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Why Do Tabloids Even Exist

Chapter Text

“Supermodel Adrien Agreste Confesses Love for Superheroine Ladybug!”

The headline stood out on the page, almost mockingly, the tabloid clenched in Marinette’s hands. Her teeth dug into the insides of her cheeks, biting down hard to keep from screaming in the middle of the street.

“Marinette, what’s wrong?” The voice floated up from her purse, barely audible. Large blue eyes peeked out, trying to catch a glimpse of whatever had distressed Marinette so.

“Nothing,” Marinette replied through gritted teeth, her expression an almost terrifying attempt at forcing a smile.  Her eyes darted down to the kwami situated inside her purse, and Tikki frowned up at her.

“Marinette-“

“Not here, Tikki,” the girl hissed insistently. She clutched the tabloid to her chest, and tried to breathe, but it didn’t help. Tikki could hear her muttering to herself, but couldn’t make out the words. Suddenly, she inhaled sharply, then started towards the bakery, walking a little faster than normal. From her vantage inside the purse, Tikki could see that Marinette’s shoulders were hunched, her expression miserable and faintly horrified. Something must be very wrong.

The teenage girl entered the bakery and power-walked her way past her Maman, throwing a frantic greeting over her shoulder when asked if something was wrong. Once inside the house proper, she bolted for her bedroom.

As soon as she was inside, with the door securely closed, she threw herself on her chaise lounge, grabbed a pillow, and shrieked into it.

Tikki flew from her purse, coming to rest on the arm of the chaise, staring at Marinette worriedly. “Marinette, what is going on?” she asked, and received nothing in answer but another shriek.

The kwami glanced at the floor next to them, where the magazine that had prompted Marinette’s freak out had been rather unceremoniously dropped. Tikki flew towards it, gasping when she read the headline.

Well, now it made sense. Sort of. Marinette tended to freak out about anything regarding Adrien. Tikki didn’t quite understand the reaction, though.

She returned to Marinette, settling on the girl’s shoulder and patting her head gently. “Marinette, what are you feeling?” she asked. Again, her only answer was a shriek, though it was fainter this time. The teenager must be running out of steam. Tikki hummed to herself a moment, waiting patiently. Marinette would answer once she’d calmed down enough to do so.

“Me muffs Mabybub,” came an answer finally, Marinette’s face still stuffed into the pillow. A pause, and then she lifted her head slightly, turning to look at Tikki perched on her shoulder. “He loves Ladybug. Why? Why does he have to love her?”

Tikki frowned, head tilting curiously. “But, Marinette, you are Ladybug, isn’t that a good thing?”

“No! No it’s not a good thing! Tikki, I’m not-“ Marinette cut herself off, face dropping back down into the pillow. She took a couple breaths, exhaling slowly. She lifted her head just enough to speak clearly, and said, “I’m not like Ladybug. When I’m me. He loves her, I could never live up to that.”

Tikki sighed; this was a fairly common back and forth between them. “Marinette, you are Ladybug! Ladybug is only the things he loves because you make her those things! You’re every bit as brave and confident and-“

“But I’m not.” Marinette’s voice was defeated. “I’m clumsy, and anxious, and boring, and I talk too much about stuff no one else cares about-“

“Marinette, that’s not true!” Tikki insisted. “You are clumsy, sometimes, but every teenager is! And anxiety is normal, too! But you’re not boring, and your friends love listening to you when you get excited about things!”

Marinette looked unconvinced. “I’m only brave when I’m Ladybug because I have to be. I don’t have a choice. None of it… It’s not me. I fake it.”

Tikki shook her head. “You can’t fake that sort of thing, Marinette! Not really! If you’re brave and confident as Ladybug, it just means you could be all the time! But you let yourself worry and overthink things. You should give yourself more credit.”

The teenager sighed; she was never going to convince Tikki of anything, and Tikki was never going to convince her. They’d talked in circles about this forever. “That’s not even the point,” she said finally.

“Then what is?”

“He’s in love with Ladybug,” Marinette said. “Which means he’d never even look twice at plain Marinette. Even if he would like me, he’d never noticed me to like me!”

Tikki found she didn’t have an answer for that one; it was true. Love could blind a person to anything else.

