable of, okay? That’s not why I jump in the way, and you know it.”

“Well I wish you’d stop anyway!” Marinette fussed, sliding off the counter to stand her ground against him, despite being shorter than him. Her left hand went to her hip as she glared up at him, her injured arm held stiffly at her side. “You could have died tonight! Do you understand that?!”

“Amazingly enough, I’m not stupid,” Adrien shot back, folding his arms and returning her glare, thoroughly annoyed by her attitude. “I know the risks of what we do, Marinette. I know the supersuits can only keep us from so much damage. I was there when my father died, too.”

Marinette blanched, and instantly, Adrien regretted the words. Part of him wanted to apologize, but the words got lost somewhere on the way to his throat, and they just ended up staring at each other.

“…Maybe we should—” whispered Tikki’s voice from behind Adrien, but Plagg shushed her, apparently eager to see the outcome of the fight. Adrien threw a scowl behind him at the kwami, who didn’t bother to react, his tail flicking back and forth, green eyes glittering.

“…You were there,” Marinette mumbled, and Adrien turned back around, watching as her expression grew slowly more horrified the longer he looked at her. “You were there that night…”

Though Adrien knew that Marinette had known that he was Chat Noir for quite some time, it seemed that she was just now realizing that he had also been there to witness Hawk Moth’s demise; she covered her mouth with a hand, but it wasn’t enough to muffle the whimper that escaped her.

He glanced away, hating the pity in her gaze. He had finally moved on from Hawk Moth’s death; he wasn’t about to let her drag him back into the horror that was that night.

“I’m over it,” he said roughly, rubbing the back of his neck. “Let it go.”

She didn’t seem ready to let it go, however.

“Adrien,” she whimpered through her fingers, and he hated the tears that began to gather in her eyes. “Adrien, I’m sorry.”

“I know. You apologized months ago, remember?” Adrien reminded her wearily, for though he hated to rehash old issues, it looked like they wouldn’t be getting through the night without doing so. “When you showed up as Ladybug upstairs on my balcony.”

Again, on the word ‘Ladybug’, Marinette flinched, as if Adrien had made an aggressive move towards her. He stared at her, not understanding the reaction.

“What? You don’t like me calling you ‘Ladybug’?”

Marinette lowered her head, clutching her right arm self-consciously.

“I…i-it’s still new…” she mumbled.

“We’ve known about each other’s identities for about a month, Marinette.”

“Well yeah, but…” Marinette huffed, tucking a stray strand of dark hair behind her ear, catching her bottom lip in between her teeth. “Knowing it and talking about it are two different things…”

“But why?” Adrien pressed, stepping forward as he searched Marinette’s expression, like the answers themselves would start inking themselves over her skin if he stared long enough. “Why is it different? And why did we have to wait so long to talk about it?”

“Because I wasn’t ready,” Marinette protested, and though Adrien knew this, it still didn’t make any sense to him.

“I don’t understand,” he admitted, frustrated by it. “What did you have to be ready for? It’s me.

“Exactly,” Marinette answered, though this response made even less sense to him, especially when she added, “it’s you, Adrien! I mean, yeah, I started getting suspicious after Valentine’s Day, but before then, never in all my life would I have guessed…I mean…weren’t you surprised to find out it was me?

“No,” Adrien said, a part of him amused at the look of blatant shock that crossed Marinette’s features. She was so nonsensical—why in the world would he have trouble believing she was Ladybug? His amusement faded as soon as it had come, and Adrien was serious again. “But I don’t understand you—if you needed time to process that I’m Chat Noir…does that mean you were disappointed when you found out?”

“No,” Marinette denied with a shake of her head, but the swift response made Adrien suspicious.

“Then what was it? Why couldn’t we talk about it until now? Were you afraid I was going to broadcast it to the world or something?” Adrien shook his head at that ridiculous thought. “Don’t you trust me, Marinette?”

The words were thoughtless, a jest. Adrien didn’t honestly doubt that Marinette lacked faith in him whatsoever…

But he hadn’t expected her to hesitate.

The kitchen grew still and silent. As Adrien stared at Marinette, her teeth worrying her bottom lip, he felt himself go cold.

