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Fate's Predicament

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Marinette picked a loose thread on her pink sweater and let it fall on her denim skirt before brushing it off. She played with the little silver hoop earrings Alya had gotten her last Christmas while waiting for said girl.

It had been a long while since the power granting, black miraculous stones had left her ears; yet, here she found herself, reminiscing.
She thought of Chat Noir almost every day, even if it got less frequent and less painful over the years. It didn't consume or overwhelm her with a painful variety of feelings anymore.

Today, though, would be their 10th anniversary and, in days like these, Marinette needed all the distractions she could get.

"Hey girl!" Alya greeted upon arrival.

"Hey! Finally!" The designer said good-naturedly, eyeing her friend's flowy purple dress, black biker jacket and matching booties in approval.

"Listen, I have something to show you..." Alya said, cryptically.

"Uh, okay..." She answered slowly, narrowing her eyes.

They ordered coffees and Alya looked at Marinette, increasingly excited.

"Look!" The happy girl shoved her phone on her friend's face.

"Alya, you're kind of blinding me right now. Um, that's a very nice phone...?"

"Girl. Please." Alya deadpanned "Look at all these e-mails!"

"Is that good?"

"Yes! Because-"

Their coffees arrived, the girls thanked and paid the waitress and, when she left, Alya quickly stirred the hot beverage a bit before blowing on it and gulping it down in one go, like a shot. She always did this, whilst Marinette always waited for it to cool down while calmly stirring it.

"Because...?" The now curious girl asked, black eyebrows rising.

"Because! These are all about a Chat Noir and Ladybug comeback!"

"...what?!"

"Yup."

"Why?! Did some Miraculous get stolen again? That's highly unlikely, and I think I would've heard about that."

"Nope. But the crime rate has been getting stupidly high in Paris, and the people are demanding a comeback."

"That's ridiculous!" Marinette rasped, incredulously. "The police can surely handle that. It's been six years since Chat and I left the scene... Why would they need heroes now? How did this idea even start?" The girl painfully rolled her eyes "Besides, you know Master Fu won't hand out Miraculous unless strictly necessary. We hopefully still have a lot of time until the next gen."

"Marinette." Alya whisper-shouted "The people have spoken! They want their heroes back. And, believe me, this is starting to blow up. I'm nothing but the administrator of a barely active blog and look! I got hundreds of e-mails. The people want this, and they - we - won't stop until we get it."

Marinette sighed audibly. "Alya, don't be ridiculous. Master Fu won't be won over by a mass tantrum that isn't even directly associated with him or affects him in any way. He's a wise, patient man."

Alya smirked, "We'll see."

 

★★★

 

"I can't believe this is actually happening," Marinette whispered, eyes shut tightly.

"I told you..." Alya retorted in a small, dazed voice.

Both girls were currently looking down at a pair of very familiar polka dotted earrings, carefully stashed inside a strong wooden box that had magically appeared on Marinette's bag, for the second time in her life.

Marinette looked tentatively at Alya. "Do you think - you know - Chat got his too?" She fixed her gaze on the table in front of her. "Wherever he is. Or if I'll have a new, um, partner..."

"I don't know, honey...we can't know, we can only hope."

"I don't wanna do that. I don't want to hope. If I'm being honest, I don't even know if I actually want to see him again." She looked back at her friend. "I'm nervous, Alya. I'm gonna see Tikki again...I can't believe this. Maybe it's just- just a cruel joke. We didn't even see Master Fu at all today and...I don't know. This can't be."

"I get that you're nervous...it's a part of your life that took a lot for you to leave behind, and now it's coming back, out of thin air. But think of this as an opportunity, girl. To accept things better, or have closure..." Alya sighed "And...you said it yourself that you believe in fate. Maybe have a little more fate in fate, you know?" She paused. "Also...maybe master Fu sent someone, like that boy you helped today, to test you again, no?"

Marinette looked pensively at her journalist friend. "Maybe..."

All those years ago, the day after she had spilled her guts to Alya about everything, about a month after Hawkmoth's defeat and Chat Noir's disappearance, Marinette had gone to Master Fu's.

Eyes still red and puffy, she had said one last teary goodbye to the wooden box that contained the earrings, and the kwami, that had changed her life and had enabled her to do so much for her city.
That day, her and Master Fu had talked a lot about many things, some questions had been answered, including how the wielders were chosen.

At first, it had sounded a little silly to Marinette, but, with time, she understood that maybe it had been a stroke of pure fate. She definitely didn't feel like the jewels had been left in the wrong hands, so perhaps fate should be a little more trusted.

Ever since that day, she went to visit the old man at least once a month. Usually more, unless she got lost in a spiral of work where she forgot she was still a human being with needs. Thankfully, she had people to remind her of such fact, and get her out of said spiral.

She had been at Master Fu's about a week ago, and none of them had even mentioned anything miraculous related. Marinette had happily gushed about having finished a commission she was proud of, and the man himself seemed proud of her too, and happy. Everything just seemed normal.

But now, here she was, holding her past and her future in her hands.

Despite missing being Ladybug, Marinette's life hadn't stopped at all. She was happy, had many good friends, an amazing family and a well paying job she loved, even if it was a bit of a risky career path.

The first year after both Tikki and Chat had left her life had been rough, but she had had Alya and master Fu to count on and talk to through it all.

The girl had had a few brief relationships but didn't really feel the need to have a romantic partner in her life. And truth be told since both Adrien and Chat had left, she hadn't truly liked anyone romantically, despite the casual flings and dates.

