A/N: I do not own Miraculous.

I'm not sure if this story is continuing, it was intended to but I'm having a lot of trouble writing these days. So this chapter will either be an intro to the main action, or a slightly-odd one-shot. Time will tell.

Also: I haven't seen most of Season 3 (though I've heard a bit about it), so this is sort of an AU where the finale of s3 hasn't happened.

"Imagine", he said, looking out at where the stars faded into smog and smog twinkled into lights. "Imagine we finally knew who Hawkmoth was, and could do something about it instead of just reacting."

She snorted next to him, barely looking up from her phone. "What, as if Cat Noir and Ladybug could know that. Not without MY help, at least. They need someone with my connections, Adrikins. You know that."

Adrien fiddled with the hem of his tuxedo jacket, but surreptitiously. It wouldn't do for a photographer to catch him in that moment and publish it as "Agreste heir wears ill-fitting suit".

"What would you do with your connections?" he responded. A polite response, but also, he was curious. Frankly, at this point if Chloe had even a germ of a useful idea he was interested. It wasn't like anything else they'd tried had worked yet.

"Well, I'd start by taking the people most involved with akuma attacks and looking closely at them." She sniffed. "Trash begets trash."

The blonde model next to her chuckled very slightly. "Chloe, how many have you caused yourself?"

Chloe dropped the hand with her phone and looked at him with annoyance. "Well, not me, obviously. I can't be Hawkmoth -and- Queen Bee." She raised her phone again. "Besides..."

"Besides", he interrupted, "you're not trash. And you've improved a lot lately." He met her eyes and said "Yes, I noticed. Thank you for trying". Not succeeding, sadly, at least not as much as he knew she could. But by Chloe's standards he knew she was making progress.

"I've texted Sabrina", Chloe said a moment later. "She's going to spreadsheet it." She tucked her phone into her sateen clutch and took back the champagne flute he was holding for her. Apple juice, they weren't yet 18, but it wasn't long now.

18, from 14. So many years of fighting, over and over, going nowhere. Behind the perfectly amenable expression, his thoughts darkened.

Wait – "Spreadsheet it?" Adrien asked.

"Well, of course. I have good ideas." She tapped her flute against his. "I'll let you know what we come up with." She smiled as she turned to go back into the gala. "I'll even consider telling Ladybug you helped come up with the idea. As my inspiration, of course. You didn't actually do anything."

He smiled at her and flicked his hand in a small, hidden shoo-shoo motion. Nothing that a camera would catch, of course. The laughter in her eyes however showed that she had.

A few days later, Adrien's phone buzzed.

Spreadsheet is interesting.

Well, all right then. He started to reach for the video call button, then paused. This might be one of those times he was supposed to reply by text. Adrien was still working out the "rules" on when to phone or text people, though he was a lot better now than when he'd first started trying to make friends. His finger wavered back and forth. Text, or call?

A second buzz.

We should talk in person.

Call it was then. He hit the button. Chloe's face filled the screen. "No, silly. In person means face to face without a phone between us."

"I thought it meant not texting."

"Well", she sighed, "it does, but that's not what I meant this time. I can break it down for you when you come over."

Adrien grimaced. "I hate that there are so many sets of rules I have to know."

Her face softened. "I know". And she did. For instance, she knew that if his father had said it, it would have meant video call, probably not even on Adrien's own device but one held at a safe distance by an assistant, and a reprimand or punishment if he'd tried instead to walk the few metres from his room to his father's office.

"I can come over after my private lessons", he said. "Today it's accounting. I'll need a break after that. And it's Nathalie's day to see Sabrina."

That was another of Chloe's surprisingly-better-than-expected ideas. She'd somehow convinced Nathalie to spend an hour a week after work mentoring Sabrina over a coffee. Sabrina was getting a solid line into the world of high-level PAs, a profession considered worth their weight in gold by those who had them. And while he didn't really know what Nathalie thought of the arrangement, he'd noticed that since the weekly meetups started she hinted at a smile slightly more often than she had before.

"Acceptable", Chloe said, and hung up on him.

Once Nathalie had gone into the hotel's cafe bar with Sabrina, almost smiling at the sight of the young woman, Adrien went up to Chloe's suite. She was in the space that had become "personal office", as her leadership training took up more and more of her time outside school, and frowning at a monitor. "Look", she said without preamble. "This is what connections gives you".

He hadn't meant it as a challenge, just an offhand remark at the time. But Chloe was Chloe, and challenges were her thing. "What am I looking at?" he asked.

"A list of all the people who have been akumatised, from the very first one. Well, almost all. There's a small number that we couldn't track for various reasons."

After four years, it was a long list. Location was heavily biased towards central Paris, but demographics such as age, gender, wealth level seemed pretty mixed. "I don't see any particular pattern?"

