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The Way You See Me

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It was with dragging feet and a weary sigh that Adrien Agreste slowly trudged his way to his bed, plopping down on the plush, oversized and overpriced mattress with a fluffy poomph.  He was relatively sure today was, barring his mother’s disappearance, the worst day of his life.

It started out pretty well, deceptively so, in fact.  Lately, he had been making headway (he thought) with Ladybug, and just the night before, they had had a particularly interesting conversation.  It went a little something like this:

“What brings you out here tonight, Chaton?” Ladybug asked around a soft smile so bright and warm, it was dizzying as she stood atop one of their favorite rooftops, looking out at the brightness of Paris at night.

It took him a second to catch him breath, but when he did, he released an airy laugh.

“Not much.  Just felt like seeing a certain bug.”

If he thought Ladybug’s smile was bright before, it turned absolutely blinding at that moment, and briefly, the cat-themed hero saw stars.

“Come to bug, me, kittty?  Or just to cat-ch up?”

Oh.  Oh no.  Oh my.

With slow, calculated steps, Chat made his way closer to his lady, determined to once and for all, pour his heart out to her, truthfully, honestly, completely, and all it took was that gorgeous grin, that heart of gold, and the way she said his name, used his puns, and turns his knees, his heart, his whole entire being to jelly.

Giving her a lopsided smirk, he watched as her eyes began to widen, and she took a step back in retreat.

“Chat?  What’s really going on?  You don’t usually just show up out of the blue like this.”

His eyes fell to her lips, and unconsciously, he reached a hand up, barely stopping himself before he dragged a gloved thumb over her full, pink bottom lip, and redirecting the tract of his path until his hand landed on her shoulder instead.  When his gaze met hers, he swallowed.

“My lady.  Can we talk?’

This time, the red, spotted heroine gulped, her breath clearly less effortless than it had been a minute ago, and nodded.  Chat took a breath for courage and looked into her wide blue eyes.

“I know I’ve always been a bit of a flirt, and that in some ways, the way I act is just a big joke to you, but, Ladybug, I really need to tell you, I swear , I’m one hundred percent sincere.  I’m sorry if I’m too over the top, or too reckless sometimes, too silly.  I promise, it’s not because I don’t take this whole job seriously enough. It’s because it’s the best part of my life.  You know? It’s my freedom, my escape, my joy. The most precious thing to me- except, that is, for you. I know you said in the past that you were in love with someone else, but, do you think that you might be able to find a little place in your heart for me?  I just want a chance to show you that I will always do everything I can to make you happy. I don’t know who this guy is who for some inexplicable reason doesn’t see you, and if you tell me tonight, I’ll never bring this up to you again, but just know that, you already have a place in my heart, and that will never change.”

By the time he stopped talking, there were tears rolling down her cheeks, but before he could even put a comforting arm around her shoulders, she was flying into his chest, her own arms wrapping around his middle and she buried her face in the leather of his suit.

“Oh, kitty,” she cried, voice thick.  

For a second, he had hope, but then she spoke again.

“I’m so sorry.”

His eyes fell closed, and he wrapped his arms tighter around her, pulling her deeper into embrace as he laid the side of his face down on the top of her head.

“It’s ok, bug.  I had a feeling, but I had to tell you, anyway.”  Then he placed a soft kiss on her hair. “I love you.”

Her soft cries became harsher, and her shoulders shook as he held her, rubbing her back soothingly as silent tears streamed down his face.  After four years of partnership, she was more important to him than anything. It hurt, but they would get passed this. At the very least, maybe he could finally find the strength to move on.

“I love you, too,” she said shakily, and his heart broke into a few thousand more pieces.

For long moments, they stood like that, until Ladybug calmed down enough that her sobs turned into sniffles and a few errant tears.  Then, she pulled back and looked up at him, bluebell irises surrounded by bloodshot sclera.

“I’m sorry.”

Chat gave her a sad half-smile.

“I know, but it’s not your fault,” he said, and leaned forward to kiss her forehead.

The woman in his arms puffed out her cheeks until her breath escaped with a puff out of her lips, eyes falling to look arbitrarily around them.

“You know, you’ve successfully ruined all guys for me,” she said on a self-conscious chuckle, subconsciously leaning against him again with her cheek resting against his chest.

Chat’s heart lurched, but he didn’t complain.

“Yea?” he asked, breathless laugh escaping him.

“Yea.”  Ladybug sighed.  “Can I… be honest with you?”

Then she looked up at him, and the mere hope in her eyes was almost enough to bring him to his knees.  Chat swallowed.

“Of course.”

Her eyes fell back down to his chest, and he thought he detected a blush in her cheeks.

