Volpina had Marinette. She had Marinette and she was dangling her from the top of the Eiffel Tower.
"Let her go!" Chat shouted.
"Give me your miraculous and maybe I'll think about it!" Volpina called back.
Never before had a person been akumatised twice, but Lila proved to be the first. The situation he and Ladybug were now in was horribly familiar. Not long ago it was an illusion of himself that Voplina had taunted him and Ladybug with. Now it was his shy classmate that Volpina had in her clutches.
"We'll never give you our miraculous!" Ladybug shouted in defiance as they looked up at where Volpina had Marinette dangling helplessly. Much like the first time Lila had been akumatised, Ladybug and Chat Noir were slightly below Volpina on the Tower, looking up while the akumatised villain threatened to drop a civilian to their death.
"Let her go!" Chat repeated. "Marinette is kind and friendly! What has she ever done to you?!"
Chat barely noticed the surprised look Ladybug sent him; he was too worried about Marinette. He knew that the last time they were in this situation it was an illusion, but he couldn't risk it when it came to Marinette. She was his friend! One of his first friends! One of his best friends! He couldn't let anything happen to her!
Marinette had really come out of her shell around Adrien lately. Sure, she was still prone to stuttering, but she really made an effort to talk to Adrien and he really appreciated it. He'd wanted to be better friends with her. He was still unsure as to why she was so shy around him when she was so confident with the rest of the class, but he put it down to who he and his Father were. Marinette was an aspiring fashion designer, after all. The Agreste name could be intimidating.
But despite that, Marinette had put effort into getting to know him better. And what he'd found was that Marinette was simply incredible. She was amazingly kind and patient (there was an exception to her patience when it came to Chloé, but Chloé was Chloé and that was understandable).
Marinette could also trounce him at video games, bake delicious treats, design amazing clothes, liked a lot of the same things he did (Adrien had been delighted to learn she liked anime) and in rare moments that perhaps delighted Adrien even more than the anime, she would tease him! Good natured teasing, of course, but Marinette was sassy and Adrien loved it. He and Marinette would have moments of teasing banter before Marinette would suddenly blush and revert back to stuttering around him.
So yes, his friendship was a work in progress when it came to getting her 100% comfortable around him, but Adrien was determined to make it happen and he still considered her one of his best friends. So now, when there was a risk of Marinette getting hurt, he wasn't about to let that happen.
(There was also the ongoing issue of the nervous, excited, happy feeling he kept getting in his stomach whenever he saw or thought of Marinette. It was disconcerting because it had always been Ladybug who could bring out those emotions in Adrien. He didn't want to admit he had feelings for Marinette, but he knew he did. Was it possible to love two people at once? Ah well, that was a problem to consider when the object of his affections wasn't dangling from the Eiffel Tower!)
"What has she done?" Volpina said as she lifted one finger from around Marinette's wrist; Chat immediately tensed. He couldn't let Marinette fall. "She's competition."
"Competition?" Chat repeated in confusion. "Competition with what?!"
"With Adrien!" Volpina shouted, and Chat tensed even more at hearing his name. "She's been spending too much time with Adrien! It's clear she's in love with him."
"She's what?" Chat said, sounding shocked.
Marinette … loved him?
Ah, that nervous, excited, happy feeling was back.
Chat was afraid.
Did he mention that Marinette was dangling from the Eiffel Tower?!
"What are you talking about? There's no competition," Ladybug said, but her voice was … off. She almost sounded … defeated. Chat shot her a concerned glance, but found himself nodding along with her words. Of course there was no competition. Marinette blew the competition out of the water. She was kind, she was beautiful, she was brave and Adrien loved her –
The realisation pulled him up short.
He loved her.
He loved her.
He loved Marinette.
And she loved him.
Butterflies erupted in his stomach and he had to fight to keep the smile from his face.
Wait, no! Butterflies are bad! Don't think of butterflies! Butterflies can be akumas. Think of … croissants?
The croissants erupted in his stomach?
He wished he had croissants in his stomach. Wait, what?
Focus, Adrien! He mentally shouted at himself. Marinette is in danger because Lila thinks she's competition for you.
The only competition Marinette had was Ladybug.
Gah, how can you love two people at once?! What was this doing to his brain?! He shouldn't be thinking of butterflies and croissants at a time like this!
"Adrien doesn't even know Marinette exists," Ladybug continued, pulling Chat out of his mental ramblings.
Wait, WHAT?! He thought incredulously.
