Ten years ago today, and at almost the exact same time, Adrien Agreste was an anxious mess. He had been a ball of nerves since he woke up that Sunday morning, and the feeling only worsened as the day crawled by. He stood now in front of his bedroom windows, staring out into the purple skyline with tense anticipation.
He had decided: He was going to tell Ladybug.
Tell her everything.
First, he was going to confess to her that he loved her. He was going to tell her he had loved her since the very beginning, and that each and every time he saw her he managed to fall just a bit more, just a bit deeper. He wanted her to know how amazing he thought she was—how amazing he knew she was. She was smart, resourceful, courageous, selfless, and kind; not to mention beautiful, with a smile that could make a Parisian winter feel like summer and a moonless night feel like sunrise.
Then, after that, he was going to tell her who he was. Chat Noir, savior of Paris, was really Adrien Agreste. He thought she might have heard of him (since his face was, after all, plastered all over the city) and he hoped that would make this part of the plan easier. The less he had to explain, the better, because if he was this nervous now, he could only imagine how he would feel in front of her, out of transformation with his heart bared for her to see. Would the words come? It all sounded good in his head, but what if he stumbled trying to tell her how he felt? What if he lost his nerve halfway?
Adrien closed his eyes and furrowed his brow in fierce determination. There would be no stumbling, no backtracking, no “never mind”s. He would persevere. He would tell her everything.
And he would do this because today was their anniversary.
Sentiment was very important to Adrien. He couldn't just blurt out his feelings. He had to wait for the right time. And he thought that the anniversary of their first meeting would be the perfect opportunity to tell her how he had come to feel about her over the last year.
It went better than he could have ever dreamed.
“Ladybug,” he began, “I have to tell you something.”
He had, admittedly, said this a couple of times before Ladybug actually showed up. The first time was to a pigeon that felt safe enough to land nearby. At the sound of movement behind him, the words came tumbling out as Chat Noir shot from his perch on the roof, scaring the pigeon back into flight. The second was to a stray cat. It stared at him for quite a while after that.
Mercifully, the third and final time was to Ladybug herself. Having just landed on the rooftop behind him, she, too, was startled by his sudden outburst. She must have noticed the urgency in his voice, though, because instead of the befuddlement he expected, a look of concern crossed her face.
“Is something wrong?” she asked, coming closer.
“Uh...wrong?” he croaked. “No! No, nothing's wrong. I just want to tell you...um...”
Ladybug tilted her head at him and quirked an inquisitive eyebrow, coaxing him to go on.
At a loss, he blurted out: “It's our anniversary!”
The troubled look remained on her face for a moment. And then, slowly, it melted away, and she started to laugh.
“Oh, yeah!” There was relief in her voice. “Tikki mentioned that to me. Can you believe it's been a whole year?”
Chat shook his head and said: “Sometimes I can't. Sometimes it's like I just met you yesterday. Time flies when I'm with you, but it still feels like I've known you my whole life, my Lady.”
Her smile faded, and then one corner of her mouth curled into a knowing smirk. “Chat,” was all she said. That was the same tone of voice she used to reprimand him for goofing off when he should have been focusing. She wasn't taking him seriously. He sort of expected that.
“Wait,” he said, and reached toward the open space between them. “Ladybug, I...really need to talk to you.”
She appeared taken aback by this. Her smirk was gone now, and she regarded him with a quiet, scrutinizing curiosity. He swallowed.
“Okay,” she said at length. “I'm listening.”
Chat drew in a long breath and let it out slowly. This was it.
He began again: “Ladybug, there's something I've been meaning to tell you for a long time. And I thought...when better to tell you than our anniversary?”
“Our anniversary,” repeated Ladybug. “That's such a you thing to say.”
“But it is our anniversary!” said Chat, voice raised so that he might announce it to all of Paris. He stretched his arms out at his sides and beamed at her. “I met you a year ago today, and it was the best thing that ever happened to me!”
She laughed then, hiding her smile behind her hand. His heart swelled with affection and with hope, and, emboldened, he took a step toward her.
“I mean it!” he continued. “I could never do this without you, bugaboo. You're—you make me feel like I can do anything as long as you're here! And nobody's ever made me feel that way. Whenever I'm with you, it's like...it's like I'm on top of the whole world. And when I'm not with you, I think about you all the time. I've never...I mean...”
