It was Friday morning, and the sun had not yet risen in Paris. In the Agreste mansion, one restless teenager paced his bedroom. Adrien absently twirled his pencil between his fingers as he studied the plethora of news clippings, printouts, and photos related to Ladybug laid out before him.

"You're still on this?" Plagg asked, cracking one eye open and yawning. "People usually sleep at night, you know."

Adrien frowned. "I couldn't sleep," he said. "I kept thinking about yesterday. The more I think about it, the more convinced I am that Ladybug is somebody at school. Probably even in my class."

"Well that's a pretty small list," Plagg said. "Especially considering the only two girls in your class who haven't been Akumatized by now are Marinette and Rose."

Adrien's brow furrowed. "Marinette," he repeated. "You know...it wasn't until Marinette's dad was Akumatized that Ladybug snapped and decided to have our little chat with the mayor." He tilted his head. "She was actually taking that one pretty personally, if I know My Lady."

"But you don't know Ladybug," Plagg pointed out. "That's the whole reason for this big crazy all-night thinking thing you're doing."

"I want to know Ladybug, Plagg. I want to..." Adrien bowed his head, clutching his pencil tightly. "I want her to know how I really feel. And that she can always trust me."

Plagg studied Adrien thoughtfully. "Hmm," he said. "So. Marinette, prime candidate for being Ladybug?"


* * * * *

Nathalie had taken note of Adrien's zombie-like appearance and insisted he stay home from school. He had insisted just as firmly that he was fine to attend classes as long as he had some strong coffee with breakfast.

"Your father would not approve of you leaving the house in such a state," Nathalie said coolly. "What on Earth were you doing, staying up all night and throwing off your schedule?"

"Thinking about a girl," Adrien said as he wolfed down his breakfast.

Nathalie blinked. Her face softened almost imperceptibly. "Well," she said after a moment, "try not to lose sleep over it again."

Later, as Adrien left for school, Nathalie stopped him for a brief second to whisper, "Good luck."

When Adrien arrived at school, he immediately looked at Marinette. She was talking to Alya, who seemed upset—no doubt the topic of conversation was Tom Dupain's Akumatization the day before. He stopped just inside the door, leaning against the frame and studying Marinette.

*She has the same eyes. How did I never notice that? The same hair, too. Well, Ladybug's hair is shinier and a little different color, but then—heh—my eyes are a whole lot greener when I'm Chat Noir. Hmm...now that I really look at her, her body's about the same, too...*

"See something you like?" a teasing voice from his left broke him out of his reverie. He jolted and glanced over to see his best friend Nino standing next to him, smirking.

"Huh? Uh—umm...I was just thinking," Adrien said. "Marinette's dad got Akumatized. I was just...worried."

"Uh-huh." Nino shrugged. "If you say so." He headed for his seat; Adrien followed and sat down. He turned his seat around to face Marinette and Alya.

"Hey, Marinette," he said roughly.

Marinette looked up and blinked. "Oh. Um. A-Adrien. Morn gooding. I mean, moon gording. Ah! I mean—"

"I heard about your dad. Is he okay?"

"Yeah, he's fine. Ladybug and Chat Noir saved him. You know, like they do."

"That's good," Adrien said. "And you? Are you okay?"

Marinette blushed slightly. "W-well...I'm not not okay," she said.

"Do you think you'll still be up for that concert tomorrow night?"

"Absolutely!" Marinette declared fiercely, leaning forward.

Adrien smiled. "Good. I can't wait. It's gonna be fun!"

As the last stragglers filed in, Mademoiselle Bustier walked into the room. She had a confused, uncertain look on her face. "Ahem. Good morning, class. Before we begin, umm...apparently there's some business we need to take care of." She looked to the door and nodded.

Chloé walked in...as did her father. He had a look of terrible forbidding on his face. For her part, Chloé looked more meek and trite than she ever had in her life. She stood in front of the class, her hands folded in front of her.

"So, umm...good morning, everyone," Chloé said. "I..." She looked to her father, who stared impassively at her. She swallowed. "I owe every single person in this room an apology for one thing or another," Chloé began. "Especially—" She grimaced. "Especially Marinette. For the concert tickets, for trying to steal your diary, for what I did to your uncle, and for a whole lot of other things I can't even remember right now." She looked around the room and swallowed. "And everyone here who got turned evil by Hawk Moth because of something mean or hurtful I did or said...I'm sorry." She looked at Sabrina. "And...I have to apologize to Sabrina too, for having her do all my homework and play all my mean tricks on people for so long."

Mayor Bourgeois stepped forward. "I'm going to be organizing a special event for every member of this class in the near future," he said. "At my hotel, as my way of trying to make amends for not noticing how out of control my daughter is. I would very much appreciate it if Marinette Dupain-Cheng and one other volunteer help plan the event. Anything you kids want to do, it's your choice. It can be a movie premiere or a private concert or just a party." He straightened his sash. "As for Chloé...you won't be seeing her for a few weeks. We've been in a meeting with Principal Damocles this morning, and Chloé is suspended from school until she completes every assignment she's made her friend do for her, under the direction of a private tutor."

Chloé hung her head.

"Now, I have business to attend to and my daughter has a lot of homework to make up, so we'll be leaving. Miss Dupain, my secretary will be in touch." He turned and marched stiffly from the room, Chloé following behind him like a prisoner headed for the gallows.

The entire class watched them, mouths hanging open in shock and confusion.

Mademoiselle Bustier coughed. "Well," she said. "That was...unexpected. Sabrina, I'll want to have a word with you before you leave school today. Alright, class—"

"Wow," Alya stage-whispered to Marinette, Adrien, and Nino. "Never thought I'd see Chloé apologize for anything!"

"I never thought I'd see Mayor Bourgeois do some actual parenting," Adrien said in an impressed tone. "Looks like he finally stepped up."

"And the best part? No Chloé for a while!" Nino exclaimed.

"Alright, kids, settle down," Mademoiselle Bustier said loudly, slapping a rolled-up paper sharply against her desk. "Save it for after class, please."

* * * * *

Before lunch, Alya took advantage of a break between classes to pull Adrien aside near his locker. "Listen, Adrien," she said quietly, "this is probably the last thing I should be doing, but now that Marinette's getting back in good spirits, well..." She pushed her glasses up. "Even though Chloé's finally getting what she deserves, the damage is still done, and it isn't fair that Marinette's big chance got totally blown by that stupid little trollop, so..." She glanced around nervously. "It's a little too late for me and Nino to back out of this going-as-a-group thing, and there's no way in heck I'm missing out on this concert, but just FYI? Marinette was trying to ask you out on a date. You know that, right?"

Adrien blinked. "Wait, she what?"

Alya smirked at him. "You didn't think it was weird that she had two tickets and asked you?"

Adrien groaned and smacked his forehead. "Ugh! I got so distracted by Chloé being Chloé, I didn't think—" He sighed. "Wow. Now I feel like an idiot."

"It's okay though, because we can totally salvage this situation," Alya said. "It's simple, really. Instead of 'as a group of friends', let's call this what it really is. A double date."

Adrien's brow furrowed. "Yeah, that makes sense," he said. "But how do we—I mean, how do we even officially make it a double date at this point?"

"Simple. We talk to Marinette and Nino and get them to agree that it's a double date." Alya shrugged. "It doesn't need to be as complicated as Marinette and Nino like to make this stuff."

"Oh, yeah, that whole...thing," Adrien said, laughing. "But won't Marinette get upset with you? I mean, she'll have to know you—"

Alya shrugged. "She'll get over it. I don't mind throwing myself under the bus for a good cause." She poked Adrien in the forehead. "Well, we'd better get a move on." She turned to head off to class; Adrien closed his locker and followed, his mind whirling.

*So Marinette...likes me? And Marinette might be Ladybug...*

* * * * *

At the end of the day, students were in a hurry to either go home or head to afterschool programs, but Alya and Adrien held Marinette and Nino back in the school foyer. "We need to talk about tomorrow night," Alya said.

