"For your next group project, you have been randomly assigned into groups of three," Madam Mendeleiev announced at the start of class. Like always whenever there were group projects, groans came from throughout the room. The purple-haired instructor's sharp glare immediately silenced most of the protests.
"I will write your groups down on the board while you work on questions seven and nine on page thirty of your textbook." Madam Mendeleiev glared out at the class until they complied. Soon the sounds of pencils on paper filled the room. As groups were written down, there was the occasional cheer or quiet groan as people glanced up to see who their teammates were.
Answering the second question easily, Marinette set her pencil down and looked up at the board, eyes scanning eagerly over the lists. Alya had gotten lucky in her group assignment, with both Ivan and Juleka as group members. Nino also had a good group, working with Alix and Rose. Madam Mendeleiev was still writing, though, and Marinette's name was not yet up on the board. She finished writing down the third group and moved on to group four.
Marinette winced and crossed her fingers that she wasn't in group four.
As Madam Mendeleiev paused to consult her list, Chloe turned to bat her eyelashes at Adrien and his expression turned horrified.
Adrien perked up and turned around immediately to flash a smile at Marinette as the instructor finished writing down the last group. She returned his smile, not entirely sure how to feel about the project. She was thrilled to be in the same group as her crush, of course, but working with Chloe was always a pain. The blond girl would surely make fun of Marinette whenever she messed up or got nervous around Adrien. Granted, Marinette had gotten a lot better about acting normal around her crush ever since her great uncle's visit for the cooking show, at least when she was only attempting normal conversation. Still, there were times when her tongue seemed to get tied in knots around Adrien.
"Each group will create a presentation on an assigned topic in biology. There will be no complaints, no switching, and no slacking off or I will hear about it." Madam Mendeleiev started passing around sheets of paper. "These are due in two weeks. Assignment details are on the paper, so don't lose it. Now, for the rest of class..."
"I'm so glad we're in the same group," Adrien told Marinette as soon as class let out. He flashed a smile at her. "You and Alya always do fantastic presentations."
"You and Nino do as well!" Marinette responded hastily. "And I'm glad as well."
"But you could do without...?" Adrien jerked his head at Chloe's now-empty spot and grinned when Marinette nodded sheepishly. "Me too, but I bet that between the two of us we can get her to do her share of the work."
"That would take a miracle," Marinette sighed, slinging her bag over her shoulder and joining Adrien as he left the classroom.
"Maybe we'll get lucky."
Chloe sat at the table inspecting her nails as Adrien and Marinette scoured the library shelves for books they could use. It hadn't taken them long to realize that their school library was really lacking on information on their assigned topic, so they headed for the nearest public library. Several other groups had the same idea, and they had spotted both Alya and Nino with their groups.
"Is it just me, or is it starting to seem like getting Chloe to do any work is just a lost cause?" Adrien asked in exasperation, coming up behind Marinette and easily tugging down the book Marinette had been trying to reach. Marinette dutifully ignored how his body had pressed against hers for the long moment when he was grabbing the book.
"I think we should just tell her that she only gets to present the parts that she researched and wrote, and if she doesn't do anything she won't get to present," Marinette suggested.
"Yeah, pretty much," Adrien sighed. "Knowing her, though, she'll just make Sabrina do all of her work and pass it off as her own."
"There's no way to win," Marinette agreed as they headed back to their table, arms full of books. Chloe didn't even look up as they sat down side-by-side and opened their books. Three minutes later, she pulled out a bottle of nail polish remover and started cleaning the polish off her fingernails. Marinette tugged her pile of books away from Chloe, worried that Chloe would accidentally spill on the books.
"I'm thirsty," Chloe announced thirty minutes and no work later. Her nails sparked with a new coat of pale pink polish. "I'm going to go get something to drink." Neither Adrien nor Marinette acknowledged her as she took her wallet and left.
"Do you have any books to put back?" Adrien asked after Chloe stalked off through the stacks. "I have a couple that weren't much use."
