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Two are Better, But Three is Best

Chapter Text

Marinette jogged up the stairs to the fourth floor of the apartment building.  She'd been warned that the elevator was slow and smelled a bit funky, and years of being Ladybug had kept her in good shape, even though Hawk Moth wasn't as active as he'd once been.  Her phone chirped with a notification, and she slipped it out of her sling purse to check.

Alya: Grl, you need to get here ASAP. This party's smokin'

Marinette rolled her eyes and handed the phone back to Tikki as she leaned against the fire door for the third floor, pushing it open with her weight.  She could already hear the music, something a bit different from Nino's usual repertoire. "Tell her I'm just outside the door."

Tikki giggled. "At least you already know it's going to be worth putting aside your projects for the evening."

"Pfft."  Marinette laughed. "We've established that Alya's idea of a good time is not always mine." Her bestie was a total extrovert, and if a party wasn't up to her standards, she was at liberty to drink enough to make it fun.  Marinette preferred to stay sober in case her Ladybug skills were needed, which meant she had to see every event without the filter of inebriation. That said, she hadn't seen her friends in too long, and Luka's apartment-warming party was a perfect opportunity to both welcome him home and see her other friends.

Marinette was just reaching for the doorknob when the door swung open, revealing a beaming young man with shaggy shoulder-length black hair. "Marinette!" He lunged forward, but froze short of pulling her into an enthusiastic hug.

"Luka!  Welcome home."  She stepped closer, helping complete the hug, and giggling when her feet left the floor.  "I'm so glad you're back to stay."

"Yeah?"  He set her back down, still beaming, and lightly pressed his forehead to hers. "Me too.  Especially if it means I'll get to see you on a more regular basis."

She felt the heat in her cheeks and hoped he wouldn't notice.  But then, he always did have that effect on her, though she fortunately never lost her ability to speak in full sentences with him.  "I hope that's a promise."

"You'd better believe it," he insisted, finally stepping back.  "Hey, can I show you around?" He looked excited now, his pretty blue eyes wide.

Marinette nodded.  "I'd love to see your new place."  She felt her pulse pick up when he caught her hand to gently tug her inside. It was fair to say compass Marinette was turned completely around, and she was fully embracing it.  

The apartment was small, but it probably had to be, for him to afford it on his own so soon after university. It felt downright tiny with the sheer number of people crowded into it. She waved to those she knew, their shared friends as well as his friends who she'd met over the years.  She saw Nino, Alya and Adrien in the living room, where the music was playing. Juleka and Rose were mixing drinks in the kitchen as they passed through.

"Name your poison, Marinette," Rose called, waving a cup in the air.

"Do you have any juice?" Marinette asked.

Rose looked off to the side for a moment.  "Yeah. Pineapple, tomato, and cranberry."

"Pineapple, please," Marinette replied.  Trust these two to be running a full bar at a party this size.

"Spiked or…?" Juleka waved a bottle of vodka in the air.

Luka shook his head.  "You know Nette doesn't drink, Jules."

"Things can change," Juleka pointed out.  "I just like to be open to all options."

"Just the juice, but thanks, Juleka," Marinette said.  "I appreciate the thought."

Luka lead her down a short hallway.  "Bathroom." He pointed to a closed door.  "Portal to Narnia." He pointed to another door.

"Really?" she asked, laughing.  "Can we go now?"

He snorted and opened it, showing mostly bare shelves.  "Fine. You caught me. It's the linen closet, and I'm shy on linens."

"Well that gives me at least one good idea for a housewarming gift," she said.

"You don't need to get me anything Marinette," he insisted. "Though I'd love it if we could get together, maybe hang out some now."  He shot a shy smile over his shoulder at her.

"I'd be terribly disappointed if we didn't do that," she agreed.  "But I can still give you a gift. The two things are not mutually exclusive."

He shook his head and pushed open the door at the end of the hall. "And this is my bedroom." He stepped back and waved at it. "I know it's all a bit bare yet, but I think it'll become home soon enough."  He had a double bed on a bare frame and a simple dresser. The walls were bare.

She patted his upper arm.  "Don't apologize. I can see that this has great potential to really be your place."  They'd kept in touch by text and chat, getting together whenever he was in town, and she knew how much it meant to him to have his own place after all the roommates and creative living situations he'd been in over the last five years. She was excited to see him at this point, even if the apartment didn't have his personal touches stamped all over it yet.

He sighed happily. "I knew you'd see that.  Most everyone else just focuses on the weird emptiness."

Marinette shook her head.  "You finished moving in two days ago.  It's not like you've had time to paint or decorate.  I'm pretty sure everyone here is on a relatively tight budget… well, not Adrien, but he has his own issues."

Luka snorted. "Nino and I were talking about that while we were setting up his sound gear."

She nodded, well aware of Nino's prediction that Adrien was coming up on a rebellious phase.  He was probably right, and she was curious and worried what that would look like. Too many rich kids got messed up with drugs, and she didn't want that for her friend… or anyone, really.  "You look so happy, Luka, it's nice to see." She stepped back so she could give him a once over.

He grinned.  "And you like what you see?" He held out his arms and posed, arching his eyebrows.

She poked him lightly in the stomach, making him curl in a bit. "You could stand to eat a bit more," she said with a giggle.  "But yes." She reached out and caught the ends of his hair. "I kind of miss the color though."

"The end of semester leading up to graduation was a beast, and I didn't have time to do it before this," he said, shrugging, then taking a step closer. "I'm redoing it tomorrow.  Probably going to go all out and do my nails while I'm waiting out the bleach."

"I'm free tomorrow if you want help," she offered.  

"Yeah?" he asked.

She nodded.  "I wouldn't want you to mess up your polish before it sets."

"I'm going to get the feeling that you like me," he warned.

She rolled her eyes.  "If you haven't already figured that out, I'd be worried about your brain."

He laughed. "Uhm… Okay, so I'm going to do this, even though I totally swore to myself I'd wait a week. And I don't even get to blame alcohol, because I've only had soda." It was almost like he was talking to himself; his smile was a little nervous and his cheeks had gone pink. "I feel like… and you can disagree if you want, but I feel like we've been kind of dancing around each other for years."

She stared at him, her stomach flipping over in hopeful surprise.

"We have this amazing chemistry, Nette, but there was never a point when we were both on the same page."  He met her eyes, his expression almost painful in its earnestness.  "We each had our phase of being completely obsessed and distracted by an unfairly hot and painfully oblivious blond guy."

She tamped down on her giggle, but nodded.  Adrien could be so stupid for someone so smart.

"We've needed time to focus on our arts, and it just wasn't good timing when I was so far away."  He licked his lips and took a deep breath, seeming to gather his courage. "But I need to admit that when I thought about coming home, I was really hoping all that would sort of fall away."

"Are you asking me out?" she asked, reaching for his hand and hoping he could read the happiness off her.

"Yeah."  He glanced down at their hands for a moment. "You're so amazing and gorgeous and I've been crazy about you for years."  He inched a little closer. "And I really want to kiss you right now." He dipped his head enough to get close, but didn't follow through. "But I'll understand if you aren't--"

She popped up onto her toes, just barely able to brush her lips against his.  Still, it was enough to stop his words and answer his question. Before she could lose her balance, his arm slipped around her waist to pull her toward him as he leaned in further.  It started gentle, like they were cautiously testing the waters. When she flicked the tip of her tongue against his upper lip, he opened eagerly to her and the kiss suddenly went much hotter and more intense. For a moment, she forgot all about the party going on around them.

