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The Two Of Us

Chapter Text

 

She wished she was Ladybug once again, just to run from her problems a little bit, but she hadn't been in years.

And she missed Chat so, so much.

That was the worst thing that had ever happened to her. Losing Chat.

See, when they had finally defeated Papillon, amongst the chaos, she got separated from Chat. Before she knew it, her transformation wore off, and she was back to being Marinette, Tikki looking at her with sad eyes. She explained that she had to seal the evil forces that Papillon had let lose in the world, and it had to be now. Without much more in a way of explanation, Tikki hugged Marinette one last time with all the love and sorrow that should've crushed them both before she went off to her final task. Marinette never saw her again.

She'd been so raw with pain, it took her almost a day to realize that Chat's kwami would've been gone too.

And she'd never found out who he was.

That had been the worst day of her life: the day she lost Tikki and Chat.

Of course, she'd tried to find him, but every day different people came up claiming to be Chat and Ladybug, but it was never him. Marinette would know him.

The despair she felt now was nothing compared to those horrifying days, but it was nothing short of heartwrenching.

For the second time in the past five years, Marinette's world was falling apart.

She read the letter one more time, feeling as if strips of her heart were being torn up one by one. She crumpled the letter in her hand and dropped it on the cafe table before burying her face in her hands. Buildings could've been toppling over in la Seine, and Marinette wouldn't have noticed at this moment.

The letters were burned behind her eyelids.

'Sorry to report...... your loan application...... Rejected.'

MArinette squeezed her eyes tightly. She knew they were tear-stained, and all she wanted right now was to crash in a bed (that she didn't currently possess) and sleep for days.

You see, at this point, Marinette Dupain-Cheng was completely and utterly broke, and could most certainly not afford both college and living expenses.

Ever since her father had been diagnosed with a pulmonary disease from the smoke of the ovens, the Dupain-Chengs had sold their bakery, and Tom and Sabine had moved to the Nantes for a quiet country-side life, while their daughter remained in Paris, working on her design degree.

They'd felt so terrible about it, but they'd saved all their lives to send Marinette to college, which was all she could ever ask for. Its just that now, without their usual income, Marinette had to figure out by herself how to pay for living expenses. She'd been applying to jobs for weeks, but nothing could fit around her schedule, and now that the next semestre was coming up, she had no way to pay for rooming, and much less feeding herself.

She squeezed her eyes and a tear fell out.

"Marinette?" She heard, and rubbed her eyes hard before looking up, forcing a smile into her lips.

Crap.

Adrien.

"Hey," she greeted, hoping her voice wasn't as broken as she thought it sounded. "How are you doing?"

Adrien, Nino and Alya all attended the same college as her, though in different careers. Alya and Nino had been living together for a couple of months, and they were happy as they could be.

Adrien clearly didn't buy her fake smile, and frowned, concerned.

"Are you okay?" He asked gently, pulling back the chair in front of hers. His concern was almost too heavy for MArinette's weak heart right now. "You look..." he pressed his lips, not finishing his sentence.

"I'm fine," her smile was only a pull of her muscles, and every word was another gram of weight on her soon to break back. "Just stressed, is all."

But Adrien's gaze was too much, and the way his green eyes burrowed into her blue ones was more than enough to break her apart. He reminded her so much of Chat...

Marinette tried in vain to smile at him, but the pull of her lips simply broke her hold on her sanity, and the tears she'd been pushing behind her eyelids began flowing down her face as a sob tore through her throat. Her hands flew to her face once again, and she began crying disconsolately. 

She didn't know how long her body was being torn in two before she felt a comforting hand on her shoulder. Marinette raised her eyes and met Adrien's gaze full of concern and fear, and did her best to reign in her emotions.

"I-I'm sorry." She stuttered, so, so tired. "I'm s-sorry, Adrien."

He caressed her shoulder gently, reassuringly. "Its okay, Marinette, its okay." His voice was a warm breeze.

Marinette drew shuddering breaths until the tears stopped flowing, and Adrien handed her a napkin and she wiped her eyes. He waited quietly for her to be ready to talk.

Marinette drew a deep, stable breath. "I'm sorry," she whispered.

Adrien's hand didn't leave her shoulder.

"There;s nothing to be sorry about." He assured her, and Marinette's heart warmed at his kindness. "Do you want to talk about it?"

Removing his hand, Adrien pressed his back against his chair, looking at her expectantly. She sighed.

"My student loan was rejected." Her voice sounded far, far away from her. "I literally don't have a home. The campus rooms are too expensive and I can already barely pay for school as it is... housing is twice as much as I have in my bank account."

How pathetic she must've sounded to the boy with more money than god, but it didn't matter. If he pitied her, Adrien did not show it. He looked at her compassionately, but without superiority, the way a friend does when he would change the world for you.

"And you have no options?" he prompted.

MArinette sighed and rubbed her eyes. "I checked online. Living arrangements is cheaper only for married couples and foreign exchange students. The rest of us are screwed."

Adrien blinked. "How so?"

"Well, they're elegible for some sort of financial aid. But since I'm neither of those things, I'm, for the lack of a better word, and excuse my french, fucked."

Marinette sighed deeply, hoping against hope that from the mind of her friend, a solution would be born.

She watched his mind turn over ideas one after the other, trying to figure out how to help her, bless him.

After a few seconds, Adrien seemed to come up with a solution. From the look on his face, he still wasn't convinced about it.

"What if I married you?" he asked lightly, as if the question in itself didn't hold the weight of Marinette's life on its letters.

Mari did the only thing she could.

She laughed.

She looked at Adrien, and realized his face was perfectly --and terrifyingly-- serious.

Her laughter died.

"I'm not joking." He added. Marinette stared.

"You must be."

"This would solve your problems right?"

"I mean, yes, but I could never ask that of you. You don't need it, and its just... such a big thing. I can't ask you to do that."

Adrien smiled disarmingly. "You're not." He said. "Mari, we've been friends since we were fifteen, and not once have I been able to do anything for you. I'm sure  you're not going to let me loan you some money, so the least I can do is this."

"Adrien, this is not something small. You can't just wake up one day and marry someone." Marinette pressed.

"Why not? I'm sure I can get a lawyer to do the paperwork for us. As soon as we're done with college we can annul the marriage and we'll both go our separate ways."

Marinette bit her lip. If only his offer wasn't so tempting.

Adrien reached over the table and put a hand gently on hers.

"Marinette," he spoke softly and encouragingly, and Mari remembered how much she used to like him when they were younger. "The Agreste in me could never forgive himself if you were kept from the fashion world for such a technisism." He smiled.

Marinette's breath had left her lungs. For the first time since the conversations started, she dared to hope.

"You wouldn't be able to go out on dates."

"I don't date much, anyways."

"Your dad would blow a fuse."

He grinned. "That's sort of a win for me."

"Adrien, this isn't a game." She pressed. ADrien sobered up, but his eyes were bright.

"I know its not. But I'm willing to do this."

"Why?"

Adrien smiled gently at Marinette, and for a moment she was back to being that dumbstruck 15 year old.

"Because you're my friend." He said simply. "And I love you."

Marinette closed her eyes, and felt tears well up in her eyes, from a much different sentiment this time.

"Adrien, I love you too, but--"

Adrien raised his hand and cut her off.

"Then there's nothing left to discuss." He looked at her meaningfully and squeezed her hand. "Let me do this for you."

Marinette felt a tear escape her eye, and smiled at Adrien. He smiled back.

"So, Marinette Dupain Cheng," he said softly, and not without humour. "Will you marry me?"

MArinette felt her smile break through her tears. 

"Yes."

Chapter Text

"We're getting married." Adrien blurted without any concern for weak hearts.

Alya's jaw dropped open, while Nino spilled his coffee over the counter of his kitchen and yelped in surprise.

"You're what?

Alya's accusing glare was enough to make Adrien blush. He cleared his throat meaningfully, clearly expecting Marinette to take it from there.

Coward.

Marinette bit her lip and smiled nervously.

"My loan was rejected." She squeaked. Frankly, she had been far more terrified of telling Alya than she had been about telling her parents. They, she knew, would understand. Alya though...

Okay, to be perfectly honest, it wasn't that Alya wouldn't understand. It was just that... Marinette could sense an imminent freak out, peppered with questions, demands and no less than five different degrees of threats towards Adrien.

"Didn't peg you for one that would marry for money," Nino joked. On cue, all three others glared at him.

"That's not what's happening here." Adrien defended crossly. Nino poured a new cup of coffee before joining his friends in the living room. Adrien looked at Alya, as if she were the one with the power in the room. "Married couples can apply for financial aid. Marinette refuses to take a loan, so this is the compromise we came with."

Alya looked at Adrien, searchingly.

"And you're sure about this?" She prodded. Marinette could tell that she was making Adrien nervous.

"Yes."

"You know this means no dating other girls."

"Yes."

"No sleeping with them either."

Adrien blushed, just a tint. "I know." Alya still held his gaze calculatingly. "Christ I can spend a year without sex, you know?"

Alya raised her naturally thin eyebrow, written with a thousand comments and a millon responses that could only embarrass Marinette, but thankfully remained quiet. Now, the gaze shifted towards her.

"You."

Marinette nodded. "Got it. No dating. No sex." She echoed, but Alya did not change that inscrutable face. It was making Mari uncomfortable.

Luckily, there was a buffer named Nino.

"What about your dad?" Nino asked Adrien, and Marinette saw him flinch. She grimaced. She knew that hadn't gone as smoothly.

"I talked to him." Adrien responded. "In the end, he's on board... but its not going to be pretty, and I'm not gonna hear the end of it for some time."

Not for the first time, Marinette felt guilty about this. She parted her lips to offer him an out, once again.

"Ad--" Adrien cut her off.

"I'm not backing out." He said, a tint of fire in his voice. "I'm seeing this through." He relaxed a little. "Besides, after telling my father, the rest is gonna be cakewalk."

Marinette couldn't help feeling a hint of relief every time he said that, and only gave him a relieved look. Adrien corresponded with a small smile.

"Ahem." Alya cleared her throat. "Back to the discussion."

Adrien leaned back on his chair. "There's nothing much to say about it. Marinette knows my father's conditions already. We're going to the judge of peace this afternoon and we were hoping that you guys would be our witnesses."

Alya said nothing. Nino smiled at his friends.

"Getting married. How adult of you." He quipped. "Where are you going to live?"

Marinette spoke. "I found a small place close to the uni. Its nothing like Adrien's used to, but he says he doesn't mind."

Nino took a sip from his mug. "What about paparazzi?"

Marinette tensed. She'd been avoiding thinking about that. "That's part of the deal with M. Agreste."

All four of them stayed silent for a minute. Nino finished his mug and placed it on the table with a smile.

"Alright! Lets get you two ready."

"Ready?" Adrien and Marinette asked in unison. Alya smiled for the first time in the conversation, and it was nothing short of mischievous.

"You don't think we're letting you get married in those clothes, are you?"

Not for the first time, Adrien and Marinette felt fear of their friends.


 

This is what happened in the meeting with M. Agreste.

Gabriel had made an amazing recovery from being Hawkmoth, though he never realized that it was his own son that brought him back. Adrien never told him, if only for his father to save face. He had, however, drastically changed his attitude at his only son, which frankly meant that before he was 18 Adrien was allowed to go to parties. That was progress, Adrien guessed.

ADrien knocked the door to his father's office softly, doing his best to steel his resolve. Despite the bravado he'd shown Marinette, he was very, very nervous about this meeting, and there was every chance it would go sideways.

He'd made a promise and now he had to stick to it. There was no other way.

"Come in," Gabriel called from the other side. Adrien took a deep breath and opened the door wit as much confidence as he could. Gabriel looked up from his work, the lines of his face less pronounced than usual. "Son."

Adrien allowed himself to hope. Gabriel only called him 'Son' when he was in a good mood.

"Father, I have some news." He announced. Right. News. Not permission. Adrien was a grown man, here to inform his father of his grown man  decisions.  He struck his chest forwarxd in an empty gesture of confidence.

"I'm listening, Adrien." His father beckoned. He could do this. He could do this. He was Chat freaking Noir.

Adrien balled his fists. "I'm marrying Marinette Dupain=Cheng." He spout, and all his courage was in those words. He was now left standing on a puffed chest made of hot air and a 15 year old boy's fear of his dad.

Gabriel blinked slowly and unassertively at his son,  clearly giving him a moment to claim it was a bad joke. Adrien's balled fists remained at his sides.

Five seconds of his father's unending silence were enough to break the pressure in Adrien's back. He held on to the strings of his thoughts wildly and nervously, ready to launch into an explanation.

"She needs financial aid. She can get it if I marry her. Its completely platonic." Adrien reasoned. 

Gabriel's expression did not change. He was completely and utterly unimpressed, and Adrien knew that that disinterest translated into the equivalent of sweeping the subject under a rock. Gabrie continued writing whatever he was working on.

"Nonsense. If you truly want to help her I can arrange a bank loan."

"She applied and was rejected." Adrien pressed.

Gabriel met his son's gaze. "Then we'll foot the bill."

ADrien's eyes were burning. "She won't allow it."

"She hardly seems to be in a position to argue."

"Father," Adrien pleaded. "This is something  I have to do."

Gabriel glared. "Marry a commoner."

Adrien's cheeks flushed. "She's won several of your contests already." He quipped back, but before his father could continue his dismissal, Adrien melted into the only role he knew would work. "Mari's from a baker's family. She is the distilled representation of the common folk." His tongue burned at the words.

"You're hardly making a case."

Adrien shook his head. "No, I mean the press is going to love this." 

Gabriel hesitated for a second. Adrien smirked. This was his opening.

"Imagine: a wedding is just what we need to fall into the spotlight again." His teeth ached at the words. "More than that, eccentricism. Nobody knows this girl. She could be anyone! I didn't pick her from a pool of candidates, and that just adds to the intrigue. It makes it seem like marrying a model is something in the realm of possibility for common people."

The words were disgusting but Gabriel was thinking. Adrien pressed.

"No preambles. No fireworks.  We simply appear in the spotlight one day. People talk about it for months." Adrien's S's limped when he was excited. "Marinette is a force. They'll adore her. We stay together for a year and then part ways. They chalk it down to young romance, make stories about it, and ride it down for at least two years."

Gabriel stared at his son for several minutes.

"What is the catch?" He finally asked. Adrien furrowed his brow.

"What catch?"

Gabriel set his pen down on the desk and laced his fingers together in front of his face.

"Adrien, do not take me for a fool." Gabriel replied, bored. "If you do not think I would see something seriously wrong with this behaviour of yours, then you underestimate me."

Adrien pressed his lips and sighed. He'd used his business manoeuvre, now... let's try to spice it up a bit with empathy.

He could almost hear the voice of Plagg snorting in his head, and felt a pang of nostalgia.

"I want to help my friend." Adrien said, rather pathetically, might he add. "This is the only way I can think of."

Gabriel stared at Adrien for a full two minutes, 32 seconds, before replying.

"You're almost 21." He stated. Adrien stared blankly. Gabriel disregarded him. "This sounds like a terrible idea, to be honest."

Adrien's heart sank to the bottom of the deepest well.

"I cannot deny the psychological impact and the novelty of your marriage to a commoner would create." Gabriel rested his back against the chair. "However, a failed marriage is not becoming of the future of the company."

"Father--"

Gabriel raised a hand, palm forward.

"I appreciate your business attitude, but you are thinking short term. On the long run, it can only be hurtful for you."

Adrien pressed his lips together. He had to do something.

"Ill go back to modeling." He blurted out. Gabriel eyed him curiously. He continued. "Marinette is a designer. We can sell the story that she got me back into modeling."

Adrien bit his lip. This was it. His only leverage.

See, after the Hawkmoth incident, Gabriel had been in a very delicate state. His health had been compromised, and Adrien had been there for his father in the way family should always be there for one another.

It would be safe to say that Gabriel's heart thawed in the slightest, and when Adrien begged to be let out of his modeling contracts, after much deliberation and discussions, Gabriel had acquiesced, on the grounds of his education as future CEO being more important.

For Adrien to, at this point in his life, bargain with such a valuable chip? Well, let's just say that M. Agreste's curiosity was rather piqued.

There were several minutes of silence. At this point, Adrien was convinced that this entire conversation had just been a long silence interrupted by brief dialogues and intense staring.

Gabriel twirled in his chair to look out the window.

"We will draw a contract." He informed Adrien. The boy's breath hitched in his throat. "Two of them. One for you, one for her. Details of what this marriage will entail."

He couldn't help it. Adrien's jaw dropped.

"You will go back to modeling. Nathalie will work a schedule around your classes. Your grades cannot drop." He emphasized, still looking away from his son. "Adrien, I want this to be perfect. You will be a model husband and student. We will sell a story about eloping after a secret relationship. You will both appear in public and grant interviews graciously about how wonderful your life is."

Gabriel continued. "She will sign a Prenuptial Agreement, of course. The marriage will be dissolved with an amicable cover up, if possible, and if not, she will take the blame. I want her working at the company to save image and keep an eye on you both." Gabriel twirled around one more time, looking at his son seriously. "Adrien, this is your image we're working on, here. This is the first big choice I'm allowing you to make as heir to the company. If this goes sideways..." he let the words linger.

Adrien's heart had completely stopped. His mouth was dry. His eyes wouldn't bother blinking. 

"Yes, father." He replied, finally.

Gabriel looked down at his paperwork again.

"You will both meet with an image coach. Nathalie will arrange the schedule." Gabriel said, picking up his pen. "That is all."

Still in a daze, Adrien nodded and turned around to walk out of the room.

"Adrien?" Gabriel called one more time. 

"Yes, father?"

"Invite her to dinner at home tonight. We will discuss the details."

"Yes, father."


 

It was after one in the afternoon when Marinette was done signing the contracts.

An old, sharp-nosed lawyer looked down upon her as she read the final letters and signed her name.

Prenuptial agreement. Non disclosure agreement. Job contract. 

There was so much paper, Marinette felt she would drown under it, but Adrien was sitting next to her, nodding encouragingly and listening carefully as the stipulations were read to her.

She held her hands under the table, trying to stop them from shaking.

It had been hard enough to convince her parents to let her do this. Its not that she was asking permission, cause what 20 year old needs to ask their parents permission, anyways?

No, it wasn't their permission. It was their blessing.

Tom had been completely against the idea. He insisted on getting a new job to gather the necessary money, but even through the phone, Marinette could hear her mother's tired, resigned voice tell him that it was impossible to do that.

In the end, they had agreed. Unhappily, but they had.

Sharp-nose slammed his hands on the table, pulling the papers from in front of Marinette and checking that everything was in order. Without a word, he nodded, and soon was out of his seat muttering a farewell to Adrien.

It hit Marinette that this was the last time they'd be sitting together alone as just Adrien and Marinette, friends. In an hour, they'd go to the judge of peace, and she'd become Marinette Agreste.

Ashes of the butterflies that had once lived in her stomach stirred at the idea. 

Soon they would be husband and wife, and eventually, ex-husband and ex-wife.

Marinette sighed and clenched her fists on her lap. A second later, she felt a warm pressure in her hand. 

Adrien had reached for her and smiled encouragingly. Marinette smiled back, trying to hide her nervousness as much as he was.

After all, his hand was the one shaking.

They sat together in silence, Marinette and her future husband, just holding hands. Before long, Adrien's hand relaxed, and Marinette felt her fear diminish. It was as if their holding each other was enough to bring them peace.

Marinette stole a glance from Adrien, and felt the edges of a smile show.

How silly could she be? It would be okay. Okay?

After all, she had been Ladybug. She'd survive anything.

And she certainly wasn't alone this time.

She squeezed Adrien's hand appreciatively, and he squeezed her back.

The warmth of each other's sweaty, nervous palms reminded them both how scared and how together they were.

And that would be enough to get them through this.

Chapter Text

Marinette could've been standing in front of a crowd of thousands of people to sing a song she didn't know, and she still wouldn't have been as nervous as she was now.

Meaning, of course, this precise moment. Here. In front of the judge of peace.

In a cute but simple white cocktail dress that Alya picked out for her.

With Adrien waiting for her. In a suit.

Oh boy.

If she hadn't been asthmatic until now, she was about to become.

The only thing that kept her on her dragging feet was Alya's arm intertwined with hers as they walked towards the stand in a mockery of a wedding. 

"Stop shaking!" Alya hissed at her.

Oh, so she was shaking.

Hadn't noticed.

Much too soon, they were at the --for the sake of prose, lets call it-- altar. Adrien stood a good foot over her, which now seemed like a lightyear away, as if he were towering over her from next to the sun. He looked at her gently, and without the evidence of fear that was so clear in her right now. 

Marinette gulped as Alya handed her over to Adrien.  As his hand held hers, she felt the cold, clammy sweat that he'd been so expertly hiding.

He was just as nervous as she was.

Marinette giggled dumbly. The minister gave her a sharp look, but it only made her laugh a little more.

God, she was a mess.

Another sound joined in her nervous giggling, right from where Adrien was standing. She looked at him, and his head was a little hunched over, as if trying to hide his face, and he was chuckling, and it was exactly the same shade of petrified as hers.

Soon, they were a cacophony of awkwardness and fear and sweaty palms and cold feet and a small hearth of trust that had begun burning from the same flame inside both of them.

As the laughter died in both their lips, their gazes locked in comprehension, and there was an unspoken message of shared panic enveloped in willingness, and the comforting feeling that they were together in this.

The minister cleared his throat.

"Can we please get on with this?" He asked.

With a sheepish and clumsy apology, they both nodded.


Alya's phone was hidden inside the bouquet.

If you doubted for a single second that Ladyblogger extraordinaire, Alya Cesaire, was not going to capture the moment she had been waiting for since she was fifteen, you were gravely mistaken.

She held her bouquet firmly, watching as her wonderful friend in her pretty white dress married the dashing, marvellous young man in a sharp suit.

It was for the loan, they said, but Alya knew the truth.

This was written like one of her Ladybug fanfics.


The hotdogs that they had passed on the way to the courthouse had looked delicious.

Nino's head was occupied with fantasies about slamming one of those as soon as this was over.


Adrien prayed that his palms weren't as sweaty as he had felt them to be.

It wasn't that he was having seconds thoughts about getting married to Marinette. He was just...

Okay, fine, he was having second thoughts.

He was a twenty year old boy with no previous girlfriend, getting married to one of the first friends he'd ever had, and just--

He hadn't wanted to admit it, but Marinette had been right. This was a huge deal. And it was not about the dating, or the sex, or anything like that, cause he had meant it when he'd said that he wasn't a dater and that sex really wasn't a driving force for him.

He was about to throw himself and Marinette to the sharks, and he was very unsure that they'd both come out unscathed.

It definitely wasn't that he didn't trust Marinette... But he knew how tabloids were, and he knew how gossip reporters could be. He was jumping into a shark infested tank without a second thought for a friend.

For a friend.

The word echoed and bounced in his head.

Friend.

He was doing this to help one of his best friends. 

See, Adrien's only friend at first was Nino. Alya and Marinette were slowly incorporated into his group, mostly because he could tell Nino had a teeny crush on her, and the four of them started hanging out.

First, Nino and Marinette became closer. They had a lot of backstory that neither Adrien or Alya con reach into, back to the time before they'd arrived to school. They told stories of their past and finished each other's tales the way you could only do when you'd known someone for so long. In time, Adrien started seeing Nino pick up phonecalls from Marinette, and making lunch plans every once in a while, or watching the same shows.

Meanwhile, as the excluded pair, Adrien and Alya found themselves talking a little more. They found common ground in filmography, of all things, as Alya had turned out to be a huge independent film fan. Before he'd known it, Adrien had begun regularly skype calling Alya to tell her about photoshoots and they'd meet up every few weeks to watch a new film together.

Of course, the dynamic changed again when Alya was the one with the actual guts to kiss Nino during a party, and they'd both ended up confessing their feelings. Right after that, there was a lot more radio silence from both friends, and, happy as he was for them, Adrien could not help but feel a pang of regret for losing them both.

This all happened by the time they turned 17.

By this time, Marinette had changed her attitude towards Adrien completely. She began speaking in full sentences and seemed much less... awkward, around him.

Sometimes she'd bring pastries to school to share them amongst themselves. Other times, when Nino and Alya disappeared to do god knows what, Marinette would even crack jokes about things, until she slowly became more comfortable with Adrien.

He, in turn, found in Marinette an endless source of wisdom and advice. He texted her regularly, complaining about his day, or his fencing lessons, and she'd always cheer him up, usually with pictures of cats. Obviously, she had no idea why this hit the spot so hard.

There was a quiet wisdom to her, he'd noticed. But there was also bravery and fire. He'd seen her stand up to injustice over and over again, and pride had bloomed in his chest repeatedly. Before either of them knew it, they were thick as thieves. 

Even after Marinette started dating Nathanael this did not change.

And Adrien was so, so thankful for that.

When Marinette broke up with Nathanael last year, she had been completely heartbroken, and Adrien, Nino and Alya had spent three days camping at the Dupain-Cheng home, cheering her up, playing videogames, and stuffing themselves silly with leftover pastries.

Adrien squeezed Marinette's hands with newfound confidence.

Yes, he was sure.

He'd walk through hell and back for her. 

"....lawfully wedded wife?" He heard the minister's voice asked.

With a confident smile and a doubtless heart, Adrien nodded.

"I do."


"I do."

Marinette's blood was an odd intercalation of freezing and boiling. Panic and exhilaration danced a tango in her heart.

She looked at Adrien, smiling as if he knew the world would bend for him, and found in his eyes an anchor to reality. She blew away the remains of the butterflies that had lived in her belly and stirred at the sight of this very boy that stood in the altar in front of her, and searched deep inside her heart for a feeling.

Love.

It wasn't the love of her fifteen year old self. How silly she had been! She'd thought she knew what it was, how it burned.

Nathanael showed her how wrong she had been,

A pang of pain crashed its way into her heart at the thought of Nathanael.

No, this wasn't the time for that.

This was a time for Adrien.

She loved Adrien in the purest form. It was far more than romantic love, or even familiar love. It was the same love she felt for Alya and Nino. A love so complete that it encompassed every crevice of her being.

He squeezed her hands, as if to tell her that he knew her feelings and he felt them too, and Marinette's fear flickered away like a fire blown from a candle.

"....lawfully wedded husband?"

Marinette smiled too.

"I do."

These words anchored her back to the reality in front of her, and the boy marrying her just so that she could accomplish her dream. The following year or two were not going to be easy by any means, but she had the best supporting team she could ever ask for, and they were all on her side.

"You may now kiss the bride."

-Stop-

Okay.

She'd forgotten about this part.

Memories of her College self sparkled, and she remembered the time they were about to kiss for the movie they were filming, and all she felt was a pang of melancholy for the fire that she had felt back then.

Adrien leaned closer, and she could not help but feel excitement quickening in her. All the time she had wondered what it would be to kiss this boy, and now it was about to happen.

Adrien pressed his lips against her and she felt--

--nothing.

How underwhelming.

Don't get her wrong. It was a good kiss. Adrien was definitely a good peck-on-the-lips kinda guy, and his lips were soft and his breath smelled like mint.

But there was nothing behind that kiss. There was only skin on skin contact. No desire, nor romantic love. Holding his hand stirred warmer feelings on her belly than this empty kiss had.

And this was quite alright by her.


Adrien leaned back and opened his eyes, looking at the woman he had just married.

It had been an odd feeling, kissing a friend, and it had felt different than kissing Bridgette, but nothing to ignite in him what those foreign movies he had seen with Alya talked about.

Without another word from the minister, Adrien smiled and threw his arm around his new wife's shoulder, hugging her close to his body in a friendly gesture. In return, Marinette wrapped her arm around his waist comfortably, and even though they'd just signed away their lives, nothing had changed between them.

This had not been a mistake.

"Guys." Nino's voice cut through the comfortable silence.

Marinette and Adrien turned to look at him, his tuxedo-printed t-shirt (which Alya had rolled her eyes at, but Marinette had complimented) ironed, and looked at the newlywed couple with haunted eyes.

"Can we please go eat?"

Adrien grinned and directed the way forward, stopping by the door to let Marinette pass.

"After you, Marinette Agreste." He joked. Marinette rolled her eyes

"Actually, I think I prefer Adrien Dupain-Cheng."

Adrien laughed. "As if you could convince my father of that."

Marinette laughed too. "And if I do?"

Adrien shrugged. "I'll marry you again."

Both of them laughed. Nino led the way to that hotdog stand he'd been thinking about the entire day.

Alya groaned in frustration.

Why couldn't they let her have nice things?

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

When Marinette passed through the threshold of their new home, she could hardly believe her eyes.

The apartment she had chosen was a quaint, two bedroom apartment with a master bedroom with a bathroom and a small, nice, open kitchen that connected to the living room.

That was exactly as nice as Marinette wanted. Not too big, not too fancy.

She had severly underestimated the magic of filling your house with junk.

See, Marinette had pictured Adrien in the master bedroom, and she in the other one. The stove was the one that came with the house, and she'd scrape enough money for a decent fridge and microwave. She had planned for some nice, though cheap, curtains for the living room, and, if she was very lucky, a small TV.

What she got, however, was nothing like it.

The kitchen was beautiful. The oven was electric and the refrigerator had a freezer included, which made ice. They had a beautiful set of china (that was probably worth her entire savings, to be honest) and heavy curtains in the living room and both bedrooms.

The small bedroom, that she had thought to take for herself, was made into an adorable studio, where her mannequin --one of her only possessions-- and a new sewing machine were settled quite nicely.

The master bedroom at the end of the hall was beautiful. It had a king-sized bed covered in a duvet that Marinette could almost swear was made of some sort of feathers. The bathroom had had everything changed. New tiles, new toilet and sink, and an actual very nice shower head connected to what she could bet was a heater.

Now, the living room had wonderful, blackout curtains and a huge, state of the art, flatscreen 72 inch TV hooked up to several gaming systems.

Mostly, Marinette was surprised that her jaw hadn't hit the floor.

Adrien walked through the door and dropped his duffel bag on the floor with a satisfied thump.

"We really have to thank Nathalie." He said, and Marinette could hear the smirk on his face.

"Adrien, are you nuts?" She demanded. "I can't afford this! The point of this marriage was that I could afford necessities! I can certainly not pay for a surround sound system!"

Adrien put a calm arm around her shoulder and pressed her closer to his side. 

"You don't have to worry. This is all on me."

"Adrien, I can't let you pay for everything." She groaned. Adrien thought for a few seconds.

"This is all junk that came from my room --well, the bed is new. And the kitchen crap. And the bathroom." He shrugged. "The rest is just my dad trying to buy out my affection." 

Marinette groaned once more. "I should've guessed that your dad wasn't going to let you live in poverty."

Adrien laughed a little. "He loves me through his wallet, Mari. What can I say? Now come on! This place is amazing. Tell me we're not going to have an amazing two years here!"

Marinette looked to her side, at Adrien smiling excitedly at her, and she couldn't help but smile back. She supposed she could save some money and eventually start paying all of this off --half of it, at least. 

Mostly it was nice knowing that she didn't have to make the rent month to month.

Adrien closed the door behind them, and she heard the first click she'd be hearing for the next two years. She sighed, content. This wouldn't be so terrible after all.


Adrien kicked his bag right next to the bedroom door and flung himself into the giant bed Nathalie had procured for them.

Unfortunately, he didn't bounce, but that wasn't a problem.

This was the most comfortable bed he had ever lied in.

"Oh, god." He groaned. "Mari, you have got to try this." He raised his head and saw Marinette standing awkwardly by the door, still holding her bag in her hands. "Is something wrong?"

Marinette looked mildly embarassed, and more than a little uncomfortable, but she huffed in what tried to seem exasperation.

"My plan was to have the other room turn into a bedroom for me." She explained. Adrien still didn't see the problem. "But they turned it into a studio."

"Yes?"

Marinette stared blankly at him.

"There's only one bed."

Adrien blinked.

Marinette sighed.

"I'll sleep on the couch." She said bluntly and turned around, her bag still in her hands. Adrien shot up from the bed.

"Wait." He called, and Marinette turned around. "Why are you going to sleep on the couch? This bed is huge."

Marinette eyed him curiously. "You don't mind?"

Adrien shrugged. "Why would I? I'm pretty sure you can lie sprawled and still wouldn't occupy half the bed." He grinned a little. "You're tiny."

Marinette laughed a little, losing her edge. "I don't want to make you uncomfortable, though. It is your house after all."

Adrien stood from the bed and walked towards Marinette. "First of all, its our house." He corrected gently. "And second, I really don't mind. Hell, I love the company."

Marinette smiled a little. Adrien was struck by a thought.

"Wait, do you mind? Oh god, I should've asked that first! I'm sorry! If you mind I'll take the couch. I should've thought that you weren't comfortable sharing a bed, I mean, just because I'm weird doesn't mean that--"

Marinette caught his lips between her fingers. A flash of Ladybug went by Adrien's mind like lightning, and was gone just as quickly.

"I don't mind, Adrien. I just..." she sighed and let go of his lips. "I feel really self conscious about the life you gave up to help me."

It struck Adrien how much he adored this tiny, brave, compassionate girl who always thought of others first. She always made him smile.

"Marinette, I gave up an empty mansion and the least amount of privacy a man can have, for a beautiful, cozy apartment that I can share with my best friend." He said simply, and was rewarded with a look of pure gratitude and love from Marinette.

"Best friend?" Her eye twinkled a little. Adrien laughed.

"Don't tell Nino." He said. "I think... ever since he got with Alya, I suppose we just aren't as close as before."

Marinette looked to the floor with a hint of melancholy. "Yeah, I know the feeling."

"I do have to warn you, though." He said somberly. Marinette looked hesitant at him.

"I sleeptalk."

Marinette stared blankly.

"My feet get cold when I sleep." She replied.

"Sometimes I snore." Adrien confessed.

"I have a stuffed ladybug."

"Me too." Adrien grinned, and Marinette laughed.

And just as her laughter echoed through their small apartment, so it echoed in his heart, and he felt just a little less lonely than before.


"Mari." Adrien called.

"Yes?" She replied, turning another page from her magazine. She sat comfortably in their couch, curtains open, enjoying the beautiful daylight, not even out of her wedding clothes.

Adrien popped out of their (oh god, their) room, tie off and top buttons of his shirt undone.

"I'm starving."

She blinked a couple of times.

"We had lunch."

"I have a fast metabolism."

She blinked again.

"I haven't gone to the supermarket." She replied, and suddenly Adrien's face lit up completely. "What?"

"Let's go!"

"What? Where?" Marinette asked, slightly bewildered.

"To the supermarket!" Adrien grinned.

Marinette stared at him, puzzled. "Do you... need... something.. from there?"

"No, but you said we had to go." He replied. "So let's go!"

"Adrien, its just the supermarket. No need to get all excited."

Adrien's smile turned a little bashful as he scratched the back of his head. "Sorry," he said. "I've just never gone grocery shopping."

Not for the first time since their wedding that afternoon, Marinette stared blankly at her husband. She closed her magazine and dropped it on the coffee table before standing up.

"What are we waiting for, then?"


The supermarket was a world of wonders for Adrien.

He had no idea there were so many brands of pasta, or so many different shapes of cookies.

I mean, his whole life he was always fed the best of the best, imported from who-knows-where and cooked with who-knows-what. Just this, walking around with a friend, and being able to see all the varieties --all the options-- was amazing to him.

Marinette walked around mechanically, picking up foods that she knew were best, and occasionally comparing prices. She'd show Adrien the options and asked him what he liked, so that they could make decisions together.

How dumb it was, to be so excited about something so silly, right?

"What do you like for breakfast?" Marinette asked, standing next to the milk and juice fridge. Adrien couldn't help but realize that she looked awfully pretty in her wedding dress, right next to the cheap, artificial lights of the supermarket.

"Usually I eat bran cereal."

Marinette made a face.

"Okay, but what do you want."

Adrien drew a blank. This was probably the first time he'd been asked that question.

Marinette's eyes softened, as if she realized his conundrum, and smiled.

"Lets do something. We'll buy a bunch of little cereal boxes and we'll see which ones we like. Sound good?"

Adrien nodded, upbeat. "Perfect."


The walk home was comfortable. The gentle spring air danced in Marinette's loose hair as she and Adrien carried their bags home. Adrien, of course, had insisted that he could take all the bags, and Marinette had let him try --if only to laugh at him.

Just as she had predicted. He walked three steps and lost his balance, catching himself at the last second. Marinette had burst into laughter then and there, a laugh so contagious it had Adrien chuckling as well in no time. Mockingly begrudging, Adrien handed Marinette several bags (but only the lighter ones).

"So, how did you feel about your first grocery shopping trip?" Marinette asked, not without a hint of friendly mockery.

Adrien sighed, contented. "It was awesome."

She smiled and shook her head. "I will never understand how you find this exciting."

"I think its about options." He said, quite suddenly. He surprised himself with his own honestly. "I'm used to being told how to look and what to eat and what to say. I don't know, it felt nice having so many options about everything."

Marinette's mockery died in her lips immediately. "Sorry."

Adrien looked at her, sideways. "Don't apologize." He said gently. "We're both new at this." He laughed a little. "I can't wait to see how you get when we have to go to designer parties."

Marinette laughed. She would always laugh when she was with Adrien.

"Trust me, I'll be a nightmare."

The looked at each other sideways, content, and felt the safety of their little bubble next to each other.


Marinette had thought that she wouldn't be able to sleep that night.

She lay in bed, about two feet from Adrien (this really was a huge bed) and stared at the white ceiling of their room, and all she could think about was the past.

Specifically, her Ladybug past.

She thought about Tikki, and how she would've kept her hidden from Adrien while living together. Or maybe she would've told him already. Maybe she would've told them all, already.

After she'd stopped being Ladybug it just... hurt. It hurt so much to think about it. To remember that that was not who she was anymore.

It hurt so much that she had locked it in a box inside her heart to never be open again. The words would never cross her lips, because it didn't matter anymore.

She wasn't Ladybug anymore, and the world didn't stop spinning for her.

Saying it out loud, even after these years, would break her heart, so she hadn't.

She wasn't Ladybug anymore, and she had to keep on living.

As she closed her eyes, she could hear a voice in her head, clear as a bell, as if he were standing right next to her.

Married, my Lady? Never thought you would want that.

Its not about what I wanted, Chat, its about what I needed.

She could feel his cheshire grin, even with her eyes closed.

All you need is me, my Lady, and I will never leave you alone.

The words rang clear in her mind. Clear as the tear that slipped from her eye and disappeared into the overly comfortable pillow in which she lay. She rubbed her eyes. Why was she thinking about Chat now?

She would've wanted him at her wedding, she realized. She wondered what he would've said at her dress.

She wondered if he still thought about her after all this time.

She closed her eyes one last time, and let the thoughts of Chat drift from her mind, chased away by Adrien's gentle snoring next to her. It was odd, but she felt a sense of safety in this house, and his snores were gentle and low, enough to lull her into relaxation, and soon, sleep.

She still dreamed of black cats, though.

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

This was the first day in Adrien's life in a very long time when he was actually excited to go home.

Going back to the mansion had always been sort of... the norm. He'd never known there was something exciting about going back to the place you live. He'd always felt it was more a chore than anything else, and that everything good happened outside of his house, rather than inside.

But now, oh, now he had something to look forward to.

His friends usually didn't come to his house. He'd wanted to avoid his father from having contact with any of them, especially since what happened with Nino at his fifteenth birthday.

But now his house felt like a home.

It felt like a place to go back to. Someone to go back to.

And it didn't hurt one bit that that person was one of the people he cared most for in this world.

So today there was a spring on his step. He was almost skipping on the way home.

But as he approached to the door of his building, he saw someone at the door.

Upon closer inspection, it was a girl. Pretty, in her twenties, just like him. She had a curious expression in her face, as if she were trying to figure something out.

It took him a whole of 10 seconds to realize that she was holding a baby in one arm and an insane amount of groceries in the other.

His internal gentleman kicking in, Adrien rushed towards her and opened the door with a smile. The girl looked at him with a grateful smile.

"Thanks," she said as she walked in. Adrien followed in tow.

"Hey, do you need some help with those bags? They look heavy." He offered. A look of relief overcame the girl.

"Oh god, really?" She asked. "That's so sweet of you, thank you." She held out the bags for him and Adrien took them from her.

"Its alright, I know firsthand how badly things go when you carry too much." He chuckled. "Long story shot, my wife laughed for a good five minutes before helping me pick everything up."

Adrien stopped short. He blinked twice.

He had called Marinette his wife so casually.

It was... nice.

The thought drew a smile to his face.

The girl smiled. "In her defense, I would've laughed too."

Adrien grinned sheepishly.

"I'm Adrien," he offered as they walked towards the elevators. "I live in 3-C."

"Oh, so that was you." She said. "I saw the movers bring in every gaming console ever."

Adrien grinned sheepishly. "If it makes you feel any better, my wife drags me through the mud every time."

Again that term. Wife.

It was almost as if he wanted to include it in his vocabulary as much as possible.

"That's fine. I wish my boyfriend was home enough to drag me through the mud." She confided. "He's a medical student." She beamed.

"That's awesome!" Adrien cheered, and he meant it. He was befriending his neighbour. "And who's this little buddy here?" He gestured towards the baby with a fist in their mouth.

"This is Gabriel. And I'm Kyra." She smiled and offered a hand. "Oh, right." She laughed as she realized his hands were full of her groceries.

"Hey, my father's name is Gabriel!" Adrien beamed. Kyra smiled.

This new home got better by the day.

The elevator doors opened, and on the other side stood Marinette. She smiled at Adrien, quickly melting into a look of confusion.

"Wait, did you go to the supermarket again?" she asked. Adrien shook his head.

"This is Kyra, our neighbour." He gestured with his chin. "She was having a hard time, so I stepped in."

Kyra looked at Marinette bashfully. "Sorry I took advantage of your husband. It was just too tempting."

Marinette looked taken aback for all of two seconds. Adrien figured it was probably the word "husband," but she quickly gathered her bearings and smiled. "Yeah, he just makes it so easy."

Marinette walked with them to the Kyra's door and helped her get it open. After waiting for an invitation to come in, Adrien and Mari stepped in to see a much less furnished home than their own.

"Thank you guys so much," Kyra smiled gratefully. "Can I offer you something? As a thank you?"

Adrien parted his lips to respond that no, it was okay, but Marinette beat him to the punch.

"We actually have a meeting," she said apologetically. Adrien blinked a couple of times. Marinette looked at him. "Nathalie called. We have an appointment with one of your dad's assistants."

Adrien looked at Kyra and shrugged. "If you ever need anything we're right next door. Don't hesitate to ask."

Kyra beamed at them, and Adrien felt the immediate and wonderful warmth of having made a new friend.

With a friendly goodbye, Kyra saw them off. 

As they waited for the elevator, Marinette peered at Adrien.

"You made a new friend today."

Adrien beamed. "All by myself." He smiled. "I just helped her with her groceries."

Marinette turned to him, a kind look in her eyes. "You really don't realize it, do you?"

"Realize what?"

Marinette sighed and shook her head. "You're so kind, Adrien."

Adrien remained quiet. How could Marinette tell him that he was kind when she was the sweetest, kindest person he had ever met? How could she say that when he had more than once asked himself 'what would Marinette do' to choose the best course of action?

He pushed the thought out of his head.

"Where are we going?" He asked. Marinette grimaced.

"Remember the image coach your dad mentioned?" 

Adrien groaned. "Are you serious?"

"Apparently we need to look more 'couple-like' before class begins next week."

He sighed. "Well, we can't be that bad, can we?"


"You two are pathetic."

"Well, you were wrong." Marinette whispered at Adrien. David, their coach, paced from one end to the room to the other, looking disappointed and more than a little frustrated. He stopped in front of them and put his fists on his waist.

"You are newlyweds." David explained, as if to a child. "You're supposed to barely be able to keep your hands off each other. Where's the intimacy? Where's the passion? I've seen more chemistry in a retirement home!"

The youngsters looked at each other, unsure of how to react. David sighed.

"Okay, okay, we'll try something simple. Kiss her." He gestured at towards Marinette. Adrien blinked a couple of times.

"Excuse me?"

"For the love of god, kid, kiss the girl." David pressed. Adrien turned towards Marinette, scratching the back of his neck the same way he did when he was nervous.

"Do you mind?" He asked. They heard David groan, but ignored him.

Marinette shrugged. "Go ahead."

Marinette closed her eyes and felt Adrien's hands on her shoulders, and then something pressed against her lips, not unpleasantly. After a few seconds, he pulled back, and they both turned to David.

"What is she, your sister?" David scolded. "Can you at least pretend you like her?"

"I do like her!"

"Then act like it!" David pleaded. He took a deep breath and rubbed his temples. "Okay, I'm gonna take a picture of you two, and I dare you to tell me that you are not the most uncomfortable looking pair of humans on earth." There was a camera in his hand.

"That's kind of mean," Marinette pointed out. 

"Kid, what you're doing to me is mean." He sighed. "Listen, let's try something."

He came closer and placed Adrien in front of Marinette. She always thought it was funny how much taller than her he was. Adrien had a curious, amused look on his face, that couldn't help but make Marinette giggled.

"Good, good." David beckoned. "Here's what we're gonna do. Adrien, you're going to take her face gently in your hands and you're barely gonna brush your lips against her." He explained, and then pointed at Marinette. "And you, laugh."

"What?"

"Laugh, Marinette, laugh. I'm sure you know how to do it." David explained, annoyed.

"But--"

"No buts." David cut her off and positioned the camera. "Go, children, before my hair turns white and my skin sags to the floor."

Marinette sighed and turned to look at Adrien. He looked rather embarrassed, but there was a small, shy smile on his face. It was endearing.

"Adrien," David called. "Think about someone you've loved. This about having loved that person for years and this is your first chance to kiss them."

Marinette saw something flicker in Adrien's eyes, as if David had said something that struck home.

"Marinette, think about someone you miss. Someone you really love. Someone who makes you laugh."

At that moment, the image of Chat flooded Marinette's eyes. She wondered what he would look like now, at twenty, and if she would've relented and told him who she was. The thought sent a pang of sadness through her, but she remembered his cheshire grin and constant flirts, and some of the sadness melted into sweet remembrance.

Adrien and Marinette looked at each other, not really seeing the person who was in front of them as much as the person they missed the most. If only they knew.

Adrien gave Marinette a half smile. "Ready, sweets?"

Marinette stared at him blankly. "Did you just call me 'Sweets?'"

Adrien blushed. "David said we should probably give each other nicknames."

Marinette let out a barking laughter. "And you chose sweets?"

Adrien began laughing as well, and it was like their wedding hour. The corner of her eyes were glistening with tears of something that wasn't even that funny.

It just reminded her so much of Chat.

Her eyes were closed and her laughter was booming when she felt the most delicate touch in her cheeks and the lightest, sweetest brush against her lips. Her laughter died and she kissed Adrien back, a smile still clinging to her lips and the sweet taste of mint like bubbles of laughter popping wherever they came into contact.

The bubbles were making their way to her heart and it beat faster.

But it was just because she was laughing, alright?

Her skin was flushed because she was laughing, too.

Adrien pulled back, his skin slightly flushed, too.

Blood still rushing in her ears, Marinette heard a slapping sound in the background, that quickly resolved into clapping. She turned to look at David, a satisfied look on his face and his hands pressed together in front of him.

"Perfect." David breathed. "I'm a genius." He put down the camera.

Adrien and Marinette took a self-conscious step back from one another and shyly looked away.

"This is what you'll do. People need to see you being affectionate to one another. You are going to be in the spotlight and you know it." David explained, and this sobered them up a little. "Hold hands, look at each other with dove eyes, love each other. You're friends. You partner is your best friend and your lover. Show it."

Marinette nodded bashfully.

"As far as I know, you two aren't sleeping together, so you need to make up for that chemistry. Know each other intimately. Emotionally and physically. No barriers between you two. You're married."

Marinette looked at anywhere but Adrien.

"Look at each other with love. Kiss her forehead, his nose, her cheek. Its not just lips. Do it when people are watching and when they're not. Get used to it. Sleep in whatever your comfortable with without worrying about your partner. Say nice things to each other, and look at the other with love. You two decided to walk this path together, and you wouldn't have if you didn't love each other in some degree."

"I'm giving you some homework." David said as he put the camera on his desk. Marinette was rather curious as to how their picture had come out, quite frankly. "Go on a date night. Know each other inside out. Go beyond friends. Know each other's dreams, aspirations, favorite colours, secrets, memories, and anything you can think of."

David flopped on his chair as if he were exhausted and waved dismissively at them. "That's enough for today, but be ready. This thing is about to explode and the eyes of the world will be upon you two, and if Miss Nathalie is anything to go by, its got to be perfect."


Adrien and Marinette walked quietly out of David's office. The sun was setting and the streets were wet from the afternoon of rain that had overcome the skies of Paris.

"That was... something." Adrien said quietly into the empty street.

"It was." Marinette agreed. Because really, what more was there to say? She hadn't been able to help thinking about Chat while in front of Adrien. The image of both boys overlapped on one another by the second, almost fusing.

Don't get her wrong, she had never wanted to kiss Chat. She loved him still, after all these years, and her heart shrank and expanded at the same time when she thought about him.

How could the memory of someone cause as much pain as it brought joy?

But there had been something in Adrien's eyes --in his smile-- that reminded her of Chat Noir, as if Adrien disappeared for a second and was replaced with  her former partner. Her heart had wanted to cling on to him with all her might so she had grabbed his hands holding her face to tether him to her reality. When Adrien pulled back and she opened her eyes, she felt a stab at the lack of that oh so familiar smile that had adorned her husband's lips just a second ago.

Adrien sighed. "David said we should have a date night." He commented and looked at her sideways. "How about tonight?"

Marinette smiled a little bit and shook the pain from her heart. She had lost Chat, but she had Adrien, and she'd be damned if she didn't count her blessings.

"Thai food?"

Adrien made a face. "I am so bad with spicy food."

Marinette rolled her eyes and suppressed a smile. "Okay, then you pick."

Adrien thought for a second. "Chinese?"

She shrugged. "Lead the way."


It wasn't a mystery who Adrien had thought about when he'd kissed Marinette.

The smell of his partner, which used to be sharpened by his feline assets, had buried itself in his nose, and he could never forget it. It was a scent so close to what he had felt when kissing Marinette.

It had ached. Oh boy, had it ached.

He had thought about the one and only person he had loved like that. The girl he had chased for a year before she had disappeared from his life forever. He wondered where she was. Was she happy? Was she hurt? 

Did she think about him at all?

So he had done it. He had kissed Marinette so tenderly because that's the way he would've kissed Ladybug if he had ever had the chance. It would've been tender and loving and completely devoted. 

He had to admit that there was one fact he was hiding from, though, and it was this:

At the last second, before he opened his eyes, the mask on Ladybug's face had melted, and Ladybug had become Marinette. It was as if his heart was trying to get him to let go of that fantasy of finding his partner again after all these years.

But he never would.

And he may never love another person the way he had loved Ladybug.

Yes, he had been a fifteen year old boy, and maybe he knew nothing about love, but he knew that what he had felt back then was real. He had thrown himself into danger more times than he could count for her safety.

And right now he could only pray for her happiness.

"Adrien?" He heard Marinette asked and snapped out of his reverie. She and their waiter stared at him expectantly.

"Oh, err," he smiled sheepishly. "Sorry. I'll have the number 47 please."

The waiter wrote down the order and was no sooner on his way.

Marinette had her hands on her lap, he imagined they were folded nicely, the way she always did. He had always found it endearing.

"So, I suppose we should talk some." Adrien prompted. Marinette laughed nervously and nodded. "Well, what do you want to know?"

Marinette thought for a few seconds. "What's your favorite colour?"

"Red." Adrien blurted, and realized no sooner that it was true. He had never thought about it, but it was. "Yours?"

"Green." Marinette said, a melancholic look in her eyes.

"Really? I would've thought it was pink."

"It used to be," she said wistfully, the look in her eyes intensifying. Adrien chose not to ask. "Now tell me a secret."

Adrien thought for a moment and blurted out the most embarrassing thing he could've thought of.

"I used to be in love with Ladybug." He said, much to his horror. Marinette's eyes widened, and the blue struck Adrien like the colour of the sky. He immediately felt the need to defend himself. "I mean, who wasn't, right? I just... I couldn't believe there was someone so brave out there."

He wanted to say more. Much more. He wanted to open the box where he had stuffed all his feelings for Ladybug and lay them out for Marinette to examine.

Instead, he bit his tongue. He took a sip of water.

Marinette looked to the sides before leaning in over the table.

"For my birthday, Alya gave me Chat Noir lingerie." She confided, a splash of blush in her cheeks.

Adrien turned his head to the side and spit out the water he'd been drinking, falling into a coughing fit. Marinette laughed. Hard. Adrien took a few seconds to gather his bearings and look at his wife with bewildered eyes.

"Are you serious?" He asked. Marinette, a smile still playing in her lips, shrugged.

A smile tugged at the corner of Adrien's lips.

"Okay, this is getting interesting." He grinned. "What's the best dream you've ever had?"

Marinette shrugged. "Easy. I lived in a castle made of ice cream and was surrounded by kittens and puppies."

"You like animals?" He asked.

"Love them." Marinette replied happily. "You?"

"Cats are my favorite." Adrien said. "Would you have a pet?"

Marinette thought for a few seconds. "Actually, yeah." She confessed. "Since I lived in the bakery it wasn't a very good idea, but I think I'd like to have a pet at some point."

"Okay but keep it away from your Chat Noir costume." He teased, grinning. Marinette laughed, blushing a little harder.

This thing about sharing everything was starting to grow on Adrien.

"What has been your best dream, then?"

Adrien shrugged. "More of a memory from when I was a kid. I was with my mom in the park and I ran off. When she found me an hour later she was crying and she yelled at me for about ten minutes."

Marinette was quiet for three beats. "How is that a good dream?"

Adrien shrugged again. "Because its one of the only ones with my mom in it. And in the first half, she isn't crying."

He felt something in his hand, and looked down to Marinette reaching for him from the other side of the table. He smiled softly and squeezed her hand. Her warmth irradiated from his hand to the rest of his body.

"Tell me something you haven't told Alya." He asked, and Marinette looked at him with raw sincerity.

"There is someone I miss." She confided. "An old friend. He was the best friend I ever had."

That struck close to home. "What happened to him?"

Marinette pulled her hand back. "I lost him. He... moved away without a forwarding address."

Adrien's throat closed up at the sight of her sadness. "Do you want me to hire someone to find him?"

Marinette smiled heartbreakingly and shook her head. "That's okay. He can't be found."

This time, it was Adrien who reached to the other side of the table for her hand. He didn't know if it was for her benefit or his own.

"I also lost a friend." He said. "She was very special to me." He smiled bashfully. "I used to love her but I don't think she ever took me seriously. Can't say I blame her, though, I was never too serious to begin with."

This time it was Marinette who squeezed his hand. He was finding more and more that this gave him strength.

"She must've been a very lucky girl for you to love her." Marinette whispered. Adrien smiled gratefully and thought the same thing about Nathanael, but didn't say anything.

"Can I ask you something personal?" He asked. "You don't have to respond."

Marinette shrugged. "That's what we're here for, aren't we?"

Adrien took a deep breath. "Why did you break up with Nathanael?"

Silence reigned the table for a minute. Adrien mentally kicked himself for asking, and figured Marinette had closed up. However, after a few more seconds, she spoke.

"He wanted to get married." Marinette said, almost emptily. He saw the vestige of tears in the corner of her eyes and the ironic smile on her lips. "He wanted us to marry and move to New York. He'd had a job offering there."

Adrien remained quiet. Marinette rubbed the back of her hand against her eyes, wiping away tears that hadn't yet been born.

"Can you think of a more ironic situation?" She smiled bitterly. Adrien's heart broke in two.

"I'm sorry Mari. I shouldn't've asked." He said, and Marinette took a deep breath, settling herself.

"Its okay, we're supposed to share, right?" She replied. "Besides, you told me about that girl you loved."

Adrien nodded, only slightly, and that's when the food arrived.

They ate mostly in silence.


They walked the way home.

Marinette felt cobwebs of sadness clinging to her, but the warmth of Adrien right next to her kept her going.

Thinking about Chat and Nathanael on one night had been a little too much for her.

But she was alright, right?

Yeah, of course she was.

A cold breeze blew and she shivered a little. In a second, she felt something over her shoulders. She looked to the side and saw Adrien looking down at her kindly, his jacket splayed over her shoulders and his arm pressing her against him. 

"You don't have to deal with it alone, okay?" Adrien said so softly that the breeze might take his words away. "I'm with you."

Marinette stopped walking and turned towards Adrien. He was made of sunlight and kindness. She wanted nothing more than to make him smile every day.

The girl he had loved had to be the luckiest person in the world to have someone like him promise her his heart.

And she was the second luckiest girl in the world to be his dear friend.

She stood on her tiptoes and kissed him, right next to his lips.

But it wasn't because David told her to. It was because she had wnted to show him how much she loved him. How much she cared, and how thankful she was to him.

It wasn't meant to be a romantic kiss, but a loving one. She wanted to transmit everything she felt through that kiss. Love. Appreciation. Friendship. Gratitude. Joy.

She had no idea what she had done to deserve this man in her life, but it couldn't have been enough.

From the way Adrien looked at her, he understood. He understood everything.

The message had slipped under his skin and into his heart, and he understood Marinette more than anyone except Chat ever had.

She was struck by a thought.

Maybe, just maybe, she would tell Adrien that she had used to be Ladybug. How would he react? Especially now that he confided that he used to love her.

Could she tell him? Should she?

Tikki wasn't here anymore to give her advice.

Marinette sighed.

Maybe she'd tell him, but not tonight.

She hugged the blazer closer to her body and pressed herself to Adrien's side. He enveloped her with an arm over his shoulder, scaring away the cold of the night.

They walked together under the beautiful Parisian moon, having more of each other's soul than they would know.

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Well, this was unexpected.

Marinette had hardly thought she'd end up in the emergency room at midnight on a rainy Wednesday, but hey, she also hadn't figured herself to be married at twenty. Perspective, right?

It had all started early in the evening, at around six. She had been cozied up in her pyjamas early, as well as wearing her favorite pink snuggle sweater while she prepared dinner for that night.

See, it was Adrien's first day back at modelling in five years, and she had wanted to do something nice about it. So, she had begun preparing something simple for dinner, and, as a surprise, chocolate-filled croissants of the kind Adrien used to love from the bakery.

It was just a little way for her to say thank you, she supposed.

As she had leaned to take out the freshly made croissants from the oven, she heard the lock from the front door jiggle desperately and felt a pang of fear course through her. She reached into the sink for the still warm frying pan to use as a weapon should the need arise, and hid behind the counter.

This all had proved unnecessary, as the door burst open and it had been Adrien, soaked head to toe in rainwater. His jacket was gone from his shoulders and bundled up in his arms. He looked wildly around, trying to find her.

"Marinette!" he called, half panicked. Marinette jumped from her hiding spot, leaving the frying pan forgotten, and rushed towards his side.

"Adrien, what--?" She asked, but he interrupted her.

"Do you have a hair dryer?" He asked desperately. Marinette took a second to process his question. He repeated it desperately. "Do you have a hairdryer?"

Marinette shook the dumbfoundedness out of her head and nodded. "Yes, its under the bathroom sink, what--"

"Hold this." Adrien said, and thrust his bunched up jacket into her hands, rushing to their bedroom. It was only now that Marinette felt it.

From inside the scrunched up, wet jacket, something moved.

As she examined it closely, she gasped.

In the center of the jacket was curled up a tiny, black kitten. It was definitely shaking, soaked through the bone, unable to meow because of his size.

In one swift motion, Marinette put the jacket on the table and removed her pink, frilly sweater over her head. She replaced the kitten in her own dried garment, balling it up to warm it as much as she could without covering its face. She held it close to her chest and carefully tried drying the kitten's face and whiskers with the sleeves. They came out muddy, and Marinette realized that the kitten was covered in a thousand different things.

She rushed to the bedroom as well, almost colliding with Adrien on his way out, and marched towards the bathroom, filling the sink with hot water and grabbing a couple of small towels.

"Mari, what are you--?" Adrien asked, dryer still in his hands.

"We need to clean him up first. Don't worry, this will warm him up too." She said without looking at Adrien. Carefully, she would dip the edges of the towel in the sink of hot water and gently rub the dirt away from the kitten. She heard Adrien put down the hairdryer and join her. They were done in fifteen minutes.

"Okay, now we dry him," she said, mostly to herself. Adrien connected the dryer and they used it in its lowest setting, sending warm air to the still shivering kitten until he was dry. Marinette grabbed another sweater from her hamper and cozied up the kitten in it. It had stopped shivering.

"I think we need to take him to the vet." Adrien said, and Marinette nodded. For the first time since the ordeal began, she allowed herself to look at her husband.

"I think you should change first." She said. As if to prove her point, Adrien sneezed.

Marinette laughed. "You sneeze like a kitten." Adrien laughed too and rolled his eyes.

"Okay, I'll change quickly and we'll run to the vet. Sounds good?"

Marinette nodded. "I'll keep the little fellow warm."


And that's the story of how Marinette and Adrien turned up pretty much slamming down the door of the twenty four hour veterinarian clinic ten minutes away from their home. 

The rain had almost let up, so they were only slightly wet, and not at all bothered. They waited patiently for the doctor to come out.

"What's taking so long?" Adrien huffed.

Okay, patiently, was the wrong adverb.

Marinette gently placed her hand on his shoulder to calm him.

"He's going to be okay, Adrien." Marinette said soothingly. "How did you come upon him?"

Adrien sighed and leaned back on his chair. "I had stepped out to wait for the car to come around when I heard shuffling from a nearby trashcan." Adrien ran a hand through his hair, spraying tiny drops everywhere. "And when I saw him... I guess I just ran home." He shrugged.

Almost instinctively -and she had been finding herself doing this more and more often-- Marinette tangled her fingers with Adrien's and rested her head on his shoulders. His skin under the shirt was cold, but it only felt more of a reason to give him her warmth. Adrien rested his cheek on the crown of Marinette's head.

"You are incredible," Marinette whispered, much to her own surprise.

"What?" Adrien asked.

Marinette chuckled lightly, not moving away from him. "What's with you and tiny things in the rain?"

Adrien pulled back. Marinette stood straight and looked at him, amusement playing in her eyes.

"What do you mean?"

Marinette smiled fondly, her treasured memory bringing enough warmth to her heart to dry her up entirely.

"When we were fifteen and we met, I hated you." Marinette explained. Adrien raised his brow.

"Yeah, I remember. Bubblegum incident." In his face she could read that he had no idea where she was going with this. It only made it more amusing.

"When we were leaving class that day, you apologized and explained everything." Marinette rested her head on his shoulder again. "It was raining."

"Was it?"

Marinette nodded against his shoulder. "You had a black umbrella and the car was waiting for you. Instead of rushing off, you smiled at me and gave the umbrella to me, for my walk home."

Adrien listened attentively. When Marinette was about to continue, she heard his voice.

"It closed on you." The amusement was clear in his voice. Marinette laughed a little.

"It did. You laughed."

"It was funny." Adrien defended.

"It was hillarious." Marinette agreed. Their voices were warm in reminiscence. Adrien wrapped his arm around Marinette's shoulders.

"I see what you say about tiny things in the rain." She could hear the smile on his voice. "I suppose whenever there's something cute in the rain I kinda lose my head."

Marinette laughed softly. "You thought I was cute?"

She felt his shrug. "Definitely the cutest girl in class."

Marinette sighed contentedly and they remained silent in wait for the vet.


"He's three weeks old." The vet began. "Male. Abandoned by his mother, most likely."

Adrien listened carefully, Marinette at his side. The vet examined the kitten, still wrapped in Marinette's gray sweater for warmth. It looked curiously at everything. He was tiny and black, with huge eyes and curling itself up to sleep.

The comparison hit Adrien in the face so hard it hurt.

"He's perfectly healthy, for the most part. A little malnourished, but nothing some formula can't fix." The vet looked at Adrien directly. "Now the question is: are you going to keep him?"

The question took Adrien aback. Him? Own a cat? What would Marinette say?

"Yes." He heard his wife's quiet but determined voice and was immediately drawn to her. She smiled at him uncertainly. "You love cats, I've always wanted a pet... and I think this little fellow needs us." She shrugged. "Besides, you seem quite attached to him."

Adrien looked down at his hand, as it had unconsciously reached for the kitten and was petting the sleeping head gently. He blinked. When had that happened?

Adrien smiled. "You heard my wife." He said, and felt happiness blooming in his chest.

The doctor shifted and looked at the kitten as well. "Its not going to be easy." She explained. "He's going to have to eat every two hours. He can't eat by himself, either. You have to feed him formula through a syringe, just until he starts drinking from the bowl by himself. It can take from a few days to a week, most likely."

"We can handle that," Marinette replied, and the doctor looked satisfied. She smiled a little at the couple.

"So," she said, a lighter tone of voice. "What will his name be?"

Adrien felt Marinette shift to look at him, but he didn't turn his head. 

"Plagg."


It was almost two in the morning when Adrien stumbled into the apartment with the huge formula bottle and the packet of syringes. Marinette walked behind him, cradling Plagg like a baby inside the jacket. He was blissfully asleep, and Marinette was in awe of the great decision she and Adrien had made together.

She knew a pet was no small feat. They were difficult, they had to go to the vet, they had to be showered, their box cleaned, given company and love and time...

But she was so excited about having Plagg with them she was willing to do all the work it took.

From the look on Adrien's face, he felt the same way.

She saw him place a makeshift litterbox on the ground of their room. Quickly, he began assembling a little bed for him from the removed drawer from his nightstand, cushioned with torn blankets and covers and towels. Marinette wondered where he had learned how to do that, but preferred not to ask.

While he did all this, she fed Plagg with that tiny syringe filled with formula. She was not surprised to find that the kitten was starving and ate everything happily, even begging for seconds. The vet, however, explained that one dose was what he needed, and two might make him sick, so Marinette simply pet him until he fell asleep on her sweater once again. She placed him gently on the makeshift bed on Adrien's side and went to the living room. Adrien sat there, staring at the mild rain falling, entranced.

Marinette flopped to the couch next to him and sighed.

"We have a cat." She stated. She felt Adrien's smile.

"We do." He replied, and Marinette heard the satisfaction. She stole a curious glance from him, and found him indeed smiling. He caught her eye and watched her endearingly. "Thank you."

Marinette blinked.

"For what?"

"Taking in Plagg."

Marinette laughed. "I couldn't say no." She smiled. "By the way, where did the name Plagg come from?"

Adrien's smile didn't waver, but his eyes shifted into a more melancholic glow. Marinette was sorry she asked.

"Its a good luck name." He explained, and from the melancholy she saw a light being born. Whatever the story with that name was, it had made Adrien happy at some point.

Marinette smiled kindly at him. "He was lucky you found him."

"I think he found me again." He replied, and Marinette didn't quite know what he meant by that. She sighed and leaned back against the couch, her head resting against his shoulder.

There was complete silence save the pitter patter of raindrops against the window.

"How do you remember that day with the umbrella?" Adrien asked curiously. Marinette couldn't help but smile.

Maybe it was the time, or maybe it was the joy of having a new member of this strange little family she was building. She didn't know what it was, but the truth spilled out of her lips easily and with no barriers.

"That was the day I developed the most massive crush in the history of ever." She said, and there were ten seconds of quiet. She pulled back a little and looked at Adrien, who looked more dumbfounded that she'd ever seen. She cracked up in laughter.

"Wait," Adrien said, catching up rather slow. "You liked me?"

"You can't have possibly been this dense!"

Adrien's jaw hung and he watched Marinette perplexed. "Seriously?"

Marinette, amusement still bubbling under her skin, shrugged. "You were the kindest boy I'd ever met. You were smart and sweet and good at everything. How could I not like you?"

Adrien blushed a little, scratching the back of his neck embarrassed.

"I wasn't good at everything..."

Marinette leaned back against the couch, still looking at him. "You pretty much were. That's why I always had such a hard time around you."

Adrien blinked a couple of times. Marinette could see the wheels of his mind turning and cables clicking as thoughts met.

"Wait, that's why you were so weird around me?"

Marinette laughed out loud. It was so liberating finally telling him the truth!

"Of course! I knew you didn't like me back. I thought you were perfect." She said, and saw Adrien ready to protest, and beat him to the punch. "Then I saw how much of a dork you were, and I got over you." She said, teasingly. Adrien closed his mouth and chuckled lightly before leaning back as well, both of them staring at the black screen of the TV. Several heartbeats went by without a word.

"You really liked me?" Adrien asked, traces of humour and surprise gone. Marinette nodded, even though she knew he wasn't looking at her.

"More than you can believe."

"Why didn't you say anything?"

She shrugged, feeling bitterness nip at the tips of her fingers. "Why bother? It wasn't reciprocal." She replied, flicking an inexistent speck of dust from her fingers. "Besides, I could barely talk to you as it was, let alone confess."

Adrien was silent for a few seconds. Suddenly, he grabbed Marinette's hand and kissed the back of it sweetly.

"I'm happy I have you in my life, Mari." He said, raw sincerity clear in his voice. It made a surge of affection course through her, washing away the small bitterness that had begun pressing against her. "And I was an idiot not to see that when we were younger."

Marinette rested her head on his shoulder. "You weren't. You were just too excited with a new world with friends. There's nothing wrong with that."

Adrien rested is head against hers, stealing a kiss on her temple before settling there. She sighed happily and closed her eyes.

Before she knew it, she had fallen asleep.


Adrien felt Marinette drift off on his shoulder. He remained still, as not to wake her.

He had some things to think about, anyways.

That kitten, for starters.

Adrien was sure there was a higher power that enjoyed messing with him.

It had taken him five years, but he had finally started to learn how to let go all the strings that had tied him to Chat Noir and Ladybug.

Don't get him wrong, its not that he wanted to get away from being Chat. He missed it every day of his life, and he missed Plagg every day of his life, and he missed Ladybug most of all.

He just couldn't keep on anchoring himself to something that was in the past. It had been starting to choke him.

Suddenly everything seemed to be pulling him back to that place he was five years ago.

That tiny cat --it was like looking at Plagg once again. Adrien had half expected glowing green eyes and a demand for Camambert cheese and complain about everything.

And then there was Marinette.

During the years of Ladybug's absence, Marinette had become a rock. She had never known the reason for his sadness, and she had never asked, but had managed to finger every crevice in the dam that held back his sorrow.

And now that they were married.,. Well, it was easy to see how she was beginning to fill the Ladybug=shaped hole in his heart. Her kindness and the softness of her hands and the gentleness of her spirit and the fire in her soul had managed to softly build it up once again. Their friendship had made him stronger, he knew, and there was still too much to learn from her.

So why was it that whenever she twirled in her heel he could see a flash of Ladybug with a happy, competitive grin, or hear the gentle teasing that had once so thoroughly belonged to his lady?

He was no longer in love with Ladybug, he knew. His heart wouldn't have been able to take that.

No, he wasn't in love with Ladybug, but he loved her.

And he loved Marinette just the same.

His eyes began to close soon after this revelation, exhaustion from the day's race overtaking him. From the hot lights from the camera flashes, to the freezing rain with a delicate life in his arms, to the familial warmth of his home, to the clinical coldness of the veterinarian to this perfect moment of comfort with Marinette, it had been a long day for Adrien.

And now it was time to sleep.


It was the gentle buzzing of her phone which awoke Marinette. She opened her eyes and felt a stinging pain on her neck, clearly product of her terrible sleeping position. With a soft groan she shuffled, realizing no sooner that she had fallen asleep next to Adrien.

You have to realize that five years ago, Marinette would've probably passed out from the excitement. She'd have been needlessly embarrassed and would't've been able to look at Adrien in the eye for days, while secretly celebrating her strangest dream come true.

However, this wasn't five years ago.

Marinette carefully shimmied away from her husband, careful not to wake him up. She grabbed her phone and checked the time.

4AM. Time to feed Plagg.

With a sigh, she reached for the formula in the kitchen, filling up a syringe and tiptoed her way into the bedroom. With only the bathroom light through a half-open door to light her way, Marinette sat on Adrien's side of the bed and gently picked Plagg up from his makeshift bed. She shifted and mewled, waking up. Before anything else, Marinette could see in the dim light his tiny nose searching for food. Holding him firmly but gently, Marinette fed him with the syringe.

Everything was quiet and half dark in the wee hours in the morning as she saw the tiny life she had adopted into her life eat greedily. She watched his whiskers flicker and his little paws cling with what would soon be claws to her fingers.

She was reminded of Chat.

Chat and his goofy grin. Chat and his eagerness for her approval. Chat and his sweetness. His courage. His sincerity. His love--

No,

No, she couldn't do this to herself. Not now.

Losing Chat had been throwing her heart into a shredder, and only now was she being able to pick up the pieces.

She still missed him, though, and it ached with every fiber of her being.

So she lost herself once again in the kitten on her arms and couldn't help remembering a kitten of her own. It was this, the hour of truth and confessions. The hour when lies went to sleep and all she had left was her own raw sincerity.

She wasn't over Chat, and she would never be.

"Princess?" She heard the voice call her and her heart froze in place. 

Chat.

She turned her head so fast it spun. When she zeroed in on the voice, her lungs stopped working, too.

There he was.

Silhouetted against the hallway's light, standing in the middle of the doorframe, the man she couldn't stop thinking about.

"Chat?" She called with the only fragment of breath she could release from her lungs.

Her eyes quickly adjusted to the light, and the silhouette coloured in until it became Adrien, his hair ruffled up from sleep and his eyes only halfway open.

She was once again reminded how it felt for your heart to break.

Adrien stepped in. "Marinette?"

Marinette plastered a smile upon her lips and hid her heartache.

"Hey," she called softly. The shadows were spooked and she was in a world of light again. "Weren't you asleep?"

Adrien leaned against the doorframe. "So were you." He eyed her curiously. "Did you--" he cleared his throat. "Did you just call me 'Chat?'"

Marinette parted her lips, a lie ready to roll off from her tongue. But it was the hour of truths, and her lies escaped her.

"You called me 'princess'," She replied instead. Adrien scratched the back of his neck and flicked the lightswitch on. Marinette felt Plagg burrow himself into his bed again in protest. Marinette set him and his bed aside.

"I guess I did." He replied, and sat next to her in bed. Marinette scooted over and pulled in a leg, swinging one over the ground and curling up the other one against her body. "Did you mind it?"

Marinette smiled a little. "Someone else used to call me that." She confessed.

Adrien watched her with a hint of amusement, but a light in his face that she had seldom ever seen. "Yeah?"

Marinette felt her heart swell at the thought. Her smile broke through her lips like her truths broke through her tongue.

"Did I ever tell you I met Chat Noir?" She asked. Adrien looked mildly surprised.

"What was he like?" He asked.

"A dork." She said, and her own voice was fond and wistful. "God, he was such a flirt." She laughed a little.

"You sound as if you knew him." Adrien's voice had a curious tone to it, but she paid no mind. Now that she had unlocked her words, they just wanted to spill out of her entirely.

"He was..." Marinette felt the smile on her voice. "He was a dork, he made horrible puns and couldn't take anything seriously to save his life." She felt the familiar sting behind her eyes and the shore of her vision begin to swim. "He was kind." She whispered. "He was brave and always willing to help. He saved m--" Her voice broke like a string just as the first tear slipped from her eye.

"Whoa, Mari," Adrien sat closer to her, holding her face in his hands, looking at her with huge, green eyes full of curiosity and concern, eyes so much like--

She wiped the tear away with the same hand she slapped that thought away.

"Are you okay?" Adrien asked. Marinette nodded, not looking at him. "I just... I didn't know you were close to Chat Noir..." His voice held an edge, she noticed.

Marinette looked at Plagg. At her stuffed ladybug. At her hands. Finally, she looked into Adrien's eyes. She sniffled.

It was the hour of confessions.

"He was my best friend." She whispered. Adrien's jaw hung open and his brows furrowed in confusion. Marinette felt a bubble of irrational laughter emerge from deep within her belly. "I used to be Ladybug."

It was the hour of truths.

It was curious how Adrien's eyes shifted, the same way a cat's did. His jaw hung open and his pupils dilated, leaving only a frame of green around black. Marinette's words still hadn't caught up with her, but they surely would now.

His hands flew to the sides of her face as he held her roughly, burying his gaze in hers, looking desperately for something behind her eyes. She saw his brain working itself around her confession and trying to respond.

However, he uttered the two last words she ever could've guessed.

"My...Lady...?" 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Plagg was the only creature breathing in the room at the moment.

Adrien's lips parted, ready to say something --anything. Pass it off as a joke. Lie. Anything.

However, before a word could come out, Marinette dashed to her feet --or so she tried.

Tangled on the leg she had bent on the bed, Marinette hit the plush carpet of their room with her knee and caught herself with her hands. In his shock, Adrien made no attempt to catch her, and she made no attempt to turn around.

They were quiet for two beats, Plagg's gentle mewling the only sound in the room.

"What..." He heard Marinette falter. Her back was still to him as her gaze was buried in the ground. "What did you call me." It wasn't a question.

Adrien felt his extremities turn to cement and the world around him stop. 

"My Lady." He didn't know if it was an answer or a call, and he didn't care.

"How do you know that." She demanded. "How do you know what he called me."

Adrien did not reply. Instead, his body mindlessly shifted to the edge of the bed, where he dropped to his knees next to his Princess --his Lady, and felt his breathing quicken.

"Look at me." His voice felt disembodied. Who was saying these words?

Marinette didn't turn.

"Marinette, look at me." He demanded this time, and his wife slowly, fearfully turned her head to look at him.

And he saw it.

He saw the exact moment the light flicked on behind her blue eyes. The same light he knew from his Ladybug.

And in him, she saw something too.

Her hands flew to her mouth, covering completely, eyes wide as plates, and he knew she believed him.

"Mon minou," she choked, and it wasn't a second before she dove face first against his chest, Adrien catching her the same way he always had.

It wasn't until he closed his eyes to relish in her scent that he felt tears of pure, unadulterated happiness spill down his face.

He held her tight against his chest, trembling, and buried his face in her hair --her beautiful, dark hair, that he had always known and loved.

Adrien was home.


Marinette was openly sobbing into Adrien's chest.

It felt as if someone had taken out her heart and filled it up with light until it burst then sewed it back in.

And how it hurt, to have her chest so filled. How overwhelming a feeling it was. But Marinette did not care. Everything inside her was bursting with light and such a heavy happiness-- such a complex completion of being that she could not bring herself to care about the pain.

It took her almost five minutes to gather herself enough to pull back to look at Adrien's face.

It was tear-stained but glowing. She recognized every landmark in the features of her old partner: the creases over his eyebrow from when he raised it, the folds around his mouth from when he grinned cheekily, the squint in his eyes from when he winked at her.

