AN: Some angst. Chat and LB talk/argue. This is going to be a long chapter where things are hashed out
Somehow, Chat managed to convince LB to make Nino a permanent member. This made it a lot easier to deal with akumas, and Carapace and Chat were a solid team. Fans had started an online battle of boys vs girls. They thought Carapace was brought in to balance out the girl power to the team. They also noticed that Chat was freestyling without Ladybug a lot more and that he and Carapace were like the dynamic duo. Chat did correct this by saying that he liked the name, but Carapace was not his sidekick. They were a dynamic duo of a different kind. They were a partnership.
In battles, they noticed that Ladybug and Rena were a little miffed by Chat's new attitude, but didn't outright say anything about it. Until one day.
"Chat. Carapace. Do you two have some time?" Ladybug asked.
The two bros shared a look before shrugging their shoulders and responding that they did.
Taking a moment to recharge their kwamis, they met up again on an empty rooftop.
"What's going on?" Rena started.
"You two have been doing more stuff on your own lately. You've even beaten some akumas before we can even get to the scene." LB continued.
Chat just shrugged. "It happens. You know how civilian gets in the way of things and how sometimes it doesn't."
"Dude's right. Besides. What's wrong with how we work? We get the job done and make your part easier." Nino added on.
"Because it feels like we're not on the same page anymore!" LB yelled. "It's like you two are reading the same book but you're looking at a different chapter!"
"The mission hasn't changed Bug." Chat replied calmly. "Fight akumas, save Paris, stop Hawkmoth. That's what we're doing. How's it going with tracking him down by the way?"
"Nowhere! You know that! He hasn't come out in person since Sentibug. We can't find a way to track him either."
"I had my suspicions, but I didn't know for sure until now. You hardly ever tell me anything."
A small vein throbbed on Ladybug's forehead. "I've had enough of this! Ever since Rena joined, you've been keeping secrets and hot dogging more often. What?! Are you jealous I told someone else my identity first?!" Ladybug yelled at him.
Carapace and Rena stepped back, understanding that this argument was not for them. Ladybug was right. It did hurt Chat. More than he would like to admit. That was why he avoided Marinette and Alya as civilians when he could. Telling Nino had been a breath of fresh air because he didn't have to keep lying as much or stress over his excuses. He had been drowning in loneliness. Having Plagg was great, but sometimes you just need some human interaction as well. Even though Chat intended to tell Ladybug his identity first, he figured if she wasn't going to wait for him, then he shouldn't either. And he didn't regret it. Besides, it's like she ever asks his permission to do something, while she always insists on him getting her permission for things.
Still, despite the thoughts churning in his head, Chat kept quiet. He knew Marinette well enough to know that she rambled and angry people had a tendency to act recklessly and give things away. He also quietly signaled Carapace to watch for akumas while he was simultaneously the same. Chat noticed Carapace clue Rena in as well. While he was waiting for a confrontation like this, he didn't want Ladybug to get akumatized. That would not end well if their one cure was suddenly infected.
"Nothing to say anymore smart guy? Cat got your tongue?" Ladybug continued her rant. "I mean fine, you can fight. That's great. You're a great fighter. But we need to work together to take down Hawkmoth. It won't work if we're not in sync. That's like having too many cooks in the kitchen. You keep running into each other and fumbling around! And why aren't you saying anything?!"
"Why did you suspect that designer of being Hawkmoth years ago?" Chat interjected. He hoped she was worked up enough to give something away.
"It doesn't matter anymore. I checked it out and he wasn't Hawkmoth." Ladybug hotly replied.
"Checked out how?" Chat queried. All those years of watching his father handle business transactions were finally coming in handy.
"I just did. Trust me, okay?!"
"How can I when you don't trust me?!" Chat angrily asked back.
"When have I not trusted you?!" Ladybug screamed.
"Master Fu's existence, that Sentimonster when Fu took our miraculous. Still haven't received an explanation for that by the way. Then there's New York, revealing your identity to Rena without telling me why you told her, and why you suspected that designer." Chat pushed back.
Ladybug tugged on her pigtails in frustration. This cat was beginning to annoy her. "Look, Master Fu already revealed himself after Syren."
"After you knew about him for who knows how long." Chat interrupted.
Ladybug glared at him. "That sentimonster was something Fu accidently created a long time ago as a child. He could control the power and it was accidently designed to swallow a Miraculous." Ladybug told him.