When he pulled back, he gave her two gentle kisses before straightening up and opening his eyes.  He looked blissfully happy, and it made her feel warm and pleased to be part of that.

"You're adorable," she said, lightly tapping his nose. "And an excellent kisser."

"Marinette!" Alya called rounding the corner into the short hallway. "Where are yoooou?"

Luka laughed, shaking his head. "Best go appease Alya."

Marinette sighed.  "Fine. But we'll talk about this..." she gestured between them. "Before I go. Kay?"

Chapter Text

"Aren't you glad I volunteered to help you with this?" Marinette asked.  She directed the shower head with one hand, while the other massaged his scalp in a way that wasn't strictly necessary for this particular task.

"Hmmm," he hummed loudly, a big grin on his face. "You're spoiling me.  I'm going to want you to help me every time I do this now." He was arched awkwardly over the side of the bathtub, in what appeared to be the world's most complicated yoga pose.

"Oh the horror.  But seriously, we need to get you a tall stool or chair and an extender so we can do this in the sink next time," she suggested, pleased by the idea of this becoming a regular activity.  It had been a fun couple of hours, bleaching his tips, giving each other pedicures, and catching up. "How exactly were you planning on doing this on your own?"

"I probably would have ended up with dye in a few places I don't really want it," he replied with a snicker. "That's what happened during uni when the facilities weren't ideal, anyway."

A surprised laugh bubbled out of her as an image of mostly naked Luka with streaks of blue-green down his shoulders and chest. "Yeah.  Let's not do that." The water was running clear, so she stopped scrubbing and leaned over to turn off the taps.  She squeezed out the excess water and wrapped the dark towel around his head. "Need help up from that position?"

He twitched a little before holding a hand out to her.  "Yes. All the yes. I think my spine hates me now."

She grasped his hand firmly and slowly pulled him up to a more neutral position, careful not to jerk on his shoulder.

"Holy crap, how do I always forget… ouch… how strong you are?"  He winced and curled his shoulders in as he attempted to fix his back.

"I guess we're in for a total spa day," she said.  "Come lie down on the living room floor and I'll give you a backrub."

"Yessss," he groaned, staggering out of the bathroom after her. "But this is really unfair.  I'm getting all the special treatment, and you've only gotten a pedi." He sprawled, belly-down on the little round rug he'd set up in his living room.  He'd told her it seemed like a nice place to meditate and center himself.

"Well maybe you can help me dye my hair next, then," she suggested.  "Though we need to do some shopping first so I don't have to contort myself or risk dying my skin."

He twisted to look at her, his blue eyes huge. "What?" he whispered.

"I want to keep the top layer black, but dye the underlayer red."  She grinned at him. "I've wanted to do it for a while, but I was way too busy with classes to even consider something like that."

"You're going to look so hot," he cried, flopping onto the floor.  "As if you weren't already super hot."

"Pffft."  She laughed.  "Glad you think so.  I mean, we're trying the dating thing, it'd be convenient if you found me attractive."

"Is this our first date?" he asked, with a gasp.  "This would be the weirdest first date."

"No, this is preparation for our first date, which will be dinner, tonight," she countered.  "There's no rule that we can't help each other rather than relying on other friends."  She moved to stand astride his hips. "No moving. I'm working here." She settled one foot across his spine at the top of his pelvis.  She slowly shifted her weight, watching to make sure it wasn't uncomfortable for him. After a moment, she was able to lift her other foot to his back so she could slowly inch her way up toward his shoulders.

He let out happy little moans as the bones gently crunched back into place.  "Oh god, Marinette... that's amazing." His voice was a little extra wheezy as he worked against her weight to breathe.

"Good," she agreed.  "That's the way it's supposed to be."  Once she had worked her way back to her starting point, she sat down on top of him to dig in with her hands. Fortunately, he had no knots that needed to be worked out.

"Ngh," he moaned into the rug. "If it's all the same to you, I'm just counting today as one long date.  Best date ever, by the way."

"You goof." She leaned forward and nudged the towel wrapped around his head out of the way so she could kiss his cheek.  "I guess it's a good thing I planned to get ready here instead of going home between hanging out and going out. I have my date clothes in my haversack."

He twisted his chin to his shoulder and looked up at her out of one eye, grinning happily. "You always plan just right.   How do you do that?"

She laughed.  "Ancient Chinese secret." She tapped him lightly on the nose.  She didn't need to point out that she overthought everything all the time, and therefore planned for all contingencies.

"Well that might buy us just enough time to go shopping for your hair color and a shower sprayer with a longer hose," he suggested.  "Probably not enough time to do your hair, but we can be ready for tomorrow, or whenever it works for you."

"Brilliant," she said, climbing off his back. "But you generally are."

"Let me just grab my shirt and some shoes," he said, getting quickly to his feet and darting toward his bedroom.

It had been a really great day.  She'd arrived late enough in the morning that they'd both gotten to sleep in, but still early enough that breakfast pastries were the perfect snack.  They'd been able to relax as they caught up on each others' final semesters of the year. He'd done a really nice job on her toenails, alternating Ladybug and Chat Noir designs.  She'd gotten to manhandle him a bit with the hair washing and the massage, both of which brought out the cutest noises from him. It would be fair to say she'd been more hands-on than was fully necessary, and he seemed as receptive as she could've hoped.

He came out of his room a moment later in a black faded concert t-shirt. His towel was gone, and the tips of his hair shone bright against the still damp black strands.

"Oh, that's turned out nice," she said, looking at the near finished end result.  "That's one of my favorite colors on you."

"Really?" Over the years he'd tried most of the colors in the rainbow.

She nodded.  "It's the color you were wearing when we met.  Back when Juleka was in her purple phase."

"Nostalgic, are we?" he asked.

She shook her head. "It's just always suited you.  No need to mess with perfection, right?" She reached out to flick the damp hair over his shoulder.

"God you make me happy," he said, shaking his head a little.  "Just being with you today, Nette, it's been…" He let out a contented sounding sigh. "I don't remember when I last felt this good."

She liked the hint of pink in his cheeks.  Guys who could actually blush were a definite weakness.  "Can I kiss you?" she asked, wanting to show him the same consideration he'd already shown her, though she was pretty sure of his answer.

"Anytime you want," he offered, moving closer.

"Good to know." She planted a light peck on his lips, pulling back just enough to speak. "You have permission, too.  In case you were wondering." Catching his shoulder with one hand, and wrapping her other arm around his neck, she stretched up to give him a much more vigorous kiss.  He met her enthusiasm with her own, lifting her feet of the floor as her fingers wound themselves into his damp hair.

After several long moments, he pressed his cheek against hers.  "We are totally going to have to come back to this later, but if we don't stop now, we might not have time to go shopping."

She nodded. "Am I making you lose track of time?" she teased as her toes touched the floor again.

"You really need to ask?" He kissed her forehead. "Best distraction, ever."


Chapter Text

Marinette was a little surprised to hear voices from inside the apartment when she reached Luka's door.  He hadn't mentioned company, and it was a little disappointing because she kind of wanted to pounce on him for a nice heavy makeout before they went out dancing.  She knocked on the door.

"Come on in," Luka called.