“Full disclosure,” she finally said, chewing on that lower lip of hers, “I may or may not have wondered on more than one occasion what might have been if I fell in love with you first.”

For a second, the hero in black couldn’t breathe.

“...What?” he finally managed, though it came out almost as like an inaudible breeze.

Ladybug hung her head, clearly embarrassed.

“You think I don’t notice you, Chaton, but I do.  I just… I can’t change my heart, you know? I couldn’t say for sure, but maybe if I never loved him…”  

She left the sentence to trail off there, either too ashamed to finish it, considering it unnecessary, or both, then she shrugged.  It was one of the most adorable things Chat has ever seen.

“Hey,” he said, willing his entire body to stop trembling as he lifted her chin with the knuckle of his finger so he could look into her eyes.  “Having you in my life is already more than I could ever ask for. Mr. Mysterious… I hope he realizes what he has in you.”

Her shoulders slumped as tears welled up in her eyes again, and Chat mentally kicked himself.

“Shit, I’m sorry.  Did I say the wrong thing again?  I swear, sometimes I wish I could Cataclysm my own mouth-”

His words were cut off, however, by the sudden pressure of her lips against his as the girl in his arms surged up on her tiptoes, her arms wrapping around his neck and pulling him close.  It was by pure instinct that he reached down and grabbed her hips, drawing their bodies together until they were suit to suit, and it was carnal desire that prompted him to slide his tongue along the seam of her lips until they parted for him, her own tongue coming out to tangle with his.  But it was years of being turned down, of his father’s etiquette training, and his own personal conviction that forced him to pull away (much to the dismay of his lower regions), even when Ladybug, too spellbound by the intensity of the kiss, resisted.

“My lady,” he huffed, trying to catch his breath, their foreheads touching.  “Please.”

“I’m sorry,” she said again, trying to hide her face with her hands.

“No, no.  Don’t be,” he begged.  Gingerly, he grabbed her wrists and pried her arms apart until he could see her again.  “I know you didn’t mean it. I’m just glad I know where I stand. And, thank you.” Then he grinned his cat-like grin.  “Not gonna lie, kissing you, even just once, is everything I’ve ever dreamed of.”

Ladybug’s face turned as scarlet as her suit, and her hands flew up again to shield her flush.

“Oh, God~”

“Nope, just me,” Chat responded, incapable of wiping the shit-eating grin from his face.

His partner emerged from behind her makeshift veil, deadpan look on her face, and he let out a guffaw, causing her stoic expression to crack.

“There’s the girl I know,” he said as he watched her, grin transitioning to something softer, fonder.

She cocked her head to the side, corners of her eyes relaxing as she smiled back at him.

“Thank you, too, Chaton.  You mean so much to me, and you’ve taught me so much as a person.”  Then she took in a deep breath, holding it briefly before releasing it.  “In fact, I- I think I’m going to take a page out of your book.”

The expression on her face turned notably nervous, and she swallowed visibly.

“Oh?”

“Yea,” she answered, nodding slightly at nothing in particular.  “I think tomorrow I’m just going to finally rip off the band aid and face the situation head on.  I’m going to tell him.”

Chat felt like his eyes were going to bug (no pun intended) out of his head.

“You… you’ve never told him you loved him before?”

Was she serious?

“No,” she replied, shifting uncomfortably back and forth on her feet and grasping awkwardly at her own elbow.  “I’ve been too afraid. But I think you’re right. I just need to know. At the very worst, I’ll die of embarrassment and not have to worry about whether he loves me or not.”

Her partner couldn’t hold in the chortle that escaped him.

“Hey!”  Ladybug smacked his arm, mildly offended.  “Stop laughing- it isn’t funny!”

Chat’s giggles petered off, but his smile remained despite the twist in his chest.

“All right, all right.  Is it too much if I say I hope he turns you down if it means you’ll come running to me?”

In truth he was only half-joking, doing his best to cover up the anxiety burgeoning inside of him, but the woman in front of him had long seen through all his defense mechanisms.  Amusement fading from her eyes, she stepped closer and raised a hand to caress his cheek.

“Chat, you’re so much better than anyone’s second choice.”

For a moment, the only response he could muster was a slightly bitter, self-deprecating chuckle.

“I hope he makes you happy,” he finally said, mostly sincere.

Ladybug looked back at him, appearing to feel torn about what to say next, so he saved her the effort.

“I gotta go, but I’ll see ya.”

And before she could say anything else, he was already vaulting off into the night .


As if that heart-wrenching experience wasn’t enough, the next day, Adrien went to school, depressed at the thought of the love of his life confessing to someone else, and exhausted from a sleepless night of reliving their kiss in his head, then dissolving into a puddle of grief that he would never hold her like that again.

