Monday morning rolled around with a cool, all encasing fog. The gray mist that settled in between buildings, blotting out sunlight, and casting a refreshing coolness on everything blanketed underneath it.
It was glum.
Ladybug had escorted Gabriel to the police last night, as they had planned. Though he was drunk, Gabriel was well behaved. This allowed Ladybug to convince the Police to stay quiet about his arrest. Of course, it was inevitable that the media would catch wind of it, and it would be all over the news.
But she just wanted to have a few days to prepare to announce it herself, and to give Adrien some time with his mother.
He hadn't come home last night, not that she expected him too. He may be gone for the rest of the week. Maybe longer. She couldn't blame him for staying away.
She just missed him already.
"Hey Marinette," Alya greeted warmly. "Where's Sunshine? He's gotta get rid of this fog!"
"Yeah dude, where's my dawg?" Said Nino.
Marinette smiled, but it didn't quite reach her eyes. How much truth could she spare? This was Rena Rouge and Carapace after all. Surely they were trustworthy. Would Adrien mind?
"Um…he's with his mother."
Nino and Alya just stared at her, dawning horror creeping on their faces.
"No!" Marinette scrambled to explain. "No, no…We found his mother yesterday. Well, he found her a few days ago, but we couldn't do anything about it until last night."
Alya blinked a few times. "Okay girl, you lost me. You often lose me, but this is like—a whole other dimension. Can ya back up a touch?"
"I'll tell you guys everything after school, but you have to promise me not to tell anyone." She leaned closer. "This is just as secret, or even more so, as your secret identities."
Alya rapidly blinked again. "Wh-what?! What are you—how do you—What!?"
"That's all I'm saying for now."
"You can't just leave us there!"
"That's all that's safe to say here. Just...just trust me. Okay?"
Alya took a long breath. They'd been through this before. Her trust was constantly being tested by Marinette. The absences, the tardiness, the forgetful 'oh I have to go water my hamster' ness. "Girl...I did trust you. But...are you going to finally explain what's going on?"
"Yes. I'll tell you everything. If you'll just be patient with me."
Alya exhaled, her shoulders relaxing. "Okay. I think that's worth it."
They travelled together upstairs and into the classroom, where several other students milled about quietly. It seemed they hadn't recovered from the turmoil from last week.
Faces turned to her, weak smiles in place. Sincere enough, but lacking luster. She didn't really blame them. She felt like that too.
After some time, Miss Bustier arrived, and settled everyone in their seats.
And then there was a knock at the door.
Miss Bustier invited in the devil, and the mother of the devil.
Lila. Lila was here.
"Hello, Madam Rossi, are you vouching for Lila's tardiness?"
"On the contrary," the woman said coldly. "Lila won't be attending your class anymore, or this school, for that matter. But before we leave, I wanted to make sure she apologized to those she wronged."
My my, what an interesting turn of fate. Lila stood in front, arms crossed, and full of spite.
"Where's Mr. Agreste?" Madam Rossi asked.
"He's not here," Marinette supplied. "He's visiting family."
"Ha!" Said Lila. "That proves it! If he wasn't guilty, he'd be here!"
"Hush, Lila. I've heard enough from you." Her mother spat. "You, what's your name?" He looked at Marinette.
"Uh, Marinette Dupain-Cheng?"
"Marinette—first of all, I want to apologize to you and your mother. She called me with concerns and I blew her off. In fact, I didn't know there were any problems until I received a court summons at my workplace. Not only was my daughter lying to me about her after school activities, but she lied about the school being closed to take an extended vacation!"
There were scoffs of disgust from around the room.
"Mama..." Lila whined.
"I said be quiet, child. Your lying has gotten too far out of control and I've had enough of it. It's time your friends knew the truth. And you're going to tell them. Now."
Lila swallowed. "Um...I didn't actually go with my mother abroad for several months. I was at home. I told her the principal was akumatized and the school was closed."
"Now, about Marinette?"
Lila groaned. "Marinette was right. I didn't bully her at all. I made all that stuff up..."
"And regarding Adrien Agreste?"
"Adrien...never touched me. I lied. I was mad because I was fired from Gabriel for harassing Adrien."
"Anything else you want to get off your chest?"
