Yet another Akuma had been defeated successfully, and Ladybug and Chat Noir did their routine fist bump. They both needed to leave before their Miraculous ran out of power, but Chat Noir had taken her hand before she could turn to leave.
“Ladybug.” He started. “I’m not going to be able to help fight for the next week or so.” She tilted her head.
“Why? Are you going away?” It was curiosity, not anger in her voice. She would be fine, he had known that already. That didn’t help him feel any better about the lie he was telling. The truth was that Natalie had brought over his schedule for the next week, and it was already so full that Adrien would have to miss some of his sporting commitments. His Father was launching a new line, with his son modelling it of course, and he was not to be late or miss any of the appointments in his schedule. Not to mention all the school work that had been piling up while he was running around protecting the city with Ladybug.
“Err, yes. Until next Monday. There shouldn’t be another Akuma so soon after today’s, but there is a chance that there might be one before I come back. Please be careful.” Chat’s ears and tail were drooping, he was visibly upset that he would not be able to protect his Lady. She just smiled.
“It’s ok, Chat Noir.” Ladybug put a comforting hand on his arm. “We both have real lives outside of this.” A beeping sound came from both of their Miraculous. Time was almost up, they had to leave now.
“Have fun on your trip!” She grinned. “And don’t worry about Paris. I’ve got it under control!” Chat watched her leave for a moment before making his own way to a safe place to transform.
She was probably right, chances were high that there wouldn’t be another Akuma attack in the next week anyway.
It had been two days since Chat Noir had told her that he was going away, and somehow she missed him already. It was ridiculous. They were partners, not close friends, and they didn’t usually see each other regularly anyway! But still. Just knowing that he was far away made Marinette feel slightly lonely. She sighed.
“What’s wrong, Marinette?” Tikki floated next to her as brushed her hair.
“Nothing, just another early morning.” She smiled weakly as Tikki giggled.
Marinette had just tied her hair up when a glint on her desk caught her eye. It was the broach that Chat had given her a few months back. She picked it up and ran a finger over the design. A black cat curled around a ladybug, it still made her smile.
“Missing a certain cat?” Marinette startled, she’d been so absorbed in looking at the broach.
“No!” She protested, the Kwami was laughing at her already. “It’s just a shame that I can’t wear this to school, it’s actually really cute.” Chat had said that it was originally going to be a necklace, but he’d realised that she could not wear it as a civilian lest he see it, but it was dangerous for Ladybug to wear anything around her neck.
“Well,” Tikki looked thoughtful. “Chat Noir did say that he would be away all week. Why don’t you wear it now while there’s no chance that he will see?” Marinette looked up at the kwami.
“Tikki, you’re a genius!” While he had added a pin when he’d realised that Ladybug could not wear a necklace, there was still a small loop on the back near the top. It was an easy job to slide a pendant off one of her chains and thread it through the loop on Chat’s pendant.
“Tadaa!” She turned around so that Tikki could see the necklace.
“It looks lovely on you Marinette, but you better hurry now or you’ll be late for school!”
Her parents looked at each other and laughed softly as they heard “Not again!” followed by thumping footsteps racing down the stairs. Their daughter didn’t even stop to grab something for breakfast as she ran out the door, just calling “Bye Mum, bye Dad!” on her way out.
“She gets it from you, you know.” Tom laughed, already raising his arms to block the smack Sabine would no doubt dish out for such a comment.
Marinette slid into her seat just as the bell rang.
“Cutting it close, Mari.” Alya whispered, earning a disapproving look from the teacher.
“No breakfast :(“ She wrote in her notebook and slid it over to her friend. Alya rolled her eyes.
“Again? You’re lucky that I’ve got heaps of leftovers from Mum’s recipe testing last night.” Marinette hummed happily. Alya’s mother was a Chef, and her attempts to perfect new recipes never went to waste with her daughter’s friends around. The day was looking up already! She did her best to pay attention in class, and soon enough it was lunch time.
The weather was so nice that the girls had decided to sit outside. There were a few tables and chairs for students who didn’t want to return home for lunch, and it looked like they weren’t the only ones who were heading for them today. They had just spread out an assortment of plastic food containers when Nino arrived.
“Alya, tell me that’s your Mother’s cooking and that there is enough to for me too!” He begged.
