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Just Enough for These Restless Warriors

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Marinette was used to being tired, but right now she felt like a zombie. Thanks to M. Damocles and some occasional turbulence, she barely got any sleep. This trip was supposed to be a vacation, a week free of schoolwork and akumas. But so far, nothing felt any different. 

M. Damocles just spilled a bunch of popcorn on her in his sleep. Fantastic. Sighing, Marinette stood, and silently slipped into the aisle. Aside from the workers, she was probably the only one on the plane who was awake. As she walked, she glanced around at all her friends. They were completely unaware of the world, asleep, cuddling with each other. Marinette smiled to herself as she passed. Her friends deserved a peaceful vacation just as much as she did. They’ve all be hurt by Hawkmoth’s reign of terror. A week free of supervillains was just what they all needed. 

The sun was rising outside the window. Marinette briefly glanced out before slipping into the bathroom. Yeah, it was pretty outside, but she didn’t want to smell like butter more than she needed to. The water felt cool on her face, helping her feel more alive. Once she got everything, Marinette braced her hands against the sink. She took a deep breath. 

It was going to be okay. There was still enough time for a power nap. She would sleep quickly, be refreshed, and have a great time in New York. Starting now, it was going to be alright. Great, even. 

Out of nowhere, the plane hit more turbulence. It rattled the entire plane, throwing Marinette in the air and hard on her butt. The napkins on the counter toppled all over her, and her hand went in the toilet. She groaned. Okay, starting now, it was going to be alright. 

She stood up and looked in the mirror. She had napkins everywhere. Marinette didn’t even want to know how they stuck on. Whatever. She just needed to clean herself up again. 

When Marinette stepped out of the bathroom, the plane was pretty much silent. It seemed like everyone was still asleep. She would never figure out how anyone slept through that turbulence. She walked back to her seat only to find M. Damocles slumped over in her chair. She shook him gently to wake him up, but it didn’t work. That man slept like a bear. It was no use.

With nowhere else to go, Marinette walked back to the bathroom, intending to sit on the toilet to try and get a quick nap in. But as she walked back, she got another glimpse out the window. This time, she stopped.

The sun was setting over the horizon. It lit up the clouds below in a brilliant cascade of yellows, oranges, pinks and purples. In the distance, Marinette could see a few skyscrapers peaking over the clouds. New York City. Despite everything that’s happened in the last five minutes, Marinette smiled to herself. It was shaping up to be a gorgeous day in America. 

“It’s beautiful, isn’t it?” 

Marinette jumped. She didn’t notice anyone approaching her. Adrien just smiled warmly and quietly chuckled. Marinette anxiously returned the smile, inwardly berating herself. She needs to get over her crush on Adrien, especially since she was with Luka now. 

Turbulence decided to strike right at that moment. It wasn’t nearly as bad as the last time, but it didn’t stop her from falling onto Adrien. 

“Ah! Sorry!” She blurted out, jumping away from him. 

“Sorry, Marinette.” He returned calmly. She chuckled nervously. 

Instead of responding in what would probably be an embarrassing way, Marinette turned back toward the window. Adrien stood next to her, gazing out at the world. She was tempted to hold his hand, but she was dating Luka. She needed to stop this. 

“My father told me everything,” Adrien’s comment broke through her thoughts. “The only reason I can enjoy this beautiful sunset is you. I thought it would be impossible, but you believed in it. You’re always willing to take a chance on something or someone, even when no one else is.” Marinette blushed. Adrien looked at her and somehow, his smile grew. “You’ve got something, Marinette.”

“Something?” She breathed. 

“Yeah, right there. In your hair.” He reached up and plucked a piece of toilet paper out of her hair. Marinette’s blush strengthened, but for a different reason this time. 

“Oh, right. I, uh, the turbulence. I was in the bathroom when it hit, and everything went everywhere!” Marinette explained, making elaborate hand gestures to help explain her point. “I tried to clean everything up, but I guess I missed something!” She giggled anxiously. 

Adrien returned her giggle and looked back out the window. Marinette did too, trying to calm herself down. It was hard to keep herself normal when she was around him, but he was her friend. That’s what they were. Friends. Friends weren’t weird around each other. She needed to stop with all this. 

After a moment of silence, Adrien spoke again. “Well, what I meant to say was, thanks for managing to convince my father.” 

He suddenly pulled Marinette into a hug. She happily returned it. 

“Sure thing! Don’t mention it! That’s what friends are for!” His grip tightened, as did hers. “For holding each other tightly in the delicious aroma of cologne!” Oh God. Why did she say that last part? 

They separated a moment later, with Adrien resting his hand on her shoulder. She folded her hands together, trying to make her heart beat slower. Marinette looked back out the window. They were getting closer to New York City. But there was something new in the sky behind all the buildings. 

“Is that… is that smoke?” She moved closer to the window, looking at the dark cloud forming behind the city. 

Adrien also pressed himself against the window, eyes locked on the horizon. “I… think so.”

They stared past the city as the smoke climbed higher into the sky. Marinette clenched her fists. She left Tikki in her seat, but she could easily run and get her. It was probably useless, but being able to transform at a moment’s notice made her feel more secure. Plus, if she was needed, she could help. 

Before she could run back to her seat to grab her purse, the speakers dinged on. It was accompanied by a sea of groaning from the waking passengers. “Attention passengers, there has been an incident at JFK airport that is preventing us from landing. I’ve spoken to ground control, and we’re being diverted to the Archie Goodwin International Airport in Gotham City, New Jersey. We’re very sorry for the inconvenience.” The captain announced. 

“Gotham City?” Adrien asked, furrowing his brows. “Isn’t that the one with the Batman?”

Marinette nodded, trying her best to remember what Alya said. “Yeah. It’s got Batman, a bunch of other heroes, and a lot of super criminals.” Crap. That was bad. She couldn’t even protect anyone without revealing her secret identity. 

“My father isn’t going to be happy,” Adrien looked sad. “I won’t be surprised if he sends a plane to take me home.”

“No!” Adrien jumped, looking at her. “I mean, he can’t do that! He let you come to New York, he can’t make you go back to Paris before you even get to New York!”

Adrien shrugged. “Who knows. I’ll talk to him when we land. I’m sure I can convince him to let me stay.” He smiled sadly at her. “And if I can’t I know you can, Marinette.”

She smiled at him, putting a reassuring hand on his arm and squeezing. He placed his hand over hers. Whatever was going to happen in Gotham, at least they’d be in this together. 

“Officials at JFK airport are reporting a super villain attack. Multiple terminals were bombed, with two being almost completely destroyed. The number of victims continues to climb, with the amount of injuries and casualties unknown.” The newscaster kept a blank expression, as if this was normal. “The Titans responded to the situation quickly and are currently on the scene rescuing victims. The super villain is someone who’s never been seen before, and it’s reported that he disappeared in the immediate aftermath of the attack. The Justice League has already dispatched a search party for the villain.”

The entire class, hell, the entire airport, was silently staring at the TVs. Marinette glanced over at Alya, whose face was a mixture of fear, worry, and interest. That’s Alya for you; the Ladyblogger will never miss an opportunity to learn about superheroes. 

Adrien grabbed Marinette’s hand, running his thumb over her knuckles. She looked at him; he was clearly terrified. She squeezed his hand, doing everything she could to comfort him. 

The newscaster continued. “Because of the attack, officials have postponed the upcoming French-American Friendship Week by another seven days. We’ll continue to report as information comes in.” She finished. 

“Alright, class!” Mme. Mendeleiev clapped her hands. “M. Damocles and I have decided that we will stay in America until Friendship Week begins. After speaking to M. Bourgeois and M. Agreste, we’ve arranged accommodations in one of the safest hotels in the city. Now go grab your bags and we’ll head out!”

Marinette looked back at Adrien. “Your father? What happened?”

He shrugged, looking at the ground. “I sent him a text about what happened. He hasn’t responded to me, but I guess he’s okay with me staying.” He gave a weak smile. She returned it. 

“Ahem.” They both startled, looking at Alya. Her worry from earlier was completely gone, replaced by a knowing smirk. She cocked her eyebrow at Marinette.

Marinette realized she and Adrien were still holding hands. She yelped, taking her hand back and shoving it into her pocket. “Should we, uh, go get out bags?”

“Oh, uh, yeah.” Adrien turned around, almost falling over when Nino bumped into his side and threw an arm around his shoulders. 

Marinette stared as they walked away. Alya stepped next to her. When Marinette didn’t stir, Alya elbowed her. 

“Ow! Hey!” She rubbed her arm. 

“That was the wrong move, girl.” Alya stated simply. When Marinette didn’t respond, she continued. “He’s clearly emotional right now, and he was reaching out to you.”

“I guess…” Marinette muttered. 

“I know that you’ve always been crippled by your crush, but you need to reconcile your feelings. Be honest with yourself, and be honest with him. He deserves that much, and so do you,” Marinette shrugged. Alya intertwined their arms and guided them towards baggage claim. “We just got a whole other week in America, and I think he likes you too! Take advantage of that!”

“But I’m dating Luka now! And I really do like him!”

Alya rolled her eyes, but her smile didn’t lose any warmth. “I know, but between the two of them, it’s obvious who you like more. I’m pretty sure Luka sees that, too. He’d understand if you broke it off.”

“But…” Marinette began. 

“No ‘buts’, girl. Honesty is the word of the day. Honesty with Luka, honesty with Adrien, honesty with yourself. You can’t keep going on like this, it’s super unhealthy.” 

“So, honesty?” Marinette asked. 

Alya smiled. “Honesty.” She nodded. 

Marinette sighed. Right. She needed to be honest. Well, she could never be totally honest, for good reason, but her feelings? Yeah, she could do it. Actually, come to think of it…

“So, Gotham City. Isn’t this place some superhero hotspot?” She asked, nudging Alya. Asking about anything super was a good way to distract her. 

To Marinette’s eternal relief, she immediately took the bait.

“OMG girl, the amount of superheroes in this city is ridiculous. If you thought Paris was full of them, it’s nothing compared to Gotham,” She pulled out her phone and opened some notes. Alya was nothing if not well-read. “First and foremost, you’ve got Batman. He’s the head honcho, the patriarch, the dark knight. He doesn’t have any powers, but he’s really smart, and is one of the founders of the Justice League. He usually has a sidekick named Robin, and there’s been, like, five.”

“Five sidekicks?” Marinette blinked. “Why so many? What happened to them?”

“The lucky ones went on to be their own heroes. Nightwing was the first Robin, and Red Robin also went on to do his own thing. The current Robin has been Batman’s sidekick for almost five years.”

“What about the unlucky ones?” 

Alya cringed. “They didn’t survive. The second one sorta disappeared, and the girl got killed in some gang war,” Alya stopped, looking down at her notes. “We don’t really have that kind of problem in Paris. Just goes to show the nasty side of superheroing.”

Marinette paused. No, they don’t. Sure, being Ladybug wasn’t the easiest thing in the world. But that was just the mental load. She’s never been physically hurt in a battle, unless you count exhaustion. Ladybug certainly was lucky compared to other heroes. She hoped that the Robins who died were resting easy. 

But she promised herself she wouldn’t try to think about Ladybug while she was on vacation. Marinette was going to keep her Miraculous on hand just in case, but with how many heroes are in this city (Alya was talking again, going on about someone named ‘Spoiler’), she probably wouldn’t need to transform. 

“She’s all in purple, and she’s honestly kind of cute, but - look! There’s our bags! Come on, Marinette!” Alya finally let go of her arm and grabbed her luggage. 

Marinette shook her thoughts away and reached for her suitcase. Like she said on the plane, everything was going to be great. 

Adrien’s suitcase was next to hers. Marinette jumped and nearly dropped her suitcase on his foot. At the last second, she got a proper hold of her suitcase and gently set it on the ground next to her. She nervously glanced up at Adrien, who was looking at her with a bright smile. She giggled nervously. He laughed happily.

“Come on, Marinette.” He set his own suitcase on the ground and paused, waiting for Marinette to walk with him. 

Yeah, everything would be alright. 

Chapter Text

“Alright, everyone! Off the bus!” Mme. Mendeleiev barked. “Move, move, move! We have a schedule!”

“We weren’t even supposed to come here. How do we already have a schedule?” Alya quietly said to Marinette. She chuckled in response. Mme. Mendeleiev must’ve heard since she gave them both the stink eye. They quieted down and shuffled off the bus. 

Gotham was… what was the best way to put it? Dirty. Compared to Paris, Gotham felt like pure sadness. The sky was gray, and any blue that dared to sneak through the clouds was quickly snuffed out. The tall, dark buildings loomed over with a threatening air. They all had haunted Victorian aesthetics, imagery that was almost lost in the fog. Even in what Marinette knew was a nicer part of the city, they had a layer of filth about them. 

Even more unsettling was the people. They walked by, looking as if they were about to be attacked. In a way, it was worse than the super villain atmosphere in Paris. There, a villain could pounce at any moment, but here, there were so much more brutal. The people walked as if their lives were actively being threatened. Everything about the city screamed sadness.

And they had to spend a week in this drab, depressing place. Marinette barely held back a grimace. Just being in the city made her uneasy, and she knew her classmates felt the same. Adrien looked sad, standing in the shadow of his bodyguard. Marinette, Alya and Nino huddled close together. Chloé had a deathgrip on her suitcase, refusing to even put it on the ground while they walked. Kim was standing protectively over Max and Nathaniel, and Juleka and Rose looked almost like one person. They may not have known much about Gotham, but they all knew how to deal with super villains. 

As they were guided into the hotel, Lila snaked her arm into Adrien’s. He gave her a puzzled look. Marinette may not have seen it, but she could sense Lila’s vile sneer. Judging by the way Adrien tried to separate himself from her, Marinette’s sense was right.

“I’ve been to Gotham before. A few times, actually. It never gets less terrifying,” Lila added a little quiver to her voice. Everyone in the class (except for Marinette and Adrien, who saw through her bullshit) listened attentively. “You can’t walk anywhere alone. Less chance of encountering any criminals, super or otherwise.”

“You’ve been here?” Alya asked, speeding up to walk next to Lila. “When? What was it like?”

Lila preened under the attention. “A few years ago, my parents had to come here on business. They had a few meetings with Bruce Wayne over something, so I got to meet him and his youngest son. While our parents talked about whatever, his son and I became good friends, and we ended up pen pals,” Marinette rolled her eyes at the obvious lie. Luckily no one noticed, not that anyone was paying attention to her. “Once, when I was left alone, a couple of thugs tried to kidnap me to use as leverage over my parents. Luckily I was saved by Batman and Robin.”

If Alya’s eyes could get any bigger, they’d be the size of a dinner plate. “You’ve met Batman and Robin?”

“Well, Batman didn’t really say a whole lot. He just asked if I was okay and where my parents were. But Robin was hovering all over me, making sure I wasn’t hurt and asking all sorts of questions. I kind of think he had a crush on me,” Lila smirked, tightening her grip on Adrien. “After that, they just took me back to my parents. If I’m being honest, though, Hawkmoth’s always been way scarier than the super villains in Gotham. He can literally make anything he wants. That’s way worse than the Joker.”

Adrien finally succeeded in tearing his arm away from Lila. She glared at him before remembering everyone else in the room. In an instant, her face morphed into a mix of relief and worry. “Don’t worry, everyone,” Lila started as she continued walking. “I probably know Gotham the best out of all of us. I can keep us safe while we’re here.” Pretty much everyone else in the class followed her, leaving Adrien and Marinette standing alone with Adrien’s bodyguard.

“If any of us follow her advice, we’ll all end up dead.” Adrien joked, though Marinette could sense that he wasn’t fully joking. 

“Yeah. It’s probably a bad omen that Lila of all people said Hawkmoth was worse than the villains here.” She rolled her eyes, laughing a little. He laughed with her. 

Adrien’s bodyguard made an angry sounding grunt, and ushered them into the lobby. It was bright and modern, a stark contrast to the city it sat in. The walls were a steel blue, sitting just above a polished marble floor. Security was everywhere, from the doors, to the desk, to the elevators. The seating was sparse, and just about everything that could be glass was glass. Marinette had to pay extra attention to her clumsiness. 

“You know, Marinette,” Adrien began with an almost mischievous smirk. “If you and I stick together and ignore everything Lila says, we may live to see French-American Friendship Week.” 

She giggled. “That’s probably our best bet. Don’t want to end up staying in Gotham.”

Adrien laughed again. Marinette could listen to his laughter for forever. It was so beautiful, so musical, so warm. Just like him, his laugh was perfect. Marinette smiled dreamily as she looked up at him. He returned her gaze, grinning happily for the first time since they watched the sunset on the plane. Just like with his laugh, Marinette could get lost in that smile. 

Adrien stopped suddenly. She was so lost that she didn’t notice the water on the ground in front of them. She yelped as she slipped, landing right on her stomach. The one thing she was trying to do, and she failed. She groaned. Adrien knelt down to help her up. 

“Oh no! Marinette! Are you alright?” Marinette looked up to see Lila rushing back their way. She barely contained a grimace as Adrien helped her up. 

“I’m fine.” Marinette grunted. “Just surprised they don’t have any signs for this.” She rubbed the spot she landed the hardest on, trying to alleviate the pain. 

Instead of responding, Lila subtly winked and strode back over the rest of their class. Marinette was confused before Adrien pointed out the sign laying upside down on the floor. 

“Are you okay, Marinette?” Adrien asked her quietly. 

“Yeah, I’m fine,” Adrien eyed her skeptically. “Really. That kind of thing happens all the time.” She shrugged. 

“Good.” He finally let go of her arm. “I don’t think I’ll survive this trip if you’re not around.” 

Marinette smiled nervously. That fall may have hurt, but at least it snapped her out of her thoughts. She can’t be thinking of Adrien that way. She was dating Luka, and he was dating Kagami. They were supposed to be just friends. Just friends. Friends don’t think of each other the way Marinette thinks of Adrien. 

Or maybe it was time to take Alya’s advice and be honest with him. It seemed like they were going to be spending plenty of time on this trip together, so it’d be easiest. Though maybe not, cause Adrien could reject her and then they both spend the week alone. Or worse, she breaks up Adrien and Kagami, and Kagami’s her friend too, and Marinette can’t do that to her. And she didn’t want to break Luka’s heart either. 

Ugh. Why did everything have to be so complicated?

“Students!” Mme. Mendeleiev called out. “Line up! I’ve got your room assignments. I’ll hand them out, then you’ll have 15 minutes to leave your stuff upstairs before we head over to the diner for dinner. Now move!” 

Marinette and Adrien got in the line and received their rooming assignments. 

“Ugh, I’m with Chloé?” Marinette groaned, walking towards the elevators.

“She’s not so bad once you get used to her.” Adrien tried. 

“Careful,” Marinette jokingly warned. “All that lying will turn you into Lila.”

Adrien laughed. “I guess. See you in 15?”

“Ye- yeah.” 

Alya was going to be unbearable this whole trip. “So, you and Adrien were talking for quite a bit in the lobby,” She cooed. “A whole five minutes without you stuttering. I think that’s a new record.”

Marinette sighed. “Doesn’t erase the fact that I tripped in front of everyone.”

“I take it as a win whenever you don’t stutter and fall at the same time.” Alya said dryly. Marinette laughed. 

The hotel was fancy. Really fancy. It was almost on par with M. Bourgeois’. Just like the lobby, the hallways were sleek and modern looking. Up here, the walls were just gray, but had the occasional abstract painting hung along the halls. The marble had changed to a hard black carpet that suitcases easily glided over. 

“Ugh, I can’t believe that I have to room with those two.” Chloé whined to Sabrina behind them. “This is utterly ridiculous! If my daddy knew, he would immediately get me a better room!”

“I’m sure your daddy already knows, since he’s the one footing the bill for all this.” Alya threw back.

Marinette turned around. “Come on, Chloé. We just have to deal with each other for a week. It can’t be that hard.” She knew she was lying through her teeth, but it was better to keep the peace. 

“As if, Dupain-Cheng! I’d rather sleep on the city streets than room with you for a second!” Chloé spat. 

Alya rolled her eyes. “Be our guest. In the meantime, we’re going to our room.” She and Marinette continued walking until they got to their room. Alya pulled a key card from her paperwork and beeped them in. The room had a warm glow to it, with soft carpet and two massive queen-sized beds in the center. They also had a television, a dining nook, a balcony, and a huge bathroom.

The girls awed at the room before walking in, setting their bags down on the dining table. Before the door shut behind them, Sabrina opened it for her and Chloé. “You two are lucky we’re in Gotham of all places. This is the one city in the world where you’re a better option than the streets.” She angrily threw her suitcase onto the far bed. 

“Yeah, so lucky.” Marinette deadpanned. 

Alya’s phone beeped. “Come on, Mar. It’s been almost 15 minutes and I haven’t eaten since we were over the Atlantic,” She led Marinette over to the door. As she held onto the handle, Alya paused. “Sabrina? Chloé? You coming?”

Chloé huffed. “Absolutely not. If I step out into Gotham, I’ll be kidnapped almost immediately. I’m sure everyone in this disgusting city would love to get their hands onto Daddy’s money.” 

