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Over the Wall

Chapter Text

Today was going to be a good day.

Or so Marinette kept telling herself. It was Chloe Bourgeois birthday, and everything had to be perfect. She and her father have made that very clear. The young woman was to receive the shiniest jewels, the finest gowns, and the sweetest pastries. The Bourgeois family was so insistent with this, it left their whole town in a mess, scrambling to make sure everything was perfect, lest the sheriff arrested them for "ill behavior", or so the Bourgeois fondly liked to accuse.

Like all others, the Dupain-Chengs were kept just as busy. Being the finest bakers in town, they were approached for all the sweets Chloe desired. She wanted a tower made of chocolate, sugar cookies decorated as ladybugs, a vanilla cake with her face painted on it, cream puffs, custards, eclairs, breads; the list went on. And it was to be perfect and delicious. Not too rich, not too sugary sweet that a bite could make one cringe, not too gooey or coarse.

It had to be just right.

Eager to please, all three were kept busy trying to make all the delights that Chloe wanted. When it was all done, Marinette's arms were sore from mixing, her hands stiff from gripping spoons and whisks too tightly, and her legs stiff from standing up all day. When she collapsed on her bed, scattering flour across the sheets, she had no plans to rise any time soon. Sleep was a tempting call.

Despite her exhaustion, Marientte couldn't stop the excited smile that bloomed over her. She breathed in deep, the smell of all the fine desserts they made wafting up into her room. It was going to be worth it. It always was. No matter how hard she worked, how many times she ran around, helped in the kitchen with the pastries and the dishes; it always brought a smile to her face when she heard a customer hum in delight when they had one of their treats.

They have yet to receive an unsatisfied customer.

The Bourgeois family was going to be another.

Madame Chloe was going to love it.

Now that just left her personal gift to Chloe.

Marinette groaned as she rolled over, gazing at the stand that stood across from her bed.

The blonde expected everyone in her class to bring her a present. Something she would love. The blonde even went so far as to make personal requests to a few of her peers, letting them know what to exactly get her. Alya was one of them, and the ginger was furious to be told to make an embellishing poem about Madame Bourgeois. "Something that would charm a prince," Alya mimicked her voice sharp and high.

Marinette knew she also approached Nathanael for a portrait.

Nino for a song written about her.

Madame Chloe hasn't approached Marinette for anything; but that didn't stop the noirette from making something, though it was more for herself than Chloe; but she is sure that the blonde would like it.

With her birthday coming, Marinette took the chance to create a dress, a very rare project. Mostly she's done hats, pillows, scarfs, gloves, skirts, shirts; dresses she hasn't had an opportunity to experiment with too much. They were usually very large pieces to do, most had a lot of complications to work on, all the dye she would need to gather to color it. She's dabbled and tried a few times, but this was her first official dress she was giving away to someone outside family and friends.

It made her nervous to think what Madame Chloe would think of the surprise present. Looking it over from where she laid, Marinette couldn't see the blonde hating it. For an experiment, it was a nice gown. It was a light cream blue that would complement Chloe's eyes; she had a bright, golden straps that she used for shoulder straps that would match Madame Chloe's hair; and to complete it, she had a cream colored sash wrapped around the waist.

It was easy on the eyes, comfortable, the stitching near invisible. Chloe would be happy to know all the time and money she poured into it. Even when tired after a long day's work at the bakery, Marinette stayed up to work on it. Her allowance was almost half gone buying material and dye. And to get the right measurements without Chloe knowing, Marinette gave up a few free treats to Sabrina.

It should be a very nice summer gown.

Marinette wouldn't have minded wearing it. She knew Alya wouldn't either. She really did think Chloe would like this present.

Only thing she could think of as to why she wouldn't was the material. Due to her limited price range, and having no desire to spend all her savings on expensive silk, Marinette got cotton instead. But, even if cotton was on the cheap side of material, the gown was still expensive to make it. Especially to get the dye. And it looked very nice, was comfortable, soft to the touch. It should be fine! ...Or so Marinette hoped.

Sighing as she sat up, Marinette grabbed a cloth stationed by her bed. She patted her hands and arms clean of flour, and approached the stand. She ran shaking fingers over the soft material, hosting a wry smile. It grew when she saw a ladybug crawl around, resting on the shoulder strap.

It'll be fine, she repeated to herself, letting the little red and black bug crawl on her finger. She set it safely in her balcony garden.

It was going to be a good day.

The dress looked nice, was comfortable, and expensive to make.

All things Chloe would love.

The Bourgeois family will be very happy.

The finest desserts and a gown from the Dupain-Chengs.

It was going to be a good day.

She just had to get ready for it.

The Bourgeois family was the wealthiest family in town, and as expected, they had the nicest home. Their manor easily stood three times bigger than any other. The exterior walls were marble white, doors a wooden orange, and the roof a jeweled blue. Every time she came helping her father drop off orders, she felt like she was visiting a castle. For Marinette, this was the closest building she had to compare a castle too.

It was awing in a slight intimidating, lovely way.

At this moment, in a pink spring gown she made for herself, carrying boxes of sweets and breads; Marinette felt small as she slowly walked up to the manor. Staff fluttered around them, carrying plates, streamers, food, and drinks. It was so busy she felt dizzy watching the bodies around her. She could only clutch her parcels and dodge the rushing bodies as best she could.

Her father managed to catch one of the staff members, asking where to put the desserts while Marinette scanned the growing crowd for anyone she recognized. It looks like guests haven't arrived yet, just the preparations. Which they were technically apart of. It'd be another hour before Alya and other guests started showing up.

Slipping inside the manor, Marinette dodged rushing bodies, holding the boxes of desserts carefully and wincing at how worse the chaos was here. Distantly she could hear Madame Chloe, screeching at whoever was doing something wrong. Rolling her eyes, she followed her father to the buffet table, sighing in relief to drop off the weights. Flashing a shared smile to her parents, they set out to present the desserts, making sure they were appealing to the eye.

They were almost done when the familiar voice of Monsieur Bourgeois called out to them. "Dupains!" They turned to their host, smiling as the large man came to them, arms spread wide in welcome. "I was beginning to worry that you wouldn't make it!" Her father quickly reassured him, waving to all they had to carry over, she and her mother finished the work.

Monsieur Andre Bourgeois was a selectively kind man. He did not shy from showing off his wealth, especially for his daughter; but Marinette found that Monsieur Bourgeois had a little more class to him than Madame Chloe. Just, a little more. It was often that he wound up taking Madame Chloe's side in any dispute, leading to unjust punishments that his daughter saw fit. Sheriff Roger, the Bourgeois' family second hand, almost lost his job when he had a disagreement with Madame Bourgeois on a punishment, and the reason for it.

The Rogers never made that mistake again, and most of the town learned to tread very carefully around the Bourgeois. It was very, very rare for Monsieur Bourgeois to disagree with his child's desires.

It was known to never count on Monsieur Bourgeois to save you from Chloe's ire.

Licking away any frosting that got on her fingers, Marinette waited patiently for the two men to stop talking. Luck was on her side as Monsieur turned a patient smile to her, silently asking what she wanted. Returning it, she held up her wrapped gift for Chloe.

His expression brightened. "In the back!" he instructed. Nodding her thanks, Marinette hurried away as her mother approached, asking about the birthday girl and Kim. Once she was sure that she was safe from being seen and dragged into that conversation, Marinette made face. Kim and Chloe. Just what she was looking forward to hear at the party...

Kim was a part of the wealthier residences, though nothing near as wealthy as the Bourgeois. And being pretty well off, Kim had the same air and thought process of the wealthy. He was arrogant, blunt in his thoughts, easily insulted, and always ready to show that he was better. And like any wealthy fool, he thought himself perfect for Chloe Bourgeois. Charmed by her wealth and appearance, he became one of her most insistent suitors. Even going as far as to spout that they would wed one day.

Which was pretty far from the truth. If there was anything about him that Chloe was interested in, it was his physique and a chance to irk her father's preference for her to marry a Kubdel. Jalil Kubdel she recalled.

She didn't know much about the Kudbels, only that they were either just as wealthy as the Bougeois, or maybe even more. They lived very well off in Paris, and had a summer home here. Despite Monsieur Bourgeois' insistence to push for a match, Marinette wasn't sure if the Kubdels would accept.

She could understand very well if Monsieur Kubdel didn't desire to wed Chloe. She would be a very... difficult person to be with.

As if to confirm it, Marinette could hear Chloe a little clearer, hissing about her hair. Ignoring her, Marinette sought the presents. Finding a large growing stack, she carefully set hers on the pile.

"Ah, Marinette!"

Turning, she flashed a brought smile to Madame Marlena Cesaire, a woman that was easily her second mother. "Hello Marlena!" she greeted.

"You got everything all set?" Marlena asked, glancing up at the presents.

Marinette nodded. "All pastries are on the buffet table, and my gift is safely placed with all others. What about you? Do you need help? Is Alya here?"

"She's running a little late," Marlena sighed, then gave Marinette a broad smile as she said, "I would appreciate some help. Monsieur Bourgeois asked me to handle decorations. I could use your help with them. You have a very good eye Mari."

Flattered and with no job for the moment, Marinette easily agreed.

When they were done, the Bourgoeis manor looked fit for a princess.

Gold, pink, and purple streamers were hung from the walls and around windows and doors. Any spares were wrapped around rustic brown curtains like a colorful bow. A bowl of white roses set on every table. Black napkins set on every plate. The only thing left for Marinette was having the swan ice sculpture tilted just a little to the right...

And they were practically done just in time. Another ten minutes for guests arrived and the birthday girl could grace them all.

"Thank you Marinette," Marlena bid, smiling.

"Any time Marlena," she reassured, beaming as she peered up at their work. As was Monsieur Bourgeois. From where she stood, she saw him looking at the decor in awe. He was very pleased.

"By the way, Mari, I'm wondering," Marlena voiced. Marinette hummed, letting her know she was listening as she gave everything one last check. "How is it going with Nathanael?"

Marinette stiffened, her face flushing as she jerked to Marlena.

"What?" Marinette uttered.

Marlena chuckled, "No need to be so shy Mari. I'm just wondering how it's going. Sabine mentioned that he seems to watch you. That's usually a sign that he likes you..." She gave Marinette a wink.

"Ahm," was all Marinette could say.

"Not interested?" Marlena asked knowingly.


Laughing, the older woman agreed, "He is a bit shy. And a little hard to approach. I understand wanting someone with a little more confidence."

"Marlena," Marinette whined. She did not want to go over this with her. She already got this from her parents, who both voiced that they would be content if she wed Nathanael, who was a "very sweet boy".

And he was! Marinette couldn't breathe a single bad word about him. He was very sweet. Gentle. Patient. Caring. Thoughtful. He would be a very kind husband to have. Very supportive. She couldn't imagine herself going wrong with him as her match. He certainly wouldn't hold her back from her passions and interests. And they could be well off together. She could be a tailor and occasionally help in her parents' bakery; and he was growing in publicity as an artist. Alya often joked that they'd have the most creative and sweetest kids.


While she couldn't imagine going wrong with Nathanael and have a very comfortable life with him, though probably a very quiet one...

She just... her and Nathanael... together. It just. She just couldn't get grounded to the idea.

Yes, she was of courting age. Has been for two years now. Her window of opportunity was only open for so long. And it was better to marry someone for comfort and contentment if not happiness; and better someone she was familiar with instead of a stranger... especially an older stranger. At this moment, Nathanael would be her best bet. But...

"It's ok," Marlena reassured softly, giving Marinette's shoulder a light squeeze. "You're still young. And this year will be long, and so will the next three. This is your time to feel around. See if Nathanael would make you happy. If not, there are other fish in the sea." She gave Marinette a sure smile. "You may come across someone better."

"I suppose," Marinette agreed with a small smile.

Chuckling, Marlena added, "And maybe you'll get your ladybug blessing after all."

Marinette elbowed the older woman, making her laugh harder as she drew away. The fifteen year old couldn't deny that that was what she was hoping for. Ladybugs are a symbol of good luck and fortune, and every now and then, they will guide two people together, those they're fated to be happy with. It's how her parents got together. Her father was curious and followed a ladybug, finding her mother instead, joining her great uncle in his trade across Europe. Marinette fantasized her own meeting through ladybugs.

And they have always flocked to Marinette, so the concern wasn't a lack of ladybugs; but one has yet to land on Nathanael, or anyone else around her.

If she was fated to have a happy match, he wasn't in this town.

Marlena exclaimed, "There she is! Alya! And Nino! You two came together!"

"Mooom!" The two laughed at Alya exclamation, red faced while Nino tried hard not to chortle with them.

Chloe Bourgeois soaked in the attention like sponge. This way and that she turned, her golden hair whipping around, gushing and giggling as her blue eyes gleamed. All around her, guests were quick to throw congratulations and compliments, making her so giddy she couldn't tell the difference from a true smile to a forced. Which was fine with the visitors. A happy birthday girl led to a happy party. And a happy party brought a peaceful week.

It was a good day.

Marinette smiled in relief with how swell it was going. It was actually a little fun. Something that was rare with the parties that Chloe hosted. She, Marinette Dupain-Cheng, was actually having fun at a party Chloe was hosting.

She wanted to laugh at how strange this was.

Maybe it was the little wine they were allowed to drink., loosening her up, wilting her cares away. Perhaps it was the company of friends she could chortle and chat with, good food to enjoy, fine music, and just the levity in the atmosphere.

It was nice.

It was actually really nice.

She was even able to talk with Nathanael. The sweet boy was a stuttered mess and was as red as his hair, but he seemed to smile just as much, loosened by the wine.

And she even didn't mind offering her congratulations to Chloe, and simply rolled her eyes good naturally at the blonde's pleased clucks.

And even danced with Kim when he asked. She didn't care if it was a roost to get Chloe jealous, she was in a giggling fit as they twirled on the dance floor, the upbeat music bouncing through her bones and the strong warm hands guiding her. She felt like she could fly.

Gradually the party hyped died down, most relaxing and nibbling on the provided foods with their selective company. Alya was teasing her about her dance with Kim when Monseiur Bourgeois called for their attention.

"It is time for my sweet honey suckle to open presents!" he stated. The crowd clapped as Chloe jumped up with a loud squeal. Sabrina shared her enthusiasm while Kim winced at the volume, slightly rolling his eyes at her. With a wave of his hand, Monsieur Bourgoeis turned the crowd's attention towards the open hall, where servants were dragging the tower of gifts into the main room for birthday girl to open. Marinette rolled her eyes when she saw that they had a ladder ready.

In her summer gown, Chloe peered up at the tower critically. Everyone seemed to hold their breath as they waited. "This is from everyone?" Chloe asked.

"Everyone did ask where to put presents," her father cooed.

Chloe turned her eyes back up to the stack, a slow smile spreading over her lisp. "I suppose this a pleasing enough size," she bid, waving at a servant to bring her the first gift, at the tippy top of the tower.

Tossed down between the servants, an old butler presented the first gift.

"From Kim," she uttered in a bored tone.

Marinette heard him whisper to Sabrina, "I tipped the guy to make sure she got mine first!"

Having a servant tear the wrapping away for her, she opened the box and peeked inside. Her bored look transformed into one of absolute glee. With a squeal, she revealed white, polished riding boots for all to see. "I needed new riding boots!" she exclaimed.

Alya muttered with a roll of her eyes, "Yeah, after the previous ones got muddy."

"Thank you Teddy Webby," Chloe cooed to Kim, blowing him a kiss.

"Any time honey buns!" Kim called back, smirking. Only to look away quickly when Monsieur Bourgeois shot him a look.

Marinette and Nino shared a chuckle while Alya visibly gagged. "No ridiculous pet names like that," the ginger warned him.

Nino teased, "But my delectable morning flow—"

Nino was silenced by a sharp jab at his foot.

Marinette snickered.

Slowly, Chloe worked through the presents, barely tearing at any of the paper that covered the boxes she was given. Most of the gifts she seemed content with. A drawing of her from Nathanael seemed to please her. She didn't seem to know what to make of the telescope Nino got for her, much to the boy's agitation. And the small book Alya settled to get her instead she tossed away like it was a piece of junk. She was very pleased with the African imported jewels Sabrina got her.

The gifts went on: shoes, hats, necklaces, rings, brooches, bracelets, little figurines, a peacock fan, and a dashing coat that had Marinette twisting in envy. At least they were nearing the bottom, and Marinette held her breathe when Chloe picked up her gift. She could hear her heart pounding in her ears, watching as the wrapping was torn away, and Chloe slowly brought the gown out.

Chloe seemed to like it. Her eyes sparkled at the make, appreciating the blue and the gold laced on it. She even pressed it against her form, just to see how it would compliment her. Marinette sunk into her seat with a sigh of relief and bliss. She liked the dress. Picky Bourgious liked her dress! It was a very good sign for her possible career in the future.

Only to be dashed when Chloe spoke, the joy gone from her tone. "Cotton?" She sounded offended, rubbing the material between her fingers. "Who brought this?" she demanded, looking to the servant that was now holding the dress' box. Marinette sunk in her seat, her blood running cold as he read aloud, "From Marinette Dupain-Cheng."

Her blue eyes shot to Marinette accusingly. Marinette bit her lip as she looked away from those eyes. She felt Alya's hand grab her own, squeezing it while Nino shifted, somewhat blocking her from the blonde. It did little for her.

"Cotton?" Chloe pressed, her voice tight.

It's what I could afford, along with the dye for it, Marinette thought grimly. Sheepishly, she said, "It's what I could afford Madame Chloe. I assure you I put a lot of effort into it. It's the finest dress I've made yet."

The blonde frowned at her, humming absently as she looked over it. It was nice, despite the material. "I suppose I can where this sometime…"

"I'm glad to hear that," Marinette bid with a relieved sigh.

"I expect silk next time Marinette Dupain."

"Of course," she said.

"Sweetie," Monsieur Borgeois voiced, coming up to his girl, holding out a present for her. A big excited smile bloomed over Chloe's face. She dropped Marinette's gown and instantly started to rip the present apart. She squealed loudly at what was inside, jumping up and down as she babbled in excitement. Monsieur Bourgeois' smile grew at her happiness. Chloe pulled out a far finer gown than what Marinette made, making the dark haired girl wince.

The dress was beautiful, both in make and appearance. It was pearl pink, with ivory scarves wrapped around it, forming a bow in the back. It looked like something out of a fairy tale, the sort a princess wore. From where she stood, she couldn't see any mistakes on it. The stitching was invisible to the eye, nothing was out of place. It was far, far better than what Marinette made for her. "Imported from London," Chloe's father couldn't help boast as his daughter hugged the dress to her, her smile wide.

"It's marvelous daddy!" Chloe gushed. "The perfect dress!" She shot Marinette a look before turning to her father. "I'm going to try it on!"

The birthday girl fled leaving the party to mingle. Marinette tried to ignore the bubble of disappointment weighing in her chest, taking a small sip of her wine. She was grateful when Alya dragged her into a new conversation.

The event was almost over, Marinette reassured herself. Now that presents were opened, all that was left was the prized dessert.

The chocolate tower.

Already some have been eyeballing it, licking their lips. Nino being one of them. "Can't wait to try it," he told Marinette. "What chocolates have you used for it?"

Giggling at his question, Marinette eagerly answered, "We used quite a mix. Dark on the bottom, classic milk in the middle, and cream at the top. You see the bit of gold on it?


"That's caramel."

Nino's mouth watered, humming loudly as he eye balled it.

"Hey!" Alya snapped, "I know that look! Don't you dare sneak a bite!"

"I wasn't!" Nino defends.

"We'll be having it soon," Marinette reassured. "And if you want, I could probably make you one for your wedding."

"Yes please!" Nino exclaimed while Alya blushed and scoffed. Marinette giggled, turning her eyes up to the chocolate tower, one of the finest, most detailed works of her father. They would be having it soon. After all, Chloe couldn't resist flaunting her wealth when giving the chance and an expensive dress like that just had to be shown off.

True to her prediction, Chloe was soon to arrive, wearing her princess dress and holding a white fan to compliment it. Winking and smiling to the crowd, she slipped in among them, her head high like she was a true princess. Compliments flew to her like bees to a flowerbed. And like before, Chloe soaked it all in. She walked with grace, her head high and shoulders back, one hand held the hem delicately while she absently fanned herself. She could not get lovelier tonight with how much she was glowing.

Today was a good day, Marinette decided, downing her wine. Even if her dress didn't wind out as appreciated as she hoped, Chloe did seem to like it. And she was happy. A happy Chloe brought a peaceful town. No drama of any kind to fret about. It would be a rare peaceful week.

Getting up to set her empty glass down, Marinette headed towards the buffet table where her empty glass would be taken away. She didn't see the laughing couple backing up to her, bumping her hard in the side and jamming her straight into the chocolate tower.

The world went slowly.

Marinette found she couldn't do anything as the chocolate tower jerked, wobbled, and tipped over. Its dark shadow fell over Chloe in her new dress, the blonde turning just in time to see it come down upon her. Nobody moved fast enough to save her as the tower went over with a loud splat. Marinette was left on the table's edge, her elbow and side bruised and throbbing, cringing as she stared at the pile of chocolate that covered the blonde. The silence was insufferable as fear spread over her in waves.

There went the good day.

Chapter Text

The Bourgeois manor shook. Chloe Bourgeois' howls could be heard past those old stone walls. Any inside and out all cringed at the rising tones of the blonde. Those that had lingered quickly fled away. Any that stayed hid deeper in the shadows, cringing as they waited for silence. Most kept their eyes off of her.

Marinette found she couldn't join them. She stood frozen in the center of a near empty hall, eyes to the floor, flinching every time Chloe's shadow flickered over her. Her voice rang in her ears as the blonde shrilled at her. Her body felt cold, her heart loud in her ears, pounding her head alongside Madame Bourgeois' voice. She gripped the hem of her dress, trying to cope through this.

She couldn't believe this happened.

This wasn't supposed to happen!

Biting her lip, she peeked up only to quickly look down when she met the furious steel eyes of Monsieur Bourgeois.

He was furious.

His eyes storming just like his daughter's.

Maybe even harsher.

Scared and regretful, Marinette tried to keep her whimpers hushed. Her teal eyes turned away, catching the eyes of the few that stayed in the gala.

The few servants bore her no pity, eyeing her in silent scorn.

The Rogers family stayed as well, Sabrina glaring at her while Monsieur Roger kept looking between her and the Bourgeois, a little torn and a little loss on just what to do for this situation.

And her parents, their eyes fearful had been shushed whenever they tried to speak.

Marinette wanted to sink into the floor.


It was an accident.


She did not plan for it!


Marinette flinched at each and every scream, every jab made her feel smaller and smaller. And worse. She felt so horrible.

It was an accident.

It truly was!

She, she had no intention of the tower falling on Chloe! And on her birthday no less, with the prize of her presents now completely ruined...


Marinette sucked in a sharp breathe, stiffening at the screech. She dared glance up towards Chloe, meeting her furious eyes. No. She couldn't go over the wall. She... what she did wasn't... that, that was just too... She couldn't go over the wall! She almost insisted that, almost argued; only to keep silent as Chloe resumed her pacing, mumbling curses under her breathe.

"Monsieur Bourgeois," her father pleaded out past the shushing servants, gripping her mother's shoulders. "Please, it was an accident. Marinette would never—"

"Well it happened!" Chloe snapped at them. Monsieur Bourgeois echoed her grimace, pinching the bridge of his nose.

"It did," the wealthy man agreed. "Do you have any idea how much the dress costed me? And on my sweet honey suckle's birthday?" He was woeful on the last part, sinking into his chair like he had been stabbed. "I thought Dupains were more courteous than tha-"

"Obviously not!" Chloe spat, rounding on her parents. "You shouldn't even have a business with how unprofessional this was!"

"It was only me!" Marinette jumped in, not thinking till Chloe turned her eyes back to her. Gulping, she stammered, "It, it truly was an accident Madame Bourgeois-"

"No. An accident is tipping over my tower and denying me of my sweet. Tipping it on me, that, that was an assault!"

"It, it wasn-"

"Monsieur Bourgeois please!"

"Our daughter would never-"

"I could have been hurt!" Chloe silenced them, crossing her arms as she turned away with a frustrated sniff. "You... you ruined everything! Do you know just how hard Daddy had to work to get this for me? You saw how great I looked in it! It was my day! And you." She couldn't even finish, shaking in her rage. "You should go over the wall," she whispered harshly.

Marinette cringed.

No. Nononoonononono, please no.

Don't let it be official.

She'd rather be jailed than over the wall.

"I—I could fix," Marinette tried, her voice trembling as her blue eyes flickered to the ruined gown Chloe hasn't taken off yet. What was once lovely pink with ivory sashes was now stained brown and muddy with chocolate and wrinkled from the force of the fall and the weight of the tower. The last would be an easy fix but the rest… it didn't— she could try. Surely she could do something—

"You couldn't do anything to fix this," Chloe sneered.

"You Dupains don't even have the money to fix this, do you?" Bourgeois pressed.

Her mother gripped her father's arm tighter. "We…" Tom started, frowning. "We'll find a way to pay it back. Anything you desire, I, I can bake anything. Marinette does have sewing skills. She'll make whatever you want Miss Bourgeois, and maybe she can fix—"

"I think a few years of service would make up for all that money," Chloe voiced, turning to her father with a pout.

Monseur Bourgeois offered his daughter a small, proud smile. "You've read my mind my dear."

Her mother rushed to her, pulling Marinette into a hug as Tom Dupain slumped, resting his large hands on both their shoulders. He stated, "I understand, we'll start as soon as—"

"No." Chloe shot them a dark glare. "You two will start serving us. But you—"she pointed straight at Marinette, "—won't."

"Wh-what?" Marinette stuttered, feeling her parents tighten their grasp on her.

"I don't want someone as clumsy and spiteful as you working in my home. I don't want to see you at all, ever again. For all that you did, ha, I think you do deserve to go over the wall. I'm serious about this."

"No," her mother breathed while Marinette's heart sped.

Even Monsieur Bourgeois looked a little unsure. "My sweet honey suckle," he cooed, "I'm all for wrong doers receiving just punishments; but going over the wall is for crimi—"

"I was assaulted Papa!" Chloe exclaimed, her voice breaking as her eyes glistened. "My wonderful day! That beautiful dress you got me! I was in my prime! And then she tips that tower on me! She could have hurt me Papa! I was assaulted on my day! That is criminal behavior! I want her to go over the wall! I never want to see her again!"

Bourgeois didn't argue, he simply nodded in agreement. "Roger," he conceded, turning to the wary Sheriff, "it certainly has been a while since we've sent someone over the wall."

Roger babbled, "It certainly has sir..."

Monseiru Bourgeois nodded to them, and Roger came to them, the servants shadowing him as he reached for Marinette. Her parents grip turned painful as they all drew away, pleading. They were blocked from behind and Marinette was tugged away. She wailed and thrashed in their hold, tugging at her wrists, trying to free them from Roger's grasp. Her parents were stopped and pushed out of the manor, not allowed to see her as Marinette was dragged in the opposite direction. She screamed at them, begging them to let her go.

"H-hold on! I, I can't go over the wall! I'm, I'm fifteen! I—that wasn't an assault! That wasn't even an attack! That, that was just an accident! Monsieur Bourgeois! Please! I'm, I'm sorry! I never meant— please! Don't send me over the wall! I—You! Can't! Please!"

It all fell to deaf ears as the Dupain-Chengs were separated. The last thing Marinette saw in that hall was Chloe's satisfied smirk.

She wound up jailed after all.

Huddled up in a cell, Marinette sat quiet and still in a corner, staring at nothing as she waited. She felt numb. She couldn't bring herself to eat or drink, didn't sleep, and barely noticed the changing day. Even when Sheriff Roger left her a small table and chair to eat dinner in, she didn't notice it.

She was dead.

She was practically dead.

She was going over the wall.

She was going over the wall.

Only criminals go over the wall. The worst of the worst. That couldn't be spared a whole life time of prison or service. It was those sort that go over the wall and she... she was going over too...

She closed her eyes, burying herself in her arms, as if she could hide away from reality.

She couldn't believe this was happening.

In the empty silence of the jail, with only the cold dinner Roger left, Marinette's body finally moved, shuddering gasps coming out of her as her body trembled. When she finally fell asleep, her sleeves were soaked through.

A loud click of a lock woke Marinette. She blinked blearily, crust weighing the corners of her eyes, her skin puffy and stiff from where the tears dried. Groaning, she rubbed against her arms, the skin feeling like rubber. She ignored the ache in her neck and back, sleeping hunched over the whole night. She didn't move as she heard the heavy steps of Roger coming by, settling with just keeping her face buried in her arms.

Even as the heavenly aroma of pancakes filled the air, she didn't look up.

As nice as it smelled she wasn't hungry.

She heard the clatter of plates being moved and could feel the frown he sent her. "You should eat," he voiced awkwardly.

She finally moved, looking tiredly to the steaming plate, a short stack of pancakes with strawberries on the side, and a small jar of syrup stood regally by it's side. It looked utterly delightful and fluffy, but the thought of eating just made her stomach twist uncomfortably. "I'm not hungry," she mumbled, laying her cheek on her wrist.

Sighing, he sat in her empty chair, staring down at her. "I'm sorry Marinette," he confessed, "this. This really isn't a suitable punishment for what happened. I, I think a bit of servitude would have been more fitting than... this. You really shouldn't be getting this."

She shouldn't.

Not for this.

Looking up at the tired man, just as worn out as her, she asked in a hushed tone, "Can you, can you change their minds?" Her mind? Could, could Chloe be convinced that she doesn't need to go over the wall?

Roger shook his head and Marinette curled deeper into herself. "She's adamant," he told her, his voice grim and tired. "She wants you to go over the wall tonight."

Marinette trembled.

She felt sick.

And the smell of pancakes were not helping.

"I'm allowing you to have visitors. Friends and family that wanted to say goodbye. It would really reassure them to have you eat you know. Gather your strength and ready. Your parents made your breakfast too."

She looked up at that, eyeing the stack.

Roger left her cell and got started on paperwork, waiting for the first visitor. Marinette slowly got up and sat in the chair. She stared down at that stack. The golden brown pancakes, still warm with steam and no doubt utterly delightful on the tongue. And the strawberries, flushed red in ripeness. They had to be from their best stash, always saved for their best customers. Now plucked for her to enjoy.

Her last breakfast here.

Her last taste of divine sweetness.

She still felt sick to her stomach.

She still want to just curl up on the floor, wait for this to be over and face death as numbly as she could.

With shaking hands, she poured the warm syrup over the stacks, letting a little seep over the strawberries. She took her first bite, tasting the sweetness bloom over her tongue and was off, hungrier than she felt. In just a few minutes, her breakfast was gone.

Roger smiled from his desk. "Better?"

No, it wasn't.

There was nothing better about this situation.

She didn't feel better at all.

"Better," came her shaky reply.

Her parents were the first visitors.

Roger left her cell unlocked and told her she could wander the jail as she wished, so long as she didn't leave it. With this privilege, he allowed them to sit in the farthest cell, giving them their privacy while he worked.

In this moment, no words were shared between the small family. Only heavy breathes and tight limbs holding them together. For the longest time, they sat like that, simply holding each other, pretending that there was no limit to this visit. That she wasn't leaving. That nothing was wrong.

But when Roger called that he saw the Cesaire family approaching with Monsieur Nino, the Dupain-Chengs shifted back into reality.

Her mother held her cheeks, staring down at her, soaking in the sight of her daughter. Marientte gripped her wrist, echoing her intent and turning to her father as well, soaking in them both. This probably was the last she'll ever see of them. She bit her lip to keep from crying as the fact whispered in her ear. She wouldn't cry. Not when they were here. Her crying shouldn't be the last thing they see. They'd want to remember her smiling, her eyes shining.

Not, not a mess like this.

She tried to swallow her sorrow, only for her throat to feel parched and burning. She cracked a trembling smile to them, trying to give something to remember her better besides this...

She would not cry.

Not in front of them.

She flinched when her mother's fingers ghosted over her cheek, and Marinette blinked surprised to feel moist warmth spread over her cheek. "My little girl," Sabine whispered.

Marinette broke.

The cracks that spread over finally shattered and it all poured out again. With a great heave she crumbled into Sabine's warm arms, feeling them wrap around her shoulders, pressing her face into her neck. Her fingers tangled in her hair, rubbing her head while the other weaved up and down her back soothingly. Gentle kisses danced over her forehead. "My little girl," Sabine whispered, her voice breaking.

Warmth bloomed over the two as Tom wrapped them both in a tight hug, kissing the top of Marientte's head.

She sniffled when she felt his beard tickle her through her hair, his own breathe shook over her. Marinette twisted in their arms, burying her face into her father's chest. It was shaking.

She couldn't recall ever a time that her father shook.

It really ripped her wrong.

"Be brave," her mother whispered, running her hand through her hair, "it'll be ok."

It won't, she thought grimly, but nodded anyway, breathing them in deep. She kept their touched locked up in her memories, their smell, their looks. Their warmth. This was their last moment.

She was going to squeeze everything she could out of it.

Roger's voice was loud as he welcomed the Cesaire family.

And all too soon, she got all she could.

Painfully slowly, they drew away, hands lingering as they gazed at each other.

Her mother gave Marinette one last kiss on her brow before stepping back, letting her husband hold his little girl as tightly as he desired. Marinette returned those hugs and kisses with her own, and as Roger came down to announce that it was time to leave, the Dupain-Chengs slowly separated.

Marientte didn't turn her gaze away from them, even as they disappeared around the corner.

Alya held her chin still, dragging a damp, warm cloth over Marinette's face. The noirette flinched a little when it dragged a little to harshly on her cheek, and whispered an automatic "It's alright" to the hushed apologies.

Alya sighed across from her, withdrawing the cloth and staring at the flush critically. "You don't look good," she stated.

Marinette laughed, a broken, weak laugh that had her buckling forward till she was slumped against Alya's shoulder. "I'd be surprised if I looked good at all," Marientte managed.

Humming in agreement, Alya sent the cloth on the table before reaching around Marinette's head. She didn't respond as she felt her hair being tugged, the ribbons becoming undone and letting the slick dark hair fall over her shoulders. She sat still, focusing on the fingers skillfully weaving through her hair, dancing on top of her scalp.

Absently she could still hear her parents, talking with Marlena, Roger, and Nino.

A chance for the two to have alone time.

"Did you even sleep last night?" Alya wondered.

"No," Marinette admitted to her shoulder.

"You look horrible."

Another weak laugh bubbled out of her. "I feel horrible."

Alya hummed, leaning over and rifling through the bag she brought. She came back with a brush, replacing her fingers as she ran that through Marinette's hair. The noirette closed her eyes, relaxing into the soothing motion. The cloth returned, a little cooler now, wiping over a few strands before the brush replaced it.

Quietly, she asked Alya, "Is there anything you don't have in that bag."

"Quite a bit," she best friend grounded out, gently leaning Marientte back and staring at her work. Satisfied that her hair had some attention, Alya brought the cloth back to her face, gently dragging it over, catching any dirt that she might have missed.

"Want me to let a bee loose in her room?" Alya asked, her eyes flickering to Marientte's before quickly looking away.

"No," she sighed. She cracked a weak smile. "It'd be a little mean that I'd miss her panicking because a bee sat five feet from her."

Alya laughed, her smile breaking. She leant forward, leaning on Marinette's chest. Warily Marientte brought her hands to Alya's shoulders, running her hands through the soft red locks. "You're such a clumsy idiot," Alya bit out.

"I am," Marinette agreed.

"Why'd you have to be such a clumsy idiot?"

"I don't know."

"You idiot."

Marinette hugged her tightly, breathing deeply as her lip trembled. "Alya," she managed out.


"I'm tired of crying."

Alya hugged her back tightly. Not letting go even as her mother and Nino came in. When they left, her hair was redone in neater pigtails.

Marinette was a little surprised just how many visits she got that day.

After Alya, Marlena, and Nino left; Nathanael visited her next, looking just as tired and upset as she was. Unlike her, he didn't have a best friend come over to shape him up. His usually straight hair was a ruffled mess, he had bags under his eyes, and his clothes were wrinkled. He didn't even bother smiling when he came to see her. He offered her a depressed apology and a gift, babbling that she could take it with her and how he worked on it all night, making sure he got it to her before she was gone.

A picture of her and her parents. All smiling as they embraced, looking to the viewer right in the eyes.

Marinette embraced him, babbling quivering thank yous in his ear. He slowly returned it, a light blush on his cheeks as he patted her back reassuringly. He promised to get one done for her parents.

Kim surprised her next. He babbled his apologies behind a sheepish scoff, stating that his love was being a bit dramatic. Though she should have been more careful. He left her with a firm pat on the shoulder and encouraging words to punch everything unknown in the face.

Others came and went as the day dwindled on, closer and closer to her... to her... fate.

The visits came as a constant reminder that stressed her out more than comforted her. Every goodbye and good luck given was echoed in her head.

You're leaving for good.

Never to be seen again.

You're going to die.

It took Marinette a lot to keep a hold on herself. Not to scream.

When Roger sent the last visitor away and left to get her dinner, Marinette returned to her old cell, sitting in the corner, the picture Nathanael drew for her clutched tightly in her hands. Water fell over the piece as she gazed down at her, her hands shaking. He did very well on detail. They were all dressed in casual, smiling broadly as they all pressed against each other, holding each other lovingly. She traced the smiles, happy that Nathanael made them smiling. Smiles is what she wanted to remember.

Smiling is how she should remember and look at them, not sad.

Not like this.

She looked up as Roger approached, a steaming plate of pasta in his hands. She rolled up the drawing, clutching it as she stood.

"You have an hour," he said quietly.

Marinette didn't touch her dinner.

She was scared.

The old grit wall loomed over her, hushed and pressing like a silent judge. From where she stood, she could see the old stone was chipped, cracked, and dented by time and weather. But still it stood as strong and high as ever. A solid separation from their world, and the dark unknown that lay on the other side. The only way over was to scale the vines that tangled on the stone.

Her grip on her shirt tightened as her nerves spiked. The bag she was given, full of all provisions her family and friends could think that she'd need, felt heavy on her shoulder, and her legs turned to jelly. It felt like a single nudge and she'd fall in a heap on the ground. When Roger gently pushed her forward, she stumbled, catching herself just in time. He gave her shoulder a comforting squeezing before they continued. She moved with only a slight shake, that wall getting closer and higher with each step she took.

It clicked in her head.

She was going to cross it.

Oh God, she was going to cross it!

She felt like she was going to faint… she was going to cross it…

She was going to join those criminals, face whatever monsters and horrors they faced when they had to cross it. She, she really shouldn't. What she did, she shouldn't... but that hand on her shoulder was pushing her to it. Those eyes all locked on the back of her head kept her from running. She could only go forward. Towards that towering, growing wall...

She was going to cross the wall.

She was going to die.

She almost turned around when they were right in its shadow, she almost pleaded once more for forgiveness, to simply serve Chloe to the end of her days so she wouldn't have to cross it and face whatever was on the other side. Faintly she could hear arguments and shouts behind her, but her heart was pounding too heavily, and her breathing was too loud. She almost choked on her own saliva when she felt a light tap on her shoulder.

"Nice an easy Miss Dupain," he told her, his voice soft and apologetic.

"It was an accident," she whispered desperately as he slowly pushed her closer to the wall.

"I know," he said, "but my hands are tied."

By golden rope, Marinette thought bitterly as she drew closer to the wall.

"Wait!" an infamous voice shouted. Roger froze while Marinette bit her lip to keep in control, from shouting or begging, she didn't know. When a colder, darker shadow fell over her, she turned and looked up at her wrongful judge. She sat upon an ivory steed, wearing a different gown. A simple muted green silken dress, not as fanciful as the pink one her father got her, but still lovely and of charming make. A perfect cloth to wear to a grim event, while still looking important.

It even went well with her new riding boots.

Chloe cleared her throat, drawing Marinette's eyes up to her. She stared down at the accused, haughty and indifferent. "Miss Dupain," she bid, her voice firm and nonchalant, "while I was taught that all evil doers should get what they deserve, I was also taught to be fair and just."

Marinette struggled not to snort, biting her lip hard to keep from screaming. Chloe new mercy and just? This wouldn't be happening if she did! But... She gazed up at Chloe with wide eyes instead, allowed a little bit of hope to bubble in her. She had to know how serious this was. That someone couldn't be sent over the wall for something so silly. Maybe she was more appealing as a servant for her than gone.

"So," Chloe continues, "I'll give you a chance."

Marinette found her hope lifting higher. Yes?

Turning away, Chloe stated, "If, by the chance you do survive, you find something valuable for me, not only will I let you live here again, your parents will be free from serving us."

Marinette stared while Chloe sat upon her horse like she had just given her an amazing opportunity.

"What?" Marinette asked softly.

Chloe scoffed, "I said-"

"What?!" Marinette gaped.

Chloe snapped. "Treasure!" She scoffed like the noirette was being a child. "Nobody owns anything from over the wall. I want to be the first. You find something valuable and rare over there, bring it to me, and I'll put this mess behind us. Sounds fair yes?"

"Chloe!" Marinette shouted, "I, I can't! What... what could I grab, what?!"

The blonde rolled her eyes down at the baker's daughter, turning her horse away as she snipped, "Not my problem. That's your offer Miss Dupain." She trotted away before Marinette could respond. Marinette gaped after her, itching to race past Sheriff Roger and drag the girl down from her horse and just... shake her. Something. Anything that would knock sense into her. Just, just what?!

Shaking his head, Roger gave her shoulder another light tap and pushed her closer to the wall. "Good luck," he bid, leaving her to scale it.

She was here.

When did she get here?

Oh God she was here.

Licking her lips as reality caught back up to her, Marinette shook as she turned her gaze back up to the gristly stone. She shot one last desperate look over her shoulder, meeting the eyes of the few that came to see her... departure.

Her parents clung to one another, her father crying while her mother watched with sad, glistening eyes.

Nathanael looked sad.

Kim and his friend Max looked unsure, but made no move to stop this.

Nino was holding Alya, her mother had her hands wrapped around her shoulder, both supporting and keeping the shaking girl from acting.

Sabrina stood next to the Bourgeois, looking unsure as she welcomed her father to her side.

The Bourgeois family glared at her from the backs of white horses, daring her to move away from the wall.

Gulping, Marinette took her final step to the wall. She reached for the vines, feeling the course surface beneath her palms and the tickle of leaves on her wrist. Heart drumming in her head, she pulled herself up and started to scale over. The vine hissed and groaned under her weight, but held securely with every move she made. With little effort, her foot only getting caught once, she hauled herself to the top, stopping to stare out at the dark trees waiting on the other side.

She cast one last look over to the observers, and gave one last wave before dropping to the ground on the other side.

And into the unknown.

Chapter Text

Her first opinion in new world?

It was as frightening as she thought it would be.

There was not a sound to be heard anywhere outside her own steps, and that simply added to her growing fear. Every hiss of dust she disturbed, the snap of a twig, and the squeal of dried leaves she broke had her freaking out. It felt like she was disturbing the twisted forest, waking it from its hushed slumber. It felt like it should stay sleeping. Gripping the strap of her bag tightly, Marinette held still every few steps, just waiting for anything to come at her. A few times she almost considered running back, clamoring over the old stone wall and begging. Begging that Chloe let her stay. That this, this was enough.

This was enough.

With how hard her heart was beating, she felt like she was going to pass out every few steps.

Maybe, maybe she could sneak back over, maybe she could just leave, move elsewhere. Start a new life. France was big.

She, she was still never going to see anyone ever again.

She didn't know what would've been worse.

Going through this, or running away to a different town, hoping that Chloe never saw her and not allowing herself to return to her family and friends despite being on the same side...

Looking back, all she saw was black. She couldn't see the wall anymore.

Could she even find it again?

Licking her lip, she forced herself to continue.

There was a chance. A chance this way that she could get with her family again. To never hide away again.

She just had to keep moving forward.

And hope for the best.

Especially since... she imagines that whatever got the criminals here, should be getting her soon.

Her stomach twisted uncomfortably at the thought, and Marinette was glad she didn't eat any food.

But despite every sound she made in the still air, and how many times she paused and waited; nothing came for her. She was beginning to think this side of the wall was empty of life. The only form she's come across were trees and even then, she didn't know if they were alive. They were black, twisted, and bare. The sort of trees she imagined when reading horror or seeing in a horrific picture.

It was all the more unnerving to see them here.

She squeezed the strap continuously, her only source of comfort as she walked on. Each step, her nerves slowly settled to wariness. Nothing has come for her. And besides her own steps, there was no sound.

She thought about calling out, just to see if anything answered.

She quickly shoves that idea away, scared to think of who or… what, would find her. The only people that came here were criminals. And they faced whatever dangers were here as penance for their crimes.

And they were never heard from again.

Marinette didn't want to find out what those dangers were.

...Unless they did manage to escape? Just wandered about in the woods to freedom? A new life? Maybe those criminals were now living in a happy retirement, their old home completely oblivious to them.


She doubted she'd get that lucky.

But she did need to get through this forest. Find something for Chloe to appease the blonde. But that was a matter of getting out, finding something, surviving...

Maybe she will. No movement, no sound. She seemed to be alone here.

It almost made her relax.

Yeah. She could see herself making it.

Nothing has happened so far!

It's, it's just an empty, creepy forest. She was alone. Nothing was going to hurt her but her own fear. Straightening her shoulders in determination, Marinette smoothly walked through trees, easing her nerves as her courage grew. It was fine. She was going to be fine. She was going to get through this, find something shiny, return home, and forget this ever happened. Life will go on. Marinette could do this. She-

-jumped when she heard her first sound.

A long dragging coo, sounding a bit like an owl's hoot, only with a purr ticking the notes. It, it wasn't necessarily a creepy sound, but Marinette found she was gripping the bag's strap in fear once more. She looked around wildly, searching for any owl that could be in the high branches, but saw none.

The sound went off again, a little higher.

She heard a twig snap behind her and screamed, instantly running away before whatever was behind her could get her. Reaching wooden arms slapped her as she pushed through them, stumbling over roots and fallen branches. Of course something finally moved just as she was calming down! Or course she was getting attacked right now! Her eyes stung as frightful tears welled up, partly blinding her as she fled.

Behind her she could faintly hear movement.

Something that sounded like claws scratching at the wooden floor.

She could almost hear a gurgling growl whisper in her ear.

She ran faster, ignoring all the cuts and jabs she got as she shoved through the forest. She needed to get out! She needed to get away! She needed-

One root snapped at the tip of her shoe and she was tipped forward. Rough bark bit the palm of her hand as Marinette grabbed a tree for support. Breathing hard as she leant over, she glanced behind her, looking for anything that could be hunting her.

She couldn't see anything past the shadows; she didn't let herself think she was truly alone anymore.

There had to be something there to make a sound. They don't happen on their own. Something had to step on a stick and-

-and it could be watching her right this minute!

Gulping, Marinette stood slowly, waiting once again to see if anything came at her. No movement and it was quiet once more. Licking her lips nervously, she looked over her hand. A minor scrape with a little bit of blood bubbling out. It wasn't stinging yet.

It was ok.

She was ok.

Get out of woods, she told herself, find something fancy and shiny that Chloe would like, go back home.

Simple, Marinette reassured herself. The plan was simple. Keep it simple.

She'll make it.

She'll be ok.

It'll be ok.

Biting her lip and doing one last check, she walked on, this gripping the strap of her bag. This time, she stopped for a moment to pick up a lengthy stick, just in case. Hoping that it would be of some help...

She cringed when she heard another cooing hoot. It sounded closer. Marientte walked faster. The cooing grew faster as well.

And louder.

She was nearly running again when a leafless hedge shook next to her. Jumping with a slight scream and dropping the stick she held; Marinette met small, bright orange eyes, staring up at her with equal fear. A pigeon. Trapped in the branches.

"Th-that cooing was you?" Marinette asked shakily.

The pigeon gave a louder, more frantic coo, wiggling as it tried to get out.

She wanted to laugh.

It was a pigeon!

It was just a pigeon!

No monster in the shadows that wanted to gobble her up! It was just a pigeon! Letting out a shaking sigh, she drew closer to the bush, looking over the tangle that held the bird. "You're in a bit of a bind," she mumbled, keeping her voice hushed. The pigeon struggled, wiggling as it cooed frantically. Heart going out to it, she carefully reached for it. "It's ok," she eased, pulling the branches apart carefully, not wanting to make it worse. Rough bark bit at her fingers, and Marinette flinched when she strayed over a thorn. Ignoring the roughness tearing at her, she was able to move the branches enough for the bird to get free.

The pigeon quickly took off, nearly sending her to her rear in its rush, and disappeared into the shadows, leaving her to stare after it.

Well, she knew there were normal creatures here at least.

And not all were dangerous.

With that note, she resumed her trek, keeping her ears out for anything that could follow her.

Outside her own steps, for the longest time she hasn't heard anything else.

Marinette was starting to think she was either alone or... or there was a clever monster shadowing her and plotting...

She brushed that idea aside quickly before it filled her head.

She's fine.

It's ok.

It's still ok.

Coming across a large log, she took the chance of a needed break. Sighing in relief as she slipped off her shoes, Marinette massaged them with her good hand, easing the aches and sores of moving all day. Her other rested at her side, slightly throbbing and stinging now that the adrenaline of her scares passed. Mostly relaxed now, she allowed her mind to wander as she stared blankly at the shadows.

She wondered if the forest ever ended.

Marinette frowned as she looked around, digging her thumb into the arch of her foot. She's been walking a good while now and nothing has changed. The trees were still black, their branches empty. There was no sun. No wind. No other noises outside that the occasional break of a stick, which was caused by her or something else. It was all just... lifeless. She was starting to wonder if the trees were even alive. Perhaps they were dead. Everything else here seemed to be with how this world was.

Minus the pigeon. That was alive.

Was there even food here for the bird?

Marinette reasoned it must have flown here from over the wall. A stranger in this world just like her. Caught in a trap...

Marinette switched to her other foot, trying to push away her thoughts as she focused on the massage. Occasionally her eyes wandered about, searching the black for just anything. She paused when she caught sight of a smudge of color. Blinking, she smiled when saw a ladybug crawling on a near tree. A second life! And a lucky one! She stopped her massage, leaning over and sticking her finger out to it. It slowly crawled up her finger, staying on as she sat up and smiling at it. It was so nice to see color again. She kept the bug, switching it between her fingers as it moved, her smile growing at the tickling sensation. Finally it stopped and flew away, quickly disappearing into the darkness.

Marinette stared after it, sad to see it go.

When she could feel her feet again, she slipped on her shoes and was about to depart when she heard a familiar coo. Looking up, she saw a pigeon staring down at her from branch. Perhaps the same one she saved before? She didn't remember seeing any other birds here...

The pigeon jerked its head around, staring at her with one orange eye, then the other. Weakly, she waved up at it, smiling at its coo.

"Edgard is very curious about you."

Marinette fell off the log, scrambling around to face whoever snuck up on her. A very thin, bird-like man eyed her with big eyes, seemingly bulging next to his near flat, beak like nose; he wore a grey cloak that looked to be made out of… feathers? "He's also very thankful," the man continued, not at all bothered by her surprise. He blinked owlishly at her silence.

"Edgard?" she stuttered.

The man cooed and pointed up. The pigeon answered.

"You helped Edgard," he stated. "He is thankful. And curious. I am too. You're not like most who come over the wall. That I have seen. And you are the first in a while I think."

"You know about the other side of the wall?" she asked dumbly, instantly feeling like smacking herself. Of course, if they're looking over, there had to be folks looking over as well. A wall you couldn't cross, who wouldn't be curious?

The man didn't seem bothered by her question. He easily answered, "Not in detail, but I'm aware. One of few."

That surprised her. "Few?" she repeated.

"No one likes to come here," he told her, looking at the trees. "It scares people. It's said this forest eats people."

"It does?" she asked timidly.

He shrugged. "Most who enter don't come out," he said, "no matter where they enter. Sometimes people do come out though. I have yet to be lost... or eaten. Same for you."

"I, I see," she stammered, looking at the trees nervously. "I'm a little lost," she quickly admits.

"It does like to confuse people," he assured.

"Is, is the exit near?" she asked, silently pleading that yes, yes it was. Yes, she could get out of here soon. She wanted to see the sky, the sun, the clouds, feel the wind. Please let her get out-


"Oh." Damn it all. Frowning, Marinette asked instead, "Have you been following me?" Was that him breaking all the twigs?

The bird man shook his head. "Oh no," he said, "not whole time at least. If anyone has been following you, a wolf has. Considering making a meal out of you, it did. And Edgardn of course. After you saved him."

"A wolf?!" Marinette repeated in alarm.

"Well, timber wolf, not a normal wolf," he corrected. "But worry not," the strange man eased, "wolf stopped following you long time ago. Wolves only attack folks when angry. Most that come over the wall don't get past them, because they make wolves mad. But you no provoke wolf. Let you be... or forest let you be. Some folks say them timber wolves are the forest, just free and running around. "

"Oh." That was good to hear. She thinks. That meant that the... forest wasn't going to kill her... she thinks.

At least now she knows what got the criminals. Sounds like it won't be getting her.

The pigeon, Edgard, cooed up once more.

"Good question," the man told the pigeon before turning to her, his head tilting to the side like a bird. "What someone like you doing here? It was always nasty strange folk that came here. Not children with soft hearts."

Blinking, Marinette fidgeted, a little unsure how to answer. In all honesty, she has no right or reason to be here. It was just out of a brat's pettiness that she was. Grimacing, she finally said, "I'm paying for a... unfortunate accident. But I can go home if I find treasure!" She added, excitement and hope lacing her tone as she peered up at the man. Maybe he could shorten her trial?

He blinked owlishly at her, not responding.

She found her nerves growing under his gaze. She pressed, "I, I don't suppose you know any treasure that I can find?"

Humming, he scratched his long chin, turning his gaze up to the pigeon. "Well," he murmured, "no, at least, not what you're probably thinking of. At least, I don't think what you're thinking of…"

Frowning, Marinette decided to try for something else. "How about getting out of this place?" she asked instead, gazing up at the looming dark trees. "If I'm not close to an exit, can you lead me out?"


She pressed, "Why not?"

"There are mean folk out there," he said, jerking his head to the left. "They'll hurt my friends. Like Edgard. They'll come pressure me. I don't like the folk out there. I won't go near them. I rather be here." He waved to the black trees. "The forest doesn't pressure like them."

"Can you point me out the right direction at least?" Marinette pleaded.

"I suppose," he hummed, tapping his broad chin. The pigeon cooed above, shuffling on the branch. The man beamed. "That's true Edgard!" To Marinette, he exclaimed, "We can give you something! Edgard is in your debt, he needs to pay it. But we don't want to leave. And directions are vague, so this best solution!"

"Ok?" Marinette said, hopeful yet unsure as she eyed Edgard. What could a pigeon do for her?

"I'll need a stand of hair," he instructed, reaching for her, "just one."

Warily, she tugged one strand free and handed it to him. Edgard flew down, letting the man open his wings and trace his feathers lightly. He murmured a slight apology before pulling one of the larger feathers out. The pigeon only gave a mild coo before hopping back. Marinette watched as the man delicately wrapped her hair around the feather, whispering words she couldn't quite hear. She blinked when she saw the strand white flash before darkening, nearly invisible on the feather.

Grinning broadly, he offered the feather to her. She took it carefully, flipping over what looked like a normal pigeon feather. Only with her barely visible strand of black hair wrapped around it.

"Thanks," she said slowly, turning her confused eyes towards the smiling man. "But, how does this help me?"

He tapped the feather in her hands, informing, "This feather will guide you out. Trust it, follow it, and it will take you where you need to go." By her baffled stare, he adds, "It's magic. Something you'll need to get used to here sweet hearted child."

Magic. Marinette could hardly believe what she heard, eyeing the feather in disbelief. It was magic? How, how can it? Shaking her bafflement, she cleared her throat and gave him a wry smile. "Thank you…?"

"Xavier Ramier, a wizard who wanders in Limbes. And one of the few pigeon caretakers."

"I'm Marinette Dupain-Cheng. Thank you Monsieur Ramier. And ah, Edgard?"

The pigeon cooed.

"Thank you," she repeated.

Ramier nodded to her as he held out his arm. Evae jumped upon it. "One more word of advice sweet hearted child," the wizard voiced, "I would not suggest making it known where you're from." Marinette raised a brow. The wizard frowned as he answered. "You're from over the wall," he said. "You are strange and rare. And unknown. People do horrendous things with beings that are strange and unknown. Take care sweet hearted child. Trust that feather, for pigeons never get lost."

And before Marinette's very eyes, they melted into the shadows. And the forest grew hush once more.

Marinette was grateful for the help.

She really, truly was.

But she'd be happier if that help really actually helped.

She was just baffled on how a simple, well, magical, feather was going to lead her out. So far, she found no way for it too. She tried commands. It didn't move in her hand. She tossed it into the air. Only for it to float to the ground. She asked questions, poked it, instructed, named places and words that came to mind; everything she could think of she tried to active this "guide".

But nothing happened with it.

She was really starting to disbelieve the possibility of this leading her out more and more.

How does one work a magical feather?!

Groaning where she sat on the log, Marinette slumped in her seat, head resting on her knees, the feather clasped in her hand tightly. She just wanted out. Away from these black trees, leafless branches, and silence. The silence was really starting to drive her crazy.

She was almost tempted to shout, call Ramier and see if he would come back.

And with instructions on how to work this fricking feather!

Feeling frustrated and tired, she leant back. Her eyes were starting to sting, signs of her emotional and physical exhaustion catching up to her. She wanted out. She never wanted to look at another black tree again. She wanted color. She wanted the sun. She wanted home. Her parents. Alya. She closed her eyes, breathing in deep and slow.

When she had a better hold, she uncurled her fingers to peer down at the feather, lying in her palm. "Please," she whispered to it, "I just want to get out."

Nothing happened.

In a huff, she almost dropped it and left it to the ground. Only for the wind to pick and the next thing Marinette knew, the feather was gone from her hand and swinging through the air, moving away from her. She sat still for a moment, staring at it in shock before she jumped up with a shout, racing after it as it dove past the branches. If she ever got too far back, she found it waiting, pressed against a tree. But as soon as she was close, off it went again, zooming through the air.

Gradually, the trees thinned, branches grew heavy with leaves that got brighter in color. It wasn't long till she felt the first brush of sunlight on her cheeks. Breathing hard, Marinette slowed, a smile spreading over her face. She was still in the forest, but just at the very edge. The trees were less dense, she could see a field a few miles away, and color! There was so much color she could cry and laugh herself silly.

"Finally," she gushed.

She was out!

Mostly, by how the feather kept flying.

Giddy with her progress, Marinette dashed after it, trusting it to lead her down the right path.

She breathed in deep as she ran, enjoying the smell of the trees, the grass, and she could even catch the smell of wildflowers growing in this edge. And the sun, the warmth brushing on her shoulders, it felt amazing. And birds! She could hear song birds singing, squirrels chirping as they darted about in the trees. Even the faint howl of a wolf didn't scare her as much as it should've. It almost sounded like a send off.

After walking in darkness and silence, she felt alive.

With the feather above, leading her down the right path, nothing could go wrong!

Till that feather lead her to a pit.

Just as she got out of the darkness, Marinette found herself weightless and swallowed up once more. With a sharp squeal and pained grunts below, she lay stiffly on the pit floor. Blinking dazedly, she was happy to note that she could still see. As soon as the black dots faded from her sight.

Coming bruises throbbed loudly throughout her body and Marinette groaned in protest. She moved to sit up; faintly noting that the ground was much warmer and softer than it should be… She froze when she heard a sharp, pained hiss when she pushed to sit up.

Alarmed, she reeled away, slamming her head against the wall and echoing that hiss with her own. Tenderly rubbing the back of her head, she looked down at what she landed on.

It was a boy. Dressed in all black, laying on his side in a heap of limbs. Bright green eyes peeked at her through half open lids, and her breathe in her throat when they seemed to glow in the darken pit. She gazed back stiffly, unsure what to do or say as those eyes lazily peered at her. Slowly, they closed, the body seemed to get limper with a tired sigh.

And that oh so helpful feather dropped like a stone, landing on her head like it's job was done.

Oy vey, Marinette thought.

Chapter Text

Marinette sat stiffly for the moment, just staring down at the still boy lying across the pit. He hadn't moved since she jerked away from him. He just, woke a little, stared at her for a few seconds, and went back to sleep.

Or fell back unconscious.

Licking her lips, Marinette glanced up at the opening, grimacing when she saw that the pit she was in was too deep to climb out. The pigeon feather slid off her head and brushed against her forearm as it fell, drawing her attention to it. Quickly stashing it in her bag, she turned her attention back to the sleeping boy.

Warily she poked at his calf. "Hey?" she called, wincing as her voice came out soft. She repeated it louder. The boy didn't respond.

Daringly, she crawled forward, easing herself over him as she shook his shoulder. "You ok?" she pressed.

His eyes fluttered but he didn't respond past that.

She pressed her hand against his neck, feeling his pulse beat a little too rapidly for comfort. She felt around his face, the skin feeling warm and smooth under her fingertips. He didn't feel feverish. His breathe was pretty even, if maybe a little heavy.

She jerked when he coughed under her, his body twitching. Marinette quickly gave him room, watching as he breathed hoarsely through cracked lips. He shivered despite being under the sun and dressed in black. She instinctively rested her hand on his shoulder, feeling his body tremble under her palm.

Running through all that she knew medically, Marinette shifted around so she was sitting along his back. She ran her hands up and down his body, feeling his clothes and checking how tight they were. Anything that felt tight she loosened enough to let him breathe easier. Firm muscles shivered under fingers, his body twitching a few times when she pressed. Shy apologies tumbled out of her, but she stayed focused on tasked. Breathing easier was more important than their embarrassment.