“Scavenger.” She replied, but she was grinning all the same. This was part of their routine. A bit of teasing, a little bargaining, and then Nino would be allowed to help himself. Marinette was sure that Alya had a tally of favours that Nino owed to her written down somewhere. He was in big trouble when she finally decided to cash them in.
The three friends had been eating and chatting for a few minutes when Marinette leaned over the table to get some more of a delicious rice dish that Nino was trying to keep for himself. As she stretched over, the necklace slipped out from under her shirt.
“Is that a ladybug and a black cat?” Alya was squinting at it. “That’s adorable! I thought you weren’t that interested in Ladybug and Chat Noir? You’re never up to date with my blog, anyway.” She pouted.
“No, but someone important gave it to me.” Marinette touched it gently with one hand and smiled. The pendant had kept her spirits up during class this morning. Now though, her friend was eyeing her speculatively.
“Since when do you have important people that aren’t me, your mum, or your dad? Or…” She waggled her eyebrows and leaned over so that Nino wouldn’t hear. “Did Adrien give it to you?”
“No!” She burst out, then turned pink as said boy’s best friend looked over curiously with his mouth full. “Um. It was someone else. He’s just a friend, ok?”
“He is just a friend? And who is he?” Alya had her ‘I’m a reporter on the trail of a great story’ face on, and Marinette knew that she was doomed if she didn’t change the subject. “So, ah…”
“Mind if I sit here?” Adrien had already dropped his bag and was sliding into the seat across from Nino… which was next to Marinette. As a distraction counted, this was a pretty good one. Alya always enjoyed watching her splutter in front of Adrien. She couldn’t help it, one look at his beautiful eyes and… actually he looked exhausted today.
“Ah, no, um. Are you ok Adrien? You look terrible! I mean, you look great as usual but really tired.” He groaned and rested his head on the table.
“Not really. Please, can we talk about anything other than photoshoots and clothes?” The two girls looked at each other worriedly.
“Way too many photoshoots and interviews booked this week.” Nino explained after having swallowed another mouthful of food. “Cheer up, man. Only a few more days to go and it’ll be up to post-processing to do everything. You’ll be free!” Adrien smiled weakly at his friend. It was nice to have someone so positively minded around.
“And if you want to hear something interesting…” Alya continued “Marinette was about to tell us about her new boyfriend!” Marinette gaped at her friend. So much for a distraction.
“I don’t have a boyfriend!” She said a little too loudly. She really didn’t want Adrien to get the wrong idea. “He’s just a friend.”
“A friend who gives you jewellery! And if I, the ladyblogger, have never seen that design before it definitely means that it was hand made just for you!” That piqued Adrien’s interest. He wasn’t very good at designing or making clothes, but he did like to make accessories and jewellery. He nearly choked on the food he’d stolen from Nino’s plate when he saw the pendant Marinette was wearing.
“Did your friend say that he made that?” He asked carefully. “Are you sure he didn’t find it somewhere?” Despite it being Adrien who had asked the question, Marinette was still a little offended for Chat Noir.
“He definitely made it.” She said with conviction. “He even put a pin in the back so I can wear it as a broach because, um, because he thought I might lose otherwise. I’ve lost pendants before.”
“But why the cat and the ladybug?” Alya pushed “Like I said before, you’re not known to be a huge fan.”
“It’s a symbol of how well we work together, like the two heroes. And don’t bother trying to find him, Alya.” She looked at her friend pointedly. “He’s going to be away for a while.” Marinette was bright red by this point. “Now can we talk about something else? I feel like I’m being interrogated.” Alya took her hand across the table.
“Sorry Mari. You know how I get sometimes.” And she did. Alya couldn’t help chasing after information when she was on the scent, it’s what made her such a great journalist. It also made her a real pain when you were trying to hide your secret identity as a superhero.
“While we’re talking romance…” Alya turned to face Nino “What happened with that older girl at the basketball court you were going mad for?”
With the spotlight on Nino and his unattainable crush, Marinette relaxed a fraction.
Adrien, however, was even tenser than when he’d first arrived.
That evening, after a photoshoot that had gone on for far too long, Adrien lay on his bed while ranting to Plagg about Marinette’s necklace.
“Who cares, it’s just a pendant.” Plagg was being useless and gorging himself on cheese, as usual. “Maybe she decided that it didn’t suit her, women are very particular about these things.” Adrien scowled.
