A/N: Edited 9/23/16 to make it more canon-compliant and fill in backstory via the story instead of a hastily written author's note :D Still very much an AU, though.
Adrien couldn't help smiling as he walked down the street next to his mother. After she had been missing for so many years, it was something that he never thought he'd be able to do again. She had been strangely evasive about why she had been missing and where she had been during that time ever since she had turned up out of the blue at the Agreste Mansion several days earlier, but what did it matter? She was back, and that was all Adrien cared about.
While she wasn't willing to talk about where she had been, Mrs. Agreste was all too eager to grill Adrien about what he had been up to during her absence as they wandered through the neighborhood together. It didn't take her long to find out that he was no longer homeschooled (school is so much fun!) and that there were akuma attacks several times a week (she frowned throughout his explanation of what was going on there). They were just starting to talk about the friends Adrien had made at school as they headed towards the park, where an ice sculpture competition was going on.
As they got closer to the park, the air seemed to get colder. Adrien shivered and wrapped his blue scarf tighter around his neck. As pretty as the snow was, he hated winter, especially when it got ridiculously cold and windy. He would much rather stay inside, where it was nice and warm.
"I can't wait to meet your friends," his mother was saying as Adrien finished fiddling with his scarf and they rounded a corner. "They all sound fantastic, but I can't believe that Chloe-" She stopped talking and froze in the middle of the sidewalk. Adrien stopped as well as he glanced up from the sidewalk to see what had startled his mother so much.
Ice statues. Everywhere.
"I- I thought that the statues were just supposed to be in the park," Adrien managed as he looked at all of the ice statues scattered along the sidewalks and in front of the businesses that surrounded the park. The scene was eerie, especially considering that there were no people to be seen besides them. "Or are they supposed to be over here as well?"
His mother frowned, adjusting her own scarf. "There aren't. I'd say maybe a street artist made them, but making ice sculptures takes a whole lot of time. I doubt the police would allow obstruction of the sidewalk for long, either."
As they drew closer, they could see the ice figures more clearly. The sculptures were shaped like people, but they weren't in normal, attractive poses. Instead, they looked terrified, like they were fleeing from someone… or something.
"Adrien," Mrs. Agreste said, suddenly serious as she scanned the area. "Would an akuma be able to cause something like this?"
"They- they could, yes." Adrien said. He patted his pocket to wake Plagg up. A small whine floated up as the kwami protested his nap being interrupted. "It really depends on the akuma but yes, they could."
His mother frowned. "These poor people! Are they still aware of what's going on around them? Do they know that they're frozen?"
Adrien winced. "I… don't think so? Whenever I've been affected I can never remember anything," he added before remembering that oh, yeah, probably shouldn't say that in front of my very protective mother. Oddly enough, she didn't comment. His mom's entire focus was on the ice sculptures. She was inspecting one closely, peering into the eyes of a mother holding a young child. She winced and moved forward, continuing down the block towards the next group of statues. With rising horror, Adrien realized that the area around the Dupain-Cheng bakery had been hit rather hard.
His heart dropped.
Ignoring the concerned noise his mother made, Adrien dashed down the street towards the bakery. He passed more ice statues, dodging around outstretched arms and legs as he drew closer, scanning almost translucent faces for anyone he might know. Twenty paces from the bakery, he spotted Alya, phone still outstretched (though also turned to ice). Behind her, Marinette stood in a protective stance, arms outstretched. She hadn't been terribly successful, if the small child turned to ice crouched behind Marinette was any indication.
"Do you know them?" Mrs. Agreste asked, popping up behind Adrien and making him yelp.
"They're my classmates," Adrien explained. His shoulders slumped. "And my friends. This is Marinette, and the one with the phone is Alya. They must have been babysitting the little girl. I'd bet that they were heading over to look at the ice sculptures."
As Adrien scanned the area (had Nino been with them as well?), his eyes caught on a flash of color on the grey and white ground. It was Marinette's purse, the one that always hung on the girl's hip. It lay several feet away from Marinette, free from the ice. How it came off was a mystery to him, since the strap usually went over her head. Maybe she had thrown it at someone, possibly the akuma. After all, she the only one who didn't look even remotely terrified. Even Alya, who was used to being in the middle of things during akuma attacks, looked a little wide-eyed and horrified. Around them, other civilians had screams frozen on their faces.
He bent down to grab the abandoned purse before the dampness from the ice and snow could destroy Marinette's hard work, but his mother beat him to it.
"It's Marinette's," Adrien explained as his mother inspected the small purse. She glanced inside, inspecting the stitching curiously. Her fingers darted inside for a moment, probably inspecting the seams and construction, before she zipped the bag up and hung it carefully over Marinette's shoulder.