"Yes I – he – does!" Chat said, feeling offended that Ladybug could even think such a thing and shooting his partner a shocked glance. "How could you say that?!"
"Okay, he doesn't think of Marinette like that," Ladybug amended. "They might be friends but they'll never be anything more. He doesn't like her. Why would he?"
If Chat wasn't feeling so insulted on Marinette's behalf, he'd be more concerned about how his Lady was acting. Her eyes were downcast, her shoulders slumped and her voice still had that defeated tone.
"Maybe because – " He began.
"For once we're in agreement, Ladybug," Volpina cut him off. "Why would Adrien like a nobody like her? Maybe I should just let her go? It's not like anyone would miss her."
"No!" Chat shouted. "Don't hurt her!"
"Chat, calm down –" Ladybug said.
"Help me!" Marinette called as she still danged helplessly in Volpina's grip.
"Hold on, Princess!" Chat called as he prepared to leap to her aid.
"Chat Noir, wait!" Ladybug held out an arm to stop him. "It's an illusion!"
"You don't know that for sure!"
"I do –"
"I do!" Ladybug repeated before throwing her yoyo towards Volpina.
"Too late!" Volpina taunted, letting go of Marinette.
"NO!" Chat shouted, bounding upwards. "MARINETTE!"
Ladybug's yoyo missed the falling Marinette and Volpina only just managed to get out of its way. However, Chat barely paid them any attention. His attention was on Marinette, who had let out a terrified scream as she fell. Chat reached her and held out his arms to catch her. But as soon as he did, Marinette turned into orange smoke.
She'd been an illusion the whole time.
Marinette was safe.
Chat breathed out a sigh of relief and after resolving to check on Marinette when this was all over, he turned to help his Lady. It didn't take long to deal with Volpina after that. With a 'Cataclysm!', 'Lucky charm!', and a 'Miraculous Ladybug!' everything was set right and Lila was returned to her normal self.
(Chat also resolved to speak to Lila as Adrien at school. He couldn't have her threatening Marinette anymore.)
But that decision was at the back of his mind. What concerned him after the battle was how his Lady had been acting and what exactly she'd said about Marinette.
The two superheroes had rushed off after defeating Volpina and stood on a roof that they frequented while on patrol.
Ladybug's earrings beeped. "Gotta go, Chaton," she said, preparing to yoyo herself away.
Chat caught her wrist, "Wait."
"Chat, I'm about to detransform-"
"Chaton, can this wait? You know how I feel about our identities."
Normally, Chat Noir would have let her go instantly, but not this time.
"No, my Lady. You've been acting weird and you insulted Marinette. What – what – what is with that?"
It normally wasn't in Chat to reprimand his Lady. Normally he was happy to follow her lead in anything. She could do no wrong. But this time … Not this time.
Ladybug clearly seemed surprised at his actions. "I'm fine, Minou-"
"You're not!" Chat replied, feeling uncharacteristically frustrated with his Lady. "You're not and now you won't even tell me what's wrong so I can help y-"
He was cut off by a loud beep from Ladybug's earrings, this time accompanied by a beep from his ring.
"We're running out of time-" Ladybug said urgently.
"What do you have against Marinette?"
"What?!" Ladybug sounded dumbfounded.
"You said Adrien doesn't like Marinette – you don't know that – and then you said 'why would he?' You can't say that about Marinette! Marinette's is amazing."
"Are you having a fight with Marinette? Is that why you're so down? Even so, you can't talk like that about her. I care about you, Ladybug, but I also care about Marinette. She's one of my closest friends-"
"-So you can't speak about her that way."
"Why do you care about Marinette so much? … Are you – are you scolding me?"
Chat shook his head. "Never. I'm just saying that Marinette is a wonderful person … I know her outside of the suit, you know," Chat said, not noticing how wide Ladybug's eyes went. "She doesn't know I'm Chat Noir, of course, but I'm sure you'd like her too."
Ladybug was cut off by another set of beeps from their miraculous. They were running out of time.
"I know we need to go," Chat said. "But just give Marinette a chance, and know that if you're ever feeling down, you can talk to me about it. Okay, Buginette?"
Ladybug looked like a combination of surprised and utterly confused; she mutely nodded.
"Good," he said, taking her hand and pressing it to his lips.
"Uh – gotta go, Minou," she said, pulling her hand away.
"Until next time, my Lady," Chat said and watched as his partner bounded over Parisian rooftops and out of sight.
Right, time to go check on Prin-
His thought was interrupted by a loud beep from his miraculous.