After Ladybug and Chat Noir had unmasked Gabriel Agreste, Adrien had moved to Canada to finish his studies. He hadn't said a word to anyone apart from leaving a carefully typed letter for Nino, Alya, and Marinette. He'd deleted all his social media, changed his number, and went off the radar for years.

Even if she hadn't been hung up on him anymore when he left - seemingly forever - it had been disheartening, and she had never felt as much hate for Hawkmoth as when she sat next to Alya on her and Nino's dark orange couch and listened to their friend read the cold sounding letter, tears silently streaming down his face.

She and Adrien had become very close friends over the years, and she had been so worried. He was the first thing that went through her mind when she saw the villain that had been terrorizing Paris for years turn into Gabriel right in front of her eyes. She had almost wanted to cover it up, just so Adrien wouldn't have to suffer. But she knew she couldn't, and Chat was already on him.

Recent tabloids had talked about him possibly having come back to France a few weeks ago, but there were no clear pictures or official news yet. Some magazines venomously suggested he had come back for his father, who would probably be released sometime next year, which wasn't so far away.

"Should i...put them on?" Marinette asked tentatively.

"If you think you're ready..."

The girl inhaled and exhaled sharply before taking the earrings out of the box and putting them on.

Chapter Text

Adrien ran his hands down his face and sighed. He hadn't been in France for years, and, three weeks after he came back, Plagg was being thrust into his hands once more.

It had been hard coping with his father being Hawkmoth, the look he saw on Ladybug's eyes as the mask fell had been intriguing and it had made him wanna run away even more. So he did. Gabriel wasn't even set in the prison he was sent to yet when Adrien flew to Canada without a word to anyone but Nathalie, who had helped him arrange the departure.

He couldn't - didn't - even tell Ladybug, and not a day went by that he didn't feel extremely guilty for leaving her. He had watched her patrolling alone every single night for a whole month until she too disappeared, after one last statement to the Ladyblog.

She looked out of glow and almost desperate to his eyes in the footage that came out of her in that last month. And he knew it had to be at least partly his fault. He had wanted to be there, making her laugh through it all. He wanted to stay with her, find out her identity, tell her his, probably watch the shock unfold in her face at the realization that he had been fighting his own father for five years and had just taken him down and taken to prison. And it would've been hard but they would've been okay, they would've turned out so much better than what they did. They'd be happier and less alone, at least on Adrien's part.

Instead, he had sat with a very quiet Plagg in his room, crying the night away. He had gone - alone - to Master Fu's to return his ring, after a loud argument and a teary goodbye to the kwami. He hadn't exchanged many words with the old man, he just wanted to be able to get away and pretend none of it was happening, even if he knew he couldn't ignore it forever.

His years in Canada had been spent dealing with the aftermath of the jarring news. He wasn't very known outside of Europe so going to America had been easier on him. Adrien had been able to break his contract with Gabriel Inc. - which was still up and running albeit having suffered a decrease in sales - and picked up odd modeling jobs.

He had finished University about three years ago with a physics major, and had spent the remaining time traveling around and learning a bit about himself, but had never found whatever it was he was looking for. So he'd come back to Paris to face whatever fate flung his way and to try and get a job as a physics teacher, maybe help other kids.

He wanted his return to be peaceful and he was hoping that, by now, everyone would've forgotten him, but the media doesn't forget these kinds of things, and he had been relentlessly sought after. He had no idea how they knew he was back and, so far, they were only rumors, but he knew he'd have to face them sometime. He had already been recognized more than once in his few treks to stores, in order to make a home out of the apartment he had taken as his.

But he currently had a much bigger problem to think about. He glanced at the ring which was, since Plagg was inside, still black with a bright green paw print. It reminded him of slightly better, more innocent days. Hopeful days.

He didn't want to put it on, even if he knew he should. He'd been chosen again, after all. He wondered if he had really been chosen again or if they just thought he should keep on doing it since he was familiar with the job. He didn't feel like he was worth it anymore, like he deserved it. The prospect of seeing Plagg again scared him a bit. Would he still be mad? How would he treat him? How would Ladybug react? Assuming she had received hers back too. She would probably slap him at first sight, and how could he blame her?

On one hand, he didn't want to be a hero again, he just wanted to try to go on with his life mildly normally, find a normal job and maybe meet normal people. He didn't want this added responsibility again, especially after how he'd run from it last time. Yes, they'd caught the villain - but he'd run away from the consequences as much as possible.

On the other hand, he was extremely excited. He couldn't keep on living with this guilt, he needed to see Ladybug and at least have closure. He missed her and Plagg, and owed them much more than his selfish self had given them. He also missed the thrill. And maybe it was time to deal with it in the right way, to set things right. He hadn't been happy so far, maybe this would finally help him feel satisfied. He believed in fate and he didn't think it would bestow such a prank on him.

Adrien sighed heavily and closed his eyes for a moment before quickly putting the ring back on, after all those years.

★ ★ ★

Tikki immediately popped up in front of Alya and Marinette. The latter couldn't stop the tears from flowing, and even the tiny God seemed like she'd join her.

Marinette wished she could crush Tikki against her in a hug, but since she couldn't, she settled for accepting the kwami's affectionate - and frenetic - nuzzles against her cheek.

Alya looked on in amazement, until Tikki retreated.

"Hi! I'm sure you know by now, but I'm Tikki."

