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Weird Dad

Chapter Text

"Miraculous Ladybug!"

Gigantitan transformed back into the baby August. He fell from about the head height of his former gigantic form.

Ladybug caught August. She picked up the pacifier that had fallen with him.

"So what was it this time?" asked Chat Noir.

"A late night craving, huh, baby August?" said Ladybug, spinning around and making the baby giggle. "Ooh, you're so cute!"

"I'm a bit jealous," said Chat Noir.

Ladybug's earring beeped a signal for the last spot.

"Don't be," said Ladybug. "Here, you can have him."

Chat made a surprised sound as Ladybug thrust the baby into his arms.

"Bye bye, little guy!" said Ladybug, swinging up to the roof.

"I meant jealous of him!" said Chat.

August looked up and waved.

Chat said, "You miss her already too? I know how it feels."

"Gummy!" said August, looking sad.

Chat Noir remembered the object Ladybug held in her right hand as she waved goodbye to August.

"Ah, of course! The pacifier!"


Chat Noir extended his staff to the roof level of the bakery building to look for Ladybug.

Ladybug wasn't there, but a girl he knew was standing beside a deck chair by the trapdoor that led down to her bedroom.


Marinette put her hands behind her back for a second.

"Uh…" said Marinette.

"This isn't the first time I've bumped into you right after Ladybug transformed back," said Chat. He gasped. "Could you be…"

"Ah... in love with you!" said Marinette, running at him and hugging him.

"Marinette?" asked Chat Noir in a whisper.

Tom Dupain, Marinette's father, looked out through the trapdoor. He saw Chat Noir with a baby in his arms, and Marinette hugging him.

August waved.

"Oh! Well I never," said Tom. "Whoa!"

Marinette pulled back abruptly from the hug. Chat Noir's timer beeped.

"Oh! Well, perfect timing!" said Chat. "I have to go and take him back to his mother."

August began to cry as he was being taken away. "Gummy!"

"I'm sorry, I can't find your pacifier. Your mama will have another one at home," said Chat.

Tom looked around and spotted the purple pacifier on the floor under the deck chair.

"Here it is! He must have dropped it and it rolled," said Tom, handing it to the hero.

Chat Noir took it, wiped it on his leather-clad chest, and gave it to August. The child sucked on it happily.

Chat looked over at Marinette and gave her a sly smile and a wink. She seemed to be too much in shock to respond.

"Why don't you come have Sunday brunch with us tomorrow?" asked Tom.

Marinette's mother, Sabine Cheng, had joined them on the roof by this point. She smiled and nodded at the invitation.

"Well..." said Chat.

"I'll make macarons."

"How could I say no to that? Well, see you tomorrow then! Bye m'... Marinette."

Chat Noir spoke aloud to August as he took him home.

"I just thought that she followed us everywhere because she's a fan of Ladybug, like her friend Alya. But it turns out she's Ladybug, detransformed after the battles. Do you realize this is the first time a girl has told me she's in love with me?"

August made a little gurgling sound.

"Tell me about it. Ladybug confessed her love to me!"

Marinette lay on her bed with her hands over her head.

"This is a total disaster!" she said in a muffled voice.

"You shouldn't have lied about your feelings, Marinette," said Tikki.

Marinette sat up.

"Tikki, he's figured out that I'm Ladybug! Why did I go off with that stupid pacifier?"

"And now everyone thinks that you're in love with him."

"And Chat Noir thinks Ladybug just returned his love!"

"That's about right."

Marinette screamed into her pillow.

"He's late," Marinette said nervously to Tikki as they watched from the roof the next day.

"You think he's not coming?" asked Tikki.

"Of course he's coming. He's infatuated with Ladybug. And with macarons."

"What are you going to say to him?"

"I don't know. I only said I loved him to keep him from knowing that I'm Ladybug. But now he knows I'm Ladybug. But I can't say that in front of my parents, or they'll know I'm Ladybug! Tikki, you have to help me!"

Tikki looked at her, antennas drooping.

And then they saw Chat Noir leaping across the rooftops, rose in hand.

Down in the family room/kitchen Tom finished setting the table. "Voilà!"

The doorbell rang.

"This is a nightmare!" said Marinette.

"Come on, sweetie, let him in," said Tom. He scooped her in one huge arm and pushed her to the door.