He paused here, searching for the right words. In the silence that passed between them, he took a moment to search her eyes. The sparkle of playful amusement that had been there just before was gone now, extinguished at some point when she began to realize exactly what he was trying to tell her. Now she simply stared at him, wide-eyed. Her hand still covered her mouth, and he could no longer tell whether or not she was smiling. Those eyes did not betray a smile, though. She looked serious. That was, in part, a relief.
Lowering his voice a bit, he said: “You're so special to me, Ladybug. I mean it. When I'm with you, I feel so...comfortable, I feel safe, I feel like...like everything's right and it's just you and me in the whole world. And I don't want that feeling to ever go away.”
He reached for her then, and took her hand slowly, tentatively in his. She looked down in surprise, but did not pull away. He lifted her hand between them and held it gently in both of his, eyes never leaving hers. And then he said:
“I love you.”
It came out smoother than he expected. Something about it felt indescribably right.
“That's what I wanted to tell you,” he said. “That's what I've been wanting to tell you. I love you, Ladybug. I want you to know that. And I want you to know who I am.”
“Chat—” she began. There was urgency and distinct concern beneath the surprise in her voice. But it was too late. He needed to follow through before his courage left him, and follow through he did.
When his transformation released, he felt more vulnerable than he had in his entire life. He imagined it would feel this way, opening all of himself up for her to see, but he never thought it would be so intense. He stood there in front of her, staring at her with eyes full of the same trepidation that had danced in hers just a moment ago—but no longer. She wasn't looking at him with nervous, apprehensive eyes anymore; they were alight now with awe and wonder and...recognition.
Chat Noir—Adrien—again tried to swallow past the lump in his throat. It didn't work as well this time.
“M-my—” he started.
But before he could finish his sentence, Ladybug all but wrenched her hand out of his and threw her arms around him. Adrien squeaked in alarm, stumbling clumsily backward from the force of the collision. Ladybug held steadfast to him, squeezing him tighter than he had ever been squeezed. Realization of their position dawned on him slowly, and with it came a light, warm feeling that began in his chest and crept up, up, up into the tops of his ears.
“Adrien!” cried Ladybug. He heard her gasp next to his ear, and then, suddenly, she pulled back. Not much; just barely enough to look him in the eyes as she said: “It's you! It's been you this whole time?”
Her words were drenched in astonishment and disbelief. Her eyes were misty, and she looked and sounded as if she were expecting to wake up from a dream.
“You...you know...?” ventured Adrien.
“Of course I know you!” said Ladybug. “I can't believe it!”
Underneath the sound of her voice, Adrien could hear his pulse drumming in his ears. She knew who he was. It slipped his mind briefly that he had been anticipating that all along. The real question was:
“And do I...know...?”
At that, his Lady gave him a sweet, tender smile. His gaze wandered dazedly away from her eyes to trace its curve. He couldn't remember her ever smiling at him like that before. There was a certain affection, a certain warmth, and an undeniable familiarity about it that drew him helplessly to her...until he realized that he was, in fact, staring, and his eyes darted attentively back up to hers. He felt her chest quiver with an unsteady breath that fell somewhere between a laugh and the beginnings of a sob.
Leaning fractionally closer to him, she answered: “We're friends.”
A small piece of Adrien's world fell away beneath him. How could that be? He always wondered if perhaps he had passed her on the street one day, or if maybe they had shared a bus or a train car; but to be friends? How could he have spoken to her, exchanged more than a passing “hello” with her, and not seen that she was his Lady? Dumbstruck and overwhelmed, he could only gape at her in silence for a few long seconds. Then, finally, he gathered enough of himself to ask:
“I see you every day,” said Ladybug.
“Every day?” squeaked Adrien. “And I had no idea?”
“No idea?” There was a hint of sweet laughter in her voice, a gentle lilt in her words that made him acutely aware he was being teased.
