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Marinette Dupain-Cheng loved with a fierce sort of affection that gently destroyed him.

She wasn’t grand gestures or loud declarations or flashy devotion.

She was thoughtful moments and quiet attention and unwavering loyalty.

It took Adrien an embarrassingly long time to recognize it for what it was.  When everything he knew was detachment and afterthought his compass for affection was nearly non-existent.  He knew Nathalie’s cold comfort and his father’s broken promises and Chloe’s noisy fawning. He knew conditions and strings and if-thens.

He didn’t understand second chances.

Striving. Everyone in his life was striving.

They put their careers, their hopes, their reputation on his shoulders and poked and prodded and pulled until he smiled just right and spoke just so and moved just there.

And he didn’t know any different.

Until he did.

She loved in the little ways.

She loved in passing moments and quiet gestures and thoughtfully in a way that was almost careless.  In a way that was so very Marinette.

Adrien had always been careful, but in the five weeks since he found out the Truth he felt like his shoes were made of glass and every next step could be the one to shatter him.

A problem when every shy smile, confused blush, and rapid fluttering of blue, blue eyes made him feel like dancing, glass be damned.

Marinette was Ladybug.

In removing the mask he had been gifted with the knowledge that his best friend was never really as far away as she seemed.  Ladybug was untouchable.  Marinette was so very, very there.

It somehow made everything more vivid, more terrifying,

just more.

It had been painfully awkward of course. Because of course it was when she was so adamant about keeping their identities a secret.

Fortunately for him, Marinette never was good at telling the restrooms apart.

There had been another akuma attack. Adrien had excused himself from gym and ducked into the nearest empty restroom to transform. Evidently Marinette had the same idea as she followed not even a minute after.

She came barreling through the door a breathless wave of pink and black and resolve. Before Adrien even had time to blink she was opening her purse and shouting spots on! and was enveloped in a warm, pink light only to reveal his partner in her place.

There was a moment before the fallout.  A moment of confusion and disbelief and shock before a burning took up residence in his ribs where his lungs used to be. He felt as if someone had cataclysmed his heart and something new and confused and wanting rose up from the ashes.

“Um.”

Then she saw him and something that Adrien could only describe as a squawk came out of her mouth and in the most ungraceful move he had ever seen Ladybug perform, flailed backwards onto her hands in confused terror before quickly righting herself with a stuttering and blushing oh god no.

Definitely Marinette.

Too wrecked from the internal devastation she’d caused him, Adrien could do nothing but stand there and gawk.

“A-Adrien.”

He never got to find out what she planned on saying next as Plagg’s cackling silenced her.  Her too familiar gaze snapped to the little cat-like god floating just over his shoulder and then back to Adrien’s slack-jawed, wide-eyed stare.

Chat?

It was a tense few days.

If Adrien thought Marinette was shy around him before it was nothing compared to the way she practically fled from him now. Every tongue-tripping stutter and wide-eyed terror driven escape ripped into his already fragile armor like so many nails.

He would be lying if he said it didn’t hurt.

“Don’t worry about it, kid. Ladybugs always come around.”

Plagg meant the words as a comfort but Adrien only felt more hollow.  He didn’t want Marinette to have to come around.  He wanted her to be already around.

Was it too much to hope that she could be just as proud of Adrien Agreste as she was of Chat Noir?

Of all the ways and hows and whens, Adrien never imagined that revealing their identities would weaken their relationship.  But now it was all he could think about. In class, with her smiles and arms and eyes just behind him, during photo shoots, when he would catch a flash of red swinging across the rooftops, and always, always at night when his room was dark and his father was absent and he felt the chill only an empty house could bring.

It was ruined, all ruined.

And then, all of a sudden

it wasn’t.

Four days after their all too revealing encounter in the locker room Marinette strode into class, head high, jaw set, eyes determined. As she passed by his desk her eyes met his for the first time in days. There was a familiar glint in the blue that his affection-starved heart leapt for. She wasn’t wearing a mask but she was Ladybug in that moment when she slammed a warm croissant on his desk.

