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Connecting the dots

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At first it was just a casual observation. Nino had brought a frizbee to school, and a few people who had stayed behind during lunch were tossing it around. Marinette was enjoying her favourite past time of “Adrien watching” when Kim threw it a little too hard causing the frizbee to get stuck in a tree.

“I’ve got it!” Adrien called out, taking off towards the tree and swinging up from a low hanging branch. Marinette sighed to herself, he was so athletic! She knew he was currently focusing on fencing, but he’d obviously done gymnastics in the past. Oh, just imagine Adrien in one of those tight outfits…

Marinette was jarred back to reality when she heard the gasps of her classmates. Adrien had needed to climb quite high up the tree to retrieve the frizbee, but he must have slipped because he was suddenly plummeting to the ground. Her heart skipped a beat. Before she could even move Adrien twisted around in mid-air, his shoulders moving first and his hips following, to land on all fours.

Marinette clutched a hand to her chest, her heartbeat now racing with adrenalin. The sounds of her relieved classmates washed over her as she eased back into her seat on the bench.

Later, once she had calmed down a little, a thought would come to her. That twisting movement was very familiar. It looked just like Chat Noir landing after he’d lost his footing unexpectedly. Or any cat, really.

But Adrien did heaps of sports, it was probably from some martial art that he had studied.

 


 

The next time was all her fault.

Ladybug hadn’t been paying attention. Or she’d been paying too much attention. She’d been concentrating so hard on figuring out where the black butterfly was hiding that she hadn’t noticed one of the laser beams she’d dodged had hit a billboard.

“Ladybug!” Chat called out, already leaping for her as the billboard started to fall. He’d snatched her out of the way just in time to avoid becoming Ladybug and Chat Noir pancakes, but his bad luck came into play and they landed on uneven ground. Chat’s ankle rolled and they both went down hard. The look she gave him was worth it.

“Thanks!” Ladybug was grinning. “You just managed to knock some sense into me!”
With no other accessories to hide in, the stupid butterfly was in the poor guys glasses. It made her feel mean when she broke them. She’d never felt so much like a bully before, but at least her Miraculous cleaning light erased the damage afterwards.
Ladybug walked back to her partner after finishing her part of the job.

“Come on, kitty cat.” Her hand was outstretched to help him up. Chat always looked so happy when she showed him even the smallest kindness, and after saving her from being squashed he really deserved it.
He’d taken her hand, but hissed in pain as he rose to his feet.

“Are you ok?” It wouldn’t be the first time that one of them had been injured, but it was usually just minor things like scratches or bruising.

“I am touched by your concern, my Lady.” Chat slowly shifted his weight into his left foot before wincing and slowly drawing it away again. He looked pale. “I think it’s just a sprain.”

It was always hard to see her partner in pain, but the knowledge that he’d been hurt while saving her made it feel even worse.
“It’s obviously more serious than that.” Ladybug scolded as he pulled his arm over her shoulders so that she could take some of his weight. They slowly made their way over to a bench.

“Stupid cat. What did you think you were doing? I would have moved out of the way myself!”
Chat was visibly startled by the anger in her voice.

“I thought I was saving you, that’s what! I thought you’d be grateful!”

“Not when you put yourself in danger to do it, you idiot!”
Her eyes were suspiciously damp, her expression was pained.

“My lady.” He said gently. “It’s just a sore ankle.”
She knew he was right, that she was overreacting. But what if it had been worse? Just look at him, he couldn’t even walk on his own as it was. He would do it again though, she knew just by looking at him that he didn’t regret his actions. She’d just have to be more careful in the future. If she didn’t need saving, the cat couldn’t hurt himself trying to do so.

“I’m sorry, Chat.” Ladybug eased him down onto the bench. “Will you be able to get home?” Both their miraculous were almost out of power.
Chat gave her a thumbs up.
“I’ll call someone after my transformation wears off. Or,” He grinned. “You could always stay and look after me. Actually, I think you’d look cute in a nurse outfit. Oh! And- Ouch!” Ladybug had tweaked his ear.

“In your dreams, kitty cat.” Her hand stroked his hair and she pulled away. “But I hope your ankle is ok.”

Her yoyo was out and she was swinging away before he could respond.

 

 

When Adrien came to school the next day with crutches and an enormous boot on his left foot, he quickly became the center of attention. The whole class listened to his tale about falling down some stairs and being stranded in the park until his driver could pick him up. Chloe was furious and promised to get her father to have the stairs safety checked. It must be a big problem if someone with such great reflexes like Adrien could fall down them!
After offering to collect the materials for him in class, Marinette’s thoughts drifted to Chat Noir. Would he be wearing a boot like this too? And did he have someone to help him like everyone here was so willing to help Adrien?
She looked at Adrien’s injury out of the corner of her eye. What a coincidence that they’d both hurt their left foot on the same day. If the thought of her perfect Adrien being the flirtatious Chat Noir wasn’t so ridiculous, she might have been suspicious.

 


  

The third time was only a memory.

Marinette had been flipping through her sketchbook looking for ideas to develop further, when she came across a sketch of the Pidgeon hat.

That was a good memory. Winning the design competition, being praised by Gabriel Agreste, the look on Chloe’s face when she’d been proved a design thief. The only downside had been Adrien’s allergy to the feathers.

But Adrien wasn’t the only one allergic to pidgeon feathers, was he? Chat had been sneezing the whole time that they’d been chasing Monsieur Pidgeon.
She hadn’t thought much of it at the time, but wasn’t it pretty unusual to have such a severe reaction to feathers?

These coincidences were starting to make her a bit nervous.

 


  

After that, she saw it everywhere.

Adrien’s dishevelled hair after he’d fallen asleep at his desk greatly resembled Chat’s messy style. Not to mention that she was dead tired herself due to Ladybug and Chat Noir being out all night fighting an Akuma again. Marinette wondered what had caused Adrien’s exhaustion.

Chat Noir, to her surprise, could speak Chinese. An Akuma in traditional Chinese dancers clothing had demanded their Miraculous in exchange for the director of a big theatre company. The woman had cursed at them in Chinese when Ladybug had managed to save the hostage, and Chat had responded in kind. Marinette couldn’t help but remember that Adrien spoke Chinese very well for someone with no obvious Chinese ancestry.

She began to see it in their posture, hand gestures and voice. Not to mention Adrien’s terrible attempts at jokes.
Eventually, as she became more convinced that Adrien was Chat, she also became less shy around him. It was difficult to keep Adrien on a pedestal when he started to look an awful lot like her silly crime fighting partner.

Somehow, the realisation that Adrien wasn’t quite so perfect after all didn’t dampen Marinette’s crush. Now that she wasn’t so nervous, it was easier to talk to him and be herself. Sometimes she’d catch herself instinctively responding to his Chat Noir-like body language and acting like Ladybug in return. The look on his face when she’d teased him and been hilarious.

And just as Marinette was discovering new things about Adrien, he was suddenly discovering a whole new Marinette.

