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The Path That Leads to You

Chapter Text

Chat stumbled as he stepped through the portal into Marinette’s room causing Carapace to crash down on top of him. Instinctively, Rena reached out to catch Ladybug but recoiled the moment she touched her as a huge jolt of energy passed through her body.

“Sorry,” Ladybug said, her voice still ringing with the strange authoritative tone.

“What the hell was that?” Rena asked, shaking her hand.

“The energy of our bond,” she explained. “It’s like the energy I use to purify akumas but much more powerful.”

“I’ll say--” Carapace began but he was interrupted by panicked knocking on the trap door.

“Go ahead and open it, Rena,” Ladybug told her, her voice resigned. “Tikki, Nooroo divide.” Nooroo looked around the unfamiliar surroundings before nervously floating off near Marinette’s bed.

“Plagg, Kaalki divide,” Chat Noir murmured quietly, not bothering to get up as Kaalki zipped away.

Tom and Sabine both burst into the room as the trap door opened and looked around in shock.

“Marinette? Are you--” Sabine started to ask.

“Yes, I’m Ladybug,” she interrupted. “I’m so sorry Maman, Papa. I’ve hated lying to you for so long but it has been for your own safety.”

“Oh my dear, I’ve long suspected as much. I was going to ask if you’re ok. You don’t look…or sound the same,” Sabine replied hesitantly.

“I’m fine Maman,” Ladybug sighed. “Tikki, spots off.”

The group watched in awe as Marinette reappeared in a flash of extremely bright pink light.

“Sorry,” she said again. “It’s not normally that bright. Rena, Carapace, can you give me your Miraculous? I need to put them all back. Thanks so much for your help.”

“Are you kidding?” Rena exclaimed. “That was so incredible. Thank you so much for letting us help. Oh… and Trixx, let’s rest.” Alya reappeared followed by Nino as he called off his own transformation.

“I guess I should introduce myself,” Tikki said timidly. “I’m Tikki, Marinette’s Kwami. It’s very nice to meet you.”

“You’re a… Kwami?” Tom said, struggling with the unfamiliar word.

“Maybe this… isn’t right to you Tikki but now was the time,” Marinette said softly.

“No, I understand Marinette. After what just happened… I think this is ok. We don’t want this information to go public but I think you can trust everyone here. But for now…” Tikki turned her gaze to Chat who had yet to detransform and hadn’t moved from where he had fallen. He lay curled on his side, his eyes closed, tears silently coursing down his face.

“Son?” Tom asked cautiously, reaching out to touch him. “What’s the matter?”

“I’m sorry Tom” Chat choked out. “So you’ve suspected who we are… what would you say if I told you…we’ve been suspecting my father is… was… Hawk Moth… and we were right…” he dissolved into tears and Marinette rushed over to him.

“Gabriel was… was… Hawk Moth?” Tom asked in confusion.

Marinette sat next to Chat, gently coaxing him to move until his head rested in her lap. “Yes Papa. We… we’ve defeated him. He’s in the custody of the monks at the temple,” she explained as she stroked Chat’s hair. “I have his Miraculous. I don’t know where Mayura is though so it really is much safer to keep Gabriel at the temple for now. I suppose… I suppose we will have to tell the local authorities but it can wait… What time is it anyway?”

Nino looked at the phone he was still clutching in his hand. “Just about four,” he answered.

“I guess I’ll have to go start opening the bakery pretty soon,” Tom said apologetically.

“I’m afraid so Papa. It is very important to keep our identities hidden, especially with Mayura still on the loose,” Marinette said apologetically. “That means keeping up appearances… for all of us.”

“That’s all right,” he assured her. “I understand completely. And I don’t think I have the words to say how proud I am of both of you.”

“Thank you Papa,” she replied softly as she gently traced her fingers around Chat’s mask.

At that moment, Nooroo floated timidly down from where he had been hiding. “Hello Tikki, Hi Wayzz, Trixx, Kaalki” he said hesitantly.

“Oh Nooroo!” Tikki cried, her blue eyes filling with tears as she flew over and spun him around impulsively. “I’ve missed you so much!” The other three Kwamis joined her surrounding Nooroo with excited chatter.

“I don’t want Plagg to miss out on this,” Chat sighed. “Plagg, claws in,” he said and they all watched as a bright flash of green light revealed Adrien. His Kwami took in the scene for a moment before flying to join the others as they excitedly swarmed around Nooroo.

“I’m sorry son, no matter if you suspected him or not, it must have been a dreadful shock to have your fears confirmed,” Tom said, putting a comforting hand on his shoulder.

“It feels t-terrible,” he managed. “And yet I’m relieved. I feel like such a horrible person for saying that… knowing he’ll probably go to prison and part of me is… g-glad…” The tears began streaming down his cheeks again. “Maybe I’ll never have...to spend another night in that house… and now… I’m free of him. I’m not even eighteen and I’m free… but he’s Hawk Moth. He’s Hawk Moth,” Adrien began to sob, burying his face in his hands as he huddled next to Marinette. “I’m so sorry… My father has hurt so many people… he’s hurt you… I’m so sorry…”

“Shhh, my darling it isn’t your fault,” Sabine replied, sitting close to him and stroking his back as he rested his head in Marinette’s lap. “You don’t need to apologize on his behalf. And we’ll make sure you don’t have to spend any more time in that house than it takes to get your things… Whatever it takes, I promise we’ll look after you.

****

After Tom had gone downstairs to open the bakery, Marinette put the four Miraculous safely in her box before joining the rest of the group, who had already gone down to the living area and settled on the couch while Sabine made some hot chocolate.

“I have… so many questions,” Alya sighed as she leaned against Nino and he wrapped his arm around her.

“That doesn’t surprise me somehow,” Adrien said ruefully. “If it’s alright with you, I’d prefer to leave all that for later. Marinette and I had talked about… offering you a chance to break the news of… Hawk Moth’s defeat. We’ll need to do that before we go to the police because I know the news is going to spread very quickly at that point.”

“Are you serious?” Alya breathed, her eyes wide in surprise.

“Absolutely,” he said. “We felt bad that Nadja got in ahead of you on our new looks. There wasn’t much we could do about it. We decided to debut them on New Years and she was right there asking about it.”

“No, I get it,” Alya said. “I was disappointed at the time but I got over it. And if you’re really going to let me break the news… well that’s the biggest story I could possibly imagine.”

“That’s what we figured,” Marinette said as Sabine handed everyone a mug of hot chocolate. “Maybe we’ll head to the Eiffel Tower at sunrise. I don’t think I can get back to sleep anyway.”

“Yeah, I definitely can’t,” Adrien agreed, taking a sip of his drink. “Thanks Sabine. This is just what I needed.”

“You’re very welcome, dear,” Sabine said. “I will need to go down and help Tom in a little while but is there anything else I can do to help?”

“You’ve already done a lot,” Adrien said softly. “Right now, I’m just glad you’re here Sabine.”

“I’m very glad to be here too,” she assured him. “And like Tom, I’m so incredibly proud of you… of all of you but especially you and Marinette who have worked under tremendous pressure in your private lives while handling the burden of your secret identities.

“The funny thing is,” Adrien remarked as he took another sip of his drink. “My secret identity might be a burden in some ways but in others, it set me free.”

“What do you mean dude?” Nino asked curiously.

“I’ve lived my entire life, even when my Mother was still here, with extremely high expectations placed on me,” Adrien said. “I’ve had to cope with a strict schedule and being stuck in my house whenever I wasn’t doing one of my approved activities. Becoming Chat Noir gave me the ability to escape and act however I wanted because it was never going to be linked back to who I really was.”

“Well dear,” Sabine said thoughtfully. “I think it is likely from this point forward that you will have a lot more freedom to be yourself even when you aren’t transformed.

“I hope so,” Adrien said. “I have to wonder what the trust is going to make of all this… and my lawyer.”

“It’s only an hour before sunrise,” Marinette said. “Once the news gets out, there won’t be any getting away from it.”

“I know,” Adrien sighed. “But I’ve been preparing myself for this moment for a long time and I think I’m ready.”

Chapter Text

“It’s almost time to go,” Marinette said, checking the clock on the oven while absentmindedly massaging Adrien’s hand as everyone rested quietly on the couch. Sabine had gone downstairs to help Tom half an hour earlier and the four teens had spent that time silently contemplating everything that had happened. “Alya, you and Nino should start making your way to the Eiffel Tower. Adrien and I will transform and meet you there in twenty minutes. Does that sound good?”

“Sure,” Alya agreed. “We can get a train by now. It probably won’t even take that long. Do you want to meet underneath the tower?”

“Ok,” Marinette replied as Alya and Nino got up. Alya quickly ran upstairs to fetch her bag and then she and Nino headed out, leaving Adrien and Marinette alone together. “Are you ok Kitty?” she asked softly, reaching out to stroke his face.

“Yeah I am,” he replied. “As much as I possibly can be anyway. Thanks for the attention. Your touch… makes me feel much calmer. I know as Chat I have to react a lot less emotionally to all this and I think I can do that now.”

“I’m sure that’s really difficult but you’re right,” Marinette agreed. “It’s important to keep your reaction professional for your own safety.”

“And for yours,” Adrien added. “Are we going to the police station after we talk to Alya?”

“Yes,” she replied. “That may be tricky because I want them to think we witnessed what happened as Chat Noir and Ladybug defeated Hawk Moth but I think I’ve worked out what I’ll need to say.”

“I have absolutely no doubt that you will manage that,” Adrien told her. “You are… the most amazing person Marinette. What you did this morning… It was the most incredible thing I have ever seen and… I’ve seen you do plenty of things I could not even imagine coming up with, let alone doing. The Miraculous might give you superhuman powers but the ideas… the decisions… they all come from you.”

“Thank you,” Marinette said softly. “I want you to know that your belief in me gives me the confidence I need to do those things. I’m not sure I could otherwise.”

Adrien smiled and kissed her cheek. “We’re a good team,” he agreed. “You and me against the world, right?”

“Apparently now with a small band of loyal allies,” she added and they both laughed.

*****

Alya and Nino were waiting near the base of the tower when Ladybug and Chat Noir arrived, each of them approaching from different directions.

“I can’t believe this is happening,” Alya muttered to Nino.

“You’ve got to chill, babe,” Nino reminded her. “They’ve trusted us with so much. We can’t let them down.”

“You’re right,” Alya replied, taking a deep breath. “That’s the last thing I want to do.”

“Hello Ms. Ladyblogger,” Chat greeted her with a wink as the two heroes swept over, landing in front of them. “Thanks for agreeing to come meet us at this hour.”

“It’s my pleasure,” she replied, nodding at Nino who was holding her phone. He nodded back as he held it up and started to record.

“Hello this is Alya recording for the Ladyblogger website and I’ve been told by Chat Noir and Ladybug that they have a special announcement they would like to share with the city of Paris. So you two, please don’t keep us in suspense!”

“Thank you Alya,” Ladybug said, a tired smile on her face, her hand held tightly in Chat’s. “I appreciate you coming out here at such an early hour and I apologize for waking you but I think this will be worth it. We have some very important news to share with you, don’t we Chat Noir?”

“That’s right,” Chat agreed. “City of Paris, we are… so pleased to tell you that… Hawk Moth has been defeated as of early this morning.” He paused and looked at Ladybug.

“We were able to catch him as he invaded a temple that was restored following the defeat of the sentimonster, Feast,” Ladybug said. “He is currently safely in the custody of the monks and we were able to retrieve his Miraculous so he is no longer a threat.”

“Does this mean… you know his identity?” Alya asked, her eyes wide.

“We do,” Chat confirmed. “Do you think we should reveal that information now, Ladybug?”

“I think we need to report everything to the local authorities,” Ladybug replied. “They should determine when that information comes out. In the meantime, Mayura remains uncaptured so our next goal will be to find her and deliver her to the authorities as well.”

“We will be working with the City of Paris law enforcement officials on a plan to transfer Hawk Moth to Paris,” Chat added. “I believe that concludes our announcement, right Ladybug?”

“Yes,” she confirmed. “Thank you again to the many people who have supported us for the last few years as we have worked toward this goal. We care very much about Paris and its citizens.”

“I think I speak for everyone when I say thank you for everything you’ve done, Ladybug and Chat Noir. I can’t even imagine the things you’ve sacrificed to reach this day,” Alya said.

“Thank you Alya,” Chat said, letting go of Ladybug’s hand and putting his arm protectively around her shoulders as they waited for Nino to stop recording.

“Thank you so much,” Alya said as she took her phone from Nino. “Can I put this up right now?”

“Yes,” Ladybug answered. “We’re going to head to the police station now.”

“Ok,” Alya replied. “Good luck finding Mayura.”

“Hopefully it will be sooner rather than later,” Chat replied.

*****

There was a police officer entering the police headquarters when Chat Noir and Ladybug arrived together and she paused in surprise.

“What’s going on?” she asked. “Can I help you?”

Another police officer burst through the doors. “Chat Noir! Ladybug! I’m delighted to see you. I just heard the news. Please come in. The Directeur de Police, Francois Dufort wants to speak with you right away.”

“Um, ok,” Chat said, looking taken aback.

“Of course,” Ladybug agreed, taking Chat’s hand as they followed both officers inside.

“Did something happen?” the first officer asked.

“They’ve captured Hawk Moth!” the second one explained in excitement.

“What? When?” the other exclaimed.

“Early this morning,” Ladybug interjected. She could see heads popping up from cubicles as she and Chat were escorted to the Directeur’s office. Alya’s video was playing on every computer screen as they walked past.

“This is completely surreal,” Chat whispered to Ladybug as the officer knocked on a closed door and a man poked his head out.

“Chat Noir! Ladybug! Come in and have a seat,” he invited, opening the door wide. “Thank you officers for escorting them.” The two police nodded, their expressions full of curiosity as they reluctantly retreated and the Directeur shut the door.

“Please accept my congratulations,” he said.

“Thank you sir,” Chat replied.

“Now from what I understand, Hawk Moth is being held… outside of France?” Directeur Dufort asked.

“Yes sir,” Ladybug confirmed. “He is being held in the temple where our Miraculous originally belonged. It’s in Tibet somewhere. We’ve been able to travel directly to it with a Miraculous that creates a portal to any destination.”

“I see,” he nodded. “I also understand that you know his identity. Could you tell me who he is?”

“Yes,” Ladybug replied. “Hawk Moth is… Gabriel Agreste.”

“Gabriel Agreste?” Directeur Dufort replied, his eyes widening in shock. “Oh my… Can I ask, do you have any suspicions on who Mayura is?”

“We think it is his assistant, Nathalie Sancouer. We did not see her at the battle and at this point, we don’t know if she assisted. We know Hawk Moth is in captivity but we have not spoken to him,” Ladybug replied.

“I don’t suppose that you have any…” the Directeur searched for words for a moment as he processed what Ladybug had said. “Well, proof I suppose.”

“The battle was recorded,” Ladybug said. “We needed Gabriel’s son as we were very suspicious that Gabriel could be Hawk Moth. His girlfriend ended up coming as well and recorded what happened on her phone.”

“That is good news,” he replied, looking relieved. ‘Has she shared that video at this point?”

“No, we told her not to,” Ladybug said. “I used a special power-up that we were only able to master a few weeks ago and I will probably need it to capture Mayura. The less she knows about it, the better.”

“I understand,” the Directeur agreed. “Do you think we could send someone to question Mr. Agreste?”

“Of course,” Chat replied. “He may want his lawyer to be present though. I’d hate to get your people over there and then be turned away.”

“I imagine you are right,” Directeur Dufort said wryly.

“We will message the monks to see if Mr. Agreste has a lawyer that his son can contact,” Ladybug said. “We will return here at four o’clock with whatever information we have gathered at that point.”

“I would appreciate that very much,” the Directeur said. There was a knock on the door at that moment. “Yes?” he asked.

“Sir,” a woman said as she poked her head through the door. “There is a lot of press waiting outside now. Will you be able to make a statement?”

“Not quite yet,” Directeur Dufort answered. “I need to get the proof of Hawk Moth’s identity first.”

“I can bring Marinette here if you wish,” Chat offered. “Or you can send an officer to the bakery.”

“We’ll do that,” the Directeur said. “She’ll never get through the scrum at the front entrance.”

“Understood,” Chat nodded. “Is there a way we can leave that avoids it?”

The Directeur laughed. “I hope not. I’d like to think this building is too secure for such things.”

“Well Milady,” Chat said as he stood up. “I think your yo-yo will work better than my baton in this instance.”

“You are probably right,” she agreed.

“Thank you both for coming in,” he told them. “I’ll see you later this afternoon.”

****

“Hey Kitty,” Marinette greeted Adrien as he climbed down the ladder after de-transforming.

“Hey,” he replied. “Do your parents know we’re back?”

“Yeah, I just texted Maman,” Marinette said. “I wonder when the police will show up.”

Adrien sighed as he sat down. “I don’t imagine they’ll waste much time. I messaged Master Liu about what’s happening. He said he would ask Father about his lawyer.”

“How are you feeling right now?” she asked softly.

“Better than I was earlier I guess,” he replied. “I feel kind of numb right now actually.” He looked up at her and she instantly realized how much he needed her reassurance.

“I’m so sorry Adrien,” Marinette said, sitting in his lap and hugging him tightly. “I could feel your emotions when it happened. You’ve been through so much pain and it seemed like you were almost reliving things in that moment.”

“I thought I was prepared to see him revealed but… it was a terrible shock,” Adrien admitted. “I’m so tired now but I know we can’t rest. We’re going to be bouncing between identities again pretty soon on top of everything else.”

“I hate to say it, but you’re right. I know we both really need to recover but there just isn’t going to be time for awhile,” she agreed.

“Marinette, Adrien, Lieutenant Raincomprix is here to see you,” Sabine said from outside the trap door. “He’s waiting on the couch downstairs.”

“Thanks Maman,” Marinette called, getting up to retrieve her phone and taking Adrien’s hand. “Sorry Kitty. If nothing else, we can go to bed early tonight.”

****

“Hello Adrien, Hello Marinette,” Lieutenant Raincomprix said, standing as they came downstairs. “I understand you witnessed the revealing of Hawk Moth’s identity.”

“Yes sir,” Marinette said as she turned on the television.

“Mrs. Cheng, have you seen this recording?” the Lieutenant asked.

“I have not. Should I leave?” she asked.

“No, I really do need a parent present for this conversation and since you are legally responsible for both of them right now, I’d definitely prefer you to stay,” he replied.

“I’m going to cast it to the television,” Marinette said. “That should make it easier to see what happened.”

“Good idea,” the Lieutenant said as he sat back down and watched the screen expectantly.

Marinette pulled up the video and sent it to the TV as Alya had shown her before. Lieutenant Raincomprix’s eyes grew wide as he saw the sphere forming rapidly around Chat Noir and Ladybug. Sabine quietly came over and stood between Adrien and Marinette, putting her arms around both of them as they silently watched the events of their morning play out. She couldn’t help but gasp as Ladybug pulled the sphere in her hands apart and created a bright flash of light.

“Oh my goodness,” Lieutenant Raincomprix said as the still figure of Gabriel Agreste emerged from the receding light, crumpled on the ground. “This happened in Tibet?”

“I guess so,” Adrien replied. “Ladybug made a portal and we stepped through it and we were somewhere completely different. I know my father flew to Shanghai so I could definitely believe that he could have travelled to Tibet since then.”

“Of course,” the Lieutenant replied. “You’ve had a lot to deal with over the past few weeks, haven’t you Adrien?”

“Yeah,” he sighed. “When Ladybug came here in the middle of the night and said she needed me to come with her… I was very surprised. I guess in retrospect, I feel like maybe… I should have realized but… I still don’t understand why.”

“Yes, I would be interested to know what his motive was,” Lieutenant Raincomprix said thoughtfully as he pulled out his laptop. “I’m going to upload your video to my computer so it can be turned in as evidence.”

“Of course,” Marinette agreed, handing him her phone. He worked quickly and gave it back to her.

“Thank you Marinette, I’ll be in touch if I need anything further from you,” he said.

“Thank you for stopping by Roger,” Sabine said.

“Thank you all for your cooperation,” he replied. “I’m sorry Adrien. I’m sure this is all very difficult for you. Just to warn you, it is likely the Directeur de Police will make a statement once he reviews the evidence. I imagine he will announce Hawk Moth’s identity at that time.”

“I expected as much,” Adrien said, sighing in resignation. “I won’t be going anywhere this weekend, believe me.”

“A wise choice,” he agreed.

“I’ll show you out,” Sabine offered. “Would you like a croissant?”

“I’d love one, thank you Sabine,” he replied as they both left the room.

“You are so incredible,” Adrien murmured softly as they sat down on the couch together.

“So are you,” Marinette replied, snuggling into him as he pulled her into his lap.

“No, you deserve so much credit for what you did and how much you’ve done to distance us from our secret identities.”

“You’ve been working just as hard to achieve that,” she protested. “Hopefully it will all be enough. I’m a bit shaken by how completely unsurprised my parents seemed.”

“You two look exhausted,” Sabine said as she returned. “Do you think you’ll be able to take a nap now?”

“I don’t think so. I’m waiting to hear back from the temple. The police want to interview my father and we told them we’d return to the headquarters with whatever information we had at four o’clock. Right now I’m waiting to hear back from the monks to see if Father wants his lawyer present during the interview and who that is,” Adrien replied.

Sabine sighed as she sat down next to them. “No, stay where you are, Marinette. You two need each other more than ever and I honestly don’t mind. I’m just… in complete awe of what I just saw. I’ve never… you’ve never done that in a fight that I’ve seen.”

“It’s the first time we completed the power-up,” Marinette said softly as Adrien hugged her to him. “We had to transform and meditate many times to build up our bond and manifest our energy like that. We’ve been working on it since Christmas.”

“Goodness,” Sabine said quietly. “What does that mean?”

“I promise we’ll explain more later so both you and Tom know a bit more about… everything,” Adrien told her. “However, I think we’re both wondering… how long you’ve suspected that…” he trailed off.

Sabine smiled. “It was right after your birthday dear,” she said. “When Marinette had that nightmare, I don’t know… there was something about the way you looked together. I wasn’t certain but it made a lot of things make sense to me. And the more I’ve seen you and watched the akuma fights that have happened since, the more it came together. It probably didn’t help that we had seen you as Chat Noir with Marinette that one time,” Sabine said.

Adrien winced. “Yeah, I’m really sorry about that.”

“Don’t be,” Sabine laughed. “I was annoyed with Tom jumping the gun without asking you how you felt at the time.”

“Well, so far as I know, you’re the only people who have figured it out on your own,” Marinette said, looking apprehensive.

“Are you surprised that my father is…” Adrien paused, unable to finish his sentence.

“I never would have considered that,” Sabine said. “Why, did you suspect him?”

“Marinette--well Ladybug-- mentioned that she had her suspicions about him once to me a long time ago and I… dismissed her... Later, after we knew each other’s identities she explained that further and… I guess that is another long story really,” Adrien replied.

Chapter Text

“Hey Kid, you got a message,” Plagg said, floating down to where Sabine was sitting with Adrien and Marinette.

Adrien sighed. “I’m not sure I want to know but I guess I should transform. Can I just stay here?”

“I’d say that cat is officially out of the bag,” Marinette said, grinning at him playfully.

Adrien laughed and gave her a squeeze. “I guess so. Plagg, claws out!”

Sabine watched in amazement as green light shimmered over him until he emerged as Chat Noir. He took out his baton and flipped it open to retrieve the mission while Marinette stayed in his lap, her head resting against his chest.

Sabine shook her head and laughed. “That really is amazing to watch,” she said. “Although I suppose I should go help Tom. I’ll see you both later.”

“Ok, see you later Sabine,” Chat said as he tapped on the message from Master Liu. He held it out slightly so Marinette could read the message as well.

Mr. Agreste is willing to speak to the police. He would like his lawyer to be present. If Adrien texts his assistant, she will provide the information. He would like to tell Adrien that he is very sorry for everything even as he realizes that will never be enough to make up for the damage he caused. ML

“I’m glad he’s sorry,” Marinette muttered. “He fucking should be.”

“What did you do to him with the butterflies?” Chat asked.

“I channeled all the pain you were sharing with me into him and I made sure he understood where the emotions were coming from although he thought I was channeling it from the illusion of Adrien. I don’t know if that is actually possible but hey, neither does he. The Miraculous Light power up was uncharted territory for everybody in that room up until this morning.”

“Wow,” Chat said quietly. “So all those butterflies…”

“I guess they were amplifying the message. Obviously that’s the first time I’ve worn the butterfly Miraculous but that was what came to me as all the butterflies flew to me after they were purified,” she explained. “I just followed my intuition.”

“Which is not to be second-guessed,” Chat said, hugging her tightly. “I should de-transform and text Nathalie. That’ll be fun. Plagg, claws in.”

Marinette sat in his lap as the de-transformation washed over him again. “Hey Plagg, do you need some cheese?” she asked when the Kwami reappeared.

“That would be nice,” he agreed. “Thanks kitten.”

“No problem,” she replied as she got up and Adrien fished his phone out of his pocket. She went over to the fridge and took a few wedges of Camembert out before arranging them on a plate and setting it on the dining table.

“Are you ok if I go down to the bakery for a minute?” she asked.

“Yeah,” Adrien said, looking up and smiling at her reassuringly. “Thanks Princess.”

She smiled before heading downstairs. “I’ll be right back.”

****

“Hello dear!” Sabine greeted her when she came in. “Do you need something?”

“Yeah,” Marinette answered, her eyes suddenly drawn to the window. “What… what is all that?” she asked.

Sabine sighed as she looked at the group outside. “Press I think. Looking out for Adrien.”

Marinette shook her head. “I guess the police must have made their statement. This is the last thing he needs.”

“I know,” Sabine agreed. “We’ll keep him out of sight as much as possible.”

“Damn right,” Marinette muttered. “They aren’t chasing off customers are they?”

Sabine laughed. “No, your papa was very stern about them keeping clear of the door.”

“Well, that’s something,” Marinette said wryly. “I came down to get some macarons… and some brioche. I don’t think Adrien has eaten anything today. Maybe that will tempt him.”

“That poor boy,” Sabine sighed. “Saying that, have you eaten today?”

“Um… no,” Marinette admitted. “I guess not. We had that hot chocolate early this morning but then..we missed breakfast and lunch with everything that has been happening.”

“I’ll get you some baguettes too,” Sabine said, grabbing a plate.

*****

“I was talking to Maman and I just realized that neither of us has eaten today,” Marinette said as she returned to the living area.

“You’re right!” Adrien exclaimed, looking startled. “I don’t even feel hungry.”

“I know what you mean,” Marinette agreed. “I’m going to slice up a baguette and put butter on it. We’re both going to get sick if we keep skipping meals.”

“Yeah, you’re right,” Adrien replied as his phone beeped. “Would you look at that, she actually replied!” he exclaimed as he opened the message and shook his head in disgust. “She acts like nothing is wrong and this is a perfectly normal request she is replying to.” He tapped on the contact information she had sent and held his phone up as he put it on speaker.

“Hello?” he said as soon as the receptionist answered. “This is Adrien Agreste. I need to speak to Mr. Blanchet.”

A moment later the lawyer was on the line. “Hello Adrien. I can guess why you’re calling. Thank you for contacting me.”

“Yeah, well, the police want to talk to Father and I don’t want to hold things up,” Adrien replied. “The temple is six hours ahead of us so if it’s happening today, it needs to be soon.”

“I can be available in thirty minutes. How will I get there?” the lawyer asked.

“Chat Noir and Ladybug will take you just like they did Marinette and I,” Adrien replied. “Maybe the police will know more about that. They were the ones who told the police his identity. Marinette and I confirmed it when they visited us and showed them the recording she made on her phone.”

“I’ll call the headquarters in that case,” Mr. Blanchet said. “Perhaps they have arranged a time with the two heroes for them to return.”

“Hopefully,” Adrien said. “I have no way to contact them. I’m not sure anyone does.”

“Well, I appreciate your call,” Mr. Blanchet told him.

“No problem,” Adrien sighed. “Good luck.”

“And to you,” the lawyer replied before hanging up.

“Well, it’s three right now,” Adrien said after the call disconnected. “We have an hour and then it’s back to the temple I guess. Hopefully ten isn’t too late.”

“I imagine there are monks up around the clock at the moment,” Marinette replied. “Come on Gorgeous. We both need to eat something. Who knows when we’ll get another chance.”

*****

At four o’clock, Ladybug and Chat Noir swept over the scrum of reporters on her yo-yo, landing neatly at the entrance of the police headquarters before making their way inside, ignoring the shouts of the reporters as the door shut behind them.

“Ladybug, Chat Noir, right on time!” the Directeur Dufort exclaimed, opening his door as soon as they knocked. “I have Lieutenant Raincomprix and Mr. Blanchet in the office.”

“Purrrfect,” Chat said, smiling slightly. “Ladybug is wearing an additional Miraculous that allows her to travel via portal to the temple. Once she’s created it, we all just step through.”

“Incredible,” the Directeur murmured. “I wish I could join you but I need to stay put. “Lieutenant Raincomprix will be the one coming along to talk to Mr. Agreste.”

Ladybug nodded. “I messaged the monks. They are expecting us. Voyage!”

The three adults watched in amazement as she created a portal.

“I’ll go first and you two can follow,” Chat offered, nodding at Mr. Blanchet and Lieutenant Raincomprix. “Ladybug will go through last and close the portal.”

It only took a few seconds before the group was standing in the courtyard of the temple, the two men looking around in awe.

“Just like that,” the Lieutenant muttered, shaking his head in disbelief as the portal snapped shut behind Ladybug. “Young lady, you are probably the most amazing person in Paris!”

“There’s no probably about it!” Chat exclaimed. “I assume you saw the recording of what happened?”

“I did,” he agreed. “And you’re right. The things she is capable of are beyond anyone’s imagination.”

“Ladybug! Chat Noir!” Master Liu exclaimed as he rushed over. “Thank you so much… for everything.”

“You are very welcome,” Ladybug replied. “Sorry we couldn’t stick around. We had civilians helping us and I needed to get them back.”

“I understand,” he replied. “I will take you to where we are holding Mr. Agreste.”

Ladybug nodded and the group followed him to the building containing the Miraculous. Instead of taking them through to the Sanctuary, the monk opened a large wooden door, revealing an ancient stairway. They went down further and further, the only light provided by strangely flickering torches mounted high above their heads. The two men continued to look around in amazement.

“How… how do you just… you’re both... so young,” Lieutenant Raincomprix faltered.

“We’ve been here a few times,” Chat replied. “Although not to this part. It is pretty amazing isn’t it? But then, I’ve seen a lot of amazing things over the last four and a half years.”

“I’m sure you have,” Mr. Blanchet said. “And some terrible things too.”

Chat looked at him in surprise. “Well, I’m not going to lie. That is certainly true. We’ve both suffered at the hands of your client.”

“Until today, I had no idea that I was representing Hawk Moth,” the lawyer said. “I have a job to do though and I hope you won’t take that personally.”

“Of course not,” Ladybug replied. “The process has to be fair. I understand that.”

“That is very gracious of you, the Lieutenant said. “You’d be well within your rights to be demanding vengeance.”

“Whatever constitutes justice is up to the city of Paris,” Ladybug replied. “Mr. Agreste is already experiencing the consequences that I delivered to him. I purified his Miraculous and then I armed myself with it and exposed him to the full extent of his cruelty. I’m quite sure the remorse is nearly unbearable. It has always been my goal to make him understand what he had done and not to physically harm him even though I admit sometimes I wanted to. He had completely lost whatever empathy he might have possessed and that made him incredibly dangerous. We had reached the point where there was no form of suffering he wasn’t willing to exploit and the only way I was going to capture him was going to be by removing his Miraculous and restoring his humanity.”

“Incredible,” Lieutenant Raincomprix murmured as they entered a small room with some chairs.

“We’re holding Mr. Agreste beyond that door,” Master Liu said. “It’s not a huge area but one of the heroes should accompany you both. I’ll stay with the other one in here.”

“I’ll go,” Chat said, quietly.

Ladybug nodded and sat down, watching as Chat led the two men beyond the door and wondering what was going through his mind. “Could someone bring some carrots for Kaalki?” she asked as she divided Kaalki from her transformation.

“Of course,” Master Liu replied, taking out his communicator and tapping out a message. “Listening to you discuss what you did to Hawk Moth, I’m just so impressed by you young lady. That transformation gave you tremendous power and you chose to use it in a way that few would.”

“Honestly, I think it’s the worst consequence I could bestow on him,” Ladybug replied. “And also, the one most likely to keep him from reemerging as a different sort of villain.”

“You are right on both counts,” Master Liu said, nodding in agreement. “I can’t help but feel somewhat sorry for him. He’s consumed with regret.”

“He’s done many terrible things and now he has to face it,” Ladybug replied. “We’ve been facing it all along and there are still things I struggle to process.”

“I’m sure,” Master Liu said. “By saying I feel sorry for him, I’m not denying that he deserved what you did to him.”

“It’s ok,” Ladybug replied. “I can understand why you feel that way but I can’t. Maybe someday, but not now.”

“Do you know Mr. Agreste?” Master Liu asked. “I promise I will not say anything to anyone either way. This is strictly between us.”

“Yes,” Ladybug sighed. “I know him.”

******

Gabriel was staring out of his cell, clearly deep in thought when Chat Noir entered the area with the two other men.

“Good evening Mr. Agreste,” Chat said, his green eyes glowing in the dim room. “Your son managed to get a hold of your lawyer so we brought him along. You might also remember Lieutenant Raincomprix. You akumatized him once.”

Gabriel flinched at Chat’s casual reference. “Is Adrien… here?” he asked.

“No,” Chat said matter-of-factly. “Did you expect him to be?”

“No, no, I can’t expect anything from him anymore,” Gabriel murmured. “But very foolishly, I hoped.”

Chat shrugged. “Obviously I don’t know the full extent of your relationship with him but… he seemed to be in a lot of pain when we dropped him off. His girlfriend and her parents were looking after him or we probably would have stayed longer.”

“At least he’s in good hands,” Gabriel sighed. “He was right, my wife… she would be so ashamed. For the first time, I’m glad she isn’t here to see what I’ve done. I keep looking back and… I had so many chances, chances to change, chances to stop… and I hated my own son… for moving on. I should have followed his example. I only thought I hated him but that is what I showed him. That is what he experienced. I forgot how to love and I hated anyone who could. Please… please tell him I am deeply sorry. So sorry that it took this to make me realize…”

“I’ll tell him when I can,” Chat assured him.

“Tell Ladybug I’m sorry too. And Chat Noir… I am so sorry for everything I did to both of you. I knew you were both children and I took so much away from you. Maybe you’re adults now, maybe not quite. I don’t know… but I forced you to grow up with my abuse.”

“You did,” Chat agreed. “I’ve been injured and maybe even killed in numerous ways. You made Ladybug witness those things and put tremendous pressure on her to fix the damage you did over and over again. I’ve seen the toll it took on her whenever you exploited her mistakes. You can’t even imagine what that did to her. I’m only just beginning to understand myself.”

Gabriel sighed again. “I know and I’m as prepared as I can be to accept the consequences. I certainly see there is no more running away from it.”

“I’m glad to hear that,” Lieutenant Raincomprix spoke up. “I have so many questions that need answers.”

“I’m sure you do,” Gabriel replied. “Let’s get started, shall we?”

Chapter Text

“Bug?”

“Mmmm, what is it Kitty,” Marinette said sleepily as she snuggled closer to him in bed.

“I don’t know… I just woke up feeling… panicky. I don’t even know what time it is,” he said, his arm wrapped around her pressing her against his side.

Marinette lifted her head and rested it on his chest, listening to his racing heartbeat. “Oh Kitty,” she sighed. “Your heart is beating so fast. No wonder you woke up.”

“Ugh,” he groaned as he took a few deep breaths and pressed his hands down into the duvet to keep them from shaking. “I feel… really tight inside… the doctor… he gave me some medicine for this after my father…” he paused and took some deep breaths.

“Where is it?” Marinette asked, sitting up.

“Little suitcase, outside pocket,” he managed as he continued to try and breathe deep breaths, trembling from the effort and from the feelings that were threatening to overwhelm him. He tried to draw on the calm energy but his body felt like a vacuum, creating a void that could only be filled with more anxiety.

“Here,” Marinette said, taking out a pill and offering it to him with a glass of water.

“Th-thanks Bug,” he managed as he hastily swallowed it with some of the water. He paused and took another sip before handing it back to Marinette who quickly went down her ladder and put the pills and the glass on her desk before returning to Adrien.

“Is there anything else I can do?” she asked.

“Could you… give me a head massage? I know it’s late and I should go back to sleep but.. It takes a little while for the medicine to work and… I need something calm to distract me.”

“I’ll be happy to,” she replied. “Lay down and put your head in my lap, Gorgeous.”

“Ok, thanks Marinette,” he said gratefully, sighing deeply as she immediately began to run her fingers through his hair. It didn’t take long before his pulse slowed and his breathing deepened. Marinette continued to gently massage his scalp until his eyes closed and he was asleep.

****

It was very late the next morning when Marinette awoke. She had carefully moved Adrien off of her lap once she was sure he was sleeping deeply and he was exactly as she had left him, curled up on his side, still fast asleep. Carefully she reached over him to take her phone off its charger and see if she had any messages.

Maman: Don’t worry about working in the bakery. Get some rest.

Alya: Hey girl, just wondering how you are doing. I saw the police revealed Hawk Moth’s identity. Call me when you can.

Celine: I imagine you aren’t checking your phone much atm but I saw the news and I’m just so devastated for Adrien. I am thinking of you both and if there is anything I can do, just say the word.

Gorilla: I don’t want to bother Adrien right now but I wanted to let you know the Trust is aware of this latest turn of events. Rest assured I had no idea but I wonder if Emilie knew.

Rose: Give Adrien a hug for me. You are both in my thoughts.

Marinette sighed as she finished reading her texts. She was hesitant to call anyone while Adrien was still asleep but she wanted to contact Alya especially.

Marinette: Hi Alya. Sorry I can’t call rn. Adrien is asleep and I don’t want to leave him.
Alya: That’s ok girl. How are you holding up?
Marinette: I’m ok. Just worried about Adrien. He’s been pretty quiet since he spoke to Gabriel.
Alya: Holy shit. How did that happen?
Marinette: Long story. Do you think you and Nino can come over for dinner? I know my parents want to understand what’s been happening. I imagine you do too.
Alya: We’ll be there. And if Adrien isn’t up to that, we can just hang out.
Marinette: Great. Thanks for everything.
Alya: If anyone deserves thanks, it’s you. ❤

Marinette smiled as she read Alya’s last message before switching to her Maman’s chat window.

Marinette: Thank you Maman. Adrien is still asleep. I’d like to have Nino and Alya over so we can answer anyone’s questions tonight at dinner. Is that ok?
Maman: Of course. I’ll just get pizza in. I’m sure they’ll be relieved to see both of you.

Adrien sighed peacefully as Marinette switched to Celine’s chat window and she smiled at him affectionately before turning her attention back to her phone.

Marinette: Hi Celine. Thanks for your text. I’m just catching up on my messages while Adrien is still asleep.
Celine: Doll!! I’m so glad to hear from you. After everything else.. I was just sick when I heard that Gabriel was Hawk Moth. How is Adrien doing?
Marinette: Quiet and anxious. Hopefully sleeping in will help. Neither of us got back to sleep after Ladybug and Chat Noir took us both home.
Celine: I didn’t realize you were there!
Marinette: Yes. They needed Adrien because they suspected Hawk Moth’s identity and I recorded what happened so they would have proof that he was captured. I’ve had an officer here to review the video and he made a copy for the police.
Celine: Poor Adrien. That must have been really shocking.
Marinette: Yeah. I feel so bad for him. I will let him know you are thinking of him.
Celine: Thanks Doll.

Marinette sighed quietly, suddenly feeling very tired again. She brought up Gorilla’s window but exhaustion overtook her and she laid down next to Adrien. Before long, she was asleep.

******

When Adrien woke again, the sun was shining directly through the trap door. “Marinette?” he asked.

“I’m down here,” she called. “Sorry, it’s almost time for lunch so I went and took a quick shower.”

“Wow,” he mumbled. “I slept a long time.”

“I’m sure you needed it. How are you feeling?” she asked.

“Better,” Adrien answered. “The exhaustion really made everything worse yesterday and it was bad enough already.” He pushed back the covers and climbed down, wearing the Ladybug pajamas Marinette had made for him.

“Hey Kitty,” Marinette greeted him softly as she walked over to him. “You’ve been so quiet. I’ve been worried about you.”

“I know,” he replied. “You’ll be relieved to hear that… I don’t think Father knows my secret identity. He apologized to me as Chat Noir while also talking about how sorry he was for everything he had done to me as Adrien. He also told me he was sorry for what he did to Ladybug and in the course of his conversation with the police and the lawyer, he admitted that he had been obsessing about akumatizing you--and I mean Marinette you--because he was frustrated with our relationship and didn’t have any power to stop it as Gabriel. He said that in his state of mind at the time, all he could feel was anger and resentment that people were interfering and protecting you from him but now he understands why. What you did to him in the temple seems to have made it possible for him to see things as they really are and I think it is tremendously painful.”

“I’m sure,” Marinette replied. “It took a supernatural amount of power to remove that much denial but it had to be done, I’m afraid. He was too dangerous living with no remorse, even without the Miraculous.”

“You are absolutely right,” Adrien agreed. “I’m just battling with so many things--memories from long ago, recent experiences, everything he did to me as Chat Noir… it hurts… and he said, he wanted our Miraculous so he could get Mother back. He didn’t offer any explanation about that. I don’t know if he has one or not.”

Marinette sighed. “I wonder if he realizes how dangerous making a wish like that would be while combining our Miraculouses to get it.”

“I don’t know,” Adrien replied. “I just know that as much pain as I’m feeling about… everything I heard… that feeling it is better than trying to cover it with some other emotion. I just have to get through this somehow.”

“I know. And right now, I’m sure the pain is intense. It must have been so difficult to listen to him talking to the Lieutenant and his lawyer and having to react in a completely different way than you would have as Adrien,” Marinette replied.

“I had to be there,” he told her, pulling Marinette into his lap and burying his face in her hair. “And being Chat Noir removed me a little. If he had realized who he was actually talking to, I think it would have been too difficult to bear… for either of us really.”

“That makes sense,” Marinette said, stroking his back.

“Do you think I have time to take a shower or should I just get dressed?” he asked.

“Go ahead. I can tell my parents to wait a few minutes if I need to,” she told him.

“Thanks Princess,” he replied. “I won’t take long.”

****

“Finally,” Adrien sighed as they returned to Marinette’s room after lunch.

“What’s that Kitty?” Marinette asked, lowering the trap door carefully behind her.

Adrien laughed ruefully. “We’re both awake. Nobody needs anything from us or Chat Noir and Ladybug and we have no plans until Alya and Nino get here. Did they say when they were coming?”

“Around five,” Marinette answered. “Why? Did you want to do something?”

“Well, I just wanted to hang out with you,” he answered. “Everything is kind of a mess, including my head but… you really deserve some attention, especially after you’ve done so much for me,” Adrien replied.

“I’m thankful for anything I can do that helps you,” she replied. “I don’t expect anything in return.”

“I know, but that doesn’t mean you don’t deserve it and if it helps, it would make me happy if I could do anything for you. I mean… you had to take on Hawk Moth the day after you turned seventeen. It hardly seems fair,” he said earnestly.

Marinette smiled. “I’ll tell you what. I did think of something earlier that sounded really nice to me.”

“What’s that?” he asked, taking her hand and kissing it.

“Would you like to take a bubble bath with me?” she asked shyly.

“I would love to” he replied. “Do you think it would be ok… with Mayura and everything?”

“I think so,” Marinette said thoughtfully. “Nathalie is no idiot and… I don’t think she’d try and break into the temple on her own. She must realize that it will be much more difficult to take anyone on without Hawk Moth. I could see her potentially trying to interfere with his transfer to Paris or trying to attack wherever he is being held once he’s here. She’d have a little bit of time to get to him before we showed up but the temple? The monks can’t be akumatized now and they have access to dozens of Miraculous so they would be an immediate threat.”

“You’ve obviously been giving this some thought,” Adrien replied.

“Well, you know me, always thinking about next steps,” she admitted.

“For what it’s worth,” Tikki said, floating down. “Marinette is right and… you both need to recover from what’s happened. I know I’ve been a bit of a killjoy about… doing things that might charge me up but… take a break from worrying about that.”

“Um, ok Tikki,” Marinette said, blushing. “Thanks.”

Tikki grinned. “Plagg and I will stay out of your way. I think he’s looking forward to raiding the fridge.”

Marinette giggled. “There’s plenty of cheese. He can help himself. I put more cookies in your cookie jar too.”

“Thank you Marinette,” Tikki replied, nuzzling her cheek. “I’m so proud of both of you.”

*****

Marinette had just finished lighting her candles when there was a knock on the bathroom door.

“Can I come in?” Adrien asked. “It smells really nice. Did you get more of that bubble bath?”

“Just a second,” Marinette replied, switching the light off and opening the door.

“Wow,” Adrien said quietly, a big smile spreading across his face. “You went to such an effort Marinette… I…” he shook his head. “I love you so much.”

“I love you too,” she replied, smiling as she pulled him inside. “Obviously.”

Adrien groaned quietly as he watched Marinette get undressed. “You certainly know how to distract me from my troubles Princess.”

“Good,” she said, giggling as she unhooked her bra and slid her arms out of the straps. “Feel free to distract me from mine.”

“Yeah sorry, I was too busy enjoying myself watching you,” he admitted, taking off his shirt.

“No need to apologize,” she said, watching him take the rest of his clothes off. “I’m certainly not going to.” She pushed her underwear down and kicked them away before stepping into the bath.

Adrien smiled as he stepped in and sat behind her. “Oh,” he sighed as she leaned back against his chest. “This is amazing.”

“Yeah,” Marinette agreed. “And this is the same bubble bath by the way. I’ve been wanting to do this for… a long time.”

“I’m really happy to hear you say that,” he replied as he played with her hair, piling it on top of head and admiring the way her skin looked in the candlelight. “And I’m so glad we’re together. I don’t think I could do this if we weren’t.”

“We certainly wouldn’t be in the bathtub together if we weren’t,” she replied teasingly.

“Not what I meant but true,” he laughed. “I’m glad you did all this. It’s something I’ve often tried to imagine. It’s very reassuring to know you’ve been thinking about the same things.”

Marinette smiled and tilted her head up to look at him.

“Is it ok if… I put my arms around you?” he asked, leaning down to kiss her forehead.

“I’d like that,” she said, smiling as he immediately draped his arms over her shoulders and enjoying the feeling of his hands just below her breasts. “Have you been checking your messages?” she asked.

“Yeah, Gorilla said my lawyer will be stopping by after school. He has an appointment with the judge tomorrow morning,” Adrien replied. “I also had a message from Celine so I texted her back so she wouldn’t worry so much. I mean, I know I’m going through a rough time and this is all really difficult but I will be ok. I just wanted to reassure her of that because she seemed so worried.”

“Yes, I texted her as well,” Marinette replied. “I wonder what will happen at Gabriel tomorrow.”

“That’s a good point,” Adrien said thoughtfully. “I have no idea. I know there has been turmoil since he left but… this is a lot worse.”

“Have you heard from anyone apart from Celine?” Marinette asked, reaching up to lightly stroke his arms.

“Mmmm,” he sighed quietly. “That’s really nice Princess. And yes, I’ve had texts from a lot of the staff. I haven’t read them all yet.”

Marinette suddenly paused from stroking his arms. “Do you hear something?” she asked very quietly.

Adrien abruptly went silent as they listened to the sound of someone coming upstairs.

“Marinette? Adrien?” Alya said, knocking on the trap door.

Adrien snorted quietly, trying to stay still in the water.

“You locked the door right?” Marinette asked quietly.

“Yeah,” he whispered, trying to keep his composure.

“Marinette?” Alya knocked on the door. “Are you in there?”

“Um, yes I’m in the bath,” Marinette replied as Adrien started laughing silently behind her. “I wasn’t expecting you to be here for awhile.”

“Yeah I know but Nino is still babysitting and I was bored so I thought I’d come over. Come on girl, just let me in. It’s nothing I haven’t seen before.”

“I don’t know about that,” Adrien said before bursting into laughter.

“What?!” Alya exclaimed in disbelief. “WHAT?”

Marinette couldn’t help but giggle at Alya’s confusion. “Why don’t you go down to the living room. We’ll be down in a few minutes.”

“Yeah, sure… go ahead and take your time,” Alya said, her confused tone quickly turning to a teasing one.

“That was my intention until you interrupted us,” Adrien called back as he started to laugh again. “Busted!” he sang out, laughing even harder.

“Seriously? What the hell are you doing in there? No… no… don’t tell me...Holy shit!” she muttered as Marinette and Adrien laughed hysterically in the tub.

“Ladies first,” Adrien said with a grin, letting Marinette step out of the tub.

“I’m officially leaving. I’ll wait on the couch.,” Alya announced as she noisily stomped down the steps.

“Oh god,” Adrien said weakly as he got out of the water and accepted a towel from Marinette. “I’m trying to decide if that was better or worse than being interrupted by your parents.”

“Good question,” Marinette said contemplatively. “I’m calling it a draw because there’s a solid chance Maman wouldn’t even care but Papa would tease us at least as much as Alya will. Maybe more.”

“I guess we’ll find out what we’re in for when we go downstairs,” Adrien grinned as they went back to her room.

“You don’t seem that worried,” she said teasingly. “If anything, it seems like this has really cheered you up.”

“Yeah, you’re right,” he agreed. “I don’t think I’ve ever flustered Alya that much. I don’t even care if she teases us. It’s worth it.”

“I think you can count on that much,” Marinette replied dryly, putting on her robe and blowing out the candles.

*****

“You know,” Adrien said thoughtfully as he pulled on his jeans. “Alya did say to take our time.” He glanced over at Marinette who was rifling through the shirts hanging in her closet in a pair of black leggings and a pink bra.

Marinette laughed as she pulled out her big pink hoodie and put it on. “I suppose she did. Although you do know that the longer we keep her waiting, the more she is going to tease us.”

“True,” Adrien conceded as he put on a t-shirt and walked over to her. “I think I can handle a little extra teasing though.” He leaned down and kissed her softly. “Thanks for trying so hard to make our time together special. I wish we could have enjoyed it at least a little longer.”

“I’ll try again sometime,” she promised with a mischievous twinkle in her eye.

Adrien grinned and kissed her again. “I love you, Cutie Bug.”

“I love you too, Mikitty.” she murmured, smiling as he laughed quietly and held her tightly to him.

Chapter Text

“Hey Alya,” Adrien said, grinning as he walked into the living room with Marinette.

“Hey Sunshine,” she replied, looking up from her phone. “Here I was worrying about you but it seems like you’re being well taken care of.”

“Aww Alya, I appreciate your concern,” he said, lowering himself onto the couch gracefully. “Honestly, I haven’t laughed that hard in weeks so… thanks for the interruption I guess. Although the alternative would have been better. Never mind, huh? You’ll have to excuse my ignorance though. Do you regularly chat with Marinette when she’s in the bath?”

Alya rolled her eyes and looked at Marinette who was busily making hot chocolate on the stovetop. “I figured you were asleep and it’s not like I was going to get in with her. I thought I’d just sit on the floor and chat. Anyway, you two have sooo much explaining to do, you know that right?”

“All in good time,” Adrien answered. “It’ll be nice to talk about it more openly.”

The door opened and they all looked up to see Nino coming in. “I thought I heard you talking in here!” he exclaimed. “My parents got back early so here I am.”

“You missed all the excitement,” Alya replied, grinning as he sat next to her and kissed her cheek.

Marinette giggled as she continued to stir the hot chocolate.

“Oh come on Alya, we were just taking a bath,” Adrien protested.

“Really dude?” Nino grinned mischievously. “Very nice.”

“It was until Alya started demanding to come in and see Marinette,” Adrien said teasingly.

“I didn’t know you were in there too,” she retorted. “And you can’t convince me you were only taking a bath either.”

“Oh really? Tell me Nino, did you notice any fires on the way here?” Adrien asked, grinning as Marinette started to giggle.

“Fires? Why would there be fires?” Nino asked in confusion.

“You did say Chat Noir and Ladybug would probably burn the city down right? I distinctly remember you saying that,” Adrien smirked as Marinette’s giggles escalated to hysterical laughter. She turned the burner down, unable to trust herself to keep stirring.

“Oh god,” Alya groaned as she remembered the conversation Adrien was referring to.

“You two are great,” Adrien told them, grinning widely. “This weekend has been truly awful but this… this is a welcome distraction. Not as nice as a bath with my girlfriend but still damn good. So Alya, do you still like the black leather? And am I still getting better with age or no? I can transform right now if you aren't sure."

Alya groaned with embarrassment. “I cannot believe I was saying all that in front of you both and…”

“It was certainly an eye-opening conversation,” Marinette managed as she tried to calm herself down.

“Very.” Adrien agreed. “I’m not sure Marinette appreciated having a reputation for being all business and no pleasure. Still, it kept you two off the scent for long enough.”

“Stop looking so smug Sunshine or I’ll let slip what you were doing this afternoon to the inlaws,” Alya threatened.

“I mean, I’d rather they didn’t know but they aren’t going to get pissed off,” Adrien replied. “You might weird them out though. And if you do… I know things I could accidentally tell your parents.”

“What the hell could you possibly tell my parents?” Alya laughed. “That I turned in my homework late?”

Marinette couldn’t help but notice Nino’s alarmed expression. “Maybe you should ask Nino,” she giggled.

“Now Alya, if you want to embarrass Marinette’s parents with too much information, I am more than happy to return the favor,” Adrien replied. “Does the number seven mean anything to you?” he asked, grinning as Nino looked even more worried.

“Are you trying to get me killed dude?” he asked nervously.

“Seven what?” Alya demanded, scowling at Adrien who smirked back.

“I’ll give you another hint,” he replied as Nino groaned in protest. “Cyprus trip.”

“Seven something in Cyprus?” Alya said in confusion before something clearly dawned on her. “Nino!”

“Your boyfriend tends to overshare you know,” Adrien said, chuckling. “It’s strangely endearing really.”

“Well I have no idea what any of you are talking about,” Marinette said as she brought mugs of hot chocolate over to Alya and Nino before going back for two more and handing one to Adrien as she sat down next to him.

“It’s impressive really,” Adrien told her. “Definitely goals considering how busy we all were and the fact that we weren’t even there that long.”

“What.. they did something seven times? Oh…” Marinette burst into laughter again. “Yeah, that’s impressive all right.”

“Inspiring really,” Adrien agreed, taking a sip of his hot chocolate. “Marinette you are the queen of hot chocolate. This is amazing.”

“Better the queen of hot chocolate than the queen of Paris, right?” she asked, taking a sip of her own drink.

“Ha!” Alya exclaimed, grateful for an opportunity to change the subject. “So why did Chat Noir show up before you did then Ms. Ladybug?”

“We do take different routes if we are together when we get an alert,” Marinette replied. “I was late because the energy you saw us generate to make that sphere still exists when we aren’t transformed but it isn’t as powerful or visible. I’m the one who receives it and Tikki gets charged up when… things get intense between us and then she flies off. I had to wait for her to come back,” Marinette explained, blushing slightly.

“Wow, that’s quite a deterrent for fooling around bro,” Nino observed.

“Yep,” Adrien agreed. “And until we catch Mayura well… we have to keep it in mind. Marinette didn’t think we were risking too much in the current circumstances but we failed to consider non magical interruptions,” he pretended to scowl at Alya who grinned self-consciously.

“Ok, now I do feel kind of bad,” she admitted.

“So you’re not done… you still have to catch Mayura?” Nino asked.

“Well yes, unless she turns herself in,” Marinette replied. “I’m not sure she’d do that but you never know.”

“Hello everyone!” Sabine said, smiling as she came in. “Tom’s just locking up. He was wondering if he could see the recording you made, Marinette.”

“Of course! Although technically Nino made the recording on my phone. I’m just trying to create some distance between me and Ladybug,” she explained.

“I suppose you have to think about that a lot dear,” Sabine replied.

“Yeah,” she agreed. “It’s nice not having to lead my poor kitty astray anymore. That was pretty challenging.”

“You were awfully good at it,” Adrien said, ruffling her hair.

“Clearly you were as well,” she laughed as she turned on the TV and found the video on her phone. “Alya, I’m really glad you showed me how casting works. I don’t know why I thought it would be complicated.”

“Glad to be of service,” Alya grinned. “I’m excited to see the video. It was definitely the most amazing thing I have ever seen.”

“I can’t imagine what it must have been like to have that happening right in front of you,” Sabine said.

