Marinette had been Ladybug for four years, three months, and fifteen days when she started realizing that- well, that something a bit strange was going on.
Everything started when she caught wind of the- apparently quite common- perception that Ladybug wasn't a teenager as a lot of people had originally thought, but actually an adult. For some reason, though, people still saw Chat Noir as a teenager instead of assuming the same thing about him.
"I don't know why people would think that, Tikki," Marinette told her kwami that afternoon, after she had made her excuses with Alya and headed home from their group outing a little early to get a bit of homework done. "I mean, when we started out- well, it was pretty obvious that we weren't experienced, and that we were learning a lot, and then there was that stupid textbook, too, plus I was really short then. So maybe I wasn't happy that people had figured out that I'm a teenager, but it at least that assumption made sense!"
Tikki giggled. "Maybe it's the Miraculous magic that's interfering?" she suggested, the impish look on her face suggesting that she knew exactly what was going on but she wasn't going to tell. "At any rate, that's a good thing, right? People aren't thinking about someone your age when they try to figure out Ladybug's identity!"
"Ugh, I don't know," Marinette muttered, making a mental note to maybe look into the subject more later on. She honestly didn't keep up with the news about her and her partner much anymore- she had better things to do with her time, both in her normal life (unfortunately, superheroes still had homework and babysitting and commission deadlines) and the superhero one. That was why the whole we think Ladybug is actually an adult! had taken her by such surprise. "I mean, I guess, but does it really matter that much what the public thinks if Hawkmoth knows that the timers are a sign of a Miraculous holder not being an adult yet? It might throw Alya off of my trail a bit more, but- well, I've already done that, when I used the Fox to create a Mirage of Ladybug rescuing Marinette!"
Tikki giggled some more. "More confusion around your identities is always a good thing! Even if it's just one of the city's superhero reporters that doesn't think that it's possible for you to be the same person."
"Yeah, I guess." Marinette thought about it for another minute, then shrugged and pushed the thought away. She was far too busy to waste time wondering about inaccurate speculation and gossip about her superhero self. It wasn't as though it was doing anyone any harm, anyway. "I'll figure it out later. Tikki, can you pass me my Literature notebook? I want to finish all of this week's readings today. Then maybe I'll have enough time later in the week to tailor a couple of my outfits so that they fit me better."
"Ugh, Chat Noir, can you stop growing?"
Up ahead of her, Chat Noir snickered, shoving his hair back out of his face as he flashed a devilish look back at her. "Jealous, Bug? It's not my fault that I've actually grown and you- have you shrunk, maybe?"
"Ugh," Ladybug grumbled again, pushing herself forward as they raced across town towards a reported akuma. That was totally unfair. She had grown, surpassing her mom and keeping up with all of her friends. Maybe she wasn't the tallest out of them, but it wasn't as though she was dwarfed by Adrien and Nino or anything. Adrien was the tallest of her friends, even, and she came up to just around his nose, but with Chat Noir?
With his latest growth spurt, Ladybug would be lucky if the top of her head even managed to reach his shoulders. Her partner delighted in his towering height, making a big deal about teasing her about being able to reach things without jumping, or swinging herself up.
Not that it was exactly a big deal if she had to do that, of course. It wasn't hard. Besides, being small had its advantages! There was less surface area to get grabbed or hit by akumas, it was easier to wedge herself into hiding spots, she could slip into small spaces far more easily than her gangly partner...
...but still. It was the principle of the thing. She didn't exactly want to look like a child next to her ridiculously towering partner. Maybe the city had decided that she was actually the adult out of the two for some strange reason, but it would be nice to actually look the part.
(Her one condolence was that there were short adults, ones even shorter than her. She would have been super grumpy if she had stopped growing at her mom's height, since- well, Ladybug was pretty certain that no one would have taken her very seriously if even some école élémentair students towered over her.)
"My Lady?" Chat Noir asked after several minutes of running had passed. He had slowed down, Ladybug noted in the back of her mind, and she had subconsciously matched him. "You're quieter than usual. I don't actually think that you've shrunk!"