As his breathe evened out a little, a hoarse cough still racked his body. She leant over, blocking the sun's light as she watched his face. His eyes opened a little, unfocused. "Hey," she called, "you ok?"

His eyes slid over to her, blinking slowly like he couldn't quite see her. Sliding her bag, around, she pulled out her flask, dribbling a little bit of water on her fingers before smearing it on his face, hoping it was cool enough to rouse him. He sighed at the sensation, his whole body going lip as cool fingers traced his face.

"Better?" she asked, her other hand shaking his shoulder again.

Marinette jumped when he licked her fingers when they trailed close to his mouth, catching the little bit of moisture left.

Red faced, she quickly drew away; her fingers tingling.

That was... that was so...


An idea clicking in her head, she set the flask down before helping him up, grunting a little at his weight. When he was settled against a wall, she brought the flask to his lips, letting the water splash on him. That seemed to wake him up. His shaking hands took it, and he tried to down the whole thing in one large gulp. Squeaking, Marinette pulled it away quickly as he coughed harshly. Falling forward, his head landed on her shoulder, breathing hard into her shirt.

"Slowly," she told him as he gasped. Warily, her hand settled into his slick hair, weaving through the strands soothingly. "You have to take it slowly."

He breathed deep, reaching for the flask once more with his trembling fingers, covering in black gloves with curious points on the end. She set the flask in his hand, letting him lean back against the wall and not letting go of the flask as she helped it up to his lips. He drank slower this time, but just as deeply. Marinette pulled it away after a few gulps, letting him breathe before allowing him to drink once more.

Her flask was nearly empty when he was done. He was still breathing deeply and was leaning heavily on her once again. She closed the flask, stashing it in her bag carefully, trying not to move too much. When she peeked up towards the sky, she saw it was orange, darkening with the setting sun. "We're ok," she uttered, feeling his body grow heavier. She reached up, rubbing his shoulders soothingly. "We'll be ok."

Her mysterious comrade responded by burying his face into her hair, body still trembling slightly. Marinette leant into him as the air started to cool and nip at her bare arms.

Her bed back home would have been much nicer.

At that thought, she reached into her bag again, drawing up the slightly wrinkled drawing Nathanael gave her.

She stared at it, taking in her parents smiling face. She traced their faces, running her fingers along their bodies. She started when the boy twitched, his hair tickling her neck when he moved. She set the drawing back, and pressed tightly up against that warm body as the night got colder.

Goodnight Maman, Papa.


Marinette grimaced, sounding her annoyance at being disturbed. She was tired, aching, and just wanted to sleep. And her bed was moving. Why was the damn bed moving?

"Miss?" The voice reached again, a little clearer.

"Ive more minutes," she mumbled, pressing closer to the warmth. Barely registering it stiffening beside her.

"I-ok, I suppose so, uh, reasonable," came the jumbled, flustered reply. She sighed contently when something warm wrapped around her shoulders, keeping her surrounded in heat. This was nice. Though, she sure her bed was usually far more comfortable than this. And didn't smell like soil, sweat, and leather. Wait. Did she go to bed last night? She, she didn't think so...

Marinette started, blinking sleepily at the wall of brown. She didn't have a brown wall.

Where... she sat up, surprising the warmth enough to shift away from her, instantly making her cold and wake her more. Marinette groaned, slumping against the wall.

That's right.

The wall.

She went over the wall. And followed the feather and, was, was in a pit... And the boy! She turned, blinking to see wide, curious green eyes staring back at her. He was awake with a little more color in his face and... were those cat ears sticking out of his head?

She's seen stranger, she decided.

And was too tired to be surprised.

Groaning at the reality, Marinette curled tightly around herself, smearing face against her knees as she tried to wake up. "You better?" she managed out.

She felt him jerk a little at her question. Awkwardly he answered, "Yes, much better."

"Good," she yawned, not quite willing to uncurl yet. She noticed the bag laying a little ways from her, remembering last night. "Sorry," she mumbled, "I think I'm about out of water." He was going to need more. To keep drinking.

"Why you—I should apologize!" he said quickly, jotting his gloved hands out. "I drank almost all of it! And it was yours!"

Unbothered, she shrugged and mumbled, "I gave it to you to drink."

"And I'm thankful," he promised, and looked away with a flush, bright against the black mask he wore, "but, you wouldn't have too if I wasn't such a mess. That was your water..."

"And you needed it," she brushed off, biting back another groan as she reached her arm out of her warm curl, dragging her bag to her and before leaning against it, sighing tiredly. She remembering yesterday made her exhausted. Sleep sounded good. Very good.

"Ah hey," the strange boy voiced, leaning over to eye her.

She hummed absently.

"Who are you?" he asked. "If you don't mind me knowing."

"Marinette," she uttered.

"Marinette," he repeated, testing the name on his tongue. He pressed, "How did the imps get you?"

She cracked one eye at him, frowning. "Imps?"

"Yes," he said, patting the walls. "Nasty little devils. They dig these pits, trap folk, and let them die slowly. I've been here for a few days. I think."

"Are you ok?" she asked, sitting up a little.

"Fine! Fine," he said quickly, adding under her stare, "maybe a little tired. Hungry. Still thirst- I don't want the last of your water!"

"You were dehydrated enough that you passed out," she told him, grimacing at her flask. "You need more-"

He reassured, "I'll get more! And you too, you need more water than that. And it's the least I can do-"

"Would you like some food?"

"Well yeah, I wou- No! I can't take your food too! That's your food!"

"Cookie or bread?" she asked, looking up at him and ignoring his bit.

He was red faced, biting his lip as he lightly scowled at her. Finally, he grudgingly answered, "I would like a cookie."

Cracking him a teasing smile, she pulled out a macaroon and handed it to him. He took it delicately from her, giving it a little sniff while she took out her own, munching away. She would have preferred a warm, creamy sweet coffee in the morning, but a cookie will do. Though she'll have to find something else since she couldn't live on bread and cookies. Licking her lips to catch any stray crumbs, she pulled the bag closer, checking the contents.

Everyone gave her a few items before Roger pushed her to the wall, items they thought would help her on the other side. She had two loafs stuffed into one bag. A sack of macaroons and chocolate chip cookies. There was a knife; she'll have to readjust her clothes to make it more accessible. A carry on sheath or something like that. The slightly scrunched up picture of her family she had hurriedly shoved into the bag. A pencil and what looked like a new journal. A box with medical supplies. And the near empty flask.

She looked up at the moan. The boy's eyes were closed, the cookie gone from his hands. Swallowing, he told her, "That was the bestest cookie I've ever had in my whole life."

"I got another if you want," she told him, glancing back up at the pit opening. How was she going to get out?

"I can't take more of your food!" he sputtered, red faced. Marinette blinked to see a tail made of leather, rising up and stiff with jags, sharing his distress. His stomach rumbled against him, much to his embarrassment. The tail dropped limp to the ground, the end curling in slight agitation.

"I don't mind," she eased, trying not to smile. "I also have some bread in here. That'd probably fill you up more."

He stared at her, frowning. Marinette stared back, not quite getting why she was receiving such an intense glare. "Don't you know who I am?" he asked slowly.

She didn't. She had no reason to since she wasn't from here. Should she?

No, she decided. He seemed far too sweet to be dangerous. "I don't," she told him honestly, taking out the knife and loaf. She sawed off two pieces, handing him one, nodding to his sheepish thanks, while she kept the other. She gazed up, nibbling at her slice. How to get out of here?

"Everyone calls me Chat," he voiced and Marinette nods absently. "Chat Noir," he clarified.

"Nice to meet you," she comments, not seeing his shocked expression.

"How, how did you get here?" he questioned. "If, if not through the imps..."

"I was following my feather out of a forest," she told him absently.


She looked up at his surprised tone. He gaped at her, his brows raised skeptically. She pulled out the pigeon feather, confirming it's existence. "It lead me here," she went on, "and I kinda landed on you, sorry about that."

"No! No!" he eased, slowly adding, "It was, it was a stroke of good luck, for me. Which's rare." He looked up at her in a new light, his head tilting to the side as he considered her.

Marinette fidgeted as the silence dragged on, her feather safe in her bag once more, clearing her throat as she looked up. "So, any ideas on how to get out?" she asked him.

He blinked, looking up. He smiled. "I can get us out." His tail jerked up, whipping around excitedly.

"You can?"

"I can," he repeated. "It wouldn't be too hard. And you don't look heavy. And that's not too high."

Marinette raised a brow, staring at the walls. "That wall has to be... eight feet!"

"At least," he confirmed, "maybe ten." He laughed at her expression, reassuring her, "I can easily make it. And get you out." His eyes flickered to her bag. "And get you food and water."

"Speaking of water," she voiced, taking the flask out.

He immediately cut in before she could ask. "You have it."

"You sure? You probably need it more-"

"When was the last time you had a drink?" he shot.

She opened her mouth to reply, only to close it quickly. When was the last time she had water? Scowling at his intense stare, she grumbled, "Probably almost a day. But you-"

"Drink it," he ordered, crossing his arms stubbornly.

She tried again. "But you-"

"-Need water," he finished. "Even that little bit. I drank almost the whole thing! I am, mostly, good. Have it." At her frown, he states, "I'm not getting us out till you have it." To add to his point, his tail started to curl up and down, coy and patient.

Sighing and rolling her eyes, Marinette humored Chat by downing what was left in the flask. She was a little surprised to find that she was parched. And that little morsel was gone to soon. Licking her lips to catch the moisture on her lips, she looked over at Chat to see him looking away, his fingers tapping his elbow as he waited, his tail flickering about. "Done," Marinette told him, shaking the empty flask for good measure.

He perked, eyeing it, the leather ears sticking out of his messy blonde hair standing up a little. Smiling, he stood quickly, and nearly toppled over in that instant. "Easy!" she exclaimed, grabbing his hands to help support him. The claws at the tips dug into her skin a little before he quickly eased that pressure.

"Sorry," he chuckled, blushing. "Haven't used my legs in a few days," he explained with a weak chuckle.

"You sure you can handle it?" she asked, standing up as well, using him to help pull her up. She noticed he was a good head taller than her.

He insisted he could, pouting. "Just grab your bag, make sure you have everything," he bid instead, starting to stretch a bit.

She did.

Both of them ready, he pulled her closer with a cheeky grin, resting his arm around her shoulders. "It'll be easier if you put your arms around me," he said. Eyeing him warily, she wrapped her arms around his shoulders, becoming a little conscious of the body she pressed against. His other arm came around her waist, securing her. "Brace yourself," he warned. Marinette felt his body tense as he crouched, and leapt up out of the pit.

Their landing was a little less to be desired.

Their legs weren't ready for the ground and they toppled over, Chat landing on top of her and quickly drawing away. "Sorry!" he exclaimed taking her hands and pulling her up. Shakily, she steadied herself, looking over at the pit then to him, gaping.

"You jumped eight feet!" she exclaimed, her now free hands waving wildly.

"Actually ten," he bragged, puffing out his chest.

"H-how did you...?"

He beamed, very amused with her bafflement. "One of the perks of being Chat Noir! Now come My Lady! We shall find you food and water! And shelter!"

"You too," she reminded faintly, leaning over to look into the pit. She quickly drew away from it, following the wobbly Chat as he hummed a chirpy tune, his leather tail flickering about happily despite his stumbles.

He was glad to be up and about.

And out.

Marinette could not express how nice it was to see color again.

Everything was making her smile. There were flowers! The trees had leaves! And brown bark! And she saw a bird! A pretty cute bird that made Chat sneeze when it flew too close.

"Feathers," he told her with a grumble, rubbing his nose. "I'm allergic to feathers."

"The pigeon feather didn't bother you?" she asked. He waved her concern away. It wasn't close enough to bother him.

"I do find it strange," he voiced as they walked through the woods, a path slowly starting to form before them. "That it leads you to a pit."

"So that's not common?" she asked curiously. It was supposed to take her around?

"No, not really. A pigeon feather guides you when you are lost. Typically it leads you to your desire. Or what you need. Making it strange that it lead you to a pit."

"Quite," she agreed, glaring down at her bag.

"What did you ask of it?" he wondered, leaning over to eye her bag.

"Ah, a way out?" she guessed, waving to the thicker forest back there. That was the only thing she really wanted then. Just to get out. How guiding her to a pit was the solution, she didn't know. Chat had a cheeky grin on his face as he teasingly offered.

"Maybe it was guiding you to me."

Marinette stopped, peering up at him as she considered the prospect. Pigeon feathers guide the lost, to their desires or needs. Marinette rolled the information in her head. She didn't know about Chat in that pit. So when the feather dropped her in there, it wasn't him she desired. But it also lead to her needs... "Maybe," she agreed quietly, startling the dark boy.

"I was just joking," he said quickly.

"And you might be right," she insisted. At his frown, she continued, "You said it guides me what I desire or need. I didn't know you were down there, I can't desire what I don't know."

"You can," he said softly, looking away.

Marinette eyed him for a moment. She continued when he didn't elaborate. "Then perhaps you're what I need."

His leather cat ears twitched at that, and he turned his curious green eyes to her. "Whatever for?" he asked.

She shrugged. Out of the woods and to a town? Though, she supposed the feather could do that just as easily... so long as it didn't drop her down any more holes. But, there was one other thing she would need help with. And she didn't know if a feather really could help her.

"I'm looking for something," she told him, crossing her arms and jotting out her hip as she shifted her weight. She clarified, "Treasure."

He blinked and pointed to her bag. "Don't you already have it?" At her confused look, he said, "The feather? Nobles would pay quite a sum to get their hands on a pigeon feather. They're clever creatures, capable to always go where they desire and never getting lost. But they're skittish of people plucking their feathers out and usually avoid most people." He tilted his head, looking her up and down. "So, don't you already have a treasure?"

Marinette stared at him, frowning. Waving her hands around, she tried, "Not... the sort of treasure I'm looking for."

He hummed curiously. "Then what is? Phoenix tears? I know a lot of women desire phoenix tears. A siren's pearl? If so, be careful, sometimes they want more than just money. And you may not even end up with your purchase. Um... what is it your looking for again?"

She really, honestly didn't know. Probably not a siren's pearl or phoenix tears. She doubted Chloe would believe her if she told her that's the treasure she got. And a pigeon feather wouldn't please her at all. And Marinette preferred to get an item that wouldn't be dangerous to get. At all. "Something shiny," she said at last. "Like, jewelry. Or, or maybe a dress. Or a... tiara?" It would have to be something Chloe could wear. She would want to show it off to her peers.

Humming, Chat told her, "Unless you're planning to steal from an infamous fairy, or witch; what it sounds like you're looking for isn't treasure. Though I suppose a siren's pearl can count-"

"No siren's pearl," she cuts in, crossing her arms and forming an x. She adds, "No stealing from dangerous people. And beings?"

He quirked a brow. "This, this isn't for you; someone else?" he guessed.

"Yes, ah, you can say I'm in debt. I caused someone trouble, unintentionally, and the only way to make it up is to get her something. Something that no one else has."

"That can be a number of things," he said, tapping his chin. He guessed again, "A noble woman?"


He smiled, offering, "Maybe I can relieve you of your debt. Who's the noble? I'm a bit... famous among nobility. And I am in debt to you. Maybe I can break it."

"You wouldn't know her," she said.

Dramatically he gaped at her, claws resting on his chest. "You doubt me?" he asked, his voice a little high in his "hurt". It was the wrong move as he suddenly coughed, wincing as he rubbed his throat.

"Let's get you water," Marinette insisted worriedly.

"Yeah," he agreed hoarse, clearing his throat. Quickly he adds, "And you."

"And me," she agreed, taking his wrist and dragging him along while she looked out for a stream.

She learned that he had very sharp hearing.

While the two walked further along, suddenly he held her wrist and dragged her towards a stream. It was a little ways off the developing road they were on, and the water looked clear. Chat let her wrist go as he crouched by the bank, giving it a quick sniff before he cupped the water in his gloves and started to down it sloppily. Marinette crouched beside him, filling her flask. When it was full, she sat back and downed it.

She sighed in relief, leaning back and grinning at the vibrant blue sky above. It was a beautiful day.

She offered her flask to him. "Probably easier to drink," she explained when he shot her a look.

"You have no idea how hard it is to say no to you," he grumbled, accepting her flask as drinking the contents. A satisfied sigh escaped him. Refilling the flask, he downed another drink. Marinette cut two more slices bread for each of them.

Pouting as he accepted the food, he asked again, "So, who are you in debt too? I really may know them and can save you some trouble."

You don't, Marinette insisted silently, but decided to humor him. "Her name's Chloe Bourgeois." Besides, she reasoned, he couldn't do anything to her when she was over the wall. Did he even know about the wall? Ramier implied that very few knew of it. The chances of Chat knowing Chloe really were slim to none.

And like she suspected, he was puzzled. He didn't know that noble's name. No matter how many he mentally scrolled through, Bourgeois wouldn't be there.

"Is she a lesser noble?" he asked.

Marinette shrugged. She knew a few wealthy families, but the Bougeois' have always been the wealthiest. Though Kudbel could be wealthier. "I think so," she guessed.

He pouted, taking a slow sip from the flask as his tail flickered back and forth in stiff annoyance. Licking his lips, he grimly conceded. "You're right, I don't know them. But maybe I could still scare her out of this."

"How about you lead me to a town?" she offered. If he was so insistent to pay back his dues, this one could work. A town was bound to have something different from what Chloe was used too. And what wasn't treasure here, could be treasure back home. Something different that Chloe could show off. A close town may have that. She could be home as soon as she wished.

Only Chat didn't look too impressed with the idea of taking her to town as a way to pay her back. But it seems he wasn't able to think of anything as repayment so he agreed.

"There's one a few miles away," he said, leaning back and pointed. "We keep a good pace, we can get there midday, or well into the afternoon."

"I'm ready if you are," she bid, standing up and stretching. He echoed her, a coy grin on his face as he took her outstretched hand, dropped to a bow, and lightly kissed the top of her knuckles. Marinette blushed, surprised.

Straightening, his green eyes shining as he grinned, he purred, "As My Lady wishes!"

The sky was orange when Chat told her that they were nearly there. "Just down the hill!" She could see it. A small, quaint town, maybe just a little smaller than her old home; she found it charming and nostalgic.

It's only been a day, Marinette scolded silently. She could end up home tomorrow if she was able to find something.

As they slipped down towards town, Chat chatted animatedly, listing off all that he would do for her. Get her a room in the inn, food, more clothes, another bag; she was about ready to shush him with a cookie when he stiffened beside her.

Unnerved by his sudden silence, Marinette asked, "Chat? You ok?"

His green eyes were wide with uncertainty, maybe even fear? And the ears on top of his head swerving and jerking around. She heard a quick, "Sorry!" before he darted away, disappearing into the trees. "Chat?" she called after him, thoroughly confused. Her hands found back to her bag's strap, looking around herself for any danger.

She didn't see anything that would scare Chat. And earlier he did swear that he would see to her safety.

Or perhaps that was just a boast.

Grimacing at her nerves, she shot a glare at the trees before resuming her path towards town. At least he was able to lead her to town. She was almost at the foot of the hill when she heard it. Or them.

The thud of hooves. A sound she didn't hear too often, but was unmistakable. Instinct took over and Marinette hurried off the road, clutching her bag tightly as she leant as far away from it as she could. Chloe used to dash her steed through the streets, not stopping for anyone, and barely missing the unfortunate who didn't see her coming.

Three horses came from over the hill, with three armored knights seated on them. Heart pounding, Marinette walked on, keeping her back to them as she tried to make herself small, unnoticeable. The hooves grew closer and Marinette kept her easy walk. They'll pass soon, she chants in her head.

They have no interest for her.

She'll be fine.

It'll be fine.

She was almost there.

Almost home.

The last thought brought a wry smile to her lips, till the middle horse, a white carrying a blonde, was reeled to a stop. The other two bays followed, snorting and huffing. Marinette stopped too, heart pounding as the blonde turned his horse around, eyeing her with a dark frown. Marinette stared back, her grip on her bag tightened.

"Ye-yes?" she managed out as the rider drew his horse closer, the two easily casting a very dark shadow over her.

Cold blueish grey eyes glared down at her as the blonde demanded, "Why is the evil eye reacting to you?"


Chapter Text

"Why is the evil eye reacting to you?"

She honestly had no idea?

Marinette stood uncomfortably before the blond. Her eyes flickered longingly to the town just a little ways from her. She was so close. But what would it look like if she was seen running away from three horsemen? Would any take her side on it? Would she even make it if she ran? Against horses, no.

Her eyes flickered to the trees were Chat disappeared too, biting her lip to keep from scowling.

He knew. He knew they were coming.

And he left her.

"Are you a witch?" the blond continued to press, pushing his horse closer to her and drawing her from her thoughts. Marinette stepped back, aware of the other two riders drawing closer as well, caging her in. Panic started to fume throughout her being as the towering horses started to pressure her, their shadows as cold as the wall's. She found she could only grip her bag tightly as she tried to control her growing nerves.

"I'm not a witch," she insisted. "I'm just passing through—"

"Then why is the evil eye reacting to you?" the youth repeated. To confirm his question, he held up his necklace, a large blue pendent that had an eye painted on it, and that eye was locked right onto her, the pupil glowing white.

"I don't know," she said, taking another step back.

"It only responds in the presence of evil," the blond insisted, "and it's locked on you."

"I'm not a witch," she insisted, standing her ground and glaring up at him, trying hard not to shiver under those cold eyes. She flinched when the hot breathe of a horse brushed her cheek. It was too close. They were all far too close.

"Who are you?" he pressed.

"I'm Marinette," she told him, quickly adding, "I'm doing a service for my lady. There's a dress in this town she wants."

"And who is your mistress?" one of the knights asked, his tone kinder than the blonde next to him.

"Madame Chloe Bourgeois, she's a lesser noble," she told him confidently. If Chat didn't know, good chance they didn't either. They wouldn't question it.

But the blond's cold eyes sharpened, and Marinette stiffened warily.

"There are a hundred and forty nobles total in this kingdom. And that number is growing, slowly," the blond stated, "but I can say in full confidence, that there is no Madame Chloe Bourgoeis in this kingdom."

"I do serve her," Marinette insisted. "She's not that famous, or wealthy; perhaps you just don't know her—"

"There is no Bourgeois in this kingdom," he cuts in sharply. His horse stamped closer, the beast far more intimidating as it snorted in her face again. Marinette stepped back, jumping when her back hit a tree.

The youth jumped off his horse, showing Marinette the hilt of his sword. Her breathe got caught in her throat as she stared at that, quivering. "Why is the evil eye reacting to you?" he repeated frostily.

Her mouth opened and closed, unable to breathe a word as she stared at the hilt of the sword. She had no answer. Nothing to defend herself, verbally or physically. She… sucked in a sharp breathe as his fingers curled around the hilt.

She was going to die.

They all jumped when a loud yowl rang through the air, with a large tree in the distance shuddering as it slowly tipped over.

"Chat!" the blond spat. He rounded on his startled knights, spitting, "What are you waiting for?! Get him!"

The horses snorted and neighed as they were reeled around, charging into the woods for Chat. Their hands flew to the hilts of their swords and Marinette felt a different fear rush through her.

She acted without thinking.

Charging the towering boy, she grabbed his elbow, catching him off guard as she demanded, "Don't hurt him!"

With a ferocious look, the blond twisted her grip, and Marinette was slammed against the tree hard enough to rattle her teeth. "You're coming with me," he told her as black dots blinked over her vision. She squeaked as she was pulled away and tossed onto the grey horse. The blond's firm body followed and her back stiff against the chest plate. Distantly she could hear the two knights shouting as they cut their way through the trees. With a knife pressing lightly against her back as the horse was wheeled to town, Marinette clutched her bag tightly.

Marinette never thought she'd be thrown into another jail again.

Unlike the last experience, where a piteous Sheriff offered her comfort and apologies, this stay was far more unpleasant.

Instead of a soft chair to sit in and a table to eat at; she had a pile of hay that stunk of moss and decomposition, and a cold dank floor that was moist with stale, stinky rain water. No promise of any coming food. Her things were taken away from her, her bag set right by her jailer's feet. And instead of a patient guard, there was the blond, glaring at her from across the bars. The other guards there spared her curious glances, but made no move to bother her or the boy that eyed her intently.

From where she sat across from him, she peered out a barred window instead; eyeing the stars above as she waited, purposely ignoring him. The blond didn't seem too annoyed. Every now and then he lifted that blue pendent up, gazing at her through it before setting it down, a slight frown on his lips.

A few times he did try to pry answers from her, but Marinette stubbornly stayed silent, and he went quiet after a while.

For what seemed like long, dragging hours, they sat like that; Marinette glaring out a window while he watched her.

She wondered if Chat was alright. The bite in the youth's words, how quickly those knights jumped into those woods; she was unnerved about what would happen if they got a hold of Chat. Would he be dragged her to share the jail? Or would he be killed on spot? Just… what was going on?

She nervously glanced at her jailer, meeting his icy eyes and quickly looking away.

What did he have against Chat?

He left her, but that was the only thing she could think of that rubbed her wrong. He was a very pleasant character thus far. She really did enjoy his company. She dared met those icy eyes again, grimacing.

What was going on?

She started when the two knights slipped in. They cast a glance at her before one leaned down to whisper in the blonde's ear. She saw his lips twitch down before he waved them away. She allowed her lips to twitch up, a little relieved, and a little spiteful.

They weren't able to get Chat.

He was ok.

But she was still here. Because of this bimbo across from her-

Finally spoke once more, drawing her attention to him. "What were you doing with Chat Noir?"

He looked and sounded like the epitome of calm. His face was cooled, he voice even. He was in control. Or liked to believe he was. He reminded her of Monsieur Bourgeois. Only this boy was doing a far better job than Bourgeois ever did. He had an expectation of success. And was expecting an answer from the girl across from him.

Only Marinette didn't feel to inclined to give one.

Marinette frowned at him, crossing her arms stubbornly. He peered at her coolly, waiting. The only sign of impatience she could pick up was the slight tap of his finger. He adjusted himself in his seat and she saw the hilt of his sword.

A heavy reminder of what he held above her.

Grimly, she conceded. "We sort of stumbled into each other," she told him. "He helped me—"

"You accepted help from Chat Noir?" He sounded absolutely baffled.

Marinette shot him a look. "I needed his help," she defended, "I was lost. And he needed mine—"

"You helped Chat Noir?"

God his tone was even worse.

Short with him, and just to add salt, Marinette admitted, "Willingly. I helped him willingly."

He scowled at her, shaking his head like she was a fool. He turned away, pinching his chin between his fingers as he considered her, rolling the evil eye around with his other hand. "You're not a witch," he mumbled to himself.

"I told you I'm not—"

"I know," he snapped, "the evil eye didn't pick up magic in you. But it did read Chat's. His presence is all over you. The only people I can think of wanting to be with him are witches."

"We just helped each other!" she stressed, "I was lost and he was showing me the way to town-"

"Brilliant idea," he spat, "let Chat come to this quiet, peaceful town. Nothing bad could happen."

"Yes," she snipped, "it's obviously on fire right now!"

"It's not yet," he said bitterly.

Marinette's scowled.

He shared it. "Do you even know who Chat Noir is?" he wondered.

No. She didn't. Chat himself seemed to ask the same thing...

She didn't feel like she was in any danger around him. And how insistent he was about her getting water and food didn't seem like a criminal's behavior. She was resolute that Chat wasn't a danger. The only thing he did that deserved any ire was bailing like that. If he knew these guys were trouble why didn't he just drag her off the road as well?

The youth seemed to take her silence as a no.

"He's one of the most dangerous creatures in this kingdom," he swore. Marinette frowned at the term creature. "All the damage a dragon could do in a few days he could make in a day. Perhaps even more. In case you didn't hear from your lady's home, he nearly destroyed almost a quarter of the capital."

Marinette gaped at him.

Chat destroyed nearly a quarter of a capital? How-why?

She couldn't picture it. The bright smile, the pout, the fuss over her, his fondness of cookies.

And destructive... how, how could he be destructive? She only saw that he could jump great heights and had amazing senses. Nothing else to suggest that he could do that much.

The youth continued, soaking in her silent shock. "Chat Noir is a dangerous being. He is the embodiment of bad luck. An evil fairy that destroys everything he touches, and laughs at others' misfortune. I don't know about your lady's home, but here, everyone knows to chase a black cat away under the risk of it being Chat Noir. He's probably tricked you. Maybe even charmed you. Stupid girl." the youth decided with a scoff.

Marinette didn't reply, curling up a little as she felt the chill of night brush against her bare arms. She didn't believe the idea. She glared at the blond from where she sat. He sighed at her glare, pinching the bridge of his nose. He lamented, "And now he's here somewhere, the village under risk, probably about to be burnt to the ground just as you predicted."

Marinette gripped her elbows hard.

"And it's your fault."

"Shut up," she growled.

Narrowing his eyes at her, it looked like he wanted to say something, but decided against it after a moment of consideration. Instead he picked up her bag, setting it in his lap as he opened it. "Hey!" she snapped, jerking up. "Don't look through that!"

He ignored her, skimming through the limited items she carried. He paused, taking out the pigeon feather in confused wonderment. He looked at her past it, twirling it around. "How did a girl like you get a pigeon feather?"

"It was a gift."

"From your mistress?"


"A bit unlikely," he hummed, bringing it closer and peering at it. "When given, pigeon feathers only work for the person they're gifted too. It's impossible that your mistress gave up her feather, willingly. Unless she was a witch. Is she a witch?"

Marinette glared.

"I do agree that it was given to you," he bid, rolling the feather about. "Your hair is on it. And only a witch or wizard can bind a pigeon feather to you. But as a gift from your mistress? That's a stretch. Why would she gift someone lower than her a feather when she could have it? I say it's more believable that you stole it before it could be bound to her." He met her eyes, his head tilting to the side. "Did you steal it from your mistress?"


"It was gifted for sure," he decided. He wondered, "From who?"

She didn't reply.

He hummed on through her silence, surmising the possibilities. "It's not from your mistress, but you received it from a witch or wizard. And by looks of it, it's very new." His gaze flickered to her. "Did you receive this from Ramier?"

Marinette stiffened.

He caught it, his gaze narrowing. "Curious," he hummed. "Why would the elusive Ramier give you a feather?"

"Why would you think Ramier would give it to me?" she asked.

He held up the feather. "This coloration and pattern is unique to Limbes pigeons. Ramier is the only wizard to live in Limbes. You had to be there to get this from him. And that's very curious."

"It's not as complicated as you would think," Marinette said sheepishly.

The blond rambled on, "There's quite a list of those that have died seeking out Ramier, usually eaten by Limbes' timbers. And he meets with no one. Why you? And how did you get past the timber wolves of Limbes?"

"I don't know," she snapped, quickly stammering under his gaze, "I helped a trapped pigeon, he gave me the feather as thanks. That's it. There's no big scheme going on! I really am here just to get a dress for my mistress."

"The mistress you swore to have given you this feather?"

Marinette huffed.

"Your story is a little all over the place," he told her. Marinette grimaced. He asked her, "Why were you in Limbes?"

Ramier's voice echoed through her head.

"I would not suggest making it known where you're from."

She shrugged, stating, "I got lost."

"In Limbes," he clarified. "The one place people avoid."

She kept quiet, and he dropped the feather back in the bag, continuing to leaf through it. The only other item he brought out was the scrunched up piece of paper. Marinette stiffened as he unrolled it, staring down the drawing of her and her parents. Her grip tightened on her shirt, physically trying to restrain herself from calling out on it. That was personal. That was hers.

"You're family?" he guessed.

She glared at him.

His eyes flickered between her and photo, as if comparing what Nathanael drew to the girl across from him. He opened his mouth to speak, only to be cut off as one of the knights jerked back into the room. "Chat Noir was spotted!" he exclaimed. Her bag was tossed to the floor as the blond rushed out. Marinette shouted after him, her picture still clutched in his hand; but he was gone before she could get it back. Fretting, she tried to reach her bag, gritting her teeth as she stretched out for it.

At least she could have the rest of her things back… if she could get it…

She was just able to pull it through the bars when she heard a panicked, "Marinette?"

Jerking around, she saw Chat peeking in from the window. "Are you ok?!" he demands.

"I'm fine," she said quickly, slinging the strap around her. She got up and started to approach only to stop when he told her to. Cracking a wry smile, he locked his green eyes on the bars separating them. He swiped at them and Marinette gaped as the bars collapsed to the floor, steaming as rust slowly spread over them.

He leaned in, holding a hand out to her. "Quickly," he hissed.

She hesitated, eyeing the ruined bars, and then his hand. It drooped a little. Faintly she could hear the blond shouting, the stamp of feet running about.

Sucking in a sharp breathe, Marinette surged forward, taking his hand and surprising Chat. He cracked a smile. He quickly pulled her through the window, helping her slip out. She looked about, seeing the youth shouting orders as he glared at the roofs, no doubt searching for Chat. He had yet to look to the jail.

She was pulled up against Chat, chest to chest, arms wrapped tightly around her. Before she could even squeak her surprise, he dashed off, jumping roof to roof before diving for the trees. All the while Marinette held on tight, watching the retreating town.

It wasn't on fire like the blond predicted.

"I forgive you!" Marinette stressed as the eighth apology pressed against her ear. And for the eighth time, Chat didn't hear, twisting his tail up before he dropped it to run his claws through his hair, hissing when he pressed a little too hard and accidentally scratching himself.

He went back the twisting his tail. She didn't know how far he took her, but now that they were stopped, it was early morning and Chat exploded with misery.

"I thought they'd leave you alone!" he insisted, hisses lacing his words as he glared ahead. "I, I wasn't in sight, they had no reason to bother you-"

"The evil eye picked you up," Marinette voiced, Chat heard her this time.

He spat, "Damn eyes. I hate those things. They are hard to hide from cause they see everything!"

"You really need to hide from them?"

"Yes!" He quickly stiffened his grip tight and frozen on his tail as he turned to her. She stared back curiously. Licking his lips, he asked slowly, "You... officially know who Chat is then?"

Marinette jerked her head back to the way they came from. "That guy told me," she admitted, waving her hand back vaguely.

"Felix," he named darkly, looking away, a slight growl coming out of him.

She pressed, "Did you, really destroy nearly a quarter of the capital?"

Chat scoffed, scowling lightly as he finally let go of his tail. The leather strap jerked about, looking agitated. Rolling his hand about, he admitted, "I did do a little damage. Nothing as extreme as he insists. But that was eight years ago, I was a stumbling, stupid kid. I just, bumped into a few buildings. None of it was on purpose."

"Is that why they call you a danger? What you did to those bars back there?" At least, she guessed. Despite the startling display, she was completely fine after she took his hand.

Clearing his throat and plucking at his tail once more, Chat told her, "Yes. I'm Chat Noir, the unlucky. With a single touch of my hand I can make ruin and accidents and all sorts of bad stuff happen. At least, well, definitely when I'm not wearing this." He brought his hands to her, tapping a black ring on his finger, nearly hidden on his glove. He continued, "My mother made this for me, it was to help me manipulate the bad luck. Make use of the powers of the malevolent black cat. So long as I wear this, I can touch anything I want without fear." To prove a point, he put his hand on a tree. Marinette didn't see anything happen to it.

Giving her a wry smile, he picked up a leaf on the ground, placed both his hands on it, and she watched as black bubbled past his fingers. When he opened his hand, ashes flew out. "I can control it," he insisted, "I have only want to ruin it. Please believe me when I say I only do it when I need too."

After a few seconds of mulling it over, she nodded, giving him a shaky smile. "I can't deny that scares me a little," she confessed, "but, so far you've been more helpful and kind than anyone else I met here. I trust you." And despite what the blond, Felix, told her, she really couldn't peg Chat as a trickster. Especially with the expression he was wearing now.

He peered at her with raw awe, his eyes huge. His jaw was left open. His tail was a mess, rolling in on itself and tangling, like it didn't know what to do with itself.

Breathlessly she heard him utter, "You trust me?" Like he couldn't wrap his head around it.

"Yes so don't ruin it," she joked, snagging his tail and trying to work out that knot it brought on itself. It didn't help when the end wrapped around her wrist. Scoffing at it in exaggeration, she added teasingly as she tried to straighten it, "Silly kitty."

So focused on the tail, she didn't see his face explode in red. She only saw the tail get even more tangled up. "Seriously?" she muttered, tugging at the leather as she tried to get it straight. Chat on the other hand quickly turned away, running a claw through his hair as he tried to steady his nerves. He couldn't get her words out of his head.

As she tried to get that tail straight, Marinette swore she heard a slight purr in the air. Chat didn't look like he was purring; he just looked flustered and shocked so she brushed off the sound.

Probably nothing.

He was furious.

Furious, confused, and skeptical.

There was only a little damage done this time. The barred window to the girl's cell, broken down into mere dust on her cell floor.

That was the only bit of damage they could find.

It was a thankful amount. Chat has done far worse, and could do far worse. But this time, it was minimal and manageable. It was both relieving and unnerving.

Chat Noir was more set on the girl.

Set enough he willingly entered the town, allowed himself to be seen and cause a panic in the streets, sending it into chaos. And just, slipped away with the girl; leaving only a gaping window as proof of his visit.

All for a simple girl.

Why for some simple girl-

No. She wasn't so simple.

She was strange.

He unrolled the picture he unintentionally stole. He eyed her and her parents. It was such a curious sight to see; done in great detail; it was a picture only nobles could afford to have. But she wasn't of nobility; she didn't have that air or stance. Felix believed her when she said that she was in the service of someone.

Only, that someone didn't exist.

He was confident that there was no Bourgeois family in Franae. His father had him read and memorize all noble families in their kingdom, both big and small. And every time some lucky, new name was able to join that slowly growing list, he had it down.

He was sure that the name Bourgeois has never graced that list and has yet too.

If they even existed.

But she was so set on this family's existence.

And Chat was so set on this girl.

This girl that wandered into Limbes, that met with the estrange wizard Ramier and was able to get a pigeon feather from him, lying about it being a gift from her mistress. This girl that was able to find Chat, and even draw that bad luck fairy to her once more. This girl with a high quality drawing and a bag full of cookies.

Felix couldn't make any sense of her. Nothing added up. Her story went too many directions and it was just estranged and she was just so difficult and bizarre and...

She made no sense.

Her story, where she must have come from. It just didn't make any sense!

He was tempted to squeeze the drawing in his frustration but held it in. It would do him little good. And Agrestes don't get caught up in their emotions. He had to be logical. There had to be something to her lies. Something that he could connect.

How could she get to Limbes so easily?

How could Ramier appear before her? And actually give a feather?

And Chat Noir. What did that cat want with her?

What was up with this strange girl having connections and items she shouldn't have!

He was very irked, glaring down at her smiling face in the drawing. He was frustrated enough to be tempted to wrinkle that smiling face that was causing him so much confusion—

He paused, staring down at her.

There was one thing he could check. Only one thing that seemed to click with her. And being so close, this town had to have it.

Folding up the drawing, he headed towards the best place for answers. He could always trust the library to have something for him. If not knowledge, peace and comfort.

He was hoping for more of a former.

Slipping in and ignoring the hurried greetings from the librarian, he immediately started skimming the shelves of old and ancient lores. He nearly missed the book, so small and thin it was barely noticeable. It made him cringe to realize just how little they knew, or how unimportant it was thought to be.

Or maybe it was just too dangerous, he guessed, sliding the book out.

Tome of Limbes, and the World Unknown.

Cracking it open, he flipped through it, eyes skimming over the words in curious haste. There was only one myth that resolved around Limbes Wood. A myth so old and forgotten it barely crossed anyone's minds. That is, till that myth possibly came to life today.

In the dark, twisted heart of Limbes Wood, there is said to be a great wall that stands as a barrier between Franae and another world known as the Unknown. Few have tried to find that wall, to cross and see Unknown themselves. Only a few survivors came back, swearing others away from Limbes Wood as the timber wolves devoured any that came amongst their trees...

Felix flipped through a few pages, frowning.

...Many wonder if the Unknown even possibly exists, and if expedition efforts are even worth it. But there are arguments for the existence of Unknown; how creatures not natural to Franae have appeared, coming out of Limbes. And with how anyone has yet to get close to seeing this wall, the existence of Unknown can't be entirely brushed aside...

He closed the book and slipped back onto it's shelf, scolding his train of thought. It was stupid, he reasoned, far-fetched, impossible, there was no way...

But it answered some questions.

How a girl got lost in Limbes when everyone, even the dumbest of thieves, knew never to go near Limbes for its vicious timber wolves. Even for the chance of a pigeon feather from Ramier they don't. There are far easier wizards and witches to find.

But, she had a feather from Ramier. From a Limbes pigeon. He's seen all the designs pigeon feathers could have, and that feather, that could only come from Limbes. She was in there; she met with Ramier, who never leaves Limbes. Who never gives away feathers. But she had one. She had an actual feather from Ramier, and left Limbes just fine without a single timber wolf to bother her.

She had a drawing too fine for someone of her status, which could be completely different in Unknown.

And if the Unknown existed, this Bourgeois family could as well.

And he had asked the guards of this town and they had not seen anyone looking like her approaching. How she arrived unseen was beyond anyone; unless she came through Limbes…

Could, could she really be from the Unknown?

Felix unwrapped the picture, staring down at the family. It was only them in this damn picture, no buildings or background of any kind, just a smiling family of three. It was hard to imagine that they were on the other side, in a world long thought to be nonexistent.

Perhaps she wasn't, perhaps she stupidly slipped past all patrols near Limbes and just got lucky?

Perhaps she did come from the other side, and Limbes let her pass through.

Perhaps Chat Noir knew.

Perhaps that was why he was so set on her. Why the evil eye saw so much of his presence on the girl, drifting off of her like smoke. That imp knew. And he was keeping this strange visitor to himself, laughing at their obliviousness.

But what if she wasn-

He scoffed at himself, grimacing at how his thoughts just kept rolling around in circles.

The only way to know for sure was to find her, get a hold of her again. Get an answer.

Perhaps they could even get a hold of Chat Noir in the process.

He looked up at the approaching clinks of metal, seeing his knights stand stiff and waiting. "Prince Felix," they bid, "we found no trace of the girl or Chat Noir in the woods."

He nodded. Of course Chat Noir was able to escape with her. Catching the damn cat was like catching smoke with bare hands.

But even cats couldn't hide from everything.

"We're going home," he stated, strolling past them. They followed without question.

If he was given a stroke of luck, they would find the two on the way. He could get his answer sooner. If not, he would in the end. His father's adviser and left hand was good at his job, he could find Chat Noir. And this girl. Perhaps even he would have the answer. Hawk Moth knew many things.

A stable hand had their horses ready, bowing deeply to him he quickly scuttled off. Before Prince Felix could slip onto his horse, the picture tumbled out of his pocket. Sighing in exaggeration, he bent to pick it up. Even as a drawing she annoyed him.

He still recalled the slight sneer she had flaring in her eyes despite her intimidation of him, laughing when his men failed at finding Chat.

And she had such a little snip in her tone when she talked to him.

It was like she didn't care who he was. And any respect she should have for him was nonexistent.

It drove Felix up the wall in agitation.

He didn't know what he would do with her if she was from the Unknown. And if she wasn't, perhaps a few years of service would remind her of her place.

Felix stopped, his hand inches from the picture, staring at it in surprise. A ladybug landed on it, an embodiment of good luck and fortune; and it was crawling to the girl in the picture. He watched as its antennas tapped the girl's face, as if checking to see if it was really her before it's back slid open and it flew away.

Felix hurriedly took the drawing and stuffed it in his pocket, his heart pounding hard in his chest while he tried to grasp what it meant.

He only knew for certain that it shook him to the core.

Maybe, maybe he should contact the wizard sooner.

Chapter Text

Chat woke with a jerk. His body was tense in a crouch, ears up as he listened. He heard the faint thud of hooves hitting the ground, growing louder with each passing second. He crouched lower, ears folding back as he waited. He was ready for the possible worst.

The rider passed without pause, not seeing the bright eyes trailing after him from the branches above.

As soon as the world faded into silence, Chat relaxed, sitting up slumping against the trunk. Yawning, he stretched, humming as his bones popped back into place, and his muscles stretched. He slumped back against the tree, running his tongue along a sharper canine and feeling the edge. Normally at such a time he'd be prowling for food. Anything he could get his claws would be adequate.

But not tonight.

Not with a fresh hunt for him going on.

And not when he wasn't the only one being hunted.

He sent a wary glance towards the girl that slept at the bottom of the tree, oblivious to the danger that passed. She probably didn't even hear the horse that ran by, too exhausted from the day to be easily roused.

And it was a big day for this little lady.

Well, big last two days. Almost three now that he thought about it.

Waking up in a pit next to the dreaded Chat Noir, getting taken by the prince, jailed, and then spending the whole night and day running. It was only by the second sunset that Chat agreed to stop, Marinette half asleep and cranky from where she clung to his shoulders. His lips twitched up as he recalled her threat if they didn't stop.

"I will waste all my water on your head if you don't stop right now."

He didn't know where the next river would be, and agreed. He was getting a little tired himself... though he was too wired now to get any sleep for the past few hours. Every horse that came by had him clutching the branch he was on, claws sinking into the bark, ready to jump at anyone that looked their way. He wasn't going to risk word getting back to Felix.

The wary growl slipped out of his throat before he could stop it.

He really didn't need his touch to make a mess of things.

Felix was there.

And he now knew about this strange girl that fell upon him.

And now wanted her too.

He scowled down at his hands, glaring at the ebony ring his mother spent so much time and care into making for him. But what good was it if bad luck still drifted past it? He knows for sure if he wasn't there, Marinette'd be back at that town, getting whatever it was her mistress wanted, and heading back home with no trouble what's so ever.

But there was, because he was there.

She had trouble now because of him.

He glanced down when he heard her shuffle in her sleep, clutching her bag tightly. She was sleeping so deeply, she really wouldn't notice anything happening around her. He could leave, be long gone by the dawn. She wouldn't know where or how to find him, and his bad luck wouldn't cling to her and drag her down. She could finish this easy. No trouble.

Felix could even end up overlooking her.

He could easily turn the prince's eyes away, cause a little ruckus and she'd be all forgotten.

It would be a good way to repay her, he reasoned. Leave her alone, draw all that trouble to him, and she could continue on no issue. Looking around and listening, he crouched with a little wiggle, ready to leap away.

"Then perhaps you're what I need."

He almost slipped. His claws sunk into the wood, scratching up the bark as he straightened. Heart pounding from the scare, he turned his eyes back to her, his mouth dry.

"Silly kitty."

He croaked, his cheeks flaring red. His belt tail twisted about as his confusion and emotions raged inside him. Logically he should leave. He should! He, he would end up making it worse. It always got worse. This was why he never had company! Not, not anymore at least. He, he shouldn't be getting comfortable with this. He should leave. Never look back. Just do this favor, turn the kingdom's eyes to him and slip back into the shadows that he belonged.

But he was rooted to the spot.

Chat couldn't bring himself to leave even if he wanted too... and he sort of didn't want too...

It was nice. Being with someone that wasn't intimidated with his power, reputation, or being. That treated him like he was normal. Have a warm smile directed at him. Have someone trust him. Even his mother had been careful around him, but that had been before she put the ring together.

And have some care and watch out for him, actually care. It's been a good few years since he's had someone else watching out for him. Did it always come with a flutter? A bubble of bliss? He didn't think so. He remembered security and comfort whenever his mother watched out for him; but he didn't remember feeling this awed in her care.

Chat could laugh. Instead he gave a light scoff, and dragged his claws lightly over his scalp.

How funny.

So deprived of any sort of affection, he was soaking up Marinette's warmth like a sponge in a puddle. He didn't realize how much he missed it till he woke to her that morning, shoving food into his claws.

He was a little scared now.

A few days to taste and lavish this company and warmth, and he was used to it. He liked having it.

And that just made the prospect of leaving hard.

Could he even do it?

He stared down at his claws, rolling and flexing his fingers, watching the points of the black gloves shine in the night. He couldn't stay. He really couldn't. Not with the bad luck that would follow her and eventually break her. He could not be selfish, no matter how wishful he became.

He paused, listening to the rustle below. Leaning over, he watched her move in her sleep, curling a little tighter.

He stopped when he realized he almost dropped out the tree and down beside her, an instinctive need to be near. He sunk his claws back in the wood and leant away, turning his gaze elsewhere. His tail curled about as his cheeks dusted pink.

He couldn't believe he was charmed.

Not even by a witch.

A common, sweet smelling servant girl. That probably worked in her mistress' kitchens.

Well... Chat gave a start, casting another glance down at her with a little frown.

Maybe she wasn't so common.

As sweet and charming as she was, he couldn't deny that she was strange.

She didn't know who he was.

This still blew his mind.

Everyone in Franae knew him.

Unless she was from outside Franae.

Maybe from Chira? It looked like she had some Chiran heritage to her. Only a lack of accent argued against this prospect. She talked as naturally as anyone else. Like she's been living here her whole life. Yet how could she never hear of him before?

Everyone at least knew the name of Chat Noir.

Who was a true hellion in Franae magical history, and brought to life with him and his curse.

But she never heard of him.

How could this be?

And then there was the curiosity of her appearance, showing up so closely to Limbes.


What was it about Limbes?

There was a tale of it, on the tip of his tongue. But for the life of him he couldn't recall it. Mentally he kept rolling Marinette and Limbes around, feeling that the two were tied together in some way. That was his answer to her origin and lack of knowledge.

...That's right, he shouldn't forget how little she knew on this strange list of mysteries.

She didn't know things that should be common knowledge.

Not that Chat didn't mind explaining things to her, he rather liked having someone genuinely listening to him. And the spark of intrigue and wonder in her shining eyes. He liked seeing it there.

But, how could she not know about pigeon feathers? The envy of all and one of the most desired items in all of Franae!

Or imps?

And she didn't know Felix. She didn't recognize Franae's prince!

Just what was up with this girl and her limited knowledge of Franae? Where did she come from if not here?

Why was she so close to Limbes?

What was the story of Limbes...

He huffed, absently twirling the black ring on his finger. He spared on glance down at her, watching as she hugged her back a little tighter. There was another shiver. The urge to sit next to her was impossible to ignore now. Making sure his ring was pushed snugly on his finger, he relented, dropping down next her. Instantly her sweet scent filled his nose, and Chat found himself relaxing next to her.

He grimaced.

It was going to be hard leaving her side... could he even do it? Her scent was too nice, her presence filled him with such comfort and warmth; he really couldn't imagine not having her near him anymore.

Savor it, he chided.

No matter how much he wanted too, he couldn't stay, not without her suffering.

Just, savor what he could. When he got her safely home, he'll cut ties. Go back to the shadows and solitude as he was meant to be.

He jumped when he felt heat against his side. Looking down, he blushed seeing her snuggled closer. She even gave a happy sigh! Be still his beating heart!

He needed to get a grip.

Silly Kitty.

The tease brought a flush back to his cheeks and warmth in his chest. Was he ever going to stop flushing as soon as he remembered that teasing pet name?!

Chat groaned, feeling tired, and buried his face into his claws, waiting for the warmth to pass. He spared another shy glance to her, purposely smelling her sweet scent.

How can someone that was and smelled so sweet exist?

How did he get lucky enough for her to fall on him?

Why was she unlucky enough to fall on him?

Especially since Felix wasn't going to make this simple errand easy. He might really have to try now to get her into a town.

Chat gave an unwilling yawn.

They were plenty safe, he reasoned. And he was tired. And a lot did happen today. And her scent and the forest were nice on his nose, and it quiet for once… He reasoned he could sleep now.

Giving one last check on the road, Chat scooted a little closer to Marinette and settled down, his back to her. He was on the edge of sleep when he felt something warm and solid brush against his back, pressing hard with a slight shiver and a relieved sigh. Breathing the nice smell, with the warmth at his back, Chat's eyes fell closed for the rest of the night, trying to ignore the heat on his cheeks as he drifted off.

It was getting hard to wake up in the morning.

She found that she was still tired when she finally woke. Her body was aching, the ground uncomfortable, the light of dawn just too bright, and her internal clock was chiming a silent warning in her mind. It was time to get up. It was time to move.

But, she finds she didn't want to move yet.

Two days straight she finds that she really didn't want to get up. Even with how uncomfortable the ground was, she didn't want to get up. She was warm. And she didn't want to leave it. Just the thought pushed her closer to the warmth, to nuzzle it, humming happily when it spread over her. A hot gust blew over her head, tickling her scalp pleasantly.

A bird chirped above, whistling a happy tune before she heard the flutter of wings as it left.

She hummed unhappily as she was roused a little more, pressing her face harder against the heat, not willing to get up yet. Only to pause when she heard, and felt, a rumble. It reminded her of a cat's purr, only deeper, and louder…

Marinette jerked, her eyes flying open and squeaking when she saw that she was nestled right up against Chat's chest, his arms wrapped around her loosely, his nose nestled in her hair, and his tail was tangled around her ankle. Thankfully the purring boy was still out; his lips parted a little as he slept, his soft breath still tickling her forehead.

Blushing at the proximity, Marinette hurriedly separated herself from him. She was almost at a safe distance when he grumbled and shuffled closer till his head was butting against her hip. His whole body sidled closer, curling around her for warmth. Even the belted tail got a little tighter, as if to stop her from leaving.

Trying to ignore the flush on her cheeks, Marinette struggled to get the tail off. It resisted a few tugs, but gave under her persistence. She winced when she pulled the pant leg up to see imprints on her ankle. It'll fade.

She still sorely flicked his leather ears.

He frowned in his sleep, his ear twitching at the flick.

Marinette blinked, a little fascinated at the motion. She poked them again, watching it twitch. It felt like it was just simple leather. Not a real cat ear, but it seemed to work just like one. It was so strange. Glancing down at the sleeping boy, she cautiously pinched the leather appendage between two fingers, rubbing it very gentle. It jerked against her touch but Chat didn't seem too bothered.

Curious, Marinette released the leather tip and shyly moved her hand behind it, just brushing the tips of her fingers to the soft blonde locks. She shouldn't. This was personal and intimate. But, but she really couldn't help but wonder...

Checking to make sure he was still asleep, she sunk her fingers into the golden threads, stopping when she came across his scalp. At the lightest touch, she scratched him, right behind his ear.

She almost jumped when the purring exploded in volume, his body slumping right beside her. He only moved to lean into her scratch, pressing harder at her fingers to get her to scratch harder.

She had to bite her finger to keep from bursting out laughing.

He really was like a cat.

His face wrinkled unhappily as she withdrew. Marinette flicked his ear playfully. "Chat," she called. He didn't stir, pouting in his sleep at the loss of pleasing touch. Marinette poked his ear again. Chat growled and rolled away from her, his tail flicking up in agitation.

Giggling, she let him sleep. Instead she drew her bag closer, flipping it open to see what she had still, and breakfast.

She was starting to get low on food. She'll either have to get to a town soon, or maybe Chat knew how to hunt? If it was still too dangerous maybe they should settle with the latter. She could cook something up if he was able to get a hold of anything.

Nibbling on a chocolate chip cookie, she sat up on her knees, looking for the road. While Chat kept them off it, they weren't kept far from it. "Don't want to get lost after all!" Chat had exclaimed. She didn't know where exactly it was, she was too tired last night to pay attention. But it had to be close... there! She could faintly see the worn path, just over the edge of the bushes. They were to stay off it till things calmed down.

If they did.

So far, Marinette hasn't heard or seen anyone hunting them. Sometimes she thought Chat was exaggerating, or she must be really out of it last night… or he was just that good at keeping them hidden.

Something he was certainly good at.

She glanced over at Chat, watching his tail curl and twitch as he dreamed. His ear flickered at a sound but stilled.

Quietly she asked, "How long have you been running?"

Chat didn't answer.

Sighing, she turned her thoughts to the other blond, who was making her life harder on this side of the wall.


That was the latest blond in her life that gave her trouble.

It made Marinette wonder what was it with her and blonds? Just, what did she do to blonds? Thankfully Chat hasn't given her any real issues, but every other blonde she met in her life...

She sighed, rolling a piece of chocolate around in her mouth. Why was that boy so against Chat? Just, just because of a few buildings? It sounded like that was so long ago though.

Unless Chat was keeping things from her.

She took another small bite of her cookie. She remembered those cold bluish grey eyes staring down at her through bars. She remembered how they narrowed, looking at her like she really was a witch that deserved the noose. And they just got sharper at the mention of Chat.

She thought of Chat's eyes, how big and expressive they got. When they first met, he stared at her with confusion, curiosity, and wonder. Far more friendlier than that blond's eyes.

She casts a glance down at the still sleeping boy. When the breeze shifted the canopy above, and light hammered on his face, he rolled back over with a mumble, sighing in her shadow, his baggy hair sliding down his forehead and brushing against his nose. He wrinkled it, trying to escape the tickling sensation. Marinette relieved it, pulling those strands aside to rest on his cheek instead.

She trusted Chat more than Felix.

But she would still like to know what's going on. What did she get herself into?

She almost laughed. Her objective was just so simple and after, what, her second day it just got so, complicated. She got a magical pigeon feather that's apparently the most desired treasure in the whole word. She fell on top of a cat boy. A very hated and dangerous cat boy; and pissed off some very wealthy, probably dangerous, blond with connections.

Quite the adventure she was having.

She could scarcely believe it.

Wouldn't Alya have a hoot.

She could just imagine what her best friend would say past her chortles, the excitement and humor bubbling in her tone. "This sounds like some ridiculous adventure that you'd read in books. Imps, cat boys, magical pigeons," she'd explode, "magical pigeons! I've never thought I'd hear magical pigeons."

A chuckle escaped Marinette. Alya really would have a hoot. And want to write this. She ever got back home and told her everything Alya was definitely going to write this. If not sold, just to record this adventure she was on.

Marinette's hands slid into her hair as her head sunk lower, a sigh escaping her.

She missed Alya, her confidence and presence.

She missed her parents, the warmth of their smiles and the smell of baking bread in the early morning.

She missed home.

She curled up, wrapping her arms around her knees and gripping her trousers. What if she never got back home? What if she wound up staying here? What if she had to live in the woods the rest of her life because that damn Felix was hunting her just for being near Chat and, and...

What if she couldn't cross back? She stiffened at the thought.

It's only been known that those that cross never come back. No one knows if anyone tried to go back over, but, what if it wasn't possible? What if she really was stuck here? What, what would she do? Would this strange world like her clothes? Her pastries? But, she wasn't as good as a baker as her father was; what if uh, should she try and work at another bakery?

Should she apprentice under a tailor?

Should she start her own business?

What if Felix ruined her chances?

What if-

Marinette jumps, feeling another nudge at her side. Looking down, the still out Chat had nestled closer, his head pressed against her hip again. He emitted something in between a purr and a snore.

Calm down.

She needs to calm down first.

Marinette leant against the tree, breathing deep and slow, trying to ease her nerves and worries. One step at a time. Just take it all one step at a time. There was still a chance for home. She had to try it first. Get something pretty for Chloe. Go back home. She could avoid Felix if she needed too, she didn't think she would draw attention to herself, but if she had too, she could make adjustments. Appear simpler, unnoticeable. She could do that.

She's been doing that most her life.

She could do it, hide under Felix's nose, get what she needs, head back home no issue.

It was just a matter of getting to town.

Getting up, she patted the dirt off her clothes, plucking away seeds that clutched her shirt and trousers she wore. She wrinkled her nose, changing her first objective to getting a bath instead. She may not even be allowed near anything fancy if she was like this. She glanced down at Chat, considering waking him, to see if he knew where a stream was.

Only to quickly brush that idea away.

She remembered overhearing from Sabrina and Chloe about boys peeking on them when they hung out at a river. Who's to say Chat wouldn't wind up doing the same? Well, she didn't think he would, he was very sweet and conscious so far; but she still rather privacy. And it would be the best time to do it now while he was still out.

And he needed sleep.

An idea popping in her head, she pulled out the pigeon feather. She frowned, trying to think of how she got it work earlier. Quietly, she asked, "Will you please show me to a river or something I can wash in? And no pits!"

Like before, nothing happened. And then it was jerked from her hand and zoomed away. Leaving her bag, Marinette chased after it, unaware of green eyes that jerked open at the sudden movement.

Thankfully it didn't lead her to a pit, it lead her to what she wanted. A nice, calm stream that looked deep enough to wash in! Grabbing the feather as it dropped, Marinette beamed at her find, and winced as she realized that it was going to be cold. But better cold and refreshed than stinky. She started to unbutton her blouse when she heard an alarmed hiss behind her.

Surprised, she whirled around enough to see a shadow dart away right into a tree...

"Chat?" she called warily.

Her reply was a jumbled shout that got fainter. "Sorry! Fine! Gone! I'm gone! Sorry!"

Red faced, Marinette waited a little before resuming.

Refreshed, cold, and just a little damp, Marinette waved off the apologies and embarrassment as best she could. Only Chat didn't make it easy. The cat kept bringing it up, red faced and stuttering. So flustered, he kept tripping over his tail, which kept wrapping around his ankles in his frets; and scratching himself when he kept digging his claws into his head.

Marinette was getting exhausted.

"Ok!" she exclaimed, startling Chat from his break. His green eyes locked onto her still wet, free hair and he looked away quickly. "What's the plan?" she asked, hoping to distract him, and get started on a plan.

"Av-avoid Fe-Felix," he stuttered.

"And we're doing that," she eased, "but this errand doesn't need to take too long. I don't want my lady to wait a whole week!"


"Is there a different town I could go too? One where Felix's news hasn't reached?"

