word count: 2,825
prompt: #6 Aspik & Marinette
I'm feeling a bit iffy about this piece, but eh. Perhaps I'll fix it eventually. This can be considered a companion piece to "She's No Multimouse." I've also been cross-posting on AO3 (and I may have uploaded this a few days earlier over there).
The new hero was decked out in various shades of teal, the hood of his suit pulling over his head and doubling as a mask to hide his identity. He was as quick as the others, and his reflexes could keep pace as well. Marinette didn't think she saw him take a hit since he arrived, which was a miracle considering just how hard this particular Akuma was kicking her and Ladybug's butts. Chat Noir hadn't shown up yet, and it was worrying. Considering that the Akuma was still demanding the Black Cat Miraculous, Marinette took comfort knowing that at least Hawkmoth hadn't gotten a hold of him, but her heart still felt uneasy. Chat Noir never missed a fight nor a chance to flirt around with his partners. As often as she scolded him, Marinette was missing his one-liners and puns.
Suddenly, the new hero was behind Marinette, his arm wrapped around her waist and pulling her backwards. They hit the ground together, but Marinette froze, every one of her senses going haywire. Her nerves screamed at her to run, run, run, hide, NOW! Her heart raced and Marinette couldn't understand why.
"I'll take you out before I make you fall for me next time," the hero spoke in Marinette's ear and more than just her nerves were set on edge. Was he really flirting right now? In the middle of an Akuma attack? With her? As flattering as it was, it was also annoying and not the time. It was bad enough she had Chat teasing her tail all the time, she didn't want yet another hero asking her out.
"I doubt you'll get that far," Marinette growled. "Just worry about the Akuma."
"What do you think I was doing?" he said. "That would have been a nasssty bite if it weren't for me. I doubt civilian-you would have been okay." Marinette ignored the implications of what he said.
"What, do you want a reward or something?" The two heroes ran beside one another, following Ladybug's directions towards the Arc de Triomphe.
"If you're offering, a kisss wouldn't go amisss," the hero replied. "But if you aren't comfortable with that, I'll sssettle for your pretty sssmile."
"Are you seriously still flirting with me?" asked Marinette. "Who even are you? Are you hissing on purpose?"
"The name's Assspik," said the hero. "And I'm just ssspeaking the truth."
"Right." Marinette rolled her eyes, but she didn't have any more time to spare this Aspik. It was taking all of her focus not to hide from the apparently snake-themed hero, and this Akuma wasn't going easy on them.
In the end, Aspik had to leave before the three of them could finish defeating the Akuma, admitting that he had used his special power already and only had another minute left before his transformation failed.
"Don't misss me too much, ladiess!" He sang as he ran away. Marinette very nearly ground her teeth together.
Three minutes and a Multitude later, the Akuma was defeated, the celebratory fist bump had, and the mysterious Aspik was put from Marinette's mind.
She was still worried about Chat Noir.
By the fourth Akuma that week, Marinette wasn't sure how she felt about Paris's newest hero. He was… cute, she guessed, and kind of sweet sometimes, but he also felt too much like a Chat Noir knockoff for Marinette to really get along with him. He didn't focus. He was too flirty. And he was always invading her personal space… Maybe it was also the fact that he was a snake-themed hero; as a mouse, Marinette was more than a bit uncomfortable near him. Holding a Miraculous for lengthy periods of time typically left the wielder with a few animal-like traits and habits and Marinette was no different. She found herself a little more skittish than normal, and sensitive to the noises around her. She needed to be able to hear what was happening around her, in the places she couldn't see. Her sense of smell was a little sharper than it had been last year. Her sixth sense for danger was way more sensitive than she appreciated.
In conclusion, Marinette didn't need a snake-boy hovering around and making her nervous.
"Any particular reason why you're on my balcony right now?"
It was strange, Adrien acknowledged, the difference in Marinette depending on which costume he wore. She was an adorable, stumbling, babbling mess when he interacted with her as himself, but she seemed almost fond of Chat Noir. Unfortunately, Aspik seemed to bring out the worst of her temper and Adrien wasn't sure why. He had been really hoping she would realize that Aspik and Chat Noir were the same person, just with a different Miraculous, but Marinette, just like Multimouse, seemed to be almost angry whenever she saw him. It was like the gum incident all over again, only Adrien didn't even understand what he's done wrong this time.
"I was just admiring the plants. It's so green out here."
"Thanks," said Marinette. "That's kind of what a garden is supposed to look like." Adrien winced. Maybe he should just leave Marinette alone until Master Fu can return Plagg to him, healthy and whole.