Sabrina looked between Chloé and Alya, and she seemed to resign herself to staying. As she sat down on the bed, Chloé shooed her away. “You go, Sabrina. No one would want to kidnap you as much as me.” She then pulled out her phone, ignoring the rest of the world. 

Sabrina grinned ever so slightly and jogged over to the door. Marinette held it open for her and glanced back at Chloé. She was tempted to say something, but she learned long ago that Chloé Bourgeois was a lost cause. 

Marinette didn’t know if she should be offended or amused. If a place like this opened in Paris, there would be uproar. 

“Welcome to Batburger, what can I get started for you?” The teeneager behind the till was dressed like Scarecrow. If any of Marinette’s research was correct, then he’s killed hundreds, maybe thousands of people. Was that really appropriate for a fast food uniform? “Uh, miss?”

“Oh, sorry! I- uh…” She finally looked at the menu, which was just as bad as the rest of the restaurant. “Could I try the #5 combo with a small… strawberry Mr. Freeze-shake, please?” Marinette felt so uncomfortable here. 

“Would you like to Jokerize your fries, miss? And would you like to purchase an action figure for an additional $1.50?”

Marinette blinked. This moment would never end. “What’s ‘Jokerize’?”

“It’s a seasoning we put on fries. It doesn’t actually Jokerize people.” The teenager looked similarly over their conversation. 

“Then sure. And no to the toy.”

“Is that for here or to-go, miss?” 

“Um…” She looked at Alya. 

“It’s for here,” Alya responded. “And she’ll take the action figure.”


Her friend picked up her receipt and her cup. “Relax, I’ll pay you back for it. I’m just trying to collect all of the different figurines while we’re in Gotham.”

Marinette rolled her eyes, but said nothing else. She handed the cashier her cash and took her receipt. She moved out of the way of the teen girls in line behind her, scanning the restaurant for her friends when she caught Adrien trying to flag her down. Smiling, she walked over to his booth and sat down across from him.

“Where’s your bodyguard?” She asked.

Adrien shrugged. “He’s a big guy, so he’s at his own table.” He jerked a thumb behind him. Sure enough, the bodyguard was sitting alone, working on some fries and listening to something on his headphones. Marinette turned her attention to the rest of restaurant again. This whole place was uncanny. 

“This place is really weird, isn’t it?” Adrien broke the silence. 

“Yeah. I can’t get over it.” Marinette said anxiously. “Just imagine if there was a place in Paris called…”

“Ladyburger?” Adrien smiled cheekily.

Marinette laughed. “Oh my God, that would be the worst! All the workers dressed up as different akumas…”

“... different menu items based on all the heroes…” 

“... the option to ‘akumatize’ your meal.” Marinette snorted. “It would be an awful place. I’m glad Chat Noir’s not here, cause he would love this kind of place.”

Adrien’s smile faltered ever so slightly. “I’m sure he would.” 

One of the workers - this time, someone dressed like Poison Ivy - called out a number from the front. Adrien glanced at his receipt. “That’s mine. I’ll be right back.” 

As soon as he walked away, Marinette felt something pinch her leg. She glared down at Tikki, who was poking her head out of her purse. “Everything okay?” She whispered.

“You shouldn’t joke about your partner like that,” Tikki chastised. “You know he means well.”

“Of course I know that. He’s probably my best friend. But you know he would fall head over heels for all these ridiculous puns and tacky costumes.”

“Everything okay, Marinette?” She quickly sat up straight, coming face to face with Alya and Nino. 

“Oh, yeah! I was just, um, using text-to-speech on my phone!” She dug her phone out of her purse, closing it so Tikki could hide. “I was texting… Kagami! She’s a big fan of Batman since he stopped the guy who went on a rampage through Japan!”

Okay, not her best lie. Alya definitely saw through it, but luckily, she didn’t say anything. “Can Nino and I sit?”

“Oh, yeah! Of course!” Marinette stood so Alya could scoot in. Nino sat down opposite his girlfriend. “So what’s with the sudden interest in toys?” Marinette asked as she sat back down. 

“I’ve always been a little interested in the Batfamily, but I’ve never had the opportunity to do any in-depth research before now,” Alya picked up a toy. It was the girl in purple she was talking about earlier - Spoiler, her mind supplied. “They have action figures of every member of the family, and I want them all. I’ve got so much Ladybug merch, now’s probably a good time to branch out a bit.” Nino handed Alya his Red Hood figure.

Marinette rolled her eyes and looked at the toy. “I don't get why you want any of them. Their costumes are just awful,” She picked up the Red Hood toy. “Look at this! He has a whole suit, which is fine, but then he decides to throw a disgusting brown jacket on top? And why call himself Red Hood if he just wears a helmet?”

“God, you're no fun when it comes to heroes,” Alya rolled her eyes as Adrien sat down.

“Here’s the toy you wanted, Alya.” Adrien picked up a figure - Robin, this time - and passed it across the table. 

Nino pulled an unholy amount of mustard out of thin air. “What’d you get, Adrien?”

“I wanted to try the Night-wings. Father never lets me eat anything messy.” He opened up a container to reveal 8 spicy looking chicken wings. He smiled devilishly.

At that moment, Marinette’s order number was called. She stood, grabbing her receipt for good measure, and walked back up to the counter. She thanked the employee and carefully began walking back to her table. 

It seemed Lila decided that was the perfect moment to get a drink refill. She wasn’t paying attention (she probably was, but she would deny it) and ran right into Marinette’s tray. The food fell all over Marinette, covering her in ketchup, mustard, onions, fries, and milkshake. Some of it also got onto Lila, but not nearly as much. 

“Oh my God! Lila, Marinette! Are you alright?” Sabrina stood from the table she shared with Lila, Rose and Juleka. She piled some napkins in her arms and rushed to Lila’s side.

Lila didn’t waste a second. “Marinette! I’m so sorry!” She may have sounded worried, but her smirk betrayed her tone. 

Marinette was too stunned to say anything. She could feel the eyes of the restaurant on her almost as much as the milkshake running down her back. She looked at her booth, silently asking for help. Adrien looked furious, while Nino was surprised and Alya looked worried, though none of them have moved yet. The tears gathering in her eyes stung, and she all but froze in place.  

“I’m sorry, I didn’t see you there, I was just-”

“Hey, it’s alright,” Someone said. One of the teens in line behind Marinette suddenly appeared in her view, holding some napkins. “Accidents happen. But maybe you could help out? Go grab her some more food?” The blonde girl innocently smiled at Lila, who barely hid her grimace. 

“Of course!” Lila responded in her signature faux-kindness. “I’ll be right back.” She walked away with Sabrina in tow, presumably back to the counter. 

Adrien suddenly stood. “Don’t worry, Lila,” He said flatly, approaching Marinette and the teen. “I’ve got it. #5 with a strawberry shake, right?” He asked, his anger morphing into concern. Marinette nodded. 

“You grab her food, then, boyfriend. I’ll get her cleaned up,” The blonde girl smiled at Adrien. He just chuckled and walked to the counter. The girl turned back to Marinette. “Can I help you to the bathroom?” Again, Marinette nodded, letting the girl take her by the elbow and lead her away. She was trying really hard not to cry. 

The bathroom was cramped, and it seemed lucky if it was cleaned once a day. The girl locked the door behind them. “I’m Stephanie, by the way. They said your name was Marinette?” She took some paper towels from the sink and handed them to Marinette.

She took a deep breath, trying to regain her composure. “Yeah. Sorry about all this. I’m a massive clutz,” She began wiping the ketchup off her face. 

“Hey, don’t mention it. It wasn’t your fault. I’ve been bullied before, I know how it is.” Stephanie ran some towels under warm water. 

Marinette paused. “Bullied? I, uh, I wouldn’t know… what’re you talking about?”

Stephanie smiled sadly. “I saw the way that Lila girl looked at you. I saw the way she watched as she walked into your food. She meant it, 100%,” Stephanie handed the warm towels to Marinette. “It sucks, but it happens. What’s important is the people who help you out, like that little hottie you were with.”

“He’s, uh, he’s not my boyfriend.”

“Boyfriend, boy and friend, doesn’t matter,” Stephanie leaned against the wall and crossed her arms. “Point is, he saw what was going down and he was there for you. That’s what counts.”

Marinette blushed. “I guess…”

There was a beat of silence as Marinette cleaned herself up. “You guys were flying into New York for that French-American thing, right?” Stephanie asked.

“Yeah. Our class had to produce a short film for a contest, which we won, so we got to come.” Marinette shrugged. “How’d you know?”

“Oh, the JFK thing has been all over the news. Like half the planes heading for that airport ended up here, so I figured that’s where the group of French kids in Old Gotham came from,” Stephanie smiled, picking up the garbage can for Marinette. “How long are you here for?”

“Probably a week.”

“Doing anything while you’re here?”

“Not that I know of. This was all so sudden, so we don’t have anything planned,” Marinette tossed all of her garbage and readjusted her shirt. As soon as she was done eating, she was going to run to the hotel and shower for an hour.

Stephanie’s smile lost that sadness it held. She picked up a clean paper towel and a pen from her pocket. “Well, since you don’t have any plans, why don’t you text me? I can take you and your friends - like the hot one, not Lila - around some of Gotham, we can grab lunch, that sort of thing.”

Marinette was caught off guard, but accepted the towel regardless. “Uh, sure thing, Stephanie. That's really nice of you,” She glanced at the phone number before shoving it in her purse. “Listen, I should probably get back-”

“Yeah, me too,” Stephanie interrupted. “I’m sure my food is ready, and Cass hates to be kept waiting.”

Marinette opened the door, letting Stephanie walk out. “Thanks for your help.”

“Anytime, Marinette,” Stephanie said warmly. “I’ll see you around.” She did a lazy salute and walked back into the busy restaurant. Marinette didn’t move. 

“Are you sure you’re okay, Marinette?” Tikki poked her head out of the purse. 

Marinette breathed out, squeezing the paper towel in her hand. Gotham may be sad, but the people were still kind. “I am, Tikki,” She smiled at the kwami. “Just… just rattled, is all.”

Chapter Text

“Is everyone in position?” Batman asked into his comm.

Red Hood and I are at the northwest corner.” Red Robin replied. 

Spoiler and Orphan at the southeast.” Spoiler said next. 

Nightwing is currently inside the warehouse,” Oracle responded in lieu of Nightwing. “There's a small group inside, but everything looks quiet for now.”

“Understood.” Batman knelt down next to his son. 

“Father, this is ridiculous,” Robin crossed his arms. “I don’t understand why you and I can’t handle this. You didn’t need to bring in the whole family,”

“I called everyone in because we don’t know what’s in there,” Batman simply stated. “You saw what happened with your own eyes. You’re the one who wrote the report on it. The fact that Two Face has somehow gotten his hands on that kind of firepower is disturbing and unprecedented, and I’d rather not take any unnecessary risks.”

Robin huffed, but didn’t say anything else. After all, Batman was right. He was at Titans Tower when JFK was attacked. The airport was hardly more than a smoldering mess when all was said and done. They’re lucky that most people managed to make it out alive, even if many of them will be disabled for the rest of their lives. 

But even though Robin was the one to find evidence linking the bombing back to Two Face, he still had his doubts. There was a villain there he didn’t recognize. He only saw them for a brief moment before they completely vanished, but they were there. Robin would never forget the ugly clash of navy blue, bright green and mustard yellow he saw floating above a caved-in terminal. But whoever that was disappeared, and Robin hasn’t found them nor any evidence against them, making it his word against a crate of black and white tommy guns. 

“Nightwing, do you have a visual on any explosives?” Batman quietly reactivated his comm. 

Negative, B,” came Nightwing’s almost silent response. “Nothing in here but a group of seven men, a few dozen firearms, and some weird crates and barrels they’re guarding.”


Building blueprints show a small lower level, though it’s not nearly enough space for the kind of explosives that were used in New York.” She began typing quickly. “Cameras around the warehouse haven’t shown any activity in 4 hours. Whoever’s in there is likely all that’s coming.”

Batman thought for a moment. “Is it safe for us to move in, Nightwing?”

Nightwing paused for a moment. “I’ll create a diversion and keep them from most of their arsenal. You should use the front door, though.”

“You heard the man,” Robin spat over the line. “Move in.”

There were a few offended noises over the comm line, but no one really complained. Batman and Robin both stood and unleashed their grappling hooks into the night. 

“Robin, what did I say about ordering the others around?” Batman’s voice showed no emotion, but Robin knew him well enough to find the disappointment.

“I’m just doing what needs to be done, Father.” Robin stated. 

They landed on the pavement in front of a massive garage door. “I know this mission is important to you, but remember that we are a team, and we all work together.”

Robin was about to respond when Red Hood and Red Robin landed next to Batman. Behind him, Spoiler and Orphan landed silently, the only indication of their presence being Batman’s reaction. 

“On your signal, Nightwing,” Batman said. Red Robin pulled out his staff. Robin drew his sword, ready to pounce. 

Get ready. This is one loud doorbell,” Nightwing said a little louder this time. Not even 10 seconds later, gunshots rang off in the warehouse. 

Batman used small explosives to bring down the door, allowing the rest of the family to charge in. Nightwing was busy weaving around bullets, keeping the men distracted so the rest of the family could surprise attack.

Robin sheathed his sword and jumped on the shoulders of the nearest goon. The man started, trying to violently shake him off. Robin held his ground, swiftly dislocating the guy's shoulder, forcing him to drop his gun. Nightwing came bounding over, and as Robin flipped off of him, Nightwing landed a roundhouse kick to his temple. 

Everyone else had occupied themselves with other goons. Within a minute, all of Two Face’s men had fallen like dominos. After handcuffing the guy he took out, Robin dusted off his hands, glancing around the warehouse. It was nothing special, no different from any other miscellaneous bad-guy hideout. 

“Spread out,” Batman ordered. “See if you can find anything related to today’s attack. Red Robin, make sure those barrels aren’t toxic.” He began rounding up the fallen men into one massive pile of idiots. 

Red Hood grumbled something about a ‘waste of time’ and promptly left the warehouse. Spoiler walked with Red Robin over to the barrels, taking great care in opening one. Robin joined Orphan and immediately began scoping the perimeter to search for evidence. 

Nightwing held two fingers to his comm. “Oracle, you mentioned something about a lower level?”

He was answered by some typing over the line. “Yes, though the entrance isn’t showing on the blueprints ,” She went quiet again, and Nightwing began scanning the floor. She hummed thoughtfully. “ Robin, check behind those crates to your left.” Oracle said after a moment. 

Robin grunted an affirmation and began trying to shove one out of the way. Of course, they were stupidly heavy. Probably filled with more dumb, century old guns. 

“Don’t worry, baby bat, I’ve got you,” Nightwing appeared over him and helped Robin push the crate to the side. Beneath it was half of a trapdoor that stood out against the concrete floor. 

He and Nightwing moved the other as well, giving them full access to the wooden door. Nightwing knelt, lightly gripping the handle. Robin made eye contact with him and nodded. 

Nightwing threw the door open, braced for a fight, only to reveal a dusty staircase. He picked up his escrimas while Robin swiftly unsheathed his sword. Orphan appeared behind them, and together, they slowly descended the staircase. 

There was no noise besides the creaks of the boards beneath their feet, no light besides what came from the warehouse. Nightwing activated the electricity running through his escrimas, illuminating their path. 

“I don’t think anyone’s been down here in a long time,” Nightwing muttered.

“I doubt the morons upstairs were even aware of this place.” Robin scoffed, but kept his sword in hand. 

The room at the bottom of the staircase was tiny and fit nothing more than a table and chair. They warily approached the desk, scanning its contents. 

“Creepy,” Nightwing muttered, eyeballing the trapped butterfly on the corner of the table. “I’ve never seen a butterfly like this before.”

Robin sheathed his sword and carefully picked up the jar. The butterfly was a deep, evil-looking purple with a few specs of a lighter purple on its wings. “Neither have I. I don’t recognize this species.” As much as he wanted to let the creature go, he was wary of what it may do. Looks can be deceiving. Orphan knelt down, carefully studying the insect. She shook her head, indicating that she also knew nothing about it.

Nightwing looked over the papers that took up the rest of the desk. “Whatever’s in these plans definitely belongs to Two Face,” He pointed out the logo in the top corner. Robin could never understand why someone Father claimed to be brilliant stamped his own evil logo on everything. 

This time, though, there was a weird butterfly symbol next to Two Face’s insignia. “Do we know this symbol?” Robin pointed it out.

“I don't think so,” Nightwing said. He scanned everything on the desk. “There’s a few mentions of JFK in here, too. Looks like he planned the attack because he wanted someone on one of the incoming planes to get diverted to Gotham.”

Robin squinted his eyes at the paper closest to him. “Who is this Adrien Agreste?”

Nightwing tilted his head. “Why is that name familiar?” He said, mostly to himself. 

There was a loud noise behind them. They both whipped around, Robin curling around the butterfly defensively and Nightwing moving to shield him. Orphan had loosened some bricks by the staircase, revealing a secret entrance. She took a small flashlight from her utility belt and illuminated the tunnel behind the wall. 

“Classic,” Nightwing chuckled. He stood next to Orphan and peered through the entrance. It looked like a half-destroyed bootlegging tunnel. “Oracle, do you know anything about Prohibition tunnels in the area?” 

Give me a sec.” 

Nightwing nodded, considering the tunnel. “Robin, take the papers and the butterfly up to Batman. Orphan and I are going to investigate this tunnel,” 

“No!” Robin protested. “This is my mission, I will be the one to investigate.” 

“Like I said, I don’t think anyone’s been down here in a while. This tunnel is probably a dead-end anyway,” Nightwing smiled reassuringly. “We’ll do a quick check down here and join you later. Go on.”

Robin looked at Orphan, who nodded along. She grabbed Nightwing’s shoulder and gestured to the tunnel. He nodded, looking back at Robin one last time. 

He huffed, but said nothing else, allowing them to proceed. Only once they were gone did Robin collect everything on the desk and walk back up the stairs. 

Batman was talking to a few cops outside of the warehouse while Spoiler and Red Robin were helping a hazmat team secure the barrels. 

“Whaddya got there, little bat?” Spoiler asked cheerfully as he ascended the stairs. 

“Evidence.” Robin said simply. 

Spoiler stared at him expectantly, but shrugged once Robin offered nothing else. He began walking back toward where the Batmobile was parked, glancing back at Two Face’s papers. 

“Adrien Agreste is the teenaged son of French fashion designer, Gabriel Agreste. He also models for his father’s brand and does some acting,” Barbara opened a few files on the Batcomputer. “He was part of a school-group sent to represent Paris at French-American Friendship Week in New York. His flight was diverted to Gotham, and he’s currently staying at the Old Gotham Boutique Hotel.”

Barbara showed a few photos of Adrien onscreen. He was a handsome young man, with blonde hair and a bright smile, but his perceived happiness seemed fake to Damian. There was a listless quality to his many modeling shots. 

“That’s why I recognized the name,” Richard highlighted one of the pictures of Gabriel’s work. “I used some of his designs as inspo for Discowing.” 

Jason choked on his energy drink. “Seriously Dick? I thought Discowing was the product of some subconscious Freudian nightmare,”

“Nope.” Richard smiled. “Took some inspiration from one of the movies he worked on back in the 70’s. Figured it’d fit my style.”

“If you mean ‘your style’ as an assault on the eyes, then you did it perfectly.” Damian said flatly. 

Richard dramatically guffawed in offense while Jason snorted. Timothy was having trouble keeping a straight face, as was Cassandra. Stephanie, however, was uncharacteristically quiet. Typically, she’d join in on the teasing, but her eyes were locked on the Batcomputer. 

“Steph? You good?” Timothy prompted, having noticed her silence as well. 

She wasn’t paying any attention, transfixed on the screen. Cassandra nudged her, finally pulling her into reality. “Hm?” 

“You weren’t laughing at Dick. That’s unlike you,” Timothy explained. Richard grumbled again, but didn’t say anything. “Everything okay?” 

“Oh, yeah. Sorry, I just… I met that kid earlier,” Steph moved over to the keyboard and began typing rapidly. “When Cass and I were at the Batburger in Old Gotham, we ran into Adrien and his class. One of the girls was bullying another, and Adrien was pretty much the only one to step in and help.”

Some security footage from the Batburger popped up on the screen. A young girl with pigtails was walking across the dining area with food, when another in a romper ran right into her. It looked deliberate. The girl with pigtails was covered in her food, and the only people to go to her aid were Stephanie and Adrien. 

“That’s Marinette,” Stephanie indicated to the girl with pigtails. “She and the other girl - Lila - both seem to be part of Adrien’s class, and Marinette is his friend. He seems like a nice kid behind all that model bullshit.”

“Hn.” Came Bruce’s signature noise. 

“Sometimes I forget how terrible some kids can be,” Richard said as the video finished playing. “That poor girl.”

“She was okay after a bit. Gave her my number and offered to take her and Adrien around Gotham,” Stephanie sat down next to Tim. 