He forgot all about that, though, when suddenly his vision was consumed by a shimmering pink light. It was so brilliant that he could still see it behind his eyelids when he closed them. And then, just as suddenly as it appeared, it vanished, and nighttime settled upon him once again. He kept his eyes shut, though, unsure of whether or not he was really ready to open them. His Lady was in front of him. He was about to know the one secret he had been desperate to uncover for precisely three hundred and sixty-five days. Where would he go from here? What would he do? What would he think about in the dead of night if not: Who is Ladybug?
She held him for a moment, no tighter than before. He could feel her eyes on him. Then, slowly, she leaned heavier into his chest, and he felt her chin come to rest lightly on his shoulder. Her hair was like silk against his cheek.
“Open your eyes, you dork.”
He nodded, but still paused to brace himself before doing so.
The first thing he saw was her hair. It was dark. Dark and pulled into pigtails, except they were no longer tied with crimson ribbon. His eyes wandered next to the gray cardigan she wore, and below that, a pair of pink—
“Marinette!” shrieked Adrien.
Shock and alarm bid him to leap backward and out of her arms, but he resisted for fear that in doing so, he might hurt her. He did, however, grow abruptly rigid, and she seemed to notice. She lifted her chin from his shoulder to look at him.
“Not who you were expecting?” she asked.
His eyes widened.
“Expecting?” he wheezed. “Not who I—I wasn't...You're Marinette! You sit behind me!”
She looked tremendously guilty for laughing.
“You sat behind me every day this year!” continued Adrien. “I've been to your house! I—I talk to you! I see you all the time! How did—how did I—”
It was beginning to dawn on him. It was a slow, gradual process, but the gears were turning. Ladybug was Marinette. Ladybug was his friend. The love of his life was Marinette. And now that it was sinking in, he began to wonder: How did he ever miss it?
Marinette was incredible. She was kind, selfless, courageous—she was every single one of the hundreds of things he loved about Ladybug. Not to mention—and this was the part that really made him feel foolish—they had the same pigtails. And the same eyes, the same button nose, the same light smattering of freckles that you had to lean in really, really close to see.
A chuckle fought its way past Adrien's parted lips.
“How did I never notice?” he said.
Marinette flashed him a coy smile. “Never notice...?”
For the first time, Adrien's arms slipped comfortably around her waist. He rested his hands in the curve of her back and held her gently against his chest. Then he leaned closer. In the dark, he thought he could see a whisper of pink in her cheeks.
“That you were...you.”
She shook her head at him and said: “I never noticed that you were...you, either.”
“Yeah, but I'm not nearly as cool as Chat Noir,” he said with a wink. “I wouldn't have thought it was me, either. But you...you're the same amazing girl, mask or no mask.”
The precious pink blush he was chasing deepened to red, and after a beat, Marinette's eyes flitted away from his to stare bashfully at his chest. Adrien's heart swelled with affection. He tilted his head downward, trying to catch her gaze, but all he saw was the briefest glimpse of a smile before she stubbornly buried her face in his collar.
“You think so?” Her voice was soft and muffled, and as she spoke, she snuggled tighter against his chest as if trying to hide herself away.
Adrien closed his eyes and rested his cheek atop her head.
“Of course,” he purred. “You're always amazing me, Marinette.”
And then it happened.
“I bet I can do it again,” she said.
“Oh?” Adrien pressed a tender smile into her hair and breathed: “I bet you can, too.”
When she moved, she did so very slowly, very carefully. She lifted her head from his shoulder, mindful that he was still so close to her. Without a thought, he followed her lead. Curiosity brimmed in his eyes. He turned ever so slightly toward her, searching for her gaze, but she still did not look at him. She didn't even pull away.
Before he could ask her what she was doing, she leaned into him, and suddenly he felt her breath on his skin, and her soft lips pressed firmly into his cheek. His heart skipped a beat. It was a short kiss, and a moment later it was over, and she was resting her forehead lightly against his temple. Adrien stood stock still, his lips parted, eyes wide, and his heart lodged unmoving in his throat. And then, slowly, a grin swept across his face. It was difficult to breathe; his chest ached; and still, he couldn't remember ever being happier than he was right then. For a moment—a single, precious moment—he was sure nothing would ever make him happier.
He was, of course, wrong.