 

Chapter Text

Adrien had always liked Marinette, or he didn’t dislike her anyway. She supported her friends by making cute banners at sports events, and he’d seen her helping their classmates with homework several times. She was shy, and she stuttered, but she was kind. It made it hard to get to know her though. Other than the fact that she was a pretty great designer, Adrien felt that he knew very little about his classmate.

That was up until a few weeks ago.

Over the last few weeks he’d seen the girl really come out of her shell. She’d started to seem more confident, and she stuttered less every time they spoke.

It had started with school work, just casual comments and questions like “Can you pass me those scissors?” or “Oh no, is that essay really due this Thursday? I thought it was due next week!”. From there, it wasn’t long until they were comfortably taking about anything.

“I don’t get you, Mari.” Alya was saying. “The costumes in the Narnia movies are great, I thought you’d love them!” Marinette pulled a face.
“Yeah, ok. I liked the White Witch’s costumes in the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, but Prince Caspian and the Voyage of the Dawn Treader were nothing like the books. It was so disappointing!” Alya and Nino just looked vaguely confused, so Marinette turned to Adrien.

“Right, Adrien? You read them too, didn’t you?” She looked at him expectantly, but he was still a bit thrown by suddenly being included in the conversation. Nino had been talking with Alya about movies, but Adrien had just been sitting next to him and doodling.

“Ah, yeah. They didn’t really match up.” He paused. “How did you know I’d read those books?” She wasn’t wrong, he’d read through them several time with his mother when he was a child. He still read them occasionally when he needed to feel close to her.

Marinette flushed pink in embarrassment.
“Um, you mentioned it near the start of the year when we were doing that box design project. You said your box looked like it should have an endless supply of Turkish delight like in the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe…”

Adrien blinked, he was impressed with her memory. He didn’t even remember saying that, but it sounded about right. When he was a child that had been his greatest wish. A never ending supply of Turkish delight.

Marinette quickly changed the subject and re-started the debate about which movies were the best to watch during sleepovers, and what snacks they should be accompanied with.

---

It was only a few days after Marinette had started being able to talk to him that he realised something important.

Previously, Marinette and Alya had always whispered to each other when they sat behind Adrien and Nino. He distinctly remembered Marinette’s horrified squeaks at whatever comments her friend was making. Now it wasn’t unusual for Adrien to hear quiet chatter and snickering coming from the two girls during class. He’d turned around so that he could warn them of the teacher coming their way when he’d caught Marinette’s eyes. They had been sparkling with laughter as she turned her attention towards him.

And oh, she was beautiful.

Up until now she almost always looked down when she spoke to him. But now, when she looked him in the eye and smiled cheekily, he was surprised by his own reaction. He quickly turned back around in his seat, his face suddenly feeling warm.

---

It wasn’t just that she could talk, or that she was surprisingly pretty when she wasn’t trying to hide behind her books or her friend. Adrien had always considered Marinette to be quite clumsy, and he couldn’t recall her being particularly good at any of the sports they had played at school. So he was understandably surprised by her obvious excitement at the beginning of their Gymnastics unit.

It turned out that they had both done gymnastics as children, and they’d ended up having a friendly competition to see who could remember the most tricks on the bars. His competitive nature was just starting to rear its head as he realised that she was actually quite good, when they were called back down by the teacher to help the other students.

Marinette had just laughed and raced back to Alya.

Adrien was left behind, wondering about how he knew so little about this girl that had been in his class all year.

---

“Hey Nino. You’re friends with Marinette, right?” Adrien asked as they loitered in front of the school waiting for the bell to ring. He’d been wondering if Nino might have any insight that could explain Marinette’s sudden lack of shyness.  

“Yeah, sort of. I used to do group projects with her before you came here.” Well, that was news to him.

“Really? I mean, until recently she was so shy. It must have been difficult to have group meetings.”

“What, are you kidding?” Nino laughed. “Marinette is the best to do group work with! She brings a huge bag full of treats from her parent’s bakery, and she always does her fair share of the work.” He suddenly looked amused. “You and your bad luck, man.”

“Wait, what about my bad luck now?” Adrien was honestly confused.

“All these questions about Marinette lately. Trust you to become interested as soon as it’s too late.” He laughed. “She was only shy around you because she obviously had a massive crush on you! And now she’s back to normal because she probably got over it.”

Adrien was still gaping in surprise at that bombshell when Nino’s eyes suddenly widened. Adrien followed his gaze and froze. Marinette was staring back at them, having just come around the corner. From the expression on her face, and the way Alya was looking at Marinette like she thought she was going to faint at any moment, he guessed they’d overheard the end of their conversation.

---

“Um.” Adrien fumbled for something to say.

And oh god, what a way to start the day. Marinette wanted the earth to swallow her. She could feel her face flushing, her tongue becoming tied.

But then she remembered that this is Chat and she’s Ladybug, she can deal with this. She took a deep breath.

“Well, he’s not wrong.” Alya was gaping at her and Marinette couldn’t blame her. All these months of trying to work up the courage, and this is how she tells him?

“I was a damsel in distress. It had been long, long day, and to top it all off it was pouring with rain and I didn't have an umbrella. Then out of nowhere, the new boy comes over and selflessly gives me his umbrella before running off into the rain. You can’t blame a girl for falling for that pretty face. He just seemed so perfect.” She sighed.

Despite her mental pep talk, Marinette could still feel her face flushing.

“Well, until I realised what a dork he was. A total Ladybug fanboy and the king of terrible puns.” She stuck her tongue out at him and winked before dragging Alya off down the corridor with her. They made it into the girls changing room before Marinette collapsed onto a bench and curled up on herself.

“Oh God. Alya, why didn’t you stop me!? I just, and then, but he!” Alya pulled the Marinette-ball into a hug, but she was shaking oddly.

“Alya, are you laughing at me? You are, you totally are!” She tried to push her laughing friend off her, but Alya held on until she could finally manage to talk.”

“Oh Marinette. You have no idea how weird it’s been lately, seeing you acting normal with Adrien. I was starting to suspect that you’d been replaced with an alien, but nope. There you are. I almost missed your Adrien freak outs.”

“Hey!” She squawked.

“But look on the bright side, you finally did it! I mean, you also implied that you’re over him, but still. Good job, Marinette!” Alya pulled back to give her a thumbs up.

Somehow, that wasn’t comforting at all. She’d just blurted everything out, and poor Adrien had looked so shocked. Then she’d ran away before he could even say anything! If he could say anything to her after that display…

“What if he never talks to me again?” She gasped. “I called him a dork! Noooo…” Alya looked on, amused as her friends whining.

“Is Adrien mean?” She asked Marinette, who shook her head. “Or cruel? Does he hold grudges? I didn’t think so. Mari, you fell for Adrien because he’s a good person. Even if he can’t return your feelings, he’ll still want to be friends.” Marinette sniffled, then raised her head to look at her friend.

“You think so?” She wiped her eyes and smoothed down her hair. Friends. She could do friends. They’d been acting like friends for weeks now, and she’d been friends and partners with Chat for even longer. Of course they would still be friends, in one identity or the other. Alya smiled at her friend’s fast recovery.

