Chat Noir has a dilemma.
It all starts when Ladybug suggests a training regimen involving the other Miraculous users. Chat is, of course, completely on board—until he hears her mention the name Aspik.
“Wait, what?” Chat asks, holding up a hand to stop her. “You mean Adrien Agreste? Was that his superhero name?”
“That’s what Sass said,” Ladybug says. “Anyway—”
“What about Viperion?” Chat asks. “You said we were keeping the old heroes.”
“We are,” Ladybug says, “but for some of the more essential ones, I thought it might be good to have a back-up. Especially since Papillon could go after any of the original holders before we reach them.”
“But—but I could just use the Snake Miraculous with mine,” Chat says, as his stomach squirms with anxiety. “Like I did before?”
“That’s risky,” Ladybug says. “We should avoid combining Miraculouses unless we have to. Besides, sometimes it’s better to have three people.”
“Aw, my lady,” Chat says, batting his eyes. “I’m not enough for you?”
Ladybug laughs. “You know you are. It’s just a strategy thing.”
“I still don’t think Aspik is a good idea,” Chat says. “Adrien did a pretty bad job, from what I remember—”
“I want to give him a second chance,” Ladybug says. Chat groans, and she laughs. “Pun unintended. Chat, I really do think he’s the best choice if we don’t have access to Luka. Can you trust me on this?”
Chat wants to reply that it’s not a matter of trust—that it’s a matter of I can’t be in two places at the same time—but he can’t do that without revealing his identity. “Okay,” he says. “So, you were saying you want to break us up into small teams to train throughout the week?”
“Right,” Ladybug says. “I have my list right here…” She flips open her yo-yo and fiddles with it, then begins reading off groups of names.
Once again, Chat is completely on board—until she gets to Aspik.
“Wait,” Chat says. “Why do you have me with Aspik? He’s your pick. You should train him.”
Ladybug frowns at him. “Do you have something against him?”
“N-no! Of course not. But I—”
“It’s entirely possible that we’ll end up in a situation where I get hit, and only you and Aspik are left. You two need to have a solid relationship if you’re going to reassure him in those situations.”
Chat almost tells her that he’s fairly certain Aspik is used to seeing Ladybug get zapped, then decides against it. He’s been trying not to think about those hundreds of failed attempts unless he absolutely has to.
“That’s not necessary,” Chat says, waving a hand. “I’m sure he trusts me. I’m one of Paris’s premier superheroes! And I won an Instagram poll. How could he not?”
Ladybug snorts. “Come on, Chat. Unless you’ve got a life-or-death reason that you don’t want to work with him…”
Chat tries and fails to come up with such a reason. Finally, he says, “Okay. On one condition.”
“Add Rena Rouge to our group.”
Forehead wrinkled, Ladybug glances down at her yo-yo. “Why?”
Chat is glad she asked. As someone who has spent many years imploring his father for many things, he’s an expert at making Lists of Compelling Reasons.
“For one thing,” Chat says, “he and Alya are friends in real life. Even if they don’t know each other’s identities, I think it will be nice for him to have a personality he’s familiar with.”
“I agree,” Ladybug says. “But that’s why I was thinking Carapace…”
“I also don’t have as much experience with Rena’s powers,” Chat says. “I’m great at working with Carapace, but I still struggle with the whole illusion thing. Plus, I think Adrien is more likely to figure out Nino’s identity than Alya’s, so it’s probably safer if we keep them apart.”
Ladybug hums to herself, and Chat holds his breath, praying she’ll consider. After a minute that feels like an hour, she nods. “Alright. You, Rena, and Aspik. Sound good?”
Chat breathes a sigh of relief. “Fantastic.”
And so, later that week, Chat arrives at the designated rooftop to meet up with Rena Rouge.
“Hey,” she says, twirling her flute. “Are you guys sure you still want to use me? I mean, now that Papillon knows my identity…”
“You’re too good to fire,” Chat says, grinning. “So, shall we get started?”
“Don’t we need to wait for Aspik?”
Trying his best to act casual, Chat waves a hand. “He can’t make it tonight.”
“Oh,” Rena says. “Should we reschedule?”
“Nope!” Chat says. “Cat and fox bonding is too valuable. Can’t miss it.”
“Hm.” Rena frowns, then pulls up the communication device on her flute. “Okay. Let me just call Ladybug and—”
“No!” Chat says. He winces, realizing that he sounds highly suspicious. “I mean…I’ll text her.” He flips open his baton and starts typing, hoping that it looks like he’s sending a message. When it feels like it’s been long enough, he nods and closes the baton. “Sent.”
“Uh huh,” Rena says. “Chat. Did you even stop by Aspik’s place?”
