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The Physics Professor

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Professor Adrien Agreste loved his job. Usually. Being a physics teacher was all he ever wanted. Watching the faces of his students when they understood how to do an equation they had thought impossible and knowing that he had helped put that look on their face, it was a priceless feeling. Tonight he didn't enjoy his job. It was necessary but his least favourite aspect.

Parents Evening.

Those two words were enough to strike fear in the heart of the most stalwart of teachers. Between disinterested students and over anxious parents, it was always a stressful evening.

This was a new school for Adrien, having only recently moved back to Paris from Nice, and his dread was only amplified by the fact that he would probably be recognised from his modelling days. His desire to teach where his face wasn't quite so famous was the reason he had moved away all those years ago. But now he was back, and already he had been approached by several parents to talk about his modelling, to not-so-subtly flirt with him and to discretely pass him their number, whether they had a partner or not.

He sighed deeply as this happened a fourth time. It had been thirteen years but he couldn't help but wish an akuma would attack and he could escape.

It didn't help that over the years Adrien had only grown more handsome. Standing at over six feet tall with barely an ounce of spare flesh on him, he was a veritable Greek god of tan skin and lean muscle. He wore his golden hair shorter now, which complemented his chiselled features, no longer softened by youth.

Looking up from where he had thrown the scrunched up number into a waste basket under his desk, he was met by a pair of bright, blue eyes under a heavy, midnight fringe. For a moment he was sucked back into the past where he knew those eyes somehow, before the young girl spoke, snapping him back to the present.

"Hi, Professor Agreste," the girl chirped happily. "I've brought my Maman with me today."

Adrien smiled at his student.

"Good evening, Celeste," he greeted, "and to you Mme. Kurtzberg," he gestured to the seats in front of him. "Won't you take a se-" He spared a glance at the marginally taller woman and found himself once more caught in a pair of bluebell eyes.

"It's Dupain-Cheng, actually," she corrected, and a small smile quirked her lips when he nodded his recognition, mouth slightly agape.

"Marinette?" he wondered aloud before quickly pushing out his chair and clumsily getting to his feet. "Is it really you? It... it's been so long," he exclaimed, coming round the desk to stand in front of her.

"Oh, only about thirteen years, but who's co-" she was abruptly cut off when Adrien pulled her into a hug. While the years had given her confidence and she didn't stutter anymore, she had been unprepared for his sudden attack, and when she pulled back from Adrien's embrace, Marinette's face was flushed a deep red. She played nervously with a charm bracelet around her wrist.

"Um, hi," she greeted, waving awkwardly. It was then that they noticed their audience. Celeste stood next to them and gawped up at the suddenly uncertain adults.

Realising he was being unprofessional, Adrien reached to rub the back of his neck in an unconscious gesture. Some things never change.

"Please, sit down," he gestured once more to the seats in front of his desk and took a seat in his own chair. He shuffled the papers in front of him, rifling through until he found the one he was looking for.

"Ah, okay, Celeste," he smiled up at the two bluenettes in front of him, briefly marvelling how alike they looked, and wondering at his own obliviousness that he hadn't realised the girl he had been teaching for weeks was in fact the daughter of one of his school friends. "You've been doing fairly well in physics this term," he began and the young girl blushed, smiling happily. "You're enthusiastic and try very hard, although you do have a tendency to get distracted."

Adrien's smile turned knowing as he looked at Celeste and she blushed harder. Marinette shifted uncomfortably in her chair. She too had had a habit of becoming distracted in school, thanks to the handsome blonde sat before her right now.

Celeste had never mentioned having a crush but from the looks her daughter and Adrien were sharing, that was what Marinette was inferring.

"Sorry, Professor," Celeste mumbled, rubbing her arm, somewhat embarrassed at being caught out by her teacher. "I'll try harder to focus," she insisted, gazing up at him adoringly. It was obvious she had a great amount of respect for her physics teacher. Adrien's smile turned warm.

"I'm glad to hear it. You could do really well if you can manage to apply yourself a little harder, but all in all, I'm very pleased." They briefly discussed grades and future projects until their ten minutes were up. He started to rise from his seat.

The mother and daughter pair in front of him took his cue and stood as well, Marinette holding her hand out to shake Adrien's.

"Thank you so much for taking the time to see us today," she said, smiling at Adrien. "It was so nice to you see again... I mean, I like to you... no, I mean... Ugh," she had thought she was past this. She didn't have a crush on him anymore... did she? No. It had been thirteen years. A lot changes in thirteen years. "It was nice to see you again, Adrien," she finally managed.

Adrien smiled down at her. It was nice to see the Marinette he remembered. He couldn't believe so much time had passed since they had all gone their separate ways. A pang of nostalgia hit him.

"It's been great seeing you too," Adrien winked at her, resting a hand on her shoulder. "Oh," he bent over his desk but before Marinette could wonder what he was doing he was upright again and once more holding out his hand to her. When she didn't immediately take what he was proffering he grasped her hand with his empty one, turned it palm up and placed the piece of paper into her hand. He then closed her fingers around her paper, holding her hand closed in both of his for a moment longer than necessary.

"My number," he instructed. "It would be really nice to  catch up again." He rubbed the back of his neck again self consciously. "If you want, of course."

Marinette smoothed out the ripped off slip and smiled down at the line of digits.

"Thank you," she breathed, her smile bright as she looked up into his face. "That would be nice." They stood in silence a moment more.

"Maman?" The pair jumped at Celeste's sudden interruption and both had a slight blush on their cheeks as they turned to face her.

"Sorry, Celeste," Marinette said, "I think we've seen everyone now, let's go home." And the two girls turned to leave. Adrien watched her go, allowing himself the appraisal that he had held in up to this point.

Her hair had grown longer and she wore it down. He followed to where it reached between her shoulder blades. From there his eyes drifted down Marinette's shapely form. She had more curves than when they were teenagers. She was still petite but as she walked away he couldn't help but be drawn to the sway of her flared hips and the rounded curve of her bottom. When she reached the door she stopped and his eyes snapped up to where hers were now looking back at him. He had been caught ogling. Adrien grinned sheepishly and waved, the tips of his ears glowing. The corner of Marinette's lip twitched up and she sent off a small wave of her own before heading back out the door.


 

Marinette switched off the car engine and rested her hands briefly on the wheel.

"Well," she started, turning to face her daughter. "That went pretty well."

Celeste eyed her mother warily.

"Yeah," she agreed hesitantly. "Not too bad."

"All the teachers had really positive things to say about you. I think we should celebrate!" She smiled down at the younger girl. "What would you say to some ice cream?"

"Ice cream sounds great, Maman." Celeste hesitated briefly. "How long have you known Professor Agreste?"

Marinette sighed and looked at their house through the windshield of the car. The porch light had switched on at their arrival but would be turning off soon.

"Let's go inside and talk, okay?"

Celeste nodded her head and they simultaneously opened their respective doors and silently headed into the house. Marinette opened the door and held it for her daughter, following her inside.

"Go sit in the lounge, I'll grab the ice cream, 'kay?" Marinette asked, already heading towards the kitchen. There she grabbed the tub of rocky road out of the freezer and two spoons. Then, on an impulse, she poured milk into a pan and put it on the hob to heat. Adding a few scoops of instant hot chocolate, she removed the pan and poured the contents into two mugs, adding whipped cream and marshmallows. Marinette tucked the tub of ice cream in the crook of her arm and clasping a mug in each hand, headed back towards the living room.

Celeste was sat on the sofa, feet tucked up next to her and the throw laying over her lap. The two of them had developed a tradition of just this. It was an all encompassing tradition. If they were celebrating, or upset, angry or just in the mood for a good chat they would grab some ice cream and the blanket, snuggle together and talk for hours. It was a tradition they both loved.

Celeste and Marinette each grabbed their spoons and almost simultaneously scooped a generous amount of whipped cream and marshmallow into their mouths, both humming in contented delight.

"So," Celeste began, breaking the silence between the two of them. "Professor Agreste?"

Marinette looked up from where she had been gazing into her hot chocolate, debating where to start. She placed her mug on the coffee table and settled herself more deeply into the sofa.

"Adrien... that is, Professor Agreste... went to school with me at College Francois DuPont." Celeste's eyes widened at the prospect of her mother and her teacher going to school together. "I was best friend's with Alya and Adrien was best friends with Nino. A little while into our first year together, Nino and Alya started dating and Adrien and I became friends. We were all really close." Marinette's eyes held a faraway look as she thought back to that time.

"The thing is, I had a huge crush on him from almost his first day at school. He was homeschooled until he was fifteen." Her cheeks tinted pink at the memories of everything she had done because of her school girl crush. It was really quite embarrassing when she thought back over it. Maybe she didn't need to go into too much detail with her daughter.

"Did you tell him?" Celeste asked, her own expression a mix between shy and hopeful, and Marinette couldn't help but think she was thinking about her own crush. The older woman shook her head sadly.

"No, I never did. And I regret it so much. I wish I had realised at the time that you regret the things you don't do, far more than the things you do. When we were eighteen he left to go on a year-long tour for his modelling," Celeste looked at her mother in wonder.

"He was a model?" she squeaked in excitement and Marinette smiled bashfully.

"He was gorgeous even then," she admitted, sighing dreamily. "But he was so much more than that. Anyway, when he finished his modelling stint, he went away to study to become a teacher and never moved back to the area. This is the first time I've seen him since we left school thirteen years ago."

Celeste was struck dumb by the revelation.

"I think that's enough of that for now anyway," Marinette decided, picking her slightly cooled hot chocolate back up off the table. Let's watch the film. With Celeste in agreement, the two turned to face the television.

 Marinette hit play for the DVD and the two settled back to watch their favourite film, When Harry met Sally. As Marinette listened to Harry's speech about men and women not being friends, she thought back to her best friend and partner from her superhero days, Chat Noir. She was always reminded of him when she saw this film and wondered what could have been.


 

It didn't happen very often, despite having been back in Paris for three months now, as their schedules conflicted quite a bit, but after he finished with Parent's Evening, Adrien met with Nino at his local bar. The two were sat at a table drinking beer out of the bottle and were currently enjoying a companionable silence. The blonde relished the time he had with his oldest civilian friend, and seeing him reminded him how much he had missed him. They always kept in touch through text and occasional skype, but nothing compared to seeing the DJ in person.

Adrien settled his bottle on a coaster on the table and swiped his thumb through the condensation that was forming.

"You'll never guess who I saw at the school's Parent's Evening tonight," Adrien began, seemingly out of nowhere. "Do you remember Marinette Dupain-Cheng?"

"Ha, of course, Bro. I had a crush on her when we were at school together," Nino reminded the blonde. "Remember how you coached me on that zoo date we went on? Total disaster," Nino laughed, tilting the brim of his cap up slightly. "She's still Alya's bestie. We don't see so much of her with the kid and all, she's always pretty busy trying to make ends meet." Nino leaned forward confidentially. "I don't think Nathanael is all that helpful. You remember Nathanael?"

Adrien nodded. "Red headed artist right? Wasn't he the Evillustrator?"

"Right," Nino pointed his finger at Adrien like a pistol. "You would remember the akuma victims. The way I remember it, you were totally crushing on Ladybug."

Adrien's face flushed red and he rubbed the back of his neck.

"Well, I mean... didn't you?"

"I guess," Nino turned his cap the other way. "That tight ass in all that spandex?" A spike of anger pierced Adrien in the chest at his former partner being spoken of in that way but he shrugged it off. "We were what, sixteen? Seventeen? What teenage boy wasn't affected? Some teenage girls even."

"Not Alya?" Adrien queried, raising one eyebrow.

"Alya," Nino confirmed, smirking slightly. "My girl was obsessed. Think she probably had a little thing for Chat Noir as well but it was Ladybug that she was always fan-girling over. I'm surprised she ever looked twice at me," his cheekbones were dusted with pink. "But then I've got Ladybug to thank for that anyway, after shoving us into a cage together for an afternoon."

Adrien nodded, having heard the story in detail before.

"Anyway," the DJ continued, "Yeah, Nathanael isn't around all that much. I don't think he has much money, so after the split Marinette struggled a bit. She seems to be doing okay now though." Nino adjusted his cap again.

Adrien tried not to let the information affect him too badly, but he felt guilty that he had allowed himself to lose contact with someone he considered to be a friend. He should already know these things about Marinette. For the first time in a long time, he regretted leaving Paris in the first place. He would have liked to have been able to support his friend.

"So," Nino cleared his throat, deciding that a slight change of conversation might be a good idea. "You still see much of Chloe?"

Clearly this was not the right direction to go in. Adrien groaned, a pained look coming onto his face, and he dropped his head into his arms that were folded on the table in front of him.

"I'm gonna take that as a yes," Nino quipped, patting the blonde's arm consolingly. Adrien's voice was muffled when he replied.

"Ever since I've gotten back, it's been non-stop," he lifted his head to look despairingly at the DJ who barely concealed his chuckle. "I mean, she still messaged me loads while I was away, but it had gotten less since I stopped modelling. Now I'm boring Professor Agreste with a lower income and no celebrity status, I think she moved on. Now I'm in Paris again, I don't know... she seems to be trying to pick up where she left off." Nino didn't miss the bit where 'she' left off.

"Last I heard she was dating some tennis player or other," Nino contemplated aloud.

Adrien made a sound of agreement. The pair were interrupted by the jingle of a text alert coming from Adrien's phone. He groaned, anticipating yet another text message from his oldest friend asking him to dinner. It wasn't that he didn't like spending time with her, but her attempts at romantic involvement were just not something he was interested in. Reluctantly he pulled his phone out of his coat pocket, swiping his thumb across the print reader to unlock it.

Unknown Number: [Hey, was good to see you today. We should catch up sometime. Marinette]

As he read, a slow smile crept onto Adrien's face and a feeling of warmth settled into the pit of his stomach. He quickly started tapping out a reply, thoughts of Chloe Bourgeois forgotten.


 

Putting the phone down, Marinette released the breath she had been holding as she typed out her message. A flood of nerves had her hovering over the send button for a few moments before she resolutely pressed it down. Her heart leapt in the anxious knowledge that she couldn't take back what she had just done. It was silly anyway. The message was light-hearted, casual. There was no way anything could be read into it. She should know, she has re-read that message seven times before she pressed send. It was just, there was something about Adrien Agreste that made her feel like a clumsy teenager again, rather than the still somewhat clumsy adult that she had become.

Half an hour before, Celeste had made her way to bed and Marinette had changed into her pyjamas, getting ready to relax for an hour or two before she headed to bed herself. The impulse to text Adrien had been growing in her the whole time they had been watching the film and she had given in to that urge.

Now she had bitten the bullet, she turned to make tea, determined not to watch her phone and wait desperately for a reply. That didn't stop her every nerve ending being attuned to her phone, her ears pricking at every sound.

Just as she was pouring the milk into her cup her text alert sounded, causing her to jerk and milk to spill over the side. Cursing herself for being so highly strung and making a mess, she forced herself to not check her phone until her tea was made and the milk cleared away. Once the cloth was back in the sink and the milk carton safely in the fridge, Marinette took her cup and her phone and carried them both back into the living room. It was sweet torture to deny herself checking the message until she was settled, but she was determined to act like the rational adult she wasn't.

Finally she allowed herself to read the text, the teenager in her squealing at getting a message from Adrien Agreste.

Adrien: [Hey, Marinette! Was a really nice surprise to see you again today after so long. I'd love to catch up sometime. You know my work schedule, so just let me know when is good for you]

The smile on Marinette's face couldn't be bigger. It was time to admit to herself that maybe, even after all this time, she might still have a tiny little crush on the former model. Before she could reply another alert popped up.

Adrien: [I'm having a drink with Nino right now. He says hi]

Marinette's smile softened at the mention of her old school friend and best friend's fiancé. She didn't get to see Nino and Alya as often as she'd like with their conflicting schedules, but she still loved spending time with them.

Marinette: [Say hi from me :) I'm working tomorrow but I'm free most evenings in the week as long as I can get a babysitter. I'll try and find one and let you know]

She was pleased with herself for coming across cool and collected, knowing that it was only thanks to the anonymity of text messaging. But... still.

Adrien: [Great, I look forward to it]

Marinette decided to leave it there, not wanting to come across as desperate. Instead she picked up a novel she had been reading on and off in her spare time. Then she put it back down again. She switched on the television and started flicking through channels trying to find something to watch. Absolutely nothing appealed to her.

She had long since finished her tea, and despite her long day - she had worked a shift in the restaurant before going to the Parent's Evening - she wasn't feeling the least bit tired. In fact, she was wired and antsy.

Maybe a bath would help relax her. She really needed sleep as she had to be up early to take Celeste around to Nathanael's house and then go to work at the restaurant again.

She poured herself a small glass of wine and headed up the stairs.

Her bathroom always managed to sooth her. It was decorated in slate grey tiles with some bright green features. The green reminded her of Adrien's eyes but she decided not to focus on that. The whole effect was like stepping into a forest lagoon, the bamboo shelving she had in there adding to the effect. Marinette lit a couple of scented candles on the counter next to the bath while the tub filled with warm bubbly water. Sitting on the edge of the bath and sipping her chilled wine she could feel the tensions of the day already leaving her body.

Once the bath was full she slipped out of her pyjamas, piled her hair on top of her head in a messy bun and eased herself into the water, emitting a relieved sigh as she did so. This was exactly what she needed.

Twenty minutes later, water starting to cool, she reluctantly hauled herself out of the bath and towelled herself dry. The wine glass was empty and her body was relaxed. Marinette snuffed out the candles and redressed in her pyjamas.

She took the wineglass back downstairs and loaded in to the dishwasher and was about to head back up when she remembered she left her phone in the living room. She used it as her alarm and it was a must as even now she was terrible at getting up in the morning. Out of habit she lit the screen up and found she had another text message. Opening her phone she smiled broadly, discovering it was from Adrien.

Adrien: [Just wanted to say goodnight. So... goodnight :)]

That he thought of her just before he went to bed sent her giddy teenage heart into overdrive, partially undoing the work of the relaxing bath.

Marinette: [Goodnight x]

She had put the kiss on the end automatically. It was something she did with almost everyone she messaged. The text had sent before she thought about it. Realising what she had done she planted her face into her hand and groaned aloud. There was nothing she could do now. Sending him another message would come across as weird. Maybe he would just brush it off. Maybe he wouldn't even notice it.

It was fine.

Absolutely fine.

She wouldn't be able to look him in the eye when she next saw him.

If she ever saw him again. He might see the kiss and get the wrong idea. Well... the right idea but still. He might just think she's looking to date him and that wouldn't be something he wanted to do and it would be awkward and he would avoid her and she'd have to transfer Celeste to a new school.

She was over-thinking it and she knew it but her angst was real.

Across Paris, Adrien opened the message Marinette had sent and couldn't control the large smile that graced his face.

Chapter Text

As it always was, the next morning was a rush of activity. Celeste had inherited her mother's ability to dramatically oversleep and Marinette hadn't improved much over the years. As a result, they had twenty minutes to get to Nathanael's house and they still weren't ready.

Marinette hopped past Celeste's door while she tried to get on her sock, her toothbrush hanging out her mouth. She managed to slip the sock on and pulled the toothbrush out of her mouth in order to shout at her daughter.

"Celeste!" she cried, none too patiently, "we don't have time to faff. You haven't even finished getting dressed yet, hurry up!" This was a little hypocritical considering Marinette was only wearing one sock and her hair was in disarray.

By some miracle, the two were in the car and belted up in just over five minutes.

"Have you got your overnight bag?" Marinette checked again.

"Yes, Maman," Celeste replied exasperated. It was the same routine every week. Despite the fact that Celeste kept a wardrobe of clothes at her father's house she still needed a bag for essentials like her homework for school, her games console and whatever book she was reading.

"Have you brushed your teeth?"

"Yes, Maman," Celeste replied again, her annoyance on par with the most hormonal of teenagers, despite being only twelve years old. Marinette hid an amused smile at her daughters obvious irritation and started the engine.

"Let's go then," she said, smiling warmly at her daughter.

It didn't take long to get to Nathanael's house, but the drive over was filled with a tense silence. It had been the same way, whenever Marinette dropped Celeste round to her father's house, ever since they broke up nearly ten years ago now.

It had been raining that night, when Marinette had come home from working a double shift at the restaurant. Ever since Nathanael had lost the art gallery, Marinette had let go of her dreams of becoming a fashion designer and got a full time job, leaving Nate at home to look after Celeste.

This had been going on for six months, with Marinette working over sixty hours a week. She was constantly exhausted and she missed seeing her baby, who wasn't much of a baby anymore, coming up to her third birthday soon, but with her wages and her tips, they managed to scrape by.

Nathanael wasn't handling things well at all though. It was hard for him to have his dreams slip through his fingers, and losing the art gallery had formed a creative block in him. He hadn't drawn or painted anything since that day. That, coupled with the feeling of emasculation that came from not supporting his own family and being a stay-at-home parent had lead to the situation as he now saw it.

Sure, he could have got a job, something menial and beneath him, but he was an artist. It was who he was, who he was meant to be. And like many failed artists before him, he turned to the bottle.

That was how Marinette found him when she got home at midnight. The kitchen was a mess of dirty dishes and food all over the counter and the floor. There were toys all over the living room and clothes spilling out from the laundry basket. Nathanael was sprawled out on the sofa, an open bottle of wine lying empty next to him.

Furious, Marinette headed up the stairs, hopeful that peeping in to see her angel sleeping would help calm her.

It didn't.

Celeste's face was covered in food, her hair a knotty disarray and her window was wide open, letting the chilly night air into the room. While the day had been warm, the nights were definitely getting colder. Finding her daughter like this just added fuel to the fire.

Despite her exhaustion, Marinette was too worked up to sleep. She gently closed the widow, pressing a kiss to her daughters forehead and leaving the door open a crack as she headed down the stairs. Making a noise of disgust, she looked over at her sleeping husband. Where once she felt a warmth in her heart when she looked at him, now she only felt pity and anger.

Marinette set about cleaning the kitchen, spending over an hour scrubbing the sides and the floor. She washed the dishes and took out the full bin, ready to be collected the next day. She moved onto the living room, not bothering to be quiet as she moved around, picking up toys and empty bottles. Nathanael didn't stir.

By three o'clock she was done, so she went to her room, but Marinette still wasn't ready to sleep. She pulled a suitcase out from under the bed and started filling it haphazardly with Nathanael's clothes. They wouldn't all fit into one suitcase, but it would be enough for him to be getting on with. That done, she was finally ready to sleep, knowing that tomorrow was going to be a long and difficult day.

In the morning she called in sick to work, then called her parents to look after Celeste for the day, briefly explaining the situation. Once Celeste was out of the house, it was time to wake up her husband. It took all day, and an evening spent with Alya, commiserating her failed marriage, but Marinette managed to pull herself together. She had to, for the sake of her daughter. They would be okay.

Even after all this time, Marinette didn't like seeing her ex-husband if she could help it, and while she could never regret the gift that was her daughter, she lamented the fact that she would be connected to him for the rest of her life. Still, she could live through a five minute hand-over. Even if she had to see her.

Not long after the two had separated, Nathanael had begun dating a much prettier, leggier, model-esque blonde. While their relationship hadn't lasted long, only four months or so, the red-headed artist had proceeded to date a stream of vacuous, pretty sexpots. Marinette was under no illusions of their place in his life.

That being said, his latest 'muse' was nearly ten years younger than them. She had already surpassed the six month mark, quite the achievement, and she had become something of a fixture. Marinette hoped, for Celeste's sake, this one would stick. It really wasn't fair for her daughter to keep getting attached to her father's girlfriends, just for them to up and vanish without so much as a goodbye.

Speak of the Devil...

As Marinette pulled into the driveway, she was greeted by the sight of mile long legs clad in a pair of tiny denim shorts, a trim waist and flowing auburn hair. In comparison Marinette felt short and dumpy. The pair exited the car and when they turned to face the smiling woman, they had matching fixed smiles on their faces.

Marinette tensed slightly as a pair of toned arms threw themselves around her neck.

"Nettie!" she cried enthusiastically. Marinette hated the nickname and her forced smile turned even more plastic.

"Good morning, Natasha," the bluenette replied in a much more sedate fashion, gingerly patting the woman on the back in a bland imitation of a hug until Natasha finally released her. Celeste quickly became the new object of Natasha's affections and the young girl took it about as well as Marinette had. Perhaps Marinette needed to make more effort to be friendly to her ex-husbands beau. She had been around a while now and if she was to become a permanent fixture, Marinette didn't want to be the cause of a tense relationship between Celeste and Natasha.

Luckily, years of practice with Chloe as Ladybug meant she knew she could fake it. While she had been unable to hide her displeasure with the blonde in the beginning, after some time she could manage to be civil towards her classmate. And to be fair to Natasha, she had never wronged Marinette. It was just her own personal insecurities about losing her daughter to someone better that caused her cool attitude.

Then and there she decided she would make more of an effort. The young woman did seem to be genuinely friendly. However, it could wait until after the weekend.

After a reminder about doing homework and a kiss on the cheek, Marinette was back in the car and driving home to get ready for a twelve hour shift at the restaurant. Yay.


 

The sunlight was peeking through the curtains and a beam of light inconveniently crossed Alya's pillow, blinding her through her closed lids. She groaned and rolled away, snuggling up to Nino's back and burying her face in his neck. He shifted at the contact, turning onto his back and gathering her into his arms. With her head pillowed on his naked chest and her arm around his waist Alya let out a sigh of contentment. She tangled her legs with his and placed a gentle kiss on his pectoral. Eyes still closed, he kissed the top of her head in response and the two lay there in contented silence.

The peace was broken by the chiming alert on Alya's ever present phone. She plucked it off the bedside table, being careful to avoid the shaft of light, and started flicking through articles and checking emails. She did this for ten minutes, and neither one of them said a word in this time. When she was done she pushed her phone to one side, reached her hand up to the side of his face and pulled him down for a lingering kiss.

"Good morning," Alya smiled at her fiancé and pushed herself up into a seated position, putting her glasses on. Nino followed suit, giving a cursory glance to his watch as he fit it on his wrist.

"Good afternoon," he parried. It was gone twelve but with Nino's late night DJ gig the night before, the two of them hadn't gone to sleep until nearly four o'clock. This was a fairly common occurrence for the two of them and they both kept fairly erratic sleep schedules, finding time when and where they could.

Alya slipped out of bed and headed to the kitchen, Nino following reluctantly behind. She grabbed the bag of croissants she had picked up from Tom and Sabine's bakery the day before and Nino made two cups of coffee before they headed back to bed. This was something of a weekend tradition for them and they enjoyed the time with just the two of them. They had agreed a while ago that in this time, Alya was not allowed to look at her phone and headphones were not allowed anywhere near Nino's ears. There was a minimum one hour limit placed on this rule.

They snuggled back under the duvet and tucked into their pastries while their drinks cooled.

"So, you know I met Adrien for a drink before the gig last night?" Nino began and Alya nodded her acknowledgement as she blew across the top of her coffee. "Well, you'll never guess who came to his school yesterday. He had a Parent's Evening before we met up and a mutual friend happens to have a daughter that goes to the school he teaches at..."

Alya barely managed to swallow her sip without spraying hot coffee all over Nino.

"You don't mean... not Marinette?" the reported practically shrieked, her excitement palpable. Nino hid his grin behind his own mug.

"You know it girl," he replied teasingly, knowing that this titbit would awaken Alya's long seated need to pair the two up. Adrienette had been her OTP since they all attended College Francois DuPont together. Well, them and LadyNoir but since the superhero duo had disappeared at the same time as Hawk Moth was defeated, she had let that ship go. Knowing that their two friends were both single brought her matchmaking personality to the fore.


 

Her shift started at twelve, and having clocked in, tied her hair up into a no-nonsense ponytail and secured her pinny in a knot she was ready for the inevitable onslaught of customers. Within ten minutes she had five tables in her section and was already running around like a mad woman, sending drink orders to the bar, running entrées out and occasionally hosting guests to tables. It was going to be a busy day.

Marinette didn't mind though. Busy meant tips and tips meant that she and Celeste could do more than just survive. She was determined to give Celeste every opportunity that she could, and she would work hard to make sure of that. Besides, the busy days always went by faster. Busy also meant she had less time to be clumsy. You might think the opposite was true but when she had time to think about what she was doing, that's usually when Marinette made mistakes.

Three o'clock rolled around and the restaurant hit a lull with only three or four tables left in the building. That meant a table each for the three waitresses on and the opportunity for them to take breaks. This was also the point that they could clean up after the lunch rush and prepare for the evening.

With her vacant tables clean and all customers content for the time being, Marinette had collected the salt cellars and was in the process of filling them. Other than the occasional glance round at the tables to ensure no-one was left wanting, she was fully focused on her task and didn't notice the person coming up behind her. She let out a small shriek when she felt a hand come down onto her arm and spun around, coming face to face with the blonde ex-model that had been occupying her thoughts since the night before. It had been less than twenty-four hours since she had last seen him but his presence in front of her, when she had been completely unsuspecting, caused her face to flush red and for the open cellar in her hands to drop to the floor, scattering white crystals all around her.

Adrien smiled at her apologetically.

"H-hi," she stuttered breathlessly, then turned to find the dustpan and brush to clean up the mess. "Just a sec."

Adrien made to help her but she shooed him away so he took a step back, giving her the space to clear up.

Once she was done, she tipped the salt into the bin, avoiding looking at him until she could get her embarrassment under control. Knowing that her cheeks were still slightly glowing but hoping he would put it down to sweeping up, she turned to face Adrien and gave him a shy smile.

"So, um... what are you doing here?" she questioned, her eyebrows creased slightly in confusion. Then her eyes widened as she realised how her question sounded. "Not that I don't want to see you, of course I want you... here! I mean... it's nice to see you?"

Adrien chuckled at her fumbling and gently touched her elbow, halting her in her rambling speech.

"It's nice to see you again too," he assured, the smile staying on his face. "I know it's a bit weird me just showing up here. Nino told me where you work."

Marinette's face flushed with the knowledge that the blonde had been talking to his best friend about her.

"I just thought I'd pop by on the off-chance that you might be having a break soon? I was hoping this would be a quieter time for the restaurant. Maybe you might have your lunch... dinner? with me?"

She tucked a wayward strand of hair behind her ear and Adrien followed the movement with his eyes.

"Oh... yeah... sure, I mean, that sounds nice. I'll be going on my break in about ten minutes, when Amanda comes back from hers. If you don't mind waiting?" Marinette bit her lip nervously and looked up at him through her lashes. He was struck by how adorable she looked.

"No, of course. I'll just wait over here," he indicated to a two-seater booth, "if that's okay with you?"

Marinette nodded and as he took a seat, she followed him.

"Would you like something to drink while you wait? On the house," she asked with her best waitress smile.

"Oh, no. I don't want you to go to any trouble for me."

"No trouble," she assured. "And you'd be saving me from death by salt," she winked, allowing a little of her old ladybug confidence to mingle with her waitressing personality.

He grinned up at her. "In that case, I'd love a coffee please. White, two sugars. Thank you."

She nodded again and walked away to fulfil his drink order.

Ten minutes later they were sat in the empty upstairs seating area, Adrien with a fresh coffee and Marinette with her pre-packed sandwiches and fruit salad.

They sat quietly as Marinette ate, occasionally giving each other bashful glances. Sandwich finished she brandished two forks, offering him one to share her fruit salad. Inside, her teenage self was screaming at her brashness but she somehow managed to maintain a calm exterior.

"So, what can I do for you on this beautiful day?" she began, picking out a slice of orange and popping it in her mouth in a show of nonchalance. It really was a beautiful day with the sun shining and a few puffy white clouds in the sky. If the weather report was to be believed however, it wouldn't last. Rain was scheduled later.

Adrien's eyes met her and he swallowed the blueberry in his mouth.

"Honestly, I didn't have any plans and after seeing you yesterday, I thought I'd swing by on the off chance. I didn't really give it any more thought than that," he rubbed the back of his head in embarrassment.

"I'm glad you're here," she looked down at her food and selected a strawberry.

They sat in silence for another couple of minutes, but it wasn't uncomfortable. It was like they had done this before, just sat in each other's presence. They hadn't, but it felt natural to her.

"So..." Adrien started again, putting down his fork. "I was wondering if maybe you might like to go and get a drink sometime?" a slight pink tipped his ears. "Catch up on old times. I'd really like to be friends again." Adrien smiled hopefully up at her.

Marinette's smile was wide as she nodded her agreement, her eyes sparkling. Adrien raised an eyebrow, his lips twisted in a smirk as he nodded to where she had pulled her phone out under the table.

"You know, I am a teacher. I know when someone is texting under the table," he rested his chin on his hand, elbow propped on the table. Marinette had the decency to blush. "Say hi to Alya for me," Adrien said, his grin turning teasing.

"Sorry, sorry, I just... uh... I have no excuse," she hung her head in mock shame. "Do your students get away with anything?" she glowered playfully at him. "Celeste never mentioned what a tyrant you are."

Adrien's loud laughter was his only reply and Marinette smiled happily, knowing she had caused the joyful sound.

In what seemed like no time, Marinette had to go back to work and Adrien had to go and meet Chloe for coffee. At her slight look of distaste at Chloe's name, Adrien felt the need to explain himself. He remembered how Chloe used to treat Marinette when they were teenagers.

"I know, I know," he acknowledged, "what can I say? She's my oldest friend. And she's changed a lot since school."

Marinette walked with Adrien to the front door of the restaurant. Having nothing to say on the matter, she smiled indulgently.

As long as I don't have to have anything to do with her. She thought to herself, as she waved Adrien off.


 

It was mid-afternoon when Alya's phone dinged, indicating she had received a text message. She and Nino had eventually emerged from the bed and were taking a stroll in the park, hand in hand with an ear bud each, listening to Nino's latest playlist. She grinned as she read the message from Marinette and shoved the phone under her fiancé's nose.

Nino chuckled when he saw what Marinette had written and slung an arm around Alya's shoulder, kissing her on the temple, careful not to dislodge the ear buds.

Mari: [OMG Alya, Adrien's here, at my work!! He wants to go for a drink with me!]

Alya held up her fist for Nino to bump and another alert came from her phone.

Mari: [>//< he says hi btw]

Alya burst out laughing, amused that her friend had obviously been caught texting her.

Alya: [You go girl! Say hi back]

She put her phone back away and linked her fingers back with Nino's, grinning broadly. Her good day just kept getting better.


 

It was raining when she finished work that night and Marinette had parked at the far side of the car park. Despite the fact that there was no way of avoiding getting soaked, and despite the fact that her feet ached from standing on them for nearly twelve hours straight, she couldn't keep the smile from her face. Simply put she was in an excellent mood.

Customers had been very generous with tips that day and while that was usually enough to perk her up, nothing could compare to Adrien visiting her at work and him asking her out in a date. Sure, it was a friendly catch up thing but still, a girl could dream. From what she could tell, he hadn't changed much since school. Sure he had a more easy-going attitude and laughed more easily, but that just made him more attractive to Marinette. He had always seemed a little sad when they were teenagers but that looked as if it had gone now he wasn't living under anyone's expectations. Finding his true calling in life seemed to have agreed with him.

Marinette couldn't understand why he was single though, quite frankly. He was even more gorgeous than he had been and was so friendly, loyal (judging by his still ongoing friendship with Chloe Bourgeois) and easy to be around. It was sweet that he had tried to help her clean up and he was so thoughtful, coming to see her at work. Then again, how much did Marinette really know about him? For all she knew he had a bad sense of humour, or wasn't particularly romantic. Perhaps he just wasn't interested in having a relationship with anyone, or maybe he was gay, and then obviously wouldn't be interested in her. Not that he would be interested in her anyway. She lived in hope though.

Despite all these uncertainties she couldn't help the pleasure she felt at the notion that she would get to spend an entire evening alone with him.

Taking a breath, Marinette took a mad dash out into the downpour, racing for her car. She fumbled with her keys, dropping them in a puddle, and it was only a mild irritation she felt as she watched the water splash at the impact. She fished them back out again and finally got her car door unlocked and open, quickly diving inside.

It was only a short drive home and her thoughts - that weren't occupied by Adrien - were focused on the hot shower she would have when she got in to rid her bones of the chill that her brief stint in the rain had caused. The hot water eased the aches that waitressing had put in her muscles and she felt herself relax.

Marinette towel dried her hair and twisted it in to a braid, securing the end with an elastic. She slipped in to her comfiest pyjamas, which just so happened to be Chat Noir themed, and settled in to bed. Before picking up her latest read, she decided to check her phone. There were two that she hadn't seen yet. The first was from her daughter.

Celeste: [Hi, hope work was ok. Went 2 the zoo with Dad and her. C U 2moro. Love you xx]

Marinette rolled her eyes at Celeste's text speak but her smile was fond, even if the negative attitude she had towards her father's girlfriend was apparent even through text message. Knowing that her daughter would be asleep by now, she opted not to reply until the morning.

The second text, she realised with a thud of her heart, was from Adrien. She felt like a giddy teenager which was ridiculous for a woman in her thirties, especially since it had only been twenty-four hours.

Adrien: [Let me know when you manage to get a babysitter. Can't wait to catch up. Are you going to Alya and Nino's party?]

He had sent that just under an hour ago and Marinette was uncertain whether or not to reply. She was a little torn, not wanting to wake him if he was asleep, and not wanting to look too keen in case that put him off. That being said, he text her first and she wasn't sure she'd be able to sleep if she didn't reply.

Marinette: [I actually messaged Manon earlier, I don't know if you remember her, I used to be her babysitter. It seems forever ago. She can do Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday if any of these work for you? Let me know. I'm not sure about the party yet. Sorry if this woke you up! Good night x]

Deciding against reading - she didn't think she would be able to focus, and she was pretty tired after her shift - Marinette put her phone on the bedside table, switching off her light. She was determined to go to sleep.


 

Adrien was in fact sat at his piano, softly playing random notes when his phone chimed. Usually the piano calmed him before he went to sleep, giving him fond memories of his mother who he had lost all those years ago, but tonight it didn't.

The way he dived for his phone gave him some indication as to why. He hadn't even realised he had been waiting for a reply from Marinette until it came.

He took no time in replying to her message.

Adrien: [ok, great. Wednesday then?]

He didn't want to look too keen, even if he had itched to request the earliest day.

Adrien: [I'll pick you up at 7?]

He didn't have to wait long for the reply.

Marinette: [Wednesday sounds great but can I meet you there? 7.30?]

Adrien was a little disappointed but he didn't want her to know that. Still, he was excited to see her for what he had mentally dubbed a date, even if that wasn't what he had said to her.

Adrien: [How about The Lounge? I'll see you there then ;) goodnight Mari x]


 

Marinette squealed, kicking her legs in her excitement.

Marinette: [Perfect. Goodnight Adrien x]

Chapter Text

The next morning, Marinette put a load of washing into the machine and picked up Celeste. It was a brief and awkward handover between Marinette and Nathanael, and she found herself missing the bubbly brunette. Natasha actually had a way of making these transitions smoother.

Nathanael kicked his toe into the ground, scuffing up a small mound of earth, which had the effect of making him look like a naughty school boy. He studiously avoided looking into Marinette's eyes.

"Did everything go okay this weekend?" she asked, determined to break the silence between them.

"Yeah, all good," he assured, glancing at her face. "We went to the zoo, Celeste did some of her homework but I don't think she's finished all of it."

"Oh, okay, thank you."

The two lapsed once again into an awkward silence.

"Well then... I guess we should be going," Marinette suggested, starting to head towards the car.

"Wait!" Nathanael called, quickly, putting a halt to her hasty retreat. The tips of his ears tinged pink. "Can we... uh... what I mean to say is..." he took in a steadying breath. "Can we have coffee at some point soon? I have some things to talk to you about," at the uncertain look on her face his expression softened from intense to earnest. "Please?"

She hesitated a moment more before nodding her head in agreement.

"Great," his smile was genuine when he looked at her. "Message me to let me know a good time for you. I'll be there."

The two parted ways, Marinette's mind going a mile a minute, trying to guess what he could possibly want to tell her.

She only had half an hour before Celeste's best friend, Denise would be coming over to study, and Alya would be coming for a catch up. They tried to meet at least once a month, but it hadn't been easy. Life always seemed to get in the way. She used the time to hang up the washing from earlier and put the kettle on ready.

Alya wasted no time once she arrived. The two were sat at the kitchen table, steaming mugs in front of them and a plate of biscuits to share.

"So, girl, spill. What's happening with Adrien?" Alya had her hands propped on the table in front of her and was leaning forwards in anticipation. Her desire for a story hadn't waned since school, which is what made her such a good reporter now. Marinette coloured slightly but her smile was wide when she motioned her best friend to quieten down. She hadn't shared her upcoming date with her daughter yet and she didn't want Celeste to overhear their conversation. She would tell her soon enough.

"Nothing, he just wants to have a friendly meet-up. I guess since he's been away for so long, he doesn't know many people here anymore," Marinette smiled shyly. "We're just going for a drink to catch up."

Alya gave her best friend a knowing look but made no further comment, and Marinette decided to give her no opportunity to.

"So, she says, desperately changing the subject," Alya snickered at Marinette's segue but let her continue. "Who's coming to this party of yours?"

Alya was always easy to distract, she had so many things that got her excited. A party that would reunite many of their old classmates as well as a few newer friends and colleagues was easily one of those things.

"Well, girl, originally it was a late 'welcome home' for Adrien but it kinda snowballed from there," she was practically bouncing with her enthusiasm. She listed everyone who was coming, which naturally excluded Nathanael, Sabrina and Chloe. Marinette did have the night off work but she wasn't sure if she was going yet. There were things about the past that she wasn't sure she wanted to revisit, and seeing friends you haven't seen for years had a way of bringing back memories.