For most of the morning, he walked about in a fog, not even caring enough to give more than a minimal response to Nino’s expressions of concern.  Finally, a surprising voice brought him out of his daze.

“Adrien?  Are you ok?”

The blond instinctively lifted his head off the desk, then, looking around, realized that the room was already empty of people, though he could hear Alya and Nino’s voices disappearing down the hall.  Was it lunch time already? Had he passed the entire morning feeling sorry for himself?

In the middle of these thoughts, he realized Marinette was talking to him.

“- with me?”

“Huh?” he asked, internally chastising himself for not listening to her.

The girl with the hair like midnight blushed slightly, already rosy cheeks turning a color closer to red, and in the back of his head, Adrien mused she looked quite pretty.

“I said, do you want to talk about it?  Maybe over lunch with me?”

While he knew that not only could he not tell her what was upsetting him, but that he didn’t want to, he couldn’t help responding with a small smile: “Sounds great.”

Lunch, as it turned out, meant sandwiches and cookies prepared by Marinette’s parents, eaten in the quiet sanctuary of her bedroom.  Adrien followed here up the stairs and through the hatch, immediately looking around the room and feeling more disappointed than he would admit to see that the majority of the posters of him had been taken down and replaced with photos of all their friends.

“You comfortable on the chaise, or would you prefer to sit at the desk?”

Her question brought him out of his reverie, and with only a small start, he looked back at the girl who was watching him expectantly, finding it surprisingly easy to give her a reassuring smile.

“The chaise is fine.”

“Ok,” she said, squeaking a little in a way that made Adrien’s stomach flip and his cheeks warm.

Did she have any idea how cute she was?

They sat side by side, and Marinette handed him a plate just as his stomach growled.

“Sorry,” he apologized, a little embarrassed.  “I forgot to eat breakfast.”

The sound of her laugh tinkling like bells bounced around the room.

“It’s ok.  I won’t tell anyone.”  

Then she winked, and Adrien had to look down at his lap to hide the way his face was heating up.  What was even happening?

A few moments of comfortable silence passed as the two ate their lunches.  Eventually, though, Marinette cleared her throat.

“So,” she began, clearly nervous.  “Do you, uh, do you want to talk about it?”

The blond looked up, taken aback at the way her eyes suddenly seemed so much brighter, her lips so full and pink as she pursed them thoughtfully.

It took him a minute, but finally he answered, corner of his mouth quirking.

“No.  It’s uh… it doesn’t seem so bad right now.”

And with a barely-hidden smile and pink cheeks, she turned to the desk, lifting up two remotes.

“Right then.  Up for a game?”


Everything was looking up after that, until the moment they were returning to school.

“I, uh, I’m really glad you came today,” Marinette said as they approached the steps, a soft blush dusting her cheeks.  The freckles on her nose shone in the sunlight, and Adrien wondered for a moment if it would be weird to ask her if he could count them.

“Me too,” he responded sincerely.  “Thanks for asking me. Somehow you’re always good at making people happy.”

The girl eeped, then tripped on a non-existent crack in the sidewalk.  Reflexively, Adrien twirled and caught her, her hands coming to rest naturally on his forearms, his hands grasping her at the elbow and waist.  She felt really good in his arms.

What?

The blond shook his head of that thought, straightening himself as much as he could without pushing her away.

“Looks like you’re falling for me,” the Chat Noir side of him said, because that made total sense to say.  Internally, Adrien wondered if she would look at him oddly if he smacked himself in the forehead.

But even more surprising, was the way she responded.

Marinette chuckled nervously, practically squeezing him arms as she righted herself, and said, “Too late for that.”

What.

He tried to fight the racing of his heart, couldn’t understand the way his stomach flipped in a not-all-that-unpleasant way as he watched the color of Ladybug’s suit take over Marinette’s entire face.

“I mean!”  Clearly, she was backtracking, and he couldn’t decide if he was relieved or disappointed.  “It was a joke, you know? Because I’m always tripping everywhere and…”

Then she trailed off, and Adrien continued to watch her expectantly, practically hanging on her every word, even her silence.

But then her shoulders slumped.  She closed her eyes and shook her head, and he began to wonder if he had actually woken up that morning in some sort of Purgatory where all his past sins were being punished by awkward, confusing situations.

“Adrien, I can’t keep lying to you, so I’m just going to be straight with you.”

She raised her head, and her eyes flashed with some sort of blazing determination.  A little part of him was both afraid and excited.

“Adrien, I know this is probably really surprising, and I’m sorry if I put you on the spot, or if I end up making you uncomfortable at all but… I love you.  I’ve loved you for four years. And not as a friend. I mean,” she amended, eyes momentarily squeezing shut, “I love you as a friend, too, but also in a more-than-a-friend way.  And I hope, I seriously, sincerely hope, that you do not hate me after this, but I couldn’t keep going on pretending like there wasn’t more in my heart. So, I have to know: is there any chance you could see me as more than a friend, too?”