"That'll be a little tricky," he said with a wince. "If it's from Felix, word travels fast."

That fast? Marinette was baffled. "He could really spread word that quickly?" she pressed, raising a brow at him.

Raising a brow back at her, he stated, "People usually pay close attention to a prince."

Marinette stiffened, gaping at him. Prince? Felix was a prince in this world? And she... she was rude to the prince. And caught his attention.

What is with her pissing off people, usually blonds, that had a lot more wealth and power than her?! She wanted to smack herself.

Even more so as Chat eyed her curiously, his green narrowing. "You knew that, right?" he pressed.

"Of course," Marinette said quickly, grinning sheepishly under his imploring gaze. His head tilted to the side, his eyes not straying from her face. He knew there was something off with her answer. He knew. She hastily asks, "So what shall we do? Grab some cloaks?"

He shot her a question instead. "Where are you from?"

"Ahm." What could she say? From a small village you never knew that exists over the wall? No, she couldn't say that. She recalled Ramier's warning about people learning of her origin. Could she trust Chat with that? Would he react differently with that? Would he turn her over? Abandon her? Take advantage of her situation?

"We really should start moving," she said instead, hasty. She tried not to gulp at how his eyes narrowed sharply. "Madame Bourgeois-"

"Where does your Madame live?" His voice was tight and low. Marinette started to feel like he was starting to loom over her. She didn't care for it. She took a few steps back, just to get space between them. Chat didn't follow, though his gaze stayed locked on her.

"She lives in a big fancy house," Marinette answered, waving away his inquiry. To add to it, she turned away, starting to walk off. "I got more important things to do than this," she called over her shoulder.

She jumped when he was suddenly next to her, insisting, "But it's such an easy question to answer."

She glared up at him, putting her hands on her hips. "I don't care to answer it. Home is private."

"Alright, alright," he eased, "just a little curious. You can't deny that you are a little strange. Not seemingly knowing much, having a pigeon feather," again with the bloody pigeon feather, "and not recognizing your prince? I'm a little... concerned." He didn't sound concerned.

He sounded a little more curious.

"Thank you for the concern," she sighed with a wave, "but I'm on a schedule. If you want, you can just point me in the direction of the next town." She analyzed it as a good solution. Felix, er, Prince Felix would be looking for her and Chat. And this cat was recognizable. Alone she'd draw less attention. And they would need to part ways sometime anyway when she goes back home.

Perhaps now was a good time.

"Trying to get rid of me?" he guessed, sounding knowing, maybe a little hurt? And skeptical?

"No! No!" she said quickly, "It's just uh, Fel, Prince Felix would be less likely to get either of us if we're not together. And it sounds like you can't just go into town with me. And surely you have better things to do than escort a girl around?"

He peered down at her, mulling over her words. Marinette smiled shyly up at him, a little nervous.

Chat surprised her. Taking her hand, he bowed, bringing it to her lips for a warm kiss. "I am in debt," he told her, "the lady has seen to my revival. It would be, unfitting for me to simply leave with only directions to guide you."

"But-" she was cut off when he squeezed her hand lightly.

"And believe me when I say I'm not bound by any schedule. I'll see you to a town, and I'll see you home safe." He flashed her a cheeky grin. "Perhaps I can even convince this Madame Bourgeois to get off her high horse a little?"

Well, Marinette reasoned, it was a tempting offer.

But he wasn't going to be an easy cat to get rid of...

Chat watched her hide her doubt and wariness behind a thankful smile.

He in turn gave her an encouraging one, and didn't press further, despite really wanting too. Instead he turned, her hand still in his, and guided her towards the road. It'll be a day trip on foot to the next town, and a lot can happen in a day. Especially if one can loosen lips.

He ignored the unpleasant bubble in his stomach. He didn't know if it was because she was holding information back or guilt of his intended manipulations, but the feeling left him uncomfortable. But he couldn't let the fact slide.

She had a secret.

And like a true cat, the fact was driving him crazy.

What did she have to hide? Where did she come from that it would matter so much?

He glanced back subtly, still dragging her along the road. She frowned down at their clasped hands but made no move to break it as she let him string her along. Her other hand fiddled with her bag, as if contemplating the situation. She suspected him. Knew that he wasn't done and his curiosity was far from satisfied. If he was going to crack the lid of the box open, he was going to have to probe it carefully.

Chat turned away, looking ahead and listening for any riders.

Secret or not, he was still in debt. The sooner she got her trinket, the sooner she'd go back home.

And the sooner he can discover the big mystery of her origin.

Chapter Text

The trip to the next town was lengthy as a day hike could be, but Chat was happy to say that it was well worth it.

Stalking down a worn, hardly used road he found, he and Marinette talked without fear of being heard or seen. He still checked to make sure, but he was very confident that they would be fine with this route.

It was thanks to it that he was able to learn a little more about this estrange lady accompanying him.

And thankfully, she didn't mind to share the people of her home; but the exact location with tightly sealed.

And thus, Chat was happy to say that he had a growing list of facts about this curious girl. Everything he heard to everything he noticed, he had down mentally.

Her best friend was a girl named Alya who exhausted her but was very much adored. Her fiancé was named Nino, a very sweet, calm boy that could easily take Alya's energy; and Marinette has known both since childhood. Alya she knew first and Nino she's grown to really appreciate as they got older, and was a pseudo brother to her.

He could tell someone the adventures they had, trying to solve mysteries, braving dangerous forests to find what monsters lay within, and scaring their parents' half to death.

Her parents she stated were amazing people, and she loved them very much. With a wry laugh and nostalgic eyes, she told him wishfully, "They're one of those people that just have to feed you when they meet you, you know?" He didn't, but the thought made him smile. They sounded nice.

And it did explain her tendency to shove food in his face.

He had a fair idea about this Madame Chloe Bourgeois from what she shared. She loved to ride; she loved pretty items, and believed she deserved the best of the best. Marientte joked that she'd want to be a princess if a lot of responsibilities didn't come with it. Madame Bourgeois had the most loyal of handmaiden known as Sabrina, who Marientte felt sorry for; and this Madame was currently being pursued by a youth named Kim, though her father desired her to wed another, wealthier man.

Now for his lady beside him, he could tell a little about her to anyone that asked.

She liked keeping her hair in pigtails. Kept her hair out of her face and off her neck, which was nice when she was working and the day was hot. Her nose would wrinkle when she was talking in exaggeration for someone or something. She had a huge wide variety of expressions that would pass over her face. She worked as a baker and had a hobby of designing and making clothes.

She was unmarried currently and still lived with her parents. She had no siblings and the only other family she had lived out of country, her great uncle she recalled. "I only met him once," she told him with a wave of her hand, making gestures and waves as she described the encounter.

Fun to watch was another he could add to this growing list, his green eyes flickering about as he followed her gestures. His smile grew as he listened to her tales, trying to picture these people, this life she lived in his mind. In slight fluster she babbled that her life was pretty boring, but he could only think of just how pleasant it sounded. Friends, family, home, a job and place in life; it left him a little longing.

Chat found he was starting to humor the idea of just slinking around her small town home, a place so far out in the wilderness it was a rare known treasure. A place where the troubles of the world didn't follow. It sounded like the perfect place to be.

If he could secure that nothing bad would happen if he did linger there, it'd be nice. He'd be hidden away from Franae and the royal family, he'd be close to Marinette, enjoy the sweets she had to offer. See what she could make with fabrics.

He smiled.

It sounded like home.

Marinette's sigh brought him back from his thoughts, looking back just as she slid down a tree trunk. Her nose was wrinkled cutely, her cheeks flushed, and she was grumbling under her breathe, digging in her bag for water.

"Apologies," he bid, crouching across from her. "I should have stopped us for a break earlier."

She waved his words away, downing the drink deeply. "Now is a good time as ever," she eased with content sigh. She cracked a grin, chuckling, "I should really be more used to this." Her teal eyes slid open, staring down at her canteen. "I used to go all over town to drop off deliveries, or run around the shop helping. Some days I didn't even get to sit till nightfall."

"Sounds busy," he hummed, accepting the water when she offered it to him. He learned the hard way that she doesn't take no's too easily; especially when she shoved the water up in his face when he sternly refuse and wound up wasting a quarter of it. Thankfully the stream was still close to refill it.

He either accepted the drink or it got wasted in her mission to keep him hydrated.

It left him both touched and exaggerated.

"How much farther to the next town?" Marinette asked, frowning down at her bag.

Chat reassured, "By sunset. Or about. If we keep our steady pace." It would be a good time to arrive, he thought. Most people were settling in their homes. No one would pay attention to a lone girl wandering into town. And he could shadow from above, watching over her till she was settled. She'd get her objective and he'd help her home.

It'll be easy, and no prince to get in the way.

Or so he hoped.

But with his luck…

Chat immediately focused on Marientte's next words. "Do you want to eat now or later?" she asked him, meeting his eyes.

Grinning, he reassured, "I'm not hungry, but you could eat if you want." She could eat later too if she was hungry. He could make a day without food. He's used to eating very little. She wasn't.

The noirette frowned, considering the last bit of food she had. He insisted, "Go on and eat, keep your energy up."

"And you're really not?" she asked.

"Nope," he said.

Those lovely eyes narrowed.

Thinking fast, he took another sip of water, keeping his mouth occupied before she could shove whatever she had left in his face.

She consented with a sigh, nibbling on the last cookie and using her knife to cut the last bit of bread in half. Satisfied, he capped the water, slipping it into her bag. He looked down the road, checking to make sure no rider was coming and jumped when something was shoved in his claws. Half of her loaf. He opened his mouth to argue, shove it back at her, only to pause when she shot his words back at him. "To keep your energy up." She smiled sweetly, a little smudged of crumbs on the corner of her lips.

He looked away with a small pout but caved, taking a bite of bread. It was hard and a little stale, but he still sighed in enjoyment. He blushed a little at her grin. It was just hard to say no to her.

"So..." she started, drawing his attention back to her.

He hummed curiously.

"What about you?"

Ah. His turn to share his life story.

Licking his lips to catch any stray crumbs, he stated, "There isn't too much too tell. I run around, hide in the woods, sometimes in a town if I'm brave enough. But I usually end up seen," he chuckled weakly. "There isn't really too much else to me."

"What about your mother?" she asked.

Chat paused, frowning down at the bread in his claws.

He felt Marinette frown beside him. "You don't have too-"

"I don't know," he confessed. "She disappeared a year ago. I don't know where she went or where she is." Or why she left. Though he did have suspicions. He gave a start when Marinette swung around to sit beside him, shoulder to shoulder, thigh to thigh.

"Sorry," she uttered, offing him the flask. When he took it stiffly, she explained, "I find drinking water helps when I'm upset."

Was he upset?

His throat did feel tight, and there was an ache behind his eyes and in the hollow of his chest...

Chat took a bold drink, downing a mouthful in a large heap and drowning the lump in his throat. Dropping the flask down in his lap, he lent over, resting his jaw on her head and breathing in her sweet scent, feeling his nerves calm. Warily, as if a little unsure herself, she reached out and took his closest claw, running her thumb over the knuckles soothingly.

Chat closed his eyes, soaking in the moment.

According to Chat, this town was a little bigger than the last, and had a better chance of having whatever it was her Madame wanted. And like he predicted, everyone was closing up shop and barely sparing her a glance as she wandered down the cobblestone road. Hands clasped together behind her back, Marinette observed the town, grinning to see that it looked very similar to her old home. All buildings were a good two story; some had shops on the floor levels and the living area above. They were built with brick, and had steaming chimneys at the top, filling the air with the heavenly scents of dinner.

Marinette beamed at the familiarity, walking with a bolder perk in her steps. It almost felt like she was home.

Trying to brush off the nostalgia, Marinette peeked at every shop she saw, noting their locations and wares for anything Chloe might like. Every now and then she glanced up to the roofs. She could see a flash of Chat's lithe form before it disappeared, either sliding to the other side of the roof and out of sight, or he hid away behind chimneys and smoke.

He had a lot of practice hiding in the open.

She might've missed him completely if she didn't know he was there.

She gave him a big smile anytime she saw a flicker of green peering down.

She couldn't help her beam, she was so giddy to be here, to finally get something for Chloe, and she could head home! She could put all of this behind her!

So caught up in her mirth, Marinette didn't see the small blonde she was heading towards till she toppled into her, sending her flower filled basket to the street.

Shared gasps broke out of them, and blue eyes met each other.

"I'm so sorry!" Marinette rushed out, dropping to the ground and trying to salvage what she could, easing the blossoms back into the basket.

"It's ok," the blonde reassured with a shy smile, gently scooping up flowers and dropping them back in the basket. Leaning over for a certain flower that had fallen far, they both jerked when they bumped heads.

Awkward but amused smiles were shared between them.

"I'm really sorry," Marinette repeated, grabbing that far flower and dropping it in the basket, pushing it to the girl. "I wasn't paying attention to where I was going."

The girl gave a weak chuckle as she too admitted, "I wasn't either." She blushed, and held up a roll of fabric that Marinette didn't see before. "I was getting this for my fiancé."

Marinette couldn't stop the "Oooooh" as she gazed at the roll. She reached out, lightly running her hand over it in excited wonder. It was soft under her fingers, and one of the loveliest purples she's ever seen. Unable to help herself, she jumped up with a squeal, gushing, "This is gorgeous!"

The blonde perked up and bounced on her heels as she softly shared Marinette's excitement. "Isn't it? It's one of the loveliest purples I've ever seen, and I knew that Juleka would love it and just had to get for her."

"She's so lucky," Marinette sighed, rubbing the fabric between her fingers. This could make an amazing tunic, perhaps with soft pinkish white laces going down the middle, and maybe some gold on the sleeves, and—

She jerked, sheepish as she realized that she starting drawing out a mental plan. She quickly withdrew from the fabric, blushing as she apologized again.

"Its ok," the girl eased with a gentle laugh. "Juleka goes into her own world too when she has idea… are you a seamstress too?"

"Oh, um, I've tailored a little," Marinette admits. "Not a full on seamstress, it's… it's more of a hobby."

The girl smiled, looking over her curiously. "Did you just arrive?" she wondered, eyeing the leaves and dirt that littered her clothes.

Marinette cringed down at her appearance, admitting sheepishly, "Yeah. Um, do you know a… cheap inn I could stay at? Or, or actually, a stable?" Marinette grimly realized she didn't have any money. She fretted. Stables were free… right? Just be able to lie on some decent hay?

Humming thoughtfully, the girl looked towards town. "You need a place to stay?"

"Yes," Marinette said with a sheepish smile.

The blonde smiled.

"Well, I have room, that is, if you don't mind flowers," the girl started to rub her arm anxiously.

Marinette beamed, not believing her luck. Quickly she said, "I love gardening! I have a few flowers back at home; I certainly won't mind!"

The girl had the brightest smile yet. "Come on this way," she bid, waving Marinette to follow. Marinette turned her gaze upwards, seeing Chat leaning out a little, his head tilted to the side. Flashing him a big smile, she went after the blonde.

A bed really sounded amazing.

The blonde's name was Rose, Rose Fragre. She was the town's "friendly local witch", though the term was very loose with her. "Despite my father being a hedgewitch, and I'm technically recorded as one, I can't do a spit of magic," she chatted, waving her hand a little as she guided Marinette home.

"Is that why you're allowed to stay in town?" Marinette guessed. She got the sense from Felix that witches weren't allowed in towns and were evil, and probably best to avoid.

"Partly," Rose confessed, but added with a shrug, "I've signed a contract, I'm to never turn wicked and have Franae's best interest in mind. Which I do. People need something healed, I'm the girl to come too! It's how I do business too, and I'm cheaper than a doctor."

"It sounds very nice," Marinette said.

"It is! And the people are so nice and so grateful to have me around. I do have knights that come and check on me every three months, make sure I didn't turn wicked, but most of them are very nice."

Frowning, Marinette asked, "Do you have a check up soon?"

"I do!" Rose exclaimed, blinking at her curiously.

Blushing, Marinette confessed, "I saw some knights in the last town I was at. They might be coming here then."

Smiling, Rose hummed aloud, "I wonder if they'd like to take a rose back this time. I grow roses, and sometimes they like to take one back for the prince!"

Marinette shifted uncomfortably. "He likes roses?"

"That's what they say. Though he only takes the plain, untouched roses."

"You have touched roses?" Marinette wondered. What did she mean by touched?

Stopping by a building that was a little outside town, Rose pointed to her little garden. Marinette was a little surprised to see two separate pens for rose bushes. Pointing to the left pen, Rose explained, "Those are magic touched; they get visited by ladybugs. If someone wants a love fortune, a ladybug comes and chooses a rose. They won't wilt till it's come true!"

"Is that how you met your fiancé?" Marinette asked with a grin.

Rose gave a happy hum, fingering a near flower with a gentle touch. "I was taking care of them, when a ladybug came, only I had no customers asking for their fortune. It landed on a lavender. And when I plucked it, it didn't wilt, so it was a flower for me!"

She gave a happy sigh. "It was a day later that I met Juleka. We've known each other for five years now."

"That's amazing," Marinette gushed.

Giggling, the little witch jumped up and down. "We're going to get married very early spring! Just on the edge of winter, before it completely ends." Rose glanced at her, smiling shyly and sneakily as she asked, "What about you Miss Marinette? Do you have a beau?"

Giggling bashfully and waving the question away, Marinette said, "No. I… I had a possible beau, but I really can't picture anything happening. At least, not romantically." She'd probably be content with Nathanael, she really did think that.

But he…

She didn't know. She gave Rose a helpless shrug.

Giving her a sad frown, Rose turned to her special bush, squinting through the leaves. With a happy "Ah!" she pulled out a rose for her, yellow with red tips. "Here you go!" she gushed, "This one has a ladybug all ready for you too!"

Surprised, Marinette took it gently, gaping down at the flower. It did have a little red beetle on it, seemingly waving it's little arms up at her. It flew up, landing on her freckled nose before flying away. Staring after it, she turned to Rose in wonderment, glancing down at the lovely flower in hand. Rose was beaming. "Your love will bloom through friendship!" she said, jumping excitedly.

"A friend huh?" Marinette hummed, bringing the flower up and smelling the scent. It'll stay like this till fate. She wondered if it would work over the wall. Would it wilt if she met Nathanael? Or would it be someone else?

She started when she felt Rose take her wrist, tugging her to the house. "You up for a nice warm bath?" Rose asked.

Oh she would love a real bath.

Refreshed, full with a meal, and happy to be in a building once again; Marientte was very happy. She had a soft mattress beneath her, warm, sweet smelling sheets to wrap around her, and the most amazing host.

Things were looking up.

If this continued, she'd be on her way home soon enough!

But first, she had another to take care of.

With reluctance, she got up from the bed and moved to the window of the guest room Rose provided. It was just like her room from back home, highest floor of the building, with a good view of the surrounding town, and had the softest pink walls. There were a lot more flower patterns in this room than she would have, and it was missing a few mannequins and a sewing station; but it was pretty damn close to her old room.

Cracking the window open, looking over the darkened town, she called, "Kitty! Here kitty!"

Chat was close. She knew that. So she wasn't too surprised when she heard a coy purr from above. "You called?" Turning, she smiled as she met glowing green eyes. Waving him in, she asked, "Hungry?"

Frowning down at her, he peeked into the room, sniffing as he sought for anyone else besides her. "You sure about this girl?" he asked, dropping into the room.

"I like her," Marinette said, offering him a plate of food. Chips, a sandwich, and a small side of fruits.

Chat's lips licked involuntarily. "That does smell delightful," he confessed, delicately taking the plate from her. Then narrowed his eyes and shot her a wary look. "This isn't your dinner… is it?"

"Well, those would be my seconds," she shrugged. "Rose said go ahead, that I was too skinny; thought that'd be a nice meal for you." To add to it, she pushed the plate closer to him, tempting him to dine.

Chat relents, seating himself on the bed with the plate in his lap. He grabs for the sandwich first, humming happily as he bit in. With him occupied, Marinette went to her bag, pulling out her flask and knife, making a note to wash them tomorrow. And her bag. It smelled of cookies and bread. And crumbs on the bottom.

"Utterly divine," Chat purred, licking his fingertips clean.

"It was nice to have something different," she agreed.

Setting the plate aside, he lounged back on the bed, stretching his limbs with a purring moan. "We shouldn't get too comfortable," he warned.

"Rose said she doesn't mind how long I stay."

"Still shouldn't hang around too long."

"Yeah, yeah," she waved off, setting her journal down beside the rose she got. She promised, "Till I get something for my Madame." Pausing, she pressed, "You sure you have no where else you'd rather be? Or go? Cause I may be here a while."

"Believe me there's nothing much else for me to do," he reassured, rolling over to face her. "Besides, I would feel far better if I saw you home safely at least."

Sighing, she nodded with a smile. Then jerking her head to his plate, she asked, "Do you want more?"

"No," he eased, rolling on his back and patting his stomach happily. "Believe me I'm full."

"It's nice isn't it?!" she asked, coming around and flopping down beside him, stretching herself. Chat's nose twitched. Rolling to his side, he sniffed her hairline, tickling her brow. "What are you doing?" she asked, pushing him away.

Smiling, he purred. "You smell delightful as well!"

"I had a bath," she explained, giving him a quick sniff before drawing away and poking his shoulder. "Which you need yourself."

He scoffed. "I'll have you know we cats are very clean."

She snorted, making him grin.

With a chuckle, she bid, "Good night Chat." And happily hugged a pillow to her chest, giddy to be back in a bed.

He was startled for a moment, staring at her with wide eyes. Awkwardly, he replied, "Good, good night Marinette."

The soft bed creaked as she rolled onto her side, nuzzling the sheets. It felt like she was laying on a cloud. With a big smile, she drifted off easily.

This was really needed.

A day into the hunt and Felix was impatient.

He had hoped that they would find Chat Noir and the girl on the road as they rode towards home but they haven't seen a single shadow of the two. Knowing that cat he's been hiding them away.

Grimacing, he turned his gaze to the trees, just knowing that's where they'd be. Chat always slipped away in trees, making use of the long shadows and shrubs. They could peek around hundreds of trunks and under hundreds of shrubs but they wouldn't catch sight of that cat.

But, perhaps the girl would end up slowing him down? She didn't appear to be as tactful and clever as Chat. Could she even hide in the shadows? Melt into them like Chat does? Felix was doubtful, and it offered them a better chance of getting her at least.

But he wasn't so hopeful.

She was with one of the most elusive villains in all of Franae.

Chat Noir could hide them both away easily.

He ran a hand through his hair in slight frustration, glad for the privacy of his room in the inn they were resting at. Agreste family wasn't known to show their emotions and problems visibly, and for a situation like this, Felix shouldn't be reacting like he was. It was just a simple mystery, and a slight annoyance. They've always chased Chat, hot on his tail whenever he showed it, and waited for him to appear again to continue the hunt when he finally eluded them.

This was no different. Besides the girl there was no difference.

It shouldn't be different.

Yet here he was, so riled with the mystery girl, possibly from another world, traveling with Chat Noir.

In his defense, it could be reasoned that this was dangerous.

Who knew what abilities they had on the other side? Who knew what Chat Noir would do with the Unknown? Who knew what the Unknown would do with Chat Noir? He came to her rescue willingly, jumping into the middle of the fray, with guards all around and Felix there and just willingly risked his neck to get her out and away. Was she controlling him in some way? Manipulating? Perhaps she truly was a witch, and because she was Unknown, the evil eye just couldn't read her strange magic besides Franae's own.

The possibilities were starting to hurt his head and make his stomach twist in stress.

They had to find them.

Or her at least.

There were too many dangers with this Unknown.

He pulled out the picture, peering down at the smiling girl in the drawing. She didn't look dangerous in the drawing, the big smile, the shine of her eyes, holding her parents close. It was a touching scene. And the ladybug landing on her picture self...

He quickly shoved the thought away, willing his resolve to harden. Unknown was dangerous. Too many mysterious, what she could do, what she was capable of, being in Chat's presence. Nothing good came from being with Chat Noir. She could be a serious danger to Franae. She had to be found.

Why the ladybug landed on her, he didn't know. How she could bring good fortune to Franae he didn't know, especially being with the embodiment of bad luck...

"With how much you're glaring at that picture, I almost think you're interested in this girl."

Felix doesn't jump. Doesn't jerk. Doesn't flinch. Only indication he gives of his surprise is the twitch of his fingers, squeezing the picture a little and making it crinkle. His icy eyes looked up; narrowing at the sudden appearance of the very wizard he sent a crow too. The man smiled, offering, "Or perhaps it's fascination. This is a very curious turn of events."

"Hawk Moth," Felix greeted coolly, grimacing mentally at the wizard's appearance. He shouldn't be too surprised to see him here. This was, like he said, a curious turn of events.

The wizard smiled, nodding to him. "Prince Felix."

"Is there a world across Limbes?" Felix asked boldly, staring up at Hawk Moth expectantly. Hawk Moth didn't answer the prince, turning his blue eyes to the drawing in the prince's hands. He reached for it, eyeing the prince expectantly. Felix hesitated for a mere moment before quickly sliding the drawing towards him, easily gliding on the smooth table surface between them. Hawk Moth caught it, holding it up and gazing down at the family.

"What an adorable looking child," he murmured.

Felix's lip curled down. "Hawk Moth," he stressed.

"Would you be interested if she was?" he wondered aloud. There was nothing serious in his tone, just genuine curiosity. His eyes flickered to the prince before looking back at the drawing. "A queen from the Unknown. It would certainly help you be remembered."

"She's a peasant," Felix dismissed. He was more concerned about what she could do, coming from the Unknown.

Hawk Moth chuckled, like his dismissal was a humorous joke. It rubbed the prince wrong. Hawk Moth pointed out, "As if all noble lines started out naturally wealthy."

Felix twitched, leaning back in his seat. Patiently, he pressed once more. "Is there a world across Limbes?"

"There could be one," Hawk Moth reasoned, still gazing down at the drawing. "It's never been proven. And no way to confirm it besides making the trip yourself, if you can get past the timbers."

"The chances of this girl...?"

"I'd have to meet her to see for myself."

"She carried the feather of a Limbes pigeon."

"How lucky of her."

"She's with Chat Noir right now."

Hawk Moth's eyes flickered to him before going back to the drawing. "She looks very charming," the wizard offered.

"Hawk Moth," he warned.

"She has very friendly eyes, and easy smile, a loving family. The artist did a wondrous job. You feel drawn to her and this happiness around the family. Did you get a name?"


"Pity. It would make finding her easier."

"You can't do that with Chat?" Felix wondered.

"We'd have Chat Noir already if I could. But fret not my prince, I have a... friend I can make use of. She can catch this girl for you. Perhaps even Noir himself."

"Friend?" Felix repeated warily.

"Head home my prince," Hawk Moth dismissed, setting the drawing down and sliding it towards Felix. "It's not safe for you to be out. Your father certainly wouldn't care for this." Hawk Moth left him, disappearing from sight in a rush of dark purple bubbles. The prince stared at the empty space across from him, his eyes slowly going to the drawing. He folded it up neatly and stuck it in his pocket.

Chapter Text

Marinette woke to a tingling nose. Blinking sleepily, she gave an unhappy hum to find her face pressed up against Chat's shoulder. Drawing away, she took in the morning with a heavy, muddled frown. She had a pink pillow with a huge purple flower sewed on it clutched to her chest. She was on her side, curled up, and pressed right up against Chat. And like the other morning, she could feel his belt tail loosely wrapped around her ankle.

Chat was on his back, head facing away from her as he slept. She could faintly hear a soft purr coming from him.

Groaning, she rubbed the pillow against her face to wipe away the sleepiness, and slowly sat up and stretched. With a big slump, she peeked over at the window, grimacing. Of course, she finally sleeps in an actual bed, and it was soft and blissful and she'll never take another bed for granted ever again; and wakes up early.

It had to be at least an hour before dawn.

Marinette gave another loud groan, smashing the pillow against her face.

She wasn't working at the bakery at the moment. Why?

Why did she have to wake up early?

She plopped back down, intent on falling back asleep. Only for Chat to roll over, taking all the covers with him in his unconscious displeasure with her. "Hey," she whined tiredly, lightly smacking his shoulder.

He growled back, rubbing his face against his pillow.

Fisting her hands into paws, rubbing her knuckles over her face to wake. Her mind was buzzing with readiness for the day.

She had a lot to do today.

A lot to get done.

She had a big opportunity here, she could get something for Chloe.

But first she needed a job for money...

Giving one last stretch, she sat up, tugged her ankle free, and stumbled to the dresser for fresh clothes, out of the room to change, and down to the kitchen. Rose wasn't up yet, and Marinette decided to start working on her thanks to the sweet blonde.

Cracking the cupboards open, her eyes settled on a basket of eggs, then flickered to a little shelf of herbs, most she thankfully recognized.

Marinette cracked a pleased, sleepy smile.

Hello breakfast.

Dawn was stroking the horizon when Rose came around, blinking sleepily as she sniffed aloud, inhaling the fragrance of sizzling eggs.

"That smells good," she mumbled out, eyeing Marinette working the stove expertly, smiling brightly with her hair tied up in a messy bun.

"It will be!" Marinette chirped, scooping up some that are done and depositing them on one of the two plates she got out. "How'd you sleep?" the noirette asked, offering the plate to Rose.

"Very well," Rose chimed, humming happily as she took the plate. "You? I was worried that old bed upstairs might be a little stiff..."

Marinette waved her worries away. "After sleeping on the ground for a few days, a bed is like laying on a cloud. I'm sad that I woke up."

Rose laughed.

"So," Marinette started warily, scooping up her share on her own plate, and doing a few more eggs for "seconds". "I, I hate to ask a little more, but, uh..."

"What is it?" Rose asked.

Licking her lips, Marinette asked, "Do you know any places that are hiring? Or need a helper for a few days?"

Humming, Rose nodded. "We could check with Jule and see if you could help her with her shop. I'm sure she'd love another pair of hands! And it sounds like you know what your doing too! An added bonus!"

Marinette beamed. "Thank you Rose."

"Thank you for breakfast! Now, just give me some time to get ready, then we can head on over to Juleka's shop and get you a job!"

How did she wind up meeting such a nice person?

As Rose slipped away to get ready, Marinette slid the "seconds" onto her plate, got a fresh fork, and slipped up to her room. Chat hasn't moved much since she left him this morning, only had wound up flopping to his other side and curled up on her side of the bed.

"Morning!" she chimed, grinning as he sniffed loudly and cracked one green eye open to peek at her. She continued, "I got breakfast!" Lowering the plate of eggs down in his sight.

Chat arced into a stretch, giving her a big yawn and flashing his pointed canines at her. Then he dropped down and stretched out once more, humming as he grumbled, "I'm going to get spoiled." Sleeping in a bed, and a sweet, cute girl bringing him food.

Food in the morning.

His lucky stars have been shining these days.

"You and me both," Marinette agreed, setting the plate on the edge of the bed. Grabbing it, Chat sat up, starting to gobble down the eggs eagerly.

"I"m going to be gone today," Marinette informed, "probably for most of the day."

"Shopping?" he guessed.

Marientte smiled. "Getting a job! Hopefully as a seamstress!"

"Not a bakery?" he asked lightly.

Marinette waved the suggestion away. "I've been working in a bakery since I could walk. I've always wanted to try tailoring. Work in a tailor besides just making my own stuff. I'm taking this opportunity!" And she could always turn to a bakery if it wasn't working out; but she didn't think it will. She's confident in her skills.

"Why are you getting a job?" he wondered, his fork poised for a bite. "Don't you have money from your Madame? Or did she give you too little?"

"Ehm... she didn't give me anything at all."

Chat took a bite, and balked at her. "You bon't have any mummy?" he exclaimed, mouthful of food.

"Chew," Marinette ordered, poking his nose. "And I told you she was mean!"

He swallowed, narrowing his green eyes. "You should let me meet her."

Marinette just shook her head and went over to the mirror. Tugging her hair free of the lazy bun, she started to work it with a brush, straightening any knots she felt. Chat watched absently as he ate, licking his plate clean when he finished. "When are you leaving?" he asked.

"Rose and I are leaving in a little bit."

"I'll be ready whenever you are."

"Actually," Marinette said, looking at him through the mirror. "I was thinking that you just hang here."

He raised a brow at her. "You want to tackle the town alone, My Lady?"

She raised a brow back at him. "You think you can stay hidden away on roofs all day? And not get sunburnt? Or overheated?"

"I"m very confident."

"I'll be fine," she insisted, "you stay here, take a bath, and sleep."

"Tempting offer."

"I'll make you a cowl if you do."

His ears twitched up at that, looking at her curiously. "Why would I need one?" he asked.

"Well, you could probably walk around in the streets normally if you did," she said. She was planning on making him one anyway. A departing thank you gift and memoir.

Chat gaped at her, surprised. Jittery, he set the plate down on the dresser, rolling the information around in his head. A chance to walk in the streets, no one panicking... what was that even like? He bit his lip. "But Felix..."

"Doesn't even know we're here," Marinette cuts in. "Seriously Chat, take advantage of this. Take a bath, sleep in a bed, enjoy food. We got a few days. Let's enjoy them." She twisted her hair up in her usual pigtails. Turning to him with a huge smile, she said, "I might even be able to get your cowl done soon and you could walk around the streets of this town!"

That would be amazing.

"Alright," she stood up, tugging at her clothes. Clean clothes. New clothes. A soft brown gown that hugged her figure loosely. "How do I look?"

He flashed her a huge, toothy grin. "Like an angel."

Flushing a little in surprise, Marinette scoffed and lightly shoved him so he toppled back on the bed.

It's been a long time since he's had a warm bath. A very long time, back in the day that he still lived freely in Franae's capital, Parr. Back when he had far better privileges than what he has now.

Marinette was right.

A warm bath was needed.

In this rare moment, he melted into the water, a heavy sigh escaping him as his eyes fell closed. He's forgotten how amazing these were. The heat all around him, pulling the sores and wears out of his bones, relaxing his muscles with a simple soak. He could fall asleep in this tub.

He cracked a humorless grin, laughing as he realized that rivers were now ruined for him. A quick dive into the cold just to wash away what dirt got him was going to be even more of a chore now that he had a chance to soak this in, remember what it was like.

But if things go as well as he hopes, perhaps Princess would be willing to share her bath with back in her home.

Hazily he stared out, blinking at the steam that floated off the water. How would she respond? She takes his presence very well, even watches out for him. It was a little mind blowing. And still baffling. Everyone was scared to be around him, yet she was unbothered, hardly scared of him at all. Even after knowing what he can do.

It was strange, but certainly nice.

He sunk deeper into the tub, feeling the water roll against his face, sighing contently. The soft waves felt like they were massaging his face. A purr bubbling out of his chest, he sunk his head fully beneath the water, feeling his hair float freely as the warmth encased his head, no leather made cat ears to ruffle up his mane. Another strange feeling. Not wearing the Chat Noir attire.

Was it weird that he had forgotten what his own hands looked like? That it was strange not to feel sharp points hitting a surface before his fingertip? And to walk a few steps without his belted tail... he had felt a little off balanced. He brought his head back up with a gasp, feeling water roll down his face and dribble off his cheeks. Unconsciously he ran his tongue over the top of his teeth, feeling slightly smaller, and duller canines that what he usually had while being Chat Noir.

It made him realize just how long it's been since he's just been... Adrien.

"Adrien," he uttered the name, testing it on his lips.

It didn't sound like his name anymore.

He's really taken to the Chat identity these past few years.

With half lidded eyes, he brought his hands up above the water, eyeing the now silver ring that hung loosely on his finger. Only when it was pushed up tight enough to kiss his knuckle was he the elusive Chat Noir. But loose and hanging near the tip of his finger, he was Adrien. A witch's son that didn't ask for this. A witch's son that could do so much damage if that ring fell off his finger.

Just the idea left him nervous enough to push it further on his finger, not quite close enough to activate.

He had a house to himself, and a bath to enjoy.

He wanted to be Adrien for a little while.

When the warmth started to fade from the water was when Chat got out with a grimace.

As nice as it was, the cat in him hated the feeling of leaving the tub. His hair was heavy with water, and it stuck to his face and neck uncomfortably. The steaming drops sliding down his body didn't help with his discomfort, making him shiver at the temperature difference and oozing between his toes. It was from pure instinct that his feet shook with every step he took, trying to dislodge the water that slid between his toes. Grabbing a near towel quickly, he lathered himself in it, trying to get rid of as much water as he could.

His left ring finger was still slick with moisture trapped between his skin and the warm metal band. With great care he slid it out a little, drying it best he could without completely taking the ring off. It wouldn't do either of them good to ruin her host's property.

As dry as he could be, he slipped on a worn tunic that was long overdue to be replaced, and pushed the ring back to kiss his knuckle, letting the magic to wash over him, encasing him in the familiar dark attire. His belt extended out and flickered, and he felt more balanced. His vision grew sharper, he felt the comforting weight of his ears, and the scents in the bathroom grew sharper. It felt right.

To not have this attire and the assets, it made him feel obvious, open, vulnerable, and naked.

Slipping out of the bathroom, he paused, listening for any movement in the house. Hearing none, he called out, "Marinette?"

No one answered. She must still be out then. Frowning at the fact that she was wandering the streets without him, he considered chasing after her; despite her insistence that he'd take a break. They've been fortunate so far with this host, but he couldn't grasp that it would be like this for long. For all he knew it could be a trap.

..Would Felix even listen to a weak little witch that could barely cast a spell?

He decided no, turning and heading towards Marinette's room. One perk about the prince was that he was picky about his company, it was difficult to catch his interest and keep it. The girl that opened her home didn't look like someone Felix would spare minutes too. They were relatively safe, Chat decided.

With the warm bath haunting his bones, drowsiness became a clinging ghost to his body. Marinette's insistence that he sleep was far more appealing now that he was here, and the bed they shared last night looked more inviting than it should. Warily, he reached his claws to it, feeling the mattress sink under his weight. Slowly he sunk onto it, not bothering to pull covers over himself as he laid still in a haze. The bed still smelled of her, of sweets and sugars and herbs, and with a slight hint of the lavender shampoo she used from her bath last night.

His eyes fell closed and his conscious drifted to oblivion as he rubbed all over the soft fabric, kneading it slightly with a content purr rumbling out in his sleep.

This was nice.

Juleka's Seams was a different little shop to the buildings around. It was a shop with it's own flare of character. The walls were dark with light purple frames, gargoyles were pointed by the door, some arced on the roof; and vines were allowed to grow and tangle on the walls. And there was a bit of an out of place chipper front garden that had to come from Rose.

"Juleka's great grandmother was a witch as well," Rose offered, letting Marinette soak in the strange sight. "Infamously known as Reflekta. Jule told me she had some different tastes as well."

Different was the word for it.

Flashing her a smile, Rose waved to the doors. "Shall we?"

Returning her smile with her own, Marinette breathed in, trying to fight off her jitters. It was going to be ok. She either got a job or she didn't. Worse comes to worse she does work at another bakery. SHe had full confidence that she could score easily there.

But not till she had a chance to try working as a seamstress!

A soft, comforting floral fragrance met her nose as she slipped in. The interior, she found, was a bit lighter than what was outside, the walls painted in soft purples. Much like outside, flowers decorated the interior, with smaller gargoyles set as decor on the counter. The rest of the building was taken over by all sorts of outfits, surprisingly in all sorts of colors.

Just the prospect of helping made her giddy.

Calm down, she chastised.

Get the job first.

The presumed Juleka slipped into the room, flashing the blonde a tired, but fond smile. An orange brown eye turned to Marinette curiously.


"Hello Rose," the noirette greeted, wrapping the eager blonde in a hug. "You're not usually here this early."

"Well," Rose started, drawing away, "I got you some help! You mentioned how tired you've been, and she needs a part time job, and has experience so-"

"You want to work here?" Juleka asked, looking over Rose's head. The blonde pouted up at the older girl.

"I would like too," Marinette said.

Humming, Juleka came around Rose, stretching out her hand to her. "Juleka," she offered.


"You've sewn before?"

"More than half the clothes I own I've made. I can make quite a few things. Dresses I probably need to practice more with, but I have confidence that I can do good work here. And help."

"I think she would be!" Rose called from the back, going around the shop and checking all the flowers.

"I'd like to see a bit of what you can do," Juleka states.

Marinette flashed her a confident smile. "What do you need me to work on?"

Her first task was easy.

Mend a hat.

She got that done in just half an hour.

Pleased, Juleka passed on one more test: make something.

And Marinette was open to making whatever she liked. She instantly started to plan on Chat's cowl. The color she knew would be brown, a neutral color that wouldn't draw attention to him. It was going to be loose enough on his head that it didn't bother his ears, but just enough to compress them to be overlooked. And she even put in the extra effort to have it slightly longer than usual, including pockets underneath so he could store anything he wanted.

With yarns open to be used, she knitted the cowl the rest of the day while Juleka worked up front. Rose had left after a few hours to get back to her own work. By the time Juleka dropped by to send her off, she had the shape of the hood down. And by the spark flickering in Juleka's eyes, the raven haired girl saw something she liked.

Marinette couldn't help but squeal as she walked up, wiggling with every step she took.

She was going to work at a tailor!

She knew she would!

This was so exciting!

And great!

And just, oh she was so excited!

A flicker of gold glinted against the setting sun, pausing Marinette from her trek to Rose's. Looking over, her eyes locked on the perfect gift for Chloe.

It was a small trinket, a basic golden band fashioned with sapphires. Drawing closer, she picked it up, weighing it in her hand, running her thumb over it. It was well made. The golden was sure to catch the eye with it's shine, the blue of the sapphires complimented it well, and added a flare of class to it. And the dark, golden colors, near brown; evened it out enough that it wasn't too bright on the eyes.

Chloe didn't have too many bracelets. And this was a lovely little piece. And even better, it was on the cheap side of pricing. A few days of work, she get buy this no problem. And Chloe would never know that this "treasure" was one of many similar looking trinkets. Marinette grinned. A perfect gift.

She jumped when a gruff voice asked her, "You going to buy that?"

She looked up to see a very broad boy looming over her, a course scowl on his features as he glared down at her. She noted absently that he had a chained necklace hanging from his neck, a simple black ring weaved through it.

Squeaking in surprise, she hastily set the bracelet down with the rest, sheepishly admitting, "Just browsing," and hurried away before the suspicion in his eyes could be voiced.

Everything was going perfectly.

She had gotten the cowl done on the second day, and Juleka approved.

She had a job as a seamstress.

She had a job as a seamstress!

And working at a tailor!

So giddy and excited, she had squeezed the baffled cat as soon as she got into her guestroom to share the news.

"I have a job!" she practically screamed, tackling Chat and nearly knocking them both off the bed.

"Congratulations," Chat returned, carefully returning the hug.

"It's so exciting," she gushed drawing away and wiggling in her seat. "I've been wanting to work at a tailor for so long, I'm eager to see how this works out, and oh! I got a present for you! You're going to love it! We can head out whenever you're ready!" Rambling, she crawled over to the end of the bed, grabbing his cowl that she dropped in her rush.

Presenting it to him with a huge smile, she watched as Chat's eyes widened in wonder at the sight of it. Slowly, he took it from her, sniffing it and rubbing the material between his claws. So full of wonderment, he considered dropping the guise of Chat Noir just to feel the material. "You made this?" he asked, "For me?"

"I said I would. We can walk around town anytime you want!" Then she frowned, waving to the cowl, "Try it on first, lets see if it fits first."

Chat slid it on, smiling as he finally felt the soft material rest against his cheek. It rested comfortably on his head, not pressing on his ears, it was loose, warm, and were those pockets?! Chat purred aloud, feeling the depth of the pockets. Marinette chuckled, "Thought you would like some pockets."

"This is amazing!" Chat exclaimed, his green eyes shining.

"And it works," she agreed, "someone would have to look closely at you to see your Chat Noir." Flashing him a bright smile, she asked, "Want to walk around town?"

Chat paused. Getting up, he crossed the room, peering at himself in the mirror. Like Marinette said, someone had to look closely to see Chat Noir. And he could walk around normally if he kept his tail wrapped around him like an actual belt. He could easily walk around no trouble. But that still didn't fight off the sudden nervousness that slouched over his shoulders.

Old habits.

Turning to Marinette, he softly asked, "Can we go... at night?"

"Sure," Marinette reassured.

They waited and hour after the sun went down.

Sure that most of the town was asleep, Marinette held Chat tightly as he jumped out of the second floor, and dropped to the ground below. Setting her down, he looked out towards town, wary. He couldn't see anyone walking around. It would really be just to the two of them. But he still couldn't shake his nerves. Stalling a little, he turned to Rose's garden, sniffing the flowers appreciatively.

"She might give you a fortune if you ask," Marinette offered, recalling how the prince stated only witches wouldn't mind Chat Noir's company.

"Is she enlisted to help the kingdom?" Chat asked.


He gave her a dry smile. "Then she'd be required to report sighting me. She may not do it, but I doubt she'd give me a fortune."

Plus, being Chat Noir, any romance in his life was nonexistent. He may not be the true Chat Noir, but he's sure that solitude would apply to him. Even if a ladybug came and beckoned him to a flower, it would wither away at his touch, even if he didn't will it too.

Friendships, he found, he could hold and enjoy; but love?

That'd push his small bits of good luck.

"You ready?" Marinette asked, jerking her head to town.

He shuffled on his feet nervously.

"It'll be ok," she cooed, "everyone's asleep. We'll have the town to ourselves."

He eyed her.

She held out her hand. "It'll be ok. We'll be fine."

Tugging his cowl to make sure it was secured, Chat placed his claws in her hand, letting her guide him into town. Chat eyed up the towering buildings warily, half expecting someone to burst open their window, shouting that Chat Noir was here. Of course no one rang the alarm. Not a soul moved. No sound rang out besides the soft pad of Marinette's feet on the cobblestone road.

Still Chat clutched her hand tightly, eyes flickering about to each building. Walking in the streets made him feel small. Vulnerable. He liked being on roofs more. More he could see, the solitude and security of height. No one could touch him there. No one looked up typically. Here he could be seen, wandering the streets. Here, walking the streets...

Marinette gave his hand a soft squeeze, turning his green eyes to her. "You're doing good," she reassured.

He gave her a small smile, unable to help but tug his cowl once more, securing that it covered him, despite it being too dark for human eyes too see.

"I found the perfect gift for my Madame," Marinette voiced.

"Did you?"

She hummed her affirmation. "A little golden bracelet. Lovely to look at. I think she'd like it."

"Do you want me to steal it?" he asked, smirking.

She shot him a look. "There's reason I got a job Chaton."

"Fine," he relented, chuckling.

Stopping at town square, Marinette let Chat drop her hand, walking on his own to the center where a fountain lay, sputtering water. Looking it over in curious wonderment, Chat stuck his hand into the water, feeling the cool sensation brush and push at his hand. He withdrew it, flicking his hand to get rid of the water. Looking around, he slowly paced around the square, just exploring it and soaking in the feel of standing in it, no rush to get away.

Marinette waited for him on a bench, eyes drawn to the sky, enjoying the shine of the stars and moon looming above. A big yawn came out of her, and she stretched back, humming happily as a cool breeze caressed her cheeks. When Chat finally settled to sit next to her, he voiced, "I'm ready to return."


"...I wouldn't mind doing this again."

"Of course," she bid, offering her hand once more as they headed home.



"Thank you."

Working at Juleka's Seams has been going very well.

Marinette has been a welcomed addition to the little shop, quick and efficient in her work. The town was quick to learn that she was the go to girl if they wanted a quick mend on their clothes. She had yet to come across any sort of outfit that she couldn't fix.

And while working here, the raven haired girl took up the chance experimenting. With her sketchbook always in hand, she drew out ideas and designs that came to mind, showing them to Juleka and Rose for opinions and thoughts before diving in and trying to make them. She was never without it, always doodling something down.

Tonight was no different.

Three days after Chat walked out on the open streets with his new cowl; they had just returned and Marinette wasn't quite ready to go to sleep yet.

A candle lit on the near dresser, sketchbook situated in her lap, she started to draw, just for fun. Chat slept beside her, cowl set under his cheek as an extra pillow. Glancing down at Chat, she soaked in his appearance; taking the mess of his blonde hair, the curve of his slumped body, the rise and fall of his side as he slept.

He was just a large glaring mass in those pink sheets. It was almost funny how unfitting it was to see him laying on this bright pink sheets. Her eyes flickered down to the rest of his dark wear, and temptation to see other colors on him flickered through her. Eyes locked on him, her hands moved on their own opening her sketch book, sliding the pencil out from behind her ear and flying down to the first blank sheet she found.

Teal eyes gradually stayed locked on the sheet, focused solely on the movement of the pencil's point. Ash curved out beneath it, an image blooming over the white and filling the space.

She only got distracted once Chat moved in his sleep.

He scooted closer to her, a sigh came out of him, his nose scrunching up while one of his cat ears gave a twitch.

Marinette waited a few seconds, watching him, before resuming her sketch, filling the air in soft scratches.

When she was done, she had Chat sketched out, poised in gleeful pride with a huge smile on his lips, his eyes were bright, his ears were up, belted tail perked up and frozen in a mid swing, and he was dressed royally in a white suit. He looked like a cat prince. The thought made her giggle. He came out looking quite dashing. Sticking her tongue in concentration, she added a then rapier set at his hip, adding to his regal sketch.

Looking up to check her drawing, she started when she saw that he was awake, staring at her through half lidded eyes.

"Hey," she offered, surprised.

He hummed in response, eyes closing as he stretched out. "You stick your tongue out when you draw," he murmured into the sheets, a grin spreading over his lips as one of his eyes gleamed at her. "It's very cute."

She squinted at him, sticking her tongue as a silent disagreement.

He simply chuckled, rubbing against the mattress contently. "What did you draw?" he asked, eyes locked on the book in her hands. Absently he adds, "I didn't know you could draw."

Marinette blinked in surprise, then reasoned that she mostly drew up at the shop instead of here. She really hasn't drawn in Chat's presence yet. Shrugging, she sheepishly admits, "I draw a little." She looked down at her sketch of Chat, flustered. "A friend of mine does it far better. He's a real artist."

She looked up when he reached out, eyes still glued to the book. He made a grabby motion with his claws. When she frowned at him, he insisted, "I wanna see."

"It's not very good," she warned, leaning away from his reach.

He pouted. "I think I can be the judge of that." Rolling to his belly, he reached for her. Marinette instantly drew away, holding the sketchbook as far away as she could from the curious cat. Which of course just made him more determined. He now really wanted to see what she drew. Sticking his own tongue out, he reached even further, not noticing or caring how he somewhat crawled on top of her to get it. His attention was entirely locked on the book. He was close enough to press the tip of his claw to it.

"It's not good!" Marinette whined, leaning as far back as she could go without falling out of the bed. A final effort to keep the drawing hidden, she held it up above her head, out of Chat's reach. Shooting her a dark look, he finally just got up and snatched it away before she could withdraw it. Ignoring her squeak, he fled across the room, eagerly looking at her drawing.

A drawing of him.

A very different drawing of him to what he usually saw. It was… it was real, and charming, and… he didn't have demonic cat eyes glaring back at him; he didn't have added scars on his face to make him scarier; and he was simply smiling. And dressed like a prince. No dark grimace that could make a baby cry, no evil smirk that would send shivers down the spine.

It was the most simple and real drawing of himself that he's ever seen.

It, it didn't make him seem like an evil being at all.

Awed, he couldn't help but trace over the drawing in wonder. In the drawing, he looked borderline normal if not for the mask still covering his features.

"I told you it was bad."

He started, gazing up at her in surprise. She was pouting, tugging at her hair as she stared off to the side. A blush was coloring her cheeks.

"Thank you," he whispered.


"Thank you," he repeated, staring at the drawing once more in awe. "This is amazing." He looked normal. He look friendly.

Flustered, she babbled, "It's just a simple sketch."

"It's beautiful," he said, handing it back to her, unable to tear his eyes from piece. He looked up, meeting her teal eyes, looking past them to the freckles dotted over her nose. Smiling, he reassured, "I make a handsome prince." She huffed and rolled her eyes at that, blushing still. Chat turned back to the drawing, tracing his claws over it in wonder, making sure to burn the image into his mind so that he would remember it always.

He would make sure to treasure it.

Chapter Text

Marinette quickly discovered that Chat was a watcher. A very present watcher. Especially after he discovered her artistic talent.

Anytime she brought work to their shared room, no matter it was fabric or sketching, he was there to observe. Knitting cowls and scarves, mending shirts, coats, pants; his eyes just followed her hands like they were the most interesting things he's ever seen.

The making of clothes.

Such a specter.

She personally thought that her knitting and sewing wasn't that amazing. The attention left her flustered.

But it was much worse when she sketched out ideas.

Like her knitting, he had to watch, and to watch her draw, he got more personal. And just more cat like. He just had to find ways to plant himself near her and watch her ideas spring out on blank pages.

She could make a list of all the positions he settled in.

He'd hover over her shoulder, leaning against her seat if she sat in a chair too small for two. But if there was space for him to join, he joined her, shoulder to shoulder thigh to thigh. She sat or laid on the bed, boom, he was there, snuggled up to her side, usually with a pillow underneath his chin, or he'd rest it on her shoulder. The window seat or a chaise, he settled next to her, not minding just how tightly pressed they became, just to make sure he had a good seat to watch her draw.

If she stopped and waited for him to leave, he'd start batting the page till she continued.

She got up to move, he followed.

He was a determined cat.

He was going to watch her draw no matter what.

It was a little ridiculous.

"It's like magic," he swore when she asked (well, more like snapped). She almost burst out laughing at his answer. This world, with feathers that could guide you, a boy with destruction at his fingertips and cat characteristics, evil eyes, witches, dragons, and who knows what else; drawing was magical to him?

But it was. His eyes stayed locked on the pencil, watching it make ashen lines, spreading out into an image. He commented a few times that he liked watching her draw. "It's like having a good book," he said once, leaning on her side, poking her still hand to start moving.

It took some getting used too.

She never had an audience when she worked. Particularly in the supposed privacy of her own room. Or, well, their room since she insisted on sharing it with Chat. It was safer for him to hide away in here than on the roof.

Technically, he had just as much right to hang here as her.

And a right to watch.

But she still didn't like the company much.

Especially with how his eyes seemed to follow her hands' every move.

It was just... flustering.

On the bed, they were both leaning against the wall, her sketchpad nestled in her lap as she drew a princess gown for fun, something that would be ridiculously to make. Chat was beside her, cheek against her hair as he watched her work, adding little bits of detail and shading to help shape the gown. Frowning when she felt that the piece just wasn't up to par, she absently comments, "Nathanael does this better."

She felt him shift, humming curiously at the name. "You're beau?" he guessed in a teasing tone.

She hummed affirmative.

Another hum came from the cat boy, and Marinette started at the depressed note in it.

"You ok?" she asked.

"I'm fine."

"Alright," she said, staring at the gown. "But really, he does this better than me." She sighed and huffed. "You want to see real magic? You should see him work on his art work."

"I like your work," he insists.

"That's sweet. But believe me, he does it far better."

"I think you did a better job drawing me than most people in this kingdom," he offered, flipping through her sketchbook till he came across her drawing of him. It was his favorite of all the drawings he's seen of him. She just, she made him look normal, friendly, happy. He made quite a dashing prince.

She gives him a scoffing smile, rolling her eyes at his persistence. "Nathanael still does better work. Before I left he actual did a portrait of me and my family..." Marinette trailed, frowning. Prince Felix had it currently.

She was probably never going to see that picture again.

But... maybe she could ask Nath if he would redraw it for her? She had enough to buy that bracelet, and have some money saved still. Soon she'd have enough for inns and food.

Looking up when she felt Chat nudge her shoulder, she offered him a small smile. Jerking her head to the page, she asked, "Do you want the picture?"

"I would love to have it," he said, not tearing his gaze away from her. Flashing him a bright smile, she starting to tear the page away from her sketchbook, ignoring his little jump beside her.

"I won't rip it," she reassured.

"I, I could ruin it!" he said quickly.

"It'll be fine," she promised.

Smiling she handed the page to him, giggling as he took it delicately. He looked up at her, eyes wide in wonder before flickering back to his sketch, staring at his beaming expression. Looking back at her, he quietly requested, "Can you... can you draw you too?" When she raised a dark brow, he elaborated, "I'd like to see you with me too. Preferably on this page. I don't want to take anymore of your paper, and-"

"Sure!" Taking it back, she set it on the sketchbook. Sticking her tongue out, she drew herself, dressed in a lovely dress, one arm hanging on his shoulder, sharing his smile as they both looked to the viewer. Chat wiggled excitedly next to her. He seemed to be even more careful about taking it from her, gleaming in pure awe at the drawing of the two.

"Magic," he whispered, his bright eyes flickering to her. "This is real magic!"

She snorts and flipped back to the gown, resuming her work while Chat soaked in the doodle in his claws. He was going to cherish this.

"How about red velvet on the inside?" Marinette suggested, looking over the sketch she and Juleka made. There was a request for a new jacket, something to match the owner's style. Red would be glaring on the outside, but inside it would be doable. Plus it would bring out the copper in the customer's eyes.

By her absent hum, Juleka agreed, jotting down notes.

Pleased, Marinettte resumed her knitting. She started working on a soft pink scarf for Rose, a thank you gift for all she's done. She's hoping to present it to the blonde before she left, her objective in hand.

"What do you think of a purple rose?" Juleka asked, tapping the drawing's cuff. "Just an imprint of the flower's head," she clarified.

"He wouldn't mind it?" Marientte asked.

"I know him," Juleka hummed, "he's trying to woo the dairy girl. A purple rose imprinted on his sleeve shows that he's charmed by her."

"That sounds romantic," Marientte sighed.

"Doesn't it?" Rose gushed from the stove, heating a new soup for dinner. "Such romantic flowers! You should have seen the day Jule picked up my rose; it withered under her touch and she was so worried and freaked out and was just so sweet and-"

"Rose," Juleka cuts off, a flush on her cheeks.

Marinette giggled.

Rose shared it, her blue eyes shining as she smiled at the dark haired girl. Jeluka shared her smile shyly before quickly looking away. Clearing her throat, Juleka reassured Marinette, "I'll get the base done, if you would sew in the red velvet, and the purple rose. You do better bits of detail than I do."


Getting up, she came around, giving Rose a quick peck before leaving.

Marinette curiously asked, "So that's it works? The person you're fated to be with picks up the rose and it withers?"

"Well, just a single touch to the rose will be enough," Rose said, cracking Marinette an amused smile. "You don't have to go handing that rose off to everyone you meet, believe me when I say when it's time, that rose will reveal your true love." The blonde sighed wishful, staring down in the stew as she smiled. "It's going to be so romantic," she sighed.

The noirette chuckled. "You sound sure about that."

"I can feel it in my bones!"

Smiling humorously, Marinette placed the forming scarf on the table, rolling her stiff fingers to get the blood flowing through them once more. "I'm going to be in town for a small while," she warned Rose. Rose gave an affirmative hum.

"Be sure to be back by dinner!"

Scooping up the near completed scarf, and knitting utensils, Marinette slipped up to her room. She was unsurprised to find Chat lying on their bed, snuggled up with his cowl and holding his drawing in his claws, gazing down at it.

"How long are you going to stare at that?" she teased.

"For as long as possible," he replied, casting her a glance.

Rolling her eyes, she informed, "I'll be in town for a little bit. Do you want to take a walk tonight?"

His tail flickered excitedly. "I would love to take a walk tonight."

"You want to go an hour earlier?"


"Alright," she conceded, flashing him a reassuring smile. "Ill be back in a bit." It shouldn't take this errand long. Slipping her new purse into her bag, she slipped out, a giddy skip in her steps.

She was going to do it.

She was finally going to do it!

She was going to buy that cheap bracelet for Chloe, head back home, and live like she used too; all the while laughing at the blonde thinking that she was wearing a rare, expensive treasure.

Marinette's own, silent revenge for Chloe's overreaction.

Bidding a quick goodbye to Rose, she headed towards town square, eager to purchase the bracelet. Eyeng the door and waiting to make sure she was gone, Chat reached over and pulled her sketchbook over, purring happily as he started to flip through it, eyes tracing over her drawings.

It wasn't too often that Marinette came across someone that shared her father's build, but usually she found them far from intimidating. When she stopped before the bored youth that manned the jewel shop, she flashed him a bright smile as he squinting eyes turned to her. He raised a split eyebrow down at her, expectant.

"I'm here to make a purchase!" she chirped, rolling on the back of her heels. Her bag swayed with the motion, it's weight light and comforting.

Blinking down at her, he pointed to the bracelets she was looking at earlier.

"Yep! Just one!"

"That'd be ten coppers."

Cracking her bag open, she plucked out ten copper coins before dropping them into his larger hand. Rolling the coins about as he counted, he jerked a nod. Picking up a bracelet, he handed it to her. Taking it eagerly, Marinette beamed.

She had it.

She finally had it!

Chloe's gift and her own personal revenge!

And this time, she had money to have a more enjoyable trek home! She could rent a room! Buy food! Plus, chances of Felix finding them heading back were slim! At least, she liked to think so.

Giving the youth her thanks, Marinette turned to head back, eager to show Chat the fruits of her labor, and her perfect little revenge to Chloe; only to stopped when the youth grabbed her shoulder.

Turning back to ask what was wrong, she stopped when she saw that his grey eyes weren't on her. They were locked above her head, staring across the street. And he looked real tense.

Frowning, Marinette followed his gaze.

She didn't see anything of immediate danger.

Nothing that brought a good reason for him to hold her back.

What could he have seen-

There was a glint in an alley. A flash of bright color that was almost easily missed.

Much like the youth behind her, she froze, staring at where she saw that flicker. What, what was that?