“Of course. Now let’s get you cleaned up before the bell rings.” Marinette pulled the other girl into a quick hug before standing. She’d be happy to have Adrien/Chat as a friend, but Alya would always be her best friend.

 

Chapter Text

Act normal. All she had to do was act normal. Maybe more towards Ladybug’s normal than Marinette’s normal, because she actually wanted to speak to Adrien to make sure that things weren’t going to get weird after her awkward confession.

The two girls had arrived to class just in time for it to start and then Adrien had gone home for lunch. He had managed to avoid her through the second half of the day as well, and she had used this time to formulate a plan. She was mentally calling it Operation Funtimes. Because hopefully she could prove to Adrien that it didn’t need to be awkward now, and also maybe that she was fun to hang out with and he should do it more often.

She almost felt guilty for using her detailed knowledge of Adrien’s schedule from her previous stalking to put the plan into motion. And WOW it was strange to think that she’d been stalking Chat Noir’s civilian identity while constantly refusing his advances in costume.

“Ugh, I don’t want to even think about all the homework we have this weekend.” Alya was stretching her arms as they walked down the hall, both of the girls stiff from sitting at a desk for so long. “Since it’s Friday, let’s go get ice-cream or something. School work can wait until tomorrow.” Marinette smiled brightly at her friend, she’d just given her the perfect opening.

“You’re right, let’s go do something fun!” Marinette agreed, and Alya wooped in excitement. Her quiet friend was usually too busy or too nervous to do more than go to a café or be dragged around by Alya trying to find Ladybug. “There’s nothing good showing at the movies right now, so let’s do something totally different. Have you ever been bowling?”

Alya hadn’t, but thought it sounded like fun. Because they both had no idea how to bowl, they decided that they would need a teacher to show them how to actually knock the pins down. Neither girl was keen on missing the whole time, and it was supposed to be fun not depressing!

Marinette held her breath as Alya caught sight of Nino coming towards them and asked him to teach them how to bowl. This was the one variable that she wasn’t sure about. Her ladybug luck must be helping her though, because he answered perfectly.

“Awesome idea! I don’t think I’d be much help though, since I’ve been bowling a grand total of once for a birthday party when I was a kid.” Alya groaned and was starting to suggest that they just go and work it out themselves when Adrien starting walking towards them.

Right on time. Chloe always managed to keep Adrien back for between three to seven minutes after class, and Nino always left slightly before him after getting sick of hearing the spoilt girl gush over his friend and whine about their other classmates.

“Adrien!” Nino called him over. The boy faltered when he saw Marinette, but recovered well and made his way over to the small group. “You’re a man of many talents, tell me that you can teach us how to get a strike.” The blonde boy looked confused for a just moment before replying.

“In bowling?” He suddenly looked excited. “Yeah! Or well, I can teach you how to bowl, but I don’t know if even a week of personal instruction could help you get a strike.” He was grinning as Nino shoved him playfully.

It was difficult not to look pleased with herself, because Operation Funtimes was going perfectly so far! After an Akuma that used cartoon-like round bombs as a weapon had been outclassed by Chat Noir bowling the bombs back to him, he had bragged at every chance about how great he was at bowling. It turns out that while escaping someone annoying (her money was on Chloe) Chat Noir had discovered that you didn’t need to bring friends with you to have fun at a bowling alley. Now knowing that the boy was home schooled and that he didn’t have any friends to hang out with, she was glad that he at least had that. Chat had also mentioned that he had always watched the groups of friends bowling together, and really wanted to go with his new friends one day.

Marinette was giving him the opportunity, she just hoped that his desire to play like a normal kid with friends was stronger than his desire to avoid awkwardness with her.

Fun won out, and Adrien looked almost giddy as he called his driver to take them to the bowling alley. They all piled into the car and Adrien tried to explain about shoes and bowling ball sizing while they drove. His talk had prepared them for the unpleasant old shoes that were handed over for them to wear in the alley, and they all hurriedly put them on and went to collect a ball.

Marinette was drawn to a swirly looking purple ball, but Adrien came up beside her and frowned at it.

“That’s not going to work for you, Marinette.” He seemed to be in his element, because he suddenly didn’t seem to care about personal space as he took her hand. “You have really small hands, so you need a smaller ball with holes that are closer together.” And wow, her hand really did look small when it was held in his. She almost started to go into fangirl mode, simply from habit, but she reminded herself that this was Chat Noir. If Chat Noir held her hand, she would not fawn over him.

“I have dainty hands that are good for detailed design work, we can’t all have big clumsy paws like you do.” Adrien jerked in surprise, partly from her comment and partly because he realised he’d been a bit handsy.

“Sorry! I didn’t mean-“ He started to apologise, but stopped when he realised that she was laughing at him.

“And which one would you recommend, oh great teacher?” He started to grin along with her as he helped Marinette, and then Alya and Nino select their balls.  

There were several small TV’s scattered around the alley, and Alya shushed her friends when she realised that they were showing a news story related to Ladybug.

“Ok, I got the lane set up with our names.” Adrien had turned back around to find his friends captivated by the TV. “What’s going on?”

“Oh wow, I’m going to need to update my blog real quick!” Alya pulled out her phone and started to type away furiously. Adrien looked to the other two teens for an explanation.

“There have been claw marks that look like they’re from Chat Noir found near a bunch of houses around Paris, and the only thing the houses have in common is that there’s always a young girl with dark hair and blue eyes living there. I bet he’s trying to find Ladybug!” Nino looked almost as excited as Alya.

Marinette deliberately didn’t look as Adrien as she said “I wonder if he has something important to tell her, but doesn’t have another way of getting in contact.”

Adrien was frowning. “They must do, Ladybug and Chat Noir are always close behind each other when an Akuma appears. And anyway, just because there are weird claw marks it doesn’t mean that they’re from Chat Noir. They’re making a lot of assumptions.”

Nino reluctantly agreed, and Alya finished updating the ladyblog with the news, so they all returned to the game at hand.

Adrien was a good teacher, and Nino was knocking down most of the pins straight away. Alya had a little more trouble, but Adrien showed her the arrows marked on the lane and gave her some advice on where to aim. Soon enough, she was hitting most of her pins too.

Marinette, however, was a different story. It just seemed so wrong to roll it across the floor, and the ball always reacted differently to how she thought it would. She was grasping the ball and scowling at the pins when Adrian came up behind her.

“You look like you want to just throw the ball through the air.” He laughed. And yeah, she kind of did. That’s what she did with her yoyo all the time. At least she only had to worry about wind resistance then, and not this whole hitting the floor and changing direction business.

“I think you’re accidentally putting spin on it, it’s making it curve over to the side. Here, just… more like this.” He stepped more closely behind her and used his hand to move her arm in a few practise movements. “And crouch down a little bit, like a lunge.” He guided her body through a few more movements, and then let go and stepped away.

Marinette went through the movements one more time, trusting that her partner would not steer her wrong, then let go of the ball and watched in disbelief as it proceeded to knock down every pin. She turned around to find all three of her friends looked gobsmacked, before Adrien broke out into a grin and offered a hand for a high-five.

