Continuing Tales

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

Part 34 of 37

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The sunlight filtered through the dusty windows, its shine muted, but still managing to break through. Marinette watched, intrigued by the fact that light could still flood this place, despite meeting a barrier. Even if the sun was indifferent to its effect on this place, it still managed to make her…hopeful. It was a strange way to feel, but there it was.

“…And that settles it,” said a voice behind her, and Marinette turned her gaze onto the tall, dark-skinned, pregnant ex-model in the room, who was snapping what looked like a check book shut, shaking hands with a pleased-looking realtor. “A pleasure doing business with you.”

“And you,” said the realtor, and Marinette was amused when he turned towards her with slightly wide eyes, as if he couldn’t believe someone like her was associated with someone like Amara Sainte de-Couquille. Marinette really couldn’t blame him his surprise—she had just gotten lucky, after all. “Enjoy your new boutique, mademoiselle.”

“Thank you,” Marinette replied, smiling faintly as the realtor nodded his way out. She turned back to the large windows in front of her, picturing the sight beyond them—just a few streets away stood the Eiffel Tower, with a good bit of the Seine set just beyond that. Despite her recent…difficulties…associated with the tower, Marinette could not be more pleased with the location, even if she tried…

It was too bad ‘happiness’ was an emotion that was currently avoiding her. But at least she had stopped crying…for now…

“You’re so quiet,” remarked Amara as she joined Marinette at the windows, her dark eyes roving over Marinette’s face curiously. “I truly can’t tell if this is just your nature…or if something’s bothering you.”

Oh great. Now she was concerning her investor. Time to get it together before Amara decided that she was too much of a risk.

“It’s nothing,” she assured Amara, forcing a smile with little to no difficulty—wow, she had been spending too much time around A—

DON’T THINK ABOUT HIM,’ her mind interrupted, and Marinette quickly shut the stray thought down, sternly making herself focus on the conversation at hand to avoid more pain than was necessary.

Hastily, Marinette glanced away, hoping Amara wouldn’t catch the agony in her eyes as she stared blankly at the dusty windows.

“It’s just…this is really happening, isn’t it…?”

This made Amara chuckle.

“It really is,” she confirmed for Marinette, patting her shoulder. Immediately, Marinette thought of Desiree, and another thorny vine twisted itself tighter around her heart. “I’m surprised you were able to find a space so fast, though.”

“Ah, yeah,” Marinette laughed uncertainly. “Well, I kind of just threw myself into the search last week...I’m surprised this place was even available.”

“It’s very lucky it was,” Amara agreed. Marinette felt a tiny bump against her hip, originating from her purse. She smiled a secret smile, watching as Amara strode to the center of the empty building, turning in a slow, graceful circle. “It’ll need a proper cleaning, of course, but it’s a very beautiful building, and the location is excellent. Have you given any thought to what you might want to name it?”


Amara paused, raising an eyebrow at Marinette.

“…You look like you have an idea…but don’t want to admit it,” she mused, and Marinette felt her face grow hot. Jeez, was she that easy to read? If only she had Beauty Queen’s mirror; then she could steal Felix’s flawless poker face, and this wouldn’t be a problem.

“Well…” she began slowly, chewing on her bottom lip when Amara continued to look expectantly at her, “I figured…since it was my superhero line that kick-started this whole thing…that I might want to name the boutique after them.”

Amara blinked.

“…You want to name the boutique after each of Paris’ heroes?” She glanced away, a finger to her chin as she pursed her lips in thought. “What would be a good combination of their names to allow that…? LadyNoirShell? Something like that?”

“Oh god, no,” Marinette denied with a shake of her head, puckering her lips to keep from laughing at Amara’s suggestion. “No, I meant…well, I kind of like the name ‘Miraculous’.”

Amara paused, tilting her head to the side.

“Miraculous,” she repeated, sounding out the word and making it sound glamorous. “…I like it.”

Marinette smiled a little more genuinely now.

“Well, it’s still a ‘maybe’,” she reminded the ex-model, “but I’m glad to know where you’re—is something wrong?”

“Mm-mm,” Amara hummed, shaking her head as a hand slid over her belly, which barely protruded from her body. “The baby’s kicking.”

“Oh!” Marinette exclaimed in delight, moving forward, hands outstretched…but then she paused, worried that she was being incredibly presumptuous. “Oh, uh…can I—?”

Looking amused, Amara took Marinette’s wrists, guiding her hands forward to circle her baby bump. The tiny thudding against her hands made Marinette squeak in surprise, and Amara laughed.

“It’s a strong baby,” she remarked as Marinette slowly moved her hands away, staring in awe at Amara’s belly.

“Does it hurt?”

“Not as much as you might think.” Amara slid a hand over her stomach again, smiling fondly. “I think he’s cranky because he doesn’t have much room to move around.”

“You already know it’s a boy?”

Amara shrugged.

“Not in medical terms…but despite Jacques wanting a little girl, I have a strong feeling that it’s a boy. Mother’s intuition,” she explained with a wink, and Marinette laughed a little.

“I’m so surprised at how small your belly is,” she said, following Amara to the door to exit the dusty place. “Oh, uh, sorry if that sounds rude—”

“Not at all,” Amara said graciously, passing through the door and practically gliding down the stairs, she was so graceful. The clumsy side of Marinette was instantly jealous. “Because of my height, my doctor predicts that the baby will stretch up instead of out, so I might not get much bigger than this.”

“I bet all the expecting mothers in Paris wish they had your pregnant figure, too,” Marinette remarked, just imagining the jealous looks Amara must get whenever she admitted she was four months pregnant instead of the two months her appearance suggested. Amara laughed again, smoothing her hair back from her face.

“Well, enough about me,” she said, waving a hand through the air, as if to brush the topic of her pregnancy aside. “If you’d like, I can hire a few helping hands to help you fix this place up.”

“That might be necessary,” Marinette regretfully reported, cringing as she shot a glance at the building behind her—her future boutique. She still couldn’t believe it… “There’s a lot of dust in there, and I’m not sure if my friends like me that much.”

“Oh dear,” Amara said idly, smiling in amusement. “Well, you have my number, should you need anything.”

She took one of Marinette’s hands, placing something in her palm before closing her fingers around it. When she let go, Marinette opened her hand, a spark of excitement passing through her at the key resting in her palm.

The key to her very own boutique.

The part of her that wasn’t bogged down with the misery attached to her current woes wanted to squeal, sing, and hug Amara all at the same time…but Marinette restrained herself to the first real smile she’d probably smiled in days.

“Thank you so much, Amara,” she said, breathless with gratitude. “I’m so lucky to have someone like you and M. Sainte de-Couquille on my side.”

“Luck has nothing to do with it,” Amara chided her firmly, though she was smiling. “It has everything to do with your talent, Marinette. I have complete faith that you’ll be a huge success.”

Ah, the lavish compliments. Though they were coming from a different source now, they still kind of hurt. Still, Marinette made herself smile.

“Thank you,” she said once more, humbled. Amara smiled, leaning in and kissing Marinette’s cheek, the way she did at the winter gala, with A—

You’re not supposed to think about him!!’ Marinette stubbornly reminded herself, feeling exhausted. In between not thinking about him, and trying to find a suitable place for her boutique, along with impending finals and dodging Alya’s invites to hang out because she didn’t want her best friend to notice that she wasn’t happy, Marinette was absolutely bushed. One thing was for sure—she couldn’t keep going like this. Sooner rather than later, something was going to have to give.

“I should go—Jacques will be waiting for me,” Amara said, bringing Marinette out of her own mind with the self-dismissal. Her driver dutifully awaited her by the curb, and Marinette watched as he helped Amara into the back seat of the car. She raised a hand, meaning to wave farewell to the car as it drove off, but then Amara rolled her window down, amusement glinting in her eyes now rather than in her smile.