"Hi. And I'm sure you know this too, but I'm Alya." The girl smiled shyly.

Tikki giggled merrily. "I'm glad Marinette has you as a friend..." She turned to her wielder again. "Did you miss me?"

"So much..." Marinette laughed tearily, eliciting a big smile from her old friend.

"I guess this show is back on, then!" Alya exclaimed, excitedly.

"You bet." Both kwami and hero answered.

Later that day - after some catching up was done - Marinette decided to transform for the first time in five years. She had to talk to Master Fu but maybe a little stroll before that wouldn't hurt...

She firstly announced her comeback with a cryptic photo she asked Alya to post on the Ladyblog - a photo that went viral very quickly - and then went around the city, eliciting gasps and exclamations everywhere she went. She had missed this. The thrill, the happiness, the freedom...she had missed being Ladybug so much, and it all came back to her right then.

And then...she saw him.

Chapter Text

Plagg showed up in front of Adrien, smirk in place. The boy felt like he would keel over, so many memories flooded him.

Adrien ran to the bathroom and threw up his whole lunch and more. He could hear Plagg's familiar cackles in the background and cried silently. It was a lot for his system to take in.

When the man finally managed to get up off of the cold bathroom floor, rinse his mouth, and stumble back to his couch, Plagg was already raiding his kitchen.

Adrien now lived in a small but comfortable, very nice looking, apartment. He had sought it out for exactly that, he felt a hell of a lot better in a small house, made him feel safer and more at home.

Plagg then came back with a pickle in his hands and stood floating right in front of Adrien's face with an expression so casual it almost made the blond feel like nothing had ever changed. Like this was what it always was, and the last five years or so had been a very long, very realistic nightmare.

"So, what's been happening with you, kid? By the way, I'm shocked and offended at the lack of Camembert in your kitchen." The black creature snarked.

The normality of it all almost made Adrien throw up again, but he decided that that was enough of that.

"Sorry about that, I didn't exactly expect to see you today...or ever again." He mumbled, rubbing his eyes. "Well, uh, I finished my studies. In Canada. Very cold place..." He sighed. "Then I traveled for a bit." He chewed the inside of his cheek, not really knowing what else to say. "Did you know that-"

Amidst all his panic, Adrien had been about to spew out some crazy random fact about Japan, before Plagg interrupted his babbling.

"Are you happy?"

"...what?"

"It's not a very hard question, you either answer yes or no, not much to think about."

"Actually, it is a hard question, Plagg," Adrien answered, looking down. "What even qualifies as happiness? How do you answer that?"

"After that discourse, I'm assuming the answer is no, you're not."

"I don't know..." He mumbled.

"You're not. And that's what you need to find out, how to be happy. Maybe with my wonderful words of guidance back on your side, you'll finally be - and feel - decent."

The boy paused, looking at the tiny god, wonder written all over his face. Then he smiled. "Thanks, Plagg...you have no idea how much I missed you."

"Of course you did." He answered snottily. "Now let's go get me some camembert." He continued, losing all previous uncharacteristic seriousness. "You're kind of an adult now, it's much easier to get it, so make sure you get a lot. To compensate my past suffering..."

Adrien spluttered indignantly. "To compensate your...are you serious?!" He asked in bewilderment. Plagg had always been a very well fed kwami!

"Shut up and transform, we need to show the world we're alive and ready to pounce."

Adrien stared ahead. He wasn't sure he was ready for this. To be a hero again. He didn't feel quite like a hero. He felt like a failure who had run away. He wanted to transform and feel the wind on his face and throw all those worries out the window, but he was also nervous.

He got up without answering and went to his kitchen.

"Kid...it's gonna be okay."

"I know..." Adrien answered as he ate some cookies to compensate for the recent loss of food in his stomach.

But did he know? A part of him was hesitant and scared. But another part of him did know that it would be okay.

He went to brush his teeth and, as he stared at the mirror, thinking about how it felt like to be Chat Noir, he felt ready.

He had had enough of hesitating and being afraid and running away.

He went back to Plagg's side and grinned widely. "I'm ready." The kwami smirked as he took a deep breath. "Plagg, claws out!!"

He marveled at the feeling of the shiny black suit enveloping his body once again. He felt the weight of the ring on his right hand even more prominently.

He looked at himself in a full-length mirror, admiring a slightly older Chat Noir, before jumping off the window of his apartment with the help of his staff, not bothering to close it as he ran off into the city.

He had missed this so much! The freedom of running across rooftops...it felt good and familiar, it felt so right. If he had Ladybug jumping and laughing beautifully by his side, everything would feel exactly as it should.

Everywhere he passed, people pointed, screamed and gasped, marveling at the return of a hero, and he couldn't be happier.

Until, after so long, he saw her.

★★★

Their eyes met and it was like everything was right again. Except it wasn't, and they both knew it.

They both stilled, people taking photos and screaming below them on the streets. They stayed like that - staring at each other with whole stories in their eyes, so many emotions passing through them - for what seemed like forever and, yet, not long at all. Moments had passed but it seemed like a lifetime, and not in a negative way.

Their contact broke as Ladybug threw her yo-yo out to grip a pole on the building he was perched upon. He could only stand there, looking on in amazement as she landed right in front of him.

They stared at each other once again, taking each other in from this closer perspective. And then Ladybug, eyes moist, jumped Chat and hugged him so strongly he lost his breath. He managed to catch her and hug her back just as tightly, maybe more, not minding the fact he couldn't breathe. This was worth it.

