a/n: So I came up with the idea for this story after seeing some of the finale promo ads (so, uh, this is the warning trying to avoid ALL spoilers still, back up while you can). Of course, things in the actual episode ended on a different path than I expected, so this isn't canon anymore, but more of a "what if."

The promos/spoilers that I saw were of Hawkmoth with the Miracle Box and Chloe being Queen Wasp, so I figured- well, what if things went a little (a LOT) differently and that WASN'T resolved by the end of the episode? What if Hawkmoth continued to have the Miracle Box and Chloe stayed on the supervillains' side instead of throwing a temper tantrum? It presented some interesting opportunities, thus...this story.


When Marinette had invited Luka to hang out for the evening, he had expected that they would do something chill, maybe hanging out in a park together for a couple hours, or spending some time at a cafe or the movies (probably not the latter, honestly, that seemed a bit more date-like than Marinette seemed to be ready for), or maybe grabbing a sandwich for dinner and just wandering around for a bit. The most excitement they would have would maybe be someone recognizing him from Kitty Section or Marinette from her work with Jagged Stone, surely, and they could just enjoy their time together.

As it turned out, Marinette had other ideas. Or, rather, one other idea. As it turned out, she had somehow managed to find out that Hawkmoth would be giving Chloe Bourgeois the Bee Miraculous permanently that evening, and she needed backup while she stole the Miraculous.

Luka had not signed up for this, but apparently Marinette didn't have anyone else that was available or willing to be backup for her and he wasn't exactly willing to let her go on her own, so he reluctantly trotted along after her anyway. Maybe he would be able to talk Marinette out of it as they headed for the hotel, or pick out holes in her plan so that she would decide against it, or, or...

Luka was used to crazy. He lived on a houseboat with an anarchist mom and a sister who had gone through several less-than-typical hobbies, after all. He went to an arts-focused school, where free thinking was encouraged and odd ideas were common. But magical jewelry theft?

This was new, and even though he had been a superhero a couple times, it wasn't exactly something that he wanted to do on a regular basis. Not without superpowers and an experienced superhero on his side, at least.

"I'm already seeing a problem here," Luka commented as he jogged to keep up with Marinette, who, by the way, walked crazy fast for someone who was so much shorter than he was. Maybe he was no regular powerwalker- unless there was an akuma nearby or he was running late, Luka much preferred a relaxed stroll- but this was insane. "How are we meant to get into the hotel? I've heard that they're pretty picky about who comes in. And if the doorman sees us come in and then Chloe pitches a fit about her Miraculous getting stole- or just some jewelry getting stolen, I suppose she can't tell anyone about the Miraculous now- he'll be able to tell her exactly who took it."

"Oh, that's easy," Marinette said nonchalantly, as though breaking into the Grand Paris unnoticed was something she did regularly. She dug in the bulging delivery bag at her side, pulling out two motorcycle helmets and matching jackets. "We dress up as delivery people and tell the doorman that we're bringing a delivery for Chloe. It worked just fine last time, and I actually know what she normally orders now, too, which helps. The helmets hide our faces, and the jackets hide our shirts. And I wore my biking outfit instead of my normal clothes today, too, so that clue is gone, too."

"Last time," Luka echoed faintly, because apparently this was a regular thing. "Uh."

"And the delivery people always park their bikes on the same side of the hotel, so we'll come from that angle," Marinette continued, still not even remotely out of breath. "And I have a delivery bag for you, too. It would be a little odd for there to be two delivery people for just Chloe, but Jagged Stone is here, too. We'll say one order is for Chloe and the other is for Jagged-"

"And he won't get upset about that?" Luka asked. Maybe the rocker and his mom didn't get on very well anymore, but, uh, Luka was still not interested in getting on Jagged's bad side. "'Cause, like..."

Marinette waved that off. "Nah, he knows that I'm using him as an excuse to get in. He just texted me that Chloe's already down in the restaurant with her father." She passed a jacket and helmet over to Luka, then dug a second delivery bag out of hers and passed that over, too. "We can put these on in the next alleyway. The camera has been broken for months, and even when it wasn't broken it only covered the back half of the alley."

Why did she know that? Why did Marinette know any of this? While Luka couldn't deny that it was probably better to be with someone who wasn't going into a magical jewelry heist completely unprepared, the degree of preparedness was a little disconcerting.

A lot disconcerting. Like, he was starting to feel like he didn't know Marinette at all disconcerting. How much was he missing if he thought that something like this was totally out of character when it clearly wasn't?

