AN: Well. Mea culpa.

To make a long story short… when I am stressed, I get tunnel vision. And this turned out to be a very stressful semester. (I was reading an average of two academic books and several articles each week, on top of my assistant instructor duties. And I can't speed-read to save my life.) Which meant that I kept forgetting I hadn't posted this – or if I remembered, I was too overwhelmed to deal with it.

However, finals are almost over, and I finally have a chance to breathe and get caught up…

NOTE: This is a coda to What the Cat Dragged In, to show some of the repercussions of events from the Ladybug side. So ultimately, this chapter is about Miraculous Ladybug, more than the crossover.

What the Cat Dragged In


Loose gravel crunched quietly as Ladybug touched down on the rooftop, a flick of her wrist reeling in her yo-yo as she carefully steadied her breathing and straightened, letting the last of the gleeful adrenaline ease out of her system. She didn't think she'd ever get over the sheer fun of swinging her way through the streets and spires of Paris-

Well. At least it had been fun once she'd learned to relax and trust her instincts, and had figured out the timing. Back when she'd first started, there had been a few… epic fumbles.

But she'd – heh – gotten into the swing of things soon enough, and by now, she could cross Paris at a speed even a private car couldn't hope to match. Even at night, in the dark.

And the view was a great reward.

She smiled as she stepped over to the concrete wall that served as a safety rail for the rooftop and leaned her elbows on it, looking out across the city. Out here, she was far enough away from the major commercial districts that the night was quiet, but the building itself was high enough that she could make out the sparkling clusters of light at the different areas, with the Iron Lady standing slender and tall in the middle.

"Ah, the starry sea of Purris by night!" a voice declared dramatically behind her. "Just the scene for our very first date… ow."

Grinning, Ladybug used the finger she'd landed on the tip of Chat Noir's nose, right where the point of his mask ended, to push him back. "You wish," she told him, grinning at the familiar game. Chat Noir did care about her, a lot. But the flirting? That was just having fun, and they both knew it.

Chat Noir mock-pouted as he stepped back. "My lady is so cruel," he sniffed – and then sobered. "Well, then, if this isn't a date – you wanted to talk?"

Sobering herself, Ladybug nodded. She'd been trying to figure out a way to get the information to Chat Noir for a while now; it wasn't exactly easy, when they never saw each other outside of akuma attacks.

Back when the attacks had first started, they'd discussed trying to run evening patrols around the city, and even tried it for a little while before quickly realizing that it just wasn't going to work. Paris was a big city, and there were only two of them; even if they split up, they couldn't hope to cover even a fraction of a fraction of it. And… well, after a few close calls where she'd used her powers as Ladybug to handle a robbery or something like that, only to find herself facing an akuma with Tikki already exhausted and the timer ticking down…

It wasn't that she didn't want to help out. But there were police and firemen and people whose jobs it was to take care of things like that. Ladybug and Chat Noir were the only ones who could handle Papillon's supervillain victims. So… well, if something was happening right in front of her and Ladybug could help, she'd duck aside, transform, and help. Or if there was something that only Ladybug could do. But wasting Tikki's energy by going out and looking for wrongs to right… much as Ladybug hated to admit it, that would simply be irresponsible.

So the whole patrol thing had sort of petered out, especially once they realized that they didn't need to go looking for Papillon's akuma. He wanted them to show up, after all.

And quite frankly, the extra hours of homework time and sleep were worth way more than the teeny-tiny itty-bitty chance of stumbling over a supervillain before they hit the news. Even as it was… the only reason her grades hadn't completely fallen through the floor was that Tikki was a godsend who could explain the parts of lessons that she'd missed because she was drowsing in class. Or saving Paris.

All of which meant that finding a time to actually talk, properly, without the looming crisis of an akuma hanging over their heads, had been a lot harder than she'd expected. She'd finally resorted to grabbing Chat Noir before he took off after the latest attack, just this afternoon, and asked him to meet up with her that evening.