“You don’t trust me,” he whispered, feeling the fissure that cracked through his heart at the crushing, yet unsurprising fact. Marinette’s expression grew contrite.

“I didn’t say that,” she denied, crossing her arms around herself, as if to protect herself from the accusation…or maybe it was just hitting her that she was still shirtless. Either way, she looked uncomfortable. And Adrien was hurt.

“But it’s true, isn’t it?” He pressed, taking another step forward, his heart throbbing painfully when Marinette stepped back from him, the distance between them sharp and stinging. “Or is it that you don’t really trust Chat Noir, and now that it turns out that he’s me, that distrust extends to me now, too?”

“That’s not true!” Marinette protested, but it sounded like something she was saying just to avoid a fight. Adrien stared at her, his hands flexing at his sides as he tried to keep his composure, composure that was quickly splintering, coming apart at the seams—

“Now I get it…” He laughed, his voice hollow, devoid of actual cheer. “Is that the real reason you didn’t want to keep your fashion career associated with me? So you could endorse AVA with a clear conscience?”

“Adrien, you know why I want to branch out on my own—”

“But did you have to include AVA?” Adrien cut across her, all the anger, hurt, and frustration he had been holding inside welling up to the surface, finally given an outlet to be free. “After everything they put us through?”

As petulant as it sounded, Adrien’s frustrations would not allow him to omit his next words: 

“After everything they put me through?! I thought you were on my side, Marinette!”

“Adrien, please try to understand,” Marinette asked of him, determined calm in her voice as she raised her hands to placate him. “What AVA did to us—and to you—was wrong, but they’re trying to change now. And they needed me.”

The doubt must’ve been clear on Adrien’s face, for Marinette grew indignant.

“What, did you just want me to turn my back on them? After I’ve seen, with my own two eyes, how hard they’re trying to turn themselves around? What if I had done that to you?”

And there it was: the issue that clearly divided them, no matter what either of them said to the contrary. And all this time, Adrien had been foolish enough to believe that Marinette was actually over it…

“I thought you meant it when you said you forgave me,” he said quietly, the words burning like acid, because things shouldn’t be this way, and this wasn’t how Adrien pictured this going down at all. He thought that, when they had finally gotten around to discussing this, that they would laugh at their own mutual stupidity over how long it had taken them both to realize the truth, after all the clues they had been given, and yet foolishly disregarded as coincidence. He shouldn’t be learning that Marinette didn’t even trust him; he should be holding her, telling her how much he loved her, whether she was in or out of her costume. They should be coming together, body and heart and soul, ready to finally accept each other fully, just as they were…

There was heartbreak there in Marinette’s eyes, and Adrien wondered if he, too, looked as bad as she seemed to feel.

“Adrien…” She trailed off, shaking her head before starting again. “Chat, I did mean it when I said I forgave you. It’s not that I don’t trust you, either…it’s…” She sighed, lowering her eyes to the floor. “I forgave you…but you still hurt me, so much. And to find out that you were my boyfriend and my partner?”

Marinette looked up to meet his gaze again, her eyes tight and anxious.

“Can’t you understand how hard that was for me?”

…Adrien did understand that, actually. Probably a lot better than Marinette wanted him to.

“You hurt me, too,” he reminded her, feeling so petty for pointing it out, and yet, still feeling that it needed to be said if they were going to gain any closure on this matter. “That night, when you left me standing on my balcony, feeling like an idiot…I didn’t come out of this unscathed either, you know.”

Marinette blinked at him.

“…I know,” she said slowly, her brows knitting together as she stared up at him. “But I said I was sorry.”

“So did I.”

“…So what are you saying?” Marinette wanted to know, attempting to fold her arms again and wincing when she seemed to remember her injury. Adrien wished she would stay still. “Since we’ve hurt each other in the past, that makes us even?”

“No,” Adrien answered, his offense growing at such a ridiculous insinuation. “What I’m saying is, though you hurt me, I never lost faith in you.”

“So, what, that makes you the better person in this scenario?” Marinette asked, her tone as heated as her gaze. “I’m sorry I broke your heart, Adrien, but these two situations are not the same! I might have rejected you, but it wasn’t me who turned my back on my partner and started terrorizing half of Paris in a black, leather cat suit!”