At first, she was quiet, but he was far too overwhelmed to take notice of—much less be troubled by—the silence. For a long time, she stayed right where she was, head snuggled gently against his, and he took his time memorizing every sensation she gave him. He never wanted to forget how small she felt in his arms; the warmth of her embrace; how soft her hair felt against his cheek; how she smelled of vanilla and sugar and honey. Most of all, he wanted to remember the gentle caress of her breath. It tickled his neck and made him shiver.
He was so caught up in her—all of her—that when at last she spoke, it startled him, like being awakened from a dream.
“I love you,” said Marinette.
That was all. She said it so simply, as if she were telling him the sky was blue; as if those three tiny words hadn't stopped his world from turning; as if they hadn't pulled the ground from beneath his feet and left him standing suddenly on thin air. Warmth bloomed in his chest. It started beneath his fluttering heart, then danced up his collar and into his cheeks. It was a light, airy, dizzying feeling that made his knees feel weak and his head feel fuzzy.
“You...you do?” he asked. His voice was quiet and breathy and full of all the wonder in the world.
He felt her nod.
“I've loved...Adrien for a long time,” she said, “but never could find the words to tell him.”
Then, finally, she pulled away, and his gaze found hers for what felt like the first time. He wondered quietly if her eyes had always been so blue.
“But,” continued Marinette, “ever since the first day we met—the first day we really met, outside the school in the rain—I think that was when I fell in love with you. You were so kind, and so sweet, and I never...I never forgot what you did. Gave me your umbrella, I mean, when I'd been so...when you—when you didn't have to do that...But you did! You did out of the kindness of your heart and that's...”
The longer she went on, the less sure of herself she sounded. That is, until she said: “That's what I fell in love with.”
That part she said with the utmost confidence, and at that, Adrien felt something in his chest fizzle and melt. His face softened and he stared at her with every ounce of affection swelling underneath his heart. He wanted to kiss her. That thought stood out to him above all else. He wanted to wrap her up in his arms and pull her close and press their lips together and kiss her over and over and over, until the sun rose above Paris and they had to be Adrien and Marinette again. But he would not. That wouldn't do. He had to say something; he knew that, but, as was often the case in tender moments with his Lady, he found it difficult to think.
“You fell...” He cleared his throat. “I mean, you've been...for that long?”
“I think so,” she said. Humor touched the smile on her face, and she glanced away from him in embarrassment. “That's why I never fell for Chat Noir.”
Adrien's eyes widened in surprise.
“You never fell for me because you were already in love with...me?”
She laughed; her sweet, bubbly, melodic laugh, and he couldn't help but smile. His cheeks were beginning to ache, but he didn't care. All that mattered to him then was her and them and together.
“I guess so,” murmured Marinette.
Slowly, she slipped her hands back over his shoulders until they came to rest flat on his chest. He felt his body tense reflexively at her touch, and his chest puffed up with a short, sharp breath. As he stared wordlessly at her, one corner of her mouth curled into a playful smile, and she suddenly gave him a gentle shove.
Then she said: “The puns didn't help your chances, either.”
Of all the things he had expected her to say, that was not one. Adrien snorted rather loudly—and, he thought, unattractively—before the laughter came tumbling out.
She continued: “Does that mean I have to deal with puns from Adrien now, too? I swear—”
She popped her mouth closed when Adrien leaned in to press his forehead to hers. He squeezed his eyes shut and began nuzzling her relentlessly, even as she laughed and squeaked and batted at his chest.
“That wouldn't be so bad, would it, purrincess?” he crooned.
“No!” shrieked Marinette.
“No? No what?”
“Oh, bugaboo,” purred Adrien, “my puns aren't that clawful, are they? I think you're just being catty.”
Marinette groaned in exasperation, and Adrien's satisfied grin grew wider still.
“I changed my mind,” she said. “I don't want to date you anymore.”
That gave him an idea.
Adrien gasped in mock surprise. He pulled away slightly to look at her, and after a beat, her eyes fluttered open, too. She shot him a long, suspicious look, as if skeptical that he was really finished tormenting her. Adrien wanted to laugh. She knew him so well.
“Are you sure?” he said. He was determined to feign innocence for as long as he could fight off his grin. It worked, sort of; at least long enough for a hint of dawning regret to cross Marinette's features. Inevitably, though, his lips curled again into a mischievous smile, and he added cheekily: “Because I'm pawsitively head over heels for you, my Lady!”
