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Truthful Scars

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Marinette had never considered her civilian self to be graceful.

If graceful was slipping down a flight of stairs in front of her crush after accidentally calling him “hot stuff,” then that was Marinette. Unfortunately, she didn’t exactly fall into that category. There was no return, no hope of being saved from the tremendous amount of embarrassment she had faced at eleven forty-five that morning.

Of course, Adrien being the natural-born gentleman that he was, laughed it off after briskly assisting her in picking up her things. Who knew how that boy managed to be so kind to everyone—even the awkward girl that stumbled down five steps and fell on her rear simply because he'd said hello.

It had certainly been quite the sight, at least for the crowd of students exiting Collége Françoise Dupont for their lunch break. Marinette, in a rush to gather her things and meet Alya, was quite distracted from her path. It hadn’t helped that her vision was occupied from the fashion magazine she'd stuffed her face into, which featured the blond sweetheart himself.

“Hey, Marinette!” Adrien had said, his familiar warm and welcoming voice pulling her eyes up from the colorful page. He had a hand tucked into his pocket and the other on the strap of his schoolbag, his lips curled upwards in a wonderfully sweet grin.

It was a wonder to Marinette how he always managed to look flawless, even after the rather intense literature test they had just endured the period before. It wasn't much of a surprise—Adrien was one of the school’s prodigy students, his grades soaring above others, including Marinette herself. It’s not that she had bad grades at all—Adrien just somehow managed to be the smartest kid in their class. It might have been from the many years of homeschooling, but it was only one of the hundreds of attributes that made Adrien amazing and, just like most girls (and some boys) in school, had Marinette falling so hard for him every day. 

The sight of him greeting her, as friends normally do, caused some sort of funny spark to ignite within her chest. A spark that wasn't anything close romantic; more like a prick of anxiety muddled together with a strange feeling of affection, producing quite the ugly concoction that made her stomach twist. Because of the uncomfortable (yet somehow excited) bubbling, Marinette hadn't known what possessed her to speak the ungodly words that slipped past her lips at that moment; perhaps her mind wasn’t functioning properly. Maybe she had received a mild concussion from yesterday’s akuma attack and hadn’t realized it was affecting her until now.

And then her world ended.

Her heart stopped, her tongue flopped, and her voice...

Well, her voice squeaked out: “H-hey, hot stuff!”

Marinette swore right then she'd be okay with keeling over.

The moment she saw Adrien’s eyebrow cock in an unexpected chuckle of surprise made her squawk and miss the first step going down the stairs, sending her tumbling and rolling down five steps until she landed upright on her rear.

Concrete wasn’t the best for cushioning her impact. Her tailbone would definitely be sore later.

"Are you alright?" Adrien swallowed his previous laugh, replacing the humorous lilt with friendly concern. Those summer green eyes that reminded her of grassy fields and sunshine glowed and Marinette swore she could feel the kindness radiating off of his gaze and warming her skin. The warmth only grew as he reached out a hand to help her back on her feet.

Heat rose to her freckled cheeks, causing her throat to close up and restricting any sound that wished to escape her lips. She settled with a slow nod instead, black bangs draping in her face like a curtain that hid the redness of her blush. Swallowing dryly, Marinette reached out a hesitant hand and grasped his, finding it even more difficult to stand now that they had physical contact.

(Oh my god, he was actually touching her hand.)

With shaky legs, she brought herself back up to her feet (with Adrien's assistance), and let out a the breath she hadn't realized she'd been holding.

Adrien had yet to let go of her hand.

Her heart beat so fast she swore it would pop right out of her chest and smack him in the face.

"That was quite the fall," Adrien's gaze shifted from her eyes to the floor, where her bag had opened and an ocean of paper and supplies scattered across the pavement. "Let me help you with this."

It took everything Marinette had not to let out a whine as he broke what little physical contact they'd previously shared. Part of her was sure that she wasn't even on Earth anymore.

In fact, because of her semi-dazed state, she had neglected to notice that her sketchbook had opened to a particular page she'd wanted to keep hidden. As Adrien reached for it, she couldn't bring herself to swipe it from his grasp—after all, what good would it do to tell her crush to back off when she had just lived through the embarrassment of falling in front of him?

"A-ah, those are, um," The heat in her face increased. She watched with an anxious gaze as his hands ran across the page lightly, taking in all of the details. By the look on his face, she prayed that it was the expression of someone who was impressed rather than appalled. "Just some designs I was make to inspired—I mean, inspired to make—after the last akuma attack. That I saw. From the crowd. As a bystander!"

The urge to smack her palm against her forehead was almost too strong to resist. Smooth, Marinette, real smooth.

She knew the sketches that Adrien held in his hands were probably nothing compared to what he modeled on a nearly daily basis. His father was the best fashion designer in all of Paris, if not Europe in its entirety. If those gorgeous green eyes of his were on any other sketches, maybe she wouldn't feel as nervous. Because in all honesty, why would Marinette be designing clothes for Ladybug and Chat Noir, of all people?

It wasn't that she hadn't felt pride in those designs. No, they actually happened to be some of her favorite ideas so far: altering their suits for winter. Her normal skin-tight suit wore a spotted shawl from her shoulders to her back and chest in her signature scarlet, completed with a fluffy black trim around the edges and neck. Instead of having only spandex covering her feet, she sported some stylish black boots made of leather. They were heelless, careful not to hinder her movement or speed. From her hands to the end of her forearm stretched black gloves, made for the soul purpose of looking cool as well as keeping her hands a tad warmer.

Chat's design hadn't changed too much, considering he was covered in black leather that absorbed heat due to its coloration. That didn't stop Marinette's creativity, of course. His top was rid of the zippers and made of a much softer material, the inside lined with a cozy fabric that would be comfortable and retain warmth. Thicker pants ran down his legs, made of the same fabric of the shirt on the interior. He had complained last winter that he hated the cold; he wasn't alone on that thought. An acid green scarf wrapped around his neck and draped his shoulders, the color reminiscent of his bright eyes.

Chat's eyes had always drawn her attention; they were so thoughtful and displayed countless emotions that she could never fully pick up on. She knew her partner well enough by now to understand most of his mannerisms and body language, but his eyes were full of secrets, locking them tight and blocking off any attempt she made to dive deep inside them. Marinette figured that within him, something was amiss; it almost seemed like unhappiness at times, but his cheerful demeanor when he was with her always overcame whatever was bothering him. She figured that in his civilian form, Chat must be an actor or something—how else could he hide everything so well?

"Marinette?" Adrien's voice cut through her thoughts, bringing her back to reality. How long had she zoned out? Had he been speaking? Mon dieu, what did he say!?

"Ah..." Marinette blinked several times, attempting (and failing) to conjure a coherent sentence. "I'm s-so sorry! Wh-what did you say?"

She could see his eyes soften and lips stretch into a smile. "I said these designs are amazing. Are you going to make them? I'm sure Ladybug and Chat Noir would be appreciative. If you were to show them, that is."

"Oh!" Marinette squeaked. Sketching the designs was one thing, but actually making them was a whole new subject entirely. She hadn't considered it, being Ladybug herself, but seeing Adrien's excitement led her to nod without fully processing her response. "I-I, I guess I could, I mean- I, well- do you think they would actually like them?" Of course Ladybug would. Marinette wouldn't mind gaining some publicity from waltzing around and saving Paris in her own designs. If citizens knew that Ladybug was wearing Marinette's designs, well, they surely wouldn't hesitate to ask to see more—perhaps even buy them!

"I think they'd love it," Adrien's voice was full of encouragement. "You're very talented, Marinette. Keep it up." Holding out her sketchbook, he handed it back to her with the gentlest hand he could manage, which made Marinette's heart soar.

"Thank you, Adrien." For once she didn't stutter. "It means a lot."

He bid his goodbyes and Marinette watched as he entered his silver car and was driven away. She wondered if he knew how much he had inspired her, encouraged her, filled her with self esteem for her skills! If Adrien Agreste liked her designs, what could be the fault in making them for the two superheroes?

The only problem was that she needed Chat's measurements. It would be awkward to come right out and ask him as Ladybug, and would possibly give away a little too much information, so... that option was out of the question. There had to be another way.

If she and Chat could even alter their suits. Marinette hadn't even considered that they wouldn't be able to—those sketches were just for fun—so really... How would she make this work?


Lunches at home were always peaceful.

Marinette let out a relaxed sigh as she and Alya sat at her kitchen table, snacking on some cookies from the bakery below. Once or twice a week her friend usually came over for lunch, claiming that she "couldn't resist the sweets her parents made." Truthfully Marinette enjoyed her company and loved having her over as often as she could, due to most of their hangouts being interrupted by akuma attack after akuma attack. Ladybug couldn't stick around for chit-chat.

"So," Alya began, biting into one of the chocolate chip cookies that had been set out on a plate. "I heard from Nino that Adrien said you made some really awesome new designs that I'm apparently excited to see. Want to show me?"

Marinette couldn't help but giggle, her cheeks harboring a shade of pink. Had Adrien really talked about her designs to Nino? She knew Alya would love these recent sketches, and the thought that she would actually be fabricating them would send the young journalist into a fit of Ladybug obsession.

"Okay," She said, "but they were just a spur of the moment thing and I'm still not one hundred percent sure I'll actually make them."

Sliding her sketchbook out of her schoolbag, she handed it to Alya, who flipped to the most recent page. Her eyes widened three times their size behind her glasses as she gazed down at the page, mouth gaped and lips curled into a grin, excitement clear on her face. "No way! You have to make these, girl! If not for Ladybug and Chat Noir, then for me. These are amazing!"

Another laugh slipped out of Marinette's mouth. Her best friend's thrill was clear and she didn't want to disappoint her or Adrien at this point, so why not? There was no harm in it. It would be pretty great for publicity.

"Ugh, Alya, you know I can't say no to that face," Marinette sighed, grinning at her friend. "I'll see if I can get started on them soon. There's a problem, though." Her fingers tapped on the tabletop. "I don't really know their measurements. I mean, Ladybug's is kind of similar to my own... but I have no idea what Chat Noir's are, and it's not like I can just call him up and ask him to come over."

Alya pondered her statement for a moment, tossing the rest of her cookie in her mouth before an idea visibly appeared in her brain. She snapped her fingers, a devious smirk stretching across her features, which caused Marinette to become slightly nervous. Goodness, what did she have planned?

"Got it," Alya chimed, "I could totally ask Adrien. He's tall enough, isn't he? Plus, you'd get to have him in your room all day. I'm sure you two could talk and maybe fall in love and-"

"Alya!" Marinette's exclamation even surprised herself, causing her to nearly choke on the cookie she had recently bitten into. "I can't just have Adrien in my room alone with me, I'm...Too awkward. I'll just embarrass myself."

"Well, how else are you going to get measurements?" Alya countered. "Nino isn't the correct height or body type, and it's not like we know another guy well enough to ask if he can help."

Marinette didn't want to admit it, but Alya had a point. Adrien was around the same height and shape as Chat... It couldn't be that bad, could it?

"Alright...Fine," She caved, "but I want you there for moral support for a little while."

"Girl, you can do this. It's just Adrien—he's a normal guy! Well," Another smirk appeared on her face as she snagged a second cookie. "Besides the fact that he's a model, but he's probably used to this. It wont be any different for him. Just be careful not to prick him with any pins below the neck, or else you'll be kissing boo-boos in places that aren't reserved for 'just friends.'"

"Alya!"

Alya's laugh filled the room as Marinette's face heated up in a deep flush. She didn't even want to think about piercing his beautiful skin, let alone kissing it. At least right now.

"Look," Alya began as she picked up her schoolbag, reminding Marinette that their lunch break was almost over. "I'll ask him, okay? Cheer up and calm down. You'll be fine, girl, I promise."

Marinette was wrapped in a comforting hug before they returned to school, her face still a tinge red from the idea that Adrien might be coming to her house to help fit her designs. The more she thought about it from sitting behind him and staring at the back of his head, she began to consider that it might not be such a bad thing. Her and Adrien could bond, talk a little, maybe get past the nervous and awkward barrier she had built up. Maybe they could even squeeze in a little video game break.

It's not so bad, Marinette thought to herself as she as she slumped into one of her rolling chairs, placing her sketchbook on her desk and leaving it open on the page of her most recent designs. Maybe we'll have fun. Maybe I'll actually learn to talk to him without making a fool of myself.

Those thoughts were immediately wiped from her mind as Adrien himself appeared at her front door a mere hour later.

Chapter Text

Adrien considered Alya incredibly lucky that she caught him on the rarity that was a "free day."

Outdoor photoshoots had been cancelled due to the downpour of rain that currently flooded gutters and made the world tremble from the roar of thunder. Paris was going through a fit of bad weather lately, the skies gloomy and streets full of scattered puddles. Akuma attacks had certainly been less frequent—perhaps Hawk Moth and his villains didn’t care much for getting damp?

Fencing practice was only mildly interesting, unlike days where it was a freeing sort of entertainment. Normally it was a great opportunity to practice his sword-fighting skills, should he ever need to weld anything other than a baton, but after the headache that had developed from the weather outside... There was only so much of swinging around a foil he could take, and a mask covering his face wasn't helping much to alleviate the uncomfortable throbbing either.

Once Adrien had changed back into his regular attire, he checked his phone (much to the annoyance of a sleeping Plagg) and discovered he had received a text from Alya. His face lit up from the sight. 

Yes, he thought, friendly communication! Social interaction!

It wasn't often that anyone besides Nino or Chloe texted him, so seeing Alya's name and a new message in his inbox made a warm smile spread across Adrien's face. Friends were something he cherished and was incredibly grateful for; it was a shame he didn't get to hang out with them as often as he wished. Busy schedule, after all...

Alya, 5:00 PM.: [hey adrien, could you do me a big favor? if you're free.]

Huh, well, okay. Alya normally didn't ask for favors, being a go-getter herself, but... Being the gentleman that Adrien knew he was, how could he refuse? Besides, Alya was his friend. They weren't as close as he and Nino were, but she was still close to him.

With a smile at the thought of friendship, Adrien quickly shot back an excited "sure!" before stuffing his phone into his pocket and heading out to the signature flashy limo, where the Gorilla patiently waited. Just as he had strapped in, his phone alerted him of another message.

Alya, 5:03PM.:  [awesome!  ur the best]

Alya, 5:04PM.: [ok sooo... marinette really needs some help and i couldn't think of anyone better than you. she's got some really cool new designs. i think you saw them? but she doesnt have measurements for chat noir and you're pretty close in height so...i think you can see where im going with this lol] 

Oh. Oh.

Adrien's eyes widened a fraction at the thought of being fitted for a Chat Noir design. He was used to being measured and having people scurry around him poking pins into his clothes, but... This was different.

This was Marinette.

Marinette was incredibly nice and pretty, but she had always struck Adrien as sort of... Awkward. Whenever she so much as tried to speak to him she would stutter or become quiet, leaving him to think that even after the gum incident months and months back, she still didn't care for him all that much. It was a little hurtful, if he had to admit, but... He couldn't force her to like him if she didn't. And although it stung and bothered him in a way that made his "I-want-to-be-friends-with-everyone" personality wilt, there wasn't much he could do to rectify his past mistakes. He'd said he was sorry, explained to her that it wasn't what it'd looked like; it wasn't what she'd thought...

But all he really wanted was to be her friend.

Marinette was a sweet girl. He knew that for a fact. She'd been nice to him plenty of times—like when they were training for the Ultimate Mecha Strike III tournament, or when her uncle had needed a translator—she couldn't really dislike him all that much, could she?

Maybe things could change, he mused, if he did help her out with her designs. Maybe she wouldn't think he was all that bad anymore.

And if she didn't think he was that awful, well... It wouldn't exactly hurt to pay her a visit, would it? Especially if she needed help.

So, with a hopeful flicker in his chest, Adrien tapped his fingers on the back of his phone as a hint of a smile grew across his face. 

Perhaps today he would make a new friend.


 As Adrien stood outside the doors of the Dupain-Cheng bakery, the scent of bread and pastries hit him in a sweetened cloud, filling his nose with a comforting aroma and making his stomach positively growl. As he stepped inside, the tinkle of a bell chimed behind him, followed by the sound of customers chatting between themselves. It was warm in the bakery, cozy; like loving arms that wrapped him in a hug. In front of him a small line of people formed, and as he walked closer to the front counter, a man carrying a bag of bread accidentally brushed his arm, exiting with an apology and a quick "excuse me."

Adrien smiled at how nicely decorated and homey the shop was. The last time he had visited all of the sweets were tempting, but he'd abstained, knowing his father wouldn't allow him to consume such unhealthy indulgences. It was even more tempting now, standing in front of a display case stocked full of buttery cookies, tons of flavors of cakes and what seemed to be some sort of flaky pastry filled with chocolate. He'd already eaten lunch, but a little snack couldn't hurt, could it?

No, his conscious told him. You're here to see Marinette, not buy out her whole bakery's goods.

Shut up, he fought back, they look yummy.

"Adrien? Is that you?"

Adrien swallowed as his eyes shifted to Marinette's mother. She smiled at him from the front counter, having finished ringing up a customer, eyes beaming at the sight of one of her daughter's classmates. She appeared to be happy, which was a good sign—she had mentioned once that Marinette talked about him while he wasn't around. Maybe there was no use worrying over whether or not Marinette didn't like him. Still, to say that he wasn’t at least a tad nervous would be a complete lie. 

He had only been in Marinette’s home once for video games. It was fun and admittedly he'd enjoyed spending time with the cute (albeit incredibly nervous) girl from class—she'd seemed to open up to him and it had been quite fun. For once they had delved in actual conversation, but the game session unfortunately only lasted a measly hour before an akuma attack drew the pair away and split them apart, cutting his visit short.

So much for getting to know his cute blue-eyed classmate that day.

Now he had a second chance; one he wouldn't have been brave enough to make on his own, but it was still a chance. Marinette had always been so nervous around him save for the first day of school when he'd been caught in an awkward situation, and then her scowl and confident confrontation had made her seem like a completely different person than who Adrien knew now.

If only Chloe hadn't put gum on her seat...

Pulling himself out of his thoughts, Adrien nodded. "Hello, Madame Cheng. Is Marinette home?"

"It's so nice to see you again, Adrien," Sabine beamed, her smile genuine. "Go right up, she's in her room."

He didn't hesitate. Excited to see his friend (at least he hoped she was), Adrien weaved through the line and found his way up to the second story of Marinette's home, knocking on the door. Although permission had been given to go up to her room, it seemed rude to just barge in without Marinette's consent. At first she didn't answer, so he rapped on the door once again, with a little more force so he would be heard if she so happened to be listening to music or something.

Silence.

"Marinette?" Adrien called out, giving the door another knock. "It's Adrien. Are you-"

The door flew open, a wide-eyed Marinette standing frozen beneath him. Her expression was reminded him of the term "deer in the headlights." What did she look so frightened for?

"A-Adrien!" Her voice peeped, cracking and squeaking as her cheeks turned a light pink. "Oh, oh gosh, wh-what are you doing here?"

The poor girl was so nervous. He couldn't help but wonder what he did to make her feel as if she couldn't speak around him. Marinette wasn't one to be afraid of people; she usually stood her ground. Clearing his throat, he said, "Alya texted me saying you need help with some designs or something and, well, here I am." It took everything he had to resist the urge to bow; that was reserved for his confident alter-ego, and Adrien was sure that Marinette wouldn't appreciate Chat Noir at her door.

...Well... She did seem to be a fan. Perhaps she wouldn't mind.

"Oh...Oh. Oh!" Her face reddened deeper. "C-can you just give me a moment? I have to..." She paused. "...clean my room. It's messy. J-just wait here on the couch, okay? I'll be right back!"

He didn't even have a chance to respond before she scurried up the stairs to her room. There was the unmistakable sound of frantic rummaging coming from above him, and he could distinctly pick out Marinette scolding her friend over what he assumed was the phone. "You didn't even warn me, Alya!" She hissed, causing Adrien's shoulders to slump. "What am I going to do with all of these photos?"

His smile turned downward into a frown. Did she really not want him here? Had Alya done this as a joke? He had thought there was a possibility that Marinette was nervous around him because she didn't like him, but...

"Ah- um, okay, you can come up now, Adrien." Marinette's face was crimson as she poked her head out from the trapdoor. "Sorry about that."

"It's no problem." As he entered her room, Marinette took a step back, allowing him to glance about and take it all in. Seeing her room for the second time made Adrien's chest flare up in a cozy warmth, giving him that wonderful at-home feeling he had so long desired to feel at his own household. Nobody's home felt more comfortable and snug than Marinette's to him, and he'd only been there what, two times?

A silence stretched between them, neither sure of how to start up a conversation. As Chat Noir, Adrien was a master of charisma—why couldn't he muster up the courage to speak now?

Maybe it was those bluebells that had been staring at him since he arrived.

"I'm sorry," His awkward laugh broke the silence, hand reaching up to rub the back of his head. "I figured Alya would have told you I was coming. If you want me to go, it's okay, I promise-"

"No!" Marinette seemed surprised by her sudden outburst and cupped her palm over her mouth, shifting her gaze away and shuffling her feet. "S-sorry, I meant... No. It's okay. You can stay, I don't mind at all. The help would really be appreciated, actually."

Was she ever not anxious?

At least hadn't kicked him out yet.

Marinette seemed to be such a nice girl. All Adrien really wanted was to get closer to her, be a good friend, talk to her and make her laugh. He'd heard her laugh before—it was a truly wonderful sound. If he could get her to laugh, and to smile, then- then his entire day would be made. No- his entire week. Month?

Whatever the case, it would be great to see her smile.

With a smile of his own, Adrien stretched out his arms at his sides, trying to at least lighten up the mood with a bit of humor. "Well, here I am, mademoiselle. Certified model at your service."

And then the most wonderful thing happened—the most wonderful sound Adrien had ever heard—Marinette giggled. She blushed and she giggled and for some odd reason, Adrien felt his heartbeat quicken, followed by a fluttering of something within his chest. Something light, something warm... Something that made him feel fuzzy yet like a puddle at the same time.

Oh, man.

Oh man. 

Oh man oh man oh man oh boy oh my goodness oh wow. 

Adrien had always known Marinette was pretty, that was a fact, but the way her lips quirked up into a smile and how her eyes lit up and how her cheeks reddened, and oh- how her nose scrunched up just slightly and made the dotting of freckles all the more prominent, he knew—Adrien knew right then that she was more than just pretty.

She was super, super cute.

No, scratch that- adorable.

Marinette is adorable!

And seeing her smile, if only for a moment—made Adrien's world ten times brighter.

"O-okay," Marinette said, apparently still feeling a tad awkward if her stutter proved anything. "Yes. Okay. I can do this."

Grinning, Adrien nodded. "You can. I'm giving you permission."

"You are! I am- oh," She looked down at her hands for a moment. "I need measuring tape, don't I?"

A tiny snort found its way out of him as he watched her search for her measuring tape. Why couldn't he think of anything else other than how cute she was?

"Found it!" Exclaimed Marinette, holding it up and walking over. "S-sure did find it. Um... Okay. Just... Stand still- actually- you know what you're doing because you're a model, so, I don't really need to- agh." She slapped a palm to her forehead, covering her reddening face. "You know what, I'm- I'm just going to stop talking."

But Adrien shook his head, smiling down at her with warmth. "No, it's okay. I don't mind talking."

Even if she was having trouble forming a coherent sentence, for some reason he just... Wanted to keep listening to her voice.

They slipped into a quietude while Adrien stood with his legs straight and arms out, Marinette's measuring tape stretching across his body. He could see that her hands were trembling, but wasn't entirely sure why. Part of him almost wanted to grab them and assure her that it was okay, but that would be weird, wouldn't it? She was only gathering his measurements.

For the first time, though, he was given a real chance to look at her. He'd always had a weakness for blue eyes and black hair—his crush on Ladybug proved that—but something about Marinette was just so captivating. He couldn't place his finger on it, but the way her bangs hung in her face or how her tongue poked out of her lips when she concentrated were all too enamoring. He hadn't meant to stare, honest, but he just... Couldn't look away.

(And for some reason, couldn't slow the rate of his heart either.)

"A-Adrien? Are you alright?" Marinette's eyes were upon him, sparking with concern. "You, uh... You look like you're about to fall over."

Adrien's felt himself blush. "I'm fine, Marinette. Just a little distracted."

Marinette's smile did nothing to slow his pulse. "It's okay," She said, voice soft. "I'm a little distracted too."

He wondered what she could be distracted about.

The silence returned as Marinette continued to work, jotting down his measurements on a piece of pink paper. She opened her mouth to speak, but an embarrassingly loud growl from Adrien's stomach shushed her. Biting his lip, he looked away, a laugh rising up in his throat. "Oops."

And then Marinette giggled again—a sound that made Adrien desire to pick he up, or wrap her in a tight hug.

Confused by his own feelings of impulse, he raised an eyebrow. What is with these weird feelings today?

"Do you want something to eat?" Marinette asked, oblivious to his inner conflict.

It wasn't until his stomach voiced a second complaint did Adrien realized how hungry he felt. Lunch had been skipped so he could study for their French test, and breakfast that morning was fairly light. It didn't help that he was on specific meal plans for modelling—he did usually go throughout the day feeling hungry, since his father's knowledge of his escapades as Chat Noir was nonexistent. He was eating enough for a regular model, sure, but one that ran around the city at night? No way. A snack or two wouldn't hurt.

If Marinette was offering food, how could he refuse?

"Sure," He kept in the sigh of relief. "I'd love that, if you don't mind."

"It's no problem. Let me get you something to eat. Just... Wait here, okay?"

Adrien could tell she was opening up to him, even if it was just slightly. At least she was stuttering less... Even if he had only been at her house for a little less than an hour. 

While she was gone, Adrien took the opportunity to look around. Marinette's room had such a welcoming aura to it that he felt as if he never wanted to step foot out of it. It filled him with feelings of coziness as he glanced from her bed to her desk to her chaise lounge, relishing in the glow of pinks and black. It had a much different atmosphere from his room, which felt like a prison of white and cold, pointless devices of entertainment. What good was having a gigantic room if he had nobody to share it with?

Finding out that he would be spending the day with Marinette, well, Adrien had been grateful—being at home didn't exactly fill him with joy. It was lonesome and empty, chilling halls full of marble and golden photo frames making his entire household feel superficial; as if all of it was just for show. There was no love that occupied the Agreste mansion, only the idea of success and more.

In reality, all Adrien desired was a little home like Marinette's. A smaller room which he would look forward to relaxing in after a bad day, or the warmth of color filling each wall. The scent of freshly baked bread and vanilla was a constant at Marinette's place, while at his house you seldom smelled anything at all, besides the wax on the floors after they were freshly polished. Everything about his home—if you could even call it that—was harsh and quiet. Walking in from those gigantic doors after an exhausting day left Adrien feeling sorrowful and in dire need of attention, which was something he rarely came in contact with.

But here, standing in Marinette's room, he felt as if he had been taken in on a snowy day and wrapped up in a blanket after receiving a kiss on the cheek. It almost made him wish he could stay over for the night, just to experience what it was like to sleep in a house that made him feel like hot cocoa tastes.

"Adrien?"

Adrien turned around to face his classmate, who held out a tray of some delicious looking croissants. Just the sight of the flaky pastries made his mouth water, hands itching to grab one and chow down. The last time those pastries had been offered to him, they'd slipped out of his grasp from Marinette's dismissal. Now she was offering the freshly-baked croissants to him without qualm, croissants that she had probably asked her mother to make specifically for him. His nose tingled as the tempting aroma surrounded him, hugged him, pulled him in for a kiss. Taking one, he bit into it without hesitation, thanking his friend as she set the tray down on her desk.

His eyes closed partly as he chewed his snack, the flavor making him sigh. Even the food felt like home.

"Do you want to play some video games?" Marinette's voice broke the comfortable quiet that had rose in the room. "Maybe... Maybe you can try to beat me this time."

Ooh, was she teasing?

"Is that a challenge?" Adrien's eyebrow cocked self-assuredly and a smirk teased at his lips. Instantly he saw something spark in his friend's eyes, that same shimmer of confidence he had seen when she'd competed against Max months back. She'd beat him at games before, but maybe- maybe this time he could beat her. "I'll have you know, I've had plenty of practice since our last time playing. You could call me an Ultimate Mecha Strike III champ."

"Oh, really?" Marinette met his competitive tone, her eyes gleaming. His heart skipped a beat and his grin widened. That was the Marinette he wanted to get to know.

"Really," Adrien said, sitting in one of her rolling chairs. "I'll make a bet: five euros says you beat me twice but I win the third time. If you beat me all three times, then you win."

Marinette's laugh made his stomach tingle. Why did it do that? Usually it was only Ladybug who made him feel such a way. The feelings were odd, new; something Adrien wasn't used to associating with a classmate.

He knew she was cute, there was no way that word couldn't describe her, but... Wow. If cute could increase by one thousand, then that was Marinette. His heart thumped in his chest and his voice couldn't reach his throat, and he sort of felt a little lightheaded. Why couldn't he look away?

What is wrong with me?

"Adrien? Your controller."

He wondered if she noticed the tint in his cheeks. "Ah, yeah, sorry. Ready?"

"I was born ready. Prepare to have your butt kicked, Agreste." Marinette gave him a smirk, something she had never directed at him before, but it filled him with excitement. Friendship levels with Marinette had just gone up about seventy percent.

"Oh, bring it on, Marinette."


 Adrien sighed as he stuffed a hand into his pocket and handed over five euros. He had accepted his defeat with a few muffled curse words, which sent Marinette into a fit of those adorable giggles he'd really grown to love.

That girl was ruthless when it came to video games. Two hours of match-after-match and he hadn't claimed a single victory.

"One more round," He gave her a cocky grin. "Maybe I'll have some good luck for once. I've got a good feeling this time around." Reaching into his pocket, Adrien pulled out the one thing he never left the house without (save for Plagg, of course, who was safely nestled somewhere in Marinette's room) and displayed it on his palm.

Marinette's face instantly softened as her eyes landed on the lucky charm she'd given him a few months prior. "...You still have that?" He could sense a change in her, something deep; her confidence faded and was replaced by the same nervousness he had been trying to coax her out of since his arrival. Eyes shifting to his, Marinette flushed, holding his gaze while she awaited a reply.

Adrien held his breath in his throat. Had he scared her? Had he said something wrong?

Oh, no. If he'd ruined what was the beginning of their friendship over one comment, then- then he wouldn't know what to do.

"I do," He answered. "It brings me good luck when I need it. It's nice to carry around," His eyes glowed with affection and his tone became quiet, and he, too, felt his cheeks begin to redden. "It's a reminder that someone cares. Do you want it back?"

A reminder that someone cares.

Adrien felt his hands tighten around the lucky charm. It meant a lot to him, and now that the gravity of his words had set in, he felt his heart swell with a mix of emotions. Marinette cares. Marinette cares about you. Marinette fed you when you were hungry and Marinette gave you this charm to help win a game. Marinette never asked for it back. Marinette-

"Well," She spoke with a nervous waver to her voice, as if she wanted to say more but couldn't find the confidence to spit it out. Her blush hadn't faded. "I'm glad it helps. You can probably get better use out of it than I can. Keep it, please. I want you to have it."

His insides melted and the urge to wrap Marinette up in his arms hit him heavily, but he resisted, instead placing the charm back into his pocket with a gentle pat. "How about that other round?"

"Sure, we can-"

Marinette was cut off by her mother calling her down for dinner. Disappointment washed across her freckled face as she let out a slightly irritated sigh, and Adrien could partially agree—did they have to stop now, when they were having so much fun?

"I guess that's my cue to leave," Chuckled Adrien, giving her his signature friendly smile. "Do you want me to come back another day for those designs?"

Marinette didn't answer immediately. Her gaze stayed glued to the floor; she looked as if she was thinking hard about something, contemplating her choices or how she would ask him a question.

"Do you-" She nibbled on her bottom lip, which left Adrien's heart to skip a beat. "Do you... Do you maybe want to stay for dinner? I-I understand if you can't, of course, you're probably busy, but- but I, well, I could ask, and-"

Ah, there was the awkward jumble of sentences that Adrien thought he had gotten rid of for now. Her shyness had returned, causing his classmate to slip over her own words and nervously babble on, even though she was only attempting to ask a simple question.

How could he say no to such an adorable request?

"You know, I... I actually think I would love that, Marinette."

Nathalie might have his head later for skipping dinner, but Adrien couldn't find it in himself to care. Eating dinner at a friend's house was always something he wished he could experience, and now that he had an actual chance, there was no way he was passing up the opportunity. 

Even if it meant answering to his father.

Marinette's face beamed as she broke into a delighted smile. "I'll go ask my mom."


 It was eight-thirty by the time Adrien finally slumped into his computer chair at home. No updates on the Ladyblog today.

His father had a mouthful to say when he arrived home carrying a box of pastries from Marinette's bakery, just as he knew he would. A thirty-minute lecture about staying out too late and how eating such unhealthy food is "so bad for you, Adrien" later, and Adrien found himself unable to find any inkling of regret within him. There was simply nothing to regret. He'd spent his whole day after school with Marinette, playing video games, cracking jokes, and even eating dinner with her parents.

Her parents. They adored him.

Adrien had never felt so welcomed by anyone in his entire life. His own father never acted so kind, so warm and giving. Just the atmosphere of the Dupain-Cheng household alone gave Adrien the so heavily desired feelings of being wanted and appreciated. They talked to him, asked his opinion on different subjects, included him in conversation and hadn't scolded him when he went back for a second helping.

A family like Marinette's was a dream. A wonderful, fuzzy dream that rested within his heart and played out in his head like a movie he was the star of.

And Marinette...

Well, she was the highlight of it all. A friend (a friend!) who cared, who made him laugh and smile, truly smile. She had bid him goodbye with a timid wave after gifting him with a decent sized box of pastries that were "on the house, I insist!"

She had asked him to come back whenever he could.

He wouldn't have left if it was up to him. He almost felt as if he belonged there, with Marinette.

Marinette.

She wouldn't leave his head.

"Can't stop thinking about that girl?" Plagg's muffled voice rang from inside the pastry box. Adrien had promised the Kwami the cheesebread, and within seconds he had zipped inside and began chowing down. "What would Ladybug say, hmm?"

"Ladybug?" Adrien's heart hammered in his chest. Thinking of his scarlet-clad superheroine crush made him sigh—she was amazing. "Marinette's just a friend, Plagg. My heart belongs to Ladybug, you know that. Besides," He added quite bitterly, "Ladybug and I aren't a thing. She doesn't want a relationship with me. It would be difficult, anyways, with our identities and such..."

"Alrighty then," Snickered Plagg as he popped his head out from the box, tossing a large chunk of cheesebread into his mouth. "Let's go meet your lovebug for patrol so I can get home and sleep. A Kwami needs its rest too, you know."

He needn't say anymore.

"Yeah, yeah," Said Adrien as he stood, stretching his arms into the air before calling for his transformation. "Plagg, transforme-moi!"

Green light filled his form like electricity surging up from his feet to his head, coating him in black. His green eyes flashed in the dark, tail whipping out behind him and ears perked as they appeared atop his head. It might have been a school night, but Adrien didn't mind—going out into the city was what he lived for. Leaping from his window was a sensation so freeing that none other could compare.

Being Chat Noir was something Adrien relished in.

Quick on his feet, the superhero vaulted from building to building, the chilly spring air causing him to shiver with delight.

With each leap, he felt himself closer and closer to freedom. Night time was his time. When the sun went down, the cat came out and was ready to stalk the streets. Paris might have been Ladybug's city by day, but when the dark blanket of twilight washed over the Earth and coated it in blues and blacks, it belonged to him. No person knew the evening better than Chat Noir.

Some nights he swore he could touch the stars if he jumped high enough.

He thanked his cat-like stealth as he landed without a sound on the rooftop of Notre Dame, his and Ladybug's usual meeting place. Ladybug hadn't heard his arrival, as usual, which caused a smirk to tug at his lips. She sat with her back to him, legs dangling in the air and gaze captivated by the luminescence of the city. The faint yellow hues that painted her suit practically made her glow, like a goddess in the night.

He hoped she knew how beautiful she was.

Twitching his tail, Adrien sunk to all fours and began to slowly creep forward, much like a lion stalking its prey. Just as his rear wiggled in a signal that he was going to pounce, Ladybug spoke, causing him to jolt and fall backwards onto his butt.

"Trying to scare me, tomcat?"

Adrien huffed and plopped down with a thud next to his lady. "How do you always know I'm there?"

Ladybug turned her eyes to him, returning his smirk with a raise of her eyebrow. "Who's to say that I don't also have heightened senses when I'm transformed?"

A chuckled rumbled in his throat. "Ah, but you're not a cat, my lady. What kind of 'heightened senses' does a ladybug have?"

"Well, for one, I could see your shadow." She turned her gaze to him with a satisfied smile as if to say, "better luck next time, kitty."

"Ah. I guess that would be a dead giveaway." The grin that had been plastered on his face since he left Marinette's house had ceased to disappear, as well as the tint of pink on his cheeks as he thought of just how wonderful his day had been. A content sigh slipped past his lips, all of the tension he usually held in his body fading away with the breeze. For the first time in a long time, he was completely relaxed; even blissful, perhaps.

"What's gotten you in such a good mood, chaton?" Ladybug's tone was genuine and her smile friendly.

Adrien was taken a bit off-guard by her question, but felt his grin widen as he replayed the day's events in his head for the hundredth time. "Mm. I just had a fantastic day with a friend. Ate some really amazing food, too." He sighed. "It's rare I have days this good."

"A friend?" There was a teasing lilt to Ladybug's tone, but something flashed in her eyes he couldn't quite catch. "What kind of friend? You seem pretty happy about them."

"I know what you're hinting at, my Lady, and no, she is not that kind of friend," Adrien gave her a flirtatious wink. "You still hold the key to my heart. It's just nice to have a second person who cares about me."

"Who's the first?"

Turning to her, Adrien's expression softened and his eyes glowed with affection for his partner. "You."

He could have sworn Ladybug blushed, but if she did she hid it well, because the second he saw it, the red was gone. "Well, I can confirm that. Anyways," She stood, grabbing onto her yo-yo in preparation to leap across the city. "Ready for patrol?"

"With you, Buginette," Adrien gave her his signature grin as he hopped to his feet, reaching behind him to grasp his baton. "I'm always ready."


 By the time Adrien had showered, finished his homework and curled up in bed, it was past eleven. There was no guilt within him, however. Only the comfortable feeling of being absolutely content.

"You can have a crush on two girls at once, you know," Plagg yawned from his spot on Adrien's pillow. "A crush isn't exclusive to just one person."

"Plagg, shush," Adrien grumbled, letting his mouth stretch into a yawn of his own. "I don't have a crush on Marinette. I love Ladybug, and only Ladybug. Now get some sleep."

His Kwami mumbled a reply before the dull sounds of purring and snoring could be heard, signaling that the small cat had drifted off.

Adrien wished he could do the same.

His mind ran marathons as he tossed and turned, his body exhausted but brain fully awake. Plagg did have a point, it wasn't completely wrong to have a crush on two girls at once, but- no, he didn't-

He didn't have a crush on Marinette. She was his friend. His friend who had made his day so much fun and his friend whose laugh he couldn't get out of his head.

"I don't have a crush on Marinette," He whispered to himself repeatedly. "I don't have a crush on Marinette. I don't have a crush on Marinette. I don't..."

Perhaps telling himself that over and over again would make it true.

"I don't have a crush on Marinette."

Perhaps telling himself that would rid his mind of those twinkling blue eyes.

"I don't have a crush on Marinette."

Perhaps telling himself that would make him forget about the dusting of freckles on her button nose.

"I don't have a crush on Marinette!"

Perhaps, as futile as the battle with himself may be, telling himself that would erase the thoughts of her perfectly pink lips that looked so kissable.

"Oh my god," Adrien groaned, stuffing his face into his pillow as his cheeks heated up and stomach churned with a mixture of excitement and anxiety. "I have a crush on Marinette."

Chapter Text

Marinette awoke with a start, her body jerked by a force that caused her bed to tremble.

It was an odd feeling, to have been jolted upward from her bed an inch or two without her consent. A low rumble from outside made her groggily lift her head from the warmth of her pillow, casting her gaze to the twinkling city lights. The sky was still its inky black, and a quick glance at her phone confirmed that the world hadn't yet reached waking hours. Two-fifteen A.M. read the clock, much to her annoyance. Two A.M. was meant for sleeping.

Just as she shrugged it off and laid her head back within the plush cloud of her pillow, a second force caused her eyes to snap open as the house rattled.

Something was amiss.

"What- ... " The sound of rushing water tore away any trace of lingering sleepiness as a feeling of alarm rose within the pit of her stomach.

Springing from her bed and practically leaping down the ladder, Marinette peeked her head out of the open window and gasped, the sight making her gape. Water gushed down the streets of Paris, bubbling and rising gradually like a slow-moving faucet. Thankfully, she noted, it hadn't reached threatening levels of height—at least, not yet—and was being sucked into drains before it had the chance to become too dangerous.

There was no other explanation for the situation than another akumatized villain.

That was the strangest thing, though; these attacks never happened at such late (early?) hours. Didn't Hawk Moth need sleep too?

Perhaps that was his whole idea: lure out the two superheroes when they're tired and vulnerable. It was silly, actually. Ladybug would be powerful no matter the hours of the day or night.

"Tikki," Marinette called out to her bed through a thick yawn, where the Kwami stirred from her position on her pillow. "Tikki, we have to transform."

"What?" The spotted creature rose, blinking sleepily as she zipped over to her chosen. "At this time?"

"I know, it's strange. But there's no other explanation for that-" She gestured to outside her window, where the water rushed in again before being sucked away, as if it was trying to reach greater heights without much success. "-than it being another villain."

Tikki examined the flow of water with an alert expression before giving a nod.

Marinette was out of her window in a flash of pink light, swinging across the city with the intent of finding the villain and purifying its akuma as quickly as possible so that she could snuggle back up in the coziness of her bed and get at least a few more hours of sleep. There was school tomorrow, after all.

It wasn't hard to locate the akumatized victim, who waded effortlessly through the ascending water. From her perch on a damp building, Marinette narrowed her eyes and peered down at the woman with an inquisitive gaze.

The villain was coated in blues of all different shades. Her skin was pale in coloration, its blue resembling that of the sky. Her hair and clothing, however, were quite different, as if they were made of nothing other than pure H2O that flowed down her shoulders and joined the pool at her feet. Obviously, this woman had to of been some kind of marine biologist, or at the very least an ocean fanatic, with the starfish, pearls, and shells embedded within her skin and outfit.

A hand on her shoulder initiated Marinette's defense mode. She whipped around, grappling the attacker in a headlock and holding it securely, glaring down at whoever dared touch her while she was on high alert.

"Woah, woah!" Choked out a familiar voice. "Ladybug, Bugaboo, it's just me!"

Marinette sighed and released the hold on her partner, letting him drop to the floor. Her unamused expression spoke enough. "Damn it, Chat Noir, you know not to sneak up on me like that. I could have really hurt you."

Chat coughed, rubbing his throat as he stood. "A thousand apologies, my Lady." That dumb smirk of his never ceased to fade, much to her annoyance. It was two in the morning on a school night, and she wasn't in the mood for any of his flirtatious antics.

"Looks like we're dealing with a water-based akuma here," She stated the obvious. "I've been watching. The streets fill with water about a good two or three feet before it ebbs away. I guess she's trying to flood the city, or draw people out. I hope you're a cat that doesn't mind getting a little wet."

Chat's expression faltered and the smirk finally fell, replaced by a sheepish smile and red cheeks. "Ah... Haha, yeah, well, about that..."

"Come on," She said.

Before Chat had a chance to protest, Marinette swooped in closer to the villain, landing atop a striped awning above a restaurant patio. At the moment, the akumatized victim was distracted with pulling water from storm drains, the level rising at a slow pace. As her vision swam to locate anything abnormal on the woman, Marinette's eyes landed on a shell necklace, which she clutched each time her other hand manipulated the water.

After she'd had her fill of surveying the villain, Marinette hoisted herself up on the roof of the restaurant, brows furrowed as she attempted to formulate a plan in her head.

"Did you figure out where the akuma is located?" Chat asked, approaching her with a nervous flick of his tail.

"I think so." She was thankful her partner had spoken before touching her this time. "The necklace. She holds it in her left hand before controlling the water. I think I have a plan: can you distract her while I go for it?"

Chat's eyes anxiously scanned the water below, his lips curling downward and tail hanging between his legs. "It's rising fast." The waver in his voice was certainly out of character.

"What's wrong, kitty?" Marinette teased. "Afraid of a little water?"

Her partner shot her an apologetic glance. "Well, ah..." He swallowed dryly. "Is this a bad time to tell you that I can't swim?"

You- you've got to be kidding me.

"You..." Her eyes flicked from his gaze to his feet, which shuffled as she stared him down. "...Can't swim? Like, at all?"

Well, this mission ought to be simple. Time to initiate Operation: Don't Let Chat Drown While We Battle An Akuma Whose Power Happens to Literally Be Controlling Water was now in full swing.

The embarrassment that hung on Chat's face deepened and his ears flattened back against his head. "...No. Never learned."

"Oh, Chat," Sighed Marinette, pressing her face into her palm. She was too tired to pity him; this battle was going to be so much more difficult than necessary. "Okay, new plan: I distract her, you get the necklace. You should be able to get out of that situation quicker and avoid getting too wet."

His expression brightened and eyes twinkled with gratefulness. "Aw, my lady, you do love me. How sur-purrb."

"Don't push your luck." Rolling her eyes, Marinette grinned and swung her yo-yo, soaring through the air as it caught on a building. Distracting the villain was usually Chat's job, but it couldn't be too hard, right?

The akumatized victim was growing impatient now, ripping fire hydrants from the ground with water in the shape of fists. "I will not be ignored," She hissed, water advancing up to chest-level. "If nobody cares about protecting the ocean, then nobody should care about protecting the citizens, either!"

Marinette's eyes widened as she stood on a roof directly above the woman, gripping her yo-yo in preparation. How did Chat usually distract villains?

Oh, right. By being himself. That was considerably annoying enough.

Solution? Act like Chat.

"Excusez-moi!" Called Marinette, waving down at the woman. The glare she received in return made her giggle. "I'm so sorry to interrupt your little game here, but it would be heavily appreciated if you didn't try to drown the people of Paris."

"Why should I care about the lives of Parisians when they don't care about our beautiful ocean? " The anger that laced the villain’s voice was strong, full of hurt and hatred. "Animals live there just as well as people live here."

"That's true," Marinette replied, "but people's lives matter as well, and it's my job to protect them. It's such a shame that I have to stop you. I didn't want to bug you-" She internally cringed at her own pun; Chat would have been so proud. "-but a Ladybug has to do what a Ladybug has to do to those who won't cooperate."


Adrien let an anxious sigh slip past his lips. Tail twitching with his nerves, he took a moment to brace himself before leaping from building to building, stealthily sneaking along the rooftops of Paris. He didn't make a sound as he stalked on all-fours, his eyes peering over the edge to survey the scene.

Water filled the streets and buildings acted like a canyon over the rising ocean. It made his throat go dry.

But he refused to let his fear get in the way of saving the city.

His enhanced cat senses certainly came in handy on missions. The highlight of his night was picked up by his incredible hearing: Ladybug made a pun.

He felt his heart swell.

Come on, Ladybug. His gaze flicked back and forth from the villain to his partner, who dodged flying fists of water that grasped and punched. It didn't seem that she had noticed how high the water had risen.

However, the Parisians had, families and citizens pouring out onto the roofs of their homes and businesses. Some wept at their lost items, others panicked, but most watched intently as a final lunge of water caught Ladybug in its grip.

Adrien gasped, barring his teeth and hissing fiercely.

Nobody hurt his lady.

Animalistic instincts took over as he shouted, "Cataclysm!"

Hand smoking black, Adrien lunged and landed square on the oceanic woman's shoulders with a low growl. He pressed his palm on the fist formed of water, his special ability disintegrating its grasp with a splash. Ladybug tumbled onto the street, coughing and glaring upwards as she stood in shallow water. Her face wore a mixture of expressions: annoyance, exhaustion, and fury all combined into one fierce determination. Water up the nose wouldn't make anyone happy, especially not Ladybug in the chilly night air of spring.

Ladybug threw her yo-yo into the air as she used her Lucky Charm, and a spotted beach towel fell into her hands. Even Adrien had no clue what that could possibly be used for.

Ladybug needed time to figure out what to do with it; he would be the replacement distraction now. All he needed to focus on was not falling into the swirling pool below his feet.

The struggle to hold on to the villain increased as she used both watery hands to attempt to throw him off. Adrien wobbled as she screeched and pulled but kept his hold, claws gripping onto her shoulder as Ladybug tied the towel around her hands, holding them secure like handcuffs.

Adrien ripped the necklace from her neck, grinning deviously down at the villain. "I'll be taking this now."

"Here, my Lady!" He cried out, throwing the bundle of shells on string to his partner. Relief flooded through him as she caught it, but that little victory was short lived.

He felt pressure around his entire body; a cold, wet hold that made him shiver and mewl.

The villain had caught him in a fist of water, gripping onto him tightly. Was she trying to crush him? Drown him? Both?

As his body was suddenly launched across the sky, her intention clicked into his head.

Before his brain had time to process a solution, a horrible stinging coursed through his body as his back collided with an icy surface.

But it wasn't ice. No, that surface was water. And it was freezing.

He'd been thrown into the Seine!

Sinking, sinking, his claws tore at the water as he fought to stay afloat. His nose and mouth became quickly filled as he attempted to cry out for help, water flooding his lungs with every gasp for breath. His limbs flailed helplessly as the water pushed down on him from all sides and his chest burned, begging for air as his muscles became sore from thrashing. The only thoughts that pounded into his brain at the moment were keep your head up, keep your head up, try to breathe!

Is this how Chat Noir met his untimely end?

No, he could do this. Chat Noir would not die. Paris needed him; Ladybug needed him.

His body rose above the surface once more, fighting, desperate to stay afloat. A flash of red and pink surrounded the city, cleansing it, fixing all of the damage the flood had caused. Ladybug must have been close. If he could just call for her, if his voice would cooperate, she could come to his rescue like she always did when he needed help.

“Lady-“ His mouth instantly sucked in dirty water. Coughing, he mewled and surfaced himself again, his limbs aching with exhaustion. Giving up wasn’t an option. “Ladybug! Help!”

And then he saw her, swinging over as quick as she could, a pained and panicked expression across her beautiful face. She would come to him.

She would save him.

He stopped clawing the water. If she was going to dive in and save him, he didn't need to persist or fight against the throbbing exhaustion in his limbs. He didn't need to push himself. Ladybug always had his back.

Ladybug could swim. He didn’t need to fight anymore. She would save him.

She would save him, like she always did.

The darkness that enveloped his vision grew blacker.

Did she not know he was sinking?

Ladybug! I’m drowning! Where are you?

Panic set in as he figured that maybe she hadn't realized that he was actually in peril. He'd always thought he'd die a hero, perhaps sacrificing himself for Ladybug or being killed in action.

But... Drowning? 

Taken by death simply because couldn't swim.

Huh. If he survived this, Adrien would certainly ask his father why he'd never taught him.

His limbs gave up the fight. He’d managed to suck in one last breath of air before he felt himself grow heavier, vision blurred as he sunk lower into the abyss. Well, it felt like an abyss, a never ending black hole of filthy water that seemed to suck him in deeper with each movement.

Adrien's lungs felt as if they were filled with acid, persistently begging for oxygen with a painful reminder that there would be no relief.

His world flooded with an ominous wave of gloom as his thoughts clouded with goodbyes he wished he could have said. To his friends, to Marinette—oh, poor, sweet Marinette wouldn’t know what had happened to her friend Adrien.

Nobody would.

Would his father care?

I just hope Ladybug knows how much she means to me.

His weary eyes drooped closed.

The last sight that graced his vision before he blacked out was the blur of a red hand, reaching out to him desperately.

Love warmed his chilled body.


"Chat Noir!" Marinette screeched as she watched her partner collide with the river. No, no, no! He can't swim!

A rush of adrenaline and fear flared up within her body.

Ripping the necklace in half, she hastily captured the akuma and purified it before racing to the Seine. She used her yo-yo to propel herself into the water from a lamp post, bracing for the stinging cold she was undoubtedly going to have slice through her.

At least she knew how to swim.

Her hands tore at the water as she dove deeper into the river, but it was so damn dark that she couldn't see a thing. She needed to breathe.

After breaching to take a breath, she dove back down, pushing and pushing until her lungs felt as if they were going to pop. Her hand brushed against a cool metal that connected to a smoother texture—Chat's suit. Chat!

Pulling, she wrapped an arm around her partner, straining herself to just swim, swim, damn it!

Air.

Sweet, wonderful air filled her lungs as she rose above the water, weakened limbs paddling her to a small wooden dock accompanied by stairs that lead to a cobble pathway.

Her body collapsed upon them, every fiber in her being burning and begging to rest.

But she couldn't. Chat needed her.

Hauling him onto the cobble, she laid her partner on his back and pressed her finger to his pulse, feeling his heartbeat. It was a slowed heartbeat, but a beat nonetheless.

Oh, thank god, she nearly cried, he's alive!

Her ear hovered above his mouth, listening intently for any sign of breath slipping past his frozen lips.

Nothing.

A shock ran through her as she desperately sorted through her memories of health class. They had gone over CPR, she knew how to do this. She had to save him!

She tilted Chat's head back and frowned, tears stinging at her burning eyes.

I need him. I can't lose him. My partner. My friend.

Two breaths, listen. Two breaths. Listen. The words repeated endlessly in Ladybug's brain as she pressed her lips to his in an attempt to save his life. Two breaths, listen, two breaths-

Chat's coughing and sputtering caused her to jerk back in surprise. He sat up, his hand clutching at his chest, coughing hoarsely as water dripped from his pale lips. When those bright green eyes connected with hers, she knew he was okay. Weary and soaked (and probably in need of a good bath), but okay.

"...My lady," His voice was weak and he looked absolutely exhausted, but his signature smirk weaseled itself onto his face before she could respond. "I guess I finally got a kiss from you."

At the moment, his flirtatious advances slipped her mind, her only focus being that her partner was alive and well and safe. "You stupid, stupid boy," Whispered Marinette as she enveloped him in her arms, clutching onto him with her nails. "I thought I'd lost you."

She felt gentle claws soothe her back in affectionate circles. "You can't get rid of me, you know that."

"I wouldn't dream of it, chaton."

They sat there against the wall of the Seine for quite some time, simply breathing and appreciating each others presence. As Chat glanced up at the top of the bridge, his vision focused on a blur of movement. People, too many people.

Only minutes had passed.

Marinette didn't want to let go.

Once the situation between the two had calmed, Marinette noticed the crowd. A large mass of citizens standing in their pajamas, most rudely awakened from the water flooding their homes, watching them, cheering and holding up their phones and cameras. Many were soaked and tired, just like the two superheroes.

Paris would be alright.

Ladybug and Chat Noir would be alright.

"Come on," Sighed Marinette, helping her friend up to a stand. His legs were a little wobbly, as were hers, so she supported him with her arm around his shoulders. "Let's finish what we started."

Slowly, the pair made their way back to the confused marine biologist, who sat with her knees on the floor and glasses cracked. Marinette was too tired to comfort her, and still quite miffed that she had decided to throw Chat into the Seine.

"You should go home," Marinette said in a soft voice. "Get some rest. It's all cleared up now."

The woman didn't argue. She was too lost to say much of anything.

It had been a rough night for everyone.

Clearing from the crowd, Marinette swung away on her yo-yo and sighed, clutching onto Chat and fleeing far enough so that they wouldn't be followed by the press. She needed to make sure Chat was okay, and having cameras and microphones shoved into their faces would only hinder that.

Ducking in an alleyway that seemed secluded enough, she pressed her back against the cool concrete of a building and sunk to the ground, her legs trembling with fatigue. Chat followed suit, his body slumping over until he lay his stomach completely on the cool floor, his head nestled safely within her lap.

They were both completely and utterly exhausted.

"That was one of the tougher ones," Laughed Chat, his voice still hoarse. "Everything hurts."

All Marinette could do was nod. The memory of her partner unconscious and in desperate need of oxygen still haunted her every thought. With delicate fingers she brushed through his damp hair, scratching gently behind his cat ears. It was a simple motion, but the way his head pressed into the palm made a sleepy grin tug at Marinette's lips. She continued to soothe him, her free hand gentle as it rubbed his back in slow, comforting circles. The other still worked on scratching his head, right in that perfect spot behind the left cat ear, which she knew he adored. The quiet rumble that bubbled up in his chest was a good indicator that he didn't want her to stop.

"You're purring," She whispered, her grin stretching wider.

"I know," Chuckled Chat, his voice thick with weariness and the vibration of his purr, which grew louder as he opened his mouth. "I can't help it."

"Silly kitty."

The sound of their miraculous beeping in unison made Marinette frown. Why now, when they were so content to just sit and be with each other?

"Ladybug-"

"I know, Chat," She sighed, gazing down at him forlornly. "I'm sorry. I wish I could stay."

"You can," His voice sounded hopeful, but ultimately he knew that she couldn't, and Marinette respected him for not trying to force her. "I'm just so... Tired. I don't want to move."

Marinette nodded, her hands running along his dripping hair. She, too, felt as if her whole being was glued to the floor. Maybe it was the comfort of Chat's body against her, or the little rest she had managed to get, but all Marinette wanted was to sleep, right there with her partner's head in her lap. "Me too..."

Chat's purring seemed to deepen into a quiet echo as his breathing slowed to a content pace. Was he asleep?

Marinette didn't question how. The poor guy was probably dead tired; usually after akuma attacks, they were both out of energy as well as their kwamis. Certainly flailing about in water would take everything he had out of him. She didn't blame him for falling asleep, but he couldn't stay like that.

She had to go.

Yawning, Marinette's hand stilled on Chat's head as her eyes drooped heavily.

She blinked, and as her eyes reopened, her vision was graced with the fiery oranges and delicate pinks that painted the sky. Dawn. Calming, quiet dawn. Marinette almost felt relaxed by the cool air that brushed her skin as she and Chat rested against the wall of an alley.

And then her eyes grew wide.

Oh no. We fell asleep!

She dared not glance down. Marinette's eyes burned into the morning sky as she came to the realization that she and her partner had fallen asleep, outside of all places!

Her fingers ran delicately along his blond locks, which had long since dried. By instinct, she went to scratch behind his cat ears, but her hand froze atop his head when she couldn't find them.

Marinette didn't remove her gaze from the sky. She couldn't look down—their transformations had faded. They were in their civilian forms, sitting in an empty alleyway in their pajamas as the sun rose and shone its golden rays upon them, as if to say, "look, here they are!"

Chat stirred.

Marinette gulped. "Chat. Whatever you do, please don't look up. We- we aren't... We aren't transformed."

A soft mumble slipped past his lips as he buried his head deeper into her stomach. "Please," He moaned, "let me have five more minutes."

"Chat," She repeated, her tone slightly more urgent. "We have to go before anyone finds us. Turn around so I can get up."

A sigh came from the boy who lay against her. "My Lady..."

"Chat."

"Sorry."

The pair successfully split apart and transformed without revealing their identities, although it had been a close call. Closer than any other time it has almost slipped. If he had woken up first, he might have accidentally seen her, and it would have been nobody's fault but her own for letting herself fall asleep there with him.

It wasn't that she didn't want to know who Chat was—she was certainly curious—but Tikki had specifically stated that they were not to reveal themselves.

With a groan, Marinette rubbed her back, feeling it was incredibly sore from leaning against a wall all night.

"Ladybug."

Marinette turned, facing her partner. He wore an unreadable expression on his face, a metaphorical mask over his eyes to barricade his thoughts.

The hand that rested on her shoulder spread warmth throughout her body.

And then he smiled. A fond, loving grin that stretched his lips from one cheek to another. Marinette could have sworn his eyes were glowing.

"Thank you," He breathed, "for everything."

His smile was contagious. Marinette couldn't stop herself from breaking into a wide grin herself, eyes sparkling and cheeks hot.

Chat Noir had officially made Ladybug blush.

"Stay out of trouble, alley cat."

"No promises." Her partner flashed her a wink before giving a wave, vaulting himself over the top of buildings as he took his leave.

Marinette sighed. Why did she have to have a thing for blond hair and green eyes?


Being the son of Gabriel Agreste, Adrien was used to long work hours and little sleep. Normally, running on only a few hours of rest wasn't a problem for the young model, but as he slumped into his seat Thursday morning, a wave of exhaustion had taken hold of his body.

Perhaps it was the thought of Ladybug that made him content enough to easily slip back into his dreams. Her gentle hands that had drawn out a purr from his chest burned a fire within his thoughts that was impossible to put out. The memory was like a cozy blanket that wrapped around him and made him feel so, so sleepy.

"Dude," Nino's voice snapped Adrien out of his thoughts. "What are you smiling like that for?"

It was only then that Adrien realized how hot his cheeks were and how large his grin had become. He blushed deeper in embarrassment, glancing away from his friend's gaze. "It's nothing. Just thinking."

"About...? Come on, dude," Nino gave him a playful shove. "You look like you just found out who your soulmate is. Some girl finally capture your heart?"

Adrien's hesitation made Nino smirk.

"Who's the lucky girl?"

"It's nobody," Retorted the model, too tired to be teased. Besides, it's not exactly like he could tell his best friend, "Oh yeah, it's just that I'm Chat Noir and last night I almost drowned but Ladybug saved my life and we fell asleep in an alley while she both petted held me. I'm internally melting. Not a big deal."

Before Nino could pry further, Alya's excitably loud voice rang from the hallway and soon made it to the classroom as she entered, her phone in her hand and Marinette by her side.

Marinette looked almost as exhausted as he was, messy hair falling out of her pigtails and dark bags underneath those baby blues. If Adrien hadn't been a model, he wouldn't have noticed that her makeup was slightly smudged as well. The poor girl looked as if she hadn't slept a wink.

She caught him staring and he internally cursed himself for making her frown nervously. "It's okay," He wanted to say, "I look like shit too."

"Did you see it?"

Adrien tuned his hearing to the girls' conversation as they sat behind him.

"See what?" Marinette yawned, her voice raspy with lack of sleep.

"The newest video submitted to the Ladyblog! I can't believe someone caught that last night. I hate myself for sleeping through it. Here, look. Chat Noir almost drowned."

Adrien whipped his head over his shoulder, green eyes wide. Of course someone recorded that, and of course they would send it to the Ladyblog. It was inevitable.

He carefully examined Marinette's expression, watching for any sign of disapproval or sympathy. Her brows furrowed and pink lips turned downward, those twinkling eyes turning away. "Whoever recorded that shouldn't have. She was saving his life, not kissing him." Was that a hint of annoyance in her tone?

Adrien agreed, however. If it had been a situation that the pair was used to dealing with, he wouldn't have minded it being recorded and going viral, but this was different. Ladybug was saving his life and it had been romanticized heavily. Drowning wasn't romantic.

At least Marinette understood that.

"How do you think they feel?" Marinette's voice pulled him out his thoughts. "I mean... Ladybug looked so terrified."

"And Chat Noir is probably pretty embarrassed," He added, fully turning in his seat so that he was facing the girls. "But I guess that's the thing about being a celebrity. No matter what you do, it's always gonna be on camera."

Marinette's expression softened and her shoulders lost the tension she'd been holding, as if his opinion put her at ease. "You know from experience?"

Adrien let out a small laugh. There had been plenty of embarrassing photos he would've preferred to not have been taken, but there was no stopping it when you're a famous teenage model in the city of Paris. "Hah, yeah. It's alright though. People are just curious and excitable and I guess that's why they record this kind of stuff. Can't hold it against them."

"Well," Alya spoke before Marinette could reply. "I guess you're right, but still. She was so desperate to save him. I bet they're secretly really in love and just don't tell the press to keep their privacy."

Adrien blushed, turning back around in his seat as class started. Hopefully Nino wouldn't notice how red his cheeks were.

He'd almost kissed Ladybug before he left that morning, but he respected her boundaries. He wouldn't lean in for one unless she did so first.

Class droned on, Adrien's thoughts elsewhere as he went through his classes feeling completely out of it. The longer the day went on, the more tired he became.

By the time physics rolled around, his eyes were so heavy he felt as if they were dragging one-hundred pound weights. It was a battle to keep them open. A shame, really, since physics was his favorite subject. He adored science and would love to go into it professionally someday, although he knew it wouldn't be easy. With a pretty face and strict father, Adrien felt as if he was doomed to be a model the rest of his life.

It wasn't exactly a fun job. Strict meal plans and long hours of standing around and having the same photo taken sixty times while wearing uncomfortable clothing was more exhausting than a normal person would think.

He often wondered what it was like to be normal.

What would that be like...?

Hm...

...

Adrien hadn't even realized he'd fallen asleep until Madame Mendeleiev slammed a book upon his desk. Jolting upward, he glanced around the room frantically before his shoulders hunched in embarrassment. His cheeks were red yet again. Gaze lowering, he stared at his empty page of notebook paper in shame, the realization that he had completely missed an entire class making his head droop.

"Adrien." His teacher's stare burned into him, her sharp-tongue causing him to have to hold in a wince. "I sincerely hope you past this test Friday. If I were you, I would take notes instead of sleeping. I advise you get them from someone later."

And he knew exactly who that person would be. Nino rarely took notes since he possessed some unnatural ability to remember most lessons in his head, so Marinette was his best option. She'd help him out.

The bell for lunch rang, reminding Adrien of how hungry he'd been. His energy was low and some food in his system would help out immensely.

Nino's hand on his shoulder caused him to turn once his bag was packed. There was the smallest hint of concern in his best friend's gaze, and Adrien felt grateful that he cared enough to search for any signs of a problem.

"Hey, dude," Nino spoke, motioning towards Alya and Marinette, who were already headed out. "Want to join the girls for lunch? Alya told me that they're going to the bakery and invited us to tag along. I think you could use some sugar in your system due to how you passed out for the entire period. You alright?"

Adrien nodded, stifling a yawn. "Yeah, I'm okay. Just tired. I wouldn't mind going to the bakery with the girls." The thought of finding himself back in that warm and comforting shop made Adrien tingle with delight. He'd stay there all day if he could, with Marinette and her parents. They felt like family.

The pair met up with the girls outside of the school and Adrien had a chance to get a second look at Marinette. Her gaze was downcast and her feet wobbled slightly as she stood, as if it was a chore to simply stand upright. Whatever it was that made her this sleepy, he hoped it wouldn't bother her again. Girls deserved their beauty rest, although Marinette didn't need it to be beautiful. She was adorable even as her legs fought to keep her from tumbling over in exhaustion.

"Marinette?" Adrien laid a hand on her shoulder to steady her. "You look like you're gonna fall over."

She jolted in surprise, as if she hadn't seen him approach her. "O-Oh," Her cheeks turned a deep shade of pink. "I-I'm okay. Just trying to survive off little to no sleep."

"Me too," He chuckled. "Food'll help, though."

The four had picked up some food from the bakery and made their way to the park, where they sat in the grass and sunshine. Adrien let out a soft sigh as the heat radiated onto his skin, rays of golden light permeating through his clothing and sending a wave of warmth through his body. He relished in sunlight, much like a cat whose only goal in life was to find the perfect patch of light to rest in.

Sleeping in the sun sounded absolutely wonderful at the moment. Swallowing the remnants of his lunch, he laid his chin in his palm and sighed, letting his eyes close just for a moment. Just a moment's rest.

Well, that little moment had apparently been too much. Nino's hands pressing into his shoulders alerted Adrien that closing his eyes for even a second had allowed him to fall asleep.

"Dude," Laughed Nino, "you almost faceplanted into the grass. You and Mari both are about to drop dead. Were you guys together last night?"

His friend's question was innocent enough but Marinette took it much heavier. She choked on her food, coughing and staring at him with wide eyes and crimson cheeks, her hands covering her face. Adrien fought the urge to smile. Seeing her this shy and embarrassed (over what he wasn't sure), it was almost too cute to be real.

"You okay, Mar?" Nino eyed Marinette curiously. "But seriously, you two need to go home and sleep. I don't think you'll be of much use in school anyways, considering you both have passed out at least once so far."

So, Marinette had fallen asleep as well. Good to know he wasn't the only one struggling to keep his eyes open.

"Maybe," Yawned Adrien, turning his attention to Marinette. "Oh, that reminds me. Did you copy the notes last period, Marinette?"

As usual, her cheeks tinted pink whenever he spoke to her. He'd become accustomed to it and even enjoyed seeing her blush. It was beginning to be quite cute.

"Y-yeah," She replied, "I can give them to you after school."

"Provided you don't fall asleep first," Alya chimed in with a chuckle, to which Marinette responded by rolling her tired eyes.


 Adrien assumed that's exactly what had happened. Marinette had gone home to do something important—at least, he assumed so. Her unintelligible mumbling was a little difficult to understand, but the exhaustion on her face made it clear enough that she had most likely fallen asleep before returning.

She hadn't come back to finish the rest of the day's classes and it was admittedly a little lonely without her red cheeks or awkward stuttering. Hopefully she'd still be able to give him the notes he'd missed when he went over there after school.

Marinette's parents welcome him with such a wonderful warmth that Adrien almost had the mind to hug them. After he declined their inquiring about being hungry and explained that he was there for schoolwork, he was granted permission to let himself in upstairs. Still, Adrien knocked. He felt barging in was rude, even when her parents had given him the okay.

Reminiscent of the last time he was there, Adrien was met with silence. So, he knocked again.

Still no answer.

A third knock would surely bring her to the door, right?

...Apparently not.

Maybe walking in wasn't considered rude when she didn't answer. Shrugging, Adrien twisted the doorknob and walked through her cozy home, his gaze scanning the walls as he found his way to the stairs that led to Marinette's room.

"Marinette?" He called, disappointed when he didn't receive a reply. "It's Adrien."

Walking up the stairs, he lifted the trap door and peeked his head into the opening only to be met with a darkened room. As his vision adjusted, he caught a glimpse of a slowly moving mass of blankets on her chaise. A grin tugged at his lips. She was still asleep.

"Mari-nette," He whined, his smile growing as she stirred and groaned, yet faltering when the movement ceased. A devious little idea caused him to smirk. "Marinette, wake up. You're an hour late for school."

"What?!" She sprang up, throwing the blankets across the room as she scurried around. "Oh, I have to get ready. Thanks for waking me, Adr-" Her feet froze on the ground and her frantic expression turned incredibly shy, eyes flickering nervously. "Adrien... What are you doing in my room? You should be in school."

He laughed, shaking his head as the rest of his body entered her room. "Don't worry, I'm just messing with you. You wouldn't get up. I'm here for the notes; your mom let me in."

"...Oh," The timid girl that currently controlled Marinette turned completely unamused. "That's not funny, Adrien. You scared me." She was trying her best to look angry, but the laughter she fought to control seeped its way into her voice and made him grin. "Here."

Taking her notebook, he thanked her and set his bag down on the floor, watching as she slumped back into the spot she had been sleeping previously. One of her pigtails had completely fallen out while the other remained, loosely keeping the strands of messy black hair together. Adrien pushed away the softy inside of him that wanted to scoop her up and cuddle her.

"Do you mind if I copy these here really quick? It should only take me a few minutes."

"Sure," She yawned, flopping backwards onto the plushness of her chaise. "Knock yourself out."

Adrien chuckled. Due to the sleepiness still lingering in his bones, he might take that term literally.

He made himself comfortable on her wooden floor and copied the notes as quickly and neatly as he could, but it proved to be a difficult task. The dullness of her room made him feel like he could happily curl up on the floor right there and take a nap.

Marinette seemed to have been thinking the same thing. When he glanced up at her to see what she was up to, she had buried herself in blankets, which moved up and down slowly as she breathed. Obviously asleep. If only he had the confidence he did as Chat when he was Adrien, because he'd be right up there with her. Friendly cuddles weren't a big deal. It's not like only couples cuddled, right? They could curl up there together and it didn't have to be romantic. It's not like he wanted it to be. Not that much.

Maybe a little.

He had one last paragraph of notes to jot down before the room became pitch black.

He wasn't exactly sure if he had fallen asleep or not, but the phone call from Nathalie startled him enough that he felt as if he'd been out for a few days. The ringtone woke both him and Marinette, who was surprised to find the model half asleep on her floor. He'd apologize for that after he answered the phone.

"Yes, Nathalie?" He put on a professional tone, attempting to wipe the unmistakable sound of sleep from his voice. He cringed as she reprimanded him for missing his Chinese and piano lessons and not even bothering to let anyone know. As was the life of Adrien, needing permission to breathe. "I'm sorry. I got distracted. I was busy doing a school project with a friend and I promise it wont happen again. I'll come home." He knew arguing was the last way to mend a situation, so he accepted his defeat with a sigh as he ended the call.

"How long have you been here?" Came Marinette's quiet voice, thick with sleep. "Did you fall asleep?"

"...Yeah," He yawned, "sorry about that, Marinette. I didn't mean to. Thanks for the notes though." Standing with a stretch and another yawn, Adrien stuffed his supplies into his bag and gave his friend a smile. She would probably be out for the rest of the night, and wished he could too, but he had other business to attend to. Business that involved being scolded by his father, most likely.

"I'll see you tomorrow," He laughed, "so long as we both don't sleep through the whole day."

Marinette's sleepy chuckle made his heart skip a beat.

If she gets any cuter I'm going to explode.

"Bye, Marinette." He gave her a final wave before slipping out of her room, leaving her to rest. She looked like she needed it.

Back down in the bakery, he said his goodbyes to her parents, thanking them for letting him stay for a longer period of time without giving them notice. They seemed surprised at his apology and quickly reassured him, letting him know that he was allowed to come over whenever he wanted to. Adrien grinned as he opened the door to leave, but Sabine quickly called him back before he could make his departure.

When he approached her, he was gifted with a small bag of cookies, which she pressed into his hand before he could protest.

"Take them," She insisted, "you're a growing boy and you're too skinny. Come back sometime for dinner, okay?"

Adrien nodded, unsure of what else to do. "Thank you, Madame Dupain-Cheng."

Her words rang in his head the entire ride home. You're too skinny.

Of course, being a model, Adrien had to be skinny. He was the perfect weight for a male model in his father's line. Tall, lean, with a little bit of muscle.

At least, that's what his father told him.

If he was being honest with himself, Adrien did think he was smaller compared to most guys his age at school. He'd never really questioned it, considering he ate healthy meals that didn't exactly account for running across the rooftops of Paris and saving lives. When he first became Chat Noir, he had no extra calories to burn off, so his body had began to burn up the stored fat instead.

He had lost weight since then.

It was an uncomfortable thought.

Adrien gazed longingly at the cookies he'd been given. Sweets were something he usually strayed from. The cookies tempted him, and if he had less self-control, he would have eaten all of them right there in the car.

But he didn't.

Taking one out of the bag, he ate it gratefully, the wonderful flavors exploding within his mouth. Due not eating many sweets, even the slightest unhealthy foods tasted like heaven to him.

A feeling of dread set over Adrien as he walked through the front doors of the Agreste mansion and saw none other than his father awaiting him. He played out apologies within his head, trying to conjure up the best way to seek forgiveness from his father in the four seconds it took to approach him.

"Father-"

"Adrien." He flinched as his father interrupted him, hands clenching around the cookie bag. "What was so important that you were gone all day?"

Adrien swallowed, finding it hard to meet his father's gaze directly. "I'm sorry, father, I didn't mean to. I needed notes from a friend and I was so exhausted I fell asleep and lost track of time. I promise it wont happen again."

"Hm," Gabriel's expression softened as he prepared his next sentence. "Perhaps you shouldn't stay up so late at night if it makes you that tired during the day. Do try to go to bed earlier, Adrien."

"Yes, father, I'm sorry." He hung his head, his knuckles white as he held onto the bag of cookies.

Oops.

 

An hour later, Adrien lay in bed after a long shower and sighed, burying himself under his covers.

In the trashcan sat the cookie bag, now empty, all of its contents consumed.

Adrien couldn't find it in himself to feel guilty.

He wondered if Marinette's parents would have him over for dinner again sometime soon.

Chapter Text

Friday morning was easier on Marinette than Thursday had been. When she slid into her seat before the first bell rang, her eyes sparkled and the bags that had previously hung below them long since faded. She'd been lucky enough to sleep throughout the whole night undisturbed, and now as she sat in class watching other students pile in, she no longer felt the desperate need to lay her head on her desk and nod off into slumber (a major improvement from yesterday.)

Adrien looked much better as well, his golden hair shining and green eyes returned to their usual brightness. The sight of her classmate looking so handsome (as always) nearly brought a blush to Marinette's freckled cheeks, but she fought it back by shifting her gaze to the blank notebook paper that sat in front of her. Today she would be productive. Today she wouldn't miss classes. Today, she wouldn't be distracted.

Hopefully, at least.

"Hey, Marinette," Adrien's voice startled her, blue eyes meeting green. His tone was soft and friendly and it almost made Marinette's heart melt right there. "You look better today. Get enough sleep last night?"

She laughed, giving her friend a shy nod. Of course she did, he'd been there when she'd passed out on the chaise in her room. Hell, he'd even fallen asleep there for a good hour or two. Most of yesterday's exciting schedule had been filled with nothing but sleeping for the both of them, she assumed.

"Mhm," Marinette hummed in response, "th-that's really all I did. You look better, too. Not that you looked bad before! It's- it's just, you still look nice when you're tired- oh, I mean, you look well rested. You look like you had a good n-night's sleep!"

She mentally cursed herself for stuttering. Hadn't they already passed that stage?

Adrien laughed, raising a curious eyebrow and flashing her a wide grin that made her knees weak. It's a good thing she was sitting down.

"I did, yeah." A soft chuckle slipped passed those perfectly kissable lips. Was it considered inappropriate to grab him by his cheeks and pull him in for several kisses right in the middle of class?

As if she'd ever be brave enough to do it.

Alya shot her a teasing look as she slid into the seat next to her.

"That's good," Marinette said, her voice quieter than she had intended it to be. Embarrassing herself in front of Adrien again hadn't been the initial plan, but seeing his lips curl upward in a laugh had made it all worth it. If giving awkward compliments made Adrien laugh and smile, then she'd never stop.

He looked as if he was about to speak again, but his mouth shut when their teacher walked into the room. The entire class had found their seats by now and Marinette couldn't help the slight disappointment that washed across her face. Talking to Adrien was something she had been blessed to experience more of as of late, but it still wasn't enough to suffice the undying need for conversation with her crush.

The current lesson was something that Marinette knew well enough to not give her utmost attention. She had a special talent for multitasking, so gazing at the back of Adrien's head while Madame Bustier described a poem from the late eighteenth century wasn't much of a distraction.

What was distracting, however, happened to be whatever Adrien was scribbling onto a piece of notebook paper. Marinette couldn't tell what exactly he was writing, but she wanted to know; what if it was another love letter?

If that first one had even been for her.

He'd never mentioned anything to her or hadn't ever brought up the fact that some girl had answered his message he'd left in the trash. Maybe it'd been for one of the models he worked with.

Jealousy burned at the pit of her stomach.

With that thought in mind, she had to know what he was writing.

Leaning forward in her seat a little, she peered down at the piece of paper, her eyes softening with relief as she realized he was only doodling.

Thank goodness.

Little ladybugs and black paw prints decorated his paper, ranging in sizes from small to large. Marinette could distinctly pick out a crudely drawn Ladybug and Chat Noir surrounded by little hearts. Adrien wasn't much of an artist, but she could definitely tell what he was drawing.

She hadn't exactly pegged Adrien as much of a Ladynoir shipper.

It took everything Marinette had not to groan and roll her eyes. Was there anyone who didn't expect the two partners to fall in an undying romance?

Chloe doesn't, she reminded herself, Chloe's got a crush on Ladybug.

Remembering that almost made Marinette want to kiss Chat Noir in front of her.

Adrien's doodles inspired Marinette to mindlessly sketch across her empty notebook paper. She hadn't even realized what she was drawing until the superheroes appeared on her own page.

She was about to crumple it up until a thought sparked within her brain. If Adrien liked Ladybug and Chat Noir, wouldn't he be interested in seeing that she could draw them?

Pulling out her sketchbook, she sketched the same drawing but with more accurate anatomy and detail. It wasn't anything incredibly beautiful, but anyone who wasn't an artist would most likely be impressed. Hopefully even Adrien.

She glanced up every now and then to ease any suspicions from her teacher that she wasn't paying attention—she was a good multitasker, after all.

Before the first bell rang, Alya was shifting in her seat with excitement over Marinette's drawing. Marinette almost laughed. She knew Alya had never seen her draw the two superheroes before, save for the recent designs, and those had just been rough sketches.

This, however, wasn't a sketch. She'd darkened the lines with pencil and added such detailed shading that even she was proud of it. Highlights and lowlights, wisps of hair delicately fanned out with light strokes, and, just for Adrien, a little heart between the two partners. She couldn't wait for Adrien to have it.

...That is, once she found out how exactly she was going to give it to him.

Marinette had the right mind to smack her palm to her forehead. She couldn't just waltz up to her crush and say, "Hey! I was watching you doodle for most of the class because I'm totally in love with you, so I drew you this because I want you to notice me."

Panic nearly set in before a shadow was looming over her desk.

"Woah," Breathed Adrien, his eyes wide and sparkling. "You- you drew that? Just now?"

"Oh!" She glanced frantically around the room. Should she say yes? Would he know that she'd been watching him? "Well, I, I did draw it, yes- I drew it. Just now. I was bored, and-"

"It's amazing." The way the word fell off his lips made it obvious he wasn't lying. Adrien really did like her artwork. "Could you draw me one? I mean, I could pay you, but if you don't want to it's okay."

Marinette's grin almost turned into a smirk, but she hid it behind her sweet smile. "How about you keep this one? I don't need it. You look really excited over it."

"...Really?" Adrien seemed as if he'd just been offered the world. Eyes glowing with enthusiasm and mouth stretching into a grin, he gingerly reached out, holding the sketchbook in his hands as he gazed at the drawing with wonder. "You mean it? You're sure? It's okay if-"

"I mean it. Here," She ripped out the page from the book while he held it and handed it off to him. He lifted it with delicate hands, as if the drawing was a newborn baby he didn't want to harm.

"Thanks," He whispered, taken aback as he closely examined the details. "I've always wondered what you think of them. You're the only one in class that's ever met with Chat Noir in person, you know? He must have been so cool."

Something sparkled in his eyes, but before she could catch it, it flashed away.

"Oh, he's-" She began. Adrien's hopeful expression tugged at her heart. He was most likely a big Chat Noir fan, so she had to speak positively about her partner in front of him. "He's pretty... Cute."

Wh-

What?

Why did she-

Of all the things you could say about Chat Noir, "cute" is the first word that comes to mind?

"Cute?" Adrien laughed, his smile widening. "You think so?"

"Don't most people?" It was true, most young citizens of Paris completely fawned over that silly cat. Marinette couldn't fathom why. If they knew how many puns Chat flung at her every hour, they wouldn't be thinking he was such a dreamboat anymore.

"I guess," Adrien said. "I wonder if Ladybug thinks so. Do you think they'd make a good couple?"

She almost gagged.

Almost, but didn't.

Instead Marinette put on a smile and nodded, swallowing back her stutter. "Of course! They work so well together. I-I wonder why they aren't dating already!"

Oh, the agony.

The things she did for love!

"Yeah?" Adrien seemed thrilled as he tried to keep his excitement at bay. "I think so, too."

The look of absolute glee on his face as he bid her a goodbye made Marinette's heart melt into a warm puddle inside her chest. She'd do whatever she could to make that boy happy.

Marinette knew Adrien's home life wasn't exactly the amazingly perfect model life most people figured he had. No, she knew he was lonely and sad, and she wanted desperately to be there for him, even if she filled that space with nervous babbling and awkward staring. Adrien needed a person in his life to make him smile and laugh and feel loved, because she knew well enough that he was craving it. Not romantic love, perhaps, but love nonetheless.

He deserved kindness because that was ultimately what made her fall for him in the first place—how no matter what, he was always so kind and caring towards everyone.

The rest of Marinette's classes went by in a flash as her mind drifted to none other than Adrien Agreste, as usual. If only she were brave enough to invite him back over. Whether he would be helping with her designs, getting his ass beat at video games, or sharing dinner with her family, she'd be happy to have him there. Her parents had certainly taken a liking to him. They'd even teased her the day before when Adrien left sleepy-eyed.

"Were you two napping together and snuggling?" Her mother had joked, having caused Marinette's cheeks to flare up in scarlet.

She wished that's what they had been doing. Snuggling Adrien would be a dream come true. He was probably a good snuggler.

His chest would be nice to lay her head on. His arms were most likely the best at giving tight, warm hugs, and wow, his kisses were probably the sweetest.

Marinette let out a blissful sigh as she and Alya left the classroom for lunch. She'd been daydreaming about Adrien all day and had forgotten to feel hungry.

"Let me guess," Alya broke her concentration on what had been how Adrien's hair stayed so shiny. "Thinking about Monsieur Sunshine?"

"Yes," Marinette answered, unashamed. "He was just so happy about that drawing. I'd love to be able to make him smile like that every day."

"He could use it. That boy doesn't smile enough."

"I know," She let out a crestfallen sigh, shoulders drooping. "I feel so bad for him. I think all he wants is someone to be there for him, you know?"

Alya smirked and gave her friend a nudge. "So, be there for him, then! If he wants hugs and kisses, give them to him!"

At Marinette's burning cheeks, Alya let out a laugh.

"I think he's got a thing for you, you know," She said, "I don't know what it is or what you did, but he's always looking at you. Have you noticed that? He's constantly glancing your way and trying to find an excuse to talk to you."

"Alya," Marinette gave her a I-wish-that-were-true-but-you-know-it-isn't look. "He's probably just glad to have another friend. I don't think he likes me that way."

"Ah," Alya shrugged. "You never know, though, girl. Maybe his crush on Ladybug will go away and then he'll pursue you."

Marinette nearly choked on air. "He's got an actual crush on Ladybug?"

"Don't look so surprised! Most people do. It's probably just a silly celebrity crush. Adrien's really into her, though," Alya's laughter came in snorts. "Nino told me the dude's got Ladybug posters up in his room. She's his desktop wallpaper. He's an avid follower of my blog. That's a secret, though, so don't tell anyone." Quickly she realized that maybe telling her best friend who was literally in love with Adrien that he liked someone else might not have been the best thing to do. "It's silly, though. I don't think he's in love with her or something. I didn't mean anything by it."

She couldn't speak. Adrien having a crush on Ladybug was Adrien having a crush on Marinette. Her legs wobbled. Oh, god, she was going to faint in front of the school crowd. Adrien has a crush on Ladybug. Adrien has a crush on ME.

Could a person vomit from being so excited?

"I-I need to go home," Squeaked Marinette, "don't feel good."

Alya frowned, regret noticeably appearing on her face. "Hey, I'm sure Adrien doesn't actually like Ladybug more than you-"

"No, no," Marinette laid a reassuring hand on her friend's shoulder and smiled. "Not because of that. That doesn't bother me at all. I just... Need to go home to scream."

Alya didn't say another word. Best friends didn't need words to understand that when Marinette needs to scream, she needs to scream.

And that's exactly what she did when she got into her room.

She screamed, loud, into her giant cat pillow and hugged it in a suffocating grasp. Her legs kicked and chest bubbled with giggles as she sucked in air after every gleeful screech.

Thankfully her parents were three stories below tending the bakery, because they'd surely come to check up on their hollering daughter if they heard her cries of joy.

"Marinette," Laughed Tikki, laying a tiny paw on her shoulder. "Are you okay?"

"Never been better, Tikki," Sighed Marinette as she turned onto her back, gazing at her ceiling with the biggest grin her face could muster. "I think Adrien has a crush on me."

Tikki became excited, buzzing around her head. "Really?"

"Well," Marinette sat up, shrugging. "He's got a crush on Ladybug, apparently. And... Ladybug is me. So going by that, technically, Adrien has a crush on Marinette, right?"

Well...

Not exactly.

Marinette's joyous grin suddenly stretched downward in realization. "Oh, god, Tikki," She groaned, throwing herself back onto her bed. "What if he finds out I'm Ladybug? He'll be so disappointed... Silly, nervous Marinette is the one who's behind Ladybug, the super-heroine of Paris. He'll see that Ladybug isn't actually what she's made out to be. He'll be so disappointed! He won't be happy to know who I really am! Adrien finding out that Marinette is Ladybug would ruin any chance I have with him. I'm a goner. I'm literally dying-"

"Marinette," Tikki scolded gently, "that's not true. Like I've said before, you're Ladybug with and without the mask." Her paw caressed Marinette's forehead reassuringly, eyes soft with understanding. "Who's to say that he doesn't like who Marinette is? You two seem to really enjoy each others company lately."

"...Yeah," Sighed Marinette, "but he doesn't like Marinette that way... And I think I kind of scare him off with my nervousness. Whenever I start rambling he just gets this expression on his face that I can't explain. I have no idea if he thinks it's cute or weird."

"Well, he seemed pretty happy about that drawing today."

That was true. Marinette had never seen Adrien smile so big before. Maybe he did like her and enjoyed having her around?

She didn't have too much time to ponder that thought—a crash and a scream from outside made Marinette spring out of bed and leap down the stairs to her window, where she gazed out expectantly.

It was just as she had assumed: another Akuma attack.

Marinette groaned. She would have to miss lunch today.

"Looks like we've got another one," Tikki said as she zipped over.

Marinette nodded before shouting, "Tikki, transform me!"


Adrien sighed as the city was enveloped by a flash of pink. Everything returned back to normal, flowers that filled the streets disappearing and vines along buildings turning to dust.

Compared to the last Akuma attack, this one had been a piece of cake. They hadn't even needed to use their special powers, which was a rare occurrence, even for stupidly easy battles.

By Adrien's standards, this particular villain had been practically pathetic—a florist whose ability was to grow flowers and vines on any surface. That was it.

Plants didn't stop Ladybug and Chat Noir.

In fact, when Ladybug was around plants, she seemed full of energy and even gleeful. If he had cat side effects, then Adrien didn't doubt that Ladybug had ladybug side effects as well.

As he landed by his partner's side, Adrien grinned and wrapped his tail around her waist, waving for the cameras that now surrounded them.

News crews couldn't get enough of Ladybug and Chat Noir.

"Chat," Ladybug hissed through her teeth as he rested his hand on her shoulder. She didn't seem unhappy with the contact, though.

So he kept his hand there.

She didn't force him off.

"Ladybug!" A young reporter shoved through the crowd, her eyes full of excitement. Just from her voice, Adrien knew it was Alya. "Could I get answers to a few questions for the Ladyblog?"

Adrien grinned as Ladybug obliged. Alya would be raving about this later. He could imagine it now: "Oh my god, you guys, Ladybug actually answered questions for the Ladyblog!"

"Okay," Alya stood up straight, turning on her phone camera. "I was just wondering, what exactly is the relationship between you and Chat Noir now that you've kissed?"

Ladybug visibly deflated. She looked quite uncomfortable, so Adrien took matters into his own hands (or claws.)

"Ladybug!" He gasped, pointing to her earrings. "Your miraculous is wearing off!"

His partner gave him a quizzical look before catching on and nodding. "Oh, I'm sorry—Alya, was it?—but I have to go before I change back!"

She zipped off and Adrien followed closely behind, though not quite matching her speed. She'd always been just a tad faster than him.

They bounded from building to building until they were practically across the city, back at the school. Adrien landed next to his partner, who stopped upon the roof. He frowned at her hardened expression.

"My Lady?" He hesitantly reached out a hand, but pulled it back, knowing not to step over her boundaries. She probably didn't want to be touched right now, and that was okay. He didn't need to touch her to comfort her. "Don't let silly reporters get to you. I'm sure Alya only had our best interests-"

"I'm not upset about that," She sighed as she turned, sitting with her back against one of the decorative chimneys. "I'm upset people keep assuming that was a kiss of love and not a kiss of life. I was trying to get you to breathe, not giving you a final declaration of love before you died."

Adrien turned his gaze away and set it on the schoolyard below, where students pooled back in after the attack. That was where he should be, but standing with his Lady was the much preferred option.

"Fans will be fans," He said as he sat next to her, his eyes on the blue sky (which reminded him of her eyes.) "But I agree. When you finally fall in love with me and we kiss in front of thousands of people, that's when I want the fans to go crazy." Shooting her a wink, he grinned as she rolled her eyes and smiled. That smile was something he lived for.

"Dream on, kitty. CPR may be the only kiss you ever get from me."

Adrien feigned a gasp, pressing his hand to his heart dramatically. "Oh, my Lady, you wound me! I can feel my heart bleeding."

"Well, that is where blood comes from."

"You've hurt me. I never want to see you again."

"That can be arranged."

They broke into a fit of laughter, enjoying each others company when there wasn't an Akuma victim trying to rip them to shreds. Their friendship was an odd one, but a lovely friendship nonetheless. Adrien felt the familiar heat of blush tingle his cheeks.

Ladybug gazed upward at the clouds, her eyes glimmering in the sunshine. Adrien studied her features, scanning every bit of skin he could. Her adorable galaxy of freckles that adorned her rosy cheeks and button nose made his heart pound in his chest. His gaze traveled to her hair, which shone in the rays of golden light that rained upon her as if she were some goddess from another time.

To him, she was.

He quickly tore his eyes away from her as she caught him staring, which made Ladybug break into giggles.

"Were you ogling me?"

Adrien shook his head, cheeks crimson. "No, of course not. I'm admiring you. That's different from ogling. I've only ogled you a few times."

"Chat Noir!"

He shrugged, smirking as he chuckled. It wasn't a lie. "What can I say? You've got a pretty cute butt."

"Oh my god, we are not having this conversation right now." She gave him a shove, but the grin on her face and the redness in her cheeks only made him want to continue. There was nothing wrong with flattery.

"Aw, do you not think so? I didn't think of you as self-conscious."

"I'm not."

"So you agree? You think your butt is cute?"

"Chat Noir, please," Laughed Ladybug, "or else I'm going to kick you off of this school."

"That might be for the best," He chuckled with a cheeky grin. "I'm missing class right now."

Ladybug froze, her smile thinning to tightened lips. It was then that Adrien realized what he had said.

You idiot, you're not supposed to share that kind of information!

"You..." Ladybug cleared her throat and steadied her voice. "You go to this school?"

He was surprised she didn't scold him for letting that information slip.

"Uh..." He glanced away, knowing there was no use in laughing it off or lying. "...Yes, I do. Why do you look so surprised, my Lady? Did you think I was older than a collègian? I am cute enough to be, I suppose. I'm pretty mature for my age."

Ladybug snorted. "That's a lie. To tell you the truth, I figured you were in lycée or at least a higher grade than I am. I just never asked."

Adrien raised an eyebrow curiously. "And I thought you were five-thousand years old?"

"Did you actually think so?" She had a teasing lilt to her voice.

Adrien laughed. "No, not really. Honestly, to me you look to be about..." He studied her for a moment. "...Maybe fifteen, sixteen. Seventeen at the most. Am I right?"

"You're wrong," She said with a grin, "I'm actually twelve."

Adrien coughed, wide green eyes staring at her and begging it to be a lie. "N-no you're not!"

As Ladybug broke into laughter, Adrien felt relief rush through him. So she was joking. Good. He felt stupid for believing her for a moment.

"I'll give you a hint. I'm between fourteen and eighteen. That's all you need to know."

He grinned back. "Well, same here. Aren't we just the perfect match?"

"Not if you're eighteen and I'm fourteen."

"Ah," He scooted closer, draping an arm around her shoulders. "But I'm not eighteen. Try going younger."

Ladybug rolled her eyes and pushed him off, giving a shake of her head. "I don't need to know your age, kitty. We're supposed to keep our identities secret."

"But how many teenagers are there in Paris? There's no way I'll guess who you are. At least tell me your age so I know I'm not crushing on someone too young or too old for me."

Ladybug seemed to ponder his request and then sighed, tapping her fingers on her thigh. "True. I'll give you this one thing. No more questions afterwards, got it?"

Adrien nodded excitedly. Learning new information about Ladybug was always thrilling. "You've got a cat's promise."

"Is that a good thing?"

He laughed. "Of course, my Lady. I won't tell a soul."

"Fine," She shuffled her shoulders, getting comfortable against the chimney. "I'm fifteen. There, no more questions."

Adrien's heart leaped in his chest. His tail flicked in enthusiasm with this new info, a purr rumbling in his chest. "Aw, Ladybug," He sighed, leaning in to rest his head on her shoulder. "We're the same age. It's true love. We're just simply meant to be."

"Off," She instructed, giving him a gentle shove. "Down, kitty."

"Can I come to your birthday party?" He gave her an innocent grin, teeth glinting in the sunlight. "I'll come bearing gifts and my love."

"I'll take the first option only, thanks," She laughed, shaking her head. "But no. You can't come to my birthday. It's not for months anyways."

"What's a sweet sixteen without Chat Noir? I can pop out of the cake."

"I don't think I want to see that."