“She wouldn’t have thrown it away, Ladybug is not that cruel. It must have fallen off in a fight, and this friend of Marinette simply took it.” He was furious. How dare someone take the symbol of his relationship was Ladybug and claim it as their own.
“Not likely” Plagg said between bites. “I remember you paying particular attention to that pin so it wouldn’t break or come off easily. Here’s an idea, maybe it wasn’t lost or thrown away.” The kwami hadn’t told Adrien, but he’d been able to sense Tikki for a long time. There was no doubt that they were in the same school. Ladybugs and Chat Noirs were almost always drawn to be near each other by fate.
“If it wasn’t lost… What, you think Marinette could be Ladybug?” He couldn’t picture it. Marinette was shy and clumsy, she’d be falling over the Akuma and then apologising for hitting them. Adrien almost laughed as he imagined it, wouldn’t it be great if she somehow still won just by sheer Ladybug Luck? “No way!” He was still grinning at the thought.
“Ah, I know. Poor Adrien, you would be so disappointed if your mysterious ladybug turned out to be a girl like that.” Plagg was speaking flippantly as he floated past. “I’m sure you imagined her to look at least a little bit cuter under the mask.” Adrien sat up and grabbed Plagg.
“Hey! Don’t talk like that about Marinette, it’s not that she is not cute!” He couldn’t believe Plagg was saying such horrible things. What would he know about human attractiveness anyway? The kwami struggled to get loose and then floated just out of reach.
“What about that girl is cute? The way she can’t string two words together? Even Chloe is better than Marinette in that regard.” Adrien lunged towards his kwami, he was seriously fed up with him today.
“I would be much happier if Marinette was Ladybug than if Chloe was!” He was so, SO glad that Chloe had been exposed as a Ladybug cosplayer and not as the real Ladybug.
“And her shyness can be cute too, sometimes. Like the way she is always blushing, that’s definitely cute. And she is so expressive! Marinette smiles a lot, but when she’s talking to Alya she gets this little smirk, it reminds me of…” Adrien shook his head.
“And she is so much shorter than me, so she always has to look up when we talk. It makes her eyes look so wide and innocent. She has these big, blue eyes… Eyes like…” He trailed off again. Eyes the colour of the heavens, like Ladybug.
Plagg was snickering, his human was so blind sometimes.
“You do think that Marinette is Ladybug.” Adrien turned to his kwami and sighed. He’d been played. “You could have just told me instead of making me angry like that.”
“Adrien, you were so determined to believe that Ladybug would always be an elusive and mysterious woman, you never even noticed that Marinette always disappears at the same time that you do. Or that you’ve only ever seen the girl and Ladybug at the same time when you fought Time Breaker, and even then the girl disappeared before a second Ladybug joined the fight!”
Adrien collapsed onto his bed. He couldn’t believe that he’d been so blind, and it actually stung his pride that the lazy kwami had figured it out before he did.
“Now that that’s over, you can get me some more cheese.” Plagg was knocked out of the air by something big and soft. “Actually, I’ll be generous and give you a minute to come to terms with that.” Came a muffled voice from under the pillow.
Now that he was open to considering the possibility that Marinette was Ladybug, it was like pieces of a puzzle all coming together. The girl often passed off scratches and bruises as the result of her own clumsiness, and she had said that her friend would be away for a while. Just like he had said to Ladybug.
The colour and style of her hair was the same, and the size and shape of her earrings. They were the wrong colour, but so was his ring until he transformed.
“Adrien!” Nino hissed into his ear and tugged his shirt sleeve. “You’re freaking her out, man.” The blonde boy suddenly realised that he’d been staring straight at Marinette for far longer than was polite. She’d clearly noticed, because she was bright red and looking anywhere other than at him.
“Oh, sorry. I just, uh, zoned right out for a minute there. What were we talking about again?” They had been standing in front of the school, greeting each other before they were called in to class. And as if just thinking about class had summoned it, the bell rang loudly above them.
“We were talking about the Chem project, you were getting lost in-“ Alya was cut off as Marinette started pulling her away in a hurry.
“Wow, did you hear that bell? I could swear it’s getting louder each morning, haha!” She laughed nervously as she pulled her friend towards their class. It was P.E. this morning, so the boys and girls would be separated in different changing rooms. “We’ll talk about the project later, Nino. B-bye Adrien!”