Marinette opened the door and there was Chat Noir with a big smile.

"Hello, my sweet Marinette!" said Chat.

"Uh, hello Chat Noir," said Marinette nervously.

Tom grabbed him in a bear hug. "Welcome to our home!"

Sabine said, "Tom! Let him come up for some air, huh?"

"Oops, sorry," said Tom.

He put Chat Noir down facing Marinette and backed off to stand by his wife.

"Uh, how are you?" asked Marinette stiffly.

"Wonderful, and you?" asked Chat Noir.

Chat offered his rose, which Marinette took. He put a hand on she shoulder and warmly kissed both cheeks in the traditional French greeting. She kissed his cheeks back.

Tom and Sabine beamed with parental pride.

"Oh, he brought a pink rose for Marinette – she loves pink! You two already know each other so well!" said Tom.

"Everyone loves pink, Dad. It doesn't mean anything," said Marinette.

"We don't actually know each other that well," said Chat. "Only the public side."

"He's right! It all happened so fast!" said Marinette.

"Love at first sight! That's even more romantic! Have a seat, kids, I'll bring out the first course."

As they sat at the table, Marinette said, "I have something to tell you..."

"Yes?" said Chat.

Tom set down a two-tiered tray of pastries in front of them.

"Voilà! Sweethearts' vol-au-vent. For two, of course."

"Uh…" said Marinette.

Chat Noir took a pastry and ate it.

"Tell me, Chat Noir," said Tom. "Is being a superhero a steady profession?'

"Tom!" said Sabine.

"What?" asked Tom.

Chat had an answer ready. "I can't tell you about my secret identity, but I assure you I am well prepared to support your daughter."

Marinette had taken a sip of water, and she choked a bit. Sabine patted her back.

"Dad, it's gotta be super dangerous being a superhero's girlfriend," said Marinette. "Maybe I should rethink this."

"Of course, not sweetie," said Tom. "Chat Noir won't be a superhero all his life. Once he's defeated Hawk Moth, he won't need to run on the rooftops with a stick saving people. I know! He could work in the bakery with me! I could train you, young man."

"Maybe Chat Noir doesn't want to be a baker at all," said Marinette, grabbing Chat by the shoulder.

Chat nodded at this.

Tom took the nod for agreement with him. "Ah, see? He'd love to! Everyone loves bakers."

Tom made a frame in the air for an imaginary new store sign.

"'The Dupain-Chat Noir Bakery'. Doesn't that sound purr-fect?"

"Tom!" said Sabine.

"I can already see the little kittens running around in the house. And pet hamsters. Do you like hamsters?"

"Hamsters?" asked Chat.

"Because my daughter loves them. What did you want to name your future hamster again, sweetie?"

"This is a nightmare," said Marinette, putting her face in her hands.

"Nightmare! Right. That's a funny name, isn't it?"

Chat grabbed one more pastry just as Tom took the tray from the table.

"I'm bringing the souffle," said Tom.

Marinette had enough. "Chat Noir, you're a wonderful person."

Chat said, "I'm awesome in so many ways, even I could fall in love with myself!"

"The thing is... I've changed my mind. Worshiping you from a distance as a fantasy is one thing, but really dating is something else. I'm not ready..."

Chat slammed his fist on the table. The heart-shaped souffle that Tom had placed there collapsed.

Chat said, "Worshiping from a distance? After all we've been through?"

Marinette was afraid he would say too much about their superhero adventures. "Chat, don't go there!"

He stood up and glared at her. "You're lying, making up excuses. You're not in love with me. This is just some sort of game for you!"

Tom stood up, angry himself. "Stop! You think because you have super strength and claws that you can push my little girl around?"

Chat stood up and held off his advance with one stiff arm.

"Don't worry, I'm leaving," said Chat Noir. "Thanks for the food."

He raced for the door, got through it, and slammed it behind him.

"What have I done?" said Marinette. She left the table and rushed up to her room.

Tom clenched his fist and growled.

Chapter Text

Tom picked up the rose from the table and glared at it.

"Why doesn't he have the decency to let her change her mind?" asked Tom. "How could he threaten Marinette like that?"

"One day, Marinette will meet another boy," said Sabine. "She'll love him with all her heart, and..."