Oddly, he'd seemed relieved – like he'd been trying to figure out a way for them to talk, as well. He'd quickly suggested this warehouse roof, a landmark from those early patrol attempts that they'd picked out as a useful place to practice some of their new-found abilities, since there weren't many people around to notice them.

She snapped her yo-yo down and up, once, as if it were a normal toy, and then pressed the hidden catch on the side of it, opening up the small compartment behind the communicator. Unlike Chat Noir's suit, hers didn't have any pockets – reasonable, maybe, given the danger of catching her yo-yo's wire, but it was still incredibly annoying – but her yo-yo did have a place where she could tuck a very small object without worrying that she'd drop it.

A very, very small object. It was worse than trying to use the pockets on her designer jeans. Darn it.

Luckily, what she was carrying was small enough to fit.

"Actually, I needed to give you something," she explained, and tossed it.

Chat Noir easily caught the tiny object between two fingers. Darn cat reflexes. Darn cat night vision. Why didn't she get any ladybug-related abilities? Not that she wanted to go around eating flowers or putting off pheromones – ick! – but couldn't she have a special sense of smell or something? Or wings. Wings would be amazing – and she could see how they'd fit with the suit already, it would look so stylish

On the other hand, that was sort of the way Chat Noir seemed to work. He didn't have her purification or restoration abilities. Instead, he had a lot of small advantages sort of spread out. So maybe it all came out even in the grand scheme of things.

Looking at the bit of plastic and metal, Chat Noir blinked. "A USB key?"

Ladybug nodded. "It was a gift." She hesitated. "From the Black Widow."

And she was not going to tell him how Ms. Romanov had gotten it to her. It had been two weeks since the Avengers had left, and her knees were still a little wobbly.

It's okay, she reminded herself. She just figured out that Marinette knows Ladybug. That's all. The secret is still safe.

Not that it would save her from Doomsday Alya, and possibly a reappearance of Lady WiFi, if Alya ever put together the pieces the way Black Widow had. Which, given that Alya now had her own uniquely personalized Starkphone… well, that could be Very Bad. Maybe arranging that private interview hadn't been such a good idea…

Nope. Still worth it. Granted, at the time she'd just been trying to sue for forgiveness after the mess with the phone and the video… but she was never going to forget the look of sheer, delighted wonder when Alya had walked in and seen Ladybug waiting on the mezzanine for her.

Chat Noir hesitated. "From the Avengers?" he asked. The dim lights of the city behind Ladybug reflected eerie green in slitted pupils dilated wide to catch every bit of light in the darkness.

Ladybug nodded. "It's all the information they gathered when they were here. About the akuma, about Papillon… and about us."

You are the only ones who know how accurate, or not, any of this is, the small text file marked Read Me First had said. Which means you are the only ones who can judge whether or not an outsider can learn enough through your glamour to endanger your real identities.

Along with a list of very familiar names, emails and phone numbers, marked For Emergencies.

She had the Avengers' contact info. She didn't know if that was a relief, or utterly terrifying.

Chat Noir bit his lip, visibly uneasy. "My lady," he said slowly, "the Black Widow is a spy. Using electronic files from her…"

Ladybug startled both of them by laughing. "I'm not that careless, chaton," she said with a grin, and spun her yo-yo on the tip of her finger like a top. (A move she'd never be able to pull off as herself, she was pretty sure. Being Ladybug was fun sometimes.) "I used this to read it. If they can hack a computer that doesn't even exist most of the time, and only connects to the Internet or the cell phone networks using magic… Well, I don't think they'd need a Trojan in that case."

…which didn't mean she hadn't sat down and grilled Tikki about virus protection and security before she'd actually tried it. Because eep.