Nino blinked. "What's wrong?"

"Nothing's wrong exactly," Alya said. "It's just that we need to clarify something." She looked at Adrien, who coughed once, then looked at Marinette.

"Yeah, so...I kinda needed a slap upside the head over the whole 'let's go as a group of friends' thing," he said. "I didn't..." He shook his head. "I kinda missed something really obvious the other day, and, well—"

"No, it's—" Marinette began. Alya silenced her with a sharp thump to the shoulder.

"So here's the thing," Adrien said. "We're all still going to the concert together, but instead of going as a group of friends, we're going on a double date. Nino and Alya...you and me." He looked Marinette right in the eyes. "Is that okay with you?"

Marinette's face turned red. "I, umm...I...I..."

"Hey," Adrien said softly, taking her hand in his. "Don't bug out on me. We'll go, we'll have a good time, we'll...y'know...have a date. Like you wanted in the first place. And Alya and Nino will be there to kick us both in the butt if things get awkward." He laughed. "I mean, I'll probably need one, I know that for a fact."

"Count on it," Nino said with a grin.

"So, we're settled then?" Adrien asked. "It's officially a double date?"

Marinette's mouth moved like a gasping fish for a second. Alya thumped her again. "Um—ah—yes! Absolutely!" Her eyes were wide, bright, and slightly manic. "I mean, yes, that's...yes."

Adrien grinned. "Great!" He kissed the back of Marinette's hand gently. "Looking forward to it, my lady." He adjusted his bag. "Well, I've got a photo shoot to get to. Later!"

As Adrien left, Nino not far behind, Marinette's eyes followed him, her mouth open in a small, round 'o'. Alya beamed and slapped her gently on the shoulder. "You go girl!" she said. "You got your date with Adrien after all, and I'll be there to make sure you don't totally space!"

"Y-yeah," Marinette said distractedly. "Date with Adrien. Can't wait."

"Uh-oh. I think we broke you," Alya teased. "Well, I've gotta get home, I'm supposed to be herding my sisters today. Call you later!"

Marinette didn't move.

Tikki peeked out of Marinette's bag. "Marinette? Earth to Marinette!"

"Tikki? Have you ever felt like something really weird and really important just happened, but your mind can't quite process it?"

Tikki tilted her head. "Hmm...I guess? I mean, I've been around a long time. Why?"

Marinette shook her head. "I just...I got the strangest feeling just now..."

* * * * *

For the rest of the day, Marinette rode on a wave of pure bliss. Chloé had FINALLY been punished for her behavior, she had the Subdigitals concert to look forward to—and she was getting her actual date with Adrien after all! The noticable upswing in her mood was not lost on her parents, who greeted her warmly when she returned home.

Marinette spent most of her time until bed working on various projects and picking out her outfit for the concert, whistling cheerfully as she worked. And yet, there was still a tickling feeling in the back of her mind that something had happened she really should be concerned about.

Saturday morning, Marinette had some errands to run for her parents. While she was out and about, the only thing that could possibly dampen her spirits happened: an Akuma attack. As she chased the newest supervillain—a cabbage-headed Akuma who was throwing exploding cabbages everywhere—through the streets, she realized even Hawk Moth's latest attempt to steal her Miraculous couldn't bring her down.

"You're in a good mood today, My Lady," Chat Noir said as he joined the chase. "Hot date tonight?"

Ladybug smirked as she deflected a cabbage bomb with her yo-yo. "As a matter of fact, yes!"

"Oh-ho!" Chat Noir grinned. "Anybody I know?"

"Well, I can tell you one thing: He's not some mangy alley cat."

"I see," Chat Noir said. "Well, he must be a real model of masculinity if he's caught My Lady's pretty eyes."

"Try not to get too jealous, Catsanova."

Chat Noir blinked. "A cat pun? You are in a good mood!"

Ladybug rolled her eyes. "Let's finish off this cabbage clown quickly. I've got a lot to do today."

* * * * *

René Renoir stood before a temporary podium, adjusting the fleur de lis pin on the lapel of his suit jacket as his thin, sharp grey eyes studied the small group of reporters that awaited the start of his press conference.

The aging actor had wanted to announce his return to film in a grand, impressive area—at the Eiffel Tower, at the Louvre, anywhere that evoked the rich history and culture of Paris, that spoke to his status as a beloved French icon of stage and cinema.

Instead, he was sharing street space with itinerate mimes, attended by what looked to be the most bored, least motivated reporters in all of Paris, all of whom seemed as though they'd rather be anywhere else on a bright, warm Saturday morning.

Thirty years ago, he had been one of the greatest actors in Europe. He had performed in over seventy films, two hundred stage plays, and had even made no fewer than seventeen guest appearances on television—a medium he personally loathed. He had enjoyed a life of distinction, comfort, and leisure, with the elite of the French cinema at his beck and call, every producer and director in the nation clamoring for his attention.

Or so he believed. In reality, he had always been a forgettable character actor, and the one film he had ever been given a lead role in flopped so badly it killed his career and the director's.

Now, however, he had been given a chance to resurrect his career, in a new lead role in a new production by the most talented young director in Paris. He had immediately called a press conference to announce his triumphant return.

The underwhelming reaction to his announcement was a disappointment, but he would not be daunted. Today was his day to shine, and shine he would.

He checked his watch. It was time to start. Clearing his throat and straightening his tie, he tapped the centermost microphone in front of him. "Good morning, ladies and gentlemen of the press," he said. "I am delighted beyond measure to announce to you and the good people of Paris that I, René Renoir—"

Something struck him in the back of the head. He pitched forward into the podium. Rubbing his head, he looked down at his feet.

A head of cabbage bounced once on the ground, a lit fuse sticking out of it.

"LOOK OUT!" a young girl's voice cried. A spotted red yo-yo sailed out of nowhere, snagging the cabbage and flinging it into the air. It exploded violently, raining burnt vegetation all over the plaza.

"What in blazes—?" René spun around to see a masked man wearing a dark green tunic and loose yellow-green pants dash past. He wore a giant cabbage upon his head like a turban, and cackled madly as he threw cabbage bombs into the group of reporters, who screamed and scattered.

Two children in ridiculous costumes dropped down from above, using a baton and a yo-yo to send the exploding cabbages flying in every direction. One was a blonde boy in skintight black leather, wearing cat ears and a ridiculous tail. The other was a black-haired girl in an inappropriately tight red body stocking covered in black spots. She jumped up on top of the podium, crouching in front of him, and detached a black-spotted red megaphone from her hip. "Pardon me, Monsieur," she said. "I need to use your microphones for a second. You might want to cover your ears." With that, she pressed the megaphone against one of the microphones and let loose a horrifying squeal of feedback.

The man with the cabbage turban screamed in pain and sank to his knees. The boy grabbed the turban off his head and smashed it on the ground. A black butterfly with purple splotches on its wings flew out of the smashed vegetable hat.

The girl unzipped the top of her yo-yo; the halves separated like insect wings, revealing a glowing disc of white light within. "No more evildoing for you, little Akuma!" Letting the yo-yo drop to the ground, she swung it back and forth to gain momentum, then spun it in a wide arc, swinging it out. "I'm freeing you from evil!" The yo-yo scooped the black butterfly out of the air, trapping it.

"Gotcha!" The girl reeled the yo-yo back in, then opened it again. A tiny snow-white butterfly flew out, fluttering toward the open window at the end of the hall. "Bye-bye, little butterfly!" With that, she threw the megaphone high into the sky with a shout of:


It exploded into a swarm of glowing ladybugs, which spread out over the city; the cowering man in green changed into an ordinary greengrocer in a white apron.

The girl popped a pair of earplugs—that had the same ridiculous ladybug motif—out of her ears; the boy in black did the same. They shared a fist-bump.