Some old feelings were already stirring seeing Adrien again. Could she handle seeing everyone else so soon as well?

"Come on, let's go and see if any of your latest creations are right for the party," Alya said, grabbing Marinette by the wrist and dragging her up to the would-be designers bedroom. On the way up she could hear giggles coming from her daughter's bedroom. She was glad Celeste was having fun and she trusted her to finish her homework. The women spent a good half hour rifling through in-progress and recently finished dresses and tops, with Alya stopping to flick through Marinette's sketchbook and cooing over her unmade designs. She finally came across a page filled with wedding dresses.

Alya gasped at the beautiful drawings in  front of her, causing Marinette to look over from where she was rifling through her fabric swatches. She let a small smile cross her lips at the look on her best friend's face.

"I know you haven't set a date yet, and you and Nino are totally casual about the whole thing. Hell, for all I know you're planning on eloping, or will wear jeans and your favourite checked shirt," she walked over and sat down on the bed next to Alya. "But," she continued, flipping the page to show more design ideas, "if you do decide you want to wear something special, I was hoping you might let me design it."

Alya looked up at Marinette, a slight misting in her eyes.

"I would make it totally you, and every step would be with your approval. I just thought I'd put a few ideas down that I had. A girl can dream."

Alya lay her hand over where Marinette's rested on the sketchbook.

"Girl, I would love  it if you made my wedding dress," she assured, smiling up at the uncertain girl next to her. "And, I know I haven't officially asked you yet but... I was hoping you would be my maid of honour?"

Marinette's squeal was her only response as she threw her arms around Alya's neck, knocking her backwards onto the bed.


 

Adrien didn't think he was going out of his way every morning, but he started noticing when Celeste Kurtzberg arrived at school. He hadn't paid particular attention before but Monday morning found him looking out of the window of the staffroom as he sipped his tea.

He noticed immediately when the two girls arrived and their appearance pulled him out of his musings. It took seeing them to make him realise he had been waiting for them. With this knowledge he deliberately turned away from the window and sat down to do some work.

He didn't want to make things awkward by going out to speak to her. Marinette was the mother of one of his students and that was something of an issue. But they were friends. They could be friends. He just needed to keep it separate from school. He could be professional about this.

Realising that he was still thinking about her, he forced his attention to the lesson plan in front of him.

It wasn't any better at the end of the school day either, and without the distraction of impending classes to keep his focus, he once again found himself drawn to the window to watch her collect Celeste.

Texting her in the evenings did little to alleviate his desire to see her. It was ridiculous. He hadn't felt this way about her when they went to school together, so why would he suddenly find himself this interested in Marinette Dupain-Cheng. Not that he hadn't noticed her in school.

Over the years they had become closer, her nervousness lessening after the first year or so. But even before that he couldn't help but see how courageous she was, always sticking up for people against bullies, how creative she was with her designs, and her laughter had been one of his favourite sounds, even if at the time he couldn't admit it. And no one could deny how pretty she was.

If Ladybug hadn't got there first, would he have given his heart to Marinette instead? There was no point dwelling on it. He couldn't change the past. He was getting a second chance now. Even if it was just to have another good friend back in his life.


 

She didn't realise until she reached the school and didn't see him there, that she had been hoping he would be there. Marinette shook her head at her own foolishness. She hadn't seen him before Parent's Evening, and he had been working there for weeks already. Why would he be there now? He wouldn't. Still, she acknowledged that a part of her had hoped he would be.

Despite this, she felt the same way on Tuesday and Wednesday when she dropped Celeste off at school, and couldn't control the small twist of disappointment in her stomach each time at not seeing him. Still, she consoled herself Wednesday morning, at least she would be seeing him that evening.

She had her usual lunch shifts, from twelve 'til three on Monday and Tuesday, and they were nothing out of the ordinary, but Wednesday was her day off, and that gave her an entire day to be nervous about the upcoming date. Not a date. Friend date? Let's go with that.

Not that she had nothing to do. She had to clean the house, and she was keen to get some sewing done. Even though Marinette had given up her dreams of becoming a fashion designer, it didn't mean she had stopped designing. Much like she had done in school, she often made her own clothes as well as clothes for Celeste and Alya. Occasionally she was even able to pick up a commission from the parents at Celeste's school.

Sewing had always soothed her, and right now she was working on a butterfly themed top in deep purples and blues. The fabric was satin and the garment had mostly taken shape. Marinette pulled it on to the desk in front of her and grabbed a pot of silver sequins to begin detailing. This required a lot of concentration and she was confident it would distract her from her nerves.

Two hours later she finally surfaced, pleased to note that she had managed to avoid thinking about Adrien for the entire time. Noticing it was nearly lunch time, Marinette headed down to the kitchen and rummaged through the fridge, trying to find some inspiration for a meal. While she was relatively good at baking, cooking had never really been her forte, although she had become good enough over the years. She and Celeste had certainly not starved.

She pulled some leftover lasagne from the fridge, putting it on a plate and reheating it in the microwave. While she waited for the timer to ding, Marinette prepared herself a small side salad and grabbed a glass of water. Putting her meal onto the breakfast bar and pulling up a stool, she tucked in and planned the rest of her day.

After lunch she would wash the dishes, then clean the rest of the kitchen. The vacuum needed to go round and the living room needed dusting. That would fill her time before she had to pick Celeste up from school. She couldn't bury the hope that she would see Adrien at the school gates, although she knew it was a foolish wish. That evening couldn't come fast enough.


 

For once, Adrien was in a hurry to leave the school after classes had finished. It was four o'clock which meant he had three hours until meeting Marinette that night and somehow it didn't feel like enough time. Maybe it was the model in him. Because he was leaving so early, it happened that he was outside the school gates at the same time as Marinette.

They both froze seeing each other, uncertain how to act around each other, especially in front of hundreds of Adrien's students and Celeste's school friends. Both of them could feel their cheeks burning. They weren't close enough for conversation and after a few moment of awkwardly staring at each other, Adrien held his hand up in a wave. Marinette copied the movement and Adrien ducked his head, hurrying away.

Well that was embarrassing, he thought to himself. Adrien fervently hoped the date would go better than that encounter had.


 

Marinette tried to appear calm for proprieties sake, but there were definite butterflies in her stomach when she let Manon in at six forty-five. Celeste was lounging on her stomach in front of the television, game controller in hand,  and Marinette was just clipping on her earrings. While she didn't go out very often, Manon had babysat for her on a few occasions over the last three years and now, at seventeen, she had blossomed into quite the beautiful young lady. Her pigtails had long gone and orthodontics had fixed her buck teeth. She was tall and slim and looked very much like her mother, Nadja. It made Marinette feel old when she remembered the little angel that she used to babysit.

The taxi was waiting outside for her at seven and she grabbed her bag as she dashed out the door, calling a quick goodbye to her daughter, receiving a mumbled response in return.

The plan had been to arrive at the cocktail bar early and beat Adrien there. That way she could compose herself for his arrival. Seeing him earlier had only served to increase her nervousness. Teenage Marinette had definitely managed to make an appearance when she had seen him outside the school. She could remember several occasions where she had been stood waving awkwardly at him in the past.

Apparently he had had the same idea because he was sat on a bar stool waiting. He rose when he saw her come in.

She looked beautiful dressed in a burgundy wool dress that fell to her knees, gently hugging her curves. She wore black tights and ankle boots, making her the perfect combination of smart casual and he was glad at his choice of attire. His grey blazer over a black tee and dark jeans was understated but he knew he looked good. After years in the modelling industry, it was impossible not to know what worked. He was pleased to note that their outfits complimented each other rather well.

Marinette shyly tucked her loose hair behind her ear.

"You look... very pretty tonight."

It was an understatement but Adrien was trying to play it a little cool.

"You, too," Marinette replied, her cheeks pinking slightly. Then her eyes widened as she realised what she said. "Handsome, I mean, You look... handsome..." she trailed off, and she slowly placed her face in her hand in a delicate but unmistakable facepalm. Adrien chuckled at her words and her antics.

"Can I get you a drink?" he asked, sweeping his arm to indicate the bar behind him and perching once more on the bar stool. Marinette walked closer and placed her clutch on said bar, hopping up to sit on her own stool, a lot less gracefully than Adrien had managed. But there again, he had a good nine inches on her. She couldn't resist letting her eyes trail down the length of him as he was signalling to the bar tender.

Her eyes quickly snapped back up to his face when she realised that not only had he asked her something, he was looking right at her. Her face was so warm she was sure he could feel it.

"I-I'm s-sorry, w-what was that?"

Adrien cocked an eyebrow, his lips quirking slightly.

"Would you like some wine, or a cocktail? Or something soft?"

Marinette ordered a glass of wine and Adrien chose the same. They headed over to a small round table with booth seating. Suddenly, the comfortable silence they had shared the other day was gone, and neither one of them could think of something to say. Adrien decided to take the bull by the horns.

"So... the weather has been nice today," he internally slapped the back of his own head. Weather??? What was he, British? Marinette gave him a bemused look.

"Um.. yeah... I suppose. I've been inside most of the day, sewing."

Glad for a topic he had some knowledge of, and something he knew she was passionate about, Adrien encouraged her to elaborate.

Hours passed quickly. They discussed Celeste and her school life, although that was a short conversation as they had met for that exact reason only a few evenings ago. They got a bottle of wine to share and briefly discussed Nathanael, although neither one of them wanted to dwell on that topic for long.

Soon the conversation turned to Adrien.

"Well, there's nothing much to discuss," he demurred, looking into his glass before looking back at Marinette. "After school, I agreed to do a year-long modelling stint for my father. We made a deal that if I spent a year doing location work for the Gabriel brand then afterwards I could stop modelling and study what I wanted to."

Marinette covered his hand with her own where it rested on the table between them.

"It wasn't so bad," he rushed to assure her. "I got to travel the world and see a lot of amazing things. I'd love to tell you more about it some time. And I got to study physics at Cambridge University in England. I got my masters and then a teaching degree. I don't know if you know, but up until now I've been teaching in Nice," Adrien sighed when he thought back to his last school. He had made friends with a few of his colleagues, but he couldn't deny that Paris was where he belonged. "I'm glad to be back though."

Marinette had always known that Adrien was smart, and him being good a physics came as no surprise, but Marinette hadn't realised that he was so passionate about it. He had gone to great lengths to achieve his dream and Marinette was proud of her friend.

Her pride was tinged with a little sadness though, when she thought back to her own dreams growing up. Adrien noticed her falling expression.

"Tell me what happened with you. If you don't mind me asking, why did you not go to design school? You were so talented, even back then. There's nothing wrong with waitressing, if that's what you want to do, but I always thought you were destined for something... else."

Marinette bit her lip and looked away. Adrien started to splutter apologetically but she stopped him.

"It's... fine, I mean, it's not, but it is. I don't mind talking about it," she decided, drawing in a deep breath. "Back just before we finished school, I decided to give Nathanael a chance. I had liked... someone else for quite a long time but I realised that what I was waiting for wasn't possible. They were an unattainable goal, and maybe I just liked them because I knew I would never do anything about it. I wouldn't take the chance and I wouldn't get hurt, I guess," Marinette didn't usually talk about this but she was already half way through her third glass of wine, and something about Adrien's presence made her feel... safe. "Well, that's not quite true. I liked them for them as well but at first I thought I was in love. I realised that actually it was more of an obsession. How can you love someone you don't really know?"

Marinette's question had inadvertently reminded Adrien of his own first love but he didn't interrupt and pushed the thought away for the time being. Marinette deserved his full attention right now.

"Anyway, that's not important. Nathanael had always seemed to like me, and it seemed as though he saw the real me, and liked me anyway, clumsy, fumbling Marinette," she held a hand up when Adrien would protest her self-deprecation. "So I gave him a chance. That was probably unfair to him, I didn't feel as strongly, but love can grow, right? And I did grow to love him. But I don't know if I was ever in love with him."

Marinette shook her head and looked up at Adrien apologetically. "Sorry, I'm not really answering your question."

"It's fine, keep going."

"Well, we had been dating for a while, and then I discovered I was pregnant. It wasn't planned and I think we were both scared but we decided to make a proper go at it. Be a family. So we got married. I decided to postpone going to university for a year after Celeste was born, Nathanael did a course on art history and opened a gallery. It was mostly his own stuff and a few friends sold their pieces through him. I think Celeste was two when he lost the gallery. I had been at school for a year," Marinette's voice shook. She didn't realise that this still affected her as much as it seemed to. But then, she never really talked about it with anyone. "Nathanael couldn't cope with it. I don't want to get into details but he basically fell apart. I had to get work and quickly so we could pay the bills. Waitressing was my best option. I never worked before twelve so I got every morning with Celeste and even though I missed a lot, it needed to be done. About six months later I had had enough of Nate not even trying. I was working sixty plus hour weeks and he... never mind. I... asked him to leave and I kept Celeste with me. We struggled for a long time but my parents helped a lot and we received benefits from the government and we survived."

Adrien slid closer and put an arm around her shoulders. She sighed deeply, mournfully, and allowed herself to lean in to him. It felt good to lean on someone for once. To not have to be strong.

"Hundreds do it every day," she whispered.

The two of them sat that way, Adrien's fingers tracing comforting circles on Marinette's shoulder, neither one of them wanting to break the moment.

Eventually they broke apart again, although they were sat closer than they had been before. Adrien gave Marinette a brief history of Chloe Bourgeois, explaining how she had stopped pursuing him when he had given up modelling, and since then they had managed to become better friends, like they had been when they were children. He was glad to have his friend back. It was no secret that he didn't approve of the way she used to treat people when they were teenagers, Marinette especially. That topic of conversation was largely one sided, Marinette believing that if you didn't have something nice to say, don't say anything at all. Especially as Adrien seemed to have a good relationship with the blonde girl now.

They spent the rest of the evening chatting about everything and nothing, just enjoying each other's company and learning little things about each other. Adrien hated cheese but will occasionally have some camembert. Marinette feeds stray cats in her neighbourhood. They shared little titbits from their lives and before they knew it, it was gone eleven and the bar was closing.

They called for a taxi, deciding to share one as neither wanted to part company just yet.

"Can I ask," Adrien began, once they were safely inside the car, "why did you want to meet here rather than me picking you up?"

Marinette looked away and fidgeted her fingers.

"I... I didn't tell Celeste that I was meeting you tonight, not that there was anything to tell, I mean, just two friends catching up and all... I don't know why I didn't tell her. It's just a bit weird with you being her teacher and everything and I didn't want her to misunderstand. Then I thought that if this was just a one off thing then there would be no point telling her anyw-"

Adrien cut off Marinette's babbling by taking her delicate hands into his larger ones, stroking his thumbs across the back of them.

"I don't want this to be just a one-time thing, Mari," he stated, looking deliberately into her eyes, and she found herself entrapped in his, unable to look away. He always had had the most gorgeous, summer green eyes. "I understand that you didn't want to tell her yet, it's an unusual situation, but I want us to be friends. I'd like for us to do this again some time. I really enjoyed tonight."

Marinette blushed. Neither of them had realised the taxi had come to a stop until the driver cleared his throat. Adrien opened his door and walked around the car to open Marinette's, offering her a hand. Always the gentleman.

With a quick "I'll be right back," to the driver, Adrien tucked Marinette's hand into the crook of his arm and escorted her to her door. They stopped as she fished her keys out from her bag.

Adrien reached for her hand, bringing it up to his lips to brush a kiss across her knuckles.

"Bonne nuit, Princess," he bid, and then he was headed back towards the road. Marinette stared dumbfounded after him. She was flustered at his actions but more than that, he had stirred a long distant memory, she just couldn't quite place it...

Chapter Text

"Maman, Papa, we're here," Marinette called out as she entered the front entrance of the bakery, the bell at the door tinkling cheerfully. The smell of freshly baked bread was a welcome one and immediately put a smile on her face. Sabine's head poked up from where she was refilling a case with pain au chocolat and Tom came to the door from the back kitchen, apron covered in flour and icing. The smiles on their faces were as warm and welcoming as the sweets that they had on display and Marinette was filled with the sense of home. Not that she didn't feel at home in her own house, but there was nothing like the feeling of going back to where you grew up with the love of your parents.

Celeste was equally happy to be at her grandparents, and only a small part of that was the sweets they would inevitably be giving her while she stayed over for the night. Her grandparents always had a habit of spoiling her and it was a wonder that any of them had managed to maintain their svelte figures. A case of good genes she supposed. Celeste ran around the counter to throw her arms around her grandmother while Tom slipped his apron off over his head, brushing off any loose flour. He came up next to the hugging pair and wrapped them both in his warm embrace, lifting them both briefly off the ground in his excitement. His gesture for Marinette to join was unnecessary as she was already slipping into the familial hug.

After the greetings, Sabine arranged a plate of pastries, making sure to pick out Marinette and Celeste's favourites and took the two girls upstairs, leaving Tom to cover the shop. It would only be open for another half hour anyway and then he could join them. Tom smiled fondly at the three girls, his girls, as they headed up the staircase. He hurried back to the kitchen to clean up.

Upstairs, Celeste headed up to her mother's old bedroom to drop off her bag while Marinette and Sabine settled onto the stools around the island in the kitchen, kettle boiling ready for tea. The room was still as pink as when it had been her mother's room, and Celeste felt closer to Marinette when she stayed here, like she could absorb who her mother was.

She looked about the room, walking up to the wall of framed photographs that didn't quite hide the paler squares on the wallpaper where Marinette used to hang her posters. Celeste didn't know what the posters were of, although she knew her mother had been a huge Jagged Stone fan. That was probably what the posters were she thought to herself, and made a note to ask her mother at a later time.

Celeste was getting to the age now where curiosity over her parent's past was starting to pique. She didn't think quite so often of her father, but then she didn't see him as much. She felt guilty about that. She did love her father and wanted to make more of an effort with him. Natasha wasn't all that bad either.

But it was Marinette's past that intrigued Celeste. Maybe it had something to do with how alike they were, while at the same time so very different. While Celeste had a large group of friends and often went out to see them, her mother only really seemed to have Alya, and she barely saw her as it was. It made the young girl happy to know Marinette was going to a party that night.

Quite often, Celeste felt a sadness from her mother that Marinette tried to keep hidden. When they were in the bakery, all that sadness seemed to disappear. That was another reason Celeste loved being here. Her mother had obviously had a happy childhood growing up here.

As if to prove her point, when she headed back down she found her mother and grandmother in fits of laughter over who knew what, and seeing the two most important women and role models in her life this happy made her smile. She hurried to join them, picking up a biscuit and dipping it into her own cup of tea.


 

Having decided to go to the party, it hadn't taken long for Marinette to decide on the butterfly top. It just needed the last finishing touches and it would be done. It took her less than an hour to hem it and trim off the loose threads. She checked that the sequins were all secure and put it onto her mannequin for the final inspection. Now that she was finished, she was excited to go to the party. It had been a long time since she had a proper night out with a group of friends. Well, this was a night in but still. She had a pair of dark blue skinny jeans that would go perfectly with the completed top and she'd wear the ankle boots from her friend-date with Adrien. Yes, she was still calling it that.

Happy that her outfit was sorted, she started to get ready for the evening. First things first, a bath.


 

Earlier in the day, Adrien had sent Marinette a text asking if he could pick her up. Since she was home alone, she had agreed. She still needed to talk to her daughter about Adrien but she wanted it to be casual and every time she tried to bring it up it felt forced, like she was putting too much importance on it.

She felt a flutter in her stomach at the notion that he actually wanted to pick her up, almost as if this were a date. The fact that Alya would see them arrive together gave her pause though. Her best friend was like a dog with a bone and this would only add fuel to the fire. She didn't allow herself to be consumed by her uncertainties though. Who cared what anyone else though. She and Adrien were friends, nothing more. Besides, she was a grown woman, not a blushing teenager anymore. She could cope with a few sly comments.

There was only half an hour until Adrien was arriving and Marinette was all set. Alya and Nino were supplying drinks and nibbles so Marinette didn't need to take anything with her. She had her handbag for her phone, keys and purse just in case, and she was ready to go. She gently fingered the charm bracelet on her wrist. Many charms had been added to it over the years but her fingers inevitably found her favourites, the ones that were attached to it when she had received it. The ladybug charm and the black cat with a tiny green gem for its eyes.

Tikki would have been proud of her being so prepared. It was in quiet moments alone that she really missed her Kwami. In the grand scheme of things they hadn't been together all that long, not even four years, and yet, she had been such a huge part of Marinette's life that she still missed her. There had never been a time in her later teenage years that she had ever had to be lonely, all her spare time taken up with conversations with the sprite. Even as she had gotten older, when she felt she needed to talk to someone, she pretended Tikki was there with her. Now was one of those times.

"Oh, Tikki, I really don't know if I can do this. It's been so long since I've seen everyone. I kind of feel like a failure in life you know? Waitressing part time, single mother, no career aspirations, no love life... not that I necessarily want a boyfriend or anything..." who was she kidding? Adrien's face came to the forefront of her mind once again.

Marinette could just imagine Tikki's encouraging response. Self-esteem was something she had always struggled with, even when her alter-ego was a superhero.

"I know, I know, I can do anything I put my mind to," she agreed with Tikki's voice in her head. "I mean, look how much better I am at talking to Adrien, aren't you proud of me?" Marinette smiled as she pictured her old mentor's face. "I wish you could have met Celeste, you would have liked her. She's my whole world," Marinette cheered slightly thinking of her daughter. "I guess I'm not a complete failure then."

She sat quietly with her eyes closed, feeling the remembered warmth of having a friend like Tikki to look back on. Sometimes it was like remembering someone who had died. Even though she knew that Tikki had lived through hundreds of generations and would outlive Marinette herself, there was still a genuine feeling of grief that came from knowing she would never see or speak to her friend again. It still made her feel better to pretend that she was with her now, offering her sage advice, garnered from centuries of living.

She was brought out of her musings by a knock at her door. Adrien was here and it was time to go to the party.


 

The party was in full swing when they arrived, and it seemed as though Alya had already put away a few drinks. She and Nino greeted Adrien and Marinette at the door, both hosts with overly wide smiles on their faces at seeing their friends arrive together.

Music played in the background and even after all this time, Marinette could recognise a playlist put together by her old school friend. Nino had always had fantastic taste in music and a talent for putting sounds together. People were dotted around the room, some sitting and chatting, some almost dancing, heads bopping and bodies swaying to the music. It was hardly surprising. Nino had once got the Mayor of Paris to dance in no time flat, and he was a stuffed shirt. The boy was magic with music.

As Marinette looked around the room, she realised that they were the last to arrive, many of her old classmates in various stages of inebriation and everyone looking like they were enjoying themselves. Ivan and Mylene were the first one's she noticed. Ivan wasn't as broad as he used to be, losing some of his puppy fat as he matured, but he was even taller than she remembered, especially when compared to his wife with the multi-coloured hair next to him. It didn't seem like she had grown at all since they were teenagers. In fact, she seemed unchanged, her large amber eyes crinkled happily as she looked up at her husband. Even back then, Marinette knew they were made for each other, and it looked as though the two were still going strong.

Her heart only twisted slightly at the love she saw when they looked at each other. She glanced up at Adrien when she felt his hand squeeze her shoulder. Hope blossomed in her heart.

It came as no surprise to see Alix and Kim arguing in the corner. Their competitive nature was still apparent. Alix's pink hair was shorter now, cut in a style similar to how Rose's had been, but much like Mylene, she hadn't gained much stature over the years. Considering her own petite frame, Marinette wondered if it was just something about the girls in her class. The boys certainly didn't seem to be lacking in height.

She reconsidered when she saw the couple that were quietly chatting on the sofa. Their body language suggested an intimacy in their relationship, and they touched each other seemingly unconsciously at any opportunity. Juleka had turned into a beautiful woman, willowy and graceful, she could have been a model with her looks and body. She wore her purple hair away from her face now and she glowed with a confidence that Marinette had never seen from the quiet girl. Rose sat with her hand rested on Juleka's knee, her perpetually happy face beaming up at her girlfriend. Marinette was extremely pleased the two women had found each other.

Max again was unchanged, his curly hair kept in a short, no-nonsense style and his square glasses perched on his nose. What surprised Marinette was how drunk he obviously was. Either he'd had even more than Alya had, or he was particularly lightweight. He was sat on a chair in the living area, swaying slightly to the music, or at least she thought it was to the music. His eyes were closed presumably to better enjoy the song. Or perhaps it was to stop the room spinning. His swaying was a little slow for the up-beat tempo of the current track. She noticed his hand gripping the arm of the sofa as if to steady himself.

After two hours of talking and laughing, dancing and catching up with old friends, Mylene and Ivan had to leave. They had children at home and they had to relieve the babysitter. Everyone gathered to give hugs. They were all sorry to see the couple go so early into the party.

"I'm really sorry guys, but we really do have to go," Mylene begged, trying to gently detach a clinging Rose. The small blonde girl always had been one to try and keep the friends together, her unending optimism and goodness easily drawing people to her. It showed that she and Juleka were a wonderful match, balancing each other out perfectly.

"Please, just stay another half an hour," Rose begged, widening her baby blue eyes in a way she must have imagined looked imploring, but due to how much she had had to drink just came across a little manic. Mylene giggled but finally managed to pry herself free.

"The babysitter is waiting, it's already eleven o'clock, I'd like to get home before midnight. I promise we'll go for coffee. Soon," Mylene assured Rose, air kissing her cheeks which caused the blonde to giggle.

"Oh!" Rose cried, the excited sound making several people jump. "Here's my number. I don't think you have it!" She held her hand out for Mylene's phone, bouncing impatiently on the balls of her feet. How she still had this much energy in her thirties was anyone's guess. She was just one of those people. After typing in her number, she finally let the married couple leave, waving enthusiastically after them. More kisses were given to the departing couple.

Once they had left, people migrated back to the living room. Most of them needed a break from dancing, and conversation still hadn't run dry. That is how they found themselves all sat in a vague circle, some on furniture and some on the floor. The sounds of general conversation filled the room until Alya stood up, wobbling slightly as she did so. Giggling to herself, she lifted her glass to gain attention.  The chatter slowly died down and all eyes turned to the hostess.

"So... I think it's time for drinking games!" she called excitedly, to the muffled groans of most of the room. Unsurprisingly, Kim and Alix both cheered. Any opportunity for competition.

Alya encouraged everyone to have full glasses and the room once more became quiet with anticipation.

"What do people want to play?" Alya asked, looking around at everyone.

"Truth or dare!"

"Spin the bottle!"

"Ring of fire!"

"Never have I ever!"

The last one was from Nino and Alya smirked. It was a little less traditional and had a lot more potential for drinking. Also, with the secrets she knew about the people in this room, she could really have some fun.

"Let's do it!" she cried and the game began. Alya, of course, started. She sat cross legged on the floor, shifting slightly to make herself comfortable and nearly spilled her drink. Focussing more than necessary, she raised the glass in front of her face. Before she had her go she decided to briefly go over the rules.

"We'll start with something easy. If you've done the thing I say I haven't done, you have to drink." She glared around the group, pointing an accusing finger at everyone in the room. "Complete honesty here people." Alya took a breath, thinking of something to start. "Ah, okay. Never have I ever... kissed a girl."

All the boys and most of the girls took a drink, Alya included.

"I thought the point was to get other people to drink, not to drink yourself?" Max asked, pushing his glasses up his nose and directing his question at Alya. She couldn't control her giggle.

"Sorry, I got a bit excited," she apologised, not looking sorry at all. She looked to the left of her. "Nino next."

Nino straightened up slightly, realising he hadn't thought of something to say. He scratched behind his ear nervously, and adjusted his glasses, his usual cap missing from his head. Several other people in the group seemed to have the same idea as looks of concentration passed quite a few faces.

"Never... have I ever..." his glance travelled around the group, still searching for inspiration, "umm... had a crush on Ladybug," he finished, his gaze resting on his best friend, a wicked glint in his eye.

Once again almost everyone took a drink. The only ones who didn't were Alix, Max, Nino and Marinette. The latter did turn a vibrant shade of red though when she saw everyone drinking, especially when she noticed Adrien downing his. He touched his sleeve to his mouth, ensuring none of his drink had spilled and gave her a sheepish look when he set his glass down and refilled it. She smiled back at him and managed to roll her eyes playfully. Rose went next, but even now she was too nice for her own good and said "walking on the moon," giggling uproariously when she said it and toppling over onto the floor. Obviously no one drank and she got a few groans from the group. When Juleka went next she mumbled something that no one understood, and after a moment of bank stares, and because of Rose's dud, everyone decided to take a drink.

Then it came around to Marinette.

"Umm... never have I ever..." she cast about desperately, wanting to come up with something suitably provocative. Inspiration came when she saw Alya give Nino an enthusiastic kiss, hand squeezing his knee. "Never have I ever had sex with someone in this room!" she stated triumphantly. A few of Alya's co-workers took a drink, causing Alya to laugh out loud and Marinette could see her brain trying to figure out the pairings while she took her own drink. None of the others were a surprise to anyone. People were incredulous however, when neither Alix nor Kim drank.

Alya pointed a slightly wobbly finger at the two of them.

"You mean to tell me... that you two -hic- have never slept together?" the reporter demanded disbelievingly. "Nope, I don't buy it. Drink!" she shouted, slightly too loudly, bouncing on the floor where she sat cross-legged. Alix and Kim glanced at each other, turned matching shades of pink and looked away.

"Like I would have sex with him," Alix scoffed, unable to keep herself from blushing.

"Pfft, she wishes she could get all up on this," Kim stated, looking anywhere but at Alix. Alya just stared at them both with an assessing look in her eye but decided to drop the topic. For now.

As Adrien was sat next to Marinette - which incidentally made Alya very happy. She hadn't even had to orchestrate the seating arrangements, not that it was above her to do so - it was his turn.

He barely paused, his eyes settling on Nino with a hint of revenge in their peridot depths.

"Never have I ever had sex in the back seat of a red Renault Twingo."

"That's cold dude. I thought we were bros," Nino glared at Adrien before he knocked back his drink and smirked at the blonde. "I was gonna hold back but this means war."

Adrien's amusement quickly drained as he thought over the possibilities that Nino could say. He wouldn't be too cruel. Would he?

They went around the circle, the nature of the game causing people to get drunk at quite a rapid pace. Some people weren't even trying so it came as no surprise when most people could swim, and that all but one had moved away from their parent's home. Alya had gotten quite drunk at this point and she became more inappropriate as the night went on. Nino, true to his word, had deliberately targeting the blonde ex-model, causing him to drink every time it was the DJ's turn. Although Nino wasn't as bad as he could have been. He had uncovered that Adrien was still a weeb and that he owned a pair of Ladybug boxer shorts (Marinette turned into a stuttering mess after that revelation).

It was the last round of the game they were going to play and the gloves were off.

"Never have I ever had a sexual fantasy about a person in this room!" Alya cried happily, once more downing her drink, ignoring that she was supposed to avoid that outcome. Several people glanced at others before taking their drink and Adrien and Marinette both caught the other's eye, faces burning before drinking. Alix and Kim had done exactly the same and Alya was having a field day. It seemed that no amount of alcohol could dull her reporter senses.

Adrien couldn't stop thinking about Marinette taking that drink. He had had improper thoughts about her when they were teenagers once or twice but he couldn't deny that she had featured in his thoughts a fair few times this past week. Who had she been having sexual fantasies about? Was it egotistical for him to hope that she fantasised about him?

It was Nino's turn and Adrien was a little afraid. Not as much as he might have been several drinks ago but still.

"Never have I ever," he began, pausing for effect as he let his eyes settle once more on his best friend. "Parkoured."

Adrien glared at the double meaning behind Nino's statement. Nino knew that Adrien used to be Chat Noir. In fact, he was the only one he had ever told his secret identity to, and Nino was referring to Adrien's time as the masked hero. Hopefully people were too drunk to question. Sure, Adrien could have not drunk, but the idea didn't even occur to him at this point.

He didn't miss Marinette's questioning look in his direction but tried not to look back. If he looked at her he felt he might give away too much. That didn't mean he missed the fact that she took a drink as well. Seriously? Adrien thought to himself. Marinette? Parkour? The notion seemed a little ridiculous. She had been the self-confirmed clumsiest girl in their class, probably the school. Then again, who would have ever guessed that mild mannered, model perfect, Adrien Agreste would have done it either? Everyone had their secrets. No one else seemed to be aware though, giving Nino incredulous looks that he would suggest anyone present might have done that and already focussing on the next participant. Neither of them noticed Alya's raised eyebrow.

The round finished fairy quickly with a few more drinks consumed and everyone was definitely on their way to very drunk. With laughter and ribbing at various secrets that had been revealed, the group split off, some heading to the kitchen for food and others finding quiet corners for conversation and other less innocent activities.

Chapter Text

"What was that?" Alya demanded, slamming her hands onto the dressing table either side of Nino. He gave her his best smouldering look.

"What was what, babe?" he asked, seemingly oblivious to her mood as he ran a hand up her exposed side, making her jolt. She pushed away from him and crossed her arms, glaring up at the man.

"That thing, with the parkour? What the fuck was that?"

"Uhhm..." he faltered, taking the hand that he had been trying to touch her with and using it to rub the back of his head, looking anywhere but at her. "What are you talking about?" he asked, feigning innocence.

"I just... I don't... Look at me Nino!" Alya grabbed his shirt collar and pulled him closer to her face, unimpressed with his evasive attitude. "Was Adrien Chat Noir?" she demanded, all traces of inebriation seeming to have fled in the face of a potentially juicy story.

"Umm... No?" Nino tried, well aware that he had lost this conversation before he even realised it had started. Stupid drinking game.

"Nino Lahiffe, I swear to God, if you don't tell me the truth right now, I... I'll..." Alya searched wildly, trying to find a suitable punishment. "I won't ever do that thing you like so much again. You know, with my tongue?"

Nino blanched. He certainly didn't want that. His girl had a wicked tongue. He held up his hands in surrender.

"Fine! You know how to hit where it hurts! Yes, my man Adrien was Chat Noir, happy now?"

Alya squealed, jumping on the spot with excitement. Out of habit when the superhero duo was mentioned, her phone had appeared in her hand as if by magic. It was more of a reflex than anything though as she didn't even unlock it, just held it tight in her hand as she bounced. In a flash she pounced on Nino, knocking him down onto the bed and showing him exactly how happy she was. Despite leaving their guests unattended, Nino had never regretted a decision less.


 

Following the game of Never Have I Ever, and with the heat of some of the revelations still evident on her face, Marinette decided to head out to the balcony for some fresh air. She stepped into the night and took a deep breath. It had been a very long time since she had drunk this much and she was definitely affected. Her head was fuzzy and she couldn't feel the cold at all. She could also feel that she was less inhibited, like she could do anything. She felt daring but wasn't sure if that was a good thing.

She was alone for less than a minute before Marinette heard the doors open behind her and felt someone join her. A warm hand came to rest next to hers on the railing, their little fingers just brushing and the warmth gave her a small thrill. She turned her head to see Adrien standing next to her, looking out at the lights of Paris. Marinette turned around to lean against the railing, putting her hands back on the bar and deliberately brushing her fingers against his as she did so, revelling in her audacity. She allowed herself this moment to check him out. She hadn't felt brave enough before but now she decided she could be more leisurely about it.

Adrien was wearing navy trousers and a pale blue shirt which perfectly showcased how sun-kissed his skin was. The trousers were pulled tight across his hips by his powerful thighs and shapely behind and Marinette admired the way it encased the lines of his body. The shirt was tucked in, highlighting just how trim his waist still was, although he had filled out since they were young. Before, whether it was just his natural shape or an unhealthy model diet, he had seemed on the skinny side of lean. Now, however, his physique was slim but powerful, well muscled with very little fat. The sight of it was enough to make her mouth water.

It was obvious that he still kept himself in shape and Marinette was sure that if he ever wanted to model again, there would be absolutely no difficulty in getting back into the profession. In fact, she suspected it would make a lot of people happy. She thought back to the posters of his that used to litter her bedroom wall and knew that she wouldn't hesitate to seek out his magazines if he graced them again.

Marinette's eyes lazily travelled back up his body, taking in every edge and curve of him. She finally made it back up past his broad, strong shoulders and came face to face with his gorgeous green eyes, crinkled in mischief, his very kissable lips twisted into a smirk.

"See something you like?" he asked, taking a moment to give her a similar appraisal, enjoying the pink tint to her cheeks and the self-conscious squeak she emitted. Alcohol had clearly lowered his inhibitions as well, allowing him to say the things he wanted to, act the way he wanted to.

Deciding not to answer the question, she determined a quick subject change was in order.

"So, you had a thing for Ladybug, eh?" Marinette smiled up at him. She had wanted to question the parkour thing but wasn't sure if Adrien had noticed her drinking and didn't want him asking too many questions there. Besides, she wanted to know how he had felt about her, even if it was her alter-ego.

Adrien rubbed the back of his neck sheepishly, thoroughly distracted, as she hoped.

"Yeah... I mean, she was great. And pretty hot in all that spandex. Who didn't have a thing for her?"

He looked down at Marinette's petite form, appreciating how beautiful she looked in the moonlight. The shape on the butterfly across her top and the way the sleeves draped made it look as if the insect was taking flight whenever she moved her arms, and the way it nipped in brought his attention to her shapely body. The sequins glittered as a breeze ruffled the fabric. Adrien spotted another sparkle at her wrist. It was the charm bracelet he had noticed her wearing at Parent's Evening. Did she always have it on? He thought he caught a glimpse of a ladybug themed charm but shrugged it off. Ladybug was popular with their generation, as evidenced by the number of people who had taken a drink for their crush on her. Adrien pushed away the thoughts of another girl, with a similar charm bracelet. He was here with Marinette and he was glad.

"Are you trying to tell me that you didn't have even a small crush on Chat Noir?" Adrien waggled his eyes suggestively and leaned into her personal space, suddenly looking every inch the black suited cat hero. Marinette's face flooded with heat. All of a sudden her stutter was back full force and she was eighteen years old again.

"H-he... I-I-I... I mean... yes?" the end of her sentence coming out as a squeaked question. She covered her face with her hands, trying to hide her embarrassment. Adrien responded with a large grin and suddenly they seemed closer than they had been before. The idea that Marinette had had a crush on him, even if it was his hero counterpart, had his pulse jumping and his nerves tingling. He liked that she had noticed him.

One moment Marinette was quietly standing next to Adrien, remembering another blonde boy with bright green eyes and the next moment she was in his arms, his lips pressed against hers. She gasped at the sudden onslaught, eyes wide, but when his lips started to move, shaping themselves to hers, Marinette let her eyes close to better enjoy the sensation.

The kiss was gentle and questioning, and barely lasted a minute before Adrien was reluctantly pulling away, eliciting a whimper from the woman in his arms. He didn't let go of her though, his hands clasping her hips tightly, fingers gently kneading her soft curves.

"Sorry," he whispered, his face still close enough that Marinette felt the words as much as heard them. "I shouldn't have done that," but still he didn't move away.

"You know, when we were in school I had the biggest crush on you," she confessed, looking away shyly but she glanced back when she felt his thumbs trace circles into her hips. The feeling was both soothing and exciting. "I guess you probably knew that though. I mean, all the stuttering and blushing. I wasn't very good at hiding it."

Adrien frowned slightly, shaking his head.

"I had no idea," he admitted. "If I did, maybe I would have done something about it. I can't deny that I had some feelings for you back then." Marinette's hands had balled into fists against his chest when he had kissed her, but at his words she lay them flat, enjoying the hard feel of his pectorals through the relatively thin fabric of his shirt.

"How about now?" Marinette whispered, unable to keep the tremor out of her voice. Adrien looked searchingly into her eyes, his expression unreadable, but then he smiled softly.

"Now, I think you're the most beautiful woman I've ever seen. You're funny and sweet and I like you a lot."

Marinette smiled beguilingly at him, her eyes hooded, and she slowly smoothed her hands down his chest, feeling his nipples peaked from the cold and relishing in the ridges of his abdomen. His sharply indrawn breath was the only indication that he was not unaffected by her touch, as he held himself completely still.

"I like you a lot, too," she replied, her words and her actions weaving a spell around the pair so that nothing else existed, just the two of them and the lights of the most romantic city in the world.

Both of them were slightly hazy from alcohol but they were both also very aware of what was happening. The events of the evening had left Marinette feeling emboldened, and this time it was her that made the move. She stepped closer to him, arms sliding around his waist and slowly wondering up his back, caressing the taut muscles as she explored. God how she loved the feel of his muscles, so strong and smooth. Her hands reached the nape of his neck and her fingers tangled in the curls that brushed the collar of his shirt, enjoying the soft feel of them.

Adrien's shuddered sigh was all the encouragement that Marinette needed.

Never in her wildest dreams would she have imagined herself like this, with Adrien, acting in the way she always imagined she could, and having him practically quivering in her arms. For the first time in a long time, Marinette felt like Ladybug again, and the feeling brought a seductive smile to her lips. Adrien's eyes were inevitably drawn to their soft pinkness, still damp from his kiss.

Marinette drew herself up onto her toes, her hands clasped around the back of his neck supporting her. She closed the gap between her face and his but her lips bypassed his mouth, much to Adrien's disappointment. All of his senses were attuned to the petite woman in his arms and it was as if the rest of the world didn't exist. He was extremely aware of the brush of her cheek against his, enjoying its softness and warmth. His attention to the sensation of skin against skin was swiftly diverted when she whispered into his ear, her lips just brushing his lobe and her warm breath dancing across it, sending a shiver down his spine. This alone would have driven up his pulse rate but nothing could have prepared him for the words that came out of her mouth.