“Hey!” Tom said, coming in. “Have you ordered the pizza yet dear?”

“No,” Sabine replied. “I will once Marinette plays the video. I think she might be ready.”

“Yeah, I’m ready whenever everyone else is,” she answered, sitting in Adrien’s lap with her phone.

“I’m ready,” Tom said. “I really want to see this.”

Marinette nodded and started the video. Everyone’s attention immediately went to the screen and Tom gasped in surprise as the sphere formed around Chat Noir and Ladybug. Marinette found herself more interested in watching his reactions than the video itself. His expression became more and more awestruck as he continued to watch. When the recording ended, he shook his head and wiped tears from his eyes.

“Macaron,” he managed to choke out. “I admit I had my suspicions but watching that and realizing I’m seeing you.. I just don’t know how a goofy baker like me has a daughter capable of everything you do.”

“Thanks Papa,” she said quietly, getting up to give him a hug. He held her tightly in his arms for a moment before kissing the top of her head and letting her go.

“I just finished ordering the pizzas online,” Sabine said. “Would you two mind if we sit here and ask questions until it arrives?”

“Please do,” Adrien replied, taking Marinette’s hand and pulling her back into his lap.

“When did you meet as Chat Noir and Ladybug?” Alya asked.

“The day Stoneheart appeared,” Adrien answered. “Which was the day before we met as Marinette and Adrien.”

“Wow,” Tom said quietly. “What I’d like to know is… when did you find out each other’s identities?”

“And how did that happen?” Alya added.

“It was this past autumn,” Marinette answered. “I felt like everything was unravelling and Chat wanted to talk after a battle so I recharged and met him at our favorite spot on the Eiffel Tower. I realized as we were talking that if we didn’t trust each other with that information, our partnership was going to weaken and that scared me more than anything.”

“So I told her I’d find somewhere safe for us to detransform together,” Adrien continued. “You’re going to love this part Alya… I had been dropping in on Marinette as Chat Noir from time to time pouring all my feelings about Ladybug out. If I saw her on her balcony after a battle, I’d always stop over. I’d try and persuade her to give me some suggestions but she always said Ladybug would change her mind if she wanted to and there was nothing more I could do either way.”

Alya giggled. “Really? That’s hilarious.”

“Not the best part though,” Adrien said with a grin. “When we decided to reveal our identities, I came by and asked if I could borrow her room to talk to Ladybug.”

“Are you serious dude?” Nino burst out laughing. “What did she say?”

“Oh she played along,” Adrien replied. “So then that Friday I went to her balcony at the agreed time in the evening. I saw the light of her transformation and then she came and let me in. We stood in the middle of her room and counted to three before de-transforming. I can’t even begin to describe how surprised I was… or how happy. We had a long conversation and then I called you Nino and Alya was there so I told you I wanted to ask Marinette out on a double date with the two of you.”

“That means when you called… you had just learned each other’s identities?” Alya asked in disbelief. “And you snuck off and fought that akuma in the middle of your first date?”

Marinette giggled. “Yep,” she confirmed. “It was funny having him come into my room and having to pretend like I wasn’t really familiar with it. I had told him as Marinette that I’d go out see a friend so they could have the space to themselves. I figured at least I wasn’t lying.”

Sabine laughed. “I think I remember that night actually. You came down excited about going on a double date with Adrien along with Alya and Nino. He’d probably just left off the balcony hadn’t he?”

“Yeah, sorry Maman,” Marinette said, blushing. “I’m afraid there have been many times that I couldn’t be completely honest with you and Papa. But it was always something linked to the Miraculous.”

“That’s all right dear. There were times when I wondered if you were being honest but when I started to suspect you two and thought about all those times, it became more and more clear that you were doing your best to protect us and yourself,” Sabine replied.

“When we were akumatized and we made you forget everything, do you think you de-transformed and saw each other?” Nino asked.

“Yeah, although neither of us remembers it sadly,” Adrien replied.

“You don’t even remember kissing… like, at all?” Alya asked.

“Nope,” Adrien replied. “Although I’ll tell you something funny. When I de-transformed to sneak back and join the group, I was wearing this… DIY cardboard cat outfit. To this day, I have no idea why.”

“Seriously?” Marinette asked, giggling. “You never told me that before. That is so funny!”

“What was Chloe like when you fought her at school the other day?” Alya asked.

“Huh, I guess Chloe was our last ever akuma battle, Marinette said thoughtfully. “Except for the monks but they didn’t even get a chance to fight so I’m not really counting that.”

“It’s funnier if Chloe is the last one anyway,” Adrien agreed, grinning. “And to answer your question, she looked mostly normal except her eyes were purple and she was wearing purple sunglasses instead of white ones. That’s where the butterfly was.”

“She actually said something that was the final clue to Hawk Moth’s identity,” Marinette said. “She said he wanted to akumatize me as Marinette but hadn’t been able to so she was his second choice. There had been several times when Gabriel had done things to antagonize me or arranged for someone else to and several hours later, he would give up on me and take what he could get. We would end up fighting easier akumas on those occasions.”

“Why did you start to suspect Gabriel?” Tom asked.

“Years ago, Ladybug told me she suspected him and I dismissed her,” Adrien explained regretfully. “It was because he had this Miraculous book called the Grimoire which the previous Guardian had lost along with the butterfly and peacock Miraculous. I learned the details of why Ladybug had suspected him to begin with after we got together and I started to suspect him then.”

“You say previous Guardian,” Sabine said hesitantly. “Who is it now?”

“I am,” Marinette said quietly. “The old Guardian had just started training me to take on the role someday but I made a terrible mistake and compromised his identity with Hawk Moth. I ended up becoming the Guardian all of a sudden and it was the most overwhelming, terrifying thing that ever happened to me. After a year of trying to do it on my own, I realized we needed to know who each other was. It turned out to be the best decision I ever made.”

Adrien squeezed her close and nuzzled her neck. “I’m very glad you did,” he told her softly.

“What does it mean to be the Guardian?” Tom asked.

“I protect and distribute all the Miraculous in my possession. I’m the first Ladybug to ever hold the role. It is the Guardian who performs the rituals to find Chat Noir and Ladybug when he or she is looking for a new pair,” Marinette replied. “Alya and Nino saw the box briefly when it was transferred to me and the other night when we went to the temple.”

“I was amazed at all the Miraculous boxes at the temple,” Alya said.

“There are a lot,” Adrien said. “Ours are the two most powerful and the most dangerous. Combining them can cause terrible damage. You can ask for any wish but the universe exacts a balance for it.”

“We’d also be the most dangerous akumas,” Marinette added. “I think even as myself I’d be very dangerous, plus I’d immediately bring my Miraculous to Hawk Moth.”

“No wonder you were so scared of being akumatized,” Alya said softly.

“Exactly,” she confirmed.

“Between protecting herself and doing her job as Ladybug, Marinette has been under a tremendous amount of pressure,” Adrien said. “It’s been an absolute privilege to take some small part of that burden from her.”

“It’s no small part,” Marinette assured him. “Knowing you on both sides of the mask has helped me so much. We certainly wouldn’t have been able to achieve what we did at the temple otherwise.”

“I wanted to ask about that,” Tom said. “How did you create all that light?”

Sabine picked up her phone as it chimed. “Pizza is here. I’ll be right back.” The group waited as Sabine left and then returned minutes later with two boxes which she put on the table. “Drinks are in the fridge and I got plates out. Please help yourselves,” she invited.

Once everyone had returned to their seats on the couch, Adrien spoke up. “To answer your question Tom, that light comes from the energy of our bond. If I were to show you the spaces where our Miraculous would be stored, you would see they form a yin yang. We are the only Miraculous holders who always wear them and the process to find us requires a series of rituals. When the Guardian was led to us by the rituals, he performed a final test and our reactions to that test sealed our roles as Ladybug and Chat Noir.”

“What does all that mean?” Tom asked, still looking confused.

“This is hard to say… and I don’t know why,” Adrien sighed. “It was easy enough to accept.”

“It wasn’t easy for me to tell you,” Marinette reminded him. “You went completely quiet for a while.”

“Yeah, I guess I did. Not because I was upset though. I just wanted to make sure I said the right thing,” he replied.

“You’re only making me more curious with this conversation, son,” Tom teased him.

“I imagine so,” Adrien said, laughing softly. “The truth is, we embody the two sides of the yin yang with our powers, creation and destruction, and that makes us soulmates. We were chosen because we form a perfect partnership. The light sphere was made of our external yang energy and we also have an internal yin energy that runs constantly, allowing us to draw from it when we need to. Where the external energy is bright and purifying, the internal energy is pure calm which can help us avoid being akumatized when we find ourselves in stressful situations. The only event I’ve discovered where I couldn’t call on it has been if I wake up already in a panic. That has only happened to me twice since… Father attacked me and I had medicine for it so I was not in danger of being akumatized while he was still Hawk Moth.”

“So you two are meant to be together?” Tom asked, his expression soft.

“That’s right,” Adrien confirmed.

“I guess now I understand why everything seemed to happen so quickly,” Alya said.

Marinette shrugged. “It did and it didn’t. We had all that time where we were slowly getting to know each other on both sides and then we found out each other’s identities and everything started to connect. Then Adrien saw the Miraculous Light power-up in the Grimoire when we were looking at the digital copy I keep so we ended up visiting the temple we had restored to see if anyone was there and if they could help us understand what it meant. We met some of the monks and gave them a way to communicate with us and the man who is… I guess the Guardian of the rest of the Miraculous? He was Master Fu’s--our Guardian’s-- teacher. He told us what the power-up was and how it worked.”

“I never thought about that,” Adrien said thoughtfully. “The Temple was consumed and thus Master Fu became Guardian of the only Miraculous Box he was able to rescue but we restored the temple and it returned as it was on the day it was destroyed so now I guess there are two Guardians? Or maybe he is assisting you now. We should ask him about that.”

“You’re right,” Marinette agreed. “So with the discovery of the potential of our bond energy, we’ve had to be very careful with our relationship and mindful of each other’s boundaries. It has been very important to do anything we could to avoid hurting each other.”

“That is a lot of pressure to put on yourselves,” Sabine said.

“I suppose so but it has never felt that way to me. Working towards total acceptance of each other felt like a really healthy goal to me,” Marinette told her. “Being Ladybug on the other hand is all about pressure. I’ve watched people get hurt, buildings get destroyed and I may even have seen people die… and I’ve had to find a way to fix it… hundreds of times.”

“Without anyone to turn to when it was done,” Adrien emphasized. “Our Kwamis give us some link to the magical world but there is so much they are not allowed to know. She went a whole year with no mentor, just herself and her own instincts before she decided we needed to know each others’ identities.”

“I was terrified even then,” Marinette admitted. “I once had to change the entire timeline because I made a mistake and Adrien figured out who I was.”

“What?” Alya exclaimed. “You knew, Adrien?”

“I don’t remember,” he replied. “She had to go to the future and then figure out where it all went wrong to prevent it from happening.”

“To be honest, this is as much as I want to say for now,” Marinette said. “What we’ve told you can go no further. I cannot have my identity compromised and Adrien can’t either, ok?”

“We understand completely,” Alya said.

“I promise I can keep this a secret,” Nino said. “I know I tend to blab all my own stuff but I’ll never say a word about any of this.”

“I know you won’t,” Adrien said gently. “You’ve wielded a Miraculous yourself so you know how important it is.”

“I guess this explains your tolerance of Adrien’s crush on Ladybug,” Alya teased.

“I guess so,” Marinette winked at her. “I’m sure you’ll be randomly thinking of things for a long time that will suddenly make sense.”

“I certainly have,” Adrien agreed with a grin.

Chapter Text

“Adrien?” Marinette mumbled sleepily.

“Morning Princess,” he murmured. “Sorry, it’s a little early. I guess I’m kind of nervous about going to school today.”

“Mmmm,” she sighed, rolling over to face him. “Are you going to be ok with that? I'm sure everyone would understand if you took the day off.”

“You’re probably right but I need the distraction,” he replied, reaching over to touch her cheek. “Unless of course you’re going to skip today as well.”

Marinette giggled. “Hoping for an uninterrupted bubble bath? I’m sure there’d be somebody else we hadn’t considered to bother us.”

“Yeah, that’s true,” he agreed, pulling her against him.

Marinette moaned softly as he kissed her neck. “That feels so good,” she murmured.

“Good,” he said softly, rolling on top of her. “I was going to give you some attention yesterday but then we ended up hanging out with Nino and Alya all evening.”

“It was nice though,” Marinette replied. “But this is much ni-...” she trailed off as Adrien resumed kissing down the side of her neck as he cradled her head with one arm. Gently she guided his free hand just under her pajama top.

Adrien lifted his head and smiled at her as he gently stroked the curve of her waist. “Poor Tikki,” he said with a mischievous grin.

“Yeah, poor Tikki,” she agreed, pulling his face down to hers and kissing him passionately. She could feel his hand moving up her side, tenderly stroking her skin with his fingertips until she felt like she might melt into him.

“Oh my god,” Adrien groaned as he moved his hand up a little more. “You aren’t wearing a bra are you?”

“Nope,” she replied, looking up at him, their faces only a few inches apart. “It’s ok. You can touch me… or not… whatever you’re comfortable with.”

“Are you comfortable?” he asked, lightly kissing her lips.

“Yes,” she replied simply and he kissed her harder, his hand reaching up to caress the softness of her breast.

“Marinette,” he half whimpered, half moaned. “You feel so good.”

“So do you,” she said, grinning up at him mischievously.

Adrien laughed self-consciously, his breath catching as she arched against him. “I can’t help reacting to this you know.”

“I know,” she assured him. “And I’m definitely not complaining.”

“Mmmm, that’s good,” he said, leaning down to kiss her again, cupping her breast in his hand and running his thumb across it, catching her nipple.

“Mmmph!” Marinette’s eyes flew open in surprise.

“Sorry,” Adrien said, abruptly withdrawing his hand from under her shirt. “Was that too much?”

“I don’t know. You surprised me I guess,” Marinette replied. “It felt… I don’t know… I didn’t know anything could feel like that.”

“In a good way or a bad way?” he asked, looking slightly worried.

“In a very, very good way,” she assured him as her alarm went off. “So who gets the first cold shower, me or you?”

Adrien laughed, looking relieved. “Noted. I guess I should have asked first though.”

“I said you could touch me… I just… I didn’t think of that,” she replied, still looking slightly flustered. “You probably shouldn’t do that again unless you’re aiming to finish what you start.”

“Damn,” Adrien groaned as he lifted himself off her. “With that, I’m calling dibs on the first cold shower.”

Marinette giggled. “Go ahead Gorgeous. Sorry, but I won’t be joining you this time.”

“The flirting isn’t helping, Bug,” he told her teasingly.

“I’ll stop,” she promised. “Sorry Kitty.”

“Nothing to be sorry about,” he said as he climbed down the ladder. “If only the rest of this day could be this good. I am pretty confident today is going to be stressful.”

“I hate to say it but you are probably right,” Marinette agreed.

*****

I texted Gorilla to let him know I intend to go to school today,” Adrien informed Marinette as they walked down to the service door. “I hope this won’t be too crazy.”

“I hope so too,” Marinette said, taking his hand. “They were all gathered around the bakery door when I saw them yesterday. Maybe they won’t notice us going out the service door in time.”

“I sure hope so,” Adrien sighed. “At least the bruise is completely gone now.”

Marinette smiled and reached up to touch his face. “I noticed that on Saturday. I think all that energy may have finished off the healing process.”

“Huh, I guess I haven’t looked at myself in a few days then,” he said, putting his free hand on the door. “Be ready to run, ok Princess?”

“Ok,” she agreed.

Quietly, Adrien opened the door and they both stepped outside. He carefully shut the door as gently as possible as Gorilla hovered nearby. They proceeded to speed walk as quickly as possible toward the school. They were just crossing the road when one of the journalists noticed them.

“Hey, they’ve already left!” he cried and the group immediately started moving to follow them to the school.

“We better start running!” Marinette exclaimed and the trio picked up speed. Lieutenant Raincomprix was standing at the edge of the school grounds and nodded as they raced past.

“Not so fast!” he exclaimed as the journalists approached. “Mr. Damocles has already made it clear that you are not to come on to school property. Why don’t you go find something better to do with your time before I start writing tickets for trespassing?”

Grumbling, the group relented, retreating back to the bakery, many of them taking out their phones and placing calls.

“I wonder if they are just going to sit there and wait for me,” Adrien said apprehensively.

“Some of them probably will,” Marinette replied.

“I can pick you up for lunch and you can have something in the car,” Gorilla offered. “If I park in my usual drop-off spot outside the school, they won’t be able to approach you.”

“That’s a good idea, thanks Gorilla!” Adrien exclaimed as they went up to the entrance of the school.

Gorilla smiled. “I’ll see you at lunch then.”

Adrien and Marinette arrived at class still holding hands just as the final bell rang. Marinette couldn’t help but notice that Chloe was not in her seat and Sabrina was sitting by herself looking rather forlorn.

“You made it!” Miss Bustier exclaimed in delighted surprise. “I saw all the reporters and I thought you probably wouldn’t try. I wouldn’t have blamed you either considering...everything.”

“I needed a break,” Adrien replied. “I’ve been stuck in the house all weekend so I’m glad to be here.”

“I’m glad you’re here too,” Miss Bustier assured him. “I’ve been thinking of you ever since I heard the news and I’m very sorry Adrien.”

“Thank you,” he replied softly, letting go of Marinette’s hand as they went to sit in their usual spots. “I really appreciate that.”

“Hey girl,” Alya murmured to Marinette as she sat down. “Everything ok?”

“So far, so good,” Marinette answered before getting out her books.

*****

Your lawyer is waiting for you at the bakery,” Gorilla informed Adrien as he met him and Marinette at the end of the school day.

“Oh yeah, you said he had a meeting today, didn’t you?” Adrien asked while they cautiously approached the bakery.

“It’s probably going to be just as bad going to the service door because I’ll have to stop and unlock it,” Marinette muttered.

“Good point,” Gorilla replied. “Let me go first so I can block them from the door. Get inside as quickly as you can.”

Adrien nodded tensely, taking Marinette’s hand as they prepared to run almost straight at the group of journalists and photographers.

“3-2-1” Marinette counted quietly and they simultaneously started running as Gorilla made a path to the door for them. They ignored the shouts and frenzied snapping of the cameras as they pushed the door open and nearly fell inside.

“Sorry,” Adrien panted as a group of surprised customers turned to look at him.

“You’re not the one who should be sorry dear,” Sabine said, glaring fiercely outside. “I think I’ll see if Lieutenant Raincomprix can stop by tomorrow at this time. Go on upstairs you two.”

“Thanks Sabine,” Adrien said, impulsively leaning over to kiss her cheek as he went past.

“Of course,” she said, smiling as she tousled his hair affectionately.

*****

“Hello Adrien, Marinette,” Adrien’s lawyer greeted them. “A lot seems to have transpired over a short period of time.’

“That’s putting it mildly,” Adrien answered wryly. “It’s nice to see you Sacha. I hope you have some good news although to be honest, I don’t know what would even be good news at this point.”

“Well, I have a few things to share with you and I think some of it is good,” Sacha said, smiling reassuringly. “I’ll start with the least good news which isn’t much in the grand scheme of things. The Gabriel plane returned to Paris with just the pilots and crew. I gather that your father’s assistant, Nathalie Sancouer is suspected to be Mayura. The fact that she didn’t return probably indicates as much.”

“Yeah,” Adrien said thoughtfully. “That’s interesting. I wonder if she intends to hide out or sneak back?”

“Nobody knows for certain. The police really want to get your father transferred back to Paris. I don’t know if they are hoping to draw her out or worried that she’s planning to get into the temple before they ever have him in their custody.”

“When was the last time they spoke to Ladybug and Chat Noir?” Marinette asked.

“Saturday, I think. Apparently they escorted one of the officers and Mr. Agreste’s lawyer to the temple. They don’t seem to know when the heroes will return,” Sacha replied. “I’d like to know that myself. There are some things I need to discuss with Mr. Agreste. I met with his lawyer, Mr. Blanchard and a few other city officials this morning.”

“What for?” Adrien asked.

“With the discovery of your father’s secret identity, the Trust feels like it would be better to reevaluate your status. I discussed their thoughts with one of the judges and he thinks their recommendations are sensible given the circumstances.”

“My status?” Adrien asked in confusion.

“As a minor,” Sacha clarified. “You’ll be eighteen in six months. No one is sure how long all this will last but it is safe to say Mr. Agreste will be in custody for at least that long. The Trust recommends emancipation. There is a clause in your trust fund that disbursement can start early in that event. It will be easier to achieve if your father signs off on it and Mr. Blanchard is confident he will. “Given the financial resources you would have access to and the fact that you are so close to turning eighteen, the judge thought this solution very practical. If your father is willing to cooperate, it could be done fairly quickly.”

“So… I’d be considered an adult?” Adrien replied questioningly.

“Yes. That would mean you could enter legal contracts on your own,” Sacha explained. “And any financial resources that were meant to be accessible once you reached adulthood, would be available as soon as your emancipation became official. You could find somewhere to rent, put your own name on your phone account, sign up for utilities. All that sort of thing. Would you be interested?”

“Would I be interested in actually having control of my life?” Adrien said. “Yes, I would very much.”

“Ok,” Sacha replied, sliding a stack of papers over. “I thought you probably would. I’ve highlighted everywhere you need to sign. The next step will be getting these to your father. I’ll let you know when I manage that.”

“Thank you,” Adrien said quietly. “Is there anything else?”

“At this point, no. We just have to wait for the next opportunity to visit your father and don’t worry, I don’t expect or need you to come along.”

“Good,” Adrien replied. “I don’t feel ready to talk to him at all.”

“That is very understandable,” his lawyer agreed. “I’ll see you both soon and Adrien, I’ll text you once I’ve had a chance to visit your father.”

“Ok,” Adrien nodded. “Thanks. I appreciate all of this.”

“It’s always nice when doing my job makes anyone happy,” Sacha laughed. “I think getting you your independence will be a very rewarding endeavor.”

With that the lawyer stood up and shook both their hands and made his way out. They sat together in shock.

“Do you think we have time to get to the police headquarters by four?” Marinette asked. “I’d like to go over just to tell them we will stop by at four every day until your father is transferred. Does that seem like a good idea?”

“Yes it does,” Adrien said as he got up. “If we go now, we should be able to make it.”

*****

“So what do you make of the plane coming back?” Adrien asked much later that night when they had curled up in bed together.

Marinette signed in contentment as he spooned up behind her. “It makes sense. She has to know she is under suspicion by now. I still don’t think she’ll try and get your father from the temple but I wouldn’t be surprised if she’s making her way back to Paris by whatever means that she can.”

“Either that or she’s hiding out and trying to determine how they’re going to transfer father,” Adrien replied. “I mean, she probably knows about the portal thing but maybe it hasn’t occurred to her that we’ve been using it to get to the temple. I honestly don’t have any idea what she knows and what she doesn’t. Apart from making sentimonsters, I don’t know for certain if she was helping father in any other way although I have my suspicions.”

“Didn’t he say when the police talked to him?” Marinette asked.

“No… all he said was ‘yes’ when the Lieutenant asked if Nathalie was Mayura but he didn’t offer any more information than that.”

“Huh,” she said contemplatively.

“I think whatever was going on when they kicked me out that one Saturday had something to do with her involvement in the last battle. I’m sure they didn’t want me overhearing whatever they were planning,” Adrien said.

“But they sounded like they were disagreeing didn’t they? Maybe she was trying to talk him out of something,” Marinette reasoned.

“That’s possible… but maybe he managed to guilt her into something. He’s always been damn good at that,” Adrien said bitterly. “The whole emancipation thing was a shock but if it guarantees he never has the opportunity to control me again and they can do it now, I’m in.”

Marinette smiled. “Maybe by the end of the school year we’ll be looking at places for you to move into on your own.”

“Yeah, but you have to visit a lot,” he told her, nuzzling her ear. “I’d like to have my own space but I’ll really miss this.”

“I promise I’ll stay the night as often as I can,” she replied. “You won’t be able to keep me away. I’ll decorate all your rooms and one of them has to be pink.”

Adrien laughed. “Sounds good to me. I love you Marinette.”

“I love you too,” she replied, smiling as he held her close.

Chapter Text

“Good evening,” Master Liu greeted Chat Noir and Ladybug as they arrived at the temple a few days later with both Adrien and Gabriel’s lawyer along with Lieutenant Raincomprix. “Apprentice Yang will take you three gentlemen down to Mr. Agreste. I need to speak privately with Chat Noir and Ladybug if that’s acceptable to you both.”

“Of course,” Chat replied. “Could we get some carrots for Kaalki?”

“I already have,” the monk smiled as he led them to the room where he had talked to them about Miraculous Light months before. “I have hot tea for us as well.”

“That sounds great,” Ladybug told him gratefully.

“Purrfect,” Chat added with a grin. “Plagg, Kaalki, divide.”

“Please have a seat,” the monk invited as he opened the door. They nodded and sat together in the same spot as they had before. The room looked exactly the same with tapestries decorating the walls and the floor covered in richly decorated rugs. They each took a cup of tea from the monk as Kaalki helped herself to some carrots.

“First of all, I just want to assure you that we are very capable of keeping Mr. Agreste secure for as long as we are needed. Mayura has made no attempts at freeing him and at this point, I very much doubt she will.”

“So do we,” Ladybug agreed. “I think she will remain in hiding until she gets a more realistic opportunity to rescue Gabriel. She could remain in hiding forever at that but I very much hope she won’t. I will not be resting easy until I have all the Miraculous back.”

“I don’t blame you,” the monk replied. “So what are you hoping for and… what are your authorities hoping for?”

“I think we want the same thing for different reasons,” Chat answered. “They want Mr. Agreste transferred so he can publicly be held accountable and they can get on with the trial. We want him to be transferred in order to draw Mayura out of hiding and capture her Miraculous. I’m not exactly sure where he needs to be transferred to but the police can tell us where we need to direct the portal. I know that I … would rather not be the one personally escorting him but there isn’t much I can do about it.”

“I was going to ask about that,” Master Liu said, looking at him speculatively. “You’re his son, aren’t you?”

Chat took a sharp breath of surprise but said nothing, focusing his gaze on the cup of tea that he was carefully gripping.

“Don’t worry, I’m the only one who suspects. I saw that you had some friends along wearing the fox and turtle Miraculous. I watched the battle from my hiding spot in the hallway as the rest of the monks retreated. Ladybug, your use of the illusion was ingenious. I only figured out what you did when I saw your friends come out and you left.”

“Why didn’t you come in afterwards?” Ladybug asked.

“I could see that Chat was in distress and I didn’t want to impede your departure. I promise you Chat Noir. I won't say anything to anyone.”

Chat sighed. “Well, I hope it isn’t so obvious to anyone else. Her parents already know along with the friends who came along.”

“It’s understandable really,” the monk said. “Over time the people closest to Ladybug and Chat Noir often figure it out. They may not say anything but the circumstances keep adding up until they are all but certain. With Hawk Moth defeated, it’s less dangerous. Mr. Agreste told me the peacock Miraculous is damaged and weakens its holder over time. So… Mayura will probably not be as big of a threat on her own.”

Chat sighed. “Does he ever mention… my mother?”

“Not in great detail,” the monk admitted. “I get the sense he is… hiding something but considering his highly remorseful state of mind, it must be something he considers better for everyone if it remains hidden. I must add Chat, I thought it was tremendously brave of you to speak to him that day. Even disguised, it must have been very difficult.”

“It was,” Chat agreed somberly. “We… suspected him and I thought I was prepared but seeing his persona fall away… him crumpled up on the ground… this man that I had worked so hard to please… I wasn’t ready at all.”

“I’m not sure anyone can ever be ready for those moments,” Master Liu said gently. “But you faced him all the same. I’m just… very impressed by you Chat Noir. Even if he was a difficult father, the fact that your loyalty went to Ladybug and the people you’ve been protecting instead of him shows the strength of your own convictions.”

“Thank you,” Chat said softly, taking another sip of his tea.

“I actually have a question for you Master Liu,” Ladybug said.

“Oh?” the monk asked, looking curiously at her.

“You were the Guardian before the temple was consumed, right? Then Master Fu became the Guardian of the one remaining Miraculous box. Then we restored the temple and he later passed the role to me. Are we… both the Guardian?” she asked.

“A very good question,” he said with a smile. “The Guardian can only be one and that is you. I have all the knowledge I had before to protect them but I do it at your service now. We, as an order, work at your service.”

“Wow,” she replied, looking overwhelmed. “Does that mean I’ll have to live here eventually?”

“No,” Master Liu replied softly. “Although you’d be welcome to do so if you wished.”

“Maybe we’ll retire here,” Chat said, reaching over to playfully tug her ponytail. “Live out our golden years as monk apprentices.”

“Speak for yourself!” Ladybug exclaimed teasingly. “I’ll still be the Guardian!”

Chat laughed. “So you will. I guess I’ll be bringing you tea in bed every morning then, Master Bug.”

Master Liu laughed. “It is very gratifying to feel the harmony between you two,” he said. “I had never seen the Miraculous Light power up performed and it was wonderful to behold.

There was a knock on the door and Apprentice Yang popped his head through. “The visitors are ready to leave whenever you are Ladybug and Chat Noir.”

“Ok,” Chat Noir replied, nodding in acknowledgement. “Is there anything else we need to discuss?”

“I don’t have anything,” Master Liu said. “How about you Ladybug?”

“Actually, I just remembered something I was thinking about,” she replied, taking a final sip of her tea. “How did everyone end up getting akumatized?”

“Hawk Moth snuck into the courtyard clearly in a rage and scared several of the monks. He had dozens of red butterflies from what I understand and they were all akumatized at once. More monks saw what happened and became very frightened so he akumatized them too. I kept as calm as I could and ran for the temple in an attempt to block him from coming in,” Master Liu explained. “By the time he arrived in the hallway leading to the sanctuary, it appeared that every single monk was with him. I had glimpsed your arrival so I just focused on that so I wouldn’t be afraid.”

“Wow,” Ladybug murmured. “That was incredibly brave of you. I don’t know what would have happened if you hadn’t been able to message us.”

“I knew that was important above all else,” the monk said. “I was relieved you arrived so quickly.”

“I’m just glad it was quick enough,” Ladybug said. “I guess we should get going. Are you ready, Kitty?”

“Sure,” he agreed. “We’ll let you know when we have a date for transferring Mr. Agreste. Once we know what the authorities want, we’ll work out a plan to achieve it.”

“Yes, that sounds reasonable,” the monk agreed as he rose to escort them back to the courtyard.

“Kaalki, Plagg unify!” Chat cried. As soon as he was ready, they left the room.

*****

“Thank you for escorting us again,” Lieutenant Raincomprix said as they returned to the Directeur de Paris’ office. “Do you think it will be possible to use this… Miraculous to transfer Mr. Agreste?”

“Yes,” Ladybug replied. “Where would you want to go from the temple?”

“He’d be taken into custody at the police station nearest court,” the Lieutenant replied. “We’d transfer him anywhere else ourselves after that point. I was wondering if it would be possible for you to escort any police transports that occur.”

“Certainly,” Ladybug agreed.

“Saying that, how will we contact you to let you know we need you?” the lieutenant asked.

“That is something I need to think about,” Ladybug replied. “Chat and I will meet with Directeur Dufort tomorrow. We’ll discuss it with him then.”

*****

“Wow, I didn’t realize how much I was missing our trips to the gym,” Adrien remarked as Marinette unlocked the door to let then in.

“I know what you mean,” Marinette agreed. “It’s nice to have somewhere healthy to direct all my nervous energy. I swear I’ve started fidgeting more since we stopped going.”

Adrien laughed as she set the deadbolt and they headed up the stairs. “Maybe you’re right. And here I thought I was a calming influence,” he teased her.

“Sometimes you’re calming,” she acknowledged with a mischievous grin. “And sometimes you’re very stimulating.” She winked at him before racing ahead of him as he blushed.

“Is that so?” he replied as he quickly caught up with her and squeezed her bottom.

“See? Now that wasn’t calming at all!” she exclaimed as she pushed open the trap door.

Adrien shrugged. “I feel calmer. Your ass is basically the best stress toy ever.”

Marinette burst out laughing. “Oh I see. That was purely for therapeutic purposes.”

“Yeah, yep, that’s right,” he nodded vigorously. “Definitely.”

“I don’t know, you seem pretty stimulated to me,” she observed. “Definitely not calm.”

“You don’t seem calm either,” he replied. “In fact, this seems like quite a serious situation. We have school tomorrow and apparently neither one of us is calm.”

“You’re right,” she nodded gravely. “Now what do we do?”

Adrien could help but laugh at her expression. Sorry… sorry bug… that serious face you make when things aren’t actually serious is too funny.”

“I am serious,” she protested as she tried not to laugh. “Very serious.”

“Oh I apologize,” he said, his eyes twinkling. “You are very serious and of course, very calm as well.”

“That’s right,” she agreed.

“What the hell were we even talking about?” he asked.

“I don’t know anymore,” she confessed.

Adrien looked at her steadily and she looked back, concentrating hard on resuming her serious face. He snorted, his shoulders shaking with repressed laughter and she knew she was successful.

“Stooop,” he begged finally. “Stop bug, you’re killing me!”

Marinette said nothing but raised her eyebrows up and down until he was openly laughing. “Nooo,” he gasped. “No more faces!”

“Ok,” she relented. “I’m going to go take a quick shower and get ready for bed.”

“A shower huh?” he asked, watching as she picked out some pajamas. “Can I come with?”

Marinette turned and looked at him appraisingly as she clutched her pajamas to her. “No,” she finally said. “Too stimulating.”

Adrien burst into laughter and she grinned before turning to leave the room.

******

“Hey Kitty,” Marinette said, giggling at Adrien’s mischievous expression as he crawled into bed next to her.

“Hey Bug,” he grinned back before pulling her to him and giving her a noisy kiss on the cheek. Marinette’s giggles grew louder as he placed more noisy kisses down her neck. “Hey! That tickles!” she cried.

“That was the general idea,” he replied with a smirk. “Sorry but I just couldn’t resist your cute little giggles. I wanted to ask… do you have any ideas for how we’re going to communicate with the police?”

“The only thing I can think of is to give one of the police a Miraculous,” she replied, smiling as he pulled her into his lap and wrapped his arms around her. “Probably the Directeur de Police.. I think Orikko might be a good choice.”

“The rooster? What does that one do?” Adrien asked, nuzzling her neck gently.

“Well, his weapon is a megaphone so obviously he knows how to get attention. I just hope we can get the Directeur to manifest a communicator so he can transform and send us messages. If that doesn’t work, he’s going to have to send out akuma alerts and then all of Paris will get them too.”

“Yeah,” Adrien sighed. “That wouldn’t be great but I guess it would work.”

“Hopefully he’ll just be able to get a communicator. Perhaps I’ll show ours to Orikko first so he knows what we need,” Marinette said thoughtfully.

“Yeah, like Master Liu did with his Kwami,” Adrien said excitedly. “I’d forgotten about that until just now.”

Marinette smiled in relief. “That’s right. I guess talking to you about this jogged my memory. Anyway, I was thinking of giving it to the director because he won’t be directly involved in the transfers so he should be able to keep the transformation and his identity a secret.”

“Plus he has a private office unlike most of the police,” Adrien pointed out.

“Yeah, he’s the ideal choice really,” Marinette said. “I am pretty nervous about giving someone a Miraculous, particularly an adult which sounds weird but…”

“No, I don’t blame you,” Adrien assured her. “It’s scary to give a powerful authority figure even more power but he seems trustworthy and it has to be someone within the police force. Plus Orikko sounds like less of a threat than Nooroo or Longg.”

Marinette shuddered. “I don’t think I’ll ever give Nooroo to anyone apart from you.”

“No thanks,” Adrien said. “I never want to wear that Miraculous although I appreciate that you trust me that much.”

“Of course,” Marinette said apologetically. “I’m sorry. That was a thoughtless thing to say.”

“It’s ok, Bug. You were thinking of it in terms of requiring all your trust not… the connection it has to me whether I like it or not.”

“I was thinking about how much I trust you but… I should have really thought about what I was saying before I said it,” she replied.

“Really, it’s fine. I just wanted to make sure you understand that I’d rather you never offered it to me, that’s all,” he said, smiling reassuringly.

“I promise I won’t,” Marinette said. “Poor Nooroo, I should let all the Kwamis out so they can play together. Once I get the Peacock, I’ll throw them all a Kwami Party.”

“That would be so cool!” Adrien exclaimed. “We could have Alya and Nino over. I’ll bet watching all the Kwamis goofing off would be very entertaining.”

“I approve of that idea!” Plagg’s voice rang out and they heard Tikki giggle.

“Sounds like you better start planning,” Adrien murmured, gently lifting her out of his lap before laying down and pulling her with him.

“I guess so!” she said, reaching up to gently stroke the back of his neck as they laid facing each other. “Goodnight, Gorgeous,” she murmured as she lifted her face to kiss him softly. “I love you.”

“I love you too,” he murmured back smiling as she nuzzled his chest and draped her arm over his waist. He gently squeezed her to him and kissed the top of her head.

“I think I’m calm enough now,” she murmured sleepily.

“I think I am too,” he whispered, stroking her hair until he fell asleep.

Chapter Text

“Ugh!” Adrien groaned as he peered out of the bakery window the following Monday. “Are they ever going to give up?”

Sabine sighed. “Honestly dear, I don’t know. The group gets bigger and smaller but there’s always at least a few hanging around outside.”

Adrien shook his head. “I’ve had enough of this,” he muttered as he headed back for the service door where Marinette was waiting for him.

“Where’d you go?” she asked in confusion. “I thought you were right behind me.”

“Sorry, I was evaluating the crowd outside,” he explained. “I just talked to Sabine about it and I have a plan.”

“Ok,” she said, looking at him curiously. “Are we running as soon as I open the door?”

“Not today,” he replied. “We’ll see if this works.” Marinette nodded as he took her hand. He pushed open the door and they both stepped outside. “Hey Gorilla,” Adrien greeted his bodyguard. “I’m going to try something different.”

“Understood,” he replied, watching as Adrien strolled casually around the corner, Marinette following close behind.

“Hello everyone,” Adrien announced and the entire group spun to face him. “I realize you have a job to do like everyone else but this needs to stop. Even if I wanted to make a statement, my lawyer has said it could get me into trouble and I have plenty of that already. So here’s the deal. I’m trying to regain some sense of normalcy and being chased every day doesn’t help. I will wear this same outfit and say this same thing every day until you stop hanging out here, ok? Thank you.” He turned and headed purposefully toward the school with Marinette close to his side and Gorilla behind them both, shielding them from the journalists.

“That was great,” Marinette murmured as they went up the steps to the entrance.

“Thanks,” he replied, leaning down to kiss her cheek. “They really do need to get lost. I think they’re starting to scare away the customers.” Marinette smiled and squeezed his hand, letting him lead her to the locker room.

“It’s nice to be early enough to drop most of our stuff off,” she said, cheerfully putting her extra books in her locker.

“Hey,” Adrien said softly as he crept up behind her, brushing his lips against the back of her neck. “Do you have time for a kiss then?”

Marinette smiled and closed her eyes, enjoying the warmth of his body against her back. “I think so,” she replied. Adrien grinned and took her things from her, putting them on a bench along with his own books. He turned to face her and their gazes met as they looked at each other intently. He looked into her bright blue eyes, the feature which connected her so directly to Ladybug that he could feel his skin prickle as he considered the enormity of being loved by the person he considered his greatest hero. Suddenly the distance between them was too much for him and he pulled her close, his lips pressing against hers then parting as they kissed each other deeply. Eventually the warning bell rang but neither of them cared. They clung to each other and everything else seemed to fall away and became entirely insignificant. The whistles and applause of a few of their classmates finally broke through and they leapt apart, both of them blushing furiously.

“Damn you two,” Kim said, shaking his head. “That was… kind of hot actually.”

“Yeah,” Rose agreed, fanning herself. “I might actually be glad I was running late this morning.”

“What? Did the last bell already ring?” Adrien asked in alarm as he picked up his and Marinette’s things.

“No, goodness, how long were you two making out?” Rose teased them as they all headed to class.

“Longer than I realized,” Adrien replied, grinning and squeezing Marinette’s hand. “Time flies when you’re having fun, right Princess?”

“Even when it seems like it’s standing still,” she agreed with a giggle.

When they arrived in the classroom, Chloe was waiting for them in Adrien’s spot with Nino casting nervous looks at her.

“Dude, what took you so long?” he asked plaintively. “She said she wouldn’t leave until she talked to you.”

Rose laughed knowingly as she went past. “Sorry you missed out Nino,” she said, winking at Adrien and Marinette. They both blushed and Chloe winced.

“Ugh,” she muttered under her breath and Adrien glared at her so fiercely that she cowered in his spot. “No, sorry… I shouldn’t have… I need to talk to you, Adrien. Can we meet at lunchtime? Dup- Marinette can come too. I’ve been gone because… well… I want to talk to you about… all of it. I owe you that much. I’m just… I’m sorry. I’ve done so many things that… I shouldn’t have done.”

Adrien sighed. “Kind of an understatement really but… I’ll meet you for lunch. Marinette, do you want to come too? I absolutely understand if you don’t.”

“I’ll come,” she replied quietly.

“Great,” Chloe said, looking slightly more hopeful. I reserved the private dining room at the hotel just in case. Do you think Gorilla would give us a ride?”

The bell rang and she got up, letting Adrien take his usual spot much to Nino’s evident relief. “I’m sure he will. We'll see you at lunch Chloe.”

******

“Hey Gorilla,” Adrien greeted his bodyguard as he and Marinette walked up to the car with Chloe trailing slightly behind. “Can you take us to Chloe’s hotel?”

“Of course,” he replied, opening the door. Chloe’s jaw dropped open as she followed Marinette and Adrien into the car.

“He can… talk?” she whispered as Gorilla walked around to the driver’s side.

“Yep,” Adrien agreed. “So where’s Sabrina?”

“I said… she should make other plans,” Chloe said quietly. “She was very understanding. I guess I should do something to thank her? I was home all last week thinking about how willing I was to let actual supervillains manipulate me to get what I wanted. I realized… that made me maybe slightly better than them but being almost as bad as a supervillain doesn’t feel good.”

“No, I can’t imagine it would,” Adrien remarked.

“I keep seeing myself referred to on the news as the last person to be akumatized and also one of the most akumatized people in Paris. I know I’ve always wanted to be in the spotlight but…” Chloe looked down at her hands. “Not like this… Daddy keeps saying I’m fussing over nothing and that I should make the most of it but.. I don’t want to act like I’m proud of it. I’m so ashamed and I understand why you… said what you said, Adrien.”

Gorilla stopped outside the hotel and the three teens got out, Chloe leading the way although her demeanor was so dramatically different that even the doorman looked alarmed as she walked past. Marinette and Adrien followed silently behind as she walked toward the restaurant and opened a door which revealed a large dining room that was dominated by a glistening chandelier over a long, highly polished table.

“Sorry, I know this is kind of extra but it’s the only private dining area and I thought that would be best,” Chloe said with a shrug.

“It’s fine,” Adrien replied as he and Marinette sat down next to each other. “I used to eat a huge table like this all the time.”

“Yeah,” Chloe said quietly as she sat across from them. A waiter popped in and placed glasses of water in front of each of them before handing them all menus. He waited patiently as they all decided on what they wanted and then disappeared with their order.

“I’m really, really sorry Adrien about your Father… and Nathalie too I guess. You know Mayura told me she’d let me have the bee Miraculous whenever I wanted if I turned against Ladybug and Chat Noir and joined her and Hawk Moth. I said I wouldn’t do that but then.. Ladybug said I’d likely never be Queen Bee again. So the next time Hawk Moth offered I…” she paused and looked down, tears falling from her eyes. “I joined them and then it all fell apart and I… I blamed Ladybug for everything. I couldn’t accept that she was right and Hawk Moth was able to manipulate me because he knew who I was… and Nathalie… Mayura… she knew just the right words to get in my head… and this whole time those two… they were the people who were supposed to…” Chloe’s voice broke. “They were supposed to be taking care of you. It was a shock when it came out that he had escaped after he… and then he got unveiled… I can’t even imagine how… bad it’s been for you Adrien. I just hope… hope they catch Mayura too. She is… not a good person at all… I don’t think she’s just trying to be a good assistant. I think there’s more.”

“I agree,” Adrien replied. “I know she has feelings for my father and they’ve probably been working on this together for awhile.. Maybe even the whole time… so I guess she must have liked that he was Hawk Moth? I’m not sure. She certainly didn’t stop him.”

“I’m sorry to you as well Marinette. You never seemed that… intimidated by me and I resented it so I kept trying to chip away at you. I discovered it was easier to embarrass you or make you angry so I just did that every chance I had. I can’t believe I thought that was funny but… I did.”

Adrien sighed. “I’m glad you want to change but why Chloe? Why did you need this? Why were you ok with hurting Marinette right up to the point that everything came crashing down? I don’t understand…”

“There’s no explanation, no excuse. I don’t have anything I can say that justifies it or makes sense of it,” Chloe replied. The waiter came in with their food and Marinette could see the relief in her eyes.. “Anyway, thanks for listening. I… I hope Chat Noir and Ladybug catch Nathalie soon.”

****

Well, this has been a weird day,” Adrien said as they walked home after school.

“Yeah,” Marinette sighed. “That whole thing with Chloe. I feel bad for her. Why do I feel bad for her? She had every opportunity to not make those choices and it took all this to convince her.”

“I know,” Adrien murmured. “It’s maddening. But I still don’t want to be friends with her even if I do feel bad for her.”

“At least the crowd outside is smaller now,” Marinette said, nodding at the group clustered outside. “Not making any moves to chase us either.”

“Can we take a chance on you having time to unlock the side door?” Adrien asked.

“Sure,” Marinette agreed, watching the journalists warily as she got out her keys. Gorilla shielded her as she unlocked the door and they went inside.

“I sure wish we’d have caught Mayura along with Hawk Moth,” Adrien sighed as they went into her room and immediately called their transformations. “I just want to be done with this.”

“I know Kitty, me too,” Ladybug agreed, opening the hatch to her balcony and stepping out. “I wonder if the police have a date in mind for this transfer.”

“I guess we’ll find out soon enough,” Chat replied.

*****

“Hello Ladybug, Chat Noir,” the Directeur greeted them as they came into his office, shutting the door behind them.

“Hello sir,” Ladybug replied, pulling a small jewelry case from her yo-yo. “I know you’ve been working on coming up with a date to transfer Mr. Agreste and I thought it was important to find a way for you to contact us directly. “Here is the Miraculous of the Rooster which grants the power of communication. You will use it for the greater good. Once the job is done, you will return the Miraculous to me. Can I trust you?”

“Of course!” Directeur Dufort replied. “I am deeply honored that you would trust me with this. What do you need me to do?”

“I have shown the Kwami my own communication device so that he can manifest one for you when you transform. You simply have to say ‘Orikko, call out’ to transform. The device will have both Chat and my communicators linked so you can message either one of us. To detransform say ‘Orikko, go silent’. Please keep your identity a secret.”

“Understood,” he replied. “Can I try transforming now?”

“Please do,” Chat said. “We want to make sure the communicator works and that you understand how to use it.”

“All right,” he agreed, opening the jewelry box. A white ball appeared and Orikko burst out.

“Hello sir,” he said cheerfully. “A pleasure to meet you! I’m Orikko!”

Looking slightly overwhelmed, the Directeur slid the slim golden band onto his thumb. “It’s a privilege to meet you Orikko. Shall we give this a try?” He paused and smiled when the Kwami nodded. “Orikko, call out!”

Chat watched in fascination as orange light shimmered over the man until he stood before them in a yellow suit with orange accents. There was an orange belt around his waist with a small pouch and a yellow megaphone with orange trim attached to it.

“Look inside the pouch,” Ladybug said, her expression hopeful. “What would you like us to call you?”

“Gallicus,” he replied promptly.

“Ah, that’s purrfect,” Chat said admiringly. “Very nice.”

“Thank you Chat Noir,” Gallicus replied, opening the pouch and pulling out a small device. He slid it open and looked at the screen. “I see little icons for a pawprint and a ladybug. If I tap on one of these… I can message you?”

“Go ahead and try,” Ladybug urged. Gallicus nodded and tapped on her icon. A small touch keypad appeared and he tapped out a brief message. Ladybug’s communicator chirped and she opened it.

Testing - Gallicus

“Great!” she exclaimed, looking relieved. “So… anytime you need us to escort Mr. Agreste until we’ve captured Mayura, just message us on this.”

“And please be very careful with the Miraculous,” Chat emphasized. “Don’t let anyone know you have it.”

“I will,” Gallicus promised. “I imagine it is very difficult to entrust these to anyone but this will help us keep Paris safe. Can I tell everyone I have a way to communicate with you if I don’t say how?”

“Hmmm,” Ladybug said thoughtfully. “I don’t think so. Just say you will pass things on to us as soon as you can.”

“Right, I’ll keep it vague then,” he agreed. “Thanks again. We should have a transfer date soon. I’ll let you know when we are ready.”

“Got it,” Chat agreed. “If anyone else is looking for us, please pass that on and we’ll make an appearance.”

“I’ll do that, Gallicus said. “Orikko, go silent!”

“Goodbye for now,” Ladybug said as soon as he had de-transformed.

“Goodbye to you both,” Directeur Dufort said. “And thanks for all your help.”

Chapter Text

Marinette woke with a start early on Friday morning and sat up immediately, trying to figure out what had startled her. “Tikki?” she whispered.

“Is something wrong?” Tikki asked quietly as she floated up to see her, followed by Plagg who looked at her curiously.

“I don’t know,” Marinette said in confusion. “Maybe I was dreaming. For some reason, I thought you were gone.”

“Don’t worry, we’re all here,” Tikki said reassuringly. “Well, apart from Duusu.”

“Something wrong, Bug?” Adrien mumbled from where he was laying on his side next to her.

“I guess not,” Marinette said. “I just startled myself awake for no particular reason.”

“You’ve got plenty on your mind,” he said. “Come lay down with me. We’ve probably got to get up soon anyway. I can see it’s starting to get light outside.”

“Try and get a little more rest,” Tikki said as she and Plagg went back down to their cushion on the chaise.

“Yeah,” Marinette agreed as she laid back down and Adrien wrapped his arms around her. “Mmm, you’re so warm Kitty.”

“Just relax, Princess,” he replied soothingly, cuddling her to him.

*****

When the alarm went off an hour later, Marinette moaned and rolled over, burying her face in Adrien’s chest. “Ugh, I don’t want to get up,” she grumbled as he started gently stroking her back.

“Come on Bug,” he crooned. “Another busy day of juggling our dual identities. Doesn’t that sound like fun?”

“Not really,” she said flatly, slipping an arm around his waist and snuggling even closer. “I’d rather stay here with you.”

Adrien smiled and kissed the top of her head. “So would I but I don’t think that’s an option.”

“But you feel so cozy,” she whined.

“So do you,” he replied. “It’ll be summer break in just over a month and then we can sleep in sometimes.”

“I suppose,” she said, pulling away and sitting up reluctantly. He sat up next to her and ruffled her hair affectionately.

“You’re very cute,” he told her. “But we do need to get up.”

****

“Hey Sunshine!” Nino greeted Adrien as he and Marinette walked into class. “Are we still hanging out tonight and if so, what’s going on? You mentioned that you were getting tickets for something. What is it?”

Adrien grinned. “We are and I did. The UEFA Semi Finals are tonight and Paris is playing. Interested?”

“What the… are you kidding dude? Is this a joke?” Nino gasped in amazement.

“Not a joke,” Adrien replied, chuckling at Nino’s shocked expression. “Apparently their PR team liked me dressing in the same outfit three days in a row and giving the same statement to the journalists hanging around the bakery each time I saw them. They contacted the Gabriel PR team to say they thought I deserved a break so… I have some really good seats and they sent jerseys for both of us if you want to come.”

“Of course I want to come!” Nino exclaimed, his eyes wide with excitement.

“Awesome, I used to play soccer but I’ve never been to a pro game.” Adrien told him.

“Same,” Nino agreed. “This is going to be amazing.”

“So what are we doing tonight?” Alya asked, smiling as Marinette sat down next to her.

“I don’t know,” Marinette replied. “Nothing as exciting as the boys! Maybe get dinner somewhere and then just hang out in my room or something.”

“Sounds good to me. Anything that doesn’t involve being interrupted by my siblings sounds good really,” Alya said, grinning wryly.

Marinette giggled. “You won’t have that to worry about. If you have any ideas about where to go for dinner, let me know. Adrien and I are going to be busy after school but we’ll both be done by five thirty or so.”

“Ok, we’ll stop by after then,” Alya replied agreeably.

*****

“Chat Noir! Ladybug!” Lieutenant Raincomprix greeted them as they entered the Police Headquarters. “Let’s head up to the Directeur’s office. The pair nodded and followed him past all the cubicles. They had been there so many times that no one even looked up as they walked past. Lieutenant Raincomprix went straight to the office and knocked on the door which was immediately opened by the Directeur de Police.

“Good afternoon,” he greeted them, opening the door to let the three of them in. Two other officers were already waiting inside and an additional three chairs had been shoved into the space so that everyone was crowded around Directeur Dufort’s desk. A large map and some markers lay flat on its surface and Ladybug could see a few locations were already circled.

“We’d like to commence with the transfer of Mr. Agreste this coming Tuesday early in the morning,” he told the group. “Ladybug, Chat Noir, what are your thoughts?”

“We can probably manage that,” Chat Noir replied. “We’ll keep an eye out for Mayura for as long as we can. If she is spotted or attempts to free Mr. Agreste after he’s secured, sound the akuma alert and we’ll get there as quickly as we can.”

“Understood,” the Directeur nodded. “I’ve laid out this map so you can see our plan for the day. The circumstances of this transfer are very unusual so we feel that our normal protocol for a situation like this will not provide enough security. Thus we would like to go from here to the temple and once we have Mr. Agreste, we’d like to travel immediately to this station here,” he put his finger on a circled location. “I had intended to keep him in custody there but they do not have enough layers of security to last long against one of those…”

“Sentimonsters,” Ladybug finished. “Yes, they can be quite formidable. Especially in terms of non Miraculous intervention.”

“Indeed, so we have arranged for him to be held at La Santé Prison,” Directeur Dufort said.

“Is Mr. Agreste aware of this?” Ladybug asked.

“No,” he replied. “He hasn’t said enough to get us anywhere with Mayura. He seems remorseful but perhaps unwilling to get anyone else in trouble. However, that is not something he gets to decide and Mayura remains a danger to the city until she is captured.”

“I agree,” Chat said. “I think you’ve made the right choice. I would not broadcast his whereabouts right away either. Just say he is being held securely. Hopefully she’ll accidentally reveal her own location trying to figure it out.”

“That is a very good idea,” the Directeur agreed. “So is everyone in agreement to meet here Tuesday morning?” The group nodded in response. “Wonderful, let’s say five thirty with the goal of arriving at the station by six thirty at the latest. We’ll travel by van to the prison and you can escort us there Chat Noir and Ladybug. Once the gates shut behind us, you can go if you need to.”

“Ok,” Ladybug agreed. “See you Tuesday then.”

******

“Are you ok?” Marinette asked Adrien after they had both de-transformed in her room.

“I… feel kind of sick about it but when I think of all the things he’s done, I feel so fucking angry. I haven’t ever allowed myself to feel this way and now it’s almost too much for me. If he was still doing his thing, he’d have me akumatized in no time,” Adrien said. “I did… find a therapist to check out. I’m going to that after school on Wednesday and considering our plans for Tuesday, I’m going to need it. Hopefully she’s cool. I don’t really know what to expect.”

Marinette looked up at his troubled expression and lightly touched his cheek. “I’m glad you are doing that. This is too much… for anyone. If it goes well and you trust her, you may need to confide in her about… the dual nature of your relationship with your Father.”

“You think that would be ok?” Adrien asked, closing his eyes as she wrapped her arms around his neck and pressed her body against his.

“She’s a doctor and a therapist at that. She’s honor bound to keep her patients’ secrets,” Marinette replied softly. “If it feels right, you should.”

“Thanks Bug,” Adrien sighed as he hugged her tightly. “I promise I will wait until I feel very sure about her and if I don’t, I’ll look for someone else.”

“That’s fair,” she agreed. “Have you heard from your lawyer about your court date?”

“Good question,” he said, letting Marinette go so he could reach into his pocket for his phone. “Well, he’s texted something to me…” He paused as he brought up the chat window. “Next Friday afternoon,” he sighed. “Can I ask a favor of you?”

“Of course you can,” she assured him. “What do you need?”

