All aboard the powerswap AU train aka The Adventures of Adrienbug and Chat Mari. Right now all I foresee is this being a bunch of oneshots, maybe some two shots. We'll see.
(Special thanks to KryallaOrchid for badgering me into doing this and basically being awesome and helping me get this off the ground. And thanks to the Miraculous Ladyscrubs for just generally being awesome and excited about this whole thing.)
Adrien was still getting used to the whole superpowers thing.
After all, it's not every day he's approached by a tiny sprite who tells him that he's been chosen to bear the mantle of Ladybug before pressing a magical stone into his hand. A stone that turns into a white ring before his eyes that fits perfectly and just so happens to be a conduit for superpowers.
After the shock from the initial oh-my-god-this-is-actually-real transformation wore off, the tiny sprite, who introduced herself as Tikki, had been very supportive. She'd answered all his questions patiently. What she was, what he had to do, and most importantly: why him? She even gave him some pointers on how his abilities would work. The rest, however, he would have to learn through experience. Fair enough, he reasoned. Besides, he couldn't deny the prospect of learning thrilled him.
After seven nights of running across the rooftops of Paris, he could confidently say he was beginning to get the hang of things.
As Ladybug, he could do flips and tricks his body had never done before. He was strong, strong enough to tip a car lying on its side back upright without too much effort. He could leap farther than he ever had and his baton could help him with the jumps he couldn't quite make. He was faster, more agile. Most importantly: he was free.
No father to brush him off or empty space where his mother should be; no staff giving him looks of pity, no photographers barking at him. No older models looking down on him with distaste or annoyance, the young rich boy who'd made it in the business only because of daddy. No one telling him what to do, where to go. No one hissing at him to smile and stand up straight. Just him, the wind, the night, all of Paris. It was exhilarating.
Adrien decided to break his new powers before this threat Tikki warned him about reared its head. He stopped petty crimes—muggings mostly and one attempted car theft—and he was in an out before anyone had time to process what they were seeing. If he witnessed an accident, he would rush in to provide assistance, before disappearing back into the ether. When he lingered long enough to be seen there were questions, awe-struck gazes, but he never responded to either. This was all still too new. He wasn't sure exactly how the public would view him or who Ladybug should be. All he had to go off of were comics and TV shows, none of which were very helpful in real life scenarios, but all accounts indicated that he had to be extremely careful while introducing himself to the public. He hadn't been labeled a vigilante yet so he thought that was promising.
Eight days after he first transformed was when he truly came into the spotlight. It was also the day the first akuma attacked.
As Adrien, he had been utilizing some precious free time by taking a long walk with no particular destination in mind. Tikki was nestled in the pocket of his jacket and he couldn't help but smile every time he became aware of her comforting weight. Then he'd heard screaming and, at Tikki's suddenly urgent insistence, had ducked out of sight to transform.
What ensued was his first battle (an actual battle, with an actual super villain, and oh my god this was his life) against a young woman called the Piper who could control people by playing her clarinet. It didn't work on him, thankfully, or he'd have been in serious trouble. All by himself, however, against thirty hypnotized civilians and the Piper, he quickly began to realize that this whole superhero thing wasn't going to be easy. He thought if he could just get to Piper, destroying her clarinet would be a cinch, and then he could purify the akuma and fix everything the way Tikki had taught him. But between her and him was her small army of innocent, breakable victims.
Can't go around it, can't go under it, can't go through it…
Gotta go above it.
With this realization came Tikki's encouraging whispers in his mind, urgent instructions on how to use her magic to give him the upper hand. Next thing he knew, there were wings, actual wings, on his back and he was flying. In flight combat would undoubtedly be an acquired skill but fortunately for him, he didn't need to fight in the air just yet. He flew up and over the heads of her victims and suddenly he was in the perfect position to seize the clarinet from Piper's hands, cutting her off mid-song.
He felt bad for doing it but Tikki had told him the only way to lure out the akuma was to break the object it was hiding in, so he snapped the clarinet in two across his knee. Moments later, a black butterfly emerged from one of the broken pieces and fluttered towards freedom. Dropping the broken instrument and ignoring the piercing cry of the akuma beneath him who knew she'd been defeated, he closed his hands around the corrupted spirit before it could escape. Then he removed one hand, pulling against the taint he could feel within. Darkness seeped out, leaving behind a pure white butterfly. It took to the air once more and this time he sent it off with a friendly wave. The taint he sealed away inside his baton and then, with Tikki whispering in his mind once more, he flew into the air to release the magic from his wings.
In the light that followed, everything the akuma had done was undone. Damage was mended, the victims were freed, and the Piper reverted to a woman no older than twenty who looked around in confusion.