“Great work Marinette!” She high-fived him while slightly in a daze over what had just happened, before Alya started cheering and grabbed her in a hug.

“Take that Nino, the first strike went to Mari!” The other boy just laughed and told her that he’d like to see her do it again before getting up for his own turn.

Marinette collapsed into a chair and leaned into her friend. With Adrien distracted by helping Nino, she could finally react.

“Oh. My. God.” She whispered to Alya, who nodded rapidly.
“I know! He was all over you, I’m surprised you didn’t collapse!” The two girls giggled together until Alya had to take her turn. When it came back around to Marinette, she took a deep breath as she remembered how it had felt last time, thought about how Adrien had guided her movements (then blushed a little because he had been REALLY CLOSE), and let it go.

“No way!” Nino cried in despair as all the pins tumbled down again.
“Wow Marinette, it looks like you’re really getting the hang of it now!” She smiled at Adrien, who looked genuinely happy for her as he raised his hand again.
“Well, I had a great teacher.” She said and slapped their hands together in another high-five. A flash of light caused both teens to turn to Alya, who had just taken a picture of them.

“Marinette is being praised by her coach after actually nailing a sport, I feel like a proud mother!” Marinette tried to protest that she could totally do other sports while the boys laughed. They all knew what her performance in PE at school was usually like.

She grumbled a bit until Alya whispered a promise to send her the photo later. Despite her crush on the boy not being quite so obsessive now that she knew he was also Chat Noir, she did think that it would make for a nice photo.

They played until everyone was feeling more confident, and then promised to come back together another time so that they could play a real game when they weren’t learning as they went.

Before they split up to go their own way, Nino jokingly told her to watch out for Chat Noir. She did have dark hair and blue eyes like Ladybug, after all. The group all had a quick laugh together, Marinette hoped that hers didn’t sound too forced, before finally parting to go home.

Over all, it seemed like Operation Funtimes was a success. Adrien was more comfortable around her, they all had fun and planned to do it again, and a lonely boy finally got to go bowling with a group of friends instead of playing by himself.

Definitely a success. 

Chapter Text

Hawkmoth had been quiet lately. It left Marinette with plenty of time for homework, hanging out with Alya, and slowly becoming closer to the boy that she now knew was Chat Noir. She was also really appreciating being able to get enough sleep for a change, she had almost forgotten what it felt like to be well rested.

Unfortunately, Adrien didn’t seem to be enjoying their little vacation from being heroes as much as she was.  He’d had a huge surge in the modelling work that he was being booked for, and it seemed to be taking even more out of him than fighting Akuma usually did.

Marinette wished she could do something for him. The handsome boy had looked heartbroken when he’d had to attend a fashion show instead of going to the skating rink with their little group. Nino had been telling him to turn down some of the work, but Adrien felt pressured to do it all. He’d once turned down a shoot due to it being right after another job when he was already exhausted. His father had expressed his displeasure, given his son a lecture on work ethic, and then left for an international show. He didn’t contact Adrien at all for the whole week he was away.

With so much of the week spent modelling, there was barely enough time to get school work done, let alone hang out with his friends. It seemed to really be dragging him down.

“Don’t let it happen again. I expect more from you, Adrien.” Their history teacher moved along to the next desk to continue checking homework.

“Wow.” Marinette whispered to Alya. “I’ve never seen Adrien not do his homework.” Their eyes shifted to the boy in front of them. He was resting his head on the desk while Nino tried to comfort him. Alya usually left worrying about Adrien to Marinette, but the poor guy looked like his spirit was about to break.

“He’s working too hard. I wish we could cheer him up, but he never has time to do anything anymore.” Alya sighed. “We only get to see him at school.”

Marinette suddenly sat up straighter. “You’re right, we’re all at school every day! He doesn’t have time for games, but what about a study group? We could all work together during lunch, and then none of us would have to do homework at home. Maybe then he could get some more sleep.”

Alya grinned and threw her arm over Marinette in a half hug. “Look at you, looking after your boy.” Marinette rolled her eyes, she used to her friend making comments like this. “Now, what subjects have homework due tomorrow?”

------

When the bell finally rang for lunch, Alya and Marinette called over the boys before they could leave.

“Hey boys, how’d you like it if you never had to do school work at home ever again?” Alya stood with her hands on her hips, her posture was confident.

“I’d feel like you’re lying to me, and that is a very cruel thing to lie about.” Adrien nodded along with Nino. Not having homework would make his life so much easier.

“Ah, but wait! We have a plan. Or, she has a plan.” The boys turned to Marinette, who tensed under the sudden attention.

“Um.” She fidgeted with her hands and tried to remember how she felt when Ladybug explained her plans to Chat Noir. That was easy, this would be easy too. “I was just thinking that we might get through the homework quicker if we helped each other. We all have subjects that we’re better or worse at, right? We’ll divide it up so that each subject has a specialist who will help the others when we get stuck. If we do it during the lunch break instead of going home, we should be able to get through it all before the end of the day.”

Marinette had watched the expressions of her friends while she explained, and while Nino looked interested, Adrien looked like all his dreams had come true.

“So Biology and Math is due tomorrow,” She continued. “Alya gets great marks in Bio and Adrien is good at Math, right? We could do that together today if you don’t need to leave for lunch.”

“Yes!” Adrien looked embarrassed at his outburst. “Sorry, it’s just that I looked at the Bio homework last night and none if it made any sense. It’ll take me ages to work it out by myself.” He turned to Alya and tried to look pathetic, and was soon joined by Nino and Marinette. She rolled her eyes at their antics.

“Alright, alright, no need for the puppy dog eyes. I’ll help with Bio, but someone is definitely helping me with the Chem homework we got yesterday. Now that doesn’t make any sense.”

------

The lunchtime study group had shown promise yesterday, despite having to share textbooks and not having enough time after quickly running to a café to get some food. This time, Marinette was prepared. She had text books, she had a packed lunch, and she’d even begged some baked goods from her dad as additional study snacks. She had remembered that Chat had a sweet tooth, so she’d taken a selection of macarons and profiteroles because they would travel well. There were the usual chocolate chip cookies for Tikki, and after thinking about Chat’s own Kwami she had also taken a couple of corniottes.

“Marinette, you are an angel!” Nino cried as she uncovered their treats for the day. They had already worked through half of the lunch break, and despite having just eaten lunch, the sight of sweets instantly rose their spirits. Especially Adrien, who was rarely able to eat things like this due to most of his meals being prepared by chefs at home. They all followed his Fathers orders to only cook healthy foods for his son. He was a model, after all.

“That’s really generous of you, Marinette. Are you sure your dad is alright with you taking so much for us?” Before she could assure him that it was fine, her best friend pulled her over onto her lap.

Alya bussed a kiss on her cheek. “You’re too late, boys. She’s mine now.” She shot Adrien a sly look. “Boys are too thick, Mari. Marry me and we’ll travel the world as I report on world events. Then when we come home, we can alternate between eating at mum’s restaurant and your dad’s bakery.” Marinette laughed and then looked like she was seriously considering it.