“My lawyer said it was possible that if he was in custody in Paris, Father could be at that hearing. It’s not definite but… I don’t want to be wearing anything he designed. Do you think we could… go get some other non Gabriel stuff? I was going to wear that shirt you made me for Christmas but… I need to get something to go with it.”

“I could make you some things if you like,” Marinette offered shyly. “Then you’d only need shoes right? We could go back to the fabric store and you could see if there is anything you like the look of.”

“Are you sure?” he asked, reaching out to tuck her hair behind her ear. “That’s only a week away!”

“Well for now you only need a pair of trousers right? And perhaps a tie? I could do that pretty quickly. And I can make a few more things if you end up having to attend any of your father’s…” she trailed off.

“I’m going to try to avoid that as much as possible,” Adrien replied. “But I suppose I won’t be able to skip the whole thing. I may go as Chat Noir once or twice as well.”

“Would you want me to come with?” she asked.

“Definitely,” he answered. “I can’t do any of this without you.”

“Then I will,” she assured him. “We can do all this shopping stuff tomorrow if you like.”

“Does this mean you have all my measurements?” Adrien asked teasingly.

“No, not all of them,” Marinette replied, giggling as his expression became more flirtatious. “Margot and Victor did show me how to do that. I promise I’ll behave myself.”

“You can misbehave a little,” he said, pulling her close again and nuzzling her neck. “In fact, I’ll be sad if you don’t.”

“I’ll keep that in mind,” she told him. “Maybe I’ll be a little less purrrfessional about it, just for you.”

Adrien grinned and scooped her up in his arms before sitting down on the chaise. “I love you Princess,” he told her. “I hope you have a nice time with Alya tonight.”

“I’m sure I will,” Marinette replied. “We haven’t really talked since the whole identity reveal thing... well not one on one anyway. I have a feeling she’s going to have lots of questions for me.”

“Probably,” Adrien laughed. “Alya and her deets.”

“I’m sure you and Nino will have fun too,” Marinette said, resting her head on his chest as he cuddled her to him. “I don’t know much about soccer but that game sounds pretty important.”

“Yeah, I was very surprised to hear that they were sending me tickets. Although I’m willing to bet there’s a price to be paid for showing up,” Adrien said with a grin. “I’m sure there will be at least a few cameras focused on us at some point. Don’t tell Nino that though. It can be a surprise.”

Marinette giggled. “I won’t say anything. It’ll be very funny if you’re right.”

“”Yep,” Adrien agreed, his eyes twinkling mischievously. “I suppose the good thing about tonight is that if Mayura were to show her face, we’d both have willing accomplices.”

“Very true,” she replied. “I don’t think she will though. What would be the point of revealing her whereabouts unless she thought your father had already been transferred for some reason?”

“Or she’s trying to carve out a career as a solo supervillain,” Adrien said wryly. “But if the Miraculous is damaged, I don’t think that would be very smart… it might even be why…” he trailed off, suddenly looking very thoughtful.

“What is it Kitty?” Marinette asked, looking up at him.

“The way Nathalie started getting ill reminded me of what happened to my mother to begin with. And Mother thought something could happen to Father… that is what Gorilla told me. He said that was why she employed him. I wonder… I wonder if she knew things.. I wonder if she wore that Miraculous and… maybe wore it too much. I wonder if it… killed her. Father would never be able to explain that. It could be why he wanted our Miraculous. To bring her back to life somehow.”

“That would… make things fit together,” Marinette said quietly. “I do hope you’re wrong.”

“It would be… wonderful to be wrong,” he murmured, burying his face in her hair. “As I’ve said before, I’ve mostly come to terms with the idea that when it comes to my mother, the worst has likely already happened.”

“Oh Adrien,” Marinette sighed sadly. “Let’s just hope we can have a normal civilian sort of evening. All this hero business is wearing us both down.”

Adrien laughed ruefully and then kissed her softly. “A normal civilian evening. Now you know there is no such thing.”

“Yeah, I guess for you that might be true,” she conceded. “Come in,” she called as she heard a knock on the door.

“Hey you two, we’re not interrupting anything are we?” Alya asked, looking at them pointedly as they sat together on the chaise.

“Not really,” Adrien grinned, letting Marinette get off his lap so he could get up. His phone chimed and he took it back out of his shirt pocket. “Gorilla is outside. Here’s your jersey and your ticket,” he said, handing both to Nino.

“Thanks dude,” Nino replied as he promptly began to switch shirts. Alya whistled at him and he blushed. “Come on babe, do I really need to leave the room?” he protested.

“I didn’t say you did,” she said, smirking at him as he pulled the jersey over his head.

“I guess that means you don’t mind me swapping either,” Adrien said as he took off his button down and peeled off his t-shirt.”

“I don’t care,” she said with a shrug. “I’ve already seen your new billboards. That sheer shirt is all over Paris now.”

Adrien laughed wryly as he pulled on the jersey. “I guess that’s better than the swimsuits. I wish they had gone for the tuxedo but I do appreciate that the other outfit is more… innovative.”

“Eye-catching is the word I’d use,” Marinette teased him.

“Yeah, yeah,” he said, reaching over to tickle her. “I really do need to go see everyone at Gabriel. I just don’t know when. Next week already looks brutal.”

“Why’s that?” Alya asked.

“Can I tell them?” Adrien said questioningly.

“Sure,” Marinette replied.

“We’re transferring Father early Tuesday morning,” he said with a sigh.

“Ugh,” Nino groaned, looking sympathetic. “I’m sorry man.”

“Me too,” Adrien said, smiling ruefully. “All part of the service I guess. Anyway, we should get going. Have fun you two!” He leaned over to give Marinette a kiss before going to open the trap door, Nino following close behind.

Chapter Text

“So I was thinking,” Alya said after the boys had left. “Is there anywhere nice nearby? We could walk over and come back before it gets dark.”

“Sure,” Marinette agreed. “We could go to the creperie that Adrien and I tried to go to. It looked nice, we just had to escape a bunch of his fans.

Alya laughed. “Yeah, ok. I’m good with that.”

Marinette smiled and grabbed her bag before sliding her feet back into her ballet flats. “After you!” she said teasingly as she held the trap door open for Alya.

“I was wondering, is this the longest Adrien has ever stayed at your place?” Alya asked after Marinette had locked the service door behind her.

Marinette considered her question for a moment as they started walking toward the restaurant. “Yeah, I think it is now. I don’t know how much longer it will last. He’s got a court date for his emancipation stuff in a week. I don’t know how long that process will take. The lawyer said it might even be done on that day but he doesn’t want to guarantee it. After that, Adrien can look for his own place.”

“And how do you feel about that?” Alya asked curiously.

“Well,” Marinette trailed off as she spotted the restaurant. “This is where we’re going if you’re ok with it.”

“Looks good to me,” Alya agreed, opening the door. The waitress inside gestured at them to choose a seat so Marinette headed for a table tucked away in a corner.

“To answer your question, I will miss him but I do think he needs his own space. I’m sure I’ll stay over quite a bit and I think he’ll come stay with me as well but we do both need time to ourselves. Maybe by this point next year, I’ll be planning to move in with him.”

“Have you two talked about that?” Alya asked, nodding at the waitress as she gave them each a menu.

“Yeah,” Marinette answered. “We both want that eventually but he’s always intended to move out as soon as he turns eighteen and I think I should stay where I am for the last school year. I’m pretty confident he’ll move before he originally planned given the circumstances but I’d still rather stay with my parents, especially since I’m so close to the school.”

“I have so many things I want to ask about,” Alya said as she looked over the menu. “I guess most of it will have to wait.”

“Probably,” Marinette grinned. “We can sit on the balcony and chat if you like.”

“That sounds really nice,” Alya agreed.

****

“Maybe we should play some music,” Alya suggested as they sat together under a blanket with a few cushions on the balcony.

“Good idea,” Marinette agreed, handing her a mug of hot chocolate before pouring one for herself from the thermos she had brought up. Alya selected a playlist on her phone and immediately music filled the air.

“I’ll feel less paranoid talking about stuff now,” Alya told her. “I can’t imagine what it’s been like for you.”

“It was very difficult for quite a while. There was a whole year after the Guardian... where I didn’t have anyone. Finding out about Adrien… that made things so much better… for both of us really.”

“So how surprised were you when you found out?” Alya asked.

Marinette laughed. “What do you think?” she asked.

“I only wish I could have seen your face… or his for that matter,” Alya told her, giggling.

“We were both very, very surprised. Also thankfully, we were both very happy about each other’s identities,” Marinette said reflectively. “That black dress with the tulle slip… I made that especially for that occasion although it had red tulle underneath to begin with.”

“No wonder he acts so lovesick when you wear that!” Alya laughed. “I remember catching you two in the locker room when you were wearing it.”

“Yeah, I guess it’s special to both of us,” Marinette said dreamily. “I know it makes me very happy wearing it and remembering that evening.”

“What I don’t understand is how you kept everything so chill with Chat Noir,” Alya told her. “I could tell you were closer but I would never have imagined…”

“Yeah well we both agreed to keep that side professional. Hawk Moth could easily have exploited our relationship more if we hadn’t and it was bad enough the times he did get injured, especially once we were together,” Marinette said quietly. “That fight the day before Valentine's where… I don’t even know how badly he was hurt. He was at the very least unconscious. I-I couldn’t bring myself to check for a pulse. I had to get that helmet off…” she trailed off as tears filled her eyes.

“Oh my god,” Alya whispered as she hugged Marinette close. “I do remember that one. I could see how upset you were but putting everything together…”

“Yes, I was kind of a wreck the next day,” Marinette replied, sighing. “We transformed to meditate and… I kissed him while he was Chat which was something I really tried to avoid because like I said, it wasn’t safe but I… seeing him unharmed… the relief… it was too much.”

“I know this is a weird question but considering your relationship with Chat Noir before… what was that like?”

“It was strange at first. I could just about forget it sometimes and just think of him as Chat but over time as I realized all the things about Adrien that make him Chat, I found myself falling in love with Chat Noir almost separately and now… it’s all the same in my mind and I can’t tell you were one part ends and the other begins,” Marinette explained.

“Wow,” Alya breathed, taking a sip of her hot chocolate. “I can’t believe I get to have this conversation… and it’s with you! Girl, I just can’t get over it… and when I think of everything… Rena, the exclusives, hell even you shutting me in that damn cage with Nino which really I should be annoyed about but I can’t… you looked out for me so many times. All I can say is thank you… for all of it and for wanting to be friends with me. You’re the most amazing person in Paris and my hero. I just.. I just get overwhelmed realizing you’ve been doing this since we met and I saw it from the beginning and still never connected… Sorry girl, I’m babbling now.”

“You don’t need to apologize,” Marinette told her softly. “I was so in awe of you when we met, I thought you’d be a better Ladybug than me. I wanted to give you the Miraculous but then… you got trapped by that car so I transformed and I rescued you. Then I knew that it had to be me.”

“Shit,” Alya gasped. “I could never be Ladybug. Whatever that takes, I know I don’t have it.”

“I never would have imagined that I did,” Marinette admitted. “I guess Master Fu choosing me and then leaving me to figure a lot of it out for myself showed me that I wasn’t giving myself enough credit for what I might be capable of.”

“Even changing the future,” Alya said. “Whatever that was, it must have been very bad.”

“Chat Noir got akumatized and became Chat Blanc,” Marinette said quietly. “I had to fight him and find the butterfly. There were points where he was begging me to save him and points where he was fighting me. His powers were so incredibly dangerous. I wish I could forget it.”

“Oh my god Marinette, did you find out why?” Alya asked.

“No, a time travelling Miraculous holder brought me to him in the future. I had made a mistake that revealed my identity to him but after that… I don’t know what happened. I didn’t even realize I had done that until I got there and he kept calling me Marinette even though I was transformed. Just so you know, that is something we never, ever do. I never call him by his civilian name and he never does either when we are transformed.”

“I’ve noticed that you call him Kitty though and he calls you Bug. Have you always done that?” Alya asked.

“Yeah,” Marinette laughed. “It feels strange doing it when it isn’t just the two of us and I’ll probably limit that in the future. It’s hard enough not to slip up as it is.”

“It’s really cute,” Alya said with a dreamy sigh. “Who could have ever imagined that my two favorite ships are the same ship? When you catch Mayura, will you be more open about your relationship when you’re transformed?”

“That’s the plan,” Marinette replied, grinning. “I don’t know what kind of role we will have after that. I wouldn’t be against being some kind of informal ambassador for Paris if everyone still wants us around.”

“I should hope so!” Alya exclaimed. “It’s getting kind of cold out here. Do you want to go inside?”

“Yeah,” Marinette agreed. “The boys will probably be back soon anyway.”

****

“What an awesome night!” Nino exclaimed as Gorilla took them both back to the bakery. “Although I could have done without all the video recorders panning our way. Do you think we were on TV?”

“I’d be very surprised if we weren’t,” Adrien laughed. “I had a feeling there was a price to pay for free tickets.”

“Hey! Why didn’t you warn me then?” Nino asked, elbowing him playfully.

Adrien shrugged. “I didn’t know for sure and I didn’t want to make you nervous wondering if it would happen or not.”

“Ok, that’s fair,” Nino conceded. “I hope Kim saw us and is ugly-crying into his pillow tonight.”

“Would that make it worth the attention?” Adrien asked with a snort.

“Definitely,” Nino grinned. “Don’t get me wrong. It’s not that I dislike him or anything but he is constantly trying to annoy me so any chance for payback is a good thing.”

“Sounds like someone else I know,” Adrien teased him.

“Aw man, I know I like to rattle you sometimes but am I really as bad as Kim?” Nino protested.

“Nah, I like it really,” Adrien assured him. “And you are not anywhere near as bad as Kim.”

“Well that’s alright then,” Nino said, looking mollified. “Looks like we’re here. I wonder what the girls are up to.”

Adrien grinned as they got out of the car. “I’ll take a wild guess that your girlfriend is trying to squeeze as many ‘deets’ out of Marinette as she possibly can.” He pulled his keys out of his pocket and unlocked the door.

“It’s so weird that you… live here,” Nino said as he followed Adrien inside and waited for him to set the deadbolt.

“It is,” Adrien agreed. “But also temporary. I’ve got my emancipation hearing next week and I don’t know how long all that takes to go through but I’ll start looking for my own place once it does. I love staying here but I feel like it’s going to become too much pressure for both of us. This isn’t even like moving in together and although part of me wants her to just move straight in when I find somewhere, I think we each need to have our own space for a little while longer. Don’t get me wrong, I’m absolutely committed to her but I’ve got so much to deal with and if she’s always around, I’m afraid I’ll start to rely on her reassurance instead of resolving things myself and that wouldn’t be good for either of us.”

“Damn Agreste, they might as well emancipate you because you sound like an adult to me,” Nino joked. “But how are you going to pay rent? Are you going to keep modelling for Gabriel? Is that even going to exist?”

“I hope so,” Adrien answered. “I guess I might still model for them… I don’t know. I should probably go visit and see how everyone is doing. But as far as renting… to be honest Nino I have a trust fund that will take care of that.”

“Wow,” Nino replied. “I guess I’m not that surprised but still… is that the same trust…”

“They are the ones who got me the lawyer and employ Gorilla,” Adrien answered. “It’s all on my mother’s side, nothing to do with my father at all.”

“Well, that’s fortunate I guess,” Nino laughed. “Hey, do you hear that?” he asked quietly as they reached the trap door.

Adrien went quiet as they both listened. “I think they’re singing,” he whispered. Nino snorted quietly but stopped as Adrien put a finger to his lips and lifted the door enough for both of them to peek inside. Adrien grinned as he saw Alya and Marinette dancing around and loudly singing the words to “Adore you” along with Alya’s phone, occasionally emphasizing the lyrics with dramatic gestures.

“They’re so damn cute,” Nino murmured next to him, chuckling quietly.

As the song came to an end and another one started, Alya’s gaze was drawn down to the two boys and she laughed. “Girl, it looks like we have an audience,” she told Marinette.

“Hey! How long have you been spying on us?” she exclaimed as they sheepishly opened the door the rest of the way and came in.

“Not long,” Adrien grinned as he shut the door. “We heard you as we approached and we didn’t want to interrupt. It sounded like you were having fun. We couldn’t resist seeing what you were up to.”

“We were having fun,” Marinette agreed. “How about you? How was the game?”

“It was amazing,” Nino replied enthusiastically. “So much cooler than watching on TV.”

“Aww, I’m glad you guys had a good time,” Alya replied, slipping an arm around Nino’s waist.

“Babe,” Nino murmured, putting his own arm around her shoulder. “Did you ever check in with Marinette about-” he whispered something in Alya’s ear and she blushed.

“Nino!” she protested. “I already told you that isn’t our business!”

“Well you’re the one who interrupted them,” he replied. “You said you felt bad about it, especially if…”

“If what?” Adrien asked, looking amused. “Is this about the bath?”

“Well… yes,” Alya answered reluctantly. “That wasn’t…. I didn’t interrupt… the first time you...um saw each other… did I?”

“Are you sure you two aren’t just teaming up for deets?” Marinette asked suspiciously.

“It does sound that way, doesn’t it Princess?” Adrien asked as he pulled her close. “A very creative way to learn more about our love life I have to say. I’ll put your mind at rest though Alya. No, it wasn’t. I’m not saying any more though.”

“Well,” Alya paused. “I’m relieved. Nino has been guilting me about it ever since.”

“Aww, you shouldn’t feel bad. How were you supposed to know?” Marinette asked.

“Consider us even since we interrupted you two in the hot tub,” Adrien told them, grinning mischievously. “Just think, if it wasn’t for us, there might have been eight.”

Nino groaned. “Man am I ever sorry that I told you that.”

“So am I,” Adrien replied, winking at him. “Still, I might as well make the most of it.”

“Anyway, what have you two got planned for this weekend?” Alya asked, pointedly changing the subject.

“Shopping,” Adrien replied. “I don’t want to wear anything Gabriel at my emancipation hearing or at any court things I end up going to for my father. I want Gabriel the company to survive but… I can’t deal with any possibility of my father seeing me in things he designed.”

“Have you talked to anyone there?” Alya asked.

“I’ve texted a few people… Celine, Victor and Frederic. I keep meaning to go visit but… I think I need more time,” Adrien replied.

“I’m sure they understand,” Marinette told him, closing her eyes for a moment as he squeezed her closer.

“Yeah, they’ve all said that to me but I can’t help but feel bad. I hope everyone is still getting paid and all that. Father owns Gabriel and I was under the impression all his assets are frozen. But maybe that is separate from the business operating expenses. I honestly don’t know.”

“Maybe you should ask Celine to meet up with you next Saturday. She can probably tell you what’s been going on,” Marinette suggested. “And you’ll probably have a lot to tell her about.”

“That’s a good idea. Maybe I’ll do that while you’re busy at the bakery,” Adrien replied.

“You should. Maybe you can find out if anything’s happened with that Henri guy. She did tell me they went out again.”

“Definitely,” Adrien laughed. “Maybe I should convince them to go to the zoo, huh Alya?”

“Hey!” Nino exclaimed in sudden realization. “Wow...uh, thanks Marinette.”

“All part of the service,” she said with a grin.

“It’s not all bad is it Bug?” Adrien asked, kissing the top of her head. “For every traumatic life event, there’s an opportunity to do something fun and what could be more fun than aggressively matchmaking two people by locking them in a cage together?”

“I save that for the people I really like,” Marinette replied with a giggle.

Chapter Text

“So how was your morning, son?” Tom asked when everyone met for lunch on Sunday.

“I kept myself busy,” Adrien said, grinning ruefully. “I don’t know if I’ll ever shake that habit. I ended up watching a bunch of cartoons in Mandarin just to make sure I’m keeping that language stuff up. At least it’s actually been useful when we’ve gone to the temple. It’s funny, Marinette speaks Mandarin without even realizing it while she’s there because being the Guardian gives her the ability to communicate with everyone. The magic doesn’t work that way for me so it’s good practice.”

“Is it… dangerous to be the Guardian?” Sabine asked hesitantly.

“Yes, if there is someone like Hawk Moth on the loose,” Marinette answered. “I had to be extremely careful with my identity because I knew he really wanted the whole Miraculous box.”

“That must have been very frightening,” she replied.

“Sometimes,” Marinette admitted. “The most difficult thing was not letting negative emotions overwhelm me… basically ever. I know I seemed kind of detached for a while. I was scared of feeling anything for a long time. After Master Fu… passed the role to me, I was very overwhelmed.”

“Master Fu?” Tom asked curiously.

“Remember the old Chinese man we were talking about a few weeks ago?” Marinette asked. “That was actually him. He had done something to cause his memories to be erased when he passed the role to me. I made sure that he and his girlfriend were able to leave safely. I don’t know what’s happened to him since.”

“You… you are not in danger of that yourself are you dear?” Sabine asked anxiously.

“No,” she replied as Adrien put his arm around her reassuringly. “I didn’t know that until Adrien and I talked to the monk at Christmas. Before I found out, it added another layer of pressure because I wondered what would happen if I had to pass it on again. I was scared to reveal our identities but taking that burden away… would probably never have happened if we didn’t. Once I had Adrien’s help on both sides of the mask, it cleared my mind to think of other sources of help.”

“My poor Macaron,” Tom said in a choked voice. “I can’t believe the terrible things you’ve had to deal with.”

“It’s ok Papa,” Marinette reassured him. “It’s not always easy but I’m grateful to be the one who gets to do this.”

****

“All right Bug,” Adrien said as he shut the trap door behind them. “Try not to molest me too much.”

Marinette laughed. “We’ll see about that Gorgeous. Can you change into suit trousers? That’s how Victor taught me.”

“Of course,” he replied, going to her closet and pulling the pair he had brought along off a hanger. “And I’m teasing… mostly.”

Marinette giggled as she gathered her materials. “I hope these turn out ok. I’ve made trousers for myself and they turned out fine,” she said.

“I’m sure they’ll be amazing,” Adrien told her, walking over to give her a kiss on the cheek. “Ready when you are Princess.”

Marinette smiled and put her hair in a ponytail. “Ok Buttercup, let’s start with your waist.”

Adrien chuckled and lifted his arms out of her way as she carefully drew the tape around him. “Buttercup? Why am I Buttercup again?”

“I don’t know,” she replied. “I felt like teasing you I guess. I’m going down to your hips now.”

“Go right ahead,” he said with a grin. “I have to say… I like Victor but it’s more fun having you take measurements.”

“Usually I’d be more careful than this,” Marinette replied as she checked her tape was level and wrote down the number.

“I don’t know. You seem like you’re still being pretty careful to me,” he told her, sneakily tugging her ponytail.

“Oh am I?” she asked as she threaded the tape between his legs to measure his thigh.

“Forget I said that,” he said, blushing slightly as he felt her pull the tape snug.

Marinette grinned mischievously as she ran her hand down his leg to his knee before taking her next measurement. Adrien sighed deeply and folded his arms as she scurried around him with her tape measure. He soaked up the attention, enjoying the feeling of her hands lingering on him for a moment each time she recorded another number.

“Ok, Kitty,” she said softly. “I’m going to measure your inseam. Consider yourself warned.”

“Go ahead,” he replied, his eyes closed and a small smile on his face. His breath caught as he felt her placing the tape measure high up on the inside of his thigh.

“Is this ok?” she asked quietly. “I’m trying to do this part the way Victor taught me. I don’t want to be too intrusive.”

“It’s great,” he assured her with a happy sigh. “Feel free to do this anytime you like. It’s very sexy.”

Marinette smiled as she wrote down the last number. “I’m glad you feel that way. I like touching you but I was trying to be a little careful at least.”

“I really cannot wait until we get some time to ourselves,” Adrien said as he took off his trousers and put his jeans back on while Marinette gathered her pattern making supplies. “I hope Mayura shows pretty soon. Then at least I won’t feel like I have to stop myself for Tikki’s sake.”

“It’s frustrating all right,” Marinette agreed, smoothing out some pattern paper. “And distracting. I need to keep myself busy or my mind ends up in the gutter.”

“I’m glad I’m not the only one,” Adrien laughed, watching as she selected an l-scale and started drawing out her pattern. “I really like watching you work. I’m not distracting you though am I?”

“No, I like having your company,” she assured him, her head bent over her work. “And I’m glad I can do this for you.”

“I’m just happy you want to go to this much effort. It is very comforting to wear things that you’ve made for me,” he told her.

“You’re my favorite person to make things for,” she replied. “You spoil me so much and I love returning the favor.”

“You’re so generous with your talents, I feel like I get the better end of that deal,” he said. “Your time and effort and all the love you pour into what you make… the end results are priceless to me. And the fact that you’ve been doing that ever since you met me… it means so much.”

*****

“Come in!” Marinette called as she heard a knock on her bedroom door. “Hi Maman,” she said, smiling as she looked up from her work.

“You two look cozy,” Sabine observed.

Adrien paused his game and put down his Switch. “It’s been a very peaceful afternoon,” he said. “For me anyway. Marinette has been very focused on her work.” He gave her an affectionate smile and squeezed one of her feet. “Every now and then I look up from my end of the chaise and she’s on to the next step.”

“What are you working on dear?” Sabine asked.

“Dress trousers for him,” Marinette replied. “I’ve been working on them all afternoon. I keep meaning to take a break but then I’m too excited to start the next step.”

“I told her I wanted to get some non Gabriel clothes for court and she offered to make me some things. So I got some shoes and a belt when we went out yesterday and then we went to that fabric store she likes and I picked out a few fabrics there with her help,” Adrien explained.

“I’m ready to start sewing,” Marinette said. “How long do we have before we need to come down for dinner?”

“An hour or so,” Sabine replied. “I’m roasting a chicken and fortunately I had some time to get it in the oven during a lull. You two have been so quiet I thought you might be asleep.”

“Not this time,” Adrien laughed. “I haven’t even felt like sleeping. Maybe I’m sleeping better.”

“I hope so,” Sabine said with a smile. “I’ll see you two in a little while.”

“Hmmm,” Marinette hummed thoughtfully as she got up and went to her serger after Sabine had gone back downstairs. “I’m glad I set the thread up last night. I should be able to get these done pretty quickly now.”

Adrien smiled as he returned to his game. “It’s been really nice just being near you while you work.”

“It’s nice having you here,” Marinette said, smiling back before sitting down at her machine.

Adrien sighed in contentment as he listened to the whir of the serger and idly caught bugs on Animal Crossing. He was not sure he could even remember the last time he had just sat and relaxed with no one telling him to do something more worthwhile with his time. Marinette’s enthusiasm working on something for him was reducing him once again to a sentimental puddle and he was tempted to scoop her up in his arms and kiss her senseless. He looked at her working, her dark shiny ponytail swinging forward each time she fed the fabric through the machine. The trousers were quickly starting to take shape when she got up and went over to her sewing machine which she had made just enough space for on her desk. He watched as she expertly prepared the zipper and sewed it into place. He turned his attention back to his game, not wanting to distract her as she bustled around in a flurry of activity.

“Voilà!” she finally exclaimed, triumphantly holding up the freshly pressed dark gray wool blend trousers she had just finished ironing.

“You… are amazing,” he said admiringly as he put his Switch down and walked over to see what she had made. “Can I try them on?”

Marinette glanced at her phone. “Please do! We have a few minutes before we need to go downstairs and help set up for dinner.”

“Awesome,” he said, grinning mischievously as he took off his jeans.

“Damn,” Marinette sighed dreamily. “I don’t see how I’ll ever get bored of that.”

Adrien laughed. “I sure hope not.” Carefully he stepped into the trousers and pulled them up. “Wow,” he said as he zipped them up. “These are so cool, Princess! I love the little split hem at the bottoms.”

“I thought it made them a little more fun and… I like adding those kinds of things to whatever I make for you. That’s an important part of who you are so you should have things that reflect that.”

Adrien sighed as he held her against him and kissed the top of her head. “I was already having too many feelings watching you work. I love you so much Marinette.”

“I love you too Adrien,” she replied, smiling happily. “And I love making things for you. I am really pleased that you like them so much.”

“They’re purrfect,” he assured her with a grin before taking her hand. “Let’s go down and help your Maman.”

****

“I see you finished your project!” Sabine exclaimed as Marinette and Adrien walked into the kitchen.

“She worked almost nonstop,” Adrien replied. “I find her ability to focus really amazing. But then I guess I always have.”

Sabine smiled at him as he came over to help set up for dinner. “You two have such a unique perspective on each other. It’s no wonder everything came together so quickly once you knew. I can’t imagine what it would be like to have so many secrets to keep. I had to remind myself all the time that I didn’t know for certain. I knew it would be much harder for you to keep yourselves safe if Tom or I showed any suspicion.”

“I’m glad you didn’t,” Adrien replied. “It would have certainly been a distraction and I know that I in particular don’t do well with those.”

“It was bad enough when Papa got akumatized,” Marinette agreed. “I think worrying about you knowing our identities would have been one distraction I’d have found very difficult to overcome.”

“There was also the time you and I were almost akumatized as well,” Sabine reminded her. “When Lila got you expelled. Was she… working with Hawk Moth?”

“I’m certain of it,” Adrien replied. “You were almost akumatized Marinette?”

“Yeah… it was a red butterfly thing and everyone around me was so disappointed in what they thought I had done. I felt so terrible and then there were so many red butterflies and he was in my head for a moment and…then he was gone. That was the point where I realized that the things happening in my personal life couldn’t matter so much and I started actively working at detaching myself from… anything I thought might hurt me. I didn’t want to be angry or disappointed or sad… I couldn’t risk getting akumatized again,” Marinette said quietly as she sat down. “I’m sorry Adrien. Maybe I should have talked about it before. It was just a very low point for me and I’ve hesitated to ever think about it again.”

“Of course you have,” he replied, putting his arms around her. “But he can’t hurt you anymore. You can talk about these things and get angry and nothing will happen to you now. And if it doesn't help to do that, you don’t have to. I can’t even imagine how scared you were after that.”

“I think if anyone can imagine how I felt, it’s you,” Marinette told him. “You had to live with him after all.”

“I suppose that’s true,” Adrien said wryly, kissing the top of her head.

“All locked up,” Tom said as he came in. He paused as he looked at Adrien holding Marinette as she sat in her chair. “Is everything ok?”

Sabine laughed and shook her head. “Just listening to these two talk things out. I don’t think I’ve ever seen two people be more perfectly in sync.”

Adrien blushed. “I’m very thankful for how supportive you are of this. My father was… pretty unhappy about how serious I am about Marinette but obviously, he doesn’t know the full story and I hope he never will.”

“Do you think he might feel differently now?” Tom asked.

“I think so but I’ve only spoken to him as Chat Noir. I am a little curious about what he’d say to me now but at the same time, the idea of talking to him makes me sick,” Adrien replied. “But I know at some point I’ll have to. It’s not something I can run from forever.”

“I’m sorry son,” Tom said. “You’ve been through an awful lot of tragedy in the last few years. I wouldn’t force yourself to talk to your father until you feel ready to do so. You have the right to take your time.”

Adrien sighed. “Thanks Tom. To some degree it can’t be avoided. I have to interact with him as Chat Noir sometimes.”

“Well… all I can say is use that to create some distance. I’m not saying it’ll be easy but I think you probably have plenty of experience with that already.”

“Very true!” Adrien agreed.

“It certainly took me a long time to see the connection and if Sabine hadn’t talked to me about it after Marinette’s nightmare, maybe it would have taken even longer to put my finger on it,” Tom said thoughtfully.

****

“Hey Bug,” Adrien said softly as he got into bed with Marinette that night. “Are you ok? You’ve been pretty quiet.”

“Yeah,” she replied. “Just thinking about stuff. Sorry, I didn’t mean to worry you.”

“We’ve both got a lot to think about,” he said, spooning up behind her. “If you want to talk about anything, I’m here but it’s ok if you don’t want to as well.”

“Thank you,” she answered. “And thank you for being so understanding about the akuma thing.”

“Please don’t worry about that,” he told her, pulling her closer and nuzzling her neck. “I understand why it’s so difficult for you to talk about things like that. I could never be upset with you about it.”

Marinette sighed deeply. “I’m relieved about that. I love you so much Adrien.”

“I love you too,” he said, curling himself protectively around her. “We should get some sleep.”

Chapter Text

Marinette groaned as her alarm went off very early Tuesday morning. “Adrien,” she murmured, stroking his cheek. “We need to get up.”

Slowly his green eyes flickered open and he looked at her. “It’s already morning?” he mumbled in confusion.

“Yeah, it’s Tuesday, remember?” she asked gently.

As comprehension dawned on him, his expression changed to dread. “Shit,” he moaned. “I don’t want to do this. But I have to. If he knew who I was, he’d never imagine me capable of this. So if I can pull this off, it’ll put so much distance between me and Chat Noir as far as he is concerned.”

“You’re right,” Marinette agreed softly as she got out of bed. “I wish there was some other way but I need you, especially if Mayura shows up.”

“Yeah,” he sighed in resignation. “I guess I better get ready.

Marinette nodded. “I’m going to go brush my teeth. I’ll be right back.”

When they were both transformed, Ladybug unified with Kaalki. Chat breathed in deeply as she created a portal to the police headquarters, drawing on the calm energy in an attempt to quell the nauseating sense of dread he was feeling. Silently she held her hand out to him and he took it in his own before following her through the portal. They found themselves at the door to Directeur Dufort’s office and Ladybug rapped on it sharply. The door opened and they walked in, nodding at Lieutenant Raincomprix and the other two officers that were joining them.

“Right on time,” Directeur Dufort said, nodding in approval. “Is everyone ready to go? I’ll stay here and if you need anything or there are any complications, please contact me right away.” The officers nodded gravely and Chat gave him a discreet wink.

“Voyage!” Ladybug called, making a large portal in front of them. The group carefully stepped through, finding themselves in the courtyard of the temple grounds. The two new officers gazed around in wonder.

“Are we really in Tibet?” one of them asked.

“Yeah, I’m not exactly sure where though,” Ladybug answered.

“You must take some great vacations!” the other officer joked.

Ladybug laughed wryly. “No, I’m afraid I only use these for work purposes.”

“That’s too bad. If anyone deserves a vacation it’s you two,” the first officer replied, looking sympathetic.

“Tell me about it,” Chat quipped. “Maybe we’ll get to go to Disneyland after all this, eh Bug?”

Ladybug laughed again. “Purrrhaps,” she replied, gently bumping her hip against him. “It looks like Master Liu is coming.

“Good morning,” the monk greeted them. “I’ll escort you all down to where we’ve been keeping Mr. Agreste. Everyone follow me.”

Silently the group did as he asked, following him into the building and down the steps until they were deep below ground.

“There’s really only room for three in the cell area,” Lieutenant Raincomprix said as they made their way down. I’d appreciate it if I could have one of my officers and one of the heroes with me.”

“I’ll go this time,” Ladybug offered.

“I’ll join you,” the first officer added.

“Very well,” Master Liu answered. “There is a monk standing guard in there but he’ll leave as soon as you enter. When you are ready to leave, please feel free to open a portal down here.”

“Thank you,” Ladybug said. “And thank you for keeping Mr. Agreste here while we figured everything out.”

“Of course,” Master Liu replied. “I do hope this will provoke Mayura into making an appearance. Do let me know when you get that Miraculous.”

“Of course,” Chat replied as they reached the room that led to the cell area. “ I hope it won’t take too long. I know Ladybug is anxious to retrieve it and have all the Miraculous secure.”

“I’m sure,” Master Liu acknowledged, opening the door in the corner of the room to let Ladybug and the two officers inside. The monk standing guard inside reached into his pocket and presented a key to Ladybug before leaving the room.

Once the door shut, Ladybug looked around the warmly lit but extremely spare room. The cell itself had a few rugs on the floor and a long mattress in the corner. There was a walled off area in the corner which Ladybug assumed was probably a tiny restroom.

“Hello Ladybug,” Gabriel said, interrupting her thoughts. “I gather we’re going back to Paris.”

“That’s right,” she answered crisply.

“I wanted to tell you how sorry I am. I told Chat Noir this but I am thankful I can say this to you in person. I know that I’ve caused a lot of pain and stress to you and I also know if it weren’t for you, I’d still be doing what I was doing without a twinge of remorse anymore. I should never have let it reach that point but… I did. And now you’re here and I can see how much you are dreading this… and that is my fault too. Truly, I am grateful for what you did because at this point my only hope is for my son to forgive me someday and had I remained as I was, he would never do that. As it is, it may be too late but I have to focus on the small hope that I have rather than everything I squandered.”

“That is certainly the best way to think about it,” Ladybug agreed. Gabriel looked at her as if expecting her to say more but she was silent as she put the key in the door to open it.

“Thank you Ladybug, we’ll take it from here,” Lieutenant Raincomprix said as he and the other officer went into the cell.

Gabriel nodded quietly and put out his hands, allowing the officer to handcuff him. Ladybug looked at the ground, glad that she had taken the job instead of Chat Noir. She was finding the process difficult enough herself and couldn’t imagine how traumatic all of this was for him. The officers each took one of Gabriel’s elbows and escorted him out of the cell. Ladybug went ahead and opened the door, silently handing the key back to the monk waiting just outside. She walked a few steps out and cried “Voyage!” to open a new portal. “Chat, go on through,” she said. “I’ll go last ok?”

Chat Noir nodded, waiting until everyone was in the room before stepping through the portal. The extra officer went through next, followed by Lieutenant Raincomprix, Gabriel and the other officer. Ladybug went last, letting the portal snap shut behind her. She suddenly realized it had been more than five minutes since she had last used Kaalki’s special ability.

I guess I can hold any Miraculous for as long as I need now,’ she thought to herself in surprise.

When she looked around, she realized they were in the reception area of the station that the Directeur had shown her. She had stopped by a few days ago just to get a picture of it in her mind but she was very grateful to Kaalki for depositing them inside rather than at the entrance.

“Can you and Chat Noir stay here while we take Mr. Agreste through?” Lieutenant Raincomprix asked. “I’d feel better if you were keeping the entrance secure. You can stay in here and keep an eye on the doors from inside. The doors are locked on the outside but you can open them from here. We may need you to keep the area outside clear when we leave. Hopefully the media won’t know anything until we’re done.”

“Of course,” Ladybug replied. The Lieutenant nodded in acknowledgement before disappearing into the back of the station with the other two officers and Gabriel.

Ladybug took a moment to quietly observe Chat’s expression. She could instantly see how hard he was fighting to keep his face neutral. He took a deep breath and closed his eyes for a moment before training his gaze on the front doors. Ladybug longed to reach out to him but she had the feeling it would only make things even more difficult for him so she remained quiet and gave him some space. They stood in silence for twenty minutes before the officers reappeared with Gabriel. She noticed a police van pulling up out front and looked at Chat who nodded back. Together they went out to the entrance, Chat lightly touching her back as they arrived outside. There were fortunately no journalists outside and they stood close together, taking comfort from each other’s presence as the police led Gabriel into the van.

“Should I turn the lights on?” Lieutenant Raincomprix asked.

“I’d rather not draw more attention than necessary,” Ladybug answered. “Anyone, including Mayura who sees the van with lights flashing and then sees us will instantly know what’s happening. I’d rather take longer to get there and be discreet than get there quickly and attract a lot of attention.”

“Understood,” the Lieutenant replied as he and one of the officers got in the van and prepared to drive off.

****

The journey to the prison felt incredibly surreal to Chat. It was unfathomable to think this was possibly the worst day of his life as Adrien Agreste and also the pinnacle of his achievements as Chat Noir and he struggled to resolve those two facts in his mind. He couldn’t make sense of why this hurt so much more than what his father had done to him or watching him being unmasked as Hawk Moth but this was definitely the most emotionally painful thing he had ever experienced.

“Chat,” Ladybug said quietly, drawing his attention from his thoughts as they approached the ominous looking prison campus.

“Fuck,” he said under his breath. He couldn’t believe that this was where his father would be--very possibly for a long time. There was no doubt he deserved the consequences of his actions. At this point, even Gabriel would agree to that. But at the same time, this was his father and he couldn’t help the intense feeling of loss he was experiencing. If only Gabriel had surrendered his Miraculous to Ladybug at the beginning. There would have been ramifications and it would have been a scandal but maybe they could have moved on and worked things out. Instead his father had persisted in terrorizing the city for years until he was forcibly relieved of his Miraculous in the end. The trial would be a terrible spectacle and as his son, Adrien would be subject to the worst kinds of attention. Some would pity him. Others might even suspect him. He watched the van pull through the gates and drive up to a building near the center of the grounds. The gate closed behind them and he watched silently as the distant figures disappeared into the building. He closed his eyes for a moment and focused on the calm energy, drawing on it until he felt capable of speaking without his voice shaking.

“Do you think we can go now?” he asked.

“Yeah,” Ladybug replied softly. “Let’s go up on that roof and I’ll use Kaalki to get us home.”

****

“Look at the crowd outside,” Tom marvelled as he came up front to stock more croissants. “I wonder what on earth has happened now.”

Sabine looked at her phone and her face went pale. “Chat Noir and Ladybug escorted Gabriel to Paris this morning. He’s being held… somewhere secure.”

“Those poor kids,” Tom said softly. “You should call the school. It won’t be safe for them to leave with so much press outside and they’re probably exhausted.”

“I’m sure you’re right,” Sabine said. “I guess I’ll have to go out there and tell them to move. I can’t imagine any customers being willing to fight their way through that.”

“Leave them to me,” Tom said, eyeing the crowd speculatively. “You go ahead and call the school then check on the kids.”

Sabine phoned the school as she made her way up to Marinette’s room. “Hello Mr. Damocles. Have you seen the news? Yes, we have a huge crowd of journalists outside and I don’t think it would be safe for them to leave. I don’t even know if Adrien is aware of what has happened yet. Yes… perhaps tomorrow. I think today will be too difficult. All right… thank you… goodbye.” She put the phone away as she reached Marinette’s trap door and knocked on it. “It’s just me,” she called and Adrien opened it dressed in a t-shirt and jeans.

“Are we running late?” he asked anxiously, his expression tired and sad.

“You’re fine sweetheart,” she reassured him. “I saw the crowd outside so I checked the news. I’m so sorry Adrien. And I’m even more sorry that you had to be directly involved in that.”

“There wasn’t really any way around it,” he said quietly. “I’m not going to lie. It was the worst thing I’ve ever experienced. Somehow… it was even worse than Mother disappearing. Maybe because… I watched it happen right in front of me.” He closed his eyes for a moment, his face briefly crumpling as he tried to stay composed.

“I’m so sorry dear,” she murmured. “I called Mr. Damocles and said you are both staying home today. I told him it wouldn’t be safe for you to try and get through the crowd and he agreed.”

“Really?” Adrien asked, looking very relieved. “Thank you so much Sabine.”

“I’m just glad I can help in any way,” Sabine assured him. “Text Gorilla and let him know you’re staying in and then try and get some rest. I’m going back down to the bakery. Text me if you need anything.”

****

“Since we’re not in a hurry anymore, I’m going to go take a shower,” Adrien told Marinette.

“Ok,” she replied softly. “Is there anything I can do for you?”

“I don’t know,” he said after a pause. “Could you just… sit with me? I don’t… I don’t want to be alone.”

“Of course,” she agreed. “And after that, maybe we can put on our onesies and go watch movies downstairs. Does that sound ok?”

“Yeah, that’s a good idea,” he said, managing a small smile.

Marinette found their onesies and followed Adrien into the bathroom. She turned the shower on, holding her hand in the water until it was warm.

“Thank you,” he said quietly as he got undressed and stepped into the shower. “I can tell you are really trying to help. I don’t know what I need right now. Everything hurts. But it is very comforting having you here.”

“I know you’re hurting a lot and… it’s not something I can fix,” she replied as she changed into her onesie and sat on the floor.

“That’s just it. You did fix it. We both did. But the fix hurts and it isn’t because of anything we did. The consequences to my father hurt me more than I could have imagined. I can’t just stop him being my father because he hurt me and disappointed me. He is who he is and he’s done what he’s done but… he’s still my father,” Adrien replied.

“You’re right and maybe part of why it hurts is knowing that he’s feeling the things you wish he had… months ago… years ago,” Marinette said.

“Yeah,” Adrien’s voice cracked and he sat down in the tub. “The waste of it Bug… he’s the adult… he was supposed to do the right things…” he buried his face in his arms, the water showering down on him. “We had to do the right things for him,” he sobbed. “That isn’t… it isn’t supposed to… it shouldn’t be our job… and I have to be responsible… I have to do things that… hurt me… that I don’t want... “ his words disintegrated as he became completely overcome by his grief.

Marinette wasted no time stripping off and getting in the shower with him. She knelt behind him and hesitantly rested her hands on his shoulders.

“I’m sorry,” he cried, his shoulders shaking.

“You don’t need to apologize,” she said gently, wrapping her arms around him. “You are allowed to feel this way. You won’t be alone unless you want to be. I’ll be right here whenever you need me.”

They sat together in the shower, Adrien hugging his knees, his face still buried in his arms. Marinette held him silently, feeling his body shaking with sobs against hers. She couldn’t think of anything but making him feel safe and loved but all she had to offer him in that moment was the comfort of her body against his, her cheek pressed against him, just above his shoulder blades. Eventually she could feel the shaking subside as he took several deep breaths.

“I think I’m ready to get out,” he said hoarsely, lifting his face and letting the shower wash his tears away.

“Ok,” she replied, letting him go and taking a towel she had put nearby. She stepped out and wrapped it around herself before taking out another towel for Adrien.

“Thanks,” he said quietly as he took it from her and dried himself off. “You didn’t have to get in with me but… I’m glad you did.”

“Good,” she replied as she got dressed again in her onesie. “I didn’t know what else I could do but hold you.”

“It helped a lot,” he assured her as he put his own onesie on.

*****

“You two look very cozy,” Sabine said, smiling as she came into the living area and saw them curled up together watching a movie on the couch. “What are you watching?”

“Some random anime on Netflix,” Adrien replied, kissing the top of Marinette’s head.

“Would you like some hot chocolate?” she asked.

“I’d love some,” Marinette answered.

“Me too. Thanks Sabine,” Adrien added as his phone chimed with a text. “It’s Celine. Do you mind if I give her a call?”

“Go ahead,” Marinette replied, pausing the movie.

Adrien hit ‘Call’ on his phone and then the speaker option as soon as Celine picked up. “Hey,” he said as soon as she answered. “I put you on speaker. I’m just sitting at home with Marinette. Sabine is here too. She’s making hot chocolate.”

“Hi! I thought you’d be at school but I wanted to let you know I was thinking of you,” Celine answered.

“We’re staying home today. I’ve been feeling… not great… and there are lots of journalists outside apparently,” Adrien told her. “Maybe tomorrow will be better.”

“Hey Celine,” Marinette said as she leaned back against Adrien’s chest.

“Hey Doll, I’m glad you are staying home too.”

“I didn’t want to leave Adrien on his own,” she said, stroking his hand as he squeezed her gently to him.”

“I was wondering if I could meet up with you Saturday morning,” Adrien said. “Marinette will be helping in the bakery so it would just be me.”

“I’d love to!” she exclaimed. “I can come over if it's difficult for you to get out.”

“It doesn’t matter either way,” he said. “I’ve got to go out a few times before then anyway.”

“If she comes here, she can stay for lunch,” Sabine called.

Celine laughed. “In that case, I’ll definitely come over.”

“Great,” Adrien replied. “Are you at work? Is everything ok?”

“I am,” Celine answered. “I promise I’ll tell you everything that’s been happening here when I come over.”

“Ok, I’ll see you then,” Adrien said.

“Definitely. I’m glad you are taking it easy today. Bye Babe.”

“Bye Sis,” Adrien said, smiling slightly as he hung up.

“Are you… worried about your father’s company?” Sabine asked as she brought over mugs of hot chocolate for both of them.

“Yeah,” Adrien admitted. “Before Marinette’s internship, I’m not sure I would have cared as much but… over the last few months, I’ve come to appreciate what he built and all the people that have been making things work even as he retreated. And now… I want it to survive. I don’t know what it will be without him but the idea of all these people who made Marinette so welcome and looked out for me however they could… scattering to different places and probably never working together again… it would be an awful loss and I’ve seen enough of that already. I don’t want this to be… another casualty of Father’s terrible choices.”

“It’s amazing to me... and really quite wonderful that you can discern the things that are connected to your father from your father himself,” Sabine said. “Many people would rather burn it all down if they were in your shoes.”

“You have to be careful about what you choose to destroy,” Adrien replied. “It’s important to evaluate what needs to change and what doesn’t. I could literally go over there right now transformed and take the whole thing down but it wouldn’t solve anything. I guess I’ve always grasped that to some extent but it’s a lesson I’ve learned over and over for the past few years.”

“It’s probably the most important thing about being Chat Noir,” Marinette explained. “If you’re going to hand the power of pure destruction over to someone, they have to possess the character to wield it carefully and thoughtfully.”

Adrien sighed. “If anyone understands the power of careless or neglectful destruction, I guess it’s me. Right now I feel like I am at the epicenter of my Father’s and it’s so painful. I know this feeling will pass but right now it feels like it’s all around me and if I were on my own, I don’t know…” he trailed off, taking a sip of his drink and focusing on its comforting warmth. “I’m just so thankful to be here because even if nothing can take the pain away right now, feeling cared for takes away some of its intensity.”

Sabine kneeled down next to him, reaching over to stroke his hair away from his face. “I promise you dear… this will get better and none of us are going anywhere. If you need anything, just ask and we’ll all do our best to help you.”

Chapter Text

“Adrien? Mimi’s here!” Sabine called into Marinette’s room on Friday morning.

“What?” Adrien said in confusion as he finished buttoning his shirt. He quickly went over to lift the trap door. “Did you say Mimi is here, Sabine?”

“That’s right. She wondered if you wanted her to cut your hair since you have court this afternoon,” Sabine told him.

“Definitely,” he answered. “Tell her I’ll be right down.”

“She won’t take so long this time will she?” Marinette asked apprehensively as they grabbed their things.

“Nah, she’s been maintaining it for awhile now. It’ll only take her a few minutes,” he said.

“It is getting kind of scruffy,” Marinette said, reaching up to ruffle his hair playfully.

“I’m sure that helped,” he replied teasingly.

Marinette laughed. “I might as well mess it up if Mimi is going to fix it anyway.”

*****

“Hi Marinette! Hi Adrien!” Mimi greeted them cheerfully. “Sorry to just drop by but I was texting Celine last night and she mentioned you had court today, Adrien. What with… everything I’m at least a week behind schedule on upkeep so I thought I’d just stop by on my way to work. I’ve got everything set up. Why don’t you take a seat?”

“Sure,” Adrien replied. “Thanks so much. This is really nice of you.”

“It’s my pleasure,” Mimi said as she draped a cape over him and got to work.

“How’d you get all that stuff here?” Marinette asked.

“Gorilla gave me a lift,” Mimi replied. “Celine gave me his number. I definitely needed a driver to cart all this over.”

“Do you keep all of it where you live?” Marinette asked curiously.

“Yeah, I have this portable workstation and chair that I keep for emergencies,” Mimi laughed. “Sometimes there isn’t time to go to the office and then back out again. I was certainly glad I had it after I talked to Celine.”

“Me too,” Adrien agreed. “I’m sorry I haven’t been in to see you.”

“Don’t be,” Mimi assured him. “I know things have been hell for you. I wouldn’t expect you to be dropping in to visit at Gabriel of all places.”

“I’m sure the press would love that,” Adrien said dryly. “I do want to see everyone. It’s just… everything is so emotional right now. It’s exhausting.”

“I’m sure it is,” Mimi said as she worked some pomade into his hair and styled it. “There! You’re all set. Marinette, I can’t help but notice your bangs are in your eyes. Do you want a turn?”

“Sure!” Marinette replied. “I have just been letting my hair do its thing but it is getting kind of annoying.”

“Hop up!” Mimi invited her brightly as she took the cape from Adrien and put it on Marinette. “Normally I wouldn't use the cape on two clients but I don’t suppose you mind.”

“Nope,” Marinette agreed as Mimi misted her bangs and carefully trimmed them.

“There,” Mimi said, looking satisfied. “If you have time, I can even out the back too.”

Adrien looked at his phone. “If you can manage that in less than ten minutes,” he told her with a wink.

“Challenge accepted!” Mimi replied, giggling as she misted the rest of Marinette’s hair and combed it out. “Goodness, your hair must grow fast.”

“I guess so,” Marinette said. “It’s been awhile since I’ve let it grow out like this.”

“It suits you,” Mimi said as she carefully trimmed the ends. “I’m not going to take off much length, I promise.”

“Thanks Mimi, this is really sweet of you,” Marinette told her gratefully.

“It’s no problem,” Mimi assured her. “In fact, you are always welcome to come along with Adrien. It is absolutely no trouble to do quick stuff like this. There. All done!”

“Thank you for coming over,” Adrien said, giving Mimi a hug. “Tell everyone I said hello and that I’m thinking of them.”

“Aww,” Mimi said, her expression softening. “I know everyone there is thinking of you too.”

*****

“Ready to run?” Adrien asked Marinette with a grin as they went into the bakery. “I see Gorilla has cleared a path.”

Sabine shook her head. “These journalists,” she sighed. “They know they aren’t supposed to block the doorway. I don’t know how many times I have to tell them.”

“Looks like Lieutenant Raincomprix is reminding them,” Marinette laughed as she saw the officer approaching the group, his ticket pad in hand. “We should go now while he has their attention. We’ll see you later Maman.”

“Have a good day. I’ll see you both later,” she replied, smiling as she saw them instinctively reach for each other’s hands as they ran out the door.

Lieutenant Raincomprix was loudly lecturing the journalists as Marinette and Adrien hastily left the bakery with Gorilla. They walked quickly toward the school grounds and didn’t pause or even speak until they reached the front door.

“Thank you Gorilla,” Adrien said as his bodyguard held the door open for the two of them. “This must be getting old for you as well.”

“I don’t mind,” Gorilla said with a shrug. “It’s what I’m here for after all. I’ll see you both at lunch time.”

Adrien nodded in acknowledgement as they walked past, dropping Marinette’s hand and putting his arm around her as they headed toward the locker rooms.

“Hey man, you’re looking sharp,” Nino said as they came in and started putting their things away.

“Thanks Nino,” Adrien grinned. “Wardrobe by Marinette today. I’ve got a hearing after school for this emancipation thing.” His phone chimed and he fished around in his bag until he found it. He read the message he had just received and sighed in resignation. “Well, that was my lawyer. Father is definitely going to be there.”

“I’m sorry dude,” Nino said sympathetically. “I’m sure that’s the last thing you wanted.”

“Yeah,” Adrien admitted as they left the locker room and made their way to the classroom. “I had a feeling that would happen since he’s in Paris now. That’s why I didn’t want to wear anything from Gabriel.”

“Ouch. Do you think your Pops will notice?” Nino asked curiously.

“Absolutely,” Adrien said with certainty. “That’s the point. I want him to understand he has no hold on me. I don’t have to do anything for him or meet any of his expectations.”

“Damn, you must be so pissed off with him,” Nino replied. “Which is entirely understandable.”

“All the anger got knocked out of me earlier this week,” Adrien said ruefully. “Now it’s just pure pain. I’m sure it’ll come back though. All part of the grieving process apparently.”

“Yeah, it sucks man. You shouldn’t have to go through all this but I guess you don’t have much of a choice,” Nino told him as he opened the door to the classroom for them. “If Marinette is helping at the bakery, I could come over and keep you company this weekend.”

“That would be awesome actually,” Adrien replied. “Celine is coming over tomorrow but Sunday morning is free.”

“Cool. Marinette, you should tell your Papa to make me some chocolate chip cookies,” Nino said with a cheeky wink.

Marinette giggled. “Of course,” she agreed.

*****

“I guess I’m ready for another round of trauma,” Adrien said as he led Marinette to the car. “Still, it’ll be worth it if it means I can get my own place. I’m glad to have this time with you but I’m acutely aware that neither of us is getting much time to ourselves.”

“I know,” Marinette agreed. “And most of your stuff is somewhere you don’t want to be.”

“I do kind of miss my computer,” he admitted. “But I’m dreading not falling asleep with you every night.”

“It won’t be every night,” Marinette conceded as they climbed into the car and buckled up. “But it can be lots of nights, especially with school breaking up in a little over a month.”

“Yeah,” Adrien replied. “No matter what happens today, I don’t intend to go anywhere until school ends. I don’t know how long it will take to find a place but I can’t imagine it would be that quick. I haven’t even started researching it yet.”

“I have no idea but that seems like it would take some time,” Marinette agreed. “Hey, there’s my Maman.” They watched as Gorilla lowered his window.

“Sorry to keep you waiting,” she said. “Adrien’s lawyer called and said one of his legal guardians should be at the hearing so here I am!”

“Don’t worry about it Sabine,” Gorilla said. “We’ve still got plenty of time to get there.”

“I’ll get the door,” Adrien added, leaning over to open it from inside.