"I haven't been able to stop thinking about you all week."

She gently grazed his ear lobe with her teeth and got a thrill from the growl that came from the back of his throat. That sound made her knees weak and she felt hot all over. "I want to kiss you again."

Marinette had barely finished her sentence before Adrien had her face in his hands and his mouth once again pressed against hers. While their first kiss had been somewhat tentative, there was nothing cautious about this one, only passion and desperation in this meeting of mouths. This kiss was hot and hungry, lips and teeth and tongues in a dance that was primal. As tongues explored mouths, hands explored bodies and they were both almost overcome with arousal.

They were both gasping for air when they broke apart.

While they caught their breath they locked eyes, sapphire and emerald, and neither one was willing to look away, too occupied with drinking in the emotions from the other.

They stayed this way for a while, losing track of time in each other's eyes, and after their heart rates had calmed slightly, Adrien tightened his arms, drawing Marinette in to simply hold her. As much as he wanted to kiss her again, he didn't think he'd be able to stop there, and they were both suddenly, painfully aware that they were not alone and that all their friends were still enjoying the party behind a set of french windows. Not the most private of places.

Marinette rested her head on Adrien's chest, breathing in the scent of him and committing it to memory. Here, with the sounds of the party muted and the steady beat of his heart to centre her, Marinette felt safe and cherished. The gentle press of his lips at her hairline almost brought tears to her eyes. She decided to blame the alcohol for her overwhelmingly emotional state.

As if by mutual agreement, the pair silently turned to head back inside. It was getting late and Marinette had work the next day. It was probably time to head home.

Adrien lead the way and despite his best efforts, he couldn't stop himself touching her as they walked into the apartment. He had his hand on her lower back and the warmth she could feel through her clothing at his touch was doing something funny to her insides. Heat was pooling in her stomach and her step wasn't quite steady. She wanted to explain the feeling away as being tipsy, well, maybe a little more than tipsy, but her mind was filled with Adrien and the kisses they had just shared.

Inside they were relieved to see that no one had paid them any attention. In fact, a few of the party goers seemed to have left already. Looking around, Max had fallen asleep in an arm chair, Juleka and Rose were cuddling on the sofa and a few of Alya's work colleagues could be heard chatting in the kitchen.

Alix, Kim, Alya and Nino were nowhere to be found.

They headed to where their coats had been stashed in the spare bedroom, and Adrien pushed open the door. To her surprise, Marinette's face was suddenly pressed against his back, not expecting him to stop so suddenly in the doorway.

"Hey, what's go-" her words halted as she peeked through the gap between Adrien and the door frame.  There were two figures on the bed, naked and panting, limbs tangled in a way that left no room for doubt as to the activity they were partaking in. At Marinette's barely concealed gasp, the pair on the bed turned to face the door and they were confronted with the flushed and sweaty faces of Alix and Kim. Without another word, Adrien backed out of the room, pulling Marinette with him, and firmly closed the door.

When he turned back around to face her, he couldn't conceal the amused twinkle in his eye. Suddenly, the tension between them was completely gone as they broke out into uncontrollable giggles. Marinette gripped Adrien's arms to keep herself steady but it was no use and the two ended up falling onto the ground, clutching each other, unable to stop the peals of laughter.

They were still on the floor, recovering from their glee when a moment later, Alix and Kim came out from the room, fully, although sloppily dressed, red faced and looking anywhere except at each other and the couple sprawled in front of the door. This caused the laughter to start all over again, much to the bewilderment of the rest of the people in the room.

It took a while for them to calm down. Every time Marinette and Adrien caught each other's eye they burst into hysterics again. But eventually they did calm down, and Alix and Kim had righted their dishevelled clothing, opting to leave the party before too many people caught on to what had happened. It didn't go unnoticed that they left together and shared a taxi though.

Alya and Nino had reappeared from wherever they had hidden themselves away, drawn out by the sounds of laughter.

Now Marinette and Adrien were sat in their own taxi, parked outside Marinette's house, neither wanting to say goodbye. Any relief from tension that finding Alix and Kim had caused was gone now, and the air between them practically crackled. The entire drive over, Adrien's hand had been on her thigh, just above her knee, and even this simple touch was causing her heart to beat a tattoo in her chest. Now, she could feel her nipples hardening under his gaze, his eyes devouring her body in much the same way his mouth had devoured hers before. They wanted each other and they both knew it.

Unclipping her belt, Marinette slid across the seat to get closer to him, the shift allowing his hand to slip between her legs, still on the right side of propriety, but thoughts of him slipping his hand further up her thigh were plaguing both of them. The atmosphere in the taxi was hot and heavy, and they both regarded each other with heavy-lidded, lust filled eyes.

They came together like waves crashing, inevitable and unstoppable. Her hands tangled in his hair while one of his wrapped tightly around her waist, pulling her even closer so that she was almost sat on his lap, and his other hand came to cradle her breast, heavy from arousal. When he flicked a thumb across its crested peak, even through the material of her top and bra, the sensation sent heat straight to her core and she let out a moan which he swallowed into his kiss.

The moment was broken by the taxi driver clearing his throat. They pulled away, flushed from both arousal and embarrassment at allowing themselves to get so carried away when they weren't in private.

After a quick word to the driver, Adrien opened his door and stepped out of the taxi. He offered his hand to Marinette and she gladly took it, allowing him to help her out of the car. He shut the door again and started walking with her, hand in hand to her front door. No matter how slowly they walked though, they inevitably reached their destination and the time had come to part ways for the evening.

Marinette had already pulled her keys out of her bag but made no move to unlock the door, letting the tinkling sound of metal against metal break the weighted silence between them.

"I'm really glad you came with me tonight," Adrien said, untangling his fingers from hers so that he could wrap his arms around her waist. Marinette placed her hands on his arms, enjoying the strength she could feel there, even through his coat.

"Me too," she agreed, unconsciously leaning in towards the warmth of his body. Then, deciding tonight was a night to be bold, she asked a question sixteen years in the making. "I was wondering if maybe, you might like to go out to dinner sometime. With me, I mean. Obviously you'd have dinner by yourself. Or with friends. Or whoever you want to. Ugh, I'm sorry, this isn't coming out right."

Adrien chuckled at her fumbling, enjoying the fact that she was tripping over herself because of him. The idea that he was affecting her like that, that even at school he had affected her like that, made him unbelievably happy. His grin was wide as he gazed down at her adorably blushing face.

"I'd love to go to dinner with you," he assured, drawing her even closer to himself so that they were toe to toe, chest to chest. Happy that she was where he wanted her, he leaned down to place a kiss on her nose. Marinette went temporarily cross-eyed as she tried to watch him and her actions only pleased him more. He captured her lips in a sweet kiss, careful not to get too carried away again with the taxi waiting.

"I'll call you?" Adrien asked into her hair, as she snuggled into his chest.

"You'd better," she teased, tightening her arms around him.

With last kisses and bids of goodnight, he was gone, and Marinette was alone, but the heat from his body and his kisses stayed with her.

Chapter Text

He stood behind her and moved her hair over her shoulder, exposing the slender column of her throat to his greedy gaze. Marinette closed her eyes in anticipation, wanting the feel of him to overwhelm her senses. He ran his nose from shoulder to jaw line, inhaling the scent of something that was uniquely her. His lips followed the same path, his kisses drawing a gasp from her lips and he opened his mouth to place a hot, wet kiss on the join of her shoulder and neck, sucking on the tender flesh to leave a mark.

Marinette groaned at the sensation, liquid heat pooling between her thighs, before turning in his arms to satisfy her need for his lips on hers. He pushed her up against the wall, running a hand down her thigh before hooking a hand around her knee and bringing it up to his waist. He could feel the heat at her core through his clothes and neither could contain their groan of pleasure as she pulled him closer. His hand found the hem of her skirt and lifted it higher, giving him better access.

Marinette's entire body screamed with want as she felt his leather covered hand move up her thigh with excruciating slowness, claws grazing her sensitive flesh and heightening her senses.

Wait, claws?

Marinette pulled back from the kiss and opened her eyes to take in the masked figure of Chat Noir, eyes full of lust as he looked at her. He smirked, cocking one eyebrow at her before leaning in and drawing her lower lip into his mouth, gently sucking on it before invading her mouth with his tongue in another drugging kiss.

"What's the matter, Princess? Chat got your tongue?" he asked, his grin playful.

"Chat Noir?" Marinette questioned, a crease of confusion appearing between her brows. She closed her eyes and her heart thumped hard. She jolted, opening her eyes to find herself alone in her room, the beginnings of sunrise starting to show through her curtains.

Her heart was beating erratically and she could feel the heat of arousal over what had clearly been a dream. A dream she had thought was about Adrien, but then...

She groaned to herself, grabbing her pillow and placing it over her face as she fell back onto the bed. It was only then that she noticed her head was pounding and her ears were buzzing slightly at the lack of equilibrium. She pulled the pillow off her face and looked at her alarm clock, closing one eye to focus better. Not even six thirty and five hours before she needed to go to work. Hopefully the hangover would be gone by then.

She cursed herself for not having the forethought to book the day off of work.

Marinette sat back up and slung her legs off the bed, deciding that a glass of water and some painkillers wouldn't go amiss. Then she could go back to sleep and hopefully wake up feeling a little more alive.

When she got back to bed, however, Marinette found herself fully awake, sleep having been chased completely away by that dream. Why had she been dreaming of Chat Noir? She hadn't thought about him in so long (oh, who was she kidding?) and suddenly, thoughts of him were at every turn. She blamed the party for bringing up Ladybug and Adrien for mentioning Chat Noir.

She leaned back against her headboard, propped up by pillows, sipping on her glass of water and remembered a different time. A time when she was confident in herself, at least her superhero side, and had the love and trust of a boy that was her partner, her best friend, and someone she hadn't seen since that fateful night.


 

After three years of battling his akuma victims, three years of being late to class, of missing birthdays, of poorly thought up excuses (really, you would have thought they'd have gotten better at that)and three years of being in the dark about their secret identities, Hawk Moth had finally been defeated.

In the end, who Hawk Moth was wasn't really important. It wasn't anyone the duo knew. Later, through the papers, it came out that he was a depressed and isolated man who had stumbled across a miraculous and a book, completely by chance. He had learned of the ultimate power that could come from combining the black cat's ring and the ladybug's earrings, and he wanted that power for himself. He wanted to turn his life around, have people love him, worship him and not live in an observatory where butterflies were his only friends.

Basically, he wanted a miraculous life.

Ladybug and Chat Noir had naturally appeared at the trials, giving evidence against the man who had terrorised Paris for three years. Despite their damning words about the man, they both felt a modicum of gratitude to the circumstances that had lead them to being superheroes, that had allowed Adrien the freedom he always craved to be himself, and Marinette the courage to do the same.

After the trial they agreed to meet, before giving their miraculous' back to Master Fu. Chat Noir and Ladybug weren't needed anymore, and they were getting older. It was time for Tikki and Plagg to get some rest until they were needed again.

They met as they always did, at the top of the Eiffel Tower.

Chat Noir was there first, but that was of no surprise, he almost always was. He sat perched on a beam, legs swinging carelessly in the night air, but there was a sense of tension around him. The set of his shoulders, the way his hands gripped the metal, even before Ladybug saw his face, she knew that he wasn't his usual happy-go-lucky self.

She saw his ear twitch as she landed on the same beam as him, and although she knew he knew she was there, he didn't turn to look at her. All of a sudden, she was afraid.

Ladybug took a seat next to Chat Noir, choosing to hug her knees to her chest and resting her chin on them.

"Hi," she said, her soft voice barely carrying over the sounds of Paris below them. Chat heard her though. He turned to face her, and she saw for the first time the red that ringed his eyes. Has he been crying?

"Hello, Ladybug," he greeted in return. His lack of nickname made the warning bells ring louder, and instinctively, Ladybug knew she wasn't going to like whatever he had to say.

No, she consoled herself. Of course he was sad. This was the end of an era, and even though they could still be friends, they would be losing a large part of their life soon. Marinette was sad too. She didn't want to say goodbye to Tikki, and she assumed that Chat had his own kwami that he would be sorry to part with. Sadness was understandable. She had also come to realise a while back that Chat didn't view their superhero-ing the same way she did.

Obviously he was a consummate professional in battle (most of the time) but he got something out of the lifestyle that she didn't. It was an escape. Over the years, although they didn't go in to specifics so as to keep their identities hidden, they had gotten to know one another. She was sad that he might lose freedom as well as a friend.

But if he was the same age as her, that meant he was eighteen now, and that came with its own inherent freedom.

She hoped that would be the case for him too.

Instead of jumping to conclusions, as she might have in the past when she used to allow her panic to overtake logic, Ladybug decided she would wait until she saw the full picture before reacting.

"So..." she hesitated, unsure of where to begin, now that they were at the end. Conversation had never been a problem for them before. She could do this. "What's next for the great Chat Noir?"

The black clad hero sighed, hanging his head to look down at his hands.

"I'm leaving," he mumbled, and Ladybug tilted her head, not sure if she had heard him right. He looked up when she didn't respond and he read the confusion and uncertainty in her eyes. He sighed again and scrubbed a hand across his eyes.

"I made a deal with my father, ages ago, that if I worked for him for a year after school, then I could study any course I wanted at University. I'd never really entertained the idea until now, what with Hawk Moth running around, but now..." he trailed off, letting his gaze drift back to the Parisian skyline before him.

"Now he's gone, you're entertaining it," she finished for him, wanting to clarify the situation. She didn't show it, but her heart was breaking inside. He'd said he was leaving, so the job must not be in Paris. "Where would you be working?"

"All over, I'd be travelling a lot."

Suddenly Chat Noir was in earnest. He turned to fully face her, gripping both her hands in his and holding her gaze.

"Listen, this doesn't have to change anything. I know we need to give our miraculous' back, Plagg, my kwami, explained everything to me, but it doesn't have to mean the end of us."

"Us?" she questioned, trying desperately not to sound too hopeful.

"You're still my partner, LB, my best friend. I don't want to lose you. You know I've wanted to know who you are behind the mask since the beginning, but I don't want us to reveal our identities just for me to leave the next day. It's only going to be for a year. That is, if you even wanted to reveal your identity, which I really hope you do but if you don't I totally understand. You don't know who am I beneath the mask and I could literally be anyo-"

Ladybug silenced him with a finger to his lips, smiling gently at him.

"Chat, you're my best friend. You're right, nothing needs to change just because we're not going to be Chat Noir and Ladybug anymore. I want to know who you are. And if you can be patient, I can too," She squeezed the hand she was still holding, finally seeing the corner of his mouth twitch up into an approximation of a smile.

"I got you something," he reached into one of the zip pockets and pulled out a small drawstring bag and an envelope. "I wrote you a letter. Don't read it yet," he instructed, handing it over and she tucked it underneath her for safekeeping until she left. Chat then opened the drawstring bag, holding her hand palm up, and deposited the contents into her waiting hand.

Ladybug gasped at the beautiful charm bracelet. There were two charms, a ladybug and a black cat. Silently she held out her wrist for him to secure the bracelet. Tears were forming at the corners of her eyes at his gentle, almost reverent touch.

"It's beautiful, Kitty," Chat smiled at her nickname for him. "When are you leaving?" She wasn't sure if she wanted to know, but she couldn't hold back the question.

"I'm going to see Master Fu in the morning and I have a flight out tomorrow night. I know it's all so sudden, but that's my father for you."

Ladybug wrapped her arms around his waist, finally allowing the tears to fall. Chat pulled her closer to him so that her head was resting on his chest and his nose was buried in her hair. The air was full of unspoken words, words of sorrow and regret, words of love and friendship, and words of loss. They silently held each other, both unable to pull away, knowing that this would be the last time in a long time that they would see each other.

After an hour or so, Ladybug finally sat back, wiping a hand across her face to try and erase the tears and misery that were all across it. She wanted Chat to see her happy. That would be the memory he would take away of her.

"I'm going to miss you," she promised and pulled him in to place a chaste kiss on his cheek before giving one last confident grin, pulling out her yoyo and swinging away. She had to write him a letter of her own. She would drop it off at Master Fu's house for him later tonight, so he would get it when he dropped off his miraculous in the morning. But first, she needed to say her goodbyes to Tikki. This was a very sad night all round.


 

Marinette was brought out of her musings by the chime of her phone, alerting her to a text message.

Adrien: [Good morning, beautiful. Hope your head's ok today. Can I call you tonight?]

Marinette bit her lip as she put thoughts of her old partner aside. She was determined to live in the here and now, and right now, Adrien was calling her beautiful. He wanted to call her. He didn't regret what had happened the night before, now that he was in the cold light of day. She smiled to herself.

Marinette: [Hey, hot stuff. Taken some painkillers so head isn't so bad. Did you sleep ok? I'm at my parents for dinner tonight but if you're still up at 10 you can call me then? x]

His reply was almost instantaneous.

Adrien: [Hot stuff? ;) I'll call you at 10 then x]

Marinette gazed adoringly down at her phone, as if she could see his face in the text message. Then another message popped up.

Adrien: [btw I slept horribly, thanks to you]

Marinette frowned at her phone, utterly perplexed by the change of tone.

Marinette: [what???]

Slightly agitated by his message, she decided to get out of bed and head to the kitchen. A large coffee and some breakfast were in order if she was going to survive a five hour shift at work. She took her phone with her, anxious for an explanation from Adrien. The kettle was boiling when she got her answer.

Adrien: [I couldn't stop thinking about you all night. I know I said it last night, but I just wanted to say it sober. I really like you. I hope you got that. A lot. I'll talk to you tonight xx]

Marinette couldn't keep the grin from her face all day. Work dragged, and her distraction with the blonde haired, green eyed man meant that she dropped a fair few plates (luckily none that were heading out to a customer). She couldn't wait for this evening.


 

Once again, Alya and Nino were cocooned in their weekend nest, snuggling together in bed. If Nino's dazed and dreamy smile was any indication, they had just been engaging in some very enjoyable activities. Alya was exceptionally happy. She had immensely enjoyed the party the night before. Friends had reconnected, secrets had been shared, and the established journalist loved nothing more than a juicy secret.

This was one of the reasons she had been so happy to find out about Adrien being Chat Noir. The other reason was that she knew that Marinette had been Ladybug, and the convoluted love square the pair had been in during their time as superheroes was particularly delicious.

She knew that Chat Noir had been in love with Ladybug, and obviously Marinette had been infatuated with Adrien. Alya even thought that Adrien might have had feelings for her best friend's civilian form, considering the way his behaviour changed towards her over time.

She knew that Marinette had strong feelings for Chat Noir. This had been painfully obvious nearly a year after Hawk Moth had been defeated and the superheroes had disappeared for good.


 

Marinette sat on her bed, her large cat pillow wrapped around her and Alya at her feet. Marinette had her arms wrapped around her bent legs and her face buried in her knees, her shoulders shaking from the force of her uncontrollable sobs. All Alya could do was sit and console her best friend. It hadn't even been Marinette who had called her, but Sabine and Tom, worried over their daughters crying jag.

Now, here they were, sitting silently on Marinette's loft bed as the sun began to set below the balcony outside her window.

There had been no sign of Tom or Sabine through the trap door in the floor, and for that, Alya was grateful. She would find it easier to get information on her own. Finally, Marinette became still, her tears fully cried out. With the cessation of sobs came a relieving numbness and she finally looked at Alya.

"What happened, Marinette?" she asked, scooting closer in order to put an arm around the bluenette.

She took a steadying breath before replying.

"I'm pregnant."

Both sat in silence once more, letting the statement sink in. Just three syllables but so very large in the space of the room. It was a child's room, still painted pink, with soft toys scattered about. Posters of favourite bands and polaroids of friends were across the walls. Pictures of Adrien were long gone, but the imprint they left could still be seen.

"I need to tell you something else as well. I'm... well, I was..." she took a deep breath and looked her friend dead in the eye before dropping her gaze in guilt. "Ladybug."

Again Alya just sat in silence. This was all too much for the budding reporter to take in. Being at a complete loss for words, Alya just tightened the arm she had around Marinette's shoulders, offering her support and comfort. She would sit and listen, there would be no judgement, and together they would get through this.

Another deep breath and Marinette was ready to continue.

"It's Nath's baby. But you probably already guessed that. I haven't been with anyone else." Nathanael had in fact been a one-time thing a couple of months previous. They'd both been drunk at a party. She was missing her best friend and partner and it had been months since she had seen Adrien as well. Feeling lost and unloved, she had turned to the red-headed artist for comfort.

"He doesn't know yet, I don't know how to tell him. I went to the doctors today. I'm eight weeks along," she sighed and placed a hand on her still flat stomach, then curled into Alya's embrace letting out another sob. She only allowed herself a moment before she straightened up again and continued.

"Today was the day I was supposed to meet Chat Noir, as civilians. We were supposed to meet and I didn't go because I just found out and I was afraid and I felt guilty and I didn't know what to do. He must hate me now. He would have been waiting and I just left him there. But what was I supposed to say to him?" she asked, not really expecting an answer but looking at her friend imploringly regardless.

Alya stroked the tears from her friends face with her thumb and cupped Marinette's cheek reassuringly.

"I don't know, girl. Honestly, in your shoes, I'd be freaking out as well." She placed her hands on Marinette's shoulders. "Do you know who he is?" she asked.

Marinette shook her head.

"That's part of what makes this so much harder. We don't know each other, and he would be so disappointed to find that this," and she gestured to herself, "was his Ladybug. But Alya, I love him, and I miss him, and now there's nothing I can do," she wailed, throwing herself into the brunette's arms.

"No one could ever be disappointed in you, Mari," she assured, and the two just held each other until they both fell asleep.


 

Now, all Alya wanted was to see the two of them together and happy , and for all the confusion and misunderstandings from the past to be erased. She would talk to Nino about it, but for the time being, she would leave their relationship to develop, as Alya was sure it would.


 

By half past five, Marinette had pulled up outside her parents bakery. Sunday traffic was always fairly light, and after a quick change once her shift was over, she headed straight there. The bakery was closed and Marinette took the back entrance, straight up to the flat above the shop, calling a greeting as she opened the door.

She found her father and daughter in the living room, controllers in hand. The scene was so reminiscent of her own childhood that she grinned automatically. Ultimate Mecha Strike VII was on the screen. Celeste was winning against her grandfather and Marinette looked on with pride. She watched the domestic scene, glad that there were so many strong role models in her daughter's life.

After a few minutes, Sabine called them in for dinner.

The four of them sat around the table, and the conversation naturally turned to the party that Marinette went to the night before. She knew it was coming, but still, keeping a straight face proved difficult in front of people who knew her so well.

She gushed over seeing old friends, mentioning, naturally, that it was a party held for Adrien's homecoming. Tom and Sabine shared knowing glances which luckily went over Celeste's head. Marinette, however, blushed furiously and avoided eye contact. She knew both her parents knew about her crush on Adrien as teenagers. The posters that littered her wall were something of a giveaway. But she was in her thirties now dammit. She did not need her parents shipping her with Adrien again. She remembered how much they used to like him, sure that the two of them would get together at some point, although it had never happened. She'd even heard them mention 'green eyed grandbabies' once.

Now it seemed they were excited at the possibility of a second chance.

The mention of Adrien naturally brought the conversation on to Parents Evening, and luckily for Marinette, away from the party. She did not need those particular thoughts when she was having dinner with her family.

The evening was full of good food, laughter and conversation. They didn't come together as a family nearly often enough, and now the night was coming to a close, both Marinette and Celeste were reluctant to go.

Celeste was tired though, and Marinette was all too aware of a phone call she would be receiving that evening. They bid the Dupain-Cheng's a good night and were on their way home.


 

Ten o'clock on the dot her phone began to ring. She was sat in bed, pillows propped behind her and a book open on her lap. She hadn't read a word of it in the last twenty minutes. Marinette made to reach for her phone, fumbling it in her excitement and dropping it, watching as it bounced under the bed.

Cursing her clumsiness, she swung round to dangle her upper body off the bed, reaching underneath to grab for her phone. She let out a string of profanities at her general lack of coordination and finally brought the phone to her face, only to realise that she had answered the call and Adrien had presumably heard everything, judging by the laughter she could hear coming out of the speaker.

Marinette pouted slightly before putting the phone to her ear.

"Well, I'm glad I amuse you," she grumbled by way of greeting. Adrien let out a few more chuckles before calming down, although she could still hear the smile in his voice.

"Sorry, Princess. I'm just glad to see you haven't changed too much."

Marinette wasn't sure how to take that but decided to let it go.

"So, Adrien, what did you want to talk to me about?"

"Adrien? What happened to 'Hot Stuff'?" Adrien asked, his tone flirtatious.

"That was before you started teasing me," she parried with a grin.

"It's not my fault your beauty kept me up all night."

Marinette gasped playfully.

"Adrien Agreste, I didn't realise you were such a charmer."

The two flirted back and forth, going into details about their day and making small talk before Adrien realised it was getting late and got to the point of his phone call.

"So, I remember you saying something about a date?" Adrien asked her, and her breath caught at the reminder. It was tied in with some other hot and heavy memories that had her blushing furiously, despite being alone in the room.

"Um... y-yes?"

"Well, I was thinking that since tomorrow is a bank holiday, and the weather says it's supposed to be pretty sunny, that maybe you might want to have a picnic in the park?" Adrien's voice was hopeful, even to Marinette's ears.

"I... I don't know..." she hesitated, drawing her knees up to wrap one arm around. "I'll have Celeste tomorrow, I'm not sure if she was planning to see her friends at all but I haven't seen her all weekend and I was planning to spend some time with her."

"Maybe we could have the picnic, all three of us?"

"I-I-I... I'm not sure that's a good idea. I haven't really told her anything about us yet... Not that there's anything to tell necessarily, I mean, we're friends, and I suppose friends do things like this sometimes, but then you're her teacher as well and that might be a little awkward for her. But then if we're going to be friends she'd have to get used to seeing you sometimes outside of school and really it shouldn't be any different than it is with Alya or Nino or whoever so... okay?"

Marinette's words came out in a stream that was almost difficult to keep track of. It hardly seemed that she had taken a breath.

"So, is that a... yes?" he asked, suddenly very unsure of himself and what Marinette might be thinking about him.

"Yes," she replied, suddenly decisive. "As friends," she specified. "So we'll meet you at the park near to me, say... twelve thirty? If that's okay with you."

"Friends," he agreed, although he silently promised that that status wouldn't stay for long. "I'll see you there. I'll supply the picnic."

"Okay, but I'll pick something up from the bakery for dessert," Marinette insisted and was pleased when Adrien was quick to agree. He always had liked her parents pastries.

"Good night, Adrien."

"Good night, beautiful," he answered, and to Marinette, it almost sounded like he changed the nickname at the last minute. She pushed the thought away though. She was just tired. "Sweet dreams."

She blushed again, remembering the dream she had had this morning and her voice was strangled when she replied.

"Y-y-you t-too."

He practically purred down the phone to her and the husky sound did nothing to improve her condition.

"Oh, I will."

Chapter Text

Marinette Dupain-Cheng. Ugh. That girl had made her life a misery in school, and here she was, back again, ruining her life. Marinette had been liked by everyone when they were teenagers. Always so... nice. The memory made her shudder. Such a good two shoes. And now she was trying to move in on her Adrikins again. That girl needed to be taught a lesson.

Ever since Chloe Bourgeois had been dumped by her latest beau, the American tennis player, and with Adrien back in Paris, she had set her sights back on her first love. They had always been perfect for each other, both beautiful, both rich. Even though Adrien wasn't really rich anymore, his dad still was, and the old man would die someday. Adrien was his only heir, so she would just need to be patient. And everyone would notice her on the arm of the gorgeous ex-model and heir to the Agreste fortune.

She just needed to convince him that they were perfect for each other. And that meant getting the piece of trash, Marinette, out of the way.

What did Adrien see in her anyway? Just a college dropout nobody who managed to get knocked up straight out of school. She was pathetic.

Chloe was confident that Adrien would see this, he just needed a little push. Her devious mind was hard at work, coming up with solutions to her problem.


 

It was time to have a talk to Celeste about Adrien.

Keep it cool, Marinette, it's just friends, hanging out. Nothing to be nervous about.

"Celeste?"

The young girl looked up from her cereal bowl to see her mother sat at the table, nervously twisting her fingers together. She hummed in response and went back to eating her breakfast.

"I've got plans with a friend to have a picnic in the park today if you wanted to come along," Marinette began tentatively.

"Who is it? Alya?" Celeste asked between mouthfuls.

"No... it-it's um.. Adrien?" Way to play it cool, Marinette.

"You mean, Professor Agreste?" Celeste questioned, finally putting down her spoon and giving her mother her full attention.

"I guess, yeah. Is that weird? It's weird isn't it?"

"A bit, I guess, but... I mean, he's an old friend of yours. It doesn't have to be weird. A few of my friends were meeting at the park later today anyway so I can just hang with them instead," she went back to finishing her breakfast, "that is, if you don't mind of course!"

Marinette waved her hands in front of her.

"Of course I don't mind. We're getting there for twelve thirty, okay?"

"Sounds great. I'm finished with my breakfast, can I be excused?"

Marinette nodded her agreement and marvelled over how well that conversation had gone. It constantly surprised and pleased her just how mature her daughter was, especially considering she was only twelve. She had definitely gotten lucky when she was blessed with Celeste.


 

Unusually for a bank holiday, especially so late in the year, the sun was shining. Adrien was already waiting in the park, sat on a red chequered blanket, basket by his side and reclining back on his forearms, legs stretched before him. He hadn't noticed the pair arrive so Marinette took the moment to drink him in.

Celeste was the first to greet her teacher, smiling and waving at him before spotting a group of her friends and dashing off, the girl a whirl of excited energy. Marinette was a little more reserved, shy at seeing him after things had got so heated between them last time. She smiled and waved bashfully at him, lowering herself onto the blanket next to him and crossing her legs, careful not to touch him in any way. Her actions were painfully awkward.

A slight frown puckered his brow and Adrien sat up straighter, scooching closer to Marinette and offering her a flirtatious smirk.

"Hey, Mari, how are you feline today?" he asked, leaning in slightly to catch her eye. He didn't realise what he had said until she stiffened and looked at him quizzically. Adrien widened his eyes, feigning innocence, and flashed her his best model smile while inside his head he was screaming at himself, in a voice that sounded suspiciously like Plagg.

Hey Adrien, your Chat Noir is showing.

"Umm... I'm good, thanks. How are you?" she asked, her tone somewhat stilted. She was a little off kilter from their passionate kisses at the party, her dream about Chat Noir and now... did he just pun?

No, it's my imagination, she told herself sternly. I'm just thinking about Chat at the moment and imagining him in places that he definitely isn't. I miss him, that's all. The party just brought back old memories from that time and now I'm thinking about him. It's completely natural. Stop over-analysing things, Marinette.

Having firmly scolded herself, Marinette actively decided to relax and enjoy this afternoon. A date with Adrien. Adrien Agreste. She was on a real, bona fide date with the Adrien Agreste, previously gorgeous model, teen heart-throb and star of her own personal fantasies. Although the date came with a self-imposed label of 'just friends' attached.

Sixteen year old Marinette was very busy fangirling in the back of adult Marinette's head. She mentally shushed her teenage self.

Adrien gently touched her arm, bringing her focus to him and his beaming smile. It made her heart fly to imagine that she was the cause of that smile.

"I'm much better for seeing you, Princess," he assured flirtatiously, and once again Marinette was forced to push aside thoughts of her old partner. What was with her?

Finally able to focus on the here and now, they fell into an easy rhythm. It was amazing how much they had in common. It seemed like they never really ran out of conversation. And if at any time they did stop talking, it was completely natural. There was no awkwardness. It was like they had always been together, always been best friends.

She didn't even have this level of comfort with Alya, and the reporter was her longest running friend, someone who she could tell all her secrets to, who listened without judgement (mostly) and wasn't afraid to tell Marinette how it was. She needed Alya in her life.

But now Marinette was coming to see that she needed someone like Adrien in her life as well.

Where Alya was her driving force, always putting her out of her comfort zone, pushing her into the deep end and waiting to see if she could swim, Adrien was the calm waters, the quiet acceptance. He didn't feel the need to push, to make her do something new. He just allowed her to be who she was and she did the same for him.

So while Alya was her best friend, comfortable silences didn't exist for them. Alya was too full of burning curiosity and passionate energy.

Somehow she knew, Adrien could be her eye in the storm.

But the eye of the storm could be dangerous too, couldn't it?

She shrugged off the thought. Nothing about Adrien said danger. He was nice, polite, respectable and very, very sexy.

"So," Adrien asked, "would you call this our third date?" The blonde smiled lazily into Marinette's face and suddenly her heart kick started into an erratic beat, her face glowing at the inherent implications of the third date. Oh yes, very dangerous.

"Th-third date? I uh... I thought this was our first date? Not that it's actually a date just a picnic in the park between friends?" she squeaked, glancing around herself nervously, making sure Celeste wasn't within hearing distance.

"Well, there was drinks, and then the party... now this?" Adrien inched closer to her and their hands were a hairsbreadth apart. His fingers itched with the desire to hold hers.

"I don't know," she replied, shyly looking up at him through her lashes, "I thought the drinks was just friends catching up and the party... that was a friendly gathering, lots of old friends... not something I would exactly call a date..." stop saying the word 'friend', she rebuked herself. "Besides, we did agree that today was just... as friends," you did it again! "Right?" she hedged, biting her lip uncertainly.

Adrien's eyes were drawn to the action and he licked his own lips reflexively.

Marinette couldn't remember why she had insisted that this be platonic. Was he always this... hot?

"Okay, so this is our first date, but not really a date. As friends," he grinned playfully at her and nudged her with his arm. "But. Let's just say for the sake of argument that this was our actual first -not just as friends - date... How am I doing so far?"

Marinette laughed at his childish charm and nudged him back.

"So-so," she considered, bringing the hand that wasn't resting tantalisingly close to his up to her face and tapped her lip thoughtfully. "I'll give you six out of ten, solid effort. You know, if this was our first date."

Adrien gasped, feigning dismay.

"I've never received such a low grade in my life! This is just embarrassing," he put a hand to his forehead and flopped onto his back to stare dismally up at the sky. He took the opportunity to lay his hand over hers, entwining the fingers, and getting a thrill when she tightened her fingers around his. This date was starting to seem awfully real.

"You're just going to have to try harder, Professor," she teased.

"Nope, that's it, I'm done. I give up," Adrien exclaimed dramatically, making as if to stand back up, but not letting go of her hand. "I'm going somewhere my romantic efforts are actually appreciated."

Just as he was rising to his feet - Marinette really wasn't sure where he was going with his game but she had the perfect idea to put a stop to it - she tugged on his hand where their fingers were still joined, and pulled him back down onto the blanket, causing his chest to press against hers, their faces brought nose to nose. He saved her from toppling backwards with the momentum by wrapping an arm around her waist. Then again, she thought, taking in his satisfied expression, maybe this was his plan exactly...

Glancing quickly over to her daughter and satisfied that she was otherwise occupied, Marinette brushed her hand up his arm, feeling the warmth of his skin through the cotton of his top. Her fingers danced along his collar bone and she could feel his pulse jumping in his throat. By the time she wove her fingers through the hair at the nape of his neck, Adrien was practically nuzzling her hand, and Marinette was left speechless that she, plain, boring, clumsy Marinette, could have this effect on the man that she liked. It was at that moment that she realised maybe her feelings for him had never really gone away, that they were just buried, waiting for the man to bring them back to the surface.

She took in his gaze, green eyes burning with emotion and desire. Marinette could easily lose herself in those eyes, the sea of emerald somewhere she would happily drown.

"I suppose I could be purrr-suaded to up your grade, Agreste. But I want something in return." What was happening? Now she was punning? And flirting? Marinette was once again determined to get Chat Noir out of her head, and it looked as though Adrien was only too willing, if unwittingly, to comply.

"And what is it that you want, Dupain-Cheng?" he teased her slightly breathlessly, caught, unblinking, in her cerulean gaze.

With her hand anchored in his hair, the silken strands woven between her fingers, Marinette drew Adrien's face closer, his stuttering pulse and shallow breath making her bold. His eyes closed, hiding the gorgeous green and Marinette mourned the loss only briefly, before she closed her own and slanted her lips across his.

This kiss was different from their last.

This time their minds weren't clouded with the taint of alcohol, and this sharpened their senses. Marinette could taste on Adrien's lips the strawberries that he had been eating. She could feel the full yet firm surface of his lips pressed against hers, softly moulding together. She could hear the hitch of his breath as they pulled back slightly before coming together again, the kiss deepening. Marinette could feel the hairs on her arms stand up as a shiver coursed through her body and she could feel his lips curve slightly into a smile at the sensation, although not enough to break the kiss.

There was a small part of Adrien's mind that was aware that a park full of students, some of whom he taught, was right next to him. He was also marginally aware that anyone who cast a glance their way would have no trouble spotting them. They weren't exactly hidden. That small part of Adrien's mind was slowly being drowned out by the more prominent thought exploding through his head.

Marinette Dupain-Cheng was a phenomenal kisser.

He knew that this wasn't the first time they had kissed. And the heated make out session at Alya and Nino's party had definitely been a turn on. Those kissed were explosive. But these kisses... they were softer, sweeter, and his heart was having a hard time staying put in his chest. He could feel the rapid tattoo it was beating on his ribcage, and the only thing saving him from embarrassment at such a strong reaction, especially considering how chaste their kiss was, was the fact that he could feel Marinette's heart beating just as hard, and the notion made him smile.

He gently nibbled on her lower lip and felt the breath of her sigh whisper across his, sending arrows of awareness down to below his belt. It was a swift reminder not to let this kiss get out of hand, as much as he wanted it to. Marinette seemed to realise the same thing as she pulled away, chest heaving as if she had just run a marathon.

But then, so was his.

The two grinned at each other like love-struck teenagers but pulled further apart, mindful of any potential audience. They didn't fully break contact, however. Their hands lay, tightly clasped, between them as they once again turned their attention to the picnic basket.


 

There he is, Celeste squealed internally, biting her lip to contain her excitement. Lucas was in her class at school and already thirteen, and she was completely in love with him. She could see him playing football with his friends, using their hoodies as goalposts, the boys all whooping and jeering at each other, clearly having fun.

Celeste was sat with a few girlfriends, wishing she could join in the action. She wasn't particularly sporty, but she was energetic and loved to run around. Instead, she was chatting with some of her best friends. Not that she didn't like just sitting in the sunshine, enjoying a few moments of peace and time spent with her friends, but the current topic of conversation was not one she wanted to get involved in.

"Look, Celeste. Isn't Lucas so dreamy. He's so good at football," Louise pointed out, nudging the blushing bluenette.

"Yes, the way his hair blows in the breeze when he runs, and he's wearing shorts. He's so cute, don't you think Celeste?"

The girls all knew about her crush. It was a common topic for them to touch on because of how easily she blushed. It was common for the friends to tease each other. Celeste had done her fair share as well. She knew it was just friendly ribbing, but she direly wished to change the topic.

They all knew she was just avoiding the subject when she suddenly disappeared but no one minded when she brought back  a wide array of picnic foods for them to share. The girls heartily dug in.

"Hey, isn't that Professor Agreste?" one of the girls, Chantelle, asked, pointing back in the direction Celeste had just come from.

"Oh my goodness, he's so handsome!" said Louise.

There were general murmurs of agreement around the group. The consensus since the beginning of the school year was that Professor Agreste was the most attractive teacher they had, and all of her friends had a school girl crush. Had it not been for her single minded obsession with Lucas, perhaps she would have been just as enamoured.

"Wait, isn't that your maman, Celeste?" her best friend, Denise asked, catching everyone's attention.

Celeste glanced back to where her mother and teacher were sat, sharing a picnic and shrugged.

"Yeah, maman and Professor Agreste are old friends. They went to school together and haven't seen each other in years. They're just catching up," she explained to the group of gawking girls.

"Looks like they're more than friends to me," one of the girls exclaimed, wiggling her eyebrows in what she assumed was a suggestive way. "Looks like they're on a date."

"No they're not," Celeste was quick to deny, suddenly wishing that the conversation was still on her crush. That teasing was familiar ground and could be handled more easily. She glanced back to where the group were playing football, sad to see that their game had come to an end and a few were heading home. Her attention was soon diverted back to the topic at hand, however.

"I think they're holding hands!" someone practically shrieked. It was strange enough for the preteens to see one of their teachers in a real life setting, but for one of their parents to be on a date with said teacher? This was definitely news worthy.

"Oh my gosh, your maman is dating Professor Agreste, they're going to get married and he's going to be your père!"

The girls all squealed at the notion and Celeste sat in silence, slowly going pale. Everyone was amused and had found a new subject with which to tease their easily flustered friend.

"They're just friends!" she snapped, lower lip slightly pouted and arms crossed. Everyone fell about laughing, clutching their sides. Celeste pushed the closest girl, who only laughed harder as she fell sideways onto the grass. A small smile crossed her lips at her friends antics. She knew they didn't mean any harm. Suddenly, Celeste was laughing with them all, all annoyed tension gone from her body.

Conversation gradually started again, an upcoming test being the next focus and they all fell into an easy companionship, joking and laughing, playing games and telling stories. Celeste loved days like these. Peaceful, sunshiny days before the harsh winter arrived, where she could just spend time with friends.

Before she knew it, it was time to go home.

Just at that moment, a certain brunette boy with chocolate brown eyes walked past their little gathering, clearly on his own way home. With a smirk, Denise raised her arm, offering him a wave.

"Hey, Lucas," she called, and Celeste looked up, her face burning a deep red.

"Hi girls," he greeted, coming closer. "Hi Celeste," the boy bashfully singled out the blushing girl. Denise slyly nudged her best friend as she sat there silently gawping up at her crush.