“Eat, Chaton.”

And that was that.

Suddenly, Marinette was everywhere.

She had always been there of course, but somehow she was so very present in a way that he never noticed before.

She was pulling faces at him in history, smirking at him in gym.

At lunch she was beside him, rolling her eyes at his protein shakes and sneaking him some of her fries. 

In the library she was leaning over his shoulder, sighing over his physics homework and scowling over her own. Her hair was on his shoulder, her cheek so very close, and when his pencil snapped she was handing him a new one.

She was the afternoon good morning kitty text message on the weekends because if Marinette could, Marinette would sleep the day away.

In the mornings, she was late because she was Marinette but even when she was slinking into class and apologizing to a resigned Mme. Bustier she always made sure to shoot him a smile, or ruffle his hair, or pass him a croissant or coffee or anything. It didn’t really matter because she was there and she made sure that he knew it.

He asked her about it once, when she had dropped by on his night to patrol with some leftover pastries from the bakery.

“Are you trying to ruin my diet?”

But she just laughed, tapped her finger to the tip of his nose, and handed him another macaroon.

“I’m just taking care of my kitty cat.”

And really, that’s what she was doing. Taking care of him.

Adrien had never known what it was to be loved by Marinette.  He hadn’t known what it meant to be on the receiving end of her unrestrained affection. He had seen her fuss over Alya after close-call akuma attacks.  Watched her devote hours to helping Nino with his film productions. Witnessed her putting the needs of classmates, friends, Paris over hers time and time again.

But it was nothing compared to having the sledgehammer force of her attention focused entirely on him.

It was as if she was filling the space he hadn’t been aware of carving for her.  Every careless touch, teasing chaton, and secret smile quietly tore his heart to pieces.

He physically hurt sometimes with how much he loved her.

And in his darker moments, when his self-doubt crept in like shadows, Adrien wondered if he was just one of the many. She loved so freely.  Like it never occurred to her that she could do anything else.  As sure as the sun would rise in the morning and the Eiffel tower shine in the night, Marinette Dupain-Cheng would love.

And he basked in her attention. Fucking lapped it up like cream, lazed in her presence like she was a goddamn sunbeam, and all the while wondering, wondering, wondering.

It amazed Adrien every day that he was on the list of the people she cared about.

He’d said as much to her during one of his weaker moments. When his father’s expectations and self-imposed exile became too much. When his insecurities and bad luck overwhelmed his fears of rejection. When on a day where everything seemed to be so wrong she managed to make it all right.

Even if she was frowning at him like he was an absolute idiot.

Of course I care about you, Kitty.” God, it was embarrassing how much he blushed when she called him that. “You’re my best friend.”

He knew that.  He knew that. But...

Chat Noir is Ladybug’s best friend.”

And on days like today he felt like everything less than Chat.

Marinette was quiet and he refused to look at her.  He refused to see her disappointment or her frustration or her agreement. It wasn’t until he felt her hands on his face directing his gaze to hers that the vise around his heart began to loosen.

You, Adrien Agreste, are my best friend.  You, Adrien Agreste, are important. Ridiculous puns, bad days, quiet kindness, and all.”

He wasn’t crying, he wasn’t. Not when she gave him a heartbreaking smile, not when she pulled him closer and wrapped her arms around his waist while he buried his face in her neck. And he definitely, absolutely was not crying when she mumbled into his shirt,

“And don’t you furget it.”

And he didn’t. She didn’t let him.

He felt important when he found silly notes in his locker and when she brought extra camembert for Plagg. He felt important when she showed him her designs and when she asked for his opinions. He felt important when she screamed at him after he threw himself in front of another akuma for her and in the way she ignored him for the rest of the day after slamming some aspirin on his desk to help with any lingering pain.

Sometimes he felt so important a blend of happiness and sadness and hope would well up and choke him.

Plagg was horrified.

