Marinette was knee deep in planning, because at long last she had discovered the truth- Hawkmoth's identity.
"You can't do this by yourself," Tikki urged, as Marinette had the entire miracle box open, holding the mouse miraculous.
"I've held almost every miraculous in the box before," she argued. "We could have an entire team of holders, except I would be the only one in danger, and I would already know what I have to do, if I make the plan around it."
Tikki shook her head. "That's not safe Marinette. Yes, you would be the only one in danger, the only one in a lot of danger. What happens if it goes wrong?"
"Bunnyx can't come if you take every miraculous from the box and end up losing! If your earrings would be taken, how would Alix get the heads up to save you?"
Marinette sighed, returning the mouse miraculous to the box. "I guess you're right," she whispered.
She had so desperately wanted to do this by herself. She had saved Chat Blanc on her own, which had to have been harder than this. But all the miraculous users but herself, Chat Noir, and Bunnyx had been outed, and there wasn't time to train a new team.
She never got around to training a new team, because of this fear for them.
So how was she supposed to win?
"You still have Chat Noir," Tikki urged.
Marinette squeezed her eyes shut. He was the one who was willing to sacrifice himself the most, and she couldn't afford to lose him. But he was as experienced as she was, and as much as she hated to admit it, Tikki was right. She couldn't do this alone.
She turned her head back to the miraculous box, and sighed. It was evening, but early enough that perhaps she could catch the cat on patrol. He deserved to know what was going on, and to give an opinion.
"Okay, you're right," Marinette relented. "I will talk to Chat Noir. But first…"
She already was certain of one thing; this battle would be an ambush. They would need the Snake Miraculous, and given her desperate need for safety, they would need the Turtle as well. She had never used either, though Chat had used the Snake, so perhaps they could test them as they met. "Tikki, spots on!" She called.
Ladybug pulled out her bugphone, dialing her closest superhero.
"What's up bugaboo?" He answered immediately.
"Something's come up, we need to talk," she was straight to the point. "Meet me at the Eiffel Tower in 5?" She grabbed the two bracelets and raced there.
Chat was already waiting for her, and she took a seat next to him. "Hey, Chaton."
"I have a feline you have something more important than idle talk?" he grinned.
She shook her head at his pun, but quickly recovered. "I know who Hawkmoth is." He stiffened. "I've been trying to think of ways to take him out, but… I keep coming up dry, and Tikki convinced me that we both need to be in on this conversation."
He gulped; his joking demeanor forgotten. "The final battle then, huh?" He glanced at her carefully. "Do we know the guy?"
She sighed. "Gabriel Agreste," she replied, and he stiffened. "I know, we thought it was him years ago, but I've recently confirmed it."
He took a shuddering breath. "I… I see."
Ladybug stood, beginning to pace. "I've done some research on him, but… I'm afraid I have no idea why he is doing it. My guess is that his assistant Nathalie must be Mayura, but I am not 100% on that. If we knew his reasoning, maybe it would make this battle easier. Or maybe it doesn't matter, I don't know. I had been thinking of sneaking in and ambushing him, but… there are many risks. What do you think?"
Chat was silent for a few moments, before taking a breath. "Do you think… do you think we should know our own identities before this battle? It's- it's not for curiosity. If this goes poorly, we may end up seeing each other's anyways, as well as his, and it could make it easier on us, if we know. And maybe we could get to him in our civilian forms," he reasoned.
Ladybug sighed. "Maybe, but… I don't want to shake up our teamwork, not so close to the battle. I want to end this as soon as possible- his attacks have been becoming more and more aggressive. We don't have time to redefine our relationship with each other."
Chat sighed. "I guess you're right. So, sneaking in and ambushing, gathering info… I know a person or two, I'm sure I could get some info on… on Hawkmoth's civilian self." He winced. "How were you thinking of the ambush though? Are we going to use other miraculous?"
"I was thinking we can each wear one more than the Cat and Ladybug, though I know I can wear more. I want us to have the Snake for certain, and I would feel much better with the Turtle." She looked at him carefully. "We have to be very cautious, as we will be in his territory. I know you've used the Snake before, and you did well," she thought back to Miracle Queen.
"Ahhh, I did?" Chat Noir's voice was high pitched, and she glanced over to him in confusion. "Oh- oh yeah, I did, heheh. So much happened that day, that one left my memory. So, uh, Turtle, huh? You sure you don't want something a little more offensive?"
Ladybug shook her head. "I can't risk losing anything. If something goes wrong, I want to be able to fall back."
Chat Noir watched her carefully. "Is that why you're having trouble coming up with plans?" Her eyes widened. "You have to take risks, you know."
She sighed. "I know…"
Chat put a hand on his chin in thought. "Maybe… maybe we could try to end it without a fight." Ladybug frowned in confusion, waiting to hear what he meant. "Maybe, if we knew why he needed the miraculous, we could convince him to give up…?"
Ladybug scoffed. "Not a chance. The maniac has been sending off akuma after akuma ruining the lives of Paris, not to mention that he is a god awful father." She screwed up her face. "Besides, we don't know why he's doing it."