When they got to the next alleyway, Marinette shimmed into the jacket and pulled on her helmet, slinging the delivery bag over her shoulders and filling it with a couple boxes salvaged from the top of the trash so that it wouldn't look empty. She looked completely relaxed, which was the complete opposite of how Luka felt.

Sure, he could believe that she could saunter past the doorman without causing an ounce of suspicion. She didn't look suspicious. But Luka, normally the picture of cool, calm, and collected?

His blood pressure was starting to inch up, he was sure of it. Still, Luka followed Marinette as she headed confidently down the street, her hair and face completely covered by the helmet. Most delivery people that he had seen didn't hide their faces, but other than that she completely looked the part. Still, Luka had his doubts. Surely the Grand Paris had better security than that?

"Sushi delivery for a Chloe Bourgeois," Marinette announced as she strode up to the door. Her voice was pitched slightly lower, making her sound older without sounding fake. Clearly Adrien wasn't the only one in her friend group who could probably go into voice acting. "And an order for Jagged Stone?"

"Of course," the doorman agreed at once, stepping aside and waving them in. "You know the room numbers?"

"Yes, of course. Thank you."

And just like that, they were in.

"Keep your helmet on," Marinette warned Luka as she led the way towards the stairs. "We'll be going up to Chloe's room first, and I'll get some stuff set up. Then Jagged Stone has to leave to do some recording work at his studio in twelve minutes, so I'm going to have you play lookout down in the restaurant and tell me when Chloe's coming up so I don't get taken off guard. I can pay you back for whatever you order."

Luka blinked, a realization finally sinking in past his (apparently permanent) shock. "Wait, did you say that Jagged Stone knows what you're up to? And he's supporting it?"

"Of course. Hawkmoth is totally not rock 'n roll, you know." Marinette led the way towards the stairs, and Luka scrambled after her. "I have a button-up and a wig in your bag for you to use while you're in the restaurant. You can change in the bathroom- there's one without a working camera in the hallway on the third floor. But we'll go up to Chloe's room first."

...there was literally no part of this that should be of course.

Luka was out of breath by the time they got up to the top floor. Ahead of him, Marinette didn't seem winded at all as she pushed open the door carefully before stepping into the hallway. With a confident bounce to her step, Marinette headed for one of the doors, slipping a white card down between door and frame until the lock popped open with a small click. Luka stared.

"That should not have worked."

Marinette shrugged, pulling the door open and tucking the card- a hotel key card, he could see now, when had she picked that up?- into her pocket. "Everything here looks fancy and top-of-the-line, but I've been here enough to know that looks can be deceiving. Mr. Bourgeois cut corners where he could, and he depends too much on security downstairs keeping out anyone who might want to break into the rooms."

"...the security that just let in two people who had their faces covered because they claimed that they were delivering food?" Luka asked, unimpressed. He had seen better security at the budget hotels that he and Juleka and their mom sometimes stayed at when their houseboat needed repairs or when they went on vacations to places that weren't along bodies of water. "Lovely. And, uh, what about cameras in this hallway?"

"They exist, but they never have anyone monitoring the feed during the day, only once the front desk shuts down for the night." Marinette ushered him in, then quietly shut the door. She checked her phone quickly, then led the way into Chloe's room. Or, rather, the middle room of Chloe's three rooms. That was needlessly excessive. "I assume that they'll meet in Chloe's main room, rather than her bedroom. Near her balcony door is most likely, because he and Mayura will want to have a fast escape route, but far enough in that they can't be seen from the outside since they don't want anyone to get confirmation that Chloe is still Queen Bee."

"I can't believe that anyone is actually buying her excuse that Queen Bee is actually just someone else impersonating her to try to get her in trouble. That's, like, the world's most paper-thin excuse." It was infuriating, actually, to see Chloe getting away again with behaving terribly, and this time with something as serious as cooperating with a terrorist. From what Juleka had told him, Chloe had been insufferably smug at school, though she refused to tell anyone why even though they all knew. "And apparently Ladybug and Chat Noir believe her, which- I thought they were smarter than that!"

Much to his surprise, Marinette snorted in what sounded suspiciously like amusement as she continued her scoping out of Chloe's room. "Do you really think that Hawkmoth would let his guard down enough to give Chloe the Miraculous permanently if the superheroes still publically suspected her? And if they kept insisting that the current Queen Bee was actually Chloe without, like, video proof of her transforming, I bet the mayor would cause some problems for them, and that is the last thing they probably need right now."