“Thank you dear,” Sabine said as she got in. “How are you feeling?”

“Nervous,” Adrien admitted. “Father is going to be there. I thought he probably would but… I haven’t spoken to him since the argument.”

“You don’t have to speak to him if you don’t want to,” Marinette said, taking his hand and squeezing it gently.

“I know… I can’t decide which would feel worse--ignoring him or talking to him,” Adrien replied.

“I’m sure there are many conflicting emotions that you are going through,” Sabine said. “Maybe the choice will seem clearer when you see him.”

“I hope so,” he sighed.

Sabine smiled at him affectionately and said something quietly in Mandarin. Adrien listened carefully before replying back and she patted his knee. Marinette leaned against him, lacing her fingers through his as they rode the rest of the way in silence. It didn’t take long before they arrived at the courthouse which was mercifully devoid of a media presence outside.

“I guess they managed to keep this hearing quiet,” Adrien said, looking relieved. “There’s Sacha.”

Gorilla quickly got out of the car to open the door for them. Sabine climbed out first, followed by Adrien and then Marinette.

“Hello,” Sacha greeted them. “It’s good to see you again, Mrs. Cheng. Thank you for joining us. The judge was making noises that she’d like to finalize this today so I wanted to make sure we had everyone we needed for signatures. Adrien, did you remember your ID?”

“Yeah,” Adrien replied, pulling his passport out of his bag for a moment.

“Great, let’s head inside,” Sacha said, shepherding them into the building and towards the courtroom that would be hosting the hearing.

“I almost forgot,” Marinette said, pulling a folded piece of light green silk from her bag. “I made you this.”

“Wow, thanks Princess!” Adrien managed a small, nervous smile as he unfolded the tie and quickly put it on. “This is really nice.”

“I’m glad you like it,” she murmured, taking his hand again.

As they entered the room, Marinette instantly recognized Gabriel sitting with his lawyer. She could tell that Adrien had also seen his father because his grip on her hand became much tighter.

“Gorgeous,” she murmured quietly, swinging their hands slightly to get his attention.

“Oh, sorry,” he whispered, loosening his grip. “I didn’t hurt you did I?”

“It’s going to be ok,” she reassured him quietly, leaning up to kiss his cheek. “I think your lawyer needs you to sit up front with him. I’ll sit right behind you.”

Adrien nodded as he reluctantly let go of her hand and went to join Sacha. Marinette and Sabine sat just behind them, each of them casting surreptitious looks at Gabriel who was openly staring at Adrien, his expression a mixture of remorse and hope. Adrien steadfastly kept his eyes focused on the judge’s podium in front of him, desperately wishing she would show up so they could get this over with. He was very relieved when a woman came in, dressed in a black robe with a white scarf at her collar. She sat down, calling the session to order almost immediately.

Marinette found herself unable to focus on anything the judge was saying. She looked at Adrien and could instantly see how anxious he was feeling from his posture. Periodically, she could see him taking deep breaths and she knew he must be drawing on the calm energy over and over again. At one point, she glanced over at Gabriel and their eyes met. Startled, she looked down at her hands as a flood of thoughts rushed through her mind. He seemed genuinely remorseful so why was he being so reticent about Nathalie? What had he told her to do if he ever got caught or had they even discussed it? And why had he carried out his campaign of terror for so long? It seemed likely that it had something to do with his wife. She shivered as she tried to think of less gruesome possibilities about where Adrien’s mother could be other than buried someplace where no one could find her. She snapped out of her daze as Sabine got up and went to sign something. She could see the judge discussing whatever was happening with Adrien and Gabriel’s lawyers. She turned her gaze back to Adrien who was now sitting by himself, massaging his temples as he stared down at the desk.

Eventually the flurry of papers being signed ceased and the judge brought out a document and signed it.

“All right Mr. Agreste,” she said, looking at Adrien. “I’m satisfied with the documentation that has been provided and all the necessary forms have been signed and filed. I’m presenting you with this document which is an emancipation order. You can provide this as proof of your status when you enter any legal contracts. Please keep it safe.”

“Thank you Madame la Présidente,” he said quietly as he stood up and went to take the document from her.

“You are welcome. Court is adjourned,” she said, getting up and leaving the room.

“Adrien,” Gabriel called as the lawyers started packing their things away.

Adrien sighed in resignation and took in another deep breath before finally looking over at his Father. He was momentarily taken aback by the almost hungry look on Gabriel’s face. A twinge of pity pinged at his heart and he looked over at Marinette.

“Will you come with me?” he asked.

“Of course,” she replied, reaching out to take his hand. Sabine lightly touched his shoulder and gave him an encouraging smile.

“Adrien,” Gabriel said again, much more softly as he watched his son approaching him.

“Hello Father,” Adrien replied, suddenly aware that he was squeezing Marinette’s hand too hard again and opting to slip his arm around her waist instead. He searched for anything else he could possibly say and was immediately thankful when Gabriel began speaking instead.

“I know this is going to sound… empty after everything but son, I am so sorry. I hope that by… letting you go free, I’ll have given you some chance at happiness. I know over the past few years, I’ve done far too much to prevent you from experiencing any of that.”

Adrien sighed and closed his eyes for a moment, the entire situation feeling overwhelming to him. “I don’t… I don’t know what you want me to say,” he finally said.

“I don’t expect you to say anything, son. I’ve expected far too much for far too long and my expectations of you are a resource that is a long way past exhaustion,” Gabriel replied as he drank in every detail. “I… don’t recognize what you’re wearing.”

“It’s all Marinette,” Adrien replied, holding her close. “Well, not the shoes or the belt. They’re from Sandro.”

Gabriel nodded wearily. “You are a gift, Marinette. A gift that I squandered. I wish there was some way that I could explain but… there is no justification for any of it. I fought my son’s attachment to you when I should have embraced it. I could have given you so much more and instead I made you suffer… and you had so much to give in return. I should have been thanking you but I was looking at everything all wrong. I was full of resentment and I kept making the choice to wallow in negative emotions. My desperation and grief colored every choice and I refused to let those feelings go.”

“Thank you for saying that,” Marinette replied softly. “I wanted so much to have your approval and welcome. Things would have been so different.”

“I know,” Gabriel said, sighing deeply. “For what it’s worth, I think you are incredibly talented and everything I see on Adrien is beautifully made. You have a bright future ahead of you.”

“Thank you,” Marinette said again.

“Mr. Blanchet, would it be possible to quickly discuss… what we met about before?” Gabriel asked his lawyer.

Mr. Blanchet looked at the police officer sitting next to his client and he nodded. “We can do that. Please go ahead.”

“Adrien,” Gabriel said, turning his attention once more to his son. “I don’t know how to say this but… my company will not survive if it stays tied to me. You don’t have to decide anything right now but… I’d like to transfer it to you. I don’t… I don’t expect you to take over. You probably know as well as I that there are many capable people there. I hope… I hope you will keep it in your family… even if you choose to have a purely symbolic role… or whatever role you want. I just… I built it to be something I was proud of… often at the expense of everything else. I do not want to see it destroyed because of me.”

“I… I’ll think about it,” Adrien said after a few moments. “I promise… I promise I really will consider it.”

“That’s all I ask,” Gabriel said. “Thank you, son. You’d have every right to treat me with contempt. It’s no more than I deserve. I appreciate your consideration.”

Adrien shrugged, feeling at a loss for words. “I’m… I’m going to leave now,” he said. “Goodbye Father.”

“Goodbye Adrien,” Gabriel said, watching as he turned and walked away, Marinette close by his side.

Chapter Text

“Hi Celine!” Marinette greeted her cheerfully as she came into the bakery.

“Hey Doll!” Celine exclaimed, giving her a hug. “It’s nice to see you! How are you holding up?”

“I’m ok,” Marinette replied as Sabine put together a tray of coffee and some pastries. “I’m glad you’re here to visit with Adrien. I don’t really like leaving him by himself at the moment.”

“I’m happy to be here,” Celine assured her. “I know it hasn’t actually been that long but I miss both of you!”

“Believe me, the last few weeks have been very long,” Marinette replied.

“I can’t even imagine,” Celine said, sympathetically.

“Here you are Celine,” Sabine said. “In fact, Marinette why don’t you take the tray up?”

“Sure,” Marinette agreed. “You can open doors for me Celine.”

*****

“Hey Gorgeous,” Marinette said, smiling as she sat the tray down on the table. She went over to where Adrien was sitting on the couch. “Maman made you both some coffee and there are some pastries. I’m going to go back downstairs.”

“Thanks Princess,” Adrien said, smiling as she leaned over and kissed his cheek. “Hey Celine, it’s good to see you!”

“It’s good to see you too!” Celine exclaimed, smiling at Marinette as she left. “I’ve been worried about you and wondering how you’ve been coping with so much… trauma.”

“I’m doing ok,” Adrien said as he got up and sat at the table before helping himself to a croissant and some coffee. “I went to a therapist for the first time ever on Wednesday. I think that’s going to help a lot actually.”

“I’m glad to hear it,” Celine replied as she joined him at the table. “You’ve had way too much to deal with. I can’t imagine what it must have been like to see your father unmasked.”

Adrien started for a moment. “Um, yeah… it was…,” he trailed off, instinctively reaching to cover his ring. “I forgot Marinette told you about that.”

Celine looked at him for a long moment. “Oh my god,” she murmured, her face turning pale. “Oh my god.”

“What is it?” Adrien asked anxiously. “Celine, are you alright?”

“You’re… you’re Chat Noir, aren’t you?” she whispered. “Oh my god and Marinette… shit…” Celine’s face grew even paler. “She’s Ladybug isn’t she?”

Adrien gazed at her steadily. “And if I say no?”

Celine laughed weakly. “That’s bullshit, Adrien. Oh my god… those earrings she always wears.”

“How the hell… how did you just… figure all this out?” Adrien asked, looking worried. “Is it really that obvious?”

“Oh Adrien,” Celine said, her voice breaking. “No...no of course not. It never even occurred to me for the longest time but… when Marinette said you were both at the temple and I knew Alya and Nino were staying and they broke the story the next morning and… the thought entered my mind and now… I can just see it. I know you too well. I know Marinette too well and I know you as a couple…”

“Well fuck,” Adrien managed a small laugh. “I’m not sure what Marinette is going to make of this. First we find out her parents had suspected pretty much since we got together and now you. Plus Alya and Nino did find out that night. I guess there is only so long you can keep a secret from the people closest to you which tells you a lot about my relationship with my father. That is just as well. I would rather avoid that at all costs. Based on the things Marinette has dealt with, I think that would have been very bad and even now, I would never want him to know that.”

“What Marinette has had to deal with?” Celine asked.

“That’s really her story to tell… if she wants to. I have no memory of it because it happened in a future that she had to prevent from happening.”

“Marinette has… travelled in time?” Celnie asked, looking completely flummoxed.

“Marinette has done so many things you can’t even imagine,” Adrien told her softly. “But… and I can’t emphasize this enough. You cannot say anything to anyone. Even saying you knew who we were without saying our names could put you in so much danger, especially with Mayura still on the loose.”

“Of course Adrien. I wouldn’t dream of it,” Celine assured him. “So your father… did you suspect him?”

“We did… and it became clearer and clearer over the past few months. But I don’t know where he was doing it. I mean, maybe that’s why he keeps his bedroom locked. I don’t know. I’m not sure it matters to me anymore,” Adrien replied.

“It must have been awful… witnessing all of that… working to defeat him even as you knew who he probably was,” she said softly.

“It was awful… it still is awful. Unmasking him… was much worse than I could have imagined and… escorting him to Paris… that was excruciating,” he replied.

Celine reached over and touched his hand. “I just can’t believe I’m having this conversation with you Babe. It certainly does explain why things with Marinette seemed to happen so quickly.”

“You’ve heard her talk about her crush on me when we first met,” Adrien replied. “I was so in love with Ladybug. That’s part of why I didn’t notice. So we were just… circling each other without even knowing it.”

“Wow,” Celine breathed. “You know… I was going to ask what happened at your hearing yesterday but now… I’m just completely lost for words.”

Adrien grinned. “Well, I got an emancipation order so next week I’ll start getting everything transferred to my name. Also, I have something else I wanted to tell you in confidence.”

“Go ahead,” Celine laughed. “I’m not sure it’ll be quite as shocking after what we’ve been talking about.”

“Father wants to… transfer ownership of Gabriel to me,” Adrien told her.

“What?!” she exclaimed. “Ok, I was wrong. That is also… yeah…”

“Welcome to my extremely abnormal life,” Adrien replied ruefully. “I was surprised but also… he said the company couldn’t survive being linked to him and he’s right. I don’t want it to fail so… I am seriously considering taking him up on it. I wouldn’t assume his role obviously but I want it to have a future. Even now, I keep thinking about how Marinette and I were meant to be doing stuff for Helios this month and maybe it’s too late. The fact is, I care about the company even if it is difficult to explain why.”

“Well I think you should talk to your lawyer before you do anything,” Celine said. “And you should talk to some of the senior people at Gabriel after you’ve done that.”

“I’m talking to one of them right now,” Adrien said, grinning at her.

“I guess you are,” Celine replied. “I don’t want to influence your decision at all. I want you to talk to your lawyer about the potential liabilities. You’re only seventeen and you already have so much responsibility.”

“I know,” Adrien sighed. “I just want to do the right thing… for me… for Marinette… and for everyone who has looked out for me.”

“It’s ok to prioritize yourself and Marinette,” Celine said. “But you don’t need to worry about… just don’t make any decisions until you’ve talked to more people.”

“I won’t,” Adrien promised. “It’s not a decision I’ll be making lightly, believe me.”

“Good,” Celine replied. “So with the emancipation thing, are you going to get your own place?”

“Yeah, I’ll probably start researching that tonight,” Adrien replied. “I’ll stay here until school is out at the very least but there’s only a little over a month left of that anyway.”

“So how long before Marinette moves in with you?” she asked teasingly.

“Not for awhile,” Adrien replied, blushing slightly. “At the end of school next year maybe. She’s promised to stay over a lot in the meantime so hopefully I won’t end up missing her too badly.”

Celine giggled mischievously. “I’m sure you’ll make the most of the time you get, right?”

“Damn Celine, what are you trying to say?” Adrien asked, looking even more flustered.

“Sorry Babe,” she said with a knowing grin. “That’s the problem with knowing both you and Marinette I guess.”

“Why? What did she tell you?” Adrien asked.

“Now, now, if she told me anything, I wouldn’t tell you,” Celine chided him playfully. “But you may remember that I had lunch with her and Sabine after her doctor appointment.”

“Oooh,” Adrien sat back in his chair. “Of course. I forgot about that. Not about the doctor thing obviously but that… that was when you had lunch with her.”

Obviously,” Celine laughed, her eyes dancing. “How could you possibly forget that?”

Adrien groaned and put his head in his hands. “How much more are you going to tease me about this, Sis?” he asked plaintively.

“Only a little more,” she assured him. “I just don’t understand how you’re waiting… for goodness sake, how long have you known each other’s identities?”

“As long as we’ve been together so… about eight months or so,” he confessed. “I actually met Marinette to begin with the day after I met Ladybug. And I had fallen for Ladybug almost instantly so that’s where my head was when I met Marinette. But I really wanted to be friends with her. Even though Chloe, the only person I knew at school, clearly hated her and Marinette didn’t like her either. I didn’t care. I just felt drawn to know her but.. I never really asked myself why. Pretty stupid I guess.”

“Not stupid at all,” Celine said quietly. “I mean, who doesn’t love Ladybug? She’s incredible, she’s been your partner this whole time… and she’s Marinette.”

“I know,” Adrien said quietly. “Marinette is… my hero and I’ve always been her biggest fan even when I didn’t realize it was her. I made a fool of myself regularly trying to earn her love when I only knew her as Ladybug and she kept telling me she loved someone else.”

“Which ended up being you,” Celine laughed. “I repeat, what are you two waiting for anyway? I know… not my business but… I just don’t understand the willpower you must both have.”

“Well,” Adrien replied. “We can partially blame our Miraculouses for that. Do you really… want to know all this stuff?”

“If you want to tell me, of course I’m interested,” Celine replied. “I promise it goes no further and you aren’t obligated to tell me anything. But if you want to share this… really extraordinary thing about yourself with me well.. I’m honored that you’ve trusted me this far.”

“How could I not trust you?!” Adrien exclaimed. “You’ve risked your career at Gabriel protecting me from my father. You have no idea how grateful I am to you for that.”

“I’m just glad I was able to help you,” Celine replied. “Speaking of that, you might have to stop by at some point. My roommates miss you and they are also bugging me about meeting Marinette.”

“Definitely,” Adrien laughed. “It’ll be nice to visit without a giant bruise on my face.”

“So tell me more about your… Miraculous. It’s that ring you always wear, isn’t it? What did you do for the fashion show?”

“Marinette kept it in her bag,” Adrien explained. “She had her earrings pinned on her tights just under her waistband. I was just glad nothing happened… well not until much later that night which brings me to the reason we are waiting.”

“I’m listening,” Celine replied, taking a sip of her coffee and looking at him avidly.

“We got a little… carried away after the show and we have this energy thing that… and this is going to sound a little strange but it… charges up Ladybug and when we aren’t transformed, it charges up her Kwami although not nearly as much. So if things get a little… intense, her Kwami flies off. That’s what happened after the fashion show and then we were interrupted by an akuma alert and Marinette had to wait for her Kwami to come back while I went ahead. Fortunately it was just Chloe being a pain in the ass and not one of the more dangerous akumas we’ve had to deal with. Right now, with Mayura still on the loose, we can’t risk that happening. I was hoping we’d get them both at the temple but… she wasn’t with Hawk Moth.”

“So the energy thing… isn’t that kind of distracting?” Celine asked.

“Kind of… but it also feels nice,” Adrien replied. I don’t find it as distracting as I used to because it is way less overwhelming than it tends to be when we’re transformed. It’s what we used to take down Hawk Moth and we’re keeping it quiet until we get Mayura. The less she knows about it, the better.”

“Can I ask, what does it do?” Celine said, looking curiously at him.

“It’s purifying… like the energy Ladybug used on the akuma butterflies to release them from Hawk Moth’s control.”

“Wow,” Celine said. “Well no wonder what you have with Marinette is so special.”

“That’s right,” Adrien replied softly. “We were chosen because we form a perfect partnership. Which means we’re soulmates.”

“That’s… amazing,” Celine murmured. “I always had a feeling that you two were… for keeps. Now I know why.”

“Yep, you should have seen Tom’s face when I told him all this. He looked like all his Christmases had come at once,” Adrien told her, laughing quietly at the memory. “So enough about me… how’s it going with Henri?”

Celine laughed. “I see what you did there,” she teased him.

“Yeah, I don’t want to talk about myself anymore. Also, I do genuinely want to know.”

“It’s going… well I think,” Celine replied. “You’ll have to forgive me for sounding cagey and suspicious. It’s because I am cagey and suspicious. Not Henri’s fault… all to do with his predecessors. Luckily for me, he’s being very patient while I slowly warm up to the idea that he might actually be trustworthy.”

“Sounds promising to me,” Adrien replied with a grin. “Have you managed to spend more time together?”

“Yeah, it’s a little more each week,” Celine admitted. “I like him, he likes me. We’ll see what happens. He wants to meet you by the way.”

“Anytime,” Adrien assured her. “I’m certainly curious about him.”

“We’ll have to work something out then,” Celine promised as she reached down for her bag. “Now in my role as overbearing big sister which might I say, I really enjoy, I have something for you.” She placed a neatly wrapped parcel on the table.

“Looks like a book,” Adrien observed.

“It is a book,” she grinned mischievously. “Open it now and we’ll both be cringing for a long time.”

“O….k,” Adrien replied, looking at her suspiciously. “I’m going to use my powers of deduction and conclude I should look at this when I’m on my own then.”

“That’s the idea,” Celine said, winking at him.

“Well, I’m going to go put this in my bag then. It’s not long before they close for lunch,” Adrien said, picking up the package. “Say,” he paused before leaving the room. “Please tell me this isn’t porn.”

Celine threw back her head and laughed. “No Babe. Like I’d get you a book of that when there’s a perfectly good Internet.”

“Well, I can never tell with you, Sis,” Adrien replied. “It might be some of that scary antique shit.”

“Excuse me?” Celine started laughing harder. “Do tell, little bro. Did one of your posh fencing friends bring some of that to a match? ‘Oh look at what I found in mon père’s library, isn’t it fascinating?’”

“Ha, ha,” Adrien said, rolling his eyes. “You know what flea markets are like in this city. My mother used to take me shopping at those and I came across this… book shoved in a pile of anime comics so I opened it… and I’m pretty sure it scarred me for life.”

“Oh god,” Celine gasped. “That is both terrible and fantastic. How old were you Babe?”

“Eleven,” Adrien said, shaking his head. “The worst part is my mother was right there and we ended up having a rather embarrassing conversation in the car on the way home. Although now, I guess I appreciate that more than I did at the time. Anyway, I’ll be right back, Sis.”

“Sure,” she nodded, wiping her eyes. “Scary antique porn… now I know what I’m getting you for your eighteenth.”

*****

“Hey you two!” Marinette greeted them cheerfully as she came into the living area.

“Hey doll,” Celine said with a grin. “Come sit with us.”

“Ok,” Marinette replied, looking suspiciously at Adrien whose expression was suddenly rather nervous. “What’s up Gorgeous?”

“Celine… figured it out,” he said, smiling ruefully at her. “Sorry, bug.”

Marinette’s eyes widened as she understood. “How?” she asked, sitting next to him.

“Lots of things just added up,” Celine told her. “You told me you went to the temple and saw the battle but I knew Alya and Nino were staying over that night and she wakes up for akuma alerts all the time so she must be a pretty light sleeper. Also, she posted that video with the announcement so early and… I noticed Adrien’s ring for the zillionth time and I remembered your earrings and… just when you’re together and your guard is down… basically getting to know you very well. Sorry Doll.”

“It’s ok,” Marinette said slowly. “I’m sure Adrien explained how important it is to keep it a secret. I hope this isn’t going to keep happening but Master Liu did say… that the people closest to us might figure it out.”

“I absolutely understand Doll… and I’ll never breathe a word to anyone. I just… the more I think about it… I can’t believe all the things you’ve had to juggle… and you didn’t even know each other’s identities for so long.”

“It certainly helped once we learned that,” Marinette admitted. “I was really scared about it but… I knew it was the right thing to do and I’ve never regretted it.”

“Well, I hope you catch Mayura soon. I’ve heard some rumours that it's Nathalie. Is that right?” Celine asked.

“Probably,” Adrien sighed. “I am worried about what she might be capable of. I know it’s extremely wearing to create those sentimonsters but… she’s been pretty vicious in the past and I used to think it was probably all Hawk Moth’s idea but now… I’m not so sure. And I don’t know how desperate she is.”

“Those are all very important things to consider,” Marinette agreed, smiling as he wrapped an arm around her and squeezed her close.

Celine looked at them both affectionately. “I can’t believe I'm the honorary big sister of the two heroes of Paris.”

“Just don’t go putting that on a t-shirt,” Adrien said with a wink.

Celine laughed. “Don’t worry. Your secret's safe with me.”

Chapter Text

“Hey Marinette,” Nino said as he walked into the bakery on Sunday morning. “How’s it going?”

“Good,” she smiled as she pulled a large paper bag out from behind the counter. “I was busy this morning.”

Nino peered into the bag when she handed it to him and gasped with delight. “Wow, how many cookies are in here?”

“Several dozen,” she answered, grinning. “Take whatever you don’t eat home. I’ll get you some coffee too if you want.”

“Yes please,” Nino grinned. “Clearly I need to visit more often.”

“You’re always welcome dear,” Sabine said as she passed Marinette some mugs. “I’m sure Adrien will be glad to have some company.”

“It’s kind of weird getting to hang out without having to be sneaky about it,” Nino confessed.

“I don’t think you’ll ever have to worry about that again,” Marinette told him. “I can take your coffee if you open doors for me.”

“Sounds good,” Nino agreed. “See you later Sabine.”

****

“Thanks Princess,” Adrien said as he accepted his mug from Marinette. “Two days in a row of you bringing me snacks. I’m starting to feel a little guilty.”

“Don’t,” she replied with a grin before kissing him softly. “I appreciate having an excuse to come up here and see you. I’ll be back up at lunch. Nino are you staying?”

“Sure,” Nino replied. “I don’t have to be home until later this afternoon.”

“Great, I’ll see you two later,” she said before leaving the room.

“What are you playing dude?” Nino asked.

Breath of the Wild,” he replied. “It’s been some great escapism.”

“Yeah, I’ve heard that,” Nino said, sitting down next to him. “I’ve never played it myself.”

“Do you want to check it out?” Adrien asked,”You can start a new game if you want.”

“Yeah, why not?” Nino said, grinning as he took the controller from Adrien. “Look at this ginormous bag of cookies Marinette made. I guess she was worried she might not make enough.”

Adrien laughed. “I’m sure you don’t mind,” he teased.

“Definitely not!” Nino exclaimed as he took out one of the little cookies and popped it in his mouth. “So how was the hearing on Friday?” he asked after a moment.

“I guess it went pretty well since I’m now officially emancipated,” Adrien told him.

“Nice,” Nino replied as he started a new game. “So what’s next?”

“Getting my bank account and my phone switched to just my name, talking to my trust fund manager to organize deposits and figure out what other expenses I need to think about and of course, looking for an apartment.”

“I guess that’ll keep you busy,” Nino commented before helping himself to another cookie. “What are you looking for in your next place? Got any must haves?”

“An easy way to get out of the window for one,” Adrien laughed.

Nino laughed with him. “I suppose Marinette’s current set up is pretty ideal.”

“Yeah, a roof balcony would be awesome but I’m not going to be that picky,” Adrien said. “I also want two bedrooms so I have somewhere separate for my computer and eventually Marinette’s sewing stuff. Like I said before to you, this will start out as my space but I’m definitely keeping the things she will need in mind.”

“So two bedrooms and a balcony… anything else?” Nino asked.

“Decent kitchen, nice bathroom because that is the one thing I miss about my old room and a working fireplace just because Marinette is so pitiful in the winter,” Adrien listed.

“Yeah, your old bathroom is pretty amazing,” Nino replied. “I’m not sure you’ll find any apartments with a bathtub as big as that one.”

“That’s fine,” Adrien said. “That thing is ridiculous. I’d be fine with a bathroom similar to what we had in Cyprus.”

“Yeah,” Nino said dreamily. “I’m sure our bathroom was about the same. I miss it.”

Adrien laughed. “I almost forgot. I didn’t get you in too much trouble with Alya did I?”

“Huh?” Nino said in confusion. “Oh… because of the Cyprus thing?” Nah. She said she couldn’t really blame me for talking to my best friend about stuff and she couldn’t really complain about you teasing her since she started it.”

“That’s good. I don’t know what it is about your girlfriend but I can’t help but wind her up. Sometimes I think I’m being kind of mean but it doesn’t seem to phase her.”

Nino snorted. “You just don’t know what it’s like to have siblings. You pretty much treat Alya the way both of us treat our siblings and they treat us. Nora and Alya in particular roast the absolute shit out of each other alllll the time. Anyway to begin with, she liked to tease you because you were so damn dense about Marinette for so long. Now it’s basically just for fun. Frankly, I find the way you pick on each other pretty entertaining and it’s even funnier when all four of us are together.”

“That’s a relief I guess. I’m sure my Mother would be horrified to hear me tease a girl like that though,” Adrien replied. “I feel a little bit guilty when I think I’m not being… gentlemanly. She was pretty big on that.”

“Dude, you’re Chat Noir, the biggest smartass in Paris!” Nino exclaimed. “We really can’t expect any less from you, especially now that we know who you are.”

“Speaking of that, Celine figured it out,” Adrien said. “Your parents… did they say anything about… I don’t know… any of it?”

“Nah,” Nino shrugged. “Alya and I came up with a story that we woke up around four because you and Marinette landed in the middle of the room with Chat Noir and Ladybug. Ladybug told us to meet her and Chat at the Eiffel Tower around six and she’d let Alya break the news about Hawk Moth. None of them has ever really followed the Miraculous stuff any more then they had to so they seemed to accept that.”

“Well, that’s a relief,” Adrien replied. “It’s unnerving with Marinette’s parents and now Celine working it out.”

“This game does look amazing but I am way more interested in what’s been going on with you bro,” Nino told him, pausing the game and putting his controller down. “So how did Celine figure it out?”

“She said it was a lot of things… the fact that Marinette said we had gone to the temple with Ladybug and Chat Noir when she knew you two were staying in the same room and Alya wakes up for akuma alerts… that was a big hint to her. And I guess the way we are together and I… reached for my ring when she was talking and she got really pale. And then she remembered that Marinette always wears the same earrings.”

“Trust a stylist to pay attention to accessories,” Nino laughed. “I think you can trust her though. Alya told me you stayed with her for the first few days after everything went down with your father.”

“Yeah, that is true and I definitely trust her,” Adrien agreed. “My worry doesn’t have anything to do with that… it’s just that we’ve tried so hard to keep this a secret for so long. It feels like losing a little bit of control every time someone figures it out. It’s unnerving.”

“I’m sure it is bro,” Nino said sympathetically. “Especially since you’ve had so little control of anything else for so long. But things are going to get better. You’re emancipated now and once you have Mayura taken care of, you’ll have a lot more control of your appearances as Chat Noir. You’ll be able to live how you want, go out, do whatever you like. I mean, people will probably still bother you but you won’t have to worry about being caught somewhere that Pops doesn’t want you to be.”

“Yeah,” Adrien conceded. “You’re right about that. It’ll be a lot of responsibility going out on my own but… I already have a lot of responsibilities as it is.”

“No doubt about that,” Nino agreed. “So, apart from figuring out your secret identity, how was your visit with Celine?”

“Good,” Adrien said with a laugh. “I quizzed her about the guy she’s been seeing and I get to meet him so I think she likes him more than she’s letting on. She also brought me a present and told me to open it on my own.”

“Oh really?” Nino looked at him avidly. “Have you opened it yet?”

“Nino, I’m literally a cat. Of course I opened it as soon as I had an opportunity. Ignoring my curiosity is a real challenge,” Adrien laughed. “I could tell it was a book so I wondered what it could possibly be about.”

“Yikes,” Nino replied. “I’m almost afraid to ask...almost. What kind of book was it?”

“It’s...uh… instructional is a good way to put it,” Adrien said. “I suppose I set that gift in motion when I started asking her advice on girl stuff.”

“Can’t say I blame you there,” Nino replied. “I’d say Celine is maybe less big sis and more cool aunt and not a resource I would ignore either. I’m still confused about what kind of girl stuff this book could possibly be about. I mean you have a girl and she isn’t going anywhere so it isn’t that.”

“It’s pretty good actually,” Adrien replied, grinning mischievously. “I’m clearly not the target audience for it but that doesn’t mean I don’t want to know.”

“If you’re trying to make me as curious as you possibly can, you’re succeeding,” Nino said dryly. “Any more hints you’re going to torture me with before you tell me what it is?”

“How about I just… show it to you,” Adrien said, getting up and retrieving the book from his bag.

“What the hell, Celine!” Nino exclaimed as he started laughing. “Well, I’ll bet it’s fascinating… kind of uh… personal present from your sis though isn’t it?”

“Maybe, but I started it by asking her about period stuff,” Adrien shrugged. “Then Celine ran into Marinette and Sabine at a cafe right after she got one of those birth control rods in her arm. So she already has too much information. It doesn’t seem to embarrass her at all. She just offers practical solutions as always.”

“Damn,” Nino said. “That Henri dude better be decent. He’s a lucky bastard… as are we really.”

“I’m definitely very lucky,” Adrien said. “And I agree. From what she’s told me, she’s had some bad experiences which… why? I don’t understand how anyone could mistreat Celine.”

“Yeah, me either,” Nino shrugged. “But we’re not assholes so…”

“That’s the last thing I’d want to be,” Adrien replied emphatically. “Those two guys that… got me drunk, they got akumatized that night and they were both...terrible. And that all started because one of them was being gross to Celine”

“Were you still drunk when you fought them?” Nino asked curiously.

“Yeah, not as drunk but definitely not in the best of shape. I got sick right before the akuma alert which helped and then Ladybug and I did that meditation thing for a couple minutes which cleared my head somewhat. Then Marinette did her Multmouse thing and wiped the floor with them.”

“Multimouse? Is that another Miraculous?” Nino asked.

“That’s right,” Adrien confirmed. “Hardly anyone knows about it. Remember when Mrs. Mendeleiev got akumatized?”

“Oh yeah!” Nino exclaimed. “Alya didn’t get to record that battle. What happened?”

“Hawk Moth helped her create this device that could capture the Kwamis, rendering the Miraculous useless. She managed to get both mine and Ladybug’s so we both hid because we de-transformed. I found a banana suit in one of the dressing rooms because it all happened at the studio. I was inside the entrance of the building when this swarm of Kwamis came flying through. One of them opened its mouth and there was a tiny superhero in a mouse suit inside. I thought it was Ladybug but then she said she was Multimouse and she asked for my Miraculous.

“Holy shit!” Nino exclaimed. “So Multimouse gets tiny as her super power?”

“Multimouse gets tiny… and… multi,” Adrien explained. “You’ve seen me wearing two Miraculous a few times. Marinette was wearing… all of them on separate mice. She got herself swallowed by the Kwamibuster’s machine and found Plagg. She had my ring so she unified with him and cataclysmed the device. Another mouse wearing the earrings unified with Tikki and made a lucky charm which was a big bowl that fell on top of the purple butterfly when it was released from the destroyed Kwami catching device. Yet another mouse unified with Trixx and made an illusion of Ladybug purifying the butterfly and repairing the damage. It then showed Marinette revealing her identity as Multimouse and Ladybug taking her home. Since all the damage looked repaired to me, I took Mrs. Mendeleiev back to school. Meanwhile Multimouse divided from all the Kwami except Tikki and then turned into Ladybug after dividing from Mullo, the mouse Kwami. Then she really did purify the butterfly and do the Miraculous Ladybug thing before leaving.”

“That… that is completely nuts,” Nino said in awe. “And she’s done that more than once?”

“Yeah, although not with all the Kwamis. She’s done it twice since then and both times she selected a few different ones. We actually had to go to the temple while we were in Cyprus to fight Hawk Moth and Mayura so I got to watch her in action. It was incredible to understand what I was seeing unlike the first time when I had no idea,” Adrien replied.

“When did that happen?” Nino said, laughing incredulously. “How did we not even notice you were gone?”

“It was kind of late at night,” Adrien told him. “Then we caught you in the hot tub when we got back. I was having… too many feelings and I thought we needed to chill out for a bit.”

“Too many feelings,” Nino snorted. “You like the superhero thing don’t you?”

“Obviously,” Adrien laughed. “So as I was saying to begin with, she did that when I was still half drunk. I started talking to the two akuma guys and since they were American, they didn’t understand how it works so I was messing with them a bit while all those little mice went off in different directions. Their phones had been turned into little flame throwers and they had set fire to the Gabriel offices. When they started getting more aggressive toward me, a mouse merged with Wayzz put up a forcefield around me and then I just watched the mice do their thing. I helped remove the akumas from those two guys in the end and took them back to where they were staying. Another mouse was merged with Trixx so she cast the illusion of everything being fixed up before I left. When I got those two to their hotel, their agent was waiting for them and he was very pissed off. Not with me, although he didn’t know who I was either. They got in a lot of trouble for all that.”

“Damn,” Nino said. “It is fascinating hearing about all this stuff. I feel a tiny bit sorry for Alya though. She is missing out.”

“Don’t feel too bad. She gets Ladybug’s perspective which is really amazing. She tends to talk about strategy or the intent behind the things she does. I am not going to even try and compete with that!” Adrien replied.

“Dude, you do not give yourself enough credit!” Nino exclaimed. “I’m not denying Ladybug’s the boss. She is. But I’ve seen you in action and I’ve heard you talk to her both in civilian form and as superheroes and she needs you. Not just as a person; she needs what you do. And you have obviously been so careful about what you’ve been doing. You were living with Hawk Moth and he never knew! I don’t think you are any less of a bad ass than she is.”

“Thanks, Nino,” Adrien said. “I appreciate that.”

Nino shrugged. “Anytime bro. You’ve given me plenty of pep talks so I’m glad to return the favor.”

Chapter Text

“Did you have anything planned today?” Adrien asked as he and Marinette returned to school after lunch.

“No,” Marinette replied. “Is something going on? You were getting a lot of texts at lunchtime.”

“Yeah, sorry about that,” Adrien said apologetically. “I called Sacha earlier this week and told him about what Father said after the hearing about transferring Gabriel to me. He said that he was not familiar enough with the laws involving that but there was someone else in his firm that specializes in corporate law. He met with her and she texted me today. Then Amelie was texting me because I told Sacha he could tell the Trust about it and then I texted a few people at Gabriel as well and... well it got kind of crazy when everyone started getting back to me. Anyway, the lawyer said we could meet with the CFO and the most senior designer, which is Frederic and talk. I was wondering if… you could talk to Dominique about what’s happening with Helios while I do that. Would you mind?”

“I’d be happy to!” Marinette replied.

“Thanks Princess,” Adrien said gratefully. “I really appreciate it. I’ll text Frederic so he can pass it on to her that you are coming to see her.”

“It really is no problem,” Marinette assured him. “Are you going to be ok though?”

“I’ll be fine.” he answered, squeezing her hand. “I spent my entire session with the therapist yesterday talking about this so things seem much clearer to me. I just really, really need to resolve this for my own sanity. I’m either going to have to let it go as another casualty of my father’s actions or I’m going to have to find a way for it to continue without him and that involves trusting a lot of people at Gabriel to make the right decisions because I don’t think I’m qualified to do that myself.”

“Well, I’m glad you want me to come along and I’ll relay whatever Dominique tells me,” Marinette promised.

“Thanks,” Adrien said, pulling her close. “I’ll tell you what happens in my meeting too. I want you to be involved in whatever decision I make but… I’m trying not to put any pressure on you either.”

“I understand,” she said softly, hugging him back.

Adrien sighed and kissed the top of her head. “I guess we better get to class.”

*****

“Hey Doll!” Celine greeted Marinette as she and Adrien walked into the foyer of the Gabriel offices. “I heard Adrien was coming and I hoped you would be here too.”

“It’s divide and conquer today,” Marinette replied, squeezing Adrien’s hand reassuringly. “Adrien is meeting with his lawyer along with the CFO and Frederic. I’m going to see Dominique.”

“That’s sweet of you,” Celine told her. “I know Adrien has been worried about Helios.”

“So have I to be honest,” Marinette admitted. “I was really excited about all their plans for the line. I know things are… a mess right now but if I can help in any way, I would really like to.”

Celine smiled. “You are very lucky, Babe. Although I think you know that already.”

“Definitely,” he agreed as they got in the elevator. “Not just that Marinette wants to help but she’s so talented and capable. I don’t want to take her help for granted.”

“I don’t feel that way at all,” Marinette assured him. “It’s nice to be appreciated. Well, here’s my stop. Good luck Gorgeous. I’m sure you’ll be fine.” She leaned up to kiss him before turning and leaving the elevator.

“So where are you headed Sis?” Adrien asked.

“I’m going to go see Martin,” she answered. “Have you met Mr. Toussaint before?”

“That’s the CFO right? I haven’t,” Adrien told her. “What’s he like?”

“You don’t have anything to worry about Babe. Not from anyone here,” Celine assured him. “He’s nice. Very serious and quiet compared to a lot of people at Gabriel. I always enjoy the conversations I have with him. He’s patient about explaining things.”

“That’s good,” Adrien replied. “I can’t help but be nervous. I’m trying to figure out what I should do and I’m probably putting too much pressure on myself.”

“It’s ok, Babe,” Celine said. “You’re a good listener and you’ve got the right people to explain everything to you. You are doing all the things you need to do in order to make the right decisions.”

“Thanks Celine,” he replied as they got out of the elevator. “I’m trying to be as ready for all this as I can be. I have a feeling I’m not going to have a lot of time to figure this out.”

Celine patted his arm. “I really feel for you Babe. You’ve been stuck with a bunch of difficult choices after experiencing a lot of trauma. If it’s any consolation, I know Frederic is really looking forward to seeing you. There are a lot of people, including me, that only want whatever is best for you. You’ll have to figure out what that is for yourself but we’ll support your decision no matter what it is.”

“Thanks Sis,” Adrien replied, giving her a hug. “I won’t hold you up any longer. “I’m sure Mr. Toussaint and Frederic are wondering what happened to me.”

*****

“Hi Marinette,” Dominique said as she entered the Helios Studio. “It’s so good to see you.”

“It’s good to see you too,” Marinette replied, finding a stool near Dominique’s desk and sitting down. “I’m sorry I haven’t been here sooner. Both Adrien and I have been very conscious of what you were hoping to accomplish this month.”

“Oh, I don’t want you to worry about that,” Dominique said. “We didn’t feel like it would be appropriate to expose you two to even more attention by plastering you on billboards. Frankly, with all the negative publicity from Mr. Agreste being unmasked, we’re just not sure we should be advertising at all.”

“But the line is still so new,” Marinette said softly. “You need exposure to grow and survive.”

“I don’t mean to sound negative, but do you really think we can survive this?” Dominique asked.

“I don’t know,” Marinette answered. “But I think it’s worth trying. Adrien and I are both willing to help however we can. Maybe instead of promoting the line, we treat this as an opportunity for a different kind of message and let the line speak for itself.”

“What kind of message and how would you share it?” Dominique asked, looking at Marinette with more interest.

“I think Helios needs to have a separate Instagram account for one thing,” Marinette replied. “And I also think that you and Frederic need to talk to Martin about this. Adrien and I will certainly be willing to model the clothing but you should consider what you really want to say. There won’t be any more running things past Gabriel Agreste.”

“You make a good point,” Dominique said, looking thoughtful. “And if it’s only social media we are dealing with, we could turn this around in time for it to make a difference.”

“We will make sure we are available when you need us,” Marinette said. “I can’t speak for Adrien as to what the future will hold for Gabriel but we both care about everyone here. I know that has been on his mind a lot lately as well as mine.”

“He’s very lucky to have someone as supportive as you,” Dominique told her.

“I think I’m pretty lucky too,” Marinette said, smiling at her. “We’re a good team.”

*****

“Hello Adrien, it’s very nice to finally meet you!” a man in a dark suit said, standing up as Adrien walked into the boardroom.

“It’s nice to meet you too, Mr. Toussaint,” Adrien replied.

“Please call me Raphael,” he told him.

“All right,” Adrien agreed as he sat down across from him. “Hello Frederic, thanks for your messages. I’ve really appreciated your support.”

“Of course,” Frederic replied. “It’s the least I could do. As difficult as the news of Mr. Agreste’s secret identity has been for us, your whole life has been upended. I heard you were emancipated last week.”

“Yeah,” Adrien said quietly. “Honestly it’s a relief. Father was getting more and more difficult to live with and then of course he just blew up on me… I… I talked to him at my hearing and he was a completely different person. But… even if they were to let him go, I never want to live with him again.”

“So.. may I ask, why are we here?” Raphael asked, his expression grave. “Why would you even consider taking this on?”

“I don’t think this has anything to do with him anymore,” Adrien replied. “The culture of the company, the different departments… they all seemed to be existing despite my father rather than because of him when Marinette and I were working here before Christmas and again before Fashion Week. The team… it’s one of the last good things he put together and to just let it end would be a terrible loss. My father’s choices have already caused so much destruction. Saying this, I haven’t come to the conclusion that I will take Gabriel on . I’m just… considering it at this point. I trust both of you to tell me… the truth about what I’d be getting into so I can make a good decision.”

“Well,” Raphael sighed. “I can tell you sales have been impacted very seriously by recent events. It started when Gabriel assaulted you and then fled. Then it went to nothing after he was unmasked. We’ve had some improvement since he resigned as CEO although he does still own the company even if he isn’t employed by it. Fortunately, we had extremely good sales and preorders right up to the point that everything started happening so the finances are relatively healthy. The main question is, can we get this company back on track? My fear is that the damage done is so serious, it’s irrevocable.”

“How long do you think we have before things need to have improved?” Adrien asked.

“Hmmm,” Raphael said thoughtfully. “We are down to core staff since all the contract work ended with Fashion Week and without the salaries for Mr. Agreste or Ms. Sancouer, our expenses are lower than they have been since I started here six years ago. As things are, I would say we have four or five months before we’d need to see some improvement.”

“So the fall Gabriel inventory needs to start selling again and… does this mean Helios won’t be able to continue?”

“It’s going to have to do really well this summer,” Raphael said. “Fortunately its inventory has already been produced and scheduled to be in store and online next week. The fall line is scheduled to start production next month. We have money in the budget as it stands to fund about half the cost of that. If we fully fund it and we see no improvement, it would probably shorten our timescale to three months. At this point there is nothing from the Gabriel side of things scheduled for production. The summer line was only in the preliminary design stage. If you were to take this company on, I think you would have to rebrand that whole endeavor.”

“I am obviously more familiar with the design aesthetics of Gabriel than any of the other designers,” Frederic said. “I don’t know if you would want to hold onto that or do something different.”

“I’m the wrong person to ask,” Adrien replied, sitting back and closing his eyes for a moment as he tried to process everything he had just heard. “What do you think?”

“Honestly?” I think it’s been poisoned,” Frederic said. “It’s a real shame because the last line was so strong and his support team really did a great job. I can’t see how to go forward with it but I admit, that’s partially because I am so sick at heart about what happened. I feel guilty even saying that to you Adrien. You are remarkably gracious to even consider doing this for him. He doesn’t deserve anything from you.”

“I’m not doing this for him,” Adrien said firmly. “I’m doing this because I think what's been left behind in the wake of his destruction is a really good thing and full of potential. My father has been withdrawing for years and now I’m free… and so are you. Maybe… maybe the best is yet to come. I have to hope that for me. I want to hope that for this company. I’m not saying I have anything to offer myself… other than facing the brand however it exists. My role here would be symbolic. But you don’t need me any more than you need my Father.”

“Adrien, I really wish I had met you sooner,” Raphael said with a sigh. “And this company needs you in order to exist in its current form. If anyone else were to invest, they’d change it. Maybe that would work and maybe it wouldn’t but whether you want to believe it or not, what you’re talking about is your vision for this company and it might be the key to its renewed success.”

There was a knock on the door and Jolie called out, “Hello, I have Ms. Marchal outside waiting.”

“That’s my lawyer,” Adrien said, getting up to open the door. “Hello Ms. Marchal,” he greeted her.

“Hello Adrien,” she said smiling as she came in. “It’s a pleasure to meet you.”

“Nice to meet you too,” he replied. “This is Raphael Toussaint, the CFO at Gabriel and Frederic Vernier, one of the designers here.”

“Hello Mr. Toussaint, Mr. Vernier,” she replied. “I’ve been reviewing all the documents and I have a few questions.”

“Please go ahead,” Raphael said. “We want Adrien to make the best possible decision for his own sake above anything else. He’s already been through far too much and while we obviously don’t want to lose our jobs, we’d rather no further harm came to him. I’ve heard so much about you Adrien and you really are an extraordinary young man. You’ve been through a huge amount of tragedy and you don’t have any of the bitterness I felt from your father even though you’ve been directly exposed to that for years.”

“Well,” Adrien sighed. “Watching him lose himself in his grief was actually pretty good motivation not to do the same. Anyway, I don’t want to keep Marinette waiting so we should go through Ms. Marchal’s questions.”

******

“I wonder how Adrien’s meeting is going,” Marinette remarked as she reviewed the finalized designs for the Helios fall line.

“Do you want to go up and check in with him?” Dominique asked.

“No, I think this is something he needs to do himself,” Marinette replied.

“Hey,” Celine said, poking her head through the door. “Can I come in?”

“Yes, of course!” Dominique exclaimed. “What have you been up to?”

“Just talking to Martin,” Celine sighed. “Everyone I talk to is depressing the hell out of me. I know there is plenty to worry about but is there really no way out of this mess?”

“It’s hard to see any,” Dominique said sadly. “It’s a good thing Hawk Moth was captured when he was unmasked. Otherwise our boss would probably be able to akumatize most of us.”

Celine shuddered. “Thanks for that cheerful thought, Dominique,” she groaned. “Sorry Doll,” she said, noticing Marinete’s pale face. “We shouldn’t really talk like this. You’ve been more directly impacted than we have.”

Marinette sighed. “It’s ok,” she said quietly.

“It isn’t,” Celine replied, walking over to hug her. “It’s difficult enough for you and Adrien to even come here.”

“I’m sorry, Marinette,” Dominique said apologetically. “I’m just angry and sad but that doesn't mean I shouldn’t keep in mind what you’ve been dealing with.”

“You’re allowed to feel that way,” Marinette replied. “I’m glad you can without being scared about being akumatized. That’s a good thing.” She paused as she heard someone knock on the door.

“I’ll go get that,” Celine said.

“Hey,” Adrien said as he came in with Frederic. “We’re done, finally. I hope you haven’t been waiting long.”

“Not at all,” Dominique assured him. “Although I think Marinette is probably needing a break from my doom and gloom.”

“As I was saying, you have every right to feel that way,” Marinette told her. “Everything is messed up but I know there are solutions in this somewhere.”

“Maybe you can help,” Frederic said, heading to his own desk. “I feel like the biggest problem is how utterly tainted the Gabriel brand is. For goodness sake, the logo is a damned butterfly. His aesthetic is beautiful but it is absolutely tied to him. I can continue it but even if it evolves, who will want it? If we don’t call it Gabriel and we have to start all over, what do we name it and what will it look like? How will we achieve all that in a matter of a month or two?” We’d have to have something prepared for Autumn Fashion Week and we’re probably starting from nothing.”

“Why focus on recreating Gabriel as something else?” Marinette asked. “Why do you need to create a new line so quickly?”

“There has to be something else to sell in the next four to five months or the company will probably fail,” Adrien replied. “And that will only be possible to produce if we sell what we already have. Unless we get outside investment which… seems unlikely and would probably have all kinds of conditions attached.”

“But you don’t need the Gabriel line,” Marinette said slowly. “You already have something that has never been directly connected to Gabriel Agreste. All he did was approve the designs for Helios. It doesn’t even use the logo.”

“She’s right,” Celine agreed. “It has a mostly different look and it’s far more directly tied to Adrien than his father. Martin was telling me how much goodwill there is for Adrien both in Paris and in the fashion industry at the moment.”

“Really?” Adrien asked, looking confused. “Why?”

“Why,” Frederic repeated with a snort. “Because you are a class act. Everyone knows about the things you have endured up to this point and now, you’ve been handed even more tragedy and responded with a tremendous amount of grace.”

“Martin told me he has been getting a lot of enquiries about interviewing you,” Celine confirmed. “The only thing he let pass was the UEFA tickets because they just wanted to publicly wish you well which he thought was a nice gesture. As far as the ones who want to talk to you, he’s told them they have to be patient.”

“Returning to this idea of focusing on Helios, what about the couture department?” Dominique asked. “This isn’t a couture line and I wouldn’t say there’s a natural extension for it to have that element. The whole idea was to make something younger and a little more casual.”

“That’s true,” Marinette said slowly. “But couture is not something that should be rushed into.”

“All the contractors are done so that team is pretty small anyway,” Adrien said. “There’s about sixty people employed here with maybe half a dozen specially employed for couture.”

“I think you work with them and maybe a designer or two to start coming up with an entirely different couture collection for the following autumn,” Marinette said. “They could create designs and samples, that kind of thing.”

“I think Marinette has given us some really good ideas,” Frederic said. “I feel embarrassed for not thinking of them myself.”

“I have a little distance from all this,” Marinette consoled him. “I love Helios but it isn’t my creation. I just think it has so much potential.”

“Thank you for saying that,” Dominique said quietly. “With everything going wrong, I’ve been doubting myself.”

“As I said to you earlier, Dominique, we’ll be happy to work with Vincent and get some pictures of the summer things for Instagram,” Marinette replied.

“Absolutely,” Adrien agreed. “I’d feel a lot better knowing I was doing something to help while I figure out what I’m going to do about my father’s offer.”

“If you need to go through anything with anyone here, just let us know,” Frederic told him. “We’ll all be very happy to help you and if it doesn’t work out… well I can only speak for myself when I say that I will understand.”

“I’ve already told you as much myself, Babe,” Celine said softly.

“I feel the same,” Dominique added. “I’m very touched that you are even considering it.”

Chapter Text

“Another fabulous Saturday night at the gym,” Adrien joked as he and Marinette sat together in the hot tub. “Any excuse to see you in a swimsuit.”

Marinette laughed. “Likewise, Gorgeous. Just imagine how much more clothing we’d have to wear to go to a movie… and we’d run the risk of getting papped. As dates go, this is the clear choice.”

Adrien laughed with her. “As always, I like the way you think, Princess.”

“Besides, it’s always quiet here on Saturday evenings,” Marinette said, snuggling against him as he wrapped his arm around her. “I like coming here at this time. I never thought I’d be the sort of person who looks forward to going to the gym but obviously with the right company I can be motivated.”

Adrien grinned and kissed her cheek. “It’s nice to do this just because I want to,” he said reflectively. “I’m still getting used to that idea. Now I’m trying to actually figure out what other things I want to do since there isn’t anyone telling me anymore.”

“As you should,” Marinette told him, leaning into him.

“Do you think… it’s ok that I want to… take Gabriel on?” Adrien asked her hesitantly. “I’ve talked to the lawyer and it can be set up so there isn’t any risk to my personal assets. I’ve talked to my therapist like I said earlier to you. I’ve talked to lots of different people at Gabriel and if anything, I want to do this more. I don’t see myself being heavily involved and I don’t expect you to be either but… I think what exists already should keep existing.”

“I think you want this for the right reasons and I don’t think your expectations for it are unreasonable,” Marinette reassured him. “Everything is already there and there’s enough time to make a difference.”

“Martin told me about what you said to Dominique about delivering a message along with… showing the clothes. He was wondering if you were thinking of something specific,” Adrien asked.

“I wasn’t at the time,” she replied. “Just generally my thought was ‘What could Helios stand for? Why should its existence matter?’ Now that I’ve had time to think about it more, I’d like to see some kind of support for existing charities in Paris.”

“I would like that too,” Adrien agreed. “Somehow we need to show that this company doesn’t stand for anything my father was doing as Hawk Moth”

“Maybe, we need to highlight the relationships that so many of them have with you,” Marinette said thoughtfully. “You could be a guest editor for the Helios Instagram page when it launches and give a behind the scenes look of everyone working at Gabriel.”

“That is a really cool idea,” Adrien said thoughtfully. “I think that for now, if I do this, I would like to call the whole thing Helios. I guess I should see what Martin and the actual Helios team think of that. I really appreciate all of your help, Marinette. You’ve been so incredibly insightful with your suggestions and I really don’t want to take that for granted. My one reservation is that if I take this on, you’ll feel like maybe the direction of your career is a foregone conclusion. I don’t want that for you at all. You should go to design school because it’s important to you and you’ll learn a lot and I don’t expect you to work for Helios if it survives unless… unless you want to. I just…” Adrien faltered for a moment. “You are letting me find my way and I don’t want to get in the way of yours. You could choose to never work there again and it would be ok with me.”

“I know,” Marinette said. “Thank you for saying it though. I want to be able to choose opportunities based on what feels right to me. Currently, that’s how I feel about Helios so I want to help and if you think I am already managing to do that, then that makes me very happy.”

Adrien sighed in contentment and pulled her into his lap. “You know what makes me happy? Sitting in the hot tub snuggling with you.”

“That too,” Marinette laughed. “So what’s going on next week?”

“I’m going to call Ms. Marchal on Monday and get this transfer thing started,” Adrien said. “I’ll probably be annoying you for more reassurance about this.”

“You won’t be annoying me. What you’re doing is a really big deal but I think it’s the right thing to do,” Marinette reassured him, nuzzling his neck. “If you’re worried about any of it, you can always talk to me about it.”

“Thanks Marinette,” Adrien said, gently tugging on her ponytail until she looked up at him. He gazed back at her, lightly touching her face.

“So what are the extra strength kitty eyes for?” she finally asked.

Adrien laughed. “Sorry, I was just indulging myself with some extremely soppy thoughts which I will keep to myself for now.”

“So you weren’t just trying to melt whatever reservations I might have about making out with you in this hot tub then?” she asked teasingly.

Adrien grinned. “Did you have any reservations about that?”

“Not as many as I probably should,” she admitted.

He smiled and kissed her softly. “We should probably get going anyway. I wanted to show you what I was working on while you were helping in the bakery.”

“Sounds intriguing,” she said, smiling as she got up and climbed out of the hot tub.

*****

“So what did you want to show me?” Marinette asked as Adrien pushed her trap door open.