She stepped across the threshold to find a scowly Adrien sitting on the couch next to her boyfriend.  "Hey Adrien." She kicked off her sandals and scampered over to give both young men a hug. "You okay?" she asked, surprised when he continued to look frustrated.  He was a people-pleaser, and it was in his nature to hide things rather than make people uncomfortable. That he wasn't concealing his feelings spoke volumes of how he felt here at Luka's or just how angry he was.

Adrien shrugged, slouching into the couch a bit. "My father's being a complete asshole."  He rolled his eyes. "Even more than usual. Like, take his usual dickwad behavior and turn it up to eleven."

She winced. His language alone was a good indicator of how bad things were with Gabriel. "I'm so sorry. You don't deserve that at all."  She gave him another hug, holding him a little longer this time. "Is there anything I can do?"

He shook his head, his messy blond hair flopping about. "I have to make some pretty extreme decisions on how I want to deal with this, and… really, it's all on me to do that at this point. I've put it off way too long already."  He looked at Luka. "Thanks for letting me vent, for listening. I really appreciate it."

"Anytime, Adrien," Luka promised with a slow nod. "And when you've decided what you want to do, let me know.  Let us know. We're here for you, okay?"

Adrien's smile was small and hesitant, but it was genuine.  "I will." He stood up. "Now I'll get out of your hair. I know better than to mess with date night."

Marinette giggled.  "A fiend having a crisis trumps date night."

"Definitely," Luka agreed.

"That's really nice to know, but I'm good for now," he promised.

"You're not going to go out drinking, are you?" She gave him a stern glare.  

Adrien shook his head.  "Still not a drinker, Mari. If my father couldn't drive me to it, I suspect it's just not my thing"  He sighed. "Oh, hey, I love the hair." He reached out and touched the strands of red she'd pulled up on the sides to create a colorful ponytail over the loose black hair.  "It really suits you. Fun, but on your terms."

"Thanks," Marinette said with a laugh.  The day they'd done her hair was a ton of fun.

"We did it last week," Luka added. "And it's been well received."

"I can see why."  He leaned in and gave each of them another hug and a quick bise. "Catch you later."

Marinette grinned when she realized she and Luka were both watching him walk away with the same degree of interest.  She waited for a few moments after the door closed before turning to her boyfriend. "He has an unfairly perfect butt."

Luka laughed and grabbed her in a hug that pulled her onto his lap. "Just one more thing we agree on. And those legs… hmmm."  He nuzzled her neck. "He's gonna come hang out with me Tuesday afternoon when you're working that shift at the bakery. I think we're going to figure out his plan of action, once he's picked a path. You should come over when you're done and we can make him dinner or something.  He needs supportive friends right now."

"Is his rebellion imminent?" she asked, leaning back to look at him.

Luka nodded.  "I really can't see any way for him to get out of his current situation otherwise. He's tried the sensible adult options. He's tried talking to his… father. Ugh, such a repulsive man." He kissed her cheek. "But enough about Adrien. It is date night, after all, and I'm really excited about this."

"Maybe scale your expectations back a bit," she suggested.  "I'm not that great a dancer. I love it, but…" She leaned into him to hold up her feet, her toes wiggling.  "Two left feet."

Dancing with Luka was somehow both better than just making out, yet also ten times more frustrating. Neither of them were big fans of public displays of affection, so any grabbing or touching had to be extra subtle or extra sneaky, so she was both literally sweaty and completely hot and bothered when they finally stumbled out of the crowded club onto the sidewalk.  They hadn't gone three meters when she stopped and grabbed him by the belt loops to pull him close. The only bad part of dating Luka was that he was so damn tall she couldn't kiss him without pulling him down, jumping, or literally climbing him, which she hadn't tried yet, though she was sorely tempted. Fortunately they were on the same page, and he bent to capture her lips with his.

His kiss seared through her, igniting the heat in her belly to explode throughout her entire body. She forgot about things like public decency or the lengthy walk home, focusing solely on the moment. When he broke the kiss, he didn't pull away. He rested his forehead against hers, his eyes still closed, as his hot breath caressed her face in sharp pants. It was nice that he was as affected as she was. She slipped one hand into his hair, and his eyes fluttered open.

"Stay with me tonight," he asked softly. "Please Nette."

She shivered in delight at the thought that he wanted her. They'd had at least three conversations about sex in the last few weeks, agreeing to let it happen naturally without rushing or overly scheduling it.

"We don't have to do anything you don't want to," he promised.

"What if I want to do… things ?" she asked, gently tugging at his hair. "What if I want to be the one to rock your world for a change?" She grinned when he gasped, closing his eyes. "Think you'd be up for that?"  Chat Noir would laugh his tail right off if he ever learned that she'd propositioned her boyfriend with puns.

"Very much so," he sighed. He loosened his hold and stepped back, catching her hand when she did the same. "Let's go." They still had several blocks and a subway to catch.  "And on the way, I think we should get creative to… sustain the mood."

She raised her eyebrows, looking at him in question as they walked faster than necessary down the sidewalk.

"Little things that aren't indecent, but… titillate," he suggested.  "I can go first."

"Please do." She wasn't sure what he was looking for, and she did not trust her ability to provide dirty talk.  At least not any that wouldn't result in laughter.

"That thing you did with my hair was super hot," he pointed out.

"Aaah. I've noticed that you like it when I play with your hair."

He nodded, pink washing over his cheeks.  "Yeah, but that grabbing a fist-full and pulling on it, just a little?  That's definitely a kink."

Ooh.  So that's what he meant. "Did you know about this one?" she asked.

He shook his head. "Nope. It's a new one for me, but I very much liked it and am happy to encourage a repeat later."

They slowed down a bit for the stairs to the subway. "I'll take that under advisement," she said. "Hey, did you know that you're like, ridiculously sexy when you dance?" She couldn't quite bring herself to try for special voice or anything, but her words alone were enough, and he stumbled a little on the last stair.

He was grinning stupidly, his lower lip trapped by his top teeth. "You think I'm sexy?" he asked.

She raised her eyebrows and gave him a look. "Obviously."  She stepped closer to him on the platform. "Adrien's not the only one with an unfairly perfect butt." She loved watching the pink fill in his cheeks as his eyes went wide. "When we were dancing, there were a couple of times I brushed up against it entirely on purpose." The station was deserted, so the worst that could happen was a security guard would catch her copping a feel on video.  She slid her hand up the outside of his thigh, before dragging her fingers around to grab his ass.

He let go of her hand to pull her close, his forehead resting on her shoulder.  "You're too good at this. I think I'm going to die before we get back to my place."

She giggled, basking in the warmth and affection of his embrace. "I've seen you in shorts and without a shirt, and I have to tell you, I really like what I've seen. I'm looking forward to peeling away all your clothes when we get back to your place."

"Yeah?" he asked.  "Then what?"

"I want to touch you everywhere, kiss you everywhere." She let out a startled squeak when his lips attached to the side of her neck. "Aah, you're not supposed to start that now, you know," she spoke in a soft breathy voice.

A gentle rumble warned them of the approaching train, and they stepped just enough apart to be decent.  Once they were seated, side by side in a mostly empty car, Marinette snuggled up to him. Stretching up to breathe across his ear, she whispered to him. "So what's on your wishlist for tonight, Rockstar?"

