Adrien leaped down the stairs of the mansion – running all the way to the closed gates and vaulting up over them. He continued moving without really knowing where he was going. He was only wearing socks – fluffy ones – sweatpants, and a red Christmas sweater his father didn't exactly love. But what did he know, anyway?
Adrien and Gabriel had fought. This time, about Gabriel being away for Christmas. He always did the same, the holidays always had him swamped in work, which Adrien considered weird – he was always swamped in work; he could at least make some time for Christmas. It used to be Adrien and his mother's favorite time of the year, curling up in front of the fireplace; a fireplace that hadn't been lit up ever since she disappeared.
The argument had been a heated one; heated, unlike that damn house. Even Gabriel had lost a bit of his composure. Nathalie had woken Adrien up at around 1am to inform him of her and his father's departure to Lisbon – since they'd both forgotten to tell him. They'd be gone for a week, which meant they'd be away for Christmas. Again.
Now the 17-year-old boy was running and wishing for a place that felt like home because that house certainly didn't, not anymore. Plagg was in his pocket, the little God worried as he'd never seen Adrien so dazed. He hadn't even thought of transforming, he just wanted to run through the snow. The boy suddenly halted. He now found himself at the Dupain-Cheng bakery, Marinette's house; and then he was knocking on the door of the closed place, looking for something even sweeter than their expertly baked goods. And then… panic.
Adrien suddenly realized what he just did and began to panic. He seriously considered running away before anyone could come to the door but he freezes up – Marinette is there, with her bouncy pigtails and her obviously Christmas themed pajamas. Adrien, who despite being of slight social awkwardness had always thought of himself as oddly charismatic; started vomiting apologies.
Marinette was sitting on the floor of her living room by the heater with a plate of cookies by her side, a purple blanket draped over her shoulders. Tikki was in her lap munching on a cookie; the both of them silently watching Project Runway. Her parents were away for the weekend and she and Tikki were enjoying some alone time. Alone time that got interrupted by a loud knock on the bakery's door, so loud Marinette could hear it from two floors up. She ushered Tikki into her pocket and sneaked down the stairs, grabbing a frying pan on her way. She had recently re-watched Tangled and agreed with Rapunzel's thinking; you can (almost) never be too wary, after all. She steadily walked to the door, frying pan ready, and opened it to reveal a very hot – very freezing – Adrien.
He looked panicked and shaken up. Marinette had to try her hardest not to hug him tight.
"I am so sorry! I know it's late, I don't really know why I’m here, I just, I needed, like, a place, actually, no, um, I mean, oh God, I’m so sorry Marinette, I have no excuse, just, I’m so-”
He was interrupted by Marinette harshly pulling him inside the toasty bakery before he could run away; she was definitely stronger than she looked, and with a determined look on her face that reminded him slightly of Ladybug.
Marinette silently pushed him to her living room and sits him next to the heater. Adrien suddenly realized how cold he was and let himself shiver a bit. Project Runway was playing on TV, Tim Gunn on screen. Adrien didn't really know what to say but he felt there was no real need for words. Marinette suddenly stood up and when she came back, she brought an amount of blankets that could easily make Adrien's inner child's dream blanket fort come true. While Marinette wraps him up in all the blankets, he can only stare at her, dazed, till she stares back.
"Want to talk about it?" She asks, Adrien sighed and starts apologizing again but she put her hand over his mouth – when suddenly "Ow! Did you just bite me?"
He looks at her, seemingly terrified until she starts laughing maniacally. He thinks of how much he loves the sound for a second before he joins in. Finally, he managed to calm down.
"Sorry, and… no – at least not right now but thank you, really." She nodded, showing she understood.
"You're absolutely welcome but… do you need a place to stay the night?" She tried not to blush, she really did! She could never imagine having Adrien stay the night but there she was inviting him.
"Oh, no, no, no… I don't want to be a bother, and I doubt your parents would like me showing up out of nowhere and… really, I’ll be okay. I should just go back..."