"Well, that's a shame." Madam Rossi huffed. "What do you have to say to Marinette?"
"Not good enough, Lila. Try again."
Lila hissed, like apologizing was actually, physically painful. "I'm sorry for tattling on you to your mom. And I'm sorry for trying to get you expelled."
Marinette pushed her luck. "...and for turning my friends against me?"
"AND for turning your friends against you."
Eh. Good enough.
"Now, Marinette," said Madam Rossi. "Lila must apologize to Adrien, but she's being sent back to Italy right away. Will you record it and make sure he sees it?"
"Of course, ma'am." Marinette took out her phone and turned on the camera. "Ready when you are."
Madam Rossi nudged her daughter in the ribs.
"Adrien...I'm sorry I lied about you touching me. I'm sorry I lied to get into modeling with you. And I'm sorry I kissed your cheek without permission...and I'm sorry I spied on you." With a little shrug, that's where she ended it.
Marinette stopped recording and leveled a glare at Lila. "You're not really sorry, are you? You wouldn't think anything was wrong if your mom wasn't here making you apologize."
Lila didn't answer, but her dead-eyed glare spoke volumes.
"You're a psychopath."
"Oh you think you're so smug! Just because my lies caught up to me first! But you're just as much as a liar as I am, aren't you, little miss goody goody?"
Maybe she was being petty. Maybe it was adrenaline. Or maybe she really didn't like being called a liar.
Either way, she held back just long enough to look in her purse.
Tikki gave her a firm nod.
Time to be selfish.
"Tikki, Spots on."
In a whirl of pink, Ladybug sat in Marinette's seat and the room went dead silent.
Except for Alya, who was making some choked wheezing sounds.
"Happy now, Lila?" Ladybug said calmly. "Yes, I lied, and flaked, and ditched my friends. I hated every minute of it, but I knew fighting akumas came first, and everything else came second. I couldn't tell a single soul until Hawkmoth was defeated. Not even my partner." She leveled her gaze on Lila. "But you? You just lie because you can. You have no plans, you just lie and then lie again when someone calls you out on them. You don't care. You never cared. All you care about is yourself. That's the reason you got caught. I chose to reveal my secret because it's safe now."
"Shut up!" Lila barked. Then she actually threw a punch at the hero of Paris.
Naturally, Ladybug dodged it like she had been moving in slow motion.
"You're the worst! This whole time I thought there were two stuck up, nosy, holier-than-thou bitches in Paris. But now I see it's only one. You don't deserve your fame or your powers! I could have had everything! Popularity! Friends! Adrien! Fame! Even powers like Hawkmoth promised me! But you had to ruin it for me! You always ruin everything! I hate you! I hate you!"
"Alright, we're done." Said Madam Rossi. She wrapped her arms around Lila, as she continued to wriggle and scream. "I see now that Italy isn't going to be a good idea either. We'll find a nice, quiet...resort for you for a little while."
But Lila just continued her screaming and kicking. Her mother had to forcibly pull her from the room.
The door shut with a slam, Lila's tantrum muffled down the hall.
And then, Ladybug stood there, keenly aware of the actions she had just made in front of all her classmates. Even Miss Bustier was slack jawed.
"I expect all of you can keep a secret of this magnitude. It would be best if you never even saw me transform."
Still silence. But Marinette dropped her transformation and sat down.
Alya was the only one able to find a voice. "Why now? What changed?"
"It's safe now." Marinette explained. "Relatively speaking. I'm certain that there's people out there who still want to hurt me. But if we all keep this to ourselves, I see no harm."
"What about Lila?" Asked Alya.
"Well, she does have a track record for faultless honesty. Who wouldn't believe her?" Marinette said sarcastically.
"Safe?" Nino asked, finding his voice. "Safe how?"
It was the sweetest truth in the world. "Chat Noir and I defeated Hawkmoth."
The sentence was like electricity, jolting the room with excitement, cheers, and hugs. Students scrambled to hug her in gratitude.
"How?! When?!" Barked Alya. "There was no akuma! How did this happen!?"
Miss Bustier sat at the edge of her desk, resigned that there would be no learning today, but she really didn't mind.