"H-h-hi L-Lucas," she smiled dreamily at him, cheeks still flushed a pretty pink.

"I'm just on my way home, but I'll see you at school tomorrow?" Lucas asked, smiling brightly down at the group of girls, all of whom nodded enthusiastically back at him except Celeste, who just stared at his face until her best friend nudged her again.

"Y-yeah, see you tomo... tomor... bye," she finished lamely, and as he turned to head off, she buried her face in her hands, groaning loudly.

"Did... uh, did you say something?"

She pulled her face back out of her hands, her face cherry red as her eyes met his again, his eyebrow raised in uncertainty.

"No!" she cried, too loudly in the quiet of the emptying park. "No," she said again more softly. "I didn't anything say... I mean, I say nothing did, uh... forget it. See you at school," she muttered, and she quickly turned her face away.

Confusion and a little hurt crossed his features at being so thoroughly dismissed by his school friend but he shrugged one shoulder and walked towards the park gates.

Behind him he heard an explosion of girlish giggles and teasing, but decided just to ignore it.


 

Marinette barely noticed the sun lowering in the sky, her full focus on the man next to her. They had spent the afternoon chatting and eating and flirting. After the brief slip-up with the kiss, it had been innocent enough, with many of the children Adrien taught sharing the park with him on this autumnal afternoon, especially the daughter of the woman he wanted to be dating. He had a reputation to uphold in front of the students and so did Marinette. That didn't stop him from keeping their fingers entwined for most of the afternoon following their kiss.

Now, it was getting cold. Marinette shuddered beside him and he looked down to see the fair hairs on her arms raised by goose bumps. Adrien sighed a little sadly, but forced a smile onto his face. He had been enjoying spending the day with her and didn't want to part, but it was time they were all going home.

He said as much to Marinette, and she pulled an adorable pouty face at him. He laughed boyishly and stood up, pulling her to her feet. Reluctantly she allowed him to do so.

Looking around, Marinette spotted her daughter still sat with her friends. At one point, Celeste had come over and pilfered the remains of the quite substantial picnic, taking her spoils back over to her group of friends.

Now, the group were sat around in a semi-circle, a brunette boy that Marinette vaguely recognised stopping to chat to the school girls.

"Do you recognise that boy?" Marinette asked Adrien, indicating where her daughter sat, face glowing with embarrassment.

"Oh, that's Lucas. He's in the same class as Celeste," Adrien grinned down at her. "I'm surprised you don't know who Lucas is," he teased, stepping closer to Marinette to share his warmth and feel some of hers in the cool of the late afternoon.

"Is he the cause of my daughters 'distraction' in school by any chance?" Marinette questioned, looking knowingly up at her own distraction.

"Far be it for me to tell someone else's secrets," Adrien demurred, avoiding the question, but Marinette didn't need his confirmation. The look in her daughters eyes was one she knew all too well.

"I'm surprised you knew she had a crush on him," Marinette admitted, smiling coyly up at the professor.

"Why are you surprised? It's written all over her face," he exclaimed, careful not to let his voice travel over to the group only a short distance away.

"Because," she replied in a husky tone that caused the hairs on the back of Adrien's neck stand to attention, "I used to look at you like that all the time."

When had she gotten so close, Adrien wondered, feeling the brush of her skin on his, her eyes all that was in his field of vision.

"I really want to kiss you right now," he whispered, voice gravelly.

"I know, me too," Marinette agreed, unconsciously leaning closer before remembering where they were and taking a step back. "But, we can't."

Her smile was wide when she heard his whine of disappointment. It was nice to know the attraction wasn't one sided, that he wanted her just as much as she wanted him. It made her feel confident, sexy, alive. Every nerve ending was attuned to the man standing next to her.

Taking a moment just to be together in the knowledge of each other's desires, they both took a breath and then deliberately stepped away from each other and faced back towards the pre-teens, ready to call Celeste away.

"Walk us home?" she asked and he grinned down at her.

"My purr-leasure."


 

A blonde haired woman dressed in her signature designer yellow and black was currently crouching in the bushes, careful not to get any leaves or dirt on her very expensive couture outfit.

Snooping on her future husband and his current minor distraction was actually beneath her, and normally she would have one of her underlings do it for her, but she was short for time and she hadn't managed to persuade anyone on such short notice.

Even Sabrina, her oldest and dearest friend, besides Adrien, of course, had refused to help her today.

They were all so ungrateful.

So that was why she found herself in her current predicament.

She watched the two kissing, and it was so sickeningly sweet that she wanted to throw up. It was no matter though. After a shower and some sanitary wipes, those deliciously firm-looking lips of his would be decontaminated enough for her to kiss, without the stain of Marinette Dupain-Cheng to spoil them. Chloe whipped out her phone and took a quick snapshot of the couple. She didn't know what she would use it for, but you never know.

With that, she snuck off to have a shower of her own and a change of clothes. Just in case any nature had found its way on to her. She smiled to herself.

Adrien will be mine.

Chapter Text

Every Thursday night, Marinette took Celeste to Nathanael's house so she could work on Friday. This Thursday, the only difference was that they had finally agreed to the talk that Nath had requested a week and a half ago. Really, it seemed like much more time had passed since then. So much had happened these past couple of weeks.

That was why she was currently sat in Nathanael and Natasha's kitchen, cup of tea in hand, while she listened to the bubbly brunette talk about her week. Listening to the woman now, Marinette was a little ashamed that she had so quickly dismissed her. Natasha was witty, intelligent, and actually really very interesting.

At twenty-four years old, Natasha had worked her way through University and had come out the other side with a PhD in French Literature. She could play the guitar and enjoyed gardening, and actually, the two of them had more in common than Marinette had ever expected.

It didn't take her long to realise that she actually wanted to be friends with her ex-husbands girlfriend. Wasn't that a strange concept.

After ten minutes of chatting away, Nathanael appeared in the doorway and Natasha stood, placing her mug in the sink.

"I'll leave you two to it then. I'll just see if Celeste could use some help with her homework."

And with that she was gone.

Nathanael walked to the sink and poured himself a glass of water. Marinette declined a glass for herself, anticipation and fear clamouring for a place in her stomach all of a sudden. She didn't know what this was about but it would be an important conversation, whatever it was.

They both took a seat at the varnished pine table. Marinette had never really noticed just how homey this room had become. The stark white and black tiles that Nate had installed when he originally moved in, were now replaced with sunny yellow paint. Flowers were everywhere and the curtains had a delicate print. It wasn't particularly artistic, so she suspected it came mostly by Natasha's hand, and Marinette was pleasantly surprised to feel comforted by the warm room.

"I'm really glad you could come and have a talk with me," Nathanael smiled bashfully up at Marinette through his fringe which still fell across his eyes. It had been a long time since the two of them had had an actual conversation and they were both a little nervous.

"It's fine," Marinette waved a hand as if brushing away his worries, smiling softly. "It seemed like you wanted to talk to me about something important. Is everything okay?" she asked.

Nathanael took in a deep breath and released it slowly, then bit his lip.

"Look, this is quite awkward and I'm not really sure where to start so... I'm just going to talk and hope I can make some sense, okay?" Marinette nodded but kept her mouth shut, allowing him to talk uninterrupted. "I understand that things between us haven't been great," he began, looking shamefaced. "I wasn't the husband I could have been and I definitely haven't been the Dad I should have been."

At this, he reached for her hand and looked at her earnestly.

"I know that I've said this before, but things have changed. I've changed."

Marinette looked away uncertainly.

"No, listen. It really is different this time. I know you haven't exactly approved of my life choices, especially past girlfriends, but Natasha is different, and I really love her. She's special and she makes me want to do better. She doesn't take any of my shit and she's made me realise just how awful I've been," he interrupted whatever Marinette was about to say. "I've been so awful, and I am so, so sorry for everything I haven't done for you and Celeste."

There were the hint of tears in Nathanael's eyes and Marinette couldn't help but be slightly moved by the show of emotion. She wouldn't give in so easily though. Nathanael was right, he had said things like this in the past.

"I want to prove to you that I'm changing. I... I've got a job. A real one."

Marinette was slightly taken aback by the revelation. This really was different. Nathanael had always tried to maintain his pride after losing the gallery and the prospect of working for someone else was something he had never even considered. She tugged nervously on a strand of hair then tucked it behind her ear. Then she smiled at him, timidly, hopefully.

"That's amazing Nath," she sighed. "What's the job?"

"Well," he replied, finally relaxing and picking up a pencil. There always seemed to be art supplies lying around within easy reach. If inspiration hit, Nathanael had always liked having materials close by. He started doodling on a piece of paper, feeling much more at ease now that Marinette appeared to be accepting his news with open arms. "I'm working for a television company, drawing cartoons," he explained and the pride on his face was evident. Nathanael was practically glowing and it was amazing to see him truly happy. It had been a very long time.

He continued drawing, and Marinette finally took notice of the image appearing on the page before him. It looked like a pair of superheroes.

"It's a cartoon about Ladybug and Chat Noir," he finished, and looked up at her having completed his drawing. Nathanael flipped the page around and Marinette gasped. She was always impressed with his work, Nathanael had always been a wonderful artist, but he had outdone himself this time. Sure, the art style was cartoonised, but there was no mistaking the subject. Marinette was looking at herself in her superhero costume. The nostalgia was a little overwhelming, blindsiding her somewhat.

"That brings me to something else I wanted to talk to you about. I've spent some time with the writers, and it's brought back a lot of memories from when we were at school. I've also obviously spent a lot of time drawing Ladybug and Chat Noir," this time, his breath in was audible. He was obviously steeling himself to say something big, something important, and Marinette was inexplicably afraid.

"I've also spent a lot of time drawing you over the years, Marinette. And I'm not sure how I've never seen it before. I don't really know how to ask this but... I guess... are you Ladybug?" with this he focussed his full attention on her face, reading the expressions he had come to know so well over the years. He may not have been the most considerate husband, but he was an artist, and attention to detail was paramount. Nathanael noticed the slight flair of her eyes, the tiny wobble of her lip and he knew that he was right.

Marinette didn't know what to think. She didn't know how to feel. On the one hand, it was all so long ago, and what did it really matter who knew about her past? Another part of her was terrified that her secret had been found out. Then again, there was a certain elation that someone had seen who she was, that they had noticed that little, clumsy, Marinette was actually a superhero.

It was all completely overwhelming and she couldn't cope with it. With a strangled gasp, Marinette broke down in tears. All the emotions left over from that time came flooding back. Her fear over having a baby and the loss she felt at not meeting up with Chat Noir. Her disappointment at giving up her dreams and her elation over her perfect, tiny, baby. She felt everything at once, and she couldn't cope with it.

Eyes blinded by tears, Marinette didn't see anyone approach her but she was suddenly surrounded by a warm embrace and soothing words. But it wasn't Nathanael's arms, and it wasn't his voice either. Marinette looked up into Natasha's caring eyes.

"It's okay, Marinette. Everything's okay."

Marinette really wasn't sure whether it was.

The three of them talked for a short time after, and it was clear that Natasha was also privy to Nathanael's revelation, but Marinette couldn't find it in her to care. After a few hugs and a promise that the two women would have coffee together at some point in the week, Marinette was on her way home. She didn't have work until the following morning and she was glad to have the evening in solitude. She needed to work through her emotions. The chat with Nathanael had been more emotionally trying than she could have guessed.


 

Today's had been an exceptionally long shift. She had gone to sleep fairly early the night before, finding herself completely exhausted after the events of the day.

Before Marinette even left for work, the strap broke on her shoes, and she was forced to wear a pair of black dolly shoes, not ideal for the hard-wearing of a nine hour waitressing shift, not to mention not particularly supportive either for someone standing on their feet all day.

Starting at eight in the morning, the breakfast shift was already heaving with the pre-work rush. It was all she could do just to clear tables and lay them up ready for more customers. It was unrelenting.

By ten, the restaurant had died down, with just a few last minute customers before they shut ready to set up for the lunch shift. The time between breakfast and lunch would also be her only opportunity for a break that day so if she didn't get herself into gear, she wouldn't have a chance to eat until after seven this evening, and considering she only had a cup of coffee for breakfast that morning, courtesy of her running late - again - she couldn't afford to miss another meal.

Luckily, the last customer was out the doors by ten thirty and by quarter past eleven the tables had been turned for lunch and the fridges were prepped with sauces. This gave her a forty-five minute break and the opportunity to relax while eating her food.

She allowed herself the luxury of checking her phone for messages as she ate her yoghurt and banana.

Just seeing Adrien's name on her screen started her heart pounding in her chest.

Adrien: [Morning, beautiful. Hope you have a good day at work. Are you busy tonight? I want to call and arrange our next date]

This was followed by another message from him.

Adrien: [By the way, I'm definitely calling the picnic our first date x]

Marinette smiled at the message. She was okay with that. It did mean another chat with Celeste somewhere down the line but until she knew what exactly they were to each other, there was no point in giving her daughter false hope. Marinette had seen enough of Nathanael's relationships go sour over the years to know not to involve her daughter too soon. It would hurt Celeste a lot more if she got attached just for Marinette and Adrien to break up. Not that they were going to break up, but you never knew with these things. Not that they were a couple. Yet. It was just starting. No need to label it. It was enough for Celeste to know that Marinette and Adrien were friends and that they would be seeing more of each other.

Marinette: [I can live with that. I'm free tonight. Celeste will be in bed by 9]

After that, she cleared away the remains of her meal and prepared herself for what would undoubtedly be a gruelling shift. Just as she was putting her phone away it pinged with an incoming message. Looking at the time she noticed it was ten to twelve. The message was from Adrien. Was he messaging her while teaching? It definitely wasn't lunch yet.

Adrien: [Looking forward to it beautiful]

Marinette tutted and shook her head.

Marinette: [Prof. Agreste a teacher should not be using his phone in class!]

His only reply was a blushing emoji.


 

Celeste was in bed and Marinette had finally changed into her matching pink camisole and shorts with fluffy socks on her feet. She was curled up on the sofa with a cup of tea and was flicking aimlessly through channels on the television, trying to find something to catch her interest.

It seemed like the more channels available, the less good programmes there were.

Giving up, she switched it off and reached for her book, deciding to read for an hour while she finished her tea and unwound from the day before heading up to her bed.

A not insignificant part of her was waiting for a call from Adrien, but she tried to ignore that nagging thought and attempted to submerge herself into the story. It worked, to a degree, and she was actually startled out of her reading by a text message alert.

She picked up her phone, anticipation bubbling in her stomach like butterflies.

Adrien: [Hey, are you home?]

She was quick to type in the affirmative and anxiously waited for his reply. Ten minutes later and still nothing was forthcoming. Marinette sighed dejectedly and tried to pick her story back up, but she couldn't engage with the text anymore. The characters seemed flat, the plot, uninteresting. She couldn't even make it past another page so tossed the book onto the coffee table, drained her cup and got up to put it into the kitchen. She had just put it down on the sideboard when she heard a noise coming from the front of the house.

Cautiously, Marinette made her way towards her front door, stopping to pick up a frying pan. It was the best weapon she could find on such short notice, and she wouldn't leave herself unprotected. With her daughter in the house she couldn't afford to. She cursed herself for leaving her phone in the living room.

Then the noise came again. This time, Marinette recognised it for what it was. Someone was knocking on the door. Quietly she crept up to it and peaked through the spy hole. Standing there, looking roguishly handsome but extremely sheepish, was Adrien. Marinette lowered the frying pan which she still held up ready to attack, and opened the door.

"Adrien? What are you doing here?" she asked, stepping back to let him in. As he made to go past her, Adrien noticed what she was holding.

"A frying pan?" he asked incredulously.

"Haven't you seen 'Tangled'?" she retorted, rather grouchily and headed back to the kitchen to replace her makeshift weapon.

"I can't say that I have," he allowed, smiling fondly after her. Despite his teasing, Adrien had no doubt that when it came to her daughters safety, Marinette would fight tooth and nail. He was glad that on this occasion, she hadn't needed to. "And to answer your question, I was going to just call you, but I haven't really seen you since Monday and I... I just wanted to see you, that's all."

Marinette stared at him open-mouthed for a moment before a brilliant smile broke out over her face.

"Aww," she cooed, making the blonde man blush. "You missed me."

Adrien scratched his cheek shyly then looked her dead in the eye, all hints of teasing gone.

"I did."

It was no proclamation of love but hearing those two words were enough to break the barriers that Marinette had up from the long day. Her smile crinkled the corners of her eyes and she drew him into her arms, hugging him warmly. There was nothing romantic in the gesture, but an overwhelming feeling of homecoming for both of them.

"I missed you, too," Marinette replied. Then, realising that they were still stood out in the hallway, she lead them both back into the living room.

"So, Hot Stuff, how was your day?" she asked, settling herself onto the sofa again and curling her feet underneath her, patting the cushion in an encouraging gesture. Adrien took the hint and sat down next to her. Then he reached for her legs and uncurled them, pulling her feet into his lap so that she was stretched out along the sofa. A touch of pink graced her cheeks at the familiar way he touched her, as if it came naturally to him. She also couldn't deny that his hands on her bare legs, while perfectly innocent, was incredibly sensual.

"So now I'm Hot Stuff again?" he grinned cockily at her, one hand resting on her knee and the other on her ankle. "My day was fine, same old, same old. Physics, physics, physics. Blah, blah, blah."

Marinette rolled her eyes at his antics and playfully shoved his arm.

"You forget that I have a twelve year old daughter. I'm not letting you get away with such an evasive answer," she argued, crossing her arms stubbornly. He laughed and gently stroked her knee, sending tingles down her leg.

"Fine, fine, but it really wasn't that interesting. Some students didn't hand their homework in, a few kids fell asleep in class, I handed out a detention or two. Every so often, some of them actually act like their interested. Oh, there was one thing that happened," and Adrien was suddenly fully animated as he explained about an experiment on inertia that he had had with the first years and how it had gone wrong when one particularly small student had got in the way. No one had been badly hurt but they had all learned a lesson about safety in the classroom.

Marinette laughed at his detailed retelling.

"Do you remember that time that Rose got caught using perfume in Chemistry? And Mme Mendeleiev made it explode with a Bunsen burner?" she asked him, eyes sparkling with humour.

"No... I must have missed that."

"We all had to do a report on lab safety for like the fiftieth time that year, I swear. You're lucky you missed it," Marinette laughed over the memory, although at the time it had been torture. "I guess you probably missed a lot of school with your modelling."

Nodding, Adrien agreed, although he didn't mention the fact that being Chat Noir took him out of school a lot more than photo shoots ever did. It was a marvel he managed to keep on top of his studies at all.

"So tell me about your day, Princess," he smiled. Marinette didn't notice when the smile took on a frozen quality, unnaturally fixed to his face, only relaxing when Marinette seemed not to notice anything off, just continued with a groan.

"It was not fun. Not even counting what I dropped, it's just been a very trying day. But you know, food, food, food. Blah, blah, blah."

Adrien laughed as she parodied his earlier words.

"But now, my feet just ache and I want a glass of wine," Marinette continued and then suddenly shot upright, pulling her legs from his grasp. "I'm so sorry, I didn't even ask if you wanted a drink."

Marinette stood and started to head to the kitchen. Reluctantly, Adrien followed. He had been quite comfortable with Marinette practically sitting in his lap on the sofa and already he missed the warm pressure of her legs on his.

"What can I get for you?" she asked, already in front of the open fridge. She was bent over slightly to reach for the wine and Adrien tried not to focus on the way her shorts rode higher on her legs and the thin material clung to her rounded bottom.

He quickly snapped his eyes away.

"I'll have what you're having. Just a small one though," his voice sounded gruff even to his own ears and he subtly tried to clear his throat.

Glasses of wine in hand, they headed back to the living room and having placed his glass on the coffee table, Adrien wasted no time resituating himself with her feet in his lap.

"Now, I think you said something about your feet aching?" he enquired and before she could say anything, he had one of her socks off. Suddenly speech was impossible as his fingers worked their magic on her arches, working out the pain of being stood on them for nine hours almost straight through. When she opened her mouth, all that came out was a low moan.

Adrien threw his whole focus on his task and not on the sounds coming from her mouth. The moans and whimpers were all too distracting and he wanted to do this for her. She deserved someone to make her feel good after a long day at work. Someone to listen to her complaints and to share her burdens. He wanted to be that someone.

All his good intentions went out of the window when he took off her other sock and started to work on the weary muscles and tendons underneath.

Marinette let herself sink further into the cushion and groaned.

"Oh, God, yes. Right there," her eyes were closed in bliss and Adrien bit back his own groan. "Oh, Adrien," how did she make his name sound so... sinful? "That feels so good," the words practically sobbed out of her mouth. Marinette was in heaven.

Adrien was in hell.

He had desperately wanted to see her tonight. Had wanted to see her all week. It wasn't a lie when he told her he missed her. All he had wanted was to see her, spend some time with her.

Now he wanted more, so much more. And she wasn't helping. Had she always been this sexy? Her pyjamas, for lack of a better word because surely pyjamas came with more material, showed more skin than was safe for his libido. Her hair was down and slightly waving from drying naturally after the shower and demanded he run his fingers through it. Her lips were pink and full and with those sounds coming from between them... He was in a lot of trouble.

Adrien's ministrations on her feet stopped and Marinette sighed regretfully then opened her eyes. She hadn't realised how pliable her body had become and she found herself almost lying on top of him. Much as she had enjoyed the treatment, she felt quite embarrassed by her current predicament and the flush travelled across her face and chest. The blush only deepened as she saw Adrien's eyes follow its path down. His adam's apple bobbed as he swallowed hard, and a bead of sweat traced  a line down his throat. All of a sudden Marinette felt hot all over, and not just from her blushes. She wanted to follow that drop with her mouth and...

Her brain short-circuited.

Marinette tried to sit up properly and withdraw her feet but he moved first, sliding closer to her and hooking a hand around her knee. The brush of his thumb was like a switch, setting the butterflies fluttering in her stomach. She managed to sit up at last but that brought them closer together and had her as good as sitting in his lap. They both swallowed hard, glances going from eyes to lips and back again.

Adrien inched closer and rubbed the side of his nose against hers. Marinette could feel his breath puff hot against her cheek and she trembled, but didn't close her eyes. They stayed that way for an indefinable moment, neither wanting to move just yet. The anticipation was a sweet torture.

Adrien bit his lip and glanced down at hers again, hungrily watching the swipe of her tongue moisten them.

"Can I kiss you?"

The question came from Marinette and Adrien's eyes flashed back to hers, widened slightly in surprise, but then they narrowed slyly, a grin tugging up the corner of his lips.

The look on his face was definitely that of the cat with the canary.

With one hand on her knee, he brought the other hand up to cup her cheek, feeling the soft brush of her hair against his fingertips.

"I thought you'd never ask."

Marinette bunched the front of his shirt in her fists and drew him towards her. There was something about this man that made her feel vulnerable and shy, and yet at the same time brought out her confident, flirtatious, brazen side. She could truly and fully be herself with him. The feeling was amazing and she saw how Nathanael was so happy now that he had Natasha.

It was no secret that Nathanael and Marinette were far from a perfect fit, thrown together by an accident, but definitely not a mistake.

Maybe they had both, finally, after all these years, found somewhere that they belonged, with someone they belonged. The idea made Marinette smile.

Adrien and Marinette's lips came together passionately, their pent up frustration from the sexual tension between them coupled with nearly a week apart made the kiss explosive. Fireworks were going off in Marinette's head and the room spun. She was intoxicated and she hadn't even touched her wine yet, drunk off of his lips.

Hands explored, much as they had done at the party, and Adrien trailed a path from her knee, up her thigh and around the bottom he had been trying not to admire earlier. He gently squeezed before his hand began to wander again, trailing up her side and to the front to gently caress her breast, which was straining in her bra, heavy with arousal, as if to get closer to his searching hand. Adrien tenderly kneaded the sensitive flesh through the thin material of her top before making his way back down to her exposed leg and grabbing her thigh. With one swift movement he had hoisted a more than willing Marinette so that she sat astride him.

Marinette's face was flushed with desire, arousal glazing her cerulean orbs. With her lips slightly parted, quick pants coming from between then, Adrien almost came undone. Once again he captured her lips and delighted in the additional freedom their new position gave him to explore her breathtakingly sexy body.

It was almost more that he could take

As Adrien's hands slid up her thighs, his tongue making a slow sweep of the inside of her mouth, Marinette let out a deep groan of pleasure. When his fingers inched under the fabric of her shorts and brushed the edges of her briefs, she almost let him continue. She was incredibly turned on by their kiss and his wondering hands left tingles in their wake.

But she wasn't quite ready for this.

Reluctantly she put a stop to it, bringing her hands to rest on his and drawing the kisses out from heady and arousing, to sweet and short, before stopping all together. She brought her forehead to rest against his chest and panted heavily. Her resolve almost broke as she felt a gentle kiss on the crown of her head but was grateful when he removed his hands from her thighs and entwined their fingers instead.

"I suppose I should go home," Adrien sighed, still slightly breathless. Marinette could only nod, the slight bob barely noticeable. She didn't really want him to go.

She swung her leg back over so that she was sat next to him on the sofa, their legs brushing as they sat side by side, fingers still entwined. After a few moments of quietly staying like that, just holding hands and enjoying the peace, Adrien stood, bringing the softly pouting woman up after him.

"I don't really want you to go," she admitted, her lower lip slightly protruding.

Adrien laughed and placed a soft kiss on her pout, making her smile.

"I don't really want to go, but I should. But I want to see you soon. Really soon. Our last date was far too long ago," he moaned, sounding like a little boy denied his favourite treat.

"It was only four days ago," she argued, laughing at his playful antics.

"Three days of not seeing your beautiful face is far too long," he assured as they approached the front door and he made to reach for the handle. Before he could open the door though, Marinette pulled him in for one last kiss. It was swift but thorough, and both of them were slightly unsteady afterwards. Then she opened the door and Adrien stepped out into the chill night.

When Adrien had gone, Marinette stood staring at the door for several long minutes. The feeling in her chest was one of loss. She missed him already and he had only just left.

She had it bad.

Chapter Text

Adrien had it bad.

Every morning when he woke up, he'd head straight to the bathroom for a cold shower. Marinette Dupain-Cheng was driving him crazy. And it wasn't just a sexual thing. Over the last couple of weeks he had seen her come out of her shell more and more. Her confidence was shining through. She was a dedicated mother, intelligent, creative and caring. He knew all that about her when they were at school, but now he was getting the chance to experience it firsthand. Sure, she still had a vulnerable streak, and while it was endearing, Adrien hoped to boost her self esteem and bring out the woman he knew she really was, a woman he had seen more and more on their dates. She was amazing.

Marinette had it bad.

Adrien was different from when they were teenagers. He was more confident, cocky even. He wasn't afraid to speak his mind and he had a way of making her feel safe, even when his sexual magnetism was at dangerous levels. He was still kind and considerate, a proper gentleman. That hadn't changed. And over the last couple of weeks she had discovered his bad sense of humour. Puns. The thought made her shudder. But thank God he wasn't perfect. Occasionally he reminded her of her old partner though, and she didn't know how to handle that. Her mind subconsciously pushed those thoughts away. Thinking about Chat Noir always hurt.

Adrien had always been intelligent, and coupled with home-schooling he had been miles ahead of the rest of them, and Marinette was glad that Adrien had decided to use his talents to pursue a career that he had actually wanted to do, stepping up and getting out from under his father's thumb. He was amazing.

And she was over the moon when he called her to arrange another date with her. Even though he had told her he wanted to have more dates, a part of Marinette hadn't quite believed it.

As luck would have it, that Friday night Celeste was going for a sleepover with a few of her friends, and Marinette thought this would be the perfect opportunity to have Adrien round for a home cooked meal.


 

At seven o'clock, the doorbell had rung, announcing the arrival of her date. Marinette immediately switched to panic mode. Dinner was in the oven and coming along fine. True to form, however, Marinette was definitely not ready. She wasn't dressed, she didn't have any make-up on and her hair had had nothing more than a brush through.

With a sigh, she quickly smoothed down the simple white top she had thrown on when she got home from work and rubbed at a smudge on her jeans, before going to answer the door.

Adrien smiled bashfully at her, his hands behind his back, before he produced a bouquet of pink daisies.

"I was going to bring you roses, but I thought you might like these better. I always think daisies are such a happy flower. They kind of remind me of you," he explained, his cheeks tingeing the same colour as the flowers he was holding at the admission.

Marinette's smile lit up her entire face. She took the bouquet from his outstretched hand and admired the pretty display. Then she stepped closer and pressed a quick kiss on his jaw before practically skipping into the kitchen to find a vase.

With the flowers safely situated, Marinette pulled a bottle of wine out of the fridge, pouring them both a glass.

"Maybe we'll actually have the chance to drink them this time," she said laughingly. "I'm just going to pop upstairs and change quickly. Dinner should be ready in about half an hour. Make yourself at home," Marinette suggested before turning towards the stairs.

Then her phone rang.


 

Marinette's hysteria was palpable and Adrien didn't know what to do. She was pacing the kitchen, unable to hold herself still as she pressed the phone closer to her ear, as if she could gain proximity to the caller the closer the phone was to her. Her desire to jump into action was obvious and she quickly ended the call.

"Celeste is in the hospital, I have to get to her."

Marinette had finally come to a stop in front of the patiently waiting blonde, and unshed tears clung to her lashes. He could tell she was trying to stay strong, to take control of the situation, but she was just barely holding it together. Adrien just wanted to hold her, to comfort her, but he knew it wouldn't be welcome right now.

"Let's go then."

Marinette looked at him wide eyed.

"What do you mean?" she asked. Was he saying he wanted to go with her?

"I'll drive you to the hospital. You're in no state to drive. Please, let me do this for you," he pleaded, not really intending to take 'no' for an answer. She wouldn't be able to drive being so upset and he wasn't going to let her get a taxi when he was more than capable of driving her. He didn't want to leave her when she was so distraught either.

Marinette's hesitation was only brief, knowing that her focus had to be on getting to Celeste. She nodded her head and they moved to leave. Adrien halted her just before she reached the door, and he headed back inside the house, switching off the oven and grabbing both their coats and her house keys. Marinette was too distracted to even think about such trivialities and was glad that Adrien was there to think of it for her. She felt completely useless. It was such a debilitating feeling, having no control over the situation.

Before she knew it they were in the car and pushing the boundaries of the established speed limit. It still wasn't fast enough for her but she still had enough sense to know that getting pulled over for speeding wouldn't help her cause. Besides, the traffic in Paris was difficult to manoeuvre at the best of times. Marinette was blind to the beautiful sights the city had to offer, seeing only her daughters face as she looked out of the window, her own face reflected back at her showing her the evidence of her anguish. She wouldn't feel any better until she had Celeste in her arms and knew that her baby was okay.

Her fingers tightened into fists, her nails biting into the palms of her hands, almost tight enough to draw blood.


 

The hospital, when they got there, was a maelstrom of noise and movement, people rushing all over the place, people moaning or crying in the waiting room, and a general hubbub of chatter and even the occasional laughter.

Marinette frantically searched the faces in the room trying to pick her daughter out of the masses. Since it was a Friday night, there were a lot more people than you might normally expect, and Adrien spotted more than one drunk in the room. He kept an eye on the crowd, wary of the inebriated strangers, while Marinette searched for Celeste, blind to anyone else.

Finally, she spotted a blue ponytail over the other side of the room, heading out of the waiting room. Marinette hared off after it, leaving Adrien for dust as he marvelled at her speed.

Marinette just caught up to her daughter as she was being lead into triage by a nurse in floral scrubs. She was panting slightly, but managed to introduce herself as Celeste's mother, and relieved the stressed woman who had brought Celeste to the hospital. Adrien decided to take it upon himself to guide the mother of Celeste's friend - a woman he had met once or twice and knew to be the mother of a girl named Bianca - away from the waiting room. Marinette shot him a grateful glance before she disappeared behind a curtain.

By the time he had convinced the woman that she shouldn't feel guilty, that accidents happen and that she should go home, Celeste and Marinette were back out in the waiting room. He sat on the seat opposite them, careful to maintain a respectful distance from the pair.

"Is everything okay?" he asked, and Celeste looked up at him, slightly wide-eyed, before casting a suspicious glance at her mother. When she shifted her features contorted with pain and her focus was once more on her wrist.

"It looks like her wrist is broken. She'll be going to x-ray soon to confirm and then it'll be in a cast for a few weeks. We'll just have to wait and see how bad it is," Marinette explained, managing to project a mask of calm, despite the panic that Adrien could clearly see clawing to make itself known.

"Mamon," Celeste moaned, clutching gently at her wrist to try and keep it still. "When will Papa get here?"

"I've called him and he's on his way, sweetie. Hopefully not much longer."

At that moment, a porter called them to go to x-ray, and Adrien gave Celeste a kind smile as the mother and daughter walked away. He decided to go in search for coffee as he had no intention of leaving anytime soon.

Ten minutes later the pair retuned to where Adrien waited for them. It turned out the wrist was only fractured, not completely broken. It was a little more than hairline, but would have no problem healing with the aid of a cast. The human body was an amazing thing. Celeste and Marinette were shown to a ward room, waiting to get the cast fit while Adrien tried to get comfortable in a chair out in the hallway.

It was at this point that Nathanael arrived. When he noticed Adrien sat outside his daughter's hospital room, the red-head suddenly felt inexplicable rage. His emotions were already running high, his daughter was in hospital and it had taken him far longer than he would have liked to get there, but to find Adrien Agreste casually sat in the hallway, without a care in the world?

At seeing Nathanael, Adrien stood to greet him and direct him to Celeste's room. He didn't get the chance however.

"What are you doing here?" Nathanael demanded, squaring off against the taller man. Adrien held his hands up in a show of goodwill, but Nathanael's anger wouldn't be diminished. He was already angry that Celeste had been hurt at a sleepover party, but now to find his teenage nemesis was here, with his wife and daughter? It had been galling at school to know the girl he was in love with loved the vapid, pretty-boy model that stood before him now. Even throughout their marriage, he felt as though Marinette wasn't really with him, but thinking of Adrien instead, and to find that same man when he was feeling his lowest, while his daughter was in pain and there was nothing he could do about it? Nathanael was feeling decidedly emasculated and now he had a target to take it out on.

"I just brought Marinette to the hospital," Adrien assured, trying to come across as unthreatening as possible. He didn't want to make a bad situation worse and he didn't want to incur Nathanael's anger. "She was obviously upset about Celeste, and I didn't think it was a good idea for her to drive."

This only made Nathanael's face turn red, a hue to almost rival his hair.

"So why didn't she call me? Celeste is my daughter too. Or call for a taxi. Why would she call you? Why is my wife calling someone who hasn't even been in Paris for years?" Nathanael wasn't shouting, but his voice was barely controlled.

Adrien knew that emotions were running high. Everyone was upset about what was happening. He didn't want to antagonise the situation and thought it was probably best not to correct Nathanael calling Marinette his wife. He did feel the need to explain himself though, even if he didn't supply all the details. Now wasn't the time to explain his and Marinette's relationship. They hadn't really defined it themselves yet. It had only really been two dates, including their dinner that night, before it was interrupted by the trip to the Emergency Room. So one and a half dates? Not the time, Agreste, he admonished himself, before he addressed the matter at hand.

"Marinette and I are friends. I moved back to Paris a few months ago and we've reconnected. I was around this evening when she got the call about Celeste, that's all."

Adrien thought he had done well downplaying the situation, but Nathanael had taken an inch and run a mile.

"Are you sleeping with my wife?" he hissed.

Adrien took a step back, mouth opened slightly in surprise. Then his eyes narrowed and his mouth snapped closed into a grimace. He took a step forwards again and drew himself up to his full height. Suddenly, Nathanael didn't look quite so sure of himself.

Now, Adrien liked to think himself a reasonable man, and he appreciated that Nathanael was under a lot of stress right now, but the blonde man wasn't going to let Nathanael get away with such an insulting question.

"Firstly, Marinette is not your wife. And whatever my relationship with her is, it's none of your business, except where it affects Celeste. We are friends, and Celeste knows that. I know this situation is stressful for everyone involved, so I'm going to leave it there, but I would appreciate it if you didn't insult me, and especially if you didn't insult Marinette with your improper questions. Am I understood?"

Nathanael was still glowing red, but now there was a tinge of shame and disbelief mixed with his anger. His eyes narrowed briefly, assessing Adrien, before nodding sharply once.

"Fine."

And with that, Nathanael turned and walked back into Celeste's hospital room where Natasha had disappeared when they first arrived, and Marinette was waiting. Adrien slumped into a hard plastic chair, suddenly deflated.

There was nothing to distract him while he waited. The walls were a cold and sterile white, the artificial lighting throwing the dismal setting into harsh relief. People hurried back and forth, different coloured scrubs the only interest in the otherwise empty hall. Luckily, it wasn't too long before the occupants of the room behind him finally emerged.


 

"What was all that about?"

Nathanael glanced over to where Natasha was driving, her eyes on the road but her focus clearly on him. Her eyes were hard and her mouth was set in a grim line.

"What are you talking about?" he replied, although he knew full well. He'd let his emotions get the better of him in the hospital. Now that Celeste had been released (he still was a little sore about the fact that Adrien had driven them both back home but after their earlier confrontation, he decided to let it go), he had calmed down somewhat.

"I'm talking about all that with Adrien out in the hall. Luckily Marinette and Celeste didn't hear you but I certainly did," she bit out, her anger palpable now that they were alone. Nathanael had the decency to look a little shame-faced. "I understand that Celeste is your daughter and you feel protective of her but Adrien is right, Marinette is not your wife. I don't understand how you can be jealous of them?"

Nathanael had looked stubbornly away but he just caught the catch in her voice and looked back at her face to see that tears were clustered against her lower lashes.

"Am I not enough for you?"

Natasha was such a mature and responsible person, it was easy to forget that she was so young sometimes, that she needed reassurances from him. Then again, didn't everyone sometime. He was already feeling guilty about his earlier behaviour but now he could feel his heart cracking just a bit that he was hurting the woman he loved like this.

"Of course you're enough. You are everything to me. I'm so sorry that I made you feel that way," he exclaimed, hand coming to rest on her knee in reassurance. "I've never really got on with Adrien, he was a nice guy and everything but it always seemed like he had everything that I wanted. Even back then Marinette was in love with him. Seeing them together today... I don't know..."

Natasha smiled at him sympathetically.

"You know," she began, "he can't take Celeste away from you. She's your daughter and she loves you."

Nathanael looked at her, mouth and eyes wide. It amazed him that this woman could read him so easily. He hadn't even mentioned his insecurities when it came to Celeste. They had stopped at the lights and she was gazing into his eyes. He could read the love there and it overwhelmed him.

He grasped her hand a raised it to place a kiss on the inside of her wrist, right where her pulse was beating.

"Thank you."


 

Marinette had put Celeste to bed while Adrien waited for her downstairs. The painkillers she had been given were strong, and as soon as her head had hit the pillow, Celeste had drifted into a deep sleep. The doctors had assured her that it was normal if she didn't wake up for ten to twelve hours and Marinette shouldn't worry. It couldn't be helped though, as the flash of a cast peaked out from the edge of the covers. Marinette brushed her daughters hair away from her face and gently pressed a kiss on her forehead before quietly retreating from the room and closing the door behind her. All of the emotions from the night came crashing over her and she leaned back against the door, letting out a heavy sigh. She collected herself for a minute, then straightened herself back up and went to join the man waiting for her.

Adrien was sat on the sofa, casually reading the paperback which Marinette could never seem to quite manage to finish. Stopping for a moment to take in what was quite a cosy, domestic scene, did funny things to Marinette's heart. She felt a rush of affection towards Adrien, for everything he had done for her tonight, on top of the growing feelings she had for him. If she didn't know any better, she would think she was in love with him.

She moved to take a seat next to him and Adrien returned the book on the coffee table, placing his arm around her shoulders in comfort. That was all it took for Marinette to lean in to him, burying her face in his shoulder and releasing the emotions she had been bottling up ever since she had received the phone call informing her Celeste had broken her wrist. Her entire being shook as sobs wracked her body and Adrien turned to wrap both of his arms around her, drawing her closer and offering her his support.

They sat that way until Marinette finally stilled, the occasional sniff all that remained of her breakdown. Adrien just quietly held her. After a few moments of sitting together silently, she raised her head and looked into his face. His heart just about broke to see her tear drenched eyes rimmed in red. He brushed his thumb across one cheek, wiping away the remains of a tear, and she offered him a wobbly smile, then glanced down at his shirt. The corners of her mouth turned down slightly.

"I've ruined your shirt," she whispered, sounding woefully downtrodden. Adrien's lips twitched into a smile. She made it sound like a catastrophe.

"It's really okay," he assured, and Marinette couldn't help but feel he didn't just mean the shirt.

"Thank you for being with me tonight," she murmured. "I don't know what I would have done without you."

"You would have figured it out, Mari. I know you would have. You're amazing," he promised, his eyes full of admiration for this strong yet vulnerable woman. "I'm glad that I could be here for you, though. Thank you for letting me stay."

She nodded, her eyes never leaving his. Marinette didn't risk opening her mouth to reply, for fear that she would start crying again. His hand was still on her cheek and he brushed a soft lock of midnight hair behind her ear, stroking her cheek again with his thumb. Marinette turned her face to nuzzle into his hand, closing her eyes to absorb the warmth of his large and faintly calloused palm. Everything about him was comforting.