“…You know, I think I misspoke,” she said, regarding Marinette in a strange, familiar way… “I think luck might have a little to do with this.”

Marinette blinked, and Amara winked at her, rolling the window back up as the car pulled away. Huh…she didn’t mean…nah, no way. That was impossible…wasn’t it?

Marinette’s phone buzzed in her pocket, interrupting her train of thought. She fished out her phone, heart in her throat—oh, but it was only Nino. There was both relief and disappointment in that realization as Marinette unlocked her phone to read the text.

Nino: hey

Nino: patrol still on 2nite?

Marinette sighed and sent him a confirmation.

Patrol tonight…right. It was Monday night, wasn’t it…?

This was going to be several thousand shades of awkward.



Ladybug could feel Emerald Shell staring at her, but she wouldn’t look at him. She was facing resolutely away, her arms folded over her legs as she stared blindly over the Seine, feeling herself pouting and hating it. She knew Chat Noir was nearby, on the opposite side of the roof—she could feelhim there, ignoring her as thoroughly as she was trying to ignore him. Asshole.

Not a word had passed between them, ever since they had met up here, on the roof of this abandoned building, for patrol. But that couldn’t last—they needed to discuss their next move, for Shade had gone silent again, and Desiree had effectively disappeared off the grid, according to a tearful Amanda, when Marinette had dropped by the café to question her.

Ladybug scowled. She hated this—it felt like their enemy held all the cards, and the one foothold she’d managed to gain last week crumbled away the minute she dared to put weight on it. This was awful, and it wasn’t even including the current romantic strife she was suffering through…

“…Okay,” Shell began in an exhausted tone, and Ladybug saw him frown at the pair of them from her peripheral vision, “why is it that every time I dare to leave the two of you alone, something’s always up when I come back?” When he got no reply, he huffed in exasperation. “Seriously, what the hell’s the problem now?”

Chat Noir didn’t bother answering him, and Ladybug didn’t know how to answer him without breaking into a whole other can of worms, so she stayed silent as well. After another tense moment, Emerald Shell let out a longsuffering sigh.

“Well damn, if I’d known you two would be wrapped up in this cold war you’ve got going on for whatever reason, I wouldn’t have told her to meet us here tonight.”

That caught Ladybug’s attention.

“Her who?” She asked, her head whipping around to stare in surprise at Emerald Shell, who was looking equal parts smug and apprehensive.

“The new Miraculous user you asked me to pick,” he announced, and Ladybug scrabbled to her feet, thankful for a piece of good news to focus on in her superhero life.

Even Chat seemed interested; though Ladybug did everything she could to not be aware of him, she still felt it when he stood up, saw from her peripheral vision that his body was now angled towards Shell, heard the curiosity in his voice as he asked,

“You finally found someone?”

“I found someone a while ago,” Shell admitted, rubbing the back of his hooded head as he cringed at Ladybug. “Sorry for taking so long to introduce her. I know I should’ve done it earlier, but we’ve, uh, had a lot going on—”

“Well, anything important always has to be taken care of ‘later’…apparently it’s a rule,” Chat drawled, looking away from the burning look Ladybug shot him. If that wasn’t the second most petty, immature, unfair thing he’s ever said—

“Okaaaay,” Shell said slowly, and Ladybug noticed the concerned gaze he gave her before he mostly shrugged the moment off. “Anyway, she should be here in about—”

Suddenly, something dropped onto the roof behind Ladybug, startling her; in her haste to turn around, she slipped, but Shell caught and righted her at the last minute, sighing again.

“Now,” he finished dryly as the figure in orange straightened up.

“Yo,” she greeted, smirking as Ladybug gaped at her in shock.

“V-Volpina?!” She squawked, staring at the all too familiar foxlike figure. Before she could figure out which method would be the most effective in removing the akumatized ‘hero’ from her presence, Shell’s hands closed around her upper arms like shackles as ‘Volpina’ glanced down at herself, blinking her dark green eyes in surprise.

“Oh right, forgot about this,” she mumbled to herself with a sheepish look that was very much not like the Lila Rossi Ladybug had had the displeasure of knowing. “One sec—”

‘Volpina’ snapped, and a cloud of orange dust burst from her. Ladybug jumped again, not expecting the trick, but when the smoke finally cleared…

This heroine was nothing like the Volpina akuma. Sure, their costume color and themes were similar, but this fox-themed heroine had darker skin, and her eyes were lighter, which she closed as she shook out her dark hair, which was wild and ended in several white tips. As Ladybug stared at her, the heroine smiled and gave her a salute.

“Hey. I’m Vixen. Nice to be here on…” Her lips pursed, as if she was trying not to laugh. “…Team Miraculous.”

“Right,” Shell huffed, releasing Ladybug’s arms and stepping around her, gesturing to the new heroine. “LB, Whiskers: this is Vixen. As you might’ve guessed already, she’s been up to…extracurricular activities.”

“…That night at City Hall…” Chat muttered, and Ladybug abruptly remembered—the ‘Volpina’ sighting that had confused and perplexed them, but ended up being a minor detail in light of everything that had happened—

“That was you?” She questioned. Vixen gave a shrug, grimacing a little.

“Guilty,” she admitted, side-glancing at Shell. “Turtle Boy said I should probably come clean with you before I could officially join the team.”

Now Ladybug turned to Shell.

“You knew about this?”

Shell frowned.

“I only found out recently,” he prefaced, before sighing and rubbing the back of his hooded head. “But yeah, I knew. Again, sorry I didn’t say anything earlier.”

While Ladybug wanted to be annoyed that she had apparently been left out of this particular loop for so long…she couldn’t be indignant in front of Chat Noir, because he would no doubt call her out on her hypocrisy. The thought of him doing that annoyed her much more than this discovery, and so she let it go for now…though she did pass Shell a particular look.

“You couldn’t have gone with the Bee Miraculous?” She asked, causing Shell to frown at her.

“You said I could pick either one,” he reminded her, his tone hot, but his gaze behind his goggles…insecure. Abruptly, Ladybug realized that he must have been nervous about introducing Vixen tonight, because apparently, things hadn’t gone to plan when he Chose her, if it took him this long to bring her to the team. Feeling bad for her slight, Ladybug stepped forward, patting his arm.

“Thank you, Shell,” she made sure to say to him, smiling in encouragement. Shell let out another breath, but it was more like he was relieved than aggravated this time around; he even returned Ladybug’s smile a little. Squeezing his arm, Ladybug turned to Volpi—er, Vixen now, inspecting her.

She was the real deal all right—Ladybug had made sure to thoroughly inspect the Fox Miraculous while it had been in her possession, and one look at it now, hanging around the new heroine’s neck, told Ladybug everything she needed to know. Well, that was one weight off her already overworked shoulders…

Vixen seemed perfectly at her leisure; she stood with her feet apart, a hand resting casually on her hip as she watched Ladybug size her up, a slight smile on her face, as if she was waiting for Ladybug to quiz her. Ladybug frowned at that expression, unsure about whether or not it should concern her…but if Emerald Shell Chose her…

“So,” she began, folding her arms and fixing Vixen with a searching look, “if you were Chosen a while ago…what were you doing apparently hanging out with AVA?”

“Oh, that. I…kind of took on a self-appointed side mission,” Vixen admitted, grimacing. “Nobody knew about me yet, and it seemed like you guys were having the most trouble with AVA at the time…so I thought I should try my hand at infiltration.”

Hmm. From what Ladybug could gather, it had been effective enough—from what she had seen and what Shell had told her happened after she and Chat had pursued the mayor, Vixen had seemed to hold enough sway with AVA that they had rallied around her without much prompting…or maybe it was just because she had been their only escape route that night. But either way…

“…They’re a lot more tame these days,” Ladybug noted, pursing her lips as she eyed Vixen. “…You wouldn’t have anything to do with that…would you?”

