The first thing Marinette noticed when she awoke was that she was most definitely not in her usual room. Opening her eyes, she glanced down to discover she was attired in a smart set of matching red and black spotted pyjamas, in a plain white bed with a plastic sheet which smelt like disinfectant. What the…
The next little observation she made was that the walls and floors to the unfamiliar place she now lay were devoid of any other kind of furniture save for a small bedside table upon which rested a cheap lamp, and the floors and walls were all padded and puffy like a giant marshmallow. Not quite the decor she'd have chosen, but right now she had bigger concerns.
Namely: where in the heck she was, what on Earth she was wearing and what is the last thing that I remember?! I was swinging through the streets of Paris as usual, en route to the latest akuma alert, when there was a bright flash of light, aannddd…
Everything else was a complete blank. She tried desperately to access those elusive memories for a good few minutes, all to no avail. Frustrated at her own inability to remember or even form the slightest notion about what was happening, she glanced around in vain for answers only to find precisely none. Other than what looked like some sort of pale gown sprawled messily on the floor and a dirty mirror in the corner, she seemed to be completely alone.
Deciding that she'd had quite enough of feeling confused and anxious, Marinette wasted no more time in leaping out of bed to continue her until now fruitless quest for answers. A couple more curious things came to her attention as her bare feet hit the spongy floor: some minisculely serrated scars running up her inner arm, a small transparent wristband with her name written on it, the fact she still felt so tired as if just stirred from a long, drug-induced nap…
Instinctively, she reached for her earlobes, not surprised at all to discover her Miraculous were not present. They didn't seem to be located anywhere else nearby either, so discussing the current predicament with Tikki was not a viable option.
She sighed to herself, hoping against hope that this was some sort of weird akumatised villain inspired-hallucination that she'd soon recover from. In the meantime, the fact she could feel it when she pinched herself and physically touch her surroundings made this reality as genuine as anything else, so she'd just have to roll with it. With an elongated sigh, she decided to turn to the mirror and wipe it clean, to find out what the rest of the 'damage' might be.
All things considered, it wasn't as bad as she expected. Her midnight black hair, which normally took on a hint of blue in the light of day, was no longer in bunches, and instead cascaded freely down her neck. There were visibly darkened bags under her eyes, as if despite her exhaustion, she hadn't been getting enough rest.
Everything else appeared to be in order though, and at the very least she looked like herself. This might ordinarily seem like a pretty minor thing, but under the current surreal circumstances nothing could be taken for granted, so she was glad for that small mercy at least.
After confirming she was still more-or-less Marinette Dupain-Cheng (albeit a very lost and confuddled version), her attention turned to the door, which looked as if it was designed to be as secure as a bank vault. Crossing her fingers tentatively, she scuttled over to try and turn the circular handle. Locked. What a shocker. That would explain the keyhole in the middle of the knob, I suppose. Oh well, guess I've no option but to wait it out and see what my captor intends to do with me. Then I can think about escaping…
She didn't have long to hang on for that, though. A few trifling moments later, before she'd even made it back to the sanctuary of her bed, she heard a key being inserted somewhere nearby, and saw the handle of her door slowly being turned anticlockwise. Without any further warning, the door was flung open, and the half-Chinese girl braced herself for a fight...
...But what she actually got was not quite what she expected. For there, standing in the doorway with an irrepressibly infectious smile present on her rosy cheeks, stood a youngish woman with her red hair in a tight bun and wearing a clean all-white uniform, apart from a hat emblazoned with a red cross. She didn't seem prepared to use violence at all, and upon seeing a stunned Marinette out of bed staring at her arrival in wonderment, her genial expression took on the appearance of a very motherly concern.
"Miss Dupain-Cheng, just what do you think you're doing?! Your parents are coming for a visit today, and do you have any idea what they'd say to me if they knew you were up and about without permission when you haven't even taken your daily medication? Now, get back under those covers this instant! Honestly child, you'll be the death of me yet!"
Quite taken aback by this unexpected chain of events, a nonplussed Marinette allowed herself to be guided back to her sleeping quarters and have the quilt pulled over her once more, while the nurse (for that's obviously who she was) began popping a couple of pills into a small styrofoam cup.