Everything she thought she had known about Adrien was nothing more than the silhouette of who he really was, and now he had revealed himself in the flesh, all coloured in, for her to appreciate for the first time.

More tears spilled from her eyes.

"You silly cat," she choked, and this earned a tear from her partner as well. Gently, he wiped the tear from her cheek with the pad of his thumb, the same way he had during their time of crime-fighting, as if he still had his gloves.

"Hey, Buginnette." He whispered, and Marinette burst. Her sobs knit themselves into laughter, and this time, when she hugged him, she didn't bury her face in his chest. She wrapped her arms around his shoulders and pulled him closer, her cheek against his, to feel their heartbeats against one another.

The funny thing is, they were not beating in time.

The second it would take for hers to beat was the moment his chose to rest, and viceversa. For a beautiful, pure moment, it was as if their hearts were having a conversation.

And to be completely honest, I like to think they were.


They were a mumbling mess until the sun rose, and even when it did, they had a hard time tearing themselves from each other.

Marinette's nose was pink, but there was a smile on her face, and this immediately became one of the images Adrien would treasure until the end of his days.

They'd untangled themselves from one another and sat next to each other, their backs to the bed, staring at a point in common, his arm pressed against hers and her leg grazing his, as if they needed a constant reminder that they were there and this was real.

The first to break the silence was Adrien, and he did so with a chuckle.

"What do you think fifteen-year-old Ladybug would say if you told her she'd marry Chat Noir?" His voice was hoarse, but not unpleasantly so. 

"Oh, god." Marinette's voice was deadpan, but now that Adrien knew, he could read the humor in it. "She'd jump off the Eiffel Tower."

"You wound me, my Lady." He replied with a grin, and Marinette let her head lol to the side to look at him. When he met her gaze, if was filled with wonder. He was sure he looked the same.

"It really is you." She whispered, and Adrien's grin faded into a smile.

"Of course it is." He replied in the same volume, because if the world heard their secret, it might take it away from them. "And its you."

"Who else could stand you?" Marinette asked lightly, and Adrien shrugged.

"You're married to me." He repeated, and she groaned.

"Don't remind me. Silly cat."

And it was like old times again.

"Oh," Marinette said, remembering something and standing up. "I forgot. I made chocolate croissants to celebrate your first date back in modeling."

Adrien grinned.

"I should've married you years ago."

Marinette snorted. "You could've tried."


Marinette and Adrien sat in the dinner table of their precious home, eating the croissants that Marinette had baked before they had adopted a new life into their hands. It should be noted that this was the actual first time in six years that they had each sat in front of a person from whom they held no secrets.

And it was so, so liberating.

There were no walls between them, only friendly banter.

Adrien didn't have to bother with proper meal etiquette (he ate with his hands) and Marinette had the confidence that Ladybug held towards Chat Noir.

For the first time, they could be their real, honest selves with someone else.

"You know, now that I think about it, you were terrible at lying about where you'd been." Adrien said between bites. Marinette rolled her eyes and scrunched up her nose in a very Ladybug-like fashion.

"You're one to talk. After five minutes gone you had an arsenal searching the grounds for you. How would you even manage to get out of the house?"

Adrien flashed her a grin that stretched the muscles of his face in a way he hadn't in five years. "Wall climbing. Easy for cats." He rested his head on the back of his hand, slipping into his Chat persona. "How about you?"

"Magic yoyo." Marinette shrugged. "My room connects to the rooftop of the bakery. Slipping out was so easy." She laughed a little. "Sometimes I think its disappointing that I didn't sneak out for adolescent escapades rather than, you know, saving the city."

Adrien popped the last piece of croissant to his mouth. "I know what you mean," he chewed thoughtfully. "Though I did go to a party when I was 19. There was beer."

Marinette rolled her eyes good-naturedly.  "You poor, sheltered child."

Adrien ran a hand through his hair, tousling it up, and it struck Marinette how much Chat there was in the gesture. "You mean shelter cat." He grinned. "But now I was adopted into a nice home."

Marinette raised her eyebrow. "Hm. Maybe we should have you neutered."

She felt no small amount of satisfaction when she saw his smile falter for a second. Immediately, she burst into laughter.

"You are horrible." Adrien declared solemnly. "I want a divorce."

Marinette, in the spirit of mockery, tossed her hair back exaggeratedly.  "Divorce me? Who will handle your ridiculous puns then?"

Adrien managed to look shocked and affronted, an expression that suited his face wonderfully. He hadn't even delivered his response and Marinette was already breaking into a fit of giggled.

"My puns are the cat's meow, my Lady." He lectured. Marinette groaned and rolled her eyes.

"I'm going to have to deal with these from now on, aren't I?"

Instead of answering, Adrien grinned and raised his hands to the sides and shrugged his shoulders, as if to say "what can I say?"

Marinette opened her mouth to speak, but a sound cut through the silence. She felt something vibrate in her pocket, and it took her a second to realize it was her alarm. She popped the phone out and turned it off.

"Two hours. Time to feed the baby."

Adrien sighed dramatically and leaned the back of his hand against his forehead in a gesture of despair. "Parenthood is so hard."

Marinette only laughed and shook her head before standing up and heading towards the room, Adrien in tow. She sat at the edge of the bed and gingerly picked up Plagg, who had already begun to stir. From the door, in the same spot where Marinette had confused him --identified him-- he watched her, pleased, until she was done and put the syringe down. She pet the cat's head affectionately before cradling him in her arms and sitting back against the headboard of the bed to be more comfortable.

As soon as she did this, Adrien walked towards the bed, circling around to hop over Marinette's side and quickly nestled his head on her lap.

She gave him a blank look from over the kitten.

"Excuse me?"

Adrien yawned. "I'm tired. You're on my side of the bed."

Marinette scoffed. "Sleep. Go to my side."

"But you're comfortable."

"So is a pillow."

Adrien, who seemed to have been overtaken by Chat, said nothing, simply finding comfort on her legs. 

But Marinette was not angry. Not really.

This was so much like Chat that her heart tightened again, and she was pleased with the feeling, because it reminded her that this was really happening.

"Silly kitty..." She murmured and pet Adrien's hair affectionately. She was surprised to find that Adrien was already more asleep than awake, and shook her head with a little laugh clinging to her lips. Gently placing Plagg on her bed, her left hand found its way towards Adrien's hair again, and she began absently petting him. To her surprise, he opened his eyes and looked at her, much in the way Chat always had.

"I thought you'd fallen asleep." She said softly. Adrien yawned.

"On my way to it. I haven't been this tired since Papillon sent six Akumas in one night."

Marinette smiled fondly at the memory until her mind struck a chord that reverberated through her entire self. The smile dropped from her lips as a frown conquered her face.

"Wait." She drew back her hand from his hair immediately, staring at Adrien in concern. He, in turn, sat up, looking at Marinette just as worried.

"What? Is something wrong?"

"Papillon... he was..." your father.

Adrien gave her a half smile, the kind Chat always made when he wanted to convey that everything wan't exactly okay, but that it would be.

Adrien scratched the back of his neck, so much like his fifteen year old self.

"Yeah. That was awkward."

Marinette's eyes, so used to crying by now, watered a little.

"I wasn't there for you."

Adrien shrugged half heartedly. "You couldn't know."

She cast her eyes down in shame. "I would've if I hadn't been so adamant in us not knowing who we were..."

She felt the tips of his fingers graze her chin lightly and raised her face, finding in his eyes the wonderful, kind look that was so characteristic in him.

"We were never apart." He said softly and so, so gently. Marinette's heart skipped. 

It was a fluke. Just a memory.

Adrien, unaware of the physiological response in Marinette, kept on speaking calmly. 

"We've always been together Mari." He said, and she smiled hopefully. "Even when you weren't Ladybug you were with me."

Marinette's hand found his, their fingers intertwining. They shared the same look they had that day under the rain, five years ago.

Marinette had thought that her heart couldn't be any fuller.

"Even when you weren't Chat you were saving me." The words slipped out of her mouth, unbidden. She would've blushed, had her body not been at peace with Adrien above everything.

He smiled. "I promised I always would, and I always will."

Marinette let go of his hand and pulled him by the shoulder, resting his head once again on her lap and began running her fingers through his hair. Adrien closed his eyes and hummed happily.

"Don't get used to this," Marinette warned, but her heart wasn't in it.

"Wouldn't dream of it, my Lady." Adrien replied, but Marinette's eyes were already closed.

And there they fell asleep after a long night and a much awaited reunion. Unbeknownst to them, they shared a very particular feeling at the moment. It was the feeling of having a physical part of your heart restored, and ready to store more light and more happiness.

But they'll find out in due time.

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

"I do hope you don't plan on sleeping in every day."

Marinette, poor, sweet Marinette, easy to startle as a ladybug, jolted from her already precarious position on the bed, sliding off from under Adrien's head and hitting the plush ground with an 'oompf'.

Scrambling to get up, her eyes met the too-fancy-for-a-home-visit, spring collection Louboutins, that were attached to a tower of a woman who looked at Marinette over her eyeglasses with no small amount of distaste.

It took Marinette a second to recognize her from the rides to school and the time or two when she'd gone to Adrien's house.

"Nathalie?" Adrien asked, still half asleep. 

Marinette attempted to ease the awkwardness by standing up and straightening her back to look straight at Nathalie. Now she noticed that Nathalie wasn't taller than her, but the way she held herself made her tower over everyone.

She scrutinized Marinette for a few seconds, as if judging her.

From the way she turned away, Marinette was pretty sure she hadn't passed the test.

"I did knock, but it seems you too were asleep. So I let myself in." She informed Adrien, but glanced at Marinette, as if daring her to defy her authority.

"Nath, you can't exactly break into our apartment." Adrien explained calmly. This clearly wasn't as strange for him as it was for Marinette.

"Nonsense. Nothing has changed." She spoke professionally and in the exact octave. Frankly, Marinette found her rather unsettling. "Besides, I have your schedule here." She flipped some pages from the clipboard that seemed to be a part of her more than her glasses, and found what she was looking for. She presented it to Marinette without much flourish and resumed talking to Adrien.

"M. Bourgeouis is hosting a party and the Grand Paris Hotel, to which you are invited." Nathalie spared Marinette a glance, and not a kind one at that. "You too, by extension."

Marinette blinked twice, looking down at the overly minimalistic, simple invitation in her hands. She looked up at Adrien, helplessly, though he looked mostly asleep. Nathalie resumed talking.

"You are meeting David today to smooth out rough edges. Ms. Dupain," Nathalie glanced firmly at Marinette, just bordering on sharp, "we are arranging for an appropriate wardrobe for the occasion. Please come by today at three to the company and we will accommodate you." She parted her lips to correct Nathalie, but a voice cut through her own.

"Actually, its Dupain-Cheng." Adrien said as he sat up in the bed. Marinette looked at him gratefully, as he looked at her rather curiously. "Though I think its technically Agreste." He smiled disarmingly at her, all Chat. "What do you say, Princess?"

Chat was enough to bring her back to the ground. She snorted and rolled her eyes. "Keep dreaming, chaton."

Nathalie cleared her throat, drawing attention back to herself, and Marinette could've sworn there was a hint of awkwardness there. If it was, though, it quickly disappeared as Nathalie regained control of the situation.

"Anyways, David is expecting you at--" Nathalie was cut off by a gentle mewling, which Adrien and Marinette immediately recognized. They both headed towards the removed drawer and Adrien drew Plagg out gently, carrying him in his arms. "Is that a cat?" She asked, perplexed.

"Yup. His name is Plagg." Marinette replied as she scratched his head. Plagg, in turn, chased her fingers trying to bite them, probably thinking they were food. "And he's hungry. It was about time he ate anyways."

"You bought a cat." Nathalie couldn't seem to get past this point.

"No, we adopted him. Last night." Adrien said simply. Marinette saw Nathalie's brows furrow in confusion for a second. 

"Did you even think this through?" For a second, she looked on the edge of frustration. "What are you feeding him?"

"We took him to the vet last night. We got some formula and we feed it through a syringe." Marinette replied, and Nathalie looked at her for a few seconds. Not angrily, but calculating. She moved forward and motioned for the cat in Adrien's hands.

"He seems healthy." Nathalie said without touching him. "You said you feed him. Where's the bowl?"

"We feed him with the syringe. The vet said he doesn't know how to properly eat yet." Adrien responded. Nathalie sighed and shook her head disapprovingly.

"Yes, but to learn he needs a bowl where he can practice. And when he can'tthen you feed him."

Marinette looked at Nathalie for a second, and then at Adrien, to see if he was seeing the same thing. From the look on his face, he was.

"Nathalie..." Adrien spoke cautiously, as if not to startle her. "Are you... fussing?"

Nathalie froze for a second before resuming her upstanding position, pressing the clipboard towards her chest. She cleared her throat meaningfully.

"Yes. No." She stuttered. "I mean, I'm done here. Just be on time for your appointment with David." She straightened herself again and nodded at both of them. "Adrien. Miss Dupain-Cheng." 

And just like that, she hurried out of the room in the least hurry-like way she could manage.


Marinette had stepped into the kitchen while Adrien took charge of feeding Plagg this time.

"You know," Adrien called loudly from the room, "I've never seen Nathalie like that."

"Yeah," Marinette stepped outside of the open kitchen, drying a plate. "She doesn't seem the kind. Though its not like I know her from before."

Adrien returned Plagg to his bed and headed over to the living room, where he saw the table still hadn't been cleaned.

"Oh, right." He said to himself, and reached for the glasses. Marinette laughed in mock surprise.

"Oooh, is the great Adrien Agreste doing the dishes?"

Adrien shrugged. "I'm picking up the table. You're doing the dishes."

Marinette scoffed. "I made dinner. And croissants."

Adrien tapped his chin, thoughtfully. "You've got a point. But," he grinned. "Cats hate water."

She rolled her eyes and scoffed. "You're not a cat."

Adrien rested his elbow on the counter next to where Marinette piled up the dishes that she was actually already cleaning.

"That's not what you said last night, Princess." He winked.

Adrien heard the words that came out of his mouth at the same time as she did, and it took him a second to register the flush that crept all across her face immediately, turning her the same shade of pink as the sky during sunrise. As soon as the phrase clicked, Adrien's jaw dropped.

"T-that," he stuttered, feeling the chest creep up across his face as well. "That's not what I--"

But Marinette's scarlet face burst in laughter. Awkward, nervous, but goodnatured laughter.

"Geez, Kitty, you weren't this direct before." Marinette laughed. To Adrien's relief, she didn't seem uncomfortable around him. Instead, she winked an eye coquettishly at him. "Though I suppose those suits didn't really leave much to the imagination, did they?"

Oh god, why did she have to bring that up?

Adrien felt there was a flame under his skin being fanned, creating a forrest fire all across his face. He wanted to say something --justify himself-- but he couldn't even open his mouth. His jaw was clamped shut and horrified.

Suddenly, he felt something soft and definitely pleasant, but familiar sensation in the soft skin under his chin. It took a lot out of him not to purr.

Marinette scratched him softly, as she had when they had been partners, and Adrien couldn't help but hum pleasantly.

"You're still such a kitten though." Marinette said, not unkindly, and Adrien unwound at her gentle caress.

He supposed he'd always be putty in her hands, mask or no mask.

"I used to do this to Tikki, you know?" Marinette asked before retracting her hand. Adrien let out a noise of complaint and Marinette shoved the plate towel on his face. "Spoiled cat." She laughed and moved away to the couch. Adrien followed her and plopped right beside her, accommodating himself with his arm spread over the shoulder of the couch. She looked thoughtful for a few seconds. "What was yours like?"

"Hm?"

"Your kwami." Marinette prompted, curious. "What was he like?"

Adrien puffed out air from his mouth. "Plagg? He was a nightmare." Adrien began imitating his kwami's voice mockingly. "'Kid, you better get my my cheese.' 'Why so obsessed with Ladybug?' 'Stop talking in your sleep.' Nag, nag, nag."

Marinette raised her eyebrow and looked at him. "Yet you named our cat after him."

Adrien shifted. "Yes, but..."

Mari elbowed him in the ribs softly. "You loved him."

Adrien sighed and ran a hand through his hair. "Yeah. I did." He found himself smiling a little. "I think Plagg was the first of all the best things that have happened in my life."

Marinette nudged him again. He looked down at her, straight at her freckled nose and cheeks, and right down at her sweet smile as she said, "the best things that happened so far."

His brain short-circuited for a few seconds, and when it rewired, it jumpstarted him.

Whoa.

What was that?

"Yeah," he laughed, nervously. "Though I have a hard time thinking that there can be something to beat becoming a superhero and fighting alongside a wonderful companion." He winked at her. Marinette shrugged, mockingly nonchalant.

"Well, let's say marrying said companion." Adrien laughed freely.

"Fair enough, but I didn't know that when we got married." It felt so freeing being with her like this, he didn't want the morning to end. "How about your kwami?"

Marinette smiled fondly, reminiscing. 

"Her name is Tikki." Adrien did not miss the way she spoke in present. It twisted his heart. "She's tiny, and red, and looks like a ladybug with really big, blue eyes."

"Oh, so like you." Adrien grinned. Marinette laughed a little.

"No, she's much cuter, I assure you." She continued. "She loved sweets. Cookies, cakes, macaroons... sometimes I think she only chose me because I lived above a bakery."

Adrien snorted. "And Plagg chose me because I could afford Camembert." 

"It seems we weren't picked by our attributes as human beings as much as what we could feed them."

Adrien looked at her deadpan. "I wouldn't put it past Plagg, frankly." This earned him a laugh from Marinette. He smiled back at her.

For a brief, dumb moment, Adrien wondered if he was talking because he had something to say or if he just wanted to make her laugh.

He shook the thought away form his head when he realized Marinette was saying something.

"You know, I noticed something."

"Yes?"

"Your rich, sheltered, Agreste-clad butt has never had to keep his place clean." Marinette informed him. Adrien wanted to deny it, but he couldn't. "I bet you have no idea what half the cleaning-supplies I bought do, do you?"

Adrien scoffed, offended. "Of course I do!"

"Really." Marinette demanded. "Which one do you clean windows with?"

"The... blue one?"

Marinette raised her eyebrows. "That's for toilets."

Adrien pursed his lips. "Okay fine, I have no idea. But I thought we hired a cleaner for that."

Marinette sighed and got off the couch. "She comes once a month for deep cleansing. We have to keep the place decent enough to live in between her visits, you know."

Adrien grinned, slipping into Chat. "Is my Lady about to teach me how to clean the house? You're definitely a clean bug."

Marinette rolled her eyes. "Adrien. Puns. No puns."

He managed to look shocked and affronted while still carrying a shit-eating grin. Frankly, he was quite proud of that look.

"I'm sorry. Do my puns bug you? Its quite catastrophic. Pawsitively terrible. Of Claws I must do somekitten about it."

"That last one was forced and you know it." She grumbled good-naturedly.

Adrien instead laughed and stood in front of her, making a vow. How strange it was, being Chat without being Chat.

How nice it felt.

Like slipping into an old suit that fit you perfectly.

"Okay, come on, we're cleaning up before going to David's. You're going to learn and you're going to work a sweat, just like the rest of us commoners."

Adrien flinched at her use of the word, but tried to pass it off. Thankfully, she didn't notice.

Though she wasn't joking when she told Adrien he'd work a sweat.


Adrien stood in front of the whole-length mirror that hung behind their bedroom door. He fixed the cuffs of his jacket as he waited for Marinette to emerge from the bathroom. She did, and immediately gave him a once over. Adrien raised his eyebrow.

"What? Something wrong?" He asked, and Marinette's gaze fixed in a point right on his shoulder. She stepped closer and removed what seemed to be a hair before fixing the neck of his shirt over the one on his blazer, making it look much nicer.

"There. Perfect."

Adrien laughed. "So now I've got you to dress me?"

He may have imagined it, but he could've sworn he saw a tint of pink on her cheeks as she looked down. When she looked up, it was still there, but her eyes had that spark of mischief he loved so much.

"Only if you don't know how to dress yourself."

Adrien shrugged exaggeratedly. "There was always someone there to help." He joked.

"Oh, so we went from 'father's assistant'  to 'wife' in the dressing department." Marinette teased. Adrien pretended to consider it. He looked down and smiled at her, and, for a second, it felt like the most normal thing in the world.

"I much prefer the wife though," he grinned, and, out of sheer instinct, almost as if it was nature itself dictating it, Adrien planted a soft kiss on the tip of her nose. It took him a second to realize what he had done, and he was about to apologize, when Marinette stood on the tips of her toes and pecked him on the lips, quick as a bird.

He looked at her, perplexed, and she was blushing slightly.

"David said we needed to be more... couple-y, right?" She fixed a loose strand or hair behind her ear. "That was kind of, my natural response, I guess?"

Adrien tried to suppress a smile, and nodded his head, concedingly. "I approve of it."

Marinette, still blushing a little, pulled him by the arm. "Come on, we're going to be late!" 

And she dragged him out the door.


"What did you do." David demanded as soon as he looked up from his files. Marinette started, taking a step back.

"What?" Adrien asked.

"You two. Something's different." David signaled them vaguely, removing his glasses and setting them on the table. "Out with it."

Marinette crossed her arms defensively. "No, there isn't."

David eyed them suspiciously. "Did you sleep together?--No, wait, I don't care." He stood up and examined them. "Whatever this is," he gestured at them as a whole. "It's working."

Marinette's and Adrien's eyebrows shot up in synchrony.

"Yes, I know I'm saying something good. Shocking, I agree." David added, somewhat crudely. "But its good." He rubbed his chin, as if he couldn't believe it. "One week, and its good." He seemed rather surprised, Marinette noticed.

"So," Marinette began, awkwardly, "you're... pleased?"

"Hm? Yes, yes." David said, shifting. "Whatever you're doing is good. Keep it up." He rounded Marinette up. "Next, we have to work on your social skills."

Her eyebrows shot up. "My what?"

"You have the Bourgeoise party tomorrow night, am I wrong?" 

"No, but--"

"And you have noticed, I presume, that its your first public appearance."

Their silence answered him.

"Yes, I thought so."

Adrien sighed. "Alright, fine, what do we have to do?"

David spared him barely half a glance. "You? Not much. Its Bluebell here that I have to work with."

"Bluebell?" They asked in unison. David paid no heed.

"In fact, Ken-doll, you don't have to stay."

Marinette snorted to keep a laugh drowned. Adrien chose to omit the moniker.

"I'll stay." He said rather firmly, and Marinette was a little bit grateful for that. She appreciated the company.

David eyed him appreciatively. "Right answer."

David surrounded Marinette, not unlike a vulture. She was... unsettled.

"You have a decent pose, I suppose. Prolific at fashion, from what I've read on your file--"

"I have a file?" Marinette cut through David's voice sharply. He, in turn, didn't miss a beat.

"What? Did you think they wouldn't do a background check on you?"

Marinette turned to Adrien. He had the good grace to look uncomfortable. Marinette frowned.

"Well, as long as you're going all Fifty Shades on me..." She trailed off, mildly irritated. David raised an eyebrow at her.

"You're cute, dear. Don't try to be funny." He tutted. Marinette pulled a face, and judging by Adrien's choked laughter, it was a funny one. 

"Anyways. What do I need to know? I mean, won't Adrien be there to, I don't know, walk me through the landmines?"

David gave Marinette another once over.

"Yes, he will." He conceded. "But we still have to make sure you've got everything down."

"What 'down'?"

David ticked off fingers, one by one. "No politics, no religion, no fashion--"

"No fashion? What--"

"Honey, where you're going, that's both politics and religion." He sighed. "Alright, you can delve in, but not too deep. And nothing controversial. And don't you dare bring the animal rights topic to the table unless you want to be eaten alive."

Marinette rolled her eyes so hard, she got dizzy for a second.

"So basically, 'have common courtesy and sense.' That's your advice."

David looked at her from over her glasses.

"To be perfectly honest," he replied. "I didn't think you'd have your age's worth of IQ."

Marinette was very tempted to hit him.

"I'm not sure if its a good thing or not, but its what we have." He muttered. "So help me, its what we have."

David flipped on his heel and stared at Adrien. "You."

"Me."

"We've got everything mostly covered. Don't leave her alone. Introduce her. Hold her hand. Look at her like she's the queen of your world. Don't leave her alone."

"You already said that."

"Emphasis, my boy." David massaged his temples. "I don't know how this will go down, but you two seem solid enough for the moment. I do warn you, though, the news is breaking out tomorrow, and after that, its going to be weeks of Papparazzi hell for the both of you."

For a second, David put aside his aloofness and switched his gaze across both of them.

"Take care of each other." He adviced. "More than one will want to trip you. Maybe for the scandal, maybe for the press, maybe because they're conniving and evil." David looked at Adrien meaningfully. "You know this world better than her. Have her back."

Marinette watched Adrien nod with a sense of purpose, and the quickening in her stomach settled.

David sighed. 

"Okay, I think we're done for the day. Miss Nathalie picked out your clothes for tomorrow already, so its all about looking sharp and behaving as if the world belongs to the both of you." He looked at Marinette pointedly. "You're in the shoes that  a lot of women want to fill. Guard yourself like a lioness."

Marinette nodded. David nodded as well, almost to himself.

"Yes, okay, I guess that's it." He eyed them both, and quite sincerely, said, "good luck."


"Why did David make it sound like we're going to war tomorrow?" Marinette asked, stepping out of the bathroom in a tank shirt and shorts, wringing her hair out in a towel. Adrien was already on his side of the bed, with cotton pyjamas that looked silly on him. He put his book down.

"I did warn you it can get bad." Adrien responded warningly. Marinette must've looked unsure, because Adrien reached for her hand and kissed the back of it. "We'll be okay. You already know we're one hell of a team."

Marinette smiled at him, reassured. "Yeah, we are." Adrien tossed a little on his side. "What the hell's wrong with you?"

"What? I'm hot." He said. MArinette raised an eyebrow.

"Well that's self-agrandizing of you."

Adrien rolled his eyes. "No, I mean I'm hot. Not used to sleeping with pants."

Marinette stared at him, deadpan. "Excuse me?"

"What? The room's toasty, what do you want me to say?"

"Fine, then take off your pants."

Adrien pulled his best Chat face, which might've been tinted by a blush. "Why, my Lady, buy me dinner first."

Marinette smacked him in the face with a pillow. "Fine. Roast to death." She lay on her side, looking away from him.

"So you don't mind?"

"If you roast?"

"If I sleep in my boxers." He corrected.

Marinette shifted but didn't turn. "David said to be comfortable. I mean, its not the first time I've seen a guy in boxers, alright?" There were a few seconds of awkward silence as the implication dawned on both of them. "I mean, models, okay?" She tried to correct, but it was in vain. The silence settled in like a fog.

Marinette counted the silence by Plagg's breaths. It was ten before Adrien spoke, and his voice was quiet.

"Do you miss Nathanael?" he asked. Marinette pressed her head against the pillow and bided her silence.

"Sometimes," she heard herself answering. "Sometimes when I pass by a gallery, or when I see someone drawing, I remember him." She continued, her mouth an open faucet for confessions. "But I'm never angry, though. I'm happy until I feel sad about it, y'know? It's... a strange feeling," she finished softly. When she heard no answer, she spoke again. "Did you ever have someone like that?"

"Me? Nah." Me replied, a little too quickly, Marinette thought. "I mean, apart from that huge crush on Ladybug... But that's not the same thing either, anyways." He talked as if to himself, as if he had never had this conversation inside his head, and Marinette was privy to his realizations as much as he was. It filled her heart. "I guess it just never happened with me."

"Really? Not even with the swarm of swooning girls throwing themselves at your feet?" Marinette joked, but it was empty. Adrien's answer was empty, too.

"Not particularly." He spoke sincerely, and a sliver of ice poked at Marinette's heart. "I tried, you know." He confessed. "I dated this girl on the down low. A good friend. Another model. I think you'd like her."

"And what happened?" She prompted.

"I... don't know," the truth spilled out of him as if it were pulled by gravity. "I just... never felt it." He thought for a few seconds. "I never...craved anything, you know? Like seeing her was nice and all, but I wasn't particularly disappointed to find out that she wouldn't be in a shoot. I never felt like I needed to see her, or that I just really wanted to hold her hand or all."

Marinette flipped over on her side to look at Adrien. He looked back at her with wide, open, green eyes. She smiled.

"You watch too many movies with Alya."

Adrien smiled fully, eyes half open. Marinette, thoughtlessly, intertwined her fingers with his and kissed the back of his hand, the same way he always did to her.

"But that's just cause you're a dork."

Adrien didn't let go of her hand, and instead squeezed it appreciatively.

"Can't argue with that."

Marinette smiled tiredly, closing her eyes. Sleep from last night was catching up with her.

"Go to sleep, dork." She commanded. "We have a big day tomorrow."

Even with her eyes closed, Marinette heard the smile on his voice.

"Sure thing, princess."

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

To be completely honest, Marinette wasn't sure she'd ever get used to being picked up in a fancy car out of the blue.

However, when a silver sedan rolled up in front of her, and the tinted window of the passenger seat scrolled down to reveal the ever scowling assistant of her new father-in-law, Marinette supposed that she really had no choice but to climb into the back seat quietly and face the judgmental glare of the beautiful Nathalie.

"Good morning, Nathalie," Marinette greeted, hopeful that the woman would eventually warm up to her. "I was just on my way to pick up the dress from--"

"--I am aware. We are here to take you to the dressmaker for the final touches." Her voice was stoic and void of room for small talk. Marinette shifted uncomfortably in her seat, looking out the window.

She wondered how Adrien managed to survive countless car rides to school with this robot of a woman.

They arrived at the dressmaker 20 horribly uncomfortable minutes later, without Nathalie having even spared a glance at Marinette.

When the car pulled over, Marinette sighed, and before she could reach for her door, it was being held open by Adrien's driver (the one who Adrien affectively called "Gorilla"). She looked at him for two seconds before gathering her bearings and smiling brightly at him with a small 'thank you.' To her infinite surprise, Gorilla's face softened into something resembling kindness, and Mari was glad that Adrien had had some sort of warmth growing up, even if it was from the most unlikely source.

Its not like I was particularly warm to him when we were heroes...

Marinette shook her head as she stepped out of the car. That wasn't true.

She and Chat had been best friends. She had been warm to him, and she had been kind to him.

She just hadn't ever bothering letting him know who the only person who treated him openly kindly was.

She sighed.

Hindsight was 20/20.

Nathalie cleared her throat, expecting Marinette from the door of the gargantuan, minimalistic building. Marinette, reduced to the size of an ant through the power of intimidation, took a deep breath and followed Nathalie, feeling much like a baby duck clumsily following its mother (even though Nathalie was the last person Marinette would ever compare to a mother). 

She followed Nathalie meekly, feeling once again small in the overly large shadow she cast, especially in the office.

To her embarrassment, it took Marinette a good ten minutes to realize she was at Gabriel.

She did right before Nathalie stopped in front of a plain white door, which she pushed open unceremoniously. When Marinette stepped inside, she had to actively stop herself from gasping.

If she had thought that her room was a mess when she was growing up, she had severely underestimated chaos.

There were fabrics of at least 9 different materials strewn about the floor, color upon color colliding with each other. Rolls of ribbons ran freely, unraveling over fine pieces of cutouts. It was only because of the plush texture under her feet that Marinette could recognize that there was a floor underneath all this.

"Jacob," Nathalie enunciated clearly. Marinette looked around the room, but found no one. It wasn't until a pile of fabrics in the corner started to move that she yelped in surprise and hopped back defensively.

From the pile of clothes, Marinette saw a person emerge. They were petite and had a slim frame with a chiseled, girly bone structure. The person that emerged opened their eyes lazily and widened them in horror when they saw Nathalie standing at the door.

"Zut, Miss Sancoeur!" They exclaimed. "I'm so sorry about the mess, I'll have it up in no ti--"

"Do not bother, Jacob." Nathalie interrupted. "We are only here to put the finishing touches in... her dress." She motioned towards Marinette, who did not like one bit the way Nathalie referred to her.

Jacob, in turn, looked at Marinette with wide eyes. It took him (she supposed it was a 'he') a second, but when his eyes met Marinette, a friendly smile grew upon his lips.

"You must be Madame Agreste!" Jacob exclaimed, and it took Marinette's entire force of will not to flinch.

Madame Agreste.

That was Adrien's mother. Not her.

"Please," she insisted. "Marinette is okay."

Jacob smiled, extending his hand. "I'm Jacob Durand. I'm the dressmaker. And let me say, its an honor to be the one working on your dress."

"Oh please," Marinette said kindly, "the honor is all mine! You must be very talented."

Nathalie silently turned on her heel and stepped outside with a low but firm "I'll be waiting."


Marinette twirled in front of the mirror for the eighth time, admiring the flow of the hem of her dress, a 1950's red cocktail with a generous design in the chest area, which managed to disguise her moderate flat-chest, and a beautiful flowing skirt from the hips down.

It was a very simple dress, but she loved it.

"Jacob, this is wonderful." Marinette said excitedly.

"I'm glad you like it. Its one of Monsieur Agreste's very own designs." Marinette stopped twirling, nearly falling off her 2-inch heels.

"W-what?" She asked dumbly. "This is one of his?"

Jacob shrugged. "You are at his company, you know." Jacob vultured around her a little bit, much like David, and Marinette wondered if it was in the job description. "Its a new design, he's presenting it in the spring collection next year."

Marinette's blush spread through her face, making her almost uniformly crimson with her dress. Jacob didn't seem to mind, and rather stepped closer and knelt to the floor to pin the hem of the dress to pick up a few inches.

"I do have to say, you look beautiful in this, Marinette."

Marinette couldn't stop a smile from forming on her lips, and stole a glance from her reflection in the mirror. 

She did look beautiful.

"Besides, I think Monsieur Agreste was very clever about it." Marinette could hear the tone of tease in Jacob's voice, and looked down at him, and Jacob winked at her knowingly.

"W-what do you mean?"

"Isn't your maiden name Dupain-Cheng?"

The world froze.

"Oh."

For the rest of the measure, Marinette was rather silent, letting Jacob fix her dress as he prattled happily away. After a good ten minutes, he asked her to step out of the dress, and Marinette complied meekly. She returned to her regular clothes and stood by the door.

"That's all, Marinette, I'll send it over today at five. Is that okay?"

Marinette nodded dumbly and stepped outside to meet Nathalie. They headed to the car in silence.

The car ride was quiet this time as well, with Nathalie focusing on her tablet rather than glaring at Marinette, which was rather nice, she thought. She still, however, wondered what in the world she had done to the older woman to make her dislike her so.

"Be ready to receive the dress at five. There will be a make-up artist in your house at six, and we will pick you up at nine." Nathalie looked over her tablet at Marinette, cold and calculating as ever.

She sat under that terrifying gaze for what seemed like an eternity, when Nathalie closed her tablet and lay it flat on her lap, watching Marinette with attention, and seemingly ready to begin to scold her.

"Miss Dupain-Cheng."

"Marinette, please." She urged gently.

"Miss Dupain-Cheng," Nathalie pressed. "I suppose you understand the importance of tonight's event." Before Marinette could reply, Nathalie adjusted her glasses and continued. "Tonight you represent the Agreste brand."

Marinette frowned. "I know, I--"

But for the first time since the dawn of mankind, Nathalie was rude.

"You hold, in your tiny, clumsy fingers the entire image that Gabriel and Adrien have spent the last 20 years constructing." Marinette heard Nathalie's voice turn cold. "I do not know why Adrien cares for you so deeply as to put his career at risk, but I assure you, Miss Dupain-Cheng, it cannot have been enough."

Marinette was at a loss for words. Nathalie wasn't.

"Any mistake you make tonight, and every other night during this marriage will reflect upon Adrien. He may not be concerned about it, but I am, and I promise you, Miss Dupain-Cheng, if anything, anything at all goes wrong while this marriage lasts, you will be terribly, thoroughly, and miserably sorry."

Marinette's mouth was completely dry. She could only gape at Nathalie, rummaging through her throat trying to reach even the idea of her voice, but it was hidden. It was probably that thing that felt like a knot in her stomach.

Returning to her professional demeanor, Nathalie looked out the window.

"We have reached your apartment, Miss Dupain-Cheng."

Marinette didn't even find her voice to say 'thank you' or 'goodbye' as she stepped out of the car.


Marinette sat on the floor of her room, watching Plagg take clumsy, slow steps, and trying out his legs. Her mind whirled around her conversation with Nathalie.

At least now she understood why Nathalie seemed to dislike her so thoroughly.

Plagg tripped on his front paws and landed face first on the floor. Marinette picked him up in her arms and petted him lovingly if absently. She sighed.

There were a lot of things to consider.

Originally, she had been scared about tonight because, well, she was scared of any public event. But now, Nathalie had given her something very real and very tangible to be scared of.

She scratched Plagg behind the ears and not for the first time wished she was back to being Ladybug. Ladybug didn't screw up. Marinette did.

She heard the front door slam and keys jingle before hearing her husband's voice. 

"Mari? Are you home?"

"Bedroom." She called back, a small part of her still in wonder at how easily she had slipped into this married life. She sighed as she scratched under Plagg's chin. Plagg mewled, pleased.

"Hey, Buginette." Adrien smiled at her from the door frame. It was always the doorframe with him. "How was the fitting."

"Pretty good," she answered, choosing to keep her conversation with Nathalie private. "They say I'll have my dress by five. The make up artist comes at six and we leave at nine." She peered at Adrien. "Is it normal to have everything scheduled?"

Adrien laughed good-naturedly. "You'll get used to it." He grinned. "And how's our boy?" He asked, kneeling towards Plagg, who was more than happy to receive more attention.

"He's doing well. I had him walk a little. He's kind of clumsy."

"I don't know, my Lady, from what I remember you tripped a lot too." He winked at her, and Marinette fought not to blush.

"Says the literal black cat." She deadpanned. "I had to pull you by the tail more than once to save your butt."

Adrien shrugged, unconcerned. "My butt and everything attached to it thank you."

Marinette rolled her eyes, but her ill humour was quickly vanishing, like Adrien was the sunlight that dispersed the fogs of self-doubt.

"By the way, Princess, I brought some take out. I didn't think we'd have time to cook."

Marinette raised her eyebrow. "You say 'we' but I've never seen you cook."

Instead of responding, Adrien laughed, and Marinette rolled her eyes, her good humour restored.

"Come on, minou, let's eat before I pass out."


The dress was in her doorstep at five sharp, but the make up artist canceled at the last minute. Nathalie had been very clearly stressed, but Marinette assured her she could handle her own make up. After all, that's what she'd done the past six years. Nathalie hadn't seemed convinced, but they had little option at this point.

Marinette sat in front of the boudoir in their room, fixing her mascara while Adrien got dressed in the bathroom. There was a quickening in her belly, mostly due to Nathalie's words from this afternoon, and aprehension at her own known clumsiness.

"Hey," Adrien called from the bathroom. "There's no need to be nervous." He said gently, as if he'd been reading her mind. "These people are mostly pompous, self-important jerks, but they're mostly harmless. Just don't let them get to you."

Marinette sighed, putting down her mascara. "What if I screw up?"

"You won't," he assured, stepping out of the bathroom and fixing his tie. "You are worth all that bunch put together."

This drew a smile from her lips and she turned to look at him, and her breath caught in her throat.

To say that he looked handsome would be an insult to him.

Adrien filled his suit wonderfully, his body lean but toned. His shoulders were as broad as his frame would allow it without being ostentatious. His hair still had a controlled wildness to it, making him seem rebellious without compromising the formality of the event. He wore cufflinks with what Mari figured would be diamonds.

He looked like a modern day prince, to sum it up.

"You look handsome." The words slipped from her lips, unbidden and unabashed. When she heard herself, she blushed, but Adrien just smiled.

"Let me see you." He asked kindly. and Marinette felt self-conscious once again. How could she ever fit in a picture with him by her side?

Feebly, she stood up, straightening her back to seem as regal as she could manage, throwing her back-length hair over her shoulder, which was tied up with beautiful (probably gem encursted) butterflies that she had received along with the dress. She looked from the floor up to Adrien, who watched her closely with an indecipherable expression.

Marinette cleared her throat and crossed her arms over her chest nervously.

"Don't look at me like that." She commanded, and Adrien snapped from his daze.

"You look beautiful," he whispered in a voice that Marinette could've sworn would've carried across the entire apartment. His green eyes were fixed in her. Not in her dress, or in her hair, or in her necklace. They were fixed on her. All of her.

She cleared her throat. "Decent enough to walk arm in arm with Adrien Agreste?" She joked weakly.

"Ravishing enough to make me the envy of every other person in that party." He said with a sincerity that Marinette had not expected. She cleared her throat and looked away.

"I-I need to get my shoes on." She mumbled as she pulled them out of the box. She sat down on the bed, and before she could lean over, Adrien was on his knees in front of her.

"Let me," he said, and gently took the heel from her hand and delicately helped her with her shoes.

The warmth from his hand every time he brushed against her skin traveled through her veins and up into her body, making her dizzy and giddy and happy. She knew she was blushing and that her mouth would run away from her, like it always did when she was nervous.

She felt not at all unlike she did that time she was drunk.

"If you would've told me a few years ago that I'd be going to the Grand Paris in a red dress with Adrien Agreste, you probably would've had to resuscitate me." She mumbled.

Adrien looked at her curiously from the ground. "How come?"

Marinette fingered the hem of her dress. "In China, women get married in red." She said. "I think your dad did it on purpose."

Adrien chuckled lightly. "Probably. Its subtle enough to be his style." Adrien rose from the ground and offered her his elbow. "Shall we go, dear wife?"

Marinette felt a smile tug at her lips. 

"Lead the way, beloved husband."


When they stepped into the event hall, Adrien felt Marinette tense against his arm. He rested his hand gently upon hers in the crook of his elbow and whispered against her ear.

"Its alright. Just relax."

Marinette didn't respond. She just nodded rather robotically, which Adrien found endearing.

As soon as they stepped into the party, they were greeted by Mayor Bourgeois.

"Adrien!" He called happily, shaking his hand. He turned to Marinette with a furrowed brow. "Wait, I know you... You were in my Chloe's class, weren't you?"

Marinette smiled shyly and presented her hand. "Marinette Du--" She cleared her throat. "Marinette Agreste. Pleasure."

Immediately, the Mayor's eyebrows shot through his forehead and to the beginning of his very far behind receding hairline.

"A-Agreste?" He stuttered, and Marinette nodded shyly. Adrien took a deep breath and intervened.

"Yes, Mayor. This is Mari, my wife." He felt the contraction of Marinette's fingers as he presented her, and watched the Mayor's eyes open wide as plates before he tried to pass it off.

"I had no idea!" He spluttered, and Adrien just smiled kindly.

"Yes, it was a very small, very private affair." He confessed. "In fact, the press isn't privy to it yet. Tonight is supposed to be our debut." He confided. Mayor Bourgeois nodded vehemently.

"Oh yes! What an honour! Yes, wonderful, Adrien, wonderful!" The mayor looked down at Marinette, who was several inches shorter than both of them. "Madame Agreste, if there's anything you need --anything at all-- please let me know. I am always at the service of the Agreste family."

Marinette nodded graciously and with a sweet smile, thanking the mayor kindly before he excused himself and dashed off to meet other guests. As he vanished, Adrien heard Marinette sigh.

"Well, that's one down." He commented, and Marinette grumbled in response.

"We're not out of the woods yet," Marinette pointed with her chin at a conglomeration of some of Adrien's former model companions, most of the women which eyed Marinette with poorly concealed distaste. "Looks like you've got a fanclub. Again."

Adrien stifled a groan. "You know, I don't think I've ever exchanged more than two sentences with most of them. Why are they glaring."

Marinette shrugged. "They've probably got their walls covered with pictures of you. And now there's gonna be a lot of pictures of us, so they're not gonna be able to hang more for the time being."

"They don't have pictures of me." Adrien scoffed, but felt a little doubtful. "Do they?"

Marinette snorted. "Don't underestimate the power of a crush." Adrien was struck by a thought.

"Wait." Marinette looked at him. He grinned. "Does this mean you had pictures of me in your room?" He gave her his best Chat Noir smile, which promptly resolved in a crimson Marinette and a spluttering mess with blue eyes as she tried to deny it. Adrien laughed loudly.

"Shut up! I bet you had pictures of Ladybug too!" 

Adrien nodded concedingly, still channeling Chat. "Can't blame me. You looked good in spandex."

Adrien had thought that Marinette couldn't blush anymore, but boy was he wrong. She looked a lot like a teapot ready to boil. He couldn't help but laugh before smacking a kiss on her head, as much for the benefit of the glaring models as for hers. It would be a lie to say that he didn't hear their indignant gasps.

"You're going to have me killed, Agreste." She mumbled.

Adrien only smiled and dragged her to meet new people.


"This is my wife, Marinette," were the words that Adrien said the most that night.

He noticed how everyone, without fail, promptly eyed their left hands, looking for the tell-tale wedding bands, which they had only procured this afternoon.

The reactions were mostly that of surprise, with several friendly family acquaintances giving their sincere congratulations and asking Marinette about herself. In a matter of minutes, she had made the entire party hers, and nobody could doubt her belonging there.

They had met about fifteen entrepreneurs and miscellaneous members of the Parisian aristocracy when Marinette spoke up.

"Where's Chloe?"

Adrien blinked a couple of times. Frankly, the thought of her had slipped his mind.

"I.. don't really know. I guess on a trip or something." He replied. Marinette shrugged, as if wasn't even a matter of importance, and they continued their pilgrimage.

Adrien was no fool. He could see the looks that some people threw Marinette. He'd been expecting them, to be frank. The same way he was expecting tomorrow's fashion news to be something unpleasant. He sighed. Marinette, who's hand was resting against his, squeezed him reassuringly. 

"Its going well." She said, and he smiled. 

"It is." Adrien looked up at a person who was heading towards them and recognized the photographer from one of his sessions.

"M. Agreste!" The man called in his happy italian accent. "Can I take a picture of you with your-a lovely date?"

Adrien smiled meaningfully at the photographer. He had wanted to take a picture with Marinette ever since he had seen her in that dress at home. "Of course."

They stood close together and before he knew it, Adrien snaked his hand across her waist, pressing her towards him and planting another kiss in her hair, her scent filling his nostrils.

The photographer thanked them kindly after asking Marinette how to spell her name, doubtlessly for the social section of the newspaper the next day. He felt Marinette shift her weight repeatedly.

"Princess, what are you doing?" He asked as she leaned her weight on his arm.

"Shoes. Hurt." She grunted, and Adrien wanted to laugh. Instead, he shook his head, amused, and led her to a table, where she sat down to rest her feet.

"Better?"

Marinette smiled abashedly and nodded. God, she was beautiful.

"Adrien!" Someone called, and he turned his head to find Monsieur Cousteau making a beeline for him. Adrien groaned internally. This was a man who never ceased talking. 

"Adrien, come here, I'd like you to meet someone." M. Cousteau rested a hand on his shoulder and Adrien had to actively stop himself from hissing.

"Sorry, Mr Cousteau, I can't leave my wife all by herself." He excused, and saw the counter ready on the other man's lips before it was interrupted by a much more pleasant voice.

"Its alright, Adrien. I can stay put for a few minutes." She had a small smile painted on her face, and Adrien couldn't help but smile back.

"Okay, I can spare five minutes, I guess." Adrien conceded, and Cousteau beamed as he dragged Adrien away, whose eyes remained glued to the sitting figure of his wife until the crowd of people whisked him away from sight.


Marinette sighed deeply, resting her back against the chair and closing her eyes for a few seconds.

Aristocracy was hard.

She felt rather than heard the chair being pulled up next to her, and, as she opened her eyes, she found a beautiful brown haired girl with honey-coloured eyes wearing a golden dress. Immediately, she felt intimidated, though the girl did not seem to irradiate agressiveness.

Jesus Christ woman, its a party, not Animal Planet.

"Hi," the girl smiled disarmingly at Marinette, who felt her lips pull back automatically in a mirror, almost as if forced. "I'm Genevieve." She offered her hand. "Genevieve Melacon."

Marinette shook her hand politely. "Marinette Agreste."

Genevieve eyed her curiously. "So it is true." She whispered, but Marinette heard her perfectly. "I'd heard the rumor that Adrien Agreste had gotten married. Well," she smiled sheepishly. "I heard it about ten minutes ago. I'm sorry, I just wanted to meet you."

Marinette blinked. "Meet me?"

"Yeah," she replied. "I wanted to know who was the special girl that managed to win over M. Celibacy's heart."

Marinette blushed. "Monsieur Celibacy?"

Genevieve laughed. "Its a horrible moniker, I know. Its just, you know how the fashion world is. Adrien is pretty much a saint amongst us." She explained. "Besides, I'd never seen him date anyone." She lowered her voice, almost conspirationally. "I was starting to think he was on the other side of the spectrum."

Marinette blushed hard and tucked a strand of hair behind her ear, unsure of what to answer. Genevieve seemed kind enough, but what was correct for her to say? Nathalie had warned her to be careful.

"So? What's he like?"

"Huh?" Marinette blinked. "H-he's wonderful." Marinette replied sincerely. "He's my best friend." She heard herself say, and sincerity unwound her heart. "He's the sweetest, he's clever and he's so thoughtful." Se commented fondly. "I'm so lucky." She finished with a smile.

Genevieve giggled. "Honeymoon phase, I see."

Marinette laughed awkwardly and blushed a little.

"So, I suppose you're at it, like, 24/7."

Marinette cocked her head to the side. "At it?"

Genevieve rolled her eyes. "Don't hold out on me, girl. How is he?"

Marinette pointed feebly at the point where Adrien disappeared. "He's fine, he's right th--"

Genevieve let out a barking laugh and closed in on Marinette. "I mean," there was a mischievous smile on her face. "What's he like in bed?"

For the umpteenth time in the day, Marinette turned the colour of her dress. "W-what?"

Genevieve shrugged. "I mean, I hope you don't take this the wrong way, but when I met him I had my eye on him, but I never managed to catch that Pokemon, if you catch my drift." She grinned. Marinette was still in shock. "So, since I'd yet to meet someone who had tamed that horse, I've always been curious. What's he like?"

Marinette peeked through the crowd until she found the smudge of blond hair and the white smile that could only belong to her husband, and allowed herself to fantasize, only for a second.

"Mindblowing." She replied simply, and much to her own horror.

Genevieve, in turn, lit up like a Christmas tree.

"Really." She demanded. Marinette was pretty much more blush than girl at this point, so what the heck.

"I suppose its mostly about chemistry, but, uh, yeah." She scratched the back of her head. "'Mindblowing' is the description I'd give."

Genevieve squealed and clapped her hands giddily. 

"I knew it!" She grinned. "You just became my new best friend." Genevieve winked at Marinette, who laughed. "I--"

"Genevirve?" Adrien's voice cut through the conversation. MArinette didn't have time to process what was happening before Genevieve threw herself to Adrien's arms, hugging her like lifelong friends. She saw Adrien's smile turn affectionate as he hugged her back, and more uncoiled inside of her.

"I was just here talking to your wonderful wife." Genevieve gestured at Marinette. "I like her." She turned to Marinette. "If you ever need anything, just let me know, Sweets, okay? I'm at your service." Then, she turned to Adrien. "See you later Adri." And soon she was gone.

Marinette stared at the spot where this vivacious girl had been, and then at Adrien, with an eyebrow raised high.

"What?" She asked. Adrien laughed.

"Gen's the sweetest." He assured her, taking a seat next to her. "I did some modeling with her back in Milan."

Marinette raised an unimpressed eyebrow. "Should I be jealous?" She teased, and Adrien winked at her.

"Please, Princess, I only have eyes for you." MArinette rolled her eyes. "How are your feet?" He asked, and Marinette looked down. They felt pretty okay. She said so.

Adrien smiled at her bashfully. "Do you wanna dance a little while?" She could've sworn she saw a tint of blush in his cheeks. "I wouldn't mind rubbing my date in everyone's faces a little more."

Marinette couldn't supress her smile, but threw in an eye=roll for good measure as she presented her hand to Adrien, who grabbed it delicately and pulled her to the dancefloor.


He loved that Marinette was so much shorter than him. It made it so easy to rest his chin on her head and every once in a while drop to smack a kiss on her forehead.

Adrien couldn't help it. As he danced, he looked around at the people who watched them dance that gentle waltz like they were the only two people in the room. He saw the shock in some faces, and the anger in others, and the only thing he felt was satisfaction and pride.

Satisfaction because he was secretly a little petty.

Pride because he knew with no possibility of doubt that he held a treasure in his arms, and that that treasure had her arms on his shoulders.

He looked down and met Marinette's bluebell eyes, which had been studying him while he was unaware. He smiled easily at her. 

"What? There something in my face? Let me guess, too much handsome?" He joked with a half smile, and Marinette snorted and rolled her eyes.

Frankly, there wasn't a sight in this world more wonderful than that one, he thought.

Now, it was Marinette who scanned the room, and he watched her while she did. She was nervous, but composed. Scared, but brave. She had behaved beautifully in the short spotlight she'd had --not that he had doubted it for one second-- and she wore his father's design like a second skin. This was the first time he'd enjoyed one of these events.

For a moment, he never wanted the night to end. But then, a thought struck him like a thunderbolt.

When this night was over, he would head out the door with Marinette in his arm. They would get into the car together and drive to the home they shared. He would watch her fall asleep, hair undone, having removed her make up, knowing that she'd be just as fair without it. In the morning, he would wake up and those bluebell eyes would be staring at him from the other side of the bed, and when he had breakfast, it would be her voice that he would hear.

He didn't need the night to last forever. He had the one thing that made this night worth it.

He suddenly felt the urge to kiss her.

Adrien trailed his nose against Marinette's forehead.

"How did you like your first grown-up party?" He asked, his lips resting against the skin between her brows.

"Is everyone always this pompous?"

Adrien felt himself smile. "Yes." Marinette groaned. "If it means anything, this is the best one I've been to."

Marinette fixed her arms to be more comfortable, resulting in her being closer. "Are the usual ones worse?"

"Not really, I just enjoyed the company." He smiled again against her skin, and could even feel the rise in her temperature as she blushed.

"Silly kitty."

"Always for you, my Lady." He sighed contentedly before pulling back and looking at her in the eyes. "You know people are staring right?"

Marinette didn't flnch, but continued to sway with him in time with the music. "Hard not to notice."

Adrien gave her a noncommittal noise. "You know what this party missed?"

"Hm?"

"Chocolate fountain."

Marinette giggled. Adrien relished that sound.

"I swear I would've put shrimp in it."

Marinette laughed louder. "That's disgusting."

Adrien smiled at her, not like Chat, but also not like Adrien. It was a new smile that he had never given and he wondered what it would look like in his face.

"Hey," he called gently, and Marinette looked up at him. There was still a smile clinging to her lips. "Wanna give them something to look at?"

She raised her eyebrow. "I'm terrified of what you might mean."

Adrien laughed. "I mean, can I kiss you? I think it would make for a very romantic shot."

Marinette pretended to consider it for a few moments.

"Under one condition."  She half smiled. "Tomorrow morning I get to kick your butt in Mecha-Strike III."

Adrien groaned jokingly. "Its getting embarrassing, Princess."

"Only for you, Chaton." There was a smile on her face, and Adrien took his chance.

With the crook of his index finger, he pulled her chin up gently while lowering his face slowly to meet her halfway. Marinette's lips received him happily, and he was only barely aware that they had stopped dancing.

They had wanted to play with the cameras. Play with people's perceptions of their relationship, letting them see what they wanted them to see.

It was only a joke.

Until it wasn't.

It stopped being a joke when Adrien felt his heart hammer out of his chest, and his lips part gently against hers. He felt her surprise, and felt a rush of cold sweat --only for a second-- before she parted her lips as well.

And then it was all bliss.

His hand found her cheek easily, while the other remained snaked around her waist, keeping her close. He breathed deep through his nose, enchanting himself with her perfume. 

He never, ever wanted to let go.

But she did after a few seconds, leaving Adrien dazed and in want. He forced a smile to his lips as he looked at her, her constellation of freckles hidden by the dust of a blush in her cheeks.

Oh boy.

He was in deep trouble.


 

They got home when the clock was striking two in the morning. Nathalie had come into the apartment to feed Plagg, as per agreement.

Marinette plopped on her side of the bed, still wearing her fancy dress and painful shoes, and definitely did not want to get up and un-fancy herself. She let out a little groan, not unlike the one Adrien had made upon trying the bed for the first time, and stretched.

"I don't wanna take my clothes off." She yawned. "I'm too sleepy."

Adrien, in turn, was already shedding his tie and blazer, undoing the buttons of his white shirt.

"That doesn't look particularly comforatble to sleep in." He pointed out.

"Its not." Marinette agreed. "Chiffon is not pyjama material."

Adrien shed his shirt and began unbuckling his belt, and Marinette had to try really hard to look away.

To be perfectly candid, she had forgotten how attractive this man could be, and seeing him in a suit had done wonders to remind her.

Him shedding his clothes to share her bed half naked? Well, lets just say she might be a little hot tonight.

"Do you want me to hand you a nightgown and get out of the room?" He offered, always so kind. Marinette smiled and shook her head.

"I've already abused your kindness long enough, Chaton." She stood up. "Besides, I need to take off my face."

She headed towards the bathroom and worked the make up carefully out of her face. She examined herself in the mirror for any traces, and caught Adrien's reflection staring at her from the bathroom door. He stared at her as if she were not a person, but a butterfly --a ladybug. Marinette met his eyes on the mirror.

"You were definitely the most beautiful woman at the hotel tonight. Still are."

Immediately, MArinette's eyes cast down and she blushed, her lips tripping over her words. She only managed to shush him.

As if only now aware of what he'd said, Adrien scratched the back of his neck and went back to the room, leaving Marinette alone to change her clothes.

She joined him in bed a few minutes later and turned off the lights, facing away from him, the same way he faced away from her.

The truth was, her mind was still spinning from that kiss. She had thought herself to have developed immunity towards Adrien and his charm, but she was wrong wrong wrong. The taste of the champagne he had drunk but she hadn't was still on her lips, its inexistent bubbles popping against the edges of her mouth.

She bit her tongue and focus on what was important.

Tomorrow, the whole world would know about their marriage.

She just hoped they could survive the masses.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

This time, the ring that woke Marinette up wasn't the one of her Plagg Alarm (Plagglarm, as Adrien affectionately called it).

This time, she woke up to the very distinctive, very personalized ringtone that Alya had set for herself on Marinette's phone when she hadn't been looking. Alya, being Alya, had chosen the Beyonce song about girls running the world, and had explicitly forbidden Marinette from changing it.

So Marinette groaned as she stretched her arm over, rummaging around her nightstand at what had to be an ungodly hour to answer the phone. Eyes closed, it took her more than it should to find it, and she heard rustling come from Adrien's side of the bed as he hid under the covers and whined.

"Mariiiiii," he complained. "Shut that thing up. I'm still sleepy."

Marinette opened her eyes and pressed the 'Answer' button, bringing the phone to her ear without even bothering to check for the time.

"This better be good." She groaned into the phone, right before noticing that there was an incredible amount of backnoise from wherever Alya was.

"Hey, girl!" She had to be yelled to be heard over the obvious crowd of people that surrounded her. "I need you to come down and let me in!"

Marinette threw herself back against the bed, feeling Adrien shift over to face her. She turned her head to the side to meet his gaze, which had a sleepy and questioning look to it, paired up with the severest case of bed-hair Marinette had ever witnessed.

"Ask the doorman." She grumbled.

"He won't let me!" Alya yelled. A beat of silence passed. "You haven't looked out the window, have you?"

At this, Marinette's eyes popped wide open. She sat up quickly, throwing off the covers and feet hitting the ground as if there were an Akuma on the lose. She heard Adrien's feel hit the plush carpet as well, voicing his questions yet following suit. She made her way to the living room and raised the blinds before opening the window and groaning.

When Adrien reached her side, he groaned too.

At the entrance of their building, there were at least 20 different people. There were photographers, cameras, and more than one reporter. Even from the third floor they could see people standing on their tiptoes, trying to look inside the building, probably waiting for a new scoop on the new Agreste family.

"Well, fuck." Marinette spoke into the phone. From below, she recognized Alya's almost wild hair as she looked up from next to Nino, and they both began waving.

Marinette really wished they hadn't, since that tipped off the reporters, who looked up as well and began taking pictures and calling their names wildly and shouting questions.

Marinette was only aware of Adrien's fingers closing around her arm and pulling her back, away from the window and shutting the blinds as quickly as he could.

"Yup." Alya's voice came from the receiver. "So. Are you too good for your friends now or are you guys gonna let us in?"

Marinette hung her head and looked at Adrien, who had the good grace to look abashed. She separated the phone from her face.

"How are we supposed to let them in?"

Adrien thought for a second. "I'll call the doorman and tell him that they're the only two allowed. Tell them to wait five minutes and then give their names at the door."

Marinette nodded and repeated the instructions into the phone. She was quiet for a moment, and then sighed.

"Is this always gonna be like this?" She asked Alya on the phone, softly, for Adrien not to hear her. She only heard Alya's snicker in response. "I'll see you in a minute." She hung up the phone and walked towards Adrien, who was on the intercom system of the apartment.

"....L-A-H-I-F-F-E. Yes. Only them." Adrien turned and looked at Marinette with a sheepish smile. "Yes, thank you." He said as he put down the phone-like apparatus on its receiver and sighed. They looked at each other silently for a few seconds.

"Guess the cat's out of the bag." Adrien muttered awkwardly, his hand finding the back of his neck in that eternal, nervous gesture. Marinette smiled at him, just a little.

Marinette wanted more than anything at this point to explain to Adrien that she was not angry. She had no idea why he would think that she'd be angry at this point, knowing that he had no control whatsoever over the press and what they did, but blaming himself seemed exactly like the kind of dumb, crazy and super endearing thing that Adrien would do at this point. So Marinette took preemptive action.

"Again with the cat puns, Chaton?" She said kindly, and Adrien's face turned less nervous, and Marinette was happy for a second.

There was a knock on the door.

The now nominally acknowledged Agrestes headed towards the door together, opening it to reveal their friends. Alya with a phone in her hands, snapping a picture with a self-satisfied smile on her face, and Nino with a smug yet mockingly sultry look in his.

"Its good to know the years have been kind to you, Adrien." Nino winked. Adrien and Marinette drew a blank. Alya grinned.

"And you, Mari. Those legs are out of this world."

It took a whole of two seconds for Marinette to connect the dots before looking down at herself and finding her very short shorts and loose, bra-less cotton tank-top, standing right next to her mostly nude husband and squeaked, throwing the door closed in their friend's faces. Adrien looked at her, wildly.

"What did you do that for?" He demanded. Marinette gestured desperately at both their attires before a look of understanding fell over Adrien's face and he slapped his forehead with his palm (which sounded like it hurt)

Zipping towards their room, they both threw on some clothes before coming back and opening the door for their friends, who had big, goofy grins. Alya was looking at her phone, probably, Marinette feared, at pictures.

Nino was grinning mischievously at Adrien.

"Still as ripped as you were in highschool, bro." He teased, and Adrien just glared, though not angrily. "Mari's a lucky, lucky woman."

Marinette was going to jump in his defense (and hers) when she heard Alya's pleased hum, knowing that whatever she was happy about would make her highly unhappy.

"Say, babe," Alya spoke deliberately at Nino. "How much do you think tabloids would pay for this pic?

Nino looked over her shoulder and hummed appreciatively. "Ooh... Enough to go to that Rome trip we've been talking about so much."

"Drop dead, the both of you." Marinette gritted her teeth. Nino chuckled. Alya threw her head back and laughed openly before pushing the door open and taking in the apartment.

"Ooooooh," she cooed. "Pretty."

Nino stepped in and whistled impressively at the gaming system.

"Is it possible that you have even more games than before?"

Marinette sighed as their friends poked and prodded through their apartment, stepping into the kitchen and pulling out the coffee maker. Adrien waved silently at her and gestured sheepishly for a cut for himself. Marinette smiled softly and nodded, before he went to sit at the couch.

By the time the coffee was made, Marinette put sugar on them (two tablespoons for Adrien) and brought them to the couch, presenting Adrien's before taking her seat by his side. He smiled as he took it from her and drank a sip.

"Perfect." He hummed. "Thanks, Princess." He added, thoughtlessly.

They both processed the mix-up exactly at the same time, eyes widening in terror. Adrien grimaced, and, through the powers of non-verbal communication that they had acquired during their days of crime fighting, transmitted a very clear message.

I fucked up.

Marinette only nodded her head a fraction, and they both sat perfectly still, as if hoping Alya and Nino would forget they're there, and maybe, just maybe, missed that little word that had slipped through Adrien's mouth.

"Princess?"

No such luck.

Alya turned her head dramatically towards them, pearly whites flashing like a shark, uncomfortably similar to their wedding day. Marinette shifted uncomfortably under that gaze, but tried to play it cool.

"Our image coach said we needed to make it more real." She mumbled unconvincingly. Adrien scratched the back of his neck nervously.

"Y-yeah. He said nicknames was a good way to go."

"Oh, yes. Of course. Of course." Nino nodded vehemently, and Marinette was 110% sure that their friends were mocking them. She scowled at Alya.

"Why don't you try being married and see if nothing slips." She snapped. Alya raised her hands defensively, but Nino clearly wasn't done.

"The only thing that was slipping when we got here was Adrien's underwear." Nino quipped, making Marinette very effectively spit her coffee out, and Adrien only spilling it.

"My underwear was not slipping!" Adrien countered. Nino snickered.

"Nino's right, though. It wasn't slipping on its own." Alya winked at Marinette, ignoring Adrien. "Did we walk in on something? Do you want us to go?"

"Alya." Marinette shrieked. 

"I mean, your voice did sound awfully bed-y when I called."

"Because we were in bed!"

"That's what I'm talking about!" Nino chuckled and raised a fist for Adrien to pump it. The blond just glared at his friend.

"We were sleeping." She corrected. "Clothed."

"So Adrien just took his pants off to come to the door? Such a gentleman." Alya pointed out. Marinette just groaned and dropped her head against the couch in frustration.

Alya and Nino, in turn, burst into laughter at how easy it was to rile their friends up. They high-fived each other and Marinette felt a perfect mixture of mortification and laughter collide inside her.

"So anyways, what are you guys doing here? Its--" Adrien checked his watch. "Six-thirty?!"

Marinette yelped and jumped from her position in the couch, Adrien following suit.

"You get the formula!" She yelled as she ran into the room like her tail was on fire. She only barely managed to catch Nino and Alya's sincere looks of confusion this time. Marinette grabbed Plagg carefully-- he was definitely fussy and mewled as loudly as he could, which was to say not much-- and headed to the living room, where Adrien held the full syringe proudly. Marinette sighed in relief and regained her seat on the couch, Adrien presenting her the food and sitting down next to her.

"Guys." Nino called. Neither bothered looking up at him. "Why do you have what seems to be the spawn of hell in Mari's arms?"

Marinette let Adrien take this part of the conversation.

"This is Plagg." She heard the caring in his voice, making her heart swell. "We found him the other night and decided to keep him."

There were a few seconds of silence, then Nino broke it.

"Look, honey, they have a kid."

Marinette rolled her eyes as she finished feeding Plagg and put him on the ground so he'd stretch his legs a bit. They all watched him, entranced, as he smelled the floor at his feet, learning his surroundings and tripping over his own feet a few times.

"Kinda reminds me of Chat Noir." Alya pointed out. Adrien glared from the corner of his eye and Marinette suppressed a giggle as she found Adrien's hand and squeezed it.

"Anyways," she recalled their attention. "What brings you here at this ungodly hour?"

Alya, as if something electrocuted her, stood up suddenly, looking for something in the coffee table. "Where's the remote? Fashion News is about to start!" She rummaged through their things, which were mostly Marinette's magazines and a couple of Adrien's videogame controllers that he hadn't had a chance to use. "Didn't you guys go to a party last night? Its bound  to be there!"

And so, Marinette felt as if someone had dropped a rock in the middle of her stomach, and that her stomach was the deepest, darkest lake in the history of mankind. 

"Oh, right." She said, her mouth feeling terribly dry as she pressed her fingers hard against the mug in her hands. She felt Adrien's fingers pry them softly away from the porcelain and hold her hand encouragingly. When she met his eyes, she sighed. It couldn't be that bad, could it?

"Aha!" Alya cried, victorious, as Nino slipped next to Marinette on the couch, and Alya made space next to Adrien, effectively surrounding them. Frankly, they seemed like the lesser threat, at the moment.

The usual, pop-music theme song chimed in as the host of the show stepped into the frame, loud-coloured clothes and tinted shades resting on top of his head. He smiled at the camera with ease, as he'd probably done a thousand times, and Marinette wondered if she'd ever feel like that.

"Good morning, fashionistas!" He called cheerfully, the earring in his left ear tinkling against the light. "Boy, do I have some news for you! I think the ladies should sit down for this one, 'cause it is a big one!" He cried cheerfully, and Marinette felt her stomach churn. Half at the sexism, half from nervousness.

Adrien squeezed her hand again, and Marinette was only very vaguely aware of the feeling, mostly focusing on not throwing up.

"As you may or may not know, last night Mayor Bourgeois had a soiree, where he invited only the most elite of Paris's citizens! And of course, their dates." The announcer said with a sly smile.

Alya reached for Marinette's other hand and squeezed it reassuringly, not even having to look at her to discern how terrified she was. Alya's eyes were glued to the television.

"We saw many of our usual couples in the modelling world! Melánie Schavrawn and James Carterfield, Joshua Levy and Aaron Maschinno, the ever lovely, ever bachelorette Genevieve Melacon rocking the solo mission!" He listed and smiled at the camera. "But all these, we knew, not its time for the doozy."

Marinette licked her lips.

"Last night we were privy to a once-in-a-lifetime event! But a picture is worth a thousand words, so be ready for this one!" He said and on the right of his head, a small screen appeared, a picture of Adrien and Marinette's kiss during the dance displayed in all its glory.

Marinette winced.

If that wasn't bad enough, they zoomed in to the picture, until it filled the screen completely.

"That's right, folks! Last night, Paris's most elegible bachelor demonstrated that he is no such thing, as he showed up to the soiree arm in arm with this mysterious lady!" Marinette breathed in a little. So far so good, right?

"And that's not all, folks! After some digging, Fashion News learned that Monsieur Agreste kept introducing her as Madame Agreste!" Marinette was sure that, if she closed her eyes, she'd be able to hear the collective gasps form absolutely every house in Paris. "To confirm suspicion, our sources indicate that they did, in fact, wear matching wedding bands!" The announcer grinned, and Marinette was more than sure that he was enjoying this juicy piece of gossip.

"It seems our Most Elegible Bachelor is out of the running, as someone seems to have managed to tie down Adrien!" The host exclaimed, excited. "But who is this girl?"

The photo changed into another one, one that had been taken when Marinette hadn't been watching. It was a picture of her and Adrien as he introduced her to another couple, a small smile on her face.

Marinette was just happy they'd chosen a good angle to focus on.

"According to sources, you are looking at Madame Marinette Agreste. Not much is known from this mysterious woman, save a secret marriage to Adrien and an ease at the party last night that could point to a plan on her part..." He lingered, and Marinette caught exactly what he was trying to say. Her stomach flipped.

The host did not linger, though, and switched to the photo that Adrien's Italian photographer had taken, her smiling at the camera and him pressing his lips against her temple, eyes closed. Her heart skipped a beat at the image. She could feel the warmth irradiate from it, even through the screen.

She was sure other people didn't see it like that, though.

"From the pictures we've got, it seems that Adrien is pretty head over heels for this young lady. It does, however, beg the question: what did Papa Agreste say? Who is this girl, and more importantly, how did she snatch Adrien up?" The host grinned mischievously. "Maybe soon we'll have something else to report. A little bun, perhaps?" The host straightened up and the images of Marinette and Adrien disappeared. "And now, Joshua and Aaron. Are they in the final stages of their relationship? Stay tuned to find out!"

Alya turned off the TV and dropped the control as if it were on fire. She looked sideways at Marinette. All of them looked at her, really, but her gaze was buried in the black screen of the television.

"It... could've been worse..." Alya said halfheartedly.

"Yeah," Marinette replied dryly. "Its not like he called me a social climber. Or said that I got pregnant to trap Adrien."

"Or imply that you were a witch and charmed him." Nino quipped, and Marinette saw Adrien and Alya's heads shoot to the side and glare at him.

"You're not helping." Alya hissed. 

"Sorry." Nino mumbled apologetically. Marinette sighed and stood from the couch.

"Its alright. I guess it really could've been worse." She said, staring at the blackout blinds, thinking about the crowd amassed outside. "I mean, its to be expected, right? It did kind of come from nowhere."

She heard rustling behind her and felt a hand on her shoulder. She didn't have to turn to see Adrien. She could always recognize him by scent alone, and by that exact weight of his hand on her shoulder.

She would always, always, always recognize her minou.

"Hey," he said softly, resting his other hand in her other shoulder. "Its alright. Once they know you like I do they're going to love you." He said kindly, and Marinette sighed.

"I don't want them to love me." Marinette replied honestly. "But as long as it doesn't hurt you, I'll do anything." She rested her hand on his, and he slid his hands from her shoulders and wrapped her in a hug from behind, his nose resting against her shoulder before he planted a gentle kiss there. Marinette rubbed his arm lovingly and sighed.

"Well," she started, changing her tone to something more upbeat. Adrien loosened his grip, allowing Marinette to twirl on her heel and stare at him, face to face. "Somebody owes me a Mecha-Strike III fight."

Marinette saw how the weight of concern rolled off of Adrien's shoulders, and how the muscles in his face untangled into a smile, as if that were its resting position. He dropped his head to the side, dramatically.

"You always kick my butt on it! Its not even fair anymore!" He complained goodnaturedly. Marinette gave him a (forced) smug smile before turning to look at her friends, giving her back to Adrien.

"That was the deal, Romeo. One kiss in exchange for one match!"

Alya jumped the bandwagon at this.

"Oooooh, a kiiiiiiiss?"

"You saw the picture!" Marinette shrugged. "I wasn't going to kiss that fish if I wasn't getting something in return!"

Much to her surprise, Marinette felt something tickle around her waist and she squealed, before realizing that it was Adrien's fingers. He grabbed a good, non-painful grip on her skin and pulled her back against his chest with a playful grin.

"Oh, a fish, am I?" He joked and licked his lips thoroughly before planting a wet, loud kiss on Marinette's cheek.

"Adrien!" She shrieked. "That's so gross!"

"So what? We're married!" He planted another one, making the loudest smooch he could. "What's mine is yours!"

Alya and Nino watched them from the couch, amused. 

"So, should we leave you two alone or...?" Alya asked, and Marinette had the good grace to blush.

"Aw, babe, we're cock-blocking." Nino added with the same amount of mockery. MArinette groaned, and she was sure Adrien was glaring at Nino.

"Mari." Adrien called, and Marinette looked over to the side to see a mischievous expression on his face. "How about we take them on?"

Marinette's smile ghosted on her lips. "Sounds like a plan."

Nino snorted. "As if we'd be dumb enough to take you two nerds on Mecha-Strike."

Marinette reached for a pillow.

"Who said anything about Mecha-Strike?"

And the great Pillow War of 2016 began.

 

 

Chapter Text

The Great Pillow War of 2016 ended not without casualties.

The porcelain mug that had caused Adrien's slip-up earlier that morning met an untimely demise with the floor as Marinette's pillow pushed it closer to the edge, and it was finally Nino's knee that finished the job. After the homicide of that innocent yet completely bland and unmissable cup, the four friends declared the war a tie, with both sides secretly boasting that victory was theirs.

Nino and Alya stepped out of the building, cameras flashing in their eyes, reporters shooting them questions about their friends.

How do you know Adrien and Marinette? How do they know each other? Are they really in love? Why all the secrecy? Do you think you can get us an interview with them?

Alya walked amidst the reporters like she was one of them --which she was, Nino thought. Even if she was having a hard time getting callbacks from the places she was applying, she was one of them.

And he'd be damned if he let her forget that.

They walked without talking. It would be hard enough to hear themselves with all the shouted questions surrounding them, though they were sure they'd be forgotten soon enough. 

And just like that, they were.

Two minutes after exiting the building, they were no longer creatures of interest for the reporters, who understood that their harassment was getting them nowhere, and had chosen to cut their losses with these two people who were of no real interest save for their connections.

Sound receding in the background, Nino smirked and opened his mouth to speak, but Alya beat him to the punch.

"They look happy." She pointed out, stealing a glance from the corner of her eye. Nino smiled. He was thinking exactly the same thing.

"They really do." He grinned. "You've been calling it since we were fifteen."

Alya laughed. "I know my best friend. I have to admit that I had my doubts during her relationship with Nathanael." She confessed, and Nino saw her face turn more tender. "But this seems right, you know?"

"I do." He replied. Alya threw her arm around his shoulders, and he wrapped his around her waist, just two more lovers in the streets of Paris. "How long until they figure it out?"

Alya smiled slyly. "Wanna take bets?"

Nino opened his mouth to reply, but was cut off for the second time, this time, by Alya's phone.

She untangled herself from him and fished in her pocket for her phone. When she glanced at the screen, Nino watched the blood drain from her face.


Adrien knelt on the ground, picking up the pieces of his once-mug. Marinette had gone to fetch the broom for the smaller pieces, and Plagg had emerged from his spot under the couch to stick his tiny nose on the strong scent of coffee that clung to the broken pieces. Adrien reached for him and took him in his arms, keeping him away from the broken shards or porcelain, should Plagg trip and hurt himself.

He held the kitten against his chest and watched him press his nose against his shirt, learning, remembering Adrien's scent. Adrien, in turn, felt a surge of melancholy for the kitten's namesake.

Plagg had done his best to be a nightmare most of the time, but Adrien had always known that he cared. Not "deep down". No. Plagg had cared for Adrien. He had cared for him sincerely, but for the sake of his attitude pretended not to.

Except when Adrien really needed to. Those moments, Plagg would turn into full support-mode.

And to be honest, Adrien missed everything.

He missed the smell of Camambert so much that sometimes he would buy it and keep bits on him, just to have that comforting (albeit disgusting) smell around him, just to make him feel that someone had his back.

He missed the snorting laughter every time he embarrassed himself in front of Ladybug, always echoing in his mind, as if Plagg was always floating around in his head, seeing what he saw, savouring every moment to tease him afterwards.

He missed the unconditionality of that friendship. Adrien wasn't ashamed to say that he had needed Plagg: a true, honest friend when Adrien had none. Even before Nino-- hell, to some extent, he owed Nino to Plagg. Plagg had always been a voice of reason, and while Adrien was learning to walk in a world where everyone knew their footing, Plagg kept him tethered-- away from those who wanted to use him.

Plagg had become Adrien's full support, until he became his training wheels.

And then he was gone.

By the time he was gone, he had ceased being Adrien's necessary crutch, and had simply become Adrien's dear, beloved friend.

Losing him had been a punch to the gut.