“I’m not denying what I did!” Adrien protested, feeling his face grow hot in anger and shame. “But if you actually forgave me, it shouldn’t have taken you this long to be okay with the fact that I’m Chat Noir!”

“I can’t help how I feel about all this, Adrien! I needed time! I thought you understood that!”

“I did until I found out it was because you were having issues seeing me and Chat Noir as the same person,” Adrien said bitterly. Marinette’s mouth opened in outrage.

“What did you want me to do, force myself to be okay with the fact that my boyfriend was the same guy who betrayed and abandoned me just a few months ago?!” She spat at him. Whatever shred of patience Adrien possessed in this moment vanished, and he snapped.

“If I can be okay with the fact that my girlfriend murdered my father seven years ago, what’s your excuse?!”

Marinette stared at him like he had struck her, all the color draining from her face. Adrien felt himself panting, his savage pleasure at rendering her speechless fading quickly, once he realized what he had just said. Again, silence fell between them, though this silence was sharper than the last.

This…was pointless, wasn’t it? They kept arguing in circles, insisting in a roundabout way that the scars of the past they still carried were more painful than the scars they had inflicted. No one was wrong here, exactly, but were either of them right?

Just what were they supposed to do here? How on earth could they be okay after this…?

Marinette’s hands had closed into fists, and they were trembling along with her bottom lip. But her expression was still furious as she said, in a flat voice,

“Well…if you’re so concerned about the fact that I’m a murderer…then maybe we’re done here.”


Was she…breaking up with him?

Adrien’s jaw locked, his horror at such a thought overridden by his anger.

Here she was, running away again, refusing to face the problem head on. She wanted things to be this way? Fine. If she wanted to run, then Adrien wasn’t going to chase her.

Not anymore.

“Since you’re so caught up over me being a traitor, I guess we are,” he replied tersely.

Marinette stared up at him, looking like she wanted to say more…but she didn’t. Instead, she snatched up her shirt, pulled it back on awkwardly over the ice packs, and began to march her way out of the kitchen.

“Tikki,” she called, pausing only long enough to say her kwami’s name before she continued out into the dining room, her back ramrod straight with her head held high. Adrien’s gaze was ripped from her back only when Tikki entered his line of sight. The kwami gave him a sad little smile, reaching forward and touching the tip of his nose with her tiny hand.

Abruptly, Adrien thought of the way Marinette would always poke his nose, and his throat closed up.

“Thanks for the cookies,” she said, polite as ever, gliding away after her Chosen when Marinette called for her a second time, an impatient snap in her tone.

The slam of the front door was distant, and yet it echoed through Adrien, sending him staggering against the very counter Marinette had been perched upon just a few minutes ago, before everything went wrong, so horribly wrong…

“Congratulations, kid,” Plagg drawled from the island, his gaze flat as he watched Adrien dispassionately. “Not only did you almost get yourself killed tonight, but you’ve also managed to alienate both your crime-fighting partner and your girlfriend in one fell swoop…though I’m taking points off because they just happen to be the same person. Otherwise, bravo.”

The mocking applause of his kwami should have made him angry. But it didn’t. Instead, Adrien just found that he was so very, very tired.

“Plagg,” he grumbled, raising a hand and massaging his temple, briefly closing his eyes, “I will give you all the cheese that is currently in the fridge if you just stop talking.”

He opened his eyes to watch as Plagg stared at him, as if the bribery of so much camembert would not work on him this time around. But after a minute or two, he shrugged, making a zipper motion across his mouth. Feeling relieved, and yet strangely let down, Adrien moved to the fridge again, stacking wheel after wheel of camembert on the island until there was no more left in the fridge. As Plagg dive-bombed the leaning tower of cheese, Adrien rummaged through the cabinet next to the fridge, his hand closing around a bottle of whiskey.

Tonight was not a night for ‘that zinfandel crap’ he liked, as Nino would say. Adrien had nearly fallen to his death, had managed to enrage his crime-fighting partner, and his girlfriend had just broken up with him.

It was a rough Friday night, to say the very least. So yeah, now was a good time for the hard liquor.

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

Part 33 of 37

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