At this, Vixen grinned. The gesture startled Ladybug, because, well…it looked very familiar…

“I miiiight’ve given them a nudge in their current direction,” she said modestly, save for that fox’s grin on her face. “Them sticking with it is all them, though; I only popped by in disguise tonight to make sure they were doing all right.”

“…Well,” said Chat, and Ladybug hated herself for the stirring within herself at the sound of his voice, “seems like we shouldn’t really underestimate you.”

Vixen gave a snort.

“Relax, Whiskers, I’m on your side,” she reminded him, and Ladybug withheld her laugh as Chat’s eyes narrowed at Vixen. However, as entertaining as she suspected it might be to watch Vixen and Chat butt heads, there was already too much tension in the team already, and so she cut in.

“Well, however long it took, it’s good to have you on the team, Vixen,” she said with an approving nod, brushing off Shell’s blatant look of surprise with a tongue stuck out in his direction. She glanced around, eyes only briefly resting on Chat before she swiftly looked away, her heart throbbing painfully. “Since we now have a full team, after we patrol the city, I think tonight’s a good night to debrief, and go over everything we know about our enemy so far. I have some new information, and I want to know if you guys have anything to add.”

Chat snorted softly, almost like he didn’t want the sound to be heard. Immediately, Ladybug whirled on him.

“Do you have a problem?” She wanted to know, bristling at once, for things were already unpleasant and prickly between them, and it was probably only a matter of time before one of them broke down and snapped at the other.

Chat regarded her coolly, and Ladybug was unpleasantly reminded of his homecoming just a few months ago…it had been so long since he had looked at her like that…

“I didn’t say anything,” he pointed out. Ladybug opened her mouth to point out that, yes, while he technically hadn’t said anything this time, it was clear he had an attitude, and if he had something he wanted to say to her face—

“Whoa,” Vixen cut in; Ladybug turned to find her eyes bouncing back and forth between her and Chat, a slight frown on her face, looking like she was trying to piece together clues. Eventually, her eyes rested on Shell, tilting her head curiously. “Did I miss something…?”

Shell sighed and shook his head.

“Your guess is as good as mine,” he said, patting Vixen’s shoulder. “Welcome to the team,” he added wryly.

Ladybug, realizing that it was Vixen’s first night with the team—and that drama should therefore be kept to a minimum—sighed and pinched the bridge of her nose.

“Let’s…just split up for patrol,” she decided, wincing as she felt a migraine coming on. “Since I don’t think it’s a good idea for us to be alone with the possibility of Shade lurking in the shadows, we’ll go in pairs…”

Ladybug frowned. Normally, she’d pair up with Chat and let Vixen and Shell patrol together, since they seemed like they were close…but considering the circumstances…

“…Vixen,” she began, making up her mind quickly, “it’s your first night on patrol, so I want you to be with a veteran to show you the ropes. So you’ll be with Chat Noir.”

She felt Chat look at her at this declaration, but when she turned to ask him once again if he had a problem, he was looking away, gaze turned towards the Seine.

Vixen, in any case, seem to take this decision in stride.

“You got it, Lady Luck,” she agreed with a wink and another salute. Ladybug watched as the new hero moved to stand beside Chat, bemused. Looked like she had picked up yet another nickname…

“You two take the east and south sides of the city,” she directed, talking mostly to Vixen, since Chat was being…well… “If there are any issues, don’t hesitate to let me know.”

At Vixen’s nod of understanding, Ladybug turned to Emerald Shell next.

“We’ll take the north and west,” she decided, and Shell nodded.

“Whatever you say, LB.”

“Where do we meet up after patrol?” Vixen wanted to know; there was an excited gleam in her eyes that amused Ladybug, reminding her of a kid in a candy store. “The Eiffel Tower?”

No,” Ladybug and Chat Noir insisted at the same time. She blinked at him and he stared at her, equally surprised, before he seemed to remember that they were angry at each other and he looked away again, arms folded over his chest. Vixen stared at the pair of them, and Ladybug withheld yet another sigh.

“Just…let’s meet back here, all right?” She said, pinching the bridge of her nose again for a moment. Vixen stared at her, silent…and then she gave a shrug.

“You’re the boss, Lady Luck.”

“Right…well, let’s go,” Ladybug commanded. Chat took off without further prompting, and Vixen followed him, her fox’s grin in place. Ladybug watched them go for a moment before turning to stride towards the other end of the roof—

Her arm was caught, and Ladybug sighed, turning to face Emerald Shell’s concerned frown.

“What’s up with you and the cat?” He asked without preamble. Ladybug groaned.

“We’re supposed to be patrolling, Shell,” she reminded him, moving to tug her arm out of his grasp, but Shell held fast.

“Too bad: whatever issues you’re having with Whiskers is affecting the team,” he pointed out, only letting go when Ladybug turned to fully face him, folding his arms across his chest as he frowned at her, clearly worried. “What’s up, LB?”

Ladybug closed her eyes, this next sigh one of defeat. As much as she hated to admit it…Shell had a point. It wasn’t very professional for her to be snapping at Chat Noir, especially when a new heroine had just been introduced to the team…

“I’m sorry,” she prefaced, chewing her bottom lip as she gave Shell an apologetic look. “I don’t mean to be so…” she paused, and then huffed, looking away. “We had a fight.”


“Things.” At Shell’s dry look, Ladybug cringed and tried again. “He…well…he threw himself off the Eiffel Tower to save me when Shade attacked us last Friday. Twice.”

Shell’s eyes widened.

“Holy shit,” he whispered, shaking his head. “I mean, I know he likes to be your personal bulletproof vest and everything, but damn.

“That’s not funny,” Ladybug scolded Shell, though her voice was weak, chills rippling through her as she remembered that horrid night…the sight of Adrien falling away from her… “He almost died, Shell.”

“Oh…” Shell frowned. “What did happen that night? You told me Pavone showed up and saved the day at the last minute…but you’ve been really vague about it. What happened that made it necessary for Pavone to show up? And if Chat didn’t die, how’d he get out of that situation? I didn’t see him anywhere when I showed up…”

That wasn’t true; though Shell wasn’t aware of it, Chat had been standing right next to Ladybug when he appeared…they both just happened to be in their civilian forms.

Ladybug inspected Shell, wondering if he found it strange at all that Adrien had been there that night. He hadn’t said anything about it so far…

Shell blinked at her searching look.

“What?” He wanted to know, fidgeting, as if he was self-conscious. Ladybug looked away from him, shaking her head.

“We’ll discuss everything once we’re all done with patrol. I promise,” she added, a somewhat vicious note in her tone, thinking of Chat and what he might say in a snarky fashion if he was there. Shell gave her an odd look, but mercifully, he let it go, sliding his shell off his back.

“If you say so, LB. So: patrol?”

“Patrol,” Ladybug agreed in relief, and the heroes took to the sky.



The angry buzzing in Chat Noir’s head refused to recede. Frankly, he was grateful for it—it was easier to be angry with her, because it distracted him from how much he missed her, and how much it hurt him to see her and remember all the awful things he had said to her—

Okay, he was getting off track again. Be angry, be angry…

“Damn, you’re tense as fuck. Trouble in paradise, Tiger?”

‘Tiger’? Well, he supposed it was better than ‘Whiskers’, but…

Chat glanced down from where he was perched on top of the streetlight. The newbie hung from the pole below him, her feet braced against it as her hand clutched said pole, so she was hanging from it at an angle, her free hand against her forehead as she theatrically searched for any disturbance in the city. She glanced up at him after a moment, looking curious as she smirked at him. For some reason, the look made him uneasy…

Chat’s claws flexed over his boots, and he looked away from Vixen.