“I was researching rental agencies and apartment listings this morning,” Adrien explained. “I ended up finding a few interesting places on one website so I emailed them. They got back to me pretty quickly and I ended up setting an appointment with them after school on Tuesday. Do you think you could come with me?”

“Of course!” Marinette exclaimed. “Does that mean we get to visit some apartments?”

“Yeah,” he answered. “I was going to show you the ones I found online. The agent has two more that haven’t been put up yet as well.”

“Ooh,” she cooed excitedly, sitting in his lap as soon as Adrien sat down at her computer.

“Thanks for letting me use this,” he murmured, slipping his arm around her waist. “It’s much nicer to look at pictures on a big screen instead of my phone.”

“Yeah, I’m sorry I don’t have room for your computer too,” she said ruefully.

“Please don’t apologize for that,” he told her, nuzzling her neck as she logged in. “I’m very aware of how much I am already encroaching on your space. I love getting to spend so much time with you but this set-up isn’t really healthy for either one of us, long term.”

“I agree,” Marinette replied softly, sitting back against him as he quickly navigated to the website and logged in.

“I just want you to know, I’m doing this because we both need our own space for a while,” Adrien said quietly, visiting his list of favorited listings and clicking on the first link. “I want you to move in with me when you’re ready… and I hope that’ll be around a year from now but that’s up to you. I’m just very aware of how easy it would be to rely on you for reassurance all the time and I don't want to reach a point where I need that from you.”

“I know what you mean,” Marinette said. “Things have gotten so intense and there’s no space to process things on our own so we end up doing all of it together and that’s ok for now but I think that would only get more stressful over time. Also, I want it to be easier for us to spend time with our other friends without feeling like we’re skipping out on each other.”

“Exactly,” Adrien confirmed as he clicked through the pictures of the first apartment for her. “And I’ve never liked having to just drop in and hope you don’t have plans. That won’t be necessary anymore since I’ll be in charge of my time.”

“I think it’s going to be really amazing actually,” Marinette said. “Not having to worry so much about things being abruptly cancelled or wondering when I’ll see you next.”

“Me too,” Adrien agreed, smiling and kissing her cheek before bringing up the second listing. “I’m glad we are both seeing this the same way. I’m not moving away because I don’t want to spend so much time with you. I just want the time I spend with you to be even better.”

“And it will be,” Marinette promised, watching as he brought up the pictures for a third apartment. “I’m excited to go visit these places. I remember the conversation we had about the things you’d like in your first place. Have you thought of anything else?”

“Not really,” Adrien answered. “I think some of my big stuff like my piano will just have to go into storage for a while. I don’t expect any apartment to be big enough for it or those arcade games. Although I don’t think I’m actually going to bother taking those or the movie collection. I might take the foosball table if there’s a good spot for it.”

“How about your bed?” Marinette asked.

“I want to get a new one,” he replied. “I like the size of it but I want something that looks completely different. If I end up somewhere that can’t fit a king sized bed, I am not against going a little smaller so long as there is enough room to share. Really the only furniture I’d take is my desk chair. I didn’t pick any of it anyway.”

“Sounds like you have a pretty intense amount of shopping to do,” Marinette said teasingly.

“Well, I really hope you’ll come along and help me pick things. Eventually we’ll be sharing it so I’d rather you like it!” he exclaimed.

“I’ll try not to get too much pink stuff,” she said with a grin. “Although honestly, I’m really curious about what kind of things you pick out. I do have a question though.”

“What’s that?” Adrien asked, pushing her hair to one side and kissing her neck.

“Mmmm,” Marinette sighed. “Why do you want to keep your piano? I know you get frustrated with lessons.”

“I do like to play,” Adrien said. “I’m just tired of the lessons and always playing what someone else wants me to play. Also, the piano was my mother’s. Father moved it into my room after she disappeared.”

“Ah,” Marinette said softly. “Maybe we can go measure it and then you’ll know how much space you would need.”

“No, I’ll get some compact electric piano so I can still play. I’ll save the piano for when I’m ready to buy a house someday in the future,” he answered.

“What do you think will happen... with your Father’s house?” Marinette asked hesitantly.

“I have no idea,” Adrien replied. “Gorilla is still living there for now. He told me he’d let me know if Nathalie ever shows up.”

“That’s good. I wonder where she is now anyway,” Marinette said thoughtfully.

“No clue,” Adrien replied. “It’s funny… I’ve been thinking about it and even though Nathalie has been around as long as I can remember, I don’t know anything about her. And really… what do I know about Father? He could have properties that she can stay at, maybe even here in Paris. He’s obviously still got a lot of secrets he wants to keep.”

“You’re right,” Marinette agreed with a sigh. “Although you’d think with all their investigating, the police would know if he has any properties nearby. I have been spending far too much trying to figure out what she might be planning and I don’t know why I’m bothering. Nothing she has ever done has been something I could have expected.”

“I know what you mean,” Adrien said. “The trial is starting in two weeks. Maybe she is waiting for that.

“It’s amazing how long this whole process is taking just to get started,” Marinette observed.

“Yeah, Sacha told me it’s because it was so difficult to figure out what exactly to charge him with. He had a conversation with the prosecution team because they’ll want me to testify eventually.”

“I’m sorry Adrien,” Marinette replied. “I wish you didn’t have to do that.”

He shrugged. “I expected as much to be honest. I was actually really afraid they would suspect I was involved. Considering I’ve had to disappear every time there’s an akuma and all…”

“Yeah, that would have been extremely hard to disprove without revealing your role as Chat Noir,” Marinette replied.

“Honestly I am so relieved that I don’t have to deal with that, testifying doesn’t seem so bad in comparison. I can’t think of anything worse than people thinking I’d be capable of working with Hawk Moth. I guess I can thank Alya for that. Her illusion of me was pretty compelling.”

“Yeah,” Marinette agreed. “I wanted her genuine surprise to influence it which was why I kept my instructions so vague at the time. She has an amazing imagination and she is very good at visualizing it. She’s the perfect wielder for Trixx.”

“I’m glad she got to do it one more time,” Adrien said, shifting in the chair. “Once we defeat Mayura, what do you think we’ll do as Ladybug and Chat Noir?” He shifted again before suddenly scooping her up and moving to the chaise. “Sorry, I needed to move somewhere more comfortable.”

Marinette smiled and snuggled against him. “It’s more comfortable for me too,” she said, leaning up to kiss his neck.

“Mmmm,” he sighed. “I’ll quit asking questions if you’ll keep doing that.”

Marinette giggled. “I’ll keep that in mind. I think I’d like us to have a more ambassadorial role for the city. I don’t want to get into fighting crime or any of that sort of thing. I think it would be too frustrating being unable to fix things. I certainly felt that way about the fire.”

“I agree,” Adrien said. “I don’t really want to test the limits of non-magical damage can do to me. Like I’ve said before, the thing I like best is helping people afterward. Talking to my therapist actually reminds me of it. It’s strange being on the other side but… I think that might be something I could do myself someday.”

“Become a psychiatrist?” Marinette asked.

“Yeah,” Adrien answered.”I know I’ve only been to her a few times but…”

“I think that is a great idea,” she told him. “You would be so good at that.”

Adrien smiled and held her close. “Thanks Princess.I’m glad you think so.”

“It’s purrrfect really,” she said softly, leaning up to kiss his neck again. “You’ll get to help people even when you aren’t Chat Noir.”

Adrien laid down, pulling her on top of him. “If you keep doing that, you’ll be helping me,” he told her with a mischievous grin.

“Is that so? Well in that case, how could I refuse?” she asked, running her hands across his chest as she kissed up the side of his neck to his jaw.

Adrien sighed in contentment, enjoying the feeling of her lingering kisses against his skin. He reached up to her ponytail and gently pulled the scrunchie out of her hair, letting it fall loose around her. “Marinette,” he murmured quietly.

“Hmmm?” she lifted her head to look at him questioningly.

Adrien smiled and held her face tenderly in his hands. She smiled back, her hands still braced gently on his chest as they looked at each other intently. “I love you,” he said, his green eyes focused on her blue ones.

“I love you too,” she replied, looking back at him before lowering her lips to his.

Chapter Text

“So Sunshine, what are you so excited about today?” Alya asked teasingly as they sat together having lunch at Marinette’s house.

Adrien laughed. “I didn’t realize it was that obvious. We’re going to look at apartments after school today.”

“Sweet!” Nino exclaimed. “Still planning on moving at the end of the school year?”

“Yeah, although I don’t mind if I start renting somewhere a little before that. I’d like to have everything ready when I move in,” Adrien replied.

“How many apartments are you going to look at today?” Alya asked.

“Up to five,” he answered. “There is one that someone else is interested in so probably four.”

“So exactly how many parties are you going to throw this summer?” Nino asked slyly.

“If by party you mean the four of us hanging out with takeout and movies, lots. If you mean cramming as many classmates into the place as I can fit… none. I haven’t had so much as a drop of wine since the Helios party and I don’t want to deal with any of that. Also, I can legally rent somewhere but I can’t legally buy alcohol and I really don’t need any scandals during this trial,” Adrien said ruefully.

“Yeah, I guess I didn’t consider that,” Nino said. “I guess I can’t really blame you for wanting a quiet life.”

“I’m glad you’re cool with it,” Adrien replied. “I am looking forward to actually having a social life but I’d rather start small. I’ll make sure I have space for you two to stay over as well if you want.”

“Well, let me know if you end up finding a place today,” Nino told him. “I’m sure it’ll be amazing.”

“Sure,” Adrien agreed.

“And remember, if you need any help packing or moving boxes, let us know,” Alya told him. “I know you don’t like spending time at your old place any more than you have to.”

“Thanks Alya,” Adrien replied gratefully. “You are definitely right about that.”

“I don’t suppose your new bedroom will be as insane as your old one,” Nino said.

“To be honest, I’d rather it didn’t have so much stuff in it. It’s not very restful,” Adrien said. “I don’t even want a television in it.”

“That does sound nice,” Marinette agreed.

“A bedroom with no other distractions sounds good to you, huh?” Alya asked teasingly. “I can’t imagine why.”

Marinette rolled her eyes. “Obviously I have my reasons,” she replied, winking at Adrien.

Adrien winked back. “I’m looking forward to taking Mayura down for many reasons myself.”

“Babe, did you really have to bring that up?” Nino complained, trying to ignore the significant looks passing between Adrien and Marinette.

“Ha!” Adrien laughed. “You were right Princess. “ He leaned over and whispered in her ear. “Do you think they look freaked out enough yet?”

Marinette giggled as he nuzzled her cheek, observing their two friends studiously trying to ignore them. “I think our work here is done,” she said.

“What was that about?” Alya asked.

“New strategy,” Adrien replied, taking Marinette’s hand and kissing it. “Tease us about sex and we’ll make you regret it.”

“Is there any situation you don’t prepare for?” Alya asked, shaking her head and grinning.

Marinette laughed. “If I can, I will,” she replied.

*****

“Thanks Gorilla,” Adrien said as he and Marinette got out of the car later that afternoon. “I’ll text you when I’m on my way back here.”

Gorilla nodded and gave him a playful salute before driving off.

“It must be strange being in the house by himself,” Marinette said softly.

“Yeah, I know I wouldn’t like it,” Adrien replied. “Gorilla said he doesn’t mind staying there for now. I guess if he moves, he’ll probably have to rent or buy somewhere. His accommodation has always been part of the terms of his employment.”

“When all this settles down, will you be the one who employs him?” Marinette asked.

“I don’t know,” Adrien confessed as they headed for the real estate office. “I get all trust related business from my lawyer and I haven’t discussed that with him yet. I probably should.”

“If it were urgent, I’m sure they would have brought it up already. I think they know you have enough to contend with as it is,” Marinette said consolingly.

“Yeah, I’m sure you’re right,” he agreed, holding the door open for her. “After you, Princess.”

“Mr. Agreste?” the young woman at the reception desk asked with a smile as she looked up from her computer. “It’s nice to meet you! Your agent will be here in just a moment. He’s returning from another showing.”

“No problem,” Adrien answered as he and Marinette took seats in the waiting area. The receptionist went back to her work, clearly trying her best to be professional although Marinette eventually noticed her curious glances at them and smiled back shyly as their eyes met. Embarrassed at being caught, the woman hastily fixed her eyes on her screen. Adrien grinned as he watched the interaction play out and fought his own impulse to pull her into his lap and cuddle her to him. Her hair was tied back in a low, loose ponytail and he couldn't resist touching one of the tendrils that had escaped just behind her ear. She turned, slightly startled at his touch, her wide blue eyes momentarily leaving him breathless. They looked at each other intently until the moment was eventually broken by someone opening the door and rushing in.

“Sorry! Sorry I’m late. I hope you haven’t been kept waiting long,” the agent apologized profusely, a harried look on his face. “Traffic is awful today but we’re ready to go if you are.”

“Of course,” Adrien said easily. “Don’t worry about it.”

“Thank you for understanding,” the agent replied as he led them to the waiting car outside. He gave an address to the driver and opened the door for them to get in.

Inside the car was very similar to the one that Gorilla drove although Marinette thought it might be a little bigger. The agent still looked flustered as he brought up the details for the appointment up on his screen.

“I see we have three places to visit this afternoon,” he said.

“Three? Did two of them already get taken?” Adrien asked.

“I imagine so. It’s been quite busy today. Is this your first time renting?” the agent asked, looking slightly distracted as his phone started chiming relentlessly. He looked at the number and declined the call, sighing in frustration as someone else immediately attempted to call him.

“Honestly,” he muttered as he silenced his phone. “What is going on today?”

“Is this… exceptionally busy for you?” Marinette asked politely.

“Yes, especially for a Tuesday. Very random day to have so many showings. Still, it’s kept me busy and I do like that. I just don’t like running late. Well… here we are, apartment one!” the agent exclaimed cheerfully as he opened the door and got out, holding it for both of them as they followed.

Adrien hopped out, taking Marinette’s hand as the agent rushed over to the entryway and punched in a code. They followed him inside and he immediately began pointing out features. “Right, here’s the mail area. As you saw, there is secured entry into the building. The apartment is on the third floor and thankfully there is a small elevator. We should be able to fit,” he said, hitting the call button. The door promptly opened and they trouped inside. The door shut and the elevator slowly climbed to the third floor before opening again. “Here we are,” the agent announced, opening the door with a flourish.

“This must be one of the new listings,” Adrien murmured to Marinette as they walked inside. “I don’t recognize it.”

“It’s pretty,” Marinette said, looking around.

“Smaller than I would expect based on the minimum square footage I listed,” Adrien commented as he wandered through the sunny living room and opened a door to peer into the kitchen. “It’s nice… again it seems smaller than the others I looked at.”

“Huh,” Marinette said contemplatively. “Well, we’ve got a few more to look at. Do you want to see the rest of this one?”

“Yeah, why not,” he said with a shrug. “I don’t necessarily have anything against it. It does have a fireplace which is good.”

“Bedroom is just down the hall,” the agent added helpfully.

“Bedroom? Just one?” Adrien asked, looking confused. “Is there a study then?”

“No,” the agent replied, looking at his tablet. “Just one bedroom. It’s listed here that you and your wife are looking for either one or two bedrooms.”

“My… what?” Adrien looked startled. “Um… I hate to say this but… don’t you recognize me?”

Marinette couldn’t help but giggle as the agent finally slowed down to take a proper look at him.

“You aren’t… Mr. and Mrs. Garnier are you?” he asked, looking rather sick.

“No,” Adrien answered, looking very amused. “We’re both only seventeen so…”

“Oh… oh dear,” the man’s face got very pale. “You’re…” he frantically opened his tablet. “You’re Mr. Agreste, aren’t you? I’m so sorry… I saw you two waiting and you looked... sorry,” the agent grimaced. “I clicked on the wrong appointment in my schedule.”

“Don’t worry about it,” Adrien grinned. “It’s rather refreshing being treated like a normal person. Please call me Adrien and this is my girlfriend, Marinette Dupain-Cheng. I wanted her to come with me because I hope eventually she will move in with me but not quite yet.”

“Right… oh I’m so terribly sorry,” the agent said, his expression mortified. “I didn’t even introduce myself. I’m Benjamin Beaumont. Do call me Benjamin. Shall we get going? You were correct that you have more than three places to visit although just by one.”

“Sounds good,” Adrien replied. “It’s nice to meet you Benjamin.”

*****

After walking through two of the apartments Adrien had looked at online, both he and Marinette were feeling worn out and rather discouraged. There was nothing really wrong with either place but there was nothing really exciting either which was disheartening considering the exorbitantly high rents at both places.

“It’s the location,” the agent said apologetically. “They are both in the seventh arrondissement which is one of the most expensive. The other two on your list are in less expensive parts of the city but still within your distance parameters.”

“I’m certainly interested in seeing them,” Adrien replied. “I don’t know much about either of them other than they met all the requirements I gave.”

“Well, it won’t take much longer,” the agent told him. “The first is just past the Bastille Monument.”

“That… that would actually really suit me,” Adrien said, looking hopeful.

“Great,” Benjamin said, looking relieved as the car pulled up to the curb. “Well, here we are!”

Adrien followed him out of the car before turning to help Marinette. She bumped into him playfully. “This is familiar territory,” she murmured to him as she remembered the various akumas they had fought in the area.

Adrien grinned. “This is better than those places around the Eiffel Tower. Much closer to school and your place.”

“Yeah,” she agreed, smiling as he took her hand and they followed Benjamin into the building.

“Top floor for this one,” the agent said, leading them to the small elevator. They nodded and filed in after him. “The ceilings are quite high but have coved edges which feels rather cozy.”

“I have no idea what that means,” Adrien laughed. “But I’m very curious to see it.”

“It just means they are angled where they go up from the walls, following the contours of the roof,” Benjamin explained. “Often top floor apartments can feel a bit claustrophobic but this one has unusually high ceilings so the angles don’t feel so oppressive. We’ll see what you think.”

They got out of the elevator and walked straight across to the door of the apartment. The agent pulled out a key and opened it.

“Wow,” Adrien said as soon as he walked in. “This is… definitely more what I had in mind.” He walked into the bright interior, turning left through an archway, admiring the old wooden floors arranged in a herringbone pattern. The living room was bigger than the others he had seen with a large window letting in plenty of sunlight. “Fireplace… check!” he said, laughing as he nuzzled Marinette’s cheek.

“Look at the kitchen!” she exclaimed, opening the french doors that divided the two rooms. “These countertops… are they actually…”

“Marble,” the agent confirmed with a grin. “You get a bit more for your money when you aren’t looking for an Eiffel Tower view. It’s not that big but very functional. If you went further afield, you’d be amazed at what’s available.”

“I suppose so,” Adrien replied. “But this location is pretty close to school so that’s a big plus. I guess that won’t be as important a year from now but this is still central enough for anything else.”

“Go take a look at the rest,” the agent urged.

“I see there’s a balcony off the kitchen too,” Marinette pointed out.

“Oh yes, it’s not too big but there’s probably room for a couple of chairs or something,” Benjamin replied.

Adrien gave Marinette a subtle wink and she grinned back before they both left the kitchen and headed back in the direction they had come in.

“Master bedroom is first door on the left. Second bedroom is second door on the left. There’s a bathroom across from the second bedroom with a shower,” the agent called.

“Are there two bathrooms?” Adrien asked.

“Yes, the other is ensuite to the master,” Benjamin explained.

Adrien and Marinette peered into the small but immaculate second bathroom before looking at the second bedroom.

“I think this will definitely be big enough for a study,” Adrien said.

“There’s also a wall bed installed if you wanted to use it as a guest bedroom,” Benjamin pointed out as he took it down. “It requires a double mattress.”

“Great,” Adrien said, grinning. “I did promise Alya and Nino somewhere to crash.”

“It’s really nice,” Marinette said. “I see what you were talking about with the coved ceilings.”

“I’m excited to see the master bedroom,” Adrien said. “So far, I like the rest of the apartment.”

“Oh,” Marinette sighed dreamy as the agent opened the bedroom door. “The wooden floors are so pretty.”

“Yes, only the kitchen and bathrooms are tiled. The rest of the floors are wooden,” Benjamin replied.

“It’s nice,” Adrien nodded. “Big enough for any kind of bed really and I like the big window. What’s the bathroom like Princess?”

Marinette opened the door and shrieked in delight. “Oh wow!” she squealed. “Look at the bathtub! It’s like a spaceship!”

Adrien laughed as he peered in. “I see there’s a separate shower as well. How is this place not already rented?”

Benjamin shrugged. “They only vacated on Friday. We don’t have it scheduled for pictures until tomorrow. It fit your requirements so whoever you talked to put it on the list.”

“What’s the rent?” Adrien asked.

“€2,200 a month plus utilities,” he replied. “Well within the budget you listed.”

“Nice,” Adrien agreed. “What do you think, Marinette?”

“It’s beautiful,” she replied hesitantly, slightly staggered at the price.

“Can you give us a minute?” Adrien asked.

“Of course,” Benjamin said, retreating from the master bedroom and shutting the door.

“I saw the look on your face when we were discussing the price,” Adrien said, taking her hands in his. Don’t worry, I can afford this. I think I’ll walk you through the terms of my trust fund so you can see why this is ok. I did talk to the fund manager so I could get a recommendation on what I could afford to pay in rent and he said I could go up to €2,500 so this is definitely fine.”

“Ok,” Marinette said, looking up at him. “I think it’s perfect and… you should go for it if you think so too.”

“Yeah,” he agreed. “I have some things I want to ask about but at this point, I can absolutely see myself… and you… here.” She nodded and he smiled, kissing her softly on the lips.

“Do you have any questions?” Benjamin asked as they met him back in the living area.

“Yeah, how do the utilities work?” Adrien asked.

“There’s gas for heating and the stove, electricity, water and internet if you want that. In addition you will need to pay for a TV license and your property taxes once a year,” the agent replied. “You won’t have to worry about those annual expenses until January though.”

“Is it possible to paint or anything like that?” he asked.

“Yes, we have a painting company you’d have to use and there is a limited number of choices. I can give you the details for that as well. Are you interested?” Benjamin replied, looking at him questioningly.

“I am,” Adrien answered. “I don’t even want to see the other one. This feels right to me.”

Benjamin nodded. “Let’s get back to the office and start filling out some paperwork then!”

****

“Hello you two! Just in time for dinner!” Tom greeted Adrien and Marinette cheerfully as he finished setting the table. “Find anything you liked, Son?”

“I did actually,” Adrien replied. “That’s why we’re back so late. They have to do all their checks to make sure I’m capable of paying rent and stuff but I filled out all the paperwork and I paid the deposit so once that’s done, I can come in and get the keys.”

“Wow!” Sabine exclaimed as she brought the plates of food she had just dished up over. “Where is it?”

“Over by the Bastille Monument,” Adrien replied. “I’m going to take my time getting it ready if that’s ok. I wasn’t intending to move until school is out.”

“You are always welcome, dear,” Sabine told him, ruffling his hair affectionately. “Does your new place have everything you were looking for?”

“Yeah,” Adrien answered. “And it just… felt right pretty much as soon as I walked in. It’s funny, the agent mistook us for some other clients so the first place we saw was this little one bedroom place. Once we got that straightened out, we saw two of the places I looked at online and then the one I ended up choosing, which they hadn’t posted yet.”

“How on earth did you get mistaken for someone else, Son?” Tom asked, looking amused.

Adrien laughed. “I don’t think he really looked at me to begin with. He and the driver were held up in traffic so when he came in, he was immediately hustling us outside and into the car. It turned out he had an appointment at the same time the next day with a newlywed couple and he brought their file up on his tablet. I couldn’t figure out what was going on when we looked at the first place.”

“How long did it take for him to recognize you?” Sabine asked.

“When I asked why we were looking at a one bedroom apartment and he said that according to his file, I was looking with my wife for either a one or two bedroom place,” Adrien explained. “At that point I asked him if he knew who I was. He slowed down and really looked at me then.”

Tom threw back his head and laughed heartily. “That is too funny!” he exclaimed.

“I thought so too,” Adrien agreed with a grin. “He was very apologetic about it when I was signing everything. I kept assuring him that I didn’t take any offense and finally I just said I wasn’t going to be reporting the conversation to his company and then he calmed down.”

Tom chuckled. “Your life, Adrien. I don’t know how you manage it.”

“I don’t know either sometimes, Adrien confessed. “I have to admit, it was kind of refreshing not being Adrien Agreste for a little while. If anything, it made me warm up to the guy more.”

Chapter Text

“So where are we going for today’s shoot?” Marinette asked, snuggling against Adrien as she gazed out the window of the car.

“We’re going to Parc de la Villette,” Adrien answered. “I haven’t been there in ages. How about you?”

“It’s been a long time for me as well,” Marinette agreed. “It’s a good place for a shoot. There are so many cool structures there.”

“Yeah,” Adrien said. “I’m looking forward to it. It’s always more fun working with you instead of on my own.”

“Awww, I love being able to help,” Marinette replied. “I think today will be fun. Plus we finally get to meet Henri tonight. I’m so curious about him.”

“Me too,” Adrien said, grinning. “It’s been over a month and I’m pretty eager to see what he’s like. It hardly seems fair how much Celine knows about us and our friends when we don’t know much about her private life. I wouldn’t know anything if I hadn’t ended up staying with her for a few days.”

“Very true,” Marinette laughed. “We might not even know about Henri if it wasn’t for that!”

Adrien smiled and put his arm around her. “I know there are a lot of things up in the air but right now feels pretty good.”

“It does,” Marinette said with a contented sigh. “For the shoot, do you know if we’ll be going to the dragon slide?”

“I have no idea,” Adrien replied. “I’ve never been on it in any of its various forms.”

“I’ve been on the most recent version once. I went right after it opened. I guess I’m probably too old for it now. Still, it’s really cool looking. I think it would be good for pictures,” Marinette said.

“I’m not sure I even know what it looks like,” Adrien told her, taking her hand in his free one, bringing it to his lips and kissing it gently.

“Mmm,” she sighed, closing her eyes for a moment. “It’s… brightly colored..” she trailed off as he kissed the inside of her wrist.

Adrien grinned as she smiled dreamily. “Am I being too distracting?” he asked playfully.

“Is there such a thing?” she asked, opening her eyes. “What was I even talking about and does it matter anymore?”

“You were telling me about the dragon slide,” Adrien said, letting her hand go and lightly tickling her.. “I’m not sure I’ve ever seen it.”

“Oh yeah,” she giggled, squirming away from him. “Ok, you can stop now… I’ll get my phone and show you a picture of it.” He stopped abruptly and she took her phone out of her bag. “Here, the colors are even kind of similar to the line, don’t you think?”

“You’re right,” Adrien agreed. “It is really cool looking. I am not sure what Vincent has planned but hopefully this is on his list. He told me Frederic and Dominique are both going to be there. I hope they aren’t too worried about this company transfer thing.”

“How does the Trust feel about it?” Marinette asked.

“I don’t think they really have an opinion about it to be honest. I got my lawyer through them but Father is paying for her services.”

“I guess that means he has access to his money now,” Marinette replied.

“He has to do everything through his lawyer or something,” Adrien said. “I don’t know how that works but they did unfreeze everything once he was put in custody in Paris. The freeze on his company was pretty brief. The CFO was able to show a clear separation between the company and my father’s personal assets apart from the whole escaping in the Gabriel plane. Raphael showed that the company actually billed him for that and he’s already paid up.”

“So everyone’s getting their paychecks then. That’s a relief,” Marinette replied.

“Including us for this shoot,” Adrien told her. “I’m planning to donate my earnings to a charity that provides free legal advice for minors. I just really don’t feel right about taking money for this. I told them to pay standard contractor rates to me for the foreseeable future instead of my usual rate.”

“That’s a great idea,” Marinette said. “I’ll donate mine as well.”

“I’m trying to think of ways to put back what my father has taken away from people,” Adrien said, sighing as he looked out the window. “I’ve been very aware of my own privilege throughout this. Sure I’m suffering but I have access to every kind of help I could possibly need. If I were anyone else, what could I even do about it? I don’t want to personally profit from Helios’s line this summer. I want all the staff to get paid and all the budgets to be met so we can continue. If we are fortunate enough to get anything beyond that, it needs to go to some relevant charities.”

“I think that’s a very important thing to share,” Marinette said.

“Believe me, I will be,” Adrien replied emphatically. “Martin is trying to get me back on Nadja’s show next week. It would just be me but I’d really appreciate it if you would come along for moral support.”

“Of course I will,” Marinette agreed.

“Thanks Princess,” Adrien said, reaching over to stroke her face. “I think we’re at the park.”

“Looks like it,” Marinette replied as she turned to look out the window.

Adrien’s phone chimed and he quickly pulled it out of his pocket. “They’re in front of the Philharmonie de Paris.”

“Oooh, that’s such a cool-looking building!” Marinette exclaimed.

“I’ve been to a few concerts there,” Adrien told her. “Not for a couple of years though.”

“Wow, what’s it like inside?” Marinette asked.

“It’s really amazing. Maybe we can go to something there together sometime,” Adrien suggested.

“I’d love to,” she replied, leaning against him as he wrapped his arm around her again.

*****

“Doll!” Celine exclaimed, rushing over to Marinette and Adrien as they walked over. “It’s so good to see you! I’ve had some quality time with little bro here but I haven’t really gotten to talk to you in awhile.”

“I know,” Marinette agreed, gasping slightly as Celine gave her an enthusiastic hug. “Hopefully I’ll see more of all of you when school is over.”

“From what I hear, Babe, you’ll be the big boss by then. Is that right?” Celine asked, smiling at him teasingly.

“Technically yes although I don’t intend to take any kind of salary and should we manage to resume getting any profit, I’ll either be investing it back into the company or donating it,” Adrien explained. “I’m going to come in next week after the transfer is completed and explain what I’m thinking then.”

“Well, if this is what you want, I’m proud of you Babe,” Celine said quietly. “I hope we can make it work.”

“So do I,” Adrien agreed. “I think it’s possible. Even Father said there are plenty of capable people there.”

“I just can’t imagine what it must be like making decisions like this,” Celine murmured as she led them to a small trailer parked nearby.

“Well I had to make some kind of decision,” Adrien replied. “I guess I went with the decision that will inevitably lead to many more decisions. I’m confident it was the right thing to do though.”

“Hey you two!” Peridot greeted them as she peered out of the trailer. “It’s been awhile.”

“Hi Peridot,” Adrien said as she gave him a hug.

“How are you doing Adrien?” she asked as they all went into the trailer together. “I heard you were emancipated. How’s that been?”

“I’m ok,” he replied, taking a seat on the small couch next to the workstations and pulling Marinette gently down next to him. “I’ve been able to get all my finances in order and I’ve taken my phone off Marinette’s family’s plan. I put a deposit on an apartment and I think that will all be sorted out next week sometime. I’m planning to get the place ready over the next few weeks and move in when school is out.”

“Sounds like everything is coming together for you,” Peridot told him. “I’m really glad to hear that. I’m sure you’re craving some stability by now.”

“Yeah, although staying with Marinette has given me that. I don’t know what I would have done without her or her parents since this all started. I’m just really ready to be figuring things out on my own terms and have my own space,” Adrien said, absentmindedly stroking Marinette’s hair.

“I’m excited to see what is planned for today,” Marinette said, smiling as Adrien slipped his arm around her shoulders. “This seems like a really fun location for a shoot.”

“We think so too,” Peridot agreed. “Hi Mimi, Hi Frederic,” she said as they came into the trailer.

“Hi Frederic!” Adrien exclaimed. “I heard you were thinking about joining us!”

“I was sorry to miss the Cyprus shoot but since this one is local, I thought I’d be more involved this time,” he explained.

“I’m glad you’re here! Is Dominique coming too?” Adrien asked.

“I tried to talk her into it. Hopefully she’ll show up. I think it would make her feel better to see you two looking cute in her designs,” Frederic said.

“Poor Dominique,” Marinette sighed. “The fact that things aren’t selling has nothing to do with the quality of the line. I’m hopeful that we can turn this around.”

“I think it’s certainly possible,” Frederic agreed. “Based on what you’ve been emailing me lately Adrien, you and Marinette have some really good ideas.”

“Thanks, it’s certainly been on both our minds lately,” Adrien told him.

“I just don’t understand that,” Frederic said. “You must feel so betrayed by your father. I feel betrayed for goodness sake. I don’t know why you’d want to preserve anything of his.”

“You aren’t his. No one in this company ever belonged to him. What exists at Gabriel is special and it isn’t because of him anymore--if it ever was,” Adrien replied. “I’ll get off my soapbox or I’ll never shut up. It’s just something I feel very strongly about.”

Marinette smiled and leaned up to kiss his cheek. “What’s on the schedule for today?” she asked, turning her attention to Celine.

“Four outfits each,” Celine answered. “First shot in front of the symphony hall. Second location is the sphere, third location is the carousel near the canal and fourth is the dragon slide… which looks quite different from what I remember but should work even better in its updated form.”

“Yessss,” Marinette cheered. “I love the dragon slide.”

“You’re young enough you’ve probably been on it, haven’t you doll?” Celine laughed.

“Just once,” Marinette replied. “We took a family trip up here right after I turned eleven when it was brand new.”

“Now I feel old,” Celine said, groaning dramatically. “I remember the one before that.”

“You feel old?” Frederic chuckled. “I remember the original. Like everything else from the Eighties, it had some significant health and safety issues.”

Marinette giggled. “My Papa has some pretty good stories about being a kid in the Eighties.”

“Now you are really making me feel old, Marinette!” Frederic said teasingly.

“Hey!” she protested. “My Papa isn’t old! And neither are you!”

“If you say so,” he replied, winking at her. “I should let you two get ready. Vincent was setting up when I left him.”

*****

“Aw, Princess you look so cute!” Adrien exclaimed when Marinette came over to where everyone was waiting by the symphony hall.

“Thanks Gorgeous,” Marinette grinned, doing a little twirl in her blue halter dress. “Frederic this seems slightly different to the samples.”

“Yes, we ended up simplifying the design of both dresses a little and adding pockets to the halter neck dress. It used to have contrasting trim. The slip dress is just one color as well.”

“I like it,” Marinette replied. “Pockets in a dress are always a good thing.”

“I agree,” Celine said, playfully flicking one of her french braided pigtails. “Didn’t Alya have this style in Cyprus?”

“Yeah,” Mimi replied. “But I wove pink ribbons into Marinette’s hair to coordinate with her eyeliner.”

“This is definitely different from my usual makeup but the bright pink is really cool,” Marinette said. “Also, I didn’t know any of the sample espadrilles were purple.”

“They weren’t,” Frederic answered. “We ended up contracting with the shoemaker that Gabriel used and we’ve added them to the line. I hope I don’t end up regretting the extra expense.”

“I really love them,” Marinette replied. “I think lots of people will. Are they going to be available in all six colors?”

“We used three of the colors for the womens’ and three for the mens’,” Frederic explained. “Otherwise we would have ended up with a really large order. We ended up simplifying the two dresses and the mens button down to make room in the budget for the women’s trousers and the shoes.”

“I think that will be worth it,” Marinette replied. “It makes it that much easier to mix and match.”

“That’s what I thought. I’m glad you agree,” Dominique said as she walked over. “I hope I haven’t kept you waiting.”

“Dominique!” Frederic exclaimed. “I’m so glad you made it! I think Vincent is just about ready to get started.”

“I am,” Vincent confirmed as he joined them.

“Where do you want us, Vincent?” Adrien asked.

“I’m going to have you walking toward me with the building behind you. I want to keep this shoot natural. So do whatever you would do if you were out taking a walk.”

“You want this to look like a date then?” Adrien asked, grinning and taking Marinette’s hand.

“Exactly my boy,” Vincent said, grinning back. “Head toward the building and Milo will shout when you need to turn around.”

“Got it,” Adrien said as he and Marinette turned away toward the building.

“This is really nice,” Marinette sighed happily, dropping Adrien’s hand so she could link her arm through his. “I miss going out on walks.”

“Me too,” Adrien replied. “Maybe we should try this sometime on our own. There are plenty of parks we could visit.”

“And museums,” Marinette added. “I don’t think anyone would bother us since they already have so much security.”

“Yeah, that’s true,” Adrien said thoughtfully. “Martin said I’ve been getting invitations to things. Maybe some of them would be fun to go together.”

“I would love that,” Marinette replied, leaning her head against his arm.

“You two can turn around now!” Milo called.

Adrien smiled as he turned them around. “Do you mind if we go back to holding hands?”

“Of course not,” Marinette murmured, smiling as he laced his fingers through hers. “You know, as far as I’m concerned, this is a date. Very intensely documented but still… a date.”

“Sounds good to me,” Adrien agreed, lifting her hand to his mouth and kissing it. “Although I don’t suppose there’ll be any chance of finding a secluded place to make out in.”

“When have we ever managed that anyway?” Marinette laughed. “The only place we’ve ever done that remotely in public is school.”

“Yeah, well, there isn’t anybody to yell at me now so I guess we’ll see,” Adrien said mischievously, suddenly spinning her out and back to him as if they were dancing.

Marinette giggled. “I can always count on you to make things fun, can’t I Gorgeous?”

“Maybe not always,” he countered. “But I do my best.”

“Your best is perfect to me,” she murmured. “I guess I meant more in terms of dates. You make everything seem special.”

“That… is an incredibly sweet thing to say,” Adrien replied, drawing her close and kissing her softly.

****

“What do you think?” Celine whispered to Frederic and Dominique as they watched Adrien and Marinette entranced.

“It’s like magic,” Frederic said, his expression soft. “They seem to have forgotten they’re being photographed.”

“And yet Adrien guides the photos in a way that shows everything off in a completely natural way. I wonder if he even knows that he is doing that?” Dominique wondered.

“Ok, you two!” Vincent called, abruptly breaking the spell. “We’re done with this location. We’re going to move the trailer up a bit since the other three locations are on the other side of the park.”

“Where do you keep that thing when you aren’t using it?” Marinette asked as she and Adrien walked over.

“We only rent the trailers we use,” Celine explained.

“I thought it seemed different from last time,” Marinette replied. “Is it… bigger?”

“Yes, we got one for two people this time,” Celine said. “It’s only a tiny bit bigger. It has two changing stalls instead of one and two work stations.”

“Milo and I will ride with the trailer driver,” Vincent told them. “I think the rest of you can squeeze in with Gorilla right?”

“I’ve got a car as well,” Dominique offered.

“Peridot and I will go with you,” Mimi said.

“Frederic and I can join Adrien and Marinette,” Celine said. “We can all follow the trailer.”

Chapter Text

“Wow, look at this thing,” Adrien marveled as he and Marinette stood in the grassy area in front of the huge reflective sphere.

“It’s really cool,” Marinette agreed. “I remember coming over here the last time I visited with my parents.”

“It’s an IMAX theater right?” Adrien asked. “Did you get to see a movie?”

“Nah,” Marinette answered. “It was a beautiful day and neither of my parents wanted to spend it inside.”

“That’s fair,” Adrien laughed. “They don’t go out much do they?”

“No,” Marinette answered. “Although they do take a two or three week break and close the bakery every summer.”

“Marinette! Adrien! We’re ready for you!” Celine called, gesturing at a blanket she had arranged on the ground.

“Awesome, thanks Sis!” Adrien exclaimed. “Vincent, where do you want me to sit?”

“Both of you stay close to the center of the blanket. Just sit and chat. Do whatever comes naturally,” Vincent instructed.

“Got it,” Adrien replied, smoothing his blue chino shorts before carefully lowering himself down.

“This will be interesting,” Marinette commented, gesturing at her miniskirt. “Let’s see if I can keep this ladylike.”

Adrien laughed, watching her carefully lower herself to her knees before shifting her legs to one side and sitting down. “Success! That was very graceful of you.”

Marinette giggled. “Why thank you! Do you think I’m showing the clothes enough?”

“Yeah, I think so,” Adrien said after evaluating the way they were both sitting. He shifted over slightly and took her hand. “So what do you parents do with their time off?”

“Sleep, go for walks, go shopping… and we usually take a day trip somewhere nearby,” Marinette said. “I know they’ve been wanting to go on a family trip further afield but it hasn’t happened yet. Everything just gets so ridiculously expensive during the school holidays.”

“Do they ever do things just the two of them?” Adrien asked.

“They usually take their anniversary off,” Marinette answered. “I almost messed that up once when Alix got akumatized. I was supposed to be at home waiting for Ms. Chamack to pick up a cake while they were out but I thought I could deliver my banners and get back in time. Then Nadja was early and it got a little crazy. At least now I’m not so bad about overcommitting myself.”

“You’ve always tried to do as much as you can for everyone else,” Adrien said affectionately, squeezing her hand.

“I just… I always wanted to do my best but I’ve realized if I push myself too much, no one gets what they expected and then I feel bad. So now I only want to take something on if I know I have the time to focus on it,” Marinette explained. She paused, suddenly deep in thought. “Speaking of time…”

“What is it Princess?” Adrien asked.

“I was just remembering something,” she said slowly. “I didn’t divide from Kaalki when we transferred your… ever.”

“Really?” Adrien asked. “I haven’t been able to test myself on the time limit. I should really do that.”

“You definitely should,” Marinette agreed. “Mayura might be in for a rude awakening.”

“Can you imagine?” Adrien asked gleefully. “I keep wondering when she’s going to show her face. I’d love to have a nice surprise like that waiting for her.”

Marinette laughed. “The more secret weapons we have, the better,” she said.

“Looks like Celine is bringing us snacks,” Adrien observed, noticing her as she approached with two ice cream cones. “Hey thanks Sis, did Vincent want us to go somewhere else?”

“Yeah,” she replied, handing them each a cone. “He wants you to go lean on the railing by the sphere with the ice cream. Then we’re going to the carousel.”

“So is Henri meeting us here when we’re done?” Adrien asked mischievously.

Celine rolled her eyes and laughed. “No, you’ll get to meet him later. Please be nice! He really wants to meet you but he’s also a little freaked out.”

“Aww, I don’t want to make him nervous,” Adrien said, his face falling. “Although I can understand why, especially now.”

“I’ve told him he’s got nothing to worry about,” Celine said. “I’ve just seen how much you and Nino tease each other.”

“That’s different!” Adrien exclaimed. “He’s my best friend and loves to talk shit. I just return the favor.”

“I know, I know,” Celine laughed, her expression relaxing a little. “Maybe I’m the one who’s nervous. Anyway, head over to the sphere and start eating that ice cream before it melts.”

“Yes ma’am!” Adrien said, helping Marinette up. “Maybe you need to get yourself some ice cream and chill out.”

“Maybe I will, Babe,” Celine retorted, laughing despite herself. She knelt down and hastily rolled up the blanket. “Now go! Vincent is waiting!”

*****

“I can’t even remember the last time I went on a carousel,” Adrien said as he studied the ornately decorated amusement ride. “How about you Princess?”

“It was this one,” Marinette replied. “I convinced Maman to go on it with me.”

“Awww,” Adrien said, kissing her cheek. “I’ll bet your Papa thought that was adorable.”

“I’m sure,” Marinette laughed. “I was so small for my age that she had to give me a boost. I think I can manage this time, especially since I’m wearing these fabulous teal trousers for this part of the shoot.”

“Looks like Vincent is discussing something with the guy running the carousel,” Adrien observed. “Which seems to involve paying extra.”

“He’s motioning us over,” Marinette said.

“What’s going on, Vincent?” Adrien asked as they walked over.

“Oh I was just seeing if I could take pictures on the carousel. I just reserved the whole thing for two turns so pick your steeds of choice,” Vincent told them. “Come on Milo, we’ll have to work out the best spot.”

“What are we going for Marinette?” Adrien asked, pulling her close for a moment.

“Definitely the horses,” she replied.

Adrien smiled and kissed the top of her head. “As you wish,” he responded, letting her go so he could lead her through the gate and onto the carousel. “We’re going for the horses,” he called to Vincent.

Marinette put her foot onto the metal bar under her horse, swinging herself up onto the saddle. “Ta da!” she raised her arms in victory.

“Awww, I was hoping you would need a boost,” Adrien said teasingly as he climbed up on his horse.

“You can help me get down if you really want to,” she replied, reaching over to take his hand.

“Yes, that is perfecto!” Vincent exclaimed, bringing his camera up to take pictures as they grinned at each other.

“Would you do this even if it wasn’t for a picture?” Marinette asked as the ride started, forcing her to drop his hand and grab the pole in front of her to keep her balance.

“Sure,” Adrien replied. “If it felt safe. It’s been nice today. I am pretty confident some people have recognized us today and it hasn’t been a problem.”

“We are definitely getting some curious looks right now,” Marinette told him with a giggle.

Adrien grinned. “Riding on a merry-go-round while someone takes pictures is pretty conspicuous. If I felt like I was blending in while we were out somewhere, I’d certainly do something like this with you.”

“I guess that will be easier in the summer when you can wear baseball hats and sunglasses like everyone else.”

“True,” Adrien agreed. “Do you think a hat that said ‘Not Adrien’ would work?”

Marinette giggled again. “Probably not Gorgeous.”

“No, I didn’t think so,” he replied, grinning at her. “It would be funny though.”

“How about one for Felix that says ‘Sorry I’m not Adrien’?” Marinette asked.

“Oh Princess,” Adrien said, cracking up. “Please present him with that if he visits during the trial. And make sure I’m there. I would love to see that.”

“Maybe it would be better coming from… someone else,” she said, winking at him.

“Daaamn,” he said, laughing harder. “I love the way you think.”

“I’m probably being a little too mean really,” Marnette replied.

“No, you definitely aren’t,” Adrien assured her. “I hadn’t realized the full extent of what he did while he was pretending to be me until you said. I’m just glad you never thought I’d do something like that.”

“Of course not!” she exclaimed. “The ride is slowing down. Want to snuggle on one of those pretty benches this time?”

“I’d love to,” Adrien agreed, hopping down as soon as the ride stopped. He put his hands on her waist as soon as she had swung her leg over her horse and lifted her down gently, aware of Vincent rapidly snapping away on his camera. Are you talking about the one right behind us?”

“Yeah, but maybe that would be difficult to get pictures. I don’t think Vincent’s going to want to sit on a moving horse,” Marinette said thoughtfully.

“True,” Adrien agreed. “Maybe we should ask him what he wants us to do.”

“Hello you two. Have you decided where you’re going to sit for the second ride?” Vincent asked, walking over.

“I’m not sure,” Adrien answered. “Is there anywhere in particular you’d like us to go?”

“I like the balloon,” Vincent replied. “I can get a good angle on that from the stairs.”

“Ok, that sounds good,” Adrien agreed.

“Oooh,” Marinette sighed as they made their way around. “It’s so pretty. This whole carousel is beautiful. I bet these pictures are going to be really cool.”

“I think so too,” Adrien said as he followed her into the basket. “Is this a good spot?” he asked Vincent, watching the photographer choosing which step to stand on.

“Can you slide over until Marinette is on the edge?” he asked.

“Of course,” Adrien replied as they slid to the other side. “Good?”

“Perfecto,” Vincent nodded. “Just in time too. Here we go again. Give me some more of the good spaghetti!”

Adrien smiled and put his arm around Marinette. “I love you,” he murmured, nuzzling her cheek. “Thank you for being part of this.”

“I’m glad to help in any way that I can,” she assured him. “And today has been so much fun. I’ve enjoyed every minute.”

“Me too,” he agreed, leaning down to kiss her.

******

“I swear you two just get cuter all the time,” Celine said to Adrien as she handed him some makeup removing wipes.

“Thanks, Sis,” Adrien grinned as he swiped one over his face and then another, more carefully, over his eyes.

“So, read any good books lately?” she asked teasingly as she found the hanger with his clothes and handed it to him.

Adrien laughed. “Brave of you to bring that up. It’s been very interesting so… thanks, I guess.”

“Better to learn that stuff from a legit source,” Celine said with a shrug.

“I can’t argue with that,” Adrien laughed. “So where are we meeting Henri? Around here or somewhere else?”

“He’s meeting us closer to home,” Celine answered. “There’s a nice little cafe near my place that we’re going to for dinner. I’ll text him when we’re on our way.”

“Cool,” Adrien replied, coming out of the changing room in his regular clothes.

“Sorry,” Marinette said, rushing in. “I was just talking to Frederic and Dominique. I’ll get changed quickly.”

“Don’t worry about it, Doll,” Celine said reassuringly, handing her clothes to her.

*****

“Is Marinette asleep?” Celine asked quietly as they drove back to the center of Paris.

“I don’t know… Marinette?” Adrien said. “She’s leaning on me pretty hard.”

Celine bent forward until she could see Marinette’s face. “Aww, she is. Poor thing. It’s been a long day. Do you think she’ll be alright for dinner?”

“Yeah,” Adrien said, wrapping his arm around Marinette. “Having a little nap will help, I’m sure.”

“You two are so sweet to each other,” Celine sighed.

Adrien smiled. “I have to admit, I love it when she falls asleep on me. Although it does tend to make me want to fall asleep too.”

“Do you think it’ll be hard to move out?” Celine asked.

“Maybe a bit,” he confessed. “But I think a lot of things will be so much easier now that I’m the one who controls my time. And the apartment is really nice. I’ve even got a wall bed in the second bedroom so friends can crash there if they want. That includes you… and Henri if that’s a possibility.”

Celine laughed. “I guess we’ll have to see how well you get along before you invite us both to your place.”

“Is there a reason I wouldn’t?” Adrien asked, looking concerned.

“No, nothing like that. I’m just… nervous and I don’t know why. He’s a very friendly, outgoing kind of person.”

“Like you then,” Adrien grinned. “None of this opposites attract business for you.”

“To be honest, I think that’s where I was going wrong,” Celine said. “I often attract introverts because I make my intentions clear which makes it easier in the beginning. But eventually I seem to start grating on them and it all falls apart. Besides, I wouldn’t say you and Marinette are opposites either.”

“Yeah, I’m not sure I’d call us opposites,” Adrien said thoughtfully. “Everything that makes us different from each other, compliments. It’s just very easy. I know how I need to react to her and she knows how to react to me. I can’t explain it any more than that. It just feels very natural.”

****

“Marinette,” Adrien said softly as Gorilla pulled up near Celine’s apartment. “We’re here.”

“Mmmm,” she sighed. “Sorry, did I fall asleep?”

“You did,” Adrien told her, kissing the top of her head. “We’re going to a cafe near Celine’s place.”

“Ok,” she said, sitting up groggily and looking out the window. “Thanks Gorilla,” she murmured as he opened the door for her. She fluffed her banks where they had flattened against her while she slept on Adrien and got out of the car, followed by Adrien and Celine.

“Celine!” a tall man with dark hair called as he walked over. “You must be Adrien and Marinette! I’m Henri. I’m so glad I finally get to meet you both! I’ve heard a lot about you.”

“It’s nice to meet you too,” Adrien said, shaking hands with him.

“My god,” Henris said. “Obviously you are very recognizable due to all of the billboards but you look much younger in person. It was hard for me to believe you were only seventeen until now!”

“All makeup and lighting,” Adrien assured him. “I’ve been given more sophisticated projects this year.”

“You’re certainly having to grow up in a hurry,” Henri said sympathetically.

“Yeah, I suppose that’s true,” Adrien replied. “It doesn’t feel real yet. Probably because I’m still living at Marinette’s and going to school.”

Henri smiled and took Celine’s hand. “I don’t want to attract too much attention to you just standing here. The cafe is close by. Hopefully no one will give you any trouble. I’m friends with the manager or I wouldn’t have suggested something so casual.”

“I’m certainly willing to try,” Adrien said, smiling as Marinette slipped her hand into the crook of his elbow.

The restaurant was just up the street and it didn’t take the group long to get there. Henri held the door as everyone filed inside.

“Good evening Henri,” a man standing in the reception area greeted him. “Getting to make a habit of this aren’t you?”

“It’s your fascinating company, Michel,” he retorted with a wink.

“Uh-huh, I don’t think it’s my company but thanks anyway,” he replied. “If you’d like to follow me, I’ll take you to your table.”

Adrien did his best to blend in but he could already hear the familiar whispers coming from nearby tables punctuated by squeals at one from two twin girls who looked about ten or eleven years old. He smiled and gave them a small wink as he went by, his attention shocking them back into silence. Michel led them to a secluded corner booth and he gratefully chose the spot that was least visible from the room. Marinette took one edge with Celine sliding around toward Adrien and Henri taking the other edge.

“You handled that well,” Michel told Adrien as he handed out menus.

Adrien shrugged. “Kids are usually pretty easy. It’s more difficult with people my own age or older.”

“It looks like you’re the first line of defense Marinette,” Henri said after Michel left. “From what I understand, you are not to be messed with. I saw a picture of what you did to that guy who was messing with you and Celine.”

“Did you?” Marinette asked with interest. “Where? I’ve never seen it.”

“Frederic texted it to me,” Celine said, grinning. “I was feeling sad at work and he wanted to cheer me up.”

Adrien laughed. “I want to see that. That whole evening is a blur to me.”

“Sounds like there is even more to this story than Celine let on,” Henri said with a laugh.

“It started with that guy trying to flirt with Celine at rehearsals,” Marinette explained. “Then after the runway show he was at the afterparty and tried to bother her again but Adrien headed him off by taking him to the bar.”

“He kept sneaking wine into the glass I was holding every chance he got because I was so distracted. I ended up getting drunk. Then his horrible friend convinced me to try absinthe which I don’t remember at all. Marinette came to see if I could come back to our table and I was a mess.”

“Then Noah tried to grab me and I slapped him across the face as hard as I could,” Marinette finished. “It was a rough night. Neither of us has drank anything alcoholic since.”

“Understandable,” Henri remarked.

“Did your father ever confront you about that?” Celine asked.

“No, thankfully. I suppose I could find out now if he knows about it but I don’t care and if he doesn’t, I don’t want to explain all that to him,” Adrien replied firmly. “So Celine, let me see what my girl did to that more than deserving bastard.”

Celine laughed as she got her phone out of her bag. “Here you are Babe. It certainly made quite the sound when she hit him. The whole bar went silent.”

“Wow, Princess,” Adrien said, laughing quietly as he looked at Noah’s swollen cheekbone and bloodshot eye. “You do good work.”

“People tend to underestimate me because I’m small,” Marinette replied, looking at the photo for a moment. “I’m stronger than I look, especially since I joined a gym with Adrien in January. Usually I just yell when I’m mad but I was way past that with Noah. He knew he shouldn’t do what he was doing and he tried to do it right in front of Adrien. I was afraid he was going to take it much further than just grabbing me so I put everything I had into hitting him so he’d be forced to let me go.”

“I’ve been avoiding events like that ever since,” Adrien replied. “I went to the reception for the Gabriel party but not the afterparty. And we both stuck to water. Anyway, enough about my weird life. Celine said you work at a hotel with a friend of hers, Henri. What do you do?”

Henri smiled. “I’m a concierge at an upscale boutique hotel. Her friend Laura is as well.”

“I went to high school with Laura,” Celine explained. “We were roommates during university in this tiny little apartment. We ended up moving to different places when we started our careers so we could be nearer to our jobs. We still try and meet up every so often.”

“It took quite a bit of work for Laura to convince us both to meet,” Henri laughed. “We were both pretty sceptical about blind dates. I’m glad she finally wore me down. I’m just hoping Celine feels the same.”

“Of course I do!” Celine laughed, looking slightly sheepish. “I’m sorry I’ve taken a while to warm up but I’d say you’re getting somewhere, wouldn’t you?”

“I guess so,” Henri teased her. “Since you’re finally letting me meet your famous little brother… and I do realize you aren’t actually related Adrien!”

“Have you met her actual sister?” Adrien asked. “I haven’t managed that yet.”

“That’s because I almost exclusively see you while I’m working and she never visits me there!” Celine protested. “You all are making me sound very mysterious. Cadence is an accountant and she works a lot. I see her when we go to my parents’ house for lunch twice a month.”

“Can I get an invite to that?” Henri asked, putting an arm around her, his expression hopeful.

“Well, yes… if you want to,” Celine answered, looking flustered.

“Awww,” Adrien said, recognizing Henri’s eager expression all too well. “Does that mean you two are official?”

“Gorgeous!” Marinette scolded him. “Getting kind of nosy aren’t you?”

Henri laughed. “Does this mean you approve, Adrien?”

“If Sis is happy… that’s really all that matters to me,” Adrien replied. “She may be playing it cool on the outside but I don’t think this meeting would have happened otherwise.” He grinned at Celine as she blushed slightly. “I have to say, it’s nice to fluster her for a change.”

“I’ve been trying to convince her for a few weeks,” Henri said, his expression still strongly reminding Adrien of the way he had felt every time he asked Ladybug out. “So if this is a vote of confidence, I appreciate it.”

Adrien laughed. “I’m not sure I’m qualified to give those out to anyone. I was pretty randomly socialized until I insisted on going to school just before I turned fourteen. The learning curve has been pretty steep.”

“Just tell me I haven’t made a terrible impression,” Henri said, grinning ruefully.