“I’m right under his nose, Tikki. He loves Ladybug, but he looks at me and he doesn’t see it. He doesn’t know it’s me.” She made a faint grumbling noise. “How can he love someone if he doesn’t even know them when they’re right under his nose?”

“He loves the idea of Ladybug,” Tikki answered, tone wise. “He loves who he sees when you save the city, when you rescue his friends. But it’s just infatuation, Marinette. Teenagers mistake it for love all the time.”

She gave her chosen a pointed look, and pink rose in Marinette’s cheeks. She wasn’t innocent on that front, she knew. She’d spent a long time obsessing over the idea of Adrien she had in her head before she knew enough about him to say she really loved him. Now, she thought she knew him well enough to say that she loved him as much as she possibly could, given their current circumstances. Which were the ones wherein she was too nervous to talk to him, ever.

But, it didn’t really matter, she thought bitterly, if he was in love with Ladybug.

“Even if it’s not real love,” she said, “he thinks it is, right? He thinks he’s in love with her.”

Tikki shrugged. “You didn’t read the article, you know,” she pointed out. “Maybe it’s a misquote. Maybe they’re putting words into his mouth. He might’ve just said he has a crush, or admires Ladybug!”

Marinette eyed the kwami, and then conceded the point. With a small ray of hope, she grabbed the crumpled tabloid up, flipping to the appropriate page.

Ten minutes later, she found herself shrieking into the pillow again, because Adrien Agreste had, in fact, said the words “I’m in love with Ladybug.”

Soothing speculation on the part of Tikki that perhaps he was exaggerating his feelings to try and ward off fangirls was less than successful at making Marinette feel better.

Chapter Text

Seeing Adrien the next day was awkward; sure, she was only staring at the back of his head, but she was almost certain that he could feel her staring. Okay, so she stared every day, but today she was staring differently. He could probably tell. She could feel it.

And yet, she couldn’t stop staring, because all she could think about was how he was supposedly in love with her, but didn’t know who she was. She was staring at the back of his head, and stared at the back of his head every single day, and he had no clue she was the girl he’d professed his love for.

She muttered to herself about what idiots boys were. She’d thought she was quiet about it, until she felt a pencil jab her in her arm. Glancing to the side, she met the concerned gaze of her best friend.

‘You okay?’ Alya mouthed, and Marinette nodded, then shrugged. As good as she ever was, she thought. Her best friend clearly wasn’t buying it, though, judging by her facial expression and the way she crossed her arms. Marinette sighed, knowing she was going to get interrogated about what was bothering her when the bell rang.

At least this time she could be honest. Sort of.

Sure enough, they’d no sooner been released than Alya was grabbing her arm, preventing her from escaping. “Girl, what is up with you?” she asked. “Normally you’re got heart eyes when Adrien’s within sight, today you looked like you wanted to throw something at him.”

Marinette grimaced; she hadn’t looked that bad, had she?

Pulling the magazine from her bag, she handed it to Alya, who blinked at the headline. She looked from the tabloid to Marinette and back, biting her lip, then sighed, shoulders slumping. “Daaaaang, girl.”

Marinette simply nodded, the gesture tense.

“Well,” Alya said, sounding like even she wasn’t buying whatever it was she was about to try to sell. “I mean, she’s a celebrity. I’m in love with her too, you know.” She elbowed Marinette in the ribs, obviously trying to cheer her up.

Marinette responded with a glare.

“You haven’t read the interview yet,” she said darkly. If her mood had been any fouler, she would’ve had a black cloud following after her. As it was, she was counting her lucky spots that being a Miraculous wielder made her immune to Hawkmoth. Totally off his radar.

Because seriously, how embarrassing would it be to get turned into an Akuma over Adrien confessing his love for a superhero? Especially since she was the superhero.

Glancing to her side, she noticed that Alya had her face buried in the tabloid. “Surprised you didn’t already know about this,” Marinette said dryly. “Adrien’s in love with Ladybug, it should be all over the Ladyblog by now.”

Alya made a ‘tch’ noise, waving her hand dismissively. “Figures that only your obsession with Adrien could trump mine with our resident heroine,” she said, only half paying attention. Marinette twitched. ‘Obsession.’

Well, what else would you call it?