Ladybug had to laugh at that. "I know, kitty-cat. And I have grown, I swear! Just- just not to ridiculous-person heights," she added with a sniff, turning up her nose. "It's completely unnecessary."
Chat Noir snickered at that, his ears perking back up as his worry clearly dissipated. "Unnecessary? Do you want to know how useful that unnecessary height is in my civilian life? Why, just the other day, my friend's mom asked me to grab something from a high shelf so that she didn't have to get out the stepstool, and she called me a very helpful young man when I did!"
"I've heard that tall people have a higher risk of blood clots and cancer," Ladybug parried, hoping that she was actually remembering her reading for health class correctly. "And heart issues. I'd rather have to pull out a stool than have heart issues."
Chat Noir practically fell over as he laughed even harder. "I think you're making stuff up and evading! Cancer, really?"
"Am not!" Ladybug insisted, even though she was totally evading Chat Noir's point. Adrien had done something similar for her mom earlier in the week (and had been rewarded with a cookie, which he had been far too happy about), and Marinette had been thankful for his height and extra reach then. He helped her and Alya all the time with reaching books in the library, too, when there was something that they couldn't quite reach. It didn't happen often, necessarily- neither of the two girls were really short, just normal sized thank-you-very-much- but sometimes a book was just barely out of reach and it wouldn't be a good idea to try to pull it down because it could slip out of her grasp and hit her head and then knock her out and then she would get a concussion and fail her exams and-
Well. Anyway. It was probably a better idea to either ask for help or grab a stool instead of risking injury to herself or damage to the book.
"I hope you know that I'm looking that up when I get home," Chat Noir informed her. Then he snuck another glance at her, slowing down a touch more. At this rate, civilians were going to start complaining about the superheroes taking forever to get there.
Ladybug quirked an eyebrow at him. "What, kitty-cat?"
"You know, if your height bugs you that much, my Lady, Plagg told me that our transformations- well, they can be whatever we want," Chat Noir told her, his voice going quiet so that no one would overhear him. "And, if we really wanted to, it can change, like, physical features. Like height."
Ladybug blinked at him, and then her partner's suggestion sunk in and she scowled. "I'm not going to cheat and magic myself taller, Chat Noir!"
"It was just a suggestion, in case the height stuff was really bothering you!" Chat Noir yelped, backpedaling quickly. "In case you didn't know about that bit but might be interested! I wasn't saying that you should or anything! Just that it was something you could consider. If you wanted to."
"I wouldn't consider it," Ladybug told him tartly. "What would be the point?"
(That was a lie. She totally considered it.)
(Just for a moment, though. Really.)
Marinette scowled as she shot out of yet another hiding spot that had been invaded by other students and made (another) dash for it, pushing herself to run as fast as she could. She could hear the akuma drawing closer, and she really had to transform before the akuma tore into the area and zapped her up alongside all of the other civilians in the street.
Ugh. Why couldn't people find their own hiding spots and leave hers alone? Everyone knew by now that the more people that were hidden in a spot, the more likely it was that the akuma of the day would find them.
"Marinette! Hold tight!"
"What-" Marinette started, startled, before she was scooped up my a pair of familiar arms. A second later, she and her rescuer were up on the rooftops and positively flying across the city, the streets a blur below.
Aha. It was Chat Noir.
It had been a few years since she had really interacted with her partner as a civilian, Marinette realized as she clung to Chat Noir's shoulders. There hadn't really been any akumas targeting her, not since Lila had been sent packing in disgrace, and the agility and strength that she had gotten from battles as a superhero helped her get out of the way before she could get in much danger- well, most of the time, at least. There hadn't been any more akumas wanting to go out on dates with her, either, or awkward encounters leading to more-awkward brunches with her parents. So it was honestly a little surprising that he remembered her name, all things considered, and even more surprising that he would go out of his way to rescue her specifically.
Not that it wasn't appreciated, of course, because it very much was. But it was still surprising.
