Knocks at her window well after dark and after her mom had gone to bed were rarely a good thing, particularly in a city with that had akumas popping up every other day whenever someone got upset.

Lila knew that she was sitting perched on top of a mountain of lies. If someone somehow found out and got mad, that could more than explain a knock at her window at night. Except...

Well, an akuma wouldn't knock, would they? Smashing through walls was much more their style.

A second knock sounded, clearly much more impatient. Ever-so-cautiously, Lila finally pushed herself off of her bed and approached her window, squinting into the dark outside. A large shape came into focus, and then Lila caught sight of a purple suit and a full-head silver mask.


Grinning, Lila scrambled to open her window and let Hawkmoth in. Maybe most people in Paris would be screaming and running in the opposite direction, but they were weak. Hawkmoth offered power and opportunities, kinds that she would never get otherwise. Whatever he had come for- whatever new opportunity he was offering- she was going to grab onto it with both hands and not let go.

"Ms. Rossi," Hawkmoth greeted her coolly, slipping through the opening. He straightened, and- okay, he was tall. Lila straightened reflexively, hoping not to feel so small next to him, but it didn't do much to close the height gap. "I hope this evening finds you well?"

Lila nodded, trying to keep herself from looking too eager. "I'm doing all right. And you?"

"Well enough." Hawkmoth glanced around, his steely eyes catching on the door. Lila followed his gaze, then immediately picked up on his concern.

"My mom is asleep already," she assured him hastily, not wanting him to decide to leave and not tell her about whatever opportunity he had clearly decided to offer. "And she's the only other one who lives in this apartment. And she's a heavy sleeper, so she shouldn't wake up randomly."

Hawkmoth nodded sharply. "Good."

"So, uh, how can I help you?" Lila asked, wondering if it would be proper etiquette to offer a supervillain a chair. It would make him not tower so much, but she also suspected that he wasn't planning on lingering. It would be better to get straight to the point. It would show respect for his time, and that would help make a good impression. "Do you need an akuma with specific powers or something? I can do that!"

"Not at the moment, but I will keep that in mind for the future. No, what I have in mind is a little more responsibility than that." Hawkmoth reached into a pocket, pulling out a small drawstring bag. "Mayura is unable to come out and join me on the battlefield for a undetermined period of time. Normally, I would simply go back to just sending out akumas. But I don't want to give Ladybug and Chat Noir time to re-build their superhero team more than they already have."

Lila's eyes went wide and she started nodding at once, already putting together what Hawkmoth had come to her for. "Right. And you don't want to give their backup team more time to practice and get better."

"Precisely. So I need a temporary holder until Mayura can return." Hawkmoth stared at her, steely-eyed and intimidating. Lila gulped and straightened up again, trying her best to look reliable. This was an incredible opportunity, and she was not going to let it simply slip by. "So what I want to know is... can I trust you?"

Lila had to stop herself from nodding like a frantic bobblehead doll. She didn't want to come off as an overly-excitable teenager. It was just- well, this was the opportunity to help get back at Ladybug that she hadn't ever expected. She had thought that her only chances were going to be to occasional (or not-so-occasional) akumatizations, where she would maybe be allowed to have some influence in what powers she got. But now, to get a Miraculous- even if it was only for a short while, until whenever Mayura returned- that was amazing.

She would get to go after Ladybug during every fight. And she could dream up the perfect sentimonster to go against the annoying superhero, one that could maybe be the one to take Ladybug down once and for all. If she got to coordinate with Hawkmoth, then they could maybe do a sentimonster-akuma pairing that would be incredibly strong-

-she was getting ahead of herself. Lila had to be calm, and work on gaining Hawkmoth's trust before she started making suggestions. She would have to be more cautious than she was with her classmates, since Hawkmoth was an adult, and probably a proud and paranoid one at that. That meant that he wouldn't be so quick to completely trust her. Trying to maneuver to be a more important part of his team right away would probably just result in her opportunity being ripped away from her.

Besides, he could sense emotions, right? So that meant that she had to be way more careful than usual.