Ladybug had descended then, the magic of his wings fading away. The clock was ticking now. He had minutes left before his transformation would time out. He should use those minutes to get himself as far away from here as possible but he couldn't bring himself to leave the scene just yet. The woman who had been the Piper was on her feet and staring at him in shock and the sight made him remember Tikki's words. These akumas, these villains, were nothing more than ordinary people whose pain had been exploited in the worst way. She was as innocent as the Piper's victims.
So Ladybug crossed the distance separating them, ever mindful of the eyes on him, the phones recording every second, and ducked his head apologetically. "I'm sorry," he said.
"Did I do something?" she asked in a tiny voice.
Ladybug shook his head quickly. "No. It wasn't you, not really."
Her eyes widened, searching his intently. "There was…a man's voice. He…said he could…that I could…"
"It's over now," Ladybug assured her.
The woman looked down at the now whole clarinet that she clutched tightly in her hands. He could now see that three fingers on her right hand seemed to be mangled. There was no way she could play the clarinet like that. The Piper had had no such deformity. Then he understood.
At that moment, however, his miraculous gave a warning beep and one of the five spots on the face winked out of sight.
Wordlessly, he placed his hand on her shoulder for a moment, and offered her the kindest smile he could. Then he backed away, pulled his baton from its holster on his lower back, and used it to propel himself onto the nearest rooftop just before the crowd surged forward.
Maybe he could've done more but people weren't really Adrien's strong suit. He truly didn't know anything he could've said that would've alleviated her pain. And that's exactly what he told Tikki later on when they were alone in his room, away from all eyes and ears.
"Why did you pick me?" he asked for the third time since they'd met.
"I've told you: you were worthy," Tikki replied simply and took another bite of the chocolate chip cookie she held in her tiny hands.
Adrien sighed and flopped face-first onto his bed. "What does that even mean?"
Tikki didn't answer. He loved the little kwami already and he appreciated how eager she had been to help him understand everything but it annoyed him that she wouldn't give him a straight answer on this one, crucially important thing.
He sighed once more, lifted his head, and his eyes flicked over to the window he used to sneak out of his room at night. He could go out tonight but he was exhausted and he wanted to keep his head down until he was sure he wasn't going to have the vigilante label slapped on him. He didn't think he would, not after he'd been witnessed saving so many people from the Piper.
The poor Piper.
"She must have been so sad," he murmured. "Her hand didn't—I mean—the injury didn't seem very old. How could someone do that to someone who was hurting?"
"I don't know," Tikki said. "It's not something I can understand either. I never could. But that's what Hawk Moth does, that's what he always does, and that's why you're here."
"I wish I could've helped her."
"You freed her."
"Yeah, but, I feel like I could've helped her more." He propped himself up on his elbows. "I just left her there and she must've still been in pain. Freeing her didn't change whatever upset her in the first place. But what do you even say to something like that?"
Tikki floated over to him, stuffing the last piece of cookie into her mouth, and placed her hands on either side of his nose. "That's why."
He went cross-eyed trying to look at her and she floated back a few inches. "Why what?"
"That's why you're worthy, Adrien."
He blinked a few times as understanding dawned on him and then he felt his cheeks heating up. "Oh."
The number one story on every news outlet in Paris that night (and even a few from other parts of the country) was the battle and the red and black superhero who'd stopped it. Adrien and Tikki watched the reports with interest on his computer, laughing to themselves at the speculations and theories being tossed out.
When they showed pictures of him from different angles taken on many different cell phones, Adrien couldn't help but appreciate how cool he looked in the suit. He hadn't had a chance to really look at himself since he didn't think it wise to linger in the mansion for long as Ladybug. The front of his torso, arms, hands, and the entirety of his legs were black. On the flipside his suit was red with black polka dots, very much like a real ladybug, which ended at his waist where the belt holding his staff was, and the whole ensemble was topped off with a polka dotted mask to hide his identity.
When footage of his battle played, however, he winced. "That was hard, Tikki."
"I know," she sighed and placed her hand on his cheek. "I'm sorry."
"Didn't you say something about there being others like me?"
Tikki hummed in affirmation. "It's a little complicated, but yes, there are others."
"Is there any way to get ahold of them? I mean, I'm not sure I can do this on my own. There were so many things that could've gone wrong today. I got lucky."
"That tends to happen when you have lucky powers," she pointed out jovially.
"I guess," he grumbled.
Tikki floated around into his line of sight, a rueful smile on her face. "I really am sorry. There should've been another by now. Here. Unfortunately, cats don't always come when they're called." She folded her tiny arms and poor Adrien was left with more questions than Tikki had answers to give.
The following evening, he decided he wanted to practice flying. He'd spent over an hour that day watching videos and reading up on how birds and insects were able to fly. He'd gotten some basic mechanics during his fight but he wanted to make sure he understood the theory behind the skill before he decided to try it out several hundred feet above the ground.