Marinette knew the exact moment her best friend got to the part of the interview in question. She inhaled sharply, stopping dead in her tracks. If her eyes had gone any bigger, they’d have popped out, literally.

There was a long silence, and then, “… Daaaaaaaaaang, girl.”

Marinette made a face and crossed her arms, fists tight, and nodded.

“That’s pretty bad.”

“I know.”

“Like… Daaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaan-“

“What are we ‘dangi’ing?” Nino’s voice cut Alya off, and both the girls jumped at his sudden appearance.

“Nothing-!”

“Not a thing-!”

“None of your business-!”

“It’s not important-!”

Alya and Marinette’s voices overlapped and got progressively higher pitched. Eyeing them suspiciously, Nino eventually just snatched the magazine from Alya’s hands, recognition settling in when he saw the cover.

When he gave Marinette a sympathetic look, she begged for the ground to swallow her up on the spot.

“Look, Marinette,” he said, obviously trying to soften the blow. Unfortunately, it’d hit her yesterday, so he was a little late. “I know you’ve got a thing for Adrien, but you shouldn’t get too upset about this, right? It’s not like he’s got a shot at Ladybug.”

Alya made that ‘tch’ noise again, and then, quietly, pointed out, “Heiskindofafamousmodel.”

Marinette made a strangled sound. “He-She- He does NOT have a shot with Ladybug!” she insisted, grabbing the stupid, awful, horrible piece of trash rag from Nino’s hands.

Alya looked apologetic. “Girl, you know I’m captain of the Ladynoir ship. I want her to hook up with Chat Noir like, yesterday, if they haven’t already,” a theory Alya had written several articles about, Marinette thought darkly, “buuuuut assuming they’re not an item, I dunno. Adrien Agreste might potentially be an option for her.”

Marinette made the noise again, but before she could even attempt to form a response, Nino stepped between them.

“Alya, c’mon,” he said. Marinette couldn’t tell if he sounded exasperated, or like he was pleading with her. “She’s got the whole ‘secret identity’ thing going. What, he’s gonna take her out to some nice place and she’s gonna show up in spandex?”

Alya shrugged. “It could happen.” At her best friend’s expression of utter betrayal, she tacked on, “Not that I want it to or even think it will!” She paused. “I just… I’m saying it’s not that out there. In case… Look, best guess says Ladybug’s a teenage girl. And… what teenage girl doesn’t have a crush on Adrien?”

Marinette’s eye twitched. “What are you saying?”

“Well, look,” Alya said, “If… If you were Ladybug, and you read that… wouldn’t you go for it?”

“No!” Marinette’s fists were suddenly at her side, shoulders raised, foot stomping the ground in time with her words. “I would not! Because- because…” Marinette cut herself off, not able to articulate a reason that would make sense to Alya. Not without telling her the truth.

A silence drug out between the teens, until Nino cleared his throat awkwardly. “Alright, well,” he said, shooting a glare towards Alya, “I’m kind of on team ‘Never Gonna Happen’ with this, and I’d appreciate it if certain parties didn’t go speculating and theorizing about how possible it may or may not be.”

Alya frowned. “Why not?”

Nino rolled his eyes. “Because. You guys read the article, but you haven’t- Look, I’ve heard Adrien go on about her. He’s… He needs to get over it. And he’s not going to if he’s got you insisting that it could totally be a thing.”

Alya looked irritated, but didn’t reply. Nino shrugged, waved goodbye, and continued on his way home. Marinette took advantage of her best friend’s ranting at his back to escape, taking off towards her own place before Alya realized she was gone.

Chapter Text

Something was bothering Ladybug.

Chat Noir didn’t know what, he wasn’t a mind reader. But he was the world’s leading expert on Ladybug, and it didn’t take an expert to pick up on it. Tension was radiating off her, jaw clenched too tight, eyes a little too narrowed.

Plus, you know. Patrol was not typically conducted by sitting in one place, unmoving, like an exceptionally aggressive gargoyle, for over an hour. They’d met up in their usual spot, and by the time he’d made it, late due to a photoshoot running over, she’d already been in this exact spot, in almost this exact position. She’d adjusted her legs at some point, probably to prevent them falling asleep. Other than that, she either hadn’t moved, or was doing a very good job of looking like it. He was betting on the former.