...that was very true and also very strategic. Luka was going to count himself impressed. It was also very logical, now that he was thinking about it- the mayor had thrown a big public fuss about Ladybug going over his head to talk the president of France into passing a law about arresting people who willingly worked with Hawkmoth, and while he had tried to pass it off as concern about the police using the law to go after akuma victims, Luka seriously doubted that. It was far more likely that he knew that his daughter was lying and he wouldn't be able to do anything about the law or stop the police from arresting Chloe when she messed up and confirmed her identity.

Again.

"Anyway, if they're probably going to be in here, I'll want my camera set up...mmm, about here." Marinette tapped at a side table, then tugged up the side of her jacket to get at what looked like a fully-stocked tool belt that had somehow materialized around her waist. At this point, Luka wasn't even going to question that. "It might not be a perfect angle and I might decide to move it later, but I need to be able to grab it quickly and I don't think Chloe will notice it-"

"Wait, that's a camera?" Luka demanded, staring at the thing in Marinette's hand. It was about as thick as one of his fingers, and the same length, with a cord dangling off of the end and ending in something the size of a small remote. "Is that meant to be some crazy spy equipment? Where did you even get that?"

"It's a wildlife camera," Marinette said with a laugh. "Meant to stick into very small holes, like woodpecker cavities. And I borrowed it from the zoo- and yes, I got permission to borrow it. They use it when they have birds nesting during the spring, to spy on the nests and see what's going on. It can record a couple hours of footage and can stream to phones, too, if you're close enough." She reached out, palm up. "I can set it up on your phone so that you can see what's going on in here, if you want. It would probably be easier than trying to text back and forth all the time."

Luka handed his phone over at once. He still thought this entire attempt was pretty much a suicide mission, but Marinette seemed determined and the most he could do was make sure to do anything that would make it less dangerous for her.

"Once Chloe comes up, I want you to linger up here in the stairwell and give me a heads-up if her butler or her father comes up," Marinette told him once his phone was connected to the camera. "Just look like you were heading up to the rooftop or back down if they come, but you just paused to check your phone. Then I can try to hide better and won't get caught by someone coming in her door. And you should be able to hear the elevator from the stairwell, too- it's not exactly quiet."

"I hope you know that all of this is killing my stress levels" Luka informed her. "I was perfectly chill this morning. This afternoon, even. Now, I'm going to be too anxious to eat."

Marinette considered that for a second, and for a moment, Luka hoped that maybe, just maybe, he had finally gotten through to her and she would leave the retrieval of the Miraculous to the superheroes, who also had magic powers and could fight and didn't just have a motorcycle helmet and a flimsy biking suit as protection. And then Marinette shrugged.

"Maybe you could get some tea instead?"


Chloe was definitely acting twitchy, Luka noted from where he sat with his steaming cup of tea. She was glancing out the window regularly, and when she wasn't doing that, she was checking her phone. She seemed snappy with her father, too, who looked concerned but clearly wasn't willing to question her at all in such a public setting.

He didn't know where Marinette had gotten her information about Hawkmoth swinging by the Grand Paris today, but it looked like she was right.

The ball of nerves in his stomach got worse, and Luka picked up his phone to check it again. Marinette hadn't sent anything yet, which he had to assume was a good thing. To kill some time, he opened his chat thread with Juleka and typed out a quick message.

Luka: If I don't come home later, tell Mom the jewelry heist wasn't my idea.

It was a joke, mostly, but that didn't stop him from feeling nervous. Maybe he was going to be in the stairwell, not close to the supervillains like Marinette, but if Hawkmoth really lashed out and destroyed a large part of the building in the process...

His phone lit up again with a response, and Luka scrambled to pick it up. Juleka had already responded and, well, she wasn't taking him seriously.

Juleka: LOL have fun!

...Luka was not having fun. Seriously, he hadn't had nerves this bad since he was younger, and he had not missed them. It was an absolute miracle that he hadn't gotten sick yet.

(Luka would give anything to have the Snake Miraculous right now. Having the option for almost endless resets... that would give him at least some peace of mind, even if he still had to put on a brave face just like he had all of the other times that he had transformed. A superhero couldn't let on how nervous he felt, even if it was just to other superheroes.)

(Also, this really seemed like something that Ladybug and Chat Noir should be dealing with instead of Marinette. They had powers and protection and were used to doing dangerous stuff.)

Across the room, Chloe finally finished her meal and stood, saying something to her father as she left. He didn't try to stop her as she headed across the room, simply watching her go with a slightly concerned look before shaking his head and standing himself, heading in the opposite direction. Luka downed the rest of his tea- it had not helped him relax, unfortunately- and then stood as well, thankful that he had already paid so that he could follow Chloe at a distance, texting Marinette as he did.

Luka: Chloe is leaving the dining area now&is headed back upstairs.