"He'll hurt her, too. Never again! I won't let anyone hurt my daughter again!"

An akuma entered the rose in Tom's hand. A butterfly halo formed around his eyes as Hawk Moth communicated with him.

Sabine tried to hold onto Tom, but he pulled away.

"I'll bring you some Chat Noir pâté," said Tom aloud.

Sabine gasped and backed away.

A purple and black cloud of magic transformed him, and the whole room was engulfed.

Gigantic, thorny rose vines sprang up, taking away Marinette's room at the top of the house.

"Tom!" cried Sabine.

Tom was larger than ever and covered with brown hair. He had a patch of dark hair on his bare chest, and a black beard. A vine whipped around his waist and lifted him through the broken ceiling. More vines wrapped around his ankles and wrists.

"Now I'm Weredad. I'm going up to protect my daughter."

Chat Noir looked back when he heard the explosion.

"I messed up," said Chat Noir.

He saw a thorny vine growing out of the house like a giant beanstalk. Thorny vines spread into the street, growing over parked cars.

"I really messed up!"

Chat ran back and re-entered the family room.

"I'm so sorry," he said to Sabine. "It's my fault for getting angry in front of all of you."

"No, Chat Noir," said Sabine. "It's Tom. No matter how many times I tell him, he always takes things too far."

"I'll bring your husband back to his senses. I promise."

"Shouldn't you wait for Ladybug?"

Chat frowned. "I should just let Ladybug handle it herself."

"No! What if she comes too late?"

"Ladybug always shows up at the right time. I'm sure she will this time."

"Please don't be so bitter against Marinette that you leave her in danger. A person is allowed to change her mind."

Chat snorted. "What change? She never really loved me. She lied to me."

"Whether or not that's true, my daughter's in trouble and she needs help. Ladybug can't do it alone. You're her partner. She always fights with you by her side."

"I'm just so angry! It hurts!"

"You don't have to apologize for your feelings. You're a good person and I know you'll do the right thing no matter how you feel. I have faith in you, Chat Noir."

"Thank you, Mrs. Dupain-Cheng."

Chat Noir began to climb the thorny stalk.

"Good luck, Chat Noir."

Marinette had been in earnest conversation with Tikki when her room went crazy. Rose vines grew everywhere, separating her from her kwami. She felt like she was on a fast elevator as the vine ball shot high into the air.

It stopped above the clouds. The hollow green ball of vines was all around her.

"Tikki! Where are you?"

"Marinette! These vines are a magic prison – I can't phase through them. I'll try to find a way in."

Chat Noir arrived at a flat place near the top of the stalk. Above that was a giant ball of vines. Was Marinette in there? Why hadn't she transformed and broken out?

Chat called out, "Marinette? Mr. Dupain?"

Chat heard an ominous growl and a hairy monster stepped out of the shadows.

"How dare you come back to hurt Marinette?" growled Weredad.

Weredad leaped and smashed a fist down, but Chat Noir jumped out of the way.

"I'm not here to hurt her. I'm here to save you from making a mistake. Don't try to lock up Marinette."

Weredad moved in. Chat used his staff to push Weredad away, and he leaped back again.

"She's safe here from you and all the boys who want to push her around!"

"I wasn't going to hurt her, I swear!"

"And I swear I'm about to crush your bones!"

Weredad grabbed up the vine around his waist and swung it like a long whip. Chat dodged back but nearly fell off the vine platform. He pulled himself up.

"Where are you, Ladybug?" Chat said.

She had to be in the ball up there, and for some reason she couldn't get out.

Chat extended his staff to reach the ball level, and grabbed on, getting a handhold and two footholds. Weredad ran to grab the bottom end of the the staff, but Chat shrunk it out of his reach.

"Marinette, are you in there?" Chat Noir called.

"Yes, and Tikki can't get to me, so I can't transform," said Marinette.

Chat tried his claws. "The vines are too tough. I can use my Cat..."

"Don't use it yet! We might need it later."

Chat climbed higher. "I found a gap where light is shining through – but not big enough to get in or out. I see a rose."

"That must be the akumatized object. I'm headed toward your voice. There it is!"

"I can't reach it. Can you get to it from your side?"

"I can get there in a few seconds. Hold Papa off so he doesn't see me transform. He'll forget, but Hawk Moth won't."