“Nothing you need to worry about,” he said curtly, leaping from the streetlight and onto a nearby roof. Vixen easily matched his pace, looking effortless as she jumped from rooftop to rooftop, landing as lightly as…well, him, before pushing off to the next rooftop. When he paused again to inspect the area, she leaned over into his line of sight, fists on her hips, looking like her eyebrows were raised behind her mask.

“No? I shouldn’t be concerned that you and Ladybug are practically at each other’s throats for some mysterious reason?”

Chat shot a glare her way, but rather than deterring her…it seemed to amuse her. She was an odd one, this Vixen…

“That’s our business,” he said roughly, getting to his feet. Vixen straightened with him, and he saw her shrug from his peripheral vision.

“All right, if that’s how you want it,” she replied airily. “I’m just saying, if you need to vent…well, I’m pretty good at keeping secrets.”

Oh she was, was she…?

Chat rolled his eyes her way, sizing her up. Again, she appeared amused, and grinned at him.

“Better keep your eyes to yourself, Cat Boy,” she teased him, “‘cause I’m spoken for.”

Chat snorted.

“Lovely as you are, Vixen, believe me when I say that I’m not looking to date anyone right now,” he said dryly.

This seemed to interest Vixen; she pursed her lips and tilted her head to the side, one of her fox ears twitching.

“You say that like you’re not dating anyone,” she noted.

“You’re sharp,” Chat replied, his eyes scanning the city, though he wasn’t really seeing it.

Vixen fell silent. Chat let her be, and they managed to get halfway through their patrol before she spoke again.

“Did something happen?”

Chat glanced over at her, her curious look intriguing him.

“What makes you say that?” He wanted to know. For someone who knew nothing about the situation between him and Ladybug, she seemed awfully interested…

Vixen gave an idle shrug…but her hazel eyes were intent upon his face.

“Just that you and Ladybug seemed really close,” she said, but there was restraint in her words, and Chat got the oddest feeling that she was…holding herself back. It was strange. “I just always thought there was something more there.”

Chat laughed bitterly, rolling his eyes.

“Yeah, you and half of Paris,” he remarked with a shake of his head, his good mood vanishing as quickly as it had come. He sighed, the sound pulled from his core. “Well, sorry to spoil whatever fanfiction you’ve been writing about us, Fox…but there’s nothing between me and Ladybug.”

Not anymore, anyway…

“You don’t sound happy about that.”

“What’re you, my therapist?” Chat snapped, annoyed that Vixen was right on the money, despite just meeting him.

And again, there was that mysterious smile, like she was…well, like she was a fox that had just found a way into the heavily guarded hen house. Chat’s sense of uneasiness increased.

“Just a concerned friend is all,” she said with another shrug, her hazel eyes lit up in amusement. Chat eyed her warily.

“It’s a little early to say we’re friends,” he chided her, moving to the edge of the roof to drop down into the alleyway. Vixen made to follow him, but her tail got snagged on the roof at the last minute and she wobbled. His chivalrous side taking over, Chat stepped forward, taking her arms and helping her down into the alleyway before she could fall. She blinked at him, and he let go, rubbing the back of his head. “Teammates, sure, but friends is…kind of jumping the gun, don’t you think?”

Vixen stared up at him, her expression blank. For a moment, Chat worried that he had offended her…but then she smiled, this gesture a lot more gentle than the sly grins that had passed her face so far.

“Teammates it is, then,” she allowed…but then her smile widened into a grin. “For now.”

Chat gave her an odd look.

“You’re a strange lady,” he remarked. This made Vixen laugh as she followed him further into the shadows of the alleyway.

“Yeah. But it works for me.”

“If you say so…” Chat glanced askance at her. “…So, how did you and Shell meet?”

“Oh, we’re old friends.”


“Yeah. We’re like this.” She crossed her fingers and grinned. Chat frowned, because that look…there was something in it that suggested he was missing something, something he should know…it was just a strange vibe he was getting off Vixen, and he had no idea what to make of it.

“…So do you know him out of costume, then?”

“Ah-ah, Meow Mix,” Vixen tutted, grinning at the aggrieved look Chat gave her—god, another Miraculous user with a penchant for stupid nicknames, just what he needed. “If you’re gonna keep secrets, then I’m allowed a few of my own, don’t you think?”

“I wasn’t aware that this was a competition,” he muttered. Vixen’s grin was bright in the darkness.

“Just think of it like a video game interaction: you must have at least level two of friendship with me before you can unlock my Chosen story, and level six for my tragic heroine backstory.”

“You have a tragic heroine backstory?”

Vixen laughed.

“Wouldn’t you like to know?”




“Any problems?”


“Nope,” Vixen answered Ladybug, popping her lips on the ‘p’ as she and Chat Noir returned to the rooftop Team Miraculous (pfft) had gathered upon at the start of the night. “All clear.”

Ladybug nodded, looking thoughtful. Vixen took the moment to inspect her best friend, inwardly tutting at the circles she could just make out under the spotted heroine’s eyes. Just how long had it been since she’d had a good night’s sleep? It was like she couldn’t even catch a break lately…

Her eyes caught Shell’s, and she imperceptibly nodded towards Ladybug. Shell’s gaze tightened, and a corner of his mouth turned down. Well, that wasn’t a good sign…

When Nino had decided tonight was as good a night as any for Vixen to be introduced to (pfft) Team Miraculous, he firmly believed that they should hold off on secret identity introductions for a bit, at least until Ladybug was comfortable with Vixen’s presence on the team. And then, surprise! It turned out it was her best friend all along, what a coincidence!

Personally, Alya didn’t follow this logic—wouldn’t it be better for Ladybug to know that Vixen was absolutely somebody she could trust? But because she knew how truly anxious Nino was about this introduction tonight…she had agreed to keep the secret for now, in order to test the waters and work out a new team dynamic. However, she didn’t think either of them had expected the tension rolling off of both Ladybug and Chat Noir in waves…though Vixen supposed this sort of explained why her best friend had been MIA for the past week…hmmm…

Deciding to touch base with her fiancé later, Vixen returned her attention to Ladybug.

“So, what’s the deal with this ‘Shade’ woman?” She wanted to know, frowning as her tongue twisted around the villain’s name, like it was a word that was barbed and coated with poison. “Do we know what she wants?”

“Yeah,” Chat spoke up, a flat look on his face, “Paris in flames, and our heads on a pike.”

“Ouch,” Vixen replied mildly, massaging her neck for added effect. “Any chance she’d be willing to settle for something a little less fatal?”

“Actually, it seems like there’s more to it,” Ladybug cut in, looking rather uncomfortable as she folded her arms around herself, like she was searching for warmth. Vixen noticed Chat twitch beside her; she glanced his way, but he was frowning at the ground, his hands flexing at his sides. Idly, she wondered if he was working to actively restrain himself from comforting Ladybug. The thought both amused and aggrieved her, because she was pretty sure her friends were being seven kinds of stupid right now…

“Did you find something out?” Shell asked Ladybug, laying a comforting hand on her shoulder. Ladybug nodded, though she seemed unable to look at anyone directly as she shared her news.

“Yeah…there’s a good chance that Shade’s civilian identity…is Desiree Trace.”

…Okay: that, Vixen had not been expecting.

What?!” She, Emerald Shell and Chat Noir exclaimed together, their simultaneous cries of surprise causing Ladybug to cringe.

“Are you sure?” Shell demanded, his hand tightening on Ladybug’s shoulder. She nodded, her expression grim as she met his gaze.