“Not at all,” Adrien assured him. “I hope we get to meet up like this again soon.”

“I hope so too,” Henri replied. “It looks like we’re about to get some visitors.”

Marinette turned and saw the girls from the other table approaching shyly, each of them holding a small sketch pad.

“Hey,” Adrien greeted them. “I saw you earlier didn’t I?”

“Yeah,” the first one said.

“Marinette, do you want to swap with me for a minute?” he asked.

“I’ll just get up,” she offered, standing up so he could slide to the end of the booth.

“So what are your names?” Adrien asked as he turned to face them while sitting on the edge of his seat.

“I’m Madeleine,” the first girl said.

“I’m Mathilde,” the second one added. “We’re ten.”

“Ten huh,” Adrien said, looking at them thoughtfully. “So what can I do for you ladies?”

“We just wanted to say…” Mathilde began.

“...We’re really sorry about your Papa,” Madeleine added.

“That must be very sad for you,” Mathilde finished.

“Awww, that is very sweet of you,” he replied softly. “And you’re right. It’s been scary too but right now… it just feels sad.” He glanced up and saw the twins’ mother approaching, looking slightly apprehensive.

“They aren’t bothering you are they?” she asked as she came closer. “They wanted to say hello so badly, I told them they could come over before your food arrived and they shouldn’t feel bad if you didn’t want to talk.”

“It’s no problem at all,” Adrien assured her. “They were both very kind and I appreciate it. You know,” he said, turning his attention back to the girls. “My mother was a twin and she used to talk with her sister just like you two do, finishing each other’s sentences.”

“Were they identical like us?” Mathilde asked.

“Yep,” Adrien answered. “I couldn’t tell them apart sometimes when I was little.”

“It looks like their waiter is coming. We should get going girls,” their mother told them.

“Would you sign our notepads?” Mathilde asked hopefully.

“Of course,” Adrien answered, taking a pen from Marinette and carefully signing each notepad before handing them back. “Enjoy the rest of your evening ladies.” The girls nodded solemnly before turning away and allowing their mother to shepherd them back to their table.

“Wow,” Henri said after everyone had placed their orders. “You managed that situation extraordinarily well. Does that happen to you a lot?”

“Fairly often. I haven’t been out much at all since… everything happened. I’ve never had an interaction quite like that one though. They were very sweet,” Adrien answered.

******

“Awww, Princess you look so pretty,” Adrien said, watching Marinette climb into bed with him. “Today has been so nice but I wish I didn’t have to worry about Tikki flying off.”

Marinette looked thoughtful. “I think I have a solution. In fact, we really should be doing this anyway.”

“Doing what?” Adrien asked curiously.

“Meditating. We’ve gotten out of the habit and we need to keep that ability as strong as possible,” she answered.

“You’re right!” Adrien exclaimed. “But… how does this solve the other problem?”

Marinette laughed. “Remember what the monk said? I can transform again even if Tikki is still in the light ball. It’ll just be a big adrenaline rush.”

“Oh I see,” Adrien grinned. “Well that was fun last time. I’d be very happy to do that again.”

“I thought you might,” she replied as she climbed back out of bed. “Let me get Wayzz.”

“Plagg, claws out!” Adrien called as soon as Wayzz had zipped out.

“Tikki, spots on!” Marniette added, grinning at him as they sat across from each other on the bed.

“Say,” Chat Noir said thoughtfully as he took her hands in his. “Did you used to do a sort of… dance when you transformed?”

“Yeah,” Ladybug giggled. “At some point I guess I decided I was too grown up for that. Why, did you?”

“Absolutely,” he said with a laugh, feeling his adrenaline surge as the energy coursed through him. “I thought I was the shit. Keep in mind, this was at the height of my obsession with anime.”

“I was so clumsy and surprised the first time I transformed,” Ladybug reminisced. “I really could not understand why anyone would pick me for a job like that. You really helped build up my confidence.”

“I thought you were wonderful right from the start,” Chat said earnestly.

Ladybug smiled. “I could never have done any of it without you.”

Chat smiled back before closing his eyes and thinking the words of the mantra they had made together. Ladybug did the same and the energy rapidly built up, encasing them in the increasingly familiar sphere of light.

After a few moments, Ladybug opened her eyes and sighed in satisfaction. “I think that took a little longer but we weren’t as focused to begin with. We should definitely keep doing this on a regular basis.”

“I agree,” Chat said, his eyes twinkling mischievously. “Especially if I get to kiss you.”

“You do,” she agreed, gasping in surprise as he pounced on her. “You big kitty,” she giggled.

“I always wanted to do that,” he murmured, kissing her neck.

“You feel so good,” Ladybug murmured back, caressing the back of his neck, smiling as she felt him start to purr.

“So do you,” he whispered before kissing her hard on the mouth.

“Mmmm,” she sighed as they clung together, kissing each other fiercely, the light surrounding them growing brighter and more opaque.

“God, I want you so much, Bug,” Chat groaned, pushing himself against her.

“I want you too,” she murmured, hooking one of her legs around his waist, moaning as he ground himself against her.

“Is this ok?” he asked quietly, stroking her hair from her face.

“Very,” she managed. She arched into him as he ground down again, closing her eyes as he buried his face in her neck.

“Not sure how much more of this I can handle,” Chat murmured against her skin.

“Yeah, me either,” she sighed. “Do you think we should stop?”

“Probably,” he said before lifting his head to look at her. They gazed at each other for a moment before he lowered his mouth to hers and kissed her deeply.

Ladybug sighed into his mouth as she reached up to scratch his kitty ears. She noticed how different it was to run her hands through his hair with her suit on, the gloves blocking the feeling of his silky hair in her fingers. She traced one hand around to his bell and flicked it playfully. He grinned but didn’t stop kissing her and she could feel the upward curve of his smile against her lips. Finally he broke away and looked down at her.

“Ok, I really will stop now,” he said, rolling off her. “Although I’m going to go take a shower if that’s all right.”

“Go ahead,” Ladybug said with a grin. “Tikki, spots off!” Marinette appeared in a flash of pink light, stretching out her hands to catch the ball of light containing Tikki as it floated down.

“Plagg, claws in,” Chat said. The sphere of light immediately began to dim following their detransformations.

“Geez kid, I thought you were just meditating,” Plagg complained as he followed Adrien out of the room. “These teenage hormones are too damn much for me.”

Marinette giggled as he left, Plagg’s complaints silenced as the trap door clicked shut.

“I see your meditation was successful Guardian,” Wayzz said as he phased in, a smile tugging at his lips. “You certainly built up extra energy. I have not seen or felt any sign of Mayura. If she is in the city, she is likely hiding. I will go back out in a moment until the energy dissipates.”

“Thank you Wayzz,” Marinette replied, feeling somewhat sheepish under his knowing gaze. “I hope that wasn’t weird for you or anything.”

“No, I couldn’t feel anything specific. It’s just as the saying goes, I wasn’t born yesterday,” Wayzz said, giving her a rather Plagg-like wink.

****

“Hey Cutie Bug,” Adrien said as he climbed back into bed with Marinette. The sphere had disappeared and Marinette had already put the Miraculous for Wayzz back in her box.

“Hello mikitty,” she replied. “Think we can actually go to sleep now?”

“Yeah,” he yawned, laying down and smiling as Marinette immediately nestled in the crook of his arm..

“I love you,” she murmured, sleepily stroking his chest.

“I love you too,” he replied, leaning over to kiss the top of her head.

Chapter Text

“So dude, how did your meeting with the lawyer go yesterday?” Nino asked as the four teens sat around Marinette’s table at lunch on Tuesday.

“Everything went as expected,” Adrien answered. “Gabriel now belongs to me and I’m dropping that name. The whole thing is going to be called Helios Design House.”

“Fitting,” Alya teased him.

Adrien laughed. “Somehow I knew you would like that. We’ve got four to five months to turn things around max. If sales pick up, we can fully fund the autumn line for Helios or we can fully fund it anyway and shorten our timescale to three months and hope it sells. I’m really hoping the Helios summer line will do well.”

“Are there still swim suits for sale?” Alya asked.

“Yeah they reordered everything that sold out months ago. They are refreshing the whole layout in our stores tomorrow when they launch the summer stuff. Everything is pretty much happening all at once since we really don’t have much time.”

“How did your shoot go on Saturday?” Nino asked before helping himself to a chocolate eclair.

“I think it went really well,” Adrien replied, reaching over to stroke Marinette’s hair. “We went over to La Villette and wandered around. It was a beautiful day and we had a lot of fun.”

“That’s the giant park with the science museum isn’t it?” Alya asked.

“Yeah, we didn’t visit that part. We took pictures by the symphony hall, the sphere, the carousel and the dragon slide,” Adrien answered.

“Ha!” Nino snorted. “Did you actually go on it?”

“Nah, we just took pictures near it because the colors go well with the clothes,” Adrien explained. “After that we finally met Henri for dinner.”

“The guy Celine’s been seeing?” Alya asked, looking interested. “What’s he like?”

“I liked him,” Adrien said. “I texted Celine afterwards and said if she really was interested in something more from him, she should put him out of his misery and say so. It was written all over his face how hard he was trying to win her over and I would know.”

Alya grinned. “I suppose you would Sunshine.”

“It’s hard respecting someone’s decision but still hoping you can change their mind,” Adrien admitted. “I don’t think Celine has made up her mind for certain either way. I think she likes him but she’s scared about it too.”

“When did you get so insightful?” Alya asked, looking at him speculatively.

Adrien shrugged. “I pay attention to what people say. I can’t help anyone if I don’t really listen. Marinette could tell you that as well. It’s part of the job.”

“Yeah, but you make it look easy. You’re very patient and you wait for people to say what they are trying to say before you reply,” Marinette told him, taking his hand and squeezing it affectionately.

“I like doing that,” Adrien said. “I’m actually thinking about studying to become a psychiatrist,” he confided. “I’ve already told Marinette about it. What do you think?”

“I think you’d be really good at that dude,” Nino told him. “Obviously you’ve been building up those skills as Chat Noir and you could help a lot more people… but what will that mean for Helios?”

“My involvement with Helios is always going to be limited. They are a really good team and I just want to make it as easy as possible for them to do their jobs,” Adrien replied.

“How about you Marinette?” Alya asked. “Are you going to be working there?”

“Not full time,” Marinette answered. “I want to go to design school after we graduate but if they need me, I might intern over the summer this year. After that, I guess we’ll see.”

“I’m sure they’d love to have you,” Adrien said. “Are you coming with me after school? I’d like it if you did but you don’t have to.”

“If you want me to come, I’ll be happy to,” she responded, smiling at him as he brought her hand to his lips and kissed it.

“Of course I do,” he said, grinning and letting go of her hand as Nino loudly cleared his throat. “I guess it’s time to go back to school then.”

“Just reminding you we’re still here in case you forgot, bro,” Nino replied, winking at him playfully.

*****

“Hi Adrien, Hi Marinette!” Sophie greeted them cheerfully when they arrived at the office. “We’re preparing the fitting room for the staff meeting.

“Thanks,” Adrien said. “I have a meeting in the boardroom before that.”

“With Ms. Vergne and Mr. Toussaint?” she asked, clicking on the calendar on her computer screen.

“That’s right,” Adrien agreed.

“They should be there already. Do you want me to get someone to take you there?” Sophie replied.

“No, thank you. I know the way,” Adrien said, taking Marinette’s hand. “I’ll see you at the meeting later Sophie.”

Sophie smiled in acknowledgement and gave them a little wave as they headed for the elevator.

“Do you want me to be at this meeting?” Marinette asked as soon as they got inside.

“I would. Your input has been really helpful so please speak up if you think of anything,” he said.

“Ok,” she agreed.

“This is… difficult,” Adrien confessed. “I value your advice and I want to include you but I know what it’s like to feel pressured to do something to make someone happy and I don’t want to do that to you.”

“I understand. I don’t want to assume too much,” Marinette replied. “Helios matters to me but it isn’t mine and… there are people who have earned the right to be here. I’ve had some unique opportunities to come and learn but…” she trailed off. “But I’m always happy to help if anyone needs me.”

“I’m trying really hard not to need you too much,” Adrien said, holding her close.

Marinette smiled and rested her head on his chest. They stood together quietly as the elevator ascended, only breaking apart once the door started to open at their floor. Adrien took her hand again and she followed him down the hall to the boardroom.

“Good afternoon, Adrien,” Raphael greeted him as they walked in. “And you must be Marinette. I’m Raphael.”

“You might remember me from before. I’m Odette,” the HR director said. “I was told the company was successfully transferred to you yesterday, Adrien.”

“Yes, that’s right,” Adrien confirmed. “As you both know, I spent a lot of time talking to people here before I decided to do this. I don’t intend for my role to change too much., I’ll be present at board meetings and I’ll be checking in to see if things are getting any better. I know we don’t have a lot of time for that to happen. Also, my role as the public face of this company will probably grow since that is really the most important thing I have to offer.”

“I don’t know about that,” Raphael said gently. “But you are very young and it isn’t fair to assume you’ll become completely absorbed with this company.”

“I appreciate that,” Adrien said. “What I’d like to do is create a senior team that meets and collaborates on a regular basis. I see that happening informally but I want to empower the people I trust the most to make decisions. I don’t expect them to run things by me for my approval. I think most if not all of the time, I won’t be qualified to say one way or the other but I would like to learn from them and understand what is happening.”

“That seems like a good idea to me,” Raphael said. “Who do you have in mind for this team and will this involve some promotions?”

“It will,” Adrien said. “I would like both of you to be part of this team. I would also like to appoint Frederic Vernier as Design Director. I’d like him to oversee both Helios and a small team that will be put together to develop a future couture line. If he accepts that offer, Dominique Lyon will become design lead for Helios and Stephanie Cadieux will become design lead for the Couture department. The remaining two designers will be split between the two teams with Remi helping Dominique and Anton working with Stephanie.

“This all sounds very sensible,” Odette said, writing vigorously in her notepad. “Have you spoken to any of these people about these changes?”

“Not yet,” Adrien replied. “My discussions with everyone here and with Marinette helped me formulate some ideas about what teams needed to be formed. I’m hoping this won’t be too much disruption but Frederic is the best person to keep everything on track and I didn’t want Dominique on her own. I’m sure he’ll still be heavily involved with the Helios designs but it needs more staff. They’ve got Hugo at the moment but I think Remi could really help them.”

“So who else is part of your senior team?” Odette asked.

“Martin Travers. He’s already the Communications Director so he should definitely be involved. I’d like Victor Durand to be Technical Director and I have long felt that Celine is working way past her job description. I think she has been avoiding talking to my father about that because she wanted to stay off his radar to protect me. I… I’d like to fix that. I want her to be promoted to Creative Director,” Adrien sat back, looking drained. “That’s everything I had in mind. What do you think?”

“I think you’ve identified the key people in this company that have made the biggest difference in how it runs,” Odette said. “Do you want to talk to the people you want promoted?”

“I’d rather you did that,” Adrien said. “I don’t feel right about it. I don’t want anyone thinking I’m playing the role of benefactor. There are professional reasons for this and you’re the best person to discuss that.”

“Thank you,” Odette said, looking relieved. “You… you really don’t have much in common with your father do you Adrien?”

He laughed. “I consider that a compliment.”

“You should,” Raphael said. “So how do you want to handle compensation? Sales have risen from nonexistent to low but no better. Every raise in pay will chip into the longevity of the company right now but we can’t expect people to take these rolls on for nothing.”

“Well, the most significant promotions are Frederic, Victor and Celine. Then there is Dominique and Stephanie. What do you think, Raphael?”

Marinette sat quietly, watching Adrien and Raphael go over salaries and budgets, Odette occasionally interjecting. She couldn’t help but be impressed at the huge amount of thought Adrien had put into his idea. She knew the people he was elevating would be touched by his trust in their abilities and she almost wished she could watch their meetings with Odette and see their reactions for herself.

“So, how about we give an immediate ten percent raise to Victor and Frederic and fifteen percent to Celine since she was past due for a raise anyway,” Raphael suggested. “That won’t be market rate for their positions but we can offer another ten percent for all of them in three months if things are looking better, then another ten percent at six months if we make it that far and are improving and at a year, all being well, we’ll make up the difference to market rate for their roles. How does that sound?”

“It’s worth offering,” Adrien agreed. “And ten percent to Dominique and Stephanie?”

“I think we can manage that,” Raphael said. “We’ve scaled back the Helios marketing budget by not doing the billboards this summer so we can reallocate that money to salaries. That should help.”

“Great,” Adrien said. “What do you think, Marinette?”

“I think this is such a good idea,” she replied softly. “Odette, will you be developing job descriptions for these promotions?”

“Yes,” Odette answered. “I’ll be discussing that with each of these people as well. They will need to understand the new responsibilities they will be taking on, especially concerning day to day operations.”

“Do you think you can meet with everyone this week?” Adrien asked.

“Definitely,” she assured him.

“Thanks Odette,” he replied. “I guess if anyone wants to talk to me about this, you all have my email address and my phone number, right?”

“Yes,” Odette confirmed. “We’re going to do our best to make this work Adrien… and hopefully keep it from becoming any kind of burden for you. It is very clear to everyone here that you’ve been through some really difficult times. I’m not as familiar with all of it as most of the people here but that doesn’t mean I am any less horrified by recent events.”

“It might actually seem worse to you in some ways,” Adrien replied. “I think the end of this must have seemed like it came out of nowhere to you. Everyone who has been here for awhile has been watching a long, slow descent to this point that started when my mother disappeared several years ago.”

Odette sighed. “You may be right. I had formed very little impression of Gabriel up to that meeting this winter and I had virtually no direct engagement with him after that.”

“I think it’s about time for the staff meeting,” Raphael reminded them, looking at his watch. “Are you ready for this, Adrien?”

“As ready as I can be,” he replied with a sigh, taking Marinette’s hand as they got out of their seats.

******

The fitting room had been transformed once again to facilitate the staff meeting. Rows of folding chairs had been set up with a small podium at the front. All of the soft couches had been pushed against the walls and quickly claimed by those earliest to arrive. People were still filtering into the room when Adrien arrived with Marinette, followed by Raphael and Odette.

“Hello,” Jolie greeted them at the door. “There’s a couch behind the podium reserved for you and Marinette. Martin will bring the meeting to order before handing off to you, Adrien.”

“Sounds good. Thank you Jolie,” he replied, walking the short distance to the podium and sinking down onto the couch. Marinette sat down carefully next to him, smoothing the skirt of her watercolor painted dress. “Look at me getting more involved in the company just like Father wanted,” Adrien murmured in her ear.

“I don’t think this is at all what he originally envisioned,” Marinette whispered back.

Adrien couldn’t help but laugh softly. “No, I don’t suppose it is.”

“I think you’re doing all the right things,” Marinette said quietly. “I don’t know if any company can survive something like this but you are giving it it’s best possible chance.”

“That’s really all I’m hoping for at this point,” Adrien said.

Marinette caught Celine’s eye and waved at her, wondering how she would feel about the opportunity that would be offered to her. Marinette felt that Celine had already been acting as Creative Director for some time and she was glad that Adrien recognized that as well. Finally the last few people came in and Jolie shut the door before sitting next to Martin in the front row. She nodded at him and he stood up. The room abruptly went silent as he reached the podium.

“Good afternoon everyone,” he greeted the staff, his voice projecting through the sound system. “As you all know, we’ve been going through a lot of turmoil and uncertainty for what is coming up on two months. Some of you may be aware of this already but the company has now been transferred to Gabriel Agreste’s son, Adrien. This was not an automatic transaction. Adrien has spent the last few weeks gathering information to make this decision. I’m going to turn this over to him so he can explain what this means in the immediate future and over the next few months. Please give him your full attention.”

Martin nodded at Adrien as he rose from his seat and gave him an encouraging clap on the shoulder before returning to his seat in the front row.

Adrien stepped up to the podium, pulling an index card from the pocket inside his shirt and placing it on the surface in front of him. Marinette could just about make out a list of bullet points in his neat handwriting from where she was sitting. She saw him take a deep breath and watched his shoulders relax as he let it out.

“Hello everyone,” he began. “I don’t recognize all of you but I am going to do my best to introduce myself to each of you over the next few weeks. I’ll say right now that I don’t intend to get much more involved in what you do every day than that. I’ve spent a lot of time not necessarily deciding whether or not I would take this company from my father after he asked but more trying to figure out why it was that I wanted to. I’m not an exceptionally creative person so this isn’t an industry that I would have found myself drawn to. I think I’ve been subconsciously avoiding getting interested or involved at all because I knew what my father expected of me and I always wanted to figure out my own path. Then in one of the only smart moves he’s made in the last year, he brought my girlfriend Marinette in on an internship and because of her, I discovered this entire world of people trying to work around my father and find a path that took on his vision even as he withdrew from them. We all had that in common and I found myself relating to many of you and truly connecting with people who have been trying to reach out to me for a long time. I discovered how much everyone looks out for each other and how the few who worked with me or my mother at one point or another were doing what they could to look out for me. To each and every one of you, thank you so much.” Adrien paused and took a breath and a sip of water from the bottle that had been left for him.

“So I decided that I couldn't lose this on top of everything else,” he continued. “It deserves to survive my father and I know that it can. Right now, everything is dark and there’s been so much turmoil. Believe me, I understand that very well. But this can be a bright spot; we can work to restore the balance that my father took away when he… did the things he did. I’m currently working with Martin to rebrand this company solely as Helios Design House. Our focus for the next year will be producing that line along with developing an entirely new line of couture which is currently unnamed. I want you to know that although we need for sales to improve, there are no plans for layoffs as long as the company is able to continue.” He paused again, listening to the relieved murmurs of the crowd. “We will be launching an Instagram campaign for the new Helios line this week and I’ll be doing an interview about it with Nadja Chamack on Friday evening. We will be working with a charity called Operation PLAY which stands for ‘Providing Legal Aid for Youth’ if you aren’t familiar with it. All profits from future sales of the remaining Gabriel inventory will go to them along with fifty percent of the profits from the entire Helios line including both swimwear and the summer collection. The other fifty percent will be reinvested in the company. I will not be taking any salary or receiving any share of the profits for the foreseeable future. My main goal at this point is for Helios to survive. Also, Marinette and I have both agreed to be paid the lowest possible contractor rate for any modelling we do and we will be donating that to Operation PLAY as well.” He paused again and took another sip of water. “The last thing I want to talk about before I end this meeting is that I will be spotlighting many of the employees here as part of the rebranding of the company. I would like people to see how much more there is this to my place than my father. We’re also going to make a few changes to the structure of the design teams which Odette will tell you about over the next few days as she meets with those of you that will be affected. Thank you so much for your patience as I’ve tried to figure out what I needed to do. I appreciate it.” He looked at Martin who gave a thumbs up and smiled. “With that, you are all free to go. Thanks again.”

Adrien turned and went back to his seat on the couch, taking another drink from his water bottle as he watched everyone file past, many of them casting warm smiles in his direction.

“You did a really good job,” Marinette whispered, taking his hand.

“Babe!” they heard a familiar voice cry as Celine made her way through the crowd and joined them on the couch. “You were amazing! I’m so proud of you!”

“Thanks Sis,” Adrien replied as she hugged him. “I was hoping I wouldn’t miss you before I left.”

“There’s no way I would have let that happen,” Celine said. “Especially because I wanted to tell both of you that Henri and I are officially together.”

“Oh wow!” Marinette exclaimed in delight. “I’m so happy for you Celine! I enjoyed meeting him. He seemed like a really kind person.”

“Also he absolutely adores you,” Adrien added with a laugh.

“What? Did he say that to you?” Celine asked, looking very surprised.

“He didn’t have to,” Adrien replied. “I’ve been there and I could see it in the way he looked at you and hear it in the way he talked to you. Honestly, I liked him all the more for it.”

Celine laughed. “Well, that is nice to know. I’m glad I introduced him to you both. Somehow, it made it clearer to me how I felt about him.”

Adrien smiled. “I have to say, I’m super happy to hear that Sis.” He nodded at the last few staff members as they left. “Marinette and I will be back on Friday to work on the employee spotlight thing.”

“The same day as your interview?” Celine asked. “And school? I hope you get to sleep in on Saturday.”

“Maybe,” Adrien said. “Or maybe I’ll just take an afternoon nap with my girl.” He hugged Marinette and nuzzled her cheek. “Thanks for coming with Princess. I really appreciate it.”

Marinette smiled and kissed his cheek. “I wouldn’t have missed it.”

Chapter Text

“Hi Vincent, Hi Milo!” Adrien greeted the photographer and his assistant. “Thank you for helping with this. I really didn’t want to resort to taking pictures with my phone for something this important.”

“Of course my boy,” Vincent said. “Anything to help keep this ship afloat. I’m not sure anyone else would appreciate my spaghetti jokes.”

Adrien laughed. “Who wouldn’t like your spaghetti jokes?”

“People with no sense of humor,” Vincent replied, grinning. “In other words, most of the fashion industry.”

“Well, I guess we get to be different then,” Adrien said.

“We do indeed,” Vincent agreed. “It’s nice to see you too Bella Ragazza. I am not sure we’d be in this situation if it weren’t for you.”

“Hopefully that’s a good thing,” Marinette said, smiling as Adrien squeezed her hand.

“Oh absolutely,” Vincent assured her. “So how about we start with the administration staff? We have Sophie here in Reception along with our Office Manager, Clara and Office Assistant, Beau.”

“Sure,” Adrien replied. “I haven’t met Clara or Beau yet.”

“Yes, this will be a good opportunity for you to meet and talk with everyone. If we don’t finish today, we’ll get back to this next week,” Vincent answered. “Sophie, could you call Clara and Beau down here?”

“Of course!” she exclaimed, smiling as she picked up her phone and dialed an extension. A moment later she hung up. “They’re coming. I have to say, it will be nice to finally prove that I’ve actually met you, Adrien. None of my friends believe me.”

“Really?” Adrien asked. “I would think you’ve met everyone who works here.”

“Well mostly,” she answered, looking down. “There have been a few that don’t notice me so I wouldn’t claim to have met them.”

“I think I know what you’re trying to say,” Adrien replied sympathetically. “My father hasn’t paid attention to pretty much anyone apart from Nathalie for awhile, including me for the most part.”

“Have you… talked to him recently?” Sophie asked hesitantly.

“At my emancipation hearing,” Adrien confirmed. “Whatever Ladybug did to him, he’s a lot different now. That was when he asked if I would take the company.”

“Wow,” Sophie replied quietly. “That must have been very difficult for you.”

“It was,” Adrien agreed, pulling Marinette closer to him. “I was very thankful to have Marinette with me.”

“We’re here,” Clara said as she and a young man stepped out of the elevator. “It’s nice to meet you Adrien. I was really impressed with what you said the other day.”

“Thank you,” he replied. “This is my girlfriend, Marinette. I don’t know if you met her when she was interning here.”

“No,” Clara said, leaning over to exchange kisses on the cheek with her. “I’ve heard a lot about you from my colleagues though and of course I’ve seen the Instagram campaigns. The new one has been really cute so far.”

“Thanks Clara,” Marinette replied. “It was a lot of fun to do.”

“All right everyone, crowd around Sophie while she sits in her usual spot,” Vincent instructed. “Bella Ragazza, aren’t you going to be in the picture?”

“Oh no,” Marinette said. “This is Adrien’s thing. I might be in the Helios design team pictures if they want me to but that’s the only part I should be included in.”

Vincent smiled at her, a look of approval in his eyes. “You Bella are the best thing that ever happened to my boy here. All right everyone, give me the spaghetti!”

Marinette spent the next hour following Vincent, Milo and Adrien from department to department. She stood back, letting Adrien meet everyone on his own before introducing her, graciously accepting compliments on the launch of the new campaign but otherwise offering only a few words of support for Adrien. She caught his eye many times and smiled reassuringly to make sure he knew that she was comfortable taking a step back. She admired as always his ability to listen carefully to each person he spoke with and she could actually see the new warmth each staff member viewed him with after every interaction.

“I think we’re going to have to continue this next week,” he said eventually. “I wish school was out because then I’d have more than a couple of hours until the end of the day but it’s more important to get this done however I can than wait for that to happen.”

“It’s fine Adrien,” Vincent assured him. “Better to take our time and get the perfect spaghetti.”

Adrien laughed. “Very true. Are you ready Princess?”

“Whenever you are,” Marinette confirmed as he took her hand.

They were just leaving the building when they heard Celine call out to them. “Hey!” she exclaimed, rushing down the steps to catch up with them. “Babe, I have to ask… what the hell did you do?”

“Huh?” Adrien asked, looking confused. “Am I in trouble for something?”

“No!” she blurted out as she hugged him tightly. Adrien dropped Marinette’s hand in surprise and hugged her back.

“Oh,” he said suddenly. “Is this about the promotion?”

“Of course it is!” she replied, her eyes watering slightly as she withdrew from the hug. “I literally just got out of this meeting with Odette and…” She paused as she swiped at her eyes impatiently. “I’m sorry, I told myself not to cry but.. How… why…” She trailed off again, sniffling, then making an exasperated noise as she tried to stop the tears going down her cheeks.

Adrien smiled. “It’s simple enough. I called Odette with some questions before I met with her and Raphael and without naming names I described everything I’ve seen or heard about what you do here and I asked what kind of job I was describing. I’m pretty sure she knew what I was getting at because I didn’t get any pushback when I suggested you should be promoted at the meeting. Honestly Celine, I just wish you could be paid what you’re worth from the start.”

“Oh Adrien, don’t worry about that,” she said. “Well worry once we’re rolling in it but that may take a few months.”

Adrien laughed. “Raphael is watching that pretty closely so whenever things get better, we’ll make that right.”

“Thank you,” she said again. “Just being recognized and given a title like that… I’m not even thirty! It’s incredible.”

“I’m glad you feel that way,” Adrien replied, smiling at her again. “I hate to run off but I need to grab some dinner before my interview with Nadja tonight.”

“Of course,” Celine said, hugging him again before hugging Marinette as well. “I’m sure you’ve let Adrien make these decisions himself, Doll but I know you have a hand in all of this. I’m so glad Gabriel gave you that internship. You deserved more from him but at least… at least we’re here now and I feel like things might start getting better. Anyway, I won’t keep you any longer. Good luck tonight, Adrien.”

“Thanks,” he replied as he and Marinette got in the car and headed for the bakery.

Marinette snuggled close to Adrien as Gorilla drove through the intense rush hour traffic. It was a sunny day and she looked out the window, dreamily watching people out walking and laughing, enjoying the warm weather. Adrien wrapped his arm around her and kissed the top of her head, squeezing her shoulder gently as she leaned into him even more.

“Is it really ok with you to… step back and let me lead everything?” he asked hesitantly.

“Of course it is!” she exclaimed. “This is your company. I want to support you and help in any way I can. I’ve never been involved in Gabriel or Helios to make any kind of claim on it. I just want to learn and be helpful. The fact that it’s yours and not your father’s now doesn’t change that. Even if you wanted me to and if all the employees were perfectly happy with that as well, I couldn’t… it just wouldn’t look good from the outside and people are going to be watching what you do here. As far as the general public is concerned, I’m your girlfriend of less than a year who just turned seventeen. It would be very presumptuous of me if I claimed a role of any significance in this.”

“I guess… I guess I hadn’t thought of it like that,” Adrien said slowly. “You are right though and I’m… grateful that you are able to consider possibilities like that. I just… I don’t look at you as my girlfriend of less than a year even if that is technically true.”

“I know… and I feel the same. And that’s enough for me right now. I don’t have to explain what we have to anyone except the people we care about most,” Marinette replied. “Even if I’m certain of where I see this going, it doesn’t have to happen immediately. I really could do without being a child-bride.”

Adrien laughed loudly. “I can understand that,” he agreed. “That would bring far too much attention and pressure on us and I don’t want that. Really, I’d like to enjoy every step we take together just like we have been without rushing through any of it.”

“Exactly,” Marinette said as they pulled up to the bakery. “I really don’t want to put any pressure on you about the company. Whether you choose to hold on to it or not is up to you. I don’t want you thinking you need to do something for my sake if it comes at your expense.”

****

“It’s just as well I’m not going on with you tonight,” Marinette commented as they arrived at the studio that evening.

“Oh? Why’s that?” Adrien asked.

“Because you look so cute in this pink shirt,” she sighed. “Bless Helios and their amazing pink menswear.”

Adrien laughed. “I should have known. Maybe I should have gone for the pink trousers too.”

“That would be… a very bold look,” Marinette replied, giggling. “But the teal looks pretty with the pink. Frederic and Dominique are so good at choosing color schemes. I did notice that you aren’t wearing the espadrilles though.”

“Yeah, they felt a little too informal for an interview,” Adrien said. “Plus it’s been fun to try other French brands for accessories. I hope Helios will develop a bigger line in the future but in the meantime, I’ll try other things.”

“Maison Kitsune though,” Marinette grinned. “I’m jealous.”

“I picked these because the fox reminds me of the Helios color scheme a little bit,” Adrien explained. “Plus you’re right. I think they’re really cool.”

“Oh I agree,” Mareintte said. “You’ve got great taste. I like seeing what you pick when it’s up to you.”

“Awww, thanks,” he replied, squeezing her to him. “I’ve never been able to go into any store that was viewed as competition. I’m still trying to figure out if I need to represent Helios all of the time or if I can wear other things too. I know we have a lot left to sell from Gabriel as well but I am not sure I should be wearing it.”

“Yeah that’s tricky,” Marinette replied. “I’m glad they hadn’t reached the point of reorders so there isn’t even more of it to sell.”

“Me too,” Adrien agreed. “That would have really taken a chunk out of the cash reserves plus the line is big enough as it is. If we manage to sell out, I’m going to raid Father’s wine cellar and bring in enough champagne for everyone.”

******

“Adrien! Marinette! It’s good to see you again!” Nadja greeted them enthusiastically. “I understand you’re the only one I’ll be talking to on camera, Adrien. Marinette, you are very welcome to stay in the studio while we’re filming. Please help yourself to a director’s chair.”

“Thank you,” she replied.

“Broadcasting starts in ten minutes so we should go in,” Nadja suggested.

“Lead the way,” Adrien said, taking Marinette’s hand.

The studio looked the same as it had when she had visited before and Marinette quickly found a seat as Adrien settled down on the couch. He looked over at her and she winked at him playfully. Grinning, he winked back before turning his attention to Nadja.

“So I understand you can’t discuss the trial or any of the charges against you father,” Nadja said. “I also realize your primary reason for being here is to talk about taking over Gabriel. I will ask you a few questions about your father as it relates to that.”

“That’s fair,” Adrien replied. “My lawyer went over things I can and can’t talk about with me. I’ll do my best to answer your questions as long as I can do so without getting into trouble.”

Nadja smiled slightly but her eyes were sad. I suppose you’ve had enough of that already.”

“I’d say so,” Adrien said ruefully. “How long have we got?”

“A minute,” she answered. “They’ll start the countdown once we reach ten seconds.”

Adrien cast his eyes briefly over at Marinette who was double checking that her phone was off. He quickly reached into his pocket and made sure he had done the same before putting it back. The crew began their countdown and he took a sip of water from the glass on the table in front of him before setting it back down and trying to relax back into the couch a little. As much as he knew it was for the best, he couldn't help but wish Marinette was sitting next to him. The on-air light flashed red and Nadja immediately began her introduction.

“Good evening. I’m Nadja Chamack and this is Face to Face. Tonight I’m welcoming back Adrien Agreste, now the new owner of Gabriel. It’s good to see you Adrien.”

“It’s nice to see you too, Nadja. Thanks for having me,” Adrien replied. “Let me just start by saying we are in the process of renaming the company to Helios Design House. We should have that completed very soon.”

“Really? Was it difficult to make that decision?” Nadja asked.

“It… it needed to be done,” Adrien replied. “I want everyone to understand that my father has been withdrawing from everyone at the company for some time and they’ve found their ways of working with that. The fall/winter line which is currently in store will be the last of his designs. He is not employed there and he transferred the company entirely to me. I would never have agreed to that unless he was no longer affiliated with the studio in any way. There would be no path for it to continue otherwise.”

“Why is it so important to you for it to keep going?” Nadja asked. “Obviously your difficulties with your father became publicly known when you pressed charges against him. I assume there was some build up to that event.”

“Yes,” Adrien said softly. “My involvement--particularly with the Helios launch--has allowed me to see the company as something largely separate from him. My father is talented and… he created something special… then, when my mother…” Adrien trailed off for a moment before forcing out the word, “...disappeared, he withdrew and… the people left behind had been empowered enough to build something that worked with whatever he had to give.Then some of them wanted to build on that and Helios came about. The designers who created it were trained by my father and they’ve taken what they learned to make something modern and young. I honestly believe the only way I can really represent this company is for that aspect to become the focus.”

“Does this mean couture will no longer be part of the company?” Nadja asked.

“Not for awhile and I don’t know what it will look like yet,” Adrien said. “But I would love to see a more youthful take on couture. We’ll just have to see I guess.”

“I can see you are wearing clothing from the current Helios line. Is there a fall collection coming out?” Nadja questioned him.

“There is and it’s significantly larger than the summer line although not as big as the last Gabriel line,” Adrien said. “I’m excited about it. It’s much more in line with things I would like to wear every day. The color scheme is amazing and I’m really hoping everyone will like it as much as I do.”

“For now you’ve started an Instagram campaign featuring you and your girlfriend Marinette Dupain-Cheng,” Nadja said as a picture of the two of them laughing on the white carousel horses came up on her big screen. “I couldn’t help but notice that this picture had a caption saying fifty percent of profits are going to Operation PLAY.”

“That’s right,” Adrien confirmed. “Also all profits from the Gabriel line will go to the same organization which provides legal advice for young people. I’ve been acutely aware of how my own privilege has helped me through a really difficult time. Most kids might struggle to get a lawyer if they were having family problems and I feel like I need to change this company into something that actively seeks to assist people who need the level of help I received.

“I suppose you’re trying to move away… from what the company has inevitably become linked to,” Nadja said carefully.

“It needs to be a reflection of the people who work there now,” Adrien said. “I have received so much support from them and truly, you couldn’t imagine a more encouraging environment to be working in. I really admire what they’ve created and the care they’ve shown me. That care really shines in the clothes and… I want to extend it further. I want Paris to benefit because of these people.”

“Is that why you decided to take the company?” Nadja asked.

“Yes,” Adrien replied. “Not just because of what they did for me. That is just a symptom of the culture there. I couldn’t bear for that to be destroyed. It’s special and it deserves to continue. Now, it is free from my father and… the future could be better than anything I could imagine.”

“Well, I hope you are right,” Nadja said. “The way you speak about it is very compelling. We are going to have a quick break and come back with questions from our viewers, all right?”

“Sounds good to me,” Adrien agreed.

They both froze as they waited for the on-air light to go off.

“Goodness Adrien!” Nadja exclaimed, glancing at her bracelet once the break had started. “You certainly deliver on the ratings.”

“I’m glad,” he replied. “I’m curious about what people will ask about. I assume the screeners know all the rules about what I can discuss.”

“They do,” Nadja confirmed. “What do you think, Marinette?”

“I’ve really enjoyed listening,” she said. “We’ve had so many conversations about all this but now… Adrien you’ve really collected all your thoughts and… I’m just really proud of you for taking this on.”

“Awww, thanks Princess,” Adrien replied, blushing slightly. “I wouldn’t be able to do that without your help.”

“So why are you taking a back seat on this, Marinette?” Nadja asked. “I would have thought with your skillset…”

“It wouldn’t be right and there are people far more skilled than me doing what I would do,” Marinette said firmly. “Besides, this is in no way something that belongs to me. I’m happy to help where I am needed but that’s really all I feel comfortable offering.”

“I understand,” Nadja replied, smiling at her. “Are you ready for questions, Adrien?”

“Hopefully,” he replied with a grin.

“Right… we’ll be starting in just a moment,” Nadja paused as the crew started counting down. She resumed speaking as soon as the light came back on. “Hello, we’re back with Adrien Agreste, new owner of Gabriel, soon to be Helios Design House and he’s going to be taking some questions from our viewers. Are you ready Adrien?”

“I am,” he confirmed, looking up at the screen expectantly.

“Ok, first caller,” Nadja instructed.

“Hello, this is Audrey Bourgeois,” a familiar voice came on. “Given the fledgeling state of Helios, do you really believe this will be capable of moving on from the rather tainted legacy of your father?”

“Hello Ms. Bourgeois,” Adrien replied. “I certainly hope so and it’s why I’m so eager to find a way for the company to actively make a difference… in Paris to start with but if we prove successful, maybe we’ll be able to expand on that. We are all very aware of what we are trying to escape in terms of the company’s reputation. My father…” Adrien trailed off. “I can’t speak about his public reputation but I can say… There's a reason I chose to be emancipated. No matter what happens to him, I need to be free and I want this company to be free of him too. I actually consider it to be an advantage to be at the starting point of Helios. There is so much potential and my father has had virtually no hand in it apart from approving the designs that were presented to him. I really believe in what has already been created. Hopefully enough people will agree and the team will be able to continue creating.”

“Thank you, Adrien,” Audrey replied crisply. “Check your phone when you are done here.”

“I will,” he promised.

“Thank you Ms. Bourgeois,” Nadja said. “Next caller please.”

“Hi Adrien, I’m Juliet. I saw in your new campaign that Marinette is modeling with you. Are you both going to keep modeling together? Are your other friends going to model with you again?” the caller asked.

“Hi Juliet,” Adrien replied. “I hope so. As long as Marinette wants to, I really like working with her. It makes the process way more fun. I would like to get Alya and Nino involved again but I guess we’ll have to see. If the summer line goes well, we’ll be able to do more to promote the fall line. Juliet, do you mind if I ask you a question?”

“O-ok,” she stammered.

“How did you end up following the last Helios campaign?” he asked curiously.

“Oh! I followed Ladyblogger… um Alya to begin with and then I started following both you and Marinette after she posted those cute pictures where… I think you were at a park. I started following Nino when he got an account too. I ended up getting one of the swimsuits with my birthday money actually.”

“Awww, thank you!” Adrien exclaimed with a smile. “That picture of us was actually from our first date and I can’t tell you how much I appreciate your support for Helios.”

“I’m excited to see the rest of the summer things,” Juliet replied. “Thanks for talking to me.”

“It’s my pleasure,” Adrien assured her. “Bye Juliet!”

“Next caller,” Nadja said cheerfully.

“Hello Adrien,” another familiar voice came on.

“Nathalie,” he said calmly. “What can I do for you?”

“You have some nerve,” she told him, her voice unsteady.

“Oh?” he said questioningly as Nadja urgently muttered something to the producers. “And why is that?”

“You’ve had no interest in this company and now after all the work your father has done…” she trailed off, suddenly overwhelmed with anger.

“I’m trying to save what he built, Nathalie,” Adrien replied. “He asked me to take it… and the people there… what they do… It matters to me… they matter to me. I’m not trying to take over, I promise you that. Where are you anyway? You must be in the city if you’re watching this.”

“Maybe I am,” she said evasively and hung up.

“Well.. that was creepy,” Adrien observed.

“I understand that… she is probably Mayura,” Nadja said, her face pale and scared.

“Yeah, Adrien agreed. “It does seem very likely all things considered.”

“Well,” Nadja paused as she attempted to compose herself. “It looks like we’re out of time. Thank you for coming on tonight Adrien. I’m sorry… I’m sorry that once again we’re ending the show with you on such a stressful note.”

“The only one who should apologize for that is Nathalie,” Adrien said firmly. “She has no right to frighten people like this.”

“Thank you,” Nadja repeated. “Stay safe Adrien.” They sat together somberly until the on-air light turned off.

Chapter Text

“What did Audrey want anyway?” Marinette asked quietly as they hurried from the studio to their waiting car.

“Shit, I forgot about that,” Adrien said, following her into the car. “Were you watching Gorilla?”

“Yes,” he replied solemnly. “Very worrying but… not surprising.”

“No, I’ve been waiting for something like that to happen,” Adrien agreed, getting his phone out to check his messages. “Ah, damn it,” he muttered.

“What is it?” Marinette asked anxiously.

“Audrey’s text. God knows how she got my number. Probably Chloe… She’s invited us to a poolside party tonight that she’s hosting at the hotel and she expects to see us there.

“Ah,” Marinette said. “Well, we probably should go. Pissing off Ms. Bourgeois seems like a bad choice professionally.”

“I know,” Adrien groaned. “But what about Nathalie?”

Marinette shrugged. “If we stay home, she’ll probably show up there instead.”

“Good point,” Adrien said, shuddering. “But will Audrey forgive me if her party is ruined by a sentimonster looking for me?”

“I don’t know. Could be a pretty memorable moment,” Marinette said with a grin. “She hasn’t rescinded her offer since the show ended, has she?”

“No… I guess she hasn’t,” he acknowledged.

“Well, I don’t think we have a choice then, she replied, getting her own phone out.

“What are you doing?” Adrien asked, watching as she opened Instagram.

“I want to know what Chloe is wearing to this thing,” Marinette replied.

“Do you actually follow her?” he asked.

“Yeah,” she sighed. “I follow everyone in our class that has an account… and she is actually wearing a swimsuit. Good to know.”

“Huh” Adrien said thoughtfully. “I wonder if she’s going to swim then.”

“No way!” Marinette laughed. “It would wreck her hair and makeup.”

“Do you think what I’m wearing will be ok?” Adrien asked.

“Absolutely,” Marinette replied. “I’m going to quickly change into some of my Helios stuff and then we can go back out. Might as well make the most of this.”

“I’ll wait outside,” Gorilla said as he pulled up next to the bakery.

“Thanks Gorilla,” Marinette said. “Why don’t you wait here Gorgeous? I won’t be long.”

“What about Nathalie?” he asked. “I don’t want to be separated from you if she shows up.”

“That’s true,” Marinette sighed. “I don’t want to be separated from you either. Ok. We’ll be back in a few minutes, Gorilla.”

******

“If Chloe’s wearing a swimsuit then so am I,” Marinette said, heading straight to her set of drawers and pulling a few things out. She went back to her closet and took out a few more things and promptly began stripping off.

“Damn!” Adrien exclaimed, a little startled by how quickly she had gone from fully clothed to almost naked right in front of him. “Should I be… looking somewhere else?”

Marinette hesitated for a moment. “I guess it doesn’t matter either way,” she said, unhooking her bra. “It’s not like you haven’t seen me before. I’m just trying to get ready as fast as I can.” Swiftly, she pulled on her pink bikini and stepped into her purple miniskirt. “I figure since Celine thought of this combination, it’s probably a good one,” she said.

“Very,” Adrien agreed fervently.

Marinette laughed at his slightly glazed expression as she slipped on her purple kimono jacket and purple espadrilles. She pulled her hair into a long, sleek ponytail and touched up her makeup. Finally she picked up a small pink clutch before heading over to where she kept the Miraculous Box. She dug it out, opened it up and placed Trixx’s Miraculous inside her clutch and after some thought, added Kaalki’s as well. She transferred her phone, wallet and keys, waiting for Tikki to zip in before snapping it shut and hiding the Miraculous Box again.

“What do you think?” she asked, playfully swishing her ponytail.

“You look outrageously hot,” Adrien assured her. “Shall we, Princess?”

*****

There was a crowd of photographers outside the hotel entrance when Gorilla pulled up and guests were pausing in front of a backdrop emblazoned with “Style Queen” branding before heading into the building.

“Are you ready for this?” Adrien asked quietly.

“I expected as much,” Marinette replied as Gorilla opened the door for them. She was slightly taken aback to hear people calling her name as much as Adrien’s as they climbed out of the car. She kept her poise, tucking her arm into Adrien’s as they posed.

“Are you both wearing Helios tonight?” someone shouted.

“Yes,” Adrien answered. “Everything but my shoes which are from Maison Kitsune.”

“You look amazing, Marinette. Why don’t you give him a kiss?” someone else yelled.

“Thank you and with pleasure,” she replied, leaning up to kiss Adrien’s cheek.

“Awww, I know you can do better than that!” the photographer exclaimed.

“I can,” she replied. “But I won’t.”

“You heard her,” Adrien said firmly. “We’d like to keep some things to ourselves.”

“I’ll bet,” the photographer muttered and the rest of the group laughed nervously.

“Come on,” Adrien murmured. “Let’s go Princess, before I say something I regret.”

“Same,” Marinette agreed as they went inside.

“Ugh,” Adrien fumed as they walked through the hotel toward the pool. “That was incredibly rude and frankly, inappropriate. Almost no one kisses for pictures the way they were asking for.”

“I know,” Marinette replied softly. “Still we stuck to our boundaries. Hopefully the rest of the party will be more fun.”

There were dozens of people milling around the pool when they arrived. Marinette immediately noted Chloe wearing a white halter neck suit and a diaphanous yellow sarong. Her signature blonde ponytail was higher than usual and she had added some extensions to make it even more dramatic. Their eyes met and Chloe’s widened in surprise before she smiled tentatively at them. Marinette gave her a friendly wave, noticing Adrien’s demeanor relax out of the corner of her eye as he watched their exchange.

“Adrien, so glad you could make it!” Audrey said as she swished over rather imperiously in a white suit. It was getting dark out but she was wearing her large black sunglasses as always and Marinette couldn’t help but wonder how she could even tell who Adrien was. At least she had skipped the large hat, opting for a tiny but beautiful gold fascinator instead.

“Thank you, Ms. Bourgeois,” he replied. “Hopefully you won’t get a visit from Nathalie as a result.”

“Call me Audrey,” she said, her voice unconcerned. “And Nathalie Sancouer? That bitch wouldn’t dare. Mayura or not, she doesn’t scare me. If Ladybug and Chat Noir catch her, her life is over. Even if they don’t lock her up, she’s toxic. No one is going to hire that woman. Imagine! Throwing all that talent away for a damn supervillain. What the hell was she thinking?”

“To be honest, I’m pretty sure she had feelings for my father. I think she still does actually,” Adrien replied.

“Which makes her even more of an idiot,” Audrey said, her tone entirely unsympathetic. Anyone with the slightest speck of sense can see he’ll never stop grieving his wife. So she decided to go supervillain with him to get to his heart? Utterly pathetic!”

“I… really can’t argue with you there,” Adrien admitted.

“No, you can’t,” Audrey said in a matter of fact tone. “Let me introduce you to some people. Your mother was always quick to defend Gabriel’s… eccentricities. I wonder what she’d say to this.”

“I sometimes wonder that myself,” Adrien confessed.

Audrey sighed. “Her taste in men infuriated me, even when we were teenagers. But… I really do miss Emilie. Still, I can do something for you and know that would have pleased her. Mari...anne?” She asked, looking at Marinette inquisitively. “That isn’t right is it?”

“Marinette,” she reminded Ms. Bourgeois politely.

“Yes, thank you, Marinette. Do come along. Even if you are trying to take a back seat--admirable although mystifying as that is to me-- you have plenty to offer.”

“Ok,” she replied softly as Adrien squeezed her hand reassuringly.

The couple spent the next forty-five minutes being led around and introduced to all sorts of people in the fashion industry. Marinette found it fascinating meeting fabric suppliers and shoe manufacturers as well other designers and several of the staff from Style Queen who had flown over especially for the party. Many of them handed Adrien their business cards and Marinette quickly located the pen she kept tucked in her wallet and gave it to him so he could make a note on each card about what he had discussed with that person.

“I guess I should get cards made,” Adrien said. “It never occurred to me. I don’t think Father carried them.”

Audrey shrugged. “I don’t. Why should people be able to contact me any time they wish?”

“Hmmm,’ Adrien said thoughtfully. “Maybe I should only include my email address.”

Audrey shrugged. “If you must. I have things to do now.”

“Thanks for all the introductions,” he replied. “I appreciate it.”

“Yes… well… I’m going now,” Audrey said, seemingly unsure how to handle Adrien’s grateful attitude. She spun on her heel and walked off, disappearing into the growing crowd.

“Hello Adrien, Hello Marinette,” Chloe said as she sidled up to them. “It looks like Mother took a shine to you tonight.”

Adrien shrugged. “It’s not lost on me that she really doesn’t like my father. I think she finds this whole situation pretty satisfying.”

“You’re right about that,” Chloe said with a snort. “Sorry.. I’m sure your feelings are probably more complicated than Mother’s.”

“I don’t know,” Adrien sighed. “Sometimes I’m just angry… sometimes it does feel more complicated than that. Having Nathalie call up the show definitely made my feelings veer more toward anger again.”

“Surely your father has given the police and… Ladybug and Chat Noir enough information to do something about her,” Chloe said.

“I don’t… I don’t think he has,” Adrien said hesitantly. “I’m not allowed to visit him… not that I want to and they said they’re keeping his location a secret because they don’t know what Mayura is going to do. So… I imagine he didn’t tell them.”

“I’d be really surprised if he didn’t know,” Chloe said.

“So would I,” Adrien sighed. “It’s such a mindfuck. He was really remorseful at the emancipation hearing. What the hell is he protecting her for?”

“Mmm,” Chloe murmured, looking perplexed. “Is there a good reason he’d be doing that? Protect her so she can carry on the terror campaign?”

“I honestly have no idea,” Adrien said and then stopped. “Can you hear that?” he asked, his eyes darting from Chloe to Marinette.

“Yeah,” Marinette said quietly. “Nathalie might know you’re here. A lot of people have been taking pictures of us.”

“You’re right,” Adrien said. “We should hide.”

“I’ll tell her she just missed you,” Chloe said with a smirk.

“Please do,” Adrien said, taking Marinette’s hand and leading her quickly back inside. “Fucking Nathalie,” he muttered as he swiftlly turned through a series of halls befor opening a nondescript looking door. “Ha, still broken,” he said quietly, pulling Marinette inside.

“Tikki, spots on,” Marinette said as Adrien called his own transformation. “I brought Trixx for myself and Kaalki for you. I figure if we need more back-up or more Miraculous, we can Voyage wherever we need to go.”

“That’s a really good idea,” Chat said, unifying with Kaalki as she did the same with Trixx. He looked at his communicator. She’s getting pretty close.” He opened the door to the supply closet they were in and peeked out. “No one out there. Let’s go!”

“You’ll have to lead me out of here,” Ladybug said quietly. “I have no idea what you just did.”

Chat laughed. “I suppose not.” He took her hand and together they made their way to the top of the building.

“You are just full of surprises,” Ladybug told him, grinning as they clambered onto the roof. Her grin faded as she saw Mayura approaching them on a giant peacock. “I… didn’t know peacocks could fly.”

“It’s her sentimonster and it can fly if it wants to.. Fly if it wants to,” Chat sang, rather deliberately off-key.

Ladybug giggled. “Not her party though,” she replied.

“I said fly not cry,” he said, grinning. “I’d prefer it if it cried. Less daunting I’m sure.” He abruptly ducked, pulling Ladybug with him. “Fuck, that thing is fast. How are we going to do our special power-up?”

“I don’t think that’s an option right now,” Ladybug told him grimly. “Lucky Charm!” A large polka dotted melon fell into her arms causing her to stagger.

“Well, at least you aren’t on the clock,” Chat said as she scanned the scene. “I haven’t had the chance to see if it’s the same for me yet.”

“Nothing is lighting up,” Ladybug replied, looking worried. “I wonder if I can get two lucky charms or if I have to use this one first.”

“Worth a try,” Chat said. “What is that anyway?”

“A melon,” she said wryly. “Thanks Tikki. Lucky Charm!” This time nothing arrived. “Well, that answers that question.” Chat pulled her down again as the peacock attempted to claw them, pulling her against him as he rolled out of the way of its barbed feet.

“Maybe peacocks like melon?” Chat ventured.

“I imagine so but the sentimonster is so big. What do I do when it starts eating? This melon will be gone in seconds and then what?” Ladybug asked. “Oh!” she said suddenly. She placed the melon on the ground and began to play her flute. Instantly dozens of matching melons appeared all around it. The sudden presence of such a big snack caught the peacock’s eye and it dove down, snapping futilely at all the fake melons as Mayura fought to get its attention. Ladybug took advantage of the moment, slinging her yo-yo out and yanking Mayura off the bird as it wrapped around her. Mayura pulled hard at the string, catching Ladybug by surprise and pulling her off balance. Chat quickly caught her before she fell but Mayura took advantage of the moment, leaping up on the peacock and digging her feet into it. Bored of looking for a real melon, the bird obediently took off and Mayura was out of reach before they could react.

“Shit,” Chat said. “She’s a lot harder to fight when she isn’t protecting Hawk Moth.”

“She’s desperate,” Ladybug said. “Everything has this edge of panic and I could see how much running that huge sentimonster was wearing her down.”

“I saw that too,” Chat agreed. “I imagine that’s why she chose to escape rather than fight some more.”

Ladybug nodded and dispelled her illusion before dividing from Trixx. She picked up the remaining melon and called “Miraculous Ladybug!” as she threw it into the air.