This was real now. Marinette wouldn't be able to leave Chloe's room easily once Chloe returned. She could still decide against trying to swipe the Miraculous, of course, or at least decide to delay until after Chloe took the Miraculous off for a shower or to go to bed or something. Even then, she would still have to spend time in the same room as not one, but two or even three supervillains, all without alerting them to her presence.

Luka wasn't going to be able to sleep for a week once this was over, he was so stressed.

(He had thought that being around Marinette would be relaxing, once. That time was starting to feel eons ago.)

It didn't take long for Chloe to get upstairs, and it didn't take long for Luka to get situated in his lookout spot, either. He leaned against the wall of the staircase, one foot propped up, and kept his attention on his phone as he navigated to the app that Marinette had installed earlier and popped one earbud in so that he could listen to the feed. If anyone passed by him, they would think that he was just a regular teenager, hanging out and trying to get some peace and quiet away from his family or something. The wig- mousy brown, about as far away from Luka's normal teal as they could get- and the rest of his borrowed outfit would ensure that.

On his phone screen, the picture hung for a few seconds as the connection established, and then started moving. Chloe was pacing back and forth anxiously, her eyes flashing to her window every so often. Marinette was nowhere to be seen, but that was probably a good thing. Nothing looked out of place yet, but that didn't necessarily mean anything. Marinette was smart enough to not leave any indication that she was there- or at least Luka assumed that she was. He was starting to reconsider his initial impression of Marinette, after all, because no one sane would try what she was doing.

(She- she did remember that she was dealing with a supervillain who could detect emotions, right? There was no way to know if he would be able to pick up the fact that there was more than one other person in the room, and that- that was dangerous.)

Marinette: No sign of Hawkmoth yet, but Chloe keeps muttering something about five minutes to go.

Luka let out a long breath, flipping back from his text messages to the video stream and dropping his head back to rest against the wall for a long moment. Normally, five minutes seemed like not a long time at all, flying by in a flash. Now, he suspected that it was going to stretch out into an anxious eternity.

A family tumbled by to go up to the pool for an evening swim, despite the lingering chill in the spring air. An older couple came down the stairs, nodding politely to Luka as they passed. There was a tense thirty seconds when Luka heard the elevator, but it whirred up past the top floor and up to the rooftop instead. On his screen, Luka watched as Chloe finally stopped pacing and spun around to face the window, peering out into the dark sky. Seconds later, the tall, forbidding silhouettes of Hawkmoth and Mayura appeared, stepping inside of Chloe's room.

"We're going to make this fast," Hawkmoth told Chloe as they came to stand in the middle of the room. He glanced around briefly, as though checking for anything out of place, and Luka's heart jumped up into his throat, but apparently nothing stood out. "We have one more person to stop by after this yet, but we want to make sure that you understand the rules first."

Chloe's expression turned sour. "I know the rules. This is hardly the first time that I've worn a Miraculous, and I'm not dumb."

Luka snorted at that. That was...debatable, honestly.

"Yes, I think the entire city is aware of your time spent as a superhero," Mayura commented cuttingly, one eyebrow raised in clear derision. "And you decided to go with the exact same transformation again despite that."

Chloe stomped a foot and yeah, Luka could definitely see why Hawkmoth had decided to trust her with a Miraculous. Not. "I didn't know that I could change it! You could have told me that. And anyway, it doesn't matter now because everyone's bought my story about it being someone else who's just jealous and trying to make me look bad. I got myself out of that problem, easy as pie. Everyone was dumb enough to believe me."

"Yes, well, we would like to avoid any more problems like that," Hawkmoth said, cutting off whatever Mayura was about to say. He took something out from under his arm- an octangular box, with a red design on the top and little golden circles on the side- and set it on a small side table. "So first of all, no wearing the Miraculous around. People will be on the lookout for it and even disguised, I think people will notice if you're wearing a comb. So have it in your purse, not in your hair. And do not leave during class to transform, that'll be too obvious."

"I know that."

The look Hawkmoth gave Chloe was dark, and shut her up quickly. "I can still change my mind, you know. Maybe it's inconvenient, but we can go back to just bringing you the Bee when we have a particularly promising akuma. That, of course, carries more risk to you, as someone could take a picture of you with us and prove that you're still the one behind Queen Bee."

Chloe went pale at that. Evidently she was smart enough to realize that even her father wouldn't be able to fully shield her from the fallout of something like that happening. "Right. I- I can be careful."

"Very good. And if you aren't, I will reclaim the Miraculous." Hawkmoth gave Chloe another long look, and she nodded quickly. "All right. If you can keep the Miraculous hidden and be subtle about joining fights- only ones when people won't notice you leaving- then we'll give you the Miraculous." He popped open the lid and- oh. Oh god. That was an entire chest of Miraculous. The fact that Hawkmoth had that...