Actually, it had been more than that, but Adrien had handled it the way he'd handle a punch in the gut. Or, you know, the way he would handle a punch in the gut as Adrien. As Chat, he would've allowed himself to feel it --mourn it-- and support himself on Ladybug until he could stand and keep walking.

Instead, he had had to manage it as Adrien. Draw a smile on his face -- a 'nothing has happened here' smile. He hadn't been able to fall back on his friend, too busy falling in love with someone wonderful, or on his partner: that beautiful, strong, ephemeral  creature that had disappeared from his life the way she had swooped in: quietly, and taking all the shards of broken light she had brought with herself.

He'd grown stronger, he knew. He had managed to cement a friendship with Marinette and Alya, and eventually found himself leaning more and more on Mari, who always seemed to give him the space he needed to... hunch over. To lose posture, only for a few seconds.

Of course, of course, she had turned out to be Ladybug.

And now they were back together, fighting side by side, a fight much different from the ones they were used to, but one that they would fight together.

Marinette had slipped her way into his heart the same way Ladybug had, through different creases, until they both were the majority of the substance that encased his chest, and the Marinette side was managing to eat away at the Ladybug side.

There was no one in this world with whom he'd ever want to throw himself into this position.

"You are the worst cleaner I've ever seen." Her voice cut through his musings, and he turned his head to watch her, a bemused, arched eyebrow resting on her forehead. She cocked her head to the side and dropped her gaze to Plagg, and Adrien saw her eyes turn soft and a small, melancholic smile on her lips. "I miss them too."

Adrien half smiled. Of course she knew what he was thinking.

She thrust her hand towards him, open palmed, to help him up. He took it and helped himself to a standing position, standing a head taller than his wife.

"You're awesome," he blurted. Marinette blinked twice.

"What?"

Adrien shook his head and scratched Plagg's belly. "Nothing. I was just thinking that you're awesome. You're taking the bashing pretty well."

Marinette tried to look unconcerned, but her brows were still a tiny bit creased. She forced herself to shrug.

"Its just people, you know."

He peered at her. "People who work in the same industry you want to apply to." He said. "Its okay to be bummed."

Marinette's tense shoulders relaxed a little, and she looked up at Adrien, her forced calm dropping from her face, revealing a look that screamed 'I'm bummed out'.

"Yeah," she thumbed the broom, watching her own nail dig into the paint. "It kind of does suck, you know."

Shifting Plagg's weight into one of his arms to free his other one, he raised her chin with his index finger and kissed her forehead affectionately.

"I already told you. They're going to love you." He smiled before resting his chin over her head and pulling her in for a hug, careful to keep Plagg out of the way. She relaxed under him and soon had her arms around his waist.

They passed a few, peaceful seconds.

"...Nino was right, you know." Her tone was light. Adrien made a small, questioning noise. "I'm a lucky, lucky woman."

Adrien smiled and kissed her head again.

"...You're also pretty ripped." She added playfully.

"Yeah?" He asked. "Well, your legs are nothing to turn nose up at. Alya's got a pretty good eye."

Marinette laughed. They stayed like that for a few, comfortable minutes, until a song Adrien did not recognize pulled them apart.

He watched Mari fish in her pocket for her phone and immediately brighten up as she answered the video call and turning on her heel to stand side to side with Adrien.

In a second, Adrien was greeted with a close up of Tom Dupain's nose hairs. He cringed, until he zoomed out, and they could see a broad, smiling face beaming at them.

"Hey, kids!" Tom called happily, looking at both of them. Adrien appreciated this immensely.

"Hi Papa!" Marinette greeted happily.

"Hi Monsieur Dupain," Adrien waved. 

"Adrien, you're family. Tom's just fine." He grinned, and Adrien flushed, pleased at the affection (though he knew for certain that he'd have a hard time letting go of his DNA engraved politeness enough to call someone older than him by his first name). "How are you doing?"

"We were just cleaning up a mug that broke... Oh!" Marinette brightened, as if she remembered something, and angled the camera towards Adrien's chest, where he cradled Plagg. "Look! We have a kitty!"

Tom peered closer to the screen, probably to take a better look at Plagg, and his eyebrows shot to his head.

"A kitten?"

"Adrien found him and we decided to keep him!" Marinette smiled, scratching Plagg's ears. He, in turn, enjoyed it and nuzzled in the crook of Adrien's elbow. "Isn't he cute?"

Tom smiled sheepishly. "You know I'm not much of a cat person.. --wait, here's someone who wants to say hi!" The camera shifted clumsily until it landed of Madame Cheng's lovely, ever-doting face. She gasped when she saw Plagg.

"You have to be careful with that, sweetie." She warned. "Owning a pet is hard work."

Marinette rolled her eyes with a small smile. Madame Cheng focused on Adrien.

"Oh, Adrien! Its so lovely to see you!" She beamed, and Adrien's love grew by the second. He smiled warmly at her. "How are you doing? Are you eating well? I know you kids start school tomorrow, are you ready?"

There was a beat of silence before Adrien and Marinette snuck a glance at each other, exactly at the same time.

Oh, shit.

"Y-yeah." Marinette laughed nervously. "W-we definitely are!"

"Yup! We went shopping for supplies days ago."

"Days." Marinette echoed. Her parents seemed pleased.

"Well, dear, we just wanted to make sure everything was fine..." Her smile faltered. "We, uh, we watched a fashion network this morning..." She seemed apologetic. Adrien felt Marinette tense at his side. "I know its hard, sweetie, but I think you're doing a great job, okay?"

Marinette smiled feebly, the way Adrien knew she did when she didn't really want to smile.

"Of course, Mama, I love you."

Tom cleared his throat. "So, we wanted to let you know that we have an extra room here, in case you wanted to come along for the long weekend that's coming up."

Marinette relaxed, and Adrien saw her sincere smile. She must miss her parents terribly, and it just hadn't occurred to him because he was so glad to be rid of his.

An unpleasant knot settled in his stomach.

"We'd love to." He answered before she could say anything else. Both his in-law's parents lit up at his answer, and Adrien felt the questioning look from Marinette's direction. "I'll start looking for train tickets so we can stay the entire weekend."

Madame Cheng clapped her hands happily. "That's wonderful news! You're going to love it here!"

"We're looking forward to it." Marinette said.

"So are we!" Madame Cheng said.

"Adrien, you're going to try the world's best pasta! I don't care how many times you've been to Italy, you haven't lived until you try my pesto rosso!"

Adrien couldn't help a grin escape his lips. "I'm sure its amazing, Mon--- Tom." He corrected himself. Tom looked pleased. "I'm looking forward to this trip." He said sincerely.

Madame Cheng squealed. "I can't wait!" Something rang off camera. "Oh-- those are my croissants! We have to go, but we love you! We'll see you soon, kids!" She waved happily as Tom said his goodbyes before hanging up the phone.

The screen went dark for a second before returning to Marinette's homescreen: a picture of all four of them the day they had gone to the Carnival. Adrien stood next to Nino, who rested his arm on Mari's shoulder, who in turn was hugging Alya. Adrien could only notice how odd he felt, not being next to his wife in that picture.

How had he grown so close to her in a matter of weeks?

They'd been close friends for a while, but somehow, the act of living together had shifted their dynamic ever so slightly, like tilting the Earth a single degree, altering its entire relationship with the sun. The changes were so small, but they felt gargantuan.

More and more, Adrien craved holding her hand --a tether to this new life. His lips always seemed to find a way to her skin, and his eyes to hers. He felt lighter and had been sleeping better.

Most of all, his brain whispered at various points during the day: you found Ladybug.

 

 

He couldn't help but notice how that last word seemed somehow less clear than the other two.

Adrien paid no mind. 

He stole a glance from his distracted wife's profile, marvelling.


Marinette turned to Adrien, only to catch him staring. She raised an eyebrow at him. He, in turn, grinned sheepishly, the same way Chat would've. Her heart warmed.

"Are we really visiting my parents?" She asked, trying to sound casual and not at all hopeful.

"Of course, Princess." He smiled gently. "Gotta keep the in-laws happy." He winked. Marinette couldn't help but smile. Adrien looked at her kindly. "You miss them a lot, don't you."

She rubbed her arm self-consciously. "I know its silly." She confessed. "But I was pretty close to them when they lived in Paris... I guess I'm not used to not being close to them."

"Its not silly, Mari. I think its great. I really am looking forward to that trip."

MArinette looked at this wonderful man from under her eyelashes.

"Me too."

But for some reason, today was the day designated to unfortunately timed phone calls, because that's exactly the moment that Adrien's phone began ringing. He sighed and picked up, playing it on speaker for her benefit.

"Good morning, Nathalie." Adrien greeted, but she could hear the exhaustion in his voice. It might've been the few hours of sleep, but Marinette thought (quite pettily, might she add) that it was due to the fact that it was Nathalie, of all people, and her calling before ten in the morning was a clear sign that Adrien was going to have to do something unpleasant.

"Adrien." Nathalie's voice was clipped and precise, and Marinette remembered quite clearly being told that she was a stone in her Steve Maddens. "I suppose Miss Dupain-Cheng is with you."

"You can call me Marinette, Nathalie," Marinette heard herself grumble, much against her will. Lack of sleep made her cranky, and it was starting to catch up with her. "Its much shorter."

There were a few seconds of silence before Nathalie responded, and Marinette could easily picture her glaring at the phone.

"Things seem to have gone well last night." Nathalie chose to omit Marinette's comment, which, to be honest, annoyed her. "Its too soon to tell, but your father's acquaintances seem to have responded positively to her."

Marinette didn't like the way she said her. Like her name was a bad word.

She bit her tongue.

"That's good." Adrien replied, and reached for Mari's hand, squeezing it in what had grown into their universal gesture of "I know". Marinette sighed as quietly as she could.

"Anyway, your father thinks it would be good for you two to be seen with him --show that he approves this union."

--and that you're still his subservient son who would never sidestep his father's wishes and marry someone below his level.

Wow, okay. Marinette seriously needed some more sleep.

"What are you getting at?" Adrien asked, ominously. He shot Marinette a worried look, to which she shrugged. What was the worst that could happen?

"The car is to pick you two up at seven. You are to meet your father at Chez Marcel."  She announced, and Marinette suppressed a sigh. Adrien winced. "Either way, you two start school tomorrow. It'll be nice to see your father."

Adrien sighed. "Alright. Marinette and I will go buy a few things for school later. We'll be ready at seven."

"Make sure that you are. Goodbye." And the line went dead.

"Charming." Marinette deadpanned. Adrien shrugged.

"You learn to love her."

"Yeah, don't count on it. I don't think she likes me to begin with."

Adrien knelt on the ground and put Plagg on the floor. He looked up at Marinette and smiled mischievously, and Marinette would never confess out loud the way that single look managed to mess up her stomach and make her legs weak.

"Stores don't open for another two hours." He said, and Marinette remembered her full-thirty-two-teeth-Chat-smile, though it had never had this effect on her. "What do you say we...?"

Oh boy.

"...Sleep some more?"

Marinette blinked.

In a second, Adrien had gone from make-your-knees-tremble, drop-your-stomach, make-you-shudder mischief to five-year-old, dips-your-hair-in-paint playful, settling every one of Marinette's nerves --which totally hadn't been on edge.

Adrien stood, wiggling his eyebrows like he had as Chat when he made her a flirtatious offer, and Marinette laughed. She took him by the shoulders and flipped him around before trying to get him to bend over in front of her.

"Piggy back me to the room?"

She didn't have to look at his face to know that he was grinning.

She would have to be careful from now on.

 

 

Chapter Text

Marinette looked out the tinted windows of the silver sedan as it drove leisurely down the streets of Paris, wondering what was the necessity for such luxury. She would've been perfectly happy walking or taking the train, thank you very much.

So here she was, trapped in this box of ostentatiousness while she wore a smart yet colourful skirt with a plain white silk top and a scarf with blotted edges and colours, which seemed perfect for autumn.

This was the outfit that Nathalie, of all people, had picked out for her, and it sort of burned her.

Of course, none of these were thoughts she was clinging onto in order to keep her mind from wandering to the idea of dining with Adrien's father

(And Adrien).

She was definitely not jumping vines, from thought to thought, grasping at flimsy leaves to run away from the inevitable gravity of dining with Gabriel Agreste.

Gabriel Agreste.

Gabriel Agreste.

The man whose artistic vision she respected over anyone else's in this world. The man who was pretty much paying for her very comfortable lifestyle--

--The man who had made her husband feel inadequate throughout his entire teenage years.

...

Marinette had very mixed feelings about this man.

Don't get her wrong. It wasn't the first time she was meeting him. Marinette had grown under his designs, and she'd even had dinner at his house with him (for a brief ten minutes before he was called away on business), and she had won a couple of his contests. Gabriel Agreste himself wasn't what terrified Marinette.

No, what terrified Marinette was the fact that this was Chat Noir's father, formerly Hawkmoth.

Also, the fact that it was her father-in-law.

That was definitely the most frightening part of this entire evening.

An only too familiar sensation ran from her hand. She turned to the inside of the car to see Adrien's gentle green eyes looking at her, his right hand having easily found her left, and a small, reassuring squeeze having taken place. She looked down at his hand, so gently cradling hers, and realized how natural a part of their lives this had become. She looked up at Adrien and tried to give him what she thought was a reassuring smille.

"You don't have to be nervous." He said gently. Marinette laughed a little. She was that obvious. "Father thinks highly of you. Otherwise he wouldn't have allowed all this."

"I know, but now he's like... my father-in-law." The words tasted weird in her mouth.

"Its just a title." Adrien shrugged. "Just like--" And he stopped suddenly.

He didn't have to finish the sentence.

Just like we're only nominally married.

Marinette wouldn't know how to explain why, but she was very happy that Adrien cut that phrase where he did.

She sighed and they rode the rest of the way in silence, hands no longer pressed together, the lightest of brushing fingers against each other while they both pretended not to notice.


Marinette studied her menu pointedly to avoid staring at the posh, overdone arc that led into the foyer, separating the chilly autumn night from the overly dressed parisians on the hunt for an overly expensive meal.

They had been waiting for fifteen minutes, and Gabriel Agreste had yet to arrive.

Adrien did his best to look calm an collected, but Marinette had caught him sneaking glances at the door from their plush seating in the dark, most comfortable table in the restaurant. It struck Marinette now that, as nervous as she was about his arrival, Adrien was terrified of his absence.

Nitpicking vague memories of their youth, Marinette remembered several of Nino's rants about Gabriel's multiple and notable lacks of presence during big moments in Adrien's life --including, but not limited to: piano recitals, fencing championships and, Marinette remembered, only a very brief appearance at their graduation ceremony two years back --just enough for a picture.

Yes, though Gabriel Agreste was no longer Papillon, he was still very lacking as a parent.

Marinette peered at Adrien over the menu, his eyes fixed on the door as he twisted his wedding band on his left hand nervously with his thumb. Marinette found his nervousness endearing, if a little heartbreaking.

"Adrien?" she called softly. His eyes snapped back to hers, and she watched his pupils dilate, just a smidgen. It was amazing how the brightness of his eyes revealed everything to her.

"Yes, my Lady?" he smiled at her, but Marinette was not fooled. A small twitch oh the left corner of his lip revealed apprehension. 

"He'll come." She assured him, feeling silly. Of course she didn't know if he'd come. She had a very limited understanding of Gabriel Agreste's actions, and a null comprehension of his thoughts.

But Adrien's brows relaxed a little, and his lips returned to his regular position. He looked at her, mildly grateful, and Marinette couldn't understand why he would. She parted her lips, hoping to conjure something slightly more relevant --with more substance-- for this conversation, but they were interrupted by the arrival of a waiter.

"Can you please bring us a bottle of Chateau d'Esclans Rosé please?" Adrien murmured. The waiter wrote down his order quietly, and he saw Marinette's left eyebrow quirked endearingly.

"What? Don't you like rosé wine?--I can order something else." He corrected quickly, "I mean, its usually what I order with Father, but certainly--"

Marinette cut him off with a little laugh. How someone managed to portray himself with so much class, yet remain as cute as Adrien was beyond her.

"That's alright. Wine gives me a headache." She smiled gently, and Adrien's brow only furrowed. He parted his lips to protest, but Marinette could already see his train of thought. "Adrien, water is fine with me. Besides," she grinned a little, happy to have drifted his attention from the nervousness that seemed to be clawing at him. "I'd rather not be drunk while dealing with my father-in-law for the first time."

Adrien blinked, then shrugged. Marinette saw the way his shoulders relaxed, and felt herself unwind when he smiled a little. "I guess that makes sense." He ventured a little, mischievous smile. "Though I would kill for the chance to see you after a couple of drinks."

Marinette laughed, embarrassed, remembering that time at Alya's nineteenth birthday, when Marinette had gone overboard with the cosmos and had to be practically dragged home by Nino.

The laughter died when she got to the part in her memory when she cried herself to sleep over Nathanael.

Adrien had been on a trip that day. Marinette was silently thankful for that.

Marinette felt the shift in atmosphere the second before Adrien turned his head towards the door, as if detecting the same as her. They watched, entranced, as Gabriel Agreste, a presence in and of itself, made his way through the labyrinth of tables until he reached theirs, a chain of whispers dawning on his wake. Instinctively, Marinette straightened up, and she watched Adrien tense from the corner of her eye. He was not relieved, as she thought he would at not being stood up, rather than having drawn back all the tension into his body. Marinette's hand ached for his.

Gabriel stopped at their table no sooner had the waiter made his way there, pulling the chair back. Gabriel sat with the confidence of someone who knew the chair would be there, and the arrogance of someone who was aware he was late, but could not be bothered to apologize.

Marinette resisted the urge to glare.

The man in front of her was the cause and consequence of all the most wonderful and terrible things that she had lived, and Marinette didn't know how to feel about it.

"Adrien." He said by way of greeting. There was less affection in his voice than she would've expected from a complete stranger. Then, Gabriel's eyes rested on her, measuring her, appraising her, and gave a small, almost imperceptible nod, which she could read clearly. 

Acceptable.

She was displeased by this evaluation.

"Good evening, Marinette." He said casually, and Marinette tried her best to keep her voice as cool and collected as his.

"M. Agreste." She replied, finding that the tone she had copied from him seemed nothing short of haughty. She disliked it in her lips.

"When we are in public, call me 'Father.'" 

She knew the words were usually meant to be reserved as a welcome to a new family member --a way to introduce someone into a family life-- but Marinette was 110% sure that this was not Gabriel's intent. In fact, she felt, Gabriel seemed to be twisting her arm into a behaviour that he might deem acceptable.

Not even a minute on the table and Marinette was ready to take down Papillon for the second time. Now without Miraculous on either side.

She bit the inside of her cheek and smiled tightly.

"Yes, Father." She responded stiffly, and watched Adrien eye the arrival of the wine with almost hungry determination.

Gabriel ignored his son's watchful eye and knotted his fingers together, resting his elbows on the table. He watched Marinette pointedly. Studying. Assessing.

"I remember your designs." He said casually, which took Marinette aback. Her face must've reflected her confusion. Gabriel had a pleased smile on his face at her amazement. "You were an exceptional girl at fifteen. I am curious to see if you still are, or if you've devolved into average with the years."

Marinette pressed her lips together, unwilling to give Gabriel the satisfaction of making her snap.

"Hopefully," she responded carefully. Irritation was difficult to navigate. "I have grown with my work. Or at least, I feel that I have." She explained. "I do very well in my classes."

Gabriel waved his hand dismissively. "A trained monkey could do well in those classes if you taught it how to sew."

Irritation flared.

"True talent comes from within. Honing it does not come from studying, but from working." He stated. "You start your job next Monday. Its an interning-level job, but I assume you will have no problem with that."

--No problem because you don't need the money. Marinette heard the words that he hadn't bothered speaking, and she wondered if he was seriously trying to rile her up, and, if so, to what end?

"Wine is here." Adrien's voice came from the corner of her eye. Both Gabriel's and Marinette's were drawn to the voice and the movement of the large bottle pouring a gentle, rose transparent liquid on three glasses of wine. Adrien handed one to Gabriel. "Your favorite, Father."

Gabriel took the glass gingerly and swirled it in his hand. Marinette found this act incredibly pretentious. He sniffed the wine and took a tentative sip.

From the corner of her eye, she could see Adrien's anxious expectation. Gabriel's face betrayed no opinion.

"It is alright." He said simply as he ignored the menu that was offered to him by the waiter who seemed to have materialized from absolutely nowhere. "Marcel is an old friend. He will know." He told the waiter.

Adrien gestured gently for Marinette to place her order before he spoke.

"I would like--" he began, but was cut off quite suddenly by Gabriel.

"You are back on a diet, Adrien." Gabriel spoke deliberately. Marinette's head shot to the side, an undeniable glare on her eyes. Gabriel paid no heed. "I was told that you have gained two pounds since you got married. This stops now."

Adrien pressed his lips together. Marinette parted them.

However, before she could quite openly bite her father-in-law's head off, she felt Adrien's hand touch hers under the table. Even without looking at him, she could feel his message as clearly as if he had whispered in her ear.

Please let it go.

Marinette forced the air out of her lungs and summoned sweet thoughts to douse the flames of anger that seemed to be upsetting her stomach. Most thoughts included the past two weeks with Adrien. But that was a coincidence.

So Gabriel ordered Adrien's food (as if he were a child! Marinette thought bitterly) as she ordered her own, her glass of wine completely ignored.

Menus were taken away and the waiter disappeared into his serving quietude, and the Agrestes (plus one) were alone again.

"It seems the mayor's soiree was quite a success." Gabriel said, his voice betraying that he had expected nothing less. "People respond positively to you, Marinette."

Marinette straightened her back. Gabriel's piercing gaze made her wanted to stand tall and not give him any hint of weakness. She looked into his eyes as she answered. 

"Yes, Father," she emphasized. A way to let him know that she would play nice. And she would play nice for the sake of Adrien. "The dress that you designed was wonderful. Thank you."

Gabriel nodded concedingly, not even uttering a thank you. 

Happy thoughts, happy thoughts, happy thoughts,

Well, right now her happiest thought was the time she kicked Papillon in the face before his mask dissolved. If only she had known back then how much she would look back upon that memory fondly, she would've enjoyed it more.

"You will do similar things when you work at the company." He said, pulling out his phone. It must've been on vibrate. Gabriel frowned and picked it up before standing from the table, muttering an ingrained 'excuse me' before walking towards the foyer.

Marinette let out a loud sigh and looked at Adrien.

"How could you live with that?" Marinette demanded. Adrien winced.

"I know he's a bit rough--"

"Adrien, sweetie, that is not rough." She cleared. "Its straight up mean. And I say "mean" cause I don't want to call your father names."

Adrien sighed and scratched the back of his head. There was a light blush on his cheeks. "I..." He sighed. "I'm sorry, Mari."

Marinette felt the rage go out of her. Her shoulders slumped. "What? No. Adrien, you have nothing to be sorry about! This is him."

"Yeah... but he's my father..."

Marinette sighed again and reached for Adrien's hand under the table. She smiled at him, and he met her eyes, expectantly.

"I just... have a hard time seeing how you can come out of a home run by him."

Adrien laughed dryly, just a little. "He wasn't really home, so it wasn't much of a problem."

Something tightened in her chest. She squeezed his hand.

"Well, that's not a problem anymore. Cause you live with me, okay?" She smiled. "And I don't think you need to go on a diet." She added.

Adrien smiled a little. He squeezed her hand back. It seemed that Gabriel had managed to carve a hole inside Adrien --like he removed so much of the joy that made him Chat Noir, or at least masked it away from his son, though it remained deep within his core. Marinette wanted it to make her mission to bring out everything Chat in Adrien... all the joy and freedom he seemed to relish when he had worn that leather suit.

Gabriel returned to the table and Marinette straightened up in her chair, reluctantly releasing Adrien's hand. She painted a smile on her face and summoned her best attitude to deal with her father-in-law.

From this point onwards, dinner was quite alright. Marinette had managed to rope Gabriel into a conversation about the discourse between one designer's choice of chiffon over satin, and what the advantages were. She was not surprised to find that Gabriel had wonderful insight, and begrudgingly admitted that she would strongly benefit from the job he had offered her, even if she wasn't his biggest fan as a human being.

At some point, Adrien began giving input on a business idea that Gabriel explained to the both of them, and though Marinette had absolutely no clue of what they were talking about, she was happy to hear Adrien's limping S's with every approving nod from Gabriel. Food arrived, and the subject shifted to an upcoming fashion show in which Adrien would model Gabriel's newest models. Marinette lit up at this, and they dissolved into a conversation about the people they had met at the party the night before.

All in all, Gabriel was much less of a douche  difficult when they steered away from personal things. By the end of dinner, Adrien was relaxed. Gabriel paid for dinner and stood to retire from the restaurant. As they reached the entryway, Marinette turned to Gabriel.

"Thank you for the invitation, Father." She said it with less irony and rage this time. Gabriel also seemed less uptight, and the nod he gave her this time was less stiff. He looked up at Adrien.

"Goodnight, son." He said, and Marinette saw Adrien brightening.

"Goodnight, Father." Adrien held his father's gaze for a few seconds, probably relishing this tiny, almost imperceptible, display of affection.

Gabriel looked down at Marinette.

"This was a pleasant affair." He said, and Marinette knew this was as close to kindness from his as she would get. She nodded.

"Thank you for the invitation." Gabriel nodded.

Without having being summoned, a car pulled up in front of Gabriel, a chauffer who wasn't Gorilla opening the door for him. Marinette and Adrien waved him away and watched the black sedan drive away. As it was gone from sight, Adrien let out a heavy sigh and slumped a little.

Marinette laughed and wound her arm around his waist, caressing his back gently. He looked at her, tired, but smiling, with glittering eyes and a clinging blush. Wait==

"Adrien?" She asked. Adrien's smile was relaxed and goofy. Not a euphoric goofy, as Chat's, but a more lazy kind of funny smile, which Marinette had never seen on his face. "How much wine did you have?"

He laughed a little. "Not much." He grinned. Marinette rolled her eyes, but soon felt a pang of sympathy.

"You were nervous." She pointed out. Adrien shrugged exaggeratedly. 

"I didn't want him to upset you." He mumbled. "He does that."

Marinette smiled and stood on her tiptoes, planting a small, gentle kiss on his cheek.

"I wasn't upset." She smiled. "I had my knight to protect me, didn't I?" She winked at him, and Adrien blushed. Marinette laughed and looped her arm around his. "Do you wanna take a little walk before going home?"

Adrien looked at her as if she were a treasure. "Lead the way, Princess."


Adrien had his arm slumped across Marinette's shoulders. He kissed her temple gently as they walked, relishing the smell of her hair.

"Mari?"

"Hm?"

"Can you get more of that shampoo we have? It smells like strawberries." 

Marinette giggled.

"You like that your hair smells like strawberries?" He could hear the smile on her voice, and that made him happy. He buried his face in her hair, just a little more. His head was spinning anyways.

He hummed happily. "And that it makes your pillow smell like strawberries." When Adrien raised his gaze, they were walking by la Seine. This made him happy. "I like this place."

Marinette led him to the rails and rested her crossed arms there. Adrien took her cue and did the same, standing right next to her. He might've been protected from the cold by his tipsy heat, but she wasn't, so he'd try to windbreak a little for her. He watched her closely, her beautiful blue eyes lost in the even deeper, endless water and the skyline of their wonderful city.

"I think Paris was the right place for the Miraculouses." He mumbled. 

"Hm?"

"I mean," he began. His words were only half-dragged, and that was only because his lips felt slow. "Can you think of a more magical place than Paris?" He sighed. "Its just... so many wonderful things were born here. So many things became things here." He felt a smile tug at his lips. "You were born here. How much more miraculous do you want it to be?"

Marinette turned her head away, so he didn't see her blush. Instead, he focused on the gentle waves. He felt her shoulder pressed against his arm.

"Adrien," she called quietly. "You're amazing, okay?"

He rested his cheek on her head, but said nothing. Marinette pulled back and looked at him seriously.

"Adrien, I mean it." She pressed.

Adrien scratched the back of his head awkwardly. "O..kay?"

He watched her brow knit over her eyes, the way it always did when she thought, eyes glued to his or her shoes.

"No, like--" she stopped herself and started again. "I mean--" she growled in frustration. Taking a deep breath, she seemed to gather her thoughts, and finally looked at Adrien in the eyes. "Dinner with your dad reminded me a lot about him --about growing up. Mostly about how he doesn't really appreciate you."

"Mari--" he began, but she ran over his words.

"No, Adrien, listen." She sighed. "You are so wonderful." She said this with a raw sincerity that dispersed a little the fogs in his mind. "You are kind, and hardworking, and you always go the extra mile for others," Her eyes turned sad. "You're the son any father should pray for, and Gabriel doesn't see it." 

Adrien's mouth was dry, and it was not an effect of the wine.

"Your mother would be so, so proud of you, Adrien." She smiled a little, her eyes still sad. "I know I am, and I didn't have a hand in your upbringing."

Bubbles of sentiment clogged his vocal chords. That was okay, because he couldn't find any words to speak. Then Marinette delivered the final blow.

"Adrien, I love you." She smiled, and suddenly all of la Seine became nothing but a black-and-white background for one of the brightest moments in Adrien's life.

Only Marinette, in the middle of the bleakness, shone brightly and beautifully. It was like she was all the healing powers of Ladybug, washing over him gently. Cradling him in comfort. Adrien felt a sting in his eye and rubbed the tear away before it was born.

"I love you too." Was all he could say. "I love you a lot, Mari." It didn't feel like enough, but what was? "I--" He breathed hard, running a hand through his hair. "You are one of the most important people in my life, and I love you so, so much, Mari."

Marinette smiled and wrapped her arms around his chest, pulling him into a hug. She fit perfectly against his ribs, her bony shoulders and firm muscles pressing awkwardly against his skin, but it was perfect. Not smooth, but perfect.

He wrapped his arms around her back as well and dipped his face into her hair again, hiding in its darkness, relishing the sensation of having his heart full and the stinging in his eyes of sheer happiness.

It was funny. Adrien had never cried from happiness, but he had twice since he had married Marinette.

Maybe it was the wine, or maybe it was the moment, but something had him drunk enough to unlock words in him that he had accepted as axioms without much thought.

"Marrying you has been one of the best things I've ever done." He planted a kiss on her forehead. He couldn't see her, face buried in his shirt, but he hoped that she was smiling.

"Meeting you was one of the luckiest occurrences of my life." She said and pulled back. "And knowing that now, at any point in my life, I can come up to you and just... hug you is just... wonderful."

He smiled brightly at her. At her innocence. Her sincerity. Her heart.

"You can have all my hugs, as long as I live, Princess."

Marinette smiled. "You can have all my shampoo."

Adrien laughed freely. He pulled Marinette in and kissed her forehead sweetly, before resting his own in the same spot he kissed. His eyes were closed, and he felt the tickle of Marinette's breath against his face, and it was beckoning him. He licked his lips, eyes still closed.

"Mari?" He called, almost too softly. But they were too close, and she heard him.

"Hm?"

"There might be a paparazzi nearby." He mumbled dumbly. "Do you mind if I kiss you?"

Marinette didn't answer. Instead, she pressed her lips against him, and that woke up every nerve end in his mouth, exploding in pleasant sparks of electricity that ran all the way down his heart and made it beat faster.

They kissed softly, the way they were used to. The way they kissed at that party: soft, quiet, sweet. Not demanding anything from one another rather than each other's company and this smidgen of contact. Both of them, however, offered their heartbeats to one another. They offered their breaths, the blush of their skins. They each offered everything but took nothing, save for the stolen caress Adrien took from MArinette's arm, as if it were something he was taking away from her. Marinette, in turn, thieved from Adrien an unexpected and unguarded hum of happiness that she saved inside her lungs.

They both pulled back, resting foreheads against each other. Adrien heard Marinette's gentle sigh of (what he hoped was) satisfaction, and smiled.

He didn't want to open his eyes to break the moment, so Adrien stayed there, quietly cherishing.

Marinette must've had the same thoughts, for neither one of them moved.

And that was quite alright by them.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Marinette's first day back to school was underwhelming.

Gorilla picked them up in front of the apartment, so they only had to deal with a short trail of paparazzi until they made it through the doors, and the rest of the way was quiet. She supposed they weren't allowed inside of the actual college, since none of them walked in behind them as they rushed in, and Marinette was grateful for that.

She had expected penumbral silence everywhere she went, only shrouded by whispers as she walked by, just like in the movies.

But it didn't happen.

Granted, pictures were taken with camera phones, but most of the students tried to keep at least a semblance of secrecy as they did.

She had half expected people to rush up to her, or sit down next to her in the classroom, trying to get an in with the company, or gossip about Adrien, but no one did. Marinette walked into the classroom, and did, in fact, feel lingering eyes in her path, but conversations did not stop, and she only heard the words "wife" and "Agreste" two times, which was nice.

She sat next to the window, which was actually pretty terrible for attention paying purposes, but great for designing ideas. There was something about watching the people bear the seasons, not knowing that they were being watched, their faces unguarded as they dealt with the elements that just inspired Marinette. She wondered if anyone had stolen a glance from her as she remained, all stress from her face gone, thinking her private thoughts, and completely, blissfully unaware.

She wondered if someone had seen her last night.

Last night, as her skin had turned to gooseflesh with the gentle caress of a cold breeze that she barely felt. As she looked at Adrien and told him she loved him with all her heart. Him, that wonderful boy-- that wonderful man-- who cared for her just as deeply.

It was funny, Marinette thought. She told Alya she loved her repeatedly. Nino, a few times, but Adrien? The first time she had told him she loved him was when he said it first, the day he proposed.

What was so difficult about saying it?

Maybe it was because, in some level, it felt like betraying Nathanael. Knowing that she had loved (and she used that word liberally) Adrien during her time as Ladybug, it separated him forever from Nino and Alya, people she had never had feelings for.

After she and Nathanael were no more... well, saying it to Adrien seemed a bit much, like going back to her past as a fifteen year old girl.

But she had done it now. She had done it, and she was so proud. Because Adrien, her amazing Adrien, never heard those words. He starved for them as she had starved for Tikki after she was gone. Adrien was deprived from love during his childhood, at least since his mother's passing, and now here he was, unable to make himself known --unable to make his need known to his friends.

Because that's what it was. A mighty need

The way Adrien had seen her as she uttered those three simple words had shattered her world. He watched her as if Paris had toppled over and they were the only two things left standing. As if she were a beacon of anything. His gaze was intense and deep and unperturbed, and it was devoted. His pupils had dilated, and he looked not unlike a lost puppy let into a house for the first time.

Then she had kissed him.

She wasn't even entirely sure why, it just seemed right. It seemed like the adequate thing to do. Like their hearts had spoken and now their bodies needed contact. Kissing him was like being wrapped in a blanket in the middle of winter. Like lying under the sun in spring, and feeling the breeze play with her hair.

Marinette sighed and looked down at her doodle. She had been accidentally drawing a dress, which seemed suspiciously like a variation of her red Gabriel dress, but with more Marinette.

"You're still super talented, I knew it." The shy and familiar voice spoke from over her shoulder, and Marinette started, only seeing a column of orange. Marinette had to do a double-take.

"Sabrina?" She asked, half-bewildered. Sabrina smiled brightly.

"Hi, Marinette." She said. Her hair was longer, and her dressing-style had changed to something much less school-girl-like and more casual, and it suited her quite well. "I'm surprised to find you here."

"Th-That's my line!" Marinette replied. Sabrina took the empty chair next to Marinette, without being able to help a questioning look --is this okay? she seemed to ask. Marinette gave a small nod. "I just hadn't seen you around school."

"That's because I study in Brussels." Sabrina replied. "I'm-- well, I'm an engineer!"

Marinette drew a blank.

"Are you serious?"

Sabrina nodded, smiling.

"Yeah." She tucked a loose strand of hair behind her ear and explained. "After school I didn't know what I wanted to do... I just... started looking around, and I realized that I liked math. Like, I was good at it." She said. "I suppose doing Chloe's homework all those years did me well. Also, I had the grades."

"So you went into engineering?"

Sabrina shrugged. "Pretty much. I'm pretty happy there." She looked at the rest of the room. Marinette was surprised at how at ease she seemed, considering the girl she had known back in College. "So what are you doing here? I thought you'd be in designing."

It took Marinette a second to remember that she was actually in a history course.

"Yeah, I needed another two credits and I've always sort of liked history.. so I took it." Marinette said. In truth, there was something about the past that had always intrigued her. She liked European history particularly, and she enjoyed understanding the evolution of culture, and the way fashion had grown with it. She liked correlating what people wore with hat it meant. It was inspiring. "What are you doing here?"

"Your teacher is my mom." Sabrina replied simply. "We're having lunch later, so I decided to drop in and listen to her lecture... I sometimes do that." She blushed a little. Marinette beamed.

"That sounds wonderful! I didn't know your mom was a university teacher."

Sabrina smiled proudly. "She's the best. You're going to love this course."

Marinette smiled. She was sure she would.

In the spirit of keeping the conversation going, Marinette went to an obvious subject.

"So, hey, what about Chloe? What's she up to?"

A shadow passed over Sabrina's face, and Marinette was immediately sorry to have asked.

"We haven't spoken in a while. It's a long story." Was all she offered, and Marinette didn't press. There were several seconds of awkward silence before she had the courage to say something else.

"So, Brussels, huh?" 

Courage does not equal good sense.

"Brussels is fun. However," Sabrina said, smiling coyly. "I have to tell you that I do have internet."

"Huh?"

Sabrina smiled and nudged her shoulder.

"So, you and Adrien?"

Marinette choked on spit.

"Uh.."

Sabrina laughed a little. "You always had a crush on him, I remember. Though weren't you with Nathanael?"

Marinette took a deep breath. This was it. Adrien and her had talked about their story a couple of times, and it was her turn to try it out. She smiled awkwardly.

"Yeah... After Nath and I broke up I was pretty shaken." So far so good. "Actually, 'devastated' is more like it." She was surprised by her raw sincerity. "Adrien was just... there for me. I guess all those feelings I'd had for him just came back in a big wave. Before I knew it, we were dating. And, well, we, uh, we got married two weeks ago." Marinette was aware that half the class was pretending not to eavesdrop, while the rest of the class didn't care if she noticed.

"Wow." Was all that Sabrina said. "To be honest I always thought you guys would be cute together... I just couldn't say it in front of Chloe." 

Marinette noticed the flinch when she said Chloe's name, but did not pursue it. Marinette smiled. She was happy to meet someone from back in the day.

"Hey, so, do you wanna hang out while you're in Paris? You, me, Alya, Nino and Adrien?"

Sabrina beamed in a way Marinette had never seen.

"REally? After how mean I was to you?"

Marinette shrugged. "We were kids, you know?" She smiled kindly. "Also, when you were by yourself you were pretty cool."

Sabrina seemed genuinely happy at the invitation and promptly swapped phone info with Marinette, just when Madame Raincomprix walked into the room and began explaining the syllabus.


 

Marinette stepped out of the classroom, knowing that today she'd have to go to financial support.

What she hadn't expected, however, was that Adrien would be there waiting for her, gentle smile on his face, bag slung over his shoulder, the picture of amicability in itself. He waved as he saw her (as if she could ever miss him).

"Hey," she greeted. "What are you doing here?"

Adrien smiled. "Don't we have that financial aid meeting today?"

Marinette blinked. "Technically I do, but..."

"What kind of a husband would let you go by yourself?"

Marinette smiled. "You're awesome."

He winked at her. "For you always, my Lady."

They walked together across campus, well aware of the stares they were receiving,  People went so far as to take pictures, but in general they kept well away from them. One or two people screamed their love at Adrien, and he waved awkwardly with a kind of grimace and Marinette laughed at him. He laughed as well and bumped his shoulder against hers in a friendly gesture, and the words struck Marinette like lightning in a sunny day.

They were happy.


"So, you must be the Agrestes!" A short, pretty woman sat behind her desk, beaming at them. Marinette seemed a bit nervous, but handled herself beautifully, as she always did. Adrien stumbled over his words, even though he had nothing to be worried about. 

"Yeah," Marinette replied. She laughed nervously. "I'm still not used to being called that." She side-eyed Adrien, who smiled awkwardly in return.

It was all pretty much a storm of awkward words and gazes and neither one of them had any idea of how to get off of it.

"Its okay darling, it'll pass." The woman smiled. Adrien noticed she was pleasantly plump, which seemed to suit her caring personality quite nicely. He felt somewhat more at ease. "So, I remember your application. I just have a couple of questions."

Marinette nodded seriously. Adrien had a good mind to let her do the talking while he sat there looking pretty.

"Where do you live?"

"An apartment building off of Rue de la Reine, about 8 miles from here."

The woman nodded and typed the information into her computer.

"How long have you been married."

Marinette hesitated. "Two weeks."

The woman --Jenny, her nametag read-- eyed them curiously. "Wait, aren't you Adrien Agreste?"

Adrien scratched the back of his head nervously. "I, uh, yes?"

Jenny stared at them blankly and pushed away her keyboard, eyeing Marinette sternly.

"Would you mind explaining to me why one of Paris's most prominent models is applying for financial aid?"

Adrien drew a blank. As always, Marinette took the lead.

"Because I don't want to leech off of him until college is over?"

Jenny pursed her lips and sighed. "Dear, that's not really how it works..."

"But the parameters said--"

"We manage household income, not individual. I am sure that your house's income is far superior to what half the staff here makes, which means you are not exactly elegible for it."

Since there was no further need to impress the lady, Marinette let her head drop against the table.

It sounded like it hurt.


Okay, so Mari would spend the rest of her days paying off debts towards the Agrestes.

Awesome.

Absolutely awesome. 

Adrien had assured her multiple times that that was not the case, and that she owed him nothing but that was certainly not going to be the case. Even if it took her all her life, Marinette was going to pay off that debt, god damn it. She would not be a leech from Gabriel Agreste.

They sat in the cafeteria table, Marinette's head resting on the table, the same way it had at the office. She was quite sure there was a red, angry welt in her forehead, but at this moment, it didn't seem to matter.

"Uhm," Adrien began. Marinette tilted her face to the side. He was scratching his head nervously. "I'm, uh, sorry that my salary is what it is?" He said unsurely, and Marinette couldn't help it. From the bottom of her stomach, she laughed.

She laughed like bubbles were exploding inside her belly.

Only Adrien could be that innocent.

When she looked at him, he looked confused, and perpetually kind. Marinette smiled.

"I love you." She said again, and Adrien beamed. Not the same way he had last night, but he did. It ached, but warmed, her heart every time she saw the effect those simple words had on him. 

Adrien smiled. "I love you too."

"You guys are so sweet I'm gonna get diabetes." A voice cut through the air. Marinette unstuck her forehead from the table and looked at Nino, proud and mighty as always. 


Adrien could recognize signs of anxiety in his best friend three miles away.

There was the way he tensed his shoulders. The way he readjusted his cap, even though there was nothing wrong with it. The way he looked around the room, hands in his pockets, and remained standing instead of sitting in front of them.

"Do you guys have a second?" He asked, and Adrien saw Marinette immediately turn alert, the same expression in Ladybug's face.

"Yeah. Of course." He replied. "Sit down, bro. Is something wrong?"

"Is it Alya?" Marinette demanded. Nino sat and showed his palms soothingly.

"Woah, Mari, calm down. Alya's fine. This is about her, but she's fine."

Adrien felt Marinette release her held breath, but the tension didn't leave her shoulders.

"Then what is it?" She more like demanded.

Nino sighed, resting his arms against the table, drumming his fingers as he rummaged through his head for a way to say what he was about to say.

"Alya got a call." He explained. Marinette remained impassive.

"Nino." She warned.

"Hold your horses, Marinette, I'm getting to it." He said, sharper than was usual for him. He looked at Adrien, as if it were easier talking to him. Adrien supposed it would be. "Alya got a call from the editor of Bastille, offering her a freelance position."

"What?" Marinette's eyes widened. "Nino, that's amazing! Why didn't she say anything?"

"Because she turned it down."

"What?" The Agrestes said in unison. Nino nodded gravely.

"See, it had strings." He explained. "Apparently, one of the assholes that was outside of your apartment yesterday recognized her as one of the applicants and told his boss.... Long story short, it got back to him that you and she are pretty close. He wants Alya to interview you for a piece in the Bastille's sister magazine --one of those cheap celebrity kiss ass crap-- in exchange for the opportunity."

"So?" Marinette demanded sharply. Nino seemed taken aback by her passion. Adrien found himself proud of her fire.

"She told him that she'd think about it."

"What's there to think about?" Marinette demanded. "Tell her to come, now!"

Nino shook his head. "Its not that simple. She said she wasn't going to sell her best friend off just to have a dumb freelancing chance in a dumb newspaper."

"Nino, its a huge opportunity." Marinette pressed, and Nino seemed stressed. He pulled his hat off and ran his hand through his hair before replacing it.

"I know Mari, trust me. She's been wanting to get a call like this for months and now that she's got the chance she's saying no." He sighed. "You know that Alya's loyal to a fault. She didn;t want to put you in that position. Kind of a sword-and-a-hard-place deal, you know? Be the asshole who says no when her best friend needs her or be under the scrutiny of public eye. It was a tough choice."

Marinette set her jaw. "Its a no-brainer." Nino looked at Marinette with a small smile.

"I told her you'd say that. She still refused."

Marinette sighed. "So what do you want to do?"

Nino scratched his forehead. "Well, she's gonna be pissed as all hell that I told you, but I wouldn't forgive myself if I didn't do something about it." He sighed. "Do you think you can do it?" He asked rather hopefully.

"Nino, of course I will do it. Why would you even ask that?"

The tension seemed to blow out of Nino's shoulders. Adrien, though he had no part in this conversation, was happy that it was being had. He felt proud of Marinette's fierce loyalty, especially when an interview was the last thing she would want at this point.

A flashback from last night passed before his eyes.

He blinked it away.

It had been a spur of the moment thing, that kiss. She was his friend. His best friend. He loved her so much, and he had said it from the bottom of his heart. Marinette was 18 different levels of wonderful, and that would never stop being a thing. He had had a little too much wine, and the warmth of his face had called the warmth of her breath. That was it.

Nothing to it.

He zoned back into the conversation.

"I'll talk to her." Marinette said with finality. Nino turned to Adrien.

"You okay with this, bro?" He asked, and Adrien shrugged.

"You heard the missus." He replied, and Marinette looked at him gratefully.

Nino let out all his breath --all his tension-- and slumped tiredly, relieved.

"Thanks guys... You're the best."

They both smiled at Nino, and Adrien couldn't help but think that things were going pretty okay for now.

He just hope they'd last.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

"Absolutely not."

"Its not up for discussion, Alya."

"Damn right its not. 'Cause its not going to happen."

"Alya." Marinette groaned. Alya drank her coffee, trying to keep relaxed, but Marinette could read the signs of annoyance and distress in her friend. Also, the very clear sign that flashed before Alya's eyes that read: I'm about to murder my boyfriend.

"Mari." Alya replied in a flat tone.

"Don't be ridiculous. There isn't a single good reason to refuse."

"You're right. There are several."

Marinette scoffed. "Name one."

"One, I won't sell out my best friend-- don't interrupt!" Alya snapped when she saw Marinette part her lips. She resumed ticking reasons off with her fingers, "two, I refuse to play their game. Also, I should be qualified for my work, not my connections. Four, I don't need to cheat my way to the top."

Alya looked at Marinette, defying her to find a mistake in her argument. Marinette couldn't, but that didn't stop her from trying.

"It's not cheating!" Though Marinette knew it kind of was. She and Alya had always been avidly protesters of nepotism. "And it's definitely not 'selling me out!'"

Marinette huffed, frustrated. Alya simply cocked her left hip and crossed her arms, her face reflecting complete and utter stubbornness. 

Classic Alya.

"Mari, look, I appreciate it, but I made my choice."

"Yes, the wrong one."

Alya sighed.

"There is such thing as a reporter's integrity, you know."

"Yes, and you can have all that when you're a paid reporter." Mari pressed. "Look, you're new to the business, and you need a break. This could be that break. I know Bastille isn't your first choice, but unless I'm sorely mistaken, it was pretty far high up in your list."

"That was before I knew that they were a bunch of jerks."

"Literally every single corporation is made up of a bunch of jerks."

Alya raised an eyebrow. "Even your father-in-law's?"

Marinette smiled. "Especially my father-in-law's."

Alya sighed. She paced around her living room. It was smaller than Marinette and Adrien's, but less cluttered with unnecessary objects, so they felt roughly the same size. Marinette waited for Alya's response, still sitting at the table with a warm cup of coffee in front of her.

There were a few seconds of silence.

"Listen, one way or another there will be interviews." Marinette explained. "If I get to pick who does mine, well, I'd obviously pick you. You're not going to trip me or twist my words."

Marinette saw Alya's resolve thaw at her words. She spiced it up with good ol' puppy eyes.

""We could call it a mutually beneficial arrangement..." She grinned. There was an edge to a smile in Alya's mouth.

"Shut up, it sounds like you're propositioning me for something indecent."

"There's nothing decent about us, ma chere." Mari's grin widened. Alya laughed.

"Fine, Marinette. I'll do the dumb interview." She conceded. Marinette brightened. "But only as a favour to my best friend."

Mari pressed her right hand against her heart. "You are only too kind to me."


Half an hour later, Marinette's hair was lose and her shirt plain but pressed. She was wearing very little make-up, just everyday base and some mascara. Frankly, she hadn't thought she'd get this far in convincing Alya.

And now here she was, sitting in front of her video camera, in the table, with her best friend sitting right across from her with a notepad open and a pen ready.

"Uh, why the camera?" Mari asked. Alya looked at it as if she'd just noticed.

"Hm? Oh." She said. "Mostly reference."

"I thought you reporters used voice recorders."

"Yes, but I prefer gauging the look on your face as you reply. Makes everything a lot more sincere." Alya explained. She peered at Marinette. "Does it bother you?"

Marinette smiled awkwardly. "No, I just didn't expect it."

"I can turn it off if you like."

"No, that's okay." Marinette insisted. She straightened up. "Let's get this show on the road."

Alya nodded and turned on the camera. Marinette took a deep breath.


It was night when Marinette got the email with the attached interview. She sighed and clicked it open right as she heard the front door close. She was already in her pyjamas and in bed, laptop on her lap, video loading when Adrien walked in.

"Hey princess," he smiled when he saw her, and Marinette couldn't help but smile back. There was something about Adrien that always lightened up her chest.

"Hi Kitty," she replied sweetly. Adrien cocked his head and pointed to the computer.

"If you wanna watch a movie I think the living room's better for that."

Mari shook her head. "Its Alya's interview. She just sent it to me for approval."

Adrien immediately perked up and shed his blazer (she really didn't understand his father's infatuation with him dressing up for class) before throwing himself over the comforter o his side, perpendicular to Marinette, resting his chin on his hands like a child and watching the screen expectantly.

"Excuse me." Mari deadpanned. Adrien flashed her a charming grin.

"What? You think I'd miss this?" He edged closer to her, and Marinette found herself wanting him to come even closer. She immediately scratched this thought. "I want to see how much I swept you off your feet."

Marinette snorted and rolled her eyes. "Keep dreaming."

Adrien laughed and sat up, sitting at the head of the bed right next to her, both their backs pressed against the headboard. Their shoulders pressed against each other, and she felt eerie warmth that was not at all unpleasant. "Press play."

Marinette did so.

The image was well focused. It was only she and Alya sitting together, the wall and the fake fern that adorned Alya's apartment the only background to their interview. Marinette looked very obviously nervous, while Alya was clearly on her element.

"So, Marinette, lets start off easy. How did you and Adrien meet?"

Marinette saw her own face relax a little. Easy question.

"When we were in collége. Adrien had just transferred in and we had a little... incident.... involving bubblegum."

"Please elaborate."

Video Marinette smiled sheepishly. "Well, someone put bubblegum on my seat, and I thought it had been him... I sort of jumped into conclusions and decided right away that I didn't like him at all."

"What changed?"

Video Marinette blushed, her eyes turning a little distant as she remembered. 

"Well, he gave me his umbrella." She smiled.

Alya raised her eyebrows, only for dramatic effect. She'd already known this story. "Umbrella?"

"It was raining." Marinette ascertained. "I used to walk home after school, while he always had someone pick him up. He walked up to me and apologized, and tried to gently explain that I'd misunderstood." Video Marinette smiled. "He gave me his umbrella for my walk home. It closed on me and he laughed." She chuckled, remembering the scene. "That's when I knew I was completely gone."

Alya's face softened significantly. Marinette had always known that Alya believed that they deserved to be together, but it hadn't happened. It must've been, what? Annoying? Heartwarming? It didn't matter, she guessed. That was a long time ago.

"So he was very kind as a child." Alya declared.

"He always had everybody's interest at heart." She offered. Her face was adamant, as if this were information she needed the world to know. Perhaps she did. "He cared about everyone in the class and all he wanted was to be friends with everyone. He was kind. Everybody could borrow what they needed from him, and he was always ready to explain physics when one needed it." She laughed. "Lord knows I did."

"So, you were always close?"

Video-Marinette smiled sadly.

"Unfortunately no." She confessed. "I was far too obsessed with him to be his friend. I kept putting him up in this pedestal and I just... I don't know, I just never accepted that he was a normal person who happened to be insufferably good-looking."

Alya laughed on camera.

"I can see your point." She said. "So how did you two get together?"

Marinette looked at Alya for a few seconds, clearly gathering her story.

"There was a boy I used to date in lycée. By this time, Adrien and I were very close friends." She assured. "When that boy and I broke up, Adrien was there for me." Marinette had considered finishing off there, but there was something in her throat scratching to get out.

"He checked on me every day, you know. I don't think he had feelings for me then. He was just being a good friend. I guess that's one of the thousands of things to love about him: Adrien wanted to be a good friend above all. He just... he wants you to be happy, you know? Like, from the bottom of his heart, its so sincere... Like your happiness is vital to him, no matter who you are." Marinette smiled. "He came every day. My parents loved him. He was calm and polite. He supported me and encouraged me over and over again, even as I kept tripping on the same rock and breaking down over and over again."

Real Marinette felt something cold in her stomach. Everything she had said was so real

"I mean, how can you not fall in love with that?" She had asked Alya. Video Marinette licked her lips. "Once you get to know him there's so much more than you believe. He's funny. He's brilliant. He's kind. And he can love. God, he can love." She had smiled. "He can love so much that it will fill you."

Real Marinette realized how hard she had spilled her feelings in the interview. After she had stepped out, she hadn't realized it-- how much she had said. How honest she had been. She could easily tell from the look in her own, recorded eyes, how much she truly loved Adrien.

Adrien, in turn, said nothing. He watched the screen, entranced.

Even Alya looked moved.

"So, why the secrecy? Why so adamant in not letting people know you were getting married?"

This was another question Alya and Marinette had prepared beforehand. 

"Its... difficult to build a relationship." She said to the camera, and Marinette knew that all the sincerity in her had vanished. Maybe others couldn't tell. She'd need an unbiased audience. "Its a lot more difficult when you're under scrutiny all the time."

"So you hid."

"In essence, yes." She had explained. "It was fun, too. We were quiet about it until we got married."

Yes, Marinette was lying through her teeth.

So sue her.

"How did he propose?"

Marinette made a show of looking abashed.

"He took me back to the collége, where we met. Took me to our old classroom." Marinette had taken liberties. She had, after all, dreamt about marrying Adrien through her formative years. "When I got there, there were flowers everywhere and a couple of candles. When I turned around to ask, he was on one knee." She shrugged. "I can barely remember anything other than saying 'yes.'"

"So he's the romantic type?"

Marinette smiled. "Very. As I said before, he's the loving kind."

Alya's expression softened. "You look happy."

The question had taken Marinette aback.

"We are." The answer had slipped, unabashed. "How could we not be? I wake up every morning to this wonderful human being. This person who smiles like the sun. We leave together for the university and its just... right. Its perfect."

There was a knot in real-Marinette's throat.

"Sometimes it feels that there's still a lot to Adrien that I haven't learned, you know?" She had confessed. Not to the camera, but to Alya. "Like everyday I discover something new about him. And I just can't help it. I love him more."

Alya cleared her throat, and Marinette had swallowed hard.

"So what is it like to have Gabriel Agreste as a father-in-law?" Alya knew how to steer the conversation.

"He's good to me." Marinette had said. A safe answer. "He always has been. He's someone I've always admired, and suddenly having him so close to me can be overwhelming, like I need to be impressive every second of the day."

"That's surprising, considering he has a reputation of being kind of a shark in the industry."

"How you handle yourself in the industry doesn't necessarily say how you handle yourself at home." Another safe answer. "He loves Adrien. That I can promise you."

"That seems fair. How are you handling your new found fame?"

"I would hardly call it fame." She replied. "Attention, yes, but not fame."

"And yet you're in an interview."

Marinette had shrugged. "Mostly we've only talked about my husband."

"Touché."

"So I believe you want to become a designer. A spot in Gabriel is a good place to start. What do you say to those who think you married Adrien out of convenience?"

This question had been difficult to answer, because she had married Adrien out of convenience. 

"I'd say they should spend a single day with Adrien and then tell me if they don't love him." She replied. "Yes, we have common ground, and that includes business, but I love Adrien. I married him for him, and if you had told me that I'd never be able to work at Gabriel if I married him, I would've still done it."

"Heavy words for an aspiring fashionista."

"They're not if you know Adrien." She had replied quietly. 

"Well, Marinette, I think this is all for now. I hope to see you soon, though."

Marinette had smiled. "You will."

The girls both dropped their professional facades and smiled to each other.

"You did really well Mari," Alya said. MArinette had smiled. Soon, the camera was off.

Adrien and Marinette sat so quietly that Mari wondered if he had fallen asleep.


 

Adrien had definitely not fallen asleep. He couldn't've even if he'd tried.

Every word Marinette had said in the interview had nestled itself in his heart. 

I love Adrien, she had said, not once, but several times.

She had spoken so highly of him, had said such wonderful things. Did she really believe them?

Did she really think he was that good?

"Was that... okay?" Marinette asked him, snapping him out of his reverie.

"Huh? Oh, yeah." He replied before chuckling nervously. "You did an amazing job, Mari."

The word princess hadn't left his mouth, even though he had wanted to keep it light.

Because it wasn't light, he realized. There was absolutely nothing light about it. Just like there was nothing light about every time Marinette told him that she loved him, and he told her that he loved her.

Maybe, just maybe, there had been a part, deep inside Adrien, that hadn't been convinced until now. A small part, a tiny voice in the back of his head, that had told him that maybe she didn't love him as much as he loved her, even as friends.

But her face, her eyes, the way she looked away... Her sincerity, oh, her sincerity. So raw and emotional and wonderful, so much like the Ladybug he loved as a child.

And he can love. God, he can love.

Those words bounced in his head as they turned into liquid and settled on his stomach.

Yes, he could love. Maybe a little too much.

And maybe, just maybe, he was loving Marinette a little too much.

Oh, crap.

 

 

Chapter Text

Adrien had a hard time sleeping that night. When he finally did, he had a suspicious dream about being invited to a new party, in which Marinette turned into a balloon and floated away.

It was strange.

He was saved from the only-too-obvious exotic follow-up to that dream by a sharp sting in the tip of his middle finger, which startled him awake, making him pull back his hand reflexively. He hadn't noticed that his arm had dropped over the side of the bed in his attempt to put some physical distance between himself and Marinette.

He had had to do that, he knew. He had been close to her until now. She had wrapped herself around his heart for so long now, but now she was starting to infiltrate. It was a welcome invasion of warmth into his chest --a feeling that always seemed to accompany Marinette wherever she went.

Because he had to pull back, right? Yes, of course he did! He couldn't go around and... feel things for her. Not again. Not now.

He had loved her when he was young. Even not knowing who she was. Even when she was unattainable, it hadn't mattered. He had poured his entire heart into dreams of a girl who literally didn't know his name.

But now...

Another nip at the tip of his finger.

A small sound.

Adrien looked over the edge of his bed, and there, on the ground, sat Plagg, watching him expectantly. He opened his mouth again and mewled --tried to, at least-- watching Adrien expectantly.

Adrien blinked twice and felt the edge melt off of his body. He chuckled to himself and supported his weight on the edge of the bed, scooping up Plagg from the ground and pulling him up into his arms.

"So, you wanted attention, didn't you?" He asked softly, trying not to wake Mari. Plagg seemed to melt in the crook of his elbow as he curled up against his skin, happily drawing heat from Adrien's bare chest. He scratched behind Plagg's ears, and knew that the erratic but soothing breathing was Plagg's too young attempt at purring. He shuffled carefully, manoeuvring Plagg against his chest so that he could hold the already sleeping kitten against him while he settled sideways, facing Marinette's back and brooding.

And boy could Adrien brood.

He watched the freckles that peeked out of Marinette's spaghetti-strap shirt, a pleasant constellation that he wanted to trace with the tips of his fingers. They ached for a brush of her skin, which he knew to be soft, even when it was a little dry from the weather. His thumb craved tracing the gentle curve of her lip, even though it was chapped from the end of autumn and the beginning of winter.

Instead, Adrien scratched Plagg's head. Plagg, in turn, looked rather pleased.

Adrien sighed and resumed dancing around his thoughts.

He was starting to feel things for Marinette. There was no denying it.

But that was normal, right? They did live together, after all, and they had to look like the romantic lovey-dovey type to people out there... It wasn't too strange to get confused about it, right?

But Adrien wasn't confused. Not really.

He wasn't obsessed with the idea of someone pretending to be his lover. It wasn't about the kisses and the dances and the hugs and the walks and the dinners.

He was starting to feel things for her because Marinette had always been the most wonderful person he'd met.

Or maybe he had never stopped.

Maybe --maybe he had never really ceased loving Ladybug. Maybe that's why it hadn't worked out with Bridgette. After all, he had never been able to quite put his finger on why that hadn't worked.

But it made sense, right? They had been chosen to complete each other-- it was fate. And now, to be married? By pure coincidence and stroke of luck?

Could it really be just luck?

He hadn't known Marinette was Ladybug when he had married her, so maybe --maybe there was something throwing them together?

Adrien sighed and shifted a little, a squirm of protest from Plagg as he accommodated himself in Adrien's arms once again. This was a ridiculous train of thought. It would only lead south.

Marinette was wonderful. He loved her, and she loved him, too. It just wasn't the same kind of love.

Part of him thought about confessing, but his mind immediately roped off that idea as ridiculous.

First of all, there was the fact that she was still not over Nathanael, and maybe she never would be. She never said much, but he had caught her looking at articles about art galas in New York once or twice, and the far away look in her eyes had been enough to tell him a story.

Second, he had already hurt her enough.

She had had feelings for him, right? She must've had suffered so much back in those years, as he chased after someone who kept escaping him, even if it was another shape of herself. From the way she had spoken, there had been deep rooted sentiments, and he had all but scorned them in favour of someone he had only half known ---at least at the time.

So how could he demand her affection now?

And finally, and this was probably the worst one, they were married.

It seemed counterproductive, to think about their marriage as a disadvantage to his position as a possible suitor, but it was.

Because Marinette still felt like she owed Adrien something.

He watched her when she thought he couldn't see, making counts in her head, checking the bottom of her purse for spare change --anything she could afford. He could see the way he spent frugally, barely having bought anything for herself since the wedding (the dress had actually been a gift from Alya).

Him coming up to her and reaching out to her... Well, what if she felt obligated? What if she felt that she had been backed into a corner --bought into a relationship?

No.

Adrien could never handle that.

So the idea had to be scratched from his head. For his sake, and hers.

He closed his eyes for a second, allowing himself the fantasy of waking up to the scent of strawberries. That he'd open his eyes and see sparkling blue staring back at him, traces of sleep and eyes crusty. He imagined a sleepy, lazy smile as she;d curl up to him, searching for warmth. That her legs would tangle with his, short hairs from her last leg-shaving scratching ticklishly against his own, the crown of her head nestling itself perfectly under his chin, her arms wrapping themselves around him, nose sinking into his neck and taking a deep, wonderful breath before telling him that she loved him and whispering a sleepy 'good morning.'

Adrien opened his eyes. Marinette's chest rose and fell silently. She still lay about a foot away from him.

He didn't move until she woke up for class two hours later.

He was in the deep end.

Chapter Text

Marinette slept deliciously and without the disquiet that vexed Adrien.

She had peaceful and wonderful dreams, mostly about being at home with her parents, running the bakery once again. The air smelled like pastries and the lighting was perfect and wonderful. There was only one thing wrong with it.

Her feet were freezing.

Marinette coiled in over herself as the tendrils of cold crept in through her toes. She had warned Adrien on their first night together that this was a thing that tended to happen. She usually avoided trouble by simply wearing socks, but after last night’s embarrassing, video-taped confession, Marinette had bravely decided to cower under the bedsheets to avoid an awkward conversation with her husband, and thus hadn’t picked her favorite fuzzy socks and opted for trading in her feet for popsicles.

She opened her eyes lazily and sighed. It took her a second to realize that these weren’t the pink walls from her bedroom over the bakery from two years ago, nor was she in the poor dorms with no privacy and questionable hygiene she had spent her first year of university in.

No, the walls she could barely see, very few rays of sunshine actually creeping in through the borders of the blackout blinds. She could see the edges of her nightstand, her phone charging next to a lamp and an empty picture frame she had gotten for her birthday that she hadn’t gotten around to fill.

She stretched, just a little bit, and rolled on her side, meeting Adrien. Adrien, in turn, had his gaze fixed on Plagg. He pet the cat absently, as if there were a lot on his mind whilw Plagg attempted to chew at Adrien’s fingers unsuccessfully. She took this moment to appreciate him.

It was funny, she thought, how different Adrien looked when he thought nobody was watching. The perpetual pull of muscles under his skin that made it seem like his resting expression was always at the edge of a smile was gone. Gone were the strains that kept his posture always straight. The corners of his eyes didn’t crinkle unnecessarily, and he didn’t seem perpetually ‘well’. For a moment, Marinette thought he looked sad, and it broke her heart.

What could she give him? How could she make him happier? He had brought the moon down for her, and there was nothing she could give him in return. She could only offer her flimsy friendship and eternal love, but was that enough?

As if realizing that he was being watched, Adrien looked up at Marinette, and she saw that wonderful split second of surprise in his face –the way his eyes widened and his pupils contracted in a way that just seemed so unique, though it was a common physiological response. She saw the way his muscles automatically fell into formation; the way they did when he was being looked at.

She wondered if he would ever willingly let her see him like that.

She slapped the thoughts away and smiled at him lazily, guarding her thoughts from him.

“What do I have to do to get that kind of treatment?” She asked teasingly, and Adrien looked startled for a second before blushing and stuttering a response. Marinette laughed. “Relax Kitty, I’m playing.” His expression eased. “How long have you been awake?”

“Few minutes,” he answered. “How’d you sleep?”

Marinette nuzzled closer to the pillow. “Too well to be awake right now.” She opened an eye and caught Adrien pointedly watching her. She felt a little quickening in her belly –something telling her to keep talking, saying anything to keep his eyes trained on her. “How’d you sleep?”

He half smiled. “Much better since its with you.”

They froze.

The words in themselves were innocent enough. Their connotation not so much.

In an interesting turn of events, there was a different chain of thoughts in each of their brains.

Marinette heard him and heard an innuendo that should’ve made her blush –and oh god, it did. It made her blush to the roots of her hair, because she couldn’t help thinking about that scenario. She thought about what she’d told Genevieve, and how, since then, she had once or twice had to shake inappropriate thoughts from her head.

She had gotten over Adrien a long time ago.

Emotionally speaking.

She still admired his kindness, and how wonderful he was. Everything that had once made her put him in a glass shelf soon melted into pure, unadulterated love that dropped him to the realm of regular people and coated him in affection.

She had grown out of that phase of romantic love and placed him something way warmer inside herself. He belonged in her heart, pressed against its walls, lighting her from within, not in an unattainable box of things she didn’t dare touch.

She didn’t crush on him anymore, but that didn’t mean that she was immune to the fact that he was gorgeous and pretty much a prize in every way.

She could appreciate it, but she didn’t see him that way. Does that make sense?

Marinette couldn’t help it, once or twice she had fantasized about a real marriage with him. Not about the love, or the way they cared about each other, because she knew they had that to a T.

She just… thought about the ways they would show certain kind of affection.

Thoughts about kisses had slipped into her brain. Not the kisses they shared, platonic and sweet and television worthy.

She wondered what it would feel like to have him desperately clinging to her, pressing her hard against his chest, his mouth hot on hers. She fantasized about his hands roaming everywhere –touching everything that still had Nathanael’s prints.

She wanted to know what it would feel like to have his hands worshipping her skin, lightly and then more roughly as he went on—eager to draw things out of her—

No.

Bad Marinette.

No fantasizing about your husband.

Marinette felt her face heat. Whether from the thoughts or out of the embarrassment, she wasn’t sure, but at this point you could boil an egg on her forehead (and get her bangs sticky).

Adrien, on his side, was going down an entirely different road.

He had dropped exactly the implication he just thought about avoiding! Stupid Adrien!

He had just told himself that he wouldn’t pursue Marinette –that he would keep his feelings to himself—so why would he go right ahead and spew such an intimate phrase?

If he didn’t want Marinette to realize he’d been thinking about her romantically, he was doing a poor job at the moment.

Adrien was blushing too. Judging by the colour in Marinette’s face, she had thought the same thing as him.

Funny, because Marinette thought Adrien was thinking the same thing as her.

It was a lovely confusion. And by lovely, I mean terrible.

“So, what are you going to do today?” Marinette asked, trying to dispel the awkwardness of the scene.

Adrien chuckled awkwardly.

“I have to work on my dissertation.” He explained. Marinette stared blankly at him. “It’s, uh, for my business class. I have to work on a business model based on a hypothetical product and present a folder with the marketing advantages and advertising options, along with some patent papers…” Adrien blushed a little more. “Its stupid.”

“Adrien, we’re like two seconds into the semester. How do you have this assignment?”

He blinked.

“Well, my professor’s pretty strict… He went to school with my dad.”

Marinette rolled her eyes and muttered an ‘unbelievable’ under her breath.

She coiled in herself again, trying to draw her own warmth to heat her feet a little, but it was useless.

“Princess, what are you doing?” Adrien asked, confused. Marinette looked at him, expressionless.

“My feet are cold.”

Adrien blinked.

“I’m… sorry?”

In answer, Marinette pressed the soles of her feet flat against Adrien’s calves (which happened to be awfully warm. Adrien was always warm. Most likely because he was a human sunray). Adrien, in turn, yelped and flinched away from Marinette, just a little bit. Mari laughed.

Why are you pressing a corpse’s feet against me?”

Marinette shrugged. “Because the corpse needs warmth and affection.” She looked at Plagg. “And a kitty.”

The smile this drew out of Adrien was so much like Chat that Marinette almost felt the magic spandex of her suit coil around her.

“A kitty, my Lady?” He grinned. Marinette felt bubbles of laughter from deep within her--something wonderful and happy—burst through her chest and out of her lips like sparkles. Adrien’s expression didn’t falter.

Marinette opened her eyes, laughter dying, and enjoyed the open expression in his face. It was warm and welcoming, and though she wasn’t allowed into his unguarded face, she appreciated this confidence he gave her.

Marinette pulled herself closer to Adrien and twined her arms under his, pulling herself closer to him in a hug. She felt Adrien freeze and panic dropped like a cold stone on her stomach, ravishing the warmth that had grown just a few seconds ago.

How dumb could she be? Of course he’d tense! It was one thing to hug him outside, where people were watching. Right now, half-naked in bed… Well, it definitely had other connotations. Especially since Adrien didn’t think about her that way.

Marinette began the process of prying herself away, her skin protesting the first centimeter that she pulled back, but she didn’t have to go further. She felt Adrien’s longer, fuller arms wrap themselves around her, strong but delicate, and pull her close around him, her face pressed against his heart. She felt him bury his nose on her hair.

The light that illuminated Paris that day had nothing on Marinette’s heart at that moment.

“I love you, Adrien.” She muttered against his skin. “You’re my best friend.”

She felt the ever-so-slight tightening of his hug and his whisper, loud and clear, and running down the tips of her hair and covering her in affection.

“I love you, too.”

They were silent a few minutes.

“I guess I can stay in bed a little longer.”

 


 

 

They actually roused from bed at 11.

Of course, Marinette bugged Adrien to get up and feed Plagg, (which he had, because Adrien never says no) but he’d come back to bed, much to Marinette’s joy.

They lay there and talked a little bit. Adrien began explaining to her the principles of his project –how the company he was proposing for his business class actually focused on engineering. Marinette had blinked a couple of times.

“So it’s a science thing?” She had asked. Adrien had blushed.

“I mean –yeah.” He said. “Pretending to run my father’s company seemed a little too close to cheating.”

Marinette wiggled her toes absently and Adrien felt his skin tickle but schooled himself out of any reaction lest she stop. He enjoyed the feeling of her skin gently on his.

“Yeah, I guess I can see that.” Marinette thought for a few seconds. “You know, you could have Sabrina give you a hand. I’m sure she’s had at least interning experiences in engineering.”

Adrien brightened.

“That’s a great idea!” He yelped, and Marinette beamed.

There was nothing in this world that Adrien would trade for these lazy hours in bed.

Just as this thought crossed his mind, his phone rang. It was an old Lady Gaga song about disco sticks?

He sighed dejectedly as he reached for the phone. Plagg protested and abandoned Adrien in favour of Marinette’s more stable arms, curling up just under her chin. She pet him lovingly, and Adrien watched them both as he answered the phone.

“Hey, Alya.” He said, trying not to sound disappointed. Marinette eyed Adrien curiously.

“Hiiiii,” Alya replied sweetly. “How’s my second favorite Agreste?”

Adrien snorted. “Only second?”

“Mari will always be numero uno in my heart and you know it.” She snickered. “Not even Nino’s dumb enough to make me pick between him and her, cause between you and I, Nino would be out on his butt.”

Adrien heard a muffled ‘hey!’ on the other side of the line and couldn’t help a chuckle.

“Anyways,” Alya continued. “My mom came back from Ukraine earlier today and she brought me a movie that’s supposed to be a huge hit back there. Its about the cold war and they’re saying it’s a masterpiece, but I think I’ll judge that for myself.” She explained. “So, considering that your best friend has the emotional maturity of the kitten you and Mari are nursing,”—a grumble from Nino—“do you wanna meet up and watch it together? We can have that disgusting butter-free popcorn that you eat.”

Adrien couldn’t help it. He smiled widely.

“Sounds perfect. When are you free?”

“Funny you should ask.” Alya said, and not a second had passed before Adrien and Marinette heard the doorbell.

They looked at each other, confused, and Adrien chucked away his sheets and threw some sweatpants on (he wouldn’t repeat last time’s mistake, thank you very much) before heading for their front door and unlocking. Alya held a DVD in one hand, a bag of lite popcorn in the other, and she wore the smuggest grin she could. Nino stood behind her, face hiding in his palm.

Adrien heard Marinette approach from behind.

“How did you even get past the guards?” Was all she asked. Alya shrugged and Nino shook his head, and the Agrestes telepathically decided that they did not want to pursue this line of questioning.

“Anyways, set the giant TV Adrien, cause we’re in for a while.” Alya grinned and Adrien stepped aside so that she could step in. Nino didn’t though.

“Aren’t you coming?” Marinette asked.

“Nah, its kind of their thing.” He replied. “I was going to ask you if you wanted to check that new record store with me though. There’s a new mixer that’s supposed to be amazing and I need it to seduce me before I spend next year’s food money on it.”

Marinette perked up. “Sounds awesome!” She smiled. “Just let me shower and I’ll be with you.” As if remembering something, she twisted on her heel. “Adrien, I call dibs on the shower first!” She bellowed, and a groan came from the bedroom. Marinette snickered and headed that way.

Nino and Alya exchanged a knowing look, and Nino was suddenly very happy that he hadn’t taken the bet against Alya.


 

 

Marinette, for the first time in her life, wore shades.

It wasn’t even the regular kind of shades she liked to see in stores. No, these were giant, bug-eyed contraptions that she was sure would flatten her nose. They were a lot like Chloe’s, she realized, and wondered one more time where could that girl be.

The thought slipped her mind just as easily when she and Nino slipped through the back stairs of the building, Nino showing Marinette the secret pass through the overly-done bushes that surrounded the apartment complex.

“So that’s how you came in.” Marinette said. Nino grinned.

“Leave it to Alya to find the secret passes.”

Marinette giggled. There was something about Nino that seemed to always be impressed with Alya. She knew that he admired her, but it was something so full. He appreciated Alya the way she deserved, and Marinette loved it.

“So, what’s the plan?” She asked as they emerged on the street lateral to Marinette’s building. She could see the paparazzi standing there, the way they had been a few days ago, and idly wondered if they ever got tired of harassing people.

“They don’t.” Nino replied, and Marinette realized she’d been speaking out loud. “One time, Alya camped out three days in front of the French UN representative’s hotel to ask him if he’d address the lingering homophobic attitudes of the older citizens and classify them as hate crimes. Now, I have no idea how she knew he was there, or why she’d harass him of all people when the Mayor was comfortably close in the Hotel, but Alya does what Alya does, and I’ve learned not to question it.”

Marinette couldn’t help it, she laughed openly and loudly, and very unladylikely.

“Whoa Mari, if I’d known this is how you laugh I’d have never had a crush on you when we were fourteen.” Nino joked, which only made Marinette laugh harder. He chuckled at Mari’s reaction and she linked her arm around his.

“That is a lie and you know it.”

Nino shrugged. “Maybe.” He ruffled her hair. “Doesn’t matter. You lost your chance with me, Agreste.”

Marinette rolled her eyes. “I bet you’ve been dreaming about saying that for years.” She peered at him. “And not necessarily to this Agreste.”

“Damn, Mari, you got me cornered.” He replied. “I’ve been dreaming about Adrien since we met. Can’t blame me, though. Boy’s ripped.” Nino joked. “Throws me way off my Kinsley scale.”

Marinette laughed. It had been a while since she’d honestly spent time with Nino.

“Pretty as Adrien is, though, I think I’ll stick with my girl.”

Marinette smiled warmly. She appreciated Nino and Alya’s relationship more than she should probably, and to some extent envied what they had.

She knew that Nathanael and her hadn’t reached that… level of right for each other, and that was one of the things that helped her start to let go. Like there was something that told her that her relationship with Nathanael wasn’t the ultimate form of happiness.

Or, well, at least that there were different forms of ultimate happiness. The love that her friends had given her had pulled her through, and it was like the universe was telling her that, no matter what happened, she would always be loved by someone.

“Funny enough,” Nino cut through her thoughts. “It was Ladybug who sort of threw us together.”

Marinette pretended to be surprised. She had to bite a mischievous smile away from her lips. “Yeah?”