 

Their playful banter continued until the final bell for school rang, hundreds of students scattering out as they prepared for the weekend.

"Fuck," Hissed Ladybug under her breath, causing Adrien's eyes to widen.

"Such profanity!" He gasped. "You don't usually say that word unless you've been struck in the face."

"Shut it," She shot him a glare, which made his grin grow wider in return. "We missed the whole school day."

"Technically, only half-" His eyes grew to the size of saucers and his heart stopped beating in his chest. He stared down at her, placing a hand upon hers and squeezing it tight. "Do you go here too?"

"I'm not answering that." She seemed nervous, like she had admitted something she didn't intend to. She probably did. Sharing that they went to the same school might have scared her.

So, instead, he changed the subject.

"It's a lot warmer today," He sighed, placing his hands behind his head as he relaxed against the chimney. "Summer's almost here. A good thing, too, I'm so tired of the cold."

The tension Ladybug held in her shoulders faded with the change of the subject. "Me too. I get so exhausted in cold weather."

"Don't ladybugs hibernate in winter?"

His partner nodded. "The actual insects do. I just get unbelievably tired all the time."

Adrien smiled at the thought of spending winter with her. It would certainly be better to play in the snow with a friend rather than sit at home watching it from his windows alone. "Ah, Bugaboo, our first winter together, we must have a snowball fight."

"You wouldn't want to face me in a snowball fight, chaton," Ladybug replied with a chuckle. "I can get pretty brutal."

"Do tell," He scooted closer, earning a playful shove from his partner.

"The one and only snowball fight I've ever had was practically a war zone. I don't remember how many jackets I stuffed snow into."

"Me-owch. I didn't know my lady could be so cold."

"Was that two puns in one sentence?" Ladybug genuinely looked offended, but the grin that tugged at her lips signaled that she had indeed found it funny.

"What can I say? I'm talented." He flashed her a smirk before sighing in bliss. A cloud that blotted out the sun for a moment had just moved along, leaving a clear spot for it to shine down on the pair.

If there was one thing Adrien loved, it was a good patch of sunshine.

Warmth radiated onto his suit and what little skin was exposed, filling his body with such a wonderful heat that he couldn't help but purr and shut his eyes. All cats loved sunshine, and Chat Noir adored it.

He flinched in surprise as he felt a hand begin to scratch under his chin. Opening his eyes, Adrien gazed at Ladybug with a pleasantly surprised expression; she was scratching him because she wanted to. Grinning, he purred louder and titled his head up as she continued to scratch him, his tail curling in pleasure. It was a different feeling, but it was nice to be touched. Her hand slid from his chin to his head, where she stroked his hair and behind his ears. He submitted. His head flopped onto her lap and Ladybug giggled, her fingers finding that perfect spot right behind his cat ears. She knew exactly how to make him go crazy.

It wasn't anything but innocent pleasure—it ultimately just felt nice. The fact that Ladybug's giggles accompanied his purr made Adrien's smile grow three times its size.

"You're so weird," She sighed, removing her hand from his person. "I've gotta go, Chat. My parents will be expecting me. I'll see you for patrol later, okay?"

Adrien whined. "Can't we sit in the sun and cuddle?"

Ladybug shook her head with a chuckle before she leaped away, Adrien's gaze following her until she disappeared behind a building.

Her touch lingered and burned his skin with a content warmth that made Adrien blush and tingle. The soothing hands that made him submit to her clutches caused a sigh to slip past his lips (which he honestly wished she could be kissing right now), his purr still rumbling deeply in his chest.

It took him a good fifteen minutes before he could remove himself from the sunny spot. He was a bit disappointed that he had to leave such a wonderful patch of sunshine, but Nathalie would be expecting him home for piano recitals.

Ah, the wonderfully exciting life of Adrien Agreste was to greet him as soon as he walked through those double doors: isolation, a distant father, and cold, empty hallways.

He let out a flat "woohoo" before slipping in his open window and detransforming.

After a good two hours of reciting songs on piano that he'd practiced plenty of times to know perfectly by heart and another hour of tedious Chinese lessons, Adrien found himself wandering in the kitchen for dinner, curious about what was on the menu that evening.

As usual, his father didn't accompany him at the dinner table, leaving Adrien to sit by his lonesome at the end of the glass surface. He sighed, gazing down at the plate that sat before him, a light and low-calorie meal barely tempting his taste-buds.

 

An irritated groan slipped past his lips. If he had it his way, he'd order a large triple cheese pizza with four toppings and eat it all by himself.

But Adrien didn't have it his way.

So here he was, eating a small meal that would surely leave him feeling a little more than peckish when bedtime rolled around. By now, he was used to it. Didn't mean he liked it, though.

After he'd eaten and wandered up to his room for some good-old video games, Adrien sat in his computer chair and spun in a circle before loading up the Ladyblog to check up on any recent silly theories or photos. It was full of pictures from the day's flower akuma, some of the victim but most of Ladybug and Chat Noir kicking ass. Well, what little there was to be kicked. It'd been easy.

Almost too easy.

Adrien scrolled through the blog mindlessly, not very interested until photos of the pair sitting atop the school appeared on his screen. A sigh of bliss escaped him as he leaned forward, his chin resting on his palm. Gazing at those photos only brought back how wonderful it'd felt to sit there and enjoy some time alone with his lady. The memory of her fingers in his hair, how she smelled like a mix of cookies and lavender, and the way she made his head plunge into her lap caused Adrien's heart to beat wildly in his chest.

The sight of Ladybug and Chat Noir reminded Adrien that he'd need to meet her for patrol in an hour. They'd agreed to patrol every other day, going one night then not the next until they met again on the third evening. He wished it could be every night, that way he wouldn't go a day without being blessed by the sight of Ladybug leaping across the skyline of Paris.

He became impatient with waiting around and playing video games to pass the time. It was Friday, so there'd been no studying to attend to. A lonesome, uneventful Friday that left Adrien desiring some company.

So, he left early. It'd taken some coaxing with several cheeses to get Plagg to transform before he was supposed to, but once Chat Noir flung outside of his bedroom window and leaped across the city, Adrien felt all of the doleful thoughts drain from his body. There was just something about being so free that caused his ears to twitch and lips to stretch into a wide cat-like grin of excitement.

He landed atop their usual meeting place, strikingly gorgeous Notre Dame, which gave the pair a beautiful view of their beloved Paris before they ventured off on patrol. Being thirty minutes early meant he'd be sitting alone for quite some time, but Adrien couldn't find it in himself to care that much. He was in his element: dark skies, twinkling lights, the world settling down for the evening. His ears picked up the hum of cars rolling down the streets and muffled conversation from below. Distant swing music could be heard from some event he couldn't quite see with his eyes. This was Paris, this was his home, and sitting atop buildings under the faded stars was where Chat Noir belonged.

It was where Adrien belonged.

He hadn't realized how much time he'd passed by listening to the song of the city until Ladybug landed next to him, her blue eyes shining in the yellow hues of artificial light.

"You're here early," She said as she fastened her yo-yo onto her waist. "I thought I would be here first tonight since I left before I should have, too."

Adrien grinned as he stood closer, draping an arm around her petite frame. "I couldn't wait to see you, mon chéri."

"Stop," She laughed as she gave him a shove so his arms disconnected with her body. "Are you always such a hopeless romantic?"

"Only when I'm around you, my Lady. I just can't help it. You make me see everything good in life. When I'm with you-" Leaping onto the ledge of the church, he took a deep breath and shouted, "-I want to scream and let the world know that I love you!" He turned and flashed her his signature smirk, which earned him a roll of baby blues in return. It was her little way of saying, "I want you to shut up but I think you're cute."

At least, he hoped that's what it meant.

How could she not think he's cute? Cats are adorable and Chat Noir was no exception for that term.

"I'm pretty sure the world already knows that," Chuckled Ladybug, "and if it didn't, now it does."

Adrien smiled and hopped down to stand next to Ladybug's side. "Well, now that the Parisians know we're practically married, shall we go?"

Ladybug nodded, then scrunched up her nose and shook her head. "Okay, yes, I'm ready, but we are not practically married. I don't see a ring on my finger."

"I'll get you one. What kind of stone?"

"No thanks."

"See? We're already disagreeing like a married couple. Next we'll be having kittens."

"Kittens?" Ladybug scoffed. "Can't you at least call them children?"

"So you agree?" Adrien's grin grew twice its size as he smirked at her. "You think we'll have children?"

"Not even in your dreams, tomcat." With a roll of her eyes, Ladybug took to their usual route, Adrien following closely behind.

Patrol was relatively quiet but that's usually how it went. The two were more focused on scouting the city and making sure the citizens were safe rather than conversation. It was a comfortable silence and Adrien felt at ease until his muscles began to ache and his breath was harder to suck in to his lungs, which burned from exhaustion.

He slowed, watching helplessly as the two became farther apart. "Wait," He panted, stopping upon the same roof they'd be on earlier that day. The school was much quieter and less peaceful looking during the night.

"Chat?" Ladybug backtracked and landed next to her partner, concern lacing her expression as she noticed he seemed quite out of it, hunched over with his hands on his knees. "What's wrong? Are you okay?"

"Fine," He coughed, holding up a finger. "Just... One moment. I'm not feeling too good."

Dizzy was the only word that came to mind when his legs lost their balance and sent him to sit on the gravelly roof. He held a hand to his forehead, shutting his eyes tight as he fought to find energy within his thin body. Adrien wasn't sure what the hell was wrong with him or why he was feeling so weak and sick until his stomach clenched in a reminder that his dinner had been a bit too light.

"Chat Noir?"

His green gaze met hers and he could see that she was worried, even with blurry vision.

"Chat, what's wrong?"

"Ah," He breathed, "can we take a small break?"

Ladybug hesitated before nodding, sitting next to her partner with a watchful eye. "You've never ran out of breath before. Are you sick?"

Adrien shook his head in response, unable to muster the energy to look at her or even speak.

"Ran too fast?"

He shook his head.

"Get enough sleep?"

He nodded.

"Drinking enough?"

He nodded once more.

"Eating enough?"

Hesitation.

He still didn't meet her gaze.

"Chat Noir," Ladybug's voice took on a stern tone. "Are you eating enough? Answer me."

What could he say? "Yes Ladybug, for a model who needs to be skinny enough for a very important upcoming photo shoot, I'm eating the right amount. For a growing teenage boy who's also a superhero? Hell no, I'm not."

"You don't have to answer me, " His partner sighed. "I guess I can tell. I'm worried about you, you know. That skin-tight suit doesn't hide your body and frankly I think one day you're going to be smaller than I am. Why aren't you eating enough, Chat?"

Adrien's eyes shut tightly as his mind swam to come up with a believable answer.

"Chat?"

Her hand on his shoulder caused his eyes to snap open and then he looked at her; her blue eyes were dull with fret and pink lips stretched downward in a frown. She was the perfect example of a friend who cared.

It touched him deeply. Would the truth give too much away? Maybe he could dance around it, sprinkle a little bit of information that wouldn't exactly reveal he's Adrien Agreste but would let Ladybug know what he was dealing with. It's not like he was doing this to himself.

"It's... Complicated," Spoke Adrien, resting his hand on hers. "And kind of a long story. Well, maybe not long, but... Difficult to explain."

"We've got all night, chaton."

He sighed. "Do you know what life is like for a model? It's not fun. We're not as perfect as we look in- ..." Too much information. Don't share everything.

Instantly Ladybug's face softened in understanding, as if she knew exactly how he was feeling. He doubted it; she had curves and was obviously healthy. There was no way she'd be a model. Maybe she knows somebody who is?

"I don't want to give too much away, but... Let's just say I'm regulated on food, and those who regulate me don't know that I'm Chat Noir. That's all I can really say, my Lady."

"I understand," Ladybug's hand rubbed his bony shoulder gently. "I have a friend who's a model. He doesn't get to eat a lot either."

Adrien smiled and leaned in to her, his energy depleting as the desire to snuggle up with Ladybug again grew. "You do love me," He sighed, his head finding its way into the crook of her neck.

"Platonically," She reminded him with a pat on his back. At least she didn't push him away.

"It's still love, Bugaboo. You can't deny that you feel something for me, whether it's platonic or not."

"Listen," She sighed, successfully changing the subject. "How about you go home? I'll finish up here and if there's an emergency just meet me back at our spot. If not, please eat something and get some rest. You need it."

Adrien opened his mouth to protest but she shook her head, pressing a finger to his lips. "No buts. Go home and eat. Paris will be fine for one night without its black cat."

He nodded, knowing there was no sense in arguing. She was right, anyways. Chat Noir would be no use in protecting the city if he was lethargic and out of energy, so the best thing to do was go home and try to sneak a few snacks. "If you say so."

It took Adrien a moment to find his strength but once he did he stood, stretching out his arms with a yawn. "I'll see you the day after tomorrow, provided there's no attacks earlier than that."

Ladybug nodded. She didn't seem like she was going to say another word so Adrien turned and extended his baton, but her voice caught him before he leaped.

"Chat Noir?"

"Yes, m'Lady?"

"Stay safe, please. Paris needs you," She hesitated before speaking again. "I need you."

Adrien grinned, warmth spreading through his body. "I promise."


He didn't know how he'd ended up in front of the Dupain-Cheng bakery.

Well, he knew how. He just didn't know why.

After parting from Ladybug, Adrien's hunger and sadness had driven him to seek out the one place that made him feel at home. The food and the atmosphere were better comfort than anything he'd experienced in the past few years.

Although he'd assumed it would probably be closed, actually seeing the sign on the door that read fermé made his heart sink to the bottom of his boots. Ears drooping, Adrien pressed his face against the glass and gazed inside, thanking his night vision for allowing him to see in the dim lighting. The bakery was empty save for bags of flour and the perfectly clean front desk and display, which taunted him silently.

With a heavy sigh, Adrien turned to go home when a sweetly familiar voice stopped him in his tracks.

"Chat Noir?"

His gaze flicked upward to the third story, where his green eyes met those of Marinette, who sat overlooking her terrace.

"What are you doing here?"

"Sorry to disturb you," He gave her a wave and an apologetic grin. "I heard this is the best place in the whole city to get sweets and I found myself feeling hungry. I'll come back tomorrow."

"Oh. Well... Did you want something?"

Adrien couldn't see her expression due to how much higher in elevation she was, but her tone seemed nice enough. She didn't appear to be annoyed with his presence. "Don't worry about it, miss Marinette. I'm quite fine. You don't need to get me anything."

"Are you? I can hear your stomach growling from up here." The soft giggle that came from her was unmistakable. Adorable.

"I'm sure-"

"Just come up here. We've got leftovers from earlier and I can't let one of Paris' superheroes go home on an empty stomach."

Surprised but not protesting, Adrien scaled the building until he was perched on the railing of her terrace, sitting still as Marinette scanned him. She was probably nervous to have a superhero on her roof at such late hours.

In fact, she looked as if she had been just about to go to bed. Pigtails loose to let a river of black hair flow down her shoulders and onto her chest, where she wore a plain white pajama shirt. Her usual pink jeans were replaced with spotted pink-and-white pajama pants, and as his eyes landed on her bare feet, he noticed that they were painted a pastel pink that matched her pants. Adrien grinned.

"Do you come to girls' balconies late at night just to check them out?" Marinette teased, raising an unamused eyebrow as she followed his gaze. She must have noticed him taking her in.

"No, sorry," He laughed as he removed himself from his perch to stand in front of her. "Didn't mean to stare. I'm not feeling like myself tonight."

"I see," Her eyes shifted away, as if she were almost afraid of something. What was she hiding? "Well, stay here. We probably have some bread or something I can give you."

"I don't have any money on me."

"Don't worry about that, we wouldn't be able to sell it anyways because it'll be stale by tomorrow."

She disappeared below her trap door and Adrien waited, alone on his classmate's terrace as he took in his surroundings. Three potted plants on a ledge to his right, and a cute little lawn chair to his left. He sat on the small wooden table in front of him but removed himself as it wobbled; for once he was too heavy to sit on something. A chuckle bubbled in his throat.

"What are you laughing at?" Marinette appeared from the trapdoor, her head peeking out. "Is it because you almost fell off that table? I saw that, by the way."

Adrien blushed, thankful for the night sky that cloaked his red cheeks. "Cats can't always be graceful, Marinette."

"I assumed. Here," She hoisted herself back onto the terrace, where she handed him a tray. On the tray was a plate that held three chocolate-chip cookies and a larger one that held two croissants. They appeared to be fresh, not old food like she had said—or maybe he only thought that because of how hungry he was.

"Thank you," Breathed Adrien, eyes wide as he sat in the striped lawn chair. "This is kind of you."

"Well, how else can a civilian show her gratitude for you and Ladybug protecting the city?" She sat on the wooden table, which didn't wobble like it had when he placed himself there before moments before.

"Feed Ladybug too."

Marinette giggled. "She's welcome to eat here too. The bakery is open to all people, even superheroes."

"Am I exclusively allowed after hours, then?"

"No. I can eat here whenever I want. I live here."

"True," He chuckled as he finished his first cookie. "Did you make these? They're amazing. You really know how to bake, Princess."

"I baked them," She nodded, her lips curled upwards in a smile. "But it's my papa's recipe. What's with the nickname, by the way? I'm not your princess."

"You can be if you want to." It slipped out before he'd had a chance to think about what he was going to say. His eyes widened as he realized that this wasn't Adrien talking to Marinette, but Chat Noir, someone his classmate had only interacted with twice, and both times he'd been protecting her. "You know, I meant to say that differently."

"Oh, did you?" Laughed Marinette, her cheeks a hint of pink as she crossed her legs atop the table. She was so tiny that she fit perfectly on the surface. "To me it sounded like you were flirting. I thought Chat Noir only flirted with Ladybug?"

"I do," He admitted, "she's the only one for me. Doesn't mean I can't call you Princess, though."

"What if I don't like the nickname?"

"Then I'll call you something else. How about Freckles?"

"No."

"Bakery Goddess?"

"Stop."

"Kitten?"

"Oh god."

"Adorable girl whose eyes sparkle like the ocean?"

Silence.

Adrien looked up from his tray of food in alarm. He'd gone too far. Adrien was the one with the crush on Marinette, not Chat Noir. Now he'd probably scared his classmate into thinking the superhero was nothing but a silly flirt.

"You know," He sighed, giving a nervous laugh as he scratched the back of his neck. "It's late. I think I'm going to take my leave now."

Marinette nodded, raising an eyebrow. "Uh, yeah, okay. Goodnight, Chat Noir."

"Thanks for the food. I really appreciate it." He finished his snacks before giving her a wave and vaulting off her balcony, bounding home as quickly as he could.

Well, so much for acting suave. The only thing Adrien felt as he returned home was sheer embarrassment.


Marinette let out a groan as the led on her pencil snapped for the sixth time in the past eight minutes. The tension she held in her wrist was certainly coming out onto her sketches.

"What's wrong with him, Tikki?" She sighed, erasing the dark line that stretched across her paper. "He's been acting so weird lately, around Ladybug and now Marinette. Why did he even come here? What was the point? He acted so... Off. And then he called me adorable and told me that my eyes sparkled like the ocean. What the heck?"

"Calm down, Marinette," Tikki's soft voice soothed her jittering nerves. "It's okay. Maybe he's just overtired."

"Overtired," Marinette repeated, setting down her pencil with a clack on her desk. "Overtired, and hungry. I'm worried about him, Tikki. He's- he's getting so thin. I think whoever he lives with or whatever job he has is making him lose weight dangerously. He said he was a model. I don't know what it's like to be a model. How am I supposed to help him? The poor guy is probably going to bed hungry every night because of his job and there's nothing I can do."

"Marinette," Tikki was smiling, her blue eyes gentle as she gazed at her chosen. "You care about him a lot."

"I do and I hate it." Groaning dramatically, Marinette slumped forwards and laid her cheek on the cool surface of her desk. "I don't know what's wrong with me. Lately I can't push him away when he flirts with me and he's been making me blush. Chat Noir doesn't make Ladybug blush! That just doesn't happen!"

"Don't wake your parents," Tikki reminded her.

"I know, sorry," Sighing, Marinette closed her sketchbook and stood, turning out her bedroom light. "Maybe some sleep will help me clear my head."

With her room now dull, the teenage girl climbed up into bed and hid under her covers, mind swimming in a sea of thoughts.

Stupid Chat Noir.

Stupid Chat Noir and his stupid flirting and stupid puns and stupid eyes and stupid pretty blond hair and stupid ability to make her blush.

Stupid.

If anyone was stupid, it was her, Marinette, for letting him do this to her. Her partner never used to make her want to punch her pillow in frustration.

"Ugh!" She groaned as she threw her blanket off of her legs. It was getting too hot under the covers and she needed air.

"Tikki, I'm-" The vibration from her phone silenced her. Curious, Marinette picked it up and checked the time: twelve-fifteen A.M., and a new text from Adrien.

Adrien.

Why on Earth was Adrien texting her at twelve in the morning?

Adrien <3, 12:15 A.M.: [ Are you awake? ]

Marinette's heart beat a thousand miles a minute. Swallowing dryly, her trembling fingers typed out six different replies, all being erased before they were sent as she internally panicked over what to say. Did she say yes? Did she ignore it and pretend to be asleep? He saw that she read his message and that she had been typing, so she couldn't fake being asleep.

After freaking out for a good two minutes, she decided to just go with a neutral reply.

[ yeah I'm awake. what's up? ]

Adrien began typing again then stopped for a brief moment before continuing, quickly this time.

Adrien <3, 12:19 A.M.: [ Oh my god Marinette I'm so sorry. I meant to text Nino. Did I wake you? ]

Marinette wasn't sure if she should feel disappointment or gratitude that he'd accidentally texted her. Maybe he didn't want to text her. Or... Maybe he was lying and was too embarrassed to admit that he wanted to text her. That'd be something she'd do.

Yet... Now she had her chance.

[ it's okay, you didn't wake me i was already up ]

Her hands trembled as she held on to her phone, desperately staring at her screen for any sign that he was going to reply.

He read her message.

He began typing.

I'm texting Adrien. I'm having a conversation with Adrien. This is a normal thing that normal friends do. I need to calm down.

Adrien <3, 12:21 A.M.: [ Oh okay good. I just can't sleep so I wanted to text Nino to get my mind off of stuff but looks like I'm texting you instead. That alright? ]

So polite, even over text.

What could be giving him a hard time sleeping? Was his model life stressing him out like Chat's was? Did he need comfort?

Whatever it was, he'd texted her first, so Marinette took the bait and ran with it. At least she couldn't stutter over text.

[ that's fine. what's keeping you up? ]

Adrien <3, 12:22 A.M.: [ Mostly personal stuff. I don't wanna bore you with the details. How do you think you did on that test in physics today? ]

Marinette snorted. She'd missed physics due to the akuma attack. When she should have been in class testing, she was on the roof of the school scratching behind Chat Noir's ears.

Boy, did she need to get her priorities straight.

[ missed it. got called out of class early ]

That was a believable lie, right?

Adrien <3, 12:24 A.M.: [ Me too. I guess we'll be making it up together then? ]

And that's when her heart stopped beating. Her and Adrien, alone in a classroom, making up a test-

-probably wasn't that big of a deal. They'd most likely be seated away from each other and one of them would finish earlier and depart. Leave it to Marinette to overthink things.

Their conversation drifted to that of school, then to her favorite subjects, which led into the topic of favorite things between the two. Marinette learned lots of new information about Adrien, but the best things she learned were that Adrien's favorite color was blue—not a dark blue, but a baby blue, his favorite season was summer, and his favorite food was chocolate-chip cookies.

They shared two favorites. Her heart pounded so hard she felt as if it was about to explode inside of her.

By the time the clock reached three-fifty A.M., Marinette realized just how exhausted she felt. She hadn't expected to stay up this late, but talking to Adrien all night was definitely a plus. The conversation dynamic had definitely changed. Adrien had gone from using professional grammar to spewing out typos, which Marinette would make jokes out of after. He'd even sent her goddamn memes.

Cat memes.

[ i'm so tired ]

She sent the message just as the clock struck four. Her eyes drooped and burned as she fought to keep them open, but she couldn't leave before they exchanged goodnight texts. They'd been texting for nearly four hours and Marinette couldn't keep herself awake any longer. Please hurry up and text back so I can sleep.

Adrien <3, 4:01 A.M.: [ yeah me too lmao but befoer i go can i ask you somethign]

[ yeah go ahead ]

Adrien <3, 4:02 A.M.: [ is it ok if i come over tomorrow? ive got nothing to do and my schedule is free so maybe we can hang out and play video games or work on your designs or w/e ]

If she'd been more awake, Marinette would have screamed. She would have screeched and cried and thrown up from excitement that Adrien chose to hang out with her over Nino or anyone else, actually.

But Marinette was exhausted and Marinette was not thinking straight.

So, she typed out one last text.

[ i'd love that <3 goodnight adrien, sleep well ]

Once it had sent, she curled up in bed and easily fell asleep, contented by the warmth in her chest.

The next morning, she wasn't sure what surprised her more: the fact that she'd sent Adrien a message with a heart emoji, or the fact that he'd sent one back.

Chapter Text

Marinette's eyes scanned over Adrien's text the hundredth time that hour.

Adrien <3, 4:05 A.M.: [ goodnight marinette <3 ]

She hadn't even managed to get out of her pajamas yet. That text kept her glued to her bed with no intention on letting her up as she attempted to decipher it.

A simple goodnight text would have meant little to her.

But a goodnight text with a heart emoji?

That was something, especially coming from Adrien.

Truthfully, she had sent one first and he was probably trying to be polite by replying with one, but...

Do people just send heart emojis for no reason?

"Alya, please," whined Marinette as she called her friend up on the phone, "you have to help me. I think I either screwed up big time or did something amazing."

"Spill." Alya's voice was full of that oh-god-what-did-you-do-this-time tone.

"How do I even start?" Marinette groaned, slapping her palm to her forehead in frustration. "I need your help to decipher a text message Adrien sent me last night at four A.M."

"What?" She could hear Alya laughing on the other line. "So, Adrien just randomly decides to text you at four in the morning? About what?"

"Well... More like he texted me at midnight and we talked until four."

"What?" Alya repeated, her laughter fading. Marinette could imagine her friend's eyes widening with surprise. "What did you two even talk about for that long? You should have been sleeping."

"I know..." Marinette let out a sigh as she recalled the conversation from the night before; small talk that had turned into details about their lives and then somehow forming into a sea of memes and Adrien's horrible puns and potty mouth. Who knew that boy could misspell curse words so many different ways? "At first he told me that he needed someone to talk to because of personal issues. He texted me on accident. At first he was trying to text Nino I guess, but because N and M are next to each other he texted me? I don't know!"

"Well, what did he say?"

"He didn't say anything about the personal issues and changed the subject. Turns out we both missed the test yesterday and we have to make it up together on Monday."

"Which reminds me," Alya said, "why didn't you come back to class yesterday?"

Marinette bit her bottom lip and furrowed her brow as she fought to come up with a believable excuse. "Uh, large order at the bakery my parents couldn't handle on their own. Had to stay. Anyways, Adrien and I talked about small things until four A.M. when I told him that I needed to sleep. I was so tired I didn't realize I'd sent him a heart emoji."

"And?"

"And he sent one back."

"So, let me get this straight, girl. You two have reached the stage of mutually sending hearts to each other? Why don't you just get married already?"

Marinette frowned at the sarcasm in her friend's tone. "Don't tease."

"I'm not teasing," laughed Alya, "just playing. Let me come over, we can talk about it and I can help you decipher Monsieur Mystery's heart emojis."

Marinette froze, her hand clenching so tightly around her phone that her knuckles turned white. "I... can't. I'm busy today."

"With what?"

"Adrien...?" Her voice squeaked into a high-pitched whisper. "He asked if he could come over-"

"Holy shit," Alya's laughter had faded completely as her voice became a shocked whisper. "And I didn't even have to intervene to get him to your house!"

"Alya, I'm going to hang up now."

"I'm just joking, Mari, relax."

Marinette rolled her eyes as she heard Alya break into giggles once more and was about to give her friend a few choice words before she heard her mother calling her down to help in the bakery.

"I gotta go, duty calls. I'll talk to you later, okay?"

"Alright," Alya chuckled, "love you, Mari. Have fun with Adrien."

Smiling and hanging up the phone, Marinette slumped out of bed and quickly changed out of her pajamas before heading downstairs. She'd woken up too late for breakfast, so instead she grabbed a snack and went straight to the ground floor, where her mother waited and held out the pink apron Marinette had made for herself.

"Thanks maman," she yawned, stretching out the last bit of sleep that still lingered in her bones. "Busy day today?"

Her mother nodded. "I've got to tend the front, so can you help out in the back? We just ran out of sugar cookies and your father had to go pick up some more supplies. You know what to do."

At least sugar cookies were simple enough to make, albeit messy. "Oh, mom?" Marinette remembered that it was most likely a good idea to let her mother know that Adrien would be coming over sometime that day. "It's okay if Adrien comes over later, right? I just want to make sure-"

"Marinette, your boyfriend is always welcome here."

"We're not dating!" Marinette's cheek flared up red as she tied her apron behind her back, eyes wide. "W-we're just friends, mom... Just friends."

"Are you sure?" Sabine teased, giving her daughter a playful smirk. "Your father and I have been wondering when you'd tell us about you and him. You don't have to keep your boyfriends a secret from us."

"I don't have any boyfriends."

"Just the one?"

"Not even Adrien. If we were dating you'd know it."

Her mother gave a sigh and smiled, gentle hands leading Marinette into the kitchen. "If you say so, honey. But you'd better swoop him up quick, because I think he likes you!"

Marinette only grew redder. "Mommm."

At her daughter's embarrassment, Sabine laughed and excused herself back to the front counter, causing Marinette to sigh in relief. She loved her mother with all of her heart, but sometimes she could be a little much.

After preparing and coating the tabletop in flour, Marinette began to gather the ingredients she needed to make a new batch of cookies. She knew the recipe by heart, much like many other recipes she had learned by practice. While she creamed together the butter and sugar, Marinette worked in silence, the occasional ringing of the shop's bell a sweet melody. Doing her job in the bakery was almost therapeutic for her. She knew exactly what she was doing and her parents trusted her to do it right. Of course, there was the added fact of her usual clumsiness, but a few spilled bags of flour or knocking over a bowl wasn't that much of a big deal. Messes happened in bakeries all the time.

The bell of the front door chimed again, but this time its tiny tune was accompanied by a warm voice that made Marinette freeze.

Adrien.

Adrien had arrived earlier than she'd expected.

"Oh, no," She hissed under her breath. Why now?

Gazing over herself, Marinette cursed softly, taking note of the flour that decorated her hair and clothing. Adrien would see her beautifully powdered in white. How stunning.

Maybe he was attracted to ghosts.

"Just go on back, Adrien. Marinette is in the kitchen." Her mother's voice made Marinette internally panic as she hopped on one foot then the other, squealing softly with fear. Her hands wiped at her jeans and she did her best to smack the flour out of her pigtails but it was to no avail—she was covered in the stuff.

Adrien's laugh caused her to turn around quickly, an embarrassed blush on her freckled cheeks.

"A-Adrien," she whined, "are you laughing at me?"

Adrien shook his head, then grinned and nodded. "Maybe a little. Having fun?"

Marinette placed her hands upon her hips and gave a fake pout, trying her best to look offended, but a laugh bubbled up from her chest and contorted her lips into a wide grin. She couldn't stop smiling whenever Adrien was around.

"So, I'm covered in flour. Big deal. It happens when you work at a bakery."

"What are you making?" Adrien approached her with a friendly smile, peering over her shoulder to get a good look at the large mixing bowl. "Ooh, what kind of batter is that? Smells good."

"Sugar cookies. You can have one when they're done, but it wont be for a while."

Adrien was like a curious kitten, his green eyes wide with interest as he gazed around the tabletop. Marinette blushed. She hoped he wasn't judging her for getting flour everywhere.

"I want to help," He said, voice hopeful.

"I'm okay, Adrien- oh." She didn't have much time to protest. Adrien had already grabbed an adorably pink apron and began tying it behind his back, an excited smile gracing his features. He was ready to get to work.

"I want to help," He repeated as he stood next to her, rubbing his hands together with a determined look on his face. "Tell me what to do."

Marinette giggled, raising an eyebrow curiously. "I didn't know baking could be so exciting."

"Please," Adrien looked upon her with a grin. "I've tasted the food from here, but being able to actually make it, to contribute to something that tastes so good? How could I refuse?"

"Well, alright, if you insist." Marinette slid the bowl of flour to her friend, who grinned at it excitedly. "We're going to add that flour into the batter. Here," She took the large wooden spoon that had been sitting on the table and dug a hole in the batter; not all the way through the mixture, yet deep enough so that the flour would get inside and help the batter clump. "Now you can pour the flour in."

She went to hand Adrien the bowl, but by the wrath of her clumsiness her flats slipped on the flooring and sent her tumbling into him. A cloud of flour puffed up around them, coating their hair and faces and clothing as they sat on the floor in a dazed confusion.

When Marinette realized what she'd done, her hands cupped over her mouth in terror.

She'd ruined Adrien's perfect hair and gotten his expensive clothing and soft skin soiled.

"Adrien, oh god, I'm so, so-"

And then, much to her surprise, he laughed. He laughed hard.

Adrien's hands held his stomach and his mouth stretched into a gigantic smile as he became lost in his chortle. The sound of his contagious laughter caused Marinette to snort, her nose scrunching up as she, too, broke into a heavy laughter. The pair sat hunched over from their own giggles for what seemed like forever, and each time one of them would stop laughing, their stomachs aching with exhaustion, they'd meet the others eyes and fall back into a fit of snorts and squeals.

By now Marinette was wheezing, keeping her eyes shut tight in fear that if she looked at Adrien again she'd lose it.

Truthfully, it wasn't even that funny, but the more they laughed the harder it became to stop.

Just as she worked up the courage to lift her gaze from the powdered substance, Marinette noticed Adrien's lips curling into a sneaky smirk. She'd never imagined that such a devilish look could appear on Adrien Agreste's features.

In silence, her eyes followed his hand as it traveled from his stomach to the floor, where he wiped up some of the flour and flung it at her. Marinette squealed—she should have seen that coming!

"Adrien," she squeaked, wiping the powder from her cheeks. "Rude!"

He didn't reply. Instead, he scooped as much flour into his palm as possible and threw it at her in a white cloud, his laughter returning in a fit of giggles.

"Are you looking for a fight?" Gasped Marinette, cocking an eyebrow as she stood up tall. "Ohh, you're on, Agreste. Come here!"

Any lingering trace of shyness that had been within her disappeared as she stuffed her hands into an open sack of flour, grabbing two fist-fulls of the white powder. This was a battle and there was no way in hell she was going to lose. She felt her Ladybug confidence spilling out of her as she assaulted her crush with flour, who laughed and flung it right back.

"You're gonna slip," Adrien warned through laughter, backing up as she inched closer and closer, a rather threatening bag of flour in her arms.

She didn't listen. Instead, she threw the small bag, squealing with laughter as it poofed onto Adrien's chest. Her victory was short lived, however. Her heart stopped as her feet slipped out from underneath her. Marinette realized just how slippery a flour-covered floor could be, especially in flat shoes—she fell backwards and prepared for the worst: a concussion, being knocked out cold, or giving Adrien a concussion by kicking him in the face.

No force hit her.

She didn't collide with the ground.

Instead, she found herself being held up by Adrien, who had caught her in the knick of time before she smashed her head against the floor.

"What did I say?" He chuckled, a smirk that perfectly said "I told you so" stretching across his face. "You almost hurt yourself."

Marinette couldn't formulate an answer. Her gaze had frozen on Adrien's softened summer eyes, which glowed with concern and playfulness. One of his hands supported her from the small of her back while the other held onto her waist, fingers securely locked on her form. It was then she realized how close they were, their faces inches apart, lips threateningly close to being pressed together. If someone had taken a photo of the pair, it would've appeared like they'd been dancing and Adrien had just dipped her down for a kiss.

All of her nervousness that had previously depleted crashed back upon her like a heavy wave.

Her words caught in her throat and came out as nothing but small squeaks of shyness as her cheeks burned and reddened into a deep crimson. Marinette swore that she was nothing but a puddle of blushing goo in Adrien's strong arms, which supported her like she was only a delicate white feather.

She would have fainted if it wasn't for her mother's startled gasp.

"What did you two do?!" Sabine scolded, her hands placed firmly upon her hips. "Your father steps out for fifteen minutes and you make a mess! Marinette, when I sent you down here to make cookies, I didn't expect Christmas to appear in my shop."

Skittering away from Adrien, Marinette scanned the kitchen, her eyes growing twice their size at the sight. The entire room looked as if it'd snowed inside. Her and Adrien practically blended in with the surroundings.

"Oh, no," she whispered to herself, flashing her mother an apologetic smile. "Maman... I'm so sorry. We were just playing around-"

"And how old are you?" Sighed Sabine, shaking her head. "It's fine, don't worry about it. I'm not the one cleaning up this mess, though, so throw those cookies in the oven and get started."

 

An awkward silence developed between the two as they cleaned the kitchen. Adrien had apologized sincerely to her mother and even offered to pay for all the wasted flour, but she had assured him sweetly that it was alright. Her mother was a very forgiving person and Marinette felt incredibly lucky to be her daughter.

Sweeping the flour into snowy piles, Marinette sighed, turning to her friend after she tired of the quiet. "H-Hey, I'm sorry about this."

"What?" Adrien's gaze shifted from the tabletop he'd been wiping to her. "I thought it was fun. Besides, I never have to do any actual cleaning myself, so I'm not hating this as much as you'd think."

Marinette chuckled. "I've never met somebody who actually likes cleaning. Do you want to clean my room for me?"

"Sure," he joked, "just don't get upset when I read your diary."

"Okay, never mind," Marinette snorted, sprinkling some flour in his hair. "I never thought Adrien Agreste was nosy."

"Nosiness and curiosity are different," he said as he brushed away the flour she'd added to his hair. "If you ask me to clean your room and I come across a diary, I might just get curious about whether or not my name is in there somewhere."

He was obviously teasing, but the redness in Marinette's cheeks was hard to hide. "I-It's not!"

"Not even once?" He whined, smirking playfully. "You don't think I'm cute enough to write even one sentence about?"

"Nosy!" She ignored his question, not wanting to answer the obvious. Adrien knew he was cute and she wasn't about to admit that she thought so as well in front of him.

"Curious," he corrected, leaning on the table with a smirk that reminded her a little bit too much of Chat Noir. "Remember, there's a difference."

"Well, I'm curious about that heart emoji you sent last night." She pressed her lips tightly together as the sentence slipped out. That definitely wasn't something she had intended to say out loud.

"Oh?" Adrien's eyes shifted to the rag in his hand as he continued wiping down the table. "You sent it first."

Marinette's face became hotter. He wasn't wrong, and she really didn't know how to reply. "I was just tired."

"Heart emojis are a symbol for being tired?"

"Yes?" She wasn't sure if she would even believe herself.

"Or maybe you just wanted to wish me a good night's sleep, right? Hugs and kisses and all."

This wasn't the shy Adrien Agreste Marinette had grown accustomed to. He was playful and teasing, and she wasn't sure if she should shoot it back or faint from nervousness. Was he flirting?

"I was really tired," she squeaked out, "sorry if it was weird."

"It's okay," he laughed, "I thought it was cute."

Marinette's face flushed and her gaze met the floor. Cute.

They finished their cleaning relatively quickly, the room spotless and sparkling save for the two teens whose appearance reminded Marinette of ghosts.

"I need a shower," Marinette sighed as she removed her apron, hanging it on the wall rack. "And maybe a change of clothes."

"I wish I could say the same," said Adrien as he removed his apron as well, giving himself a quick wiping down. "I hope you don't mind me looking like this the rest of the day."

"You can just use my shower," she offered, quickly realizing it was a bit of an embarrassing thought. Her cheeks flushed for the hundredth time that hour. "If you want to, that is. Sorry."

Her classmate grinned in gratitude. "Thanks, Marinette. If it's no trouble."

"It's fine. I can throw your clothes in the washer if you want, too."

And then Adrien actually blushed, his cheeks reddening just slightly. It was barely even noticeable, but Marinette knew exactly what she was looking at.

She immediately regretted her offer. He probably thinks I'm such a freak. He's probably going to ask to leave so he can shower at home. I've scared him away, he'll never come back. He'll-

"That'd be nice. You don't mind?"

Marinette shook her head, still recovering from the heat in her cheeks. "N-no, not at all."


 Adrien looked up from his phone as Marinette entered her room through the trapdoor, wet hair tied back up in dripping pigtails.

He'd tracked flour up to her room while he waited for her to finish up her shower and of course he felt bad about dirtying her house, but there was really nothing he could do about it. He was covered from head to toe in white powder.

"I-it's y-your turn," Marinette said as she carefully stepped around the flour footprints due to her being barefoot. "It's downstairs to your left. I, uh, I put a towel out for you. Hope you don't mind pink."

Adrien chuckled, shaking his head. "Of course not. It's actually one of my favorite colors." He opened her trap door and stepped down, then turned his gaze back to her. "I'll leave my clothes out the door?"

Marinette squeaked and blushed, swallowing dryly as she nodded. She couldn't find the words to speak and frankly Adrien thought it to be adorable. "M-mhm!"

He'd never seen her blush so hard. It almost made him grin.

"Alright, well, thanks again."

Her bathroom was full of pink and white. A pastel pink wall with white flower decals and a rosy shower curtain that matched the color of the towel that had been left out for him on the sink counter. It was a small bathroom but a cute one, still steamy and warm from when Marinette had been in.

He left his clothes outside the door (save for his boxers), shutting and locking it before he hopped into the shower. It was one of those combined bath-and-tub showers, and it felt quite cramped compared to the shower he was used to being in at his own house.

Surveying the array of scented soaps and shampoos, Adrien grinned as he found the soap that smelled of lavender. It reminded him of Marinette.

After he'd washed all of the flour from his hair and body, Adrien turned off the shower and stepped out, taking a good look at the towel she'd given him. Bright pink with a black cat etched into it. Perfectly fitting for Chat Noir.

He grinned as he dried himself off, wrapping the towel around his waist and opening the door a crack to peek out. His clothes had been neatly folded and left on the floor right outside so he could quickly grab them without being seen in all of his glory.

Once dressed, Adrien went back up into Marinette's room to find her sitting cross-legged on her chaise, aggressively texting someone on her phone. He could only imagine it was Alya.

"All clean," he said as he ruffled his damp hair with the towel. "I like your soaps. I smell like a pretty girl now."

Marinette's blush deepened as she giggled, glancing up from her phone. "You smell like me."

"Exactly. Like a pretty girl."

Maybe Marinette wouldn't have tumbled backwards if he hadn't winked.

That wink probably killed her.

Embarrassed, Adrien gave her a sheepish smile, chuckling softly. "You okay? What was that?"

"N-nothing!" His friend squeaked out, her voice high-pitched as she peeked out from behind her chaise. "Just surprised!"

"Surprised? By what?"

Marinette lowered, hiding behind the pink piece of furniture. Why was she acting so weird? Adrien could have sworn the shyness she felt around him had faded by now, especially after the flour fight.

Maybe she didn't like to be called pretty.

"I-it's just..." She peered up at him. "I didn't expect you of all people to think that I'm pretty."

Adrien cocked an eyebrow as he gazed at her quizzically. "Well, why not?"

"Because," she began, awkwardly climbing back up onto her chaise. "You've probably seen so many pretty girls in your life, being a model and all."

"You don't think you're pretty?" He frowned, running his fingers through his wet hair in an attempt to at least somewhat style it. How could she not think of herself as pretty?

"I never said that," Her gaze met his for merely a brief second before shifting away. "Only a little surprised that you think so. I'm just a normal girl."

Adrien snorted. "You're anything but normal."

She looked slightly offended so he quickly shook his head, eyes frantic as he went to reassure her. "Not in a bad way, Marinette. You're very talented—normal girls can't just make gorgeous designs or sketch amazing drawings like the one you gave me. Also," he stole a glance at her computer screen, "normal girls aren't video game champions. Not everyone can beat me in a match."

"Really?" She giggled, her eyes finally meeting his and staying there. It was then Adrien realized how deeply her face had flushed and how brightly her baby blues had began to sparkle.

Was Marinette ever not blushing around him?

If he didn't know any better, he'd assume she was crushing on him.

The thought made his heart stop in his chest. Marinette did say that she had a thing for Chat Noir. Okay, well, maybe not a thing, but she did say that she thought he was pretty cute. Technically speaking, that meant she had a thing for Adrien Agreste, didn't it? Or at the very least it meant that she thought of him as cute as well.

He cleared those thoughts before nodding, giving his friend a large grin of reassurance. "I mean it."

"Th-thanks..." Marinette smiled, seemingly touched by his words. There was something else hidden behind those soft blue eyes, something deep and meaningful, but he couldn't quite place a finger on it. Admiration? Gratitude? Love?

Adrien doubted it was the latter.

"Well," He began, sitting backwards in one of her pink rolling chairs and swivelling towards her, his head propped on the backrest. "Shall I get my butt kicked in Ultimate Mecha Strike III?"

"That's the only option when we play that game," giggled Marinette, "so yes."

"I have a good feeling this time," he said as she sat in the chair next to him, starting up the game and handing him a controller.

Their hands brushed, the contact sending a spark to run up Adrien's arm and to his chest.

"A good feeling? That you're going to win?" The teasing lilt in her voice fit her expression to a tee. The cocked eyebrow, the smirk of determination...

It reminded him of how Ladybug looked after they'd just defeated an akuma. Confident and sassy.

And wow, did Adrien adore seeing such a self-assured expression on Marinette's face.

"Yes," he stuck his tongue out like a child, which made his friend laugh. "I have my methods."

"Methods," Marinette repeated with a chuckle. "You mean button mashing?"

"If that's what it takes for me to finally reign champion, then yes. I will mash these buttons with all of my might."


Eleven rounds. Eleven rounds and not a single victory claimed for Adrien.

He'd began to grow desperate. Marinette was teasing the hell out of him. She'd let him get so close to winning, so unbelievably close to being crowned winner, before smashing him into the ground and earning herself a new high score.

At this point, he'd even result to cheating.

Maybe that wasn't such a bad idea.

Each time she won she'd laugh and do her little victory dance (which Adrien of course thought was absolutely adorable, but it was getting incredibly annoying to lose over and over again.)

As she started up the twelfth match with that confident smirk that made him want to pull her in for a kiss just to wipe it off her freckled face, Adrien narrowed his eyes.

This time, he needed a plan.

She'd began to play her little game again, acting as if she was failing and letting him think that he would finally claim the title of victor. Her fingers skillfully worked at the controller, her eyes never leaving the screen as she moved her digits in detailed memory. This was a practice she knew all too well, and Adrien was ready to wipe her name off first place on the high score chart.

His health was tied with Marinette's. Both were threateningly close to being defeated, and even Marinette looked slightly nervous. She couldn't let him win.

And that's what made Adrien smirk like a demon with a devious plan to take over the world.

Quick as a cat, Adrien leaned over in his seat and pressed his lips against her cheek in a big, wet kiss, accompanied by a soft "mwah" sound once he pulled away.

It'd certainly elicited the reaction he'd been hoping for.

Marinette froze, her entire body unresponsive as it filled with different shades of red.

This was his chance. While she was in shock, he took the opportunity and smashed her character's health bar to zero, its signature ladybug spots fading as he claimed victory. When his name moved to the top of the scoreboard, Adrien leaped from his chair, arms in the air as he screeched, "Yes! Yes!"

Marinette had yet to respond. She sat there in her chair, looking completely shocked as her hand gingerly placed itself upon the area he'd kissed.

Adrien didn't know a person's face could achieve that level of redness.

He stared at her silence, suddenly feeling a wave of regret washing over him. It drowned any other emotion or thought that didn't fall into the category of internally scolding himself.

Just as he was about to give a heartfelt apology, Marinette's lips parted as she spoke in the quietest, breathiest whisper he'd ever heard. What she said was barely audible, yet absolutely unmistakable:

"...What the fuck..."

Had he heard her right? Did kind, sweet, innocent Marinette Dupain-Cheng just say that?

Adrien snorted. He snorted and he giggled and then he laughed, laughed so hard that he tumbled backwards off of the swivel chair and onto the wooden floor. His stomach was still sore from the flour incident, but the chortle that came from his chest and pit of his belly forced itself up and out of him without any indicator he would be able to suppress it. Tears stung his eyes as he covered his face with his forearm, taking deep breaths to try and steady himself.

Adrien had never felt laughter like that before.

It was the hardest he'd ever laughed in his entire life. Who knew laughter could hurt!

"What's so funny?" Marinette said with a pout. "You cheated! That wasn't a real victory."

"You," he panted, removing his arm from his eyes so he could gaze up at her. "I've never heard you say that before! It's so- so funny, so... Cute. You looked so shocked and offended I thought-" He wheezed out another laugh, his stomach begging for mercy as he breathed heavily. "-I thought that you'd get so mad at me. But then you just..." His laughter weakened into a desperate chuckle as he repeated her shocked whisper, "'What the fffu...'"

"You cheater," Marinette giggled, sitting on the floor next to him with her arms crossed defiantly as he sat up. "I call for a rematch."

"No," he sighed, finally feeling at peace now that he'd finally caught his breath. "No, no way. Not after I've finally won."

"Wrongfully," she scoffed, "you cheated. By kissing me."

"It was only on the cheek. Still, I got the reaction I wanted. You froze and I won."

"You didn't," Marinette said simply, giving him a playful shove with the palm of her hand. "You cheated."

He smirked, shoving her back gently. "Are you trying to engage in physical combat?"

"Yes," she said as she flicked him. "I bet I could beat you in physical combat, too."

"Marinette, no," he whined, his stomach sending a painful spark through his body as his laugh bubbled back up. "This is an abusive friendship. I'll call the police."

"Do it," she dared, giving him that kissable smirk.

He almost considered going for it.

Almost.

"Or worse," he whispered, leaning in with a devious expression, as if he was threatening her with a great power. "I'll get Ladybug and Chat Noir to teach you a lesson."

"Superheroes don't beat up civilians," she said with a confident cock of her eyebrow, shoving him back gently with a finger to his nose. He might have been a little too close. "They protect them."

"But will they protect you from me?"

"Are you challenging me again? Trying to become the alpha?"

He grinned. "Maybe. You're pretty small. I could probably-"

Adrien's eyes widened in surprise as he felt strong muscles give him a shove, sending him backwards onto the floor. Dazed with confusion, he glanced around quickly before sitting back up, his eyes bulging in disbelief.

"Did you just-" He surveyed her body; how had he not noticed those muscular arms before? "How strong are you?"

"Don't underestimate me just because I'm little," she chuckled, her cheeks turning that familiar shade of red.

As he gazed at her, Marinette's confident expression turned quiet, her eyes frantically searching his body. "I-I didn't hurt you, did I?"

"No," he laughed, "I'm fine. Just surprised. Though I suppose I'm not that hard to push over; I'm not the heaviest guy."

Something in Marinette's expression changed. Her sparkling blue eyes grew dull and she looked as if she was fighting with herself to keep from frowning.

Adrien's lips tugged downward as he began to internally panic. What had he said to make her look so sad? Why did he ruin the moment? They were laughing and playing and now she seemed so down, back to her usual shy shell he'd been fighting so hard to get her out of all day.

So, he did the only logical thing he could think of.

He pushed her back.

(Incredibly gently, of course. Adrien would never do anything to harm her.)

Marinette squeaked with surprise, her hands connecting around his shirt to keep herself from falling over, but it was to no avail—perhaps she'd forgotten her own strength as they fell backwards together on the floor.

Well, Adrien had fallen forwards. Right on top of an extremely embarrassed and blushing Marinette.

The position they were in wasn't exactly for "just friends."

Adrien swallowed nervously as he felt his face flare up in a deep scarlet, eyes the size of the moon and lips curled downwards in a surprised frown.

He couldn't make his arms do what he wanted. He was frozen on top of an incredibly flustered and rosy girl and he couldn't get his limbs to cooperate. He couldn't move.

The only thing that made the situation more embarrassing was the fact that Marinette hadn't budged either. She lay flat on her back, her hands firm against his chest and her blue eyes practically bulging out of her head.

Those pink lips that pressed together in a tightened line were close enough to taste with his own.

He wanted to. He really wanted to. She'd been teasing him all day with her cute little victory dances and confident smirks. He was so tempted, but being a gentleman, Adrien would ask permission first if he really wanted to attempt to kiss her.

So, he asked.

"Marinette," He whispered, his eyes softening as he leaned in closer, their lips mere centimeters from brushing. "Can I-"

The sound of footsteps coming up the stairs sent Adrien scampering. His mind hadn't even acknowledged that he'd crawled across the room on all fours like a cat caught by the fishbowl until he and Marinette were standing, faces crimson as they turned to face whoever was opening the trapdoor.

It was her mother.

"Just came to say that lunch is ready if you want to come down," Sabine said in a kind voice, completely oblivious to the fact that Adrien had been on top of her daughter with the intent on kissing her moments ago.

Marinette nodded, clearing her throat to rid the waver in her voice. "Y-yes, maman. We'll be right down."

Adrien met Marinette's gaze for a final moment before they went downstairs for lunch.


 "Too much" were the only words that came to mind as Adrien lay on Marinette's chaise, his hand resting lightly upon his stomach.

Too much food.

Marinette's mother had insisted he have more than just a single helping, which was what he was used to. He couldn't refuse, especially with how nice she was being to him and how great the food tasted.

Adrien had never imagined that dumplings could be so flavorful. Marinette's mother was amazing cook; he'd told her that three times and was about to say it a fourth before his friend pulled him back up to her room.

He'd only realized how full he was until he collapsed on Marinette's chaise, feeling absolutely lethargic.

"I told you," Marinette sighed as she opened her sketchbook, flipping to the page of the Ladybug and Chat Noir designs. "My mom will keep feeding you until you explode."

"I know that now," he groaned, watching her from across the room. "Whatcha doin'?"

"Working on my designs while you recover."

"Can I see?" Sitting up, he wandered over to his friend and sat beside her in the second chair, rolling as close as he could without invading her personal space. His wide green eyes examined the fabric and cloth she had strewn about her desk in a disorganized mess.

Well, to him it looked like a mess. To Marinette, she probably had her own system of organization that made sense only to her.

Reaching out, he plucked one of the pieces of red fabric up from the pile and looked it up and down, resisting the cat urge to sniff it out of curiosity. Being Chat Noir had its quirks, and cat urges were something he experienced all too often. At least it was easier to fight them when he wasn't transformed.

"You're so curious," chuckled Marinette as she took it from him with gentle fingers. "Just like a cat. Go play with yarn or something."

His eyes shifted to the pink ball of yarn that sat neatly wound to her left. Now that he'd seen it, Adrien feared the temptation might grow too strong to control. He tore his gaze away, fingers tapping on her desk impatiently as his mind fought to distract himself from the perfectly colorful ball of yarn that he could so easily play with. It sat there, taunting him, boasting with its bright color and softness that would be absolutely satisfying to sink his claws and teeth into.

He suppressed a cat-like growl and instead stared at his feet in frustration.

"Hey, Marinette?" His voice was deeper than he had intended. That ball of yarn still deserved a good beating. "I was wondering if you could teach me how to draw."

Marinette's hand froze as her gaze lifted from the assortment of fabrics that fanned out in front of her. "Teach you how to draw? You want to learn?"

Adrien nodded. "Yeah. I think it'd be a good distraction sometimes. Usually at photo shoots, there are lots of times when I'm just sitting with nothing to do. Being able to draw could fill up that block so I don't have to be bored."

Marinette tapped her pencil against her lips, considering the thought. "I'm not an amazing artist but I could try to teach you some of the basic things I know. You really want to learn?"

He nodded once more. "Yeah, I mean it. I was thinking about it last night since I hung that picture you gave me on my wall. It'd be so amazing to be able to draw like that."

"It takes lots of practice," she said as she cleared the fabric off of her desk. "And patience, and time. You don't just become amazing overnight."

"I know that. I'm willing to put the practice, patience, and time in." He smiled. "See? I pay attention."

Marinette grabbed her sketchbook, flipping to an empty page in preparation to give him a small beginner's lesson. "What do you want to learn to draw?"

Adrien certainly knew the answer to that. "People."

"Ah," Marinette's expression was all too knowing. "Do you just want to draw Paris' superheroes?"

"Maybe," he laughed, blushing slightly with embarrassment. "But other stuff, too."

"You like her a lot, don't you?"

Adrien looked up from his hands, a bit startled by the question. "Who?"

Marinette fiddled with her pencil, biting her lower lip as she fumbled for an answer to a question she probably didn't intend to ask. "Ladybug."

"Oh," Adrien's gaze fell downcast with shyness. Of course he liked Ladybug, he was pretty sure he was straight up in love with her, but he couldn't tell Marinette that. She'd most likely begin to catch on. "Uh, well, I admire her. It's not a crush so don't say that."

Marinette giggled, cupping a hand over her mouth as she did so. "Um, I never accused you of having a crush on her."

Fuck.

"Ah! Oh, well, uh, haha... You know. What kind of guy would I be if I didn't have a tiny little crush on Ladybug? She's so brave and confident a-and pretty. Oh, wow," he hid his face in his hands, the heat of his cheeks causing his palms to burn with embarrassment. He'd admitted too much. "It's just a celebrity crush. It's not like I expect her and I to ever date or anything. Not that I want that! I-it's really nothing, just admiration. That's all."

"I see." Marinette's cheeks had a tint of pink to them as well, but Adrien didn't exactly know why. "Well, there's nothing wrong with a crush on a celebrity, especially not a superhero. Ladybug is pretty cool."

"Cool?" he gaped, shaking his head in bewilderment. "She's more than that, Marinette. I think she's amazing. Don't get me wrong, I'm not her biggest fan like Alya is, but I do know she's incredible. Wonderful. I need a thesaurus because I can't think of enough words to describe her."

Oh, god, he was gushing and Marinette was losing it.

His friend had broken into a fit of tiny giggles, a light shade of red coating her garden of freckles. Adrien's heart swelled with the memory that he'd almost kissed that smile.

"Aw, don't laugh at me, Marinette."

Immediately she calmed her squeals of laughter and gave him a sheepish grin, which made him smile in return. "Sorry. Don't worry about it, Adrien, there's nothing wrong with a celebrity crush. I've got one too."

"Do you?" Adrien asked, unsure why the thought made him uncomfortable. Jealousy was not an emotion he enjoyed. He'd felt it with Ladybug before, but never with Marinette.

Marinette's eyes widened as if she hadn't meant to admit that information. "Um! Yes! Well, uh, he's... He's, well known by Paris, uh, blond, green eyes? Oh, um... Oh, no. I'm so sorry. I didn't mean to admit all that, ugh..."

Adrien smirked. He knew exactly who that celebrity happened to be.

"Chat Noir."

Marinette's shoulders visibly relaxed as she shot him a surprised look. He wasn't sure who else she could possibly be talking about, so why was she looking at him like she'd just avoided a bullet? "Oh... Oh! Yeah, that's who I meant."

The thought of Marinette having a crush on Chat Noir warmed Adrien's insides and made a grin stretch across his blushing face. Marinette having a crush on Chat Noir was Marinette having a crush on Adrien.

It took everything he had not to jump up and laugh with glee.

"Wow," he breathed, resting his head on his palm. "I can see why. He is pretty handsome."

Marinette cocked her head. "You think he's handsome?"

"Of course," Adrien smirked, restraining his laughter. "I heard he's got some pretty nice muscles under that suit, you know."

"Oh my god," His classmate's eyes were wide with surprise. "So you think Ladybug and Chat Noir are attractive?"

"Well, yeah," Adrien chuckled at his friend's shocked expression. "I never said I was straight, Marinette."

Even if he was only into Ladybug out of the two—he wasn't into himself, of course—Adrien still felt safe admitting that detail about himself to his friend.

"Oh," Marinette said, blinking those bright blue eyes. "Me either."

"Don't tell anyone that," He laughed, hiding his blushing face in his hand. "It's a secret. You're the only one who knows."

"Not even Nino?"

"Not even Nino."

The rest of the afternoon was spent by an abundance of video games, which Adrien usually lost save for the occasional lucky victory that Marinette was never pleased about. Their dynamic had changed quite a bit since that morning when he'd arrived. Marinette no longer stuttered (unless he made some flirtatious comment, which reminded him not to do that) and they shared several fits of laughter, each one harder and lasting longer than the last.

By the time the clock struck seven, Adrien's stomach feared it might not be able to take any more.

They lay on the floor of her terrace after a fourth fit of laughter that had been caused by Marinette becoming so frustrated with the current video game that she let quite a few curse words fly before suggesting they take a break. It hadn't been funny until they'd climbed up on her terrace and Adrien thought of how scrunched up her face had become and how the word "fucker" was said by such a sweet voice. He'd tried so hard not to laugh, he honestly did, but once he started he just couldn't stop. It'd sent her to join his snorting, the two finding themselves on the concrete where they lay now in silence, gazing up at the pink and orange clouds that danced across the sky as a blanket of pastel warmth enveloped the city.

Sunset was always a beautiful sight in Paris. Adrien swore that no other place on Earth could have such a beautiful end to their days.

The silence was comfortable. They didn't need words at this point; just two friends enjoying the gentle breeze that kissed their skin and reminded them that summer was near.

"This is nice," sighed Adrien as his gaze tracked a cloud that vaguely reminded him of a heart. "I never really get a chance to just relax like this."

"I do this sometimes," Marinette said as she glanced at him. "It's usually on nights when I'm stressed or something. That's why I love having my bedroom in the attic, because of this terrace. The view is great and it's amazing for inspiration."

"I can imagine. I'd love to be able to sit on roofs like this all the time."

It was true. As Chat Noir, Adrien loved nothing more than to find a good spot with an amazing view of the skyline and just watch. Gazing at the world was one of his favorite pastimes and he wished he could do it more often. The only thing that made the gorgeous painting of warm colors better was having Ladybug by his side.

"It is nice," she sighed, "today was... Today was nice."

Adrien hummed in agreement. Truthfully, it'd been one of the best days he'd ever experienced. Sure, it wasn't much more than just hanging out with a friend, but it was something that he'd never really had much of a chance to do before. He appreciated Marinette allowing him to come over and her mother for feeding him and being so kind. He hadn't met her father much due to him always being in bakery, but he assumed that Tom was a nice guy. How could he not be when he had such an amazing family?

"I like it here," Adrien said as his eyes followed the clouds that moved along the darkening sky in a gentle herd. "Everything feels so real."

"Real?" Marinette turned on her side to face him, scooting a bit closer. She'd tried to do it discreetly, but he'd noticed. One of the good things about having cat side effects was that his eye caught things people normally wouldn't see. "What do you mean?"

"I mean..." It took him a moment to formulate the words in his head. "My house is just so big. Everything is superficial and for show. It feels cold and lonely but your house is very warm and comforting. It's lived in, and that's what I like about it. You can tell that people live here and that- ..." He frowned, embarrassed by the crack in his voice. "...And that you're happy."

Marinette's frown joined his own. "You're not happy?"

Adrien shook his head, figuring there was no use in hiding it since he'd already let it slip. Of course he wasn't happy, how could he be? Sure, he had a big house and money, but that didn't necessarily mean his life was good. He wanted his father to be more present in his life, and he missed his mother dearly.

"No," He admitted after a moment, sighing. "I guess not. Not usually, at least. Today I am."

"Why aren't you happy?"

He felt like she already knew the answer to that and part of him didn't feel like talking about it. It'd ruin the peaceful atmosphere they'd built up.

"It's a lot to tell. I don't want to bore you."

"You wouldn't be boring me, Adrien," Marinette reassured, "if you need somebody to talk to..."

"I know," He sighed, "I know. I just don't feel comfortable with sharing my life's details."

"You can't keep it bottled up inside," Marinette's voice was soothing and soft as she spoke, her eyes locked on his with a gentle gaze. She was only prying because she cared, he knew, but...

Adrien turned his eyes back to the sky. "You're probably right, Marinette, but I don't know. I'm pretty sure if I start I won't be able to stop until I've admitted all of my secrets."

There were many secrets Marinette didn't need to know.

She didn't need to know he was crushing on her. She didn't need to know he was tearing himself apart inside over which girl he had stronger feelings for. She didn't need to know that he was Chat Noir and she didn't need to know that every night he thought of his mother and wished she would come home to him. She didn't need to know that most nights sleep came with a mixture of hunger pains and tears.

She just didn't need to know how hard his life really was.

If she knew, it would pain her, and making Marinette sad was the last thing Adrien ever wanted to do.

"It's okay," The delicate touch of a hand on his shoulder made him tear his gaze from the sky. Marinette was looking at him so kindly, so full of love—whether it was platonic or something more, Adrien wasn't sure, but he was grateful for it nonetheless. "You don't have to tell me, Adrien. Just know that I'm there for you if you ever need someone to talk to."

It touched him deeply. She didn't push him away. Marinette had said she would be there for him whenever he needed and well, he needed someone there for him right now.

"You don't mind?" He turned his eyes to her and met the chilling sight of blue. "It's... a lot."

"I'm all ears."

He took a deep breath and let it out through parted lips, his gaze finding itself back on the sea of pink and red that glowed above them. If Marinette was willing to listen, he wouldn't hold back. She could keep secrets.

He trusted her.

So, he began.


Adrien hadn't expected to talk as long as he did. They'd been called down for dinner twice, and both times Marinette had told her mother they'd be down in a bit. He talked about how stressful his job was and his father's negligence and how he didn't get to enjoy being a teenager. He talked about his troubles, his worries, his desire to eat a whole pizza by himself. And most importantly, he talked about his mother. He went on and on about how badly he missed her and how important she'd been to him and how she had been the light in his life back when she was still in it.

And he talked about how badly it hurt to have her gone.

Adrien hadn't expected to cry in front of Marinette that night.

At first it wasn't anything more than a few tears rolling down his cheeks without any noise besides the occasional sniffle, but when he felt her warm arms envelope his body he'd broken. His shoulders trembled as he confessed his habits of not eating enough and his arms held onto his friend tightly as he confessed that sometimes he wished he didn't have to wake up the next day. His tears stained her shirt as he hid his head into her neck while he confessed that he was lonely and that his heart was aching and that he felt so much hurt he wasn't sure if anything could make it better. He'd confessed that all he wanted was a loving family like hers.

And that was when he felt the delicate warmth of lips upon his forehead. Gentle hands soothed his shaking back in comforting circles as Marinette let him ride his sadness out. He'd never broken in front of anyone before—anyone besides his mother. A mixture of emotions were coursing within him, pouring out of his body as he trembled with quiet sobs. Crying was something he'd become accustomed to, but usually he only cried when he was alone.

Usually the only comfort he could seek out was Plagg.

Plagg wasn't awful at it, but he definitely wasn't a creature of sympathy. He'd been alive far too long to really feel the deep sadness that had built up within his chosen and Adrien understood that he wasn't the type that really knew what to do with an emotional teenager anyways. Plagg's advice was usually just to eat a piece of cheese and try to forget about it.

It was when he'd finally caught his breath that Adrien realized how embarrassed he felt.

Here they were, sitting in the low hues of twilight, the gentle glow of sunshine ebbing away and dancing along their skin as they sat together in an embrace. It was twice in one day they'd ended up in a position that wasn't considered for only friends, but this one was much less suggestive. It was pure and innocent and full of comfort. Adrien's arms wrapped tightly around her back, securely hugging her as if she was his lifeline, keeping him alive and safe and cared for. His face had nuzzled deeply into the crook of her neck, which was warm and smelled so sweet, even after he'd spent a good amount of time whimpering into it.

Marinette didn't seem to mind at all. Her arms had connected around his torso, one hand rubbing it in slow circles of reassurance while the other supported his back. He'd definitely needed it.

They sat together in silence until the yellow hues of the city at night washed over them.

"Marinette?" Adrien whispered, his voice quiet and cracked with sorrow. "I'm so sorry. I didn't mean to-"

"Don't," she said softly, "don't you dare apologize, Adrien. There's nothing to be sorry for."

He sighed. "I'm embarrassed."

"What for? Crying?"

He nodded, refusing to remove his face from her neck.

"Adrien, look at me." A delicate hand placed itself upon his cheek.

Hesitantly, Adrien raised his head from hiding and stared at the ground, too embarrassed to look up from the concrete.

"Adrien."

He glanced at her, then shifted his eyes back down.

"Please? It's okay."

Her pleading tone was enough to cause Adrien to lift his gaze and meet hers, which was soft and full of nothing but sympathy for him. He almost smiled.

"Listen to me, Adrien... I know you're embarrassed about crying in front of me but it's not a big deal. People cry all the time. I cry a lot. Everyone cries sometimes. You have a very good reason to be upset. You have a lot on your mind and if I were in your situation, I wouldn't have stayed strong for as long as you have. You're very brave." Her other hand connected with his reddened cheeks as she studied him, her thumbs gingerly stroking his skin.

It reminded him of how his mother used to comfort him.

One of her hands ran from his face to his hair, which she caressed gently. The loose strands that had been hanging in his face were pushed backward as she soothed him. A purr threatened to rumble in his throat as her hands ran along his face and head, but he fought it back, instead allowing a smile to tug at his heavy lips.

It only grew once he saw Marinette smile as well.

"Marinette," he whispered as he took one of her hands in his, giving it a gentle squeeze. "Thank you."

"Any time, Adrien."

The rest of the evening was spent sitting on her terrace, eating dinner and cracking jokes to lighten the mood. Marinette had successfully made him happy.

More than happy, actually. Marinette had made him feel loved, appreciated, needed.

Marinette had taken in a broken, lost kitten and turned him into a contented housecat who never wanted to leave her side.

By the time the clock reached ten, Adrien decided it was best to go home. He hadn't expected to stay for so long. He initially had planned to leave hours ago when it was still a decent time, but when he was with Marinette, his world felt at peace and time flew by like it didn't exist.

He'd resisted the urge to give her a goodnight kiss when she walked him down to the ground floor, and he'd resisted the urge to grab her by her hands and run off with her back inside the house so he could stay forever.

He'd resisted the urge to tell her that he was Chat Noir and he'd resisted the urge to transform and take her to see the city from his favorite angle.

Yet he didn't resist the urge to wrap her in a hug before taking his leave.

"I'll see you again soon," he told her before slipping tiredly into the limo that waited outside for him.

Little did she know, he'd see her again much sooner than he'd initially anticipated, back on her terrace two and a half hours later in a black super suit, begging to be let inside.

Chapter Text

Marinette tuned her hearing to the mindless ticking of her clock in a hopeless effort to conjure the desired feeling of sleepiness. She'd forgotten where it was located. She'd forgotten how to close her eyes and sleep. She'd almost forgotten how to breathe.

Her mind was running an endless marathon, forcing her eyes to gaze pointlessly around the darkened room. The sheets on her bed were too heavy over her resting form, causing her to feel suffocated and trapped. With a sigh, Marinette kicked them off and turned onto her side, letting out an irritated groan of frustration.

It was twelve-fourteen A.M., and all she wanted to do was sleep; to rest her eyes and shut those horrible thoughts out of her racing brain.

Well, maybe not horrible.

Staying up past her normal bedtime thinking about Adrien wasn't a terrible thing. In fact, most nights it was her usual routine to have the boy dancing in her head until the thought of his voice lulled her to a sweet sleep.

Yet, tonight there were different kinds of thoughts that flooded her mind.

The heartbreak in Adrien's voice was a hard memory to erase, especially since he'd been crying in her arms mere hours before. She could still feel his hands gripping at her shoulders and then her waist as he held onto her desperately, searching for any sign of relief to the sadness that plagued him.

The things he'd told her she knew he hadn't wanted to admit. Guilt tugged at the pit of her stomach and clenched her heart, reminding Marinette that if she hadn't of pried, he wouldn't have broken into a gentle fit of woeful tears.

Images of the smiling face she saw on billboards broken into a dripping pile of sorrow and self-pity made Marinette toss and turn, sighing left and right, laying on her stomach or switching to her back. It was no use. Her mind never tired or stilled.

By the time the clock had struck twelve twenty-five, Marinette had accepted defeat. There would be no sleeping until exhaustion settled within her bones and took hold of her body, which could either come within minutes or hours or even not at all.

She considered that perhaps working on her designs would assist her in relaxing, even if just slightly. All she needed was a distraction from the memory of Adrien's tear-streaked face.

He'd confessed more than she needed to know. Marinette couldn't help but feel like she'd invaded his privacy somehow.

Once Adrien had started, everything poured out of him like a river rushing down a current, spilling over rocky falls into a pool of frothing water. He couldn't stop once it'd been let out and she understood why: keeping everything locked so deeply inside for years without release would begin torture a person.

At least she had Alya to tell all of her secrets and emotions to. That girl would let her vent for hours and Marinette loved her for that. The only thing Alya didn't know about her life was that she happened to be Ladybug, which was considerably a large detail, but she didn't need to know. She couldn't know.

Some secrets were too big to tell.

Frustration had settled in and came out in obvious strokes as Marinette sketched harshly into her sketchbook. She'd turned on her light and now sat at her desk, pink fingernails tapping on the surface. Her hopes that sketching would relax the nervous jitters hadn't exactly come through—the sketches proved that. The lines were too dark and pressed too hard against the delicate paper which she could practically hear whining in protest.

No sleep. No sketching.

Sewing. Sewing was her happy place.

Just as she gathered up the supplies for her designs and was about to happily turn on her sewing machine (which she remembered bitterly that her parents had asked her not to use when they were asleep), Marinette froze as the faint sound of knocking came from somewhere in the room.

Confused, she opened her trapdoor and looked down in the dull room below, cocking her brow in curiosity. Nobody downstairs.

"Maman?" She called, stepping down two stairs before getting her expected reply of silence. Shrugging it off, she wandered back up to her bedroom and sighed, sitting down at her desk. Probably just hearing things because of this dumb anxiety.

Another rapping against glass.

At least this time she could pinpoint the location.

Who on Earth would be knocking on the trapdoor to her terrace? Why would anyone be up there?

Marinette felt her blood freeze as realization slapped her in the face so hard she almost fell over. There'd only be one person who could possibly arrive safely on her terrace this late at night.

She glared up at the door, hands on her hips. Why would Chat Noir have come back? What did he want? And why the heck was he visiting so late?

Climbing the ladder to her bed, Marinette opened the trapdoor and peeked her head out, blue eyes meeting glowing green. The sight confirmed her suspicions. Stupid stray, she'd just stopped thinking about him and now he was back to race in her thoughts once more. She didn't need him making her heart beat or cheeks flush. That's not what Chat Noir did!

Stupid blond hair and stupid puns that she definitely didn't like.

"Chat Noir," Marinette whispered, forcing a tired expression upon her face. Maybe she could pretend to have been sleeping and he'd go away and let her rest. "What are you doing here? It's past midnight."

Chat seemed genuinely surprised at her question, as if he didn't know the reason for his arrival as well. His gaze shifted, glancing around the terrace before he let out a soft breath and held his gaze upon her. "I know," He whispered, "can I come in?"

"What?" She couldn't keep her voice from cracking. Clearing her throat, Marinette shook her head, concerned with his desire to come inside. "Why? What do you need?"

"I need to come inside," He said with a flash of urgency in his tone. "Please."

"Is someone looking for you?" Marinette glanced around her terrace, not allowing the worry she felt to appear upon her features. She didn't need to worry about him, not now, when there was no reason for him to be on her rooftop. If she needed to transform, having Chat Noir on her terrace would only make it difficult for her. "What's wrong?"

"No," Chat shook his head, flashing her a sheepish smile. "I just came to apologize, honest."

"Apologize? What for?"

"Let me in," He whined desperately, his eyes softening and begging much like a kitten who wanted a treat. He was lowering himself to the ground as he attempted to convince her to let him inside her room, hands curling around the opening of the trapdoor and body pressed flat against the wood flooring. His tail flicked back and fourth in a kittenish nature; Marinette could tell (no matter how unimpressed she was) that Chat wanted to make himself cuter so she'd let him inside. For what, she had no clear idea, except that he needed to apologize something he hadn't done wrong, or at least something she didn't recall.

"I don't let stray cats into my bedroom. You could have fleas or rabies," She said, slowly lowering the door.

Chat's eyes filled with a brief flash of panic. "I can promise you I have neither. I don't bite. Don't close the door, Marinette, please."

Marinette eyed him suspiciously, scanning from his messy blond hair to his reflective black boots. "Are you hurt?"

"Marinette, I'm fine. If you don't want me coming inside, it's okay, but don't complain when photos of us talking together late at night end up on the Ladyblog and suddenly the city is convinced we're dating."

"I don't want photos of you entering my bedroom going up either, Chat."

He sighed in defeat. "Sorry. Look, I really did come for an apology. It's fine if you don't believe me, but just let me talk, okay?"

Marinette's expression softened at his sincereness. That poor cat was actually attempting to apologize—for what, she didn't know, but the look of guilt that hung on his face was enough to tell her that he was speaking the truth.

So, she nodded. "Alright, you can come in, but be quiet. My parents can't know I have a boy in my room past midnight, they'd kill you first and me second."

Chat Noir didn't make a peep as he descended into her bedroom. Marinette supposed his cat-like senses helped cloak any noise he made with stealthy paws.

"What kind of apology did you need to come inside for?" She asked as she sat on her chaise, Chat taking a seat backwards in one of her rolling chairs. He spun around before facing her, giving an innocent grin. Well, the most innocent grin that silly cat could muster.

"Last night," He sighed, "when I came here."

Marinette cocked her head curiously. "What's so wrong with that?"

"I was acting weird and unlike myself. I made awkward comments and flirted when I shouldn't have and for that, I'm sorry."

"You were flirting?" Marinette snorted, stifling back a laugh. Why on Earth would Chat Noir be flirting with her? The thought almost made her blush.

No, no. Be strong, Marinette. Nobody but Adrien makes you blush.

He nodded shamefully. "Sorry about that. Sometimes I can't help myself around pretty girls. Your eyes remind me of someone else's."

"You're doing it again."

"No, I'm not," His eyes met hers, a soft smile tugging at his lips. Stupid kissable lips. "I'm complimenting you."

No, those lips were not kissable. She had kissed him twice, both times to save him, and no matter how soft those goddamn lips were she would not kiss him again.

She wouldn't think about it.

Stop it. No. Bad Marinette!

Maybe she was the one that needed to be punished with a spray bottle.

"Am I making you uncomfortable?" Chat's voice brought her back to reality, reminding her that he was still very real and sitting in her bedroom. "I don't mean to."

"No," Marinette shook her head. "No, sorry, I'm just...tired."

She noticed Chat glance at her clock, his ears twitching. "Sorry about coming so late. I had planned to come sooner but I got a little sidetracked."

Marinette chuckled. "Busy chasing mice in alleyways?"

"No matter how tempting that sounds, princess, that unfortunately wasn't the case," laughed Chat, his green eyes glowing with amusement in the warm light of the room. "I was simply caught up."

Rolling her eyes playfully, Marinette grinned and eyed her friend with a curious gaze. "Did you just come back for more food?"

The superhero shook his head, resting his arms upon the back of the chair. "No, I didn't, but if you're offering don't let me be a rude guest and refuse a treat or two."

"A guest," she said with a shake of her head, "as if I'd invited you here."

"Were you not the one who sent the pink invitation to my mailbox? The one that said 'come to Marinette's at midnight'?"

Marinette crossed her arms and eyed him teasingly. "No, that must have been another Marinette. I didn't send any invitations."

"You caught me. I'm just an awful liar. What would Ladybug think of me now? Lying to civilians!" He pressed a hand to his forehead and sighed dramatically, leaning backwards in defeat. "What have I done?"

"Such treachery," Marinette chuckled as she watched Chat tip backwards. "You know, if you lean, that chair is going to-"

And it tipped. The chair wobbled from his weight and tipped backward, spilling Chat Noir onto her wooden floor with a soft thud. Even when falling against the floor, he was quiet.

"I warned you," She sighed.

"Cats don't listen very well."

He had yet to get up.

"I can see that," Marinette held back a laugh as she gazed at the superhero flat on his back, arms out against the floor. "Are you going to lay there all night?"

"Maybe. It's comfortable."

"I can't take care of you. Who knows how much cat food you need."

"Ouch, princess, I have more cultured tastes than cat food."

"Didn't we agree on not using that nickname?"

"Nope," Chat sat up, propping himself by his elbows. "We couldn't think of a better nickname, remember?"

"Mm," Marinette's gaze shifted to her hands as she picked at her fingernails mindlessly. "You left before we could continue the search for the most perfect nickname."

"Ah... I suppose that's true." Chat's voice grew softer, an awkward silence rising between them. Neither spoke for a moment as they relived the memory from the night before when he'd made the conversation awkward.

Clearing his throat, Chat wandered over to her desk, where the different swatches of cloth were laid out in a neat pile. "What's this?"

"Hey, no snooping!" Marinette quickly hopped to her feet and rushed over, wrapping her arms around the fabrics and carrying them off. "It's a secret. You can't know."

"A secret? Ooh." He followed her, trying to peek over her shoulder. "I like secrets, though. I'll have you know I'm very good at keeping them."

"I'll take your word for it," Marinette said, unconvinced. She set the pile down in her closet, shutting the door behind her before Chat had a chance to slip inside. "You're too curious. You know what they say about curiosity and cats?"

He nodded, his lips curling into a smirk. "Ah, but it was the satisfaction that brought it back, remember?"

"Too bad, kitty. It's a secret."

"You can trust me to protect you but not with what you're making?"

Marinette rolled her eyes and tried not to snort as she pushed past him, sitting in one of her pink chairs. "Maybe I just don't want you to look at it."

"Why?" He sat backwards in the chair next to her—both him and Adrien had a habit of doing that for some reason—and rested his head on the back, eyes wide with curiosity. "Are you scared of me?"

It was hard to hold in her laughter and in the end she couldn't. Snorting and giggling, Marinette shook her head, giving the chair he sat in a push and sending it rolling across the room. "No way! Not a chance."

"Are you sure?" He smirked, cocking his head to the side like a curious cat as he inched himself closer. "Not even a little intimidating? Are my good looks not making you at least a little flustered?"

"No. You're just a silly goofball."

"Aw, I take offense to that. I can be very serious." The words "very serious" came out sounding more like vewwy sewwious as he pursed his lips, giving a little flick of his tail. "Are you sure you don't find Chat Noir scary? You seemed pretty startled last night."

"Only because you told me my eyes sparkle like the ocean."

Chat's gaze faltered as he looked away, letting out a nervous chuckle. "Ah, well, you know. They remind me of Ladybug's."

Marinette glanced away. If only he knew.

"You don't find these scary?" He held up his hands, displaying his sharp claws which twinkled in the moonlight that filtered through her open window.

"No."

"What about these?" Chat grinned and opened his mouth, pointing to some dangerously sharp looking feline fangs that jutted from his perfectly white teeth.

"I can't imagine you have those when you're not transformed." Marinette eyed them with little interest; she'd seen them plenty of times before when Chat gave his signature smirks to her as Ladybug.

"I don't," He replied, smiling with his teeth. "They come purely with the transformation. It's pretty cool. Not scary, though?"

"You don't scare me, Chat Noir. You're probably just a housecat that lays around and sleeps all day."

"Wrong. I'm a very busy kitty."

"Doing what? Looking for mates on balconies?"

Chat gave her a flat expression, raising an unamused eyebrow. "No, I am not that type of cat."

"Oh, right. You're a scary cat. Very, very intimidating. I'm cowering in fear." Marinette gave him a smirk and giggled; why was it fun to tease him? It's not like he got offended since he threw it right back. Usually the banter only sprouted when she was Ladybug, but now her partner was here, in her room next to her civilian self without suspecting a thing. It was almost laughable.

"I am very scary," He said as he lunged, pretending to pounce. His hands never touched her.

Marinette didn't flinch. "Not scary."

"Not even the fact that I can destroy this house with the touch of my hand?"

"But," She said as she held up a finger, "you wouldn't. And that's what makes you nonthreatening. You're a superhero, Chat Noir, you care about the people of Paris and would never do anything to hurt them. You protect us, not hurt us. Nobody is afraid of you and that's a good thing. We all trust you and Ladybug." A soft chuckle slipped past her lips. "In fact, I think more girls are in love with you than afraid of you."

Chat Noir's face stretched into a wide grin of gratitude, his eyes softening as if he'd been touched deeply by what she said. Maybe he had. "You know, I think I needed to hear that."

"Feeling insecure lately?" Marinette asked, finding it hard to cover up the concern in her voice that she definitely didn't feel.

She stole a glance at the clock, which reminded her that she'd be sleeping all day tomorrow if she didn't at least attempt to go to bed soon. Yet, she couldn't find it in herself to tell Chat Noir to leave. His company was almost nice.

Ew. I do not like that he's in my room right now and I do not like that there is a high possibility of us cuddling until I go to sleep.

She disgusted herself.

"Maybe a little, but that's not a very paw-sitive subject, princess. How about we talk about you? How was your day?"

Okay, so self-image was an uncomfortable topic for Chat. She could accept that he didn't want to talk about it.

"It was good," She said quietly as she purposefully ignored the awful pun. The events from the day replayed in Marinette's head, causing her to let out a distant sigh. Adrien was on the mind again but this time it was about him snuggled up into bed and sleeping soundly. She hoped he was getting a good night's rest.

"Good? How come?" Chat's smirk was almost too big. "Not that I'm complaining. Good days are the best kind of days."

"You look amused."

"Just curious about your day. Remember, I did protect you once and I saved your life from Gamer that one time. I should know about your day if I'm going to be your guardian."

"My guardian?" She squeaked, letting out a fit of giggles. "I can protect myself!"

"Well, just in case you can't." He gave her a wink. A wink that should not have made her stomach flutter and heart swell. "I'll be there to save my princess just like a prince always should."

His princess.

Why did the thought make her cheeks flush and chest fuzzy? She wasn't his.

Damn this cat.

"I'm not your princess. I'll have you know I am very interested in somebody else."

The superhero's ears twitched in curiosity and eyes narrowed. "Who's my competition?"

"There is no competition since you were never considered."

"Is he as handsome as I am?"

"The most handsome."

Chat's tail thrashed. Oh boy, making Chat Noir jealous felt so good. Who knew why in the world he was getting jealous—he had feelings for Ladybug, not for her. Unless he knew...?

No. There's no way he possibly could.

"Down, kitty. I'm pretty sure he's unobtainable anyways. Don't get your hopes up, though." Her eyes met his and wow, did those green fires burn. "I never said I was interested in you."

"Unobtainable? Is he a celebrity? Tough luck."

"Unfortunately, yes, but I'm not giving names because I don't want you attacking him out of jealous rage."

Chat rolled closer by using his feet, eyes narrowed into thin slits. "I would never. I protect the citizens, remember?"

Marinette sighed, rolling over to her desk where she opened her sketchbook to distract herself from the thoughts that raced through her head. She hoped Adrien had an okay rest of the night. He'd been so sad when he left. Adrien was a great model, wonderful at putting on a fake smile and pretending to be happy when in reality he was so very sad. Her heart clenched with sympathy as she laid her head on her sketchbook, a forlorn breath slipping past her parted lips.

"Did I make you sad?"

When Marinette looked over at the voice that spoke to her, Chat's eyes had softened into wide green circles and his lips had curled downward. "I didn't mean to. Did this guy hurt you, Marinette?"

"No!" She gasped, jolting up in surprise so hard that she banged her knee on her desk. Ouch. "God, no. He could never hurt me. He's the one that's hurting."

"Oh," Chat looked away. "I'm sorry to hear that."

"I wish I could help him." Marinette couldn't fight the sorrow in her voice. "He's... Ah, I don't know. He pretends like his life is going so well for the people around him but I think I'm one of the only people who really knows what's on. I spent all of today with him and now that he trusts me I think he finally found a way to let himself speak about everything but then he just broke and I was holding him and god I wanted to kiss him but he was crying and I didn't know what else to do besides just hug him and hold onto him but then the comforting words came out of my mouth and I..." She blinked, shaking her head as she clamped her lips together. "I'm rambling. Sorry."

Chat Noir had gone silent. With his head hung, his claws wrapped tightly around the back of her chair, eyes dull and ears drooping. His tail had stopped thrashing.

Marinette worried he'd get up and leave.

"Hey," he said in a soft voice, lifting his gaze to meet hers. "Can I take you to see the city?"

Taken aback, Marinette's eyebrows rose in surprise. "To see the city?"

"Yeah." He stood, holding out his hand in an offering. His eyes pleaded. "I want you to see it how Ladybug and I do. It's like nothing you've ever seen before, I promise. It's an ethereal feeling. You'll be so free."

Marinette knew exactly what the city looked like from his angle. Being Ladybug gave her the opportunity to relish in the glowing lights of the city of love while she and Chat patrolled, bathing in the moonlight and gentle breezes. It was past one in the morning and the only logical answer to Chat Noir was "no", but his face looked so desperate, so full of need to take her by the hand and show her Paris from the top of the world that she couldn't decline his offer.

So instead of refusing and going to bed, she stood, her hand hesitantly enveloping gloved claws. "It's safe?"

She knew it was safe. Marinette didn't know why she'd even asked.

"Of course," Chat told her as he gave her hand a reassuring squeeze. "I promise. I can carry you on my back. You've just gotta hold on tight."

"Your back," Marinette breathed, gaze turning to the floor. She trusted Chat enough to keep her safe, but the thought of swinging across buildings without her yo-yo was a little disconcerting.

Chat must have sensed her hesitation. "I promise, Marinette. I wouldn't let anything happen to you. I'm your guardian, remember?"

Marinette couldn't resist the grin that etched its way onto her features. "Yeah. Just for tonight."


Clutching onto Chat Noir as he leaped from building to building at one in the morning hadn't been Marinette's plans for the night, but she wasn't nearly disappointed.

It was different to see Paris from this point of view.

Normally, she had to watch every step, calculate every movement and leap to make sure she landed safely. It took a lot of work to navigate through the rooftops on her own, and although over the year she welded the miraculous it had become more second-nature than anything, it was different to have someone else do it all while she held on for the ride. She didn't have to worry about watching her step and she trusted her partner enough to keep her completely safe.

It wasn't too bad to be holding onto him either. There was just something so comforting about having her arms wrapped around his frame, no matter how thin it was. It made her feel protected. She didn't need any sort of protecting, of course, but as her hands curled around the fabric of Chat's suit, Marinette felt secure. A gentle sigh slipped past her lips as her head connected with his shoulder.

The city went by in a satisfying blur. Chat was incredibly fast and graceful, barely making a sound as the heels of his boots collided silently with the tiles of Parisian rooftops. It was a wonder how he could be so quiet.

The late spring air gently kissed her bare arms as her partner took her higher, his hair blowing with hers in the wind. Marinette didn't mind the blond strands in her face or the fact that her head was practically in his neck; was it weird to think that Chat Noir smelled nice? He reminded her of the wonderfully relaxing feeling that came from laying down in a clean bed after a long shower. Fresh and soothing.

She hadn't realized they'd stopped until the view became all too familiar. When her gaze scanned her surroundings, Marinette nearly forgot that she hadn't arrived on top of Notre Dame in a red suit with a yo-yo attached to her hip.

Chat Noir had taken her to his and Ladybug's meeting place.

But why?

"Marinette," Her partner chuckled, "you can let go now. Unless you enjoy holding onto me, then I don't mind."

"Oh," She breathed as she released her grasp, landing barefoot onto the roof. It chilled her skin. "Sorry."

"I'm surprised," Chat said as he sat, gazing out at their beloved Paris. "You didn't scream at all. I figured you'd be at least a little scared, but you seemed so comfortable up there. You're not afraid of heights?"

Marinette shook her head as she placed herself beside him, hugging her knees to her chest. She missed having her arms around him instead. "No. I've never really been. I find it fascinating."

"Isn't it pretty?"

"Hm?"

"The view," Sighed Chat, placing his arms behind his head as he laid back against the roof. "It's my favorite, right here. I wouldn't trade it for the world."

"What about the view from the Eiffel Tower?" Marinette asked, turning her eyes to the blond boy lying next to her. "Surely the city is prettier from there? I would think so."

Chat nodded. "Oh, sure, but that's not why I like this place."

"Oh? How come?"

Chat Noir almost looked dazed. His eyes glowed and his chest expanded as he let out a long sigh, lips curling upward into a sentimental grin. Marinette knew that look. She'd had that exact look on her face countless times before when she'd been thinking about Adrien. It was the expression of a person in pure, unadulterated love.

"This is my favorite spot because it's where I meet Ladybug every other day for patrol. Coming here is always an amazing feeling because I know I'll be seeing her. Honestly..." He sighed again, closing his eyes against the blue moonlight that washed over his frame like a gentle wave. "She's everything to me."

Marinette had to look away. Her cheeks burned with blush and damn it she was trying so hard not to just jump off the church and dive straight into the Seine. Of course he'd fallen for Ladybug. Who hadn't?

Everyone loves Ladybug.

But what about Marinette?

"You, uh..." She cleared her throat to dissolve the waver in her voice. "You really like her, don't you?"

Chat almost laughed. "Marinette, I don't think 'like' is the right word to use. I love her." His tender smile faded and his eyes grew dull as a thought passed in his mind.

Marinette didn't know what it was, but it must have been something that made his heart hurt. Poor chaton.

"I don't think she knows that. I'm pretty sure she thinks I'm nothing but a silly flirt. It's not true, though," He sighed, "it isn't. I only flirt with her because I love her and I want her to know that. I want her to know how much I care about her. I can't stop thinking about her, all the time, and you—I mean, this girl, this other girl I've been spending time with lately, she... She's making me reconsider everything. It's scary, but at the same time comforting, because..." His sad gaze turned to the sky as a small smile graced his features. "I know I at least have a chance with her. I think we both like each other. I'm just not sure how to go about it."

Jealousy. Pure, seething jealously swarmed within the pit of Marinette's stomach and burned at her insides. She hated it. She hated that jealousy for making her want to scream and cry and throw him off of the roof in frustration.

Stupid Chat Noir for not realizing Ladybug was sitting right next to him.

Stupid Chat Noir playing with her emotions and making her blush.

Stupid!

Marinette swallowed the lump in her throat and forced a smile because fuck if she was going to let Chat Noir make her unhappy. Her heart belonged to Adrien and Chat Noir being in love with someone else didn't matter, even if that stupid feeling of jealousy burned a hole in her chest. She had no reason to be jealous. She didn't like her partner that way. They were friends and that was all.

Stupid.

"Well," She said in a quiet voice, faking a yawn to cover up for any tone that would give her bitterness away. "Maybe you should talk to Ladybug about how you feel instead of flirting. Buy her gifts or write her love letters or be romantic or something. Girls like that kind of stuff."

"I've tried. The love letter didn't work out and I don't really see how I can buy her a gift when I only see her in the suit. She doesn't have pockets."

"Then just kiss her." She surprised herself at this statement. No, no, bad idea, bad idea, don't take her advice, Chat please—

"No, Marinette. I won't kiss her unless she wants me to. I'm positive she doesn't." That frown was something she wanted to wipe off of his face. Maybe kiss it off. No, slap it off.

"Then ask her first," She replied, "ask her to kiss you. Even if she says no, you still took a chance, right?"

"Maybe," He sighed, "maybe. I'm too torn."

They lay on the roof of the church for what seemed like hours. Marinette's body finally began to feel sleepiness creeping up on her, taking hostage of her mind and beginning to coax her into a deep sleep. She needed to rest.

She needed a pillow.

Scooting closer to Chat, Marinette gently laid her head atop his chest, her eyes so heavy that they closed within the moment she had support. Chat's arm hadn't hesitated to wrap around her.

"Tell me about this boy you like," he said in a quiet voice, knowing very well that she was about to drift off.

"Why?" Yawned Marinette, blinking open a weighty eye. "I thought you liked Ladybug."

"I can't help my curiosity," Chat gave her a grin. "You said I could be your guardian, so I ought to know what this boy is like just in case I've got to put him in his place."

"I only said you could be my guardian for tonight," She reminded him as she opened her second eye, narrowing them. "I don't need protecting from him. He's the sweetest guy in the world."

"Do you really know him?" His tone came off harsher than he had intended; she could tell by the way he bit his bottom lip and glanced away nervously. "Maybe... Maybe he's not who you think he is, you know? Maybe he's not as great as you made him out to be."

"What does that even mean?" Marinette lifted her head from Chat's chest, gazing at him with disbelief. How could he think he had the right to say that? "I know him more than you think."

"Tell me what he's like, then."

"Why does it even matter?" Marinette scoffed, sitting up completely. "I shouldn't have to prove anything to you."

"You don't have to," Chat said, keeping his voice at a calm tone. Marinette could learn from him how to stay relaxed in situations that made her skin crawl. "I'm just asking you to."

"I know him," She sighed, gaze glued to her home that sat peacefully across the Seine. "I know he pretends to be happy and I know he's hurting inside and I know that he wants nothing more than a good life and I know that he deserves it. He does too much for others without thinking about himself. He dislikes his job but he does it because he's pressured into it and all he wants to do is become a teacher. He likes physics. His favorite color is green, not dark green, but a warm summer green that reminds him of sunshine. His favorite food is the chocolate chip cookies that we make at the bakery." Marinette paused, turning her eyes away. "In fact, he probably wouldn't like me sharing this information."