Well, he was right about Purgatory.

Adrien’s chest tightened painfully, and he felt torn between bliss and despair.  Truthfully, part of him wanted to say yes, but deep down, he felt like it was impossible.

He loved Ladybug.  He just confessed to her (for millionth time) last night.

Marinette was his friend- his good friend.  He thought she was cute. But could he see her as more?

And more importantly, did she really love him, or just a persona he enacted?  Was the person she loved real or an idea she was misled into believing?

His heart squeezed, then sunk down into his stomach, and he resisted the urge to throw up the incredibly delicious lunch he just ate.

The longer it took him to respond, the paler Marinette’s face became until she was almost white as a sheet, head dropping down, eyelids falling shut, fingers clenching his arms, then slowly releasing.

“Marinette…”  But his tongue was tied, or swollen, or something, but it wasn’t working right.  What was he supposed to say?

She looked up at him again, fear in her eyes, and he took another breath.

“I- I- I don’t know. I can’t- I’m not-”

What the hell was even happening with his brain?  It was like a total system crash, and he could only spew nonsense.

But then Marinette was nodding, and his entire body felt like it was going to fall apart.

“It’s ok, Adrien.  I understand. Thanks for not laughing at me or something.  I really appreciate your friendship, and I hope this won’t change anything between us.”

As he stood there helpless and mute, she rose up on her tiptoes and kissed his cheek.

“I’m gonna get to class.  See you later.”

He was only able to stand there like a statue when she walked around him and up the steps, disappearing through the front doors of the building.  Their heavy slam echoes in his ears, but he couldn’t bring himself to follow behind her.

As if the night before hadn’t put him through the ringer enough, this had to happen today.  Adrien played back her words in his mind, frustration burning inside him. Why couldn’t he say anything?  Why couldn’t he comfort her? Why did this have to happen?

Then one of the last things she said recurred to him, and he couldn’t get it out of his head.

I hope this won’t change anything between us.

I hope this won’t change anything between us.

I hope this won’t change anything between us.

It was difficult to say why that one sentence hurt him more than anything else.

Did… did he want them to change?

Completely at a loss and incapable of dealing with any more of life’s punches to the gut, he turned toward home and ran.


Plagg tried his best, he really did, but his chosen was an emotional one.

After finally arriving home, sweaty and panting, it wasn’t difficult for Adrien to convince Nathalie he was feeling under the weather and disappear in his room.

And while the black cat kwami was all for things dark and broody, this kid was taking it over the line.  He collapsed on his bed and refused to do anything except moan and ask Plagg ridiculous, annoying questions.

Was this his infamous black cat luck finally coming around to get him?

Probably.

Was he a terrible person for not giving bakery girl a real answer?

Meh.  So-so.

Was he an idiot for chasing Ladybug for so long and not noticing his friend instead?

Obviously.

Would he end up dying alone, with Plagg as his only friend?

Of course not.  The miraculouses have to be returned eventually.

After more than a few tears and several hours of moping, finally Adrien reached a state that Plagg found less bothersome.

“Plagg,” he said, voice downtrodden and muffled by the blankets near his face, “what do I do now?”

“What’re you asking me for?”  The sarcastic sprite responded around a mouthful of cheese.

“It’s just-” Adrien went on, almost to himself, “I’ve loved Ladybug for so long.  Those feelings just don’t go away, right? But she doesn’t love me. And Marinette- maybe I could love her, but she doesn’t really know me that well.  I mean, she’s met me as Chat plenty of times, and she never seems to take him that seriously, so it’s safe to say she wouldn’t like Adrien if I acted that way all the time, right?”

Plagg was silent for a moment, savoring the flavor of his snack.

“I just want someone to like me for me- the real me, you know?  Who I really am,” the blond eventually lamented.

The kwami rolled his eyes.

“Then maybe you should let them see you first.  Call me crazy, kid, but, is it that big of a mystery why no one really knows you, when the way you act when people can actually see you, is completely different from who you are when you’re alone?  Or, at least when no one knows it’s you.”

Adrien stared into space, unable to breathe from the painful epiphany exploding in his head.

“Oh my God,” he finally said.

“Hey.  Stop using my name in vain,” Plagg intoned, stuffing another triangle of camembert in his mouth.  There were another few seconds of silence before he had swallowed enough to say, “So. What’re you gonna do about it?”

The boy in front of him slowly turned his head, finally seeing, or at least noticing, the tiny black cat as he hovered in the air beside him.

“Plagg,” he said on a breathless rasp.  “Claws out.”