And Adrien? He just fucking wallowed, melted, goddamn swooned.

He knew he loved Ladybug. Knew he would love the girl beneath the mask.

He just didn't know he’d love her so much.

It was in the way she fussed over him. Him, Adrien, not him the model.  Helping him with torn buttons (thanks Plagg) and fixing it up with a care no designer or father or make up artist ever had.

And when she was done she would smile, lean back to appraise her work, and ruffle his hair into a more Chatlike disaster before laughing and throwing him a wink.

“You’re allowed not to be perfect, Chaton.”

He was fucked. He was so fucked.

And he thought she knew it too.  How could she not know it?

Alya knew, judging by her self-satisfied smirks and not so subtle eyebrow waggles every time Marinette turned her back. Nino knew, because really he had to have someone to talk to about this and Plagg was not the most sympathetic ear.

“Dude, if you like her so much why don’t you just ask her out?”

“I can’t just ask her out, Nino.”

And he couldn’t. Because this wasn’t just Adrien and Marinette.  This was Ladybug and Chat Noir and it was so much more complicated than that.

Or something.

At least, that’s what Plagg said Tikki might say because “Tikki overthinks everything”.

So he was trapped in this hellish wonderful in-between.

Marinette had to know.  She had to.

He’d been nervous and shy at first. So had she. But they were practically business as usual now.

Except he knew it was Marinette and that was everything.

To have someone to talk to when it all became too much, when an akuma was exhausting, when he disappointed others, when he was frightened.

To have someone to share the burden. To have each other’s back in and out of the suit.

Marinette was his someone.

And by some stroke of Ladybug luck because it certainly couldn’t have been his, he was her someone too.

The first time he appeared on her balcony, fidgeting and anxious and so full of everything he didn’t know where else to go, she didn’t even question him.

“Come inside, minou.”

And later, after she’d plied him with fresh croissants and chamomile tea, he lounged quietly on her chaise and watched her work at her desk as Plagg and Tikki danced around their heads.  

“I’m just… tired of being watched.”

She turned to him. Her expression not sad, not happy, but something in-between.

“Well you’re always welcome here, Adrien. I promise the only ones watching you will be my parents to make sure you’ve cleaned your plate.”

And three days later, while he was at one of the many Gabriel spring fashion events, when the photographers and the small talk and the expectations became too much, she was there.

Like he’d conjured her up from a dream, Ladybug grinned, hanging upside down from her yoyo with an outstretched hand.

“Need a break, handsome boy?”

He loved her, he loved her, he loved her.

It was either a cruel joke or a disguised blessing that he sat in front of her in class.  While his grades certainly benefited from the arrangement there was something especially tortuous knowing that she was so close and he wasn’t able to see her.

It was something that Marinette took full advantage of.

Whether it was messing with his hair, or whispering in his ear, or poking him in the back with her pen.  She seemed to derive some sort of sadistic joy in distracting him.

They touched. A lot.

It wasn’t something he thought about until he did, but it just seemed so wrong not to.  It wasn’t anything weird just

her arm resting on his shoulder,

his hand resting on her back,

ruffling his hair when she walked by,

pulling at the ribbons in her pigtails until they unraveled,

laying his head in her lap when they were studying,

even a goddamned piggyback ride around the school after one of Kim’s ridiculous challenges.

He didn’t think it was weird. He didn’t even notice it (he didn’t) and it wasn’t even intentional (most of the time) but he would catch Chloe’s sneer or Alya’s smirk or Nino’s silent head-shaking dude and he’d second guess himself.

Because it wasn’t weird. It wasn’t.  Ladybug and Chat Noir were always touching. They had to be.

It was just a side effect that Adrien and Marinette would as well.

A wonderful horrific side effect that sent his heart racing every time her fingers touched his hands, his hair, his back.

And two weeks later when Marinette came shrieking down the hall, startling an already traumatized student body into believing there was another akuma, Adrien barely had time to register the fast moving bullet of blue and pink and black that slammed into him with a force that would have sent him to the floor if he hadn’t braced himself for it.