"Of course you can trust me," Lila assured him, refraining from pressing a sincere hand to her heart. It worked at school, but with the supervillain it would probably appear dramatic and over-the-top. And maybe he was probably a bit dramatic and over-the-top (definitely so, if the fact that he had akumas providing a soundtrack for him on Heroes Day was any indication), but something told her that he wouldn't appreciate that in a potential ally.

Besides, he knew that she liked lying and manipulating, and so steering away from those mannerisms during her interactions with him would probably go over better.

"Good." Hawkmoth nodded once, sharply, then passed the drawstring over to her. Lila's fingers trembled as she practically tore the strings open to pull out the pin inside. A blue bubble burst into being as soon as her fingers touched the pin, and then it popped and revealed a blue floating...thing. "This is Duusu. Take good care of him. Now... let's discuss specifics."

The next morning, Lila added a simple scarf to her outfit to cover the Peacock pin and give Duusu somewhere to hide. It felt a little odd to have a constant companion, but that was the price she had to pay for power.

She could not possibly look forward to the next akuma attack more. She just wanted to get out on the battlefield and kick Ladybug's butt. Lila had even found a generic keychain that she could put the amok in and tucked it in her pocket, so it would stay with her and Ladybug and Chat Noir would have to work harder to defeat the sentimonster.

"Ah, that's a nice scarf, Lila," Mrs. Rossi commented, setting Lila's breakfast down in front of her. "I don't recognize it- is it from one of your friends at school?"

"Oh, it's from Adrien," Lila claimed at once, running one hand down the scarf. It wasn't, of course- it was just something that she had stolen from one of her photoshoots- but since it was Gabriel brand, it was believable enough. "He said it went well with my hair."

"It really does. That's very sweet of him." Mrs. Rossi grabbed her own half-eaten plate from the counter, sitting down across the table to finish her breakfast. "Will you be out with your friends again today after school?"

"Yes, I've been invited to come along to a couple clubs this week and check them out," Lila lied. Or- well, it was a partial lie, at least. Several of her classmates had extended invitations for her to come check out the clubs at the school, but that had happened ages ago and besides, Lila just wasn't interested. It would be more adults that she had to interact with and make excuses to when she was 'on a trip', and while she had been on a roll with the number of adults who were just believing her without any questions it just wasn't worth the risk. "So I'll be busy."

Not that it made any difference to her mom, really. She would be at work regardless. It was just- well, it was good to keep up the illusion that she was always with her friends and 'boyfriend'. And if an akuma attacked and her mom tried to get in contact with her, then she would have an excuse for not picking up, since her mom would expect that she would be busy.

"Fantastic!" Mrs. Rossi smiled, then scraped up the last couple bites of bites on her plate and shoved them in her mouth, rising from the table and carrying her plate to the sink. "I have to get going to the embassy, since the ambassador has a whole pile of paperwork that he needs pulled together for his meeting this morning, but I made lunch for you. It's in the fridge. And if you have any menu requests, just text me during the day. I'm going to make a grocery run after work."

"Okay." Lila smiled at her mom, waiting for her to leave before rolling her eyes. She knew exactly what was in her packed lunch, and she would much rather go out to eat or have whatever was in the cafeteria. But she and her mom had argued about Lila getting lunch money instead of bringing a lunch only a few days ago and she hadn't won the argument- apparently it was cheaper to just bring a sandwich every day, as if that was important. If her mom was actually an ambassador and not just a secretary for the ambassador, then Lila would be able to afford to buy lunch every day.

She would use her earnings from the photoshoots, but she needed that money to buy new outfits. If she didn't stay in fashion and wear nice clothes, then her credibility would start slipping.

Daughters of the ambassadors and friends of celebrities simply didn't wear off-brand clothing after all. And while that maybe forced Lila into the same handful of outfits over and over, she had managed to explain that away by claiming it was for environmental awareness reasons.

Maybe she could claim that about her lunches, too. Except- well, it probably wasn't a good idea to use the same excuses too often. Maybe she could claim that she had decided to divert her lunch money to a charity for child hunger, since there were starving children across the world who could use it more than her. Yes, that sounded like a good excuse. still wouldn't make her sandwich taste any better. Maybe she could at least persuade her mom to pack something better for her lunch if Lila stopped arguing about eating out every day.