Hand tightening on her shoulder, she was slowly back as the boy warily pulled her along, both of them working their way out of the little shop and into the street. There was another glint of yellow from the shadows, something shifting about, watching them move. They could hear it shuffling about in that alley, coming closer to the edge. She could pick a gurgling hiss, an almost rattling sound that reminded her of a snake.

It was at the edge of the alley, watching them, it's form she could faintly see from the shadows. It was big, looking to stand just a little taller than the boy slowly backing her way. It's form was round, a humanoid shape. She could to bulbous shapes twitching on top of it's head, and a long curling tail behind it. It's eyes were easily seen, a bright shining amber orange. Three bright shining orbs that glinted off the sun's light.

Shiny orbs that were locked right on her.

The creature jerked to a crouch, giving out a rattling roar that shook the town and sent them running.

Still tightly conjoined, Marinette wound up dragging the boy along as they sped away, the loud clicks of claws scraping against the cobblestone road sounding behind them, along with the heavy thud of feet.

Marinette's heart drummed in her ears.

It was chasing them.

It was chasing them.

She heard a loud, croaking intake, then a loud splat. Something gooey and warm tackled her heels and Marinette was ripped away from the boy's hold, sent skidding to the ground. Fear spiking in her, Marinette twisted around to see what had her. Purple goo weighed down her legs, and no matter how much she tugged and tried crawl away, she could barely budge them out of the warm, wet substances.

It didn't help that she could clearly see the creature coming to her.

She had no name for such a being coming at her but monster.

A scream ripped out of her as the creature jumped, landing right on top of her and encasing her in it's shadow. It screeched down at her, showing rows of crooked teeth and slick blue tongue dripping saliva down on it's prey below.

Marinette struggled harder, barely noticing the hot tears pouring down her cheeks as she tried to get free, tried to get away.

The monster gave pleased hiss at her reaction, savaged jaws curling up into a cruel smile. Lifting one slick paw, it reached for her. Not thinking at all, Marinette reacted, feeling one loose, course stone nearby, she grabbed it. When that paw came close enough to grab her, she slammed the sharp edge of the stone right into it. The monster didn't reel away. It angrily slammed down on her, smacking her to the road below.

Black spots decorated her vision as that paw withdrew, disorienting her as she tried to get her breath back. With the prey dazed, the monster easily plucked her from the gooey chains, cooing happily with the success of the hunt.

"No," Marinette uttered, squeezing the claws that held her, blinking as she tried to refocus her vision.

This, this couldn't happen.

This wasn't how the day was supposed to happen.

When the monster brought her closer, snout twitching as it sniffed her, Marinette brought her leg up, kicking it hard in the chin.

It gave an angry hiss at her, shaking her up like a doll and disorienting the girl further. It stopped when a rock flew at it's cheek.

It jerked up, eyes locking on the shaking youth that hadn't fled away. "L-let her g-go!" he shouted at it, flinching as those amber eyes locked on his. Biting his lip to put on a brave front, he hoisted another rock up, ready to throw it.

It made a displeased rumble, and scaring the noirette by suddenly dropping her. Before Marinette could hit the ground, a long purple tail wrapped around her, whipping her back up into the air and keeping her immobile. Before the boy could move again, the creature was already racing away, jerking Marinette about as it ran.

Around town, crowds sped away, gaping after the monster that sped through.

Barely anyone caught sight of the girl in it's clutches.

The few times Marinette left her sketchbook behind, Chat discovered a game he liked to play with it.

A game of imagination.

For every design and doodled he liked, he'd picture them wearing it. No matter how simple or outlandish a drawing was, if Chat saw something he liked, he pictured it. It was a fun game to enjoy for a while, some fantasies he let sweep him away. He imagined that he was back in the palace, back when he was liked enough to be tolerated, and was being mentored by his mother, learning all sorts of spells and experiments that could help Franae.

He pictured meeting Marinette there, daughter of the royal baker, serving as the royal tailor for her skills and inspiration.

They'd meet, him uncursed, normal; her very happy with her position and job.

They'd meet when he needed a new suit, shy smiles and pleasantries exchanged and...

That's typically how far he got.

He did have other scenes in mind, dancing together in one of the galas, Marinette wearing one of her finer gowns, perfect for the occasion. A lull of a piano would fill the air, they would sway to it's lullaby, lost in the oceans of their eyes.

He pictured what a meeting between her and his mother might've gone.

He's sure she would have liked Marinette. A gentleness she could relate too, with a flare of life from the girl just waiting to spark.

He sighed wishfully, closing her sketchbook and sliding it back onto the dresser.

He slid his cowl over, rubbing his face over the soft material, sighing happily. Shuffling it about, he pulled out he drawing Marinette made of the two them, regally dressed and smiling at the viewer.

A dream held in his claws.

He still had yet to get tired of looking at it.

His ear twitched when he heard Rose shuffling below. Wary that she may be coming, he quickly folded the drawing back up, hiding it in the hidden pocket of his cowl. He jumped over the open window, crouched and ready to flip up onto the roof if she started to come up.

He relaxed after a few minutes. She was staying below.

Turning to the window, he gazed out to town, wondering when she'd be back from her errand.

It shouldn't take this long to buy a trinket.

The "perfect gift" as she put it.

Was the vendor possibly giving her a hard time?

He glanced over at his cowl, then back to town, eyeing the sky. There was still quite a few more hours of daylight before dusk swept in. He wondered if the cowl would really be that successful in keeping him hidden if he went out now.

Old fears and instinct said no.

Chat shifted about, ready to lounge about and nap till his comrade returned; only to jerk awake when he heard the most horrid roar.

A roar from town.

Where Marinette was.

Not caring if he was seen, Chat ripped outside, airborne as he reached as far as he could go; eyes locked ahead. Landing with a solid thud, he dashed towards the buildings, ears back on his head, fingers twitching as a tense hiss left his lips.

It's been a good while since he raked his claws on anything.

Chapter Text

Roofs were scraped below Chat as he dashed along them, claws tearing up the tiles as he went. He didn't spare a single glance down to the squealing crowd as he went, didn't care if he was seen and made the fright worse. He kept his attention on the faint thuds he heard, racing towards the forest. It was fleeing. Whatever the damn thing was, it was fleeing away; it had what it came for.

The worst thought in his mind was who it had.

The thought left him growling, pushing him to be faster to catch up, just to catch a glimpse of what this thing had. He caught up near the edge of town, where the creature was racing down a long wide road to the woods.

Stopping on a building that walled along the path, his body went cold with what he saw, his claws breaking the shingles under the pressure of his grip.

There she was, held up by a purple tail that was wrapped around her like a squeezing snake, leaving a flushed and gasping Marinette in it's grip.

Rage bellowed out of Chat's being as he slammed his claws on the roof and roared.

The creature slid to a stop, perking up and looking around for the sound. It's tail tighten on Marientte once more, wary of loosing it's catch. The girl let out a strangled sound, gasping as the pressure piled. Marinette twisted in that grip, trying to get out, digging her nails into the rubbery skin, trying to get free. The monster turned to her, hissing a warning.

Something dark flickered above it, and the monster looked up just in time to see a small figure dive at it. It caught sight of the green of it's attacker's eyes before claws dug into the corners of monster's eyes. Yowling, the monster twisted about, hissing and snarling as sharp tears opened around it's eyes. The monster reached up blindly to grab the attacker, only for the small being to dart away, scratching and slashing as it went.

There was one particularly sharp slash to it's largest eye that sent the monster reeling as the attacker finally dashed off it's face and latched onto the tail.

Where the prey was!

Snarling, the monster twisted around, squinting through the pain and dark drips that slid down close to it's eyes; it reached for the attacker that was trying to free the prey. It's hand just grabbed the little devil when there was a sharp burning pain on it's tail.

Screaming, the monster dropped the prey in an instant, the attacker dropping away as well.

Rushing away a little, it twisted it's tail around, eyeing the damage through squinting eyes.

A small part of it's tail, a size just a little bigger than a human hand, had been burned away, like fire had been pressed to it.

Angrily, the monster turned to face the attacker, just in time to see them dash off into the woods, the prey clutched in their arms.

Hissing angrily, the monster gave chase, unwilling to loose it's prey.

Heavy feet pounded on the ground behind him, enraged cries tore at the air and filled his ears, and the heat of a furious glare burned at his back. They didn't stop Chat as he fled, clutching the girl tightly to his chest, where she in turn gripped the dark fabric of his tunic as her head spun. Claws pressed a little harder into her shoulder as Chat pushed himself to go faster, to stay ahead of the monster. When it jumped for them, he ducked to the side, rolling a little ways before hopping back onto his feet and continuing his escape.

The heavy footfalls resumed, chasing after him. Looking around frantically, Chat paused for the slightest second when he saw a large log laying on it's side, with a broad open mouth. Too small for the creature.

But big enough for them both.

Hopping over to it, he pushed Marinette in, hissing apologies when she hit her head on the roof. Flinching, she wobbly crawled in, blinking at the darkness before her. "Go, go, go," he insisted, crawling in after her, mindful of his head.

He pushed her deeper and deeper into the log till the light was dim and she could just barely see her hand. Chat stopped her when he heard the heavy steps grow closer, the monster finally catching up to them. He pressed against her side, pulling her slightly under him as they waited, holding their breath as the loud steps drew near. The log under those steps, shaking worse and worse the closer the monster got.

Chat had to bite his lip to keep from yowling when something small with prickly legs landed on his neck. He quickly flung it away while Marinette buried her face into chest, feeling and hearing his heart pound.

The creature stopped, near their log.

Chat's claws dug a little deeper into her shoulder.

Neither moved.

They could hear it. Sniffing, gurgling, and hissing. They heard it shift about, felt hot breath blow through the cracks. There was a deep rumble outside, and both clutched each other tightly when the log jerked.

Marinette trembled.

Chat's lips pulled back, fangs tickling his bottom lip, threatening to pierce the soft flesh.

The monster clicked aloud absently, sniffing and shuffling, and occasionally poking and rolling the log about. Huffing, it lumbered to the end where it peeked in. Chat curled around Marinette, willing her to stay still, not to make a sound. If fate be kind, it wouldn't see them at all. Just the darkness of his attire blending in the shadows.

It clicks, purrs, and rumbles as it considered the darkness before them.

He didn't dare turn around to see if it did spot them.

He didn't dare risk it seeing the green of his eyes, reflecting the little bit of light coming in from the far end. He kept his face buried in Marinette's hair, waiting, trying to focus on the smells of cinnamon, vanilla, and roses. Trying to stay calm.

It would leave.

They'd be fine.

It couldn't stay forever.

The monster huffed at the entrance and drew away. The log shuddered once more as it moved. The log shifted once more as it nudged and probed it once more. They clutched each other tightly, digging their knees into the damp wood to keep steady. Growling, it prowled on, it's steps growing still and hushed.

They didn't move immediately, still gripping each other tightly, waiting. After a few minutes of silence, Marinette shifted. She paused when Chat tightened his hold on her, and she gave his shoulder a reassuring squeeze before sitting up, peeking over his shoulder. In the softest whisper she could muster, she said, "I don't see it."

He turned, his head close enough that his warm lips brushed against her cheek. He drew away slightly, a little surprised. "It's still there," he whispered back, just as softly, and sounding so sure.

She leant into his shoulder, as if that could help muffle her voice. "What do we do then?"

"We leave," he said simply, slowly easing around her.

Stopping where the rest of the log was filled with decomposing wood, he lightly pressed his claws to it. Slowly it gave, crumbling into ash. And as Chat pushed forward, a deeper tunnel opened up for them to crawl through. Marinette blindly crawled after him, giving his belt tail a little squeeze of comfort anytime it brushed against her wrist.

Light blinded them when Chat crumbled the rest of the way, leaving them squinting for a moment.

Chat recovered first.

Leaning out, he sniffed aloud, searching and listening for the monster or anything else they didn't want to meet.

He couldn't pick up anything.

Keeping his voice soft just to be sure, he reassured, "I think we're good."

He slipped out, turning and offering a claw to Marinette, easing her out of the log, letting her lean on him when her legs shook. She comments, "That wasn't fun."

"It wasn't," he agreed, "are you alright?" He withdrew, looking her over. He grimaced at the imprints on her arms. Imprints he's sure are from when that tail was wrapped around her body. With the lightest, nervous touch, he gently ran his thumb over it, tracing the press. Marinette's hand clamped on his wrist, squeezing it reassuringly.

"It'll fade," she eased.

He nodded, still frowning. "Do you know why it came after you?"

She shook her head, leaning into him as she wrapped her arms around herself. Chat wrapped her up in a loose hug. "Do you know what that was?"

"I don't," he admitted. "It's similar to a goblin, but, bigger than they should be. And not as slick. Or have tails. I really don't know what that was." Only that it came for her. Withdrawing, he stated, "We need to move."

"But our stuff-"

"There's no time!" he cuts in, then flattens his ears regretfully. His cowl and drawing were still back there. He really would rather have them with him... but the risks... He emitted a sound between a growl and whine, torn on what to do.

Would it, it truly be so bad if they went back to get their things?

All the time he left his belongings, too caught up in just getting away and then mourning the loss once he was safe.

But this wasn't some blanket he stole.

Or an abandoned children's toy that he picked up out of bored curiosity.

There was a cowl back there made for him.

A drawing, a friendly one of him, that was given to him.

The last item he ever received that was given to him was the ring.

He couldn't just drop those at a hat!

But the risks of going back... The town could regroup and he could be spotted; that monster could come back, that monster could get a hold of Marinette again, or...

"Please Chat?" Marinette pleaded, clutching her shift. "I'd really like to keep my belongings close." They were all that she had left from home. It was bad enough that she didn't have her family's portrait anymore. And she just got Chloe's gift too!

His resolve was cracking, both from her plea and his own selfish desire to get his gifts back.

Warily, he agreed, "We can try. But first sign of trouble we, we go." A drawing and a cowl wasn't worth it. As nice as they would be to keep. They were just items. He had to remember that, just items.

Marinette gave him an appreciative smile.

Only to drop it when Chat states, "You're going to hide though."

"What?" she proclaimed. "I can-"

"I'll be faster," he stated, "I'll be quick-"

"But my bag was left in the street-"

"I'll look for it." Taking her wrist, he dragged her along, searching for the perfect hiding spot. "But first we got to hide you. That thing is hunting you, and I want you safe while I get our things."

She sighed, speeding up so she was walking beside him. "Alright," she conceded. "But where am I going to hide?"

"Ideally someplace hard to find," he cheeked.

Marinette shouldered him.

Chat relentlessly looked for the forest, eyeing every tree, hopping over and peeking into every hole and hutch he could find, and peeking into a den shaped by tangled roots of large, old trees.

Nothing was good enough though.

Every hiding spot he found, he could see the flaws in it.

The creature could climb trees.

It had a tail long and thin enough that it could easily pull her out of the ground.

It was strong enough the break the roots that jailed around her.

Well, mindful these details he weren't sure about; but he was cautious with the possibility. He didn't know this monster. Didn't know it's limitations, how well a hunter it was, or even where it disappeared too.

But it was after her.

That's all he needed to know.

But as he continued to search, he finding himself at the end of his rope. Nothing was good enough. He could see all the possible ways that thing could get Marinette if it found her.

The raven haired girl wasn't much help either.

"Chat seriously, I could just hide in that tree."

"Could climb it," he stated simply. Then added, "And how decent a climber are you?"

"Pretty decent!" she insisted.

Chat simply strung her along, still searching for the best spot. He shot down her request to join him.

"I'm sure it'd be faster to just go ahead and grab them than this," she grumbled.

He stopped and shot her a grim pout.

She returned it.

"You know what," she huffed, "how about I just hide behind that rock?" She pointed to it, a relatively large stone that she could easily hide behind. And be just as easily sniffed out.

Chat was just about to point this out when he had to stop and do a double take.

"Yes!" he proclaimed, jumping in place before hopping over to get a closer look. "Good eyes Marinette! You found a glamour gem!"

By her blank stare, Chat naturally dived into his explanation. "Carved by fairies, these things are scattered all over Franae! Usually in a circle of seven. They were used by fairies to hide from humans; most have wound up abandoning them. They're now used by lucky wizards and witches that find them and want to hide away. And everything is hidden away, you, your scent, sound; your hunter could stand across from you, you could scream and it wouldn't hear you at all! This is perfect! This is how you can hide from your hunter!"

Now just to see where the protective circle was facing. Where they already in it? Or was it the other side?

"Um," Marinette hums, trailing after Chat as he ran around the stone, looking for anything that could tell him where the safe circle was. She points out, "I can still see you?"

"Well you are watching me," he said, "you saw me enter it. I bet if you left a few feet away not looking back, you turn around, you wouldn't see me anymore."

"Uh huh, so, how are you going to find me again then if I'm hiding in the glamour?"

Chat paused.

Then grimaced with an unhappy hiss.

That was a sound point. There wasn't even a guarantee that he could even refind this spot once he left. Glamours were that strong. Once one looked away and left, they completely erase all presence of the hider, and the glamour itself.

It's often lead to the downfall of a lot of thieves. Discovering it by chance, they leave in confidence that they could refind the glamours. Only to find that they couldn't, leaving them to run to exhaustion from the knights that hunted them.

Marinette asks, "How good is your nose?"

Raising a brow, he advised, "I would never doubt my nose. It's never been wrong."

Satisfied, she started to untie her pigtails, letting her hair drop freely over her shoulders, wincing when the back of her head throbbed. Chat's eyes flickered with the dark waves before eyeing her, curious and worried.

"Got slammed down to the ground," she explained, straightening out the ribbons. She squeaked when Chat rushed around, gently moving her hair aside to look at the back of her skull.

"I think it's just bruised," she said.

"I think so too," he agreed, letting her hair fall back down gently. Turning to him, she pointed to the glamour gem, asking, "If I put this right up against the glamour, would you be able to find it? With it outside the circle?"

Beaming, he nodded. "I could!"

"And..." she continued, looking around. Then pointed up to a tree opposite of the glamour. "Could you get this other one up there?"


"If that thing drops by, it may not mess with both of the ties," she explained, handing one of her red ties to him before nestling the other against the glamour. Rumbling happily, Chat easily scaled that tree, wrapping the ribbon securely around a branch.

Dropping down, he gave her a little bow. "I'll be back soon, Princess."

"Hurry back," she ordered, curling her hair nervously. "And be careful."

"I will," he reassured, giving her a broad smile. Then he pointed to the glamour, pushing her to the other side. "Be sure to stay hidden. I shouldn't be long." Chat tore off, leaving Marinette alone beside the glamour gem.

It took ten minutes to get back to town. Keeping close to the roofs, Chat watched the town, people scuttled and trailing about, eyeing the damage; grabbing each other's hands, exchanging worried and fretful words. Carefully he crept along, trying not to be seen as he scoured the streets for the supposed bag she left behind.


Chat paused, perking up and looking down to see the little blonde witch she was staying with was running around, crying out for the noirette, trying to find her among the bodies. A dark haired girl trailed behind her, frowning.

Ears drooping apologetically, Chat almost dashed on to keep searching, when he saw Marinette's bag loosely held in the dark haired girl's grasp. Glancing back to the woods and shuffling anxiously in his crouch, Chat took a chance and jumped down into the middle of the street, right next to the noirette.

She jerked back in surprise, and Chat swiped the bag away before hit the ground. Flashing her a coy smile, he chirped, "Thanks!"and jumped away as someone screamed behind him. No doubt pointing after him. Stopping, he checked the bag, grinning when he found money and a bracelet he's sure is the supposed gift for her Madame.

Slinging it securely over his shoulders, Chat dashed off, going a long route towards the little hedge witch's house for the rest of their things. Making sure no one was around to see him, Chat dove into the room. Every item he knew was theirs was shoved into the bag. Her sketchbook, pencils, new clothes. He only unslung the bag to slip his cowl over his head, and stash his favorite drawing in one of the two hidden pockets inside.

He was just about to dash back out, only to stop when he saw the rose still laying on the dresser.

Eyeing it contemplatively, Chat reached for it, opening the bag so he could drop the enchanted flower in as well. Only as soon as he brought it over to drop it, he stiffened to see that it had wilted in his claws. He didn't even feel it shift and shudder in his hand!

He dropped the flower in alarm.

He wilted it.

He destroyed it.

He, he didn't think that with the flower already picked, that he, that it would wilt under his touch and...

"No, no, no," he whined, lightly running his claws over the wilted head, wincing at how easily it cracked under his claw.

A distressed mew came out him as he withdrew from the dead magic.

He... he really thought that the flower would be fine. That, it wasn't given to him, it was connected to someone else; it, it shouldn't have withered! He, he didn't think it should've...

Breathing hard, he ran his claws through his hair, trying to calm down as his chest started hurt.

He destroyed her chance to finding her true love.

This was the worst struck of bad luck yet.

"Damnit," he swore, leaving the flower on the ground as he moved towards the window. Climbing onto the roof, he dove towards the woods, stopping as he tried to pick up Marinette's scent. He caught faint trace of it tickling the air. He ran after it, staying locked on it so he wouldn't loose it.

He didn't notice the large hand coming at him till it was right on him.

Chat was smacked back, hitting the ground hard and bouncing. Digging his claws into the ground to stop himself, Chat snarled at his attacker, tensing when he saw that it was the monster.

It hissed back at him, lumbering to him slowly; it's long tail flickering about behind.

Chat slowly backed away, staying low, claws ready.

The monster dove at him, bringing a large hand down. Chat dove out of the way, scratching the wrist. The monster brought it up to grab him and Chat ducked away, hissing.

The monster snapped it's jaws, face wrinkling up, making the angry marks around it's eyes open and flare. It lunged forward, Chat scrambled back, catching the slight scent of Marinette. He jumped up when the creature slammed it's hands down, and he swiped at it's snout. It reeled away, squealing as it grabbed for it's snout. Chat turned and raced off, trying to grasp the scent.

He stopped, trying to find the strongest source of it. Where, where was the glamour? If he could just reach it before it recovered...

Cringing when he heard it roar behind him, he tore off in the best direction he could grasp.

The ground shuddered as the monster chased after him, snarling and snapping. He could hear the hiss of the air as it swiped at him, just inches away. Chat dove to the side, trying to trip it off his tail.

Only for the monster to stumble after him, keeping up, not loosing him like he hoped.

Chat gritted his teeth, growling. He skid to a stop, claws stretched back and ready to slash the monster the instant it was close.

The monster was nearly in reach, dark saliva flying off it's fangs, it's amber eyes ablazed. It's slick, shining hands reached up for him, ready to grab him.

A dark armored horse came out of nowhere, ramming the creature right in the side and sending it toppling away. Chat jerked back, only to stiffen when he felt a sharp point at his neck.

Looking up, his eyes met the frosty glare of Prince Felix glaring down at him.

"General D'Argencourt, take care of that thing," the prince ordered, not tearing his eyes away from the cat. He pressed the blade a little tighter to his neck. "Chat Noir," he greeted. "It's been a while."

He cracked a smile, green eyes flashing tensely. "It certainly has been Your Highness," he returned, his voice light and pleasant. His belted tail flickered tensely, claws twitching.

The monster roared at them.

D'Argencourt readied his steed, spear poised for a charge.

Only for the monster to turn and flee, leaving Chat with the prince and two knights.

The prince brought his steed closer, glaring down at him. "Where's the girl," the prince demanded.

Chat wasn't kidding when he said that the glamour would hide her well.

Almost three minutes after he left that something walked right by her.

A doe and her little fawn.

Wide eyed and surprised, Marinette stood still as she watched the two slowly walked by, not even sparing a glance at her. Not aware of her at all. She stood in what should've been in plain sight, only to be completely looked over.

The glamour worked!

Now she just had to hope it didn't work well enough that Chat couldn't find her. Hope that her ribbons would be enough for him to sniff out. Tugging at her hair to straighten it out, she gently started to weave it up into a messy bun, keeping her hair out of her face and her neck open to the air once more.

Now what...

Settling up against the gem, Marinette took a near stick and started to trace the dirt before her. Sighing aloud, she made random patterns, frowning down at her feet.

Just how typical was her luck?

She finally got Chloe's gift, finally had enough money to have an easier trip back home, could finally go back home now; and this happened.

Nearly kidnapped by a monster.

The memory of that had her flinching, her hand coming up and lightly running over the pink bruises on her arm, wincing at the flare of pain that bit her under the light touch. That, that was scary.

She gave a start when she heard a snap of a twig. Peeking around the glamour, she didn't see anything and quickly huddled up against the rock, tightening into a small ball.

Hurry back, she pleaded.

Her heart skipped a beat when she heard a deep growl in the air, and felt the heavy thud of steps shuffling near.

She tightened her grip on her shirt sleeves, heart pounding heavily as she looked about, trying to locate the monster. She saw a flash of purple, rising up, up, up... in front of her. Marinette shrunk as bright eyes stared down at her.

Chapter Text

Marinette scrambled back till she was pressed up against the glamour, eyes wide and heart pounding as she stared up at those bright eyes staring down at her. For a full minute they both just sat stone still, staring at each other. Very slowly, Marinette moved first. She started to skim along the glamour, not taking her eyes off the hidden monster. She was almost over the mark of glamour when the creature shifted.

A long snout full of fangs dove at her.

Marinette scrambled to her feet and tore off, speeding up at the loud snap sounding behind her.

An ear piercing roar almost sent her toppling to the ground. Course bark scratched at her calf from where she almost tripped into a tree, but Marinette quickly rightened herself and sped on.

She slowed to a stop only when she realized that she wasn't being chased.

That thing wasn't after her.

Breathing hard and shaking, she slumped against a tree and slid down it.

It wasn't the same monster.

It wasn't after her.

She was ok.

She cringed when the scrape on her calf started to sting.

Mostly ok.

Wincing, she reached over, lightly touching the scrape. Warm, slick blood decorated her fingers when she withdrew. "Great," she muttered. Resting her hand over the scratch to slow the blood, she sat for a moment, catching her breath and trying to figure out what to do next.

She left the glamour.

She was out in the open, the first monster was still roaming around, and she and Chat were separated. She didn't have anything but the clothes on her back. She didn't know where town was. She didn't know where her hunter was. And she couldn't go back to that glamour with that... other thing there.

Could she even find that glamour again?

Marinette slumped against the tree, sighing. For a minute, she sat still, listening to the forest around her. She heard a squirrel rustling up the branches above. A crow was screeching in the distance. There was a hum of a busy bee that she could see dancing in the scattered sunlight shining through the canopy, occasionally dipping down to kiss one of the blooming flowers below.

So tranquil, it was hard to imagine a monster wandering around.

One that could easily find her right now.

Biting her lip, she made a decision and stood, wincing only slightly when she agitated the scratch. Bracing her shoulders and looking around, she made a best guess and started off in a random direction. Her best plan right now was to return to town. She could regroup, find the road, maybe find out what that thing was, what was going on.

Only drawback was that Chat might miss her.

She hoped she'd smell stronger than the hair ties she left behind. She thinks he could though, he was insistent about how good his nose was.

She'd have to trust his declaration.

While she went, she spared a glance at every tree, eyeing the tall branches, to high for her to reach. If she could scale one...


There was a reachable branch!

Ignoring the bite on her calf, she charged, jumping up and grabbing it. Rough bark burned her open palms and Marinette struggled to get a good grip on the branch. With a few grunts, she managed to clamor up it. Glancing up and planning her route, she slowly scaled up the tree, working around branches and gripping them tightly despite the slight aches it put on her hands. She was almost to the top when she heard them.

A drum of hooves, the chime of clinking armor, the weary snorts of horses, and the angry growl of words.

Freezing in place, Marinette looked around, trying to spot these coming riders.

Moving carefully as they came closer, she sucked in a sharp breath when she recognized.

Prince Felix and his two knights.

And Chat sitting behind the prince, his claws bound together, with his palms flat against each other, and his tail tied to the saddle strap. And there, slung over the saddle horn was her bag, with Chat's cowl shoved into it.

He had her stuff.

That damn prince had her stuff again.

And this time he caught Chat.

And she had no special power and ability to sweep Chat away.

How brilliant.

Chat at least wasn't too stressed with his current predicament. From where he sat behind the prince, he just looked bored and miffed. When one of the knights probed his boot, pressing a question Marinette couldn't hear; Chat let out a hiss. "I told you! I don't know where she is!" He wrinkled his nose as the knight. "We parted ways a while ago."

His nose twitched and Chat glanced up.

His green eyes found her.

She could see his exaggerated bafflement at the sight of her in a tree.

Marinette shrugged helplessly back.

Chat leaned back till he was slumped over the prince, grinning as he felt the blond tense beneath him. "Why don't you go to that town?" he called out, eyes flickering up to her. "Perhaps she's there."

"You have her stuff," she heard the prince grit out.

"I told you, I stole her stuff. I liked it enough to keep it for myself."

Felix shoved back, nearly pushing Chat off the horse. "I highly doubt that with how you came at her rescue."

Chat gasped happily. "Oh Your Highness! You don't think I'm impish enough to trick her?" He leant back onto the prince, grinning. "Am I no longer a hellion?"

"If you don't stop this I'll have your ankles bound and you can ride the rest of the way like a sack."

"Perhaps we should head to town," one of the knights bade, his bright blue eyes scouring about. "We don't know what that thing was, and it was close to town. We should check on the people."

"The girl may be there," the other added.

"See?" Chat chimed, tail flickering. Mostly.

The prince gave a very loud sigh. "Very well," he relented, turning his horse so he was facing his knights. "We'll head to town. Check on it, get a report. See if anyone has seen that girl or if she's even still there. And Chat Noir will be properly jailed."

Chat pouted at the prince.

Marinette narrowed her eyes above.

"I don't like cages," Chat protested.

He was ignored. With a sharp nudge to his horse's side, the prince trotted away, his knights following. Chat's eyes met hers once more, bright and pleading. Stay away.

He gave her one last smile before the horses tore off, leaving her hanging in her tree, a loss on what to do.

It was a ringing question in her head.

What could she do?

She had nimble fingers. When she was younger she had a bad habit of snatching other people's belongings, usually little trinkets that were easy to pick up and hide. But she couldn't pick a lock to save her life. She certainly couldn't break down jail bars to get Chat out. And she wasn't confident enough that she could sneak by and grab the guard's keys and free them that way.

She really didn't think she could save Chat.

And yet, she trailed after the riders, following the trampled plants they left back to town.

What she planned to do she didn't know.

Her feet just moved on their own.

It was crazy and ridiculous that she was going after them.

She didn't know what she was going to do about, but she was going to do something!

Marinette stopped when she heard a deep rumble. Instinctively she dropped to the ground, crawling under a bush. Peeking past the leaves, she held her breath as she waited. She could hear it. It's hushed growls. The gurgling hiss of saliva dripping from it's maw. The shuffle of heavy feet.

It was close.

But she couldn't see it.

She prayed it didn't see her.

Feeling the ground, her fingers wrapped around a rock, running her thumb over a sharp edge; just in case. An attempt was better than nothing.

She jumped when something prickled her finger. Looking down, she blinked at the sight of a little ladybug touching her finger, it's forearms tapping away while it's antennas rolled over the skin. Satisfied with what it found, it's shell opened and the little red bug flew away. Staring after it, Marinette sunk deeper into the bush, searching frantically for the monster.

She heard a tree creak in the distance, groaning as it was pushed aside.

She gave a start when red flew into her line of vision.

A ladybug perched on the branch, waving to her. Back bursting open, it flew off once more.

Marinette didn't bother staring after her, just trying to focus on hiding.

Only for it to come back, and this time land on her nose, tapping insistently. Wrinkling her nose, she plucked the little bug off, grimacing at it. It waved to her once more, wings fluttering but not leaving.

There was another prickle on her hand and she looked down to see another ladybug there, it's shell opening and closing.

Looking up, Marinette saw another perched on a branch beside her, waving like the one on her finger. It flew a short distance away, then stopped, little arms waving.

Casting a glance around each and every bug, Marinette let go of her rock and slowly crawled out from under the bush. She stopped when she heard a loud snap near her.

The ladybug still waved.

The other two persistently tapped on her hand.

Move, the implored.

They're good luck, she reminded herself. Ladybugs are good luck. She'll be ok. She should just fine. She'll be ok. They don't lead people to their doom. She should be ok...

Biting her lip nervously, she crawled after the guiding beetle, stopping to spare a glance behind her whenever she heard the monster. She still couldn't see it.

One of the ladybugs on her flew off, joining the other ahead.

The remaining ladybug tapped her hand, pushing her onwards.

Sparing a glance behind her, Marinette got to her feet and hurried after the red beetles.

The last ladybug flew off her hand and went ahead, just as the monster roared somewhere behind her. She sped up, chasing after her little guides as heavy thumps drummed behind her. She jumped over roots, smacked away branches, and ducked under low limbs as she kept her eyes locked on them. She dared look back, seeing that flash of purple though the green.

It was closer.

Heart pounding heavily in her chest, Marinette turned back forward, nearly stopping when she saw the glamour.

The ladybugs didn't stop, zooming past the gem.

One stopped to wait for her, waving it's little arms.

Grimacing, Marinette ran past the glamour border and didn't stop, chasing after those ladybugs. They flew into a large bush and Marinette followed, pressing herself as deeply as she could into, ignoring the poking branches that dug their points into her shoulders and sigh. Breathing hard, she waited.

Her hunter tore past the glamour, stopping for a minute and sniffing loud; it's three amber eyes sliding around trying to locate her.

Marinette flinched when she felt the ladybugs crawl onto her wrist, their touch prickling.

Long tail twitching about, the monster slowly stalked deeper into the glamour, slick, purple saliva dribbling down it's maw. The blue tentacles on it's head twitched and rattled, it's large hands reaching for every tree and rock it stepped up to, shaking them and rolling them about as if she hiding there.

Nose twitching in the air, it slowly turned towards her hiding stop, yellow eyes narrowed.

Rumbling, it crept closer towards her hiding spot.

Marinette instinctively pressed deeper, sucking in a sharp breath when one branch snapped loudly behind her.

She watched as the monster perked, a twisted smile spreading over it's maw. Dropping low, the monster crept towards her like a cat, prowling up to a mouse. Marinette pressed even deeper into the bush, gripping her shirt tightly as she trembled. The ladybugs still didn't move.

The monster was just upon her, grinning as it stared down into her eyes. It was reaching for her when it was suddenly shoved aside.

Marinette jumped as two large purple masses tumbled away from her, pounding their heavy bodies on the ground, snarling and snapping. Marinette gape as she watched the two monster tangle and fight.

One was the monster that chased her out of the glamour.

It was a dragon.

That was a dragon fighting the monster.

She didn't think dragons would look so crocodile like...

The ladybugs flew off, jerking Marinette to attention. Sparing one last glance just in time to see green flames spew out of the dragon's mouth and onto her hunter, Marinette tore offer after them, trusting them to lead her to safety.

And maybe Chat.

Please guide her to something that could help her.

Chat rolled his fingers, tapping his claws together in absent boredom.

Sir D'Argencourt stood across from him, glaring at him with his bright azure eyes, making sure Chat didn't pull anything on them. Leaving him bored and idle. Glancing up at the knight, Chat stuck his tongue out, grinning at the knight's annoyed twitch.

Only to drop his smile when Felix came into view, holding Marinette's ruined rose.

"She was staying with the witch Jon was coming to check on," the prince explained, gently twirling the ashen rose around, his frosty eyes glancing up towards Chat. "Any particularly reason why you ruined her rose?"

"That was an accident," Chat told him honestly, wincing as he stared at the flower. He was surprised at how well it was holding together.

The prince hummed at that.

He set the flower in Chat's jail, starting to go through Marinette's bag.

Grimacing at him, Chat shuffled, stretching out a boot and sliding the flower closer. With a little bit of struggle, he managed to pick it up, twirling it slightly, nose twitching as he tried to catch a whiff of it's scent.

It smelled more like ash than a rose.

He glanced at the prince when he pulled out a drawing, watching the prince raise a brow at the sketch before him. He turned the drawing to Chat, letting him see the drawing of him as a prince, with Marinette embracing his shoulders. "Interesting picture," Felix comments.

"She really captured my smile," Chat bragged, still very pleased with it.

The prince hummed, unimpressed. Refolding it up, Felix set it back in the bag; and pulled out a bracelet Chat didn't recognize.

Probably her gift to her Madame.

"She didn't have this before?" the prince comments.

Chat shrugged.

Sighing, he set it back in the bag and handed it over to the knight. "Set this in my inn room," he ordered.

With a salute, Sir D'Argencourt left, bag secured in his hand.

Left alone, Chat leaned forward, purring out, "So, what do you want to know Your Highness?"

"Who is the girl you 'stole' from?"

"Ah," Chat teased, tail flickering coyly, "she did not tell you her name? How tragic!"


"Oh alright. The maiden's name is Marinette." A full name is required to find someone magically. Her first name alone should be fine.

Felix raised a brow. "Marientte...?"

Chat shrugged again.

Sighing, the prince pressed once more, "What was her purpose being here."

"Getting a trinket for her Madame."

Humming, Felix asked, "Isn't it curious how this Madame Bourgeois, doesn't exist?"

Chat just smiled curiously, head tilting to the side as he peered at the prince.

Felix insisted, "You know as well as I do that there is no Bourgeois in this kingdom."

"Have you checked Euro?"

"Euro's border is no where close to where she was found."

Chat offered, "Perhaps she had an interesting journey. Not even I have gotten the full story from her."

Felix leaned forward, asking, "What if I told you she came through Limbes?"

Chat paused at that, eyeing the prince. He laughed. "From Limbles! That's a good one Your Highness! I didn't know you were capable of joking!"

"All that I've gathered suggest that she is."

"Sorry Your Highness, but what have you been sniffing?"

"Chat Noir!"

"A girl coming out of Limbes," Chat leaned back against the wall, giving the flower a slow twirl. "That's never happened. It doesn't happen. The timbers there would just tear anyone apart. They've never let anyone pass. Not then, and certainly not now." He stared at the prince past the ashen rose. "Your claim is... impossible, Prince Felix. She didn't come out of Limbes."

"You said it yourself that she hasn't told you her full story."

Chat was quiet at that.

"I'm going to search this town. See if this... Marinette," the prince paused at the name, frowning, "is possibly still here. I'm sure she'd like her things back."

"I'm sure she would!" Chat agreed. Tilting his head cutely, he pleaded, "Can I go when you find her?"

"No. You and her are going to the capital. My father would be pleased to see you again."

"Aw. How nice. I kinda missed that sour puss too. The way he frowns, he looks like a true grumpy cat!"

Felix frowned at him. Rolling his eyes, he left the vigilante in the jailed carriage, with only the ruined rose for company. Chat twirled again, eyeing the crinkled details webbing over the petals, the heavy droop of the leaves, and noting how just the lightest pinch left an easy dent in it.

Marinette came through Limbes.

Marinette hailing from the Unknown.

It was impossible.

He's read plenty of lore and history to know that no one has successfully gotten through Limbes. That there was no record to encourage that there was another world on the other side. A world of science, as his mother called it.

It just wasn't possible.

It didn't happen.

It couldn't be true.

No one survives Limbes.

...But that didn't quite change how this little tidbit filled in holes that have left him confused and curious.

Marinette's lack of knowledge here.

How close she was to Limbes when she fell on him that day. He knows there was no road that lead close to that pit he was in. It was on the edge of Limbes. No one wanders off road when traveling near Limbes. Even he would have braved the roads if he was more sane and not teetered with delirious senses and dehydration.

He had no explanation for her lack of knowledge and why she was there when she shouldn't have been.

He brought the ruined rose closer, taking a careful sniff.

It still smelled of ash.

With a faint scent of a rose.

In the back of his mind, he could swear that he smelled Marinette's honey sweet scent underneath it. His eyes fell closed as he tilted his nose up, breathing in deep. It was very faint, but he could still catch traces of her. She wasn't close to town.

She wasn't going to be found here.

She wasn't going to be found by the prince.

Bringing his tied claws up, Chat started to bite into his binds, trying to work his hands free.

If there was anyone that was going to find her it was him.

He was interested to get some answers.

After he got them somewhere safe.

Felix sighed as he stared down at the papers below him.

Marinette has been sighted around town quite a handful of times. She arrived almost a week ago, she's been living with the gentle witch Rose, and has been a temporary employee at Juleka's Seams. It's only this couple that she's largely interacted with, they don't know where she is right now, and neither were aware of her association with Chat Noir. Though Rose did pipe a curious tidbit of how Marinette brought food upstairs to her guest bedroom.

Felix safely assumed that's where Chat hid from town.

Like a true stray cat, given all the food he could eat, a bed to sleep in; he should have no desire to leave, and it seemed he was fine with not leaving.

Making his claim that he simply stole from her all the more baffling.

What would compel him to steal from her?

Why now?

The prince ran his hand through his hair, frustrated.

Why was it that nothing ever made sense with her?

Chat wasn't behaving normally, braving towns filled with guards just to save a single girl. And sticking close to said girl.

And then out of nowhere steals from her?

And she just up and disappeared?

And then there was the appearance of that monster coming completely of nowhere.

Felix didn't like not knowing what was going on.

He liked facts and answers. Neither that he had at his disposal right now.

With her gone once again and Chat Noir not giving him anything of use, he was left to guess and pull at his hair in frustration.

There was a high chance that Chat was withholding information, it wouldn't be the first time that the trickster lied. But there was little he could do for now to get information out of Chat. The cat wound up too vague or would simply change the subject when he didn't care to share. Or he just outright lied with a bitter bite in his words.

The thought had Felix tightening his grip on the paper, a harsh sting of anger pressing at his chest. Closing his eyes, he breathed in deep, and slowly let loose, trying to quell the boiling feelings. The past couldn't be changed. He could only-

Felix jumped and casts a hurried glance out the window when he heard faint roars in the distance, sounding fierce and furious.

He grimaced, heart pounding as his nerves spiked.

Where did that girl go?

Outside in his cell, Chat tensed as he heard those snarls, looking out wide eyed towards the trees.

That didn't sound good. Dreading what could be happening, he started to persistently bite into his binds, keeping a nervous eye out for any coming knight to guard him. He had to escape. He had to find her.

He prayed to the stars above that the monster didn't find her.

Chapter Text

Heart pounding in his chest as fear hammered through him, Chat tore at his binds relentlessly. His sharp canines worked on them, easing through the thin binds wrapped tightly around his wrists. Each bite he could feel them twitch, growing weaker in strength. But not weak enough that he could snap his hands free. Not weak enough that he could escape and rush into those woods, where the snarls rose in volumes, with faint booms echoing them.

Where Marinette was somewhere.

It was going too slow.

He had to get out.

He didn't know what was going on, but he knew there could be a chance that she was in the middle of those snarls.

He had to get out now.

His worries made him sloppy in his rush to get free, making him wince every time he accidentally bit his wrist.

Growling in frustration and glancing frantically towards the woods, he bit hard once more, catching the binds and gnawing away. He was almost there... he could feel it...

Chat's ears twitched when he heard a door squeaking out in complaint for being moved. He froze for a second, listening tensely. Heavy boots nervously wandered out, his likely guard for the rest of the night. Chat swore silently before biting down viciously on his binds, trying to get his canines to saw through them. He was so close! He just needed to get his claws free and he could make it!

The nervous guard's steps were coming nearer.

Pressured by urgency and desperation, he clamped on the last bit of his binds and pulled, trying to make them snap under pressure, trying to push his hands apart to help strain it.

Trembling around his wrists, each strand shook and as they tried to hold on; only to relent with loud, painful snaps that slapped against his cheek.

The relief he felt covered the pain in his face.

He was free!

Not caring how close the guard was, Chat swiped at the wall, grinning gleefully as it was eaten away, opening up for him. He leapt out and dashed away into town, ignoring the shout of surprise from the guard that just saw him flee.

Buildings lit up as Chat tore through town, alerted by the guard's shouts. He ignored the shy outlines of the townsfolk peeking out their windows, nervously holding candles close as they peered out. Instead, he simply kept running, eyes locked ahead. His nose flared as he tried to snare her scent in the air. His ears fell flat on his head, nerves spiking when there was a sudden quiet in the air.

That couldn't be good.

With a great leap, Chat stopped before the square fountain, where he and Marinette both walked in the open street at night for the first time.

Lifting his nose up, he breathed in deeply, trying to catch her scent in the air.

It was faint.

Fainter than it should be.

Like the wind was slowly wiping traces of her away.

Chat frowned deeply as he considered where she was. Well tried too. A faint scent meant that she was was far away and out of reach. He didn't think she could get far away this quickly... Or did the monster get to her and was spiriting her away? Was that what those roars were about?

Cold dread filled him at the idea.

...Did she fight it? Was she some how able to fight it off?

Or, or did she infuriate it enough that it went savage an-

Ear twitching when he heard shouts and the pound of pursuing feet, Chat didn't think twice about tearing off, trying to follow her scent as best he could. It didn't get her, he tried to reason. Before, it, it didn't seem like it wanted to kill her.

His mind snapped back to how the monster didn't seem disturbed about hurting her.

Chat tried to shove that away.

She was fine.

She had to be.

She... she was able to escape. The monster didn't get her. It, those roars were about something else. They had to be.

If the monster didn't get her, she couldn't have gotten too far. He knows how fast she can move. She could barely cover half his distance in a day. She shouldn't have been able to get too far away from this town. He should be able to find her.

...Unless she slipped back into the glamour, refinding it somehow.

Chat hoped those hair ties were still there for him to sniff out.

If he could, and she did go back into the glamour, all he had to do was slip, and he could find her then easy.

But... there was still the wonder why she left the glamour in the first place.

Was the monster there?

Did it stumble in and find her?

Was that why she fled up a tree? So far from where he suspected the glamour to be?

Just what was going on?

Crouching low, Chat sped, already near the edge of town. He'd find her, he'd get them both somewhere safe, and he'd get answers. The prince's tidbit still licked at the back of his mind, persistent and clinging.

Something he could focus on later when they were both safe.

He was almost to the woods when a body collided with his, sending both to the ground. Scrambling up into a crouch, Chat narrowed his eyes as he faced the wide eyed blond that stared back at him with bright blue eyes.

"Chat Noir," he whispered in awe, his hand slowly moving to his belt, a sick smile spreading over his lips.

Chat hissed at him, startling him still.

He didn't have time for this fool!

Chat moved to leap away, only to jerk back when a horse was stopped in front of him, snorting angrily as the rider shouted at him, army gleaming an Agreste shining silver of a knight. Chat turned tail to dart away, only to skid to a halt as another horse cut in front of him, the rider pointing a spear down at him. A sharp pointed pushed at his shoulder, as the spear in front echoed it, resting above his heart.

More and more pounding feet came and surrounded him with glinting steel as they glared at the agitated cat.

Chat grimaced at them all, faintly noting that the fool he ran into before had disappeared.

Prince Felix walked into his view, grimacing. He stated darkly, "For this you're going to be dressed in chains instead."

Chat growled, tail twitching.

Damn that fool for getting in his way.

Marinette still shook as that battle raged behind her, loud and furious enough to rattle her bones, even as she wandered away from it. The ladybugs didn't give her a chance to look back, rushing ahead and never stopping, keeping the noirette moving, eyes locked on them as she tried to keep up. It was hard to ignore those growls, the faint snap of teeth, and the shudder of large bodies tumbled about.

She fretted a few times that the fight would just end up following her.

It pushed her to hurry after the little red bugs, trying not to flinch every time it got louder.

The only time she did dare stop when a sudden hush fell over the woods.

It made her stumble as the silence settled over the world, leaving her heart to pound loudly as she cast a nervous glance back.

Was the fight over?

Was one of them dead?

Did her hunter escape?

Were they coming after her?

Jittery, she faced forward, nearly panicking when she didn't see the ladybugs anymore. She stood frozen still, a loss on what to do, if she should still go straight, or did they turn? Or was she going to walk right into one of those beasts or- one of the little red beetles rushed back, waving to her. Relief filling her, she ran to it, find the other two waiting.

Waving, they took off and lead her on.

Around trees she went, ducking under low limbs, clamoring over tangled roots, and shuffling her way through bushes as she followed them. It was after nearly ten minutes of hiking that she began to notice a change in the scenery.

Dark thorn covered vines started to coil around trees and roots, giving her a touch of unease as she started to see them everywhere, with a few roses blooming on them. Still the ladybugs fluttered on, undisturbed by the intimidating vines.

Warily she moved around them, mindful of her steps and how close she slid up to the thorns. The deeper she went in, the more and more roses flared to life, flushed in healthy, lovely reds.

A soft giggle of moving water tapped at her ears, growing loud as she moved in deeper. Wiggling past two towering thorny walls that were barely big enough for her, she stopped at what she saw.

She's seen a handful of beautifully crafted ponds and creeks.

The Bourgeois estate hosted some of the finest in their area, and when she was younger joining her Papa there in deliveries; she adored wandering into the garden to see them. She actually had gotten yelled at once for jumping in and swimming with the goldfish.

And of course, in the woods that she and Alya would race and prowl around; they found creeks and ponds shaped by nature.

They always found them to be magical.

Their little secret discoveries, untouched by the world, calm and tranquil.

For two adventurous and imaginative little girls, these were always excitable wonders to enjoy.

But this, this had to be truly magical.

There was real magic here.

It buzzed in the air, making her skin tingle, feeling an alien warmth seeping into her. It felt like a blanket just wrapping around her, welcoming, friendly, excitable. It felt enlightening.

Slowly she stepped closer to the pond, gaping down at the crystal clear water, glimmering beautifully in the sunlight above, with easy floating lily pads settled on the surface. The ladybugs settled on them, waving their arms at her.

Smiling down at them, she crouched down to the lip of the pond. Shyly, she settled her hand on the water, feeling the cool surface lap at her fingers, a warm tingle spreading over her palm.

Withdrawing it, she gasped slightly to see that a scrape on her palm, all the way back from Limbes, was gone.

Glancing down to the cut on her calf, she set her leg close to the water, cupping some of it and slathering it over the sore wound. Messy red dripped down her leg, taking the wound with it, like it was just some ugly stain of paint that just needed to be washed away.

"Woah," she whispered.

"It certainly works a lot wonders, I promise if you took a dip, you'd feel even better!"

Marinette gave a start, looking around wildly for the voice.

Something red flew down to her, something far too big to be a normal ladybug, despite the coloration. Marinette jerked back when the figure drew near, and the little being drew away, looking down at her with big bright blue eyes. Marinette gaped back, eyeing it. It was strange. A head that was far too big for such a small body, a body that looked like something that would shape a child's plush.

It was strange.

Marinette didn't like it. Especially with how those big eyes followed her.

Slowly, she started to work away from the water's edge, closer to the thorny wall.

The little being's eyes widened in fear and it drew near with a sharp cry. "Wait! Please! I, I won't hurt you! Please don't leave!" Seeing Marinette flinched, it quickly drew away, seating itself on a lily pad next to one of the ladybug. "See?" it implored, waving it's little arms as it gave her a big smile that Marinette was sure was supposed to be charming. "I'm ok, you're ok. Nothing's wrong. No harm being done." Then it paused, frowning as it turned to a ladybug. "By the stars it's been a long time since I've talked to one of the Children. Am I doing ok?" she asked the little red bug softly.

It waved it's arms at the little being, and said creature drooped with a moan.

"This isn't going well..."

The ladybug gave the small creature a light pat.

Eyeing the pair oddly, Marinette asked, "Ch-children?"

The little being perked, flashing her a smile. With a sheepish giggle, the little creature explained, "That's what we call humans. Children." Stiffening, the little creature quickly added, "It's meant as a term of endearment! I swear by the stars above it is! Though..." the little being trailed, floating up and closer, looking over her. "You appear to be a true child, at least, human wise. You're a lot younger than I thought you'd be." The being turned to the lily pads, frowning as it lightly scolds, "You didn't mention how young she was."

All the ladybugs waved their arms.

The being sighed, resting a paw on it's cheek and ignoring Marinette's gape at them. "Excuse me?" Marinette voiced. What did her age matter?

"Oh! Um," the being stuttered, shuffling about in the air nervously as it faced her, "W-well you see, ah, I, I need your help, and I was told that you were my best chance and... I expected a grown human..." The being trailed, tilting to the side as it observed the girl, something flickering in those big blue eyes. Blinking, it's head tilted to the side as it peered at her with a new light. "Perhaps it is fate," it murmured, tilting to the other side. "Perhaps it's all chance."

Marinette stared at it.

It peered back, contemplative.

"Pardon?" the noirette uttered finally.

Jerking again, the little being gave her a sheepish smile. "Sorry," it uttered, drooping back down to sit on a lily pad. It pulled a lily over to it, fidgeting with the petals like a child fiddles with a toy when uncomfortable. Despite the strange appearance, it was kinda cute to see.

"It really, really has been a long time since I've talked to a human. Oh stars, I think it's been... a hundred and eighty years... and that dear Child was very familiar with fairies already thanks to Wayzz." It hummed absently. "And I should remember that you came from Earth too. It's all still pretty new to you." It gasped, dropping the lily. "That means I'm your first fairy! First one you ever met! Oh stars above I hope I'm making a good impression. Am I?" It turned back to a ladybug. The shell flickered in response. The little being gave it a pout as Marinette stared at it, hard.

"F-fairy?!" Marinette stuttered, drawing those big blue eyes back to her.

The fairy grinned brightly. "Yes! I'm a fairy!" It flew up, flashing her a huge, exaggerated bow. "I'm Tikki! But in this world, I'm widely known as the Miraculous Ladybug!"

"M-Marinette," the noirette returned.

"I know!" Tikki chirped. She quickly reassured when Marinette paled, "It's ok! I was told your name!" She pointed skywards. "The stars told it to me!"

"The stars," Marinette repeated stiffly.

Tikki hummed eagerly.


"Because I need help," the fairy said, drooping once more. She shuffled about, rubbing her paws together nervously. "I, I've been praying and asking for help for a long time now, and searching, so much searching. The stars, they said one of the better chances I had were with you. With Marinette." The fairy drew nearer, her smile small and shy. "I've been looking for you, for a good few years now."

Marinette crawled further away, eyeing the little being. "A-and why is that? What, what help did you need?" What could she do for a fairy?

"I lost someone very important to me. He'd be my husband in your culture. Your my best chance at finding him!"

Marinette stared at the fairy.

Tikki peered back, hopeful.


Tikki came forward, eyes shining. "Yes?"

"I can't."

Tikki visibly drooped.

"I-I don't know anything about finding fairies!" Marinette proclaimed, "And stars! You honestly expect me to believe that little lights-"

"They're more alive than you realize," Tikki cuts in with a gentle lecture, "and they're old. They know much sweet Child. They can't predict the actual future, but they have good guesses."

"And they think I'm your best shot?"

Tikki eyed her curiously. "You don't think so?"

"No! I, I don't know anything about fairies! Much less how to find them!" She ran a hand over her face, groaning slightly as she settled her fingers in her hair, giving the dark strands a hard tug. "Look," Marinette started, "I, I'm here by mistake. A stupid, stupid mistake. I'm just hear to pick up something pretty, and go back home." Well, now the objective was to refind that pretty bracelet and then go back home.

If she could find it again.

And Chat.

He needed to be saved.

That summed up all that she wanted to do.

Save Chat and get that bracelet back so she could go back home.

"I can't help you," Marinette stated. She really couldn't see how. Where would she even begin? She didn't even know who she'd be looking for.

The fairy's gaze was patient and knowing as she peered back. Shaking her head, she tsked, "You shouldn't decide that before you even tried."

Marinette frowned at her.

Tikki leaned forward, stating, "You really think you made it through Limbes just because you needed to get a trinket?"

Marinette didn't answer, eyeing the little being.

The fairy shook her head. "There's more to it than that! Honestly, you've always been meant to cross the wall!"

Marinette raised a brow at her.

Tikki sighed, seating herself back on the lily pad. "It's hard to change the course of fate," the fairy declared, "and usually, it's not always worth it. I can swear on my spots that if you never crossed the wall, you wouldn't know true happiness."

At her baffled stare, the fairy continued, "Luckily for you, fate hates no's and forced the path onto you."

"Yeah... lucky..."

"Well, you certainly weren't coming through my ladybugs."

Marinette gave a start. "They really were trying to lead me over the wall?" she asked. All the times that they came to her, that few times that she followed them and found herself before the wall, that was all because they wanted her to cross it? To see this fairy?

As if reading her thoughts, Tikki nodded and confirmed. "Partly because I do need your help, but also because your fated match is here, in Irth, in Franae! I don't know exactly where he is, he's pretty elusive, but he's here."

Marinette stared at her.

Tikki peered back.

"You're the one who..."

Tikki finished, "Help people find their fated matches? Yes. I send out ladybugs to bring Children good fortune and help them find love, help them grow and flourish."

"A-and my match is-"

"Here. He's been over the wall, wandering around Franae." With a hum, the fairy adds, "He's surprisingly hard to find for my ladybugs. They can't seem to locate him, but we certainly could find you." Tikki smiled at her. "They have been trying to bring you to him, tempt you to come over the wall and go through Limbes on your own. I'm glad to see that you're finally here! I'm sure you'll be able to meet him soon!"

Marinette squeaked in alarm, covering her warm cheeks with her hand. Tikki giggled, rocking back and forth. Then straightened, turning serious as she peered up at her. "But I still need help, your my best chance! Will you please help me!"

Stiffening, Marinette bit her lip and shook her head. "I can't! I, I don't know where he is! Do, you don't?! You really don't know where he is?"

Tikki shook her head. "I haven't felt his presence in almost nine years now. My ladybugs hasn't seen a shadow of him in that time either, no matter how far they've flown, and who they found and guided." She drooped, peering down at the clear water. "For a fairy, a near decade is like a week. It passes by without notice, especially with so much to do and manage; time always escapes are notice." She glanced up, blue eyes big, her small body trembling as she curled up, paws resting on her chest. "But, this is the first time in a long time that I've felt it. I, I'm scared. I don't know where he is, or what happened. Please, please help me find Plagg."

Marinette gulped as she stared down at the little creature, she looked away, fiddling with her pant leg. "Wh-what if he's..."

"Impossible," Tikki stated, shaking her head strictly. "We, we fairies; we don't simply die, we cannot cease to be. Death can't touch us. He's not dead. The day Plagg dies, it's the day all bad luck ceases to be, it's the day all things good ceases to be. And that's never."

"Bad luck?!" Marinette repeated.

Tikki nodded, "Where I'm a fairy of fortune, Plagg is misfortune. The day he 'dies', I wouldn't be around either." Seeing Marinette's alarmed expression, she quickly reassures, "He's not evil! It's just, it's just his magical nature, mischief and reality. Believe me Marinette, there are much worse out there than a bad luck fairy like Plagg. He may like to do mischief and cause a little chaos here and there; but he's not evil by any means."

"Ok," Marinette started, shuffling from where she sat. "Ok, um, I, I still don't know how I can help you find him?" Where to even start?

"It's ok!" Tikki insisted again, floating closer and reaching for Marinette. Marinette's hand came up instinctively and the fairy gently took her finger. "I've been searching for a near decade, I don't know how to find him either. But I'm still trying! And I still believe that you can help me, stars are very, rarely wrong. At least, if not Plagg, can you help me find someone that might be easier to find?" She peered at Marinette, hopeful.

Warily, Marinette eyed her back. Asking for more details would show interests, that maybe should could help the little being. She still didn't know for sure if she could. But... what else could the little fairy? A whole near decade of searching on her own. And... what if she could help? Marinette couldn't think of how, but, what if the answer was easier than she thought? What if she could actually help?

She thought of her Maman and Papa. How miserable they would be apart, how torn up with worry they would be if one of them lost. How frantic they would be. Marinette's sure that if the Bourgeois didn't lock her parents up in employment, they'd be chasing after her over the wall, looking for her. Marinette cracked a small, fond smile.

Knowing those two, they would've made the best of this situation. Probably would've started a business here in this world. Help her build a life here when she couldn't go back. Her family wouldn't have stopped searching for her, her parents wouldn't have stopped searching for each other.

She wouldn't have stopped searching for them...

And Tikki's been searching for a whole decade...

Finally she asked, "Who? Who could I help you find?"

Tikki gave her a grateful smile before her expression shifted to something serious. She floated back, starting to pace back and forth in the air. "I'm looking for someone that took his name, the name the world knows him by; and I know that isn't him! I, I think he took Plagg, I think he took his power. For sure, I know he was probably the last one to have ever seen Plagg. He's who I want to find! And I think you have a better chance of finding him than me or my ladybugs, we've certainly never been able to get close. But my ladybugs tell me that they've seen you with him."

"Who?" Marinette repeated.

Turning to Marinette, Tikki answered, "Chat Noir."

Chapter Text

The water was truly lovely.

Marinette sighed in pure relief as she floated in the pond, feeling the water lull and push against her body. It pull the exhaustion from her bones, wiping away the bruises and scabs that she had gotten on this adventure. Every second she felt refreshed. Rejuvenated. At peace. She could just lie here in this water all year long and barely notice time moving by.

Sadly she couldn't.

Even if she wanted too, there was still an absent buzz in the back of her head, whispering reminders that kept her from falling asleep in the water.

She still had to get that gift for Chloe. To get back home where her friends and family were waiting. She wondered if they thought her dead by now.

And then there was the matter with Chat.

She had to save him.

And then Tikki, and her being so sure that he took her husband…

She really had to wonder if he did. She had no answer on why he had the fairy's power, though that could be the reason for Franae to call him Chat Noir. But how he got that power, why he had it; Marinette still had yet to know.

He's never explained it; she's never asked.

Why, with Felix's mention of witches, she had just assumed that Chat was a witch, or a witch was related to his power.