The reporters regrouped like a flock of pigeons, surrounding the two children and peppering them with questions. After a few minutes, the two children sprinted off, and the reporters cleared out, leaving the area conspicuously vacant.

René stood behind the podium, staring in abject dismay at the ludicrous scene. What meager press he had managed to gather had fled without even hearing his grand announcement. "Those children...they stole my spotlight..."

* * * * *

A dark place...

Shutters irised open, flooding the dark room with bright sunlight. White butterflies swarmed around a masked figure standing in the light.

"Ah, the wounded pride of a man whose greatness is overshadowed by others," Hawk Moth said with a smug smirk. "To reach out for that one chance to relive your glory years, only to find no one in the world cares."

A white butterfly landed in his gloved palm. He covered it with his other hand. Motes of darkness gathered, turning the butterfly a purple-splotched black.

"Fly away, my little Akuma, and darken his heart!" Hawk Moth watched the Akuma flutter through the central gap in the window's wrought iron floral motif.

* * * * *

René Renoir sat on a bench, face buried in his hands, a tired old man too despondent to even care that a pigeon was defecating on his shoe.

A black butterfly sank into the fleur de lis pin on his lapel. He seized up as a voice entered his mind.

Overshadow. I am Hawk Moth. Allow me the honor of being the director of your greatest performance. The role of a lifetime! Destroy Ladybug and Chat Noir. BRING ME THEIR MIRACULOUS!

René gave a dark, grim smile. "Show me to wardrobe, Monsieur Hawk Moth."

Purple and black mist boiled up from his pigeon-smeared shoes, spreading across his body like oil and transforming him...

* * * * *

While the Cabbateur's rampage had interrupted Marinette's errands and made her slightly late returning home, she still had more than enough time to take a nice long bath, do some last-minute body maintenance, and get in some girl talk with Alya before it was time for her date. Earlier in the day, she'd gotten a text from Adrien that he'd made dinner reservations for the four of them; the restaurant wasn't terribly fancy, but it was certainly more upscale than most teens' first-date venue, so Marinette had swiftly replaced her entire outfit for the evening to account for the change in plans.

Marinette walked downstairs and gave her parents a twirl. "Well, how do I look?" She wore a short pink skirt which swished about her thighs over black tights, mid-calf white suede boots with low heels, a black top with three wide pink horizontal bands across the bust and four narrow pink horizontal stripes across the stomach, and a light pearl pink jacket. A small black purse hung at her hip, and she'd restyled her hair into a single, chic plait.

Sabine clasped her hands together. "You look wonderful, dear!"

Tom's eyes shone with pride. "My little girl is so beautiful and so grown-up," he sniffled.

Marinette rolled her eyes. "Papa," she said with mock exasperation.

"Are you sure you want to wear those earrings, though?" Sabine asked. "I mean, you wear them every day. This is a special occasion, wouldn't you rather wear something a little fancier? I've got the perfect pair in my jewelry box."

Marinette shook her head and waved a hand. "No thanks. These are kind of my lucky charm."

"Well, if you're sure," Sabine said. "It's not as if this boy's going to be looking at your ears anyway."

Tom grunted and gave Sabine a look, then gave the same look to Marinette. Sabine rolled her eyes and slapped him playfully on the shoulder. "Oh, stop," she laughed. "I just meant he'll be lost in her eyes."

Marinette groaned. "Okay, I'm out of here before you two find a way to embarrass me in front of Adrien again." No sooner had she said that than a limousine pulled up in front of the bakery. She quickly kissed her parents goodbye, then hurried out the door.

Adrien got out of the car and walked around to open the door for Marinette. He wore a loose, long-sleeved black silk shirt, black leather pants, and shiny black leather shoes, as well as a pair of expensive designer sunglasses. He smiled at her. "You look really pretty today, Marinette," he said.

Marinette blushed. "Oh, um, thank you," she said. "So do you. Handsome, I mean. Well, and pretty. Pretty handsome?"

Adrien chuckled and opened the door; Marinette got in across from Alya. Alya hadn't done anything particularly special with her hair, but she had at least opted for a nice black pair of jeans, a shimmery grey silk blouse, and soft grey ankle boots. She looked Marinette up and down and smirked. "I think you should be in magazines instead of glamor-boy here, looking like that."

"Lookin' good, Marinette," Nino said. He was dressed almost the same as always, except he'd left his signature hat at home, and he wore an open white shirt over his usual tee.

"Thanks," Marinette said, ducking her head.

Adrien got back into the car next to Marinette. "Okay, let's get to the restaurant," he said.

All through dinner, the group made idle conversation. Adrien asked a lot of questions about Marinette, trying to get her to open up about herself. Alya frequently had to steer Marinette back into the conversation and away from her own tangled tongue, as well as covertly keeping her from klutzing her way into ruining her outfit with food or drink spills. By the time they were through the soup, Marinette had loosened up enough that she was able to engage Adrien in conversation just fine on her own, although once her jangled nerves settled down, her mind started picking up on subtle little things that kept coming up during the conversation.

Like the fact that suddenly, Adrien couldn't seem to string ten words together without letting fly with an incredibly bad pun. Nino and Alya called him out on it repeatedly; Marinette couldn't help but giggle at his put-upon reaction. "Nobody appreciates my sense of humor," he complained.

As soon as they finished eating, they returned to the limo and headed to the concert. As expected of the son of Gabriel Agreste, Adrien had managed to finagle extremely good seats for an almost sold-out show, as well as backstage passes. They arrived with ten minutes to spare before the opening act, and spent that time enjoying being in each other's company and soaking in the rowdy atmosphere.

None of them had heard of the group that opened the show, but they were pretty good and did the job of getting everyone into the spirit of things. After a quick set of three songs, the opening act bowed out, and Nico, Chris, and Ben—the Subdigitals—took the stage. The band immediately launched into their most popular song, "S'Envoler", drawing wild cheers and screaming from the crowd.

"This is GREAT!" Marinette yelled, clapping her hands and stomping her feet along with the music.

"Yeah, I'm glad you asked me out to this!" Adrien agreed. "Even though, uh, I ended up asking you and we're on a double OW!"

Nino drew his hand back from where he'd just slapped Adrien upside the head, then curled his other arm around Alya. "You know, I'd never actually heard of these guys before now," he said. "They rock!"

"Yeah they do!" Alya agreed. "Too bad they haven't put out an album in a while. They're pretty much strictly a live act these days."

"Well, you can't blame them," Adrien said. "They have a spotty history." He glanced over at Marinette, a mischievous gleam in his eye. "Wouldn't you say they have a spotty history, Marinette?"

"Huh?" Marinette blinked. "Well, I, uh—did hear some rumors about weird things happening when they were working on a music video and again on their second album, but..."

"Dude, you okay?" Nino asked suddenly. "You've been saying weird stuff all day."

"Yeah, not to mention all the awful puns," Alya agreed. "What's with you?"

Adrien shrugged. "Nothing, I'm just feeling nice and relaxed." He smiled. "I'm at a kickin' concert with a really cute girl and two good friends. This is the most fun I've had in forever! I can just let loose and not worry about what anybody thinks of me."

Marinette tilted her head and studied Adrien. She smiled. "Yeah, that makes sense. I can't even begin to imagine what kind of stress you must be under most of the time." She then blushed furiously. "C-cute...?"

"I can't believe your dad actually let you out to play tonight, man!" Nino said.

Adrien laughed sheepishly. "Well..." He coughed into his fist. "Actually, Nathalie's covering for me on this one. She uh..." He ducked his head. "Turns out, she approves of the idea of me dating, so."

"Really? That's...interesting." Marinette flinched. *Crap! I never even THOUGHT about how much trouble trying to ask Adrien out might cause for him at home...*

"You mean that scary lady actually has a heart?" Nino asked.

Adrien sighed. "More than my father does, anyway."