Weredad was climbing up the vine toward them. Chat extended his staff and used it for a hard poke to dislodge him. He leaped down himself and landed on Weredad's back.

They both landed at the platform level. Weredad reached back, got a grip on Chat Noir, and threw him toward the edge. Chat thrust his pole against the vines and managed to flip back.

"I won't let you get to her!" said Weredad, throwing more punches at Chat. "From now on, only I will protect her!"

"And are you planning to protect her all her life?"

"Exactly! I'll keep her safe from sadness, hardship, and anything else that could hurt her!"

"You can't protect her from what hurts the most. Do you know what hurts the most?"

"My great big punches?" said Weredad, lunging at him.

Chat pole-vaulted over Weredad and landed behind him. Chat bent his pole around Weredad to temporarily restrain him.

"No! What hurts the most is solitude. Believe me, I know all about it. Nothing hurts more than isolation. Having to sit alone in front of a cold meal. Is that what you want for your daughter? A lifetime of cold meals in her prison of roses?"

"She will never be alone!" said Weredad, breaking free. "Someday, a prince will come. A prince worthy of her, daring enough to face me! Who will brave the many dangers and pick the magic rose for her! He will be worthy of taking her from my guard!"

From above came a cry of triumph. "Gotcha!"

"I think she just picked it for herself," said Chat Noir.

The purple magic leaked out of everything, Weredad turned back into Tom Dupain, and the vines around them crumbled, leaving them in free-fall.

Tom and Chat Noir both yelled.

A few seconds later, Ladybug air-dived to their level.

"Where's Marinette?" asked Tom.

"Don't worry, Sir. I already got her to safety," said Ladybug.

"Thank you," said Tom.

Chat Noir said nothing. He knew where Marinette was.

"Not all of us know how to land on our feet. So I guess we're gonna need a little bit of luck!" said Ladybug.

She did a downward "Lucky Charm!"

A sailboat appeared below them, and they landed on the deck.

"Do your thing, Chat Noir!"

Chat realized she wanted only the sail, so he invoked "Cataclsym!" and touched the hull.

With the sail and masts they quickly assembled a hang-glider. They reached the ground in front of the bakery safely.

"Tom!" called Sabine, running out the door.

"Honey!" called Tom, running into her arms.

"Pound it!" said Ladybug, offering a fist.

Chat gave her a cold look.

"I'm really sorry, Chat Noir. I can explain later," said Ladybug.

Ladybug pulled one of the masts from the hang-glider and threw it into the air. "Miraculous Ladybug!"

The stream of magic ladybugs did its work. The vines that had encumbered people and cars in the street vanished, the bakery was completely repaired, and the bruises Chat had sustained from his fight were healed.

"Marinette!" said Tom.

"Where is Marinette?" asked Sabine.

The parents rushed back into the bakery.

"Wait!" said Ladybug. "The miraculous ladybugs have repaired everything, so she must be safely back in her room."

Chat Noir vaulted away without a word.

Ladybug swung up to her room and detransformed before anyone got there.

Marinette's parents came bursting into her room, delighted to see her safe and sound.

"Where's Chat Noir?" Marinette asked.

"He didn't stay. I don't think he wants to talk to you," said Tom.

"We need to have a private talk, anyway," said Sabine.

"Oh-oh," said Marinette to herself.

Chapter Text

"Chat Noir seems very angry with you," said Tom. "That's why I got akumatized. I was scared for you."

"Honey, we're concerned," said Sabine. "Chat Noir said, 'after all we've been through' and you said, 'don't go there' – how intimate have you gotten with him?"

"We haven't, at all. Just a hug and a hello kiss tonight. Nothing more," said Marinette.

(She was fibbing, not saying anything about the kiss as Ladybug to save him from Dark Cupid's control, but that was entirely different.)

"He can get to your balcony at night," said Sabine. "Has he been in your room?"

"No! Well... twice, but it was superhero business. He and Ladybug came to the house when Troublemaker attacked. I heard them fighting when I locked myself in the bathroom. They were all over the upper part of the house. They had to be, because that's where the villain was."

"I'm glad they did," said Sabine. "We really needed help."

"What was the other time?" asked Tom.