And then she stepped back harshly and slapped him as hard as she could.

He almost fell to the ground from the sheer force of it. It wasn't even about his physical pain or the physical strength she had certainly hit him with. It was the fact that in her hand was contained the weight of six years of pain, hurt and longing. Six years of wondering. And he could feel it all conveyed in that well-deserved slap.

"You asshole." She said steadily, eyes still moist but refusing to let any tears fall.

"I definitely deserved that..."

"Yes. Yes, you did. I'm glad you know." She paused and looked down. "God, this is happening..." She mumbled, glancing at the red mark on his face with a look of slightly sadistic satisfaction.

"It is..."

She looked him straight in the eye. His green eyes seemed duller, like his innocence had somehow been lost along with his hope somewhere along the way. She sighed and hugged him again. How could she resist?

"You're an ass."

"I know..." He mumbled into her shoulder. He sounded so relieved, but also a little sad. Not sad in that moment, the kind of sad that clings to you like a parasite that you can't even feel anymore, it's bit you so many times and so hard that you're numb to it now. It sounded like he was resigned to being sad and to all happy things ending, perhaps too quickly or too tragically sometimes. "I'm so sorry. I really, really am..." He whispered brokenly into her hair. "The last thing I wanted - want - to do is hurt you, but I'm a coward...I don't want that anymore though. You deserve more. Paris deserves more. I'll keep trying to make it up to you forever, I promise. We- We should talk..."

Ladybug didn't know what had happened since the last time she had seen the blond, but it didn't seem like it had been a nice journey for him. She let those stubborn tears finally fall freely down her cold cheeks, and she let the boy - man - in front of her wipe them away and kiss her eyes. She chose to let go of her anger. Marinette had never been one to really hold grudges; although she didn't back down or forget when someone had hurt her, she usually didn't hold it against people and could let it go after a sincere apology. Especially if it was someone like Chat, whom she loved, admired and trusted this much, despite it all.

All she really wanted to do right then was make him take it all back, because he was still one of the bravest, most amazing people she knew, and the fact that he had been hurt this badly hurt her too. And despite how angry she had been - the feelings of abandonment, loneliness and despair had resulted in that - the only thing she could think of doing was to comfort him. Even if it had been five whole years since the last time she had seen Chat Noir, even if she was still a little hurt.

She needed to see him happy again.

Chapter Text

Ladybug and Chat Noir now sat on the Eiffel tower, still staring at each other. It all still felt a little unbelievable and it was like they both had to make sure the other wouldn't disappear.

Ladybug cleared her throat. "Do you...want to-" She sighed. "Um. Do you want us to reveal our identities?" She managed to stammer out.

Chat almost gasped out loud, this was certainly new. "Are you...serious?"

"Of course I'm serious, I wouldn't play with this. It's been so long since we parted, and I don't want it to happen again..." She looked away from him. "It's not like there's another Hawkmoth out there. I don't- I don't think it'd be dangerous, and it would probably only bring us benefits. I haven't talked to Tikki about it...but, yeah."

The truth is...he was scared. He had wanted to know who Ladybug was for so long. He loved her. He really did. And he didn't think she could ever disappoint him. But what if she did? Or worse...what if he disappointed her?

He knew that that reasoning was perhaps...stupid. Deep down, he knew they wouldn't - couldn't - disappoint each other. But, suddenly, showing her who he was and dealing with the consequences of it seemed too scary, too complicated...
And at the same time knowing Ladybug's identity sounded lovely in retrospect, it was also very scary, and a lot of responsibility.

And he felt like he had lost every ounce of bravery along the way. He didn't know how, why or when, but most things made him fearful, and he felt like a coward. Everything was scary and made him somewhat anxious. How could he be a hero like this? How could he be a good friend to Ladybug - or to anyone - like this?!

Everything suddenly seemed too overwhelming and helpless, he had to remind himself to breathe, how to breathe, and to do it slowly. He also kind of wanted to cry but managed to stop himself before his pride took that particular hit. Not that crying - especially in front of Ladybug - was shameful, he just didn't think he could take that right now.

"Um, no."

Ladybug could see several emotions - almost all of them negative - passing through Chat's body, and he seemed panicked. But she'd be lying if she said she considered he'd say no. And she'd also be lying - big time - if she said it hadn't hurt.

"Oh."

She was sure he had his reasons but it still stung, even if she was trying to be understanding and knew he wasn't okay, even if she knew he'd been through some tough times that she couldn't even imagine.

Chat Noir was one of the bravest people she knew - if not the bravest - but right now he seemed fearful. Like the whole world would crash down on top of him - while laughing - at any moment kind of fearful. It was okay to feel scared, she just didn't understand why he felt it because of that.

Chat was terrible at hiding his emotions. At least for her, he was an open book. Even if a few vital lines were scribbled on...

She felt like maybe feeling all this was a bit selfish, so she kept trying to do better at helping him.

"Yeah, okay."

"I'm just...not ready yet. I'm sorry. I mean, I wanna know, I just..." He looked down.

"No, no! It's okay! I understand. It's absolutely okay, go your own pace." She smiled, lying through her teeth.

He smiled sadly at her. There was a pause.

"You know...I really did miss you, Chat." She wanted to be angrier but didn't have the heart to right then.