“Has she made contact yet?” Barbara asked. 

“No. But if we need to, Cass and I could head over to their hotel,”

“That may be necessary,” Bruce interjected thoughtfully. “We should do everything we can to protect that boy from Two Face and his associates.”

“I’ll send this info over to my dad, have him reach out to the father and the school teachers,” Barbara closed the windows on the Batcomputer. “It’s best we get him and his friends out of Gotham, if we can.”

“Right. If they can’t, I’ll make sure they have some Wayne security to keep them safe. Stephanie, do everything you can to contact Marinette,” Bruce ordered. “Is there anything else?”

“I’m working on analyzing the substance Steph and I found in the warehouse,” Timothy pulled out a vial from his belt. “Should only take me a day or two.”

Bruce nodded. “Good.”

“We also know that they used that tunnel to get in and out without the henchmen ever noticing. It leads into the sewer, so it might be difficult to track them that way.” Richard added on.

“Hn.” Bruce rested his chin on his hand. He was about to say something, but instead he shook his head and squared his shoulders. “Everyone, go get some sleep. We may need to pull a few double shifts in the next few days to make sure Two Face gets taken care of.” 

After that, the room cleared pretty quickly. Timothy practically ran to the lab with the vial, Richard escorted Barbara to her car, and just about everyone else went up to the manor to raid the fridge. 

That left Damian alone in the cave, staring at the butterfly he found. His father had been reluctant to let it go, wanting to figure out its species first. But something about it made Damian very uneasy. It was… oddly familiar, in a way he couldn’t place. He idly tapped the jar, and the butterfly barely reacted to him. 

“Something on your mind, Little D?” Richard appeared behind him. 

Damian hummed in response, stepping away from the insect. “You don’t need to ask if I’m fine, Richard. I am.”

“I know you’re fine,” He exaggerated that last word. “Just wanted to see if you needed to talk. I’m always here for you, you know.” He ruffled Damian’s hair. 

“I know,” Damian batted his hand away and offered a small smile. “I’m merely tired. I haven’t rested since I visited the Tower this morning.” He and Richard began walking towards the exit of the cave to turn in for the night.

Before he walked upstairs, Damian took one last look at the cave. The butterfly hadn’t moved at all since he walked away. Above it, the image of the girl - Marinette - covered in ketchup and ice cream stood similarly still. Something about the picture before him gave him pause, but why, he didn’t know.

Chapter Text

Damian barely slept. Something about the events of yesterday kept waking him up from his dozing. The sight of the bombing or that weird dark butterfly appeared behind his eyes everytime they closed. There was something about what happened that made him sick to his stomach in a way that he’s never been before. 

As someone trained to be a weapon since birth, Damian isn’t used to being unsettled. He’s seen Hell. He’s practically walked right through it, and never once did he bat an eye at it. Yet something about this situation made his skin crawl. 

After hours of trying, he gave up and just laid there, staring at the ceiling. When he was 11, Richard bought him some little glow-in-the-dark stars you could stick to the wall. Damian enjoyed sitting on Richard’s shoulders, sticking the stars in the patterns of his favorite constellations. 

Some of his favorite constellations were those of the Chinese Zodiac. For as long as he can remember, he's loved that story. On nights like this, when he was unable to sleep for whatever reason, his mother would hold him close and recount the legend. 

The Jade Emperor had summoned animals from all over the land to compete in a race in his honor. The first 12 animals to make it to the finish line would be granted a place among the stars.” Talia didn’t have a book with this tale, so she made elaborate hand-puppets in the candlelight to tell the story. 

From there, she would talk about the first 11 animals to finish the race, and how they would do so. Damian saw himself as more of a Tiger, maybe a Horse or a Dragon. But no. He was born in the last year of the cycle, and was therefore under the domain of the last animal to finish the race. 

His eyes landed on the Pig constellation. It always infuriated him. The Pig was lazy, selfish and slow, the last to finish the Great Celestial Race. It was Damian’s polar opposite, yet it somehow represented a part of him. He remembers asking his mother how something so foul could be representative of him. 

You must remember that’s only part of you. There’s many other factors at play in the Chinese Zodiac,” His mother would say wistfully. “There’s the animal of your month, day, and hour. And of course, there’s what your animal represents,” She would pick up the candle from the nightstand and hold it close, almost close enough for Damian to touch. “You are a Boar of fire. You are strong, stubborn, creative and powerful. The element that burns within your soul will help you conquer the world one day, xiǎo gōng zhū. And you can’t exactly conquer the world if you don’t take care of yourself first. That’s why the Boar is so powerful; it knows what’s important, yet still gets the job done.

This is all Richard’s fault. Damian shouldn’t be getting sentimental, especially over a woman who tried to kill him not two months prior. He sighed at the offending constellation above his head and sat up. If he can’t sleep, he may as well get some work done. 

The rest of the manor was dark and silent. Everyone was likely asleep, except for Timothy, who was most likely running some experiments in the Batcave. Given that Damian was a man of some class, he used a candle he had in his room to illuminate his way to the library. Once there, he set it down on a coffee table and turned on the softly lit chandelier. 

He remembered that Alfred had once spoken of Martha Wayne’s fascination with butterflies. She wanted to start a garden in the yard that attracted them, desiring to share the hyperfixation with her son. Unfortunately, she had barely gotten started when she felt the sting of the bullet. 

But she had collected many books on the subject, and Bruce almost never let go of something his parents owned. Those books must be in here, and they were probably the best place to start when researching the insect sitting downstairs. Thankfully Alfred was familiar with the Dewey Decimal System. 

It didn’t take him long to find Martha’s old books. Most were about plants that could sustain different insect species, but luckily, there was also one that listed all known species of butterflies. Damian pulled that one off the shelf and brought it over to the couch. He curled up with it on his lap, pulling the blanket on the armrest over his shoulders. 

A mug was slammed down on the table in front of him, startling Damian awake. He groggily looked up to find Timothy staring down at him, taking a long sip from his own mug. He looked about as tired as Damian felt. Damian looked at the grandfather clock; 4:14 am. He’d been asleep for almost an hour.

Damian looked at the mug in front of him. “Coffee?”

Timothy blinked. 

He picked up the mug. “With extra vanilla?”

Timothy blinked again. 

“Thank you, Timothy,” Damian took a sip, admiring the faded Nightwing symbol on the side. 

Timothy stopped nursing his drink. “No problem. I came up here to get more coffee and saw you snoozing away in here. Figured you’d need some, too. This case is insane,” He sat down next to Damian, poking at the book. “Trying to figure out the bug?”

“Yes, but I’m having no luck,” Damian slammed the book shut and tossed it onto the coffee table. “Nothing in that index looks even remotely similar to the one downstairs. I can’t tell if it’s a new species, some sort of alien, or a weird curse.” He held the mug in both his hands, taking another grateful sip. 

“If 30 year-old books won’t tell you anything, may as well check the internet. Come on,” He stood and headed for the grandfather clock. Damian unwrapped himself from the blanket and got off the couch. Once the clock gave way, they walked down to the Batcave in silence, the only noises being some bats overhead. 

Timothy muttered something about ‘those fucking things’ as Damian sat down at the Batcomputer, pulling out a coaster for his mug. As the system booted up, he glanced at the butterfly again. It still looked as innocent as ever, just a plain insect fluttering around a jar. 

“Do you, like, feel weird?” Timothy asked, taking another drink of coffee. 

Damian glared at him. “Pardon?”

“You know, is the butterfly making you feel weird? Is it doing some magic or mind control thing on you?” Damian narrowed his eyes at Timothy. “Come on, we deal with these kinds of things all the time, you have to know what I mean. Is it one of those alien viruses that tries to consume your blood?”

“No, Timothy. It’s not doing ‘some magic or mind control thing’ on me.” Damian rolled his eyes and returned his attention to the computer. He opened a search engine and typed ‘ dark purple butterfly ’. Unsurprisingly, the only things to pop up were species he’d found in the book. 

“I can’t believe that didn’t work,” Timothy said dryly. “Maybe you should’ve added ‘evil’ somewhere in there.”

He knew the comment was sarcastic, but Damian decided to do it anyway. This actually pulled up something a little more useful. 

The first thing to pop-up was something called the Ladyblog. Damian opened it up, finding a bright, colorful French blog dedicated to a couple of superheroes in Paris. The article was about their designated super villain.

“What’s it say? I can’t read French.”

Damian sighed. “It’s a blog about a couple of French heroes, named Ladybug and Chat Noir, who have magic jewels that give them superpowers,” He clicked on a video, showing the two superheroes in action against a giant ice cream cone. You literally couldn’t make this stuff up anymore. “Apparently, the super villain they’re constantly fighting, the aptly named Hawkmoth, sends out evil purple butterflies to mind control civilians and turn them into villains.”

“You have to be joking.” Timothy stared blankly at the screen. “That little… thing in the jar, it can make someone into a villain?” He stepped away from the butterfly, which casually flapped its wings in response.

“It seems as though it’s curable,” Damian continued reading. “Ladybug can use her… magic yo-yo to cleanse the civilian and their ‘akuma’, as well as use her ‘miraculous ladybug’ power to return everything to normal.” As idiotic as this seemed, it also sounded vaguely familiar to Damian. 

Timothy took another long drink from his mug, not stopping until it was empty. “God, I’m so fucking tired.”

They spent most of the early morning watching every video on the Ladyblog pertaining to Hawkmoth and his abilities. Some of the villains that have plagued Paris were quite amusing, others downright terrifying. Whoever Hawkmoth was, his power had the potential to take over or even destroy the entire world. 

Eventually, Damian and Timothy found a gallery featuring every person-turned-super villain. A consistent theme amongst them was their atrocious sense of style. They all looked like complete idiots with their neon color schemes and kooky personalities. It was utterly ridiculous. 

“Didn’t you mention seeing, and I quote, ‘an elusive meta-criminal that looked similar to a painting made by Condiment King on LSD’ during the airport attack?” Timothy asked, pulling up a few pictures of Hawkmoth’s villains. 

Damian blinked. Yes. How did he not make the connection himself? He looked over at the butterfly, realizing the little thing may well have perpetrated a terrorist attack in New York. 

“It seems we know who was really behind the attack,” Damian stood and picked up the jar, examining it closely. “Hawkmoth must be in Gotham. We just need to figure out why, and how Two Face works into all of this.” 

Timothy had taken Damian’s seat at the computer, and continued scrolling through the page, looking for any information on akumas that could help them. Damian took out his phone and took a couple pictures of the butterfly. Perhaps they could contact the owner of the Ladyblog and ask a few questions about their powers and how to get rid of them. 

A girl’s snooty laugh played over the Batcomputer’s speakers. Damian looked up to see the girl who Stephanie encountered last night at the Barburger. The girl - Lila, he thought - sounded exactly like the kind of person who would purposefully cover someone else in food. “Drake, why did you turn this one on?”

Timothy shrugged. “It might be good to get a read on the girl since she’s in Gotham, close to the Agreste kid.”

Ladybug and me, we’re like this,” Lila crossed two fingers. “An akuma once tried to kill me. They thought I was someone else, and they wanted revenge, so they set their sights on me for some reason. Anyway, Ladybug saved me from certain doom and defeated the akuma. Since then, she and I have been inseparable. I even know her secret identity, the girl who’s behind the mask.

Really? Who is she?” The interviewer asked excitedly. 

Oh, I’d never spill my best friend’s biggest secret,” Lila winked. 

Damian rolled his eyes. “I can’t believe a supposedly great superhero is friends with such a deplorable person. Ladybug must not be as good a person as the public thinks,” He set the jar with the akuma back down. 

Timothy hummed, but didn’t say anything, staring intently at the screen. 

“You two are up early,” They both turned around to find their father walking into the cave, dressed in a freshly pressed suit. “Find anything of note?”

“Turns out the butterfly Damian found is called an akuma, a superpowered weapon of a French super villain named Hawkmoth,” Timothy responded, turning back to the computer to show Bruce a different page. “Given that it’s here, there’s a good possibility that Hawkmoth is the guy behind the airport attack, and he’s found a home in Gotham and an ally in Two Face. Don’t know the why, though.”

“That’s a good place to start,” Bruce looked over the screen, idly adjusting his cufflinks. “Luckily I know where to go next.”

“What do you mean, Father?” Damian crossed his arms. 

“It seems Gordon spoke with Gabriel Agreste as well as the teachers in charge of the French class, and they all refused to take the group out of Gotham. Says they know what they’re doing thanks to Hawkmoth,” Bruce rolled his eyes at the name. If he thought that one was stupid, wait until he heard the rest. Monkey King? Pigella? Come on. “We need a way to keep an eye on this group, and I’d rather we do it directly instead of delegating it to someone who knows nothing about the situation.”

He paused, attempting to let them fill in the blanks. They didn’t. “And?”

Bruce sighed. “I offered to host the class group for some activities, starting with a Wayne Enterprises tour led by two of my sons.”

Damian and Timothy groaned simultaneously. “Are you serious, B?”

“Father, you can’t expect us to-”

Bruce held up his hand, calmly interrupting Damian. “I do expect you to. Given that the two of you spent your entire night researching this, you’re the most knowledgeable on the case, and the most best able to glean information from these kids,” His expression softened a bit. “I know you both find this annoying, but it’s the next logical step in figuring out what’s going on and stopping Hawkmoth.” 

Timothy rubbed the back of his neck. “I guess it would be beneficial to talk to people who’ve been victimized by Hawkmoth.”

Damian wanted to argue, he really did. But their logic was sound. “Fine.” He grumbled. 

Bruce smiled ever so slightly. “Thank you. Go freshen up. I’ll have Alfred take you to the office in an hour. The group will arrive around 10.” 

There wasn’t enough coffee in the world to prepare Damian for any of this. He was so not ready to deal with a bunch of confused, scared teenagers from halfway around the world.

“Stand up straight, Demon. You’re going to terrify them looking like that.” Timothy approached him from behind, holding a legal pad. 

He scoffed, but complied. “I told you to stop calling me that.” Damian said half-heartedly. In truth, he’d become accustomed to the pet name, and almost appreciated it. He still didn’t want to make it easy for Tim. 

Timothy examined him, brushing some dust off Damian’s shoulders. “You know the plan?”

“Tt, of course I do,” Damian pushed him aside, tending to his shoulders on his own. “You lead the tour, and I talk to the students, try to figure out what they know about Hawkmoth being here.”

Timothy nodded. “Make sure to try and talk to Lila, see what she knows.”

Damian only had time for a curt nod before a Wayne branded bus pulled up to the building. He and Timothy both straightened up, facing the vehicle as the kids began to exit. 

Timothy smiled brightly, waving to the students as they approached the building. Damian shoved his hands in his pockets, not bothering to smile or wave. The best he could offer right now was to try and fight off his scowl (or resting bitch face, as Jason called it). 

The French kids looked at them awkwardly, staying near each other as the bus pulled away. Two of them who stood with seemingly unearned confidence - Lila, of course, and a blonde girl research told him was called Chloé Bourgeois. 

“Are you Timothy Drake-Wayne?” An older man asked. At Tim’s nod, he smiled and offered his hand. “I’m M. Damocles, principal of Francois Dupont, and these are my students. We’re very grateful to Mr. Bruce Wayne for offering us this opportunity.”

“It’s our pleasure,” Timothy said in his best customer service voice. “When we heard about your class’ diversion from French-American Friendship Week, we figured that it was best to be a good friend and make sure you’re not stuck inside while you’re in Gotham.” After letting go of  Damocles’ hand, Timothy gently put it on Damian’s shoulder. “This is my little brother, Damian. He and I will be guiding your tour around our premises today.”

“Wonderful!” Damocles turned back to his students. “Everyone, remember the rules I went over this morning. Be respectful of this building and the people who work here.”

As Damocles went over his rules for the class, Timothy nudged Damian toward the back of the group. Damian nodded, walking behind all the students. A bodyguard that stood next to Adrien Agreste gave him a funny look, but otherwise, no one paid him any mind. 

“Shall we get a move on?” Timothy smiled again, leading the group into WE. Damian walked behind everyone else, listening to people's conversations. 

“I’m glad it’s Wayne Enterprises we’re seeing. They’re one of the most environmentally friendly companies in the world.” A girl with colorful hair said to a goth-looking boy.

“Kim, Timothy Drake looked at me. He looked at me . Do you think he liked me? Do you think I can get an internship here?” A young man with big glasses shook the arm of the tall boy next to him. 

“Chloé, I’m sure your things are safe. We looked into it last night, and that hotel is the safest one in the city.” A redhead was comforting the Bourgeois girl. 

“No, Marinette. I don’t believe you. It’s ridiculous you'd even suggest that.” A girl said as she took a couple pictures with her phone. “Lila would never do something so heinous.”

Damian zeroed in on that last conversation. The other girl, Marinette, was practically red in the face. “Yes, she would! She’s always pulling that kind of thing with me. Don’t you remember when she nearly got me expelled?”

“You and I both know that there was no evidence proving that it was Lila.”  

“But Alya, if you’d just listen to me-”

“You okay, M. Wayne?” Lila had slowed down to walk next to him. “You seemed kind of far off there.” 

Damian cleared his throat. Better make this quick. “Yes, I’m fine. Merely thinking about some work I need to do,” He looked at her. To the untrained eye, she looked like a normal, genuine girl. But Damian had been raised among assassins, and the very first lesson he learned was how to look past someone’s mask. The Lila behind the mask showed a manipulative and unsatisfied young lady, with an almost sadistic quality to her. “Pardon me, but I don’t know your name.”

“Oh, I’m Lila Rossi,” She smiled and held her hand aloft. Damian took it lightly, breaking off as soon as he could. “Gosh, it’s so weird to be here. I haven’t been in Gotham in such a long time.”

Damian had an easy enough time seeing through her lies, but this would all be so much easier if Cassandra were there. “You’ve been here before?” 

“My parents are diplomats, and the one time they came here they brought me along. They thought I’d be fine, but Bane kidnapped me and held me for ransom. Luckily, Batman and Robin swooped in and saved the day.” Lila said wistfully. 

“When was this?” He asked. 

“About three years ago,” She said easily. Damian wanted to call Rossi on her bullshit. He never saved her. He’d remember rescuing someone as slimy as her. “Between you and me, M. Wayne, I think Batman and Robin are way cooler than Ladybug and Chat Noir. They stop real threats and save so many lives, unlike the heroes of Paris, who try to magic all their problems away.”

That caught Damian’s attention. “I thought most people in Paris loved Ladybug and Chat Noir.”

“I guess, but I never saw the appeal. They’re just kids with magic jewels, they’re not real heroes, not like anyone in the Justice League.” Lila shrugged. Damian narrowed his eyes. This girl spun a web of lies really quick. He just needed to figure out how to cut it down. 

Timothy stopped the tour for a moment. When they stilled, Adrien approached with a wide, welcoming grin. “M. Wayne, I wanted to introduce myself. I’m Adrien Agreste.”

Damian quietly breathed a sigh of relief. From Stephanie’s account, Adrien was a nice person. “Please, call me Damian,” He ignored the brief look of shock from Rossi. “Do I know you from somewhere?”

Adrien blushed, scratching the back of his head. “Ah, you may know me from my father’s fashion company. I model pretty much everything he makes.”

“Yes, that’s it. My older brother Richard is a fan of his designs.” The group began moving again.

“Wow, I didn’t realize anyone in America knew about him, but I guess someone as wealthy as you guys would.” Adrien casually put his hands in his pockets. 

“It’s less about our wealth and more because Richard grew up traveling around Europe.”  Damian pulled up a picture of him and Richard on his phone. “He and his mother loved the film Solitude.”

Adrien’s smile faltered at that. It looked like he was fighting sadness. “I’m glad. I’ll let you and Lila get back to catching up. If you’ll excuse me,” He turned away. 

Damian stopped, confused. “What do you mean by ‘catching up’?” He asked slowly. 

Adrien turned around, looking at him innocently. “Well, Lila said that when her parents brought her here, you guys became good friends. ‘Pen pals’, whatever that means.” Damian felt his blood begin to boil. Could this girl really not go one conversation without making something up? “Right, Lila?”

“Um, Adrien? Maybe you could -” Lila tried weakly. 

Damian whirled on her, attracting the attention of the rest of the group. Her sentence squeaked to a sudden halt. “Listen well, Ms. Rossi. I don’t know why you would say such a thing when I’ve never met you before, and frankly, I don’t care. Let me be very clear; I don’t appreciate anyone lying about me for any reason,” He narrowed his eyes at her, and she backed away as if he hit her. He wanted to, but he won’t actually hit her. Not yet, at least. “I suggest you refrain from making such statements in the future, about me or anyone else. Lies such as that won’t get you very far in life.”

The tour group stood in shocked silence. Timothy looked puzzled, while most of the students looked surprised. They probably believed everything she’s ever said. Pathetic. Marinette also looked shocked, though it seemed it was because she wasn’t expecting anyone to call Lila out. 

Lila’s face displayed surprise and sadness, but underneath it all, there was a clear and powerful rage. She must not have been expecting this either, and she clearly wasn’t pleased. Well, she had it coming, and Damian would do it again in a heartbeat. 