"No, no," Chat was smiling now—the smile was small but it was there. "Continue. It's cute to see you talk about the guy you like."

"Cute," She breathed, "cute. It's just the truth. He needs a person to be there for him and help him get through life sometimes and I-" Marinette let out a rigid sigh. It wasn't fair to Adrien that she was sharing his personal information with Chat Noir, even if he was a superhero. It just wasn't right. "I want to be that person."

"You love him."

Marinette couldn't move her tongue to form any words. She felt far too tired as her head found Chat's chest once more, using it as her pillow. His heartbeat calmed her. The only thing she could do was nod as she closed her eyes.

"Princess, let's get you home," The black cat spoke as Marinette felt herself lifted off of the chilly roof. "You need to sleep in a bed, not on the roof of Notre Dame."

Marinette nodded once more as she buried her head into the warmth of his chest. The smell reminded her of Adrien. Maybe they used the same brand of soap.

She hadn't even realized she'd been placed in her bed until a chill appeared at her side from Chat beginning to climb out of her room.

"No," She whispered desperately, reaching up with a weary hand. "Stay."

"Stay?"

Marinette nodded yet didn't open her eyes. "Stay."

There was a brief moment of hesitation, but as his gloved hand enveloped her own, Marinette smiled. Chat's movements were careful not to disturb her as he slipped underneath the blanket, his arms weaving around her waist in an innocently intimate hug. Marinette found peace in pressing her forehead against his chest, the rhythmic beating of his heart lulling her until her body felt as if it'd melded with the bed completely.

At least they didn't have to worry about his transformation wearing off. The miraculous didn't sound its warning beeps until they'd used their special powers, so Chat Noir could lay with her all night without issue.

"Okay," Breathed Chat, his voice soft and heavy with exhaustion of his own. "I'll stay."

Marinette grinned and reached up slowly, gentle fingers weaving through his messy blond hair. She brushed through any small knots that had formed from the wind blowing against it, fingers soothing and soft against his head. She knew exactly where to scratch him to hear that wonderful purr.

Her fingers scratched behind his cat ears, which twitched as Chat titled his head forwards in submission. The purr she'd wanted to hear so bad rumbled up from his chest moments later, much quieter and softer than she was used to hearing. Poor kitty must have really been tired. His head found its way into her neck, the vibration of his quiet purr tickling against her shoulder. Marinette would have giggled had she not been so tired.

The purr became much deeper as Chat's breathing slowed, signalling that her partner had fallen asleep. It wasn't long before Marinette followed suit, arms draping around his chest and lips stretched into a warm smile.

"Goodnight, chaton," She whispered moments before she slipped into slumber, her body still and absolutely content.


Adrien hadn't expected to wake curled up next to Marinette with her silky bangs brushing his face.

Who knew how they'd ended up in such a position. It'd been so late that he barely remembered slipping into her room when she'd asked him to stay. His arms were wrapped around her waist as he held on to her petite body, while hers had found comfort in being around his torso. Her head was pressed against his chest as she slept, and as he turned his attention to the feeling of their legs tangled, he realized his tail had weaved around her as well.

Sleeping next to Marinette had felt so nice. Nicer than any feeling in the world.

Innocent, pure sleep with the girl he'd began to fall so hard for had become his new favorite thing.

He'd never been cuddled like that before and hell, he didn't want to leave, and it pained him to know that he had to. Her parents couldn't find him here.

Thankfully, his transformation was still in tact, and by taking a quick glance around the room he could tell it was still very early. He could leave without being noticed. All he needed were photos of him leaving Marinette's bedroom when the sun had barely risen. Ladybug would kill him.

Sighing, Adrien disconnected his body from hers, trying his best to slip out unnoticed. He didn't want to wake her; she looked so adorably peaceful with one of her pigtails untied and black hair spilling over her shoulder.

Just as he thought he'd made it, Marinette stirred, blinking open those sparkling bluebells. It took her vision a moment to focus on him and he froze, unsure if she'd be unhappy to find that he'd actually stayed.

"Chat?" She yawned, rubbing her eyes. "You're leaving?"

Mon dieu, the pink rays of dawn that flickered through her window had a way of playing with her gorgeous features and illuminating that soft skin.

"Yeah," Adrien whispered, leaning down to pull the blanket back over her since it'd fallen when he'd gotten up. "I've gotta go before anyone sees me."

Marinette nodded, eyes blinking slowly. Her voice still had the thickness of sleep coating it. "Will you come back?"

Adrien's cat ear twitched as he grinned, his gaze full of warmth and affection for the designer girl he'd fallen for. "Anything for you, princess."

His lips connected with her forehead before he lifted himself out of her bedroom, longing tugging at his heart stronger the farther away he bounded from the bakery.

Yes, he'd go back. He'd go back as often as he could as Adrien and as Chat Noir.

He'd be with Marinette all day if he could.

The sun had began to cast a perfect painting of orange and pink hues across the glowing sky, bright and welcoming the light to another day. Dew made the roofs of buildings slippery but it wasn't something Adrien hadn't become accustomed to. He knew his footing by memory and he could navigate through the city without a problem, even if the paneling and shingles were wet and concrete a bit slippery.

All the way home he felt torn between completely indulging in the love he felt for Marinette and accepting that she was the one for him or whether Ladybug was the one to pursue. Both were equally beautiful and each had their own qualities that caused Adrien's heart to thump and melt with every word, every touch; it was hard to choose just one.

Yet with Marinette, he had a chance. She knew him as Adrien and if what she said last night had been true, she loved him as Adrien as well. 

He didn't have too much time to think about it. As soon as he climbed back in through his window and destransformed, Plagg began whining and begging for cheese.

"Plagg, it's six in the morning," Adrien sighed, kicking off his shoes and sitting upon his plush bed, which bounced lightly from his contact. "Can't you let me sleep a little longer?"

"Well you wouldn't be so tired if you hadn't gone to see your girlfriend last night," The Kwami hissed, "get me some cheese."

Adrien narrowed his eyes. "But I'm tiiiired," He whined, smirking as Plagg groaned in annoyance. "See? It's not fun when other people whine."

"I don't whine." Plagg crossed his tiny arms in defiance.

"Can you at least say please?"

"Fine, lover boy, please stop stalling and get me some cheese."

Close enough.

After sneaking downstairs to feed his Kwami, Adrien slumped back into bed and sighed, attempting to steal at least another hour or two of sleep before he was whisked off to an important photo shoot. It was most likely going to be a long day; he didn't doubt that when they said it would start at nine, it would go on until five or six in the evening. This was what his father had been preparing him for. A new line called for outstanding photos, and disappointing his father was not an option.

As he rolled out of bed an hour later, Adrien groaned. Today is going to suck.


Adrien was positive that'd been the longest photo shoot of his life.

Hours had dragged on into exhausting clothing changes and it was hard for him to keep the expressions on his face that the photographer had instructed. Normally, Adrien was very good at his job and could get through most photo shoots without a hinder, yet the desire to curl up in bed and sleep was so unbearably strong that he'd fallen asleep in the limo on the drive home.

The shoot had certainly lasted longer than he expected.

Now, with a burst of energy pulsing through his muscles, Chat Noir vaulted from buildings and bounded over alleys, letting out satisfied sighs and cheerful shouts with each leap. The wind blowing through his wild hair and night air brushing his skin made Adrien want to scream with joy. He was finally away from that damn photographer and his father and it felt so good to run and jump and simply flee!

There'd be no visiting Marinette tonight, but another blue-eyed, black-haired girl would greet him shortly.

As always, he landed at the meeting place first, heels clicking against the roofing of Notre Dame and hands connected behind his back. Waiting on Ladybug was never a problem. He was always early and she was rarely late.

She arrived right on schedule, placing her yo-yo on her hip as she stood next to the boy who towered above her. Adrien chuckled. She was so tiny, and he still wasn't done growing.

"What are you laughing at?" The scarlet superhero eyed him with a grin, placing a hand upon her hip. "Something funny?"

"You're very tiny," He said triumphantly. "It's adorable. Are you going to grow any taller?"

Ladybug huffed, blowing her bangs out of her face. "Probably not. Does that amuse you, tomcat?"

Adrien nodded, smirking down at his partner. "A little. I could grow to be above six foot, you know. I'm already close. You'll always be a cute little bug."

"I may be short but I can kick your ass," She reminded him, giving him a gentle shove. "Don't tempt me, Chat."

"Wouldn't dream of it. You could kill me with those arms."

Ladybug laughed and shook her head, handing him a box he'd yet to notice until she'd presented it to him. The logo on the front was all too familiar.

"What's this?" He asked as he opened it, pupils growing into black eclipses at the sight of four frosted cupcakes. "Cupcakes?"

"They're for us."

"Us?"

Ladybug nodded, giving him a shy smile. She'd never been shy around him before; she didn't have a reason to. So why did she seem so hesitant about gifting him with treats?

"What for?" He grasped one of the vanilla cupcakes, topped with what he guessed was cream cheese icing. That's what it'd tasted like, at least, and it was amazing; Marinette's parents did not disappoint.

"Well," Ladybug rocked on her feet, clasping her hands together once he'd grabbed hold of the box. "I usually pass the bakery on my way to meet you, and I was thinking about what you told me the other night, and... I figured you deserved a little something special. I picked them up on the way. You should have seen their faces when Ladybug walked in and asked for some food!"

Adrien laughed, imagining a very surprised and excited Marinette hurriedly gathering up some cupcakes for Paris' superhero. Ah, Marinette. His heart fluttered.

"I bet she was surprised," He chuckled, only noticing the heat in his cheeks when he went to wipe some icing that had strayed from his cupcake.

"Who?"

"Marinette," His voice was muffled as he took another bite of his cupcake. "I bet she was surprised to see you."

"Oh! Oh, yeah," Ladybug let out a laugh that seemed quite forced. "She sure was."

"Which one do you want?"

"Huh?"

"The cupcakes, silly," Adrien chuckled, holding out the open box to her. "Which one do you want?"

"The red velvet cupcakes have always been a favorite of mine," Ladybug said as she took the cutely decorated cake from the box, biting into it. "Not only because it's red."

"I thought pink was your favorite color." Adrien sat on the roof, memories of the night before crawling their way back into his head. Sitting in that same spot with Marinette had been incredibly relaxing and he hoped she'd enjoyed it as well.

"It is, but pink is a shade of red. Actually, a tint. I know my colors. You're talking to an artist." Ladybug took a seat next to her partner, who grinned and scooted closer with a smirk on his lips. "Why are you looking at me like that?"

"Because," Adrien sighed, turning his gaze to the sky. "The moonlight really does make you look like a goddess. You're amazing, you know? Beautiful and extraordinary."

"I'm surprised you're giving me actual compliments instead of flirting," Ladybug chuckled, peeling back the wrapper from the cupcake the more she ate of it. "Thank you."

"Well," Adrien thought back to Marinette's advice: be romantic and stop with the useless flirting. Or, at least try to. Completely stopping would be out of the question. Chat Noir was a natural flirt at heart. That'd certainly been obvious when he'd straight up flirted with Marinette and made the situation awkward. "I'll put the flirting on hold for you to the best of my ability."

"Will you?" Ladybug raised an eyebrow, unconvinced as she took another bite of her treat. "I feel like that's too ambitious of you. Besides, if you stopped completely, then I'd probably miss it just a little bit."

"Would you?" Adrien smirked, reaching for the second cupcake in the box. It was devil's food—one of his favorites. His mother used to buy him miniature cupcakes in that flavor. "Would you become de-purr-essed if I stopped?"

"That pun was the only thing that's depressing."

"Aw, Bugaboo, I'm hurt. I'm trying here. Don't shut meowt." Adrien grinned as she gave him a shove, laughing once his face collided with the cupcake he was about to take a bite of. "You didn't just do that to me!"

Upon surveying the mess on his mouth and cheeks, Ladybug snorted before bursting into full laughter, collapsing against the roof of the church. "Wow," She gasped through her fit of giggles, "now that certainly put the icing on the cake of my night."

Adrien's heart stopped before his frosting-coated lips broke into a full grin. "You made a pun! Okay, now you have to kiss me."

"Not before you clean your face."

"What if you did for me?" He gave her a suggestive smirk and waggled his eyebrows, causing his partner to laugh harder in return. That was a definite no.

"I am most certainly not. How are you not surprised that I didn't flat out refuse a kiss from you? Too distracted by the pun and the opportunity to flirt?"

"I-" Adrien's eyes widened in realization as he licked off whatever frosting that surrounded his mouth. "Would you?"

Ladybug gave him a look of faked deep thought, her eyes narrowing before she shook her head. "Mm, no. The setting needs to be more romantic for a real kiss."

"I can make it romantic," He suggested, scooting in closer to her and laying on his side with his head propped in his palm in the most suggestive position he could manage. "You said you're an artist? Draw me like one of your French girls. Get it? Because we're French."

"Okay, now I'm definitely not kissing you," Ladybug snorted, giving him a push. "You've still got chocolate on your face, by the way."

"I lost my chance at kissing Ladybug and I have chocolate on my face. What a terrible night. You know what would make me feel better?"

"What?"

"A hug. Come here." Ladybug squealed as Adrien wrapped his arms around her, purposefully pressing the corner of his mouth against her cheek only so that she could suffer through the crisis of having frosting on her face as well.

"Hey!" She giggled and he was quite frankly surprised she hadn't pushed him off yet. "No, down kitty!"

"Oh, no," He feigned a gasp, letting himself drop on top of her. "Oh, my muscles! The aching pain, they've stopped working. I'm weak. I'm so sorry, I've fallen and I can't get up. If only there was someone here to give the kiss of true love to heal my broken body!"

Ladybug, now underneath him, cupped his cheeks with her gentle hands and smirked so suggestively that Adrien nearly had a heart attack. What was she doing, gazing at him like a lion that'd cornered its prey? Her thumbs stroked his cheeks as she leaned in, lips approaching his in seemingly slow motion.

Oh my god, Adrien thought as his heart hammered in his chest. She's going to kiss me. She's actually going to kiss me. I didn't think-

As their noses brushed, Ladybug's smirk grew, her lips parting as she whispered in the silkiest, sweetest voice, "No."

Then she was off, slipping out from underneath him and laughing as she swung across the rooftops of Paris.

"Hey!" Adrien screeched, stumbling back to his feet. "Oh, my Lady! Come back!"

As he raced after her, the laughter that bubbled up in his chest was nothing but pure bliss. He cherished her friendship more than anything else in the world, and he wouldn't give it up for any reason, not even a relationship. If she didn't want more with him, then that was fine. He'd be by her side no matter her decision.

And, besides. He always had Marinette.

As he crossed her terrace to catch up with his fiery partner, his heart leaped in his chest from the memory of falling asleep there the night before. If there was one place where he'd love to be every night, it was curled up in Marinette's bed, doing nothing more than innocently sleeping next to her.

Maybe that's what love really was. Not pining after a girl who barely knew a thing about him, but a girl who begged him to stay when they'd both needed to sleep.

Talented, sweet and confident Marinette was the girl he'd fallen for. Ladybug would always be his best friend, but he couldn't force her into anything she wasn't comfortable with. Marinette loved Adrien. Marinette had admitted to a crush on Chat Noir.

Marinette was the girl for him, and he couldn't be happier with that decision.

The only thing Adrien needed to figure out now was how he'd tell her that.

Chapter Text

"Nino, how do you know if you're in love?"

Adrien's eyes widened as Nino choked and sputtered on orange soda, coughing and shooting his model friend a shocked stare. He knew it was an odd subject to begin a conversation with, considering him and Nino rarely delved much on their emotions. Still, Adrien was curious with a burning desire to know the truth about his feelings, and if there was anyone who could help it was Nino. He and Alya had recently hit their five-month mark and their relationship had been nothing but smooth.

If Adrien wanted to decipher his conundrum, he'd enlist Nino as the friend with a solution to his problem.

(Hopefully, at least.)

"You? In love?" Nino chuckled, shaking his head in bewilderment as he tossed the empty soda can into a wastebin across the bench they currently sat at. "With what lucky girl? Please don't tell me Chloe finally made you fall for her via Voodoo or something, dude."

Adrien scoffed, letting a soft laugh slip past his grin. "No, I can promise you that it definitely isn't Chloe. It's...ah, well, I don't know. Maybe I shouldn't say her name because I still haven't figured out my feelings. I can't tell whether or not it's love or just desperation to have someone to hold on to."

"So," Nino began, adjusting his cap on his head as he went into professional friend mode. "You want to know what it's like to be in love, huh? Well, you've got a great friend who knows exactly what love feels like. I think, at least. How do you feel about this mystery girl? What's she like? What do you like about her?"

Adrien didn't need to ponder long over that answer. "Everything. She's literally the definition of adorable. Bright blue eyes, soft hair that smells like lavender and vanilla, the smoothest skin and these cute freckles all over her nose and cheeks. I see her and I get that weird feeling in my heart, you know? Like it gets tight and wants to jump out of me."

"Dude," Nino laughed with a shake of his head. "You're such a sap."

"I know," Adrien sighed, leaning back against the cool metal of the bench. "I just can't get her out of my head."

It was true. Since he'd visited Marinette last Saturday his mind was a constant buzz with memories of those sparkling bluebells and enamoring giggles that made his heart skip a beat. The feel of her delicate hands weaving through his hair and scratching behind his ears in that perfectly beloved spot made made Adrien's hands twitch with the desire to have his fingers curled around her tiny waist once more. The scent of her sweet skin that he could barely resist the urge to pepper with ginger kisses still lingered within his head, making his nose itch with the memory of having it buried in her neck while he slept. Images of spotted pink pajama pants and legs tangled within his own made Adrien so dizzy with feelings that he could barely sit up straight. It was to the point where he'd kill to have her silky bangs in his face again just so he could press his lips upon her forehead.

"Uh, hellooo?" Nino laughed, waving as if he was flagging down a taxi. "Earth to Adrien! Where'd you go, dude?"

The blush that had risen upon his increasingly hot cheeks hadn't gone unnoticed by Nino.

"Sorry," Adrien said, finding it impossible to wipe the lovestruck smile from his face. "Just a little distracted."

"Just looking at you hides no secrets, dude. You've got it baaad," Nino said with a light chuckle as he mindlessly checked the hour on his phone. "Damn, lunch break is almost over. We can discuss your fate with Mme. Mystery on the way back, 'kay? I'll be a good wingman."

"Thanks," Adrien said as he stood, slinging his school bag over his shoulder. "I would actually appreciate the help. I'm not the best when it comes to admitting my feelings. The last time I tried to girl how I feel, I told her that I loathed her instead of love. You can imagine how that went."

At Nino's outburst of laughter, Adrien's gaze faltered and met the pavement of the sidewalk. Last Valentine's day was always a painful memory to bring back into thought. All within a few hours, he'd failed at writing a love letter to Ladybug, told her he hated her, that they weren't friends, and eventually tried to straight-up murder her with his Cataclysm.

Dark Cupid had officially earned his title as Adrien's least favorite akuma villain.

He'd never in the right mind ever dream of hurting Ladybug. He'd never hurt anyone if he had the choice. Unfortunately, it seemed like being victim to the powers of many akumatized villains was a regular occurrence. Nightmares about harming Ladybug plagued his sleep some nights. It wasn't often, but they were certainly there, waking him in a cold sweat with heavy breath.

Why did he have to be constantly dripping with bad luck?

"Anyways," Adrien began, stuffing his hands into the pockets of his jeans as he and Nino walked along the side of the street. "I'm not really sure what to do about these feelings. I know something's there, that's pretty obvious since I can't stop thinking about her, but I don't know if it's considered love or not. You love Alya, right? Can you tell me what it feels like?"

Nino's smirk turned to that of a sentimental grin as he nodded, his cheeks noticeably becoming redder. "Well, yeah, dude. You don't just date someone for five months without feeling some sort of love, you know?"

Adrien smiled, a quiet chuckle rumbling from his chest. Nino had nobody to thank but Ladybug for his happiness; she'd shoved the pair in an animal cage all day long and from Nino's vague explanation, Adrien could only guess there'd been a lot of secrets shared and maybe some kissing involved. Only he and Alya knew what really went on in there that day.

"Is it like..." Adrien's mind fought to find the words that could accurately describe the emotions he felt towards Marinette. "Is it like constantly having her on your mind? Thinking of all the good things you want to do together and even wanting to share bad moments just because you'd be with her? Wanting to touch her as much as you can and kiss her every waking moment of the-"

"Dude," Laughed Nino, eyes wide as he surveyed his model friend. "I'm pretty sure it's fair to say that you've got a huge crush on whatever girl it is you're interested in. For me, it's all of those things, but I'm used to it. Of course I'm always happy, man, but it's just a nice constant to have in my life now. We don't share as much PDA as we used to but that's because the newness of the relationship has worn off and we're just happy to be with each other, sharing kisses and touches and all those moments you think about, you know? It's like having a crush but less of the anxiety because I know she loves me back."

"And you say I'm a sap," Adrien snickered. "I think I understand, though. How would you go about asking a girl out, anyways? A girl who's kind of shy but really cute and caring."

"Well," Nino said as they stepped back onto school campus, heading up the steps Adrien had watched Marinette fall down some time ago. "If she's kind of shy then you want to go about it delicately. Don't just rush out there and claim your undying love for her in front of the school, be gentle and kind and ask her out in privacy. Take her to an innocent first date and try not to kiss her before she's ready."

"You seem to have a lot of relationship advice and it makes you sound like an old man," Laughed Adrien as they stopped in the courtyard, where groups of students had gathered to chat and wait on the bell for class to ring. "But I appreciate it. I've been trying to ask her out all week but things keep coming up. I want to today, though."

"Then go for it." Once Nino had spotted Alya he gave Adrien a small wave, signalling with his hand that he was going over to her. "I'll catch you later, dude. Good luck with that girl."

"Thanks." Adrien grinned, grateful for his friend's advice. Nino was a great assistance in helping him decipher his feelings for Marinette, whatever they happened to be.

Adrien had never expected that anyone but Ladybug could claim hold of his heart and make his head swarm with thoughts that made his cheeks pink, but Marinette had proved him wrong. Not only did he feel about Marinette how he'd felt about Ladybug for nearly a year now, but the buzzing warmth that made his chest burn in a lively fire was undoubtedly stronger.

Marinette was the summer sky, eyes as blue as the heavens and brighter than the sun. He wanted to bask in her warmth and relish in every moment she blessed him with her presence.

What could he say? Adrien had always been quite fond of poetry, and he had a habit of falling fast.

Falling for Marinette both terrified and excited him. The idea of admitting his feelings and having her kiss him made his legs turn to jelly. Just the thought of calling her his girlfriend, something he'd never had the pleasure of calling a girl before lit sparks within his heart. However, with good thoughts come the inevitable bad; knowing that their relationship could go so well and end in nothing but pain and despondent tears made a frown tug at Adrien's lips. The even more depressing thought was Marinette rejecting him immediately, although he assumed that'd be easier to get over than completely indulging on his love for her and giving all of himself to her only for them to end it.

A relationship between them was a chance. A chance that could either end up in a fulfilling life, loving each other until death set them apart and even after, or a chance that an eventual fight or realizing that they were too different of people tore them apart.

The thought hurt, but a chance was a chance. A fifty-fifty possibility that Adrien was prepared to take. He wanted to take the risk, to run with it and scoop Marinette up in his arms and carry her off bridal style to the nearest fabric shop and shower her with gifts of all different textures and colors. Nothing made him happier than seeing that gorgeous face stretch into a gigantic grin while those sky blue eyes twinkled in excitement. He needed that smile in his life.

He needed Marinette in his life.

As if by some magical calling, his gaze landed upon Marinette, who had just walked back into the school. Alone.

Now was his chance to ask what he'd been trying to spit out for a week.

"Mari-" He started, but forceful arms that wrapped around his neck caught his words within his throat.

"Adri-kins!" Cooed Chloé, placing an uncomfortable and very unwanted kiss upon his cheek. "There you are! I've been looking for you. Listen, I want you to come over after school today, okay? Daddy just bought me some brand new diamonds and they sparkle so bright that you have to wear sunglasses or else you'll go blind. I want you to help me pick which pair to wear as earrings."

"Uh..." Adrien held back the urge to grimace. "Sorry, Chloé, but maybe another time. I've got plans after school today."

"Plans?" She scoffed, crossing her arms with a suspicious raise of her eyebrow. "What could be more important than me?"

Adrien could think of a lot of things. "I'm hanging out with a friend today. Can we reschedule?"

"Can't you reschedule with your other friend who's apparently more important than I am?"

Sighing, Adrien laid a hand upon her shoulder and shook his head, his uncomfortable expression apparent. "No, sorry, Chlo'. I've had this planned for a while."

"Fine," Chloé hissed as she placed her hands upon her hips. "I'll let daddy know that you'll come over this weekend. Is that fine?"

"Maybe, I'll have to see what my schedule is like." As absolutely thrilling looking at rocks sounded to him, going over Chloé's wasn't something Adrien looked forward to. He did it out of sympathy; without a friend and someone to blab to, Chloé would mostly likely explode. Besides, a friend since adolescence was a hard one to let go of, even if she'd grown into a person whose actions he didn't care for. Her constant dislike and teasing of Marinette (as well as most of the other students) was something that miffed him greatly.

Chloé pouted. "Okayyy. I just kind of miss you, Adrien, we haven't really hung out since before school started."

"I know," He sighed, "I'm sorry. We'll find time, though. Can you excuse me for a second?" Before Chloé could respond, he gave her an apologetic smile and walked off, searching for the girl with black pigtails and a galaxy of freckles. His eyes scanned the courtyard and his heart skipped a beat as they landed on her, giggling from something Alya had said.

Ugh, that laugh. His hands trembled.

Marinette's laugh had a way of weaving its way into his chest and bubbling within the cavities, making it burn with affection for her. The way her mouth stretched into a grin and the adorable noises that came out of it made his legs wobble.

It should be illegal to posses that amount of cuteness. If he didn't compose himself, Adrien would need someone to call the paramedics because he'd surely keel over from cardiac arrest.

"Mari-" His voice cracked and he was thankful he'd been too far away for her to hear him. Clearing his throat, he approached with trembling legs, nerves chilling his veins. Can't chicken out. Now's the chance.

"Marinette," He began again, giving her a small wave. "Can I talk to you for a second?" Swallowing nervously, he glanced at Nino and Alya, who shared matching curious expressions. "Alone?"

"Oh," Marinette's gaze had a hard time holding his. "Sure."

They walked over to the stairs, which Adrien leaned against with one arm. He hadn't exactly thought out how he was going to ask her the question that had been burning a hole within his brain for the past week, causing internal panic to set in for just a brief moment. I probably look so awkward. She's gonna reject me-

"H-how are you feeling?" Marinette's voice broke him from his worrisome concentration. "Are... Are you doing okay? We haven't really gotten a chance to talk, so..."

"Oh, yeah!" Adrien nodded, giving her a warm smile that would surely be convincing. Truthfully, it'd been a rough week; he hadn't seen her as Chat since Saturday night and they'd barely gotten a chance to speak at all. "I'm fine. Feeling better since Saturday, at least. I just...wanted to ask you a question."

It was a question he'd wanted to ask Monday when they sat alone in their physics classroom making up a test. It'd been something he'd wanted to ask Tuesday when she'd accidentally tripped over a rise in the sidewalk and fallen into his arms. It'd been something he'd nearly asked on Wednesday when he'd walked her home from the short distance of school. He'd desperately tried to ask her Thursday, but the pouring rain he'd been caught in on his way back from lunch had certainly killed the mood.

Now it was Friday and they were alone, without a single disturbance in the world. His nerves couldn't get the best of him at this point; he was far too determined to spit out the simple question that'd been nagging at him for five days straight.

Just as he opened his mouth to speak, the bell cut him off, making his chest tighten with anxiety. They couldn't go to class now! He had a question to ask her!

"Marinette, wait," He begged, reaching out to place a hand upon her shoulder but hesitating and pulling away before he made contact. His mind swam to figure out exactly what he wanted to say. "Before we go to class, I was wondering, if... If maybe you wanted to... Well, I was thinking, it's not weird, we can-"

Marinette rose a curious eyebrow, an innocent smile appearing on her features. "Yeah?"

Damn it, Adrien, just spit it out!

"I was wondering if maybe you-" He swallowed dryly. Why was asking his friend a simple question so hard? "-if you wanted to do something after school together today? We haven't had time to hang out lately a-and if you're busy or don't want to that's totally fine, really, but if you do want to there's that new ice cream parlor that opened up down the street a-and I've been really wanting to try it, and I wanted to ask you because you're funny and also my favorite person to eat sweets with..."

Favorite person to eat sweets with. Adrien resisted the urge to smack a palm to his forehead. He had officially reached an entirely new level of awkward.

Usually it was all Marinette doing the stammering and rambling, but now the tables had surely turned. He didn't know that it felt so embarrassing!

"Oh!" Marinette's eyes shifted to the floor as her cheeks became a pleasantly rosy shade of red. Adrien almost fainted from how cute she looked while he prepared for a gentle rejection. He promised himself that he'd only cry a little. "You want to take me out? Like, out-out? Like a date?" Her eyes widened as her voice's pitch raised. "A-ah! I mean, it's not like it is a date, I didn't assume it was, but if you want it to be a date by all means I'm totally fine with that, but it doesn't have to be, I-I... Agh. I'm so awkward, I'm sorry."

"No, no!" Adrien laughed, giving her a reassuring grin. "It's okay! I'm pretty awkward right now too. I-I uh, I never said it would be a date, but... It could be if you want it to. Or it could just be a normal two-platonic-friends-hanging-out kind of thing. Except we're alone and eating ice cream. It's only a date if you want it to be, I mean... I don't mind."

And then she giggled, that adorable little noise that made Adrien's legs turn to goo and stomach flutter with akuma. If he hadn't been in a crowd, he'd surely have fallen over. "Well... Sure," she said softly, looking up at him through her long eyelashes. "If you don't mind then I don't either."

"C-cool!" He held in a sigh of relief. "It's a date, then. We can go right after class."

Marinette looked a little embarrassed. "I don't have any money on me."

"It's a date, remember? I'm paying." He gave her nose a tiny touch, adding in a wink for good measure. Her scarlet face and giggles were certainly reward enough for his innocent flirting.

They made it back to class in the nick of time, sitting in their seats just as the late bell rang its final chime. The urge to turn in his seat and look at Marinette was almost too strong to resist, but he powered through the class without so much as a single glance.

Occasionally, he could hear Alya and Marinette squealing quietly to each other. Whatever it was they were so happy about, Adrien could only assume it was good. Maybe another Ladybug video.

Ten minutes before the final bell of the day was about to ring, their teacher announced that they'd be working in groups of four for a project he didn't quite catch the subject of. Adrien's breath caught in his throat, eyes snapped open in a silent prayer that they'd be able to pick their own groups—he really didn't want to get stuck with Chloé and end up doing all the work—but thankfully, his wish was granted.

Instantly he turned, flashing Marinette and Alya a wide grin with the eyes of an excited puppy. If he'd been transformed, his tail would have been wagging very uncharacteristically for a cat, and perhaps he would have even purred with delight.

"Hey," Nino's voice caused Adrien to turn, giving him a curious look. "We need to talk."

"We do?" A nervous frown tugged at the corner of Adrien's lips as he surveyed his friend's serious expression; Nino was usually the playful type, not much for serious conversation. What could be causing him to give such a look?

Nino nodded and leaned in closely, his voice hushed and secretive. "That girl you were talking about earlier, the one you're crushing on? She wouldn't happen to have black pigtails and be sitting behind us, would she?"

Adrien swallowed, his gaze stilling on a pencil on his desk that had suddenly become incredibly interesting. It was easier to stare at than his friend's inquiring gaze. "Maybe," He said quietly, "is that a bad thing?"

He remembered Nino's little crush on Marinette back before he'd started dating Alya. His friend had been certainly smitten with the girl, and Adrien worried he'd overstepped the lines of bro code by liking her or something—if that even existed.

"No!" Nino exclaimed, slapping a hand over his mouth as he realized it'd come out a little too loudly and then let out a satisfied laugh, shaking his head. "Why would that be a problem? Haven't you figured out that she's absolutely crazy about you?"

"Who is?" Alya cut in, giving her boyfriend a stern gaze. Nino backed off immediately, knowing that he'd apparently been speaking loud enough for the girls to hear.

Adrien scratched at his neck awkwardly, shooting a shy glance up at the girls. "So, uh, I assumed it's the four of us, right?"

Marinette nodded, the familiar light flush apparent on her freckled cheeks. She appeared so dazed, so full of bliss as she rested her head atop her palms, elbows propped on the desk. Before she spoke, she let out a dreamy sigh, eyes drooping in a slow blink. "Mhm. Us. Together."

Adrien cocked his head to the side with a small grin at her pleasantly lost expression. Had he done that to her?

Mon dieu. He had done that to her.

If Nino was correct, and from what Marinette had told him as Chat, Marinette not only returned his feelings but possibly even felt them stronger than he did. How had he not noticed it before? Her stuttering, stammering voice, blushing cheeks and nervous twitching paired with shy glances all added up to only one thing: it wasn't that she was afraid of him or disliked him, it was that she liked him. Like-liked him.

A pang of realization made Adrien cough, eyes bulging and a grin stretching from ear to ear. Thankfully, the ringing of the bell covered up his noises of surprise and gave him a moment to collect himself before standing from his seat. The final bell of the day had finally chimed, causing relief to flood throughout his entire body. He'd been trying to avoid working himself up over the so-called "date" he and Marinette had agreed to go on, and now that they'd finished packing their things, it was time to execute it. Hopefully he wouldn't come off as too awkward or flirty. A nice middle ground between the two would definitely be needed.

This was Marinette, of course; the sweet, innocently charming classmate whom he'd unexpectedly fallen for. The girl whose eyes twinkled like diamonds and whose laugh sparked a pleasant fire within in chest that warmed Adrien all the way down to his toes. After a week of desperate attempts to ask out the adorable girl, he'd finally succeeded, and thank goodness she'd accepted. He'd have a chance to talk to her again other than simple smalltalk in school.

They'd be on a date.

A hesitant hand that rested upon his shoulder made Adrien turn, his eyes meeting Marinette's. She gave him a shy smile, looking up at him through her lashes with the sweetest expression he'd ever seen grace her beautiful features.

"Hey," He breathed, "you're ready?"

She nodded, humming in response. "Yeah, all set."

Adrien didn't miss Nino's sly smirk as he exited the classroom behind Marinette, giving his friend a playful eyeroll. He felt thankful that Nino hadn't been upset about him having feelings for Marinette—there honestly wouldn't even be a reason for him to be, considering he was very happily in a committed relationship with Alya. A quick wave of appreciation rushed through him as he and Marinette departed from the school, beginning their short journey down the street.

They walked in a comfortable silence, their arms occasionally brushing together (which admittedly caused a spark to shock through Adrien with every brief touch.) He took in a long breath, feeling content as he exhaled slowly. The scents of Paris in summer were always a wonderful greeting when walking outside in the streets.

Adrien caught the temptatively delicious aroma of freshly baked bread wafting through the air as they passed Marinette's home. The bakery always provided the best scents to bless his nose. "I smell bread," He sighed, his expression softening as he shot Marinette a grin.

"I'll never get tired of that smell," Chuckled Marinette as she glanced back at her bakery once they'd passed. "It's the best."

"Last week, while I was on the way to a photoshoot across the city," Adrien began, thinking back to the exact moment he planned to tell her about. "I had the window down in the car, and we passed this other bakery that I don't remember the name of. I smelled the bread baking for just a split second, but I immediately thought of you."

Ah, there was that blush! Those rosy cheeks and shy giggles that made his heart race from the sight of his gorgeous classmate. Every time he gazed upon her lovingly he noticed something he hadn't seen before; a new little surprise that his eye hadn't caught yet. Whether it was the way she shut her eyes as she laughed or how a few stray pieces of hair hung in her face, Adrien knew he wanted to memorize every detail of her features. Had she always had so many freckles?

Adrien imagined one day he'd count them all.

"You thought of me?" She said through her giggles, cheeks reddening deeper. "That's...sweet. I think about you when I make cookies now."

"I can only imagine why," He laughed, "the image of Adrien Agreste ghostly white and covered in flour must be a hard one to erase."

"Well, yeah, but...that's not what I meant."

Adrien turned his gaze to her, eyebrows raised. "Oh?"

She nodded. "It reminds me of how much fun that was, and that you're a real person, you know? You like to laugh and have fun too, just like anyone else."

Grinning, Adrien hesitantly reached down and brushed his fingers across her knuckles, a silent plea that he hoped would end up in her wrapping one of those tiny hands around his.

She didn't.

"Thank you. I know most people see me as some high-end celebrity up on a gold pedestal, but I'm just like everyone else. I'm an awkward goofball, you know?" A soft laugh drifted past his lips. "I'm really glad you see me as a friend. Maybe-" Their eyes met for a brief moment before he looked down, his voice growing quiet. "Maybe more than that."

Marinette said nothing for a second or two before she chuckled, her blue eyes meeting soft green. "If you're trying to steal the best friend position, Alya will murder you."

"Oh, I can imagine," Laughed Adrien as he held open the door to the ice cream parlor, a small and quaint little shop decorated by vines and flowers of all different shades. The building had been around for ages but it hadn't been occupied until a local family bought it. Adrien could only assume that the homemade ice cream would taste like heaven in a waffle cone.

Adrien learned something new about Marinette that day while they sat at an adorably pink table: her favorite ice cream flavor is strawberry and the expressions she made when it started dripping down the side of the cone were some of his favorite.

"Do you only like the strawberry because it's pink?" He asked with a light chuckle as he chewed one of the oreo pieces that had been placed atop his cookies and cream. "I could see why. Pink is a pretty color."

"No," Marinette replied with a delicate laugh, shaking her head as she gave her ice cream a lick. "I like how it tastes. Strawberries are my favorite fruit."

"Mine too, but I've never had the chance to try them in ice cream, and this time oreos and vanilla sounded too good to pass up." He eyed the strawberry bits that poked out of the pink treat. "Maybe next time, though."

"You can try some of mine, if you want." Marinette's voice was so quiet he'd almost missed her offer. "That's not weird, is it?"

"No," He laughed as his lips stretched into a grateful grin. "You can try some of mine, too. Here."

Holding out his cone with a smirk, Adrien chewed on his bottom lip as Marinette took the bait. Once she leaned in to take a lick, he pressed it against her nose, snorting at her tiny gasp of surprise. She shot him a playful glare that caused his smirk to grow wider, although he knew he was next in line to feel chilly ice cream upon his skin.

"Adrien," She sighed with a smile, reaching out to grab a napkin. "Rude."

"Wait, look," He giggled as he pressed his own ice cream against his nose, eyes sparkling as his friend broke out into a small fit of laughter. "We match! It's the look of the century. Everyone will be wearing it now that I have."

"I didn't think ice cream on the nose could be considered a fashion statement," She said with a grin, dabbing at the ice cream that had taken shelter on the tip of his nose. Adrien hoped she didn't notice the way a positively red flush rose upon his cheeks.

Or maybe, he hoped she did notice, because when she realized that her hand had been pressed against his cheek as she wiped off the cookies and cream, her own face had heated up into a deep pink that reflected his own.

"Sorry, I didn't ask if I could-"

Adrien grinned, reaching forward with his own napkin as he wiped her nose clean of the ice cream before she could protest. "Sorry for what?"

"N-Nothing."

Chuckling softly, Adrien watched her with a curious expression, examining the way she worried at her bottom lip and how her eyes shifted from the used napkins to her waffle cone, which she bit into slowly.

When her gaze met his, Adrien sighed, unable to tear his eyes away from her own. Every time he'd had the opportunity to dive deep within them he'd never wanted to resurface; swimming within those blue pools made his entire body feel content. They were so bright, so beautiful, so intelligent. So full of life and joy, dazzling in the warm light of the parlor.

In that moment, Adrien knew his favorite color had become blue.

"Adrien?"

Adrien hummed in response, unable to open his mouth to properly reply. Marinette was the prettiest girl he'd ever had the pleasure of laying his eyes upon.

Sure, Ladybug was pretty, too, but Marinette....

"Is there something on my face?" It was then he noticed how worried and embarrassed Marinette seemed, her fingers combing through her hair in an attempt to fix something that hadn't been messy.

"No," He reassured her with a shake of his head, placing his hand upon hers to convince her. "Nothing's wrong. Everything's...good. Everything's right."

"Oh," She breathed with a sigh of relief. "You were staring, so I thought..."

"Maybe I'm just admiring you."

He grinned as Marinette nearly choked on her waffle cone, which she'd almost finished. Seeing her flustered and red-faced made his heart pound within his fuzzy, buzzing chest. Yeah, he was definitely admiring.

At her silence, Adrien felt a disappointed frown pull at his lips, which had previously been stretched so wide. "Hey, are you okay?" His hand squeezed hers comfortingly and he hadn't even realized that the contact they currently shared was definitely reserved for two people who were a little more than just friends.

When Marinette's fingers weaved between his and returned the squeeze, the grin was practically slapped back upon his face as he took the final bite of his ice cream. If anyone were to see them, they'd surely assume that the two were a young couple on what might of been their millionth date. Part of him prayed the paparazzi would find him like this, completely lovestruck with his fingers entwined with those of Marinette Dupain-Cheng.

They'd surely make a good couple. Fashion designer girlfriend and model boyfriend; what could be better than that?

Don't get ahead of yourself, Adrien's brain screeched, it's barely a date. You're not dating her.

Yet.

Maybe she'd agree to it if he told her the truth about his feelings. Maybe she'd want to become his girlfriend and hold his hand like this every day. Maybe she'd be overjoyed to be his, just as he'd be elated to be hers. Maybe, if he was brave enough, he'd admit to caring deeply about her, wanting her, and shyly ask if she felt the same. He knew she did.

Yet he wasn't brave enough.

So, he went with a less suspicious route.

"Hey, Marinette," Adrien's voice stupidly wavered. "You know how you said you have a crush on Chat Noir?"

Marinette, taken by surprise, jolted upward and blinked rapidly in astonishment. "Uh! Oh! Y-yeah? Why?"

Adrien grinned, his cheeks becoming pleasantly warm. "I was wondering if you had any interest in other guys with blond hair and green eyes."

He could practically see her breath caught in her throat as her voice became just above a whisper. "L-like who?"

"Like..." He swallowed, his gaze meeting hers shyly. "Like m-"

A scream from outside the parlor interrupted Adrien mid-sentence, startling both him and Marinette. As he turned to peer out the large windows, Adrien sighed as his eyes landed upon people running and black objects flying. There hadn't been an akuma attack since last week; he had no doubt that Hawk Moth had claimed yet another victim who was now tearing up the streets.

"Marinette," He began, standing quickly. The determined look that had appeared on her features caused his heart to freeze. It was oddly familiar, but he'd never seen her with that expression before, had he? No... When they'd played video games she'd been determined, but this determination was different. "Marinette. We need to get somewhere safe."

Marinette gave him a curt nod before grabbing his hand, leading him to the back of the shop. "We could hide in the bathrooms," She suggested, glancing back and forth from him to the city outside. "Yeah, they're safe. I'll come out when it's over. You stay here."

"Marinette, n-"

But she'd already ran to the girl's room.

Confused and a little annoyed with her sudden flee when there was clearly danger afoot, Adrien sighed, shrugging his shoulders and dashing into the boy's bathroom to transform. Entering a stall, he lifted up his overshirt as Plagg flew out, giving the Kwami a small shake of his head. "I guess Marinette is going to stay here."

"Aw, so sad that Hawk Moth ruined your first date ever!"

Adrien scowled. "Don't rub it in, Plagg. We need to get out there. Transform me!"


Marinette burst out of the bathroom once she'd transformed, feeling Ladybug's boundless confidence seeping into her skin and turning her into the super-heroine Paris adored. Running out into the dining room of the shop, she gasped as a black figure bumped into her from the side, sending them both tumbling to the cold tile floor.

"My Lady?"

Ladybug lifted her head to gaze at the voice she knew all too well. "Chat Noir? What are you doing here?"

"Ladybug," Chat's eyes were wide with wonder, his lips twitching into a grin. "Were you- were you in here? Before the attack?"

Swallowing nervously, Marinette narrowed her eyes, giving her partner a shake of the head. "N-No, silly kitty. I just had to run in here to transform. No time for talk, we've got an akuma to catch and purify!"

She hoped he wouldn't catch on. Chat Noir had always been incredibly curious, now being no exception, and certainly not a time for his bothersome questions. Didn't he know by now that identity questions made her uncomfortable?

Truthfully, her own curiosity was piqued by the idea of her and Chat having been in the same shop before they'd transformed. She could have looked at him without knowing it. Maybe he was the blond man who'd been tending the counter, or the teen in the back wearing a black hoodie who had been sitting with a girl.

No... It was a thought Marinette knew not to delve on. Their identities were a precious secret, and no matter how desperately she desired to know who had fallen asleep next to her in her bed, she'd pretend that she didn't care. She didn't want to know.

She did.

Marinette shook her head to clear her thoughts and sighed, bursting out of the shop with Chat right behind her. The pair stood in the middle of the street, back to back as they took in any sort of destruction or danger that they could identify.

Well, what little destruction there was.

Oddly enough, everything was absolutely quiet. No noise whatsoever, not so much as a peep from birds or cars. It was eerie to say the very least. Paris had never been in such a dead quietude. It almost felt like a ghost town.

"Where's the villain?" Marinette grunted as she gazed around the street, eyes flicking from buildings to signs to the road itself. Citizens fumbled around the sidewalk, some hunched over and others walking around in a confused daze. Wandering over to a young woman, Marinette gave her a light tap on the shoulder, looking up at her desperately. "Excuse me, ma'am? Have you seen anything unusual? An akumatized villain, perhaps?"

The woman stared down at her, parting her lips to speak but frowning when not a single sound rose from her throat. Instead, she hopelessly pointed, red hair drooping in her face as she hung her head in what appeared to be embarrassment.

"What-"

"Ladybug," Chat's voice from behind startled Marinette, causing her to turn quickly in alarm. The sudden noise was a bit frightening due to the entire city being so ghostly quiet. "I can't talk to these people. It's like they've all gone...mute, or something."

Studying the street, Marinette narrowed her eyes and placed her hand upon her chin thoughtfully as she attempted to formulate a plan. A metaphorical light bulb shone above her head as she snapped her fingers, turning to her feline partner to spell out her idea on how to handle the situation. "Chat," She began, "you've got good hearing, right? Can you hear anything at all? Any screams in the distance or something like that?"

Chat paused for a moment, tilting his head to the side as his ears twitched, one adjusting to listen behind him and the other turning to listen to the far left. "Yes," He stated, his right ear flicking. "I heard a faint scream around Gotleib street. The villain must be over there."

"Good kitty," Marinette cooed as she scratched under his chin, earning a soft mewl from Chat in response. Such a cat! "Let's not waste any time, then."

The two zipped off in the direction of the cries for help, arriving within less than a minute due to their magnificent speed. Marinette landed atop her own terrace, watching as Chat perched himself upon the railing. A familiar feeling of warmth spread throughout her. The mood of the situation would completely turn a one-eighty if he'd been propped there late at night without an akuma rampaging through the city.

And then they saw it, an older woman hovering in the air with wings made of paper, decorated by text stretched all across the delicate feathers. She wore a faded pink sweater and cracked glasses attached to a colorful beaded string around her neck. Surrounding her were orbiting books, all black except for a certain hardback that stood out as a deep glowing purple.

"That must be where the akuma is located," whispered Marinette, "the purple book. You think she was some kind of librarian?"

Chat chuckled. "Well, I guess I can really read her expression. She looks pretty mad. I bet she's upset that nobody in the library could stay quiet, so now she's making all of us hush. I guess we'd better book an appointment to teach her a lesson!"

Marinette, rolling her eyes with an annoyed groan, gave her partner an unamused grimace as she surveyed the woman and her work. The books that orbited her occasionally fled and chased after civilians, stealing their screams right from their throats and silencing them quickly.

"Wow," Chat grunted, "I'd hate to have my voice shelved."

"I'm literally going to smack you." Marinette couldn't hide the laugh in her voice as she faux threatened her feline colleague. "This is no time for jokes! We've got to capture her akuma and set these poor people's voices free."

"Just tell me where you want me, my Lady."

"We need to try and get that book away from her without getting in her line of attack. I don't really want either of us to go mute; being able to communicate with you while we deal with this makes the job a thousand times easier."

Chat gave her a nod and grinned, twirling his baton in his left hand. "It's a good thing I'm a cat of many trades. I know sign language."

"I don't, so it would be no use," Marinette gave him a sideways glance. "Besides, I don't plan on us going mute anyways. We're going to get that book."

"Got it."

"Chat, wait, I didn't-"

But he'd already leaped.

That stupid, stupid cat never listened as well as he should have. How could he have such amazing hearing but never bother to listen to her half of the time?

Sighing, Marinette swung herself from the building and landed with a thud on the slick paneling of an apartment roof. She'd never been one to have the same grace as Chat Noir when it came to landings, and with the whole city eerily quiet, her feet slamming against the roof was an obvious giveaway. Cursing to herself, Marinette glared at the the old librarian woman as she placed a wrinkly finger upon her lips and gave an uncomfortable shush.

Books came flying at her, each being met by the kick of her foot or the slam of her yo-yo. "You know," Marinette grunted as leaped over a book that was speedily headed for her chest. "There are easier ways to tell people to be quiet rather than stealing their voices completely."

"Shh!" Came the reply. Marinette had officially dubbed this villain as The Shusher.

Where in the hell had Chat Noir gone?

"Don't you think-" she dodged a book, "-there's a better option-" and then another, "-than this?"

"Shh!"

Okay, so much for trying to talk the uncooperative woman out of it.

The shrill screech of a whistle sounding caught Marinette off-guard. Eyes wide, she peered down at the startling noise in the street below, where Chat Noir in a police hat stood with a blue whistle pressed against his lips as he blew forcefully.

"Hey, Madame Shush-a-lot! Don't like noise? Then you might want to stop me before I blow this whistle in every library in Paris!"

"Shh!" The old woman hissed, swooping down with her army of books to the cat. Marinette smirked at Chat's diversion. Such a clever kitty.

In fact, she couldn't help but cover up her explosive giggles with her hands as Chat dashed around in circles, blowing the whistle with every breath that slipped out of his lithe body. It came in shrill shrieks and threw off the books' aim, sending them crashing into walls and falling to the floor before fading back to their original color and laying lifeless. So, the books hated the noise of a whistle. Good to know.

While Chat had her distracted, Marinette flung herself as quietly as she could towards the woman, reaching out with a quick hand and swiping one of the books, clamping it shut so that it couldn't manage to purloin her voice. As she swung through the air, Marinette looked down at the book in her arms and- nope, the color black. No good. She needed that violet one.

Flying in again, she snatched the purple book with a satisfied grin, landing upon the ground with a huff. Except, she hadn't remembered to land with caution this time around, and Marinette's heart stopped as she was confronted with the two remaining black books, both which opened and glowed purple in preparation for capturing hold of her voice.

The hell was this; the Little Mermaid without consent?

"Ladybug, look out!" Chat shouted, his voice coated with fear as he dived behind her, taking the hit of the one book that had managed to come up from her rear. Marinette hissed in surprise, accidentally dropping the violet book to the floor due to the sudden contact and letting out a groan as her partner faced her with an innocent toothy grin and a shrug.

"Chat Noir!" She sighed, clearly agitated with his heroic feat. "Stop doing that! You're going to get yourself killed one day."

Chat shrugged once more, scratching at the back of his neck sheepishly. Marinette wanted to wipe that embarrassed expression off of his face with a smack or a kiss.

Ew, no, gross!

"Well, at least I don't have to listen to anymore of your puns. Now where did that-"

The violet book hovered above them with its army of other novels before spreading out across the city, causing an annoyed Marinette to grit her teeth. She would've had the damn akuma purified by now if Chat hadn't accidentally shoved her while protecting her from something she didn't need saving from.

Still, it was nice to know that he cared.

"Lucky charm!" She shouted in desperation, watching with wide eyes as a ladybug patterned whistle in the shape of a book plopped into her hands. At least with this she knew what to do, thanks to Chat's clever distraction. Glancing around the empty street, Marinette narrowed her eyes as her gaze landed upon the pages of wings that sprouted from the librarian's back.

"Chat Noir," She whispered, giving her silent friend a nudge. "Use your Cataclysm on her wings! If she can't fly, I don't think the books can, either." It was a stretch, but it didn't hurt to try; besides, Marinette was getting quite antsy knowing that she'd left Adrien in the bathroom of the ice cream parlor, especially since the battle had interrupted their date.

Their first date, of all things. Marinette prayed that they'd have a chance at another without having Hawk Moth getting in the way.

Chat nodded and, after vaulting atop a building and leaping down onto the villain with a very quiet Cataclysm, sent the old woman to the ground in a heap of feathered paper. The books followed suit and landed in a cloud of dust upon the street, all fading to their original colors except the violet one, which hovered above her threateningly.

"Oh, no you don't!" Marinette cried out as she blew forcefully into the whistle, causing the book to tremble and shake until its pages withered, giving Marinette a chance to snatch it from the air and rip it in half. The black butterfly barely had a chance to so much as hover above the ground before Marinette captured and purified it, sending the white butterfly to flutter away into the cloudy sky.

"Bye-bye, little butterfly!" She called out before tossing the whistle into the air. "Miraculous Ladybug!"

Within an instant, the city was enveloped in sparkling red light, cleansing the damage and returning lost voices. Chat let out a hoot of joy as his voice found its home in his throat, to which Marinette tried to convince herself was unfortunate, but she couldn't help feeling a little glad that her partner's stupid puns could be heard again. Not like she enjoyed them or anything.

"Ah, my Lady," Sighed Chat Noir after their traditional fist bump. "Aren't you glad to hear me again? Didn't you miss the purr of my voice?"

"No," Marinette laughed, giving him a gentle shove. "In fact, I enjoyed how peacefully quiet it was, tomcat."

"Well, then you'd enjoy my civilian self. Which reminds me," Chat flashed her a grin, sharp teeth sparkling. "I've got a date to get back to. Sorry to leave so soon. Au revoir, Bug!"

Marinette stood frozen, her arms crossed against her chest as her lips tightened into a thin line. Chat Noir was on a date? With who? Who would Chat even be interested in besides her?

How many girls was he leading on? Marinette as Ladybug, Marinette as Marinette, some other girl whom he was apparently on a date with?

Maybe that blond boy in the black hoodie and snapback had been Chat Noir.

She tried not to feel jealous. Marinette honestly, truthfully, attempted her best not to let the burning feeling ignite within her chest. She had no reason to be jealous. He wasn't the only one on a date. There was no reason why she should care.

Yet she did.

Sighing, Marinette ran into the nearest alleyway to detransform, watching with dull eyes as Tikki drifted into her palms and the cloud of sparkles dissipated. The poor Kwami looked exhausted and Marinette made a mental note to get her some cookies from the parlor once she'd returned.

"You okay?" She asked her tiny friend, giving her head a soft rub with her finger.

Tikki nodded, gazing up at her chosen with a warm smile. "I'm fine, Marinette. I just need a little nap. Go finish up with Adrien, okay?"

A warm smile tugged Marinette's lips upwards as she leaned down to press a gentle kiss upon her Kwami's forehead. "You're the best, Tikki."

"Marinette?"

The designer turned at the sound of the familiar voice as Tikki swiftly hid in her bag, eyes widening in surprise. "Adrien? Why aren't you in the shop-"

Marinette gasped as strong arms enveloped her tiny frame. Adrien must have realized his mistake and quickly backed off, much to Marinette's disappointment. It took all of her strength to hold in her whine of protest.

"I should be asking you the same thing," He said, nervously fidgeting with the collar of his overshirt. "What are you doing out in the alley? Did you have to run?"

"Uh..." Marinette dusted off her shirt, eyes falling to her feet. "Yeah. The books, uh, came into the girl's bathroom."

Adrien hesitated. "Yeah, they got into the boy's too. I'm glad you're okay, though."

Smiling, Marinette let out a soft sigh and nodded, clasping her hands together as a wave of relief washed over the both of them. Adrien was safe. Adrien was okay. Not a single scratch on his beautiful face.

"I'm really sorry to say this, but," Adrien pulled out his phone, checking the time with an obvious frown of disappointment pulling at his lips. "I'm ten minutes late for Chinese lessons. Can we try this again sometime?"

Marinette looked up at her friend through her lashes, a blush beginning to tingle up from her neck to her cheeks. "You mean...like, another date?"

Adrien nodded, the tips of his ears turning slightly pink. "Ah, sure. Yeah. I'd like that. I'm sorry to cut this one short."

"Don't blame yourself," Marinette said softly, laying a reassuring hand upon his shoulder. "At least Ladybug and Chat Noir took care of that villain."

Adrien hummed in response, gently placing his hand atop hers and giving it an affectionate squeeze. Marinette's blush became scarlet as she felt a familiar drop in her stomach; those butterflies in her tummy were surely having a party. A light giggle slipped past her lips without her consent, which made Adrien laugh in return. They stood there together in the darkened alleyway, fingers lovingly entwined and mouths curled upwards in giddy laughter.

"Let me walk you home," Adrien said after his chuckles had finally subsided, his green eyes glowing with the warmth of something Marinette couldn't quite place her finger on. "Before it rains. Don't want you getting a cold!"

Marinette nodded in response. The blush that burned her cheeks turned a deep crimson as Adrien linked his arm with hers, flashing her an innocent grin once they began their voyage to the bakery.

They occasionally shared a glance out of the corner of their eyes, which made both of them let out a small laugh at every met gaze. With each brush of his hip upon her own, Marinette felt a spark run up her skin and into her veins, which buzzed in excitement. Adrien's arm was linked around hers. Adrien was walking her home after a date. Adrien Agreste had blushed because of her.

This boy was going to be the death of her.

"Thanks," Marinette said once they'd arrived in front of the bakery, delicate droplets of rainwater tickling her nose. "I-I had fun, Adrien. Even if we got interrupted."

"Me too," He replied with a grin. "I'll see you soon?"

Nodding, Marinette stared up at her home longingly, letting a breath out through her nose. If only Adrien was able to go inside and wait out the rain, bundled up with her in toasty blankets in front of the TV...

"Tomorrow," She blurted before feeling her cheeks tingle in embarrassment. "Y-You can see me tomorrow if you're not busy."

The smile that blessed Adrien's gorgeous face made Marinette's heart skip a beat, maybe several. He looked so goddamn happy that she wanted to cup his cheeks within her palms and pull him into a kiss that would be almost as sweet as the ice cream had tasted.

She'd remember the flavor of that strawberry cone forever.

"Tomorrow, then," Adrien said. "I'll see you tomorrow."

And then he did something that set Marinette's entire body ablaze. Her face flushed such a deep red that she swore it'd never revert back to its original pale shade. Her arms froze at her side and her eyes widened so large that they'd almost fallen out of her head entirely.

Adrien Agreste had kissed her.

Not on the lips, but her forehead, which only grew warmer as his delightfully soft lips pressed against her skin. They lingered upon her skin for a moment before he pulled away, a dazed and sentimental expression upon his beautiful face.

If Marinette didn't know any better, she'd say that he looked as if he'd been in love with her for years. But she knew better, and she knew for a fact that whatever Adrien was feeling for her was a new development. Very new.

It didn't stop her heart from hammering in her chest, though.

"Hey," Adrien laughed as he pulled away, his thumb gently caressing her crimson cheek. "At least I wasn't cheating at video games that time, right?"

Marinette regained a small amount of her composure at his comment. "Oh, so you admit it was cheating, then?"

Adrien chuckled and glanced away with his own tinge of pink upon his face that Marinette decided she'd put there. "Yeah. I'm an evil friend."

"I forgive you," She sighed as her hand came up to rest over his. "I'll always forgive you, silly."

"Good," He said, "because cheating against you is the only way I can possibly win. It might happen again."

Marinette feigned a gasp, giving her crush a dramatic pout. "You're mean. We aren't friends anymore."

"I'm not mean," He tittered with a smirk. "Don't break up with me."

"We aren't dating," Marinette's laugh faded into a confused raise of her eyebrow, a grin twitching at the corner of her lips. "So technically I can't."

"Well, maybe that'll change someday," Adrien said through a shy smile as he checked his phone once more, his eyebrows furrowing. "Ah, I'm really late. I'll see you tomorrow, okay?"

Marinette nodded, her shoulders tensing as the reality of his words set in. Maybe that'll change someday. "Yeah. See you then."

"Goodnight, Marinette." Mon dieu, the tender tone in his voice was something she wanted to wake up to every morning. As Adrien gave a final wave, Marinette took note of the blush in his cheeks that had become exceptionally redder as she returned the gesture, stupidly content smiles upon both of their faces.

Wow, Marinette sighed in thought, if this is what love feels like, then I never want it to end.

Chapter Text

A rush of excitement squeezed at Adrien's heart as his boots collided with the wood flooring of a familiar terrace. Visiting Marinette's past decent hours hadn't been his initial plan for the night, but he wasn't unhappy to find himself standing atop her home bathing in moonlight. It'd been a week since he'd last seen her as Chat Noir—a week since her fingers had gripped onto his shoulders while they flew across the rooftops of Paris and a week since he'd had the pleasure of smelling her sweet skin as they slept undisturbed.

This Friday, he hoped it would be no different. She'd been on his mind all week long, through daydreams and fantasies which always ended with an innocent kiss. Adrien wanted to slip in through her window and envelop her in a tight embrace, to apologize for ending their date prematurely and plaster her face with millions of delicate little kisses. He wanted to relish in the wonderful feeling of sleeping next to her, having her body so close against his own with her gorgeous hair fanned out of its pigtails. He wanted to run his claws through that hair, to play with it or braid it himself.

He wondered what they'd do once he was let inside. Talk? Eat something? Play video games?

He wouldn't know until he knocked.

Disappointment made Adrien's shoulders droop and ears lay flat against his golden hair as silence met his knocking. The light was on in her bedroom, he could see her in there at her desk doing what he presumed was homework. The physics homework had been tough, but certainly not difficult enough for to become completely engulfed within it.

He knew she could hear him knocking.

"Marinette," he whined from outside, clawing at the glass like a puppy trapped behind a closed door. "Princess."

Her eyes flicked upwards for a moment before they met her homework again. Their gaze had locked for a split second and he knew she saw him.

So why was he being ignored?

Adrien huffed. An ignored kitty is a sad kitty.

There was a window behind her desk. A window which the blinds had been pulled up from. A window which he could get her attention from.

Of course, if she didn't want him there, all she'd need to do was tell him that she wanted to be alone or a simple "no" and he'd be off in a flash. Being ignored without reason, however, made Adrien's tail twitch. He wanted to know what was bugging her, especially since he'd taken her on a date a few hours prior—what had upset her so badly? Had it been him?

Climbing down the side of the bakery, Adrien propped his feet upon the windowsill and gazed inside, grinning at how much better he could see his classmate from the new angle. She sat right in front of him and hadn't noticed him yet—or, she had, and was choosing to ignore him—so he gave the window a soft rapping.

"Marinette?" he called, cocking his head to the side. "Hey, it's me."

Scaring her hadn't been his intention. Marinette, startled by his sudden appearance in front of her, let out a small squawk before toppling sideways out of her desk chair, papers flying and scattering along the floor. When she'd regained her balance and stood, her hands were propped firmly upon her hips as she gave him a scrutinizing gaze, lower lip jutted outwards in a pout.

Adrien chuckled, smiling sheepishly. "I'm sorry, didn't mean to frighten you. Can I come in?"

"Why?" Her tone wasn't the happiest Adrien had heard from her, but at least she was speaking to him. "I'm doing homework."

"I can help if you let me in," he offered, his eyes glowing with hope. "I'm pretty smart. You probably wouldn't have guessed, but I'm a straight-A student."

As his classmate opened the window with a sigh, Adrien felt a mixture of excitement and confusion. It was obvious that Marinette was upset about something, he wasn't an idiot—but what could it be?

"Hey," he began as she sat back in her chair. "My offer still stands. Is that physics? Physics is my favorite subject."

Marinette gave a noncommittal response, her eyes unlifting from the tablet her work was on. Adrien frowned.

"The answer to that one is B," he said as he rested his arms on the back of her chair, staring at the questions on the screen. Due to them being in the same class, he'd finished this particular assignment hours ago as soon as he'd been dismissed from Chinese lessons. Helping Marinette was something Adrien would be glad to do, if she wanted it. "The next one is D."

"Thanks," came the mumbled reply.

Adrien's tail twitched in agitation.

"Are you okay?" He asked, frown stretched as Marinette simply shrugged her shoulders before scribbling down another answer. "Princess?"

Not a word.

"Marinette."

Dull blue eyes flashed him such a saddened look that Adrien felt a pang in his heart. Woah.

"How many girl's balconies do you visit at night, Chat Noir?" She asked, voice so quiet that he wasn't sure if he'd heard her right. "Am I the only one?"

Taken aback, Adrien fought to find an appropriate answer that wouldn't come out as stutters or unconvincing words. "Huh?" he asked, swallowing and keeping his gaze upon her. "You are the only one, Marinette. Why?"

She shrugged, offering no response.

"You're the only girl I visit," he said again, attempting to convince his saddened friend with a gentle tone. "I promise. I would visit you every night if I could, I-I really enjoy your company. Is it because I've been gone? You think I'm with other girls?"

Another shrug of shoulders.

Adrien sighed. "I don't know what made you think I see other girls, but I can assure you that you're the only one whose bedroom I regularly visit."

Why did she seem so upset? Was it loneliness? Jealousy?

Jealousy. Marinette was jealous. Adrien fought the urge to grin.

Who knew why she was jealous if they weren't even a couple?

"Marinette," he whispered, resting his hands upon her shoulders instead of the back of the chair. "Hey. I promise. No need to be jealous."

She sat still, unresponsive and quiet. Adrien's heart sank to the bottom of his boots. She's been hurt by someone, somehow, and I don't know how to fix it.

If words couldn't fix her situation, then actions could. Pressing his face against the back of her head, Adrien let out a soft sigh, his hands kneading gently at her shoulders. A quiet purr rumbled from deep within his chest and throat, vibrating against his sternum as he buried his head into Marinette's neck. She smelled as sweet as a spring morning, the scent of flowers and freshly baked pastries rising into his nose and causing his purr to grow louder. Adrien could see out of the corner of his eye that a smile had began to tug at his friend's lips, which made his own only stretch wider.

"Princess," he whispered as he turned to face her from the front, his head butting up against the bottom of her chin. "Don't you know that cats like to be pet?"

A quiet giggle bubbled up from within her, making Adrien display a toothy grin.

"There's that laugh!" he gasped joyfully, sinking to his knees as he pressed his face into her stomach affectionately. "That's my favorite sound."

"My laugh is your favorite sound?" Marinette chuckled as she ran her hand through his hair, coaxing a soft mewl out of him.

"Mhm," murmured Adrien, finding comfort with his head in her lap. "The best sound."

The feeling of Marinette's fingers running through his hair and rubbing against that wonderful spot made Adrien squirm, claws kneading at her thigh affectionately. Stupid cat side-effects.

"Hey, those are sharp." Marinette removed his hand from her thigh and giggled, scratching under his chin with her finger. "You're so weird."

"The good kind or the bad kind?" Lifting his head from her lap, Adrien grinned at his classmate, giving her an affectionate gaze that could surely be taken as a plea for more scratches (which it completely was.)

"The good kind." Her hands never left his hair. "Your voice sounds funny when you talk and purr at the same time."

"Does it?" Adrien raised an eyebrow, amused by her expression. Flushed cheeks, a small smile and bright blue eyes looking down upon him in a way he'd only seen as Adrien. "I can't help it. I purr when I'm happy."

"Do you purr when you're not Chat Noir?"

The curiosity in her voice made Adrien want to detransform just so they could find out if he did or not.

"Not sure. I've never had someone pet me when I'm not transformed."

Marinette's smile grew. "Maybe you will someday."

"Not unless it's you," he purred, "you have magic fingers."

"Wouldn't telling me your secret identity be dangerous?" she asked, mindlessly playing with one of his cat ears, which twitched from the contact.

"You don't seem dangerous." Adrien opened one eye to gaze up at her with a grin. "Are you implying that you are?"

"No." Marinette's giggle was heaven to his ears. "The only thing dangerous about me is how clumsy I am."

"Well, the good thing about being clumsy is that you'll constantly be falling for me." With a wink, Adrien laughed as his friend gave him a light shove, sending his head off its spot on her lap. "Hey, I was comfortable."

"Then don't make stupid puns."

"I can't help it. It's in my DNA, princess."

"Bad puns are in your DNA?" Marinette let out a fake scoff, grinning as she rolled away from him on her chair. "You can't visit me anymore."

Adrien gasped, giving his friend the most offended expression he could muster. "You can't accept me for who I am?"

"No," she giggled, "leave this place."

"I can't leave until I share with you how magical being furriends with a pun mastpurr can be." Sitting on her floor, Adrien smirked, his teeth glinting in the moonlight that filtered through her open windows. "Let me teach you."

"I don't have time for pun lessons," Marinette said. "I have homework to do."

Adrien's ears drooped at her dismissal. "As you wish, princess."

The next thirty minutes had Adrien drowning in a pool of relaxation. While Marinette worked on her homework, which was surely taking her longer than it should, she allowed him to rest his head upon her lap once more. At first the room was silent, but as Marinette weaved those wonderfully skilled fingers through his golden locks Adrien knew he was a goner. Claws softly kneading on jeans and a deep purr rumbling from his throat made his ears twitch in the most innocent of pleasures he could derive from her touch. He'd almost been lulled to sleep from Marinette's soothing pets, but she'd spoken before the wonderful darkness could envelop him entirely.

"I'm hungry," she said as she scooted away from her desk, Adrien following on his knees. "Do you want something?"

"Hm?" Adrien's vision had become hazy from her scratches. Focusing on Marinette's face, he blinked a couple of times to allow his gaze to become clear before backing away from his classmate. "You almost made me fall asleep. You know the best spots." He rubbed his sleepy eyes, grinning up at the designer. "If you're offering food, I'm not refusing."

Marinette chuckled as she stood from her chair, ruffling his mop of blond hair. "Then I'll be right back. Stay here and don't touch anything."

"Don't trust me alone in your room?" Chuckled the cat, watching her slip down and out the trapdoor that led to the lower levels of her house.

"Absolutely not!"

"I'm hurt."

With a roll of her eyes, Marinette disappeared below the floor, leaving Adrien to his lonesome in her wonderfully warm and pink room. Being the curious cat that he was, Adrien took the opportunity to explore. He'd been in Marinette's room a few times before, but the time to take everything in had never really been presented to him.

Standing, Adrien allowed himself to take a brief walk around, eyes scanning the walls and the little surprises they held upon them. A few posters for various Fashion Weeks around the world, some design inspirations here and there (many from his father's copious collections), pages torn from magazines with little notes written in her adorable handwriting—in which every "I" had been dotted with a heart, he noticed, and handmade flower decals hidden behind a dress form, which was currently adorned by some sort of scarlet fabric.

Intrigued, Adrien took a closer look at the design, running a delicate finger along the red cloth that had been draped over the chest and back. A few black spots here and there, sewn in at such a professional level that Adrien was sure that Marinette must have the steadiest hands in existence. The design looked familiar, almost as if he'd seen it before—and he had. Realization struck him as he gazed over the red fabric, his heart skipping a beat in his chest. Marinette was working on the Ladybug and Chat Noir designs he'd so excitably fawned over as Adrien. Even by what little progress she'd made so far, he knew these were going to be absolutely stunning.

Adrien couldn't wait to tell Ladybug.

"Hey!" Marinette's voice from behind startled Adrien, his ears perking up straight. How had he not heard her approach? "I said no touching."

"My apologies, princess," Adrien said, sheepishly scratching behind his neck. It was a nervous habit. "I was just in awe over those designs. You made that yourself? I-it uh, it looks like it'll be a Ladybug pattern."

Marinette's eyes widened. "Oh. You saw."

Oh, right. She had wanted it to be a surprise. "Was I not supposed to?"

"Well..." Sighing, Marinette placed two plates atop her desk as she sat back in one of her chairs, looking a bit red in the face. "It was supposed to be a surprise, but you haven't really seen too much. Anyways, I brought some cinnamon apple pie. My papa made it just before he went to bed." She slid the plate towards him. "Try it."

"You don't have to ask me twice." Adrien's mouth watered simply at the sight of the slice she'd given him. He couldn't imagine how amazingly wonderful it would taste. The generous portion was quite a pleasant surprise as well. "This is all for me?"

"What do you mean?" Marinette cocked an eyebrow as she took a bite of her slice. "Of course it is."

"Wow," Adrien breathed, gazing down at the deliciously tempting piece of pie as if it was his newborn child being presented to him for the first time. It was all for him, all of it, and he could eat it without feeling guilty. Marinette and her family had officially just become his favorite people—besides Ladybug, of course. "Thank you."

"Well?" giggled his classmate. "Are you going to stare at it or eat it?"

"Eat it," he answered as he shoved a bite in his mouth, unable to suppress a tiny moan of delight from the flavors that exploded upon his tongue. It was the perfect mix between sweetened spices and decadent fruitiness that the taste was almost sinful. Marinette's father was definitely one gifted man. "Holy shit."

"Language."

Says the girl who shouted "fuck" so many times last Saturday that I lost count, Adrien snickered in thought, chewing on his food with a grin upon his face. "Excuse my potty-mouth."

"You're excused," she chuckled as she lifted her gaze from her plate to meet his glowing green eyes. "I take it you like the pie?"

"I would marry this pie because I love it that much."

Marinette's face contorted into a laugh as she practically choked on her pie. "When's the wedding?"

Adrien's lips curled upwards into a smirk. "Tonight."

"Oh, I'm sure," Marinette said with a roll of her eyes. "It'll be all over the news: Chat Noir marries a slice of pie. Ladybug's heart is broken."

Surprised, Adrien cocked his head to the side, unable to suppress his smile. "Oh, I'm sure my dear bugaboo wouldn't mind. She doesn't like me that way."

"Hmm," Marinette hummed, "maybe not."

Deciding that was it of that subject, Adrien chuckled and ate the remaining bite of his food, feeling incredibly lethargic as he leaned back in the chair and placed a hand upon his stomach. "I don't think I've eaten anything that good in years. Years, Marinette. Tell your dad that Chat Noir is going to be a regular customer."

"You're serious?"

"Completely. I'll come in suited up and I will pay full price."

"Now that would be quite a sight," Marinette laughed as she took his plate and fork, standing from her chair. "I'm going to put these plates in the sink and I will be gone for less than a minute. Can I trust you or do I need to set up security cameras in my room?"

Adrien used his finger to draw a metaphorical halo above his head. "I'm a trustworthy kitten."

"I don't believe you, but I'm going downstairs anyways."

With each step she took farther away from him, the more Adrien wanted to follow her and wrap her into a gigantic hug from behind. He felt grateful that she'd let him in, even when in a sour mood. Not only that, but she'd pet him, fed him, and treated him like a friend. It warmed his insides and made his chest feel as wonderful as the cinnamon apple pie had tasted.

While sitting obediently in one of her pink desk chairs, Adrien allowed his vision to explore without moving his body from its spot. She'd asked him to stay put, so he would obey. Taking another stroll around her room would certainly risk temptation to touchy-touchy.

His eyes scanned the room once more, taking in the joyously bright colors that brought a fuzzy feeling of security. Marinette's room was exceptionally different from his own: color, vibrancy, warmth and personal touches that made it obvious it was lived in and appreciated. It wasn't for show, as his was. Although, barely being able to have friends over didn't exactly give him the opportunity to show it off, even if he'd wanted.

Adrien thought his room was awesome, of course; it had everything a teenage boy possibly want. An endless amount of video games, several consoles, a flat screen TV and the best computer money could buy. Thousands of books on thousands of subjects, most of which he'd read already, and a whole bathroom that was bigger than Marinette's room entirely. The Jacuzzi tub was certainly enjoyable after a difficult akuma battle, but it was definitely a lonely room to reside in.

One day he'd share his room with his friends. One day.

Marinette's room was incredibly cute, homey, warm and just...Marinette, through and through. At the moment, it was slightly messy; fabrics strewn across her desk and the floor, a few scented candles that had long since burned out scattered around, a pair or two of clothes in the corner, and...a few balls of yarn sitting so still on her desk, huddled together as if they were cowering in fear just from the mere presence of a cat in the room.

Adrien's ear twitched.

He shouldn't. He wouldn't. Claws gripped the side of the hot pink chair.

"No." He shut his eyes tight as he eyed the wonderfully colorful and soft balls of yarn, tail thrashing. "No, no. Nope."

Yes.

Slinking to the floor, Adrien's pupils blew wide as he crouched on all-fours, shaking his rear as he prepared to pounce on some very unsuspecting yarn balls. Their fate would be his fangs.

With a leap, he pounced atop Marinette's desk and batted them off, sending all three rolling to the wooden floor, where they were incredibly vulnerable to his claws and teeth. The pink one caught the most of his attention with its vibrancy and plushness. Leaping down from the higher ground, he caught it in his hands and gave it a smack, sending it flying across the room. Tail held high, Adrien stalked the increasingly smaller ball of yarn, attacking it with ferocity. It didn't stand a chance!

"Chat Noir!"

As he turned, Adrien was met by Marinette's horrified expression, her eyes bulging in shock. "My yarn! My room!"

Oh, her room. A sea of yarn decorated what had once been Marinette's cheerfully warm room and papers from her desk had been scattered onto the floor from his pounce. Adrien hung his head in shame, tail tucked between his legs like a scolded kitten. Even he himself was covered from head to toe in pink yarn.

He'd made a mess.

"I leave you alone for two minutes," His classmate sighed, surveying the chaos. It was easily cleaned, sure, but he'd still made it. "You're like an actual cat, you know?"

"I'm sorry." Standing up straight, Adrien pulled the yarn off of his person, balling it up in his fists. "I lost control for a moment there. I'll clean it. "

"I don't just want that yarn balled up," she told him as she took the clump from his hands. "I want it raveled. Let me show you."


They'd finished cleaning her room around twelve in the morning. Adrien had made the mess just before eleven.

It wasn't that the room was so messy it took that long to clean it. They'd just become so distracted with little games, like who could make the most baskets of balled up paper into the wastebin from across the room—which Adrien had won, since he did play basketball, after all. Marinette had taught him how to properly ravel yarn, which was a lot more fun that it seemed; so fun that Adrien had unraveled and raveled the pink ball of yarn four times before he grew bored with it.

He'd helped her pick up the rest of her room as well, even the messes he hadn't made. Together they'd organized her piles of fabric and put away slips of paper that Adrien noticed were notes for her various classes. When he'd gone to pick up some of the clothing strewn about, he'd come across ladybug-print panties, which had caused Marinette's face to become redder than the undergarment itself. Adrien had simply laughed and let her take them away.

He wouldn't allow himself to picture his classmate wearing them. Adrien was a thinker of pure thoughts (mostly) and those kind of images of Marinette would not be tolerated.

(Mostly.)

By the time twelve-thirty rolled around, Adrien had found himself relaxed upon the positively plush chaise towards the end of Marinette's room, where the lighting wasn't as strong. It was incredibly soft to lay on, especially in his current position: on his side with his head propped up on a pillow, gaze focused on his classmate as she hand sewed more black spots onto the Ladybug shawl.

The way her hands moved in skilled practice made a smile tug at the corners of Adrien's mouth, pulling his lips upwards into a grin. That girl was so full of talent that he couldn't help but admire her. The way she moved, her facial expressions and how intricately her fingers wove the fabric together were all so mesmerizing that he'd caught himself nearly drifting off twice.

"Getting sleepy, kitty?"

Adrien hadn't realized he'd closed his eyes until they were snapping open to look at his friend across the room. "Mhm. Long day."

"I can tell. Your voice is all raspy." Tying the knot on one of the threads, she moved to the next spot, beginning to sew it to the red fabric. "I'd tell you to go home but it's pouring outside so you're free to stay until it stops."

The sound of rain tapping heavily against the rooftop hadn't even caught Adrien's attention until she'd mentioned it. "I'm too tired to move anyways."

"Do you usually- ow!" He watched as Marinette stuck her finger in her mouth, glaring down at the needle she held in her other hand. "Do you usually stay up this late?"

"Needles can be pricks," snickered Adrien as his friend shot him the same glare she'd used on the needle. "But no. I'm usually in bed a lot earlier than this. Busy life; early to bed and early to wake. Makes me look good but socially dead."

"Well, you get social interaction with Ladybug." Marinette stifled a yawn as she finished sewing another black spot to the shawl. "And me. Even if it's only going to be once a week."

Adrien hummed in response, his eyelids incredibly heavy as he watched his classmate work. He wasn't aware that his eyes had been opening and closing in longer intervals. The sound of Marinette speaking to him rang in his ears but he couldn't quite find the energy to answer. Rain making its own tune against the roof relaxed him into a comforting rhythm of shallow breaths and quiet purrs.

When he reopened his eyes, the room was black save for the soft yellow glow of the nightlight by Marinette's bed. Lifting his head from the pillow, Adrien glanced around as his night vision adjusted, taking in the layout of the room. He was still on the chaise. Marinette had turned out all of her lights and gone to bed.

As he moved to sit up, something fell from his shoulders and into his lap. Upon closer inspection, Adrien noticed it was a quilt. A quilt he assumed Marinette had made herself. A warm, pink and white quilt that had most likely been hand stitched. Wrapping it around himself, Adrien sighed, leaning his head into the wonderful smell it possessed. Lavender and vanilla, Marinette entirely.

A soft murmur caught his attention and caused his gaze to shift from the quilt to Marinette's bed, where a lump of blanket lay. Whatever she was mumbling in her sleep was certainly causing her to shift.

She's dreaming. Adrien let out a tiny sound of amusement. I wonder what about?

He hoped she was having a good dream and sleeping well.

Maybe she'd sleep better with someone to hold on to.

Adrien knew he would.

He'd always been a natural cuddler, unable to control his arms and legs as he slept at night. Upon waking in the mornings, he usually found himself curled around a pillow or, on the rarest of occasions, having Plagg snuggled up against his chest or neck. It was something him and his Kwami never said anything about—they both knew they enjoyed the close contact, even if Plagg pretended it was revolting to be so close to a human.

Laying alone on the chaise was not satisfactory. In fact, it was quite chilly. Lonely. A simple quilt (no matter how beautifully made) would not keep Adrien warm.

The sound of Marinette's sleepy mumbles and memories of her legs wrapped around his own made Adrien's heart ache with the desire to curl up beside her. He wanted to relax into her scent, to feel her skin against his lips, to count the hundreds of freckles that decorated her rosy cheeks. Maybe if he got close enough, if she'd allow him, he could discover how it would feel to kiss her.

Standing from his spot on the chaise, Adrien stealthily climbed the ladder to her bed, peeking his head over the mattress. Marinette's sleeping form caused a smile to appear on his face as his cheeks became slightly redder. So beautiful, even in slumber. From what he could see that wasn't covered by a cocoon of blankets, Marinette's hair had been let loose, black strands pooling over her shoulders and onto her pillow. She lay on her side, curled up into a little ball, her arms wrapped tightly around some type of pillow or stuffed animal.

Adrien felt jealous of its placement. He should be the one that Marinette was clutching onto.

Tail twitching, he inched into the bed slowly, careful not to disturb his sleeping princess. Each time she shifted, he froze, waiting for her to still before he took the opportunity to slip underneath her covers and join her in the bundle of blankets. A toasty warmth enveloped him as his arms found her waist, hands connecting around the small of her back.

"Chat Noir..." Marinette's quiet and groggy voice startled him. He could feel the vibration in her back as she spoke. "You were perfectly fine on the chaise."

"I wasn't," he whispered, nudging his head into her neck. "I was lonely."

Marinette hummed in response and Adrien grinned as he felt her hands run through his hair and play with his cat ears. A purr rumbled up from his throat, much quieter than the one he'd emitted before, but still soothing to his exhausted body. Now that Marinette was touching him, staying awake would prove to be a difficult task.

He fell asleep to the gentle hum of his purr and Marinette's fingers stilling upon his head.

As he woke in the morning, he found that her hands had yet to move from his person. They'd become entirely tangled throughout the night, his tail wrapped around one of her legs that had somehow weaved its way between his own. His head rested within her neck and one of his hands had somehow placed itself upon the bare skin from where her shirt had ridden up. Never before had Adrien desired so badly to take off his gloves.

With a reluctant sigh, he decided he needed to leave before her parents woke and found Chat Noir in bed with their teenage daughter. That'd surely end up on the Ladyblog and Ladybug would never let him hear the end of it.

As he shifted his body away from his friend's, Marinette whined softly, her arms reaching out for him. Adrien grinned, giving her hand a gentle squeeze before pressing his lips upon her knuckles.

"Shh," he whispered, stroking the back of her hand with a gloved thumb. "I'll see you again soon."

"You better," she mumbled before burying her head back within the cloud that was her pillow.

Adrien chuckled. She'd be seeing him again sooner than she expected. He'd promised her yesterday that he'd come over Saturday and of course, the chance to see Marinette was one he would never pass up. He'd be with her all day long if her could, as both Chat and Adrien.

Climbing down from her bed, Adrien eyed the balls of yarn one last time before spotting a blank piece of paper sitting contently on her desk. Maybe he'd leave her a doodle—no, Adrien knew he couldn't draw very well—perhaps just a note. Grinning, he waltzed over to her desk, where he picked up one of her fuzzy pink pens and tapped it against his chin as he pondered what to write for her. He hated to leave without much of a goodbye; Marinette had been too tired for a proper one.

He smirked as he wrote out a brief note upon the paper, adding a small (and badly drawn) doodle of a winking cat. Well, to him it looked like a winking cat. Marinette might think it looked like a walrus. To him, it was a cat.

Once the note had been written, he took his leave out the circular window, making sure to close it before he vaulted himself off across the city.

The thought of curling up next to his classmate instead of leaving had been too tempting. One day, he knew for sure he wouldn't be able to bring himself to part from her beautifully sleeping form. One day, he'd bury his head deeper into her neck and allow himself to drift back off into slumber. One day, he'd beg her to lay for five more minutes before she needed to be off. One day, he'd feel her shift and move out of bed as they tended to the crying of their b-

Woah.

Adrien halted in his tracks, gazing wide-eyed at the city below. Had that thought really passed his mind?

Don't get ahead of yourself. She's only a friend.

A friend that he wanted to smother with kisses. A friend that he wanted to wake up to every morning and lie down next to every night. A friend that he'd do anything just to be able to taste her lips. A friend that he wouldn't mind spending the rest of his life with.

Fuck.

It was official. His fantasies with Ladybug had entirely shifted over to Marinette.

Shaking the thought from his mind with a sigh, Adrien opened his baton to check the time. Seven-fifteen A.M. His internal alarm clock had awoken him early, per the norm. He didn't mind, though; he did like for watching the sun rise. He only wished Marinette could join him.

You're in too deep.

He was.

He didn't care.

Adrien Agreste had fallen for his adorable classmate and there was no turning back now.

He felt no regret as he climbed in through his bedroom window after spending the night with Marinette. There was nothing to regret. They'd done nothing wrong. They had slept together, in the most innocent form. No kissing. No inappropriate touching. Nothing more than hugs and friendly snuggles.

Adrien chuckled to himself as he destransformed and fed a hungry and complaining Plagg. Friendly snuggles. As if the desire to drown her in kisses had been all platonic.

"You are too confusing," Plagg groaned as he swallowed a hunk of Camembert. "That's why I like cheese. No complex emotions like you humans have."

"Marinette smells better than cheese," Adrien said simply as he slipped off his shoes, flopping backwards onto his bed, which bounced from the sudden contact. "She smells like flowers and sweets."

"I don't know why you insist on visiting her as Chat Noir. Don't you see her enough as Adrien?" Plagg's voice was muffled from the food in his mouth.

"She likes Chat Noir." Adrien let out a soft yawn. "Also, I don't think she'd be too happy to have Adrien crawling through her window past midnight."

"You won't know until you try."

Adrien snorted. "Doubt it. Besides, she…she acts different around Chat Noir than she does Adrien. When I'm suited up she doesn't have to watch what she says and she isn't nervous or babbling. She's sassy and isn't afraid to be silly or to tell me to go away. It's weird."

"Humans are weird in general." Plagg downed the last bit of his cheese with a small burp. "I don't understand you creatures and I'm far more complex than you could ever dream to be."

Rolling his eyes, Adrien turned his gaze to the large windows, which had become foggy from the morning mist. The position of the sun reminded Adrien that breakfast would be ready soon. His stomach growled as a clue that he'd need to saunter downstairs soon to grab something to eat.

Marinette probably made good breakfast.

"Ugh," Plagg groaned, popping up on his shoulder. "You're doing it again. You get that stupid look on your face when you think about her."

Adrien sighed, shaking his head. "You don't understand what love is."

"Who says I don't?"

Giving his Kwami a disbelieving gaze, Adrien snorted. "Yeah, I bet."

"Trust me, lover boy," Plagg said, giving the side of his chosen's cheek a flick with his tail. "I know more than you think."

Shaking his head, Adrien pressed his hand against the glass of his window, which chilled his fingertips from the touch. Letting his mind wander, a sigh passed his lips at the sight of sunlight casting a bright orange glow upon the side of buildings, playing off the textures and bouncing onto their surroundings. He found himself thinking of the rare early mornings where he and Ladybug were rudely awakened by an akuma and sent to fight just as the sun had risen. His heart thumped in his chest.

Adrien's lips curled downward in a frustrated frown. He hadn't felt his heart beat for Ladybug that way in what seemed like forever; he was almost positive that the feelings for her had been replaced by…

Oh, Marinette. She'd told him that he could come over. The thought wiped away Adrien's unhappy expression, replacing it with one of content excitement. At least he had something to look forward to for the weekend instead of Sunday's busy schedule. Sundays were usually always busy.

After some breakfast (where Nathalie had slipped him an extra croissant—one from Marinette's bakery) and a shower, Adrien checked his phone for the first time that morning and found that he'd been left a few messages from Nino, Alya, and Marinette. His heart froze in his chest as he opened up his crush's first, eyes scanning over the the words at lightning speed.

Oh. Maybe his hopes for a cute good morning text had been too high.

Marinette, 9:02 A.M.: [ hi Adrien, Alya invited herself and Nino over so now we're gonna hang out as a group and work on our project for a bit, hope you don't mind! ]

Of course he didn't mind. Spending time with all of his friends at once would definitely be more than fine. In added positivity, Adrien had been dying to spend some quality time with his friends, especially Nino—they rarely got a chance to hang out anymore besides school. The fact that Marinette and Alya would be there as well was a major plus. The only downside was that he couldn't flirt with Marinette while his friends were there.

Well, he could. Adrien just knew better than to attempt any sort of flirting with Nino and Alya around. Those two would lock both him and Marinette in a room until they admitted their feelings.

Adrien flushed deeply just at the thought.

Shooting a text back saying that he excited, Adrien sat in his computer chair and spun, letting out an elongated sigh as he checked the other texts. They both basically said the same thing; all of them were equally looking forward to spending the day together, even if some of their time was going to be filled with schoolwork. The agreed meeting time was one. In an attempt to at least spend a little alone time with Marinette, Adrien made a mental note to arrive thirty minutes early.

Adrien assumed that time they'd reserved to work on the project would be nothing but paper wads being thrown, distraction from video games and each other, as well as food (food!) and Adrien's envy over the fact that he couldn't kiss Marinette the way that Nino kisses Alya.

Okay…that was a new thought. Their relationship was never something he'd been envious of. Sure, occasionally Adrien desired to have his own version of their happiness, but that odd feeling of want he felt when he thought of a relationship hadn't occurred before.

He'd ask Marinette if he was brave enough.

With a defeated sigh, Adrien tapped his fingers on the surface of his desk in frustration. He could save cities, save lives, face the danger of battle and risk his life weekly, but he couldn't confess how he truly felt to a girl?

Ladybug would surely laugh if she knew he was having such a difficult time with this. Adrien could practically hear her giggling. All of that confidence around me and you can't ask a normal girl to be your girlfriend?

Remembering back to yesterday afternoon, Nino's words rang in his head: "I'll be a good wingman."

There was no other better opportunity to be a wingman than a day where all four of them would be in the same place other than school. Marinette's house.

Adrien groaned, letting his forehead smack against the desk. Please, for the love of Hawk Moth, don't let Nino embarrass me.

Worrying himself over useless little anxieties due to his feelings, Adrien groaned and searched desperately for anything that would rid his stomach of the uneasy queasiness. He found distraction in rewatching episodes from his favorite animes and munching on snacks Nathalie had brought him, thankful that his father's assistant cared for him enough that she'd noticed his sweet tooth and had recently been slipping him treats in secret.

Every ten minutes, Adrien checked the clock. Each time, the hands had moved less.

That stupid clock was taunting him. One o'clock couldn't come slower.

He didn't know why he was so excited to see his friend when he'd just spent the entire night with her. Perhaps it was that he'd be seeing her as Adrien. Perhaps it was that he'd get to see those twinkling blue eyes. Perhaps it was because Marinette never blushed around Chat Noir like she did Adrien.

Oh, god, his heart couldn't decrease its speed. He was in too deep. His cheeks burned as he buried his head within his palms, a soft sigh escaping from him.

If he thought he'd been in love with Ladybug before, these new feelings for Marinette had him fucked.

Chapter Text

Empty sheets and a chilly pillow met Marinette's fingers as she ran them across her mattress. The feeling of warmth she'd cherished so much upon waking had faded, leaving a vacant tangle of blankets instead of a lithe body lying next to her. Disappointed, the designer lifted her head from the comfort of her pillows, squinting open her eyes at the harsh sunlight that seeped in through her skylight and bathed her bed in a shimmering yellow glow. As she surveyed the unoccupied spot Chat Noir had filled the night before, a low sigh caused her shoulders to droop. He was gone. Had he said goodbye? She couldn't remember.

How badly she missed the gentle prick of his claws against her spine made Marinette blush. Sleeping next to him had become a comfort that she embarrassingly desired nightly, and it had only happened twice.

By how cool the abandoned sheets felt, Marinette could tell he hadn't left recently. The cat must have made his leave at sunrise. If he'd said goodbye, the memory slipped her mind. Sighing, she buried her face within her pink comforter, eyes fluttering opened and closed. The blankets still smelled like him.

No matter how tempting it was to stay in bed all day, Marinette knew she had to get up eventually. Her parents expected her down in the bakery to help frost a rather large cupcake order a client had requested for some sort of event. At least she didn't mind frosting cupcakes too much; sometimes it could even be fun. If she was careful, every now and then Marinette would allow herself to sneak a taste. Her Papa made the best buttercream.

With a large yawn, the teen stretched her arms before climbing out of bed, untangling the knots in her hair with her fingers before throwing some clean clothes on and going for a brush. As she gazed in the mirror at her vanity, Marinette nearly grimaced; she'd certainly seen better days in her appearance. Wearing mascara to bed always left blacks marks under the eyes.

Fixing herself didn't take too long. Just as she was about to saunter on down to the bakery, a slip of paper on her desk caught her eye. Confused, Marinette cocked her head and approached the desk, eyebrows raised in curiosity. Hadn't she and Chat put away all of the scattered papers the night before?

Upon closer inspection, Marinette's eyes widened as they scanned over the surprisingly neat handwriting that graced the paper. It was a note from Chat Noir. The burning in her cheeks made Marinette glance away before she could read it entirely. Chat Noir had been making her experience a whole lot of blushing lately and she wasn't too pleased with the fact that someone other than Adrien could turn her cheeks so positively red.

The only way she knew without a doubt that Chat Noir had written the note was the cat doodle near the bottom of the page. At least Marinette learned something new about her elusive partner from his note: drawing definitely wasn't on his list of talents.

She let out a soft breath before lifting her gaze to read over the note and not get flustered over his beautiful handwriting. Chat Noir should not be allowed to write that pretty. Chat Noir's personality did not fit his handwriting! The cat wrote perfect cursive like some romantic god!

Before she became completely enthralled by his penmanship, Marinette read over the note quickly, eyes frantically scanning the paper. She didn't want to look at it longer than needed. Red cheeks were all too common around boys with blond hair and green eyes.

"I'll see you again soon, princess. Sooner than you realize."

What could that even mean?

'Sooner than you realize.' Well, that's not creepy at all.

Scoffing aloud, Marinette shoved the note within her desk drawer and sighed, deciding to head down to the bakery before she could delve on the mysteries of Paris' famous black cat any longer. That boy was too hard to figure out and she didn't want to spend her day getting a headache over her partner whom she did not have feelings for.

Deny. Deny. Deny. It's the only way.

Downstairs, she gave her mother and father a kiss on the cheek before slipping on her signature pink apron and getting to work in the bakery kitchen. She'd ditched the black jacket for today; no use having it get stained from buttercream.