"That's exactly the problem, though bugaboo." He caught her eyes. "We don't know why he's doing it; all we know is the villain. What would he have to gain from being a villain? It doesn't make sense, but he's too… calculating, to just be a supervillain for fun. What if…" He paused. "What if we gathered information while we were there?"
"Like snooping around the mansion?"
"Hear me out," Chat began. "So, we hide out in his butterfly lair, and he goes up to send out an akuma. You activate Shellter, hiding both our presence and our voices. We then talk with him for about four minutes, and I reset. Then in the following tries, I tell you what we've learned, and use it to learn more."
"That's… really convoluted," Ladybug admitted. "Can you do that in only five minutes? Actually…" Using the Snake Miraculous to gain information, then?
What if, they geared up before, right after defeating an akuma. Ladybug would wear the Horse and the Turtle, while Chat Noir would hold the Cat and the Snake. Chat would activate Second Chance, and then they would teleport into his lair-
No, that wouldn't work, he would see the portal. They would have to already be there, besides how would they teleport out, if something went wrong? She couldn't exactly transform back.
She went back to step one. They would be hiding, as she originally thought. As Gabriel entered, he could activate the Snake, and they could gather information. But how would he react to some superheroes asking random questions? He would instantly be in battle mode.
"How would we gather information though? Should we camouflage ourselves as different heroes? Maybe not even bring the Cat and the Ladybug?" Ladybug asked nervously, interrupting her own thought.
Chat Noir was startled from his thoughts. "I was just thinking that too. I was thinking maybe we go in as civilians that stumbled on him, but identities and whatnot, and we would have to transform after. But what I was thinking, what if we used the Fox? He wouldn't even know we were there at all, and we could have, I dunno, his son just show up, and make it look like Adrien is asking questions," he suggested.
Ladybug's jaw dropped. "That's perfect! If that's the case, then you should wear the Fox and the Snake, so that you know what should be shown."
Chat shifted uncomfortably. "Why wouldn't you wear them? Between the two of us, you are the one that makes the plans."
She shook her head. "Because of the two of us, you are more offensive, and I am more defensive. If it comes down to a fight, I know you can handle the Snake, something tells me it's right for you. And you tend to be self-sacrificing, I don't need the Turtle boosting your ego," She flicked his nose with a small grin.
"Okay, okay. Then for your second, maybe you should wear the Cat…? If it comes down to a fight, neither the Fox nor the Snake are offensive."
Ladybug shook her head. "We won't use the Cat without the Ladybug. If I wanted the offensive route, I would use the Dragon. But the whole point is that we don't want to fight." She sighed. "Maybe I should just wear the Horse, so we can get out if things go wrong. And before you say you should have it then; I know you would push it farther than I would."
"I would make the portal if you told me to," Chat reasoned. "But I actually have an idea of what I want to say to Hawkmoth… I'll use the Snake and the Fox. You use the Horse and the Turtle."
Ladybug frowned. "What are you going to ask him?"
Chat shook his head. "I know a thing about him thanks to some things I've heard as a civilian. I can't say without revealing myself. Besides, after I activate the Second Chance, anything I say will be game."
Ladybug frowned. Gabriel Agreste never strayed from the mansion, how would Chat know about him? Did he have something to do with Adrien…? She shook her head, banishing the thought. There wasn't time for identities.
"Okay. This… this might work. And if we can't end it peacefully, we can always use Voyage to escape and come back," she said steadily, trying to quench her excitement. This might actually work! She was so glad she decided to talk with Chat Noir, Tikki had been right.
"Clawsome! When are we doing this?"
"He didn't create an akuma today, I think it's safe to assume he will tomorrow. Do you think you could clear your schedule and meet me tomorrow morning? We can portal in, and I will recharge Kaalki, while we wait for him to come up."
He winced. "That's gonna be a long wait. Besides, you already know how his lair works?"
She hesitated. "Not really, that's part of why we're using the Horse," she admitted.
"Ah. I'll add that to the list of things to discover."
"Do you want more time to create questions?" Maybe tomorrow was a little early, they literally just made the plan.
He shook his head. "I'd rather not wait another minute. The sooner we solve this, the happier we will all be. Besides, I don't think I'll be sleeping tonight anyway." Ladybug put her hand on his shoulder, and he smiled gratefully at her. "I can work something out to disappear tomorrow."
Ladybug nodded. She would probably call in sick to the school but frame it as a mental health day to her parents. They have noticed her struggling, and if she made it look like she wanted a day to herself, she was certain they would accept that. "Oh right, we will need to have the Miraculous already, won't we?"
Chat Noir's eyes widened. "Oh yeah, are we actually leaving the Cat and Ladybug behind…?"
She hesitated. "I know I can wear three, but I don't know how long. And I don't know how it would affect you. We should go without them." She took a deep breath. "I have the Snake and Turtle on me at the moment, but you need the Fox too. We should probably switch them out tonight. Did you want to hold on to the ring, and wear it just until you return home tonight?"
He hesitated. "It would probably be safer to keep it with you, just for the day," he admitted. She watched him carefully, he had already given the ring up once.