"I'm… sorry? I don't really know what I did to make you upset with me, but I really do apologize. I was hoping we can be friends? At least, until Chat Noir can come back?"
"What, are you supposed to be, a placeholder? As if you can replace him."
"What? No! No, I just… you really…" Adrien trailed off, hurting and lost for words. "Am I really that different?"
"From Chat? Yes. There's only one Chat Noir and you aren't him."
A part of Adrien was touched that Marinette felt so strongly for him. Sure it would be nice if she could aim even a fraction of that affection and passion towards his ordinary self, but Chat Noir was a precious friend and that went a long way towards making up for the distance between them at school. However, there was another part that felt absolutely devastated that Marinette couldn't see that Chat and Aspik were the same person.
"I see… I'll stop bothering you, then."
"YOU WILL PAY FOR THAT!" screeched the Akuma, presumably a teenager who was clearly not fond of the swimming pool. Aspik sniggered. He was the reason why the boy was soaked from head to foot.
"No need to throw a hissssy fit!"
"Aspik," called one of the mini Multimouses running interference. She jumped into the pool, chasing after Ladybug's fallen Lucky Charm. Another Multimouse landed on Aspik's shoulder.
"Shut up and move!"
Both Aspik and Marinette looked back at the bull-like Akuma behind them to gauge the distance. Aspik hummed as they again looked forward.
"Do you think if I ssscale that wall, the Akuma will notisss me?"
"As easily as I notice that you hiss on purpose."
"I don't know what you're talking about."
"I hope that bull skins you alive."
"I've been trying to tip the sscalesss in our favor, and I think I have a solution, LB."
"I swear," huffed Marinette, breathless and irate after chasing this running Akuma all over Paris, "if I have to hear about your scales one more time!"
He wasn't even making good puns.
"Lucky Charm!" Ladybug cheered, tossing her yo-yo into the air.
A red and black spotted feather boa fell into her hands.
Exhausted, Aspik tried to smile. "I feel like this would be a good place to insert a joke about boasss, don't you?"
"LB, I know what to do with the Lucky Charm," said Marinette.
"Give it to me. My family has a recipe for snake soup."
"I'm not really much of a boa conssstrictor, more like an adder, if you get what I mean?" Marinette could hear the struggle in his voice. Unfortunately she also knew the sentence was loaded with puns and wasn't in the mood to decipher them.
"No, Aspik, I don't get what you mean," called Ladybug while she and Marinette played keep-away with the Akuma's many, many arms. There were one of her, six of Multimouse, and even more of the arms, so it was taking quite a lot of effort
"I'm more of a problem solver than a muscle man. I'm running out of steam here!"
"Aspik, do you think you can distract Gigantitan long enough to -"
"Sorry, LB, but that just leads to me becoming a rattlesnake, and I was not overly fond of the experience the first time." Aspik hesitates before he continues, his face displaying a worrying amount of seriousness. "And, uh... Well, Multimouse gets crushed beneath his foot."
"Aspik called," said Ladybug. She sat with her legs dangling over the edge of their designated rooftop for the night. Marinette sat beside her, feet on the rooftop. "He has a thing, so he won't be with us tonight."
"Thank goodness," sighed Marinette. "I mean, I'm glad for the help, but he stresses me out so much."
"Don't you think you're being a little too hard on him?"
"How?" Marinette didn't mean for her tone to be so sharp, but she failed to understand how she was being harsh. All she wanted was for Aspik to be Aspik and to leave the Chat-ing to, well, Chat Noir. It would be nice if he would also stop touching her and stop hovering around her ordinary self and stop trying so hard to be nice, and maybe altogether disappear. However, Marinette kept those thoughts to herself; she was almost certain most of those feelings had more to do with being a skittish mouse whose instincts seemed to scream danger! every time Aspik came near.
Ladybug shrugged. "You're always fussing at him to stop doing this or that. It's like no matter how hard he tries to please you, you find another reason to hurt his feelings. I'm surprised he still tries at this point." Marinette frowned. All she wanted was for Aspik to stop trying to be Chat. That's all.
"Do I… Am I really that mean to him?" Ladybug shrugged again, but her silence was an answer in itself. Marinette hummed as she thought, her fingernails scratching at the rope tied around her waist. "It's not like I dislike him. He's okay. We've had better heroes help us, but he's alright. I just… whenever I see him I just want to run away and he scares me! And have you seen his eyes?! They almost glow and I just know he's trying to lure me into a false sense of security so he can corner me and swallow me whole and I can't shake it! Chat doesn't scare me like that and he's a freaking cat! Aspik just makes me so uncomfortable and scared that I lash out and I don't even realise I'm being mean! I still don't think I've been that bad, but if you're saying something about it then that means I've really been hurting his feelings and when is Chat Noir coming back? because Aspik acts just like him and that makes me even more anxious. There's only one Chat and Aspik is not him!"