Chat Noir bounded over the rooftops, headed for the Dupain-Cheng bakery.

He didn’t care that it was almost dark outside, or that Marinette would probably be doing homework.  He ignored the shouts and waves from the people who noticed him below, heart racing from more than the exercise.

At last, he reached an alley near to the bakery, then detransformed behind a dumpster, donned a hat and sunglasses for cover, and cautiously approached the door to the residence.  His hand shook as he pressed the bell with his finger.

It took thirty long seconds, but suddenly, the door was swinging open, and a surprised Marinette waited on the other side, eyes wide.

“Adrien.”

He waved awkwardly.  Marinette shook her head.

“Uh, come in.”

She stepped back from the door, allowing him to enter the stair well before she closed the door behind him and preceded him up the stairs.  Once inside the apartment, she slowly, carefully closed the door behind them, but he noticed the way her fingers trembled on the knob, even though she tried to hide it.

“My parents are working,” she said by way of explanation.  An awkward silence descended. “Would you… like a seat?”

“Uh, sure.”

Despite his efforts, Adrien sounded nervous.

“Um, sofa?  Or kitchen table?  Would you perhaps like some tea?”

“The s- sofa is fine.”

Dammit, why am I stammering?

She nodded, clearly uncomfortable, then motioned for him to sit down on a couch, following behind.

“So what… what brings you here?”

Nervous energy coursed through Adrien’s body and manifested in the drumming of his fingers on his pants, the twiddling of his thumbs and fidgeting of his legs.

“I… I wanted to give you an answer.  A real answer.”

“Oh,” she replied, expression stricken.

“Can I just… this is really hard for me to explain, so can you hear me out?”

Marinette simply nodded.

“I’m a mess,” he blurted, then laughed at his own confession, fighting the uncomfortable feeling of making himself vulnerable.  “I’ve lived my whole life with a lot of expectations, and I’ve done my best to live up to them. But it’s hard to do that and be completely honest with people.  I have to be polite, and composed, and respectful, and happy all the time, and it’s a lot of pressure, but it’s also not always true. The real me is a mess. I have a bit of a temper, and I can be really petty.  My ego is probably too big, but my self-esteem is too low. I have daddy issues, and mommy issues, and my biggest fear is being locked in a cage, which incidentally is also my room. I have everything in the world there is to ask for, and no one to share it with.  I have no cooking skills, a high IQ, a corny sense of humor, and I’m terrified that the person you love doesn’t really exist. Please, Marinette, I don’t want to be a disappointment to another person. Especially not to you.”

Marinette gaped at the boy in front of her, a hole ripped through her chest where her heart used to be.  All at once, she felt a surge of overwhelming emotion. No wonder he turned her down. No wonder he didn’t know what to say.  She had no idea that all these things had been going through his head, and even though she was mostly aware of the all the responsibilities he had, she had no concept of the burden and the influence they put on his life.

Could she say she really knew him?  That was less certain that it was a few hours ago.  Could she say she really loved him? Without a doubt, she wanted to protect him with every fiber of her being, to soothe away all the hurts and the disappointments and the loneliness, and even if she didn’t know him as well as she used to think, she knew she would never stop loving him.

“Adrien,” she said when she finally found her voice again, her heart breaking once more when she saw the tears and the agony in his eyes.  She slid off the couch and knelt down on the ground before him, reaching up with both hands to wipe away the stray tears that were beginning to escape from his eyes.  “No matter what, whether there’s an entire new you hidden in there, I will never leave you.”

She said it with such conviction, it sent a shiver through him.

“I don’t want to make you any promises that you can’t trust, so believe me when I say that whether it’s as a friend or something more, I love you, and I care about you, and I want you to know that whoever you are is absolutely perfect to me.”

Dark blond lashes closed down until they rested against his cheeks, and his whole upper body hunched over.  Adrien brought his hand up to his head, elbows on his knees and fingers running through his hair. Without hesitation, Marinette wrapped her arms around him and held him close, cradling him like a child as his shoulders shuddered.

When it seems he had quieted down, she slowly stood up and sat down beside him, taking in his relaxed expression and closed eyes as a sign he had fallen asleep.  Carefully, she brought his head down to her lap. City lights began to stream in through the windows, the light of the room quite dim as the last of the sun’s rays disappeared below the horizon.  She knew her parents would be in soon, so she began to stand up, but was surprised when a hand reached out and grabbed her wrist.

“Can we stay like this, just for a little longer?” Adrien asked, eyes still closed.

Marinette resumed her spot on the couch, settling back comfortably and softly brushing her fingers through his hair.

“We can stay this way as long as you need.”

Chapter Text

“Adrien, stop!” Marinette whispered furiously.  “Someone is going to catch us!”