Marinette frowned and sunk deeper into the water, frustrated with the lack of knowledge she had here. While Chat didn't seem to mind explaining the world to her, she wished she already knew more. She was simply stuck letting the cat pull her out of trouble, and guide her path.

And now by Tikki's implication, perhaps she shouldn't have.

...Or maybe she's just overthinking it too much.

The fairy was suspicious that Chat was involved in Plagg's disappearance, and it was a glaring detail that he had the fairy's power.

But she never picked up anything malicious from him, she really couldn't picture him trapping a mischievous sprite of bad luck.

He actually seems resolute in thinking it's a curse.

He has to hide away all the time, is intimidated by the thought of going into towns, and was so blown away by simple gifts and kindnesses that she provided…

No, Marinette decided, watching Tikki dart about softly and quickly talking to her ladybugs. Chat couldn't have done anything to Plagg. At least, she didn't think he's the reason Plagg disappeared. She had nothing on why he had the power, but she couldn't picture him capturing the sprite and keeping him locked up.

As if sensing her thoughts, Tikki turned to her, peering down at Marinette and meeting her wide, surprised stare. Flashing her a gentle smile, she floated down and hovered before Marinette, hands clasped together. She reassured, "It's ok to doubt. He's helped you after all."

Marinette sat up, wincing when the cool air licked her bare shoulders. "I… I did spend time with him, I, I really can't picture him trapping a fairy," she confessed.

Tikki nodded, accepting her claim. The noirette was relieved to see that the little fairy didn't look upset at all in her belief that Chat wasn't at fault. Tikki said, "I just want to see him, ask if he did." Narrowing her blue eyes at the water, the fairy declared, "I'll know if he's lying. Children can never get lies past fairies."

She met Marinette's pale eyes and insisted, "I do think he is involved."

Marinette nodded.

Flashing her a smile, Tikki waved to the pond, bidding, "Enjoy the water! I'm ready to leave when you are!"

"It won't be too much longer," Marinette said. Glancing to the wall of roses and thorns around them, she asked, "You sure it's ok for you to leave?"

Blinking, Tikki turned to peer about her sanctuary. She confessed, "It's not ideal. It's a big and dangerous world, even for fairies. To a point it is better for some of us to hide away and work our magic from the shadows. Children, as dear as you all are, can be selfish. And mean. I could share a few stories of Children that have caught fairies, used their power for their own gains. The lucky break free, others… they'll need to be reborn."

Marinette winced.

Tikki sat on a near lily pad, frowning at the water.

"I've been reborn twice in all my years of existence. Plagg, he's been reborn a lot."

"Do you think he's been reborn?" Marinette asked.

"If he was, I'd be able to sense and locate him. I fear that he may get reborn soon if I don't find him."

"And it's bad if he's reborn?"

"Not necessarily," Tikki admits, "but it's not preferred. When fairies are reborn, we thrive off our magical nature. We won't be ourselves for a long while. At least a century will pass before our personality redevelops. Till then, Plagg would have spread a lot of bad luck around Franae, no control over himself."

Ok then, they really should find Plagg.

"And I want too," Tikki voiced, drawing Marinette back to her. "I'm tired of waiting, listening to my ladybugs come back empty handed. I'm ready to go out and search myself." Tikki met her eyes. "You're my best chance of getting around undetected."

Cracking a small smile, Marinette teased, "Using me huh?"

Her smile turned apologetic. "A bit, but the perk is that I will bring you good luck! Everything will work in our favor. You'd have a better chance of finding Chat with me, and with you, I can actually find him."

Marinette's smile dropped. "There is a problem," she warned. "The prince caught him."

Tikki didn't look too surprised, or worried. "Children will always do what they think is best," she said. "I have confidence in us though."

Floating up, she drew near Marinette. When the girl didn't flinch away, the little red fairy nuzzled her cheek affectionate, hugging the soft skin. "Thank you," she whispered. Marinette gently reached up and cupped the little being, a small smile spreading over his lips.

"We'll find him," she told the little being.

She felt Tikki nod against her shoulder, and for the moment, simply held her up against her cheek.

All the while the soothing water lulled and pushed against her skin.

Dry and refreshed, Marinette followed Tikki as she guided her past the thorns and out of her sanctuary. The little fairy paused every few seconds, roaming her gaze over the tangled maze of thorns and plump roses before moving forward, confident.

Marinette trailed after her, a little lost on where to go on her own. She gave a start when she felt something prickle her skin; looking down, she smiled when she came across a little ladybug, waving at her. "How long has it been since you've come out there?" Marinette asked, offering her forefinger to the ladybug. It crawled on eagerly.

Tikki hummed, pausing a moment to peer around. "Probably a good few centuries," the fairy confessed.

"Because it's dangerous?"

"That doesn't stop some fairies," Tikki said, turning to her. "It is, but it also depends on our magical nature; that greatly affects how mobile we are. Plagg's a fairy of bad luck, and for the world, misfortune is random and sudden. He'll travel through shadows, move at random for the smallest mischief. Like tripping someone."

Marinette wondered if Plagg ever visited her.

As if reading her thoughts, Tikki went on, "He does have a tendency to visit certain Children more than others, but he isn't always the only cause for someone tripping. Sometimes it just happens on it's own."

"Has Plagg ever…?"

"Caused real tragedies? He's caused some, but nothing near as drastic as you might be thinking." Tilting to the side as she considered the human before her, Tikki adds, "Plagg's bad luck is more associated with the harsh reality. Sometimes bad things happen, big and small. It's life. You don't know when or who it's going to happen too, but it does. That's why Plagg is a very mobile fairy, and is so active. He travels on a whim for the chance that something could happen. Now my power," she tapped her bright red chest, "it's a lot more broad than Plagg's which is why I'm a more stationary fairy.

"Where's Plagg resolves around one person every few hours to a day that's having a bit of bad luck; my magic extends to all. I'm a provider of good luck, comfort, guidance, and love. And there are many, many Children out there who need it. I sit in one spot and send out my ladybugs to provide that luck, comfort, and guidance. I was manifested to spread and provide happiness. It's what I'll always do, till the end of time."

Marinette smiled, eyes turning down to the ladybug crawling on her finger. Her smile dropped to a frown as she eyed the little red and black beetle. "What about them?" she asked, holding the ladybug up to the fairy. "Will they be ok on their own?"

Tikki laughed, coming over and patting the bug affectionately. "They're an extension of my magic, of me," she told Marinette, "and each and every single one you saw, is over five thousand years old."

Marinette looked surprised, Tikki simply smiled. "They'll be fine," she reassured. "Since they're an extension of my magic, they have their own sense of where they need to go, who they need to see. I'm more like the queen bee of a hive, overlooking the work and offering guidance if there's one particularly Child I want them to see. They've survived my absence before. They can handle themselves."

"That's good to know," Marinette murmured.

Tikki made an agreeing chirp.

The ladybug on Marinette's finger crack it's wings open and took off, ignoring the pairs of blue eyes following it.

Absently, Tikki told her, "That one is heading back to your home."

Marinette jerked to her, wide eyed. "It is?"

Tikki nodded. "It has quite a few to visit."

Marinette blinked at her, then turned, trying to catch sight of the ladybug; only it was already gone.


Licking her lips, she uttered, "Will I ever…"

Tikki drew near, giving her brow an affectionate nuzzle. "I can't say Sweet Child," she murmured. "I don't quite know myself." She drew away, meeting Marinette's eyes. "All I know for sure is that you'll be happy."

Marinette nodded, a mournful frown on her face.

Tikki chirped, "Come! We best hurry before the prince decides to head to the capital. That's an even greater hike!"

Marinette nodded, straightening up and moving forward.

She had a Chat to save.

A bracelet to find.

And hopefully a lost fairy as well.

She'll fret over home later.

They had left the probing thorns behind and were now wandering in the open, shadowed by looming trees, listening to the soft sounds of the woods. Marinette could hear wolves in the distance, howling long, bellowing songs. Echoing behind those songs were the caws of ravens; Marinette imagined that they ghosted after the wolves, eager to share the meal.

The crow haired girl didn't fret at the news of the hunt.

Tikki reassured her that it was a ways away, and with her being there, the chances of Marinette coming across hungry wolves were very slim.

So long as they worked together, it was almost certain for everything to go her way.

So with Tikki so sure, Marinette followed easily, unbothered by the activity of the early morning. She only stopped when she came across a bent tree, broken in half by something large. Looking around it, she found other bent and broken trees, and a few scorch marks.

She warily eyed the area.

This was where the fight went down.

She saw no large purple body of either monster. No hunter or dragon.

Marinette decided that wasn't good.

"Tikki?" she whispered, drawing the fairy near, her hands coming to clutch her shirt nervously. "Are you aware that I've been hunted by a monster these past few days?"

Blinking at her, then the area, Tikki confirmed, "I'm aware. I got a sense of it through my ladybugs." Offering her a smile, Tikkia promised, "We'll be careful."

"Chat and I have been trying for a while."

The little giggled, "Chat Noir isn't known for being lucky."

"So… we probably won't come across it?" Marinette asked, "Or the dragon?"

Tikki opened her mouth for an instant no, only to close it, frowning as she considered the area, then the Child before her. "There is a chance," Tikki admits. "It is looking for you. We've all noticed. Why, I don't know. It is more likely we'll come across it than the wolves."

At Marinette's flinch, Tikki quickly reassured, "It's still unlikely though! Just because it's a better chance, doesn't mean it's for sure! And even if we did, I have confidence that we could get away!"

"Cause your lucky," Marinette uttered.

Tikki nodded. "Being lucky means the whole situation is ideal for you. You may not like to be in it, but you'll have the best of chances!"

Marinette gave her a weak smile.

Tikki pressed, "Be sure and confident in yourself. In the end, everything will always be fine. One way or another, peace will be found." Pausing, Tikki adds, "And there can be no good luck if there isn't any bad for it to counter." The little red fairy beams. "So in the end, it'll be all ok! And besides, the greater the struggle, the sweeter the reward!"

"Not always," Marinette returned, slowly walking past her and around the area. It felt like if she disturbed any of it, one of those monsters would reappear and attack.

"Depends on the view," Tikki countered. Landing on her shoulder, she gave the Child a persistent pat. "Now come on! Fretting about it won't make it any better! Let's keep moving and see Chat!"

Chuckling weakly, Marinette bid, "Aye, aye!"

She hurried along, mindful of where she stepped and had to work around. A few times Tikki floated up to guide her around the debris, chirping about the damage. "You don't see this too often, large beasts usually avoid each other."

"Do you know what that thing is?" Marientte asked, "What's chasing me?"

Humming, Tikki replied, "Reminds me of a goblin." She paused by a splotch of purple saliva, staining a tree. "But far gooier than goblins should be, and bigger." Floating on, she continued, "I could also say a troll, but they got fur."

"It didn't have fur," Marinette confirmed.

"Only thing I can think of then that it's most likely a bogey," Tikki bids. "But… they're not too big; at most they're as big as a grown Child, er, man. And they're nocturnal. You'll never catch them in the day. Why, I can't think I've ever seen one in the woods either. They stick to towns and cities, they live in the darkest shadows they can find, and feed off fear of Children, the younger, the easier it is to eat. They're actually the ones that cause a lot of unnatural nightmares."

Pausing, Tikki turned to Marinette with a frown. "They've never taken a Child though. And they never stick to just one prey. After a night of feasting, they move to a new victim and so on. They keep at one victim, Children become aware, and will get candles, which will burn bogies."

Frowning, she declared, "So it's likely you're not being hunted by a bogey." She huffed, frustrated and apologetic. "I don't know what's chasing you."

"It's alright," Marinette eased.

Tikki ignored her, her frown deepening as she floated absently about, starting to dive into a slow spin. "It's got a familiar magic to it," she comments absently, "but by my spots, I can't get whose magic that is." She straightened up, waving her arms about. "It's familiar, yet distorted. This is very frustrating."

"Ok!" Marientte cuts in; reaching for Tikki and cupping her in her palm to carry her. To distract her, she asked, "What about dragons?"


"Yeah, one came out of nowhere and attacked the creature."

Humming, Tikki explained, "Well, there are many sorts of dragons out there, they come in all shapes, and colors, and temperaments. I'd say it's best not to test how tolerant a dragon is." Frowning, she confesses, "Though that didn't seem like a dragon…"

Marinette stopped for a second, shooting the little fairy an odd look. "It wasn't?" she asked. That seemed like a dragon to her.

"Dragons are animals. They don't have traces of magic on them. Through the ladybugs, I picked up a bit of magic in the air, alongside the one on the monster." Nodding to herself, Tikki declared, "That was probably a witch."

"A witch? They can shapeshit?"

"Of course! Witches have all sorts of variety of magics. Some can do tricks and spells that others can't. They typically just have one power that they can only specialize in. Shapeshifting is a bit uncommon in terms of witch magics. And they can only take on one form."

"So…" Marinette trailed, "that dragon was a witch?"

"Seems so."

"Um, why would they fight the monster? I was here earlier in the glamour and they chased me out."

Tikki shrugged. "Witches usually like to be alone. They'll try and hide away if they can. The kingdom can be very intolerable of powerful witches with dangerous magic. Some are lucky enough to be on the kingdom's good graces, but it's rare and usually unlikely. If a witch has weak or harmless magic, they can live with people no problem."

"Like Rose," Marinette put in.

"Like Rose," Tikki echoed. "But others, they just can't be around other Children, not without scaring them. Like there's a witch high up in the mountains. Her true name's Aurore, but she's known as Climatika. She controls ice and wind, very powerful, and scares a lot of the Children. She's a bit lonely, but hard to approach and help." Tikki drooped, "I lost a few ladybugs trying to bring her a bit of happiness."

Marinette rubbed the top of Tikki's head affectionately. "What's it like to lose ladybugs?" she asked softly.

"There's an ache," Tikki explained, "and I get a little tired. And sad. It makes Plagg glad that he doesn't have physical extensions for his magic like I do, but that's just how my magic works."

Before Marinette could ask if there were other fairies that had magical natures like hers, Tikki flew out of her palm and dove behind her. Marinette stiffened as she felt the fairy shuffle into her hair. "Tikki?" Marinette asked.

The fairy didn't respond.

And a man tumbled to the ground before her, starling the noirette.

He laid still for a moment, groaning. Marinette hung back, wary. "Monsieur?" she called carefully, creeping closer and peering down at him.

"I'm ok," the man mumbled, wincing as he sat up, his pale blond hair sliding with the motion. She blinked at the purple tints that stained the end of his hair. Looking up at her, he smiled, his eyes sliding up and down her form. Marinette took a step back, instinctively crossing her arms over her chest protectively. "This is curious," he muses aloud, more to himself than her.

She still asked. "What?"

"A girl walking in these woods, alone?"

"I'm visiting a friend," she lied. "She's getting married soon, I'm heading over to make sure I'm there on time."

"And not taking the road?" he pressed, getting up and patting himself clean.

"The wind blew my hair ties, I was trying to get them back," Marinette declared.

"I see you failed," he hummed.

"I did," she confirmed with a sigh. "Just, continuing on, hoping I'll come across them as I go." She chuckled weakly.

Smiling, he asked, "Do you need help relocating the road?"

Tikki squeezed some of the hair in the back, shifting about nervously on her neck. Marinette said, "No, thank you Monsieur…?"

"Vincent Aza," he said with a bow. "I don't believe I heard your name Mademoiselle?"

Tikki squeezed her hair all the tighter, tugging frantically.

"Ladybug," Marinette sprouted out.

The blond raised a brow. "Ladybug?" he echoed.

She chuckled weakly. "My parents were brought together through ladybugs, and they adored them, and me; they called me their lucky little Ladybug. And it just stuck."

"Ladybug," he murmured, then teasingly asked, "Are you just as lucky as ladybugs?"

Marinette shrugged. "I'd say my luck is a little on the poor side."

"Ah, a shame."

"It is…" She stood still for a moment, smiling awkwardly. Vincent just beamed, looking very content and comfortable with this strange situation. Tikki tapped her neck; Marinette could almost hear her whisper, "Move!"

"Well!" Marinette proclaimed, swinging her arms about. "I got to go, want to be on time for that wedding—"

"You sure I can't escort you there?"

"I'm sure!"

She moved to dart away from him, and had almost escaped when he called out to her.

"Wait! Maybe you can help me, real quick?" he pleaded, trailing after her. Marinette tensed, slowly turned to him, gripping her shirt tightly. Tikki squeezed her hair again, harder, insistent.

"Um," was all she got out before he was in her space, pressing questions down on her.

"Have you seen a dragon? I've been looking for this certain dragon for eons it seems. And I feel like I'm close! And he's large, and purple, and—"

"I-I haven't," she said. Licking her lips, she asked, "Wh-why do you want the dragon?"

"To get a picture of course!" he said.

She raised a brow, her nervousness dropping a little. "Like a drawing?"

"No," he chirped, grinning. Moving to his belt, he twisted it about, showing her a little satchel at his side. He flipped it open, showing her a neat row of broken glass shards. Marinette raised a brow at him.

"These are magic," he explained, taking one out and showing it to her.

A beautiful, dark skinned woman with bright purple-pink hair peered back, looking very confused as she gazed back at Marinette. It was like some scary, frozen, realistic portrait. Marinette found it a bit freaky.

"And this one!" Vincent proclaimed excitedly, tucking the dark skinned woman away and pulling out another. "A bit incomplete, but still a favorite!"

A tall, skinny man awkwardly smiled at Marinette, his arm held out like he was wrapping around someone's shoulder's, only there was no one there with the brown haired man. Tentatively, Marinette asked, "Wh-why is it a f-favorite?"

Tikki tugged at her hair sharply.

Vincent leaned close, his smile wild. "Because the greatest witch in the world adored it!"

"Oh," was all she could utter, stumbling back slightly.

He turned the shard to him, his smile growing as he stared down at the lonely man awkwardly holding onto someone that wasn't there. "And this was actually the easiest one to get you know! The other, her name was Penny, she was suspicious and unsure but humored me because she was curious; I mean, who wouldn't be? Personally, I thought this man would be more resistant, especially since his daughter was with him, but he was willing! Even if she was a little scared. And the greatest witch, oh he adored what I got! This little shard here, it's got Hawk Moth's praise!"

Marinette took a few more steps back. "H-Hawk Moth?" she asked nervously.

The man shuffled in spot, proclaiming, "One of the most powerful witches in the world! And one of the very few who was able to get on the king's good grace! And he was successful! This man, in the shard, he was a witch too! One of the few that was on the king's good grace! Originally he was going to be on the king's council, be his magical adviser, but Hawk Moth won. He's King Gabriel's adviser! Not Mime!" He flashed the shard to her, showing her the skinny man once more. His blue eyes were wild. "Because he's right here!"

She really needs to go.

Even more so with how Tikki trembled behind her.

"You're looking for a dragon?" Marinette cuts in, catching the man's attention.

"Oh yes!" he said, "I've been looking for this dragon for so long, ever since I discovered these, I wanted him in my collection!"

Gulping, she said, "I might've seen him."


"Over that way!" she exclaimed, pointing in a random direction, away from where she was going to run. He turned in that direction, intrigued. Walking a few steps forward, he stopped and turned to her, just as she was about to race away.

"Sorry to say," he bid, his smile growing stiff as he faced her. "But he's not over there. I can feel his magic, and he is close since I stumbled past the glamour; but he's not over there, little girl."

"Run," Tikki hissed.

Marinette took a few steps back, glancing frantically to the woods around; the hardest path for him to follow.

"You're protecting him, aren't you?!" the man accused, taking a few steps to her. "You know where he truly is!"

Marinette didn't reply. Deciding on a direction, she turned and fled. The man pursued with a growl. "I've been hunting him for four years!" he shouted after her. "You won't hide him from me! I took Penny from him, for hiding him! I'll take you too!"

Marinette ducked and darted around branches and trees, grabbing some and pulling back; she let them loose to hit him if he was close. "I'll take your picture too!" he promised her, "I'll trap you! I'll take you to Hawk Moth! He'll turn you into a monster! Just like he did with Mime's daughter!"

Marinette stumbled in surprise, starting to twist back to take a look back at the man with wide eyes. Tikki darted out and shove against her cheek. "Don't look!" she cried. "That's how he'll trap you!" Marinette quickly looked ahead, biting her lip as she kept running.

"Get back here little girl!" he snarled, and Marinette jumped when she felt the brush of fingers passing over her back. On a wild whim, she took a sharp turn, leaving him to stumble as he tried to catch up. She ran and ran and ran, trying to ignore his shouts and snarls.

She only stopped when she tripped, going sliding against the harsh dirt and leaving her eyes stinging at the skid.

Looking up, she stiffened at what she tripped on.

A tail.

A scaly, light purple tail.

Slowly, she traveled along it, finding the body getting bigger, and thicker, and more, more frightening. She scrambled up and away when she met bright eyes staring down at her. She felt Tikki grip her hair tightly, hanging free over her shoulder and right into the dragon's sight.

"I got you now!" Vincent shouted, coming at her, glass shard raised towards her.

Like her, he tripped over the tail, landing face first to the ground and sending the glass shard scattering, breaking as it bounced off a rock. Baffled, he looked up, gasping when he caught sight of the dragon glaring down at him. "I found you," he whispered in awe. "I finally found you!" Sitting up, he scrambled to get a shard out from his belt.

"No!" Marinette cried, scrambling up and tackling him before he did. Vincent shoved her back, hissing that she wasn't going to get in his way. Marinette struggled to stay on top, trying to grab that little satchel of shards.

Above them the dragon bellowed. The earth shook as it shifted, and Marinette squeaked as she was plucked off the blond man. With a shout of victory, Vincent scrambled to face the dragon, catch it in a shard. Only to be tripped from behind as the tail swept under his feet. Great wing opened and Marinette screamed as the dragon took off, Tikki scrambling to hug the back of her neck. The trees grew smaller and smaller the higher they went, with Vincent entirely disappearing from sight, shouting after them to come back.

Marinette clutched tightly in the dragon's claws, her head swimming as they ascended.

In the back of her mind, she wondered just how lucky she really was right now.

Chat was in a new carriage, fresh with new walls, smaller barred windows, and was now forced to sit up all the time, wrists tied together by chains and attached to the roof of the cell.

The prince was making sure he wasn't getting away this time.

Chat had no way to rust the chains away, or the wall. And any time he tried to reach for the roof to try and just that away, he either wound up imbalanced or just couldn't reach it. Even if he stood on the tip of his boots, he was an inch too short to reach the roof.

It made his tail twitch in agitation and worry.

If he was lucky, the prince wouldn't leave till he had Marinette. It would give him more time to try and figure out a way to escape.

If he was unlucky, Felix decided he was much to dangerous and would go ahead towards the capital, and Chat would see the king again. Oh what an awkward reunion that'll be. He wonders in the back of his mind if the king would even speak to him. Would he lock him up in the darkest cell he had? Or would he give the command to kill him?

Ears flat on his head, Chat considered biting the chains again.

It'd be a wasted effort though.

All it did was give his fangs an uncomfortable rattle that made his head ache.

He tugged on the chains again, finding that they were just as strong as before. Of course there was no change to them.

He'd be unluckier if the prince did find Marinette.

Like this, Chat had no way to help her, even more so if she was from Limbes.

He really didn't know what they royal family and nobility would do with her if she was. Very likely keep her in the court. Pound her with questions about what's it like on the other side.

A gross taste flared over Chat's tongue.

So intrigued the king may even pressure her into marrying the prince.

Maybe pressure them both.

Felix has never been too keen on companionship. Even as children, Felix rather have his own shadow than anyone else.

Grimacing, he glared at the chain. He considered the metal links before him. Maybe if he could twist it about he could get a hold of the chain then. It goes a little slack when he stood on the toes of his boot.

He was just about to try when he heard the shuffle of a near guard, then sat still so that he would raise suspicion.

"I'm ready to head home," he heard one utter with a nostalgic sigh.

Chat's blood went cold.

"When are we going?"

"A few days," said another, "the Prince wants to see if he can find the girl. That's why he rode off into the woods."

The chain rattled with Chat's twitch, drawing the two guard's attention. One sneered through the barred window, "You hear that Chat Noir? You're going home in a few days!"

Chat smiled grimly. "I'm sure it'll be just as lovely as I remember."

Chapter Text

Marinette gripped the claws that held her tightly, head pressed against coarse scales as the world became a blur below her. It didn't help how the dragon jerked with every flap, and Marinette could feel each and every dip and rise it made. Tikki hugged her neck, comforting whispers coming from the fairy all the while as they waited this out. She seemed to believe this would end soon. That they wouldn't stay in the dragon's hold for much longer.

Marinette hoped so.

She felt like a mouse, in the clutches of a hawk. With talons wrapped around her, the light point of claws just on the edge of her skin.

It would be so easy for them to pierce her.

It would be so easy for those talons to unfurl and drop her.

The possibility frightened her.

It kept her still in the dragon's grip, afraid that any move would displease it and she would find her doom.

But when she felt it them start to tilt down, she instinctively tightened her grip on those claws. They gave a reflexive squeeze back, a light gesture, almost comforting if it weren't for the ground coming closer. And the unknown reasons why the dragon took her. Marinette could only cling and wait, squeezing her eyes closed as air swept and shoved at her shoulders. The wings beat heavily as they started to come down, slow and sure and loud in her ears. Marinette didn't dare peek as they drew near, keeping her eyes shut tight as she waited for the landing.

It came in a big jerk, and Marinette squeaked when she was dropped to the ground, her back bouncing off it hard. She groaned from where she lay, feeling a bruise pulse along her spine. She cracked her eyes open when she felt a slight shuffle on her stomach, seeing that Tikki had lost her grip and was now set on her stomach, grimacing as she rubbed her big head.

Hot breath blew over Marinette's face and she jerked back as the large, squared snout hovered near, narrowed green eyes glaring down at her.

She was very surprised when it spoke, it's voice a deep rumble that tickled her bones. "Perhaps you can answer me some questions, girl." It took a step closer. Marinette hurried back, shrinking down in the dragon's shadow. Keeping it's gaze on her, it continued, "You came in my glamour, stinking of Chat Noir."

"Your glamour?!" Tikki proclaimed on Marinette's stomach, rounding on the dragon.

Before she could dive up to it, Marinette grabbed her, hissing her name.

The dragon only spared the fairy a curious glance before turning it's eyes back to her, snorting smoke. "You come back," it continued, "with a monster on your tail."

"I-I didn't mean too," she uttered.

"That is out of your control," Tikki snipped, squirming in Marientte's grasp, shooting a glare at the dragon. "Glamours are for public use!" TIkki scolds, "I may not like what it's always used for, but it's not just for you!"

Now eyeing the fairy in her hold, the dragon finishes, "And now you have the Miraculous Ladybug in your hands." Those green eyes slid up to her, it's jaws clacking in slight agitation. "What is going on with you?"

"Um," she uttered.

The dragon hissed at her. "I suggest you answer girl."

"Or you'll what?" Tikki returns, ignoring Marinette's alarmed squeak. Turning to her, the fairy reassured, "He won't burn you, not while I'm with you." The dragon snorted some more smoke, but otherwise didn't make any move to hurt her. Though he did keep his gaze locked on the dark haired girl.

Nervously, Marinette stood and released Tikki, a little relieved to see that the fairy floated in front of her, acting as a barrier between her and the dragon.

It was strange to see a creature so small stand up to a creature so big.

Gulping and fiddling her fingers, Marientte answered, "I-Chat's my friend! He helped me!"

The dragon simple blinked, emitting something between a hum and a growl.

"Th-that monster, I-I don't know why it's after me, or what's up with th-that." She pointed to the fairy, "Sh-she's with me because she wants to meet Chat. I can find, I, I need to find him. He's in trouble."

The dragon rested on it's belly, eyeing her contemplatively.

Tikki crossed her arms, glaring at the beast.

Marinette peeked past her, eyeing the dragon.

The dragon finally asked, "How is Chat Noir a friend of yours?"

Shrugging sheepishly, Marinette confessed, "I fell on him."

Surprise flared in those green eyes, before they closed. Marientte jumped when the dragon bellowed out, sides heaving as he laughed. "How dangerous for you! Falling on Chat Noir, and able to make a friend of him! I'm surprised he didn't kill you for it."

She frowned at him, while Tikki huffed.

"What do you..."

"You smell strange," the dragon cuts in, crawling closer and sniffing loudly. Tikki gave that near snout a warning smack, not that the dragon was bothered. Instead he just kept his eyes on Marinette. "Could it be...? I wonder girl, do you even know about Chat Noir? About his deeds?"

"I know he did a lot of damage to the capital."

"Dear little girl," the dragon lightly scolds, shaking his big head, "he's done far worse than that."

"No!" Tikki clips, giving that snout another smack. "That's all he's done! I'd know better than anyone!"

"Then, Ladybug, what explanation do you have for the queen?"

Marinette stiffened, eyeing the two. "The queen?" she asked.

The dragon turned to her, stating, "Last year, King Gabriel Agreste has put out an order for the capture of Chat Noir. An order for him to be brought to the capital, an order that he would be met with justice."

Marinette eyed the dragon oddly, demanding, "Why?"

Green eyes flickering to the scowling fairy, the dragon said carefully, "It's believed that Chat Noir killed the queen."

There was nothing more unsatisfactory than a fruitless effort. After a whole day and night spent trying to find this girl, Marinette; they've come across nothing. They haven't even found the monster that was hunting her and Chat Noir. They saw the signs of it trumping about, leaving damage in it's wake, but couldn't locate it, no matter how long they followed it's trail.

Much like the girl, the creature persists to be elusive.

Maybe it even already had the girl.

Upon his horse, Felix was tired, sore, and miffed.

He had nothing for his hunt.

And still no answers to his questions.

The creature was gone, and so was the girl.

The only consolation he had was that he held Chat Noir captive. After about eight years, they finally had him. The danger of him could be put to rest.

"Prince Felix!" the guards greeted as he rode back into town, a slight frown on his features.

Glancing down at the near guard, he asked, "Has anything happened?" Or reappeared?

"No Your Highness."

He gave a disappointed hum.

"Have everything ready," he ordered, "we'll be departing at dawn tomorrow."

"Yes Your Highness!"

Clamoring off his horse and passing it off, he drew near Chat's cell, hearing the rattle of chains as the hellion struggled. The two stationed guards made room for him as he stopped by, meeting the bright green eyes that turned to him.

Chat gave him a cheeky toothy smile. "Back from your hunt?" he asked.

Felix hummed his confirmation, waving the two guards away so the blonds could talk in solitude.

Chat was unphased by the lack of guards. Just kept that shit eating smile in place. It seemed to grow as he asked, "Fruitless?"

"Frustratingly so."

Chat laughed, twisting about and rolling on his heels as he faced the prince. "How unfurtunate for you."

Felix wrinkled his nose at Chat. "Always got to be so cheery," he grumbled.

"Maman would flick my nose if I got dreary."

"She's not here to flick it now."

Chat hummed, tail twitching in the shadows.

"...What happened to her?" Felix wondered.

Chat blinked, then tilted his head, eyes squinting as he considered the prince. "Don't know," he said, "woke up one day and she had up and left me. Couldn't find her anywhere." He grinned. "Guess she got tired of being with bad luck all the time."

"That must've hurt," Felix surmised.

Chat didn't reply, rocking back and forth on his chain.

Felix moved to leave, when Chat voiced, "I think she found herself a nice glamour to hide in."

Felix glanced in.

Chat met his gaze. "Can't sniff those out, no matter how good your nose is," Chat said.

Felix offered another hum, not too sure what to say to that. Eyeing Chat, he warily questioned, "Did you ever come back to the capital? Back home?"

"Aw," Chat gushed, leaning back and letting the chain hold him. "You still think the capital is my home? How sweet! You knew you liked me!" He rocked and leaned to the side, coming closer to the prince. With a devious grin, the hellion said, "But that isn't home. That hasn't been home since I was seven. So no, I never went back. I slipped away in the wilds." Jumping up, Chat locked his feet around the chain, letting himself rock back and forth as he hung upside down.

Felix narrowed his eyes. "And that's not a lie?"

"Well you're going to assume I'm lying one way or another, so I'm not going to bother answering." Chat dropped his feet, letting them hit the cell hard. Tilting his head back to eye the prince over his shoulder, he asked, "Was there something you wanted to tell me?"

"Come morning we're departing back home."

"Oooh! Is it as lovely as I remember?"

"It's gotten lovelier."

Chat chuckled, turning away and facing the opposing wall. "I'm sure I could wait on seeing it."

"I'm sure you could," Felix agreed.

Marinette stared at the dragon.

Tikki grumbled incoherently beside her, buzzing about in agitation.

The dragon sat patient and still, observing the two mildly.

Finally, Marinette skeptically repeated, "Chat Noir killed the queen?"

"He did not!" Tikki exploded, jerking in the air as she snapped. "Chat Noir never would!"

The dragon was unaffected, calming watching the fairy whiz about. "This isn't your Chat Noir Ladybug," the dragon voiced.

Tikki rounded on him, sputtering, "I've been watching out for this Chat Noir for nearly eight years! I can say in full confidence that he has never gone back to the capital since!" To Marinette, she insisted, "He didn't kill the queen. Someone else did, but it wasn't Chat Noir. Not even Prince Felix is sure that he did."

"The king is," the dragon declared with a snort, "and I ask again, what explanation do you have for the late Queen Amalia?"

The fairy huffs, floating down to perch on Marinette's head with scowl. She had no answer to provide. Marinette tilted her head curiously as she squinted at the dragon, asking, "What happened to the queen exactly?"

Turning to her, the dragon shrugged, "No one really knows, besides the king. She was found by him, I heard as a pile of bones and ash. Chat Noir is known to make ash from a single touch of anything, it's reasonable to think that it was him."

"He has not been to the capital since," Tikki repeated. "I know he slips from my sight time to time, but I know he's never been back in the capital. Not since he left."

The dragon's maw opened to reply, only for Marinette to jerk forward, waving her arms about as she cut in. "Ok, ok, big mystery going on, I get it. But, we," she waved to her and Tikki, "need to go. Need to go see Chat." Peering back at the dragon warily, she asked, "Was there something you wanted? Why'd you take us...?"

Rumbling, the dragon peered back with contemplative eyes.

Marinette jerked back when the dragon shook himself, scattering green smoke all over the place. Blinking wildly, she sought the smoke, feeling Tikki dive down and press against her neck. Something shifted in it, and Marinette took a few steps back. A man slipped out, with bright purple hair and dark eyes. Marinette met his gaze, uttering, "You really are a witch..."

He tilted his head, gaze flickering to the nearly hidden fairy. "I guess she told you huh?"

"She did," she said carefully, looking him up and down. "So, I, I answered your questions. What do you want?"

"Well," the witch started, setting a hand on his chest and giving her a slight bow, "first off, I'm Jagged Stone. Also known as Purple Fang. I'm a witch in hiding. I don't care to be in the king's service, I don't care for getting killed for refusing it. And what I want is something that little fairy can provide." He stood up, eyes locked on Tikki.

Tikki ducked further away, hiding in Marinette's hair.

The noirette echoed her leeriness, taking another set up steps back from the witch.

He didn't look offended by their caution. He flashed them an amused smile, eyes glinting. "Don't you worry," he eased, "I'm not going take her from you. I know what happens to those that force fairies to do things they don't want." Tilting his head as he eyed her, he bid, "And it looked like you had her willingly on your side."

"So what do you want?" Tikki demands, peeking her head over Marinette's hair. She gave the witch a big, scowling pout. "You cut into our precious time Jagged Stone! If you waste our time, you may never be blessed by another ladybug ever again!"

He laughed, putting his hands up and waving for the fairy to calm down. "Easy there," he bid, grinning, "I do need your help though."

Tikki hummed.

"Ladybug," the witch pleaded, seating himself on a near rock and making sure that there was still space between him and Marinette, "I need your help in finding someone dear to me. She's been missing for a month. And I'm tired of waiting for her. In return for helping me find her, I'll take you to Chat Noir... or wherever you need to go."

Marinette and Tikki exchanged glances.

"Fair deal?" the witch asked.

Turning back to him, Marinette took a few steps closer, asking, "Who are you looking for?"

Slouching, Jagged answered, "Her name is Penny."

Marinette's eyes widened in surprise. "Penny?" she repeated.

He perked. "You know her?"

"That man you took us from, he shouted that name. I think he's the one that has her?."

Alert, the witch stood up and approached, easily towering over her as he stared down. "You sure?"

"Ye-yeah," Marinette uttered. Maybe?

She could've sworn that he had shouted out the name Penny.

"I don't want to go back to that witch," Tikki voices, drawing both human attention to sunk down to hide in Marinette's hair. "He's a trapper!"

"Tikki," Marinette started to ease.

Jagged cut in, "If he has her, we need to get her back."

"I don't want to go!" Tikki repeated, tangling herself in Marinette's hair, like she was trying to hide. "I don't have a good feeling about this!"

Snorting out smoke, he drew away with a cross of his arms, squinting down at them. "Do we have a deal?" he asked. "Help me get her back, I'll take you to Chat Noir. Or wherever you want to go!"

Marinette considered him, then slowly drew the fairy from her hair, meeting her big blue eyes. "It'd be faster?" she offered weakly.

"It may not be worth it," Tikki returned weakly, antennas limp. She turned to the witch, stating, "All it would take for him to catch you is to get you to look at a shard. And he'd trap you. He'd keep you for as long as he desires. And you have no way out after that."

"I'm not scared," Jagged declared.

Giving the little fairy a small smile, Marinette quietly pressed, "Didn't you say that I have the best chance with you? Even if I don't like the situation?"

Tikki sagged in Marinette's palm, a clear pout on her face. Then straightens with a nod. "We'll have to be careful," she said, waving her arms about. "You have to make sure you don't look into the glass he carries, or that's it. You get caught, I won't be able to save you. Especially if I get caught as well."

"We'll attack from above," Jagged reassured.

"And separate him from his shards," Tikki said. "That is most ideal if you want to get out unscratched, and save them." To Marinette, she instructed, "Since it was a human that trapped them, it'll take a human to free them. I doubt he," she points to Jagged, "will be human when we get those shards. You'll have to break them."

"Got it," Marinette said.

Pointing to the witch, Tikki warned, "And you, you better hold your end of the bargain."

"I swear on my breathe and lucky days I will," the witch promised, resting a hand over his heart. "Only if we do save her."

Content, Tikki floated up, declaring, "Then lets reunite these lost Children with their loved ones!"

"Are you sure it's ok?" Marinette asked, leaning out to meet the green eyes of the dragon waiting for her.

"Believe me kid," the dragon said, "there's very little damage you can do. Come on up."

"It'll be ok," Tikki backed, floating near the dragon's shoulder. "Think of it like riding a horse."

Jagged gave a displeased snort.

Pursing her lips, Marinette set her hand on warm scales, feeling the coarse surface beneath her hand. "I was never that good with horses," she warns.

"Well good thing I'm not a horse. You'll be fine," Jagged insisted. "Just hold on. You're not going to fall off me." To back the claim, he crouched lower, tilting his side so it'd be easier for her to climb up. Marinette gulped at the gesture, then straightened her shoulders, determined. Reaching forward, she clasped the forelimb and started to scale up. Jagged stood still, allowing the girl to clamor onto his back. He didn't move till she was set behind his head, clutching the horns above his brow.

"I-I'm ready," she squeaked, sure that she was going to be as secured as possible.

Tikki offered the girl an encouraging smile before darting under her, and pressing against her neck.

Shuffling on his feet, Jagged crouched lowly to the ground, spreading his purple pinkish wings. "Let's catch a witch!" he roared and pushed off. Marinette squealed into the rush, pressing her face against the rough scales on the dragon's head. Much like before, his wings thundered in her ears with each and every beat, lifting them higher and higher into the sky.

"It's ok to look," Tikki eased as Jagged paused, scouring the forest below for the witch.

"I don't wanna," Marinette mumbled into those scales.

"You're doing good, girl," Jagged comments as he slowly flew, narrowing his eyes as he glared down. Tikki slid down till she was at the end of his snout, joining him in the search. Marinette just clung to his head, waiting for this to be over with.

Jagged found him first.

"There he is," he growled, his only warning to them before he dove down, locked on the witch. Marinette clutched his horns tightly, pressing hard against the dragon. She was barely aware of Tikki diving back and grabbing her hair, using it as a lifeline as the air screamed around them.

Jagged released a furious roar and Marinette squinted up, watching through watering eyes as the blond witch jump and whip around to see the diving dragon coming for him. She watched as he turned and sped away, shouting something she couldn't hear over the rush of air, the beat of Jagged's wings, and his impatient cries.

They were almost upon him when another large mass tackled the dragon's side, sending them toppling away, and Marinette went flying with scream. Grunting as she hit and rolled on the ground, she lay stiffly for a moment, groaning from the toss. Faintly she could feel the ground shake and shudder beneath her, snarls, snaps, and growls filling the air as the two monsters fought and wrested.

"Marinette!" Tikki cried, squirming out of her hair and jumping down and patting her cheek. "Wake up! You need to get that belt! Marinette!"

She groaned, blinking slightly and turning to the struggle.

Her hunter was pushing at the dragon, a twisted smile on it's lips as it growled.

Jagged's jaws kept snapped, his body twisting and jerking as he struggled to get around the creature's hold, furious green smoke coming from the dragon's maw.

And there creeping up around them was Vincent Aza, grinning madly as he took in the fight.

"You finally showed!" he cried excitedly, pulling out a blank shard. "After all this time, you came to me!" Pointing the blank shard to them, he cried, "Out of the way beast! That dragon is all mine! It must only be him!"

A wild shot of green flames nearly hit him, and the witch scrambled to grab the shard that flew out of his grasp.

"Marinette," Tikki pleaded, wiping some dirt off her cheek.

Shakily, Marinette stood and stumbled to a near tree, grasping it as she took in situation, wincing as her body throbbed. "You got to get the belt from him," Tikki repeated, hovering near her shoulder and peering up at the Child worriedly.

"I know," Marinette managed out, watching the witch shout and scream at the two.

All he wanted was Jagged. None other would do.

Not that the two fighting creatures cared.

Glancing down at Tikki, she asked, "I got a good chance?"

"You got a good chance," Tikki echoed.

"Nothing is certain?"

"Nothing is certain."

Squeezing the round rim of the tree, Marinette took off, ignoring the sharp bruises and scrapes that protested against her move. She charged towards the witch, keeping her eyes on the ground lest he try and catch her. Tackling him, she sent them both toppling over, the glass shard sliding away from him and stopping, right in both of the creatures' view.

"No!" Marientte and Vincent cried as a pale blue light, almost white in color, sucked the two in. Jumping up, she scrambled to it, picking up the shard and freezing when she saw the two frozen in battle. The monster's arms were high up, ready to pound down on the dragon's head, and Jagged jaws were open wide, ready to snap at that soft stomach in read.

Narrowing her eyes, she moved to throw and smash the stone, only for a hand to grab her wrist and jerk her back, holding her up so her feet barely brushed the ground. "You stupid girl!" Vincent cried, holding her up above the ground. Marnette gritted her teeth as he held her, gripping her wrist hard as he glared down at her. "Because of you I got them both!" he screamed. "I wasn't supposed to have both! I don't want both!"

"They're not your's!" she snapped back, digging her nails into his hand as she tried to claw her way to freedom, her legs swung out, trying to kick the witch. Vincent kept her a safe distance away, shy out of reach of her legs.

"I'm going to trap you," he declared, moving for his satchel of shards. "I'll trap you, and melt you down. Secure that you'll never see the light of day agai-"

He squawked when something small and red flew at his eye. Dropping Marinette in alarm, he stumbled back, reaching for his small assailant. Taking advantage of his distraction, Marinette tackled him again, using the shard of monsters to cut into the belt.

"No!" he cried, reaching for her, only for the little red blur to attack his eye again, earning a yowl from the witch.

Marinette fled away, rushing off through the trees, not stopping till she tripped on a root and slid to the ground.

Hissing at the sharp pain in her knees, she scrambled up to a tree, checking the damage. Gingerly she touched the fresh, gritty scrapes, wincing at the bright red blood dribbling down her legs. Looking up at a faint, distant cry, she sat still, breathing hard as she tried to gauge just how far away Vincent was.

He sounded far.

Looking over, she spotted his little bag of shards, and the monster shard lying near it.


She jumped, looking up to see Tikki hover close, a big relieved smile on her lips. "You did it!" the fairy cried, diving down to hug her cheek. "You did it! It's done! You saved them!"

"I-I did?" she uttered dumbly.

"You did," Tikki reassured, rubbing against her cheek.

"B-but Vincent-"

"Isn't our trouble anymore," Tikki eased, floating away and going to the bag. To Marinette she explained, "There is a price going against a fairy. Going against me, he'll have the worst luck of his life. And his fate depends on it." Cracking the satchel open, she leafed through the shards, squinting down as she sought for those caged. "He'll never find us, even if he was close." She flashed Marinette an encouraging smile. "You did good. You were brave."

"It still hurts," Marinette whispered, slouching against the tree, earning a laugh from the fairy.

"We'll get those cleaned," Tikki promised, perking when she found the captured. Pulling them out, she bid, "But first, let's free them."

They agreed to free the humans first.

With one being a witch, there was a good chance that they could help with the two frozen monsters, just waiting to pursue their brawl. One specifically Tikki had her eyes on. "There's something I'd like to try with it," Tikki told her, eyes locked on the strange creature that was ready to pound down on Jagged. "But I'll need the witch's help."

They needed him free.

So the mysterious man was first in who got to be free. Marinette smashed his shard to the ground. In a burst of bright light, he stood and stumbled, the crow haired girl quickly catching him before he toppled and held him up.

Blinking dazedly down at her, he uttered weakly, "Myli?"

She shook her head, holding him steady as she answered, "No, Marinette."


"Maybe he should sit down?" Tikki suggested, floating close as she looked him over.

Marinette followed the suggestion, leading the man to a stump, letting him sit down. "You ok?" she asked, giving his clammy hands a squeeze.

"I, I don't..." the man mumbled, running a hand over his face.

"Do you know your name Child?" Tikki asked gently, resting a paw against the man's cheek.

"N-name?" he repeated, squinting, his eyes flickering about as he took in his surrounding. It almost felt like he was scrambling for an answer. "My name... Fred. Fred Haprèle... My Mylène, where's... where's my Myli?"

Tikki shushed him, nuzzling his cheek. Giving his hand one last squeeze, Marinette went to the other shard, letting the fairy comfort the man while she held up the other shard. The lovely dark skinned woman peered back, still frowning. Much like the man, she threw that shard down, and broke it, freeing the woman. Marinette caught her as she stumbled, flashing her a small smile as the woman blinked in dazed confusion.

"I got you," she eased.


"A friend."

Marinette lead her to another stump, keeping a hold on her hand. "You're Penny?" she asked as the woman sat down.

"I-I am," Penny confirmed, blinking at her, frowning.

"Your friend Jagged Stone missed you," Marinette told her.

"He did?"

"Yeah, he came to save you."


She turned, facing Tikki as the fairy floated over. Pointing into the woods, the fairy instructed, "There's a river over that way. Clean up and bring back some water for these two."

Marinette raised a brow. "With what?"

"You'll find something," Tikki promised, floating over to Penny and cooing soft as the woman started to slowly wake. Marinette got up and followed the fairy's instruction, discovering the stream like the little being predicted. And a bucket left by it. Picking it up and taking it with her in the water, Marinette scrubbed the sides clean of dirt as she stood facing the current, letting it wash away the blood and grit that dotted her legs and arms, and numb the sore scrapes on her knees.

Feeling the bucket was going to be as clean as it was going to get, she went back with a full pail, smiling softly when she met the wide eyed stare of the two adults, and the calm fairy floating between them. "Thirsty?" she asked them, offering the bucket to them.

Marinette sat close to Penny, letting the woman look over the shard that held the two monsters while she waited for the witch to be ready to help them. Since they revealed they had no idea where Mylène was, the witch was left alone to cope with his daughter's disappearance. Tikki didn't press for his help, and busied herself with looking Marinette over, eyeing every scrape and bruise she found.

"I almost want to go back to my spring," she murmured, frowning at each blemish. "Some of these will stay and scar."

"I don't mind," Marinette reassured, lightly running her finger over Tikki's head.

"I do," Tikki pouts, "it's always sad to see Children so battered."

"You're soft Ladybug," Penny voiced, tracing over the snarling dragon.

"It's my nature to care," Tikki returned, unbothered by Penny's jab.

The woman looked up, eyeing the moping witch with a frown. Tikki floated into her few, lightly scolding, "Give him a moment! He's just woken up after a few months, and woke to his daughter gone. A far as he remembers, she was just with him."

Leaning against the trunk of a tree, Marinette asked, "Any idea where she is?"

"Nope," Tikki sighed. "Not long after I blessed the bind between her and a boy named Ivan, she disappeared." Tikki turned to stare into the woods, frowning. "He's been very sad ever since."

Penny huffed aloud, pursing her lips.

"I know," Tikki said gently, turning her blue eyes to her.

"What's the plan?" Penny demanded, eyes locked on Marinette.

The noirette jumped and stammered out, "W-well, by the reaction of you two, it's likely both of them are going to be dazed when free. We use Fred to stop the monster. He's Mime right?" she asked the fairy.

Tikki nods.

"She said he can manipulate space with his imagination, I think. He restrains that thing and Tikki does whatever she wants to try. If it goes well, we'll all be reunited with our friends soon."

"If it doesn't?" Penny asked.

"We got two witches on our side," Tikki pipes in.

"I'm not much of a fighting witch," Fred calls out, moving to eye them over his stiff looked utterly exhausted.

"that's ok," Tikki said, floating over to him. "I just need that monster held still."

"What do you even plan to do with it?" Penny called to her.

"You'll see," she said cryptically, "if it works."

Taking the shard from Penny, Marinette drew near the witch, showing him the two raging purple monsters. "Are you ready, Monsieur Haprèle?"

Blinking at the shard, he sighed and hunched forward, running a hand over his face. "Yes, the sooner I do this, the sooner I can find her." He glared at the ground, grimacing.

Marinette took a few steps away, eyes locked on a tree looming across from her. "I'm going to throw it," she called out.

Penny slid away, leery.

Tikki flew closer to Marinette, ready.

Fred stood up, waving his arms as he faced forward, nodding to Marinette to free the monsters.

She threw it hard against the tree, and stumbled back when their large, hulking forms burst forward in a flash of light. As Marinette predicted, they paused, dazed and baffled from the sudden shift of scenery and reality.

Fred wasted no time locking onto the monster, pushing it back and keeping it still.

Blinking sharply, Jagged moved to snap at the monster, only for Penny to rush out, calling for him.

"Penn?" the dragon uttered, turning to her, green eyes widening in relief. "You're ok!"

"Yes you overgrown salamander! What were you thinking!" Her scolds flew over their ears as the others locked on the waking monster, struggling against the binds and snarling.

"Tikki?" Marinette pressed, slowly coming to stand behind Fred, who was shaking as he tried to keep the monster at bay.

The fairy didn't responded as she hovered over it, looking over the monster critically. "Keep her steady," Tikki called, going down closer to the creature.

"Hurry," Fred stressed, arms straining as he tried to keep the struggling beast contained. Tikki stopped over the monster, meeting it's three amber eyes. She remained stoic as they narrowed and it hissed at her. Her eyes stayed locked on it's head, specifically to a small, almost hidden black brooch attached/ to the blue tentacles. Diving for it, she pressed a kiss to the jewelry.

Pinkish red light flared from the monster, and all drew away from it in surprise.

When it faded, Tikki was floating over a small girl with wide confused amber eyes. She clutched at her worn jacket, looking over everyone before her as they gaped back at her. "P-Papa?" the girl whispered.

"Mylène!" he cried, rushing forward and scooping her up in arms in a tight, shaking hug. "Mylène! Bless the stars you're alive!" His voice was heavy with relief, soft cries bubbling out as he stammered and croaked and babbled. The girl echoed her father, face pinching up as she pressed against him, crying in relief and uttering words Marinette could barely made sense of.

Looking away from the two, Marinette reached forward, catching Tikki as she floated down into her palms.

"That was exhausting," the fairy sighed, laying back in her hands.

"What was that?" Marinette asked, running her thumb over Tikki's head.

She flashed the Child a small smile. "Healing and happy reunions fall under good fortunes." Sitting up, the fairy glanced at the embracing two from over Marinette's fingers. "The magic felt familiar, and it felt like a curse. I felt like I could break it."

"And you did," Marinette finished.

Tikki smiled, and settled in Marinette's palm, nuzzling the soft skin. "I did."

Eyeing the embracing family, then turning to glanced at Jagged and Penny, the woman clutching the dragon's snout in a tight hug while he rumbled happily, nuzzling her stomach. "You did," Marinette repeated with a proud, relieved smile.

Chapter Text

Tracing over the tender scabs forming over her scrapes, Marinette absently notes that it feels like leather beneath her fingers. Rough, ugly leather. Leather she was very tempted to pick at, see if she could remove that ugly blemish. Only just as her fingers twitched to probe, Tikki dove down and smacked her fingers, scolding, "Don't pick!"

Marinette pouted at the fairy.

Tikki crosses her arms and glares back. "It will scar!" she reasoned.

"I know," Marinette grumbles. She turned and stared out at her recently antiquated comrades. Either of the two parties still had yet to separate and regroup.

Father and daughter stayed close together, barely breathing a word to each other and simply holding the other. If any words were exchanged, they came in soft whispers.

The witch and the woman were the opposite end of the clearing, chatting animatedly with each other, throwing eye rolls and relieved scolds at the other as they bantered and lightly shoved at each other. But the relief that came off of them in waves was clear. They were happy to be together again.

Marinette sunk against the tree she was leaning against, sighing loudly.

She was the only to not have her reunion yet.

She glanced down, meeting Tikki's patient eyes.

One of two, she mentally corrected.

Reaching for Tikki, she rubbed the little being's head, earning a gentle coo from the fairy. Pressing against her finger and nuzzling her, Tikki bids, "Be patient, we'll reach him soon."

"I know," Marinette said. She cracked a smile, turning her gaze to the witch. "A dragon will make it faster."

Tikki made an agreeing chirp.

Marinette adds, "And you'll get an answer."

"That's the hope."

Sparing a glance to her comrades, Marinette absently runs her finger over Tikki's head, feeling her antennas curl and rise around her finger. She met the gaze of the girl that was her hunter. Starling her, the girl quickly turned away and hid behind her father. The older witch blinked at the motion, turning to Marinette and offering her a tight smile. In her lap observing them, Tikki murmurs, "She is very sorry."

"I know," Marinette said. "I'll talk to her soon. It seems she wasn't in control so, it's not really her fault."

"It isn't," Tikki confirmed. "That was outside her control..." Looking up at the human, she adds, "I'm glad you'll talk to her about it. It wouldn't be good for the Child to cling to something out of her control. She's not at fault at all."

Marinette nodded in agreement.

Tikki perked on Marinette's knee, turning to watch the approaching witch. Marinette followed her, meeting Jagged's eyes as he drew near. "How you two doing?" he asked, crouching down beside. His gaze settled on Marinette. "You flew off my back, right?"

Just the reminder had Marinette wince, her sides pulsing from where they were bruised. "Yeah," she confirmed, rubbing her elbow. "Just sore and bruised."

"You'll heal quickly," Tikki reassured, grinning. "A fast recovery is a lucky one."

Jagged snorts.

Marinette shared her grin slightly.

"You little bug?" the witch asked.

"I'm perfectly fine," Tikki reassured, bouncing in her seat as she turned to the witch. "Your friend?" She leant over, eyeing the dark skinned woman that was talking with the other two, the girl pressing closer to her father and hiding still.

"She's good. Glad that she's not caged anymore." He turned, peering at those that had been saved.

Licking her lips, Marinette asked, "Is something up Jagged?"

Turning back to the girl that helped him, Jagged admits, "I don't like that he got away." He bared his fangs at the two. "He should be burnt."

"His fate's decided," Tikki states, narrowing her eyes at him. "He'll have the worst luck of his life. That is punishment enough."

"It doesn't feel like it's enough."

"It is Child."

"So," Marinette cuts in, before the witch could continue to growl. "You'll still be able to help us get to Chat?"

"Yeah, we got a deal. You just got to tell me where to go. I won't leave either of you till you're at his side."

"And we'll be ready when everyone is," Penny adds, coming up behind them. Pointing back there, she said, "Those two need a little more time." Pointing down to Marinette, she said, "You look like you could use a nap."

Marinette pursed her lips. "I could keep going," she muttered.

"This is a good chance to rest," Tikki agrees, floating up. To the witch, she bid, "We'll depart tomorrow morning. That'll be a good chance for everyone to recover." Flashing them a smile, she dove by, flying towards the small family to talk to them. Sighing, Marinette leaned against the tree, pulling her sore legs up and loosely wrapping her arms around them. She jumped when Jagged shifted and sat down next to her, echoing her sigh and leaning back. He blew a dark cloud of smoke out into the air above. Marinette watched it drift up and disperse.

Considering the two, Penny settled down beside Jagged, muttering softly under her breath.

Marinette sat awkwardly for a moment, unsure of what to say.

Should anything be said at all?

"Hey kid."

Marinette gave a start, leaning over to meet Penny's sharp gaze.

"Thanks," Penny said.

Marinette smiled, and resettled against the tree, watching Jagged continue to blow out smoke.

When Tikki came back, the Child had dozed off, leaning over to rest on the witch's arm, oblivious to the quiet murmurs of the two adults sitting near her. Diving down, the fairy nestled up in the girl's neck, buzzing contently.

They'll see Chat tomorrow.

She'll get one step closer to Plagg.

Chat leaned heavily against his cell walls, trying not to slip and slide every time the cart went over a rock or some uneven ground. The end of his belt tail flopped and jerked, displeased and agitated from where it had been nailed to the center of the floor.

Chat echoed it, grimacing as he dug the heels of his boots into the wooden floor, trying not to slip around. He gritted his teeth and hissed when his elbow was rammed against the wall, sending uncomfortable tingled up his arms.

His claws were chained together, tightly wrapped and contained.

They weren't taking any chances with him.

Not this time around.

They were securing that he wasn't going to escape.

They were going to see him to the capital.

Chat grimaced, trying to adjust his hands so there was less stress on his wrists. But no matter what he did, he couldn't get comfortable with chains wrapped around his wrists. Pursing his lips, he allowed himself to slide towards the center, peering out to his only window and staring out at the waking sky, thirty minutes past the dawn.

He tried not to think about Marinette, on her own in the forest, with a monster shadowing her.

He tried not to think about the fact that she was defenseless.

Tried not to think about the fact that he has no way of getting to her and helping.

Tried not to think about how he had no idea if she was ok, alive, and well.

Tried not to think about how they'll probably never see each other again.

Despite his best efforts, he did. And he fretted. And whispered weakly, "I'm sorry."

Marinette woke, stiff and sore and throbbing.

Face pinching up in displeasure, she slowly eased away from Jagged's arm, stretching with a loud hum. And sent Tikki tumbling down into her lap. With a grimace, the fairy echoes her, stretching up before rubbing her face, trying to wake alongside the human child. Blinking down at her with heavy eyes, Marinette requested, "Water?"

With a single shake of her form, Tikki flashed her a big, reassuring smile, already awake and ready for the day. "This way," she softly bids, floating up and guiding the human. Marinette frowns after her and her ability to wake easily. Getting up and stumbling, she followed the fairy, trying to fight off her yawns. Stopping at the edge of a river's bed, Marinette dropped to her knees and splashed water on her face, shivering at the cold.

"You ready to see Chat again today?" Tikki asked, sitting beside the Child. Taking a leaf, she dipped it into the water, pulling it out carefully to balance the water. Then she started to sip it up.

"I am," Marinette confirmed, shaking her head and blinking the water out of her eyes. "Feels like it's been too long."

Tikki smiled. "I'm glad you'll be getting your reunion."

Marinette reassured, "And you will too." To comfort and reassure the fairy, she petted Tikki's head, running her forefinger over her head and allowing the antennas to curl around her finger.

"That's the hope," Tikki murmurs, pressing against that finger. Drawing away, she took another sip.

Withdrawing, Marinette cupped some water and brought it up to drink.

A squeak caught her ears and Marinette turned to see the girl that was her hunter was standing a little ways from her, staring at her with wide eyes.

"Good morning Child!" Tikki greeted, "How are you feeling?"

The girl's eyes flickered to the fairy, wary, then turned back to Marinette, then looked away. Marinette offered her a smile and waved. The girl just flinched once more. Marinette frowned while Tikki eyed the pair quietly. With a chirp, she jumped up, nuzzled Marinette's cheek, flew towards the other, flashing her a sweet smile, then dove away, leaving the two Children alone.

For a moment, the girls stood quietly, warily eyeing the other.

Offering a small smile, Marinette greeted, "Hey."


"How are you?"

"I-I'm g-good."

After another few moments of silence, Marinette stood, shaking her hands dry as she turned to the girl with a smile. "I'm Marinette," she offered, holding out her hand.

Blinking in surprise, she shyly took the dark haired girl's hand and shook it. "M-My-Mylène..." She looked down, biting her lips. Marinette gave her hand a reassuring squeeze. "I..." Mylène started.

"It's not your fault," Marinette cuts in, reaching for her arm and giving her a reassuring squeeze.

Mylène shook her head, sniffling. She allowed Marinette to pull her closer, allowed her to hug her and buried her face into the dark haired girl's shoulder. "I'm sorry," she whimpered into her shoulder. "I'm so sorry."

Marinette jugged her tighter, holding the sniffling girl.

Near them the stream trickled by, humming a soft tune for them to listen too.

When Mylène calmed down, she slowly withdrew from Marinette, sniffing loudly.