He closed his eyes and took a slow deep breath. "If you'll let me, I want to make love to you." His eyes fluttered open and focused on hers.  "I want to narrow your awareness to just me, worshiping your body. I want to make you lose all track of time and language as I tease and taste you, learning how you like to be touched to bring you to bring you over the edge."

She squirmed a bit, feeling uncomfortably aroused in the bright light of the subway. She was more than a little tempted to transform so she could get them back to his apartment right now. "I like your plan."  She shivered.

"Oh, I'm not done," he said with a sly smile.  "That's just the warm up, Nette."

"Oh my god," she whined. "If you don't knock it off, I'm going to pin you to the bed and fuck you stupid."

He chuckled. "I'm a fan of that idea, but not tonight.  Tonight isn't about fucking. It's about loving." He ran one thumb under her jawbone as he slid his hand to cup her cheek. "If that's all right with you."

"Since you asked so nicely, I guess we can do it your way," she agreed. She pulled her phone out of her purse and sent a quick text home.

"What are you doing?" he asked, peeking at her screen.

"Making sure my parents don't worry when I'm not there in the morning," she said.  They weren't still up, not with early bakery hours, and her message shouldn't wake them. And while they would probably suspect where she was, it was common courtesy to let them know.

"Is this going to make things weird with them?" he asked, sounding a little nervous.

"Hmmm?"  She tucked away her phone. "Why should it? I'm an adult. They know I've been sexually active, and they much prefer I engage in relationship sex than one night stands." It was something they'd discussed as part of her decision to live at home through university. "It also helps that they like you; they haven't been fully on board with everyone I've dated." When they'd talked about past relationships, she'd been surprised to find that Luka had been in two long term relationships and had done very little casual dating. Her own experience had been a bit more chaotic and varied.

"I like your parents," he said. "It's nice you have such a good relationship with them."

She kissed his cheek.  "I like your ma, too." She gave him a mischievous smile.  "Am I going to have to worry about what she thinks of me, going home with you like this?"

He chuckled. "You know my ma.  She's all about free love."

She felt the subway slow down.  "Oh look. It's our stop." She grabbed his hand and pulled him, laughing, to the door as they were pulling into the station.  "In the morning, I'm going to wear your clothes while I make breakfast."

He pulled her to his chest, leaning over her shoulder to breathe in her ear. "Do that, and I will interrupt you." He relaxed his hold on her as the doors slid open, then it was he who was urging her out of the train and to the steps.

She grinned at him as they walked swiftly, hand in hand. "I'll take that as a promise."

Chapter Text

The drag of Luka's fingertips over her skin spoke of love. The way he marveled over every part of her made the depth of his feelings clear. The breathy huskiness of his voice each time he spoke the words, "may I?" left her feeling treasured and safe. His insistence that she come first in all things only fueled her desire and affection for him.

Apparently it hadn't just been dirty-talk when he told her he wanted to narrow her awareness solely to him. Among her past lovers, none had ever approached sex with this mindset and goal, and she now had to admit, she was a fan.

As she lay with him, utterly relaxed, in hazy afterglow, she could only smile.

"C'mon Sweets," he murmured in her ear. "You need to use the bathroom before you fall asleep."

She let out an inarticulate grumble.

His soft chuckle gave her goosebumps. "You're beautiful like this, Nette." He brushed his nose against her ear and cheek. "I don't think I've ever seen you so relaxed."

"I'm not sure I've ever been this relaxed." Her eyes fluttered open, and she was struck with how pleased he looked. "You look like the cat who ate the canary."

His grin turned smug. "Ate something, that's fur sure."

She giggled and swatted lightly at his shoulder. "You naughty man." She ran her fingers down his bare arm, marveling at the smooth warmth. "God, you're sexy. You could give Adrien a run for his money on the modeling front."

Luka snorted. "No interest in that."

She felt the idea hit her, filling her with energy, and she grinned in delight. "But you'll model for me, right? You'll let me design you clothes for performances and events, right?"

His eyes went wide. "Me, in Dupain-Cheng originals? That'd be a dream come true."

She pushed their laden breakfast plates onto the counter that divided the living room from the kitchen. His tiny apartment was actually really well designed to make the most of the space. With a couple of stools, he could fit two people on either side of the counter, which meant he didn't need to set aside space or money for a table. His arms slipped around her waist from behind, and she smiled, relaxing into his hold.

"Hmm," he hummed as he kissed her cheek, resting his head on her shoulder. "Did I already tell you how nice it was to wake up with you?"

She giggled. "Only like ten times." She slid her hands up his wrists to grasp his forearms. "And I still agree. Last night was really nice, and waking up here, being with you this morning, is definitely the icing on that cake."

"I hope that means we can do this again." His cheek brushed hers in a clearly intentional caress. "I'd like it to become a habit. Even if it's just having you here with me."

"Me too," she agreed. "Being with you this last month has been wonderful. I'm so glad we finally stopped being stupid and high-minded about this."

"One of my best ideas ever," he pointed out. "Right up there with moving back to Paris to be nearer to this amazing gal I wanted to spend more time with."

"You make the best decisions," she said, feeling all warm and cuddly. "Not that you weren't always smart, but clearly your time in university stepped up your decision-making skills."

He tightened his hold for a moment. "I don't want to scare you off and I'm not trying to rush anything here, but I want you to know that there's space set aside in my dresser and in the bathroom vanity for anything you might want to keep here.  Anything that will make it easier and more comfortable for you to stay when you feel like it."

A thrill of happiness raced down her spine to settle in her belly. "Really?"

"Mmm hmmm," he hummed.

"I'd like that."

"We still up for checking out that museum tonight?" Marinette asked, the moment Alya had picked up.

"Sure are," her best friend said brightly. "And I'm looking forward to it." Alya had expanded her freelance journalism to include art openings and reviews of smaller or less known destinations around Paris.

"And the dress recommendation is what? Semi-formal or classy club?" Marinette asked. She liked to make sure that both she and Alya fit in wherever they were going, and that they reflected well on her friend.

"Classy club," Alya said. "Where the heck are you, girl? The ambient noise is very rush hour."

"I'm walking home from Luka's," she said, stopping to wait at a crosswalk.

"Oooh.  Walk of shame time!" Alya crowed with a laugh. "How was it?  How's he measure up to… uh, what was her name? Ellie?"

Marinette rolled her eyes even though they weren't face-timing and Alya couldn't see her. "First of all, there's no shame here. I had consensual sex with my boyfriend.  Definitely nothing shame-worthy."

"Yeah, yeah," Alya muttered. "You have no shame."

"Exactly," Marinette agreed, grinning.  "And Ellie had nothing on Luka."

Alya squealed, forcing Marinette to pull the phone away from her ear. "But Ellie was the gold bar for Marinette's sexcapades."

"Key word, was , Al." The light changed and she looked before crossing the street. "Oh, it was amazing.  He was amazing. Fifteen out of ten.  Would do again." Part of the reason she didn't care for one-night stands was that she felt it took two or three tries to really get to know each other's bodies well enough to really get it right. In the case of Luka, they knew each other really well and had been getting a little hot and heavy for weeks now. So maybe that was part of the first-time success.

"You might have to keep that man, Mari," Alya said, as if she was giving serious advice, though from experience, she was only half-serious.

"I'd like to think that could happen," Marinette pointed out. "It's been really nice so far. I mean it helps that I knew him so well first. But there's still things we don't really know about each other. I'm not worried about finding a creepy dark side or anything, but it almost seems like it's been too smooth. Our disagreements have been… weirdly reflective and chill."