“I don’t know, I think I would gain a lot of weight.” They both laughed together as Marinette slipped off her friend and returned to her own seat, completely missing the red tinge on Adrien’s cheeks.

The group continued to chat as they worked through the problems together and Marinette eyed Adrien’s bag. It was down by their feet, and as the only thing he carried it was probably where his Kwami was hiding.

“Oh yeah!” Alya tapped at Nino’s papers to get his attention. “Did you hear about that burglar that’s been seen all around Paris?” That got the attention of all three of her friends. “They say he’s only stealing earrings, and that his silhouette looks like he has cat ears!” Marinette sighed, realising why Alya had thought Nino would be more interested than she would be.

“You think Chat Noir is stealing jewellery?” Nino asked.
“I don’t know, but who else had cat ears? I already blogged about it, and my readers have some really interesting theories.” Alya pulled out her phone and started to scroll through the comments.

Adrien stayed silent.

“Chat Noir would never sink so low as to become a common thief.” Marinette rolled her eyes. Chat Noir was sitting right across from them and could definitely afford his own jewellery.

“But it’s just earrings, right?” Alya looked up from her phone. “Bugfan777 thinks that he’s trying to find Ladybug’s earrings. They’re important right? What if she lost them and he was trying to get them back?”

It was odd that this thief was only stealing earrings. Marinette frowned in thought. Whoever it was, she didn’t like the idea of someone trying to find her Miraculous.

“Anyway, we have ten minutes left and way too much homework!” Adrien reminded the group, causing a mild panic as they quickly tidied up from the snacks and got their books out again.

Marinette used their momentary distraction to drop the cheesy corniottes right next to Adrien’s bag before going back to her own homework.

Before long it was time to pack up. She almost laughed when she peeked down at Adrien’s bag and noticed that both the pastries were gone. It looked like Chat Noir’s Kwami was as much of a glutton as Tikki was.

------

Alya and Nino were having a friendly argument about Ladybug theories as all four of the friends waited for Adrien’s car to come and pick him up after school. Tired of this topic, Marinette and Adrien wandered away from their unknowing fans and closer to the curb as they waited.

“Thanks for setting up the study group, Marinette.” Adrien smiled at her, looking genuinely grateful. “It’s made things so much easier for me. I hope we can keep it up, even after my work settles down.”

The girl smiled back, well aware that such an expression from Adrien would once have turned her into a stuttering mess. “It’s been really helpful for us too, you know. I don’t think I would have ever understood what torque was if you hadn’t explained it so clearly. You’re a really good teacher, Adrien.”

The boy flushed in response to her praise, he was usually only complimented on his looks. He thought to himself, and not for the first time, that Marinette was a really nice girl.

Adrien’s car pulled up and he opened the door, but before getting in he turned to face his new friend.

“You know when Alya was joking about boys being thick?” he fidgeted with the strap of his bag. “She was right. I wish I’d noticed you before you realised what a dork I am.” He quickly tossed his bag over the seat and hopped in.

Before he could close the door, Marinette grabbed the frame to hold it open. She had done it on impulse, her hand shooting out as soon as she considered telling him the truth.

“Adrien.” Chat Noir or not, she was still a bit nervous. “Just because I realised you’re not perfect, it doesn’t mean that I don’t like you anymore.” Marinette smiled sweetly as she shut the door for him, feeling like she couldn’t bear to hear his answer right now. His driver took that as the signal to leave and she waved goodbye as he stared at her through the window, looking absolutely gobsmacked.

 

Chapter Text

“Just because I realised you’re not perfect, it doesn’t mean that I don’t like you anymore.”

“…you’re not perfect, it doesn’t mean that I don’t like you anymore.”

“…It doesn’t mean that I don’t like you anymore...”

Marinette’s voice had been echoing through Adrien’s mind throughout the whole photoshoot. Luckily, today’s shoot required him to look dreamily into the distance, which was just about all he could manage right then anyway. With his mood matching the theme perfectly, it didn’t take long for the photographer to get plenty of good shots and call it an early day.

“Plagg.” Adrien was sprawled on his bed, still in the same position that he flopped into when he’d first gotten home. “That means that she does still like me, doesn’t it?”

The Kwami gave him a disbelieving look. “You’re still stuck on that?” Adrien sighed deeply, causing the tiny cat to roll his eyes. “Yes, she likes you. She’s a prize, that Mary-whatever. You should ask her out.”

“Marinette.” Adrien corrected absently. When his brain finally caught up he glanced at his tiny companion. “Since when did you start liking people?” He demanded. “Let alone want me to be more social, which is what would happen if we started dating. Not that I’m saying we’re going to start dating or anything!”

Plagg’s face stretched in his most cat-like smile. “Then you could go to her house all the time and get me more of those pastries.”

Pastries. Plagg wanted him to date Marinette for pastries. The boy frowned. “Hang on, what pastries?”

“The cheese pastries you passed down for me today!” Adrien’s eyes widened in shock. “I didn’t pass you anything today, someone must have dropped them. You can’t just eat anything that falls near my bag, someone could have seen you!”

The Kwami scowled and accused Adrien of trying to keep all the cheese pastries to himself, which was really not what he’d been doing at all. In fact, he didn’t even remember seeing any savoury pastries. He’d only eaten some macarons and an éclair.

They both bickered until a noise from Adrien’s phone alerted him about an update to the Ladyblog. He immediately turned to his computer set up with three large monitors (all the better to see Ladybug with, my dear) to see if it was anything important.

Multiple people had reported to the Ladyblog about a Chat Noir look-alike robbing a jewellery store. Fans with keen eyes were adamant that he didn’t look quite right. The tail belt was too wide and short, and the thieves’ boots were missing the steel cap.

While Adrien was glad that the attempt to frame him wasn’t working this time, and apparently they had learned something from the whole copycat fiasco, he knew he had to put a stop to it.

It wasn’t long before Chat Noir was soaring over rooftops as he followed the trail of reports from the Ladyblog. The trail ended in an industrial area, and he wished Ladybug was here so that he could complain about villains with no creativity. An empty warehouse, really?

Chat slipped in through a broken window and landed silently before casting his gaze around the building. Over against one wall was the figure of a boy wearing a replica of his costume. He had collapsed, and was obviously unconscious.

The hair on his neck stood on end when the sound of heels clacking on the concrete floor reached his sensitive ears, and his eyes darted to the source. There, standing in the frame of the door, was a woman. She wore a bodysuit much like his own, but with yellow bands decorating her arms and legs that became wider and more frequent until her gloves and shoes were solid yellow. She had pulled the zipper significantly lower than Chat wore it himself, revealing a generous portion of cleavage. On top of her jaw length reddish hair there rested a golden crown studded with jewels.

“Oh darling, you finally came!” Her voice was smooth and she sounded genuinely pleased to see him. “I’ve been waiting so long to see you in person. But silly me,” She paused and ran a hand slowly down the zipper of her suit, drawing attention to her chest. “I’ve forgotten to introduce myself. My name is Honey Queen, but you can call me Honey.”