He was about to honestly answer her by telling her that missing her was one of the few constants in his life, but then he saw her expression which looked uncharacteristically shy, and a light red dusting her cheeks, and he lost his ability to speak. He could only stare.

She stared back at him intensely for a few long seconds, until they heard a police siren and snapped out of it, jumping.

"We should...go." Ladybug said, sounding a little dazed.

Chat nodded and they both ran after the cars.

★★★

It was a petty bank robbery, the thieves were so shocked to see them they dropped the bags of money. They'd tried to make a run for it, but the heroes quickly caught them and handed them in to the police without much of a hassle.

And then the media came...

Ladybug saw Alya in the midst of the mob and laughed. Of course, she would...and she was even dragging Nino behind her!

A few awkward questions ensued.

"Have you two really not seen each other for six years?"

Well, at least it felt awkward for them...

Ladybug approached the microphone and silenced everyone with a simple hand gesture.

"What matters..." She began, firmly. "Is that Chat Noir and I are back. And we're gonna give it our all to protect our city."

Everything was silent for a moment until Chat let out an obnoxious "whoop!" and everyone started cheering loudly.

Ladybug laughed and turned back to him. "Okay, I need to go, so...i'll see you - like - tomorrow?"

He nodded, slowly and sadly. "Shouldn't we talk a bit more?" He asked, gently gripping her shoulder.

She smiled softly at him. "Yes. But, right now, I need to go freak out a little and clear my head. So...tomorrow?"

"Tomorrow." He nodded. "I guess I could use some of that too..."

"Bye!" Ladybug hollered at the big crowd before jumping away.

"Yeah, bye..." He murmured, running in the opposite direction.

★★★

"Alya, holy crap." Marinette stared dazedly ahead.

"Girl. I know."

"I just-" She didn't really have an ending for that sentence.

"Well, Nino and I brought you some fresh strawberries so...let's go to Amandla's?" Alya smiled.

"You guys are the best..." She whispered affectionately.

"Duh." Nino smiled, rolling his eyes.

They entered Amandla's and Marinette went to order her usual chocolate milkshake.

"Hey, guys! Been a while!" Amandla greeted them excitedly. She looked at the Tupperware bound strawberries in the blue-eyed girl's hands. "Are we having another fashion emergency, Marinette?" She winked.

The heroine laughed merrily. "You could say that..."

The group chatted for a bit before the three friends moved to sit at a table. The place was kind of empty at that time of the day, so it wasn't a hard one.

When their orders arrived, Marinette started nervously devouring the strawberries, chugging milkshake in between bites.

Halfway through, she paused. "This was a very surreal day. Not gonna lie."

And right when she thought it couldn't get more surreal, another familiar - yet slightly different - mop of blond hair comes waltzing into the place...

Chapter Text

Nino and Alya stared at Marinette as she stared at the blond mans' back.

She took a swig of her milkshake and breathed in, rearranging her white blouse. "It might not be him." She whispered.

"What?" Alya asked. But Nino was already standing up off the red couch and calling "Adrien?!"

Very slowly, like in a horror movie, the man turned around.

It was definitely Adrien Agreste.

A long pause ensued where they all just stared at each other until Adrien approached them slowly and broke the silence with an unsure greeting.

"Been a while," Alya commented quietly.

Maybe they should feel happier that he was back, but the truth is they - especially Nino - felt anger more than anything.

And maybe it was selfish because he had gone through a lot, but he'd also been selfish for leaving them without even saying goodbye or talking to them. He had up and left and, in many ways, it was like he had died. His friends had to live with the knowledge that he was out there, without them, probably suffering, and still go through a grief process.

It had been a while. Every time they thought of him now, they felt happy, if a little melancholic and nostalgic, because he had been an amazing friend that had been a big part of their lives. But now he was gone, and it is what it is. They still wondered about how he was sometimes but they'd already been through the acceptance phase.

Seeing him after all these years, though...it'd brought back the anger phase. Anger that had come from the hurt.

Adrien only meant to protect them - and maybe himself - by going away without saying a thing. He didn't know he'd only be making it worse for everyone.

But he had. So maybe Nino's abrupt, violent exit after seeing his old best friend for the first time in six years shouldn't have been such a shock for Adrien.

He looked on, in what Marinette could only describe as horror, as Alya scurried off after her husband.

She could see Amandla looking warily at the booth, and wished to be able to say something that would put the dark skinned girl's mind at ease, but Marinette could only stare down at her definitely half empty milkshake as Adrien stood frozen in front of the booth.

A few minutes - Seconds? Hours? - later, Alya came back and paid Amandla for everyone's milkshakes.

"Mari, honey, we're leaving. Do you wanna come with?" She glanced at Adrien. "Um, I'm sorry...Adrien. We- I don't think we were ready for this..."

He nodded understandingly as the blue eyed girl cleared her throat. "I'm staying, I think. Yeah."

"Uh, okay. If you need anything, call me. I'll keep an eye on my phone."

Marinette snorted. "You always do. Thank you, but don't worry too much, I think we'll be fine."

The two friends shared a smile before Alya nodded and, with one last look at Adrien, left the place.

Marinette looked up at Adrien, his green eyes a little duller than she remembered. "Would you like to sit with me for a bit?"

He looked at her with wide eyes, having been startled out of his daze.

"Uh, yeah, sure. If you don't mind."

"Go ahead." She all but giggled. She still felt apprehensive about this, but she didn't want to leave him alone after seeing him for the first time in so long. She understood Nino's reaction and, despite being angry too, she could bear to stay with him and give him an opportunity. She had missed his dazed state. She'd missed him.