"Luka's kinda chill in general," Alya pointed out. "I'd assume he's a pot user, but he never smells like it, and he's too focused and sharp to be all dulled out that way."

"He doesn't smoke anything," Marinette said. Even when they were just friends, she didn't like that so many people assumed he was into the unsavory side of the rock and roll lifestyle. He drank a little, casually and socially, but never when he was upset and never to excess. She was relieved her parents had met him when he was still in lycee, and knew his unruffleable demeanor was just the way he was. She hadn't had to go through an awkward intervention with them.

"I know he's not a stoner," Alya insisted.  "But he does give off the vibe."

Marinette huffed. "In would be nice for people to stop making assumptions about him."

"There are lots of things that would be nice," Alya agreed. "Hawkmoth going into genuine full retirement is on the top of that list."

"Truer words have never been spoken," Marinette agreed before wishing her friend a great day. While it was really nice to have Paris' magical terrorist in some sort of semi-retirement, she'd really love to close that chapter of her life.  Having a slightly more stable extracurricular schedule would be great, especially now that she was with someone she could see a future with. If Hawk Moth kicked his shit up into high gear again, she was going to find him and break his teeth.  With cricket bat.

Marinette had taken on most of the duties of the guardian of the miraculous, including storing the miracle box in a secure spot in her room. She still met with Master Fu to train on more esoteric elements of her dual role as Guardian Ladybug. While attending university full time, she'd effectively gotten a PhD in the history, lore and magic of the miraculous.  It had been an intense few years. Poor Nooroo. He'd waited far too long to be rescued, but she was working on a plan for that. And maybe once that had been done she could come clean to both her boyfriend and her partner. Luka would deserve to know why she would inevitably flake on him in the future, and Chat Noir clearly needed a whole lot more support and love in his life. 

It was two days after she'd spent the night, and the first time she'd been back to Luka's apartment since. They'd both had work and other things to, and he'd fortunately been able to join her family for dinner last night, so at least she'd gotten some time with him. He had a couple of late night shifts coming up, recording for some musicians who simply could not function before 17:00. One of the nicest things about his job with the recording studio, was that the odd hours meant they could get together during the day in the middle of the week pretty regularly. It might be less easy once her classes started up in the fall again, but they were already getting into a pattern they could strive to maintain.

She knocked on his door. "Oh sexy boyfriend," she called in a sing-song voice. "I'm here to take you on a date."

The door swung open, and she found herself face to face with a grinning Adrien.

"You are not my boyfriend," she pointed out.

"Oh, I'm not?" Adrien said, as if surprised. He glanced down at his shirt, smoothing the fabric unnecessarily.  "I'm… Luka's proxy for the evening."

"Are not." She crossed her arms over her chest. "What have you done with Luka? Come clean and I'll go easy on you."

Adrien laughed and stepped back, waving for her to come in. "I'm helping him stall for time," he whispered. "He couldn't decide what to wear."

She rolled her eyes and smiled.  "Honestly, I'm okay with nothing. It's an excellent look on him.  But I suppose if we're going out, he has to at least not alarm the tourists."

"Luka," Adrien called toward the bedroom. "Mari's here and she brought her A-game sass." He gestured to the couch.  "Have a seat. Can I get you a drink while you wait?"

"Oooh. Are you his butler now?" she asked.  "Where's your black suit and tie."

His lips twitched.  It was nice to see him in a happy and teasing mood.  "I specialize in butlery for the millennial generation, Mari. Casual butlery."

"Hey Nette," Luka said, stepping into the living room. "Adrien and I were doing some strategic planning and I lost track of time. Sorry about that." She hadn't seen him sheepish often, and it was adorable.

"Pish," she said, waving off his excuse. "It's fine. Did you come up with a plan?" She alternated between looking at Luka and Adrien.

"Yeah," Luka said slowly. "But we're in the early stages here, so I can't tell you anything."

"Oooh." She grinned at Adrien. "You're just an extraordinary model with an underwhelming home life, but you have a secret !" She tried to make it sound like narration for a movie trailer. While both men were chuckling, she reached out to pat Adrien's arm. "I'm okay being left out of things if that's what you prefer. You have Luka helping you out, and I know he'll take care of you."

Adrien pulled her into a firm hug. "Thanks for understanding, Mari."

"Just remember that I'm here for you if there's anything I can do to help you out, okay?" She squeezed back just as tightly. "I've got your back for hugs, pastries, and a variety of support tasks."

"I'll be following up with you on those," he promised.

They all ended up leaving the apartment together, with Adrien excusing himself when they reached the sidewalk. Once they were well out of earshot, Marinette asked how their friend was actually doing.

"Surprisingly well, honestly," Luka said, nodding. "I think he's waited until he was so ready for this that he's going to have absolutely no regrets.  Well, aside from maybe the thought that he could have kicked his sperm donor to the curb years ago. His rebellion is fully planned out. It's kind of scary how thorough he's being."

Marinette sighed sadly. "He has two modes. Dangerously rash, on par with Chat Noir, and meticulously organized. There's no middle ground."

Luka offered her a half smile. "I'd noticed that. Do you think he'll balance out a bit once he no longer has to rein himself in so much?"

She thought for a moment, then nodded. "Yeah. That sounds about right. He's so tightly controlled that when he snaps, he overcompensates by hauling ass to the other side of the spectrum."

"That's just sad," Luka said. "Does he ever get to be himself?"

"He is with you.  With his close friends away from the limelight and paparazzi, who I swear function as Gabriel's spies." While she might have admired the man's genius at one time, she couldn't see past his treatment of his son.  "I wish it didn't have to be like this, but I'm glad he's finally acting on it. He deserves to be happy."

"It's well past time," Luka agreed. "I think we should maybe try to invite him along to hang out with us some once he gets the ball rolling next week. Would that be okay?"

She nodded. "Definitely." They'd reached an intersection, and once they stopped walking, she pulled him down to kiss his cheek. "I love spending time with you.  But I can share you."

"Oooh," he said, wiggling his eyebrows. "Sounds kinky."

She rolled her eyes.  "I don't think Adrien does , kinky." Whether it was his conditioning or his preference, he was one of her few friends whose dating history and sexual interest were completely unknown. She'd gotten the feeling more than once that he wasn't comfortable talking about it. "We just need to make sure he doesn't feel like a third wheel."

An explosion several blocks over shook the pavement, and her head snapped up. Hawk Moth had been so quiet, and of course it was too much to expect him to stay that way.  But she'd hoped her luck would allow it to happen when she didn't have to worry about hiding her secrets from Luka. Maybe she should start carrying Sass with her, because him becoming Viperion again would definitely mask her absence.

Luka kissed her forehead, his presence soothing her as her mind tried to spiral out of control. "I'm gonna head back to my place," he said in a whisper. "You go do your thing."

She stared at him, her other freak-out completely derailed by this one.

"No panicking, Sweets." His thumbs brushed over her cheeks. "I know, I'm not supposed to know, so no need to confirm, okay? No excuses needed.  I get it, more than most would. Just be safe. I'll meet you back at my place."

Chapter Text

Ladybug stood against the apartment building, her bandalore hooked to a fire escape above, leaving her looking like she'd hesitated in her balay down the wall. After a moment's hesitation, she reached out to tap on Luka's bedroom window, dark save for the flickering glow of a few candles.