"That akuma doesn't look like one to mess around with," Chat Noir puffed in her ear as he launched them across a street. "And I'm pretty certain that I saw Hawkmoth and Mayura out and about, too. So this battle is going to be super fun."
"Can you drop me off at my house?" Marinette asked right away They were headed in that direction anyway, she could tell, and if her partner was right- and he often was- about the supervillains being out, then she would need to grab a few Miraculous for backups before going out. "I can stay there, it should be far enough away from the akuma. You remember, at the bakery?"
"Got it, Princess!" Chat Noir's trajectory didn't change, which- well, which suggested that he had been headed for the bakery anyway. He adjusted his grip and sped up when a loud bang behind them signaled that some building had been pretty well destroyed. "Hold tight!"
It didn't take long at all for them to reach the bakery. Chat Noir landed lightly on her balcony, neatly avoiding all of the chairs and the table that she and the other girls had left out after their most recent tea party. "Here you go!"
"Thank you," Marinette told him, loosening her legs from around his waist and dropping lightly to the ground before reaching forward to give him a hug. "The save is greatly appre-"
She stopped. Paused. Because instead of her head just barely reaching his shoulders, like she was used to as Ladybug, her head came up to his nose. Somehow, the height difference had shrunk by a head.
"Is something wrong, Marinette?" Chat Noir asked after a second had passed. He sounded confused.
Marinette shook her head hastily,. "No, it's, uh- I just thought you were taller! Because Ladybug is so much shorter in all of your pictures, you know?" she added hastily, trying to cover her slip. "So, uh..."
Chat Noir laughed at that. "Yeah, she's a tiny bug, isn't she?" he asked, his tone entirely fond. "But what she lacks in height, she more than makes up for in spirit and spitfire. And if people underestimate her because of her size- well, that just makes our job a bit easier, right? The akuma thinks it doesn't need to try its hardest to win, and we stroll up and hand them their ass on a platter."
"Right," Marinette managed, just barely keeping herself from frowning. She was Ladybug! Why was Chat Noir talking as though she was so much taller than her alter ego?
"I never tell her how endearing that is, because I worry that she might feel like I'm patronizing her, but it's really just like- well, she's one heck of a firecracker in a small package." Chat Noir grinned at her. "Small but packs far more of a punch than anyone would expect. And I should really get back so that she doesn't end up facing the akuma on her own," he added quickly, stepping back and giving her a wave. "Stay safe, Marinette!"
Marinette waved, waiting for Chat Noir to launch himself into the air before diving into her room and digging for the Miraculous box. She pulled out four Miraculous- three to definitely use, and a bonus just in case- and then called for Tikki.
She would have to mull over the strange height disparity later. Right now, duty called.
The weirdness only continued. Now that Ladybug was aware that there was something off, it seemed as though she just couldn't stop noticing other things that seemed didn't seem quite right. The most recent Odd Thing, as she had decided to dub it, was when Ladybug had escorted many of her classmates- including Nino, Alya, and Adrien- to safety, since there was an akuma rampaging through the building that they were visiting on their field trip, and of course she didn't want them hurt. It hadn't taken much to get people to evacuate, and now she was taking a quick breather before plunging back into the fight.
And in the seconds that made up that breather, Ladybug had noticed that her friends seemed a lot taller than normal. But how could they be taller?
Something really, really weird was going on, that was for sure. Adrien was as tall as Chat Noir it seemed, with her head only reaching his shoulders, and Nino and Alya seemed to have shot up as well. She had to wonder if maybe her perception of her friends' heights was just off somehow- she had been wearing (low) heels to school sometimes, maybe that was it- but there hadn't been much time to think about it then. The akuma was raging ever closer, and an evacuation to a safe zone did no good if the akuma was allowed to reach the safe zone again.
So once again, Ladybug didn't allow herself time to think about how plausible her explanation was. She flung herself into the fight, and by the time it ended, the only concern on Marinette's mind was thinking up an explanation for her being gone for the entire battle.
Then she saw Chat Noir as her civilian self again, followed by Ladybug making the time to do a one-on-one interview with Alya. Ladybug had to save Adrien from an overeager fan who had been akumatized. Every time, something just seemed off, but- well, she never really had the time to give it any thought.