“Yeah.” Nino replied. He looked forward. Marinette did not notice how he was pointedly not looking at her. “She threw me and Alya in a cage together and that’s when it sort of started.”

Marinette shifted. “Yeah, but I mean, you probably would’ve found each other even if she hadn’t done that, right?”

“Probably.” Nino said. “But it was also the right time, you know?” he asked pointedly. “Sometimes things don’t work out because of timing. You think that something is right, but its just not right now.” He explained. “Sometimes you have to wait until it’s the right moment.”

Marinette remained quiet for a few seconds, not knowing how to answer.

“So anyways, I think we owe Ladybug a big one, Alya and me.” He chuckled. “She and Chat Noir also saved us more than we could count.”

Marinette felt a quickening in her belly. Stirrings at the signs of appreciation that she hadn’t received in five years.

She did not live for the praise, but there was something about hearing that you’d helped someone that cheered her right up.

“I’m sure Ladybug and Chat Noir would be happy that you two are happy.” Marinette said quietly, and she really, really was. She knew Adrien was, too.

“Ah, here’s our bus.” Nino pointed out as the vehicle pulled up in front of them. The air had gotten thick for Marinette, like the conversation was on the edge of something big. Something that never came.

She wanted to steer the conversation. The abyss that seemed to linger in front of them made her nervous, as if Nino were about to throw them into a conversation that she did not want to have. She also had no idea what this conversation even was, but she knew she didn’t want to have it.

“So, where’s this store?” She asked lightly.

“I think I’m gonna ask Alya to marry me.” Nino blurted out. Marinette was caught so off guard that her foot missed the step to the bus and she crashed her knee against it with a loud squeak. Nino yelped when she hit her knee and rushed to help her up. The older man that had been behind her hadn’t been too pleased with Marinette’s occlusion of the bus door, and just huffed, exasperated. As Nino helped Marinette to her feet, he glared at the man.

A young man in one of the front seats stood and offered Marinette her seat, which she took gratefully. Somebody else kindly picked up her shades, but there was no salvaging them. The glass had cracked, but she didn’t mourn their loss. She and Alya had picked them out as a joke last time they went shopping for the most over the top outfits they could.

Marinette held her knee, which throbbed painfully. Nino held to the rail, as the bus driver completely ignored the injured girl on his bus.

“Damn, are you okay?” Nino asked. Marinette held her knee and rubbed it soothingly.

“Owwww.” She groaned. “Crap, it had been such a long time since this had happened.”

“Yeah,” Nino fixed his hat. “I think its been two whole weeks since the last time I saw you trip.”

Marinette glared at him, still rubbing her knee.

“Can you walk? Do you want me to take you back home?” He asked. Marinette flexed and extended her knee a few times, testing it. It hurt, and there was definitely going to be a bruise, but she’d survive. She said as much.

Nino took a seat next to her and let out a puff of breath. Marinette held her knee and couldn’t make herself look at Nino.

“Are you… Were you serious about that?” She asked.

“Yeah.” He said, more seriously than anything she’d heard from him before. “I mean, I don’t mean right now. Its not like I’m looking for a ring to propose, like, tomorrow.” He rambled. “I just think, you know, she’s the one. So I don’t know. Maybe after college? What do you think?”

It took Marinette a second to register that the pleading tone in Nino’s voice was a cry for confirmation. Marinette had to tread carefully.

“Alya loves you, Nino.” She said. “I just don’t know if marriage is in her head, you know? Its not something we’ve talked about. Have you?”

Nino remained in silence for a few seconds.

“I… guess not.” He said quietly.

“I’m not saying it’s a bad idea, Nino.” She clarified. “I’m just saying maybe consider her stance on marriage.”

Nino took a deep breath and nodded.

“Yeah… yeah, you’re right.”

“Yeah, and even if she doesn’t want to get married that doesn’t mean she doesn’t want to spend her life with you, you know?” She explained. “Give it a little time.”

There were a few seconds of silence between them.

“But you know, I am glad that you’re taking this relationship seriously.” Marinette added.

“More seriously than I have ever taken anything.” Was the answer. “I really love her, Mari.”

Marinette smiled.

They were soon at their stop and got off the bus, leaving that subject on the cheap seats that were promptly occupied by the man who had grumbled at Marinette’s fall.

 


 

Alya curled up her legs on the couch and protected the bowl of popcorn at all costs. She was already digging in and had no intention of stopping and the movie hadn’t started.

This was, of course, no news to Adrien. Alya was known as a popcorn hoarder, and he really hadn’t expected any less. Especially because she had brought another bag so that they could share halfway through the movie.

The opening credits began and Adrien settled in his corner of the couch. This was where Marinette had fallen asleep the day they’d adopted Plagg. He felt a surge of warmth at the memory, and couldn’t help a small smile.

“Adrien?” Alya called, startling him. It was uncommon for them to speak during their movie fests.

“Is something wrong?”

Alya shook her head. She looked worryingly nervous. Adrien’s stomach tightened.

“You’d tell me if there was something wrong between you and Mari, right?”

Adrien could not have been more surprised if she had asked him if he was Chat Noir.

“What?”

Alya turned to look at him. Her usually confident demeanor had turned into a nervous bravery. Alya wasn’t known for these types of conversations, and Adrien could only imagine how hard it was for her.

“If there was something wrong with you and Marinette. Would you tell me?”

Adrien scrambled to find words in his head, but in the end, he spoke thoughtlessly.

“Probably not.” He replied. Alya did not seem surprised.

“Adrien, I love you.” He felt a surge of warmth at her words. It wasn’t the same as when Marinette said them, of course. “But I don’t think I can see Mari go through that thing with Nathanael again.”

Adrien’s mouth ran dry. He’d been having the same thoughts not long ago.

“I’m not saying you’re going to hurt her.” Alya clarified. “Actually, I know for a fact that you love her, maybe even more than me.” These words were quiet. Adrien could not wrap his head around them. “I know that there’s a bond between you two that Nino and I just don’t have.”

They were quiet for three beats.

“I think she loves you more than she loves me, too.” She shook her head. “And that’s okay. I mean, I get it. You two have gone through things that Nino and I just can’t understand. We have a different type of relationship, I think.”

“Mari doesn’t love me more, Alya, that’s ridiculous.”

Alya studied him for a few seconds.

“Maybe she doesn’t.” She conceded. “But I think she will.”

“Alya—“

“I’m not bitter about it, Adrien.” She interrupted. “Actually, I’m sort of glad. I want her to be as happy as it is humanly possible, if only because she is the most extraordinary person I’ve ever met.”

“She’s very special.” Adrien conceded quietly.

“This marriage--- she’s happy.” Alya said. “I can see it in her. There’s a spark in her that I hadn’t seen in a while, and I know its only been a couple of weeks, but Adrien, she’s happy.”

“So am I.” Adrien replied dumbly.

Alya smiled knowingly.

“Its plastered all over your face, lover-boy.”

Adrien blushed to the tips of his ears.

“I don’t—“

“You’re starting to.” She said sagely. “I’ve seen the way you look at her. Its like you can’t believe she’s there. I know the feeling.”

He said nothing. What was there to say?

“Marinette--- she’s a hero. She’s saved everyone that’s ever stood in her path, or at least she damn well tried. Myself included.” Alya looked at the screen, if only not to look at Adrien. “I love you, Adrien, but I swear on my mother that if anything bad happens to her, and I mean anything –that includes reporters messing with her or your father being cruel to her—I will bring down Paris.”

“I will bring it down with you.” Adrien replied quietly, and Alya smiled a little.

“Thank you.” She said softly. Suddenly, her demeanor changed. “Now let’s watch the movie and I’ll prepare us something to eat!”

Adrien blinked, perplexed, both out of a sense of wonder at how easily she traded her feelings, and because—

“You cook?”

Alya looked at Adrien, offended.

Excuse me? You think I’d be the daughter of Paris’s best chef and not learn a thing or two? You wound me, Agreste.”

Adrien laughed a little, and the seriousness of their conversation melted. They fell into quiet and watched the movie, but Adrien couldn’t focus.

You’re starting to, Alya had said.

And damn it, she was right.

Adrien buried all thoughts in the back of his mind and watched the screen absently, trying to compile in his head the opening statement of his project.

By the end of the movie, he had nothing.

Chapter Text

Nino and Mari were maybe 20 minutes into their shopping, Nino ranting and explaining to Marinette the intricacies of the new mixer he'd found so profoundly that Marinette had stopped understanding about 19 minutes before. Still; she pretended she did, of only because he seemed genuinely excited to share it with her.

It was a good twenty minutes, at least, because they were soon cut off by Marinette's default ringtone.

 Nino's explanation was cut short as he looked over to Mari, confused. Her expression mirrored his as she reached for her phone and realized that she was being called from a private number. Did she even know someone with a private number?

Oh, right.

She picked up her phone tentatively.

"Hello?"

"Miss Dupain-Cheng." Nathalie's voice was so venomous, Marinette actually flinched. Nino's expression changed to something more dramatic and he mouthed a 'is everything okay'.

"Nathalie." Marinette hardened her voice. Well, if they were gonna name names...

"Please exit the store. The car is waiting for you outside." Her voice was low, and her politeness just made everything seem ten times worse.

"Wait, how do you know where--"

"Do not keep the car waiting, Miss Dupain-Cheng." Nathalie voice came cold, and soon Marinette heard the click of a disconnected call. She removed the phone from her ear and stared at it in her hand as if it were the strangest object she'd ever seen.

"Uhm, what?" Nino asked.

"I think she's mad." Was all Marinette could say.

"You mean that scary witch that watches over Adrien? How can you even tell if she's mad? She frowns like 24/7." He said. "Well, no, forget that. She has one other expression, and it's this."

Upon saying this, Nino schooled his face into complete indifference. Marinette thought this was a pretty good impression of Nathalie.

"She said to exit the store. How did she even know I was in a store?" 

"Cause she's a witch."

"Now I bet we're gonna open the door and the car is going to be ominously expecting you with the door open and Nathalie inside looking like a child-eating monster." Nino predicted.

 Marinette rolled her eyes. "You watch too much tv."

 But as they exited the store, Marinette found, pulled in at the curb, the silver sedan that had so lately been her means of transportation. Gorilla held the door open, and it was impossible to tell from his face whether he'd been waiting long.

"Madame," was all the greeting she received from him.

Marinette grimaced and turned to Nino.

"Whatever this is, i should probably handle it." She sighed. "I'm sorry Nino, i was really having a good time."

Nino shrugged. "No sweat, bro-ette. This sort of thing happened with Adrien all the time. Scary-lady is sort of a trump-all card."

Marinette laughed and said goodbye to Nino before heading towards the car with a small 'thank you' to Gorilla as she climbed in the back seat.

She didn't bother asking where they were going. She had the strange feeling he wouldn't tell her.

They arrived to David's office only a few minutes later, and now marinette was really confused.

She said her goodbyes with Gorilla and stepped into the building; tracing the path towards his studio. When she opened the door, he was sitting at his desk, rubbing his temples with his index fingers, and he looked very, very pissed.

"Marinette." He enunciated her name in syllables. Mah-ree-nett. It sounded strange in his mouth, as if an accent she had not notice he had was only now slipping through. "Do you want to give me an aneurysm?"

Marinette blanked.

"What?"

 "An aneurysm. Blobby thing in the arteries of the brain. They explode. Like my head."

 "I--- What?"

 "What," he said this word loudly and then his voice resumed its lower octave. "Exactly were you thinking? I thought we'd established you were smart."

She frowned.

 "Okay, you either explain what's going on or I'm going to be angry. Are you calling me dumb?"

 David let out a single, incredulous laugh. He looked like someone 100% done with everything.

 "Are you serious? You're giving me attitude? After this little stunt?"

 Marinette snapped. "If I haven't made it abundantly clear by now that I have no idea what you're talking about, I'm going to need to find a dictionary."

 With a dead stare, David threw papers on his desk. When Marinette leaned over to see what the fuss was about, her eyes widened.

 "Are you serious? You're yelling at me for this?"

 On the table, spread out were several pictures of her and Nino walking down the street of her apartment complex, a couple of them on the bus after her fall, with Nino helping her up.

 "I'm sorry, does sleeping with a blond kill your brain cells?" He asked. Marinette was very close to losing it.

 "Listen David, either you cool it or I swear we're gonna have a problem."

 David groaned and crossed his arms. He didn't look the least bit intimidated by Marinette's threat.

Sometimes she really wanted people to know that she was Ladybug. 

"People talk, girl. How do you think it looks if you're out on a date with a guy not five minutes after you got married? I mean, do you even care about your image?" 

"What? Nino--- that wasn't--- Nino has a girlfriend!"

"And that matters exactly to whom?" David asked, deadpan. "Cause all I see here is you getting chummy with someone who's decidedly not Adrien."

 Marinette bit her tongue.

 David sighed.

 "Listen, I know that you're not used to being in the spotlight"--Marinette almost snorted--"but you need to think before you do anything. It doesn't matter what you do. It matters what they see. People will talk. Don't give them a reason to say something bad."

David's posture relaxed and Marinette felt the fight go out of her.

"It really was just a friend outing." She sighed.

"I know, Bluebell." David said, his tone much more conciliatory this time. "But people won't see it that way. They want any reason to throw you out of the kingdom."

 "What's the point of that?"

 David shrugged. "What was the point of feeding peasants to the lions during gladiator times? Entertaining the rich folk."

 "That's messed up."

 "And this is a surprise how...?"

 Marinette sighed, dejected, and took a seat in front of David's desk. "How'd you even get those photos anyways?"

 David raised his eyebrows. "Miss Nathalie has someone on the payroll to keep up with whatever the paparazzi might catch." He explained. "For damage control."

 Marinette' shoulders slumped. "So this is going to be news?"

 "Thankfully, no. Ours was the only photographer that caught you. People don't know you enough to see through those hideous shades you were wearing, which, by the way," he emphasized, "never again. Or you'll have to dig my grave with your own two hands."

 Marinette laughed a little. It was a nice change after the roller coaster of negative emotions that had taken place since she'd answered her phone. She looked at the pictures again and--

 "Hold on," she said as she reached between the larger, brighter photographs and found one meekly hidden amongst them. She picked it up and studied it.

 It was the picture David had taken on their first day at coaching. She and Adrien were kissing, but it was...

 Adrien's hands were on her hips, just resting comfortably. His face--at least in this angle-- looked relaxed. It was the kind of relaxed she had hoped that very morning she could see in his face. His eyes were closed and there were no creases around them and he looked so peaceful.

 And she--- she couldn't believe it was her on that picture.

 Her hands rested on his shoulders securely, as if they knew they belonged there. Her back was slightly arched in his favour and she stood on the tips of her toes, a fact that she had not noticed that day. There was the wisp of a smile in her face from when he'd made her laugh, and there was that edge of happiness in her face that flowed out of the picture.

 "Yes, I know, I should've been a photographer. The world lost a great artist. Yadda yadda." David yapped, but Marinette paid no heed.

 "Hey..." her mouth ran away from her. "Do you think I could keep this?"

 David raised an amused eyebrow.

 "Sure thing, Bluebell." His face was nothing short of wicked. "Just be careful."

"Yeah..." Marinette replied, but she wasn't listening.

She hadn't been able to stop looking at that picture.

 


 

Alya cooked mac and cheese.

It wasn't that she couldn't make anything else, she remarked, but she has taken one look at what she described as Adrien's "rabbit food" and had opted to "put some meat in those bones."

You would be hard pressed to find a complaint from Adrien. Eating mac and cheese seemed like exactly the kind of things friends did in these situations.

"So," Alya began with a grin. "If you were a Sailor Moon character, who would you be?"

Adrien blanked.

"What makes you think I even watch Sailor Moon?"

Alya raised her eyebrow knowingly.

"Please. You're the biggest nerd in France. You probably know the lyrics to the song."

Adrien glared.

"Oh, come on! Tell me you've never dreamed about transforming into a superhero." Alya gushed, and Adrien saw the spark in her eyes. "Like Chat Noir."

Immediately, Adrien was very eager to change the subject.

"I think I'd be Venus." He blurted out and Alya raised her eyebrow almost to her hairline.

"Really?"

"Well, yeah. I don't know, she was kind of cool. She supported Usagi always and she was pretty badass."

"Plus; she was blonde." Alya added. "And a bit of an airhead."

Adrien laughed. "I'm not an airhead."

"Adrien, please," she began. "It took you six years to realize that Marinette had a crush on you."

He spluttered. "I mean-- I-- it's not like she made it obvious!"

Alya scoffed. "Are you serious? She'd go moony eyed whenever you were in sight!"

"Well, I don't know! I'm not good at that kind of thing!" He protested. "I don't know how to tell if people like me!"

Alya rolled her eyes. "You probably can't tell when you're into someone either."

"That's not true." He ascertained.

"Oh; so right now you know that you're falling for Mari, right?"

Suddenly there was quiet.

It wasn't the absence of noise, rather the filling of silence. It edged under the doors and covered the room, almost a sound in itself.

Adrien looked at Alya. She'd been waiting to ask this question.

"Yes." Was all he answered. Alya chose to press no further.

"So," she began, and by this point Adrien had learned to fear her questions. "If you were a character from Dragon Ball Z, who would you be?"

Adrien was about to reply when he heard the rustling of keys against the door and immediately brightened, knowing that there was only one person who could be on the other side.

He heard gentle pitter Patter and was only distracted enough to look at the small hallway that led to the bedroom to see their tiny kitten making his way towards the living room. Maybe he knew Mari was coming home.

The thought flicked a light on in Adrien. He stood up and kneeled to pick up Plagg, who mewled happily right as marinette was opening the door to the house.

Adrien smiled and parted his lips in greeting, but Alya spoke first.

"Did you murder my boyfriend and bury him in the cemetery? Cause you really need to stop doing that."

Marinette rolled her eyes and stepped into the apartment, making a beeline for her boys (the thought made Adrien's heart race). She kissed the top of Plagg's head, and, as naturally as breathing, pecked Adrien on the lips.

A stunned silence that has absolutely no place in their home took place.

"Okay, can we save the lovey-dovey crap for when I'm not here?" Alya interjected, but she didn't sound mad. In fact, Adrien was 90% sure she'd thrown that comment to cut through the awkwardness, and was infinitely thankful.

Marinette laughed shyly. "Yeah, sorry." She scratched the top of plagg's head. "Did you guys have a good time?"

"Well, the movie was great. We need to hand it to Alya's mom."

Alya made a non commital sound. "Maybe. I mean, it was good, but was it 'Big Fish' good? Only time will tell."

Marinette deadpanned. "Big fish is not an independent film."

"But it's a masterpiece." Alya shrugged. "You can't deny that."

Adrien watched them banter and felt the almost obsessive need to add: "Actually I don't think I know that one?"

Alya and Marinette watched him in stunned silence. It almost made him wish for that weird moment he'd had with Mari just before.

"Mari, fix your man, please." Alya said, almost absently. "I have to--"

Alya cut herself off and reached for her phone. Only now did Adrien notice that she hadn't checked in the whole while they were here. Knowing her compulsion to be perpetually connected to everything, Adrien appreciated greatly the gesture.

"Sorry, I have this alert for--" suddenly she stopped talking. Her face drew in and they watched the color drain from it.

"Alya?" Mari asked, worried. Adrien took an instinctive step closer, but alya responded by stepping backwards, almost mechanically. She was whispering something that Adrien had to focus to understand.

"No, no, no, nonononono--"

"Alya, what's wrong?" He could hear the desperation in his own voice. He reached for her again, this time grabbing hold of her arm. "You're scaring us." 

Alya looked up, eyes focused solely on Mari.

"I swear this wasn't meant to happen." She whispered, and he could see Marinette's brow crease. "I just-- somebody must've hacked my cloud and--"

Marinette held Alya by the face.

"Alya. Speak." She commanded. Alya, in turn, grabbed Mari's wrists desperately, her phone awkwardly in her left hand. Adrien took it from her to avoid an accident.

When he did, he understood Alya's dread.

There, right in the middle of the screen, was a still that Adrien immediately recognized from marinette' interview.

"Oh, no." He muttered. Marinette looked at him, irritation flaring. 

"What?"

Alya regained her ability to speak. "Someone hacked me."

"Did they send you a virus? Porn? Delete your files? What, Alya?"

Alya looked at the ground, jaw clenching in frustration.

"They leaked your interview." Adrien said absently. It was clearly too hard for Alya to say, but it seemed just as difficult to hear it.

He watched Marinette's reaction carefully, hoping against hope... actually, he has no idea what he was hoping for.

"Oh." Marinette said softly.

"Mari," alya was desperate. She clung to Marinette's sleeve, almost begging. Her eyes were right on the edge of tears, and Adrien, for the life of him, had no idea of what to do. "I swear this wasn't supposed to happen. I'm so sorry." She begged. "Please, believe me."

Marinette's face was blank, though, and it took her a second to process everything. Once she did, she took a restarting breath and looked at Alya kindly.

"It's okay." She said with a small smile. "It's alright, I know you didn't mean for this to happen."

Alya's expression became almost reverent as she hugged her best friend, burying her face on her shoulder. Adrien saw the way her fists clenched against the fabric of her shirt.

"I... I don't know what to say." Alya whispered. "Mari, I love you. I'm so sorry."

Marinette smiled a little and pet Alya awkwardly, and that's when Adrien saw it.

With Alya's face hidden on her shoulder, she could not see the expression in her face.

Marinette looked miserable.

It was difficult to read what was the sentiment; but there was clearly discomfort. Maybe irritation. Embarrassment. Something. 

But she didn't let Alya see any of this.

Adrien rested a hand on Mari's free shoulder, startling her-- almost as if she'd forgotten he was there. He smiled at her encouragingly, and Marinette tapped Alya in the shoulders.

"It's okay Alya, I'm not mad at you." Marinette spoke soothingly, and had Adrien not seen her face just a second ago, he would've been inclined to believe her. "It's just these stupid paparazzi. It's okay though. We were going to release the interview on paper anyways; right?"

Alya relaxed slightly and straightened herself, looking at Mari with love and gratitude.

"Thank you Mari... I'll... I'll get to the bottom of this, okay?"

Marinette smiled encouragingly and nodded, thumbs up without saying anything. Alya reached for her stuff on the ground and sprinted to the door.

"I'm gonna secure all my files!" She called as she exited the apartment, the door slamming shut behind her.

With the door's click, Marinette's shoulders slumped. She drew her hands to her face and covered it. Instinctively, Adrien pulled her in against his chest. Just as naturally, Marinette wrapper her arms around him and buried her face in his shirt.

"Are you okay?" He asked gently. Marinette slumped her shoulders.

"No." she groaned, and then pulled back. "I don't even know why I'm not okay. I mean, the interview was going out anyways. I just--- I hate that the video went out too." She sighed. Adrien had no idea how to comfort her.

"I... guess it makes sense?"  He attempted. "I mean; it wasn't supposed to happen. That was supposed to be private, right? It's kind of... like it's not the information that was the problem. No. wait. I have no idea what I'm saying."

This drew a little smile out of Marinette. Adrien felt immediately better. She rubbed her arm self-consciously.

"I think...." she sighed. "I guess I just went a little too open in that interview... it was bad enough that I blurted out everything. Now people hearing it in my voice and looking at my dumb face is just embarrassing, you know?"

Of course he did. "Yeah."

"And..." marinette sighed and looked at Adrien earnestly. "I just feel terrible but... I can't help but blame Alya for wanting to film it. Is that petty?"

Adrien blinked. "Maybe a little bit."

Marinette groaned and slumped her shoulders again before collapsing on the sofa like a puppet with cut strings. Adrien was equal parts worried and lost. 

She looked up at him, tired, and smiled a little.

"You won't believe what just happened."


 

 

Alya felt terrible. There were no two ways about it

 

She arrived home and logged into her computer immediately, ruffling through all her files, trying to see what could possible have happened. She ran a scan through her computer. No virus detected. It didn’t seem as if anyone had broken into her computer. Maybe they’d hacked her email?

 

Alya sighed and rested against her chair, dejected. She’d messed up bad.

 

She was sure Mari was upset. She was just too nice to say anything.

 

Alya frowned. Why had she gone on with this interview? She had rejected the offer! So why? Why had she insisted on doing it?

 

Her thoughts were cut off by her ringing phone. Her frowned deepened as she recognized the romantic, upbeat Cascada song that could only belong to one person. She picked up her phone and watched Nino’s goofy face on the background, the word ‘Babe’ written across his forehead.

 

Angrily, she pressed ‘Ignore,’ and the noise immediately quietened.

 

This was his fault.


 

Adrien looked rather perplexed at Mari’s story. He blinked a couple of times.

“…Please don’t leave me for Nino.” He said at the end, and Marinette couldn’t help but laugh.

“I’m sorry Kitty, that hat. Those glasses.” She joked. “I’m only human.”

Adrien giggled. It was one of the most adorable things Marinette had ever witnessed.

He sat down next to her on the couch. Plagg raced across the apartment pitter-patting everywhere. They both turned their heads to watch him head happily towards their bedroom, probably to try to eat something. He was getting better at it, thankfully, and feeding him became something more sporadic than permanent for them.

Marinette let her head loll to the side and watched Adrien. He studied Plagg peacefully, just as she was studying him.

As if she could ever leave him for Nino. As if she could ever leave him for anyo---

Marinette bit her tongue hard. That kind of thought had no place in her head.

She shook her head slightly. No. This marriage would be over in two years, and they’d go their separate ways. She needed to remember that.

Whoever married Adrien for good would be better for him.

And that was that.

“Princess?” His voice cut through her thoughts.  She snapped to attention.

“Hm?”

“You okay?”

Marinette didn’t bother smiling this time. At least not an ‘its okay’ smile. It was more of a ‘well, here we are’ kind of smile, and it was okay.

It was always okay with Adrien.

“Do you wanna watch a movie with me?” Marinette blurted out. She wasn’t entirely sure where it came from, but it sounded like exactly what she wanted at this point.

Adrien looked just as debased.

“Y-yeah.” He replied, a small smile in his lips. “I’d love to.”

Marinette smiled and patted the seat next to her on the couch. “Good. Cause you cannot live in this house and not have seen Big Fish.”

Adrien brightened. Marinette was still amazed at how his smile could make the room ten shades more brilliant. He sat down next to her, inches between them, and handed her the remote. Marinette took it from him and searched for the movie.

“Wait.” Adrien said. “Alya left some popcorn. I’m gonna go get it.” He headed for the kitchen.

“Adrien, I swear if its that nasty butter-less thing you eat, I’m going to throw you out the window.”

Adrien pouted. “You sound like Plagg.”

“Plagg is wise.” She retorted.

Adrien raised his eyebrow. “Never thought I’d hear that phrase.”

“Never thought you’d be married to me, either.”

“Yes, but one is infinitely more pleasant than the other.” He grinned as he stepped into the kitchen. She found the movie and held it paused until he returned with the popcorn and sat next to her on the couch. In a gesture of infinite comfort, Marinette rested her head against his shoulder.

Immediately, as if a reaction, Adrien threw an arm around her shoulders. They sat comfortably until the narrator began speaking.

They remained quiet the whole movie, and didn’t even notice the way the progressively tangled themselves into a more comfortable position until Adrien’s arm rested comfortably around Mari’s shoulders and her legs were tangled with his as they rested in the ottoman in front of them. It was nearly the end of the movie, the saddest part, when Marinette felt a tightening around her arms and complete stillness from Adrien that she was able to pull herself out of the movie to look a her husband.

His face was crumpled. He wasn’t crying, but the look in his face stopped her heart.

He didn’t seem able to see her as his eyes were glued to the television. His brow was creased and his eyes looked smashed. Marinette felt her heart in her mouth as she reached for the control to pause the movie, but Adrien stilled her hand, still not looking at her.

The last five minutes, Marinette couldn’t draw her eyes away from Adrien, and Adrien couldn’t look away from the television. As the credits rolled in, he was finally able to look at her.

“Are…. Are you okay?” She asked softly.

“I…” Adrien did not respond. Marinette felt coldness where her stomach should be. “I’m fine.” He managed. “I just wasn’t expecting that.”

Marinette wanted to hit herself.

Why? Why had she chosen that movie? How could she have been so insensitive?

A movie about a man with a terrible relationship with his father, who, in the end, dies just as he and his son reconnected? What was she thinking?

“Adrien, I’m sorry, I didn’t think—“

Adrien forced a smile and shook his head. “No, that’s okay Mari. It was a really good movie. It just took me by surprise is all.”

Marinette parted her lips. She wanted to talk, to comfort him –to say anything. But the moment was gone. That window of vulnerability had closed on them. She had lost the opportunity, and now Adrien had raised his wall of politeness and calmness once again.

Instead, she hugged him.

At first, he was surprised. It took him a second, but he wrapped his arms around her as well, and they held each other as the credits rolled by.

Marinette thought for a few seconds about the events of the day. Everything was piling up. Expectations. Prohibitions. Behaviour. Poise. On and on and on and on.

She had always had to live up to her own expectations. She had always been her biggest enemy, with the strength of a loving family to fall back on, always supporting her, but now—now it was she against the world.

But she had Adrien at her side.

Was it enough?

She looked at him. He had to be. He looked back at her, his mind lost in his own thoughts. Did he think about her like this too? Did he feel that she had his back, even after all this time?

That’s when it hit her like a freight train.

She needed him.

Not the way she had needed Chat. But more profoundly. Chat was had her back in one aspect of her life, always. He always saved her life, but now—

Now she needed Adrien. She needed him to get through things. She needed him to get over her insecurities, over her own criticisms. She needed him to get out of her own head. To bring her peace. To be her friend. Her partner.

He held her gaze, and she read every question written in his eyes, but she didn’t want to answer. So she did something stupid.

In one flawless movement, like a wave crashing against the sand, Marinette kissed Adrien for th very first time.

Chapter Text

To best describe Adrien’s mind right now, I would ask you to imagine a television with no signal that only played static.

That would come close to what was going on for him for the longest half a second in his life.

When he finally managed to get the reins on his mind, Marinette was already pulling back, and that seemed like the exact opposite of what he wanted right now.

So, much like Marinette, Adrien did something stupid.

Marinette pulled back, slowly, but Adrien didn’t let her go far. He chased her lips as if she were his only source of oxygen at this moment. He kissed her softly, the way she had kissed him just now, and it was unlike anything he had ever experienced before.

Every other kiss they had shared had been either prepared or excused. He had always tried to justify what he was doing, but right now, that part of his brain was disconnected. He kissed her because he wanted to. Because he really, really wanted to.

This time, Adrien was the one to allow himself to pull back, slowly, still within breathing distance of her. He opened his eyes slowly, terrified that he’d find himself in his room and this had all been a dream.

Because it was. It was a dream. It was a dream because it was what he wanted and had been too stubborn to accept.

He watched Marinette open her eyes slowly –those beautiful, blue eyes that had seen everything inside of him for so long. His Lady’s eyes. His friend’s eyes.

And the way she looked at him –oh, would that he could save this look forever. Her eyes were wide and filled with wonder. She looked at him like he was there with her, and she couldn’t even believe it. He wasn’t a picture anymore. He wasn’t a mannequin or a model. He was a boy, sitting in the sofa of his house, just inches away from the most beautiful woman he had ever met. And that’s exactly what she saw.

Marinette parted her lips, her breathing shallow and nervous.

“Adrien…” she whispered. He knew there was no follow-up to that. She said his name the same way she watched him. Making him real. Making him be there.

Adrien rested his hand on the side of her neck, brushing his thumb against her cheek, reverently.

“Mari,” he replied. He was so silly. He felt so silly. Here he was, speaking to the stars themselves that had hidden under her skin, and he felt so, so small. “Can I kiss you again?” His voice was much to low, but she heard him, and nodded her head the slightest bit, and then they were pulled together by gravity.

They brushed lips against each other gently, until something manage to stir under his skin, and Adrien was finally free enough to let go. Without thinking much about it, he parted his lips. This seemed to invite her to do the same, and, much to his delight, she did.

From that point on he was more than gone.

He felt her fingers idly tangling themselves in his hair, such a gentle, new sensation that felt familiar at the same time. He found that his arms had had a mind of their own and had chosen to wrap themselves around her waist, albeit awkwardly. One of her hands found its way to her face and lodged itself against her cheek, caressing it gently as if he needed to know she was there. He could smell her and see her and feel her and hear her and taste her but it still wasn’t enough.

Could his senses betray him? All five at once?

But as Marinette twined her fingers against his that rested on her face, he was sure. When she opened her eyes and held his hand in place to shift her head and kiss his palm, he didn’t care if it was a lie.

Marinette rested her forehead against his lightly. There was a small blush creeping on her face, and it reminded him of their time in college. Adrien wanted to kick himself for not coming to his senses sooner about her. It felt like wasted time.

“Hi,” she whispered, voice hoarse and tiny. She was shy and nervous, but brave –it was all of her encompassed in that small word.

“Hi,” he replied, and was that his voice? It sounded deep and low and far, far away.

Maybe there was someone else doing the talking. It was okay. He just wanted to look at her for now.

Marinette smiled—no, it wasn’t really a smile. It was like her lips had bloomed into the most wonderful gesture a human being could display. His breath quite literally caught in his throat. He almost choked, to be honest, but it would’ve ruined the moment, so Adrien stayed perfectly still.

“I….” Marinette began. Every single one of his nerves was on edge, terrified of what she’d say. He watched her carefully, and thanked every single one of his lucky stars that he was there at that precise moment. “I think… I like you.”

To Adrien’s delight, Marinette blushed even further.

Her words brought a smile to his own lips. It was strange and entirely new. As Adrien, his smiles were polite and controlled. As Chat Noir, they were manic and euphoric.

This time, it felt as if a warm hand had reached deep into his chest and rummaged around until it found something that had satisfied it and pulled it out until it rested on his lips. It was involuntary and strange and warm and wonderful.

Adrien pressed his nose against the side of hers.

“I think I like you, too.” He replied, and felt so marvelously silly.

It was somehow so simple.

When he was younger, he had pledged his heart to Ladybug a thousand times. The feeling had always been so heavy against his heart –so full—that it always seemed to anchor him and drag him in the right direction.

Right now, these words--- they had him floating.

He was light and giddy and felt wonderful.

Marinette giggled against his skin and pecked his jaw. This was suddenly his new favorite spot.

“I’ve been waiting six years to say that.”

Adrien kissed the corner of her lips. “It was well worth the wait.”

One hand still rested gently against her cheek, fingers intertwined with hers, while the other lay slack against her side, just above her hip. For a moment, Adrien felt as if he had been sculpted like this, in this wonderful, perfect position along with this wonderful, perfect woman.

Marinette looked at him kindly, but with some reservation. Adrien knew he had to be terrified, but how scared could you be when you were three inches from someone like her?

“Do you think this is a bad idea?” She asked quietly, almost too softly to hear.

The rational part of Adrien’s brain agreed wholeheartedly. This was indeed a terrible idea and would only bring about negative repercussions. They were in a precarious situation, with convoluted pasts and years of misunderstood feelings. They were now trapped in a contract that they had to fulfill, and this could only complicate matters. Right now, this was probably the worst possible idea they could have.

“No,” is what Adrien replied, and he watched the last of Marinette’s doubt fall out of her like a shed skin. She opened her arms and enveloped Adrien in them, as if she were pulling him straight into her heart. Adrien, in turn, melted into the warmth of her body –a hug so familiarly different from all the one’s he’d shared with her before. The contact with her skin made his breath quiver, and he buried his face in the crook of her shoulder and her neck, her hands running smoothly and so lovingly through his hair.

Adrien had a hard time thinking there would ever be a moment in his life when he could be happier.

And I am thrilled to tell you, he was wrong.

 

 


 

 

It took Marinette a good half an hour to be able to let go of Adrien, and he seemed just as reluctant to let go of her.

They said nothing, mostly enjoying each other’s company. They stole kisses and looks, as if they were both trying to convince themselves that they were there. They were together.

It seemed so long ago, so many mistakes and misunderstandings later, to finally sit together in the home they shared, after they’d learned what they truly meant to one another… It was a feeling that Marinette could not comprehend, but she could not get enough of it.

She rested her head against Adrien’s shoulder and sighed happily. To be completely honest, there was a raw part of her that wanted to go a lot more physical than this.

Every instinct in her head screamed that this is what she’d always wanted, that all the fantasies she’d been having lately could become true, and that she’d finally know if she was right about what she’d told Genevieve.

But there was a much bigger part of her –not necessarily rational, just more powerful—that told her that they had so much time for that. There was no rush. She wanted to take the step-by-step with Adrien, as if she were returning to being an adolescent. Marinette was more than happy to go slow, both heart and mind, even though her body was tense.

Adrien kissed her forehead lovingly. Marinette nuzzled closer to his shoulder.

“What time is it?” She asked lazily, without any particular concern.

She felt Adrien shift. “Seven.”

She stretched without standing. “The day flew by.”

Adrien sighed and pulled her close. “Yeah, it did. Don’t you start your internship tomorrow?”

Marinette slumped. That was a way to get her feet back on the ground.

“Right.” She groaned. “Why do I have the feeling its going to be a nightmare?”

“Er…”

“That’s all you needed to say.” She sighed. “But I suppose I have to start somewhere.” She looked at Adrien. “What are you going to do now?”

Adrien thought for a few seconds. “I’m not really hungry, so I was thinking maybe I’d get ahead on my dissertation?”

“Do you mind if I sit with you and design for a little while?”

Adrien smiled brightly and Marinette almost swooned.

“I’d love that, Princess.” He smiled, and Marinette watched him fondly. “Something wrong?” He asked when she didn’t say anything.

Mari blushed. “Nothing.”

Adrien looked concerned. “You sure? Did I do something wrong?”

Marinette laughed, her cheeks dusted pink.

“I just like it when you call me princess.”

Instead of laughing, as she thought he would, Adrien’s face lit up beautifully.

“As long as you want to.” Was all he said, and Marinette couldn’t’ve hoped for a better answer.

 


 

Adrien typed away into his computer. He looked hunched over and concentrated, a perfectly furrowed eyebrow on his forehead.

Marinette couldn’t help but watch him quietly from the chair on the other side of the room. He sat silently, her sewing machine about a foot away from him on the table. Behind him, the blinds were open, and Marinette had a lovely view of a suburban road in the middle of Paris. She sighed once and looked down at her drawing pad.

It was just as blank as her mind.

So she began sketching.

At first it was just a few lines, the basis of a regular shirt. Maybe if she jogged her mind a bit something good would come out.

But suddenly, that shirt grew arms. And legs. And a head.

And before she knew it, Marinette was sketching Adrien, the way he sat on the desk: rumpled shirt, furrowed brows and a  funny scowl on his lips, as if he were concentrating immensely.

Had Gabriel looked like this before he’d made it?

The thought struck her dumb.

Marinette allowed her mind to wander to the youth of her father-in-law.

He was an uptight man, she knew. She had never seen him genuinely smile, and the only times he seemed to break out of that constant look of distaste was when he was genuinely surprised or the half a second when he’d thought Adrien had been hurt in an Akuma attack when they were younger.

What would he have thought if he’d known that his own son was the infamous Chat Noir, Hero of Paris? That his precious, beloved, only son, who he had only barely allowed to attend school, had risked his life every day to protect strangers from Gabriel himself? And how did Adrien feel about the fact that he had foiled his own father’s plan to—

Marinette tightened her grip on the pencil.

On their last stand, they had discovered that Papillon’s desperation for the Miraculouses was linked to a mysterious power that may have brought back Adrien’s mother.

She supposed he thought about that a lot, too.

It still wasn’t clear what had taken Adrien’s mother away. Heck, she wasn’t sure he knew what it was, but she couldn’t bring herself to ask. And she couldn’t bring herself to ask if he thought about her much. She was sure he did.

Marinette took a second to wonder if Béatrice Agreste would’ve liked her.

Well, Adrien had let it drop a couple of times throughout the years that Marinette resembled his mother in some things. However, his mother wasn’t a topic that Adrien brushed lightly. He used her name sparingly, as if there was only a limited number of times that he could call upon her.

Did he regret beating Papillon? I mean, it wouldn’t be strange. Definitely not unexpected. Adrien had a wonderful, pure heart, but did that really matter when the opportunity to have the person you loved the most in this world come back was in the table?

The more terrifying question, did he blame her?

He could, after all. It was Ladybug’s job to bring order, while it was Chat Noir’s to bring chaos, so technically speaking, no Ladybug would’ve meant no order. And no order would’ve meant Papillon would’ve gotten his way.

Adrien didn’t seem angry at her, she knew. Heck, when he found out she was Ladybug he was over the moon. And now—

And now they were in this strange limbo between being friends who liked each other but also being married and surrounded by every eye in the world. How could a relationship like that bloom?

She knew they had destiny in their favor. Chaos and order. Creation and destruction. Ladybug and Chat Noir. Of course they had that in their favor. But was it enough?

I mean, they had been smack dropped in the middle of uncharted territory with every landmine on their way to ‘normal,’ so, well, it was going to be difficult.

But as she looked down at her rough sketch (the arms were too long and the face looked funny and Marinette decided that she did not know how to draw people) she only felt warmth unfold in her chest. She traced her fingers along the drawing and felt safe.

She had always managed to come up standing when he was by her side. Difficult as it would be, this time could be no different.

Marinette looked up from her pad to meet Adrien’s scrunched up face, but instead, she was surprised to find him asleep with his chin resting on his hand.

She chuckled lightly to herself.

What would all the magazines say if they knew Adrien Agreste was drooling over his computer?

For a second, she thought about taking a photograph to tease him, but today’s lesson about people breaking into their privacy and leaking everything made her think twice, and in the end she chose not to do it.

Marinette headed towards him to lay a gentle hand on his shoulder, but before she made contact she heard him mutter.

“…. No cheese…” He grumbled clumsily. His chin rested in his palm and made it difficult to understand his words. Marinette giggled silently anyways. “Plagg… stop.”

Mari wondered for a second what the cat could’ve been doing that Adrien would tell him to stop when it struck her dumb.

He wasn’t talking about their Plagg.

It would be a lie to say that she had never wondered about Chat Noir’s Kwami. Marinette had, after all, built a sane and healthy relationship with her companion, which seemed to be a pattern in her life. She wondered if Plagg had been as good to Adrien as Tikki had been to her.

Adrien hadn’t had the same luck she had, she knew. Whereas her home was warm and kind and loving, his was filled with pressure and pride and an absence of warmth that had always chilled her. What sort of love could he have received from a man like Gabriel? From a woman like Nathalie (who wasn’t even family)?

But Adrien –Adrien loved so well. It was like he was born for it. Born to love.

Had Béatrice taught him that?

If she did, Marinette was eternally grateful to her. Because that was what had made her love him when they were children.

Instead of placing a hand on his shoulder, Marinette leaned over and pressed a soft kiss on his temple, her nose tickling with his soft, strawberry scented hair. She watched him stir, but he didn’t wake. She nuzzled against his cheek gently with her nose, and act that had never occurred to her before, but now seemed as natural as breathing.

“Adrien?” She whispered gently against his skin. “Kitty?”

Slowly but surely, Adrien regained consciousness, his face immediately turning towards the source of warmth next to him, leaving him eye to eye with Marinette. In turn, she caressed his hair gently and pressed a soft kiss on his nose.

“Mari?” He asked dumbly, blinking twice.

“You fell asleep.”

He picked himself up, Marinette giving him some space to rub the sleep out of his eyes. He looked at the screen of his computer.

“How did I write thirty pages?”

Marinette giggled. “You didn’t. You wrote three and fell asleep with your fingers on the spacebar.” Adrien yawned. “You can continue tomorrow. Right now you’re too tired.”

He looked like he was about to protest, but her encouraging smiled seemed enough to deter him. He stood up, a comical head taller than Marinette and pulled her in for a hug, kissing her forehead gently.

“I don’t remember the last time I was so pleasantly woken up.”

Marinette grinned. “Better than Nathalie?” She joked.

Adrien pretended to consider it. “Only the days when she didn’t have them make pancakes.”

Mari raised her eyebrows. “She let you eat pancakes?”

Adrien shrugged. “Only on my birthdays when Father was away. Which was most of them.”

He hadn’t been able to keep the trace of bitterness out of his voice, so Marinette attempted to stomp it out.

“Kitty, if you ever tell me you liked it better when your father’s assistant woke you up, I’m going to kick you out of the house.” She joked.

Adrien wrapped his arms around her. He was delightfully warm.

“You wouldn’t leave a poor kitty in the rain, would you?”

“A kitty? No. You? I’ll think about it.”

Adrien laughed freely and they walked together towards their room to find Plagg sitting on the ground next to Mari’s side, meowing to be let up. Marinette rolled her eyes and took him in her arms before turning to Adrien.

“He’s just like you.” She rolled her eyes.

“What can I say? Black cats are Black cats.”

Marinette shook her head and settled Plagg on her side of the bed before heading to the bathroom to settle in for the night. When she came out, Adrien was halfway through stripping, and she started. He froze.

“Oh, uh, sorry.” He stuttered. “Is this weird? I mean, with what happened today I—I mean, I don’t want you to think that I—“

Marinette laughed nervously, suddenly very aware of the thinness of her clothes.

“No! Not at all!” She waved. “I mean, nothing has to change, just because we—“

“Yeah, of course!”

“Of course.”

“I mean just because we kissed—“

“And we’ve kissed tons of times.” Marinette emphasized.

“Doesn’t mean we have to be weird about this right?”

“Right.” She nodded.

It was still weird.

They both shuffled awkwardly towards the bed and lay facing away from each other, neither of them wanting to, but both of them fearing that’s what the other wanted.

Marinette sighed and felt Adrien shift. When she peeked, she realized he had turned to face her, and did the same. They stared quietly at each other for a few seconds.

“Hi,” she whispered. Plagg settled in her arms.

“Hi,” Adrien whispered back. There didn’t seem to be much to say, but there was a pleasant buzz in the air. Something inebriating about the calm security of the space. She felt something graze her hand and realized it was Adrien’s fingers. She tangled them with his happily, and they just watched each other like they could see the moon in them.

“Goodnight, Mari.” He said softly, making the night that much more silent.

“Goodnight, Adrien.” She replied, and they ran out of words.

Marinette fell asleep with the gentle thumping of her heart beating against her ears, making her feel more at home than she had in the last three years.

Chapter Text

It wasn’t uncommon for Adrien to wake up before Marinette. Years of early mornings and dawn photoshoots and packed schedules had trained him to take the best possible advantage of the light of day, and now, it had prepared him perfectly for this moment.

It was 6:14 in the morning, according to the glowing numbers in his phone, which meant that it would be a good 46 minutes before Marinette had to wake up. Adrien was sure that was enough time to rush to a bakery and surprise his wife (who seemed to like him!) with breakfast.

He slipped from the bed, almost unnoticed, save for Plagg’s lazy shift of head to watch him for a second before he curled up against Mari and fell asleep again. Adrien threw yesterday’s blue jeans on and a sweat shirt that rested wrinkled on the floor before grabbing his wallet and rushing out of the house as Chat-like as possible.

As Adrien stepped through the door of his apartment building (too few paparazzi right now to bother the the secret way) he tried to remember the last time he’d snuck out early just for fun.

 


 

Adrien was used to sneaking out of the house for heroic reasons. He was, he liked to think, quite a responsible super-powered teenager, and he took his responsibilities very seriously.  He almost never used his abilities for his own benefit.

Usually.

That morning he seemed to have forgotten the responsible side of himself as he jumped from rooftop to rooftop, relishing in the wonderful breeze that morning in Paris had to offer. In fact, he let out a few ‘woo’s as he sprinted across the blue skies of the city he loved.

And why was he so happy?

Because his father had allowed him a small celebration that night with his classmates in honour of the last day of college.

It was something small and he couldn’t stay out late, but damn it, Adrien was going to enjoy it. He had been so excited, there was just too much energy to burn, so he decided to set out on an early run (and abuse his powers just a little).

The sun was on his skin, and it felt wonderful to not worry about sunblock for five minutes. The only thing that could make this day better would be to run into his Lady.

Beep.

Chat’s baton rang. He started, vaguely considering for a second the possibility of having summoned her call with his mind. He tucked that idea away for later consideration as he pressed the small, paw-shaped button on his staff and smiled brightly at the screen.

“My La---“ He began, but was interrupted by a loud crash!

Chat stopped dead on his tracks, ice hitting his stomach.

“Ladybug?” He cried into the intercom. All he could see was dark, as if she had dropped her communicator face down to the ground. “Ladybug, please answer!”

After several grunts, the image shifted, and he saw the beautiful face of his flustered partner with messy hair .”I’m okay,” she huffed. “Could use some help, though. Facing an Akuma down at the Eiffel Tower. Can you make it?”

Chat Noir blinked. An Akuma? This early in the morning? Well, he supposed it wasn’t the strangest thing he’d ever seen.

“Of course, my Lady, I’ll be right there.” He said and closed his baton.

“Well Plagg,” he spoke out loud to the creature in his suit. “Looks like we’re off to an interesting day.”

 


 

It was definitely true that Marinette was a heavy sleeper, but even she wasn’t immune to the constant nagging of a hungry cat, who just so happened to keep kneading at her arms and tossing in the small space between her arms and her chest. Marinette tried to untangle herself from Plagg and turn away to keep sleeping, but the kitten had other ideas and began nudging her with his head and mewling right next to her ear.

She groaned and opened an eye to look at the tiny creature, who sat wide awake and watched her patiently.

“Mhmmdrien?” She mumbled against the pillow. “Feed Plagg, please.”

There was no response. Frowning without opening her eyes, Marinette dug a hand into the covers and began searching for the source of warmth that was used to occupying the other side of her bed. When she found none, she shot up and looked around the room.

“Adrien?” She called, much more clearly this time.

There was no response, and for a second, she panicked.

What if kissing him had been too much? Was he angry? Oh god, did he hate her?

Oh god oh god oh go—

What was that?

On Adrien’s pillow, Marinette found a small, neatly folded piece of paper with a note written by someone who had clearly taken calligraphy lessons. She rubbed her eyes and read.

Mari,

I went out for a few minutes.

I actually hope you don’t wake up before I come back.

Which would make this note useless.

Anyway—

I’ll be back in a few :3

 

The note was signed with the doodle of a little cat in the corner of the page, and Marinette giggled. Drawing was definitely not Adrien’s strong suit.

(And trust her, he had many strong suits).

She sighed, relieved at not having been abandoned by her husband for whom she was starting to have feelings. It was nice to know that she hadn’t ruined the most important relationship in her life with a rash action that could cost her an education, her home, and most likely her dream.

I mean, at least not yet.

She flopped on her bed again and stared at the ceiling of the room. It was true that she could start getting ready for work. Today she had a 9 o’clock meeting at Gabriel to meet the rest of the workforce and basically show her around. The real work would start tomorrow.

However, she had to make a good first impression, especially on Gabriel himself. She was somewhat sure that he didn’t hate her, but she had no idea how far he actually got on liking her. It couldn’t be so terrible if he had allowed his only son to marry her. Even if it was just for publicity.

There was a gentle nip on Marinette’s shoulder. She turned her head and saw Plagg seated down, watching her. He mewled loudly, as if to remind her he was there. She sighed.

“Let me guess. You’re hungry.” She asked him. Plagg mewled again in response, and she couldn’t help but smile.

Marinette rolled out of the bed and headed towards the kitchen, Plagg pitter pattering behind her happily as she remembered a very different kitty who used to run on her heels.

 


 

Marinette had exited her house at a decent time that morning, so at least she could say she had been early to class once since becoming Ladybug.

The Akuma clearly had other plans.

Ladybug sprinted after the monster, who didn’t seem to be hurting anybody as much as creating mayhem around himself.

This time, Ladybug had to face off against a giant butterfly, who turned everything non-sentient into flowers of different kinds. It was pretty mild, for an akuma.

But Ladybug followed it dutifully, carefully avoiding passers-by as she swung from street to street on her yoyo. It was hard to focus, she noticed, and vaguely recalled what Tikki had said about this akuma being dangerous because of its natural inclinations. It seemed that the smell would overwhelm Ladybug --especially for her kinship to the bug.

So it was hard to concerntrate, even as she called Chat for backup. Truth was, she crashed against a van and dropped her compact to the ground, probably worrying Chat. She dusted herself off and, out of sheer pride, did not bother telling him what actually had happened.

Well, even Ladybug had to save face sometimes, right?

Picking herself up, Ladybug twirled her yoyo and headed after Butterfly (this was the first time she’d seen an akuma with a name in English, but okay) and chased him towards the Eiffel tower. Surprisingly, he seemed far more interested in creating plants than terrorizing citizens, or even her miraculous.

It should’ve been fishy right around this point, but Ladybug was late for school, and her head was woozy, and didn’t give it much thought. Instead, she chased wildly after the creature, hoping Chat Noir would around soon to help her.

See, today was an important day. It was the last day of College, and she knew M. Agreste had allowed Adrien to attend their small gathering. In honor of that, Marinette had put together a small collage from picture day for Adrien, and she was bursting at the seams to give it to him.

This was what occupied her thoughts as she reached the Eiffel Tower. She stopped dead on her tracks and watched wordlessly as Butterfly knit vines from the legs of the tower towards its peak. Ladybug watched it, brow furrowed, and felt Chat Noir arrive silently to her left.

“What is it doing?” He wondered, and frankly, those were her thoughts exactly.

“Is it… nesting?

“Butterflies don’t nest.” She ascertained. Then, more doubtfully, “do they?”

“I mean, I’m not exactly familiar with butterfly nesting patterns or the lack thereof. But as always, my Lady, I am more than ready to find that answer for you.”

Ladybug rolled her eyes. “Are you trying to hit on me with butterfly facts?”

Chat shrugged and grinned. “Is it working?”

She deadpanned. “No.”

Chat was about to say something else, but he was silenced by the thunderous sound of moving vines and breaking bark as the plants that enveloped the Eiffel tower parted, making way right in front of them.

They watched the opening cautiously.

“I think we’re being invited in, LB.”

“This couldn’t be more obviously a trap if it had a neon sign on top.”

“Are we going in anyways?” Chat asked. Ladybug grinned.

“Don’t we always?”

 


 

Adrien arrived at the bakery as the plump girl with a freckly nose gently placed the new danishes behind the counter, their smell wafting wonderfully to his nose and beckoning him closer. The girl looked up and smiled brightly.

“Welcome to Anastasia’s! I’m Anastasia!” She grinned, and it only made Adrien feel lighter.

“Hi, Anastasia, I’m Adrien.” He grinned. The girl blushed and looked down. She peered up at Adrien, smiling, but embarrassed.

“Was that okay?” She asked, timidly.

“What?”

“Sorry, I just opened up shop.” She blushed. “I don’t know if that greeting was okay.”

Adrien beamed. “It was perfect. Exactly the kind of greeting I love getting when I walk into a bakery.”

Anastasia flushed and smiled. “You think so?”

Adrien nodded sagely. “Top of the line. Trust me, my wife used to help run a bakery.”

“Really? Which one?”

“The Dupain-Cheng Bakery.”

Anastasia’s eyebrows shot up. “Seriously? They made the best Apple Danishes ever! What happened to them?”

“The owners moved to the countryside.” Adrien shrugged. “She stayed in college and we got married a couple of weeks ago.”

Yes, Adrien would rub his happy marriage on everybody’s face. So sue him.

“Oh, congratulations!” Anastasia cried and reached for a blueberry muffin from the basket in her arm. “Here, on the house!”

“No way! You have to let me pay.”

“Its okay, you’re my first client! I need you to give good recs, right?” Anastasia winked and Adrien smiled.

“Alright, fine.” He took the muffin. “But I’m hungry, so prepare a large bag.”

 


 

 

Ladybug and Chat Noir stepped into the Eiffel-cocoon carefully, Chat watching their step as Ladybug looked around them for signs of danger. Both their weapons were in their hands and their eyes were focused on everything around them.

Everything was quiet. Eerily so.

Chat’s ears perked up, scrambling to find any noise –even the sound of crackling under their feet—but everything was quiet. It was unsettling.

“Ladybug?” He called softly, his voice reverberating across the cavernous opening at the base of the tower. There seemed to be no way around.

“Yes?” She asked, her echoing voice sounding just as lovely as her regular voice.

“Is it just me, or is this Akuma something strange.” He asked, the hairs at the back of his neck prickling in alarm.

Ladybug said nothing for a few seconds. “He didn’t seem interested in attacking citizens…” She said quietly. “Or on getting my Miraculous.”

“Then what—“ Chat began, but his question was interrupted by the same tearing sound of breaking stems as a small, 2x2 platform formed on a stalk, looking comically like an elevator.

“I think it wants us to go up.” Ladybug suggested.

“It would be rude to keep them waiting.” Was Chat’s reply.

Silently, they climbed into the platform, which they were surprised to learn was wood, as the vines grew at an alarming rate, taking them up, up, up until halfway the top of the tower. When they stepped on the metal beams, already covered in twirling vines that seemed to be creating some sort of floor by tying themselves together, they noticed the Akuma.

Ladybug acted first. She jumped quickly in its direction before saying anything and stole the almost-too-obvious winged-necklace around its neck and broke it in half, releasing and purifying the Akuma quickly.

When she did, and the vines did not untangle themselves, Chat felt a terrible sense of dread overcome him. As every hair in his body stood to attention, he heard the terrifying voice.

“I’ve been expecting you.”

 


 

Marinette rested her cheek on her hand, elbow to the table as she lazily watched Plagg slip from his little paws and go belly first to the ground. This didn’t seem to concern him, however, and kept happily drinking his formula.

Marinette smiled and sighed happily. It was nice to have some peace before the storm of mishaps that were bound to come with her new job.

She thought about preparing breakfast, but opted to wait for Adrien. Having a nice breakfast with her husband was a small pleasure that she would not deny herself.

Instead, she headed for the room and opened her closet doors. She’d have to pick something smart for work. But what was smart enough for a job at the fashion capital of Paris? She picked a lovely, pink shirt and studied it.

Marinette crinkled her nose.

Nope.

She threw it over her shoulder, a rumple telling her that it had landed on the bed. Immediately, she chose another shirt and repeated the procedure.

This would be a long morning.


 

You could’ve heard a pin drop in this scenario.

Or actually, you could not, considering that the plant-like anatomy of the structure seemed to absorb sound. It was, in fact, a terrible place for pin-dropping anyways. But that’s besides the point.

Papillon stepped from a darkened corner. Ladybug’s shellshocked mind had to take a moment to appreciate the petty drama that he always seemed to bring into their encounters. There was a whole, eternal second of watching, as her mind processed what they were seeing. The ex-akumatized victim was drowsy and confused on the floor, and seemed to be about to be swallowed by tendrils of vines that had begun wrapping around his oversized calves. Chat Noir shot forward before Ladybug had time to react.

“No!” He called and dashed, but it was too late. The man had been absorbed by the vines, and Chat reached the closing space where he once had been.

“Please, children,” Papillon’s voice was soft and deep, with threatening undertones. It made everything on Ladybug set on high alert. “That man completed his mission. I have no intention of hurting him.”

As to prove a point, the vines spread in the shape of a circle, allowing view for the ground below, where the oversized man was being genly laid to the ground by a group of vines. Immediately, the circle closed, and they were in near darkness again.

Ladybug found her voice.

“So, finally showing yourself, are you?” She called fiercely, to which Papillon responded only with a bored eyebrow.

“I am done with games, little bug.” He replied, his mouth twisting downwards in distaste. “Its been far too long, and my plans can’t be set on hold any longer.”

Chat Noir slid back to Ladybug’s side quietly. “Yeah? So you’re ready to give up?”

Papillon smirked. It was a gesture full of distaste and disgust, and it awakened exactly those feelings in Ladybug. “Not quite, cat.”

With a wave of his hand, the tangled vines around their feet began moving fast, attempting to wrap themselves around their legs. Chat and Ladybug were too fast. They jumped upwards, and Ladybug quickly realized that there was no safe landing. Before she could voice her concerns, she felt Chat’s arm wrap itself around her ribs and gravity suddenly stop. She looked upwards to find his baton secured between to points, and his very determined gaze set on Papillon.

“So,” he began lightly. “Looks like this day is going to be a little more interesting than expected, yea?”

Something in the base of her spine told her that this would be more than a little interesting.


 

Adrien practically skipped on the way home, a bag of fresh pastries under his arm as he thanked his lucky stars for this strange but wonderful turn of events.

 


 

Chat Noir landed on his knees and winced.

Papillon was… formidable.

Honestly, you wouldn’t expect this from a man who called himself Papillon, but it was true. Whatever his age was, whatever his identity, he was fit, strong, and trained.

Chat had found himself on the receiving end of his cane several times, which he hadn’t been able to help noticing he used as a dueling cane. In fact, Chat was almost sure he could recognize the school he was fighting under, but it had to be a coincidence.

What were the odds of them having learned the same fighting style, after all?

Chat watched Ladybug come through the side with a flying kick, but Papillon caught her easily and spun, using her momentum to thrust her forward. Chat used this opening to dash closer and kick at his wrist. The hit barely connected, and Papillon threw Chat over his shoulder, to the same place where Ladybug once had been.

Papillon seemed just as surprised that she wasn’t there anymore, and Chat watched in delight as she tumbled closer and managed to kick the cane out of his hand, thrusting it towards the other edge of the room.

For the first time, Papillon seemed desperate. He rushed forward, but Chat’s baton caught him by the legs and tripped him. Ladybug marvelously avoided the vines and reached the cane before quickly breaking it over her leg.

Chat’s heart stopped for a moment.

Everything was silent save for the resounding crack and Papillon’s yell of grief as he watched his cane break in two. Thevines around them began to wilt, but both heroes’ attentions were drawn to the man who was being undone by magic as he faced the ground.

Everything turned cold.

No. no no no no no no.

It couldn’t be.

Even face down Chat would recognize that suit.

The breath left his lungs. He felt the pressure in his chest increase, and how his stomach flipped itself inside out, ready to give back everything he had eaten.

It just wasn’t possible.

On his hands and knees, amidst the wilting vines, suspended over the streets of Paris, Gabriel Agreste wept.

 


 

 

It had taken her a good half an hour, but she finally settled on a smart grey pencil skirt and a white blouse. Classic, right?

Now it was time for make up.

 


 

Ladybug dropped her yoyo.

Her idol. The father of the boy she was crazy about. The most famous man in Paris.

Papillon.

She couldn’t tear her gaze away. Oh god, what could she do?

She could only thank her lucky stars that Adrien wasn’t here to see this.

The vines continued their decomposition, and Ladybug knew she had to act quick. She rushed forward towards Papi—Gabriel and ran his arm over her shoulders.

“Chat!” She cried. She spared a look in his direction and couldn’t read the expression in his face. She winced. He recognized Gabriel too. “Help me!”

But Chat didn’t move.

Ladybug groaned in frustration and felt the ground beneath her feet give away. She heard Gabriel’s murmurs and mutterings, and could only recognize one word.

Beatrice.

The ground opened beneath their feet and they fell.


 

Adrien completely ignored the paparazzi as he walked past the front door. He smiled at the doorman and offered a pastry before heading towards the stairs, ready to meet his wife.

 


 

 

Beatrice

That’s what he had said.

Beatrice.

The name scrawled itself on his mind, over and over again, one letter over the other, one sound above the other, until it was all in Chat’s head.

Beatrice.Beatrice. Beatrice.

It was all he could think about as he, too, fell into Paris.

 


 

 

Marinette eyed herself in the mirror, satisfied.

Yep. This would do.

As if to give his opinion, Plagg watched her from his spot on the bed and mewled approvingly.

They heard the fumbling door as it opened.

 

 


 

The moment they hit the ground they were surrounded by people. Ladybug barely heard herself demand an ambulance, calling Gabriel another victim to Papillon.

Murmurs of assent were exchanged, and she heard calls being made as a deafening beep shrieked in her ears.

She rested a catatonic Gabriel on the ground and rushed for cover.

She was barely out of sight before Tikki dropped her transformation.

Marinette was, at this point, a jumble of emotions. A mess of thoughts.

Part of her was exhilarated that they had finally taken down Papillon, though the other part wa shocked that it had turned out to be Gabriel. She turned to Tikki and—

Everything fell away.

Tikki looked bad.

Her colour was draining. She looked barely corporeal. She looked sad and dejected, and almost translucent.

“I have to go.” Was all she said. Marinette couldn’t find her voice. “Mari…” She began, and Mari felt the beginnings of her crumbling heart. “I love you.”

Marinette held her gaze. She couldn’t believe it. It had to be a lie.

She wanted to rage –to call Tikki out on such a terrible prank—but she didn’t.

Instead, Marinette spoke absently.

“I love you too.”

“You were a wonderful Ladybug. I’ll never forget you.”

Tikki had flown away by the time the first tear slipped from her eye.

 


 

Adrien fished for his keys. He had one bag of food in his right hand and the other one in his mouth, while his left hand fished his right pocket.

Adrien wasn’t good at planning.

When he found his keys, he dropped them.

It was hard to believe that he had once been Paris’s greatest hero.


 

Chat hit the ground running.

He dashed through the crowds, away from questions and prying eyes and he ran and ran and ran. He ran through his beeping ring and screaming crowds and burning eyes and piercing headache.

Chat ran until he was alone, and he kept running.

He only stopped when Plagg undid the transformation himself and he was out of breath.

“Kid.” Plagg’s voice was firm. Adrien didn’t look at him. “Adrien.

“Did you…” he panted. “Did you know?”

“I would’ve never kept such a thing from you.” Plagg responded quietly, and Adrien ventured to look up.

Plagg was fading.

Adrien turned to the side and retched on the street.

“I’m sorry.” Plagg said, softer than he’d ever said anything. “I’m so sorry.”

Adrien took his time until it felt that his stomach was physically inside out before looking upwards again. Plagg kept disappearing.

“What’s going on?” He asked miserably.

“I have to go.” The Kwami replied. For the first time since they’d met, Plagg looked sad. Adrien didn’t think his heart could take any more. “I’m sorry kid.”

“Plagg, no.” Adrien whispered, but his voice was hoarse and gone. He sounded weak and deflated. “Please.”

“You were one hell of a Chat Noir, kid.” Plagg’s voice was full of emotion. Adrien couldn’t handle it. “I know I never said it but… I love you, kid. You be good.”

Before Adrien could beg, Plagg floated away.

It took four seconds for Adrien to snap. He fell to the ground and pounded the asphalt as he screamed at the top of his lungs.

 


 

Marinette received Adrien in the living room and watched him carry a bag in his mouth.

“You were a cat. Not a dog, last time I checked.” She mused. Adrien grinned through the bag and took it from his mouth.

“Cats are versatile, my Lady.” He winked at her and Marinette blushed, giggling. “Either way, I brought breakfast.”

Marinette blinked and gaped at Adrien. His smile died slowly.

“I’m sorry.. did I do something wrong?”

God, I love you.” She said, and Adrien’s face split in another grin. “Did you bring me a Pain Au Chocolat?”

“Would I ever forget it?”

Marinette squealed and tried to take the bags from his hands.

“Set the table,” Adrien laughed. “We are Agrestes.” He winked. Marinette giggled and reached for two plates and a couple of knives.

They opened the bags and dug in.

 


 

Neither Marinette nor Adrien went to the party that day.

Adrien spent his entire vacations pre-lycee taking care of his father in the hospital, and then at home.

Marinette threw herself into designing and the bakery.

Six months later, they began becoming friends.

 


 

 

Adrien and Marinette picked up the table, laughing together. Adrien put the plates in the sink and turned on the faucet, ready to wash. Mari pressed a hand to his shoulder.

“It’s okay, we’ll do it when we get back.”

Adrien frowned “But—“

She smiled. “Its okay, we’re also Dupain-Chengs.” She winked. “A little chaos is in order.”

Adrien felt a wave of inspiration, and kissed the tip of her nose. She blushed, but laughed.

“Now come on, you dirty kitty. You haven’t showered and we have to go to work.” She pecked him on the cheek before heading back to the room.

Adrien watched Plagg exit the room, and for a second the cat seemed to be happy for him.

Chapter Text

Adrien had been shaking her gently by the shoulder for about ten seconds before she finally responded.

“W-what?”

“I said,” Adrien spoke gently, “we’re here.”

“H-here? As in here here? As in—“

“At Gabriel, Mari.” Adrien tried to mask the laughter in his voice, but it was hard. It didn’t matter much, though, because Marinette was certainly not focused in his tone of voice at the moment.

She was, in fact, sitting tight behind the driver’s seat of the Agreste silver sedan that had been taking them everywhere lately. Her knees were glued together and her hands were tight fists not so much resting as drilling themselves into her legs, and her face was a perpetual, terrified grimace, from what she had caught from her reflection in the rearview mirror.

Adrien rubbed her shoulder gently.

“Come on, Mari. You’re going to be great. We both know it.”

“Yeah. No. Its gonna be fine, right? Totally fine.” She laughed nervously. “Unless its not and your father thinks I’m mediocre and hates me and tries to have us divorced and then I can’t pay for my studies and I die of starvation under a bridge---“

“That’s not going to happen.” Adrien said calmly. “He already likes you. Besides, you’re super hardworking. Why wouldn’t he like what he sees?”

A little bit of the tension from Marinette’s shoulders seemed to ease, and she looked at Adrien hopefully.

“You really think he’ll like me?” She asked. Adrien smiled.

“He’d be an idiot not to.” He replied and pressed a kiss to her temple. Marinette looked at him gratefully before stepping out of the car, door held by Gorilla. She hoped she hadn’t kept him waiting long.

Adrien stepped out behind her and they went into Gabriel together.

 


 

Just as she remembered, Gabriel was a minimalistic decorated office building, mostly using whites and windows to give an air of openness to the place. It made all the wonderful colours of all those sharp garments that everybody at the office wore look radiant. Marinette had about two seconds to feel ashamed of her not-so-vibrant choice of colours. She had tried so hard to blend in that now she was standing out in the wrong way.

This regret was short lived, for they almost crashed into the infamous Nathalie, cold eyes always looking sharply at Marinette.

“You’ve arrived.” She said in what Marinette assumed was supposed to be a casual tone. To her, it seemed unforgiving. “Monsieur Agreste is waiting for you in his office.”

For a second, Marinette wondered at what time Gabriel Agreste arrived at his office, but decided that it seemed like the wrong kind of question to ask.

They were led quietly, Marinette aware of small, reassuring glances that Adrien kept throwing her. Her focus was mostly in the people around them.

The looks she was receiving were exactly the ones she had been expecting ever since she had married Adrien. People who she had never before laid eyes on watched her every step carefully, and she could feel the way they were rating her in their mind, judging the cut of her clothes and the strength of her walk and probably even the sound of her steps.

It made sense, she supposed. Adrien was like the son of god to these people, so being the person who was attached to him –that invited questions. First and foremost: who was she to earn his attention?

Again, these were thoughts that slipped her mind like her foot in the shower this morning when she stepped into her father-in-law’s office.

She felt Adrien tense next to her, and even Nathalie said nothing, as the three of them stood in front of Gabriel, waiting to be acknowledged. Gabriel, in turn, seemed much too focused on a large page in his table, eyes trained in the most minuscule of details as his brows furrowed deeply in his forehead. Marinette held her breath.

This was the man she had admired all her life.

Nathalie cleared her throat, bringing Gabriel back to earth. His head shot upwards, and his posture changed entirely. It was amazing to watch, the way he had seemed to transform from whatever he was back into this terrifying figure of a man.

Almost more unbelievable than seeing his transformation from Papillon.

“Adrien. Marinette.” He greeted them. Marinette could’ve almost believed that he was happy to see them. “What are you doing here?”

Marinette froze. Adrien cleared his throat awkwardly.

“Uhm, Father—“ he said nervously, “Marinette starts working here today. Remember?” This was accompanied by Adrien’s common hand gestures, as he did whenever he was uncomfortable.

It was good to know that some things she had learned in her youth still applied.

Gabriel did not miss a beat and stood up. “Of course she does.” He said sternly, almost as if he were chastising Adrien for reminding him. She saw her husband shrink in on himself and felt a spark of anger in her chest. “I have been expecting you.”

He walked towards them, seeming to grow with each step he took. Even now, images of himself, sobbing on the ground echoed in her head, images overlapping one with the other.

It was so hard to conciliate these two images—these two men—almost as hard as relating this cold, unforgiving, but brilliant man, to the human ray of sunshine that her husband was.

Gabriel stopped in front of Marinette, who stood straight. She might have been at least a head and a half shorter than this man, but she would damn well make him look her in the eye.

“Father.” She said coolly. Gabriel looked at her, an edge of appreciation on the hard lines of his face. He turned away from her and walked to the window.

“You are better suited for wearing your hair down today.” He said, matter-of-factly.

Marinette frowned. Much to her chagrin, she had modeled her hairstyle after Nathalie’s in a vague attempt to fit in. Marinette pressed her lips together, retort ready on her lips, when her words simply melted into a sigh.

There were simply some battles not worth having.

Without another word, Marinette removed the clasps from her hair and felt it tumble like a sheet over her shoulders. She did not miss the thinly veiled look of adoration in Adrien’s face, and replied with a smile. He seemed more at ease.

“So, Marinette.” Began Gabriel, still not facing them. “What can you do?”

Marinette squared her shoulders. “Anything you put in front of me.”

When he turned, the approval was evident on his face. “Alright, then you will begin with the basics. I believe you met Jacob.”

Marinette nodded. “He is very talented.” She said.

“He is. He will teach you the basics of handling fabric and stitching.”

Marinette nodded, and Nathalie motioned to lead them out. Only now did Marinette notice that she hadn’t said a word in the entire time they had been there. They stepped out of the office quietly.

Adrien cleared his throat. “Hey, Nathalie? Do you mind if I’m the one who shows Mari around?”

Nathalie looked at him levelly. “You have to get your measurements taken at ten, Adrien.”

“I’ll be there, Nat. I just wanna show Mari around a bit.” He smiled sheepishly. “This is kind of like Disneyland for her.”

Nathalie eyed Marinette for a few seconds, no doubt trying to figure out how to make her miserable. She sighed before looking back at Adrien.

“Alright, fine. But be there in time, Adrien.”

Adrien smiled brightly, and looked not unlike a golden retriever after getting a snack, Marinette thought. He turned to her, offering his arm.

“Shall we go, My Lady?”

Marinette smiled fully.

“Lead the way.”

 


 

 

The greatest thing about showing Marinette Gabriel is that Adrien could see it with brand new eyes.

He had grown so used to the same white walls with small variations over time that he had forgotten how lovely the hues of reds and yellows that came in from the windows made the place look like autumn. Marinette, on the other hand, looked at everything with heart-shaped eyes, exclaiming things Adrien could barely understand.

When it was time for him to part, he walked her to Jacob’s studio, and wasn’t surprised to find hundreds of cloth pieces strewn about the place. This was, after all, Jacob.

Adrien held the door open for Marinette to step in first, and followed her suit. He didn’t see her face, but he could imagine her excitement at this moment.

“This is where you’ll be working. This is—“

Marinette brightened. “Jacob!”

The small, scrawny man turned to Marinette, his tiny round specs sliding down his nose. A pleased smile overtook his delicate features and he beamed at Marinette.

“Marinette!” He called, just as excited. Adrien deflated.

“You two know each other?” He asked, trying not to allow his disappointment to show.

“Jacob made my dress for that party.” Marinette explained.

“You wore it splendidly!” Jacob exclaimed. “I saw the pictures, you looked like a princess.” Jacob said fondly, and Adrien’s ears perked at the sound of something in his voice…. Tenderness?

Nah. Impossible.

Marinette blushed, pleased, and shook her head. “Nonsense!”

Adrien cleared his throat to call attention to himself. Marinette snapped her head in his direction and smiled sheepishly. Adrien gave her an uneasy smile.

“It’s almost ten. I should probably head upstairs or Nathalie will kill me.”

Marinette nodded enthusiastically. “Do you get five minutes for lunch? Maybe I could come up?”

Adrien smiled. “Yeah. Definitely.” He beamed. Before he could say anything else, Marinette stood in the tips of her toes and planted a small, shy kiss on his cheek.

He must’ve looked like a complete idiot, standing there for five seconds before responding with the goofiest grin her face could twist into, but Marinette’s blushing smile was worth it.

He went to work feeling happier than he had in this building since he’d known it.

 


 

Marinette heard Jacob’s appreciative hum even before she turned around, and it was enough to set her face aflame. She turned around, and there he was, a mischievous look on his face.

“Things are going well in the Agreste home, aren’t they?” He teased. Marinette flushed deeper. Jacob laughed openly and sincerely, and Marinette let out a small giggle. “I’m sorry, I’m just teasing you.” Jacob said good-naturedly.

“Its okay. I’m just a little embarrassed with that whole situation.” Marinette explained awkwardly.

Jacob cocked his head to the side. “Why should you be? Its obvious that you and Monsieur Agreste are very much in love.”

Marinette’s expression of horror must’ve scared Jacob, since he immediately stopped talking.

“Marinette?” He stepped closer to her, his voice rising in panic. “Marinette, is something wrong?”

“Please,” Mari choked. “Please don’t—“ She took a deep breath. “Don’t ever call him that again.”

Jacob’s brow furrowed. It took him a second for things to click. He echoed his own sentence to himself.

“’You and Monsieur Agreste—‘” He stopped short, eyes widening and his face lighting up as he understood. He let out a chortling laugh, that soon had Marinette giggling too.

They both laughed for a few minutes, tension unwinding. She was happy to find that Jacob was such an easy going person, and silently thanked her stars that she had someone so accessible to begin working with.

Their laughter died down soon afterwards, Jacob wiping newborn tears from the edges of his eyes.

“I’m sorry, I don’t think I have laughed like that in years.”

Marinette chuckled. “Its okay. It was funny.”

“Its just you—and Monsieur Agreste—its hilarious.” Jacob grinned. “As far as I know, he has never looked at another woman since Madame Agreste.” He added thoughtfully.

Marinette’s smile died, the way it always seemed to when Beatrice was mentioned.

“Did you know her?” She asked, trying to sound disinterested.

“Hm? Not really.” Jacob replied, picking up a pair of scissors from the ground. “She was gone before I started working here. But I’ve heard rumors, and there never seems to be anyone close to Gabriel.”

“Nobody?” Marinette asked curiously. She supposed she hadn’t given it much thought, but wasn’t it a little strange, after all? Beatrice Agreste had been gone for six years.

Jacob shook his head. “He is surrounded my models every day, but he never looks twice at them. Not the men nor the women.” He explained. “Whenever he steps closer its to fix something, and he always goes back to his office. I think the person who is closest to him is Mademoiselle Sancoeur.”

Marinette thought for a few seconds.

“He must be very lonely.” She mused out loud.

“I would be.” Jacob sighed. “But he seems content, and I try not to pry. Ouais?” He asked and tossed a roll of crimson satin towards her. “Now help me clean up a bit!”

 


 

 

Adrien’s eyes would instinctively fly to the clock on the wall whenever his attention was not precisely required, and it was running the tailor’s patience thin.