They sat in weirdly comfortable silence for a bit while Marinette continued her meal until Adrien cleared his throat. "So...anything big going on with you?"

The girl furrowed her brows. "Uh, no? Not really, why?"

"Well, uh...that's your Freak Out Meal™."

"My...?" She looked down at the table and let out a bubbly laugh that filled Adrien with happiness for a fleeting moment. "Oh! You remember!"

"Of course I do." He laughed. "I could never just forget about you. Uh, none of you. You were my best friends." He finished quietly, looking down.

"Well, it seems like you're also having quite the day." She smiled. "Want a strawberry?"

"Thanks." He couldn't help but smile back.

When Marinette's strawberries were all gone - they'd be missed - the pair left the 50's inspired diner with a goodbye and a promise to come back soon to Amandla.

"Well...what did I miss?" Adrien asked as they decided to take a walk around town.

"It's been six years so, not gonna lie, you missed quite a lot."

"I don't doubt it...but if you're willing to talk, I'm very willing to listen." He smiled.

"Okay, well...I'm always a sucker for talking about our amazing friends so...hmm, where do I start?" She furrowed her brows in concentration, which was definitely not adorable at all. "Oh! Juleka and Rose are finally getting married! In about a month. Uh...Max and Alix had twins a couple of years ago!" She sighed. "We still haven't heard about Nath..." She looked down, sadly, before continuing. "Anyway, Mylène and Ivan moved to Italy a few years back, like they always wanted." Marinette smiled fondly, and Adrien listened closely and proudly as she talked about most of their old friends in common.

"Well," The petite girl began after a long while of walking around. "I should head home. It got late so fast!" She laughed. "Wow, that phrase sure makes sense..." She mumbled more to herself.

Adrien snickered. "It did, though...the day flew by." He sighed, disappointed, as Marinette hummed in agreement. "Can I walk you home? It's only polite."

The girl smiled, like she always seemed to do, picking at her baby pink, 50's inspired skirt. "Yeah, sure. If you don't mind."

The words somehow felt familiar to Adrien.

When they inevitably reached her apartment, he realized he really had to let her go, no matter how much he didn't want to be alone or how much her presence made him feel good and happy and safe.

"Thank you, Mari. For everything. For not leaving, for being patient... And I'm sorry." He looked down at her white pumps.

"No need to thank me, Adrien. And yeah, well...I understand why they left." She said, and he nodded. He did too. "I'm not...i don't exactly feel fine about all this either, you know? But neither do you, I think. So..."

He paused. "It hasn't been a sea of roses. Not gonna lie. But I'm just...glad that you guys are okay. I mean, Nino is a successful lawyer - he wears suits and ties! - , you're an amazing freelance designer who's definitely gonna blow up, and Alya's an outstanding and acclaimed reporter...I'm so proud of you all - I don't even know if I have that right - and I do wish I had been here to watch you and help you...I wish I'd grown with you. But I can't change the past. I can only do better in the future, and I will certainly try. And I can only hope that you will accept me back."

Marinette looked up at him adoringly, while shyly fixing her white headband. "I know you'll do good. And don't worry, I think it will all turn out alright."

They said their goodbyes and went their own ways. Marinette didn't even have dinner and went straight to bed after showering and feeding Tikki, she deserved to sleep after that day. Meanwhile, Adrien wandered until he found a bar, deciding to drown his feelings of loneliness and fear in alcohol.

Chapter Text

For a few horrifying moments, Marinette thought lightning had struck her house. She had been sleeping peacefully when a sudden loud thumping coming from her balcony started dragging her into wakefulness.

She had moved to her apartment many years ago and had stopped fighting Akuma almost as long, but her first thought was there was an Akuma on her balcony, her parents were gonna wake up and come coddle her, incapacitating her of transforming.

But as she quickly blinked back into consciousness - gasping - she realized none of that was going to happen, and that the thudding had stopped, giving way to a loud whining. She got up and looked at Tikki, who had also woken up, and gestured for her to hide inside her robe's big pocket.

Marinette walked quietly through her house until she reached her balcony. There, she came face to face with a giggling Chat Noir.

She sighed, feeling exasperated but relieved. What a scare.

"Chat. Long time no see. How have you been doing?"

"Right now, I'm doing great!" His amused voice seemed off.

"Are you-?"

"Yes." He interrupted. "I am very, very drunk."

"Okay, well...why are you here?" She furrowed her brows. "Did you even know I live here?"

"Yes, I did. Don't ask how."

"Well, that's not creepy at all..."

"Ladybug wouldn't like it if I told you." He mock whispered.

"Well, I can respect that." She giggled. "But why did you decide to crash into my balcony? Waking me up in the process, by the way."

He was sitting on the floor, leaning against the iron railing. "I'm sorry, princess..." He started, sounding painfully honest and sober for someone as drunk as he was. "I didn't mean to wake you up, it's like midnight-"

"It's actually 3am."

"-but I can't say I'm not glad you're here, I feel a lot better."

"You do?" Marinette was genuinely surprised, she had technically never had much contact with Chat.

"Yeah...five minutes ago, I was cold, and tired, and drunk, and alone...but I feel great now that you're here." He said softly.

"Oh...well, I'm glad I could be of assistance to a superhero then." She stuttered prettily while he smiled like a fool. "Come in."

Chat looked confused. "What?"

"Um, you can come in if you want."