Not good. Luka worried his lip, now more positive than ever that Marinette shouldn't be trying to steal the Bee. It was dangerous enough by itself, but when Hawkmoth had so many other Miraculous at his fingertips- sure, every Miraculous on the superheroes' side was a good thing, but was it worth it? It would just put a tiny dent in Hawkmoth's reserves. He probably wouldn't even care.

On-screen, Chloe had perked up. "You brought all of the Miraculous with you? You have all of them?"

"Most of them, but not the ones I need," Hawkmoth confirmed, passing over the Bee and then immediately shutting the box again and pushing it back a bit before Chloe could start rummaging through it. "As I said, we have someone else to visit today, and we have to figure out what Miraculous they might work best with."

"One Miraculous or more than one?" Chloe demanded, and Luka could see the greed in her eyes. "Can I have another Miraculous? That's more powers to use!"

Hawkmoth subtly nudged the Miracle Box back a bit more. "Not quite yet. I want the other person to have a full choice of the Miraculous. Besides, I want to see how you do with keeping the Bee secret first. We'll see later."

Chloe didn't look thrilled by that, but she clearly wasn't willing to push any more. "Right."

Wait. Hawkmoth had said he was going to be giving a Miraculous to another person, someone besides Chloe. Was there seriously another person in Paris selfish enough to want to side with the supervillain for- what? Their own gain? Revenge? Some other reason?

Whatever it was, Luka was willing to bet that it wasn't good.

"You haven't told anyone that you're still Queen Bee, correct?" Mayura demanded. "Anyone at all, even your friends?"

"No!" Chloe denied at once, but Luka could pick up the slight quiver to her voice. It was a lie, more likely than not. "I'm not going to tell anyone!"

Not going to tell and haven't told were two different things, but the supervillains seemed content.

"Very well. See that you keep it secret, then. If not..." Hawkmoth let the threat hang in the air. Chloe nodded frantically, shoving the comb into her hair with shaking hands.

And then behind them, the TV clicked on and Madam Chamack's voice filled the room, the volume turned way up. Marinette's distraction.

"-we continue covering the story of a local pet shelter-"

The supervillains both whirled around in surprise, followed by Chloe. There was a split-second of shock, and then Hawkmoth pulled a sword from his cane and lunged at the TV. Behind them, faster than lightning, Marinette popped up from behind the couch, swapped out the Bee Miraculous in Chloe's hair for a plain comb, and flung herself soundlessly back over the couch and into hiding again before anybody could turn around.

It was absolutely seamless, and very effectively covered by the sound of Chloe shrieking at Hawkmoth for destroying her giant TV. Marinette still was wearing the helmet and her dark, formfitting biking suit, but apparently had ditched the delivery jacket for the time being.

Considering that that was bright red, that was probably a smart move. Also, that was crazy smooth.

"Somebody has to be in here," Hawkmoth was saying onscreen, his voice carrying over Chloe's shrieks. There was a dark scowl on his face as he stepped forward, eyes scanning the room. Luka's heart jumped into his throat. "TVs do not just turn themselves on-"

"They do here!" Chloe shouted at him angrily, and, uh, had Marinette been sneaking into the Grand Paris on a regular basis to do that? There was no way that Chloe's TV just happened to have a problem that would provide the perfect excuse. "Mine has been doing that for the past week, and Daddy was going to have an electrician come in tomorrow to fix whatever the problem is, but now you've destroyed it! How am I meant to explain that?"

Hawkmoth paused, glancing over at Chloe. "This...is a known issue?"

"Ugh! I just said that, weren't you listening? It woke me up two nights ago at three in the morning! I had to unplug it last night so that I could get my beauty sleep!" Chloe stomped a foot, clearly unhappy. "And just because you're paranoid, you've destroyed it!"

"I think that you'll find that in this business, paranoia is better than letting your guard down," Hawkmoth told her, voice practically dripping with ice as he sheathed his sword. Clearly he wasn't going to spend any time trying to placate Chloe. "Perhaps you should have kept your TV unplugged, if you knew that it might turn on while we were here. Consider it a lesson. It'll give you practice in coming up with cover stories."

Chloe opened her mouth to argue, but closed it again, clearly fuming. For once, things weren't going Chloe's way and she had to accept that. Luka tried not to snicker at the expression on her face as his phone buzzed with an incoming text.

Marinette: Head out. Now.