“Adrien.” Nathalie’s impatient voice cut through his peace. “Are we keeping you from something?”

Adrien smiled sheepishly at her, but Nathalie was far too familiar with his cute face to be affected. She waited, impassively, for an answer.

“Sorry, I just— I’m a little hungry.”

“Its barely noon, Adrien. Honestly, sometimes I think—“ she stopped short and studied Adrien with narrowed eyes. “Ah,” was all she said and pressed her lips together. From the look on her face, Adrien was about 98% sure she had connected the dots.

There was more awkward silence and only the sound of pins falling to the ground every once in a while. Again, it was Nathalie who sliced through the silence.

“Enough for now. You have half an hour for lunch.” Nathalie said sharply, and Adrien looked at her thankfully. He vaguely heard the tailor protest, but was quickly silenced with one sharp glance from his father’s assistant.

Without saying much else, Adrien hurried to find Marinette. After all, half an hour wasn’t much.

He found her sitting on the ground of Jacob’s studio, laughing along to something he was saying. His stepping through the door called Marinette’s attention, and she beamed at him. Tension drained from his shoulders.

“How’s your first day so far?” He asked amicably, walking closer to her. Marinette patted the ground next to her, smiling.

“So far so good. I mean, I haven’t destroyed anything invaluable yet, but I still have time.”

Adrien sat down next to her and Jacob and placed the bag in front of them.

“I brought us lunch –well, Nathalie ordered it for us.” He looked at Jacob sheepishly. “I’m sorry, I didn’t think you’d be eating with us.”

To his surprise, Jacob blushed brightly and shook his head. “Not at all, monsieur—Its fine! I’m fine.”

Adrien smiled a little. “Oh god, please don’t call me that. Adrien is fine.”

Jacob seemed to blush deeper, and Adrien was entirely at a loss as to what to say.

“That is very kind of you m—Adrien.” Jacob said tentatively, testing the word in his mouth. Adrien relaxed a little. He really didn’t understand why he was so on edge with Jacob.

He must be tired, he reasoned.

Marinette, meanwhile, had begun digging into the bags, taking out plastic containers and looking inside of them.

“Where did Nathalie get so many different salads?”

“I’ve stopped asking.” Adrien shrugged. “At least it doesn’t get boring.”

Marinette looked at him with what Adrien was concerned looked like genuine pain.

You poor sheltered child,” She whispered. Jacob looked mildly out of place.

“There seems to be more than enough for the three of us.” Adrien said, “I know its not exactly a powerlunch, but do you want to join us?”

Jacob half smiled, a curious look in his eyes, and nodded.

They ate and laughed for exactly 28 minutes before Adrien’s phone rang with Nathalie’s message, calling him back upstairs.

He sighed and shoved the phone in his pants. Marinette looked mildly disappointed, and it twisted his heart.

“I’m sorry,” he said awkwardly. “But I’ll see you at five, okay?”

She smiled. “Yeah, its okay. I have a lot to learn anyways.”

Adrien stood and dusted himself off before pressing a kiss to his wife’s forehead and waving Jacob goodbye.

He didn’t see Marinette blush, nor Jacob tease her about it.


 

When five o’clock came around, Marinette was more than happy to leave work.

While it was true that today was more about introductions, all the emotions had taken a toll on her, and she was tired. She was only too glad that today she didn’t have any class.

When she found the elevators (this office really was too big, and finding the elevators had proven a bit of a task for her) she also found Adrien, who had apparently been looking for her. He looked tired.

“You ready to go?” he asked with a cheer she could tell he didn’t feel.

She nodded, but then stopped herself. “Actually,” she said. “There’s something I’d like to do first.”

Decisively, she set forth to find the office. It was adorable, really, how cool she had wanted to look versus how funny she actually seemed, making the same wrong turns several times. It wasn’t until she gave up and told Adrien what she was looking for that he led her in the right direction.

She took a deep breath before bringing her knuckles to the door. She attempted a first time, but flaked. She took another deep breath and closed her eyes hard before trying again, this time, a low rapping announcing their presence.

“Come in.” Came Gabriel’s clear, deep voice. It still made Marinette nervous, hearing the exact disembodied, unforgettable voice she did the day she became Ladybug.

Marinette opened the door, Adrien behind her, looking quite confused. Gabriel was sitting down in his desk, computer in front of him, its light reflected in his specs. From the looks of it, he was running numbers.

Nathalie stood next to him, impressive and impassive as always. Marinette took a deep breath.

“Father,” she greeted. Gabriel raised his sight to look at her.

“I thought you two had left already.” He replied. Nathalie looked rather bored.

“We were leaving but…” Marinette took a deep breath. “I wanted to ask you something.”

Gabriel raised his eyebrow and watched her expectantly. Marinette bit the inside of her lip before she finally gathered the courage.

“Adrien and I would love to have you over for dinner.” She managed to say. “Whenever you’re available, of course.”

She could feel the stunned silence that overtook the room. Marinette managed to steal a glance from Adrien, who looked utterly bewildered by her offering. Nathalie looked surprised, which was a first for her, and secretly pleased Marinette.

Gabriel, though, looked thoughtful.

“Dinner?” He asked.

Marinette nodded. “You have done a lot for us, and I would like to invite you over for dinner.”

She could hear the clock ticking outside of the office. For a moment, she regretted asking.

Gabriel leaned back in his chair. “It is true that I am very busy,” he began, and Marinette deflated. “But… I’m sure Nathalie can open some space for this.”

Marinette’s face lit up, and she was thrilled to see that Gabriel looked as close to smiling as she’d ever seen him. She smiled fully before turning.

“Well, that’s what I wanted to ask…” She said awkwardly. “I’ll see you soon, Father.”

“Goodbye, Marinette.” He replied.

They left the office in silence, and it wasn’t until the door closed that Adrien pulled Marinette into a hug and kissed her forehead.

“You are the weirdest woman I’ve ever met.” He said happily.

Marinette giggled and wrapped her arms around him “I know.”

They rode the elevator in comfortable silence, and when they exited the building, Gorilla was already waiting for them with the car. Marinette headed towards it, but Adrien caught her by the hand.

“Wait,” he said to her, and then, to Gorilla. “Actually, I think I’d like for us to walk home… if that’s okay with you.” He smiled sheepishly.

At this, Marinette felt a surge of affection for her husband. “I would love to.” She smiled.

Without another word, Gorilla was dismissed. Marinette linked her arm with Adrien’s and walked by his side. There was something satisfying and happy about the way they held themselves in each other’s company, understanding and knowing each other in ways nobody else ever could.

“Mari?” Adrien called. Marinette looked up at him. He was smiling impishly. “How about we stop for some real food before we get home?”

Marinette laughed

This had been a wonderful day.

Chapter Text

They had been 2 weeks into Marinette’s new job, and things were going well.

She hadn’t embarrassed herself—well, there was that little incident with the dye and Margaret from the third floor’s picture of her niece in school, but Jacob had said it wasn’t that big of a deal—so far, and people seemed to like her well enough. She had done her best to be polite and pleasant, and it seemed to go well with most people. Not all of them, of course, but there seemed to be nobody trying to cause her actual harm.

It was surprisingly refreshing to realize what being out of high school meant.

No Chloes.

She stopped her sewing for a second.

Marinette had invited Sabrina over for a night out with Nino, Alya and Adrien, and things had gone great. They had been the object of some pictures, and only about 60% of the women in the place were glaring at her, which she supposed was an okay number. They’d had fun, and it was nice to rediscover how interesting Sabrina had turned out to be, and how incredibly brilliant.

What she also noticed during that outing, though, was the way she seemed to skim around the subject of Chloe every chance they got near. On their way home, she commented it to Adrien, who frowned for a second and looked worried.

“I suppose I should track her down.” He’d said. He looked lost in thought.

“You think so?” She had asked.

“Well—yeah. Chloe’s my oldest friend. Just because we sort of distanced ourselves when we left the lycee— I don’t know, it just doesn’t feel right. Father didn’t say much about her either.”

“Do you think he knows?”

Adrien had shrugged. “I think he has better things to do than worry about the Mayor’s daughter.”

The rest of the way home had been quiet.

But now, as she finished sewing the beautiful rose that Jacob had put together on the lovely spring dress they had handmade, she allowed the thoughts of Chloe and her disappearance to slip from her mind.

The model was on her way to try on her dress, and Marinette couldn’t have been more excited to see her face. This was, after all, her first work by the designs of Gabriel Agreste himself.

See, she had paid close attention to his design. It was amazing, of course. He worked with meshes of fabric that had never occurred to her, and blends that managed to reflect the light beautifully. The dress was simple, yet elegant, and it drew the eye perfectly to the rose on the shoulder, accentuating the beauty of whoever wore it.

The door slammed open. Marinette squeaked and jumped three feet to the right.

Even after all this time, her Ladybug senses kicked in, and she found herself reaching for her yoyo. Its lack felt heavy as she looked at the newcomer.

Framed by the natural light that bathed the hallways of Gabriel, Marinette saw one of the most naturally beautiful women she had ever met.

More importantly, she had a smile more radiant than the sun, and honey colored eyes that seemed to shift with the light. She stepped in with a light gait and seemed to glide to Marinette directly, pulling her into a hug.

“Hi!” She squeezed Marinette happily, much to the latter’s confusion. “Its so great to see you again! I’m so excited that you’re the one who put this dress together! I heard you were super talented so when they told me that I needed to come to you I was jumping out of my skin!” She gushed before pulling back and looking at Marinette fondly. That’s when it struck her.

“Genevieve.” Marinette choked. “Hi.”

Genevieve rounded Marinette easily and spotted the mannequin wearing the dress and squealed.

“Oh my god!” Her voice was shrill. “Its perfect!”

After having worked all day in silence with Jacob, her ears felt overly sensitive to the shrill exclamations (constant exclamations) by Genevieve, but Marinette didn’t know how to say it.

“Gen,” came her husband’s deep voice, like smoothing over the damage caused by Genevieve. “Inside voice.”

Genevieve turned on her heel and smiled sheepishly before coming over to Marinette. The latter, in turn, felt what could only be Adrien’s hand rest on her shoulder as he pressed a kiss to her temple. Marinette looked at him happily, this time only barely hearing Genevieve’s ‘aww’s in the background.

“Hey,” Marinette said to Adrien. “What are you doing here? I’m pretty sure we don’t have anything for you to try on.”

Adrien winked at her. 14-year-old Marinette would’ve melted into a puddle. 20-year-old Marinette just swooned a little (a lot).

“Is it a crime to visit my lovely wife?” He held his chest mockingly in pain. “You wound me, My Lady.”

Marinette laughed and pushed him in the nose with the tip of her finger, the way she used to do when she was Ladybug. Adrien grinned the way he used to when he was Chat Noir. Nostalgia was an atmosphere beginning to settle.

“Ah! Monsieur Adrien!” They heard and both turned to see Jacob return from the deposit in the back of the room with some more silks. “I’m terribly sorry! I didn’t expect your visit! I will have everything in order soon—“

Adrien laughed, a little uncomfortably, Marinette noticed, and scratched the back of his neck. “Jacob, we’ve been over this. Adrien is fine.”

Jacob blushed, and Marinette remembered her manners.

“Oh hey, I don’t know if you’ve met,” she gestured at Genevieve. “But Jacob, this is Genevieve, the model that’s wearing the dress we made. And Genevieve, this is Jacob, the brilliant tailor that worked on your dress.”

Genevieve looked over at Jacob coolly and simply nodded once with an almost tight smile. “We’ve met.” She said. “Hello, Jacob. Lovely work as always.”

Jacob looked at the ground and nodded. “The pleasure was all mine, Mademoiselle Melacon.”

The air turned heavy and Marinette was very sorry to have spoken.

Adrien cleared his throat. “Mari and I had planned to go to lunch nearby, since, you know, it’s a half day and all… Do you guys want to come?”

Jacob muttered excuses under his breath, while Genevieve announced clearly that she still had some work to do before leaving, but she would be very happy to take that offer some other time. The Agrestes left the office feeling quite awkward.

“What was that about?” Marinette asked.

“I have no idea.” Adrien replied. Marinette found her way around her floor easily now, as if she’d worked here all her life. They were upon the elevators in no time.

“Do you think they had a falling out?” Marinette asked, and Adrien seemed to think about it.

“I have a hard time believing Genevieve would have a problem with anyone.” He thought for a few seconds. “I mean, I only know her from work, but she was Bridgette’s best friend, so she’d constantly talk about Gen.”

Marinette’s ears perked up at that name. Did he add a particular inflection to it? No, right?

“She was Bridgette’s best friend?” Marinette asked, maybe just a hint too curious.

“Well, I haven’t seen Bridgette in a while, and Gen hasn’t mentioned her, so I don’t know if they’re still friends. I mean, maybe they are.” He shrugged.

Now, there was a seed of a bad thought in Marinette’s mind. A thought that she had long ago weeded out of her mind, back where she had left her feelings for Adrien. But there it was, that seed, taking roots in the pit of her stomach like a bad meal.

No, she told herself. She was far too mature for this.

She would not be jealous.

Time to change the subject.

“So,” Marinette began. “You’ve never really talked about Bridgette.”

Crap. She almost wanted to hit herself.

“There’s not much to say.” The elevator doors opened and they stepped out. Gorilla was waiting for them. “We worked together since we were like 16 maybe? She was sort of an idol in Japan, so Father signed a contract with her.”

They stepped into the car and closed the doors, Adrien plunging into his story with no need for encouragement.

“See, the thing is, in Japan they have this rule for idols. They’re not supposed to date.”

Marinette frowned. “Huh?”

“Its really stupid, but its in a lot of their contracts, according to what she told me. Basically the idea is that they are selling this image of a person, the same way models here do, except they’re selling the idea of the entire person, and having a significant other dampens that mood.”

“What? So creepy fifty-year-olds can picture themselves being on dates with her?”

Adrien made a sour, uncomfortable face and nodded.

“Pretty much.” He conceded. “So we met and worked together for about a year, then she went back to Japan. We became friends all that time, and I was actually pretty bummed to see her go. Remember when I was sent to Japan over vacations?”

Marinette nodded. It was the summer of their last year at lycee, and they had missed Adrien terribly.

“Well, I didn’t have much time to see Japan, so I was always with Bridgette.” He shrugged. “The schedule was really tight, so she was the face I saw the most for a while.” He scratched the back of his head nervously. “One day we were talking about the whole idol thing, and brands, and how stupid it all was, and, well, we kissed.” Adrien blushed. “Next thing I knew we were sort of secretly dating.”

Marinette blinked, looking down at her wedding band.

It was ridiculous to feel jealous, she knew. But still, a little part of her –an illogical part of her—still stung. She shut that part down.

“Do you miss her?” Marinette asked and almost punched herself in the face.

Adrien raised his eyebrow. “I don’t think much about her, to be honest. I mean, I’d like to see her again, just to know she’s doing fine. She was a lot of fun, and a genuinely kind person. I wouldn’t mind catching up.”

Marinette smiled at him a little. As always, perfect answers from perfect Adrien.

She was being silly.

“We’re here!” Adrien exclaimed. Poor boy, if he got so excited about getting to the restaurant.

But as she looked out the window she realized they were nowhere near the small cafeteria he had proposed. Marinette looked inside the car, towards Adrien, trying to understand.

Instead of her husband’s face, her eyes found two tickets, with a large, red circle, Nantes and a departure date for that day.

Her brain was only now beginning to process.

“Adrien?” She asked dumbly. Adrien lowered the tickets and was beaming like the sun.

“You’ve worked so hard.” He explained. “Besides, we promised.”

Marinette blinked. “But Plagg—“

“Staying over at Nathalie’s. She’s got him a bed and everything.”

The seed of jealousy was eviscerated from her as a sentiment of excitement quickened inside of her.

“But bags—“

“Taken care of.” Adrien grinned. When she said nothing, Adrien’s smile died down a little. “Mari? Are you okay?”

Without even thinking about it, without stopping to think about the smallness of the space, Marinette threw herself at Adrien and kissed him, ecstatic.

Oh my god you didn’t!” She exclaimed, and she was sure there were the edges of tears in her eyes.

“Surprise!” He said. Marinette threw herself back into his arms and hugged the breath out of him, until he jokingly coughed. Even then she held on for a few seconds.

When she let go, Adrien was smiling.

“Your parents are expecting us. They were very happy when I told them.”

It was strange. Marinette was so full of complete and utter joy that she felt her chest was expanding more than it was physically allowed to. When she looked at Adrien, he seemed all the clearer than anything else around him, and she wondered if it was possible that love bent the rules of physics. Her money was on ‘yes’.

Gorilla opened the door for her, and Marinette found her suitcase waiting for her next to the car. Adrien was soon next to her, his own suitcase behind him. Shyly, he offered her his hand.

She took it confidently, and at that moment she knew that whatever happened –however this relationship was bound to end—she would never regret a single moment of being next to Adrien.

Chapter Text

Alya’s phone was ringing. The corner of her eye caught the familiar color scheme that belonged to her favorite picture of her boyfriend, from the time he wore a pair of goat horns because ‘its ironic babe.’ She frowned and flipped the phone on the table, screen face down.

Juleka raised an eyebrow. Her hands were comfortably wrapped around her cup, and she sipped her hot chocolate with what was most definitely a ‘that’s none of my business’ look.

“What.” Alya snapped. Juleka put her cup down.

“I didn’t say anything.” She replied. She pushed her infamous hair back, now pink instead of purple, and looked at Alya calmly. Alya waited.

There were several seconds of silence.

“I just think its interesting—“

There we go.” Alya interrupted. “Go on. What’s interesting?”

Juleka sighed. “Please don’t get defensive from the get-go.” She said. Alya grumbled. “I’m just saying its been days since you’ve been avoiding Nino’s calls.”

“’Avoiding’ is a big word. We live together, you know.”

Juleka looked at her beverage, pretending to stir it. “And yet you’re not answering his calls. As if you need a break from him.”

Alya frowned and drank a heavy gulp of black coffee. It burned her mouth and throat, but she wasn’t going to give Juleka the satisfaction. “I don’t need a break from Nino. He’s just—we’re fine.”

“I never said you weren’t.”

“I see your games, Couffaine.” Alya squinted her eyes at her. “Its always the same with you psych students. Always trying to analyze things that aren’t there.”

“I haven’t said anything.” Juleka repeated. Alya groaned in frustration.

“Fine! You wanna know what’s up? Its this stupid marriage!” Alya vented. “Ever since the wedding Mari is always with Adrien or working or studying! And I need her! I need my best friend, okay?”

“That’s normal, but—“

“And then there’s Nino and that stupid interview thing!” She snapped. “You know, I wasn’t gonna do it. Because Mari’s my friend! I shouldn’t’ve had to put her in such an awkward position! It wasn’t as if she was gonna say no, that’s just not Mari!

“So then Nino messes with it and has Mari do the interview and then someone leaks it! Do you know how mortified she was? She thinks I didn’t see her face, and fine, I didn’t! But I didn’t have to, cause I know her.

“It was horrible, okay? Mari bottled up her feelings for Adrien for so long! And then they were all sort of buried in a corner of her head and suddenly to have them aired out to all of Paris. Do you know how much strain that can put on a new marriage?”

“Does Nino know you blame him?”

“Yes.” Alya thought for a second. “No?”

Juleka took a deep breath and put her cup down. “You know he was trying to help. I understand that despite his best intentions, things didn’t go great. From what you told me, the magazine still gave you the freelance job, yes?”

Alya shrugged halfheartedly with a mumbled ‘maybe.’

“I thought that’s what all of you wanted. Nino, Marinette, and even Adrien. They wanted what was best for you.”

“But not at the expense of Mari!”

“Marinette lost nothing.” Juleka explained. “Yes, it must have been embarrassing for her, but from what I’ve seen, her relationship hasn’t suffered because of it.”

Alya stayed silent.

“So maybe, could it be some other reason why you’re avoiding Nino?”

Alya didn’t know how to tell Juleka that Adrien had casually dropped the fact that Nino had been thinking about asking her to marry him.

Juleka didn’t bother telling her that she already knew.

 


 

Nino unexpectedly ran into Sabrina.

He was looking through new headphones, a good pair with some powerful base or whatnot. Frankly, he was the kind of person that knew what he wanted when he found it, rather than knowing just what he was looking for. He liked to think himself a ranger.

He picked up a pair that seemed promising, a small noise cancelling label in display in the bottom corner. He studied the box for a few seconds.

“Those are the ones my roommate has.” Someone commented from behind him. He turned on his heel and saw Sabrina, standing proudly behind him, a small smile on her face. It was still strange to see her so self-confident. “They’re pretty good. I mean, at least she doesn’t complain when I’m studying.”

“How would you studying bother her?

Sabrina laughed. “I get… frustrated.” She grinned. “And apparently I growl a lot when I am.”

Nino chuckled and put the headphones down.

“What’s up? Already recovered from last time we went out?”

The redhear raised an eyebrow. “I had like three glasses of wine.”

“’Unno. You’re pretty skinny. How should I know how much alcohol you can handle?”

“I go to college in Italy. I’m good.”

Nino chuckled. Sabrina frowned a bit.

“Hey, is everything alright?” She peered at him. Nino felt almost as if she were reading his thoughts through his forehead. He missed his cap, not for the first time.

“Yeah. Its fine. I just—“ He sighed. “Trust me, you don’t want to hear it.”

“Come on. I’ll buy you some coffee and you can tell me.”

Nino attempted to reject the offer, but Sabrina was already leading the way.

 


 

“From where I’m standing, I’m pretty sure its skirt problems.” Sabrina bit into her sandwich delicately. Or well—“delicate” wasn’t her strong suit. Even after all this time, she was a bit awkward. She wondered if she’d ever outgrow this phase of her life. “And unless romance is dead, I’m pretty sure its Alya.”

“’If romance isn’t dead’? What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Come on, Nino. We all went to school together. You were crushing on her since we were fifteen. It was only barely less ship-able than Adrien and Marinette. And they got married.”

Nino sighed and ran a hand through his short hair. “Yeah. Alya.”

Sabrina forced a smug smile into her lips. “I knew it.”

“I mean, we’ve been together for four years. And I don’t know. She just sort of lost it with me.” Nino spilled. “She snapped and suddenly she seems to be avoiding me. We had this tiny fight and then—its like everything went to pot.” He pressed his lips and it was painful how hurt he looked. “Its like she doesn’t love me anymore.”

There was a quickening in Sabrina’s stomach. A bad quickening. She took a deep breath.

“Nino, I’m gonna be one hundred percent frank with you. And this is likely to be the most embarrassing moment of my life so far.” Nino stilled. “I used to have the most massive crush on you when we were children.”

Nino blanked.

“I mean,” Sabrina spluttered. “I just thought you were pretty awesome and I liked your caps and the music you’d started making! And then when you started hanging out with Adrien I was just like ‘wow how can he be so nice to someone he just met?’ And I just… yeah.”

They were silent for a couple of seconds. Nino’s jaw seemed intent on dropping, Sabrina tucked a strand of hair behind her ear.

“What I’m trying to say,” she reigned her voice now, keeping calm and collected. “Is that, back then, I had a huge crush on you.”

Nino’s blank look would’ve been able to compete with Gorilla’s or Gabriel’s any day and hold its ground.

“Huh?”

Sabrina felt her face heat up and was quite sure her face was making a pretty good match to her hair.

“You…” Nino pointed at Sabrina, and then silently pointed back at himself, mouthing the word me?

Sabrina would’ve preferred to be face down in the mud at this point, but hey, in for a penny, in for a pound.

“Yeah. Definitely.” She said. It felt so dumb to admit it after all this time. Especially when he had Alya. Especially when she studied in another country.

But for a moment she felt like she was back in the College, imagining being brave enough to confess her feelings. Would she have been able to if she hadn’t been under Chloe’s thumb all the time?

She had often wondered what she had missed when she was with Chloe. She had known from the get go that dealing with her meant giving up a lot of social presence, but it had never mattered. Sabrina had loved Chloe like a sister for the longest time, and her loss had left her in tears.

“Why didn’t you say anything back then?” When Nino finally found his voice, he asked shakily.

Sabrina felt laughter bubbling in her stomach. Nervous laugh strikes again.

“Two reasons.” She said and took a deep breath. “The first is, I saw the way you looked at Alya. I mean, Marinette wasn’t the only one with an obvious crush.”

Now it was Nino’s turn to flush. It looked adorable in his darker skin.

Sabrina looked at her hands. “The second was Chloe.” She explained, and knew she was treading dangerously. “She always hoarded my attention, and when I wasn’t around it sort of ate at her. I mean, it was certainly a codependent relationship, but it was so nice to be needed back then…” Sabrina tucked her hair again. “Being friends with Chloe was like being number two for someone. I don’t want to sound like a thirteen year old but.. My dad’s a cop, my mom’s a university teacher. Growing up neither of them had a lot of time to spend with me. Chloe’s all I had.”

“Yeah…. But you could’ve made a less… abusive friend.”

Sabrina frowned. “Chloe wasn’t abusive.” She insisted. “She was difficult. Yeah, she liked to have things her way, but when you guys weren’t looking she was actually kind.” Sabrina thought back fondly. “We’d hang out so that I didn’t have to be in my empty house all by myself. When my father was on duty and my mother away for seminars, she’d have me a room at the hotel, right next to hers. I always had a home with her.”

Fondness melted into sadness as she felt the loss of those good old times. It felt like something had been carved out of her bones.

Nino snapped her back to reality. “I had no idea it was like that. That Chloe was like that.”

Sabrina sighed. The moment was gone. “Nobody did. Nobody gives her the thought she deserves.” It was hard to keep the bitterness out of her voice. “Not even Adrien.”

“Sabrina.” Nino interjected, levelly. “What happened?”

Sabrina looked at Nino.

“I wasn’t there for her. That’s all that matters.”

There was a meaningful silence between them. Nino reached for her hand and gave it a friendly squeeze.

“I’m sorry, Sabrina.”

“Talk to Alya.” Sabrina said, pretending her voice wasn’t raw. “Don’t lose her because you can’t figure out what to say. I mean, you obviously love her. I think we both know Alya’s the one.”

Nino gave her a half hearted smile. “She’s always been.”

 


 

 

Alya’s conversation with Juleka had not heeded anything she hadn’t known, but it had made her face things she had been running from. She was well aware that lack of communication was poison to any relationship, but it hadn’t made it any easier on her.

See, it wasn’t that she didn’t love Nino with all her heart. Could he be a little pushy? Definitely. Did she want to murder him 8 days a week? You bet. Would she willing to give him up? Not a chance.

She stepped into the apartment armed with the valor of a woman ready to go into a fight but the caution of a woman who wanted to protect what mattered.

When she did, everything was clean.

Let me explain why this was so odd.

Both Nino and Alya were more inclined to the ‘natural order of things’ as they called it (which Marinette snorted and called ‘blatant chaos’) than the more artificially arranged order of their objects.

So when Alya walked into her home and there wasn’t a pile of coats next to a mountain of shoes intercepting the view of the actual closet, her blood froze.

Her first thought was her worst fear. Her mind hadn’t yet woven the horror when her lips were already parted and her head was light and the pit of her stomach frozen.

“Nino?” She called, though she knew there would be no answer. Silence greeted her almost mockingly. “Nino!”

Her head was light. Dizzy. Nino. Nino? Gone. Gone.

Gone. Gone. Gone.

She’d done it. She scared him off.

Gone.

She’d lost him.

She’d lost Nino.

Alya braced herself against the wall of her apartment, trying to recover her breath. It couldn’t be. It just couldn’t.

“Babe?”

Alya snapped to a straight position and twirled on her heel to find Nino staring at her with a confused expression in his face and groceries in his arms. Without thinking twice about it, she tackled him into a hug, and pretended for a moment that she wasn’t shaking.

Nino caught her clumsily, but the eggs paid the price. He cursed under his breath but caught himself.

“Alya? You okay?” He asked awkwardly.

“I’m so sorry.” She whispered. She felt Nino shift, and suddenly his arms were free and he was hugging her back.

“Babe, you’re scaring me. Is everything okay?” She felt him tense. “Are you pregnant? Cause if you are we can handle it, okay? I can accept any decision you make and I’ll be with you every step of the way---“

“I’m not pregnant.” She said against his shirt. He visibly relaxed.

“Okay, then what?”

After a few seconds, Alya found it in her to let go of him and took a step back. She looked at his face, memorizing every silly detail. All his goofy features. She carved them all to the back of her eyes and knew that she loved him with all her heart.

“I love you.” Alya said, and her voice sounded a little too raw for comfort. Nino blinked twice.

“I love you too?” He replied. “Are you dying?”

“No.”

“Am I dying?”

“Nobody’s dying, you idiot!” she gently pushed his shoulder and rubbed her eye with the butt of her hand, stopping nascent tears. “I thought you were gone.”

“I mean,” he said, “I was. Gone shopping.”

“I mean gone gone.”

Nino frowned. “Why on earth would you think that?”

“Everything’s clean.” She mumbled, and realized how feeble her proof had been. “And I’ve been kind of weird to you lately.”

“First of all. I can clean. I wanted to surprise you with a nice, clean apartment and a nice dinner.” He sighed. “And yeah, I do suppose you’ve been weird. But I wouldn’t walk out just like that, you know.”

Alya only caught the first part. “You were trying to surprise me?”

Part of her brain spiraled. Was he going to propose? Was she ready for that question? Clearly, after this little panic attack, she couldn’t say no. She wasn’t willing to lose Nino, but was she willing to marry at this age?

It wasn’t that she doubted that they’d spend their lives together. She just wasn’t sure marriage was something she wanted at all.

When she was about eight, her father had walked out on her and her mother. They had both had to work hard to make ends meet, and Alya hadn’t spent too much time with her mother growing up. She hadn’t heard from her father again, so clearly marriage didn’t necessarily mean a person would stick around.

Her stepfather walked in soon after and had slipped into the role of Alya’s father easily. So easily, in fact, that she had taken his last name and called him Papa. The man before him was nothing more than a faded picture in the bottom of a box that was only being kept because the sun looked pretty in it.

So Alya had her reservations about being married, but were they enough? Was she enough? For Nino? For her friends? At this point everything was a blur.

“Alya?” Nino waved his hand in front of her face, trying to catch her attention. “Babe? You’re scaring me.”

“Sorry.” She said, shaking her head free of those thoughts. “Why were you trying to surprise me?”

Nino looked away and scratched the back of his head. He sighed. His answer was the last thing Alya could’ve expected.

“To apologize.”

For a full hour, Alya was speechless.

Well, it wasn’t an hour, but it felt like one to her. It was more like a minute.

“Apologize for what? I’m the one who’s been a huge jerk to you these past few weeks!”

“Yeah, you were angry, and I can’t blame you. I cornered you into doing that interview that you didn’t want to do. Mari, Adrien and I pretty much forced you into it even though you were pretty clear you didn’t want to do it.”

Alya opened her mouth but words were dead.

“Now I guess the surprise is dead. I wa going to cook some chicken for you.”

The silliest thought overcame Alya.

“You can’t cook to save your life.”

Nino laughed. “Yeah, I can’t promise I wasn’t going to poison you by accident.”

Alya laughed too, and hugged Nino again. He hugged her back, and they enjoyed each other’s warmth. Happiness washed over Alya, but she knew there was one thing left to do. She pulled back and grabbed his hands, looking into his eyes.

“Nino, I love you.” She said, and the words resonated from the tips of her toes to the tips of her hair. “I love you, and I’m so happy to be with you. And I know you’re the one.”

Nino’s eyes widened. God knew what was going on through his mind.

“I know that you wanted to propose, but I…” She took a deep breath. “I’m not sure how I feel about marriage, but I do know how I feel about you. If that’s what it takes to keep you, I’m in.”

Nino grabbed her gently by the sides of her head and kissed her forehead.

“That can wait.” He said, and Alya felt the weight of the world leave her. “For now, how about some grilled cheese? That I can do.”

Alya giggled. “How about some pizza?”

Nino brightened. “You have the best ideas.”

They ate together in a comfortable silence, a movie on TV that they weren’t watching.  Everything inside her had unwound now that things were out in the open, and she remembered why she had always been so keen on honesty.

“Should we tell Adrien and Mari that we know?”

Nino rubbed her shoulder and kissed her forehead. “Nah. They’ll figure it out.”

 

 


In Nathalie's phone, there were about 67 different pictures of Plagg. 

In her background was a self-taken picture (she'd heard them being called 'selfies') of her and Plagg on her shoulder. She looked rather pleased, if she did say so herself.

He was wonderful company. Nathalie wondered if she shouldn't adopt one of her own.

Her phone rang. It was Gabriel. Her shoulders slumped.

That wasn't such a good idea, she supposed. With so much work she wouldn't be able to give a cat any affection.

She took a deep breath before answering her phone, Plagg burying his tiny head under her palm to be pet. She smiled and did so absently as she spoke to Gabriel about his schedule the next day.

 

Chapter Text

Marinette’s parents weren’t waiting for her at the station. It struck her more than it should have.

It wasn’t like she should have expected them to be there. It was just that it had always been that way. Every time Marinette went anywhere her parents were always there to pick her up when she arrived.

Someone tripped over her and she almost fell out of the step of the train, but she was caught by the arm by her eternally and impossibly graceful husband. Sometimes It was still hard to associate him with Chat Noir.

Except it wasn’t. Because it was all in the eyes. His kind, wonderful, lovely green eyes.

“You okay there, Princess?” He said, and his voice took that Chat-like timbre full of silliness, ready for a game at any second. Marinette secured her footing before turning around to look at him with what she was sure was her most Ladybug-like smirk.

“I’m always okay when my knight is there to save me.” She battered her eyelashes in the silliest, most damsel-in-distress fashion she could, and was rewarded by the wonderful sight of a spluttering, mumbling, clumsy Adrien, who proceeded to drop both their bags and immediately mumbled apologies as he picked them up.

Well, he wasn’t eternally graceful, at least.

Marinette laughed and reached for her own bag, taking it from his hands. They both stood up, and Adrien had the loveliest blushed cheeks she had ever seen.

“Still got it.” She grinned. Adrien genuinely pouted. In a fit of playfulness that seemed to rise to the occasion, Mari sneaked up to Adrien on her tip-toes and stole a kiss from his cheek.

For a moment she wondered if she could cause global warming just by using the thermal energy created when Adrien blushed. She grinned at the thought.

“A—“

“Why are you holdin’ up the line?” She heard from behind Adrien. It was a large man who could probably have been the same one that growled at her the day she hung out with Nino.

Still blushing, Adrien turned around and excused himself, and Mari mumbled a halfhearted apology while stepping to the side, allowing the passengers to leave the cart. More than one cast a dirty look in their direction.

So Adrien and Marinette smiled at each other sheepishly and got out of people’s ways. I suppose it doesn’t matter how much time passes, these two will continue to be dorks to the rest of the world.

They stood under the clock while Marinette frantically searched for the torn piece of paper where she had scrawled her parents’ address. Adrien, much like a child, began snooping around small stores in the vicinity, in the search of nothing in particular.

“Why didn’t you write it on your phone?” Adrien asked, as he rounded Mari for the third time.

Marinette continued her desperate search.

“Because I was using that phone to talk to them into giving me the address.” She replied, patience running thin.

“What about Bluetooth?” Adrien asked. He stepped next to Marinette, but dared not look into her purse –that was a woman’s sacred place.

Marinette huffed, exasperated. “I don’t have a Bluetooth device.”

“Ah.”

“Aha!” Marinette yelled triumphantly as she produced a wrinkled post it. She looked at Adrien, winningly, and noticed the staggering lack of luggage around him. “Adrien.” She asked blankly, “Where are our things?”

Adrien shrugged and pointed right behind Marinette. “Gorilla’s got them.”

Marinette didn’t bother turning around.

Of course, they’d brought Adrien’s bodyguard along.

 

 


 

 

The ride to her parents’ house was mostly quiet and awkward. Gorilla sat up front with the cab driver, and Marinette and Adrien sat in the back seat, Marinette quietly stewing in her own thoughts.

This would be the first time that she’d formally introduce her parents to Adrien as her husband, and, even though they knew it was a hoax, it still made her nervous.

Unannounced, the cab stopped in front of a lovely, old timer brick home, smack between two other larger houses with more modern looking architecture, but with less charm. A bright number 57 glinting on the door told Marinette that they had finally arrived to her parents’ home.

Gorilla paid the cab driver and both men proceeded to unload their bags from the trunk of the car as Adrien gallantly opened the door for Marinette with a smile and offered his hand.

“My Lady?” He purred, in his most Chat-like voice. Nostalgia hit her like a freight train in the dark, but she smiled at him and took his hand. They looked at each other for a few seconds, as if a  thought echoed across both their minds.

I found you.

They didn’t realize they had company until Madame Cheng’s camera flash went off, capturing that sweet moment in glossy paper for eternity. Both Adrien and Marinette recoiled from each other shyly. Adrien cleared his throat, embarrassed, while Marinette scratched the back of her neck, like a schoolgirl caught with a boy.

“You’re finally here!” Tom exclaimed as he rushed to the couple and wrapped them both in his broad arms. Marinette squealed as reservations fell away and kissed her father’s cheek lovingly. Adrien mostly blushed and stayed still.

As  Adrien felt his feet touch ground, a pair of hands grabbed him by the face and smooched two loud kisses, one on each side.  When he opened his eyes, Sabine Cheng was standing right in front of him, looking like a mother hen as he would’ve ever imagined.

“My children,” She crooned happily. “I’m so happy you’re finally here!”

Adrien blushed at the plural, and turned to see Marinette, who was still being fawned over by her father and trapped in his bear hug.

“Thank you for having us, Madame Ch—“

“Oh, don’t you dare, Adrien!” Sabine chided. “Its either ‘Sabine’ or ‘Maman’. I will accept nothing else!” She finished with a smile.

Adrien felt his face grow hot and his cheeks curl instinctively into a smile. “Yes… maman.” He muttered, and Sabine brightened. She then leaned over her side to look behind Adrien and found Gorilla standing there with all the bags.

“Oh, dear, this must be your bodyguard!” She exclaimed as she hurried towards him. “Hello, sir, welcome. Don’t worry, we have a room for you. It is quite small, but I do hope you’ll forgive us, when we bought the house we were thinking of grandchildren!” Sabine laughed, and Adrien felt like his face was going to melt off. He stole a glance from Marinette, who had finally been given some breathing room from her dad, and her face matched his in color.

Tom moved forth and shook Gorilla’s hand vehemently and welcoming, and Adrien couldn’t help but think that this was the first time he’d seen Gorilla with someone his own size.

He heard a sigh next to him and stole a glance from Marinette.

She looked astoundingly beautiful from this angle. Her hair was a little messy and her clothes were tousled from the trainride, and she looked tired, probably due to how much work was taking a toll on her, but she had a satisfied smile on her face that made her look radiating. She looked refreshed to be out of the city and away from the cameras, and for a moment, Adrien felt pure, unadulterated joy that he had been able to bring her this moment of happiness.

She turned to him and grabbed his hand, smiling.

“Wanna go find our room?”

 

 

Marinette took her bag from Gorilla.

She hadn’t been keen on letting him take it him carry it for her in the first place, but mostly Adrien didn’t seem to see anything wrong with it, and she didn’t want to come across as difficult.

But now that they were in the house, she’d smiled thankfully at him and taken her own bag to the topmost bedroom –the one her parents had prepared for her and Adrien.

It was a bed-and-breakfast style of lovely. This, she supposed, made sense, seeing as her parents had recently begun running a B&B. They’d mentioned it was just something to make a little extra on the side while Mari and Adrien weren’t visiting. It had stirred in her the doubt that maybe they were having economic trouble, and the look that Adrien threw her told her he thought the same thing.

Nobody said anything.

“This place is beautiful!”  Adrien exclaimed as he put his bag down in the bed. “I always wanted to stay in a bed and breakfast!” He said as he threw himself over the covers and nuzzled the pillow. Marinette looked at him with a cocked eyebrow and hands on her hips. “What?”

“You’re on my side.” Marinette pointed out.

“What? No, I always sleep to the right.”

“Yeah, but I always sleep by the window.” Marinette climbed the bed too and poked him in the (0% fat for crying out loud) stomach. Adrien laughed and shrunk a bit on himself.

“You’re going to have to fight me for it, Bugginette.” Adrien winked. Marinette took a pillow from the bed and smiled wickedly.

“Oh, you are on.”
Marinette slammed her pillow on Adrien’s face, blindsiding him. He wouldn’t let that stop him, though, as he poked her right under the ribs gently, causing her to laugh silly. Marinette doubled over, sensitivity being her weak spot (and that damn Adrien knew it) and Adrien took the opportunity to grab the other pillow and put it against her chest before throwing his weight carefully on her, effectively pinning her down.

“Say its my side!” He laughed.

“Never!” Marinette yelped, trying to squirm her way from under his grip. She managed to free one of her arms, but Adrien simply pinned it back on the bed with what could only be described as a shit eating grin.

“Face it, My Lady,” Adrien said with his best Chat voice. “I win.”

Marinette laughed and rolled her eyes. “I guess so. What does that make us? 423 to 1?”

Adrien rolled off of her and pretended to be wounded in the chest, right above his heart. He groaned and closed his eyes, and Marinette sat up, still laughing, and poked him in the stomach.

“Oh, now you’re hurt.”

“My Lady wounds me.” Adrien joked. Marinette brightened, an idea clear behind her bright blue eyes, and Adrien knew that he should be scared.

Without a word, Marinette leaned over Adrien and planted a quick kiss on the tip of his nose.

The heat that Adrien produced with his face could’ve been enough to warm the entire house for days. Marinette fell back on the bed, laughing once again. After a little while of embarrassment, Adrien joined her in a chuckle, until they were both finally quiet, staring at the ceiling of the room.

“Its crazy, don’t you think?” Marinette asked softly. Adrien didn’t turn.

“What?”

“We found each other.” She whispered, and her voice still held that wonder that he saw in her the first day that they recognized each other. “Sometimes I still can’t believe it.”

Without so much as a word, Adrien reached for her hand and took it gently.

“I guess we were just meant to.” He said simply. Marinette rolled over on her side and rested her head against Adrien’s shoulder.

“Is this okay?” She asked.

Adrien curled his arm around her. “Its perfect,” he replied, and planted a kiss on her temple.

They stayed like that until the light was almost gone.

 


 

“No, you have to sprinkle the sugar not—no, that’s too much!” Tom cried as Adrien’s bodyguard dropped a good half cup of powder sugar over the butter-cookies they had made (with much difficulty).

“Ah, damn.” Gorilla grumbled. Tom sighed and patted him on the shoulder amicably.

“It’s alright. You’ll understand it.” The baker smiled. “Its all about practice, my friend.”

“Am I---“ Tom heard Marinette’s voice. He turned and saw her at the foot of the stairs, Adrien in tow, both with flabbergasted expressions. “Am I seeing this right?”

“Gorilla?” Adrien babbled. “You bake?”

Tom clapped his new friend’s shoulder again proudly. “Grigori here is a fine baker if I ever saw one.”

The large man looked down, embarrassed. Tom’s children seemed even more awestruck by this. Tom supposed the culinary arts weren’t a common subject of conversation amongst them three.

“Don’t get lost, children, dinner will be ready soon.” Tom added, and then, “Adrien, could you find Sabine, please? She’s in the darkroom.”

Tom missed the exchanged looks between the newlyweds and dedicated himself to chopping the carrots for the soup.

“Ah, pancakes.” He swore. “I forgot the carrots.”

Marinette opened her mouth to offer, but Grigori was quicker.

“I will fetch them.” He said simply, and went out the door.

“Man of few words.” Tom commented. “Very amicable, though.” He turned around and fetched the onions from the bag. “Here, sweetie, can you chop the onions for Papa?”

Marinette shook her head, as if to clear her mind, and nodded. She stepped closer to the kitchen table and began chopping, while Tom stirred the soup.

“I had no idea his name was Grigori.” She commented. Tom frowned.

“What did you think his name was?” he asked,

“I don’t know. I suppose I never asked.”

“That is not right, darling. Always remember to learn everybody’s name. Especially someone you see every day. It’s a sign of respect.”

Marinette nodded, ashamed. “Yeah, you’re right.”

They continued cooking quietly. Tom tried his best not to pry. Too bad his best wasn’t enough.

“So,” he began, completely casually, “how’s everything back home?”

Marinette slowed down her cutting, unconsciously, as a little smile escaped her.

“Its going really great, Papa.” She said in that beautiful voice full of wonder that made him think of her childhood. “My classes are amazing and I love my job! I’ve gotten to work with the most amazing people ever! The tailor, Jacob, is so nice, and so talented! He taught me how to prick my fingers less when I’m using wider needles. You wouldn’t believe the things that guy can make! Oh, and Genevieve! I didn’t think modeling could be an art, but damn that girl knows how to work the camera---“

Tom laughed freely. “You didn’t know modeling could be an art? You had all those pictures of Adrien on your wall growing up!”

Marinette yelped and flushed, turning on her heel towards him pressing a finger to her lips and bringing the knife dangerously close to her face. “Shh! He doesn’t know about that!”

Once again, he chuckled, and this time he ruffled his daughter’s hair.

Most days, he missed her so much it ached. Marinette was simply one of those things that wasn’t constant in his life anymore, and he had had trouble accepting it.

It felt like things had changed far too much in the past few years, and he had yet to find a handle on his life.

The coughing had come progressively. At first, he was sure it was nothing more than a bad cold, but he’d seen the looks Sabine and Marinette had thrown him back then. For their sakes more than his, he had gone see a doctor.

And then that blasted man had told him that his ovens were destroying his lungs.

His ovens! His beloved ovens!

One of the things that had made the Dupain-Cheng Bakery so successful was their adherence to classical methods while embracing new things. Stone ovens were simply a classic that they couldn’t do away with, and that was that.

So finding out that these –these precious pieces of history were the ones hurting him--- well, he felt betrayed.

Yet, Tom had decided that he could be buried in those ovens if it was necessary.

He hadn’t, however, counted on the incredible persistence that a small Asian woman could have in an argument. In the end, Sabine had been the one to close the deal on selling the bakery and their lifetime home, quick as signing a paper.

Sustaining themselves in Paris without the Bakery wasn’t an option, so Marinette had helped them search for a nice home in Nantes. He had fallen in love with the house the moment he’d seen it in Marinette’s tablet, and in his mind he had distributed their furniture and known exactly how to decorate Marinette’s room.

Which is why he felt so debased when she awkwardly explained that she was staying in Paris to study.

The worst part was that Sabine had seemed to be completely understanding of it, so it felt that the only one upon who these news were falling was Tom himself. For a brief moment, he felt alien to the women of his family, who seemed to be making plans without his understanding. Suddenly they had both grown wings and flown in different directions, Sabine dragging him away from his precious Marinette.

Tom sighed. He supposed it was difficult for every parent to part with their children.

However, he thought as he stole a glance from Mari as she hummed tunelessly (that girl couldn’t hold a note to save her life, bless her) he couldn’t help but notice that she looked genuinely happy.

If only she could be happier closer to home.

It must be impossible to be happy away from the city when you were used to swinging from building to building and fighting evil, Tom thought.

 

 

 

Sabine Cheng heard the gentle knocking on the door and immediately knew that this softness could only belong to the newest member of her family. After all, Tom hardly ever knocked, and Marinette was used to calling from the other side of doors.

She appreciated this courtesy by Adrien, though, considering that the light from the hallway would’ve ruined the photographs she had just set up to dry.

“Just one second, Adrien.” She called back, and heard a soft assent.

Sabine smiled to herself. Sometimes this boy was too good for his own good. Once the photographs were safe, she called for Adrien to come in.

“Oh, I just came to tell you that dinner---“ Adrien’s words died in his mouth as he stepped in. It gave Sabine no small amount of pride to draw this reaction out of people. “Those are beautiful.” He whispered.

Sabine turned to admire her work.

There were pictures of various things, hanging on clotheslines. She had taken various photos of the house at different points of the day, and found that sunrise gave it a livelier feeling. A picture of a white rose in its prime under the dusk gave it an eerie image of uncommon beauty. An alley cat, looking straight into the camera as it jumped on to a branch, making it seem like it was flying.

But the picture that had caught Adrien’s eye said everything.

It was the photograph she had taken upon their arrival to the house. While Marinette and Adrien had been looking at each other, seemingly lost in their world, Sabine had snapped a photograph, where the slanted rooftop hid most of the sunlight and framed both of them in the sunset light, their shadows growing tall and irregular, as if they belonged to one another.

The same way they did.

Sabine was no fool. She remembered her daughter’s collége infatuation with Adrien Agreste. It had gone away with the arrival of Nate, but it had always been in the back of her head that this boy would be special to her little girl. After all, mothers had a sixth sense for this.

“You can have that one, if you want.” Sabine said, pointing at the photograph. Adrien flushed.

“What? Er—no, its okay, I don’t want to—“

“Oh, don’t be silly! I can make another copy.” She smiled. “Besides, you two look really happy in it. I’m sure it will look lovely in your home.”

Adrien’s awkwardness seemed to melt, just a little.

“Really?”

Sabine smiled and nodded.

“Anything for my darling son-in-law.” She winked at him, and for a moment feared Adrien was going to pass out from the embarrassment.

It was just too much fun playing with the boy.

 

 

They were five for dinner that night, and Adrien enjoyed every minute of it.

Gorilla (Grigory?!) seemed to have hit it off with Mons--- Papa—and Marinette had not seemed to stopped laughing from the moment they sat down. Her cheeks were red, and he was immensely grateful that Maman had insisted on his sitting across instead of next to her.

Adrien had explained the basis of his business model for the final project of his class, and was completely flabbergasted Sabine had amazing input to add.

“Don’t look at us like that, my boy, who do you think managed the books for us?” Tom boasted, looking proudly at Sabine. “I may have been the baker behind the counter, but ma chere was the brains of the entire operation!”

Sabine laughed, and her cheeks turned an adorable shade of red. The same shade that Marinette’s did, and suddenly he saw the resemblance between them.

“So, Maman,” Marinette spoke. “Papa says you have a darkroom?”

Sabine smiled bashfully, but Adrien knew she held a secret pride.

“Oh, its just a hobby darling.”

“A hobby?” Tom snorted. “Half the neighborhood goes crazy for her photographs! I swear there is at least one in every house on the street!”

Sabine laughed, but she was still blushing. Adrien wondered if there was ever a time in his parents’ lifetime where they were so proud of one another the way the Dupain-Chengs seemed to be.

“Well, Tom is a cooking teacher at the local recreational center.” Sabine exposed. “And, he’s grown quite adept at crochet.” She winked at him, and Tom laughed, abashed.

Dinner went on, and Adrien learned more about the Dupain-Chengs and their new lifestyle. They made money off of the B&B and Tom’s teaching, with occasional additions whenever Sabine sold a photograph. It wasn’t an affluent life, but it seemed to make them happy.

On top of that, Adrien learned about Gorilla.

For starters, his name was Grigory Gorila. Not once, in Adrien’s twenty years of life, had he ever wondered his real name, and now he had it, and he had no idea what to do with this information.

Apparently, Gorilla liked to cook as well, and had enjoyed his time with Tom. He mentioned that he was also a freelance writer for an advice column in a newspaper, but it was his bodyguard job that paid the bills. Adrien couldn’t’ve been more surprised if he had burst into song and danced the hula.

It was almost midnight when dinner quieted down and everybody was sent to their rooms. Marinette kissed her parents goodnight, and Adrien thought they’d settle for a friendly wave, but instead Tom ruffled his hair and Sabine kissed his cheek before saying goodnight.

They slipped back to their bedroom silently and changed to their sleepwear.

As they lay in bed, Adrien felt Marinette turn to look at him.

“Thank you for this.” She said softly. The moonlight outlined her over the covers, the angles of her face lovely under silver.

“You earned it.” He said absently. His heart was rushing, just from the sight of her, and damn, he had it bad.

Oblivious to all of this, Marinette leaned over and kissed him softly on the lips, effectively stopping his breath.

“Thank you.” She whispered again, wintergreen breath washing over his face. “I love you.”

“I love you too.” He replied, but he was in one hell of a mess.

Because those words rang too true.

Adrien was falling hard.

Chapter Text

Sabrina did not like Adrien.

This was shocking for most, and Sabrina kept it mostly to herself, but it was certainly true.

She liked Marinette and Alya, and she certainly liked Nino, but Adrien was sand from another beach.

See, everybody liked Adrien because of his boyish looks, and his polite manners and his general kindness, but most of them didn’t notice the small things that actually piled up into pretty serious behaviours, but that was mostly because people tried not to give Chloe too much thought.

Chloe had been Adrien’s oldest friend. Yet the minute he stepped into Collége Francois-Dupont, all he did was join the rest of the class in their dislike for her. Of course, Sabrina knew that Chloe was certainly a little bit difficult, but there was something to be said for loyalty, especially when it was about Chloe.

So first, Adrien begins taking other people’s sides over his oldest friends. Then little by little, he began rejecting her altogether. Chloe had, from the beginning of their friendship, looked up to Adrien, and while her methods were not necessarily the best, Adrien should’ve cut her some slack, or at least tried to.

Second, he begins dodging her for plans. Every time Chloe and Sabrina would go out, Chloe would drop Adrien a call, and he was always suspiciously busy. She was, of course, aware that many o these times it was Gabriel Agreste the cause of this, but Adrien’s availability had decreased suspiciously ever since he became friends with Nino, and then Alya and Marinette.

Soon, even her calls were dodged, and before they knew it, they were in lyceé and Adrien barely looked in Chloe’s direction.

Definitely not the right way to treat your oldest friend.

What bothered her the most, though, was that she was only slightly better than Adrien.

He had left her progressively and without prompt. She had dropped her like a hot potato, but with what she considered to be a good reason.

Sabrina sighed. It hadn’t been a good reason at all.

It happened fairly fast. Chloe became more quiet as weeks passed, and Sabrina couldn’t pinpoint at what point it had begun, but she suppose it must’ve been near the end of the lycée. As soon as Sabrina noticed, she began doing her best to cheer her up –coaxing her into playing Ladybug and Chat Noir (even though it didn’t have the same effect since the heroes disappeared), finding new movies, or signing them up for sun activities to do—but nothing worked.

One day, she caught Chloe staring at her. When spotted, Chloe looked away. Sabrina thought nothing of it, until she caught her doing it several more times.

But Sabrina never dared ask what it was, and kept pretending not to notice. After all, what Chloe wanted her to know, she told.

The turning point was in the year of the election, which coincided with their final year of school. Sabrina had applied to several schools throughout Europe. It was Friday afternoon, and she was going through the mail, when she found a large envelope with the words Universite de Bruxells written in crisp, cursive letters.

Her breathing stopped. She was sure that so had her heartbeat.

She took the letter to the kitchen, where she would read it under a good light, so that every word could contrast properly with the rich paper.

She opened the envelope and---

---a loud knocking interrupted her. Sabrina considered letting the person wait, but the desperation of the knocks made her think better of it.

The door opened to reveal the last thing she expected.

Chloe stood there, mascara running down her eyes that were bloodshot. She wasn’t wearing her usual cardigan, and her hair was loose.

In simple words, there was no way Chloe Bourgeois would ever leave her house like this unless there was something seriously wrong. From the look on her face, it was.

“Chloe?” Sabrina asked dumbly.

In an attempt to regain composure Chloe wiped the mascara from under her eyes (actually smearing It more) and stood up straight.

“Aren’t you going to invite me in? There are mosquitoes everywhere, Sabrina.” She spoke demandingly as always, and, had it not been for the state of her make up, Sabrina truly wouldn’t’ve known that there was something wrong with her best friend.

Sabrina stepped out of the way and Chloe entered the apartment, and somehow her posture relaxed a little. If she didn’t know better, Sabrina could’ve sworn that Chloe was breathing easier now that she was inside.

“Is something---“ She began, but Chloe cut her off.

“I’m staying here tonight. Your parents are out of town right?”

“I, uh, yeah. Of course. I’ll fix your bed.”

“You do that. I’m going to wash my face.”

Sabrina, of course, fixed Chloe’s bed. It was a rare occurrence for Chloe to be the one spending the night at Sabrina’s, and her showing up in the first place, clearly having walked from the hotel instead of catching a ride when the sun was already down, well, it raised some red flags.

“Are you done?” Chloe’s voice came from behind her just as Sabrina lay the last pillow on her bed. It was a known fact that Chloe loved no less than five pillows, so Sabrina had rescued the ones in her parents’ bedroom plus her own.

She owed Chloe nothing less.

“Yeah. Do you want me to get a movie? Or we can order something—“

Chloe stayed silent for a few minutes, and the energy seemed to drain from her face. “A movie would be nice.” She said. Nodding, Sabrina prepared the emergency movie gear and set La La Land on the TV.

In the end, it wouldn’t’ve been necessary to prepare Chloe a bed. She fell right asleep on the couch about halfway through the movie. When Sabrina leaned over to wake her up, she noticed the tears staining her face, and how red the rims of her eyelids looked. She dared not wake her up.

She shifted, trying to get off the couch and head to her room, but the moment she did, she felt Chloe stir, and decided against it. She spent the night sharing the sofa with Chloe, but didn’t fall asleep until dawn.

The next morning, Chloe woke up first and managed to stand from the couch without awakening Sabrina. The latter found her later, sitting in the kitchen with a cup of tea in her hands (Sabrina was the only person in the world who knew that Chloe’s favorite drink was lavender tea, and she made a point of always having some).

“Hey,” Sabrina called, yawning. “Sleep well?”

But Chloe only looked down at her tea as if she hadn’t heard her.

“My father is sending me away to Italy.” Chloe blurted as formally as possible. Sabrina nearly fell off her chair.

What?” Sabrina demanded. She hadn’t frankly given much thought to what Chloe intended to do in the future, but the way she said it made it sound like this wasn’t her choice. “What are you talking about? Why?”

Chloe tightened her grip on the cup. She pursed her lips, thinking.  She tried to make her voice sound light, but there was tension to it.

“Oh, he just doesn’t want me around for the election year.”

“Why not?” Sabrina asked, flabberghasted.

When Chloe looked up, Sabrina saw the edge of tears that she was trying to push back.

“Oh, because his campaign manager warned him that keeping around his gay daughter during the election might make him lose sponsors. After all, most of them are old, stinking men with retrograde views.”

Sabrina froze.

“His… daughter…?”

Chloe smiled humorlessly. “Surprise.” She said dryly.  “Are you going to run off too? Cause if you are, I’ll hold the door open for you.”

“What? No! God, no, Chloe, how could you think that?” Sabrina wrapped her arms around her best friend. “How could I ever walk out on you?”

It wasn’t until Sabrina felt the warmth in her shirt that she realized that, for the first time since they’d known each other, Chloe was crying.

Quite unfortunately, The rest of the story wasn’t quite so heartwarming. Chloe explained that they would go together to Italy and start anew, without living the burden of being the mayor’s daughter. But last night’s envelope weighed heavily upon Sabrina’s head.

As you may imagine, Sabrina was accepted into the University of Bruxelles, and Chloe’s plan went down the drain.

“I thought you were coming with me!” Chloe cried. Sabrina gripped the sheet in her hands, trembling.

“Chloe, this is a unique opportunity! This is one of the best engineering schools in Europe! You can’t ask me to pass it up!”

“Oh, so first my dad chooses his job over me, and now you.” Chloe spit. It felt like a snake had bitten Sabrina. “Fine. Do what you want. I don’t care!”

That was the last time Sabrina saw Chloe face to face.

After some time, she sent her text messages, but her number in Italy was different. She tried sending things to the hotel, but they were always sent back. About the third time she did, Chloe’s lifelong nanny explained that he didn’t want to send anything that could be traced so easily, in case Chloe decided to throw a tantrum. Little by little, Sabrina understood that Chloe hadn’t told her to join her in Italy.

 She had begged her.

This had been Chloe’s biggest cry for help since they’d known each other, and Sabrina hadn’t recognized it. So much time passed that she didn’t bother finding Chloe that their bond weakened until it was blown in the wind like a simple hair. All because she hadn’t reached out.

Sabrina had let her best friend deal with one of the most difficult times of her life by herself, and she could hardly forgive herself.

And now she had to see Adrien again. This time married to Marinette?

Marinette had always been one of the sweetest people Sabrina had ever met. The only reason she kept playing pranks on her was on Chloe’s request, and only because they never seemed too hurtful. She remembered the time Marinette explained that she was a friend rather than a servant, or the time she gave her a box of pastries for Christmas. Regardless of anything that happened, Marinette seemed to have a golden heart.

So for her to marry Adrien…

Besides, Sabrina remembered how things had been with Nathanael.

Secretly, she had been incredibly excited for Marinette. Nathanael was all that she deserved: kind, sweet, artistic, and he valued her.

No matter how hard Marinette had pined over Adrien, he never seemed to care. But Nathanael understood how lucky he was. It was a shame that they’d had to break up.

Sabrina sighed in front of her computer and reread Marinette’s email. It was a simple favor asking her if she could explain the basics of the engineering company she was working on to Adrien for a thesis he had to write. She was so tempted to say no…

But then, maybe, just maybe, Adrien and Marinette could find a way to reconnect her with Chloe. It wasn’t that farfetched right? After all, the Agrestes had contacts everywhere. Surely they’d know someone in Italy that could find Chloe, right?

 

Marinette,

 

I’d be more than happy to. Just tell me when he’s off and we can meet for coffee.

 

-S

 

Sabrina sighed and pressed send.

Oh, the things she did for love.

 


 

  

It was a lovely day, and one of the few Nathalie had off. So that wonderful Sunday. She decided to take little Plagg on a walk.

Now, don’t get her wrong. She was more than aware that one didn’t particularly take cats on walks, but the weather was nice, and so she took him around in her arms. After all, he was still tiny, and it was a short trek.

They walked in front of a new flower shop, and, unbeknownst to most, Nathalie enjoyed the scent of flowers very much. So, she decided to make a small, technical stop, if only to know the shop.

The scent of gardenias assaulted her. It was a rare but wonderful treat, considering that most flower shops in Paris tended to carry red roses. But the different hues of white and yellow, and the wonderful smell that seemed to bathe the entire store kept her in a trance. She as only drawn further back into the store when she saw an orchid arrangement that almost took her breath away. She didn’t notice Plagg stick out his little foot and paw at the petals. When she did, she skipped back.

“Plagg! No!” She hissed.

“That’s okay, he didn’t do any harm,” came a warm, almost honey-like voice from behind the arrangement. Nathalie tensed in embarrassment as the owner of the voice stepped into view. Then, she gasped.

It was probably the most beautiful woman she had ever seen. She had brown skin and eyes, and her hair was black and luscious. Her lashes were long and her brows were the envy of pretty much any woman. She put many of the models Nathalie had met to shame.

The woman stepped closer, and Nathalie noticed she was wearing a Gardner’s Gardenias apron as she leaned over and looked at Plagg.

“He’s gorgeous!” She crooned, and Plagg attempted to meow. He pressed his head against her hand for a pet. “And so friendly! What’s his name?”

“P-Plagg.” Nathalie choked for the first time in twenty years. It was almost like being back in highschool. For god’s sake, she was twenty seven years old!

“What an interesting name!” The florist declared while scratching his chin. Plagg, the traitor, allowed it happily.

“He, uhm, he’s actually not mine. I’m taking care of him for someone.” She explained, and damn it, Nathalie, when did you become nervous?

“I’m Clarisse.” The woman smiled, and instinctively, so did Nathalie. It was a small, awkward smile, but it was there.

“My name is Nathalie.” She replied.

Clarisse wiped her hands on her apron.

“I hope to see you again soon, Nathalie.” She said, and then pet Plagg. “You too, Plagg.”

Nathalie said her goodbyes meekly and stepped out of the flowershop. She looked down at Plagg, who stared intently at her.

“Do you think she was…?”

Plagg meowed loudly. Nathalie shook her head. Impossible.

Instead of continuing her walk, she returned to her apartment. After all, it was a matter of time until Gorilla called to say that they were back, and she’d have to take Plagg back to Adrien.

She sighed and began preparing that week’s schedule.

Chapter Text

Marinette’s bags hit the floor with a satisfied thump that reminded her a lot about the first time she crossed that threshold four months ago.

It was amazing how things had changed since that day. Things with Adrien were wonderful, school was going great, she had seen her parents after almost a year of absence, and to be honest, it was a relief to see them doing well. Although a little voice in the back of her mind wondered if they were really okay.

“Aah, home sweet home!”Adrien breathed deeply next to her as his bags hit the floor as well. He stretched his arms over his head, a mewl of satisfaction escaping his throat.

“Did you just mewl?” Marinette asked, awestruck.

“No.” Adrien lied completely unskillfully.

Oh My God you’re such a cat!” Marinette laughed. Adrien struck one of his famous Chat Noir silly poses, pretending to flex his muscles.

“I can be anything you want me to be, my Lady.”

Marinette snorted and melted into laughter, which Adrien soon joined.

“No wonder you get along so well with Plagg.”

Adrien shrugged. “That’s just my natural charm.” Marinette rolled her eyes and headed for the kitchen.

“Okay, if you say…so…” her voice dropped.  Adrien popped his head through the door.

“Is something wrong?”

“No. I mean—I could’ve sworn---“ Marinette shook her head. “Didn’t I ask you to do the dishes before we went to work on Friday?”

Adrien cocked his head to the side. “Did you? I don’t really remember.”

“No, I’m pretty sure I did.” Marinette frowned. “In fact, I asked you Thursday night, and you said you’d do them in the morning. I remember that specifically.”

Adrien shrugged. “Oh. I guess I forgot.”

“Yeah, but now they’re covered in ants and rotten food that’s been there for five days.” Marinette pointed out. She was trying not to get upset.

“Okay, sorry. Just throw them out. We can buy some new plates.”

“What? We’re not throwing them out! We’re gonna wash them thoroughly with hot water!” Marinette snapped. Adrien took a step back.

“Whoa, Mari, why are you so upset?”

“I’m not upset! I just---“ she sighed, trying to control her temper. “We’ve lived together for four months and this is the only time I’ve asked you to do the dishes for me. It kind of sucks that you forgot about it and now we have a mess.” She reasoned. Adrien scratched the back of his neck.

“Yeah, I guess you’re right. I’m sorry.” He said rather meekly. Marinette’s irritation deflated like a balloon.

“Its okay.” She replied, tension rolling off her shoulders. “Its not a big deal. I don’t want this to ruin our great weekend, right?”

Adrien immediately lifted up. “It was a great weekend, wasn’t it?”

Marinette turned on the hot water of the sink and hummed. “Yeah. One of the best weekends of my life.” She watched the water fill the sink and revolted a little at the now wet food. “Hey, how about you take care of these dishes and I go get us something to eat?”

She felt Adrien’s lips press against the back of her head. “Sure thing, Princess.”

 


 

 

Sabrina waited at the corner just across the university for her mother, lost in thought. Her break would soon be over, and everywhere she looked, she could only remember the memories of her childhood with Chloe, and felt a snake wrap itself around her heart and squeeze it.

She pulled out her phone and watched the screen. No new messages.

She had never been as close to anyone as she had once been to Chloe, and it was starting to weigh on her. More importantly, Chloe’s absence was becoming unbearable.

For the longest time, Sabrina pretended that it was a momentary separation. That they’d fall back into formation quickly, as if nothing had changed. However, every time she returned to Paris, there was a staggering lack of contact from Chloe. She had tried once to send her an email, but erased it halfway through.

As the months passed, it became increasingly difficult to contact her. What could she say? I’m sorry for leaving? Sorry for not calling?

Because the one who had walked away had been her, not Chloe.

For the first time in the entirety of their friendship, Chloe had turned to Sabrina in search of help, and Sabrina had denied it. It twisted and turned around her stomach, like there was something alive inside of her, eating away at her entrails. She had turned her back on the person she loved the most in the world, and even after these two years, she still couldn’t bring herself to find her.

Of course, with every visit to Paris, Sabrina would go out of her way most days to pass in front of the Grand Hotel, just in case she could catch a glimpse of Chloe. To know that she was okay.

But after what Chloe’s father did to her—hiding her—she doubted Chloe would forgive him easily and come back.

Or maybe he didn’t want her back.

Both thoughts made her chest ache with a force that she had never known, which seemed to overwhelm her and tried to find an escape through her eyes in the form of tears.

“Sabrina?” Came the voice from behind her. Sabrina flinched.

Alya.

“Oh, hey.” She greeted meekly, looking down at her purse. She supposed there was still a little bit of resentment over the fact that Nino was with Alya. “What are you doing here?”

“I just got out of class.” Alya replied, and her face contorted in worry. “Hey… are you okay?”

Sabrina straightened her back and forced a smile. “Yeah, its just allergies.”

But Alya wasn’t convinced.

“Listen, I know we were never close… but if you need anything I’m just one phone call away, alright? We all are.” She gave Sabrina a little smile. “After all, we grew up together.”

Sabrina’s lips stretched into a small smile as well as she watched Alya walk away.

Damn it, she was starting to like her.

Sabrina looked down at her phone again. Still no messages.

She took a deep breath and started a new email. Just three words.

I miss you.

She closed her eyes as she pressed Send.

 


 

Getting old food out of plates was way more disgusting than Adrien had anticipated.

Everything was gooey and sticky from the water he had used to wash away the ants, and things that used to look delicious now put him off croissants forever.

It would be so much easier to buy a new set of plates, he thought. Why would Mari be opposed to the idea so much?

It was probably the most uncomfortable half an hour that Adrien had in a long while, but he managed to get the plates clean. He washed and rewashed several times, until he could smell nothing other than the dish soap, which he had by now nearly exhausted.

It would all be worth it once Marinette came home, though. She’d see that he’d made the effort and done the dishes and she’d be happy again. And that would make it all worth it.

So Adrien set the plates on the rack to dry, satisfied at himself. He stepped out of the kitchen and found their luggage on the floor by the door, and figured he should probably take it to their room.

He tossed Marinette’s bag to her side of the bed, with a little too much force, and watched it roll over to the side, steady for the floor. He yelped and flung himself to the bed to try and catch it, but the bag was faster in hitting the floor, so Adrien flomped on the bed, defeated.

He sighed and picked himself up, something from the bedside table catching his eye. Flicking the nightlight on, he reached for the picture in Marinette’s stand.

It was the picture that David had taken on their first coaching session, when he’d asked them to kiss. Adrien remembered clearly that, for the briefest of moments, he had thought about Ladybug when he closed his eyes, but the suit had evaporated and left Marinette standing in front of him, even before he came back to the real world.

What a great turn of events he had seen, after that time. It was soon after that that they had revealed themselves to one another, brought together again once more by the hand of fate. She would always be his Lady, and he hoped he would always be her Chat.

He set the picture down where he found it and reached in his luggage for the photograph that Sabine had given him. In that photo, they were only holding hands and looking at one another lightly, but it was eons ahead of Marinette’s picture in terms of intimacy.

There was something in the way his fingers tangled limply against hers, and her eyes looked up casually at his, that spoke volumes as to their relationship.

While the picture in Marinette’s nightstand was of awkward love, Sabine’s was an easy moment trapped in an image of two people who loved each other smoothly and without rough edges. It was who they were as children, and who they were now.

And boy did Adrien love Marinette.

It had come so slowly, but he had realized so suddenly. The change had been constant and always beneath his field of view. It was like the sunrise in the morning, when one watched the sky lighten up so slowly that day almost took him by surprise, even though it was so logical, and so right, that it should come. Night gave way to day, and her friendship gave way to love, and it was so obvious looking back, that Adrien felt silly for not seeing it coming.

He heard the front door open as he put his own photograph down, feeling giddy.

“Hey Adrien! Guess who I found?” Came the voice from the entrance. Hearing her made him smile, and he hurried towards his wife, who held Plagg in her arms as he flung his little paw against loose strands of hair, a plastic bag hanging from her wrist.

“Hey, both of you.” He smiled as he rushed forward to take Plagg. “Where did you find him?”

Marinette passed him over and set the bag on the table. “I ran into Nathalie downstairs.” She explained. “Also: good news. There aren’t any more reporters at our doorstep. I guess our weekend out finally thinned out whatever was left of them.”

Adrien perked up. This must’ve taken a load off her mind.

Marinette stepped into the kitchen. “Come on, I brought Italian---“ she cut herself short and took a deep, calming breath. Adrien flinched. “Adrien?” She called.

“Yes?” He replied, knowing full well what that tone of voice meant.

Please tell me you threw the food out in the trash and not in the sink.” She begged as he popped his head in the kitchen.

“Was I supposed to?”

Another long, terrible sigh.

“We’ll call the plumber tomorrow. Let’s just have dinner.”

Guilt ate at him once more, but before he could apologize, Marinette pecked him in the lips.

“Its fine. Just— don’t forget next time.”

Adrien half smiled, still guilty, and thanked his stars for such an understanding wife.

 


 

Marinette figured she ought to make herself a cup of tea.

She did her best not to be irritated, but she couldn’t help herself. It all played the wrong strings in her, she guessed.

Adrien had always been oblivious and distracted, (she knew that better than anyone) but it was less charming when it became dysfunctional.

She had asked him Thursday night to do the dishes. This wasn’t something she did often, or even at all, since moving. It was probably due to the fact that she felt she had to pull her weight at home in some way, if she couldn’t do it economically.

But Thursday night she had been so tired, and there was an investigation to finish and her eyes were closing… So, well, she had asked him to do the dishes. He clearly hadn’t.

When she woke up Friday morning and saw the sink full, she hadn’t thought much about it, but, if she’d known, she would’ve woken up earlier to wash them before work. Since she hadn’t known, because he hadn’t mentioned it, she as late and couldn’t squeeze the time in. So, once again, she reminded him in a gentle voice to please do the dishes. Adrien had been in the bathroom, but he assured her they’d be done as soon as he was out.

And then, that afternoon he surprised her with the visit to her parents, so obviously she forgot all about the dishes, assuming they had been already done.

So she arrives home, Monday night, tired and happy from a good long weekend, and she steps into her kitchen and finds an entire bug civilization grown from last week’s meal, and, well—Marinette had some standard of sanitation, okay?

It irked her that Adrien’s first idea was to throw the plates away, because she didn’t want to spend money (that she didn’t currently possess) to replace something that could be easily fixed.

Not that that mattered now, considering that the plumber would probably cost more than the dishes would have.

It was eight o’clock at night, and she had a pounding headache.

Don’t get her wrong. She loved and adored Adrien with all her heart, and right now she was crushing massively on him. However, it was easier to pull someone down from the pedestal you put them in when they were this distracted all the time.

She supposed a life full of luxury hadn’t accustomed him to automatically wash after himself all the time.

Sighing, she set the table and the (thankfully disposable) plates, forcing a smile and taking her seat in front of Adrien. Just looking at him for a moment was enough to dissolve the irritation.

He managed to look guilty without being overbearing, enough to show that he understood his mistake. Besides, it was an honest one. She needed to be a little more easygoing, she guessed.

As they were done, Marinette stood to pick up the dishes.

“Wait, let me do it.” Adrien offered. “It’s the least I can do.”

Marinette smiled a little. His intentions were always the purest. “Okay.”

They picked up the table together, Marinette’s head still pounding.

“I think I’m gonna turn in early.” She said. “I have a bit of a headache.”

Adrien smiled and kissed her forehead lovingly.

“I’m gonna stay up and work a little on my project, okay?”

Marinette stood on the tips of her toes and pecked him on the lips. “Don’t stay up too late. You need to look pretty tomorrow.”

Adrien laughed. “I thought I was always pretty.”

Marinette rolled her eyes. “You wish.”

He smiled and they both heard his phone vibrate. Adrien fished it out of his pocket and raised his eyebrows. “From Nathalie.”

Dinner with M Agreste, Friday October 23rd, 8pm. Adrien’s home.”

Marinette held her breath for a second, and she was sure so did Adrien.

“Oh.” She said meekly. “This week.”

“I didn’t think he’d fit us in so early.” Adrien commented. Marinette looked at him.

“He’s your dad.” She said. Adrien raised his eyebrow.

“Yeah, sometimes even I have to schedule a meeting.”

Marinette rolled her eyes. “Well, we have a couple of days to plan dinner. Why don’t you go work on your project?” She suggested.

Adrien nodded. “Sounds good. Goodnight Mari.”

She smiled fully at him, suddenly struck by how lucky she was to say these words to Adrien.

“Goodnight, Kitty.”

 


 

Nathalie brushed her hair in front of her mirror, already missing Plagg’s company.

She had felt empty the moment the kitten had left her arms in favor of Marinette’s, and she could not shake the feeling off. She set the brush down and walked towards her kitchen.

Nathalie had a fairly large house. Very empty, though. Most days, she wondered why she bothered having it, and thought about moving to a smaller, one piece apartment, whre at least the silence wouldn’t seem so choking.

She drank a glass of warm milk and sighed. The sound echoed across the room. What good was it having such a stupendous job if she had nobody to spend her free time with?

Her mind raced back to Clarisse.

Nathalie imagined Clarisse had a wonderful home life. She was probably a great cook and had plants everywhere in her apartment. She wouldn’t be surprised if there was a dog around, and on her days off, Clarisse went out for a job with it.

She likely had a smaller but much fuller home than Nathalie. Not that that would be difficult.

She ran over their brief conversation, and lingered on that final wink. She had said that she hoped to see Nathalie soon. Had she meant it as a costumer? Or maybe she wanted Nathalie to drop by soon.

She shook her head. How idiotic. She was making up things with a woman she’d had a two minute conversation with.

And yet, before she went to sleep, her mind lingered in the scent of gardenias.

Chapter Text

Nathalie was, for the first time in years, wearing something to work that wasn’t her signature pants suit.

I mean, she didn’t wear something too different. It was still a suit, after all. But it was a skirt suit, and light blue instead of black. It was a little more fitted than she was used to, but the lady at the store insisted she looked really good, and it was still under the dresscode she’d imposed on herself when she’d started working for Gabriel.

So why the change, you may ask.

Well, tonight was Gabriel’s dinner with his… family… and he had asked Nathalie to pick up some wine and flowers as a good will present, and she already had the wine.

Of course, Gabriel had not given her any specifics as to the nature of the flowers, and she had taken upon herself to choosing. And Nathalie knew nothing of flowers.

So, she went to the only place she could think of.

As she stepped into the flower shop, she was assaulted by the crippling fear of not being recognized. After all, what if Clarisse had only been trying to be nice when they’d met? I mean, it was entirely possible that Clarisse wasn’t even into girls. That would be crushing---

“Nathalie!” Came the warm voice from behind the counter. All the fear melted into giddy shyness. “Welcome back!”

Nathalie turned to see Clarisse, looking so beautiful in a yellow sundress that contrasted wonderfully with her dark skin. Only now did she notice that she had lovely dimples under almond brown eyes.

“H-hi!” Nathalie said, though it sounded more like a squeak. She did her best to regulate her voice. “Hello, Clarisse.” She greeted more calmly.