Marinette released a sigh, heavy with the emotion of the night and opened her bluebell eyes to take in the amazing man before her. Adrien Agreste was everything she could have hoped for and more. It was a wonder that she ever believed herself actually in love with the teenage model, when in reality, it was obvious that he was only half of a person. A shell of who he really was, weighed down by the expectation of society and his father. The Adrien she saw now had the charm, the looks, the genuine soul of the boy that she had been infatuated with, along with a strength of character that she had never seen back then. In fact, once again she was blindsided by how much he reminded her of Chat Noir. Not as brash, perhaps, a little less try-hard, but there were definite similarities. This time, she didn't push the notion away. Marinette was overwhelmed by how much more this made him. More attractive, more human, more attainable and while not perfect, absolutely perfect for her.

Being hit with this revelation was almost too much after the night she had had. There was so much emotion that she couldn't really focus on any one. Adrien could see the confusion in her cerulean depths. She almost seemed at war with herself.

"Is there anything I can do for you, Mari?" he asked, bringing his hand down to tangle his fingers with hers. "Can I get you a drink, run you a bath? Would you like me to leave? I know tonight has been hard for you."

Marinette widened her eyes in surprise that he would suggest such a thing. Here she was having a revelation about the depths of her feeling for him, and he was asking if he should leave?

"No," she all but shouted, before glancing fearfully up at the ceiling. She didn't want to disturb Celeste's rest. Luckily, it seemed the painkillers were quite effective. Marinette took in Adrien's uncertain face and smiled. "Please, don't leave. Not yet," she whispered.

Adrien was quick to acquiesce, not wanting to leave her side. Not now, not ever. But there would be time for talk like that at a later date. He was definitely getting ahead of himself.

"A cup of tea then, perhaps?" he offered, already making to get up off the sofa, his fingers loosening their hold on hers. She gripped his fingers tightly momentarily, before reluctantly letting them go. Then as he turned towards the kitchen, she decided to join him. The desire to be in someone's presence was strong. She didn't want to be alone right now.

"I'll help," she assured, and after throwing her a quietly assessing gaze, Adrien nodded, slipping an arm around her waist.

The couple made the tea in silence, completing the simple undertaking in seamless harmony. They were the picture of domestic bliss, and it was almost as if the two of them had been doing it for years, working as a pair to complete a task.

When they were situated back in the living room, Adrien sat with his back against the arm of the sofa, one leg bent, the foot resting on the cushion, and the other on the floor. He guided Marinette so that she was sat between his legs, facing away from him. At first she was confused, but as she felt the warm pressure of his hands on her shoulders she relaxed for the first time in hours.

Adrien rubbed and kneaded at the knots in her shoulders, earning him a moan of satisfaction and some muttered words of gratitude. After a few minutes, she sunk back into his chest, letting her head loll back onto his shoulder, her eyes closed and a peaceful expression on her face.

He really didn't want to move, he was extremely comfortable with the full warm weight of her body on his and the scent of her surrounding him, but if she was going to sleep, she'd be much better off in bed. The thought of Marinette in bed gave Adrien pause and he swallowed hard. You're a grown man, he chided himself, but reminding himself of that did nothing to stop him feeling like a horny teenage boy whenever he was around the beautiful woman in his arms.

"Marinette," he whispered, "Princess?"

Marinette opened her eyes to look up at him, realising just how close her face was to his. Rather than startling away as she might have done before, she just turned her face more fully into his neck, closing her eyes again. She hummed in acknowledgement and the vibrations travelled across his skin.

"Do you want to go to bed?"

At that she did pull away, giving him a slightly bemused look, cocking one eyebrow. Adrien flushed red and tried to pull himself further away but he had nowhere to go, and Marinette decided to settle back against him again, once again turning her face so that it was almost pressed against his neck and closing her eyes.

"I-I-I... I d-didn't mean-"

"I know, Adrien," she interrupted, and she sounded mildly amused, putting him at ease. "I'm not tired, I just want to be here with you, if that's okay?"

Adrien's expression softened, and he slipped his hands around her waist, lacing his fingers together and resting them on her stomach. She brought her own up to cover his. He closed his own eyes, fully enjoying this moment of calm with the woman he lo-

Liked, the woman he liked.

He forced the thought away.

His eyes snapped open when he felt the lightest of touches at his throat. The sensation was followed by a hint of hot breath across his adam's apple and he realised that she had kissed him. She pressed her lips to his neck once, twice, three times before he felt the wet swipe of her tongue. His indrawn breath was sharp as Marinette softly sucked on the side of his neck.

Taking it as encouragement, Marinette turned around in his arms and kissed her way up his neck.

Adrien hardly dared breathe, let alone move, as he was seduced by the siren in his arms. Her lips were at the corner of his when he suddenly grasped her shoulders and moved her an arm's length away from him, chest moving rapidly with his accelerated breathing.

"Marinette, maybe I should go. You've had a rough night and you're probably feeling quite emotional right now," Adrien tried to untangle himself and move out from beneath her but her arms only tightened, bringing her back against his chest and keeping him in place.

Her voice was a purr of need and vulnerability that he couldn't deny.

"I don't want to be alone tonight. Please stay."

Chapter Text

Adrien wrapped his arms back around Marinette, pulling her back more snugly into his embrace. He pressed a kiss into her hair.

"Of course I'll stay," he agreed, his breath ruffling the midnight strands.

Marinette breathed a sigh of relief then turned herself so that she was sat in his lap, her head resting on his chest. She felt like a child, cocooned in his arms and surrounded by his warmth. The feeling was one of security and safety and she relished in it.

Marinette considered herself to be a strong, independent woman. She had practically raised Celeste alone for years until Nathanael had finally gotten his act together and stepped up to the mark. She didn't need a man to look after her.

She didn't need a man, but she wanted Adrien Agreste.

Her fingers traced small circles on his chest, her head nuzzling once more into his neck. Adrien absorbed the comfort of the action, almost as if she were a cat on his lap. The thought was reinforced by him gently stroking her hair in a soothing gesture. For a moment the two of them just sat there, then Adrien once again felt the sweet sensation of her lips against his throat. Her hand had drifted down his chest and was now slipping just under the hem of his shirt in order to make the same circles on his bare stomach. The gentle feel of her fingers made the muscles in his stomach tighten, and other parts of his anatomy come to attention once more.

A hiss pushed its way through his teeth and he bit on his lip, desperately trying to control his reaction to a relatively innocent touch. It was to no avail however, when her nails gently scratched his sensitive skin and her teeth nipped at his collar bone.

"Marinette," he sighed, half in protest and half in encouragement. His judgement was quickly becoming clouded by her actions. Her hands were pure sin.

He could feel her smile against his throat as she continued to place kisses there, working her way once more back up to his mouth. This time, he didn't protest as she pressed her lips to his, and he groaned as her tongue sought entrance into his mouth, quickly matching her heat in a passionate kiss. Her fingers drifted lower, fluttering against the top of his jeans and making a bee-line for his button. Just as she made to unsnap the first button, his hand quickly flew to cover hers, halting her efforts. She pulled back from the kiss, looking into his face quizzically.

His eyes were still closed and breaths were leaving his lips in small pants. Marinette very much wanted to go back to tasting those sweet lips again but Adrien's face was slightly screwed up, and the expression was as effective at stopping her as his hand had been.

"What's wrong?" she asked uncertainly.

Adrien took a moment to compose himself before he could formulate an answer. It was a full ten seconds before he opened his eyes.

"I don't want to do this, not now... not like this," he told her, the regret evident in his voice.

"You don't... want..." the hurt on Marinette's face almost broke his resolve, but Adrien knew he had to be strong.

"No," he protested, bringing his hand up to rest on her cheek, seeing that she had taken his comment the wrong way. "I want you, God, how I want you. I think that much is painfully obvious," he stated indicating the evidence of his arousal that neither one of them could deny.

"Then why..?"

Adrien drew her face back to his, placing a small kiss on her nose, ignoring just how cute the freckles were that dusted across it. He brought her forehead to rest on his and sighed deeply, managing inch by inch to regain control of himself.

"I want you so much, but not like this. I want our first time to be special. I don't want it just because you're upset, or overwhelmed, or just need... someone. I want it to be just you and me, where we can take all the time in the world, and I won't have to sneak out in the morning so your daughter doesn't catch me. I want it to be romantic, not desperate. I want it to be perfect, or at least, as perfect as we can make it. I hope you understand," he almost whispered, his speech impassioned.

Marinette still looked uncertain.

"I promise you, Princess. I want you so badly that it hurts," he placed a small peck on her lips and they both lingered slightly longer than he had intended. He drew away again. "Tonight though, I just want to be here with you."

Suddenly, Adrien was once more enveloped in a warming hug from the beautiful woman in his arms.

"Thank you," she whispered into his ear.

They stayed up talking until two o'clock, talking about nothing and everything. Adrien entertained her with tales of his year travelling with his father, and Marinette told him horror stories about her pregnancy. They both discussed university, and Marinette told him about her wish to go back to design school one day, although that dream was still years away, while Celeste was still at school.

Eventually, they decided it was time to go to bed. Adrien escorted Marinette upstairs to her bedroom.

"Will you stay with me here?" she asked hopefully. "I won't try anything, I promise."

Adrien held back a snort of laughter, before drawing back the covers. He set the alarm on his phone for five o'clock. Luckily it was a weekend the next day (or really, just later that day, he supposed) so he could have a nap once he got home. Taking off his shoes and jeans, Adrien lay down next to Marinette in just a tee-shirt and boxers.

Despite Marinette's words, it was all she could do to keep her hands to herself. Luckily she was exhausted and within a minute of her head touching her pillow she was completely out. Adrien lasted a little longer, taking in the beauty of her sleeping face. He could get used to this. In sleep, all her worries fell away and she looked younger and more carefree. He longed to make her look that way in her waking life as well, to remove any stresses from her life that he could.

When Marinette woke the next morning, Adrien was gone and his side of the bed was cold. She felt the loss like a physical thing. Maybe it was time to talk to her daughter about the possibility of Adrien becoming a more permanent fixture in their lives.


 

Late for school again, Celeste complained mentally, fully prepared to blame her mother for her complete lack of time management skills. And for her love of sleeping in. As much as she loved her mother, those were traits that she wished they didn't share.

She slipped into her seat just as the last bell rang and at first she didn't notice, but then she became aware of the whispering and the stares, and she was the focus. Glancing around she saw several pairs of eyes looking at her before glancing away again. The whispers were getting louder and she could hear her name mentioned as well as Professor Agreste's, punctuated by giggles. Her cheeks started flushing red - another trait she got from her mother - and she stared resolutely forward, trying to block out the sounds.

Then, as if things couldn't get worse, Professor Agreste walked into the room.

He didn't acknowledge her in any way or pay her any special attention, but the laughter and whispers doubled in strength.

For the next half an hour or so she had pointed comments directed at her.

Celeste, is your mamon going to marry Professor Agreste?

Ooh, Celeste Agreste, has a nice ring to it!

Is Professor Agreste your new papa?

It was really starting to get on her nerves.

Then a note dropped over her shoulder. Sighing dejectedly she unwrapped the ball of paper and read the untidy scrawl across it.

Maybe now Professor Agreste is going to be your papa you'll actually get good marks in physics!

Celeste had had enough. She shot to her feet, hands balled at her sides.

"Leave me alone!" she cried out loud to the whole class and Adrien snapped his mouth shut, taken aback that a student was standing and shouting in his classroom, and even more so that that student was Celeste. She was always a quiet, polite girl.

"Mlle. Kurtzberg, please sit down. You are disrupting my class. If it happens again I will send you to the principal's office."

Celeste hung her head in shame.

"Sorry, Professor," she said, retaking her seat. Then the whispers started again.

Uh-oh, Celeste is in trouble with her papa.

Next time he'll send her to her room!

On and on the whispers went and her face got steadily redder and redder.

"Shut up, shut up, shut up!" she screamed, rising to her feet once more.

"Celeste, enough. Pack up your things and go to the principal please."

In a rage, Celeste did as she was asked, storming from the room. She didn't notice the longing look she received from a certain brown-eyed boy, and she was already gone when he turned to the class to give them a piece of his mind. The class were left astounded at his outburst. Lucas wasn't one for rocking the boat and they were shocked when he stood to tell them all off.

It wasn't until she left the principal's office that she found Lucas sat on a chair, waiting for his own visit to the principal.

"Wh-what are you doing here?" she asked, blushing again for what felt like the tenth time that day. It wasn't even lunchtime yet.

Lucas stood and rubbed his arm bashfully, the corners of his eyes crinkling into a smile.

"That wasn't fair, what they were all saying back there," he explained, admiring the blue of her eyes before looking away. "I-I didn't think it was right so... I told them off after you were kicked out of class."

Celeste looked at him a little gobsmacked.

"You did that... for me?" she asked, her tone disbelieving.

He nodded his head, still not meeting her eyes.

"It was wrong. They shouldn't have treated you like that. It shouldn't matter if you mamon is friends with Professor Agreste, or even if they're more than friends. It's none of their business."

Lucas finally met her eyes again and moved his hand as if he was going to touch her, before he thought better of it.

"How's your wrist, by the way?" he asked, concern colouring his voice.

"F-fine, I mean... you're fine - no wait... I'm fine, it's fine," she buried her face in her hands. Lucas just chuckled before she felt the slight warm pressure of his hand on her shoulder. She looked back up at him just as he was dropping his arm back down again.

"I'm glad you're okay," he smiled before grabbing his satchel and looping it over his shoulder. "Wish me luck," he bid before turning to go into the principal's office.

"Luck," she whispered, but he heard her anyway.


 

"What happened at school today?" Marinette questioned as soon as her daughter walked through the door. "I heard you went to the principal's office?"

Celeste dropped her bag at the kitchen door and turned to face her mother, hands on hips.

"I suppose Professor Agreste told you that, did he?"

Marinette was shocked at her daughter's outburst. It was quite out of character for her to be so angry.

"No, I got a call from the school letting me know. Why don't we sit down and you can tell me all about it," she offered, gesturing towards the kitchen table.

"No thanks," Celeste stated, crossing her arms. I'll just tell you, since you'll probably hear from your boyfriend anyway but I'll let you know my side. Because you've decided to have a love affair with my teacher, without even telling me, by the way, everyone at school thinks that Professor Agreste is going to be my new father and they have been making fun of me for it all day. I had enough and snapped but then Professor Agreste sent me to the principal's office. It was totally unfair."

Celeste huffed, drawing breath after her tirade before starting again.

"Why did you have to bring your stupid boyfriend to the hospital? That's what started all of this. We were perfectly happy before. Why did you have to go and ruin it?" and with that the girl turned tail and ran up the stairs to her room, slamming the door behind her.

Marinette didn't know what to do. She stood in the kitchen trying to make sense of everything that had just happened. She wanted to call Adrien and find out exactly what had happened, but she wasn't sure if that would make things better or worse.

Following her talk with her daughter - if you could call it that - Marinette was torn. Her feelings for Adrien were incredibly strong. She might even say she loved him. But if she was hurting her daughter just so she could be happy? That wasn't very fair on Celeste.

Marinette didn't want to do anything that would hurt Celeste.

For years Marinette watched her daughter tolerate women she hated just because her father thought himself in love, or worse, she saw Celeste grow attached to Nath's girlfriends, just for the women to leave. She had promised herself a long time ago that she would never do the same to her.

And that made the choice painfully easy.

And that just about broke her heart.

And if she couldn't have Adrien to talk to right now, she desperately needed a friend.


 

The party seemed like an absolute age ago, and Alya was starting to feel the withdrawal from her best friend. That was why she was particularly excited to get the phone call inviting her round. What she didn't expect to find when she got there, was two women already chatting amicably in the kitchen while the kettle boiled.

She breezed through the back door as she always did, and then stopped short at the scene before her.

"Hey... girl," she greeted, waving awkwardly while eyeing up the chirpy brunette woman sat at the table beaming over at her.

"Hi, you must be Alya," the young woman trilled, practically bouncing on her seat. Alya sincerely hoped she was having tea to drink because it did not seem like she needed any coffee in her system. "I'm Natasha, I'm Nathanael's girlfriend."

Alya's brow furrowed as she was suddenly smothered in an embrace out of nowhere. She staggered under the force of the hug then raised one eyebrow at her best friend over Natasha's shoulder. Marinette just shrugged, smiling at the scene, and turned to make the drinks.

"H-hey, Natasha. It's nice to meet you," Alya greeted, awkwardly patting her on the back before they drew away from each other and took their seats once more at the kitchen table, steaming mugs placed in front of them.

The three feel into easy conversation, mostly carried by Natasha with the occasional comment from Alya. Marinette sat there watching the pair chatter on and absorbing the warmth of their presence. She had invited Natasha along partly because she had resolved to get to know her better, and partly because she felt that Natasha would actually be able to help her in her situation, even if it was just to give her some moral support. Truth be told, she wasn't really looking for advice, she had already decided what she was going to do. She just wanted to tell some friends, and after Alya, Natasha was really the closest thing she had.

Eventually the general small talk petered out and the two women turned to face Marinette.

"So, Nettie," Natasha started, smiling kindly at the bluenette. "As nice as this has been, you didn't invite us here to talk about the weather. What's up?"

Marinette sighed. She really did hate that nickname, but she couldn't say anything to take the smile off of the younger woman's face. She was also hoping to postpone this part of the conversation for just a little longer, but she supposed it was time.

"I'm breaking up with Adrien," she blurted, deciding that ripping off the bandage was the best course of action. She was met with slightly dumbfounded stares.

"Why?" the two other women cried in unison and Marinette flinched. She looked down at her hands, twisting her fingers together nervously. She imagined that they wouldn't agree with her decision, but she was decided, and she knew it was for the best.

"Celeste isn't happy. Me being with Adrien is causing her to be bullied at school. It got bad enough that she snapped at some students in class and had to be sent out to the principal. She didn't get detention but... Adrien was the one who sent her out. I think that might have made matters worse."

Alya made to protest but Marinette raised a hand, silencing her.

"This situation isn't going to get any better, and I won't do that Celeste. I won't be the reason she's unhappy."

At this, neither Alya nor Natasha knew what to say. They both stood and wrapped their arms around Marinette. Until then she had managed to hold it together, but surrounded by their silent offering of love and support, so similar to what she had got from Adrien after the hospital, Marinette broke down into a weeping mess.

Unknown to the other two, the cogs in Natasha's brain were whirring.


 

Adrien was excited to get the call from Marinette to meet him for a coffee after work on Tuesday. She'd sounded a little off, but he didn't think much of it, assuming she was as happy to be seeing him as he was her.

The sun was shining with only a few clouds marring the horizon and so Adrien had opted to take a table outside, his jacket and scarf his only extra protection from the elements. He decided to get a pot of tea for the two of them to share while he waited for Marinette's arrival, not able to keep the smile from his face as the waiter brought the steaming pot out to him. Not even a minute later, Adrien caught the flash of blue hair in the flow of people walking on the pavement, and as she drew closer, he rose from his seat to greet her.

"Hi, Mari," he smiled, moving round to her chair and holding it out for her to take a seat, placing a chaste kiss on her cheek and he did so. Marinette's cheeks flushed pink but her smile was watery and she wouldn't catch his eye, even as he took a seat opposite her. A frown drew his brows together, forming a crease between them.

"Is everything okay?"

Marinette had been focussing on a point over his left shoulder, but at his words her eyes flickered to meet his.

Her heart was almost breaking in her chest. There was genuine affection and concern in his emerald gaze. The sounds of the busy Parisian street became mute to her ears and the world seemed to drain of all colour save for those twin orbs of gorgeous green, looking into her eyes with something that almost looked like... but no, she couldn't even think that. It would make what she was about to do that much harder.

She just had to remind herself that she was doing this for her daughter, that she would do anything for Celeste.

Sadly, she shook her head at him.

"No, Adrien, it's not," she told him, her voice full of regret. "I'm sorry but, I can't carry on with whatever it is that we're doing. You can't come round my house again, and I won't be coming round to yours either. This will have to be the last time we do... this," she informed him, her eyes dropping to where her hands were wrapped around a teacup, desperately trying to draw warmth from it. She felt numb.

"This?" he asked, not wanting to believe that what she was saying was actually happening.

"A date, I can't go on any more dates with you. We can't be romantically involved."

Adrien's heart was pounding in his chest, and it wasn't a pleasant feeling. There was a lead weight in his stomach and he was feeling sick. She couldn't possibly mean what she was saying, not when they had just started getting so close. He didn't want to believe it, but the look in her eyes told him it was true.

"I thought that this was going well, that you liked me as much as I liked you. You can't tell me you felt nothing, that this didn't mean anything to you?" he demanded, desperately trying to keep his voice in check as he felt his world crack slightly. Or was that just his heart?

"I do... did," she corrected, but Adrien didn't miss the way her eyes misted over at her words. "But, this isn't what I want anymore. I'm sorry."

"But... why?" he asked and his voice was small, almost lost to the sounds of traffic and people.

"I'm sorry, I just... can't. It isn't right for me and it isn't right for my daughter. Maybe someday we could try to be friends again. I understand if you don't want to see me." Marinette rose unsteadily to her feet but Adrien stayed planted to his chair, face a mask of shock and disbelief.

"Goodbye, Adrien."

And with that, she was gone.


 

Back home, Adrien sank into his armchair, staring straight ahead. He couldn't believe what had just happened. On Friday night they had made a real connection. They had talked for hours and he thought they were on the same page. He had come so close to admitting to her that he loved her that night, but hadn't wanted to overwhelm her after bringing her daughter back from the hospital.

And now?

Now she didn't want to see him anymore? It was just... over?

He raked his fingers through his hair, dishevelling the blonde locks.

Adrien didn't know what to do, what to think, how to feel. He stood from the chair and began to pace the dark room. It was late and he hadn't thought to turn the light on. Not that he needed it and honestly, he preferred it that way.

Where had this even come from? He just didn't understand. They had been getting on so well. What had happened since that night and now? He hadn't even seen her since. The only thing he could think of was...

Celeste getting teased at school.

Was that what it was? He hadn't heard everything but the gist had something to do with him being at the hospital when she broke her wrist. He had had to send her to the principal's office, she had been disrupting the class and he would have done the same if it had been any other student. He wasn't sorry about that. He refused to give her special treatment just because of his feelings for Marinette.

So what might it have been? That he sent her out of class? Surely Marinette wouldn't be so petty as to hold a grudge against him for that. So maybe it was the fact that Celeste was being teased for her connection with him. Marinette was quite a protective mother. If she thought that being with Adrien made Celeste unhappy, she might end things with him. In fact, he was sure that must be the reason. It made the most sense.

This didn't make him feel any better about it.

Adrien desperately wanted to be with Marinette. He wanted to be there by her side, whether it was to comfort and protect her when she felt down, or to be the one to make her laugh. And he wanted her to be the one to do the same for him.

It had been such a short amount of time really, but he wanted all of that with her and more. He could genuinely envision spending his life with that woman. But how could he convince her that being with him was what she really wanted, if it's what her daughter didn't want?

He stopped pacing, his brain going round in circles. So he decided to go where he always did when he was conflicted and hurting.

Adrien made his way up to his bedroom and opened his wardrobe. Falling to his knees he felt around to the right side until his hands collided with an old shoebox. He dragged it out and turned to sit on the floor, his back against the wall but didn't open the lid. Instead, he spoke aloud to the empty room.

"I know what you're going to say, Plagg. I wouldn't have this problem if I just loved cheese," Adrien scoffed, the laugh sounding self-derisive rather than amused. "But you know, and I know, women smell about a thousand times better than your stinky camembert, even if they are more trouble. I think I'm in love with Marinette," he sighed and tipped his head back so that it too rested on the wall behind him, and he closed his eyes. "Remember on the first day of school when you called us love birds and I said she was just a friend? I guess you were right all along, buddy."

Adrien opened his eyes again and pulled the lid off the box, disturbing some motes of dust. It had been quite a while since he'd last opened the shoebox and he was wary of doing it now. But he needed to gain some peace of mind and as much as he missed her, Ladybug's last words to him always offered him a level of comfort, and he really needed that right now. He reverently touched the items in the box, important memories each and every one of them, until his hand landed on what he was looking for.

Adrien unfolded the paper, worn from the many times he'd read the words and run his fingers along the page, just to feel like he was closer to her.

"I still miss you, you know, Bugaboo," he whispered, and he began to read the words he had long since memorised.

Chapter Text

Dear Chat Noir,

I wasn't even sure how to start writing this letter to you, I think this might be my tenth draft of this, it's just so hard to even put down everything I might want to say to you. I do want you to know though, that with everything we've been through together, and whoever you may be under that mask, I couldn't have hoped for a better partner. You were everything I needed to balance me out and we were the perfect team. You are my best friend, and I love you.

Between akumas and patrols, fighting against you or trying to kiss you - I never did tell you what happened with Dark Cupid - you've always been there by my side.

Whatever happens in the future, and whoever we are behind the masks, know that you are the most kind-hearted, giving, selfless and brave man I have ever known. I've even gotten used to the puns. I can't wait to get to know you all over again, even if I have to wait a year to do it.

So yes, I'll meet you at the Eiffel Tower, 7 o'clock on the 28th. I'll be the one in the spots!

Never forget that I love you.

Ladybug

 

Adrien sat on the floor of his bedroom, the lingering light of day long having fled, leaving his room in shadows. The piece of paper in his hand hung limply by his side, the room too dark to read her written words, but her voice reverberated through his mind, as if she was there, reading her letter aloud to him.

She said she loved him, but had never come back for him. He wanted to believe there was a good reason for it. His Lady would never just abandon him like that. But his insecurities plagued him.

Silent tears tracked down the blond man's face, the feeling of loss overwhelming him. It seemed the bad luck of the black cat had always been with him and would never leave. There was no other reason Adrien could think of that the women in his life never stayed, and never came back to him. He had always tried so hard at everything he did, but in the end, it seemed that being Adrien just wasn't enough.


 

Alya stomped around the room with gusto. When she was fixated on something, energy just seemed to radiate off of her and it left Nino exhausted just to watch. He sat on the bed, slouched back against the headboard, headphones slung around his neck, although he could still hear the music quietly streaming from the speakers. He knew better than to interrupt his fiancée's tirade so just watched until she had finished. From what he could gather, Marinette was going to break up with Adrien. Nino didn't even realise they were dating.

It's important to understand, Nino did keep in touch with his best bud, and of course Adrien had mentioned getting drinks with Marinette a couple of weeks back. Nino knew that Adrien was interested in pursuing a relationship with Marinette, he just didn't think it had gone any further than that. Not that it really mattered. As far as Nino was concerned, and he was quite laid back about the whole dating situation, all he needed to know was that Marinette was stopping things before they had really gotten started.

It was hard to tell from his relaxed posture, but he really was upset to hear this. Adrien didn't get to catch a break often. The women who went after him were usually only after one of two things; the reputation of dating one of Paris' former top models, or the lucrative lifestyle that came from dating a rich family, and it had taken his best friend dating a lot of women for him to finally figure it out. His boy really was too pure for this world. Or he had been. He was a lot more discerning now. That being said, he knew that Marinette was neither of those things, so Nino was sad to know that Adrien would be losing out to a genuine woman who had loved him since they went to school together. He thought they would make a perfect couple. He just didn't think it was any of their business to get involved.

Alya had a very different opinion on the whole thing.

"Nino," she cried, finally coming to a stop with her hands on her hips, glaring at the lounging man. He raised an eyebrow at her as an indication that he was listening. "I need to tell her that Adrien was Chat Noir. These two need to be together. They are totally meant to be. If it hadn't been for that ridiculous love square in school - which was only because they didn't tell each other their identities right away - they would have been together this whole time! It would save a lot of heartache all round if I told them."

At this, Nino finally did show some visible interest. But it wasn't the positive interest that Alya was hoping for.

"No."

Alya froze, her jaw going slack as she took in the unexpectedly alert figure of Nino, determination transparent in his golden brown eyes. Being the dominant one in the relationship, she had never really heard that word ever coming out of his mouth.

"N-no?" she queried, suddenly unsure of herself.

"No," he affirmed. "You don't know what kind of damage you could cause by telling them each other's secret. There's a reason they haven't broadcast their identities, and if you go and tell them, you could end up breaking the trust they have in each other. This is something they need to do for themselves. Things might look bad now," Nino held his hand up to stop whatever sputtering protestation Alya was about to make, "but things will work out, one way or another. If they're meant to be, then they'll be. You just need to trust in that and don't interfere."

Nino sat back, his uncharacteristically impassioned speech over. Alya stood gawping for a few moments before coming to sit next to him on the bed, all her pent up need to act suddenly draining from her.

"But I can't just sit back and do nothing. This is my best friend. This is making her miserable."

Nino slid his arms around her shoulders comfortingly.

"You just need to be there for her, as Marinette, not as Ladybug. The past is the past so let it go. You don't need to tell her he's Chat Noir to convince her that she's making a mistake. I believe in you girl, if anyone can do it, you can."

With that, he placed a light kiss on her forehead and drew her closer to his chest so that they were both reclined against the headboard. They lay there quietly for a few minutes, the music from his headphones sounding louder in the silence.

"You know," Alya began playfully, her finger drawing circles on his chest. "You're kinda hot when you put your foot down like that," and she glanced up at him through her lashes, eyes slightly widened coquettishly.

Nino's lips twitched into a smirk.

"You like that, huh?" he asked, his tone husky, causing a shiver to run down her spine.

She nodded her head, biting down on her lip until Nino took it's pink plumpness between his teeth, gently nipping it before sucking it into his mouth and making Alya groan.

All thoughts of Adrien and Marinette, Ladybug and Chat Noir, were quickly forgotten in the couples heated embrace.


 

Before Marinette had met with Adrien on the Tuesday, Celeste had come home from school, demanding to go and stay with her father.

"I've already spoken to him and he said it's fine. I'm just going to put some things in my bag and then I'll be ready to go."

Marinette hadn't been able to form a response before Celeste had disappeared up to her room. With a heavy heart, Marinette drove her daughter to her ex-husbands house, the silence in the car stifling. Celeste didn't say a word when they arrived, grabbing her backpack and striding to the door, where Natasha stood waiting, a sympathetic smile on her face for the woman left sitting bereft in the car.

Marinette sat there for a moment more until the front door closed, leaving her staring at the blank facade of the house. Then, working on automatic, she started the engine and pulled out of the driveway to have her fateful meeting with Adrien.

A few hours later, after the three of them had had dinner, Celeste had gone back up to her room. There came a knock at Celeste's bedroom door and the young girl looked up from where she lay stretched out on her front, an open book of French Literature in front of her.

"Yeah?" she called, granting entry to whoever was on the other side of the door.

She wasn't particularly surprised to see that it was Natasha. The bubbly brunette was always trying hard to befriend Celeste. The young bluenette just found her efforts annoying. She looked back down at the page but had stopped actually taking in any of the words as soon as Natasha had walked in, she just wanted to give the woman the impression that she wasn't interested.

Truth be told, she actually liked her father's current girlfriend. She always thought of them as 'current'. You never could be sure how long they would last. She didn't want to get too attached though. Natasha had already outlasted most of the previous ones and Celeste supposed it wouldn't be long before this one moved on as well.

She looked up again as the bed dipped next to her.

Natasha wasn't looking at Celeste, her focus on a point on the opposite wall and Celeste took the moment to take in her face, clouded by uncertainty. It was unusual to see Natasha looking consternated, as she almost always projected a happy-go-lucky persona. Concerned despite herself, Celeste drew herself up into a seated position.

"What's up?" she asked, breaking the silence. The brunette had yet to utter a word. Then she released a pent up sigh.

"I'm sorry to bother you," she began, finally meeting the pair of bluebell eyes. "I'm just a little... worried."

Celeste frowned slightly up at her.

"About what?" she questioned, her curiosity piqued.

Natasha gave her an assessing look, a crease forming between her brows.

"It was just... do you know what, never mind. I can see you're busy, I didn't want to disturb your homework," she moved to stand up, uncertainly biting her lip. "I'm sorry, I'll go."

Celeste scrambled to stand as well, reaching a hand out but not quite touching Natasha.

"No, no," she insisted. "What is it?"

Natasha prevaricated, glancing from the pre-teen to the door and back again uncertainly. Then her expression became resolute and she sat back down on the bed, prompting Celeste to do this same.

"It's your mother," she began and made a fluttering gesture with her hands when Celeste pulled a face. "No, please listen. I went over to see her today, she seemed really very upset about something, and I'm not sure what to do. She said something about one of the teachers at your school, but I couldn't really make heads or tails of what she was saying. Something silly about not being able to be his friend anymore? Isn't that just ridiculous?" Natasha puffed out a laugh, but her expression turned sad. "I don't know how to help though. Your mother doesn't really have any friends except for Alya. You know she must be desperate if she wanted to see me!"

She sighed self-derisively then glanced sideways at Celeste who had her eyes cast down, gauging how her words were affecting the young girl. At Celeste's slightly down-trodden expression, Natasha smiled secretly then pulled her lips back into a pout.

"I thought maybe you could help me," she continued on. "You know her better than anyone. Do you know anything about this friend of hers?"

Celeste brought her hand up to her mouth and chewed on the side of her thumbnail, unsure of what exactly to say. Natasha's words were making her reconsider the situation, and she wasn't happy to have her perception altered. She was upset herself, and Celeste really didn't want to have to see it her mother's way, to understand how she might be hurting Marinette.

"It's nothing. Just one of my professors. Apparently they're dating, but she never told me. A few of the kids have been teasing me about it."

Natasha nodded in understanding.

"That's tough. School is hard enough without having to worry about things like that and kids can be cruel. Tell me about your professor?"

Celeste cocked an eyebrow at Natasha's unusual line of questioning. She really didn't know where the older woman was going with this, but she decided to humour her.

"He's alright, I guess. He used to be a model and a lot of the girls at school fancy him."

"Oh yeah, Adrien Agreste right?" Natasha queried. Celeste just nodded. "Hmm... a model. He's probably pretty conceited isn't he? I'll bet he's a terrible teacher. More concerned with how he looks than the students doing well. Typical."

Celeste was quick to jump in, her expression irritated.

"No, that's not true," she insisted. "He's the best teacher. He actually cares that we're doing well."

Natasha feigned a look of surprise.

"Oh, I see. Still, your maman is probably better off not being friends with him. A man like that seems like the love 'em and leave 'em type. We wouldn't want her to get mixed up with someone like that. Having a crush on him at school didn't really work out for her."

After her initial surprise - she hadn't realised Natasha knew about her mother's crush on Professor Agreste back then - Celeste's expression became more stormy.

"Of course not! Professor Agreste is kind and sweet. I've seen some of the parents fawn over him and he never gives them the time of day. I think, if he really liked maman then he'd be good to her."

Natasha quirked an eyebrow, deciding not to comment further. It looked like Celeste wasn't quite done.

"In fact, she's been really happy these last few weeks. I think that he makes her happy! So don't come in here acting like you know anything about what's going on. Professor Agreste is great." Celeste sat back, her frown still in place and her breath coming out in small huffs.

Natasha stood, facing away from the angry pre-teen, exceptionally pleased with how this had worked out. She kept her face averted so that Celeste couldn't see her expression and moved towards the door. While it was true that she might have sacrificed any advances she had made in the past to win Celeste over, it was worth it.

She stopped at the door and looked over her shoulder to find Celeste's expression had morphed from angry to uncertain. Looks like the girl had worked out the message, or at least was starting to.

"We're leaving at seven thirty as usual in the morning. Better get some sleep," she said before stepping out the room and closing the door behind her.


 

There were still whispers floating around wherever Celeste went at school. She knew that it wouldn't disappear overnight, but that didn't stop the crushing disappointment that came with the pointing and staring of her classmates, and even students in the school she had never met before. It would seem she had become an overnight sensation and Celeste couldn't feel worse about it.

That morning, Celeste had been woken bright and early by Natasha. After their talk the night before, the bluenette was a little apprehensive at finding the older woman in her room, opening her curtains to the harsh light of day. But then, wasn't that a perfect metaphor for what she had done during their 'little chat'?

She always made it to school nearly three quarters of an hour early when she stayed over at her papa's house, and that was how she found herself in the blissfully empty form room. She pulled her backpack onto the desk and used it as a cushion for her head, ready to catch a last minute nap before the inevitable hell that would be the rest of the school day.

The bag was uncomfortable, the edges of books digging into her face and Celeste shifted around, trying to find a position that she could actually get some shut-eye. Her situation wasn't helped by the memory of her mother's face the evening before, when Celeste had told her she wanted to spend the night away from her. Every time Celeste closed her eyes now, all she could see was Marinette's desolate expression.

The young girl growled in frustration and tossed her bag on the floor, tipping her head back to rest on the desk that sat behind her and slightly raised due to the tiered seating. It was just about the perfect height and once again she attempted to rest her eyes. This time, her attempt at sleep was disturbed by the rattle of the door handle.

Celeste could have cried. No sleep for her, and it looked as though the teasing was going to start early today. Joy.

Deciding that meeting the bullying head on would be the better option, rather than leaving herself in her currently vulnerable position, Celeste raised her head and opened her eyes to glare accusingly at the opening door.

Her expression quickly fell as her crush quietly slipped into the room before he froze, noticing the presence of someone else. When Lucas's eyes met her, he visibly relaxed, and even allowed himself to smile, offering her a small wave by way of greeting.

Her eyes widened and her heart lurched in her chest. She could feel a flush creeping across her cheeks and could do nothing about it.

"Um... Hi," he greeted when Celeste seemed frozen in place. Lucas closed the door behind him and made his way further into the room, walking towards where she sat. "Do you mind if I..." he cut himself off and gestured to the seat next to her. She bit her lip to keep her smile in check - she didn't want him to think she was some crazy grinning fool - and nodded, shifting over slightly to make room.

"I'm sorry that you've had to put up with everyone being idiots. Do you want to talk about it?" Lucas asked, raising a hand as if to place it on her shoulder before nervously running it through his hair at the last moment.

"Oh... uh, that's okay," she smiled at him, eyes crinkling at the corners. "You don't want to listen to me go on about my problems."

Lucas frowned slightly and this time he did rest his hand on her shoulder, making her stare up at him in surprise, her mouth hanging slightly open.

"Please?" be pleaded, and Celeste found herself drowning in his sparkling chocolate brown eyes. He looked especially good that day, his white top contrasting with his tan skin and his hair slightly dishevelled from having pushed his fingers through it just now. Internally she sighed girlishly but on the outside she just nodded her ascent.

"Okay," she agreed. "I guess, it's all just been a bit much. As if breaking my wrist wasn't bad enough, when I came to school the next day everyone was teasing me about my maman dating Professor Agreste. But then, you already knew that," she said, remembering that he too had been sent out of class for disrupting it. "It just sucks, because maman never told me that she was dating anyone, and it's just been me and her for so long that it hurt that she didn't tell me. And all the girls fancy Professor Agreste, so any gossip about him spreads really quickly and I just can't seem to get away from it. We had this fight about it and I spent last night at papa's house."

Lucas nodded his head in understanding.

"How did they all find out? If even you didn't know they were dating?"

Celeste shrugged, staring down at where her hands were clasped in front of her.

"I don't really know. I told a couple of the girls that Professor Agreste had brought my mamon to the hospital but as far as I knew they were just old school friends. Actually, she used to have a huge crush on him at school," Celeste blushed just mentioning the word 'crush' to the object of her own affections, as if he could see through her words and figure out her secret. "But now I just feel stupid and I wish everyone would just shut up about it."

"What do you want to happen now then?" he asked, the caring evident in his solemn gaze.

"Ugh, I don't know. I spoke to my papa's girlfriend last night and she told me that maman is going to stop seeing him."

"Well that's good then, isn't it?" Lucas didn't really believe that. It seemed unfair that if two people liked each other they should have to break up just to make other people happy. He looked adoringly down at the sweet bluenette before him, desperately wanting to see her smile, but at the same time, he couldn't let her go on believing that making her maman unhappy was the right thing to do.

Celeste grunted, whether in agreement or not he wasn't sure. Then she covered her pretty mouth with her hand, eyes widened at the unladylike sound she just made. Lucas just chuckled.

"But then, what if Professor Agreste can make your maman happy? Has she ever had a boyfriend after your papa? You said it was just you and her for so long."

Celeste looked at her with her mouth slightly slack. She didn't realise that he was paying that much attention. It warmed her to know that he was really listening, and how perceptive he seemed.

"I mean, I wouldn't want a group of stupid kids making jokes to get in between me and the girl Ii..." Lucas stopped speaking and snapped his mouth shut, his face staining bright pink.

Celeste's brain had stopped working. Had Lucas been about to tell her he liked a girl? Who was she? As much as Celeste desperately wanted to pursue that avenue of conversation, a few things stopped her. Firstly, if the girl wasn't her, she was sure her heart would break. She always imagined that one day Lucas would be her boyfriend and that they would live happily ever after. She agreed with him that she wouldn't want a bit of teasing getting in the way of that. Who's business would it be...?

Oh.

The seed that Natasha had planted the night before had suddenly bloomed through the attentive care of Lucas. It wasn't anyone's business. It didn't matter what the kids at school thought of her maman and Professor Agreste. It didn't matter what she thought about it either. Not really. If her mother got the chance at her happily ever after and she stood in the way of that? She could never forgive herself.

She needed to speak to her mother. She needed to apologise.

"Thank you, Lucas. You're right. I need to talk to my maman. I need to fix this," and with that she wrapped her arms around his neck and planted a swift kiss on his cheek, letting him go just as quickly and making to run out of the classroom to call Marinette. She didn't notice how he froze at her touch, and how his blush had deepened to scarlet. The boy suddenly seemed incapable of speech.

She called out to him just as she reached the door, turning back to give him one last lingering look.

"And whoever that girl is that you like... well, she's really lucky."

And with that she was gone. Lucas's head fell to the desk in front of him with a discernible thump.