“Of course I did!” Chat says, which is technically true. “Why wouldn’t I?”
“Ladybug mentioned that you have some…reservations.”
“They’re perfectly well-founded,” Chat says, crossing his arms. “If you knew who he was, you’d understand.”
“Are you sure you’re not…oh, I don’t know…jealous?” Rena asks. She gives him a sly smile. “Ladybug sounded pretty complimentary of Aspik when she mentioned him. I think she’s crushing on him.”
“You do?” Chat asks. “Really?”
Rena frowns. “Why do you sound so excited?”
“No reason!” Chat says. “Say, do me a favor? Create an Aspik illusion so that I can send a picture of the three of us to Ladybug?”
Rena gives him a flat look. “So you admit you didn’t text her.”
“I did not,” Chat says. He slaps his hands together in a pleading gesture, activating his Kitten Eyes. “Please, Rena? I wouldn’t ask if I didn’t have a good reason.”
“I don’t know,” Rena says, glancing down at her flute. “I think we should talk to Ladybug—”
“No!” Chat says. “No, she—listen. I’m going to tell you something, but you can’t tell her.”
“Oh?” Rena says. “Trying to bribe me with exclusive info?”
“Rena,” Chat says. “My secret identity depends on this. It’s serious stuff.”
Rena’s eyes widen. “You’re going to tell me who you are?”
“No,” Chat says. “I’m going to tell you who Aspik is. Sort of.” He sighs. He didn’t want to admit this, but if Rena won’t help otherwise, he doesn’t have much choice. “Before we found Viperion, Ladybug tried to give the Snake Miraculous to someone else.”
“Aspik?” Rena says.
“Yes,” Chat says. “Civilian-me, to be precise.”
For a moment, Rena stares at Chat with her mouth hanging open. “She—she tried to give a Miraculous to you? Without realizing it?” Fingers squeezing her flute, she takes a step forward. “Do you think that means you’re friends on the other side of the mask? What are the odds that—”
“I don’t know,” Chat says, “and I don’t want to think about it too much. My point is, no matter how hard I try, I can’t dissuade her from using Aspik.”
“Weird,” Rena mutters. “I could have sworn she had a crush on him—so if he’s you—”
“I don’t want to think about that too much, either,” Chat says, even as his heart flutters a bit. “So, do me a favor? Create a fake Aspik, take a few pictures or videos, and then help me deliver a kind-but-unflattering progress report to Ladybug?”
“On it,” Rena says. “You can count on me. So, what does Aspik look like?”
“Turn around?” Chat asks. “I’ll transform into him real quick.”
He pulls the Snake Miraculous from his pocket and slips it onto his wrist. A few seconds later, Chat Noir is gone, replaced by Aspik. “Okay,” he says. “You can turn around.”
Rena turns around, then snorts. “Aw. You look cute. But your head kind of looks like an egg.”
“I was trying to cover my hair so that Ladybug wouldn’t recognize me as Chat!” Aspik says. “And besides, snakes don’t have hair. Viperion might be hot, but his costume is horribly inaccurate.”
“Makes sense,” Rena says. “But you still look like an egg. Okay, let me see…” She holds her flute up to her lips and plays a few sweet notes, then calls, “Mirage!”
Pointing in front of herself, she summons a glowing light. When it fades, Aspik is standing face-to-face with a perfect copy of himself.
“Great!” he says. “That’s fantastic, Rena.” A moment later, once he’s transformed back into Chat Noir, he walks over to the fake Aspik. “Group photo time?”
Smiling, Rena snaps a selfie of the three of them. Then she steps back and regards Aspik. “Okay, so, for the videos of you two—what do I need to know about his personality? Does he act like you?”
“Not at all,” Chat says. “Um, he’s shyer and more awkward. I mean, he’d still make puns and stuff, but—”
“Hey, you three!” a female voice calls.
Chat’s blood runs cold.
“Ladybug!” Rena says, her voice so bright that it borders on maniacal. “What are you doing here?”
Ladybug smiles. “I wanted to drop by and welcome Aspik. I know it must be a little intimidating, being surrounded by so many veteran heroes…so, welcome! We’re glad to have you on board.”
“I look like an egg!” Aspik announces, T-posing.
Chat turns to Rena, feeling like he has been punched in the solar plexus. What the fuck? he mouths.
Rena grimaces, her eyes wide with panic. Stomach sinking, Chat remembers one of the first things he learned about the Fox Miraculous: that if Rena Rouge isn’t focused, her illusions go haywire.
Chat tries to give her a reassuring look, but she’s not looking at him. She’s staring at Ladybug and Aspik, clinging to her flute like her life depends on it.
“Uh, n-no!” Ladybug says, laughing. “I like the helmet, Aspik! It really fits with the snake theme.”