Chat Noir laughed ruefully as he pulled his retracted baton from its resting place in the small of his back and flicked it open. "I suppaws you have a point," he said, grinning as she gave an obliging groan of despair. He clicked the USB into the port on the side of the communicator (and Ladybug didn't even know if their communicator had even had ports until the moment they'd needed one; sometimes she really wondered about their weapon-tools), the dim pale glow lighting his face from below in a kind of eerie way that made him look even more like a cat as he used the touch-screen to slowly scroll through it.

And paused, eyes widening. "Ah… my lady? You, um… you forgot to delete their files about you."

Ladybug drew in a deep breath. "…I didn't forget. I left them on purpose."

Chat Noir's head came up sharply, and he stared at her. "My Lady…?" he breathed.

Ladybug shrugged uncomfortably, and wished her shoulders would stop hunching like that. It wasn't very superheroic, was it? "It's…" She laughed awkwardly. "Well, I… when I was looking at it, I sort of… opened their file on you by mistake," she said in a rush. "And… I guess it just didn't feel right not to share?"

Which wasn't what had happened at all. But she'd been standing right there when the Avengers had been talking about their theories about Ladybug and Chat Noir. She hadn't meant to… to pry second-hand, as it were, especially when she was the one who insisted that they keep their identities secret, even from each other. But she couldn't not listen, either. So keeping the Avengers' theories about her to herself, after she'd sort of spied on their theories about Chat Noir… it just didn't feel right.

They were partners. There were some things they had to keep secret from each other, they couldn't do anything about that. But this, she could do something about. Even if their theories about her had been… scarily close, in places.

Although there had been some interesting gaps. Nothing in their file on her said anything about Black Widow's suspicion that Marinette knew Ladybug. Maybe she'd figured that out after they'd made the files. Or maybe they'd deliberately left that out, as being too dangerous to write down.

There hadn't been anything like that when she'd glanced at the file on Chat Noir, either. Although that was less surprising, because really. What were the odds that both of them had ended up meeting the Avengers without the masks?

…although, she hadn't given him all the files. There was one image file in particular that she'd very carefully tucked away. Purely for tactical purposes. Just in case.

"Besides," she added, suddenly serious. "If the Avengers figured this much out in a day or two… Papillon probably has, as well. What if he starts targeting people based on these ideas?" She made herself laugh a bit. "Although I think you'll be safe, at least. I mean, they suggested you might be shy."

Chat Noir hesitated, slowly lowering the baton. "Actually," he said slowly, eyes not quite meeting hers, "that's… accurate enough to be a little terrifying."

Ladybug didn't mean to gape at him. Yes, the explanation the Avengers had offered made sense, in an odd way, but… "Are you serious?"

Chat Noir rubbed the back of his head, grin a little too bright to be anything other than awkward. "Um. I'm… not so good with people, really. And I overact when I'm nervous?" he said sheepishly. "Seriously, I'm glad you didn't see me when I went to meet Marinette, back when she was helping us with Evillustrator. I was so nervous, I think I'd have been shaking my paws off, if I weren't also on the verge of laughing at myself, I was so over the top." His grin steadied, a little rueful but with genuine laughter sparkling in his eyes. "I'm a little worried that Marinette came away thinking that I was so full of hot air I could float a balloon. You should have seen the faces she was making when she thought I wasn't looking!"

…oops. Ladybug was very, very glad that even Chat Noir's keen night vision wasn't color-sensitive enough to pick up on the blush. She'd thought he hadn't noticed. And he had been silly. Even for him. And with Chat Noir, that was saying something.

Wait. "Why were you so nervous about that?" she asked, baffled. She'd just asked him to watch over Marinette, it hadn't been that complicated. Unless…

Oh no. Please don't let him have a crush on Marinette, she thought in a panic. Seriously, the universe does not need that much irony.

And… Chat Noir was giving her a Look. "You mean besides the fact that victims don't lose their powers if they lose the item, only if it's broken, and I can't capture or cleanse an akuma, and I had no idea where you were or how to contact you?" He shook his head. "Even if Marinette had managed to get the pen away from him safely, I'd have had to protect her from an angry supervillain, without accidentally breaking the pen. Why wouldn't I be nervous about something like that?"