"It's open," he said, and she could hear him moving nearby. Then the curtain was shoved aside and she was face to face with him through the right pane of glass. "Come in, Sweets."

She realized the left pane was propped open. He had been waiting for her as he'd promised. Glancing around to be sure there was no one watching this part of the alley, she slipped into his room, his beautiful and strong hands there to steady her while still giving her space.

"Thank you for coming back safe," he said, stepping back just a little. "For always coming back safe." His smile was tentative. "If you weren't so incredibly efficient, and if you and Chat Noir weren't such an amazing team, I probably would have had a heart attack back in Lycee."

He'd known for that long? "How?" She choked on the question, but she needed to know. Obviously it was too late to hide it, at least from him, but had she outed herself to anyone else?

"Your heartsong doesn't really change when you do this." He gestured to her super suit. "It's maybe got a bit more brass and some deep percussion, but it's really just a more fully orchestrated version of the same song."

That was a relief, frankly. She'd never met or heard of anyone else with that skill. She knew a lot of their classmates didn't realize he had some form of his own magic, that it wasn't just a cheesy pickup line or parlor trick. But Marinette was too closely embroiled in magic, paired with the originator of magic, to not recognize it when she saw it. Part of her wanted to apologize to him for hiding her side job, but she wasn't sorry. If he hadn't revealed that he knew her secret identity, she'd still be hiding it. But if he'd known so long and not come to harm, she had to assume he was at less risk than others.

"You're lovely like this and all, but could I have my girlfriend back?" he asked. "I really need to talk to her about something important. I need to reassure her that everything really is okay." He shrugged. "And I have an interrupted date to make up to her."

"What?" That derailed her muddled thoughts. "You… what? You don't have to make anything up to me," she insisted. "Tikki, spots off." In a rush of pink light, Marinette was standing in her boyfriend's bedroom.

Luka smiled, holding out his arms in a welcoming gesture. "There's the lady I love." He wrapped his arms around her, pulling her close the moment she moved in. "Not that the other lady isn't amazing, but I have to share her with all of Paris." He kissed her forehead, seeming content to have her burrow her face into his shoulder.

"Lukaaaa," she whined, her hands clinging to the back of his shirt.

His chuckle was soft and breathy. "What can I do to help you, Nette? What do you need to find your balance?"

She thought for a moment, realizing he'd asked something she hadn't even considered. What did she need in this moment? What would help her? She tightened her hug. "Right now, just you." Being with him had always soothed her, even when she was younger and stupidly twitterpated. "And some time to get used to it, to you knowing, I think."

"I'm happy to give you both of those," he promised. "I have a little picnic set out in the other room for us, since we didn't get to go out." He made no move to release her. "I'll put on some calming music and we can just do whatever you need, okay?"

She nodded. "I like that plan." She only felt his hold relax when hers did.

"What can I get your kwami to eat?" he asked. "I understand if she doesn't want to see me, but, I'd feel terrible if I didn't take care of her too, now that it's out in the open."

"Tikki invented the sweet tooth," Marinette said, looking around and wondering where the little being had gone to. "Tikki?" she called. "Do you want to come meet Luka?"

Tikki zipped in from behind the door. "Hi Luka!" she chirped happily. "It's nice to finally get to meet you."

"It's really nice to meet you, too." He held out his hand, looking delighted when Tikki perched there. "If you ever need anything, you let me know, okay? You're so important, taking care of our lady here."

Tikki giggled. "You're such a sweetheart." She patted his thumb with one of her little arm nubs. "Sass asked me to wish you ssssplendid greetingssss, should I get the opportunity."

Luka nodded, sighing happily. "I'm glad to hear from him. Do you see him often?"

"Regularly," Tikki replied with a nod.

"And is he doing well?"

"He is. Though he'd be happier with a holder," Tikki allowed before turning her enormous blue eyes on Marinette. "So with any luck, you'll get to see him again soon."

"Wait, what? Tikki!" Marinette chastised. "What are you doing?" She'd never seen the little being so smug. "Need I remind you that some things are supposed to stay secret?"

Luka's chuckle broke the tension. "It's okay, Sweets," he promised. "You know I can keep secrets. And… let's just say she hasn't really given away anything I didn't already know."

Marinette let her shoulders sag as she let go of her attempt to control any of this. Hawk Moth's attacks were less frequent, but as tonight had shown, he wasn't gone. And there were still two miraculous to recover. Perhaps now was the time to bring out the extended team and make their move. She shook her head.

"Are you okay there, Nette?" Luka asked.

She closed her eyes and took a deep breath, holding it for a moment before slowly letting it out. "Yeah. I will be. It's just… tonight's been a lot. Too many epiphanies, really." She reached for his hand, meeting his light eyes. The concern she saw on his face faded quickly. "Maybe don't drop any big news on me for a few days, yeah?"

"You got it, Sweets," he promised. Then he gently tugged her hand to pull her into his living room, where he had, indeed, laid out a lovely picnic. "Let's finish tonight with a recharge. I've got some of your favorites, because you deserve everything. And I'd love it if you'd stay over." He waved his free hand. "Just for cuddles. I kind of want to be near you right now."

She got the feeling that want was more of a need. His girlfriend had ditched their date to go fight a magically enhanced supervillain. It had been a pretty big night, and even though he'd known about her side-gig for years, revealing it was bound to impact him as much as it did her. And he was so good about giving her what she needed, whatever it was. "I think I need to be near you, too."

Ladybug paced the edge of the rooftop where Chat Noir was going to be meeting her. In the last five years, he'd become one of her nearest and dearest friends. He'd grown up a lot. He'd dropped his ridiculous romantic pursuit of her a year into their superheroing, which had made them more efficient and actually solidified her trust in him. He'd kept his happy nature and complete disregard for personal safety, and she had to admit he'd taught her a bit about not letting her responsibilities overwhelm her. 

When she'd been about seventeen he'd apologized for being, in his words, "a stupid-ass dude-bro" when he first became a hero. He'd been utterly serious and sincere for that conversation, explaining his ignorance without letting it become an excuse. It had opened the door for more cautious sharing of their personal lives. She heard about his shitty home life and his realization that he was romantic ace. He heard about her anxiety and tendency to bite off more than she should.

They continued to meet up once every week or two, as their schedules allowed, despite the decline in akuma activity. Most of those visits included stress-relief races across the rooftops and self study on the miraculous magic. She'd messaged him to meet more urgently, since there were things he needed to know, a miraculous burden she needed to share.

She heard the familiar tap of his baton as he approached, clearly choosing speed over stealth tonight. Sometimes he liked to sneak attack her, and they both blamed Plagg for that.

"Hey Bug," Chat said, dropping to the roof nearby. "Everything okay?"

She nodded, then shrugged. There was no easy way to break this news. "It's not a crisis, but… my boyfriend figured out my identity."

Chat's brilliant eyes went wide and the amusement on his face vanished. "Are you okay?" he asked, his voice urgent as he crossed the roof to close the gap between them. "Are you safe?"

Ladybug nodded. "Yeah. It's…" Why did her eyes sting right now. "He's actually known for years, but…" She took the hand he offered. "You should have known first," she blurted, hot tears that she didn't realize were at the ready, leaking down her cheeks. "You've been here all along. You deserved to be first."