“I knew it!” she cried.
And Adrien burst into laughter.
He laughed until he felt her lips crash suddenly into his.
His eyes opened slowly, wider and wider until they felt like perfect circles. All he could see were her own eyes, shut tight underneath a brow furrowed in determination; but he wasn't really looking. He was staring unblinking a hundred miles past her, at nothing in particular, until she pulled away.
When she opened her eyes, his gaze snapped to hers. He blinked once, twice, and gradually became aware that his mouth was hanging ever so slightly ajar.
Marinette's cheeks were bright red—he could see that even in the low light of the rooftop—but there was a fierce courage in her eyes, as if it had taken every ounce of her willpower to do such a thing.
“Are you done now?” she asked, a slight quiver in her voice.
Adrien swallowed hard.
“If I say no, will you kiss me again?”
She draped her arms over his shoulders and stood up on her toes. His eyes flickered down to her lips, suddenly very close to his.
“That's a sacrifice I'll have to make,” she said.
They stayed there on the rooftop for quite some time. Adrien had completely lost track of what time it was, how late it was getting. He forgot that the two of them had school the next morning. Even if he had remembered, he wouldn't have cared. Nothing mattered to him but her breath and her kisses and the sweet sounds she made when he held her tight. He told her a hundred times that he loved her, whispered into her lips between kisses, and a hundred times she told him she loved him, too.
The following weekend, they went on their very first date. Adrien met her at the Dupain-Cheng bakery, a dozen red roses in hand, and took her for a long walk. He held her hand across the Pont des Arts, kissed her cheek underneath the Eiffel Tower; it was everything he ever dreamed it would be. And all the while, they talked, talked, talked. He learned so much about his Lady that day; so many little, intimate things; things he never even thought to ask until they came up over crepes.
Come evening, he found that somehow, he had fallen deeper in love. Especially so when she kissed him on her doorstep, hands in his, and told him she missed him already.
And so it went. Days passed. Nights flew by in a dizzying blur of kisses, of touches, of long, meaningful looks, and of countless different kinds of “I love you”s.
Their first anniversary came and went. Then the second, and the third.
For the first, he took her to lunch, and then for a walk in the park. There he presented her with a locket. Inside was a photograph of the two of them against the Seine; the cover bore the inscription “my love bug.”
For the third, he spent days piecing together a scrapbook of their time together. It held dozens of photos; ticket stubs from shows, trains, and planes; handwritten notes; even the love letter she had mailed him and forgot to sign.
Their sixth anniversary found them in Italy, and their seventh in China.
For the eighth, they bought their first house. For the ninth, he surprised her with the puppy she had been wanting. Adrien suggested they name him Lucky.
“I hate that,” said Marinette, voice breaking as Lucky licked joyful tears from her cheeks. “It's perfect.”
And then came the tenth. Tonight.
On the night of their tenth anniversary, Adrien found himself thinking quite a lot about their very first. Not their first anniversary as a couple, but their first anniversary as Ladybug and Chat Noir. He thought about how anxious he was to tell her how he felt about her, and to tell her who he was. He remembered the restlessness and the nervous butterflies flitting around in his belly, how his cheeks burned and his head felt fuzzy. He felt exactly the same tonight, staring fixedly at his reflection in the mirror.
The two of them had agreed to keep it simple this year. They were going to dinner, then coming home and spending the rest of the night alone with one another. Between Adrien's commitments to his father's company and Marinette's budding career as a designer, they had scarcely any time to simply relax together. At least, that was what Adrien said as they were talking over their plans. In truth, they spent plenty of time with one another, even if much of it was passed in silence, her head on his chest as she sketched, one of his hands resting in the small of her back and the other typing away at his laptop. Nevertheless, Marinette happily agreed, much to Adrien's relief. He had a few ideas of his own as to how he would make this year special, but it all had to stay a secret for just a bit longer.
“Adrien?” came Marinette's voice through the door. “Are you almost ready?”
He jumped. His eyes snapped away from the mirror and toward the bathroom door.
“Almost!” he called back, hoping to sound more collected than he felt. “I'll be there in just a second!”