Ladybug opened her mouth, then closed it.

She… hadn't even thought about that. After all, she'd have been right there the whole time – not transformed, true, and that had been terrifying all on its own. But once they'd gotten the pen away, all she'd have had to do was get out of sight – and Chat Noir always got civilians out of the line of fire when a fight was on, it was one of the things that made him such a great partner, she could concentrate on the enemy without worrying about bystanders because she could trust that he'd look after them – and she'd be able to transform and take care of the akuma then and there. Easy.

She hadn't considered what it would look like from Chat Noir's point of view, having no idea where she was or how long it would take her to return. And if the pen had broken before she'd arrived…

The army of Stonehearts had been bad enough, and Stoneheart hadn't had any particular special abilities. An army of Evillustrators? That was downright terrifying.

Ladybug winced. "I didn't… Chat Noir, I'm so sorry. I… suppose I should have thought that plan through a little more."

Chat Noir smiled at her – not his usual cocky grin, but something softer and warmer that probably would have made her heart flutter if not for Adrien. "It all worked out in the end," he reminded her.

Then that soft grin turned distinctly mischievous. "Besides, my Lady. If I were inclaw'ned to hold a grudge, it would be over the fact that you left me all on my own. For nearly an hour. With Chloé Bourgeois." He shuddered dramatically. "She tried to get me to do her physics homework."

Ladybug stared at him for a long moment. Then, slowly, she raised her hands to cover her face. "Oh dear God. I am the most horrible partner ever. How do you even put up with me?" When Chat Noir just snickered good-naturedly, she spread her fingers slightly, peeking out between them as she gave in to curiosity. "Did you do the homework for her?"

"Of course not," Chat Noir said virtuously. "Or… well, I might have done the reading assignment…" He smirked.

Ladybug burst out laughing. Of course he had. That was so utterly Chat Noir.

But when her laughter calmed, she noticed that Chat Noir was glancing at her almost hesitantly – as though he wanted to say something, but wasn't certain how.

"What is it?"

"Well… the Black Widow had a gift for me, too. Sort of." He'd taken the end of his tail in one hand and was twirling it absently – a habit that Ladybug was fairly certain he'd picked up to keep it from twitching. "We talked a bit, while I was feeding my kwami. She had some advice."

Ladybug blinked. "Really?" she asked, trying to decide how that felt. On the one hand… advice from another superheroine? An experienced one, who knew all about secrecy and things like that? Yes please!

On the other… advice. From the Black Widow. Eep?

Chat Noir nodded. "She suggested we find a way to communicate outside the masks."

Ladybug bit her lip, thinking that through. "It does make sense," she admitted. Their communicators only worked if both of them were transformed. Another means of communication would let them alert each other if they encountered an akuma. Or if for some reason they had to de-transform in the middle of a battle, which had happened a few times. "But…"

Chat Noir nodded grimly. "I'm having trouble thinking of something that couldn't be traced. Even anonymous e-mails aren't necessarily safe, if we get another Lady WiFi-type."

Ladybug grimaced. "All it would take is one badly timed Facebook breakup," she agreed, drumming her fingers against the yo-yo she'd settled back around her waist again in frustration-

And then paused, remembering her earlier line of thought. "What if we started patrols again?"

Chat Noir blinked at her. "My lady?" he asked.

"Or… not patrol-patrols. That was a silly idea to start with," she admitted. "But what about… well, something like this?" She nodded at the empty roof around them. "Just, meeting up every now and then. It wouldn't solve the communication problem, exactly, but we could at least keep each other mostly up to date on things that are going on. If one of us needs to leave the city for a week or two, for example." Thus far, it hadn't been a problem for her. Her parents weren't all that big on traveling to begin with, not when they had the bakery to keep up, and they'd never pull her out of school. But the school year was almost over, and it wasn't that uncommon for them to take a day or two off for short trips. She had no idea what Chat Noir's situation was like, but odds were good that he had times when he'd have trouble making it to the scene quickly, too.