"...Really?"

"You seem like you could use some company, and I wouldn't be able to sleep again knowing you're out there alone and drunk."

He looked up at her in something Marinette could only describe as awe.

"Wow...you're amazing, Marinette."

"Uh. Thanks. Um. Come in!" She rushed out.

He got up, stumbling, and walked inside the apartment, almost falling face first on the hardwood floor.

Marinette steadied him and sat him on the white couch, his green eyes drooping. What right did this man have to look cute while drunk?

He leaned back, "You have a really nice house." and closed his eyes.

One whole minute of silence.

She sighed. A blond, cute, grown ass superhero had just fallen asleep on her couch. She found herself wishing Chat looked absolutely beastly when sleeping: Sprawled all over, drooling and snoring to the point of waking her neighbors up.

...But of course, he looked perfectly angelic. His soft breathing was something Marinette hadn't realized she needed in her life up until that moment.

She went to fetch a water bottle and a box of Aleve, leaving them on the table, draped a blanket over the sleeping boy and another over herself, deciding to stay on the other end of the couch in case anything happened and, after a while, she too fell asleep to the sound of Chat's gentle breathing.

★★★

Adrien woke up with a throbbing head and an upset stomach. He looked to his right and saw Marinette sleeping, snuggled against the other armrest. He wiped the drool that had inevitably run down his chin and tried his best not to vomit on the green carpet. He avidly swallowed two of the pills along with half of the water bottle and looked at the clock hanging on the wall. 8am.

He decided it would be nice to cook something to thank Marinette and to maybe settle his stomach. After a quick bathroom trip - where he had to detransform and handle Plagg's scowl ("Your poor girlfriend..." "She's not my girlfriend!") - and a vigorous splash of water to the face, he felt slightly more ready to endure the day ahead.

Adrien, now Chat Noir, padded to the kitchen, deciding he should try to make pancakes which were what he used to eat for breakfast in Canada. He missed the country sometimes...

He got out a pan and checked for more supplies, but of course, she wouldn't have them...what was he thinking, anyway? Frustration started inching at him, making him anxious. Shame was burning at him. Why was it always the same? He always managed to screw up. Suddenly, it all seemed to fall upon him, all because he didn't have enough ingredients to make pancakes. Everything was a disaster.

And then...poof. He had somehow cataclysmed the pan.

He didn't even try to resist the urge to bang his head against the pink granite countertop.

Marinette entered the room silently and just stared at the anguished boy in front of her.

"Uh, what are you doing?" She asked, amused, after a while of watching him groan.

He whipped his head up in surprise, hair bouncing along. "Oh...I- I'm sorry! I had...an accident, I guess. I'll fix it, I promise!" His ring beeped. He groaned, lowering his head on the granite once again.

"Hey! It's okay! Look at me. It's okay." Not being able to hold it in any longer, Marinette walked over to Chat and wrapped her arms tightly around his tall, lean figure. He looked so embarrassed and desperate, and she wanted him to know that he shouldn't be, that she didn't mind, that she understood and that she wouldn't judge him.

He eagerly hugged her back, sighing into her hair. It was like he'd gotten even taller.

They stayed like that for a while, basking in each other's presence, until his ring beeped again.

"Doesn't that mean you're gonna detransform? You should head home and rest." She mumbled, face stuck to his chest.

"Yeah..." He answered, absentmindedly.

"Are you feeling better?"

"A lot better." He smiled, pulling back a little.

She smiled back at him, and it was like all was right with the world.

Marinette chucked some cookies at him and shoved him out the window.

When Adrien got home and detransformed, he had to, once again, deal with Plagg's scowl. After he showered, ate, and slept it off, he decided to go buy Marinette a new pan, which was an adventure in itself.

When the blue eyed woman stepped out into her balcony that night, she found a (stupidly expensive) new pan, and a bouquet of red roses and white tulips with an attached note that read "Sorry! Thank you for everything! x" followed by a very badly drawn black cat.

And in that moment she realized it would be okay. They would be okay.

Chapter Text

It was a Sunday morning, just past 9am, when Adrien got a call from an unknown number. He was eating breakfast and scrolling through his phone when it started ringing loudly - an old Jagged Stone song blaring - making him almost drop it. He usually didn't pick up calls from unknown numbers but the scare made him answer it hastily. "Uh, hello?"

"Hey." A familiar voice greeted.

"...Hi?"

"Right. Hi. This is Nino. Mari gave me your number, I hope you don't mind."

"Oh! Oh, hey! No, no, not at all!"

"Okay, well...I know this is a little last minute, so I'll understand if your answer is no but, if you're available, would you like to have lunch at mine and Alya's house? Marinette is also coming, of course."

Adrien shook off the feeling of hurt he got from Nino's cold, professional voice. Even his wording had been off-putting. But what did he expect? They hadn't talked in six years.

Nevertheless, he answered eagerly. "Sure, I'd love to! What time?"

"Is 1pm okay? I'll text you the address."

"Yeah, absolutely. Thank you." Adrien tried to convey as much gratitude in those two words as he could. He knew this wasn't just a lunch invitation. It was an opportunity, and he was gonna take it.

They said their goodbyes - albeit a little awkwardly - and hung up.

★★★

Adrien stood in front of the two-story, traditional French house, dark roof tiles daring him to come closer. He stared on in horror, almost praying for a sudden alien abduction.

His breathing was getting shallower by the second, anxiety prickling his body.