“I did some digging the other night, and I found out some stuff—”

Desiree?” Vixen interrupted without meaning to, but she just couldn’t believe it—Desiree was the bad guy? Sure, the way she’d looked at Alya the other day had been weird, yeah, but how did they jump from her making Alya slightly uncomfortable to her being the villain?!

Ladybug gave Vixen an odd look that she didn’t quite understand until she realized that Chat was giving her the same look.

“Do you…know Desiree?” He asked, his gaze intense, as if he could see through her mask to her face if he looked hard enough.

Vixen paused. Oh, right.

“I’m familiar with her,” she said, frowning as she chose her words carefully. “I wouldn’t actually say that I know her…especially now that it seems she’s the bad guy. The fuck?”

“What did you find out?” Shell wanted to know, swiftly cutting in, much to Vixen’s relief. Ladybug let out a bone-weary sigh and gestured for them to sit. Vixen sank down across from the spotted heroine, suddenly nervous. This seemed like it was going to be a long story, if they all had to be sitting down for it…

Once everyone was settled, Ladybug began her story, mostly speaking to her knees as she told them about how her suspicions were aroused:

“I was out with…a friend,” Ladybug said carefully, with a quick glance to Vixen. Ah…trying not to say too much in front of the newbie, eh?

Vixen kept her smirk to herself as Ladybug continued:

“We happened to run into Desiree while we were out, and my friend made a comment about how Desiree was always wearing this silver ring…a ring I’d never seen before.”

Oh—the friend was Alya. This made Vixen frown—so Marinette really hadn’t been kidding when she claimed to have no knowledge of the ring? And she had turned so pale after that…ohhh. Things about that afternoon were starting to make more sense…

“I tried to forget about it, but something about the whole situation was bugging me: why hadn’t I ever seen this ring before if she apparently wore it every time my friend had seen her?” Ladybug scowled. “And then, suddenly, I thought I saw it, in a picture taken a year ago, so I went to the internet and looked her up—mostly to prove that I wasn’t crazy—but then I saw it, there on her finger. It was a silver ring: an ouroboros. I had never seen her wear it in person…but it was on her hand in that picture on IFA’s website…”

“…But I saw her there, in the crowd when Shade attacked the fashion show,” Chat mused quietly, before he frowned. “But then, if Pavone was right, and we haven’t actually been seeing her all this time…”

 Shell’s gaze went to him, narrowing.

“…Do you see a lot of Desiree, then?” He wanted to know. Vixen felt Chat tense beside her, and she held in her snort. These idiots…

“What happened next?” She prompted Ladybug, purposefully sparing Chat from answering, too eager to find out how Ladybug had reached her conclusion for her fiancé and her friend to have their identity epiphany right that second. Chat relaxed a little, but Shell was slow to remove his gaze from the cat-themed superhero, even as Ladybug continued her tale.

“So I kept searching, because…well, because I wanted to prove to myself that she had nothing to do with this. I didn’t want her to have anything to do with this…”

Ladybug looked miserable. Again, Chat twitched…but he made no move towards her. So it was up to Shell again to offer her physical comfort, patting her back consolingly. Vixen, since she sat across from Ladybug, couldn’t readily reach her…and so she had to suffice with tapping her foot against Ladybug’s. The spotted heroine gave her an odd look, and Vixen offered her an encouraging smile, one she hesitantly reciprocated. That was a little better.

“…At first, I found nothing,” Ladybug admitted, “but just as I was about to give up…I spotted a link to an old news article, from seven years ago. …Hawk Moth’s name was mentioned.”

Chat Noir went rigid, his tail standing straight up and his ears forward as he stared at Ladybug, looking utterly pale. On the pretext of shifting her weight, Vixen bumped his shoulder. His head whipped around to look at her, and she widened her eyes at him, as if to silently ask what his problem was. Her look seemed to remind him of his present company—which was her goal—and he made himself relax. He had still attracted Shell’s attention, however—the turtle-themed superhero was frowning at him. She hoped he would just decide that Chat was so on edge because of the trouble Hawk Moth had caused to his super-persona only…

But once again, it was up to her to prompt Ladybug, and so she did.

“Did the article mention Desiree, too?”

“No,” Ladybug replied with a shake of her head. “It mentioned someone else—an older man named Daniel Trace.”

Daniel Trace…

That name tickled something in the back of Vixen’s memory…

“Her father?” Shell inquired, pulling his gaze from Chat Noir to give Ladybug a questioning look.

“I can’t be sure…but I would say it’s a safe bet.” She sighed, chewing on her bottom lip. “He was an American reporter…and apparently…he had discovered Hawk Moth’s secret before anyone else, before Hawk Moth…died.”

Ladybug shifted uncomfortably. Vixen hated the guilt in her best friend’s eyes, and wished she could express it…but since nobody but Shell knew her real identity, she had no choice but to keep her mouth shut. For now.

“…Wait,” Vixen began, the name of this mysterious reporter turning over and over in her head until she remembered something. “I’ve heard that name before…yeah! Didn’t he have journals or something dedicated to Hawk Moth?”

“He did,” Ladybug confirmed. This excited Vixen, and she leaned forward eagerly.

“Oh, but this is great!” She enthused, unable to comprehend why Ladybug continued to look so grim. “We can just ask him for help, then! He’ll be able to confirm whether or not Desiree’s actually related to him…or,” she slowed down, frowning at Ladybug’s expression, “is he back in America…?”

Ladybug’s voice was flat as she answered.

“…He’s dead, Vixen.”

“…Oh,” Vixen said, the grim mood beginning to affect her too; she frowned. “Well, that complicates things.”

“Have you seen Desiree at all since Friday night?” Shell asked. Ladybug shook her head.

“No. Neither has her girlfriend—I spoke to her just yesterday, and she told me she hasn’t seen Desiree since Friday, either.”

“She could be lying to protect her,” Chat pointed out, but Ladybug shook her head again.

“I really think she was being sincere.”

“Well, let’s not forget, Shade’s slippery,” Shell reminded them all with a frown. “And she has the power of illusion, so she could get away with a whole bunch of crap without us even knowing about it…”

Shell’s gaze shifted to Vixen and away quickly, as if looking at her was an involuntary reaction. Nevertheless, she saw, and she frowned at him.

“I did say I was sorry,” she reminded him. As a matter of fact, she had spent the remainder of Friday night showing him exactly how sorry she was…

Shell seemed to remember; he coughed, glancing away as his expression grew embarrassed.

“I know,” he mumbled, his face growing ruddy, much to Vixen’s amusement. Ignoring the suspicious glances they received from Ladybug and Chat, Vixen plucked at the chain of her Fox Miraculous, frowning as she thought.

“…We’re kinda screwed here, aren’t we?” She said bluntly, glancing around at the dispirited expressions of (pfft) Team Miraculous. “We might know who our villain is, but we don’t know where she is, and she wants us all dead for some reason…”

Ladybug glanced at Chat, who caught her gaze. They shared a brief look before looking away again, and Vixen watched with interest.

“…Do you two know something we don’t?” She wanted to know, gesturing to Shell and herself, for he was looking like he was just as in the dark as she was, and not happy about it.

Ladybug shifted, moving to sit on her legs now, her hands resting on her thighs as she frowned thoughtfully…

“…Hawk Moth,” she said slowly, wincing over the name. “It all goes back to him. And the man that might be her father—apparently, Gabriel Agreste knew about him, and…well, the article said that he was being bribed for his silence.”

“…Oh shit,” Vixen hissed, scowling. “Well, that’s not very good journalism.”

“…Maybe not,” Ladybug allowed, looking grave, “but he died due to an overdose. …I think his guilt might’ve caught up with him, in the end.”