"Oh Bug," he murmured, pulling her into a tight hug. "Sshh. It's okay, Buggaboo. I understand. And it's okay." He held her until the shudders eased. "I'm not angry, Bug. I mean, it sounds like it was an accident, anyway."

She sniffled. "He has some form of latent magic," she mumbled. "He's apparently known for years."

He gawked at her for a moment, then burst out laughing. "Your boy is proving our theories wrong."

"He doesn't know I'm the guardian though," she explained. "He's not even aware there is such a person."

Chat nodded. "Probably best to keep it that way just in case.  Minimize the risks, you know."

She nodded, wondering if she should offer a reveal.  He'd stopped asking for one years ago.

"I want to know who you are, but…" He sighed heavily. "I think, again for limiting the risks, I shouldn't know who you are yet. But maybe we could bring that back out on the table for consideration in the future?"

Ladybug nodded. She didn't really care how Tikki felt about it. She was the guardian and could make this decision herself. "Sure. That's… it's a good idea."

He nodded. "I should warn you about something going on in my life, too."

"Are you okay?" she asked, her eyes darting over him in search of injury. "Are you safe?"

He huffed. "Safe as I've always been. Just neglected and controlled, and I expect it to get a bit rough soon. It could…" He hesitated, closing his eyes and turning away. "I may be more vulnerable."

"Oh," she whispered. "Is there anything I can do to help?"

His smile was wan. "Not really, but I appreciate that you're offering. I have some friends on deck to help, and I'll probably want to meet up a bit more." He looked out into Paris for a moment. "I'm expecting to be disowned in the next few weeks."

Chapter Text

Marinette would have loved to go along and play dress up with Adrien and Luka as the two men worked on Adrien's rebellion look. But she had a shift at the bakery and it sounded like something they really wanted to do themselves. It hadn't stopped them from sending her questions and pictures all day, getting her feedback on what would look best, and it only piqued her interest further. Fortunately, she'd been able to reframe the situation to think of it as a delightful surprise waiting for her rather than getting jealous.

Instead of going full on fashion disaster, which would definitely send his father a message, Adrien had explained that he wanted to find his own style, something that looked good on him while making a clear anti-Gabriel statement. Luka had a look that worked incredibly well for him, and it was accompanied by surprisingly good fashion sense in that regard. After years of exposure to fashion, Adrien knew what flattered him and what didn't. And though he planned to quit modeling for Gabriel, he didn't want to give up modeling as a source of income, at least not until he was stable and knew what he really wanted to do. Looking like a trainwreck wasn't going to help him on that front. It said something about his father that pretty much everyone agreed that Gabriel would cut Adrien loose, turning his back on his own son, rather than simply letting him pursue a career of his own choosing.

When she'd finished her shift, she cleaned up, grabbed a box of treats, focusing on the guys' favorites. "I'm heading over to Luka's," she called into the kitchen.

"Will you be back tonight?" her mom asked, coming out to look over the front.

Marinette shrugged. "I'm not sure. Adrien and Luka are working on that project I mentioned, and if they need to do that later and I'm in the way, I'll come back."

Her mom nodded. "Just send a text so I know where you'll be." She reached out and Marinette stepped in for the hug and cheek kisses. "And please find out when Luka can join us for family dinner."

"I will." She gave her mom another squeeze, then hurried on her way.

She couldn't keep her pace to a slow walk; she was just too eager to see how Adrien's look had turned out.

It took all her self control to take the conventional mundane route to Luka's, but she managed it, and in no time, she was trotting up the stairs to her boyfriend's apartment. While Luka had actually given her a key to his place, and she'd gotten comfortable using it, she thought she should knock today since he had other company. Adrien was going through some rough stuff and if he was comfortable talking to Luka, she didn't want to interfere with that.

"C'mon in," two voices called through as she rapped at the door.

"It's unlocked," Luka added.

She started speaking as she pushed the door open. "I'm so excited to see what you guys came up with, I've been on tenterhooks all day…" She froze just inside the apartment, vaguely aware of the door drifting closed behind her.

Adrien stood in the center of the room, looking very different and extremely pleased with himself. He stood there posing for a moment, his hands ruffling his green-tipped blond hair, and she caught a hint of more green on his fingernails. Green seemed to be his accent color. He wore a comfy green hoodie over a snug black shirt with laces up the front, and black jeans that had to have some stretch to them, considering how well they were showing off his assets. The colors and his body shape made her think of Chat Noir for some reason. 

She'd known he wore glasses at home for some time, though she'd very rarely seen them outside of early morning or late night video chats, and the green tinted oval lenses he had on were an excellent choice. Fun and quirky without being absurd.

Frankly, it was unfair of him to look so damn hot. She had a boyfriend, after all. And she'd truly gotten over her insane crush on her model friend years ago. But looking at him right now, she felt a more mature attraction sneaking back up on her. Honestly, he'd probably become more popular as a model with this style, something that seemed to be him in a way his preppy boy next door image ever had.

After a moment, she realized that Adrien looked vaguely concerned as he approached her. "Marinette?" he said gently. "Are you okay?"

"She's fine," Luka said, from somewhere nearby, a laugh clear in his voice.

"No," Adrien countered. "I don't think so. Does she have a seizure disorder or anything? Marinette?"

She shook her head. "Holy fuck." She slapped her hand over her mouth.  Luka laughed out loud and she sent him a quick glare.

Adrien blinked a couple of times. "Is it… not good?" His fingers plucked self-consciously at the shirt.

"It looks very good," Marinette assured him. "I mean, you could make a tarp look good. But… wow.  I had no idea that this hot guy was hiding under that sweet sunshine exterior." That wasn't entirely true, since she'd been swimming with him several times since they met. She wished her brain would come more fully online. "As Uncle Jagged would say, you look totally rock and roll."

Adrien's shoulders relaxed and the bright smile that wasn't allowed in any of his campaigns appeared on his face. "Oh… cool. I… really like how it looks, and Luka thought I did okay picking things out, but I'm not an expert like you."

"Who knew Adrien was so good at shopping?" Luka asked, getting up from the couch to cross the room and hug Marinette. "We started our day talking about his plan, went out and bought stuff… and he has several days worth of clothes that all fit this image." He gestured vaguely at Adrien. "He did that mix and match thing that you," he gave her side a gentle pinch, "are so good at, so a lot of it can be swapped around for slightly different looks."

Adrien's cheeks went a little pink and he reached back to rub his neck in the adorable nervous tell of his. "Hang around designers and dressers long enough and you do pick up a few things."

"Then we came back here for his makeover." Luka reached over and ruffled Adrien's hair. "I think we did pretty good."

"Pfft! Pretty good?" Marinette shook her head. "If I ever need to reimagine my style, I'm having you two help me out." It was nice to see Adrien looking genuinely happy, something that he didn't get to feel or express nearly often enough. "Anyway, I brought snacks, and if you want me to vamoose after dinner, I'm fine with that."

"Actually…" Adrien started, looking to Luka for a moment. "I'd like you to stay."

Marinette smiled and patted his shoulder. "If there's anything I can do to help make this process easier for you, I'm happy to do it. Okay?"

Adrien smiled. "We're going to look at apartment stuff next. I already have my budget, and Luka's given me advice on the things to check, like making sure the water works, smell for mold, see if appliances are included, all that stuff."

Marinette nodded.