"I will return it to you right after, I swear." She laughed slightly. "This is going to be so strange, putting the earrings and ring away. Okay then, here's the Snake." she handed it to him, and he went ahead and slipped it onto his wrist. Sass floated out with a sly smile, and a bow. "Want to go ahead and transform, and I'll take the ring back?"
Chat Noir's gaze darted between her and the kwami, his eyes wide. "Uhhh," he began, and she frowned. Was there something wrong with that suggestion? "A-actually, can I wait till I have both the Fox and the Snake? I- uh."
"It shouldn't make a difference?" She frowned.
He took a deep breath and hid behind a pillar. "P-plagg, claws in," he stuttered.
Ladybug instantly heard the cackling of the kwami of destruction, and even Sass let out a hiss of surprise.
"Wow kid, you sure you're not revealing yourself now?" Plagg laughed, and Ladybug frowned in confusion. Maybe she should have just brought the Fox?
"Sh-shut up Plagg, I panicked," he muttered.
"...If you are concerned with your appearancesssss, you can choose how you wish to look in the cosssstume," Sass told him. "I underssstand how… vain, the Cat's chosen can be," Sass picked his words carefully. Ladybug snorted. Was he seriously worried about that?
"Aw come on, you couldn't let me tease him anymore?" Plagg snorted. "Yeah kid, you could even look like a completely different hero if you wanted. No one would be the wiser."
"That is, until you made a cat pun," Ladybug added with a laugh.
"M'lady, you wound me!" Chat's voice called out, and he took a deep breath. "Okay then... Sass, scales slither!"
He returned from behind the pillar, now in a teal costume. She had expected to have a hood, as he had it during Miracle Queen, and as Adrien had as Aspik, but it seemed the lack of hair from the previous wearing had wounded his delicate sense of style. Instead, his costume was closer to Viperion's. She could see the design from the time he had used it as Chat, though it was definitely altered to a point. His eyes were the same green as Chat, his hair a light teal up until tips, which were a green that matched his eyes. The diamond on his chest was the same green.
Something about him felt… different. As though he really did possess the wisdom and intuition necessary to wield the power of second chance. She hadn't really put any deep thought into it, she knew he had used it well before, but the miraculous called for a wisdom she never really attributed to the headstrong cat.
He smirked, "Fangs for trusting me."
Her jaw dropped in disgust. "Maybe I should have been the one to wear the Snake, you clearly don't have the intuition necessary to even make good puns."
"That pun was stinkier than your socks," Plagg added, and Chat put a hand on his chest in mock horror.
Even though she couldn't see his eyebrows, she knew he raised one. "Not you too, Plagg? But I have hisstory with the Snake," Chat's voice was wounded.
"Oh my god," she groaned, and he burst into laughter. "Alright, alright, give me the ring."
"Of courssse," he turned to Plagg. "See you soon, buddy." He pulled the kwami into a hug, and Ladybug smiled as Plagg squirmed. "I'll give you all the camembert you want when we meet again."
"Fine," the kwami muttered. "As long as we meet again."
Chat removed the ring, and Plagg disappeared into it. He gave it to her, with a slight hesitation. "I'll give it right back when this is over," she promised. "I swear it."
He smiled. "I know."
She gasped slightly, his tone and words hitting her with gravity. Chat Noir from another timeline flitted into her mind, the Chat that remained after Chat Blanc had been cleansed. He said it with the same certainty, the same tone of voice. She shook her head; she couldn't think of that.
She returned to her room, detransformed, and returned the ring to the box.
"Marinette, are you sure?" Tikki cautioned.
"I'm positive," she confirmed.
Tikki smiled. "Good. I trust you, Marinette." With that, she set the earrings beside the ring. Seeing them together like that, it felt so foreign, yet so right.
With a shuddering sigh, Marinette took out the Horse, and returned the Turtle. It would be safer to wear one at a time, and the Horse was faster. And with that, she made her way back to Chat.
"My, and to whom do I owe the pleasure of meeting on this fine evening?"
She rolled her eyes, though she didn't know if he could see behind the glasses. "I don't come up with superhero names as quickly as you do. Speaking of which, you came up with one, didn't you?"
He grinned. "Recoil. Coil, like a snake, and re, because of the Second Chance. And with the Fox, Red Coil. I was going to go for Rouge Coil, but that would be too similar to a certain other Fox we know."
She handed him the pendant with a small laugh, and he hung it around his neck. "Alright then Coil, you-" she scrunched up her face. "As great as new names are, maybe we should stick to the ones we know."
"Awww, so you wanna be bugaboo even though you're not a bug?"
She shook her head with a sigh. "Familiarity helps. You'll always be my Chaton."
He made a soft smile, and Ladybug's heart jumped. "You'll always be my lady. Tomorrow then?"
AN: I really want to see the Snake used in the final battle, and with the help of illusion- ohhh the conversations! Sometimes, I like to just play out possibilities, and the dynamic of the Snake would make that super fun. The 'battle' is gonna be very interesting…. I hope you all enjoyed reading as much as I did writing!
PS: I changed the summary to be a little more interesting to read, as well as the title but it's the same story, don't worry~