Marinette didn’t notice though.  She was too busy grinning and babbling and waving a paper he would later learn was her Physics test.

“I did it!  Adrien, I did it!  I aced it!”

And before he could do or say anything she was grabbing his face and kissing him with a loud, piercing smack.

“All you.  God thank you, chaton!”

And then she was off, half running, half skipping down the hall as she shouted for Alya.

Adrien stood there long after the bell.  His lips were tingling and his legs weren’t functioning and had Marinette Dupain-Cheng really just kissed him?

With the hallways empty, Plagg popped out of his jacket to get a look at his charge.  The kwami rolled his eyes at Adrien’s wide-eyed dopey smile.

“Now that was just irresponsible.”

But Marinette never said anything.  The kiss didn’t seem to register with her at all and the next time Adrien saw her she was still riding high from the test he’d helped her study for.  She was practically vibrating while she spoke with Mylene and Rose and when he came into her orbit she caught him like a moon and showed him off like a constellation.

“I can’t believe it.  Ugh and I couldn’t have done it without Adrien’s help.  Maman is going to flip.” And she wrapped her arm around his waist in a tight side hug that almost sent him back into a tailspin.

She was going to wreck him.  He was sure of it.

But he couldn’t bring himself to care because it was Marinette and out of all the things in his life that could have taken him down he’s glad it’s her.

Plagg was just about at his wit’s end.  Nino too, in his own way, was also getting frustrated.

Seriously bro, you better DTR with Marinette before someone beats you to it.

He wanted to, god he wanted to.

But this was them.

Whatever he had with Marinette was good, great, grand even and maybe he didn’t need to know more for now.  

At least, that was the case until one Friday evening a few weeks later.

With his father’s new line coming out, there was a lot more work to be done than usual.  As a result, Adrien missed his afternoon classes for a photoshoot and subsequent meet and greet with some of his father’s friends.  It was nothing out of the ordinary but the dinner ran long and he was unable to check his messages until late into the evening.

Five missed calls from Nino, three from Alya, and an overwhelming number of text messages from the two that ultimately boiled down to dude call me and Alya’s more zealous 911 Agreste answer your goddamn phone nearly sent him into a panic.

His first thought, his worst thought, was that something bad had happened to Marinette. That fear was quickly pushed aside when he scrolled through his alerts to find a picture she’d sent him just over two hours ago with her face buried in their history textbook and an accompanying kill me D:

Assured of his partner’s safety, Adrien kicked off his sneakers and threw himself onto his couch.  Nino answered on the first ring. 

Or rather, Alya answered Nino’s phone on the first ring.

“Where the hell have you been?”

Adrien pulled his phone away from his ear. “Ah, hey Alya.  I’m sorry, I was at work.”

“Well, while you were at work” Adrien could practically hear the air quotes “someone was working you over.”

“I’m sorry, what?”

There was some shuffling on the other line and some muffled arguing that eventually ended with well just put it on speaker then! 

Nino’s voice carried through.  “Sorry for all the calls man.  We just thought it would be best if you heard it from us.”

“Heard what?” He sat up.  “What’s this about?”

“You poor hopeless sunshine child.” Alya clucked.  “Marinette got asked out today while you were at your photo shoot.”

It was as if the room suddenly dropped in temperature. His palms were inexplicably sweaty against the phone and his chest felt tight like a rubber band.

“Oh?”

“Yeah, that tall kid from Mendeleiev’s class.  The one with the hair.”

Nino’s incredulous scoff came next. “Alya that could be anybody.”

“Alexander? Sam? Something.”

“Because that’s clearer.”

Adrien ignored their bickering. 

“Um, what,” His throat was dry. He swallowed. Tried again. “What did she say?”

No of course, you idiot homeschooled snowflake!

“Alya!” Nino’s indignant cry gave him a moment to breathe a body-deep sigh of relief. There was another scuffle on the end of the line and a loud ow!