"How does that monster related to the temple that appeared afterwards? And how did he have the peacock Miraculous?"
"When Fu lost control, it destroyed the temple and he escaped with the Miracle box. But he lost the peacock and butterfly Miraculous."
Chat's jaw dropped and he asked in shock. "Are you saying all of this," he waved his hand towards themselves. "is all Master Fu's fault?"
"That's what you just said! Why did he even create the sentimonster in the first place?" Chat continued. He would get back to his other points in a moment.
Ladybug froze up at this and looked away from Chat. The cat crossed him arms, but noted that Cap and Rena gave him an all clear sign, which was a mental relief.
"He was training to be a guardian of the box." Ladybug started. "But something kind of…happened." She trailed off.
"Tell me" Chat demanded.
"That's never stopped you before" Chat retorted.
Ladybug's face turned red in anger. "Fine! He was about 14 and he was hungry. He created a sentimonster to get him food. That's why it was eating everything in sight. And before you judge him, don't say that you never used the Miraculous for your own personal gain."
Chat glared back and the rooftop was oddly silent. It was quite surprising that Hawkmoth hadn't tried to akumatize one of them yet.
"I may have used it sometimes for non-Miraculous stuff, but the most I used it for was rooftop runs and training. I never did something for personal gain or caused others to get hurt. Have you?" Chat finally said.
He noticed Ladybug flinch and he frowned, wondering what she did. Another double standard.
"What did you do?" Chat asked her softly.
"What?! W-what are you talking about? I didn't do anything." Ladybug nervously stammered. That sealed it. She definitely used it for personal gain, and it backfired somehow. Maybe she was thinking about Lila's first akumatization, or another thing he didn't know about. He mentally added it to the list.
"We're getting off-track" Ladybug tried deflecting. Chat allowed it, for now.
"That brings us to New York." Chat said.
"You left without telling me! Paris was unprotected!"
"That's on me." Chat stopped her. "I should have told you, but things were happening quickly in my civilian life and I couldn't communicate with you." Chat closed his eyes and took a deep breath. "What wasn't on me was that argument we had mid-battle. It was bound to go poorly." The scene flashed before his eyes. He had never killed anyone with his power before and it scared him. "I still have nightmares. I get you were mad, but that was not the time to hash things out. That is on you."
"Me?! You never should have left! Or at least told me you were leaving!"
"We already covered this. That was my fault, not yours. And that's not the part of the story we're focusing on right now. Maybe you should learn to take some responsibility for your actions." Chat retorted.
Ladybug's face was still red and had a slightly purple tint to it.
"You know what fine! I should have picked a better time and place. I was too angry to think about it properly and it cost someone their life. I'm sorry!" She yelled at him. It wasn't what Chat expected, but it would do for now. Not that it made up for his nightmares.
"Next," Chat nodded to the fox. "Rena."
Ladybug sighed. She was slowly calming down. "This guardianship and superhero stuff was stressing me out. And balancing my civilian life on top of all of that was so difficult. I just needed help and to tell someone. She just happened to be there and I broke down crying in front of her." Ladybug hugged herself and looked a few inches shorter. Chat felt little bad and some pity for her.
"I can understand that. I too have things in my civilian life that are overwhelming. Sometimes, you just need to tell someone. It just hurt that you didn't tell me first because we always said we would tell each other first. But then you go and trust someone else over your partner who has always had your back. I know and understand the struggles just as much as you do. I've been by your side since day 1, but you've been pushing me away without taking my feelings into consideration. I just felt like I couldn't trust you anymore if you couldn't trust me." The others could hear the sadness in Chat's voice. "It hurts to see the double standards when it comes to us. If you explained things to me, it'd be fine. But all you do is leave me in the dark."
"I'm sorry Chat" Ladybug stared at the ground and refused to meet Chat's eyes. He just sighed and decided to get the final point over with.
"Did you suspect that designer because of the book he had?" Chat asked. Ladybug's eyes widened.
"You know about the book? How?!" Ladybug was shocked. She didn't think anyone outside of the Agrestes', Fu, and herself knew about the book. And Lila too, not that she used it well.
Chat shrugged and crossed his arms. "I have my ways."
Ladybug thought about her answer. Chat would probably snoop around and suspect Adrien and his father. However, he already knew about the book and would probably do that anyway. But she didn't want Adrien to get hurt by whatever Chat could have found on their one Hawkmoth suspect. Maybe she could throw him off?