Marinette offered her an encouraging smile, not minding the damp heavy stain on her shirt. She pulled Mylène to the ground with her, cupping water and drinking deeply as water dribbled past her fingers. Mylène echoed her, sniffing still.

Licking her lips, she confessed, "I... I remember bits and pieces."

Marinette paused, turning to her.

"I remember grabbing you. I, I remember hun... hunt..."

"That wasn't you," Marinette eased.

Mylène gave her a scared look and frantically shook her head. "I, I think it was... I, I remember enjoying... being scary, able to, able to..." She gripped her worn shirt, trembling. "I was a monster," she whispered.

Considering her, Marinette softly asked, "Do you... do you remember how you..."

"K-kind of?" Mylène said. "The last thing I really, fully remember was visiting Paria with P-Père. A man stopped us, t-talking about getting a, a picture for us. An instant p-painting he called it. And, and lifelike. And..."

That was how she and her father had gotten trapped. Marinette grimaced, echoing Jagged's desire for that witch to burn.

"I, I remember waking up next to, to a man. I, I don't know who. It, it was dark. And, and there was a purple light and... I could've sworn I, I heard someone scream...m-maybe, maybe it, it was me? M-maybe someone else... maybe we, we were both screaming, I, I..."

Reaching for her, Marinette pulled Mylène into a hug, shushing her gently as she rocked them on the bank. "It's over," she said gently. "You're not going to hurt me. And that man, neither of them can get you again."

Mylène nodded stiffly, breathing shakily as she leaned against Marinette, gripping her wrist tightly with her clammy hands. "I'm sorry," she whispered, her voice high and frightful.

And just so broken.

"I'm so sorry."

Marinette just pulled her into a tighter hug, resting her head against the girl's.

They both watched the stream roll by, listening to it's soothing hum.

Mylène's father Fred was the one that came and found them. "We're about ready to go," he said, handing a handful of berries to both girls.

"W-we're going to f-fly?" Mylène asked nervously, rolling the berries in her palm.

"Won't be for long," Fred reassured, giving his daughter's shoulder a reassuring squeeze. "Ladybug has informed Jagged Stone on where they need to go, and that's home! We're going home Myle! It's close!"

She nodded shakily, frowning at the berries. "I... I don't know if I'll be able to stomach these though..."

"I don't either," Marinette agreed with a weak smile. Turning to Mylène she suggested, "How about we save these for after the flight?"

Mylène smiled shyly.

Fred grinned, looking between the two, before fully turning to Marinette. "Fred Haprèle, though I'm famously known as Mime. I thank you for helping us."

Marinette dunked the berries in her pocket to enjoy later, smiling as she took his hand. "Marinette Dupain-Cheng. I'm happy I was able too."

With a smile, he promises, "I'll remember it when I go back to Paria, and will thank you properly. But first... there's a matter the king needs to be aware of." He ignores the confused look of the girls as he looks away darkly. Shaking his head, he waves them to follow. "Purple Fang is ready to take us home."

Following him towards their camp, Marinette found that Jagged was already in his dragon form, and awaiting the girls. Penny was already on his back, set on is shoulders. Tikki was perched on his snout.

Mylène flinched back as Jagged's bright eyes turned to them. "You ready?" the dragon called.

"Mostly," Marinette said, drawing near the expectant dragon.

Penny scoffed from the dragon's shoulders. "You survive your first flight, you'll survive them all." She leaned down, offering a hand to the dark haired girl. Marinette took it, letting her pull her up onto Jagged's back and settling right behind her.

Behind her, Fred eased Mylène to the dragon, reassuring softly, "We'll be home soon. It'll be a quick trip."

"It'll be fine," Jagged adds, waiting as Penny helped the two on the dragon's back. Marinette gripped one of his spikes, still nervous at the idea of flying. Tikki flew over and settled on her neck, nuzzling her.

"We all settled?" Jagged called.

"As ready as the wind," Penny returned, settling behind Marinette.

Jagged's wings spread out and the dragon dipped low.

Marinette tensed, gripping the spikes as she readied.

It wasn't enough.

She flopped against the rough body as Jagged leapt to the sky, grimacing as her stomach flipped uncomfortably. As the dragon rose up, dipping and rising in the air, Marinette slowly sat up, searching for the village. She squinted against the shoving wind, frowning. She jumped slightly when Penny drew near, offering her a smile. "You're doing great!" she called over the wind.

Marinette smiled and nodded.

She was ready to be back on the ground.

Hovering for a moment, Jagged sought for the village, snorting smoke. Fred tapped his side and shouted out, pointing in one direction. Rumbling, Jagged followed the instruction, swimming through the air, wings pounding as he carried them. Marinette leaned out, watching the trees blur beneath them. She looked ahead, seeing the coming village bloom out.

Jittery and hopeful, she carefully crept forward on the dragon till she was on his head, blinking against the air as she looked out.

I'm coming Chat, she thought, squeezing the spikes on Jagged's brow in excited nervousness. I'm coming.

Jagged landed near the village, dispersing into his human form. Penny and Marinette hung back, within for him while Mylène and Fred went alone, eager to get back home.

Marinette stared after them, anxious and excited.

She was so close.

She was about to see Chat again.

And Felix was likely still there.

What if he was waiting for her?

What if Chat escaped and didn't wait for her?

What if he wasn't there?

What if she never saw him again?

What if-

Tikki shifted, nudging her neck and breaking her frantic train of thought. Meeting her blue eyes, the fairy asked, "You ok?"

"Yea," Marinette reassured. "Just, nervous? Excited? I, I don't know what to expect. The prince could be there."

Jagged snorts as he draws near, meeting Marinette's wide eyes. With a toothy smile, he said, "I can heat things up if you need me too."

"Don't," Penny snips.

Tikki giggled.

Setting a hand on her shoulder, Jagged pushed Marinette forward. "Lets get that cat." Marinette nodded, focusing on her breathing as they walked to the village, with Tikki settling into her hair to hide. Faintly she could hear the murmur of a crowd. Coming into view, Marinette stopped to take in the town she had been taken from, soaking in the comfort of familiarity. She smiled when she saw the crowd gathered around the Haprèles. They were wide eyed, their voices wonder filled and relieved. They reached for the small family, touching them like that could confirm that they were really there, that they were back.

When a familiar large boy came, he gaped at the two, like he couldn't believe that they were there.

"Ivan!" Mylène cried, breaking away from the crowd, bawling as she raced for him. "Ivan!"

His lips moved in a shock whisper as he raced to her, grabbing the small girl and holding her tightly. Loud and relieved sobs roared from the two as they clutched each other tightly, jumbled words pouring out as they embraced.

"He was so worried about her," Tikki whispers, "I'm glad they were able to reunite."

Marinette agreed with a smile, just watching the crowd, listening to them talk and laugh and babble.

It was uplifting.

It hurried Marinette towards town, eager to find Chat.

Behind her Jagged and Penny trailed, eyeing the crowd warily.


The crow haired girl paused, meeting the wide blue eyes of a familiar witch. "Rose?" she called back.

The blonde's face broke out, bottom lip quivering. "Marinette!" she cried, rushing away from the crowd and tackling the startled girl. She babbled and cried into her shoulder, squeezing her tight as she rambled.

"It's ok," Marinette quickly reassured, hugging Rose back. "I'm sorry, it's ok. I'm ok."

Rose drew away, sniffing loudly as she declared, "I-I th-thought you, you were dead!"

Marinette flinched, pulling Rose back another hug. "I'm ok," she reassured, "I'm ok."

"I'm glad to see that you are."

Marinette looked past Rose to see Juleka draw near, a frown on her features. Marinette winced. "Jule-"

The black haired girl rushed forward, wrapping her and Rose up in a hug. "Don't scare us like that again," Juleka muttered angrily.

Marinette chuckled dryly, wrapping her up in a hug as well. "I'll try."

Rose sniffed, burying her face into Marinette's shoulder.

Drawing away slightly, Juleka said, "We should head home." Meeting Marinette's sky blue eyes, Juleka said, "It'd be best if you weren't seen."

Blinking, Marinette nodded, letting the two girls drag her away while the village focused on the Haprèles. When she looked back for Jagged and Penny, she found them gone.

She missed being inside a home.

Marinette sighed in relief as she sat in a plush comfy chair. It was so nice not to lean against a tree, or on the hard the ground. She hummed happily when Rose set a steaming bowl of soup before her, and a cup of steaming tea to join it.

"Thank you," she breathed, eagerly taking the bowl and sipping long and deep. She closed her eyes in relief, soaking in the flavor and the welcoming heat pooling down her throat and seeping into her hands.

Sitting across from her and fretting, Rose fiddled with her fingers tirelessly. She stopped only when Juleka took her hand. Sparing a glance, Rose sucked her lip then asked, "Are you ok?"

Marinette paused, peeking at them over the rim of her soup bowel. Licking her lips as she lowered, she offered them a reassuring smile. "I'm ok," she reassured. "The monster didn't hurt me. You don't have to worry about it. It was taken care of."

Juleka blinked. "What happened to it?"

"A..." Marinette trailed, "a hunter chased it away. I don't think it's ever coming back."

"And you're ok?" Rose pressed.

"I'm ok," Marinette said.

While Rose sighed in relief, Juleka puts in, "The prince was looking for you."

Marinette grimaced.

Rose flinched.

"He was?" Marinette hums, taking another sip.

Juleka nods.

Rose pipes,"I think he was worried for you. You were taken..."

"He took your stuff," Juleka adds.

"Of course he did," Marinette sighed, unsurprised.

Fiddling with the table cloth, Juleka asks, "Is it true?"

"Juleka!" Rose hissed, turning nervous eyes to Marinette.

Juleka stared down at the table cloth, sighing before she uttered, "Chat Noir...?"

Marinette blinked. Then stared down into near empty bowel. "He told you?" she asked. "The prince?"

"He mentioned him," Juleka confirms. Rose squirmed beside her. "And you."

After a considerate moment of silence Marinette confesses, "It's true, Chat Noir, he's my friend." She looked up, meeting their surprised gazes. "I... I was lost when I met him. And he, he was in poor health. I helped him, and, he's offered to help me." She reached for her tea, taking a slow sip. "We're good friends. And, and I did hide this from you. He's... we've been sharing the guest bedroom you gave Rose."

"That extra food..." she murmurs.

Marinette nods. "Went to him." She glanced at them, then looked away. "I'm sorry. We had no ill intentions! Just, just trying to get by." Marinette droops in her seat, pushing the tea cup away. "I'm sorry."

The two girls stared at her, contemplating. Rose shifted, reaching for her. Taking Marinette's wrist, she offered her a gentle smile. "It's alright," Rose eased. "No damage done."

Marinette gave a thankful smile. Only to drop it as she frowns at them. "Where," she starts, "where is..."

The two girls frowned and Marinetre feared the worst. "Tell me he's not-"

"Oh no!" Rose reassured. "The prince didn't execute him."

"But he may not have long," Juleka puts in. "The prince is escorting him to the capital, where the king will judge him."

Marinette stiffened. "Chat is..."

"Going to Paria,"Juleka confirms.

"They left this morning," Rose said. "Very early."

Alarmed, Marinette stood. Juleka and Rose echoed her, stiff and nervous. "I need to go," Marinette rushed out, hurrying out of the kitchen.

"But you just got here!" Rose cried, chasing after her, "And you look exhausted! And you're covered in bruises and scrapes!"

"I need to save him," Marinette hurried out, racing out of the witch's home. "Thank you Rose! Thank you Juleka! I hope I'll see you again one day!"

"Be careful!" Rose cried after her, stopping at her doorway, fretting.

"I'm sure it'll be fine," Juleka reassured, coming up behind her, pulling her into a hug.

"I hope so," Rose murmured.

Marinette scrambled around the village, scouring for Jagged. On her neck, Tikki buzzed, impatient and frantic. "Where is he?" Marinette mutters angrily, stressed and fretful. He couldn't have left them. The deal was that he wouldn't leave till they were reunited. He had to be here somewhere!

Tikki shifted, tugging on her hair. "That way!"

Marinette whipped around.

The fountain.

The one she and Chat walked too.

She could see him and Penny, standing right next to it, staring into the water. Heart pounding, Marinette raced to them, fear rippling through her. "Jagged!" she cried, turning the witch to her. He blinked in surprise at her twisted, fearful expression, eyes glistening with moisture. "We need to go! We need to go!" She reached for him, grabbing her arm. "Please we need to go now!"

"Woah there kid," he pipes, resting a hand on top of her own. "What's wrong?"

"He's going to Paria!" Marinette cried, shaking. "They're going to kill him!"

Penny stiffens beside them. "Paria?!" She turned to her comrade. "Jagged, that's a big bite..."

"A deal was made," Tikki pipes, peeking past the dark hair, sharing the girl's nervousness. "They left this morning, we could beat them."

"Please," Marinette pleaded.

The witch frowns as he turns to Penny.

She frowns back.

And Marinette shakes as she grips him, numb to Tikki as the fairy nuzzles her neck.

They had to save him.

They had too.

Chat had long given up trying to stay in one place.

Numbly he laid still, sliding along the floor and bouncing with the cart when it went over rocks and slid over holes. He gritted his teeth and growled slightly as bruises started to grow from were he bumped against the floor. Echoing his agitation, his nailed tail twitched and flopped, useless trying to get free. Chat grimaced at the roof.


He was actually going back to Paria.

After so long of trying to stay out of it, he was being dragged back.

Probably for his final time.

He wonders how King Gabriel was doing.

What was he going to do when he saw the vile Chat Noir brought to his doorstep.

Probably grimace at him, and give him that big disappointed stare.

Chat pursed his lips, considering what was going to happen to him when he got to Paria. The least awful thing he could think of was being locked up in the darkest deepest cell the king had.

The worst...

Chat didn't want to think about it.

He rolled to his side, cringing when he slid and banged his head on the wall. Muttering a curse, Chat sat up, digging his heels into the floor, trying to ground himself. Were they taking a worn, winding trail on purpose?

His last days of comfort and they couldn't even get a smooth ride?

Glancing over to the window, he pushed himself to it, digging his heels to the floor.

His thoughts drifted back to Marinette, fretful and tired. He hopes she made it back home, that she was living happily with her family, that she got away, that she didn't come across any other issues.

At least she wasn't in the kingdom's clutches.

Sighing, he fell to his side, adjusting his claws till he could sink one into the wood, weakly trying to ground himself.

This made him miss the plush bed, the tickle of her sweet scent in his nose, the softness of her hair against his cheek. Closing his eyes, he envisioned her. Peach pale skin, the pale stars freckled over her nose, light sky blue eyes that he could get lost in.

He'll miss her.


A roar erupted out, jerked Chat up. He yowled when the cat came to a sudden stop, jerking him about. He tried to scramble to the window, tried to see what was happening. Why was there a roar? What was going on?!

He heard frantic shouts outside, heard the pound of feet, and could pick up the faint thunder in the air and the hiss of fire. He could feel the heat outside, and the cart rattled around him. Panicking, Chat jerked at hia binds, trying to get free.

He paused when he heard Felix shout, and gasped fearfully when the cart shuddered, the roof groaning above as something heavy leaned on it. His ears fell flat on his head as he stared up fearfully.

Just what was this?

The cart shudder, and Chat yelped when he slid back as the cart started to tilt. Thunder rattled the walls, a deep growl shook Chat's bones. The shouts of the guards grew faint, and Chat got the sense of movement around him.

The cart had been picked up and he as on the move.

Carried off by something.

Chat pressed and jerked against his binds, frantic enough to try and bite at the chains wrapped around his wrists. He had to get out. He had to escape. He wasn't going to become some monster's fodder.

Only is time was short.

Dark claws sunk into one of the walls, shattering it as it fisted. Chat drew away, hissing. The monster rumbled, tilting the cart and trying to dump Chat out. Yelping, Chat grunted when his nailed belt tail jerked him to a stop, holding him above the ground. Before he could try and struggle, the cart was jerked up and down till the nail came loose and Chat fell to the ground.

Spinning about, he awkwardly crouched down, rounding around to face the monster with a furious hiss.

He faltered a little when he saw a dragon glaring down at him.

And his claws were still tied together.

Before he could move to flee away, a familiar cry reached his ears, stiffening him in place, disbelief crossing his expression.


He turned, seeing Marinette rushing to him, dark hair whipping around her in black waves.

Gaping, Chat sat up, gawking as she came near.

He almost couldn't believe her to be real.

He didn't think he would see her again.

And yet, there she was...

"Chat!" she cried again, tackling him in the tightest hug he's ever experienced.

"M-Mari," he stuttered. "Marinette? You... you're here?"

He actually saw her again.

She came back into his life.

"Yes," she said, drawing, her smile crooked, eyes gleaming as water crinkled in the corners. She cupped his cheeks, rubbing her thumb over them as she beamed. "I'm here you silly cat."

"M-Marinette," he chokes, pressing back and nuzzling against her shoulder, breathing in deeply as her fingers tangled in his hair. She pressed back, dampness tickling his scalp. With a broken grin, he managed out, "Hi."

She laughed. "Hi," she returned, her voice heavy with relief.

Chat shared it, rubbing against her, purring.

She came back.

She was in his life again.

She was back.

Chapter Text

For the longest time, they sat still, just soaking in the touch of each other's body, the heat of their prsence, their smell, the feel of their breath, and the slight pound of relieved hearts. Just soak in the fact that the other was there.

That they were finally there.

Finally reunited.

She was here, holding him tight.

He was there, leaning into her, breathing her in and the reality that she was here, that she was holding him and was happy to see him and...

It was unbelievable.

"Am I dreaming?" he asked her shoulder, earning a breathless giggle from her.

"No," she said, drawing away, sky blue eyes shining. "You're not dreaming Chat."

"Feels like I am," he murmurs, unable to look away.

"Feels like I'm going to gag," a deep rumble came, jarring the two out of their reverie. Chat quickly twisted around, pressing his back to Marinette as glared at the dragon. He could not believe he forgot it. The bright eyed beast blinked at him, humor gleaming in his eyes before shaking his head and creeping closer.

Marinette hugged Chat from behind her, murmuring quickly, "It's ok, he's a friend."

"A friend?" Chat repeated, baffled and not tearing his eyes away from the purple beast.

"I made a deal with him, I help him get his friend back, he helps me get you back."

Chat falters as the dragon stops near them. Eyeing the beast warily, he turns to her, surprised. "You came riding on a dragon to save me?"

Blinking in surprise, she shrugs sheepishly, curling and tugging at her loose hair. "Uh, kinda? But not really? Jagged sorta dumped me off his back before he swooped in on the guards and got you."

"You probably would've been tossed off kid," the dragon said, clicking his jaws. "Then that'd be another rescue." Snout tilting to the side, the dragon eyed Chat Noir critically. "So you're the infamous Chat Noir. You're smaller than I thought you'd be."

"You are a dragon," Chat grits out, leaning against Marinette. Partly to lean away, partly to push her away. He did not like being near the big reptile.

"You're so skinny," the dragon goes on, "and I thought you'd have fangs, and fur."

Chat made a face. "I'm not a werecat."

"So you aren't." The dragon grins, then nods to him. "Shall I melt those chains off you?"

Chat and Marinette tensed.

"Um," Marinette utters.

"No," Chat snarled, ears flat on his head.

The dragon smiled toothily. "How about I bite them off?"

"How about you stop making the dangerous... kid nervous?" a woman piped in, rubbing her back as she shot the dragon a dark look. "And don't throw me off like that next time!"

The dragon snorts. "Not taking any chances Penn."

Rolling her eyes, she turned to them, eyeing Chat Noir oddly. "Um, well, we can try and loosen that chain. If Jag here can't bite it off, uh..."

"If you get it loose," Chat cuts in, "I can destroy the chain."

The woman took an instinctive step back.

Rumbling, the dragon murmurs, "Let's find a stick then." Penny didn't need to be told twice, scampering off for a stick. Moving slow, the dragon followed after her, leaving the two teens alone.

After a minute staring after them, Chat turned and nuzzled Marinette's shoulder. "How did you come across a dragon?" he asked her sleeve.

"He saved me from a crazy witch, and from that monster," she explained, fingers coming up to comb and play with his hair. His ear twitched when she brushed it, and Marinette didn't resist the urge to trace the soft material, feeling it press back against her fingers. She smiled when he leaned further on her, relaxing.

Only to quickly stiffen against her.

He drew away, looking up with nervous eyes. "The monster-"

"Is taken care of. Won't bother us again," she eased quickly. She swept his bangs back, repeating, "It's gone. It's not going to bother us again."

He droops, forehead coming to rest on her collar. "I'm sorry," he utters.

"It's not your fault."

"I'm the one with abilities, I, I should've-"

"Some things are just out of your control," she said, resting her cheek on his head and giving his form a squeeze.

Taking a shuddering breath, Chat utters, "I know." He knows that very well.

"Here you go," Penny said, eyeing Chat nervously as she held a stick out to Marinette. The dark haired girl took it, giving the woman a thankful smile before turning to Chat, slipping the wood between the chains and trying to squirm it loose. Loose enough for Chat to grab the metal and disperse it into dust. When they looked up, Penny was right next to Jagged, gripping his arm tightly.

The dragon just observed them, intrigued.

Chat ignored them, rubbing his wrist and soaking in the freedom now.

Marinette threw the stick away, getting up to come near the two. "Thank you," she said.

The dragon leaned forward, lightly bouncing his snout against her head. "Thank you kid. You be careful now."

"Especially," Penny starts, only to silence herself when Chat turned to glance at them.

Unbothered, Jagged asked, "Ladybug?"

Tikki squirms in Marinette's hair, peeking out and flashing them a smile. "Take care," she bids, "and thank you."

Jagged gave another affectionate nudge to Marinette, lightly pressing against her shoulder and touching the little fairy. Penny scrambled onto his shoulders, eyes locked on Chat as he observed them. Sparing one last glance at Chat, the dragon spread his wings and took off, leaving the two alone once more.

Grimacing, Chat crept up behind her, apologetically confessing, "The prince still has your stuff."

"It was just stuff," Marinette said, waving it off. She could get those items again, if she really wanted too. She's sure they could. If she was able to make it this long, she could wait longer. Sighing, she turned to Chat and wrapped her arms around his torso, startling him as she leaned on him. Awkwardly, Chat wrapped his arms back around her, returning the hug. After a moment of hesitation, he nuzzled the top of her head and purred, the end of his belt tail coming to wrap around her ankle.

"You really are sweeter than I thought you'd be."

Chat jerked away, blinking in surprise as he stared down at Marinette. At what was sitting on her shoulder, peeking up at him through her hair. The fairy tilt's her head as she looked him over. Chat stared back down, tense. Marinette frowns. "Chat?" she asked.

"You have a fairy," Chat said, tense.

"Uh yeah," Marinette said, sparing a glance down at Tikki.

She didn't seem offended, staring up at the cat.

"Why do you have a fairy?" he pressed, not tearing his gaze away.

"You had a bad experience with a fairy," Tikki notes. She drew away when Chat grabbed for her. Ignoring Marinette's protests, Chat drew her close, drawing away from the little red being. Tikki didn't follow, peering back at them patiently.

"Chat," Marinette tries, giving his arm a squeeze, "it's fine, she just wants to talk to you."

"Fairies don't like to talk," he said.

"I do," Tikki said, floating down and resting on a rock. "I'm-"

"Ladybug," he cuts in, a slight growl in his tone.

Tikki nods. "I am. And I just want to talk."

Chat narrowed his eyes down at her, tense.

Marinette frowned up at him, keeping still for him. She spared a glance down at the fairy, but Tikki just peered at Chat. Marinette rubbed his wrist soothingly, waiting for the tension to to slip away. Finally, the cat asked, "Talk about... what?"

Shifting a little closer, Tikki said, "I want to know where Chat Noir is. The true Chat Noir."

"The little black fairy," he said with a bite.

Tikki leaned forward. "So you did meet him?"

Chat hissed. "I did. I met him for a few seconds before he cursed me to be this."

Tikki looked surprised.

Marinette tensed under his arms. Giving his arm another squeeze, she asked, "What, what happened?"

Tikki floated up, but didn't draw near. "Why would my Plagg curse you? Why would he give you his power? Make you Chat Noir?" She frowned. "What happened Child?"

"I don't know!" he snapped. Letting go of Marinette, he drew near the fairy, ears flat on his head. "I don't know! I, I was just... just minding my own business when he came down on me! Explain that to me Ladybug! Why would he do this to me?!"

Tikki droops, resettling on a stump. She rubbed her arm, frowning. "I don't know," she confessed. Then eyed him, frowning as her eyes watered. "You don't know where he is, do you?" she asked softly.

Chat faltered, grimacing.

Marinette came around him, scooping up the fairy and ignoring Chat's uneasy twitch. She rubbed her thumb over Tikki's head, soothing, "It's ok. It'll be ok."

"Marinette," Chat voices.

"She helped me too," she said, peeking at him. "She helped me get to you, I'm, I'm going to help her get to her husband back. Get Plagg back." Frowning down at the fairy, she asked, "You really don't know where he is?"

He grimaced at her, his tail twitching. Finally, he said, "...I don't."

In a shy voice, Tikki asks, "Can you please tell us what happened?"

Coming around to eye the little being in Marinette's hands, Chat considered the two before him. Licking his lips and looking away as he took a shaky breath, he murmurs, "I was seven... Seven years old when I met Chat Noir."

The day was becoming quite dragging for young Adrien Paon.

His mother was working with the king, offering magical consult with some of the deadlier witches running rogue in Franae and was too busy to spare time for him today.

The prince was wrapped up in his studies, nose buried in a thick book.

And the queen was currently giving him quite the stink eye.

He pouts slightly, leaning on the table, his head balanced by his hand.

By the request of his mother, Adrien echoed the prince, eyes skimming over the book set before him by the queen. All adults thought it be best if he kept up with studies beside Felix. Only no matter how many times Adrien read over the words, they wouldn't process in him mind. His thoughts drifted to the garden outside, vibrant and waiting to be played in and explored. His whole being was itching to hop out of his chair, and scramble out of the stuffy library for the garden outside.

Only the regal Amalia kept her cold silver eyes on him, silently daring the witch's son to hop out of his chair.

The seven year old knew that the queen didn't care for him, or his mother; she'd jump to any chance to patronize them.

So by his mother's plea, and Adrien's own wish to be good, he sat in his chair, bored and jittery and struggling to read the words he didn't care to read right now. He spared a fast glance at Felix, half hoping, half expecting that he was as bored as Adrien was.

He wasn't.

The pale blond was fully engrossed in what he was reading.

Adrien couldn't stop the sigh.

And the queen pounced.

"Is something the matter, young Paon?"

Adrien jerks, wincing as he slowly looked up to her. "N-no?"

Felix glances up at him.

Amalia narrows her frosty eyes. "You sure, my dear?"

Adrien winced at the tone.

"There's nothing," he said, shaking his head.

"Then back to your studies," she clucks.

With a forced smile, Adrien did as he bid, trying to will himself to read and remember the words laid out before him. Only they just passed over his gaze like water. Not sticking in his head at all, no matter how much he glared at the words. He sighed again, quieter this time, and spared a fast glance at the prince.

Felix kept on reading, ignoring Adrien and his silent pleas for a break.

For something more fun and entertaining than this.

The political history of Franae...

He wasn't even sure if he was going to become Franae's ambassador when he got older. He could end up being Felix's magical adviser, even if he himself didn't have any powers, he knew a lot of magic. Came with having a witch for a mother, and her willing to let him read her books.

Those were far more interesting than this.

The works and wonders of fairies, what they made, what's scattered all over the lands.

The laws and lives of witches, civilized and rogue.

The mystery of Limbes...

Maybe he would explore Limbes. See if there was a truth that there was a world on the other side of it.

A world with no magic.

It was such a strange thought.

No witches, no fairies, no dragons...

No magic.

How would anything work?

How would anything get done?

How would they know there's danger around without an evil eye to warn them?

How would they know where to go or get what they want without a pigeon feather to guide them?

How can they find sanctuary without glamours?

Do ladybugs even grace them? Give them happiness and peace and good luck?

It baffled Adrien how such a world could exist and function. He wanted to see how it did. He wanted to see what was different.

But that'd be hard if he was pressured into Franae politics.

His mother murmured he may not mind when he got older, but for now, Adrien just couldn't see it.

He wanted adventure, to go beyond the castle walls, to see a dragon, to see Limbes and it's frightening timber wolves. Maybe even meet a fairy one day...

There was a squeak of a door that drew three heads to the door. A servant shuffled by it, informing, "Th-there's a witch that's here to see you, Your Highness."

Queen Amalia perked, a smile blooming over her red lips. "Wonderful!" she proclaimed. "I was starting to think he wouldn't arrive."

"Who?" Adrien couldn't help but ask.

She gives him a dark look, biting out, "No business of yours. Just keep to your studies."

Rising up, she stalked past the boys and into the hall, eager to see the mysterious witch.

Felix and Adrien frown after her. Turning to the pale blond, Adrien asked, "Why do you think there's another witch here?" In castle Effiaa, only one witch was aloud here, in the king's counsel. A witch he trusted.

Unless witches were requested, there was only one here in Paria.

That was currently Adrien's mother.

"Did the queen summon him-"

"I don't know," Felix huffs, pulling the book closer.

Leaning in his seat to eye the door, Adrien hops out of it and rushes to the window to peer out, eyes drawn wishfully to the garden below. Felix calls out, "You should keep to your studies."

"I'm not going to learn anything," Adrien returns. "I'm not in the mood to study."

"It doesn't matter if you're not in the moo-"

"It does," Adrien said. "I'm just going to waste time and not pay attention."

Felix sighs loudly. "You'll get in trouble."

Uncaring, Adrien pressed closer to the glass to get a better look. Catching sight of a cat wandering towards the leaning tree, Adrien grinned. Ignoring the stink eye the prince gave him, Adrien slipped out of the room, eager to catch the cat.

Rushing out of the room, and ducking into a hidden servant's hall, Adrien tore down it to the garden.

Bursting out and nearly stumbling to the ground in his rush, he paused, looking for that cat.

He spotted the orange feline resting in the higher branches of the leaning tree, oblivious to the boy below. Excited and impish, Adrien crept up along the leaning tree, trying to be as quiet as possible.

He was nearly upon the cat when he heard the queen.

"It's so nice of you to come, Monsieur Moth."

There was a chuckle, from a man Adrien didn't know. "It's hard to ignore the summons of a queen."

Frowning , Adrien shifted, trying to see the two, desperately curious to see who this... Moth was.

He could see the queen, her silver hair gleaming in the afternoon light. She looked as poised and proper as ever, with a stiff smile on her face.

He could see hints of the man, a dark purple cloak, with a silver cloth tracing up tot he neck. But otherwise Adrien couldn't pick out any other details of him. Adrien tilts his head about, truing to see this witch better.

"I've heard many a great things about you," the queen continues, walking slowly on and drawing near the leaning tree. "How persuasive you are, what great power you have."

"You flatter me with praise, Your Highness."

"My praise doesn't come lightly or easily, you should be flattered. I have also heard that you desire a seat on the council?"

"I do, but I believe Bluebird holds it, does she not?"

"For now, though I question Bluebird's... loyalty."

Adrien frowns. Bluebird was his mother's witch title. Why were they talking about her? Her loyalty?

Weren't she and the king friends?

"Bluebird has been in the service a long time now, but lately she seems especially secretive. I'm thinking it may be time for her to... retire. That it may be time for a new witch on the council."

"A fresh perspective," Moth agreed.

"Indeed, but His Highness will need to be convinced."

"I have confidence in our cleverness."

"His Highness is not an easy man to appeal or fool, Monsieur Moth. You'd be arrogant to think so. I still don't know how Bluebird was able to appeal to him."

"Pardon me, Your Highness, but you insult my capabilities. I can be very appealing."

"We shall see, Monsieur Moth."

Frowning, Adrien crept a little forward, trying to see them better. They were just under the leaning tree, close that he could almost see them both... Only, Adrien had forgotten the cat. Coming near, he startled it. With a yowl, the cat jumped and dove to the adults below.

Adrien cringed at the curses, and gripped the wide limb tightly, praying he wouldn't be noticed.

He would be in so much trouble.

Only the adults never looked his way.

He saw them turn their gaze to the ground.

The queen gave a sharp intake. "What is that?!"

Adeien leaned out, trying to see what scared her.

"A powerful item," Moth said. "You're fine so long as you don't touch it."

"Why do you have that?" The queen sounded mad.

"There are some dangerous witches out there, Your Highness. Now, I should have this fixed before I see His Highness."

"...Don't make me regret inviting you, Hawk Moth."

The two shuffled away, leaving the boy alone in the leaning tree. Heart pounding, Adrien dropped down and fled back inside.

He didn't the black scar marring the grassy earth.

"Felix!" Adrien called, rushing up to the prince and grabbing the startled boy's hand. "Is, is Her Highness going to get rid of Mama?!"

The prince blinked down at him. "What?" he asked.

"Her Highness," Adrien stressed. "She, she's going to get rid of Mama! I heard her!"

Felix squints down at him, trying to tug his hand free. "That's ridiculous."

"I heard her!"

"There's no talk of retiring Madame Bluebird."

"I heard her talking!"

The prince sighed. Tearing his hand free, he explains with a slight scolding tone, "For a witch to be retired, it takes the king's agreement. Even if Her Highness wants Madame Bluebird gone, she's going to need the whole council's agreement for that if she can't get His Highness to agree. But that's very unlikely since Madame Bluebird is so well liked. You're worrying over nothing Paon."

Adrien pouts at him, but nods, a little relieved that his mother wasn't in any danger of being removed.

"Besides," Felix continues, "Only chance of that happening is if the replacement witch would better provide the kingdom, someone powerful and known... who is this witch Her Highness wishes to have on the council?"

"Uh, Hawk Moth?"

Felix blinks. "I have never heard of Hawk Moth. I doubt he would replace Madame Bluebird."

"Ok," Adrien relents.

Satisfied, the prince hurried away before the younger boy could grab him again.

Still unsure, Adrien turned around and hurried to his mother's office, eager to bring this to her. Running down the opposing hall, he took a sharp right and sped down. He stumbled to a stop when he met up with the king. He stiffened and gulped when meeting the man's frosty gaze. "Young Paon," the king greets.

"Y-Your Highness," Adrien nervously returns.

Nodding, the king bods, "No running in the halls."

"Of course Your Highness, sorry."

The king nods and walks by the nervous boy. Adrien slowly goes on his way, watching the man over his shoulder. When he was sure he was at a safe distance that he wouldn't be heard, he tore off once more.

He did not see the king stop, giving him a frown as he watched Adrien run away. Rolling his eyes and sighing, the king walked on.

Skidding to a stop before her open office, he cried, "Maman!"

"Hello mon soleil," she greeted, not looking up from the parchment she writing on. With a smile, she notes aloud, "You've been busy today."

"Her Highness is going to replace you!" Adrien warned, coming up to her desk, and peeking over the rim.

Celine Paon paused and looked, meeting her son's nervous eyes. Setting the feather down far away from Adrien, she said, "Her Highness wants me retired?"


Blinking at him, she chuckled.

"Mama!" he whines. This was serious!

"It's alright mon soleil," she gently eased, waving him into her lap. "It's alright. Her Highness and I may disagree time to time, but I doubt she'll retire me. I do good work."

"But she's got a replacement!" Adrien insisted, clambering into her lap and leaning against her with a worried pout.

Wrapping her arms around him, she lightly pressed a kiss to the back of his head, rocking them back and forth. "I don't see myself retired," she reassures. "Not through the queen."

Adrien leaned back, eyeing her with a frown. "Did you see yourself retired at all?"

His mother just smiled. "You should play with the prince more," she said instead.

Pursing his lips at her, Adrien didn't press and instead comments, "But he never wants to play."

She just chuckles, and nuzzles his head.

Taking his mother's words to heart, for the next few days, Adrien tried not to fret over what he overheard. Felix didn't bring up any talk about Bluebird getting replaced by Hawk Moth. It seemed like his mother wasn't going to be retired.

He was starting to relax again.

He studied with the prince, as best he could; he played the garden, looking for critters and poking about the flowers; and leafed through his mother's books, dreaming of adventures and coming across the magical beings she had recorded from her life and lore.

He was eyeing one legend now, in an empty sunny hall.

Chat Noir, the evil fairy and spouse of the benevolent Miraculous Ladybug.

All illustrations of him that Adrien found portrayed him as a large, twisted black cat like monster. The drawing of him in his mother's book was no different. Chat Noir was a large hulking figure on the page, ink black, with slanted evil green eyes, and smoky like flames coming off his being. Cracks of decay spread out like webs on the page under his large, thick paws, leaving an angry trail behind him.

Adrien stared down at the monstrous being in nervous wonder, intrigued and wary.

The Monster of Franae, bringer and maker of misfortune and suffering.

He lurked in every shadow, watching humans from the darkest corners.

None had any way to know when or who he was going to strike.

Poor, wealthy, old, and young; all were prey to the elusive Chat Noir.

It made Adrien wonder if there was a way to know if Chat Noir coming for someone. Would Miraculous Ladybug send out a warning? She's thought to be caring and loving to humans, why would she let her husband prowl and hunt around?

But... Chat Noir was a legend, making his attacks rare, but definitely known.

Adrien eyed the ghoulish cat, staring back into those green orbs. He almost looked ready to leap off the page...

A hushed growl tickled the air and Adrien looked up in alarm.

Only there was no large, nightmarish cat looming him.

There was nothing before him.

Sitting up, Adrien set the book in his lap, looking up and down the hall.


...Though he timidly notes that the sun was over taken by dark clouds, blackening the hall he sat in.

Licking his lips, Adrien warily calls, "M-Mama?"

Nothing answered.


There was a soft whistle of the wind outside.

Shaking his head, Adrien decided he was being silly. Just as he moved to dive back into the lore, he paused when he saw something black in front of him. He blinked down at the little creature floating in front of him, a dark grimace set on it's features as it hugged itself, looking like it was in pain. Tensing for a moment, Adrien watched it.

The creature glared back.

Relaxing a little, Adrien drew the book closer to him. Warily, he asked, "Are some kind of magical rat?"

Those green eyes narrowed, pointed ears falling flat down, offended.

"Magical cat...?" he tried again, trying to appeal to the strange little being.

It's tail twitched.

Leaning against the wall as he eyed it, Adrien decided maybe it'd be best if he got Maman for this. "Well then," Adrien starts, starting to slowly rise, only to freeze when the creature shifted, eyes locked on him.

Adrien stared back, tense.

"W-what do you want?" Adrien demanded.

The creature drew away, another growl coming out of it as green eyes narrowed.

Scared, Adrien turned and ran away, going as fast as he could down the hall and away from the little creature.

Only to fall forward, a cry bursting put of Adrien's lips as a burning pain erupted in the middle of his back. Fire seared through his veins, tearing and eating away at his being and wrapping around him hotly. With blurring eyes, he could see black bubbles dance and dart around him, spinning frantically about. Adrien twisted and jerked on the floor, crying and grunting as the agony licked over him.

In a rush, it stopped, leaving a hot throb pulsing over his body.

Breathing hard and dizzy, he looked up to see the little creature floating above. There was a murmur above is head, words Adrien couldn't hear. The creature turned away and disappeared, leaving the shuddering boy in the hall.

Adrien didn't know how long he lied on the floor, his breathing uneven, his body twitching. Minutes. Hours. He had no sense of how much time went by. And when he finally had enough of will to sit up, he stiffened at the floor below.

It was black under him, with angry, dark cracks spreading out like choking vines on the floor.

The thickest mass of cracks cake from where his hands were.

Just like that image of Chat Noir...


He looked up, seeing his wide eyed mother staring down at him, her mouth hidden behind her hand. "By the stars," he heard her mutter, scared and tense.

Adrien shook at her fear, eyes watering. That was fear directed at him. He knew it. "M-Mama?"

"Mon soleil," she returned, approaching him slowly.

He reached for her, only to freeze when she jerked away. At his hurt look, she quickly said, "You cannot touch me, mon soliel. Not with your hands. Don't touch anything or anyone with your hands."

Adrien shook, crumbling on himself, resting his hands in his lap as he sniffled and teared.

His mother drew near, wrapping him up and pulling him into a hug. Adrien buried his face into her shoulder, gripping the slowly burning edge of his shirt as he cried. She shushed him, pressing kisses into his hair. "It'll be... I'll make it better. I'll make it better," she promised over and over again, running her hand through his hair as she pressed kisses to his brow. "I'll make it better..."

"Better was the ring," Chat said, only his hand up for Marinette and the fairy to see. She sat pressed at his side against a tree, the fairy perched on her knee. "After we left that evening, she spent a few years making this. She had bartered with so many witches and smiths..."

"Making you the closest to Chat Noir that you can be, allowing you to touch without destroying," Tikki notes aloud, floating about as she took in the ring. She touches it, grimacing, "This was a hard make."

"I know," Chat said, drawing away from the fairy.

He allowed Marinette to lace their fingers, giving him a slight squeeze. Licking her lips, she nervously asked, "What about your... Actually, I, you don't-"

"I don't know," Chat said, shaking his head. He leaned over, lightly rest on her shoulder. "It was about last year I woke to find her gone. I don't think she could stand being on the move anymore." He didn't add his fear that she left because of his power, that he'd one day misuse it.

It's something he still feared.

Reaching up, Marinette swiped his bangs, trying to ease the cat. To Tikki, she quietly asked, "Could you remove these powers?"

Tikki shook her head. "This, this isn't a curse or a hex, not like that monster."

Chat perked at that, sparing Marinette a curious glance.

Tikki continued before he could ask or Marinette could explain. "Adrien," the fairy called, turning his leery green eyes to her. "Plagg didn't curse you with his power, he gave it to you. At least, most of it. Only he can remove it."

"Why?" he demanded, leaning down to the fairy, growling. "Why did he give this to me?!"

Tikki gave a weak shrug. "I don't know," she confessed. "Fairies... giving a Child our magic, it's done only if we're desperate. Only if something bad is going to abuse our power and we can't settle with being reborn to escape."

Marinette frowns. "Aren't fairies hard to find?"

"Largely," Tikki confirms, "but when we are found, and our magical signature is picked up, we, we can be hunted and tracked down. Our power can be taken and abused. The best solution is to hide away our magic, typically in a Child, due to your kind being numerous. You would be hard to track and find. We choose one we think would handle the power well till the danger passes. Then we can reclaim it." Tikki frowns worried. "Something scared Plagg enough that he would hide his power away in you." She faltered, then glanced up at Chat, regretful. "I'm sorry you had to go through that."

Ears flat on his head, he leaned back, resting his head on Marinette's. He allowed her to pull him into a hug, pressing her face into the crook of his neck.

Tikki flew away, leaving the two Children alone to themselves.

And alone for herself, to think about what she learned.

Sitting against the tree, the watched the clouds slowly roll by.

"Adrien," Marinette murmured, beckoning a twitch of Chat's ear. He leant away, glancing down at her curiously. She blushed and tugged her hair, uttering, "You're real name is Adrien?"

He snorts lightly, jabbing his shoulder into her's. "Did you think it was Chat?"

"It's what you and everyone else went by."

"I suppose so," he agreed, chuckling and lightly running his claws through his hair. "I guess I've been known as Chat Noir for so long, it might as well be my name." Everyone else seems to have forgotten Adrien Paon. Now it just seemed to be he was Chat Noir. That's who he was.

"I like the name Adrien," she said, grabbing a leaf and twirling it.

"Mama did too," he said.

Humming, she turned to him, watching him droop slightly, staring off into the surrounding forest. She stuck the leaf in his hair, making him jump when it crinkled next to his ear. He turned to her, surprised.

She stuck her tongue out at him.

He stuck his tongue back at her.

Tired grins broke out between them, and they chuckled.

"Can I call you Adrien?" she asked, loosely hugging her knees.

He gave a flustered smile, leaning against her as the belt tip came to tap her ankle. "Call me whatever you want My Lady."

Chapter Text


That was where she needed to go next.

Paria, in the castle Effiaa, that's where Plagg had been last seen.

Even if it may be eight years too late, it was the only lead Tikki had right now.


He had been last seen in Paria.

But what was he doing there?

What could he not escape from?

What scared him enough to force his magic on a Child? And one so young?

Tikki frowns, glaring at the rising moon.

The stars were conveniently quiet tonight, not offering the fairy anything on this discovery.

Then again, stars could only see what the night sky provides.

They could not see what happens in the day, and they could not see what happens inside buildings and caves and under canopies.

They probably didn't know what scared Plagg enough that he would do this.

They probably only knew half the struggle the boy went through, limited on telling her due to his elusive nature.

Tikki droops down further into the muddy bank she sat on, watching the water stream by, shining silver in the moonlight. Something was going on, some mischief was happening in Franae that would bode ill for all.

Especially when after Plagg's magic.

That would be the worse magic to get a hold of.

All the damage and misfortune that could be spread... they were lucky that Plagg had managed to find such a soft hearted boy to give his magic too. Though she's sad to see what it put him through. The latching had been fast and sloppy, leading to poor situation of the Child needing that ring.

If Plagg hadn't rushed, that ring wouldn't have been needed.

The pain and solitude wouldn't have been so bad.

Turning, Tikki glanced over at the two Children, huddling up against that tree, sleeping soundly.

She would have to have that ring destroyed once Plagg claimed his magic back.

There can't be an echo of his power lying around Franae.

Just as this threat can't be left unattended.

Grabbing a near leaf, she dipped it in the stream, catching a bit of water and bringing it up for a sip. She hoped her Child would have safer travels now. And continued to stay with Chat. It'd be nice to locate him once she got Plagg back.

Savoring the drink, she glanced up at the stars, considering the twinkling lights.

She sent them her silent wish for safety in their travels of the coming day.

She was going to be reunited with Plagg no matter what.

Despite the separation, it seems like things weren't going to change.

Marinette's internal clock chimed in her head and she was roused by a slow coming dawn. Blinking heavily, Marinette took in the woods around her. It softly chirped and buzzed back, slowly waking with her. Humming, she rubbed her cheek against her pillow, giving a start when she felt it move. Sitting up and looking over, she found she had been slumped over on Chat, who was still out and awkwardly leaning out on his side, enough that he would topple over from a single push.

Leaning back over, she rubbed her face against his shoulder, taking the moment to appreciate waking up next to him again, feeling his firm frame against her, the warmth coming off of him, the familiar smell of forest, rain, and leather.

She missed this.

A shadow passed over her face and Marinette cracked her eyes open. She caught sight of Tikki darting down, berries grasped tightly in her little arms. She set them down on a broad leaf, adding to the growing pile.

Smiling, Marinette mumbled, "Good morning."

Tikki pauses, looking up to see her Child eyeing her sleepily. Smiling back, the fairy echoes, "Good morning! Did you sleep well?" She turned her amused gaze to Chat, so very close to toppling over to the ground. Marinette leaning on him wasn't helping the cat.

Marinette made a happy hum, leaning more on Chat and successfully toppled him over.

He made an unhappy hum, but doesn't rouse.

Tikki giggled.

Marinette didn't move, staying slumped over the cat. Waving to the berries, Tikki bid, "I got breakfast."

"Thanks," Marinette yawned.

"But I think I'll have to grab more," the fairy decides, peering at Chat. "He's too skinny for his age."

Chat gave a grumpy growl, shifting about till his back was to the fairy. Marinette sat up and stretched, letting him move freely, before slumping against the tree. She glanced down at the small pile of berries. "I can help you get more."

Before Tikki could agree, Chat jerked up, turning wild, sleep filled eyes to Marinette.

They stared at him in surprise.

He continued to leer at Marinette.

"Nah," Tikki voices. "Stay. I don't think he's ready to be apart yet."

Snorting, Marinette reached for him, scratching the top of his head. Chat slumped forward, purring as he tilted into her scratch. "I wouldn't have gone far," Marinette lightly scolds.

"It's fine," Tikki reassures, floating up. "It won't be much longer. And no trouble!" She flew away before Marinette could respond.

Shuffling, Chat drew near, burying his face into the crook of her neck, purring as she weaved her fingers through his hair. Resting her head against his, she stared out towards the near stream, not seeing it as she contemplated the big question.

What to do now?

She got Chat back.

She was still missing her stuff.

She was still being sought for throughout Franae.

Plagg was still missing, and there was the mystery of why he gave Chat his magic.

She didn't really know what to do next.

Hide away with Chat?

Try and get her stuff back?

Or just renew her journey? Her purpose?

Or... or just accept the maybe reality of just settling here? Open up a tailor shop, make a life, let Chat hide away there for as long as he wants.

...She could try and go back through Limbes. See if she could make it, hopefully see her parents again.

So long as the Bourgeois family didn't discover her.

Tikki flew back, dropping more berries down. "What are you going to do?" Marinette asked her.

The fairy paused, turning to them and considering the Child. She answers, "I'm going to go to Paria." Adrien stiffens against Marinette. Tikki continued, "It's where Plagg was last seen, it's my only lead. It may be too late but, it's worth checking out."

"By yourself?" Marinette voices.

Chat blows hot air against her neck, rubbing his face against the crook of her neck like he was shaking his head no. Don't ask her. Don't get involved. She just continued to weave her fingers through his hair, trying to comfort him.

"I'm not going to ask you to go to Paria with me," Tikki states. "It's not safe."

Marinette gives a start. "Didn't you say it was safer to travel with a human? Which is why you asked me?" And with a fretful frown, she asks, "And what if whatever got Plagg got you?"

Tikki looks sheepish. "It is. And maybe, yes. But Paria... I can't ask you to take me to Paria."

Chat shifts against her, murmuring an agreement. "Don't go there."

"Why not?" Marinette presses, ignoring the cat as she sat up, frowning down at Tikki. "If you're worried about the prince seeing me, if it's a big city, it's very unlikely he would see me. Very unlikely anybody would recognize me."

"Maybe," Tikki agrees. "But there's still a chance. And I can hide better than you could. And I'm small and fast. I could scope out Castle Effiaa better than you could." Marinette opens her mouth to argue, only for Tikki to quickly cut her off. "I'm sorry Marinette, but really, the deal between us was getting to Chat Noir. The arrangement has technically ended when this Child shared his tale. I have a lead on where Plagg is. It may be old, it may not matter anymore, but it's a lead and it's where I'm going, alone."

Marinette frowns.

Tikki puts out, "I am the fairy of good luck. Very likely nothing will happen to me."

Sighing against her shoulder, Adrien sits up, running a heavy claw over his face. "Good luck can run out," he mumbles.

The fairy is surprised. "I wouldn't think you'd support her joining me to Paria."

"I don't," he huffs, eara flat on his head, "but she always does what she wants."

Marinette gives him a shove.

Tikki sighs and shakes her head. "You don't understand Marinette, it really, really, really isn't a good idea to go to Paria. For either of you."

Adrien growls. "I wasn't going to go."

"Why can't I?" Marinette demands, ignoring the scolding pout Adrien shoots her, like she shouldn't even be considering going to Paria.

"If I get caught, that person will have good luck till I pass on. Though my ladybugs can send out an alert that would have a trusted witch helping me. And a lot of witches are inclined to fairy services. And being so spread out, my bugs would be hard to control. So if there was a chance I could get caught, there's a chance of escape for me. You, if you're discovered in Paria by the royal family, that, that can be quite a catastrophe."

Adrien and Marinette send her an odd look. "How?" Marinette asks.

"It's due to where you come from, and Children's irresistible curiosity."

Adrien turns to her, frowning. "Where you're from?" he echoes.

Marinette tenses. "Uh..."

Tikki turns her gaze to Chat Noir, considering the blond. He turned to her, expectant. Tikki waves to Marinette, stating, "That is up to her to share."

Adrien turns back to her, frowning.

Marinette tugs at her hair, nervous.

Sighing, the cat reassured, "You don't have to tell me."

She looks at him, surprised, before looking down and shaking her head. "No... you, you have a right to know. I, I want you to know. I'm, I'm from Limbes. Er, I came through it."

Chat stiffens beside her, turning to gape at her in surprise. She offered the cat a tight smile, tugging at her hair nervously. She hurriedly babbled, "I, I was told by a witch in the woods to, to not tell anyone. It was who I got the pigeon feather from. Ramier. He told me people would do bad things if I told and..."

"You're from Limbes," he whispers, awed.

Marinette flinches, threading her hair in slight nervous agitation. "Ye-yeah."

"That's, that's why you were so tight lipped, sharing only so much..." he trails. Why she was always so unsure of him following her home.

If she did go home, she'd have to go through Limbes.

A dangerous journey, it was a wonder how she made it out the first time on her own. "The timbers didn't attack you?" he asks, surprised.

She shakes her head. "I never saw one."

"And it's likely you'd never seen one," Tikki puts in, plucking a berry and popping it in her mouth.

"What do you mean?" Marinette asks as the two Children turned their gaze down to the fairy.

"You are rare," Tikki states, "your match is here. You'd have to come here to be with him. Limbes is aware of this, it allowed you passage."

Adrien tenses at the mention of Marinette's match, then turned away with a grimace. He didn't give his comrades anything when they turned to him curiously. Tail twitching absently, he asks, "Why can't her match go through Limbes to be with her? Why did she have to pass through?"

"Two reasons," Tikki states, sitting back. "One, I needed her help. Help finding you." At his surprised look, Tikki said, "You're very hard to track down, Chat Noir. Always on the move, evading my ladybugs. And I've been looking for you for nearly eight years, trying to find my Plagg."

He growls, looking away.

"Two," Tikki continues, "Marinette has a better chance than her match."

"A better chance?" Marinette repeats.

Tikki nods. "This world and your home are... two sides of the same coin. You come from a world of science, Marinette. You have natural laws there, laws that can be harsh and unyielding, and so controlled. Here in this world, where magic is unpredictable, adaptable, creative, open... it'd be a harsh reality. A difficult transition for your match. It could've left them broken."

Marinette flinched while Chat grimaced.

So if he had indeed followed her home...

He didn't want to think about the possibility.

"This is why you shouldn't be discovered dear Child. It would spark a quest in Franae, in all of Irth. To try and cross Limbes, try and see your world. Not only would Limbes not allow this, but... it would be very shattering for pretty much anyone that successfully crosses."

"How," Marinette licks her lips, "how come I, I can come no issues?"

Tikki smiles. "You, you're a creative child. You can adapt to magic easily. And it would welcome you. Life here would come a lot easier to you here." Tikki's smile drops, her antennas drooping. "But it won't be if you're origin is discovered. You would be probed and pressed by so many, trying to get an idea of what your home is like, and may try to incorporate some of your science here in Irth. Not all of it will settle well here. If at all."

"And that could happen if you go to Paria," Chat voices. If she got caught.

Marinette frowns, plucking the edge of her shirt.

"You two should go and hide," Tikki pipes. "Stay in one place if you can so my ladybugs can find you. Chat, Child, stay with Marinette. If I find Plagg, he can take his magic back. You can be normal again."

Adrien sucks in a sharp breath at that, staring at the fairy, wide eyed.

"And you go to Paria alone," Marinette notes aloud with a frown.

Tikki nods.

"...Is it really that likely for me to be found?" Marinette asks, peering down at the fairy.

"Marinette," Chat pleads.

"It's very slim," Tikki admits, shuffling. "It's the prince and a few knights who know your face. The chances of coming across them in Paria... I still don't want to risk it, Child."

"I still want to help you get Plagg back," Marinette said.

"And you did," Tikki reassures. "You've found me to a clue, a lead. You helped me find Chat Noir, you gave me the last location Plagg was seen. You did help me. Our deal is technically done, dear Child."

"But you-"

"I'm five thousand years old," Tikki said with a slight chuckle. "I can make it on my own. It's not ideal, but I can make it."

Marinette purses her lips.

Chat leaned over, burying his face into the crook of her neck. "I can find us a place," he said into her shoulder. "We'll stay together and safe this time."

Marinette shakes her head. "No," she decided, "I, I'm going to see you reunited with Plagg."

Tikki blinks and Chat casts Marinette a wary look.

"It was exhausting and stressing not being with Adrien, not knowing if he was ok." She looked away, cheeks red. Then she turned to Tikki, determined. "You saw me reunited with him. We both saw friends and family reunited. I want to see you reunited with Plagg."

Tikki looks surprised, then frowns. "But the risk-"

"Then I just won't be seen," she cuts in. "You said it yourself, the chance is slim, and it's only a small handful that know my face."

"You'll leave Chat alone again?" the fairy asked.

Marinette opens her mouth, then closes it with a frown.

Chat shuffled, grimacing. "I'll... I'll go," he said, turning twin blue gazes to him. He looks away, belt tail slashing behind him. "I don't want to be separated again either. And I'm not going to let you go to Paria with just a little fairy."

"You'll be surely recognized," Tikki warns.

"I, I can blend in, it'd be a little risky, but... it's doable."

"You don't have to," Marinette said, taking his claws and lacing their fingers together, giving them a squeeze.

He squeezed back, claw tips lightly resting on her knuckles. He said, "I'm not leaving your side again." To Tikki, he stiffly informs, "But, I will need a new change of clothes."

The fairy tilts her head, considering him. Then nods. "You two stay here," she bids, "I'll be back with what we need, what'll help us get to Paria."

Marinette beams.

Chat frowns. "You'll get everything?" he repeats, skeptical.

Tikki smiles, eyes gleaming. "Let's just say I'm feeling lucky."

Lucky she was.

While Marinette went for a quick bath in the stream, and Chat prowled off to hunt; Tikki had returned, with a few items, new clothes, and a horse, with all items stashed away into the saddle.

The last one baffled Marinette a lot, scrambling to slip her clothes onto her soaking form as Tikki guided the brownish chesnut beast to her. "Where'd you get a horse?!" Marinette wondered as she drew near.

"I suspected that Jagged's attack had left them missing a few things," the fairy bid, giggling sweetly as she patted the horse's snout. "Funnily enough, this one's name is Lucky!"

"Lucky," Marinette repeats with a slight snort, offering her hand to the big beast, letting him sniff her. She spared a nervous glance to Tikki. "I'm not much of a horse rider..."

"He's a gentle soul," the fairy reassures. "He'll be kind." Tikki fluttered to the saddle bag, tugging out a few articles of clothing. Flashing Marinette a smile, she proclaimed, "New clothes for you both! And some money!"

"From the prince's party?" Marinette asked, pulling out a shirt, a shirt a bit too big for her.

Tikki nods. "I tried not to grab anything too fancy." Though winces at the shirt size. "Sorry," she offers. "That's the smallest I could find. All of them are but..."

"It's ok," Marinette eased, "I can probably make this work." She didn't have anything to sew with, but she could make some crude adjustments. It'd probably would get them a few looks but she could make this work.

"Back," Chat called, dropping into the clearing with a scowl. "Wasn't able to get anything." He trails to a stop, green eyes locking onto the horse. "Where did the horse come from...?"

"Tikki brought him," Marinette answered, coming his way, considering the cat.

"His name is Lucky!" the fairy adds.

"Lucky," Chat repeats with a slight scoff in his tone.

"Arms up," Marinette orders, before tossing the shirt over Chat's head. He mewed in surprise, wiggling till his head popped out, hair messier now. He blinked at Marinette in surprise, while the crow haired girl ignored his baffled stare, tugging at the shirt hanging around Chat, seeing what needed to be tightened. "Lucky," she mutters, "you don't need much adjustments."

'Where did this come from?" he ask, letting Marinette haul the shirt off his head. He shook, letting his hair floof up.

"Tikki," she answered.

"Of course."

"Well," she bid, "I just need to make a few adjustments, and we should be good to go to Paria."

Chat nods, humming slightly.

Pausing, she turns to him and asks, "Have you ever..."

"Ridden a horse?" he finished.

She nods.

He rubbed the back of his neck. "I've ridden a pony..."

She sighs, a sheepish smile on her lips. "We'll figure it out."

He chuckles. "We will," he agrees.

"You look good," Tikki reassures, smiling as she watches the Child tug at her clothes, frowning.

Marinette glanced down at the baggy trousers, pursing her lips. "I'm going to get looks..."

"They didn't have any dresses on them."

"I know," Marinette said. "But it's a bit frowned upon for a girl to wear trousers."

"Can't be helped," Tikki bid. Looking to the other side of the clearing, she called, "Are you done Chat?"

"Ye-yes." Came the shaky reply.

"Well let us have a look!" the fairy said, floating up and waving Marinette to follow. Only no Chat came out into view. The girl and fairy exchanged a frown.

"Adrien?" Marientte called, drawing a little closer. "Is there a problem?"

"N-no..." came the answer from the shadows.

"Then come out!" Tikki said.


"Yes?" Marinette prompted.

"I, it's... I'm not wearing the ring, er, I mean, I am wearing the ring but, but I'm..." he babbled, then trailed.

Marinette blinked, eyes widening in realization. He wasn't Chat. Technically, this was her first time seeing Adrien... the boy beneath the mask. Licking her lips, she reached out, "It'll be ok Adrien. Come on out."

She heard him shuffle in the trees.

"I want to see you," she beckons.

She saw him move, saw the gleam of his green eyes peering back at her, bright against the shadows of the forest.

She smiles warmly, clasping her hands together behind her back, patiently waiting for him to come out. Slowly, he slipped into the light, wearing the new clothes Tikki provided, nervously fiddling with a silver ring on his finger, looking scared that it may just fly off his finger.

She sucks in a slight breathe as she looked him over, soaking in Adrien Paon, the boy underneath Chat Noir.

He was as handsome as ever. Even without the dark attire, she could still see that this was her Chst. His hair was still messy, full of leaves and twigs that would have to be plucked out. There were little nicks on his chin and forehead, little patches of dirt that had to be wiped away. There were no cat ears on his head, his pupils were round and human, no claws on his fingers, and no twitching tail hanging behind him.