She had been advancing on him slowly as she spoke, and the whole situation was giving Chat Noir the creeps.

“Listen, Honey Queen, I don’t kindly to people trying to smear my name. What is it that you want?” He demanded.

“Don’t worry my darling, I only used him” she glanced over at the unconscious boy “to get your attention. And that’s all I really want, your attention.” She fluttered her eyelashes at Chat Noir, and he suddenly felt dirty.

“This whole Akuma thing is such a pain. There’s a man telling me to do things all the time, it’s bothersome. But I knew if I played his game for a while that you would come to me eventually… And I did so want to see you.” Honey Queen sighed pleasantly as she continued her approach.

“I’m such a big fan, you see. I think I’d give it all up if you agreed to kiss me. Just once, that’s all I’d ask for. I know you understand what it feels like to love someone who's unattainable.” Chat stiffened. While she was right that he knew what it was like, he didn’t want to kiss her. Then again, Adrien had kissed plenty of models on various photoshoots, it probably wouldn’t be much worse.

He also suddenly realised that even if he chose the hard way to remove the Akuma, without ladybug he couldn’t really finish the process and purify it.

While he was thinking, Honey Queen had gotten close enough to reach out and run a finger down his jawline. “Please.” She said, her voice had turned breathy and her eyes were closing.

Chat clenched a fist, but moved in to gently kiss her on the lips. He wanted to pull back, but suddenly his body wasn’t co-operating.

“And that’s how you become mine.” Honey Queen smiled and kissed him on the cheek. “Good boy. Now, Ladybug should be here any minute. You’re going to tell her that you’re tired of her rejection and that you’ve chosen me to be your new Queen.”

Chat Noir tried desperately to move his body, but he couldn’t even struggle. It was like he had been disconnected somehow, and his body now obeyed only her.

“Then,” She continued “you’re going to destroy Ladybug for me so we can bring both of your Miraculous to Hawkmoth.”

Chapter Text

Honey Queen was right, Ladybug hadn’t been too far behind him. She’d seen the trail on the Ladyblog too, and correctly guessed the Chat Noir would leap right into the obvious trap. It was just a matter of tracking him on the GPS built into her yoyo, much like when she had tracked him to Copy Cat’s lair.

She peeked through a window to see Chat Noir dragging something through a door while a woman who had clearly been akumatised waited. He returned quickly and stopped in front of her. Ladybug couldn’t hear what the woman was saying, but one yellow gloved hand was stroking Chat’s hair.

She didn’t like it.

“Sorry I’m late to the party, I guess my invite got lost in the mail.” Ladybug slipped into the empty warehouse from an open window.

“Oh, it’s your ex-partner. How awkward.” Honey Queen trailed one hand possessively over Chat’s shoulder. “You see, Ladybug, Chat Noir is devoted to me now.”

The spotted heroine pulled a face. “Right, and I’m sure that’s of his own free will. He came to investigate a series of impersonations and suddenly decided to work for the enemy.”

Honey Queen sighed. “Impersonations? Oh Ladybug, Chat had been working for me for weeks already. Tell her, darling.”

“She’s right, Ladybug.” Chat continued to lean into the Akuma’s caresses. “I was sick of being rejected by you, but now I’ve met my Honey and she’s so sweet to me. I don’t care about being a superhero anymore, I just want to make her happy. That’s why I stole jewellery for her, and that’s why I’ll take your miraculous!” Chat’s voice didn’t sound strange, he actually sounded like himself. She also couldn’t see any black lipstick or other signs of possession. Ladybug pursed her lips.

“And you do make me happy, my darling.” Honey Queen’s hand slipped up to his neck, and she pulled him in for a kiss. Ladybug clenched her fists as Chat shuddered slightly. “Now, darling, take her miraculous!

Chat Noir instantly straightened and leapt towards the red clad girl. His movements were as fast as usual, and it was difficult to dodge them all. As much as she didn’t enjoy being on the defensive, Ladybug didn’t particularly want to hurt her partner so she did her best to avoid hitting him full on. He was making it unavoidable though, as he had fought side by side with her and her yoyo too many times not to be able to dodge half-hearted attacks.

“Chat, what are you doing?!” She narrowly avoided a kick and used his tail to swing him away from her. “That could have seriously hurt me!”

He paused, hands twitching and breathing heavily. During their fight, the Miraculous users had moved half the length of the warehouse away from where they had started. He still couldn’t control his movements, but his mind felt a little less hazy. Chat still felt like he was playing catch up. He’d been moving the boy that Honey Queen had controlled and used as a lure, and then he’d been overcome with an amazingly strong instinct to attack the intruder and defend his Queen.

“Darling.” Honey Queen crooked her finger, and Chat Noir staggered back towards her. Ladybug watched intently as he reached her and his movements became smooth again. More controlled. She didn’t have much time to consider what this meant, as Chat launched right back into the fight.

She did note that the other woman was making an effort to remain close to the action, and Chat would use any pause in the action to retreat to the Akuma where she would often stroke his face or grace him with another kiss.

Ladybug gasped as he got a good hold on her and tossed her into a wall. The sound of her head striking the wall was loud in her ears, but it almost seemed to knock some sense into her. Hadn’t they dealt with possession and kisses before?

Armed with plan, she forced her body to ignore the pain of her aching head and stand. It was mostly muscle memory that eased her posture into a defensive stance, and it was just in time as Chat was attacking again.

Ladybug did her best to avoid the worst of the blows, but she could not block them all. He swept his foot under hers at just the precise moment to cause her to fall over backwards. He used the moment of vulnerability to hold her down, one hand on each arm.

Chat was actually growling at her and he was leaning a little too far away for what she had planned, but Ladybug knew what to do. She wrapped her legs around him and flipped their positions so that she was on top. Wasting no time, Ladybug leaned down and kissed him right on the lips.

He was still struggling and scowling at her when she pulled back. Maybe it needed to be longer? She tried a few more kisses before she started scowling herself. It was clear that it wasn’t working, though Chat Noir himself didn’t particularly mind her attempts. In fact, he wished he had more control over himself so he could encourage his Lady to continue.

Finally, he broke her grip and was able to fling her away from him. Honey Queen only laughed as Ladybug skidded along the concrete.

“You see?” The Akuma’s honey-sweet voice called. “There is no curse to break, Chat Noir works for me under his own free will. Now either hand over your Miraculous or prepare to fight your old partner until one of you is defeated for good!”

Ladybug cursed, one hand clutching at her side where Chat had managed to get hit in with his stick.

“I don’t know how you’re doing it, but I do know that you’re controlling him. Chat Noir is my partner and closest friend, I trust him with everything. Even if he was tired and wanted to change things, he would never help an akuma and he would never hurt me!” Chat had returned to the other woman and seemed to be moving easier again. It was now or never. “He’s always had my back, and now it’s time for me to return the favour. Lucky Charm!” 

A perfume bottle fell from the sky, and Ladybug grabbed it just before Chat Noir could. Now she just had to think of a way to use it while avoiding the continuous attacks.