“What do you want to do now?” Chat asked.

“I guess we should return to the party for a few minutes,” she sighed. “Then I want to go home. I am pretty tired.”

“Sounds like a plan,” he agreed.

*****

“Tikki, can I ask you a question?” Marinette requested when they were back in her room later that night. “What was the melon about?”

Tikki shrugged. “It’s Duusu’s favorite. I thought it might make the sentimonster more difficult to control.”

“Oooh,” Adrien said. “It did. Unfortunately Mayura got away this time. She is really fast.”

“I’m sure she is absolutely exhausted,” Tikki said. “And pretty shaken too. You were able to overcome the sentimonster’s obedience to its master and getting it back came at a cost I have no doubt.”

“Are you saying we won’t be getting a wake-up call tonight?” Adrien asked mischievously.

“Probably not!” Tikki replied with a giggle. “Why do you ask?”

“Why do you think?” Plagg said sarcastically, letting out a Camembert scented burp.

“Ugh, where were you just now?” Adrien asked suspiciously.

Plagg grinned and patted his belly in satisfaction. “Chill, Marinette’s Papa leaves some cheese on the counter for me every night,” he said smugly. “I think finding me in the fridge stuffing my face finally got to him.”

Marinette giggled. “I’ll bet. Poor Papa.”

“Anyway, I was going to suggest we… try again with the bubble bath,” Adrien offered.

Marinette’s face lit up. Ok!” she exclaimed. “I’ll go get it ready.”

Adrien smiled affectionately at her as she quickly left the room before going to get some pajamas.

“You must be very tired,” Tikki said sympathetically.

“It’s fine,” Adrien shrugged. “I’m more concerned for Marinette because she has to get up tomorrow. Still, I guess it isn’t that late yet.” Absentmindedly, he reached over and scritched Plagg’s ears as he floated nearby. “Say Tikki, do you have anything comparable to ear scritches?”

“Not really,” Tikki said with a giggle. “I guess you and Plagg are lucky that way.”

Plagg sighed blissfully. “Ear scritches are the best. You are missing out, Sugar Cube.”

“It’s fine. There are plenty of other kinds of attention,” she said. “And things apart from attention that I like.”

Plagg grinned. “Like eavesdropping on romantic conversations?”

“I can’t help it!” she defended herself. “I only listen in when I’m in Marinette’s bag or resting in her room. I don’t go out of my way to spy… well… mostly I don’t.”

Adrien laughed. “I imagine you’ve seen pretty much everything considering how long you’ve existed.”

“Probably,” Tikki admitted. “But then again, Marinette does surprise me sometimes. Maybe she will again.”

“I’m going to go see if the bath is ready. You two stay here unless it’s an emergency, ok?” Adrien asked.

“You don’t need to tell me that,” Plagg muttered, wrinkling his nose.

*****

“It’s me,” Adrien said, knocking on the bathroom door. It opened and the scent of lavender hit him.

“I thought I’d go for something relaxing,” Marinette told him as he came inside, locking the door behind him.

“It’s nice,” he said as he got undressed and stepped into the bubbles. He laid back, watching as Marinette took her clothes off before stepping carefully in front of him and sitting between his legs. “You feel so good,” he murmured, wrapping his arms around her. “Don’t take offense if I start dozing off though. It’s only because I’m really tired.”

“I’m sure you are,” Marinette said sympathetically.

“I still feel… a little bad about… taking the lead on the Helios thing,” Adrien admitted. “I feel like you are better qualified for it.”

“I’m not qualified though,” Marinette replied. “Your father gave this company to you saying he hoped you’d keep it in the family. That isn’t me yet and I don’t feel comfortable acting like that’s the case. I’m not with you because I’m ambitious. The very thought of that makes me feel sick.”

“I like that you said yet at least,” Adrien told her, kissing the top of her head.

Marinette smiled. “Yeah? I’d be an idiot to turn down Mr. Awesome Future Husband Chat Noir.”

Adrien laughed quietly, his arms tightening around her. “You always seem to know the right thing to say Bug.”

“So what are your plans for tomorrow?” she asked.

“Going to get the keys to the apartment for one thing,” Adrien said. “They were ready for me today but I didn’t have the time. I’ve got another errand to run as well and I’m going to meet Celine for coffee after that.”

“Sounds nice,” Marinette replied. “I hope you’re planning on sleeping in a little though!”

“Yeah,” Adrien said, nuzzling her shoulder. “So what are your thoughts on solo Mayura?”

“She’s clearly pretty desperate which is a little scary,” she answered, thoughtfully. “And honestly, she’s even more manipulative than I realized. I don’t think the sentimonsters have ever been Hawk Moth’s design. He may have asked her to help him but I think she comes up with whatever will get under people’s skin.”

“So why the peacock?” he asked.

“She knows how badly I want her Miraculous,” Marinette replied. “I’ve never had it. I don’t know Duusu. I don’t know what it’s like to wield the peacock.”

“So what do you think is the best strategy for fighting her?” Adrien said questioningly.

“I think Tikki was on to something making it difficult to control the sentimonster by offering it what it wanted. That obviously makes it much harder for her to effectively fight us. When you think about it, Master Fu lost control of Feast because he made something ravenous with plenty of things around it to be devoured. It’s easy to get carried away with emotions,” Marinette answered.

“That makes sense,” he replied. “So you evaluate what the sentimonster could want and offer it to them?”

“That’s the general idea,” she agreed. “I think Trixx is the best Kwami to unite with for these battles. Hopefully next time there will be a window of time to power up Miraculous Light. Now that I have a better idea of what to expect, I think it’s possible.”

“I love listening to you talk about this stuff,” Adrien said dreamily. “I hope these candlelit baths become a regular thing too.”

“I don’t see why not,” Marinette replied, smiling and resting her hands on his. “Especially with the new spaceship bath.”

“Mmmm,” Adrien sighed. “I can’t wait for that. Can I ask you something though? About earlier this evening?”

“Sure,” she answered. “What is it?”

“When you suggested I wait in the car… was there a reason beyond being in a hurry?”

“Well,” Marinette paused. “Yeah, I knew I was going to have to get completely undressed and I also knew you didn’t have to change. I just felt… a little vulnerable I guess. But I also knew Nathalie was really angry and if she visited the bakery, we needed to be together. It’s not that I’m uncomfortable with you seeing me… It was just… I guess it’s still new and… I just tried to be quick.”

“I’m sorry Bug,” Adren said quietly. “You seemed… uneasy to me which is why I asked if I needed to look away.”

“That’s ok.. It was just a brief thing and I haven’t thought of it since,” she assured him.

“I just want you to know that no matter how many times we’ve done something before, you don’t need to feel bad about saying you’re not comfortable ever. It won’t hurt my feelings if you need me to stop something or look away, ok?” Adrien said, kissing the top of her head again.

“Ok,” she agreed. “And that goes both ways. I don’t want to cross your boundaries either.”

“I love you Bug,” Adrien said before yawning. “I’m going to get out and brush my teeth.”

“I love you too Kitty,” she replied, scooting forward so he could get out. She watched him wrap a towel around his waist and get his toothbrush. “It’s been a long day but I’m glad we spent it together.”

Chapter Text

“Hey girl, how was your weekend?” Alya asked as Marinette sat down next to her on Monday.

“It was good. I worked in the mornings and I helped Adrien pick out stuff for his new place in the afternoons,” she answered.

“Both days?” Nino asked, elbowing Adrien playfully. “Damn dude, how much stuff do you need?”

“Quite a bit,” Adrien replied, looking slightly self-conscious. “I’m pretty much starting from scratch for things like furniture. Then there’s curtains, rugs, towels, plates, glasses, silverware… you get the idea.”

“Don’t you have any of that already?” Alya asked.

“I have a TV and… a desk chair… and a ridiculous amount of clothing, a few pictures and my computer,” Adrien replied. “My bed…” he hesitated. “I don’t want it. My computer desk is custom built so it’s not going to work in the new space and neither will the couch. Frankly, I never want to see pretty much everything in that room ever again. The piano will go into storage because it was my mother’s and I want to keep it. The rest of it… I don’t really give a fuck what happens to it.”

“Yeah, I understand Sunshine,” Alya replied. “Sorry, I shouldn’t have gone there.”

“Don’t worry about it,” Adrien replied with a shrug as the warning bell rang. “At any rate, Marinette helped me pick out everything and it was fun. We even went to some flea markets which… I haven’t done that for years. Now that it’s summer, it’s a lot easier to disguise myself.”

“I suppose so!” Nino said with a grin. “Although maybe even the people who recognize you are deciding to cut you some slack, considering all the shit you’ve been going through.

“You could be right,” Adrien said thoughtfully as they both turned around to face the front of the classroom. “Well, it’s only going to get worse. The trial is starting today.”

“Man, I’m sorry,” Nino replied sympathetically. “What time?”

“Just after lunch,” Adrien sighed. “Cover for us if we’re late, won’t you?”

“Of course,” Nino replied as understanding dawned on him. “I’m sure the reporters outside the bakery will be nuts once it starts huh?”

Adrien smiled ruefully. “I think I can count on that much.”

*****

So has Directeur Dufort mentioned when we have to show up to testify at the trial?” Chat asked Ladybug as they made their way to the prison.

“Not yet,” Ladybug sighed. “I hope I can ensure it’s after school. Otherwise Maman will have to come up with some excuse to tell Mr. Damocles.

“We don’t have to do anything today except escort the van to the court, right?” Chat asked.

“Yeah, and we’ll do the reverse at five this evening,” she responded, running alongside him until they were on a building across from the prison grounds. “I think the driver sees us. I can see the van heading for the gate.”

“Keep your eyes on the van and I’ll look out for Mayura,” Chat said.

“Sounds good Kitty,” she agreed, keeping her gaze focused on the van. “Once we get going, we’re both going to have to multitask for a bit.”

“Yeah, you’re right,” he sighed, his eyes constantly scanning the area. “Fucking Mayura.”

Ladybug giggled. “Yeah,” she said, watching the gate open and the van drive out onto the main road. “Fucking Mayura.”

Chat couldn’t help but grin. “Looks like we need to get going,” he replied.

“Yep,” she agreed, slinging out her yo-yo and swinging above the van as it made its way to court, Chat following behind slightly, looking in every direction in case Mayura decided to make an appearance.

The trip was hampered by heavy traffic and eventually the van resorted to turning on its lights to cut through.

“Ugh,” Ladybug groaned, glancing back at Chat who looked as nervous as she felt about the extra attention. She switched to running along the rooftops along the road in an effort to be a little less conspicuous. They arrived at the courthouse twenty minutes later and she and Chat watched as the police escorted Gabriel through a discreet entrance on the side of the building.

“Ha,” Chat said triumphantly. “Foiled again paparazzi.”

Ladybug giggled. “Looks that way. We better hurry. I don’t think there is any chance of us getting back to school on time as it is.”

“No worries, I got us some cover,”” he murmured back.

“Ah, that’s what you were talking about this morning,” she said.

“Uh-huh,” he agreed. “Let’s get out of here Bug.”

****

“Well Nino wasn’t wrong about the reporters,” Adrien muttered as they looked out the bakery window. “Why is the trial meriting even more attention for me?”

“I don’t know son,” Tom sighed. “I called the police and they are sending someone to deal with this. You’ll be late but you’ll get out of here in one piece.”

“And your customers can get in as well,” Adrien replied. “I’m really sorry about this Tom.”

“Ah, don’t worry about it,” he replied, clapping Adrien on the shoulder. “These people have been standing outside the bakery for weeks and their resistance is waning. I’ve picked up a few regular customers from that lot. I can always tell which one missed the scoop because they come in and order lots of pastries. I believe it’s referred to as ‘eating your feelings.’” Tom said with a grin.

Adrien laughed. “I’d feel sorry for them, but… nope… can’t. I’m glad they are giving you some business. It’s the least they can do really.”

“Indeed,” Tom replied. “Well, here comes Lieutenant Raincomprix. You should be able to get out of here safely now.”

******

“Sorry we’re late,” Adrien panted as he and Marinette rushed into class.

“It’s ok Adrien, Marinette,” Miss Bustier said sympathetically. “Lots of reporters today?”

“Yeah, the trial started at the end of lunch hour so they were waiting for us when we got ready to go. We had to wait for the police to come before it was safe for us to leave,” Adrien explained.

“It’s fine. We’re just going over subject choices for your final year,” Miss Bustier replied. “Have you figured out what you want to do next year?”

“Yeah,” Adrien said. “I’m keeping physics & chemistry and economic & social sciences.”

“All right,” Miss Bustier said, handing him a form. “I guess you get to sign this yourself don’t you?”

A slow smile spread across his face as he got a pen out of his bag. “I guess I do!”

****

“I got a text from Directeur Dufort,” Chat informed Ladybug as they headed back to the courthouse. “Did you?”

“I didn’t remember to look,” she confessed as they paused on a roof nearby. She quickly looked at her communicator. “Yeah, I got one as well. Sounds like they want us to come in on Thursday at four.”

“Yeah,” Chat said, looking relieved. “We’ll be the last witnesses and then we’ll escort the van back again. He also said the trial will start in the morning from now on so we shouldn’t have a problem getting to school on time.”

“It’ll just be long days for the foreseeable future,” Ladybug said with a sigh.

“Well, they won’t need us anymore if we catch Mayura,” Chat reminded her.

“That’s true. Well, she can bring it,” Ladybug said grimly. “I’m ready to take her shit down.”

Chat chuckled. “Your language is just getting more and more pissed off when it comes to her. I like it.”

“She can go fuck herself,” Ladybug replied, looking even more grumpy.

“She might as well,” Chat grinned. “No one else is going to do it for her.”

Ladybug snorted with laughter. “That’s the truth,” she agreed. They both lapsed into silence as they watched Gabriel being stealthily escorted from the side entrance into the waiting police car.

Chat sighed. “This never gets any easier,” he said gloomily.

“Sorry, Kitty,” Ladybug replied sympathetically. “I promise I’ll give you some nice attention later, ok?”

“What kind of attention?” he asked, perking up.

“I guess you’ll just have to wait and see,” she said with a wink.

Chat grinned. “Now I at least have something to look forward to,” he said as they followed the van back toward the prison.

The journey back through rush hour traffic took even longer than it had going the other way. The van didn’t turn its lights on since it didn’t particularly matter when they arrived at the prison grounds. By the time they arrived, it was past six in the evening.

“I wish I could just pick the van up and swing it above the rest of the traffic,” Chat complained. “That was just… the most excruciatingly slow and boring journey ever, plus there was the constant tension of looking for Mayura. My brain feels completely fried.”

“I know,” Ladybug agreed with a sigh. “I’m both super tense and ravenously hungry.”

“Same,” Chat laughed, his face abruptly falling as he watched the distant figure of his father disappearing into one of the imposing prison buildings. “Damn him,” he muttered. “Let’s go Bug, I think we’re all clear for now.”

****

“Sorry we’re so late,” Marinette said as they both came into the living area.

“It’s ok dear, we thought that would be likely,” Sabine replied soothingly. “I’ve set the table and we’re all ready to get started.”

“Thanks Sabine,” Adrien replied as he sat at his usual spot. “It’s been a long day and I’m starving.”

“I’ve made a quiche and a salad plus I baked a wheel of Camembert,” Sabine said with a wink. “That is, if your little friend doesn’t take it all for himself.”

“I’m sure he can share,” Adrien laughed. “Come on Plagg, don’t be shy.”

“I’ve got some sweets for your… Kwami?” Tom said questioningly. “Is that right?”

“Yeah,” Marinette replied. “Her name is Tikki.”

“Tikki,” Tom repeated with a grin. “I understand you have a sweet tooth. I imagine you’ve done very well living here all this time.”

“Yes,” Tikki replied shyly, floating out of Marinette’s bag. “To be honest, I’m not sure I’ve ever had such nice snacks on a consistent basis… certainly not in the last six or seven hundred years. It gets a little fuzzy beyond that.”

Tom shook his head in disbelief. “That is… well impossible for me to imagine. Anyway, I’ve brought you an eclair, some madeleines and a few strawberry macarons.”

“Thank you!” Tikki exclaimed, her blue eyes widening in delight at the sight of the pile of sweets that he had placed on a small dish for her.

“Is there a particular occasion we’re celebrating?” Plagg asked, eyeing the large wedge of Camembert that Sabine cut for him greedily.

“No,” Sabine smiled. “I do sometimes make a baked Camembert and I knew you’d probably like it. I told Tom so he could put together something for Tikki.”

“I think I’ve had it baked before,” Plagg said thoughtfully. “My favorite is to age it for at least a month but the kid here isn’t too fond of that.”

Adrien rolled his eyes. “Only because you had to hide it in my room. It got kind of gross sometimes.”

Plagg looked offended. “Aged Camembert is the most beautiful, delicious smell in the world. You were lucky really, kid.”

“Lucky,” Adrien snorted. “Lucky to be a fourteen year old boy who smelled like old cheese.”

Tom laughed. “I guess it never put my Macaron off,” he said, winking at Adrien playfully.

Marinette giggled. “You didn’t usually smell cheesy to me.”

“I kept my closet door shut as much as possible to keep the smell away from my clothes and took a lot of showers. It was hard to escape after school though. Just as well I never got to go out I guess,” Adrien explained, mock scowling at Plagg who was busy cramming his wedge of cheese into his mouth.

Marinette smiled and put her hand over his. “Since we’re all hanging out with the Kwamis, maybe we should test your Cataclysm after dinner,” she suggested.

“What, that thing where you turn something to ash?” Tom asked, looking interested.

“Yeah, Marinette can hold her transformation after doing her Lucky Charm now. That used to set off a five-minute timer before she would have to detransform and recharge Tikki if she needed to go back to being Ladybug,” Adrien explained. “I need to see if it’s the same for me.”

“I would love to see that!” Tom exclaimed. “Can I pick things for you to destroy?”

“Sure,” Adrien agreed, laughing. “Stick to things you don’t want back so Marinette doesn’t have to transform and restore things.”

“Of course,” Tom grinned, looking excited.

“We need to finish our dinner first,” Sabine reminded him with a teasing grin.

“Yes dear,” he replied, reluctantly turning his attention back to his food.

*****

“Ready to wreck some stuff?” Adrien asked Plagg after dinner.

“You know I am,” Plagg grinned mischievously. “But no Camembert, got it?”

“As if I would ever be that cruel,” Adrien laughed. “Life or death circumstances would be required for such a drastic act of destruction.”

“Damn right,” Plagg muttered. “Ready when you are!”

“Plagg, claws out!” Adrien called, transforming to Chat Noir in a flash of green light.

Tom clapped his hands in delight. “I cannot believe I just watched you do that!” he exclaimed.

“At your service,” Chat Noir said, bowing playfully. “What have you got for me Tom?”

“How many things do you want?” he asked.

“Let’s say five,” Chat replied, looking at him expectantly.

Grinning with pleasure, Tom selected five items and put them in a row on the dining table.

“I’ll start with the smallest,” Chat said. “Cataclysm!” he called, his hand instantly beginning to smolder as he reached out and touched the croissant, instantly turning it to ash. “Well, I expected that much… Cataclysm!” he said, grinning happily as his power instantly returned and he tapped the newspaper, destroying it immediately. “There’s no cheese in that right?” he asked, eyeing the Camembert container. “Plagg would never forgive me.”

“No, it’s empty. That’s the one we had for dinner,” Sabine explained, watching as avidly as her husband.

“Cataclysm!” Chat Noir ran a claw over the container and it dissolved into ash. “Cataclysm!” he tapped the wine bottle and it too was destroyed. “Cataclysm!... hey what is this?” he asked as both Tom and Sabine giggled.

“Please destroy it,” Sabine begged. “I hate that vase so much.”

Tom grinned. “It’ll look much better as a pile of ash.”

“Ok,” Chat shrugged, skimming his claws over its mottled brown exterior and grinning again as Tom and Sabine both cheered. “Well, that was fun. Plagg, claws in!”

“For your efforts Plagg,” Marinette said, presenting him with another wedge of Camembert and giggling as he tossed it in the air and caught it in his mouth before swallowing it whole.

*****

“So what kind of attention am I getting tonight?” Adrein asked as they got ready for bed much later that evening.

Marinette grinned teasingly. “What kind of attention do you want?” she asked.

“No, no, no, that isn’t how it works,” Adrien protested, tickling her until she was laughing hysterically.

“Ok!” she gasped as she finally squirmed away from him. “Well…” she paused as she caught her breath. “Before anything else, I was going to suggest we meditate again. I want to see how quickly we can build the energy up if we focus. In fact, I’d like to do that every night until we catch Mayura.”

“Good idea,” Adrien replied in agreement. “Then do I get attention?”

“Then you get attention,” she promised, turning to go retrieve the Miraculous Box. “Tikki, spots on!” she called as she sat the box down on her desk.

“Plagg, claws out!” Adrien added.

“We won’t take so long this time,” Ladybug assured Wayzz who laughed before phasing out her trap door.

“Awww, won’t we?” Chat asked.

“You want Ladybug attention and Marinette attention?” Ladybug said, shaking her head and giggling. “So greedy!”

“Yep, that’s me,” he agreed. “Only when it comes to you though Bug. I just can’t ever get enough.”

Ladybug smiled and took his hands. “I’ll give you some ear scritches before we detransform. How about that?”

“Sounds good to me,” Chat responded before closing his eyes.

Ladybug did the same, focusing on their mantra and the energy of Chat’s emotions as it coursed through her. They were both silent, clutching each other’s hands as the energy rapidly built up. She gave it a few more seconds, estimating it had been just over a minute and opened her eyes. The sphere was bright and completely opaque, occasionally emitting pink sparks. She looked over at Chat who was still concentrating intently, his eyes closed.

“Chat,” she murmured.

He opened his eyes and smiled at her. “We should time the next ones,” he said. “See if we’re building this up any quicker.”

“Good idea,” she agreed, scooting into his lap so she could reach up and scritch behind his kitty ears. He grinned and closed his eyes blissfully, his happy purring making her smile.

“Mmmm,” he moaned quietly. “That feels so nice, Bug.”

“We should probably detransform,” she suggested. “Would you like me to rub your back before we go to bed?”

“I would love that,” he replied. “Plagg, claws in!”

“Tikki, spots off!”

******

After gently placing Tikki’s light ball on the chaise, Marinette followed Adrien up to her bed.

“Thanks Princess,” he said gratefully as he pulled off his pajama shirt and laid down on his front. “Today has been… a lot. I hope this will help me wind down. I just keep thinking about the trial and seeing my father… in custody and thinking about how different everything must be for him… and I wish it would all just go away for awhile.”

“I’ll do my best,” Marinette promised, warming some oil in her hands before running them down his back. “I wish I had some way of giving you some peace, even temporarily.”

“If it weren’t for you, I wouldn’t have this calm energy to draw on,” he replied, enjoying the warmth of her hands on his skin. “And that does help me a lot.”

“Me too,” she replied. “I do think about the things you were just talking about as well and… it bothers me. I’m sure it doesn’t hurt me as much as it does you but it leaves me feeling very unsettled.”

“That’s a good word for it,” Adrien said, sighing as she massaged around his shoulder blades, focusing on getting out any knots she found along the way.

“Sorry,” she murmured when he flinched slightly. “Is this too much?”

“It’s great,” he assured her. “That did kind of hurt but now it feels a lot better.”

“So are we going back to Helios tomorrow to work on pictures?” Marinette asked.

“Yeah,” Adrien sighed. “I told Vincent I could only do an hour because I need to get back to the bakery before the trial concludes for the day. I told him the reporters really converge at that point which is true but obviously not the actual reason I need to go.”

Marinette smiled as she rubbed his neck. “Yeah, that is a good excuse. I guess that means you’ll have to go back on Wednesday as well.”

“Yeah, hopefully we’ll be able to finish up then. I already cancelled my usual therapy appointment for that afternoon,” Adrien said. “Also, Gorilla has to go to London on Wednesday after he brings us here from Gabriel so Nino and I are going to the house tomorrow evening to get my TV and take it to the apartment. I think we’re going to have to hold it in the back of the car to keep anything from damaging it. Maybe if we’re lucky we’ll be able to get it in the trunk.”

“Why aren’t you getting a moving company?” Marinette asked, moving her hands down to massage his shoulders.

“Mmm,” he sighed blissfully. “Because… I… please keep doing that Princess.”

“Ok,” she giggled. “I’m glad this feels good.”

“You’re amazing,” he sighed. “So, I didn’t bother with a moving company because I’m still not sure what I want to take. I’m going to have to sort through things and I haven’t felt like it. So I’m getting the TV with Nino because that is going to be the biggest pain in the ass to move so I thought I would get it out of the way. I’ll get my computer the next time I go there but I want to wait for my desk to arrive at the apartment.”

“When’s that due?” Marinette asked, as she began working her way down the sides of his back again.

“You really are very good at that,” he mumbled, resting his face on his hands. “Furniture is coming Wednesday evening. I’m going to hang out at the apartment until everything shows up. I’ve also got one of the painters stopping by for a key while I’m there so they can come paint on Thursday.”

“So are you going to be stuck there all night?” Marinette asked. “When will you eat?”

“I picked the last slot since I’m so busy with Helios and the trial,” Adrien explained. Everything is happening between 5:30 to 7:30. I guess I’ll have to take the Kitty express to get there on time. And I’ll just return to the bad old days and have an energy bar or something. I don’t mind though. It’s no hardship watching my place come together. All the utilities are on except for the Internet which is being activated on Thursday.”

“I guess you can bring your other shopping when you go with Nino. I can put your bedding and towels in the wash before we go to school,” Marinette said thoughtfully.

“Would you? That is very sweet,” Adrien sighed. “It’s a good idea to bring everything else while I still have access to Gorilla. He isn’t coming back until Monday. I’d rather not clutter up your room any longer than I have to.”

“It’s no problem” Marinette assured him, pressing down gently on his lower back. “I hope this conversation isn’t adding even more stuff for you to think about.”

“Nah,” he managed, sighing deeply. “It’s helpful talking it out. I’m realizing that everything is coming together and that’s a good feeling. Plus you are making me feel very loved. I wasn’t expecting this when you said you’d give me some attention.”

“You are very loved,” she replied, leaning down to kiss the back of his neck.

“Mmmm.” he sighed. “Come snuggle with me Princess.”

“Just a minute,” she said, peering down to the chaise. “The sphere is gone so Wayzz should be... “ she was interrupted as he came in.

“All clear,” he reported.

“Thanks,” she replied as she took his Miraculous back to the box. “We’re going to try practicing every night until we catch Mayura. We want to be able to achieve Miraculous Light as quickly as possible when we face her. She was very fast the other night.”

“A very good plan,” he agreed solemnly. “I’ll see you tomorrow then.”

Marinette climbed up the ladder to her bed quickly and smiled as she saw that Adrien had already gotten under the covers.

“Hey Bug,” he said sleepily, pulling her close.

“Hey Kitty,” she said, stroking his face. “Let’s try and get some sleep now, ok?”

Adrien murmured something unintelligible as he squeezed her to him. Marinette waited for his breathing to slow and deepen before rolling onto her back and closing her eyes.

Chapter Text

“Another busy evening ahead son?” Tom asked as Marinette and Adrien came into the bakery at lunchtime on Thursday.

“I don’t think it’ll be as bad, actually” Adrien said thoughtfully. “The only things happening are the painting and the internet being activated and I don’t need to be there for that. The painters said they’d let the technician in since they will be there all day. They’re dropping off the key at the real estate office when they’re done so I can get them whenever I have the time. I have another set so that isn’t too big of a deal.”

“Well, I’m glad you’re getting a night off,” Tom said with a grin. “Sabine is getting lunch ready. I’ll come up in a few minutes once I’ve locked up.”

“Ok, Papa,” Marinette said. “See you in a few minutes.”

“Mmhmm,” he agreed, suddenly distracted by a last-minute customer. “Hello sir, what can I get for you?” he asked as Marinette took Adrien’s hand and led him upstairs.

“Is Tom coming?” Sabine asked as she put a platter of sandwiches and a salad on the table.

“He’s serving someone,” Adrien said. “They came in right before he was going to lock up.”

“There’s always one,” Sabine said with a wry smile, getting out a large bottle of Orangina.

They were all sitting in their usual spots helping themselves to sandwiches when Tom came up.

“Hello everyone,” he said cheerfully. “So you two, I’m assuming you’ll be getting back later again for dinner. Is that right?”

“I’m afraid so Tom,” Adrien said apologetically. “We’ve got to testify as Chat Noir and Ladybug and then provide escort services so we’ll be going to the courthouse as soon as school gets out.”

“Sorry Papa,” Marinette said. “We’ll be escorting the police van every day until the trial ends or we catch Mayura, whichever happens first.

“It must be very stressful balancing all this,” Sabine said, looking sympathetic.

“Eh,” Adrien shrugged. “At least it’s more predictable than what we’re used to dealing with.”

“I suppose that’s true-” Sabine paused, looking horrified as the akuma alert went off on everyone’s phones.

“Well, we know what that means,” Adrien said grimly. “Come on Bug, we better go.”

“Please stay put and keep the bakery locked up,” Marinette told her parents as she got up.

“Don’t worry about us,” Sabine replied, watching apprehensively as they quickly left the room.

*****

“I wonder what delights we’re in for today,” Chat commented as they raced toward the location on their communicators. Whatever it was, the sentimonster was moving quickly, following the south bank of the Seine toward the Eiffel Tower.

“It’s big whatever it is,” Ladybug replied. “The closer we get, the more the buildings shake.”

“Holy shit!” Chat exclaimed as the sentimonster came into sight. They were still a few hundred meters away but they could see an enormous replica of Hawk Moth walking swiftly toward the gardens surrounding the tower, the tiny figure of Mayura perched on his shoulder. They could hear the distant screams as civilians tried to get out of his way.

With a burst of speed, Ladybug and Chat Noir raced ahead to intercept him on his path. Hawk Moth laughed with glee as he spotted them, then hastily uprooted a tree and threw it at the pair.

“Cataclysm!” Chat shouted, stepping in front of Ladybug and reached up to block the tree, turning it to ash. He could see from the satisfied smile on Mayura’s face that she had intended to take his power out as quickly as possible. Hawk Moth grabbed a car parked nearby and threw it at them, cackling maniacally. “Cataclysm!” Chat shouted again, putting his hands out as he yelled, the car disintegrating on contact. “Surprise!” he said with a laugh, enjoying the look of consternation on Mayura’s face. She murmured something in the sentimonster’s ear and it nodded, lifting one of its enormous legs in an attempt to crush them underfoot.

Chat grabbed Ladybug around her waist as she cast her yo-yo out, yanking both of them out of the sentimonster’s path as his foot came crashing down, creating a deep crater in the sidewalk where they had just been standing.

“Very fast, very strong and a sentimonster so I can’t cataclysm him,” Chat summarised.

“Kitty, I… I’m going to have to do something really bad,” Ladybug said, taking up her flute. “There’s only one thing I can think of that will distract Hawk Moth enough… one person.”

Chat nodded as he understood what she was telling him. “I understand milady. Please do it.”

Ladybug nodded and brought up her flute. A short distance away, another giant figure appeared, this one with long blonde hair and sparkling green eyes. She didn’t speak as she walked into the sentimonster’s field of vision but he noticed her immediately and was transfixed. She crossed over to the Trocadero, beckoning for him to follow her. Ladybug could see Mayura shouting in his ear until he brushed her off his shoulder impatiently, his attention focused on the illusion of Emilie. Mayura landed hard on her feet, touching something wrapped around her wrist to get his attention. He paused, swivelling his head from Mayura to Emilie who continued to encourage him to follow.

“We need to get closer to Mayura,” Chat whispered. “Get on my back but keep your focus on the illusion.”

Ladybug nodded, scrambling up and wrapping her arms around his shoulders as he ran as fast as he could toward Mayura. She kept her attention on her illusion, making Emilie retreat further to the North, waving for Hawk Moth to follow her. To her relief, he seemed once again entranced and Ladybug made the illusion head to the Grand Palais before ducking down behind the large building.

Alarmed, the sentimonster of Hawk Moth started to run toward the Grand Palais, ignoring the protests of Mayura who seemed torn between keeping Chat Noir and Ladybug in her sight and retrieving her creation.

“Reality! Tikki, Trixx divide,” Ladybug said, dispelling the illusion and separating from the fox. “Come on Kitty, while he’s busy looking for her!”

Chat stood as she leapt off his back and took his hands in hers. Confused but determined, Mayura raced toward them, ready to attack however she could. She skidded to a halt as she saw the sphere of light envelop them. She could hear the cries of nearby people and realized they were all watching with anticipation as the light grew brighter and brighter. Sensing the intensity of their energy, Mayura turned to escape.

Inside the sphere, Chat looked at Ladybug as she withdrew her hands from his, preparing to detransform. Impulsively, he grabbed her and kissed her, feeling the huge jolt of energy as their mouths connected. The sphere around them roared as she detransformed then shouted, “Tikki, Miraculous Light Power-up!”

Both Mayura and Chat Noir were knocked to the ground as the ball of energy exploded, shooting Ladybug high in the air. Mayura scrambled to her feet, preparing to run toward her sentimonster which was angrily making its way back to the Eiffel Tower.

“Ladybug, Chat Noir! You are mine!” he shouted, making up ground at an alarming pace as people once again scattered before him in their attempts to get away.

“No!” Ladybug proclaimed loudly, building a ball of energy between her hands. “We will never be yours Mayura! We belong to the city of Paris!” She opened her eyes, glaring at the sentimonster unafraid, her eyes glowing electric blue as she pulled the sphere apart. Chat knelt on the ground, bracing himself against the mighty roar as it swept over the ground creating an atmosphere of pure white light before disappearing just as suddenly, allowing Chat to look around.

Ladybug was still hovering above the ground although she had sunk down a couple meters. The sentimonster was gone and Nathalie lay crumpled on the ground, Gabriel’s tie wrapped around her wrist, the peacock Miraculous glistening about a meter away from her. Chat launched himself in one smooth pounce, landing next to the Miraculous and carefully picking it up. He ran to Ladybug and gave it to her before running back to Nathalie and using his belt to secure her. He could see police officers approaching and he waved them over.

“She no longer has her Miraculous!” he shouted. “It’s safe now!” The officers began to run until they were all surrounding him and Nathalie. He removed his belt as one of the officers took out his handcuffs and they began the process of apprehending her.

Nathalie’s eyes fluttered open as the handcuffs clicked shut around her wrists. “Oh… oh no,” she moaned. “Tell Adrien… you need to tell Adrien.”

“I’m sure he’ll be delighted to hear you’re behind bars,” Chat replied shortly. “Although not as much as I am. You and Hawk Moth have caused so much pain and suffering. The entire city is ready to see an end to this reign of terror.”

“No… no… tell Adrien…” Nathalie called as the police marched her away. “He needs to talk to Gabriel. Gabriel must know I’ve been caught.”

Chat snorted. “If you’re worried about that you shouldn’t be!” he called. “I don’t think he’ll need to wait for Adrien to tell him that!”

“We’ll be glad to deliver the message!” one of the officers exclaimed and they all laughed.

“No, Adrien… he needs to speak to his father!” she screamed.

“Yeah, yeah,” Chat muttered, watching the officer push her rather unceremoniously into the back of the police car. “Crazy fucking lady,” he said under his breath and he walked toward Ladybug who had floated the rest of the way to the ground.

“We did it,” she said, her voice ringing. “It’s done.” She held out the Miraculous and they both looked at it together. “It doesn’t… look broken,” Chat said hesitantly.

“It’s not!” Duusu crowed jubilantly as she and Trixx spun each other around in excitement. “You’ve repaired it Guardian! Oh I feel so much better! Can we go? I want to see all my friends! Oh I’m so excited! Thank you, thank you so much Guardian!”

Ladybug laughed, the power-up giving the sound a melodious tone. “You are welcome Duusu,” she said. “I’m so glad to finally meet you.” She turned to look up at Chat, her irises still a glowing, electric blue. He looked back, captivated by her jubilant expression.

“May I..” he asked, tentatively touching her face.

“Please,” she whispered.

Gently, he held her face in his hands, feeling the sparks of electricity as he made contact with her skin. He leaned down and couldn’t help but smile as he heard the gasps and cheers of all the civilians nearby when he kissed her. He could feel her lips curve upward against his as she smiled too, her hands reaching up around his neck to pull him closer.

“Want to go home?” he murmured when he finally pulled away.

“I’ve got one more thing I need to do,” she reminded him softly. “Lucky Charm!” she exclaimed. A wetsuit fell into her hands and she looked at Chat, tears splashing from her brightly lit eyes. “Do you remember?” she asked.

“How could I ever forget?” he asked, wrapping his arm around her. “Do the thing, Miracle Girl.”

*****

Celine and Henri stood just outside the restaurant on the Eiffel Tower where they had been eating lunch when the large replica of Hawk Moth stormed into the gardens. They had stood watching apprehensively as down below, Chat Noir and Ladybug had battled with Mayura. Celine and many of the guests around her had screamed in shock when Ladybug erupted from the exploding ball of energy and she in particular had breathed a huge sigh of relief when Ladybug spoke, clutching Henri’s hand as she watched the rest of the fight play out.

“Have you ever been caught in an akuma battle before?” Henri asked, noticing her drawn expression.

Celine shook her head. “Have you?” she asked.

“Once,” he grinned. “I got turned into a statue by a pop star. The next thing I knew, I found myself in the middle of the street with no memory of how I got there and lots of ladybugs all around me.”

“Wow,” Celine replied. “Did you see Chat Noir or Ladybug?”

“No,” Henri replied. “Although I’ve glimpsed them on patrol a few times since.”

Celine smiled. “I haven’t even managed that much. This is the first time I’ve ever seen them in person and obviously, we are pretty far away.”

“Aww, Henri sighed. “Looks like I’m not the only man to purrsuade my lady to give me a chance.”

Celine looked down at the heroes kissing as if nothing else existed as sparks flew around them and smiled. “I guess you’re right although I think Chat had to wait a lot longer than you did! Look, now she’s calling her lucky charm. A… wetsuit?”

“I suppose it doesn’t matter what it is,” Henri replied, watching her toss it into the air. “The supervillains have all been captured now. I still… I still can’t believe it was your boss… and his assistant.”

“I know,” Celine laughed wryly. “Who knew something as crazy as that would affect me personally? Come on, let’s see if we’re allowed to finish our lunch.”

*****

Tom and Sabine were sitting on the couch, still staring at the television as news updates flooded in when Marinette and Adrien came down the stairs.

“Hey!” Adrien exclaimed in surprise. “I didn’t expect to see you up here!”

“Oh,” Tom said, looking at his phone. “Ah, damn. Well, I’m only fifteen minutes late. Besides… we were locked up for that…”

“Sentimonster attack,” Marinette finished. “I think everything is ok now.”

“I’d say so,” Tom replied softly, hugging his daughter. “I’m so proud of you Macaron. We were watching you both on TV. And you son,” he added, choking up slightly. “I saw how quick you were to protect her.”

“That’s my job,” Adrien said, smiling as Tom let go of Marinette and gave him a hug. “Mmph, Tom, I’m still not sure how I survived akuma you.”

“Sorry,” Tom chuckled sheepishly, loosening his hold before letting him go. “I guess I better open the bakery and you two should get to school.”

“Yeah,” Adrien agreed. “Hopefully we won’t be the only ones who are late.”

“What you did today… it was wonderful to watch,” Sabine said. “To know what I was seeing and why. I felt really… privileged to understand.”

“Not many people ever will, Maman. But I am glad you get to,” Marinette said. “We’ll be back after school.”

****

To Adrien’s relief, his classmates were still filtering in when he and Marinette walked in and the entire school was buzzing with the news of Mayura’s capture. Alya and Nino arrived shortly after they did, both grinning excitedly as they took their seats. Everyone including Miss Bustier was talking, sending and receiving texts and watching videos of the battle on their phone.

“Did you get to the battle on time?” Marinette asked Alya.

“I did,” she exclaimed. “I’ve just put up my videos. I had to stop and start because it was so crazy and I had to find a safer spot to record from. Lucky for me, Nino’s a good lookout.”

Nino grinned and turned around. “Anytime, Babe,” he said, winking at her. “Although your days of recording battles are… hopefully over.”

“Yeah, I’ll probably have to think of a new focus for my blog,” Alya said thoughtfully. “Still, it’s not all fighting.” She brought up her blog to show pictures of Chat Noir and Ladybug kissing. “My ship has finally sailed. It’s about damn time I have to say.”

Adrien laughed. “Maybe they were just waiting for the right moment.”

Alya shrugged. “Maybe. Doesn’t sound like much fun to me. So… Sunshine, your phone is blowing up. What’s going on?”

“Father’s lawyer, my lawyer, Celine, Martin… I can’t keep up,” Adrien answered with a sigh. “Apparently the trial has been called into recess for the rest of the day and Father wants to speak to me in private which isn’t allowed and he knows it.” He looked up at Miss Bustier to make sure she wasn’t about to call the class to order but she was busy texting as well. He returned his own attention to his phone and continued to go through his messages.

Celine: Henri and I were at the Eiffel Tower for lunch and saw the battle. It was so incredible. He told me he got turned into a statue by an akumatized popstar once. It’s the first time I’ve ever been anywhere near a battle and I guess it’ll probably be the last. Anyway, I hope you are ok.

“Did Celine message you, Princess?” he asked as he absentmindedly read his message from Martin asking him to call after school.

“Yeah,” Marinette replied. “I guess she had a good spot to watch.”

“Maybe a little terrifying considering how big that Hawk Moth was,” Adrien said.

“Yeah, I wouldn’t have liked being that close myself,” Marinette said. “I’m happy to have left the death-defying adventures to my nutty best friend here.”

Alya laughed and gave her a hug. “I’m sure there’s a brave person hiding in there somewhere.”

Chapter Text

The sound of her own deep gasping breath startled her and she opened her eyes, looking around in confusion. Where was she? Where was everyone else? There was a faint beeping noise somewhere nearby and she seemed to be inside something. What had happened to her? She tried her best to remember anything that would explain this but nothing came to her. She had been ill… yes… but what was this? She moved her head from side to side, trying to determine what exactly she was physically capable of doing. She noticed a small latch and hesitantly raised a hand to pull it. The glass cover separating her from everything else abruptly opened and she took another deep breath while carefully sliding to the bottom of the strange cylinder she had been resting in. For how long? She studied her hands and lightly touched her face. Everything felt the same. Perhaps she had only been here for a little while. She looked around the room, trying to decide if she recognized it but whatever clues it had to share made no sense to her at that moment.

“Gabriel,” she whispered, her voice faint from lack of use. “Adrien.” She wondered where they were. Where she was. She planted one foot on the ground and then the other. Slowly, she shifted her weight until she was crouching on the ground. Gradually, she stood up, her knees cracking, legs trembling from the effort. Perhaps she had been down here a bit longer than it had initially seemed. She focused her gaze on a vertical shaft at the end of the room. There appeared to be a door in it. Maybe she could find her way out. Could she walk? She put one foot out and then moved the other one. Yes, if she took her time, she could do this. She thought again of her son and smiled softly. He had just turned thirteen, hadn’t he? She seemed to remember the small party they had thrown for him.

When she reached the doors, she saw a button on a panel nearby and pressed it. She watched as a platform descended and the doors opened. She could feel her heart pounding as she nervously stepped onto the platform and waited for the doors to shut. There were no buttons inside and the platform immediately began to ascend as soon as the doors closed. She wobbled slightly but kept her balance. A noise above her made her raise her head and she felt slightly alarmed to see a hole opening above her as the platform continued to rise. She kept as still as she could as the platform pushed her into a room and then she looked around. Gabriel’s office? She was… in their house? What was going on?

“Gabriel?” she called again and louder “Adrien?” There was no answer and the house was completely silent. What time was it? What day was it? Where was her family? She wandered around her husband’s office but it was immaculate without the slightest clue about… anything. She stepped out of the office and saw a huge, somber-looking portrait of her husband and her son looking just as she remembered them. Adrien’s face looked heartbroken and she felt her own heart twist. Perhaps he was in his room. Hopefully, she grasped the hand rail and slowly made her way up to his room. “Adrien?” she asked, her heart racing with anticipation as she opened the door. It was silent. And empty. And also very clean. She wandered around, breathing in his scent which was so familiar and yet not entirely the same. She walked over to his computer and moved the mouse. The monitors came to life and she gasped in shock. There he was. It was clearly Adrien but much more grown up. Each of the three monitors had a different picture and she drank them in, these little hints that revealed that she had been… asleep? For much longer than it had seemed.

She wondered if Adrien had visited her in the case and how that must have felt. She wondered if he and Gabriel had spent time with her, hoping she would wake up. Shaking her head, she focused on the pictures. The first looked like it was at a pool and he was sitting with three people on a couple of sun loungers. One of them, a very pretty girl with long black hair sat in his lap and his arm was curved around her protectively. The second one was another picture of him with the girl. They were asleep together on an unfamiliar couch. The third… the third picture was beautiful. It looked like it was from a photoshoot. They were dancing together barefoot, Adrien and the girl, wearing outfits that she could immediately tell that Gabriel had designed. “How wonderful,” she sighed, sad that she had missed so much but relieved to see some sign that they were still living out normal--well normal for them--lives. She wondered who the girl was. She had never seen her before but it was clear that whoever she was, she was important to her son. Sighing, she took another deep breath and realized that she was exhausted. Her son’s bed caught her eye and she went over and sat down on it. She looked around the large room, noticing that her piano had been moved in at some point then laid down, breathing in the scent of her child and realizing sadly that he must be nearly a man now. She had missed so much and she longed to see him again. Where was he? Where was Gabriel? With those troubled thoughts, she closed her eyes and fell asleep.

Chapter Text

“Marinette, you have a message from Gallicus,” Tikki said, floating up to her bed Friday morning.

“Oh,” Marinette sighed, sitting up and rubbing her eyes sleepily. “I’m glad school is cancelled for the day,” she said quietly, smiling at Adrien who was still deeply asleep next to her. “Tikki spots on!” There was a flash of pink light and Ladybug took out her communicator, still sitting next to Adrien who stirred slightly but didn’t wake up.

Congratulations and thank you again. We are rescheduling your testimony sometime next week. The trial remains in recess today as Ms. Sancouer is interviewed and we figure out the next steps we need to take. In the meantime, the city would like to hold a parade in your honor this afternoon since school has been cancelled. It will be at 1pm. Would you be able to attend?- Gallicus

Ladybug smiled and typed a message in reply:

We’d be honored. Please continue to protect your Miraculous. It is much easier having you to contact directly. Do you mind holding on to it for now? -Ladybug

Your trust means a great deal to me. I will continue to keep the Miraculous safe and use it only to contact you. I will see you and Chat Noir at 1pm. The parade will start in front of Police Headquarters. -Gallicus

See you then. I will let Chat Noir know. -Ladybug

Ladybug smiled as she slipped the communicator back in her yo-yo. Adrien stirred again and a sudden mischievous impulse caused her to cuddle up to him while still transformed.

“Mmm,” he sighed in contentment, pulling her closer. “Morning… Bug?!”

Ladybug giggled as his eyes flew open. “Morning Gorgeous,” she replied. “I had a message to read. In fact, I just remembered! I need to message Master Liu!”

“Don’t worry, I did that yesterday,” Adrien informed her. “He said he’d like to see us when we have time and hear the details of the battle.” He reached over to play with the red ends of her ponytail. “I have to say, I wasn’t expecting to wake up with a bedbug.”

“I hope it’s a good surprise rather than a bad one,” she murmured, climbing on top of him.

“I’d say good,” he managed, whimpering quietly as she kissed the side of his neck. He traced his hand down the slightly textured fabric of her super suit and squeezed her bottom, making her squeak with surprise. He took advantage of her distraction, rolling on top of her and kissing her hard on the mouth. They both knew that Ladybug could easily overpower him but she had no intention of doing so, sighing as he ran his hands over her body and kissed her fervently. “It’s not my birthday right?” he murmured before nibbling her ear. “Or yours or Christmas… so was I just… a really good boy or something?”

“Very,” she assured him, moaning as he kissed her jawline. “I think I’ve been a pretty good girl too, come to think of it.”

“Definitely,” he agreed, holding her face as he kissed her deeply, shivering as he felt her gloved hands reach under his shirt and stroke up and down his back. They both paused as they heard a knock on the door.

“Are you two awake?” Sabine called. “Adrien’s lawyer is here.”

“Ugh,” Adrien groaned quietly then spoke up more loudly. “We’re awake. Tell him we’ll be there in a couple of minutes.”

“Ok, I’ll let him know,” Sabine said before heading back down the stairs.

Ladybug giggled. “Think you’re going to be ready that quickly?” she asked, raising her eyebrows at him and grinning at him knowingly.

“Probably not,” he admitted, blushing. “Which is why you’re going to detransform and go keep him entertained for me.

“Sure,” she agreed. “Tikki, spots off!”

Adrien smiled as Marinette reappeared. “You are so naughty, Princess,” he told her.

“Me!” she exclaimed. “I thought we agreed I’m a good girl.”

“Oh you are,” he assured her, nuzzling her neck before getting off of her. “You’re good because you’re naughty.”

Marinette grinned and bopped his nose playfully. “Only for you Kitty,” she said as she climbed down to get dressed. “By the way, we’re going to be in a parade at one o’clock. Gallicus told me. Also our testimony is going to be rescheduled for sometime later next week.”

“Ok,” he replied. “I guess I’ll have time to go get my keys from the real estate office since school is cancelled. Would you like to hang out at the apartment this weekend and help me organize what’s there?”

“I’d love to!” she exclaimed, pulling on a t-shirt and jeans. “I’ll have to see if I can get out of bakery duty. Also... we’ll probably have to take a taxi if there’s anything else you want to bring over.”

“Oh yeah, Gorilla isn’t back yet,” Adrien replied, sighing. “Thanks for reminding me.”

“Do you know why he went to London anyway?” Marinette asked, as she brushed her hair into a ponytail.

“Some kind of trust meeting. I can’t help but wonder if it’s got to do with the current terms of his employment,” Adrien replied, pushing back the covers and stretching. “I don’t know what the terms of his job are… how much he gets paid...if he’ll still be allowed to live at the house...” he trailed off. “Well, we’ll see what they say. My disbursements from the trust are a significant amount of money but I’m not sure they extend to paying the salary and accommodations for a full-time bodyguard on my own, especially if I need to pay for university and if Helios doesn’t recover. I have been discussing all this with my lawyer and the trust fund manager and they just told me to wait and see what the trust has to say.”

“I guess you can talk to your lawyer about it in a few minutes,” Marinette said. “I’ll go talk to him for now.”

“Thanks,” Adrien laughed. “I won’t be long. This very unsexy conversation has actually helped quite a bit.”

Marinette giggled. “Glad to be of service,” she said before leaving the room.

****

“Hello Adrien,” Sacha greeted him as he came downstairs. “I just got back from London. Gorilla told me to let you know he is still staying until Monday.”

“Yeah, he texted me that as well,” Adrien replied. “What is going on anyway?”

“Well, Amelie and Felix are meant to be coming back with him and staying for a week. I think she has an itinerary planned and wants Gorilla to handle it since he’s a trust employee. I pointed out that he was specifically hired for your benefit and then she said that should change since you’re emancipated. Then there was a rather long...discussion about all that. It turns out that Gorilla is hoping to retire in a year or two and he’d rather go part-time until then and work something out with you.”

“Ok,” Adrien said, looking slightly anxious. “Well I don’t mind him helping Amelie while she’s here. If I need anything, I can get a driver or... maybe we can work something out if there are any specific occasions where I’m going to need him. Where are she and Felix going to stay?”

“At the Mayor’s hotel,” Sacha answered. “If you are honestly ok with sharing Gorilla’s services for a week, I’ll let her know.”

“It’s fine,” Adrien replied with a shrug. “So what do I do about Gorilla? I guess I can probably afford paying him part-time but where is he going to live?”

“At the mansion for now,” Sacha replied. “Gabriel’s lawyer said Mr. Agreste is keeping the house for now and he actually likes having Gorilla there keeping an eye on the place.”

“That’s good I guess,” Adrien said, relaxing slightly. “It seems like it could work. My trust disbursements are generous but… not enough to pay for accommodations and a full time salary for another person.”

“I suppose not,” Sacha agreed. “They go up pretty considerably once you’re twenty-five or get married.

“So I’ve heard,” Adrien replied. “I don’t have any imminent plans.” He grinned as Marinette giggled.

“Goodness, Mr. Auclair, we’re only seventeen and we haven’t even been together a year!” she exclaimed.

Sacha laughed. “I don’t suppose your parents would be very happy about that either, huh?”

“I don’t know,” Marinette said, rolling her eyes. “Papa would probably love it.”

“Is that so?” Sacha looked amused. “Anyway, I just wanted to let you know what’s been discussed because I knew you were worrying about it. Also, I heard Mayura was captured yesterday. I was on the train back when I got the news.”

“Yeah,” Adrien replied. “I’m very glad Nathalie is in custody. I feel safer now, especially after that creepy call from her when I was on Face to Face last week.”

Sacha sighed. “I hope your life settles down a bit now, Adrien. I can’t imagine what it’s like dealing with all of this drama at your age.”

“Thanks Sacha,” Adrien replied. “I really appreciate that… and thanks as well for stopping by.”

*****

“Hey Kitty!” Ladybug greeted him as he joined her on the rooftop across from the Police Headquarters. “Did you get your keys back?”

“Yeah,” he replied, bumping his hip against her playfully. “They seem to have gotten the word out quickly, haven’t they?” He gestured at the crowds of people lining the parade route.

“I’m glad people are excited to celebrate with us,” Ladybug replied. “Grab my waist and I’ll swing us into the entryway.” Chat grinned and obediently held on to her as she flung her yo-yo out and swung them both across the street.

The doors to the headquarters opened as soon as they landed and Directeur Dufort motioned them both inside. “Thank you for coming,” he said. “I imagine you’d really like a rest after everything but we wanted to take a moment to celebrate. We had such an immediate response from so many performance related organizations that we decided to hold a parade. It’s starting now and we have an open top double-decker bus for you to ride in. It’s parked outside if you want to sit up there and watch the parade until you join it at the end.”

“Sounds good to me,” Chat agreed. “Shall we walk or will the crowds be too much?”

“I think we’ll be fine to walk,” the Directeur said. “It’s not far and it’s blocked off so it can drive out without running anyone over.”

*****

“Wow,” Ladybug marveled as she stood behind the railing of the bus, watching a troupe of dancers in superhero costumes perform. “I wonder if they’ve been preparing for this for awhile.”

“Probably.” Chat replied, standing next to her with his arm around her shoulder. “Maybe they started working on it when Hawk Moth was captured.”

“Yeah, that would make sense,” she said thoughtfully. “Everyone seems so happy. It’s really nice.”

“It is,” Chat agreed. “Thank you Directeur Dufort. And thank the team who worked on this for both of us. It’s nice to be appreciated.”

“I will tell them,” he promised. “Our communications team and the city events team worked very hard to get this together right away. It’s the least we can do really. I’ve seen a lot of different footage of the battle yesterday. It was absolutely amazing.”

“Thank you,” Ladybug replied softly. “I’m sure it was terrifying for all the civilians nearby. That was the biggest sentimonster we’ve ever faced.”

“You didn’t seem that frightened yourself, Ladybug,” the Directeur observed. “Neither of you did actually.”

“We were just both very focused on getting Mayura,” Chat answered. “I was looking out for Ladybug while she created the distraction to draw the sentimonster away and give us enough time to do our power-up.”

“That was phenomenal,” the Directeur said. “You obviously used the information from Mr. Agreste’s confession to come up with an illusion like that. It was inspired. I only wish I could have been there to see it in person, especially that power-up.”

“Hmmm,” Ladybug said thoughtfully.

“Looks like you have an idea Bugaboo,” Chat said teasingly.

“Maybe we should do the power-up at the end of the parade. It won’t hurt anyone and it isn’t a secret anymore.”

“Sounds fun,” Chat agreed with a grin. “Are you riding with us sir?”

“If I wasn’t before, I am now!” he said, laughing. “Although honestly, I was going to anyway. It’s important for those of us in leadership positions in the city to be seen supporting you.”

“Looks like we’re getting ready to go,” Ladybug observed. “We appreciate your support, sir. I don’t see us being police officers or anything like that going forward but… it would be nice to have some kind of informal ambassadorial role.”

“I like that idea,” the Directeur said with a smile, standing a short distance from them as the bus pulled away from the curb. “You mean a lot to Paris and I’m thankful that Paris means so much to you. Just look at all these people who have turned out today. I think they’d all be relieved to know you will still be around even if you aren’t fighting supervillains.”

Chat Noir and Ladybug spent the rest of the parade waving and smiling to everyone. The bus paused a couple of times, allowing the rest of the performers to pull ahead and each time the crowd chanted for the pair to kiss.