He straightened his coat and walked away from Rossi. He glanced at Adrien, who wore the same shock as everyone else. But beneath his mask, there was an unmistakable satisfaction. Adrien knew exactly what he was doing. He meant to expose Lila to Damian, and thus, their whole class. 

Damian had to stop himself from smirking. He could respect someone like that. 

Chapter Text

Adrien grinned as Damian stomped up to his older brother, said something clipped and quiet, and walked down the hallway. Tim smiled awkwardly at his class. 

“Sorry about that, everyone! Damian had some business to attend to, he’ll rejoin us shortly. Now, if we can continue, I’ll take you to see some of our most recent research breakthroughs.” Tim began walking away. 

Adrien tucked his hands in his pockets and began walking. The group moved in silence, shocked after that outburst. Lila had shrunken in on herself, walking with her head down and refusing to meet anyone’s eye. Sabrina and Rose had moved to her side to comfort her. He watched as Alya joined their group, putting a kind hand on Lila's shoulder.

Marinette appeared next to him, giving him a curious eye. “Are you okay, Adrien?”

Adrien shrugged, trying to hide his smile. “I’m fine. Just surprised that Lila was lying about meeting the Waynes,” Marinette chuckled. He bent over, whispering. “She had it coming after what she pulled last night.” He winked. Marinette smiled in response. He smiled back; Marinette always made him feel good. Her eyes went wide and a rosy blush spread over her face.

“Oh, um, yeah, uh, thanks.” She stuttered, her smile falling. She rubbed her arm, looking uncomfortable all of a sudden. 

He always thought it was a little odd how awkward and uncomfortable Marinette got around him. She was his best friend, and Adrien loved her dearly. She was the kindest person Adrien’s ever met, and she deserved the world. He wished Marinette felt as comfortable around him as he was around her. 

Adrien chuckled, nudging her lightly. Her smile returned, albeit shaky. “We agreed to look out for each other while we’re here, especially around Lila. Just abiding by the deal.”

“Yeah, right.” Marinette gulped. 

They walked in silence for a few moments, paying a little attention to what Tim was saying. “Have you texted that girl yet? The one from the diner last night?” He asked quietly. 

“Oh, I did earlier this morning,” Marinette pulled out her phone. “Her name’s Stephanie, she’s super nice. She invited me to see an American movie tonight. She mentioned she’d be happy to see you, too.”

“Really? I hardly spoke to her.”

Marinette shrugged. “She seemed to like you. Not that I blame her, but, I, um…” She put her phone back in her pocket and looked down. “If you want to come, you can.” She finished quietly. 

Adrien smiled again. “Yeah, I think I’d like that.”

“Ok, uh, great! Yeah, I’ll let Steph know,” She pulled her phone back out and began typing. “I think Steph is going to bring her girlfriend along, too.”

The tour wasn’t really all that interesting, but it was something to pass the time. Adrien paid some attention, but he was more focused on his friends. He was still kind of upset with them; last night, after Marinette was led away by that girl, they were all more concerned with Lila and how ‘hurt’ she had been. Sure, they all briefly worried about Marinette, but it paled in comparison to the attention they gave Lila. She really had them all wrapped around her finger. It hurt to watch, especially with the knowledge that Marinette has known them all for a long time, longer than even he’s been around. So when Adrien saw the opportunity to expose one of her lies, he gladly took it. Who knew that Damian Wayne had such a massive temper?

Still, it had the effect he wanted. A lot of the class was steering clear of Lila, and he could hear whispers about what she said. Adrien was certain that they still believed most of what she’s said before, but they were somewhat wary of Lila right now that they knew about one of her lies. Granted, that was one lie out of many, but the seed of doubt had been planted. Hopefully they think twice about what she says from now on. 

And if most of his classmates avoided him right now since he’d been the one to cause the altercation? That’s just fine. He’s always been good on his own, and he had Marinette to lean on anyway. 

Eventually, Tim brought their tour to a cafeteria, allowing them to grab some lunch while he rushed off to a meeting or something. Adrien’s only briefly seen the cafeteria at Francois Dupont, so he wasn’t totally sure what should be in a cafeteria, but he knew this one barely qualified. 

It was massive, and it looked more like a fancy buffet or a food court than a cafeteria in the middle of an office building. There were individual restaurants lined up against the inner wall, and chefs made the food with fresh ingredients behind some glass in each one. It was about 11:30, meaning it was a little early for Americans to eat their lunch, but it was still pretty busy. Most of the places that served food had lines already, and they’d get even longer in the next 10 minutes. 

Adrien grabbed Marinette’s hand and started toward a pizza place. His father never lets him eat anything unhealthy, and he was excited to try something that was more than that; it was unhealthy by American standards, meaning it was one step above pure fat and grease. It made Adrien’s mouth water just thinking about it. 

He turned to Marinette, who was staring at their joined hands, blush coloring her entire face. When she noticed him looking, she hesitantly looked him in the eye and smiled. Somehow the blush grew even stronger. 

“Is pizza alright with you?” He asked after realizing he hadn’t really given her any say in the matter. 

“Oh, of course! I love a good pizza! Pizza’s good, we can be pizza pals!” As soon as she said the last phrase, her eyes shrunk and she quickly looked away from him. Adrien wanted to ask if she was alright, but Marinette has never been very candid with her emotions, so he decided against it. 

Once they got to the line, he let go of her hand. “What kind of pizza do you like to get?” He scrutinized the menu. “Father never lets me eat anything like this.”

“Wow, you’re breaking a lot of his rules on this trip, aren’t you?” She giggled. 

Adrien smiled mischievously. “What can I say, when the cat’s away the mice will play,” He felt a small pinch on his side. Plagg’s never been a fan of that phrase, and he’s even less of a fan of Adrien’s father. That comparison must’ve pissed him off. He’s just glad Plagg is taking out his anger like this and not disintegrating the building. 

Marinette laughed, this time more sincere. The blush across her cheeks finally disappeared. “That’s fair. If I had a father like your’s, I’d have gone crazy a long time ago,” She froze, almost like she expected Adrien to be uncomfortable by the statement. When he just smiled, she continued. “Whenever I have pizza, I like to get margherita, or something with spinach and sausage on it.”

“Margherita sounds good. Do you want to share?” He asked as they neared the front of the line. 

“Oh, um, sure.” She stuttered. 

They were called up to the register, and Adrien ordered their pizza. Turns out Bruce Wayne had covered all of their class’ lunch, which was nice of him. “Do you want to wait for the pizza while I grab us a table?” He asked Marinette. 

“Sure. That’s, um, that’s a good idea,” She smiled shakily. Adrien just nodded and scanned the seating area for an empty spot. He found one towards the entrance, and started off there. He just couldn’t get Marinette’s uncomfortable smile out of his head. Did he say something wrong?

There was another pinch on his side. He winced and pulled out his phone. “Would you stop that?” Adrien held the phone up to his ear, acting as if he was on a call. 

Instead of another person’s voice responding, he heard a quiet growl from his armpit. “I cannot believe you compared your father to a cat! A cat, Adrien! That’s what we are, and we’re nothing like him!” Plagg whined. 

“Sorry, it was just the only analogy I could think of in the heat of the moment.” Adrien said as he sat down. He could see Nino looking his way, probably wanting to come sit and talk. He’d better wrap this up quickly. 

“Well, you can make up for it by giving me a slice of your pizza.” Plagg stated firmly. 

“I can’t do that without Marinette getting suspicious. Not to mention everyone else in this massive office building,” He argued, rolling his eyes a bit. 

Plagg groaned loudly. Adrien had to check to make sure no one heard it. “Marinette? You shouldn’t have to worry about that little cupcake. You know she’s held a Miraculous before.”

“Yes, but I’m not supposed to tell anyone about that. You know Ladybug’s rules,” He watched Alya and Nino walk his way. Alya had a determined look on her face, which meant a probably-difficult conversation loomed over his head. “I’ll do my best to give you some food, but I can’t promise. Now please be quiet.”

Plagg huffed, but relented, and Adrien could feel him settling back into a comfy spot. He set his phone down and waved at his friends. Nino lifted his hand to wave back, but he and his girlfriend both froze in shock. Adrien furrowed his brows. 

“Do you mind if I sit down, Mr. Agreste?”

Adrien turned to find Damian Wayne standing at the edge of the table. He stood pretty tall, but tilted his head down somewhat, almost looking sheepish. 

“Of course, M. Wayne,” Adrien gestured to the chair opposite him. “And please, just call me Adrien.”

“Sure, but only if you call me Damian.” He responded as he took a seat. 

“Deal,” Adrien smiled. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see Alya and Nino scurry away, practically running right back to their classmates. Oh well. If they wanted to gossip, better make it good for them. If there was one thing Adrien was good at, it was a performance. He leaned forward a bit, trying to make sure his friends could see him talking. “What can I do for you, Damian?”

Damian sat up straight, looking Adrien up and down. He glanced to Adrien’s right, probably seeing the class whispering to each other. He seemed to figure out what Adrien was trying to do and folded his hands on the table. “I merely wanted to apologize for the spectacle I created earlier. I have trouble controlling my temper, and I’m not a big fan of people who lie about me, so I just went off. I didn’t mean to cause you any trouble.”

“Don’t worry about it, Damian,” Adrien shrugged. He threw up his hands to make elaborate gestures. “Lila has never been the most honest person, and sometimes it’s hard to tell if what she says is true or not. I should’ve realized earlier, or maybe pulled her aside instead of making it a big thing.”

If Adrien squinted, he could see the shadow of a smile on Damian’s lips. “Regardless, Adrien, I appreciate you revealing it to me,” He pushed the chair out, getting ready to stand. “I’ll rejoin the tour once you’re done here, but for now, enjoy your lunch.”

“Why don’t you stay?” Adrien blurted. Damian eyed him curiously. “Marinette and I are splitting a pizza, and there’s more than enough for three of us if you want to join.”

“Well, it seems most of your class is uncomfortable around me, so it might be best if I just go.”

“Marinette is uncomfortable around everyone. She’s the sweetest person in the world, I’m sure you’d love her and she’d love you.” Adrien pleaded. 

Damian looked at him, clearly nervous but trying his best to hide it. Eventually, he pulled his chair back to the table. “Then I’ll stay. Though if Marinette wants me to leave, I will,” 

Adrien sat back in his chair, smiling at Damian. The boy smiled back, though it looked unfamiliar on his face, as if he’s never done it before. Weird. He looked over Damian’s shoulder at Marinette, who stood still as a statue, staring at Damian. 

He waved her over. “Here she comes now.” He said to Damian.

After he waved, Marinette slowly began walking over, pizza in one hand and some plates in the other. She carefully set them down on the table before addressing Damian. “You’re Damian Wayne, right? I’m, uh, Marinette,” She stuck her hand in Damian’s face. 

“Yes, Adrien mentioned you. It’s a pleasure,” He shook it, smiling with a little more ease this time. “He invited me to dine with you, but only if you’re alright with that.”

Marinette furrowed her brows. “Of course you can! Why wouldn’t I be?” She moved over next to Adrien, pulling out her chair before stopping. The chair fell backwards, bumping into the table. “Oh shoot! I’m sorry, I only grabbed two plates! Let me go grab you one, M. Wayne.”

Damian stood up and circled the table. He helped Marinette pick up her chair, then held it out for her. “Just call me Damian, and please, sit. I’ll go grab my own plate.”

Marinette nodded quickly and sat down. Damian pushed in the chair before striding over to one of the food stalls. She watched him go before turning to Adrien. 

“Sorry about that, Marinette,” Adrien grabbed a napkin and set it on his lap. “I probably should’ve asked you before inviting him to sit down.”

Marinette chuckled, grabbing her own napkin. “It’s totally okay, Adrien. He looks like he needs a friend or two, and it’s not like we’re on a date, right?” She snorted before covering her mouth. 

Adrien grabbed the two plates on the table and set them out before going in for a slice. “This looks so beautiful,” He said wistfully, staring at the pizza. 

Damian rejoined them at the table, shrugging off his suit coat and draping it over the chair. “Yes, my father has hired some of the best pizza makers from New York to cook here. He’s said there’s no better pizza than a New York slice.” 

“Why New York? Wouldn’t Italy have the best pizza?” Marinette asked before taking a bite. 

“You would think that, but I doubt Italians are very good at pizza. The tomato wasn’t discovered until a conquistador conquered the Aztecs, so they never incorporated the fruit into their food until the mid-1500’s.” Damian grabbed a slice and pulled a knife and fork out of nowhere. 

“Aren’t we supposed to eat it with our hands?” Adrien asked, looking between Marinette and Damian. Marinette was eating it like he thought you were supposed to, but Damian was cutting it up like a steak. 

“This is just my preference,” Damian stated simply. “Wait, have you never eaten pizza before?”

Adrien shrugged. “Not really. My father doesn’t like it when I eat anything this greasy, or that you can’t use cutlery with.” 

“Is that because you model for his brand?”

“I think it’s more because he’s a bit overprotective. He almost didn’t let me come on this trip.”

Damian narrowed his eyes, slowly lowering his utensils. “Why did he let you come then?”

“It’s all thanks to Marinette,” Adrien nudged her with his elbow. One of the tomatoes on her pizza slid onto the plate, and she looked at it before looking at Damian. “She went and convinced my father that I should come and attend the festival with everyone. I’d be stuck at home if it weren’t for her.” He smiled brightly at her, and she tentatively returned it. 

Damian turned his scrutinizing gaze to her. “That was very kind of you.”

She nearly dropped her pizza, but caught it just in time. “It was nothing. What are friends for?” 

They all continued eating for a moment. After finishing half of his slice, Damian looked between the two of them. “I’ve wanted to ask you about Ladybug and Chat Noir. I’m curious about them, but Lila refused to tell me much.”

Marinette made a quiet choked noise while Adrien tried to school his expression. It may be a different country, but it was best Adrien not let his secret identity slip out. “They’re the coolest. A lot of our friends have been akumatized by Hawkmoth, so we’ve seen them in action a lot. They’re nice and strong, a true dynamic duo.” Adrien tried not to compliment himself a little too much, though he could go on for hours about Ladybug. 

“What do you mean ‘akumatized’?” Damian asked

Marinette grabbed another slice from the pizza. “Hawkmoth uses his power to turn anyone who feels a strong negative emotion into a super villain. It sucks, especially when it happens to people you’re close to, but at this point, it’s unavoidable in Paris. When someone’s turned, Ladybug and Chat Noir swoop in, stop them, cleanse the akuma and fix all the damage.”

Damian hummed. “It must be hard, knowing that anytime you’ve had a bad day you could destroy half the city.”

“That’s why we’re grateful for Ladybug,” Adrien grinned a little as he thought about her. “Her and Chat Noir’s Miraculous are a perfect balance to solve any problem.”

“And what are Miraculous?” Damian also grabbed another slice. Adrien’s face fell. That one was going to be a little harder to answer. Luckily, Marinette beat him to the punch. 

“They’re these little magic jewels that, when activated, give the user superpowers,” She took another small bite. “Hawkmoth has been using a stolen Miraculous to try and get Ladybug and Chat Noir’s.”

“Would it be bad if they gave them to him?” Damian asked innocently. He must’ve known next to nothing about Ladybug and Chat Noir to ask this many questions. 

“I’m not totally sure about all the in’s and out’s, but from what Alya told me, it could be catastrophic. She could probably answer all the questions you have about them, she runs a popular website called the Ladyblog. The only people who know more about this than her are Ladybug and Chat Noir themselves.” Marinette finished off her second slice. 

“Perhaps I will,” Damian turned his attention back toward his plate. 

They chatted for the remainder of lunch. Once the clock read 12:15, Tim hurried back into the room, looking all over the room. Finally, his eyes landed on Damian, Adrien, and Marinette, and he approached the table. 

“Damian, nice to see that you’re making friends,” Tim smiled at Marinette and Adrien. 

“Timothy. This is Marinette and Adrien,” Tim waved at them before returning his attention to his brother. “How was your ‘oh so important’ meeting?” 

“Good. Bernard is looking at internships around the city, and I’m hoping he applies here.”

“Isn’t that considered nepotism?” Damian rolled his eyes. 

“Hey, Bernard could easily get an internship here without my help. Plus, I’m not even involved in the process, so it wouldn’t matter,” Tim huffed. He must’ve noticed Marinette and Adrien staring at him since he straightened his back and cleared his throat. “Sorry about that. My boyfriend Bernard was planning a lunch date for us today, and, well, you probably know how little siblings can be about that kind of thing.” He ruffled Damian’s hair, who yelped in response. 

“Not really. We’re both only children.” Adrien replied. 

“Did our tour interrupt your plans?” Marinette worried.

Tim laughed kindly. “Don’t worry about it, Marinette. Even if this tour wasn’t happening, I still have loads of other responsibilities we had to work around,” He checked his watch. “Speaking of which, if we want to keep on schedule, we should probably get a move on. I’ll go speak with your teachers, if you’ll excuse me.”

He swiftly walked away. Damian began gathering the plates on the table. “Thank you for inviting me to eat with you. I enjoyed it.”

Marinette smiled. “Anytime, Damian. Are you coming along for the rest of the tour?”

“I am, yes.” He smiled at her before taking the dirty dishes to a shelf in the corner. 

Adrien stood, offering a hand to Marinette. “He seems nice.” She said. 

“Yeah, he does,” Once she stood, he looked at her. Marinette was watching Damian closely, a light blush on her cheeks. He’s binged-watched enough rom-coms to know what she’s thinking. “Do you have a crush on him, Marinette?” He asked teasingly. 

“What?” She squawked. “Do I have a- No! Damian, no! Me? Crush? Damian? No, no!” Her face lit up like a traffic light. Adrien knew he was right on the money. 

“You sure? You’re blushing an awful lot.” He smirked, leaning over her. 

She gulped, stunned into silence. He could see the gears turning in Marinette’s head, trying desperately to formulate a response. 

Before Adrien could say anything else, M. Damocles was clapping his hands at the other end of the cafeteria, gaining everyone’s attention. 

“Students, lunchtime is over! Come, we have a full afternoon!”

Chapter Text

If Tim Drake was one thing, he was thorough. He led the students around pretty much all of Wayne Enterprises, pointing out every little detail he could. When Bruce Wayne offered them this tour, they thought it wouldn’t go longer than a couple hours, but it didn’t actually end until just after 5 pm. 

Throughout the whole tour, Adrien, Marinette and Damian stayed toward the back of the group and talked. As they did, Damian lost some of the tension in his shoulders and seemed a little more at ease than before. It was a massive improvement, since at the beginning of the day he looked like he was ready to kill someone. 

At one point, Damian tried to chat with some of the other kids in their class, but no one really responded. Well, except for Alya. She was always willing to conduct an interview at a moment’s notice, and that’s exactly what she did. “It’s for my blog,” She reasoned and showed it to Damian. He willingly answered all her questions, though not very much. It seemed he also wanted to do an interview, because he grilled Alya about Paris, specifically Ladybug and Chat Noir. She answered his question just as easily, and at the end of the exchange, they were pretty friendly. 

Despite that, Damian chose to hover around Adrien for most of the day, shooting some passersby looks that scared even his bodyguard. A couple times, Tim would quietly approach them and tell Damian to ‘chill’, but he never took that advice. That is, unless Marinette and Adrien could talk him into it. Adrien was curious as to why Damian liked them so much, but he thought it was just because Marinette was so magnetic and kind, and that Damian was drawn to her bright personality the same way Adrien was. 

After such a long tour, the building began to feel a little stuffy, so Adrien was grateful when they walked outside into the (somewhat) fresh air. He stretched and yawned at the same time. It felt like such a long day, and he was just about ready for bed. But Adrien promised Marinette that they’d see a movie with Stephanie and her girlfriend, so he had to find some way to survive until then. 

“Adrien,” Damian called as he walked out of the building. He pulled his phone out of his jacket pocket, refusing to look up from the ground. “I would appreciate it if you could input your cell number into my phone. I… enjoyed spending time with you and Marinette today, and would like to do it again before you leave Gotham.”

Grinning, Adrien took the phone and opened up a new contact. “Of course, Damian! I had a lot of fun with you today, too. Here, I’ll also give you Marinette and Alya’s numbers if you want to talk to either of them.” He typed in all the info and gave it back to the boy.

Damian looked surprised, and gazed down at his phone like it was the most precious thing in the world. “That was very kind of you. Thank you,” He gently put the phone back in his pocket. 

The same bus from this morning pulled up to the building. Adrien sighed and extended his hand for Damian to shake. “It was great meeting you today, Damian. Talk soon?”

“Of course,” Damian smirked. “Have a safe trip back to your hotel, Adrien.” He let go of his hand and turned around, heading back towards Tim. As the class boarded the bus, the two brothers waved them off. The bus driver was different from this morning’s. The first man was dressed sort of like a police officer, while this guy was dressed more business casual. It was probably because of a shift change or something like that. 