Alya leaned around Nino, a strained smile on her face. "Hey. Guys. Come on. We're here to have fun. Let's not go there tonight, okay?"

Adrien smiled. "You're right. Tonight's about having a good time."

And that's when the lights went out.

The band stopped playing. The crowd's cheers turned into confused murmurs. "Uhh," Nico said on stage, "sorry, folks. Looks like we've got a—"

A single, dimmed spotlight illuminated the stage in front of the band. A dark figure stood there—completely dark; his body was a tall, thin silhouette. Piercing grey eyes shone from an otherwise dark face. The only other visible detail was a large purple fleur de lis positioned over his heart.

"Good evening! Were you enjoying the show? Well, too bad, because I'm taking over this stage. I am OVERSHADOW, and I will upstage all performers in Paris! Ladybug, Chat Noir...come and stop me if you can! AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!"

Marinette slumped forward. "Seriously?!"

"HEY! Get off the stage, you freak!" Ben, the bassist, took an angry step toward Overshadow.

Overshadow turned toward him. "Don't even think about it!" He raised his hand; tendrils of darkness shot up from the stage, wrapping around Ben and dragging him away.

All around the arena, people began screaming and stampeding for the exits. Adrien stood up. "We need to get out of here!"

"Are you nuts?" Alya said, her phone already out and recording. "I've gotta capture this for Ladyblog!"

Coils of darkness shot out in every direction, picking up random concert-goers and suspending them from the rafters. Adrien and Marinette shared a troubled look, nodded, and grabbed Nino and Alya respectively, making a mad dash for the nearest exit. "Get to the limo!" Adrien said. "I'll start directing people out of the south exit!"

"I'll help evacuate the east exit!" Marinette added.

"What, you think we can't do that too?" Nino asked, yanking his arm free. "I'll cover the west exit!"

"And I'm staying here to cover the story!" Alya insisted firmly.

Marinette gave Alya an imploring look, then sighed and shook her head. "Fine," she said. "But if it gets too hot in here, RUN, okay?"

"Promise!" With that, the four teens went their separate ways.

* * * * *

Marinette broke left once she cleared the east exit, found a maintenance corridor, and ducked out of sight. "Of all the times for an Akuma to attack," she growled, opening her bag and releasing Tikki. "Can't I even finally have my date with Adrien without one jerk or another messing with my life?"

"Poor Marinette," Tikki said sadly. "But at least it was going well, right? That means there's still hope. Come on, let's deal with this Akuma!"

"Right! Tikki, spots on!" Tikki vanished into the Miraculous, which turned from black to a bright red with black spots. Marinette's clothes were replaced by the bright red, black-spotted, indestructible skintight Ladybug costume. Freshly transformed, Ladybug sprinted back to the exit, using her yo-yo to swing up into the rafters. "Alright, let's see what—"

A chain made of solid shadow slammed into the back of her head, sending her crashing to the floor.

* * * * *

"I can't believe this!" Adrien growled as he ducked into the men's restroom. "My first date ever and this happens!"

"Well, at least your date isn't over yet," Plagg said. "I mean, if you're right about Marinette being Ladybug, then you're still on a date with her. It's just...different now."

"Funny," Adrien grumbled. "Normally I enjoy fighting Akumatized supervillains with Ladybug, but right now, I'm just really aggravated. Plagg, claws out!"

The ring on Adrien's finger turned black as Plagg disappeared into it. Adrien's eyes turned from their usual sparkling green into the vivid, luminescent green eyes of a cat as the black leather catsuit, ears, mask, and tail of Chat Noir formed on his body. "I'm coming, My Lady!" Readying his baton, he raced back into the arena, crashing through the emergency exit just in time to see Ladybug fall from the rafters. His eyes widened and his jaw dropped. Time seemed to slow as he ran forward, extending his baton and using it as a vaulting pole. Chains of shadow lashed out at him, but he batted them away, singularly focused on Ladybug. He caught her in midair; she threw her yo-yo up into the light rig over the stage. Together, they rocketed over the empty seats, past the dozens of people trapped in the rafters, and landed above the stage. Ladybug jumped out of Chat Noir's arms and crouched beside him, glaring down at Overshadow. "Okay, I'm guessing the Akuma is in that eyesore of a fleur de lis," Ladybug said. "I was having a good evening until now, so let's take care of this already."

Chat Noir gave her a mock-offended look. "What, you don't enjoy spending time with me, My Lady? I'm truly, deeply hurt!"

Overshadow looked up at them, his silver eyes gleaming maliciously. "Ladybug! Chat Noir! You stole my spotlight! You ruined my moment of glory! I'll show Paris—and all of France—that children like you should never be seen or heard!"

The lone spotlight went out, along with every other light source in the arena. Absolute darkness settled.

"Ladybug? I think we need to get out of here. This whole place feels like a trap."

"I agree. You can still see, right?" Chat Noir answered by scooping her up in his arms and jumping down onto the stage, then leaping across rows of seats, weaving between heavy chains of darkness. "Throw your yo-yo straight ahead now!" he instructed. Ladybug did so; it slammed into a fire alarm panel, and a shrill noise filled the arena.

"Sorry, can't see where I'm aiming," Ladybug apologized.

"No, that's what I wanted you to hit," Chat Noir said. "And three...two..."

Bright halogen lights snapped on one by one in the ceiling high above, flooding the arena with blinding illumination. The chains holding the hostages began dissolving, dropping innocent bystanders to the floor below. Chat Noir and Ladybug jumped around wildly, catching as many people as they could. On stage, Overshadow hissed as his body became translucent. He folded into the ground, becoming a shadow which slithered toward an emergency exit, escaping the harsh glare of the overhead lights.

As soon as they were able to regroup, Ladybug shielded her eyes against the glare. "How'd you know?" she asked.

"Internet." Chat Noir frowned. "Well, he got away, so—"

"No he didn't," Alya said, running up to them, her phone in her hand. "Or rather, maybe he did, maybe he didn't. It's hard to say."

"What do you mean?" Ladybug asked. Alya handed over her phone. Ladybug and Chat Noir looked at the news report playing on the phone, and their eyes widened.

"This guy's attacking concerts, stage plays, and movie screenings all over Paris," Alya summed up. "Everywhere in the city that it's dark and there are a lot of people, he's showing up." She frowned, tilting her head. "How is it you two both happened to be here, at this one specific place he targeted? I mean, you got here really fast."

Chat Noir rubbed the back of his head. "Big Subdigitals fan," he said with a nervous laugh.

"Yeah!" Ladybug agreed with a nervous smile. "Wouldn't miss their show for the world!"

Alya blinked. "Huh. Interesting! It never even occurred to me to wonder what kind of music you were into. I'll have to add a new feature to Ladyblog." She began to wander off. "Oh, good luck with this Overshadow guy! I think I'll sit this one out. My friends are somewhere around here and I need to check on them."

"Yeah, you do that," Ladybug said. "Or better yet, go home and stay safe. Come on, Kitty, looks like it's gonna be a long night."

"Great! Seeing as my other plans fell through, there's nothing I'd rather do than spend the evening with My Lady."

Ladybug shook her head and rolled her eyes as they left the arena.

* * * * *

Hawk Moth smiled grimly. "Good, Overshadow. You've stolen the spotlight. The city is yours. It's only a matter of time before you have your revenge on Ladybug and Chat Noir, and I have their Miraculous!"

* * * * *

Forty minutes had passed since Ladybug and Chat Noir left the arena. In that time, they'd gained an appreciation for just how much trouble they were in.

"Ngh!" Ladybug grunted as she struggled to pull her leg free from a sticky web of shadow. Chat Noir aimed the end of his baton at it; a narrow beam of light struck the shadows, dissolving them. Ladybug shook out her leg. "Thanks," she said.

"No problem," Chat Noir said. "Man, am I glad there's a flashlight app on this thing!"