Clarisse lit up, as if pleased to be remembered. “I see you’re not with Plagg today.” She remarked. Inside her head, Nathalie could only hear her own continuous squeal of glee.

“Yes, I had to take him back to his owners.” She replied. “They were more than happy to have him back.”

“Oh, that’s too bad. You looked happy to have him.”

“I was.” Nathalie confessed, much to her surprise. “Anyway, tonight my boss is having dinner with his son and daughter in law so he asked me to pick up some flowers as a present for her. Do you have anything?”

Clarisse lit up. “Of course! I can make a bouquet featuring peonies and chrysanthemums. Oh, and some daisies! Yes, I can already see it. Its going to be wonderful!” Clarisse gushed, and Nathalie almost blushed at this excitement.

The backdoor opened, and in walked a young, handsome man with a couple of boxes.

“Hey, Clarisse,” called the young man. “Where do you want these?”

Nathalie was overcome by the terrifying idea that this man may be involved with Clarisse. Of course, of course, he would be. How could she think she had a shot with her?

“Right on the counter, Jason.” Clarisse said. “Say hi to Nathalie.”

The man’s face changed in mischief as he looked at Nathalie and beamed at her. She felt slightly uncomfortable at this attention.

“Oh man, you’re Nathalie? Clarisse has been gushing nonstop about you and that kitten.”

“Jason!” Clarisse hissed. Nathalie blushed.

“R-really?”

“Jason, in the back. Now.” Clarisse commanded, and Jason disappeared back through the door with a laugh.

Flustered, Clarisse tucked a strand of curly hair behind her ear. “Sorry about that. My brother is an idiot, but he’s the only one who will work with what I can afford right now.”

Nathalie felt her face heat up the room. “Its quite alright. I wish I was that close with my family.” She summoned courage and fished into her pocket. “What you said sounds perfect—peonies and chrysanthemums. I like it.” She said, and fished one of her namecards from her pocket. Terrified and numb, she extended her arm, and saw to her horror that her fingers were shaking. “Here. So you can call me when the bouquet’s done.” She cleared her throat. “Or, you know, for anything.”

Clarisse’s eyes widened and Nathalie braced herself for rejection. The darker woman took the card from her fingers.

“Does ‘anything’ include coffee?” She asked, and for the first time, Nathalie heard nervousness seep into her voice.

A smile overtook her lips and excitement filled her heart. “Absolutely.” She replied, breathless.

“Oh hey, Clarisse has a date!” Jason exclaimed, having snuck back in. Clarisse turned and hushed him, clearly embarrassed. But Nathalie was too excited to care.

“I’ll wait for your call… For the flowers and the coffee.” She smiled as she said this last thing, and the way Clarisse’s smile brightened was one of the most beautiful sights in Nathalie’s memory.

“Okay, I’ll call you.” Clarisse said with a smile. “I’ll see you soon.”

“Of course,” Nathalie replied, and exited the store with the almost unbearable urge to scream in joy.

 

 


 

It might not have been the more responsible choice, but Marinette skipped her afternoon classes.

I mean, it was hard to blame her. Though it was true that her relationship with Gabriel wasn’t exactly strained, it was hard not to feel on thin ice every time he looked at them through those thick glasses of his. There was something about Gabriel –not former Papillon, but Gabriel himself—that made her far more nervous than his alter ego ever did.

Because dealing with Papillon was always pretty straightforward. Ladybug good. Chat Noir good. Hawkmoth bad. Simple.

But now, there was no good or bad. It was more like a gruel of nonsense that had found her married to Chat, and labeled Papillon her father in law.

The astounding silliness of the situation still baffled her some nights.

But now it was daytime, and she had to prepare for tonight.

The last time they’d had dinner with Gabriel things had gone rather well. Except for some unnecessary comments from Gabriel, they’d had a fairly pleasant meal at an irreverently expensive restaurant, but now they were on home turf, which gave Marinette a little advantage--- but it also put her in the spot light.

So, for this situation there was only one answer.

Her father’s world famous pesto-rosso.

See, baking never came easy to Mari. I mean, she could follow a recipe surely enough, but her taste buds weren’t adequate for a baker’s daughter. But cooking was another thing entirely.

Also, it came with instructions.

So this morning, when she received a text from Nathalie (whose fingers must’ve ached when she typed her number) Marinette decided that she’d take matters in her own hands and maybe drop her afternoon classes in favor of getting the house and the food ready for Gabriel’s arrival at 8 o’clock.

Marinette drew the keys to her home from her purse while awkwardly holding the bags from her recent grocery trip from her wrists. She pressed her knee against the door and used her thigh as a support to hoist up her purse and look for the keys, plastic rumbling as everything knocked against each other inside the bags. She finally fished out her keys and opened the door to her home, almost falling in the process, as she’d forgotten to put her foot back in the ground.

She didn’t fall because her elbow was caught.

And who else would it be.

Marinette frowned. “Why aren’t you in class?” She asked.

Adrien scratched the back of his neck, embarrassed. “I just…” Then, as if he’d noticed something. “Hey, why aren’t you in class?”

Marinette steadied herself and Adrien helped her out of the bags she carried. They placed everything gently on the kitchen table, and only now did Marinette notice that Adrien was sweating.

“Kitty, are you okay?”

Adrien sighed. “Yeah, I’m fine. I just--- I was trying to have the house clean for tonight.”

It was only then that a strong, lemony scent assaulted her nostrils. Marinette stepped out of the kitchen and slipped on the floor, yelping the second before Adrien caught her once again, this time with both hands under her arms.

“Do you think I used too much soap?”

Marinette groaned. “Adrien, the floor is practically flooded!”

Adrien rose her to her feet and when she turned, she saw a genuine look of frustration in Adrien’s face. She would almost believe he was ready to cry.

“Adrien? Sweetie? Is something wrong?”

He took a quivering breath and gave Marinette a half smile that wouldn’t’ve convinced the worlds dumbest person. Marinette took his face between her hands and forced him to look at her.

“Hey,” She said gently. “What’s wrong?”

Adrien’s shoulders relaxed a little, but his face didn’t change. “Nothing, its fine.”

Chaton,” she insisted. Adrien sighed, defeated.

“I just--- I can’t seem to get it right, can I?” He asked. “The dishes, the floor--- I just keep messing it up.

Marinette’s eyes widened in concern and she felt a pressure in her chest. Seeing Adrien like this was unusual, and frankly, heartbreaking.

“Its okay,” she said softly. “You’re learning. I haven’t made much of an effort to teach you, either. So its my fault too.”

“No, that’s the thing. You shouldn’t have to. I just—I hadn’t thought how good I had it until that thing with the plates.”

Marinette pressed her forehead against his, which was a little difficult, considering she was far shorter. She stood on her tip toes and held on to his shoulders.

“There are far worse things to find in a husband than them not knowing how to clean properly.” Marinette said softly. “At least you’re open to learning.”

Adrien opened his eyes and looked at her. “Yeah?”

Marinette smiled. “Yeah.” She said. “I had never met anyone who was pure intentions all the time before you, Kitty.”

Adrien half smiled. “So you don’t mind that I’m a mess?”

“As long as you mop the floor, we’re good.”

Adrien pulled her in for a hug, and Marinette allowed her heels to touch the ground again, enveloping herself in his hug.

God, she loved him.

After three heartbeats, Marinette pulled back and kissed him softly. Then, she reached for a mop and handed it to Adrien.

“Here, I’ll teach you.”

 

 


 

 

 

It was seven in the evening, and Adrien had spent the day cleaning under strict supervision from Marinette, while she prepared everything for the meal.

Adrien had insisted on going for a bottle of rose wine, which she knew to be Gabriel’s favorite. Now all that was left was actually boiling the pasta and taking a shower. She was sweaty and disgusting from the day’s work, and this wasn’t exactly an image she wanted to project at her father in law.

So, exhausted, she stumbled towards the shower and took a quick one, washing the sweat off her hair and doing her absolute best to look like a regular human being. She stepped out, hopefully smelling of roses, and wrapped a towel around herself, and another one aroung her head.  She threw herself on the bed, just a few minutes.

“Mari?” she heard. “Uh, princess?”

Marinette opened her eyes and saw Adrien’s… hand? Wait, its covering his eyes.

Marinette quickly sat up, missing Adrien’s head by an inch. She looked down at herself---- in a towel.

Oh dear god.

“Oh dear god.” She said, pushing down the edge of the towel to cover as much of her legs as it could. She was so lucky it hadn’t come undone around her chest but oh dear lord poor Adrien. “Adrien, I am so sorry.

“Its okay,” he said soothingly, his hand still covering his eyes. “But… are you going to be ready soon? Its almost eight.”

Marinette’s eyes flew to her alarm clock to read the time.

19.53

She cursed and flew off the bed and into the bathroom. Then she ran out, still in a towel, and made a beeline for the kitchen. Adrien peeked from between his fingers, confused.

“Uh, Mari? Shouldn’t you, like, get dressed?”

“I haven’t cooked the spaghetti! And I have to get dressed and do my hair and my make up and… urgh! I can’t believe I fell asleep! Your father will be here any minute!”

Marinette pushed the stove into its highest setting and readied the pot to boil the water, and felt Adrien’s hands rest on her bare shoulders.

“My Lady, go get dressed.” He urged gently. “I’ll watch for the stove.” He smiled. “It just needs to boil, right? Even I cant screw that up.”

Marinette huffed and smiled a little at him. “Thank you.”

He pressed a kiss to her forehead. “Now go get dressed before my father gets the wrong idea.”

 


 

Adrien was staring at the water in the pot.

People say that a watched pot never boils, but right now, it really didn’t matter if the pot boiled or not. The pot, in this instance, was being cleverly used by Adrien as an object outside of himself upon which to throw his mind, since otherwise things could end badly.

The first thing to point out is that no matter how hot the stove was, Adrien’s ears were probably hotter.

And he was now a tomato.

See, Adrien is, above all, a gentleman. As such, he did not ogle sleeping Marinette, even though many men would argue that it is their right as husbands, and her fault for falling asleep in a towel.

However, Adrien was not a pig, so this argument was not in his head.

He had stepped into the room that was dimly lit, and saw a shape on the bed. He had, of course, assumed that it was Mari, but he hadn’t figured that she’d be… underdressed.

Now it is important for the sake of narrative to point out that Adrien did and had, for a long time, found Marinette attractive. It was always a passive thought, knowing that she was beautiful. Just a thought in the back of his brain. However, now that the nature of their relationship had altered so significantly, it became increasingly hard to ignore the very real fact that Marinette was a lovely woman and worthy of a once-over or two.

So for the first time in a long time, Adrien felt the rush of hormones knock on his door with a hearty hello!

His brain was muddled trying hard not to think about Marinette in that way, when he felt her walk into the kitchen. He heard her voice before he turned.

“You know that if you look at it, it’ll never boil, right?”

“That’s---“ He began as he turned, but the rest of that sentence never saw the light of day.

She was wearing something of her own design. He could tell.

He could tell, because she always seemed to have pride bubbling under her skin, mingled with nervousness, as she modeled whatever she made. It wasn’t the thoughtless security of worldly distributed clothes, rather than the sheer anxiety of self-made cloth that enveloped her. She was anxious and proud of what she’d made, and modeling her creations had always seemed like a sore spot for her.

It was nothing complicated, Adrien knew. A white shirt with no back, tied only at the neck and the tail of the spine, and a lively red skirt with black gashes everywhere, hinting at but not entirely resembling—Ladybug.

So Adrien supposed Marinette wasn’t above a little bit of taunting over their former nemesis.

“What do you think?” She asked, holding out her skirt. Her chin was down but her eyes were venturing, and she seemed eager for his approval.

You might as well have stuffed cotton in Adrien’s mouth, so ready he was for that question.

“You look so beautiful,” he said calmly, surprising even himself. “That I would marry you again.”

Marinette laughed girlishly –a giggle so sweet and rare that he made sure to remember its exact timbre for his entire life.

“Thank you, Monsieur Agreste,” she curtsied. “You don’t look too bad yourself.”

Adrien half smiled. “Yes, but this is worked beauty. You could be wearing a garbage bag and still be perfect.”

Marinette blushed, her smile disappearing and her eyes drifting, and Adrien worried for a moment that he’d said something wrong. She rubbed her arm self consciously and looked up at him reluctantly.

“You say the sweetest things, Kitty.” She said, but her voice was dry. The look in her eyes was strange—there was something Adrien couldn’t identify there. He walked closer to her, almost a zombie.

“I only speak the truth, My Lady,” he replied, and suddenly it seemed that the noise had been sucked out of the room. Not knowing what to do, Adrien reached for the necklace she was wearing—a tiny, golden M that Alya had given her for her birthday—and fiddled with it thoughtlessly. “I could never lie to you.” He added, and his voice was coarse with sincerity.  He ventured to look into her eyes, and then he was lost.

Later, neither one could recall how they were pulled towards one another. The in between was lost, and all that remained was a moment when they weren’t kissing, and then one when they were.

His fingers were limp around the necklace, while his other hand hung foolishly at his side. As for Marinette, she had reacted a little better, one of her hands resting against his chest and the other against the side of his face.

Adrien wondered at how, even though they had kissed repeatedly before, each time seemed like a new, wonderful thing –like a Christmas present being opened. There was a tornado of alternating emotions in him. There was joy and giddiness and nervousness but pride and fear and the best kind of terrified. His limp arm grew a conscience of its own and reached for the small of her back, and was wonderfully surprised to find only smooth, warm skin against his own.  Even better, he felt a little shudder as he grazed her, and her exhale against his lips as he pulled back and looked at her through half-lidded eyes.

“I literally can’t get tired of that.” He whispered softly. Marinette was blushing a lovely shade of red that only managed to remark her outfit even more.

Marinette parted her lips to reply.

“I—“

The doorbell rang.

 

 


 

Sabrina had fallen asleep for an afternoon nap.

She had spent the night researching to advance one of the projects she was working on back in Bruxelles. Biochemical engineering aside, Sabrina enjoyed dallying in the world of medical studies, mostly for research’s sake.

She was a huge, complete nerd.

So, Sabrina was researching the protein components that degraded prions in bovine encephalopathy when she heard the door.

Now, it was three in the afternoon, but she was still wearing her pajamas. As I just now said, she had spent the whole night awake.

She rose from her chair in front of her computer, where she was now just dallying with fonts for her research, and headed for the front door. Her father was at work and her mother was away for a conference, leaving Sabrina all by herself in her house. She considered for a moment taking the Taser from her nightstand. After a few seconds of consideration, she rushed to the room and fetched it. The knocking became more intense. By the time she was at the door, the person at the other side was practically tearing it down.

Sabrina turned on the Taser and twisted the knob.

 


 

Nino groaned in frustration as he pushed his computer away from himself. Alya popped her head from the kitchen door, where she was making dinner.

“What’s wrong, babe?” She asked.  “Your favorite character die again?”

Nino sighed and stood from the couch.

“Nah, just a cliffhanger.” He muttered. “I hate those.” He stepped in from behind Alya and stuck a fork in her sauce.

“Are you serious? I love those.” She replied as she snatched the fork out of his hand before he could stick it in his mouth. She turned and put it in the sink “If they’re well done, of course.”

“Yeah, well,” Nino said as he snuck out the spoon he’d been hiding, knowing she’d catch his fork. “This one wasn’t.”

Again, his utensil was caught. “Shame. You just can’t get good entertainment these days,” Alya added. Nino shrugged.

“Hey, at least its free.”

“I suppose so.” She shrugged noncommittally. “How do you think Mari and Adrien are doing with his dad?”

Nino crossed his arms in universal sign of food burglary defeat. “Frankly, I can never picture something going well when that guy’s involved.”

Alya sighed. “Yeah, I feel the same.”

“Is the food gonna be long?”

“Only if you keep pestering me.” Alya warned. Nino smiled and kissed her cheek from behind.

“I have the best girl.” He grinned.

“Don’t you forget it.”

Chapter Text

To say which of them jumped farther back in the opposite direction, I’d have to use a measuring tape.

(It was Marinette).

Adrien and Mari repelled each other with a magnetic force, as if caught in the most compromising and wrong position possible.

Sometimes it was easy to forget that they were married. But I suppose Gabriel Agreste tended to have that effect on people.

Adrien opened the door as Marinette rushed to the room to redo her lipstick, a little bit of it unknowingly smudged on Adrien’s lips.

Gabriel stood on the other side, a lovely bouquet of flowers in one hand and what Adrien was sure was an expensive bottle of rose wine in the other.

Adrien watched Gabriel raise his eyebrows for half a second –just a fragment of surprise escaping him—before he schooled his expression back into boredom with just a hint uf bemusement.

“Father.” Adrien greeted carefully, as always. He knew it was strange, being on edge at every moment when speaking with his father, but he couldn’t help it.

He wasn’t like this before the death of Beatrice.

Well, not quite anyway.

Before the death of Beatrice, Gabriel was—not more open, but rather slightly more approachable. His eyes weren’t so hostile, and every once in a while even his frown let up, and he seemed if not downright happy, content. Adrien remembered these moments fondly, but they felt old and out of reach, kept away from him by a window made of tragedy.

“Son.” Gabriel greeted. It settled his nerves in the slightest, knowing that Gabriel was in a good mood –well, as good a mood as Gabriel Agreste could have.

“Father,” came Marinette’s breathless voice from the hall. Adrien and Gabriel both turned their heads at the same time to find her standing, slightly flushed and almost out of breath, but with perfect make up. “We’re happy to have you.”

Gabriel nodded as he stepped into the house, holding out the bouquet for Marinette. She looked surprised, and let out a smile.

“These are lovely! Thank you so much, you shouldn’t have.”

Gabriel made a dismissive motion with his hand. “It is common etiquete. You’ll learn soon enough.” He said condescendingly, and Adrien did not miss the way she rolled her eyes at Gabriel. He almost laughed.

His father stepped carefully into the house, eyeing it critically. Adrien could read the thousand critiques that he thankfully didn’t voice. He looked at everything until Adrien caught a movement on the floor and almost jumped out of his skin when he watched Plagg bite the hem of Gabriel’s trousers.

From the corner of his eye, he watched Marinette tense as well, and almost tripped over his feet rushing towards Plagg, but Gabriel held out his hand to stop him.

“Ah.” He said, casually. “So this is the cat.”

And then, to everyone’s surprise, he leaned over and picked it up from the ground carefully, studying him closely. Plagg, in turn, mewled and tossed about, wanting to be let down. He mewled loudly once again and pressed his paw against Gabriel’s forhead.

Neither Adrien nor Marinette had absolutely any clue whatsoever as to how to deal wth this very specific situation.

“I did not know you were fond of animals, Adrien.” Gabriel pointed out as he leaned to the ground and placed Plagg carefully. The kitten sauntered away into the open door to their bedroom, and his father turned eyes on Adrien.

“I must’ve asked you for a dog about 300 times, Father.” Adrien replied flatly. He was worried for a moment that he might’ve overstepped a line, but Gabriel did not seem bothered.

“Complicated times,” was all he said. He did not go into detail, and the silence became awkward.

Marinette emerged from the kitchen holding a lovely casserole dish and set it on the table.

“Dinner is served.” She announced, and Adrien could read the nervousness. Gabriel nodded and sat in their living room table, which looked far nicer than Adrien thought possible.

The three of them sat for dinner.

 


 

 

Sabrina’s taser hit the ground with an anticlimactic clack.

Her eyes widened and her extremities turned to lead. There was cotton stuffed in her mouth all the way down to her throat.

“Well?” came the voice from the other side of the doorframe. “Aren’t you going to let me in?”

Sabrina stepped aside, still not believing her eyes, and allowed Chloe to step in for the first time in three years.

“Oh look, your parents still have that vase I sent.” She remarked as she threw herself on the couch unceremoniously. Sabrina continued to watch her, agape, as Chloe made herself comfortable in Sabrina’s home.

“Chloe.” She pronounced, finally. Chloe watched Sabrina, expectantly. There was something in her expression that spoke of anxiety –of waiting for a reaction. But Chloe was never one to show her feelings easily.

As her mind could barely string two words together, Sabrina focused on the small matters.

“You sent that vase?” She asked. Her mother had acquired that vase a little over a year ago, and Sabrina had never bothered asking its origin.

Chloe shrugged. “Your mother was always nice to me. I do have manners, you know.”

Finally, Sabrina’s head exploded. “What are you doing here?” She blurted out.

She caught Chloe’s expression. There—this was the question she was waiting for.

Chloe did not stand, nor did she uncross her legs and pull back her spread arms on the couch.

“You wrote to me.” She said simply. Sabrina’s heart clenched.

“That was enough?” She asked, flabbergasted. Was Chloe Bourgeois so easily summoned back?

“For you it is.” Chloe replied, and finally, finally, Sabrina broke.

She flung herself unceremoniously to the ground by Chloe’s feet, burying her head against her legs. She felt herself shake and as the first tears spilled out, and how everything inside her came undone with the words on her mouth.

“I’m so sorry,” Sabrina wept. “I’m so so sorry!”

She felt Chloe’s hand hesitantly touch her head and then pull back, as if she were only pushing lint away.

“Get your shit together, Sabrina.” Chloe said, but her tone wasn’t unkind. Sabrina looked up, and Chloe’s expression was soft, and, for the first time, she was easy to read as a book.

Relief.

So Sabrina sat on the couch and hugged her best friend again, this time properly. It took Chloe a second to reply –Sabrina knew physical affection wasn’t Chloe’s strong suit—but eventually she hugged Sabrina back with an incredible force. Sabrina felt Chloe’s forehead against her shoulder, and the way her body quivered with every breath.

They stayed together for a few minutes.

Chloe was the first to pull back.

“I never thought I’d see you again,” Sabrina said, her voice trembling. In fact, everything about her was trembling. In excitement and relief and joy and surprise. “I just--- I messed up so bad.”

But Chloe waved a dismissive hand.

“You can make it up to me.” She said casually. “For starters, coffee. Thr—“

“Three packs of sugar and no cream.” Sabrina finished with a smile. Chloe hadn’t changed.

“If you already know, then get to it.” Chloe said, but Sabrina knew her best friend, and she knew when Chloe was pleased with something. She rushed to the kitchen and prepared coffee the way Chloe liked it before returning and sitting down. She watched her best friend sip carefully her coffee, and then, satisfied, almost gulping it down.

“When did you come to Paris?”

“This morning.” Chloe replied. “Usually I don’t. There isn’t much for me here.” The implication against her father was clear. “But I just had a craving to come here today. So I did.”

A lot of people misunderstood Chloe.

She had a hard time letting people in, and she was terrible at showing emotions. She did not share her thoughts, and acted as a spoiled brat some of the time, when in fact there were seldom other people as thoughtful as her.

Dropping everything to come see Sabrina? Total Chloe move.

“Go get showered. You look homeless.” Chloe announced. “Besides, we’re going out. Wear something nice.”

Sabrina’s smile barely fit her lips.

 


 

 

“You are to visit London next week,” Gabriel Agreste announced simply. Marinette watched him eat his pasta, every nerve of her body on edge, wondering if he was liking it.

“Alright.” Adrien replied simply. Well, Marinette had no doubt he was enjoying the food. He was wolfing it down, after all. Though she supposed that might have something to do with nerves. Luckily, this time there was no waiter to keep filling his glass when it got near empty.

Gabriel turned his head towards Marinette, who snapped to attention. She tried to smile pleasantly, fork in her hand, trying to look as amenable and housewifey as possible.

Because, and this was not a thought in her head, if things kept on going this well with Adrien, well…

Well, maybe…

Maybe, just maybe, their marriage wouldn’t have to be a sham anymore.

The thought was a snake that coiled itself in Marinette’s stomach, eating all the butterflies that had sprouted there at the same time.

“Are you comfortable in your job?” Gabriel asked, and this was as good-natured as she had ever heard him speak. She perked up.

“I’m very happy there.” She smiled. “Jacob and Genevieve are the best. I’m learning a lot.”

Gabriel nodded, pleased.

“Jacob is very talented. It makes up for his… queerness.”

Marinette tensed. “Sorry, what?”

Gabriel put down his fork and wiped his mouth with a napkin. He took his glass and swirled the wine slowly, watching it against the light.

“Jacob used to work at Dupont.” He explained. “Back then his name was Jessica, I think.” He made a motion, as if it did not matter. Marinette felt heat rising in her chest. “But he was too public a figure. When he announced that he would be… how do you say it these days… ‘transitioning’”—he said the word as if he found it ridiculous—“they had to let him go.” He took a sip of wine. “Nathalie had him working for us before three days had passed. Not openly, of course.”

Excuse me?” She felt her temper falter, and watched Adrien’s horrified widened eyes from the other side of the table. But then again, she was also seeing red. “Jacob is the most talented tailor I’ve met.” She said fiercely.

“He is, Marinette.” Gabriel said condescendingly. “That does not mean we have to boast what he is.”

Marinette bit her tongue so hard she thought she might rip it off. She tore the napkin from her lap and chucked it next to her plate angrily. “Excuse me.” She said curtly before almost storming into her room.

Once hidden in the bathroom, Marinette sent Alya a very lengthy voice note about her thoughts on her father in law.

It took her almost ten minutes for her eyesight to stop seeing everything red and her nostrils to go back to their normal, non-dilated state. When she came back, her posture was rigid and her shoulders tense. She sat down without a word.

“Adrien, that’s enough. You have yet to lose those two pounds I warned you about.”

Boom.

“Is there anything you don’t have a problem with?” Marinette demanded of Gabriel. He simply raised an eyebrow.

“Is there something you would like to say, Marinette?”

“No, she—“ Adrien began, but Marinette rolled over his words.

“Yes, in fact, a few things.” She growled. “You know that Adrien is underweight, don’t you?” She snapped. Gabriel did not seem surprised. “Yeah. Its why he gets colds so frequently. Turns out, underfeeding your son has a toll on his health.”

Gabriel frowned. “He has an image to maintain.”

“Oh yeah, I know.” She growled. “Trust me, I know. He has to maintain this impossible, unhealthy image with his body. And his life. And his social connections. And pretty much everything.”

Gabriel squinted his eyes a little bit. “Surely, you are aware this is part of the business.”

“What, the business of killing your son?” She regretted those words as soon as they were out of her mouth.

“Do you have a problem with the way I raise my son?” Gabriel demanded. She was beginning to feel the cold of his anger.

“You use the term ‘raise’ very loosely, don’t you?” She asked. Marinette felt herself digging up a deeper and deeper hole, but everything Gabriel responded only riled her up even more.

Images of a shirtless Adrien flashed across her mind. Yes, he was attractive. But she could easily count his last ribs. She’d seen the way he didn’t allow himself sweets she brought home most of the time.

Marinette,” The voice was sharp, but it wasn’t Gabriel’s. Marinette was surprised to find Adrien shooting her sharp looks from the other side of the table.

Rage wanted to slip out of her eyes, but she stopped herself. Instead, she bit the inside of her lip, hard, until she tasted blood.

“I’m sorry.” She said finally. She was tense as a piano wire, and her words rang hollow. “I’ve overstepped my boundaries.”

Gabriel, surprisingly, did not seem particularly bothered. He wiped the edges of his mouth with a napkin once again and took a sip of wine.

“Nathalie did mention you had a short temper.”

Marinette was about to snap again, but Adrien’s glare stayed her.

“I try to keep it under control.”

“It obviously works.”

Marinette could only hear sirens against her ears, rage agitating her blood like a stormy sea. Her heart pounded against her chest like fists of rage against her mind, begging to be let out.

Then, the most expected thing happened.

Gabriel’s phone began ringing.

“Ah,” he said, calmly. “I am terribly sorry, but it is time for a conference call with America. I have to take my leave.” He turned to Marinette and nodded politely with a pleasant expression in his face. “Dinner was lovely, I thank you for inviting me.” He said. “I do hope the flowers are to your liking. Nathalie picked them out.” He turned his head towards Adrien. “Adrien, will you see me out?”

Adrien nodded. “Yes, Father.” He pushed his chair back and led his father towards the door.

“I will see you tomorrow at the office, Marinette.” Then, surprisingly, he set a hand on Adrien’s shoulder in an almost paternal fashion. “Goodnight, son.”

And he was gone.

There were almost ten seconds of silence.

“What the hell was that?” Adrien said sharply. Marinette was caught off guard by the tone in his voice –she had never heard him angry.

“That’s what I would like to know? Did you hear what he said about Jacob? And then—“

“Not him, Marinette.” She flinched at the use of her full name. “You.

“What?” She asked, surprised.

“You just insulted my father. My Father. The man paying your bills.”

She huffed in disbelief. “Are you serious?” She demanded. “He behaved horribly! If anything you should’ve been on my side!”

Adrien grabbed the bridge of his nose between forefinger and thumb, as if getting a headache.

“You’re joking, right? Do you even remember what happened last time something like this happened? Nino was banned from my house when we were kids?”

“Adrien, I love you, but your father is a dick.” Marinette said.

“Don’t call him that!”

“Its true!”

“He’s my father!

“Adrien, you’re malnourished!” she almost yelled. Their voices were louder than they’d ever been, and Marinette could not believe they were fighting. She couldn’t believe he didn’t understand her. “And he keeps going on about your weight! What kind of father is that?”

“I don’t need you picking a fight over that! If I wanted to, I would say something about it!” Adrien replied, force still in his words. “You’re not a superhero anymore! And even if you were, I didn’t ask you to save me.”

Those words stung. Marinette felt as if she were swallowing a rock. She felt her eyes sting, but would not lose the fight against tears.

“Adrien, it is killing me to see him treat you like that.” Her voice shook. “I can’t do it. Everything he says, it stings you. Its like he’s flaying your skin, and I can’t stand it.” The first tear slipped out of her left eye. She wiped it away with her palm. “You love him so much, and he’s destroying you.”

Adrien raked his hands through his hair, pulling at the roots a bit.

“I can’t deal with this right now.” Adrien said, his voice decreasing. “I just can’t.”

Marinette took a step forward, towards him, but Adrien took an unconscious step back. Marinette felt as if she’d been slapped. Adrien made an angry, dismissive motion with his hand.

“Go to sleep.” He said. “I’ll clean up.”

“Adrien, I---“

“Just go, Marinette.”

Speechless, broken and crying, Marinette slipped away from the living room, leaving Adrien to do the cleaning. A small, intrusive thought about Adrien’s usual difficulty cleaning made a quick appearance, but Marinette dismissed it and went to bed.

When she woke up in the morning, the bed was empty and his side was made.

 


 

Is it too soon to text? I’m not like, adept at this kind of thing or anything.

 

To be honest, I’ve been looking at my phone every five minutes since I gave you my number.

 

Could you be any cuter?

 

Nathalie blushed hard. It was the first time someone had ever called her that, and she was not sure she found it entirely unpleasant.

 

So, coffee.

 

I know I said coffee, but I’m actually really bad at coffee. Is it too much if I say dinner?

 

Dinner sounds lovely.

 

Dinner then. Saturday night?

 

I have work that day… Could we make it Tuesday?

 

I can close up shop whenever, so sure! Tuesday night. Please try not to look prettier than me.

 

Who am I kidding. Of course you will.

 

Ugh you’re so cool.

 

I can’t wait.

 

Me neither. I’m… looking forward to this.

 

Oh god, me too. You have no idea.

 

Can we keep talking? Is that okay?

 

Are you kidding? Yes! Tell me things about you, Nathalie! :D

 

Nathalie smiled at her phone, and promptly realized she’d forgotten momentarily everything about herself.

She fell asleep at three in the morning, texting.

Chapter Text

Waking up alone was the one of the hardest things Marinette had done in her entire life.

Growing up, it was always her father’s face that greeted her in the morning. His or her mother’s, in seldom occasions.

Later, it was Tikki who woke her up, big, lovely blue eyes staring at Marinette with love and pride.

And now, she was used to waking up in the morning to Adrien’s body heat warming up the other side of the bed into something just a smidgen too warm, but somehow also perfect.

When she woke up this morning, the bed was cold.

Flashbacks of last night’s fight passed before her eyes. The look of anger in Adrien’s face had been heartbreaking.

She was so stupid.

How had she even considered not dissolving the marriage? What, did she think this would magically work out? That she’d be accepted by Gabriel Agreste into his family? Just like that?

Oh god, Gabriel.

She’d be lucky if he didn’t have her evicted from Adrien’s house. Or worse.

She’d literally insulted her benefactor in every possible way, thinking what? That he wouldn’t retaliate? That he’d just sit down and take it?

Marinette sat up and hugged her knees, burying her face in the plush covers. She wept.

How could she have been so dumb? Life had given her a rare opportunity. It had saved her from financial ruin and given her a chance to find her Chat. It had given her the opportunity to fall in love with Adrien all over again, and she had spit in its face.

She had spit on Gabriel’s face.

A sob tore through her.

A small sound broke through the cold silence. A mewl.

She looked next to the bed, and there was Plagg, watching her. She could almost believe that he felt sorry for her. She picked him up in her arms and rested her back against the bedframe.

She wondered how many times she’d smash her heart with a hammer before it could no longer be put back together.

 

 


 

 

Adrien woke up with the worst back pain he’d had since being dragged 10 feet through the floor back when he was Chat Noir.

He’d slept in an awful position, head on an armrest and one leg sprawled over the coffee tale, the other one hanging from the edge of the couch.

The couch was not meant for sleeping.

The couch was also where he gave Marinette their first real kiss.

He sat up and rubbed his face, trying to erase the memories from last night’s fight.

How could Marinette have been so foolish? She had called out and challenged Adrien’s father –the man who was responsible for everything she had.

Well—he was also responsible for everything Adrien had, and Adrien had done the challenging a few times. Plus, he had been a dick.

For starters, Adrien knew that Gabriel wasn’t a man who cared about sexuality or orientation. Those things he said about Jacob—they had taken Adrien by surprise almost as much as they had Marinette. Except Adrien had had the good sense to keep his head.

But then, he had seen the old fire in Marinette. That old Ladybug-ness that he had missed so much. It was the first reason why he had fallen in love with her, back when he was first Chat Noir. So could he really reprimand her for it? For being exactly the person he loved?

Adrien sighed.

Don’t get him wrong--- he was angry. Marinette couldn’t possibly understand what it was like to have such a strained relationship with her only available parent. Nor did she understand that he had given up every opportunity to find his mother, all because he knew it was the right thing. Adrien was always putting the world above himself, and it was starting to get old.

He wanted to be selfish for a little while.

Adrien’s mind shifted back to the kiss they’d shared before his father had arrived. The electricity was there, but so was the familiarity. It was new and old at the same time. So strange it seemed almost like a borrowed feeling. Something he had never felt before, and maybe never would again.

Adrien stood from the couch and heard his back crack.

“Ow.” He said under his breath, and took a peek at the closed door of their bedroom.

Last night, he had been so angry, and so tired after washing everything up that he hadn’t wanted to go to Marinette.

The day, however, had set some things in perspective for him.

First of all, the washing, cleaning, cooking and shopping that Marinette had done for him--- it wasn’t something small. She had been running the house smoothly for him to be as comfortable as she could make him, possibly because she still felt guilty about his marrying her.

Adrien froze.

The marriage.

Would his father allow it to go on? Part of him wanted to believe that he wasn’t that petty, but the rest of him was unfortunately wiser. There was every chance that he’d call it off.

Though Gabriel’s behavior had been rather strange last night. He had seemed to deliberately provoke Marinette, and then had not bothered to retaliate, until Mari’s sharp comment about the raising of Adrien.

A spark of affection bloomed in his chest. Nino, Marinette, Alya, even Chloe… they had always stood up for him. Even when the enemy was his father.

Adrien let his head fall and sighed. There was a spark of anger in him, but it was dulled by the sense of misery.

Because Marinette had become indispensable to him. He supposed she always had been. He wasn’t Chat Noir without Ladybug, and now he wasn’t Adrien without Marinette.

He rose to his feet and took eight brave steps towards the bedroom, and stood by the door. He raised his fist to knock, but heard the worst sound he could possibly have.

Marinette was crying.

 


 

Marinette sobbed.

Plagg Made his way to her lap, forcing her body from her knees for space, and sat there, purring. In a way, she supposed he was trying to comfort her, but she wondered if that was possible.

“I’m such an idiot.” She told Plagg. He pressed his face against her hand, begging to be rubbed. Marinette’s fingers fell limp, but Plagg insisted. “Do I have a single neuron in my entire body?”

Plagg nipped at her fingers.

Marinette rested her back against the bedrest, succumbing to Plagg’s begging and scratching him over the nose. She half sobbed, looking at Plagg.

Adrien had given her so much of himself. He had confessed to loving Ladybug when they were young, and he had proved again and again that he was worth everything in this world. So how could she betray him like that?

Because it was a betrayal, after all. Fighting against Gabriel—going against his father—it was catching him in the crossfire. The front lines of a war that he had been trying to avoid all his life. Of course, Gabriel could call off the marriage. It was very simple: according to the contract she signed, they could leak a story about her cheating and poor Adrien being the heartbroken prince. Then he’d destroy her career with about three phonecalls.

Because why wouldn’t he? Marinette couldn’t find a single reason why Gabriel wouldn’t do it.

The only part that confused her was his final words last night. “I will see you at work,” he had said. He had walked away calmly, like he knew he had won against her.

As if he needed to.

She had read somewhere about a saying in Spanish—something about being an egg or a rock. When they collide, the egg cracks and the rock loses nothing.

Marinette was the egg.

The worst part now was the intense craving--- the real need to see Adrien. To hold him and have him say that it would be fine. That whatever she had done, it hadn’t been undoable. She needed her Chaton to support her like he always had, but she may have just lost that.

She slumped for a moment, but then straightened up. Plagg watched her expectantly.

“Screw this.” She said, and hopped off from bed. Sure, she was miserable, depressed and her life could fall apart any minute, but she wasn’t about to stand by and watch it happen. Chat would tell her that there was a way out of this, and Marinette would find it.

But first, it was time to grovel.

 


 

Just one sob. That was it.

That was all it took for all the anger to come crashing down around him and dissolve in a sea of regret.

Marinette. His Lady. His Mari.

She was crying, and he was partly responsible for it.

It was--- it was too much. He couldn’t open the door. Surely she’d be upset at him. She’d look at him with those hurt big blue eyes that he had fallen in love with twice and he wouldn’t be able to take it.

Adrien was, above most things, a people pleaser. It made him happy to make other people happy. He wasn’t experienced in fights, and perhaps that is why it was so difficult to stay angry at Marinette, even if, consciously, he was aware that his motives were valid.

He raised his fist again towards the door. The sobbing had stopped, but he supposed the crying hadn’t.

And he couldn’t face it.

So, cowardly and desperately, Adrien turned on his heel and walked away from the door and out of their house without once turning to see if Marinette emerged from the room.

 


 

 

Sabrina picked out her best clothes.

It wasn’t everyday that you were back in business with your best friend, after all.

She stepped out of the room with a wide smile and found Chloe looking through her research’s first draft—she had barely proofread it, so it was probably riddled with mistakes, but what caught her eye was that Chloe was actually reading it.

“Uh, Chloe?” She called timidly. Chloe snapped to attention, dropping the folio.

“Well, your taste in clothes hasn’t improved too much.” She said flatly, but somehow this was Chloe being friendly, Sabrina knew. “You’re so lucky to have me around to help you dress.”

Sabrina smiled. How could Chloe undo three years of misery in minutes?

“Oh, by the way, I’m keeping your bed.” She pointed out. Sabrina blinked. “I’m staying over for a couple of days and there is no way I’m sleeping in the couch or that awful pullout bed you have. I don’t go to a spa three times a week to have my back wrecked in one visit.”

The only thing that registered with Sabrina was that Chloe was staying over.

Well, Chloe had always been an all or nothing kind of girl, Sabrina supposed.

And she did not mind one bit.

“Why do you keep looking at me like that? God, you’re weird.” Chloe pointed out, and Sabrina realized that she’d been staring. She laughed at herself a little bit and shook her head. It was typical Chloe not to let Sabrina put in two words.

“I’m just happy to have you back,” she said, and heard the raw sincerity in her voice. Chloe’s face softened just a little bit under her sharp eyeliner.

“Of course you are. Now you can go back to having an actual, interesting life.”

Sabrina smiled and shook her head. “Where are we going?”

“I’ve been gone for three years. Its time to bring the light into some people’s lives.” She flipped her hair over her shoulder, still in its regular ponytail. “We’re doing charity work, Sabrina.”

“Charity work?”

“What’s more charitable than seeing all the old losers see my beautiful face again?”

“Wait, are you saying?”

“Oh, we’re definitely throwing a party.”

 


 

It was seven o’clock in the morning, and the lights to Gabriel’s office were the only ones that were on. The entire building was in the dark, except for that huge, penthouse floor office in the last floor, making it seem awfully ominous.

The sun hadn’t risen yet, and the day was cold. Winter was coming sooner than she would’ve wanted. She swallowed dryly and stepped towards the building. The security guard stopped her.

“Its closed.” He said stoically. He was a tall man that reminded her a lot of Kim, and she hadn’t met him before.

“I work here.” She replied, watching a little puff of smoke come out of her lips.

“Still closed.” The guard replied, bored.

“I need to speak to M Agreste.”

The guard looked at her, unimpressed. Obviously, Marinette herself wasn’t too intimidating, so she’d have to use the ace up her sleeve.

“You’re gonna ‘ave t’ wait.”

Marinette tried channeling Chloe for a second. She stared at the guard flatly and cocked her hip out.

“You do realize,” she said, her voice as cringey and Chloe-like as possible, “that I’m Marinette Agreste, right?”

The guard paled and hesitated.

“I’m Adrien’s wife.” She added.

“I---“

“What are you doing here at this hour?” Came a sharp voice from behind the guard. Marinette almost flinched when she recognized it, but stood her ground.

“I’m here to speak to Father.” Marinette said, emphasizing the last word. Nathalie’s eyes squinted in a glare.

“It is far too early.” She replied.

“Its an emergency.” Marinette insisted.

Nathalie glared at her for about twenty seconds before squaring her shoulders.

“Let her through, Amid.”

Far too surprised, but too stubborn to show it, Marinette bypassed the flabbergasted guard as he stepped aside and allowed Marinette into the building.

The inside was only slightly less cold than the outside. It was obvious that the heating wasn’t on, and Marinette tightened her coat around her, even as the wind stopped assaulting her.

“What are you doing here?” Nathalie asked, hostile as usual. She did let her through, so Marinette supposed she hadn’t heard about last night’s incident.

“I’m here to speak to Monsieur Agreste.” She replied.

“About what.”

“That’s between him and me.” Marinette replied, as sharply as Nathalie. The latter frowned but led the way towards Gabriel’s office. Nathalie knocked on the door and waited to be called in before stepping in and almost slamming the door on Marinette’s face.

“Sir, Miss Dupain-Cheng is here for you.” She announced, once again making full use of Marinette’s maiden name. She wondered if there would ever be a time when she and Nathalie were not at odds, and found it highly unlikely.

She stepped into the office and Gabriel Agreste was hunched over some papers spread out on a large, architecture table. He wore a different set of glasses, too—these were less fashionable, but thicker, clearly meant for functionality rather than style.

And that’s when she saw it.

For the first time, Marinette met Gabriel Agreste as the man he looked up to in the world of fashion design. Overworked, artistic and brilliant. Solitary and hardworking.

This was the man she had aspired to meet all her life.

“Marinette.” Gabriel greeted, his words toneless. “You have arrived early.”

“I---“ She began, but stopped herself and looked at Nathalie flatly. “Could you please excuse us?” She asked. Nathalie parted her lips to retaliate, eyes flaring, but Gabriel’s voice interrupted her.

“Nathalie, please wait outside.”

The woman pressed her lips and nodded, distaste clear on her face, and Marinette would’ve felt victorious, had she not been in such a precarious situation. Nathalie managed to somehow convey the idea of storming out of the room without quite being impolite. Marinette was begrudgingly impressed.

Gabriel stood, now wearing his usual glasses as he clasped his hands behind his back. Marinette noticed trace amounts of charcoal all over his clothes, which were not his usual suits. She wondered if he had been designing.

“Is something the matter, Marinette?” He asked, and Marinette heard no trace of hostility. In fact, it was almost… boredom?

“I came to apologize.” Marinette said meekly, looking at the ground. Everything inside of her screamed wrong! But she kept going. “My behavior last night—it was unacceptable.”

Gabriel seemed to take her words in carefully.

“You came here at six in the morning to apologize?” He asked lightly. Marinette nodded, still not daring look at his face.

“Yes, sir.” She replied. “You have been far more generous that I could ever hope to expect and I crossed the line last night. I am deeply and terribly sorry for everything I said.”

Marinette couldn’t see him, so she couldn’t watch him nod, just a little. Instead, she could see his feet as he moved towards the window. She snuck a peek at him, and watched him stand against the floor to ceiling windows, only the barest of sunlight rays breaking through the horizon.

“I suppose you fear I will dissolve your marriage due to this incident.” He said lightly, and Marinette froze every cell in her body. Her breathing stopped and she turned to stone. Gabriel let the words hang easily between them. A threat.

“Monsie---“ She rushed, but Gabriel held up his hand to stop her, still not looking at her.

“There is no need to grovel.” He said. “Surprisingly, your marriage to Adrien has had a positive impact on his image with the public. People seem to find you two ‘relatable.’”

Marinette’s jaw dropped. Gabriel turned to look at her. His movements all seemed so deliberate, but so precise at the same time. Everything about him was a threat. He was graceful and terrifying, and Marinette was trapped exactly on his net.

“I would not jeopardize my son’s image because you had a hard time holding your tongue.” Gabriel explained, but there was an edge of danger to his words.

Marinette found him far scarier now than she had when he had been Papillon.

“However, Marinette,” he said, and his tone dropped an octave, “you will learn your place.”

She fought the urge to shiver. It was only stubbornness and sheer will that kept her from dropping her gaze to the floor. He leaned over slightly to be in her range of sight

“Adrien is my son.” His voice dropped lower than the temperature. “I gave him this opportunity because I have things to atone for, but don’t make for a second the mistake of thinking you are untouchable.” His gaze was terrifying. “The moment my son is done with you, you are gone.” Gabriel stood straighter, gaining back his poise. He turned and added over his shoulder, almost as an afterthought, “And so is your career.”

 

 

Marinette barely made it to the bathroom before throwing up bile.

She had been legitimately, truly and really threatened by Gabriel Agreste. And she had to say, he was far scarier than Papillon.

She had to go to Adrien.

But as Marinette pulled out her phone, she found the last thing she expected.

A party invitation.

 

 


 

 

Chloe snickered, and it was a lot like when she was fifteen. Sabrina knew something was up.

“So, Adrien married Marinette, you said?” She asked.

Yes, she had, in fact, let that little bit of information slip, and had immensely regretted it.

Sabrina had thought that now that Chloe held no interest in Adrien, there was nothing to fear about mentioning the nuptials, but as the words left her lips, Sabrina had seen the hurt cross Chloe’s ice blue eyes. She had, of course, tried to hide it, but Chloe could seldom hide something from Sabrina. It was only then that Sabrina noticed that maybe, just maybe, it would hurt Chloe that her childhood friend would forget to invite her to his wedding.

“Uh… yeah…”

Chloe grinned. “I think we’re gonna make this party a little bit fun for us. We deserve it, after all.” She typed something on her phone and sent it, clearly pleased with herself.

Sabrina had a bad feeling about it.

Chapter Text

 

The problem with being a coward was that you were always running away from something, but you never knew towards what.

So five in the morning found Adrien walking through the beginnings of winter, La Seine to his left, the streets of Paris awakening to his right.

He had run from home. That was something he had never done with Gabriel. No matter how terrible things had gotten, no matter how irrational Gabriel became, Adrien had never truly run away.

There had been that little incident at Christmas, but he had just gone out for air—he hadn’t left anybody genuinely hanging. He had never honest to god run away from somebody.

And he called himself a superhero? How dare he?

He had run head on for so many burning buildings—destroyed so many possessed objects and fallen from so many heights. He had put his life on the line a thousand times for the sake of Ladybug’s safety, and yet—

--And yet he had walked away from her.

He had chosen his father over her. He had walked away from her weeping. He had turned his back on her efforts and her protection and everything she stood for.

Because there was everything Marinette  about what she had done. Everything Ladybug.

And afterwards, she had looked to him for backup. To tell her that she had done right in protecting him. But instead he had snapped at her in ways he had never snapped at anyone before.

How was it that he had hurt the one person that had managed to carve her way into his heart? Or better yet, the person who had filled every crevice in his heart?

He had never been as happy as he had been ever since marrying Marinette. She had given him a home where he had given her a house, and she had given her true, deep love where he had given her his friendship.

Everything he had given her, she had multiplied. Even now, as she offered his protection.

But then—something deep inside of him was trying to protect her too.

He had once promised to be her knight in shining armor, and it turns out that it had always been her the one to pull through for the both of them. Now she had tried to become a shield for Adrien, and instead of protecting her, he had gotten mad.

He knew how to protect her physically, but he had no idea how to protect her from Gabriel.

Adrien stopped.

That was it.

The fear he had felt as she spoke to Gabriel—that was it.

It wasn’t fear for his sake. It was for hers.

It was so common for Marinette to disregard her safety for the sake of others—for Ladybug to do it—that he knew he had to intervene. Adrien knew better than anyone the kind of man that Gabriel was, and the things he was capable of. He could be terrifying and horrible and—

Adrien gripped the railing that surrounded the river.

All this time, all he had done was seek Gabriel’s approval. The one person in his life he had tried to impress, over and over and over, but had never been enough. Adrien had never been enough for Gabriel, and maybe he never would be.

But he had always been good enough for Marinette.

As Chat, as Adrien, as friend and husband. Marinette had always been willing to receive exactly what Adrien was capable of giving. His friendship or his love or his meagre attempts at protecting.

He had chosen so, so wrong the night before.

Instead of sharply calling out to Marinette, he should’ve called out to Gabriel. He should’ve told him to leave. To stay away from his wife and his friend.

But what would that have accomplished? Ending their contract? Being roped back into the house? Homeschooled?

He had chosen his safety over Marinette’s. And that was the worst thing he could’ve done. Not for her, of course, because the worst part was that she would forgive him.

Because Marinette always would.

He crossed the streets, streetlights illuminating his path to nowhere. His breath was foggy and it was cold. He only remembered that Marinette hated the cold, and she was probably freezing right now.

Freezing and crying.

A coil inside of him snapped.

Adrien turned tail and ran back towards the apartment.

 

 


 

 

 

Marinette sat on the lip of the Chat Noir and Ladybug statue that had been erected in their honor almost six years ago. She had her back to it. There was no way she wanted to remember what she was.

Adrien had been right. She was no longer a hero. She was a regular person with no abilities, and for once, she could do nothing to stand against those more powerful than her.

Because whatever she told herself, Gabriel was more powerful.

She was nothing, in his world. All this time, having her call him Father, inviting them to dinner, bringing flowers… What had that meant? Why had he done it?

She dropped her head in her hands, cheeks burning from the cold. She had been in such a hurry to leave home, her scarf had stayed behind, and she hadn’t dared take one from Gabriel.

He had been very clear. When Adrien was done with her, her career would be gone.

Everything she had strived for, everything she had done to save her future--- it had been futile. She would have a degree worth nothing. She had left her sick father and lonely mother to stay by herself in a big city only to anger one of the gods of the industry.

A fire lit inside of her.

She did not regret it.

Everything she had said—yes, it may have been out of line, but it was all true. Everything  Gabriel did to Adrien was a form of abuse. From malnourishment, to overwork, to psychological abuse.

And she wasn’t ready to walk away from him. Not when he needed her.

Even if it could cost her a career.

Because when she needed an umbrella, Adrien had given it to her. When she didn’t understand math, Adrien explained it to her. When Nathaniel left, Adrien had camped out in her living room.

When she had needed to stay in Paris, Adrien had married her.

There were a million careers out there, but there was only one Adrien. And even if Gabriel was gonna make it hell for her, Marinette sure as hell was going to give the fashion industry her best shot before calling it quits.

She would have her goddamn cake and eat it too.

There was still no snow in the ground, and she did not hear the approaching footsteps.

“Mari?”

 


 

He had been running home when he spotted her.

Even from where he was, he recognized her wispy form, and her lovely midnight hair.

She sat by their statue, the one that represented the both of them, fighting side by side, just the way it should be.

Against every inch of his cowardly mind that yelled run, Adrien called out to her.

“Mari?”

Marinette looked up, lips parted in surprise. She looked deep in thought, but thank god she wasn’t crying. He didn’t think his heart would take it.

But what would she do? A fear assaulted Adrien. What if she didn’t want him near?

He watched a puff of smoke leave her lips in slow motion, the words carried by the wind.

“Chaton?” She called out.

And that was all that Adrien needed.

He broke into a sprint, even though his legs hurt from the cold. Throwing himself at her feet, he hugged her by the waist, her arms spreading out in surprise. Adrien hugged her tightly, burying his face on her sweater.

“I’m so sorry.” He whispered. “Mari, I—“

But beore he could continue, Marinette took him by the sides of his face and directed his eyes towards hers. For a moment, he feared the worst.

But Marinette’s face was only kindness and softness.

She kissed him sweetly, right on the lips.

Every negative feeling melted away, right then and there. His shoulders slumped and his face relaxed and his heart filled.

He loved her.

He loved her.

He loved her.

Adrien placed his hand above hers and caressed it gently. Then, he slowly, and without breking the kiss, allowed himself to half stand and sit next to her on the statue. Once there, he wrapped his free arm around her waist and pulled her close. She was trembling.

“Adrien—“ she began.

“I love you.” He said in a single breath.

Marinette smiled softly, and he knew she hadn’t understood him.

“I love you too.” She said quietly.

Adrien shook his head and rested his forehead on her shoulder.

“No.” He whispered. “I’m in love with you.”

He felt her stop breathing. Adrien held her closer.

“You don’t have to answer.” He said. “But know this: I will always be on your side. You will always be my Ladybug, and no enemy will ever change that. Not even my father.”

Instead of replying, Marinette hugged Adrien, burying her face in his chest. He knew she could probably feel his heartbeat increasing tenfold, and he didn’t care. He wanted her to know that it beat for her and nobody else. Even if she didn’t love him. Even if she couldn’t. It would never change what he felt.

He tilted his head and kissed her temple lovingly, feeling her tighten her hug.

Tey stayed together quietly until the early winter sun rose.

Chapter Text

The water reached her nose.

It was warm and comfortable and perfect after that horrid weather outside.

Almost like dealing with Adrien after Gabriel threatened her entire way of being.

Marinette blew bubbles through her nose, soapy, warm water tickling her skin. She rested her head against the bathtub and sighed into the vapor.

Adrien loved her.

He had said so.

He loved her. He was in love with her. He knew her, he lived with her, and he had deemed her worthy enough of his love. Adrien Agreste loved Marinette.

And she had said nothing.

She had sat there, in all her great dumbness and remained completely quiet. And Adrien had been okay with that.

He had told her not to answer. God, he knew her so well, he gave her a way out –he gave her time. Adrien was so in sync with everything about her that, well, that he understood her.

Of course she loved him back.

Every fibre of her being, every neuron in her head and every molecule in her body loved Adrien back. She loved him, and was in love with him and wanted three children and a hamster with him.

(Although she wasn’t sure how Plagg would feel about a hamster).

But when she had wanted to answer, the looming threat of Gabriel Agreste’s figure flashed across her mind. It didn’t exactly deter her—but it had slowed her down.

To be willing to take on an enemy for love was easy in paper. Not so much in action.

Marinette dipped her hair in the water and allowed the warmness to fill the chill of her bones. It was the end of autumn, and winter would soon start.

There was a knock on the door.

“Mari?” Adrien called from the other side. “Are you okay?”

She couldn’t bite back a smile. Worrier.

“I’m fine. I’ll be out soon.”

“No yeah, take your time, I just--- this may not be the best moment to bring this up but did you get an invitation from Chloe?”

Marinette sat up in the tub.

“Uh, yeah.” She said awkwardly. “You think she sent it by mistake?”

“I spoke to Nino. Apparently she sent one to everybody.” Came the voice on the other side of the door. A silly part of Marinette wished that Adrien would just step in.

There was a moment of silence. Marinette thought Adrien was gone.

“Mari?” He called again. She was happy he was still there. She leaned back against the porcelain.

“Yeah?”

“Do you think I’m a bad friend?”

Marinette sat up so quickly, the water overflowed into the floor. “What?”

“I mean, I’ve barely talked to Chloe in the past two years. Ever since she went away to the university… I don’t know. I suppose I didn’t keep up with her.”

She heard a low thump against the door and imagined Adrien sitting with his back to it.

“Sweetie, I’m hardly a Chloe Bourgeouis apologist, but I don’t think you did anything wrong. She could’ve called you too.”

“You think she’ll be mad that we didn’t invite her to the wedding?”

Marinette snorted. “Our fake wedding?”

She heard him chuckle. “Well, technically it wasn’t a fake wedding.”

“Nino wore a shirt with a tux drawn in and we had hot dogs.” Marinette pointed out. “Hardly a Chloe scene.”

There was a little bit of silence.

“You know she’s not that bad.” He said quietly.

It was a bit true, that, back in lycee, Chloe had made attempts at kindness. She was certainly not Mother Theresa, but had come a ways from her behavior back at college.

“She was my first friend.” Adrien commented. “You wouldn’t’ve recognized her when she was little. She was actually pretty cute.”

“Should I be worried that my husband is calling another woman cute?” Marinette joked, and for a second wondered if it was the wrong joke.

“She was cute. You’re ravishing.” She could hear the Chat-like grin in his voice. Marinette looked at the door, and then at her own skin.

Did he really think that?

“Anyways, she wasn’t always all bad.” He continued as if the joke hadn’t been made. “Things got dark when her mom left.”

Marinette frowned. “Chloe’s mom left?”

She heard Adrien shift.

“Yeah. When she was like six, I think.” He confided. “Her mother was kind of a horrible person. Its actually surprising Chloe turned out so functional.”

So you had that in common, Marinette thought bitterly.

There were moments of silence, and for a moment Marinette remembered Gabriel and his threat, and then Adrien and his confession.

She stood from the bathtub as quietly as possible and wrapped a towel around herself.

“I don’t know, Mari, one day she just took off.” Adrien continued, unaware. “She sent a message saying that she was going to Italy, and that was that. She just never pushed for a conversation again.” Adrien sighed. “And I didn’t, either.”

Marinette opened the door to the inside of the bathroom, almost dropping Adrien from where he leaned on it. He was sitting on the ground, and something about him having made himself comfortable to talk to her through the door made her happy. He looked up at her, surprised. Marinette leaned over and planted a kiss on his forehead.

“I’m sure its nothing that can’t be solved.” She said kindly, and Adrien softened.

“You think?”

Marinette nodded with a smile. “Definitely. We can also start by actually going to that party, too.”

She headed for the closet and began studying her clothes for something appropriate for the night. But what was appropriate for a surprise Bourgoise soiree?

“Its tonight, right?” She asked, going through her outfits, one by one. “I have no idea what I can wear.”

“Uhm, shouldn’t you, like…” She turned, and Adrien was blushing. “I don’t know, should you be out here in a towel? Do you want me to leave?”

Marinette rolled her eyes, goodnaturedly.

“So, I have to deal with you sleeping in your boxers every night but you can’t deal with a little towel-me?” She asked, cocking her hip. Adrien’s lips parted in surprise.

“Are you flirting?

Marinette thought about it for a second.

“Yeah. I think I am.” There was something massively empowering about making Adrien nervous. Especially now that she knew he was hers.

In his most Chat-like fashion, Adrien grinned and leaned on the closet with one hand, striking a corny pose. He looked so much like his former self that Marinette tried to laugh, but it came out as a strained giggle as she realized their distance.

Adrien seemed not to realize the position he had placed them in, and purred with a raised, coquettish eyebrow.

“I think I like the way you flirt, my Lady.”

Suddenly all her skin felt way too exposed. It didn’t seem like such a bad thing, but half her mind told her to stop this immediately, while most of her body told her to milk this for every penny she could.

“Do you ever change, kitty?” She asked, but her voice sounded drier than she wanted. As a throwaway gesture, she scratched him under the chin. Instinctively, Adrien exposed his throat a little to allow for her fingertips.

When he opened his eyes, they were sober and intense.

“Do you want me to?”

The awkwardness died with her smile. There was nothing she didn’t love about Adrien, and every minute of him reminded him of that.

“I wouldn’t change a single hair on your head for the world, Adrien.” She allowed her hand to slip from his chin to his cheek, and caressed his cheekbone with her thumb lovingly. His hand touched her wrist softly, as if wanting to keep her there, in that place of affection. His eyes seemed brighter and his face full of emotion –something unguarded that she remembered seeing that day as she watched him wake up.

He allowed his fingers to intertwine with hers and stepped closer.

“You mean that?” He barely asked, knowing that deep inside of him he was as starved for touch as he was for her words, and suddenly she was overflowing with the need to give him everything.

She shifted her body and closed the space between them, disregarding her poor state in clothing. For some reason, she felt comfortable enough around Adrien being exposed.

She watched, fascinated, as her other hand grew a will of its own and housed itself on Adrien’s shoulder. He watched her movements, too, as if only now realizing the position they had found themselves in. She nodded.

“I wouldn’t trade you for anything.” She said simply, and only had to move two inches before Adrien caught her lips.

 

 


 

 

 

Marinette woke up almost at noon. She shifted, and felt Adrien instinctively curve himself inwards, pulling a little bit at the hand he had draped over her midriff. She sighed, content, and nuzzled closer to the pillow, more comfortable than she’d ever been.

Then a thought struck her. She snapped her eyes open  and moved over to the edge of the bed to look at their alarm clock. She yelped.

“Adrien!” She hissed. Adrien, in turn, hadn’t fully woken, and only attempted to pull her back to their previous resting postion. “Adrien, its almost noon.”

Adrien drew a deep, awakening breath, but did not open his eyes. “So? Come back.” He whined.

She half-smiled, allowing him to pull her back to his side. He buried his face on her neck and spoke against her shoulder.

“Can we not go to work?” He asked, hopeful. She had her back to him, and his breath tickled her bare shoulder. “I don’t want to deal with more aftermath from last night.”

Marinette shifted in her position, worming her way into rolling over so that she could be face to face with him. When they were face to face, she saw Adrien open his eyes to that lovely, wonderful green that was exactly her favorite color. She nuzzled his neck and kissed him right under the chin.

“Not going only makes things worse.”

“What if we tell them we had food poisoning?” Adrien grinned lazily. Marinette glared flatly.

“Make your own food from now on!” She said and pushed herself back with her hands against Adrien’s chest. He chuckled, waves of laughter reverberating against her, as she pretended to struggle away from him. He simply grabbed her wrist and kissed her palm sweetly.

“Your food is my favorite, Mari.” He said simply. “I’d get poisoned every day just to eat it.”

Marinette rolled her eyes. “Do you have any idea how cheesy you are?”

Adrien grinned. It was something she wasn’t used to seeing, and it looked a little out of place in his face, but in a good way. He let go of her wrist and rolled over on his back, stretching out. Marinette sat up, facing him,

“We really do have to get ready.” Marinette pointed out. “Besides, the party’s tonight. And we agreed to go.” She said. “I don’t think Alya would let me back out of this one anyways.”

Adrien tucked a loose strand of hair behind her ear and watched her, hypnotized. “What are you going to tell Alya?” He asked absently.

“About us?” She hadn’t considered it. “Do you want me to keep it from her?”

Adrien shook his head. “No, not at all. I wouldn’t ask you that.” He said, and sat up. He intertwined his fingers with hers and looked at their hands. “I just wondered, you know, what you were going to tell her.”

Marinette looked at their hands too, and then at his face as he looked away. How could anybody expect her to resist him?

“That we’re idiots.” She said simply. He looked up at her, somewhat shocked. “And that I love you.”

Adrien’s smile softened and he laughed a little. “We’re idiots.”

“The biggest.” She agreed. “But we have each other.”

“Till death do us part.” He added.

They shared a look of comfort, love, and happiness, and Marinette relented.

“Fine, I guess we can stay in bed fifteen more minutes.”

“Thirty.” He countered.

“Ten.”

“Fifteen.” Adrien agreed.

They were late for work.

 

 


 

 

Shit, Nat?—Wait, can I call you Nat? Is that okay?

 

 

It certainly is. Is something wrong?

 

 

Oh yay! Wait, yes, I have a problem. Something came up and I can’t make it Tuesday night. Is there any way you can make it any other day? Cause I’m really looking forward to this but its my nephew’s graduation and I’m so freaking sorry.

 

 

Oh. Well, let me see what I can manage.

 

 

But there was certainly no way Nathalie would be able to manage anything. If there was one truth universally acknowledged to her, it was that Nathalie’s job had always managed to be in the way of everything.

She had missed her brother’s birthday when he turned twenty-one, and her mother’s funeral. Her father had asked her multiple times to come over during vacations, but Nathalie hadn’t taken them in so long, she couldn’t remember the last time she actually saw her father. They only managed a twenty minute conversation on Saturday nights through videophone, and Nathalie had had to learn to live with that.

But the truth was, Nathalie had never asked for more.

She had never asked Gabriel for anything. It was almost as if her job was a prize in and of itself, and she should consider herself lucky to be working with Gabriel.

But was it?

After all, Nathalie was only an assistant. She had wanted to work in the world of fashion, but had never had the knack for designing. So when she had managed to score a job working as Gabriel Agreste’s assistant, even though there was nothing she could offer creatively—well, she had considered herself the luckiest woman in the world.

But in retrospect, was it really worth all that sacrifice?

Nathalie loved her job. She loved clothes, and fashion. Watching photoshoots, seeing designs on paper turned to reality –it was almost magical. And she was allowed to be a part of this world. The problem was, she had shut out entirely everything else, and reduced herself to simply Nathalie, the Assistant.

But no more.

For once, life was giving her an opportunity bigger than the one she had gotten with Gabriel, and this time, she would not allow herself to squander it.

 

 

Can you make it tonight?

 

Oh wow, yeah, sure. How did you manage?

 

I will call in sick.

 

Can you do that?

 

It is a good day to find out.

 

Nat, I don’t want you to get in trouble on my account. Please don’t do anything that might hurt your career.

 

I am owed a lot of sick days. It will be alright.

 

Okay, if you’re sure then… yay!!! Date night!!!

 

Nathalie smiled at her phone, sitting in her office alone, and realized this was the most excited she had been for anything in some time.

 

 

 


 

Sabrina watched as the great hall of the Grand Paris Hotel became something almost out of a dream. Everything looked beautiful and almost out of this world. She turned to look for Chloe, and found her looking through the large windows that gave out to the Parisian skyline.

“Chloe, the place looks beautiful! How did you get your father to allow this?”

But Chloe seemed lost in thought. More than that, she looked sad. Sabrina rested a hand on her shoulder and Chloe snapped back to reality.

“Huh? Oh. I didn’t ask.” Chloe replied simply.

“Hey, are you okay?” Sabrina asked kindly. Chloe’s face was inscrutable, but she turned to look at the decorated room.

“I’m fine.” She said simply. “Do you think these idiots will bring the chocolate fountain on time? They better, or they will be so sorry.”

Sabrina sighed. There was no way to get Chloe to talk when she didn’t want to.

“I’m sure they will.” Was all she said, and they stayed a few moments in silence.

“You weren’t wrong.” Chloe said quietly, so quietly, that Sabrina had to force her hearing. “About going to Bruxelles.”

“Huh?”

There was a moment of silence. Chloe did not look at her. “I started reading that thing on your desk. It was really smart.”

Sabrina was at a loss for words.

“I mean, it was too smart.” Chloe continued. “You’re too smart, Sabrina. Too smart to come to my school. It wouldn’t have done you good.”

Sabrina parted her lips, jaw hanging. Could Chloe really be saying these things?

“I wanted to come with me because I didn’t want to be alone.” She explained. “But it wouldn’t’ve been the best for you. And you know what? I decided that that’s what I want.” Chloe looked at Sabrina straight in the eye. “I want what’s best for you.”

The words chimed a bell inside Sabrina that she had never known existed. She felt a sting in her eyes and wondered if she was about to start crying.

“I want what’s best for you too.” Sabrina said quietly. “I’m sorry I didn’t come with you.”

Chloe rolled her eyes. “Don’t be stupid. I just told you that you had to go to Bruxelles. And I’m far too pretty for that school. Its for nerds, after all.” There was a moment of quiet. “But as long as you’re cool about it, I suppose I can come visit you some times.”

Yup, Sabrina’s eyes filled with tears. In a fit of emotion, she wrapped her arms around Chloe and hugged her tightly. Chloe did not tense, but she did not return the hug either. Sabrina knew she was rolling her eyes, but that, deep down, she was at least content.

“Nerd.” Chloe said, affectionately. “Now come on. Its time to get ready.”

 

 

 


 

 

The day had been rather long for the both of them. Adrien had been forced into the measuring room for six hours straight, and Marinette had spent those same six hours by herself in the tailoring room, as only Jacob had been the one called to the seventh floor with Adrien.

She sat on the floor, grumbling as she hand-sewed the last details to a shirt Jacob had asked her to finish. She hadn’t seen Adrien since they’d walked in to the building that day, and it was almost eight o clock.

The door slammed open, effectively giving Marinette a heart attack.

Jacob came in, looking exhausted and dissatisfied as she’d ever seen him. He practically tripped on the clothes strewn about the floor (which he seemed to nevre bother picking up) until he reached Marinette, and then collapsed on the floor next to him.

“That was horrible.” He said, simply. Jacob rested his back against the floor and sighed. “That was not a job for one person.”

“Wait, so why didn’t you call me?”

Jacob looked at her, uncomfortably. “Madmoiselle Sancoeur didn’t allow it.” Jacob said sheepishly. “She said I had it under control, and it was Monsieur Agreste’s direct orders that you stay here working on that prototype.”

Marinette felt rage boiling under her skin. So that’s how they wanted to play it.

“Of course he did.” Marinette tried to school her rage. She took a deep breath and sighed. “I’m never getting out of here. I have a party tonight and I don’t even know what to wear.”

“I’m sure you’ll look lovely.” Jacob said kindly. “Though I can probably arrange something for you… though it probably would be this or last season’s.”

Marinette smiled. “You’d do that?”

Jacob flushed. “Of course, Marinette. You have been far more kind to me than anyone in this office.”

A thought struck Marinette.

“Hey, Jacob. Can I ask you a personal question?”

She watched him tense and guessed what he thought the nature of her question was.

“Uhm, yeah, sure.”

“How does Gabriel treat you?” She asked. She saw Jacob’s tension melt into confusion.

“Huh?” He asked. “Uh, fine, I think. He praises constantly my work and lets me go to the fashion shows to help. With a bonus.”

Marinette frowned. That was not the idea that Gabriel had given her about how he treated Jacob.

“I see.”

“Why do you ask?”

Marinette twisted her lips a little. An old habit.  “Sorry, he just--- I read somewhere that he could be very mean to the people who work for him, and I thought maybe I was getting off easy because I’m his daughter in law.” She lied.

Jacob shook his head. “Monsieur Agreste is the best boss I’ve ever had. Strict, but nobody in this industry gets anywhere being lazy.” Suddenly, Jacob lit up. “Oh! I just know the perfect dress you can use for tonight!” He exclaimed, and ran to a rack of clothes, wildly searching for something. Suddenly, he yelled with satisfaction, and produced a deep, navy blue dress.

“This should do it.” He said, satisfied. “It won’t make you sparkle like the red one did, but this one will look lovely with your eyes.”

Marinette smiled and hugged him. This took Jacob by surprise. “Thank you.” She said. Jacob didn’t hug her back, and Marinette figured he didn’t like to be touched, so she stepped back. “Sorry.”

“Thanks,” Jacob said, relaxing a bit. “Sorry, I get a little uncomfortable when people hug me.”

“Don’t be, I understand.” There was an awkward moment of quiet.

“Well,” Jacob said into the silence. “Go try it on!”

Marinette perked up and took the dress behind the rack to change.

As she changed, the thoughts of this morning seeped into her brain. Thoughts of the domesticity they had managed to niche themselves in, and of the step they had taken today. She flushed as she looked at her skin.

Feelings of skin against skin, palms against the small of her back filled her mind. The look on Adrien’s face as he pulled back from every kiss, and the way his eyes turned so adoring with every I love you.

She had forgotten what that had felt like—not butterflies, that was for children. It was electricity and hearth and warmth seeping from his skin to hers, pouring like tea and filling her skin as if taking her shape.

Of course, getting out of bed had been more difficult for her than it had to be for him. Because those would be the first steps she would take after finally erasing Nathanael’s trail from her skin. The last trace of him was finally gone.

“Hey Jacob this is---“ She began as she stepped out from behind the rack, but her voice was cut short by the image in front of her.

Genevieve was kissing him.

She must’ve come in while Marinette was lost in thought, and hadn’t heard her. She must not have known that Mari was changing there, either.

Marinette watched Jacob pull back and turn in horror towards Marinette, and Genevieve’s eyes widening almost comically slow as realization hit her.

“Oh. Oops.” Was all Marinette could muster. “I’ll just stay back here.”

But Jacob almost tripped on fabric as he tried to reach for Marinette, as if she were about to run away. But Marinette stayed still, not entirely sure how to deal with the present situation.

They spoke over one another.

“You can’t say anything—“

“Marinette, please—“

“It’s a secret—“

Nobody can know—“

Marinette raised her hands, palm forward, gesturing for them to stop. “Woah, hey, relax. I promise to keep quiet.”

Tension drained from both fashionista’s shoulders. Jacob reached for Genevieve’s hand absently. Genevieve looked at the ground, embarrassed.

“I told you to be more careful.” Jacob chided gently. “We’re lucky its Marinette and nobody else.”

Genevieve looked as frustrated as Marinette had ever seen her, which was a strange look on such a lovely, lively girl.

“I’m sorry.” She said miserably. “Its just been so awful up there. The photographer has been a jerk all night. I don’t know how Adrien keeps quiet.”

“Is he being mean to Adrien?” Marinette asked, a little sharper than intended.

“Are you kidding me? Its borderline psychological abuse.” Genevieve answered. “God knows how he’s keeping his cool.”

Marinette rushed towards the door, but Genevieve stopped her.

“Don’t go, sweetie.” She said gently. “It will only make it worse for him. Gabriel’s in a bad mood.”

“Wait, Gabriel is allowing this?”

Genevieve huffed. “He’s egging it on.”

Marinette clenched her fists. For a second, she considered running towards Adrien, but Gabriel’s threat was fresh on her mind. She decided to keep a low profile instead. She stomped towards her purse and fished out her phone.

 

Hey, Kitty. Is everything okay?

 

A few minutes passed before the reply. She pressed on.

 

Gen says its hell up there.

 

Finally, his reply came.

 

I’m fine, Mari. Its just a heavy session, is all. I’m good.

 

Marinette frowned. No puns. No smileys. No my Lady’s. It was going bad.

 

I’m sorry to hear it. Do you want me to go upstairs?

 

I would love that, but I don’t think it would be the best idea. Why don’t you finish up and go to Chloe’s party? I promise to meet you there when I’m done.

 

I have literally zero intention of going without you.

 

Ooh, my Lady misses her kitten, does she?

 

Marinette smiled and rolled her eyes. This was more like him.

 

Like the Lady from Aristocats.

 

I promise I’ll be there. Head there first and meet up with Alya, you haven’t seen her in a couple of days.

 

Okay, but if you stand me up I will take away your Plagg petting priviledges.

 

Me-ouch, my Lady, that’s harsh.

 

I’m tough, but fair.

 

Its why I love you.

 

I love you too. See you soon?

 

I promise.

 

 

Marinette put down her phone and sighed. Genevieve was looking at her, concerned.

“Are you okay?” She asked. Marinette half smiled.

“You were right, he’s having a bad time.” Marinette explained. “He told me to go ahead to the party and he’d meet me there later. I’m just not super excited to go to that party in the first place.”

“Oh, you guys are going to Chloe’s?”

Marinette blinked. “You know Chloe?”

“From a party or two.” Genevieve shrugged. “She invited me too, but I think I’d rather stay here.” She nudged Jacob with her shoulder, and he blushed. Curiosity overtook Marinette.

“Can I ask why you two keep it a secret?” She blubbered, in regretted immediately. Neither seemed bothered by that question though.

“I suppose Adrien explained that some agencies prefer their models not to date for publicity reasons.” Genevieve said, an edge of bitterness in her voice.

“Much less have their best model date the tailor.” Jacob said flatly.

Marinette shook her head. “Still the stupidest thing I’ve heard.” Genevieve shrugged as if to say I know, right. Then, some light returned to her.

“By the way, you look awesome in that dress.” She encouraged. “Adrien’s gonna fall off his chair.”

Marinette couldn’t help a flush. “If he ever gets out of here.” She muttered.

Genevieve stepped forward with her usual liveliness, erasing all traces of the bitterness she’d shown Marinette. She supposed this was an important skill to have in the world of spotlights. Genevieve grabbed Marinette’s purse and shoved it in her hands.

“Here. Run along. Go to that party before you turn into a pumpkin.”

“Cinderella didn’t turn into a pumpkin.” Jacob said flatly. Genevieve ignored him.

“I promise to send Adrien too before he turns into a pumpkin.”

“Gen, nobody was a pumpkin.”

“Go on, shoo!” Gen shoved goodnaturedly. Marinette laughed a little and decided to take the opportunity. She was, after all, done.

And had a few things to talk about with Alya.

She rushed to her best friend’s house for a good old-fashioned tandem make up session.

Nino would have to just sit down and take it.

Chapter Text

Adrien was having the king of bad days.

It wasn’t irregular to have to come in to work on a Saturday, but this Saturday morning had been particularly pleasant for him, and dragging himself out of bed hadn’t been an easy feat. In fact, if it hadn’t been for Marinette’s imposing sense of responsibility, Adrien was pretty sure he would’ve stayed there.

But that was just one of the things he loved about her.

So, he had gotten to work. Today, surprise, had been an unscheduled photoshoot.

Let me explain how rare these are.

Today was the first time in the life of the corporation that there had been one.

Nathalie had mumbled excuses about a particular photographer only being available today, and some mumbo jumbo among those lines, and before he knew it, Adrien was in the dressing room, trying on the most senseless and obnoxious pieces of clothing that he had come to meet yet.

Adrien! Focus!” Cried signore Antoni. Adrien had to actively shake his head to come back to his body. Antoni slammed the camera down and threw his arms up in exasperation. “What is wrong with you? I thought I was working with a professional!”

Adrien clenched his teeth and nodded. From his side, he felt a pat on the shoulder, and knew that it was his partner for this photoshoot, Genevieve, giving her support. Adrien took a deep breath.

“Wardrobe!” Called Antoni. “And make-up!”

Adrien resisted the urge to groan. Make up again? He had been retouched at least four times in the past twenty minutes alone.

Scusi, Adrien, do you have something to say?” Antoni raised his eyebrow. He was vastly known in the industry for being as talented as he was cruel. Adrien bit his tongue.