Adrien ended up sitting next to Nino, who was shifting awkwardly in his seat. He had a pinched look on his face, as if he wanted to say something but didn’t know what to say. As the bus pulled away, Adrien turned to wave goodbye at Damian and Tim, but they disappeared. They must’ve gone back inside the building. 

When Adrien turned back around, Nino was staring at him. “Is everything okay, Nino?” Adrien put a hand on his friend’s shoulder. He smiled a bit, trying to ease the tension, but Nino just looked away. 

“I mean, dude, I just…” Nino scratched the back of his neck. “You spent the entire day with a guy who made one of our friends cry. It wasn’t cool, man.”

Adrien sighed, his face falling. He crossed his arms. “All he did was call Lila out on a lie. What’s so wrong with that?”

“I see your point, dude, but he didn’t have to scream at her, or say it in front of everyone else. There were better ways for him to handle it.” 

“Maybe Lila just needs to stop lying about things if she can’t handle anyone proving it.” Adrien muttered and turned away from Nino. It was so frustrating how no one but Marinette could see through what she said. And maybe he didn’t at first, but he’s grateful to Ladybug for telling him. He’d rather know a liar and stay away from her than not know and be their friend. 

“Adrien…” Nino began before stopping, clearly not sure what to say. Adrien continued to stare out the window. Out of the corner of his eye, he spotted some rapid movement from above. He was surprised to see them going down a different street, but then again, American cities were nothing like French cities. In Paris, his driver never went a different route unless there was a massive accident, which was rare. This driver was trying to avoid traffic or something. 

“Nino! Nino, Nino, Nino!” Alya called excitedly from a couple seats down. Adrien and Nino turned around at the same time. Alya was waving frantically with one hand, phone pointed out the window in the other. Marinette looked startled, but her attention was on the passing buildings. “Look outside! It’s some of the superheroes!”

Nino and Adrien crowded their window, looking up. Above them, a few superheroes were jumping across the buildings, moving similarly to Chat Noir and Ladybug. One was in yellow armor, another in a purple suit with a cape, and a girl in all black with a yellow belt. 

“Who are they?” Adrien asked without looking at Alya. 

“The yellow one’s Signal, the purple one’s Spoiler, and the black one’s Orphan!” Everyone in their class was up against the windows, watching the heroes move. “This is amazing! I wonder what they’re doing! I wonder what super villain they're after!”

Thanks to his Miraculous, Adrien’s senses have improved quite a bit, even when he’s not transformed. He can hear most people when they mutter or whisper, though he typically ignores it out of respect for their privacy. 

However, the bus driver pulling out a walkie talkie and quietly saying, “We’ve been made, boss. The Bats are on my tail.” was enough to make Adrien pay attention. Suddenly, he was very suspicious and a little scared. 

As two heroes appeared on motorcycles on the other side of the bus - “Nightwing and Red Hood!” Alya excitedly yelled - the horror of the situation dawned on him. 

“Um, Nino?” Adrien pulled his friend down beneath the seat.

“You okay, dude?”

He shook his head. “I think we’re being kidnapped.” Adrien whispered nervously. Nino looked around for a moment, confused. Then it clicked, and his eyes widened. 

“Holy shit, dude.”

“Babs, I need you to run a face spotted on a bus outside WE.” Timothy barked into his phone as soon as the French class’ bus pulled up. Damian knew exactly what he was thinking; that bus driver looked familiar, and not in a good way.

Checking cameras… you mean the bus driver?” Damian overheard her respond. 


Barbara was quiet for almost a minute, which wasn’t a good sign. Her facial recognition software took no more than 10 seconds to work. The fact that she was silent for almost 30 seconds was bad news. “That’s David Jones. Wanted for arson, assault, and racketeering. My records say he works for Two Face.”

Timothy and Damian rushed into a deserted side room, away from unsuspecting WE employees. “Shit. Shit.” Timothy put his head in his hand. “Those kids are in massive danger.” He switched Barbara to speaker phone. 

Yeah. You and Damian change. I’ve already sent an emergency alert to everyone. Signal’s already enroute to their location, and Spoiler and Orphan just finished suiting up.” Typing filled the line for a few seconds.

“Thank God for Bruce’s paranoia,” Timothy muttered. Bruce had asked all of them to be on alert in case Two Face or Hawkmoth tried anything today. Like pretty much every time, his paranoia was going to save lives. 

“Timothy and I need but a few minutes to prepare. Keep us updated on everything, Barbara.” Damian ordered as he took his emergency comm out of his pocket and stuck it in his ear. 

Will do. Now move; the bus is already going off its planned route. I don’t want to lose them.”

“We won’t lose Damian’s only friends,” Tim tried to joke, but his light tone went unanswered. He walked to a wall and removed a painting, revealing a secret keypad. 

“Leave the terrible jokes to Richard, Timothy.” Damian chastised as Timothy input the code to the WE Vault. They hardly ever used it, and when they did, they kept next to nothing in here. Alfred made sure to put the Robin and Red Robin costumes and weapons in here this morning, just in case. 

They changed with lightning speed, and soon enough, Red Robin opened up the entrance in the alley and they were off. Using their grappling hooks, they reached the top of the next building.

“Oracle, where is the bus now?” Robin asked as he did a flip onto the next rooftop. 

They’re heading down 56th, just passing Jefferson. Nightwing and Red Hood just arrived, but Jones figured it out. He’s driving erratically, and I think he’s called reinforcements.” 

Oracle, clear the roads and call the cops,” Batman’s voice came over the comm line. “We can’t stop the bus until most of the civilians are clear.

On it.” She responded quickly before silencing her end of the line. 

Um, Batman?” Signal interjected. “That might not be necessary.”

“What do you-” Red Robin started before a bunch of loud screeching and crunching noises came from his end. Red Robin and Robin stopped, both wincing at the assault on their ears. 

“What the hell was that, Signal?” Robin asked, resuming his parkour with his brother on his tail. 

Is everyone alright?” Batman asked. Robin looked over the buildings to see the Batmobile speeding down 56th. They were almost at Jefferson, they should see-

The bus was sitting across the entire street five blocks down, its tires smoldering with massive, curly tracks in their wake. One of the tires was blown out, and luckily no one had been hit as the bus careened out of control. Red Hood was busy trying to pry open the doors while Nightwing helped kids out of one of the emergency windows. 

The Batmobile smoothly stopped 20 feet away from the bus while Signal, Spoiler and Orphan jumped down from the roof next to the accident. Red Robin and Robin ran quicker, making it to the accident less than a minute later. 

“What happened?” Red Robin asked as soon as he reached Batman. Red Hood had finally opened the bus door, and the first one out was Adrien. 

“That’s what I’m wondering,” Batman muttered. Robin narrowed his eyes at his father. 

“Hood shot one of the back tires, but it didn’t do much. All of a sudden, the bus flew out of control, and after spinning a bunch, it finally stopped.” Spoiler explained. And by the looks of it, she was right. When Robin scanned the students, he saw a couple of them coaching Alya as she threw up in the gutter. 

“Are they all safe?” He asked. 

“All the runts are accounted for.” Red Hood answered, walking up to them. “They’re all off, and they’re all in one piece, though none of them seem to know what happened.”

“And the driver?” Batman crossed his arms.

“Unconscious from a blow to the head,” Red Hood responded. “I think it was the Agreste kid, but when I asked, he said he had no idea what happened.”

Robin huffed, looking at Adrien. He was standing next to Marinette, who was shaking and turning green. Looks like she was destined for the same fate as Alya. 

“So… crisis averted?” Signal shrugged. 

Orphan cleared her throat and gestured to the other side of the bus. The sound of high-speed cars approached. 

Not quite yet, Signal,” Oracle said. “You’ve got incoming. Cops shouldn’t be far behind, though.”

Gunshots shattered the windows of the bus, and a few of Two Face’s goons ran around the side. The French students screamed in terror. 

“Get the kid!” One of the men screamed before firing on the Bats. 

“Nightwing, Spoiler, Robin! Protect the students! Everyone else,” Batman grabbed a Batarang from his utility belt. “Keep them busy.” He finished coldly, throwing it at the closest one. It embedded itself in the guy's shoulder, and he dropped his gun. 

While everyone else ran right at the small army of men in black and white suits, Robin and Spoiler ran to Nightwing’s side, shielding the students from the tide. 

“All of you, follow me!” Nightwing ordered the students. “You two, follow behind and make sure they don’t join us.” He jerked a thumb at the chaos. Robin and Spoiler nodded and pulled out their weapons. Once Nightwing got in front of the group, the students and teachers practically ran after him. Adrien and Marinette were a little slower to go, looking at the fight with determined expressions, but moved as soon as Adrien’s bodyguard shouted for them. 

The rest of the family kept most of the goons at bay, but a few slipped past and made a break for the French group. Robin used his sword to slash a man on the arm then ducked. Spoiler jumped over him and whacked the guy in the head hard enough to send him to the ground. From his position, Robin somersaulted to another man, sweeping him off his feet and using the hilt of the sword to knock him unconscious. 

“Robin, I need a boost!” Spoiler called. He nodded and got on one knee, bracing his hands. She ran at him, stepping into his palms, and he launched her in the air. Spoiler swiftly discharged two smoke bombs at another incoming guy. However, the effect wasn’t what she intended. The man engulfed in smoke began shooting at random in all different directions. A few stray bullets went towards the students, and one hit Adrien’s bodyguard in the leg. 

He fell like a sack of rocks and Adrien screamed. He ran to the bodyguard, chased by Marinette’s scream. She reached out for him, but was pulled away by Alya. 

Spoiler quickly knocked the shooter out, and she and Robin were on them quickly.

“Is he going to be okay?” Adrien’s voice shook as he knelt by the man. 

Spoiler looked at the wound for a moment. “He’ll live, but he can’t really move until paramedics get here,” She answered. “Robin, give him a tourniquet then get Adrien out of here . I’ll protect the bodyguard and keep the rest of the goons off of you guys.”

Robin nodded, sifting through his medical pouch for the right item. Adrien looked confused, but that was overtaken as his bodyguard grunted. Spoiler stood over them, using her cape to protect them all from oncoming bullets. 

“He’s stable,” Robin stood and grabbed Adrien by the shoulder. “You and I can’t stay here. Come.” He took off running with Adrien in hand. 

“But I can’t just leave him!” The frightened teen cried. 

“You have to,” Robin answered calmly. “These guys are here for you.” He probably shouldn’t have said that, but oh well. He deserved to know that he was being targeted. 

Guys, Nightwing needs reinforcements. Another truckload of gangsters appeared in front of him,” Oracle called. 

Distantly, Robin registered Red Robin and Signal replying, but that didn’t matter. Adrien was top priority at the moment. He stopped Adrien and looked around for another route. “This way!” He began toward an alley. If they could get to the roof…

Adrien wrenched his hand from Damian’s grip. “Why? We need to get to my friends!”

“Your friends were just cut off by more gangsters. Besides, they aren’t the ones being targeted by Two Face. We need to get you safe.” 

Robin left no room for argument, but Adrien didn’t care. “You can’t be serious! They’re in danger, we need to help them!”

“Please, Agreste! We can’t-” Robin stopped, looking over Adrien’s shoulder. A man with a massive tommy gun was approaching them. He grabbed Adrien by the arm and pulled him away. “Duck!”

Adrien reacted poorly and ran right into Robin, knocking his sword out of his hand and sending them both tumbling into the alley. As they fell, something flew out of Adrien’s shirt. Damian recovered as the man began raining bullets down on them, and got them both safely behind a dumpster. 

“Are you alright?” Damian slowed his breathing and looked at the teen. Adrien was staring at him in blatant shock. “Agreste? Are you hurt?”

“Damian?” Adrien breathed. 

“What?” Damian practically yelled. He froze, and belatedly realized that when they fell, his domino mask came off. It was sitting towards the back of the alley, next to what he could only describe as a small black blob. Shit. 

“Oh my god, Damian, you’re Robin?” Adrien was getting excited. “I can’t believe this! I don’t know what to say, but honestly, it’s so cool, especially since-”

Damian covered his mouth, interrupting him. “Look, I can explain everything later, but you must promise me you will not tell a soul. I cannot stress this enough; no one can know my secret identity.”

Adrien nodded, and Damian slowly removed his hands. “It’s okay, I totally get the whole secret identity thing.”

“What do you mean?” The bullets outside of the alley stopped coming. 

“He means that he understands your pain about the bullshit secret identity stuff, but at least he doesn’t have a mask that can fall off.” A shrill voice answered from behind him. Damian jumped to his feet, standing over Adrien, but all he saw was a tiny, flying cat-thing holding his mask. 

Damian jumped back, hand going to his utility belt. “What the actual fuck?” 

“Sorry,” Adrien chuckled. He took Damian’s mask from the creature and held it out to Damian. “I’ve never met another superhero face to face, or really told anyone my secret identity, so we’re a little excited. He’s been trying to get me to tell Ladybug for months.” He gestured to the tiny being, who flew next to Adrien’s head and smiled proudly.

Damian took his mask. “What do you mean?” He asked again, slowly. 

“This is Plagg, he’s what gives me my superpowers. I’m Chat Noir.”

Damian blinked in surprise. “Seriously?”

Adrien smirked and nodded. “Seriously.”

“I, um…” It was rare that Damian was left speechless. 

“It’s okay!” Adrien pulled him down as the shooting began again. “Sorry to spring this on you, I just figured you need my help to protect my friends, and it would be way easier if they couldn’t find Adrien.”

“Right…” Damian took a deep breath, trying to center himself. He had so many questions to ask later. “Right. It would make this far easier. But what about Ladybug? Don’t you only work right when she’s around?”

“I just have to make sure I don’t use my Cataclysm and we’ll be fine.” Adrien shrugged. 

“Okay. Fine. Oracle,” Robin activated his comm as he replaced his mask on his face. “I managed to hide Adrien at the top of a building, but I’m being pressed down by bullets. Send someone my way so I can leave.”

I’ll see what I can do, but we’re stretched kinda thin right now,” Oracle responded. 

“Don’t worry, Robin. We’ve got this.” Adrien exclaimed. “Plagg, claws out!”

The little cat-thing dissolved and flew into Adrien’s ring. In a flash of green light, his outfit changed, turning him into Chat Noir. 

“Stay here, I’ll handle this,” Chat Noir jumped out into the alley, taking the hail of bullets like it was nothing. Robin watched, mystified, as any bullet that hit him disintegrated into glittery dust instantaneously. Chat Noir charged the goon, using his staff to knock the gun out of his hands and landing a swift kick to the head. “You coming, little birdie?” He called back nonchalantly. 

Robin emerged from behind the dumpster. “Never call me that again.” He scooped up his sword from where it fell and shot Chat Noir a glare. Apparently used to that, Chat Noir just laughed, swinging his staff across his shoulders. 

“You have even less of a sense of humor than Ladybug,” He said, smiling lazily. 

“Maybe, but we don’t have time for that.” Robin gestured behind Chat Noir, where a group of men had broken through the lines and stood against them. “You ready, Chat Noir?” Robin took a fighting stance. 

Chat Noir took a similar position, holding his weapon towards their enemies. “Always ready, Robin.”

Chapter Text

Okay, so fighting in Gotham was a lot different than fighting in Paris. 

For one, the damage wouldn’t magically go away. If Chat Noir accidentally broke someone's arm or gave them a concussion (he only felt a little bad for what he did to the bus driver), they would have to get treated for it. He can’t rely on Ladybug’s magic healing here. 

And two, Robin’s fighting style was a lot more brutal than he was used to. Robin was swift and deadly, not leaving any room for retaliation. He didn’t seem to care about injuring his opponent, but luckily, he never killed any of them. Chat Noir doesn’t really want to be associated with anyone who did that kind of thing. 

Chat Noir wondered if all of the Bats fought like Robin did. He wouldn’t be surprised; in the absence of powers, they had to work a lot harder to accomplish the same things. 

“Do you guys really work for Two Face?” Chat Noir asked some of the gangsters as he weaved around their bullets. “Because honestly, you dressed like you’ve been akumatized.” He jumped, kicking two of them in the head with a split kick and knocking them down. He extended his staff, vaulting himself onto another man’s shoulders. He wrapped his legs around his neck and used his weight to flip them over.

“Don’t you ever shut the fuck up?” One of the men he just knocked down screamed as he tried to scramble to his feet. 

Chat Noir rolled away from the man he was just on and used his legs to sweep this guy back down. “Not really. It’s part of my charm.” He purred as he used his staff to knock him and his friend unconscious. Chat Noir felt really bad about this, but without Ladybug here, he had no other way to stop them long enough for them to be arrested. 

He stood up, looking around at the men remaining. Some looked angry, and some looked scared. Good. Chat Noir would happily hurt anyone who threatened his friends, though he needed to keep himself calm. 

“Chat Noir!” Robin called. He turned to look just in time to see Robin throw some smoke bombs toward the men. “Move!”

“No need to, Robin!” He gave a lazy salute, turning back around as smoke erupted. “I work best when I’m the only one who can see!” All of the goons were wandering and shouting aimlessly in the heavy smoke, but Chat Noir was perfectly alright. Feline eyesight at its finest. 

He extended his stick long enough to sweep all the men down. They slammed against the concrete, most losing their weapons and some even losing consciousness. Chat Noir was going to feel really bad about this later, but for now, it was survival of the fittest. 

He pounced, hitting each man precisely to keep them down. By the time the smoke dissipated, there were about eight men laying knocked out at his feet. All of the bad guys that surrounded them had been taken care of. 

“Impressive.” Robin smiled. 

“All in a day’s work, bird boy.” Chat Noir grinned mischievously. 

Robin’s smile immediately fell. “Can you stop with the ridiculous nicknames?”

“No.” Chat Noir said, injecting as much love into the word as possible. It was even easier to tease Robin than it was with Ladybug. He shouldn’t be having nearly this much fun. 

Robin grimaced, then looked at something behind Chat Noir’s shoulder. There was someone running toward them. Chat Noir whirled around, holding out his staff towards the oncomer, but it was the hero that helped him off the bus.

“Hood, what’re you doing?” Robin asked, lowering his sword. 

Red Hood stopped in front of them, breathing slightly elevated. “Oracle said you need a hand, but I see you’ve taken care of it,” Chat Noir leaned on his stick, and Red Hood seemed to register his presence for the first time. “Who the fuck are you?”

“This is Chat Noir,” Robin replied simply. 

“One of the Paris brats?” Red Hood asked. 

“Yep,” Chat Noir grinned as made it clear he was ready to attack. He may be pretty chill, but he wasn’t in the mood to be messed with by anyone, even other heroes. “Came right over as soon as I heard about the attack on French students.”

“You came here,” He gestured to the city. “Here, all the way from Paris?” Chat Noir nodded. Red Hood shrugged. “Sure. Whatever.”

“What’s going on with Batman and Orphan?” Robin looked at where Hood came from. 

“They’ve got it handled, but I was supposed to come grab you and head over to Nightwing and the kiddies. They ran into more trouble.” 

“Shit,” Chat Noir swore. It was so freeing to be a different person and be able to swear in public, and this was the first time he didn’t take any joy in it. “We need to move.”

“Agreed. Let’s go.” Robin sheathed his sword and they all took off toward Nightwing and his friends. 

As they ran, they passed Red Robin and Signal dealing with a different group of armed men. Distantly, Chat Noir watched as Nightwing stood in front of a car, moving quickly to take out anyone who dared get too close. Behind the car, everyone in his class was hiding, with a few trying to shield others in case someone got too close. Marinette and Kim stood on the side he could see. 

But it seems all of their efforts were in vain, because a few guys overwhelmed Nightwing and stopped him from getting to the class in time. Some of Two Face’s men lunged around the car, grabbing Marinette first. She screamed. 

Chat Noir felt his blood boil. He pointed his stick toward the ground and launched himself far into the air. As he arched upwards, he put his staff away, deciding to only use his claws for the moment. 

Nino pointed toward him, and everyone looked up. The goon holding Marinette was just distracted enough for her to hit him in the groin and duck away. As soon as she was out of range, Chat Noir fell into the guy at full force, knocking him hard enough to leave a massive dent in the car.

“Chat Noir?” Marinette gasped from her place on the ground, but he resisted looking over at her. Instead, he wrapped his legs beneath this guy’s arms and braced his hands on the ground, using his claws to dig into the asphalt. He swung his lower body, taking this guy with him right onto the road. Chat Noir landed on his stomach and rolled over. 

Marinette was looking at him with a mixture of surprise and… was that betrayal? She was probably in shock and scared out of her mind, so Chat Noir wasn’t going to look too deeply into her emotions right now. He switched to a kneeling position and held out his hand to her. “Are you okay, princess?”

She took his hand and he brought them both up. “What are you doing here?” She asked angrily. 

Before he could respond, Rose screamed. A man had grabbed her and tore her arms from Juleka’s grip. In the moment Chat Noir took care of this one goon, four others managed to grab Rose, Chloé, Nino and Nathaniel. 

Robin and Red Hood just approached him from behind, and Nightwing was still busy fighting off four other men. Hood ran over to Nightwing to help him, and Chat Noir looked at the students who remained in hiding. “Duck! Now!” He ordered. He turned around and fell to one knee. “Robin, jump!”