"Adrien!” Marinette exclaimed, her unrivaled kindness rushing to surface, almost overriding her blush. “You're not a bother! My parents are actually away for the weekend, I’ll give them a call and explain – I’m sure they'll understand. They know they can trust me." She looked down, twiddling her thumbs. "I don't know what happened with you and I won't press, but I think that, if you do decide to stay, you should let someone know you're okay and are spending the night at a friend's."
Adrien looked up and miraculously noticed Marinette was red-faced, oblivious to the knowledge it was her blushing. "I will, but um, Marinette, are you feeling okay?"
"Oh, y-yeah, why?" She found herself stammering slightly as the nerves slowly itched at her.
"Oh, nothing, I just thought the heater might be bothering you." He said, in an annoyingly innocent voice that didn't calm her down.
He had no idea.
Marinette got up and went to her room to call her parents whilst Adrien sent a short and direct message to Nathalie. Both teens noticed their kwamis zipped off. Adrien could only hope Plagg didn't get into trouble – he couldn’t risk running around after a mini god. When Marinette returned, Adrien's body decided it was a good time to protest about the cold he put himself through, and he sneezed. Marinette lightly scolded him while handing him a tissue and it reminded him of when he got sick and his mother would take care of him.
Marinette reminded him of his mother. Not only her gestures but her expressions too. When she looked determined or even scolding, or happy. It warmed him a little more. It made him want to hug her really tight – and that's exactly what he did because impulse control is overrated. He felt her tense and gasp breathlessly – making him regret everything – until she hugged back twice as tight. He couldn't be happier, she smelled so good and he felt like he could stay there forever.
Marinette's brain was a never-ending string of not very nice words, even if the situation was very nice. It felt amazingly comfortable and not awkward at all, it was greater than she could've ever imagined – which she had done frequently over the past few years. After a few minutes blissfully wrapped up in her dreams come true, she remembered something.
"Oh um, I actually have a gift for you..."
"I have one for you too!" Adrien exclaimed, pulling back with his eyes alight "...but I left it at home." He finished, less excitedly as the light in his eyes began to dim.
Marinette immediately regretted ever saying anything – even if what he said had got her a little excited.
"Well, I’m going to get yours, I think you deserve an early gift!" She scrambled to her room and came back with a red package. Adrien looked so excited, it reminded her of a little kid. And Chat. He sometimes had a very similar expression. "It's not much and probably not what you're used to, but I made this thinking of you, so… hope you like it." She chuckled in her panicked rambling, regretting everything and probably redder than ever.
He was quick to open it, excitement buzzing through him and he gasped when he saw the forest green beanie she'd made. He looked for her signature and found it sewn on the inside of the hem that was turned upwards. Marinette was close to combustion… but he seemed to have liked it at least.
"Thank you! Just- thank you, thank you! Wow, you actually thought of me! And made me something! And it's so beautiful! You're amazing, you know that right? This is awesome!" He knew he was smiling like a dork as his excitement turned to word vomit, but he couldn't stop!
She. Could not. Do words.
She couldn't find anything to say, she was so happy with his reaction it made her speechless and filled her heart with so much love. Adrien was her friend, he was so amazing and didn't even seem to realize, and she was just so in love.
With a mutual agreement it was late, a few yawns to seal the deal – they readied themselves to sleep. After she turned off the heater, he hugged her again in thanks and the two teens ended up falling asleep on the couch, covered in the heaps of blankets.
They awoke at 8am with a chime from Adrien's phone. He'd turned it off but had an alarm on, because he's one of those crazy beings known as morning people. They were a mess of limbs, stuttered apologies and blushes. When they finally managed to get through the slightly delightful awkwardness, they decided they might as well make breakfast.
"What can you cook?"
Adrien smiled somewhat sheepishly. "...Cereal?"
Marinette choked on her saliva, in shock. He laughed cruelly and manically at her sudden reaction. Her dreams were crushed as the love of her life ruthlessly showed her his true sadistic ways.