"It can't be him. He was akumatized. Remember?" She tried to deflect.
"Can you confirm that the butterfly user cannot akumatize themselves? Are you absolutely certain?" Chat pushed.
Ladybug sweated but knew he had her. He just wanted to hear her say it.
"No" she finally responded. Maybe Adrien would forgive her. She'd probably shadow him to make sure that nothing happened to him.
Chat smirked. "Don't worry bugaboo. I won't do anything to your little prince. I'm just going to do some non-obtrusive investigation." He'd seen right through her, but she still felt unsettled. "I mean, it's obvious you care for him a lot." Ladybug blushed.
"W-w-what makes y-you s-s-say that?" She stuttered out.
"That time with Volpina" the classic Chat smirk appeared. "You were willing to take off your earrings to save him. I didn't expect you to give them up for a celebrity crush. Especially since I swore he was a fake."
"You didn't know for sure! You threw your baton at him!" Ladybug responded back.
"You what?!" Rena shouted, looking ready to pounce on him. He chuckled at the little pun.
"I did know for sure. You didn't believe me and we almost lost because of you that day." Chat responded calmly. He looked thoughtful for a moment. "If Adrien Agreste approached you right now and asked you on a date right now, would you say yes?"
The question caught ladybug off-guard. She opened and closed her mouth, but nothing came out. Rena save her though.
"Of course she would! She's been crushing on the boy since forever!" The fox heroine said.
"Al-Rena!" Ladybug yelled, horrified and blushing as red as her suit.
Chat hummed in consideration. "Another fangirl. That's great." Carapace rolled his eyes a little and facepalmed. Nino knew how much Adrien hated fangirls. But he also knew about Marinette's feelings for the blonde, ex-model.
"Hey! I am not just another fangirl!" Ladybug retorted. "I actually know him! As a person. He's a friend of mine in my civilian life. He's kind and considerate. Even to those who don't deserve it. He's smart too! Smarter than you, you mangy alley cat! And he tries to cheer me up when I'm feeling down. His looks are just a plus. So don't you dare talk bad about him!"
Cap managed to suppress the snort. The irony of comparing Chat to Adrien. Adrien felt a little touched that Marinette managed to see past the model face and cared for him as a person. Maybe one day he could return the sentiment, but he just was not in that kind of place right now.
"I see" Chat said simply. He took a few steps back and walked towards the edge of the rooftops. "There are still things I want to know, but I think that's enough for today. I think we'll cover that another time. And we will cover it, one way or another." Chat ended firmly. "I don't like this. It's like having to pull teeth from you. You don't tell me anything unless I ask you LB, but I may not always know the right questions to ask. So why am I having trouble trusting you? Because of stuff like this. We've been partners for years and look at how much you've hid from me and try to understand how much it hurt." He unhooked his baton. "I'll see you around guys. I'm exhausted so I'm heading home."
Chat quickly disappeared into a black speck in the distance and Carapace left shortly after, leaving just Ladybug and Rena Rouge.
"Do you think he's right?" Ladybug asked.
Rena hugged her best friend. "I think he's got a right to some answers. He didn't really question anything too personal."
Alya just kept hugging Marinette for a few minutes then she pulled back. "Hey. Let's go to your place. We'll eat some pastries and ice cream and watch a movie. How does that sound?"
Marinette smiled and wiped away her tears. "Sounds good to me."
With that, the two heroines leapt away.
"Do you think I was too harsh?" Adrien asked.
"Nah" Nino responded as the kwamis ate their food. "I think you were the right amount of harsh. And it's not like you said anything untrue or put all of the blame on Ladybug. You didn't bug her about identities either aside from Rena." Nino assured him.
Adrien leaned back and sighed in relief. He felt bad about the whole thing but being relegated into a yes man felt much worse than this. At least he had some assurance that he wasn't being too pushy, and managed to get some answers to his questions. He still had no idea how to approach Marinette and Alya outside of the mask. He could try to use his model training but they might see through that.
"So, what next?" Nino asked.
"We train, we prepare, we investigate. The akumas are getting much more dangerous. And we can't keep doing this superhero thing forever. What's going to happen in the future? Right now, we're only in lycee. When we go to college next year, classes will be much more difficult and it will be just as hard to sneak out to fight. If we manage to get jobs, we'd have to leave at random times and our excuses will run dry at some time. So…" Adrien stared at Nino right in the eyes. "we investigate my father. Find out if he is Hawkmoth."