"Now, swallow these please dearie, then lift up your tongue…" The strangely familiar lady told Marinette firmly but pleasantly, passing the tiny container with the tablets inside to her 'patient'. "After you do that, we can get on with the rest of the day! First, we'll get you washed and dressed, then before your Mummy and Daddy arrive it'll be time for group therapy…"
"Your plan isn't going to work, you know 'Miss Caline Bustier'..." Marinette eyed the teacher-turned-nurse's name tag suspiciously, while tossing her medication away as far away as humanly possible in a room this size. "I don't know what Hawkmoth wants to accomplish with this bizarre make-believe vision, but it'll fail, just like all of his other evil schemes…"
"Oh my dear, we're not still going on about this fictitious 'Hawkmoth' character again, are we?" Miss Bustier didn't seem phased by Marinette's defiant stance one bit, and instead carefully brushed past her to deposit the pills back into the cup, making sure the door behind her was closed first, of course. "Exactly how feasible is it for a solitary man in a silly mask surrounded by magical butterflies to bring an entire city to it's knees?! Don't you think he'd get kind of lonely? And all that stuff about whether he's a twin or not… pure nonsense!"
Marinette didn't know exactly how to respond to this sudden claim from the amused nurse, the gobsmacked girl's only response being a stammered single word sentence borne out of pure amazement. "W-What?!"
Miss Bustier smiled sympathetically at her charge, as if the teenager was saying things she couldn't quite control. "My dear, you seen to forget… I've heard all of your funny stories multiple times already. What an imagination you have! The entire pigeon population controlled by just one person. A bubble-blowing boy capturing every single adult in his soapy creations. A child making voodoo puppets she manipulates using the power of thought alone. Mystical books. Magical jewelry. And a wisecracking feline hero with a tail, going by the name of 'Cat Noir'…"
If Marinette's jaw could have opened any further, she probably could have fit the rest of herself in there. "H-Huh?! W-What do you know about C-Cat N-Noir?!"
"Well, I 'know' you have a mega-sized crush on him, judging by the amount of good things I hear from you about your supposed escapades together…" Miss Bustier was now in the process of manually inserting the tablets into her patient's mouth, seeing as the bewildered girl couldn't be trusted to do it herself. "I can also tell you he's a resident here too, with many of the same tragic delusions you suffer from yourself. You even go to the same group sessions, where you entertain the rest of us with detailed re-enactments of your thrilling adventures. Don't you remember, you both checked in at more-or-less the same time? You've been pretty much inseparable ever since. Him as this 'Cat Noir', you as this 'Ladybird', what a team you make..."
She couldn't help it. As sworn as she was to protect her secret identity with her very life, Marinette unwittingly found herself correcting the nurse on her little verbal slippage. "I-It's actually pronounced L-Ladybug…"
Miss Bustier responding by shrugging her shoulders dismissively, as if she didn't really care. "Whatever. To be frank, I'm getting a bit tired of hearing about 'Spots On' this and 'Lucky Charm' that. I wish you'd save that kind of thing for the psychiatrist, or at least write a book about it to clear your head. It's not against regulations for me to have a typewriter installed in here for you, you know. Anyway, swallow those pills right now please, then we can put your dressing gown on and make our way to the bathroom. I bet you can't wait to see your friend Adrien again…!"
Almost running on autopilot by now, Marinette saw no other option than to comply with the nurse's instructions for now, and reluctantly allowed the chalky-tasting medication to drift down her throat and be absorbed into her system. As a finally-satisfied Miss Bustier began to help the perplexed teenager on with her gown, a large number of unanswered questions began to form inside her hazy mind.
Amongst all of them though, one stood out the most. Adrien? He's here too?! And we're friends, even in this bonkers world? What's he got to do with Cat Noir?! S-Surely he c-couldn't b-be...
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Welcome to a little side project of mine. The idea for this story was too good to pass up, despite my many other fics I'm working on right now, I put some time aside to write this first chapter. :)
Hope you enjoyed it, and updates will depend entirely on how popular it is. So, if you want more, don't forget to 'Fav' or 'Follow' it. A few comments would be nice, too. ;)