"If there really is an akuma in the area, we need to get you out of here," Mrs. Agreste said. She fiddled with her earlobes nervously. It was a tick Adrien had never noticed her having before, and he wondered if she had picked up the habit while she was missing. As she turned to glance around them, probably scanning the area for any sign of the akuma, Adrien caught a glance of dark studs in his mother's earlobes. It seemed like an odd accessory for a woman who tended to prefer light colors, but there wasn't any time to ask about that now. He had to somehow get his mother to safety, somehow shake her off to transform, and then track the akuma down and beat it without being turned into ice himself.
Before Adrien could make up some sort of plausible excuse, his mother had taken him by the shoulder and steered him into a nearby store. "Stay here. I'm going to go try to find help."
"Wait-" Adrien started, reaching out, but his mother was already out of the store and running through the snow. He frowned, then followed her out the door before anyone could try to stop him. He wouldn't be able to transform into Chat Noir in the busy store, and his mom might need help. If nothing else, he really needed to find a place to transform.
Ahead of him, his mother was threading through the statues, running in the direction of Adrien's school. Adrien's heart dropped as he realized something.
She was heading towards the akuma, if he was right. She was running in the same direction that the people turned to ice had been running when they were hit from behind.
Surely she wasn't going to try to fight the akuma herself?
As Adrien raced after his mother, he started to hear the screams that always accompanied the more destructive attacks like this one. They were coming from the school, which had been open for more winter activities and displays. It would have been absolutely packed.
Ahead of him, Adrien's mother didn't pause for even a second before running through the school's open doors. Adrien followed, far enough behind that she wouldn't see him.
Inside the school, the hallways were completely devoid of life. Ice sculptures filled the halls instead, unseeing eyes staring blankly through Adrien as he passed. Shivering in horror, Adrien forced his legs to move faster. If he could get to the locker room, or maybe a bathroom, it would be safe for him to transform-
His mother, it turned out, had had the same idea. She was already in the empty locker room, talking to something that was small, red, and floating. Before he could figure out what it might be, his mother flung out her arms and, in a flash of light, became Ladybug.
His brain (and his feet) ground to a sudden halt as he stared at the red-clad superhero standing in the locker room. He could only stare as she stretched and rolled her shoulders under the tight red material of her suit.
Ladybug was...his mom?
Nope nope nope nope nope nope nope.
This had to be some sort of truly fucked-up nightmare.
Adrien managed to dive out of sight as him mother- Ladybug- turned around and raced back out into the hallway. She continued down the hallway away from him and vanished around a corner.
"Ladybug is your mom?" Plagg gasped, flying up out of Adrien's collar as the boy managed to stagger into the now-empty locker room. He paused. "You fell in love with your mom. That's so messed up!"
"Oh my god."
"You wrote your mom a love letter," Plagg cackled, clearly enjoying himself far too much as Adrien's brain fried. "You've tried to kiss you mom-"
"Yes, Plagg, I am aware of that," Adrien ground out. He didn't want to think about any of it- he'd had fairly inappropriate dreams about Ladybug, after all, and had trailed behind her on patrol to enjoy the view more than once. Plagg knew all of that. Adrien's cheeks were flaming. "I'm never going to be able to look her in the eyes again!"
Several screams came from the direction in which Ladybug had run, and Adrien straightened up, forcing the heat from his cheeks. "There's no time for that now! Plagg, transform me!"
If he was supremely awkward during the fight, Ladybug had the grace to not say anything.
Chat Noir was dragging his feet as he approached their normal meeting place for patrol. How was he even supposed to look at Ladybug now? It was going to be all levels of awkward. How on Earth could Ladybug be his mom?
Of all the females on the planet to fall for, that was quite possibly the worst. Why couldn't it have been one of his classmates? Even Chloe would have been better.
Conversation with his mom had been extremely stilted after the fight. She hadn't seemed to notice, too busy zipping from one shop to another, looking for...something. They had stopped in at the Dupain-Chang bakery the longest, and Adrien browsed the assortment of baked goods they offered while his mother talked to Marinette, who was simultaneously manning the counter and trying to watch a small girl who Adrien vaguely recognized as the same one he had once done a photoshoot with and who had previously been turned to ice behind Marinette's legs. He had to smile at the harness Marinette had cleverly made to keep the troublesome child in place while she worked at the counter. They left with a full bag in his mom's arms. She was chattering happily about what she had talked about with Marinette. Apparently the designer had thrown herself in front of Manon, who was about to become the first victim of the furious ice sculptor after his sculpture got badly chipped.