… Okay, new plan: a quick camembert recharge and then go check on Princess.
What even was Marinette's life?
First she'd caused an akuma (well, not really, but apparently even just hanging out with Adrien is grounds for getting on Lila's bad side. So now she's angered Lila as both her superheroine and civilian self. Great.)
Then she got reprimanded by Chat Noir for badmouthing herself?
And she knew him as a civilian! WHAT?!
She was sure she'd know Chat Noir if she met him as a civilian, but apparently not. Who could he be?! He'd been singing her praises, claiming they'd be good friends if she gave herself a chance! And it turns out she was one of his closest friends?!
Just – what?!
And the way he'd been talking about her, defending her – to herself of all people – why did that bring a fierce flush to her face?! Why was her heart pounding?!
"Are you alright, Marinette?" Tikki asked in concern.
Marinette had made it back to her room and was now lying face down on her bed as she tried to process everything that had happened.
"Chat Noir knows me, Tikki. Who could he be? I thought for sure I'd know that cat if I met him as Marinette. Does – does that mean I don't know him as well as I thought I did?"
Tikki put a tiny, comforting hand on Marinette's cheek. "Of course not, Marinette. You know Chat. He might just act differently without the mask. You don't act like Ladybug all the time, do you?"
Marinette wordlessly shook her head.
"Then it stands to reason that Chat doesn't always act like Chat. You still know him well, you just know one side of him, that's all. You-" The kwami cut herself off and abruptly hid.
Tap, tap, tap!
Marinette turned to see Chat Noir tapping on the trapdoor that led to her balcony. That explained Tikki's sudden rush to hide. Marinette climbed up to the door and let her partner in. "Chat Noir? What are you doing here?" She asked as she climbed back down the stairs that led to the trap door.
Chat waited until they were both back on even ground before he rushed to pull her into a hug. "I'm so glad you're okay," he murmured.
Marinette stiffened in surprised, but eventually hugged him back.
Chat realised that Marinette wasn't used to being hugged by one of the heroes of Paris and abruptly let her go, stepping away from her. "S-sorry," he said, rubbing the back of his neck awkwardly. "It's just – Volpina had an illusion of you dangling from the Eiffel Tower today. It scared me to death. Lucky I have nine lives!"
That was more like her chaton. Thinking back on it, he hadn't made a single pun or cat joke the whole time they'd battled Volpina. He must have been worried.
"She did?" Marinette said, making sure she sounded confused about Chat's presence. She'd only met him a few times as Marinette, after all. Definitely not enough to warrant getting a visit from the superhero.
(It wasn't hard to sound confused. After everything that had happened, damn, she was confused!)
"I had to make sure you were okay," Chat said.
"I'm fine," she told him. "I – uh – haven't seen Volpina at all."
Chat looked relieved and broke out in a smile, "Good."
"She was targeting me?"
He nodded, "Luckily Ladybug and I dealt with her because she could get to you."
Her Chaton was actually blushing!
"It's – uh – no problem. It's – er – partially my fault she got akumatised anyway."
…. What? Marinette thought.
But Lila got akumatised because she saw Marinette spending time with Adrien?
If Chat was partially responsible for Lila's akumatisation, then that would suggest he's –
"Listen, Marinette," Chat said, effectively cutting off her mental meltdown. "Have you had any issues with Ladybug lately?"
"What?" Marinette managed to voice the one word her brain was stuck on.
"My Lady seemed quite down today, but she said some negative things about you while we were fighting Volpina. I thought you might have had a fight? I know you two know each other."
"What?" Marinette repeated.
Chat looked lost in thought; his eye drifted away from her as he thought back over the events of the day. "Wrong things," he murmured, so softly she barely heard him; she wasn't even sure he meant for her to hear him. "I don't know why she thinks I don't know you exist."
The only person Marinette had mentioned not knowing she existed was Adrien, but if Chat was saying that he was the one she said didn't know she existed…
Then that meant that he was –
That Chat was –
That Adrien was –
ADRIEN IS CHAT NOIR?!
Her flirtatious partner was the one she'd been head over heels for since that moment in the rain?! She'd been rejecting the boy she's in love with for the boy that she's in love with?!
Just – WHAT?!
He's – he's –
"Adrien," she said aloud.
Chat froze, looking alarmed. "Uh, excuse me?"
Marinette studied him.
The same hair colour.
The same build.
The eyes might be different but they were both still a vibrant green.