He looked entirely human.

Unless one knew what Chat Noir looked like, he wouldn't be mistaken for the feared hellion.

"M-Marinette?" he stuttered, unnerved by her silence.

She smiled warmly. "Sorry," she offered, drawing near, stopping when he tensed. "Adrien," she said, taking in the unmasked face to the name.

He blinked back at her, licking his lips as he lightly flushed. He repeated with a nod, "Marinette."

Her feet carried her closer, barely noticing how his wide eyes stayed locked on her. Stopping before him, she slowly reached up for him. He froze, making her pause for a moment. He didn't move away from her, and Marinette gently rested her hand on his cheek, feeling it uncovered and unmasked. She traced over the skin in wonder. Warm, soft skin flared underneath her fingers, and Adrien took a shuddering breath at the contact. "It's weird," he murmurs, an awkwardly laugh tickling his words.

"Good weird?" she asks, lightly rubbing her thumb over the rise of his cheeks.

He nods, closing his eyes and leaning down, letting her fingers trace the free skin, soaking in the feel of it, skimming along each and every rise and dip she could find. Adrien Paon. This was Adrien Paon, the boy under Chat Noir. She slid her hand up, running through his hair, finding it still as soft and tangled as ever. She absently plucked away leaves and twigs, finding it a little weird when there weren't any ears to block her.

He cracked his eyes open slightly, eyeing her, watching her as she continued to take him in.

She meets his gaze, offering a small smile, whispering, "Hi."

He returns it, a little smaller than hers. "Hi," he echoes.

Slowly, he reached back for her with his bare human hands, stopping inches from her face. He spares a nervous glance to the silver ring loosely hanging on his finger, swinging slightly from his movement. He almost withdraws when Marinette grabs his wrist, bringing it to cup her cheek. He stiffens slightly at the feeling her skin, feeling the warmth, the curve, and softness for the first time without gloves or claws int he way. She smiles encouragingly, silently telling him it's ok. She's ok. They were both ok.

He took a shaky breath and she released his wrist, dropping her hands and clasping them together to let him explore, let him take in this feeling for the first time. His eyes grew wide in wonder at the feeling of her skin beneath his fingers, of seeing nothing happen to her. He was touching her, with his bare hand. He gulped, licking his lips nervously. Shakily, he rubbed her cheek with his thumb, traced over her freckles, glided along the rise of her eye brows, brushed her bangs, and slid his fingers into her free, tangled hair.

"You're very soft," he utters, his tone wonder filled.

She snorts into his wrist, cheeks going pink. "I don't know about that," she said.

"I think so," he said, withdrawing from her hair and reaching for her hands, cupping them gently, rubbing his thumb in the arcs of her palm before coming to trace along her fingers, her needle pricked fingers. "Very soft," he repeats. He brought her hands up, pressing a gentle kiss to her knuckles, while he laced his fingers with her other hand. His was so much larger than hers. He could cover her hand. And she fit so snuggly against his palm.

It felt right.

She blushed, dipping her head down, trying to hide her pink cheeks. "Flatterer," she jabbed lightly, feeling him smile against her knuckles.

Clearing her throat, she honestly tells him, "It's the greatest pleasure to meet you, Adrien Paon."

He blinks, blushing slightly as he grinned. He liked his name on her lips. "The pleasure is all mine, My Lady."

Tikki sits near, observing the two with a knowing smile.

Adrien had insisted being Chat again when they got ready to depart.

"I don't want to risk it," he said, easily moving around in the dark attire, trailing behind Marinette as she came up beside Lucky. Tikki was already seated on the horse's head, waiting for the Children to clamor on. He reasoned that it would be so easy for the ring to slip off, that he would end up accidentally burning Marinette. Even if he longed to keep up the touch, ungloved with no claws in the way, he'd rather not risk hurting her.

He could stand cut off a little longer.

Especially if they were successful in getting Plagg back, and he reclaimed his magic.

He'd be Adrien Paon again.

He wouldn't hace to hide anymore.

Avoid towns and villages, fearing the chance he may shrivel them.

He wouldn't have to sneak around to be with Marinette. They could go in public, no fear of being seen.

It was such a strange thought...

He wanted it to be a reality.

He wanted it badly.

"Just be sure Chat won't be seen," Tikki bid as Marinette stopped by the horse, grimacing at the high saddle.

"Need help up?" Chat asked, amusement lacing his tone.

"You know I do," she returned. The stirrup was too high for her height, and none of them knew how to lengthen it. Chat's claws gently wrapped around her waist, waiting for her to be ready. She gulped a little at this, reaching for the saddle.

Only horse she ever knew was Chloe's, and it was an equally nasty beast.

It had thrown her off when she tried to climb onto it, much to the amusement of her Madame, who had originally implored her to ride the ivory beast, full knowing what would happen.

She's fearful that the same may happen.

"Come on," Tikki bwckons. "This'll be the fastest way to Paria."

Marinette nods, and Chat reassures, "I got you." Grasping the edge of the saddle, she bounced slightly before reaching for the stirrup and trying to pull herself up. Chat quickly lifted her up, helping her ease into the saddle. She tensed for a moment, half expecting Lucky to toss her off. Only the stallion stood still, letting her get used to the height, and the firm, bony body beneath her.

Tikki smiled encouragingly.

"Steady?" Chat asked.

Marinette nods.

"I'm coming up." Following her bounce, he pulled himself up behind Marinette, getting on with only a little struggle. Marinette squeaks, gripping Lucky's mane to keep herself steady as Chat got comfortable. Lucky shuffled a little beneath them, rumbling at the two awkward riders.

Chat settled, his chest pressed against her back, and his arms came to wrap around her waist, mindful of his claws and grip. Marinette leaned back against him, shaking a little as she gripped the reins.

Tikki smiled encouragingly, nodding her approval. "To Paria!" she proclaims.

"To Paria," Marinette echoes, awkwardly tugging at the reins. With the lightest nudges, Lucky turned towards the light pull of the reins and moved forward, going slowly so his tense riders could get used to the lull and sway of his walk. Tikki sat on his head, eagerly staring ahead.

She was coming, Plagg.

She was going to find him.

...She just hoped she wasn't too late.

Chapter Text

At the first glimpse of Paria, Tikki had dove into the saddlebag and Chat pulled the ring away from his knuckle, letting Adrien Paon sit behind her, stiff as a board, utterly nervous to go back to Paria, utterly nervous to be him, and to have the ring hang a midge loosely on his finger. He unconsciously tightened his grip on Marinette's waist, eyes locked on the city gates looming over them. She rubbed his hand, reassuring as she lead back against him. As the life of the city started to fill the air, Marinette reassured, "It'll be ok."

She felt him gulp, then drops his head to her shoulder, resting his forehead to her shoulder and his cheek on her neck.

Marinette continued to rub his hand, partly trying to ease herself as she lead Lucky on, mindful of the busy street starting to bloom before them, the volume of it seemingly rising as they slipped past the gate. Adrien tensed again, trying to shrink behind her as the voices and sounds bounced all around them.

Marinette kept steady, leading Lucky down the road and continuously rubbing his hands, biting her lip in concentration as they slowly weaved around the crowds.

It'll be ok, she told herself, a repeating mantra, it'll be ok.

The chances of them being found and recognized are slim.

No one was even looking at them.

They were going to be ok.

The shadow of Paria swallowed them as they crept down the road, and Marinette tugged Lucky's reins to a stop, peering at the capital in wonder, standing in a mostly open square.

The buildings were huge and squared, with large, pristine white walls, and gleaming, lovely windows that ate up most walls. And gargoyles. She could see all sorts leaning over the rims of buildings, mouths open in frozen shouts, glaring down at the pedestrians below. There were some that looked like lions, some that looked like goats and goblins, some that looked like dragons; all hanging over the edge, silently snarling at those below, gripping the buildings tightly.

And the buildings themselves. Some stood taller than she could ever imagine a building to be, easily dwarfing the Bourgeois' manor. Of course, the biggest of them was Castle Effiia, seated on the highest hill of Paria, casting the biggest shadow over it's Marinette peered at it, she could see it being almost a whole day trip to it.

"This place is huge," she whispered aloud, awed.

Adrien shifted behind her, startling her a little when he licked his lips and his tongue brushed against a bit of bare skin. She felt his shy, amused smile against her shoulder. "Well, this is Paria, the pride of Franae, and seat of the king."

"Well excuse this country girl," she grumbles lightly, giving his hand a light tap. She urged Lucky on, startling Adrien slightly when they jerked forward. "Sorry," she offered, as his tightened grip laxes slightly.

"S'ok," he murmurs, blwoing hot breath down her back, simply focusing on his breathing, trying not to be too aware of the surrounding walls.

The people, so many people...

"You ever been out in these streets before?" Marinette asked, slowly guiding Lucky around, looking for an empty street they could slip in, giving them a chance to adjust to this setting.

"Yes, though, we only came to shop at dawn, and typically, the streets were pretty empty then."

"Anything open at dawn?" she asked.

"Little shops witches and alchemist would like to go too."

Adrien shifted, peeking out at their surroundings.

No one spared them a glance.

No one recognized them.

"You," he started, "you've never been to a city before?"

"Nope," she said. "Spent my whole life living in that little village. The farthest I've been from it has to be wondering around the surrounding woods."

"...What do you think?"

"It's big," she said, "big and busy."

He hummed, closing his eyes, focusing on the heat of her form. "Think you might want to live here?"

"No," she stated. "It's a little too much for me. I rather the little town Rose and Juleka were in."

He smiled. "I like that little town more too."

Smiling, she asked, "Want to go back to it when Plagg removes his powers?"

Adrien was quiet, not responding as he just leaned on her. And Marinette didn't press. Instead, she focused on turning Lucky to that first empty street she saw, a perfect place for them to get a breather and sort themselves. The noise dimmed the further they walked down, and Adrien gradually relaxed a little more behind her. Satisfied that they were far enough for the crowd, she pulled Lucky to a stop.

Slowly, Adrien sat up, looking around, arms still wrapped loosely around her waist.

"Thought we could use a break," Marinette voiced, leaning back to peer at him. Then leaning over, and letting Adrien tighten his grip to steady her, she flipped the saddlebag open, letting Tikki peek out. "Don't know how you want to do this..."

The fairy blinked at her, then looked around, antennas rising and twitching. Slowly, she floated out, humming. "Let's skim around," she told the two Children. "I'd like to get as close the castle as possible."

Adrien shook his head. "We'll be recognized," he said. "That's where a lot of people will be."

"I'll need to get close if I'm going to explore it," Tikki said.

Adrien frowns.

"Just get me close enough that I can slip in and explore it," the fairy bids. She adds, "And remember, you're not Chat Noir right now. You're Adrien. A normal human, visiting the city." She smiles encouragingly. "No one will attack you."

He hums, twisting the ring on his finger.

Easier said than thought.

Tikki floated you and patted Adrien's hand encouragingly. "It'll be fine," she reassured.

He gives a shaky nod.

Marinette shifted, dropping down from Lucky and nearly toppling to the cobblestone ground. Flashing the blond a sure smile, she bid, "Let's explore."

"Um," Adrien squeaked.

"You said there was money in Lucky's saddlebags?" Marinette asked, peeking in. Tikki hummed her confirmation, peering at her curiously. Meeting Adrien's skeptical stare, Marinette bid, "Then let's explore. Have some fun."

Adrien went stiff in the saddle.

Tikki beamed.

Nothing was more natural than visitors touring Paria.

Adrien gulped, nervously glancing to his ring. "I, uh, I, I don't-"

He went quiet when Marinette took his hand with the ring, intertwining their fingers. He stared down, eyes wide. She gave his hand an encouraging squeeze. He looked up, meeting her gleaming blue eyes. He gave her hand a shy squeeze back before climbing off Lucky. With a deep breath, he said, "I know a place we can stash Lucky. Real cheap."

Marinette grinned. "Lead the way, Chaton."

Felix sighed as he glared out the window, his arm stinging a little under the wraps around his wrist.

The physician had clucked that he was lucky with all he got out of that dragon attack. All but a burn. The knights he had been traveling with had gotten wounds a smudged worse, worse burns, scrapes, buises. One had a twisted ankle from that attack.

And the mere memory brought a bite of curious frustration from the prince.

They had been attacked by a dragon.

A dragon came out of nowhere, breathing fire, beating his wings hard enough to stumble them with gusts.

And he had left them, an utter mess on the road, and he had left with Chat Noir.

The dragon took Chat Noir.

What was going on?

Why would such a large, scaly beast care for the hellion?

Felix grimaced, running a hand through his hair.

First that strange monster, now a dragon... what was next?

Felix gave a start at the slight knock on his door. "Come in," he bid, not tearing his gaze from the window.

A servant slipped in, bowing deeply to him. "His Highness wishes to see you."

Felix nods, dismissing the servant. Once he was out of the room, he slouched heavily in his chair, feeling tired. He doesn't doubt Hawk Moth mentioned his endeavors to His Highness.

And he failed.

He had Chat Noir, and had lost him.

A sigh bubbled out of the prince. He got up, and left to face His Highness.

He was waiting for Felix in the throne room. He stood stiff and poised behind the regal seat, staring out at his city, painted out through the large windows stationed behind the throne. Felix spared a fast glance to the royal seat, his seat in the future. He quickly went past it, stopping a few feet behind the king, peering out at Paria as well. Their people flocked the streets, a colorful mass below.

"We've recieved an invitation from Kowah."

Felix hums.

"Prince Ali has extended an invitation to Franae to be there for his coronation next month."

"I'll be there Your Highness," Felix reassured.

"Humor the boy a little. Keep relations with Kowah healthy."

"Of course."

The king was silent for a moment, peering out.

Felix stands tensely, waiting for the king to speak.

"I heard of your little... adventure."

Felix kept quiet.

"You lost Chat Noir?"

"I did."

"I heard it was a dragon attack...?"

"It was Your Highness."

"I heard it might've been Purple Fang?"

"I do not know," Felix confessed. "I just remember smoke and green flames."

He hummed. Felix could see his father frown at his reflection. "I also heard that you've come across someone from Limbes?"

"I... might have."

The king shifted, startling Felix by bringing out the sketch of her that he held. There she was, beaming with her parents. "She escaped you too?"

"Chat Noir spirited her away," the prince said quickly.

The king hummed. "Any idea why he would be interested in someone from Limbes?"

"No. When I spoke to him, it appears he didn't know."

The king hummed, eyeing the girl in the photo. "Do we know where she is?"

"No," Felix said. "Last I heard she was in a monster's clutches."

"Hm. A pity."

Felix gave a stiff nod.

The king turned away, leaving the prince to gaze put at Paria alone.

It took roughly thirty minutes of walking before Adrien relaxed a little. His hand clasped tightly with Marinette's, they walked slowly, side by side, curving around people, eyeing shops and stalls. As he relaxed, he pulled her close, pointing to certain shops.

No one had yet to recognize him.

No one shouted out either of his names.

No one even spared them a glance.

He was starting to believe that nothing would happen.

No one was stomping them!

No one was paying attention to them!

It was just as Tikki said.

He was just a visitor here, touring the streets of Paria. He was not Chat Noir. He was Adrien, a simple visitor. One no one was going to notice.

When Adrien caught sight of a shop he and his mother used to go too, he pulled her close, excitedly telling her, "That's The Petal Brush! They sold flower petals, seeds, roots. All sorts of things for brews, teas, concoctions. We used to go there a lot." With a little frown, he comments, "They're a bit bigger than I remember." And busier.

Then again, he only visited in the early morning.

Leaning close, Marinette asked, "Where else did you guys go?"

With a small smile, he tugged her along, eagerly pointing out shops that he had visited, some he had wished he could've gone into, dabbling a few embarrassing stories here and there.

At Marinetre's biggest snort, he lightly defends, lightly jests, "I'd like to see how you would've handled a flying slug smacking into your nose. I'm sure you would've toppled into a pond too!"

He peered down her with a dark pout.

Marinette peered back with an amused smile, looking like she was trying hard not to laugh.

His pout deepens.

Marinette breaks, chortling out.

With a curl of his lips, Adrien echoes her, laughing at the memory. He bumps her shoulder, and she quickly bumped back, their laughter getting louder as they stumbled down the street.

They stopped at one corner, perking as music played out in one square. A small band beaming as they watched people dance before them. Leaning in close, Adrien utters, "I never got to see one of these up close!"

"They're usually pretty fun," Marinette said, "we host a music festival like once a month back home."

He gave a curious hum, watching as people swayed and spun about. Feeling the giddiness of the crowd echoing around him, he asked, "Can I have this dance My Lady?"

Marinette jumps, turning to him in surprise. "What?"

He just grins, offering up a bare hand for her to take.

"I-I'm not a go-good dancer," she warns, cheeks pinking.

He chuckles, taking her hand and giving it a squeeze. She spared a nervous glance at the swinging crowd. "It'll be alright," he eases.

Breathing in shakily, she nods, and allows Adrien to pull her out into the ring. Hands grasped, eyes locked together, Adrien let the music catch him and string him along, pulling the dark haired girl along, helping her relax, get lose till it was only them and the music. Even when they bumped into another couple, Adrien didn't let it deter him. He just childishly stuck his tongue out at them and guided Marinette away, grinning at her giggles.

They danced till they were dizzy and their legs ached, and by Tikki's soft urging, they slipped, heads high and hearts light in the bliss.

With breathy giggles and heavy sighs they walked down the street, leaning on each other.

For a moment, Adrien forgot he was Chat.

Forgot of the curse of ruin on him.

All he was aware of was the sense of normalcy, and the miraculous girl clasping his arm.

When Adrien caught sight of something familiar, he pulled her, eagerly proclaiming, "That's the wishing fountain!"

Tikki shifted in Marinette'a pocket, eagerly peeking out at it.

Pulling her close before the lovely fountain, spewing silver water that looked like fluttering butterfly wings, Adrien explained, "Not long after Paria was first founded, a fairy had gifted this city with this. If your desperate enough, toss in a coin or a small item that's important to you, in exchange, your wish would be granted. Or something would go right in your life."

"Unsurprising," Tikki voices, drawing the teens eyes to her. "Nooroo's a very gentle fairy that liked to see Children be at their best." Flashingn them a grin, she said, "This is his magic here. And it's still going strong. How about you two make a wish?"

They exchanged glances.

With a small smile, Marinette pulled out two coins, offering one to Adrien.

He took it, eyeing the flat, gleaming piece in his palm.

What to wish for?


That was the first word to pop into his head.

To be free of being Chat Noir, free to be himself, live without fear.

But if they did find Plagg, that was a given.

...It could secure that they do. That they do find Plagg.


He spared a glance at Marinette, watching her eye her coin in contemplation.

Tightening his grip on it, he silently made his wish, plea, and request to the fairy; trying to pour all his thoughts and desires into this small metal piece. He tossed it to the gleaming, silver water, watching it ripple and shimmer as it swallowed the coin.

After a moment, Marinette echoed him, throwing in her own coin and watching it sink after his.

"Is this one of those cases where you can't share your wish?" she asked.

"It is personal," he answered, "it's between you and Nooroo. But, it's is also your wish. You can share if if you want. I don't know if there is any sort of consequence to sharing it."

Marinette hummed thoughtfully.

Glancing about, Adrien's eyes locked on Castle Effia. With a light tug, he pulled her along down the street towards the castle. Under Marinette's gaze, he told her, "We're close."

Marinette looked up, surprised to see that they were.

When did they get so close to the castle?

As if picking up on her confusion, he answered with a chuckle, "The wishing fountain was placed close to the castle, I think it was to make it more important, to show that Nooroo was on good graces with the royal family." He pointed out. "They even based off the symbol of the royal family in his honor."

Marientte peered at it curiously.

It was a dark purple flag, almost black, with a ghostly white butterfly set in the center.

Adrien drops in, "The king that made good graces with Nooroo was even called Papillon by the people. He was the first regal butterfly of the Agreste royal family."

"What was his real name?" Marinette asked. 

"Uuuuuh I don't know? He's only been recorded as Papillon. I think his true name was lost. I can't remember ever seeing it in a book."

She slowed when she felt Tikki shift about. Adrien shifted, walking in front of her while the fairy peeked out. "This is close enough!" the fairy reassured.

"So what?" Adrien asked, "We just wait for you to look around?"

"It's a big city. You'll be plenty occupied." Tikki floated up, resting a paw on Adrien's arm. "Be sure to stay with Marinette."

"I'm not leaving her side," he stated.

She nods, relieved. Turning to Marinette, she bid, "I'll be back in a day at most."

"Just be careful," Marinette said.

Tikki nods and zips away towards the castle.

Adrien grimaced as he stared up at it. "Let's go," he insisted, "I don't want to risk anyone recognizing me."

Marinette agreed, letting the blond take her hand and lead her away. With a quick thought, she asked, "Know any place we can get something to eat?"

It's been a good while since she had a full meal.

Food sounded nice.

At Adrien's eager nod, he agreed.

Despite her confidence, Tikki was a little red ball of nerves when she phased through the castle like a colorful ghost. Everything was so much larger. People were far and few in the halls. Noise bounced off the walls like it was some glistening cave. And despite how many dark shadows she pressed too, how small and easily missed she was in comparison to everything; she felt exposed and endangered.

Even conscious of her fail safe, of her ladybugs being spread out and her luck magic hard to control for it, and her ladybugs could reach out to any suitable witch to come and save her; Tikki was still greatly unnerved.

It really made her wonder how could Plagg function like this?

On his own, with nothing but little shadows to hide in as he watched Children slip by.

For Tikki, it was overwhelming.

And zipping through half the castle, there was still no trace of Plagg.

Probably due to the grim factor she was eight years too late, but still there... there had to be something!

Buzzing in stress, Tikki popped out of the walls, blinking when she came across a huge garden.

Likely the one Adrien mentioned...

Frowning, she slowly drifts around it, letting out small spikes of magic, curious to see if anything responded.

She stopped with a small gasp when she saw something on the ground.

A black mark, a scarring from Plagg's magic.

The magic itself was long gone but...

Tikki dropped down, lightly running a paw over the mark shakily, hopeful, excited, nervous.

Plagg had been here.

But why, why did he scar this earth?

Where was he?

The fairy jerked when she felt a pulse of magic. She quickly hid away in the tree above, clutching a branch and peeking over.

"How amusing," she heard a voice declare as two figures approached. "It appears she was quite fond of Chat Noir."

There was a hum as the two figure walked beneath her.

King Gabriel Agreste, and his magical adviser, the witch on his council. The man was looking over a drawing Marinette must've done, a drawing of her and Chat, dressed nicely, dancing together at a ball.

Tikki narrows her eyes.

A witch she didn't know.

A witch that had a confusing magical signature. It was like a huge, muddled mass of chaos, emotion, and ice.

The fairy couldn't make sense of it.

"I remember a notice mentioned that you had sent a... friend to escort this curious girl. That friend didn't kill her, did it?"

"Not on my orders," the witch said. "Alas, I can't seem to connect to my friend anymore, Your Highness. I suspect that Chat Noir might've killed them."

The king gave a thoughtful him. "Another victim of his. Unfortunate."

"Indeed." The witch sadly shook his head. "Excuse me to say Your Highness, but I believe your son to be wrong. Chat Noir likely killed this girl, alongside my friend. Another victim to his growing list."

"From what my son has informed me, that doesn't seem likely."

"There was mention of a ruined magical rose. Perhaps he was jealous."

"He wasn't that petty."

"You did only know him as a boy, boys grow and change Your Highness. He certainly isn't the same child you used to know."

She could see the king frown slightly, before continuing on, the witch trialing him as he sorted through Marinette's things with bored curiosity. The witch stopped, and Tikki tensed. She ducked away just in time as he looked up into the tree.

"Hawk Moth," the king beckoned.

The witch gives a jerky mod and follows, excusing, "Thought I saw a strange bird."

The two men walked away, and Tikki slowly peeks out, frowning.

That witch gave her ill vibes.

She needed to get back to Marinette and Adrien, she needed to ask the latter about this Hawk Moth.

"That was good," Marinette sighed, rubbing her stomach appreciatively.

Adrien hummed beside her, licking his lips, trying to catch any traces of his meal left in the corners of his lips.

He was officially spoiled.

It seems it was going to be a constant that Marinette was going to spoil him with food and luxuries.

It made him hope that they did find Plagg.

He didn't know if he could go back to being Chat Noir after this.

He was really enjoying being Adrien.

"Oooh!" Marinette cooed aloud, stopping at a large mural. Adrien stopped beside her, sparing a curious glance at it. It was a public mural, everyone allowed a piece of chalk to draw and add a piece to the growing wall of inspiration.

Adrien gave her a nudge towards it.

She didn't need much of a push before she rushed over, grabbing a pink piece, and started shaping and coloring out a rose. Adrien stood back, admiring the bloom of the flower. It was still so amazing to see her draw, how she brought her imagination to life on a surface.

He doesn't think it would ever stop mystifying him.

He just had to be there to watch her work.

Watch her create.

Maybe it was due to his curse of ruin, maybe that's why seeing her create was amazing.

He could never create anything.

Only ever destroy.

It just made her creative talent all more important and miraculous to him.

And when Marinette turned to him with a beckoning smile, he moved to join her.

He didn't see the person from behind, accidentally bumping into him, pitching Adrien forward.

All Adrien could see was the silver ring knocked off his finger and to the ground below.

All he heard was it's clink as it bounced off the ground, and a gasp.

Was it him?


He didn't know.

All he knew was that his ring was off, he was still moving forward, and the iciest fear was filling his heart.

He stopped right next to Marinette, bare hands slamming on the mural, right on the halfway done rose she was working on.

He watched with cold numbness as it paled with discoloration, darkening to black and spreading hideous, angry cracks that swallowed the rest of the mural whole.

He didn't hear the gasps and screams around him, the pound of fleeing feet.

He could just only gape at the mural, stiff with what he's done.

"Adrien," a soft voice called, jerking his gaze away.

Marientte was reaching for him, his ring in hand.

Adrien jerked away from her, fear hammering at his heart. "Don't come near me!" he cried, latching his hands to his elbows, feeling a slight spike of pain as he dug his nails into his skin. "I'll, I'll hurt you!"

"It's ok," Marinette eased holding out the ring to him. "It's ok."

He shook his head rapidly, his breathing quickening as he started to panic.

He couldn't touch her.

He... he didn't even know what would happen if he touched her.

He couldn't touch her!

Marinette turned her palms up, easing, "I'll leave the ring on the grou-" Before ahe could finish, an arrow shot, hitting the wall beside them, inches away from Marinette. While she jumped back, Adrien turned to them with a wild growl, black smoke starting to curl around his fingers. He could feel the light heat of the magic, eager to be released, to pour out, to ruin.

It seemed to pulse in his head, thirsty to be used.

Ruin, it chanted in his head. Ruin, ruin, ruin, ruin...

"Kill him!" the guard shouted, jerking his arm out to his comrade, encouraging him to notch an arrow, pointed at Adrien.

The blond bared his teeth, his pupils thinning into savage slits.

He faintly heard Marinette cry "No!" as the arrow was released. Adrien dropped down instinctively, hands slamming on the ground, spreading cracks and black to the road. His body tensed, lips pulli g back to snarl.

Ruin, the magic chanted in his head, pounding in his blood. Ruin, ruin, ruin, ruin...

Adrien jerked when something smaller rammed his side, wraps wrapped around his shoulder, dark hair tickling his cheek. A familiar sweet scent tickled his nose, a scent that was safe.


What was she doing?

Marinette just tightened her grip on him, glaring at the guards, daring them to shoot.

By looks of it, they dared.


"What do you think you're doing?!"

Armand "Darkblade" D'Argencourt stomped over, blue eyes locked onto the two wildly. Rounding the guards, he waved to them, snapping, "Grab them! Don't kill them! His Highness would want to see them!"

"But that's Chat Noi-"

D'Argencourt whipped around to face them, both of them tensing when a silver long sword rested on her shoulder. Meeting Adrien's wild eyes, the knight stated, "You both will come quietly."

Adrien growled.

Chapter Text

Tikki was a buzz of stressed energy.

No matter where she went, antennas twitching, she couldn't find Marinette anywhere.

She wondered if there was a chance that the two had left Paria.

Or, or worse, were they actually caught?

Tikki shook her head.

No, they weren't.

She had just left them roughly an hour ago. There was no way that something could've happened in that time. But as she darted around the streets, peeking around the legs of stands and hugging shadows, that's the only conclusion the fairy was starting to come up with.

Something had happened.

That's why she couldn't find Marinette anywhere in these streets.

They must've been recognized.

Tikki grimaces.

She turned and glanced back to the castle, frowning.

If they were caught, they would've been taken there. A bit of panic sparked in the fairy. She had to go back, she had to find them, she had to warn-

A cat landed beside her and Tikki squeaked in alarm, flying away to escape the curious and hungry feline. She flew without checking where she was going, her fear pushing her blindly.

The good luck fairy jerked to a stop when she came to an empty square, a ruined and broken empty square.

A square that was touched by ruin.

"Oh no," Tikki whispered, curling up as she stared at the damage.

This was how they were caught. This, this was far worse.

The pound of feet filled the halls as guards stomped around the two bound prisoners. Marinette and Chat kept close to each other, the girl sparing wary glances at the stone faced guards around. Chat, newly reunited with his ring to keep the ruin magic from pouring out, had a set snarl on his face, his pupils thin with his rage as he glared ahead. Once again, his claws were bound together, chains wrapped tightly around his wrist to keep that power of destruction contained.

Ahead of them, D'Argencourt walked proudly, gaze locked ahead as he lead the escort to the throne room.

Marinette peered at the portraits they passed nervously. Previous kings and queens of Franae glared down at her, all baring frosty blue eyes and pale fair hair.

Not a single one smiled.

Their expression kept cold, their poise stiff.

It was unnerving to pass them.

D'Argencourt stopped before the grand doors tot he throne room, nodding to the guards stationed before them. One reached out, knocking and announcing them.

Faintly Marinette heard a voice respond.

The doors opened and the guards pushed them forward, into the huge throne room.

Marinette squints at the bright light of the towering windows set behind the throne, blinking rapidly as she adjusted.

She stiffened when she met the narrowed gaze of Felix, standing next to the throne. Seated beside him, peering down at the two, had to be the king. He looked a lot like his son, thin in build, cold eyed, pale hair, pointed chin. He eyed them calculatingly, plotting and measuring them as he assessed the situation.

Marinette didn't like it.

The king greet, his voice crisp and commanding, "Chat Noir."

"Your Highness," Chat returned lightly, not offering the man a bow or any respectful gesture. He just stared back and smiled.

Marinette tensed when one of the guards looked displeased.

The king narrowed his eyes at the cat, noting, "Have you forgotten your manners in your time running around Franae?"

Chat retorted, "Manners are hard to keep in the woods."

"Noted," the king bid, "I find that you've been quite unruly these days."

Chat didn't reply. He eyed the king, a slight frown marring his features. To Marinette, he whispers, "I don't think I've been that bad."

The king followed him, turning his sharp gaze to her. Chat tensed beside her, and moved to stand in front of her, only for a guard to shove him back, pointed end of a spear edging him away so the king could get a good look at her. Marinette peered back, trying not to squirm.

Turning to what had to be a witch at his side, the king notes aloud, "She certainly looks very much alive to me."

"An honest mistake," the witch replied, torn between looking intrigued and grimacing.

To Felix, the king bid, "It seems you spoke the truth. How interesting." Rising up, the king came down, drawing near them. Chat's tail twitched anxiously, green eyes locked on the approaching man.

But the king didn't fear him, he just gazed down at her, considering, comparing.

"You're from Limbes?" he asks.

She didn't answer, frowning at him.

She jumps when he lightly takes her chin, and ignoring Chat's sharp hiss, he turned her head about, looking her over. "Plain," the king murmurs, "very plain for someone of a unique origin."

Marinette twitches.

Chat's tail gave another angry twitch, this time slamming on the ground, the metal piece on the end rattling loudly.

"Wh, what if I'm not from Limbes?" Marinette managed out, tilting her chin away from his grasp and meeting the king's gaze. "I could just be a strange Franaen."

The witch answered before the king could reply. "Why else would you have a Limbes pigeon feather?"

"Ramier never leaves those woods," the king puts in, "and no one is fool enough here to wander in."

"There's been a few," Chat put in.

"The stupidly rich or desperate, sure. But not the poor or plain," the king said. "They're more focused on getting by as comfortably as they can, no time to chase myths." Peering down at her, the king comments, "You don't seem to be on the wealthy side of life. And you seem to have your mind."

Marinette grimaces at him.

Before she could press and argue, the prince cuts in, "Perhaps we shouldn't rile our guest, Your Highness."

The king hums at that, still eyeing her.

Not turning to his son, his king ordered, "I suppose so. Escort our... guest, to her bedroom."

Marinette jerks back, surprised.

Chat growls.

Hands pushed Marinette forward and she stumbled past the king, right into the hands of the nearing prince. He helped straighten her up, meeting her wide gaze.

A sharp snarl ripped her gaze back, Marinette stiffened when she saw the guards pulling and shoving Chat back. Marineete jerked back, protesting. Only for Felix to press her away, hand set in the middle of her back. "Chat!" she cried, digging her heels into the floor.

"Marinette," the prince stressed.

Chat met her gaze wildly, panicked and stressed.

Only for a guard to step in, cutting off their gaze.

She jerked away from the prince, shouting, "Don't you dare-"

Felix grabbed her shoulder and turned her away, pulling her along. "It's not a good idea to fight," the prince stressed, trying to pull her along. "He's jut going to the dungeon, he'll be alright."

Marinette barely heard him, her gaze staying locked on Chat's as a warm hand pushed her away from him, as guards dressed in silver and black pushed her cat away.

They were severed by a door, Chat's fearful snarl echoing in the air.

For a mere second, Marinette felt like she was back in the Bourgeois' manor, separated from her parents.

She had been separated again.

She was separated again...

The room Prince Felix took her too seemed fit for a princess.

Everything was so much bigger.

The bed was five times bigger than what she had back home. The dark vanity was huge, could fit three more of her wardrobes. Windows towered over her... it was all a bit intimidating. She felt like a stain here, just standing in this room would leave it filthy and undesirable.

Marinette gripped her shirt, grimacing.

It was too nice.

It was out of her element.

She shouldn't be in a room lime this.

It was just... too much.

"This is one of our finest guest bedrooms," Felix bid behind her, letting Marinette slowly look around the room, watching her frown.

"It's..." she trails. Unable to finish, she turned to Felix with a queasy frown. "What's going to happen to Chat?"

Blinking at her, the prince considered his answer before informing, "For now, withheld in a cell. Chat Noir is highly suspected to be involved with a number of disappearances and deaths."

"W-what?" she proclaimed.

Felix shrugs. "He'll be inquired by His Highness and judged. If His Highness finds him guilty..."

The prince didn't finish.

Marientte tightened her grip on her shirt, breathing hard as she glared at him. "Chat hasn't hurt anyone," she insisted.

The prince gives a humming sigh, leaning on the door frame. "There's a lot of curious events that says otherwise. That suggest Chat Noir did those deeds."

At her persisting glare, he lists off, "The destruction of Paria eight years ago. And over a course of almost four years, there were reports of streets in villages and towns that were ruined and broken, buildings that crumbled, taverns and inns that were almost or were burnt to the ground."

He pauses, grimacing. "It was quiet for two years, when things started happening in Franae, people disappearing."

"Disappearing?" she echoes shakily.

"The first known to disappear was a Ciran seer, someone who could read the stars. She came stating that something was off, something was wrong. But a week into her investigation... all we found of her were charred bones. We couldn't find what killed her, no signs of a fire outside her remains. Only cause we could come up with was-"

"Chat Noir," Marinette said tersely.

Felix nods. "Chat Noir has a touch of destruction, and it is said that he could travel through shadows at will. There's no better killer."

"He didn't do that."

"This was before he met you."

"He's not a killer."

"With your short travels with him, your judgement would be bias-"

"I know him far better than you," Marinette stressed.

Felix goes quiet, peering at her, contemplating. With a hum, he murmurs, "Perhaps you do. Perhaps you don't. From what I remember of him... But there's no other explanation for what's been happening. The few people that's been disappearing, the... bodies, we've found." Marinette's thoughts flickered to the late queen, the prince's mother. She plucked at her shirt sleeve, considering this situation, scrambling as she tried to make sense of this.

Quietly, she asked, "Would Chat even gain aything from killing those people?"

Felix shook his head. "There's nothing I can think that Chat Noir would gain from killing a foreign seer, a few witches, and... and Her Highness."

Marinette looked up at him, blinking. "A few witches?" she repeats.

Felix nods, then sighs, brushing off her curiosity. "Take the chance to bathe, I'll have new clothes sent to you. No doubt His Highness will wish to speak to you later."

Marinette purses her lips.

"Behave," the prince clips, turning and leaving the frowning dark haired girl alone in the room. For a mere moment, she stared at the door. Then slowly walked to it. Just as she reached for the doorknob, she heard a shuffle on the other side, heard the soft clinks of metal chiming through the wood.

A guard must be on the other side.

Her hand fell to her side, and she crept towards the bed, sitting on the edge and slumping with a tired sigh.

How were they going to get out of this?

And what... what's been going on for the past few years here?

Chat slumped against the brick cell he was caged into this time, ears flat on his head, the end of his tail curling and twitching in agitation.

For a destructive being, he winds up trapped a lot...

He sighs, resting his head on the brick.

This was a mess.

One they weren't getting out of.

Chat couldn't see how.

The king had them both.

Finally had Chat Noir.

And had her, a girl from Limbes.

There was heavy guards, his claws were bound together, they knew both their faces...

They didn't know where Tikki was.

And she didn't know where they were.

There was no way getting out of this, Chat couldn't see how.

All he could do was wait and see what His Highness would do. From the word he's heard on the road, the whispers he caught lingering in the shadows of towns, the king was going to be judgmental.

For evidently, "Chat Noir" has been more of a menace these past few years. It had gotten bad enough that his wanders pushed him closer to Limbes, pushed him to not rest till he found some decent safety.

And had deliriously fallen into a trap.

Then had her fall on him...

He smiled tightly, chuckling.

Those seemed like simpler times.

Just the curiosity of a strange, sweet girl that saw past his dangerous being to the boy underneath.

How could he not linger around her?


Chat jumped, then looked up to see His Highness before his cell, staring down at him.

Chat offered him a tight smile. "A bit," he said. "I've had quite an adventure these past few weeks."

"I've heard," the king said, "coming across someone of Limbes, my son, and getting into quite the scuffle with Hawk Moth's friend..."

Chat gave a start, blinking his eyes in surprise.

Hawk Moth...?

The same man that Her Highness had wanted to replace his mama with?

Well, she had left with him, they would have had an open position... Chat shifted uncomfortably, narrowing his eyes at the king with a frown. He asked, "That, that thing was a friend of your court witch?"

"Not a knight?"

"Let's say that friend was quite a monster."

His Highness hummed curiously, his winter eyes gliding over Chat, taking him in. "You've grown a lot," His Highness notes. Chat just offered a stiff smile in return. The king's gaze settled on the dark ring on his claws, the last work of his mother. "Where is Bluebird?" the king asked. She hasn't been seen since the appearance of Chat Noir.

Chat could only give the king a shrug. "I don't know, she had up and disappeared on me last year. Probably got tired of running and hiding with Chat Noir."

"That doesn't sound like her."

"It's the only explanation I have, Your Highness."

The king gazed at him, eyes narrowed.

Chat tensed and growled, baring his teeth. "I didn't kill my own mother."

"It seems it hasn't stopped you before."

Chat falters, blinking at the king wildly.

His Highness raises a brow down at the cat. "Do you know what I'm talking about, Adrien?"

"I do not, Your Highness."

"These past few years, there's been a series of disappearances and killings. Killings you could easily do."

Chat stiffened, gaping at the king. "I, what?! I haven't killed anyone!"

"There's no other explanation for what's been happening, and no one else has this sort of power."

"But it wasn't me! I, do you really think I would kill someone?!" Chat snarled, jumping up and pressing against the bars. The near guards tensed, ready to rush over, jab him with their spears and push him back. But the king waved them away, unafraid as he stared down at Chat Noir.

"The boy I knew certainly won't, but he grew, and people change when they grow. I used to know who Adrien Paon was, but I don't know Chat Noir. You both left before something could be done."

Chat hissed, "Would you have really helped us? Mama was more sure of your fear than your help, Your Highness."

Bluebird was a witch who was hardly ever wrong about her intuitions.

Chances were she was right.

That the Paons did have a reason to fear the castle's reaction to him, the royal family's reaction to him.

Her Highness especially would've been vocal about his new condition.

And the king knew it too.

Chat could see the grimace in his gaze, the bitter truth of what may have happened.

He made no move to deny it, no move to make a reasonable explanation to how they would've reacted. He just sighs tiredly and bids, "You've grown up well, Adrien." Despite the situation. Bluebird did well with what she could. "I still doubt she willingly left you. She would've been pleased with the companion you found."

Huffing, Chat sat back, tail curling in agitation. He grumbled, "She found me." And she didn't run or scream in fear.

She didn't threaten him.

She helped him.

It was just another reminder that he had so much to thank for her kindness, despite the danger of his presence, the danger of him.

He couldn't leave her here with the king.

"And she won't be staying with you for long," Chat swore to the silent ruler.

Gabriel Agreste just blinked down at him, then turns away with a hushed warning of, "We'll talk again later."

He wanted to look over the reports before he started the interrogation with Chat, and the girl.

The Limbes girl.

One Felix seemed familiar with.

The king considered this as he headed upstairs, ignoring Chat's threat.

He was chained and locked up once more, with likely numbered days.

What could he do to spirit her away?

Hawk Moth was a name Marinette has come to associate with fear.

He was a strange shadow in Adrien's tale.

A man who was set on taking Bluebird's position on the council.

Someone that the judging queen had apparently approved of.

There was a ripple of unease that can come from these facts, and meeting him now by the said witch's insistence, that ripple turned into a rush of waves crashing around Marinette.

She knew this the instant she walked into the room, the escorting prince at her side.

She didn't like Hawk Moth.

He was a witch that made her skin crawl.

That made her whole being shudder and she wanted to do nothing more than turn tail, flee the room, and slam and lock all doors behind her.

Just to put as much distance as she could between her and him.

She shouldn't be in the same room as this man.

Not with that gleam in his eyes, and that smile on his lips.

She didn't want to be near him.

But the prince kept her there, a hand set on the middle of her back, keeping her from escaping. But his close stance kept the witch from coming closer, very aware of the unease rolling off of her. It was for this reason Marinette pressed closer to Felix, tense eyes locked on the opposing witch, waiting for the wolf to attack.

She knew he wanted too.

It was in the air of him.

In his stance.

In his gaze and smile.

He was a glossy snake before her.

And the prince was barely aware of it himself.

"You should have some tea," Hawk Moth bid, nodding to the table before him, where one other seat awaited by it. Sparing a fast glance to the prince, it seemed the witch was very expectant to be alone with the curious girl. "It'll calm the nerves. You've had quite a hectic day so far."

"No thank you," Marinette rushed out, taking another instinctive step back, closer to Felix.

"Then sit," the witch bid, waving to the chair. "You must be exhausted."

Marinette shook her head.

Felix voiced, "Hawk Moth, perhaps this should be saved for another day."

"I understand, Your Highness, but this is such a curious matter. It's imperative that her origin is looked into, as well as her relation with Chat Noir. The curious factor that he hasn't killed her at all, that seems he's at her beck and call. You want to know what's going on just as much as me."

"I'm tired," Marinette rushed out, turning to grip the prince's sleeve before the blond could reply. "I, I'd like to go back to my room please."

"My girl," Hawk Moth bids, "there's no reason to be so nervous."

Yes there was.

She had plenty reason to.

Everything about him was unnerving.

Meeting Felix's gaze, she pleads again, "Please."

The prince turned to Hawk Moth with a grim nod, already turning to guide Marinette out. "Tomorrow. She is a guest."

Hawk Moth leaned back in his seat, gaze settled on her stiff back. "Very well," he concedes. "I hope I'll see you again soon, my dear."

As soon as Felix made the slightest push for her to go forward, Marinette all but ran from the room, ignoring the prince's slight grumbles behind her. She didn't stop till she felt she was far enough, breathing hard, heart pounding heavily. She pressed against a wall, shuddering.

She's never had an experience like that before.

Did being with Adrien and Tikki make her sensitive to magic?

Or was it, was just her instincts warning her about Hawk Moth?

She didn't know.

All she knew was that she shouldn't be alone with such a man.

"There is no running in the castle halls," the prince informed as he came up behind her, no real bite in his words as he spared her a glance.

"S-sorry," she mumbles out absently, gripping her elbows.

He hummed, standing a few feet from her, taking in her jittery form. "He scares you that much?" he asks.

She gives a jerky nod.

Sighing, he turned to peer out the window, confessing, "He's a peculiar man. Certainly... unnerving time to time. I still don't fully know why Her Highness wished him to be in the court." Or why the court and king allowed the man a chair.

Hawk Moth, he didn't do horrible work for Franae.

But it was obvious that there were better choices, better witches.

Bluebird did a far, finer job than Hawk Moth.

It helped that her magic was picking up falsehood. She could tell ill intended witches from the good. She was a huge help in managing and working out deals with rogue witches, helping them find peace in towns and villages. Offer a bit of trust to both sides.

Hawk Moth... while very persuasive and clever; Felix knew there were better ways the man could've handled certain witches and clients.

The prince found him to be a bit of a loose canon.

And he knew His Highness agreed.

It lead to the king seeking out other witches.

But they never come to Paria.

His Highness suspected that it was due to the royal family themselves.

Felix considered the possibility of Bluebird's sudden disappearance.

She was a very well liked witch.

He glanced over to the Limben...? He shook his head, eyeing the girl as she regrouped, standing a little straighter, shoulders broad and sure. She had a grimaced on her peach lips, a weary glow in her blue eyes.

It's been a long day.

And it wasn't even close to being over yet.

"I'll escort you back to your room," Felix offered, jerking her gaze to him. "I would suggest some rest before dinner tonight."

Marinette flinches, wrapping her arms around herself tightly. "Dinner?" she repeats tersely.

"You're a guest here, it's expected that His Highness would wish to dine with you this evening. Officially welcome you to Franae, Paria, and Castle Effiia, his home."

She looked away, mumbling,"I'm not hungry."

"It's a good few hours away, you may be hungry then."

"What about Adrien."

Felix freezes, body stiff at the name. Slowly, he turned to her, wide eyed. "You, you know his real name?"

She just stared at him, frowning. "What about Adrien?" she repeats.

Peering at her, Felix grimaces. He quickly looks away. "I would not suggest not mentioning him for tonight."


Felix walked off, not responding. He stopped at the end of the hall, waiting for her. She lingered in place, scowling. Then slowly followed, her wariness of Hawk Moth pressing her to stay at the prince's side. When they reached her room, Felix left her alone.

Marinette stared at the door, unlocked and waiting for her to rip the door open.

And do what?

She didn't know where the dungeons were.

She didn't know this castle.

She didn't know where Tikki or Adrien were.

She did know guards would stop her if they caught her.

The king or prince may find her and escort her back to her room.

Of Hawk Moth could find her.

She didn't want to think about what could happen if he did.

Body feeling heavy and mind muddled, she went to the bed and curled up in the middle of the cloud soft sheets.

She was asleep the instant she went still.

Chapter Text

Marinette woke with a start, blinking as a rap sounded in the air. She lay still for a moment, wide eyed, staring at a room she didn't recognize. When did she have this room? Marinette slowly sat up, taking in the lavish room with wide eyes. Where... where was...

She jumped at another series of raps.

"Mistress?" a voice called through the door. Marinette turned to it wildly. "Are you decent?"

"Ye-yes?" Marinette answered warily.

The door opened a little, the servant on the other side hesitating. "May I..."

"What's going on?" Marinette asked, grimacing as memories came back to her.

That's right.

Castle Effiaa.

She was at Franae's crown, her and Chat captured, the latter presumably in a dungeon...

A black haired girl shyly peeks in, blinking at her curiously. "His Highness requests an audience with you at dinner in an hour."

Marinette blinked. It took an hour to prepare?

Taking her silence as a yes, the servant slipped in, reaching for her. Marinette resisted her tug to follow, reluctant to bathe and dress up nice for the royal family. But when the girl gave another persistent pull, Marinette followed tiredly. They had Chat, she reminded herself. She shouldn't risk both their chances...

"There's a bath ready," the servant explained, guiding her across the room, opening the door to the bathroom. A cloud of steam welcomed them. "Do you want help bathing?"

"No," Marinette said quickly.

The servant nods. "Please be conscious of time then. Is there any sort of dress you would like for the evening? Any color preference?"

"A red gown," Marinette said, drawing away and nearing the marbled pool in the floor. She couldn't deny that did look appealing. That a nice warm bath would be nice.

The servant bowed to her. "I'll be close if you need me," the servant bid, and left her alone in privacy. When sure she was alone, Marinette started to disrobe, eyeing the steaming water before her.

A dinner with the king.

And likely the prince as well.

Both drawn in with curiosity of her origin.

How promising a dinner it would be... letting the clothes fall in a heap on the floor, Marinette stepped out and stepped into the pool, wincing at the heat traveling up her ankles. Slowly she worked her way down, letting her body get used to the water.

She sat down, letting the water slosh around her, lick her hair, make it heavy on her bare shoulders. She leaned against the rim, taking a moment to forget the coming dinner she was going to attend. For the moment, she enjoyed the surrounding heat, letting it eat away the weariness of her bones. Slowly, her eyes cracked up, peering through lazy steam as she pondered this situation.

Dinner with royals.

What to do?

What could she do?

First for most, she should focus on getting Chat out.

He was at a bigger risk than her.

She's sure they'd... they were upset with him. Something bad was going to happen to him if he stayed.

And they were intrigued with her. Maybe, just maybe she could make a deal or she-

"You don't look to be enjoying that bath much," a trembling voice uttered out, snapping Marinette's eyes open to look up. There, floating above her with trembling relief was Tikki. As soon as her gaze met the kwami's, Tikki dove down and pressed against her cheek, trembling. "Thank goodness," the the fairy uttered. "Thank goodness you're alright."

"Tikki," Marinette whispered back, cupping her small body, relishing the warmth coming off her small form, feeling the tickle of her tail against Marinette's palm. "You, did you find-"

Tikki drew away, peering at the dark haired girl fretfully. "He was here," she said, "I found a scar of Plagg's magic. But, oh Marinette, you need to go! You and Chat, get out of Paria and-"

"Chat's trapped," Marinette cuts in.

Tikki flinches. "Trapped? He's jailed then?"

Marinette nods.

Frowning, the fairy started to buzz and pace above her, grimacing. "I'll see if I can free him," she said. "You two need to leave. Get out of here. There's, there's a witch I don't know. He, he scares me."

"Hawk Moth?" Marinette guessed.

Tikki freezes, turning her wide gaze to Marinette. "You know him?" she asked.

The dark haired girl nods.

"Stay away from him," Tikki ordered, zipping close to her. "He rubs me wrong, he scares me. I'll, I'll look into Chat, help him. You need to get out, get away from Hawk Moth. That Child... It's rare to come across a Child like that. No good come from Children like him."

There was a knock. Tikki instinctively ducked down, hovering close to Marinette, hiding from view. "Mistress?" the servant called through the door. "We're starting to get pressed on time..."

"I'll get out," Marinette reassured. Turning to the fairy, she said, "The royal family is having me join them to dinner."

Tikki narrowed her eyes, giving a nod. "Most of the castle's attention will be there. I should be able to get to Chat quickly then." If it goes well, both of them would be out of here. Tapping her bare shoulder encouragingly, the fairy bid, "Keep your wits, be cautious. The Agrestes, they won't harm you, but they'll be curious. And there's a danger to curiosity."

"I'll, I'll be ok," Marinette said, reaching ip to run a finger over Tikki's head. "Just see if you can help Chat. Let him know I'm ok."

Tikki nodded. Pressing a kiss to Marinette's finger, she made one last plead to be careful, before zipping away, leaving the girl in the bath alone.

Marinette stared after her, unsure. Slipping forward, she ducked under, letting the warm water wash over her, one last bid of enjoyment for this bath before she rose up to the cold, ruthless air, a forewarning to the coming dinner.

She didn't know if she was ready.

There was a tickle in the air today.

A... spark of magic.

A magic that didn't cling to this castle, a magic different from his own. Two different signatures to be exact. One was familiar. One he knew was Chat Noir's, having encountered it a long time ago. The magic of Chat Noir was a fire. It was an uncomfortable heat, present and overpowering. If he so desired, the boy could smother this whole castle.

He eyed the report delivered to him.

That dark magic had poured out of him like a river breathing through a dam.

It had been capped when a ring was slipped on.

A gift from Bluebird no doubt.

Her last miraculous work, a ring that can seal the cursed power of a fairy.

Quite impressive.

To be expected of Bluebird. Shame she was never able to finish it, make it so the power of Chat Noir was completely sealed away, that the wearer could walk out in public.

It would've been a nice item to own.

Still, Hawk Moth reasoned he'd have little use for it, as charming as the trinket will be, now that Chat Noir was here.

But, there was that other trace of magic.

A signature Hawk Moth didn't know.

It wasn't as present as Chat Noir's.

But it still burned like a similar fire to the black cat. But despite this, it wasn't the same fire. This didn't smothers like Chat Noir. This didn't press the threat of tearing someone apart. This fire, this tickle of magic; it was a warm glow. A comforting, reassuring heat. Like the flame of a candle, or a hearth.

Something welcoming.

Hawk Moth couldn't place this small presence.

It lingered throughout the castle.

So small and spread out, the witch couldn't place it.

But something was here, something different.

He wondered if it was the girl, that maybe that magic came from her. She was connected to it, that was for sure, but meeting her, he found she had no magic from her.

That magic wasn't from her.

But what could it be?

Humming, he sat back and turned to his cane.

Upon it was a glass sphere, seemingly empty and simple. But peering at it closely, he could see little lights flickering in it, rousing from a near decade sleep. Rising up and coming near, he watch those lights flick out. He picked ip the cane, rolling it around and peering inside.

"You know what this magic is, don't you?" he questioned the small sphere.

They lights didn't respond.

They kept stubbornly dim, hiding away as if that would make him leave.

A useless try really.

Setting his cane down, he glanced around the room, contemplative.

The dinner must be happening now.

The royal family and the girl will be occupied.

Hawk Moth smiled.

Her steps were loud and echoing in the hall, rattling her nerves and leaving Marinette fidgeting with the hem of the scarlet gown with a black bodice. Before her, the servant walked ahead, gaze forward.

She only spoke to Marinette with warnings and advice for this dinner.

"Don't speak till spoken too."

"Elbows off the table."

"Keep your back and shoulders straight."

The list went on. Most going over Marinette's head, too caught up in her nervousness for this dinner.

If it was just Felix, she's sure she could handle it just fine. But the king was going to be there, and from what she encounter, he was an intimidating man. Not as frightening as Hawk Moth.

But still a man to tread carefully around.

She gripped the soft fabric of her dress tightly.

He was the one she had to dance around.

Felix, she didn't doubt she could sway and reason with the prince. He seemed to be on unsteady ground, seemed more open to what she had to say. He'd be more open to changing Chat's fate.

But the king...

Marinette didn't know what to expect or do with him.

How can she appeal to him?

Could she even appeal to the king?


Marinette jumped, looking up. The servant bows to her. "We're here. Are you ready?"

Gulping, she nods.

The servant turned and knocked on the large doors. Pausing for a moment, she called, "Mistress Marinette is here Your Highness."

There was a muffled answer.

Turning to her, the servant bid, "Good luck," and pulled the door open for her.

Inside, she could see a long table full of faces. Servants danced around it, bearing plates of food that they piled down on the thin frame before scuttling off back to the kitchen.

Marinette flinched from where she stood.

This was far more crowded than the Bourgeois manor...

Under the servant's gaze, Marinette took shy steps in, pausing when nobles turned their curious, critical eyes to her. Like a horse on display, they looked over her, unraveled her, judged, and critiqued.

Instinctively she knew they didn't like what they saw.

And were uneasy and baffled.

She could almost picture the whispers burning to be uttered.

"That's the girl with Chat Noir."

"Why is she here?"

"She might've come through Limbes, I hear...?"

She almost took a step back, almost fled.

Only to jerk when Prince Felix stood. "Lady Marinette," he greets, waving to a chair beside. She rushed to his side, whispering a shy, "Thank you," as he pulled the chair out for her. She sat stiffly, gaze locked on her hands. She jumped when a plate of food was set before her.

A steaming slab of meat and vegetables.

The king nods to her. "Lady Marinette," His Highness greets. "Glad to see you could join us."

"Ye-yes," she uttered.

He made an agreeable hum, then turned to a noble beside him. "What's this I hear of trouble on that border?"

Eyeing the row of forks, she moved her hand to them, frowning.

There was a nearby scoff, and she looked up sharply to see an amused lady. Marinette shrinks down, turning her gaze down to her plate, unsure.

There was a nudge, and she peeked over to the prince.

He showed her which fork he was using.

She gave a quick nod and snatched up the fork, picking and poking her meal.

With so many eyes on her, she didn't feel like eating.

"So Lady... Marinette was it?" Marinette looked up, blinking at the smug lady from before. She flashed her a bright smile. "Is it true you were in the company of Chat Noir? So I heard."

Marinette purses her lips, turning back to her plate.

The lady cooed, taking it as a confirmation. "How scandalous."

"Lady Skoonk," the prince voices, "I hear you've become quite acquainted with Lord Borris?"

The lady smiled stiffly. "You heard wrong," she said.

Felix hummed. "I would hope."

The lady turned away, snagging another noble to talk too.

"Did you have a good rest?" the prince politely asked.

Marinette nodded. She spared a fast glance at the table. Softly, she asked, "Why all the..."

He spared a fast glance to the surrounding people. "Visiting lords and ladies, some are also important council members. There's much to do, if there are matters to attend, they'll join the king for meals."

She hummed, poking the meat, lifting up the small portion. She took a small bite.

It was tender and slavered in rosemary.

She spared a glance at the king.

The king had the slightest grimace on his lips, his gaze locked on a sweating lord.

She took another nervous bite, sparing a glance at the crowd.

She really didn't want to bring this up with a crowd...

"Is the meal to your liking, Lady Marinette?"

She jerked to the king, surprksed. He blinked at her, a little curious, a little bored. He offered, "I can have a fresh meal brought out for you."

"O-oh no," she stammered, "it's fine..."

"Are you sure? It seems you've barely eaten."

So he noticed.

"I... have been rather occupied."

The whole table froze for a second, all eyes locked on her. Marinette tensed under their gaze, trying hard to fight off a grimace. Felix made a loud chime with his dish and the meal resumed it's murmuring and gossips.

The king nodded to her, a silent command to hear her troubles.

Considering him for a moment, she said, "I was wondering about Adrien."

There was a pause, a few guests turning their curious eyes to her.

The prince she was sure was grimacing.

Marinette ignored them all, peering at the king.

He glanced back at her, his expression impassive.

After a few more moments, he bid, "Would you join me for a walk, Lady Marinette?"

She nodded, and both rose up.

Gabriel spared his son a nod and offered her his arm. Marinette took it nervously, letting the king guide her out.

Felix peered after them, frowning, then turned to the table, meeting their curious and narrowed stares.

He gave them a slight grimace.

In the hall, the king lead here down slowly, peering out contemplatively. She followed along, eyeing the painting in the hall. "That's a touchy subject," the king voiced. Marinette turned, to him. "Adrien Paon, Chat Noir; whatever name you want to use, that's a touchy subject here."

"I figured," Marinette replied. "But I am quite concerned."

The king hummed. "You really care for him."

"Of course I do. He was one of the first to help me."

"Hm, I remember he was very sweet as a boy. Nice to hear that feature stayed."

"That always stayed," she insisted. "He's still the boy you remember you know. Just... lonely and hurt." She shoots the king a look, frowning. "Just because he has the powers of Chat Noir doesn't mean he is Chat Noir, he isn't evil, Your Highness."

"And yet," the king voices, "there's no other explanation for what's been happening."

"No," she tensely agreed, "but it's not Adrien. He wouldn't do that, Your Highness."

He stops, peering out a towering window. "There's no other explanation. And Franae is scared of Chat Noir running around."

Marinette frowned, recalling her unease.

Tikki's own unease.

That could not be a coincidence.

She withdrew from the king, turning his ice colored eyes to her. She met his stare boldly. "A few days," she requested. "I could find your killer. If I'm right, I want Adrien freed, alive and unharmed. I don't want him sought for anymore."

He raised a pale brow at her. "Confident," he said.

"I have a good guess."

"And what is that guess?"

"I want to be sure first."

The king considered her, looking over the girl from Limbes, weighing her request. He said, "...If you can find and prove whose been doing this, very well. But if not, you're to remain here in Castle Effiia. Be our willing source with the other side of Limbes. Perhaps maybe even be Queen of Franae."

Marinette tenses at the statement.



Married to Felix?!

"Uhm-" she squeaked.

"That is my term for giving you a few days to find and prove who's doing this." He grimaced. "I get a feeling you're eyeing someone of my court. That's an especially heavy claim, My Lady."

She winced, trying to resist the urge to fiddle with the hem of her dress.

This... this brought time at least.

If she was lucky, she could prove her suspicions right, and Adrien would be freed and safe.

If she was lucky, she could join him.

To the king she gave a stiff nod, trying not to grimace.

She could do it.

She could make it.

Or they could escape together if Tikki had any luck with Chat. "Deal," she said.

The king smiled.