Hmm…come to think of it…when Alya had believed her best friend and her boyfriend had been sneaking around with each other behind her back, Desiree had been there…and, if Alya was remembering correctly, she had admitted that her father had died some time ago…

“Hmm,” Shell hummed, folding his arms, his face screwed up in concentration. “Is the overdose thing true…? Or could it have been a cover-up?”

Oh, how interesting.

“You think Gabriel took out a hit on him?” She asked, giving the matter serious thought herself. It wasn’t like it wasn’t plausible…

Shell shrugged, though the gesture was stiff and not at all casual, contrasting from his usual shrugs.

“Just seems like something he might do. It’s not exactly out of character is it, with him being a supervillain…” Shell’s expression grew fierce. “Not to mention what a shitty father he was—”

Chat’s head snapped up from where he had been glowering at the roof, his hands clenched into fists.

“What do you know about what kind of father he was?” He wanted to know, not quite angry, but there was still conflict in his voice as he stared at Shell, who blinked in surprise and promptly grew embarrassed.

“Oh,” he mumbled, clearing his throat. “Well, uh, er—”

“I really don’t think M. Agreste had anything to do with M. Trace’s demise,” Ladybug cut in, sounding all kinds of exhausted as she closed her eyes and sighed, rubbing at her temples. “At least, not directly. He was bribing M. Trace—as long as he was keeping his silence, why would M. Agreste resort to killing him?”

“Bankruptcy?” Vixen suggested.

“Doubtful,” Chat snorted. Vixen nodded to his point—he would know better than anyone, wouldn’t he?

“Well, what if he found out that M. Trace decided that he didn’t want to keep such a big secret anymore?” Shell reasoned.

“That would incriminate him, too, though,” Vixen pointed out. “Taking bribes doesn’t exactly make him innocent. He’d be arrested for aiding and abetting a supervillain, and I’m just guessing here, but I’m pretty sure a light slap on the wrist wouldn’t be the punishment for that, even if M.Trace was a foreigner.”

“Maybe he decided he wanted to do the right thing in the end?” Shell pressed. Ladybug sighed.

“However his death came about isn’t the issue here,” she reminded the team. “It only serves as a possible motive…something Shade all but confirmed to me when I confronted her with it.”

“When did you do that?” Chat asked, not quite looking at her. Ladybug bit her lip, staring at her knees as she answered him.

“Back before the mob attacked us…I asked her whether or not she had anything to ‘report’ on, remember…?”

This made Chat look at her, and Vixen noted his surprise with a certain degree of amusement.

“…You confronted the villain with a pun?” He asked, sounding awed. Ladybug offered him a weak smile.

“It seemed like the only way to confront her without saying too much at the same time,” she admitted. Chat snorted, and the two appeared to share a moment…but all too soon, the moment shattered, as they both seemed to recall that they currently weren’t on good terms. As they looked away from each other again, varying expressions of hurt on their faces, Vixen scowled at the pair of them. What the hell was their problem? Apparently, according to Chat, they weren’t together anymore…but they clearly still wanted to be together…so what were the hang-ups? And were they really worth all this misery they seemed to be putting themselves and each other through…?

Breathing through her nose, Vixen got to her feet.

“I gotta go,” she reported in response to the curious looks she received from the rest of the team. “It’s been fun, guys, but there’s a term paper I really need to finish if I want to graduate on time…so if there’s nothing else…?”

“…No,” Ladybug decided, getting to her feet as well with a wry look. “I have a couple papers of my own I should really finish sooner rather than later.”

Vixen gave a nod…and then reached forward, gripping Ladybug’s shoulder. This appeared to surprise her; her bluebell eyes widened, and Vixen let herself smile.

“Keep your head up, Lady Luck,” she encouraged, “I know things look rough right now…but you’re not as alone as you might think.” She dropped her hand, turning to the side as she saluted the speechless spotted heroine. “Keep me in the loop, ‘kay? If there’s anything I need to know, just give the message to Shell—he’ll pass it along.”

She sent a wink Shell’s way, and he gave her a particular look, apparently unappreciative of the teasing.

“Sure…” Ladybug replied, and Vixen bit back a grin at the suspicious look she cast Shell. With a final word of farewell, she leapt into the air, darting from rooftop to rooftop to make her way home.

Well…her first night out with Team Miraculous (PFFFT) had been both enlightening…and uneventful. Not that she was complaining—after the breakneck pace AVA usually went about things, this quiet night was a welcome relief. The important thing was that she had met the team, and they were now aware of her. Mission complete.

Her next mission: figure out if Marinette and Adrien had really broken up, why, and assess whether or not she had to break a certain blonde ex-model’s kneecaps, friend/teammate or not…

After Vixen’s departure, an awkward silence settled upon the remaining members of Team Miraculous.

Ladybug glanced at Emerald Shell, but he was staring after where Vixen disappeared, rubbing the back of his hooded head. She looked at Chat Noir next, but he was looking away from her too, his shoulders rigid, cat ears drooping.

Ladybug sighed. She was so very tired…

“I’m going home,” she announced, not waiting for a response from the men in her midst before she jumped down from the roof of the building. Once her feet had touched down safely, on the pavement, she released her transformation.

Abruptly, a cacophony of disbelief exploded behind her.

What are you doing?!

Marinette whipped around in surprise, taking a startled step back when both Emerald Shell and Chat Noir landed behind her, gaping at her as if she had lost her mind.

“What?” She wanted to know, staring at the two of them, who continued to look at her in a horrified way. What the hell was their problem, all of a sudden?

“You just—you just—!” Shell seemed beyond words; he gestured furiously through the air at Marinette, as if she should understand what he meant from said gesturing.

“In front of—are you—?!” Chat appeared to be struck with the same speechlessness as Shell; he gawked at Marinette, clawed hands open in a “why?!” gesture. As Marinette’s gaze bounced in between the baffled heroes before her, something in her tired mind clicked, and she realized what the problem was.

And she let out a heavy sigh.

“Goddamn it,” she mumbled to herself, briefly pinching the bridge of her nose before she opened her eyes again to glare at her teammates. “Will you two calm the hell down? There’s no one else here, and you both know my civilian identity. Hell, you know each other’s civilian identities, even!”

This was news to Chat Noir and Emerald Shell, naturally: they looked at each other, surprise and suspicion laced through their expressions.

“We…do?” Shell wanted to check, casting Marinette an uncertain look.

Yes,” Marinette insisted, folding her arms across her chest as she gave them an exasperated look. “If you want to be sure, just de-transform and see for yourselves.”

She was so tired of the tip-toeing at this point—what good was it to keep all these secrets if they were just going to weigh her down and drain her of her energy? No, she was done with this. The secrets were part of the reason she was so miserable lately…the other part being the blonde cat man standing just a step or two away from her, his stubbornness and pride apparently as formidable as hers, given that he hadn’t bothered calling or texting her since Friday night…

Said cat man was looking at Shell now, searching the other man’s face, which was currently blank as he stared back at Chat. In the midst of the stand-off, Marinette sighed and tapped her foot. She was this close to saying ‘fuck it’ and heading home, leaving the friends to their own devices—

“Hang on,” Shell forestalled her, noticing her impatience. He took a deep, cleansing breath…and then met Chat Noir’s gaze. “…Ready to put our newfound trust in each other to the test?”

“No,” Chat replied, but then he rolled his shoulders and sighed. “Let’s do it anyway.”

“On three?”

Chat nodded, and Shell glanced at Marinette, who understood that he wanted her to perform the countdown. Barely suppressing an eye roll, she began.


Chat made himself relax, even though restlessness still rippled through his body.


Shell touched his bracelet, as if the weight of jade would give him courage.




Revert me,” the fire-forged teammates said together. In a flash of green and black sparks, their transformations broke…

They both had their eyes shut tight.

Marinette made an exasperated noise.

Guys,” she insisted, tapping her foot again.