 

Adrien hadn't spotted Marinette bringing Celeste to school that morning. Not that he had been looking for her, of course. He just hadn't seen her.

He already missed her, wasn't that ridiculous?

The last bell rang for the end of the school day and all the students rushed to throw their things into their bags and head home. Normally, at this point, Adrien would stay for another hour or two, marking homework and preparing for the next day's teaching. Today, however, he just wanted to get home. Waiting until the classroom emptied, he packed his own bag, throwing it over his shoulder before he trudged outside to the teacher's car park.

All of a sudden, he wished he had decided to stay back.

There, not twenty feet from him, was Marinette, and she had just noticed him.

They both stood stock still for a moment, staring mutely at each other's face. Marinette swallowed hard when Adrien's face switched from shocked to determined. As he took a step towards her, she was motivated into action, quickly turning away from him and hurrying in the opposite direction. Adrien was left behind, the hole inside him widening just that little bit more.

Marinette could feel a burning sensation at the back of her eyes, signalling that she was close to tears. All it had taken was seeing his beautiful face and his soulful green eyes and she could feel her heart breaking all over again. But she couldn't do it. She couldn't talk to him here, in the school, in front of all the children. That would make the situation a thousand times worse.

She was glad that Celeste had messaged her earlier, asking Mariette to pick her up from school. She had been worried about what she would do if Celeste still refused to speak to her. Hopefully now, they could actually sit down and talk it all out properly, and her little girl wouldn't hate her anymore.

And hopefully, one day, she and Adrien could try being friends again.

Just friends.

It was better that way.

 

 

Chapter Text

Marinette was glad to be taking Celeste home with her, she had missed her the night before. That, coupled with her misery over her situation with Adrien and Marinette had spent her evening drowning her sorrows in ice cream and bad television. She hoped that this time she would be able to have an actual conversation with her, explain her side and assure her that nothing was going to happen between her and Adrien.

The conversation on the car ride home was rather stilted, but conversation it was and Marinette wasn't going to be looking that gift horse in the mouth anytime soon, and so she heard about what Celeste had learned in school that day, and not much else.

Once they were in the house, Celeste grabbed her mother by the hand and pulled her into the living room and encouraged her to take a seat on the sofa. Marinette was more than a little confused but complied with her daughter's odd behaviour, making herself comfortable while Celeste stayed standing.

"Stay here," was all Celeste said before rushing out of the room in a fit of childish glee.

It was safe to say that Marinette was completely baffled by her behaviour. After two days of almost silence, she wasn't expecting this kind of reception.

It had been more than five minutes since Celeste had left her sitting with no explanation, which in the grand scheme of things was really not much time at all, but when you are left alone with no clue as to what the other person was doing, and when there have been mysterious sounds coming through from the other room the entire time, five minutes seemed like an eternity.

Eventually, Celeste came back in holding two steaming mugs topped with marshmallows and Marinette couldn't hold back her smile. This had all the hallmarks of a peace-offering. Marinette couldn't be happier.

The last couple of days had been miserable. She had lost Adrien and she had lost her daughter and while a lot of the problems were of her own making, she couldn't help but feel bereft from being cut off from affection. Thank goodness for Alya and Natasha who had both sent her several messages of support following her meeting with Adrien. She always knew that Alya was there for her, had always been there for her, but to have the support from these two women meant everything to her.

Celeste pulled the throw off of the back of the sofa and tossed it over her mother's legs before flopping onto the sofa herself and snuggling under the blanket.

"Maman, I'm really sorry. I shouldn't have gotten angry at you about Professor Agreste. If he's your boyfriend, that's your business and no one else should get in the way of that. I see how happy he makes you. I'm glad that you've found him."

Celeste's apology was heartfelt and Marinette was overwhelmed with emotion.

"Oh, Celeste, you're so sweet. Thank you, for all of this," Marinette gestured to the hot chocolate and then randomly in the air to indicate her daughters words. "I've really missed you these last couple of days."

"I've missed you too, maman," Celeste cried, cuddling up to Marinette and resting her head on her shoulder. Marinette's chin brushed the crown of Celeste's head.

"But listen, sweetie. I understand what you said, and it is your business too. Honestly, Adrien and I are just friends, but I can't deny that we were starting to see more of each other and that maybe soon we might have started dating. But I would never do anything to make you unhappy. You mean more to me than anything else. So I've told him that we need to take a break. Maybe one day we can be friends again but it's better, for now, if we stay apart."

Celeste's head shot up and a small swell of hot chocolate crested the lip of the mug and splashed on her fingers. She barely paid it any attention, brushing the liquid away as if it was nothing.

"What are you talking about? What do you mean?" Celeste demanded, her temper rising of its own accord.

"I mean," Marinette stated, giving her daughter a hard look, "That I won't be seeing Adrien anymore."

"What? No!"

"I spoke to him yesterday. It's better this way, Celeste." Marinette tried to reassure her distressed daughter.

"But, why?"

"Why? What do you mean? You were so upset about the idea of me and him. And that was before there even really was a 'me and him'. I didn't think you wanted me to date your teacher. And what with what all your friends were sayi-"

"No! I'm sorry! I'm so, so sorry. I was upset but I don't want you to break up with him. It's nobody else's business. I'm sorry that it took me this long to realise, but I want you to be happy and I know that he makes you happy. These last few weeks, you've been the happiest I've ever seen you and I know it's because of him."

Marinette gave her daughter a fond smile.

"No, don't look at me like that! Please, maman. You need to talk to him again, you need to make this right. You're perfect for each other. Could you just try? Please?"

The uncertainty and fear on Marinette's face was something that Celeste recognised. It looked the way that she felt whenever she wanted to talk to Lucas. It was the sick feeling of fear of rejection pummelling her stomach, it was the nauseating notion that the rug might be pulled out at any minute. That was what finally assured Celeste that this was absolutely the right decision.

Before Marinette said anything Celeste was on the phone. She needed to spend the night at her father's house again. This was becoming something of a habit, and it wasn't an altogether terrible one.


 

Adrien's fingers found the keys with dexterity, his mind drifting. Soft music filled the air and while playing the piano usually soothed him, tonight it didn't seem to be working. He had been playing the piano now for so many years that he barely needed to pay any attention, his hands moving as if of their own accord, and this allowed his thoughts to wander. And unsurprisingly, they kept going back to the same thing. Marinette.

With a sigh he pushed himself away from the keys and stood, deciding to get himself a glass of water and go to bed, despite the relatively early hour, in the hope that the oblivion of sleep would come swifter for him this time than it had the night before.

Just as he was changing out of his suit, he heard the chime of his phone. Frowning at the clock, he noticed that it was nearly ten. He grumbled to himself as he moved to pick up the insistently ringing object. If this wasn't an emergency, then he was going to be peeved.

His heart seemed to stop in his chest as he glanced over the caller ID. He rubbed his eyes and looked again, sure they were playing tricks on him, that his desire to talk to Marinette was causing him to have delusions. Yet there it was, still on the display, a smiling picture of her beautiful face below her name.

He nearly dropped the phone in his haste to answer it.

"H-hello?" he spoke softly, uncertainly.

For a moment there was just silence and Adrien pulled the phone away to check that she hadn't hung up. His relief that she hadn't was palpable and he quickly but carefully - he didn't want to accidentally hang up with his face - put the phone back to his ear.

"Marinette?" he asked, and this time he heard her indrawn breath, as if she was steeling herself up to something.

"Um... H-hello Adrien," she greeted in response, her voice not quite steady. "How... How are you?"

Adrien's lips quirked into a hopeful smile.

On the other end of the line Marinette's face was squarely in the palm of her hand, eyes screwed up. She felt like an idiot.

"I'm... glad to hear your voice," he replied. The natural response to say that he was fine got stuck in his throat. He wouldn't lie to her like that.

"Me too," she sighed. Then her eyes opened wide. "Glad to hear your voice, that is. Not my voice. Why would I be glad to hear my voice? That's just stu-"

"What's going on Marinette?" he asked, a slight edge to his voice. "I am happy to hear from you but I'm confused. You said you didn't want to see me anymore, you avoided me at school today. What do you want?" he demanded.

The happiness Adrien had initially felt at seeing her name light up his phone was quickly replaced with the stirrings of anger. She had ended things with him, without much of an explanation. Even though they hadn't defined a relationship between them at that point, they had gone on a date or two and their heated make-out sessions had hardly been platonic. She had just about broken his heart and he wasn't going to just jump at the first bit of attention that she showed him. He deserved better than that.

He waited out the silence, determined not to be the one to break it.

"I wanted... I want... ugh," Marinette was finding it difficult to express herself. "Can I... Celeste has gone to Nath's for the night. Can I come over? I really want to talk to you."

Adrien hummed, anger still simmering.

"You weren't so keen to talk before," he argued. There was a slight catch in her voice when she replied, as if she was trying to hold back tears. He tried and failed to not melt at the sound. He could feel his resistance weakening.

"Please, Adrien. I'm so, so sorry. Really I am. Can I come over and explain? I don't want to do this over the phone."

He sighed deeply.

"Okay."

It was all he said but it was enough. Marinette quickly hung up, assuring him she would be there in twenty minutes. Discarding his pyjama bottoms, Adrien got out a comfortable pair of jeans and a sweatshirt to wear and headed back downstairs. He went to the kitchen and uncorked a bottle of wine, getting the feeling that it would be needed.

Just under twenty minutes later there was a ring at the door and Adrien's treacherous heart leapt in excitement that she was finally here. It had been just over twenty four hours, the longest twenty four hours of his life, since they had met for coffee and she had ended things. He rubbed his sweaty palms against his denim clad thighs and went to answer the door.

Marinette stood outside his front door, nervously chewing on her thumbnail while she waited for him to answer. Every second she stood there felt like an eternity. How long until she could ring the doorbell again? Would she have the courage to ring the doorbell again? Glancing at the time she realised that not even a minute had passed since she pressed the button and that she needed to calm the fuck down.

She was still nervously chewing on her thumb when the door opened and Adrien was stood before her, his expression in shadow as the light from the hallway spilled out into the night. Marinette took a steadying breath.

"Hi," she greeted, offering him a hopeful smile. Adrien took a step back to let her in and she released the breath she had held.

"Hey," he replied. "Can take your coat?"

Adrien was polite, he was always polite, but Marinette hoped that she might be able to get back some of the warmth that he had always shared with her before. She handed him her coat and stepped further into his home. This was her first time here and she was interested to see the way he had decorated it. She was a little surprised to see it was nothing like his childhood home, with plants and colour everywhere. She liked it a lot. But then, it wasn't really surprising that this house didn't bare any resemblance to the Agreste Manor, when she remembered how unhappy he had been there.

Marinette followed him through to the kitchen where he had two glasses of wine already poured and he stood on the other side of the kitchen, the breakfast island a barrier between them.

She decided to take a seat on one of the high bar stools. It was obvious that he wasn't going to make the evening easy for her, and why would he? She walked away with barely any explanation. Tonight, she would try to explain, and hope that he wouldn't hate her by the end. If they could be friends again, then she would be happy. If they could be more than friends? But she didn't dare hope for quite so much.

Marinette heaved a heavy sigh and ran her fingers through her heavy fringe, trying to work out her nervous energy so that it wouldn't come out in her stutter.

"S-s-so," guess that didn't work, "I ju-just w-wanted to come over and... uh... t-talk, really," she finally managed to get out, ignoring the butterflies swirling in her stomach.

"Talk?" he asked, attempting an air of nonchalance that he wasn't sure he managed as his hand was shaking slightly. He could see ripples on the surface of his wine and quickly set the glass back down before they gave him away.

"Yeah," she looked down at the marbled patter of the surface in front of her, fingers tracing the swirling lines,  and drew every ounce of Ladybug courage she could manage to find. Marinette looked back at his face, this time looking him square in the eye and refusing to back down.

"Listen, I know that it was what happened before but do you think I could just talk, just get everything out and then when I'm done you... you can..." she swallowed hard.

Adrien gestured for her to continue so she took it as a positive sign. At least he wasn't running away like she had.

"Okay, so. I just wanted to explain myself really. I wanted to let you know that the reason I said I couldn't see you anymore was nothing to do with you. Well, it was to do with you but not in a... ugh, this isn't what I meant to say. Hold on."

Marinette held up a hand as she closed her eyes mumbling something that Adrien didn't quite catch as he stared at her, slightly perplexed. He thought he heard a word that sounded like 'tikki' but that didn't make sense and Adrien dismissed it.

"What I wanted  to say was... Celeste is getting teased at school, because you're her teacher and... She's spent years going through girlfriend after girlfriend with Nath and I never wanted to do that to her but she thought that you were my boyfriend and she thought I didn't tell her. It's been just me and her and I think maybe she felt threatened or jealous or something that you might take me away from her? And I'm sorry but you have to understand that she's the most important thing in my life and I would do anything for her. But then today she told me that she'd talked to some people... I don't know. I think Natasha had something to do with it and that boy she has a crush on. Either way we've talked about it and I know I didn't handle it well with you at all, what with just leaving you there but I was upset and I don't really have any excuse and I'm just so, so sorry. I understand if you don't want to be friends again but I was really hoping that maybe we could start over?"

Marinette finished her outburst with a questioning plea at the end, moisture gathering in her eyes as she saw him passively staring at her.

Adrien was trying to take in everything she had just said, and while a lot of it was only loosely interconnected and some of it didn't make any sense at all, he just about got the gist of it.

Marinette felt like crying when Adrien stood up and walked out of the room. He hadn't even responded to what she had said. Had she offended him in some way? Was this a punishment for the way she had just left him at the cafe? If so, lesson learnt because she felt awful.

Not entirely sure what to do, now that he had left her alone in his kitchen, Marinette made to stand up herself and turned to face the way he had disappeared, thinking she might as well get her coat and go home again. She could wallow in peace for a few hours, lick her wounds and try to put her life back to the way it was before Adrien came along. Sure it was lonely, it was boring and it was fairly empty, save her daughter and Alya, but it was safe. She couldn't get her own heart broken there.

She had only taken one step when Adrien re-appeared, a look of determination in his eyes. Marinette took a step back again.

"Hi, I'm Adrien Agreste," he greeted, offering her his hand. She looked at it blankly for a moment before raising her own to grasp his. "It's nice to meet you and I would like it very much if I could take you out on a date some time."

Her lips were open in a small pout but at his words the corners began to curl up hopefully.

"Hi, Adrien. My name's Marinette Dupain-Cheng, and that sounds really nice," she agreed before tilting her head to the side and allowing the smile to shine out of her face, bathing him in its warmth.

"Great," he grinned, "Now that we've started over, how about that glass of wine?"

Marinette agreed readily and they retreated into the living room, sitting side by side on the sofa, not touching but close enough.

"By the way, where did you go when you left the kitchen before?" she asked, turning her body to face Adrien more fully.

"Oh," a touch of pink highlighted his cheekbones. "I... um... had to get my lucky charm. I wanted to make sure that it worked out this time, what with your passionate speech and everything..." Adrien tucked his hand into his pocket and pulled out a sting of beads, the largest of which was a green similar to his eyes. When he had left the kitchen he had recovered it from his box of memories. The same box that once again held Ladybug's last words to him.

Her mouth open in a small 'o' Marinette could do nothing to stop the tide of pink that overtook her face. He had kept that? she wondered to herself, marvelled really. She honestly hadn't realised that it had meant so much to him. Maybe someday she would show him the umbrella that she had kept. She never used it, for fear that it would break, but it was always there, a reminder of when she had fallen in love for the first time. Luckily, Nathanael never knew the significance of the object. It was innocuous enough that he had never asked, and she had never told.

Marinette gently touched the pink and green beads, smiling at the memory of the tournament and the excitement of getting to play video games with Adrien and not be a complete dork-a-saurus around him for once - after she had cleared all evidence of her crush from her bedroom that is.

Then an idea occurred to her.

"I um... don't suppose you still play video games do you? I mean you're probably really busy all the time and everything, but if you do then it might be fun to play? With me? Play with the video games, I mean... not play with me... although-"

Luckily, or unluckily, depending on what way you span it, Adrien cut off her babbling with a laugh.

"Of course I do. And I think that after thirteen years of practice, I might even be able to beat you," he boasted, half joking, half challenging. Marinette was still lightly touching the bracelet in his hands but Adrien curled his fingers, keeping the charm enclosed. "I'll be keeping this though," he stated with a smirk.

"Oh," Marinette pouted at him playfully. "I don't think that's fair. It's been so long since I've played, I'm probably not any good anymore. Will you go easy on me?" she asked, batting her eyelashes at him.

Adrien blinked slowly at her flirtatious behaviour. He liked playful Marinette. A lot.

Shaking his head to clear it, he stood up to turn on the console and pick up a couple of controllers.

"Of course, Princess," he assured, and Marinette's stomach twisted at the nickname. It sounded familiar and yet completely unfamiliar every time he said it and she was finding it harder to ignore the slightly unsettled feeling the more he did.

Adrien still had Ultimate Mecha Strike III, the same one they had played in their childhood, and they both chose their original bots, Marinette with her ladybug themed one and Adrien with his animatronic  black cat. Marinette supposed the small cat themed puns that came out during their battles had to do with his bot choice. No other reason.

It only took Adrien about two minutes to realise that Marinette had definitely been hustling him. It only took him five minutes to realise just how badly he had been hustled. It only took him twenty minutes to admit complete and utter defeat.

"Damn, how are you still so incredible, Marinette?" he asked with a sigh, dropping the controller and slouching back into the sofa cushions, his head lolling across the back to eye with with a mixture of teasing reproach and sincere admiration. Marinette giggled at his expression.

"Oh, you know, natural talent, I guess."

Adrien looked at her with a accusatory eyebrow raised.

"Is that right?" he asked. "So I suppose Celeste is probably terrible at this game. I doubt she's ever played and you haven't taught her everything you know. Or played with your pere at all. If I remember correctly, he had quite the affinity for this game himself."

Marinette bit her lip to contain her laughter.

"Just so you know, I'm in-console-able over this defeat," he whined playfully and this time Marinette couldn't stop the giggle from slipping through her lips.

"What can I say, we're a talented family," she teased him.

Adrien brought a hand up to gently graze her leg.

"Is that so?" his smirk had turned devilish and his eyes held intent. "What other talents do you have, Princess?"

Marinette raised an eye at his sudden flirtatious manner.

"Oh... um... sewing," she told him, shivering lightly as his fingers curled around her knee.

"Well, I'll be darned," Adrien quipped. "You are sew amazing."

Marinette's eyes bugged slightly before narrowing thoughtfully. There was no denying it. Those were definitely puns.

"You know, sewing is harder than it seams. And your puns are tearable. You could use some new material."

Her statement was met with shocked silence. Marinette watched as first Adrien's jaw dropped and then his eyes widened comically. He was completely floored.

"Don't worry if you needle little time. Although I thought my puns would have you in stitches," Marinette finished, having exhausted her arsenal of sewing related humour. While puns had never really been her thing, she had gained something of a soft spot for them over the years.

The last one finally snapped Adrien out of his shock and suddenly he was laughing in delight. He didn't think Marinette could be any more perfect. As long as they managed to keep an open line of communication between them so that no more misunderstandings came up, Adrien couldn't imagine wanting anyone else.

Speaking of open communication, Adrien was starting to think that maybe it was time to share his past with Marinette. She deserved to know everything about him and if he was thinking of building a life with her, he didn't want to keep her in the dark. It was a revelation for another night though. Adrien stroked her knee through the material of her jeans and held her gaze through his own heavy lidded one. He had no reservations when he opened his mouth to speak.

"I love you, Marinette."

 

 

Chapter Text

Her heart stopped dead in her chest for one beat, two, and then restarted only to beat a rapid and unfamiliar tattoo within her ribcage. It's rapid acceleration caused her breath to stop short as well and all Marinette could do was stare at his face, her eyes widened and her mouth open, desperately searching for air.

She found it and sucked it back into her lungs, letting a small gasp slip out.

Adrien took in her silence with steadfast assuredness. He was in no hurry and took the time to study her face again, as he had done countless times since she had come back into his life. It was different this time though. As he traced the soft curve of her pink cheeks with his eyes, as he memorised the dips and swells of her lips, noting that the upper lip was slightly too wide, almost as full as her lower one, the little detail making them all the more perfect in their imperfection, as he was pulled into the swirling ocean of her eyes, as bright and as blue as heaven itself, Adrien knew he was seeing this all as he had nearly had it snatched away. He wanted to imprint it in his mind so that he could recall every detail just by closing his eyes.

This time, he would not let her slip away so easily.

"Wait," she breathed, finding air difficult to come by under his unrelenting examination. "What?"

This broke Adrien out of his musings. It had certainly not been the response he had been expecting to his declaration. He could understand it though. They had been back in each other's lives for such a short period of time. Love possibly wasn't the first thing that had come to mind. He worried briefly if it was too soon, if he had scared her with his intensity. His gut tightened, but then he relaxed. She was still there, she hadn't run. Even if she didn't reciprocate his feelings, that would be okay. He wasn't looking for her to say it back, not if she didn't feel that way.

He brought his hand up to brush across her cheek, dusted with barely perceptible freckles and warm to the touch, made warmer by the heat of her blush.

"I love you," he iterated again.

Marinette sucked her lower lip into her mouth and bit down, her teeth denting the skin but not puncturing it. It was hard enough though, that she knew she wasn't dreaming. It was an easy mistake to make, all things considering.

Adrien watched the motion hungrily, licking his own lips in unconscious retaliation. Deciding to ignore his baser urges to address the matter at hand, Adrien moved his hand from her face and picked up her hand which lay limply in her lap. He placed his other hand over it, and caught her gaze, not letting it drop again.

"I know that it's soon, that we haven't even really discussed 'us' in any real sense. That doesn't make it any less true. I've had opportunities in the past to say the words and let them pass me by. I won't make that mistake again. Not with you."

Marinette couldn't stop the twist of jealousy at the knowledge that he had loved someone else before her. She rejected it though, pushed it down and refused to dwell on it. It was ridiculous. He was a man in his thirties, and he was telling her he loved her. She had loved before as well. As badly as things had gone with her and Nath, they had been in love at one point.

He loves me.

It was a thought that Marinette was having a hard time wrapping her head around.

"There are things that we need to work out, but as long as we keep talking to each other, and be honest with each other, this can work. This will work," Adrien finished his monologue and gave her hand a reassuring squeeze, smiling warmly at her.

Marinette licked her dry lips and swallowed convulsively. It wasn't easy to bring herself around to his way of thinking. Her own emotions were a scattered mess and she was struggling to trust that she could actually identify what she was feeling. She had thought herself in love with Adrien at school, but as she'd grown she had come to realise that it was more infatuation than anything else. She hadn't believed herself in love with Chat Noir but time had proved her a fool again. They had known each other like they were two halves of one whole. He had been her best friend but she had been blinded by her affections for the blonde that was sat before her now.

Older and wiser, Marinette should be less oblivious to her own heart but she was afraid. Afraid that she could lose something that in a short time had become precious to her, even at her own hand. She was afraid that he didn't feel as strongly as he claimed. But no, that wasn't right. She trusted him, and she trusted that he was telling her the truth now. He really did love her. The thought made her indescribably happy. Her giddy heart could barely stand the physical distance between them, hands the only thing touching.

She should fix that.

Slowly, uncertainly, Marinette leaned towards him, his eyes taking over more and more of her vision until all she could see was sparkling green. She stopped a hairs breadth away, not wanting to seal his declaration without making one of her own. He had said he didn't expect it, that he wasn't asking for it, but she gave it anyway, because it was true, because she felt it as well.

"I love you, Adrien."

And with that, she pressed her lips to his, gently, softly, relishing in the feel of his against hers.

They stayed that way for a moment, lips pressed together and completely unmoving, adjusting to the knowledge that they loved each other and that they were here together.

Marinette was the first to move, her free hand just barely touching as she trailed it up his arm, enjoying the fleeting touch of hard muscle beneath the cotton and relishing in the jump of his pulse in his throat before tangling in the silken gold of his hair at the nape of his neck. Her lips started to move, moulding themselves to his and curling slightly as his followed suit.

It was Adrien who swiped his tongue along the seam of her lips, requesting entrance which she readily gave, her mouth opening with a delighted exhalation of breath. Their tongues tangled together and they could both taste the wine they had been drinking, the taste heady in the other's mouths.

Marinette pulled away reluctantly and pressed a hand to his cheek, drinking in his expression, his eyes closed and his lips still seeking. She took a deep breath to steady herself.

"Adrien," at his name his eyes snapped open and the vulnerable quality to the honest emotion in his gaze almost made her forget what she was going to say. She desperately wanted to pull him back into her embrace and forget everything, forget that he had work in the morning, forget that a few hours before there had been all that confusion between them, forget her own name, even. But common sense won out.

Just.

"Adrien," she began again. "I love you. I love you so much, and I want you so badly."

That was as far as she got before he had pulled her back to him and was once again kissing her with a fury, as though he were a man starved. His own feelings overwhelmed him. This woman. The woman he hadn't even realised he had been waiting for, and she loved him. She loved him. It was everything he had ever wanted and more. That was why he was perplexed when once again she pushed him away.

Marinette giggled at the confused pout on his face.

"I do want you, but I need to say something first. Please, it won't take long."

Adrien heaved a sigh and mentally struggled to hold his libido in check. Then he decided that sitting a little further away from her might help with that. Taking the opposite side of the couch he turned to face her, giving Marinette his full attention.

The way she was nibbling on her lip had him almost reaching for her again so he sat on his hands.

This caused another giggle to slip past her delectably plump lips. It was hard to stay away but the nervous quality to her laugh kept him in his place. Then Marinette sobered, unsure how to actually broach the subject. Well, he said he wanted complete honesty...

"I haven't been with anyone since Nathanael," she stated, glancing away shyly before catching his eye again.

Adrien was slightly taken aback and looked at her quizzically. Then the full impact of what she had said took hold.

Nine years.

That's how long she and Nathanael had been apart.

Nine years since...

And then, did that mean it had only ever been Nathanael?

While he was struck dumb, Marinette sat nervously playing with her fingers, waiting for some kind of response from him. Adrien looked at her, considering his options. But then, he realised, he only had one.

"It doesn't change anything," he assured her. "I mean, I have to say, I'm surprised. You're so beautiful and amazing and... Marinette. You must have had dozens of men after you..."

Marinette's face was overcome with a flush of red.

"I wouldn't say dozens..." she protested. "I've just... not really been interested."

Adrien's smile was full of love and Marinette's breath caught in her throat as he directed the warmth of that love onto her. It was like sinking into a hot bath after being out in the snow. She could feel the effects all the to the tips of her toes. Loosing his hands from their prison, he allowed himself to reach for her, to draw her in to his comforting embrace. She went to him willingly.

The kiss was languid, almost lazy, but it stoked the fires of passion in their stomachs. Adrien would never get used to kissing Marinette. It was like drinking the finest wine, or like throwing himself from rooftop to rooftop over the streets of Paris. His heart rate steadily picked up as the intensity of the kiss rose to match it. He was surprised when it was her tongue doing the questing, cautiously running across the seam of his lips before boldly demanding entrance. They explored each others' mouths, a pattern that by now should be familiar but never seemed the same twice. It was heady and arousing and neither of them could get enough.

Marinette pulled herself away, but only far enough gasp out what she wanted, her words a rush of breath across his sensitised lips.

"Maybe a bed might be more comfortable."

He was glad that she was the one who suggested it. More than glad, he was completely ecstatic.

Adrien wanted it to be her though. She needed to lead this scenario, wherever it was going to go. He had his hopes, and it seemed like maybe she was of a like mind, but he wouldn't rush her to where she wasn't ready. If she had only been with one man before, and it was so long ago, it was important that he let her set the pace.

It wasn't that Adrien was a complete Casanova when it came to these things, but he had had his fair share of lovers along the way. Women who mostly wanted to use him for what he could give them, be it money or status, and that was why they had never really turned into relationships. It had hurt at first, but over the years he had become somewhat immune to it, not allowing his feelings to become part of the equation. Sex was sex and in those instances, both parties benefitted from the arrangement.

But he wanted something different from Marinette, because Marinette was different. He wanted a real relationship. He didn't want sex to be just sex. He knew this could be more. He had fallen completely, irrevocably in love with her.

Adrien nodded, swallowing convulsively as his libido once again took over and he happily allowed himself to be lead by the beautiful woman who had been haunting his dreams of late. The pair stopped every few steps, unable to have too long a pause between kisses, their mouths hot and wet on any part of skin they could reach. It took several long, excited, arousing minutes but they finally made it to his bedroom.

Inside the room, the moonlight through a gap in the curtains was their only source of illumination. Marinette closed the door, backing herself against it, but the moments separation had allowed the doubts and insecurities to come crashing down on her.

Adrien could read it all over her face. Wanting to wipe away her fears, he strode purposefully back to her, placing a quick peck on her lips, then her cheek and then his lips were against her ear, his hands clasping her arms which were hanging limply by her sides.

"Just say the word," he whispered. "Just say you want to stop and we will."

The words were hard for him to say. He needed Marinette more than he needed his next breath right now, but if she asked him to, he would let her go home. He would need to take a very cold shower after she left, but he would do it. Everything hinged on her next words, which had the power to send him to heaven or doom him to another night alone.

The silence between them was deafening and he could hear their hearts beating in tandem, keeping time on his torturous wait. Adrien held his breath, his cheek still pressed against hers, his fingers still wrapped around her delicate wrists, waiting for her answer, barely daring to hope.

"Don't stop."

It was all he needed to hear. With a sigh of relief, which elicited a small giggle from Marinette, Adrien pulled back to draw her lips once more to his.

This kiss was different. The brief pause had allowed him to calm down slightly. He didn't want her any less, and the strength of his arousal was proof of that, but his head was slightly clearer now. Adrien was determined that they would both get the maximum pleasure out of what was about to happen. They would take it slowly.

He pushed Marinette against the door, his whole body flush against hers and the moan in the back of her throat was mirrored by him as he gently pressed his lips against hers, drawing her lower lip into his mouth and softly sucking on it. She let out a gasp of surprise followed by a more guttural groan when Adrien nipped down on her lip and soothed it with his tongue.

Marinette was quick to respond. In a move that Adrien hadn't seen coming, she grabbed his shoulder and flipped their position, pushing his back against the door and devouring his mouth. Never before in her life had she felt like this. Every inch of Marinette's skin was on fire. There was a warm ache between her thighs, an ache she knew only Adrien could soothe. She felt shy yet bold and incredibly sexy, and it was all down to the look blazing in Adrien's hungry green eyes.

She broke away from the kiss, stepping away and leaving him slightly stunned and panting where he stood. Never breaking eye contact, Marinette walked backwards into the centre of the room, allowing the moonlight to wash over her. Adrien could only watch as she reached to the front of her shirt and slowly released the top button from its hole.

Slowly, teasingly, Marinette loosed all of the buttons of the shirt, one by one, exposing her creamy pale skin, practically glowing in the white light coming in from the window, her breasts lovingly encased in a lacy pink bra, which did nothing to conceal her swollen nipples straining against the fabric. Adrien couldn't take his eyes away.

The material slipped down her arms and ended as a pale pool around her feet. She discarded her shoes, kicking them off to the corner of the room so that she could free herself from the confines of her jeans. Before her hands could undo the zip, Adrien was with her again, hands capturing hers to stop their progress.

"Let me," he murmured, his lips brushing against hers and she mutely nodded her agreement. He unsnapped the button and pulled down the zip, slipping his hands inside the waistband, across her rounded hips and back to cup her shapely behind. The feeling of lace briefs and satin skin was almost more than Adrien could take and he gently squeezed before pushing the denim down her thighs to join her shirt on the floor. Her underwear didn't match, the briefs a plain black, but Adrien didn't even notice, he couldn't care less. Marinette was the most stunning thing he had ever seen at this very moment.

"You're beautiful," he whispered, his voice soft but sure and completely without guile. Marinette felt the effects of his honesty in her very core and her cheeks bore the shy evidence of his compliment.

"You're not so bad yourself, Hot Stuff," she replied. Adrien was quickly getting to like that nickname. "But I can't help but think that one of us is a little overdressed..."

She stepped forward again, drawing herself into his orbit, lacing her fingers in his hair and drawing his mouth back down to hers. Her fingers smoothed down the column of his throat, feeling the flutter of his pulse under her fingertips and thrilling at the speed of it before brushing the soft material of his shirt. Her hands drifted over his chest, feeling the hard contours of the muscles that lay beneath, currently hidden from her gaze. But not for long.

Hooking her hands under the hem and brushing the hot hardness of his abdominals, she skimmed her fingers up, making him shiver involuntarily, and bringing his top with her. He raised his arms above his head and allowed her to pull it off, exposing his torso to her eyes and the moonlight.

Quickly he shucked his own trousers, exposing his long toned legs, lightly dusted with blond hair. A pair of tight fitting black boxers was all he had to preserve his modesty, for what it was worth. They did nothing to hide the hard length of his manhood from Marinette's shy gaze. She only gave it a glance, the colour high on her cheeks, before quickly glancing away. A small chuckle passed through Adrien's lips although there was no real humour in it.

Adrien's look was predatory as he began to advance towards her and Marinette's stomach tightened in anticipation. She was understandably shy but definitely ready for what was about to happen. She knew that if she touched her sex, she would find herself already wet from wanting. But she had had enough of touching herself. She was ready for someone else to do the touching, and her whole body was crying out for it to be Adrien. Despite this, she backed away until the backs of her legs hit the bed and she was forced to sit.

Adrien smiled and followed her onto the bed, one powerful thigh on either side of her hips, he straddled her and drew her into another heady kiss. She fell backwards to lie on the bed and he went too, refusing to break the contact of their lips. Together they moved up the bed into a more comfortable position, Adrien still hovering over her, bracing his weight on his forearms.

His lips as they trailed down the exposed line of her throat, left a hot trail of kisses in their wake. He took careful note of every gasp and sigh that she made, determined to learn exactly what spots were her most sensitive, what he needed to do in order to drive her crazy. His mouth curved into a smug smirk when he nipped at her collar bone and she let out a muted cry and dug her fingers into his hair, nails grazing his scalp. He sucked on the tender flesh, teeth gently scraping and was rewarded with a soft whimper of need.

Marinette's fingers slid from his hair and lightly scraped a path down his back, nails digging in whenever he found a particularly sensitive area. Adrien loved the feel of her nails on his skin and arched his back slightly to increase the pressure. Both of them were already panting, their cravings for each other mounting with every touch.

Adrien drew himself back and marvelled at the sight of Marinette laying on his bed beneath him, Marinette with her hair spilling like an oil stain across the bright white of his pillow. Despite their elasticity, his shorts were becoming uncomfortably tight, his member begging for release.

His tongue moistened his lips and Marinette's eyes followed the action. She propped herself up slightly, reaching to cup a hand around the back of his head and draw him back to her lips. Sitting up fully, Marinette reached behind her and unclasped her bra, sending it falling to the floor before laying back down, opening herself to his gaze.

Adrien peppered kisses across her cheek, along her jaw and down the side of her neck, leaving one swift nip on her collar bone before finally reaching his destination.

His mouth left hot, wet kisses on her breasts, teasingly close to her aching buds. Marinette whined in the back of her throat and Adrien chuckled, the vibrations sweet torture on her skin. His tongue both soothed her desperation and quickened her desire as it swirled around her nipple before drawing it in to the wet cavern of his mouth. The sensation pulled straight to her core and she moaned, the sound music to Adrien's ears.

"Adrien," she sighed, her fingers twisting into the cover convulsively, her thighs aching with their desire to spread for him, but his knees either side of her kept them in check. It was killing her. "Please."

Whether she was begging him to stop or to continue, neither was quite sure, but Adrien's lips never left her body, just drifted lower, tickling across her ribcage and over the small swell of her stomach. He kissed the silvery lines of her stretch marks before his lips fluttered across the top of her lace pants, causing her thighs to tighten in anticipation. Once again he smiled into her skin.

"I want to touch you," she confessed to the top of his golden head. "I want you to touch me."

"Soon," was his only reply before his fingers hooked into the waistband of her underwear and pulled them off in one quick motion. He noticed how damp they were as he threw them to the side and the knowledge that he was the cause made his cock twitch in anticipation. Adrien quickly dispensed of his own shorts at the same time. He wanted her to be touching him as well, but he wasn't sure how well he would last if her hands, so clever with needle and thread, started to stroke him. The thought alone made him swell even more.

He wanted to take care of her first.

He gripped one delicate ankle, fingers brushing gently at the sensitive protrusion of bone and placed a kiss there. Crawling further up the bed he placed another kiss behind the bend of her knee. He looked up to see that she was watching his every move intently, eyes slightly glazed with desire. He kept his eyes on hers as he moved further up and placed another kiss to the inside of her thigh.

Marinette wasn't sure she could handle this. Each of his kisses were a slow death. She could feel her pulse beating between her thighs, her entire being focused to the small bundle of nerves nestled there, begging for Adrien's attention.

Suddenly Marinette felt the alien sensation of his tongue, running up her slick folds before flicking across the sensitised nub. She was shocked by the action but her surprise soon gave way to the pleasure his mouth was giving. Her entire being wound tighter, a coil of need in her stomach twisting closer and closer as his tongue swirled and stroked. Her back was arching off of the bed and her breath was coming out in small gasps. She wanted the tension to break but the coil only wound tighter, her gasps turning to sobs.

Adrien slid a finger into the welcoming warmth of her sex, the action easy with how wet she was. Adrien didn't think he had ever been harder in his life. He wanted this woman so badly. As his finger moved in and out, curling slightly as it moved, he felt her shatter around him, her walls flexing around his finger. He kept his mouth pressed to her as she came, tasting the earthy flavour of her arousal.

When she finally slumped to the bed, body fully satiated, he withdrew his finger and slipped up the bed to lay next to her, one hand resting lightly on her stomach. She smiled weakly at him, her heart rate still erratic.

Marinette's hand drifted down the muscled expanse of his chest, glancing off the flat plane of his stomach before coming to rest tentatively alongside his manhood.

Adrien's breath hitched in his throat as her hand came around to loosely clasp him, her fingers running experimentally up and down the shaft. He shuddered when her thumb circled the head of his penis but maintained his control, clasping her hand to stop her movements.

"I'm not sure I can stand too much of that," he admitted.

Marinette smiled knowingly, and the look in her eyes was almost his undoing. He reached across to his bedside table, fumbling until he found a condom. Lying on his back he made quick work of putting on the prophylactic.

Marinette ran her hand over him once more before sitting up and swinging a leg over his hip. She braced her hands on his shoulders and looked deep into his eyes, reading the emotion that he was not even trying to hide.

"I love you," she stated, placing a lingering kiss on his lips. She gripped the base of his shaft and guided him to her entrance, teasing the tip with her wet heat before slowly sinking down so that he was completely embedded in her. His groan of satisfaction was deep and guttural, and Marinette found it incredibly sexy.

It took her a few moments to find her rhythm, hips undulating as Adrien's rose to meet her, thrusting in and out to match her movements. Marinette lightly scratched her nails across his chest before burying her fingers into his hair, tugging at the silken strands and drawing his tongue into her mouth, their tongues mirroring their bodies.

It was hot and heavy, sweat dripping off of skin, muffled gasps of pleasure as her body moved almost unconsciously.

Heaven.

Marinette had taken him to heaven and he wasn't coming down anytime soon. The release of his orgasm came sooner than he would have liked, but she had been so perfect, every move driving him to greater heights until he couldn't hold on any longer. He comforted himself that Marinette had come quite spectacularly on his tongue beforehand, the memory of that doing nothing to delay his own release.

Panting, he discarded the used condom and pulled Marinette into the curve of his body, burying his face in her neck.

"I'm sorry," he panted. "I know you didn't..."

"Shh, it's okay. That was amazing. It was perfect," she assured him, her bright smile open and honest.

"Purr-fect," he agreed sleepily.

Adrien curled up to bury his head in her chest, Marinette's arms coming around him, one to tangle in his hair and the other gently stroking his bare back. He sighed in contentment, allowing the warmth of her body to sooth him and ease him off to sleep. Marinette pressed a kiss to his forehead and drew her arms tighter around him, letting him use her as a pillow while she breathed in the scent of him surrounding her. It was on the pillowcase, on the sheets, on the duvet and on her. It smelled familiar and yet exotic, like something from a fond memory that had changed through the passage of time. It smelled remarkably like she had found her home.

When Adrien woke in the morning it was to find himself alone. The sheet beside him was rumpled and still held some of her heat, so he knew she couldn't have long got up.

The night before had been the best of his life. Better than when he had received his degree, better than when he had become a teacher, better even than we he was first granted his miraculous, although that came a very close second. Things in his life were finally coming together. He felt as though finally he could move on from Ladybug in a real and tangible way. She had been the only one he loved before, but loving Marinette was better, because they knew each other, and she reciprocated his feelings. Loving her didn't feel like the pining dream of a teenage boy. It felt real. And once he told her about his past life as Chat Noir, there would be no secrets between them.

Adrien's whole life sprawled before him in a happy tapestry of bright colours, filled with mornings in bed, family days out, wedding bells and perhaps even another baby or two. He didn't want to get ahead of himself but he couldn't help but have hopes and wishes for his future with Marinette.

His phone chimed and absently he replied in the affirmative to Chloe's message about her coming over to his house the following week for coffee. It wasn't an unusual request. She knew that it was a break in the school year. Having coffee with his oldest friend would be nice. He wanted to tell her all about Marinette.

Having relied he quickly forgot about the message. It wasn't particularly important and he could smell fresh coffee and baked goods coming from the kitchen. His mouth salivated at the thought. There would be some definite perks to dating Marinette Dupain-Cheng.