"Once Alya and I were on the subway, going to see a movie. The Puppeteer took control of Alya and turned her into Lady WiFi again. She threatened me for my Ladybug, Chat Noir, and akuma villain dolls. I told her I didn't have them on me – they were at home. She left to go get them.

"Chat Noir came investigating a few minutes later. I warned him that the Puppeteer wanted my dolls to control people, and that they were in my room. I gave him our address. I'm pretty sure he and Ladybug went there to protect the puppets. Some were taken anyway, but at least they saved the Ladybug one. If the Puppeteer had gotten control of Ladybug it would have been all over."

Tom said, "Good for you. You did your duty as a citizen."

"There has to have been more between you and Chat Noir," said Sabine.

"Well... he saved my on my birthday when Nona Gina turned into the Befana and wanted to turn me to coal. He carried me away and found a hiding place for me at the Eiffel Tower. He helped me escape when Max, the Gamer, was chasing me.

"Chat also saved me when Evillustrator had a crush on me and demanded I go to his birthday party on a boat he had stolen."

"It was terribly risky to go somewhere with an akuma victim," said Sabine.

"It would also be risky to refuse to go," said Marinette. "By going, I was able to help Chat Noir. He nearly defeated the villain quickly when I got his drawing pencil away."

"You took his pencil?" asked Tom. "Did that stop him?"

"Well, Evillustrator got it back. He trapped us under a box and tried to sink the boat we were on. But Chat got us out with his expanding staff. After that, I went home."

"I think you were reckless to grab a villain's weapon like that. Where was Ladybug?" asked Sabine.

"I don't know their whole plan, but I think she was watching Chloé in case Evillustrator attacked her at her home. That's where they finally stopped him."

"Marinette! That was so dangerous! Anything could have happened to you," said Tom.

"Things have happened to me, but they've always gotten fixed by the Miraculous cure. I was turned into a mummy at the Louvre, a knight at City Hall, a copy of Reflekta at school, and a kissing zombie, also at school."

"That school is so dangerous," said Sabine. "So many akumas. We ought to transfer you somewhere else."

"We're doing all right. We have akuma drills and we're prepared. All my friends are there. Everywhere in Paris is dangerous... even here at home."

"I'm so sorry about today," said Tom.

"It's not your fault, Dad," said Marinette. "It's all on Hawk Moth."

"So far, there's nothing you've told us about that Chat Noir wouldn't do for any civilian," said Sabine. "I think he meant something more when he said there was something between you."

"Chat Noir visited on my balcony once. He invited me to another rooftop, not far away. He had set up a romantic picnic spot for Ladybug, but she didn't make it, so he shared it with me. We talked and cheered each other up. Then Glaciator came after me – I didn't believe André when he said his ice cream was magic and it would make my sweetheart appear if I ate it. Chat carried me home to safety and then he and Ladybug fought Glaciator."

"Letting a boy take you away from home without anyone knowing is poor judgment," said Sabine. "Just because a boy is a superhero doesn't mean he's safe."

"Nothing happened," said Marinette. "Chat Noir was a perfect gentleman. I trust him with my life."

"It's no wonder he moved on from Ladybug and got interested in you," said Tom.

"You told him that you loved him," said Sabine. "He told me he thinks it's a lie."

"Last night I got carried away in the moment. I had just seen the huge battle where they saved the bakery from the giant baby."

"Where you could have been smashed by a giant doughnut!" said Tom. "I was so worried about you!"

"I went up to the roof to watch. I had space to dodge there. I would have been hurt worse if I stayed in my room... and Ladybug would have healed me if I was."

"You shouldn't take risks relying on her cure," said Tom. "Ladybug could get killed in battle, or get her Miraculous taken, and not be able to fix anything."

"You were about to tell us about the hug," said Sabine.

"When Chat came up I was so excited that I hugged him and told him I loved him. Later I regretted saying that," said Marinette.

"You're absolutely allowed to change your mind," said Sabine. "You had a fangirl crush. Chat Noir took it too seriously and got hurt, but you don't have to force yourself to be in a relationship just because someone will be unhappy if you don't."

"But I'm disappointed in you for the risks you're been taking," said Tom. "This has to stop."

"I don't like that Chat Noir has easy access to your room," said Sabine. "We need to lock your skylight and set an alarm on it at night."

"And put bars on the windows so he can't get in that way," said Tom.