Chat Noir nodded slowly, and then hesitated for a moment before visibly bracing himself. "Black Widow also suggested… we give each other a way to learn what our real identities are. Just in case."

Stiffening, Ladybug started to object, and then caught herself.

Yes, they'd agreed that it was too dangerous to share identities with Papillon looming over the city. Tikki had admitted she honestly did not know if someone who carried a Miraculous would be immune to possession by the akuma or not; they'd never really run into a situation quite like this before. Ladybug had decided to be proactive on that front and keep an eye on her own emotions; she'd seen enough victims by now to know what sorts of mindsets Papillon preyed on. But careful wasn't the same thing as safe. It was just too dangerous.

Well. To say she and Chat Noir agreed on it wasn't really true. He'd thought that sharing their identities would be worth the risk. But when Ladybug said no, he'd acceded to her wishes, and he'd never brought the topic up again.

A boy who knows the meaning of 'no'? a mental voice suspiciously similar to her mother's chuckled. Hang on to that one!

To be honest, she'd actually thought about telling him. After all, if there were anyone in the world she could reveal her identity to, it would be Chat Noir. He was her partner. Which was a concept she'd never really quite understood until she'd experienced it. Alya was her best friend, sure; they hung out, giggled together, encouraged and teased each other. And Adrien… was Adrien.

But Chat Noir knew her, even if they didn't know each other's real names and faces. He could read what she needed from him without either of them saying more than a word or two, would always have her back, and would shake her by the shoulders or just stand there and breathe with her, whatever she needed. And she'd do the same for him.

More than that… Chat Noir, of all people, had no illusions about Ladybug. He'd seen her at her best, and he'd seen her at her worst. He called her out on the things she did when her temper was up. He knew just how much of a klutz she could be – he still teased her about how they'd met, sometimes, or joked about the lumps on his head from all the times she'd dropped her yo-yo on him. When she'd nearly given up the idea of being Ladybug, he'd been the one to remind her of the good things she'd already accomplished. He knew Ladybug the Hero and Ladybug the person.

Besides. It would be kind of fun to hang out with someone who was even dorkier than she was.

"You have an idea?" she asked, careful to keep her voice and face controlled and neutral. Because she still stood firm on her decision that no one could know who they were – not even them. But Chat Noir knew that, and he'd never pushed her on it, and that meant he had an alternative, or he wouldn't have brought it up at all.

Chat Noir nodded. "That's why I suggested we meet here," he admitted, gesturing at the roof, with its empty gravel between two doors leading to stairwells, one on either end of the rectangular area. "I was thinking… you go over there and hide behind that stairwell. I hide behind the other one. That way, neither of us can see each other. Even if we tried, the other would hear the gravel. And there's no one around who can see us, not if we're sitting down below the level of the wall."

"…and then?" Ladybug asked, trying not to sound nervous.

Chat Noir drew in a deep breath. "Then both of us de-transform – and we send our kwami to talk to each other."

Ladybug's jaw dropped slightly. "Our…"

Oh. Oh.

Oh, that made sense. Tikki never left her side, and she suspected that Chat Noir's kwami was the same. And then… "Even if one of us is possessed," she said slowly, "our kwami will have somewhere to go for help. They can grab the Miraculous and run." Better than that, the kwami would be able to warn the other one that their partner had been possessed, that they couldn't count on back-up.

Chat Noir looked away. "It's… a little more than that," he said, his voice oddly tight.

Worried now, Ladybug waited.

Chat Noir was quiet for a long moment – or at least, he didn't say anything. But he was breathing, slow and steady and controlled, as though bracing himself.

"…My mom's been missing for over a year now."

Ladybug jerked. "Chaton…!" she said sharply, not sure if it was warning or concern.