And his smile. His cheeky, mischievous grin was one that she rarely saw on Adrien's face but she had seen it. And it was 100% Chat Noir.
It was him!
"It's you! You're Adrien!"
"Uh, I'm sorry, Princess, but-"
"You're Adrien! You're Adrien! You're –" She cut herself off as she thought back to the time when Kim had been akumatised. "Ohmygodyou'reAdrien."
Oh my god, I've kissed Adrien!
She stared at him in shock, her hand over her mouth.
Adrien calls me Princess!
"You're Chat, but you're Adrien," Marinette babbled, pulling her hand away from her mouth to tug at her hair instead. "You're Chat. Adrien. Chatrien?"
"Marinette, please calm down-"
"I'm calm, I'm calm, I'm totally calm. You calm down-"
"I'm so calm. So calm. I'm not freaking out, you're freaking out, I'm fine, I'm – mmfft!"
Her babbling was cut off by Chat – Adrien – kissing her. He had cupped her face in his hand – claws? – and kissed her. She stiffened in surprised until her brain finally kicked into gear and she returned the gesture, wrapping her arms around him to bury her hands in his Chat-Noir-wild and not model-perfect hair.
Oh God, it was just as perfect as she had always imagined it to be. His lips were so incredibly soft. His hands drifted from her face and were at her waist, holding her to him. Oh, she never wanted it to end.
…. But why was he kissing her?
Chat Noir had made it no secret how he felt about Ladybug, so why was he kissing Marinette? Did he know who she was? But he couldn't … he'd come to her asking if she'd had a fight with Ladybug, so he couldn't know that she was his partner. So why was he kissing her? It was to shut her up, wasn't it?
Oh, it was totally to shut her up.
… But if it was to make her stop talking, why was he still kissing her?!
Their kiss had turned into two, three, four, five. His lips were insistent on hers. He wasn't pulling away. Was he – was he purring?
There was a flash of green light as Chat released his transformation. Marinette still had her eyes closed so she didn't see it, but she felt the change. She could feel the material of his clothes and the warmth of his hands at her waist instead of his suit and claws.
Marinette gave a brief, passing thought to his kwami, but it was pushed aside as she felt his lips on her neck.
Oh god, this wasn't to just shut her up. He wanted to kiss her. He was kissing her. Was this a dream? She was going to wake up from this bliss, wasn't she?
"Marinette," he murmured, whispering her name like a prayer before his lips found hers again.
Eventually though, he pulled away from her. They were both breathless, their lips kiss-swollen, and clothing dishevelled from where they clung to one another.
Marinette kept her eyes closed.
"Marinette, Princess, you can open your eyes."
"No, if I do the dream will be over."
There was a short huff of a laugh before Marinette felt hands on her shoulders. "Open your eyes, Princess, I'm right here."
Slowly, ever so slowly, she opened her eyes.
Adrien Agreste stood in front of her, his hands on her shoulders, looking both nervous and bashful and blushing a brilliant red. "Hi, Princess," he said. "Sorry, I should have asked you before you kissing you like that."
He was – he was apologising?! For the best kiss – kisses – make out session – of her life?
She giggled. A cute, 'I can't believe that just happened' giggle.
"You're Adrien, and you're Chat Noir."
"I am, and I don't know how you worked it out but, Marinette, you can't tell anyone."
"You kissed me."
"But you're Chat Noir, you love Ladybug."
Adrien rubbed the back of his neck awkwardly. "I do," he admitted. "I – I love both of you. Does that sound weird? That's weird. Damn it, I'm sorry. How do you even end up loving two people? But I do love you, Marinette, I do! I realised it today when I thought Volpina had you. Do you even realise how amazing you are? You're smart and funny and beautiful and adorable and you're so kind to everyone and wow I am babbling. Oh jeez, make me stop."
Marinette broke out into fresh giggles. There was something so satisfying about seeing him nervous and babbling because of her and not the other way around. And he loved her! Not just the Ladybug side of her, either, but her, Marinette!
How ridiculous were they? They loved each other, but hadn't been together because of secret identities that she remained adamant that they keep. If she had just listened to him when he'd wanted to reveal themselves, they could have been happier a lot sooner.
Marinette laughed harder.
"Are – are you okay, Marinette?"
"The guy I've been crushing on for ages is my partner that I've been constantly rejecting. I'm totally fine, I'm just an idiot."
"I found you, mon Minou, and you found me."
Adrien's eyes widened in surprise. "What?!"