"Please don't do that!" said Marinette, suddenly worried about how she could get to an akuma attack. The rooftop had made things so easy for her as Ladybug.

"We need to keep you safe," said Sabine. "We could trade bedrooms with you instead."

"There aren't enough windows down there," said Marinette. "I need light to do my fashion work. This bedroom is my studio."

"You need to realize you've broken our trust with all this sneaking around," said Tom. "I didn't think we needed to worry about you taking huge risks with boys when you're only fourteen. You've proven us wrong."

"You need to earn our trust again," said Sabine.

"And promise to stay away from Chat Noir from now on," said Tom. "I didn't like that today, when you tried to tell him no, and he got angry."

"This is a dysfunctional relationship, darling," said Sabine. "Almost abusive. It has to stop."

"Please don't do this. I feel like I'm being locked up in the ball of rose vines again!" said Marinette.

"This was a big wake-up call for us, sweetheart," said Tom.

"Things need to change for you to rebuild trust with us. Think about it and try to come up with a plan we can all agree on," said Sabine.

"We're doing this for your own good," said Tom. "We'll leave you to think about it."

They withdrew down the stairs. Marinette collapsed on her chaise lounge and began to cry.

Chapter Text

"What should I do, Tikki?" asked Marinette. "Should I come clean with them about being Ladybug? Tell them that I need freedom to fight Hawk Moth?"

"I think that would make things worse, Marinette," said Tikki. "They're having trust issues with you as it is. Admitting what you just told them was another string of lies... they might insist you give up being Ladybug."

"What should I do, then?"

"Try to think of reasons not to lock up your room," said Tikki.

Marinette composed herself and went down to her parents.

"Maman and Papa, I'm sorry for sneaking out with Chat Noir. You can ground me for as long as you want, but please don't put bars on my windows. What if there was a fire? Firefighters couldn't get me out."

Tom said, "You have a good point."

"I really don't think Chat Noir will come after me," said Marinette. "He was hurt, but he's not vindictive. He helped Ladybug rescue me today."

"He almost didn't until I talked him into it," said Sabine. "Still, he did the right thing in the end..."

"If he wanted to get to you, bars wouldn't stop him," said Tom. "He could Cataclysm right through them."

"Maybe I could have a panic button I could push if anything happened?" asked Marinette. "It would help for akumas, too. When Sandboy was making living nightmares, a monster version of a friend from school appeared in my room, right at the foot of my bed. I got past him and out the skylight, doubled back when he came after me, and got out of the house. If the skylight was locked I couldn't have gotten away and he could have hurt me."

"Oh darling, you should have told us about that!" said Sabine.

"I was attacked by a bread dough monster that night," said Tom. "It was terrible."

Marinette said, "I still have nightmares about that nightmare. I'd be too scared to sleep if there was only one way out."

"I think we'll have to reconsider the locks," said Sabine. "We'll get a panic button for you."

"Thank you, Maman and Papa!" said Marinette.

"Don't think you're getting away scot free," said Tom. "You're grounded until you can prove to us that you're responsible enough to be trusted again."

"I'll do whatever it takes," said Marinette. "I'll use all my free time to help in the shop, clean the whole house, anything."

"We'll hold you to that," said Sabine.

"I just hope we don't get any akuma attacks soon," thought Marinette.

The following week at school was strange. Adrien barely spoke a word to her.

"Did he hear about the brunch with Chat?" thought Marinette. "What does he think of me now? I was so stupid to panic and lie!"

Late in the week, Alya asked Marinette, "Would you be able to babysit Nino's little brother Chris on Saturday afternoon? We want to go to a movie together, but his mom has to work."

"I'm not going anywhere this weekend – I'm grounded," said Marinette. "I think my parents would agree babysitting is a responsible job. I'll check."

The babysitting job went rather badly. Chris wanted to play violent video games rather than play with Marinette's superhero and supervillain puppets, or with the toys he had brought with him. When he got into the box of birthday presents that Marinette was making for Adrien, she told him a lie about being a secret Christmas elf. It was that or risk that word would get back to Adrien about the presents.

That lead to an akuma attack with snow, living toys, the Eiffel Tower decorated like a Christmas tree, and Santa Claus. Ladybug had to go out, in spite of the risk of getting caught away from her room.