"Wait, what?" Luka asked his phone, frowning, but he pushed away from the wall and started down the stairs regardless. Marinette was the boss of this operation, so he would listen to her. "Why?"

Marinette's grab of the Bee had gone smoothly- there was no reason for him to have to leave! All she had to do now was wait for the supervillains to leave and for Chloe to go to bed, and then Marinette could just stroll out of the room. Simple, and not- well, it was still a bit risky, but not nearly as much as before.

"Wait- Luka, is that you?"

Startled, Luka glanced away from his phone and came face-to-face with Adrien coming up the stairs and behind him, Kagami. She looked openly exasperated, which was odd. "Adrien?"

"It is you! What happened to your hair?" Adrien leaned closer. "Is that your natural color? Why are you wearing sunglasses at night?"

"It's a disguise," Luka admitted, honestly too surprised that Adrien had even recognized him to try to deny it. "What are you guys doing? I wasn't expecting to see you here."

Adrien's lips quirked up. "I could say the same to you, honestly. But, uh..." He glanced around, suddenly shifty. "We're here for, uh..."

"Oh, you might as well tell him instead of beating around the bush," Kagami cut across, exasperation clear in her voice. She elbowed Adrien, making him stumble to the side with an oof. "Adrien somehow found out that Chloe was getting the Bee Miraculous from Hawkmoth for good tonight, and he had the idea that he might actually be able to persuade Little Miss Selfish to turn back over to the good side, or at least return the Bee to Ladybug. I came to make sure that she wouldn't just skewer him and drop him in the Seine."

"I was also considering just trying to steal it from her," Adrien protested. "I mean, persuasion would have been my first step, but I don't think she would have expected stealing-"

Luka tried not to groan at that. What was this, Magical Jewelry Thievery Night and no one had told him? "You're too late. Marinette's already done that."

Adrien blinked, looking rather as though he had just been clobbered over the head with a codfish. "She- what?"

"Yeah, I've been playing lookout," Luka told them, holding up his phone. He could still hear Hawkmoth's voice in one ear, quizzing Chloe on his instructions. "And watching- Marinette has this camera-"

A loud FWOOOSH over his earbud cut Luka off, and he glanced back at his screen and promptly yelped. "There's fire! Why is there fire? Where did the fire come from? Oh my god-"

"We're leaving," Kagami decided for them when Adrien made to dash up the stairs and Luka had half-turned to follow him. She grabbed their hands and yanked, stopping them in their tracks. "Stop trying to play the hero, Marinette is fully capable of taking care of herself and getting out of there. Come on, let's go!"


Marinette caught up to them several blocks away, after Luka, Kagami, and Adrien had finally stopped. It was far enough away from the evacuated hotel crowds that they could talk without being overheard, but still within seeing distance of the Grand Paris. The fire in Chloe's room was still going, but not nearly as strong as before.

"Oh my gosh, you startled me," Luka said with a half-laugh, handing back his delivery bag- with his outfit and wig stuffed inside, since he hadn't wasted any time in shucking them once they were out of sight of the panicking crowd of guests. "And you somehow changed again? How?"

Marinette just shrugged, looking very put-together and not at all like someone who had just stolen magical jewelry and then committed arson. A dark blue jacket and long, swirling black skirt covered almost all of the bike suit, and her hair was pulled back in a low bun with a sprig of flowers tucked into it. If he ignored the rather strong smell of gunpowder and smoke lingering around her, Luka would think that she had just come from a date. "I hid more clothes in the alleyway that we changed in before. I thought it would be a good idea."

"You are absolutely insane," Kagami informed Marinette. Out of all of them, she seemed to be the only one to share Luka's opinion that the whole ordeal had been crazy and asking for trouble. "Insane. You and Adrien both, thinking that you could steal a Miraculous-"

"I did steal a Miraculous," Marinette pointed out, tucking a stray bit of hair behind her ear. "More than one, in fact. The Bee and the Peacock and- wait, did you say that Adrien had the same idea?"

Luka's jaw dropped, staring at Marinette. She had done what now? "You got the Peacock? I- just- how? What?"

Seriously, he had thought that Marinette was just a relatively normal girl, celebrity connections aside. But this- had she gone to spy school or something to be able to pull a heist like that off by herself?

Marinette looked confused by his confusion, which, just. What. She hadn't told him that stealing a Miraculous from a transformed, experienced supervillain was part of the plan! Why would he not be confused?"Yeah? That was why I set the fire, so that they wouldn't be able to see me coming. I would have preferred to get Hawkmoth's Miraculous, but he was already more on edge and in a bad spot and it would have been harder." She shrugged. "Better to get a small fish and be able to eat than to go for a large fish instead and go hungry."