 

Chapter Text

"All the children from that year are going on a camping trip for the break from school... Yes, the Kurtzberg girl as well... That's right... No, I don't see that being a problem. I'll let you know as soon as I have the information. Thank you Mlle. Bourgeois."

Chloe hung up the phone and smirked to herself. This was going to be easier than she though. Half her plan had already been put into motion, just one more element and the trap would be set. It was about time Marinette Dupain-Cheng got hers. Chloe wanted Adrien and what Chloe wanted, Chloe got. She was the one who deserved him. Hadn't she been there for him all these years? Selflessly  staying by his side when he so thoughtlessly threw away his amazing modelling career to ridiculously peruse teaching of all things? But she diligently remained his friend through that hardship. Marinette was just a small distraction. He would get over her easily enough. She had certainly managed to get rid of a few rivals along the way. It hadn't been difficult, Adrien could be painfully naive at times. But that just made him all the more perfect for her. He would cater to her every whim. He adored her.

Normally she would have Sabrina do the chasing for her, getting the information she needed to make her plans work, but this time, Chloe had needed a specialist. So she had brought in a private investigator in order to find out the best time to strike. She was just waiting to find out Marinette's schedule at the restaurant where she worked as a waitress of all things. Such a lowly position. It suited her actually. But then, she was always so clumsy, it was a wonder she hadn't been fired already for dropping food on all the customers.

Chloe allowed herself a small snigger at the thought. Maybe there was something in that. Food for thought anyway. Food for thought. Ha, I'm hilarious!

But for now, she had her priorities.

The text came through moments later and Chloe's smile was smug. She flipped through her contacts and found Adrien's before she composed a quick message asking herself around his place for coffee the following week. She didn't have to wait long to receive his text.

Adrikins: [Sounds great Chlo. Can't wait to catch up]

That was it then. Everything was in place and she had nothing left to do until she arrived at Adrien's. She flipped her long blonde ponytail over her shoulder. Nothing was going to wipe the wide grin off of her face.


 

"How did everything go with your maman?" Natasha enquired when Celeste arrived at the house. They were alone as Nathanael was finishing up in his study. The two of them were sat in the kitchen as Natasha prepared dinner for the three of them, and Celeste found she wasn't averse to the domesticity of the scene, despite some lingering resentment to the older woman over their last conversation.

"What do you mean?" Celeste asked, somewhat cagily. Though things had gone well with her mother, there was no way that Natasha could know that Celeste had talked to her. Why would she?

Natasha's smile was neutral and she turned back to the stove before Celeste could see the knowing glint in her eye. No need to antagonise the girl further.

"Nothing. I just thought, with you coming over here tonight, that maybe she might have patched things up with her teacher friend, that's all," she prevaricated giving the sauce a stir. Celeste narrowed her eyes, taking in Natasha's seemingly innocent statement.

"You knew, didn't you?" she asked accusingly, not sure if she was angry with the brunette woman or not.

"Knew what?" Natasha replied, still playing the innocent, but her smile was a little too bright when she turned back around and Celeste glared at her.

"Our little chat, you wanted my maman and Professor Agreste together all along," Celeste decided that she would be angry, if only because she had been deceived by this outwardly bubble-headed woman. So she decided that she was going to be a little unfair. "You were jealous, weren't you? Just trying to make sure that maman had someone to distract her from papa."

Natasha's eyes took a hard glint, and she placed her hands firmly on the table, effectively stopping Celeste's tirade.

"No, Celeste. I have no reason to be jealous. Your mother and father were a long time ago and very poorly suited. Adrien would be much better for her. I genuinely care about your mother, which is why I said what I said to you, to try and get you to see that her happiness is what's important here. She would have been devastated if she had lost him. Hopefully tonight they can reconcile. I am sorry about the way I did it, I never meant to be deceitful," she paused to straighten up and put a finger on the side of her cheek, cocking her head slightly to the side in thought.

"Actually, that's not quite true, I fully meant to deceive you, but I hope you understand that I wish there had been a better way to get my point across. I never want to hurt you Celeste. I know you don't particularly care for me but I have no plans to go anywhere. I love your father and I hope, one day, you and I can be friends."

With that, she turned back to attend to the dinner.

"I do care," Celeste mumbled, her voice barely above a whisper. Natasha didn't say anything and she didn't turn around but her smile was warm and she could feel it throughout her entire body.


 

Celeste had long gone to bed. Dinner had been cleared away and Nathanael's drawings were back inside his portfolio case. The couple were sat snuggled on the sofa, soft music playing in the background and the only light a few candles dotted around.

Despite the romantic atmosphere, Nathanael was in a bad mood. He was trying to control it though. He knew he had anger issues. That much had been proven when he had been akumatised all those years ago. Even though he didn't remember what happened in those few hours of his teenage years, a few people had told him about his actions.

He knew he had overreacted in the hospital with Adrien, and at some point he would apologise for that, but he had always considered the blonde model his adversary. Better looking, better with women, more intelligent, better at making friends. He'd even had Marinette back then, although he hadn't known it. He had everything that Nathanael wanted.

But there really was no point in beating a dead horse now, was there?

That was in the past, and while a lot of that might still hold true, Nathanael had a good job, a loving girlfriend and a beautiful daughter. Even his relationship with Marinette was getting better. Life was pretty damn good.

But he couldn't help the sense of betrayal he felt over Natasha helping Adrien and Marinette get together. He couldn't understand it. It had nothing to do with her, really, so why was she getting involved.

Nathanael sat, eyes downcast, red fringe shadowing his face.

Natasha brushed it back, tucking some strands behind his ears and drawing her fingers round the side of his face to bring his chin up and see his gorgeous turquoise eyes properly. They were what she first fell in love with when she saw him. They truly were windows to his soul and she could read his every expression in their sparkling depths.

"You know that this had nothing to do with you."

It was a statement.

He hadn't said anything and yet she knew exactly what was bothering him.

"This was about Marinette, and about Celeste. You've found happiness. It's time they did too."

Nathanael tried to look away but she wouldn't let him.

"This isn't a pissing contest either. It's not about who's better, who wins. We can all win."

Nathanael softened his expression. Natasha was a balm to his heart. She really was the other half of him. There may have been a few years age difference between them but sometimes - most of the time in fact - she had a wisdom beyond her years. Beyond his years even.

"How do you do that?" he asked, reaching up to stroke her cheek with his thumb and brush his fingertips just into the line of her hair, his palm cupping her jaw as if her face was the most precious thing. It was really.

"Do what?" she asked, indulgently. She suspected she already knew what he was going to say. She tilted her head slightly, leaning in to his touch.

"Know exactly what to say to make me understand. You even make it seem like... I don't know... like I'm the one who's gaining from this."

Natasha flashed him a wicked, knowing grin.

"Oh, my love. You are."

And with that she drew him closer, slanting her lips across his and drowning them both in a kiss.


 

It had been five days and Celeste was getting used to seeing Professor Agreste, sorry Adrien around the house. Calling him by his first name at home and Professor Agreste at school was taking some getting used to. Just as long as he never expected her to call him pere they would probably be okay.

This was the first time she had been genuinely glad to have him around though.

"I'm really not sure you should be going on this trip, Celeste," Marinette argued again. The young girl was sat on a chair in the kitchen, her arms carefully folded around the cast that she was wearing. The scowl she wore on her face was creating a chill in the room. "You only broke your arm a week ago. It needs to heal. Camping would be a bad idea."

Celeste was ready for this argument.

"It's not broken, only fractured. It barely even hurts anymore. Please, maman," she begged, her eyes widening to resemble baby-dolls.

Marinette looked away, determined to maintain her resolve.

"I think it's a bad idea. What if you damage it further? You could get seriously hurt," she argued back, her eyes focussed determinedly on the toaster and nowhere near her daughter's face.

Desperately trying to catch her mother's eye and failing, Celeste screamed in frustration.

"You are literally trying to ruin my life!" she cried, storming out of the door. Marinette flinched with every stomp she could hear going up the wooden staircase. The slam of a door, slightly muffled by the distance, indicated Celeste's arrival at her bedroom.

Marinette heaved a heavy sigh.

"You know, it wouldn't be the worst thing."

Marinette had almost forgotten the blonde's presence in the kitchen, a witness to the argument that had just taken place. The tips of her ears turned pink from embarrassment.

"What wouldn't?" she enquired, knowing full well what he was referring to but willing to fight him too if necessary.

"If she went on the camping trip. It wouldn't be the worst thing."

"Adrien," she replied in a warning tone, something he couldn't fail to hear. Internally he debated the wisdom in trying to argue with her on this. They hadn't really been together all that long and Celeste was her daughter. This really didn't have anything to do with him.

Well, that wasn't strictly true. He had personal motivations for Celeste to go on the trip. A whole week with just the two of them (minus the time Mariette had to go to work) was certainly incentive to get her to change her mind. That being said, alone time wasn't reason enough to risk her daughter's health. However...

"The doctor did say as long as she didn't do anything too strenuous, she would be fine to go on the trip."

Adrien obviously hadn't been present for the appointment, but it was an argument that Celeste had already made.

"I think camping is too strenuous," Marinette replied, her attitude brooking no debate. That didn't stop Adrien though. He had been dealing with children for years and he had known Celeste for a few months now. He had a fairly good handle on what she might be capable of.

"I think she's stronger that you're giving her credit for. She wouldn't do anything to make her arm worse, the school would make sure of that."

Marinette glared at him, her eyes conveying more than words ever could. She always did have expressive eyes.

Adrien carefully took steps towards her and slid his arms around her waist, drawing her in to the warmth of his embrace. Marinette's resistance was token at best and she melted against his chest, tucking her head under his chin, her ear pressed to just above where his heart beat thudded with a comforting rhythm. Her arms twined around his waist in return.

"It would be a shame to decide she can't go the night before she's supposed to leave," he murmured against her hair. He couldn't see it, but her brow furrowed uncertainly. He took her silence as encouraging though. "And... not that this should be an argument either way... but... it would be really nice to have some extra time together, just the two of us..."

His voice had become warm honey in her ears.

"M. Agreste, I do believe you are trying to seduce me."

Adrien breathed in the sugar and spice scent that emanated from her hair, relishing in the feel of her in his arms. He didn't say anything but his arms tightened before navigating them around so that he could take a seat, bringing her down with his so that she was perched on his lap. Marinette buried her face into the crook of his neck.

"I'm scared," she admitted, her voice muffled.

"I know," he acknowledged. "You don't want her to get hurt. I understand. But that's what kids do. They get hurt and they learn. Some things they need to figure out by themselves, you can't protect them forever. I don't want to tell you what to do, that isn't my place, but I just want to give you a little bit of advice that I learned from my father. If you try to protect the thing you love by wrapping it up in cotton wool and hiding it from the world, they will do everything they can to break free, and you could end up losing the thing you love the most."

Marinette pulled back to look deep into his eyes, reading the emotion that he was trying to conceal. She wasn't sure if he was talking about the mother who disappeared, or the son who spent his childhood locked inside the ivory tower, but that didn't really matter. Adrien had made his point. She would let Celeste go.

"Okay," she agreed, cupping his cheek gently and placing a peck on his lips. "I'll go and talk to her."


 

Celeste shifted nervously from foot to foot. There was an insistent itch on her arm that she couldn't reach through the cast and she didn't know what to do with her other hand. She was also fairly certain that her facial expression was completely unnatural, having completely forgotten how normal humans behave in these situations.

There was nothing for it though.

"Thank you."

Adrien glanced up from where he was sat reading in the lounge. Marinette was in the kitchen washing up after dinner, refusing the help that he had tried to offer. He carefully replaced his bookmark and set the book aside.

"What for?" he asked, genuinely puzzled. The two of them had barely spoken two words to each other all evening except the cursory greetings. It wasn't long after he arrived that Celeste had stormed off to her room in a fit of teenage angst coming a few months too early for the twelve year old. This was the first time he had seen her since then.

Celeste scratched the bridge of her nose as her body rebelled against the awkwardness of trying to hold a conversation alone with her teacher that had nothing to do with physics.

Not that physics didn't make her a little uncomfortable...

That was besides the point.

"She didn't say so, but I know you're the reason maman is letting me go camping. I appreciate it. It means a lot that you would do that for me."

Her arm twitched slightly. She wasn't sure what she was supposed to do now. Should she hug him? That seemed a little extreme. A handshake would be ridiculously formal. A kiss on the cheek? She may be French but that would just be wrong. Celeste settled for an awkward little wave before turning towards the door.

"No problem," Adrien replied to her retreating figure and Celeste paused briefly at the door, glancing over her shoulder at him as he watched her. She flashed him a smile before darting out of the door.

He couldn't help but feel this was a definite step in the right direction.


 

Marinette took Celeste to school alone the next day. There was no need to give the school kids fodder to use in the coming week about their relationship. She hugged Celeste tight, careful not to jostle her arm.

"You know, if you don't feel up to it you can call me and I will pick you up. It doesn't matter what time it is, if I'm at work or asleep or whatever... just call me if you need me, okay?"

Marinette was desperately trying to curb her motherly instincts. It wasn't easy.

"I'll be fine, maman. It's not even a week. There will be lots of people there. I'm not going to get hurt, I promise."

Her mother raised a sceptical eyebrow but decided against explaining the futility of such a promise.

"Okay, well, be safe," she urged instead, giving her forehead a peck which Celeste quickly tried to bat away.

"Maman!" she cried indignantly.

At the same time, both bluenettes noticed the quiet brunette boy standing on his own not too far away.

"So when were you going to tell me about this Lucas boy?" she asked, not so subtly indicating the teenager.

Celeste buried her head in her good hand and groaned.

"Not now, maman. And could you be any louder? Shh!"

Luckily, the boy in question didn't seem to notice the exchange.

After bidding her daughter bon voyage Marinette stayed to watch until the coach departed with the excited children. She couldn't quite pin down the emotions she felt as she watched Lucas approach Celeste, shy yet exuberant, almost puppy like in his manner. It was cute really. It was probably time to have the talk with Celeste soon though.

She was very glad with how well her parents had managed it all those years ago as now she had a good base to work off of when she talked to Celeste about the birds and the bees. Candid, honest and with minimal embarrassment. She'd cross that bridge soon enough.

The last thing she saw was Lucas nervously giving Celeste a peck on the cheek before they all disappeared from her view.

Some of the emotions she could identify. Happiness that Celeste's crush was definitely reciprocated, even if her daughter might not realise it yet, fear over being away from her daughter for a week, sadness that Celeste's childhood was nearly over and a defining sense that she wasn't needed anymore. Not the way she used to be. The notion left her chest feeling a little hollow. A mother was all she had been now for years. She wasn't sure she knew how to be anything else. She would have to try though. And she had a whole week with Adrien to see if girlfriend was something she could be any good at. Not that she intended to use him as a replacement to funnel her feelings. She new Celeste still needed her, just not in the same way anymore.

It might be time to start doing something for herself though.


 

Ugh, this is taking too long, Chloe thought to herself as Adrien continued to blather on about how great Marinette was, about how in love he was. It was disgusting really. He should only be saying this mushy crap about Chloe, no one else. Only she deserved to be doted on like this.

It was only a few hours after Marinette had seen Celeste off. Adrien hadn't seen her since the night before and while he was enjoying spending time with his oldest friend, it was Marinette's day off, something he hadn't really taken in to account when agreeing to have Chloe over today. He was missing her already.

Still, he wouldn't let that affect this coffee morning he was having, and he would see Marinette later on. He had a lot to be grateful for.

Chloe only needed a few minutes alone to finalise the plan, and finally she managed to catch a break. Adrien stood and stretched out, his body as lithe as a cat and Chloe took a moment to appreciate his beauty. He really was a specimen worthy of her greatness.

"I'm just going to the bathroom, Chlo. Be back in a few," he stated, turning away from her. Chloe quickly scrambled to her feet, stepping closer to him and slipping his phone out of his pocket where she had seen him put it earlier. She placed a hand on his arm, squeezing a little harder than was natural so he wouldn't notice what she was doing.

"I'll just make some more coffee then, shall I?" she asked.

Adrien started with surprise. Chloe offering to make the coffee? But then he shrugged it off and gave her a wide grin.

"That'd be great," he replied and walked out of the room.

Chloe headed to the kitchen and poured some pre-ground beans into the coffee maker. She hadn't done it herself before, she had other people to do it for her, but she had watched Adrien do it and it didn't seem too hard.

She smiled in satisfaction as it seemed to be making the right noises.

Knowing she was short of time she quickly opened Adrien's phone - he really should set a password - and found Marinette in the contacts. Her name had a heart next to it. Gross.

Thanks to her private investigator, she knew that Marinette was alone this week and that this was her day off. She had Sabrina keeping tabs on her house and so she knew that Marinette wasn't doing anything, and didn't have any guests. The time was now.

Adrien: [Hi Marinette. Do you think you could come round in half an hour? I have something important to tell you.]

Luck was on Chloe's side as before she had even finished making the coffee Marinette had replied.

Mari <3: [Ok, I'll be right over x]

Chloe managed to keep herself from throwing up. Kisses at the end of the text?

She quickly deleted both messages and hurriedly put Adrien's phone on the sofa where he had been sitting before heading back into the kitchen for the coffee.

Adrien thought nothing of his phone being there - he just assumed it had fallen out of his pocket - and simply put it back in his pocket before smiling warmly at Chloe as she passed him his mug. He just barely managed to conceal the grimace as he took a sip of the extremely strong, bitter brew. He could thank years of modelling for the composed expression he managed to maintain before setting the cup back down.

Chloe could barely focus on the conversation they were having, watching the minutes count down on the clock before Marinette would arrive. She made sure to place herself so that she was facing the window out towards the street so she would be sure to see when the bluenette would arrive. She could feel the anticipation building in her stomach. This was exciting. She rarely had opportunity for plotting anymore and she missed it. School life really had been fun, even if she had had to put up with Marinette Dupain-Cheng almost every day for years.

A cheap, run-down car pulled up outside and Chloe smirked. It was about as much as she expected. She was surprised, honestly, that Marinette had made it all this way without breaking down. It was a good thing though. She needed Marinette to be here.

Chloe had made sure that there was a clear view into the living room from the outside as soon as she had arrived earlier, having opened the curtains as wide as they would go. This was going to be fun, and would kill two birds with one stone. She smirked again and this time Adrien noticed.

"Is everything okay, Chloe?"


 

Marinette had been glad to get Adrien's message. They had plans for later but any excuse to see more of him was a good one. His plans with Chloe must have wrapped up earlier than he expected. She could barely control the skip in her step as she made her way up the path to his front door.

Just as she raised her hand to knock, a flash of yellow caught her eye. Glancing to the right she saw through the front window something that had her stopping short. There was Adrien, sat on his sofa with Chloe Bourgeois straddling his lap and kissing him rather enthusiastically. Marinette froze in shock. She couldn't quite believe what she was seeing.

The twist in her chest was painful and she had no doubt that it was her heart, protesting at the sight of the man she loved in the arms of another woman.

Lowering her hand from where it had stopped just a few inches from the door, Marinette took a step back and then another before turning around and racing back to the car.


 

Once he had gotten over the shock of Chloe jumping on him, Adrien grabbed her by the wrists and forced her away, a confused and irritated glare on his face.

"What the hell was that?" he demanded. "You know I'm with Marinette. Why would you try and kiss me?"

Chloe examined her nails, unperturbed by his attitude.

"Just taking care of a problem. The sooner Marinette realises you belong to me, the better."

"Belong... I don't belong to anyone. I'm not some commodity," he ran a frustrated hand through his hair, standing up and heading towards the door. "You can't treat people like things Chloe."

He stopped short as he realised exactly what she had just said.

"What do you mean the sooner Marin-"

Adrien glanced out the front just in time to see the car pulling away from the curb.

"Shit."

Chapter Text

Adrien wasted no time in leaving his house, dragging Chloe out with him and then leaving her unceremoniously on his front doorstep as he ran to his car. Marinette had been more important than anything else at that point in time, Chloe could take care of herself. He couldn't lose her over this. It was a misunderstanding. He had to make her see that.

His heart was racing as he reached her house, barely paying attention to the established speed limits. He would be lucky not to get a speeding ticket. Desperate times though. Adrien was kicking himself that he hadn't seen this coming. Surely by now he knew Chloe well enough recognise her tricks. He remembered telling Nino that Chloe was paying him more attention after the break up from her latest boyfriend, but he thought they had moved past that. He really wanted to see the best in her though.

Adrien barely had his car parked before he was tearing out the door and running up the path to her front door. He rang the doorbell and waited impatiently, bouncing slightly on the balls of his feet. His emotions were in tatters, fear gripping his chest over the knowledge of what Marinette had seen and how she would interpret it. Of course she would assume the worst. Why wouldn't she? Even if she wasn't prone to over-exaggeration, Chloe had been kissing him, hell, she had been straddling him. Anyone would read the situation the same way.

He felt a twinge of disappointment though that once again Marinette had run away without talking to him first.

Adrien waited for what felt like an eternity until Marinette finally came to the door, her cheeks flushed with anger. Not saying a word she stepped back to let him in and Adrien's gut clenched. He wished she would say something, anything right now. Guilt has his blood running cold, even though he had nothing to feel guilty about, but mostly he was scared that this time he would lose her for good, and the thought was unbearable.

It wasn't as if he held none of the blame either. He had too much trust in his oldest friend, and for her to do something like this? It had obviously been planned, Marinette's arrival being a little too timely. He would be having words with Chloe later.

They reached the kitchen and she turned to face him. Adrien opened his mouth to speak but was stopped short when she held up a hand, effectively silencing him.

"Please, don't say anything. I have something I want to say first," she asked, her voice quiet in the silent house.

Adrien looked at her uncertainly but then cautiously nodded his ascent. If she wanted to talk he would let her. Then at least he would know exactly where he stood in this situation, and just what he needed to do to make things right.

"I know that it wasn't what it looked like," she began and Adrien frowned slightly. The words she was saying sounded familiar but off slightly, like it was what he should be saying... nearly. His brain couldn't quite manage to comprehend the words said in that order, in her voice.

"I know that you had nothing to do with it. I hope you know that I'm not blaming you at all. I'm not even really that upset."

This time, Adrien's brain came up with something usable. He gave her an incredulous look.

"You seemed pretty angry when I got here," he suggested, speaking gently to try and avoid her anger resurfacing. Talking seemed to be wiping her face of negative emotion, so he wanted her to keep doing that. Besides, it seemed like she was saying all the things he wanted to hear. He wasn't sure he could quite believe that.

Marinette's smile was tight, indicating that some resentment still lingered. Adrien wanted to brush away the lines that bracketed her full, pink lips, but he kept resolutely in place, still not entirely sure that physical contact would be welcomed.

"I was... I still am. But not at you," she assured, her smile growing brighter as she took in his worry and tried to expel it. "I bet you weren't even the one of text me earlier, were you?"

The look of utter incomprehension on his face was enough to confirm her suspicions.

"Chloe."

The name on her lips left a bad taste, and it was all she could do not to spit it out. It was an exclamation, an accusation and a confirmation in one succinct word.

Marinette pulled her phone out of her pocket and opened the last messages between her phone and his, showing them to him and understanding dawned in Adrien's eyes. He shook his head regretfully.

"I should have known," he groaned, wiping his hand across his face and rubbing the bridge of his nose with thumb and forefinger, as if a headache was starting to press in on him and he wanted to ease the tension away.

"How could you have?" Marinette was the first to move and close the gap between them. She clasped her hand around the back of his neck and gently stroked her thumb across the pulse under his jaw. Her other hand came to entwine with his fingers. "I'm really sorry for just running off like I did... again... I just didn't trust myself to stay without doing something that I might regret later. I'm still not sure I would regret doing or saying something to that... woman." Marinette only just managed to stop herself saying something worse. "Sorry, I know she's your friend and all, she's just always known how to get me fired up."

Adrien squeezed the hand he was holding and drew her in to a warm hug, tucking her head under his chin.

"I love you."

It didn't seem to matter how often he said those words, they always had the power to melt her into a puddle. She snuggled in closer to his chest.

"I love you, too."

When his head lowered towards hers it was the most natural thing in the world to raise herself up to meet him halfway in a gentle kiss, lips brushing across each other. The pent up emotions of the day had obviously gotten to them, Marinette's annoyance over Chloe and the pain of seeing Adrien kiss someone else - her biggest rival of all people - even if he hadn't wanted to, and Adrien's fear over losing the woman he loved and anger at Chloe's actions.

The kiss quickly deepened, mouths moving as one as he sucked her lower lip into his mouth, her lips parting automatically under the blissful pressure of his. One minute she was stood, surrounded by his embrace. The next she was lifted into the air, her legs wrapping around his waist to stabilise herself, even though she was sure he was strong enough to hold her up.

Adrien walked with her this way until he reached the sideboard. He moved his hands from where they cupped her rear, squeezing gently, to hold her hips so that he could position her onto the surface standing between her knees and pulling away from the kiss to check that she was comfortable.

Sat on the kitchen counter, Marinette hooked one leg around Adrien's, drawing him in closer. He stood between her parted legs, her skirt hiking up slightly, leaving her creamy thighs exposed to his view.

He kept his hands on her hips and leaned closer to once again capture her lips in a sweet kiss, Marinette's fingers tangling in his hair. She used her purchase to angle his head and deepen the kiss, tracing her tongue along the seam of his lips, nipping slightly when he didn't immediately grant her entry.

He chuckled and drew back slightly, causing her to whimper in frustration.

"You're impatient," he commented, his own voice husky with his desire.

"I'm just making sure it's my kiss you're thinking of and not Chloe Bourgeois," she replied, her eyebrow cocked in challenge and a smirk on her lips. Adrien took a moment to read her face, making sure she wasn't hiding anything. He wasn't sure he was completely happy with what he saw there. Marinette may trust him and know that there was nothing between him and Chloe, but he could see a little insecurity there below all her cocky boldness. Rather than confronting it, Adrien decided to show her just how much she had taken up residence in his heart. Her and only her.

"Jealous, Princess?" he asked, teasing, tracing butterfly light kisses along her jaw and up to her ear. Her took the lobe between his teeth and bit down gently before tracing his tongue along the edge.

Marinette shuddered, her body heating up a few degrees.

"N-no," she stuttered.

"Because you really don't need to be," his kisses moved across the edge of her cheekbone. He placed one kiss on the end of her nose and drew back again to look deep into her eyes. "I love you, only you. You are the most... beautiful... person... inside... and out." His words were punctuated with more kisses pressed against her skin.

By the end Marinette was aching with the need to have his hands on her, for his kisses to be deeper, to take possession of all of him. Her eyes were shining with love for the man in front of her.

"I love you so much Adrien. You are so much more than I ever thought I would deserve. You are so, incredibly, good. I can't imagine my life without you in it. You mean so much to me, it feels like this has been forever, not just a few weeks. You make me so happy."

And with that she brought his lips back down to hers, opening her mouth to tangle her tongue with his in a drugging kiss. As tongues slid across each other, hands slid across skin.

His fingers danced across her exposed thighs, leaving tingling trails wherever they went. Marinette's hands moved from his golden tresses and down his chest, deftly slipping buttons loose as she went, and the feel of her fingers, slightly cool against the heat of his body, sent shivers across his skin. She made quick work of his belt, undoing the buckle so that she could reach the fly of his jeans, giving her access to slip inside, moving round to knead the firm muscles in his backside, and drawing him even closer.

Marinette let him go when his hands slipped under the hem of her top, urging her arms up so her could pull it off over her head. Sat in just a bra, her skirt just barely concealing her underwear, Adrien was utterly floored by her beauty. He took a moment just to drink her in, his hands resting on her thighs. Wrapping his arms around her waist, he kissed her again, unsnapping the clasp of her bra and drawing the straps down her arms, tossing the item behind him.

It wasn't long before his shoes were slipped off, followed quickly by his trousers and boxers, her knickers joining the pile as they clung to each other, their kisses turning desperate, hands becoming more demanding.

Somehow, they had moved from the counter to the floor, the cold tiles an intense contrast on her overheated skin. She arched her back, pushing her breasts out towards him and Adrien obligingly took one of the proffered nipples into his mouth, biting down gently and swirling his tongue around the hardened nub. Marinette cried out as he sucked hard then moved his attentions to the other one, leaving the moist flesh to harden further in the cool air. Marinette's skin was becoming overloaded with the different temperature sensations and she couldn't tell if she was hot or cold and she found that she liked it.

As Adrien trailed kisses up her throat his fingers stroked the bundle of nerves at the apex of her thighs, causing Marinette to squirm against his hand, trying to increase the friction. He seemed determined to tease however, and it was driving her crazy. He placed an open mouthed kiss where he shoulder met her neck, somewhere he had already discovered she was particularly sensitive, and when he bit down, sucking the spot hard, he slid one finger inside her wet channel.

Marinette gasped, her back arching once again. Adrien stroked inside her a few times, her moisture coating his finger, making her moan and writhe beneath him before he rolled away, leaving her feeling bereft. She didn't have time to wonder where he had gone before he was back, on his knees in front of her and rolling a condom into place. She watched, fascinated, as the latex covered his hardened manhood. Sitting up, she tilted her head, then moved closer.

Adrien watched her cautious movements, uncertain about her intentions, but all doubt was erased along with most thought as she gripped the base of his cock and he closed his eyes at the feel of her soft hands. They snapped open again when he felt the moist heat of her tongue, apparent even through the protective covering. He couldn't tear his eyes away as her lips circled his swollen head and he could feel her tongue flickering around him before pressing against the underside of his shaft, adding pressure as her head started to move down his length, drawing him further into her mouth. His groan was deep as she started to suck and his eyes almost rolled into the back of his head with pleasure.

"M-M-Marinette," he gasped out her name, uncertain if he meant to stop or encourage her, his hand resting on her head but putting no pressure on her. She continued on and it felt so incredible that Adrien almost let her, but this wasn't how he wanted it to end.

He put his hand under her chin, forcing her to look up into his eyes and release him. He moaned at the sight of her mouth pouting open and gorgeous blue eyes devouring him. She was so incredibly sexy.

"If you keep that up, this is going to be over very soon," he admitted and her pout changed to a cheeky smile as she giggled girlishly, pulling him down into a kiss.

Adrien settled between her legs, his body held up by his forearms, kissing her deeply. Levering himself up again, he gazed down at her flushed cheeks and bruised lips, her chest heaving with small pants. He waited until she opened her eyes and was looking straight into his before he slowly entered her, pushing in until he was completely sheathed. Slowly, he drew out again, attempting to control his raging libido. He wanted to make this last as long as he possibly could.

Marinette had other ideas as she thrust her hips up to meet his, burying him inside of her tight, wet sex and Adrien's control snapped, his body moving of its own accord, his lips placing kisses on the exposed skin of her shoulder.

Marinette's legs tightened around his waist and she tried to keep her hips moving in tandem with his but she could feel the tension building inside her with every pleasurable thrust of his pelvis. He moved back slightly, changing the angle and Marinette bit her lip to stop herself from screaming. She felt like she was dying, or would do soon, the pressure in her core impossibly intense. So when Adrien's thumb came to rest against her most sensitive area, rubbing against her in time with their movements she came undone, shattering around him and moaning his name.

Her cry of completion rang out across the tiles of the kitchen walls, amplified in the quiet of the rest of the house. He thrust once, twice more into her before he came as well, his body shuddering as her walls clamped tightly around him and he collapsed against her prone form, just managing to keep one arm as support before he crushed her. They lay still against each other, their bodies the only warmth on the cool tiles, as their breathing steadied and their heart rates slowed.

Adrien brushed the damp hair away from her temple and placed a gentle kiss there before rising to his feet. She looked up at him dazedly and he gave her a crooked smile before offering her a hand up. The kitchen floor was hard and cold and neither one of them wanted to spend the evening there. Marinette was shocked by just how much she had wanted Adrien in that moment that they hadn't even made it upstairs. They hadn't even got completely undressed, his shirt undone but still on his shoulders and her skirt still around her waist.

Marinette let him pull her up before she retrieved her discarded clothes, hiding her blush. She decided that bravado was the best way to conquer her embarrassment.

"Race you to the shower," she called, already halfway out the door before he realised and she could hear his incredulous laugh as she started up the stairs.

Her skirt had joined the rest of her clothes in the wash basket by the time he made it to the bathroom door and Adrien stopped to take in the sight of her gloriously naked body, still flushed from their kitchen activities. Her arms were raised above her head, tying her hair into a loose bun, the action drawing his attention to certain features of her body. His gaze moved over her hungrily and he threw his shirt into the corner, not bothering to see where it landed. He stepped closer to the shower and turned it on, letting the steam fill the air before he picked her up and stepped under the stream of hot water, already hard and ready for round two.


 

Alya looked at her best friend over her glass of sparkling water and gave her an amused smirk.

"You know," she said, lowering her glasses slightly to look over them in a mock stern fashion. "This really isn't the proper use of my journalistic investigative skills."

Marinette's mouth flipped up into a matching grin as she ran a finger around the rim of her own glass, humming in agreement.

"Maybe not. It's fun though, isn't it?"

Alya laughed out loud at this. It really was going to be fun, and it was really nice to see the spark back in Marinette's eyes. Maybe Chloe was good for something after all. She had always managed -inadvertently of course - to bring out the best in Marinette. Her courage, her strength. Even if Alya didn't know that she used to be Ladybug, she'd still think she was a hero.

"Do you want me to deal with her?" Alya asked, glancing across the restaurant at the pair sat by the windows. They had the best seats, of course, but that had just made them easier to locate. In the end, there had been barely any sport for Alya in trying to find them. It had been far too easy.

"No, I think I've got this," Marinette assured.

Natasha sat back, waiting for events to unfold. She was just here for moral support anyway. She had never met Chloe before but the daughter of the former Mayor of Paris was instantly recognisable. She'd seen her in Nath's old yearbooks as well. Natasha had also heard stories from Nath about the blonde bully's antics when they had all been teenagers. It seemed she hadn't changed much considering how Chloe had tried to come between Marinette and Adrien.

Normally, Natasha was very much a live and let live kind of woman, but even she agreed that Chloe deserved everything she had coming to her.

Marinette rose from her seat, biting her lip nervously. She looked back at her friends who had remained seated and they both gave her an encouraging thumbs up. Marinette set her shoulders, arms stiff, and stomped over to the unsuspecting duo.

"Hello, Sabrina," Marinette greeted, voice impassive before she turned narrowed eyes to her nemesis. "Chloe," she grumbled.

The blonde looked completely unperturbed as she flipped her ponytail over her shoulder, turning disdainful blue eyes onto the interloper.

"Well if it isn't my absolute favourite person; Marinette Dupain-Cheng," she said. "You must be over here begging for scraps. Are you so poor now that you can't even afford to feed yourself? I'm not surprised," she turned her nose up and faced away. "The food bank is down the street, I'm sure they'll have something for a pathetic no one like you."

Marinette saw red, a frown marring her features. Then her face cleared and she smiled sweetly but her eyes held a fire in them that Sabrina could practically feel the heat of. The red headed woman edged away slightly in her seat.

"Thank you, Chloe, that's so very kind of you. I'll pass though, I think. Adrien is taking me out to dinner tonight. I wouldn't want to fill myself up."

Marinette placed a hand forcefully down on the table in front of the irritated blonde, turning the full force of her glare on her. Chloe visibly flinched before once again flipping her hair over her shoulder in a show of nonchalance. She couldn't disguise the slight fear in the back of her eyes.

"I just wanted to let you know something, Chloe. Try all you like, but you won't get in between me and Adrien. You're his oldest friend, and that's great, but don't forget that that is all you will ever be. So you can lie, and cheat, and force yourself on him as much as you want, but I trust him, and if there comes a time that he doesn't want to be with me? So be it, but I'll wait for him to tell me so, okay?"

Marinette didn't wait for a reply, she just turned away, flipping her hair over her shoulder in an imitation of Chloe's signature gesture and left the two stunned women staring after her as she sauntered back to where he friend's were waiting, both applauding loudly, pride shining out of their faces. Marinette even managed not to trip all the way back to the table.

Chapter Text

Talking to Chloe was a necessary step, but Adrien still regretted that it had come to this. He had spoken to Nino about it over videogames while Marinette and Alya had gone out to lunch.

Their conversation had been short, interspersed with trash talk as they battled each other on the large screen in Nino's living room, lounging on bean bags on the floor as if they were teenagers again.

"Dude," Nino sighed, mashing buttons as he desperately tried to not have his arse handed to him for the fifth time in a row. "You know - die! die! die! - what you have to do. It's been a long time coming, bro."

"I know, man" he agreed, deftly dodging Nino's attack - the DJ played the same way every time and Adrien had no problem predicting his moves - and throwing in a quick combo that left his friend on his animated back. "It sucks though. I don't know why she has to be this way."

They started another round, Nino resigning himself to yet another crushing defeat at the hands of his best friend when an idea occurred to him and his look turned sly.

"Hey, Adrien," he called and his friend started his initial attack.

"Hmm?"

"Is Chloe a good kisser? I bet she's great in bed."

Adrien choked on his sharp inhalation of air and Nino cackled as his 'bot knocked Adrien's out cold.


 

Finishing up with his group's tent, Lucas glanced over once again to the bluenette girl who was taking a break from her own tent. He was glad she was taking it easy with her arm. He was also glad for what he spotted as an opportunity for a few moments alone with her. Everyone who had finished their tents were either pitching in to help others or wondering off to do their own thing for a while. Taking a deep breath to steel his courage, Lucas walked over to where she sat.

Celeste had done what she could, but both her arms were starting to protest, one from the injury and the other from picking up the slack. She decided to be sensible and take a break, only allowing a little guilt to creep in as she let her classmates pitch the tents without her help.

They were all pretty good about it though. It was funny, after the initial teasing, most of them seemed to have gotten over their interest in her maman and Professor Agreste dating. It was almost never mentioned now, and she wasn't sure if it was her outburst in class, or Lucas defending her, but she was glad for it all the same.

Her friend's had picked up the teasing of her crush on Lucas though. It was only to be expected. They didn't know what he had said to her though, about how he wouldn't want a bit of teasing to get between him and a girl he liked.

She still hadn't asked him who the lucky girl was. Would that be weird? They weren't really that close friends. Were they? She wasn't sure.

Then, as if summoned by her thoughts, Lucas appeared beside her. She had barely realised his presence before he was sat on the dried out tree trunk that she was using as a makeshift bench.

She let out a squeak, jumping slightly in surprise, making him grin a little at her.

"Hey," he greeted, "I didn't mean to scare you. I just saw you were slacking and thought I would make it my responsibility to make sure you pull your weight." Celeste saw a mischievous twinkle in his eye and gawked at him. "Failing that, I thought I'd just slack off with you."

Celeste wasn't sure how to handle a playful Lucas. Truth be told, he had broken her earlier when he had kissed her cheek. She couldn't even remember what he had said at the time, the feel of his warm lips on her skin enough to shut down her brain functions. It had taken the whole bus journey to regain some semblance of normalcy, and that was quickly falling by the wayside.

Taking a breath, Celeste made a conscious decision. If he could tease her, she would tease him right back.

"I," she proclaimed grandly, "am injured. Practically an invalid. What's your excuse?"

His smile widened when she chose to play along.

"Well, I saw you all alone here and decided it was my duty to keep you company. Team morale is very important you know," he assured her, all mock seriousness.

"So you've abandoned the others to pitch the tent for you? Not very good for team morale, is it?"

He raised a hand to his mouth, simultaneously feigning shocked dismay at his behaviour and covering his growing grin.

"You're right! I should go and help them out. You'll be fine here, all alone, with no friends to entertain you."

Celeste narrowed her eyes, her lips twitching at his theatrics.

"Yes, you're right. Hurry along now."

"Ouch," he grumbled. "Actually, we're all done and we've got a bit of downtime now. But glad to know how quickly you would have me leave."

She turned to face him, smiling happily. This week was obviously going to be a lot of fun and a great opportunity to get closer to her crush. Celeste hoped her mother wasn't getting too lonely without her before she remembered that Professor Agreste, Adrien, was off from school that week as well. They would keep each other company.

She shoved down the mixed emotions she still felt over that to focus instead on the cute boy beside her that seemed to want to actually spend time with her. She could scream she was so happy.

"Let's play a game," he suggested, glancing round to see if they were attracting any attention. A few people had given them a look or two but it seemed people were too busy pitching tents or playing their own games to approach them.

"Game?" she asked cautiously. "I can't really do much with my arm..."

"Not that kind of game," he assured her, smiling warmly. "We just have to make up the conversations people are having. Whoever comes up with the best conversation, wins."

"Okay, so what do I get when I win?" Celeste asked him, nudging his side with her elbow.

"Cocky," he laughed. "I like it. Okay, if you win, you get..." Lucas took a breath, his face colouring lightly. "A kiss."

He waited with baited breath to see how she would respond. He had had a crush on her for a while, and he hoped that she felt the same way. Sometimes it seemed like she did but... He wasn't sure. But if she didn't like him that way, he could just pretend like it was a joke. A weird, completely inappropriate joke, but that was better than the complete humiliation of her rejection.

"And if you win?" The words were whispered and he leaned closer to hear them better, his heart thumping. She hadn't turned him down.

Be cool, Lucas. Don't blow it.

"If I win I get... a date. Lunch. Just the two of us."

Celeste's face was bright red and her palms were sweating. She couldn't be having this conversation. Those words couldn't have come out of his mouth because that would mean one of two things. She was dreaming and she would wake up soon, or she had died and this was heaven.

The idea that this was real and actually happening seemed too farfetched an option. When she had thought about asking who he might have a crush on, never in her wildest dreams had she ever considered the answer could be... her.