He was panicking and thinking of all the ways he could get out of this without hurting anyone when someone gently grabbed his arm.

"Marinette?"

"Hey! You're early too! Do you wanna take a five minute walk before going in?"

"Sure." He smiled at her in appreciation, feeling infinitely better.

Marinette chatted on about Rose and Juleka's upcoming wedding - which felt so close already - as they walked arm in arm until Adrien didn't feel like crying anymore and his heart had stopped trying to leap out of his mouth. They circled the block before ending up in front of the white house again.

He took a moment to notice how comfortably warm and nice Marinette felt pressed against his side. In a totally gentlemanly way.

"Ready?" She asked, smiling.

He desperately wanted to say no and keep walking around with the girl right by his side, but he knew he couldn't avoid it forever, it was best to just get it over with. And It wouldn't be so bad, he was getting a second opportunity, and he needed to woo his old friends.

He needed - wanted - to make it right.

He inhaled deeply through his nose before exhaling sharply. "Yes. I'm ready. Shall we?"

"We shall." She giggled.

They rang the doorbell, arms still linked, and awaited their friends.

As Alya walked down the path to the little gate - already smiling and greeting them cheerily - Adrien almost felt like crying again, his stomach churning worse than before. When she approached them, he gulped dryly, heart racing, and greeted her - one polite kiss on each cheek - before Marinette practically tackled her best friend with an affectionate hug. The girls laughed it off while he chuckled nervously in the background, once again feeling like he was intruding.

He missed all of this joy, love, and friendship that he had once been a part of and been surrounded by.

He found himself regretting - yet again - his careless decisions, wanting more than ever to make things right. He couldn't go back and undo it, erase all the pain...but he sure as hell could try to make it better, to make himself feel whole again, to allow his friends to actually move on by either getting closure or accepting him back.

They entered the house, the smell of flowers mixing with the smell of pot-au-feu. The walls were all a pristine white, and the floors were of a shiny, dark wood.

They walked down a short hallway and turned to the left, reaching a doorless, spacious living room. There, Nino sat on a bright orange couch. When he saw them, he immediately got up and awkwardly made his way to them. Adrien felt himself decompress at the fact that Nino seemed nervous too. Probably not as much as himself, but it still helped.

The now casually clad man hugged Marinette tightly before firmly shaking hands with his old best friend, who didn't know whether to laugh or cry at the uncomfortable and business-like demeanor Nino had chosen to adopt.

"So, um, welcome!"

Silence.

Alya and Marinette burst out laughing, looking at the two men like they were adorable little children doing silly things.

Adrien laughed nervously, wishing the blue-eyed girl was still holding him. "Thanks."

"Come on, boys, let's go have lunch." Alya prodded, warmly.

They walked back through the hallway and entered a door leading to a medium-sized, colorful kitchen. In the middle of it, there was a table ready for four people.

"It smells so good!" Adrien sighed, Marinette humming dreamily in agreement. The couple laughed and thanked their guests.

Adrien sat in front of Nino and beside Marinette. They had a light talk and shared stories while eating.

"So," Nino began, already laughing. "Did you know that Mari used to have a debilitating crush on Kim?"

"Nino, no..." She moaned, dragging on the 'o'.

"She-" Marinette kicked him under the table, hoping it would shut him up, but it only made him laugh harder. "She and Rose would pick up flowers and wrap them together with rubber bands, so she could give it to him. It was disheartening, actually, because he's been after Chloé ever since I can remember..."

"Yeah, they're even getting married, I think." Marinette supplied. "I read it in a magazine...Kim really did well with his business. Oh, well, I guess it wasn't meant to be!"

"Oh, yeah, isn't it curious how Chloé only seemed interested in him after he got filthy rich...?"

"Alya! Don't be like that!" Marinette pouted.

"Yeah, you're right, I'm being petty." She smiles sheepishly. "Not that I'm wrong, though...but it was unnecessary."

"Anyway," Nino continued. "It's hilarious to think about it now. I could never see Marinette in love with someone like Kim. But you should have seen her face whenever he acknowledged her existence! He once looked at her while she was eating lunch and I'm pretty sure she threw up a little. I laughed at her for hours. It was like the simple act of him breathing could knock her out." He laughed. "Now that I think about it, Mari was never subtle about her crushes..."

Adrien looked at her, confused, and saw her blushing, her cheeks a lot redder than before.

"How come?" He asked, amused.

"Uh, well...I just...wear my heart on my sleeve, I guess." She chuckled awkwardly.

"Not really...you're not exactly open about it, you just really can't hide it, it's hilarious." Alya laughed.

Marinette groaned. "Stop! You two, stop laughing! And no more talking about my past crushes!" She glared fiercely at the mocking couple.

As time passed, as they shared more stories and laughs, Adrien found himself getting more comfortable, falling once again into this friendly routine. He started to feel safe again, felt assured that whatever was about to happen would end up okay no matter what.

As they ate dessert, he found himself staring to his left, where Marinette sat talking animatedly to Nino. He didn't even notice Alya Hawkeye Lahiffe setting her fox-like gaze on his small smile, her own grin widening.

They went back to the living room, Alya and Nino sitting on the orange couch while he and Marinette sat in the two red armchairs across the wooden coffee table. He couldn't help but feel like he was about to get scolded by both his parents, which didn't make sense since that had never actually happened before.

He inhaled deeply, getting ready. He didn't know exactly how to start, but he knew he had to.