Marinette grinned fondly as the memory of her Papa teaching her to frost cupcakes at the age of six came to mind. She'd been too short to peer over the counter, so on top of it she sat, a piping bag in her tiny hands as she messily coated mini cupcakes in excessive amounts of buttercream. That was how she liked it; little Marinette was a sucker for sweets. Big Marinette was all the same.

Since then she'd picked it up naturally and was as good (if not better) than her father's decorative skills. Yes, Tom Dupain was the baker, but Marinette Dupain-Cheng was the bakery's best decorator. Nobody could frost cupcakes as neatly and quickly as she could. She'd even embroidered a cupcake on her apron just for the title of "cupcake master", given to her by none other than Papa himself.

This particular client had ordered one-hundred of three different types of cupcakes each, leaving Marinette with plenty of piping bags and bowls full of three different flavors of buttercream to work with. It wouldn't take her too long, but help would surely be appreciated although it was nowhere to be found. With her father baking the second batches and her mother working the front counter, Marinette was left to frost and decorate the first two dozens of red velvet by herself. Stuffing the piping bag full of cream cheese frosting (her favorite), she began over the first batch by moving her hand in quick circular motions, earning the perfect swirl atop the delicious treat. One down, twenty-three to go. For now.

Three-hundred cupcakes are a lot of cupcakes.

She had barely finished the first dozen before two more batches of cupcakes were done in the oven, ready to be cooled and frosted. A soft sigh passed Marinette's lips as she gave her a father a wide grin full of confidence. He'd slipped in for just a moment to place the recently cooled trays of two more dozen cupcakes upon the counter before kissing his daughter on the cheek and heading out to bake some more.

It was a busy day for everyone at the bakery. Customers up front, orders in the back, frosting at the decorating table. Marinette hadn't even acknowledged the familiar warm voice that came with the chime of the shop bell before it was speaking directly to her.

"You look busy."

Snapping her head up, Marinette squeezed a little too hard on the piping bag in surprise, causing vanilla frosting to drown an innocent cupcake. Adrien. Adrien had arrived early. Again.

Not that she minded, but... Frosting cupcakes and entertaining her guest at the same time would be slightly difficult. The thought of Adrien watching her frost and decorate cupcakes didn't seem like it'd be the most exciting thing to happen to him all week.

"Y-Yeah," Marinette sighed, swallowing the nerves and fighting to still her shaking hands. She'd had full conversations with Adrien before and yet the nervousness occasionally lingered for some reason unknown. "Pretty busy. Big order today, it's… It's a lot of work."

Adrien leaned over the counter, watching as the strawberry cupcake suffocated underneath the mass of buttercream. "I think you killed one of them."

A tiny snort came from Marinette's nose as she gazed at the unfortunate cupcake. "That was your fault."

"Mine?" Grinning, Adrien shifted his eyes from the treat to meet hers, letting out a small laugh of surprise. "How was I responsible for the death of a cupcake?"

Marinette shrugged, the corner of her mouth tugging upwards. "You startled me."

"My apologies," The model chuckled as he glanced at the spare apron hanging on the wall. "Do you need any help?"

"...Uh," Following his gaze, Marinette blinked, mentally reminding herself to loosen her hold on the piping bag before another cupcake was murdered in cold blood. "I'd take you up on that offer, b-but… Do you know how to frost cupcakes?"

Adrien had already began tying the apron behind his back before he answered, his lips stretching into an excited smile. "I used to a long time ago. My mom liked to bake. Trust me on this."

Of course she'd trust him. Marinette had almost as much trust in Adrien as she did Chat Noir. He couldn't be that bad at frosting cupcakes.

"Okay," She said as she handed him the piping bag and placing her hands upon her hips. "Show me what you can do."

Honestly, Marinette hadn't known what to think as Adrien began piping beautiful rosettes on top of the cupcakes. They were absolutely perfect. Although he wasn't as fast as she was, he certainly had the skill to show off. She figured he'd be either awful or mediocre at frosting cupcakes, maybe even good, but certainly not have it mastered.

Was there anything that boy couldn't do?

Crossing her arms in amazement, Marinette blinked, eyebrows raised high on her forehead. "Well," She breathed once Adrien had finished four cupcakes that were so perfect she almost wanted to frame them. "You certainly know what you're doing. When was the last time you did this?"

Adrien scratched at the back of his neck as he smiled, obviously falling back into a pool of memories. His face softened and his eyes grew distant; he must have been thinking about his mother. "About three years ago. I'm by no means a professional, but-"

"We can sell these, that's what's important." Without further adue, Marinette grabbed a second bag full of chocolate buttercream for herself and grinned, feeling the weight of having to work alone slide off of her shoulders. Adrien's help would surely cut the work time down by half, if not three times. Both of them frosting at once would be beneficial.

"You know," Adrien's voice made Marinette look up from her work. "Of all the things I do, none of it is really my choice. I play piano, speak Chinese, fence, model, but it's not my passion. This, however," Another perfect rosette atop a strawberry cupcake. "I like this. It's fun."

"Maybe you can add baking to your list of talents," She suggested, shooting her crush a grin. Her cheeks reddened as he returned it with a kind smile. "Really. I could teach you."

"I wish," Sighed the model, running a hand through his sunny blond hair. "I don't think my father would want me touching sweets with a ten-foot pole, let alone making them myself."

"It can be our little secret," Marinette's eyes lit up with the possibility that she could teach none other than Adrien Agreste how to bake in private. Maybe she'd be smooth enough to come up from behind him and grab his hands to guide him while they piped drop-lines on cakes, which in turn would make Adrien turn around and kiss her from gratitude. His lips would taste like vanilla, because they would have been snacking on the deliciously sweet buttercream instead of working. She'd discover that it tasted better on his lips than it did the cupcakes when her tongue-

"Marinette?"

Oh, god, how long had she been zoned out? When had her cheeks become that red? Could cheeks burn that intensely from blushing alone?

The way Adrien was looking at her with utmost concern upon his gorgeous features made Marinette's legs turn to jelly. She gripped for her life on the piping bag until her knuckles turned white, hands trembling with the thought of taking his own and teaching him everything she knew about decorating. Her throat suddenly felt very dry as images of Adrien kissing frosting off of her nose weaved its way into her mind, replacing every coherent thought and keeping her lips sealed in a tight thin line. She didn't trust her voice at the moment.

"Marinette, the frosting."

"H-huh?" Upon looking down, Marinette realized she'd immersed yet another cupcake, this time in chocolate buttercream. Their process had certainly slowed instead of doubled. "Oh…"

"You killed another one," Adrien's amiable tone made the burning sensation in her cheeks grow intensely. "These other cupcakes had better watch out for your evil hands."

"I-it was-... I didn't mean to-... An accident-" Her voice cracked as she glanced frantically around the room, trembling fingers curling against the plastic of the bag. "I don't know what's wrong with me."

Adrien chuckled. "It's alright, I won't call the cupcake police. Your secret is safe with me."

Mon dieu, that smile could kill. Marinette felt her heartbeat running marathons in her chest as he looked at her with those summer green eyes, sunshine and grassy fields dancing within his gaze. A warmth ran down her spine and into her stomach, which sent a fit of shy little butterflies to flutter around restlessly in her chest. You're over this. You can hold a conversation with Adrien. You can talk to him.

Heat coiled its way from her face to her neck and ears as she felt Adrien's hand lay atop hers, his palm brushing her knuckles. Fuck.

"Are you alright?" His voice was so delicately soft that Marinette swore he was speaking pure silk. "You look sick."

"Fine!" She squeaked out, flashing him a bit too wide of a toothy smile. "Let's frost these cupcakes before Nino and Alya get here! Make it a race! Whoever finishes first gets to, I dunno, eat one of the extras or something…"

Her voice hadn't cracked that badly since the beginnings of puberty.

"Oh?" Adrien's eyebrow quirked as the corner of his lips tugged upward in a smirk. "I am desperate for one of these cupcakes. You're on."

By the time the three-hundred cupcakes were entirely frosted, Marinette and Adrien's cute pink aprons were covered in three different flavors of buttercream. Marinette hadn't been lucky enough to leave the battle without some scars; cream cheese frosting had settled on her cheek and a dollop of vanilla on her nose. Adrien's face was perfectly clean (as usual) yet his white overshirt had certainly felt the heat of war, stained with chocolate.

They hadn't fought like they did with the flour two weeks prior, but Adrien had apparently found it hilarious to pipe words or symbols upon her apron when she wasn't looking. Marinette had simply returned his declaration of combat before her crush left his victory flag of vanilla frosting atop the tip of her nose.

Then their eyes met. Adrien's wonderfully warm summer greens locked so intently on her own blue. He raised his arm, a hesitant hand reaching forward to hover in front of her freckled face. When his finger swiped the buttercream off of her skin and popped it into his mouth, the pink of his tongue against his skin like a tease, Marinette's legs trembled so severely that she must looked as if she was vibrating. The simple touch had set her into a fit of sizzling scarlet. Adrien Agreste should not have been looking at her as if he thought she would taste just as a good as the frosting.

He'd definitely won the extra cupcake.

"Y-y-you, uh," Marinette swallowed dryly, passing her crush one of the overly-frosted cupcakes as her cheeks tingled. "H-here."

"Oh, thanks," Adrien didn't seem to have any clue what he'd just done to her as he took the cupcake in his hands. Internally, Marinette had been set ablaze, the butterflies in her stomach withering into flaming akuma that beat their sinister wings against the walls of her insides. She wasn't sure if she was going to throw up or scream as she wiped the frosting from her cheek; maybe both?

"Yikes, my dad is going to kill me!" Adrien's worrisome tone startled the designer, causing her gaze to shift from the floor and land on her crush as he slipped off his overshirt. "If he sees that I stained this then he won't let me come over here ever again."

"I-I can wash it," Marinette cleared her throat to rid the waver in her voice. "Let me see."

With a nod, Adrien passed over the article of clothing into Marinette's hands, who grinned nervously. Don't look at his arms. Don't do it.

She did it.

Her eyes met his hands, observing every detail from his knuckles to the silver ring he always wore on his right ring finger. Travelling up his forearm, her breath hitched once her gaze made its way from his elbow upwards, where his perfectly glowing and soft skin looked more muscular than she'd noticed before. With his overshirt off and nothing besides a thin black T-shirt to cover his biceps, Marinette couldn't bring herself to look away. Those arms were mesmerizing. Maybe, if he'd let her, she could reach out and feel-

"What did we miss?"

Marinette didn't know what kind of noise came out of her mouth as she turned and met the teasing expression of Alya. Arms crossed with a quirked eyebrow, the journalist gave her best friend a smirk and her familiar tell-me-everything gaze. Nino stood behind his girlfriend, grinning stupidly at Adrien.

Of course it would look weird to be holding Adrien's overshirt and staring at his arms. Of course Nino and Alya had decided to arrive at the very moment Marinette was ogling his arms. She'd never live this down!

"How long have you two been standing there?" She squeaked out, eyes turning downcast to the floor.

"Long enough to see you two looking at each other like you're more appetizing than the cupcakes," Alya snorted, "you guys are a mess."

Emotionally or physically? Probably both.

"I know," Adrien laughed, scratching at his neck nervously. Alya hadn't spared him from experiencing burning red cheeks. "She was just taking my overshirt to wash it. We, uh… We were frosting cupcakes and things got a little out of hand."

"I can tell," Nino chuckled.

"I'll be right back," Marinette wasn't sure if anyone had heard her. Her voice had squeaked out such a quiet reply that when she slid out of the room, she feared Alya would follow her for friendly interrogation (if such a thing existed.) A sigh of relief slipped passed her lips as she went upstairs and placed Adrien's overshirt in the washer with bleach, her heart pounding forcefully against her chest. Whatever had happened between her and Adrien back there, whatever had caused her crush to act in such a way, she wanted more of it. The glow in his green eyes reminded of her something nearly odd, like a cat that had cornered a mouse and was preparing to pounce. It wasn't Adrien, but more like another blond-haired green-eyed boy she'd been thinking about a bit too much lately.

The thought made a small laugh rise from her throat. Adrien was the absolute last person that could ever be behind Chat Noir's mask. Too kind, too shy, too smart, even.

Yet…

Chat Noir had shown so much kindness towards her when he helped clean her room for no other reason than the fact that she needed it. Chat Noir had been shy about apologizing for being awkward. Chat Noir knew exactly what he was doing just by looking at the physics homework and gave her correct answers.

Marinette's throat suddenly became very dry.

"Marinette!" Alya's voice rang from the other room. "We're gonna head up to your room, okay?"

"I'll be right there!" She called back, running out of the laundryroom to meet her friends. Adrien had waited for her by the stairs, his hands in his pockets and eyes soft as he looked at her. "Oh, th-thanks, Adrien."

"No problem," Adrien replied, smiling as they walked up the stairs to her bedroom.

The four settled in a circle on the hardwood floor, supplies for their project scattered about the group. Posterboard, notebooks, highlighters and pens were arranged messily with history textbooks in a skewed pile. Each project group in the class had been assigned a different country to research, and the four of them were given China. Thankfully, combined with Marinette's mother's knowledge and Adrien's ability to speak Chinese, the project wouldn't be anything near unbearable.

They'd barely cracked open their textbooks before Sabine had popped up through the trapdoor, presenting her daughter and friends with sandwiches and cookies for lunch. Marinette felt thankful for her mother's thoughtfulness; she'd forgotten to eat breakfast due to the cupcake order and her stomach begged for something to fill it.

While they ate, the four gathered notes from their textbooks to the best of their ability, which proved to be more difficult than it needed due to the constant puns flying back and forth from Adrien and Nino. Puns. Adrien likes puns.

Just as the pun war had faded, the group lapsed into a comfortable silence, but quickly Nino seemed to find entertainment in tossing chocolate chips in his girlfriend's direction and causing quite the distraction. Marinette snorted as Alya swatted him and tossed the chocolate chips right back at him. Their play seemed to have caught Adrien's attention as well, his green eyes lit up in humor as his friends tossed chocolate chips back and forth. Marinette giggled as he trailed the little bits of chocolate with his eyes. When he turned his gaze to her, Marinette grinned shyly, raising a curious eyebrow as Adrien's lips curled upward into devilish smirk that sent a shiver down her spine. If his appearance hadn't killed her already, the looks he kept giving her surely would. She watched his hand as it reached for a cookie, picking out a large chunk of chocolate that Marinette was sure he was going to eat until he tossed it in her direction. It hit her right on the tip of her nose.

"Hey!" She laughed, flicking it right back. "Nino, Alya, you're encouraging him."

"Don't blame them," Adrien said as he caught the chocolate in his hands with incredible reflexes that a person normally shouldn't be blessed with. "I'm doing this for fun."

"Don't," Marinette warned playfully as he raised his hand, preparing to throw the chunk of chocolate back at her. Her forewarning hadn't phased Adrien it seemed; he tossed it in her direction and laughed as it bounced off of her cheek, right onto his bundle of notes he'd written so neatly. With a determined smirk, Marinette went to reach for the chocolate, but froze as her eyes connected with the information her crush had written on his paper. Frozen like ice, she stared long and hard at the notebook, her fingers curling against her palm so tightly that she felt her nails press deeply into her skin. Her teeth worried at her bottom lip and her lungs stilled without the intake of oxygen.

Adrien's handwriting was eerily similar to Chat Noir's.

Almost identical.

No, that's not weird. Lots of people have similar handwriting.

She swallowed nervously and slowly slid her gaze up to meet Adrien's, who was staring at her with an expression almost as surprised as her own. Of course he'd look surprised. She'd just become frightened by his beautiful handwriting. That was something someone could think was a little surprising.

"Marinette?" His voice soothed her nerves. "Are you alright?'

"Y-yeah," She breathed, tearing her gaze away from his notes. "Sorry, it's just… You have nice handwriting. It's... Pretty."

Before she could speak another word and embarrass herself further, Marinette shoved her sandwich in her mouth and took a large bite so that she'd be chewing for a while. You're just overthinking things, she told herself, Adrien isn't Chat Noir. There's no way he could be. Adrien isn't like him. They're two entirely different people!

There was no feasible way Adrien Agreste was in any universe, shape, or form Chat Noir. None whatsoever. None!

"Marinette," Alya's voice broke Marinette from her thoughts, bringing her back to reality. "You're staring at that textbook like it just murdered your parents. What's wrong?"

"N-nothing," She whispered, her voice breathy and quiet as she flipped through the pages mindlessly. "Ah, where were we? Imperial period?"


Although Marinette was mostly spaced for the majority of the afternoon, the group had managed to get an impressive amount of progress on their project out of the way. A gentle rain had began to shower down on the city of Paris, eventually picking up into a summer storm full of wind and harsh droplets that chilled the busy streets. Rain had been almost a constant lately in the city of lights and love; daily, ominous grey clouds blotted out the summer sun and made the air feel chilly instead of pleasantly warm.

The four had retired to the couch downstairs, where Alya and Nino battled on Ultimate Mecha Strike III to see who could get the higher score. The two had been absolutely shocked to find that Adrien's name was the top on the scoreboard instead of Marinette's, which had caused the designer to become quite red in the face with the memory of how exactly that had happened.

"Adrien is a cheater," She chuckled, shooting the blond boy a grin. Adrien took a break from shoving his hand into a bag of chips to give her a thumbs up, his lips stretched into a wide smirk. "A dirty cheater."

"I won fair and square," He said once he'd swallowed his mouthful. "I swear."

"Just yesterday you admitted to cheating," Marinette crossed her arms as she narrowed her eyes, her grin widening. "What's the truth? Are you a cheater and a liar?"

"I'm neither," He shoved another handful of chips into his mouth. "You could have easily ignored it."

"How?" She ducked as a chip was thrown at her, giving Adrien a very unimpressed cock of her eyebrow. "What is it with you and throwing food?"

Alya, the ever-so protective mom friend of the group, turned her gaze to Adrien just as he flung another barbeque chip in Marinette's direction. "I'm siding with Mari on this one, Adrien. I know what you did and I totally think you cheated."

"What'd he do?" Nino's curious tone made Marinette blush from the memory. Adrien's lips pressed against her heated skin had felt like delicate rose petals upon her cheek from how gently the contact had been. And that was only the first time those scorching lips met her face. The day before in the rain was a whole another story.

"He cheated by kissing Mari on the cheek," Alya snickered, "right when she was about to win. Distracted her good."

"That's evil," Chuckled Nino as his gaze flicked to his girlfriend, who was in the lead with significantly higher XP. Marinette watched in amusement as he leaned in, his lips puckered as he prepared to plant a kiss upon Alya's cheek—yet he didn't quite make it. Before he could carry out his plan, Alya shoved him back, waving a finger in his face.

"Hey, no, that shit doesn't work on me, babe."

A grumble from Nino caused a laugh to bubble up within Marinette's throat. If only her and Adrien could share that type of affection.

Just as Alya had nearly claimed victory, the power flickered and sent the TV to turn off before it switched back on, leaving a very disappointed and frustrated journalist to gasp and cross her arms irritatedly. Marinette knew exactly how it felt to be so close to winning, only for the triumph to never meet her fingertips. She pitied her friend.

"The storm's getting pretty bad out there," Marinette's mother's voice grabbed the attention of the group as she walked into the kitchen and began sifting through the refrigerator. "I'd feel horrible to make you kids go home in weather like this. How about you all stay for dinner?"

Adrien jumped in his seat, his head whipping around so quickly that Marinette was sure he could have given himself whiplash. The way he gazed so hopefully at her mother from the mention of dinner reminded Marinette of a kitten when it hears the sound of a can opener. Ears perked, eyes wide, tail fidgeting. All he needed was Chat Noir's outfit to complete the look.

But Adrien is definitely not anything like Chat Noir.

"I'd like that," The blond replied, flashing her mother a grin. "I'd like that a lot."

"Us too," Alya said as she smiled, shooting a glance at Nino. "There's no way we can refuse your cooking, Mrs. Cheng."

Marinette giggled. "I think we'd all like that, maman."

It didn't take long for dinner to be prepared. The group had been distracted by several video games; mostly Nino and Alya playing while Marinette and Adrien watched. Both Alya and Nino had practically refused to even try playing against the champion with pigtails due to their knowledge on her amazing skills. Marinette had only smirked and rolled her eyes at the comment while Adrien laughed. He knew firsthand how skilled she happened to be at video games.

By the time Marinette's mother called them into the kitchen for some homemade pasta, the four teens dug in, chatting at the table (Marinette sitting next to Adrien!) on various subjects like school and upcoming events. Somehow in the conversation (which the subject changed faster than Marinette could get a word in) the topic of Ladybug and Chat Noir had come up. Alya gushed about the latest akuma attack and how amazing the duo had been when taking down the angered librarian. What she felt most excited about, however, was the fact that Ladybug and Chat Noir had emerged from the same building. The same exact ice cream parlor Marinette had been eating at with Adrien on their date (if that had even been considered a date.)

"Did you see anyone that looked like them?" Alya inquired, eyes glinting with a sparkle of hope as she stared at her best friend. "Anything?"

"Uh," Marinette twirled her fork within her pasta, stabbing a piece of chicken that lay on top of the spiral noodles. "Not really, no. There was one blond guy in the back but he looked like too much of an asshole to be Chat Noir."

"Marinette, watch your language," Her mother warned, raising an eyebrow.

A tinge of red appeared on Marinette's cheeks as she apologized to her mother. "I-I mean, no. Sorry, Alya."

"But that's just so weird," The journalist went on, brown eyes blown wide in confusion. "They came out of the same place you two were in and you didn't see anything?"

"To be fair, when we heard people screaming we kind of made a run for it," Adrien put in after he'd swallowed a mouthful of pasta. "Didn't really have time to look around."

"I wish I could have been there," Alya sighed, "I can't believe you two were in the same room as them. Do you think they were on a date too?"

"Probably," A grin spread across Adrien's face. "Everyone in Paris knows they've got a thing for each other."

Marinette nearly choked on her pasta. She'd forgotten that Adrien happened to be quite the Ladynoir shipper. The thought almost made her cringe. "You think so, huh?"

"Of course," The blond replied, "you can tell just by the way he looks at her. She's practically his whole world."

Marinette couldn't bring herself to reply. She made a simple snort and turned her gaze to her pasta, stuffing a piece of chicken in her mouth so that she had an excuse to keep her lips sealed. If Ladybug was Chat Noir's entire world, then Marinette had certainly taken over half of that planet and planted a flag to mark her territory.

My territory? She internally grimaced.

"What?" Adrien's tone almost seemed as if he felt… Hurt, over her soft rejection of the idea that Ladybug and Chat Noir were a "thing." Shipper boy has it bad.

"It's nothing-" Lights out. The entire room suddenly became pitch black as the howling wind buffeted the side of the bakery and rain cracked against windows. A flash of lightning illuminated the family's surprised faces before the room faded into inky black, thunder rolling in the distance. As Marinette raised a hand to her face, she realized she couldn't even see two inches in front of her.

"Power outage," Her Papa sighed, followed by the sound of a chair squeaking against the floor and heavy footsteps. "I'll get the flashlight and go find some candles."

"This storm got pretty bad," Maman chimed in, "I wonder if it's safe for you four to go home tonight."

Alya's voice came from across the table, muffled from what Marinette assumed was chicken pasta. "I think my mom would feel better if I just stayed here tonight. Is that okay?"

"You know I have no problem with Marinette's friends staying over," Said Sabine, a chair creaking as she presumably stood. "Nino? Adrien? What about you?"

Marinette blushed heavily just at the thought of Adrien staying the night in her house. The entire night. At her house. Probably in her room. She hadn't realized how badly her hands trembled until a warmth enveloped them, larger fingers curling around her own and sending a positively electric shiver up her arm and down her spine. It took her a belated moment to come to terms with the fact that it was Adrien who was sitting next to her and Adrien's hand that reassuringly stroked her own. A nervous knot formed in her throat and forced back any words she could fathom within her buzzing brain. Adrien is holding my hand. Adrien grabbed my hand. Maybe Adrien is scared. Maybe Adrien is afraid of the dark or storms.

"Hey," His voice was quiet and warm against her ear. "You're shaking. Afraid of bad weather?"

"N-n-n-" She swallowed. "N-no."

"Are you sure?" He had such a soft and reassuring tone as he gave her hand a gentle squeeze. "It's alright. Storms scare me too. I'm sure the power will come back on eventually."

Marinette nodded, but quickly fought to find words as she remembered that he couldn't see her. "Y-y-yeah, eventually."

Once her Papa returned with a flashlight and lit some candles around the kitchen, the group could finally see each other again. Faces irradiated by a dull orange glow so familiar and comforting as the storm raged on and doused Paris in stinging raindrops. Marinette felt incredibly grateful to be safely nestled inside her warm home with a group of people, and frankly, she felt glad that Adrien was there, too; sure, his house was large and definitely had the necessary protection against a brutal storm, but he would have been alone had he been back at the Agreste mansion. Spending a power outage by his lonesome in such a spacious home would have been terrifying, even for the most brave of people.

"I'll have to call Nathalie," Sighed the model as he scratched at the back of his neck. It was an adorable nervous habit Marinette had noticed not too long ago. "Hopefully she'll be understanding. I'd rather be here than at home."

"Well, you're all welcome to stay," Her mother responded in a kind and cordial tone. "We've got plenty of room."

"Y-yeah," Marinette cleared her throat to rid her voice's shakiness. "My room is big enough for all of us, I think…"

She looked up as her Papa handed her an unopened box of tiny pink candles and a flashlight, both eagerly waiting to be lit. "Marinette, how about you take some candles to your room? I don't know when the power is going to come back on."

Nodding, Marinette took the box and excused herself from the table, thankful she'd finished her meal before the lights had shut out. A benefit to being a fast eater. It became increasingly difficult to see the farther she walked from the kitchen, and as she made it up the stairs, she smacked her foot against the bottom of a step and slipped, tumbling backwards about four steps down. It wasn't a terribly high fall, but it certainly didn't feel good to have her rear smack against the floor as she landed from her flight. Slightly dizzy, Marinette groaned, her cheeks turning pink as she realized that her friends had witnessed her fantastic acrobatics.

As was Marinette's clumsiness, always rearing its ugly head in the worst of times.

Adrien had seen her fall twice now.

"Marinette?" Her mother called from the kitchen. "Are you alright?"

"Do you need someone to go with you?" Alya asked.

"I'll go," She could see a figure scooting out from his chair and pushing it back in (how polite) before approaching her and holding out a hand. Adrien, the gorgeous gentleman that he was, gave her a friendly smile as he took her hand in his own. "Stairs just aren't your friend, are they?"

A giggle rose up from Marinette's throat as she stood, noticing how Adrien hesitated for a moment before releasing his grasp on her hand. "No, they're not."

With Adrien holding the flashlight, Marinette could see where she was stepping much easier and made it up to her bedroom with ease. As she opened her trapdoor, a wave of blackness hit her like a cloak of dark wings, beating against her vision as it attempted to focus. Adrien passed her the flashlight and as she shone it into her bedroom, the dull yellow glow pierced through the cloud of black like a knife as blustery wind made the house shake. It was mostly memory that guided her throughout her room while they placed and lit candles, perching them upon her desk, vanity, and windowsills. It didn't fully illuminate the room, but it was enough to see Adrien's wonderfully warm green eyes gazing down at her with the fondest expression she'd ever seen grace his features.

"Your parents are kind to let us stay," He said in a soft voice, lighting the last candle they'd set on one of her ladder steps. "You don't mind?"

Marinette shook her head in response. "No, I've always wanted to have a big sleepover with all of you, but… When I pictured it happening, the power is on."

A quiet chuckle came from the blond boy standing next to her as his fingers brushed her knuckles. "Still shaking?"

Her cheeks became hot and it wasn't just from the flicker of candlelight. "N-no, I'm okay now."

"Good," The blond replied, stroking the back of her hand with his thumb. "That's good."


Resisting the urge to bring Marinette's hand to his lips had been a difficult task for Adrien. Any time their skin brushed it sent a spark to course through his body and shock his heart into a beating frenzy. Her delicate hands felt so soft and silky to the touch, as if her skin itself was a velvety vanilla that would surely taste as sweet as it felt. Smooth, freckled and especially pink when she blushed, he wanted to kiss every inch of her skin that he could get his lips on.

It wasn't long before Alya and Nino joined them in the dim bedroom. While the power was out, the four didn't have too much to keep them occupied; they couldn't see well enough to work on their project and with no electricity, video games, movies, and music were certainly out of the question. They settled on the floor in a circle, throwing ideas on how to entertain themselves back and forth until seeking amusement seemed futile. What do teenagers even do without power?

"Well," Alya chuckled, "the candles are perfect for a Satanic ritual if we are truly desperate."

Adrien snorted with laughter at her suggestion, his eyes crinkling shut. I guess I got my answer. "I don't think that's a good idea, Alya. I'm pretty sure Marinette doesn't want demons in her home."

"I don't," The girl in question responded with tinkling laughter in her voice. "Think of something that won't ruin my life, please."

"'Ruining your life' gives me an idea," All eyes turned to Nino as he spoke, who was staring at Adrien with the biggest, most asshole-ish smirk he could muster. "We could admit secrets to each other. Maybe something a little embarrassing that we don't want another person to know about? Or something we do want another person to know about?"

Alya snickered next to him, lips stretching into a smirk of her own. "Ooh, I like that idea, Nino. I think Marinette should go first."

"Why me?" The designer squeaked. Even in the dull light of the room, Adrien could tell she was blushing profusely. "I-I've got nothing like that to admit!"

"Sure you do!" Alya sing-songed, resting her chin on her palm as her expression turned sinister. "Surely there's something you have to tell someone in this room right?"

Nino chuckled. "And you, too, Adrien."

Adrien swallowed nervously as he glanced from Nino to Alya, who exchanged knowing looks. Looks that Adrien had learned meant they were plotting. "Wh-what's the fun in admitting something like that if we don't want anyone to know about it?"

"Fine," Alya sighed as she adjusted her glasses. "I'll go first, but Marinette has to go after me." Clearing her throat, she sat up straight and grinned, pondering for a moment before a visible light bulb appeared over her head. "Nino, did you know that I have a crush on you?"

"How coincidental!" Her boyfriend replied, pressing a hand to his chest as he feigned a surprised gasp. "I have a crush on you, too, Alya! It's almost as if we're both mutually crushing on each other without even knowing it."

Adrien shared an uncomfortable glance with Marinette. What were these two up to?

"See, now, is that so hard, Mari?" Alya said as she cupped her friend's chin in her hand. "Admitting secrets isn't hard!"

"I-I have no idea what you're talking about," Marinette replied, unable to meet her best friend's teasing eyes.

"Maybe Adrien does, hm?"

All eyes turned to him. He felt his skin crawl and burn with the heat of their gaze, his cheeks becoming embarrassingly red. "What are you getting at?"

Nino and Alya visibly deflated into annoyed scowls. All they had done was made him bashful and uncomfortable. When his eyes landed on Marinette, he could tell she felt the same.

At least they'd dropped the subject. After a brief awkward silence, the group resorted back to simple conversation that went from dwelling on the mysteries of the akuma to their favorite foods over the course of an hour and a half.

By the time the power flickered back on, they'd learned some interesting little facts about each other. Marinette's worst fear happened to be losing the ones she loved. In return, she'd learned that his was fire. 

Adrien's mind buzzed with all of the newly gained knowledge of his talented classmate. She loved summer, despised the winter (it made her too sleepy to function), enjoyed cartoons and hated sour candy. She also admitted to stealing multiple phones, and Adrien couldn't help but wonder if she'd been responsible for his missing phone earlier in the year.

Now, with the power back on and their eyesight restored, Marinette had popped in a movie and sent Alya and Nino downstairs to retrieve some popcorn, leaving Adrien to take a small stroll around her room. He'd done it plenty of times as Chat Noir, but now that Marinette wasn't supervising him like some naughty little kitten, he could walk about more freely.

After a quick call to Nathalie explaining the situation and practically begging to stay the night with Nino (yes, he'd lied—if his father knew he was staying the night at a girl's house, he'd be put in a chastity belt), his eyes landed on a sparkly pink case resting against the wooden post that held up Marinette's bed. Cocking his head in curiosity, he gave it a gentle nudge with his foot, leaning down to get a better look. "What's this?"

"Hm?" Marinette turned her head to peer at the case that had piqued his curiosity. "Oh, just a makeup kit I got for my last birthday. I've never really used it so I was planning on giving it to Alya, but-"

"Oh my god," Adrien breathed as he clicked open the clasps, lifting the top to gawk at the array of eyeshadows, mascara, and colorful eyeliners. It wasn't anything compared to the expensive top-tier makeup he wore for photoshoots, but it certainly interested him more than it should have. Excited him, even. "Let's use it."

"What?" Marinette's bubbly laughter made a grin spread across his face as his eyes met her own. "You can't be serious."

"I am completely serious. Absolutely."

As Marinette approached him, he gazed up at her with hopeful green eyes, silently begging her to comply. If it took Marinette applying makeup to his face just to get her a little closer, then so be it. He would be goddamn beautiful. "Make me pretty."

"You want me to put makeup on you?" She squeaked, eyes widening in surprise. "But you're used to professionals doing that, right?"

"...Yeah," He admitted sheepishly, "but I think it'd be fun. Besides, if you suggest it to Alya, Nino is totally going to end up with wicked winged eyeliner and honestly, I'm dying to see that."

"I guess that's true," His friend giggled as she sat next to him on the floor, running her fingers over the sparkly exterior of the kit. "She might make me put it on you too, though."

"It'll only make me cuter," He responded with a chuckle just as the other two reappeared up the steps with a bowl of popcorn in hand. "Isn't that what girls do at sleepovers? Put makeup on and look pretty? Because I want in on that."

"That's a stereotypical assumption," Marinette snorted, sharing a glance with Alya as she sat next to her.

"She's right," The redhead said, "that's not what happens. Usually Mari and I just strip down to our underwear and have pillow fights."

"Another stereotype?" Adrien asked with a grin as he popped a piece of popcorn into his mouth.

Marinette's laughter made his heart swell. So cute! "Yes, surprisingly. Actually, the last time Alya and I had a sleepover, she spent most of the night chasing Ladybug and left me here."

"I had to, girl," Alya replied in her own defense. "That villain was crazy! She was turning everybody into animals. I've never seen anything like it!"

Adrien nearly grimaced at the memory. He hadn't been on the luckier end of that battle. Shrinking down to nine inches tall and running around Paris on fuzzy black legs had done more bad than good. Crying out in tiny mewls and cries hadn't been very useful when attempting to communicate with Ladybug.

Still, he made an adorable black cat. At least the transformation came with a cute green collar with a little jingling bell and all!

"I still have some of the photos," The journalist continued, tapping on her phone before showing them to Marinette, who giggled in response.

"I remember," She said with a tiny laugh, "I saw. Actual cat Chat Noir, huh?"

"Yeah, he-" Alya turned her gaze from her phone to the open makeup case sitting in front of Adrien, who gave her a timid smile. "What were you planning to do with that?"

"Marinette was going to make me pretty," He responded in a chuckle.

"Pretty, huh? Are we giving the boys a makeover?" When Alya looked to her boyfriend, he nearly choked on his popcorn and his eyes seemed as if they were about to pop out of his head from how large they'd widened. "Please, Nino?"

"I'm not going to be able to say no, am I?" Groaned the DJ as he slapped a palm to his forehead, letting out a rather dramatic sigh of defeat. "Only for you, Alya, so long as I get to wash it off right after."

"Not before pictures," His girlfriend replied, "come here!"

When Adrien turned to look at Marinette, the shy smile that spread across her face made his heart melt. She seemed so apprehensive to touch his face with cheap makeup, but Adrien didn't mind in the slightest; he was there to stay for the night and they deserved to have a little fun after their date had been ruined the day before!

"Make me beautiful, Marinette," With a coy smile, Adrien scooted closer to the girl in pigtails, tapping his fingers on the sparkly case in invitation.

"That won't be hard," She said quietly through a giggle as she looked over the rainbow of eyeshadow. "You're already there."

The heat that spread across both their faces sent them to lapse into an awkward silence from the burning intensity of their blush. Gaze frozen on the hardwood floor, Adrien puffed out a small breath before allowing his eyes to meet Marinette's, which shifted back and forth nervously. Had she meant to say that out loud?

Probably not.

Still, it was a compliment he wouldn't soon forget.

"Well," Adrien began, letting out a light laugh. "Thank you, Marinette. I guess instead I should ask, can you make me even more beautiful?"

"I can try," Marinette squeaked, her lips twitching upwards into a tiny smile. "Wh-what do you want me to do?"

Adrien grinned. "Give me a cat-eye. Make me look fierce."


In all honesty, Adrien hadn't expected to look that good. Marinette certainly had some hidden talents in the makeup field. He'd worn eyeliner before and even professionals couldn't get the cat-eye to look as sharp and sexy as she had managed to! Alya had made a comment on how his appearance was practically sinful; the eyeliner paired with dark mascara and a smokey eye brought out the bright green of his eyes to make them appear almost as if they were glowing. To finish the look, Marinette had given him a nice red lipstick perfectly fitting for his skintone—a matte that certainly looked better than he initially thought it would. When he'd finally looked into a mirror, at first he'd laughed hard, but the longer he gazed at his reflection the more he began to admire himself. Adrien had never been one to mind wearing makeup; being a model it was something he wore regularly. This, however, filled him to the brim with confidence. He was ready to walk the runway.

Nino wasn't as captivated with his appearance as Adrien had been. Alya wasn't bad at makeup, sure, but poor Nino felt so uncomfortable with his "heavy" face that he'd immediately ran to the bathroom to wash it off before giving anyone the chance to explain that just plain water won't remove it. Adrien was stronger than that. Adrien would allow Alya to take as many pictures as she wanted.

As the hours dwindled down and the group calmed to watch a second movie on Marinette's computer, Adrien found himself sinking into the familiar comfortably plush chaise, reminded of the night before when he'd fallen asleep in that exact spot. He couldn't help but steal a glance at Marinette every now and then; his little crush just happened to be more interesting than the movie as she fiddled with stray pieces of fabric she must have pulled out earlier in the day. Her constant movement reminded him of a buzzing bug, full of energy she needed to expel. Whether she was tapping her foot or running her fingers along the smooth surface of cloth, she never stopped moving. Perhaps it was ADHD? He didn't know, but god, was it adorable.

The one thing he noticed she did more often than anything else was sneak quick peeks at her skylight. A twinge of guilt settled within Adrien's stomach as he watched her; every fifteen minutes or so he'd turn his eyes to her and she'd be gazing up at her roof with a mix of fear and hope sparkling within those beautiful blue eyes.

He knew exactly why she kept doing that. She was waiting for him. For Chat Noir.

Adrien sighed. She's afraid I'm going to come and let her secret out.

Around midnight, his eyes began to droop, and soon the scenes of the movie were jumping every time he blinked; the fight to stay awake wouldn't be won on his side. In a last attempt to rid the inevitable sleepiness, he rubbed his eyes, but froze as he instantly remembered the dark eye makeup that'd been unfortunately smudged. He gasped at the black streaks across his knuckles once he'd pulled away, his lips stretching into a tiny frown of disappointment.

"Shit," Mumbled Adrien as the group looked over. "Looks like I have a smokey face now."

A tired giggle from Marinette came from a few feet in front of him. She'd been sitting in one of her rolling chairs while the movie played and was now gazing at him with an amused yet sleepy expression on her features. "You know where the bathroom is."

Upon going downstairs, Adrien located the bathroom and washed off his face until it was clean of any sort of makeup. The feeling of relief that came afterwards only reminded of how tired he truly felt. A large yawn escaped from his body as he stretched, feeling the waves of exhaustion hit him like a truck. He knew as soon as he laid back on that chaise, he'd be out like a light.

And he was. The minute his body thumped against the comfortable furniture he'd curled up and slipped into such a deep slumber that even the fact that he was sleeping in jeans didn't bother him in the slightest.

In his sleep, images of his legs covered in black spandex tangled with the bare skin of another's made his heart pound and feet twitch. The wonderfully warm and soothing scent of vanilla mixed with lavender filled his nostrils and would have coaxed a deep purr out of his body had he been wearing a pair of cat ears and a swishing black tail. Adrien's head was a mess of thoughts; he wasn't sure what was going on and who was touching him, but the blur of black hair and the brush of pajamas draping onto his prickling skin felt so familiar that he couldn't bring himself to push the body away.

Pink lips connected with his cheek, soft and sweet. Smiling, Adrien made eye contact with the chilling icy blues that gazed at him so fondly while her mouth moved to his forehead, kissing him so gently, as if he was the only thing in the world she cared about at the moment. The shiver that ran up his body from those eyes wasn't the only thing that made his breath hitch; an audible gasp slipped out of his mouth as he felt her lips press a hesitant peck to his neck. It was a battle to keep his eyes open, but upon meeting those frosty bluebells, Adrien's heart froze within his chest. He knew those eyes.

"Ladybug," Adrien whispered, feeling a delightful twinge of excitement as his elusive partner ran a bare hand down his clothed chest.

Wait, but… A bare hand, with pale fingers and nails painted a pastel pink.

No, it wasn't Ladybug.

As the face of the delicious smell came into focus, Adrien's breath caught in his throat with the realization that the naked hand belonged to Marinette. The mouth that had kissed him so delicately had been Marinette's. The silken ebony strands that hung in his flushed face were nobody's else's but Marinette's.

"Adrien," Marinette's sweet voice tentatively whispered as she buried her face within his neck, nuzzling him. "I've wanted to tell you something for a while now..." Her scalding lips pressed a kiss to his collarbone, filling Adrien's body with a lovely heat that traveled from his cheeks to his neck and chest. "Promise me you won't laugh?"

"I p-promise," Adrien's voice cracked with a mixture of nerves and desire as he mentally prepared himself for her confession.

With a final kiss to his pulse that set off fireworks within his buzzing brain, Marinette's lips parted as she spoke in the silkiest, most tender voice he'd ever heard:

"Dude, move."

Adrien gasped as large hands gave his shoulders a shake. Those did not belong to Marinette. Snapping open his eyes, he glared at the intruder who dared to rudely awaken him from what could have possibly been the start of the best or most embarrassing dream he'd ever had.

Nino. Ugh. Dressed in what appeared to be pink pajama pants that seemed to be a little too short on his legs and definitely didn't belong to him.

"What?" Groaned Adrien, groggily lifting himself from his comfortable position on the chaise. "What time is it?"

"Bed time," The DJ responded as he plopped down next to him, stealing most of the space Adrien had been sleeping so peacefully on just moments before. "I called dibs on the chaise before you fell asleep and it's like, almost two in the morning. Alya and I are ready for bed."

"Why can't we just share?" Whined Adrien, not too pleased with the idea of having to sleep on the floor of all places.

"Because," Nino responded matter-of-factly, "you're a cuddler. I will never share a bed with you again. Waking up with your entire body latched around mine was an awkward experience."

A blush filled Adrien's cheeks as he removed himself from the chaise. He wasn't wrong, but… The floor? "Are you going to make me sleep on the floor, Nino?"

Nino laughed. "Unless you'd rather sleep downstairs, dude."

"You know," Marinette's weary voice caught his attention. How had she not fallen asleep already? "If you're being picky over sleeping arrangements, my bed is big enough for two."

"So is the chaise," Alya butt in, turning to Nino. Adrien assumed that the white pajama shirt adorned by pink bunnies she wore didn't belong to her, either. Was everyone wearing some part of Marinette's pajamas? "So let me in there."

"Wait-" Marinette watched in horror as her best friend slid in next to her boyfriend, who welcomed the redhead with open arms. "Alya, I meant for you to sleep with me."

"Sorry, Mari," Alya apologized, looking somewhat guilty, "but I never get to cuddle Nino when our parents are around. You know how they are. Let me have this for one night."

Adrien watched as the couple got situated and comfortable, leaving a shyly mumbling Marinette to stare at him through her lashes. Her fingers fumbled together as her gaze shifted nervously around the room, eventually stilling on the skylight a moment longer than she'd intended (Adrien could tell; the way she looked away with embarrassment turning her cheeks pink almost made him pity her.)

"It's alright, Marinette," He said in a reassuring tone, rubbing the back of his head awkwardly. "I can sleep on the floor, really. It's okay."

"N-no!" The designer squeaked before clasping her hands over her mouth. "I-I mean, n-no, the floor isn't… I have enough room. I would feel mean i-if you… I have plenty of…"

Her voice had trailed off before she'd even finished her sentence. If she knew I was Chat Noir, she'd have no problem with me sleeping in her bed, Adrien laughed in thought as he gave his friend a thankful smile. Sleeping next to Marinette would definitely be better than the floor. "Are you sure? I don't want to intrude."

"It's f-fine, I promise. Did you, uh..." She whispered, tucking a loose strand of midnight hair behind her ear. She's even cute when she's nervous. "Did you want something comfortable to sleep in? I-I know my pajamas won't really fit you, but uh- maybe they will. The bottoms, that is. They'll be short b-but uh, I have extra, if you-"

"That would be nice," He responded before she could nervously ramble herself into an embarrassed quiet. "If you don't mind."

With a nod, Marinette rushed to her dresser and pulled out a pair of black sweatpants, pushing them into his hands once she'd approached. "They're kind of big on me so they should fit you. Bathroom is uh, downstairs- yeah, you know where it is."

Well, Marinette was right; the sweatpants fit relatively well, save for the length. The fabric was cozy and soft against his legs as he walked up the steps back to his classmate's bedroom and the feeling alone made Adrien want to curl up in bed with her already.

By the time he popped his head back into Marinette's room, he found that the lights had been turned out and she'd already crawled into bed. Memories of the night before flooded his mind; when he'd woke up, it'd looked just like this: dull, yet full of warmth. Much like Chat Noir had, Adrien climbed up the ladder to her bed (the same exact bed she willingly let Chat into twice now) and peeked his head over the mattress. He caught the sight of a phone light, and as he climbed a bit higher, Adrien could see Marinette's delicate features illuminated by the soft white glow. She hadn't noticed him yet—or, she had, and was simply pretending he wasn't there.

"Hey," He whispered, his lips curling into a shy smile. "Can I come up?"

She nodded as the white light faded. "Y-yeah."

He needn't wait for her to say it again. Crawling up into her wonderfully plush bed, Adrien hesitated for a moment before approaching; constantly he reminded himself that this was not Chat Noir climbing into Marinette's bed, it was Adrien Agreste, and he needed to act as if he wasn't used to curling his arms and legs around her petite body.

"Hi," He breathed once he'd finally worked up the courage to lie down next to her. He'd yet to pull the blanket over himself. "You okay? Not used to boys sleeping in your bed?"

Okay, maybe that hadn't been the right thing to say.

Yeah, definitely not the right thing to say.

Poor, unsuspecting Marinette practically choked on air as her face filled with shades of pink and red, blue eyes blown wide to the size of saucers. A hand clapped over her mouth—the same hand whose fingernails were painted that alluring pastel pink and the same hand that had run down his stomach in the dream that Adrien suddenly felt guilty about.

"Sorry," He apologized, looking away nervously. "That was out of line, I-"

"It's okay," Came the sweet reply. "I'll answer that question with a no, I am not used to having boys in my bed."

Adrien chuckled. She even lies well. "You're not uncomfortable?"

Marinette shook her head, draping her blanket over his form. He hadn't even thought of how chilly he'd felt without it. "Not much. I'm just more accustomed to having Alya sleep in my bed."

"Hm," He hummed, "she left you for a boy. How unfortunate."

"I know, I'm totally breaking up with her. I thought what we had was special." Marinette turned her head with a smile. "You hear me, Alya?"

Adrien laughed as Alya's voice rang from below. "You'll always be in my heart, Marinette. Now shush and go to sleep, I'm tired."

"Yes, maman," Marinette giggled, "whatever you say."

"Don't let Adrien cuddle you too hard," Nino called, "he hugs really tight in his sleep. Once he grabs hold he will not let go."

With a sheepish smile, Adrien let out a nervous chuckle, shyly meeting Marinette's gaze. She didn't seem to be uncomfortable, but even in the dull luminescence of her nightlight he could tell that her cheeks were a rosy red. "Ahh, yeah, I… Kind of can't help it. It's a little embarrassing. I usually wake up with my arms wrapped around a pillow."

"It's okay," Marinette said as she risked one last glance at the glass trapdoor, her eyes sparkling like the stars that hung in the midnight sky. "I really don't mind. I-I'm kind of a cuddler myself..."

With a grin, Adrien let a content sigh slip past his lips as he relaxed into the familiar pillows he'd come to hold so fondly within his heart. As soft as a cloud, smelling like sweets and flowers, reminding him that he was once again comforted by the feel of Marinette's bed. Marinette's bed.

"Your bed is really soft," He whispered, the heaviness in his eyes fighting to lull him to sleep. "I like your bed better than mine."

"Yeah?" Yawned Marinette, rubbing a sleepy eye. "I like it, too."

Adrien hummed in response, feeling as if one-hundred pound weights were attached to his eyelids. "I'm… exhausted."

It took his classmate a moment before she could open her eyes and responded, her voice low and quiet. "Mhm… Me too…"

"I'm going to beat you two with a pillow if you don't shush," Grumbled Alya from down below.

"Sorry," Adrien grinned as he and Marinette responded in unison. "I guess that's our cue to go to bed."

"Yeah," Giggled the blushing designer, her baby blues shining brightly in the dim light of the room. "Goodnight, Adrien."

"Goodnight, Marinette."

With a final yawn, Adrien allowed himself to give in, the dense milkiness of sweet sleep rolling over his muscles in waves. His body stilled, arms and legs becoming one with the bed as they sunk into the cloud of mattress. A final hum left his body as a sigh blew out of his nostrils, coaxing his mind to fall into the wonderful darkness that filled him to the brim with feelings of contentedness.

He hadn't acknowledged the fact that his arms had coiled around Marinette's waist sometime in the night. He hadn't realized when his legs became a tangled mess in her own. He hadn't noticed when his face buried itself into her neck, lips brushing against the pale skin of her collarbone. In fact, he was so deep in his slumber that when a purr began to rumble within his chest, he'd been too wrapped up within his beautiful classmate to open an eye.

He also didn't notice gentle hands weaving through his hair and scratching behind his ears as the rumble vibrated in his throat so strongly that he wasn't sure whether or not Marinette had actually called him "kitty."

Chapter Text

Fuzzy.

It was the only word to come to Adrien's mind as his vision swam to focus amongst the billowing clouds that blotted out the city of lights.

The world was an ominous gray blur as a hot streak of white light sliced through the charcoal sky, followed by a deafening roar of thunder. An icy stillness had fallen over Paris. Chilly air buffeted street signs and tore unsuspecting leaves from their branches on trees, sending them flying through the deserted roads in tiny twisters. In the silence, a mighty crash of thunder shook the world with its powerful rumble.

The scent of rain filled Adrien's enhanced nostrils as he drank in the air, instinctively following his sense of smell and hearing while his eyes were out of commission. Save for a black ear twitching, he otherwise stood frozen in the middle of the street, his mind racing to make sense of the situation.

Pointing one ear towards his rear and the other forward, Adrien listened, listened for any sign of life; perhaps a stray voice or hurried footsteps as a civilian dashed to the nearest building when they'd caught sight of the brewing storm that raged above the city. Anything besides the crack of thunder would reassure his burning nerves.

Nothing.

Quiet.

Not a peep except for the devilish melody of a summer storm.

Adrien hissed in frustration, whipping his body around as he attempted to pick up any noise, any sound, any wail or cry or scream. He'd prefer shrieks of terror over eerie silence any day, and the chilling quiet that had settled over the normally bustling Paris did nothing to still his trembling hands.

The world was monochromatic black and white blurs that made Adrien's eyes sore from being so unfocused. Any attempt at bringing his sight back to its normal crystal clear was futile. No amount of blinking, rubbing his eyes or squinting could ease his predicament. Irritation settled within his stomach and boiled its way to his hands, which clenched and unclenched impatiently, claws pricking his palms. He needed to see. He relied mostly on sight. What was he to do if he couldn't use his eyes?

Shivering from the wind, Adrien sighed, extending his baton in preparation to vault off in another direction. No use standing around and doing nothing. Something was off, a problem he couldn't see (obviously), and Ladybug as well as all civilians were both out of sight and earshot.

Which is why he flinched when a voice rang in his ears.

"It must be thrilling to be a superhero," The voice whispered within the air, "but wouldn't you be better suited for a villain?"

Adrien spun, pupils thinning to tiny slits as his gaze frantically searched the vacant streets. "Who's there?" He called, voice hostile and ears flattened back against his head in a subtle warning. "Show yourself."

"Claws, fangs, the natural instinct to hunt," The voice hissed in his ear and laughed; something about it was so incredibly familiar yet Adrien couldn't place its origins. "Don't you think that you're a danger to the people of Paris? To Ladybug? To your friends and family?"

Adrien's eyebrows furrowed in frustration. "Who are you?"

A devilish laugh cut through the dusty air as a harsh wind picked up around him, sending dirt and debris to scatter along the road. Adrien huffed. Where the hell is Ladybug?

"You know me better than you think."

Even in the roar of howling winds, Adrien's magnificent ears could pick up the smallest tapping of feet against asphalt. A low growl rose within his throat as he turned, his vision filling with shades of red and somehow becoming blurrier. Nothing was in focus and the smell of dirt and dust was so strong that he couldn't pick up any other scent. Although his eyes were unfocused, he could see a single blob approaching him; the closer it stepped, the fuzzier and redder his world became.

"Don't you see? You're useless without Ladybug. You're not fit for a hero. Why don't you try embracing what you really are? A mangy stray."

"Shut up!" Adrien hissed as he pounced at the figure, landing a smack against its stomach with his baton and pushing it to the ground. A feminine gasp came from its blurry form as he pinned it to the street, black claws digging into flesh to assure that whoever this person—this thing wasstayed with its back flat against the rough floor.

"The epitome of bad luck."

Adrien's ears flattened against his golden hair in an attempt to shut out the vicious whispers that rang in his head. Growl deepening, he blinked furiously, desperately trying to see the face of the evil that taunted him. "Why can't I see?" He demanded, pressing his claws into the skin of his mental attacker. The metallic smell of fresh blood hit the air. "Why can't I see you?"

"You animal."

Strong hands pressed into his chest and sent him tumbling along the street. Adrien let out a soft yelp as his chin scraped against the gravelly texture of the road—no doubt it'd leave a mark from how badly it stung. Wiping his chin with the back of his hand, he hissed at the sight of crimson smudged along his knuckles and growled, lifting himself from the ground with a huff. Obviously the blur was another civilian taken victim by Hawk Moth, but that did little to explain the eerie voice or his inability to see clearly.

Letting out a heavy breath, Adrien stalked towards the unmoving figure, the growl in his throat rumbling all the way down into his chest and giving off a clear warning that he was about to strike. Surprisingly, the figure backed up a step before reaching for its side, pulling out an unidentifiable object that spun and glowed scarlet. Or, perhaps a different color; Adrien didn't know. Everything he saw was red.

The two stood straight, Adrien's tail lashing and the mystery person's red-glowing-thingy...Whatever, spinning in the air. Hackles raised, his claws flexed against his baton, tapping the cool metal impatiently as he awaited the blob's next move. A full-on attack? Smacking him with the spinning glowing thing? Who knew what this thing would try!

Perhaps if he waited long enough, Ladybug would show up and they could take down this akuma together.

Adrien held his breath as the fuzzy image of the person before his eyes lowered its weapon and placed it back upon its hip. What were they up to?

"Who are you?" Adrien growled, "What do you want?"

Its voice sounded so garbled Adrien swore he was underwater. It had spoken to him, but… He didn't understand a single word. Unintelligible babble was the only thing that fell off of its invisible lips.

"Now's your chance, nasty cat."

Adrien's eyes narrowed as the voice swam through his every thought. His muscles tensed and his shoulders prickled with the desire to sink his claws into this evil creature just to show Hawk Moth that he wasn't afraid of one of his akumas. One more word. One more word out of this asshole and I'll-

"You're pathetic."

"That's it."

Pouncing, Adrien landed atop the fuzzy blur and grunted as they fell to the floor, his weight holding the person pinned to the ground. With his teeth bared in a snarl, he lifted a hand in preparation to strike, midnight claws glistening from the rain that had began to shower down upon them. They rolled in puddles as they battled for dominance; whoever was on top had the upper hand (claw in Adrien's case) and could land a blow, provided they were given more than a second to hover above the other. He managed to land a scratch somewhere on this person, presumably the cheek, but he couldn't be sure—barely having sight was certainly a hindrance in battle. A single squeak of both pain and surprise made him flinch; although Adrien couldn't see, realization hit him the moment he felt muscles ripple underneath sleek fabric as they resisted his weight: this person wasn't fighting back, they were trying to stop him from harming them.

They were only trying to protect themself. In fact, the more Adrien thought about it, he recalled that they hadn't even made an advance on him. He'd been the one to attack first.

A breath slipped past Adrien's lips as he scampered off of the blurry black blob and shut his eyes tight, his heart thumping in his chest. Had he attacked an innocent? Had the fuzzy person not been the owner of the sinister voice?

"Chat Noir…"

Adrien swallowed painfully at the familiar voice. A voice he'd never heard so hurt. A voice he'd grown to know by heart since he'd first met her that day when she'd fallen right on top of him as he walked across his baton from building to building. A voice he'd fallen in love with and a voice he'd been trying so desperately to get over. A voice that belonged to his partner.

A voice that belonged to his injured partner.

Adrien's eyes stung with tears as realization hit him like a freight train. He could practically feel the impact against his chest, shattering his heart like feeble glass.

"Ladybug?" He whispered, blinking open his dampened eyes. The entire world filled with color and became crystal clear once again, but Adrien wasn't sure if he wanted to be able to see at the moment; he didn't know if he could face the sight of his partner, his best friend, injured because of his own stupidity.

"Chat Noir, you… You didn't know it was me, did you?"

He turned and immediately felt regret settle within the pit of his stomach as his eyes landed on the bloody scratches upon Ladybug's cheek. Tearing his gaze away from the dripping claw marks, he looked to her eyes instead, which sparkled with fresh tears. Tears that he'd caused.

"I'm sorry, Ladybug, I didn't… I wasn't in control-"

No response came as she pressed a hand to the thin lacerations, flinching from the touch. Adrien knew that had to sting; he'd learned from personal experience that his claws weren't exactly the dullest things in the world. As she pulled her bare hand away, blood painted her fingertips and dripped from the wound onto her black jacket. Tears pooled in her bright blue eyes and she let one or two slide down her stinging cheeks, leaving wet droplets upon her pink skinny jeans.

Adrien's breath hitched as he let his gaze travel from her legs up to her white floral T-shirt, following the curve of her neck until it finally landed upon the part where her mask should have been. A galaxy of freckles replaced the black spots he'd become accustomed to and instead of red ribbons within her silky black hair there were simple hair ties. The sickly feeling that resided within his stomach became so strong it almost made him heave.

"Marinette," Adrien choked out, "Marinette, you… It was you?"

"Adrien," His classmate whispered, wiping her cheek with her sleeve. "You're shaking."

"I-I," He gasped, surprised that she'd somehow known his real name. With a quick scan of himself, Adrien knew he hadn't destransformed, so why was she calling him by his civilian name? "N-no, it's Chat Noir, Marinette. Listen, I didn't mean to-"

"Adrien," Marinette's voice took on a slightly panicked tone. "Wake up, you're having a nightmare."

"What?" With a quick glance around, he felt sure that it was all real—it all looked real. "No, I'm-"

As his classmate approached him and placed her hands upon his shoulders, one bloody and the other clean, she gave him a shake, her eyes rid of tears and full of nothing but concern and fear. "Adrien, please-"


 "-wake up!"

Adrien's eyes snapped open as a startled gasp ripped from his sweating body. He shot up straight, sucking in breath through his open mouth and panting as he gripped the tangled sheets of his bed. Pressing a trembling hand to his chest, Adrien's eyes clamped closed as he felt how incredibly fast his heart was beating; he swore if it didn't slow he'd be rushed to the hospital for a heart attack. The intense panic that had initially jolted his body upon awakening began to fade as his sweaty palms released their grasp on the sheets he'd been sleeping under just a few minutes prior, fingers stroking over the familiar pink pattern.

A relieved sigh slipped past his parted lips. Marinette's bed, not his.

He was still in Marinette's room. As his panicked gaze shifted from their unfocused spot on the wall, he met the bluebells of his startled classmate, who stared at him with utmost concern across her features that were thankfully completely free of any harm. No scratches, no blood, no tears. The only thing that bothered him was that the poor girl looked worried beyond belief.

"Adrien?" Her quiet voice asked timidly. "A-are you… Okay?"

He nodded, swallowing to rid the dryness in his throat. "Y-yeah, I'm… I'm okay now."

"You were having a really bad dream," Whispered Marinette, her hand hesitantly reaching out before pulling back. Adrien frowned. Don't be afraid to touch me. "You were shaking and mumbling stuff in your sleep. You almost woke Nino and Alya. Do… D-Do you want to talk about it?"

Taking her hand in a gentle grasp, Adrien sighed, his breath finally catching up with the rest of his exhausted body. "No," He said with a shake of his head, "no."

"You're sure?" Marinette's bright blue eyes held nothing but care and kindness. She didn't deserve to be startled by him.

She didn't deserve to be hurt, even if it had only been a horrific dream.

Adrien wasn't sure what force compelled his arms to wrap around her thin frame and pull her body against his own. Hands secured on her back and his face in her neck, Adrien sighed, breathing in the familiarity of her comforting scent. Lavender and vanilla, a calming tranquility. The salty stench of blood had washed from his mind as soon as his face pressed into the milky smooth skin of her neck. Marinette tensed and he'd nearly pulled away, but before he could break their contact she coiled her own arms around his waist and nuzzled her nose into his tousled blond hair. Adrien felt the tension he held within his muscles dissipate to a relaxed, content state. Green eyes drooped until the lids shut.

"It's alright," Marinette's sweet voice brought him back to reality, a pleasant prickle running up his spine as her hand absentmindedly stroked his bony back. "I have nightmares too. Sometimes it helps to talk to someone about it so they can help you realize it wasn't real. Whenever I have a really bad one, I either call Alya or go to one of my parents." A light sigh blew from her nose. "Do you want to tell me?"

Adrien's lips tugged downward into a guilty frown. How would he explain that he saw himself, as Chat Noir, harming her as if she'd been Ladybug? "I-I don't know. It was weird."

"Aren't most dreams?"

"This one was different," His voice was barely above a whisper. "Can I use your bathroom first?"

Marinette nodded and released their embrace, her hands clasped together patiently. Adrien felt grateful for her consolation yet guilty for waking her. She might've been sleeping so peacefully…

As he stripped the blankets from his shaking body, Adrien descended down the ladder and carefully stepped around the room as to not wake the slumbering couple who cuddled on the chaise. Marinette's blue eyes burned into his back as he left the room, the stairsteps chilling his bare feet. A small butterfly night light cast a dim yellow glow along the living space below. It was a comforting silence and the low light made his bubbling nerves relax further.

The bathroom smelled of Marinette's soaps and the scented candles from earlier, sending a wave of exhaustion to crash upon Adrien's shoulders. A heavy sigh fell from his lips as he ran the tap, watching the water flow into the drain like a miniature waterfall before he reached his hands under the faucet and splashed the cold liquid onto his face. It sent chills down his spine and immediately woke him from his post-nightmare state. With a shiver, he wiped his eyes with his knuckles, running his fingers through messy blond hair.

That'd been quite the dream.

Two incredibly vivid dreams in one night that both left him feeling guilty. At least one had been more enjoyable than the other.

"Adrien?"

He flinched at the sudden movement out of the corner of his eye. Marinette stood in the doorway of the bathroom, her hand running up and down her left arm nervously as her gaze shifted from the floor to his own. Adrien's tired eyes stilled on her worried blues, which were as dull with exhaustion as his happened to be. Of course she'd be tired, he'd woken her up from his twitching and groaning.

"Sorry," He breathed, running a hand through his hair. "I'm just not feeling too great."

"Do you want to go home?" The tiny frown that her lips curled into squeezed his heart.

"No," He told her, "the last place I'd want to be right now is home. It'd be so much bigger there. Nobody to talk to."

Marinette nodded in understanding, her ebony hair brushing her shoulders as she did so. "Stay here," She said in a quiet tone as she went back for the stairs, slipping through her trapdoor without a sound.

Adrien blinked. Had she gone back to bed?

Just as he placed a foot upon the first step of the stairs, Marinette came back down, her pink comforter bundled up within her arms. A grin spread across Adrien's face as she walked past him with a tired smile, cocking her head in a motion for him to follow. He obeyed without a word, watching as his classmate threw the blanket onto the cozy couch in front of the TV.

"What's that for?" He asked through a yawn, stretching out his arms to relieve some of the tension still held within his muscles. The way Marinette pretended she hadn't just glanced at his stomach as his shirt rode up was adorable: her eyes had been on his skin for less than a second before she tore them away and switched on the television, her cheeks burning red.

He had to suppress the chuckle that threatened to rise in his throat.

"Well," Marinette began as she walked to the kitchen and opened the fridge, allowing the light to shine just enough for her to see into the pantry. "When I was little, I used to be prone to nightmares. We never really figured out why, but… They've stopped now. Anyways," He could hear the sound of rustling in the pantry as she pulled out a blue package and two clear glasses from the cupboard. "Whenever I had a really bad one, my Papa would grab the warmest blanket he could find and take me to sleep with him on the couch. He'd turn on the TV and get me some cookies to help me calm down. So," The sound of milk pouring into a glass came before Marinette put it away and shut the fridge with her foot, walking over with two glasses in her hand and a package of oreos in the crook of her arm. "That's what I'm going to do for you."

A warm smile of appreciation tugged at Adrien's lips. "You're sweet, Marinette."

Her cheeks practically glowed scarlet as she sat on the pastel pink couch, placing the milk and package of cookies on the square coffee table. "Well, I know how scary nightmares can be, and you looked really shaken, so… It's the least I can do."

"I mean it," He continued, sitting down next to her with an affectionate grin. "You're really sweet and kind. It's one of the best things about you."

A tiny giggle came from her, blue eyes sparkling. "You are, too, Adrien. Thank you."

Well, now he was the one blushing. Cheeks tinted pink and lips curled upwards in a smile, Adrien sighed, reaching out for an oreo. He studied it for a moment, his eyes scanning over the bumps of pattern on the cookie and the cream in the middle. It reminded him of his ice cream the day before (or rather, technically two days ago, since it was considered Sunday at three in the morning) when their date had been interrupted by another akumatized victim. As he dunked the cookie in his milk and bit into it, his smile only grew. Somehow, simply eating oreos next to a sleepy Marinette past decent hours was better than the date could have ever been. There was just something so personal about pajamas and early hours. The silence that settled between them was completely comfortable as old news events played on the television.

Adrien grinned as he ate a second cookie. And a third, and a fourth. Just as he grabbed a fifth and went to dunk it, he dropped the whole cookie into his glass, letting out a little frustrated whine that only made his friend giggle in response.

"Oh no," She chuckled, "looks like you've drowned it."

"We've got dirt on each other now," Adrien laughed as he fished the oreo out of his glass with his fingers. "You killed cupcakes, I drowned an oreo. We could be accomplices in food assassination."

"Sure," He didn't even have to look up to know that she had rolled her eyes. It was the tone she'd usually use on Chat when he'd said an awful joke and her only response was to groan and roll those gorgeous bluebells. "Why not."

They'd both nearly eaten the whole package of oreos before the feeling of sleepiness began to take over Adrien's body once again. He yawned, his eyelids shutting tightly together for a brief moment before they slowly rose, exhaustion clear in his face. If it wasn't for the fact that Marinette was still awake and munching away on oreos, he'd of already been passed out in a wonderfully sweet sleep with his head nestled on her lap.

But she was awake, and his instinct of kneading claws upon a comforting surface might just give him away if he started doing that on her thighs.

As he turned his gaze to the television, the sight startled him for a moment before he realized it was just a recap of the news story from Friday. Ladybug and Chat Noir, saving Paris and defeating the villain that had muted the streets. Adrien sighed, tearing his gaze away from the sight of Chat Noir on camera, running along the road with a police hat upon his head and a blue whistle in his mouth.

He couldn't look at himself.

A grimace appeared on Adrien's face as his eyes shifted to the corner of the room, glaring intently at a spotted pillow that sat on the other end of the couch. A small huff slipped out of him before he could stop it.

"Adrien?" Marinette's voice couldn't even convince him to glance up. "Did that pillow insult you?"

"Can you change the channel?" He whispered, his voice cracking with the memory of his classmate's cheek covered in her own blood. "Please."

Confused yet not arguing, Marinette flipped to children's cartoons, her gaze never leaving his uncomfortable expression. "Something wrong?"

"They were in my dream," He murmured feebly, raising his dull green eyes to meet her own curious blue. It hurt him just to think about it. "Well, I think, at least. Chat Noir was."

"Oh," Came the reply. Marinette glanced away for a brief second before looking back. "Do you want to talk about it now?"

Adrien avoided the question. "Do you think that Chat Noir is a bad person?"

By the way Marinette's eyes widened, he could tell the question had taken her by surprise. "I… No, Adrien. Why would you ask that?"

Adrien shrugged.

"Adrien," She sighed, "if you had a bad dream about Chat Noir, I can assure you that he…" She paused, worrying at her bottom lip as she fumbled for an answer. "He's one of the best people in the world, probably. He cares about Paris and everyone in it. He's a good guy, I promise."

"You think so?" His voice gave away the feeling of glass shards in his heart that he'd been trying so hard to hide.

Marinette nodded, placing a hand upon his shoulder and giving it a gentle squeeze. "I know so."

"You don't think-" Adrien turned his attention back to the television, which displayed an animated character apologizing to its friend for accidentally hurting their feelings. "You don't think he'll ever hurt anyone?"

"Of course not."

"What if he can't control himself? What if he-" His throat became extremely dry as vivid images of blurry blobs and the scent of blood filled his nose. "What if he hurts you?"

"Adrien…" Marinette's voice was calm and sympathetic as she gave his shoulder another comforting squeeze. For the first time, it didn't cause sparks to ignite within him. "Did your nightmare have to do with Chat Noir hurting me?"

All he could do was nod, his eyes squeezing shut in an attempt to block out the sound of her startled gasp when his inky claws had connected with freckled skin. A shuttering breath left his body.

"Adrien?"

He couldn't look at her.

"Adrien."

A gentle hand on his cheek made him flinch.

"Adrien, please look at me…"

His sad green eyes met fiery blue as he turned his head. Delicate thumbs stroked his heated cheeks as their gaze locked, speaking words through nothing but their mental connection alone. Marinette is okay, Adrien told himself as he leaned in to her hand, enjoying the soothing sensation of her fingers against his skin. Marinette is safe. Marinette is unharmed. Marinette... has really soft hands. A chill ran down his spine from her electric touch. As one of his larger hands rose and enveloped hers completely, she smiled, and he returned the gesture with a tiny smile of his own.

"I'm alright," Marinette whispered, her voice like honey and vanilla as she assured him of her safety. "Nothing broken. All of me is here."

Adrien resisted the urge to press her hand to his heart and tell her that all of her was there.

"See?" She breathed, continuing to stroke the thumb that wasn't covered against his cheek, which was becoming increasingly warmer. "I'm okay."

With a feeble nod, Adrien sighed, his eyelids drooping shut from the innocent pleasure derived from her touches. "You're okay," He repeated, his voice barely a whisper.

Marinette nodded. "I'm okay."

"You're safe," He breathed. Their faces inched closer together without either of them taking much notice.

"I'm safe."

"You're unharmed." There had never been a better warmth than Marinette's forehead pressed against his own.

Another small nod. "I'm unharmed."

A soft breath fell from Adrien's lips as he gave her hand a gentle squeeze, his eyes fluttering open for just a moment to drink in the breathtaking sight of his beloved Marinette. Half-lidded baby blues gazed deeply into his own, filling him with such a scorching fire that he almost caught flame from the sight.

Almost.

"I care about you," He told her, his voice barely audible.

He stole a glance at her lips, pink and seemingly soft to the touch. He wondered if she was wearing lipgloss.

He wondered how it'd taste.

"I know," Marinette whispered, "and I care about you. Don't forget that."

Marinette's shallow breath was pleasantly hot against his skin. The feel of her thumb absentmindedly running along his flushed cheeks in a comfortingly soft motion drew a sigh out of Adrien, his eyelids as heavy as weights. Even with sleepiness sneaking into his body and making a nest within his head, he couldn't stop staring; Marinette was the moon and her freckles decorated the night in a sea of stars. The flicker of the TV against her sparkling diamonds of eyes made them shine brightly with every flash of colorful light. Pale skin, so smooth upon his fingers as he raised his other hand to cup her cheek within his palm. He could feel the heat radiating off of her skin and onto his hand, warming it instantly as if she was nothing but scarlet coals nestled in the middle of sunset flames.

He'd never noticed how long her eyelashes were and how they fluttered against her pink cheeks with every blink.

A silent plea came from his eyes as his gaze lingered on her velvety lips, which stretched into a shy smile that granted him permission to the part of her face he'd been desiring to press against his own for weeks.

His nose brushed her cheek as he closed the distance between them.

Sparks, lights, flashes of red and pink and blue filled his head as his eyes slid closed, the feeling of being kissed and kissing sending electricity to bolt throughout his entire body. A shockwave of excitement shot through his veins, from his fingertips which buzzed as he traced Marinette's skin, to his bare toes which twitched and curled from the thought alone. Adrien let a breath slip past his nose as he tilted his head further to achieve better contact, deepening their kiss into an innocent yet needy movement of lips. His eyes opened for just a moment to steal a glance at the beautiful girl, to see how her expression softened with blushing cheeks in the middle of a first kiss between two friends.

Friends, Adrien chuckled to himself in thought, I don't think we can use that word anymore.

It was awkward at first and neither were really sure where to place their hands, but after a brief moment of slight panic, Adrien found his fingers wrapping around Marinette's petite waist and in turn, her arms had connected around his neck. The closer their bodies melded, the larger the dosage of her sweet scent of lavender and vanilla filled his nose. It sent happy little bubbles to his brain and buzzed his hands like some fizzy drug he couldn't ever get enough of. Addicted was the only word to describe how he felt.

Her lips were a brand and he was burnt.

A crack of thunder from outside startled Adrien enough to pull away. Wide-eyed and a little out of breath, he stared out the window for a second or two before turning his gaze back to the flushed girl sitting on front of him. Their eyes met as they caught their breath, chests rising and falling slowly in a comfortable silence. His fingers, so warm from her skin, stroked along her knuckles in an innocent touch of affection. The lips that had previously been covered by Marinette's broke into a stupidly lovestruck smile that only she could match.

A soft laugh escaped out of Adrien's mouth as his red cheeks burned from a combination of both shyness and embarrassment. Was it bad to admit that this had been his first real kiss?

Sure, he'd had a girl's lips upon his own before, but none had been enjoyable or by his choice, nor were they any more than a quick (and rather uncomfortable) peck. Besides, Chloe forcing kisses on him below the age of ten didn't mean anything to him.

Marinette's kiss, however…

Well, that was just a whole another story.

A kiss from Marinette had been like a grassy field during spring. It was rays of sunlight that warmed him to his core and played along his skin, tingling every fiber in his body with a giddy buzz. It was beautiful flowers full of thousands of vibrant shades dancing in the wind and swaying with the grass, their mixture of aromas rising into the air to fill his nose with wonders of sweet scents. It was a gentle breeze that kissed his skin with a relaxing chill and sent a pleasant shiver down his spine.

Marinette's kiss had been the magic that finally blessed his dull world with a rainbow of color.

Her voice broke the silence as she giggled, delicate fingertips brushing along her freshly kissed lips. "Y-you kissed… You kissed me. You kissed me."

Adrien laughed, giving a simple yet satisfied nod in response. "You kissed me back."

"I did," Her voice was a breathy whisper, as if she couldn't believe she actually had returned the kiss. "Oh my god. I kissed you."

"You kissed me," He confirmed with a chuckle.

"And you kissed me."

"I did."

And then she laughed, a beautiful bubbly laugh that shot right through his heart and pumped it full of sparkling rays of sunny days and the taste of strawberry ice cream, because that was her favorite flavor. All of her favorites suddenly became his own.

The color pink filled his every thought. Pink lips that had been so soft pressed against his needy mouth, sizzling pink cheeks that he had caused, a cozy pink blanket ready and waiting to be wrapped around two blushing teens who sat upon a pink couch.

Adrien decided that he could live in pink for the rest of his life.

"Was it a good kiss?" He asked with a grin, one of his hands reaching up to play with the silky strands of hair she held within a pigtail. Although seeing Marinette with her hair up was an adorable sight, he preferred it when she let it down to fan out along her shoulders like a gorgeous black wave.

Marinette nodded, her cheeks scarlet as she giggled shyly. "M-mhm. Amazing."

"Want to know a secret?" He whispered, leaning in as she blinked curiously. A positively red blush crept along his cheeks as his lips brushed her ear, lightly touching the cool material of her earrings that he'd never taken the time to notice before. "It was kind of my first kiss."

"Wh-What?" Marinette's cracked voice as she drew back in surprise made Adrien laugh. Of course she'd be shocked; few people knew that Adrien Agreste, famous Parisian teen model admired and adored by thousands of girls, had never been really kissed. "Y-you mean I was your first kiss? Me? I was- I was your first kiss? Me. I was. I was?"

He nodded, a small snort coming out from his laughter. She'd be even more surprised if she knew it had been Chat Noir's first kiss as well (as far as he knew.) "Uh, I mean, yeah… For a real kiss, anyways. I've had Chloe force me into kisses as a kid before, but that was such a long time ago and kisses when you're a child afraid of cooties don't really count, do they?"

Marinette's rosy cheeks became darker in her realization. "I-I guess? Oh, wow. I can't believe I…"

He'd never heard her voice squeak like that before. She's a little more surprised than I thought she'd be.

Still, even with a nervously cracked and high pitched voice, Marinette was completely and utterly enchanting. A beautifully captivating flicker of light that had stolen his heart and hidden the key.

He didn't care where that key had gone so long as it was in her possession.

Words faded to a peaceful silence as they mindlessly eyed the cartoons on the TV, their bodies disconnected yet arms brushing together just slightly. Adrien caught himself nearly slipping into sleep a few times, his head lolling to the side every now and then before he had to furiously blink his eyes to stop himself from falling over completely. With a sleepy glance at Marinette, he could tell that she, too, was fighting desperately to stay awake.

Neither of them wanted this night to end.

With an affectionate smile, Adrien reached for her without hesitation, lightly running his fingers across her knuckles before enveloping her hand in his own. As their fingers entwined, he gave her hand a delicate squeeze, his thumb running over her smooth skin in a slow circular motion. A sigh relaxed his body and rid any sort of lingering nervousness that might have been hidden away within the depths of his core. He had kissed Marinette. Marinette had kissed him back.

The desire to ask for a goodnight kiss was almost too strong to resist.

As Marinette's head slumped onto his shoulder, his cheeks positively blazed. The poor designer had been too tired to keep her head up any longer. With a drowsy smile, he allowed his mouth to brush the top of her soft hair before planting a final kiss upon her head. His heart swelled with love for his adorable friend who had managed to enamor him and completely capture his heart.

Sleep came easily that time around.

They'd both drifted off sitting up with their backs against the couch, hands wrapped around each others in lovingly connected fingers. The position hadn't been very comfortable, however, so Adrien found himself blinking open heavy eyelids before the sun had even peeked over the horizon.

Fumbling for the remote, he switched off the television before tossing the control to the other side of the couch. Sitting up with Marinette's head on his shoulder was nice, but… It wasn't what he wanted.

Slowly, carefully, he leaned back into the plush cushions of the couch and sighed with relief as Marinette followed undisturbed, her head finding his chest to be a pillow for her sleeping face to press against. The new position was wonderfully snug. On his back, Adrien grinned at the sight of Marinette's sleeping form: with her cheek against his chest and her arm wrapped around his torso, she couldn't look more endearing. Even in the dark of the room he could see the starscape of freckles that dusted her flushed cheeks and tiny nose.

Running a hand along the small of Marinette's back in soothing circles, Adrien sighed, relishing in the warmth that radiated from her body and filled his to the point where it nearly became too hot underneath the thick blanket. She was like a little space heater, generating warm rays to fill the empty holes in his heart he'd saved just for a girl like her.

Adrien knew he was hers. Completely, absolutely, entirely hers. Whether she wanted him as Chat Noir or Adrien Agreste, he didn't care; so long as she loved him through and through, he'd be by her side always, and nothing could ever change that.

The ticking of a clock somewhere in the room alleviated his aching eyes as it brought a relaxing wave of darkness to crash upon him and wash away any consciousness lingering in his body.

And he slept wonderfully, a major improvement from the last two attempts at slumber. It was a pure, rejuvenating sleep that filled his bones with positive energy and ebbed away all sorts of anxiety he'd felt prior. An amazing, perfect, lovely sleep that he could only thank Marinette for. The tickle of her lips against his skin sometime during the night only reminded him of how truly content he felt.

The sound of quiet giggles and faint shuffling of bare feet against hardwood flooring caused Adrien's face to scrunch up in annoyance. Don't people know it's rude to make noise when someone is trying to sleep?

Marinette's legs stirring against his own drew a blissful sigh from his lips. Her warm breath blew against the back of his neck as her nose brushed his skin, small hands on his stomach and muscular arms wrapped around his body. She made a quiet grunt in his ear, irritated from being awakened he assumed—what was that silly giggling, anyways?

The sound of a phone camera capturing a photo caused Adrien's eyes to snap open like blindfolds.

"Shit," Alya's unmistakeable voice whispered, followed by the patter of hurried feet tapping against the floor as she fled.

"Shit" is right, Adrien scowled in thought, his eyes narrowing as he trailed the scampering teenager. You've been caught.

"Alya," Marinette groaned as she buried her face into his shoulder, most likely to hide from the sunlight that streamed in through the windows. "What are you doing?"

A quiet laugh from Nino made Adrien sigh. He was far too tired to break the contact from Marinette and honestly, nothing in the world could make him desire to untangle their legs or remove Marinette's arms from their embrace. At first he wasn't exactly sure what position they were in, but as he felt his crush adjust against his rear, the realization that they were spooning hit him with a fiery blush.

He'd never expected to be the little spoon, of all things.

"I'm just taking pics before you guys realize that you're totally cuddling up a storm and freak out about it," Alya replied with another snap of her camera.

"You're taking pictures!?" Marinette squawked, arms and legs flailing as she attempted to squirm out from behind him. Adrien whined. The warmth that had built up along the back of his body faded into a vacant cold once Marinette removed herself from the couch.

Come back, he internally begged, his expression the epitome of a kitten in desperate need of some attention.

"Alya, who did you send that to?" Marinette's demanded, her hands placed firmly upon her hips.

The redhead snorted. "Nino, of course."

Marinette was unsatisfied with her answer. "Is that all?"

"I might have sent it to some other people, too."

"Like…?"

"Like…" Alya's voice took on a nervous yet unapologetic tone. "Most of our class besides Chloe and Sabrina. Come on, Mari, everyone has been rooting for you and Adrien to-"

"To what?" He broke in, raising a curious eyebrow as he sat up and adjusted his black sweatpants, which had ridden down a bit far during the night. Marinette glanced at his abdomen.

"Nothing," Marinette squeaked, her face flaring up in the adorable shade of pink Adrien had grown to adore.

"Yeah, yeah." Alya rolled her eyes. "Anyways, lovebirds, get up. I'm super hungry and I've been waiting for your lazy butts to make me breakfast."

"Breakfast?" Now Adrien was interested! If food was being mentioned and said food was being prepared by Marinette or her family, he was immediately excited. "Can I help?"

"Sure." As Marinette stretched her arms into the air (and made an adorable noise that Adrien didn't miss), her white pajama shirt rose above her bellybutton for just a brief moment to reveal a pale and rather muscularly toned stomach. Adrien's heart skipped a beat as she pulled up her pajama pants and wandered to the kitchen, his eyes burning into the floor so that he avoided gazing at her rear.

Oh, His mind squeaked like a pubescent thirteen-year-old boy. She's hot!

"I think Adrien needs a drink," Alya snickered, causing him to turn his gaze away from Marinette with an embarrassed red upon his cheeks. Now he was the one who'd been caught!

"I can tell," Nino responded with a chuckle, raising his eyebrows at his friend. "Someone get him a glass of water."

"Ha ha," Adrien replied flatly. "Very funny."

At least Marinette had been shuffling through the fridge during the exchange.

The group decided on crepes, so while Marinette prepared the batter, Adrien carried out the task she'd assigned him of gathering fruits and fillings from the pantry and fridge. He chopped bananas and pulled out chocolate chips, strawberries, whipped cream and nutella, the array making his mouth water. He wanted all of it composed in one giant, heaping crepe.

Learning how to make crepes was quite the experience for Adrien. Mixing the batter was more fun than pouring it into a pan—he'd learned the hard way that the thin pancakes break rather easily. After several failed attempts, he stepped back to allow Marinette to take over, instead deciding to entertain himself by tossing chocolate chips into the air and catching them in his mouth. As he chewed them, a wide grin spread across his face from the wonderful chocolaty flavor.

Once the food had been prepared, Adrien's growling stomach bid him to fill his crepe with an excessive amount of fruit and whipped cream, added with a layer of nutella and chocolate chips resting atop like a messy bow to a present he couldn't wait to dig into. Just the smell alone was making his stomach whine and beg.

Breakfast was spent at the kitchen table, the four teens more interested in their food than each other at first. A few words were said here and there, but the delicious breakfast tasted far too amazing to put it down even for a moment to exchange conversation. Adrien cleaned his plate before anyone else had, earning a smile from the freckled girl sitting next to him.

He reached over and squeezed her hand underneath the table.

"Somebody was hungry," Nino chuckled, barely halfway finished with his own crepe. "Did you inhale that?"

Adrien let out a small laugh. "Practically. I don't get to eat like that at home, give me a break."

"You don't eat crepes at home?" Alya's eyebrows raised in surprise as she swallowed a strawberry she had been chewing. "How is that even possible? We live in Paris."

"I eat crepes," He responded, "just not like this. Did you see how much chocolate I put into that thing?"

Alya shrugged, giving a soft hum in response as she stabbed a slice of banana that had been poking out. "Fair point. Model diet, right?"

"...Yeah," Adrien's eyes fell downcast from the subject. It wasn't exactly something he enjoyed talking about, nor a topic he would be able to answer all the questions to without souring his mood. An uncomfortable feeling began to rise within his chest as he gave Marinette's hand a tight squeeze as a silent plea for help.

Marinette seemed to understand his unease. "Hey, Alya, weren't you telling me the other day that you think you're getting close to figuring out Ladybug's real identity?"

"Oh!" A visible spark lit in the blogger's eyes as she twitched excitedly, having to shut her mouth and swallow before she continued to avoid spitting food. "Yeah! I'm so close this time, Mari, I can taste it. I'm starting to see the patterns, and I…"

As Alya babbled on about her crazy Ladybug theories, Adrien shot his friend a thankful smile. Marinette returned it with a hint of pink upon her cheeks, her thumb lightly running across the skin of his hand. He gave a slow blink in appreciation, unable to wash the lovestruck smile from his blushing face.

They hadn't talked about the kiss. The time never came.

After breakfast, he'd helped Marinette with the dishes (his first time doing an actual chore) and dressed himself in yesterday's clothes—save for the white overshirt, of course. He didn't know where it had gone, yet he couldn't find it in himself to care. Marinette had washed it and she could keep it if she wanted; he wouldn't mind a single bit. Part of him wanted her to keep it.

He wouldn't ask for it back.

The four hadn't had much more time to spend together that morning after their meal. Adrien let out a soft whine of disappointment as he received a text from Nathalie informing him that his ride was on its way to Nino's. He'd quickly thought up a quick lie, telling his father's assistant that he and Nino had walked to the bakery for some breakfast and were still inside. At least it would rid the suspicion of why he was at a girl's house, of all places.

By the time the car had arrived outside, Adrien felt his heart tugging and pulling towards Marinette, who seemed a little let down as well from the news that it was time for him to go. Adrien sighed as he lifted himself to his feet, shooting a longing glance back at his crush before bidding his friends a goodbye.

"Let me walk you out," Marinette nearly tripped over the rug on the floor as she scrambled towards him, earning a laugh and a smile in return. How can one person be so clumsy and adorable at the same time?

After a quick farewell to her parents and thanking them for letting him stay, Marinette led him to the stairwell, her bare feet brushing against the blue carpet that stretched along the hallway. It was a shame that the only time they'd been alone that morning was when Marinette was walking him down the stairs as he prepared to leave. The color of the walls in the room reminded Adrien of her eyes.

In fact, everything the color blue reminded him of those sparkling gems.

His hand hesitated on the handle of the door. Fingers wrapped around cool metal, Adrien sighed, the decision between wanting to give her a simple goodbye battling with his desire to pull her in for a second kiss before he left for the rest of the weekend. He wet his lips in memory of the taste of strawberry lip gloss.

"Marinette," His voice cut through the silence like a knife. "Before I go, I… I have to ask. Did that kiss mean anything to you?"

Marinette's cheeks burned red as her eyes fell from his own and gazed at her hands, which clasped together in a nervous shuffle of fingers. "Did it mean anything to you?"

There was no hesitation as he spoke.

"Yes," He told her, his green eyes silently begging for her blues to be back upon him.

Marinette's lips (which he so badly wanted to kiss again) curled upward into a tiny, pleased smile of affection. "Yes."

Adrien felt his cheeks grow hotter as her eyes met his own. God, this girl. "Can I take you out for lunch Monday? Just you and I?"

He received a shy giggle and a nod in response. "I-I'd love that, Adrien."

The smile that graced his face was one that he'd be feeling the entire week. A smile like that didn't happen often in the Agreste family, and Adrien wanted to savor it for as long as he could.

With Marinette around, it wouldn't be a problem.

"I'll see you Monday, then," He told her as his hand brushed her knuckles.

"Y-yeah," She breathed, letting her fingers run along his before they parted. "See you Monday."

With a final wave, Adrien turned the cool handle of the door and stepped out, disappointment flowing from his body like a sad wave. He'd been too shy to kiss those lips one last time before he left. Regret weaved its way into his stomach as he opened the door to the car, yet when Marinette called his name, his heart skipped a beat before dashing wildly in his chest.

"Adrien!" Her voice rang from the bakery. "You forgot your shirt!"

Adrien grinned, letting out a quiet chuckle as he called back, "Keep it!"

Even from his distance he could see the fiery blush that scorched Marinette's cheeks. She didn't argue nor refuse his offer, which only made the thought more exciting. Something about Marinette keeping his clothes lit a flame within him that burned his body from the inside out.

As soon as he'd buckled himself in the back of the car, Adrien felt his phone vibrate against his thigh.

One new message from:  Nino

As Adrien opened up the text, he'd expected his friend's usual conversation, yet when it became clear that he had sent a photo, well…

Adrien's face flushed such a deep scarlet that he had to glance away the second he'd opened the file. He didn't. He didn't just send me that picture.

A quick look back at the image confirmed that Nino indeed had.

He did send me that picture, Adrien screamed internally, his green eyes nearly bulging out of his head. He really did just send me that.

The photo was something you'd see on the cover of a cheesy romance novel. A perfect picture displaying two teens completely in love, cuddled up on the couch as if they'd been dating for years. His photographers would have killed to get such an adorably tender shot.

The early yellow rays that had washed upon them like golden ribbons danced along their skin and somehow made Marinette's freckles even more endearing. Little speckles of sundrops that fanned across her cheeks like beautifully decorative spots. Her lips, so pink and freshly kissed, brushed the back of his neck as she slept with her face pressed against the warmth of his skin. Those hands which fit so perfectly within his own disappeared beneath the blanket, but he could fondly remember the way her fingertips grazed along his stomach when his shirt had slid up ever so slightly. It didn't take Adrien long to come to the realization that he favored being the little spoon.

We're adorable, He thought with a giddy chuckle, his lips twitching upward into lovestruck smile. He couldn't stop staring at the photo.

And to think, this picture had been sent to more than half of their class. Adrien wasn't sure why he felt glad. He wanted his classmates to know he'd slept next to Marinette all night. He wanted his classmates to be in on the little secret their lips had shared the night before. He wanted all of his classmates, including Chloe, to know how he longed to do nothing more than wrap Marinette up in his arms and kiss her like he needed her lips to breathe.

Adrien's smile only grew as he set the photo as his phone's wallpaper.

As the car pulled up to his home (a loose term), Adrien's eyes were so glued to his phone that he'd nearly tripped walking up the front steps. He wasn't sure what to do: text Marinette about the kiss or wait to talk until Monday when they were alone, text Marinette the photo, text Chloe the photo, or simply not text anyone about it at all. Perhaps it was best to wait for Marinette to text him so he didn't seem needy or desperate.

Perhaps he was after that kiss.

He hadn't glanced up as he entered the intimidating front doors. Without watching where he was going, he grinned stupidly as Nino sent him several thumbs-up emojis and began typing up a reply full of blushing cats, yet his phone fell from his hands and clattered to the marble flooring as he bumped into another body.

Adrien froze, his eyes following the line of perfectly tailored red pants all the way up to a striped tie. He swallowed heavily, gaze locked on the buttons of his father's jacket. It took him an extra amount of courage to look his father in the eye.

"Adrien," His father's voice spoke, calm and guarded. "Is there a reason that you lied about your location last night?"

Chapter Text

"Shut the door behind you, please, Adrien."

Adrien's throat felt as if it was coated in a thick layer of sandpaper that scratched painfully with every swallow. Raising a hesitant hand, he shut the door to his father's office with a soft click, gaze frozen on the marble flooring. His eyes burned, itching to meet his father's glare—but Adrien knew there was no point in looking into those icy blues. If he glanced up, without a doubt there would be the same disapproving, unimpressed expression that seemed permanently etched onto his features. It was a rarity that his father ever appeared happy.

A defeated sigh passed Adrien's lips as he tore his gaze from the ground and met the blue of his father's. He knew there was no point in arguing or lying. He'd already lied and that had apparently gotten him in enough trouble. His father hadn't been pleased to find out that his son had stayed the night at a girl's house, especially when he'd lied about his location, building up the suspicion that he had been up to no good. As soon as he'd arrived home, Adrien was asked the exact question—only to be dismissed before he could answer because of the time. Apparently, a photoshoot deemed more important than a father-son talk. Adrien had been grateful at the time.

Now, as he stood in front of his father's chilling gaze with the orange glow of sunset seeping in through the windows, Adrien couldn't find a positive about the situation. He wished that they had just talked about it earlier and gotten it over with. The feeling of dread that resided within the pit of his stomach nearly caused Adrien to groan and beg for mercy.

It wasn't that his father was a bad person—he wasn't. In fact, Gabriel Agreste had never laid a hand on his son with an intent to cause harm. Although distant, he was mainly a decent guy, if Adrien thought long and hard about it. He let him buy whatever he desired, have anything he wanted (material wise), didn't give him specific bedtimes or force him into anything he wasn't particularly happy with (provided he had a good reason.) So, really, there was no excuse for the bubbling anxiety that rose from within his trembling body. His father wouldn't hurt him. He wouldn't even yell. Gabriel seldom raised his voice at all.

Perhaps it was the inevitable disappointment that would tighten his father's lips into an impassive expression that Adrien was dreading. Maybe it was the eyes that would make an unpleasant shiver run up his spine or the soft sigh of irritation that would cause his shoulders to hang in an ashamed droop.

It wasn't the anger he was afraid of; no, it was the feeling of knowing that his father was unhappy with him. An unfortunate feeling he'd began to become better acquainted with as of late. Unhappiness had practically become one of his friends (yet the type that talked shit about him behind his back.)

His father spoke first, causing Adrien to curl his fingers into his palm. If he'd been wearing his signature gloves, the claws would have drew blood from his skin.

"I'm very disappointed, Adrien," Came the frigid tone. "There was no reason to lie to me unless you were doing something you know I would not approve of. Is there anything you'd like to tell me?"

Adrien shook his head, green eyes flicking upwards to meet blue. "N-no, father."

His gaze fell to the floor once more as his father looked to him.

The kiss wasn't worth mentioning.

"I can trust you to tell me the truth, can't I?"

A nod as Adrien swallowed the nervous knot in his throat. "Yes, father. I'm telling the truth."

"Then can you look at me when I'm talking to you?" His voice turned stern and in turn made Adrien's eyes snap up to meet the face of his father. Cold and emotionless; it was a special kind of face that only special people could love. It was hard to find such a guarded person as lovable, yet both Adrien and his mother had done so. Deep down, he hoped his father knew that.

"Sorry," Sighed the model as he clasped his hands in front of him, giving an apologetic smile. Maybe if he appeared to be as innocent as a kitten learning the world, he'd be let off easy.

"You told me you would be at your friend Nino's all day—without permission, might I add," His unreadable gaze nearly made Adrien cringe. "And then I saw that your phone had you tracked in that bakery all day. Why didn't you tell me you'd be with this…"

"Marinette," Adrien offered, his heart skipping a beat as her name fell from his lips. "Marinette Dupain-Cheng. She… She's the one that won a few of your design contents. The derby hat, remember?"