“No, signore,” He replied, bored. Before he could say anything else, he was whisked away to the wardrobe, where his clothes were pulled at and disregarded in a way that made him feel used.

Like he was nothing more than a perch of clothing.

Adrien emerged from the curtains. He could get through this. He could.

Mari was waiting for him, and they had a party to attend. Nothing could ruin this day, right?

The doors slammed open, and even with the lights on his face, Adrien recognized the ripple of tension that covered the atmosphere whenever his father walked into a room.

“Ah, signor Agreste,” Antoni intoned. “You came-a to see how the session was a-comin’?

Gabriel said nothing, and simply nodded twice, the way he always did. Antoni must’ve been used to it, since he looked fantastically pleased with himself. Adrien took a deep, decisive breath. If Gabriel was here, he had to bring his A game.

He would not have his father have anything to say about his work.

Or so he hoped.

The rest of the session ran smooth. For eight hours. No breaks were given to him, and whenever Gen took hers, Gabriel insisted Adrien keep shooting. He was allowed some water between takes, but mostly he spent the day melting under the spotlights directed on his face.

He didn’t even have a second to go see Mari.

It was eight at night when Genevieve was dismissed. She faltered, looking at Adrien, but he only waved at her, silently communicating that he would be quite alright and she should take her leave while she could. After all, it had been a very heavy session for the both of them.

“Now we can work on solos.” Antoni said, satisfied, and with every picture—every flash of the camera—Adrien read the different expressions in Gabriel’s face.

Flash.

Distaste.

Flash.

Disappointment.

Flash.

Displeasure.

Strangely enough, he was not entirely bothered by the assessment. That was when Antoni finally had to take five minutes to change the rolls in the camera. Adrien checked his phone.

 

Gen says its hell up there.

 

Adrien sighed and wiped the sweat off his forehead. Leave it to Mari to worry.

He smiled. She was always so thoughtful.

He texted her for a few moments, until he heard Antoni’s shrill voice call him back to set. With Marinette’s messages still in his mind, Adrien overtook the rest of the session in better spirits, meeting his father’s disapprovals with defiant smirks of his own.

Ironically enough, this pleased Antoni.

Much better, Adrien! Wonderful!” He kept calling and praising. In a matter of half an hour, he was done.

“So I can go?” Adrien asked wistfully.

“Yes, yes, whatever.” Antoni dismissed without as much as a second glance at Adrien, who, in turn, pretended not to see his father still standing in the corner, and rushed to find some clothes before meeting his Lady.

 


 

 

Marinette brushed Alya’s hair softly. She had always loved the volume of her best friend’s hair, and the way it twisted naturally into almost rings over her shoulders.

“Hey, uh, I have something to tell you,” Marinette began clumsily.

Alya hummed appreciatively, half as an answer, half at the Marinette’s ministrations. Her eyes were closed.

“Uhm, well, I—“ Marinette said. “I think I—Damn it.”

Alya opened her eyes and met Marinette’s in the mirror.

“Its okay, take your time.”

Marinette sighed. How was it that they could read her so well? And why was it that she always needed time?

Marinette steadied herself holding one of Alya’s locks and spoke, meeting her friend’s eyes through the mirror.

“I think I’m in love with Adrien.”

Alya did not react. She simply remained observing her best friend for six seconds of quiet. Then, mercifully, she broke the silence.

“You think?”

“Pretty sure.”

“How sure?”

“Okay fine,” Marinette admitted. “I’m 100% sure that I reverted back to my teenage years and am currently in love with Adrien Agreste.”

“Aah.” Was all Alya said.

“Could you, like, you know, react or something?”

Alya reached for Marinette’s hand, tangled in her hair, and gripped it firmly and lovingly.

“Mari, we’ve been watching you guys fall in love for months. It was about time you two figured it out.”

Marinette was at a loss for words. “Months?” She squeaked.

Alya nodded. “From that first picture at the party that came out on Fashion News.” She chuckled. “You didn’t “fall in love” as much as you sauntered vaguely towards it.”

Marinette sighed and hung her head. Alya always seemed to be one step ahead of her.

“Cheer up, Mari. From the looks he gives you, and the fact he calls you Princess, I’m pretty sure he loves you too.”

At that moment, like a rose blooming, a breathtaking smile took over her lips. Alya’s heart stopped for a second at the sight of such sincere happiness, and something inside of her shone as well.

“That’s the thing. He does.” Marinette tried to contain her giddiness. “I think…. I think we’re in love.”

There.

Alya twirled on her chair and jumped to her feet, throwing her arms around her best friend with a squeal.  She didn’t hold back.

After all, she’d been calling it for the past six years.

 


 

 

Genevieve and Jacob took it upon themselves as a personal mission to find the right clothes for Adrien, and they did it fast. They assembled an outfit for him faster than Adrien would’ve thought possible, considering the thousands of options that there seemed to be, and the incredible state of disarray in which Jacob’s studio perpetually existed.

“There!” Gen exclaimed. “That does it! Marinette is going to swoon!

Adrien flushed. “I don’t think Marinette is the type of girl to swoon.” He replied, embarrassed.

“Trust me, she will swoon. Swoon!” Genevieve clasped her hands to her chest and looked away meaningfully. Jacob simply tied Adrien’s tie for him. Adrien blushed harder. “Sorry, I’m not good at… tying ties.”

Jacob chuckled. “Mari does it for you, does she?”

A blush was his only answer.

“Now go, Romeo, before you turn into a pumpkin!”

“Gen, there was no---- never mind.”

Adrien rushed out the studio door so fast, he almost collided with his father. He only barely managed to miss it by the pure grace of his old Chat Noir instincts.

“F-father,” he spluttered. Gabriel looked down at Adrien from under his glasses.

“And exactly where are you going?” He asked coolly. Adrien knew this game, but he was far too old to play it.

“Chloe’s having a party. Marinette is probably there already. So unless you want the paparazzi wondering why she’s alone, I suggest you let me through.”

Gabriel’s frown deepened, and so did the crease in his eyebrows. This was as displeased as he had ever seen his father.

“Adrien, enough.” He barked. Adrien flinched. “This little game of house has gone on quite too long already. Do not forget that the second the two years are over, she is done.”

A moment of bravery overtook Adrien.

“And what if its not?” He asked. Gabriel furrowed his brows in confusion. Adrien licked his lips. “What if its not done? I’m not done.”

“Adrien, I allowed this---“

“That’s the thing.” Adrien snapped. “You seem to think you get to allow things. But I don’t think you really do, anymore. I think a bad image is bad for the both of us. Actually, you, more than me.” Adrien reasoned, almost baffled. “I don’t care about the spotlight. I don’t even care about the company. I can do whatever I want in any other field.”

“Adrien--!” His father began, but Adrien pushed through.

“Actually I’m done here.” He said simply. “Good-bye, Father.”

Gabriel watched as his son walked away from his crumbling reality.

 

 


 

 

Alya, Marinette and Nino arrived at the party at roughly 9.30, when it was only beginning. The halls were teeming with people she remembered from college and lycee, and some people she couldn’t quite place.

“There’s Chloe.” Nino said, pointing right next to the bar.

There she was, in all her glory: Chloe Burgeoise. She wore a yellow and black dress that matched her complexion pleasantly without being gaudy. Marinette supposed that after all this time, Chloe settled down a bit. Next to her, Sabrina beamed at the newcomers, as if she were the host as well.

“Come on, let’s go say hi.” Alya commanded, and dragged Marinette too greet their host.

“Welcome!” Chloe said, her tone shrill as it had ever been, and her eyes not without a hint of malice. For a moment, Marinette figured she should be careful of whatever Chloe had in store.
“Thanks for having us, Chloe.” Alya said graciously, and Nino echoed. Marinette pouted but took a deep breath.

“Thank you for inviting me, Chloe.” She said rather drily. Chloe cast her eyes in her direction.

“Oh look, if it isn’t Marinette Dupain-Cheng.” She said haughtily. “Or should I say Marinette Agreste?” She added, and Mari tensed. “Where is your husband, now that I think about it? I do hope he doesn’t leave you stranded.”

So, she was as miserable as Marinette remembered her. Good to know.

“He’s on his way. The photoshoot just ran late.”

Chloe frowned. “I thought he didn’t model anymore.”

“He didn’t. He started again right after we got married.” Marinette explained, and watched Chloe frown.

“Why? He hates  it?” Her tone was accusatory, and frankly bothered Marinette.

“Why don’t you ask him yourself?” Marinette countered, her temper rising. She felt Alya pull her by the arm and away from Chloe, and allowed herself to be taken away. She glared at Chloe until she was quite a good distance away from her.

“Ugh, she hasn’t changed one bit.” Marinette said. “How can anybody be this insufferable?”

“Chill, Mari, don’t let it get to you.” Nino said, clapping her on the shoulder. “Come on, let’s have… oh, shit.”

Marinette looked at Nino, confused, who was looking at something behind her. Alya caught the same look, and Marinette couldn’t help but turn around.

“Oh.” Was all she said.

 


 

 

Nathalie knocked on her boss’s office.

“Monsieur Agreste?” She called, nervously and hid behind a cough. She waited for his instructions.

“Come on in, Nathalie.”

Nathalie stepped in carefully, hoping the excess powder she had put on her skin would hold. She had, after all, to look sick enough to dispatch for the night.

“Sir, I came to---“ As she stepped in, she noticed his desk was empty. Gabriel Agreste stood by the windows, watching the lights illuminate the city. “Is everything okay?”

Gabriel was quiet. As the silence expanded, Nathalie realized that waiting for an answer was futile. She was about to speak, when he talked. “What do you need?”

Nathalie coughed awkwardly. “I just—I’m not feeling too well. I was wondering if you’d mind terribly if I went home for the night?”

Gabriel said nothing. Nathalie noticed that whatever bothered him, it was terrible, and it would be her job to fix it.

Just not tonight.

“…sir?”

“Go home, Nathalie.” Gabriel said dismissively. “Take tomorrow off. I will see you on Monday.”

Baffled, Nathalie nodded and stepped outside, closing the door. She fished her phone and typed quickly.

 

I will meet you in front of the store.

 

She pressed send and dashed quickly home to change her clothes into something more apt for a date.

 

 


 

 

Marinette stood like a deer in the headlights as she watched Nathanael draw closer to her. He wore that small, pleasant smile she was used to, along with some clothes she remembered picking for him a long time ago. Knowing him, he hadn’t gone shopping since they had broken up.

“Hey Marinette.” He said softly, almost under the music. But Marinette heard him. “Alya, Nino.” He nodded at each of her friends in turn, and then came back to Marinette. “How are you doing?”

Marinette fiddled with her fingers for a moment until she felt a glass of champagne being shoved in her hand, courtesy of Alya. She drank it in one gulp and was finally reay to face Nathanael.

Because the truth was, some part of her was happy to see him. Some part of her had missed his presence in her life, even though she had overcome her romantic feelings for him. She was happy to note that there were no stirrings of an old flame in her belly, just sheer, terrible awkwardness.

“Hi, Nath.” She squeaked. “I, uh, I’m good. You?”

“I’m good.” He said simply, and she caught the way his eyes cast down at her glass of champagne. More accurately, at her ringed finger. “Can we talk a little? In private?”

Marinette sighed and nodded. She turned to Nino and Alya and gave them an apologetic smile. Alya nodded sagely, and Nathanael led her to the balcony.

From the staircase, Chloe watched everything with a satisfied smirk.

 


 

 

Adrien arrived at the party at 10.30, sure that Marinette would be upset at him for having her wait so much. He just hadn’t counted on running into his father, or the fact that Gorilla wasn’t waiting with the car, so he’d had to take the train.

He stepped inside and saw the room filled with people he knew from his days at the College, and his heart swelled. Wherever he saw, there were friendly faces greeting him, pleased at his arrival. He greeted some of them, all the while scanning the crowds for Marinette.

“Hey bro.” Came Nino’s voice from behind him. Adrien perked up and turned to meet his friends, standing together, looking quite like the power couple.

“Hey guys,” he smiled. “Have you seen Mari?” He didn’t miss the way Alya grimaced for just one second. Adrien frowned. “Is she okay?”

Nino scratched his neck. “She’s fine. She’s just… probably having an even more awkward conversation than this one.”

“What?”

“We didn’t know he’d be here.” Alya added quickly. “I promise.”

Adrien followed Alya’s eyes and turned, and there, he saw. Marinette was outside talking to Nathanael.

And she did not look happy.

Adrien stomped towards the glass doors, ready to save his wife, when his path was obstructed by a tiny, yellow object.

“Look what the cat dragged in,” Chloe said bitterly. Adrien looked down at her, flabbergasted.

“Chloe, give me a second, I have to—“

“Oh no, by all means, take your time, Adrien Agreste,” she said venomously. “I’m just the friend you haven’t seen for the past two years. Nothing to worry about.”

“Look, just give me a second to—“

“Go rescue Marinette from the claws of the Art Monster?” She added, snidely. “What? Aren’t you secure enough on your marriage to trust her? Oh by the way, congratulations on the wedding. I guess my invitation got lost in the mail.”

Adrien sighed. “Chloe, I can explain.”

“And I really want to hear that explanation.” She said sarcastically. “So why don’t you take five minutes to do what you haven’t done for the past two years, Agreste?”

Adrien looked at Nathanael and Marinette. She was hugging herself from the cold, and she looked mildly uncomfortable, but it didn’t seem like anything out of her reach. Adrien sighed again.

“Okay.” Adrien said. “But what I’m about to tell you can’t leave this conversation, alright?”

 


 

 

Nathanael looked at the sky wistfully and said nothing to Marinette. She in turn, was freezing out in the cold.

“Sorry, I guess I didn’t think this through.” Nathanael said and offered Marinette his jacket. She rejected it politely. Nathanael’s shoulders slumped as he put it back on. “Listen, Mari—“

“Actually,” Marinette interrupted. “I think its better if you call me Marinette.”

Nathanael let out a little huff. “Don’t you think that’s a little cold?”

Marinette took a deep breath. “I’m sorry. I’m not trying to be cold. I just—I had a really hard time getting over you and I can’t risk it.”

“Yeah, well.” Nathanael replied bitterly. “You clearly got over me quickly. Tell me, how long did you wait before rushing to Adrien’s arms? A week?”

“That’s not how it went.”

“No?” Nathanael was losing his cool. “Cause from what I remember, you spent a lot of time swooning over Adrien. Tell me, was I just a distraction?”

Marinette frowned. “How can you say that? That’s not fair.”

“Oh no? Then how do you explain that you couldn’t go to New York with me because it was too soon but the second Adrien showed up in the picture you suddenly were very keen on getting married?”

“The situation was different, Nathanael.” Marinette begged. “Please understand.”

“That’s the thing,” He countered. “I don’t understand. Less than one year and you were already married to someone else? I think its pretty clear that you still had a thing for him when we were together.”

Marinette crossed her arms, mostly to ward off the cold. “This conversation is over.” She said and twirled on her heel.

“Wait, Marinette—“

“What, Nathanael?” She snapped. “Tell me, what good does this conversation do us right now? You have your life in New York and you’ll probably find someone so much better than me for you.” She slumped her shoulders, her own words stung a little. “Just give it time.”

Without further ado, Marinette rushed inside the hall, leaving Nathanael alone outside.

 


 

Chloe looked everything but impressed.

“Seriously? That sounds like the bad plot for a poorly written fanfiction.”

Adrien frowned. “It’s the truth. All I wanted was to help Marinette.”

“And how come you didn’t pay a fraction of that attention to me?”

“What--?”

“I thought we were friends.” Chloe jammed her finger into Adrien’s chest. “But I disappeared without a trace and you didn’t even blink. Why?” There was desperation in that question.

Adrien felt the weight of her rage and sadness and he realized: he had fucked up.

“Chloe… I’m sorry.” He said, slumping her shoulders. Chloe seemed not to hear him.

“I just spent the worst two years of my life and you didn’t even spare me a thought.” Her voice quivered. “Then I come back and you’re bringing the moon down for Marinette Dupain-Cheng?”

Adrien was at a loss for words. She was right.

He reached to her and held her by the shoulders. Her face was cast away at the floor. “I promise I’ll make it up to you. Just please, please forgive me.”

Chloe looked up at Adrien and sniffled with a little smile.

“Being mad at you is so hard, Adri-chou.” She said, and threw her arms around him. “Please don’t leave me again.” She whispered against his shirt.

Adrien just hugged her. From over her head, he caught sight of Marinette as she waved at him, and then looked at Chloe. Adrien didn’t have to make a gesture. Marinette nodded in understanding.

He hugged Chloe for a good ten minutes.

 


 

Marinette had tried to find Alya and Nino, but they were dancing, and she’d wasted enough of Alya’s time as it was. She had looked for Adrien, but he was with Chloe.

She watched the party goers around her, all of them lost in the fun of that night, and felt terribly alone for a moment. She felt someone come up to her.

“Are you okay, Marinette?” Juleka asked, her voice timid and shy as it had always been. Marinette forced a smile.

“Of course. Its just been a long day, and I’m a little tired.” It was true. With everything that had happened that day, Marinette just wanted to go home. She said so.

“Why don’t you?”

Marinette smiled. “Adrien is a little busy, and we haven’t seen each other all day. I kind of wanna wait for him.”

“He doesn’t look too busy to me,” Juleka said, pointing right behind Marinette. Before she could turn, a pair of arms wrapped themselves around her, and suddenly all the cold she had gathered vanished.

“Sorry princess. I was fixing some bridges.” He said kindly. Marinette looked up at him, a comical head shorter than her husband. “I saw you talking to Nath.”

Marinette winced. “Yeah. It was pretty ugly.” She sighed. “How was your conversation with Chloe.”

“Eh, it started bad, but I think its salvageable.” Adrien yawned.

“Sweetie, do you want to go home?”

“You sure?”

“Definitely. Let’s bounce.”

 


 

 

They reached home before midnight.

“What did Nathanael want to talk about?” Adrien asked as Marinette grabbed a blanket and wrapped it around herself. He headed to the kitchen for something to eat.

“Actually… I don’t think we ever got around to talking about whatever he wanted. We sort of started fighting from the get go.”

“Yeah, it went a bit the same with Chloe.” He grimaced and looked at Marinette. “I had to tell her the truth.”

Marinette nodded. “That’s fine, Kitty.”

Suddenly, Adrien yelped in victory. Marinette slumped herself on the couch. “What?”

“How tired are you?”

“Just kind of,” she lied. The look of mischief in Adrien’s face told her she didn’t want to be tired for whatever was coming.

Adrien raised a bottle of the wine he had bought for Gabriel’s visit (which they hadn’t used, since Gabriel had brought an even more expensive bottle). His eyes sparkled.

“Wanna have a few drinks and kick my butt in Mecha Strike?”

The excitement of the prospect managed to raise Marinette from the dead.

“Oh, hell yes.”

 


 

 

It was one in the morning and Marinette had won most of the fights. To beat her, Adrien had recurred to cheat tactics, such as planting kisses on her cheek to distract her or poking her in the stomach playfully a couple of times. The bottle of wine was already gone and they were warmed to the bones.

“Adrien!” Marinette laughed. “Stop, you cheater!”

Adrien had reached at her control and fumbled with the buttons in the hopes of making her lose. Marinette had attempted to avoid him by pulling the control out of reach, but Adrien’s arms were longer.

Adrien won that fight.

Marinette scowled playfully. Her cheeks were red with laughter and wine. “Cheater!” She called, laughing.

“Hey, I take my victories where I can get them.” He grinned. It was so Chat-like.

“Okay, one more fight and then bedtime. I can barely keep my eyes open.” Marinette decided. “And this time no touching the other player’s controller.”

They began the fight, and, this time, Adrien seemed like he was going to win, so it was Marinette’s turn to cheat.

As he was about to deliver the final blow, she planted a sweet, smooching kiss on the base of his neck, right on the side. A wave of tension rolled over Adrien and Marinette secured victory before he could counter.

“Ha!” She cried.

“Oh, yeah?” Adrien asked, mischievously. “Screw the game.”

He pounced.

The controllers fell to the floor, forgotten, as Adrien tackled Marinette into the couch. Her laughter echoed across their apartment, happiness and drunkenness were in both’s blood, though Marinette knew the headiness had more to do with Adrien than it did the wine.

Their battle ended in kisses that were only interrupted with bubbles of laughter, until they lay together in the couch, Adrien’s feet awkwardly hanging from the edge and Marinette practically falling off the side. Adrien held her in a hug. Marinette sighed, content.

“Hey Adrien?” She called as she felt a bubble of joy nest in her chest.

“Yeah?”

“I love you.” She whispered. She felt Adrien’s heart as it skipped a beat.

“I love you too.” He said tenderly.

Marinette rose her head and kissed him sweetly, and he returned the gesture. She disentangled herself from him and stood up, cracking her back.

“Come on, lets go sleep.” She said and offered her hand. Adrien took it and followed her to the bedroom.

“Unzip me?” She asked, giving Adrien her back. He did, and felt a pressing urge to kiss her skin as he did. He planted a sweet kiss on her bare shoulder. Marinette shivered and turned around. Before Adrien could ask if something was wrong, she wrapped her arms around him and kissed him passionately. He wrapped his arms around her and lifted her thoughtlessly, laying her down gently on the bed.

“I love you.” She said with a smile. “And I’m in love with your dorky self.”

Adrien felt bubbled of joy fill his chest. He made it clear how much.

That Sunday, they woke up at noon.

Chapter Text

It was already ten, and Nathalie was still worried about her wardrobe.

Now, don’t get her wrong. She was obviously on time to meet Clarisse. In fact, she had been here for twenty minutes, even though they had agreed to meet at ten, because she was just that kind of person. The point is, Nathalie was nothing if not punctual.

Good manners aside, Nathalie was exactly on the edge of her nerves right now. Everything inside of her yelled that Clarisse wouldn’t come, and that maybe this was all just a prank played on her. Or maybe Clarisse wouldn’t like her anymore after the date. Or maybe, or maybe, or maybe.

Her mind rolled and riddled with anxiety and nervousness –suggestions of everything that she could do wrong in this date—and she wondered if maybe it wasn’t better to let sleeping dogs lie and call all things off. After all, she had been doing pretty well with her life up to this point, so why drag herself through the mud for something that didn’t matter?

Nathalie sighed.

It did. It did matter.

She had locked herself up her work and thrown away the key. It wasn’t that Clarisse was some magical password that would open everything up, but her taking a night off to be with someone she liked… it was progress. A step in the right direction.

Besides, she liked Clarisse, was there something wrong with that?

“Nath!” She heard the sweet, high pitched voice call from her left, and turned to see Clarisse rushing towards her. It took her a moment to register everything.

Clarisse looked more beautiful than she remembered. She could only see leggings and her coat, but she knew she looked stunning. She wore a lovely shade of make up that went wonderfully with her dark skin, and her hair was loose in ringlets that somehow managed to be a controlled chaos.

Controlled chaos. That’s what she needed in her life.

“Hey!” Clarisse panted into a cloud, her smile was radiant and full-toothed, and even the lipstick smudge in Clarisse’s teeth was endearing. She looked, radiant, Nathalie noticed, and wondered if she would ever be able to smile that fully at someone. “Sorry, have you been waiting long?”

“Not at all,” she replied in her most pleasant voice. Words were stuck in her throat, like a badly swallowed meal, but she managed to choke out three words: “You look lovely.”

She wasn’t sure, but Nathalie could’ve sworn Clarisse was blushing.

“Look who’s talking!” Clarisse gushed and reached for Nathalie’s hand, taking it in her own. Once again, Nathalie was marveled by the ease with which Clarisse seemed to move in the world. “You look like one of those women in the magazines!”

Now this was untrue, Nathalie knew. She wore slacks and a turtleneck sweater under an open coat, which was definitely nothing special.

It didn’t stop her from blushing at the compliment.

“Shall we go? I have reservations at Giorgio’s.”

Clarisse’s jaw dropped. “Wait, we planned this date today.” She rushed. “How did you get a reservation there?”

At this, Nathalie had to suppress a mischievous smile.

“I know a few people.” She shrugged nonchalantly. “Because of work.”

Taking Nathalie by surprise, Clarisse linked their arms together, pressing herself close to Nathalie as they walked. “Oh yeah, you haven’t even told me what you do for a living.” She moved with ease, as if walking like this—arm in arm—was nothing out of the ordinary. It took Nathalie a second to gather her words.

“No-nothing special.” She stuttered. “I just work for a fashion company.”

“Oh wow!” Clarisse grinned. “Which one?”

“Have you heard of Gabriel?

Clarisse scrunched up her nose. “Maybe? I don’t know, I just buy anything that looks pretty.”

This time, Nathalie couldn’t help it. She let out a chuckle.

“In a more important subject,” Clarisse began, “How’s Plagg?”

“Honestly, I haven’t seen him since we met. His owners are kind of attached to him.”

“Yeah, well who wouldn’t be? He’s so cute with those big ‘love me’ eyes.”

And so they went along the streets of Paris, chattering idly away as they reached the restaurant. The Maître D’ recognized Nathalie immediately and escorted the ladies towards their table. It was hardly the best one in the house, but it was comfortable and well lit, and at the moment Nathalie didn’t care about much else than the adorable, darling woman facing her.

“So you’re a golfer?” Clarisse asked, baffled but humored. “That’s like, last in the list of things I pictured you doing.”

Nathalie flushed. The air inside the restaurant was more than a little warm, and she pretended that this was the reason for her red cheeks. The Waiter brought a bottle of champagne with two glasses without a word, and lit the candle between them. If he was bothered by the fact that this was a date between two women, he didn’t show it.

“So, is Jason your only brother?” Nathalie asked, sipping her drink. It had a hint of sweetness that was rather pleasant.

Clarisse shook her head. “God, no. I have 3 brothers. All boys.” Clarisse rolled her eyes. “They’re a mess, but I love them. How about you?”

Nathalie shifted. “Only one, and I haven’t seen him in a while.” She hesitated for a few seconds, then, “though if I can be completely honest with you… I kind of feel like my boss’s son is a bit like that, you know?”

She stuttered. Where had that come from?

“Yeah?” Clarisse’s smile was warm like a summer breeze. It made Nathalie feel at ease. “How so?”

“You know, saying it out loud—it sounds silly. Forget I said anything.” Nathalie flushed and drank some more champagne.

“What? No, come on! Its obvious that you really care about him.”

“Well,” she hesitated for a moment, and then threw caution to the wind. “He’s twenty, and has always been the sweetest boy you’ll ever meet. I had to homeschool him until he was fifteen, and since his father was very strict I couldn’t exactly socialize but… I care about him, deeply.” Nathalie smiled. The truth felt comforting in her mouth.

“That’s so awesome. Is that why you know mandarin? How many languages do you speak, anyways?”

Nathalie shrugged. “I barely speak it. And then only English and French.”

Clarisse rolled her eyes and snorted. “’Only’”.

The evening was pleasant. Clarisse had a terribly endearing habit of somehow managing to get sauce in her nose when eating pasta, Nathalie learned. Clarisse found out, in turn, that Nathalie ate her food methodically and separately, almost like a child. She found this characteristic adorable.

By the time they finished dinner, Nathalie wasn’t sure if she was fuller from the meal or from the intense, fleeting feeling of joy that was overtaking her. It was almost midnight by the time they reached Clarisse’s apartment. It was absurd, but Nathalie had wanted the night to go on. She hadn’t been this… happy, for a while.

They were at the door of Clarisse’s building, and Nathalie was sure she saw her date’s face fall in disappointment.

“I guess… we’re here.” Clarisse said.

“Yes, I suppose so.” Nathalie responded. “It has been a lovely night. Thank you, Clarisse.”

Clarisse laughed. It sounded to Nathalie like bells chiming. “Thank you, Nath.” Her smile wasn’t gone, and she blushed as she said, “I really like you, you know.”

This took Nathalie by surprise. She had never found herself to allow her feelings to take over, and speak them freely. This was only one of the many things that were so wonderful about Clarisse.

“I like you, too.” Nathalie replied quietly.

Then, for the first time in years, Nathalie did something bold and brash.

Without a word, she stepped closer to the step on which Clarisse stood, and leaned closer slowly, just in case Clarisse wasn’t comfortable with it. But a wisp of a smile came over Clarisse’s lips, and a spark lit in her eyes as she closed the remaining distance between them, and kissed Nathalie.

It was a full, one minute, sweet kiss, one that Nathalie would remember for the rest of her life. It was the first time in years that she allowed emotion to overtake reason, and she was immediately seeing the results.

It was far, far more wonderful than she ever could’ve thought.

They both pulled back slowly, but shared the warmth between them. Clarisse’s hands rested on Nathalie’s shoulders easily, and kept her neck warm, though Nathalie supposed that at this very moment nothing could ever make her feel cold again.

“Do you want to go out again tomorrow?” Nathalie blurted. “I have the day off, and this week I have to travel to London.”

Clarisse just smiled, which Nathalie could swear on her mother’s grave lit up the entire street, and nodded. Then, she grimaced.

“Wait—tomorrow I have to open the shop. My brother can’t work tomorrow so I’m alone.” She explained, her disappointment clear.

“What If I came by and helped?” Nathalie asked, dumbly. “I do not know much about flowers, but I can handle clients and finances as well as any other person.”

Clarisse’s face lit. “Really? You would do that?”

At this point, I would do anything to see you smile like that again. She thought.

“Of course.”

Clarisse squealed in excitement and hugged Nathalie, stealing a kiss from her lips.

As Gorilla picked her up a few minutes afterwards, Nathalie could only thank her stars that hearts could not explode.

 


 

 

Marinette twisted on her side of the bed.

She stretched with a mewl and turned, looking for Adrien’s warmth on the other side, the faint taste of alcohol vanishing from her mouth. She opened her eyes.

Adrien’s side was empty.

“Adrien?” She called quietly, as if there were somebody else in their home. Or maybe she didn’t want to break the spell they had woven together.

Marinette stood from the bed, throwing over herself a nightgown, and exited the room. “Adrien?” She called again. There was no answer.

As she stepped into the hallway, she heard sizzling and smelled smoke. With caution, Marinette grabbed whatever was handy, which in this case was a lamp, and emerged to the living room, which had an open counter to the kitchen.

She raised the lamp in self defense—

--and slowly put it back down, baffled.

“Adrien?”

Her husband yelped awkwardly, skipping back from the oven. He held in one hand a bowl, and in the other, a pan. From the looks of it, he was making…

“…Pancakes?”

Adrien grinned sheepishly at her. He hadn’t bothered putting on a shirt after last night, which seemed like a terrible idea, considering he was using the stove.

“Hey Mari.” Adrien smiled at her, and it filled her heart with bubbles of joy. This, Mari. Not Princess, like Chat, or Marinette, like Adrien from before.

Mari.

“Do you know how to cook?”

“Ah, that is a good question.” He replied, and it was funny how much like Nino he could be some times. “No, I do not.” He laughed a little. “But I figured it couldn’t be too hard.”

“And?”

“And I was wrong.” He grinned.

Marinette loved this. Her easy smiling Adrien. Quick to laugh, free to love. He was unshackled by his father, it seemed, and was finally free.

And Marinette loved him.

She walked towards him and hugged him, stealing a kiss. Adrien smiled and returned it, but before he could speak, Mari said:

“How about I teach you?”

Adrien simply grinned and nodded.

It was a wonderful suday.

Chapter Text

The car picked up Adrien on Monday morning.

Marinette knew he was exempt from attendance in his classes, considering his—she supposed—unique situation as the sole heir of a gianormic multimillion dollar corporation. That didn’t mean he wouldn’t be studying during this trip, though.

Marinette sometimes wondered how Adrien handled all that pressure on his shoulders.

Anyways, Marinette knew his phone rang at 5.30 in the morning. It was a good thing Nathalie had decided to call ahead, considering that they had both completely slept over Adrien’s alarm and would’ve probably had to dealt with a really awkward situation should Nathalie have had to let herself in once again.

But anyways.

Adrien rolled out of bed, while Marinette stayed inside her cocoon. It was far too cold outside to not be completely covered in blankets at every possible second. Adrien showered and got ready, his bag packed from the night before, and emerged from the bathroom looking sharp and smelling good.

“I’m leaving Mari.” He called gently, laying a hand on her shoulder. Marinette twisted on her side of the bed and opened only one eye, lazily.

“Don’t.” She grumbled. Then, she threw her arms around his waist, locking him in. “You can’t go.”

Adrien chuckled and ruffled her hair before pressing a kiss to her crown. “Its only three days. I’ll be back before you know it.”

Marinette sighed and rolled off the bed, standing up awkwardly. “Fine,” she yawned. “But give me a proper goodbye.”

Adrien smiled, standing up and wrapping his arms around her grandly, and enveloping her in a hug. He kissed her cheek, then her forehead, then her nose. Before kissing her lips, he looked at her fondly and lovingly.

“I’ll see you soon, Buginnette.” He whispered, and leaned in for a kiss. Marinette pressed her finger against his lips and grinned. Adrien looked confused.

“Sorry kitty,” she smiled apologetically. “Morning breath. You don’t wanna kiss me.”

Instead, Adrien kissed her finger and then her forehead. “I always wanna kiss you.” He muttered. He shrugged and kissed her cheek before grabbing his bag and hurrying out the door. Marinette followed him all the way to the main entrance of the house and waved him off.

Then she went back to bed.

She really didn’t have much time to settle in back to sleep before her phone woke her up. Up to her nose in bedsheets, she considered letting it go to voicemail, but somehow the urgency of that default ringtone made her decide against it. Flipping her phone, she was surprised ot find that the caller was a restricted number, but---

Wait.

“Hello?” She answered, using her most ‘awake’ voice. She really, truly hoped she wouldn’t recognize the voice at the other end.

“Marinette.”

Nope. Yeap. She did.

“Fa—Monsieur Agreste?” She replied in almost a squeak. Marinette shut her eyes in the hopes of erasing her embarrassment, but sadly that was not how reality worked.

“I want you here at seven.” He said simply, and then the line was dead. Marinette gaped at her phone, and then looked at Plagg.

“Did he just—?”

But Plagg just watched her for a few seconds before yawning and laying his tiny head back on his paws.

“Don’t look so superior.” She mumbled as she reached for her closet, casting out the day’s outfit. “You’re going on a diet if you keep gaining weight.”

But Plagg ignored her instead, and kept on sleeping, which invoked every grain of Marinette’s envy.

She was out of the house about forty minutes later.

 


 

 

Marinette rushed past Amid with a curt ‘good morning’ which had more to do with the fact that there were only five minutes to go before seven than it did with the fact that, last time they met, Amid had been moderately rude to her. This time, he did not attempt to stop her, and in fact looked mildly embarrassed when Marinette rushed in, a mumbled ‘Madame Agreste’ his only greeting.

Marinette rushed up the elevator and past empty offices to reach Gabriel’s very own, feeling only the mild pool of respect she still felt for him as an artist.

The entire way here, Marinette wondered why she as answering Gabriel’s call. She had, after all, been repeatedly threatened and mistreated by him. So why should she bother?

He image of Adrien’s face was the answer to every question.

He had told her about the short conversation they’d had before Chloe’s party. Well—it was less of a conversation than it was a live burial. However, Marinette knew that Adrien had been thinking about that a lot these past two days.

She caught him several times looking away, his lips moving just a little, as if he were recreating a scene in his head and answering to  whatever was happening.

Adrien also talked in his sleep, and, through mumbles, he had called to his father a couple of times.

So, as two plus two equals fish, Marinette decided that maybe, just maybe, possibly retconning the entire father-son relationship that Gabriel and Adrien had wasn’t a good idea. While it was true that Gabriel had a lot to atone for… well, she had been Ladybug, right? Wasn’t it her job to fix this kind of thing?

Yes, continuously fixing the things he himself broke.

Would she spend the rest of her life cleaning up Gabriel Agreste’s messes?

Marinette sighed. She would for Adrien.

She knocked on the door to his office and waited for a few seconds.

No answer.

She knocked again.

“Come in,” came the reply. Marinette opened the door.

And there he was: Gabriel Agreste, Fashion Tycoon, in all his glory. Pressed suit, shined shoes and combed hair, he looked nothing like the artist Marinette had seen before in this office.

He finished typing whatever he needed to in the computer without turning to meet Marinette. She stayed in awkward silence for a good two minutes before Gabriel was done and finally turned to see her.

“Ah, Marinette.” Was all he said.

“Monsieur Agreste,” she replied, respect tangled with defiance. Gabriel looked at her, a mixture of forced boredom and superiority clear in his face. It seemed to her, he wanted to gain the upper hand in this game of power once again.

“I thought I told you to call me ‘Father.’”

Marinette blanked. Whatever his game, she wanted no part in it, though she had just made a promise to herself that she’d help the Agreste men into a more sane relationship.

God, this man would be the death of her.

“Yes, Father.” She replied simply. First thing she needed to do was quell Gabriel’s rage, preferably. Otherwise she’d be working on the graveyard shift from now on, and then he’d have her banned from all the important fashion shows coming up.

What was that saying about the egg and the rock?

There was another moment of awkward silence as he continued to write on his computer, pretending not to notice her standing there. Marinette waited a full five minutes before clearing her throat.

“You needed me for something, Father?”

“Ah yes,” he said simply. “As you know, Nathalie is away in London with Adrien, so I will need someone to cover for her.”

Marinette was very sure she had swallowed her tongue.

“I’m sorry, what?”

“I don’t expect you to be at her level, of course.” He explained. “Schedule a few appointments, take some notes. I’m sure its nothing you cannot handle.”

It was as if nothing from the past week had happened.

“That is… a very big responsibility.” She chose her words carefully. “I appreciate the opportunity.”

Yes, an opportunity to fix the bridges with him.

Exactly what she needed.

Gabriel waved dismissively with his hand. “It is nothing. Besides, it will do well for the press to see us together.”

“Of course.” Was all she replied.

“Now, I need to you take these files and archive them in the computer. Can you do that?”

Marinette blinked, repeatedly.

“Yes, of course.” She said as she took the stack of papers from Gabriel’s hands. Carefully and finally out of Gabriel’s radar, she stepped outside from his office and set them down in Nathalie’s desk before sitting herself down, and wondering.

It seemed as if Gabriel pretended that nothing had happened in the last week. Surely, he was colder to Marinette, but not openly hostile. What could he be playing at? And now giving her this job?

What was going on inside his head?

She shook her head and didn’t allow herself to think deeply into it, instead throwing herself into the files that he had given her. It seemed that it was old contact information about certain lower end clothing stores. Nothing suspicious there, but it did give Marinette a headache, and it had her working until noon nonstop.

When one in the afternoon arrived, Marinette nearly fell out of her chair in surprise. She rushed towards Gabriel’s door and knocked frantically.

“Yes?”

Marinette stepped in.

“My apologies, Father.” She said, almost laughing at how formal she spoke around him. “I have to get to class. Can I take this home and work from there tonight?”

Gabriel just waved dismissively, which Marinette took as a positive sign, and rushed out of the building quickly in the direction of the university.

That day, class finished at five. Before she left, the professor called out to her.

“Madame Agreste?” Called Monsieur Vremont. Marinette hesitated before turning to him.

“Yes?”

“I received a call from Monsieur Gabriel.” He said his name with feat and reverence, and Marinette was sure that was what she had sounded like until not long ago. “He says you have potential, but we need to hone it.” Vremont explained. “Since you are working for him, I expect more from you than I do from other students. I want five new accessory designs for Friday.”

“F-five?” She stuttered. Vremont simply nodded, self satisfied, and closed his suitcase. Without much in the way of a farewell, he disappeared through the door.

She didn’t have time to think much before a new text message reached her phone.

 

I am expecting you in thirty minutes. We have work to do.

-GA

 

Funny, she never expected Gabriel to be a texter.

Without another thought, she rushed off back to work.

 

 


 

 

Archiving, transcribing, revising and reporting.

The most menial yet exhausting tasks invented in the world all fell in Marinette’s lap exactly that day. When she reached her home that night, she was pretty much crossed eyed with pure exhaustion, and wondered if she’d ever find the energy to get up again as soon as she crashed on her side of the bed.

Plagg climed on and pawed crossly at her face, meowing loudly.

“Kitty, no.” Marinette grumbled. Instead of complying, Plagg let out a loud mewl and pawed her in the cheek, almost like a kitty-slap.

Marinette opened an eye and glared at him half heartedly. “You’re mean.” She muttered. “If I give you food, will you let me sleep?”

Plagg simply stared at her.

She dragged herself out of bed and managed to pour most of the formula on the plate. As Plagg ate happily, she crashed in her bed.

It felt like only five minutes had passed before the alarm rang.

The next day was the same: class, menial work, design, squeeze in appointments, answer the phone, don’t have time for lunch. If Gabriel was looking to punish her, he was doing a great job.

Of course, the little rest she got ensured that several of her activities were done thoughtlessly, especially considering the scarce amount of time she had to perform each. It wasn’t a surprise that her designs came up subpar, and she was too ashamed to present them on Friday. These two days had had Marinette more on edge than she thought she had ever been (workwise, at least). When she crashed that second night, she didn’t feel satisfaction, rather than a feeling of impending doom for the day to come.

No. She had to stay positive.

Maybe, just maybe, if she weathered the Gabriel storm, he’d come to respect her a little bit.

The next day was no better, and this time, she accidentally fell asleep during a meeting. She woke up to the sound of a clearing throat and several disapproving glances on her, all of them crowned by Gabriel’s blank expression. She excused herself and rushed to the bathroom.

Sitting down in a closed toilet seat, with the stall closed, Marinette cried in frustration.

It was silent, mostly, with a few choked sobs. She didn’t want anyone to hear her, after all.

Just as she thought this, though, the door opened.

Of course.

Marinette bit her hand, trying to bite back the frustration. The person who had walked in stood quietly for a few seconds before knocking on her stall.

“Marinette?” Genevieve’s lovely voice echoed in the bathroom. “I saw you rush in here.” She said quietly. “Are you okay?”

Marinette took a deep breath and tried to sound as okay as she wasn’t. “Hey Gen,” she said, hearing the sound of her stuffed nose. There was no way Genevieve wouldn’t notice. “I’m fine,” she repied, which sounded more like ‘fide’.

The door moved a little, but not enough to open, and Marinette pictured Genevieve pressing her hand against the door. “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing.” It sounded like ‘Dothig’.

“Sweetie, I’m not trying to be pushy but I am a pushy person.” She said kindly. “So please tell me what’s wrong.” She waited in a few seconds of silence. “Tell me how to help you.”

Defeated, Marinette took a deep sigh and slumped her shoulders.

“I’m just having a tough time dealing, that’s all.”

“Gabriel giving you a hard time?”

Marinette sighed. “University and work and just… things.” She wasn’t about to tell Gen about the family feud.

“Do you want to go out for drinks tonight?” Genevieve asked, kind of out of the blue.

“Huh?”

“I’m sorry. I know I pushed you to tell me whats wrong, but I don’t really know how to help other than listening to you… I know Adrien’s on a trip, so maybe you want to go out tonight? Maybe for a little while?”

Marinette thought for a few seconds before reaching for some paper and blowing her nose. Witout another word, she opened the stall door and looked at a very surprised Genevieve. Marinette smiled a little and grabbed her hand.

“Its okay.” She said, this time a little more sincerely. “Thank you.”

Genevieve looked at her as if she wised to protest, but Marinette stopped her.

“I still have a lot of work to do, and a project due on Friday… I’ll be fine.” She sniffled a little, a lot more settled than she had been when she came into the bathroom. “Maybe after this week from hell is done we can go for dinner, though.”

At this, Genevieve smiled genuinely. It struck Marinette really how beautiful she was, even without all the make up. It made her wonder if she had many friends.

“I’d love that.” Genevieve squeezed Marinette’s hand in return, and Marinette let out a breath. She caught her reflection in the mirror.

“Oh my god, I look terrible.” She said, lightly. “I can’t go back upstairs looking like this.”

Genevieve brightened. “It’s a good thing you have me, then! Stay here!” She gushed before running out of the bathroom. In a matter of minutes, she was back with some make up. Marinette didn’t want to know where she kept it.

In less than ten minutes, Genevieve had Marinette looking not only as if she hadn’t been crying, but also prettier than her usual self. Clearly, Genevieve knew more about make up than Marinette ever would, especially considering, as she had confided in Marinette, that if she hadn’t been a model she would’ve liked to be a make up artist.

Marinette was sure a bond had been forged that day with Genevieve, the same way the strongest bonds between women form: as a mess in a bathroom.

She returned when the meeting was over, but Gabiel said nothing, instead giving her more papers to transcribe.

Marinette. needed to weather the storm. She just hoped she was strong enough.

She just didn't understand that the strength she would muster would not be enough for what was yet in store for her. Work would soon be nothing but a speck in her rearview mirror.

Chapter Text

“Oh.”

“Yeah.”

“Okay.”

“You’re disappointed.”

“No…” Yes.

“I’ll change the flight.”

“Adrien, no.” Marinette said. “Its not your fault that your work got set back a couple of days, but its not theirs either.” She sighed. “Who would’ve thought it would rain so hard in London?”

“Everyone, Mari.” Adrien deadpanned. “Literally, everyone.”

“Okay, yes, fair enough, but the point stands.” She pressed. “You can’t come back early cause your wife is being whiney.”

Adrien huffed, offended. “Of course I can!” Then, after a second, “and you’re not whiney!”

Marinette smiled softly at Adrien’s antics. Looking at him through the phone screen certainly made her feel somewhat melancholic, but for crying out loud, it had only been three days! She couldn’t spend her life joined at the hip with him.

“Adrien, its okay.” She soothed, giving him a brave smile. “I have everything handled down here. Your father actually made me his assistant while Nathalie is gone.”

Adrien frowned, and Marinette figured this had been the wrong thing to say.

“What? Why?”

Marinette waved her hand dismissively. “He’s probably trying to connect!” She said, even though she knew it was a blatant lie.

“Yeah…” Adrien said, unconvinced. But there was a hopeful gleam in his eye. She knew that this fight with his father had been driving him nuts.

Which is exactly why Marinette wanted him to stay in London for a few days. Maybe if they lowered the levels of insurrection for a few days and did as he asked, he would calm down. However, if Adrien decided to defy him again and come back anyways… well they’d never find a way out of this antagonistic hole the three of them found themselves in.

Now, it wasn’t that she was willing to give in to everything he asked, but maybe, complying with the simpler requests was a good way to start. Staying four more days in London wasn’t unreasonable if the work wasn’t done.

Adrien sighed. “Okay, I’ll stay.” He looked at her through the phone. “But just because you asked me to.”

Marinette smiled brightly at him. “You’re the best, Chaton.”

Adrien looked at her warmly. “I really miss you Buginnette.”

“I miss you too.” She said quietly, and it crushed her heart a little. “But its okay, you’ll be back before I know it, right?”

This gave Adrien some spirits. “Right. And then you can kick my butt in videogames again. I’m picking up a few on my way back.”

“You get a few days to prepare. As an advantage from me.” She joked. Adrien laughed.

“Okay, I’ll make good use of it. For now I’ve got to go… I love you, Mari.”

“I love you too, Adrien.”

 


 

“Have you finished those reports I asked for?” Gabriel asked.

“Yes, Father.” Marinette replied.

“Alphabetizing the calendars?”

“Yes.”

“Sent those emails?”

“Yes.”

“Good.”

Marinette hadn’t slept in four days.

Ever since she woke up to see Adrien off, she hadn’t slept more than an hour a night. You see, in order to keep up with Gabriel’s never ending demands, she’d had to sacrifice sleep, friend time and several of her meals. It wasn’t strange that she was already feeling dizzy and weak, but there was no way she would say that out loud.

Luckily, there was one person who had her back through all of this, and she was almost six feet tall.

Lunch hour came around, and Marinette was at her desk when she heard the click of high heels. She didn’t look up from the computer until she heard the rustling of a bag as it was practically dropped on her desk.

“Eat.” The command was delivered with no preamble.

“Its okay, Gen, I---“

“Not a question.” Genevieve pressed. “I haven’t seen you eat ever since you were transferred. If you don’t eat that entire panini I swear I’m calling Adrien.”

“What? No!”

“Then eat.”

Later, when asked about the most impressive things Genevieve had ever seen, she would reply ‘I once saw my friend eat a panini in five bites’ as one of the most awe inspiring.

As the day went on, Gabriel asked more out of Marinette. The only solace she found was the fact that it seemed to be taking an astounding amount of work to break her, and that was saying something, talking about the former Papillon.

Marinette was slipping through the cracks of her life and wondering how she would ever survive until Adrien’s return when the intercom sounded.

“Marinette?”

This shook her awake.

“Yes, Father?”

“I want you here for a meeting.”

“Yes, Father.”

She wondered how many times Adrien must have said those words growing up.

Gabriel stood up, as if he had no hurry in this world, and led Marinette through a door she had never crossed. In fact, she hadn’t noticed it before. To be honest, she always kept her eye on the main door when she was here, as if always looking for a way to escape.

But the other door led them further in, to a room she hadn’t even suspected existed. It was nothing strange, just a fancy long, mahogany table in fornt of a state-of-the-art 72-inch television.

Damn these rich people.

“Take a seat, Marinette.” Gabriel invited calmly, while taking a seat at the head of the table. As he did, the television turned on by itself, and a large female face filled the screen.

“Mr Agreste!” The lady cried over the screen. Marinette flinched. Her tone of voice was over the top and a little too loud. “Blimey, is it a pleasure!”

Ah, and she was british.

Marinette’s headache began pulsating.

“Stephanie, I would like you to meet my daughter-in-law. Marinette, this is Stephanie.”

Stephanie smiled brightly.

“Oh, you must be Adrien’s wife! He speaks so highly of you.”

Marinette laughed nervously. “It’s a pleasure…”

“Stephanie here is the coordinator of Adrien’s activities while in London.” Gabriel explained, and Marinette felt a moment of peace at feeling that Gabriel was doing something, even if it is small, like explaining this for her benefit.

“It is so altruistic of you to let us keep him for the month.”

Marinette’s eyes widened.

“The month?” She shrieked. Stephanie looked taken aback. Gabriel didn’t twitch an eyebrow. Without warning, Marinette slammed the end button on the control screen in front of Gabriel, and turned to him, eyes blazing.

“What.” She seethed. Gabriel remained impassive.

“Ah yes, I have yet to tell Adrien that the event will last a month.”

“And you think he’ll just say yes?” She demanded.

“Of course he will. And you will encourage it.”

“The hell I will.” She hissed. “I am done with this, Gabriel. You’ve mistreated me over and over again, you’ve got me worked to the bone and I know you don’t respect me. Enough is enough.”

“You seem to be forgetting who I am.” He said, and his tone dropped an octave. Just enough to give Marinette a shiver.

She scoffed. “How could I forget? Are you going to throw in my face that you are paying for my university? Or that you could destroy my career? You know what? Fine. Keep your money and your influence. I’ll find my way above surface one way or another, I just hope you realize one thing.”

“What would that be?” His voice was quiet and terrifying.

“I love Adrien.” She announced. “And he loves me. So you might want to throw me under any old bridge you want, but I am your son’s wife. Maybe you would make him choose between you and me, but---“ She stopped, out of air.

Oh god.

That was it, wasn’t it?

Gabriel would always have her under his thumb, wouldn’t he?

Because whatever he did, Marinette wanted what was best for Adrien. She wanted what Adrien wanted, and she knew that what he desired was to fix bridges with his father.

If she stayed, then she would be making him choose.

But if she left… could she leave?

No. God no.

That was the one thing she couldn’t do. Simply because she wasn’t strong enough.

“But I wouldn’t.” She finished quietly, and then, looked up at Gabriel. She didn’t realize her eyes were welling up until the first tear rolled down her right cheek, marking a way of warmth that quickly froze over.

There were several seconds of quiet as Marinette picked up pieces of her shattered self. She looked up at Gabriel, whose face was no longer impassive. He seemed defensive—he knew what he was fighting for.

“How can you do this?” She asked quietly. “You loved Beatrice, right? Why can’t you let the same thing for Adrien?”

Quicker than anything she had seen before—faster than she knew he could move—Gabriel was on his feet.

“Don’t you dare speak of her!” He hissed. Marinette knew she was crossing a line, but she was far too riled up to care.

“Or what? You’ll destroy my reputation? Try to ruin my marriage?” She scoffed. “You’re out of tricks, Gabriel.”

“You’d like to think so.” His voice was low and dangerous, but shaking. He was only inches away from the broken man he had been the day they defeated Papillon.

“No. I wouldn’t.” She stepped away, but never broke his gaze. “You were my hero. Everything I aspired to be. I through you were an artist—just everything I could wanted to be—but you’re not. I would trade all that talent you have for one good day with your son. I would trade everything in you to see Adrien happy.”

“You have no idea what I have done for him—“

Marinette lost it.
“Oh, you mean how you turned into a super villain and tried to steal Ladybug and Chat Noir’s Miraculouses to bring back your dead wife?”

Silence swallowed the words. There wasn’t even an echo.

The second the words were out of her mouth, she knew she had lost, but the fire in her wasn’t quelled.

“Don’t you dare pretend you did that for him, cause it was all for your own damn, selfish self.” She seethed. She could barely see through enraged tears, but she knew that everything in Gabriel’s face was abject horror and surprise. She felt the seas of anger descend, and caught the echoes of everything she had said.

Oh no.

She squeezed the tears out of her eyes and turned her back on Gabriel. He said nothing, and they were left in stunned silence for a minute. Marinette used this time to compose herself.

“I—I have to go…” She rushed towards the door, but before she could open it, she heard a choked gasp and the sound of something blunt hitting the carpet

Nothing she had ever seen in her life had prepared her for this image. Not even the revelation of their enemy.

Gabriel Agreste was on his knees, a look of terror on his face as he held a hand to his left chest, squeezing his lapel, as if something hurt him. In no time, he was on the ground.

Marinette screamed at the top of her lungs.

Chapter Text

Adrien wouldn’t answer his phone.

Of all the times—of all the crisis—this was the moment when Adrien chose to not pick up his phone.

Marinette sat in the waiting room of the hospital, a loud ringing in her ear that just wouldn’t stop. She was the only one there, with the sound of the television in the background. She stared at her phone blankly, waiting.

Waiting for Adrien to answer. Waiting for the doctor to come.

Waiting.

Of course, they had heard her scream. Security and the top floor workers rushed inside the meeting room, and found Gabriel Agreste face up on the floor, Marinette working compressions on his chest. He had fallen, and she had looked for a pulse, the way her CPR classes had taught her. In their absence, she began desperately trying to do something.

In ten minutes, the ambulance was there. It had been like a slow-motion nightmare, her thoughts dissociated and removed from her head. Paramedics had asked if there was any member of the family who would ride the ambulance with Gabriel, and Marinette didn’t remember stepping forward, but found herself a few minutes later looking at his pale face, oxygen mask clouded with condensation. His eyes were closed, and she wondered if he’d ever open them again.

Once in the hospital, nurses had stopped her as he was rushed to the Emergency Room. She was led by a nondescript assistant and sat down in a chair, where she hadn’t moved. All ofthis could’ve happened days ago, but no. She had only been sitting for an hour.

And Adrien didn’t answer his phone.

“Family members for Gabriel Agreste?” A disembodied voice called, and Marinette all but jumped from her seat. She turned around to see a doctor—young with red hair---calling to her. She scurried towards him, trying to read anything in his expression. He eyed her for a second. “What is your relationship with the patient?”

“Dau-daughter-in-law.” She stuttered, then cleared her throat. “He’s my husband’s father.”

The doctor nodded. His voice was low and calm, and somehow exhudated a sense of control, even though it drove her nuts.

“Monsieur Agreste is alive.” He said, and Marinette all but wept in relief, but the doctor wasn’t done. “He had a heart attack.”

The words sank in. The doctor didn’t see her turmoil.

“We were lucky enough to bring him in on time. Procedures were iniciated on time, and he should make a full recovery—”

Heart attack.

Heart attack.

Heart attack.

“But at the moment he is in a delicate state, and will remain in the intensive care unit. Is his son coming?”

Dazed, Marinette shook her head.

“He won’t answer his phone.” Her mouth was filled with cotton.

“What about his wife?”

“Widower.”

The doctor nodded gravely. “I see. So I suppose you’re his only family then.”

Marinette nodded.

“Visiting hours just started. You may go in, but do not stress him.” The doctor explained. “Stress is probably what got him here in the first place.” Then, as he saw Marinette;s ghostly face. “Accumulated stress over a long period of time associated with poor care for his own health.”

Then suddenly it clicked for her.

She had never seen Gabriel eat. Not properly. The first night they dined with him he was called away soon after the meal began. The food hadn’t arrived. The night she and Adrien had him over he had barely touched his meal before the fight began and he stormed out. Whenever she and Adrien had popped by the office during lunch hours, he was always working.

He was always the first to come in, before the sun rose, and left late. The times she had walked by the office at night, she always saw his lights on.

Gabriel Agreste had worked himself half to death.

And the only person waiting for him was her.

“Madam? Are you going?” The doctor asked, ripping her out of her reverie. Barely conscious, Marinette nodded.

His room was isolated, she noticed as he led her into the corner of the intensive care unit. She supposed it was some kind of VIP treatment. After all, it wasn’t hard to guess that Gabriel probably knew a few people with influence. The doctor stopped at the door and gestured her in.

“Visiting time is over at six. Please be punctual.” He said, and then left her alone. She watched the door close slowly before she could gather the courage to look at Gabriel.

He looked… broken.

The image of Papillon weeping on the floor was nothing compared to this. That day, she had seen him torn—in pain—but what she saw right now was a puppet with its strings cut. It was the shell of a powerful man, who, behind all the smoke and mirrors was nothing more than a wispy, white haired man who needed a mask to help him breathe.

Marinette felt her breathing speed up, and then her nails dig into her skin, and every part of her body urged her to run.

“Monsieur Agreste?” She called softly at him. He didn’t open his eyes, so Marinette walked closer, and sat down in the chair next to his bed. “…Father,” she whispered.

There was no answer.

“I’m… so sorry,” she said softly, and finally the pricking behind her eyes finally resolving into the first nascent tear in her eyelid. “I’m so sorry about everything.”

And then, in silence and with only the soft beeping of the monitors in the room, Marinette allowed herself to cry.

There were a few minutes of quiet sniffling before the she heard it. It was low and raspy, and she could barely make it out, but soon she recognized the words.

“How did you know?” His voice was raspy and quiet and practically tumbled over gravel. Marinette scurried closer to him. He looked at her through his mask—weak, tired, defeated. Marinette reached for his hand, half expecting him to take it away. He didn’t.

She said nothing, and suddenly he nodded, as if understanding.

“How old were you?” He asked, then he… chuckled? “I was defeated by a child…”

“Monsieur Agreste—”

“Its alright.” He said quietly. “I have asked you to call me Father.”

There were a few moments of quiet. “I had thought you didn’t like me much,” Marinette said, and felt immediately dumb.

“You make my son happier than I have seen him in years.” He said softly. “I can appreciate that much.”

Marinette squeezed his hand. “I’m… sorry.”

Gabriel ran a thumb over her knuckles. For a moment Marinette wondered if he was seeing her and not someone else.

They stayed in silence like that. It was somehow awkward yet comforting, and Marinette thought how ridiculous this situation was—she was comforting Papillon on what could be his deathbed.

“Have you spoken to Adrien?” He asked into the silence, which was drowned by the steady beeping of machines.

“He hasn’t answered his phone.” Marinette said quietly. “He’s still in London, as far as I’m concerned.”

Gabriel said nothing. Marinette read his silence.

“He’ll come running when he hears. You know that, right?”

Again, Gabriel held his peace. Marinette understood that it wasn’t her place to push.

Thankfully, a voice coming from the speakers pleasantly announced that visiting hours were over. Marinette got up quietly and realized Gabriel was asleep.

She slipped out of the room and, once again, tried calling Adrien.

This time, he picked up.

Chapter Text

Unfortunately, Adrien didn’t have a great reason not to pick up his phone.

That morning, he woke up late in his hotel room. Truth was, he’d spent a bad night, like the ones that Marinette’s presence had kept at bay.

See, ever since his mother’s disappearance, Adrien sometimes had nightmares in the night. He would maybe wake up in cold sweat, or simply couldn’t sleep at all. But ever since he had gotten married—even since before he had fallen completely head over heels for his wife—her warm company had kept the monsters at bay. She fought away his fears as well as she had fought every akuma they’d ever faced.

The point was, he’d spent a bad night. The first one in almost a year.

He’d tossed and turned half the night, and woken up systematically the other half, unable to sleep. So when he finally managed to sleep, just the slightest bit, of course the alarm clock woke him up, late. He’d had to shower extremely quickly and rushed off in the direction of his next shoot. The phone had been forgotten in his bed.

The day hadn’t even been heavy, but when it was done, Stephanie had come up to him when he was eating a bagel –his first meal of the day goddammit—and she was nervous. He hadn’t seen her like this before.

“Hey, Adrien?” She asked. “Can I talk to you for a minute?”

“Yeah, sure. What’s up?”

“I, uh, spoke to your father—he did mention that we were extending the shoot for a month, right?”

Adrien dropped his bagel.

“The m--? What?” His heartrate increased. “No, no, no.” He smiled awkwardly, waving his hands. “I’m sorry, I can’t do that. My, uh, my wife is waiting for me back in Paris.”

Stephanie nodded, looking stranger still. “Yeah, its just… when I spoke to your father he made it seem like it was okay.  But now that I called him again, well—”

“Okay?” Adrien frowned. “This is my first-time hearing about it.”

Stephanie bit her nails. She was barely into her thirties and a lovely shade of blonde, but her behavior wasn’t too different from a collége student.

“Well, I mean, I understand that. But, uhm, I think you should call home.” Stephanie suggested, a light grimace on her face. “I think your father and wife had some sort of… disagreement.”

Adrien patted his pockets. “My phone—I left it at the hotel.” He sighed. “Its okay, I’ll find it later.”

And so, he kept working.

Meanwhile, his head ran through all of the possible scenarios pertaining that fight. Of course, it was a terrible idea, considering that there was nothing he could do about it, but questions abounded.

Why had his father said it was okay? And why a month? How had Marinette reacted to the news? He supposed it had started another fight. One they definitely did not need…

It was nighttime when they were finally done, and Adrien dropped by the supermarket to grab something to eat before going back to the hotel.

His room was, of course, clean and orderly. His phone sat perfectly perpendicular to the border in his nightstand. Adrien placed his food on the table and… well, he hadn’t eaten all day. Surely his messages could wait five minutes.

He sat down, alone, and had a sad, supermarket dinner. The quality was undeniably lower, but the sentiment of solitude was exactly the same as growing up, and for a moment, he felt as if he’d never left his father’s house in the first place.

His thoughts drifted to Gabriel.

Adrien loved his father, but sometimes he could be so hard to care for. Before Marinette had insisted, Adrien and his father seldom saw each other for dinners, even at home. In fact, he could probably count with one hand the amount of times they’d had dinner together in the year before he’d gotten married.

And about that, Adrien supposed that maybe, part of the reason why dinners were becoming more frequent was perhaps because his father was… well, maybe a little bit jealous?

But was that fair in the first place? It made Adrien feel like a toy Gabriel had tossed aside and only cared for now that someone else was picking it up.

So, Adrien took the initiative. He would not stay the month working in London. It didn’t matter what Marinette said, or how good it would’ve been for his modeling career, it simply wasn’t happening.

It was about high time Adrien grew a pair and told his father that not everything was the way he wanted it to be, and that maybe Adrien wasn’t at the tip of his fingers the way he wanted to believe.

Adrien stretched as he stood up. Resolutions like this were good for the soul.

He threw himself in bed and reached for the phone in his nightstand.

Adrien pressed the home button and the screen lit up. Suddenly, everything inside Adrien went cold.

 

Marinette – 27 missed calls

 

He fumbled with the phone, sitting up and trying to dial her number. Before he could press send, the phone rang again, this time it was Marinette’s smiling face staring back at him. He answered, knowing that whatever was coming, it was bad.

“Mari?”

“Adrien!” She exclaimed, her voice a strange mix of emotions that he couldn’t quite comprehend. The only thing he understood now was that she was safe, and that was all that mattered.  “Oh god, Adrien.”

The relief was short lived, as it turned into dread.

 “Mari? What—”

“Its your dad.” He could hear the break of her voice on the other side of the line. Suddenly he felt dizzy, and with the strangest sensation of a hole ripping open in his chest. “Adrien, I’m so sorry.”

“Is he---” He couldn’t finish the sentence. Couldn’t stand from bed. He was stuck in a limbo of things that were only half happening.

“We’re at the hospital.” She said, finally clearing her voice. She sounded so strong, he noticed, so much like the way she always had in a crisis.  “Your father had a heart attack but we got him here on time. We’re in intensive care.”

Adrien felt his poor dinner climb up his throat. He pushed it down.

“Mari.” Was all he could say.

“Its going to be fine.” Her voice was confident and reassuring. “Just buy yourself a ticket and get here. I’m not leaving the hospital.”

“Marinette, I need you to keep me posted. Do you understand?”

“Of course.”

“I mean anything that happens I need to know.”

“I promise. Just come home.”

“I’ll be there in a few hours.”

Adrien hung up the phone and promptly made it to the bathroom to throw up.

 

 

 

Nathalie’s phone fell into the bathtub.

There was no sane explanation for that, but the insane explanation included a silly video she was sending Clarisse. And no, it wasn’t that kind of video. Nathalie simply enjoyed sending cat videos, and she’d been about to get in the tub that afternoon when the phone fell into the hot water.

So, she’d tried to dry it with a hair dryer but it wouldn’t turn on. She left it by the heater to see if it would work in the morning, but for now it seemed pretty much like a lost cause.

She got in the tub anyways, not so much mourning her phone as she did her time talking with Clarisse.  In the short time they’d been together, Nathalie realized she could not have been happier. It was strange, realizing that there was something missing in your life you never knew you needed. But the space was filled, and it was a perfect Clarisse-shape.

That Sunday she had spent working at the flowershop with her showed her that maybe… maybe fashion working wasn’t the be-all end-all. It was… interesting, yet daunting, to consider that there was more to life than those four walls she had gotten so used to.

There was a bang on her door so hard, Nathalie almost slipped on her bathtub. The banging continued.

“Nathalie!” Adrien’s voice was desperate and terrifying. Nathalie wrapped a towel around herself and rushed to the door, the London cold biting at her skin even inside her hotel room. She opened the door and found Adrien on the other side, wide eyed and downright terrified. His eyes had edges of tears showing.

“We need to go back to Paris.” He commanded. “Now.”

“Adrien—what--?” She began, but he pushed the door and walked in. Suddenly she felt very exposed, and tightened her grip on her towel. Adrien didn’t even look at her, though, and ran his hands through his hair.

“Its my father.” He said, his voice shattered. “He’s in the hospital. Marinette called.”

Nathalie felt her knees go weak. “What…?”

“He had a heart attack.” The words were obviously hard to say, but Adrien managed. “He’s in intensive care.”

Immediately, Nathalie’s mind began working a thousand miles per hour. Plane tickets, check out, cancelling and reprogramming of duties, taxis, hospital.

Check, check, check.

“Go pack. We leave in an hour.”

 

 

Marinette spent the rest of night sleeping in an uncomfortable chair in the waiting room, her head half lolling over the side of the chair. There was a crick on her neck and her mouth was dry, also her bra had begun chafing.

But she didn’t leave.

She didn’t leave when the cleaning lady came at two in the morning. Not when the nurse gently nudged her that it was better to wait at home for news rather than being alone. Now when her phone ran out of battery.

Marinette didn’t leave.

Dr Wen—Gabriel’s Cardiologist—had been far kinder than Marinette had expected. She had quietly explained to him their particular situation, and security had tightened around the ICU—well, that’s what he’d said, though Marinette supposed there wasn’t too much to tighten. After all, ICU visits were restricted.

Marinette lay her head listlessly against the back of the chair and stared at the TV, not quite listening to what was being said. The only other person in the room was a woman in a blue shirt, that soon disappeared behind the doors of the waiting room. Marinette’s mind drifted.

How ironic could all this be? Former Ladybug watching over former Papillon.

After all he had done—after everything that happened—Marinette had found herself a part of his family, and the main reason why he was in Intensive Care.

Yeah, best not dwell on that too much.

Blue obscured her vision. It took MArinnette a moment to realize that it was the other girl from the waiting room. She held two cups of coffee.

“Hey,” she said with a shy smile. Marinette only half smile. She was so tired. “Sorry, you looked really tired… You’ve been here longer than me. I figured you could use some coffee too.”

Marinette sat up and looked at her tiredly. She smiled genuinely.

“Thank you, that’s far too kind. You didn’t have to.”

The girl flushed and shrugged, handing her a paper cup and some sugar. Marinette took her coffee with absurd amounts of milk and sugar, to tell the truth, but she didn’t want to spurn the girl’s kindness.

“Why are you here?” Marinette asked politely. Or was it polite to ask something so invasive? Her voice was raw, maybe she just needed to talk a little bit.

The girl sat down next to Marinette. “My sister, she’s 12. She had a horseback riding incident. Been here for three days.”

“I’m sorry, that’s too bad.” She said kindly, then, she gently held her plastic cup for the girl to hold. She looked confused. Marinette smiled perkily at her. “You have ten seconds to get out of here before I call security.” She said. “I’ve spoken to everybody here and there isn’t a single girl in the ICU from a horseback riding incident. If you’re a reporter, you better hope I don’t find out before you leave, or I will make sure to pull as many strings as I can to get you fired.”

Marinette watched the color drain from the girl’s face. She spluttered an unintelligible apology and rushed out of the waiting room before Marinette could fish her phone (which was still without battery, so that was an empty threat).

Her eyes drifter to the television again and she nodded off once more, until Dr Wen came back in the early morning.

“Madame .” He came to her quietly, not voicing her name so people wouldn’t try to eavesdrop. Marinette would never be able to repay these small gestures of kindness that both the nurses and the doctor took to ensure their privacy.  Dr. Wen stood in front of her and she snapped to attention, still half disarrayed from her unconventional sleeping quarters.  “Monsieur Agreste is stable,” he said quietly. “It would be quite alright if you decided to go home, at least for a little while. You look tired.”

Marinette tried her best to look as not-completely drained as she knew she did.

“I’m okay.” She said quietly. “My husband is on his way. I’d rather not leave Father alone if I can help it.”

Dr. Wen nodded doubtfully.

“You are not doing yourself any favors,” he said as kindly as he could, though Marinette had the very strong and sleep-deprived-fueled thought that maybe he should just mind his own business. “Either way, his condition hasn’t changed much. His lab tests are stable and he’s receiving enough oxygen as it is, which is good news.” He looked at her pointedly. “But I do need you to understand that his condition can change just as quickly.”

“You mean he can die.” She said flatly, dissociated.

“It’s an outcome for which you have to be prepared. So far it seems his body received the STENT catheter pretty well and there seems to be no post operative complications, but that can always change.”

Marinette nodded. “But he’s doing better, right?”

Doctor Wen hesitated. “He’s stable. That’s as good as we can hope for.”

Marinette let her head drop, tiredly. “Thank you.” She said finally. Dr Wen mumbled a few words of politeness, but Marinette’s head was simply elsewhere.

“You can go in to see him now.” Dr. Wen said finally.

Marinette half dragged herself inside the ICU room where Gabriel Agreste was still hooked to the machines. There was a constant beeping and the sound of the ventilator working. Marinette slumped on the chair and watched him sleep for a couple of minutes, almost nodding off.

“You haven’t left.” Gabriel’s voice was grave in that strange medical silence. It was raspy and tired, and it made Marinette weary. She sat up straighter, the slightest bit.

“You thought I was leaving?” She half asked.

“No, I suppose Ladybug wouldn’t.” He said, and looked towards the falling IV drip. Marinette felt a flare of irritation roll through her.

“I’m not Ladybug anymore, you know.” She snapped. “I did this mostly for Adrien.”

“’Mostly?’”

Marinette’s anger dimmed. “I couldn’t leave a dying man on his own. No matter who he was.”

There were a few moments of silence.

“Master Fu chose right.” He said. Before Marinette had a chance to snap back, he continued talking. “I saw it ever since you were a child. Strength, drive, and an insatiable need for justice.” He chuckled. “If only I could’ve gotten you on my side.”

There were a few thousand answers to that, but Marinette settled for: “if only.”

They were quiet for a few moments.

“Any news on Adrien?”

“He’s on his way.” She replied, and suddenly her voice felt heavy and tired, the way she herself felt.  “My phone is out of battery, but he should’ve arrived a little while ago at the Airport.”

And then, Marinette watched the way his hand, which had twisted itself on the railing of the bed, relaxed. “Did you really think he wouldn’t come?” She asked incredulous.

Gabriel was quiet.

“Adrien loves you. More than anything. And you thought he wouldn’t come?” She pressed.

“I have made mistakes.” Was all he replied. Marinette felt bubbles of disbelief and angry shock at him press against her lips, but she swallowed them all. He was, after all, bedridden.

“The doctor says you’re progressing well.” She half-lied. “Hopefully soon we can transfer you to a  regular room.”

“There;s far too much to do—”

Seriously?” Marinette snapped. It seemed that Gabriell had a map to all her buttons and pressed them deliberately. “You almost died and all you care about is work?”

“My life is in that company.” Gabriel replied, but it seemed more exhausted than defensive. “Everything I’ve done for Adrien is there.”

Marinette was quiet for a few seconds. “We’ll handle it. Adrien, Nathalie and I. We’ll take care of it. You just focus on getting back on your feet.”

Gabriel made a strange coughing noise. It took Mari a moment to realize he was laughing.

“I thought you’d be the first person t dance on my grave.”

Her lips twitched into an almost smile. “I wouldn’t say ‘first,’ I’m sure other people have been patiently waiting for their turn.”

Gabriel stared at the roof, his face relaxed, half smiling. “I’m glad my son has someone like you.”

This took her aback. “SEriosuly? I thought you hated me.”

He coughed. “You infuriate me. I respect you.”

Marinette half smiled. “You should sleep.”

“So should you.”

“They didn’t open me up.”

Gabriel closed his eyes. “Will you stay?”

His request was made with such a delicate voice that Marinette had no choice but to comply. “Of course.”

Gabriel fell asleep, his steady breaths lulling Marinette into her own sleep. She only woke up when the nurse came to tell her that visiting hours were over, and left Gabriel sleeping quietly.

As Marinette finally stepped again into the waiting room, she watched from afar as the hospital doors burst open, and she almost wept as the familiar figure of Adrien rushed up to her.

She was filled with the sensation that they would be okay.

Chapter Text

For the first time in his life, Adrien understood the meaning of the word ‘dissociation.’

It was strange, almost like he was playing one of those first person shooter games, and even though you moved the camera as if they were your eyes, you knew that it wasn’t anything more than a simulation.

Cause that’s what this felt like. A simulation. Someone had a camera over his head and he watching everything he should’ve been seeing through the lens of a camera, but nothing was happening to Adrien. This Adrien moved smoothly and walked without tripping. He was shaking, too, he noticed, but at least he wasn’t in the ground crying.

He heard something, almost through a wall of water. It became clear in a second, and suddenly Adrien was sucked back into his body.

“Adrien!” Marinette called again as she rushed to him. She stopped short, just a foot from him, and he pulled her into a hug, collapsing half his weight on her. She resisted. Of course she resisted.

Knees weak, Adrien pulled himself together and looked at Marinette. Her eyes were exhausted, her face was swollen with red blotches and her skin looked dry, but it didn’t matter. He wouldn’t have had her any other way.

“Mari…” He said softly. He didn’t know what came next. How should he proceed? Wat should he ask? Could he see his father? What had happened, after all?

Marinette parted her lips to say something, just as a doctor exited the ward. He looked at Marinette, and then at him, and nodded. He stepped closer.

“You must be Adrien.” He said, extending a hand. “I’m Dr Wen. I’m in charge of your father’s case.”

Adrien shook his hand, but only barely felt tingles where they touched. The only thing that he actually felt at the moment was Mari’s hand gripping his own, giving him strength.

“As your wife may have told you, your father is stable.” Adrien nodded. “He had an infarction on the anterior side of his heart. Your wife explained that your father is under a lot of stress and doesn’t eat right. He also hadn’t come to his regular check ups, which caused his blood-pressure to rise, eventually leading to the heart attack.”

Adrien listened, but the words made no sense in his head. Sometimes his mind left his body and came back after a few seconds, missing what the doctor was saying. He tried to pay attention –he really did—but his mind kept drifting to vague memories of his father, latching on to them for dear life.

“He’s stable now. Has been responding adequately to treatment. I daresay we should have him in a regular room by tomorrow, if this keeps up.” Dr Wen finished, though Adrien barely understood half the words he said. Marinette squeezed his hand.

“That’s fantastic. Thank you Dr Wen.”

Dr Wen nodded and looked at Adrien. “Its not visiting hours, but seeing as you just came in, I will allow you a ten minute visit.” He eyed Marinette, “afterwards, I hope you will both go home and get some rest.”

Adrien mumbled a noncommittal answer, and Marinette nudged him forward. Dr Wen led the way towards his father’s room, gesturing at the nurse for ten minutes. Adrien stood at the door for two eternal heartbeats, until the thought of opening the door finally reached his hand, and he twisted the knob.

The lights were dim. The room was cold. His father looked tiny in that hospital bed.

Thoughts bombarded at him in snippets like these.

His eyes were closed. The machines beeped. The IV dripped.

“Father…?” His voice was small, almost lost in the beeping. Was he scared of being heard?—no, he was scared of not receiving an answer.

But his father’s eyes opened, rather slowly. Adrien’s feet didn’t dare bring him closer, although he wanted nothing more. He supposed that years of conditioning had done wonders for their closeness.

But his father turned his head to the side and looked at him, and for a moment that Adrien would never forget, his face lit up in delight and relief as he made out the figure of his son against the light of the hallway.

“Adrien—” he called, almost reverently. Adrien nearly choked on his own emotion. “Son.”

There was a moment of complete silence and the acceptance of reality—a moment where they both allowed themselves to appreciate that they were there, and they were together.

His father was the first to break the stillness, moving to sit up in the bed. Like a stone cast into still water, Adrien reacted, rushing to his father to help him up. He placed the pillows behind Gabriel’s back to support him. As he did, however, the last thing he would’ve expected happened.

Gabriel hugged him.

The last time his father had hugged him, Adrien had been fifteen. It had been two days before the fall of Papillon.

Instead of easing into it, Adrien trembled with emotion, and allowed himself, for the first time, to hug him back. Never before had he dared to do so.

It was a moment of quiet before Gabriel whispered, under the beeping of the machines, but clear as day, words that Adrien had hungered for all his life.

“I love you, son.”

Suddenly, dams were broken inside of Adrien. Years of pent up feelings and unspoken emotions burst forth, and Adrien hugged his father.

“Father,” he choked, “I love you too.”