What.

"That's smart, Marinette!" Adrien said eagerly, apparently completely oblivious to how crazy all of this was and apparently either missing or ignoring the implication that Marinette thought that she could have potentially gotten Hawkmoth's Miraculous at all. "The superheroes might be able to use the Peacock create sentimonsters that are tailored to defeat Hawkmoth's akumas so that they can deal with Hawkmoth directly when he comes out! That's a really good Miraculous for them to have!"

...okay, seriously, was there something in the water at Adrien and Marinette's school? Luka wouldn't have been able to come up with an idea like that on the fly, without some serious outside influence. Unless he was actively fighting an akuma as a superhero, Luka wouldn't consider what the superheroes could do to fix it, just because- well, it wasn't his problem.

(That sounded bad, maybe, but it was true.)

"But Hawkmoth still has a number of other Miraculous on his side, does he not?" Kagami questioned. Her expression suggested that she, too, was choosing to ignore the absolute astronomical levels of crazy coming from their friends, at least for the time being. "I mean, I can recognize that any progress is good progress when it comes to getting Miraculous back, and that's a nice point that Adrien made about how they can use the Peacock to counter the akumas, but..."

Luka nodded, remembering what Hawkmoth had said. "Yeah, he had a giant box of Miraculous with him today. Apparently they were going to go visit another ally after giving Chloe the Bee."

Kagami startled at that bit of information and let out a string of words that, considering the context, Luka was assuming was rather colorful swearing in Japanese.

Marinette's lips quirked up into a little smirk that rather reminded Luka of Ladybug when one of her plans worked perfectly and she had taken down a particularly difficult akuma. "Well, about that..."

All three of them turned as one, gaping as Marinette opened the bag at her side and rotated the motorcycle helmet inside to reveal the Miracle Box jammed inside of it.

There- there was no way. How?

"Hawkmoth was too distracted by Mayura's Miraculous getting stolen and the fire to guard the box, too," Marinette explained, looking rather pleased with herself as she rotated the helmet back to hide the box and zipped her bag shut, holding it in front of her where she could keep an eye on it. "He was rushing to get her hidden and akumatized so that her identity wouldn't get revealed. So I grabbed the box on the way out."

"Did you use the Bee?" Adrien asked curiously. "I mean, to get out fast..."

"Yup!" Marinette grinned. "I used the light and distraction from my hairspray firebomb to transform with the Bee, and then I activated Sting pretty fast and got Mayura. Hawkmoth is a big scaredy-cat who would rather turn and run than fight when things aren't going his way, so he wasn't willing to get close."

...was Marinette human? All signs were starting to point to no. Luka was starting to think that if Marinette and Ladybug ever teamed up, Hawkmoth would be flattened in the time span of about an hour. Despite having never actually fought him before, Marinette didn't seem at all scared by Hawkmoth.

And that was honestly pretty unnerving.


"How was your evening, Luka?" Anarka asked as soon as Luka returned to their boat, absolutely exhausted and still smelling very faintly of smoke and gunpowder from the hotel and from standing next to Marinette. "Did it go well?"

Juleka grinned over at him from where she was working on her homework at their table. "How did the jewelry heist go? Did Alya catch you guys?"

Luka paused halfway through rummaging through their fridge for leftovers and turned to Juleka, frowning. "Wait, Alya? Why would Marinette try to steal something from Alya?"

"It was a dare- wait, you mean you weren't trying to get Alya's new bracelet?"

He wished. Not that retrieving Miraculous from a supervillain wasn't more productive or helpful, because it was, but just getting a bracelet for a dare would have been more fun and less worry. Knowing what he did, though, Marinette had probably been able to pull off that particular dare by herself and in the time span of about two minutes. "Uh, no?"

"Well, either way, you weren't the only one to have an exciting evening," Anarka told Luka, handing him a plate of food. "Have you heard yet? There was a huge fire at the top of the Grand Paris! They've gotten it put out now and the only person hurt at all was the mayor's daughter and it wasn't terribly serious, but it broke out really suddenly, it sounds like."

"Yeah, I know, I was there. That was Marinette," Luka told her, resigned to this apparently being his life now. He accepted the plate, striding across the room in a few quick steps before flopping down on the bench next to Juleka. Now that the adrenaline was gone and his heart rate was slowly inching back to normal, he was exhausted. All of his energy had just drained out of him, it seemed, and it wasn't a particularly good feeling. "Somehow she found out that Hawkmoth was going to bring Chloe the Bee Miraculous for good tonight- and she never did explain that- so she decided that she was going to steal it, and then while she was there, she decided to just, like, steal the Peacock and the entire box of inactive Miraculous Hawkmoth had with a can of hairspray and a lighter while she was at it. There might have been the contents of a firework or two too, Marinette wasn't entirely clear on that bit."