"Only one." Marinette handed it over. "Please tell me I wasn't the only one who got nervous when Chloe had her nail stuff open around the books. I was worried a librarian might come kick up out. That smell isn't exactly subtle."
"I hope Chloe has the sense to get a bottled water, not soda or coffee." Adrien sighed as he got up. "Those are both banned in the library. So is nail polish."
Marinette snorted at that. Yeah, right. Knowing Chloe, she would come in with a large coffee, spill it over some really valuable books, and find some way to blame Marinette.
Oddly enough, it took Chloe a full fifteen minutes to return, time Marinette and Adrien spent photocopying pages they needed and getting as many books as they could back on the shelves. As expected, Chloe was sipping at a large cappuccino and complaining loudly about the lack of cafes in the library when she returned.
"There's not even a single vending machine in the building! All they had were water fountains." Chloe's lips curled. "As if I would drink from the same fountain as everyone else in the city! I don't even know if they ever clean it, it's unhygienic. I had to walk two whole blocks to find someplace that sold something decent to drink. And then when I got back, a stupid librarian tried to tell me that I couldn't bring my coffee in. How stupid."
"Chloe, you know that coffee is on the list of things not allowed in the library, right?" Adrien had to force his voice not to sound like he was talking to a particularly dull child. "It's because it could spill on books and ruin them. They have some really rare and valuable books in this library."
Chloe waved an airy hand to dismiss his concerns. "As if I'd be stupid or clumsy enough to spill my coffee! Don't they know who I am?"
"A spoiled brat?" Marinette suggested under her breath. Adrien snorted quietly, making Marinette jump. She hadn't intended for anyone else to hear her comment.
Two minutes after Chloe settled down, an irritated librarian appeared from between the stacks, eying Chloe with no small amount of irritation. Marinette and Adrien exchanged exasperated glances before burying their heads in their books.
"Young lady, I told you that beverages other than water are banned from the library." She stiffened. "And food is definitely prohibited!"
Sure enough, Chloe had also bought a panini sandwich.
"What, do you want me to stand around outside and eat it? It's windy today- being outside would make my skin dry out and mess up my hair! Don't you know anything?" A sneer curled Chloe's lips. "Obviously not. Your hair is a mess- do you even condition?- and your face needs some moisturizer, pronto."
"Chloe, that's not nice," Adrien scolded. He was ignored.
"And I have to keep my energy up. I'm working on a very important project, can't you see?" Chloe gestured to her very empty spot at the table, apparently not realizing that she was just making herself look stupid. "What am I supposed to do, starve?"
"Library management expects all patrons to finish their food and drink before entering the building and asks people who have been eating to wash hands before handling books," the librarian recited stiffly. "If you didn't want to consume your purchases outside, eating at the cafe where you bought your items is always an option."
Chloe sniffed. "It was not. It was very small and crowded, not to mention loud. My poor ears would be damaged forever."
The librarian was getting very red in the face as she argued with Chloe. "That may be, but it doesn't change our rules. No food or drink in the library."
"Your rules are stupid," Chloe announced. "I'll make my father change them. Maybe he can get a decent cafe in this place, too." As soon as the librarian looked like she might protest, Chloe added, "Don't you know who I am, foolish fool?"
"All library patrons must follow the rules or risk being banned from the building. You could be the Queen of England and the rules still apply."
Chloe sniffed, setting her coffee down to glare at the librarian. "Ban me? I'd like to see you try. My father would have you fired in an instant." She turned her back on the librarian, a clear conversation over. It might have been effective, had her elbow not knocked over her coffee cup right as she turned, spilling her drink.
Adrien and Marinette bolted out of their chairs with near-superhuman speed, yanking their books off the table and out of the way of the rapidly spreading coffee. Marinette, closer to Chloe's cup, didn't get her books completely out of the way fast enough and drops of coffee dripped off the corner of one book.
"See what you've done now, idiot!" Chloe snapped at the steadily reddening librarian. "You made me spill, and now a book is ruined. Are you happy now?"