Marinette smiled and took his face in her hands. She marvelled at how calm she was. Her initial freak out over, she felt fine. Giddy. Ecstatic. She felt incredible as she finally revealed the one secret she'd been keeping from him for so long. "You're not in love with two people, Chaton. You just fell for me twice."
He gaped at her. "M-My Lady?"
"Marinette – Ladybug. You're Ladybug."
She leant in and brushed her nose him his and then pressed a quick peck to his lips. "Mmhmm."
"You're my Lady."
"You're my Chaton."
"You just kissed me."
"You're Ladybug," he babbled. "Marinette – Ladybug – Maribug?"
She laughed, "That's me."
"Are you – Are you disappointed?"
She looked at him in shock. "Disappointed? Why would I be disappointed?"
"I get that you like me as Adrien, but Chat – I mean, I'm just a big loser. And I know you don't like my puns and I'm sure you could save Paris without me but I'm really more comfortable as Chat. I get freedom as Chat that I don't get as Adrien and – mmmft!"
Marinette pulled him into her arms and stopped him with a kiss. "Shut up, you stupid, dumb cat," she murmured into his lips. Adrien had only just begun to respond to the kiss when she pulled away; he made a noise of protest, but she ignored it. "I could never be disappointed in you. Never. We're a team and I couldn't save Paris without you. You're just as important as me and you're so, so, so important to me, Chaton. I love you. The only reason I kept turning you down was because I was already in love with you."
Adrien couldn't help but laugh, "I've been in my own way. That's so stupid."
Marinette laughed along with him, "We've both been stupid."
"I love you, Marinette, my Lady. All of you. I love you."
"I love you too, Adrien, mon Minou. All of you."
"We're so dumb."
"I'll say!" Piped up a new voice.
Marinette turn to see a black cat-like kwami floating beside Tikki and who looked totally unimpressed with what was going on. "Totally oblivious, the pair of you!" He went on.
"Plagg!" Tikki and Adrien chided.
"Be nice!" Adrien said.
"You owe me so much camembert, kid. I can't believe you were getting all kissy in the suit!"
"You'll get your camembert when we get home. Plagg, this is Marinette. Marinette, Plagg."
"Nice to meet you, Plagg. I don't know about camembert, but I know my Papa made cheese bread, would you like some of that?"
There was a pause and then, "Yes! That's fine. Kid, you can be kissy all you want if there's cheese bread. In fact, marry her right now. Then we can have all the cheesy bread we want."
"Plagg!" Adrien and Tikki chorused again.
Marinette blushed scarlet, automatically thinking of her plans for her future family: Married to Adrien and having Emma, Hugo and Louis.
"Shut. Up. Plagg!" Adrien hissed at the kwami.
Adrien ignored him and focused back on Marinette. "Sorry about him, my Lady."
She smiled at him, "He's fine," she said, "He looks adorable."
"Looks can be deceiving," Adrien muttered.
"Hey!" Plagg said indignantly.
Marinette laughed and gestured to her own kwami, "This is Tikki."
"Nice to properly meet you, Adrien!" Tikki said brightly, waving one tiny little hand.
"Nice to meet you too! You're the one that looks adorable."
Tikki giggled while Plagg muttered something about 'floating, pink sweet tooths.'
A comfortable silence fell between as she and Adrien simply looked at each other, happy and content in the knowledge that they were partners and they loved each other.
Marinette couldn't keep the smile off her face; it seemed like Adrien couldn't either.
"Look, they're being all gross and loving already," Marinette heard Plagg murmur to Tikki as she and Adrien leant into towards each other once more.
She didn't hear Tikki's response. Her Chaton distracted her with lips … Well, he tried. They were both smiling too much to kiss the other properly. Neither of them minded, they had plenty of time to kiss either other again.
One such opportunity came the next morning in front of their class. Too bad they forgot that the rest of the class wasn't expecting Adrien to come in and kiss Marinette good morning. The action was met with shocked silence from their classmates. Lila and Chloé looked ready to explode in rage, the others just stared at them in open mouthed surprise (except for Alya; she had begun recording it on her phone the moment she realised what was going on.)
Marinette and Adrien stared at their classmates and then turned back to each other.
"Whoops," they chorused.
Adrien wore a wicked grin on his face. "Looks like the cat's out-"
"No," Marinette said, cutting off him off with a kiss. (It was fast becoming her favourite way of cutting off his puns … Actually, it was fast becoming her favourite anything.)
There was more silence and then –
The class erupted into pandemonium.