Tikki assured him he'd have plenty of time with his wings and would have plenty of warning in advance so he could land safely as long as he didn't overexert himself and didn't forcefully expel magic into the Cleansing Light. Maybe half an hour or so. He made sure she was full to the brim and he had a bag of fresh snicker doodles in his pocket before transforming.
He chose the rooftop of the school near his house to bring his wings out. He hadn't had a chance to appreciate them the day before and he hadn't dared bring them out in his room. Trust that to be the only time his father paid attention to him this week. The lights of the city glinted off them creating an ethereal effect that seemed almost magical and there was definitely an underlying red hue to them. They were just slightly longer than his arms, paper thin, and while they didn't seem strong enough to bear his weight, he could feel the power thrumming through them.
He had barely finished wondering exactly how to get his wings to move before they fluttered and wow that felt weird. He didn't have the same awareness of them that he had of his natural limbs but he could definitely feel them there and he could tell when they were still and when they weren't. Cool. That'd make things easier.
Ladybug flew off the roof with relative ease and he spent a minute above the school to get his bearings and then he shot off through the sky.
It took him exactly ten seconds to realize how wrong he'd been before. Running across rooftops was great but this—this was freedom. He was flying faster than he'd ever run and he knew he could go even faster. The wind whipped against him and he could feel it stinging his face where he was unprotected by his mask, but his eyes remained unaffected, and he wasn't even going to bother trying to figure out how that worked. Gravity pulled but he resisted. He dipped and dive. Twisted, spun, and flipped. Contorting his body in every which way and figuring out how his wings responded.
He landed on the very top of the Eiffel Tower to catch his breath and turned around slowly, taking in the sight of his city in all its glory. He felt a grin stretch across his face even as his chest heaved. Then he threw back his head and let out a loud whoop that echoed through the open space. (Unbeknownst to him, a tourist below had captured his arrival on camera, as well as his exuberant cry, and the video would be all over social media by morning.)
Ladybug took off again a few minutes later, heading in the opposite direction of home. He really had no destination in mind, he just wanted to fly. And if he happened to spot an emergency somewhere along the way, well, then, he'd be ready.
As it happened, it wasn't an emergency that caught his attention.
In the last week, Ladybug had unofficially claimed the rooftops of Paris as his territory. Sure people went onto the roofs all the time for various things but they didn't run across them. Didn't jump and duck and weave around the obstacles as if it were second nature. Didn't vault across the spaces between rooftops. He didn't know if ladybugs were territorial creatures but he assumed they had to be because he certainly had never been, yet the sight of a dark figure running across his turf like they owned the place made him frown and tear off after them before he even realized what he was doing.
It could be a guy doing parkour, the more logical part of his mind reasoned. He didn't blame them. It was quite the rush. Nothing to get all fussy over.
As he neared, he was able to pick out a few details. The person was small and lithe, probably a girl, and they seemed totally at ease as they navigated the complex obstacle course before them. The figure sped up as they neared the edge of the line of rooftop and threw themselves out into the open air. Ooh, yeah, definitely a girl, and were those cat ears on top of her head? She arced her body, hands extending forward (oh my god she had a tail) to take the impact when she landed and instead of righting herself, she bounded forward on all fours.
What the hell?
Was this another akuma? Already?!
Didn't that prick have better things to do than abuse people?
Except, the cat girl didn't seem to be doing anything wrong. She wasn't terrorizing anyone, she wasn't breaking anything, she didn't seem upset at all. Actually, and he couldn't be sure because he couldn't see her face, but she looked like she was having the time of her life. There was just a certain flare in her movements that he recognized. He knew right then that these rooftops weren't just his anymore.
"There should've been another by now. Here. Unfortunately, cats don't always come when they're called."
"Oh my god," he blurted out loudly. Fortunately, the wind snatched his words away before they could reach the cat girl's ears.
Was he really this lucky? He stared at her for a moment longer, scrambling to collect his thoughts and contain the excited shout threatening to escape. If this was real, if she was what he thought, then that meant he wasn't alone anymore. That girl down there, she would be able to understand the utter insanity that was his life now.
Maybe she could even be his friend…
He put on a burst of speed to catch up with her and dove down so he was closer to her level. As he neared, she bounded up a dormer and leaped off the top, landing on all fours again. A gleeful giggle reached his ears and caused a grin to spread across his face. Oh yeah, no way she was an Akuma. Akumas couldn't be that happy.
The words bubbled past his lips before he could stop them. "Bonsoir, minou!"