The last straw finally came when Marinette was browsing the Ladyblog for the first time in- well, ages.
A reduced amount of homework had coincided with both a break in commissions and an unusually low number of akuma attacks, so she had decided to take advantage of the break to catch up on some much-needed rest and to catch up with what was being said about her on the Ladyblog.
And on the blog, there- well, there was a photo. A series of photos, really, in a very lovely article posted on the most recent Heroes Day and pinned to the top of the page. It was a reflection on the years of akumas and all that the superheroes had done for the city, with pictures from the most recent Heroes Day celebration along with photos from past celebrations. Ladybug and Chat Noir were in all of the photos, of course, with a rotating cast of secondary heroes behind them. Each year, it was obvious that Chat Noir was growing taller, catching up to the Mayor's height easily, a boy's silhouette turning into a man's. Next to him...
Marinette compared the pictures once, twice, three times. No, it wasn't just her imagination. Chat Noir grew taller and filled out with lean muscle, but next to him- well, Ladybug looked like she might as well have been copy-pasted from year to year. And in one of the last photos...
"My arms aren't that twiggy, are they?" Marinette demanded, shrugging off her hoodie to get a better look at herself. Just like she had thought- her arms were like a gymnast's, hardly bulky but clearly strong with lean, practiced muscles, just like the rest of her. Marinette had had to awkwardly wave off comments about her muscles before- after all, no one just got the physique of a professional gymnast without putting in some work- so she knew that her muscles were there and noticeable. And yet, in that photo...
Maybe it was just a bad angle?
No. No, she wasn't just going to accept that and move on. Marinette had been noticing things that were off between her normal self and her alter-ego for a while now, and she had always waved them off as coincidences or her misremembering things. But not anymore. She refused.
Today, Marinette was going to figure out what was going on.
Snatching up a book and a stray piece of chalk, Marinette stalked over to a blank section of wall. Facing the wall, she placed the book on her head, flat and level. Once she was satisfied with how flat it was, Marinette swiped a short line of chalk under the book, marking her Marinette height. Then she called on Tikki, who-
Well, who had apparently been napping before Marinette abruptly transformed. Whoops.
She's apologize later with a cookie. Tikki could never stay that upset for long.
With a small wince, Ladybug turned back to the wall, taking a step to the side so that she wouldn't be right on top of her previous mark before lining the book up again and making another mark. She stepped back, fully expecting the marks to be side-by-side and the whole looking like she didn't grow at all thing to be all in her head-
-but that wasn't the case.
"What the heck," Ladybug muttered, looking from one mark to the other. The Ladybug mark was significantly lower. She had probably been that height when she started being Ladybug over four years ago.
What was going on?
"No wonder I always look fourteen at most in the photos!" Ladybug exclaimed, glancing towards the mirror this time. From this angle, she could confirm that her superhero build looked just the same as it had at the start. "I'm stuck in my old form! Spots off!"
Tikki spiraled free and- oh, the little sprite was clearly muffling giggles. Marinette narrowed her eyes at her kwami. "Do you want to explain why my superhero self is an entire head shorter than my- well, my normal self?"
"It's not all my fault!" Tikki objected, clearly still swallowing her mirth. "You had a pretty specific picture of what Ladybug looked like after your first few transformation, so I- er, the magic- just assumed that you just wanted to keep your exact same transformation."
"Uh-huh." Marinette gave Tikki an unimpressed look. "And the magic just assumed that my 'very specific' image of Ladybug went all the way down to the exact measurements I had when I started? And that my 'image of Ladybug' wouldn't account for me growing?"
Tikki fell silent. Her eyes darted back and forth as she battled with keeping her smile hidden. Marinette waited, her arms crossed. And then Tikki cracked.
"Okay, fine, I might have fiddled with things a little bit," Tikki admitted, zipping backwards out of Marinette's reach. "I've done it before with other holders, to see how long it takes for them to notice, and it's always so funny when they do!"