With a couple more quick bites, Lila finished up her breakfast and stuck her plate in the sink. It didn't take her long to collect her school things- including her lunch, which was definitely a boring old sandwich- and then head down to the bus stop to ride over to school.

As she waited for the bus, Lila's mind went back to the night before. She was still super excited about the opportunity, even though- well, it came with some risks, Hawkmoth had made that clear. Risks, and also an ally that had made it very clear that he Did Not fully trust her, at least not yet.

There had definitely been some not-so-veiled threats against her mom for if Lila decided to 'take liberties' while she had the Peacock Miraculous. And while Lila was really more or less indifferent about her mom, if anything happened to her and Lila had to be placed with a foster family or something...

Well, that wouldn't be a good thing. But that was fine, because she wasn't planning on pulling anything stupid while she had the Miraculous, like trying to keep it after Mayura became available again or trying to manipulate him to do what she wanted, even if it conflicted with his goals. After all, their goals already lined up- she just wanted to take down Ladybug and get her revenge, even if Ladybug (unfortunately) now wouldn't know who was behind her defeat.

Lila supposed that it didn't really matter if Ladybug knew or not in the end. All that was important was taking her down.

Hopefully the superheroes' defeat would happen while Lila was still involved, before Mayura came back. Maybe the supervillain team's shake-up would be just what they needed to finally make the jump from always narrowly losing to actually winning. Lila could bring in new ideas, new plots, and a new pair of eyes. She didn't even necessarily have to convince Hawkmoth of all of them- some, she could just carry out on her own.

And no, he hadn't forbidden that. If he wanted her to follow his lead, she would. But she also had to be independent, able to fight on her own and act independently when Hawkmoth's focus had to be elsewhere in the battle. She could carry out her ideas then, and maybe they would turn out to be just what Hawkmoth needed. He would get the Miraculous for whatever he needed them for, and- well, he would reward her for her help, right? Maybe she would get another Miraculous to use, one she would get to keep permanently.

Which one would she want? Lila tilted her head, considering. Maybe the Ladybug Miraculous, to really rub it into Ladybug's face. It would be a trophy. And she would go out often, just to rub it in her nemesis' face. But maybe Hawkmoth would need to keep that one and she would have to choose another. Presumably he would be able to retrieve the box of Miraculous from Ladybug after she was defeated, so Lila would be able to take her pick. There would be a lot of choices, a lot of tempting offers.

Her first choice- after the Ladybug Miraculous, for gloating reasons- would be the Fox. Those powers were what she had used most often when she was akumatized, and they were familiar and useful. She could make illusions of herself with all sorts of famous people and take pictures and show them off to further discredit annoying little dissenters. She could make illusions of the aforementioned dissenters doing bad things, just to get them in trouble. It would be super useful, even if the actual Fox Miraculous was apparently a tad more limited in the amount of power it had compared to her akuma self.

Another choice would be the Horse, maybe. She could hop over to other countries and actually call in to her classes from there for added realism when she was off 'traveling'! She might even be able to meet some of the people she was always claiming connections to and actually start forming those connections- though that might be a bit of a stretch. She was smart enough to know that a few chance encounters would not automatically lead to songs written about her and promises to always drop everything to do things on her request. So maybe the Horse wouldn't be quite as useful.

Maybe there was a kwami of manipulation among the ones Ladybug held on to. That would be really useful, something she could use to force the famous people connections and make all of her dreams reality. It would make manipulating her peers easier, too- or at least more foolproof- and that would be really, really helpful. That would be the ideal Miraculous for her, if it even existed.

All she had to do was be the best sidekick Hawkmoth had ever had and defeat Ladybug. And once that was done, and she had her own source of power- an unconditional source, no threats to her (or, she supposed, to her mom's) general well-being. Then- well, then would come rewards to her civilian self. And after that?

Well, the world would be open to her, and the possibilities were endless.

The bus pulled up and for once, Lila had a real smile on her face as she got on. Maybe for everyone else on the bus, it was just a normal day. But for her?

It was the start of a new era.