Robin nodded and ran at Chat Noir. He launched Robin into the air before he tackled one of the men trying to kidnap his friends. Chat Noir jumped after him, scratching at the guy threatening Alya. Once Robin knocked out the first minion, he extended his arm out, and Chat Noir grabbed it and swung Robin against a man with a massive gun. Robin shoved his body weight into the guy's chest before Chat Noir knocked him out with a punch. 

Marinette screamed again. Chat Noir looked over to find more men on that side of the class. He jumped over his friends again, grabbing his stick and bringing it down on the man looming over Marinette. 

The swarm of men seemed practically endless. Another truck stopped in front of Nightwing and Red Hood. Unlike others, this one had a massive machine gun hooked up to the back. As some men ran out, the one in the bed aimed his gun and the class’ hiding spot and began to fire. 

Nightwing, Red Hood and Robin took refuge with the students behind the almost destroyed car. “Shit, shit, shit!” Nightwing seethed. “What are we gonna do now?”

Chat Noir looked between the advancing minions and the people cowering behind the car. He was going to regret this, he was sure of that. But if it was the only way to save his friends, then so be it. 

“Listen up,” He yelled at the other heroes. “I’m going to draw their fire and knock out the dude in the truck. Robin, once he’s out, follow me. You two, protect these students at all costs.” Chat Noir hissed. The three Bats nodded. 

“What’re you gonna do?” Marinette asked, clearly scared. 

Instead of replying, Chat Noir turned around and launched himself off the car. The machine gun was aimed directly at him, but thanks to his Miraculous, he wasn’t hurt at all. He jumped off a few different men before pouncing on the one in the truck. He fell backward and hit his head hard enough on the truck bed to knock him out. Chat Noir gripped the mount the gun was attached to and pulled up, ripping it out. He did a front flip out of the trunk and slammed the gun into the ground, destroying it. 

Red Hood and Nightwing quickly emerged from behind the car, disabling anyone who managed to get close enough. Robin bolted out toward Chat Noir. Looking to make sure no one else was coming, Chat Noir gestured to the alley behind the truck and they ran in it. 

“What is going on? The fight is out there.” Robin gestured behind them.

“Not for much longer,” Chat Noir took a deep breath. “Plagg, claws in.”

He detransformed, and Plagg fell into his hand. “Kitten, what are you doing?” He looked as afraid as Adrien felt. 

“Adrien, what is-” 

Adrien held up his hand to interrupt Robin. He plucked the ring off his finger. “Damian Wayne, this is the Miraculous of the Black Cat, which grants the power of destruction. You will use this power for the greater good. While I’m gone, protect it, these people, and this city with your life.” He held his Miraculous out to Robin. 

“What are you doing?” Robin looked afraid.

“Adrien, please, don’t do this!” Plagg cried. 

“This is the only way to protect my friends,” Adrien said tearfully. “Protect them, and don’t tell anyone about me. And don’t give this ring to anyone, not even Ladybug, got it? I want it back once I’m rescued.”

A look of horror fell across Robin’s face. “Wait, we can figure this out-”

Before he could talk him out of it, Adrien shoved the ring into Robin’s hands and took off towards the fight. 

“Hey, assholes!” He yelled at the men attacking his friends. They all turned, ready to hurt him. 

“Put ya guns down! This is the kid the boss wants!” One of the men yelled, and they all relented. 

“If I go with you, will you stop hurting them?” Adrien asked, trying to steady his heartbeat. This was a lot less scary in his head. 

“Ya’d give ya’self up for these nobodies?” Another man gestured to the car. All of his friends were staring at him, shocked. 

“As long as you don’t hurt them anymore,” Adrien declared, trying to seem more confident than he actually was. “And as long as you let all of them go.”

Nightwing and Red Hood were shaking their heads, trying to dissuade him. It wouldn’t work. Not while everyone was still in danger. 

The first man to speak slowly approached him, tossing his hand from one to the other. Adrien didn’t move a muscle. He had a disgusting grin growing on his face. “We’ll let the rest of them go. Ya and the others we’ve got? You're all still comin’ with us.”

Adrien was ready to protest, ready to scream, but the man had slammed the butt of his gun into the side of his face. The last thing Adrien heard was his friends crying and screaming before he succumbed to oppressive darkness. 

Damian stared at the ring in his hand. He felt a profound sadness, though he wasn’t sure if it was his or if it was coming from the creature that inhabited it. 

As soon as they knocked Adrien out, Two Face’s men retreated. Oracle confirmed that once they had what they wanted, they disappeared immediately, both from their side of the fight and from where Batman was. The cops came not two minutes after that.

The French kids were all inconsolable at the loss of their friends. It was a complete shit show. Oracle sent another, highly secure bus to pick them all up and take them back to Wayne Enterprises. They were under heavy security in case someone else made a move on them, but it didn’t really matter. Two Face had exactly what he wanted. At least he could take comfort in the fact that he hadn’t gotten everyone. 

As soon as the bus came for the kids, Batman ordered them all back to the cave for a debrief. He hadn’t arrived just yet, and everyone save for him and Spoiler were present. Damian had taken the seat at the Batcomputer while everyone else stood around awkwardly. He hadn’t said a word since Adrien handed him the Miraculous. 

“Hey, Dami?” Richard approached him and knelt next to the chair. “You okay, there?” He brushed some hair out of Damian’s eyes. 

“More importantly, where’s your little furry friend?” Jason asked. He pulled a Monster out of the minifridge across the room, cracking it open. In any other situation, it would be funny; his caffeine addiction was almost as bad as Timothy’s. But Damian couldn’t find the humor in much right now, not after how badly he failed. 

He chose not to respond to either of them, fiddling with the ring in his palm. As soon as Adrien was unconscious, Plagg had disappeared into the artifact. Damian was pretty sure he knew how to draw him back out, but he didn’t want to test his theory yet. 

The Batmobile’s engine rang in the distance before cutting off, signaling the return of the last three of the Bats. They stopped to pick up Oracle, with Batman having decided that a full team debrief was necessary. 

Barbara, Stephanie and Bruce appeared. Barbara looked worried, while Stephanie was upset. Cassandra ran to her side, grabbing her arm and rubbing her back. 

Unlike the other two, however, Bruce was pissed. He marched right up to Damian and stared down his nose at him in complete silence. Damian looked back just as strongly, refusing to ever be scared by his father.

“Steph?” Timothy ignored the silent stand off between father and son and looked over at the group of women. “What happened?”

She released a shuddering sigh. “Most of the students were safe, but they ended up kidnapping six; Adrien Agreste, Chloé Bourgeois, Marinette Dupain-Cheng, Nathaniel Kurtzberg, Nino Lahiffe and Rose Lavillant.” She reported, clearly trying to swallow her emotions. 

“What?” Damian finally said, looking past his father in disbelief. “I was there, Marinette wasn’t taken!”

“They couldn’t find her after the fact. Logically, there’s only one thing that could’ve happened,” Bruce replied coldly. “How did you let this happen?”

“What are you talking about? None of this was my fault!” Damian shouted, shooting to his feet. Even though he thought he was the biggest failure today, he didn’t want to not defend himself. “I wasn’t the only one fighting out there today!”

“Maybe not, but you said you secured Adrien on a rooftop. How come he was there to give himself away?” Bruce asked, leaning over Damian. 

Damian froze, unsure how to respond. He should tell them about Chat Noir. But Adrien asked him not to. Damian wanted to honor his wish, but at the same time, the other heroes here should know exactly what happened and exactly what’s at stake. 

“Damian. Now.” Bruce ordered, using the Batman voice. 

“Bruce, lay off. He’s not a criminal, you don’t get to treat him like one.” Richard stood between the two of them, glaring down Bruce. 

“It’s alright, Richard.” Damian grabbed his brother’s hand. He moved, and Damian was back to his father’s unapproving stare. He huffed and sat back down. The mission was more important than one small promise. “I… I lied. I never got Adrien to a roof.”

What?!” Richard yelled, turning to Damian. He refused to meet his older brother’s eye. Everyone else in the cave was similarly yelling, either at him or in pure surprise. 

“Guys!” Barbara yelled, attracting everyone’s attention to her. Once everyone was silent, she turned her gaze on Damian and wheeled toward him. “Why did you lie? Where was Adrien?” She stopped right next to him. 

Damian squeezed the ring in his hand harder, still not looking up. “Because before I could secure him, he transformed into Chat Noir using this,” He held up the black ring with a bright green paw on it. “He and I fought side-by-side, but once he realized they were going to keep hurting his friends to get to him, he made me swear to protect this and gave himself up.”

“So you let him fight with you?” Bruce yelled. Richard put a hand on their father’s chest, shooting him another look. 

“If we’re being honest, it was the best tactical decision,” Timothy interjected, standing next to Barbara. “If Adrien’s not there, then they can’t find him.”

“Plus the kid was immune to bullets, which really helped in the fight,” Jason took a long sip of his energy drink. “He was the only reason we managed to save even some of the kids.”

“Maybe, but not the right one,” Bruce muttered and crossed his arms.

“So Chat Noir gave you a magic ring?” Duke asked, leaning over Barbara to look at it. “Is it one of those Miraculous things? How does it work?”

“It doesn’t matter how it works, because we’re going to secure it until further notice.” Bruce declared coldly. Everyone in the cave began shouting again. 

“Absolutely not!” Damian stood on the chair, meeting his father’s eye level. “This could be useful in rescuing the missing students! And I promised Adrien I would protect this!”

“And by securing it, we are protecting it,” Bruce stated, leaning over Richard’s arm. “We don’t know anything about Miraculous. It could be evil, like the one that made that butterfly.”

“Why would it be evil when Chat Noir’s a good guy?” Timothy asked. 

“Bruce, you need to chill. Damian would probably know best about this.” Richard reasoned. 

“What if we ask Ladybug about it?” Timothy shrugged. “Since Chat Noir was here, I’m sure she’s not far behind.”

Duke snorted. “Maybe she’s part of the same class of kids.” He rolled his eyes. “Get real. If she were here, she would’ve been out there fighting with us today.”

Barbara checked her phone. “With one of them coming to the US, it makes plenty of sense that the other would stay in Paris to protect it. I’ll do some digging, see if we can find and contact her.”

Richard huffed and turned his sympathetic eyes back on Damian. “Do you have any suggestions, baby bat?”

Damian pondered his options for a moment. “Why don’t we ask the little thing that lives in the ring?” Jason proposed before he could say anything. Everyone else in the room fell silent.

“What the fuck did you just say?” Duke gave him an odd look.

“How did you know about him?” Damian asked.

Jason shrugged. “I saw a little thing fly out of the ring when Chat Noir turned into Adrien. You and him were talking to it, so I figured it was like a little magic genie or something.”

“A little magic genie that lives in a ring and gives you superpowers?” Barbara asked slowly, cocking an eyebrow. Jason shrugged and rolled his eyes. 

Damian sighed. “Jason is right, there is a small… being that powers the ring and, thus, the user. He seemed kind when I briefly spoke to him, though a bit uncouth. He cares about Adrien a great deal.”

“Well, how do we talk to him?” Richard leaned against the chair as Damian sat back down. 

“There’s only one way,” Damian replied quietly. He pulled off his right gauntlet and slowly slipped the ring onto one of his fingers. It flashed a bright green aura, then turned gold with a red jewel in the middle. The green flash of light swirled around the chair before settling in front of Damian’s face, and it faded into a clearly upset Plagg. 

Chapter Text

It all happened so fast. 

One minute, she and Alya were arguing.

“Marinette, it was awful of you to hang out with Damian all day after what he did to Lila.” Alya gave her that look that screamed disappointment.

“Seriously, Alya? She and Damian hadn’t been talking for 5 minutes and he said she'd been lying. Lila always lies.” Marinette argued back, exasperated.

Alya shrugged. “Sure, maybe Lila lied this one time, but the way he treated her was awful. You don’t make someone cry like that.”

“How many times do I have to tell you that Lila lies as easily as she breathes? Don’t you remember what happened when she got me expelled? She literally admitted it.” Marinette was getting agitated, and that always made her twitchy.

“That’s different.”

“How so?”

Alya rolled her eyes, about to speak, but she froze. She pulled Marinette towards her, moving into Marinette’s spot by the window. “No way! Marinette, look!”

Marinette followed Alya’s gaze to three vigilantes on the rooftops, running alongside their bus. 

That was when it all went downhill.

Alya told everyone on the bus about the heroes, and she got even more excited when two vigilantes came up on the other side of the bus. It seemed like everyone in the class was excited to see Gotham’s hero family. That is, until their bus driver started driving like a mad man.

Marinette fell against Alya as the driver cranked the wheel to the side. People started screaming. There was a gunshot outside of the bus, and it started getting really bumpy. The driver sped up and swerved all across the road.

Then Adrien stood up, grabbed an umbrella, and made his way up to the front of the bus quickly. The driver noticed and pulled out a gun.

“Sit the fuck back down, now!” The man ordered. Adrien got closer, and luckily, the driver didn’t shoot. 

He swung the umbrella up and brought it down hard on the man's head. The driver crumpled against the wheel, some blood trickling down his head. 

The bus went even more out of control, but luckily, Adrien grabbed the wheel and turned. The bus spun around and around, and Marinette started feeling really nauseous. 

Finally, after what felt like forever, the bus stopped. She heard some motorcycles stop outside the bus, and two of the heroes - Nightwing and Red Hood - appeared. Nightwing opened one of the emergency windows while Red Hood started prying the front door open. 

Marinette stood on shaky legs, trying to get to the front. Her stomach protested, and she almost lost her lunch. Luckily she could keep it in and she kept walking. If she could just get out and sneak away, she could transform and help. 

Adrien came up to her and grabbed her shoulders. “Are you okay?” He asked frantically, worry shining in his green eyes. She gulped and nodded, not sure if she could open her mouth without throwing up. 

The front door opened, and Adrien led her out. Red Hood grabbed their shoulders, roughly helping them off the bus. He seemed to scan them for injuries as he did. Once he deemed them okay, he let them go and helped others off. 

Adrien kept an arm around her shoulder as she struggled to keep herself put together. He spoke quietly, keeping up a quiet, comforting string of words as she warred with her body. 

After a minute, she took a deep breath and tried opening her mouth. She was okay. Marinette looked up at Adrien, who gave her a warm smile in return. 

“What happened?” 

His smile tightened. “Well-”

Tires screeched behind the bus, and there were more gunshots. Glass rained down on them and men in black and white suits ran around the side of the bus.

“Get the kid!” One of the men screamed before firing on the Bats. Everyone in Marinette’s class screamed.

“Nightwing, Spoiler, Robin! Protect the students! Everyone else, keep them busy.” Batman ordered the other heroes. Most of them started fighting, but three of them ran over to them.

“Everyone, I need you to keep calm and follow us as fast as you can!” Nightwing ordered. “We’ll get you out of this!”

M. Damocles started ushering them towards Nightwing. Adrien’s bodyguard appeared behind them, pushing Adrien and Marinette towards the group. They all started running after Nightwing, with Robin and Spoiler right behind. 

Then Adrien’s bodyguard was shot, and he let go of her. Spoiler pushed Marinette away, telling her to keep up with the class. Alya grabbed her when she tried to turn back.

Then a massive car cut them all off, and they were being pinned down behind a car by gangsters while Nightwing struggled to protect them.

Then one of the gangsters grabbed Marinette, saying that if they couldn’t get to Adrien, they'd at least take his friends. That was all before Chat Noir appeared. 

Chat Noir, who promised to stay and protect Paris. Chat Noir, who could do irreversible damage if he used his Cataclysm without Ladybug. Chat Noir, who joked around and goofed off, was fighting these awful men in this awful city. 

As soon as she saw him coming, Marinette hit the guy holding onto her in the groin, rolling away as Chat Noir came down hard. He quickly and brutally took the guy out, and when he stood, he was a little terrifying. But then he looked at Marinette and his whole face softened. He leaned down and extended a hand to her. “Are you okay, princess?”

That was just the cherry on top. Marinette felt her fear fully morph into anger as she took his hand. “What are you doing here?”

He was about to answer when more men started grabbing her classmates. Chat Noir ordered her to duck, and he and Robin fought some of the men off, though not before they grabbed Nino, Nathaniel, Rose and Chloé. 

Another truck pulled up, this time with an absolutely massive gun, and everyone but Chat Noir was pinned behind a destroyed car. Her partner ordered Robin to follow him before he went and took out the gun. They both disappeared. 

Nightwing and Red Hood fought as hard as they could, but with the amount of men there, they would probably all be taken, maybe even killed, by these men. 

“Hey, assholes!” She heard Adrien shout. All of a sudden, the gunshots stopped and the men turned around. “If I go with you, will you stop hurting them?” No, no, no . He wouldn't do that. He couldn’t.

“Ya’d give ya’self up for these nobodies?” A gangster asked. Everyone peeked around the car to see Adrien standing straight up, glaring down the man that spoke.

“As long as you don’t hurt them anymore,” Adrien declared, trying to seem more confident than he actually was. “And as long as you let all of them go.”

“The fuck is the kid doing? How the hell did he get here?” Red Hood whisper-yelled at Nightwing. The other hero shrugged, eyes locked on the situation.

Marinette didn’t hear anything else. It felt like she was watching a movie as Adrien was pistol whipped, knocking him down to the ground. There was blood on his face. So much blood

The rest of the gangsters ran as fast as they could, taking Adrien as well as the others they captured with them as they made their escape. Nightwing and Red Hood ran after them, and everyone in the class practically broke down.

Marinette backed away from the car in utter disbelief. The whole world was silent. The only thing she could hear was her heartbeat. She could barely believe what happened. 

She backed away from the class, hiding in a nearby alley. She collapsed against a dumpster, tucking her knees against her chest. Her panic attack came on swift and strong. 

Despite the amount she practiced her grounding techniques, nothing calmed her down. She felt like she was drowning. 

“Marinette!” A tiny voice called. She opened her eyes and Tikki was floating just in front of her face. “I need you to breathe for me, okay? Just listen to what I say and breathe.”

She sniffled and gave a shaky nod. Tikki led her through a breathing exercise, and after a minute, she was a little calmer. 

“Oh my god, Tikki, I don’t know what to do,” She scrubbed at her eyes. “How did this happen? What am I going to do?”

Tikki rested a tint paw on her knee. “I know that this is really bad, Marinette. But you have to remember how miraculous you are. You can still save the day.”

“Yeah, yeah I guess.” Marinette released a shaky breath. 

“Now we should get back to your class. They’re probably looking for you to make sure you weren’t taken too.” Tikki floated above her. 

Marinette nodded and began to stand, but froze. “But what if they think I'm missing?”

Tikki tilted her head. “What do you mean, Marinette?”

“If they think Marinette’s missing, then Ladybug can search for everyone,” Marinette wiped her nose on her sleeve. “I won’t be able to do anything if I go back. I can’t just sit back and not do anything. I need to help, I need to find them.”

Tikki was quiet for a long time. If Marinette didn’t know any better, she'd think Tikki looked scared. After what felt like forever, she finally spoke. “If that’s what you think is best, Marinette, I'll support you.”

“Are you sure?” Marinette hated how broken her voice sounded. 

Tikki nodded, giving her a comforting smile. 

“Okay.” Marinette took a shaky breath, trying to compose herself. “Tikki, spots on!”

Ladybug transformed a lot quicker than normal. Instantly, she felt some of her sorrow dissolve into anger and determination. She could do this. 

She flung her yo-yo and jumped to the top of the building. Below, she watched as a bunch of police corralled her friends into a new bus. All of them were hysterical, and M. Damocles looked defeated. The Gotham vigilantes had all disappeared, presumably going after the men the men that took her friends. 

Once the bus was driving away, Ladybug jumped off the roof, swinging in the direction she saw the men leave in.

Unfortunately, the trail was already cold. After 15 minutes of trying to figure out where they went, Ladybug landed on a roof. She should've acted sooner, maybe then she could’ve saved them. 

She opened up her yo-yo and selected Chat Noir’s contact. As mad as she was with him, she needed his help to search. It rang all five times and took her to his voicemail box. She rolled her eyes and groaned. “Chat Noir, this is serious. I know you’re in Gotham. Answer me, I really need your help to find the kidnapped students.”

Ladybug collapsed on the rooftop, staring at the rapidly darkening clouds. The trail was cold. Chat Noir wasn’t answering. None of the other vigilantes were anywhere. She was completely out of ideas and just about ready to give up. 

“Aw, c’mon, Ivy! Can’t we adopt just one?” Someone overdramatically whined not that far away. Ladybug sat up, listening to their conversation.

“For the last time: no. If we adopt one kid, it’s a slippery slope to becoming like Batman and his 50 kids. You’re already enough to deal with.” The other person - probably Ivy - responded coldly. 

Their voices were getting closer. Ladybug stood and, trying to figure out where to go to escape, when a white skinned woman jumped onto the roof from the fire escape. She looked like a poorly dressed gymnast and carried a black and red bat. Somewhere in the back of her mind, she could hear Alya say Harley Quinn. A villain. And this ‘Ivy’ must be Poison Ivy, her girlfriend and another villain. Ladybug braced herself, hand hovering over her yo-yo.