"Marinette, put the rest of your books over here," Adrien whispered as the argument escalated. He gestured to his chair, pulled a safe distance away from the dripping table. "Let's go get some paper towels. Maybe if we clean this up, only Chloe will get kicked out."
Marinette nodded and set the undamaged books down before following Adrien to the restroom. Chloe's haughty voice floated through the stacks as the argument between her and the unfortunate librarian got louder. It sounded like the librarian was trying to kick Chloe out and the blond girl was threatening to call her father.
"I wouldn't be surprised if there's an akuma attack soon," Adrien said as they exited their respective bathrooms with handfuls of paper towels. "The librarian sounded pretty upset, and I don't blame her. Chloe was out of line."
Marinette nodded in agreement. It was quiet now, which wasn't a good sign. When they got back to their table, Chloe was leaning against a bookshelf, watching dispassionately as what was left of her coffee dripped off the table. She was finishing off her panini as they got back.
"Wasn't that librarian rude?" Chloe asked as Marinette and Adrien started mopping up the coffee. She didn't offer to help. "I can't believe she made me spill. I called Daddy, of course, so she'll be fired any second now for treating the daughter of Paris' mayor so poorly."
"You were breaking the rules, Chloe," Adrien pointed out in exasperation. "It would have been fine if you had just gotten a water instead of coffee and a sandwich."
Chloe tossed her hair. "I wasn't walking all that way just for a water. Besides, the coffee at that cafe has really high reviews. Of course, that stupid librarian made me waste half of it with her yelling."
Marinette's phone vibrated in her pocket, and she pulled it out to see a single-word text from Alya.
Shoving the device back in her pocket, she turned to Adrien. "You were right earlier. We need to get out of here-"
"NO TALKING IN THE LIBRARY! IT'S AGAINST THE RULES!"
They all jumped in surprise, Adrien grabbing hold of Marinette's elbow as she stumbled. Seconds later, the akumatized librarian leapt up on top of one of the bookshelves surrounding them. Her eyes narrowed dangerously as she took in the scene below her, especially as she saw the sopping wet paper towels on the table and floor.
"NO FOOD OR DRINK IN THE LIBRARY! IT'S AGAINST THE RULES!"
"I'm pretty sure that yelling and jumping on the bookshelves is against the rules too," Adrien muttered quietly in Marinette's ear. Almost reflexively, she elbowed him in the gut. He snickered.
"RULE-BREAKERS MUST BE PUNISHED!" the Librarian screamed, producing a heavy-looking book and lobbing it at Adrien and Marinette. They spun out of the way quickly and in slightly startling unison.
"Pretty sure that throwing books is against the rules too," Adrien commented, earning himself another light smack from Marinette. They both winced at the sound of more heavy books hitting the shelves and floor as the akuma targeted Chloe. Marinette stooped to pick up the book they had dodged and tried to open it. It didn't open, and it only took them seconds to realize that it was fake. The Librarian must be able to conjure them up as her weapon.
"We've got to get out of here," Adrien said, tugging at Marinette's hand. "Come on, Chloe is already running and-"
A book smacked into the shelf next to Adrien's head and they both bolted.
"-like I was about to say, she's going to target us next!" Adrien gasped. They caught a glimpse of blonde hair in front of them heading for the exit and followed it. The sounds of the Librarian got louder as she gained on them. Marinette chanced a glance back and swallowed heavily. The books that the Librarian was throwing weren't sharp, but they were heavy and could knock someone out easily.
"We should split up so it's harder for her to follow all of us," Marinette suggested a bit breathlessly. She didn't want to ditch Adrien, but she had to transform.
"This is the fastest way to the exit," Adrien argued, tightening his grip on her hand. They rounded a corner to see a staircase and dashed down it, dodging as heavy books rained down on them. Once they got to the bottom, they had to race through the main level of the library.
"She's right on us!" Marinette gasped, trying to swerve off. Adrien's hand tightened around hers again, keeping her right behind him. Ahead of them, Chloe dashed into an open closet. Before she could slam the door and before Adrien and Marinette could dash past, an evil-sounding peal of laughter reached their ears. They looked back to see an empty eight-foot-tall bookshelf flying right at them.