His father gave a small nod of recognition. "I see."

"I wasn't there for a bad reason," The blond continued, "only to work on a school project, honest. Her and I are in a group together for history, w-with Nino and another friend of hers, and I-"

"There was no reason to lie."

Adrien knew that wasn't entirely true; his father wouldn't have allowed him to spend the night at a girl's house in fear of ruining the Agreste name with a teenage pregnancy. He let out a soft sigh, resisting the urge to roll his eyes. As if.

"I was just afraid, father," He answered honestly, eyes shifting downcast before they lifted upward once more. "I thought you'd be upset that- that I was with a girl I like. I figured you might assume we-"

"I deserve to know if anything went on between you two," His father continued, "so I want you to be honest with me and make it clear that nothing I should be concerned about happened."

Adrien sighed. "I promise. Don't you think we're a little young for that, anyways?"

No reply. "Do you not agree that it would have been safer here during that storm? You were only a few mere blocks away. I could have had someone pick you up and bring you home."

Adrien worried at his bottom lip as he fumbled for an answer. His father was correct, yes, it would have been safer within the Agreste household, but it would have certainly felt lonelier and much, much colder. His eyes fell to the marble flooring, examining the faint patterns within the material in an attempt to conjure a reply. Nothing came. A tiny breath passed through his body.

"Hm," His father hummed, turning his icy gaze back to the computer monitor and typing something on the keyboard. "Our home is the safest in Paris. You should have been here."

"I-it may be safe," The waver in Adrien's voice didn't hide the anxiety welling within him. "But it doesn't feel safe. It's… It's not safe to me."

"Pardon?"

Adrien swallowed. "I-I like Marinette's house, because, it… It, well, it feels like home. I know it isn't home, but it still… Feels like it."

His father hesitated before replying, the only notion that he was concentrating on his words being the blond eyebrow that raised in thought. "Your home is here, Adrien."

"I know that," Replied Adrien, rolling his ring around his finger in a nervous habit. "I just felt better there. I feelbetter there. If I had been here when the power went out, I would have been alone, in the dark, by myself in a cold and gigantic room with nobody around."

Another hum in response from his father. Adrien was beginning to think that was all he did when he heard something that wasn't his own opinion. "I see."

"I-I actually had fun when the power went out. I was with friends, and it was nice. Why do you seem so unhappy with that?" Adrien knew he was treading in dangerous waters by confronting the subject head-on, yet his father needed to know how he felt. Being honest might of been his only chance at gaining an ounce of freedom. "You're not against me having fun, right?"

"There are other ways you can have fun," Gabriel's tone was almost dismissive, as if his son was saying something completely moronic. Adrien frowned, his lips tightening in annoyance. "You missed yesterday's piano and Chinese lessons."

"I practice those every day, father. I think-" He turned his eyes to the floor to avoid the bitter look his father had bestowed upon him. "I think I can afford to miss a couple lessons to hang out with friends."

"There are more important things than small friendships, Adrien."

Adrien scoffed. "Like what, modelling?"

His father nodded. "Precisely."

"Yeah, well…" The agitation that had been rising within him bubbled into anger as he shot his father a look of hurt. "Maybe I don't like modelling all that much. Maybe I'd rather eat right and not have to worry about gaining a pound or two. Maybe I-"

"Adrien, that's enough," Sighed Gabriel, pinching the bridge of his nose in aggravation. "You're being too emotional. I want you to focus on your studies and lessons instead of that girl-"

"That girl happens to be my friend," Adrien hissed, "a very good friend at that. And if you want me to stop visiting her just because I miss a lesson or two a week, then… I'm just going to have to say no."

"Excuse me?" The surprise in his father's voice wasn't masked by his usual frigid tone.

"I said…" Adrien's throat grew dry as he swallowed, the realization of his words settling in with a twinge of apprehension. "I said no. I'm not going to just throw away one of the only friendships I have just because you want me to learn more useless talents."

"Useless?" His father scoffed, lips twitching in what Adrien presumed was anger. Good, let him yell. It won't change my mind. "Being unproductive is useless, Adrien. Do not tell me 'no'. You're not a child anymore."

"Exactly!" Adrien huffed, crossing his arms in defiance. "I'm almost sixteen and you're still trying to control my life like I'm- I'm some… Incompetent child, or something. Why is it so hard for you to- to understand that- that I can make some decisions on my own?" His voice grew stronger with every word that poured from his throat. He was speaking from his heart, letting loose the words that had been locked up within him for months, years, fly free. This was the truth, and his father needed to face it, whether he liked it or not. His son was hurting. His son was lonely. His son was fucking mad. "I understand I can't make every single decision by myself. I get that. But is it so wrong of me to want a little control over my own life? To hang out with friends o-or eat ice cream once in awhile or do something besides sit cooped up in my room like some kind of loner? Is it so bad for me to want to live?"

His father stood still, a hand placed thoughtfully on his chin as he eyed his son down with an unreadable gaze. Adrien turned his eyes away in preparation; what was he planning? To yell? To send him off to another country? To tell him that he should disappear?

He didn't know. He didn't want to know.

He spoke before his father could. "I can make a few decisions by myself, and… And I don't need your permission for everything. I'm sorry for yelling, father, but I can't live like this anymore. And- and if you don't want me to be happy, then you can just-"

"Adrien."

His entire body went cold as his name slipped from his father's lips.

"I don't know where this attitude has come from," Gabriel's tone was so icy that it caused a shiver to run down Adrien's spine. "But ever since you started hanging around that girl, I've noticed such… A change in you. You're different. Rarely around, becoming lethargic during photoshoots and avoiding your lessons..." A sigh. "It's obvious that you need time away from these friends of yours—they're clearly a bad influence on the way you think and talk to me. You're being incredibly disrespectful."

"You don't understand, do you?" Adrien breathed, aghast. "I-I can't believe… After all that, you still think I shouldn't be around them? That they're the problem?"

"I believe they are changing you into something you're not," Came the reply, his father's expression impassive. "You are my son. You aren't like other people your age. You're better than them. You don't need to stoop to their level of… Rebelliousness, like most teenagers do. I think it's time you-"

"No!" Adrien was surprised at his own tone as the word fired from his mouth like a shotgun. "No. You're the one that's trying to change me into something I'm not. I'm not some… some perfect doll you can put up on display. I may be your son, but I am a normal human being, and I think I deserve a little social interaction in my life. I- No, I know I deserve it. You can't keep me here like this forever. Don't you think I deserve happiness? Friends? Love, maybe?"

A sigh from his father showed his irritation. "Adrien, you're having a breakdown. You're so emotional, just like-"

"Like mom?" His father didn't even need to finish his sentence; Adrien knew exactly what he was planning to say. "You say that like it's such a bad thing."

"Acting on emotion instead of logic is a bad thing, Adrien."

"You're so disappointed in me," Hissed the blond, unable to filter the words that spilled out of him like a waterfall of hurt. "But I think mom would be disappointed in you."

"Do not bring your mother into this," The warning edge in his father's tone did nothing to sway Adrien from his point. He refused to lose this argument. He wouldn't let his dad win again. Never again. "You will not try to guilt me by speaking of her."

"She would have let me hang out with friends," He growled, "she would let me have a girlfriend and let me eat sweets and she would let me live. I don't know why it's so hard for you to remember being a teenager. I don't know why it's so hard for you to…" With a defeated sigh, Adrien grimaced as tears of anger mixed with a heavy feeling of sorrow pricked the corners of his eyes. "I don't know why it's so hard for you to love me the way that I want to be."

And then, silence.

Adrien stood with his arms wrapped around his thin frame, fingers trembling and bottom lip quivering as he attempted to fight off the impending tears. The feeling of a hot streak running down his cheek opened up the floodgates and sent him into a shaking, sniffling mess. His father hadn't seen him cry in quite some time; years, even. Perhaps it was what he needed to see.

He needed to know that his son was hurting.

"I-I need to be alone," Adrien whispered, voice cracked and pathetically quiet. "Nice talk."

He fled before another word could be exchanged between them.

Nearly tripping up the stairs as his feet carried him to his bedroom, Adrien huffed, shutting and locking the doors through blurred vision. He couldn't stay. He needed to go. He needed to escape from his cage and take flight like the trapped pigeon he was.

He needed to run. He needed to run all night long until his limbs burned and gave out from exhaustion.

"Plagg," Adrien breathed, wiping the flow of tears with his knuckles as the Kwami flitted up beside him. "I think we should go for tonight. I don't know where. I just can't stay here."

"Adrien," The small creature said in an uncharacteristically soft tone, acid green eyes knowing and sympathetic. "Don't tell me you're running away."

"Of course not," He replied with a sigh, pushing open one of his large bedroom windows. A gentle breeze blew against his golden hair, cooling his face with a summery kiss. "I'll come back. Just not tonight."

"And where are you going to go?"

"Well…" A second sigh, followed by his palm drying his face. "Ladybug might be out for patrol soon. After that, I don't know. I'll figure it out."

"Kid," Plagg began, his voice a hint of brotherly care. "Maybe running off isn't the best thing to do. Your dad seemed kind of angry that you're leaving a lot, so maybe you could just go to sleep instead. I wouldn't mind taking a nap. Actually, I really want to take a nap. Let's get some cheese and sleep."

"No, Plagg," Adrien replied with a wet glance to his Kwami. "I can't. That means I'm letting my father win. I won't let him keep me cooped up here."

"If you say so," The small cat exhaled, his tail twitching as he sat on his chosen's shoulder. "I demand cheese after, though. I can't be out all night unless you feed me excessive amounts of camembert in the morning."

"Fine," Adrien gave his eyes a final wipe to rid any remaining dampness, sniffling just slightly as he held his fist into the air. "Plagg, claws out."

The empowering feeling of being completely enveloped by a magical super-suit did nothing to lighten the weight of sorrow that hung on Adrien's shoulders. Usually, transforming left him with a sense of freedom, an exciting rush of energy that pushed his muscles to bound across rooftops and elicit a hoot from the cat himself. It was great fun to leap from building to building, to feel the cool night air blowing through his tousled blond hair and nipping his skin. There was nothing better than the satisfying sound of boots clicking against metal paneling as they collided against roof after roof. Being Chat Noir was the only time Adrien could be himself; be free. Free to shout, laugh, run and play like a happy teenager should have the pleasure to. It was a privilege he'd come to adore. Nothing could stop him from loving his alter-ego.

As the sun began its descent behind the city and painted the sky in brilliant hues of orange and yellow, Adrien let a light breath of relief pass through his body as he perched himself upon the roof of a small restaurant that smelled of spices and tomatoes. His nose twitched as the faint odor of alcohol hit the air, masking the aroma of salty food. It'd never been a smell he was quite particularly fond of, with its heavy stench that filled his nostrils and left a bad taste in his mouth.

Having an enhanced sense of smell was both a blessing and a curse. He could pick up the wonderfully sweet and addictive perfumes like lavender and vanilla (his own personal heaven), or the sickeningly strong scent of wine that currently caused his eyes to water from the intensity. With a grunt, Adrien shook his head, leaping from the roof of the restaurant and bounding off to a familiar coffee shop he often passed on his way to his and Ladybug's meeting place. The tempting smells of chocolate and mocha weaved their way into his nostrils, coaxing a sigh of longing out of the black cat. How badly he wished to spend his entire allowance on frappuccinos, or perhaps a hot beverage that would warm him from the inside out…

Adrien blinked in surprise as his stomach growled angrily, gracing him with a painful reminder that he hadn't eaten since eight that morning when he'd consumed a crepe big enough for two. His lips stretched downward in a frown from the consistent rumbling, his hand pressing against his stomach in a silent plea for the uncomfortable feeling of hunger to fade. I should really start stuffing cash into these pockets, He thought bitterly as a delicate fragrance of caramel hit his nose. I smell food all over this city and it's such a goddamn tease.

With an irritated huff, Adrien was off again, vaulting himself from gravelly rooftops to zinc panelling and all the way across the city until he landed on a familiar terrace to catch his breath. He hadn't realized how badly his chest burned or the heavy pain upon inhalation until he had to brace himself on the railing, spandex-covered legs trembling from overexertion. A low groan sounded from his throat as a horrible sickly feeling took over his body. Head spinning, stomach churning and legs weak, Adrien gasped as they gave out beneath him and left him to tumble to the wooden floor in a dizzy heap. Apparently, he hadn't remembered how he'd almost passed out the last time he didn't eat enough before going on patrol. The world spinning around him made it clear enough that he needed some type of energy in his body before he began his journey to Notre Dame once more.

Yet… The wooden floor of Marinette's terrace seemed so comfortable as he lay there with his cheek pressed against the warmed surface. The terrace had been in the sun all day (the first sunny day in about a week) and was perfectly heated for a black cat to lounge upon, even as the sun bid the world goodnight. With a slow inhale, he let his eyes slide shut, a large breath slipping out from his body as he felt the last trace of sunlight fade from the sky. He could hear Plagg in his head, telling him to get up, that he had to meet Ladybug for patrol in fifteen minutes, but Adrien felt too comfortable to move.

Too sick to move.

It was with a small whimper that he realized he was really, really hungry. Being spoiled on eating more than he was used to the past few days had adjusted his body to eating more often, and now as he lay on the empty terrace above his friend's (girlfriend's?) bakery, he felt the hunger pains begin to settle with a terrible wave of sickness. If only he'd remembered to eat before he decided to go running at his highest speeds, jumping across the rooftops of Paris…

A final weak groan left his body as he felt his skin cool underneath his suit from sweat. Every part of him became numb, from his clawed fingers to the tip of his midnight tail. He couldn't move a muscle. Not that he wanted to—he was far too exhausted to do much of anything besides breathe. Even keeping his eyes open was a task too difficult. I'm sorry, Ladybug, He sighed in thought, welcoming the blanket of darkness that enveloped him. I guess I'll be missing another patrol.


Coming across Chat Noir taking a nap on her terrace hadn't been Marinette's initial plan for the night. Sure, she had expected to see her feline partner sometime that evening, but nearly stepping on his tail when she emerged from her trapdoor as Ladybug caused a little more than simple surprise. She froze on her feet, blue eyes wide from the sight of the unconscious blond. A sigh of relief passed her lips as she thanked whatever force caused him to at least lay with his feet facing the skylight so he didn't happen to see her emerge as Ladybug—if he had even been awake, that is.

Concerned and a little frightened, she gave his shoulder a gentle nudge with her foot, frowning as Chat didn't budge. Not even a twitch! This kitty was completely out cold.

"Chat Noir?" Marinette called, kneeling down to run a hand through his mop of blond hair. "Hey, Chat Noir? Are you okay?"

Green eyes blinked open as a low groan sounded from his throat. "Ladybug?"

Marinette nodded, her voice full of worry for her partner. "What happened to you?"

Chat lifted his head an inch or two above the ground, clearly struggling to stay awake. His face looked sickly pale and those green eyes that burned like acid now had a dull coloration to them, the brightness faded entirely. Poor kitty.

"Are you okay?" She asked once more, lifting his head into her lap in a slow and delicate motion. "Are you sick? You don't look so good…"

"My lady," He breathed out, voice raspy. "I'm… Fine. Just tired."

"You look so pale," Marinette sighed, pressing the back of her hand to his forehead. It was cool to the touch and slick against her fingertips. "Were you injured?" At the thought, she briefly checked him over, palpating his chest and sides to check for any sign of damage. The only thing her probing caused was a few giggles escaping the mouth of her partner. Marinette grinned, if only from the sound of his quiet laughter. At least he was okay… Somewhat.

"Stop, my lady, please," Chat tittered, giving her hand a gentle push away from his person. "I'm ticklish."

"I can see that," She replied through a soft chuckle. "You're not hurt at all? I assume you fainted, but if you decided to stop on someone's house and take a nap, then-"

"Wasn't a nap by choice," Her partner grumbled as he sat up straight, pressing his palm against his head with a quiet moan. "I'm not really sure what happened, but I was on my way to meet you and stopped here to catch my breath because I was feeling a little tired, but… Then I just got weak and fell."

Marinette frowned, letting her gaze survey his thin frame before shifting back up to his eyes. "Do you know why?"

"Uh…" He couldn't look at her face as he stood, brushing off the dust from his stomach. "I do, but it's nothing to worry about, my lady. Let's just get to our patrol, shall we?"

"Chat…" Marinette stood with him, crossing her arms over her chest with a troubled expression. That damn cat was always looking out for others but never himself! "You literally fainted while you were on your way. You're lucky I was heading in the same direction, or else you might've slept on this terrace all night." A sigh. "We'd better go before Mam- I mean, uh, the family that lives here comes up and sees us chatting on their roof."

With a small nod, Chat Noir extended his baton in preparation to leap. Just as he steadied himself and was about to bound, the rumbling of his stomach caused both of them to hesitate in surprise. Marinette felt her lips curl downwards into a sympathetic frown. Chat wasn't sick… Just hungry!

"Chat Noir," She breathed, resting a hand on his bony shoulder so he couldn't flee. "You're worrying me with these eating habits of yours. You can't run around the city without eating. That's why you fainted, isn't it? You... " It was hard to look at him. The more her eyes scanned his body, the more she noticed how truly thin her partner was. It was saddening, to say the least. "You don't eat as much as you should. It's why you're so skinny…"

"I don't want to talk about it," Chat replied, his voice harboring an apprehensive tone. "Please, Ladybug. I can't talk about it."

"I just want to make sure you're safe, Chat." Sliding up onto the railing of her terrace, Marinette sat, her short spotted legs dangling over the side. "You've been acting different lately, especially today, you-" She looked over as her partner joined her, perched atop the metal railing with a quiet huff. "-you're… Sad. You're sad a lot."

Chat didn't reply. His dull green eyes stilled on the church across the river,ears flattened against his golden hair. Marinette frowned at his posture, slumped and heavy, as if it was a challenge to simply sit up. I hope he's okay.

"You are, aren't you?" She sighed, watching as Chat practically huddled within himself from what she could only assume was embarrassment or exhaustion. Maybe both? "I know it's not my place to ask why—I know I can't—but… I want you to know that I am here for you, even if we can't share personal information. If you need some comfort I'll gladly help you carry the weight of whatever is bothering you. You're my partner, remember? We'll ride this out together."

Marinette felt her heart stop as blazing green eyes met her own blue. They burned into her skin, leaving a scorching trail of flames that ignited her heart and sent it to beat a frenzy within her chest. Sure, Chat Noir's flirtations seldom meant more than simple play to her, yet… Chat had never looked at her like that before. His eyes held secrets and sorrows so deep that she feared she'd drown from the depth of it all. She'd never seen him appear so broken, so hurt, that it didn't surprise her when a tear left a wet trail down his black mask. He wiped it away before it could travel too far, turning his face away in chagrin. Marinette's lips parted in a whimper of sympathy as she raised her hand to brush the sunny hair out of his face, running her fingers through the smooth strands until they found a perfect spot behind his ears to scratch.

All Chat did was let out a shuddering sigh.

Not a smile, a purr, or twitch of the nose. Not even a flicker in his gaze. His glossy eyes turned to the church ahead of them, which glowed like starlight under the light of a full moon. A beautiful luminescence of snowy light and yellow hues. They should have met there and been off on their evening patrol already.

Patrol wasn't exactly a necessity, but it filled the citizens with a sense of security and eased Marinette's conscience as well. Knowing that the city was safe from harm was a personal comfort she enjoyed. Besides, it was fun to flit around the city with her partner, her best friend, leaping from roof to roof as the evening breeze played with their hair and illuminated their skin.

The sound of a faint sniffle drew Marinette's focus back to her partner, who sniveled and trembled as he hid his face within one of his clawed hands. An inaudible gasp came from her throat as she watched tears streak from his cheeks and onto his palm, wetting his gloves. Her heart broke in a million pieces from the sight alone. She'd never seen Chat Noir cry before… In fact, Chat had never struck her as much of the sensitive type at all. Sensitive was never a word she'd use to describe him until now. Many other words fit the bill, of course; flirtatious? Yes. Brave? Of course! Rash? Most definitely. But…

Sensitive?

It wasn't a word she'd associated with her partner before. She'd thought of him to be a lot of things, but certainly not sensitive.

Her heart lurched for him.

"Chat…" She breathed, taking his damp hand and squeezing it within her own. "Hey, it's okay…"

"No," He responded in a weak and cracked voice, giving his head a feeble shake. "N-no, I… It's not okay. I'm having such a hard time right now…"

With a delicate hand, Marinette wiped the flowing tears with her knuckles, using her other to rub his back in comforting circles. She could feel he was trembling, shaking with every tear he released. Chat was trying to hold it all in. The poor guy was shying away from her comfort as if it was a foreign thing to him.

Marinette found herself thinking back to Adrien a few weeks ago, when he'd sat on the same terrace and broke into a puddle of sorrow and tears. Her chest warmed with the memory of his wet cheek against her neck, giving her all of his trust and making her fall even harder for him. She'd only continued to fall for him over and over again, and every single day since she couldn't stop thinking about him, especially now, after that wonderful kiss…

"I'm sorry," Chat murmured, his mouth stretched in a dismal frown. "I-I didn't mean to- to start… Crying. I didn't want you to see me like that. Like this."

"It's okay," Marinette replied, her voice soft. "Don't be afraid to cry. Just because we're superheroes doesn't mean we can't cry every now and then. Even Ladybug cries sometimes, kitty."

"Yeah," Sighed Chat, drying his eyes with a quiet sniffle. "I guess you're right. Sometimes it's hard to be strong, you know?"

Nodding, Marinette patted his back, running her fingers up and down his spine in a comforting motion. "I know. We can't be brave all the time, chaton. Even us two need to take a break and let it all out every now and then."

"Ladybug…" Those green eyes turned to her, glowing with an unreadable emotion Marinette couldn't decipher. It wasn't love, but… More like appreciation.

"Chat?"

"Thank you."

And then he smiled. A small, half-smile that curled the corners of his lips upward, but a smile nonetheless. It only lasted a brief moment before it faded, but Marinette knew that tiny smile had meant the world to him—meant the world to her. She didn't cease brushing his back with her fingers, only slowed, her hand eventually resting upon his shoulder. They sat silence for a few moments, the only sound between them being the gentle breathing that left their mouths.

Marinette parted her lips to speak, but was quickly cut off by the perfectly timed growling of Chat Noir's stomach. She frowned, glancing down at his flat belly before letting her eyes study his face, which showed no sign of embarrassment or shame of his hunger. The only change she noted was the way his lip twitched in discomfort.

Well, she couldn't just let her partner go hungry! Only he knew what his home situation was. Whether he be poor, monitored, or struggling through an eating disorder, she had no idea; all Marinette knew was that her partner was in need and she would stop at nothing to help him.

"Hey," She began, stepping back onto the wood flooring of the terrace. "Let's get you some food."

Chat looked up, his eyes widening slightly in surprise. "What?"

"You're hungry," Placing her hand on her hip, she grabbed her yo-yo in preparation to jump down from the building. "We can go eat."

"I- but- we- … Really?" God, it was sad just to hear the shock in his voice that someone had offered to feed him.

"Yes, really," She told him, "We're above a bakery, aren't we? I'm sure the owners won't mind handing out a treat or two for Paris' superheroes."

"But…" Chat glanced towards Notre Dame then at the floor, his nervous expression making Marinette cock a curious eyebrow. "I don't have any euros on me, Ladybug. I can't just take stuff from these people for free."

"I…" Marinette sighed softly, nibbling on the inside of her cheek as she fumbled for a reply. This was her home, her parents' bakery; she worked in it daily, for crying out loud! As Marinette, she could walk in and take whatever she wanted whenever she pleased, and her mother wouldn't bat an eye. It was practically the norm. Living and working in a bakery certainly didn't deter her from sweets like most people assumed it would. "It's fine. I go in there all the time."

Perhaps that wasn't the right answer. It was true, yes, she did go in there all the time, but not as Ladybug. She visited the bakery as her civilian self, the daughter of the two bakers who owned the entire shop and building. It wouldn't be odd to see Marinette asking for a couple croissants and a slice of cake or two, but Ladybug waltzing into a small bakery asking for some food (without a penny on her) wouldn't exactly be a normal situation.

"You do?" Chat's ear twitched as he placed his feet back on the floor, eyes glinting in interest. "Really?"

"O-oh, yeah, of course! This place has the best… The best... " Conveniently, she'd forgotten everything her parents sold in the bakery. What was a macaron, again?

"The best everything," Chat Noir finished for her, letting out a soft chuckle. "I wish I could buy all of it at once."

Marinette giggled. "Well, I heard they've got a new flavor of cheesecake. Want to go order a box?"

"Ahh…" Chat seemed hesitant, but the rumbling in his stomach urged him to comply. "If they don't mind."

Smiling, Marinette gave her partner a gentle pat on the back before hopping onto the ledge of her terrace, ready to head down. "I'm sure they won't mind at all, chaton."


Walking into her parents' bakery as Ladybug fifteen minutes before closing time hadn't been as awkward as Marinette had expected it to be. Her mother was incredibly excited to see Paris' superheroes peering into the glass cases, going as far as offering them anything they wanted free of charge. Chat had politely declined, saying that he would stop by the next day and pay her back for anything they bought, but her mother insisted they take whatever they desired. She'd told them that it was "the least she could do to thank them for saving the city."

Marinette stood back towards the display window, her hands on her hips as she watched Chat gaze longingly at the array of pastries, bread, and sweets. His tail twitched in concentration, clawed fingers trailing down the glass of the beautiful clear cases when a particular scent caught his nose. He sniffed the air and spun around, green eyes brightening at the sight of a delicious cheese danish. Marinette recalled to a patrol a few weeks ago when Chat had mentioned that his Kwami harbored an ungodly obsession with cheese, which made her wonder if it was the little creature's doing that caused the black feline to lick his lips and whine in wanting.

"I think he wants that one," Marinette giggled, tapping the spot on the case the danish sat behind. Chat grinned up at her, thanking her sincerely with his twinkling gaze. Those totally not kissable lips which had been tugged downwards in a somber frown less than ten minutes ago now stretched wide across his cheery face in a smile that could cure any sickness.

Ruffling his hair, Marinette scratched behind one of his ears and thanked her mother (with a minor slip-up of calling her "mamman"), grinning as Chat cradled the pastry in his hands like it was a newborn baby. She'd never seen someone become so enthusiastic from food before, even over a pastry from her parents' bakery. Sure, they were amazing and tasted like paradise straight from an oven, but poor Chat Noir looked as if he was about to cry from gratitude. God, She thought to herself with an internal sigh. It's almost like Chat Noir barely eats at all.

Marinette practically had to drag her feline partner away from the glass cases just to get him to leave. Those sparkling green eyes were wide with wonder as they scanned all of the different types of pastries and sweets, as if he'd just stepped through the golden gates of a heaven where angels were French treats. A whine broke from his mouth as the door shut behind them, sealing off the bakery for the night. It was past closing hours, and her and Chat Noir had surely overstayed their welcome, although Marinette knew her parents didn't mind; she'd probably hear about it first thing in the morning.

"Believe it or not," She began once they perched themselves on top of a building across the street, flashing a grin at her blond colleague as he bit into his food. "My parents are actually huge Ladybug and Chat Noir fans."

Chat nearly choked on his danish, eyes widening in surprise. "Your- huh?"

Marinette felt her heartbeat stop, blood cooling to ice within her veins. Oh, fuck. Her white teeth bit down hard on her bottom lip as she scurried for a way to cover her second slip-up of the night. I fucked up. I fucked up. I fucked up.

"I mean-" She glanced away from the bakery, gaze stilling on the pastry within Chat Noir's claws. "I was just thinking about them! My parents, who are probably asleep by now, miles from here, and wondering where I am... Those bakers… Seemed like nice people and made me think of my parents because they were nice and my parents are nice."

"Oh," Came the reply, a simple breath that escaped from his parted lips. "Your parents are nice?"

"U-uh," Swallowing the nervous not in her throat, Marinette nodded, forcing a smiling expression upon her worrisome face. "M-mhm! Nice, good people."

"That…" Chat picked at his pastry as if he suddenly wasn't very interested anymore. "Must be… Uh, nice."

Those green eyes that had lit to such an excitable fire moments ago faded into dying coals. Startled by the sudden change in atmosphere, Marinette reached out with a hesitant hand, letting her fingers ghost over his shoulder before she grasped it gently. A horrible feeling of guilt washed over her; she wasn't sure what she had said or done, but suddenly her partner had shied back within himself to a guarded and miserable mess.

"Chat Noir?" She whispered, her eyes filling with concern for the saddened feline. "Did I say something wrong?"

"N-no, it's fine, Ladybug." He took a bite of his pastry to avoid dwelling on the subject any further.

Marinette gave a dissatisfied grunt. "Don't shut me out, Chat. I'm here for you."

"Sorry, my lady," He sighed, swallowing the remains of the danish. "Parents are a touchy subject for me and I'd prefer not to talk about it."

She felt her heart sink within her chest. Oh, poor Chat… "I-I had no idea. I'm sorry."

"It's alright," He told her, unable to meet her gaze. "You didn't know."

"Are you-" His eyes flicked to her for just a moment. "Are you an orphan?"

A small snort from beside her made Marinette break into a tiny smile. Okay, good, she'd made Chat laugh. That was something, right? "I take that as a no?"

"I'm not an orphan," He chuckled, his eyes showing no light within them although his laugh was pure. "I just have family issues, Bugaboo. Had a fight with one of the parentals tonight. I'll be fine, though. I'm staying away for the evening but I'll go back tomorrow. Don't worry about it."

"That bad, huh?" Marinette couldn't fathom what it'd be like to have such a tough argument with one of her parents that she'd have to leave for the entire night. Her parents loved her, cared for her, gave her the best life they could; she couldn't imagine disliking one of them, or getting in a fight so difficult that her only choice was so spend her time elsewhere. The thought made her eyes soften with sympathy for Chat. That kitty really was the epitome of bad luck.

Chat nodded, a despondent sigh falling from his lips. "Yeah, I'll… I'll be okay, though. I've just never had a fight with him like that before."

"Your dad?'

He nodded again.

"Well…" Marinette crossed her legs as she turned to face her partner, gazing at him with the friendliest, most caring smile she could muster. "Don't worry. I'm sure it'll all be okay eventually, right? Parents can't stay mad at their kids forever, and vice-versa. He'll come around, and so will you. I'm sure he's beating himself up about it too—whatever happened, that is. He's probably missing you right now."

A quiet hum from Chat made her smile droop. "I hope so, Ladybug. He's not exactly the best at parenting. My mom did a better job."

…"Did?"

"Your mom, she...?"

Marinette's hesitance to ask the question hadn't gone unnoticed by Chat Noir. He sighed, giving a feeble nod before turning his damp gaze to the effervescent city, which sparkled and danced under the light of the full moon. Twinkling lights of yellow and red filled the air, faint rumbles of cars rolling down the streets coming from a distance. Marinette noticed, with each and every little sound, Chat's ears flicked and adjusted to pick up any noise that rose around them. It was an adorable little feature she hadn't bothered to realize before.

Those black ears upon his head of his looked so soft to the touch. Reaching out, Marinette ran gloved fingers over the tips of their velvety surface, down along the back and then the base. If only she could feel their texture without her gloves on—they were most likely akin to silk due to how delicate they felt underneath her clothed fingertips. Chat responded to her touch with a delayed reaction, but as soon as she began combing her fingers through his sunny blond hair, he submitted into a purring yet trembling mess. She briefly remembered with a sad hum that cats purred in times of distress to comfort themselves.

"It's okay," She told him in a light whisper, letting him wither into a crying puddle within her embrace. "Everything is gonna be okay. I'm here, Chat."

He sniffled in response, his shoulders shaking from the sobs that wracked his body. Running her fingernails up and down his back, Marinette let an inaudible breath pass her lips before she buried her nose in his hair and rocked back and forth in a slow, comforting movement. It seemed to calm her partner ever so slightly, his weeping fading into a simple cry that consisted of quiet whimpers and pathetic snivels. His tears had dampened her suit as he cried into her shoulder, but she couldn't find it in herself to care. Chat needed comfort, Chat was depressed, and she would be there to help him no matter the cost. Missing a patrol wouldn't cause more damage than the damage already apparent within her partner at the moment.

As her best friend's (best friend!) whimpering turned into quiet trembling, Marinette placed a single kiss upon his forehead, her fingers scratching behind his ears in an attempt to coax another purr out of him. "I'm here," She repeated in a whisper, "I'm here. I'm always here."

The rest of the night went by in a whirlwind of emotion. Chat's crying had died down quickly due to her touch, leaving the feline superhero a completely exhausted pile of sleepy kitty within her arms. They'd talked lightly, bringing up positive subjects like the fact that school was almost out and how much fun it would be to hang out during summer instead of exclusively meeting up for patrols or akuma. Chat had mentioned that his birthday was soon (without giving specific dates), which left Marinette to assume that it was within a few weeks to a few months. In response, she'd let him know that she had a birthday soon as well. Chat begged her for the month, desperately wanting to get her a gift, and Marinette hadn't been able to resist the adorable kitten eyes that pleaded for an opportunity to celebrate birthdays together.

She'd laughed when they discovered that she was about three months older than he was.

No, they hadn't shared exact dates, but telling each other the month they were born in showed enough trust without giving too much about their identities away. They'd promised to buy each other a gift and give it to the other during the month of their birthday.

Marinette knew immediately she'd bring him as many pastries and cakes from her bakery as she could.

Chat Noir had almost fallen asleep by the time the moon reached its peak in the sky, signalling that midnight was near from its milky white glow illuminating the stars in the surrounding sky. Marinette's own yawns of weariness had let her know that it was definitely time for bed, no matter how much she was enjoying the company of her partner at the moment. Both were tired, and with a disappointing realization, had school the next day.

"Chat," She murmured, giving him a gentle nudge. He'd drifted off with his head on her shoulder, cheeks glistening from his previous tears that had long since dried. "Hey, it's late. We've been out here for a long time."

"Sleeping," He muttered, refusing to open an eye. "Sleeping right now."

"You can sleep in a bed, not on me."

"Shush. I'm sleeping."

Marinette grinned. "You're talking an awful lot for someone who's sleeping, Chat Noir."

"I can talk in my sleep," He yawned, fangs glinting in the moonlight. "It's one of my many talents."

"Do you have a place to stay tonight?" She regretted asking as soon as the question fell from her lips and she saw that stupid, stupid grin.

"Why?" One of Chat's glowing green eyes opened to a slit, revealing a thin black pupil. "Are you offering?"

"Certainly not," She replied with a snort, for once feeling pleased to see his signature smirk. "I just need to make sure you're not sleeping on the streets, is all. Do you have a friend you're staying with?"

Chat blinked open his eyes, letting them flick to the bakery across from them. Oh, Marinette smiled in realization. He wants to stay with me. Okay.

"I do," He breathed, his gaze unblinking upon the windows of her bedroom. "Yeah. I'll be fine."

Marinette nodded, making a mental note to sneak in through the back door of the bakery in case he saw her enter her home. "Alright, kitty, goodnight. I'll see you next time, Chat Noir."

"Until next time, my lady." He gave a dip of his head, taking a bow after her stood. Before he vaulted off, he turned to face her once more, an expression of pure gratitude across his smiling face. "Oh, and Ladybug?"

"Yeah?"

As they made eye contact, his smile only grew. "Thank you."

And then, he was off.

Marinette let out the nervous breath she'd been holding as he leaped across the rooftops of Paris, in the complete opposite direction of the bakery. She grinned at his attempt to dissuade her from knowing where he was going to stay for the night.

At least it gave her the opportunity to slip in through her skylight to destransform and change into pajamas before hopping into bed. She hadn't expected to stay out that long with Chat, yet she couldn't bring herself to leave his side. He'd been in a time of need and she'd been there for him to let the tears flow until he ran dry. A heat spread across her face before she could distract herself in an attempt to stop it.

By the time a faint knocking could be heard from her skylight, Marinette had already fallen asleep, too exhausted to keep her heavy eyes open any longer. Tikki zipped underneath her pillow before Marinette opened the skylight, a fiery green gaze meeting twinkling blue. His eyes glowed like acid as they searcher hers, blond hair fanning his face like a sunny curtain. She resisted the urge to brush it away so that she could feel his smooth skin underneath her fingertips.

"Can I stay?' He whispered, inching his head in through the opening with an innocent smile.

Marinette nodded, letting her arms wrap around his thin frame as they fell back onto her mattress into a relaxing and comfortable heap. They shifted, Chat on his back as she curled up to his side, giving her easy access to his chest which felt more comfortable than any pillow could ever hope to be. As her fingers combed through his wonderfully soft hair, she sighed, letting her lips brush the lobe of his ear as she breathed, "Always."

Chapter Text

Saying that Marinette was tired would be a severe understatement. She was completely, utterly, overwhelmingly exhausted.

The moment her alarm clock sounded its shrill alarm was the moment she desired to smash her phone against the wall in an annoyed fit over loss of sleep. How dare it wake her when it was supposed to! How dare it tell her it was time to get up for school?

Grumbling, the teen rolled to her side and silenced the alarm, letting out a small sigh at the silence that filled the room. Every fiber in her body begged for a few more moments of sleep; to shut her eyes and let the darkness of slumber envelop her. Who cares about school, right? Stay in bed, it told her, and Marinette swore for a second she could feel herself sinking deeper into the mattress as if it was nothing but a bundle of fluffy pink clouds.

Can't, She responded internally as she sat up, her back cracking when she stretched her arms into the air. I won't see Adrien if I don't go to school.

"Hm," Sighed Marinette, letting herself fall back into the comfort of her pillows at the thought of her blond-haired, green-eyed crush. Those gorgeous bright eyes and that tousled blond hair that reminded her of sunshine were simply breathtaking, and when accompanied by a pair of velvety black ears-

What? Marinette coughed as she sprung up from her mattress, blue eyes blown wide. Chat Noir had once again successfully weaved his way into her thoughts, plaguing her mind with images of a black mask and a thin body bathed in midnight. She tried to ignore the way her heart skipped a beat from the memories of the night before; the clean smell of his skin and how wonderful of a pillow his chest had made caused her cheeks to warm with a red hue she wasn't too thrilled about. Chat Noir doesn't make Ladybug blush.

Yet… He made Marinette blush quite often, unfortunately. She felt weak.

Chat Noir had slipped into her bedroom after a long night of tears and sorrow, seeking a place to stay that would comfort him and perhaps make him feel safe. He'd gone to her first; his first choice in whose bed he shared that evening had been her. He trusted her. Marinette could practically feel those claws delicately combing through her loose hair as they had done mere hours ago, the memory of his fingers on her scalp making her sigh. As she looked to her right, she frowned at the empty bedding and ran her fingers along the pastel sheets, searching for any trace of warmth he might have left behind.

Cool fabric met her fingertips. As usual, her feline colleague had left hours ago.

Marinette was beginning to wish he'd take on the habit of waking her up to say goodbye.

There was just something so undeniably soothing about sharing a bed with another person. The slow rise and fall of Chat's chest as he breathed, the tangle of their legs underneath the warmth of a blanket, and the way a steady heartbeat that wasn't her own lulled her into a state so peaceful she never wanted to rise. A sigh blew from Marinette's nose as she fondly recalled the gentle caress of Chat's breath upon her forehead. He'd held her so close against him in such an affectionate embrace that she could have mistaken Chat for desiring a little more than friendly attention.

It hadn't felt as nice to cuddle with him as it had Adrien, yet she couldn't help but wish that the black cat had never left.

No, I'm glad he left, Marinette hissed at herself internally, grimacing at her skylight. I do not like Chat Noir. I like Adrien.

I like them both?

I am a disgusting human being.

With a final groan of defeat, Marinette buried her face within the security of her pillow where nobody could see the pink in her cheeks. Adrien had kissed her and here she was, wishing Chat Noir was back in her bed with his arms wrapped around her petite frame.

Stupid cat, interfering with my feelings!

In a feeble attempt to block out the image of Chat, Marinette reminded herself of how wonderfully soft Adrien's lips had felt against her own. Warm and ginger, like a perfectly delicious cup of tea that sat comfortably within her belly. Yes, Adrien had kissed her. Adrien Agreste had kissed Marinette Dupain-Cheng. The model whose face was the epitome of golden sunlight had molded his lips against a simple baker's daughter's. In fact, Adrien even returned her feelings—at least, she assumed. Maybe he didn't feel as strongly as she did, but... Nobody just kisses someone at three in the morning while watching old news reports without feeling something.

Before Marinette could delve on the thought much longer, her alarm went off a second time, reminding her that school was in fact still in session. A huff of annoyance left her as she kicked off her blankets and let them fall to the mattress in a heap of pink and white. Not even seconds after she'd silenced the screeching of her phone, her mother peeked in through the trapdoor, gray eyes wide with surprise.

"Marinette!" Sabine didn't seem too happy to find her daughter still in bed. "What are you still doing here? School starts in four minutes! You're going to be late."

"What!?" Scrambling out of bed as if her ass had been lit on fire, Marinette rushed to get ready, frowning at the unattractive sight in the vanity mirror. Messy hair and bags under the eyes from sleeping in makeup greeted her with a groggy frown as she combed through her knotted locks, hastily tying her hair up pigtails. How long had she been lying in bed thinking about blond hair and green eyes?

"I'll leave you to it," Her mother sighed before shutting the door, allowing Marinette to undress in private.

If her room hadn't been such a mess from the day before when she'd tore it apart looking for a certain black fabric, it would have been easier to locate some wearable clothing that wasn't pajamas or underwear. Clothes and fabric were strewn all across the hardwood floor, leaving Marinette in a frenzied panic as she attempted to find something to wear. Forming a decent outfit in under fifteen seconds in a clean room was barely manageable, so in the cluttered state her bedroom was currently in, it was damn near impossible.

"What about this pile?" Tikki offered as she hovered above a small heap of clothing. "Look, Marinette. The clothes on top are clean."

The black tank-top and faded blue skinny jeans didn't exactly fit into Marinette's fashion taste, but there was no time to search for an alternative. Slipping them on with a thank-you-Tikki to her Kwami, Marinette rushed to the bathroom to clean and fix the leftover makeup upon her face. She'd barely finished brushing her teeth before she threw on whatever article of white clothing that had been folded neatly upon her desk to avoid the risk of getting dresscode (because obviously, bare shoulders are such a turn on!)

"Okay, Tikki," She breathed, smoothing out her shirt with a glance to the ticking clock on the wall. "I'm ready to go."

Grabbing her schoolbag in a haste, she bolted down the stairs and out of the bakery with a reminder from her mother that she needed to clean her room after school and blueberry bagel clenched between her teeth. There'd been no time for a formal breakfast.

Guess I'm eating fast food today, she thought with a grin as her flats pounded against the pavement. Chat Noir would have been proud of that pun.

As she dashed towards the school, Marinette pulled her phone out of her purse to check the time—five minutes past the bell wasn't too bad, she decided, her feet carrying her up the stairs (without tripping!) and into the courtyard. It was a miracle that she'd made it to the door of her homeroom without falling flat on her face. With Ladybug's yo-yo and boundless confidence, running was a lot less of a challenge; usually, for Marinette, moving at a faster pace than simply walking ended with scraped knees and a face full of concrete.

Marinette slipped into the classroom silently, slithering back against the wall and praying she wouldn't be caught by the the teacher, who currently faced the board. With a sigh of relief, she managed to slide into her seat unnoticed. When a few glances and hushed whispers from her classmates rose from the silence, Marinette frowned, curious as to why everyone was staring at her as if her hair had been lit aflame. A small giggle from her right made her turn with a confused gaze to Alya, who covered her mouth with a hand to stifle her snickers. Marinette rose an eyebrow and parted her lips to speak, but was quickly silenced as Ms. Bustier turned and began teaching a lesson.

A rather boring lesson. A lesson that droned on and on about a subject Marinette had heard countless times before. During times of classroom boredom, Marinette would usually resort to staring at the back of Adrien's gorgeous head and daydreaming. Yet, when her eyes fell upon the model's seat, she was surprised to find that her crush's spot was vacant, leaving a lonesome Nino to scribble notes on looseleaf paper alone.

Odd, Marinette thought with a frown, cocking her head to the side. Adrien never misses school.

Maybe he'd caught a cold over the weekend—well, Marinette hoped not, or else she was due to get it too since they'd shared a kiss. Perhaps he had slept in by accident, or had a photoshoot to attend to early in the morning. Or, maybe, he was caught in traffic due to an accident up the road, or maybe he was the accident that was up the road—maybe Adrien was hurt and in the hospital and that's why he wasn't present! What if Adrien died?!

Alya must have caught her panicked expression, because it certainly wasn't Marinette's hand that had wrapped around her own. Alya gave her knuckles a comforting squeeze before shooting her a look that said, "I'm sure he's fine."

Marinette knew she was probably right—she was most of the time. It was more likely that Adrien was at home or modelling rather than being in a morgue, so there was really nothing to worry about... At least, she hoped.

With a disappointed sigh, Marinette gazed at the chalkboard with little interest as Ms. Bustier instructed them on what the teen had come to realize was a review for their final test of the year. A few small yawns came here and there, some from classmates but mostly from Marinette herself. As her eyes grew heavy, she began to regret staying up so late with Chat Noir. Sure, she'd never regret sitting on a rooftop until midnight helping her partner calm down, yet part of her wished they had retired to bed earlier; after all, Marinette hadn't done much more sleeping when he'd crawled into her bed not ten minutes after she'd gone home. Chat had drifted off relatively quickly, his head nuzzled deep within her pillow and his claws combing out the scarce knots in her hair, but Marinette could barely sleep. She had lie awake, her heavy gaze glued to the ceiling as she contemplated why exactly Chat Noir gave her the same fluttery feeling Adrien had when his fingertips brushed her own for the very first time on that rainy day nearly a year ago.

Confusion had kept her tossing and turning (in the least disruptive way possible—by all means, she hadn't wanted to wake the slumbering kitten who'd slept so peacefully with his arms cradled around her body.) Although her efforts to not disturb her partner had been extravagant, she'd eventually lost the battle and caused Chat to blink open those fiery green eyes with a small groan. Marinette had felt bad. She'd only gotten up to use the bathroom, but her movement had been too much for the light sleeper; he'd sat up and waited for her to return with open arms.

He'd told her he would stay forever if he could. The words rang in her mind like a gong's echo that never quieted.

When she'd finally laid back down within the toasty embrace of her favorite feline, Marinette had found sleep to come much, much easier. There was just something so safe about being completely enveloped by her protective partner's strong (yet surprisingly thin) arms. She could practically feel the vibration of his purr as she folded her arms on the desk and rested her head upon them, nuzzling into the comfort of her own skin.

Forearms never failed to make an adequate pillow when in need, but the chest of another would always be the best surface to rest her head upon.

She'd only meant to close her eyes for a moment. A split-second of connecting her eyelids and just like that, she was out like a light, her body relaxing into a heap of sleeping student. The bell had been her wake-up call, startling Marinette into a gasp.

"Girl," Alya began, giving her sleepy friend a nudge with her elbow. "You slept through the whole class! Did you even sleep at all last night?"

Marinette gave a simple shake of her head, grinning sheepishly. "Not much. I was up until three in the morning."

"What were you even doing up that late?" Alya rose a curious brow as she gathered her items into her schoolbag, stealing a glance at her friend's shirt.

Why is everyone staring at my clothes today?

"Uh," Nervously shifting her eyes, Marinette nodded, slinging her purse over her shoulder. "Sewing, and, uh… Making my room a mess looking for fabric."

Alya snorted. "Which I'm guessing you have to clean after school."

"Unfortunately," Marinette responded with a tired nod, giving her friend an apology before walking off to her locker. Suppressing a heavy yawn, Marinette lifted a hand to rub her eyes, but froze as she quickly remembered with a slight panic that she was wearing mascara. She didn't need to give herself a Chat Noir mask by smudging black all over her face.

God, Marinette thought with a yawn, her eyelids drooping as she walked in a zombie-like trance toward her locker. I need a nap.

And then she was met by a male body—a familiar tall and thin one—as her face collided against a broad chest. A chest she had her face pressed into Saturday night when he'd fallen asleep in her bed. A chest whose owner placed a hand on her shoulder to steady her before she tripped and embarrassed herself in front of him for what seemed would be the hundredth time. A chest that belonged to Adrien.

Apparently, I also need glasses.

"Don't fall," Laughed the model, although his voice seemed so foreign compared to his usual bright and friendly tone. It was empty and soft, quietly broken as if he'd been doing nothing but crying all morning. As Marinette stole a glance upwards, his eyes gave him away immediately; although dry, they were dull and clouded with sadness. His smile didn't meet his gaze.

"Adrien," Marinette breathed, smiling on instinct at the sight of her friend—her crush. "You look so tired."

His smile fell. Marinette mentally cursed herself for not thinking before she spoke. Now you've made him sad! "Yeah, I… I'm pretty, uh, tired."

Frowning, Marinette allowed herself to give him a quick lookover. His skin was a ghostly pale and those summer green eyes which usually glowed like little balls of sunshine had darkened to a gray cloud of sorrow. Even his hair was unstyled; a messy mop of blond that seemed a little too familiar for Marinette's taste. His normally neat clothes were disheveled, the signature black shirt wrinkled and blue jeans worn and faded. A horrible mix of sympathy and despair tugged at Marinette's heart from the sight displayed in front her. Adrien looked so shattered.

"Are-" She glanced over him once more, concern apparent on her features. "Are you sick?"

Adrien shook his head, tearing his gaze away from her as he fumbled with his lock. "I'm fine."

He's anything but fine.

Marinette watched him for a moment, studying the way his hands trembled as he pulled a mathematics textbook from his locker and how he struggled to simply unzip his schoolbag. He must have taken notice to her watching him because his eyes met hers for a moment before his lips curled upwards into a tiny grin that didn't quite reach his eyes. "Hey, you're wearing my shirt."

"I-I am?" She hadn't meant for her voice to sound so squeaky. A quick scan of herself confirmed Adrien's words; she was indeed wearing the shirt he'd left at her house two days prior. Apparently, in her rush to dress herself and get the hell out of the bakery, she'd slipped Adrien's button-up over her tanktop without thinking anything of it.

So that's why everyone had been staring, she mused, her eyes falling to the floor.

Marinette's cheeks reddened with the thought of her classmates getting the wrong idea. She was only wearing his shirt because she'd been pressed for time, and although they had become quite friendly Saturday night, nothing more than a little kissing and cuddling had gone on.

Adrien chuckled, his voice subdued. "You are. It looks better on you than it does on me, actually." He gave her a genuine smile—a small smile, but a smile nonetheless. "I'm glad I let you keep it."

Marinette let out a light laugh. "It's a little big."

"That's because you're tiny," He replied with a grin. "Your head only reaches my chest."

"That's okay," Marinette giggled, the familiar feeling of positive heat rising to her cheeks. "I like tall guys."

Adrien's eyes widened a fraction, Marinette having a moment of brief panic as she regretted ever learning the French language. Yet, when Adrien broke out into a full smile, all of her negative thoughts faded; she'd made him smile when he needed it most. A fuzziness rose within her chest that sparked a pleasant flame when he laid his hand upon her shoulder, his fingers curling around the curve just slightly.

"Well," He began, the sadness in his voice now faint. "I like short girls." He gave her nose a gentle poke before closing his locker and repositioning his schoolbag over his shoulder. "So it's a good thing that-"

A quiet meow came from behind them, so quiet that Marinette swore she'd been hearing things. Adrien turned, surprise evident on his face as she, too, found herself staring into the wide amber eyes of a black feline gazing up at them expectantly.

"Is that-"

"It's a cat."

"A cat," Marinette breathed, cocking her head to the side curiously. "In- in the school. You're seeing that, too, right?" Her blue eyes widened. "I'm not just extremely sleep deprived?"

Adrien shook his head. "No, I see it."

A lithe black feline with fur as dark as coal sat with its tail curled around its paws, whiskers twitching. With a flick of its ear, it mewled in wanting, midnight paws padding against the cool floor as it approached with caution. Its pink nose grazed Adrien's shoe and gave him a thorough sniff, the beginnings of a low purr rumbling within its throat.

Marinette smiled, curious about the cat's presence. Who knew how this cat had manage to slip into the school or why it was there, but it was certainly becoming friendly with Adrien. Marinette couldn't help but be reminded of a certain other feline who she'd been seeing a lot more of lately.

Leaning down, Marinette grinned, reaching out a fist for the animal to sniff. She squeaked in surprise as it recoiled, barring its teeth in an angered hiss with a paw outstretched to swat at her hand.

"Hey!" Marinette gasped, pulling her hand back and holding it protectively against her chest. The little fucker had definitely given her something to remember it by, judging by the stinging sensation that rose from her knuckles. "See, this is why I don't like cats."

"Maybe it's because she doesn't like competition," Adrien offered with a satisfied grin, clearly pleased by the fact that the cat had no issues with him scratching under its chin. "Aw, she's sweet, Marinette. You probably just scared her."

"Doubt it," Marinette huffed, "I think it's just mean. Black cats only cause trouble."

Adrien gave her a sideways glance, his brows furrowed curiously. "And why do you say that?"

"N-no reason," She replied, fighting the way her voice threatened to waver with a swallow.

"Well," His voice was soft. "I like black cats. They're my fav-"

A second cry of attention in a higher pitch caused Marinette to turn again. Her eyes met those of icy blue, which belonged to a fluffy silver tabby, making a total of two cats in their presence. "Another one?"

Adrien smiled, sitting on his heels as he allowed the black feline to crawl into his lap. "This school just got a million times better."

Of course he'd be a cat person, Marinette sighed internally, repressing the urge to roll her eyes (no matter how adorable it was that Adrien now had two cats fawning over him like he was some godly woodland prince beloved by all the creatures of the land.)

Adrien could barely handle two cats lounging in his lap, so when a third joined, followed by a fourth and a fifth, the poor teen was overrun by excited felines who wanted nothing more than to be pet and scratched. Marinette scowled, glaring as cats of all sizes and colors begged for attention from Adrien—her Adrien.

Her Adrien that was currently being smothered by scratch-seeking, furry missiles.

Marinette would have growled had she not been distracted by students fleeing down the hallway from cats hissing at their heels. With wide blue eyes, she set her eyes on Adrien, who had become completely surrounded by the mass of cats that purred and rubbed against him. A feeling of jealousy overtook her before she reminded herself that those are cats, Marinette, not supermodels, calm down. Besides, Adrien was laughing, his mouth stretched wide in a smile so big that she swore it had no place being on Adrien's face. His laughter was pure and gleeful as the cats' whiskers tickled his skin, leaving him in a pile on the floor that they had claimed as their new bed. The sight was almost too adorable for Marinette to bear: Adrien lying flat on his back, a heap of rumbling felines curled around him while the kittens of the group took shelter upon his chest and stomach.

"Marinette," He whispered, his grin stretching from ear-to-ear. "Quick, take a picture."

"Uh," Marinette glanced back at the hallway, where yowls and hisses were followed by the sound of students shrieking in fear. "Maybe now's not the best time? I think-" A crash confirmed her suspicions. "I think this may be an akuma attack. That's why there are so many cats."

Adrien muttered a complaint before (very gently) removing the kittens from his person, maneuvering around the cluster of cats that had bundled together for maximum warmth. "Why do all good things have to come to an end?"

Echoes of screams filtered through the hallway as Marinette buzzed impatiently. She needed to get away, to hide, to transform and deal with whatever akuma that was wreaking havoc among the streets of Paris. Tapping her feet, she shot Adrien a forced smile as he stood and brushed the fur from his black shirt. Marinette sneezed as it blew past her nose.

"You may not like cats," Adrien chuckled, "but you sure do sneeze like one."

A blush tingled upon her cheeks. Did that mean he thought her sneeze was cute? No—no time to dwell on that. There's an akuma to capture.

"We should find somewhere safe," She told him, instinctively going to grab his hand but hesitatingly as she quickly realized that holding hands with Adrien had yet to become something they were accustomed to. "It's dangerous here."

Adrien nodded, doing what she had been too nervous to by grasping her hand and pulling her down the hallway. With a glance back, Marinette found that the cats were close behind, enraged that their new favorite person had fled from their affections. She hissed under her breath as her and Adrien dashed through the swarms of feline.

"I didn't know there were so many cats in Paris," Adrien laughed as he turned a corner, his feet skidding to a stop to avoid the gang of tabbies that raised their hackles and spat as if they were the scum of the Earth. Behind them, cats flooded in, tails thrashing and teeth bared in a threat to pounce. They had no choice but to back up until their bodies hit the wall. There were no stairs nearby, and not a door close enough to slip into—the cats had cornered them completely with a barricade of fur and claws.

Marinette grumbled an obscenity under her breath. "I hate cats."

Tapping his chin, Adrien's face seemed to light up the moment he snapped his fingers from a sudden idea. Marinette internally prayed that it involved them splitting up, even for just a moment to give her an opportunity to transform. Ladybug was a hell of a lot more help when it came to defending citizens than Marinette could ever hope to be.

"They seemed to like me well enough," He began with a grin as he inched towards the approaching wall of felines. "If I distract them, can you promise me you'll find somewhere safe to hide?" His face softened with an emotion Marinette couldn't decipher. "I don't want you getting hurt."

Marinette nodded, allowing him to lean down with only slight hesitance. She feared the cats would scratch or bite, but when Adrien stretched out a closed fist, they simply sniffed and bounded to him in excitement as if he had treats for every last one of them. They pounced upon him, begging for attention with longing mewls and happy cries. Overrun by the mass of friendly felines, Adrien fell to his rear, laughing with glee as cats of all breeds found a part of his body to affectionately rub against.

A single thumbs-up was presented to her from underneath the bundle of cats, assuring Marinette that he would be safe. It was apparent these cats didn't want to harm him, although she wasn't entirely sure why—they'd been perfectly happy to attempt to maul every other student, including herself.

Maybe they just knew how good of a heart Adrien possessed.

While the cats were distracted, Marinette took the opportunity to slip away, shooting back a glance at Adrien before she made her way down the stairs. Somehow, he'd already disappeared, leaving a crowd of yowling cats behind. Where could he have run off to that quickly?

Although anxious, she knew she had other issues to attend to—capturing and purifying the akuma being the most important. With a quick scan of the courtyard, Marinette allowed herself to sprint across the open area, avoiding the cats that padded about as if they owned the place. The bathroom, she told herself, gotta get to the bathroom. I can transform there.

A startled yowl caught Marinette off guard as she stumbled, tripping over the body of a lounging (and rather fat) feline. She tumbled, rolling onto the rough flooring until she found herself in a world of pain as the back of her head collided against the cold surface of a stair step. Her vision filled with black for a split second before bright sunlight filled her gaze and caused a sharp throbbing to send a shock through her brain.

It was too difficult a task to stand—her vision was nothing but a blurry mess of color and her head spun in a dizzy haze. A horrible nauseating feeling took over her for just a moment before she found the strength to pull herself to her feet, steadying her wobbling body with a hand pressed against the side of the staircase.

Her ears rang a piercing tune, blocking out all other noise for a second or two before a thunderous, angry roar filled the air and shook the school with its mighty call. Marinette stumbled, the volume of the bellow burying its way into her head and causing a sickening ache that made everything seem a little too bright. She couldn't pinpoint the owner of the deafening roar, yet it appeared to be growing louder, more intense, as if it was approaching on heavy feet.

Marinette saw it before she had the chance to flee. A hulking gray beast with fangs as sharp as a honed blade jutted out of its furry muzzle, where white whiskers protruded like a million threads. It stalked on four long furry legs that led down to gigantic paws, inky black claws attached to each toe. With an infuriated howl, the cat-like monster's deep red eyes met her own, its pupils thinning to narrow slits of midnight that made it clear Marinette was the next item on its dining list.

Its tail was a furry whip, leaving deep indents into the walls. Fangs bared, it cried out as it caught her scent, lowering its haunches in preparation to pounce. Marinette felt her stomach plummet to the bottom of her feet in realization that she was a little too dizzy from the throbbing ache in her head to escape as quickly as she needed to, and worse—she had no time to transform!

Her feet were silent as she backed up along the stairs, deciding it was best to get on higher ground so that she had the advantage. She'd nearly tripped on her ascent and she was definitely moving slower than usual, but now was no time to give in to the heavy sensation of drowsiness that plagued her mind; Marinette needed to flee and find a safe place to transform so she could kick this akuma's ass!

Like the graceful goddess Marinette was, she tripped on the final step, toppling backwards onto the flooring, which scraped her hands as she protected herself from the fall. She was used to the usual clumsiness, but something was off about her balance, as if she could barely stand up straight without the threat of falling over. Her head screamed and begged for rest, to just go home and crawl up in bed and sleep, but Marinette knew now was not the time—there was a giant cat-like werebeast prowling the school in search of prey. It certainly wasn't the type of akuma that she could leave and come back to later.

Her body swayed as she composed herself, bracing a hand against the wall for balance while she made her way to the upstairs bathroom. The moment her fingers wrapped around the handle of the door that led to the bathrooms, Marinette felt the ground tremble, shaking with the sheer force of power that the werebeast's paws caused to vibrate through the building as it landed from its pounce. A low, throaty growl rose from its throat, saliva dripping from its open mouth. Marinette froze.

Don't move, she told herself, blue eyes wide with a mixture of fear and determination. Maybe it won't see me-

It did.

Never let it be said that Marinette was a coward. When it came down to it, she could hold her own in a fight, with or without the spotted suit. Whether it was up against Chloe, a normal every-day akuma, or a frothing, mangy werebeast that lunged at her with its jaws outstretched, she could handle it. Although her reaction time was a bit delayed, Marinette slunk out of the way of the powerful snap of teeth, landing a full-forced punch straight into the center of the beast's muzzle. The cat recoiled, hissing in pain as it spat crimson to the floor, claws raking the concrete.

If she hadn't been in the realm between alert and unconscious, Marinette would have grinned, but after moving out of the beast's line of attack so quickly, she'd given herself quite the dizzy spell. Her legs gave out underneath her from the sickening speed at which the world spun, leaving her nothing but a nauseous, confused teenager sitting on the floor of the upstairs hallway. A gurgled growl sounded from in front her and the feel of some sort of fluid—either saliva or blood—dripping onto her jeans reminded her that yes, there is still an enraged person akumatized as a werecat on the loose.

The only problem was that she felt too foggy to do anything.

Daring to glance up, Marinette's gaze met that of burning red, the scruffy gray beast looming above her with breath so hot and putrid that if the nauseous feeling from banging her head didn't make her puke, the scent of the creature surely would. Grimacing, she crawled backwards until her shoulders hit the wall, trapping her between brick and the drooling beast. She closed her hand in a tight fist, preparing to muster all of her strength into a single punch so forceful that she'd hopefully knock the damn thing out cold.

It spat, hissing as it lunged for her neck—only to be knocked backwards by the contact of her fist to its face. Or, so, she had thought it was her fist; instead, the source of the monster's pain was a silver baton with a glowing green cat paw upon the base.

Before Marinette could process what had occurred, she was flying, her body soaring through the air at such an alarming speed that she swore she'd lose what little breakfast she'd had all over the thin black figure that carried her across Parisian rooftops. Her headache pounded so intensely that she felt as if someone had taken a sledgehammer and slammed it across the back of her skull.

Marinette groaned, shutting her eyes to rid the sickeningly bright blur of the world around her as it flew by. Whoever had been holding her set her on her feet in the gentlest motion she'd ever had the pleasure to experience, a clawed hand laying atop her shoulder to steady her wobbling legs. How the hell was she supposed to save Paris if she could barely stand up straight?

"Princess, you ought to be more careful," A familiar voice rang, "you've hurt yourself."

She felt too sick to speak.

"Marinette, you're bleeding!"

"What? Oh," Sunlight flooded her eyes as she opened them. Chat Noir stood in front of her, his green gaze staring at her legs with worry. Chat had saved her when she'd been too dizzy to save herself and even brought her home, on top of her terrace. Typical hero boy. "That's not my blood."

Chat's eyes widened. "It's not? Whose is it?"

"The akuma's," Marinette responded weakly, bracing herself with a hand against his chest.

"The akuma was bleeding?"

She blinked. "I, um… It was was my fault. I kind of punched it. In the face. Hard."

"So that wasn't your puddle of blood on the floor?" The relief that washed over Chat's face was almost too much to bear. Did he really care that much…? And was that tone a hint of her partner being impressed?

Marinette nodded, but instantly regretted the movement as it caused her head to throb in agony. She'd definitely need a painkiller or two after they dealt with the werebeast. "No, I'm… I'm fine."

A lie.

"Do you need me to carry you inside?" Ugh, Chat Noir, the ever-caring, gentlemanly superhero who was more concerned with whether or not she needed a lift into bed rather than the fact that there was a rampaging furry beast tearing up the school with its army of domestic cats. "You look really sick. Are you sure you're alright?"

"I'm fine," She told him, resisting the urge to rub at the painful spot on the back of her head.

Chat faltered, stealing a glance back at the school before sighing and nodding. "I'd stay inside until Ladybug and I deal with this nasty kitty, just to be safe." He gave a half-hearted chuckle. "Not all of us cats are mean, you know."

"I can tell," Marinette responded with a weak grin. "A mean cat would have left me to be eaten by that akuma. I think I've had my fill of kitties for today, though."

Chat grinned, letting out a soft laugh as he shot her a wink. "Well, at least this kitty's on your side!" Extending his baton, he hopped onto the silver railing of the terrace, giving her a final wave before preparing to leap. "See you around, princess."

And then, he was gone. Just like that, he'd swooped in, plucked her from the ground and carried her off to safety before he left to protect the millions of other citizens within the city. Marinette sighed, watching her partner bound from the roof of the school and into the courtyard, where the hundreds of cats most likely swarmed in waiting for prey to wander into their little paws.

There was no use just standing around.

Slipping into her bedroom, Marinette smiled as Tikki flitted out from her purse with an anxious buzz. The little Kwami looked incredibly distraught as she examined her Chosen's face, zipping around her head so fast that Marinette had to shut her eyes to avoid getting dizzy again.

"Marinette, Chat Noir was right," The little goddess squeaked, "you're hurt."

Marinette frowned. "I'm fine, Tikki. We need to transform."

Tikki was clearly in a dilemma. "I know, but I think you should be careful. You've hurt your head pretty bad and I don't want you to make it worse."

"I know" Marinette replied with a quirk of her eyebrow. "But there's a giant cat-human-werewolf thing out there that needs to be stopped before it hurts anyone. If I take it easy, someone might die."

Her Kwami sighed. "Just try not to hurt yourself too much, Marinette. An injured Ladybug is no good against Hawk Moth's akumas."

"I know, I'll be safe, Tikki." Marinette felt grateful for her Kwami's concern, even if she couldn't entirely take her advice. "Spots on!"

Her suit materialized around her in a flash of red and pink, the magic of her transformation dulling the effects of her headache just slightly to the point where it was only a little less than bearable. Still, it was an improvement from the sluggish dizziness she'd felt prior to being covered in spots. With a breath of relief, Marinette exited through her skylight and swung off towards the school, her eyes widening at the sight displayed before her.

A group of students who had been hiding within the bushes fled from the fierce werebeast in a desperate attempt to escape its hungry jaws. The cat lunged, a ginormous paw outstretched to grasp one of the teenagers—only to have its furry appendage smacked back by a silver baton. Chat Noir dropped in between the monster and the students (which happened to be a few of Marinette's classmates) and hissed, his hackles rising and teeth bared in a warning that if it didn't back off, he'd make it do so. She'd almost forgotten that Chat had a pair of fangs of his own, although they were about ten times smaller than the massive teeth their current enemy sported.

Marinette had never seen her partner look so… Feral. It was almost frightening, to say the least, but it definitely got his point across. The werecat flinched—just slightly—before growling and raising a matted forearm to strike.

Her yo-yo was quicker than the blundering beast. It rammed into the side of its paw, causing it to stumble backwards and let out a surprised whimper. Its mouth foamed with rage as it limped away, bumbling through the streets and smashing parked cars. Marinette bit the side of her cheek in concentration. The akuma may have been large, but due to its size it was certainly slower than she and Chat's top speed. They needed a plan.

"Chat," She breathed as she approached her partner. "Are you okay?"

Chat Noir nodded, his lips stretching into a confident smirk as he retracted his baton and placed it upon his back. "Not a scratch on me. I think I've made it prettyclear that I'm the alpha cat of the neighborhood."

Marinette snorted, reminding herself not to shake her head or roll her eyes—she still felt quite ill. "Oh, I'm sure. Although, I don't think our little kitty there wants to see things your way."

"He'll just have to," Her partner responded through a cocky smile. "Don't you know that the most handsome cat gets the cream?"

A roll of her eyes. Ouch, pain. "If we let him destroy the city, neither of you will be getting anything, no matter your looks."

Chat shrugged, his smile never fading. "At least I'll still have you. Right, Bugaboo?"

"You can dream, kitty."

"That's the plan."

Marinette gave a soft laugh before she hooked her yo-yo on a lamppost across the street. "Actually, the plan is to capture the akuma and purify it so we can resume life as normal."

"Still a pretty good plan."

Shaking her head (and regretting the movement moments after), Marinette zipped across the street and flung onto the roof of a little fabric shop she often visited as her civilian self. It seemed like the raging werecat had torn apart its fair share of cloth before charging down the street in search of something else to destroy. A trail of yarn in all colors was strewn down the road and, as Marinette swung to the building that rounded the corner, saw that it stopped abruptly just before Le Grand Paris hotel, which had certainly seen better days. The entire entrance had been smashed through, leaving a gaping hole where the doors had once been.

Chat landed beside her with a frown. "Uh oh. Do you think he-"

A scream cut him off before he could even finish his statement.

Marinette sighed. "Yep."

From the moment the two burst into the hotel, Marinette knew that defeating this particular akuma would prove to be no easy task. It seemed as if the swarm of Parisian cats had migrated from the school to the lobby of the hotel, where they scratched up furniture and destroyed plants. If anyone dared approach, they'd be met by a pawful of sharp claws. Marinette knew that herself from experience.

"Ugh," She groaned, pressing a hand to her aching head. The headache was only getting worse the more she moved around. "These damn cats, they're everywhere! How are we supposed to capture the akuma if we can't even get within two feet of these cats without drawing blood?"

Marinette sighed in frustration as a fat little calico nipped at her leg and received a gentle shove of her foot in return. If only Adrien were here, he could-

...Do exactly what Chat Noir is doing.

Chat sat on his knees, tapping his thighs with his hands to attract the cats' attention. When one came padding over, another followed, until the entire population of cats within the lobby bounded to him in excitement. They purred, mewled, rubbed and rolled all over her partner, giving Marinette a very odd sense of Deja Vu—as if this had just happened sometime earlier in the day. An uncomfortable feeling washed over her so strongly to the point where she needed to look away. Perhaps it was the increasingly painful headache that was making her feel so odd.

"I've got them," Chat told her as his arms enveloped a clump of feline. "Go find the akuma. I'll be right behind you."

Nodding (painfully), Marinette scouted the interior of the hotel from the bottom to the top. It wasn't until she heard a shriek from the service elevator that it occurred to her the akuma must be in the kitchen. Slipping inside the tiny box, she pulled herself down, fighting off the wave of sickness that crashed over her as she moved downward. The darkness felt nice, if just for a moment, yet when she slid open the little door to reveal the piercing white light of the kitchen, she hissed in pain. Never in her life had Marinette ever been cursed to experience a headache as awful as the one she was currently suffering through. The only thing getting her through the mission was the thought of being able to curl up in bed with all the lights off when she finally got home.

"Miss me, my lady?" Chat purred as he burst into the kitchen, flinching from the sight of the werebeast devouring every ounce of food in sight. It was only then that Marinette realized the fancy kitchen of the prestigious hotel was now a complete disaster; food and trash spread all over the tile flooring, pantries raided and the multiple fridges toppled over in a sparking, leaking mess.

"Nice to see you again, Chat Noir," She responded in a forced tone that sounded too sweet to come out of her mouth. Trying to hide her pain was ending up in stupid embarrassment instead of Chat hovering over her like a mother cat whose kit had stepped on a thorn. At this point, Marinette wasn't sure which she preferred.

"Ladybug, are you-"

A giant paw swatted Chat Noir out of the way, flinging him into the wall of the kitchen. Marinette's eyes widened.

...Eh, he's been through worse.

"What's wrong with you?" She hissed at the giant cat, grinning as she successfully wrapped her yo-yo's string around its two front legs, causing it to topple to its side. "Beating up your own kind? Isn't that a little low, even for a cat?"

"I resent that," Chat grumbled as he sat up, rubbing his sore back. "That's definitely going to bruise- ow."

"Then stop touching it," She told him through clenched teeth as she searched the writhing werecat with her eyes for any sign of an akumatized item. It wore no clothes besides torn blue jeans, which were ripped beyond repair. Even as a skilled designer, Marinette would cower in fear from having to fix such a garment.

This is no time to be thinking of clothes, Marinette!

"Ladybug," Her partner groaned as he stood, wobbling on his feet just slightly. "I think it's that little cat pin on his chest. Do you see it?"

A pin?

Narrowing her eyes, Marinette scanned the chest of the furry beast, only to be jerked in its direction with a force so strong that it caused her head to feel as if it were full of jello. A whimper fell from her lips as the cat struggled to loosen her hold, squirming and thrashing in an attempt to get free. She stumbled, falling forwards and preparing to feel the agony of tile slamming against her forehead, but… It never came.

Chat Noir had caught her, his clawed fingers wrapped firmly around her hips as he stood with his feet planted on the floor behind her. Still dizzy from the sudden movement, Marinette groaned, placing her hands on her knees as she steadied herself and fought the need to vomit. No, puking in front of Chat Noir while they were in a rather suggestive position would not be the highlight of her day, her week, or even her month—she'd definitely keep it in as long as she could, at least until she got home.

It was a good thing that after a year of partnership, her and Chat Noir had no room for awkwardness. As partners, they were often intimate with each other, whether it be holding hands or having their bodies squished together while hiding out in tiny spaces. Having her ass pressed against his crotch was no different than what they had become accustomed to; physical attention was the norm when it came to being superheroes. The safety of the city was more important than personal comfort.

Still, that's not to say it wasn't a little embarrassing to have her rear brushing against her platonic partner's dick while she felt as if she was about to either faint or barf (maybe both.)

Tikki was right; she wasn't okay, but the mission was too important. Protecting Paris always came first.

The cat tugged at her yo-yo, causing her arm to jerk forwards and a stinging sensation to rise from the joint. The akuma may be slow, but god, was it strong. Marinette cried out, letting the yo-yo slide from her finger as her other hand came up to rub to spot that was quickly becoming sore. The cat wriggled free from the wire, immediately resuming to devour any food it could get its mouth on.

Late for school because of a stupid cat, scratched by a stupid cat, tripping over a stupid cat and hitting her head on the stairs because she was running from an even bigger stupid cat, nearly getting her arm torn off because of that same stupid cat—it was obvious that Marinette was having one of those rare unlucky days that could only get worse.

"Lucky charm!" She called in desperation as she retrieved her yo-yo, hissing from the pain that rose from her arm when she threw her weapon into the air. From the cloud of red light came a red and black spotted ball of yarn, soft and plush to the touch. The memory of Chat Noir rolling on her floor and covered in yarn came to mind and pulled a smile from her lips.

She didn't have to ponder on how to use the charm this time.

Snapping her fingers to get the feasting beast's attention, she swallowed as its hungry red eyes zeroed in on the ball of yarn she held so protectively within her hand. Its whiskers twitched, tail lashing back and forth (and successfully knocking a few plates of food off of the counters), approaching in a silent stalk.

"You want it so bad?" Marinette growled, surprised at how wobbly and meek her own voice sounded. The pounding headache was definitely starting to get to her now. Maybe it wouldn't have hurt to let Chat Noir be the leader for once; she was really beginning to regret not taking it easier like Tikki had suggested.

How many times do I need to remind myself that Tikki is five thousand years old and probably holds more knowledge in one antenna than I do in my entire body? She thought with a frown, raising her arm to tease the gigantic cat.

"Then go and get it!" Tossing the ball of yarn, Marinette watched with satisfaction as the gigantic feline chased after it as if it were nothing more than a little kitten bounding after a playtoy. It smacked the yarn around, a rumbling, low purr rising from its throat. It chased, it played, it pounced… Right towards the exit of the kitchen. If there was one thing Marinette knew for sure, it was that if they let this werecat out on the loose, they'd never capture its akuma.

"Chat!" She called, rubbing the sore joint on her arm. "Use your Cataclysm on the ceiling! Barricade the exits!"

With a nod, Chat called out for his special power and extended his baton, lifting himself to press a glowing black hand against the ceiling. Tiles cracked and fell followed by pipes and metal beams, blocking the double doors that led into the lobby. With Chat Noir's power, the fuzzy akuma had no way to escape; not that it wanted to, with its attention on nothing else but the ball of yarn it held between its teeth.

Having the beast distracted made it a much easier task for Chat to snatch the little tabby pin upon its furry chest and toss it to her. Marinette blushed from embarrassment as she missed, the pin dropping to the floor with a soft clank. Normally, she'd always been good at catching things, but she felt so off that nothing felt right at the moment. Her head pounded and her eyes drooped with exhaustion, the sickly feeling of nausea still lingering within her throat. Stomping onto the pin, she smiled in relief as the violet butterfly flapped into the air. Her yo-yo caught it with its usual preciseness, cleansing the insect and setting it free once it was purified.

Marinette slumped to her rear against the wall as she watched the swarm of ladybugs repair all the damage. The mess on the floor disappeared, the ceiling fixed, cats returned to their homes and the akumatized victim morphed back to his normal state. The pain that had been throbbing within her arm faded to a dull ache that would surely be gone by the time she returned to the bakery.

The victim was a tall man with gray hair and glasses, wearing a colorful vest embroidered with cat faces. It was an ugly garment, but Marinette had never been one to judge others' fashion tastes, being a designer herself. If the old guy wanted to wear ugly sweater vests, then that was his business. A vague memory of Kim telling them about the "new biology teacher with an ugly sweater and obsession with cats" came to mind.

The man's head whipped around in a scan of his location, obviously confused. Marinette would have stood to comfort him herself, but the thick cloud of sickness and pain that hung over her head was too much to bear at the moment. She didn't want to stand. She didn't want to speak. She just wanted to go home.

Chat Noir had taken care of the victim, it seemed. Her partner escorted the man out of the kitchen, leaving Marinette to collect herself and follow. Yes, she told herself, get up and follow Chat. Don't just sit here.

She hadn't even noticed she'd closed her eyes until Chat returned.

"Ladybug, what are you doing? Your miraculous, it's-" He paused as her eyes blinked open, drowsy and pained. "...What happened to you?"

"I'm fine," She slurred out, rubbing the sore spot on the back of her head. Was that dried blood?

"You're not," Her partner responded, not waiting for permission to scoop her up within his arms. "You're about to destransform and you're sitting on the floor trying to take a nap. At least let me get you somewhere safe."

"I'm fine," Marinette sighed as she wriggled in his grasp. "You don't have to baby me."

Chat Noir raised an eyebrow at her irritated tone. "Just trying to help, Bugaboo. Unless you want me knowing your identity, then I suggest you let me get you somewhere safe before you-"

"Fine," She breathed, pressing her face against the comfort of her partner's chest. The smell of a certain brand of soap that had become so familiar to her flooded her nose and drew a contented sigh from her lips. Maybe she could close her eyes for a minute, just a moment's rest within the arms of her favorite feline, it would be okay. She could sleep just like she'd been wanting to since she'd hit her head on the stairs.

The beeping of her miraculous brought her back to reality, her eyes snapping open in surprise. "I'm fine," She told Chat as she slithered out of his arms. "I'm okay, I can walk. I'm not hurt that bad."

"But you are hurt," He responded, laying a clawed hand on her shoulder. "Are you sure you can-"

Her miraculous beeped a third time.

"I need to go, Chat." Turning, Marinette gave her partner a weak wave before walking on wobbly legs into the lobby, relieved to see that it was free of everything feline.

Well, except for Chat Noir himself.

"You hurt your head, didn't you?"

She sighed. "I'm okay, Chat. I'm alive. I'll heal."

"You might have a concussion," He continued, "maybe you should go see a doctor."

A concussion was likely the cause of her discomfort. She'd hit her head pretty hard—having a concussion wouldn't be much of a surprise. Due to her clumsiness, she'd dealt with one or two before; it wasn't something Marinette couldn't handle.

"I'll be okay," She told Chat, giving his shoulder a pat. "Thanks for looking out for me, though."

"That's what partners do, right? Besides," He slung an arm around her shoulder, leaning in to whisper, "you took care of me last night. It's the least I can do to repay the favor."

Marinette smiled, gazing up at her friend (her best friend) with a thankful blink. "I appreciate it."

A fourth beep of her miraculous.

"See you around, Chat Noir."

"See you, my lady."

Marinette was thankful for the speed her yo-yo granted. She'd dropped down onto her bed just as the transformation faded, leaving her in the clothes she'd rushed to put on earlier that morning. Bloodied jeans, Adrien's overshirt, both of which she shedded before crawling underneath the warmth of her comforter. As she buried herself within its comfortable embrace, darkness enveloped her completely, allowing her mind to relax from the quiet atmosphere being underneath the blanket provided. It was a little harder to breathe, yes, but it was worth it for the shield the blanket provided against the light seeping in through her skylight. Not a sound or ounce of sunlight permeated the cozy cover.

Marinette felt completely, absolutely content.

Her thoughts drifted back to school that morning, when she'd bumped into a pale-faced and depressed looking Adrien Agreste. Her heart sank at the memory.

Poor Adrien had seemed so upset about something; something Marinette wanted nothing more than for it to go away so that her friend—her crush—could be happy. Whatever it was, whatever had happened, Marinette felt for him. She knew Adrien didn't have the happiest life, what with his father's overbearing protectiveness and practical abandonment making him a lonely shell of needy teenager.

The hollow look in his dull eyes had held no secrets. Marinette could always tell when someone had been crying, no matter how hard they tried to hide it.

Whatever was wrong with Adrien… She wanted to be the one to make it better.

If only Adrien could lie with her. Sleeping always made Marinette feel better, especially when it was with a person who wanted nothing more than to take the sadness away.

Her last thoughts were of sad green eyes and tousled golden hair before she drifted off into a well-deserved sleep.

Tomorrow is another day.

Chapter Text

A concussion.

Marinette was at home with a mild concussion.

It was something Adrien found concerning and odd at the same time. When he'd scooped her up the day before and brought her to safety as Chat Noir, he'd definitely noticed she was acting off—swaying, unable to stand up straight, a pained expression on her face that he knew she'd been trying to hide. Somehow within the span of time it took him to find a safe spot and transform, Marinette had gotten hurt; Adrien didn't know how she'd been injured, but the thought caused a sickening feeling of guilt to reside within the pit of his stomach.

She'd hurt herself because he'd let her run off alone in a dangerous area.

It wasn't that Marinette couldn't take care of herself—no, he knew she was incredibly strong for her size—but if he'd arrived a few seconds later...

Well, she'd be lying somewhere else rather than her bed.

He didn't want to think about it.

Alya had been the one to tell him the news when he'd pointed out that Marinette's seat was vacant. Her predicament wasn't anything too serious, just a slight injury that would keep her out of school for the next day or two until she recovered. Adrien could only imagine how boring it must be for his friend stuck at home in bed without much to entertain her. From his experience with past illnesses and injuries, being bedridden certainly had its lulls; there's only so much a person can do besides sleep when stuck in a bed for an elongated period of time.

Which was why Adrien wasn't the least bit surprised to find Marinette slumbering away when he arrived on his lunch break. It was a little disappointing, but not unexpected. From below, he could see that she was wrapped up within the cozy cocoon of her blanket, held inside like a gift waiting to be unwrapped. A perfectly content princess whose only duties were sleeping and looking absolutely breathtaking, both of which she acted out with ease.

Adrien grinned as a longing sigh passed his lips. All of him wanted nothing more than to crawl into her bed and snuggle up like the affectionate cat he was.

She'd let Chat Noir do it.

But Chat Noir's not here right now.

Marinette was the epitome of comfortable, a warm bug nestled away in hiding. Just laying his eyes upon her dozing form made Adrien feel the beginnings of sleepiness coiling its way into his skin.

He hoped she wouldn't become grumpy when he woke her. Was Marinette the grumpy type?

If it'd been his choice, he would have left and returned at another time when she was awake and alert, but Sabine had kindly asked him to bring up some lunch for her daughter, telling him that Marinette had neglected to eat much at all since her injury the day before. Adrien could understand why, of course; he knew from personal experience as Chat Noir that a concussion makes a person nothing but nauseous and exhausted, so eating wasn't always the favored pastime.

It was no secret that being a superhero sometimes came with a price, and injuries were definitely on that list.

Holding a pink tray of food in his hands, Adrien ascended the stairs to her bed with a shy glance at his sleeping classmate. She looked so peaceful that he felt it would be a horrendous crime to wake her. A crime so awful that if she so much as frowned from being disturbed he would put himself in prison. A crime that was perfectly legal and needed to be done, but a crime nonetheless.

He sighed at the memory of her mother's words. "Marinette's been sleeping all day—don't be afraid to get her up for a little while."

Still, he was a tad nervous to be crawling into her bed as Adrien. Marinette may have become accustomed to Chat Noir slipping in during the late hours of the night, but Adrien sitting on her mattress during daylight would certainly come as a surprise. It wasn't as weird to him as it would be to her—unbeknownst to Marinette, Adrien was no stranger to her bed.

(No matter how awful that sounded.)

For a brief moment he wished her bed wasn't so high up above the floor. Standing next to her instead of sitting on her bed—right next to her sleeping body—would definitely make the situation much less awkward.

"Marinette," He whispered, knowing very well that his voice was far too quiet to cause her to stir. "Marinette, wakey-wakey."

Her face scrunched up and made her dusting of freckles even more prominent before relaxing back to its previously content state.

Adrien sighed. "Marinette, time to get up."

A soft murmur rose from her lips as she buried her face within her pillows.

"I've got food," He offered, "your mom made it. It's, uh," Taking a look at what her mother had prepared, he smiled fondly, remembering the days when his own mother would make him little lunches just like Sabine had for her daughter. The only difference was that his mother would cut up the sandwiches into little squares. "It looks like a turkey sandwich and some water. Oh, and painkillers. There's a cookie, too."

Marinette turned her back to him with a huff.

"Go away, Chat Noir," She grumbled, successfully pulling a smirk upon Adrien's face. It was amusing how she assumed that it was Chat's voice instead of Adrien's, when in reality they were the same. Technically, she wasn't wrong.

"It's not Chat Noir," Adrien chuckled, "it's Adrien. You should get up, or I'm going to eat this cookie before you get the chance."

"...What?"

Did he really have to resort to shaking her?

"Up," He told her, poking her bare shoulder with his finger and receiving a gentle swat in return. He didn't have much time to admire the way her tanktop revealed a galaxy of freckles decorating her shoulders before a second swat quieted his chuckling. "Time to get up. Alya said she's coming over after school so if you don't wake up for me, I'm sure she'll be able to convince you."

"Adrien…?" Ah, there was the recognition. He smiled at how adorable his name sounded falling from her sleepy lips.

"Yeah," He whispered, grinning as she turned and set those wide blue eyes upon his own green. "It's me. Alya told me what happened. A concussion, huh? Pretty unlucky."

"...Oh," Marinette's gaze shifted to the tray of food sitting in his lap. "I-I'm not that hungry."

Adrien frowned, disappointed at how she couldn't exactly meet his gaze. Hadn't they moved past that barrier of shyness? "Your mom said you've barely eaten since yesterday. C'mon, it's not a lot. You gotta eat."

What a hypocrite he was, telling someone else to eat when he'd purposefully neglected to that morning.

Fighting with his father always left him feeling with an empty, endless void of sadness that couldn't be filled by food alone.

Sometimes the sadness ran too deep to even spur a feeling of hunger within him. It was a good thing, most of the time.

He only wanted to make his father proud.

It took more strength than normal to hide the way his expression threatened to fall. Adrien prayed his smile didn't appear too fake.

"I… I guess." Sitting up, Marinette groaned and pressed a palm to her forehead, obviously still experiencing uncomfortable headaches. Adrien felt for her.

Taking the tray of food, Marinette sighed, picking at the crust around her sandwich before looking away from it entirely. She didn't seem to be too interested in her food.

"You okay?" He dared to ask, his eyes softening as he watched her hesitantly lift a half of her sandwich to her mouth.

She nodded in response. "Yeah, I'm… Doing better than I was yesterday, I think. I don't know. I-I've just been sleeping most of the time. I haven't even left my bed or changed my clothes, I-I- ...I probably look so gross right now."

So that's what was bothering her. Marinette was feeling a little insecure about her appearance.

Adrien suddenly felt a twinge of guilt for being a model.

Personally, he didn't give a damn whether her hair was unbrushed or that her makeup from the day before had smudged beneath her eyes; she still looked like Marinette in his opinion. Cute and freckled, just how he liked her. There wasn't anything that could change how adorable she was in his eyes.

"You don't look gross," He told her, instinctively looking down as she adjusted her position and caused the heavy blanket to fall from her arms and settle low on her thighs. He reached out a hand to help her pull it up, his fingers brushing the edge of the fabric before- oh.

Oh.

Oh, no.

Adrien swallowed hard, his cheeks burning a fiery red blaze as he tore his gaze away from a certain pair of undergarments that he surely hadn't expected to see again so soon, if ever at all. "You- you uh- um… Marinette, you might wanna, uh- pull the- the blanket…"

Shame washed over him as he covered his eyes and felt the burning heat of his skin on the palms of his hands. He'd looked down by accident and had been met with the sight of Marinette not wearing any pants!

He'd never get the image of those ladybug-patterned panties actually on her out of his head.

"A-Ah! Sorry!" She squeaked, covering herself at a speed so fast Adrien swore it was inhuman. The deep shade of scarlet that rose to her face almost matched the color of her-

Stop! No, no, no! Stop it! Stop right now!

His fingers curled around the sheets of the bedding so tight that his knuckles grew pale. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to see-"

"I know," She responded, her tone shy. "I-it's okay, it was an accident…"

Adrien nodded. "R-right. Yeah."

A horribly awkward silence lapsed between them. Internally, Adrien was screaming at the top of his lungs, feeling the sizzle of his blush travel from the tips of his ears all the way down to his neck. His throat felt as dry as a desert in summer, and no matter how many times he swallowed it wouldn't relieve the nervous scratchiness that had appeared from the sight of his friend's—his crush's (what could they call each other now?)—underwear.

Marinette long since covered herself, her cheeks making it apparent that Adrien wasn't the only one extremely embarrassed by the situation. Afterall, it's not like every teenager in Paris kissed their crush over the weekend and came to see them pantless the following Tuesday.

"Sorry," He breathed out again, forcing a chuckle from his mouth as he rubbed his arm as if to ease the tension from the unpleasant situation. "I-I didn't mean to make it weird."

Marinette glanced at him, the brief contact of her eyes on him making his blush burn deeper into his already flushed skin. "It's… It's alright, Adrien. No harm done."

"Th-they're cute," He coughed out before he could stop himself. Regret filled every fiber of his body as he glanced upon Marinette's incredulous expression, her blue eyes nearly bulging out of her head at his compliment (well, what an inappropriate compliment it was.) His cheeks scorched and his lips pulled downwards into an apologetic frown that was nothing but sincere.

Well, maybe a tad panicked, too.

Marinette, shockingly, appeared to be amused by his little slip-up. "Did you just call my underwear cute?"

"S-s-sorry!" He laughed, grinning nervously and averting his gaze. "I wasn't thinking… I made it weird. I'm so sorry."

All Marinette could do was chuckle and take another bite of her sandwich. He knew he'd made the situation incredibly uncomfortable, and calling the panties he wasn't supposed to see cute had only worsened it.

Yet, they were both smiling.

Maybe it hadn't been such a bad thing.

Still, that's not to say there wouldn't be a certain thought keeping Adrien awake all night from the sheer embarrassment of it.

"Are you feeling any better?" He asked after a moment of silence that had been little too long for his liking.

"A little, but…" She paused to yawn. "My head still hurts pretty bad occasionally, and I'm kind of dizzy… I'm supposed to be avoiding thinking too much… Agh, the headaches are really bad, though."

Adrien pointed at the painkillers she'd yet to take on her tray. "That's what those are for."

Marinette stuck out her tongue and took the two pills before sliding the now empty tray back to his lap, trickles of black hair spilling over her bare (freckled!) shoulders. "Happy?"

"Very."

"Good. Now let me nap."

"Haven't you slept enough?" He laughed, giving her a gentle nudge as she rolled onto her side and turned her back towards him. At her dismissal, Adrien whined, his lips pooching in a disappointed pout. Hadn't she learned already that cats hate being ignored? "Mari, no."

"Shh," She whispered, pulling the blanket over her head. "Marinette is asleep."

"Marinette needs to wake up," He shot back with grin, grabbing hold of the corner of her blanket and giving a tug. It stayed in its place. He'd forgotten for a moment how strong Marinette could be.

"Can't hear you," Came the muffled reply, "sleeping."

Adrien huffed. He'd pulled that same line on Ladybug just a few nights before, but it was a little more annoying to be on the receiving end. "You're doing an awful lot of talking for someone who's sleeping."

Silence was the reply he received.

Damn it.

Well, time for the guilt trip. Adrien hadn't lived in the Agreste household for nearly sixteen years for nothing. He'd certainly picked up a tactic or two on how to guilt a parent.

"You're so mean," He whined. "I came all this way from school to visit you. I walked and now my legs are tired. If anyone should be sleeping, it should be me."

The blankets rustled as she turned, followed by a single bright blue eye peeking out from underneath the covers.

"Even if I wanted to sleep," He continued, unable to hide the grin that split his face. "I couldn't, because someone is hogging all of the blanket."

Marinette responded with a giggle, the sound reminiscent of tinkling bells that sent a warmth to spark within his heart. One of her hands sneaked out from underneath the covers and Adrien felt a brief twinge of excitement, but was quickly disappointed as she only pulled the rest of the blanket to herself, stealing away every inch of it she could. Now she really had hogged all of it completely, snuggled up within it like a cozy pink burrito.

Adrien wanted to be wrapped inside that burrito, too.

Setting the pink tray to the side of her bed, he grinned, taking hold of of a part of the blanket that stuck up and was easiest to grab. Pulling, he chuckled as she protested, her hands scrabbling to tear the fabric from his hold.

"You come to my house," She began in a threatening tone, although the large smile across her face gave way to her being nothing but playful. "You wake me from a nap and and steal my blanket without permission, all while I'm concussed! It's cruel, honestly, Adrien."

Adrien snorted, tugging on the blanket as she slipped her head underneath the protective covering. "I'm your guest."

"A guest who woke me from my nap."

"A sad guest who maybe wants to be cuddled."

She went silent for a moment, the tone in her voice changing to apprehensive. "I… can't."

Adrien pouted, disappointed that she'd actually refused. They'd kissed and yet they weren't on cuddling terms yet? "Why not?"

"I-I'm... not wearing any pants."

Oh. Right.

"Then go put some on," He giggled, trying to keep the mood gleeful. No use making it awkward again. "I won't look."

She seemed hesitant in her answer—whether it be because she was unsure if it was okay to move around while concussed or because she'd be half-naked in the same room as him without a blanket to cover herself.

"I… I guess I could get up for a second." Hesitantly, Marinette threw the blanket off of herself, Adrien covering his eyes as soon as he'd heard the rustling of covers. Although he saw nothing, he could feel her shifting on top of the bed before the weight was completely gone. He figured she must have climbed down from the sound of a drawer being opened and bare feet tapping on hardwood flooring. After a moment, the weight returned to the bed, and the sight of Marinette settling back upon the mattress met him as he uncovered his eyes.

"Better?"

She gave him a tired smile in response. "N-not pantless."

"I can see that," He said with a glance to the pink pajama pants adorned with black kittens. The Chat Noir within him smirked. "Kittens, huh? Funny, I thought you didn't like cats."

Marinette shrugged, pawing at the blanket and lifting it over herself with a sigh. "It depends on the cat, I guess." Something about her gaze seemed off; almost… wistful. Following her line of sight, Adrien blinked with the realization that she was staring at her skylight for a reason he knew all too well.

"What do you mean?" He dared to ask, cocking his head to the side in a curious manner.

She sighed, letting her eyes fall to her left. "I have a complicated relationship with cats."

"Complicated?"

Marinette seemed to be growing increasingly uncomfortable with the topic for some unknown reason he didn't want to press. If she didn't want to talk about it, she didn't have to.

"I really am tired," She breathed after a moment, turning her gaze back to his. Adrien frowned.

"I didn't want to wake you," He trailed his finger along the blanket in circular motions, if only as a nervous response. "Your mom said I should get you up for a little while since you've been resting since yesterday. She thought you could use a little company."

Marinette hummed a reply, pressing the back of her hand to her forehead and pooching her lips in a slightly pained expression. "I guess it was getting a little lonely up here."