Perfume. Perfume smells, but she couldn’t see how that would help right now. Does it have alcohol in it? That would make it flammable, but there wasn’t anything to light a flame. The bottle was made of glass, should she smash it? But no, if it was only glass that she needed the lucky charm would have just given her an empty bottle. On closer inspection, there was a raised design in the glass that created a picture of a bee.

Both of them paused to regain their breath, Chat’s was particularly shaky, and Ladybug spritzed the perfume in front of her to test the scent. It didn’t smell like much of anything, so she spritzed it a few more times. She still couldn’t smell anything, but she did notice that Chat was now glancing between her and Honey Queen. He looked slightly confused, and Honey Queen herself looked to be downright panicking.

“Chat Noir!” The akuma called “Come to me, my darling.” But he stayed where he was, half way between the two girls. It was the first time that he hadn’t instantly obeyed her for the whole fight.

The perfume that didn’t smell like anything was somehow disrupting whatever control Honey Queen had over her partner.

Honey Queen was obviously modelled on a Queen bee. Queens had some level of control over the hive, which must have been amplified in the akuma. Ladybug wasn’t holding a bottle of perfume, she was holding a bottle of Queen bee pheromones!

A large wooden board leaning against the wall was suddenly flashing red with black spots, closely followed by the leaves and other bits of debris that covered the floor. She almost missed it because she was already wearing the spots, but she was flashing too.

Ladybug turned the bottle around and sprayed herself liberally. Chat was quick to react, staggering towards her. The aggressiveness that he’d been feeling since Ladybug had arrived disappeared, and his instinct to protect Honey Queen seemed to transfer to Ladybug. If he was going to be controlled one way or the other, he would definitely prefer to be Ladybug’s loyal minion.

Honey Queen was yelling at them, but Ladybug paid her no mind. The control over her partner was broken, and she just needed to make it stay that way. Honey Queen couldn’t be allowed to use her pheromones on Chat Noir again, or he might be swayed back to her side.

She threw the bottle at the wooden board, causing it to topple over. There was a loud clatter as it fell, but it was the gust of wind it made that stirred up all the rubbish on the floor that Ladybug was interested in. Like most piles of natural litter in the city, this pile contained a large amount of pigeon feathers. A whole lot of which were now being blown onto Chat Noir.

“Uhh… Ahh… ACHOO!” And that cleared up any possibility of an imposter, she seriously doubted that many people had such a severe allergic reaction to pigeon feathers. Ladybug wanted to kick herself for not noticing the obvious connection between Chat Noir and Adrien sooner.

While all of this had been happening, Honey Queen had been running over to the Miraculous users. She now clutched Chat Noir’s head and pulled him towards her neck.

“Just take a deep breath, darling, and I’ll give you some more kisses.” But Chat just sneezed on her and made a horribly wet sniffling noise. Both girls cringed at the sound.

“It’s no use, Honey Queen. Chat Noir can’t smell a thing anymore, so there’s no way to get him back under your control no matter how close you get to him.” The boy himself seemed to be shaking off the last bits of akuma magic, but he still sounded like he could barely breathe between sneezes.

“No! I won’t let it end here!” The akuma dashed for the door that Chat had dragged something through earlier, but her speciality was manipulation, not speed or strength. It took only moments for Ladybug to wrap her up with the yoyo’s string and break the lovely crown that adorned her hair.

The butterfly was purified and the lucky charm tossed above to reset everything back to its original condition. The magic even rushed over Chat Noir, clearing away the feathers.

“Uuugh… Where am I?” The girl had finally been cleansed of the akuma after an unusually long possession, and she looked even more disorientated than usual. As much as she wanted to be mad at the girl for causing them so much trouble, Ladybug knew that it wasn’t her fault.

“I’m afraid that you haven’t quite been yourself for a couple of weeks. Your parents are probably worried, so we’ll take you home and explain everything.” The girl looked in awe at one of her heroes.

“Ladybug!” She gasped. “Does that mean…” Ladybug watched as the girls eyes darted around as if she was looking for something. She squeaked when Chat Noir walked over to join them. Aww, she had a crush. It was kind of cute now that she wasn’t rubbing herself all over Ladybug’s partner.

Chat was grumbling as he approached. “That was all kinds of awful. Well, except for those kisses.” he winked at his Lady who rolled her eyes in response. “I can’t believe that we finally had a kiss that I was awake for, but I still couldn’t even respond. I have the worst luck in the world! I don’t suppose you want to try that again?” Chat waggled his eyebrows.

Ladybug was about to respond with one of her usual masterful shut downs when her earrings beeped.

“Chat Noir, can you stay here while I go recharge? I don’t think we’re finished for today.” Chat gave her the ok, mentioning that they actually had a second victim in the next room who’d need to be taken home too.

It didn’t take him long while he tried to comfort the girl to notice that she really was a fan after all. The poor girl looked star struck as he tried to make conversation with her while they waited. She’d managed to get out that her name was Casey, but the rest had been incoherent babble. It kind of reminded him of how Marinette used to act, and he couldn’t believe that he’d never realised she had a crush on him. Poor girl, he was kind of surprised that his obliviousness wasn’t enough to turn her off him.

Ladybug returned and they traded places. Chat hadn’t used Cataclysm, so he didn’t need to take a break, but he did need to go and find the boy that he’d stashed somewhere. He had felt kind of floaty while it was all happening, so his memory of where he'd dropped the kid was a bit hazy.

He eventually returned to find the girls talking quietly amongst themselves.

“…and he couldn’t keep his eyes off her, it was so frustrating. It feels like boys don’t even notice I exist, but as soon as Penelope transferred here they were all over her. Just because she developed a little bit faster than the rest of us!”

Ladybug sighed in commiseration. “I know exactly how you feel.” Casey looked at her in disbelief so she continued “It’s true! I’m not exactly blessed in that department either.” They both looked at her small chest and giggled. Chat felt a bit uncomfortable, and he shifted the dead weight of the boy who was still passed out. “And I had the biggest crush for months on a boy that barely noticed I was in his class! It was so embarrassing.”

Chat Noir cleared his throat. “As a guy who plays enough sports to overhear a lot of locker room conversations, you really don’t want to date guys who are only interested in… particularly voluptuous girls anyway. The kind of stuff they say, it’s not how you want your boyfriend to talk about you.”

Casey smiled hesitantly. “So you don’t care about that kind of thing?” She asked nervously. Chat shook his head vehemently in response. “There are so many other things to find attractive in a person that I’ve never thought much about physical attributes.” He turned to look directly into his partner’s eyes. “Like a strong will, and a kind heart, and the bravery to protect the people that she cares about.”

“Kitty.” Ladybug murmured, suddenly feeling a touch warm. She was glad that they were both transformed right now, as she didn’t think she would survive receiving such a compliment from Adrien without two masks between them.

“Oooh…” Casey’s quiet voice jolted the heroes back to reality to find her looking between them curiously.

“Um.” Chat adjusted the unnamed boy currently hanging over his shoulder again. “Right.” Ladybug still looked flustered, but she was doing her best to regain her usual cool demeanour. “We better get you home then. And maybe take this one to a police station… Or a hospital?”