Harley Quinn didn’t seem to notice her presence and continued rambling. “Really, Ivy. I think we should! We’re ready, and kids are so cute with their little tiny faces and small button noses and their itty bitty nipples.”

“If that’s one of your main reasons for wanting to adopt, I'm going to warn every adoption agency in Gotham.” Poison Ivy climbed onto the roof more sedately, wearing nothing but green, contrasting her bright red hair. “Besides, you and I are- who the fuck are you?” She spotted Ladybug, who narrowed her eyes in response. 

“Um, really, Iv? It’s me, Harley. I’m supposed to be the insane one, not you.” Poison Ivy pointed at Ladybug. “Oh. Okay, that makes more sense.” She said casually as she pulled out her bat. 

“I’ll ask you one more time, bitch,” Poison Ivy pulled a plant out of seemingly nowhere and grew it into a massive vine. “Who. The fuck. Are you?” She asked slowly.

Ladybug had to consider her options. On the one hand, she was a public hero, at least in Paris. People know her, and know how well she can fight. They respect her enough to back off. 

But on the other, she’s in Gotham, not Paris. The people here don’t know her. The villains here are deadly. And as much as she knows about her powers, she doesn’t really want to test their limits right now. 

“Hey! Answer the fucking question!” Harley Quinn ordered. 

Ladybug huffed, but complied. “I am Ladybug. I know who you are, and I need you two to back off. I'm not in the mood to fight tonight.”

“Uh, was that a threat, Ladybitch? Cause I will fuck you up with a smile on my face!” Harley Quinn took a step forward. 

Poison Ivy put a hand on her shoulder. “Hang on, Harls. I think I know who she is,” She looked at Ladybug intently. “You’re that hero from France, aren’t you? The one with the magic yo-yo?”

Ladybug only gave a curt nod. 

“I’m sorry, did the words ‘magic yo-yo’ really come out of your mouth?” Harley Quinn dropped her bat and shot Ivy an odd look. 

“Harley, we live in a city with a man made of a pile of literal mud. A magic yo-yo definitely isn’t the weirdest thing we’ve seen.” Poison Ivy stated. “Besides, I was kind of expecting to see her after what happened with the bus today. I’m assuming that’s what you’re here for, anyway.” She turned her attention to Ladybug.

She nodded again. 

Poison Ivy rolled her eyes. “Figures. Look, we don’t want to fight either. Batman asked us to keep an eye out for your kids, see if we can find them.”

“Aren’t you two villains? Don’t you fight Batman?” Ladybug asked. Her hand moved away from her yo-yo 

“Honestly, I’m more of an eco-terrorist than a super villain, so.” Poison Ivy shrugged. 

“And I’m more chaotic neutral than anything else,” Harley Quinn slung her bat over her back. “Sometimes we help Batsy, sometimes we rob him. It depends on the mood I’m in.”

Ladybug sighed, releasing some of the tension. “Good. Have you found anything?”

“Look, I get that this is technically your jurisdiction, but I don’t report to children.” Ivy put her hands on her hips.

“If you report to Batman, don’t you report to his kids, too?”

Poison Ivy looked offended. Harley Quinn snorted. “Ha! She got your ass, Iv!” Ladybug let herself crack a smile. 

“Whatever. If you’re so certain that we work for Batman, Harley, you tell her what we know. I’m going to keep looking for the kids.” Ivy walked to the edge of the building. 

“Wait, Iv! Don’t go!”

“Look, those kids are in danger, and if all three of us are sitting here gossiping, no one’s looking for them. You kids have fun.” She lazily waved a hand over her shoulder. Ivy used her vine like Ladybug used her yo-yo and swung away.

Harley looked dejected. “Sorry about that, little bug. She and I were in the middle of an argument when we ran into you. She’s just frustrated.”

“Yeah, I get that,” Ladybug said awkwardly. She offered Harley an off-kilter smile, and the woman smiled back. “So, those kids?”

“Oh, yeah,” Harley crossed the rooftop, idly pacing around Ladybug. “The Bats went back to their secret cave to talk or whatever. Honestly, Batman’s probably just yelling at all of them. He tends to do that when they fail.”

Ladybug scoffed. “Trust me, this could’ve gone so much worse. At least they managed to save some of the students.”

“Maybe, but they got the one they were after.”

What? They were after… “What do you mean by that, Harley?” 

She shrugged. “Batman said that he and his kids found evidence that Two Face - the mob boss behind those assholes on the street - was targeting a rich kid on the bus. Some famous model or something.”

“Adrien Agreste?”

“Boom! That’s the kid!” Harley started rambling, oblivious to Ladybug’s emotional turmoil. “Yeah, Two Face is partnering with some other super villain for ‘some nefarious purpose’,” She lowered her voice, doing a bad impression of Batman. “They probably wanted the kid to extort some money out of his family.”

Ladybug looked down, unable to meet Harley’s eye. “That’s probably it. His father, Gabriel Agreste, runs one of the most famous fashion companies in France. If there’s anyone they want money from, it would be him.” She thought out loud. “But if that’s the case, then why target the entire class? And why kidnap more students than Adrien?”

“Enh, more money to be made,” Ladybug watched Harley’s shoes stop in front of her. “Are you alright, little bug?” She looked up at Harley, who was staring at her. Once Ladybug met her gaze, her face softened. 

“I just-” Ladybug took a deep breath. She couldn’t afford to waste time by rambling. “I’m supposed to protect these people. What kind of hero am I if I can’t do that?”

Harley rested a hand on her shoulder. “Don’t sweat it, kid. All of us fail at some point. It’s the only way to grow as people. You just need to saddle up and get back on the horse.”

Ladybug nodded. “Right, okay. Thank you, Harley.” She smiled for the first time since this afternoon. 

“Don’t mention it. Now, B-man said that he and the rest of his should join the search sometime soon. I’ll let them know that you’re out here too. Luckily, you’re not that hard to find. I should probably go find Ivy, make sure she’s not too upset,” She winked and walked to the edge of the roof. “Isn’t your partner, the cat boy, out here somewhere too?”

Ladybug had to resist pulling on her pigtails in frustration. “I know he is, I saw him in Gotham today, but for the life of me, I can’t find him. He’s not answering my calls.”

Harley walked back up to Ladybug. “Don’t worry about him, I’m sure he’s fine. He was with the Bats earlier, maybe they took your little furry friend to their cave.”

“Yeah, probably. Anyway, Harley-” There was a clanging noise a couple rooftops over. “Did you hear that?” She whispered. 

“Little bug, this is Gotham. It’s probably some meth-head or three ungodly huge rats.” Harley rolled her eyes. The sound came again, accompanied by the drop of something huge and metal. “... or maybe not.” She grabbed her bat. 

Ladybug took off running, jumping over the alleys between her and whatever that noise was. She could sense Harley right on her tail. In under a minute, they were both on the roof the noises came from, but nothing was out of the ordinary. 

“Is this normal for Gotham? Like the big rats?” Ladybug stood with her back to Harley’s.

“Unfortunately, yeah. Pretty much everything is normal here. Well, except for metas, but you get the idea.”

The noise came from beneath them. They both looked down just as the rooftop opened and darkness swallowed them whole. 

Chapter Text

As someone who regularly dives from massive heights, Ladybug should be more used to falling. Hell, Chat Noir has pushed her off the Eiffel Tower and she came out okay, so this should be a piece of cake. 

The difference between those other times and now, though, is that she can’t see a thing. 

Even with her enhanced vision (not nearly as good as Chat Noir’s, but better than a normal human’s), she couldn’t see more than a foot in front of her face. Really, she couldn’t see anything more than her hands as they flailed about in the darkness, trying to fight gravity. 

Right before her fall could be considered a free fall, though, Ladybug slammed into metal, bouncing off it. It was like she was falling down a vent, because every few seconds she would bang against more hollow metal, sending her in a different direction. 

After what felt like a long time, Ladybug finally fell on a hard cement floor, still bathed in darkness. She had only a few seconds before two feet came from above her, landing right on her back and slamming her chin into the floor. Ow

There was a loud crunching noise Ladybug was 70% sure wasn’t any of her bones. “Oh shit! My favorite bat! Damn it, I loved that thing.” Harley spoke from above her. Or, more accurately, on her. “Wait, did I land on ya? I’m so sorry! I can’t see dick in here!” She jumped off of Ladybug’s back. A low hum hung in the air. 

“It’s fine, Harley,” Ladybug pushed herself up, rubbing at her chin. “I wouldn’t expect you to see anything in here. I can’t even see where we are.”

Then allow me to illuminate!” A twisted, gleeful voice spoke over some kinda crappy speakers. Suddenly, the room was bathed in light. Ladybug blinked. 

The whole room was either a dark, gun-metal gray or bright green neon lights, all of which formed a question mark. Ladybug was spread out on a concrete ramp while Harley was standing on a large tile which started glowing green when the rest of the lights came on. It was letting out a low, quiet musical tone. There was a massive grid of these tiles spread out across the floor, reaching across a wide room to another concrete ramp next to a metal door. Ladybug looked up; 3 meters above every tile was a dark box. 

“Aw, fuck!” Harley swung her head back, screaming. “You have got to be fucking kidding me!”

Riddle me this, ladies-” The voice began. 

“Absolutely the fuck not, Riddler! You’re not fucking doing this!” She yelled at the ceiling. “Let us out of here right now!”

Oh, but Harley, that would spoil all the fun!” Riddler laughed. “Tell me, who’s your new friend? Pulling a Batman and taking on a sidekick, hm? And I thought Bane had gone soft.

“I don’t know who you are, or what you want,” Ladybug began slowly as she rose to her feet. “But I swear, if you don’t let us out of here this instant, I will make you regret it.”

Oh, I’m so scared. Absolutely quaking in my bowler hat.” Riddler said flatly. “Hang on a second. Aren’t you that French hero, the little Ladybug?

“Just Ladybug.” She snapped. “Let us out. Now.”

Now now, Ladybug. I’d be more than happy to do that for you, except that I can’t. You’ll have to do it yourselves.

“Fuck off, Riddler! I am not the one! You better fucking stop this!” Harley tried to take a step forward. 

Ladybug caught her, pulling her back onto her tile. “Harley, don’t. The tiles, they’re dangerous.” She said quietly. 

Harley scanned their surroundings for a moment before she looked back up, her face absolutely red. “Riddler!”

Don’t be such a bitch, Harley. All you have to do is play the game, and you’ll both get out just fine!” There was some shuffling over the speaker, and the Riddler cleared his throat. “Now, riddle me this; I am a major cast out to sea on a sinking ship from which I can’t flee. The new waves threaten to bury just as they did to the Virgin Mary. The Queen herself cut off my toes to make sure I could not strike a pose. What am I?

Ladybug gaped at the ceiling. She had no idea what any of that meant. 

“That made literally no sense, Riddler! You can’t just make up bullshit on the spot!” Harley screamed. 

Harley, you should know better than most that I hardly ever make up shit on the spot. Ugh, whatever. Tick tock, ladies.

“Ugh, what the fuck is that supposed to even mean!” Harley started pacing her tile and rambling. Ladybug tuned her out. She was kinda used to doing that sort of thing. 

She examined the whole room. There were 20 rows of tiles, with 8 per column. Whatever the riddle was, it was obviously a pattern of some kind. Get the pattern wrong, and the box above the tile would fall, probably with something really bad in it. The tile Harley was on was probably the right since she hasn’t died yet, so at least they had that going for them. But still…

“Hey, bug-girl!” Ladybug snapped out of her thoughts and looked at Harley, who sneered back. “Use your dumb, magic yo-yo and get us across this room!”

“I would if I could, Harley, but I can only use my yo-yo like a grappling hook. If there’s nothing to grab onto, I can’t get us across. But it’s okay, we can figure it out!”

Harley rolled her eyes dramatically. “Oh yeah, cause that would make this easy, wouldn’t it? You know, there’s a damn good reason why the Riddler’s death traps are so fucking successful!”

“Harley, literally half of my superpower is solving riddles, so-” She stopped and pulled out her yo-yo. This was probably a bad idea, especially since she’d only have 5 minutes to do this, but it might save them both. “Literally half of my superpower is solving riddles!”

“Um, what?”

Oh, fuck.”

“Lucky charm!” A swarm of ladybugs swirled out of her yo-yo, materializing into an oversized, wooden baseball bat. She stared at it for a moment before looking at the rest of the room. An idea hit her, but not one she could use just yet. 

“Here, Harley,” Ladybug tossed the bat at the woman. 

“Aw, little bug, you shouldn’t have! This is so nice of ya!” Harley smiled wide and hugged the bat. 

“When I tell you to, use the bat, but don’t use it at all before then. We’ve only got it for 5 minutes,” She lifted a hand to fiddle with her earrings. 

“What do you mean?” Harley looked at her quizzically. 

“I’ll explain once we’re out. Now, the riddle. ‘I am a major cast out to sea on a sinking ship from which I can’t flee’…” Ladybug paced the concrete ramp. 

“You actually remembered that long-ass riddle?”

Ladybug ignored her. “I am a major cast out to sea, I am a major cast out to sea…”

Harley shifted on her tiles, and just then, the tone it was playing made itself known again. Ladybug’s head snapped at the tile, an idea lighting up her mind. 

Harley looked surprised. “What?”

“Of course, that’s it!” Ladybug walked right in front of Harley. “The pattern to get across the floor is a song!”

“Where the hell’d you come up with that?” Harley blinked. 

“By ‘major cast out to sea’, he means a C major! It’s the key of the song!” She could actually see it now; there were 20 notes they needed to play, all of them in that one key. Harley was standing on the lowest C note. 

Ladybug’s earrings blinked a warning. 4 minutes. “But what song?”

“Bug, don’t ask me. I don’t know shit about music. Only the stuff Ivy listens to.” Harley scratched the back of her head. 

“Who does she like?”

“Oh, you know, the regular old millennial stuff. Michael Jackson, Alanis Morisette, Madonna, Britney Spears,” Harley thought hard as she listed people. “Dolly Parton, but honestly, who doesn’t love her?”

Another idea popped up in Ladybug’s mind. Thank God for her papa’s old records of American female pop music.  “Harley, do you trust me?”

Harley blinked, surprised. “I just met you, little bug.”

“I know, I know. But do you trust me?”

She took a moment to think, a moment they didn’t have. “I think you’re a good person, definitely just trying to keep us both alive, so yeah.”

“Good. Take my hands; I’m gonna switch places with you, we just need to be really careful.”

Harley hesitated. “Are you sure? I’d rather not get you killed.”

“Thanks to my powers, I’m pretty invincible, so I have a better chance of coming out unscathed. Plus, I think I figured out the riddle anyway.” Ladybug grinned. 

The woman gave her an unreadable look, but finally relented, taking Ladybug’s hands and carefully switching her place on the tile for Ladybug’s on the concrete. 

Ladybug turned around and faced the ceiling, smirking. “So, Riddler, to recap; ‘I am a major cast out to sea,” She jumped, landing on the next C note. “On a sinking ship I can’t flee’,”

The note sounded perfectly. Thank goodness she was right. She stepped onto the next C note, then the next, followed by a D note. “‘The new waves threaten to bury just as they did the Virgin Mary’.”

Ladybug continued jumping along the floor, Harley cheering behind her. Each note she jumped to was thankfully right. “‘The queen herself cut off my toes to make sure I could not strike a pose’.”

She kept going, jumping from tile to tile, note to note. Only 5 more to go. “What am I?”

Finally, after what felt like an eternity, she got to the final note. Another C rang around the room. 

Grinning, Ladybug struck an overdramatic, super 80’s pop diva pose. “I am a Material Girl.”

“Woo-hoo! Fuck yeah, Ladybug!” Harley cheered loudly from the other side of the room. 

Hmph. Well done, Ladybug.” The Riddler deadpanned over the speakers. The metal door creaked open, revealing an empty staircase leading up. “ I’m surprised you even know that song.

Ladybug stepped onto the concrete platform and took a bow. Her earrings beeped again. 3 minutes down, 2 to go. “You coming, Harley?” She called back. 

The woman stopped cheering and looked at the floor, completely and utterly lost. “Uh, sure thing little bug. But… how?”

Ladybug resisted facepalming herself. “Can’t you do what I just did?”

Harley shrugged. “I’m a psychologist, not a musician! I have no idea what you did!”

“Okay, fine,” Ladybug stepped back up to the C column. “I’m going to stand in the right place, step when I tell you to.”

“Got it!” Harley said as she bounced onto the first C note. So it begins again. 

I’m sorry, Ladybug. I know you’re foreign, but you should know that helping hands are deeply frowned upon here in Gotham.” The Riddler mocked. 

She only had a second to be confused before three little robots fell out of the ceiling, surrounding her. Ladybug started swinging her yo-yo. “Keep going, Harley! I’ll guide you!”

“Are you sure?” The woman called. She was only about 5 notes deep. 

“Don’t worry, I can multitask!” Ladybug swung at one of the things. “Step forward!”

Harley complied as a robot swung at her head. She dropped to her back and swept, knocking it onto one of the tiles. It began glowing an angry red. The crate above it fell, releasing a small bomb that exploded on impact. 

“Ah! Holy shit!” Harley screamed. 

“Uh, Harley?” Ladybug panted, moving out of the way of another robot. “Are bombs normal for the Riddler?”

“The only thing that’s more of a ‘Riddler’ signature is his dumb fucking hat and cane!” Harley yelled frantically.


“Harley! Jump up one, to your left!” Ladybug ordered. Her earrings beeped again. She was running out of time. She looked at Harley, who still clutched the lucky charm. 

The lucky charm! “Harley, jump up one, to your right! When the bomb falls, swing it at the far wall!”

“What? Seriously?! What if I-”

Ladybug did a flip over a robot. “Do you trust me?”

“I already told you that I do!”

“Then do it!” Ladybug threw another robot onto a nearby tile, triggering the bomb above it. 

Harley gave a grim nod and jumped, landing on an E note. The tile beneath her glowed red, and the bomb dropped. She took the bat and swung hard.

The bomb flew across the room, only exploding once it collided with the wall across from them. The metal and neon signs fell away, revealing a small control room with the Riddler standing in the middle of it, wearing an ugly green suit with a purple bowler hat and cane. 

What was it with super villains and horrible fashion sense?

“Ha!” Harley sprinted across the rest of the tiles. The bombs fell behind her, just barely missing her, but she managed to avoid them. She took a massive leap with the bat in the air, landing right on the Riddler’s head. She started using the lucky charm to beat this guy to a pulp. 

Ladybug took care of the last robot around her with only a few seconds to spare. She ducked into the staircase and made sure no one could see her as her transformation came undone. 

“Hey! What gives?” She heard Harley whine. 

Marinette reached for a cookie from her purse. “Sorry, that’s my bad! My powers fail after 5 minutes!” Tikki began gobbling down the cookie gratefully. 

“Fuck!” Harley moaned, but judging by the sounds that came not a second later, she found another decent weapon. 

“Are you alright, Marinette?” Tikki asked quietly as she finished her snack. 

She nodded. “Yeah, yeah I think so,” Marinette shuffled awkwardly, glancing back into the main room. “Is it… bad that I kinda had fun with that puzzle?”

Tikki shook her head. “I don’t think so. I mean, yes it was a death trap, but the Riddler designs them like this for a reason, right?” She smiled uneasily. 

“Speaking of which…” Marinette looked around the door, at where Harley was still pounding into the Riddler with his own cane. “We should probably stop that before she kills him. Tikki, spots on.” The transformation came on quickly, and Ladybug flicked her yo-yo out to get to Harley and the Riddler. 

With how badly Harley had hurt him, Ladybug almost felt bad for the Riddler. Not enough to take it easy on him, but that twinge of empathy was still there. But she had to ignore it; she had a job to do. 

Ladybug rested her hand on Harley’s shoulder, silently telling her to stop. When she compiled, Ladybug knelt down and heaved the bloody man up by his collar. The Riddler spit in her face. “Fuck you, little girl. Get off me.”

She didn’t rise to the bait. She wiped the spit off her face. “I’m going to ask you some questions, and you’re going to answer them. If you don’t, I’ll let Harley continue. Is that understood?” Above her, Harley giggled maniacally. 

“Like I said; fuck you.” He tried. 

“Great,” Ladybug dropped him and put a foot on his chest. “Why’d you kidnap us?”

The Riddler shrugged and laughed weakly. “Not my fault you fell into my trap. Maybe you should’ve paid more attention to your surroundings instead of worrying about your little cat boy.”

Ladybug froze. “Huh?”

He gave her a cruel glare. “Come on, dear. Everyone in town saw what Two Face did today. We also saw your furry partner fighting alongside the Bats, but no one’s seen him since,” He coughed and tried to get up on his elbows. Ladybug leaned more of her weight on his chest. “I’ll be honest, I wasn’t expecting you to show up right after him, but I’m glad you did. No one has ever solved this particular little puzzle of mine.”

“What do you know about Chat Noir?”