Chat Noir was cold to Ladybug at the ice rink. Laer, when she was in the block castle looking for Christmaster, Ladybug left a message on Chat's baton phone.

"I'm very sorry, Chat Noir. Please give me a chance to talk with you – I have to explain what happened. Please meet me after the mission after we recharge, at the Eiffel Tower."

Chat Noir arrived scowling.

"So, Santa Claus thinks you're the best kid in the world? I could set him straight about that."

"That Santa Claus wasn't real," said Ladybug. "He only believed what he did because of lies I told Chris."

"Lies? What a surprise," said Chat bitterly.

"What I said the other night – it was just to protect my identity. I thought you suspected me of being Ladybug, so I panicked and said what I did. You found out anyway because of the pacifier. Then Papa escalated the situation by inviting you over. I could only give fake reasons for breaking up with them listening."

"Telling me you loved me as a part of a scheme – that was horrible. The first love confession I've ever gotten was a fake. Words of love are important to me... I don't get them at home much."

"Words are cheap to me, but taking time to make something for someone... like a whole box of birthday presents I made for someone, that's real. That's why I lied to Chris, to keep that secret."

"We have different love languages. Your 'cheap' words really hurt."

"I'm sorry. I totally messed up."

"I should have known you wouldn't change your attitude about me so quickly. As Ladybug you already told me you love someone else. The guy you made presents for, I guess."

"That's right..."

"You wouldn't tell me who, because we couldn't 'know anything about each other.' But now I know who you are, would you tell me?"

"I shouldn't. You might threaten him."

"I would never do that."

"He doesn't have any idea how deep my feelings for him are. To him, I'm just a friend. So to go after him would just embarrass me for no reason."

"I promise I won't go after him. I'll even take a guess who it is... Luka Couffaine?"

"No! Luka is a nice guy, but he's just a friend. The guy I really like is Adrien Agreste."

"Is that another lie? You flat-out told him you weren't into him, that you only had pictures of him in your room because you love fashion."

"No, I was lying when I said that. It was too embarrassing that he saw my photo shrine on live TV. It made me look like a stalker. I want him to tell him my true feelings, but in my own time, in my own way. Wait... how did you even know about that? You weren't there."

"Actually, I was. I'm Adrien. Plagg, claws in."

"Y-you're A-adrien? Then telling you I loved you the other night.. that really wasn't a lie."

"Yes, it was. You didn't know who I was when you said it."

"You're right."

"You're a hypocrite – you say you hate liars but you actually lie a lot, and not just to protect your secret identity. You and Lila have a lot in common. How can I trust you?"

"Please forgive me. Give me a chance to start over. You've given Chloé so many chances... Lila too. Maybe I'm as bad as they are – I hope not. But please give me a chance like you did them."

"I guess you're right. I'll give you another change. I can't give up our partnership that easily."

"Thank you so much, Adrien!"

"I can't give up my crush that easily, either," said Adrien with a smile. "Someone as purr-etty as you are."

"Wow! If you can pun like that then things must be all right!"

Adrien held out his arms and they hugged.

A few days later, Adrien came over to the bakery. He and Marinette talked with her parents.

"I know Marinette is grounded right now, but when she's not I'm hoping to ask her out," said Adrien.

Tom said, "You're all right with that, Marinette?"

"Absolutely," said Marinette. "I'm over Chat Noir. Adrien is great, much nicer than him. We've been good friends at school for a while now."

"I'm relieved you're moving on, darling," said Sabine. "I feel better about you dating a boy who isn't masked, who we know is from a respectable family."

"Marinette has a new boyfriend! This is wonderful!" said Tom.

"Dad, please don't get carried away like last time," said Marinette. "Don't start planning our future – like how many kids and hamsters we're going to have."

"I'll do the fantasizing about that myself," Marinette thought.

Adrien said, "We're taking things slow. My father is very strict about not disgracing the Gabriel brand," said Adrien. "He'll make sure we behave ourselves – and the paparazzi will be watching us."

Sabine said, "Tom, I think Marinette has proved herself. She's had over a week of being grounded and has been very responsible. I think we should let her go out with Adrien."

"Thank you!" said Marinette.

"Thank you," said Adrien.

"Just be sure you treat my daughter right," said Tom. "You wouldn't like me when I'm angry."

"I know," said Adrien.

The End