Adrien's lips broke into a wide grin. "And now you have me!" Perhaps his tone was a little too giddy, but he didn't care. With a quiet chuckle, Adrien dared to scoot closer, feeling relieved when she didn't shy away like the Marinette he was used to. She'd definitely been getting braver around him—braver than she usually was, at least. No more nervous stuttering or tripping over her own feet when she simply happened to be in the same room as him.

At least he knew she hadn't acted like that because she disliked him.

His joyous grin stretched into a smirk at the recollection of how close they'd really gotten over the past few days.

"What are you smiling at?"

Blinking, Adrien shook his head as he brought himself back down to Earth. "Hm?"

Marinette watched him with a curious smile. "You're grinning at me like you've just said an awful joke."

"Oh," He chuckled, his eyes falling to the blanket. "I was just thinking."

"About?" Her blue gaze blinked up at him in question, twinkling like little balls of starlight in a sky full of white.

Adrien didn't hesitate with his answer. "You."

(He really, truly was thinking about her. Her lips to be more exact.)

"M-me?" Those balls of starlight widened. "Oh."

He nodded. "I've been meaning to talk to you, but I…" A sigh fell from his lips. "Is now a good time? I mean, you're hurt, and I don't know if-"

The recognition in Marinette's gaze as it turned from his made it all too clear that she knew exactly what he was hinting at. "We do need to talk, but…"

"But?"

"Can it wait?" She gave him a friendly smile, one that assured him that "everything is okay." Adrien felt his shoulders relax from the look alone. "I kind of want to take you up on that request to cuddle now that I have pants on."

A laugh bubbled from his lips as he nodded, feeling the pleasure of a smile working its way down to his chest in a pleasant heat. A smile caused by Marinette was a smile that always felt best. "Okay."

And so, cuddled they did.

The moment Marinette welcomed him under the covers was the moment Adrien swore his life had turned around for the better. For just an instant, he could pretend that everything was right; that his relationship with his father wasn't crumbling to pathetic dust or that in his desperation to salvage anything they had didn't come with turning himself to his father's standards of beauty; that he was happy.

He could pretend to be happy while curled up next to a girl that smelled of flowers and pastries.

Hell, he didn't even have to pretend to be happy when she buried her face within the warmth of his neck.

And there was definitely no pretending when her lips stretched into a wide smile as he pressed his own to her forehead.

No, this was all real—the realest thing that Adrien had ever felt. There was nothing more soothing than the absolutely secure feeling of having another person's arms wrapped around his torso, and not a single thing in the world could make him as comfortable as Marinette's embrace could.

Those big blue eyes which he'd hopelessly fallen into and become so, so lost stared up at him with such fondness that Adrien could barely resist the urge to kiss her again right then and there. He knew she wouldn't refuse—he hoped, at least—so there was really no harm in cupping her cheek with one of his hands, or stroking said cheek (which was so warm) with his thumb. She leaned in to his touch, coaxing a soft sigh from his lips. He avoided becoming too touchy with her head, knowing she was still experiencing headaches and not wanting to cause her any sort of discomfort.

His only desire was to make her happy.

And God, seeing her happy made everything else in his life worth it.

The frequent fights with his father weren't strong enough to deplete the joy that fluttered within his stomach at the sight of those freckles, and the gnawing feeling of hunger that kept him awake at night wouldn't cause any sort of depression while wrapped within the embrace of female arms.

Marinette was one of the two girls who he'd give up anything for.

To him, she was worth everything.

Getting out of bed after a night of no sleep just to see her face? Worth it.

Staying awake after she'd fallen asleep to listen to her contented breathing? Worth it.

Facing the disappointment of his cold and neglective father after spending the day with a girl instead of focusing on studies?

...Worth it.

Adrien would walk through hell and back before he let his father take away one of the only things that made him happy.

It seemed girls with black hair and pigtails were his own personal drug and it was an addiction he wasn't willing to give up.

"Adrien?"

He hadn't realized he'd closed his eyes. "Mari?"

She smiled once she'd recaptured his gaze. "Lunch break is almost over, but…"

"But," Marinette had no need to voice her request; he knew exactly what she wanted, and who was he to deprive a lady of her wishes? "You want me to stay."

"It's okay if you can't," She rushed to add, "I know you have classes and it's wrong of me to ask you to skip, and I know you really like physics and I know that's your next class but I-"

His laughter silenced her nervous rambling. She frowned (if only for a moment) before breaking into her own fit of giggles, the sound like heavenly chimes to Adrien's needy heart. That laugh, that adorably sweet laugh was everything he lived for and more. That laugh could cure sick puppies and bring a smile to even the saddest of faces.

Having a sad face of his own (although mostly internal), Marinette's laughter was all he needed to make everything feel right.

He wanted to stay. Honest to God, there was nothing more Adrien wanted than to say "fuck school, my girl needs me" before sinking into the mattress with Marinette next to him. It's not like he hadn't skipped classes before; as Chat Noir, skipping school was part of the job.

He wanted to. Hell, he needed to. After the rough morning he'd had, nothing could make him feel more at home than a good nap with Marinette—his Marinette—before he had to return to the cold and unforgiving catacombs of his prison-like home.

But, if he did stay…

That meant another fight with his father. Another exhausting and useless argument that would sure enough lead to Adrien running off as Chat Noir instead of facing his problems. He'd stay out until Ladybug met him for patrol, and then he'd stay out even longer after that, stalking the roofs of Paris like they were his own personal playground that he could use for his entertainment until the break of dawn. Even the starless night sky was a better roof over his head than the fancy (fake) Agreste mansion.

There'd been days when he loved being home. There'd been days where he couldn't wait to walk through the intimidating front doors to see his family.

God, how he missed his mother. His family had once been a blissful three, his parents that of which Adrien absolutely couldn't wait to come home to after spending a day away. He'd always wait with excitement over bedtime, because that was when his mother would sing to him—lullabies—songs she'd known by heart or songs she'd put together in the spur of the moment. She'd finish her song with a delicate kiss to his forehead and a soft "I love you" before switching on his nightlight and leaving the door open just a crack, only for his own personal comfort (or in case he had a nightmare and needed to run to his parents' bed.)

As a child, it had all been so much easier. He needn't worry about modelling, his body shape, his calorie intake. There hadn't been a concern for spending the day productively and there surely hadn't been any repercussions for spending the day with a girl.

(Even if the girl at the time had been his mother.)

Adrien knew he and his father had never been close, or at least as close as he and his mother were—but at one point, he had been different; less cold and unfeeling. His father smiled. He laughed. He loved.

The day his mother left and never came home, well…

It was the day Adrien had lost both of his parents.

"Adrien…?"

Adrien's eyes snapped to the concerned blue that gazed upon him sadly. "Oh, um… What did you say?"

Marinette's pink lips curved downwards into a frown. "I asked if… You were okay…"

"Oh!" He forced a smile, rubbing the back of his neck awkwardly. How long did I zone out there? "Y-yeah, I'm fine, Marinette. Sorry about that. I just… Got distracted."

"Do you want to tell me what's been bugging you?"

The question surprised him; was it that clear he'd been depressed?

A nervous chuckle rose from his throat. "Uh… W-what do you mean, Mari? I'm okay! I'm fine."

The expression she gave him made it all too obvious that he was a terrible liar.

"Remember how I said I'm here to listen?" Her hand found his underneath the blanket, entwining their fingers in a hold so gentle, so caring. "Well, I'm ready to do some listening if you want to do some telling."

Adrien sighed, giving her hand an assuring squeeze as his thumb stroked her knuckles in slow circles. "I don't know, Marinette. I don't think I'm ready to do the telling yet. I just want to forget about it for a little while."

"Well…" She nibbled on her bottom lip in thought. "Alright… But, like I said, I'm here for you, okay? Don't forget that."

Adrien nodded, giving his friend—whatever the hell she was now—a small smile. A smile that needed no words attached to it. A smile that said "thank you" well enough on its own.

"You know," His voice took on a quiet tone as he felt her fingers threading through his hair in what he assumed was a comforting motion. If she hadn't meant it to be, it sure as heck was anyways. It was a miracle a purr didn't start rumbling up from his throat. "I think laying in bed sounds far better than going back to school, no matter how tempting physics formulas are to me. You know what else sounds good?"

Bluebells met grassy fields. "Hm?"

"Taking a nap," He sighed. "Oh, and guess what else sounds really good right now?"

Marinette giggled in response. "What?"

Adrien met her giggle with a fond smile. "Being snuggled. If only there was someone next to me, like, I dunno, a girl, that could-"

Arms around his waist and a face pressed into his chest finished his sentence for him.

"Anything else?" Marinette inquired, a shy (yet absolutely endearing) grin upon her face.

Adrien wanted to ask for some kisses.

Would that be wrong of him, he wondered? To ask the girl he'd already kissed once for another kiss? Perhaps a third?

With the way she was looking at him, he was sure it'd be perfectly okay, but…

There was always an apprehensive side to his thoughts; a good end and a bad end, both of which were equally plausible.

Well, Adrien thought with a mental fuck-it, might as well be brave and go for it. She can always just say no, right?

"There is one more thing I would like," He began with a nervous smile, "but it's not a necessity."

Marinette's blinking blue gaze prompted him to continue. "Anything."

"Anything?"

She nodded, but not without wincing slightly; concussions don't just go away with love and affection.

"Well…" He sighed with a pause—for dramatic effect, of course. "Kisses would be nice."

The astounded blush that covered Marinette's freckled cheeks made Adrien's grin falter.

Okay, he mused as he fell into a pool of embarrassment. Maybe asking for a kiss wasn't the right thing to-

Soft was the only word to come to mind as Adrien's eyes snapped open from the contact of her lips upon his own.

Well, that was surely unexpected.

Who knew that nervous, awkward little Marinette could be the one to initiate a kiss. With him, of all people!

It didn't last as long as he would have liked; he'd not even been given a chance to wrap his arms around her frame or even kiss her back before she pulled away in a fit of excited little giggles.

"So you wanted to kiss me," She snorted through her miniature fit of laughter, "but when I kiss you, you don't even kiss back?"

"You surprised me!"

"Sorry," She breathed, pushing a loose strand of silky black hair behind her ear as her laughter refused to subside. "I thought that's what you were waiting for."

Adrien's surprised grin was replaced by a smirk. "Well, I'm waiting for it now."

And then she squeaked, covering the lower half of her face with a shield of pink blanket. The blush that never seemed to fade from her cheeks when she was in his presence grew redder while his grin only stretched.

Absolutely.

Fucking.

Adorable.

"Marinette," He chuckled, scooting closer (if it was possible to get any closer to this girl) with an innocently longing expression. "You know very well I can't kiss you if your lips are covered."

"Howdoyouevenfeelaboutme?" She blurted out in a sentence so jumbled that it was practically incoherent.

"I- huh?"

Marinette took a deep breath before blowing it slowly from her lips. "I want to kiss you again and I know you want to kiss me but I was justwonderinghowyou-"

"Slow down, Mari," He whispered, resting a reassuring hand on her shoulder—her bare shoulder. "What did you say?"

She swallowed, pulling the blanket down from her mouth and wringing it within her hands anxiously. "What I'm trying to say, is… Is that… If we're going to continue this-"

"This?"

"Us?" She offered with an awkward frown.

Us.

Adrien liked the sound of that.

No, he loved the sound of that.

"Us," He breathed, smiling fondly as the word fell from his lips. It felt so right. "Yeah, us."

His hand found her own again, the feel of her tiny fingers sliding between his own like no other. Holding hands with Ladybug had always been something, but this… This was everything.

He wasn't holding her hand because he was uselessly flirting or because they needed to haul each other out of danger; no, holding Marinette's hand was simply holding her hand, and there was nothing else in the world that could feel more perfect. Innocent, skin-on-skin handholding.

"Well…" Marinette breathed, "before us, I want… I want to know how you feel about me?"

"Is that a question or a request?"

He laughed as Marinette gave him a gentle tap.

"A request."

"Well if you're going to abuse me-"

Marinette snorted. "Is that your definition of abuse? A light tap on the shoulder?"

"Oh, but it hurts, Marinette," Adrien smirked as she looked up at him with an amused grin. If there wasn't anything in his power to rid her painful headaches, the least he could do was make her smile. "I think we need to get a divorce."

"Since when are we married?" The excited little giggle that slipped from her lips (which she tried to hide by clearing her throat) hadn't gone unnoticed.

"Since two seconds ago," He replied with a soft laugh, "I can't believe you forgot that quickly. I'm hurt, truly."

"Well, I am concussed."

"Fair point."

After a brief laugh, a silence fell between them, but not an uncomfortable one. Eyes closed, they lay in a content quietude, fingers laced together loosely if only so they could be touching one another without having their entire bodies tangled. They weren't speaking because mostly, there was nothing they could think of to say. Although there was plenty they could be talking about, they simply weren't.

Adrien wasn't sure whether or not it was a good thing.

Sure, they were happy, smiling like two idiots who had just made love for the first time—even though they'd done nothing but share a quick kiss. Yet, Adrien couldn't help but feel like they'd done more—he wanted more—more kisses, more touching, more attention.

He'd never considered himself much of an attention whore, but from Marinette, attention was all he desired. Marinette happened to be the only person right to tend to his craving for affections.

(Besides, the affection he craved could only be given by her exclusively. It's not like he would willingly accept kisses from just any girl.)

A peaceful sigh from his left and soft breath upon his face made Adrien's eyes blink open, meeting the sight of sparkling blue. He knew he could stare into those eyes for ages and still find something breathtakingly new about them; whether it be the flecks of stardust that floated near her pupils or the way when sunlight hit those blues just right, they seemed to glow as if they held galaxies, entirely new worlds within their azure flame.

And when she blinked and oh, when she smiled, it was absolutely heart-stopping.

"You know," Marinette began softly, her voice taking on a sleepy tone as she picked at the blanket mindlessly. "You never did answer my question."

Adrien grinned. "And you never let me kiss you back."

Marinette narrowed her eyes just a bit (as if to hide to blush that worked its way up her neck to her cheeks) and gave a small, shy smile. A smile that Adrien hoped she'd bid him permission to meet with his own.

Was kissing possible if both people were smiling?

Adrien figured he'd find out soon enough.

"Okay," Marinette said quietly, her hand squeezing his own larger one. "Let's make a deal, then."

"A deal? Ooh."

She giggled. "A deal. I let you kiss me-"

"I already like where this is going."

Another giggle, a little more nervous than the previous, met his response. She sighed before she continued. "I let you kiss me... And then you have to tell me how you feel about me. Deal?"

"You say that as if you don't already have a pretty good idea," Adrien chuckled, giving his friend (possible girlfriend within the next few moments) an affectionate smile.

Marinette hummed in response, her free hand curling around the end of the blanket in anticipation. "W-well… M-maybe I just want to hear you say it."

"Remember the deal?" He gave her nose a tiny boop with his finger, unable to hide the excited grin that practically cracked his face. "If you want to know, you'll have to kiss me first."

"Right."

"So?"

"Sooo…" Her gaze shifted away nervously, fingers squeezing the blanket and leaving little wrinkles in the fabric.

What happened to all that confidence, Marinette?

Instead of pouncing on each other and kissing the oxygen out of their bodies like part of him had regretfully expected, they lay there, wrapped up within Marinette's comforter in silence. Their eyes were wide and locked on each others, unblinking and bodies unmoving.

Until, that is, Adrien burst into laughter.

The awkwardness that had rose for a brief moment faded, leaving a pair of giggling, blushing teenagers in its place. They'd both been so ready to become lost in a world where their lips were a haven and yet, neither had moved a single muscle when the opportunity came to greet them. Instead, they laughed. They laughed and laughed and laughed until Adrien swore he'd break his ribs if he dared let another chortle escape his mouth.

If there was a definition for awkward puppy love, they'd surely take the title.

Adrien had no problem being the initiator if Marinette's lack self-assurance in the moment was hindering her. Sure, he felt a little shy, too, but it wouldn't stop him from pressing his lips against those as soft as silk. Especially when he'd been given explicit permission.

"So," He whispered once he'd caught his breath, placing his free hand upon her cheek while the other gave hers that was wrapped within his own an adoring squeeze. "I will."

Not a word came from his classmate, but her smile said enough.

Their noses bumped at first—neither of them were really used to the whole "kissing" thing—yet when their lips connected for the third time, Adrien felt himself melting into nothing but a blushing liquid within Marinette's palms. His eyes fluttered to a close and his heart danced with the butterflies that flitted up from his stomach, beating a fantastic frenzy. The feeling of pure joy that sparked from his fingertips and down to his feet was just as amazing at the first kiss they'd shared.

Magical, wonderful, outstanding was Marinette's lips. It felt so great just to merely kiss her that he couldn't imagine the possibility of doing this on a daily basis; had kisses always felt this nice?

He wouldn't know. He'd barely kissed anyone—and no, he did not want to think about Chloe's childhood kisses while he was in the middle of molding his lips against her rival's.

Kissing Marinette was the sun, bright and cheery and warm. The moment he pressed his lips against her own was when he'd been met with the same feeling that enveloped his body when he stepped outside into a heated patch of sunshine after spending the day in a cold room. His skin tingled, his head buzzed, and his veins flowed with pure affection for this girl, this amazing, perfect (amazing!) girl.

Neither wanted the moment to end.

Neither made a move for it to end.

Instead, as Marinette granted him permission to place his hands upon her waist, it deepened, their faces turning for better access to each other's lips. Their movement became less innocent, verging on needy or perhaps even desperate. Adrien felt lost for a brief moment, unsure of how else to move or where else to touch—after all, what does a guy do when a girl lets him kiss her like that and touch her waist when- okay wow her shirt is definitely riding up and I think she knows that and she isn't fixing it and she's totally got a leg wrapped around mine okay wow what the hell am I supposed to do now?!

Reluctantly, he pulled away to give her a hesitant glance, curious and even a little frightened; in no way at all had he any intentions to make her or himself uncomfortable, and if he'd done so, he'd want to stop before it went any further.

A soft whine came from her freshly-kissed lips, blue eyes blinking open. "Wh-... Why'd you stop?"

"Um," He breathed, catching his breath. "Th-that was- it- it was…"

A look of guilt flashed upon Marinette's face as her gaze shifted from his. "Too much?"

He nodded. "It's alright. It wasn't bad, just… Took me by surprise."

"Sorry. I'm not… I'm not thinking straight." Although her tone was apologetic, the smile across her face said otherwise—Adrien knew there was nothing but giddy excitement bubbling within her body at the moment because when it came down to it, he felt the same.

Even if the kiss had developed into something he hadn't initially anticipated, he couldn't help but want to kiss like that again. To feel the fiery blaze of her lips, to succumb to the flames which licked his insides and to completely fall deeper, as the kiss had, into love with this girl.

Was it love?

Adrien didn't know.

What he did know, however, was how badly his lips tingled in want for hers.

"Don't apologize," He said with a glance to her mouth. "Just because it was surprising doesn't mean I didn't like it."

"Y-you liked it," She breathed, her fingers brushing across his knuckles in a silent plea for him to take her hand. He obliged. "I-I uh, um… I did too."

"That's good."

"Y-yeah. Good."

"Good."

A small laughter rose from between them once more, and although quieter, not at all any less gleeful. It was comfortable, safe, and Adrien couldn't feel any more content. He'd just kissed Marinette. Marinette had definitely kissed him back.

And holy shit, had she kissed him back!

A warmth at his side made his gaze flick downward to the petite girl who curled up against him, her head finding his arm to be a perfect pillow. Face scrunched as if her headache had returned with a vengeance, Marinette sighed, nuzzling into the black cloth of his T-shirt. Adrien frowned, a twinge of guilt passing over him in a light wave—they'd been stupid to talk so much and laugh as often as they had, especially when Marinette was dealing with a concussion.

Hopefully, with their kissing and bantering, they hadn't made it worse. Even kissing her wouldn't be worth worsening her condition.

Seeing her pained felt like a stab in his heart. Marinette was too sweet, too wonderful of a person to ever be in pain; if it was Adrien's choice, he'd switch their predicaments in a heartbeat.

...Well, the idea of Marinette starving herself wasn't exactly a comforting thought, either.

They could always suffer together.

"You should go back to sleep," Adrien whispered, wrapping his arms around her waist as she buried her head into his neck and whimpered. "You'll feel better."

He didn't know when she'd fallen asleep, or when he had, too—all Adrien knew was that one moment he was awake, and the next, he was being awoken by the sound of the trapdoor clicking shut.

He cursed himself for being a light sleeper.

"Mari?" A voice called out softly—a voice he knew belonged to none other than Alya. "Mari, hey, are you awake?"

Adrien was surprised Alya could talk that quietly.

"Shh," He whispered, not wanting her to wake the sleeping angel. "She's asleep."

A head popped up from behind the mattress, golden eyes blinking knowingly at the sight displayed before her. An excited (and seemingly proud) smile spread across Alya's face, her gaze lit up with joy. Who knew why Alya was so excited to see them lying together—maybe she'd been rooting for them to date all along?

Adrien scoffed in his mind. Are we even dating?

Unfortunately, they'd both fallen asleep before they could answer that question. Adrien knew what he wanted, perhaps even knew what Marinette wanted; but if they didn't say it out loud, could it be considered official?

He'd ask her tomorrow. Or, the next day, or whenever he was provided with time—his schedule wasn't exactly becoming lighter.

"Has she been asleep this whole time?" Alya breathed, her voice as quiet as it could be to be heard.

Adrien shook his head. "Fell asleep… Sometime during the lunch break. That's when I came over, at least. She latched onto me so I couldn't leave." A quiet chuckle passed his lips. "Not that I wanted to, anyways."

Marinette stirred, so he quickly shut his mouth.

A brief moment of waiting before he confirmed that no, she's still asleep.

"Is she okay? I brought stuff for her. I came by to visit for a little while but it looks like she's still recovering with sleep." Holding up a (rather large) pink gift bag with white polka dots and overflowing tissue paper covered in glitter, Alya sighed, gazing at her best friend with a sympathetic smile. "Do you think she'll wake up anytime soon?"

"No telling." Frowning, Adrien tucked a loose strand of her unbrushed hair behind her ear, letting his finger glide along her cheek and jaw as he did so. She looked so peaceful, so content—he knew it'd be even more unfortunate to wake her a second time.

But…

He couldn't stay with her all night. If he didn't make an appearance at home, his father certainly wouldn't be pleased. No matter how badly he desired to avoid the mansion, to avoid fighting with his father, to avoid almost every aspect in his life altogether, he couldn't stay away forever. It was time to face those dragons and slay them, no matter how bloody of a battle it ended up becoming.

"What time is it?" He whispered to Alya, who had somehow with ninja stealth crawled onto the mattress and even placed the bag there. It was a little cramped, but Marinette was small; they all fit without disturbing the slumbering little bug.

Alya glanced at her phone. "Just past six."

Adrien sighed, feeling his heart sink with the mention of the time. He hadn't expected to sleep that long. Reluctantly, he needed to say his goodbyes, even if all he wanted to do was lay unmoving next to his (girl)friend all night.

His bed would be cold without the familiar feeling of another body pressed up against his own.

"I guess I should wake her," He spoke quietly, lips curling downward into a saddened frown. Leaving Marinette for home definitely was not the preferred option, but at the moment it really was the only option, no matter how much it pained him to know so.

"She's a heavy sleeper," Alya whispered back, setting her phone in her lap as she gazed at her napping friend. "You could probably slip out and she wouldn't even notice."

"...Yeah," He agreed, cupping Marinette's freckled cheek with his hand. Even in sleep, she was so, so warm. It nearly brought a smile to his face. "But… I want to say goodbye."

"Oh, then, by all means."

Waking Marinette hadn't been hard. A few whispers of her name (with some nicknames he'd made up on the spot that he was definitely keeping for later) was all it took, and those babyblues popped open like a shining star.

"Adrien," She whispered groggily, clearly unhappy with being awoken for the second time that afternoon.

"Shh," Adrien pressed a finger to her lips. "Rest. I'm just saying goodbye."

"What? No-"

"Alya's here," He offered, shooting the redhead a smile. "She brought feel-better gifts. Goodies for you."

"I did," Alya chimed in, messing with the tissue paper to make it rustle in teasing. "And you can't have any of it unless you let go of Adrien."

"Not that I want you to," He rushed to add, "it's just that if I don't go, my dad, he'll-"

"I know," Marinette sighed, nuzzling her face against the warmth of his neck. Her lips on his skin made his body freeze. "He'll be grumpy. It's okay."

Had she- had she just kissed his neck?

Holy shit, Marinette just kissed my neck. Had she meant to do that? Should I do it back? Wait, no, Alya's here- damn. Alya's here. I can't kiss Mari goodbye.

Marinette, however, seemed to have no qualms about kissing him in front of her best friend. She'd pressed her lips upon his in a quick goodbye peck, the pads of her fingers tracing along his cheek. It was nothing more than a mere second, less even, but still Adrien felt those wonderfully electric sparks shoot up to his brain like nothing else could allow.

Marinette Dupain-Cheng, the girl who most boys (and even girls) fell for, had chosen him of all people; Adrien Agreste, the thin, depressed model who put on a fake smile daily only to appease his father and hundreds of fans. She could have any boy she wanted, any girl if she so chose—yet she'd plucked him from a crowd of suitors and kissed him like she had never wanted anyone else.

Maybe she hadn't ever wanted anyone else.

God, how he adored her.

"I'll come back," He told her, ignoring the smug grin that stretched across Alya's face. "Feel better, okay?"

Marinette smiled, her expression tired yet touched. "I'll try."

With a final goodbye to Alya and Marinette's parents, Adrien exited the bakery, finding no comfort in the warmth of summer sunlight that streamed onto his pale skin. It would never bring as cozy of a feeling as Marinette did.

He took the scenic route home. It was dark by the time he stood in front of the gate of the mansion and rung for Nathalie.

Hands in his pockets, he entered through the large front doors with his gaze glued to the marble flooring. He didn't dare look up—who knew who would be standing there, waiting to scold him as if he was a little child who had run off in the supermarket and gotten lost.

Upon making it to the stairs, Adrien finally allowed himself to glance upwards—only to be met with the depressing portrait that hung above the first flight.

The day his father had taken down the previous portrait of their whole family was when everything had begun to fall apart. Their situation had only worsened since.

Adrien made it to the door of his bedroom before he heard the aloof voice he'd so desperately been trying to avoid, chilled and solid. His shoulders visibly tensed, teeth gritting. Almost made it.

"Adrien," His father sighed, "it's late."

"I know," Adrien responded, refusing to turn and face him. "I was- ...busy."

"Busy," His father hummed, as if actually considering his words. "Hm. What were you doing that was so important?"

As if he had to answer that. His father knew where he was; he'd made that obvious when he'd told Adrien that his phone was tracked. "Do I have to answer that?"

A second sigh. "I wish you'd pay more attention to the important things in life. I only want the best for you, Adrien, and this isn't-"

"You know," Adrien straightened, turning his head just slightly to catch the eye of his father standing below him. "I don't really care what you think is best for me. I'm going to bed."

He didn't give his father a chance to reply.

Shutting the door behind him, Adrien sighed, leaning against the wall with clenched fists. His fingernails dug into his palms from how tightly his fingers pressed into his skin. The fact that he was trembling didn't help ease the pain he felt physically nor emotionally—a human being was not supposed to feel that much hurt, especially a teenager!

"That could have gone better," Came the flat tone of his Kwami, who flitted out from his pocket with crossed arms and twitching whiskers. "You're so tense around him. Why don't you just tell him to go to Hell and get it over with?"

"Because I have more respect than you, Plagg," Adrien retorted, walking to his bedroom window and pushing it open without even bothering to switch on the light. "Come on. We're late for patrol."

"I didn't see Ladybug out there," Plagg meowed as he sat atop his Chosen's shoulder, two pairs of green eyes gazing out the window in longing. "But if you just want to go see Marinette again-"

"Not tonight." Adrien pressed his forehead against the glass. "She needs to sleep."

Plagg sighed, his tail curling. "You just need to get your mind off of all that bad stuff and eat some food."

Shaking his head, Adrien frowned, feeling the weight of simply being underneath the roof of the Agreste mansion too heavy and practically unbearable. "Let's go patrolling."

Plagg was right. Upon arriving at Notre Dame, Ladybug was nowhere to be seen—whether she'd finished patrol early or simply hadn't come out, Adrien didn't know. A part of him felt his heart sink from the thought of patrolling alone.

"Alone" was just how things usually were. He was used to it.

He hadn't stayed out long. An hour of patrolling was spent surveying as much of the city he could without exhausting himself and that was it.

There'd been no appearance from Ladybug. Adrien recalled that she'd been injured as well. She was probably home in bed just like Marinette was.

He hoped they'd both get better soon.

Hopping back in through his bedroom window caused a cold chill to run down Adrien's spine. His room was pitch black as he'd left it, and he thanked his night vision for locating the switch on the wall that illuminated the room in white lighting. Superficial sights greeted him, all old and familiar but none in a good way. Same old trophies, same old posters, same old expensive items and games that his father thought could fix his unhappiness.

He didn't bother checking his computer or phone for messages. After a shortened patrol without so much more than a few strawberries from breakfast in his stomach, Adrien was absolutely exhausted. By the time he flopped into bed, he'd neglected to turn out the light, change, or even brush his teeth, much less destransform. He willed Plagg to leave the ring silently, watching with a dull expression as the miniature cat spun out and landed atop his pillow.

Plagg said nothing, his ears drooping as he looked to Adrien sadly.

Adrien, noticing his somber expression, reached over and scratched under his chin with his finger, smiling weakly as the Kwami leaned into his touch and nuzzled his head against his knuckle. He reminded himself that all living things need positive attention, including a Kwami who pretended to hate any sort of it.

Plagg may be a sarcastic, lazy asshole, Adrien chuckled in thought, allowing the tiny god to curl up next to his head. But he sure does have his soft spots.

It was true—Plagg was the type to tease and poke fun, but when it came down to someone (his current Chat Noir, of course) needing comfort, the Kwami would soften up and tone down the sarcasm, if only for an hour or two.

Eyes drooping, Adrien sighed, doing his best to ignore the gnawing feeling of hunger that pulled at his stomach and caused a sickly nauseous feeling to rise in his throat. At least laying down made it bearable, but it was still quite uncomfortable.

The room's lighting was a difficulty to relax in, but the weariness that weighed on his bones was stronger than any disturbance that could possibly keep him awake. As a final breath left his body, Adrien frowned, feeling the fuzzy body of Plagg pressing into his neck as the faint sound of his purring lulled him to sleep.

"Better days are coming, kid," Said the Kwami, "just you wait and see."

Chapter Text

The gentle patter of dying raindrops trickling down the glass of her windows would have done wonders to lull Marinette asleep provided an ounce of sleepiness still lingered within her body.

After sleeping all through the third day in a row, she felt restless, like a bug trapped within a vacant terrarium without any chance of escape. Her toes twitched, her fingers curled around wrinkled blanket, and her eyes burned from the sheer amount of hours of sleep she'd gotten that night—day, whatever.

At least the headaches had become scarce. They weren't as nauseating or uncomfortable as the ones from the days before, but still appeared every now and then as an annoying reminder that she was still healing from an unfortunate concussion.

Her dislike for cats was at least a little justified.

Now, feeling mostly recovered from her injury, Marinette had long since rejected any attempt to sleep and stood by her dress form, sewing the remaining spots into the scarlet fabric of her Ladybug shawl. It was a task that required little to no thinking, something of which she could slip into and relax easily; sewing had always been a comfort to her, settling her nerves and relieving any sort of tension.

The fact that it was past eleven didn't make much of a difference to her. She'd slept all day—why sleep some more?

She did have school tomorrow, yes, and she was feeling up to returning… But there was no use in trying to sleep if she wasn't tired!

A crack of thunder and a bright white flash of lightning from outside her window startled Marinette enough to prick her finger with the needle and cause her hand to recoil back against her chest protectively. Cursing, she stuck her finger in her mouth to alleviate the pain, but quickly spat it out when her tongue was met with the metallic taste of blood. The last time she'd accidentally stabbed herself had been Chat Noir's latest visit.

Perhaps his bad luck was rubbing off on her.

"Blegh," She hissed under her breath as she searched for the box of bandaids she kept within her vanity drawer (for the exact same reason why she was looking for them.) Once bandaged, she returned to her design, trailing her fingers along the wonderfully soft fabric and examining her work. Every stitch was perfect, and the shawl was nearly finished—Marinette felt proud of herself. In her opinion, it was some of her best work yet, although it was taking longer than she would have liked.

At least winter was months away.

She was just about to give herself a pat on the back when a knocking on glass nearly caused her to poke herself with the needle a second time. Eyebrows raised curiously, she spun around on her heels, head cocking as if she hadn't quite heard right; had that been a knock or was she simply hearing things?

Maybe she was only hearing what she wanted to hear.

Just as she shrugged it off and returned to her work, a second knock came, more desperate and quicker than the last. Marinette pressed a hand to her chin in thought as she walked to the window beside her desk, not at all surprised to find acid green eyes burning into her own blue once she'd lifted the blinds.

Chat Noir, looking very much like a lost little kitten, stood perched outside her window instead of his usual spot on the terrace, his somber expression a silent plea to be granted permission inside the warmth of her room.

Marinette frowned at the sight of her doused partner. He looked off, something about him was just…

Sad.

Broken.

Who knew what he was doing out in weather like this, skin soaked and blond hair drooping in his face. She couldn't just leave him out there in the rain, even if he'd cause a puddle to appear on her wooden floor from his wet suit…

Marinette sighed. She was a good person. She would not ignore her friend—her partner—looking as if he'd just had his heart smashed into tiny little pieces, especially in the rain!

She'd let him in, she decided. It was becoming a frequent occurrence, after all—Chat Noir visiting in the late hours of the night like a typical stray.

Except this particular stray happened to be a sopping mess of pathetic-looking teenager.

Marinette felt for him, although she wasn't entirely sure why.

Upon opening the window, Chat scurried inside, shaking his head free of the heavy rainwater as if he was a cat that had just been thrown into a pool. Marinette stepped back as he (messily) dried himself, frowning at the droplets of water that sprayed upon her skin and clothing. She'd already showered that night; did Chat Noir really need to give her another?

She nearly blushed at how awkward that sounded.

"I'm sorry," Chat Noir began, black ears drooping flat against his dribbling blond locks. "I know it's late and I'm soaked but I'm-"

"Are you okay?" She asked, hesitantly reaching out a hand before pulling back and letting her arm rest at her side. By the look on his face, she knew there was no point in asking a question with such an obvious response. The answer was staring directly at her in the form of dull green eyes and lips tugged downwards into a pitiful frown. He needn't reply.

But, he did anyways. "I'm fine," He responded, his voice quiet and cracked like a crisp leaf in autumn. "Just came to check up on you."

"Check on me?" Her eyebrows shot up in surprise. "Why?"

Even Chat Noir seemed unsure of why exactly he had travelled all the way through the rain to her home.

"Well, uh…" He scratched at the back of his neck—a familiar nervous habit that Marinette could have sworn she'd seen somewhere else before. "Monday, when I saved you, you were hurt. You hit your head, right?"

Marinette recalled that she had assured him she was fine. "I'm okay. How did you know I hit my head?"

"Uh- ...word gets around." He seemed to falter slightly, his shoulders drooping and gaze falling downcast as if he was a little too nervous to answer her question directly. "Are you sure you're okay? I just want to-"

"Chat…" Marinette eyed him with sympathy. After a year of partnership and friendship along with countless hours of teamwork, she had learned his mannerisms and expressions so well that she could easily see right through him. Chat Noir was never much of a talented liar. "Is that really the reason you came here?"

He hesitated, green eyes flicking upwards to meet blue before they shifted. "Yes and no."

Marinette sighed. "Let me get you a towel."

"Thanks."

In a quick descent to her bathroom, she grabbed one of her pink bath towels and brought it up to the dripping cat with a friendly smile. Something was off about her partner, something Marinette could tell he was trying to hide; she could see the pool of sadness taking shelter within his eyes and the way his ears drooped held no secrets. Chat Noir was hurting, as simple as that.

The only reason Marinette knew for sure was the familiarity of seeing that same exact somber expression upon Adrien's features. Dull green eyes, mouth curved downwards just slightly in a frown that he was trying too hard to fix, and a voice so soft, so broken were all signs that her partner wasn't having too great of a day.

She couldn't help but wonder what his home life was like.

Chat ruffled his hair with the towel before attempting to dry the suit, his disgruntled expression making it clear that scrubbing himself was to no avail. Marinette stifled the giggles that rose in her throat.

"I really didn't think this through," Chat laughed, faint and soft. "Watch me catch a cold and be too sick to protect Paris."

Marinette knew a thing or two about being stuck in bed and unable to fight for Paris. She'd been lucky enough that there hadn't been any akuma attacks while she was bedridden.

If Hawk Moth was smart, he would've taken that to his advantage.

"Well, we can't have that," She said with a smile as she tapped her chin in thought. She recalled her past experiences dealing with akuma in the rain; water couldn't permeate the suits, but the thin fabric did nothing to relieve how chilly it felt against skin. Detransforming usually rid the uncomfortable wetness and left her in dry clothing, but Chat couldn't do that in her room.

Blankets would have to do the trick.

Chat seemed to notice her examining him, his head drooping in apology. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to bother you or-"

"You're not bothering me," Marinette assured him, placing a hand upon his wet shoulder. She frowned as she felt him shiver from the cold. Chat Noir, obviously in distress, had travelled all the way through the rain to visit her for a reason she wasn't entirely sure of. What would cause one of Paris' superheroes to visit her during a storm? "Do you want me to get you a blanket?"

"A blanket?" He seemed to consider the thought before giving a slight nod. "Okay, sure."

"Stay here."

There was a closet downstairs that held blankets and sheets within it which Marinette found full of different colors of fabric. Taking a white comforter, Marinette tugged, finding it to be stuck between other sheets on the shelf. She grunted, giving a final pull before it gave way easier than she had anticipated, sending her to tumble backwards onto the floor.

At least she hadn't hit her head.

A few other sheets and blankets had fallen out from her aggressive pulling. Once replacing them back on their designated shelves, she dragged the white comforter upstairs and (nearly tripping on her ascent) handed it off to the shivering feline who stood in the middle of her bedroom.

Chat Noir wasted no time in covering himself. Blanket wrapped around him like a lifeline, he sat on her floor, taking refuge within the warmth the comforter brought him. Nothing but his face poked out from the shield of toasty cover, save for a lone ear flicking underneath. Marinette eyed him with a smile, watching as he practically buried his face within the fabric, and-

Smelled it?

He had!

He inhaled, a smile gracing his face before the breath slowly passed his lips, his shoulders slumping as he very obviously relaxed. Relaxed to the point where he was nearly laying on her floor.

"Chat Noir?" Marinette giggled. "Are you okay?"

"I am now," He sighed, opening an eye to shoot her a grateful grin. "I feel better."

Her lips broke into a smile of her own. "Are you going to tell me why you came over now?"

Regret filled every fiber in her body the moment the words fell from her mouth. Chat stiffened, his smile faltering before it disappeared completely. Shoulders slouched and head hung low, he sighed, turning his gaze from her to the floor and keeping it there. The one ear that poked out of the blanket drooped until it lay flat against his head.

For whatever reason, asking him that question caused the sadness rooted within him to rear its ugly head just as it had gone away.

Marinette wanted to apologize, but before she could part her lips to speak, Chat's own hollow voice beat her to it.

"Do you want me to be honest?"

Hesitantly, she nodded.

Chat sighed, slouching deeper into the blanket. "I kind of received some bad news today."

Marinette felt her heart skip a beat. Bad news? What kind of news could possibly be plaguing Chat enough to cause him to scamper off in the rain?

"Bad news?" She inquired, tilting her head in an attempt to catch his gaze. He didn't look up. "Like what?"

"I can't really say," He continued, shrugging his shoulders. "I haven't told Ladybug yet. I was planning to tomorrow on our patrol, if she shows."

News bad enough that Ladybug needed to hear?

Mon dieu.

"Wow," She breathed, swallowing the waver in her voice. "Um, it must… Must be pretty serious, then."

Chat gave a noncommittal nod. "It's, uh… I haven't… I'm kind of…"

"You're…?"

Another sigh slipped past his lips, followed by a quick glance her way before he shook his head and forced a smile to his face. "Ah, it's nothing. I won't worry you. It's not a big deal."

Marinette nearly huffed. You can't just say you've got bad news and then not tell me, Chat Noir!

They lapsed into an uncomfortable silence, neither sure what to do or say after Chat's mention of "news." Marinette worried at her bottom lip as her mind fumbled to just forget about it, forget about it, don't worry about it!

Whatever it was, she'd hear about it tomorrow.

Tomorrow.

"Hey," Marinette began, giving them both a way out of the awkward quiet. "I'm kind of hungry. What about you?"

It was true—because of her frequent sleeping, she'd barely eaten for the past three days and her stomach was begging for something to fill it now that she'd finally awakened.

Chat's head snapped up, his ears perked and alert from the mention of food. Marinette grinned at the way his face brightened. Of course he'd be excited over food, the guy looked like he rarely ate at all. Chat Noir was too skinny, bordering unhealthy—his suit did nothing to hide his thin figure. She knew his ribs would be apparent provided he took off his shirt.

Something she knew she'd never even dream to see.

"Uh," His expression fell as he spoke. Something unreadable flickered behind his gaze. "Actually…" Velvety ears lay flat against his head as his eyes wandered to the floor once more. "...No."

Marinette blinked in surprise, almost taken aback by his response. He'd just become so excited at the mention of food, and now he was declining her offer? Since when did Chat Noir refuse food?

"Chat Noir…" She tilted her head to the side, her voice taking on a delicate tone. "You don't have to lie. You know I don't mind giving you something to eat."

A sad laugh left his lips. "I know."

"You're really not hungry?"

He shook his head, refusing to meet her eyes with his own. "No."

Marinette wasn't convinced.

He was lying, she could see it as plain as day! Chat Noir never lied well, and she knew, she knew he wasn't telling the truth. Chat was avoiding her offer of food and she felt she knew exactly why.

"You need to eat, Chat Noir," She responded, almost giving herself away by reminding him of how he'd passed out on her balcony the last time he hadn't eaten enough. "Why don't you want to?"

"It's personal."

She nearly flinched at the sudden cold tone. "Personal?"

Acid green turned her direction, his lips tugged downwards in a frown that asked her to drop the subject. He was pleading with his gaze, begging her to quit, but if there was one thing Marinette had never considered herself as, it was a quitter.

"I'm just a little concerned," She continued, "it's okay for you to eat something. You need food just like every other person does. It's not safe to avoid it. You're really s-"

"I know," He grunted, his voice taking on a hint of annoyance. "I'm so skinny. It's not like I haven't heard that millions of times. Please let it be, Marinette. I don't want to talk about it. Can we just drop it?"

Marinette sighed, looking away to shield the pang she felt within her chest. She only wanted to help—why couldn't he see that? There was no reason for him to be acting so rudely.

"Well," She went on, pushing a loose strand of hair behind her ear. "It's not healthy for you to starve-"

"You know," He successfully cut her off with a grit of his teeth. "If I'd have known that we would of been talking about my health when I came over, I think I would have just stayed home."

Marinette took a step back at the way he spoke and placed her hands upon her hips, blinking incredulously. Well, somebody's in a bad mood. If he was going to be feisty, then fine, be that way. She knew she had a mouth of her own when it was necessary.

"You can leave at any time, Chat Noir," She spat back, crossing her arms across her chest. "It's not like I invited you here."

He growled, clearly becoming irritated. "I came because I wanted to see you, not to talk about what's healthy for me and what isn't."

"Excuse me for being concerned."

"It's none of your business."

Marinette gaped, her arms dropping to her sides. "I was only trying to help!"

"Well, I don't want your help!" His fiery green gaze snapped to hers and the chilling embers within his eyes burned. "I don't need you telling me what's right and what's wrong, Marinette. You're not my mother."

His words stung more than Marinette would have liked to admit. She couldn't hide the way she flinched at his tone. "Then…" She sighed, her voice losing its strength and becoming a quiet murmur. "Then you can leave. You know where the exit is."

He visibly cringed before he melted into a puddle within the comforter. Quiet and hidden, a long breath fell from his lips, his ears drooping so low that Marinette swore they would fall right off of his head. Regretfully, she felt a twinge of guilt settle within her gut; maybe she had stepped out of her place. Chat Noir had come over to simply be with her and she'd been invasive and snappy. She'd most likely made his situation ten times worse than it had originally been before he stepped inside her room.

Hell, if someone began asking her personal questions as Ladybug, she'd become incredibly defensive too.

"I'm sorry, Marinette," God, his voice sounded even more broken than it had been before. "I didn't mean… I'm sorry. I don't want to leave. I didn't mean that."

Crossing her arms, Marinette leaned back against her desk and kept her eyes glued to the floor. She wasn't mad, or annoyed or upset; mostly, she just felt bad. Chat had most likely come to her for comfort and she'd done nothing but make him sadder.

Some friend she was.

"It's just…" He continued, "I hear that a lot. It's usually meant as a compliment, but I know it shouldn't be. You're right. It isn't healthy. I'm sorry for snapping at you."

Marinette shuffled her feet on the wooden flooring.

"I understand if you want me to leave-"

"Stop that," She told him, wandering over to where he sat on the floor and taking a seat next to the mass of blanket. She'd heard enough of his sorries. "You don't need to apologize. I'm sorry for pressing."

"It's alright," His voice held nothing but sorrow. "You're only trying to make sure I'm safe."

She hummed, reaching out to lay a reassuring hand over his own. "...Are you?"

He nodded, laughing softly. "As safe as I can be as a superhero, Mari."

...Mari?

Since when did Chat Noir start calling her Mari?

That was something only Alya called her, or as a recent development, Adrien.

Marinette stiffened. "What happened to calling me princess, Chat Noir?"

"...Uh," He let out a nervous chuckle. "Mari is a cute nickname… It fits. Just thought of it now!"

"Did you?" Brow raised suspiciously, Marinette cocked her head, gazing at her partner with a grin teasing at her lips. "Well, I like it better than princess."

"You want me to stop calling you princess?"

She shrugged, fixing the blanket as it fell from his damp shoulders. "I think it's kind of stuck with me by now. You're still soaked, by the way."

"I know," He chuckled, emitting a hollow and breathy sound. "You can just throw me in the dryer."

Marinette grinned. "You wouldn't fit. You're too tall."

"I dunno," He said with a shrug, the familiar smirk she'd began to miss weaving its way onto his face. "I'm pretty flexible."

"Chat Noir," She laughed, "I'm not shoving you into a dryer."

"Darn. There go my plans for the night."

"So sorry to disappoint."

"How am I supposed to get dry now?" The grin that he wore was no longer forced, a fact that made Marinette's smile only grow. He needed some good cheering up.

"Sit and wait?" She offered, stifling a few giggles.

"Maybe I'll just undress."

A cough rose from her throat in surprise. "E-excuse me? Not in my room!"

"Too late. I'm getting naked," He stood, flashing her a teasing smirk as the blanket slipped from his shoulders to the wooden floor. "Turn around."

"Chat Noir, no."

He grasped the bell attached to his zipper and tugged.

Marinette squawked, scrabbling to a stand andturning on her heels until she was facing away from her partner with cheeks burning like red acid. "No! Not in my room!"

Laughter broke out from behind her, followed by the sound of a zipper pulling what she hoped was upwards. She knew the transformation was bound to their skin—at least, her suit was—and she had no interest in seeing a nude Chat Noir prancing around her bedroom as he dried.

She'd rather him destransform than stand naked in her presence!

Never before had she seen a boy nude and she was not about to let Chat Noir's parts be the first she'd ever laid eyes on.

(...Save for the internet, of course.)

"Relax, Marinette," Tittered the cat, "I'm just joking. Even if I wanted to, I can't take this thing off. It's attached to me."

A breath of relief fell from her lips as she turned back around. "Don't do that."

"Don't do what?" His green gaze turned innocent, flicking around the room as a metaphorical halo hovered above his cat ears. "...This?"

His fingers grasped the bell once more, lowering it at an achingly slow speed to reveal a bit of smooth-looking skin. Marinette tore her eyes away before she saw more than she desired to and crossed her arms over her chest. How could a person go from earning her sympathy to being so annoying in less than two minutes?

"Do not undress in my room."

"What a shame," He sighed, running a hand through his damp hair. "And here I was thinking that we could have a party."

Marinette snorted, her eyes widening at the thought of the type of party he had in mind. "What kind of parties do you go to?"

"None whatsoever."

"Liar."

"No," He met her gaze with his own, placing a hand over his heart. "I swear, princess. This cat strays far from parties."

Chat Noir doesn't seem like the anti-social type, she thought with a disbelieving grin. With all that flirting, there's no way he stays indoors all the time.

"You don't believe me," He gasped, lowering himself to his knees and dramatically pressing a hand to his forehead. "My own princess thinks I'm a liar!"

Well… That's debatable.

"I'm not your princess," She scoffed with a grin, placing her hands upon her hips. "How do you even know if I'm single or not?"

Chat's ears perked up with interest as their eyes met.

Was that jealously flickering within his gaze?

"See? You didn't even think about it-"

"You're not single?"

"No! Well, I-I mean," She scuffed the ground with her foot. "I don't know. I've been meaning to mention something but it's not official so technically we aren't dating but I've still wanted to talk to you about sleeping in my bed even though we haven't labeled our relationship but I don't think you should-"

"Slow down."

She sighed heavily. "There's this guy I like that comes over a lot and we slept together and he saw me in my underwear!"

Chat sputtered, a cough breaking from his throat as he spoke in a strangled voice, "What!?"

"No!" Marinette squeaked, her eyes nearly bulging out of her head from how far they widened. "Not slept together- but- I mean technically- we were sleeping! Napping! Sleepover! Not… Not… Not se-"

"Oh," Laughter rose from her partner. "I see."

"Don't laugh," Marinette pouted, feeling the redness in her cheeks tingle her skin. Embarrassing herself in front of blond boys seemed to be becoming a frequent occurrence that she somehow couldn't avoid.

"Sorry." His laughter fell to a quiet chuckle as a stupidly happy grin stretched across his face. Talking about the other guy she was interested in should not make him smile that big… Why did that grin cause him to appear so proud?

"Listen," She began, rubbing at her arm awkwardly. "I've been meaning to tell you that I don't think…" She paused to sigh. "What I'm trying to say, is…"

Chat leaned back on her floor, his hands propping up his body as he cocked an ear upwards. "Yeah?"

"I…" Damn it, why is this so hard? "I don't think… I don't think you should stay the night anymore."

The reply she received was silence. A heavy silence full of disappointment and a dispirited Chat Noir. A silence that caused a bubbling feeling of apprehension to rise in her stomach.A silence that pulled at her heart and made her feel sick.

"Oh," He breathed, looking away. "Uh… Okay, yeah. I respect that. It's understandable."

Marinette felt her lips pull downward with a slight feeling of guilt from how flattened her friend appeared. "You seem sad."

Chat shook his head in response, forcing a smile to his face. "No, it's alright, Marinette."

Why did he seem so bothered? Chat Noir was a friend, nothing more. They didn't have feelings for each other. They both were in love with somebody else. Sleeping next to him had only been for the personal comfort of closeness, not because she liked it or enjoyed how soft his hair felt under her fingers or how wonderful a feeling it was to bury her face within the warmth of his neck, lips brushing across skin that smelled like home…

No! She hissed at herself. Chat is a friend. Chat is my partner. I do not feel anything besides platonic friendship towards him! He's not even that cute!

One glance at his face confirmed that she thought otherwise.

There was no way he could be upset about her requesting him not to stay the night anymore. After kissing a boy and spending hours talking to Alya about Adrien's actions and deciphering them, she was sure her crush felt the same way she did.

So… Why did she feel bad about Chat Noir?

Why did she feel bad about telling Chat he couldn't stay?

Adrien probably wouldn't be too pleased to know that the girl he'd been kissing was also inviting Parisian superhero Chat Noir into her bed for some cuddles.

Technically, they weren't dating… So it's not like she was cheating.

But it sure as hell feels like cheating.

She didn't want to hurt Adrien, but hurting Chat wasn't something she desired to do, either.

If only there was some way she could make both of them happy.

Yet why would Chat Noir be upset if he liked Ladybug? Hadn't he mentioned having feelings for another girl as well?

Unless…

No. It's not me. Can't be!

Well, technically, I am Ladybug, so...

Marinette sighed, pressing a finger to her forehead. "I'm sorry, I'd just kind of feel wrong sleeping with you when I've been kissing this other guy."

She expected a smirk at the way she worded that last sentence.

Chat Noir didn't smirk, however. He simply nodded and accepted her request like the respectable guy he'd always been. "Yeah, that's… That's for the best, right?"

"Yeah," She said softly. "For the best."

A brief moment of silence met them before Chat spoke up once more, a smile on his face that was real and true. "You like him a lot?"

Marinette didn't hesitate with her answer. "Of course."

"You think he's good for you?"

She nodded. "The best."

She could have sworn Chat's smile was growing wider.

"You think…" He paused as he brought himself to a stand. "You think he's the one?"

"The only one for me."

"You love him." It wasn't a question, but a statement she couldn't deny.

A spark coursed through her body as a gentle hand connected with her cheek. She couldn't bring herself to pull away and she didn't know why; perhaps it was the way Chat's clawed thumb lightly caressed her skin or the heat she felt rising from his palms. Whatever it was… She didn't want it to stop.

No, you don't like this. Tell him to get away. Tell him to back off.

"I… I-I love him, yes."

Tell him to stop touching you!

Her body wasn't listening to her mind.

Earth to Marinette! Red flag! He's looking at you like he wants to kiss you senseless!

Part of her didn't mind that he was gazing at her as if her lips were his only source of oxygen and he was suffocating without them.

Chat's smile was nothing but warm and content. "I'm sure he loves you too."

Blue eyes met such a delicate green that Marinette nearly gasped at how fondly her partner gazed at her. The affectionate touch of his thumb on her skin sent tiny little fireworks to explode within her chest, colorful sparks of pleasant flame that burned her in the best of ways. If she'd been paying attention to anything else but how dearly he looked at her, she would have noticed that he was leaning in, his lips approaching hers in such a slow motion that the fact that he seemed as if he was going to kiss her hadn't registered in her mind until their noses brushed. The fabric of his mask briefly grazed her skin before her mind screeched at her to stop, stop, stop right now. Brain buzzing with a thousand commands a second, she took a step back, eyes wide and cheeks pink as her feet finally obeyed.

They'd almost kissed.

If she'd hadn't of stepped away… He might've been staying another night in her bed.

"Chat Noir…" Her heart beat so powerfully against her chest that Marinette swore it would combust. "You, uh…"

"I should go," He breathed, his voice faint. Something about his posture was stiff, as if he'd realized his mistake and was regretting ever stepping foot in the bakery that night. Maybe he was. "I should go before I do something stupid."

You already have, she thought with a frown tugging at the corners of her lips.

"Uh," He stepped backwards, scratching at the back of his neck in a movement eerily similar to what she realized was a nervous habit of Adrien's. "I need to leave before I kiss you and get both of us in trouble."

Marinette could only nod, unable to conjure up any reasonable response. "G-goodnight, Chat Noir."

"Goodnight, Mari."

He left before she could fully process what occurred.

Chat Noir had leaned in with the intent on kissing her.

She should be angry, she knew. She should be hissing with rage! She should chase after him as Ladybug and tell him that kissing a girl that's technically taken is wrong! She should tell him to never come back!

Yet she wasn't doing any of that.

She stood completely immobilized by the fact that she'd been less than two inches from Chat Noir's lips. If he would have leaned in just a little quicker…

She would have smacked him!

Yes, she told herself, I would have smacked him hard in the face for overstepping my boundaries!

Although, he hadn't exactly overstepped them… It wasn't like she'd been doing a whole lot of pushing him away.

In fact, she'd been the one to constantly allow him to slip into her bedroom. He would have respected her wishes if she hadn't of complied. All she had to do was say no.

Instead, she kept saying yes.

She'd told him always.

It was no wonder that Chat kept coming back because she constantly allowed it. The cuddling, the late night visits, the touching and hell, had she not stepped back, she might've allowed the kissing as well.

(No matter how much she tried to convince herself that she would have hated it.)

Chat Noir had no right to be looking at her as if he was in love with her. There's no way he could be!

Chat Noir loved Ladybug. Chat Noir loved Ladybug more than he could ever love anyone else. He'd stated that himself.

But Chat Noir had also been gazing at Marinette the same way he looked at Ladybug; a look that held an ocean full of affection and harbored emotions strong enough to bring the cat himself to his knees.

A look that was nothing but complete and utter adoration, and dare she say it, love.

Oh my god, She mused as she collapsed upon her bed, having turned out the lights and untied her pigtails in preparation to sleep. Chat Noir is in love with me. Chat Noir is in love with Marinette… And Ladybug.

Chat Noir loves both sides of me.

It wasn't fair. The entire situation just wasn't fucking fair, and she had nobody to blame but herself for that!

Maybe feeding Chat on her terrace that night weeks ago had been an awful idea.

She was so, so stupid.

It wasn't fair to Adrien. It wasn't fair to Chat. It wasn't fair to herself.

And all of it was her fault.

Whatever bad news her partner planned to tell her the next night, without a doubt it couldn't possibly make her feel worse than she did currently.

Guilt made her sick to her stomach.

She considered texting Alya, but starting up a conversation near midnight when they both had school the next day would do little to no good. Waking her friend and receiving an angry call wasn't the way she wanted her night to end.

Adrien also crossed her mind. Would he be awake, she wondered? He was usually up, at least that's what he often told her—but what was the chance of him going to bed early for once and her waking him? Would he be mad?

A little text wouldn't hurt…

With a final sigh of defeat, she searched for her phone in the dark, hand running over sheets that felt so odd to be empty.

At this point, it felt unbelievably off to be sleeping alone. She'd been spoiled with the comfort of another person sharing her bed. First Chat Noir, then Adrien, and recently Alya (for some best-friend, feel-better cuddles.) She felt cold, desiring the vacant spot next to her to be filled.

She felt a twinge of regret at telling Chat Noir he couldn't stay.

But… It was the right thing to do.

A sigh blew from her nose as she opened up her and Adrien's last messages from the day before when he'd shared with her a video of a cat playing piano. Marinette smiled at the memory.

Adrien's love for cats almost made her reconsider disliking them.

She pondered for a moment over whether it really was a good idea to text him or not—if he was asleep and she happened to wake him, she'd feel awful. But if he was awake, no harm done, right?

He hadn't texted her all day… Maybe he didn't want to talk. Maybe he was having a bad day and needed some time alone. Maybe he was deciding he didn't like her after all-

Adrien❤: [ are you awake? ]

Oh.

Alright.

He'd texted her first.

[ I'm awake. Been sleeping all day so I don't feel tired :P ]

Adrien❤: [ are you feeling better at least? ]

He always seemed to worry about others before himself.

[ A lot better today! My head rarely hurts anymore ]

Adrien❤: [ that's good (=ↀωↀ=) so you're going to stay up all night then? i could use the company for a little while ]

Oh, she laughed internally, he's in a cat emoji mood tonight. Must have been a bad day.

[ Maybe. I'll regret it at school tomorrow but that's what coffee is for right? ]

Adrien❤: [ (=ↀДↀ=) i want coffee! ]

A laugh bubbled from her throat at his request. She'd never seen Adrien walk into school with coffee before—perhaps he wasn't allowed to have it.

The thought saddened her enough to oblige.

[ I'll bring you some. What do you like? ]

Adrien❤: [ so kind. ლ(●ↀωↀ●)ლ i'll have whatever you get. i can pay you back ]

[ You don't have to! Think of it as a gift from me to you ]

There was a pause before he began typing again. Then he stopped, erased it, and started typing once more.

Adrien❤: [ i never said i would pay you back with money (ΦωΦ) ]

[ Oh? What did you have in mind? More cat emojis? ]

Adrien❤: [ the cat emojis are a blessing and you love them. but i have something better to give you ]

She couldn't help the grin that spread across her face.

[ Do tell ]

Adrien❤: [ you'll see tomorrow~ ^ↀᴥↀ^ ]

Adrien seemed to have quite a habit of not telling her things, she realized. He still hadn't answered her question from before, even when they'd made a deal—it wasn't like she didn't know, but part of her wanted to be absolutely sure.

Whatever Adrien felt for her, however he wanted to put it, she desired to know.

After all, they had made a deal. He'd yet to hold up his side of it.

Before she had a chance to question him, he'd already sent another text.

Adrien❤: [ look at this meme ]

Rolling her eyes came naturally with a smile. Adrien was the only person she'd allow to keep her awake past decent hours with memes.

Marinette knew for a fact his phone was stock full of them.

Upon opening up the link he'd sent, she wasn't surprised to find another cat video awaiting her.

Maybe she could learn to like them, for his sake.

[ you have an unhealthy obsession with cats, you know ]

Adrien❤: [ they meme so much to me ]

[ … im going to bed]

Adrien❤: [ mari no ]

Adrien❤: [ mari wait ]

Adrien❤: [ i didnt meme it ]

Adrien❤: [ haha ]

Adrien❤: [ sorry ]

Adrien❤: [ don't hate meme ]

Adrien❤: [ it was a memestake ]

Could ignoring him and going to bed be considered rude?

Adrien❤: [ forgive meme ]

Adrien's puns were nearly as bad as Chat Noir's.

Ugh, she sighed, don't think about him.

[ im sleeping now ]

Adrien❤: [ (=ΦÅΦ=) come back ]

Adrien❤: [ without you, life would be ]

Adrien❤: [ ….memeingless ]

...Nope. She was definitely going to bed.

[ oh my god goodnight adrien ]

Adrien❤: [ no kisses? (ΦзΦ) ]

[ no you lost your chance ]

Adrien❤: [ (≚ᄌ≚) i'll be good ]

[ do you really meme that ]

She cringed at her own pun. The things she did to impress this boy, whom she was learning was incredibly dorkier than she had ever expected, were nearly more than she could stomach.

Marinette did not pun.

Adrien❤: [ =o w o= ]

Adrien❤: [ that's it ]

Adrien❤: [ it's official]

Adrien❤: [ you appreciate my puns ]

Adrien❤: [ you're the one ]

Adrien❤: [ marry me ]

Adrien❤: [ let's elope immediately ]

...Perhaps she could pun a little.

[ I dunno. I kind of always pictured having a pretty wedding ]

Adrien❤: [ i'll buy you a ring tomorrow ]

Adrien❤: [ the stone will be in the shape of a cat ]

[ Well now you've got me reconsidering ]

Adrien❤: [ (=;;=) ]

Adrien❤: [ i thought what we had was real ]

[ Well considering you didn't hold up your end of the deal… I don't know what we had ]

Hah. Now she'd caught him!

Adrien❤: [ wouldn't you rather me tell you in person~? ]

[ are you going to? ]

Adrien❤: [ ;3 wouldn't you like to know ]

Adrien❤: [ tomorrow is a good day ]

Adrien❤: [ buuuut for now, i have to sleep~ goodnight mari ]

...Of course.

Of course he'd go to bed before she received her answer.

What else did she really expect?

[ goodnight adrien ]

Whatever he was going to tell her, it'd be tomorrow.

It seemed as if the next day was to be full of information. Adrien's "confession", Chat Noir's news… She didn't know what to expect.

Tomorrow was certainly another day.

Chapter Text

Dead.

Completely, utterly, absolutely dead.

That's how Adrien felt, anyways. Running on an hour and a half of sleep wasn't nearly enough to get the exhausted teenager through two hours of school, much less the entire day. His body felt numb. He was sure his brain wasn't even working properly.

How do you walk again? One foot after the other?

By the time he'd shuffled through the classroom door and slumped into his seat, most of the students were already situated, either sitting and waiting for class to start or striking up a conversation with a few of their friends. It was a normal morning routine: his classmates filed in one by one, conversed for five to ten minutes before the teacher arrived and returned to their seats once Mme. Bustier was ready to begin her lesson.

Normally, Adrien would have been chatting with Nino over various small subjects, but in his current state of I-didn't-sleep-don't-fucking-talk-to-me he simply laid his head on the desk and stared blankly at the windows across the room. A tiny groan may have left his lips but he wasn't entirely sure what was going on within his body at the moment. He didn't feel as if he was even inside a body at all—more than anything, Adrien felt like a ghost, floating lifelessly through the chilled hallways of the school.

Marinette's promise of coffee was the only thing that kept him from toppling onto the floor in a drooling pile of sleeping student.

"Dude," Nino's voice came from his left, but he couldn't find the strength to lift his head or even look over to his friend. "You look like you're about to throw up. You sick?"

A long sigh blew from Adrien's nose and caused his shoulders to droop. "Not sick… Just tired."

"Tired" seemed like the biggest understatement of the century. "Tired" would be the word used to describe someone who'd rested for seven hours and rose out of bed with a yawn or two. "Tired" was not feeling completely fucking lifeless.

Adrien wasn't tired.

Adrien was exhausted.

It wasn't like he hadn't tried to go to bed at a reasonable hour. He'd first laid down at nine, worn out from another argument with his father. The thoughts that plagued his mind had been so uncomfortably painful that by the time eleven rolled around, Chat Noir replaced his despondent civilian form and sprung out into the summer night in pursuit of the one person that could make him feel special.

Marinette.

The wonderfully sweet and adorable and amazing girl he'd began to find himself thinking about more often than anyone else.

She consumed his every thought, danced in his dreams, filled his head with memories of her scent and touch and how soft her skin felt against his own. She was everything he could have ever hoped for and part of him felt ashamed that he hadn't realized how much he truly liked her months earlier in the year.

He'd never wanted to hold a girl's hand so badly.

The same hand of the girl whose lips he'd almost kissed as Chat Noir.

That'd been what kept him up all night after he returned home. With the memory of Marinette backing away and looking incredibly unsure fresh in his mind, sleep had been impossible. He'd tossed and turned, switched around his pillows, tried listening to music and even grabbed a healthy four-A.M. snack, but all of it was to no avail. Attempting to sleep with the images of Marinette (as well as his father's devastating words) swimming in his head was futile.

Had he been wearing a pair of velvety ears, they would have drooped from the sheer embarrassment he felt recalling the event. As usual, his stupid feelings got in the way and ended up making the situation awkward.

Adrien huffed with a bitter frown, knowing he'd been doing a whole lot of making-things-awkward lately.

"Did you stay up all night?" Nino asked, his voice bringing Adrien out of his mess of thoughts.

"Mostly," Adrien sighed as he sat up and rubbed his eyes. "Couldn't sleep. Too much on my mind."

His friend nodded in understanding. "Ah. Stress?"

"Quite a bit of it."

"Your dad?"

Letting out an empty laugh, Adrien nodded, his gaze falling to his lap in a way that answered Nino's question without the need for words.

"What's he bugging you with this time?" Nino laid a hand on his shoulder, the concern in his touch coaxing a small smile from Adrien's lips. "Model stuff?"

"Kind of." It wasn't a lie—it did have to do with modelling; quite an extreme version of it, in fact. "It's not that big of a deal, though. I'm not going to let him win this time."

"Win?"

"Uh…" With his teeth nibbling on his bottom lip in realization that he hadn't broken the news to his friends yet, Adrien didn't dare meet Nino's gaze, knowing very well that he could nudge the truth out of him whether he liked it or not.

It wouldn't be a struggle for his friend—Adrien was never any good at keeping secrets from the people he cared about most.

Well, except for one.

"Win what, dude?" Nino inquired as he fixed his glasses. "What's he want?"

A heavy sigh left Adrien's body. There was no use in hiding it from his best friend—he'd have to tell him eventually.

He would have to tell everyone eventually, provided he couldn't fight off his father's wishes.

Just as he opened his mouth to speak, a plastic cup of what appeared to be a frappuccino topped with whipped cream and chocolate drizzle slid into his vision. Looking up, Adrien was met with the sight of bright blue twinkling down on him like a sunny sky after a devastating week of downpour. The metaphorical raincloud above his head dissipated purely from those irises alone.

"I told you I'd bring coffee," Marinette said as she took a sip out of the straw in her own cup, shooting a grin at Alya. "I hope you like mocha."

"I do," Adrien breathed, face brightening from the sound of the voice he'd grown to enjoy more than any other. "Thank you. I needed this."

"He didn't sleep," Nino added, turning his attention to the girls that stood in front of them.

Adrien smiled as he connected the straw to his lips. Don't tell Mari that, she'll take me home immediately and put me to bed.

Actually, he wouldn't refuse a good nap with his girl.

She's not your girl.

Shaking his head, Adrien took a sip of the sweet blend of flavor, stifling a yawn that threatened to rise up in his throat. "I did sleep! For an hour."

"Only an hour?" Marinette asked, her smile falling. "I should have brought you a bigger coffee."

Adrien chuckled, shooting her an affectionate glance before settling his eyes back on the frappuccino. "I think anything bigger than this would make my dietician keel over."

"Not if you don't tell them," Alya said with a grin. "If they don't know, it won't be a problem. Eat whatever the hell you want."

"I guess you're right." Adrien gave a soft hum as he sipped on his coffee before a yawn crept into his throat, which he covered with his hand. "Hopefully this'll keep me awake for a few more hours."

"Well," Marinette's eyes met his, sending a warmth to coil its way around his heart and pump through his veins. Her smile alone could make any guy melt into a blushing puddle. "Maybe you should take a nap when you get home?"

"I wish," He sighed. "I have a photoshoot after school."

"You've been having an awful lot of those lately," Nino said, voice flat. "Doesn't your dad understand that you're only fifteen and could use a break?"

Adrien shrugged. "As far as he's concerned, I'm an employee, not his son."

Perhaps the statement had been a little darker than he'd intended. All three of his friends went quiet, their gazes flicking away as they lapsed into an awkward silence. Adrien cursed himself for letting that little comment slip.

"It's not like he doesn't care about me," He rushed to add, nearly choking on his frappuccino in the process. "I get breaks. Saturdays and the days where there isn't anything planned or when I finish my lessons early. It's not that bad." A lie. "He cares enough to let me have a little time to myself."

Marinette blinked. "Uh-"

The sound of the bell cut their conversation before Marinette could continue. Blinking up at her in apology, Adrien watched as she and Alya shuffled to their seats along with the other students that were previously caught up in conversation. Conversation that had probably been less awkward than he'd made his.

At least Marinette flashed him a kind smile before sitting behind him.

Shoulders slumping, Adrien sighed, setting his cup of coffee on the edge of the desk to make room for his supplies. Due to it being the last two weeks of school, he knew that whatever they'd be doing in class was either preparing for finals or stupidly easy worksheets that any person could finish with little effort. Maybe if he finished early, he could take a nap.

Although, a school desk didn't exactly seem like the most comfortable place to rest his head…

He preferred a bed. Marinette's bed, specifically. With its soft pillows, comfortable mattress and cozy blankets that felt so nice wrapped around his body. The girl who owned it lying next to him was only an added bonus. She, too, was a little bundle of warmth, smelling so sweet and breathing so gently as she used his chest for a pillow.

Adrien missed that, and it'd only been a few days since his last nap-session with her.

"You're drooping," Nino chuckled, causing Adrien to snap open the eyes he hadn't realized were closed. "Want me to switch seats with Marinette? I think she'd like having your head on her shoulder more than I like it on mine."

"Sorry," Adrien yawned, sitting up straight and stretching his arms outward. In his tired state, he accidentally sent the coffee to tumble off of the desk, but with his cat-like reflexes he caught it upright before anything could spill. If his coffee had plummeted to the floor, he probably would've cried.

Nino patted his own shoulder, giving his friend a teasing glint in his grin. "It's alright. I have been told it's a pretty good pillow."

Smiling weakly, Adrien set his eyes on the board in front of him and took a sip of the recently-saved frappuccino. Mme. Bustier was reviewing various subjects, most of which he'd perfected and knew by heart. Upcoming exams would be a breeze.

He let his mind wander, his thoughts ranging from that of how yummy the coffee tasted to the girl who'd bought it, then all the way back to the night before when his father had suggested (without expecting any sort of "no") that Adrien take a trip abroad for the entire summer. For three months. Away for three months.

Three months away from Paris.

Away from friends.

Away from Ladybug.

Away from Marinette.

He couldn't. He'd refused. He'd refused and fought and begged, but his father was hearing none of it. Adrien hoped, prayed that he wouldn't have to go through with it—three months away from Paris was a long time, especially when in unfamiliar countries modelling, of all things—and just went he and Marinette were beginning to really open up towards each other, too!

He'd said no. He wouldn't!

Yet…

Deep down, Adrien knew he couldn't fight it forever.

He knew his father would eventually win, just like he always does.

Gabriel Agreste always got his way.

In fact, his seemingly-emotionless father actually appeared to be slightly excited for the trip.

Adrien, however, didn't want to leave. He couldn't leave. Three months was a long time to keep Paris from safety. It wasn't that he thought Ladybug couldn't protect it alone—no, he knew she could—but more often than not they relied on each other to make battle easier and quicker. If he happened to be gone and Ladybug got hurt…

Well, he wouldn't know what to do with himself.

He'd never forgive himself.

Ladybug was his partner and trusted best friend. She was the person he could tell everything to and at the same time nothing at all. Ladybug was the girl whom he'd fallen for and the girl he was still desperately trying to get over. The magnificent, amazing, miraculous Ladybug ultimately was the most important person in Adrien's life. He knew that for a fact.

Ladybug was the only constant in his life that he could depend upon. She seldom missed patrols and when she did, she never failed to have an adequate excuse. During battle with akuma, she was fierce, quick and smart, having his back in times of need or danger while he always had hers in return. They were partners, friends, an unstoppable force when together—as a pair, they could do anything.

But, when apart…

Adrien didn't know.

Adrien didn't want to know.

They'd never fought battles alone before.

Sure, there'd been times when he was controlled by a villain, but in the end they always came through together.

What would happen if Ladybug became injured and couldn't fight for Paris? What would become of the city? Would he return home to find his beloved Paris nothing but a broken, once-thriving city or would he come back to nothing at all?

Adrien groaned, feeling sick to his stomach. All of the unanswered questions were giving him quite the headache, and due to his unfortunate bad luck, today was one of the rare days where he'd forgotten to bring painkillers.

He could feel the anxiety beginning to bubble within his chest the more he contemplated exactly how bad it would be for him to take off and leave for three months. Surely spending his time in America or London or even China modelling for his father's brand couldn't be worth the devastation Paris would face in his absence.

Usually, he and Ladybug were up against a villain a week—sometimes two, or even three—and those battles could last hours, even taking up the entire day if difficult enough, and that was when they fought together. He couldn't imagine having to make his partner defend the city alone. It'd be putting too much of a strain on her. She'd be exhausted, wounded—lonely.

His heart sank at the thought.

Ladybug would be lonely. They were friends, of course. Often patrols were spent bantering or simply enjoying each other's presence. Without him, there'd be nothing but silence.

She'd miss him.

He would miss her.

And then, there was Marinette, the sweet and talented (and amazing, can't forget amazing) girl he'd been giving most of his time as of late. The girl who had shaken him out of his hopeless love for Ladybug and gave him something to believe in. The very same girl whose eyes lit up like a sea of stardust and whose skin felt as soft as silk.

That girl was his friend.

No—that's not right. She was more than his friend. She cared about him, felt for him, sympathized with him and desired to help him cope with his home life and inner sorrows. She gave him food, kind words, and a warm bed to lay when his was too cold. She was kind. She was spectacular. She was amazing in every conceivable way! She was loved and she shared that same love in return.

And god, did it feel so great just to be loved.

At this point, Adrien didn't care whether or not what they had was labeled. Whatever it was, he was content with it; the cuddling, the comforting, the scratches and affection and all. The kisses, the late nights spent texting and sharing with each other silly things they found on Tumblr or YouTube, and not the mention the kisses. He loved the napping, the nights he spent curled up under her covers bathed in black, the wonderfully sweet kisses, the feel of her warm breath as she breathed onto his skin in slumber and the amazing kisses. Oh, and had he mentioned the kisses?

He didn't want to give it up. He couldn't give it up.

Leaving all of that, even for three months… It would be too hard to bear.

And Marinette—poor Marinette had only been waiting for his answer. The truth he held so openly for her. She wanted his honesty, and that was all she desired. Marinette wanted to know how he truly felt about her and nothing more.

But he couldn't tell her. Not now, not yet, not when he was on the verge of leaving the country for three months. He couldn't confess his feelings for her and break her heart in return when he departed. There'd be little room for conversation in other countries, especially when attending fashion show after fashion show and thousands of fittings, as well as tedious photoshoots. It would be completely exhausting and a strain on their relationship—provided they did attempt a relationship—and would most likely end in pain and tears.

Adrien didn't want that. He couldn't hurt her that way.

Part of him regretted ever becoming so close to her. If he hadn't, it wouldn't hurt so bad to say goodbye.

It would be awful of him to scoop her up in his arms and kiss her senseless while declaring his affections only to leave her in the dust two weeks later. To call her his girlfriend, to have her be his (the only thing he so badly wanted) and then to have nothing, to break it off and leave it all or fight for sticking together when they were thousands of miles apart.

Adrien was never against long distance relationships, but even those who attempted knew very well that communication is key.

If he barely had time to talk at all, it wouldn't be much of a relationship.

And that's exactly what my father is trying to do, he thought bitterly, clenching his hand into a tight fist around his pencil. He's doing this on purpose. To teach me a lesson. To have me obey him and do whatever he says just so he can live a happy life.

But where the fuck was his happiness? Where was his joy, his light, his childhood?

Did he even have a childhood?

No. His father stole that away from him years ago.

Modelling and starving himself just to appease his father's aesthetics was some goddamn childhood.

Fucker.

The sound of a snap caused Adrien to blink in surprise. Glancing around the room, he searched for the source of the disturbance—only to find that half of his pencil lay on the desk and the other still grasped firmly within his hand.

He'd snapped his pencil in half.

He could feel more than just one pair of eyes burning into his skin. He didn't have to turn around to know that Marinette was gazing upon him.

She was probably concerned-

Stop thinking about her, he hissed to himself, stop. Think positive thoughts.

But there was simply nothing positive to think. Instead, he delved on his worries, the negatives, the unhappy possibilities that all came in a package labeled "summer vacation" in fat, red ink.

A clenching tightness squeezed at his chest and sent Adrien to breathe in quick, short breaths. His fingers twitched restlessly, mind racing and stomach churning with the stress of his predicament. He combed a hand through his hair, but it did nothing to relieve the sheer amount of pressure he felt welling within every part of his body. His foot tapped against the floor and his eyes blinked more often than they should; his vision blurred with every attempt on focusing on his classwork; his heart raced, hot blood pumping through his nerve-wracked body.

The room felt too tight and too small. Too many people surrounded him. The lights were too bright. His throat felt as if it was swelling and he couldn't breathe. He really couldn't—he'd almost forgotten how. Everything within his body felt wired and overwhelmed and purely sick.

And god, his head was killing him!

Nino seemed to take notice to his uncomfortable state, laying a hand on his shoulder for emotional support. "Are you oka-"

Flinching from the touch, Adrien shook his head and raised his hand into the air, speaking loud enough for the teacher to hear yet unable to hide the crack in his voice. "May I use the restroom? Please?"

Nino's eyes widened in confusion but Adrien paid no mind. Standing (once granted permission, of course), he left the classroom without so much as a glance back at his classmates. He needed to clear his mind, to splash some water on his face and calm down before he ended up having a full-fledged anxiety attack in the middle of the classroom.

He'd had plenty before and knew very well when he needed to remove himself from a stressful situation. School was no place to break down into a trembling fit of tears and hyperventilation.

The walk from the classroom to the boys' bathroom was enough to calm him down for a brief moment. Standing in front of a mirror, he took a deep breath before turning on the faucet and letting it run for a second or two while he attempted to steady his breathing. His heartbeat still hadn't returned to a normal pace.

God, Adrien thought with a heavy sigh as he splashed the cool relief of water onto his face. I hate anxiety.

"Yeah," A voice replied, "anxiety fucking sucks, dude."

Adrien turned, surprised to see that Nino had entered the bathroom. "Did I say that out loud?"

The DJ nodded. "Are you okay?"

Shrugging, Adrien let his gaze fall to the sink where the water flowed down the drain in a messy spiral. He knew if he said "no," he would end up using his best friend's shoulder as a place to cry on.

Although, he did really need someone to talk to… And Nino was right there.

They were alone right now—there didn't appear to be anyone in the stalls.

But… If he broke, he'd have to return to class with red eyes and a dripping nose. He didn't want anyone to see him like that. Chloe would probably fawn over him and do her best to comfort him when in turn she'd only make the situation worse by smothering him.

At least the thought was there.

"Not really," He sighed, shutting off the tap. "I didn't even need the bathroom. I just needed to get away for a few minutes."

"You seemed like you were kind of freaking out."

"You could tell?" Embarrassment began to settle within him.

"Only because I was sitting next to you," Nino replied. "I don't think anyone else would have noticed. You weren't breathing right and you looked like you were going to be sick. I just wanted to come and make sure you're okay."

"I think so," Adrien breathed, resting his hands on the edge of the sink and breathing in slow, even breaths. (Trying to, at least. Anxiety is one hell of a bitch.) "I-I don't know."

"Well," Nino said as he patted him on the back. "If you need someone to talk to, I'm here, dude."

"I…" Unsure, Adrien gazed at his reflection in the mirror, attempting to fix the mess he'd made of his hair. The style was beginning to look a lot less like Adrien and a lot more like Chat Noir. It was a little detail that made him appear eerily similar to his alter-ego, especially with the black shirt. He prayed nobody would notice. "I don't know. It's… A lot."

"I can handle a lot."

"I don't know if it's official or not." A lie. Adrien was about ninety-seven percent sure there'd be no way out of this one.

"Don't know if what's official?" Nino asked. "Spit it out, dude."

"Ugh," Adrien sighed, giving up on adjusting his hair and leaving it in the tousled Chat-look. "My father is just being unreasonable. He's not caring about what I want and is only thinking of how leaving for the summer would benefit his business, while on the other hand his son will be starved of both social interaction and food."

Nino blinked.

"And honestly," Adrien continued, "you're right. I don't think he does understand that I'm just a fifteen-year-old kid that could use a break every now and then. I mean, sure, I do get breaks, but-"

"Wait, wait," Nino held up his hands to pause Adrien mid-sentence. "Your dad wants you to leave for the summer? Like, for the whole three months?"

"Apparently!" Leaning back against the wall near the hand dryer, Adrien buried his face within his hands and groaned, extremely aggravated. "He came to me yesterday when I got home from school and broke the wonderful news."

"Where are you going?"

"Out of country," He responded bitterly. "Probably Germany or America or something. I don't care too much about the location, all I know is that I don't want to go. I can't go. All of my friends are here. Marinette is here."

Ladybug is here.

"Marinette?" Nino cocked his head, confusion apparent in his eyes before they widened in realization. "Oh, right. You and her are a thing now, aren't you?"

"That's one of the main problems." Adrien felt his phone vibrate within his pocket, but paid it little interest. Whoever was texting him could wait. "I don't know what we are. I mean, I have a pretty good idea, but I…"

"You…?"

"If I'm leaving, what's the point of even starting anything?" God, even he could hear the sadness in his own voice. He must sound like a depressed little puppy to anyone listening. "What's the use telling her how I feel if I can barely speak to her at all for three months?"

"Just to let her know?" Nino suggested, gazing at his friend with sympathy. "I mean, it's pretty obvious how you two feel about each other, man. I'm sure she'd wait for you."

"For that long?" He croaked. "Without much communication at all?"

"She's waited longer than three months already. What's three more?"

His phone vibrated a second time. Pulling it out of his pocket with an agitated grunt, Adrien was prepared to tell whoever it was to fuck off, but when he saw the name Marinette♥ in his messages, he immediately opened up the conversation to the two unread texts.

Marinette♥: [ Are you okay? ]

Marinette♥: [ Do you need me? ]

Adrien felt the horrid anxiety that had began to coil through his veins melt into a subtle burn that he barely noticed at all. Marinette was worried about him. Marinette was wondering if he needed her comfort.

And god, did he.

How badly he wanted to just say yes and to tell her how much he needed her in so many more ways than just comfort urged him to reply immediately. He wanted her—he needed her, just like she'd asked. He needed her arms wrapped tightly around his frame in a safe embrace and he needed her soothing words and sweet scent that calmed him like nothing else. He needed her, just pure Marinette to scoop him up off the ground and take him home (to her home, not his) and snuggle him under cozy covers until the tears dried.

He needed to let himself slip into the most peaceful sleep he could ever recall with his head nestled comfortably in her lap. He needed her hands in his hair, her soft voice and gentle fingers coaxing such a great purr out of him that it'd relax him deeper than he'd ever been relaxed and send him to rest like a baby. He needed her.

But not now. Not while he was in the boys' bathroom seeking advice from Nino. She couldn't come in here, especially when they were talking about her and their relationship—whatever it was.

"Who's that?" Nino asked, peering at his screen.

(Nino was the only person he allowed to do that.)

"Marinette," Adrien murmured as he attempted to formulate a reply within his head. Every message he typed out didn't seem right—telling her no was rude and would make her feel unwanted, but telling her yes would give her permission to walk straight into the boys' bathroom and kick Nino out to comfort him, because he knew she would for him.

Marinette might just do about anything for him, providing what he wanted was sane.

Maybe even if it wasn't.

[ i think im okay now ]

She responded almost immediately.

Marinette♥: [ What happened? You two have been in there for a while ]

[ i'll talk to you about it at lunch ]

"What's she need?"

Adrien glanced up before looking back down at his phone as it vibrated. "She wants to make sure I'm okay."

Marinette♥: [ Okay… Do you want it to just be us? ]

"Man," Nino sighed, leaning back against the wall and checking his own phone out of what Adrien assumed was habit. "It's crazy how much that girl likes you."

[ yeah if that's okay ]

"I know." Stuffing his phone back into his pocket, Adrien stood up straight and rubbed his temple, feeling the beginnings of an awful headache creeping up his neck and residing within his brain. A good nap was definitely needed, but he'd have no time for one. He'd have to tough through the day with a pounding headache all while feeling exhausted and hungry. "I just wish I would have realized it sooner." He glanced at the door. "We should be heading back."

Nino nodded, holding the door open for his friend as they exited the bathroom. "I'm surprised you didn't. She couldn't form a coherent sentence around you because she was that head-over-heels for you."

"I just thought she still didn't like me because of the gum incident," Adrien admitted with a sigh, eyes downcast as they walked along the hall to the classroom. The air felt cold, chilling to his sensitive skin. The desire to be curled up underneath a warm blanket and sleep became stronger with every step.

"Eh." Nino shrugged. "I can see how you would think that, but I'm glad you two figured out your feelings for each other. It was getting hard for Alya and I to just sit there and watch both of you fumble over your words and look at each other like lovesick fools. Alya almost considered shoving you into poor Mari just to see if you would accidentally kiss or something."

Adrien snorted. "I'm glad she didn't. I liked my first kiss with Marinette the way it was."

"Ah, yes," Nino sighed, pressing a hand to his forehead. "A lover's kiss at three in the morning. Alya told me the details."

Feeling his cheeks heat up, Adrien chuckled, stuffing his hands in his pockets as they walked back into the classroom. He didn't dare look up in fear of the judgemental gazes that were burning into his skin.

At least Nino had helped cheer him up a little.

Somehow, though, a lingering sadness still resided within him, leaving him with a dark and hollow feeling. He knew it wouldn't truly go away until he fought off his father's plan for the summer. No matter how hard he tried to forget, the tightness in his chest remained as an unpleasant reminder that summer vacation would most likely be spent in a different country wearing uncomfortable clothing and posing for a photographer whose language he didn't speak.

Adrien slumped into his seat with a sigh, watching as Nino presumably explained his anxiety situation to Mme. Bustier in a voice soft enough that only she could hear. Adrien felt thankful for his quiet approach. He didn't really want the class to hear about his emotional problems and home issues.

Eyes scorched his skin and made his back feel as if it'd caught aflame. Everyone was staring, he knew without looking up that all eyes were on him.

At the moment, he didn't really care.

All he could focus on was the fact that when lunch came around, he'd have to make his decision.

An incredibly difficult and painful decision, that is.

Drumming his fingers on the desk, Adrien sighed, battling with himself over the desire to tell Marinette his feelings and the need to break the news of his leave to her.

Who knew which was the better option? To confess that he was falling for her harder than he'd ever fallen for a girl before or break her heart by admitting the trip?

He couldn't do both.

Telling Marinette and then leaving her two weeks later would be shitty, but not telling her and then leaving… Would be worse.

What was he supposed to do?

He would end up hurting her either way… And hurting her was the last thing Adrien ever wanted to do.

A tiny ball of paper no bigger than the pad of his thumb plopped and bounced onto the wooden hardtop of his desk. Blinking in confusion, Adrien picked it up between his fingers, but flinched when something light hit the back of his and head caused him to turn on instinct.

Had Marinette just thrown a little ball of paper at him?

Judging by her concerned expression, she most certainly had. Adrien almost grinned.

And she said he had a habit of throwing things.

'Are you okay?' She mouthed, pushing a loose strand of midnight hair behind her ear. Her gaze searched his, pools of delicate blue staring deep into his own green as if she could find the cause of his problems within his eyes alone.

Adrien nodded, but quickly changed the movement of his head and shook it in a "no." There was no use lying to her. If he was going to tell her about his high possibility of leaving, admitting the truth was the easiest way to mend their situation, even if a only slightly.

Immediately her eyes fell to her lap. He was about to reach out to her and tell her that he'll be alright, things will okay okay, until he felt a vibration in his pocket. Marinette looked back up at him right afterwards.

Turning around, Adrien slid his phone out of his pocket just enough to see the message. His lips curled upwards in the faintest hint of a smile from the words displayed on his screen.

Marinette cared so much.

Marinette♥: [ I'm here for you, don't forget that ]

[ i haven't forgotten. thank you mari ]

Marinette♥: [ You're welcome. I care about you a lot okay? ]

The tiny smile stretched into a wide one, full of affection and deep feelings for this beautiful, sweet, amazing girl that was more concerned about his well-being rather than the fact that if they were caught on their phones, they'd both receive a detention.

To him, it was worth it.

Marinette cared so much, and he cared about her just the same.

[ i know. 3 and i care about you ]

Marinette♥: [ Should we meet somewhere for lunch? I'll tell Alya that you want to be alone ]

[ she might get the wrong idea ]

She didn't respond immediately, but he could hear a tiny squeak of laughter (which she was probably trying to hide) sounding from behind him.

Marinette♥: [ Oh my god no ]

Marinette♥: [ I'll explain to her I promise ]

[ it's alright. i don't mind if she thinks we're going off somewhere to kiss because i'll probably end up kissing you no matter where we go anyways ]

Another squeak from Marinette, only this time it wasn't a laugh. Adrien resisted the urge to turn around and give her a smirk or a wink—he wasn't Chat Noir right now, he couldn't do that—but he could at least attempt to lighten the mood by sending cute (and flirty) texts.

Even if he was going to break the news… A little kissing wouldn't hurt!

Marinette♥: [ I don't think I'll mind that too much ]

[ although apologies if i do fall asleep ]

[ i am still pretty tired ]

Marinette♥: [ Are you going to skip school to nap with me again? ]

[ well in order to skip school to nap with you, you'd have to be skipping too ]

Marinette♥: [ That sounds nice, but I think we both need to be in school today ]

No matter how much he hated to admit it, she was right.

No naps.

Damn.

[ you're right… but save a nap for me another time ]

Marinette♥: [ Will do. We can meet outside the school and walk to my house together, my mom offered lunch ]

Caring about him, bringing him coffee, letting him come over for comfort (and a nap another time) and feeding him?

Adrien was one-hundred percent certain that he was falling in love with Marinette.

He wanted nothing more than to be hers.

[ sounds great :D see you then ]

At least he could forget about his sorrows for a little while.

Until then, he could lose himself in the wonderful comforts of Marinette.

That is… Until he found the courage to tell her he was leaving.

No time to worry about that now, he told himself as he felt his heartbeat quicken. Later. All bad things will come later.

Plagg's words faintly floated within his mind. "Better days are coming."

Adrien was seriously beginning to doubt that.

Chapter Text

The walk to Marinette's home was spent in a quiet and comfortable silence. Hand-in-hand, she and Adrien waited a moment or two at the crosswalk before it signaled their turn to move across the road and to the bakery, which smelled so tantalizingly sweet even from the outside. It never failed to fill the street with aromas that tempted her taste buds—the scent alone could lead hungry customers to their glass doors from five shops down. That's how Marinette knew for a fact that her family's boulangerie was the best in all of Paris.

She was also fairly sure that Adrien would concur with that statement.

Upon opening the doors, a gust of sugary and buttery air hit Marinette's nose with a familiar reminder that this was her home; her safe place, her personal little haven where she (and her friends) would always be welcome. Her friends knew that, of course, as did she—her safe place also belonged to Alya, and although it went unsaid, Marinette was almost certain that her home was Adrien's realm of comfort as well.

As they navigated around the crowd of customers (it was lunch hour, the busiest time of the day), Marinette greeted her mother with a small wave and a quick "we'll only be here for lunch." She and Adrien picked up a few cookies from the shop to snack on during his visit—her mother wouldn't mind—and headed upstairs to prepare some actual lunch. Simple sandwiches had sufficed to cure the hunger rumbling within their stomachs.

Although, Marinette did take notice that Adrien seemed a bit off as he nibbled on his food; maybe he just wasn't that hungry?

He'd finished it, to say the least.

Now, they sat in her room, settled within a quietude that wasn't exactly what Marinette could call pleasant. She rocked idly from side to side in one of her rolling chairs, blue eyes roaming the wooden floor with little interest. Adrien sat across from her upon her lounge, his hands clasped together and thumbs fiddling somewhat nervously. At the moment, Marinette was unsure of what to say; should she ask him how he's doing? Question what's bothering him? Don't ask anything and instead smother him with kisses?

The third option was definitely the most favorable.

It wouldn't solve any problems, though.

(No matter how badly she desired to see his lips break into that gorgeous smile because of her.)

Clearing her throat, she met his sad green eyes with her own and decided it would be best to start by at least saying something. "So, uh… Wh-what happened this morning?"

Don't stutter, She reminded herself. This is Adrien. You don't stutter around him anymore.

"Oh," His gaze dropped, voice quieter than it had been minutes before. "I was just… Worrying."

Marinette quirked an eyebrow in curiosity. "Worrying? About what?"

"Stuff."

"Stuff?"

"Yes," He continued, as if he was having trouble spitting out his words. "Lots of stuff. Stuff that makes me worry."

Well, I got that. But what kind of stuff?

"Do you want to talk about it?" She inquired, using her feet to scoot a few inches closer in her chair. The wheel caught on the rug for a moment before she stopped herself from toppling over with a touch of her shoe to the floor. "You looked pretty frazzled when you came back from the bathroom."

Adrien nodded, a sigh falling from his lips. Whatever was bothering him certainly wasn't something he should keep bottled up within himself—an abundance of stress and anxiety could make a person burst if their emotions went unreleased for too long. Everyone needs to vent every now and then; Marinette knew that herself from unfortunate experience.

Breaking down in front of Alya because she'd dropped a pencil due to other causes of stress was a memory that still embarrassed her to this day.

Adrien appeared to be so… So distraught, as if there was some oppressing sadness weighing down on his shoulders so intensely that he couldn't even find the strength to sit up straight. His normally perfect posture had gone and fled from his body. She'd never seen him look so pitiable.

Save for the time he'd completely broken within her embrace, of course.

Part of her wished he'd do that again just so he could let it out—so he could feel better.

Crying was a body's natural reaction to harboring too much emotion at once. Marinette knew that after releasing the tears, she always felt better. Tired and stuffy, but less heavy. Better.

She wanted Adrien to feel better.

"Look, Adrien-"

"Marinette, I need to-"

Marinette's lips snapped shut as she and Adrien spoke in unison.

"Sorry-"

"My bad-"

They froze, gazing into each other's eyes and waiting for one of them to speak up before they ended up talking over each other a third time.

Marinette felt a small smile tug at her lips and before she knew it she was giggling, giving her not-boyfriend a reassuring grin that said "go ahead."

Adrien returned her smile, though it didn't quite reach his eyes. "Sorry about that."

"It's okay," She responded, clearing her throat to calm the giggles. "I'll let you talk. I'm all ears."

He nodded, green eyes glancing around the room before they bounced back up to her own, his feet shuffling against the wooden floor. Whatever he was planning on saying, it was definitely proving to be quite a difficult statement.

"I need to talk to you," He began, "about something."

Marinette cocked her head to the side, interested.

"It's not good," Sighed Adrien, reaching behind his head to scratch at his neck in a nervous habit Marinette had grown to adore. "It's giving me anxiety and making me feel awful."

Oh, dieu.

What could be plaguing him enough that it caused him to flee to the bathroom during first period?

What could be horrible enough that he needed to tell her in private?

Did both the two most important boys in her life have some bad news to deliver?

Seeing his apprehensive demeanor, Marinette frowned, pushing herself up from her chair and letting it roll backwards across her room. She took a seat next to her (boy)friend on the lounge and laid a gentle hand upon his shoulder, rubbing it in a slow, comforting circle. Whatever it was… she would always be there to listen, no matter how painful it may be to hear.