“I don’t know a damn thing, other than the fact that he disappeared right after Two Face’s men did.”

She huffed, her anger rising. “And what do you know about them? About the students they kidnapped?” She pushed on her foot. 

He groaned, meeting her eyes defiantly. “Up yours, Ladybug.”

“What do you know? Where are they?” Ladybug yelled. 

“Woah, okay, easy girl,” Harley grabbed her shoulders and pulled her off of the Riddler. Ladybug put up a token resistance, but she knew Harley was right, so she went easy enough. “Two Face is the kinda guy who plays his hand close to his chest. Hell, most people don’t realize he’s doing anything until he does it. I doubt anyone in the city knows what he’s planning.”

“For once, Harley Quinn is right.” The Riddler spat. 

“Hey! Asshole!”

He sat up and looked Ladybug in the eye. “I don’t know what he’s got going on, or why he wanted any of those pretentious kids, but word on the street is he’s got a partner, another powerful meta villain, and they’re planning a big move here in Gotham. Those kids, they’re just the beginning.”

Ladybug tilted her head, looking down at the Riddler. “Why tell us this? Why not just keep quiet?”

“Because Two Face and I don’t get along at the best of times, and this moment is far from that. I’d rather give this up and watch him lose than anything else.” He smirked evilly. 

“Translation: Two Face owes Riddler a ton of money, and he’s really annoyed and petty.” Harley deadpanned. 

“If that bastard thinks he can get away without paying me, then he should’ve never bet on fucking Clayface!” The Riddler snapped. 

Harley rolled her eyes. “Ugh. Anyway,” She lead Ladybug away from Riddler, back toward the hole in the wall. 

“Sorry about, well, that back there,” Ladybug looked down. “I can usually keep my cool way better.”

“Honey, you never have to apologize for that kind of thing. If our roles were reversed, I probably would’ve already killed him.” Harley smiled. 

“Fair,” Ladybug shrugged. “Ugh, I’ve been down here for far too long. I need to get back to the search.”

“Don’t get your hopes up too high, little bug. There’s a chance you might not find them.”

Ladybug took a deep breath. “I can’t think like that. I have to believe I’ll find them. I have to believe they’re okay.” 

“If that helps,” Harley gave her an awkward side hug. “Thanks for saving our bacon. I’m going to stay down here for a little bit, play some of my own games with that asshole.”

“Be careful, Harley.” Ladybug looked at her and gave her a small smile. They stepped away from each other.

“Right back at ya, bug. See ya around?” Harley swung the cane over her shoulders. 

Ladybug smiled just a little more. “I hope so.” She flung out her yo-yo, catching the door on the other wall. She flew out of the control room right as Harley lifted the cane over the Riddler’s head. 

Thank goodness she was leaving this place. This room, this place of death and violence, it felt claustrophobic and gross. It felt wrong in a way Ladybug couldn’t place. As much as the Gotham air choked her when she first landed, she was grateful for the fresh night breeze. Not as much for the stench it carried with it, but regardless, the cool air felt great after escaping the Riddler’s death trap. 

She flicked her yo-yo out, taking herself into the air to resume her search for her friends. 

Chapter Text

Gotham nights were dark and cold. It was like the world was trying to cover the entire city with a blanket, hiding it from the view of others. Ladybug idly wondered why anyone would choose to live here. 

Well, anyone normal. She kind of understood why so many criminals made this place their home. They were basically everywhere, and it seemed like they could get away with anything. 

Not even 10 minutes after Ladybug escaped from the Riddler’s death trap, she ran into a woman being sexually assaulted. Not a fun reality for her to face, but regardless, she immediately stepped in and took care of the offending person. 

He had a massive knife held up to the woman, which Ladybug threw away with her yo-yo. She dropped down and kicked the guy, knocking him unconscious almost instantly. She looked at him briefly before turning to the woman, who stared in horror. 

“Are you alright, madame?” Ladybug asked, reaching her hand out to the woman.

She jerked back from Ladybug, maintaining distance. “I’m fine.” She said curtly. “Thanks for that.”

“Are you able to call the police?” Ladybug put her hands on her hips, taking a step back from the woman. 

She huffed. “As if they’d do anything to help. No.”

Ladybug was stunned. “What do you mean? They don’t help?”

“Tch. Welcome to Gotham, sweetheart.” The woman rolled her eyes and began walking out of the alley. 

“Wait!” Ladybug called, taking a couple steps after her. “Do you need any help getting home?” She reached her hand toward her. 

The woman didn’t respond, just left. She walked out of the alley like this was just a normal Tuesday. Ladybug looked back at the unconscious man. Maybe it was just a normal Tuesday in Gotham City. 

This place felt like the opposite of her city. Paris was kind, friendly, warm. It wanted to help people, and people wanted to help each other. Everyone understood that Ladybug and Chat Noir would go to the ends of the Earth to protect them all. In Paris, Ladybug never felt like she was in actual, physical danger unless an akuma was around. Even that barely counted, since when she was transformed, she was nigh on invincible. 

But Gotham was completely different. This place was cold and melancholy. It stank of sewer garbage and loneliness. Danger lurked around every corner, and everyone was used to it. So much so that they hardly reacted when someone was actively threatening them. Here, just walking down the street was a bad idea, because chances were you would get hurt and no one would do anything about it. It was kind of sickening. 

Sure, this city had a whole family of vigilantes watching over it, but they were doing a pretty poor job. If crime was so bad that what just happened was a regular occurrence, Ladybug wondered just how much the Bats were heroes, or if they were at all. 

“Tough break.” Someone said from above her. Ladybug looked up to see one of the vigilantes crouching on top of the building. Speak of the devil. It was the one Alya called Nightwing. “Don’t worry, this kind of thing is typical.” 

Ladybug huffed and jumped, hopping between both walls around her to get to the top of the building opposite Nightwing. He gave her a bright smile. She returned it with a cold glare. “Why is something like that so typical? Isn’t it your job to take care of that kind of thing?”

Nightwing shrugged and stood up. “There’s only so much one person can do. I try to help as much as possible, but with Gotham the way it is, I can get stretched thin pretty easily,” He sedately paced around the edge of the roof. “I’m Nightwing, by the way.”

“Ladybug.” She responded shortly, crossing her arms. 

He stopped and looked at her intently. Even though he hid his eyes, Ladybug could feel the weight of his gaze, reading everything her body said. She shifted uncomfortably. 

“You don’t seem all that impressed.”

She rolled her eyes. “I just had to step in and stop an apparently common crime in a city with, like, 30 vigilantes. No, I’m not impressed. You Bats should have a better handle on these things.”

“Like I said, we do what we can. We’re trying to work on the system so this kind of crime can be better prevented by the police, but it’s easy for us to get preoccupied,” Nightwing stood right across from her and mimicked her stance. “Like, for example, a bus full of tourists gets attacked and some important children are kidnapped.” Ladybug dropped her arms and looked him in the eye. “I’m assuming that’s what you’re here for.”

Ladybug huffed. “Yes.”

Nightwing smiled again. “Good.” He took a couple steps back before launching himself off his roof. He did a front flip and landed a few feet from Ladybug. He looked at her like he was waiting for a reaction. Well, he was going to have to wait for a while. 

After a few seconds, he gave up and changed to a normal stance. “How much do you already know?” He asked. 

“I briefly ran into Harley Quinn, and she gave me the basics. It was Two Face’s gang, and they were targeting Adrien Agreste. She and I ran into the Riddler, and we got a couple more answers out of him.”

That seemed to intrigue Nightwing. “What’d he say?”

“That Two Face is working with another villain and they have a large plan in place,” Ladybug shrugged and took out her yo-yo, idly messing around with it. “He said that kidnapping the kids was just the beginning, and that something big is about to happen in Gotham. Something bad.”

“Yeah, we kinda figured out that second part. It’s always ‘something big in Gotham,” Nightwing began pacing the rooftop. “I’m assuming you know who Two Face’s partner is?”

Ladybug shrugged. “No. The Riddler didn’t say anything about them.”

Nightwing stopped and gave her a funny look. “Wait, isn’t that why you and Chat Noir came so quickly?”

“What do you mean?” Ladybug stopped fiddling with her yo-yo. 

“I mean, it’s your villain that Two Face is working with. That evil butterfly man.”

She dropped her yo-yo. “Hawkmoth?” She stepped forward, invading Nightwing’s personal space. “You mean to tell me that Hawkmoth is the one working with Two Face?!”

Nightwing put his hands up, palms facing towards her. “Yes?”

“Shit!” Ladybug yelled, turning away from him. She threw her hands over her face and groaned loudly. “Of course it’s Hawkmoth! Of course I can’t have a vacation without him getting in the way!”

“Hey! Hey, Ladybug. It’s going to be okay. Things could be way worse,” He took a step forward, trying to placate her.

Ladybug let him come closer and rest a hand on her shoulder. She took a shaky breath. Just her luck that fucking Hawkmoth was involved. 

“Look, Ladybug, it might be best if we exchange notes, especially regarding Chat Noir,” Nightwing’s voice had a hint of sympathy within it. “Would you be comfortable coming with me back to our hideout?”

Ladybug almost snorted. “You’re inviting me to the legendary Batcave?”

Nightwing cracked a smile and relaxed his shoulders. “Is it really that well known that a French heroes knows about it?” Ladybug shrugged. “Man, we really need to do something about that. But yeah, I’m inviting you.”

“Alright then,” Ladybug nodded. “Wait. What do you know about Chat Noir?”

Nightwing’s face twisted in pain. “We should probably talk about that in the Cave. You good to follow me?” He pulled out a grappling gun from his belt.

Ladybug wanted to ask more, but it was probably best saved for when they weren’t in public. She slowly nodded and picked up her yo-yo. 

Nightwing took that as a confirmation and he ran to the edge of the building, jumping off and launching his grapple. Ladybug flung her yo-yo out and followed him.

Nightwing soared like he was made for the sky. He moved fluidly, like he was swimming, and added some flips and other moves to his swing. They were probably costing him more energy than it was worth, but he looked quite happy doing it. 

There was something Ladybug kind of enjoyed about swinging through this city. Unlike Paris, this place had massive buildings pretty much everywhere, meaning she could maintain a high altitude to soar through the air instead of having to readjust every minute or so. She smiled despite the despair in her heart.

She noticed some noise behind her, and when Ladybug turned around on one of her upswings, she came face to face with Spoiler and Red Robin. 

Unlike the other Bats, Spoiler covered her mouth and not her eyes. Even from this distance and how fast they were moving, Ladybug could see the tell-tale redness of crying. Something was wrong with her, though what, Ladybug didn’t have the faintest idea. Spoiler’s swing was pretty similar to her own, efficient with a hint of style. 

Red Robin, on the other hand, maintained a seriousness almost contradictory to Nightwing’s. From the way he moved, it was obvious that he just wanted to get the job done as quickly as possible. When he saw Ladybug looking at him, he shot her a small smile and a wave. Tentatively, she returned it. 

A moment later, Spoiler swung up and shot her grapple out again. It didn’t grab on to anything, and it was barely a second before she began a free fall. She tried again, but in her haste, her grapple slipped out of her hand. 

Red Robin’s expression turned panicked as Spoiler began falling. They didn’t have long before she hit the pavement. “Nightwing!” He called.

Ladybug retracted her yo-yo. “Lucky charm!” She shouted. Small ladybugs surrounded her, morphing into a fitted sheet. 

It didn’t take her long to figure out what to do. Using her yo-yo, Ladybug lassoed Spoiler. “Grab on!” Spoiler obeyed without hesitation, and Ladybug unfurled the sheet, turning it into a makeshift parachute, and their free fall turned into a gentle glide. 

When Spoiler was just a few feet off the ground, she let go of the yo-yo, gracefully flipping onto the dark pavement. Ladybug waited a few more seconds before letting go of the sheet and retracting her yo-yo, doing a couple flips before landing on her knees next to Spoiler. 

“Thanks for the save, bug-girl,” She said. 

Ladybug stood and brushed her suit off. “It’s Ladybug.” 

“Shit, sorry,” Spoiler half laughed and raised her right hand to Ladybug. “Thanks, Ladybug. I’m Spoiler, by the way.”

Ladybug looked at her hand for a second before taking it. “Is that how all the Bats introduce themselves?”

Spoiler narrowed her eyes. “What do you mean?”

“I mean, like, you do something either embarrassing or annoying and then say, ‘oh, by the way, I’m-’,” Ladybug shrugged. “It doesn’t make for a great first impression.”

Spoiler snorted, and her eyes looked a little less sad. “I’ll bring that up at the next family meeting. Don’t want any other superheroes thinking we’re not hot shit.”

“Who said you were?”

Spoiler snorted again just as Red Robin made it to the ground, followed quickly by Nightwing. “Spoiler!” Red Robin cried before tackling her into a hug. “Oh my god, are you alright?”

“I’m fine, RR,” She said, gently pushing him off. “Ladybug caught me. Not a scratch anywhere, see?” She made a grand, overdramatic gesture to the rest of her body. Red Robin actually followed her hands, clearly assessing her for any damage. 

Nightwing stepped next to Ladybug. “Thanks for that, Ladybug.” He smiled. 

“No problem at all.” She replied, managing a small smile of her own at him. She looked back at Red Robin, who was obviously still trying to convince himself that Spoiler was fine. 

“Seriously, Red Robin. I’m fine. You don’t need to look at me like I’m made of glass.” Spoiler sounded a little irritated now. Finally, he relented. 

“Right. Sorry,” He backed away from her sheepishly. He turned to Ladybug. “Thanks for saving her. I’m, uh, Red Robin, by the way.” He rubbed the back of his head. 

She couldn’t help herself. Ladybug started laughing. It began with an ugly snort and dissolved into fits of giggles. Spoiler was laughing too, her arms wrapped around her stomach and head thrown back. Ladybug bent over a little and rested her hand on Spoiler’s shoulder to keep her upright. Spoiler leaned into her, and they both laughed a little harder. 

Red Robin and Nightwing both looked hopelessly confused. They looked at each other like the girls were going insane. Red Robin’s face fell, and Nightwing shrugged and looked back at Spoiler and Ladybug. “Uh, when you guys are done cackling like you’ve been Jokerized, we should get a move on.”

Ladybug’s chuckling died down a little. “Wait. Wait. Jokerized?” She managed between giggles. “Like at that weird burger place?”

Red Robin’s face twisted uncomfortably. “Erm, no. It means you were hit by Joker Gas. One of the primary symptoms is excessive and sporadic laughter.” His expression reminded Ladybug of someone, but she couldn’t quite place who. 

“Yeah, we kind of hate that Batburger decided to use that term for a seasoning. It’s a little insensitive.” Nightwing said. 

Spoiler and Ladybug had managed to regain a little control over themselves as they spoke. “Okay, okay. N’s right. We should get to the Cave.” Spoiler wiped a tear from her eye.

“Luckily we’re not too far from the emergency entrance,” Red Robin looked at a screen on his wrist. “This would be so much faster if we had the Batmobile.” He sighed. 

“Uh,” Ladybug looked at Spoiler, who winked. 

“Come on, Ladybug. Let’s get you to the Cave and get you caught up to speed. Then we can go looking for your cat.” Spoiler put a hand on her shoulder and gently led her into the street. 

It was only a couple minute walk to the entrance, but with Spoiler around, it felt a lot quicker. She was familiar somehow. Super nice. The two girls talked the whole way there, with Nightwing joining in every once in a while. It made sense that superheroes were huge gossips, but it still surprised Ladybug. They knew not just the city, but its people, like the back of their hands.

Red Robin didn’t really speak, too focused on the task at hand. He stared down at the screen on his arm, only occasionally looking up so he didn’t run into anything. A couple times he pressed his fingers to his ear and spoke quietly. 

They led Ladybug into a wide, deserted alley. “This is the way to the Batcave?” She asked, confused. It just looked like a normal, dumpy alley. 

“Yep,” Nightwing grinned. He pressed two fingers to his ear. “Oracle? If you wouldn’t mind.”

Ladybug was about to ask who Oracle was when the ground ahead of her lifted. She watched amazed as it led to a dimly lit ramp, with a long road she couldn’t see the end of. Right at the bottom of the ramp was a sleek, black car; the Batmobile, presumably.

“We’ve found that it’s not the best idea to keep our hideout within the city, especially when we need to bring guests,” Red Robin explained as he turned off his wrist-screen. “So we’ve got a couple of these things in the heart of the city that lead to the actual Cave.”

“Awesome!” Ladybug smiled. She walked slightly ahead of the others, looking around the secret entrance. It wasn’t anything special, not really. Just a long road hidden beneath a city that only a few people knew how to use. 

“Just wait til you see the actual cave,” Spoiler walked up next to her. “Come on. We can take the Batmobile the rest of the way.”

They approached the car. “Did someone drive it over here?”

“In a way.” Nightwing said as he opened the driver door and slid in. 

Spoiler opened the back door and ushered Ladybug in. “You know, I’m getting really tired of your vague answers.” She muttered as Spoiler slid in next to her. 

“You might have to get used to that,” Spoiler reclined against the seat. “They don’t do anything but vague.”

Ladybug nodded as Nightwing began driving. This car was fast. It felt faster than that bullet train that went under the English Channel. 

She pulled out her yo-yo and opened it up, staring at Chat Noir’s contact. He hadn’t even listened to her voicemail. That was so unlike him. He always, always listened and responded to her messages. Maybe something was really wrong with him. Was he in danger? Did Two Face and Hawkmoth somehow grab him along with Adrien and Alya?

“Does anyone else hear that beeping?” Red Robin asked. 

Ladybug hadn’t noticed it before now. A rookie mistake, one that could cost her dearly. 

“Oh no!” She suddenly yelled, hands shooting up to her ears. “No no no no no!”

“Everything okay, Ladybug?” Nightwing looked worried in the rearview mirror. 

She didn’t have time to answer as her transformation came undone and Tikki fell in her lap. The car stopped abruptly, all three heroes staring at Marinette. 

“Holy shit!” Red Robin swore and twisted in his seat. “ Marinette Dupain-Cheng?!”

“Oh,” She tried to laugh, but it sounded terrified, even to her own ears. “You know who I am?”

“Weren’t you one of the students Two Face kidnapped?” Nightwing twisted around as well. 

Marinette giggled nervously. Tikki cleared her throat, drawing everyone’s attention to her. “See, Marinette? I warned you this wouldn’t work out!”

“What wouldn’t work out?” Nightwing asked the kwami. 

“Well, I, um, you see-”

“You’re okay.”

Marinette looked at Spoiler, whose eyes were bright with unshed tears. 

“Um, Spoiler?” Nightwing coughed. Marinette looked back at him, and he was doing some strange up and done hand motion. 

“Are you alright, Spoiler?” Marinette asked, looking back at her. 

Spoiler sniffled a little before removing her mask and hood. “I’m just really glad you’re okay, Marinette.” Stephanie smiled.

“Wait, hold on. Stephanie?” Marinette was floored. Steph nodded and pulled her into a hug. “You’re one of the Bats?”

“And you’re Ladybug,” She chuckled wetly. “I guess superheroes are really drawn to each other, huh?”

Red Robin muttered something Marinette couldn’t catch. “N, you might as well keep driving. No matter what we do now, Batman’s gonna be pissed.”

The car started moving again, but Stephanie didn’t let go. “He can eat my ass. At least one of the kids is okay. And now,” She leaned back and smiled at Marinette. “Now we know someone who can fix this mess.”

Marinette tried to return the smile, but it probably fell short. Steph didn’t seem to care, though. Neither did Red Robin. “So your thing there, that’s a kwami, yeah?” He asked. 

She pulled a cookie out of her purse for Tikki. “Well, yeah- wait. How do you know about that?” She looked at him suspiciously. 

“From Chat Noir’s kwami.” He answered simply. 

“And how do you have access to Chat Noir’s kwami?” Marinette couldn’t tell if her anger or her worry grew faster. 

“He gave us his magic ring before he gave himself up,” Steph looked a little confused. “Didn’t you realize that? You were there.”

“Gave himself up.” A cold shiver crawled up Marinette’s spine. 


“Meaning… meaning Adrien is… was…” She couldn’t say it out loud. If she said it, it’d be real. And it couldn’t be real.

“Well, yeah,” Nightwing looked at her in the rearview mirror. “Didn’t you know that?”

Her world had been falling apart all day, but this. This was the moment that it completely, irreparably shattered. She mutely shook her head, trying to fight back the oncoming breakdown. 

“The guardian of the Miraculous decreed that Ladybug and Chat Noir couldn’t know each other’s identities for their own safety, just in case one of them got captured,” Tikki explained, flying up to the front seat so Nightwing and Red Robin could see her. “Marinette doesn’t know who Chat Noir is, and he doesn’t know her secret identity.”

“So you had no idea?” Marinette could feel Steph’s eyes boring into her cheek. “He was captured, and you didn’t know that Adrien was Chat Noir?”

Someone said it. It was real. It was real

Adrien was Chat Noir. And he’d just been captured by Hawkmoth.

She dissolved into tears. Stephanie grabbed her and held on tight.