"Espionage." Marinette said, matter-of-factly. "And to be honest, it was mostly Chat. We just officially arrested him last night."
"Who was he? How did it happen?! I need details!" Alya nearly screamed and grabbed her by the collar and shook.
"Alya, calm down." Marinette laughed. "I'd love to tell you all the details, but…I haven't told anyone else yet. I have to address the public and write a speech…but I don't even know where to start…"
Miss Bustier clapped. "Marinette! I have an idea!"
She looked to her teacher, skeptical. "Yes?"
"A writing assignment for the class. You give us the details, everyone will take notes, and we'll help you write the speech! It would be an excellent exercise for writing from an interview."
Marinette paused, crossing her arms and looking forward towards Adrien's seat.
Again, the news about Gabriel was going to be public at some point. If she could get it out quickly before the other media beat her to it, she might be able to manipulate the story in her favor. As angry as she was with Gabriel, his motive was fine, and he showed…remorse? Maybe he could be redeemed and maybe Adrien could have his family back one day.
"As long as everyone promises to not talk about it to anyone, I don't mind sharing the details."
There was another cheer around the class as everyone gathered their phones and notebooks to take notes.
Miss Bustier clarified for everyone, "If you're recording Marinette, the video promptly gets deleted after the assignment is over. It does not get posted on any social media, or get sent to anyone. This is for Marinette's safety, do you all understand?"
"Yes, Miss Bustier!" Called the class, unanimously. After the dreadful behavior with Lila, no one was eager to get on Marinette's bad side again.
Marinette stood at the front of the room, recounting what had happened, with the smallest twist of having Chat Noir as a separate character. If someone did blab, Adrien's identity would be safe.
"Adrien's the hero of our story." She began. "Gabriel Agreste was arrested last night at 10:30, coming peacefully and quietly. On Thursday night, he confided in his son, that he was in fact, Hawkmoth, and that his assistant was Mayura. He disclosed his purpose was to save the life of his wife Emilie, who had fallen mysteriously ill. He was under the assumption that the only cure was using Chat's and my Miraculous. It is unknown where he got this idea from. Adrien was skeptical enough to flag down Chat Noir as he was doing a late night patrol. He explained the situation to my partner. From there, they waited until Monsieur Agreste went to sleep, before stealing the Miraculous off of him. Chat then delivered the Butterfly and Peacock Miraculous to me, and further explained the situation. After consulting my resources, we visited M. Agreste and told him it was likely we could still save his wife without the need for our Miraculous. He then willingly gave himself up and apologized. He has been taken into police custody."
"Excuse me, Ladybug," Alya called out, just like in a real press conference. "What happened to Mayura? Is she in police custody as well?"
"I don't know about that. The police are aware of her involvement, but she was fired by Gabriel earlier this week. She wasn't with him when he was arrested."
"Are you going to go after her?"
"No. She no longer has a Miraculous. This is not a job for us anymore."
Someone else raised their hand, Nathaniel. "How much do you want us to elaborate on Adrien's involvement?"
"I only have Adrien's best interest at heart. While I know he'd rather not be mentioned at all, I think it's extremely important for the media to know that he was not complicit in his father's actions."
"Where is Adrien now?" Asked Chloe, more out of concern than for the assignment.
"He is with his mother while she gets treated. I won't disclose that information to the public." Then she added as a side note, "but if you want to know, ask me later, Chloe."
Chloe just took a relieved sigh and nodded to her. It seemed all the previous animosity between her and Ladybug, or even Marinette, had faded with all this new information.
"Where are the Butterfly and Peacock Miraculous now?" Asked Kim.
"Someplace safe." Marinette smiled. "There's no fear of someone else getting a hold of them."
"Are Ladybug and Chat Noir retiring now?" Asked Rose, full of emotion.
"Ladybug will continue her patrols, and try to help around the city. I haven't talked with Chat about what he wants to do."
Alya raised her hand again, her eyes shining with excitement. "Any chance of auxiliary heroes getting to join you every once in a while?"
Marinette shrugged. "Perhaps." There was no reason for them to, but with Gabriel behind bars, there was no reason for them not to. "Any other questions?"
The class was frantically scribbling down notes, but there were no more raised hands.