Apparently Alya won. 

“This is serious. You need to lock her down. Brand her. Stamp Agreste on her forehead and mark your goddamn territory.”

Adrien rubbed his temple to stave off his building headache.  “Marinette’s not property.”

“Well duh pretty boy but she’s prime real estate.”

“What?”

A disgusted groan. “Nino, talk to your boy because I can’t.”

Nino sighed. “Ah, yeah. Sorry for that.”

“He needs to know.”

“I just thought that I’d pass that on.  And uh, do with it what you want.”

But Adrien didn’t. He couldn’t.

It felt as if someone had taken a wrecking ball and crashed through his carefully constructed denial.  Like something very precious had been threatened and he wasn’t even aware he was losing it until it was already gone.

Adrien hadn’t felt this exposed since he first discovered who it really was hiding behind his lady’s mask.  And even then, Marinette took those insecurities and beat them down like they were just another akuma.  How could he question her with all things considered?

But now, as he considered all things, Adrien felt as if everything they built together had been stripped out from beneath his feet.  Like his stability was some sort of cheap tablecloth trick and he was a wine glass about to topple over the edge.  He’d never felt so goddamn vulnerable.

All because of some tall boy with hair in Mendeleiev’s class.

And worse still, this feeling wasn’t an akuma he could fight (not yet anyway if he didn’t get himself under control).  But it was alive and black and sour and terrified.

She didn’t say yes.

He clung to the thought like the life preserver it was.  At the end of the day, she didn’t say yes.

Why didn’t she say yes?

He groaned and buried his face in the leather cushions of his couch.

He didn’t know.

He didn’t know if she knew that every look and gesture constricted his heart as if she had reached through his chest to claim it as her own.

Things were what they were and going wherever the hell they were going and what did it matter what other people thought?

It didn’t.

It shouldn’t.

But dammit if he didn’t feel this brittleness and doubt claw at him from the inside out.

His phone vibrated against his stomach and it was more habit than desire that had him checking the screen.

 

Bug<3: How was the photoshoot? Break any hearts today ;)

 

Adrien ignored his phone for the remainder of the weekend.

He didn’t answer her calls or texts and there was no akuma so she had no reason to see him.  He suspected she might have tried to stop by as Ladybug on Sunday evening but he couldn’t really be sure.

He couldn’t face her.  Not like this.  Not when his heart felt raw and exposed like an open wound.  As if everything he wanted in went out and everything he wanted out came flooding in.

It wasn’t until Monday morning when she slammed his locker shut that he saw her again.

“Why are you avoiding me?”

She looked tired.  Her pigtails were mussed and her cardigan was wrinkled.  The dark circles under her eyes were clearly visible as she glared up at him with her arms crossed and her lips thinned.

“I’m not.”

“You are.”

He couldn’t look at her.  His eyes moved from the floor, to her shoulders, to the bulletin board on the opposite wall.

“Adrien.”

“It’s nothing.” And this time he does meet her eyes only for them to skitter away from her determined scrutiny.

“Did something happen with your father?”

He sighed and shook his head. “Really, Marinette.  Just drop it.”

“Then I don’t get it, Adrien.” She blew a stray hair that had fallen into her face. “You were fine Friday morning so unless something happened after you left–” He scowled down at the linoleum floor. Marinette paused to study him, seeing far more than she ought to. It didn’t take long for her to find what she was looking for.

“You have got to be kidding me.”

He fiddled with the strap of his bag and kept his eyes focused on the tile.  There was an almost disdainful incredulity in her voice that he couldn’t face.

Dammit Chat.” She slammed her fist against the lockers and the resulting metallic  bang echoed throughout the hall. “You had me worried something terrible had happened.”

Something terrible had happened.

“I can’t believe I spent the last three days worrying over you.” Marinette ran her fingers through her hair, disarranging it even further. “All because you’ve been pouting over some guy I hardly know asking me to coffee.”

“I wasn’t pouting.” He muttered.