Adrien gave himself a quick once-over. He angled his chin up and straightened the collar of his blazer. Then he drew in a deep breath and, maintaining steady, confident eye contact with his reflection, told himself one last time that tonight was the night.
Before he left, he gently patted the right front pocket of his slacks. The box was still there. It had been there the last six times he checked, too, but there was no harm in making sure.
Dinner passed without incident. For a time, Adrien forgot about his plans and allowed himself to enjoy a pleasant, stress-free evening with his Lady. She seemed to suspect nothing, perhaps in part because Adrien let himself put the question out of his mind, and felt much better for it. He found it easier to speak, and his heart was no longer trying to hammer its way out of his chest.
Until they left the restaurant.
Marinette was expecting to go home. Adrien couldn't let that happen just yet. He came up beside her and slipped his hand into hers, trying not to look suspect.
“You know,” he said smoothly, “it's a beautiful night. I was thinking...before we go home, do you want to go for a walk?”
Marinette shot him a quizzical smile. “A walk?”
Adrien hummed, then leaned in and pressed a tender kiss into her hair. Without pulling away, he murmured: “I think all of Paris should see how enchanting you look tonight.”
She laughed at that. Her hand covered her mouth, but he could see her smile in the way her eyes crinkled at the corners and in the way her cheeks blushed rosy pink. Butterflies fluttered excitedly underneath his heart.
“Well,” said Marinette, “when you put it that way...why not? It's early, and it's not like we have any other plans.”
“Perfect.” Adrien squeezed her hand and began leading her down the sidewalk. “There's somewhere I've been wanting to take you.”
That caught her interest. She looked at him with curiosity dancing in her wide, blue eyes, but he purposely avoided her gaze. She asked him where they were going, and he insisted it was a surprise. When she reminded him they had agreed on a quiet night together, he promised:
“As soon as we're done with our walk.”
“Well...okay,” said Marinette. And then, more insistently, she asked: “But where are you taking me?”
“It's a secret,” he said.
Marinette pouted her lip, but played along. She let him lead her through Paris, holding hands, and eventually, when Marinette set aside her curiosity, they began to talk. They walked for a long time, talking about everything and nothing. They walked past their favorite café—closed now for the night, but Adrien thought he could still smell Marinette's favorite chocolate crepes. They walked past the theater where they had passed so many evenings years ago, and past the Pont des Arts to wander along the Seine. Adrien gave the bridge a long, fond look. Every time he passed it, it reminded him of their first date together. That was appropriate, he thought.
They kept walking until they came to a building. It was unassuming, no different from the apartments on either side of it, but he would have recognized it anywhere. It still had the same worn railing on the balcony, still had the same planters hanging from the second story windows. The flowers were different now, though. Peonies.
Marinette paused a pace in front of him. Clearly she hadn't been expecting him to stop here. She turned, and her eyes wandered up the building, then back down to him.
“Is this it?” she asked, bemused.
Adrien smiled at her for a few long moments, then, at length, he said: “Do you remember this building?”
Marinette regarded him with a hint of confusion, then looked again at the building beside them. He watched her eyes, waiting for the memories to come sweeping over her. They did—he could see it happen—and she turned back to him then, wide-eyed with wonder.
“This is the one?” There was disbelief in her voice.
“You recognize it?”
A smile bloomed on her lips. She stepped in front of him and reached for the hand she was not yet holding.
“Anywhere,” she said. “But I might've recognized it sooner if we were on the roof.”
“That can be arranged.”
She giggled, and his heart fluttered. He took a step closer to her and leaned forward to press his forehead against hers.
“Can you believe it's been ten years?” he murmured.
Adrien's eyes were closed, but he could hear the gentle, teasing smile in her voice as she said: “Time flies when I'm with you.”
A toothy grin spread across his face as affection swelled in his chest. She remembered. He squeezed her hands and nuzzled her nose, eliciting more sweet laughter.
He finished for her, his voice barely above a whisper: “But it still feels like I've known you my whole life, my Lady.”
Marinette hummed contentedly and slowly lifted herself up onto her toes. He followed her lead, straightening up as she leaned gradually into him, until their chests were pressed together and he could feel her warm breath on his lips.
“Adrien...?” she ventured. “Why here?”