At her insistence, Adrien and Nino slowly opened their eyes…

The minute green locked with gold, there was nothing but stunned silence.

That is, until—

“…What the fuck?!” Nino exclaimed as Adrien gaped at him in muted shock. If Marinette were in a better mood, she would find their reactions almost comical…hell, she still found it a little funny.

“There,” she said, turning on her heel. “Now you know, and I’m going home. Bye.”

“Wait a goddamn minute!” Nino called after her, and she turned back to him, eyebrows raised. “You—Marinette—how long have you known about this?!”

Marinette huffed. What she wouldn’t give for a mug of hot chocolate with a shot of vodka right about now…

“Fine: I found out Adrien was Chat Noir for sure the day of Desiree’s fashion competition. Adrien, Nino practically told me he was Emerald Shell the night he debuted as a superhero. There—it’s all out in the open. Now you two work it out between yourselves, because I am going to bed.

Marinette stomped off, and this time, no one called her back…probably because it could not be clearer that she was in a terrible mood. As she stomped her way through the street, something nudged her cheek. She turned, blinking at Tikki, who was regarding her with a tiny little frown.

Marinette blinked, surprised at the unusual negativity in her kwami’s expression. She couldn’t be sure, but…it kind of felt like…

Marinette slowed to a stop, regarding the tiny god with some surprise.

“…Tikki…are you mad at me…?” she asked, the words strange, because she could not recall a time, after all these years, where Tikki was legitimately angry at her ever.

Tikki took her time answering, which only served to make Marinette anxious.

“…I’m not mad,” the kwami said slowly, as if she decided just now that she didn’t want to be angry with her Chosen. “But I am worried…and disappointed.”

Oh no. The disappointment was almost worse than the anger of a tiny god. Marinette paused, biting her lip as she stared down at her kwami. What had she done to disappoint her?

“Did you have to push Nino and Adrien like that?” Tikki asked, her lower lip jutting out in a pout. “What if they weren’t ready to know about each other yet?”

Marinette paused. Oh…admittedly, she hadn’t even thought about it…

“W-well…they probably would’ve done it sooner rather than later,” Marinette supposed, though she chewed her lip in doubt. “They’ve been suspicious of each other for a while—”

“Be that as it may,” Tikki interrupted with a shake of her head, “this really should have been done in their own time, Marinette. You made Adrien wait until you were ready to discuss everything. So why was it okay for you to force them into this situation? You do realize this could affect their friendship negatively, don’t you?”

Marinette frowned. Now that was just unfair…

“They should know,” she insisted. “It’ll make us stronger as a team—”

“Marinette,” Tikki cut across her again, the disappointment in her indigo eyes increasing, “that’s a lie.”

“No it isn’t!” Marinette insisted, appalled that Tikki believed that she would ever lie to her. Didn’t Tikki know her better than that?

“Yes, it is,” Tikki maintained, calm despite the unpleasant conversation. “You didn’t do it because you wanted them to know about each other. You did it because you wanted to hurt Adrien.”

Marinette felt her jaw drop; for a moment, she was speechless.

“I don’t…that wasn’t…” She spluttered, but there were no words to express her shock and discomfort at such words…because they were true.Marinette didn’t want to admit it, not even to herself, but in her heart of hearts, deep within herself…she was hurting. And she was angry. And that angry part of her, no matter how much she tried to deny it, wanted blood and suffering. Misery did like its company…

When she could say nothing to refute Tikki’s assertion, the kwami regarded her sadly.

“I know you’re upset with Adrien right now. I know, Marinette. But did he really deserve what you just did? Did Nino deserve it?”


Oh, poor Nino. He put up with so much from her, and yet…

Marinette let out a slow breath.

Tikki was right—she hadn’t acted fairly. She had just jeopardized the friendship and partnership between her two teammates for selfish reasons, and if the fallout was catastrophic…it would be all her fault. She really had no excuse in this situation.

The guilt and anguish must have been clear in her eyes; Tikki gave a sigh, patting Marinette’s cheek.

“I know you’re hurting, Marinette,” she said softly, “but it’s important now, more than ever, that Team Miraculous work together. You may be Ladybug…but you shouldn’t have to save Paris on your own.”

Marinette sighed again, feeling her strength sap from her with the exhalation of air. She was so, so, so tired…

“Let’s get you back home,” Tikki decided, cottoning onto the fact that Marinette was basically dead on her feet. She zoomed into her Chosen’s pocket, still regarding Marinette with some concern. “We’ll figure out what to do about Adrien and Nino once you’ve gotten some sleep.”

“…Thank you, Tikki,” Marinette said eventually, a helpless smile crossing her face. Tikki was so important in her life, for more than Ladybug reasons—only a true friend would be that honest with Marinette, would make her look at her actions and help her realize when she was in the wrong. Normally, this was Alya’s role…but since Marinette couldn’t exactly share any of this with her best friend…

Marinette sighed again, ordering her tired feet to carry her towards home. In any case, it was almost a relief that she couldn’t talk about any of this with Alya—at least her best friend’s life remained uncomplicated by superhero shenanigans.



Just when did Nino’s life get this complicated?

Oh yeah—Pavone had fucked around and Chosen him for the Turtle Miraculous. Right.

Now he was sitting here at this huge ass table in Adrien’s dining room, downing alcohol in an attempt to reconcile the fact that his best friend was also an antihero-turned-crime-fighting-teammate, whom he had only just recently learned to trust.

This situation was all kinds of fucked up…

…And yet, so many things made so much sense now.

Adrien’s kwami—Adrien’s kwami—had been sitting on the table, watching them, as if he expected a fight to break out, before Wayzz had the good sense and grace to drag him into another room. So now it was just him and Adrien, the weight of this particular identity reveal weighing heavily upon the both of them.

Adrien sat beside him, completely silent. His shoulders were hunched, and he was only staring down at his glass, as if he was wishing it was big enough to drown himself. From the corner of his eye, Nino could see him dart occasional glances to him, tension rolling off him in waves. After his third glass of gin, Nino had had enough.

Stop it,” he insisted, giving his best friend a pained look. “You look like I’m about to slam your head into this table. Just…stop it, dude, all right?”

Adrien slumped over, the action making him look smaller.

“Sorry,” he mumbled, and Nino sighed, setting his empty glass down on the table.

“I don’t want you to be sorry,” he insisted, turning to face his best friend properly for the first time since they had arrived at his house. “I want you to be honest—you’re pissed at me, right?”

This appeared to surprise Adrien; he blinked at Nino, nonplussed.

“Why would I be mad at you?” He wanted to know, tilting his head to the side. Nino echoed the movement, frowning at Adrien. He wasn’t serious, was he?

“I’m Emerald Shell,” he said, as if Adrien needed reminding. “Dude, I…I’ve been treating you like shit.

“It wasn’t like I didn’t deserve it,” Adrien mumbled, rubbing the back of his neck as he glanced away. “I did some really terrible things…”

Nino went silent. That’s right…the cat bastard that had run around, trying to attack akumatized victims, playing his hand in founding a hate group of victim blamers, turning his back on Ladybug and the people who once thought he was a hero…that had been Adrien this whole time.

His best friend, Adrien Agreste, whom Nino knew had problems, but had had no clue that he was this fucked up…

Nino refilled his glass with the half-empty bottle of gin sitting between them on the table, letting the liquid burn through him as he drank. Goddamn it. Son of a bitch, this situation was awful.

And Marinette had known all this time, only to drop it on them so suddenly…

“Damn it, Dots,” Nino grumbled, scowling. He knew she was struggling with some stuff, but still—

“Marinette…she knew this whole time,” Adrien muttered, echoing Nino’s disgruntled thoughts. Nino turned back to him, watching the way Adrien’s face transformed into an expression of misery. Whoa…what happened to make him look like that?