Marinette rolled her eyes. “Well what else would you call it?"

He didn’t answer her.  He couldn’t answer her.  At least not honestly. 

“You know,” She said, crossing her arms over her chest.  “I was unaware there had been an akuma attack.”

He frowned at her in confusion. An akuma...? “There hasn’t.”

“Then why are you acting like such a child?”

Adrien ignored the gleeful snort that came from his backpack and focused on Marinette. Her face was close enough that if he leaned in he would be able to count the individual freckles on her nose.  An angry red flush stole across her cheeks.

She was beautiful even when she was a mess.  Something inside him snapped.

“Well if I’m such a child then why didn’t you just say yes?”

She blinked at him. Slowly. As if she couldn’t believe what she was hearing.

“I am not having this conversation right now.”

“Why not?”

Why not?” She shoved him back.  Now she really looked furious. “You’ve spent the last three days ignoring me, worrying me, all because you were upset someone asked me out and now you have the goddamn nerve to ask me why I turned him down?”

Adrien resisted the urge to scratch the back of his neck.  He knew he was being ridiculous. That he wasn’t being fair.  But fair wasn’t what kept his stomach twisting at night.  Fair wasn’t what made him want to grab this infuriating, perfect, angry girl in front of him and kiss her senseless and never let go.  Fair wasn’t the whispered mine every time she smiled or blushed or breathed.  Fair wasn’t how much he goddamn felt about her and fair definitely wasn’t his complete and total helplessness to do anything about it.

“I can’t deal with this right now.” Marinette shook her head, a black frown twisting her face.  “Call me when my friend comes to his senses.”

And with that she stormed off, once again leaving him to piece together the wreckage of his emotions in an empty hallway.

“Well,” Plagg said as he phased through his bag.  “That could have gone better.”

School that day was uncomfortable to say the least.  

By the time he made it to class, Marinette was already there. Judging from her scowl, Alya’s hunched shoulders and the distance between the two, he wasn’t the only one on the receiving end of her anger.  Nino didn’t seem to be faring any better.

Marinette ignored him for the remainder of the day and that night when they met up for patrol she refused to even look at him.

It continued like this for nearly a week and with every passing day the stone that sat in his lungs grew heavier.  Every empty space and indifferent silence seemed to scream out for her.

But it wasn’t until the latest akuma attack that he finally broke.

Or rather, it wasn’t until he found out about the latest akuma attack from the news as they interviewed a battle-worn yet triumphant Ladybug, that he finally broke.

“Why didn’t she call me?”

Plagg shrugged.  “Less work for us.”

But Adrien couldn’t see it that way.

It wasn’t the first time that she had faced off with an akuma without him.  Sometimes Ladybug just got there first and didn’t need his help.  He knew that.

But it hurt.  And it did nothing to quell the doubts spiraling through his head.

She didn’t need him.  She could do this on her own.

He’d ruined everything.

Suddenly he was finding it very difficult to breathe.  His eyes stung with tears that he wiped away quickly to avoid his kwami’s commentary.

Of course she didn’t call him.

He walked around with the god of destruction in his pocket and carried bad luck in his fingertips.  It was only a matter of time before it carried over to his partnership.

Adrien spent the night dry heaving into his wastebasket.

It took him another two days and what passed for a pep talk from Plagg (come on kid, just get it over with) for him to finally pluck up the courage to do something.

He heard from the Ladyblog that she was spotted doing the rounds across the city.  Plagg doesn’t even have a chance to complain before he’s sucked into the ring.

According to Alya’s sources, Ladybug had most recently been seen near the Left Bank which meant she was nearing the end of her patrol.  It took him a while to track her down but he finally managed to catch up to her near the Dupain-Cheng bakery.  He stayed back and watched from behind a nearby chimney as she dropped down onto her balcony and detransformed.  She hesitated before waving away her kwami who disappeared into the room below.