"This is hopeless!" Ladybug cried. "How is this Overshadow so much more powerful than any other Akuma?"

"Well, he does control darkness and shadows," Chat Noir said. He gestured expansively around them. "And, well...it's night. Plenty of darkness."

Ladybug groaned. "Perfect. We don't even know where the real Overshadow is, and I don't think we can keep doing this all night." She paused. "I can't be out all night fighting this Akuma! I'll be SO DEAD when I get home!"

"Oh, I wouldn't worry about that, little girl," Overshadow said from behind them. They turned around; he stood there, wielding a sword of shadow. "I too would prefer to end this quickly."

With a yell, Chat Noir turned up the intensity on his flashlight, pointing it at Overshadow. His sword warped and wavered, but unlike the last Overshadow they faced, his body remained firm. His fleur de lis gleamed in the light.

"Wait," Ladybug said. "This one's different. Look." She pointed at the fleur de lis, which—unlike the purple one on the last three Overshadows they'd met—was gold.

"You're right!" Chat Noir said. "I bet this is the real one!"

"Clever, child," Overshadow said. "I wanted to finish you off myself, in person. I want to see your faces with my own eyes as your final curtain falls."

"Why are you even so mad at us?" Ladybug asked. "What did we ever do to you?"

"You upstaged me!" Overshadow snarled. "On my day to shine, you two obnoxious children stole my thunder!" He pointed his sword at them. "I can never forgive such an offense!"

"Oh, I get it!" Chat Noir said. "This is that old guy that was about to talk to those reporters this morning when we had our fight with Cabbatage."

Ladybug dragged her palm down her face. "Seriously? You got Akumatized over that?"

"ENOUGH!" Overshadow sent several chains of darkness toward them; Ladybug and Chat Noir broke left and right, cartwheeling around the chains. Overshadow lunged at Chat Noir, sword raised. Chat Noir parried his thrust, then caught him in the side with his baton. They fenced back and forth across the rooftop while Ladybug did her best to evade dancing tendrils of shadow and tried to edge closer to Overshadow. She threw her yo-yo, attempting to knock the fleur de lis from his chest, but coils of shadow slapped it away, then wrapped around the wire and sent it flying back at her. She yelped as it conked her in the head, then wrapped itself around her neck and tried to strangle her.

"LADYBUG!" Chat Noir broke out of his duel and aimed his flashlight at Ladybug's throat; the shadows subsided enough for her to regain control of her yo-yo, which she unwrapped from her neck and retracted.

"We need to get him somewhere bright!" Ladybug rasped, massaging her throat.

Chat Noir looked out over the city. "I hate to tell you this, but this is as bright as Paris gets at night—and it's not exactly pitch black out here!"

"FOOLS!" Overshadow jeered. "Under the cover of darkness, I am invincible!"

"So what do we do?" Ladybug asked.

Two dozen massive tentacles of shadow rose up behind Overshadow.

"I vote we RUN!" Chat Noir yelled, leaping off the roof. Ladybug let out a shriek and followed, swinging out into the night. Overshadow chased them, tentacles of darkness slapping at them, trying to grab them, and impeding their progress. They steered towards the most brightly-lit areas of the city they could find, making a beeline for the distant beacon of the Eiffel Tower. "What are we supposed to do about this guy, Ladybug?"

"I don't know!" Ladybug moaned. "The only thing I can think of is to wait out the clock until the sun comes up and fight him when it's daylight!"

"That's it? Really? That's your plan?"

"I don't see you coming up with a better idea!"

Overshadow's laughter filled the night. They looked around to see dozens of copies of him lining the streets, arms folded. Coils and chains of darkness sprang up everywhere.

"Wait until morning, got it! But I don't think we can keep this up all night! This cat's gonna need a litter box sooner or later!"

"Really didn't need that mental image," Ladybug muttered. She sighed. "I guess there's only one thing we can do. Cover me!" She stopped swinging, landed on a roof, and threw her yo-yo skyward. "LUCKY CHARM!"

In a spray of hearts and light, a thin ladybug-print envelope appeared, falling into Ladybug's waiting hand. She blinked at it. "Huh?" Opening it, she withdrew an advertisement for Le 58 Tour Eiffel.

Chat Noir scratched his head. "Okay, I give. How's dinner at a tourist restaurant gonna solve our problem?"

"I have no idea," Ladybug said. "For now, let's just get to the Eiffel Tower. We'll figure out what to do from there."

* * * * *

By the time the two teen superheroes reached the Eiffel Tower, they were exhausted, Ladybug was down to three spots, and Chat Noir's first pad had just vanished. "Can't...keep this up..." Ladybug panted.

The tower itself was surrounded by police, with Agent Roger front and center. "Ladybug! Chat Noir! How close are you to putting a stop to this madness?"

Chat Noir scratched the back of his head. "Actually, we...have a problem."

Ladybug looked at Agent Roger with despair. "We don't think Overshadow can be defeated at night," she said. "I hate to say it, but we may not be able to save Paris from this menace until morning."

The police officers along the line murmured in confusion, looking back and forth from one another to the two heroes. Agent Roger scratched his head. "What, do you two have a curfew or something?"

"It's not that," Ladybug said. "He's just too powerful when it's dark. This may be the one place in the entire city where we're even remotely safe from him right now, and I've already used my Lucky Charm." She waved the restaurant flyer absently. "All it gave me was...this..." Out of the corner of her eye, she caught sight of something. "That lantern. Can I borrow it?"

Agent Roger followed her gaze. She was looking at a powerful LED lantern which was standard issue equipment for special tactics units. He shrugged. "Sure, we have plenty."

"Do you have a plan after all, Ladybug?" Chat Noir asked as Ladybug appropriated the lantern.

"No," Ladybug said, shaking her head. "Not one that'll end this tonight, anyway. But at least...at least we can regroup." Her earrings beeped; another spot vanished. "Is the Tower clear?"

Agent Roger nodded. "We evacuated the Tower as soon as Overshadow appeared," he said. "Everything's on lockdown."

"Good," Ladybug said. "If we can use this lantern to keep one small room lit all night, we can—"

"—hole up until dawn, get some rest, be ready to fight when he isn't this ridiculously powerful," Chat Noir finished. His own Miraculous let out a beep; another pad disappeared. "I hate this plan. I hate running away from a fight and leaving the city in chaos all night. But...you're right. This is the only way we even have a chance." He frowned. "We'll need a room where we have access to food, though. Like..."

"A kitchen?" Agent Roger suggested.

"A kitchen!" Ladybug exclaimed, looking at the restaurant flyer. "Of course! Restaurants have big pantries and stuff, right?"

"Well, yeah," Chat Noir said. "You're not suggesting—"

"Come on!" Ladybug said, handing him the lantern and wrapping an arm around his waist, then swinging up into the tower, making a beeline for one of the restaurants within. Down below, Agent Roger barked orders to his men; every single lantern, headlight, and floodlight the police had was turned on, adding to the alright bright glow of the Eiffel Tower.

* * * * *

It had taken almost all of Ladybug's remaining time to break into the restaurant and find the kitchen's storage room, which was full of dry goods and foods that could be kept safely at room temperature. Once inside, they barricaded the door and turned the lantern on, filling the small room with a harsh electric glare.

A shrill warning beep emanated from Ladybug's earrings. Across the room, Chat Noir's ring flashed a warning of its own.

They locked eyes. Ladybug swallowed. "Well...I guess this is it," she said.

"You know, we could still...I dunno...turn away, face the corners, stay like that while our Kwamis chow down," Chat Noir said. "We don't have to see each other."

Ladybug laughed softly. "I don't think that'll work," she said. "It's still a long time until sunrise. We need to rest, we probably need to eat something ourselves, and we need to come up with a plan for when we do go back out there." She smiled. "Kinda hard to do all that if we're stuck in the corners like we're in time-out." She sighed. "I don't see any way out of this situation where we don't finally know each other's true identities. Sorry."