"I could've died Adrien, how can you be so cold?" She asked in joking disbelief.
"I'm sorry little lady, but don't worry, I’d never let you die."
"I'll choose to believe you, for everyone's sake."
After a lot of food and a stupid amount of bantering that was only possible because both teens were too tired to care or realize what was happening – they sat on the sofa watching morning cartoons until Marinette's phone rang. The chorus of “That's My Best Friend” by Tokyo Vanity was playing, and the tiny girl ran to it shrieking slightly, causing Adrien to scoff sounds of amusement.
"Hey, Alya, what's up? Oh, hey Nino, how-”
When Adrien heard his best friend's name he immediately shouted out, “Hey Nino!"
The sudden familiar voice didn’t escape the journalist friend, and the volume of Alya’s voice nearly caused Marinette premature hearing-impairment.
"Alya, okay, I get it, you're happy, you totally called it, yes, I know, can you please calm down and stop embarrassing me?" Marinette finished, in a whisper.
"Yes, okay, sure – anyway," The phone was turned on speaker so both Marinette and Adrien could hear Nino and Alya screaming "I had originally called you because there's an Akuma attack and I just wanted to check on you… but I see you're both more than fine." Alya finally returned to her matter at hand.
"...Oh." Both heroes let out at the same time, totally inconspicuously.
"Yeah, um, we're fine." Marinette said, "are you going to go after it?"
"Girl – obviously. And this dork wants to come after me," She then mock whispered. "He's afraid I’ll die."
"Please don't joke about that..."
"Okay, I’m sorry, you're right… anyway, yes, we're trying to find something but I don't see the actual Akuma, I think he can control people?" She ended her phrase in an interrogative tone, "I think he's also wrapping them up in some kind of indestructible cloth. This is a fashion patrol if I've ever seen one."
"Oh, wow, seems like a dangerous one..." said Adrien.
"God, those people look like zombies… look, we got to go, you guys be careful. Bye!"
"Alya, please-" the other girl unceremoniously ended the call, "-be careful...ugh."
Marinette and Adrien proceeded to stare at each other, both trying to find excuses to flee, but it proved to be unneeded.
They heard a ruckus downstairs and both instinctively ran to the door. About a dozen people dressed in quite the colour-coordinated bodysuits began to crowd around them. Adrien managed to push Marinette back inside the living room as she shouts and – in a blur – the Fashion Patrol was already gone, having taken Adrien.
Adrien had let himself be transported back home. He had never thought his father could feel emotion enough, especially because of him, to ever be akumatized. He looked at his father, he was wearing a black bodysuit with a white and red striped V-neckline that went up almost to his chin. He sported knee high boots and elbow high gloves also with red and white stripes, and round jet black sunglasses.
"Adrien." His father greeted him coolly.
He wanted to say "Hi Dadrobe" but he felt like that was bad even by his standards. "Father. You seem well. Does being in control make you happy?"
"Control? I'm merely trying to protect everyone, I am The Protector."
Adrien couldn't keep his snort in. "Protector? Are you serious? You're just controlling, you just want everyone to move according to your whims!" He couldn't simmer down his anger, how dare he call himself a protector!
"No need to be so rude Adrien. I'll explain things to you in a way that will make you understand. I'm sure you'll start agreeing with me." The akumatized Agreste snapped his fingers, causing Adrien to be trapped.
Bound to a luxurious black chair by strips of summer green satin – of course even the binds had to match him – Adrien began to struggle. He tried his hardest to come free, but they were surprisingly too strong.
Adrien felt helpless, he couldn’t transform in front of his father. What caused an Akuma to target him anyway? Adrien had nothing left to do other than wait for his Ladybug to catch wind of the Akuma attack, so his eyes darted around – studying his father in hopes of locating where the Akuma was hidden.
Meanwhile, Marinette had transformed as soon as Adrien was taken. She couldn’t say “Spots on!” quite quick enough in her panic to save Adrien. She hurried to chase after the Fashion Patrol. Not very surprisingly, they had led her to Gabriel Agreste's mansion.