He buried his face in his father’s hospital gown and held him. This was the first time he had ever done so, and it felt almost silly. This tower of a man that had always looked over Adrien, even as he had grown taller, felt so small—so delicate—in his arms that Adrien feared he might break him.

For that moment, Adrien forgot all those years of repressed anger and sadness. He let go of the betrayal he had felt upon realizing that his father had been his worst enemy, and the feeling of loneliness that had dug a hole in Adrien’s heart. He was not forgiven—not yet, anyway—but for a second, Adrien felt like this could be a start.

Alas, what had seemed like forever had only lasted a couple of minutes. Adrien pulled back, eyes glistening with tears, and he was surprised to find his father with a kind, unguarded expression on his face. The only time Adrien had ever seen him look that way was when his mother was alive.

So Adrien sat at the edge of his father’s bed and held his hand. It seemed that there was too much to say, but he couldn’t think of a single word that would be appropriate at this moment. Even as he searched his brain, his father beat him to the punch.

“I’m proud of you, son.” He said quietly, stunning Adrien.

There were a thousand things he wanted to talk about, here in this bubble of sincerity, but his brain was tangled and wouldn’t answer the phone.

“How are you feeling?” Adrien asked, dumbly. It was the only question that came to mind at the moment. Gabriel’s expression never hardened, however, and the moment of weakness that they were both showing would stay inside this room forever, Adrien knew.

“I am fine,” Gabriel said, but Adrien knew that was only a half truth. His voice was wispy and his strength only half there, but the fire was all Gabriel. It felt as if the man Adrien had grown to admire all his life had suddenly turned into a human. “Though I do have to say, your wife gave me quite the speech.”

It was the first time Gabriel had called Marinette Adrien’s wife. Adrien pocketed this information to fawn over later.

Adrien smiled a little. “I did say she was a force.”

Gabriel seemed relaxed, if tired. “You did.” Then, he took a moment, as if to think. “Adrien, there is something important I need to tell you. It might change the way you look at me, though. But its better that you hear it from me.”

Adrien squeezed his hand. “Nothing could ever change the way I look at you, father.”

Gabriel waited a couple of heartbeats before he spoke. “Your mother was the love of my life.” He said quietly. “There’s nothing I would not have done for her.” He breathed. “And I mean nothing.”

And suddenly, Adrien understood.

“Father---”

But Gabriel held up a hand, stopping him. “Let me finish.”

Adrien had no other choice but to remain quiet.

“As I said, nothing I wouldn’t do for her. I am afraid I went to terrible lengths in search for her return—”

Suddenly, the door opened. A lovely nurse with a smile still clinging to her lips from a joke she probably heard stood at its frame.

“Monsieur Adrien, I’m afraid your time is up.” She said, composing herself. “Visiting hours are at six pm.”

Adrien nodded and stood from the bed, but felt Gabriel squeeze his hand one more time. He looked dejected and disappointed in a way Adrien had never seen. However, he took the way out that had been presented to him.

Without another word, he kissed his father’s forehead—another thing he had never done—and squeezed his hand.

“I will see you later.” He whispered. Gabriel squeezed back his hand and nodded.

Neither said another word as the nurse closed the door, separating them once more.

 

 


 

Adrien stepped back into the light of the hallways in a daze. Everything felt too bright for a moment, and there was a ringing to his ears. For a second, he felt away from himself, just as he had earlier, but his mind quickly returned to his body as he found Marinette sleeping in one of the waiting room’s chairs, head lolling back from its rest. Her lips were parted and she looked like a child having fallen asleep after too many games.

He knelt in front of her and took her hand.

“Mari?” He called gently. As she stirred, a light snore came from her throat. He couldn’t help a smile. “Mari.” He called louder.

Suddenly, her eyes fluttered open and she was awake. So sudden had her movement been that she fell out of her chair, barely catching herself from landing on her backside. Adrien laughed a little, something he hadn’t thought he’d be doing in a while, and helped her up.

Marinette looked up at him gently, and he knew she was stopping herself from asking. He kissed her forehead and hugged her tightly.

Marinette spoked into his coat, which he had yet to take off from his trip from London. “How did you find him?”

Adrien didn’t stop hugging her, and she didn’t pull back. He supposed she knew he needed her. “Tired, mostly.” Adrien sighed. “I’d never seen him like this before.”

Marinette pulled back a bit, just enough to see his face. Her expression was gentle. Adrien smiled a bit. “He says you gave him an earful.”

She winced and he laughed. “Yeah… About that…”

Adrien pulled her back into a hug. “Its okay. It can wait.”

“Adrien?” She mumbled into his clothes

“Hm?”

“You stink.”

“You snore.” He replied. He felt her shoulders shake and realized she was laughing. Adrien pulled back from her, and suddenly the weight of everything that had happened crashed down on him. He yawned.

Marinette pulled on his hand. “Let’s go home.”

Adrien was about to protest, but Marintte pulled tighter. “Sweetie, I’ve been here two days. Trust me when I say there’s nothing to be gained by waiting here… except a crick in your neck.”

Adrien allowed himself one last look at the closed doors of the ICU before he sighed and allowed Marinette to take him into the sea of reporters that waited outside.

 


 

The first thing Nathalie did as she landed from London was buy a phone.

Gorilla had picked them up at the airport and left Adrien at the hospital, while taking her back to Gabriel. There, she downloaded all the data (thank god for storage clouds) and began damage control.

The office was a mess. People everywhere were talking about the event. She picked up enough to know that the only person in the room at the time had been Marinette, but she had promptly called for help.

Standing from in front of the head office, she clapped her hands twice to call attention. Everyone promptly quieted down.

“Monsieur Agreste is stable. Work will proceed as normal. That is all.” As she said this, she watched workers dissolve into whispers, and, annoyed, turned around to head into the office, when she heard a call.

“Wait, Madmoiselle Sancoeur!” She heard and turned around. She was mildly surprised to find that it was Jacob, the tailor. “Is Adrien home already?”

Nathalie looked down upon him and thought for a second. She almost answered something rude, but the image of Clarisse came to her mind, and she sighed.

“Adrien arrived from London with me. He should be at the hospital at the moment.”

“Oh thank god.” Said the girl behind Jacob. One of the models, Nathalie noticed. “I’m going to text Marinette.”

Without another word, Nathalie disappeared into Gabriel’s office and began writing emails, redirecting calls and rescheduling hundreds of meetings that Gabriel had.

It was well into the night when she received word from Clarisse.

 

Did you change your phone?

 

Nathalie considered not answering for a moment, but she was so tired, so burnt out, that she needed an escape.

 

Yes… there was an incident involving the last one.

 

Well… are you okay? When are you coming back?

 

I landed in Paris a few hours ago. There was a crisis.

 

What? Are you alright?????

 

Yes… My boss had a health issue. His son and I rushed back in the first flight. He should be in the hospital now.

 

Oh my god, that’s horrible. So wait—where are you? Please tell me you’re home

 

No, I’m at the office. I’m rescheduling meetings and fixing a few things.

 

Are you serious? Nath, Its almost ten! You need to go home! At least tell me you had dinner

 

I haven’t had the time.

 

That’s it. You work at Gabriel, right? I’ll be there in ten with my world famous paella.

 

That’s entirely unnecessary

 

Didn’t ask if it was necessary. See you in ten.

 

 

Nathalie was ashamed at how surprised she was at Clarisse’s arrival. She shouldn’t’ve been, right? Clarisse had said she’d come, and she had. So why was it surprising?

Maybe because no one had ever gone out of their way for her.

But she heard the elevator door ring, even from the office, and she still couldn’t quite believe it. Maybe it was someone coming to clean?

“Heeeellooooooo?” Clarisse’s voice rang clear and sweet, and Nathalie felt her heart was going to burst. She heard footsteps, hesitant, as she called out again. “Nathalie?”

“In here.” She called out, and felt her heart lift as Clarisse came into view. Clarisse’s face lit up when she saw Nathalie.

“There you are! I brought provisions!” She announced proudly, as she showcased a tupperware with what seemed to be rice inside. “It’s my grandmama’s famous Paella.” She thought for a second. “You’re not allergic to shellfish, are you?”

Nathalie couldn’t help but smile as she shook her head.

Clarisse dragged a chair to the other side of the desk and pulled the Tupperware free, handing Nathalie a fork. “I hope you don’t mind us eating like animals from the container. I forgot the plates.”

Nathalie laughed a little. “I don’t mind.” They ate silently for a few minutes, until Nathalie felt the need to say something. “You know, you really didn’t have to do this,” she said quietly.

Clarisse looked up at her, lovely almond eyes wide. She swallowed a mouthful and wiped her face with a napkin. “Nonsense. You need to eat.”

“I understand… It’s just that—well, I can’t believe you went out of your way to bring me food.”

Clarisse watched Nathalie for a few seconds. Then, she smiled.

“You really don’t know, do you?” For a moment, Nathalie was terrified that Clarisse would reveal herself to be a reporter, or a rival company. Instead, Clarisse smiled and reached for Nathalie’s hand. Her heart was in her mouth. “You’re very special, Nath.”

Nathalie was at a loss for words. Clarisse kept going.

“You’re smart and hardworking… and damn you can rock a pantsuit. You’re very sweet. I don’t think people give themselves the chance to know you.” Her eyes softened. “I’m glad I did.”

That night, they shared their second kiss, and Nathalie knew she was in love.

 


 

 

Marinette barely made it to the bed before her phone started buzzing.

Alya.

 

Is everything okay? How’re you holding up. I fed your cat, btw.

 

He’s stable. Adrien’s holding up pretty well. I’ll let you know if anything happens. Thanks for taking care of Plagg.

 

Then, another text. This one from Genevieve.

 

Mari! They just told us about M. Agreste. Are you and Adrien okay?????

 

We’re fine. Just tired. Thanks for asking.

 

If you need ANYTHING, Jacob and I will take care of it. Capische?

 

Thanks

 

Marinette dropped her phone on the nightstand.

By the time Adrien came back to the room, she was already snoring.

Chapter Text

Marinette woke up practically pinned to the bed under the weight of the blankets. Paris was colder every day, and she was far too skinny to deal with it. Either way, she turned on her side and looked at Adrien’s spot in the bed, finding it unsurprisingly empty.

She stood up from the bed and went in his search. She found him looking out the window at the sunrise, Plagg in his arms being pet absently. He was wearing sweatpants, at least, which meant that he had showered. He did not seem to have perceived her entrance.

She watched him for a few seconds. He was almost entirely still—so much so, she almost worried he wasn’t breathing. When it became too much to handle, Marinette closed the distance between them and wrapped her arms around his chest from behind.

“Hey,” she whispered quietly. Adrien did not flinch, nor did he react in the least at the suddenness of her movements. Marinette wondered if he’d seen her come in. “How are you feeling?”

She felt one of his hands search and hold hers, while still holding Plagg with the other. Under her embrace, he took a deep breath, and she could practically feel him drawing energy to answer.

“Morning,” he said, but his voice was strung and tired. She’d have bet her bottom dollar he didn’t sleep the night before. “I’m fine.”

“Has the hospital called?”

She knew it was a silly question. If the hospital had called, Adrien wouldn’t have been there. And yet she asked, because for the first time since they were fifteen, Marinette felt Adrien as removed from her as he ever had been—away, untouchable. Even his hand wrapped around hers felt artificial, and his eyes were a thousand miles away.

“Not yet,” he replied, and, as if awakening, turned his head from the sunrise. He faced Marinette with a small smile that should’ve broken her heart.

Unreachable.

She regained her hand from him and took his face gently, palms on either cheek, and pressed her forehead against his.

“Hey,” she called softly. Here, he had nowhere to turn his eyes, so green bore into blue, and she felt a shuddering breath leave his body. “Its going to be okay.”

Completely silent, Adrien pulled Marinette towards him in a crushing hug. He buried his face on her hair and drowned his shuddering breaths in an embrace. It took her a moment to react, but Marinette folded her arms around him as well, and kissed his cheek.

“Its okay,” she whispered. “He’s alive.”

He held her tighter. She went through a thousand options in her mind, trying to find something to cheer him up, even if she knew it was impossible. Before she could say anything, Adrien pulled back, one of his patented gentle model smiles in his face. Marinette would’ve given anything not to see it.

“Adrien,” she called gently. It was supposed to be chastising, but really, what could she say? That he wasn’t entitled to a moment to himself?

Instead, she sighed. “I’m going to make you breakfast.”

“I’m not hungry.” He wiggled his fingers in Plagg’s face, who pawed at them. In another instance, this would’ve been a moment worthy of a picture.

“Adrien,” she repeated, and sighed. Adrien looked up at her, and lines of exhaustion were drawn everywhere in his face. For a heartbeat she stayed still, and then kissed his cheek. Suddenly she was filled with the need to fill the silence to the brim, like she had when they were younger. It seemed as if tragedy and precariousness had a way of driving a wedge between them, and Marinette did not like it one bit.

“Your dad asked a lot about you, when we were waiting,” she began, not entirely sure where the conversation was going. “All he wanted was to see you, you know? I don’t think you understand how happy he was when you arrived.”

Adrien’s face didn’t change, even as he allowed Plagg on the floor. His eyes were downcast, and it was clear that there was some form of turmoil going on in his mind.

“You’re what he loves the most in this world.” She added, quietly.

“Do you remember when we watched Big Fish?” Adrien asked quite suddenly, his voice somewhat detached. Taken aback, Marinette nodded. “That was all I could think of, on my way from London. That movie.”

“Sweetie, its just a-–"

“I know it’s a movie. But I couldn’t get it out of my head. Just—a lot of things were happening, you know? I mean, the way he was being weird about us, and how I fought with him the night of Chloe’s party—I almost felt that this was somehow my fault. I don’t know, cosmic repercussions of being a jerk to your dad.”

Marinette blanched.

“Adrien, your father did not have a heart attack because you had a falling out with him. Tell me you know that.”

Suddenly, the mask of impassivity was broken with vestiges of frustration as Adrien raked his hair back. “No, of course I know—I just mean that, like, if this were a movie like that one, a big fight would be exactly the moment when something like this would happen.”

Guilt twisted Marinette’s guts, but she swallowed it back.

Not now.

“I don’t know what I would’ve done if he had died while we were fighting.” He said quietly. “If I never got the chance to apologize.”

Marinette reached for Adrien’s hand slowly, almost as if fearing scaring him. He looked surprised when she reached him, but his eyes softened immediately.

“Adrien,” she said quietly. “I know its hard to process, but what happened has nothing to do with your discussion with him. This isn’t a heaven-sent punishment. And if it was, it wouldn’t be a punishment for you.”

Adrien frowned, confused. Marinette’s heart ached for him.

“You’ve been at his beck and call for years. You cant blame yourself for giving something back once.” She ran her thumbs over his knuckles, and noticed how his shoulders relaxed slowly. “That’s not the way it works.”

His shoulders slumped, and he looked at Marinette, in his eyes a burning question that crawled under her skin.

“So its not my fault?” He asked quietly. Marinette once again took a hold of his face and kissed his forehead.

“No, kitty.” She promised. “It has never, ever been your fault. Regardless of what happens, you will never be to blame for this.”

Adrien pulled Marinette into a hug, and this time, it felt as if a crystal had broken, and Marinette was once again reunited with Adrien. They were no longer those estranged kids from their teenage years—no, they were a team, and they would be, forever.

For a second, Marinette wondered if she would forgive herself as well.

 


 

 

 

The parking lot of the hospital was swarming with reporters, but Adrien barely noticed them. He barely took notice of anything, really. The only thing in his periphery that seemed to matter was Marinette, and the strength he drew from her.

HE felt somehow groggy and tuned out, and everything he heard had an undertone of static. In fact, Adrien was sure that, if he hadn’t had Marinette with him, he might’ve simply lost his way to the hospital.

The car drew closer to the door, and he felt Marinette’s hand squeeze his. For a moment, he stepped back into himself and felt a strange calmness wash over him. If she was with him, he could get over anything.

“Ready?” Mari asked. Her voice was soft but firm, just like she was, and Adrien wondered how he had spent so many years around her without falling in love.

“Let’s go,” he nodded, and they opened the car doors.

Reporters dove in from every angle, so much that Adrien felt for a moment like a crumb of bread at the mercy of a group of pigeons. For a moment, he forgot completely how to deal with them—all those years growing up in front of the cameras, of dealing with interviews and unwanted attention were suddenly gone out the window, and he was like a deer in the headlights. Questions bombarded him.

“Adrien! Are you the new head of the company?”

“Is it true that Gabriel will not make a recovery?”

“What does this mean for the future of fashion?”

Adrien, Adrien, Adrien.

His name in so many voices at the same time—so many people pulling strings at him from different directions, trying to undo him. It was becoming far too much, and his body wouldn’t be able to take it.

But all this was a matter of one or two seconds, ad before they were done, he felt the most reassuring thing---the only thing that could mean anything at this point.

Marinette’s hand wrapped itself around his.

“No comment!” She said, loudly and commandingly. A year ago, he would’ve remarked how much like Ladybug she sounded, but today’s Adrien was much smarter. He knew it sounded exactly like Marinette.

His hand closed around hers as well, and he was all but dragged though the hospital doors and away from those piranhas (sorry Alya). The warmth and silence of the hospital were a hero’s respite after that ordeal. He took a deep breath and sighed.

“You okay, Minou?” Marinette’s voice was so kind—so gentle—it was hard to picture it came from the same source as the one that scared away the reporters just a minute ago. He nodded.

“Yeah… just overwhelmed.” He replied, and it was the truth. He was detaching himself once again, and staying anchored became more difficult the closer they got to the ICU.

As they passed the final door, they were cut short by the sight of the nurse that had kicked Adrien out of his father’s room the day before. She stopped short and eyed them curiously, a confused smile on her face.

“Oh, hi.” She said. “What are you doing here?”

“We’re here to see my father,” Adrien explained, confused. The nurse eyed them for a second, and blinked.

“You haven’t spoken to the doctor, have you?”

Adrien’s hand went limp. Why would she ask that? Had something happened to Father?

He felt blood leave his face. His lips were numb and his knees felt weak. He only vaguely heard Marinette’s voice from far away.

“Speak to the doctor? About what?” Her voice was sharp and demanding, but not rude. Adrien decided that if he stayed completely still, maybe the bad news wouldn’t find him.  “Where is my father in law?”

The nurse raised her hands apologetically. “I’ll go get Doctor Wen.” And disappeared behind the doors once again.

Marinette twirled on her heel and turned to Adrien, her mind probably reaching the same connection as his.

“We don’t know that anything’s happened yet.” She said, self assured. But Adrien read the doubt in his wife’s eyes. Adrien felt a bubble in his chest, and for a moment he couldn’t quite figure it out. It wasn’t until it was in his lungs that suddenly he lost all capacity to breathe that he understood what it was.

Panic.

His insides were a mess. The words in his head were disconnected, and only his father’s face occupied his mind. He tried to conciliate—to unite the idea of his father and inexistence—but his lungs became even more void of air.

Father.

Father Father Father.

Oh god.

He was alone.

Alone.

Adrien was alone.

He was gone gone gone.

Gone.

His limbs were loose and his breath was hitched and nothing felt real except the very obvious lack of breath.

But suddenly he felt something. In the periphery of his vision, something came into view.

Something clasped his face and tilted it down. He faced Marinette.

Steady. Sturdy. Strong Marinette.

“Stay with me, Adrien.” She demanded. “Breathe.”

But he couldn’t. His lungs were out of control, and that was all he knew. He tried to catch his breath but it was gone.

Like his father gonegonegone.

But she didn’t falter. “Adrien.” She called, over and over again. “Adrien, stay with me.”

His hand wrapped itself around her tiny wrist, and he allowed himself to try. He closed his mouth and breathed through the nose, hard. He focused on making his breaths longer, and that way, they became slower. He did so until he was back inside his skin.

When he opened his eyes, she was still there.

“Its okay,” she whispered, and pulled him in to a hug. He wrapped his arms around her and took a deep, deep breath. It was almost a new experience for him. “We don’t know he’s gone, yet.”

And Adrien held on to that flimsy, almost laughable strand of hope.

But more importantly, he held on to Marinette.

They were quiet as the sliding doors of the ICU opened.

“Hello,” came a voice from behind Marinette. It was distinctively femenine, so Adrien was not surprised to look up and find a short and mildly overweight, beautiful woman wearing a labcoat. “Are you the Agrestes?”

Marinette turned towards the woman, almost as if shielding Adrien. It was almost laughable, with their height differences, but Adrien didn’t have in it to laugh.

“Yes,” MArinettte replied. Her hand still held Adrien’s.

“Good afternoon,” the woman said pleasantly. “I’m Doctor De La Rosa, another one of the Intensive Care Unit doctors in charge of this area.”

“Where is Doctor Wen?” Adrien asked, his voice not at sure like Marinette’s.

“He’s not on call.” She replied. She reminded Adrien a little of Marinette, the way she stood her ground and presented herself. “But I assure you, I am entirely acquainted with your father’s case.”

“Where is he?” Marinette demanded. Doctor De La Rosa raised her hands in a conciliatory manner.

“He’s been moved to a private room in the third floor. He’s been discharged of the ICU and is now in the Cardiology department.” She looked at them both, as neither replied. “It’s a good thing.” She added.

As the remaining panic and dread left Adrien’s body, so did his strength. His arms fell to his sides and all his breath left his body. His shoulders slumped, but he felt liquid relief expand from the same place his bubble of anxiety had come. Before he could say anything, Marinette turned to him, and her look of relief drove the news home.

Adrien shed a tear of contentment.

Marinette gave him a moment before pulling his hand.

“Let’s go,” she said quietly, “you know your dad hates waiting.”

 


 

 

“Ah, Adrien. Marinette. You’re finally here.” Gabriel sat up in his bed, a thousand miles away from the man he had been the day before. “Good. You know I do not like waiting.”

Ah, yes. Same old Gabriel.

Except he wasn’t.

Under his bored tone, Marinette could see the paleness of his skin, and the pronounced shade below his eyes, even behind his glasses. His breathing was a little labored, even, but he tried not to let it show. For the sake of his twisted sense of dignity, Marinette let him.

“Do you want me to fix those pillows behind your back?” She offered, kindly as she could. Gabriel nodded once, and Marinette resisted the urge to roll her eyes. Instead, she looked at Adrien.

Adrien’s face was a mixture of relief, awe, and something else. He looked at his father as if he were seeing him for the first time. Marinette smiled to herself, and reached for the pillows behind Gabriel’s back, working them in a more comfortable position.

“The nurse in the ICU almost gave us a heart atta—” Marinette stopped short. She looked at Gabriel, who raised his eyebrow, and it took Marinette a whole moment to realize he was finding this humorous. “You know what? You survived. I get to make jokes about it.”

Gabriel didn’t smile, but his face seemed less drawn and he rolled his eyes in what Marinette could only hope was humor.

Adrien seemed to finally be able to unglue himself from the floor, and stepped forward, boldly sitting on the edge of Gabriel’s bed. Satisfied, Marinette sat on the chair next to the bed as well.

“How are you feeling, Father?” Adrien asked kindly. The way Gabriel looked at him was unlike anything she had ever seen in his face before, and it made her happy.

“I’d be much better if I had my phone or my computer with me.” He replied, but there was something almost relaxed about it—almost bantering. Adrien hadn’t seemed to have picked it up, however.

“Father--!” He called, but caught himself for a second. Then, as if grabbing his courage by the neck, he squared his shoulders. “In fact, I’m banning telephones and computers from this room. I’m letting the nurses know.”

Gabriel raised his eyebrows at Adrien. “You’re banning them?”

Adrien nodded once. “I’m letting Nathalie know too. You will have nothing to do with the company until you’ve fully recovered.”

Gabriel looked at Adrien coldly, and Marinette worried for a second that maybe his good humor could only go so far. “Are you also removing my dessert privileges?”

Marinette glared at Gabriel for a second, feeling that it was absolutely the worst time to pick a fight, but she noticed the way his face didn’t seem perpetually pulled by strings, and realized with almost dawning horror.

Gabriel was making a joke.

And of course, Adrien was missing it.

Before either could say anything, the door burst open, and Nathalie stepped in, looking as close to being disheveled as Marinette had ever seen her.

“Sir--!” She called, flustered. The look of utter relief at seeing him well surprised Marinette. She supposed it wasn’t weird, though. After years of working together, she supposed there would be some sort of human relationship between the two of them. Either way, Nathalie cleared her throat. “Its good to see you, sir.”

Gabriel nodded. “Thank you, Nathalie. Please, come in.”

Nathalie stepped into the room and allowed the door to close. Marinette felt part of the oddest family in the history of ever.

“I’ve moved all your appointments, sir, and everything in the office is under control. For the moment everyone is reporting directly to me, but your employees all wish for a speedy recovery.”

“Actually,” Marinette interrupted. “I think we should ban work talk from here, for now.”

Nathalie shot a glare at Marinette. She shrugged it off.

“Also, my father is completely forbidden from having his phone and computer anywhere nearby.” Adrien added. “I want him to be able to relax while he recovers.”

Gabriel raised an eyebrow. “You think the idea of my company falling to pieces would stress me less than having some control over it?”

“Your company will be fine,” Marinette stressed. “Adrien and I will take care of it.”

“And I promise when you get out of the hospital we’ll let you in on it.” He said carefully. “Slowly.”

Gabriel sighed and rested against his pillows. “I’m being treated as a child by my own son.”

Nathalie cleared her throat. “With all due respect, sir, I think they’re right.”

From the burning look in her eyes, Marinette got the idea that she didn’t often speak her mind like this. Gabriel sighed again.

“Very well. I suppose I have no choice in the matter.”

Marinette beamed. “Then you can have dessert.”

 


 

At noon, Nathalie had already gone back to Gabriel to put things in order. Marinette had been starving, so she’d excused herself in favor of finding something to eat.

At least, that was what she had said, but Adrien knew better.

Silence was heavy between the two Agrestes in the lovely pale yellow hospital room. Adrien fiddled with his fingers, not quite sure of what to say. Minutes passed in quietness.

“I meant what I said yesterday, Adrien.”

Adrien snapped to attention. His father was looking at him pointedly. When he looked down, his father’s hand lay close to him, palm upwards. Adrien wasn’t entirely sure what to do.

“I am proud of you, son.”

Adrien’s throat closed up entirely, and he could only barely breathe. It was, in hindsight, a good thing that they were in the hospital.

“There are many things I did wrong as a parent.” He looked away from Adrien, and at no point in particular. “I did them for love. I hope you can forgive me.”

Finally, Adrien gathered the courage to take his father’s hand.

“Things… weren’t great.” Adrien admitted. He allowed that door of bitterness that he’d always tried to keep close in his mind open just a bit. “I was very lonely. Spent a lot of time feeling terrible, to be honest.”

Gabriel closed his eyes, but Adrien knew he was being heard.

“Stupid things I wanted as a kid… a birthday, hanging out with friends, not having every moment in my life scheduled… it burned not to have them.” Adrien swallowed. “But it hurt more that you weren’t around.”

Gabriel said nothing.

“While I was coming here, I had one memory surface above all others. It was that time with the music festival, when you got really angry that I wasn’t practicing my piano… but in the end you agreed to play with me.”

His father gave his hand the lightest of squeezes.

“Its because I felt I had you with me.” Adrien confessed. “When we lost mother… I felt I lost you too. I felt that you had passed all your parenting on to Nathalie and you didn’t want much to do with me, to be honest.”

“Adrien..”

“Wait, no,” Adrien interrupted, pushing tears back into his eyes, “let me finish while I got the ball rolling.

“Then when all of this started with Marinette I felt like you were just looking for another in to control me. And I thought you wanted me to be under your thumb for the rest of my life, and I don’t think I can do that.” Adrien looked at Gabriel. “I love you, I want you in my life, but I can’t keep going like that.”

Adrien took a deep breath.

“I want nothing more than your support, Father,” he looked at his father square in the eye. “But if I have to learn to live without it, I will.”

Adrien’s final words trailed almost like a wisp of smoke, coming from a now dead fire. Gabriel pressed his back against his pillows and took a deep breath, drinking in everything his son had said.

“You are stronger than I ever could’ve hoped.” Gabriel said quietly. “Your mother would’ve been so proud.”

“Mother isn’t here,” Adrien said quietly. “But you are.”

“You’re right—about so many things. Just know this: I didn’t hand you over to Nathalie because I didn’t want anything to do with you. I did it because I didn’t know how to face you.” Gabriel pulled himself upright in the bed and pulled Adrien into a hug.  He allowed himself comfort in his father’s love, and in the communication they were sharing for the first time in their lives. “Do you think you can ever forgive me?”

Adrien wiped a tear with the back of his hand. “I’m willing to try.”

Gabriel kissed his son’s forehead, and they remained quiet for a few minutes.

There were, of course, thousands of things that weren’t being said. But Adrien thought this was a good start.

A very good start indeed.

Chapter Text

 

Adrien was only vaguely surprised that they hadn’t been inscribed into the university next semester. Apparently, while things had been happening, Marinette had withdrawn them from class in order to get things under control. Part of Adrien was loathe to let this happen—falling behind on his studies sounded like the worst case scenario—but the sight of his father in a hospital bed stayed his hand.

See, it was quite an eye-opener, really, to be in this situation. Adrien had spent his entire life chasing his father’s approval, going overboard with everything he’d needed to do, or learn, or work. Day after day of his development was saturated with work and study, all for a single, one tracked goal.

Did that sound familiar?

Adrien sighed as he rested against the chair in his father’s hospital room. Like father, like son, he guessed, and simply chose to follow Marinette’s advice on taking it easy—after all, she’d said she didn’t need to watch him stumble into his father’s shoes so soon. He waited as the doctor examined his father, stethoscope in use and face scrunched up in concentration. A few seconds of silence and then a satisfied nod from the doctor.

“Things look excellent.” The doctor said, looking into his father’s chart. “Bloodwork came back normal—it seems that the intervention was successful and we were able to stop the damage from spreading to the rest of the heart.” He smiled a little. It reassured Adrien. “If you take good care of yourself, there is no need to think that you cannot live a full life for a long time.”

Adrien let out his breath in relief. He only wished Marinette had been here to share the good news. He’d tell her at home, though.

Home.

With everything that had happened, the concept had gained renewed strength inside of him. He and Nathalie had taken over most of the activities at Gabriel and Marinette had focused on other tasks, such as looking over the actual Gabriel most of the time. With all the time he spent, between the hospital and the office, Adrien was only too thrilled to know that, whatever happened, at the end of the day he would go back home to Marinette and Plagg.

“Are you ready to go home, M. Agreste?” the doctor asked, a twinkle in his eye. Adrien supposed this was his favorite part—telling a patient he could happily go home. It only made Adrien like him more.

Gabriel wasn’t so easily won over, however.

“Finally.” He said curtly. Adrien rolled his eyes and was quickly on his feet to talk to the retreating doctor.

“Excuse me?” He called, just as they stepped out of the room. The doctor turned to Adrien and nodded. “So, my father is alright?”

“Your father needs to take better care for himself.” The doctor said. “He needs to eat properly and rest. We’re looking at an entire month of rest. Absolutely no working.”

Adrien blinked. “That… might be hard.”

The doctor sighed. “I am aware of who your father is, Monsieur Agreste, but it doesn’t matter how much money you have in this world. You only get one heart. If your father doesn’t take care of himself, he will die.”

The words slapped Adrien, but he held on to that feeling for later. “But he’s fine now, right?”

“If he follows recommendations, yes. I would like to see him in a month to check on how the catheter is working. If he starts having trouble breathing or chest pains, bring him to the emergency room immediately and tell them about the procedure he just had. Other than that, he has to take the medication I’ve prescribed. He should be alright.”

Adrien felt like there was a balloon of anxiety in his chest, and with every reassurance of the doctor, a little bit of air went out of it, making it that much easier to breathe.

“Alright. Thank you.”

The doctor nodded. “Your papers will be ready by noon.”

 


 

 

It was weird to think so, but the week Marinette had spent as Gabriel’s assistant had actually prepared her for whatever was happening right now.

Not that she was necessarily excited about being Nathalie’s stand-in assistant, but not much else could be done. After all, Nathalie had years of experience working with Gabriel, and knew the company like the back of her hand. Supervising, following schedules, approving plans—she was pretty brilliant at it, but that meant that there was a spot for someone to take care of the more menial tasks.

That role fell onto Marinette.

Mostly, she rescheduled appointments, helped with files and sometimes even weighed in on certain design details. It wasn’t much, but she could help, and that was enough for her.

Genevieve and Jacob were heaven-sent, of course. Gen made constantly sure that both Adrien and Marinette were continuously fed (after that week with Gabriel, Marinette didn’t blame her for the eagle-eye) and Jacob eased the people at work into trusting her more.

Alya and Nino had also stepped up, of course, often going with Adrien to the hospital, and every day stopping by to feed Plagg. On really hardcore days, they actually took him home, despite Alya’s blatant dislike of felines.

Much to Marinette’s surprise, even Chloe came around. Her attitude towards Marinette hadn’t changed much, but she managed to charm some of the magnates that insisted on a meeting with Gabriel. Mari was begrudgingly impressed.

What surprised her the most, however, was Nathalie’s blatant lack of hostility towards her.

In fact, Marinette could almost say Nathalie was… relying on her.

“Marinette,” Nathalie burst through the doors of the main office, phone held between her shoulder and ear. “Can you get us transportation to the five-o’clock meeting? Grigory is busy on another errand.”

“Of course,” Marinette replied, and picked up her phone. As the screen lit up, she saw there was a message waiting for her.

 

 

They’re discharging him today

 

A sigh of relief and a small smile overtook her face. The nightmare wasn’t over, but it seemed that, little by little, they were finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.

 

That’s great, Kitty! I’m really glad. Things in the office are under control. Nathalie and I do have a meeting at five, though, so maybe after that we can meet?

 

There were a few minutes without an answer. It made Marinette uneasy.

 

Yeah, definitely. I’ll just be at his house, helping him adjust. We got him a nurse for the time being, anyway, but I want to make sure he’s settled, you know.

 

She knew what she had to do.

Marinette pressed call on Adrien, and stepped into an empty office by the time he answered.

“Uh, hey,” came his voice on the other end. “Is everything okay?”

“Yeah, sure.” She replied. “I just wanted to talk to you for a second.”

“Okay, yea, anytime.”

Marinette took a deep breath.

“Hey, do you wanna move in with your dad? For a few days?”

There was one beat of silence. Two beats.

“What?” Adrien asked.

“You’re worried about him. I know we have a nurse and everything, but I think… maybe you’d be more comfortable if you stayed at his home for a couple of days, you know? Just to make sure everything’s alright.”

She heard him catch his breath.

“Mari—”

“Its okay, Kitty.” She reassured. The tone in his voice was one she recognized—a plead that this was a real offering. “I know you’re worried about your dad.”

There were a few seconds of silence before she heard a sigh.

“Is it really okay?” He asked. “I mean, after everything that’s happened…”

Marinette leaned on a desk and stared at the ceiling as she gathered her words.

“Your father has never been… great. But maybe he can learn to get better. Maybe if you give him a chance. I mean, I’m definitely not forcing you to do this. If you wanna walk out on that and say that you did all that you had to, you can. No one’s going to fault you for that. You’ve done everything that’s been expected of you.

“But… If you want to try your hand one last time, its okay. There’s nothing weird about it. And there’s nothing wrong about it. Just… do what you have to, okay? I’ll support it either way.”

Another few seconds of silence.

“Will you come with me?” Adrien asked, his voice lithe. Marinette smiled.

“Of course.”

 


 

 

This is how Marinette found herself inside the Agreste mansion after five years.

She had passively wondered many times why Gabriel held on to such a lavish home? It had been too big for three people, even bigger when it was just him and Adrien, and now---now it was sad.

She understood, however, that it wasn’t her place to question the lack of practicality of his living arrangements. Besides, Gabriel had probably figured that Adrien would move back in when they were done with the university.

Marinette felt the sharp stab in her chest and buried it deep, deep down in her.

Her bag and Adrien’s hit the floor of his bedroom dissonantly, his a second earlier than hers. The room was very different from what she remembered, of course. As Adrien had grown, the skating ramp was pretty much the first thing to go, and the bed was replaced with something larger. The TV and videogame sets were still back at their apartment, but Adrien’s piano was the crowning piece of the room.

In short, Marinette felt that they were guests in this room, and she was quite alright with that.

Plagg did his own examination of the room, sniffing at every corner, sneezing a little. The room had a lingering scent of disinfectant, which was at odds In her head with the rich, homely scent that she had come to relate to Adrien. Plagg dug his nails in the carpet and sharpened them for a second before Mari stopped him.

“Hey, we’re guests here, okay?” She kissed the top of his head. “We need to behave.”

In response, Plagg pawed at the loose strand of hair that fell in front of her face. She should get a haircut soon, it had been a while since it had been this long.

Marinette sat down on the bed, Plagg in her arms and sighed.

This bedroom reminded her that there was a before her, and that there would be an after her. Her days as an Agreste were numbered, and soon, Adrien would return to this home. She was, of course, aware that their relationship was thriving, but the idea of not calling off the marriage was dangerous, and every day that passed they were at risk of hurting each other more.

Being married at 21 was never something she would’ve wanted. At this point, Marinette didn’t know herself well enough to understand what she wanted—what she needed out of life. That was why she had rejected Nathanael;s proposal in the first place.

Besides, she did not know if she could continue living as little more than a parasite on the Agreste income.

Marinette loved Adrien. She loved Adrien. And you know what? She knew Adrien loved her. It was just a matter of knowing if it would be enough to keep them together. Should she throw caution to the wind, and just try her hand at something with such a flimsy base?

Before Marinette could think another thought, there was a knock on the door. A maid popped her head in.

“Madame Agreste? Monsieur Agreste requests you at the balcony at your earliest convenience.”

Marinette sighed and nodded. Of course, Gabriel wouldn’t even give her time to settle in.

“Thank you,” was all Mari said before she placed Plagg gently on the bed and changed her clothes to meet her father in law.

 


 

 

“—Adrien.”

“ADRIEN.”

Adrien snapped to attention, heart in his mouth. Eyes wide, he tried to zero in on the cause of his alarm. Chloe stood in front of his desk, arms crossed, looking annoyed as she ever did.

“Hey,” he tried to sound cheerful—he really did—but exhaustion already had the best of him. The sky outside was orange and he wasn’t entirely sure if it was dawn or dusk. “What are you doing here?”

Chloe frowned and shook her head, exasperated.

“Come on, we’re leaving.”

“But there’s still work—” Adrien retorted, but Chloe silenced him with a look.

“You owe me.” Was all she said, and Adrien simply sighed.

“Can I at least organize my desk?”

“You have five minutes.”

 

 

The cup of coffee that Chloe put in front of Adrien warmed his hands in a way that was almost heavenly. The first sip managed to scrape every bit of energy that remained at the edge of his limbs, keeping him awake. For a brief, wonderful moment, he felt pretty good.

Chloe watched him, satisfied.

“See? Nobody knows her Adri-chou better than me.”

Adrien smiled a little from over his coffee. This was the part of Chloe that people did not know.

“You know, you never did tell me why you came back to Paris.”

Chloe took a sip from her drink. “You never asked why I left in the first place.”

Yep. He deserved that.

Adrien rubbed his neck self-consciously. “I’m sorry.”

“Whatever. Le passé est passé.” She tapped her cup. “I came back because Sabrina called. I left because there was nothing here for me.”

Adrien frowned. “What? What do you mean there was nothing—”

But Chloe held up her hand to stop him. “Save it. It’s a long story. The short version is, I’m gay as hell, my dad didn’t want me around, you were off god knows where and Sabrina was busy elsewhere. So I did like my mom, and split.” She took a sip of her coffee. Adrien had a little trouble following everything she had just said.

“Wait you’re—”

“Very.”

“But I thought..” Adrien pointed vaguely at himself. Chloe shrugged.

“You were my only friend at first. I was attached to you. And since I had no point of comparison I just thought that’s what a crush felt like.” Another sip. “Italy taught me better.”

Adrien thought for a few seconds. “Are you happy?” He asked, quietly.

Chloe pursed her lips. “More than before.” She confessed, but didn’t go into details. Adrien smiled a little at her.

Chloe had come a long way, and he had missed it. He had missed a lot. About everything. He had missed a lot of his childhood under strict parentage, and then part of his adolescence to herohood. Between him and the world, there were walls and walls and walls, and he had only now begun to destroy them.

Adrien looked at the coffee in his hand and thought about the weights on his eyelids.

He was done missing things.

 


 

“Father?” Marinette called gently as she knocked on the glass door that led to the balcony. Gabriel Agreste had his back to her and watched the Parisian skyline with an air of controlled peace that Marinette had never seen in him. “Did you call?”

He didn’t turn around. In fact, he was sitting down, which was strange, Marinette thought. Gabriel had always been a man who towered over everyone, and always seemed to have the need to stand to do so, but now—now he sat. He sat like a regular man, appreciating a beautiful view.

“Kind of you to join me, Marinette.” He said. “Please, have a seat.”

Marinette sat on the other empty chair. The table was covered with pastries and tea. It looked informal, but Marinette couldn’t help but feel like she was being judged.

If she had been five years younger maybe she would’ve been intimidated. But she wasn’t.

“How are things at the office?” He asked.

“Running smoothly. But I’m sure Nathalie has debriefed you, even though we’ve asked her not to. Repeatedly.”

“I think I liked you better when you were scared of me.” There was annoyance, mingled with some humor in that phrase, and Marinette had no clue about how to deal with it. “Adrien told me that moving here for the week was your idea.”

Marinette shrugged, even though he wasn’t looking at her. To be honest, it was annoying, having a conversation with someone’s back, but she had learned to tolerate some of Gabriel’s more rude whims.

“Its what I did when my father got sick.” She replied. Gabriel then stood up and turned his chair to finally face her. The process should’ve been awkward, but he made it somewhat graceful.

“What happened to your father?”

Marinette was completely taken aback. “The doctors call it Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. They say he may need to start using oxygen during part of the day soon.”

Gabriel rested his elbows on the table and laced his fingers together. Somehow, Marinette knew that he was listening attentively, and waiting for her to continue.

“They moved to the country. Less smoke, less people. They have a nice house. Adrien took me to visit them a couple of months ago.” Marinette smiled at the memory. “They seemed pretty happy.

Gabriel nodded, as if considering. “Yes, I think it would befit me to meet them formally.”

Marinette could’ve sworn she heard a record scratch.

“I’m sorry, what?”

“We are nearing a year since you and my son moved in together. Is it strange that I should meet your parents?”

“…No,” Marinette replied, flabbergasted. “I guess not.”

Gabriel sat back. “Whatever else I think about you, your parents did a fine job raising you.” Marinette couldn’t believe her ears. “So much so, that at 15 you were deemed worthy of being a hero.” The next words, Marinette would run over a thousand times in her head and yet never believe that she had heard them.

“And at twenty-one, you were deemed worthy of my son.”

Chapter Text

Of course Marinette didn’t tell Adrien about her conversation with his father. I mean, after all, this was just another way for Gabriel to indirectly control Adrien’s future. That’s what he had done, right? “Accepting” Marinette as his wife. That’s what he had to have been doing. That Gabriel could just be too cunning sometimes.

And yet, and yet, and yet.

Marinette couldn’t stop her fluttering heart as she made it back to Adrien’s room in that needlessly large house. I mean, It was obvious that the fact that Gabriel gave his blessing didn’t mean that this was what Adrien wanted, or what was best for them in the first place.

But it felt like the slightest bit of a sign as she pressed her back to the door, steadying herself.

There was a strange feeling on her ankles, and she looked down to look at Plagg, watching her with big, green, lovely eyes. She picked him up.

Six months.

Adrien had brought Plagg wrapped in his jacket, both soaked through the bone, and they had taken him on together. Their first step as a family, almost.

And now here he was, big, but not as big as he’d get. He would grow more and more; the way Marinette knew her love for Adrien would only grow more and more. Together or apart, Marinette was sure in her heart, the way she had been sure about things as Ladybug, that Adrien was the love of her life, even if she happened not to be the love of his.

She scratched Plagg behind the ears and sat down in the bed.

This was, of course, what she’d always wanted. Gabriel’s acceptance. Adrien’s love. Was it really possible to have it all come up her way?

A little part of her screamed yes! After all she’d been through, the weeks, the months, the mistreatment, the cold treatment, yes, she deserved this.

But people didn’t often get what they deserved.

And yet the thought vanished like a wisp of smoke as the door creaked open with confidence, the way one did when they owned the space, and the smile bloomed in Marinette’s face even before she saw the shock of blond hair.

“There you guys are!” Adrien smiled, and yep, there went her heart again. How could such kindness reside in him? When she was fifteen, she had been sure he was blond not because of his mother, rather than the fact that it was sunlight spilling out of him. “I’ve been looking all over for you!”

Marinette shrugged. “It’s a big house.”

Adrien stepped closer and knelt in front of Marinette, looking at Plagg in her arms. How much of a family they must have looked like at that very moment.

She only hoped it could last.

“Hey there, you.” Adrien scratched Plagg’s belly, which Plagg rejected with a paw. “We need to put you on a diet, you’re starting to grow like the other Plagg.”

It took all of her not to sigh. After all this time, Adrien still sometimes talked about Plagg in the present tense, as if he were just a few miles away, waiting to meet him again. Instead, she grabbed his hand and kissed the back of it, affectionately. Adrien looked up from the cat and smiled at her before pressing a kiss to her lips.

“Dinner will be ready soon… And it’s a bit of a protocol here.”

 

 

 

Marinette would remember that as the night of the forks.

Dinner was delicious, Gabriel was surprisingly good company, Adrien was a blessing.

Bu the forks.

How many forks could a household have? She could’ve made a trench with the number of forks, and no army in the world would’ve passed it by.

Okay, that was a bit exaggerated, but the point remained that there was an absurd number of forks. The first three times she got it wrong, she got a disapproving throat-clearing from Nathalie. Afterwards, she just focused on watching Adrien pick the right one, and then mirrored him. No more throat clearings after that.

As soon as they were done, Nathalie excused herself for the night. She just watched Adrien’s brows rise halfway as she said so, and then all the rest of the way up as Gabriel bid her goodnight rather gently.

It was a strange night in the Agreste household, by the looks of it.

When dinner was done, Gabriel rose slowly, both she and Adrien rushing to his aid. He took it, much to her surprise.

“Thank you,” he breathed. Such a simple motion, the act of getting out of his chair, managed to be an effort to him. It reminded Marinette that he was still delicate, after all.

His nurse showed up practically in a puff of smoke and led him away, meek and quiet. She watched Adrien look at his father in fascination as he was whisked away.

“I’d never seen him accept help before,” Adrien said, half a whisper. He half smiled, as if he still could only partly believe what was happening in front of his eyes. “Its like he’s a new man.”

Marinette laced her fingers with his and kissed his knuckles. Gabriel had already disappeared behind one of the guest rooms they’d worked out for him to not walk up the stairs.

“Its because of you, you know.” Marinette said. “At the hospital—all he could think about was you. You, and how he’d raised you, and how much he loved you. He thought you hated him.”

Adrien frowned but his eyes were still glued to the now shut door.

“I could never.” He said softly. “Not even…”

…when I found out he was Papillon.

But Marinette didn’t need to hear the words. There was a moment of wonderful quiet between them, that comfortable silence that tells you when you[re with the right person. The need to overflow their moment with noise wasn’t there, and their presence was just enough to calm both their senses.

Adrien looked down at Marinette and smiled, and for a moment, Mari felt like the most precious thing in the history of the world. The feeling was overwhelming, but at the same time pleasant. And when it vanished, it was still alright, because she was with Adrien.

“Let’s go for a walk,” Adrien said and offered his arm. Marinette smiled, charmed.

“Of course.”

 


 

Chloe had returned to Italy, obviously.

Her time together with Sabrina had been short—only three days—but it had been enough. Sabrina knew that she had rebuilt that bridge with Adrien, and that had made her happy, to an extent, but only because she knew how much Chloe truly loved Adrien.

There was a ping on her desk. She picked up her phone.

 

How’s this look?

 

Chloe had taken a mirror selfie, looking absolutely stunning—but then that wasn’t really surprising. Sabrina had always considered Chloe beautiful.

 

Gorgeous.

 

Of course it is! Its Gabriel’s latest season.

 

She could read the smugness in Chloe’s messages, but she did it fondly. She knew that Chloe did not need her approval—had never needed her approval—on wardrobe choices. It was just an excuse to talk, and Sabrina loved every second of it.

 

What’s the event?

 

You don’t think someone like me is free Saturday night, do you? I have a date.

 

A smile bloomed from Sabrina’s lips.

Chloe happy. That’s all she’d ever wanted. Her best friend, happy. Obviously, she would’ve been happier if they were closer to one another, but this---this was enough for her.

Sabrina heard the doorbell and frowned. It was nine at night, her father was on patrol and her mother was at a University staff meeting, so she was, once again, alone. She found herself more and more alone lately, but it was okay, because now she had Chloe at the end of the line.

She walked towards the door, once again taser in hand, and held on to the doorknob.

Peeking through the peephole, she found a large, dark skinned man on the other side, wearing a suit.

Her grip on the taser held.

“Yes?” She asked, voice bouncing across the wood inches from her face.

“Mademoiselle Raincomprix?” The man asked. His voice was thick and he had a bit of an accent. “The Mayor would like to formally speak with you.”

The taser hit the floor with a click.

 


 

 

 

“Do you think he’s going to do it?”

“Of course, now sh! They’re coming!”

“I don’t think he’s going to do it.”

“Of course he is, he’s very brave.”

“Then he’s going to trip.”

An eyeroll. “Stop betting against him.”

A scoff. “I don’t bet against him. I’m just saying he’s going to trip.”

“Just be quiet.”

 

 


 

 

“Hey babe,” Nino asked. Alya’s head rested against his shoulder as they watched some show on the television.

“Hm?” She shoved popcorn into her mouth.

“Should we tell them that we know?”

“Tell who that we know what?”

“Mari and Adrien. Who they were.”

The munching stopped and Alya sat up straighter. “What good would that do?”

“I don’t know. Maybe they’d have someone to talk to about that.”

“They have each other.”

“Yes, but isn’t it a little sad? They didn’t have anyone for all that time and now all they have is one person to tell their secrets to. I don’t know, it just feels odd. I feel like we should confide a little more in one another.”

Alya raised an eyebrow.

“You haven’t told them you were Caparace or I was Rena.”

Nino rolled his eyes. “But they already know. Where did we even get the miraculoses In the first place?”

“Yes, but you never told them. They may know, but not because of you. The only person you’ve ever spoken to about that is me. So what’s the difference.”

Nino was quiet for a few seconds.

“I wish they’d tell us.” He said softly.

“It must be hard, revisiting the past.” Alya replied. “For us it was a short time. But to them—they were icons. We fawned over them.”

Nino sighed. “I just miss Adrien and Mari. Since they got hitched its like they’re joined at the hip.”

“We were exactly the same… just give them time. Especially with this whole Gabriel business going about.”

Nino nuzzled her hair. “You’re so smart. I wish I could marry you.”

But Alya didn’t tense. She just hummed.

“Maybe some day.”

 


 

Nath climbed the steps to the house that wasn’t her building happily. She opened the door with her spare key and watched as the huge golden retriever welcomed her home, and voices in the kitchen warned her that she was almost late for dinner.

Nathalie smiled. This might not be her house, but she was home.

 


 

To Marinette’s surprise, they arrived at a café close to the Uni. She had never loved it. The coffee wasn’t anything to write home about, and the pastries were certainly lacking, but it had been the only thing in her price range, back when it all started. She rubbed some warmth back into her hands before taking off her coat, watching the few patrons of the coffee shop go about their business.

Adrien jogged up behind her. “Hey,” he smiled. “Anything you want?”

His smile was contagious enough to warm up a room.

But not literally. “Anything hot.”

“You got it,” Adrien nodded and disappeared to the counter. She looked around until she found a barely lit, two-person table at the end of the room. She took her seat and waited. Patrons were leaving—the café was closing soon, after all, and she breathed on her hands for warmth.

The cheerful Christmas music warmed her a little, but it was slowly but surely being tuned down, a beautiful piano melody taking its place. The lights dimmed, and for a second she feared that she had been forgotten inside, but that didn’t make sense.

She turned around to look for the rest of the patrons, but there was no one left. It was a small locale, and the lights were dim, and she was alone.

“Adrien?” She called, half desperately. “Adrien!”

“I’m here,” it was almost a whisper but it carried across the table. She hadn’t heard him come back. It must’ve been some remaining Chat Noir in him.

Marinette’s heart should’ve stilled a little bit, but instead the sight of him made it flutter even more. He was doing nothing special, just sitting at the other end of the table, but that was enough to melt her. He held out her drink, which she accepted gratefully.

“Thank god, I thought I’d been locked in.”

“How could you be locked in.” Adrien furrowed his brow. Marinette realized how silly she had been.

“I.. don’t know. The lights, and then the music was gone--- I don’t know.” Before she could continue, Adrien reached for her hand, lacing his fingers with hers. It was enough to still her.

And it was like the umbrella all over again. His eyes full of kindness shifted with his Chat eyes of bravery and compassion and he was everything Marinette could ever love in a person, wrapped in a single man.

“I love you,” she said softly. Didn’t even know why she said it. It just felt right. But the randomness didn’t bother Adrien. Instead, he pulled her hand closer to him, and studied it.

“Did you know,” he began, “that my life became a thousand percent better since you’re in it? Exponentially—I could draw you a graph if you want—but seriously. A thousand.”

Marinette smiled, touched. “So has mine--- but I cant make a chart, sorry.”  She looked around. “Did you have them keep open the café for us?”

Adrien looked up from her hand and smiled disarmingly. “Its our six month anniversary. Of course I did.”

Oh boy.

She forgot about that.

“Present!—I was so busy with---” Adrien held up a hand.

“After all you’ve done for me and my father, you definitely don’t need to worry about a present.”

Marinette felt a pang of stabbing guilt.

“Adrien—about that.” She began. Adrien opened his mouth to interrupt her, but she raised her hand. “Let me finish.

“The day of the incident… Your father and I had a fight. I… was the cause of the heart attack.”

She squeezed her eyes shut, waiting for the backlash.

Instead she felt a butterfly kiss on the back of her hand. She opened her left eye tentatively, and Adrien still sat on the other chair, her hand in his.

“I fought with you for a year, arm in arm, shoulder to shoulder. I was with you the day Papillon fell. I watched you, over and over, not hurt a single hair in his head. You think I would believe that you caused this?” He shook his head.

“You don’t make a person sick, Mari. You didn’t make him sick. If it hadn’t been you, it would have been something else. And something else might not have saved him.”

Marinette might’ve wept  with joy at his words.

Oh—well, there were some tears, she guessed.

“You know,” he began, “I wrote like six speeches for our anniversary. None of them were good enough. I just kept coming back to one thing.”

Marinette cocked her head to the side. Adrien held up her hand.

“What’s missing.” He said, simply.

“’What’s missing?’ What is missing?”

Adrien chuckled. “Look closely at your hand. Real close.”

Marinette did. For a full ten seconds, she focused. What was missing? When she looked up to Adrien, he wasn’t there anymore.

He was on the ground.

There was a box in his hands.

No breath in her lungs.

He smiled, cat-like, but there was terror in his eyes.

“Engagement ring.” He said.

Still not breathing. Flatlining. Heartbeat gone.

“So here, in the same table as six months ago, I ask you one more time, and this time, with all the strength of my heart and soul behind it. With every intention of seeing it through. With the promise of years and years of happiness and wonder and new things.

“I ask you, one more time: Marinette Agreste-Dupain-Cheng,” he smiled a little as he tasted her name with his. “Will you marry me? For real?”

Marinette fell out of her chair and down to her knees and it was the night of their confession all over again.

Instead this time she wasn’t scared. She wasn’t in doubt. She caressed his cheek just to know he was there.

And then she smiled.

“Of course.”

Chapter Text

Those couple of months were pretty hectic.

And how wouldn’t they be, all things considered? A recently (and eventually not so recently) infarcted father and a wedding were not exactly two things you wanted on your plate at the same time.

Of course, Marinette had offered to wait on the wedding. There was no rush, she explained. They were technically already married, so this was just a whole shebang to appease the masses and give the media something to hover around that wasn’t just the news of his father’s recent encounter with the reaper.

But that’s exactly why Adrien wanted to do it. Not for the press, obviously, but because of what had happened with his father—and that didn’t only mean the heart attack, it meant everything that led up to it. It was about the fact that every step in the last 8 months had only been possible to take because Marinette was at his side.

She was there while he worked, she taught him how to clean the house, she gave him Ladybug back. Marinette was there with the good, the bad, and the ugly, and that’s why he needed her.

So for Adrien, it wasn’t about the party, the guests or the publicity. It was about having a real, proper wedding, where he could declare his whole-hearted love to the woman that had stolen his heart six years ago, and then again eight months ago. He wanted to show Marinette that he was all in, even when he could see in her eyes that she already knew it.

So Adrien looked at himself in the mirror and adjusted his bowtie. The door opened behind him, and Nino studied him for a second before giving him a thumbs up and a smile, closing the door behind him.

“What a tragic day for every woman in Paris. You look great, bro.”

“Are you hitting on me?” Adrien joked.

Nino scoffed. “At this point why do you even bother asking? I’m always hitting on you.” His smile softened as he walked towards Adrien, full of confidence but also reassurance. “You ready for this?”

Adrien swallowed. “Would you believe me if I said I was terrified?”

“Well, according to movies, there’s not a single guy out there who isn’t terrified at their own wedding. My question is why, though? What’s the worst that can happen?”

“I trip. I choke. She says no. Someone comes and takes her away. My father opposes. She realizes she’s been in love with someone else this entire time. I have spinach in my teeth when I say my vows. I---”

Nino’s hand covered his mouth.

“Rhetoric question, bro.” He removed his hand. “I have literally never seen a couple more destined to be together as much as you and Mari. So if it doesn’t work out for you two, then the rest of us are pretty much done for.”

Adrien’s shoulders relaxed.

“Yeah. Everyone knew Chat Noir and Ladybug would end up together in the end.”

 


 

 

 

Marinette dry heaved into the trashcan for the third time. Alya was adjusting the corset in her wedding dress, which was very hard to do with the bride moving so much.

“Mari stay still!” Alya hissed. “For the love of—how are you and Adrien so nervous? You’ve been married for months!”

“Yes, but I hate public appearances.” Marinette grimaced and stood up straighter. “They’ve never been my forte.”

“You’ve been in front of a camera a thousand times. Why would this one be any different?”

“Because it’s a wedding! What if I trip? You know perfectly well that if anyone is going to trip on their wedding, that’s gonna be me.”

“But—”

“—Bluebell if you trip in this wedding I will never forgive you.” Came the flat response from behind Marinette and Alya. Startled, they both looked behind them, and Marinette was elated to find David standing there, looking handsome in a suit.

“David!” Marinette exclaimed, elated. Alya turned to see him, knowing him only by name, and raised an eyebrow.

“Ah yes, you must be Marinette’s foxy friend.” David said casually, but Alya heard the edge on his voice, making her nearly choke on spit. “David, nice to meet you.” He offered his hand. Alya took it, wary. Marinette seemed entirely oblivious to this encounter, and threw her arms around David. He held her at an arm’s length.

“I’m sorry, are you trying to ruin your make-up? Have I thought you nothing?” David chastised, but there was an edge of humor to it. Marinette smiled sheepishly and turned to Alya.

“David was our image coach. He helped us be less… awkward.”

“I’m not a miracle worker, darling, I just made you marginally better.”

Marinette rolled her eyes, but only just now noticed the package under David’s arm. “Hey, is that…?”

“A present? Yes. For you? I don’t know.” He smiled before presenting it to her. “Congratulations, Bluebell. You made me win a bet against Grigory.”

She frowned. “He said we’d split up?”

“Oh no, he said you’d dance around this for years before gathering your bearings. I said you wouldn’t last the year.”

Marinette laughed. “How did you know?”

“Open the present.”

She did, and Alya looked over her shoulder, gasping as the box came undone. “Oh David….” Marinette whispered, eyes watering.

It was the picture had taken of them, enlarged, with a beautiful, silver frame. Marinette had the vestiges of laughter in the corner of her lips and Adrien had his eyes closed so gently they seemed like butterflies readying to take flight. Mari was in her tiptoes and Adrien’s fingers were barely touching her cheek.

“Is it just me, or is it a bit creepy that you have this?” Alya asked. David chortled but contained himself from bursting into laughter.

“Bluebell did say you were funny.” David replied, and Alya, despite herself, beamed. Marinette replaced the frame in its box and set it aside. Smoothing her dress, Marinette took a deep breath.

“Okay, here goes nothing.”

 


 

 

Much like the start of their love, the wedding happened without them quite noticing. One moment they were at an aisle’s distance from one another, the next his fingers were gently intertwined with hers, the next his lips were on hers and the room exploded in applause. Marinette and Adrien felt the lights of cameras going off, over and over again, and they knew they’d make the frontpage tomorrow, but that didn’t matter.

Only today did.

It mattered as they got into the limo, both of them tired but grinning. Marinette took his hand and kissed it with devotion.

“Madame Agreste…” Adrien tasted her name on his lips, but she giggled.

“I thought we said Monsieur Dupain.”

“I’m sure I can convince you…” Adrien said as he turned his hand and took her gently by hers, kissing her wrist. “I’ve become very persuasive these months. Just you ask my wife.”

Marinette, even under all her make-up, blushed. How this man—this husband of hers—still managed to make her blush was completely beyond her, but it didn’t matter in the least, and she loved it.

“Yea? Well, I’d like to see you try.”

“You think I can’t?” Adrien raised an amused eyebrow.

“No, I mean I really do want to see you try.” She grinned. “Sounds fun.”

The minutes slipped through their fingers faster than they should have, and before a second passed, they were already at the reception, Adrien holding his hand out to Marinette to help her out of the limo. At that moment, framed by the lights of day and the cameras and contrasting with the darkness of the limo, Adrien looked surreal, and for a second Marinette was in complete awe of the existence of this man.

Adrien was having similar thoughts as Marinette bloomed out of the car, her white dress like a flower with her black hair at its center, blue, striking eyes peering at him and flushed face smiling like the world belonged to her.

He’d be sure to give it to her.

They stepped into the reception, and the room quieted down as the pianos and violins started playing. They had both asked for something more subtle, but Gabriel wouldn’t hear of it, but stepped down from having the entire Paris Symphonic playing at Adrien’s wedding.

Instead it was just a pretty impressive string band, that they both found more than pleasant.

The dance began slowly, just like their first, back when Marinette wore the red dress, the night they introduced her as his wife. Somehow it seemed that they were picking up moments from their relationship, and living them again, sandwiched inside the walls of their celebration. It was like a tribute to their love.

Before long, Madame Cheng stepped in and took Adrien’s hand, and, much to Mari’s surprise, Gabriel stepped in for Marinette’s. Unsurprisingly, Gabriel was quite adept at dancing. Even through the music, Marinette heard him speak softly at her, a tone of something almost like familiarity in his voice.

“You look beautiful,” he said, but his voice wasn’t begrudging or annoyed. Marinette was quite aware that he had never spoken to a model that way, either. For a moment she wondered if the hot lights were giving her a heatstroke. “I wish Adrien’s mother could’ve been here.”

“I…” how could she apologize? She had been the one to deny him the miraculouses, after all.

“You don’t have to apologize,” Gabriel said quietly. And yet Marinette felt guilty. She looked at Adrien over his father’s shoulder to see him dancing slowly with her mother, a smile on his face as they spoke softly. “Just make my son happy.”

At this, Marinette smiled. “I promise.”

On the other side, Adrien and Sabine were also having a conversation. Sabine had one hand cupping his cheek while the other rested on his shoulder. She looked at him endearingly, and Adrien felt he could burst.

“I always rooted for you two.” She said. “From back when you were fifteen.”

Adrien blushed and laughed a little. “I hadn’t noticed back then,” he confessed.

“Oh, its quite alright. I knew it was going to end up like this. Call it mother’s instinct.” Adrien smiled softly.

“Thank you for entrusting her to me,” he heard himself say, much to his own surprise. Sabine laughed.

“You make it sound like we had a choice in the matter.” She smiled. “Marinette is willful, and she chose you herself. We were just very happy to hear it.” Before Adrien had time to react, Sabine kissed his cheek. “Welcome to the family.”

 


 

Adrien danced with Alya, Chloe, Genevive and every woman he had ever met, it seemed, and Marinette just eyed him sideways and laughed each time a new girl came up to him, as if she knew how he felt. He just wanted to go back to her.

Marinette danced with Nino and her father and Jacob and the boys she had grown up with.

They danced and danced and danced until the music was finally over, and they were back together, as if the magnets that were always pulling them had finally reactivated and drew them close once again. Applause erupted as the last notes of the eternal song played. Adrien took a chance, and bowed at her the same way he always did as Chat Noir, and Marinette, as she recognized this, laughed and poked his nose.

To anyone else it seemed strange. To them, it was an inside joke.

Adrien offered his arm to Marinette and led her to the table, where the rest of their family and friends settled. To Marinette’s immediate right, Alya sat faithfully, smiling at the cameras with an ease that made her even a little jealous.

But, Marinette noticed, she had forgotten the cameras were there in the first place. She would’ve made the excuse that they were always there so she was used to them, but there was no point in lying to herself.

She had forgotten because she was with Adrien. He--as himself, as Chat—somehow always managed to pull her into the light without having the glare on her face.  It was like he protected her from the brightest rays of sun without stopping the warmth from cradling her. He had always protected her, and now he always would.

And she would protect him just the same.

Once everything was settled, Nino stood up for his best man toast. Marinette leaned forward on the table, ready to hear it. He cleared his throat and Adrien straightened up as Nino turned to look at him, love evident in his face.

“You know, I never had brothers,” Nino began. “Or, well, I didn’t think I did. But hey—I did.” He was stuttering a little, Adrien noticed, but it was probably out of nerves. Though how weird it was to see Nino—confident, brilliant Nino—nervous.

“I did have a brother, and I didn’t find him until I was fourteen and this little wisp of a pretty boy walked into the classroom.” He gestured at Adrien, who scratched the back of his head and laughed, embarrassed. “I mean, I now had to compete for best looking guy in the class.” He gestured as if he were confiding a secret, “I won, by the way.”

There was a chuckle from the crowd, but Nino didn’t seem to be loosening up.

“And Mari? I’m a little afraid of describing my thoughts on her when we first met, especially with my girlfriend being the Maid of Honor.” Another laugh from the crowd. Adrien turned to see Marinette smiling and Alya laughing jovially. “But let’s get serious.” Nino cleared his throat.

“Adrien is my brother. I knew it the moment we met. There was no way someone could be so attractive, smart and charming and still be the nicest person you ever met—and then there was.

“Suddenly I realized that there was no way I could not be a part of his life. I needed him to be my friend as much as I needed to be his friend, if that makes any sense.

“And then there’s Marinette: president of the class. Designer. Greatest anti-bully I’ve ever met. So sweet, she probably wouldn’t even hurt a ladybug.” Nino winked at her and Adrien felt her flinch.

Right. She didn’t know.

“So then, knowing that the two best people I’d ever met were together just made me believe in love,” his voice cracked a bit, and Adrien realized why Nino was so tense. Their eyes met, Nino’s bristling but not spilling. “Seeing them overcome everything crappy life threw their way was inspirational.” He took a deep breath and raised his glass. “And being your friend is my privilege. Congratulations, both of you. I love you.”

Adrien was on his feet before Nino could sit down, and they hugged tightly. Adrien had always known Nino loved him, but hearing it like this… well, it was very emotional.

Alya was the next to stand.

“Its not easy being the new girl in a class full of people that have always known each other, but it is when you make the world’s best friend. It took Marinette a whole of five minutes to introduce herself to me and make me comfortable on my first day, and never again did I feel lonely, if only because I knew she was always a phone call away.

“I don’t know what to say other than what has already been said, so I’ll just say this: life is hard, but it’s a hell of a lot easier when you have someone amazing to live it with. And congratulations, you each found the only person in the world that is amazing as you are: one another.” Alya smiled softly. “And maybe I do have sisters. Mari knows that better than anyone,” she chuckled, “but it doesn’t mean Marinette is any less family to me than them, and I could not have lived all these years if I hadn’t known that you were out there watching out for me. Mari, girl, you are the best thing that has ever happened to Adrien---and to me. I love you.”

Marinette found it a little harder than Adrien to hide her tears. Alya smiled softly and sat next to her, wiping the corner of her eye as to not ruin her makeup. Marinette hugged her tightly.

Much to everyone’s surprise, Gabriel stood.

At this point, he was far less imposing than he had ever been—or so it seemed to Adrien and Marinette. To them, at this point, Gabriel was human.

As human as Papillon had turned out to me.

“I am proud of my son, and my wife would be too.” Gabriel stated with no affection in his voice. It seemed like he was merely stating a fact. Then, he looked at Marinette. “Beatrice would’ve loved you.” His eyes softened, ever so slightly. “And that is the highest form of compliment I can ever convey.”

Marinette didn’t realize she was clenching the tablecloth until Adrien intertwined their fingers, and she had to blink away the tears. Somehow, Gabriel’s toast had hit her harder than she had expected. Maybe it was simply because Gabriel had always had a hard time accepting her, so saying that Adrien’s mom would have, from the get go, loved her made everything better.

But maybe it wasn’t that, either.

Because if Adrien’s mother had been alive, he never would’ve become Papillon. They never would’ve become heroes. They never would’ve gotten married, and they never would’ve fallen in love. It was all because of Beatrice, in a weird way. So knowing that she would have approved of Marinette was a lot to take in—all of it pleasant.

To everyone’s surprise, Chloe reached for the microphone. She glared in Marinette’s direction, and for a second the bride wondered if this was going to be terrible, but Adrien squeezed her hand.

“Adrien was my first and only friend for a long time, so nobody loved him as much as I did.” She averted her eyes to Marinette for a second, and her expression softened. “At least, I thought so.

“Marinette Dupain-Cheng,” Chloe used her usual tone with her name, “she and I never saw eye to eye, and I’m pretty sure we never will. But that doesn’t matter. All that matters is that she makes Adrien happier than I have ever seen, and even I can appreciate how rare it is. So Marinette, don’t screw this up.” She finished the sentence with a kind tone, Marinette was surprised to find. She stole a glance from Adrien, who didn’t seem the least bit surprised. Maybe it was because he had always known that Chloe had a heart, who knew.

When ceremonies were over it was time to actually enjoy the party.

And they did.

Sabine, much to everyone’s complete befuddlement, managed to drag Gabriel into a conversation with her and Tom, and Gabriel actually seemed to be enjoying himself. Adrien eyed them, dumbfounded, when Marinette joined him with a flute of champagne, following his gaze and laughing.

“Yep. That’s maman for you.” She said as Adrien took the glass. “She’ll rope anyone into anything.”

Adrien shook his head, amused, and turned back to Marinette. Of course, he had already noticed how gorgeous she looked, but he still enjoyed very much seeing her up close. He snaked an arm behind her and pulled her close for a kiss. She smiled into it, and so did he, and at that moment, Adrien was pretty sure there was no one in the history of ever who had ever felt as happy as he was in that precise moment.

His reverie and intense look at his now true, official wife, was interrupted by the clearing of a throat, and Adrien had to consciously look away from Marinette, but not before seeing a little frown form on her lovely, lovely brow.

“Nathalie,” Marinette said, trying hard to be pleasant, though Adrien knew Nathalie had been anything but. They had reached a settlement, however, when they had both to cover for Gabriel, and seemed to be on better terms with one another, though she supposed some aversion still remained between the two of them.

Adrien turned to Nathalie, who looked regal as ever, looking absolutely beautiful wearing a pant suit that suited her to a T. He smiled widely at her.

“Nath!” He called happily. “Thank you so much for coming.”

Nathalie smiled as softly as she ever had and looked at Adrien with what he knew was pure, genuine love. There was a throat clearing that very much did not belong to Marinette. Nathalie flushed.

“Adrien, Marinette, there’s someone I’d like to introduce,” she said, but there was an edge to her that Adrien had never known. Nathalie stepped aside to reveal an absolutely stunning woman with dark skin and a bright smile, wearing a lovely green dress that only highlighted her complexion. He smiled at her.

“Hi!” Marinette beamed at her before Adrien could speak. She stuck out her hand and the woman took it gleefully in both of hers, smiling at Marinette as if the sun came out of her teeth. “Thank you so much for coming!”

The woman looked at Nathalie, clearly waiting for an introduction, which Adrien realized was taking a few seconds too long, and he put the pieces together and smiled.

“Hi, I’m Adrien.”

“Well, I hope so! They’ve been calling your name all night.” She grinned. “I’m Clarisse, Nathalie’s—”

“—girlfriend.” Nathalie finally said. “Clarisse is my girlfriend.”

Clarisse’s smile bloomed as she reached for Nathalie’s hand, who was blushing to the roots of her hair. Marinette took it in stride.

“Your dress is so beautiful!” She gushed. It took her all of two sentences to practically become best friends with a complete stranger. Adrien loved that.

Well, he loved everything.

An arm around Marinette’s shoulder, Adrien stuck out his hand. “It’s a pleasure to meet you. Its not everyday that Nathalie blushes.” He joked, and Clarisse laughed.

“I see you’re as charming as she said.”

Adrien grinned. “She said that?”

“Called you her little brother and all.”

“Clarisse!” Nathalie cried, horrified, but Adrien felt warmth bloom in his chest.

“She looks a bit more like Mari, but the feeling’s mutual.” He looked at Nathalie, too stunned to speak. Clarisse once again took charge of the conversation.

“Well, I just wanted to meet the bride and groom whose food I’ve been chugging down.” She looked at Marinette. “You’re a lot prettier than she said. And that’s saying a lot.”

Nathalie groaned. There was a genuine look of surprise in Mari’s face.

“She said I was pretty?”

“Of course.” Clarisse laughed, and it was a lovely sound. Nathalie, despite everything, looked as happy as he’d ever seen her, and suddenly his appreciation for Clarisse increased tenfold. “Now if you’ll excuse us, I think I’ve embarrassed her enough.”

Clarisse took Nathalie’s hand in hers and spirited her away back to the buffet, Nathalie looking a nice shade of red that really did suit her, and Adrien felt immense joy in her direction.

“Never thought I’d see the day Nathalie Sancoeur would date someone so bubbly.” Marinette laughed.

“I’m as impressed as you,” he joked. “Now, lovely wife, can I have this dance?” he bowed, the way he always had as Chat, and, for the first time, Marinette bowed back.

“Every single one for the rest of my life,” she replied, and Adrien nearly choked on her answer.

“Too bad, I was hoping I could have one of those,” the voice sounded almost delicate coming from behind Adrien, and both their eyes widened in disbelief. That couldn’t…

But yep. They turned around, and Gabriel Agreste stood there, patiently waiting as he never had. From the beginning of time, it seemed as if the world had to wait for him, not the other way around. Chairs were placed under him and pens were handed without request. Meals came to him as he reached the restaurant and cars were always waiting for him.

And yet he was waiting for Marinette.


 

Marinette’s mind was blank. That was the only way to describe it.

Gabriel asked her for a dance. Not the traditional, father-in-law wedding dance. Nope. A real dance. Between the two of them.

Oh boy.

What took her by surprise, at first, was that he was offering his hand. He didn’t take hers. He waited for Marinette to accept instead of assuming she would.

Wow, Okay, five stars, Father.

Marinette felt the smile tug at her lips, unbidden, and took her hand from Adrien’s, who flinched, as if he hadn’t expected her to actually accept. But what could one dance make worse, honestly?

She took Gabriel’s hand and was led to the dance floor with a grace she never attributed to him. Power, yes. Grace? Never.

But here he was, gentle and graceful, and Marinette had never seen it coming.

And their dance began. As if the music had seen them reach the dancefloor, it changed into something more sober but pleasant. Basically, what she had in front of her at this very moment.

There was a silence as they danced, but it didn’t seem awkward. It seemed familial, comfortable. Gabriel’s gaze wasn’t hostile, but not openly caring, either. She supposed there were walls that would never fall.

The dance came to a close as Gabriel bowed as one would in early ball dancing, and Marinette felt the urge to curtsy. Before Gabriel rose, Adrien was there to take her hand and continue the dance. Low, just loud enough for her to hear, Gabriel whispered the last words she ever expected.

“Welcome to the family."


 

Marinette placed the pictures of her wedding with Adrien back gently on the cloth after polishing the silver frame Gabriel had given them, so long ago.

Next to it, pictures of children littered the fireplace, blue eyes, blonde hair, black hair, green eyes. Every combination available to their genes was there, Mendel be proud. She smiled as she polished the picture presenting Adrien and Gabriel, far different from the one Gabriel had always displayed overlooking the foyer of his home.

Maybe rejecting the house had been a mistake, but Mari was more than happy with the house above the bakery---which was no longer a bakery, but a clothing store—they had managed to get back.

It was almost five, and she heard Adrien come back home.

“Hey family!” He called, the same he did every day. It still made her heart leap, fifteen years later. What a joy it was, falling in love with the same person every day. Through fights and fire and flames and disagreements and everything, at the end of the day they always solved everything, just as her parents had.

Sabine still lived in the countryside, even after Tom was no longer around. She took to baking once more, but this time it was more out of love than anything else--God knew Emma and Gabriel loved going to grandma’s for the weekend, and Marinette was pretty sure they returned chubbier every time.

Arms slipped around her waist, and a kiss found its way to the crown of her head, Adrien’s height be damned.

Marinette turned around and smiled, stealing a kiss from her husband.

“How was school?” She asked. “Do the kids still hate it?”

“Maybe a little less than before? In my defense, I don’t teach them, but other classes, so I really don’t see the problem.”

Marinette rolled her eyes. “They’re teenagers. Having dad around school and then around home must suck.”

There was a thump upstairs, and suddenly Emma rushed down the stairs, closely followed by Gabriel.

“I—I’m gonna study at Miranda’s!” Called Emma.

“Me too!” Gabriel yelled, overlapping Emma. It was like they didn’t have to finish their own sentences.

Twins.

That was when Marinette heard the TV in the background, announcing a fire. Marinette and Adrien exchanged an amused glance, and then looked at the stairs, knowing exactly who was following closely.

Tikki and Marinette exchanged a sweet glance, different from Adrien and Plagg’s, yet somehow filled with the same amount of love.

“Do take care of them,” Marinette said.

Plagg rolled his eyes. “These are worse than you two. And that’s saying something.”

Adrien laughed. “Just go!”

“Bye!” Tikki called behind as they both rushed through the almost closing door.

“Are we ever going to tell them?” Adrien asked. Marinette shrugged.

“Not until they tell us.”

Adrien turned Mari around and smiled impishly.  “Well that means we have the house to ourselves.”

Marinette giggled, the same way she had when she was fourteen and kissed the love of her life.

Life was good.