He shook his head at her. "No more details than that," he said firmly. "I promise. But… it's important. Because my dad's been just… dying a little more every day, ever since then. It's not just that she's gone. It's that we don't know what happened. She just… walked out one day and never came home." He turned shadowed eyes on her, biting his lower lip for a moment. "My lady… I don't…" He made a sharp, frustrated gesture with one hand, echoed by a single lash of his tail before he got it under control again. But his ears were twitching back and forth, betraying his agitation. "I just… What if that happens to us one day? One of us just… vanishes, and never appears again? If we do this… we'll at least be able to find out. One way or another."

His voice had been getting tighter and tighter as he spoke. Before it could break entirely, Ladybug stepped closer to put a hand on his shoulder. He twitched, then stopped talking.

"It's a good plan," she told him, smiling. "That was always something that worried me – if something happened to me, what would happen to my kwami? This way, they'll have somewhere safe to go. And…"

She trailed off. She'd never lost anyone, not really, let alone the kind of painful, gaping absence that she never would have imagined was hiding behind Chat Noir's grin.

Adrien's mother is missing, too, she thought with a sudden pang. Does he feel like that, too?

That was awful. And she didn't want anyone else to have to go through that. Not if there was something she could do to prevent it.

So she nodded. "Okay. Do you have a snack for your kwami?"

He visibly shook himself as she took her hand off his shoulder, and had to cough once before nodding. "Yeah," he said, forcedly casual and relaxed. "I always carry a little, just in case, ever since Mr. Pigeon."

"That's a good idea," Ladybug said ruefully. She'd tried carrying backup cookies for Tikki, for a little while, but… um. Teenage girl, chocolate chip cookies… the ending of that story was kind of a foregone conclusion, no matter how hard she'd tried to resist. Tikki had found the whole thing hilarious.

Chat Noir shrugged. "Only way I can get him to do anything, really," he said, rolling his eyes a little, and stepped back. "In that case – we should probably get this done, then transform back and go home. I've got some things I need to do."

Ladybug thought of the book report sitting on her desk and winced. "Likewise," she admitted.

But… there was one more thing, she realized suddenly, recalling her earlier thoughts. "Chat Noir?"

Already walking toward the far stairwell, he looked over his shoulder, blinking at her.

"What you said to Peacemonger, back then…" she said slowly. "You volunteered for this?"

He grinned shamelessly. "Well, more or less? I mean, the Miraculous just showed up in my room that day, my kwami popped out… I couldn't say yes fast enough."

Ladybug winced a little, looking away. "I didn't," she admitted quietly. "I said no. And after people started turning into statues because we hadn't caught the akuma… I took the Miraculous off. I tried to give it away…"

She'd never told him that. Sure, he'd seen her wavering, when Sabrina's father had shouted that she'd had her chance and blown it, but…

To her surprise, Chat Noir just smiled at her. "So you weren't sure at first? That's probably a good thing, you know."

She stared at him.

"Which of us jumped into it so fast he didn't even know how our powers worked?" Chat Noir asked, still smiling, if a little wryly. "Someone needs to look before they leap. One reckless idiot is enough for our team, don't you think?"

Ladybug bit back a startled laugh. That… was Chat Noir, through and through.

Shaking her head in amusement, she turned and headed for the stairwell.

Marinette shivered a little.

Not that it was cold, exactly. It was a nice night, and her black shirt handled the slight breeze dancing over the rooftop just fine.

That didn't stop her from feeling very, very exposed, sitting on gravel with her back against a concrete stairwell entrance, on the roof of an old warehouse that Marinette Dupain-Cheng had no business being anywhere near, with her kwami cuddled in her hands.

"Are you sure you're okay with this, Tikki?" she asked, worried.

The kwami smiled brightly at her. "Definitely! You were right. It's a good plan. And you two are partners, after all. It could be useful, having a way to find each other quickly in an emergency."