She spied from a high placed window where Adrien was being trapped and hurried to intervene when she saw The Protector's glasses starting to spin in red and white hypnotic circles. He was going to control Adrien! She had already tried to contact Chat Noir but he wouldn't answer, so she'd have to go in alone. She super kicked the window with perfect precision so the shards didn't hit anyone. Landing right on top of The Protector, she stayed on his back whilst she let her yo-yo take the Fashion Patrol down. She tried to inspect Gabriel for the possessed item from her disadvantaged point whilst he desperately tried to bat her away.
"I think it's his wedding ring!" Adrien helpfully called out, he had finally pinpointed the possible location.
Sure enough, there was a bright, silver wedding ring uncharacteristically around his gloved finger. Ladybug tried to reach for his ring yet he managed to shake her off him while she was still batting away at the Fashion Patrol. He struck her and she was suddenly bound by strips of black lace that wouldn't budge. Adrien was screaming something at the Akuma but Ladybug was too busy mentally willing the stupid cat to just come help them. Where was he?
"Lucky Charm!" Ladybug exclaimed, reaching up to grab her savior… a pair of red scissors with black spots fell from above and almost stabbed her instead of saving her. "Seriously?! Scissors? Is it that easy? Tragic."
She quickly cut her binds whilst Adrien engaged his father in an argument, she quietly snuck behind The Protector. His Fashion Patrol rushed into formation and tried to grab her but none of them were quick enough for her! She managed to get the ring off his finger and, just as she was smashing it into the ground, all of The Protector's minions fell upon on her.
"No! The Akuma!" She screamed in horror once she escaped the mess of limbs.
She hurriedly checked if everyone was okay and then immediately dashed after the black butterfly. Adrien had also been freed and scrambled away to transform before his father could come completely back to his senses. Chat Noir chased after Ladybug through the rooftops, trying to find the Akuma.
"Seriously, Chat? Now you show up?" She said, but a certain fondness could be heard in her tone. Not like he'd ever notice those subtleties.
"I'm really sorry milady! I really couldn't get here any faster, I was a little tied up..."
"It’s okay Chat, we just need to find this Akuma." Her miraculous beeped, only one spot left.
"Dammit, I can't deal with this, we’ll lose the Akuma! Look, I’m stopping at this bakery and-" Both heroes landed on Marinette's balcony when suddenly Ladybug was engulfed in pink light.
Chat immediately covered his eyes in honor of his lady. "I didn't see anything, I swear! Go feed your kwami, I’ll wait here." He heard a soft giggle that he assumed was Ladybug's kwami.
"Hi Chat Noir, I’m Tikki." The bubbly voice called out softly.
"Hi Tikki, nice to meet you." He awkwardly mumbled, unsure of what direction he was talking to.
"Chat..." A familiar voice called out to him, "Maybe...you can open your eyes."
“I’m sorry to dump this on you so suddenly Chat, but I’m worried. This keeps happening with one of us having to step out to recharge. I just… I think it’ll do more good than bad if you know who I am. I can’t bear to think I could lose an Akuma just because I’m worried about my identity being shown to you.” The girl’s voice began to tremble, knowing what she was giving up. “We waste so much time dancing around each other. If you want to open your eyes whilst my kwami is recharging… that’s okay. I trust you.” A trust that had been built over years, working together, yet hiding alone.
"Wow, are… you really sure about this?" He let his hands fall away, eyes still shut tight. "I mean, we haven’t lost an Akuma yet..."
"I know but we always cut it close. I trust you with everything I have. You're my best friend, and I’d also like to meet you out of costume someday.” She paused to find her breath. “I don't know if this is the right time to do this, but, I can’t run off and catch an Akuma right now and neither can you. So maybe we should just get this over with, so we can work even better as a team?"
Adrien couldn’t fault her logic, too many times had they had close calls and if his lady thought this would help them as a team in the future?