“We had a fight,” Ladybug’s voice reminded him, and Nino huffed. Right—the dynamic duo of the team weren’t speaking to each other, apparently. And now that he knew that Adrien was Chat Noir…

Nino tipped his glass to his lips again, swallowing loudly in the silence.

“Yeah,” he acknowledged. The silence settled between them once again.

“…When did you find out?” Adrien asked after a long stretch of not speaking. Nino slid his gaze Adrien’s way, lifting an eyebrow.

“Find out what?” Apparently, there were a lot of secrets being kept around here. Adrien was going to have to be more specific…

Adrien leaned over with a huff, ruffling his hair as he rested his head against his arm, his silver ring glinting in the soft light of the dining room.

“…That Marinette was Ladybug,” he clarified. Nino eyed him warily.

“…I don’t think you actually want to know,” he said honestly. Adrien’s gaze switched to him, his eyes tight.

“Tell me anyway,” he insisted. Nino frowned, taking another sip of gin.

…Well…he supposed, if everything was being laid out in the open tonight…

“…She told me the day after my first night out as Emerald Shell,” he confessed. He watched carefully as Adrien seemed to take that in, process it…

And then he swore, sitting up and grasping his glass, downing the gin at once. Nino watched, worried and impressed as Adrien only grimaced. He expected the wine-lover to sputter and cough around such a strong drink, but apparently Adrien could hold his liquor better than Nino thought.

“She wouldn’t even tell me when we were kids,” Adrien hissed, refilling his glass and repeating the draining process. “I was her partner first—I’ve known her the longest—and she wouldn’t tell me. She never really trusted me at all.

Uh-oh. Nino suspected Adrien wouldn’t like hearing about Marinette’s reveal to him, but his reaction was a little strong…

“To be fair,” he prefaced, wanting to defend Marinette, despite his current irritation with her, “she only told me so fast because I revealed myself first. If she didn’t know it was me, I don’t think she would’ve—”

“She’s known it was me since Valentine’s Day,” Adrien cut in bitterly, pouring the last of the gin into his glass and swallowing a hearty amount, growling under his breath. “But she didn’t want to talk about it. She refused to talk about it until after we almost died Friday night—”

“Whoa, what?” Nino cut in, because Adrien wasn’t just gonna speed past that like he hadn’t just dropped a huge fucking bombshell. “What do you mean, ‘we’? You and Marinette almost died Friday night?!” Sure, Ladybug had told him that Chat Noir had thrown himself in harm’s way for her, again, twice—oh god, holy shit, ADRIEN had almost died twice that night—but she had never let on that things had come that fucking close—

Adrien smiled sardonically.

“Oh, she didn’t tell you? Big surprise.” He laughed, the sound bitter and humorless, and frankly concerning. “But yeah, our transformations were about to reverse, and Shade basically had us backed up against a wall—or dangling off the tower—and I knew we’d both fall if I didn’t let go—”

Dude,” Nino interrupted again, gaping at Adrien in horror. “Are you crazy?

Adrien scowled so deeply that Nino lifted his hands in surrender. While he knew that Adrien wouldn’t actually move to harm him…he still remembered that time, so long ago, where he had said something that was over the line…the look on Adrien’s face when he’d lunged at him…

Some of his apprehension must have registered on his face; Adrien’s expression softened, and he looked away, at his half-empty glass.

“…I didn’t want her to die,” he said, frustration coloring his tone. He ruffled his hair again, and abruptly, Nino realized he was looking at Chat Noir, gaining insight into the moment he realized that, in order for Ladybug—Marinette—to live…he had to die.

Immediately, Nino’s mind jumped to Alya, of the constant danger she had put herself in when she was just a reporter, following Ladybug around during akuma attacks, disregarding her own safety for the story. She always took years off his life when she did this, and he had always found himself wishing that there was a way to convey to her just how much he didn’t want anything to happen to her, that he wanted so desperately for her to live…

If he had been in Adrien’s—Chat’s—position—if it had been him and Alya dangling from the tower, and Nino could see no other way to make sure she lived other than to let go…

Would he really have done anything different…?

Nino knew the answer, and it made it easier to sympathize with Adrien’s insanity.

“Okay, so I’m missing a lot of the story,” he acknowledged, frowning. “Where does Pavone come into all this?”

Adrien huffed.

“Yeah, him,” he muttered, taking a moment to drain the rest of his glass before he spoke again. “So we’re both falling through the air, because of course Ladybug can’t let me show her up…and at the very last minute, Pavone swooped in and saved the day, driving Shade away…or what we thought was Shade in body…and helping the zombie citizens regain their minds. And then he flew off afterwards, just like that.”

Adrien rubbed at his eyes, and Nino glanced at his watch, cringing at the late hour. He was going to be dead on his feet tomorrow…but there was still so much to hash out…

“‘Nette says you guys fought, too…” Nino dared to mention, watching Adrien carefully. It might be none of his business, but now that he knew what he knew…it seemed kind of important to mention it, since this fight affected Marinette and Adrien both in their personal and their superhero lives.

Again, Adrien smiled bitterly. It hurt Nino to see such a sight on his best friend, when it seemed like he had been so happy and in love just a few days ago…

“Yeah…” Adrien lifted his glass again, apparently forgetting it was empty until ice hit him in the nose. His sympathy growing, Nino passed his own half full glass over to Adrien, who sent him a grateful look as he drained that one, too. There was a long pause.

“…We broke up,” Adrien admitted, the confession weighing down his voice.

Nino stared.

Shit…he knew things were bad, but he hadn’t thought they were this bad…

“…You wanna tell me why?” he ventured carefully, completely aware that he was tip-toeing into a potential mine field, but his concern for his friend as well as his curiosity overruled his fear.

Adrien shifted his glass, watching the ice clink together, looking thoroughly dejected.

“Because I’m Chat Noir…and she doesn’t trust me,” he said, and the sheer heartbreak in his voice was enough to make Nino reach over, sliding an arm around Adrien’s shoulders. He didn’t know what to say to make it better—while he didn’t believe that Marinette didn’t trust Adrien, Nino also knew that he hadn’t been there for the fight, and therefore didn’t know what was said between Adrien and Marinette to cause the break up in the first place. So, while he wanted to comfort his best friend—and of course he was still his best friend, cat costume or not—no words readily came to mind.

And Nino so desperately wanted to have the words, especially when Adrien leaned over, closing in on himself, a ragged breath ripping through him as tears began to slide down his face, tears that seemed like he’d been holding them back for much too long.

“…It hurts…” he whispered, sounding broken, lost. In that moment, Nino decided, to hell with words; his best friend needed to be held. And that’s exactly what he did, abandoning his chair to kneel down next to Adrien, sliding his arms around his weary friend’s shaking frame, letting him cling to him, seeking the only comfort Nino had to give.

To his immense relief, it seemed to be enough for now—Adrien buried his face in Nino’s shoulder and sobbed, and though Nino hated to hear such miserable sounds from someone he cared about, he also recognized that Adrien needed this, needed to release all this pent up emotion inside, because bottling it up would only fuck him up even more, and he had been working so hard to redeem himself for so long…

“I’ve got you, dude,” he muttered when Adrien’s sobs quieted, though he still wept, “I’m here.”

Adrien’s grip on Nino tightened.

“Thank you,” he said, his voice muffled by Nino’s shirt. Nino smiled to himself, patting Adrien’s back.

As unpleasant as it had been to receive such an identity shock—and though it might take some time for him to reconcile the identity of Chat Noir with his best friend—the fact still remained that, when Adrien needed him, Nino would always have his back.

There wasn’t a revelation strong enough that would ever stop that from being true.

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

Part 34 of 37

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