With an embarrassingly high yelp, Adrien shoved Marinette in the closet in front of him before yanking the door shut. The bookshelf hit it not even a second later with an ear-splitting bang, trapping all three of them in what was actually a very small utility closet. It clearly had not been designed to hold three teenagers.
Adrien pressed himself up against the wall as much as he could, trying to give himself a little space. Someone was pressed up against his chest, one hand on his shoulder. The other girl was against the back wall. In the pitch black, it was impossible to tell them apart.
"Would you move your elbow?" Chloe's voice snapped from his left, sharp and whiny. "God, you guys are crowding me so much. Couldn't you find your own closet?"
"There was a bookshelf flying right at us Chloe, in case you didn't notice." Marinette's exasperated voice came from right in front of him, and Adrien relaxed. He definitely didn't mind having Marinette so close to him, since she was a good friend.
Of course, he'd mind even less if it was Ladybug stuck in the closet with him.
There was a rattling sound, followed by Marinette's exasperated sigh. "The bookshelf must be leaning against the door. It won't budge at all."
Chloe snorted. "Of course it won't. You have little toothpick arms. Adrikins, you try the door. You're so strong."
Adrien squirmed away as he felt Chloe's hand try to feel up his arm muscles. "I doubt I'd be able to do anything if the bookshelf is on the door. It looked pretty solid."
Did he want to try? Absolutely. But even though he had definitely gotten stronger from his fighting as Chat Noir, there was no way he'd be able to push open a door with a full-size bookshelf leaning against it. He could only hope someone strong would come by and free them, since there was no way he was going to transform in front of Chloe.
"Maybe Chat Noir will come by and rescue us," Marinette spoke up. Adrien blinked. Why did she single him out? He knew she was a fan of his, but most people thought Ladybug when they thought save.
"You mean Ladybug will save us," Chloe sniffed. "She always runs late, though. Poor service."
"She can't save anyone if she's trapped," Marinette breathed, so quietly Adrien almost missed it. He was sure that she hadn't intended for anyone to overhear.
An icy chill shot up his back. If Ladybug was trapped in her civilian form too, then they were in trouble. But how would Marinette know if Ladybug was trapped?
Suddenly, the answer flew into his mind. Marinette had known about the akuma attack before they had ever seen the Librarian because someone- Ladybug, surely- had texted her. He had suspected before that the two of them knew each other, mostly because of the whole Evillustrator incident. Maybe Marinette even knew Ladybug's secret identity. That would certainly explain why Marinette had kept trying to break away from him as they were running from the Librarian-
Or maybe Marinette was just guessing. Either way, he had to know.
Adrien slid his arm around Marinette's waist to pull her even closer to him. He could feel her stiffen slightly as she was pressed flush with him and he felt bad about making her uncomfortable, but Chloe couldn't hear any of this conversation.
"Marinette, you said something about Ladybug being trapped," Adrien murmured in Marinette's ear. She went even stiffer in alarm at his words. "I just need to know- is she actually? Is that what the text you got was about?"
Marinette paused before answering, almost hesitant as she started to relax a little. "I- yeah, yeah, it was. Why?"
Adrien groaned, working to keep his voice hushed. "Great. Because Chat Noir is trapped, too."
Marinette stiffened up again almost immediately. "Oh, no. How... how do you know? Did he text you?"
"Yeah, just now," Adrien lied. He hoped that Marinette hadn't noticed that he hadn't checked his phone at all since the attack started.
Marinette let out a quiet groan of her own, banging her head against Adrien's shoulder. "Great. We'll have to get ourselves out then."
"Any ideas?" Adrien asked. Nothing was coming to mind besides transforming into Chat Noir, and that was only a last resort. Had it only been Marinette in the closet with him, he probably wouldn't have even hesitated.
"We could both shove against the door at the same time," Marinette suggested weakly. "I'll turn the handle at the same time so we only have the resistance of the bookshelf to push against."