Much like before, Chat struggled with his bound claws. And like before, the chain wrapped around his hands and wrists did little to budge against his efforts, keeping his palms secured flat against each other.

His teeth rattled when he bit the chain.

His boots slid uselessly off when he tried to kick them down.

And when he tried to slide the chains down with the cell bars, all he got were harshly pinched wrists.

He was getting frustrated enough he wanted to snarl out and bang against the bars. All the time he was here, she was on her own. Surrounded by the selfish and cruel, watching with judging eyes. Making plans of use for her.

With her being from Limbes...

She was a cat surrounded by hungry, greedy wolves.

Wolves that would use her.

Wolves that wouldn't care or help her if she stumbled and fell for their schemes.

And the longer he was here, stuck in this cell, the less help he was going to be.

He, he was going to be hanged, he's sure.

And she'd be on her own.

He had to get out.

Had to get to her.

He had to get them both out and away.

But he had to get these blasted chains off first...

Chat paused when he heard a sound. A small chink of another chain, small enough to sound like a mouse brushing against it. Then there was a voice, soft and nervous.


Wide eyed, he rushed to the bars, ramming against them. "Ti-Tikki?" he called, skeptically.

There was a flare of red and there she was, Ladybug, looking so relieved to find him. Chat echoed, happy to see the fairy for once. "Thank goodness," Tikki gushed, zipping close to hug his cheek. "Are you ok?"

"I'd be better if I had these chains off," he said, holding his claws up

She turned towards his claws, frowning.

She floated over, lightly touching the metal.

"Can you do anything?" he asked.

She shook her head. "Magically no. My power doesn't resolve around damaging anything. But maybe..." Tikki trailed, floating around, she grabbed the chain and tried to tug it down, help Chat get a hold of it, help him ruin it.

But it wouldn't budge under her efforts, and after a few tugs, the little red fairy slumped forward, exhausted. "Sorry," she said, "physical prowess isn't my forte either... Plagg could move this easily if he wanted but me..."

"What do we do then?" Chat asked.

Tikki frowned worriedly, meeting his frantic stare.

She didn't know how to answer, but, there had to be something!

As Tikki started to look around for an item they could try to use, a voice called out, "Well, well, well. Ladybug. I didn't expect that magic to be your's." Jumping, Tikki dove at Chat, bouncing off his chest as she whipped around to see who had come.

It was him.

Hawk Moth.

He, he was here...

Tikki quivered, sinking down against Chat.

The cat drew away, ears flat on his head, glaring at the masked witch.

Boldly, he drew near the cell, grinning as he stared down at the two. "What a lucky, lucky find."

"I never want to do that again," Marinette said, grimacing at the floor as she walked beside the prince. Just as she and the king were returning, the prince slipped out and asked her to join him.

Not hungry and unwilling to go back into that noble filled room, she agreed.

He made an agreeable hum. "They can be quite exhausting."

She spared him a curious glance. "Did you and Adrien have to deal with that?"

"As crowned prince, yes, I've always had to deal with nobility, eager to appeal to a young child... Adrien, he's the son of the court witch. With the off chance he may have magic, he was avoided, despite his mother Bluebird being well liked and a big help here."

"It's rough being a witch," Marinette comments. Being related to a witch too...

Felix nods, stopping before a door. "It's a frightening power witches have, and that power goes to anyone, good and bad." He unlocked it. "Makes me think of that saying, a few bad seeds spoils a barrel, despite there being a majority of good apples in there." He opened the door for her and waved her in. "I believe these are your's."

She blinked at the office room he revealed to her, her gaze locking onto the desk that was piled with her things.

She slipped in, going through each item.

There was her knife, the cowl she made Chat, Chloe's future bracelet that probably didn't even matter anymore, her sketchbook, drawings...

She took a shaky breath, picking up the parting gift Nathanael gave her.

The drawing of her and her parents.

She shook a little as she traced their smiles, took in the tight press of the three figures.

She missed them.

She missed them so much.

She wondered if they were doing well, if the Bourgeois were treating them fairly.

Shakily, she set it down, then cracked a watery smile when she saw her sketch of her and Chat dressed royally, enjoying a gala together.

"You kept all this?" she asked.

"Of course," the prince said. "You're an interesting case. Everything she be kept."

She rolls her eyes and set the drawing down. Her gaze flickered and she caught sight of her rose.

Or what was her rose.

Raising a brow, she picked up the shrivel flower, twirling it gently, wincing when an ashen petal fell. "What happened to my..."

"Chat Noir."

She blinked. "We believe he ruined your flower."

"Why would he..." she trailed, then her eyes widened.

"...someone wants a love fortune, a ladybug comes and chooses a rose. They won't wilt till it's come true..."

It was a flower that wouldn't wilt till touched by her true love. And Chat wouldn't willingly wilt her flower. So kt wilted under his touch.

It wilted for him.

She almost dropped the rose.

"...I do need your help, but also because your fated match is here, in Irth, in Franae! I don't know exactly where he is, he's pretty elusive, but he's here."

"...He's who I want to find! And I think you have a better chance of finding him than me or my ladybugs, we've certainly never been able to get close."

Her match was on the other side of the wall.

He was someone Tikki had a hard time finding.

She nor her ladybugs could ever locate Chat.

And Marinette's rose wilted for Chat...

She startled the prince by whipping around, demanding, "I need to see him! I need to see Adrien now."

Chat released a deep snarl at the witch, going as far back in his cell as he could go. If this witch thought he was defenseless because of his bound claws, he had fangs he'd be happy to surprise the man with.

The witch wasn't perturbed though.

He just eyed Chat, intrigued.

"Fascinating," the witch murmured. "I thought you only got Chat Noir's power, but it seems you picked up some more animalistic qualities as well." He tilts his head, eyeing the hellion. "Or is it the ring?"

"It's none of your business!" Chat snarled.

"Actually," Hawk Moth voiced, holding up his cane, "it is. You stole something from me, Adrien Paon, I would like it back."

" I never stole anything from you!" Chat snapped.

He jerked when Hawk Moth swung his cane down and through the bars. Only it didn't hit him. The sphere end of the cane just lightly tapped his ring. The clear sphere darkened black, green sparks flashing through what looked like trapped black smoke. Hawk Moth smiled, while Chat and Tikki stared at it with wide eyes. "I wondered if he'd be able to sense you. Sense his magic."

"Pla..." Tikki uttered, staring at the sphere. Her gaze followed it as Hawk Moth withdrew it.

Chat growled, body tensing and shaking with rage. "You, you trapped Chat Noir! The true... it's your fault! What happened to me, why he, why he-" It was because of him that he had to live the way he did. It was his fault.

Hawk Moth huffed, leaning on his cane. "Chat Noir passing his magic onto you was unplanned. There were quite a few things that went unplanned. And after all that work I did." Sighing, he tapped the now clear sphere. L spent a decade perfecting this. A special cage for fairies, a special way to tap into their power. To gain enough to catch the kingdom's attention, to be welcomed, to have a seat of power." He smiled cruelly, turning his gaze to Chat. "I even had Bluebird to thank for speeding up the process for me."


"Yes. Bluebird helped me, rather unintentionally." He chuckled. "But she should've known, with her sort of power, the dangers of a witch getting close to a regent. Especially one in a loveless, jealous, and prejudice marriage." Hawk Moth chuckled. "Did you really think it was only your mother that lead Her Highness to hating you?"

Chat scooted away, digging his boots to the floor, feeling cold.

The witch sighed. "It doesn't really matter, in truth. Your blood makes it so you have no right to the throne. Even without naturally born magic, you couldn't have with who your mother was." The witch gave an amused shrug. "Not that it mattered with Her Highness. She couldn't stand either of you. She was more upset with your existence than the affair. A royal witch child. It is quite absurd."

Chat bore his teeth. "Why are you-"

"Revealing this? A... respectful memento to Bluebird, so to speak. She would've liked you to have known. Especially before she went."

Chat stiffened. "Went...?"

"I had to finish Her Highness' task, it was part of a deal after all. Make Bluebird and her son disappear, and I have a seat in the court."

"They were already gone," Tikki said sharply, buzzing with agitated energy.

The witch wasn't intimidated. I still did have to reclaim the rest of Chat Noir's power. I think Bluebird must've seen my coming. She found me before I found you both. She took your location with her to the grave."

Chat slumped against the cell wall, gazing at Hawk Moth, not quite seeing him.

To, to the grave...

She, his maman, she was...

"You... you killed-"

"Oh not just her. Her Highness and I... had a disagreement on the term 'disappear'. She didn't care for what I've done."

Chat growled deeply, hunching up.

"It was quite an opportunity. I didn't have Chat Noir's full power, but I had enough. Enough to add wood to that flame of mistrust Franae had for you."

"It's been you!" Tikki snarled, "Everything that's happened, every disappearance, you've been misusing his magic!"

Chat hissed, pupils slitted thin. "I, I'm going to-"

"What?" Hawk Moth cuts in, mocking. "Bite me? You have to reach me first."

Tikki dove at him with an enrage cry. Surprised, Hawk Moth stumbled when she rammed at his face, feeling an agitated pulse of magic flash over him. Grimacing, he twisted around to face the red fairy as she came around to strike him again. He brought his cane up and Tikki zipped into the glass, disappearing in a flash of pink. The clear glass flared as color bled into it. An angry swirl of black, purple, and red.

"Now that that's out of the way," he voiced, turning to the growling cat, meeting those furious eyes. "Hold still Adrien Paon, since I'm not the true Chat Noir, this will hurt, and very likely be fatal. And don't you fear, I'll see the girl from Limbes cared for." Hawk Moth slid his cane in, just as Chat charged. The sphere end slammed into his chest and he was pinned to the wall, snarling and hissing as the glass started to glow. White cracks spread over his suit, leaving a searing, burning pain over Chat's body.

Hot enough that even the chains broke away from Chat's wrist.

Driven by instinct, he grabbed the cane, one claws sinking into the glass and cracking it.

In a pulse of furious energy, Hawk Moth was thrown back.

Groaning, he sat up, turning to glare at Chat.

Only to stiffen when he met an enraged growl.

There before him was the true Chat Noir, his body small and dripping with black smoke, his green eyes ablazed with a fury that could not be swayed. Hawk Moth pressed away, shakily pointing the sphere end at the black fairy.

Plagg turned away, turning his eyes onto the quivering boy below, the boy that couldn't turn his scared gaze away.

Plagg dove for the ring, disappearing into it.

The boy jerked with a sharp cry, jerking about, falling to his side with loud cries. His claws slashed out and gripped his hand, trying to claw the ring off. Only it broke apart, and a black, smoky mass swallowed the boy up.

Hawk Moth watched as the mass grew and morphed.

Listened as the screams and growls got deeper.

He flinched when the mass rose up and stumbled, easily breaking the bars in a single touch.

The ground shook as a heavy paw was slammed into floor, the mass settling, leaving a large black cat looming over Hawk Moth, smoke spilling off it's large form. Everywhere it touched darkened and cracked, getting ruined under the angry fairy's magic.

Green flame eyes turned onto Hawk Moth, alight and alive.

"A-Adrien?" Hawk Moth uttered, backing away slowly.

The mouth fell open, flashing ivory fangs. With a big jerk, the cat gave a screaming roar down at the witch.

A cry that could be heard throughout the whole castle.

Chapter Text

Marinette and Felix jumped at the bellow that tore through the castle, their eyes wide and bodies instinctively tensing at the loud cry. It sounded inhuman, it sounded mad, and it sounded close and inside the castle. Felix moved to the door while Marinette pressed to the table, wide eyed.

"What was that?!" Marinette demanded. Did they have some beast holded up here? Something they fed prisone-


"If he's hurt," she started, only for the prince to sharply cut her off.

"I don't know," Felix said curtly, stepping into the hall, brow furrowed. "There shouldn't be anything monstrous in this castle."

And yet, that was a monster's cry.

Something was here.

Something mad.

Frowning, Felix turned to her and waved her to his side. "We need to find His Highness," he declared. "See what's going on." She nodded, after a moment of hesitation, grabbed her knife. She came to Felix's side and followed him closely as he went down the hall, listening for any heavy steps of the monster.

She could still hear it's roars, shaking the stony walls around them; but otherwise, it didn't appear to be moving around.

She gripped her knife tightly.

She hoped Chat was ok.

There was very little that could scare Hawk Moth.

It was a factor he took great pride in.

A factor he kept at. He learned there was little for him to fear when he was being feared. He made himself near fearless. He was a witch. He was naturally born with magic. He had a natural power that none other had.

He should be feared.

It was his birthright to be feared.

It was his birthright to have power with this gift he had since his first breath.

He should be feared.

But his magic, his silver tongue that could sway his prey with simple words; it didn't feel to be enough.

He obtained more power.

Gained a better chance to be feared.

The gentle Papillon was an easy source of magic, the fairy kept his magic with him, allowing Hawk Moth to contain all of Papillon.

With Papillon's magic, there was so much more he could do. He could make minions, he could sway emotions and views.

All at his fingertips.

And coming across Chat Noir by chance.

It was the greatest opportunity of his life time.

How could he not take the chance to contain the black fairy? To have such destructive power too?

He was a man to be feared.

He should be feared.

He shouldn't fear anything.

And yet, at this moment, he found himself scared.

Looming over him was Chat Noir, unrestrained, enraged, and savage. He looked just as he did in the books. He was a huge cat, standing bigger than a horse. His eyes were a frightening green fire, he had three long whiskers waving on his head, and he had smoke and little black spurts of magic coming off of him, curling in a wispy mass. A mass that was filling the air, making it unbearable to be in the room.

The surrounding dungeon creaked and groaned, slowly getting cracked and rusted away.

Even from where he was, Hawk Moth could feel the sizzling magic coming off the big cat, feel it burn at his being.

As those green eyes locked on him, a deep rumble coming off the cat, Hawk Moth knew he had to get away, had to escape.

Chat Noir was going to kill him, physically or magically; he had to go.

As Chat took a dangerous step to him, the witch scrambled up and stumbled back, not tearing his gaze from the angry big cat. Growling loudly at his withdrawal, Chat surged forward, a large paw coming at him, black misting off it.

Hawk Moth reacted instinctively, bringing his cane up and tapping into Ladybug's power. He pulled the magic out, willing a shield, willing to be protected against the coming destruction.

A red shield flared out over him, taking that swipe for Hawk Moth. Black steam flared off the shield, white cracks spreading over it.

Chat hissed angrily, pressing on that shield.

The other paw came up, slamming on the shield, spreading more cracks over the shield.

Hawk Moth scrambled, gritting his teeth as he tried to keep the magic going, tried to keep the shield between him and the destructive cat.

There was a boom behind him, a guard shouting, "Hawk Moth! Are you alright?"

"Stay back!" Hawk Moth called back, trying to push the large cat back. "He'll kill you if you get near!"

Chat leaned closer, hot, insufferable breathe blowing over the witch. Hawk Moth grimaced at the jaws that loomed close, saliva dripping off ivory fangs.

Brow furrowed, he concentrated, pulling all the magic he could from Ladybug. With a great surge, he pushed Chat back, sending the black cat back. Claws tore up the floor, spreading angry cracks to the floor. Chat released a furious roar, charging as Hawk Moth fled down the hall, towards the frozen guards.

"Run!" Hawk Moth shouted, "Get out of here you fools!"

They scrambled out of sight, making room for the witch to race by, Chat Noir on his tail. Reaching for Papillon, Hawk Moth willed the change to come over him. A surge of purple washed over him and he was a black butterfly. When Chat swung at him, Hawk Moth rode the gust brought by his paw, easily dodging the dander.

Chat snapped after him, swinging wildly as he tried to get the butterfly. Each time the black insect danced around him.

With a great swerve, Hawk Moth flew out the window.

Chat barreled after him, practically smashing through the wall in his hot pursuit. Chat sunk his claws into the wall, stopping himself from falling forward. He spotted the black butterfly fluttering off, heading for the main castle.

He released a bellowing roar after the butterfly.

Chat withdrew, hissing.

Chat turned sharply when he heard a woosh. He saw the arrow just as it was released, coming straight at him. The arrow disintegrated into nothing before it even touched the big cat.

The guard stiffened.

Chat rumbled, eyes narrowing as his body hunched up.

The guard fled away, leaving the hissing cat alone.

Turning, Chat tore ofr down the hall, heading for the main castle.

Heading for Hawk Moth.

Marinette clung close to Felix, listening for the monster, half expecting to see it coming down the hall. She was unnerved that it went quiet now. That it was so still. Licking her lips, she asked, "Do you think it's gone?"

Felix didn't answer, frowning.

She gives him a frown, pressing, "You really don't know what that is?"

"We don't have any sort of beast here, too much money to contain such monsters. And it's rather crude to keep a frightful beast," the prince stated, his frown deepening. Making this concerning… They stopped when they heard a loud rumble, felt the castle shudder. Felix set a hand on his sword's hilt, body tense. "Keep close," he instructed.

Marinette tightened her grip on her knife.

Warily, they crept forward, listening for the monster, listening for anyone. They stopped when they heard a pound of feet and the loud chinks of metal. A swarm of knights sped past them, a woman with dark hair arguing with Sir D'Argencourt.

The prince hurried to them, calling, "Nathalie, Armand."

They turned to him, relieved.

"Prince Felix!" the woman cried, "Thank goodness!"

"What's going on?" the prince demanded, Marinette tailing him warily.

"Chat Noir's gone savage," Sir D'Argencourt explained, grimacing.

"Savage?!" Marinette repeated in alarm. She drew near, demanding, "What do you mean savage?"

"He's savage," Sir D'Argencourt stated, turning sharp eyes to Marinette. To the prince, he bid, "You two need to hide, I had just received a report that he's heading to the main part of the castle."

"Where is he coming in from?" Marinette asked.

The knight turned to her, scolding, "That is none of your business."

"It is," she stated.

The prince voiced, setting a hand on her shoulder. "Don't be hasty, not till we get more on this-"

"That's probably a good idea."

They turned to the voice, watching a black butterfly draw near. In a dark shift, Hawk Moth stood before them, gaze sharp and locked on Marinette. She took an instinctive step back. Hawk Moth smiled. "You should be go Chat Noir," the witch said. "He is fond of you."

"Hawk Moth-"

"With all due to respect, Your Highness, we can make use of that hellion's affections for her. We can get control over him."

The prince tightly argued, "That is risky."

"But she does want to go."

"To help Chat," Marinette sternly clarified.

His smile turned soft, almost apologetic. "He may be too far gone for you to reach him."

Her gaze turned sharp. "How would you know?" she asked.

Hawk Moth's smile dropped, his gaze turning cold. "I took a glance at the situation," he said. "I saw the situation. Chat Noir is too far gone, girl."

She narrowed her eyes at him. "I want to see for myself."

"As do I."

They all turned to see the king joining them, a deep frown on his features.

"Your Highness!" Nathalie sighed in relief. "You're alright."

The king opened his mouth to reply, only to pause when there was a loud shudder going through the castle, a deep roar echoing it. Everyone grimaced warily. The king sighed. "I'll be peachy when this is under control." Turning to the prince, he instructed, "Felix, take Lady Marinette somewhere safe. Both of you hide away and wait this out."

They both moved to protest, but the king turned to the witch, cutting them off and declaring. "You're coming with me Hawk Moth. Nathalie, escort the Prince and Lady Marinette to somewhere safe. See that they stay safe."

Nathalie gave a stiff nod.

Felix and Marinette share a grimace, sparing a glance with each other.

The king turned away. "Hawk Moth."

"Yes Your Highness."

They walked off, the king uttering his wish to avoid killing Chat Noir. Nathalie, Felix, and Marinette were left behind. The steward turned to them, shoulders stiff, wariness touching her frown. "Let's go," she bid.

The castle creaked and shuddered with each step Chat Noir took. The floor broke and jerked, making it uneven and torn. The ceiling above creaked and shuddered from the smoke coming off the large cat. The whole castle seemed to tremble as the angry being of ruin stalked through, green eyes flaring as he sought for prey.


Where was he…

Chat stopped, lifting their maw and sniffing.

He had to be here.

This was where he fled away.

He had to be here.

A loud scream exploded near Chat, hurting their ears at the sharp sound.

Chat sharply turned to it, seeing a girl clutching the wall, gaping at the cat like monster that stood in it, shaking as she gaped at them.

Agitated by the fear rolling off of her, Chat roared at her, flashing large fangs, hackles rising to make them all the larger. The smoke coming off the big cat flared and dsnced like fire, echoing the cat's agitation. It sent her fleeing, screaming and babbling out as she went, stumbling a few times as she went.

She was not what they wanted.

Hissing in frustration, Chat prowled on, his gaze and mind drenched in red.

Where was he?

They had to find him.

He had to pay.

He dared…



They wanted death.

They wanted him dead…

See him dead.

See him pay…

Where was he…

Marinette trailed behind the steward and prince, watching them quietly argue with each other. Gradually her steps were slower and slower, letting the two get ahead of her. When she saw her chance, she ducked down a hall and out of sight.

Listening to the fading murmur of the two, she deduced they still didn't notice her absence. She hurried down this hall, intent to find Chat, to see him for herself.

She wasn't going to let Hawk Moth and the king reach him first.

Wasn't going to let them decide his fate.

Not when one was bias.

Not when one unnerved her.

Especially with Tikki's warning.

And Marinette feared that Hawk Moth would succeed. A truth would be brought to the accusing claims at Chat.

That he may...

Marinette stopped, trying to push those thoughts aside and focusing on listening to the rumbles, trying to guess where Chat was. He was here in the main part of the castle, she was sure of that. But where could he be?

...And where was Tikki?

Marinette took a few steps forward, whipping around and searching, like the fairy could pop up in front of her.

Surely Tikki would've appeared before her…

Or was she with Chat?

There was a big boom, drawing Marinette's gaze over.

There, that's where Chat was.

Marinette sped towards the noise with no hesitation, intent on reaching Chat before anyone else. She only slowed when she noticed black, smoky bubbles floating in the air. When they touched the walls, they greyed away, looking dusty and old.

Marinette frowned, heart pounding as she took them all in.

She didn't remember Chat's ruin being able to move like this…

"Chat Noir's gone savage..."

She shoved that back and hurried on. This meant she was getting close, closer to seeing for herself, closer to helping Chat.

She stopped when there was a loud bellow, hands instinctively going to her ears, fear tapping her chest. Shouts followed, metal sung, and a roar rose up. Marinette felt cold.

They got to Chat first.

Pushing that unease back, she ran to the noise, heart speeding with her fears. "Please, please, please," she muttered, the howls of battle getting louder with every step she took. Rounding a corner, she saw him.

Surrounded by nervous knights was a big snarling black cat with bright green eyes and smoke curling off his form, filling the air with little black balls that smoldered and grew, sharing Chat's agitation, like little floating flames. The big cat screeched and snarled, slashing at every knight that came in his reach. A few times he was successful, swatting a knight into the wall, the armor he wore disintegrating into dust under a single touch. Those that got hit and were unguarded stumbled to their feet and fled, looking back frantically to make sure the cat didn't pursue.

The cat never did.

Chat kept blindly swiping at the guards, slamming his paws to the ground, heaving roars as he flashed his fangs.

Knights swung their swords back at him, or jabbed with spears.

But any time they got close, they broke apart into dust, leaving Chat to slash at the weaponless guards.

Marinette gripped the wall, watching the battle stiffly.

"Chat," she whispered, eyes flicking around the battle.

There had to be a way to calm him down, to get him away from these guards.

With a loud cry, Chat slammed his paws to the ground, frustrated. Blacks sparks sizzled and flared, dancing over the floor and making it break in their wake. Knights stumbled and jerked back, trying to avoid the uprooted and unbalanced floor that tried to nip their ankles.

It gave Chat breathing room.

And Marinette a chance.

"Chat!" she cried, stepping into the hall, jerking his fiery gaze to her, startling Marinette at the sharp, furious stare.

"Fool!" one of the guards shouted. "Get away from it!"

Chat growled at her, nostrils flaring. A hiss tickling his bared fangs as he turned to her, taking a menacing step forward. The floor cracks under that step, crumbling into dust. Marinette didn't move, staring back into those enraged eyes. Licking her lips as she tried to push back her unease, she whispered, "Chat."

He rumbled back, deep and menacing.

"Chat it's ok, it's me. It's Marinette."

He hissed at her.

Biting her lip to steady herself, she took a bold step forward, trying to ignore the uncomfortable heat that surrounded Chat, trying ignore the speeding swarm of black smoke around them. Not tearing her gaze from his, she confidently stated, "You're not going to hurt me."

Hot breath blew at her face, green eyes narrowing.

Like he wanted to challenge her claim.

She held out her hand, watching his gaze flicker to his hand then to her eyes again. His hackles rose and Chat seemed to grow bigger before her. He crouched low, looking ready to strike.

"I trust you," she said. "You're not going to hurt me."

Chat rumbled back, nostrils twitching as he took her in.

She kept her gaze locked on him, hand outstretched.

He took another step to her, mouth twisted up in a savage smile.

"Get away from him!" a knight cried.

"You fool!"

Chat turned to the guards, growling.

"Chat," Marinette beckoned, drawing gaze back to her. "It's ok, it's just you and me. It's ok." He snorts at her, pupils thin. She took a step closer, hand still outstretched. "You're not going to hurt anyone."

Chat huffed. Marinette blinked, the beast almost breathing a word to her. "Hrim," Chat spat, "Hurrat, hrim."

She lowers her hand, frowning at him.

Chat continued to rumble down at her.

Slowly, she asked, "Hurt who…?"

"Mmroooth." With a clack of his teeth, he added, "Keeell!"


Both jerked, whipping around to see the king standing stiffly, looking between the two, frantic and alarmed. Settling his tense gaze on her, he ordered, "Get away from him! He'll shrivel you to nothing!" Chat spat back, hissing.

Marinette rushed forward, waving her arms and drawing Chat's gaze back down to her. "It's ok!" she repeated, "It's alright! Chat!"

Chat snapped at her, hackles up and bristling, ears flat on his head.

Marinette almost took an instinctive step back.

He won't hurt me, she repeated to herself, watching him rise up, sitting back on his haunches, the air tickled by his growls. He won't hurt her. He won't.

"Your Highness!" a familiar voice called out, desperate and tense, "We must kill him! Before he kills more! He's savage and senseless! He'll kill her!"

Marinette tensed as Chat's eyes flared, the pupils thinning dangerously as he bore his fangs, his claws twitching. The ghoulish cat moved as Marinette cried, "Chat!"

She fell back as Chat surged forward with a loud cry, knocked over by his rush and covered in black smoke and magic. It was an uncomfortable heat laid over her, a heat that didn't burn. Blinking, she watched the black drift around her harmlessly, her skin unblemished, her clothes fine.

It didn't hurt.

Chat didn't hurt her.

There were alarmed shouts and Marinette jumped up from the inky blackness, seeing the guards scattered, their army crumbling away into dust from the touch of Chat.

Chat who wasn't there.

And neither was the king or witch.

It was a mantra of a thought that kept rolling in their head.




And now with their prey insight, it rang out like church bells, booming and loud.

It was a desire that wouldn't be ignored.




But the prey was fast and cowardly. He kept a man between them, another familiar face, another familiar scent before Chat, a scent they couldn't recall fondly. The familiarity kept Chat wary, but the desire to lash out overrode the reluctance. They reached, claws spread and hungry, uncaring if the man betqeen them and their prey got caught as well. They wanted him.




But the prey was fast. Even with the man pressed against him, his cane across his chest; he easily danced out of Chat's reach, much to the cat's ire. "Die!" Chat snarled out, leping at them, slashing blindly, trying to tear the prey apart.

He deserved to die.

For his killings, so many killings.

They remembered every face he killed.

Remember how pale their faces got, their eyes filled with fear, their screams and begs and wails.

Two faces Chat knew.

The late Her Highness, betrayed and scared.

And his mama, his mama looking at him with fear and rage, her face twisting up in pain as she was burned away.

It brought out a rage in Chat, bursting out in the loudest bellow ever heard. Loud enough to shake the castle and make all near the ghoulish cat stumble and trip.

Prey on the ground and unguarded, Chat prowled closer, growling deeply as he glared at Hawk Moth.

He was theirs now.

There was no escape.

So set on Hawk Moth, they didn't pay attention to any others. They didn't even hear the hiss of the king, getting burnt by their magic pouring off of them. All they could see was Hawk Moth, enjoy the fear in his eyes, see him try and crawl away, not tearing his gaze from the beast.


Let him be scared.

Let him fear their rage.





Chat turned sharply, another familiar scent tapping his nose. They recognized the prince staring at them with scared eyes. "Go away!" Chat spat.

No one was going to get in their way.

Not when they were so close.

The prince didn't grasp their words. His hand went to his sword, tensing under the cat's emerald gaze.

Hawk Moth took the chance to strike. In a rush of red magic, he fired a spear. The magic slammed into Chat's shoulder, making the big cat stumble, crying out in surprise. He turned his furious gaze to the witch. With a cry, Chat leapt at him again, pursuing when Hawk Moth fled.

Cat gone, Felix rushed to his father's side, helping him up.

"You should not have come, Felix," the king uttered, groaning as he was pulled up, leaning heavily on his son as dark steam rolled off his body, his clothes a little burnt through.

"I have a right to be here," Felix replied, sparing a glance as the ruin Chat left. "Do we have any idea what caused this?"

"No," the king huffed, wincing as he stood straighter. "He hasn't exactly sat down to talk... just set on getting Hawk Moth."

The king and prince share a suspicious frown.

Before they could voice possibilities, they turned at a rush of coming feet.

Marinette sped past the royals, not sparing them a glance as she followed the trail of destruction.

"Marinette!" Felix shouted after her, only it fell to deaf ears, the girl already gone.

The king sighed. He was getting to old for this.

Chat Noir was set on making sure he didn't escape this time.

When Hawk Moth pulled magic from Papillon once more to will the change, he was interrupted. Claws tore at his back, interrupting the magic and sending the witch the ground. It was there that the monster quickly pinned him, pouring black magic into the air, making it insufferable and burning to the witch. Hawk Moth's hand instinctively when to the cat's paw, trying to shove him off.

His hand burned fiercely at the touch, and that paw pressed harder on his chest.

Gritting his teeth, he reached for his cane, where red and purple smoke danced in an angry swirl.

His salvation... his only chance... almost...

Claws sunk into Hawk Moth's collar, bringing a pained cry from his lips. He instinctively kicked out, gripping the paw tightly, squeezing it as he tried to get it off. Chat wasn't phased, pressing harder down. "Driiiiie," the monster drawled, raising his other paw high, dripping in black, claws spread and ready to slash.

Desperately Hawk Moth managed to cry out, "Do it! Prove them right! Show Franae just how much of a ruthless killer Chat Noir is!"

Chat screeched at the witch, eyes flashing.

It appeared the beast didn't care.

Those claws came down and Hawk Moth cringed, his gaze locked on those coming deadly claws.


A voice cried out, making the monster pause. Rumbling, the cat looked over as the girl rushed near, her gaze locked on his. Foolishly, she set her hands on the monster's arm, stilling him. Hawk Moth gaped, she wasn't getting burned. "Don't!" she stressed.

Chat hissed.

"They'll kill you for this!" she cried, "I'm not going to see you killed."

"Driiiie!" Chat cried, pressing on Hawk Moth once more, making the witch cringe. "Mrooth driiie! Heee keel! Heee driiie! Keeel! Keeel! Keeel!"

"Chat," she tried again, tried to reason, "please listen to me."

Hawk Moth reached for his cane once more.

If he could just grab it, he could be saved.

He had a perfect minion to use.

Papillon's power could be his salvation, force his will over her; and Ladybug could heal him.

Rolling the cane closer, he grasped it, locking his gaze on the oblivious girl, shushing and consoling the growling cat, her hand boldly set on his muzzle. Hawk Moth swung up, Papillon's power flaring, ready to snatch up the girl. She turned just in time to see the purple tipped cane coming for her, eyes wide.

Chat reacted faster.

His jaws clamped on the cane, shattering the sphere and releasing a surging flare of magic that threw all three away.

Groaning, Marinette sat up, looking over to the broken cane. She sucked in a surprised breath. Two fairies floated over it, their expression grim, eyes dark. "Tikki," she whispered, barely aware of Chat shifting beside her, his gaze locked on the red fairy. The one beside her was purple, with butterfly like wings. Nooroo she suspected.

The fairies moved.

Tikki dashed up to Chat and touched his head.

Warm magic pulsed out and Chat shuddered.

Ina swirl of black, the large body disappeared leaving a gasping boy. Marinette caught Adrien before he fell forward, letting him lean against her while Tikki held Plagg, the black torn, clutching her back tightly and growling.

Across from them, Nooroo floated over Hawk Moth.

The witch stared up at the purple fairy's dark gaze, uttering, "No, you, you can't do anything to me! I'm, I'm your master."

"No longer," Nooroo murmured.

Hawk Moth flinched back when the fairy's eyes went dark, the swirl on his head glowing white, his wings echoing it. White butterflies flared out, diving towards Hawk Moth, surround him. Marinette tightened her grip on Adrien as they grew dark in color, malice, greed, and hunger lacing the air. The butterflies disappeared, leaving Hawk Moth shaking where he sat on the ground. Nooroo announced, "Your magic and power are mine. Never again shall you control anyone."

With a growl, Plagg ripped away from Tikki, starting to circle the now magicless human.

Tikki quickly followed, flying in sync with Plagg as they circled Hawk Moth.

She made a wild dive at him, her small being phasing through him, making him cry out in surprise. Drawing away, she glared down at him, stating, "All happiness in your life is mine. Never again will find bliss, never again will you know contentment."

Plagg stopped before him, baring his fangs. Like Tikki, he dove at Hawk Moth wildly, phasing through the ex-witch and leaving him crumbling on the ground, screaming at the burning sensation passing through him. "Your life is mine," Plagg told the human, eyes ablaze. "Till the end of your days, misfortune shall eat you away."

So caught up with the fairies before her, Marinette jumped when a hand rested on her shoulder. Looking over, she found Felix crouching beside her, frowning at the scene, at the three fairies hovering over the shaking Hawk Moth.

Marinette turned her gaze over, seeing the king stand near, taking this sight in.

He met her gaze, a silent understanding passing through them.

Marinette turned away and rested her head on the exhausted Adrien, hugging him a little tighter, relishing the feel of him, taking that he was here with her, he was ok.

It was all ok now, it was done.

They were safe.

Chapter Text

"Thank you for the food, King Gabriel," Tikki bid, humming as she took another bite of the provided cookie, pressed tightly to Plagg. The two have become quite inseparable since their freedom. "These have to be one of the finest cookies I've had in a long time."

The king nods, pleased. "I'm glad they're to your liking, Lady Ladybug." He looked over to the purple fairy, asking, "And you, Lord Papillon? Lord Chat Noir?"

Plagg didn't answer, rolling his cheese around before him.

Nooroo stepped up, reassuring, "They're very good, thank you King Gabriel."

Gabriel nodded. "Of course. There's so much more I'd like to do though. For you, Lady Ladybug, for fixing everything, and Lord Papillon, I am sorry we did not notice your absence from the fountain. Your capture..."

Nooroo shook his head, wings fluttering behind him. "I have not reached out to the royal family in so long, I'm not offended in you not being aware of my capture." Nooroo offered the king a small smile. "Perhaps this is a sign to be a little more involved from now on."

"So long as someone doesn't take your name again," Plagg muttered, rolling his cheese away.

Nooroo chided, "That was the people, he didn't take my name intentionally."

Plagg harrumphed floating off, ignoring Tikki's gaze following him. Humming, she turned back to her cookie, nibbling away.

The royal family shifted slightly, their gaze lingering after Chat Noir. To Ladybug, the prince asked, "Adrien is really... no longer Chat Noir?"

"I pulled all of Chat Noir from him," Tikki reassured. "He's human, as magicless as before. Though, he is scarred from that experience. He'll have a physical scar from Chst Noir forcing his magic onto him, and some cat behaviors may remain. But he's not Chat Noir anymore, entirely human. He couldn't reach for magic even if he desired."

Felix nodded, relaxing in his chair.

"So that was really all Hawk Moth's doing," the king asked, reaching for his chalice. "Everything..."

Nooroo nodded. "It was. He wanted the rest of Chat Noir's power. It'd be easier to get with the whole kingdom looking for him..." The fairy slumps, looking away.

The king sighed. "Fear Chat Noir will longer and stay for a while, Lady Ladybug, I would advise that he stays hidden for a while."

"He will," Tikki reassured. "He'll have too. With Hawk Moth... he had to use Chat Noir a lot to do his bidding. Chat's magically exhausted."

The king nodded, then after a few moments of consideration, asked, "Do you fairies have any preferences on Hawk Moth's fate?"

"You were caged the longest," Tikki bid, turning to Nooroo.

"He's been stripped down to nothing and his life will be miserable till the end, a likely painful end with Chat Noir's fury," the fairy said, looking to Gabriel. "Turn him loose or keep him to kill or cage, I'm fine with leaving that to Franae's king to judge. You have been wronged like we have. We have passed our judgement, Franae can pass theirs."

"Very well," the king agreed.

"I do have a request," Tikki voiced, drawing the king's gaze to her. "About my Children."

Marinette missed drawing.

Laying down next to Adrien as he slept, she reclaimed her sketchbook and was drawing away again. For now it was a mindless doodle, a few dresses and vests and skirts. She sketched out dancing bodies, wrapped around each other in a fluid flow that her charcoal echoed, gliding over the page gracefully, hissing softly as it left a lovely stain. With a slight quirk of her lips, she added a touch of cat ears on one of the figures.

"We should dance again."

She jumps, looking over to see Adrien awake lazily staring at the page, his lips quirked up.

"Adrien!" she cried, dropping the charcoal piece and tackling him, earning a surprised grunt from him as he flopped on the bed.

"Marinette," he returned with a laugh, wrapping her hug. He nuzzled her neck, smiling at her soft hair tickling his face, he breathed her in, a slight purr coming out of him at being with her once more. "Marinette," he repeated, fond and content. Then tensed, eyes flying open in alarm. He sat up in a rush, nearly knocking her off, and proclaimed, "Hawk Moth!" Then he faltered, dizzy.

"It's alright," Marinette eased, letting him rest his head on her shoulder. She ran her hands through his hair, easing, "He's been taken care of, he's locked up, the king knows that he's been doing the killings. You're free, you're not in danger anymore." She drew him away, smiling in humored relief, "You're not Chat Noir anymore."

"What?" he uttered, blinking dumbly at her words. He looked to his hands, seeing a ringless hand. Instinctively he jerked back, heart pounding in alarm at his ring being gone.

"Adrien," Marinette consoled, reaching for him.

He drew away, insisting, "D-don't-"

She grabbed his hand, lacing their fingers together.

Adrien stared, wide eyed at the touch, at not seeing anything happen.

She wasn't in pain.

Nothing was happening to her.

"You're not Chat Noir anymore," she repeated.

"I, I'm not..." Adrien trailed, then as if to prove the point, he touched other things with his free bare hand. Nothing shriveled away under his touch. Even if he willed to see the blanket crumble into dust, nothing happened. "I'm, I'm not Chat." He turned to Marinette, repeating with a slight laugh, "I'm not Chat!"

"You're not," she repeated, laughing with him, eyes gleaming.

Adrien laughed louder, unable to help himself but to reach and touch everything.

There was no fear of destroying anything.

He could touch just fine!

He soaked the feel of everything in.

He took in the softness of the blankets and clothes.

Felt the smoothness of the wooden bed frame.

He reached for Marientte, taking in the smoothness of her skin, the warmth of her touch, the little callouses on her fingertips. He traced the freckles on her arms, earning a giggle from her that made him smile. Looking up, meeting the gleam of her blue eyes, he shyly reached for her cheek, cupping it, rolling his thumb over the rim of her cheekbone. "Marientte," he whispered, watching her smile grow, feeling warm as her eyes shined with bliss and affection.

For him.

Her hand reached up, curling around his as she fondly echoed, "Adrien."

He chuckled, leaning forward and resting his head on her shoulder, enjoying the closeness. "I'm really going to have to get used to that name again," he murmured.

"Yeah, especially since I don't want you to keep using my name."

Adrien jerked up, whipping around to face the black fairy that sat a little ways from them, observing the two tiredly. "You're-"

"The true Chat Noir," the fairy confirmed.

Marinette added, "The long sought for Plagg."

"What do you want?" Adrien asked, tense.

"I'm here to pay my dues," Plagg said, looking away and tugging on his whiskers uncomfortably. "I sealed my power away in you, an unwilling host. Forced it on you and costed... I understand if you refuse my apology. I don't expect it to be accepted. But I still need to make amends for the suffering I caused you."

Adrien slowly answered, "I, I understand why you did it... I, I kinda remember..."

Plagg nodded. "Us fused together."

"You," Adrien continued, "you remember... every face he, everyone he... he pulled your magic to do it, he forced you to do it and..."

Plagg peered at him, making no comment.

Adrien grew quiet too, recalling pieces of memories. Marinette leaned on him, lacing their hands together, unsure of what to say. Plagg floated up, clearing his throat and drawing the humans' gazes to him. "Adrien Paon," Plagg voiced, "I give you compensation for the suffering I caused you. And the help you have provided, keeping my power away from Hawk Moth. To this day, you and your loved ones will never know misfortune. Your lives will be long, and mirth shall be your shadow."

Plagg turned to Marinette. "Marientte Dupain-Cheng, as thanks for helping my Ladybug and for supporting my host, you too shall never be touched by misfortune." To them both, added, "Any that cross you, will know bad luck."

He bowed, whiskers curling. "Thank you for bearing my power, and... I'm sorry."

Slowly, Adrien reached out, placing a finger on Plagg's head.

He was surprised to find soft, warm fur. He cupped the fairy, meeting his tired green eyes. Licking his lips, Adrien said, "Make sure it doesn't happen again."

With a small smile, Plagg nodded in agreement.

Adrien tugged at the cloak, finding it a little tight on his neck. Upon his head was the returned cowl Marinette had knitted for him, something he was eager to wear on his travels. Not that he needed to hide anymore. He wasn't Chat Noir. He was Adrien Paon. A simple boy now.

Who could have a simple life.

No more running and hiding.

The facts still left him giddy!

He wasn't Chat anymore!

No more risk!

No more hiding!

It was almost like a dream...

"You look ready."

Adrien looked up to see the prince approach, hands clasped behind his back. Adrien offered him an awkward smile and set his hands on his hips. "I am," he confirmed. He was ready to be back on the road, get away from the busy life of Paria.

Felix hummed, looking over the horses they were providing the two. The finest they could spare. They could carry them for nearly two days before tiring, and could run fast and far. They would serve them well, along with everything else they could give. Turning back to Adrien, he asked, "Will you be returning...?"

Adrien's answer came immediately. "No."

Felix nods. "Well, you're welcomed here in Castle Effiia, don't be a stranger Adrien. If you ever need help."

Adrien laughed, leaning on the horse. Don't be a stranger here. It was a funny thing to hear. With an estrange smile, he said, "Noted."

The prince shifted. "...Stay safe in your travels."

Adrien nodded. "Of course." Then he looked over his apparent half brother. His half brother ever since. The one he played with, the one whose hunted him, and now, an awkward, future king that was a little loss with this. Adrien almost chuckled aloud at this.

"...And, I'm sorry."

Adrien gave a start, surprised.

Felix peered out, grimacing. "For... an old friend, I flashed a sword before I asked you, before I checked. Got carried away with the fear of Chat Noir's power. I'm sorry, Adrien."

Adrien relaxed. "I'm glad it's over," he said.

The prince hummed in agreement.

For a moment, they stood quietly across each other, contemplative and awkward.

Both turned back to the castle when they heard voices. The king and Marinette slipped out, Papillon on the king's shoulder, with Ladybug and Chat Noir on Marinette's. By looks of it to Adrien, the two were exchanging pleasantries. They stopped and shook hands, offering smiles to each other. Marinette turned to them, her smile growing when she saw him and waved.

Adrien eagerly waved back.

The prince left his side to Marientte's, and the king approached him.

Adrien straightened as the king stopped before him, while Marinette turned to face the prince, her smile awkward and friendly.

"Adrien," the king greeted.

"Your Highness," Adrien returned, with a slight bow.

"I'm glad to see you're doing better."

"I am!" Adrien grinned. "I'm glad to be myself again."

Gabriel nodded. "Don't be afraid to contact us if you ever need anything."

"I will."

The two stood stiffly for a moment, eyeing the other considerably. Breathing in, the king offered, "I am sorry, Adrien. I... I shouldn't have reacted so poorly... and she knew I would've, I'm sure she saw that and... I'm sorry."

Adrien nodded, glancing down to the ground. "She doesn't blame you," he murmured. "Never thought ill of you."

The king closed his eyes, taking a breath and holding it, then breathed out with a sigh. Opening his eyes, he offered his hand. "May your travels be safe, Adrien."

Adrien took it, shaking his hand firmly. "May your rule be peaceful."

Marinette drew near, adjusting her strap and sparing a glance at the horses, her lips pursed. Grinning despite sharing her leeriness, Adrien asked, "Ready?"

Turning to him, she nodded. She gave Gabriel a bow, bidding, "Your Highness."

He bows back. "Lady Marinette."

Turning, she claimed the horse's reins and guided the beast out, the fairies floating up to give the king a respectful bow. Gabriel returned it. Not interested to hear their pleasantries, Adrien gave the royal family one last wave before pursuing, tugging his horse along till he was right beside her. He stopped when he saw the withered rose's head sticking out of her bag.

Marinette spared him a curious glance.

"Your rose," he uttered.

She blinked, then glanced down at the flower.

Adrien grimaced. "I'm sorry," he apologized, "I didn't mean to ruin it, I... I didn't think I did and, you only get one rose and-"

"Adrien," she cuts in, grabbing his shoulder, squeezing it reassuringly. "I know you didn't ruin the rose." She looked away, cheeks pink and babbled out, "Ac-actually we ah, I mean, I meant to up this bring, I mean! Bring this up! To you! Er-earlier."

He blinked at her, confused.

She tugged her fresh pigtails, flustered. She asked, "Why do these roses wither? On their own?"

He raised a brow at her but relented and explained, "Well, on their own, they wither when the holder's soulmate touches it."

"And you told me you couldn't ruin something unless you wanted too, right?"


"And you didn't want to ruin the rose."

"Of course not!"

"So...?" Marinette beckoned, rolling her hand, trying to will Adrien's mind to work, to realize this.

He gives her an odd look, then does as she bid, considering these facts. His eyes grew wide at the realization. Marinette's smile grew at it. "Oh," Adrien uttered, turning to her, still wide eyed. "Ooooh." His face exploded red, his hand came up to swept through his hair, a baffled laugh bubbling out of him. "Oooh my god." He was such an idiot.

Marinette laughed, her cheeks pink.

He peeked over at her, grinning with his own flush.

Reaching out, he laced their fingers together, pulling her closer till they were shoulder to shoulder. "Marinette," he whispered, peering down at her, soaking her in, taking the realization that she was his other half. This whole time...

His smile turned cheeky as he said, "Thanks for falling for me."

Marinette scoffed and shoved him away, pursing her lips as he laughed.

"Aw come on Princess," he purred, drawing near and pressing at her side. "Don't pout."

"You really had to pull that out?" she lightly huffs.

"Well it is true..."

She scoffs and he grins. Reaching for her again, he reels her back to his side, keeping them in touch. She leaned into him, eyes fluttering as she peers back, smile shy and sure. He head dips low, her's lifts up. Noses brushed in a slight peck, before heads tilted and soft lips met in a slow kiss. Near the gates to Paria, they stood, soaking in the sensation of the other, the soft warmth of their lips that sent a pleasing tingle through them. Hot breath fanned over cheeks, fingers came up to brush over cheeks or glide along a neck, twirling bits of hair.

They drew away at a pleased giggle above.

Dazed and flustered, they turned to see the beaming Tikki wiggling above them. "You found each other!" she gushed, buzzing happily.

Plagg floated near, blinking down at them. "This is going to be your whole trip, isn't it?" the dark fairy grumbled.

The pair blushed while Tikki shushed him. "Love is a beautiful thing Plagg!" To them, she insisted, "Be happy with each other!"

Clearing her throat, Marientte asked, "You're going to head home?"

Tikki nodded. "It's time for me to return to my spring, and Plagg can do to rest for a few years."

"I'll be taking her home," Plagg added, "traveling through shadows is faster. And safer."

"And of course, we had to really say goodbye first, and gives thanks," Tikki said. Drawing near to Marinette, she bid, "Marinette Dupain-Cheng, I bless you." Setting a paw on her chest, she bowed to human. "You have done me the greatest service, helping me reunite with my Chat Noir. Fortune shall smile upon you." Zipping up, she pressed a kiss to Marinette's forehead, washing a tingling warmth over her. Withdrawing, she smiled at the two, beaming. "May you both live long and happily, and ready for the hard times, as rare as they'll be for you."

Marinette held up her hand, smiling at the fairy fondly as she sat in her palm.

She brought Tikki close, pressing a kiss to Tikki's head. "You have a safe trip home. I'll miss you."

Tikki seemed to glow at the affection, beaming as her eyes gleamed. "Keep a garden for ladybugs," the fairy bid. "We'll visit."

Adrien cleared his throat, bringing Tikki's gaze to him. "Um... Limbes?" he asked.

She floated up, offering, "Being Chat Noir no longer, it'll be... easier for you, but it will still be a bit of a burden." To both, she said, "I still advise remaining here in Franae for your lives together."

"How will I get through Limbes?" Marinette asked.

Tikki giggled, coming up beside the impatient Plagg. "You have all your things back, including a certain feather, and the blessing of Ladybug. Limbes will let you through." She gave them one last wave, calling, "Goodbye!"

Before the humans could reply, she embraced Plagg, letting him hug her back and dive down into their shadows where they disappeared.

"I'm going to miss her," Marinette murmured.

Adrien hummed, pressing a soothing kiss to her brow. Gently he dragged her along. "Let's get you home," he said.

"Home," she echoed, wishfully.

Home sounded nice.

With hands grasped securely together, they left Castle Effiia's shadow, their destination the future.

After a near week of unbothered travel, they were finally here. Finally back here.

Marinette couldn't help but stop, gazing at the wall she had crossed so long ago. It hadn't changed at all. Still so old and brittle, littered with dust, vines, and cracks.

Her last obstacle home…

Well, what was once home.

After this, she'd only be here for visits.

"This is the wall?" Adrien voiced aloud, coming up beside her, gazing at it curiously. "This, your home's on the other side?"

"Yes," she confirmed quietly, not tearing her gaze from it.

He spared her a glance. Reaching out, Adrien pulled her close, nuzzling her as a purr rumbled out, reassuring and affectionate. "They're going to be happy to see you," he promised.

"I know." She took a shaky breath, leaning on him, soaking in his warmth, the familiar tingle of his purr vibrating through her. Adrien kissed her brow. Marinette turned and pressed her face into the crook of his neck. "Let me know if you need to head back," she mumbled into his skin, ignoring his shiver. It's been something she's been nervous about since Tikki said that her world would be a burden to him.

A burden how exactly?

It was an answer she never fully got outside it being difficult for him.

It made her nervous.

It was to a point that she wished he had stayed back in the village Limbell, the first village had ever come across, so close to Limbes. She wished he stayed there, waited for her. She was determined to wrap this up in a day.

But heaven forbid Adrien allowing her to travel alone through Limbes, and Adrien being left alone.

He made it clear that he would follow her no matter what.

Not only for her secured safety, but also to the silent plea to not be left alone again.

She let him join, bur was still so nervous on what he'll face on the other side.

They didn't know what to expect.

As if sensing her nervous thoughts, he pulled away, giving her a chaste kiss on the brow, something he's been doing a lot this journey. All the time as Chat has left him touch starved and it was a bit of an addiction for him. He had to be in touch in some way.

"Ready?" he asked.

She nodded and went forward. Grabbing the vines and tugging them to test their strength, she started to scale up. Adrien shadowed her loyally, green eyes bright with excitement. They stopped when they reached the top, peering outward, squinting at the bright shine of morning.

Brightest Adrien's ever seen.

Trees stood guard on the other side, open and friendly compared to the woods that made up Limbes.

Through them, her sleepy home could be seen.

With his better vision, he could see her town in the near distance. "Looks a lot like the villages back in Franae," Adrien murmured.

"They are mirrors of each other," Marinette offered, "and it's France here." She slid down the wall, stumbling as she hit the ground.

"France," Adrien repeated, tasting the word. Shifting, he followed her, gliding down the wall as well. He stumbled when he fit the ground too, nearly toppling to the ground in surprise. Marinette quickly caught him and helped stable him, eyes wide in alarm.

"Adrien?" she asked.

"I'm ok," he reassured, wobbling up. "Just... caught of guard. I, I get what Tikki means."

"What do you mean...?"

He leaned on her, blinking at the strangeness around him. "It's... kind of like being in a heat wave. The air is so... heavy and still. No... no buzz of magic. No spark to it..." He squints. This would be a burden to live through.

"May you should head back over-"

"No!" Adrien straightened, wobbling a little. "I, I'm good! I can make it!"

She frowns at him.

"I can make it," he insisted.

"We'll head back home tonight. Come on, my... parents' home's close," she reasoned, "there's something I need to take care of, you can rest there."

Adrien frowned. "Alone?"

"I want to do it alone."

He frowned, but nodded, accepting her wish. Taking his hand, she guided him to her old home, thankfully near the woods. Unlocking it with a hidden key, she called, "Maman? Papa!"

Silence answered back while she and Adrien peered in.

Marinette frowned sadlyasshe took in the pink interior. She took slow steps inside, looking over it, reminiscing.

"They must be up at the Bourgeois manor," she sighed, running her hand along the wall.

She sharply turning back to Adrien when he stumbled into the frame. She grimaced while he gave her a sheepish smile. Sighing, she said, "My room's upstairs. How about you head up and rest? I'll be back in the hour."

He spared a glance up, then nodded. "Be sure to come back," he said.

"I will," she promised, pressing a kiss to his cheek, then slipped past him, her bag swinging as she went.

Time to free her parents.

Left alone, Adrien turned his curious over the house.

The home Marinette grew up in.

Unable to help the curiosity going through him, Adrien waddled around, leaning heavily on the wall as he went exploring, eager to see glimpses of her life before the wall.

It took a lot of pestering the butler to get her to see Chloe.

Evidently she was busy enjoying a breakfast when she arrived. Following behind the butler, she stood in the doorway, watching the blonde stab at her plate, her lips pursed, blue eyes curious and excited.

She remembered the deal.

She was eager to see this treasure Marinette brought her.

"Miss Dupain!" Chloe called, her voice far too sweet to be kind. "You're back! And alive! Why, we were starting to think you had been-"

"I'm well," Marinette cuts in, drawing near.

Chloe waved to a near seat. "Breakfast?" she offered. "Oatmeal? Bacon and eggs?"

"I'm good," Marinette waved off, taking the seat. She ignored how Chloe's lingered on the bag. Narrowing her eyes at the blonde, Marinette said, "I trust you haven't been working my parents too hard."

"Of course not," Chloe huffed, narrowing her eyes back at Marinette. "You picked up quite a rude attitude from your trip over the wall. I remember you being more... reasonable."

Having faced a monster, a dragon, the royal family, an enraged Chat Noir, and a power hungry witch; she finds Chloe was far less intimidating than before.

She was really intimidated with Chloe before?

It was hard to imagine now.

"I've gone through quite... an adventure."

Chloe's eyes gleamed. "What's over the wall?"the blonde asked.

A world you couldn't handle, Marinette thought, pulling her bag into her lap.

"The deal is that my parents are free of servitude if you have your treasure, right?" Marinette demanded.

"I'm a noble of my word."

Marinette stared at her.

Chloe glared back. "You dare question me?"

"I want to hear it Chloe."

The blonde rolls her eyes but waves off, "Fine. If your treasure pleases me, your parents are free from servitude. They can go back to that dusty little bakery. Never bother them again."

Satisfied, Marinette said confidently, "It'll please you."

Chloe's hummed, a ready smirk on her lips. A silent, we'll see hanging in the air.

Cracking open the bag, she pulled out an embellished little velvet box that Juleka had helped her make during their short visit to her and Rose, their future neighbors, having a home near the couple. Fancy and lovely enough to quickly catch the noblewoman's interest. Marinette set it on the table and slid it to the blonde.

Chloe snatched it up and opened it.

She blinked in surprise at the bracelet that lay waiting for.

"It's beautiful," Chloe breathed.

Marinette smiled, amused and pleased.

If only she knew how cheap that piece was. "I'm glad you like it," she said. "I had to go through a lot for it."

Chloe grinned, holding up the bracelet, watching the copper gold and blue gems shine in the morning light. "And it's unique. No one else will have such a piece from over the wall. My treasure."

"My parents," Marinette reminded.

Chloe slid the cheap piece on her wrist, admiring it as she waved her away. "In the kitchen."

Marinette stood and left Chloe to admiring her cheap bracelet.

The butler nodded to her and guided her to the kitchen. Just as they left the room, Chloe swung her arm about, trying to admire it in dkfferent angles. In her distracted, vain state, she hit her bowl of steaming porridge, smacking it into her lap, covering her nice spring gown in her hot breakfast.

Chloe's shrieks went unheard.

Following the butler loyally, the whole way, Marinette's heart pounded.

She was about to see them again.

She was about to see her parents again.

After nearly a month.

She, she was about to see them again.

It took all her will not to race past the butler, try to find the kitchen on her own, to find them.

She was so close...

The butler stopped and before he could indicate that this was the kitchen, Marinette sped past him into the room. There they were.

Her father as large as ever, bent over the stove, putting something in.

Her mother washing fruit.

Both looked tired and weary.

And yet...

She took a shaky breath, clutching the door frame as she took them in. "M-Mama, Pap-Papa."

The two paused at the soft murmur.

They looked to the door, eyes wide as the dark haired girl at the door frame. "Ma-Marinette?" her papa whispered, shocked.

"Marinette," her mama echoed, awed.

"Mama, Papa," she echoed, wrapping her arms around herself, taking a few steps into kitchen, her smile watery as she took them in. "Hi," she greeted shakily. "I, I'm back."

Sabine practically threw the fruit away and charged, tsckling her daughter in a hug. "Mama!" Marientte gasped, clutching her arm, pressing back as hard as she could as Sabine buried her face in her daughter's silken.

"Marinette," Sabine echoed, voice thick, shoulders. Her hand came up, tugging at her hair, tugging it free of her ribbons, making the strands fall free over her shoulders. A rumbling, broken laugh filled the air, and a warm, familiar weight blanketed over them, gentle strong arms wrapping around them.

"My Marinette," Tom whispered, voice just as thick, body shaking. "My Marientte."

"I'm back," she repeated, "I'm back. Mama, Papa, I'm back."


"My Marinette..."

They all stood still, huddled up in each other's arms, soaking each other in. They only looked up when the kitchen door was slammed open, an annoyed Alya hauling a basket of apples. "Got the finest for the princess-" Alya paused, blinking over at the group, her amber eyes locking onto the grinning dark haired girl in the Dupain-Chengs arms.

"M-Marientte?" Alya breathed.

"Hey Alya," she greeted warmly, voice thick, "I'm back"


She cried out, laughing in relief as she was tackled, bouncing off of Tom. He laughed with them, rewrapping both girls up, Sabine quickly following the hug. The kitchen was filled with laughter, cries, and broken murmurs of relief.

Adrien eyes snapped open when there was an explosion of sound below. He jerked up, the white cat pillow rolling away with his sudden move. He listened intently to the sound below, catching Marinette's voice among the chaos. Feeling a little more energized with his nap, he got up, wobbling a little, and crept down.

There were voices with her, voices he didn't know.

Voices full of mirth and laughter.

He stopped at the top of the stairs, blinking at a loud voice that bellowed. One Marientte was talking to her happily.


These, these had to be her parents below, with her.

He was about to meet her parents...

Adrien gulped, nervous.

Maybe he shouldn't-


He perked.

"Come down! Everyone wants to meet you!"

E, everyone?

Who was all down there?

"Your match is up there?"

"Come down son! I want to meet my future son in law!"

There was a pound of feet and there was Marinette, her smile watery and happy, eyes bright. When she hit a step in her rush and pitched forward, Adrien quickly caught her, hauling her up. "Woah there," he murmured, letting her on him.

"You look likie you're doing better," she noted, straightening.

"I am," he confirmed. Air was still heavy for him, but he could manage... mostly.

"They want to meet you," she said.

"I, I heard," he murmured, peeking down past her. He was nervous...

He met her gaze when she tugged his hand, her smile reassuring. "Come meet them," she implored. He looked away, his free hand rubbing the back of his neck. She added,"They're going to love you."

He closed his eyes, breathing in, then released, his body relaxing. He gave a nod and followed her down the steps, towards her family.

At the bottom was a small group, a large man, a small woman, and a girl with fire red hair. Their gaze were warm and curious. Marinette squeezed his hand, and Adrien gave a shy wave. Marinette introduced, "This is my match, Adrien Paon, he's the one that helped me over the wall."

"H-hi," Adeien greeted.

He tensed as the large man drew near, green eyes locked on him.

He jumped as he was wrapped up in a tight hug, the warm man voicing, "Thank you, thank you." He drew away, giving Adrien's shoulders a squeeze. With a big grin, he declared, "Welcome to the family Adrien!"

Welcome to the family...

He met Marinette's warm gaze.

He shared a watery smile with her.


He had a family now.

Everything was better now.

As the redhead rushed forward with eager questions, Adrien took Marinette's hand, leaning into her space grinning as her family dwindled near them, feeling accepted.

It was all better now.

It'll be better from now on.