Chloe grinned. "There isn't, at first. Actually it was Sabrina who thought of the thing that made a difference. She took it back a step, to see who had influenced the setup and caused the situation that led to the akumatisation. Look what happens when I sort by this column." Chloe clicked a button, and his breath caught. Four names were at the top of the list, by a long margin. Chloe, of course. Lila – also of course, that girl was a snake and come to think of it Sabrina had done some good research, it wasn't public knowledge that Lila had had a hand in some of the akumatisations. He knew, of course, but he couldn't say that. The third name caught him by surprise.

"Ladybug?" he asked.

"Mmm. Obviously she isn't meaning to cause them. My theory is that as a hero she means so much to so many people, that even small things she does can cause bigger than usual reactions. And after this I had a look back at some of the footage. When you're looking for it, it's obvious she hasn't had any of the training that you and I have had. She doesn't know the Rules."

Adrien startled at that, but then thought about it. Ladybug was always kind and compassionate and helpful – except when she wasn't. And having seen her more than most, now that he thought about it, he could say that yes, it was obvious. She had never been taught all the little things about how to be perfectly polite. How to hold your face, hide your motions, not do any of the small things that could be over-interpreted. How to talk to people without ever giving offence unless that was what you wanted. How to wear the mask. Which was hilarious, given that wearing a mask was her actual job in a way. Most people never learnt all these things, of course, knowing them was part of what made someone upper class. But anyone in the spotlight as much as she was usually had people to teach them. Did that mean she didn't? He felt a surge of protective concern.

Chloe interrupted his thoughts. "I'm surprised you haven't said anything about the fourth name."

He hadn't even read it. But when he did, he jumped out of his seat, standing in shock. "That can't be right", he said.

The fourth person was Marinette.

"I know, I know", Chloe muttered. "Baker trash is trash, and don't give me that line about just a friend, I know what she means to you".

"But she's..." Chloe looked at him and raised one eyebrow, smirking and tapping a perfectly painted nail against her jaw.

"...too nice", he finished weakly.

"We can agree on that, at least", Chloe said. "I'll be honest with you, when I first saw this I hoped I'd found a secret flaw, a crack in the too-nice-and-sweet routine she's got going. I'd have loved her to secretly be Hawkmoth. She's even managed to not be akumatised so far. But no." The disappointment in her voice was palpable. "She is really, truly, as sweet and naive as you are. But you're all the way down here." She scrolled down the list a ways. "See? And at least one of those was you just happening to be in a group of people rather than doing anything yourself."

Adrien nodded. "I'm in good company", he said, pointing at the name directly above his. "I see Cat Noir's caused the same number as me." And together his two identities added up to as many as Ladybug, but he wasn't going to say anything about that.

"Pfft, that sidekick". Chloe hissed dismissively. "I know", she said, "he should be up there with Ladybug but he isn't."

"Is that because people think of him as less important?" Adrien said carefully, holding one hand carefully and nonchalantly against his pocket to stifle any accidental noise.

"Mmm... maybe", Chloe said. With reluctance she added "But actually I think it's because he knows the Rules."

Adrien had to remember how to breathe for a second. "What makes you say that?" he asked, trying to sound only ordinarily curious.

"Looking through the footage at Ladybug", she answered, "I saw him too. The way he dealt with people. It's chaotic, over-the-top, often silly – but it follows the Rules most of the time. He doesn't make the same mistakes that Ladybug does. And over four years, that's added up."

He shook himself. Time to steer this conversation back to safer waters. "So why Marinette then, Clo?"

"She's gormless", came the straight answer. "She doesn't set personal boundaries in appropriate places, she over-commits, she over-thinks things like a human spinning wheel. Which means all this time she spends trying to be super nice and helpful? She gets it wrong a LOT." A small huff. "If she tried a little less hard to be such a wonderful person to absolutely everybody, she'd make fewer mistakes."

"Does she know how many she's caused? Because I had no idea, and I kindof know her."

Chloe held up a hand. "Don't tell me any details, I don't want to know". She glanced at her nails, and then back at the screen. "I don't know if she knows. Well, I assume she does, but doesn't know it's so many more than most people." She looked at him sideways. "I know why you had no idea though."

He groaned. "All right, what did I miss this time?"

Chloe laughed. "Actually, it's not your fault. The girl is an anxious wreck, and like I said she has terrible boundaries. Half of the akumas she's caused are because she tried to set a boundary instead of being a pushover, and one of her so-called 'friends' got upset that she didn't just cave like she usually does. So then after the akuma she just apologises and accepts all the blame, and they go back to acting like they like her. It's pathetic." She looked at him with an unreadable expression in her eyes. "It's a behaviour pattern I wouldn't expect you to recognise."