"We can try," Adrien agreed. He wasn't too hopeful that it would work. The bookshelf was heavy, and Marinette was tiny. Even if Chloe helped, they probably wouldn't have enough muscle to budge the solid wood bookshelf. "We'll have to turn around, though- do you want us to push with our backs?"
Before Marinette could respond, Chloe spoke up again. "You are not moving. I already have someone's elbow in my ribs, and if you move you might step on my shoes and scuff them all up. I don't want to be stuck in this stuffy closet, but I am not going to have my shoes trampled by a pair of klutzes."
Adrien sighed. "We don't really have a choice, Chloe. We need to get out of this closet so we're not trapped all day." It didn't matter if he didn't really think that it would work. Maybe Marinette lifted weights in her free time and was stronger than she looked. Next to him, Marinette was already twisting into position, ignoring Chloe's words.
Marinette's phone suddenly vibrated and she wriggled to try to pull it out. The screen's glow lit up the dark closet and they all squinted against the light as Marinette read the text on her screen. Adrien watched as Marinette's eyes lit up with a new idea.
"Alya and Nino aren't trapped! They could come and pull on the bookshelf from the outside while we push!" Marinette exclaimed excitedly. "That would be a big help."
"Except neither of them work out," Chloe snorted from her spot in the closet. "They'd be about as useful as wet noodles."
She was ignored.
"Adrien, do you think your driver would be free to come help?" Marinette asked, looking up at him. "He's pretty strong, right?"
"That's a great idea, Marinette!" Adrien exclaimed. The Gorilla would be able to help for sure, though he would probably insist on driving Adrien home right away. Maybe he could argue his way into being able to stay in the area, so they could continue working on their project right away once the Librarian was cured. He pulled out his phone with a bit of difficulty and swiped his way to his driver's contact. Even though Adrien was sure he was way too much in Marinette's personal bubble, she didn't say anything about it as she texted Alya and Nino.
"My driver will be here in five minutes," Adrien announced thirty seconds later. "Has Alya responded yet?"
"Yeah. She's still in the library anyway, trying to get footage of the fight. Nino's not happy about coming out into the open in the middle of a fight, but he's coming too." Marinette smiled up at him.
Exactly four minutes and thirty-two seconds later, they heard voices near the door. Adrien twisted himself into place, his shoulder pressed up against Marinette's as he got ready to push against the door.
"Push on three?" Nino called from outside.
"Yeah, just make sure you aren't in danger of the bookshelf falling on you," Adrien called back. "So push it away instead of pulling on it."
"Yeah, we weren't planning on getting squashed, bro," Nino responded. "All right, one, two, three!"
They all shoved, and within seconds Adrien felt the door give. There was a cheer as the bookshelf straightened up, letting the closet door open. Adrien and Marinette shot out like rockets from a cannon.
"I have to go find the Librarian," Alya said as soon as she assured herself that her friend was all right. "Ladybug and Chat Noir haven't shown up yet, and I want to be there when they do show up."
"Adrien, I should take you home now," the Gorilla said gruffly, clapping the boy on the shoulder. "It's not safe here, especially if Ladybug and Chat Noir are missing in action."
"I'm sure they'll show up soon enough," Adrien argued immediately. "I can go to a nearby building until the fight is over. We were in the middle of working on a class project, and I don't want to have to track down all of our books again."
"Fair enough," the Gorilla agreed after a moment of thought. "I'll escort you next door, and then I have to go pick up your father for his lunch meeting."
Two minutes later, Chat Noir bolted into the library, just in time to nearly collide with Ladybug. Marinette must have gotten her out pretty quickly after getting out of their own closet.
"My lady! Did you get trapped as well? I was starting to worry that I would never get out."
"Yeah. Are you ready to fight now?" Ladybug was already glancing around, trying to figure out where the Librarian might be. "She's caused so much destruction already. Funny, since she got akumatized because people weren't following the rules...and this destruction is definitely against the rules."
"Just what I was thinking, my lady." He bowed at the waist. "Shall we?"