"Ha ha," Marinette said dryly. She peered at Tikki. "So how fast did I notice, compared to your other holders?"
Tikki giggled. "You aren't going to like it."
Marinette groaned. "I did that badly, huh?"
"To be fair, you've been incredibly busy," Tikki assured her hastily. "You have school, and commissions, and babysitting, and putting together your portfolio, and doing long-distance studies with the Order of the Guardians, and akuma battles. You had more important things to worry about than if your superhero self had been growing at the same rate as your civilian self!"
Marinette remained less than convinced.
"Besides, it was helpful, wasn't it?" Tikki added hopefully. "It's easier to hide when you're smaller!"
The groan Marinette gave was Tikki's only answer.
A few minutes ticked by as Marinette contemplated what to do next. Her knee-jerk reaction was to ask Tikki to adjust the Ladybug transformation to grow with her right away, because she should have been growing alongside Chat Noir, and he had been teasing her about her height for ages. But a sudden jump in growth would no doubt attract attention from the press, along with unwanted speculation. If the public thought that she was an adult now- even if Hawkmoth wouldn't be fooled- then that could help keep her own identity secret from reporters and other curious people.
But on the other hand, Marinette wasn't very interested in keeping her superhero self short and spindly. Maybe it was just vanity, but she had worked hard during those akuma battles and earned those muscles. She had grown up, but the way she looked didn't reflect that at all. And she wanted it to.
(Well. Somewhat. She didn't get many comments on her figure- that she knew of, anyway- and she wasn't exactly interested in starting. Keeping a thirteen-year-old's body in that regard might be helpful.)
She didn't have to make a decision right away, Marinette decided after another minute's thought. There would be no harm in keeping her current transformation for a few more days while she figured out how much to change and how fast to change it.
After all, Ladybug had looked the exact same for years.
"What's new?" Chat Noir asked cheerfully as he landed next to Ladybug on a darkened rooftop. There were two separate contests going on in the city that evening, so the two of them had opted to call a patrol rather than just sit around waiting for an akuma to show up. "Anything interesting?"
"My kwami's been shrinking me."
Chat Noir blinked. Once. Twice. "Pardon?"
"I've been noticing some weird stuff going on," Ladybug explained, glancing across the city to make sure that there weren't any disturbances yet before turning back to her partner. "People I know in my civilian life who seem a lot taller when I'm transformed, mostly. And then I saw the photos on the Ladyblog with past Heroes Days- and I didn't look like I had grown at all, even though I have! So I marked my height on my wall, and I'm a whole head taller as my civilian self! Apparently Tikki was playing a prank on me."
Chat Noir blinked again, then sniggered. "That's hilarious!"
"It is not!" Ladybug protested. "I could have been growing all this time, so I wouldn't always look so short next to you! And how am I supposed to change to match what I should look like now without people thinking that I'm magicking myself to look different?" She spread her hands, gesturing at an invisible headline. "I can see the headlines now- 'Ladybug padding her suit?'. No thank you!"
Chat Noir choked, and it took Ladybug a moment to figure out where his brain had gone. Scowling, she tossed her yo-yo at him in gentle reprimand. "Not like that!"
"I- I'm sorry, what else was I supposed to think about?" Chat Noir managed, still sounding a bit choked. "There's not exactly a lot of things that people normally stuff!"
"Get your mind out of the gutter! I meant, like, muscle-wise." Ladybug tapped her biceps, still as bony-thin as they had been when she first started being a superhero. "I've gotten a fair bit of muscle from swinging all over Paris, but Tikki decided to hide that as part of her prank, too."
Chat Noir's shoulders relaxed. "Oh, okay. Gotcha."
"Though I do suppose that the tabloids would focus more on those other areas if I adjusted everything to match my build now," Ladybug mused, and was amused to see her partner promptly choke and turn red, clearly scandalized.
Ladybug finally cracked and laughed, elbowing her partner "You should have seen your face! That was great!"
Chat Noir pouted, muttering something under his breath. Ladybug was pretty sure she heard the word meanie amongst the muttering, which only made her laugh harder. He stuck his lip out further in an even more dramatic pout, and she practically folded onto the rooftops, completely breathless.