"Not a lot of people would do that," his mom added as they drew closer to the mansion. Adrien's mind flashed back to the times he had done just that for Ladybug, with both Timebreaker and Dark Cupid. Maddeningly, his heart still leapt when he thought of Ladybug, and it was making him feel slightly ill.
No, heart, I REFUSE to be in love with my mom!
His heart wasn't very good at listening.
Ladybug was already at their meeting place when he arrived for patrol, perched on a chimney and surveying the city below her like a queen watching over her kingdom.
"Oh, good, I was starting to get worried," Ladybug commented when she spotted him, sliding off her perch and coming to stand in front of him. Her fingers landed on his arm lightly. "I hope the fight earlier went okay? I'm sorry I couldn't be there."
His stomach gave an ill lurch at how good her touch felt (stop it, heart) before her words registered. "Wait. What?"
She gave him a strange look. "The fight earlier? With the Icemaker?"
"But you were there!"
Ladybug heaved a long sigh, a smile tugging at the corners of her lips. "Ladybug was there, I wasn't. I got hit in my civilian form, and my kwami found an old Ladybug to transform." Her smile turned rueful. "I knew as soon as the Icemaker showed up that I wouldn't be able to escape to transform, so I pulled my earring out and got my kwami out of the line of fire before I got hit so she could find someone else to be Ladybug for the day."
"I didn't even know that there were other old superheroes around, since Hawkmoth hadn't been around before," Ladybug continued as Chat Noir continued to reel from the sudden onslaught of information. "But Tikki said that the old Ladybug fought something else. She wouldn't tell me what, though, just that I shouldn't worry about it unless it popped up again. I can't even ask the old Ladybug for details, because I don't know who she is. Tikki reappeared with my earrings a couple hours after the fight, so we must have passed each other somewhere around then."
Chat's mind was reeling. His Ladybug wasn't his mom?
In the back of his mind, he faintly heard Plagg say something that sounded suspiciously like "Yay! No incest!"
Not helping, Plagg.
"Wait- okay, question," Chat Noir finally managed as Ladybug turned, poised to swing away and start their patrol. She turned to face him, curious. "I know we said no personal information but I just have to make sure. You.. you don't happen to have any kids, do you?"
The curious look on Ladybug's face turned into something resembling abject horror. "Um. No. No, I don't have any kids."
"You're positive?" Chat Noir pushed, and she nodded, frowning in confusion. "And, um, are you younger or older than eighteen?"
"Chat Noir," Ladybug said warningly. She was really frowning now, her expression becoming closed off.
"I'm not trying to figure out who you are, promise," he assured her quickly. "Just- older or younger?"
"Younger," Ladybug said suspiciously.
"You're sure? And you're positive you have absolutely no kids?"
"Yes, I'm sure! Chat, what is this about-" Ladybug stopped, putting it together, and then a grin split her face. "Chat, was the replacement Ladybug your mom? And you saw her transform?"
He could only nod.
Ladybug burst out laughing, bending over double as giggles escaped her, then flopping down on the rooftop so she could laugh harder. He pouted at her, only increasing her mirth.
"You poor kitten!" She let out an ungainly snort. "Let me guess, you freaked out enough that you didn't even notice the difference?" His nod just set her off again. "Oh my god, that's hilarious!"
In the back of his mind, Plagg was snickering too. I can't believe you didn't even notice the differences, the kwami said delightedly. It was so obvious!
You KNEW? his mind raged back.
Plagg snickered. Of course! I'd recognize the old Ladybug anywhere! 'Sides, this Ladybug isn't blonde.
You couldn't have SAID something?
This was so much more fun!
Ladybug was still in stitches on the roof, clearly delighting in his misfortune just as much as Plagg was. Chat Noir pouted at her.
"I was traumatized!" Chat said sulkily. Her giggles increased again. "I thought I was in love with my mother!"
"Oh my god." Ladybug lay flat on her back, staring at the sky as she calmed down a little. "I would have paid to see your face when she transformed. I bet it was absolutely precious." Another giggle. "Poor traumatized kitten."
He couldn't help but smile at her words. He had never seen Ladybug laugh so much. "I'm glad that my pain amuses you so, my lady."
"You have to admit, it is kind of funny."
"I am scarred for life, Ladybug. Scarred for life. It was the most horrifying moment of my entire life. And you are laughing at my pain."
Ladybug rolled into a seated position. "That's never going to stop being funny. Never."
Chat Noir held out his hand and pulled Ladybug to her feet. She dusted herself off, the biggest grin on her face, and he suddenly found that he didn't regret the misunderstanding today, not at all, if he got to see his lady smile like that.