“Thank you,” Aspik says, his voice suddenly very deep.
“Hey,” Chat says, as sweat pools on his forehead. “Do you have something caught in your throat, Aspik? Your voice sounds oddly low all of a sudden.”
Aspik coughs. “Ping pong balls.”
Ladybug glances between Chat and Rena. “So, have you three started training yet? Sorry, I didn’t mean to interrupt.”
Aspik holds up his lyre. “I’m learning to play the accordion.”
LYRE, Chat mouths at Rena. IT’S A LYRE.
Rena shakes her head in confusion.
Chat mimes holding a miniature harp and plucks the imaginary strings. Like a tiny harp, he mouths.
“It tickles,” Aspik says.
“O-oh,” Ladybug says. “I’ve never played the lyre. Can you really feel the strings through your gloves?”
With horror, Chat belatedly recalls something he learned back before he realized Rena Rouge and Alya Césaire are the same person: that she is terrible at charades.
My family members hate having me on their team, Alya once told Adrien. No matter how good the charade is, I can’t tell a truck driver from a stripper!
“He can’t feel the strings,” Chat says. “I, um…I think he’s joking. Forgive him. He’s a little nervous.”
“Right,” Ladybug says. She nods, and for a foolish moment, Chat thinks they’re in the clear. “And Aspik, are you still bothered by…you know, the thing from last time? Have you tried using Second Chance?”
The thing from last time. The hundreds of loops. The hundreds of loops that Chat forgot to tell Rena about.
She’s a reporter, though. She’ll manage to infer it, right? She knows what Second Chance does. She’s smart.
There’s a pause, and Rena casts a questioning look at Chat. He twists his hand around his wrist a few times and shudders.
“I no longer have the rash,” Aspik says.
Chat feels himself lose one of his nine lives.
“Rash?” Ladybug echoes.
Scowling at Rena, Chat pointedly grabs his wrist and makes a twisting motion.
“From the handcuffs,” Aspik adds.
Biting back a curse, Chat makes a slicing motion across his throat. Stop, he mouths. Stop talking.
“The execution!” Aspik exclaims.
Is this how Alya’s family feels, when they play charades with her? How does she live with herself?
“The what?” Ladybug asks. She glances at Chat, who stops miming and flashes her a grin. “What is he talking about?”
“I think he hit his head on the way here,” Chat says.
“Egg-xecution,” Aspik says, laughing.
Chat glares at Rena and mouths, WHY?
Puns! she mouths.
NO, Chat mouths back. BAD. STOP.
“I…oh, right,” Ladybug says. “English word. It’s a pun. That’s…very clever.”
Never before has she reacted so badly to one of Chat’s puns. Even in the sewer, when Aspik made a lame joke about the saddle Lucky Charm, she still laughed and found him endearing.
Taking a deep breath, Chat starts moving his head in a circle, mirroring the movement with his hand. Over and over again, he mouths. Hundreds of times.
“Washing machine,” Aspik declares.
Chat almost screams. He edges over to Rena, hoping that if he gets close enough, he can whisper directions in her ear.
“What about a washing machine?” Ladybug asks.
“I like to watch them,” Aspik says. “It soothes me.”
“Soothes you…? Are you alright?” Ladybug asks, hesitantly stepping forward. She glances at Chat and Rena, who are now standing right next to each other. “Did something happen?”
“I’m fine!” Aspik says, which is a normal sentence, at least. “You’re just really pretty, so I’m a bit shy right now.”
Passable. Fairly normal. Chat gives Rena a subtle thumbs-up.
“And a little turned on,” Aspik adds.
Growling, Chat reaches forward and wraps his hands around Rena’s flute. “How did you get that from a thumbs-up?” he hisses.
“He’s you!” Rena whispers, tugging back. “I thought he should say something flirtatious!”
“Randomly announcing a boner isn’t flirting!”
“Well, I don’t know how guys flirt!”
“NOT LIKE THAT.”
Ladybug glances over at Chat and Rena again. They freeze, both of them clinging to the flute. “What are you two fighting about?” Ladybug asks.
“Nothing!” Chat says. Lowering his voice for Rena, he hisses, “Make him take it back.”
“But I’m not turned on by you,” Aspik says, smiling sheepishly. Chat has never wanted to punch himself so badly. “Not at all!”
“Uh,” Ladybug says. “Okay. But—”
“Chat Noir!” Aspik hastily adds. “I’m into Chat.”
“No, he is not,” Chat says, tugging more insistently at the flute. “He is not into me.”