She couldn't help it. His face.
Chat Noir made the best expressions.
"Ha, ha, very funny," Chat Noir grumbled, flopping down to sit next to her. "You are destroying my image of you, I hope you know that."
"I'm sure you'll survive." Finally getting her wheezing under control, Ladybug pushed herself back up to a sit. "I just couldn't resist."
They sat in silence for a minute, eyes scanning the city and listening intently for anything out of place. Finally Chat Noir spoke up again. "So what are you going to do about your transformation? Anything?"
Ladybug let out a long breath. "I keep asking myself that. Because, like, it's really good for hiding my identity, since I'm not at all the same height. But I worked hard for that muscle, darn it! Is it so wrong of me to actually want for it to show? Or to want to actually look like I've grown up at all?" She let out a long sigh. "I've been thinking about it and I for sure want to actually look like I have muscles, and I'll have to add that gradually. I just don't know about everything else."
Chat Noir hummed. "Well, maybe you can add some height but not all? Then it's still a bit of a disparity to throw off people who might be looking," he added. "And then once Hawkmoth is gone, go through a bit more of a growth spurt, since you won't have to transform during the day so often and people in your civilian life won't be wondering where you're vanishing off to all of the time."
"As if I really needed any more motivation to defeat Hawkmoth," Ladybug said with a laugh, but Chat Noir had a point. "That does sound reasonable, though. And if people notice me getting taller, then they might think that it's a clue, that they should be looking for girls who went through really late growth spurts."
Her partner grinned. "Exactly! I would be tempted to do the same, because that's a fantastic way to throw everyone off, but I think you might actually kill me if you started "growing" only for me to magic myself taller."
Ladybug's sharp nod made them both laugh.
"I've been thinking about doing a costume upgrade, too," Ladybug added once they had both calmed. She shrugged at Chat Noir's disbelieving look. "What? It's been years, and I have the world's most basic design, just because I panicked and blanked when I transformed the first time. And it would give the reporters something else to talk about other than 'did Ladybug suddenly get muscles?'"
"Well, if you decide you want to do that and want some help coming up with a new design, I have a friend in my civilian life who's a fantastic designer," Chat Noir told her, a fond grin spreading across his face. "I bet that she would be able to come up with some pretty great ideas."
"I think I can come up with my own ideas, thanks," Ladybug told him, and then scowled when a doubtful look flashed across his face. "Just I panicked once when I was thirteen and didn't think about what I wanted my transformation to look like doesn't mean that I can't think of good designs, Chat Noir!"
"Okay, okay, I believe you!" Chat Noir said with a laugh, holding his hands up in mock defense. Ladybug playfully pummeled them, and soon enough they were wrestling across the rooftops, Tikki's prank all but forgotten for the time being.
(Well. At least until the night's akuma showed up and laughed at Ladybug's diminutive height, that was.)
Ladybug's new outfit debuted a week later, black sections breaking up the red and black polka dots and a short open-front skirt- long enough to be decorative and look nice, short enough that it would be difficult for it to snag or have akumas grab on, so at least it wouldn't be impractical- a striking contrast to the simple onesie pattern that she had worn before. It made headlines, reporters and bloggers all too happy to talk about the changed design and how nice it looked and how well it suited Ladybug.
In fact, everyone was so caught up in the new design that it was three full months before the first person noticed and commented on the other new changes in Ladybug's appearance, both her apparent growth and the new muscles visible in her arms and along her legs. The internet promptly exploded with theories about it, wondering if the new costume was making illusions or if the changes were real. Doctors and fitness experts chimed in, adding their voices to the fray.
At home, Marinette just smiled as she turned away from the theories on the Ladyblog and back towards her latest commission work for Jagged Stone. None of the guesses were remotely close, of course, but when it came to things with her alter ego...
Well, that was just the way she liked it.
a/n: This is not at all serious and I apologize for none of it :D
As with most of my stories, this is a one-shot and therefore complete. And as always, comments make my day! :)