"You can tell me." The urge to kiss his cheek had been too strong to resist. The simple peck of her lips upon his skin pulled the faintest hint of a smile to Adrien's face, which in turn made her heart swell with love and pure emotion. God, she loved this boy more than he could even fathom. "I'm here, remember?"

"I know," He whispered, gently nosing his face into the crook of her neck. The contact of his skin upon her own felt warm and cozy, like a snuggly blanket wrapped lovingly around her body. An incredibly handsome blanket, that is. An attractive and lovable and cuddly blanket that she adored more than any other.

Instinctively her hand reached up to comb through his hair as she relished in the feeling of his wonderfully soft blond locks between her fingers. There was just something so nice about being with him like this—like a couple who enjoyed each others company more than they enjoyed anything else in life. It was pure, simple closeness that she desired, and it was pure, simple closeness that Adrien supplied.

She never wanted him to pull away.

Sweet breath blew against her neck as Adrien sighed, tickling her skin with his nose. "I don't ever want to hurt you."

Marinette frowned, her hand stilling atop his head. His choice of words concerned her greater than they should. "Hurt me? What are you talking about, Adrien?"

He nuzzled his face deeper into her neck until it was completely hidden against her skin. "I don't want to make you sad."

Now she was beginning to feel a twinge of anxiety herself. "Adrien…" Swallowing nervously, she regretfully pulled away from his warmth only to gaze into his eyes, fear swimming in her own blue. "What's going on?"

Adrien's shoulders slumped as an elongated breath left his body. When he spoke, his voice was hoarse and nearly inaudible, like a broken echo she could faintly hear. "Marinette, I like you. I like you a lot. I think I like you more than any other girl I've ever liked before."

Marinette's eyes widened, her heartbeat quickening its pace at the words that fell from his lips.

"...Actually, I…" Glancing away, Adrien wrapped his arms around himself in what she assumed was insecurity, his hands rubbing up and down the sides of his body. "I have so many feelings for you that I can't even decipher them. I don't know if it's love—it might be. Are we too young to feel that? Is that weird to say? I don't know." His eyes met her own once again. "I've never really been good with figuring myself out—figuring other people out—but I have a pretty good feeling you really like me a lot, too, if the kisses mean anything. You do, right?"

As he looked to her for confirmation, Marinette nodded, eyebrows shot up into her hairline. "O-Of course I do," She breathed, surprised he even needed to ask. "Yes."

Wherever he was going with this, she had no complaints.

Why would anything he was about to say make her sad?

Unless… There was something else he planned to admit. There always had to be a catch to these types of things, right?

With a sudden realization that this was not heading in a positive direction, Marinette felt her insides shrivel up with sadness as she prepared for the inevitable "but." Her throat felt tight and eyes stung from the possibilities of let-downs she'd experience that afternoon. Was he more interested in someone else? Secretly dating a model? Being forced into a relationship for publicity?

Most importantly, would he be gentle with his rejection?

A lump in her throat made it difficult to swallow as her brain conjured up possibilities of the words that would soon be an unfortunate reality.

"I love you, Marinette, but I love somebody else more."

"I want to be with you, Mari, but I can't because you're not cute enough to be a model's girlfriend."

"Marinette, I want you to be my girlfriend, but my father would disown me for dating a girl that's not within my social status."

"Mari, I adore you, but you're not rich enough to-"

"...Marinette?"

Marinette felt herself jolt as she fell back down to Earth. Fuck, how long did I zone out? "S-sorry, did you say something?"

Adrien nodded, glancing away from her shyly and fidgeting with the button on the pillow that sat next to his thigh. "You… Okay?"

"I'm fine," She said with a quick glance to his hands. "What did you say?"

"I said that I want nothing else but to be with you."

Marinette felt her heart stop completely. "You do?"

Adrien gave a simple nod before letting his gaze fall downcast, unable to look her in the eye. Marinette knew she was about to be hurt. She knew for a fact that whatever was hovering on the tip of Adrien's tongue was going to tear her goddamn heart out and there was nothing she could do to stop it. She wasn't stupid; she had a pretty good idea of where this was going and it was not a place of serenity. There would be tears staining her pillow that night.

She only hoped Alya would go easy on him.

God, what is he about to say…?

"I do," He continued, voice delicate (and quite a bit shaky.) "I really want to, more than anything, but…"

And there it was. The inevitable.

But.

She hated that word.

But what!?

"I can't."

Marinette was officially ready to flee the country. She was ready to buy a plane ticket, pack her bags and move to China to be with her extended family. She wanted to curl up in a tiny whimpering ball of sadness and deflate until she was nothing but a flat, lifeless pancake on the floor. She was prepared to drown in her own tears.

But what good would that do?

Instead she nodded, swallowing the heavy lump in her throat that would surely cause her voice to waver. She couldn't protest—if he couldn't be with her, she wouldn't force it. It wouldn't be a healthy relationship if one of them was unhappy.

No, she would be strong. She'd take this rejection like a champ and sweep her emotions under the rug on her floor until Adrien left and she could peacefully wallow in her own sadness for the next six or seven hours.

Somehow she always knew this would happen one way or another. She never actually believed that her and Adrien could become a couple—at least, she used to, before kissing became a regular occurrence in their relationship.

Still, it was a fact that she kept within the back of her mind, warning her and taunting her that this boy had so many different girls waiting at his doorstep that he could choose from; why would she ever be considered number one on that list?

Swallowing (if only to rid her voice of its impending shakiness), she nodded, letting herself gaze intently at the pattern of dots decorating the chaise. "Oh, um… Okay."

"I-I didn't mean I don't want to o-or that I can't ever," He continued, reaching out to place his hands upon her shoulders in what appeared to be a comforting touch. "Just not right now. That came out bad, I'm sorry, I- augh." He slapped his palm to his forehead and groaned, hiding his face within his hand. "I shouldn't have began that way. Can I start again?"

Feeling a tad numb, Marinette nodded, lifting her eyes from the pattern of polka dots. Okay, so he said he wanted to be with her but couldn't at the moment; that sort of made sense, if he had a good reason. At least it wasn't pure I-don't-return-your-feelings rejection. She could deal with that… Mostly.

"Okay," Adrien began, combing a hand through his mussed hair. "What I meant to say is that I think I'm leaving for a while. I'm trying to get out of it, god I'm trying my hardest to, but I don't think I can win this time. My father wants me out of the country for some type of modeling… Thing. I didn't want to start anything before I left- I mean- I do want to start something, with you, but what's the point if I'm gone? Agh, no- I mean- I can't be your boyfriend if I'm not around, right? I don't want to start this—us—and then ruin it because I'm leaving-"

"Adrien," Marinette said gently, effectively cutting him off before he dissolved into a nervously blabbering mess. Her hands reached up from their place on her lap to cup his cheeks, which she stroked delicately with her thumbs in an attempt to calm him. At least he wasn't entirely elated about the situation either. "Shh. Slow down."

"Sorry," He breathed, layering one of his hands over her own. "I just really don't want to leave. I want to stay here."

"How long are you leaving for?" She asked as she felt their fingers entwine against his cheek. Preparing for an answer that ranged from six months to six years, she worried at her bottom lip in anticipation while Adrien let out a forlorn sigh, his blond hair drooping in his face as he hung his head.

"The whole summer," He said, glancing away sadly. "I'll be back in three months."

Only three months?

That wasn't too bad! She could deal with three months.

At least it wasn't three years.

Eugh, she thought with a frown, don't give Gabriel Agreste any ideas.

Granted, it would be three months without seeing Adrien in person, but they had phones to text and call and video chat. It wasn't like they'd be completely cut off from each other. Sure, they wouldn't be able to have physical contact, like holding hands or hugging or kissing or… Anything else, but three months wasn't awful. She'd waited longer than three months just to simply have a full conversation with Adrien; she would survive. They would get through it.

It would make the summer painfully slow, however.

But she did have Alya!

Alya would be there most of the summer. They could hang at each other's homes and have sleepovers and stay up until five A.M. talking—well, listening on Marinette's part—about Alya's Ladybug theories and recent Ladybug-related news. There would be days spent at the park or strolling down the streets in search of fabric shops or afternoons sitting in the cool air conditioning of ice cream parlors. Maybe they'd babysit together, or taste-test new recipes at the bakery. They could even work at said boulangerie to gain some extra cash to spend on whatever they pleased. Alya would be there for her.

And if Alya ever proved to be busy, Marinette could always confide in the company of Chat Noir. No, they weren't considered to be "normal" friends, but they could still spend their nights patrolling the city and throwing playful banter back and forth until the sun rose or sleepiness caused them to return to their homes in search of a comfortable bed. If there was ever a lull in her summer evenings, Marinette could simply transform and take a leisurely flight through the city at the mercy of her yo-yo, which would surely rouse her feline partner and send him bounding right after her with a load of puns in his pockets. They could spend the entire night roaming the city and sleep all day if needed. The occasional akuma attack would also keep them relatively busy.

There was no need for her to worry; with the company of Chat Noir (as both Marinette and Ladybug) and Alya as well as her other friends like Nino, Alix, Rose and the rest, she couldn't possibly be too bored for too long.

Still… It would suck to have Adrien miss it all.

"Three months isn't so bad," She said as she patted his shoulder with her free hand, giving him a reassuring smile. "I'll still be here when you get back."

"You're not upset?"

Marinette shook her head, surprised Adrien would think she'd get upset over something that wasn't in his control. "Of course not, Adrien. I know this wasn't your choice and I can't get mad at you for it. I mean, sure, I'll miss you, but I won't run off with somebody else just because you're not here."

Adrien's shoulders visibly relaxed as he breathed out a sigh, head drooping and eyes clouded with sorrow. "I just feel so bad about it. We're practically dating and I was so happy, because I was ready to ask you out on this elaborate date I had planned and I was so excited to finally have someone that really, truly likes me, maybe even loves me, but now I'm leaving and everything we've built up so far-"

"-we'll have to be patient for," She finished for him, her voice gentle. Resting both hands upon his shoulders and rubbing affectionately, Marinette gave him a soft smile before she nuzzled her face into the warmth of his neck. The faint scent of his cologne brought forth a wonderful feeling of both comfort and safeness that swam right up to her head and made her feel giddy with love.

This was Adrien Agreste she was holding, and it was Adrien Agreste whose arms slid around her frame and squeezed her in a hug so tight that she nearly lost the ability to breathe. Adrien Agreste buried his nose within her hair and Adrien Agreste held her in an embrace that wasn't anything that could be considered platonic—it was a hug that clearly stated, "I love you. I'm yours. I'm going to miss you."

It was Adrien Agreste whom she'd fallen in love with and it was Adrien Agreste who had somehow found himself falling in love with Marinette Dupain-Cheng.

She didn't know how it'd happened or what she'd done to arouse feelings for herself within Adrien's heart; all she cared about at the moment was that Adrien was holding her as if she was his lifeline and that this whole thing was incredibly real—Adrien was there in her arms and it was Adrien she loved so dearly.

Three months wasn't such a long time. Marinette knew some couples went much longer than that without contact at all. It wouldn't be too hard for them to get through it.

She could get why Adrien was upset, but… Maybe he was overreacting a little?

Unless there was something else bugging him about his leave; another reason for him to fear being away from the city.

The least she could do was reassure him.

"It's okay," She whispered, stroking his back in slow circles. "I know you're sad—I am too—but those three months will fly by. At the end of the summer I'll be here waiting for you, and so will Nino and Alya and all of our other friends." A soft chuckle left her lips before she could stop it. "And I'm sure Chloe will be, too."

Adrien grunted, his warm breath blowing atop her head as a laugh rose from his throat. "Oh, I bet. But you know why that's a good thing?"

Marinette lifted her head from his neck and smiled as their eyes met. "Hm?"

"You can kiss me right in front of her."

"You're evil," She snickered, "I like it."

"It's what has to be done." Giving her a squeeze, Adrien hummed and pressed his cheek against her forehead, the warmth from his subtle flush seeping into Marinette's own body and filling her with a pleasant little flame that sparked and grew into a scarlet blaze of emotions. This was real. Too real. This was Adrien holding her and Adrien telling her to kiss him.

If her past self could have the ability to gaze into the future and look upon their closeness, Stuttering-Blushing Dupain-Cheng would have exploded from the mere sight of it.

Current Marinette, however, leaned in to his touch and sighed, her fingers ghosting up his arm as her hand connected with his shoulder and completed the loving embrace. Their chests rose and fell in unison, breath mingled in a single melody so soft that it was only audible to the two caught within each other's arms.

Both became lost in the sensation of just being held, the moment full of delicate little touches and comforting scents and the pure essence of each other. "Warm" and "safe" were the only two words that came to Marinette's mind.

She could feel his heartbeat against her chest, the rhythm slow and calming to her racing thoughts. Adrien was beginning to relax. His breath came in gentle waves, almost as if he was falling asleep—in any case, it was an improvement to his previously short inhales that were filled to the brim with anxiety.

They had about ten minutes before they needed to start heading back to school. If he wanted to take a short nap using her as his pillow, she'd let him without complaint. He'd been so exhausted all morning that she didn't have the heart to wake him if he happened to doze.

"Marinette," He whispered, causing her eyes to blink open just as they'd closed. His voice was quiet and faintly hoarse, most likely from the lack of sleep. If only they could skip school to nap again. She seemed to miss enough school as Ladybug; one more time couldn't hurt, could it? It was Friday…

No, she was a good student. Sleeping with Adrien was not more important than her education.

Her cheeks flushed from her own thoughts. Reword that next time, holy hell.

"Hm?" She hummed back, heavy eyelids blinking slowly.

A tired chuckle vibrated from within Adrien's chest, yet his eyes remained closed. "I don't want to wait until I get back to kiss you."

"You won't have to," She said as she sat up, blue eyes blinking upwards. "I'm right here."

It was all the permission he needed.

Her brain buzzed and eyes fluttered closed as the sensation of Adrien's lips upon her own sent tingles from her mouth all the way down to her fingertips, which roamed his body until her arms wrapped around his neck in a delicate yet affectionate motion. She pulled him closer, their lips gliding over each others in a familiar pattern Marinette had come to crave nearly every minute of every waking day. She wanted his lips, his kiss, his sweet breath against her skin and the feel of his hands on her body in the most innocent form imaginable.

He was always hesitant with his touches, afraid he'd gone too far when most of the time it wasn't enough—she didn't want him to be afraid of placing his hands upon her waist or even her hips, she wanted him to hold her and feel her and never let her go.

If he was going to be leaving for three months and she'd be deprived of these wonderful, wonderful kisses, then for the next two weeks she'd let him kiss her as much as he desired. As much as she desired.

She whimpered as the pressure of his lips was replaced by air, her eyes blinking open in a silent plea for him to return. Adrien only grinned, his fingers running down the side of her face and his summer green gaze glowing with nothing but adoration. The look alone made Marinette's heart melt into a puddle within her chest.

He was looking at her the same way Chat Noir used to look at Ladybug.

He was looking at her like she was his world, his everything, his favorite girl and very reason for waking up in the morning.

He held love, respect, complete admiration within those emeralds which gazed upon her so fondly.

If that expression didn't confirm his feelings for her… Well, Marinette wasn't sure what else could.

Adrien Agreste had fallen in love with her, to put it simply, and Marinette knew she'd fallen harder than any person had ever fallen for anyone before.

"Hey," Adrien said, his voice a whisper against her forehead as his lips brushed her skin. "Thank you."

"For what?" She asked as her hand found its way into his hair, combing through the once-perfect locks that now hung in his face from the lack of product. He must've not had enough time to apply anything that morning.

"For understanding," He murmured against her hair. "And for being there for me."

"You don't have to thank me for that," She said. "I'll always be there for you."

"What about when I'm gone?"

"Still." Her hand ran through his blond stands, eliciting a tiny sigh from the boy in her arms. "I'm only a phone call away."

Something in Adrien deflated—Marinette wasn't sure what she'd said or done that had caused his body to slump into her, but she immediately regretted saying anything at all. Why did she have to go and screw things up? The moment had just been so sweet!

Adrien's expression shifted to a saddened pout as his head rested on her shoulder, the warmth of his breath tickling her neck. Marinette frowned, removing her hand from his head and placing it upon his back to join the other. He was mumbling something, but she couldn't quite pick up what he was saying; something about "time zone" and "busy."

"Come again?"

Adrien sighed, raising his voice to an audible level. "Knowing my father and these kind of special modeling trips, I'm barely going to have time for talking. We'll probably be off in a new fancy hotel every week where the cell service is sucky the time zone is different and I just don't know how this is all going to work. I want to make time for you, for Nino, for our other friends—but I don't think I can."

Marinette shook her head, placing a kiss to his hair to put him at ease. "You're letting yourself worry too much. I won't get upset if you can't talk that often. Even if you can only text once a week, I'll still be here. Besides," She continued, "it might not be so bad. You'll get to see other countries and meet new people. You can take pictures and tell me all about it when you get back."

"But…" Adrien's voice sounded so hollow; broken and sad. "I'll be all alone the entire summer."

Marinette blinked, feeling sympathetic for him. "What about your dad? Won't this be a good chance for you guys to like, bond and stuff?"

"Not really." He shrugged his shoulders. "He'll be gone most of the time while I'm at photoshoots. I'm… Kind of used to being alone, so… I guess it won't be too bad. I'll probably have a room to myself so while I'm there I can do whatever I want. I'm sure he'll visit, though. He cares about me in his own way... I think."

Marinette felt her heart sink to the bottom of her chest as he spoke. Alone so often that his father barely even visiting his own son wasn't a big deal to him, as if it was normal for a parent to ignore their own child due to business.

She didn't know much about his home life besides what little he'd told her, but Marinette was beginning to think that Adrien was right—maybe Gabriel did treat his son more like an employee rather than his own kin.

She definitely needed a better choice in role models.

Poor Adrien... She sighed in thought. He deserves better.

And that's exactly what she told him.

"You deserve better," She said softly, pressing gentle kisses to his face as he lifted his head from her neck. "I mean it. You're so sweet and you treat everyone with so much respect, and you only hurt yourself to make your father happy. You suffer to please other people. Why?"

Adrien seemed a bit taken aback by her question, his green eyes flickering with an emotion she couldn't quite place. He looked away, turning his body so that they were no longer connected and sighing, his hand scratching at the back of his neck. "I don't know, Mari. I guess I've just always wanted to do whatever I can to make people happy. I can't stand having anyone mad at me. I feel awful if someone is even remotely upset at me."

"You're a good person." It was a fact.

His lips twitched upwards into a small grin, his summer gaze meeting hers with a thankful blink. "So are you, Marinette."

"Really, you are." She laid a consoling hand on his thigh, looking up at him with complete admiration dancing within the bluebells that he so frequently told her he adored. "All you ever want to do is make people feel nice. I can't remember a time where you were actually mean to someone—it's crazy how patient you are. Anyone who can put up with Chloe must have the patience of a god." Smiling (and stifling a giggle), Marinette let her head rest on his upper arm, her hand searching blindly until it found his and squeezed it within her own. "I admire you for that."

"You're making me blush," Adrien laughed, shyly hiding his face within his palm as his cheeks heated up to a wonderful shade of pink. "Do you like doing that? 'Cuz you do it a lot."

"As a matter of fact, I do," She replied with a smirk. "You happen to be very cute when you blush."

Had she just called him cute to his face?

Yes. Yes, she had.

Adrien quirked an eyebrow as he slung his free arm around her, pulling her so that she was flush against his side. "Only when I blush? What a shame. And here I was thinking that I'm cute all the time."

Oh, god, he makes the same awful jokes as Chat.

Was that just coincidence?

...Probably.

"You are," Marinette giggled, pushing the previous notion to the back of her mind. "I won't deny that."

The smirk he made was a little too familiar for Marinette's comfort. "I'm glad you think so."

The way he was looking at her was eerily similar to-

No, no… Don't think of Chat now, She reminded herself, you're with Adrien.

She was probably just missing patrolling with her feline friend a little too much.

With a glance to the clock (and a good clearing of her thoughts), Marinette frowned, disappointed at the time. If they wanted to make it back to class on time they needed to begin walking to the school, or else they'd be late.

Normally it wouldn't bother her, but she had missed quite a bit of school lately, and both of them arriving to class late together would appear to be a tad suspicious. No doubt she'd get quite the ribbing from Alya if she and Adrien happened to walk through the doors ten minutes after class had started. Their friends would assume that they'd been having-

"Now you're blushing," Adrien said, successfully ridding the inappropriate thought from her mind. "What for?"

Marinette felt her cheeks burn from his question, forcing her to recall the thought that made her red in the first place. "Just thinking."

"About?"

Oh, I was just thinking about how much teasing we'd get if we walked back into class late and let our classmates think that we were skipping to come to my house for a little more than just lunch.

But she couldn't admit that out loud! Adrien might run away!

She had to think of something—an answer less embarrassing but also equally blush-inducing—yet what?

"I-I was thinking about, um," She cursed her stuttering. "How it sucks that we have to go back to class, b-because I really wanted to kiss you some more."

That didn't sound too bad, did it?

...Nah.

Adrien's eyes widened for a moment before his lips broke out into a wide smile, his arms connecting around her around her slim waist as he turned to face her. "We have two minutes," He breathed as he nuzzled his nose against her own—a silly little affection that made Marinette's heart skip a beat. How could one person be so sickeningly cute?

"That's enough time for me," She chuckled. Cupping his cheeks into her hands, Marinette molded her lips against his own and sighed, the feeling of being kissed shooting sparks to her brain and making her heart run marathons within her chest. Her fingertips burned from the contact of Adrien's skin and her eyes fluttered closed the instant his hands fell to her hips in a hold that was light yet loving, giving her the confidence she needed to shyly nestle within his lap.

Adrien seemed a bit nervous by the sudden change of position and Marinette was about to apologize and retreat as he pulled away, but he only broke for a moment to gaze at her before diving back in for another taste of her lips. A squeak of pleasant surprise rose from her throat as their lips connected and slid across each others in a smooth glide, but it was quickly muffled between the two lovestruck teens who had become undeniably lost within their kiss.

Marinette could never have even imagined how amazing simply kissing could feel.

She knew that it was nice and that she definitely liked doing it, but their previous kisses had nothing on this.

This kiss was fire, burning her lips with every press, scorching her skin and swimming through her veins. It sparked, it blazed, it set flame to her heart and made her chest feel as if it contained its own personal inferno. The feeling was hot yet it wasn't anything near painful—it was a wonderful warmth that filled her to the brim with adoration for this sweet, amazing (amazing!) boy. The sensation was more than just simple love—yes, she loved Adrien, but she was also in love with him—and she couldn't be prouder to state that fact within her mind.

Their kiss spoke for them, uttering the words of their desire to kiss as much as they could before Adrien eventually had to make his leave.

Granted, it was in two weeks, but… Marinette wasn't exactly eager to push away her gorgeous crush when his lips were all over her own.

Every press of his lips echoed the unspoken message: "I'm going to miss kissing you, so let me kiss you now."

Marinette had no problem with that.

"We're going to be late," Adrien breathed against her lips, his breath fresh and hot against her skin.

He didn't have time to say much of anything else before Marinette had shushed him with another touch of her lips to his own. "School later, kiss now."

Adrien mumbled something but it was too muffled to understand. She didn't really have a moment to process it anyways—Adrien's mouth was back upon hers in an instant, barely giving her enough time to finish her previous statement. His lips were a magical, magical thing, and Marinette couldn't get enough.

She never used to believe in magic until Adrien had blessed her with his sweet kisses.

Oh, she was screwed. Gone. Completely and utterly taken by this dorky model who'd seemed so untouchable months ago and was now allowing her to wrap one arm around his neck and another to reach up so that she could comb her fingers through his messy hair.

This seemingly untouchable model had definitely become touchable.

Adrien sighed at the sensation, a low hum rising in his throat as he placed a hand upon her cheek and pulled her face closer to deepen the kiss. Their movement became less hesitant and more needy, the thought of Adrien leaving for three months and her being deprived of these amazing kisses making Marinette part her lips ever so slightly. She didn't even jump as she felt the tip of Adrien's tongue hesitantly come into play before it darted back into his mouth; he was probably too shy to go that far—Marinette could understand his nerves. It was a little "advanced" compared to the few kisses she could call her experience.

She'd never kissed like this before—she didn't know what to expect or do when her partner (sorry Chat, time to share the title) was kissing her like he never wanted to break their contact.

(To be fair, Marinette didn't exactly want to ever pull away either.)

The reality of it made her stomach positively flip; this was really happening. Adrien was really kissing her in a way that wasn't a form of pure innocence and he'd almost been brave enough to really, really kiss her—the brief touch of his tongue to her lips was definitive proof of that.

Of course, Marinette knew he had no other intentions besides kissing her that afternoon—as if they had time for anything else anyways—but these kisses were surely amazing and she did not want to stop any time soon. It was just too nice, too wonderful. How could kissing be so much fun?

"We're late," Adrien whispered, laughing softly as Marinette once again covered his lips with her own. "We're late, Mari. Should we go back?"

"Not yet," Marinette giggled in response, adjusting her position in his lap so that she was more comfortable. "In a few minutes."

"Hmm," Sighed Adrien, leaving a chaste kiss upon her lips. "Yeah. A few minutes."

His smile was too goddamn pure for this world.

Fucking cinnamon roll.

Grinning, Marinette recaptured his lips and let her eyelids slide closed, one hand on the back of his head and the other pressed lightly against his chest. Adrien didn't hesitate to pull her closer, the movement of his lips against hers passionate yet sweet, loving yet endearing. It was everything Marinette could have possibly imagined in an Adrien Agreste kiss; everything and more, to be precise. She couldn't fathom throwing this moment away to walk back to school and sit in an uncomfortable seat when she could be happily placed upon the lap of her friend—her Adrien.

His lips were a dangerous drug and Marinette felt nothing short of addiction.

Adrien is amazing. Adrien is kissing me. Adrien is-

"Marinette, what on Earth are you doing?"

Marinette gasped as the sound of her mother's voice practically startled her soul right out of her body.

-caught with his hands on my hips while I'm in his lap.

Pulling away from Adrien in a movement a little too fast, she toppled over, falling backwards off of his lap and straight to the floor (which didn't exactly do wonders to cushion her back.) She'd had worse falls as Ladybug, but while out of the suit pain came about ten times easier.

At least her legs still remained on the chaise.

Adrien shuffled away as well, using his hands to scoot backwards as far as he could without meeting the same fate as the girl he'd just been practically making out with. Marinette gave him a quick glance before meeting the surprised gaze of her mother, who was currently upside down from her point of view.

With a second brief look to Adrien, she knew they were both thinking the same exact thing:

Fuck.

They'd been caught.

Marinette's heart rammed against her ribcage as she stared at her mother, who stood with half of her body in her room and the other still on the stairs. Swallowing heavily, Marinette scrambled to sit up straight, fixing the ties in her hair that had began to come loose (when had Adrien even touched her hair?)

Her mother couldn't be too upset—it's not like they'd had their hands down each others pants!

Sure, they were kissing and she was on his lap and it probably did look bad to a parent… But it wasn't anything else than a little kissing! The position just looked more risqué than it actually was!

Oh god, in her mother's eyes it probably looked like they were doing so much worse...

"M-maman," Marinette began, voice shaky as she clasped her hands together awkwardly. "I-it's not what it looks like-"

Her mother only shook her head and sighed lightly, seemingly dismissing the situation. "I was just coming to see why you hadn't left to go back to school yet, but..."

Marinette's throat felt incredibly dry. "I'm sorry-"

Sabine held up a hand, voice gentle. "We'll talk later. Just gather your things and head back to school before you're even more late."

Nodding, Marinette hurriedly stood, the redness in her cheeks nearly the same shade as the ties in her hair that Adrien had somehow pulled loose. She couldn't even look at him as she grabbed her purse and slung her backpack over her shoulder.

Mostly, she felt bad for Adrien. He was probably feeling even more embarrassed than she was. She didn't know how she'd feel if Adrien's dad happened to be the one to catch them in the middle of kissing each other senseless.

Actually, now that she thought about it… She'd most likely get kicked out of the mansion and never be allowed to even look at Adrien again.

At least her parents were understanding.

As her mother shut the trapdoor and went back downstairs, Marinette sighed in relief, plopping her rear back onto the chaise where Adrien sat and stared at the floor. His face was equally as red as her own, if not more so.

Marinette lips curled downwards into a frown. He must be so embarrassed.

"Hey," She whispered, laying a hand on his shoulder. "It's alright. My parents won't be mad about this."

"They won't?" Hopeful green eyes met her own blue as Adrien lifted his head to look at her. "Really?"

Marinette shook her head. "Of course not. I mean, my mom will probably want to talk to me about it later, but… They're not going to be mad at you or punish me for this. We weren't doing anything bad. It was only kissing."

Even if it looked like I was grinding on your-

Her cheeks were too hot.

Nevermind.

A thankful breath blew from Adrien's lips as he smiled, layering his hand over her own. "So long as they still let me come over, I'll be okay."

"They wouldn't kick you out forever," Marinette giggled. "I promise. Now c'mon," She said as she stood, pulling him up with her hand. "Let's get back to school before she comes and checks on us a second time."

Adrien nodded, pulling his own backpack over his shoulder and lifting open her trapdoor. They went downstairs unnoticed, slipping out of the bakery without being stopped by either of Marinette's parents, something both of them were incredibly grateful for. Neither wanted to face Tom or Sabine and be questioned about what they were doing and why they were doing it.

(On the way out, Marinette had managed to sneak a few cookies into her purse for Tikki.)

"I'm really sorry about that," She sighed as they stood in front of the bakery, sunlight radiating onto her skin in a pleasant warmth. "I told you my parents can be a little nosy."

Adrien shrugged, running a hand through his messy hair in a futile attempt to style it. "It's alright. It's a good thing she stopped us when she did, or else we might've missed a few more classes."

Marinette gazed at his golden locks, watching as the rays of afternoon sunlight caught on every strand as it bounced and practically glowed like a star in the sky. She slipped into a sort of trance, her blue gaze following every little movement his mop of blond hair made atop his head from the light summer breeze that blew through the streets. So pretty.

Damn. Messy hair looked really good on Adrien.

She'd never seen it like that before. It appeared longer, less done-up, more… Cat-like.

No, Chat-like.

A few strands hung over his forehead in a way that bothered her, but not necessarily in a bad way—it almost made her feel like they should've been standing on a rooftop instead of the sidewalk, but Adrien wasn't… He couldn't-

"Mari?"

Blinking, Marinette shook her head to rid her previous thoughts and forced a smile to her face, her knuckles brushing the back of Adrien's hand in a silent plea for him to envelop her own. He obliged, his fingers sliding between hers in a fit that was familiar and complete—as if their hands were meant to be a perfect match.

Maybe they were.

"Sorry," She said, walking along with him across the street. "Zoned out for a second."

Adrien frowned curiously and raised an eyebrow. "You okay?"

"Yeah, I'm okay." Really, she was. Sort of. Something inside of her felt a little… Off, especially when she gazed upon her partner's (boyfriend's? friend's!) tousled… Hair….

But really! She was fine! Nothing to worry about.

"You sure?" Poor boy, sounding so concerned. She was fine.

Sort of.

Something just felt weird, yet she couldn't quite place its origin. Why did she feel so uncomfortable? Why did she feel like she should be wearing a spotted mask and hunting akuma?

Repressing the groan she so badly wanted to emit, Marinette nodded, watching her feet as she stepped up the stairs to the school entrance. "I'm okay, really. Just embarrassed. I know I'm going to have to suffer through a super awkward conversation with my mother when I get home, but other than that, I'm okay." She stopped to give him a brief kiss to his cheek, thankful that class had already resumed and they were alone for a moment. "I promise."

She promised.

"Well… Alright." Adrien gave her a friendly smile, walking with her down the vacant hallway that led to their classroom. "Just tell me if you need anything, princess."

Princess?

Something inside of Marinette broke.

Chapter Text

"That was so embarrassing," Marinette sighed as she slumped into her desk chair, gazing mindlessly at the ceiling with cheeks as red as rose. "I can't believe I just had to sit through that."

Tikki's tinkly laugh came from above her, her little scarlet body floating around Marinette's head. "I'm so sorry, Marinette. But, you must know that all parents have to talk about those kind of things with their children."

"I know," Groaned the red-faced teen, slapping a palm to her forehead. "But sitting next to my mom at the dinner table while she talked to me about condoms and birth control made it a little hard to swallow my food."

"At least your dad was downstairs," The kwami said, patting her chosen's head comfortingly.

"I think I would have keeled over if he'd been sitting up there while we had that conversation."

Another laugh slipped from Tikki as she sat upon Marinette's shoulder, her voice soft and kind. "This wouldn't of happened if you and Adrien hadn't-"

"I know." Grabbing her backpack from where she'd left it on the floor, Marinette pulled out her make-up assignments and tablet, figuring that getting some progress on schoolwork done would help ease her mind a little. "I don't think I'm ever going to not be embarrassed when that kind of stuff comes up."

"Stuff" being a conversation with her mother about whether or not she and Adrien were being safe—as if they were actually doing more than just kissing. The discussion of different types of birth control and when it's appropriate or not to have sex wasn't what Marinette signed up for! She didn't want to talk about that!

Having to assure her mother that she was a virgin (no matter how many times Sabine insisted that it was okay if she was doing that with Adrien) became number one on her list of "Most Embarrassing Things That Have Ever Happened to Marinette Dupain-Cheng."

She hadn't even thought of Adrien in that way yet—and the images in her mind now that she was thinking about the possibility of them being that way someday were all the more blush-inducing.

"I feel like I want to crawl into a hole and hide forever," She said to her kwami as she plucked a pencil from her drawer of art supplies.

"It's okay, Marinette." With a warm smile, Tikki grabbed one of the cookies Marinette had smuggled from downstairs and began to nibble on it. "Your mom is only trying to be a good parent."

"I guess." Her bangs blew from her forehead as she exhaled in frustration. "Now I have too much on my mind."

"Like Chat Noir?"

Marinette nodded, letting her head thump to her desk. "Yeeees," She groaned in a muffled voice, stomach flipping and flopping in an uncomfortably nervous fashion. "I haven't been able to stop thinking about that, either."

Tikki's blue eyes blinked thoughtfully as she took another bite of her cookie. "Are you certain it's him?"

"Almost positive," Marinette sighed. "I don't know, I can just… Feel it. Like it's instinct telling me, or something."

"Well," Said Tikki, "what makes you so sure?"

With a hopeless shrug, Marinette sat up and scribbled her name onto her paper, feeling motivated to at least get some work done. Moping around in a cloud of confusion and mixed feelings would do nothing good for her grades.

"The nickname, for one," She said as she accidentally pressed too hard on her paper and broke the lead of her pencil. "And the hair."

"That's all?"

Marinette shook her head, wiping the broken piece of lead to the floor like a responsible artist. "Chat Noir also began calling me Mari the same time Adrien did."

Tikki opened her mouth to speak, but her chosen hadn't finished.

"And," Marinette continued, "Chat knew that I had hit my head without me even telling him, and I doubt he actually saw it happen."

Just as she'd sharpened her pencil, the lead snapped once more.

She grunted in agitation, letting a few curses stew in her thoughts. "Also, Chat Noir leaned in to kiss me as if he was comfortable with it, like we'd done it before, or something-" Her hand reached for the pencil sharpener. "-like we'd just been kissing the day before and he'd come back for more."

"Marinette," Tikki warned. "You're stressing."

"And," She continued without pause. "Adrien seemed like he was hiding something when he was telling me about his summer trip earlier today." Were the words on her paper moving? "And, Chat Noir said he had bad news for Ladybug. Bad news being a summer trip!"

"Marinette-"

"I don't know!" Whined Marinette, throwing her hands into the air. "I'm probably just overthinking. It was just a hair and a nickname!"

"It's okay, Marinette," The spotted kwami said in a sweet tone, flitting up to sit on the worksheet. "You're okay."

"Yeah, I'm fine." A long, exasperated sigh fell from Marinette's lips as she leaned back in her chair, pressing the back of her hand to her forehead. "God, I have a headache."

"Do you want me to leave you alone for a little while to work on your homework?" Tikki asked, her voice full of care.

Marinette smiled appreciatively at her kwami, knowing very well the real reason the tiny goddess offered to leave her alone was so that she could clear her mind and not think about Adrien—Chat Noir—whoever he was. "Thank you, Tikki."

With a tiny nod, Tikki planted a friendly kiss atop Marinette's forehead before zipping up to her loft, settling on the bed with a cookie in her mouth.

At least Marinette could have some quiet time to attempt to think of something else; something less confusing to her heart.

Resting her head on her arms, she sighed, closing her eyes for just a moment to ease her pounding headache—but all she could see was green.

Green, green eyes that burned into her very soul.

Pressing her hands to her face in frustration, Marinette sat up, annoyed with herself for being unable to think of anything else besides him.

Stupid boys, distracting her from her schoolwork!

She needed to work, not become consumed by images of green eyes or the thought of Adrien being her Chat Noir, her best friend, her partner, the boy she'd refused to acknowledge her feelings for and been in love with at the same time.

Yet, consumed she was.

She thought of him as she read through literature passages on her tablet.

She thought of him as she watched her clock turn from six to six-thirty.

She thought of him as she wiped the pencil shavings into the trash.

Even as she answered physics questions on her paper, her mind wandered elsewhere, swimming with green eyes, blond hair, white teeth and soft lips.

Was this particle physics or a foreign language?

Adrien would know the answers to these problems.

"Damn it," Marinette hissed as the lead of her pencil snapped in half for the third time that evening. "Focus."

Her make-up work sat unfinished, a ghostly white sheet atop her cluttered desk. Between her fingers she held her wooden pencil, chewed and much smaller in length than it had been when she'd first began the assignments. Too many things on her mind kept her hands heavy with stress and caused her to press harder on the paper than needed, leaving her pencil in a pathetic state and her worksheet spotted with dark smudges.

Heaving a heavy sigh, Marinette grabbed the tiny metal sharpener from its place by her art supplies and aggressively spun her pencil inside, watching as the shavings fell to her paper in a miniature pile of ringlets. A dusting of graphite coated a spot of white, which she blew into the air after pushing the wooden shavings to the side.

No matter how many times her eyes scanned the words written on her paper or how often she attempted to read over the assigned passages on her tablet, Marinette's mind was a spinning mess that could barely concentrate on anything else besides the certain nickname that Adrien happened to call her that afternoon.

She couldn't focus. It was impossible.

Her schoolwork would never get done.

If she hadn't been concussed by that stupid furry beast then she wouldn't have missed school and therefore wouldn't have any work to make up at the moment. Yet, life happens, and being a superhero isn't all fun and games. She and Chat couldn't go their entire lives protecting Paris without suffering and injury or two.

Marinette vowed she would sit at her desk until dawn if need be. Schoolwork required more attention than the fact that she may or may not be interested in dating Chat Noir.

Stop it, she scolded herself, letting a groan of frustration pass her lips. It was a simple coincidence! Lots of guys call their girlfriends "princess."

Yet lots of guys didn't have eyes as green as summer pastures or a butt that would look great in black spandex.

...I'm awful.

She flinched as a loud snap caught her attention. Looking down, Marinette sighed at the remnants of a pencil between her fingertips, sharpened down to a nub and the lead broken beyond repair.

She'd need something else to write with.

Voicing a complaint that was more of a muffled curse, Marinette tossed the pathetic utensil in the trash and instead went for a pen, scribbling on the corner of her paper to test out the ink. It still worked—at least something was going right that day.

Still, it was a little difficult to write with trembling fingers.

"Marinette?" Tikki's concerned voice floated down from the loft. "Are you doing okay?"

Marinette nodded, but quickly replaced it with a shake of her head as she continued to draw thin blue lines on her paper. "I don't know, Tikki. I'm really confused."

"About Adrien still?"

She nodded once more.

A tiny sigh could be heard as her kwami flitted down to her desk, perched next to the shavings of pencil her chosen had yet to dump into the trashcan. Marinette glanced up for a brief moment before going back to her mindless scribbling, soaking the little corner of her worksheet with blue ink and nearly tearing through the paper. It was all she could focus on at the moment.

"Talk to me, Marinette," Tikki began, her voice encouragingly soft. "Forget the homework for a moment. What are you thinking?"

"Um…" Truth be told, Marinette wasn't entirely sure what she was thinking. Ever since she and Adrien returned to school from their lunch break, her mind had been nothing but a mess of incoherent thoughts.

Some were simple commands, like "breathe" and "focus," but others were more insistent, urging her to call up her stupid blond not-boyfriend and get him to admit to her himself that yes, he's Chat Noir, he's the one that's been visiting her room for the past few weeks and he's the one who tried to kiss her right after she'd told him she was in love with somebody else.

(That person being him.)

She nibbled on the back of her pen nervously, unable to conjure up an appropriate response to her kwami's question. The more she worried, the harder her teeth bit at the plastic.

"How do you feel?" Tikki asked as she blinked up at her with a deep blue gaze, her expression calm and caring.

"I feel…" Marinette sighed, setting her pen atop her desk and pinching the bridge of her nose to rid the cloud of thoughts that buzzed within her brain. "I feel weird. I feel like I know the secret to the universe yet I can't tell anyone I know that. I feel heavy, yet… happy? Is that possible?"

The kwami nodded, antenna bouncing with the moment of her head. "It's understandable. You discovered something you never thought you would."

"I think I have, at least." Marinette resumed to chewing her pen, letting her worries slip into the grooves that now decorated the plastic. "I don't know if I have or not. I mean, it was just a hairstyle and a nickname, it could be just pure coincidence. Right?"

Tikki shrugged. "What about the other similarities?'

"I don't know," Groaned Marinette, letting her forehead plummet to the surface of her desk. Ouch.

What about the other similarities?

Surely, if the only signs that pointed to Adrien being Chat Noir were messy hair and a nickname, then it was merely a coincidence.

But those weren't the only signs. There had been more, plenty more that flooded her brain with memories she'd once thought nothing of and brushed off like a piece of fuzz on a blanket. They weren't just insignificant little details that she recalled in passing, they were everything she should have kept track of since she and Adrien first became close. Once forgotten, they'd now returned—with a vengeance.

Marinette's heart was beginning to beat like a caged bird within her chest. "Oh, fuck," She hissed, slapping a palm to her forehead. "I've been so stupid!"

Tikki blinked up at her chosen, rising into the air with a chirp. "What do you mean, Marinette?"

It was so obvious! All the little signs, the things he'd said—it all made sense now! How had she not noticed before?

Chat Noir and Adrien had so much in common that there was no way they weren't the same person!

Marinette's throat suddenly became very dry.

She and Chat Noir went to the same school. Chat Noir was the same age as her. Chat Noir's birthday just happened to be in September, the same month as Adrien's.

That couldn't be a coincidence, could it?

Neither could the fact that during their first date, the only other blond boy in the ice cream parlor that was Chat Noir's age had been Adrien. Which made sense, considering that Chat had mentioned being on a date with a girl—that girl being her.

No wonder Adrien had been outside of the parlor after the akuma attack! He'd just gotten done fighting the akuma with her!

"Holy shit!" Marinette exclaimed, pulling at her pigtails in realization. "How have I been so dumb?"

It was almost like Adrien had drawn it out on a piece of paper for her, or written it in a stupid note that he most definitely was-

She froze up as a thought passed her mind.

Oh my god.

The note!

Standing abruptly, Marinette walked to the pink drawers on her desk and thrust one open, pulling out the note Chat Noir had left her on the first morning he'd slipped out at dawn. Her eyes scanned the paper, inspecting the way his perfectly neat handwriting decorated the page in black ink, the Y's looped in a fashion all too familiar. Her heart stopped just from the sight alone.

This is Adrien's handwriting.

Her teeth bit down so hard on the pen from surprise that a gush of blue ink exploded into her mouth.

"Augh!" She spat, throwing the broken utensil to the floor and wiping the bitter dribble from her lips. A horrible taste pooled onto her tongue and it wasn't long before she'd rushed to the bathroom to rinse her mouth with as much tap water as humanly possible. Upon looking in the mirror, she found that the pink tank top she wore now had a few dark spots on the fabric that would seemingly be impossible to get out.

So much for that shirt.

With a final sputter (and a thorough scrubbing of her inked skin), Marinette let out a frustrated sigh before returning to her room to slip off the soiled clothing and replace it with a simple black t-shirt. Comfortable, but too big for her petite frame; perfect for pajamas.

If only it was bedtime so she could lay down and forget about the whole situation entirely.

Or even just forget about her whole day.

The embarrassing conversation with her mother, the nagging reminder that she may as well be in love with Chat Noir—all of it!

Yet her mind wouldn't let up.

Hello! It called. Have you forgotten that Adrien, the boy you love with all of your heart and soul is also Chat Noir, the guy you've been pretending to not have at least a little bit of a crush on since the day you first met?

Fuck off, she hissed back at the intrusive thoughts. I haven't forgotten.

At this point in their relationship, Marinette felt it was safe to say that she and Chat Noir—Adrien—were very well going to become Paris' hottest new couple once the end of summer rolled around.

But… Would that be so bad?

If she was being honest with herself, Marinette didn't mind that much at all.

Sure, Chat Noir was impulsive, silly, and even annoying at times… But under all of that was her Adrien, the respectable and reserved model she'd grown to appreciate as more of a person than a celebrity crush in their months of friendship.

Maybe that respectfulness was the reason Chat acted so impetuously at times. As Adrien, he needed to be absolutely perfect; it was a necessity that he have a perfect smile, perfect posture, perfect hair and perfect attitude to appease his perfect father's wants for his perfect business. He couldn't joke or curse or laugh; he couldn't voice his mind the way Chat was able to; he couldn't be himself, and that pained Marinette more than any thought had ever before.

Adrien wasn't how Adrien wanted to be.

Adrien wasn't loud or flirty, nor was he boisterous, simply because he couldn't be—but Chat Noir was all those things and more. Chat Noir was everything Adrien wasn't allowed to be, everything Adrien wanted to be.

And Marinette had done nothing but reject his true self all this time.

A heavy stone of guilt settled within the pit of her stomach and made her feel sick.

For nearly a year she'd pushed away Chat Noir (Adrien) because of his flirtatious demeanor. She'd figured he was nothing but a playful kitten with too many puns stashed in his brain, but as she stripped that black mask from his face, she was left with a shy and skittish fifteen-year-old grasping at the world with delicate hands.

A fifteen-year-old whose only desire was to live his life the way he wanted to. A fifteen-year-old who just wanted to be himself.

Why had she preferred the boy under the mask when she loved both halves just the same?

Yet still, something deep inside of her nagged, screamed that she was wrong—that she was making a simple mistake and Adrien truly wasn't the one underneath her partner's disguise.

How could he not be? She fought back. He has to be!

Perhaps she was just telling herself that so she could think her crush was on one boy instead of two.

But there was no way Adrien couldn't be Chat Noir! All of the signs pointed to them being the same person!

Adrien and Chat were both a model, that couldn't be coincidence. Adrien and Chat had both lost their mother. Adrien had a bad home life—Chat had a bad home life.

Adrien and Chat Noir were both quite thin.

Adrien and Chat Noir… Well, they were just too damn similar.

She knew, she knew for a fact that Chat was Adrien and that Adrien was Chat and oh mon dieu, she knew she was so deep in love with the same wonderful, amazing boy that had stolen her heart and hidden the key in a place so insignificant that she didn't care whether or not she'd ever find it. There was no concealing how much loved him. She loved him so dearly and nothing in the world could stop her from loving him the way she did.

Not even a stupid mask—his or hers.

As Marinette paced around her room lost in her musings, she couldn't help the way her heart fluttered and chest grew warm from the thought of her and Adrien spending their nights patrolling Paris together.

It was comforting, really.

Her lips stretched into a wide smile as the image of Chat Noir sneaking through her skylight just past midnight before detransforming into Adrien came to mind.

Chat Noir was good at cuddling—same as Adrien. Soft and cozy and snug.

Chat Noir had called her Mari.

Chat Noir had leaned in to kiss her as if the movement had been so natural to him, like they'd kissed plenty of times before and he had no reason to be shy about it.

Chat Noir gazed upon her with eyes so light and soft, capturing her own blue with an expression that said nothing but a silent "I love you." An unspoken promise that he'd love her no matter what they faced.

(Even a dumb vow to keep their identities safe.)

Just hours ago, Adrien had looked at her in the same way. He'd held her and kissed her and spilled his love for her in the form of affectionate touches and sweet breath against her skin. He loved her, truly and honestly, and Marinette was still having a hard time coming to terms with that fact—the fact that she was loved.

Chat Noir loved Ladybug.

Chat Noir loved Marinette.

Adrien loved Marinette.

Marinette… Well, Marinette loved them each. She loved the boy in his entirety. Adrien, Chat Noir, both of them combined; her one and only.

And just like she'd fallen for both sides of her partner, he'd fallen for every little piece of Marinette—of Ladybug.

He'd fallen for Ladybug first and then found himself falling for Marinette.

A warmth began to spread from within her chest to her cheeks as her smile grew, pink lips curled upwards into the most gleeful of grins.

Why had they ever insisted on not revealing their identities?

Marinette let out a sigh, settling herself onto the chaise she and Adrien had been caught kissing on that afternoon and pulling at the ties in her hair simply because he liked it when she wore it down. It was because of her they'd kept their secrets for so long. She was the one who vowed to keep her civilian life separate from her Ladybug life, and she was the one who'd fled every time they'd had a chance to tell each other the truth.

It was her fault, to put it simply, and she truly felt awful.

"Marinette," Tikki spoke, her voice breaking the silence. "Are you upset?"

Marinette shook her head in response. "At myself, not Chat. Not Adrien."

"Why are you mad at yourself?"

"Because," She began, a sigh of agitation blowing past her lips. "I've been an idiot. All this time I've been pushing Chat Noir away because of Adrien when they're the same person, and for what? The sake of an identity?"

A light weight on her shoulder caused Marinette to look up from the floor, gaze settling on her kwami as she gave her chosen a reassuring pat. "You were scared, Marinette. It's okay. Besides," Tikki's red cheek pressed into her own in a small gesture of comfort as she continued. "The identity was keeping you two safe. What would happen if you were fighting a villain and one of you shouted your civilian names?"

Marinette paused, gaze falling downcast as she pondered on Tikki's statement. "I… I guess I'd never thought of that. So, you're saying we should continue to keep it a secret?"

Her kwami shook her head. "No, I'm not. If you feel that it would be best for you and Chat Noir to know each other's identities, then I won't stop you. It might even help you in the long run. You two just have to be very careful with how you act and what you say around other people."

Marinette nodded, mindlessly pushing her hair behind her ears as it hung in her face. "I know, Tikki. I just don't know if I'm ready yet. He might think of me differently."

Tikki cocked her head, voice curious as she spoke. "Do you think of Adrien differently?"

It was a question Marinette hadn't been prepared for.

Did she think of him differently?

Yes, learning Adrien's secret had come as quite the surprise, but it wasn't like she was mad that she knew this information. It was shocking, of course, and maybe even a little stunning, but the news had no effect on the way she felt towards him.

In fact, discovering Chat Noir's identity only made her affections grow stronger. The boy she'd been head over heels with since the second day of school just so happened to be her partner, her most trusted friend, her-

Her everything.

At the moment, she couldn't feel any lower than cloud nine.

Throwing her back against the cushion of her lounge, Marinette closed her eyes and let out a long, satiated breath. She did feel differently, yes—but in an entirely new and positive way. She felt happy, calm, and even a little satisfied.

The boy she'd been in love with all this time was just her closest friend in disguise.

"You know," She breathed, letting her eyes slide open for just a moment. "I do, but in a good way. I think of him in a new light. And honestly," A soft chuckle blew from her lips as she grinned up at her kwami. "I can't wait to see him tonight."

A warm smile stretched across Tikki's face as she sat on the chaise, next to her chosen's head. "Well, I'm glad you're not freaking out anymore. Every Ladybug and Chat Noir has discovered each other's identities—it was going to happen eventually."

"Really?" Marinette asked, curiosity in her tone.

Tikki nodded. "I'm happy you figured it out on your own. Things get messy when Chat Noir's kwami and I have to intervene."

Well, that didn't sound too good. "You've had to intervene before?"

"Only when our holders don't figure out their feelings soon enough," Tikki answered. "All Ladybugs and Chat Noirs are made for each other, Marinette. They're a pair."

"So, like… Soulmates?"

"You could say that."

"Oh." Marinette's heartbeat sped up and a pleasant tingle ran down her spine. "So, Adrien and I, we're…?"

Tikki only smiled.

"Wow," Marinette breathed, blinking up at the ceiling as she processed all of the new information. "...Wow."

Her and Adrien, soulmates from the start?

Did that mean they were going to get married someday?

Sure, she'd fantasized about it, but… She'd never thought it would actually happen.

Ladybug and Chat Noir, a pair. A set that couldn't function without its other half. Balancing each other and loving their flaws and differences and working through hard times together.

Like ying and yang.

Chat Noir had always been there—Adrien had always been there. Since the beginning, this amazing boy had been her first real crush and her first love. She and Chat had been through so many firsts together, and Marinette couldn't help but wonder about all the other firsts they'd share.

Adrien had been her first kiss.

No- Chat Noir had. Which, actually, meant that Adrien had been her first kiss.

Holy fuck, she'd kissed Adrien on Valentine's day! Adrien had tried to kill her and then she'd kissed him because true love's kiss always breaks the spell. Right?

All of the things she and Chat Noir had done together she'd done with Adrien. They'd fought akuma, saved the city, fist-bumped and kissed and landed in awkward positions and slept together (in the most innocent of ways.)

It was with crimson cheeks that Marinette realized she'd admitted her crush on Adrien to Chat Noir—to Adrien.

So that's how Adrien began to notice her…

Was that bad? Being interested once he'd found out she had a crush on him?

Or had he been interested even before that?

The night Chat had come to her sopping wet from the rain returned in a flash of sad green eyes and delicate claws.

Her skin sparked aflame from the memory of his hand cupping her cheek and her head spun as the words he'd spoken in such a gentle voice rang through her ears.

"I'm sure he loves you too."

"Ahhh," Marinette squealed, turning so that she lay flat on her stomach and burying her head within the tiny brown pillow. A short scream left her lips, muffled from the cushion yet still audible to those in the room.

Tikki laughed, a light and airy sound that only made Marinette's cheeks feel hotter. Embarrassment and love were two emotions that felt incredibly odd when mixed.

"Tikkiiiii," Marinette whined, lifting her face from the pillow. "Don't tease."

"Sorry," Tikki apologized, patting her cheek and giving her a reassuring grin. "It's just so wonderful to see my Ladybugs falling in love with their Chat Noir. I'm happy for you, Marinette. I really am."

"I am in love with him, aren't I?" There was no questioning; it was the simple truth. Marinette was in love with Adrien Agreste. Marinette was in love with Chat Noir.

Marinette was in love with an entirely amazing and adorable and amazing boy that loved her so deeply in return.

Maybe her day hadn't been so bad.

"I want to see him," She said as she sat up, throwing her legs over her lounge and standing abruptly. "I have to see him."

"It's still early," Tikki spoke, floating next to her and pointing at the late daylight that streamed in through her window. "And you've got homework to finish."

Sometimes Marinette hated how responsible Tikki could be.

Still, her kwami kept her in check, and without argument Marinette sat back at her desk, a new pen in hand. "Yes maman," She giggled, earning a tiny titter from the spotted goddess behind her. "But after that, we go."


 Wisps of golden sunlight peaked through the thin coverage of clouds that floated lazily among the setting sky, painting the city of Paris in a radiant glow. The sun had nearly finished its descent behind the horizon by this time of day, leaving the streets in a dim violet and buildings an inky black silhouette. Below the rooftops, which dulled in color as day turned to night, street lights flickered on and shopkeepers turned window signs to signal that their time of selling was over and that the day had come to an end.

Not for Marinette, however.

While some preferred to spend their nights indoors, Marinette busied herself by zipping across the city at the mercy of her yo-yo, a warm summer breeze blowing through her bangs and kissing her freckled skin. From the sinking sun, a light pink washed against her scarlet form as she hopped from roof to roof, feet slapping against metal panels for a skip or two before she took flight once more, leaping over the glittering streets and soaring over trees.

Civilians gasped and pointed whenever she happened to dash over a cluster of them, the sound of their voices calling for others to look up usually followed by the faint snap of a phone camera.

Marinette wondered in passing if Alya ever happened to be out and about when she left the house for patrol.

Judging by the photos that usually ended up on the Ladyblog, sometimes her friend was lucky enough to be out on the streets the same time Ladybug made her to way to her and Chat's meeting place.

Which was where she was headed now, albeit a bit early.

Notre Dame wasn't more than a few leaps from her balcony, yet sometimes she couldn't help but taking the scenic route—especially when she'd left to meet Chat sooner than necessary. She took pride in her city, enjoyed seeing it safe and sound. If it wasn't for her and Chat Noir, Paris might not have been the beautiful destination of lovers that it was so famously known as.

Once at her destination, she waited patiently on a stone balcony, surveying the city from a view she'd grown accustomed to yet could never fathom becoming bored of. Paris at sunset was always a sight to behold, with its wake of twinkling lights and purple hues adorning the busy roads. The clouds had darkened, taking on a much deeper blue color rather than the striking pink they had been minutes prior.

A gentle breeze blew through the air, cooling the stone structures of the church that the sun had warmed in the earlier hours of the day. As Marinette let her gaze travel upwards, she grinned at the sight of the moon, finding comfort in its dazzling wash of white and faint glow that settled over the city of lights.

Night had almost taken over.

From her position high above the ground, she could see a small boat making its way down the Seine, its soft lights casting a yellow gleam on the water. In the distance, the Eiffel Tower shone brightly, reminding Marinette that yes, this is her home, her city, the place she kept safe and sound and loved so dearly.

It was a magnificent sight.

No—a miraculous sight.

Breathing fresh air into her lungs, Marinette sighed, tracing a gloved finger along the rough stone of the balcony railing. It was truly a wonderful night, perfect for just sitting and watching the clouds turn to stars, but she had other things to worry about—more important matters than stargazing.

Besides, they couldn't see stars in this part of Paris, anyways. Too much light pollution.

Chat Noir should arrive any minute, now. He would land next to her with a click of his boots and shoot a flirtatious line before things grew serious. Before he confessed that he was leaving for the summer and confirmed the exact thought that'd been bugging Marinette since she'd settled back into her seat at school that afternoon.

It wasn't as much of a worry as it was nervousness. Knowing Chat Noir's identity wasn't a horrible thing—Tikki had spent the (much less embarrassing) half of the afternoon convincing her of that—but it was still a new and pressing feeling, gnawing at the pit of stomach and making her uncomfortable in an unpleasant way.

If she knew Chat's identity, did that mean he had to know hers?

Should she tell him?

Marinette didn't have much time to delve in that.

The sight of a black figure vaulting towards the balcony rid the troublesome thoughts from her mind, reminding her that there was no need to become so worked up about it. This was Chat Noir, her partner, her best friend and potential boyfriend.

She needn't worry about who he is or isn't. At least, not at the moment. After the day she'd had, it felt amazing just to relax and take in the glimmering lights of her beloved Paris with her most trusted person by her side.

No more embarrassment. No more stress. No more worries.

Tonight was the night she let all of those negative emotions fade into nothing but a relaxed state of content. Whether or not Chat Noir's news had anything to do with Adrien wouldn't stop her from staying positive.

(No matter how difficult it was not to worry over it—but she'd been doing that all day! It was time to relax.)

"Good evening, my Lady," Chat said as he landed next to her, flashing her a smile that didn't quite reach his eyes. "You look like you've been here for a while. Bored at home?"

Marinette nodded, glancing at him for a moment before letting her gaze rest upon the breathtaking view. "I wanted to watch the sunset."

"No sunset now," He chuckled. "It's dark."

"It was nice while it lasted." As are most things.

"Was it a pretty sunset?"

God, she could even hear Adrien in his voice now.

"Beautiful," She replied, resting her chin upon her palms. It truly was a wonderful sight, but now that Chat—Adrien—had arrived, she found herself unable to focus on anything else besides him.

Chat Noir hummed in response, placing his staff back upon his belt. "I bet it was. I should watch sunsets more often."

You did with me that night you broke down in tears on my balcony, she thought with a hint of a grin, letting her eyes settle upon his lithe form. "Maybe we should make time for that."

"You and me, watching a sunset together?" He laughed, green eyes glowing. "How romantic! Remind me to bring a picnic basket and a plaid blanket."

Marinette giggled, his laughter contagious. It felt good to joke with him again. "Sounds perfect."

"I think you mean purrrfect," Chat said with a roll of his tongue and a stupidly familiar grin—one that made her annoyed yet giddy at the same time.

Marinette wanted to kiss it off of his stupid face.

Her stupid, silly Adrien.

"I most certainly do not," She snorted, giving him a light shove. "Your puns are awful."

"Pawful," He corrected, a smirk splitting his face.

Marinette gasped, pulling a dramatically saddened expression to her face as she feigned offense. "Chat Noir! How dare you!"

As he laughed, he received another shove in the shoulder before the two burst into a much needed fit of giggles. It'd been weeks since they'd last had a good time like this, fooling around and playing like a young couple in love.

If this was Adrien, then Marinette had just fallen a thousand times harder.

After a brief session of poking Chat in the ribs until he squealed from laughter and begged for mercy, they were off, beginning their patrol as usual. They tossed a few jokes back and forth as they rounded buildings and leaped from chimneys, but eventually settled into a comfortable silence while they scoped the city.

No danger, per the norm. Akuma attacks seldom ever happened once the sun had set.

Still, it was nice to get out of the house for a bit and to spend some quality time with her partner when they weren't fighting for the lives of Parisians.

It was a time to forget about their worries as civilians. They could roam the city in a comfortable quiet or, on nights when they were in more cheerful moods, chase each other along the rooftops in a childish game of tag. To the citizens of Paris, it might seem a tad immature or even odd, but to Ladybug and Chat Noir it was nothing but harmless fun between two friends who knew everything and nothing about each other. Those nights were the ones Marinette lived for.

Tonight was a good night. Maybe her partner wouldn't mind a little game of chase.

"Hey," Chat's voice rang from behind her as they stopped atop a particular roof, lined with worn white panels and a striped pink awning jutting out from the wall just below. "I remember this place."

Unlike Chat Noir, Marinette lacked night vision. She couldn't see perfectly clear, even with the street lights lighting the road below. "What place?"

Before she could say another word, her feline colleague hopped off the building and out of sight without any warning whatsoever.

Why?

Why would he- what could be so important that it distracted Chat Noir from patrol? Why would Chat just straight-up jump off a building?

Granted, it wasn't exactly that high up, but… Still! What ever could have grasped his attention?

Surely it was either sweets or kittens, she had no doubts.

Peeking over the edge, Marinette's eyes widened with confusion as Chat motioned with his hand for her to follow him down to the ground.

Why would she-

He was pointing to something, his eyes lit up like the brightest of emeralds. A wide smile split his face and she swore she could see the faintest sparkle of excitement glittering within his gaze. His tail rose high, the end curling just slightly with interest. Marinette cocked her head at the sight.

Ugh, she couldn't resist that face.

Slinging down the roof and sliding from the awning, Marinette's feet collided with the pavement of the sidewalk in a silent landing. Her eyes scanned upward as she placed her yo-yo back upon her hip, a warm memory filling her head from the sight of the letters on the window that read Crème Glacée in a yellow, swirly font.

Yep, she was right. Sweets.

It was the same ice cream shop where she and Adrien's date had been rudely interrupted by one of Hawk Moth's villains.

Smiling fondly, Marinette pressed a gloved hand against the glass and peered inside, recalling how nice it had been just to sit with Adrien and talk—to be themselves, as if they were the only ones inside the little shop full of people.

The more she looked, the more she picked up on little details she hadn't gotten a chance to appreciate before. She could see the pastel pinks of the walls, as well as the quaint little tables coated in black. Some were occupied by a family or two but most sat vacant, waiting for customers with a sweet tooth to come wandering in and fill them with an ice cream cone in hand.

A few decorative plants hung from the ceilings and sat in corners on the black-and-white tiled floor, making the interior look outdated but welcoming. At the front counter, the same blond teen whom Marinette had seen the day of the "Shusher" stood with his hand on his chin, seemingly indecisive about the flavor he wanted to order. Next to him was a girl in a pretty white sundress, deep brown hair trailing all the way down to her hips.

As Marinette' gaze traveled lower, she could see that they stood hand-in-hand.

She couldn't help the grin that spread across her face.

Had she and Adrien looked like that? Like a cute young couple who'd been together for years? Helplessly in love?

At least she knew that blond boy really wasn't Chat Noir—he was right there, gazing into the shop just as well as she was.

But why was she concerned, anyways? Ninety-percent of her was already convinced that the boy standing next to her was Adrien Agreste.

"Why are we here?" She found herself asking, voice sounding faint as she became lost in the thought of her most favorite boy.

"I like this place," Chat responded with a shrug of his shoulders. "And I want ice cream."

Marinette snorted out a laugh, responding with a shake of her head. "I don't have any money on me, and I'm not taking food for free from another family-owned business."

"I have money on me." Zipping open one of his front pockets, Chat Noir proceeded to pull out a handful of crumpled euros in his fist. "Let's get ice cream."

"What?" Another giggled slipped from her lips. "You're serious? You want us to walk in there as Ladybug and Chat Noir?"

Chat shrugged once more, shooting her a stupidly lovable grin. "Why not? It's not like we can walk in there without our suits. If you saw me, you'd swoon too hard at my face and never wake up."

I'm pretty sure I'd be just fine, Marinette thought with a laugh. It was crazy how clearly she could see it now—Adrien's face and Chat Noir's face were structured just the same, from the chin to the cheek bones to the beautiful green eyes.

This was Adrien Agreste standing next to her, without a doubt.

"Okay," She giggled. "Let's get some ice cream."


 "Did you see his face?" Chat roared, nearly falling off the roof they sat on as he lost himself in laughter. "I've never seen anyone look so surprised before!"

Marinette shared his giggles, her lips split into a smile so wide that it was almost painful. "Well, how would you react if two superheroes walked into your job and asked for ice cream? I'd probably drop the change all over the floor, too!"

Taking a lick of his ice cream (which was strawberry flavored—the same kind she'd ordered their first time there as civilians), Chat chuckled and shook his head, his laughter subsiding. "Well, for one, I don't work in an ice cream shop."

Marinette tasted her own mint chocolate chip, humming softly. Ah, right. He's a model.

He was probably really happy to be sitting on a rooftop at nine P.M. eating ice cream with Ladybug.

"You said you were a model?" She said with a quirk of her eyebrow, curious about how he'd respond.

Chat didn't answer immediately. Instead, he gave his strawberry cone a few licks before nodding, gaze averting to the city which twinkled in the distance. "Yeah."

The mood suddenly went from playful to awkwardly silent.

In a desperate attempt to bring back his laughter and smiles, Marinette's head churned with ideas on how to make him grin, snicker or even blush—but what could she say now that she'd reminded him of something he didn't like to think about?

Was she a fucking idiot?

"What kind of model?" She asked with a slight waver to her voice, which she blamed on the chill of the ice cream. "Knowing you, you probably model underwear."

Out of the corner of her eye, she could see the faintest hint of a smirk begin to play on her partner's features. "Oh, you wish, bugaboo. The only reason I'm not is because everyone in Paris would faint from the sight."

"You're probably right," She laughed, thankful that fueling his ego had sufficed to fix the mood of their conversation. "You are pretty cute."

Silence was his response.

Oh- oh shit.

She'd just called him cute.

Which, as Marinette to Adrien was a normal occurrence—she'd just called him cute that afternoon.

But from Ladybug to Chat Noir, it was something entirely and alarmingly new.

Ladybug did not call her partner cute.

"What was that?" Chat said, the smirk audible within his voice. "I don't think I heard you correctly."

"Nothing," Marinette murmured as she took another taste of her ice cream, busying herself by eating her treat instead of speaking.

"No, no," He laughed, sounding almost too excited as he dared to scoot closer. "I could have sworn you just called me cute, my Lady."

"I did nothing of the sort." Turning her back to him, Marinette huddled into herself, if only to try to disappear into thin air. She didn't need Chat Noir to see her blush, she'd never hear the end of it!

But Chat wouldn't let up. "Was that a slip of the tongue or am I hearing things, because I swear Ladybug just called me cute!"

"I didn't!"

"You did."

"No, you're hearing things."

"I am not."

Marinette squawked as a hand touched her shoulder. "You're not cute! No!"

"You can't take it back now," Her partner chuckled, sitting next to her with a stupid, stupid grin. "You think I'm cute. Just admit it."

Huffing, Marinette used her legs to drag her butt closer to the edge of the building and farther away from her stupid cat. "Maybe you're a little cute. But you didn't hear that from me."

"Of course not," Chat said as he stood to follow her. "I didn't hear it from-"

Splat!

The sound of something wet dropping to a hard surface caused Marinette to turn, her eyes settling on the pink blob of strawberry ice cream that dribbled along the roof. In Chat's clawed fingers he held a waffle cone, a small part bitten off but otherwise empty.

His scoop of ice cream had plummeted from the cone in his attempts to catch her.

Marinette almost pitied him.

"Aw, no," Chat sighed, his smirk fading to a disappointed frown. "It was really good, too."

Had his voice cracked?

Why did he look so miserable over ice cream?

Jeez, if it was that big of a deal she'd go and buy him another one.

Unless… There was something else bothering him…

Oh, she reminded herself, the news. He's got bad news. He's probably been feeling super sad about it all night.

"Chat?" She said in a gentle tone, standing to meet him. "You okay?"

He nodded, forcing a smile to his face as he tore his gaze away from the melting frozen treat. "Yeah, I'm alright."

Marinette let out a small frustrated breath, placing a hand upon his shoulder. She didn't buy it. Why did he always insist that he was fine when he wasn't? "You look really sad. You can have my cone, if you want it."

"No, no." As he shook his head, his tousled hair bounced in a way that made her want to run her fingers through it. Adrien's hair was so soft and him being Chat Noir was no exception to that fact. "That's yours. I'm okay, I've just..." He cleared his throat, walking away from her comforting touch and settling himself on the edge of the roof, his feet dangling in open air. "I've kind of had a bad week. There's a lot on my mind."

Here it goes, Marinette thought as she approached him, sitting next to him and letting her spotted legs swing over the edge just like he had. Here comes that "bad news."

"Let's share, then. Here." She held out the cone to him, smiling as his green eyes flickered with gratitude and his lips curled upwards into the tiniest of smiles. "Try it."

The fact that they'd both be eating from the same ice cream didn't bother her. She'd shared food with her friends plenty of times. Hell, she'd been kissing this boy just hours ago—letting him lick from the same cone wasn't a problem.

She hoped he liked mint.

As he tasted the flavor she'd ordered, he grinned, running his tongue over his lips. "It's good. Thank you."

"Are you okay?" Marinette asked once more, concerned for his well-being. This was Adrien, after all. Of course she'd be worried about him if he looked like was about to cry after he'd dropped an ice cream cone. "You can talk to me, you know."

He didn't flinch when she placed her free hand on his shoulder. "I don't want to ruin the mood."

"Kitty, it's okay." She offered him the cone again, which he gladly took a taste of. "If something is bothering you, let me be a good friend and help you out. We're partners, remember? Through thick and thin. I'm here for you if you need me. I- ..."

I love you.

But she couldn't say that out loud.

Chat's shoulders slumped as he let a heavy sigh blow from his nose, placing his feet back on the roof and hugging his knees to his chest. "I've been meaning to talk to you."

"About?"

She knew very well what this was about.

"I'm leaving Paris," He began, and Marinette could tell exactly where this was going. She'd heard the same story from Adrien earlier that day. "For three months. I can't get out of it—I've tried. I know it's not that long, but, for us… It is. I'm worried for the city, for the people living in it, for-" He paused, acid green eyes meeting her own blue. "-for you."

Marinette felt touched by his sentiment. She could understand his worries; when the rare occurrence came that she or Chat needed to fight a villain alone, it was extremely strenuous. More often than not they'd come home with bruises and injury, usually nothing too bad, but it was still a difficulty to hide and deal with. They'd only ever had to go up against an akuma on their own once or twice, and even then it was a hell of a job.

She couldn't imagine being left without a partner by her side for three whole months.

No wonder Adrien was so worried!

If Hawk Moth knew Chat Noir was gone and started sending daily akuma, Marinette wouldn't be able to handle it. She'd be exhausted, beaten, defeated—she would fail in protecting the city.

She needed Chat. She needed him more than he knew.

Without him, it wouldn't be easy.

Paris would be in distress.

She would be in distress.

With both Adrien and Chat gone, she'd spend most of her summer either bored out of her mind or resting after a painful fight with another citizen-turned-evil.

At least she'd have Alya.

Nino, too.

"Ladybug?"

"Huh?" Her eyes snapped up as Chat spoke.

"You went quiet."

"Oh." Looking down to the road below, Marinette sighed, taking in the feel of the summer air and the faint sound of cars passing. It was a peaceful night, perfect for that game of chase she'd been thinking about—but Chat was too distraught for that. She'd comfort him instead.

How exactly, she didn't know. She couldn't lie to him and tell him that she'd be fine on her own, that'd only hurt his feelings. Chat Noir was insecure when it came to importance in their partnership; while the fanbase seemed to think he was nothing but her sidekick, Marinette did her best to assure him that he was just as important to Paris as she was.

They were a team. They depended on each other.

They needed each other.

She needed him. She needed Chat Noir.

She needed Adrien.

"I need you," She blurted out before she could think of a proper response. Stupid!

Mentally slapping a palm to her face, she laid her hand over his own and gave him a reassuring smile, her voice soft and touch comforting. "What I meant to say was that- well, I-" She sighed. "Yes, I do need you, but… You don't have to worry about me. I'm sure I'll be okay. It'll be hard to take care of the city, and I'll probably need to keep a good watch, but… I don't want you to worry about me, okay?"

Chat nodded, but Marinette could tell he wasn't agreeing. "Okay."

"Ad-" She froze, clamping her teeth down on her bottom lip to silence herself before the rest of his civilian name fell from her mouth. "Chat," She said gently, hoping that he hadn't caught her little slip-up as she squeezed his hand. "I know you're worried about me and the city, but… I promise you, I'll be safe. I'll be in one piece when you come back." She ran her thumb over his knuckles, hoping to at least ease some of his anxieties. "Do you believe me?"

No reply came.

"Chat?"

"...Yes," He said in a voice so soft that it was barely audible. "I… I think I do, my Lady."

If he'd noticed the slip of his name, he hadn't mentioned it.

A silence rose between them, neither comfortable or unpleasant. It was a simple quiet, filled with the ambience of cars rolling down the road and faint music playing in the distance, most likely from a restaurant or bar. Every now and then they could pick up a conversation as a group or two of people wandered down the street, but for the most part it was relatively quiet. Not completely, but almost.

The city sang, playing a familiar tune Marinette had grown to adore on her nights as Ladybug. The sweet smell of the ice cream parlor rose in the air every time the door opened and lingered for just a split second before it was gone again, sucked into the night air and replaced by the scent of rain.

Summer always brought rain showers, and no doubt it'd be raining again tomorrow.

Chat's voice broke the silence, causing Marinette to turn her gaze from the glimmering lights to her partner—her best friend.

Adrien.

"Can I have another bite of that before it melts any further?"

It took her a moment to realize that he was talking about her ice cream.

"Oh!" She said with a small giggle, holding out the cone for him. "Oh, yeah, you can have the rest of it. I'm done."

With a small "thank you, my Lady" and a few final licks of the ice cream, Chat bit off some of the waffle cone before handing it to her to share. Marinette finished it in a single bite, frowning as the remains of liquid mint chocolate chip slid down her chin.

As Chat's sad eyes met the dripping ice cream, his lips twitched upwards into a small grin before he broke out into a full-fledged laugh, his hand cupping his stomach and his shoulders shaking.

Had it really been that funny?

Maybe he just needed a laugh.

Chat Noir's laughter had always been contagious, so once he started, Marinette found herself unable to stop herself from following suit as she wiped the mess from her mouth. They giggled and squealed until it hurt, but it was such a wonderful pain that neither could cease their sounds of glee. It felt so great just to laugh, to see him smile and make those silly little noises he made when he laughed too hard—noises she didn't hear nearly often enough.

Chat Noir-

No, Adrien was laughing so hard that he couldn't even sit up straight. Somehow he'd ended up with his back on the roof, one hand on his stomach and the other in the air as he pressed his forearm to his forehead.

God, he looked so cute.

Adorable.

She wanted to kiss him.

She loved that laugh!

Marinette wasn't sure how both of them had ended up on their backs. She also wasn't sure what had possessed her to grab his hand and hold it tightly within her own.

And she really wasn't sure how they'd ended up laying there in silence for twenty minutes after their laughter had faded.

It was a content quiet, peaceful and appreciated. They'd needed this—just some time to themselves to simply lay.

Perhaps a hug had been needed, too, but she'd give him that later.

"What are we doing?" Marinette chuckled, her voice deafening compared to the previous silence.

"Stargazing," Chat replied, his gaze unwavering from the sky.

A snort came from Marinette before she could stifle it. Stars in the center of Paris, what a dream! "With what stars?"

"There." Pointing to the sky, Chat grinned, shooting her a friendly gaze before settling his green, green eyes back on the inky black world above. "There's three of them, right there."

It was true; three little dots of white peeked out from the cloak of night, looking very odd in their placement above the city of lights. Those couldn't possibly be stars—not in this part of the city.

She'd let Chat have this, though.

"They're pretty," She breathed, positioning her free arm so that it acted as a pillow for her head.

With a nod, her partner let his hand rest on his chest as he gazed fondly at the sky. "They're probably just space stations or planets or something, but it's nice to lay out and look at the sky every now and then. It's not as impressive as it would be in the forest, I'm sure, but… It's still nice."

"You like stars?" She asked with genuine curiosity.

"Mhm," Chat replied in a hum. "I think they're beautiful."

From the look on his face, Marinette could tell he wasn't thinking about the stars.

"Ladybug?" Chat whispered after a moment, catching her attention.

Marinette's heart skipped a beat. Why did she feel a little disappointed that he hadn't called her by her civilian name?

He only knew her as Ladybug.

For now, at least.

"Hm?" She whispered back, turning her head so that she was looking him straight into those dazzling summer eyes.

He didn't hesitate with his response. "You're my best friend."

Touched, a loving smile spread across her face as she moved his bangs away from his mask so that she was able to look at his gorgeous features without hindrance. "And you're mine, chaton."

And that was it. No more words, no confessions, nothing else to say. They'd slipped into the most tranquil quiet Marinette had ever had the pleasure of experiencing, just them and their beating hearts. No disturbances.

They were perfectly content to just lay and feel.

The urge to snuggle up next to him was almost too strong to resist.

Still, she lay unmoving, suppressing the desire for cuddles and replacing it with the thought that she needed to be heading home soon. There was no doubt that she'd be woken early the next morning to help with the large order a customer had placed that afternoon.

She had to get up.

She didn't want to, though.

But she had to.

Get up, Marinette told herself as she scooted closer.

Go home, Marinette's mind demanded as she squeezed her partner's hand within her own.

Get off the roof! Her thoughts screamed as she lay her head on his chest.

She didn't listen.

Thankfully, Chat Noir was responsible, taking the opportunity to claim that he had to be up at six for work the next morning and couldn't stay out much later. Marinette understood that. There had been many a day when she'd gotten up at five in the morning to help out in the bakery, and no doubt tomorrow would be any different.

They hadn't really done much of a patrol, but it was mostly unnecessary anyways. Akumas were usually a day-time only thing.

It had been nice to get a snack and "stargaze" with her best friend, though.

After they bid their goodbyes, Marinette stood on the edge of the roof and grasped her yo-yo, preparing to zip off into the night and return home for a shower and some well-needed sleep. It'd been a long day full of embarrassment and new discoveries, but now it was time to rest her head and forget about it all, at least for a little while.

"Goodnight, Chat Noir," She said with a final glance his way. "I'll see you Sunday."

"Provided we don't get an attack tomorrow," Her partner added.

Marinette chuckled, lifting her arm to sling her yo-yo across the street, but a hand on her wrist stopped her before she could leap. Confused, she turned, letting her arm fall to her side as the hand released its grasp.

With an apologetic look, Chat's ears hung low on his head. "Wait," He pleaded. "I didn't get to say thank you."

Thanking her for simply letting him talk?

Her poor Adrien.

"No need to thank me, kitty," She replied with a smile, turning so that she was facing him. "I'll always be there for you."

"I meant what I said," He continued. "You really are my best friend, you know."

The thought touched her in a way that nothing else ever had before.

Ladybug was Chat Noir's best friend.

Marinette was Adrien's best friend.

She didn't know which sentiment made her feel more giddy.

"And I meant what I said," She told him. "You're my best friend, too."

His arms around her frame cut off any other musings besides the thought that he was so incredibly warm. He held her in a way so familiar, so loving, that if Chat had happened to hug her a day sooner she would have discovered his identity purely from the embrace alone.

Marinette would know this hug anywhere.

Hesitant yet tight, his arms squeezed her tiny body in a way that let her know she was home. This was her Chat Noir, her Adrien, her wonderful, amazing, sweet, talented, amazing boy, and she loved him so deeply.

She loved him.

She hugged him back with a hold so tight that he had to ask her to loosen it just so he could breathe.

They stood there in the evening breeze for what seemed like hours, clutching onto each other as if they wouldn't see one another for the next three years.

It would feel that way, at least.

"When are you leaving?" Marinette asked, although she knew the answer.

"Two weeks," Chat responded, his chin resting atop her head. "Maybe sooner. It's undecided."

"I'll miss you." She would, so dearly.

She could feel his chuckle vibrate from where her head pressed against his chest. "And I'll miss you, bugaboo. Keep Paris safe for me, okay?"

"I will." It was promise. A promise she would keep no matter what measures she had to take.

She'd do it for him.

It was Adrien who broke the hug, his arms falling from her form in a movement so slow that it was obvious he didn't want it to ever end. Of course he didn't; Adrien wasn't one to receive an adequate amount of hugs.

She'd fix that.

She'd always, always fix that.

"Thanks again, Bug. Goodnight." Then with a nod, he was off, vaulting into the city and to the direction of the Agreste mansion.

"Goodnight, Adrien," She breathed as she watched him hop from roof to roof, knowing very well he couldn't hear her.

She watched him go until he'd disappeared from sight.

Her heart longed for him to return and take her to bed just like he'd used to—before she'd told him he couldn't visit anymore.

She yearned for it.

The journey home was lonely, the only sounds that greeted her being the whir of the wind blowing past her ears as she soared or the brief song of various restaurants playing music. As she zipped past one particularly classy eatery, the gentle keys of a piano caught her attention—and she may or may not have stopped for a few minutes to simply listen.

She'd always loved the music of a piano.

Once home, Marinette took a long, relaxing bath before running a brush through her hair and changing into her most comfortable pajamas. After a day like she'd had, she deserved to treat herself.

And yes, that meant she'd used the floral bath bombs she'd been saving for a "special occasion."

This was special enough.

Although, as she turned out the lights and slipped into bed, she wasn't exactly content.

Her bed was too, too empty.

Chapter Text

"You've been off today."

Adrien shifted his gaze from the soft grass at his feet to meet the eyes of the girl sitting next to him, the color blue staring deep into his own green. With a shrug of his shoulders, his attention fell to the earth once more, the soil beneath his shoes more fascinating than the conversation Marinette was undoubtedly trying to dive into. He scraped at the dirt with the heel of his sneaker mindlessly, watching as it rose and crumbled around the sole.

"I guess I'm just feeling a little down," He replied as he plucked a few blades of grass from the ground, letting them slide between his fingers and dance into the air from the warm summer breeze. "Since I'm leaving in a week."

Marinette hummed beside him, watching as he pulled another handful of grass up from the dirt. "Last week went by fast."

Adrien nodded in agreement, letting the green blades once more take flight. "Too fast."

"At least we still have another week, right?" Marinette's voice held nothing but forced optimism. Adrien knew she wasn't any more happy about his trip than he was. Even if he'd only be away three months, it was still three months they'd spend apart, drifting in their relationship and missing each others company. Leaving would only hinder any emotional growth between them.

It'd tear apart what they'd started—everything they'd built.

Wouldn't it?

The thought sat uncomfortably within his stomach, bubbling in a way that tugged a frown from his lips. Why did he have to leave? Why did his father want him away from Paris?

He loved what he and Marinette had become. In just a span of a few months, they'd become close friends, discovered their feelings for each other, had their first kiss, cuddled, napped together, practically fallen in love. Why did he have to leave all that behind when their relationship had just begun?

He loved what they had developed and he loved where they were at in their relationship.

He also loved where he was with her now, comfortably lounging on a blanket underneath a plane tree at the Parc des Buttes-Chaumont, shaded from the scorching sun above. It was an incredibly hot day, and Adrien was thankful to be seated in such a cozy spot next to his… Well, his girlfriend. They could use that term now, couldn't they?

...Could they?

They'd never officially stated it, but… It was surely implied.

Yeah. Girlfriend!

(Girlfriend!)

Stifling the squeal he so badly wanted to emit was harder than it should have been.

Laying back against the blanket, Adrien sighed, placing his hands upon his stomach and shutting his eyes to shield the bright sunlight that peaked through the coverage of leaves above them. He could hear the various chirps of birds flapping about, like the occasional coo of a pigeon or the unmistakable caw of a crow. A light summer breeze kissed his skin, and the little dapples of sunshine that streamed through the maze of branches left him feeling pleasantly warm.

He and Marinette had joined Alya and Nino when the two mentioned something about visiting the park (since it was such a pretty day outside), thinking it was best to get outdoors and at least spend a little time together as a group before his inevitable leave came upon them.

Now, Alya and Nino were down by the lake, walking alongside the grassy shore in search of some "cool rocks," or something like that. That's what Nino had said, anyways.

Adrien could only guess it was because they'd wanted to give him and Marinette some time alone.

He blinked open an eye as he felt a bare arm brush his own, Marinette's bright bluebells settled on the tree above while she lay on her back. She looked incredibly beautiful, like a flicker of sunshine herself nestled safely underneath the mottled shade of plane leaves.

Well, more beautiful than usual, that is. Marinette was always beautiful, she just looked even more so this afternoon.

Her hair was pulled back in its usual pigtails, a silky black contrasting against the pink fabric of the blanket she'd brought from home. Because of the heat, she'd ditched the blazer and pants for a white halter top and simple jean shorts, which upon first sight Adrien had noted (with burning red cheeks) that they really showed off her legs. Legs which were much more toned than he would have expected from her. Legs that he'd apologized for staring at.

Was it weird of him to think Marinette's legs were attractive?

For him, he'd worn just a simple black t-shirt and blue jeans, which he considered comfortable enough for the temperature outside. It was one of Paris' hotter days and most people considered sane stayed indoors with the chill of air conditioning keeping them cool, no matter how pretty a color the sky was or how nice it felt to lay outside in the shade. Sure, it was warm out, but Adrien had always loved the sunshine. It was a wonderfully relaxing feeling to simply rest in a patch of sunlight and take a nap.

It was even better to have Marinette by his side.

Marinette, who looked like a ray of golden light herself.

Beautiful, beautiful Marinette.

"You're so pretty," He said as the thought crossed his mind, smiling wide when her bright blue eyes flicked to meet his. "I never noticed how many freckles you have until now. It's cute."

Marinette gave a small grin, shifting her gaze to peer down at the shimmering lake, most likely in search of their two friends. "It's the sun. I always get so many when I'm outside for more than an hour."

"I like them." He really, really did. There was just something so endearing about the little brown specks that dusted her nose and cheeks and he absolutely adored the sight of them. Like a little galaxy on her smooth skin. Her skin that he wanted to kiss.

He could imagine laying with her in the warmth of summer all day long, counting each and every little spot that adorned her face and shoulders.

Possibly other places, too, but he wouldn't know that for sure for quite some time.

That thought didn't bother him in slightest.

"You're beautiful." He couldn't help but say it again. She needed to know!

The noise that came out of her mouth from his compliment was even better than the image of her freckles. A mix between a laugh and a small squeal, it slipped from her lips before she could manage to stop it, causing a smile as long as the Seine itself to spread across Adrien's face. How could one person manage to be so undeniably cute without even trying?

If he could get her to make those noises again, he'd be the happiest guy in all of Paris.

Reaching over to the grass beside him, Adrien grabbed another handful and plucked it from the earth, his hand hovering above Marinette in the least-threatening form possible. As she opened her mouth to question, he unclenched his fist with a chuckle, watching as the thin blades fell to the unsuspecting girl next to him.

"Why?" She gasped, letting out a small grunt of surprise before pulling the grass from her hair and face. "That almost got in my mouth."

It wasn't exactly the noise he'd wanted to hear, but her reaction was warrant enough for him to do it again.

"Because," Adrien snickered, releasing another clump of grass from his hand. "Nothing says midsummer afternoon like throwing grass on your friends."

Instead of complaining or giggling like he'd expected, Marinette sat up and retaliated, ripping two dirty fistfuls of grass from the earth and tossing them over his body with quite a pleased expression on her face. The blades fell to his hair and cheeks and even his chest, speckling his clothing with little wisps of green and dots of brown.

Yeah, he'd deserved that.

Sitting up so he could brush himself off, Adrien laughed, shaking his head to rid the remaining grass from his hair. "Mariii," He whined, drawling out the I in her name. "It's all over meee."

"You did that to yourself." With a satisfied grin, Marinette reached up and ran her fingers through his hair, removing any piece of grass that stuck within his blond locks. "At least I'm helping you get it out."

If having grass thrown on him meant Marinette would pet his hair, then by all means, he'd let her toss grass at him all day long.

Humming, Adrien leaned back into her touch, letting her comb through his hair with a gentle slide of her fingers. He relaxed into her completely, relishing in the feeling of his back pressed up against her petite form. Once she'd rid his hair of the little green blades, her arms slid underneath his own, small hands connecting against his stomach as her face nuzzled into his neck. He could feel her soft breath upon his skin, sweet and warm, reminding him of home.

No- she was home.

It was a peace Adrien had never felt before the night he'd first been pulled into her embrace, sitting on that tiny balcony with the sunset washing over them in red and purple hues. He felt safe, cared about, loved when he sat with her, like nothing in the world could ever break them apart. She was his and he was hers; they were completely each others and nobody else's, and that fact alone made Adrien feel like his life was finally coming together.

He was happy.

Marinette brought out his inner joy, his hidden love for the color pink and all things sweet. She was the only flower in his grassy field of sight, the lone star in a midnight sky clouded with fog. All of the diamonds in the world couldn't sparkle as much as Marinette did in his eyes.

Brushing her fingers with his knuckles, Adrien sighed, letting his eyelids slide closed as he enveloped her hand within his own and gave it a gentle squeeze. She responded to his touch with a delicate press of her lips to his cheek, which sent a wonderful wave of pure affection to blossom throughout his chest.

He only wished his father could see them like this—wrapped up within the loving arms of his most beloved, the girl he cared about more than any other. Maybe then he'd let him stay in Paris.

(Of course, Adrien cared about Ladybug a lot, too, but that was a different story.)

It only saddened him to think that he'd be leaving the wonderful feeling that was Marinette in the short span of a week.

The very idea of going to America—New York city, to be precise—wasn't exactly exciting. He'd heard enough… Unfortunate news about that country to be at least a little wary of his safety.

As if she'd been reading his thoughts, Marinette's lips brushed the skin of his neck as she asked, "What's the time difference going to be, again?"

"Six hours," Adrien replied, squeezing her hand a second time for reassurance. "I'll be six hours behind you."

"I'll probably be up most nights," Marinette said as she raised her head to bury her nose in his messy hair. "So if it's like, two A.M. here, you can still call."

Cocking an eyebrow, Adrien laughed. "And wake the sleeping princess? You know how grumpy you get when somebody wakes you."

The memory of last week's accidental phone call at three in the morning was enough to prove that statement.

"Don't care," She replied with a giggle. "I'll get up for you. It's not like I'll have to wake up early for school, anyways."

"But what if you have to work a shift at the bakery?"

"Still don't care."

Adrien's lips twitched upwards into a small, happy grin. "But Mari-"

"Shush." She playfully clamped a hand over his mouth, eliciting a muffled laugh from the boy held captive within her embrace. "No buts."

Adrien huffed against her palm, knowing very well that she wouldn't be too pleased to find him calling when it was past midnight in Paris. Even if they hadn't talked all day, waking up a sleeping Mari would end in her being either very grumpy or very emotional, and besides, he'd feel bad for disturbing her sleep.

Why wouldn't she listen?

Finding that her hand was still upon his face, Adrien mumbled a complaint, staring down at her fingers when he went unnoticed. Well, that just won't do. She can't silence me forever!

He could bite her, but- no. That'd definitely surprise her enough to pull away, but it'd also hurt her—something he'd never want to be the cause of.

So, instead of nipping a finger in order to cause her to take her hand back, he simply ran his tongue along her skin.

"Ah!" Marinette squealed, recoiling in disgust. "Adrien, you licked me!"

His grin couldn't be labeled as anything else other than "shit-eating." "I know."

"Why?" She whined as she wiped her palm on her shorts, clearly unimpressed. Was she blushing?

Why would she blush from that?

"You were suffocating me. I was dying, Marinette. Three more seconds and I would have-"

A high pitched scream pierced through the air, startling both of the teens—Adrien especially. On instinct, he'd hopped into his girlfriend's lap like a scared little kitten in need of some feel-better cuddles. Marinette didn't even question it, only took hold of him and squeezed him in a protective hold just like he'd desired.

The sight of Alya and Nino dashing back to their picnic set-up confirmed that he wouldn't be getting any of those reassuring cuddles.

"What's wrong?" Marinette asked as Alya began sifting through her purse. "Is there a-"

"Akuma attack, yeah." Upon finding her phone, Alya smiled wildly and stood, practically dancing on her toes. "And an akuma attack means Ladybug! I've gotta get this for the blog-" Her gaze met Marinette's for just a moment. "You don't mind, do you?"

"I… No," Marinette replied, sounding wary. "What kind of attack? Where is it?"

"We heard some dude arguing with his girlfriend or something," Nino answered. "Apparently she cheated. Who knows." He shook his head in disgust. "But the dude left and when he came back, he was covered in flames or some shit. We ran before we could really see what was happening, though." He motioned with his head to the right. "It was over there."

Marinette's eyes widened yet she otherwise seemed unsurprised. "Where exactly?"

Alya pointed to a copse atop one of the larger hills, which burst into crackling flames as soon as she opened her mouth to speak. Scorching heat engulfed the trees, surging into the air as smoke billowed and civilians fled from their once peaceful spots in the shade. It all happened so fast that Adrien wasn't sure what had been the cause of it—all he knew was that Hawk Moth's latest villain was roaming about, supposively igniting random eruptions of fire.

It was too dangerous to stay in the park.

"Shit," Nino hissed, grasping his girlfriend's hand. "That's close."

Adrien's eyes practically bulged as another shot of blazing orange soared through the sky, crashing into the old suspended bridge that hung above the lake and sending it to split, half of the path creaking and groaning until it crumbled into the water with a mighty splash.

All four of the teens flinched from the sound of the impact.

Adrien swallowed dryly. ...Well, that's not good!

Standing abruptly, Adrien scooped Marinette up to her feet and shoved his phone into his pocket, patting the other to make sure Plagg was still curled up inside. "Time to go."

The fire was far enough away that their little group was unaffected, but with the way the flames began to lick at the ground and decreased in distance, Adrien knew they needed to get out of there fast. If they stood around much longer, they'd be burnt to a crisp and in need of a hospital visit.

"Come on," Marinette urged, pulling Adrien along with her hand wrapped firmly around his own.

Adrien obeyed, of course; it wasn't safe to stay in the area. He could already feel the heat of the fire blazing behind him and the smell of smoke was almost too thick to bear.

Part of him worried if they could even outrun the beastly villain.

Still, anxiety began to bubble within the pit of his stomach, reminding him that if he didn't get away and transform soon, people would get hurt, possibly die—Marinette included. He couldn't let her get hurt. He had to get her out of the park and to a safe place before the stupid villain injured her and others, like Alya, Nino, or civilians. Maybe even himself.

He needed to run, flee, duck behind a bush and transform—but Marinette was pulling him away from the action.

Shit, he thought with a glance back to the approaching wall of flames and frantic citizens. Shit, shit, shit!

Why did this have to be one of those akumas?

He'd been having such a nice day lounging in the sunshine! It'd been so peaceful, the sun had been so warm and the sky had been so clear and Marinette had been so close. They'd both been happy; they'd both forgotten about their impending parting, at least for a little while.

Now all that joy had faded. There was nothing left of their previous bliss, not an ounce of glee—all lingering emotion was replaced by adrenaline and fear.

Hawk Moth could burn in Hell. Literally.