"Yes, he is."
Marinette blinked. Ladybug stared back.
"You didn't know?"
"Oh. Wait, WHAT!?" Marinette almost threw herself over the edge of the building, she reeled back so quickly. "What do you… what do you… Aspik is Chat Noir?!"
"Chat's kwami got sick. The Guardian loaned him the Snake Miraculous until he can nurse Plagg, that's Chat's kwami, back to health."
"He's what?" Marinette gasped again, her voice lowered to almost a whisper. "He's been Chat this whole time?" something happened to Marinette's heart, and she almost cried out, it hurt so much. She could feel the hot pressure of tears building, so strong it stung. "That's why he… and I told him to stop because he behaved too much like himself!" Marinette was horrified.
And then there was Ladybug, who laughed. She held her wrist to her mouth, trying to smother the sound, but Marinette heard it and she felt even more embarrassed.
"It's not funny, Ladybug!"
"I know, but it kind of is! You already fuss at Chat for being himself, but we all know you love him for it. But then you fuss at Aspik for doing the same thing like it's a big problem. And now you're admitting it's because he reminds you of himself! It's so twisted, it's hilarious." Marinette groaned.
"You aren't helping!"
"Maybe not, but there isn't much I can do anyway." Ladybug shrugged. She brought her feet up beneath her and stood on the ledge she had been sitting on. "You know that Aspik is Chat, and you know you've been unreasonable, and you know that it's mostly been your instincts overwhelming your good sense. Chat's pretty easy-going though, so he'll forgive you pretty easily. Especially you."
"What's that supposed to mean?" asked Marinette. Instead of answering, Ladybug threw out her yo-yo. When it caught on the next building she gave it a good tug and smiled over her shoulder.
"I'll race you to the Eiffel Tower!"
Despite his good sense, Adrien stopped by Marinette's balcony one more time. Just like the umbrella incident at the beginning of the school year, he just couldn't leave well enough alone. Plagg would have a lot to say about that, and Sass wasn't exactly happy with Adrien's sour mood for the past few weeks, but he couldn't help it. Marinette was a great girl, and the idea that he's gone and pissed her off once again bothered him, and Multimouse's attitude hadn't been helping. At least he was able to talk things out with her, and things will go back to normal when he didn't scare her by just existing. And maybe, if Marinette could forgive Adrien once for being an idiot, she could do it again? She's had plenty of time to calm down, he thought. Plus, she seemed to have a really good day at school today, and Adrien thought he overheard that she was a finalist in an accessory designing competition. Maybe. Either that or she wasn't a finalist. Maybe he should leave before she noticed he was there and came up to fuss at him some more.
"I thought I told you to leave me alone?"
"Technically, I offered to slither away." Snake puns were hard. They didn't come quite as naturally as a cat pun did, and some of them were just plain awkward. Still, Adrien wasn't expecting to see the corners of Marinette's mouth twitch like she wanted to smile but just wouldn't. He counted it as a win, either way. "Unfortunately for me, you've got your fangs dug too deep, I couldn't stay away."
"Well, I'm glad you're here," said Marinette. "I wanted to apologize. I was a bit… unfair to you when I saw you last time. You didn't deserve that. I'm sorry."
"Most people don't appreciate a snake in their garden," said Adrien. "I understand."
"That doesn't make it okay, Aspik. You're a hero of Paris. If Ladybug, Chat Noir, and Multimouse can visit me, you should be allowed to too. You just caught me off-guard and… and I missed Chat. It wasn't your fault that you caught me at a bad time." Adrien could feel the smile form on his face, slow and soft and fond.
"Don't worry about it, Princess," he told her. "Your knight in shining leather will be back to you by the weekend."
"What about you?"
"I'll be out of your hair before you know it," Adrien promised. He's enjoyed being Aspik, but it was also exhausting. The truth of the matter was that he was rather unsuited to the Snake Miraculous. It was a bad choice on his part and cemented Adrien's commitment to letting Ladybug and Multimouse make all of the tactical decisions in battle. Second Chance was great, but Cataclysm was so much more useful.
"You don't have to rush," Marinette said. She smiled, nodding to the chair he normally occupied as Chat Noir. "I was going to come out and do a bit of sketching anyway. You can stay if you want."