Cautiously, Chat approached her, making sure he was in her peripheral vision before saying anything, so as not to startle her. Startling Ladybug in this state was a good way to get a left hook to the jaw, and she packed quite a punch. He lived in awe and fear of that left hook.

“Alright,” he said, once he was sure she’d seen him, moving in more quickly to plop down next to her on the roof’s edge. “What’s bothering you, Bugaboo?”

Ladybug barely looked at him, just a shift of her eyes in his direction before they returned to staring resolutely at absolutely nothing. She was silent for a long moment; Chat itched to fill the silence, but he knew if he did, it would only be to derail a conversation he’d started in the first place. And he wouldn’t be a very good friend if he didn’t listen to her troubles. Assuming she wanted to. Then again, maybe want wasn’t the important thing here. Maybe need was.

“There’s-”

She cut herself off, her expression turning from a grimace to an outright glare. He winced at the grinding of her teeth.

“There’s…” he prompted.

“There’s. There’s this boy.”

Oh.

Well, it wasn’t like he didn’t… he didn’t know, that there was a boy. Or, boys. Other boys. Boys who were not him. Ladybug was Ladybug, after all. There had to be boys, she could probably have any boy she wanted. A thought he tried not to dwell on too long, lest he start spiralling into some dramatic and very unbecoming abyss.

Still…

“Is this… a boy you like, or a boy who likes you?” Chat asked, hoping it was the latter. Hoping that a boy liked her, and she was glaring at nothing for over an hour because she didn’t have feelings for him, and he’d done something to make things horribly awkward between them. Maybe she was having trouble turning him down gently. She’d never had any trouble turning Chat down, of course, but she was, generally speaking, very nice. She seemed like the type who’d struggle to turn people down.

Except Chat, but he liked to think her vehement rejection of him was born of a secretly harbored crush. Things between them were complicated, what with being partners and the whole secret identity thing. He knew she cared about him. He knew he was attractive (much to his chagrin, most of the time). They were best friends (she was his best friend, anyway). All that made a requited love seem like a likely story. A little cliche, even.

Especially if he assumed her constant rejections were born of a sense of duty. That was the sort of things classic romances were written about.

“A little of both,” she said, breaking his thought process and stabbing him through the heart in one fell swoop. He frowned slightly. If she liked him and he liked her, what was the problem?

He voiced the question, and she sighed. “I like him,” she said slowly, looking for all the world like confessing this was the worst thing she’d ever had to do. “But… he likes Ladybug.”

Chat’s initial reaction, of course, was to say “You are Ladybug,” but he was in the unique position of being possibly the only person who could actually understand what she was saying.

After all, he was Adrien Agreste.

“He likes the wrong version of me,” she was saying.

Chat didn’t really know what to say to that. Except, “Yeah, I hear that.”

Ladybug’s eyes were sad, but her lips twitched into a smile. “No one likes you, Chaton,” she teased, the familiarity of their banter putting her at ease, at least a little.

“Lots of people like me, LB!” he said, with a fake-affronted gasp. “So many people! I make this leather look good!”

Ladybug giggled a little, which was good. That’s what he wanted. He didn’t like the idea that she was insecure. She had nothing to be insecure about.

Sobering slightly, he shrugged. “Seriously, though. I’m… I know you like to pretend I’m not, but. I’m attractive. And… popular, in my civilian life. But not the right kind of popular. People like me, except they don’t. They think they like me, both as Chat Noir and… and myself. But they don’t even know me.”

“He does, though,” she said with a sigh.

“He does what?”

“He knows me.”

Oh.

“... He knows you, civilian you…”

“But he likes Ladybug.”

“Oh.”

She was silent for a while, and then, with a sigh, “Oh.”

“It’s like-” She paused, face screwing up. “It’s like, I know that I’m nothing special-” She waved her hand emphatically, cutting him off before he could argue, “but he knows me, which means he doesn’t really like Ladybug, right? Because if he did, I’m her, he would at least notice me. But he doesn’t.”

Chat couldn’t fathom anyone not noticing her.

He said so.

She snorted.

“Like I said, I’m nothing special.”

Chat couldn’t help it. “Bullshit,” he said. “That’s bullshit. Ladybug, you’re amazing. You are.”