"I have plenty of off the record questions!" Alya called.
"I'll answer those later," Marinette asked.
"Alright," began Miss Bustier. "These speeches will be due…Wednesday? Does that work for you, Marinette?"
"That should be perfect."
"Wonderful. Then I won't be giving anymore literature homework until then, because I want everyone to focus on this. Please write at least one page, double spaced. But more is fine. Ladybug has the right to edit whichever one she picks." She glanced at the clock. "Goodness, that was almost the whole hour! I'll give you the rest of the hour to talk among yourselves."
While stories don't typically have a happy ending in real life, Marinette was happy to note that things were working out nicely. The fog remained the rest of the week as Adrien stayed away from Paris. Juleka, of all people, ended up writing the most articulate, emotional, and accurate speech out of the bunch, and Ladybug presented it at a press conference with the Mayor.
Stories of all sorts of accuracies came out of it from the media, but conspiracies were loudly silenced, as Ladybug's speech in full was available to everyone. Gabriel had yet to make any statements of his own, but his lack of urgency only lended itself to the official story.
It was over.
Gabriel's trial would come in time, and Ladybug and Chat Noir would both be expected to testify, but the fight against Hawkmoth was over.
Despite revealing herself to her family and classmates, Marinette felt light. Unburdened, and guiltless. The raised grades were a bonus.
There was just one thing missing.
It had been a week since he stepped into that portal with his mother. He hadn't taken his phone with him, but she never received a message from his baton. Not even a confirmation that he made it safely.
After several days of solid dependence and partnership, she missed him terribly.
Then finally, late one night, she awoke to a flash of light on her balcony. She was instantly awake, throwing open the door to investigate.
Belle Noir stood there, alone, and looking exhausted.
"Adrien?" She asked softly.
"Miss me, My Lady?"
Adrien dismissed his transformation and dragged himself over to her room.
"So what happened? How is she?"
"Still asleep." He landed on her bed, and took off his shoes. "Not likely to wake up for a while still…but she looks better. They told me to go home, since being around her and watching was making me ill."
"Are you alright?"
"Just need a shower and a good night's rest. Can I sleep next to you? I really missed you."
"I wouldn't want you anywhere else."
After showering and shaving, a nice clean Adrien flopped onto Marinette's bed. He inhaled deeply. "Hmm, I missed this smell."
"Smells like bread and cinnamon and pretty girl."
"Do you want to hear about all the trouble I got into while you were gone?"
"All of it…if I can stay awake."
So Marinette told it all, starting on Monday morning with Lila, and leading all the way up to the speech, which she showed him on her phone.
"You just transformed? In front of everyone?"
She shrugged. "Not my brightest move, but Lila was accusing me of lying too…I just wanted to get it out in the air. I don't regret it."
"Did you tell anyone who I am?"
"Nope. I thought about telling Alya and Nino, but your identity is yours to tell. Or to keep a secret. It's totally up to you."
Adrien had his eyes half closed, the comfort of the bed and the warmth from his girlfriend relaxing him to sleep. "I have some ideas."
"Care to share?"
"No. Too tired."
"Okay kitty." She giggled. Then she shuffled down to lay beside him, before he latched on and nuzzled her. "Hmmmmm My Lady."
"Goodnight Kitty Cat."
"Night. I love…"
"I love too."
In the morning, Marinette woke up to an empty bed. For a moment, she worried that Adrien coming back last night had been a dream. But his suitcase was open and rifled through.
Confused, she got up and got dressed, and then came down for breakfast.
"Morning Miss Hero." Sabine said fondly.
"Morning mama…did you see Adrien this morning?"
"I didn't, but your father did. Said he got up really early to take care of some stuff.
"'Stuff' huh? Sounds vague."
"I don't know. But he said he'll meet you at school. So instead of interrogating me, you can go to class and find out for yourself."
"Oh I suppose!" Marinette said, dramatically. Then she took a seat at the table and started pouring herself some breakfast.
"They're talking about the Hawkmoth story again." Sabine gestured to the muted TV. "Some people are calling for a reinstatement of the guillotine."
Marinette scoffed. "Yeah, maybe if there had been any lasting damage, maybe. But as it stands, no one died, no collateral damage…maybe some trauma I guess."