For a beat, he was quiet. He wanted to clear his head before he spoke. As much time as he had spent thinking of what he would say in this moment, he had long since decided that all his carefully crafted plans would be forgotten in the end. They would only cloud his thoughts. Moreover, preparing a speech felt disingenuous. He wanted to speak from his heart, like he always had with her.
He drew in a short breath, held it for a moment, and then released it with a soft sigh.
“Marinette,” he began, “I have something to tell you.”
“Oh?” said Marinette. “This sounds familiar...”
“I know. That's why I brought you here. This was where I first told you I loved you, and how much you mean to me, and that's what I wanted to tell you again tonight.”
“That you love me?”
“And that you mean the world to me,” murmured Adrien. “That you're the best thing that's ever happened to me. That every day, somehow, you make me fall a little more in love with you. And that I can't imagine ever being without you. I can't imagine...not falling asleep next to you; not starting my day with you beside me; not having you there to turn to, to hug and kiss and hold and cry on when I need you. You've been with me through everything, Marinette, and I want you to stay with me. I want you beside me, always, in everything I do, and I want to be beside you, too. I love you, my Lady, with my whole heart, and I always will. So...”
Slowly, carefully, he pulled away from her. For the briefest of moments, he saw a spark of confusion in her eyes. Then he knelt down in front of her. One knee hit the cool concrete of the sidewalk, and on cue her hands flew over her mouth as she fell back onto her heels.
“Marinette,” he said, pulling the small velvet box from his pocket, “will you marry—”
He had barely gotten the box open before she cried: “Yes!” Her voice was muffled behind her hands, and it cracked as tears began to well in her eyes, but he could still hear it. And that one little word, full of so much promise, was the most wonderful, magical sound he had ever heard.
“Yes?” asked Adrien, hope bursting in his chest.
“Yes!” repeated Marinette. She began to nod, and then bounce on her heels. “Yes, yes, yes!”
Adrien found himself suddenly at a loss. He never thought this far ahead; his daydreams always ended with the question, never the answer, and now that he had it, he found his head empty save for a cottony daze of joy and excitement and adoration. So he did the only thing he could think to do: He leaped up from his place in front of her, threw his arms around her waist, and lifted her up into the air. He whirled her around and she squealed and laughed and hugged his neck, and with their bodies flush together, he could feel her heart pounding along with his.
When he finally set her down, the first thing he did was press a long, firm kiss to her cheek. He felt warm tears against his lips. Slowly, he opened his eyes and breathed, with the faintest whisper of concern:
This was met with quiet, bashful giggles.
“I'm okay,” she said. Her voice was still wobbly and broken, but there was certainty in her words. She took a deep breath, let it out, and said with all the confidence in the world: “I'm better than okay, I'm...I love you, Adrien. I love you so, so much.”
“Not as much as I love you,” purred Adrien.
He pressed his lips to her cheek one more time, and then slowly straightened up. The first thing he noticed when he looked at her was her smile. Marinette always seemed to be smiling, but when she was really, genuinely, overwhelmingly happy, she had a grin that would light up a room. And when she opened her eyes to smile at him, the moon and stars and all the lights of Paris suddenly paled in comparison. Adrien's heart melted. He wanted to scoop her up and hold her and spin her around again and again, but there was something he needed to do first.
He reached for one of her hands, resting contentedly on his arms. Her attention immediately shifted to her hand in his, and he was grateful for that, because it meant she would not see him awkwardly pull the ring from the box and, one-handed, hold it between his fingertips as he dropped the box back into his pocket. Then he lifted her hand. A quiet breath escaped her lips, almost like a sob, but the smile on her face never faltered. If anything, it grew wider and more luminous as he slipped the ring delicately onto her finger.
Marinette stared at it for a moment, then she sniffled and laughed and tried to blink away the tears. Another began to roll down her cheek, and Adrien reached up to gently wipe it away.
Emotion welled in his eyes, too, and it occurred to him that now that she knew, and now that she had said yes, he could stop holding it back. He beamed at her, held her, caressed her cheeks and kissed away her tears, and she did the same when he, too, began to cry.
“I love you,” said Marinette, over and over again. And each time he answered:
“I love you more.”