"I know," Marinette agreed. "It's just… risky."

"Not as much as you'd think," Tikki said thoughtfully. "Plagg and I are the only ones that we know can't be possessed. The information's safe with us; we know how to keep secrets." She floated up to Marinette's eye level before winking mischievously. "Besides, I haven't had a chance to properly talk to that little sourpuss in years. This will be fun!"

With that, she darted away, actually passing through the concrete wall of the stairwell rather than flying around it.

Marinette sighed, drawing up her knees so that she could rest her arms on them. In her head, she knew this should be safe. The roof wasn't that big. Even if Papillon attacked right here, right now, she and Chat Noir were close enough to the kwami to transform immediately. Nothing was going to grab them.

Faintly, Marinette heard the familiar sweet, almost chirping voice of Tikki, although it was muffled enough by the distance and the stairwell that she couldn't make out any sort of words, assuming that kwami even used French when they were talking to each other. Because accompanying Tikki's voice was another one, also high but not quite as much, a little more nasal, with a kind of drawling cadence to it.

That must be Chat Noir's kwami.

The thought shocked through Marinette with a force almost like a static shock. Here she was, sitting out of sight behind a stairwell… and on the other side of the roof, the other side of the other stairwell, there was a blond boy about her age, with green eyes – probably? His transformation did change them in a way hers didn't, obviously. A boy who cared about her enough to put her wishes ahead of his own, who'd sacrificed himself for her once, even if she'd managed to undo that timeline. A boy who was something more than a best friend, who she might actually have fallen for if not for Adrien, but who was close to her in a way that she wasn't sure even Adrien could ever match, because he understood her, and she him, without either of them even thinking about it.

A boy with a face she'd never actually seen, and a name she'd never heard.

Marinette huffed a frustrated laugh, tugging at her ponytails. Because to be honest?

She didn't think about Chat Noir's secret identity. She didn't think about his secret identity a lot. Sometimes, when she was particularly tired or stressed, she'd catch herself spending hours not thinking about who he might really be, instead of working on her calculus.

Just like she spent every bus ride across the city most definitely not staring out the window and sitting up just a bit every time she saw a flash of blond hair, wondering if it was hiding bright green eyes and a grin that invited you to laugh along with him. Paris was a big city, after all. Whoever Chat Noir really was, he could be anywhere. Anyone.

Or maybe he goes to the same school as me. She'd never really considered what it meant, that both of them always turned up at the scene so fast.

Not that she hadn't considered the possibility before. She'd just dismissed it as ridiculous, because seriously? All the schools in Paris, and Ladybug and Chat Noir both ended up in the same one? As if!

Besides. Yes, they were just as affected by the glamour as anyone else – which was a good thing, because that meant Papillon couldn't see through it, either. But surely she'd know her own partner if she happened to bump into him!

On the other hand… it never really occurred to me that he might be shy, either…

There was an odd, hiccupping little squeak, followed by a thump and more squeaking. Marinette blinked, straightening a little. She knew that sound.

Did Tikki just fall out of the air laughing?


Adrien sighed, pushing back from his computer screen as it shut down. The good news was, the warehouse rendezvous had apparently gone unnoticed by the people of Paris. Although they'd have to set up a few alternatives and switch between them erratically, if they stayed with Ladybug's plan to meet up occasionally in the evening. The bad news…

Swiveling in his chair, Adrien eyed the little black kwami who hadn't stopped cackling at him from the moment he'd de-transformed after returning to his room. "Plagg, you're starting to scare me here."

Plagg just snickered. "Kid? I want a camera."

Adrien blinked. "Why…?" he asked warily.

"Because when you learn who Ladybug is, your face is going to be better than cheese."