The boys made their way to their own changing room, Nino ribbing Adrien about setting off ‘the poor girl’ so early in the morning.
“I don’t get it.” The blonde boy rubbed his face, still tired from working the day before. “What have I done to make Marinette so nervous around me? She seems so much more comfortable when she talks to everyone else.” His friend looked at him with narrowed eyes and his mouth slightly agape.
“I can’t decide if you’re messing with me, or if you’re really that thick.” Nino closed his locker, already in his sports gear and ready to go. Judging by the offended noise Adrien had made, he really didn’t have clue. “Being home schooled is only going to work as an excuse for so long,” he continued “You’re a nice guy, you’re a model, you probably smiled at her at some point. Why do you think a girl in your class would get tongue tied around you?” Adrien observed Nino, standing with his hand so his hips and one eyebrow raised.
Oh no, it was like last night with Plagg all over again. How did he keep missing important issues when everyone around him seemed to work them out long ago? Adrien thumped his head on the locker door in front of him.
“Oh.” He said. Nino took pity on him.
“Yeah, ‘oh’. Now come on, let’s go play some sports. They don’t involve any social interaction so you’re actually good at those.”
For the rest of the day, right through school and even through more modelling, all Adrien could think about was Marinette.
Marinette was Ladybug.
Marinette had a crush on Adrien.
Adrien was Chat Noir.
Chat Noir had a crush on Ladybug.
But Ladybug was Marinette…
He groaned into his pillow. What a mess! At least he wasn’t the only one who hadn’t caught on, there was no way Marinette would still like him if she knew he was Chat Noir.
It didn’t seem like she disliked Chat though, what with her wearing his pendant and defending him when Adrien had tried to suggest that he had lied about making it. So Ladybug at least considered them to be good friends, but would she be more accepting of Chat Noir if she knew who he was? Or would she pull away from Adrien?
Could Adrien still love Ladybug now that he knew she was really the shy and clumsy Marinette?
He wasn’t sure.
Between school, work, and the turmoil that was his love life, Adrien hadn’t even thought to keep up with the Ladyblog. As such, he was caught totally unaware when all anyone at school wanted to talk about was Ladybug’s defeat of the Akuma that specialised in boxing. He was glad to hear that she had succeeded in freeing the poor man and purifying the butterfly, and the pictures Alya had uploaded made it look like she hadn’t struggled to do it on her own.
Adrien almost wished that she’d at least found it a little bit more difficult, it hurt to feel like he wasn’t needed. He deeply, deeply regretted that thought when Marinette finally arrived to class.
“MARINETTE!” Alya gasped, getting up from the desk to rush to her friend. “What happened? You look terrible!” They both ignored the “Doesn’t she always?” that came from Chloe’s direction.
Marinette laughed off her friend and continued to their desk to put down her books.
“You wouldn’t believe what happened. I slipped on the stairs at home and my head smacked right into the banister.” Alya continued to fuss over her friend, and Nathanael came over to ask if she needed anything.
Adrien couldn’t move. The absolute rage he had felt when Marinette, sweet, kind, Marinette, had walked in with a huge black eye shocked him. It was a horrible dark colour that blossomed over a large portion of her face, and her eye was swollen halfway shut. There was a small cut on her cheek that he knew from experience had probably bled more than you’d think it should.
How dare someone touch her, his Lady, with the intent to harm her.
“Uhhh, you alright there Adrien?” He came back to see Nino shooting him worried looks. “You ah, you broke your pencil, man.” He looked down to see that yes, he had snapped his pencil in two.
“Damn, it was cracked before but I thought it would hold up.” He wasn’t sure that Nino was buying it. “So how about that Ladybug fight last night, huh?” Adrien cringed at his own awkwardness. Nino was the one who had shown him the ladyblog in the first place. “I wonder why Chat Noir wasn’t there.” He finished lamely.
Nino launched into his theories on where the other hero had gotten to, and was soon joined enthusiastically by Alya.
Adrien knew the truth. He knew that Chat Noir had chosen his modelling career and pleasing his father over protecting his Lady. Over protecting Marinette.
Chat Noir was a failure.
Adrien spend the rest of the day unfocused. The only good that came from the whole day was the realisation that he definitely cared for Ladybug’s civilian identity.