For the first time in a long while, his mom was left speechless. Juleka looked impressed.

"Rad."

"She wanted me to play lookout, so that she didn't have to worry about people coming in from the hallway unexpectedly, and I don't think I've ever been so stressed in my entire time." Luka let out a long breath, and yeah, his fingers were still shaking. Even if he had wanted to play guitar to try to relax, he wouldn't be able to. "And Marinette was completely calm, like this was something she did every day! Like, she rejoined us- oh, and by the way, Adrien also showed up to try to steal the Bee from Chloe, with Kagami as his backup, because that was apparently just the thing to do tonight- and she was just all, like, oh, by the way, I didn't JUST get the Bee, I also got the Peacock, and then just grabbed this entire box of Miraculous as a bonus on the way out, AND got footage of Chloe cooperating with Hawkmoth-"

"Oh, she did?" Juleka asked, perking up. "Sweet. Everyone knew that Chloe was lying, we just couldn't prove it."

Luka nodded. It had just been yet another absolutely unbelievable achievement of Marinette's. He had figured that, to get the Peacock and the Miracle Box, Marinette had to have cut her losses somewhere. Apparently not. "She said that she flung it away towards the door and out of reach of the flames before going for the Peacock, then circled back around to grab it after Hawkmoth ran off. She and Adrien were going back to her house to go over the footage and see if they could get any clues about who Mayura might have been."

"You didn't go with them?" Anarka asked, clearly disappointed. "That would have been so cool! Fire and fireworks and rebellion against supervillains- that sounds fantastic!"

"Adrien seemed excited about the idea and I had had enough excitement for one day, so I waited with Kagami until her driver came, and they gave me a ride back." It sounded like an underwhelming end to the night, Luka had to admit, but he had appreciated the opportunity to relax and talk with someone sane and not get roped into any more insane schemes.

Not, of course, that he didn't think that Marinette wasn't sane, but he hadn't expected her to come along with so much excitement.

And stress. Also stress. So much stress.

(Marinette was fantastic and creative and brave and all that, but Luka was starting to think that they might be better as friends, if that evening was any indication of what a relationship with Marinette might be like. His blood pressure wouldn't survive and, well, Marinette would probably do better with a partner who was fully willing to follow her into anything and be more than just a stressed-out lookout.)

"It would be really rad if they figured out who Hawkmoth is," Juleka said, clearly still fascinated. "Alya has been trying to figure that out for months. I bet that she would have loved to come along!"

Luka frowned. Yeah, that was true... and also very odd that Marinette apparently hadn't asked her best friend to play backup for her. The Ladyblogger seemed to thrive on danger and thrills, always taking risks during battles-

-and actually, that was probably why Marinette had decided against bringing Alya. Bravery was important, but so was restraint and common sense. Having someone who could very well decide to go rogue and burst into the room to try to get a scoop would be less than ideal. Besides, from what Luka had seen, Alya seemed to vastly overestimate her best friend's clumsiness and underestimate her frankly superhuman ability to get things done.

"Yes, I'm sure she would have," Anarka said, but her voice came out strange. Luka glanced up from his dinner with a frown, glancing over at his mom, but she was frowning down at her phone. "Luka, you said that Adrien was definitely going to the bakery with Marinette, right? There was no chance at all of him going straight to his house instead, right?"

"Yeah, he was going to Marinette's place," Luka confirmed, frowning. That seemed like a strange thing to suddenly focus on. "Why?"

Anarka hesitated, clearly deliberating for a moment, and Luka's frown deepened. He hadn't ever seen his mom like this before. Normally, she just told them whatever was on her mind, even if it was something that most parents would keep from their kids. Whatever she was seeing on her phone was bound to be serious.

"Mom?"

"I just hope you're right," Anarka finally said after another pause. "Because, well..." She crossed the room and held up her phone, and Luka's heart dropped into his stomach. Next to him, Juleka gasped.

Because there, on the screen, was the Agreste mansion, smoke wafting gently out of the smoking crater where the center of the house had previously been.


a/n: ...yes, while this is a one-shot, there will be a companion piece. For anyone going 'oh, hey, that's not realistic at ALL"...well, you'll find out HOW Marinette managed to achieve as much as two people (hint: magic). Also, Feast showed off just how kickass Marinette can be when she sets her mind to it even without the Miraculous, so yes, I am absolutely going to take that and run with it literally all of the time now.

As always, comments make my day!