Despite her best efforts to push the blond boy currently on top of her off, he only giggled giddily, taking the opportunity to nip at her neck as his hands travelled further up her torso from underneath her shirt.  From somewhere below the trapdoor to her room, she could hear Alya greeting her parents. Panicked, she began slapping his hands with her own.  If Alya made it up the stairs and through that door, they were both goners.

“Adrien!” she tried one last time, the sound of her best friend's footsteps sending a wave of desperation through her.

Finally, he let her go, bouncing off the chaise with remarkable dexterity and landing in her desk chair as she sat up and straightened her appearance the best she could.  The groan of the trapdoor began to sound, and she reached for the nearest book, burying her nose in it before looking up again as though surprised.

Her redheaded friend stopped at the top of the steps, trapdoor handle still held in one hand, and looked back and forth between a flustered Marinette and a calm, collected Adrien.

“Hey, Al,” the noirette greeted somewhat breathlessly.  “What’s up?”  

It was obvious the smile Marinette offered was too wide, but Adrien only looked at the intruder with complete cool.  Alya looked between them one more time.

“Hey guys.  Did I miss anything?


Marinette plodded up to her room a few hours later, more exhausted from the stress of keeping her relationship a secret than from the study session they had just endured.  A few months of steadily growing closer after their talk, Adrien and Marinette decided to give a relationship a try, but neither was ready for the kind of pressure it would put on them for their change in status to go public.  So, for three months, they had been talking every night, meeting up in secret, and keeping their newfound feelings to themselves. It was getting more difficult, however, especially where their best friends were concerned. Alya, the master observer, had picked up on the change in dynamic between them, and Marinette was running out of convincing excuses.

Just as she expected, it was only a few minutes after she waved off Adrien and Alya that her phone rang.  Rising up from her position laid out on the bed, she grabbed her phone off the side table and quickly answered.

“Hey.”

“Hey,” Adrien said back, sighing contentedly.  “What’re you doing? I miss you already.”

Marinette laid back down again, phone to her ear, and rolled her eyes.

“You’ve been gone ten minutes.”

“But it already feels like an eternity~”  The boy’s voice lilted with a whine as though pained, and she sighed in fond exasperation.

“Don’t think I’ve already forgotten your little stunt earlier,” she warned.  “You keep pushing it. One of these days, you’re not going to be fast enough, and then where will we be?  I swear to God, the day Alya walks in on you on top of me, she’s going to borrow Ladybug’s yo-yo and hang you from the Eiffel Tower.”

“I’d like to see her try,” he retorted.  She could hear the cheeky grin on his face.

There was a moment of comfortable silence, and then:

“Marinette, there’s something I want to tell you, but I want it to be in person.  So, do me a favor, go to bed soon so the morning will come faster, all right?”

The girl’s heart raced, and she could feel her cheeks flush.

“Adrien-”

“Just- promise me you won’t feel obligated to say anything back, ok?  And if you do say something, then only say it because you mean it. Please?”

She lay there for a few seconds, mouth open in awe, eyes darting about the ceiling without focusing on anything.

“Ok, I promise,” she finally managed in a small voice.

“Ok,” he echoed on an exhale.  “I lo- ah, I’ll see you tomorrow, ok Mari?”

Marinette nodded, momentarily forgetting he couldn’t see her, then said:

“Ok, I’ll see you tomorrow.  Goodnight, Adrien. I l- I miss you.”

“I miss you, too.  Goodnight.”

After hanging up the call, the girl with raven hair simply lay there, stomach fluttering and hands shaking.  She wanted to go to sleep; she wanted to sleep so badly. She wanted the morning to come so that she could run to school, pull Adrien into some dark closet, kiss him senseless, and tell him a thousand times over how much she loved him.

Neither of them had ever said it before, not since her confession.  She knew how difficult the whole topic was for him, what with his father’s negligence, the way his fans obsessed over him, and the girl he told her about whom he had been in love with for years, but had rejected him over and over.  She decided he should be the one to say it first so that he wouldn’t feel pressured, and he would only say it once he was sure.  If she said it too soon and made him say it back out of obligation, she would never forgive herself.

But it seemed like the day had finally come.  Nerves of excitement and anticipation tingled throughout her body, sending her brain into overdrive.  It became clear before long that she wasn’t going to sleep anytime soon. With a sigh of acceptance, she wriggled out of bed and climbed up the ladder, opening the trapdoor and emerging onto the rooftop terrace.  The city lights greeted her vision, and she came to stand with her elbows resting on the railing. It was a moment that recalled a memory to mind: the night of Glaciator, when she stood in that exact same spot, heartbroken that Adrien didn’t show up.  It was quite innervating to think about how much had changed since then.