Chat Noir shrugged. "I don't really mind. I trust you completely. Besides, I, uhh...I kinda already figured out who you really are."

Ladybug blinked. "Eh? How—"

Chat Noir smiled. "It's okay. Your secret is safe with me, My Lady...or rather, Marinette Dupain-Cheng."

With a bright flash, Ladybug was replaced by Marinette; Tikki bounced across the floor, groaning in exhaustion.

Marinette stared at Chat Noir, flustered. "H-how'd you know?" she asked.

Chat Noir shrugged. "The whole thing with your dad and Chloé. Our little chat with the mayor. Things just started to fall into place." He grimaced. "It helps that, well..." He closed his eyes. In a bright flash, his costume melted away, revealing his true identity. Plagg plopped onto the floor in front of him, listing dizzily to one side.

Marinette's jaw dropped. "A-A-A-A-ADRIEN?!" She numbly pointed a finger at Adrien. "You're Chat Noir?"

"And you're Ladybug," Adrien said.

"And I'm hungry," Plagg interjected. "Where's the Camembert? Ah, hello Tikki! Long time no see, eh?"

"Boy, I'll say!" Tikki said brightly.

Marinette started to laugh. It wasn't a pleasant laugh or a happy laugh. It was the kind of laugh that made your skin crawl.

Three sets of eyes focused on her.

Marinette tilted her head back against the shelves behind her, eyes closed. Hysterical laughter poured out of her in great, heaving peals.

Adrien blinked. "Uhh...Marinette?"

"Of COURSE!" Marinette yelled suddenly. "WHY NOT? Because the universe just LOVES playing little jokes at my expense!" She shook her head and buried her face in her hands, rocking back and forth and giggling. "The boy I've spent the entire last year crushing on and the guy who's been obnoxiously flirting with me ever since the day we met are one and the same? Sure! Let's do that! Ha!"

Adrien leaned forward. "Is...is she okay?" he whispered.

Tikki looked up at him, a sheepish expression on her face. "I honestly don't know," she said. "I think this is a pretty big shock for her. I'm Tikki, by the way! It's nice to meet you, Adrien."

"Likewise," Adrien said, his eyes never leaving Marinette.

"There's no Camembert!" Plagg complained. "Why'd you have to hide in a place with no Camembert!"

Marinette suddenly stopped laughing and gasped sharply. "Oh my god. Adrien is Chat Noir. Adrien is Chat Noir." She stared across the room at Adrien, her eyes wide.

"And Marinette is Ladybug," Adrien said. "I thought we'd established that," he added with a slight smirk.

"Very ironic, no?" Plagg mused as he ransacked the shelves. "The mystery girl you love so much has been right in front of you this whole time."

"L-love?" Marinette asked numbly, her cheeks red.

Adrien swallowed heavily. "Umm..." He coughed. "I mean, you know, well..."

Tikki reappeared holding a chunk of unsweetened chocolate, an amused smile on her face. "I think I know what's going on here," she said in a sing-song voice.

Marinette started to play with her hair, ducking her head. "W-wow," she said. "Adrien, I—" She paused, then frowned. "But wait, you're Chat Noir. That means all those lame, cheesy, obnoxious come-ons I've been putting up with all this time were coming from ADRIEN?!" She threw back her head and screamed in frustration. "GAAAH! You think you know someone! SERIOUSLY!"

"Lame?" Adrien echoed with a wince.

"Well, you do come on kinda strong," Tikki said sheepishly.

"Like Camembert!" Plagg added.

"SHUT UP ABOUT THE CAMEMBERT!" Adrien and Tikki both yelled.

"How could the sweet, cool, handsome guy I haven't been able to stop thinking about for months be the same guy who annoys me constantly with his corny flirting and obnoxious puns?"

"HEY! My puns are awesome!" Adrien retorted.

"No they're not," three deadpan voices replied in unison.

Marinette slumped forward. "This is so wrong," she moaned. "I can't be in love with Chat Noir."

Adrien scratched the back of his neck and glanced at Tikki. "Can you, uh, clue me in here? I don't think Marinette's calm enough to talk it out right now."

Tikki swallowed a bite of chocolate, then floated to a spot halfway between Marinette and Adrien. "Well, Marinette's had a crush on you for months," she said. "She's always trying to tell you, but she just can't manage to spit it out—she always gets so flustered when she tries that she starts stuttering and mixing up her words."

"Huh. I noticed that, but..." Adrien blinked. "So all this time, Marinette's been trying to tell me..."

"Yeah," Tikki said.

"And all this time, Adrien's been swooning over Ladybug," Plagg said, perching on the edge of a shelf.

Tikki giggled. "Okay, you have to admit this is all pretty funny."

Adrien ran his hands through his hair and groaned. "Yeah. Hilarious." He chuckled ruefully.

"So, umm..." Marinette averted her gaze.

Adrien ducked his eyes. "Umm...so..."

Plagg rolled his eyes. "Wake me when the sun comes up."

"What is with all the lame come-ons?" Marinette asked suddenly. "Why can't you just be as nice and honest and, and...and Adrien when you're Chat Noir?" She looked off to the side. "I mean...if you acted like you and not some cheesy dork, I might..."

"You really know how to hurt a man's pride, My Lady," Adrien said softly. He sighed. "The way I flirt with you really bothers you that much?"

Marinette blushed. "Well..." She toyed with her hair. "I mean, it's nice, the attention and all, and most of the time it's just funny. Not in an 'oh, I'm swooning over this guy' way, but in an 'oh, he thinks he's cute' way. I mean. You are. Cute. Because you're Adrien, how can you not be cute, but oh my god why am I babbling again."

Adrien chuckled. "I don't mind." He shook his head. "I just want to not be myself when I'm Chat Noir, you know?" He paused, frowned, then added, "No, that's not quite it. It's more like...Chat Noir is me being free. No restrictions, no overbearing father, no cold, lonely house, no ridiculous schedule. When I'm Chat Noir, I decide what I'm going to do, how I'm going to do it. I can stretch. I can breathe. I can do something that means something and isn't just for show." He smirked. "Aaand maybe I act a little like the playboy all those groupies think I have to be because I'm a famous model. What can I say? As Chat Noir, I can enjoy the kind of attention I usually try to avoid."

Marinette looked into his eyes. "Oh. Wow." She ducked her head. "I...I think I understand. I mean, I know your life isn't easy. I know you were alone until you came to school. I guess...I can see how being a superhero, saving the city..." She looked away. "I can see why you'd want to just get away and go wild."

"So what about you?" Adrien asked. "What does being Ladybug mean to you?"

Marinette thought about it for a minute. "Confidence in myself," she decided. "Until I put on the Miraculous, I never had any real self-esteem. I was just clumsy, disaster-prone Marinette. Being Ladybug has changed me for the better."

Adrien smiled. "I'd have to agree," he said. "I've known you for months, and I've always admired you and thought of you as a good friend and a talented and amazing girl. Now that...now that I know..." He blushed. "I can see Ladybug's beauty and confidence in you. No...no, that's not right. I see your beauty in Ladybug."

Marinette blushed furiously. "You...you think I'm...?"

"Yeah," Adrien said.

"So...you really did know I was Ladybug?" Marinette asked.

Adrien nodded. "Like I said, the way you blew up at Chloé and Mayor Bourgeois raised a lot of alarm bells. Plus all the stuff you knew about all the kids in our class," he added, shrugging. "I mean, after all that, I knew it had to be either you or Rose. You're the only two girls in our class who haven't been Akumatized."

Marinette laughed sheepishly. "Yeah, I guess that'd be a giveaway, huh?" She frowned suddenly, then smacked herself in the forehead. "Horrificator! It never even occurred to me to wonder what the heck Chat Noir was doing there!" She groaned. "AUGH! How did I miss something that obvious?!"