He opened his eyes and blinked, adjusting his vision. In front of him stood a very red Marinette Dupain-Cheng. She stared at him, twiddling her thumbs which reminded him so much of the night before. How hadn’t he seen it? She grinned sheepishly, giving an awkward wave. Why was Tikki taking so long? Meanwhile, Chat stared in awe, he couldn’t be happier. Of all people, it was the sweet girl at the bakery, the girl who made him his own personal hat, the girl he called a friend. He was so glad it was her. Without a moment of doubt, he let his transformation go.
Marinette froze, watching the green light subside and reveal him. Stepping back to look at him and almost falling, his beautiful green eyes stared at her with so much reluctance. Marinette started to cry softly, her heart going through loops. Of all people, the one she trusted with her life had also been the love of her life. Her face was bright pink as she trembled, the reality hitting full force. She never imagined it would turn out like this.
Adrien felt his own heart bursting, his lady was here in front of him and for once there were no smoke screens. It was just them.
Impulse ran over composure and Marinette found herself locked in a warm embrace. She hurriedly gripped him back still unsure of how this could be possible. Nuzzling her face into his shoulder she could smell the faint traces of sweat from when “Chat Noir” rushed to meet her. There were no words to speak or utter, the moment was pure and simple. They finally knew each other and it was better than either of them could imagine.
They pulled apart when a certain kwami popped up beside them, Tikki was covered in cookie crumbs and sporting the goofiest smile as she looked between the two heroes. Everyone seemed to be oblivious to Plagg in the corner rolling his eyes, secretly happy it had finally happened.
Now recharged they both transformed and went after the Akuma once again – together as a team. Scaling the rooftops of Paris until they miraculously found it, perched upon a stone gargoyle, almost like it was waiting for them to come get it. It’s black wings fluttering delicately.
Ladybug scooped it up in her hand, curing it of the darkness Hawkmoth embedded it with. Releasing it, murmuring a soft “bye bye little butterfly” she smiled softly. Gently fingers began to entwine with hers. Beside her a bashful looking Chat – no, Adrien – was beside her.
“What’s wrong little kitty?” She teased, yet still feeling unbelievably overwhelmed with the reality.
"I have to go back home… Father is going to kill me." He replied with a sigh, the tail on his suit flicking.
"Don't say that, I’ll put in a good word for you." She winked as Adrien de-transformed and Marinette took him back home.
Upon arrival, Gabriel hugged him tightly and even apologized – albeit quietly. Then he proceeded to drop one too many hints that he knew of his son's superhero endeavors. Adrien was stuttering in disbelief, certain he had sneaked away before transforming to follow Ladybug. Marinette didn't know whether to laugh or cry.
Gabriel cleared his throat, stepping back to give the heroes a moment, his eyes almost turning… soft.
"So um, can I come pick you up at your house tomorrow morning?" Adrien asked, voice laced with hope.
She giggled, he was too precious. "Yes, I would appreciate that. Let's hope I don't fall asleep."
"I'll wake you. You know I love mornings!" He chirped.
"...You're a terrible, terrible kitty." She responded with a roll of her eyes.
"I know." He smiled devilishly.
Ladybug shifted her balance on her feet before quickly placing a kiss on her heroes cheek, “I care a lot about you Chat, you know that, right?”
Adrien smiled softly as they remained close together. “I care about you too milady,” He gently took her hand and kissed it softly, with the mannerisms of Chat Noir but the sincerity of Adrien Agreste.
Slowly, they began to drift apart, reluctant to leave one another but knowing they must. Yet, this time, it was a sweet goodbye. Identities had been shared, the future couldn’t look brighter for them.
With a spin of her yo-yo, she zipped away through the sky, disappearing over the buildings of Paris. Adrien looked up at the sky, already it was deep into the afternoon. He would shortly have dinner with his father, they definitely had a lot to talk about... And Christmas was tomorrow. He never thought he'd have this great of a Christmas. For the first time in a long while, he had great expectations for the new year.