Ladybug was sitting on a roof top with her legs dangling over the edge when he found her. She looked even more beautiful than usual, the sunset staining her skin with gold. Chat Noir gathered his courage and approached her.
“Fear not, I have returned! I’m sure that you missed me terribly.” He leaped over from the neighbouring roof and settled down next to his Lady. She rolled her eyes good naturedly.
“More than I thought I would.” She admitted, one hand coming up to test the fading bruise around her eye. They sat in silence for a while before Chat finally broke it.
“I’m sorry.” He choked out. “I should have been there.” She tried to placate him, telling him that it was her own fault for not being fast enough to dodge. It didn’t make it any easier to look at the mottled greens and purples marring her skin.
“No, you don’t understand. I should have been there. I was here, in the city, the whole time. There was just so much going on that I barely had time to eat and sleep, so told you that I’d be away. I didn’t want you to be waiting for me, but I never should have lied to you.”
Ladybug frowned, but she didn’t seem to be too mad. “It’s ok, Chat Noir. I don’t like that you lied to me, but I told you before that I understood. We have lives outside of this, and sometimes that’s hard to manage. One day I might need to take time off too, and then you can return the favour.”
Chat couldn’t help but think that he was being let off too lightly. He’d be trying to make this up to her for a long time, no matter what she said.
“You’re too kind, sometimes.” He smiled wistfully. “I love that about you though.” She looked slightly embarrassed, but he continued. “I love that you’re so forgiving to the victims of the Akuma once you heal them. I love that you get mad at Hawk Moth for their sake. I love that you fight for Paris and never ask for anything in return.” Ladybug had turned nearly as red as her costume.
“Chat!” She interrupted.
“Let me finish.” He begged her. “I love that you’re so confident that good will always prevail over evil. But you know, while I couldn’t see you this week I also fell for another.”
Ladybug’s heart dropped, and she couldn’t explain to herself why. She had always wanted Chat to find someone else. She had Adrien, she didn’t need another boy to pine for!
“She is kind, and generous, shy. She has the most beautiful eyes, and the cutest little smile.”
And god, she didn’t think she could take much more of this.
“We barely speak, but I’m fairly sure… that you like me back.”
She could only stare at him in surprise.
“Tell me you do, Marinette.” Chat Noir’s ears and mask melted away, revealing the boy she’d been in love with since she first laid eyes on him.
“Adrien.” She gasped, her eyes wide.
“I love you, both as the confident Ladybug and the fashion student Marinette. I think you liked me as Adrien, but can you still feel the same way after knowing that I’m not always perfect? That sometimes I need to be wild and free as Chat Noir?” He looked desperate, his hands clenching in his nervousness.
“I…” Ladybug touched the broach that she had re-attached before coming out to patrol. She had always loved Adrien, but Chat Noir was… He was her partner. She trusted him with her life, but she had never fallen for his advances. He was always joking, and he had no concept of personal space, but she had really missed him this past week.
Chat Noir’s ears and mask had returned, all the better to hide behind. The black clad figure jumped up and paced nervously.
“I know it must be a shock, and you’ve never really returned my feeling in this form…”
“Chat.” Ladybug interrupted him as she climbed to her feet to join her partner. “I told you before. I missed you more than I expected to. I missed your cheeky remarks and your terrible jokes, and I missed our usual banter. I’ve had a crush an Adrien since I first saw him, but you somehow wormed your way into my heart despite my best efforts to prevent it. I love both sides of you as well, Chat Noir.”
She had come to stand in front of him and he stared back at her, barely believing that he was hearing correctly. She loved him back! His Lady accepted him, faults and all.
She was looking him expectantly, leaning in just slightly. Chat slid his hands over her hips, and red clad hands came up over his shoulders to cup the back of his neck. Finally, finally, they shared their first (completely consensual, it didn’t count when you were possessed) kiss.
Her friends had been so pleased for her when Alya’s blog had blown up in popularity after she had won a major photography prize. The photo that had won featured the two heroes of Paris kissing under a pale moon, the dying light casting them both in golden hues with the Eiffel Tower in the background.
Marinette even changed the desktop background on her computer from a collage of Adrien’s photos to the beautiful picture. Adrien himself had requested the full resolution and had it made into a high quality print and framed on his wall.
Alya herself wasn’t entirely sure why they seemed to love the picture so much, but she appreciated their support.