With a sizzling crash, a spinning orb of flame skidded across the grass about six feet in front of them, leaving a trail of blackened green and clouds of dirt puffing into the air. Adrien recoiled in surprise, jerking Marinette back before she had the chance to step an inch closer to the taunting orange fumes. A startled noise left her throat (paired with a somewhat agitated groan) as she thumped backwards against his chest, her head knocking into his chin with a painful clack of his teeth.

"Sorry," Adrien said as he rubbed at his jaw, immediately feeling guilt wash over him at the fact that he'd pulled her like that. What if he'd hurt her arm? "I'm sorry! I didn't mean to-"

"It's fine!" Soothing the back of her head with her hand, Marinette gripped his wrist as she darted towards a cluster of willow trees near the edge of the water, practically tossing him behind the curtain of wispy leaves. For just a moment Adrien stumbled before placing his hand upon the trunk and catching his balance, head spinning with thousands of thoughts a second and heart racing from exertion. Why would they go here, a completely flammable gathering of trees, of all places?

Then again, the thick sheet of leaves would surely give him enough cover to transform.

There was only one problem… Marinette was still in front of him. He couldn't go from Adrien to Chat Noir with her watching.

As Ladybug said, their identities were sacred.

"Stay," Marinette instructed, placing a hand on his shoulder. "I'm going to look for Alya and Nino. We lost them in the crowd."

"What?" Shaking his head, Adrien grabbed hold of her hand just as she was about to flee from behind the leaves. "No way, Marinette! I can't just stay here and let you run off in danger like that. You could get hurt!"

"I'll be fine." She wasn't arguing.

Why was she so stubborn?

"Mari, please," Adrien begged, fear in his voice. His grip on her hand tightened. "I don't know what I'd do if I lost you."

The stiffness in Marinette's shoulders fell with her expression, blue eyes softening to a deeply loving gaze. With a twitch of her lips, she smiled, turning so that she could place a hand upon one of his cheeks. Slowly her thumb stroked his skin, a motion that comforted him yet at the same time pulled at his heart.

Don't do that, he whispered in thought as she gave the most affectionate look he'd ever seen. His hand cupped her wrist, fingers lightly running along pale skin. Don't go.

It wasn't like either of them had a choice. If they stayed, they'd be burned alive, but if they left, he wouldn't be able to transform and save anyone, let alone Marinette.

No, he needed to let her go, if only for a moment or two.

Besides, he really did need to get away from her to transform. If he let her leave, he could be after her a minute later and scoop her up to safety as well as Alya and Nino. She wouldn't be in danger for too long.

"I'll be okay," She said. "But Alya and Nino are our friends. They might be hurt."

Marinette was the most selfless person he'd ever met. She cared more about the well-being of her friends rather than her own, even if it meant dashing through a field that was scorched by flame.

They couldn't stay, no matter how safe it felt behind the curtain of leaves. The fire would be upon them soon. Adrien could hear it crackling in the distance, the shrieks of fright accompanied by explosions of heat and the smell of smoke strong enough to make it obvious that while the leaves of the willow tree kept them hidden for now, their cover wouldn't suffice for longer than few minutes.

"Adrien," Marinette whispered, staring deep into his worrisome gaze. "I'll be okay. Trust me. I'm fast, and they could be looking for us. I'll come right back, I promise."

He could only nod. "Okay."

Somehow, he believed her.

With a quick kiss to his lips, Marinette turned, smiling as he released his hold on her hand. "I promise, Adrien."

"I know," He said with a soft chuckle, running his fingers over his knuckles where her skin had brushed just seconds prior. "You've got this."

She nodded, and then, she was gone.

Peaking out from behind the curtain of leaves, Adrien watched as she ran, his heart hammering against his ribcage. She's okay, he told himself as he backed up against the trunk of the tree, calling for Plagg to transform him. She's okay. I'll make sure she's safe.

It's not that he didn't trust her—he did—but when there was an angry akumatized victim throwing random fires about, it surely wasn't odd to be at least a little concerned. Marinette was just a civilian, after all. It's not like she had Miraculous magic to protect herself.

Wouldn't that be something?

Sprinting out from behind the leaves, Adrien emerged into the opening as Chat Noir, tail whipping in the hot wind and boots kicking up blackened dirt. The fires hadn't spread overbearingly yet, leaving him a narrow path of grass (and smoke) to the exit of the park.

He could make it if he was fast enough.

But he had to find the others first!

Expanding his baton, Adrien lifted himself into the air to give himself an aerial view of the park, foggy green eyes scanning the destruction.

His throat tightened from the sight alone.

Flowers which had once stood so beautifully now wilted into black dust and the bright green hills the four had raced across earlier in the afternoon burned red, eaten by livid flames. A furious heat scalded the trees, climbing their trunks and suffocating leaves until they were nothing but flecks of ash and empty branches. The sky, which had been such a breathtaking blue less than ten minutes ago, swelled with dark smoke that replaced the fluffy white clouds with a choking gray.

Civilians were nowhere in sight.

It was a deserted, volcanic wasteland. Nothing but a once-beautiful park consumed by the fever of devastating fire.

It'd all happened so fast that it just felt like a bad dream.

A horrible, horrible nightmare that was all too real.

It's okay, Adrien reassured himself as he retracted his baton and landed with a puff of sparks to the dead grass. Ladybug will fix this. Ladybug can fix this. We'll fix this.

His heart was beating so fast that he swore he was about to pass out cold.

Maybe that was just his body overheating?

Perhaps having a completely black suit wasn't the best for battling a fire-based akuma.

His state of health didn't matter at the moment. Even if his lungs screamed for clean air and his mind was screeching at him to move, move, leave this place, he couldn't.

He had to find his friends.

If something happened to them—to Marinette—he'd never forgive himself.

"Marinette?" He called, voice wavering as he coughed. "Alya? Nino?" Silence. Desperation tugged at his throat. "Guys, where'd you go?"

Nobody came.

Not a soul replied, no voice, not a whisper.

Not even Ladybug.

Where was she? Where was Marinette? Where were all the civilians? Had they all fled? Where would they go?

"Mari? Nino? Alya?" He called again, raising his voice so he could be heard over the crackling flames. "Mari, please, answer me!"

His chest tightened with anxiety. The longer he stood around the thicker the smoke grew and the farther the fire traveled, soaking up the park in a lake of blazing heat. He couldn't stay, but he couldn't just leave—Marinette had just been here moments ago! Everyone else had fled but where had she gone? Where was she? Why didn't she come back for him?

His heart stopped dead in his chest.

Oh, no.

Claws tightened so firmly around his baton that they cut right through the material, leaving thin silver marks across the shiny surface.

She went back for me.

Adrien's fear only drove him to breathe heavier than needed, and the smoke entering his throat caused a cough so hoarse that he knew he'd wake up incredibly sore the next morning. Breathing became a struggle, leaving him wheezing as he ran, ran back to that stupid willow tree where Marinette had left him. Where he'd let Marinette leave him. Where he'd been so stupid and hadn't just said screw the stupid identity and transformed and brought her to safety! He should have just brought her to safety!

She could be alone and hurt! She could be dead and it would be all his fault!

"Don't panic," He told himself, steadying his hands on his knees for just a moment of rest as another fit of coughs wracked his body. "Don't panic, don't panic."

The flames had grown so high that it was impossible to reach the tree without burning himself.

Fire roared in his ears and he could feel his heart pumping blood through his veins, begging him to step out of danger. Heat pressed against him from all sides, exhausting his body and sucking away all of the liquid from his mouth. His skin, his lips, his tongue felt dry, and the sweat that was beginning to build up underneath his suit was nearly as uncomfortable as the fire itself.

With trembling legs, Adrien dropped to his knees, coughing, coughing, hoping—praying—that everything would be okay. That this was all just a horrible nightmare and that if he sat and let the flames engulf him, he'd wake up minutes later and find himself in his bed, awake and at peace with Plagg snoring at his side.

Get up, a voice in his head told him, willing his weary arms to lift his body from the dead grass. Go find Marinette. Find Nino, find Alya. Find them.

Wherever they were.

He couldn't. He couldn't do it. Not even vaulting over the wall of heat would do him any good. He'd land in middle of the flames and be burnt to a crisp.

"Marinette?" He called out one last time, voice weak and choked. "Mari!"

"Chat Noir!"

"Marinette!" The sound of her voice made Adrien's heart leap with joy. Turning with a speed so quick it almost gave him whiplash, his lips broke into the widest grin he could muster when his eyes landed upon-

-Ladybug.

Not Marinette. Ladybug.

His heart sunk deep, deep to the bottom of his chest and cracked until it was nothing but a pile of broken pieces.

He could have sworn… She sounded so much like her.

Ladybug stood a few meters in front of him, wisps of black hair blowing in the heat of the wind and face contorted with worry as she gripped her yo-yo. Something about her was off, but he couldn't quite place his finger on it—she looked pained, panicked, yet relieved all at the same time.

Her breath was labored, scarlet chest expanding and contracting with difficulty. There were more black spots on her suit than he remembered; or was that just soot?

"L-Ladybug," He breathed, wheezing out her name. "Ladybug, she's gone-"

Strong arms enveloped his frame in a hug tighter than his body could handle at the moment. "Chat Noir, oh thank God you're okay… I thought… Ah," She pulled away as she realized the reality of the situation. "It's not safe here. We have to go. Now. You shouldn't have stuck around so long."

"Wait!" He pleaded, wriggling out from her hold. "No, no, Ladybug, please. Marinette, she's in there, she could be hurt, we have to go back-"

"Marinette's fine," Ladybug said through a cough, placing her hand on his arm. "Let's go, Chat. You're covered in soot. We have to save the city!"

"Where is she?" He needed to know. He needed to.

Ladybug didn't answer his question. Instead, she gave him a tug, pulling him along the sparking grass and all the way out of the park without a word, where they both took a deep gulp of air once in the street and away from the heavy clouds of smoke.

Adrien hadn't even known that lungs could burn so painfully.

Coughing hoarsely, he pressed a trembling hand to his chest, feeling the way his heart beat erratically against his palm.

This wasn't how today was supposed to go.

When he woke up that morning, Adrien had expected to get out of bed, shower, grab some breakfast and meet up with his friends at the park, where Marinette had packed a lunch and brought a blanket so they could have a picnic under a tree. It was supposed to be happy, full of light and joy and laughter—it was supposed to be fun, a peaceful day where he and his friends could lay about and forget their worries, to spend time together before he left the country for three long months.

But now, he was wheezing, choking on smoke that caused his chest to blaze. He was frantic and full of anxiety, slumped over with his hands on his knees as he attempted to catch his breath. He was upset, dehydrated, spent—fucking exhausted.

"Chat." Ladybug's hand on his shoulder was almost like a splash of fire itself. "We have to go. We can't stay here. Solar Flare is on the move, and the fire department is-"

He couldn't look at her. "Where's Marinette?"

"Safe. With the other civilians."

She wasn't telling the truth. He could hear the lie.

"Ladybug, please," He pleaded, his voice merely but a cracked whisper. "Where's my Mari?"

Something in Ladybug shifted; whether it be the way he sounded so pathetically lost or the fact that something terrible had happened, he wasn't sure. Her eyes softened and her shoulders drooped, gloved hands fidgeting with her yo-yo as she glanced everywhere but him. Her mouth opened and closed, brain swimming to find something, anything to say.

Please, Adrien internally begged, a knot forming within his throat. Please, please tell me she's okay.

"I…" She swallowed heavily, fingers trembling. "I'm right h-"

"Ladybug and Chat Noir!" A voice boomed, followed by a painfully bright light that caused the two superheroes to shield their eyes from its vibrant glow. Adrien couldn't see whatever was speaking, but he had a pretty good idea on who it was—Solar Flare, whatever Ladybug had called him—the latest akumatized victim that had caused all the devastating fires. "If you want to see your city safe, give me your Miraculous, or I'll burn Paris and everyone in it to the ground!"

"Can't we ever get a break?" Adrien whined, peeking through his fingers at the figure of yellow that hovered above them. It wasn't much of a person, more like a personified figure bathed in light. With it being too bright to look directly at, Adrien hissed, turning so that he could spare his vision from the burning beams. "Seriously! I'm tired, man! You've burned me out!"

...The pun was unintentional.

Sort of.

"Shut up, Chat Noir," Ladybug whispered through gritted teeth, inching her hand that held her yo-yo into the air before grabbing him and zipping off at the speed of sound. "He's already pissed enough. Make him more angry and you and I might be fried."

"Right, sorry." Adrien whispered back, watching as they fled from the flickering light of the villain, who roared with rage as they made their escape. He wasn't sure why Ladybug had done nothing but run—it probably had to do with the fact that this guy could light fires with the snap of his fingers—but he knew Ladybug had a plan. Ladybug always had a plan. "How are we going to catch this guy? Where's the akuma located?"

Ladybug let out a sigh as they landed atop a roof and slid behind a conveniently placed brick wall, her breath raspy and labored. "I'm… I'm not sure. It might be something we can't see."

Adrien blinked. "So, you don't have a plan."

"Uh, no, not exactly," She said, scratching at the back of her head nervously.

Jeez, now that they were out in the open sunshine (sort of; the sky was still blotted grey with smoke) he could clearly see how filthy they were. Soot and dirt coated their suits and smeared across their exposed skin, the heat of flames and scorching wind making their hair an unruly mess. As if Chat Noir's hairstyle wasn't unkempt enough on its own.

Once they took care of this stupid akuma, all Adrien wanted to do was go home and soak in a long, relaxing bath.

"Great." Adrien slid down the wall, taking what little time they had in peace to catch his breath. "No plan. Amazing. Perfect. Terrific! Today has been fucking magnificent."

"Don't get snippy with me," Ladybug retorted. "If you have a plan, tell me instead of complaining."

At her comment, Adrien scowled, turning his gaze from her and resting it on the city below. Flames devouring various buildings lit up the sky with raging colors of red and orange, signaling that Solar Flare was once again on the prowl, in search of Paris' famous superheroes.

He might've been powerful, but the idiot sure couldn't see.

After a moment of fretful silence, Adrien spared his partner a glance, noting that she, too, appeared quite agitated. If you'd lost your girlfriend in the middle of a devastating fire, you'd be quite snippy as well, Ladybug.

There was no use in letting his aggravation simmer. If one of them needed to speak up and break their quiet, fine, he'd be the one to do it.

"Well," Adrien began, scratching at his chin as he fumbled for an idea, a plan, anything."He's made of fire, right? If we can't see the item that's been akumatized, it's probably under all that flame. Maybe all we need to do is get him into the water."

Ladybug hummed in thought before giving a nod and running her hand through his hair in a friendly pet. "Smart kitty. We can lead him to the Seine." She turned her gaze to him, smiling just slightly. "Can you run?"

A soft chuckle rose from his throat at her question. "Can you?"

Extending her arms, Ladybug smirked and cracked her knuckles, snatching her yo-yo from her hip. "A little fire can't stop me, chaton."

"And it takes more than just flames to burn this kitty out," Adrien chuckled as he stood, ignoring the way his legs pleaded for a few more minute's rest. "Shall we, my Lady?"

A confident smile graced his partner's sooty face as she leaned over the edge of the roof, preparing to leap after the day's akuma. "We shall."


"This was a stupid plan!"

"It was the only plan!"

"This plan is going to get us killed!"

A shot of raging fire sped past the two superheroes as they ran along the city streets, breath coming in heavy gasps. Adrien skidded, dodging the attack in the knick of time, watching as the ball of flames rolled and lit a blazing path along the road.

"We haven't died yet!" He shouted back at his partner, who rolled her eyes and clutched her yo-yo within her hand.

"We need to take to the sky!" Ladybug groaned.

They were both panting now, breath coming in quick, short gasps as their legs trembled from exhaustion. They'd been running from Solar Flare for what seemed like forever in their attempt to lead him to the river, their bodies aching and begging to to just sit still.

It wasn't far, now; only a few more blocks. Just a few more turns and they'd be at the Seine. Then they'd be done.

Hopefully, at least. It would be a task to actually get the victim wet, and then another to locate the akuma.

At this point, all Adrien wanted to do was go home and sleep.

"We can't," He said to Ladybug as he ducked from another onslaught of fireballs, smaller than the last offense. "His attacks will be harder to dodge on the rooftops. We might jump over one and end up falling right off a building!"

"But I'm faster on my yo-yo," Ladybug fought back, squeaking as she hooked the wire of her weapon around a lamp post to propel herself over a burst of flame. "I can dodge him and watch my footing just fine!"

Adrien groaned, picking up his speed. No, she was wrong! He'd seen her attempt this before and she'd ended up spraining her ankle! Why did she have to argue now? "Stop being so stubborn and just listen to me for once, Ladybug!"

"Not when your plan could get us killed! I'm going to the sky!"

"Stop bickering!" Solar Flare demanded, his voice booming across the city. Car alarms blared, glass shattered, the ground rumbled from his mighty roar. "Shut up and give me your Miraculous, before I burn you both to useless ash!"

The akumatized victim almost had a point. If they didn't stop quarrelling, they'd be burned by his vicious attacks.

A down superhero is a dead superhero.

The Earth shook from Solar Flare's explosive voice. "Release your Miraculous or watch each other perish!"

Wisps of fire rained from the sky, singeing the street in a scatter of falling light. Adrien gasped as several orbs sped down from the sky in his direction, swiftly leaping into the air with his baton for just a moment to free himself from the hailing fumes.

Frustration began to boil within the pit of Adrien's stomach as he rounded a corner, completely fed up with the events of the day. He'd been through too much in the past hour. Too much anxiety, too much pain, too much, too much, too much!

Fuck this akuma, fuck Hawk Moth and fuck his own stupidity for letting Marinette to go off on her own during a fire.

Just fuck this day in general.

"I see the river," Ladybug panted as they turned down an empty street, feet pounding against the cracked pavement of the road. "I need you to catch his attention so that I can secure my yo-yo around him. Can you do that?"

Adrien nodded, fighting his own loss of energy with a burst of speed. It hurt, god it hurt to run so fast, but he needed to, had to, or else they might lose their chance to cleanse the akuma and save the city in general.

He couldn't stop now, not when they were so close. Not when this was almost over.

No matter how badly he wanted to quit, he couldn't—he wouldn't—let Ladybug down.

Not Ladybug, not the city, not Marinette.

"Go," He told his partner, patting her on the shoulder for good luck. As if she'd need it. "We can do this."

Over a ledge they went, dropping to the lower path of cobble that skirted the river. It was a slim little walkway but enough to get the job done provided he and Ladybug were careful. There, they split off, Ladybug giving him a small wave before she darted away from Solar Flare's line of sight.

You've got this, he whispered in thought, unsure if it was directed at Ladybug or himself. We've got this.

There'd never been an akuma they couldn't capture.

Ladybug and Chat Noir were an unstoppable team, unbeatable, undefeatable—they would win this. They would always win.

"Over here!" Adrien shouted to the blazing villain, blinking against the harsh beams of light. "You want my Miraculous so bad, come and get it, you big... toasted marshmallow!"

That definitely wasn't one of his best insults, but… He was too exhausted to care.

"Stop running!" Solar Flare demanded, devastating voice causing Adrien's ears to ring.

Just a little farther, just a little farther, just a little-

The sound of an unmistakable wire zipping across the path was like music to his magical cat ears.

As he turned, Adrien shielded the light above his eyes with his clawed hand, watching Ladybug tether the villain with her yo-yo and give a sharp tug. She skidded on her heels for just a moment as Solar Flare hissed and growled, pulling on the wire with the strength of a warhorse. But Ladybug was stronger, grunting as she mustered all of her power just to get the blasted villain to the ground-to the river.

Finding that he was decreasing in altitude, the flaming akuma groaned, resisting every attempt Ladybug made to get him into the water.

He wasn't strong enough. Not to defeat Ladybug.

"Let go!" He hissed, wriggling within the hold of the wire. "You'll regret this!"

Feeling somewhat on edge although Ladybug had nearly dunked the villain, Adrien inched closer, watching with wide eyes as Solar Flare opened his fist. Within his palm, a scorching light began to form, growing and growing until it was released, aiming straight for the girl casting the yo-yo.

"Ladybug!" Adrien called out, voice cracked with fear as he charged towards the attack. "Look out-"

A gasp of pain sliced through the air as the flame burst against Ladybug's right wrist, causing her to recoil and wrap her other hand firmly around the injured flesh. The spotted yo-yo to clattered to the ground, bouncing and rolling—until it teetered on the edge of the path, threatening to plop straight into the water.

No.

Adrien could feel his hands trembling as he glanced back at his partner, who clutched her injury as she sluggishly dodged attack after attack.

Without her yo-yo… She wouldn't last long. She wouldn't be able to purify the akuma.

He had to get it. He had to. There was no way he could let it sink.

Leaping towards the discarded weapon, Adrien skidded along his toes, hopping over a small blast of flame aimed at his feet. He could get it, no problem. Ladybug needed her yo-yo almost as much as she needed him—maybe even needed it more.

With a final duck under a shot of fire, Adrien snatched the yo-yo just before it toppled off the edge, holding it tightly within his palm as he turned to his partner and flashed her a bright, toothy smile.

"Catch!" He called to her, tossing the weapon across the path and internally fist-pumping as she caught it in two hands. "Get him, Bugaboo!"

But Ladybug didn't look very pleased.

In fact, she looked terrified.

"Adrien!" She screeched, zipping out the wire of her yo-yo to hit whatever was coming his way. "Duck!"

But Adrien couldn't move. He stood still, frozen in shock from the word that had left her lips.

…What had she just called him?

Adrien?

His name. His name. His civilian name.

How did she know his-

Something hot, burning slammed into Adrien's chest, sending him to fly backwards, heels dragging across the ashy flooring until his back crashed against the wall surrounding the path. A gasp of surprise was forced out of his body as he fell, dizzy, confused, frightened to the floor, clawed fingers digging into the ground and stomach painfully pressed against cool cobble.

Get up, get up, the same voice from earlier rang in his head, pulsing energy through his worn muscles. Get up now.

I can't, he replied, feeling an intense pain creep up from his chest and all the way down his spine. It hurts.

The faint sound of Ladybug's yo-yo whirring about and the heat of balls of fire soaring through the air made it obvious that the battle was still very real; he couldn't just lie about and let Ladybug do all the work. He had to help.

He had to get up for just a few minutes. He couldn't be hurt that badly, could he?

The pain he felt was probably just simple bruising that would go away in a few days. Nothing broken.

"Ladybug," He murmured, voice breathy and weak. It took almost all of his energy just to speak. "I'm coming."

Just as Adrien pushed his last remaining strength into his muscles and managed to push himself up off the ground only slightly, a blazing heat rammed into the wall behind him, sending it to crack and crumble, breaking into smaller chunks of stone.

"Chat, look out!" Ladybug's voice held nothing but horror as the wall collapsed over his form. "Adrien, no!"

Something hard hit his head, and the world went black.

Chapter Text

Adrien had never considered waking up to be difficult.

Sure, getting up for school on mornings he'd received little sleep the night before wasn't an easy task, but it'd never been nearly as grueling as it was to wake now.

Simply attempting to open his eyes was the most exhausting thing he'd ever experienced. He was so tired. He'd had never felt more tired in his entire life. Even the time he'd stayed up for three days straight to upgrade his mech to the highest level in Ultimate Mecha Strike III couldn't compare to how weary he felt at the moment.

Every bone in his body ached, every muscle cramped, as if he'd been running for hours and hours on end without so much as a single moment's rest. Pain radiated from his head all the way down to the tips of his toes, some areas only slightly sore while others—like his right leg—throbbed in a constant reminder that something drastic had definitely occurred.

Whatever it was, he couldn't remember.

All Adrien could recollect was the fear he'd felt burning within his chest—among smoke, for some odd reason—as he called out Marinette's name.

She'd disappeared.

He missed her.

How long had she been gone?

It felt like months.

Who knew.

A rustling of fabric came from Adrien's side, followed by a wistful sigh and the warmth of another hand delicately grasping his own. He could faintly register feminine fingers stroking his knuckles in a way that comforted him immensely and drew pleasant breath from his lips, the beginnings of a smile twitching at the corners of his mouth.

He was almost certain he could hear his name being called, but the sound was too far away for him to be sure.

Enjoying the sensation of another person's touch, Adrien used what little strength remaining in his body to give the hand enveloping his a squeeze as he felt himself sink deeper into the bed. It was soft and warm, much like the girl he desired to be next to so terribly.

Without Marinette, he felt lonely. He was lonesome lying down in a bed that happened to be far too empty for his liking.

Why he was in bed, he wasn't sure. He didn't remember anything prior to the anxiety that had caused him to cry out the name of his friend; his girlfriend; his Mari.

Wherever she'd gone, it didn't matter.

He was alone now, sad and injured.

A soft whimper rose from his throat as he felt a twinge of sorrow clutch at his heart. Why did he always end up alone?

Well, no, that wasn't true. He didn't always end up alone. More often than not as of late, he'd been able to confide in Marinette during his times of gloom. If she was busy, then he had Nino.

He wasn't alone. Not anymore.

"Adrien?" A voice murmured, groggy and faint. "Was that you?"

Adrien's heart stopped as soon as the sweet sound of Marinette rose from beside him. She could bring him out of any sleep in the most blissful way possible.

"Mari?" He whispered, surprised at the hoarseness in his own voice. Willing his heavy eyes to open, Adrien was greeted with the sight of bright blue staring deep into his own green, glossy and full of relief. Everything was a little blurry at the moment, but by scent alone (blessed cat senses) Adrien knew this was Marinette.

His Mari.

He could never forget her.

"Adrien," Marinette breathed, sitting up hurriedly and brushing his messy hair out of his face. Her tone held nothing but joy, yet even with a sleepy glance Adrien could tell she was completely exhausted. "You're awake."

He hummed in response. Sure, he might've been awake, but he sure as hell didn't feel like it. Every limb felt as if it was glued to the bed, and he swore there were one-hundred pound weights attached to his eyelids.

The feel of Marinette's gentle hands combing through his hair was nearly enough to send him back to a peaceful slumber. One of her fingers scratched under his chin, a giggle slipping from her lips as he responded with a pleasant sound of surprise. It felt so nice to simply be touched by her, whether her soft skin brushed his own or her fingertips ran through his hair, it all was such a relaxing sensation.

A wonderful thing to wake up to.

All Adrien wanted to do at the moment was to look at her; to take her in and make her smile. She needed to smile. Marinette seemed so weary that the only thing he could think about was how quickly he could make those cute pink lips break into a grin.

If he could get her to laugh, that'd be even better.

"Mari," He said in a soft voice, smiling up at the girl standing above him. A wave of affection crashed over him from the sight alone. Even while utterly exhausted, she was still the most beautiful girl in the world.

Messy black hair let loose from its usual pigtails draped over her shoulders like a midnight wave, nearly reaching down to the cut of her white T-shirt. It was with a loving beam that Adrien noted her hair had gotten longer than it used to be-he wondered if she'd let him brush it someday soon.

As he glanced down, he found that she was wearing pink pajama pants adorned with black kittens. His heart nearly combust from excitement.

Cute!

He couldn't find it in himself to focus on anything else other than her at the moment.

A thought of asking Mari what time it was crossed his mind since it was so dull in the room (he could barely see anything beyond her), but it was quickly replaced by the growling of his stomach. Funnily enough, Adrien couldn't remember the last time he'd eaten. "Do you have any food?"

Marinette's expression fell for a moment before she giggled, her lips twitching upwards into a smile so wide he was sure it'd split her cheeks. "You wake up in the hospital and the first thing you ask me is if I have food?" Her hand ran along his head and scratched behind his ear. "Silly minou."

Adrien's eyes widened at her statement. Hospital?

He was in the hospital?

Why?

A quick glance around the room as his vision adjusted to the darkness confirmed that what Marinette had said was definitely true.

Well… At least he'd gotten her to smile.

Squinting against the shadows, Adrien noted that the room was quite small, and the only source of illumination (how dull it may be) was the fluorescent light buzzing above his bed. Next to him sat Marinette (which he'd noticed well enough already) in a little blue chair, and in the corner of the room was a sink and a trash can, along with a dispenser for paper towels and other sorts of bins for different types of waste. In front of him high up on the wall was a basic flat TV, static flickering soundlessly on the screen.

Balloons labeled with "get well soon" and colorful bundles of flowers decorated the bedside table, and Adrien could've sworn that nestled within one of the bouquets was a little Chat Noir plushie.

An uncomfortable prodding in his right arm caused him to grimace downward and find that a needle was stuck in his skin, and as he looked further down the bed, it dawned on him that the reason one of his legs had been in so much pain was because it'd unfortunately been broken.

That's what Adrien assumed from the cast ranging from below his right knee to his foot, anyways.

How did he break his leg? He'd been so careful!

However it'd happened didn't necessarily matter, Adrien guessed. All that was important to him was that his foot was elevated on some comfy pillows and for the moment, it wasn't hurting.

That wasn't the same to say for his head, though, which throbbed immensely just from scanning his surroundings.

"How did I break my- ..." Adrien paused as Marinette's words finally registered within in his head.

Wait. His eyes narrowed in thought. What did she just call me?

...Had she just called him minou?

"What'd you say?" He rasped, blinking in confusion. Maybe he was just imagining things. She couldn't really have called him that, could she?

Only Ladybug called him minou.

Marinette simply smiled and took his hand in her own once more, delicately running her thumb over his knuckles in a motion that made him feel sleepy again. She hadn't met his gaze, yet wasn't exactly focused on much, either. Her forearm—her right one, Adrien noticed—was wrapped completely with a white bandage, as if it was covering some sort of injury she'd received.

She'd gotten hurt too!?

No, no. She wasn't supposed to get hurt! He was there to keep her safe!

"Mari," Adrien whimpered, reaching out with his free hand. "You're hurt!"

A soft laugh fell from Marinette's lips as she shook her head and opened her mouth to speak, yet a smaller voice beat her to the punch. "Not as much as you, kid."

Adrien nearly choked on air from the sound of his kwami. Plagg!

Heart stopping, his gaze landed to the tiny creature sitting idly on his shoulder, who simply cleaned his fuzzy little ears with his paw. Of course Plagg had the audacity to act as if nothing at all was wrong with the situation.

Eyes widening in fright, Adrien grabbed Plagg (with a little more force than he should have used, something that would definitely earn him a few choice words from the kwami later) and shoved him underneath the blanket, flashing Marinette a forced smile once he'd successfully smothered the tiny god.

Plagg screeched in protest. "A year of living with you and this is the thanks I get? Trapped under a blanket without any cheese in sight! How cruel! I haven't eaten in almost two days!"

"He's lying," Marinette chuckled, nonchalantly pushing a stray hair behind her ear. "I fed him an hour ago."

"Plagg, you pig," Adrien said before realizing that Marinette hadn't freaked out over the talking kitten hidden underneath the covers like he'd expected. His words caught in his throat and as he spoke, voice strangled and eyes bulging. "Wow, u-uh, I guess Nathalie let my cat in here! Silly Nathalie! D-did I forget to tell you that I adopted a kitten?"

Was he sweating?

Marinette rolled her eyes, a tired yet playful expression weaving upon her features as she placed a hand over her mouth to stifle a yawn. "A talking kitten, huh?"

"Y-Yes!" Adrien answered in a tone more frantic than necessary. "From Japan-"

"Adrien," Plagg hissed from his prison. "It's okay. She knows. Now, let me out. I can't breathe!"

...She knows?

Adrien's breath hitched as his gaze shifted to Marinette, whose eyes were nothing but understanding.

Oh, fuck, he hissed in thought. She knows. Mari knows I'm Chat Noir.

He swallowed dryly, daring to meet her eyes. "Uh...?"

Marinette only nodded, as hesitant as it was.

"How long have you known?" Was his voice even working?

Marinette's gaze fell to the bed as she lifted up the blanket, allowing Plagg to escape and take a dramatically deep breath of fresh air before he zipped away to sit on the windowsill. "Um… A few days."

A few-

A few days?

And she hadn't said anything?

How on Earth had she even found out in the first place?

...It was the nickname, wasn't it?

He knew that'd been a stupid slip-up.

Adrien couldn't look at her. If she was angry, she had a right to be. He'd toyed with her emotions and visited her at late hours and tried to kiss her as Chat Noir. He deserved her being upset with him. Hell, he probably deserved a good smack to head, too, whether it be from Plagg, Marinette or himself.

A light sigh blew from his nose as he swallowed heavily, preparing for whatever she was going to say next.

Leave him? Refuse to be friends? Tell Alya, tell Ladybug? Tell the world?

(However she'd manage that.)

Whatever it was, he deserved it. He completely deserved it. He deserved her anger, her sadness, her feelings of betrayal. He deserved her to delete his number and never speak to him again if she so chose.

"Why do you look so ashamed?" Marinette asked, voice carrying nothing but kindness.

Adrien frowned. "Because," He began, finding the strength to sit up (no matter how nauseous it made him feel to move.) "I… I was abusing my powers to visit you. And I probably messed with your emotions, no matter how unintentional it was. I'm sorry, for all of it. And I'm sorry for yelling at you the last time I saw you as Chat Noir." He hung his head in chagrin. "And sorry for getting your room wet. Oh, and I'm sorry for trying to kiss you when I wasn't Adrien." Had he been wearing his magical cat ears, they would've drooped flat against his head. "And… I'm sorry for visiting you as Chat in the first place. I didn't want to cause any trouble, or hurt you in any way-"

A finger over his lips silenced his river of apologies.

Daring to look up, Adrien was met with the sight of Marinette's sparkling bluebells, the corner of her lips quirked upwards into a tiny amused grin. "Shh, Adrien," She giggled, "do you really think I'm mad at you?"

"Yes!" He practically whimpered. "You have every right to be. I'd understand if you hated me completely."

But Marinette just shook her head, a soft laugh falling from her lips. He missed kissing those... How long had it been since he'd last? "Why would I be mad, kitty?"

"Because, I- I- …" Adrien was at a loss for words. Something about being called "kitty" in his civilian form made his insides turn to a gleeful bundle of warm fuzziness. "I was- I mean- I- …I messed up. I really messed up."

"Mm," Marinette shrugged, mindlessly running her finger over her bandages—as if she wanted to bring them to his attention. He was certainly eyeing them; something about the placement of her injury was so familiar. "Yeah, you messed up a little bit. But it's okay." Her eyes met his once more. "I'm not mad at you, not at all. I'm just… so happy you're okay. You really scared me."

Adrien blinked. "Why would I not be?"

"Because, you-" She glanced to his leg, eyes trailing from his cast all the way up to his chest, which Adrien only just noticed was bandaged beneath the hospital gown. "You don't remember, do you?"

He shrugged, faint memories of smoke and fire playing in his head as he attempted to recollect the events of the day. Something about willow trees and a person too bright to look at weaved into his thoughts for a moment or two before they slipped away, leaving him in a confused state of worry. Had Marinette gotten hurt during an akuma attack?

If she had, he should've been there to save her!

"Not much," Adrien sighed. "I remember the fires-" He paused to think for a second. "And the… tree you shoved me behind before you ran off. Why did you run off, again?"

"What else do you remember?" Marinette asked, pointedly avoiding his question.

What did he remember?

Gazing downward at his lap as he worked to conjure up memories, Adrien frowned in concentration, reaching up to rub the back of his head in thought. Which, ultimately, was a poor decision on his part, because it only made his headache worsen. "Running? A lot of running."

Marinette chewed on her bottom lip. "...Anything else?"

Adrien shrugged, noting her nervous behavior with a raise of his brow. "Not right now, my head hurts really bad and I feel kind of sick. Can you fill me in?"

"It's understandable," Marinette said with a sigh, combing her fingers through her hair in a feeble attempt to brush out the knots. "You hit your head pretty bad."

So that's why his head stung with such a powerful ache. "How bad?"

She appeared to be uncomfortable with answering his question, yet fumbled for an adequate response anyways. "Bad enough to put you in the hospital. You passed out for a while. I thought you were-" Her words were cut short as she cleared her throat. When she opened her mouth to speak again, her voice was barely audible; a whisper so soft that Adrien wasn't sure if she'd said anything at all. "Nevermind."

"How'd that happen?" He asked, watching her curiously. Poor Marinette was having such a difficult time speaking, as if any minute she'd break down into a heavy sob.

She was silent for a moment before regaining her composure.

"Um," Clasping her hands together, Marinette smiled, whether it was to ease his nerves or her own, Adrien wasn't sure. "You got… Distracted." She nearly cringed at the word. "And didn't see one of Solar Flare's attacks comings towards you. You, uh…" For some reason, she couldn't look him in the eye longer than a second or two at a time. "One of the walls around the Seine crumbled. With you underneath it. I guess when it fell on you, a piece of it hit your head and knocked you out cold. Gave you a pretty nasty concussion and broke your fibula, too."

"Fibula?" Adrien cocked his head to the side. Must be a leg bone.

Marinette nodded, thankful that the focus had been drawn to the state of his injuries rather than how he'd obtained them. "It's nothing major, but you will have to use crutches for a few weeks. That's what the doctor said, anyways."

"That's definitely going to affect my alter-ego," Adrien said flatly, glaring at his useless appendage. Of course he'd break one of the parts of his body needed most as Chat Noir. That was just his luck.

"That's what I've been worrying about." Fidgeting with her bandages, Marinette's lips tugged downwards into a frown, her gaze focused intently on her injury. She seemed off, her behavior far too wound-up compared to the Mari he'd gotten used to. Something about her was different—almost as if she'd been hiding a secret and was desperate for an opportunity to spill.

"Why would you worry about that?" Adrien watched her as he rested his back against the pillows, uncomfortably shifting his position. "Hey, where's that button-thingy so I can sit up straight?"

Marinette handed him the remote with a tired blink. "It's nothing."

Unconvinced, Adrien reached out with his right hand and grasped her own, giving it a loving squeeze. There was something bugging her—a problem that she hadn't voiced, or rather, one he couldn't remember. "Are you okay, Mari?"

Silence was his reply.

"Mari?"

"I don't feel good," She responded, voice wavering—like she was about to burst into tears. "I'm sorry."

She was lying. "Mari-"

"I'm gonna go to the vending machines," Marinette said a little louder than necessary, standing abruptly. "Do you want anything?"

Adrien grunted, expression flattening. He didn't want her to ignore what was bothering her and leave, but he couldn't exactly chase after her in his state. "No, I'm good."

Pausing before she left the room, Marinette placed her hands on her hips, back facing towards him. "You were just hungry ten minutes ago."

Truthfully, he had been, but all of their talk had worsened his headache and diminished his appetite. "It's okay, Mari. I don't need anything."

Marinette stiffened for a moment before she sighed, shoulders drooping and head hanging low. "I'm going to get you something to eat."

"I'm okay, really." Vending machine food didn't exactly sound too appetizing at the moment. Marinette was just being stubborn—kind of like another girl Adrien knew. "I can eat tomorrow."

"Adrien." Marinette turned her head to gaze back at him, sorrow clouding her gaze. "You've been asleep for almost two days. I'm getting you a snack."

Adrien felt his mouth go dry. "...Really? That long?"

Marinette nodded, her voice faint. "I'll be right back."

The door closed with a click as she left.

Nearly two days he'd been unconscious? How many hours had he been out, exactly?

...Was he even allowed to eat anything other than hospital food?

As if sensing his thoughts, Plagg drifted to the bed and settled himself on top of the heap of pillows before resuming his grooming. His green eyes glinted in the low light of the room as he surveyed his Chosen, whiskers twitching and expression surprisingly ancient—something Adrien definitely wasn't used to seeing upon his kwami's features.

"She didn't sleep at all, you know," Plagg said in a tone far more serious than his usual carefree attitude. "She cares about you a lot. It's almost gross."

Adrien felt his throat tighten with a mixture of affection and sadness. The fact that he'd worried her to the point where she didn't sleep a wink in almost two days made him feel immensely guilty, even if he couldn't help what had happened. "I know. I care about her, too."

Plagg proceeded to clean his whiskers with his paw. "So, you really don't remember what happened, huh?"

All Adrien could do was shake his head. "I remember some things, but… Not most."

"What things?"

"I remember the fires and that one of Hawk Moth's villains started them," Adrien began, "and I remember running for a long time, and… Ladybug was there." The kwami nodded for him to continue as he gave him a quick glance. Although his headache was intense, Adrien prompted himself to think harder, hoping to conjure up another memory that hadn't replayed within his head yet. Something about fires and pain and burns came to mind—something about… Ladybug. "I think she got hurt. On her arm."

That's right, he thought with a soft gasp. She got hurt and dropped her yo-yo. And I went to grab it. But then...

"What happened to Ladybug?" Adrien blurted out, anxiety beginning to bubble up within his stomach and making him feel even sicker than before. "Did she defeat Solar Flare without me? Is she okay?"

Plagg gave him a flat look. "I didn't know you were that oblivious."

Offended by his kwami's tone, Adrien scowled. "What's that supposed to-"

Before Adrien could question the tiny god any longer, the door crept open as Marinette entered, hands held behind her back and foot shutting the door with a soft gust of cool air from the hallway beyond. Adrien watched her curiously; the way she moved almost as if she was hiding something wasn't like the Marinette he knew. Mari never seemed as if his presence made her nervous—at least, not anymore. Sure, she used to act like she was terrified to be even within ten feet of him, but all that had changed in the past few months.

Things were different now. She was different now.

They were different now.

"Mari?" Adrien asked as Marinette settled back into the chair next to him and held out a granola bar for him to take. "What's bugging you?"

"Nothing's bugging me," She answered a bit too quickly.

As he struggled with the wrapper of his snack, Adrien frowned, unconvinced. Something's wrong.

"You can tell me," He urged, shooting her a reassuring smile. She didn't have to hide anything from him—he thought she knew that. He'd never judge her for anything.

But, instead of admitting to him her problem, Marinette just shook her head and sighed, groggily biting into a strawberry poptart to keep herself quiet.

Adrien's expression dropped, unamused.

Clever girl. She didn't have to speak when her mouth was full of food.

As if to only make the situation even more difficult, a nurse entered the room with a smile a bit too pleasant stretching across her features. It took all of Adrien's strength not to grimace from how cheery she looked, at what- three in the morning?

Marinette must have sent for her because he'd woken up.

Marinette, who was currently falling asleep sitting up with half of a poptart in her mouth.

Once the nurse had checked him over and breezed through the required procedures (something Adrien was a little too tired to pay much attention to), she left them alone once more in the quiet of the room, a silence so strong that it was almost deafening.

Marinette stared blankly at the wall, her chin propped in her hand and shoulders slouched as her eyes drooped closed.

She was clearly having trouble staying awake.

It was kind of cute, actually.

"Mariii," Adrien chuckled, reaching out to tap her uninjured arm. She shot up immediately, eyes wide and chest rising as she sucked in a light gasp. Poor Marinette. "Hey, sleepy. Want to lay up here with me?" He didn't really care if she wasn't allowed—the bed was probably a thousand times more comfortable than that tiny blue chair. "There's room."

Considering his offer, Marinette narrowed her eyes at the bed, gaze trailing from his leg all the way up to his face. He offered her a smile, one that assured her it was okay, she could join him if she wanted—and, much to Adrien's surprise, she did. Slowly she crawled up into the bed next to him, nearly hanging off the edge but not seeming to mind all that much as she closed her eyes and buried her nose within his neck.

Adrien sighed, contented by her presence.

"I was so worried about you," Marinette whispered, voice cracked from exhaustion. "When I saw you fall a-and the wall crumbled, I thought-" She paused to sniffle, Adrien turning his head to look upon her compassionately. Her eyes were glossy, her lower lip trembled, and her breath hitched as she fought the impending tears. Just a moment ago she'd been so tired, yet now she seemed as if she was about to burst into a sob. "I th-thought you were gone."

"You saw it?" He asked. How had she managed to get that close?

Marinette nodded, wiping her hand across her cheek as her eyes overflowed and tears spilled down her face. Mari usually got very emotional when tired, so staying up for nearly two days straight definitely wasn't an exception to that fact. "I was there, Adrien." Her gaze met his, wet and tired. "I… I thought you knew by now."

"Mari," Adrien whispered, brow furrowing in both confusion and sorrow. It hurt him to see her cry—she didn't deserve to feel so scared. She didn't deserve any of this. He was the one whose actions were merit for pain, not Marinette. Never Marinette. "What do you mean?"

"Adrien," Marinette's voice wavered as her eyes became waterfalls. "This was my fault!"

How could it be her fault? She wasn't even in the middle of the fight!

"No it wasn't," Adrien said with a sickening shake of his head, placing a hand upon her doused cheek and frowning as he watched her break into a sob at his side. There wasn't much he could do to comfort her besides whisper reassurances, no matter how badly he desired to scoop her up and hold her in an embrace so tight that she'd never even think to leave his side. "Mari, no, no. It's okay. It's not your fault. I promise."

"Yes it is!" She whimpered. "I was stupid! I could have gotten you killed."

None of this was her fault. How could she even think such a thing?

Ignoring the way his head pounded in protest, Adrien sat up straight, arms connecting around the petite frame of his girlfriend all the while he was mindful of his injuries and the needle in his skin. Marinette welcomed his hold, trembling against his fingertips.

"Are you upset because you went to find Alya and Nino?" Adrien questioned, tone gentle.

Sniffling, Mari mumbled a "no" and pressed her face against his chest, nuzzling him affectionately before removing it a second later as she remembered his fragile state. The stinging of his sensitive injuries hadn't bothered Adrien as much as her sadness, though.

"Then what's wrong?" He asked.

"You got hurt because of me." She sounded surprisingly calm, even if her voice was wracked with guilt.

"How? How could you be the cause of it?"

Marinette lifted her head to meet his gaze, sad bluebells burning into his tired green. Her damp skin glistened in the low light of the room, lips curled downwards into a frown and hair a dishevelled mess. She was exhausted, spent from hours upon hours without sleep and only further worn from crying. It was to the point where even Adrien desired for her to rest, simply because she needed it.

Brushing his knuckles along her cheek, Adrien smiled, hoping to at least ease some of her anxieties by showing that he was alright—that he'd be okay. That soon they'd both be home and everything would be back to normal.

(Save for having to walk with crutches, but that was a problem for another day.)

They sat in silence for a while until Marinette calmed, the only sound being her occasional sniffle that was sometimes paired with a whimper or two. It pained Adrien to sit up straight, but at this point, he didn't care. Marinette needed him—so what if it made him feel sick? He wouldn't push her away. Not when she was like this.

Not when his Mari was hurting.

He needed to hug her almost as much as she needed to be held by him. Mari's closeness was a soothing reminder that whatever it was they were faced with, they'd always get through it together.

They wouldn't have to deal with anything alone anymore.

Adrien wouldn't have to be alone anymore.

A small yawn caused Marinette's face to stretch before she rested her cheek against his shoulder, sleepy blue eyes sliding to a close and lips parted just slightly as she let out sigh that felt pleasantly warm upon Adrien's neck.

"Mari," He breathed, the familiar feeling of fatigue rising up within his bones. Hell, he'd barely done anything but talk and eat a granola bar and he was already prepared to go back to sleep for a few hours. "Do you wanna tell me what happened?"

Her eyes blinked open, just for a moment. "What happened to who?"

"To me."

If he couldn't get her to talk about her own experiences with the akuma, then maybe she could fess up about his.

Marinette shifted uncomfortably, Adrien looking downwards as she hesitantly positioned her feet next to his own, careful not to accidentally knock his injured leg. A soft breath blew from her nose, brows furrowed and lips tugged into a sullen frown. There wasn't much room for her on the bed, and if he could, Adrien would've scooted all the way to the far edge just so she could have more space to relax.

Yet, with a broken bone, he couldn't do much of anything besides lay still.

After a what seemed like ages of quiet, Marinette spoke. "The short version or the long version?"

Admittedly, Adrien was too tired for the longer version of the story, even if he'd prefer to hear all the details. "Short."

"There was a pretty scary akuma attack," Marinette began, voice raspy and nose brushing his neck. "Some villain called Solar Flare was setting fires everywhere and practically destroyed the park. We had to run away."

"I remember," Adrien hummed, images of smoke and fleeing civilians flashing in his head.

Mari nodded as she continued. "I went to find Alya and Nino, but… There wasn't any time. I had to leave. To find you instead."

"Find me?"

"Let me finish," She was growing agitated from her lack of sleep; Adrien knew it wasn't meant to be directed at him, so he let her talk without complaint. "I found you back at the park, as Chat Noir. You were so scared. I felt awful… Because you were looking for me. But I was right there."

Blinking in confusion, Adrien titled his head, squinting as a wave of nausea came over him. Even slight movements made him feel sick. "I don't remember that."

"You don't remember Marinette finding you."

What?

She continued before he could question her choice of words. "I was going to tell you, right then. I was going to tell you that I knew. But there wasn't time."

"Tell me what?"

Her annoyed glance was enough to shut him up.

Right, Adrien reminded himself. A tired Marinette is a grumpy Marinette.

"We ran for so long—you told me it was better to stay on the ground." A bittersweet laugh rose from her as her eyes once again pooled with tears. "And I told you that your plan was stupid. That I thought it would screw us up and get us killed. Some supportive partner I was." Her expression turned dark, blue gaze icy. "I was the one who screwed up."

Knowing better than to question, Adrien lay silent as she paused for a moment before continuing, voice weakened. "We led him to the water, and we were so sure—I was so sure—that it would work. That all I'd have to do is catch him with my yo-yo and drag him into the water and that'd be it, we'd be done. We could go home and everything would be fine."

Yo-yo?

Yo-yo?

Adrien's heart skipped a beat, his head pounding painfully. She was sounding almost as if-

As if… She was-

"But I-" Tear-stained cheeks became even more damp as Marinette began to cry again, burying her face within her palms as if she was embarrassed about it, of all things. As if Adrien himself hadn't completely sobbed into her arms before. "I-I made the stupid mistake of being scared. I wasn't brave. A-and I let my fear get the best of me. Which…" A whimper rose from her throat. "Only ended up hurting you."

He had to say something—anything.

Maybe he was dreaming, maybe this wasn't real; maybe he was only imagining that this confession was coming from Marinette instead of Ladybug.

Who else could know that information besides Ladybug?

Nobody else had been around. Which, ultimately, meant that Ladybug and Marinette were...

Were the same person?

It wasn't possible- that this entire time they'd both been hiding behind their masks while pining for each other. That didn't happen in real life.

Two people didn't get that lucky.

Adrien knew his luck wasn't that gracious.

But here she was, Marinette—Ladybug, he was so sure—crying her eyes out because she'd shouted his civilian name and distracted him long enough to get hurt.

He remembered now, the sheer terror in her voice as she called out his name. The way his heart froze as her face contorted from a confident smile to a pure gape of horror. Her panicked, frantic gaze as a ball of heat slammed into his chest and knocked him hard against a wall near the Seine.

The sound of her devastated cries as he laid there in pain, body asleep but mind very much awake—were like an unforgiving force driving its way up her body and spilling from her very soul.

Adrien remembered. He remembered the curses she'd emitted (which he'd never imagined hearing from Ladybug, of all people) and the splash of water that came from the river. He remembered hearing her call out to her lucky charm, and recalled the faint relief of magic rushing over his body as the city was cleansed and repaired.

The last memories that floated through his brain were of delicate arms embracing his body, lifting him into the air and taking him off to someplace only Ladybug knew.

The hospital, he presumed.

Even as Adrien came to his revelation, Marinette continued to cry. "I called your name and you just froze. It was my fault you got hurt. I was too scared a-and I- I…" Mari's sobs of grief melted into a puddle of silence, tears streaking down her face and dripping from her chin onto the pillow they shared, decorating the white fabric with little wet spots. She'd given up on wiping them away—there was no point when they just kept coming in an endless stream. "I'm so, so sorry, Adrien. I should have… I should have told you sooner. We wouldn't be in this mess if I had."

What could he say?

He wasn't upset at her, no. Surprised?

...No, not really.

It just had never occurred to him that Marinette and Ladybug were the same person. Yet, the more he thought about it, the more Adrien realized that there was no way they couldn't be.

They were both strong and confident, not to mention stunningly gorgeous. They shared the same beliefs, same likes and dislikes, even the same hairstyle.

How had he never realized?

Admittedly, he'd thought about it plenty of times, even hoped for it to be true—but never actually believed that Mari was his Lady.

Now that the fact had settled within his brain, Adrien could see nothing but his partner hunched over next to him, the whites of her eyes reddened from lack of sleep and flow of tears. Guilt tugged at his heart; somehow, he felt that her feelings of distress were of his doing, no matter how unintentional.

Truthfully, he shouldn't have forced himself to think of them as different when Marinette and Ladybug were completely the same.

Both beautiful? Yes.

Both brave? Definitely!

Both stubborn?

...Yep, that was his Mari.

The smile that stretched across his face was so wide that it almost became painful.

Ladybug was Marinette. Marinette was Ladybug.

Adrien had finally found his Lady, and she was the girl he'd been in love with since day one. The same girl he'd forced himself to (attempt to) get over and the same girl he'd hopelessly fallen in love with.

Marinette, Ladybug, one amazing and spectacular and gorgeous girl that he just couldn't ever get enough of.

His Lady. His Marinette.

It was with a loving sigh that Adrien realized his Lady had been his Princess the whole time, and he couldn't possibly be any happier than he was at that moment. He was on cloud nine, dancing in the sky, celebrating with the stars and shouting at the top of his lungs in glee.

"My Lady," Adrien chuckled as he gently took Marinette's hands into his own, removing them from her face with an affectionate grin. "I think you actually told me the long version."

Marinette stared at him with wide eyes, tears rolling down her face and messy hair sticking to her moist cheeks. It took her a second to process what he'd said—as if that nickname sounded foreign coming from the face of Adrien Agreste. It probably did.

After a brief silence, her trembling lips curled upwards into the tiniest of smiles and her gaze lit up with relief, soft laughter rising in the room like the most heavenly sound Adrien had ever heard.

"I hate you," She giggled, sounding much happier than before yet equally as tired.

"You love me," Adrien corrected, grinning as he placed a finger underneath her chin and lifted it in a gentle motion. He briefly glanced to her lips before meeting her gaze, green eyes glowing with pure endearment. "Don't you, Bugaboo?"

Marinette didn't even bother to conceal her feelings as she nodded furiously. There was no need to, not anymore.

Everything was okay now.

"Stupid cat," She sniveled, wrapping her arms around his neck in a tight (yet surprisingly delicate) hug. Somehow she'd practically ended up in his lap. "S-sometimes I can't- can't stand you."

The tears were flowing again, and not only from Marinette.

"But you're not standing," Adrien laughed, drying her cheek with his thumb once she'd broken the hug. "You're in bed with me."

Another giggle rose from his partner. "You know what I meant."

"Do I?"

"Stop smiling at me like that."

Adrien snorted. "Like what?"

"That smirk," Marinette said as she ruffled his hair, a grin twitching at her lips. "That stupid Chat Noir smirk."

"You think it's cute, don't you?" Adrien chuckled.

"Disgusting."

Her lies only made Adrien's smirk grow in length. "Oh, yeah?" He said as he placed a hand on her shoulder, leaning in until the tips of their noses brushed. "If it's so disgusting, then how come you'll let me do this?"

Closing the distance between them in a sweet kiss, Adrien could barely contain his giddiness as he felt Marinette smile against his lips. Her lips were damp and slightly salty from her tears, but he couldn't bring himself to mind in the slightest. The kiss was a little sloppy and sort of lopsided, but the feelings were all the same as they were in any other kiss—a perfect blend of silent "I love you's" and promises for more, longer kisses in the future.

As Adrien pulled away, he sighed contently, lips still buzzing with the memory of how wonderful it felt simply to press them against another's.

Marinette's kisses were a blessing he held deeply within his heart.

Marinette was a blessing he held deeply within his heart.

Maybe that was what love felt like.

Was he too young to feel love?

No.

This feeling, love, admiration, whatever it be—it was all real.

Adrien knew for a fact that he loved Marinette. He'd loved her since he'd met her that Fall afternoon during their battle against Stone Heart—their first day of partnership and the beginning of an amazing friendship. The beginning of something more.

He'd stated it himself: he'd love whatever girl was under Ladybug's mask. And he did, unconditionally.

He just hadn't expected to fall so hard for her before he even knew she was his scarlet-clad partner.

Personally, Adrien preferred it that way.

He'd gotten to know Marinette as herself; as the talented designer and skilled baker, as the girl who could beat him at any video game and the girl whose arms felt like home. He'd fallen for his nervous classmate who cared about each of her friends in so many different ways and the pretty girl whose eyes sparkled like the ocean (a cliche, but Adrien's always had a thing for those.)

He'd fallen in love with the simple things, too, like how she would sometimes let her hair down from its pigtails or the way her skin burst with a galaxy of freckles when she stayed out in the sun too long. He loved how soft her lips felt against his own, how smooth her skin was whenever he caressed her cheek, or how she'd blush when he'd say something a little too flirty that she didn't quite know how to react to.

He loved the pastel pink she'd paint her nails, the way her chest rose and fell as she slept, her giggles of joy and confident laughs of triumph whenever she successfully defeated an akuma. He loved how when she became frustrated, she'd muffle a few curses under her breath as if she was trying to emit them all while attempting to remain polite. There was so much he'd grown to love, that even going through the list within his brain would take ages—and by the time he'd finished reciting all the things he loved about Marinette, he would've found hundreds more.

He loved her, the girl in her entirety, her confidence as Ladybug and clumsiness as Marinette. Her stubbornness, her banter and silly flirting—the whole package together as one gorgeous piece.

Adrien had fallen for Marinette, to put it simply.

And he wouldn't have it any other way.

"Do you mean it?" He found himself asking after a moment, Marinette having already began dozing off with her head on his shoulder. However she'd managed to sit in his lap without harming him, he didn't know.

She hummed against his neck. "Do I mean what?"

"That you love me."

Adrien could practically feel her smile stretch across her face as she answered, "Yes. I mean it."

His hold on her tightened, squeezing her in a hug that made it clear he never wanted to let her go. It was peaceful, this moment, and Adrien didn't want anything to ruin it.

Nothing could ruin it.

It was past three in the morning on a school day, but none of that mattered right now. All that either of them had on their minds was the fact that they were content to sit in each other's arms until the break of dawn, and even after that.

"I mean it, too." Adrien whispered, pressing a kiss to the top of her head. "Is that okay?"

"Is what okay?"

"That I love you."

Marinette giggled quietly. "Why would that not be okay?"

"I don't know," Adrien replied, eyes falling closed. "Isn't there a certain stigma about saying that too early? Like it's weird?"

"It's not weird," Marinette said as she adjusted her head, nose pressing against his collarbone. Which earned her a slight wince from Adrien, since that area was still quite tender. She retracted quickly, shooting him an apology before (unfortunately) sliding off his lap to avoid accidentally touching his injuries a second time. She didn't go far, though, fixing herself so that she was laying next to him in the same position she'd been in before her break down: on her side, facing him with a tired yet loving gaze.

"I don't think it's weird," Marinette continued, "not at all. Not coming from you, at least."

"What do you mean?" Adrien asked, blinking sleepily at his partner.

Mari chuckled, the sound soft and faint. It was a mystery how she'd managed to stay awake this long. "It's not weird that you love me, because I feel the same."

He could listen to her say that forever; that she loved him.

She felt the same. She loved him. Adrien, Chat Noir, both of him-who he truly was.

And god, did it feel amazing just to be loved.

They were both too worn for any further speaking, silently agreeing to just lay there in the dull light of the room gazing at each other with the most affectionate expression they could muster. It was silly, to have barely been dating for long (to the point where it hadn't even been officially stated), yet here they were, two halves of a whole finally together as one. They loved each other, and both knew very well how their partner felt—even if they'd dismissed such feelings in the past.

There was no need to ignore the way their hearts fluttered or how giddy they became whenever they were together. They needn't hide their emotions or pretend like they didn't have the desire to kiss each other's lips, and certainly they didn't have to act as if their feelings weren't mutual.

They knew what they had and both knew what they wanted.

Love, to put it simply, was all either of them desired.

Adrien especially.

"Mari," He whispered, not realizing he'd closed his eyes. "About earlier—it's okay. It wasn't your fault. Even as superheroes, we can't be brave all the time."

Marinette's eyes lit up in fond memory of how she'd said that to him once before.

With a tired grin, Adrien tucked a loose strand of hair behind her ear, knuckles brushing down her cheek before resting atop her arm. "Even we need to take a break and let it out every now and then."

The smile that spread across her face was one that could cure any sickness. "Thank you, Adrien."

With a quick kiss to his lips, her hand weaved its way along the sheets until it found his own and gave it a gentle squeeze.

They would be alright.

Everything would be alright.

They'd get through this together.

They would always get through everything together.

That's what partners were for, right?

As they lay together in bed, Adrien found himself in the midst between drifting off to sleep and desiring to ask hundreds of questions. There was so much left unanswered that no matter how tired he felt, he just couldn't bring his mind to relax.

He wanted to know how he'd gotten to the hospital, whether Mari had brought him as Ladybug and if he'd been transformed or not. He was curious about his state of health, why Marinette looked so saddened when he told her he wasn't hungry or how his injury would affect his trip out of the country.

Adrien hoped this meant he'd stay in Paris for the summer.

He also wondered what kind of excuse Marinette had given their families. Obviously she hadn't told them the truth. She wouldn't do that, would she?

One question out of thousands of others burned at the back of his head, however.

"Mari?" Adrien whispered, watching her eyes slowly blink open. "Did my dad come to see me? While I was asleep, I mean."

Marinette hesitated for a moment before nodding. "Yeah, he did. Yesterday."

Well, that was certainly a shock. "What did he do?"

"I don't really know," Mari yawned, rubbing one of her eyes. "I left the room. He asked me to. I guess he just… wanted to be alone with you."

Adrien's eyebrows shot up in surprise.

"When he came out, he had this look on his face," Mari met his gaze, brows furrowed. "Like he was so guilty about it, for some reason. Like… Like it was his fault. He looked so scared, Adrien. Sad, even. I don't know how to explain it." A small laugh of disbelief fell from her lips. "I was just standing there outside the room for like fifteen minutes, thinking to myself 'wow, he really does care about you.'"

Adrien only sighed. He knew his father cared, of course—just didn't know how to show it.

"And, he actually…" Marinette's voice grew quiet, as if she couldn't believe the words that were coming out of her own mouth. "He thanked me personally. For looking after you when he couldn't. Then he shook my hand, and left, looking as tired as ever."

"Really?" Adrien breathed. "Wow..."

"Are you okay?" Mari asked as she adjusted herself into a more comfortable position, fingers threading through his hair. "You look stunned."

Nodding, Adrien gazed up at the ceiling in thought, processing what he'd just been told. His father certainly wasn't the type to openly show affection, and it seemed incredibly out of character for him to thank the very girl that had been "stealing" all his son's time away.

Perhaps he was finally realizing that Adrien was growing up—that he could make his own decisions and needed other people in his life to help guide him in becoming the person he truly desired to be.

Or, maybe, his father just felt awful for not giving his son enough love after his mother's disappearance, especially after he'd been injured and hospitalized.

Maybe… Maybe his dad wanted to rekindle their relationship. Maybe he had apologized for all those years of neglect, or maybe he'd just told him that he loved him.

Or maybe he hadn't said anything at all.

"Thank you for telling me," He said to Mari as he pulled the blanket over his form, finding himself to be incredibly exhausted. As Marinette nodded in response, Adrien knew she was already half asleep. No use waking her for any more silly questions. She'd been awake for so long that she deserved to get some rest.

And Adrien knew he did, too.

They'd both been through a lot lately.

Feeling odd yet somewhat at peace, Adrien finally allowed his eyes to shut for one final time as sleep took over him in a gentle wave, relaxing his body into an ocean of peaceful slumber.

He wondered what tomorrow would bring.

Chapter Text

The next week brought sunshine.

Gorgeous rays of golden light streamed in through large bedroom windows and left a sheen along the balloons that floated lazily in the corner, warming Adrien's spacious room with a pleasant yellow hue. The flowers that decorated the coffee table relished in the sunshine and soaked it up gladly, while the little Chat Noir plushie that had once taken shelter within the marigolds now sat nestled safely atop the pillow the real superhero rested his head upon.

Whether it was morning or evening, Adrien wasn't sure.

His eyes felt heavy—like he hadn't slept for days. Which was odd, considering all he'd really been doing as of late was sleeping. Sleeping all week long since the day he'd been discharged from the hospital.

Sleeping at night, napping during the day, only leaving his bed for food or to bathe.

He had to take baths now. A broken leg wasn't the easiest injury to stand in a shower with. He'd tried—which only resulted in him slipping and painfully knocking his cast on the floor.

Marinette had warned him.

"Take baths," She'd told him. "I've broken my ankle before. Baths are a lot easier."

Why hadn't he listened again?

Oh, that's right. Ever since his near-drowning incident a few months back, Adrien felt quite uncomfortable being submerged in water.

At least Marinette had been there to assist him into the tub, even if it'd been a difficult task with her eyes closed.

He chuckled at the memory. She'd practically squawked when her hand accidentally brushed his bare chest.

Now, Adrien lay in bed, fiddling with the bell sewed onto the neck of his precious Chat plushie. It jingled and danced with each flick of his finger, and when he shook the miniature plush it sang in protest. If anyone was watching him, they'd think he was silly.

Still, after having nothing to do for the majority of the day (it was evening, he remembered—sunset), shaking his Chat Noir plushie until the bell rang constantly was the only form of entertainment he could find.

There's only so much anime a guy could watch.

"Don't you think that's a cruel way to entertain yourself?" A voice came from the window. "Really, I'd appreciate if you didn't torture my partner like that."

A smirk grew across Adrien's face before his eyes even met those of his scarlet Lady. "Why? Do you care about him or something?"

"As a matter of fact," Marinette giggled, hopping into his room with a graceful leap and making her way to his bed before placing herself on his mattress in a criss-cross position. Her gloved hand reached out to press a finger against his nose, drawing his gaze up to those familiar loving blues. "I do."

Adrien's smirk only widened as he sat up. Seeing Ladybug in his room, knowing she was Marinette, still sent a wave of excitement to course through his veins. It'd only been a week since they'd discovered each other's identities and the newness had yet to wear off. "Why, Ladybug, to whom do I owe the pleasure? What brings you here on this beautiful- …"

He'd forgotten what day it was, his eyes shooting up in a silent plea for help.

"Friday," Marinette whispered, a grin stretching across her face.

Clearing his throat, Adrien continued, setting the Chat Noir plushie to the side. "What brings you here on this beautiful Friday evening?"

"Just checking up on the poor civilian who can't stay out of danger," She replied with a smirk of her own, crossing her arms over her chest. "The one who apparently tripped over a root sticking up from the ground and fell into a flaming tree."

For a second, Adrien's mind went blank before he remembered the lie he'd made up to ease the suspicious of friends and family. Part of him was surprised they'd all actually bought it. "Hey, that's a clever story. Believable."

Marinette offered a shrug. "I suppose it's better than 'superhero gets punted across the Seine by a ball of fire.'"

"I dunno," Adrien said, giving his best shit-eating grin. "I kind of like that version better. Makes me sound more heroic."

The roll of his Lady's eyes was all he could ever need.

A small gasp from Adrien's left caused them both to turn to the sight of Plagg whizzing into the air, his tail twitching in glee. His ears perked up as he burrowed himself into the crook of Marinette's neck, purring and practically vibrating with the joy of seeing her again. It was still so new to Adrien, seeing his kwami so enamored by Marinette and enjoying her presence more than he enjoyed cheese.

(Well, almost.)

It was odd—Plagg and Marinette had just clicked. Whether it was from the constant scratches she enjoyed giving the tiny cat or how much cheese she spoiled him with, Adrien didn't know. All he could say for sure was that they certainly got along a lot better than he ever thought they would. He didn't know Plagg could be so nice.

Sure, there were times when Plagg was there for him in bad emotional states, but it was still a different sight to see his kwami purring and rubbing up affectionately against Marinette's cheek.

"Hi, Plagg," Marinette giggled, scratching under his chin. "I missed you too."

Adrien groaned, placing a hand over his heart as he feigned offense. "Traitor."

"Who?" Asked Marinette, a grin spreading across her freckled cheeks. She must've been out in the sun all day—her face was coated with adorable little brown flecks. Even with the spotted mask, Adrien could see them dotting every inch of her smooth skin. "Me or Plagg?"

"Both of you," He replied. "I'm deeply hurt."

"Oh, please," Plagg said with a roll of his eyes. "It's not like Marinette cooes over me like you do Tikki."

"It's not like Marinette cooes over you like you do Tikki," Adrien corrected, snickering as Plagg hissed in response.

He knew Plagg had a soft spot for Ladybug's kwami—he'd said so himself. They were made together as one piece, not meant to be separated. Better as one. Though the little god would never admit to saying such things, Adrien knew it was true. Both he and Marinette had seen how the two acted together when they thought their Chosens were asleep.

If he was honest, Adrien thought the cuddling was kind of cute.

"Yeah, well," Plagg said with a wave of his paw. "Tikki and I will go off and raid the fridge while you two do whatever. Food is much more important than snogging."

Adrien scoffed. "We do not snog-"

"I guess that's cue for me to stop being Ladybug," Marinette laughed, signalling for her transformation to release. Red light and sparkles of pink filled her form before the mask and ribbons faded, leaving her practically glowing in her civilian clothing. With the setting sun streaming in through the windows and bouncing off of her skin in an orange gleam, Marinette looked ethereal, like a goddess blessing his room with her presence.

It was still a mesmerizing sight, Ladybug transforming into Marinette or vice-versa; Adrien wasn't quite used to the whole "I'm dating Ladybug and I know her identity" concept yet.

He would be someday, he knew.

Even so, the magical beauty of her transformation would never cease to amaze him.

"Hi, Adrien," Tikki said as she materialized from red light, flying over to nuzzle his cheek. "I see you're doing better."

With a nod, Adrien smiled. "It's only been a week, but I'm on my way."

"You're recovering fast. How's your-"

"Tikki, let's go get some food," Plagg butt in, smiling at his fellow kwami with an impatient yet somehow affectionate gaze. "I'm hungry."

Tikki shrugged her little shoulders before shooting the two humans an apologetic grin. "We'll talk again later."

In a red blur, Tikki flitted up into the air and, with a kiss to Marinette's cheek, zipped off with Plagg to the kitchen below.

Adrien had grown to like Tikki a lot. Maybe not to the point he was "cooing" over her like Plagg suggested, but enough to where he enjoyed her company and their little conversations. They didn't usually talk much, seeing as most of the time the two kwamis were off with each other, but Adrien could understand their excitement. If he hadn't seen his partner in nearly a hundred years, he'd be pretty inseparable from her, too.

He couldn't imagine not seeing Mari for that long.

She'd practically visited him every day that week, bringing little snacks or games to keep him occupied. They'd talk and joke until Adrien grew tired, and she wouldn't leave until she was sure he was asleep. She'd even stayed over one night, and once or twice they'd sat upon his couch to watch a movie, although they were more interested in each other's lips rather than what was playing on the screen.

Could anyone blame them?

After all, they'd only just discovered that their significant other was the same person as their partner—their most trusted friend and the one they'd each fallen in love with. If they were alone in his room, they would certainly take advantage of the situation and spend the night kissing each other a little bit.

...Okay, maybe more than a little bit.

But kissing was nice! And fun! And… Nice!

There wasn't anything wrong with that.

"You've been bored, huh?"

Adrien looked up as Marinette spoke—he hadn't realized he'd been staring at her lips—and nodded. "There's not much I can do around here without the use of my leg."

"Have any more movies?"

He shook his head. "I've watched most of them."

"Video games?"

"You've beat me in all of them."

Marinette tapped at her chin thoughtfully. "Any books you haven't read?"

"Probably. But most of them are uninteresting, anyways."

In response, Marinette only sighed, flopping down onto her back and settling into the mattress next to him. That was the really the only thing they'd been doing as of late, and if Adrien was being honest, he was beginning to get just a little bored.

Not of Mari, no, he could never—but of his current state.

If only there was something he could do besides watch movies, eat, or read.

The only form of entertainment he could find that didn't rest in those three categories was think. Think, think, think about his state of health and how long it would take his leg to heal, or how soon he could go back to being Chat Noir. Plagg had explained to him that transforming while his leg was broken would do more harm than good, so fighting akuma was out of the question for the next few weeks.

Which, both he and Marinette had been undoubtedly concerned with. So concerned to the point where they'd began formulating plans for them to work together even with his damaged appendage if an attack so happened to occur. They were prepared.

That is, until an attack still hadn't happened a week later.

Usually Hawk Moth would've struck by now.

It was odd, not seeing any sort of danger within Paris. Not a scream, a cry for help, or even a simple disturbance. Besides usual big city crimes, of course, but that wasn't their field of work.

Everything was so calm.

It filled Adrien with a twinge of fear and a strange feeling of relaxation.

"What do you think Hawk Moth is up to?" He found himself asking as he laid back, hand trailing down his bedsheets to grasp Mari's out of habit. "You'd think he would take advantage of having one of us down. There's no doubt he knows I'm hurt because of him."

Marinette sighed, pushing her bangs out of her face as she fumbled for an answer. Adrien could tell the whole idea of Hawk Moth attacking while they were weak made her nervous. "I don't know. It's scary. The longer he waits to send something out, the more concerned I get. I'm afraid he's planning something big."

"Maybe he feels bad," Adrien laughed, clearly joking. "Maybe he realizes he hurt a teenager and is giving up for a little while."

Shaking her head, Mari frowned. "I doubt that. If he's been going after us for such a long time, I don't exactly think he'd feel remorse for hurting you."

"I'm offended. Who wouldn't feel bad for ruining my perfect model walk?"

"Hawk Moth, apparently."

"He's broken me, Mari," Adrien whined, a grin twitching at the corner of his lips as he placed a hand dramatically over his forehead. "I can never show my face in the modelling world again!"

Something in Marinette's expression changed—her eyes softened and gaze lowered, shifting uncomfortably away from his own. When she spoke, her voice was quiet, almost as if she'd barely said a word at all. "Yeah, well, maybe that's a good thing."

Adrien scratched at his head awkwardly. Okay, so maybe joking about modelling was in poor taste. Finding out from a doctor at the hospital that he was anemic from malnutrition wasn't the best news ever, and it'd definitely upset both Marinette and her parents.

He knew he couldn't ask her not to tell them—he'd figured it was best if she did. He needed help, and he very well couldn't get better on his own.

At least they'd invited him to come over for dinner once or twice a week; maybe more.

Even so, the memory of the sadness in Marinette's eyes when she'd found out still haunted him. That's what he deserved from trying to become a perfectly ghostly model, Adrien supposed.

"Sorry," He sighed, "I shouldn't have mentioned it. I know it bothers you."

"It just scares me, is all," Marinette said. "I worry about you."

A sentiment that brought a warm smile upon Adrien's face. Of course Marinette cared. She worried about him, just like her parents did—they all held him within their hearts in their own special way.

Marinette's family was beginning to feel more like home than any place ever had.

With them was where he belonged. In a warm, happy family. That's all he wanted. That's all Adrien ever desired.

He could have that with Marinette.

"I'm alright, Mari," He told her, reaching out to brush his knuckles down her cheek. "I'm eating better now. I'm doing better."

"I know." Turning to her side, she buried her face in his neck. Adrien could feel the warmth of her breath against his skin, soft and slow, almost as if she was falling asleep. Yet the way her hands fiddled with his blanket in a restless behavior said otherwise. "You're already looking better and it's only been a week. I bet you're sick of eating all that nutritious food though, huh?"

Adrien nodded, a small chuckle rising in his throat. "Like you wouldn't believe. I'd kill for something sweet right now."

"Like what?" Her eyes met his. "Do you want me to get you something from the bakery?"

Instead of answering her question, Adrien's arm found its way around her waist, holding her in a hug that was loose yet loving. "Stay. I'm so bored."

"And I'm the only way you can stay entertained?" There was a hint of laughter in her voice—faint, but there. Adrien was going to do whatever it took to get it out of her. She needed to smile. She deserved to!

"Yes," He chuckled, pressing his fingers into her waist. Which caused her to squeak, narrowing her eyes into thin daggers and glaring at him as if he'd just placed himself into a life-or-death situation.

Marinette was extremely ticklish in that spot, he remembered.

Which he would definitely use to his advantage.

"Don't," She warned in a whisper as his fingers ghosted the side of her waist, stilling on a spot where her shirt had ridden up just slightly.

Adrien smirked, applying the tiniest bit of pressure to her skin. "Don't what?"

"Don't."

"Don't…?" He could tell by the look of disgust upon Mari's face that at the moment, Adrien Agreste was no longer in the room and Chat Noir was sitting in his place. "Don't what? This?"

From the moment his fingers began to tickle that sensitive spot on her waist, Marinette squealed, squirming out of his grasp until she rolled off of his bed and to the floor in a giggling mess. "Adrien!" She whined, shooting him a glare that was quickly replaced by a smile. "No!"

"Yeah, well," He laughed, "at least I can't chase after you. You're cute when you squeal like that."

"Oh, shut up." Her tone was forcefully agitated, the expression on her face revealing that she felt nothing but joy.

"You love me," Adrien said. He knew that for a fact.

Marinette huffed, unable to deny his statement. "I do."

And that was just how things were.

For the rest of the night, they spent their time becoming lost within each other, just like they had been for the past week. They tended to each other's wounds, found a comfortable spot on the couch to watch a few cartoons, and let sunset turn to night as they felt content simply being together. Being happy.

Once they got hungry, Marinette decided on ordering a pizza, much to Adrien's excitement—he'd never had a real pizza before. Even if he was supposed to be eating nutritious foods, one pizza couldn't hurt, could it?

Besides… After the week he'd had, he deserved a little treat.

Okay, maybe a pizza was more than a "little," but his point still stood.

Marinette had been watching the window for their meal and, as stealthy as ever, retrieved it from the delivery man at the gate before the doorbell even had chance to ring. One of the good things about nobody ever being around the Agreste mansion was that ordering food Adrien wasn't supposed to be eating was easier than it should have been.

Although his father had been acting quite caring lately (strangely enough), Adrien still doubted that he would allow his son to indulge on such greasy food. Even if he hadn't seemed to have a problem with him visiting the Dupain-Cheng's for dinner the other night.

Adrien didn't know what it was, but his father had been acting differently since the incident. Spoke with a softer voice, hadn't reprimanded him all week. And although he still kept his distance, Adrien couldn't help but notice that something in his father's eyes had changed. They weren't as cold or disappointed as before; they were… Regretful? Dare he say, loving?

Maybe he was just imagining it.

By the time the whole pizza had been eaten by Marinette and him, Adrien had accepted defeat from his full stomach and decided to wash away the impending sickness by taking a nice, long bath.

Which Marinette helped him into, of course. He couldn't very well step into his humongous tub and keep his cast out of the water on his own.

Lately Mari had been sitting in the bathroom with him and providing some company. She never looked at him, of course—both of them being much too shy for that just yet—but she did sit with her back facing him so they could at least talk.

He'd discovered that although bathing alone was relaxing enough, having someone sitting just out of the tub with a cheek he can kiss and hair he can braid was ten times better.

Maybe even a hundred times better.

It was all too soon when Marinette needed to go home.

Yes, they'd spent the majority of their week together, but it still saddened Adrien to see her leave. He relished in their time with each other and enjoyed every second he was blessed to spend by her side. Knowing she was Ladybug, knowing that they were closer than either of them had ever expected to be, knowing they kept no secrets from each other made her one of the most important people in his life, and watching her leap from his window in her scarlet suit after giving him a goodnight kiss only made his heart long for her to return.

His bed felt too empty.

Perhaps he was being a little clingy, but he couldn't help it—his partner, his Lady, his amazing Marinette had been there through everything. She knew him better than anyone else did. All Adrien desired was to have her by his side.

Maybe they were the same as Plagg and Tikki—meant to be one. Meant to spend their lives together as a pair. Inseparable.

The thought brought a sleepy smile to Adrien's face as he lay in bed, coated in midnight shadows. From his windows, the lights of the city twinkled, illuminating the edge of his bedroom in a soft yellow glow. Where he lay, however, was nearly pitch black.

It was quiet.

Too quiet.

But that's just how things always were at home.

Quiet.

Sighing into his pillow, Adrien buried his face within the cozy fabric, the Chat Noir plush held captive within his arms. He'd barely done anything all day and was already exhausted.

By now he was used to that.

It could have been the head wound or the various burns on his chest, both of which were healing, but the cause of his sleepiness didn't matter. All that was important was that Adrien was ready to sleep.

Yet the person knocking on his bedroom door said otherwise.

Muffling a groan with his pillow, Adrien sat up and stretched, mentally preparing himself to walk across the room on his crutches. He'd been mostly avoiding walking lately due to how uncomfortable he found them, but there were times when it was necessary. Still, it didn't mean he had to enjoy it.

"Who is it?" Adrien grumbled, not at all awake enough for one of his father's assistants or housekeepers to meander around his room. "It's past eleven."

"Adrien."

Adrien's eyes snapped open.

Oh, he knew that voice.

"Father?" He asked, quickly standing (and nearly falling over) before he made his way to the bedroom door. It was tough to turn the knob in his stance, but he managed. As he opened the door, Adrien was greeted with the sight of icy blue eyes and stiff shoulders, his father's expression stagnant yet… soft. "F-father, what are you-"

"I'd like a word with you," Gabriel said, voice sounding very, very tired. "It won't take long."

Nodding, Adrien made his way back to his bed, where he sat in waiting. From the way his father entered his room and stood like an icicle in front of him, Adrien could tell that he was tense and having difficulty finding the right words to say. It was almost sad, knowing his father had absolutely no idea how to start a simple conversation with his son.

After a silence that dragged on unpleasantly, Gabriel cleared his throat, shifting his gaze away before it met his son's. "I've come to inform you that your summer trip has been cancelled, due to your…" He paused for a moment, something like regret flashing in his eyes. "Your injuries. You're not in a state well enough to travel."

That didn't come as much of a shock to Adrien. By the way there hadn't been any sort of mention of his trip to America in the past week, his understanding was that it meant he wasn't going.

Which he was grateful for, of course. He was plenty content to stay in France with Mari and his friends whether he was hurt or not.

"Thank you," was all Adrien said.

His father nodded once in response. For a moment he stood still, gaze soft and lips in the tiniest, almost unnoticeable frown.

It was weird. What could he thinking? What could he be feeling?

"Father?" Adrien asked, unsure if he was done speaking or preparing a few more words.

Gabriel cleared his throat once more, regaining his composure. "I'd also like to offer my apologies."

Now that was surprising.

Gabriel Agreste, apologizing?

What, had they gone back in time ten years to when Adrien was six years old and his mother was still around? Did his father's heart suddenly return from the fashion war? Had he been akumatized? This wasn't normal!

His father never apologized!

"Apologize?" Adrien cocked his head to the side. "For what, exactly?"

A suppressed sigh. "I realize I haven't been the kindest towards you and your friends these past few years. I am trying to do better as your father. And while I don't expect forgiveness, my apology still stands."

God, so much sweetness. Adrien was lucky he didn't puke from the sheer shock of it all.

"Oh," Adrien breathed, surprised by his words. Really, what else could he say? "Thank you."

Gabriel nodded and, before turning, bid him goodnight.

The door shut with a click behind him.

Settling back into bed and finding a comfortable position, Adrien lay awake, gaze glued to the ceiling as he contemplated what his father had said. There'd been an apology, yes, but something else was hidden underneath it; had he really been apologizing for his behavior, or… something entirely different?

Adrien scoffed. What else could he apologize before? Besides, there had been a reason for him to be sorry. He hadn't exactly treated his son right for the past three or so years, just like he'd said. An apology was definitely necessary.

If anything, Adrien was going to take whatever apology he could get and just leave it at that.

It was something.

Odd, unexpected—but something.

Even so, Adrien found himself unable to sleep.

It was officially summer vacation now, and although he'd missed the last week of school due to his injuries, all of his classmates were free. Once his leg was better they could go back to their usual hangouts, but until then, simply having his friends over would suffice.

Maybe Mari could start staying nights more often.

If her parents would be okay with that, of course.

(He'd heard about her little "talk" with her mother—it'd made him laugh harder than it should have, and the way Marinette's face heated up into the pinkest he'd ever seen it only made it harder to stop.)

Still, it would be nice.

Not for them to do anything inappropriate—neither of them were ready for that, Adrien knew. It was one thing for them to bathe together, but to actually do something was entirely another.

A thought that made his cheeks hot and his stomach twist with a mixture of both nerves and excitement.

Not yet.

Really, all Adrien wanted was to spend time with her. To cuddle, talk, to patrol together.

Gosh, what would patrols be like, now? Now that they knew each other's identities?

Endless fun, he imagined.

His leg needed to heal faster.

"Stop thinking about her and go to sleep," Plagg yawned from his side, having dozed off as soon as Marinette left. No doubt he'd been woken by Adrien's father and had zipped off to hide, but now he was curled up into a tiny black ball on his Chosen's pillow, tail wrapped around his paws and eyes drooping closed. "I'm tired."

Adrien nodded. Although he knew he wouldn't be able to stop thinking about Mari for much longer than a few minutes, Plagg was right. He did need to get some sleep.

Even if the left side of his bed felt too cold.

Eh, Adrien thought to himself. It'll be warm again soon.

As soon as Adrien closed his eyes, it was with a smile that he realized Plagg was right.

Better days had come.

Chapter Text

A small, tired breath fell from Marinette's lips.

God, it was cold.

Chilled from spending her evening out in the icy winter air, she adjusted her legs so that the shawl which had once warmed her shoulders and chest now draped over her spotted knees like a cozy blanket.

She'd been silly to suggest a patrol in this kind of weather, and probably looked even sillier shivering alone atop one of the iron beams that supported the Eiffel Tower.

Paris wasn't particularly known for being a city that experienced such frigid winters. Hell, it was a rarity that it snowed at all.

Yet, as Marinette huddled against the spot Chat Noir had filled minutes before, snowflakes fell from the twinkling sky and descended to the city below like drifting stars that filled the world with white.

A chuckle rose from her throat, gloved hands tightening their grip on the fabric of her scarlet shawl. The world is always changing, she thought with a tender smile. You never know what to expect.

Nothing is still on Earth.

Each day is different; a new opportunity.

Something to be explored.

Just like the rest of the world, Paris wasn't a city to shy from change.

Seasons shifted, as did people.

Summer turned to autumn, where trees at their peak transformed parks into an ocean of color and the air cooled to a pleasant chill. Citizens of Paris donned coats and sweaters, hurrying along the bustling streets with steaming cups of coffee in hand, eager to escape from the cold. The roads filled with clumps of cracked leaves, crisp and quick as they rolled in the breeze like a dry, brown river.

Autumn was full of pumpkin spice and cat-eared beanies over blond hair. It was a new school, lycée, nights spent in the arms of a boy on crutches who happened to be too lonesome to sleep alone. Autumn had been warmth and comfort, sweet and delicate, a season of gray and orange muddled together in cozy jackets and loving hugs.

Autumn had also been a time of recovery. While Adrien's leg mended, the city of Paris learned to heal, as well—without Hawk Moth throwing an akuma at an unsuspecting civilian every week, citizens became happier, full of light and joy and hope. Hope for better days.

Well, they really didn't need to hope anymore.

There was no use in wishing for something that was already there.

Winter eventually replaced autumn with cloudy skies and a blanket of white. The streets where leaves had previously danced became slick with ice, and the parks that'd been so colorful were nothing more than a barren, snowy wasteland.

Even if Parisians happened to be wary of the snow, it was still fun to play in during school lunch breaks.

Marinette laughed as the memory of Alya stuffing snow down the back of Nino's jacket resurfaced in her mind, a puff of frost blowing from her lips. She'd never forget the high-pitched squeal he emitted, or how hard Adrien had laughed when his best friend retaliated the attack.

The snow wasn't so bad, Marinette thought. It at least gave her an excuse to stick by Adrien's side.

Adrien. His name itself brought forth a feeling so warm that Marinette felt the chill of winter fade into nothing more than a dull, faint tingle. He'd just been next to her a moment ago, having gone down to a street vendor at the bottom of the Eiffel Tower for some hot cocoa they'd smelled on the way up. The aroma had been too tempting to resist—especially for Adrien, whose affinity for sweets had doubled ever since he'd become a healthy weight.

A breath fell from Marinette's lips as a wave of love crashed over her. Seeing Adrien happy, healthy, in so much better shape than he had been about six months ago was both a relief and a wonderful sight. No longer was he bony and pale, but muscular, at a weight that was perfect for his age and height. He loved himself, just as he should have always.

And, if his improved physical health wasn't enough to make her smile (which it definitely was), the fact that his mental health was so much better than it used to be was certainly the icing on the cake.

Adrien smiled daily, laughed often, enjoyed waking in the mornings and no longer feared what his days would bring. His eyes, which were formerly saddened and cloudy, now shone a wonderfully bright summer green that filled Marinette's world with rays of golden sunshine. He loved who he was and he enjoyed simply living; a drastic change that was definitely for the better.

He'd told her that his home life had improved, as well. Although his father still wasn't around often, he was kinder (so Adrien said), spoke with a softer voice and lost the strictness of his tone.

Adrien had mentioned that it came back every now and then, but was almost always followed by a sincere apology.

Marinette snorted. Gabriel Agreste, apologizing? What a thought!

But, if Adrien said his father was changing, she would believe it.

Humming quietly to herself, the superheroine watched as her partner ordered two cups of hot cocoa from the vendor below. She was high enough that those who were just passing by wouldn't take notice of her presence, but still relatively close to the ground where she could see her boyfriend suited-up and unzipping a front pocket to hand the burly man a wad of cash.

Chat Noir would be back any minute now.

A gust of icy wind cut through the air and caused Marinette to squeak, wrapping her shawl protectively around herself in an attempt to shield her body from the cold. Ladybug's suit was nearly impenetrable, sure, but it certainly wasn't a top-notch insulator.

Ugh, how long did it take to get two cups of cocoa? She was freezing! Why on Earth had they climbed the Eiffel Tower, of all places? It was made of metal! Cold, icy iron! Slippery, cold, icy iron!

As if sensing her irritability, Chat shot her a grin that silently said, "have patience."

Unable to fight a smile of her own, she stuck her tongue out at him and propped her chin onto her hand, feeling the beginnings of sleepiness tugging at her eyelids.

While she and Chat Noir did their best to patrol the city, the weather (and the desire to be cuddling indoors) prevented them from staying out as long as they were accustomed to. During the holidays it'd been nice to see the colorful array of dazzling lights decorating each balcony, but once the wonders of Christmas faded and the month of December became an icy January, the citizens of Paris were a little tired of the cold.

More than a little tired, actually.

Marinette was exhausted from it. Literally.

Winter, Tikki had explained, made every Ladybug exceptionally tired. While actual ladybugs were nestled safely away in cozy spaces for hibernation, Marinette was unfortunately awake for the winter, albeit incredibly more tired than usual.

Her constant state of "five more minutes, chaton," had certainly been a hindrance on their patrols.

(As if they actually needed them.)

At this point in the year, winter was practically too much for Adrien as well. It'd only taken Chat Noir getting his tongue stuck to a pole once for him to reconsider ever stepping paw outside again, especially after photos of his predicament ended up on the Ladyblog.

(Marinette had been kind enough to ask Alya to remove them. Even Chat Noir gets embarrassed, after all!)

Her poor kitty had spoken with an adorably frustrating lisp for the remainder of that day.

The heels of metal-tipped boots clicking against iron caused Marinette to turn her head, her nose instantly picking up the scent of something deliciously chocolate. Gaze zeroing in on one of the piping hot cups of cocoa her partner held within his clawed hands, she met his smile, releasing her grasp on her shawl only to reach out for his offering once he'd sat.

Heat met her palms and radiated through her fingers as she cradled the foam cup to her chest, relishing in its heat. In a silent thanks, Marinette kissed her partner's cheek before nuzzling her face into the baby blue scarf he wore so proudly around his neck—the same blue scarf she'd gifted to him for his birthday and the same blue scarf that he'd discovered was her handiwork due to her signature.

"Warm enough?" Chat whispered, turning to press a light kiss atop her head.

Marinette nodded, gently blowing the plastic lid of the cup before taking a sip. A wave of rich chocolate splashed upon her tongue, the bitterness of cocoa and sweetness of marshmallows overwhelming her tastebuds in a flavorful mix that made her feel positively snug inside. "Am now."

Chat Noir grinned. "I'm glad I could be of service."

"Thank you for the cocoa," Marinette said, keeping the cup close to her face so that the heat could rise to her skin. So warm!

"Anything for you, my Lady," Adrien replied, wrapping an arm around her shoulders. "The smell was so good I couldn't pass it up. It was practically calling my name."

A tiny laugh bubbled from Marinette's lips. "Which one? Adrien or Chat Noir?"

He winked. "Both."

"Ah." Grinning at her partner, Marinette brought the cup back to her lips for a brief sip. "So the hot cocoa knows your true identity."

Chat nodded, pulling a dramatic frown to his face (a feat that was no longer as easy as it would have been six months ago) and sighing dejectedly. "Forgive me, my Lady, for I've revealed my biggest secret to this-" he paused to lift the cup into the air, a somber expression upon his features. "-innocent beverage. She holds a truth that she can tell no other."

Marinette only laughed, giving him a playful shove that, had he still been the skinny teen he was at fifteen years old, would have pushed him straight over the edge. Now, it did nothing more than earn her a gentle shove in return.

A few minutes of banter and some silly kisses later, a beat of silence stretched comfortably between them, chilly yet peaceful. One hand wrapped around her cup of cocoa and the other resting atop Adrien's, Marinette sighed, her lips curling upwards into a smile of pure content. She brushed the tips of her fingers along his knuckles, mapping a pattern on his hand that she'd grown to know by heart. She knew every line on his palm, every bump and curve of his hand, memorized from hours spent holding it within her own.

From her delicate movements, Chat took her hand and squeezed it within his, their fingers entwined together in a perfect fit—as if their hands had been crafted specifically for one another.

Knowing that almost all Ladybugs and Chat Noirs eventually fell in love, Marinette was positive they were.

So cute, She thought as her gaze met that of her boyfriend's, whose eyes shone brightly from the twinkling lights of the Eiffel Tower. His hair—so much longer now—swayed in the breeze, and his smile was so content, so real that it took all of Marinette's self control not to kiss him senseless right then and there.

Well, maybe cute was an understatement.

Handsome? Eh, still didn't seem like a title worthy of her partner.

"Hot as fuck" fits pretty well, She mused with a laugh.

But she'd never say that out loud.

...Okay, maybe not too often. She did love how excitedly happy he got over her compliments, so she might just let it slip sometime.

"Stop that," She said after a moment, watching as his focus turned to her. His pupils went from thin slits to black orbs, caught off-guard by her statement.

Adrien raised a brow, confused yet unable to stop himself from smiling. "Stop what?"

Marinette grinned. "Being so cute."

"Ah," Her partner laughed, "no can do. I'm going to be cute, always, and I will never stop." His finger booped her nose. "And you won't ever stop being cute, either."

"Flatterer."

How could he make her blush so easily?

"Just telling the truth, Mari."

The air might've been cold, but the atmosphere between them was nothing but warm, and not only from the sipping of cocoa. The feel of her hand encased so lovingly by Adrien's made the icy breeze slip right from Marinette's mind. There was no use worrying about the weather when her favorite person was by her side.

Nothing could compare to the little moments she and her amazing (amazing) partner shared.

A wind picked up, which was understandable; being so high up meant that the air was painfully cold.

(For Parisians, at least. Those who lived in countries farther north would laugh in their faces at their definition of "cold.")

On instinct, Marinette scooted closer to the source of heat that was her boyfriend, pressing her body into his side in an attempt to shield herself from the wind's bite. It was futile, of course, and she knew that the bitter cold would nip her anyways, but it was nice enough to soak up a little bit of Chat Noir's warmth.

"We should head back soon," He murmured, nuzzling his nose into her hair. "There's no danger. You know that."

Marinette hummed in response. He was right—there hadn't been any real danger for months.

There was hardly a use for patrolling anymore. They hadn't seen an attack from Hawk Moth in almost two months, and the last had been so stupidly simple to defeat that the pair had been able to capture the akuma and send the victim home within ten minutes. A new record, but not one Marinette was eager to celebrate.

She had a strange feeling that Hawk Moth was up to something, or was brewing some sort of devious plan that would destroy Paris in its entirety, but Adrien had eased her suspicions with a simple, "Maybe he's learned that he'll never win."

The more Marinette considered it, the more she began to think he was right.

Still…

Whatever their enemy was planning… If he was planning anything, she wanted to be prepared.

"Hey," A clawed finger poked her in the side (an incredibly ticklish area), startling her enough to nearly drop her cup of cocoa. At least it had a lid. "What's with the frowny face?"

Marinette immediately flashed her partner a grin, taking a slow sip of her drink before returning the poke. "No frowny face here, chaton. Just thinking."

"Thinking?" Head cocking to the side, one of his black ears twitched in interest. "'Bout what?"

Curiosity killed the cat.

After a moment she simply shook her head, finishing off the remains of her chocolate beverage and standing with a tired smile. It'd been a long day, and they did have school tomorrow. Best to turn in before it got too late (and too cold!) "You really think Hawk