She squeaked again, which Lucas took as affirmation. His heart soared.

"Okay, I'll start... How about... them," he gestured to a couple of people in the final stages of pitching their tent. They were in the same year but not anyone they knew particularly well.

"Go ahead," she encouraged him, watching his face as it screwed up in concentration.

Even that is cute, she sighed internally.

"Well, Martha," he started. The girl's name wasn't Martha but that was neither here nor there. "I agree that chocolate pudding would make an excellent foundation, but then the beaver queen would be most displeased. I think we should make the damn out of Styrofoam," he spoke at a similar time as the boy, but he was still speaking when the boy's lips had stopped. It didn't matter. The girl - Not Martha - began to reply and Lucas made his voice higher into a ridiculous falsetto that would put Alvin or one of the other chipmunks to shame.

"Oh, Walter," - also not his name - "as always, you are so right. However, I do believe that when Robin Hood became the Queen of England he decreed that Styrofoam should be made illegal in the construction of any water based home. We shall have to come up with another solution." Lucas's voice lowered again as Not Walter spoke again.

"The British Royal family has no jurisdiction here. We shall make our chocolate pudding Styrofoam house."

Throughout the imagined exchange, Celeste had barely managed to contain her laughter. It wasn't that his dialogue was particularly funny but a combination of his ridiculous voices, the silliness of the subject matter and the fact that she was playing a game with her crush - especially considering the stakes - had her near hysterical.

"Not bad," she agreed, arms wrapped around her middle to stop her sides from splitting as small giggles slipped past her lips. "I think I can do better."

"Show me what you've got, Kurtzberg."

"Hmm... Let me see... Okay, them," she declared, pointing to where two teachers were sat drinking from steaming mugs of coffee. The campsite came with a cooking facility and therefore electricity and it seemed the adults had wasted no time in acquainting themselves with their sustenance for the week. She dived straight in.

"Why, Mlle Fairchild, I do believe that it is soon to snow. We should take precautions and stockpile with perishables to ensure we survive."

"I agree, M. Darcy," Lucas shot her an amused smirk at her choice of name.

"Not particularly imaginative," he teased. Celeste shoved him playfully.

"Shut up, I'm busy playing your game," she insisted and turned back to look at the teachers. "Ugh," she groaned. "Now I've lost track of who's saying what. This is all your fault. You've distracted me!" she cried, full of righteous indignation.

"Does this mean you give up?" he asked, his smile wide but the palpitations of his heart belied the nervousness. If he won, he would get to go on a date with her, and while the prospect was amazing, it was also nerve-wracking.

"No!" she cried, although she wasn't sure whether she wanted to win or not. "You should be disqualified for your blatant attempts to distract me. Mine would have been much better."

At some point Lucas had shifted closer and suddenly Celeste was very aware of his presence. His hand rested right next to hers on the log and if she moved even just slightly...

"Do you want to go again?" he asked, his voice quieter than it had been before. Celeste met his gaze and found she couldn't look away.

"No," her voice was equally hushed. "At best, I'd call it a draw."

"So what does that mean, we both lose?" Lucas looked somewhat disappointed and it was this look of dejection that spurred Celeste on to what she did next.

"I think it could mean we both win, if you like?" she asked, her uninjured hand moving to rest over his.

"I think I'd like that a lot," he agreed.

It was hard to say who leaned in first, but the small press of lips, barely more than a peck, had them both blushing furiously. They pulled away and glanced around, trying to see if anyone was paying them any attention and avoiding each other's embarrassed faces. Then they looked back at the same time. Catching each other's eyes, they both erupted into nervous giggles. Lucas calmed down first and he entwined their fingers.

"So then, about that date..."


 

"I've had enough, Chloe. If you can't be a friend, a proper friend, then I don't want anything more to do with you."

Adrien had decided a phone call would be the best way to have this conversation. He didn't want her to try anything again and he didn't want to be near her if she got angry. It was a little selfish of him but there it was.

All he heard from the other end of the line was a sigh. He expected loud crying, theatrics, guilt trips, anything really. He had been prepared for it. He hadn't been prepared for this.

"I know, Adrikins. I'm sorry."

She sounded almost... meek. What was going on?

"I overstepped the line. I know you're with Marinette and I get that you love her. I was jealous. I always thought of you as mine. You've been my best friend since we were in nappies and I didn't like that you would love someone else more than me. I'll leave you alone from now on."

Adrien's mouth was hanging open. He was completely shocked, not only by her words but by her attitude. He had never seen this side of Chloe before.

"Wait!" he cried down the line, stopping her from hanging up. "That isn't what I want. We are friends, and you did step over a line, but if you cut out all the kissing crap, and if you could maybe be at least civil to Marinette, I'd still really like to be your friend. I don't love her more than you, it's just... different. I do love you Chloe."

His declaration was met by silence and he wondered if maybe she had actually hung up on him. A moment later though, he heard a choked sob.

"Do... do you mean it?" she asked hesitantly.

"Of course I do," he replied, his voice filled with sincerity.

She sniffled on the other end of the line.

"Thank you."


 

That had been an exceptionally long shift. Her feet ached, her back twinged and her neck was strained. Her usual eight 'til five Friday shift had been extended to nine o'clock after another waitress called in sick. Since Celeste was still on her camping trip, Marinette hadn't the heart to say no. Besides, the money was always handy.

Tips were always better in the evening as well. Despite her aches and pains, Marinette was proud of the money she had made that day. And since Saturday was her day off she would be able to have a long soak in the tub before bed and then a lie-in in the morning. Bliss. Then all Saturday afternoon she would get to spend with Adrien before she went back to work Sunday lunch time. Things could certainly be worse.

Annoyingly, because she usually finished earlier, she parked at the back of the car park, so that customers could park closer. It wasn't a problem, it was usually still light when she finished work. She had expected the same today, but now it was night-time and several of the lights in the car park were out. The moon was barely visible as it dipped behind a cloud and the torch light was broken on her phone.

She briefly debated going to ask someone to walk with her to her car but then thought better of it. They were still reasonably busy in the restaurant, and whoever came with her would have to walk back alone. It really wasn't worth it. So using the light from her phone screen, which did nothing really to break through the darkness, she made her way over to where she knew her car to be, even if she couldn't actually see it.

While her screen didn't really help her see much, it did have another effect. It made her extremely visible. Which was why, at first, Marinette didn't notice the figure looming in the darkness. The slight flicker of movement caught her eye, a shadow moving on a shadow, that drew her attention to the presence of another person.

Forcing herself not to panic, she drew herself up to her full height and turned the screen to see who was coming closer towards her. The adrenaline was coursing through her veins and the rush of blood in her ears was all that she could hear. She could feel her heart beating in her chest, a violent pounding as if it were trying to break free from the prison of her ribcage and she desperately tried to drown out the warning bells her body was throwing at her so that she could remember all the basic self-defence training that she had garnered over the years.

It was minimal, to say the least. She had been too busy to keep it up and she was sorely regretting it now. But still, the principle would hold up. She just needed to remember what to do.

You were Ladybug, she reminded herself, hoping this would be enough to promote the correct frame of mind.

First things first, she instructed herself. Throw your purse away so they go for that instead of you.

The menacing figure was getting closer. There was just one car between them, but she made sure he could see what she was doing before she tossed her handbag as far as she could. It wouldn't help her if he thought she still had it.

The shadow shifted slightly, watching the bag fly for a moment before resuming his path towards her. Marinette's panic increased tenfold. He didn't want money so that left her with little doubt as to what he wanted instead, and the prospect was making her feel sick.

He started to advance towards her again.

Marinette crouched slightly, defensively, instinctively lowering her centre of gravity. If she had to fight him off, she would. The only thing she had on her that would act as a weapon was her keys so she gripped them in her fist. She remembered hearing somewhere that you shouldn't slot the keys between your fingers, something about causing you more damage than the attacker, so she held the key like a knife.

The closer he got the harder it was for to think, her heartbeat so loud she was sure he would be able to hear it as well. Inside her mind, she was screaming for help, but when she opened her mouth nothing came out.

Panic. Panic.

Her brain really wasn't supplying her with anything of use.

Out of nowhere, she remembered a film she had watched, many years before. It seemed stupid. Miss Congeniality. Was this one of those things where your life flashed before your eyes? And if that was the case, how mundane had her life been that a film was featured in her last moments? And where were her memories of Celeste? Or her parents? Or Adrien?

But then she remembered to sing.

Solar Plexus.

Instep.

Nose.

Groin.

Marinette's resolve hardened. She might not be Ladybug anymore, but she would try her best. Her life depended on it.


 

When Marinette text him to say she had nearly finished work, Adrien decided he would surprise her and meet her after her shift. He lived close to the restaurant and the weather was fair so he grabbed his leather jacket and headed out the door, his pace a quick walk to reach her before she left. He made it in record time, the prospect of seeing her causing his heart to race in excitement.

He was greeted at the door by the host, someone he had met before but who's name escaped him. Luckily, it seemed she recognised him.

"Hi. Adrien, right? Mari has already finished but she left about two minutes ago so she probably isn't even in her car yet. You could still catch her before she leaves."

Adrien smiled his thanks and dashed back out the door, heading to the car park, cursing his luck at how close he had come to catching her. No matter, he would reach her before she left. The car park was quiet, and unusually dark without the moon to light it. Quite a few of the lamps seemed to be out as well. They really should do something about that.

Looking around and seeing no Marinette anywhere, Adrien resigned himself to the fact that Marinette had obviously already left. It was a shame but he would go home and call her. Maybe he could pick up his car and drive to her place. He had been spending the night more and more recently, both taking advantage of the fact that Celeste was away for the week. No doubt they would see less of each other once their schedules went back to normal.

As he turned to leave, Adrien heard a slight shuffling of feet and a muffled squeak from behind some parked cars. The sounds were so slight that he almost dismissed them as the wind, or perhaps a stray cat. Maybe even his imagination. But then he heard it again, along with the sound of something heavy hitting metal. Like a body hitting a car? He huffed, the sound derisive of his own fanciful musings.

Regardless, he decided to investigate.


 

She was managing to put up a pretty good fight. Blood was streaming from his nose from where she had head-butt him, but when she had stepped close to knee him in the groin, his heavily muscled arms came around her. Marinette hadn't expected him to be so quick and now she was cursing herself. How was she going to get out of this now? Maybe she should have just run in the first place, but panic made people do irrational things and it hadn't even occurred to her.

The adrenaline was pumping throughout her body and her blood was rushing in her ears. She had tunnel vision and her attacker was all that she could see as she struggled against his constricting arms, desperately trying to kick him as she pinned her own arms to her side, her keys dropping from her hands as they slackened from the lack of blood flow. Where was a magical yoyo or a trusty partner when you needed one?

She hadn't given up, refusing to stop fighting until... well, she didn't want to think of that. His hold was tight and Marinette was struggling to breathe properly. Her tunnel vision was becoming worse as the edges of her vision darkened.

Suddenly, out of the corner of her eye Marinette saw a flash of black leather and blonde hair. It was as if her desperation had called him straight out of her past to save her in her time of need. She couldn't believe it.

The rush of air hit her lungs like a hurricane and she became dizzy with the introduction of oxygen to her system as the man holding her was knocked down. Spots flickered in front of her eyes and she sank down, her elbows resting on her knees as she tried to regain her equilibrium. He had the man pinned against a car, the attacker's arm twisted up behind him. Marinette blinked, taking in his messy blonde hair and leather jacket, which was all she could see of him, when a flicker of another hulking shadow to the side caught her attention.

Adrien could barely control his anger when he saw Marinette in the crushing embrace of the large man. It was no wonder all he had managed to hear was a squeak, she could hardly breathe, let alone scream. He hated to think what would have happened if he hadn't shown up when he did.

He delivered a swift elbow to the side of the man's head, knocking him out cold. He might have done more, all he could see was red across his vision, memories of Marinette's face next to this piece of filth filled him with a rage unlike any he had ever felt before. He was stopped by a rasping voice calling out.

"Chat Noir! Kitty! Look out!"

In that moment, all he could hear was his partner's voice. He started to revolve towards it, confused and disorientated by her reappearance now after all these years.

Turning, all he could see was Marinette staring at him desperately, and suddenly, the pieces all clicked into place.

"My Lady?"

Then the world went black as he felt something solid connect with the back of his skull.

Chapter Text

The police had just left and Marinette was having a hard time keeping it together. The tears she had refused to shed before now ran freely down her face and her body was wracked with sobs. She wrapped her arms around her body, desperately trying to keep herself together as she felt herself falling apart.

Between her exhaustion over the long day at work, as well as the complete draining feeling coming from all the adrenaline leaving her after that attack. If Adrien hadn't come when he did... but then he had been attacked, and now...

She couldn't even let herself think about the idea that Adrien... and Chat Noir...

It was all too much.

With the heels of her feet tucked up on the edge of the chair, Marinette hugged her knees to her chest and buried her face into them, letting years of pent up emotion overwhelm her in this moment. Losing her best friend. Getting pregnant straight out of school. Her failed marriage. Raising her daughter alone. Giving up on her dreams. The rocky start to her relationship with Adrien - her first relationship in years - and now this?

How could any one person stand all of that?

She started at the feel of a warm arm coming around her shoulders, drawing her into a comforting embrace. Glancing up into a familiar face, Marinette relaxed against him as he let her cry it out. Finally, as the sobs quieted to small hiccups and her eyes ran dry, he spoke.

"The police called me, I guess I'm down as an emergency contact on your phone? They thought you might want someone here with you." Nathanael spoke in soft, soothing tones, his deep voice reverberating through her and oddly comforting. "They gave me the gist, but did you want to talk about it?"

Marinette just shook her head and turned her face into his neck. It was odd, seeking comfort from her ex-husband. She hadn't really even done that when they were married, but here he was, supporting her, giving her exactly what she needed in that moment.

"I'm sorry I've been pig-headed," he mumbled into her hair, pressing his cheek into the midnight strands and tightening his arm. "I told you things were different now, that I was being better, but then I got so jealous of Adrien being in your life again. I was afraid that he was going to take both of you away from me."

Marinette started to pull back to look at him but Nathanael's hold kept firm.

"No, wait, let me finish. I'm glad that you have him, now. Natasha has kicked sense into me. He's prefect for you, you're perfect for each other. And if he hadn't been there tonight... I know that we broke up a long time ago, but I still care about you, Marinette, and I don't know what I would do without you."

This time it was Marinette's turn to offer comfort. She wrapped her arms around his waist and hugged him tight.

"I think that Natasha is very good for you. I like her a lot and so does Celeste. I hope this time you make this work, Nath. You don't want to let this one go. I care about you too."

He pulled back and smiled warmly down at her.

They were interrupted by a female voice.

"Ms. Dupain-Cheng? M. Agreste is awake if you would like to see him? He's asking for you."

Nathanael stood from his chair, pulling Marinette up behind him.

"I'll be waiting here in case you need anything, okay?"

Marinette looked up at the red-head uncertainly before giving him a tight smile and a nod of the head. Turning away, she followed the doctor to Adrien's hospital room.


 

There was a headache pounding behind his eyes and a definite tender spot on the back of his head. The painkillers were already starting to take the edge off though and it wasn't something he couldn't handle. He had taken far worse beatings as Chat Noir, although, admittedly, he had been a lot younger then. He wouldn't heal quite so easily either, especially without the aid of a magical suit.

The events that lead to his head injury were somewhat fuzzy. He remembered he had been protecting Marinette, that she had been in trouble. Adrien had no idea what had hit him though. And what had happened after he had been knocked unconscious?

He needed to speak to Marinette. It seemed like there was something desperately important that he needed to remember, and it was dancing just out of his reach. It had something to do with her, he just knew it. What was it?

The door opened just a crack, the harsh lighting from the hallway falling across his eyes and blinding him momentarily, causing him to wince as the pain behind his eyes intensified slightly. Someone came in to the room, closing the door behind them and he realised it was the person he most wanted to see.

"M-Marinette," he sighed in relief when she came closer and he took a moment to let his eyes wonder across her body, checking for any injury. Finding nothing, Adrien felt the knot of tension in his chest unravel. He hadn't even known it was there until it was gone.

She had stopped just inside the door, her own eyes making an assessment of his injuries as he analysed hers. Their eyes met and the momentary spell was broken and she rushed forwards, wanting to embrace him but wary of the equipment surrounding him, opted to carefully lower herself to the bed and brush his hair back from his head, her gaze loving.

"Oh Kitty, I'm so sorry you got hurt."

And with that it all came back.

Adrien had gone to find her when he heard a strange noise in the dark car park. When he investigated he found her half unconscious in another man's arms. He had taken that guy out but was distracted when he heard Ladybug call his name.

No, not Ladybug. Marinette.

Then he had been hit from behind by another attacker.

It was a lot to take in, and a lot of questions that he still needed answering.

"What happened after I got knocked out?" he asked. Obviously nothing too bad, as she was stood here, seemingly fine. Still, he hated that he had managed to get so distracted that he left Marinette unprotected.

Marinette closed her eyes, trying to stop anymore tears from falling. The memory of Adrien unconscious on the floor of the car park, a man holding a brick looming over him, was still fresh in her mind and made her sick to her stomach.

"Well, luckily, a group of people came out of the restaurant and they obviously heard a commotion and they found us. The second man ran but they arrested the one you knocked unconscious," at this, Marinette could no longer hold back her sobs. "Oh Adrien, I was so scared. I thought that I... and then you. I thought you died."

Adrien's hand came up to rest against her cheek in a comforting gesture.

"I'm right here, Bugaboo. I'm not going anywhere. I'm never going anywhere ever again."

Marinette turned startled eyes on him. It had finally clicked for her during the fight that Adrien was Chat Noir. She couldn't necessarily pinpoint when it had happened, but once the idea had insinuated itself, she couldn't shake it. Everything just added up for her in her adrenaline overloaded, oxygen deprived brain.

When had he realised that she was Ladybug? Or was it just a slip of the tongue?

"Bu-Bugaboo?" she asked, hesitantly and Adrien smiled at her.

"We have a lot to talk about."


 

The whole group sat in a big circle, pans and pots on the floor before them in varying stages of being scrubbed clean. Having all the food cooked over an open fire had been good fun that week, but it made all the utensils black. Every member of the group was elbows deep in sudsey water, buckets shared between two as the children all pitched in with the cleaning. The following morning they would strike their tents and head back home. It was a bitter sweet moment for them. The cleaning was hard, and let them all know that they would be leaving, but going home was a welcome relief after spending a week sleeping on the ground, and this bonding time was great. Especially as Celeste was sharing a bucket with Lucas.

A plastic bag was wrapped around her hand so that her cast wouldn't get wet, but despite this, she was trying hard not to use that hand if she could help it. She couldn't deny that after the week, even trying to ease off using it as much as she could, Celeste needed a good break. So she propped pans between her knees, luckily wearing her oldest pair of jeans, and used her good hand to clean.

All around them was the companionable chatter of good friends at the end of an exciting week. Someone had put some music on and a group of girls were singing along to an English pop song. Celeste sat in a companionable silence next to the boy she was almost calling her boyfriend. Just thinking the word made her squeal internally with giddy excitement. It was taking some getting used to knowing he liked her just as much as she liked him.

Her thoughts briefly drifted back to her mother again. She had some stories to tell her when she got home. Celeste hadn't expected to, but she had really missed Marinette that week. Hopefully when she got home they could have ice cream and watch When Harry Met Sally again for what might possibly be the five hundredth time.

Maybe they could even do something with Adrien and Lucas.

Then again, Celeste wasn't sure if she was quite ready for that.

One thing was for sure, she couldn't wait to go home.


 

"Thank you for understanding... yes... okay, yes that's fine... No, there's no need for that, I'll be okay. Thank you. I'll see you Monday."

Marinette hung up the phone and plopped herself down on the sofa next to Adrien, brushing a hand through his hair and gently over the lump at the back of his head. He flinched slightly but otherwise made no reaction.

"How are you feeling," she asked softly, playing with the tips of his hair almost absentmindedly. He nuzzled into the action, his movements so reminiscent of Chat that it made Marinette's heart hurt.

"A little sore," he acknowledged, "but I'm glad that I'm here with you."

"So... we should talk about... this," she gestured to the two of them.

Adrien nodded his agreement and they lapsed back into silence, neither really sure as to what to say. Marinette searched blindly for a way to begin.

"I still have your letter," Marinette blurted out, glad for something vaguely relevant, tucking her hair behind her ear, the action causing her charm bracelet to jingle quietly, the gems catching the light. Adrien was glad that the tension had been broken. He drew her hand to him, reverently touching the bracelet which was always around her wrist, finally recognising it for what it was. He nudged through the charms one at a time before finally coming to the two he was looking for, fingering them affectionately.

"And the charm bracelet I gave you," he said, pleasure flooding his gaze. He stared for a moment longer at the silver trinket before letting it go and intertwining their fingers.

Marinette nodded, suddenly shy.

"Of course," she asserted. "It was from you."

The statement itself held little in the way of sentimentality, but to Adrien, it was everything. Even then, as Chat Noir, he had been important to her. He knew that, of course. The letter she had written him had said as much, but to hear the words from her lips brought a faint flush to his cheeks.

Marinette rearranged their positions so that she was sat with her legs across his lap, resting her head on his shoulder with her arm around his waist. Adrien wasted no time in bringing his own arms around, holding her firmly in place, right where she belonged.

"I still have your umbrella, as well."

"My umbrella?" he replied, somewhat confused. Then a memory sparked, right the way back from his first days at school. It had been raining, and she hated him. The details were fuzzy but that was the day he remembered having made her his friend, one of his first. It was a happy memory for him. "Oh, that umbrella. When we became friends."

"When I fell in love with you," she amended, her head tilting up to look at him. His startled eyes looked down into hers. "For the first time, anyway."

He smiled fondly and relaxed back into the sofa cushions, pulling her back into his chest.

"And just how many times have you fallen in love with me?" he asked, and his voice was so filled with Chat Noir arrogance that it was a wonder to Marinette that she hadn't figured it out sooner. She scoffed, slapping his arm playfully and he let out a chuckle in response.

They sat in comfortable silence for a moment or two, Adrien allowing his thoughts to wonder back to the past when Marinette's voice snapped him out of it.

"Four."

"Four?" he questioned, briefly forgetting exactly what it was that he had asked her.

"Once with the umbrella, once as Chat, once when we reconnected and now that I see the full picture, I think I've fallen in love with you all over again. My Adrien, my kitty. I finally get all of you."

Adrien pouted.

"You've one upped me. I can't say that I was in love with Marinette at school, I was too blinded by my love for Ladybug, although I certainly noticed you. Plagg had us pegged as lovebirds from the beginning. Oh! I suppose that was with the umbrella."

"Plagg? Was he your kwami?"

Adrien hummed an agreement.

"He was a pain in the neck, but I still miss him. He was good to talk to. I tried to ignore my little crush on you. I thought I'd be betraying Ladybug with feelings for someone else," Adrien laughed self derisively. It was quite amusing. "Now I get both of you," Adrien bent his head down, inhaling the scent of her hair, his lips tickling the edge of her ear. "Marinette Dupain-Cheng and Ladybug. Now there's a thought."

Marinette hit him again, harder this time and Adrien cupped a hand around his arm, feigning injury.

"Hey! That hurt!"

"Serves you right," she stated, glaring up at him. "Get your mind out of the gutter."

"Sorry," he mumbled, not in any way contrite if the cheshire grin on his face was anything to go by. Marinette brought a finger up to his nose and pushed his face away, just as she had done many times before as Ladybug. His delighted laughter filled the air and after a moment she joined in. The overwhelming feeling of relief was unexpected. Years of what-ifs finally coming to an end. Marinette couldn't quite believe that her Ladybug luck was still going strong, yet what other explanation was there?

"What was your kwami called? I don't remember if you ever mentioned..."

Marinette heaved a sigh, feeling a small prick in the back of her eyes when she considered her old friend.

"Tikki. She was everything I could have hoped for. She was always there, making sure I was doing the right thing. She was my best friend."

Adrien huffed next to her.

"Other than you, obviously. And Alya," she tapped her chin thoughtfully with her index finger. "You really were my best friend, Kitty."

They sat for a couple of hours, reminiscing over the past. There was laughter and there were tears, but for the most part, there was the reconciliation of four people into two. They had finally found each other, only to realise they had been there all along.

"So, what now?" Marinette asked him, managing to look both hopeful and uncertain all at once.

"Now?" he replied. "Now we get to live happily ever after."

Marinette laughed at him, but couldn't help the warm swell of affection in her chest at his words. Happily ever after actually sounded pretty good.

"I think..." she hesitated briefly, testing the atmosphere before she spoke her next words. "I think I want to go back to design school."

"I think that's a great idea!" Adrien's beam lit up the room. She took a deep breath before uttering her next words. This would be putting everything she had on the line. But, she trusted her kitten. She knew that one way or another this would all work out.

"The thing is... with Celeste still at school, and with the hours I would need to drop at the restaurant, it's not going to be easy. I won't be able to support myself financially, at least for a little while, and the chances are that I might not always be around to pick Celeste up from school, or drop her off for that matter..."

She hesitated again, reading the expression on his face. It really hadn't been all that long since they got together, and what she was suggesting might be a little forward for her blonde boyfriend. He was surprisingly difficult to read, as if he was trying to mask his emotions from her. She wanted to tease him about letting his modelling background show, but now really wasn't the time. He was waiting patiently though for her to finish her thought.

"So I was wondering if maybe... you might like to help me with that?" Marinette's hands quickly waved in front of her face and she closed her eyes, a furious blush crossing her cheeks. "Not that anything has to happen right away, in fact, I couldn't even enrol until next September which is months away so if it was something you might want to do, then it doesn't have to be for ages, and I would need to talk to Celeste first, of course, and obviously you can say no because I wouldn't want you to feel like you had to do something that you didn't want to do-"

She was stopped with a finger against her lips and she allowed herself to peek out of one eye.

"Marinette, I would love for us to move in together."

Her sigh of relief was audible and she threw her arms around him.

"Ow, ow, ow," he muttered and she made a squeak as an apology and flung herself away to sit next to him instead. In her enthusiasm she had forgotten about Adrien's injuries.

Not liking the distance, he pulled her closer again, wrapping his own arms around her and pressing his lips to her temple.

They sat and talked about the future, not going in to specifics, just generalisations. Hamsters were mentioned, children touched on, her future career as a famous fashion designer and, of course, how Celeste fit in with everything.

Still obviously affected by his injury and the effects of his pain medication, it wasn't long before Adrien started to doze off. Marinette got up, tucking his legs onto the cushion so he could stretch out and laying the throw across his body. She took a moment to drink in his prone form, memorising the curve of his lips, relaxed in sleep and pouting slightly, the way his hair fell across his forehead, growing slightly longer again, and the slightly upturned tip of his nose. The smile on her lips was small but happy. Everything had come together and it was perfect.

Marinette headed up to her bedroom, needing a moment to herself to fully process everything that had taken place.

The men from the car-park she would push to the back of her mind. They were unimportant at this time. She would take up self defence again, and better safety measures would be put in place at the restaurant. She wouldn't be in a position like that again if she could help it.

No, for now, Adrien and Chat Noir was at the forefront of her mind. He had had the right idea before, Marinette thought to herself, her smile turning wicked. Adrien and Chat Noir. That was quite a fantasy.

Under her bed, Marinette pulled out a storage box. In it was the umbrella. She had removed it from where it hung in the downstairs cupboard in case anyone picked it up. There was also the hospital tags from when she had given birth to Celeste. She took a moment to brush her fingers across them, looking forward to her daughters return the following day. She had a lot to tell her. Beneath the tags was a magazine cut out of her favourite Adrien photo shoot, not that he needed to know it was there. The boy's ego didn't need any help.

In amongst the rest of the memories was an envelope, which Marinette pulled out now. She lovingly ran her fingers across the heavy but worn paper, slightly yellowed over the years, before slipping her fingers inside and carefully removing the contents, as if they might crumble to ash if she was too heavy handed.

The writing was almost calligraphic in its loops and whirls, some might describe it as romantic, and while she wouldn't have imagined Adrien having writing like this, his upbringing too strict and controlled for something so fanciful, it fit Chat Noir to a T. The ink, unsurprisingly, was green and in a couple of places had bled into the paper slightly.

Marinette knew her own tears when she first read it were the cause of that. For the first time though, she could read these words and not be consumed by the grief that they always brought in the past. In fact, she had not allowed herself to read the letter more than a handful of times over the years, the sense of desperate longing that it incited too much for her to handle. There was some guilt in there as well, knowing that if she had revealed herself to him sooner, the separation might never have happened.

It didn't matter anymore though. Everything that had happened had worked out for the best. She had Celeste and a world of experience gained from her years as a single mother. She wouldn't trade those.

It was better, too, that they came together now. Knowing herself as she did in retrospect, Marinette knew that Adrien would have been nothing but an idol for her to worship, and not love the way that he deserved. Even Chat, as she grew to love him, would not have been treated right by her. She wasn't mature enough, didn't understand properly, exactly how much of herself she would have had to give, and if she even would have been willing to back then. As a teenager she had been selfish, only thinking about her own emotions.

She was a different woman now.

 

                Dear Ladybug,

These past three years have been the best of my life. I have never felt more myself than I have when I have been standing by your side. Being  your friend has meant everything to me. I couldn't be more proud to call you my partner.

You are brave and strong, you keep me grounded when I find myself scattering, and you mean the world to me. I can't imagine not having you in my life.

So this is what I propose. One year from now, on 28th at 7 o'clock, we will meet as civilians in front of the Eiffel Tower. I will be wearing black jeans, a green top and a hopeful expression. I know this is a lot to ask, and I realise you won't be able to give me a response as I leave tomorrow, but it would mean a lot to me if you would meet me there.

I already miss you. This year is going to go so slowly, but I will be counting the days until we meet again.

Love, Chat

 

Marinette never heard a sound, but suddenly, there he was sat beside her. Gently, Adrien brushed the tears from her cheeks that she hadn't even realised she had shed.

"I meant every word of it, Bugaboo. I missed you so much that year, and every day since. You really do mean the world to me, Marinette."

Tears spilled over, running tracks down her face. She hadn't deserved him back then. She barely felt she deserved him now.

"I'm so sorry," she whispered, her eyes shadowed as she hung her head, shame washing over her. Marinette had forgotten, with everything that had taken place in the last twenty-four hours, that Adrien had been left to stand waiting under the Eiffel Tower for her. She briefly wondered just how long he had waited, but quickly pushed the thought away. It didn't really matter, the fact was that he had. She didn't even need to ask. She knew with absolute certainty that her kitty had waited for her.

"Sorry?" Adrien asked, holding her chin between thumb and finger and raising her face back up to look at him. "What are you sorry for?"

"I wasn't there. I promised to always be there for you. We were a team, partners, and I let you down."

Adrien pondered this for a moment, analysing the hurt in her eyes and debating just how truthful to be. Then he sighed. They had both agreed on an open and honest line of communication. He wouldn't back away from it now, even if his words had the power to hurt them both. Under his father's thumb, however, he had learned the power of tact.

"I suppose," he prevaricated, stroking her cheek soothingly with his thumb, drawing himself closer. "It did hurt, when you didn't show up. I waited a long time for you."

Marinette whimpered, just managing to keep her sobs in check. The idea of hurting him was devastating to her. How was it that he was the one comforting her?

"I wished you had come that day, but even then, I believed in you. I didn't know why you weren't there, but I knew that there had to be a reason. We always had each other's backs. An unstoppable team, right? Whatever kept you away that day... I knew you would be there with me if you could."

The conviction in his voice brokered no argument.

"It was the day I found out I was pregnant. I wanted to meet you, even then, but I was a mess. It was selfish of me, but I couldn't face you when I felt so ashamed of myself, and lost. I didn't know what to do. But you need to know how important you were to me, Chat. You are so important to me."

She took a deep breath and looked him straight in the eye. Tears still clung to her lower lashes but she had stopped crying now.

"I'm never going to let you go again," she replied.

When he pulled her close for a kiss, it was all the response she needed.

 

Fin.

Chapter Text

"Do you think that they are the ones, master?" the green kwami asked, floating out of sight beside the wizened old man. They stood at the back of the church, watching the couple get married. It was a beautiful ceremony, and it warmed Fu's over two hundred year old heart to witness his most recent Ladybug and Chat Noir so happy and in love.

Perhaps soon, they would be the ones getting married. As it was, they were the best man and maid of honour.

The old Chinese man turned away, and headed down the church steps, one hand behind his back and one holding his cane.

"I am fairly certain, my old friend. I will of course, wait until the test, but they are both very promising candidates. We do not have much time however. Have the stirrings of darkness grown any stronger?"

The look on Wayzz's face grew sombre.

"It has been growing slowly. I suspect it shall not be long before the balance shifts. We shall be needing the help of a new Ladybug and Chat Noir, of that I have no doubt, and soon."

Fu nodded sagely as he cast one last look at the church before taking a seat of the bench, waiting for the occupants to leave. He would test the girl first.


 

Lucas hadn't been at the wedding but later, at the party, Celeste was stopped short by the sight of him in a navy blue suit and light blue tie. The colour brought out the light tan of his complexion and the deep brown of his eyes.

Thoughts of the old man in the Hawaiian shirt that she helped up outside of the church were long gone. He wasn't particularly important, just a passing stranger who had needed help. She hadn't thought twice when she ran to help him from the ground, handing him his cane to help keep him steady. Her dress had caught the brunt of the action, a small rip and some dirt along the hem. Nothing too bad.

Now she was in the arms of the boy she loved, dancing to a slow song. It seemed like only yesterday they had whispered the words to each other for the first time, although it had been nearly two years.

Across the dance floor, Marinette and Adrien sat side by side on a love seat, sipping on their drinks. Adrien had his arm around her shoulders as the two watched the couples dancing. Sighing, Marinette rested her head on the handsome blonde's shoulder.

"They make a cute couple, don't they?" she murmured, her eyes following her daughter twirling almost gracefully to the music.

Adrien turned his face into her hair and breathed in her scent, placing a gentle kiss on her hairline. He hummed in response, a feeling of contentment washing over him.

"I've been thinking about it, and I think it's probably time I had the talk with her. I know she probably already knows the mechanics of it, but she's fourteen now, Lucas will be fifteen soon. It's better if she's prepared. Although, my parents did a good job of telling me about the birds and the bees. Look where that got me," she smiled wistfully, not in the least upset with the way things had turned out.

"Accidents happen," Adrien said, nuzzling her hair. "I think your situation will act as a cautionary tale for her though. She's not about to do something silly. You've raised her well, Marinette."

She turned her head and placed a peck on his lips, smiling warmly at him.

"I remember when Nathalie gave me the talk. I was thirteen. I suppose father was worried since I was already modelling then and surrounded by half naked models all the time."

"All the time?" she asked incredulously, her eyes narrowed in a glare. Adrien laughed and peppered kisses across her face.

"None of them could hold a candle to you, Bugaboo," he whispered, the stirrings of his breath across her lips causing them to tingle. She leaned into his chest again.

"Your father didn't talk to you about it?" the bluenette asked, slightly puzzled as to why a personal assistant would do something like that. Surely that was above and beyond the call of duty, even for someone as dedicated as Nathalie had been. Still was, in fact.

"You know father, not really one to get involved. As long as I was upholding the Agreste name, he didn't pay much attention."

Marinette's arms wrapped around him, offering him the comfort that Gabriel never had. The hurt still laced Adrien's tone, even after all these years. He chuckled softly at the memory.

"It was really awkward. She brought a banana. I couldn't look at her for weeks afterwards."

They both laughed together at the image of the straight laced young woman showing a teenaged Adrien Agreste the mechanics of putting on a condom.

"I don't know though," Marinette debated, a teasing light in her eye. "I don't think I'll be setting a very good example for Celeste, even now."

Adrien tilted his head to look down at her, his brow puckered into a confused frown.

"What do you-"

That was when he noticed her hand resting gently on her flat stomach. His eyes bugged slightly.

"Are you... are we...?"

She bobbed her head, a small excited smile on her face. It took Adrien two seconds to get over his shock, his eyes lighting up with wonder and the smile on his face a mile wide. All of a sudden, Marinette was overwhelmed by a bone-crushing hug.

"That's amazing, Marinette!"

She nodded dumbly, desperately trying to bat the man off.

"Adrien... Get off. I can't-"

And with that he released her, apologies spilling from his lips. He still couldn't contain his excitement.

"What do you think your father will say?" she asked him as he brushed a reverent hand across her stomach. His smile was wry.

"I suspect you'd have a better idea than I would, since you took an apprenticeship with him. I think you might be his favourite designer."

She brushed a lock of hair away from his face and gazed deep into his eyes before giving him a lingering kiss. The apprenticeship she had been offered at Gabriel's had been something of a godsend. True, nepotism might have played a part, but Gabriel was an astute business man and he wouldn't have taken her on if Marinette hadn't shown promise. For her it meant that she would be earning while doing what she loved, and now that she was pregnant, she wasn't facing the prospect of once again dropping out of school to look after the baby. She learnt best by doing anyway.

Although, the truth of it was, she suspected Adrien would take a step back to be a stay at home dad, if the necessity arose. She could see it already.

"You're going to be an amazing father. Our baby is so lucky to have you. We all are."

Overwhelmed with emotion, he drew her back into a gentle kiss, his arms coming around her in a protective circle. Pressed against his chest he could feel the outline of the ring box he had taken to carrying with him. He'd ask her soon, when the moment was right. Now, he was just going to enjoy this moment.


 

Celeste was dancing with her father. It was quite nice of Alya to invite her best friend's ex husband to the reception, although, Lucas supposed, they were old school friends. He decided to take a moment and get some fresh air. As much as he was enjoying the party, it was getting a little stuffy in there.

It had started to rain sometime in the past hour, and the lights from the cars and streetlamps were reflecting off of the wet roads, giving the night a hazy glow. It was a fairly romantic scene, with the Eiffel Tower adding its own magic to the dark of the evening. Lucas wished that Celeste was stood beside him now, to see it with him. He took a few moments to enjoy it.

Assuming the song would probably be over, and hoping to snatch a few moments of alone time with his girlfriend, Lucas  turned away from the road, catching a glimpse of an old man crossing, bent low over his cane. The honking of a car horn quickly drew his attention back to the road and he saw, almost as if in slow motion, a large SUV losing traction on the waterlogged road and begin to slide towards the man.

He was too slow, he would never make it out of the way in the time, and the street was devoid of any other human life. Without giving it a second thought, Lucas dashed out into the path of the oncoming vehicle and tackled the man off of the road. The two landed in a tangled heap on the pavement, narrowly missing the wheels of the car.

Lucas rolled off of him and flopped onto his back, uncaring that the wet was soaking into the back of his shirt. His breath heaved out of him in heavy pants, both from fear and exhaustion caused by the sudden rush of adrenaline. He turned his head to look at what he now realised was an elderly Chinese man dressed in a Hawaiian shirt. The sight was so bizarre he had to stop himself from laughing outright.

"Are you-" he panted, his breath visible in front of his face. "Are you alright?" he finally managed to get out.

Master Fu stood his cane up and used it as support to bring himself back up to standing. He brushed off some gravel that was clinging to his clothes and smiled down at Lucas where he still lay, short of breath.

"I am fine, young man, thanks to you."

"Do you need me to call anyone? Maybe you should go to the hospital."

Fu smiled and shook his head.

"Thank you, you're very kind. But as you can see, I am quite alright. You should go back to the party, your girlfriend is probably missing you."

Lucas looked over to where the wedding reception was taking place, seeing the familiar flash of blue hair as Celeste stepped out of the door.

"Yeah, you're probably-" Lucas looked back to where the man stood only to find the space empty and the strange Chinese man gone. He glanced up and down the street but couldn't see him anywhere.

Suddenly a hand appeared in front of his face.

"Need some help?" Celeste asked, smiling quizzically down at the prone form of her boyfriend, lying on the wet ground. Lucas grasped her hand and allowed himself to be pulled to his feet. "I wondered where you'd got to. What happened?"

Lucas cast one last glance around before he slipped his arm around her shoulders and began walking back across the road.

"Nothing... there was this old man. I thought he was going to get run over. He's... gone now. I... I don't know. Never mind. Let's get back to the party hm?"

After giving him a slightly concerned look Celeste nodded, offering him a small smile. It seemed there were strange men needing help all over today.


 

Later that night Celeste turned on the television, just catching the end of a news report about something or other happening in Paris. She barely paid it any attention. The news was full of bad things happening, it all just seemed to blur together. Besides, this didn't even seem real, there were monsters or some such. Probably some spoof show about the news rather than the real thing. She flicked through the channels before she found a music channel and turned away to start getting dressed for bed.

Heading over to her dressing table, Celeste reached a hand to pick up her hairbrush before she noticed a box, black and inlaid with red symbols. It looked like a jewellery box and she found herself inexorably drawn to it. She picked it up tentatively, lifting the lid. The room was briefly and completely filled with a blinding light.


 

Lucas blearily rubbed his eyes, his toothbrush hanging out of his mouth as he padded across his room barefoot and already dressed in his pyjamas. As much as he had enjoyed the evening, he was exhausted and it was already gone midnight. He ducked into his en suite bathroom, to rinse his brush and remove his contact lenses before bed. Setting his toothbrush into the holder, he reached for his lens box, only for his hand to brush against something a little bigger. Throwing a confused glance at the offending item, he saw what seemed to be Chinese symbols in red decorating a black box. Flipping open the lid, bemused that his mother's jewellery was in his bathroom but curious anyway, a flash of light flooded the bathroom, reflecting off the mirror and white tiles and blinding him momentarily.

When his vision cleared he couldn't quite believe his eyes.