AN: Yes, I'm aware that Astruc has declared that Ladybug and Chat Noir patrol Paris, in one of his Twitter feeds. I choose to ignore this because, A, it doesn't show up in the TV show canon at all (at least as of yet), and B, it makes no sense. Two people can't hope to cover all of Paris, and they'd quickly give away their general location simply because of the limited range of their patrols. The odds of actually finding an akuma are astronomically low. And using up their kwami's energy going out and looking for petty crime to stop, when they're the only ones who can take on Papillon's supervillains, is simply irresponsible.

Don't even get me started on the fact that, in Jackady, we're supposed to believe that Marinette missed a class because she was rescuing a cat from a tree. As Ladybug. (Though there's a potential storyline there about Marinette getting so enthused about the savior-of-Paris thing that she starts neglecting her normal life…)

Intervening when there's a crime right in front of them? Definitely. Heck, that reflexive urge to help is how Adrien and Marinette were chosen to begin with. Throwing everything aside when they hear about a crisis that they have the ability to avert (like that crashing helicopter flashback)? Also something they'd do. But nighttime patrols when they're already leading very busy double-lives and need the sleep? I don't see that lasting very long.

Marinette did not impress me in Evillustrator. At all. Bad enough that she stormed out on Chloé's protection detail and left Chat Noir to deal with that girl on his own (that alone probably counts as a Hero Fail!), but she then went home and detransformed. When she knows that Chat Noir has no way to safely defuse a supervillain on his own (annoying as I find that imbalance in their powers), and that they cannot contact each other except when both of them are transformed. They got lucky when Evillustrator switched his attention from Chloé to Marinette herself. Which was important character development for her… I just wish they'd pointed out that irresponsibility a bit more!

I've never really bought into the fandom trope of "Marinette feels like she doesn't measure up to Ladybug." Yes, Marinette has an insecure streak – that was made very clear in the Origins episodes. But the Marinette we meet throughout the rest of the series usually handles her insecurity, not by timidity, but by being aggressive and, sometimes, touchy. (See the whole "insisting that she doesn't need help when she can't see a thing" in Climatika. That sort of behavior is a classic sign of insecurity.) The one time the question of revealing her identity to Chat Noir does come up, in Lady WiFi, she's regretful but firm, not nervous; it's a calculated decision, not an emotional one. And her later conversation with Tikki makes it clear that she would have liked to tell Chat Noir, but she decided that keeping their identities secret would be the smart thing to do.

As for her actions around Adrien – and note, it's only Adrien… she's not shy. She's awkward. There's a difference!

(Mind, I wouldn't be surprised if the series tries to claim that's the case, at some point, because it's a popular trope for the superhero genre. But if it does, they're going to be taking what we've already seen in the narrative and forcing it to fit a Procrustean bed.)

Besides. With the Origins episodes, we know that Chat Noir is perfectly aware that Ladybug is sometimes unsure of herself (he had to give her a pep talk!), and that she can be a klutz (look at how they met; that was an epic-level Crash-Into Hello!). And she knows he knows.

Likewise, Chat Noir has shown no signs of pushing the topic of identities, outside of that one episode. He's made it clear he would like to know, and that he thinks they can trust each other with their real identities. But all it takes is one clear "no" from Ladybug, and he accepts it, even though it's hard. This is a very important part of his character – the fact that he knows how to take "no" for an answer. Chat Noir's meant to be a different sort of hero, a role model, and respecting peoples' boundaries is a very big part of that.

It's always struck me that Adrien seems to keep camembert on hand for emergencies (excepting the Mr. Pigeon incident, where he has to ask for some – I headcanon that said episode was fairly early in the chronology, and Adrien decided he'd learned his lesson and took to keeping some on hand), while Marinette has had to scrounge for cookies pretty much every time. Then it occurred to me that there's a very easy explanation. Adrien, canonically, hates camembert cheese. It seems very likely that Marinette does not hate chocolate chip cookies. Her emergency supply likely has a bad habit of vanishing

(There's also the mild fact that Adrien needs to bribe Plagg for things that Tikki does without encouragement – and camembert's harder to find than cookies. That would encourage him to keep a stash!)