So lost was she in her thoughts that she didn’t hear the soft thud of boots behind her.

“Hello,” a deep, quiet voice called, startling her out of her reverie and causing her to whirl around.  There behind her sat her partner, resting on his haunches.

“Chat Noir?”

“Sorry,” he said with a smile, hopping a little bit closer.  “I didn’t mean to frighten you.”

Marinette placed a hand over her racing heart.

“What are you doing here?”

“I was passing by when I noticed you out on your roof, and I  just… didn’t feel like being alone tonight. Can I hang out with you for a while?”

She gave him a reassuring smile.

“Sure,” she said and spun back to face the railing, not even surprised when he came to stand beside her.

“So…” he began, then paused.  Turning her head, Marinette was surprised to find him watching her.  “What’re you doing out here?”

With a bit of a blush creeping into her cheeks, she faced the city again.

“I couldn’t sleep.”

“Oh?” Chat asked curiously.  “Is there something keeping you awake?”

Marinette hesitated a minute, wondering what she should say.

“Can I tell you a secret?” she finally asked, pivoting to meet his gaze.  His green eyes glowed in the light, and he smiled.

“Of course.”

Embarrassed, she turned away again.

“I have a s- secret b- boyfriend, and tomorrow, I think he’s going to say he loves me for the first time.”

“Is that so, princess?” he responded, a smile in his voice.  “What makes you say that?”

Marinette shrugged.

“I don’t know.  He said he has to tell me something in person, and I just got this feeling,” she answered, face turning scarlet.  Why did she feel so silly saying it out loud?

“Do you want to say it back?” he pressed, nudging her slightly.

“Of course!”  It came out a little louder than she intended, and reflexively, she slapped a hand over her mouth, then slowly lowered it and cleared her throat.  “Of course I do,” she tried again, fixing her gaze on her fingers, which had begun to fidget with each other. “I’m just nervous. To be honest, I’ve loved him for a long time now.  Part of me can’t believe this is even happening. What does he even see in a spastic clutz like me? He could literally have any girl he wanted, and…” She trailed off there, shrugging at the end as though the rest of the sentence didn’t even need to be finished.

“Hey.”  Chat reached down and grabbed her arm, surprising her into looking up at him.  Suddenly, his expression was very serious. “Princess, you’re the most amazing girl I’ve ever met.  If anything, he’s incredibly lucky that someone didn’t steal you away while he was stuck being a blind idiot.  It’s about damn time.”

The intensity burning in his eyes made her gasp, and she couldn’t help but continue to stare into them.  They stood that way for a minute, neither able to look away, until a sound somewhere below ended the moment.  Chat let go of her elbow, then stepped back, clearing his throat.

“Why don’t you practice on me.”

“What?”

“You said you’re nervous,” he reasoned, “why don’t you practice what you want to say on me?”

Marinette gaped at her partner like he had grown another head.  After several seconds of no response, he began to shift awkwardly back and forth on his feet.

“Just, forget I said anything.  It was stupid-”

“No!”  Her shout startled them both.  “I mean, no,” she amended more quietly.  “I- I should probably try that so I don’t make a fool of myself.”  Marinette swallowed audibly. “Um, ok. Are you ready?”

The blond looked back at her, amusement visible on his face, but trying to school his features.

“Anytime you are.”

“Ok,” she breathed, wiping her suddenly sweaty hands on her legs as she came to stand in front of her stand-in Adrien.  She took another breath for courage. “Chat- I mean, Adrien-” Cutting herself off, Marinette shook her head as if clearing it, then started again.  “Adrien. I want to tell you something, too. I really looooove beingwithyouthanksforlisteningbye!”

Chat burst out laughing, unable to help himself as Marinette’s face disappeared behind her hands, and she groaned in exasperation and mortification, entire body hunching over as though curling into a ball.

“Oh my God,” she moaned, “I’m a hopeless mess.”

“I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” he said, reigning his laughter in.  “That was just too adorable. But ok. Let’s try something different. Here, stand here.”

He took her by both arms and placed her standing in front of him again.  The tomato shade of her cheeks only made him smile wider.

“Ok.  Now, don’t say anything.  I’m going to speak first, and then you can try again.”

Marinette nodded, determined to get it right.  Then Chat’s gloved hands found hers, and he was looking down at her with so much love and adoration in his eyes, that for a second, she forgot she wasn’t looking at her boyfriend- she was looking at her partner.

“Marinette Dupain-Cheng,” he began, voice soft and deep.  “I love you.”

“Adrien Agreste…” she whispered, awed, “I love you, too.  I always have.”

Chat’s face split into a grin so wide, she almost couldn’t see his eyes anymore.  In a moment, he had leaned over and lifted her into his arms, spinning her around as she clung helplessly to his neck, then set her back on her feet but didn’t let go.