They didn’t actually make it to either location. It turns out that superheroes walking around with an unconscious boy thrown over their shoulder attracted a lot of attention. The police ended up finding them fairly quickly, and they explained the situation and handed the boy off.

Chat just thanked his lucky stars that they were reasonably well known by this point. He couldn’t imagine that would have gone down as smoothly when he had first started this and no one knew about Chat Noir or Ladybug. As it was, the police were happy enough to let the heroes escort Casey home as she seemed healthy enough and comfortable with them. They would follow up with her parents, who had filed a missing person report, tomorrow morning.

The sun was starting to set as the trio made their way towards Casey’s home, and said girl was becoming increasingly nervous. “What if they’re mad?” she whispered, just loud enough to be heard.

“They wont be.” Ladybug replied. “They’re your parents, I’m sure they’ve been worried sick and they’ll only be relieved to have you home.” Chat didn’t think that being her parents gave any kind of guarantee that they wouldn’t be angry at their child, but he knew Ladybug would back him up in explaining to them what had happened and trying to smooth it over if they were actually upset.

The group finally approached a store with a sign featuring a honeycomb design. Much like Marinette, Casey lived above her parent’s store. “The Honey Hive” was a store that specialised in organic honey and other natural products. They could see one woman walking slowly around the store replenishing stock that had been sold throughout the day. Her eyes looked dull and there were prominent dark circles under them. She barely looked up when the bell above the door chimed happily as the group entered, but when she noticed just who had walked in she froze in shock. Her pause didn’t last for longer than a few heart pounding seconds before she threw herself at her daughter and heaved a great sob.

Casey was quick to dissolve into tears, and it wasn’t long before her father rushed down the stairs after hearing the commotion. It was a beautiful family reunion, and Chat was a little jealous. His father would never show such emotion, in fact, he’d probably only notice that his son was missing when he failed to show up for a photoshoot.

Ladybug pointed towards the door and they were going to make a quiet retreat when Casey asked them to wait. They were introduced to her parents and thanked profusely.

“I almost forgot!” Ladybug handed over the crown that had been infected with an Akuma.

“Oh…” Casey took it and held it gingerly. “I bought it for the school dance because it was so pretty, but… someone said it wouldn’t suit me.” It was clear that whatever this person had said to her, it probably involved much stronger language.

“That someone was an idiot. It looked beautiful on you.” Chat winked at her, and her whole face turned bright pink. The girl stammered her thanks, and her mother brought over two small gift baskets with samples of honeycomb, hand creams, bees wax candles, and tiny little honey jars with various golden hues in them.

“We’ll never be able to thank you enough, but please take these. There’s an assortment of products in them, so I’m sure you’ll find something that you like. Even if it’s just the honey candies.” Both heroes thought it would probably been seen as rude to refuse, and it wasn’t the first time that they had been given gifts, so they accepted the baskets with thanks and finally left the family to their reunion.

"That went well." Ladybug hummed her agreement. "Don't think I've forgotten about you walking straight into an obvious trap though." She nudged her partner as they walked down the empty streets. The shops were all closed by now, the workers all on their way home.

"I knew you'd save me if anything happened." Chat winked at her. "My Lady is more reliable than Prince Charming himself." Ladybug huffed in response, but they continued their leasurely stroll in comfortable silence. It wasn't often that they didn't have the pressure of an akuma or a time limit from their miraculous cutting their interactions short.

Finally, unable to keep it in any longer, Chat blurted out "How did you know that it really wasn't me? Anyone else would have looked at the evidence, even my own words, and believed her."

"Anyone else isn't your partner." She pointed out.  “Chat, we’ve been fighting together for months now. I meant it when I told Honey Queen that I trusted you. I trust you to tell me if you don’t want to work together anymore. I trust that you will never intentionally hurt me. I trust you with my life.” Ladybug took his hands and brought them up to her ears. “I trust you with my Miraculous.”

His thumb gently stroked over the earrings that gave Ladybug her magical powers. Coming from her, that was a pretty big deal. He exhaled shakily.

“But you can’t trust me with your identity.” Chat hadn’t mean to say that, and he cringed in anticipation for her reaction. He couldn’t believe he’d ruined the moment. She’d just told him that he trusted her with her life and her Miraculous, shouldn’t he be satisfied with that?

Her reaction wasn’t what he expected though. Instead of stepping away and scolding him like she usually did, Ladybug just sighed and leaned into him.

“That’s more about me than it is about you. I just… The real me is a bit of a letdown.” She continued despite his protests, “I’m plain looking, and fairly dull to be around. Definitely not the life of the party.” She smiled sadly. “I don’t have a lot of friends either. You say you like me, but the person you like isn’t real. No one would look at the real me and see Ladybug.”

Chat Noir clutched at her shoulders, dismayed at her lack of self-esteem. “That’s not true. You’re kind, and generous, and so, so strong. If people can’t see that then it’s their problem.”

Ladybug’s smile turned wry as she finally took a step back. “I should probably confess something. I sort of accidentally worked out who you are. And well, not even you have been able to see Ladybug in me, Adrien.”

He choked, shocked at the both revelation that his Lady knew who he was, and that he had met her and hadn’t known. Oh god, what if he’d said something stupid? Had he talked about how great Chat Noir was? He did that sometimes just because he found it funny, but if someone who knew who he was had heard… How embarrassing!

“So we… we know each other?” Chat’s mind was racing a hundred miles an hour. He could know her from school, or modelling, or maybe the café that he went to frequently between photo shoots? “That’s not fair. I’ve tried so hard not to think about what you might be like as a civilian because you’ve always been so dead set against us knowing. Then you go and work out who I am? You know who I am, so you have to tell me who you are. Please Ladybug!”

“You’re right. I still think it’s dangerous, and I’m still afraid that you’ll be disappointed. I couldn’t help it though, I just kept seeing Chat Noir in you.” Ladybug licked her lips nervously. “But…If you worked it out by yourself, if you could look at me and see Ladybug, I wouldn’t be mad.”

The leather ears that appeared when he transformed into Chat Noir perked up. She’d practically given him permission, or even encouraged him, to find her. Challenge accepted!

Ladybug excused herself, her head was still wringing from being smacked against the wall, and they separated to go to each of their homes. As soon as Adrien had leapt onto the balcony and squeezed through the door that he always left open just a crack, he de-transformed and grabbed some paper and a pen.

“Well, that happened.” Plagg said between bites. He’d dived into the cheese stash as Adrien had headed for the desk. “You owe me a whole wheel of Camembert for putting me through the whole ‘Akuma controlling you’ thing again. I feel dirty.

The blonde just nodded and absently agreed as he started to write a list of all the girls he could think of. He’d start with his class, then the girls he could remember meeting from other classes, and then the models.

Chloe was scratched off, he’d already crossed her off his mental list after the cosplay debacle. Alya had been Akuma-ised, so she could be crossed off too. Actually, so had most of the other girls in his class. That just left Marinette.

Marinette, who had confessed that she still had a crush on him.

Marinette, who would probably be expecting some kind of reply tomorrow.

Oh god.