"The same way I missed you knowing the monster was Mylène," Adrien said. After a moment, they both started laughing hysterically.

"Boy, are we dumb!" Marinette giggled, wiping tears from her eyes.

"Yeah," Adrien agreed with a smile.

Adrien's phone rang. He blinked, then fished it out of his pocket. "Oh crap." He answered. "Hello, Nathalie. I'm fine. Sorry, my phone was off. I just now realized—yes, I'm safe. I'm kind of trapped, though. Um, with Marinette. We're trapped in a closet. No, it's—don't worry. I really think you need to stay put. These creepy shadow guys really made a mess of the city. Huh? Ladybug and Chat Noir retreated? That's..." He paused. "Seriously, I'm fine. I'll just wait here with Marinette until things calm down. I mean, Ladybug and Chat Noir are gonna save the day eventually, right? Uh-huh." He grimaced. "Yeah. I figured as much. Alright. Tomorrow, then." He hung up, dropped his phone, and groaned. "Well, so much for my social life." He looked up. "If you were planning on asking me out again, it's probably not gonna happen after this."

Marinette winced. "Now that you mention it, I'm probably grounded. Again." She dug out her own phone and called home, giving her parents a modified version of the same 'trapped in a closet' story and assuring them she was safe and would stay put until the coast was clear.

Once she was done, Adrien cracked a yawn. "So what now?" he asked.

"Now, we get some sleep. In the morning, we take care of Overshadow." Marinette yawned, slumping against the shelves behind her. "After that..." She blushed. "After that, we figure out what to do about us." Her eyes widened, and she played with her hair nervously. "I mean...we figure out if there is an us."

"Do you want there to be an us?"

"Y-yes! I definitely want..." Marinette paused. "But it's, I mean..." She shook her head. "This? Being with you, telling you how I feel? It's all I've wanted for so long now. But the whole I'm Ladybug and you're Chat Noir and we're a two-person love triangle thing, that's..." She sighed. "That makes it complicated."

"No it doesn't," Adrien said softly. "Not for me, anyway." He yawned again. "Tell you what, My Lady. We'll worry about it tomorrow. I've waited this long, I think I can wait a few more hours."

"Umm...y-yeah. Me too. Goodnight, Adrien."

"Goodnight, Marinette."

* * * * *

The alarm on Marinette's phone woke her up. She stirred sleepily, blinking down at it. Her back ached something fierce. It took a moment to register that she had fallen asleep sitting up on a cold cement floor, leaning against shelves full of dry goods. She looked across the room and saw Adrien in a similar position.

The night's events raced through her mind, and her face burned scarlet.

She picked up her phone and turned off the alarm, then looked around the room. The LED lantern was still shining brightly, filling the restaurant's storage space with light. She stood up, stretched, groaned, then walked over to Adrien and sat down in front of him, shaking his shoulder. "Adrien. Wake up."

Adrien stirred and groaned. His eyes opened sleepily. "Hey," he said with a smile.


Adrien rubbed his shoulder with a wince. "Remind me never to spend the night sleeping in a pantry ever again," he complained.

Tikki and Plagg popped up between them. "Ready to get back out there and stop Overshadow?" Tikki asked.

"You bet we are!" Adrien agreed.

"Wait," Marinette said. "We need a plan first. I seriously doubt he's just going to show himself in the middle of the city and wait for us where he doesn't have any power."

"Hmm. Good point, My Lady." Adrien scratched his cheek. "So what do you suggest?"

Marinette frowned. "We need to find a way to draw him out," she said. "He seemed to have a really weak reason for coming after us. If we can figure out who he is—"

"Already taken care of," Tikki said. She floated over to Marinette's phone and pushed it across the floor, then landed on the screen. "We did some research while you two were asleep. His name is René Renoir. He's an actor who retired after his last movie bombed. He's supposed to be starring in a new movie, trying to resurrect his career, and he was holding a press conference in the plaza where you two fought Cabbateur yesterday."

"I get it," Adrien said. "That press conference was his way of..." He frowned. "And we wrecked it just by showing up and hogging all the attention. No wonder he's out to get us."

"This Renoir fellow has a history of his ego getting the better of him," Plagg said. "He's never been a star, and he's always acted like he was the best thing since Camembert. At least, that's what the Internet says."

"Hmm," Marinette said, rubbing her chin. "So he has an ego problem. Maybe we can use that..."

"Oh la la, My Lady's lovely brain at work," Adrien said with a grin.

Marinette gave him a half-lidded glare. "Don't do that," she said. "Not when you're Adrien. It's creeping me out."


Marinette sighed. "No, I'm sorry. I'm just still processing...you know." She shook her head.

"Hey, look on the bright side," Tikki said helpfully. "You're not tongue-tied around Adrien anymore."

"Well, yeah," Marinette said. "Now that I know he's Chat Noir. Chat Noir, I can handle." She blinked. "Huh."

"So you can't handle Adrien?" Adrien asked teasingly. "I'm too hot to hold?"

Marinette's left eye twitched. "You're in serious danger of making me forget how madly in love with you I am," she said. "Don't push it."


"She's not a morning person, is she?" Plagg asked.

"You have no idea," Tikki replied with a giggle.

"ANYWAY," Marinette said loudly, "as I was saying, if we can figure out a way to use Overshadow's ego against him, we can lure him into a trap..."

* * * * *

Ladybug and Chat Noir descended from the Eiffel Tower to find the police line unbroken and Mayor Bourgeois standing front and center, hands clasped behind his back. "Ladybug, Chat Noir," he said brusquely.

"Good morning, Monsieur Mayor," Ladybug said. "We're sorry to keep you waiting, but Overshadow was simply too powerful to deal with at night."

"Yeah, you have to get up pretty early to deal with a supervillain who controls darkness," Chat Noir added.

Mayor Bourgeois frowned. "Well, when all is said and done, it's no worse than the Stoneheart crisis," he said. "Still, I trust you have given the situation some thought and are ready to rid my city of this menace?"

"We have, Monsieur Mayor," Ladybug said with a firm nod. "But we're going to need some help." She held out a piece of paper. "We need these people brought to this location, and we need every news outlet in Paris broadcasting it."

Mayor Bourgeois looked over the list, frowning. "But why...?"

"We're setting a trap," Chat Noir said. "We don't have time to go into the details."

The mayor nodded. "Alright. I'll get right on this. But I do expect some answers later!"

Two hours later, a very confused group of elderly film critics and a retired director in a wheelchair with a nurse attending him were gathered in a large pavilion tent in the same plaza where Cabbateur had been defeated the day before. Ladybug looked over the group while Chat Noir kept an eye on the entrance.

"I apologize for having you all brought here so abruptly," Ladybug said. "I'll get right to the point: everyone in this tent is bait for a trap. The villain Overshadow, who spent the entire night terrorizing Paris, is has-been actor René Renoir."

"RENOIR?" the old man in the wheelchair cried angrily. "That hack ruined my career!"

"We've gathered everybody Renoir is likely to have ever held a grudge against in this one tent," Ladybug explained. "It's being broadcast all over Paris on every TV, radio, and Internet newscast. If his ego is half as bad as the Internet says it is, he'll show himself, and we'll stop him. Please, I ask you all to be patient."

"Uhh, Ladybug?" Chat Noir said from the tent flap. "He's coming!"

Ladybug nodded. "Seal the tent. We want him to think he has the upper hand."

Chat Noir saluted and sealed the tent flap, plummeting the inside of the tent into darkness.

With Overshadow obligingly walking right into their trap, what came next couldn't even be described as a battle. Once he was inside the tent, Chat Noir destroyed the top, flooding it with sunlight. After that, it took two minutes for Ladybug and Chat Noir to subdue Overshadow and release his Akuma, leaving a confused René Renoir surrounded by a small crowd of very put-out old people. Ladybug and Chat Noir shared a fistbump, then hastily departed the scene.