“Princess, you’re gonna blow him away.”

Marinette could only stand there, mute, as Chat smiled down at her.  Her heart raced, her cheeks flushed, and her stomach was somewhere on the ground level.  As though detecting the change in the atmosphere, the hero quickly released his grip, his smile transforming into a nervous expression, his cheeks turning slightly pink, and he moved back a few steps.

“Tell him just like that.  You’ll knock him dead.”

In one fluid movement, he turned and pulled out his baton, poised to extend it before Marinette called out.

“Wait!”

Both of them were surprised to see that she had grabbed his tail.  In the next second, she dropped it as though burned.

“Thank you, Chat,” she said with a small smile.  He smiled back.

“It was the least I could do.”

And then he was gone into the night.


Marinette tossed and turned for much of the night, but nonetheless shot out of bed as soon as her alarm went off.  In record time, she was racing up the school steps, frantically looking around for the blond boy (well, one of them) who had been dominating her thoughts for the last twelve hours.  At long last, she caught sight of a familiar form topped by a blond head of hair and took off running toward the locker room where he would be headed. Once inside, she quickly looked around for any inhabitants, then nervously waited.

It only took another thirty seconds, but it felt like forever before the person she loved most was walking through the entryway.  Their eyes met, and for a second, she was sure her heart stopped. Then Adrien smiled wide.

“Morning, beautiful.”

“G- good morning, A- Adrien,” she stammered, blushing slightly with embarrassment.  “You, uh, you wanted to t- tell me s- something?”

His smile grew wider.

“Yes,” he answered simply, then walked closer until he was close enough to grab a hand.  Marinette did her best to ignore the fact that her palms were sweating and her heart was going to beat out of her chest.  “Marinette, I… think it’s time to go public with our relationship.”

“Adrien,” she breathed, “I- wait, what?”

A cheeky grin covered her boyfriend’s face, and he leaned in closer until their noses were centimeters apart.  It was like that time he confronted her about her posters of him all over again. Reflexively, she leaned away, but he only drew closer.

“That’s the next step, isn’t it?  We should tell everyone we’re together.  What do you think?”

Marinette’s mind raced, her stomach dropping to the floor.  Of all the scenarios she had anticipated, from a beautiful love confession, to a heart-shredding breakup, this was not one of them.

“Oh, uh, I guess?  Yes, ok, if that’s what you want, then me, too.”

She clenched a fist, determined to move forward.  No matter how disappointed she was, she wasn’t going to blame Adrien for not meeting her expectations.  He wasn’t responsible for them.

“I do,” he replied, then reached a hand up to caress the side of her face.  “I’m ready to tell the world that I’m in love with you, Marinette.”

There was the sound of high-pitched ringing in the girl’s ears, and she stared into space for a moment, completely thunderstruck.

“I… what?”

Adrien’s smile took on a softer appearance, and he leaned even closer until their lips were almost brushing against each other.

“Marinette Dupain-Cheng, I love you.”

“Adrien, I-” but her words were cut off by the meeting of their lips, and she instinctively responded by reciprocating his kiss.  When he pulled away, she could barely think clearly enough to process what he said. For several seconds, he stood there, watching with a smile while she strove to catch her breath and organize her thoughts.  Then, finally: “Adrien Agreste,” she said, out of breath but completely determined, “I love you, too.”

The boy in front of her straightened, holding out a hand for her to grab, smile nearly stretching off his face.

“Let’s go to class.  Together.”

Beaming, she placed her hand in his and followed him to the classroom door.  Once outside, they both paused and took a breath, smiling nervously but elatedly at each other.

“You ready?” he asked.

Marinette nodded.

“Let’s do this.”

With a turn of the knob, Adrien began to open the door, walking first into the room with Marinette behind him, their clasped hands hidden behind his back.  Then, he stopped. As though his presence was a magnet, everyone’s eyes were suddenly drawn to them.

“Hey, everyone,” he greeted casually, then tugged on Marinette’s hand.  She walked out from behind him, hand still gripping his tightly. “Surprise.”

All at once, everyone started talking, some calling out in excitement or surprise, others murmuring to each other.  Alya could be heard loudest over the din, shouting, “I knew it!” But before long, there was a chant rising up in the room.

KISS! KISS! KISS! KISS! KISS! KISS! KISS! KISS!

Adrien and Marinette turned to each other, grinning stupidly.

“You heard ‘em,” he said.  “Better give the people what they want.”

In one swift move, Marinette reached up, grabbed the back of Adrien’s neck, and pulled him down into a kiss.  As his hands found her waist and her arms wrapped around his neck, the entire room erupted into cheers.

And if there was money exchanging hands all around, they pretended not to notice.