"You're being awfully defensive of the man you've been fighting the last year."
Marinette shrugged. "I just…want Adrien to have his family back. I know Gabriel has to face punishment, and jail might even soften him up to be a better dad when he gets out. I just want him to be able to have his dad in his life…even if it's just a little bit."
"Even after all this, he doesn't hate his father?"
"I couldn't say."
The fog had lifted. The morning sunlight was warm and bright, the birds chirped, the flowers bloomed. Adrien was back in Paris, somewhere, and all was right with the word.
Marinette almost skipped to school.
Half of her class awaited her by the steps, and when she came into view, they all started calling for her. "Marinette! Marinette!"
"Carry your bag to class?"
"Carry you to class?"
"Guys guys," she laughed. "I'm flattered, but you don't need to keep pampering me. It was fun last week, but we're cool now, okay?"
"We just wanted to let you know that we were sorry and we appreciate you!" Said Rose, enthusiastically.
"I understand. And I forgive you. The cards, and the back rubs, and the foot rubs, and the manicures…I got it. But I don't want our friendship to revolve around you guys just worshipping me. And I especially don't want to be treated like this because of who I am. Let's just…all go for ice cream this weekend?"
"Fine, but I'm paying for your ice cream!"
"No! I want to pay!"
Marinette chuckled to herself and led the throng of followers into the school. Maybe…one more week of being spoiled wouldn't hurt. Right?
"Have you heard anything from Adrien?" Nino asked, as he asked everyday.
"Actually, I did! I'm fairly certain he'll be in class today too!"
Nino pumped his fist.
"What should we do to make him feel welcome?" Asked Rose. "We were pretty crappy to him last time we saw him. After all he's been through…"
Marinette looked over the remorseful faces staring at her. They wanted to make things right.
"I think apologies, hugs, and just being there for him will be enough. I think he'd appreciate affection, but not being treated like he's fragile. He's incredibly strong, you know."
They all nodded, but she could hear them conspiring with each other about cards and a cake. She wasn't going to fight them on this. Adrien needed his friends, and sincere ones at that.
Walking into the classroom, Marinette's eye immediately fell on the very expensive handbag on her desk. Chloe sat at her own desk, admiring her nails.
"A Hermes Birkin Togo Handbag with gold Hardware? Why yes, it is."
"Why is it on my desk?"
Chloe shrugged. "what, that old thing? I got it, but it doesn't match my wardrobe, so I figured you would appreciate it."
"But…this is new this season! It hasn't even been released yet!"
"Well, it's old to me. Give it to your mom if you don't want it. It's no skin off my nose!"
Marinette gave her a genuine smile. "Thank you Chloe, this means a lot to me. Especially after all that happened."
"Are you talking about my silly little tantrum? Puh-lease. Even I'm not immune to the allure of pretty jewelry. But it won't happen again, I'm over combs."
"Well, I'm crazy about this bag, so thank you."
Chloe's mouth twitched before she said, "you're welcome."
Alya and Marinette spent the rest of the morning gushing over the bag, because regardless of who it came from, it was a nice bag. Miss Bustier came in and started the lesson.
It was then that Marinette realized Adrien still hadn't shown up.
"I thought you said he was coming today?" Whispered Nino.
"I thought he was. He doesn't have his phone on him anymore either."
A few minutes passed before a black blur whizzed by the window. It back tracked and Chat Noir landed on the ledge, knocking on the window.
"Chat Noir?" Miss Bustier asked as Kim opened the window.
"So sorry I'm late! I was packing up some of my mother's belongings to take to her later." He stalked across the room, with Adrien's bag draped over his shoulder. Then he stopped at Marinette's desk, before stooping to kiss her on the lips. "Good morning, My Lady. Sorry I left without saying anything. I woke up early and I didn't want to bother you."
And then it all clicked. The class went ballistic. There was screaming, hugs, well-intended punches, and overall excitement.
Miss Bustier rolled her eyes fondly. "Guess I'll have to remove your absences too, to be fair."
"Oh, sorry. When Marinette told me she revealed her identity to the class, I knew I had to too, and even more dramatically."
"You're such a goober." Marinette teased fondly.
"But I'm your goober!"