The kitty reacted immediately. With a cry that was somewhere between a yelp and a hiss, she jumped a good foot in the air, her momentum carrying her forward. She landed in a crouch on a small chimney and spun around to face him, tail ramrod straight behind her. Her blue eyes were wide and gleaming and she flashed her teeth threateningly.
He groaned internally and about smacked himself. Well done, Adrien.
Before he could even come up with something to say next, the cat girl relaxed. She glowered at him as he alighted on the rooftop in front of her, folding his wings against his back. "You scared me to death!" she scolded.
"Good thing cats have nine lives," he quipped.
Her glower intensified for a moment then she rolled her eyes. Ladybug laughed mirthfully at her reaction then took a moment to look her up and down. Her eyes were entirely blue, the sclera a shade lighter than the pupils and altogether very catlike. Around them she wore a black mask very much like his own that covered most of her upper face. He couldn't make out the details of her outfit in the dark, only that it was as form-fitting as his own and entirely black. Furthering the cat theme she had going on was the pink collar resting at the base of her neck and he could just barely make out the shape of a small bow in the front. A pair of feline ears sat atop her head and her hair, which she wore in a low ponytail, concealed her human ones (assuming they were there at all). Her tail, which he had seen trailing out behind her as she ran, was now flicking from side to side behind her. She still hadn't left her crouched position so he couldn't be sure, but he had a feeling she was smaller than him. She didn't look particularly strong, but neither did he and he could flip a car.
It was right around then that he realized she was sizing him up, too, and he couldn't tell if she was impressed by what she saw or not.
He cleared his throat awkwardly. "So, uh…you're…I mean, are you like me?"
The cat girl cocked her head to one side. "That depends," she said slowly. "Are you asking if I have a miraculous?"
He nodded and held up his hand to show her his ring. The cat girl eyed it for a moment then smiled widely and pushed her hair away from one of her human ears, revealing a black earing with five faintly glowing blue dots in the shape of a paw print.
Ladybug beamed. Yes, yes, yes, yes! He'd been right! She was the other Tikki had spoken of. He felt like dancing for joy in that moment and he settled, instead, for holding out his hand to her. "I'm Ladybug."
The catgirl smiled and slid off the chimney. Upright, she was a few inches shorter than him. She crossed the distance between them in a few graceful strides and accepted his hand. "Chat Noire."
They shook hands and he was sure he was grinning like a loon but he didn't care. Learning to fly, standing at the top of the Eiffel Tower, meeting a cute girl who was also supposed to be his superhero counterpart—this was easily the best night of his life. He wondered if she'd be willing to meet outside their masks as well but knew it was probably too soon to ask something like that. Theirs was a risky business and she really didn't have much reason to trust him yet. He didn't want to scare her off immediately after meeting her.
Chat Noire let go of his hand and pulled her arm to her chest, ears drooping slightly. "I'm sorry," she said and he sobered immediately. "About yesterday, I mean."
Ladybug was confused. "What do you mean?"
"Making you fight alone." Her tail flicked once behind her. "I was there. I was about to transform when you showed up, actually."
His jaw dropped. She'd been there? Had he seen her? What if he'd walked past her without realizing? Tikki hadn't mentioned any other kwami, though, so maybe he hadn't been close to her at all. There was a very relative term, after all. She could've been watching from a nearby building or been part of the few civilians who'd remained outside on the sidelines to watch the action unfold and hadn't been controlled.
"You seemed to know what you were doing, at least more than I did," she went on. "I decided I'd help if you really needed it but I figured I'd probably just get in the way. This is only my second time transforming," she added with a small smile.
He shook his head and waved off her concerns. "Don't worry about it. It's cool. I mean, a little help would've been nice, but I managed. There's always next time. …You will show up next time, right?"
Chat Noire nodded. "Yeah. I was planning on learning the ropes and then introducing myself to you the next time an akuma attacked."
"Aaah, and what if I'd thought you were an akuma and attacked you?" Ladybug asked, folding his arms. He was only partially kidding. After all, his first thought before had been akuma. He might have whacked her with his staff before realizing she was actually on his side.
"Well, it's not like I had any other way to find you." Chat Noire said with a helpless shrug of her shoulders. Then she smirked. "And besides, that would imply you could even get close enough to hurt me. Cats are notoriously hard to catch."
He hummed, sensing the genuineness in her challenge. She wanted to play. "Purr-haps we can test that one day."
The smirk slid off her face and she stared blankly at him for a long moment. "Did you just do what I think you did?"
"Paw-sibly," he drawled.
The cat girl shook her head and turned her back to him. "Nope. Never mind. I quit."
Ladybug roared with laughter, wings fluttering from the force, and much to his delight, the cat girl was smiling over her shoulder. She shook her head at him. "Oh, stop it."
"Paw-don me, minou," he said between laughs. "I just couldn't resist."