"But I kinda think you'll be better at helping me look at photos and listings and seeing what it could look like as my place, rather than some heavily styled advert," Adrien went on. He let out a heavy sigh. "I think it's going to be important that I have a place that feels like home."

Marinette nodded. "Your father's place hasn't felt like home in a long time, has it?"

Adrien shook his head. "That feeling of it really being home faded pretty fast after my mom…" He shrugged.

Marinette held out her arms and Adrien, in true Adrien fashion, leaped into the hug. "We'll find you your home, Adrien."

"And then you can start having some of that life thing we've been talking about," Luka added, stepping in to rub their friend's back.

Giving Marinette one last tight squeeze, Adrien let go and straightened up. "I'm so glad I have you two in my life. I hope you understand how much I appreciate you."

The three of them crowded around Marinette's laptop as they went through the listings together.

"This is another really big place, Adrien," Marinette pointed out, her finger running under the total size. "Three bedrooms. A bath and a half." She glanced at Luka before turning to Adrien. "I know the money isn't a problem for you, not with your bank balance and usual paychecks." They'd looked at budgets and even this enormous place in a great part of Paris was well within his range.

Adrien nodded as he looked carefully at the pictures. He didn't seem to be picking up on her hints. "Look at the living room. That will be great for having people over." He wriggled happily. "Game night at my place. Yeah!"

"Won't you feel extra alone, surrounded by all that space?" Luka asked. "That's part of what you hate about your room right now."

Adrien chewed on his lip and leaned back. "You've had roommates." He looked at Luka. "I could try that."

"Yeeaaah," Luka said, shaking his head. "You do not want the full-on roommate experience. I did it because I had to in order to afford a place to live. But random people our age are not great to live with. They'll eat your food, fail to replace the toilet paper, and leave messes everywhere. They'll play terrible music when you're trying to sleep or focus and have ridiculously loud sex with no consideration of who else is home."

Adrien's face somehow went paler.

"Since you could end up with all sorts of skeezy people who just want an opportunity to get close to the Adrien Agreste, rooming with a stranger would be a terrible idea," Marinette cautioned. She could see all sorts of horrible things happening in that kind of situation. "Do you have someone in mind for a roommate?" She worried the reality was too terrifying for their sheltered friend. "It can be a little easier to negotiate with people you're friends with."

Adrien sighed. "When I was first thinking about all this, I thought I'd live with Nino, but…" He sighed again. "He and Alya found a place together and seem to be living the dream. I can't interfere with that." He looked over at Luka. "You were another person I thought it would be good to live with. You're really chill and I learn a lot just being around you, but I couldn't ask you to move out when you've finally got your place feeling like it's really yours." He looked down at his hands, spinning the silver ring on his finger. "Watching it come together over the last few weeks has been really inspiring for me. I want that."

"So maybe no roommate, then," Luka said tentatively.

"But you guys are right," Adrien admitted. He looked sadly at the gorgeous apartment pictures. "I'm alone so often… Even when Nathalie or my father are there, it's lonely, which I realize sounds stupid, but —"

"It's not at all stupid," Luka interrupted, slipping out of his spot on the couch so he could wrap Adrien in a hug.

Marinette moved just as swiftly and hugged both of them from the side, half because she wanted to comfort her friend and half because she needed comfort after that revelation. "Your feelings are never stupid, Adrien."

"It's painful to feel lonely when you're surrounded by people, but you're not alone in that, okay?" Luka said, his voice gentle. He still claimed to be better with music than words, but he'd apparently improved at both over uni.

They slowly released Adrien from the hug, though Marinette picked up his hand to give it an additional squeeze. "I think I can speak for both of us on this, and you are always welcome to find one of us if you need something. You're incredibly important to us."

Luka nodded. "We want you to be happy. Truly happy, like you were today when we were shopping." His smile was sweetly wistful. "It was nice to see that today and I'm so glad I got to be there for it."

Adrien's cheeks were pink as he beamed at them. It wasn't one of his model looks, because heaven forbid that Adrien should look happy in a way that wasn't oozing sex appeal. He looked back down at his hands. "Thank you."

"You know," Marinette said, pulling up a blank document. "We jumped straight into listings without really discussing what's important to you in an apartment."

Adrien nodded.

"But now that we've seen some of what's out there, maybe we'd have better luck if we narrowed down to places that fit what you need or want most," she suggested.

"You're the best at planning, Sweets," Luka said, squeezing her shoulder. "Most of us are limited by what we can afford, so we don't have the range of choices you've got available to you."

"So when you think about home , what does that look like to you?" Marinette asked.

Adrien sighed. "I really don't want to live alone," he admitted. "I've done that already.  Or at least, it feels like it. I've felt like I'm entirely alone in that mausoleum to haute bourgeoisie sensibilities since I was thirteen.  And occasionally my father visits to tell me how disappointing I am." He rolled his eyes, which went nicely with his new look. "And I want to be able to have friends over. I want to do movie nights and game nights and all that stupid stuff normal people have been doing since college ." He flopped against the back of the couch, boneless in a manner she was more accustomed to seeing from Chat Noir. "I feel like I missed all these important steps in growing up, and since I can't exactly go back in time, I may as well find a way to experience them for myself now that I can."

"That's fair," Luka assured him. "And impressively self aware. If you do these things now, you won't have regret later."

Adrien looked so hopeful it broke Marinette's heart all over. It was going to take some serious will-power to not take Ladybug over to kick the crap out of Gabriel. How dare he treat his precious son in such a way that he had only doubt for himself.

"So I think the next thing we need to figure out, is how we can get you a roommate who isn't going to sell you out," Luka suggested. He leaned back and rubbed at his jaw. "Can you think of anyone in your circles, Nette?"

"Not off the top of my head." She knew one person for sure who was looking, but she didn't trust them with Adrien.

Luka nodded. "So we could put out feelers to see if anyone we know is looking for a place, but you're probably going to need to move in before they would be ready."

Adrien nodded. He was chewing on his lip again. "I… uh."

"Do you have someone in mind?" Luka encouraged.

"Well…" Adrien reached back to rub at his neck, an old nervous tell she hadn't seen in years.

"We're here to help you, Adrien," Marinette said, reaching over to pat his shoulder. "If you have a plan, or even an idea, we'd like to hear it. No judging."

He let out a huff of a laugh. "Okay, so hear me out. Marinette could move in with me. I wouldn't be alone, at least not all the time, and I'd be with someone totally trustworthy." Adrien met Marinette's eyes. "Now I know you're staying with your parents for financial reasons, so I'd make you a deal. You'd stay for free.  We know I can cover the rent, and you can give me something I need far more than money."

Marinette stared at him, a little stunned. "What do you need more than money?"

"Someone who can teach me all that crap I should know how to do, but don't," Adrien said brightly. "I don't even know where the laundry machines are at my father's place. No one will tell me. I'm not allowed in the kitchen. How do you buy groceries? How do you know if you're sick enough to need to see a doctor? I know jack-all about any of that stuff." He straightened up, somehow managing to look confident again. "It's a lot to learn, and I know I could figure it out over time, but… it would be more efficient and less destructive if someone teaches me." He gestured to Marinette with both hands. "You've always been super independent. And you could trade those skills for rent."

"This was your plan all along, wasn't it," Luka asked, knowingly.

"Yeah." Adrien blushed. "I'd get to see you both more often, too. I'd like to, anyway."