On a rooftop some distance away, Chat Noir smiled. "Not bad for our second date," he said.

Ladybug rolled her eyes. "All things considered, I think we need a do-over on our first date," she said. She blushed. "Call me later?"

Chat Noir leaned in and gently brushed his lips against hers. "If my father doesn't lock me in solitary." With a wave, he sprinted and jumped his way across the rooftops of Paris.

A wide-eyed Ladybug touched her lips. "Wow...!" Her face as red as her outfit, she swung away in the direction of her parents' bakery. She landed behind the building, reversing her transformation, then walked through the front door. "Mama? Papa? I'm home!"

She was swept up in a bone-crushing hug.

* * * * *

Hawk Moth scowled furiously as the shutters in his dark lair began to iris shut. "This isn't over, Ladybug," he snarled. "I'm through with these games. It's time to play my trump card." He struck the floor with his cane as the lair was plunged into darkness.

* * * * *

When Adrien walked into the house, he found Nathalie and his father standing there waiting for him. The look on Gabriel's face was stern, cold, forbidding—and worried.

"I have reconsidered allowing you to leave this house," Gabriel said. "We are returning to your original schedule. Your friends, that school, it's over."

"NO!" Adrien shouted. "You can't do that!"

"I am your father," Gabriel said. "You will do as I say."

"Father, please!" Adrien said, his eyes full of pain. "I have friends! I have a girlfriend! You can't just lock me up in this cold, empty tomb like some animal!"

"I will do whatever I must to keep you safe."

"I'M NOT MOTHER!" Adrien shouted. "This, what you're doing to me—not letting me live my life—you're insulting everything she was!"

Gabriel flinched as if struck.

"I'm out of here," Adrien announced, turning on his heel and storming out of the house. "If you send that gorilla after me, I promise you'll never see me again." He slammed the door behind him, the sound echoing through the cavernous atrium like a cannon shot.

Nathalie looked at Gabriel uncertainly. "Monsieur?"

Gabriel's jaw tightened. Without a word, he turned and went upstairs, pausing for a brief moment in front of the portrait of his wife. Once he was gone, Nathalie looked helplessly toward the front door with a faint, worried frown. "Adrien..."

* * * * *

After a solid hour of parental smothering, Marinette almost prayed for another Akuma attack.

"Really, I'm fine, Mama!" she said for the tenth time. "I told you, Adrien and I got shoved into a broom closet! We decided to wait there the whole night until we saw on the Internet that Ladybug and Chat Noir beat the villain!"

"I don't like the idea of you spending the night in a broom closet alone with a boy," Tom said as he laid a fresh tray of cookies on the table.

Marinette rolled her eyes. "Nothing happened...exactly." She smiled and played with her hair.

"So what did happen exactly?" Sabine asked.

Marinette blushed. "We, well...we talked," she said. She ducked her head. "And I think we...I think we're probably, you know..."

"A couple?"

"Maybe." Marinette's smile turned silly. "At the very least, I found out I can have a normal conversation with him without forgetting how to talk." She blinked. "Oh! I need to call Alya!" Stuffing a cookie in her mouth, she raced upstairs.

Sabine and Tom exchanged a look. Sabine laughed. "Young love," she said.

Tom chuckled. "Brings back memories..."

* * * * *

"So what will you do now?" Plagg asked.

Adrien sat on a bench, looking out over the Seine. "For starters, hope Father won't call my bluff," he said. "I couldn't help it. He just...he makes me so mad!"

"What did happen to your mother?" Plagg asked. "In all this time, you've never really said."

"And I'm not going to," Adrien said, pressing his mouth into a thin line. "Sorry, I just...I don't want to talk about that." He scrubbed his hands through his hair. "Suffice to say, things haven't been the same between me and Father since..." He sighed and pulled out his phone. "I'm letting Nathalie know I'm crashing at Nino's place for a couple of nights."

"Are you going to let Nino know that?"

"Of course..."

* * * * *

Gabriel stared at an old family photograph, painful memories playing out in his mind.


Without question, he took after her. He always had and always would. He had her beauty, her fire, her spirit.

As he scrolled through dozens of photos of his wife and son, he thought back to just two weeks ago: The day his mansion fell siege to Jackady; the day he witnessed Ladybug and Chat Noir in action with his own eyes.

His mouth tightened.

"I must do what I must do," he said to himself. "He will understand. She will understand."

* * * * *

Nathalie Sancoeur stood in the doorway of Gabriel Agreste's private home office, the one room in the Agreste mansion she had never dared set foot in. Even as his personal assistant, it was out of bounds for her. Today, she had been summoned directly. "You wanted to see me?"

Gabriel's chair turned slowly. "Enter. Close the door."

Nathalie took two steps into the office and closed the door behind her, clutching her tablet in a nervous deathgrip.

Gabriel placed his elbows on the desk and laced the fingers of his hands together, resting his chin upon them. He gazed dispassionately at Nathalie. "You have done well of late, looking after my son's best interests. In many ways, you have been a better parent to him than I have."

Nathalie touched her fingertips to her glasses in a nervous gesture. "I—I wouldn't say that, sir," she said.

"You needn't be so modest," Gabriel said. "Adrien has been happier and more full of life in this past year than I have known him to be in some time." He leaned forward. "However...there is a problem."

Nathalie swallowed nervously. "I-I know his running away is...is..."

Gabriel shook his head. "That will be dealt with. No, the more pressing concern is that my son has come into possession of something dangerous. Far too dangerous to be allowed to remain in his hands. An item I myself have great interest in acquiring."

Nathalie frowned slightly. "He's your son," she said. "I'm sure if you only ask—"

"It isn't quite so simple," Gabriel said. He rose from his chair and picked up his tablet, then walked around the desk to stand in front of Nathalie. He held his tablet up for her to see it. It showed a recent photograph of his son. "Tell me, Nathalie. When did Adrien start wearing this ring?"

Nathalie's brow furrowed. "The ring? He's been wearing it since he started attending school," she said. "I've never given it much thought."

"I've given it a great deal of thought as of late," Gabriel said. He slid his finger across the tablet; a new photograph appeared, one of Chat Noir. "Tell me, Nathalie. Were you aware my son had become a superhero?"

Nathalie blinked. "Wh-what?"

"Adrien is Chat Noir," Gabriel said firmly. "He all but revealed his identity to us when Jackady attacked my home. Do you recall?"

Nathalie pushed her glasses up with her free hand, frowning. "Chat Noir knew about the security system," she said slowly.

"Indeed." Gabriel turned his back to Nathalie. He walked over to his desk, setting down his tablet. "For reasons I need not explain to you, it is imperative that I obtain Adrien's ring, the item that allows him to become Chat Noir. However, it is not as simple as taking it off his finger while he sleeps." He turned back to face Nathalie. "He must be using it when it is taken from him, or its power will be sealed and it will be of no use to me."

Nathalie swallowed. A cold shiver went up her spine. She felt as though she were missing something important—as though the man before her was suddenly a complete stranger. "I-I don't understand..."

"I had hoped to accomplish this in a less direct manner, but the situation has changed, and I grow tired of the endless chase," Gabriel said. "You have served me faithfully for years, Mademoiselle Sancoeur. I want you to know that I sincerely regret what I must do now."

Nathalie retreated to the door, reaching behind her. She tried to open it, but found it was locked. "Wh-what—"

Gabriel's normally stern, emotionless face twisted into a dark, cold sneer. "NOOROO! LET THE NIGHT'S WINGS UNFOLD!"

Nathalie screamed...


Proceed to the conclusion, "Heartless"

Author's Notes

Miraculous Ladybug is the intellectual property of Zagtoon, Method Animation, Toei Animation, and Thomas ASTRUC. This intellectual property is used without permission with no intent to profit from said use. The unique content contained on this page is the property of Mythril Moth, and redistribution of this content without express permission is strongly discouraged.