“Yeah,” she replied. “Ladybug’s amazing. I’m-”

“Ladybug,” he said, voicing the same thought he’d had before. She’d said it first. It was fair game. “You’re Ladybug. I know… I know sometimes these masks, they make you feel like a different person. But. Okay, so, me, civilian me. I… I have a lot of restrictions. Responsibilities. I have to be a certain person. I can’t deviate. I can’t fail to meet expectations. It’s easy, sometimes, for me to say that he’s a different person from Chat Noir. But he’s not. Chat Noir’s just… the version of me that I want to be. That I can’t be, because there are rules. Chat Noir doesn’t have those rules. So, Chat Noir and… and the Civilian, they’re the same person. Just… with different rules. Whoever you are, you’re not less yourself now than you are then. You just have different rules. And civilian you was special enough to be Ladybug in the first place. So. Bullshit.”

He stopped ranting, finally, inhaling deeply to make up for the lack of breathing he’d done during. Ladybug stared at him, with wide eyes and a slightly gaping mouth. After a moment, she seemed to realize the mouth situation, and snapped it shut with an audible click of her teeth.

“Gee, Chat,” she drawled, attempting for bravado (the shake somewhat ruined the effect), “tell me how you really feel.”

He shrugged.

“Still doesn’t change anything, though,” she said. “Actually, that might make it worse. Because if I’m not any different as myself than I am as Ladybug, it means he really, actually doesn’t like me at all. He’s just got another passing crush on the superhero.”

“To be fair, I’m pretty sure all of Paris has a crush on the superhero,” Chat pointed out.

“I don’t have a crush on all of Paris, though,” she said. “I have a crush on him. And like… it was bad enough, knowing he didn’t notice me. But he said he was in love with Ladybug. In. Love! Capital L. And I’m right there, all the time. And he looks right past me.”

Chat winced. Having a crush was one thing, ‘in love’ was, well, that was quite another.

“What am I supposed to do?” she asked, hands raised as if asking the very heavens to answer her.

Chat mulled it over. Honestly, if the guy hadn’t already noticed and fallen head over heels in love with his lady, he was probably a lost cause. How could you have a crush on some (presumably) unattainable being, when the real thing was right in front of you? He was in love with Ladybug, too, of course, so there was something of a glass houses situation. But he actually knew Ladybug.

Of course, saying he was a lost cause might not go over so well. Namely because Chat was also in love with Ladybug, and thus anything that was meant to put her off another suitor could be construed as sabotage.

“Do you think you have a shot?” Chat asked slowly. “If not for Ladybug, I mean. Because, he’s got to get over that eventually.”

She sighed, eyes going a little glassy. Oh, God, no. He didn’t want her to cry.

“I don’t think so,” she said quietly. “I… I’m not myself, around him. I’m a mess. And if he was going to notice me, he would’ve. He could have anyone he wanted. He’s not going to go for me.”

Chat let out a sympathetic noise, unable to be at all happy at the prospect that she wasn’t pursuing anything with this guy. It was making her sad, that was enough to kill any positive feelings he had associated with the thought. But he’d reached the end of his ability to assist. He didn’t have any advice for her.

“I think I need to tell him,” she said slowly, seemingly not needing any advice.

“Tell him?” Chat asked, brow knitting together. Tell him what, exactly?

“Yeah. His… his confession was pretty public,” she continued. “It wouldn’t… I could go see him. As Ladybug. And.. and tell him it’s flattering, but it’s never gonna happen. It’s just, he thinks he’s in love with me, with Ladybug. I should discourage that, right? Try to reject him outright so that… so that he doesn’t dwell on it? So he’ll get over it? I still won’t have a shot with him, I know, but…”

“But it’s kinder than letting him hope,” Chat finished.

“Yeah.”

He nodded slowly, then threw an arm over her shoulders, drawing her close. “Well, I’m here for you, Bugaboo,” he told her, squeezing for emphasis.

“Dunno what I’d do without you,” she replied softly, smiling at him. Still sad, but smiling. Not a fake smile, either. Just a sad one. He’d take that, for now.

It was late, well past the time they normally headed home for the night. Having pointed this out, Chat saluted his lady before heading back towards his house. He hoped this whole thing worked out for her, somehow.

Maybe the guy would give up on Ladybug and fall for the real deal.