As he and Rena wrestle with the flute, he weighs his options. He could just leave, rather than subjecting himself to this torture, but then he can’t supervise Rena and Aspik—not that his supervision seems to be doing much good. Or he could slam his baton into Aspik and destroy him, which admittedly sounds like the title of a porn video, but it also might be the best option. Then again, that means confessing to Ladybug that he and Rena summoned an Aspik illusion.
Or he can stand by and watch, praying that Rena makes a miraculous comeback.
“I lied,” Aspik says. “I don’t like animals that way.”
“That’s…a relief?” Ladybug says.
“I should leave now,” Aspik says, which is probably the first thing out of his mouth that Chat agrees with.
“Do you want me to escort you back to your house?” Ladybug says. “Ad—Aspik, I’m a bit worried about you. You don’t seem well.”
“How are you so bad at this?” Chat mutters to Rena. He’s got the flute against his chest now, although she still won’t let go. “You were the first hero we picked. The chosen one. You’ve been doing this for months.”
“I panicked,” Rena says, teeth gritted as she pulls at the flute.
“I need to go eat some eggs,” Aspik says. He giggles. “Which is cannibalism, because I am an egg.”
“Oh my god,” Chat growls. “I don’t talk like that! Who talks like that? She’s going to think I’m an idiot.”
“I’m trying!” Rena says.
Ladybug glares at them. “What did you two do?”
“Nothing!” Rena says.
“Character assassination!” Chat says.
“I really like eggs,” Aspik says. Even he looks distressed, now, as if someone has just held a gun to his head and asked him to describe his favorite food. “They’re so yellow. And gooey. Have you ever felt an egg yolk with your fingers?”
“Stop,” Chat mutters. “Please stop. Is this what your mind is like, Rena Rouge? It’s a terrifying place.”
“I—what?” Ladybug says. “I mean, I guess I’ve gotten some on my hands while baking—”
“Sometimes I use them as lotion,” Aspik says. “Do you think you could use egg yolks as lube? You know, some people use whipped cream for sexy times, but why not…”
“Make it go away,” Chat whispers, willing his ears not to hear the rest of Aspik’s sentence. “Make it go away, Rena. Make it go away.”
All she has to do is say the cancellation phrase. Just one word. She doesn’t even need to detransform.
“I don’t feel so good,” Aspik says.
There’s a cracking a noise—an actual cracking noise, Jesus Christ—and then, with an awful moist sound, Aspik explodes into a shower of egg yolks.
Chat flinches back, expecting to get doused in egg before he realizes it’s an illusion. Ladybug, to her credit, bravely remains in place, while Rena looks like she might faint.
There’s a moment of silence. The three of them stare at the pile of golden goo and egg shell pieces that used to be Aspik.
“Did you have to make it so horrific?” Chat mutters.
Rena stares unblinkingly at the mess. “You mean…horr-œuf-ic?”
Chat vows to never pun again.
“He—was that…” Ladybug shakes her head. “Was that an illusion?”
“What do you think?” Chat asks. He can’t tear his eyes away from the egg puddle. How is it so detailed? So lifelike? Why can he imagine cooking Aspik into an omelet?
Ladybug shudders. “I’m going to guess—”
“That hurt,” the egg puddle says.
“Oh my god,” Chat says.
Ladybug covers her mouth, her face slightly green. “Is that—is he—I’m going to be sick.”
“I’m so excited to be on the team, Ladybug!” the puddle continues. “I’ve always admired you and the other Miraculous users. Should we start training now?”
Chat glares at Rena. “Now you make him say normal things? Now?”
“Thank you for trusting me with a Miraculous,” the puddle says. “At first, I was—”
Gagging, Chat extends his baton and slams it down on the puddle, causing it to disappear.
No one speaks. Chat can’t speak for Rena or Ladybug, but personally, he would like to go about his day as if this never happened.
Of course, that’s impossible. In fact, if Sandboy ever makes a reappearance, Chat Noir’s new nightmare is going to be a puddle of egg yolks confessing its love to Ladybug.
Ladybug is the first to say something. “I…I’m almost afraid to ask, but…where is the actual Aspik?”
“At home,” Chat says woodenly.
“He’s sick,” Rena adds.
“Okay,” Ladybug says. Her eyes are still glued to the spot where the puddle was. “So…was this a joke?”
“Yes,” Chat says.
“Absolutely,” Rena says.
Ladybug shakes her head. “You two have a really weird sense of humor.”
“So, uh—can we stick with Viperion?” Rena asks. “I don’t think I can work with Aspik after this.”
Ladybug blinks. She’s still staring at the spot, which is slightly concerning. “Um, yeah,” she says. “I...I don’t think I can work with him, either.”
“Great!” Chat says. “Uh, I mean. Oh, no. That’s so sad. I’ll, uh—I’ll go tell him the bad news.”
And with that, he flees, positive that he will never be able to eat eggs again.