It’s the first time he’s been able to look directly at her in days.  She’s too far away to see her face clearly, but Adrien can read the exhaustion and tension in the hunch of her shoulders and the arch of her spine.  More than anything he wanted to pull her against him and run his fingers through her hair until she fell asleep.  Instead he stayed hidden and waited.

She stood there for several minutes staring out across the rooftops before she finally leaned against the balcony railing and sighed.

“I know you’re there Chat."

She said it quietly, but he heard her anyway.  His hands twitched against the roof tiles but he didn’t move towards her.  He wasn’t ready to have this conversation.  He didn’t want this to end when it did.

“Seriously, minou. I won’t bite.”

It wasn’t so much her words as it was the resigned, affectionate tone she couldn’t hide that gave him the courage to move closer.

He landed on her balcony, nervous and heartsick.

She was close enough to touch now– closer than she’d been in days. His palms itched to touch her but he didn’t and she said nothing.  Adrien was both relieved and disappointed when she didn’t look at him.  Her gaze was focused out towards the midnight city.

“Is this…” He hesitated.  When he didn’t continue Marinette tilted her head to acknowledge that she’d heard him.  He swallowed and tried again, “Are we over?

The words felt acidic on his tongue.  How could they be over when they hadn’t even begun.

What?

The question seemed to startle her and succeeded in achieving what he hadn’t been able to do in days.  She was looking at him.  Her eyes were dark and blue in the light and reflected an incredulity that almost made it easier to breathe.

He backpedaled.

“I mean– I just... with the akuma–“

“No you stupid cat!” Marinette shoved him and nearly sent him toppling into her flower pots. “Why on earth would you think that?”

He rubbed the shoulder where she’d pushed him, momentarily distracted.  Um, ow?

“Well we haven’t been talking.”

“It was a fight, Adrien. We’ll move past it.”

“We will?”

“Oh my god, yes.” She frowned up at him.  “Is this why you haven’t talked to me sooner? Because you thought I’d just kick you aside.”

“Well…”

She shook her head.  He couldn’t quite describe her expression- she didn’t look angry but she wasn’t completely happy with him either.  Marinette held his gaze for a moment before turning back to face the city.

“No, Adrien. We’re not over.  I was just… waiting for an apology.”

“Oh.” He scratched the back of his neck. “Is it insincere if I apologize now?”

She laughed. “That depends. What are you sorry for?”

“For being stupid.”

“And?”

“And… and being jealous. And ignoring you.” He paused.  “And I’m sorry for not telling you how I was feeling. It wasn’t fair to take that out on you.”

A blush was slowly creeping up her neck but she seemed determined to ignore it. He admired how she could do that.  How she could face down her feelings instead of running away from them.  It was one of the things he loved most about her. 

Slowly she turned to face him and tentatively reached out her arms in a silent offer of peace.  It momentarily stunned him to note that her hands were shaking.  As if she was nervous.  As if he would ever turn her away.  As if he could.  Adrien eagerly pulled her forward and crushed her to him, burying his face in her shoulder, her neck, her hair.  God, he missed her.  He really, really missed her.

He told her so and she laughed into his chest.

“Alya and Nino. Anyone really. They’re all gonna have their opinions. But it doesn’t matter.”   Her arms tightened around his waist.  “What matters is you and what matters is me and everyone else is just noise.”

She pulled back slightly so she could catch his eyes.  “I’m here.”

And she was.  She had always been there. And, as she leaned forward so her forehead rested against his, he was starting to believe she always would be.

“Okay?” She whispered.

He nodded, not trusting himself to speak.

“Good.” She smirked at him then and he yelped as one of her hands pinched his side.  “Seriously, kitty.  Next time something is bothering you, just ask me.”

“I will,” He said, flashing her a devilish grin as he reluctantly pulled away.  “I purromise.”

But she wasn’t done with him yet. 

Grabbing the bell of his suit and yanking him forward Adrien’s heart nearly stopped when Marinette leaned in close, her lips almost but not quite brushing his.

“No seriously. Ask me.”

And because he could never refuse her anything, that’s just what he did.