“Oh god,” Ladybug said, blushing deeply the first time the chant went up. “I guess we should have expected this.”

“We don’t have to get carried away this time,” Chat said, taking her hand. “Or we can just ignore it and keep waving. Your choice, Bug.”

“Ah, what the hell,” she said, pulling his face down to hers and kissing him fervently, grinning as she heard the amused chuckling of the Directeur who quickly backed away as sparks flew around them. “Beat that, Kitty,” she said when she pulled away, giggling at his stunned expression. The crowd cheered even louder as she winked and blew them all a kiss.

“Challenge accepted. Next time, it’s my turn,” he promised.

“The sparks literally fly with you two,” the Directeur said, shaking his head and smiling.

Chat smiled and took Ladybug’s hand, continuing to wave with his free one. “That’s the bond energy. I have to say, I don’t think it’s ever been as powerful as it is now.”

The Directeur laughed. “You are so matter-of-fact about it. The things you two just take in stride… it’s extraordinary,” he said.

“It’s… a unique part of my life,” Ladybug admitted. “But I’ve come to appreciate it more and more. Being Ladybug has taught me so much.”

“I’ve certainly learned a lot of things from being Chat Noir,” Chat agreed. “Especially patience.” He grinned as the bus paused and swept Ladybug up bridal style in his arms. “My turn!” he said triumphantly before kissing her passionately. Ladybug laughed as the crowd roared their approval.

“I guess you win,” she said, winking at him playfully.

“We’re coming up to the end of the parade,” the Directeur informed them several minutes later.

“Come on Bug, let’s really give them a show,” Chat said, giving her an excited smile as he took her hands in his. They closed their eyes, focusing on each other, not even noticing the delighted cries of the crowd as the sphere of light surrounded them. “Ready?” Chat asked.

“Yeah,” Ladybug murmured. “Tikki, spots off!” She paused as Tikki’s ball of light floated to her hands then cried, “Tikki, Miraculous Light Power-up!”

The Directeur grabbed the railing to brace himself as the sphere exploded and Ladybug shot into the air. He glanced over at Chat who had knelt down to keep himself stable. His gaze was focused on Ladybug as she floated just above him.

“She was worth waiting for wasn’t she?” he said, loud enough for Chat to hear him.

Chat smiled softly as he continued to look up at her. “Without a doubt,” he replied.

Chapter Text

“Hey Maman,” Marinette greeted Sabine as she and Adrien entered the bakery.

“Hello you two,” Sabine greeted them with a smile. “It’s been very quiet so I watched the parade on my phone. I was amazed that they pulled something so spectacular together so quickly.”

“Adrien thought maybe people have been preparing since Hawk Moth was captured,” Marinette replied. “I have to say that’s the only explanation that makes sense to me.”

“Nice having a day off school as well!” Sabine said as Tom came out from the kitchen. “What have you two got planned for the rest of today?”

“I wanted to ask a favor, actually,” Marinette said. “Adrien asked if I could help with setting things up at his apartment. Could I… get the weekend off from the bakery?”

“I suppose you could,” Sabine replied, her eyes twinkling. “One condition though.”

“Oh… ok!” Marinette said in surprise. “What is it?”

Sabine grinned as she looked around the empty bakery for a moment. “Your Papa and I want to see you make the light sphere up close. It’s quiet so we can shut the bakery for a few minutes.”

Tom chuckled. “Great idea, dear.”

Adrien laughed. “All right, but we can’t do the power-up. It’s explosive and it’s safer to do that outside.”

“That’s fine,” Sabine agreed as Tom locked the door. “I wouldn’t want you to knock the building over and then have to use your lucky charm.”

Marinette giggled. “That would be pretty difficult to explain.”

Whenever you’re ready then!” Adrien said, following Marinette up the stairs.

****

“I’ll do my transformation dance if you will,” Marinette bargained as they stood in front of her parents who were both on the couch watching avidly.

Adrien laughed. “Yeah, okay, who’s going first?”

“I can since I suggested it,” she replied. “Tikki, spots on!”

“Oh wow,” Adrien groaned when she was done. “That was the cutest thing ever!”

“I agree,” Tom said, his expression nearly as soft as Adrien’s. “Macaron, you’re going to kill your old man doing things like that. Did you really do that every time you transformed?”

“Yeah, for the first couple of years,” she confessed. “It was like a weird instinct to begin with but eventually I started feeling silly doing it so I stopped. Anyway… Gorgeous, what is the hold up?”

“Yeah, yeah,” he said, laughing somewhat self-consciously. “Plagg, claws out!”

“Hey!” Chat Noir protested, watching Ladybug giggling when he was done. “I told you how obsessed I was with anime stuff!”

“I know,” she replied, reaching up to ruffle his hair affectionately. “That was adorable!”

“Glad to be of service milady,” he said with a bow. “Let’s not hold these two up much longer. Shall we?” He held out his hands and she took them. They both closed their eyes, feeling the energy roar with greater intensity than ever before. Chat opened his eyes and grinned. “Hey Bug,” he said quietly.

She opened her eyes and smiled at him. “Hey Kitty,” she replied, leaning up to kiss him. “I’m going to detransform now. He nodded as she cried, “Tikki, spots off!”

******

“All your furniture showed up didn’t it?” Marinette asked as Adrien unlocked the door to his apartment.

“Yeah,” he answered, opening the door. “I think everything is in the right place but you’ll have to let me know what you think. I hung up the curtains in the bedroom but I haven’t put up the rest of them yet. I made the bed since you were nice enough to wash all the sheets and the duvet cover. That’s pretty much all I’ve managed to do.”

“I’m glad I could help,” Marinette said, smiling as he took her hand and led her in. “Wow, the paint color really makes a difference. It’s so much cozier!” she exclaimed, admiring the soft blue walls in the living room.

“Yeah, I like it,” Adrien agreed. “As promised, there is a pink room but you’ll have to keep going if you want to find it.”

“Oooh okay!” Marinete laughed, peeking into the kitchen. “I have to say, I’m glad it isn’t the kitchen. It is pretty as it is!”

“I agree. I decided to just leave it white and I’m not planning to put anything heavy on the glass doors to the balcony. I like how light it is in here,” Adrien replied.

“Me too,” Marinette said, turning and walking back through the living room with Adrien trailing behind her. She went down the hallway and peeked into one room. “Not the little bathroom which is good.”

Adrien laughed. “I was tempted to get that painted pink just to mess with you but decided to just leave it white,” he admitted.

“I’ll bet it’s the study!” Marinette declared opening the door. “No! Well now I’m very curious. The sea green color is pretty. Very… tranquil.”

Adrien smiled as she wandered around the room trailing her hand along the desk that ran the entire length of one wall. “I think there will be plenty of room for both our computers and your sewing equipment eventually.”

“Definitely,” she agreed, leaning up to kiss him. “It’s all really nice. I’m running out of rooms though.”

“You’ve got two left to see,” he said, taking her hand again.

“Not the bedroom,” Marinette said, admiring the peaceful space. “I see you went with the same blue as the living room.”

“Yeah, I liked it so much I decided I wanted this color in here as well,” Adrien replied. “I like how calming it is to look at.”

“Well, that leaves one room to see,” Marinette said, opening the door to the ensuite bathroom. “Oh my gosh Adrien,” she signed, taking in the dusty rose colored walls. “I love it… and I think I remember those brass taps on the bath! And there are matching ones on the sink… oh and the shower!” She wandered around inspecting everything.

“I saw you admiring them when we were picking things out,” Adrien told her. “I think the painter thought I was nuts when I asked for this color in here but even he had to admit it looked very romantic.”

“You’ll get no arguments from me,” Marinette assured him. “I think it’s absolutely beautiful!”

“I’m really glad you like it,” he replied, pulling her close. “And I’m glad we’re here together. I wasn’t expecting… but then Mayura finally showed her face…” he trailed off.

***************************************

Marinette grinned up at him. “Now we have all weekend with no interruptions just like you wanted,” she said teasingly. “Well, I’m ready if you are.”

“Really?” Adrien asked, gazing into her eyes. “I mean… I was kind of hoping… but I didn’t want to presume..”

“You aren’t presuming anything,” she said softly, pulling his face down to hers and kissing him passionately.”

“O-oh,” he stammered as she kissed his neck. “Did you mean… now?”

“Did you want to wait?” she murmured, taking his hands in hers.

“Not really,” he said. “I’m pretty tired of waiting actually.”

“So am I,” she replied before he abruptly silenced her with a searing kiss, pulling her back into the bedroom.

Adrien paused long enough to pull her shirt over her head, his eyes widening as he saw her bright pink lace bra. “You are so beautiful,” he murmured, reaching for the zipper on her miniskirt and undoing it, stepping back for a moment to admire her matching underwear.

“I admit, I wore these on purpose,” she said to him as she watched him take his own shirt off. She stopped him as his hands went to the button on his jeans. “Let me,” she said, running her hands along his waist.

“Oh,” he sighed as he felt her undo the button and pull the zipper down before sliding them slowly down his legs. He carefully kicked them off as she stood up and scooped her up in his arms, carrying her over to the bed and laying her down gently. “Is this real?” he asked softly as he laid down next to her and traced his hand over her body.

Marinette smiled. “It’s real,” she replied, sighing as he climbed on top of her and kissed her neck. She arched slightly as he reached behind her to unhook her bra, slipping her arms out of the straps as soon as it was undone. Adrien grinned and flung it off the bed which made her giggle. Still smiling, he lowered his head to kiss from her neck down to her breasts, her giggles abruptly stopping as she moaned his name.

“You like this?” he murmured, kissing her breasts, hesitating for a moment before flicking his tongue across one of her nipples. He couldn’t help but grin again as she let out a little squeak of surprise.

“Do that… do that again,” she whispered, moaning as he obliged before turning his attention to her other nipple. “Oh…” she groaned blissfully as he took it in his mouth and sucked on it gently. She made a small whimpering noise as she felt his lips travelling down her body, his hands running down her sides as he went further down, nibbling and kissing her thighs as he enjoyed her little noises and the way she sometimes squirmed in surprise. Tentatively, he nuzzled between her legs, groaning as he felt the dampness of her underwear against his face.

He crept back up her body, dropping gentle kisses on her belly and the insides of her arms before laying down next to her. “Roll onto your side,” he said quietly, spooning up behind her as she obliged and groaning as her bottom brushed against him. He slipped his left arm underneath her and wrapped it around her chest, his hand caressing her breast. He slid his other hand down her stomach to the edge of her underwear. “Can I touch you?” he asked.

“Yes,” she replied. “What are you…” she moaned as she felt his fingers sliding under the lacy fabric, instinctively pressing back against his erection and making him groan loudly.

“Careful Princess,” he managed with a weak laugh. “I’d like to get you off first if that’s all right.” He slipped his fingers down further, sighing deeply as he felt the full extent of the wetness he had sensed a few moments before. He pulled his fingers back, finding the right spot and circling it gently. “Tell me how you want me to do this. Should I go faster?”

“Oh,” she sighed again as she quickly realized what he was doing. “How… oh… that feels so good… how did you…” she trailed off, the feeling of what he was doing to her eclipsing everything else. “Can you… go faster…”

“Of course,” he murmured, his arm around her chest tightening slightly as he moved his hand faster, feeling her body tense up against him. He increased the pressure he was using and she groaned loudly, pushing her head against him. “You are so beautiful, Princess,” he said softly in her ear. “I’ve wanted to do this for you… for a long time…”

“Adrien,” she whispered, feeling her body tipping over the edge as he continued going just a little bit faster and harder.

“Is this good?” he whispered, cupping her breast firmly with his free hand as he continued to move the other one, the feeling of his fingers against such an intimate part of her body almost as pleasurable as what he was doing to her.

“Yeah… keep… keep doing that… Adrien… you are… oh…” her voice ended in squeak, as she curled up, her whole body trembling. Adrien stopped what he was doing, pulling his hand up and holding her tightly to him. She took a few deep breaths, feeling euphoric as she savored the feeling of his arms around her. “Where… where the hell did you learn that?” she finally asked.

“A book,” he replied somewhat sheepishly.

“Wow,” she said, “I wasn’t expecting… that was amazing.”

“Good,” he murmured, still holding her against him as he kissed her neck. She arched against him and he groaned, loosening his hold on her as he got up.

“Where are you going?” she asked, rolling onto her back and looking up at him as he slid off the bed.

“”Nowhere,” he replied as he pulled the covers back. “I just don’t want to wreck the duvet cover.”

Marinette giggled as she scooted onto the sheet and sat up. “Good idea,” she told him.

“Can I take these off?” Adrien asked, lightly running his hands over the sides of her underwear.

“Only if I get to return the favor,” she replied with a grin.

“That’s fair,” he agreed, hooking his fingers in the sides as she knelt in front of him. She sat down, allowing him to take them down her legs before tossing over where her bra had landed.

Marinette laughed. “Are you trying to invent a new game?” she asked.

“I guess,” he grinned, his gaze on her intensifying as she carefully took off his black boxers.

Impulsively, Marinette reached over and wrapped her hand around his erection. “Your skin… it’s so soft,” she said, lightly caressing him with her fingers.

“You’re making me weak in the knees Princess,” Adrien replied, closing his eyes and taking a deep breath. “It feels so good when you touch me.”

Marinette smiled as she withdrew her hand. “Come here,” she asked softly, lying back against the pillows.

Adrien climbed back into bed with her, leaning over to kiss her fervently. She moaned softly into his mouth and he kissed her harder as he laid down on top of her. She mirrored his intensity, her hands running across his back as she revelled in their energy. She could feel his hardness pressing against her thigh but even as she shifted under him, he didn’t adjust his own position. Instead he kissed her neck again, making his way to her ear and nibbling around her earring as he pushed back her hair with one hand, the other stroking up from her waist to her breast and back down. He focused on the feeling of her warm skin against his and her soft sighs and moans along with the intoxicating ways she said his name, sometimes in a quiet murmur and sometimes moaning it so loudly he couldn’t help but kiss her, murmuring her own name back into her mouth.

Marinette couldn’t resist arching against him each time he teasingly bumped against her. “Adrien,” she finally whimpered, his hands roaming across her skin making her desire feel more and more urgent. The tone of her voice made him look up and he smiled at her as their gazes met. The pleading look she gave him in return caused his eyes to darken and this time he didn't shift away when he bumped up against her. “I want you so much,” she sighed. “My Gorgeous Adrien.”

“I want you too,” he replied softly, reaching down to adjust his angle, groaning as he slipped against her. “You feel so good, Princess. I’m going to go slowly. Tell me if I need to stop or pull back, ok?”

“Ok,” she agreed softly.

“I’m in the right spot aren’t I?” he asked as he pushed against her.

“Yeah,” she said. “Just keep… keep doing that.”

He nodded slightly and locked eyes with her, smiling as she reached up to touch his face. His eyes widened as he slid inside a little ways.

“Ah sweetheart, you feel incredible,” he murmured, groaning as he pushed further inside.

“Can you… pause for a moment?” Marinette asked, gazing up at him as she took a few deep breaths.

“Of course. Are you ok?” he asked, leaning down carefully to kiss her forehead.

“Yeah, just trying to relax a bit,” she replied, taking another deep breath and letting it out. “Ok, you can keep going.”

Adrien kept his eyes on her as he slid the rest of the way in. He paused for a moment, sighing deeply as he lowered himself down and buried his face in her neck. “I don’t think I have words for how good this feels,” he murmured.

Marinette smiled and closed her eyes, wrapping her arms around him. The energy between them was a constant almost electric feeling and a comforting reminder of how powerful the connection between them was. Adrien nuzzled her neck before trailing kisses back to her lips, bracing himself up on his forearms as he experimentally pulled back and then thrust into her again. Carefully, he built up a steady rhythm, gently rocking himself into her, over and over again.

“Is this alright? I’m not hurting you am I?” he asked, leaning down to kiss her lips very lightly.

“No, it feels really good,” she assured him. “If you want to go a little faster, you can.”

“Ok,” he said, gasping at the increasing intensity of the sensations he was feeling, breathlessly lowering his mouth to hers and kissing her again. “Marinette,” he whimpered. “I don’t think… I… oh god, Princess…” he trailed off.

“You feel so good Gorgeous,” Marinette said quietly as he ducked his head close to hers, his ear inches from her lips. “I love you so much.” She could feel his body tensing up before he suddenly collapsed on top of her, his whole body trembling.

“Oh Princess,” he groaned, holding her tightly to him, still deep inside her. “That felt so amazing.” He sighed deeply as she clung to him. “I love you Marinette.”

“I love you too,” she replied. They laid together peacefully, Marinette gently stroking his hair, moaning quietly as he carefully withdrew himself from her body.

“I… think I need to take a shower,” she said eventually. “I might be… leaking.”

Adrien laughed self-consciously. “That’s my fault,” he said. “Go ahead… can I… join you in a few minutes?”

“Yeah,” she agreed as she got out of bed. “That would be really nice.”

He smiled, watching her walk somewhat gingerly into the bathroom, closing the door behind her. He laid back in the pillows and closed his eyes for a moment, reveling in everything he was feeling for a moment. A thought occurred to him and he picked up his phone to text Nino.

***********************************

Adrien: At my apartment for the wknd with Marinette. Unless it’s an emergency- DO NOT CALL!

Nino: LOL have fun dude. I promise I’ll leave u alone

Adrien: Thx I already am. 😉

Nino: haha ok 😏

Grinning, he put his phone down and got out of bed. He walked over to the bathroom and paused, listening to the shower running. “Hey,” he said after a moment of hesitation. “Can I come in?”

“Yes,” he heard Marinette reply and he opened the door. “Hey Gorgeous,” she greeted him as she stood under the shower. “Come in with me if you want.”

“I definitely want,” Adrien said, opening the door to join her. “You look so beautiful…” he trailed off as he reached over to run his hand down her side.

“You look beautiful too,” she replied softly, wrapping her arms around him as she kissed him.

“Mmmm,” he sighed as she kissed his neck. “If you’re trying to convince me to go back to bed, it’s working.”

Marinette giggled. “I’m certainly considering it,” she told him. “So tell me more about your book. Do you have more surprises for me?”

Adrien laughed. “Sis gave it to me,” he admitted. “When she came over that one time. It was all wrapped up and she said I couldn’t open it until she left. She told me later she wanted me to have a legit source of information so… I guess she must have been familiar with it.”

“Oh Sis,” Marinette giggled. “I should have known.”

Adrien smiled and held her close. “It was certainly something I wanted to know more about. I wanted to be able to do that for you but I always thought… I thought you’d have to show me what to do.”

Marinette smiled and rested her cheek against his chest. “Well, based on that I’d say you know at least as much as I do. I think I want to see this book. It could probably teach me a few things.”

“I’ll show it to you later,” he promised, stroking her back.

“Later,” she agreed, leaning up to kiss him as the warm water cascaded down on them both.

Chapter Text

“Princess?”

“Mmmm, what is it, Gorgeous?” Marinette murmured as he rolled over to get closer to her.

“I miss you,” he replied, nuzzling her shoulder.

Marinette giggled. “You miss me? We’re in the same bed! What time is it anyway?”

“Don’t know,” he replied as he wrapped his arms around her and pulled her closer until her back was against his chest, continuing to nuzzle and kiss her shoulder. “Very late? Very early? No idea… It’s… Marinette time actually.”

“Marinette time, huh? Haven’t you had enough Marinette time yet?” she asked teasingly. “You got a lot of that yesterday.”

“Wasn't enough,” he replied, sneaking his hands under her silk camisole. “I need more.”

“You need more,” she repeated, moaning as he caressed her breasts and kissed her neck.

“That’s right,” he agreed. “What do you say Bug?”

Marinette giggled and reached down to pull her pajama bottoms off. “Would you look at that, you literally charmed my pants off.”

Adrien laughed, removing one of his hands from under her top to squeeze her bottom. “I didn’t know I could do that,” he said teasingly.

“Well, apparently you can… so what are you going to do about it?” she challenged him, still giggling. “I feel like you must have woken me up for a reason.”

“Well… yes,” he admitted, pushing his lower body against her.

“Damn,” she groaned. “Did you wake up like that Gorgeous?”

“Yep,” he confirmed. “If I’m being too pushy, just tell me to take a shower though. I promise there’ll be no…” he paused for dramatic effect. “Hard feelings.”

Marinette snorted with laughter. “What?” she exclaimed. “Did… did you really just say that?”

“I really did,” he agreed. “Sorry, not sorry.”

“Funny and sexy huh?” she asked. “Careful or you’ll charm the rest of my clothes off.”

“I don’t know. I think I’ll leave this on,” he said, gently pushing the strap of her camisole down her shoulder and then back up again. “I like how it feels.” He pulled her firmly against him, one arm still under her top as he slipped his free hand down between her legs.

“Before you do that, I have an idea,” Marinette said quietly.

“Oh?” he asked, burying his face in her neck.

“Yeah, can you… get inside me from… where… um… you are?” she asked hesitantly.

“Mmm, that sounds nice,” he murmured. “I may require some cooperation, Bug.” Marinette grinned and they both shifted around in the dark, Adrien reaching down to hold her hips, angling her body against his. “Am I in the right spot?” he asked finally.

“Yeah,” Marinette said, moaning as he slowly pushed inside her. “Mmmm, that feels good… really good.”

“It feels like heaven to me,” Adrien sighed, slipping one arm back under her top.

“Could you do… what you were going to do?” Marinette asked shyly.

“Oooh,” he said, realizing what she meant. “Yes, definitely.” He slipped his hand down, groaning quietly as he felt where he was inside her. “Damn, Princess, what other sexy ideas have you got?”

“The someday list is… a lot,” she admitted. “Although I’m not intending to burn through the whole thing this weekend.”

“Mmm,” he murmured, kissing her neck. “Take as long as you like. I love taking my time getting to know you better.”

Marinette moaned softly and closed her eyes as his hand found the right spot and he started moving his fingers in an achingly slow circle.

“Want me to go faster?” he asked teasingly as she whimpered in frustration.

“Please,” she said quietly, moaning again as he sped up slightly.

“More?” he murmured, kissing just below her ear.

“Y-yeah,” she stammered as he added more pressure and speed. “Oh, Adrien,” she sighed.

“Marinette,” he gasped as he felt her starting to squeeze him slightly. He kept his motion steady as she started to arch against him. “This was the best idea you… mmmm… ever fucking had.”

“I… I think…” she moaned loudly… “Yeah, agreed…ooh!” she moaned again as her body tensed up. She could feel Adrien pushing into her as he continued to rub his fingers against her and soon the waves of pleasure were too much and she surrendered to it, her entire body shaking.

“Oh god, Marinette… you’re going to... “ Adrien moaned as he pushed himself into her, groaning at how tightly she was squeezing him. Soon he could feel himself climaxing with her and he stopped what he was doing to hold her close. Afterward, they laid together in stunned silence for several minutes, Adrien periodically nuzzling her hair or kissing her neck as he tried to make sense of what had just happened. “Did we just...?” he finally asked.

“Yeah,” Marinette replied. “We did. If that didn’t burn Paris down, I don’t think we’ll have anything to worry about.”

Adrien laughed quietly. “I don’t hear any sirens. That’s a good sign.”

“Uh-huh,” she agreed. “I wouldn’t want to burn it down.”

“Yeah, it wouldn’t be a good start to our roles as ambassadors of Paris,” Adrien said.

“I wonder if it would count as magical damage and I could fix it with a lucky charm,” Marinette said thoughtfully.

“You’d have to wait for Tikki to come back. It could be awhile,” he said teasingly.

“Yeah, poor Tikki,” Marinette sighed. “I wonder if it would help if I take my earrings off but leave them out.”

“Might be worth trying,” Adrien said, leaning over to kiss her softly on the mouth before slowly pulling out of her.

“Mmm,” Marinette moaned, before carefully rolling out of bed. “I better go get cleaned up. I’ll be back in a few minutes.”

“Ok,” Adrien said, “Are you going to come back and snuggle with me when you’re done?”

“Of course,” she replied.

************************************************

The room was still fairly dark when Marinette woke again, thanks to the deep blue velvet blackout curtains they had chosen. She could tell it was quite a bit later by the slivers of sunlight peeking out of both sides of the curtains. Adrien was still sound asleep, a small smile on his face. She scooted away from him to pick up her phone and see what time it was.

‘Past ten,’ she thought drowsily, putting it back down and sliding out of bed.

Marinette headed for the kitchen, feeling slightly guilty about how little time they had spent actually working on the apartment so far. She had helped to arrange all the rugs and to put up curtains in the living room and the study but that had been pretty much it. Each time they had completed a task, Adrien had carried her back to bed or on one occasion, over to the new couch which she had at least convinced him to cover with a throw blanket before they landed on it in a frenzy of kisses and ripping off what little clothing they were wearing.

Carefully, Marinette began loading the dishwasher, a luxury she had not expected. She methodically sorted all the silverware into the baskets then added all the plates, glasses and cooking utensils. She searched through the grocery bags and found a bottle of dishwasher detergent. She studied the appliance until she found a tray inside and added the right amount of detergent. Triumphantly, she hit the start button and closed the door, smiling in satisfaction as it quietly whirred into action.

Next she turned her attention to the hand wash only items. She found a bottle of regular dish soap and a package of sponges, smiling as she remembered Adrien’s fascination with all of the different cleaning products. She was glad he had known to get both dishwasher and dish soap as she seemed to recall that putting regular dish soap in a dishwasher was meant to be a very bad idea. Not wanting to wreck her camisole, she quickly pulled it off and placed it out of harm’s way before getting back to work. She put some soap on a sponge and started washing all the wine glasses and putting them on the draining area next to the sink. When she had washed the whole set, she found the bag full of clean towels and took one out. She dried the glasses and put them on the counter then went to find the set of pots that Adrien had bought. She was in the middle of washing them when she heard Adrien, chuckling quietly as he came into the kitchen.

“You know, I woke up and you were gone and I didn’t know where you could be. I thought I heard water running but you weren’t in the bathroom. I didn’t expect to find you washing dishes naked I have to say.”

Marinette giggled as she continued to methodically scrub each pot and rinse it off. “I thought I’d get this done so we could put everything away.”

“I see you figured out the dishwasher,” he commented.

“Yeah, I didn’t know you even had one. Very fancy,” she replied.

Adrien grinned. “The real estate agent told me that. He said not to use dish soap in it or I’d wreck the place and lose my deposit so I made a note on the shopping list in my phone to get that as well. Luckily it was clearly labelled so I was confident it was the right thing. This adulting business huh?”

“It’s not all bad though is it?” Marinette asked as he snuggled up behind her, wrapping his arms around her waist. How about we go try out that spaceship bath? Just let me rinse this last pot and then I’ll stop.”

“Thank you,” he said, kissing her shoulder. “I feel kind of bad for sleeping in while you did chores.”

“You shouldn’t,” Marinette reassured him. “I’m glad to help.”

*****

“I’m going to get the bath ready,” Adrien said as they went back to the bedroom.

“Ok,” Marinette replied, giggling as he led her over to the bed and pushed her to sit down on the mattress.

“And no more chores,” he told her, kissing her on the nose. “Just relax in bed for a few minutes.”

“Sounds good,” Marinette agreed, still giggling as he arranged some pillows and pulled the blanket over her as she laid down obediently.

Adrien stood back, smiling at her, his expression soft and affectionate. “I just wanted to make sure you actually did lay down and relax.”

“I promise I won’t get up,” she said, burrowing down in the velvet duvet cover.

Adrien grinned. “That’s my girl. I’ll come get you when the bath is ready.”

“Thanks Gorgeous,” she replied, blowing him a kiss. She waited for him to shut the door behind him before picking up her phone to check her messages and settling back against the pillows again.

Celine: Managed to catch the parade on my way back to work from lunch. It was fun to see.

Marinette: Hi Celine! It was fun. I was impressed with all of the performers.

Celine: Doll! Aren’t you working?

Marinette: Nope. At Adrien’s apartment for the weekend.

Celine: Really?! Is this why he isn’t answering texts?

Marinette: LOL yes. Is everything ok?

Celine: Yeah, it’s fine. He has a good excuse for ignoring me then. Having fun? 😉

Marinette: Very. thx btw.

Celine: Are you referring to what I think you are referring to?

Marinette: I’d say so.

Celine: Ha, I’ll leave you to it then. Meeting Henri for lunch in a little while.

Marinette: Say hi for me! 😊

-
Alya: Nino told me not to contact u this wknd so of course I’m texting u anyway. He wouldn’t tell me why.

Marinette: Haha, Adrien must have talked to him.

Alya: About what?! Deets!!

Marinette: ….

Alya: Nope, u have to answer! I must know the truth!

Marinette: Any fires you’ve seen?”

Alya: WHAT?! (and no)

Marinette: I guess Nino’s hypothesis was wrong. Probably a good thing really.

Alya: Where are u and what is going on?

Marinette: At Adrien’s apartment. Meant to be putting things away but… haven’t done much of that.

Alya: OMG Srsly?! So… worth the wait? 😉😏😻

Marinette: LOL, definitely

Alya: U didn’t waste any time after Mayura was captured, did u?

Marinette: No… no we did not

Alya: So why are u texting me then?

Marinette: Adrien told me I had to sit here and relax while he gets a bath ready.

Alya: I guess I won’t be interrupting this time.

Marinette: Nope. I guess not. TTYL

Alya: Have fun u crazy kids! 😉

“Hey,” Adrien said, poking his head out the door.

“Hey,” she replied, putting her phone down on the table. “Do I get to come in now?”

“Yeah,” he said, grinning and opening the door wider to let her in.

“Wow,” she sighed as she looked around. “Adrien, this is beautiful.” She took in the dozens of candles scattered around and the sleek white tub filled with bubbles.

“I’m glad you like it,” he replied. “Go ahead and get in.”

“Ok,” she replied, stepping into the bath. Adrien leaned over and pressed a discreet button and the water was immediately filled with jets of air.

“It’s a jacuzzi?” she asked in surprise.

“It was one of my requirements,” he reminded her, laughing quietly as he got in behind her.

“I think I’ll be visiting you a lot,” she teased, leaning back against his chest.

“What? I was hoping that was for the great sex, not the bubble baths!” he exclaimed, laughing again.

“That too of course,” she teased back. “But I might need therapeutic baths so I can walk afterwards.”

“You don’t seem to be having any problems with that so far,” Adrien replied, kissing the top of her head.

“Yeah well, we don’t have to be back at the bakery until dinnertime tomorrow right?” Marinette asked with a grin. “I’m not going to be able to live it down if I can’t walk in a straight line!”

“Damn,” Adrien laughed. “I don’t know what you have planned for us Bug but I’d like to find out.”

“I have lots of ideas,” Marinette assured him. “And I’m already discovering muscles I didn’t know I had.”

“Same,” Adrien said, nuzzling her hair. “Well, probably not the same muscles but uh… ones I have either not used that much or at the very least, not like this.”

Marinette smiled. “I love you Kitty. I’m just… so ridiculously happy right now.

“Me too,” he replied, wrapping his arms around her. “I’m happy because of you. Because you’re here with me. I could never have imagined how amazing this would be and...I love you so much, Marinette.”

Chapter Text

Emilie awoke and looked around, momentarily confused before remembering everything that had transpired earlier. She buried her face in the pillow, wondering how long she had been asleep. She had hoped that she would have woken to her son finding her but the house was still silent. Maybe Gabriel and Adrien had gone on a trip. It could be summer. She hadn’t really been able to tell from looking out the window. Maybe they had gone with the dark-haired girl and that over-eager assistant of his… Nathalie… Emilie rolled her eyes remembering. Maybe… maybe she could go out, take a walk… She looked down at her rumpled white suit and sighed. This wouldn’t do. She couldn’t go out with dishevelled hair and a wrinkled suit. She sat up and swung her legs down. She paused, feeling slightly dizzy and when the moment passed, she got up and headed for the room she shared with her husband.

The door was locked. What the hell? Why would it be locked? There was no one here. Emilie felt a strange anxiousness take hold and quickly shrugged it off. No… no… she had no reason to worry. She knew where the keys were kept in Gabriel’s office. She made her way back there and headed straight for the safe. She punched in the code and when she opened the door, noticed the two Miraculous were missing.

“How strange,” she said aloud, the anxiousness returning as she retrieved the key to her room. She shut the safe and made her way back to the bedroom, pushing the key into the lock and opening the door.

Nothing had changed. Not one single thing. In fact, a magazine she vaguely remembered paging through was still on her bedside table. A dish with her jewelry sat next to it. She wasn’t wearing her wedding ring and it wasn’t here either. Perhaps… she shook her head. No. Amelie had said she was fine about the rings. Did Amelie come see her as well? Perhaps she came over from England sometimes. She wondered if Felix still looked so much like Adrien. Well, if her jewelry and a silly old magazine were still there, then her clothes... yes, nothing had moved an inch in her wardrobe. Sighing with relief, she rifled through her clothes, feeling all the luxurious textures as she considered her options. She should pick something timeless so she could blend in. This wouldn’t be too difficult. She was French after all, well half French anyway. She took out a deep green silk blouse and a black pair of wool blend dress trousers. She found everything else she needed just as she had left it in the bureau and brought everything into the bathroom. She took a quick shower before getting dressed. It felt good to be clean and to wear fresh clothes. She went to the drawers and found all her toiletries and cosmetics untouched. She shook her head, feeling more concerned. It was clear she had been gone a long time. Was this why the door had been locked? Perhaps Gabriel didn’t want anyone to know how little he was willing to change anything in here. Sighing, she put on more makeup, cringing as she thought how old it all must be. She toweled off her long blonde hair and brushed it out. At least there didn’t seem to be any gray in it. And she really didn’t look any older. It was all very strange. She sprayed on her favorite scent and sighed again, suddenly anxious to be anywhere else.

The sun was shining when she went outside, letting the door shut behind her. It could definitely be summer. She started walking purposefully toward the Eiffel Tower. She wasn’t sure why. Maybe she just wanted to see something unchanged that should be the same. Her room had certainly unnerved her a bit. She shook her head, trying to dispel the collection of worries that were gathering and focused on her surroundings. It was maybe late morning she guessed. Lots of people were out and no one gave her a second glance. She was walking much more steadily now, her low-heeled black pumps clicking on the pavement. She paused a few times to carefully cross busy roads and finally, there it was. She gazed up at the tower, its familiar permanence reassuring her. She wandered around, looking at all the different people lining up to ascend the tower, eating snacks from a number of nearby food trucks --that was new-- and sitting on the grass, talking and laughing. She desperately wanted to know what day it was… what year… but she realized that was a strange question to ask and she couldn’t see anyone selling papers or anything like that. Sighing, she decided to continue her walk and go to the Louvre. She crossed a small pedestrian bridge, then walked along the Seine, enjoying the shade from the trees lining the sidewalk. The walk was taking longer than she thought it would but she persevered, unsure why it was so important for her to do so and wondering how she would find the energy to get back. She was suddenly aware that she didn’t have any money or a phone and she couldn’t help but feel slightly foolish.

‘You’ve been asleep for years probably,’ she told herself sternly. ‘Give yourself a break.’ Sighing, she continued on until she had almost reached the Grand Palais. She decided to take a rest and go there instead for a moment. She paused at a busy intersection and looked up, the large billboard catching her eye. “Adrien!” she gasped aloud as she stopped and gave the image her full attention. She had never seen him with that expression on his face. It almost seemed like it wasn’t him at all. He was looking off camera, his face impassive and removed. There was something almost daunting about the photo. She noticed a few young girls staring dreamily at it nearby and couldn’t help but smile. It was funny, the picture seemed to invite attention and yet he looked like he didn’t care either way.

****

“Nino,” Alya said quietly as they were out walking together on Sunday morning. “Look at that... woman checking out Sunshine.”

“Do I have to?” he moaned. “It always weirds me out when older women look at him.”

“I shouldn’t say it like that actually,” Alya corrected herself. “She isn’t… ogling him or anything, just looking really intently, like she recognizes…” she paused as they got closer, getting a better look at the woman. “Nino…” she said again, clutching his arm tightly. “Nino!”

“What is it Babe?” he asked. “You’re hurting my arm!”

Nino’s exclamation caught the woman’s attention and she turned to look at them. All three of them gasped in surprise.

“You… you’re Adrien’s friends!” the woman exclaimed. “I saw a picture… in his room. I recognize you.”

Alya’s eyes filled with tears. “You look so much like him. Are you… are you…” she couldn’t continue and the woman’s face softened as she walked over to them.

“Oh, your expression,” Alya said, hastily trying to wipe away the tears suddenly falling down her cheeks. “Oh my god.”

“I guess you may know who I am,” she said quietly. “I’m Emilie, Emilie Agreste.”

*****

“Nino, you need to call Adrien right now,” Alya said urgently.

“I know Babe, I know,” Nino said, getting out his phone as the three of them sat on a bench across the street from the Grand Palais. “Give me a second,” he said, pulling up Adrien’s phone number and hitting the dial button on his screen. “Hey dude,” he said after a moment. “I know I wasn’t supposed to call you today but…”

“What’s going on?” Emilie could hear her son, his voice deeper but still recognizable. “Are you ok Nino?”

“I-I’m fine,” Nino stammered. “Sorry to interrupt your weekend and all… but I...I don’t know how to say this bro,” he faltered and Alya took his phone from him.

“Sunshine,” she said crisply. “You need to get over to the Petit Palais as soon as possible.”

“Why?” Adrien asked in confusion.

“It’s… your mother. She’s here with us, We’re sitting on a bench ” Alya said, wiping her eyes again.

“What!” he yelled so loudly that all three of them heard. “Marinette!”

Alya listened as he told Marinette what she had just said. “Send me your location,” he said. “We’ll be right there.”

****

Oh my god,” Adrien muttered, his expression vaguely panicked. “Gorilla’s in London until tomorrow… We need to get to the Petit Palais fast… we can’t transform…”

“It’s ok, Kitty,” Marinette said reassuringly. “We can take a taxi. It isn’t far. And if there’s no taxis, we can take the train. It’s only a few stops away.”

“Right, right,” he said, taking a deep breath. “What if it’s really her? Oh my god, what if it is?”

“It’ll be amazing if it is,” she said, trying to keep her voice as calm as she possibly could as she grabbed her purse. “Come on Gorgeous, the sooner we get out of here, the sooner we’ll find out.”

To Marinette’s relief, she was able to flag down a passing cab and they hastily got inside before directing the driver to the Petit Palais. The journey felt agonizingly slow although it couldn’t have taken more than fifteen minutes.

“I see them!” Adrien exclaimed as they drove along thrusting some Euros at the driver before getting out, Marinette sliding out after him and shutting the door.

“Where are they?” Marinette asked, looking around.

“They’re sitting on that bench,” he pointed. He took her hand and she walked as quickly as she could to keep up with him.

“Adrien!” Nino called as he saw them. He and Alya both got up as Adrien and Emilie made eye contact. He let go of Marinette’s hand and rushed over to her.

“Mother?” he asked, his voice cracking with emotion as he sat down next to her.

“Adrien,” she said, taking his face in her hands, studying every detail greedily. “I guess.. I guess I’ve been gone a long time haven’t I? Why is the house empty? Were you staying somewhere else?”

“I...I don’t live there anymore,” he said quietly. “A lot… a lot has happened. Some of it is… bad.”

Emilie sighed as she continued to stroke his face and his hair, her eyes following her touch as she tried to understand how she both recognized him and didn’t. “I feared that… something had happened. Is there someplace we can go? I’m hungry… and tired… I walked here from the house.”

“I can have Marinette call her parents,” Adrien said. “I’ve been staying with them for a little while. I’m in the process of moving into my own place.” He closed his eyes as his mother suddenly wrapped her arms around him, resting his head on her shoulder.

“Marinette…” she murmured as she held him. “Is that the girl who… came with you?” Emilie asked.

“Yes,” he replied softly as he hugged her back. “She’s my girlfriend.”

“Marinette?” Emilie asked tentatively as she released her son.

“We’re gonna head out,” Alya whispered as she heard Emilie calling Marinette over. “Text me later, ok girl?”

“Ok.” Marinette agreed, giving her a hug before walking hesitantly over to where Adrien and his mother were sitting together. “Hello,” she said shyly as she reached them. “It’s so nice to meet you. I always wished that I’d get the chance.”

“Marinette,” Emilie said again, smiling the same soft smile she had seen on Adrien’s face so many times before. “Come sit with us please. I’m so happy to meet you.”

Marinette smiled and sat down next to Adrien. “Are you ok?” she asked. “How did you end up… here?”

“I walked from the house,” she replied. “I didn’t know why. I just wanted to go… somewhere…”

Adrien frowned in confusion. “But where were you before that?”

Emilie looked at him anxiously. “You didn’t know?” she asked, sounding confused and apprehensive.

“Mother, you just… disappeared when I was thirteen. I have not seen or heard one thing about you since. There were police and investigations but no one found anything,” he replied. “At least as far as I know.”

“I was… I was at the house,” Emilie replied, looking troubled. “I was… in a big room… underneath your father’s office.”

“What?!” Adrien exclaimed, suddenly becoming very pale. “Father…” he whispered. “Father must have known.”

“He never… told you anything?” Emilie asked, looking even more worried.

“We should continue this conversation at my house,” Marinette said quietly. “It’ll be a lot safer and you can trust my parents.”

“Will that be ok?” Emilie questioned, looking nervous. “Adrien… did suggest that.”

“They’ll be excited to meet you. I promise,” Marinette replied reassuringly. “I’ll go call them and flag down another taxi.” She got up and headed toward the road.

“She is… so lovely,” Emilie said, watching Marinette as she spoke on her phone while looking out for a taxi.

“Yes,” Adrien agreed. “I’ve been very lucky. I’ve known her, well I met her not that long after you disappeared. We’ve been together since September.”

“I’m going to sound, um...” Emilie paused. “How long have I been gone? What month is it? How old are you now?”

“It’s been over four years,” he answered softly, looking down at his hands. “It’s June, the twentieth… I’m… seventeen.”

“Seventeen,” Emilie sighed, sitting back for a moment. “This is all so confusing. Were you at Marinette’s house? I went to your room and… I fell asleep. I think I slept a very long time but no one came in.”

“I don’t live there anymore, Mother,” Adrien reminded her gently. “I have been living at Marinette’s although I’m in the process of moving to an apartment. That’s where we were when you called.”

“I’m sorry… you said that already, didn’t you? But your own apartment? How?” she asked in confusion. “How is that possible?”

“It’s a long story,” he replied, looking up as a taxi pulled over in front of Marinette. “Come on, we’ll get some lunch and then figure out what to do next. Marinette’s parents are bakers and everything they make is delicious.”

Chapter Text

“Here we are,” Marinette said as the taxi pulled up in front of the bakery. “We’ll go through the service door. I think Papa has probably locked up for lunch by now.”

“Is this really ok?” Emilie asked uncertainly and Marinette was once again struck by how similar her expressions were to Adrien’s.

“It’s more than ok,” Marinette assured her. “My parents are very excited to meet you. Although I’m sure this must all seem very overwhelming.”

“You’re right,” Emilie agreed, leaning against Adrien as she watched Marinette unlock the side door and open it. “But I really want answers to all the questions I keep thinking about.”

“I’ll do my best,” Adrien promised.

Emilie smiled as he offered her his arm for support. “I just… I can’t believe how grown up you are… I saw one of your billboards… that was when your friends noticed me. Are you all the same age?”

“Yes,” Adrien answered. “We’re all classmates. I sit next to Nino and Alya and Marinette sit together right behind us in homeroom.”

“Here we are!” Marinette exclaimed, opening the door to the living room. “Please come in.”

Emilie stepped into the room, looking around curiously as she let go of Adrien’s arm.

“Hello Mrs. Agreste!” Sabine said, smiling at her. “I’m so happy to meet you!”

“Please call me Emilie,” she requested, smiling back before exchanging kisses with Sabine.

“Call me Sabine,” she replied in turn. “This is my husband, Tom.”

“Hello,” he greeted her softly. “I really cannot get over how much you and Adrien look alike. It’s just incredible.”

“He always was my mini-me,” she said, looking up at him affectionately. “Although it looks like I’m the one who’s mini now.”

“I have lunch ready if you’re hungry,” Sabine offered.

“I...I really appreciate it,” she replied quietly. “I can’t help but feel a little embarrassed showing up at a stranger’s house for lunch.”

“Please don’t,” Tom told her. “We very much hope that we don’t remain strangers for long. We love your son very much and we’re just so happy that you’ve… returned.”

“I’ve been asleep,” she explained. “In something like a coma I suppose.” She sat down at the table and took a sip from the glass of wine Sabine poured for her. “It’s meant to be a secret but… are you familiar with… the Miraculous?”

“We are,” Tom confirmed. “We’ve had a mixture of hero and villain Miraculous holders on the scene for quite some time. The peacock holder was caught on Thursday finally by the two main Miraculous wielders, Ladybug and Chat Noir.”

“The peacock?” Emilie asked in surprise. “Who would be foolish enough to wield it? It’s damaged you know.”

“It was Nathalie, Mother,” Adrien said. “She was helping the butterfly holder. He… he was caught a few months ago.”

“Gabriel,” she said, her face becoming very white.

“I’m so sorry, Mother,” Adrien replied, tears falling from his eyes as he took her hand.

“It’s not your fault darling,” she replied. “I worried… I worried what would happen to him when I got sick. I did what I could to make sure you’d be protected and cared for as much as possible.”

“You are very pale Emilie,” Sabine said anxiously. “Would you… like me to call a doctor?”

“Perhaps… in a little while,” she admitted. “I am scared that I’ll fall asleep again… although I feel so much better than I did. I was very sick and very weak for… a long time. I don’t feel like that now. Let me at least try and eat something. Then, perhaps we can call a doctor.”

“I can do that,” Adrien offered. “I have the number for the family doctor in my phone.”

*****

After lunch, Sabine, Tom and Marinette went to work cleaning everything up while Adrien phoned the doctor. Emilie couldn’t help but giggle when she heard the doctor’s shocked exclamation when Adrien explained why he was calling.

“She’s coming over right away,” he said after he hung up. “I think she’ll be quick. She couldn’t get off the phone fast enough.”

“She did sound extremely surprised,” Emilie said, smiling at him.

“Does… does it feel like you’ve been gone long or does it feel like you just went to sleep?” he asked.

“Honestly, when I first woke up, it did seem like I may not have been asleep long. I didn’t really realize until I went into your room how long it had been. I was looking for you and I moved the mouse on your computer. I saw the pictures of you and your friends and it was clear that I had been asleep much longer than I thought. The effort of getting to your room and then realizing that… I was so tired and I fell asleep on your bed. I think… I think I slept a very long time. Maybe a few days. Can I ask… do you know how Nathalie was captured and when it happened?”

“It’s been all over the news,” Marinette said as she came to sit next to Adrien. “It happened on Thursday. The two main wielders that have been fighting Hawk Moth and Mayura… they made this big sphere of light and then.. Ladybug did something that made Mayura lose the Miraculous and it revealed her identity.”

“I wonder what that light was,” Emilie said thoughtfully. “The Miraculous was… broken. I should never have used it but… it was something Gabriel and I did together… not bad things,” she added hastily. “You don’t have to do bad things with them. I guess you know that since you’ve seen both heroes and villains.”

“You’ll have to excuse us,” Sabine interjected. “We need to go downstairs to open the bakery again. I’ll keep an eye out for the doctor.”

“Thanks Sabine,” Adrien said.

Emilie sighed. “I just don’t know what I’m going to do now. I don’t really want to stay at the house by myself… Where is Gorilla anyway?”

“He’s in London for a Trust meeting,” Adrien explained. “He’s coming back tomorrow with Aunt Amelie and Felix. They’re coming… because of Father… because of his trial. I’m not sure if they are testifying or if there is some other reason that they wanted to be here.”

“Does Gorilla still live in the house? And will Amelie and Felix stay there? Why on earth are you not… staying there?” Emilie asked, looking troubled. “Gorilla could look after you… that is why I hired him.”

“I know,” Adrien replied quietly. “But… I can’t ever live there again. I’m sorry Mother but I can’t. Father’s grief… it poisoned him and first… it was just neglect… and control at the same time… then it was manipulation and eventually, it was just plain abuse.”

“Abuse?” Emilie repeated, looking sick. “Oh Adrien, what happened?”

“He hurt me while I was asleep in my bed… he held me down… and said things once I was awake,” Adrien said hesitantly. “After that, it was very difficult to relax. Then we had this fight and he hit me.. I got away and then he... left. The next thing I knew, Ladybug and Chat Noir showed up and brought me to a temple somewhere in Tibet and I watched as they unmasked Hawk Moth… and it was him.”

“Hawk Moth,” Emilie murmured. “I guess he never changed the name he used. We never told anyone but each other those names. We would… look at this book we found with the Miraculous. It had pictures of all the different Miraculous and we would imagine what it would be like… to be part of a team. Gabriel was… fascinated by the two most powerful, the ladybug and the black cat Miraculous. I guess... my own interest was in having something special to share with him. It could have been anything as long as we were doing it together and now…” she sighed. “Where is Gabriel?”

“In prison I think,” Adrien replied hesitantly. “Some news organization saw Chat Noir and Ladybug escorting a van from La Santé.”

“Oh,” Emilie replied quietly. “Oh, how I wish… I wish I had never used that Miraculous. Look at the damage I’ve done… by my own recklessness.”

“Oh Mother,” Adrien said, hugging her. “He could have made so many different choices. He had plenty of opportunities and he knows that now. Ladybug did something… and it changed how he sees his actions. He… he apologized to me for everything when I saw him at my emancipation hearing.”

“You’re… emancipated?” Emilie asked. “So, that’s how you got an apartment?”

Adrien nodded. There was a knock on the door and an older woman poked her head inside.

“Mrs. Agreste!” she exclaimed as she came in. “I can… I can hardly believe this!”

“Please call me Emilie, Dr. Buisson.”

“Of course, Emilie,” she agreed, walking over to the couch as Adrien and Marinette both stood up. “So, who else knows?” the doctor asked as she sat down next to Emilie and opened her bag.

“Two of my son’s friends saw me as I was taking a walk. Adrien and his girlfriend, Marinette came and brought me here,” she explained. “I woke up under my home in… a glass capsule. The room had an elevator and I took it and found myself in Gabriel’s office.

Adrien shook his head, feeling nauseated. “I… I still can’t believe… this whole time…” he faltered.

“I’m so sorry, Adrien,” Emile replied before lapsing into silence as the doctor took her temperature and checked her blood pressure and oxygen level.

“It isn’t your fault,” Adrien reassured her when the doctor was done. “Father… he could have told me…” He ran his hands through his hair, looking extremely stressed.

“All your vitals seem fine,” Dr Buisson said. “Your blood pressure is slightly elevated but acceptable, especially given the circumstance. All the same, I do think you should be admitted into hospital for observation overnight at the very least. I can call ahead to a private one if you wish.”

“Please do,” Emilie replied. “I’m exhausted but quite anxious about falling asleep and then not waking up again. I guess… I guess the police need to be notified as well, don’t you think?”

“Yes, I’m sure they do,” the doctor agreed. “I’d rather get you admitted before submitting you to any more stress though. Shall I make the call now?”

“Yes,” Emilie confirmed, sighing. “I wish Gorilla was here. Adrien, can you call a taxi for me?”

“If you aren’t taking an ambulance, I’m going with you,” Adrien told her firmly. “Marinette, would you come as well?”

“Of course,” she replied.

*****

“I’ll wait here,” Marinette told Adrien as they walked up to the reception area at the hospital. Emilie walked purposefully up to the desk as she and Adrien hovered a few steps behind her.

“Will that be ok?” Adrien asked anxiously. “I don’t want to just leave you on your own.”

“I’ll be fine. You should spend some time with your mother without me hanging around,” she said. “She barely knows me and I don’t want to make her uncomfortable. The doctor will probably need to see her on her own eventually. I’ll be waiting here for you.”

“If you’re sure you’ll be alright,” he said, lightly stroking her cheek.

“I promise,” she replied, closing her eyes as he leaned down slightly and kissed her forehead.

“Adrien?” Emilie asked. “They’re going to take me to a room now.”

“Do you want me to come with you so I can see where you’ll be?” he asked.

“Yes, thank you darling,” she said, looking relieved. “I’m glad you’re here but this… doesn’t seem fair to you.”

“Mother, I’m so happy you’re here. If I can do anything to make this better, I will,” he assured her as he walked over.

The nurse smiled at him. “If you’d both like to follow me,” she said.

“Did Marinette...not want to come with?” Emilie asked quietly as they walked down the corridor.

“She wanted me to get a chance to be with you just the two of us,” Adrien explained.

“That is so thoughtful of her,” Emilie said, smiling softly. “You are very serious about her, aren’t you?”

“Yes,” Adrien replied. “I am. She’s been through all these terrible things with me and I don’t know how I would have coped without her and her family.”

“Did you start living with them after your father…” she took a deep breath. “I’m sorry. I can’t express how much it breaks my heart to know that he hurt you.”

“It’s ok Mother. You don’t have anything to apologize for. I wish I could tell you that everything has been fine while you’ve been away but I don’t want to lie to you. Father actually threatened me not to go to the bakery so… I end up staying with Celine. I don’t know if you remember her but she’s my stylist. I was there for a few days until he escaped Paris and then I went to the bakery. Tom and Sabine assumed temporary guardianship for me until I was emancipated.”

Emilie shook her head and closed her eyes as she tried to process everything he had just said. “Celine? Is that the same Celine that started at Gabriel’s studio before I went away?”

“Yes,” Adrien agreed. “She’s been looking out for me for a long time although I didn’t realize that until… well it’s a long story.”

“I chose her you know,” Emilie said, smiling softly. “I was getting so sick and Gabriel really wanted you to stay involved with the company. The main stylist at the time didn’t want to dress children as she put it so… I convinced Gabriel to bring in a graduate stylist. I don’t know if Celine remembers but I was at her first interview. I felt like she would be kind to you. There was just something about her I liked. I lobbied hard for her to be the one that got the job.”

“I’m sure she’d love to hear that,” Adrien replied. “She’s sort of adopted me as an honorary little brother.”

“That’s wonderful,” Emilie said, smiling at him. “When things are more settled, I’d love to see her.”

“For now, I’m not telling anyone about what is happening unless you tell me to, ok?” Adrien said.

“I appreciate that,” she replied quietly.

“Mrs. Agreste?” the nurse asked as she knocked on the door.

“Please come in,” Emilie answered.

“Hello,” the nurse said, smiling as she came in. “The doctor will be in shortly. I’m sorry.. Adrien, right? I need you to go for now. I’ll come and get you from the waiting area when you can return.”

“Ok,” Adrien replied, giving his mother one more reassuring hug before getting up. “I’ll be back later, Mother.”

Emilie nodded. “Thank you darling.”

*****

“I’m glad Gorilla will be back tomorrow,” Adrien sighed when they got into the taxi much later that evening. “It’s really challenging getting around without him.”

“Yeah,” Marinette agreed, taking his hand. “Are you planning to go to school tomorrow?”

“Yes,” Adrien said. “A little normalcy would be nice I think.”

Marinette couldn’t help but giggle. “We keep saying that but it never happens.”

“Very true,” Adrien agreed, bringing her hand to his mouth and kissing it gently. “Today has been… something I would never have expected.”

Marinette nodded before snuggling against him. They sat in silence for the rest of the journey, each of them processing everything that had happened.

****

“Hello, you two,” Sabine said as they walked in. “You both look tired. It’s been a long day hasn’t it? Would you like something to eat?”

“I don’t want to trouble you Sabine,” Adrien protested.

“It’s no trouble. Tom and I just had grilled cheese sandwiches. Would you like one?” Sabine asked.

“Yes, thank you Maman,” Marinette said, retrieving a bottle of juice from the fridge and pouring two glasses. She brought them to the table, setting one down in front of Adrien.

“Thanks, Princess,” he said, putting his hand over hers as she sat down next to him.

“How’s your mother doing?” Sabine asked as she flipped the sandwich over.

“Good… I guess all the numbers are fine so far. A police officer came and talked to her for quite awhile. We had to stay out of the room for that. I did call Sacha and he was with mother during the questioning. I just wanted to make sure she had some kind of acceptable advocate for her in the room. We haven’t said anything to anyone yet. I told Mother I wouldn't unless she wanted me to,” Adrien explained. “I’m glad she’s staying there for now. I don’t know what she’ll want to do after that.”

“I’m sure she’s just trying to take it one step at a time,” Sabine said, placing a sandwich in front of him.

“Yeah, I can’t even imagine how overwhelming this must be for her,” Adrien sighed. “I felt awful telling her Father was in prison.”

“It’s very sad that you were put in that position,” Sabine said as she worked on the second sandwich. “But at this point, you were the best person to tell her.”

“It would be worse coming from anyone else,” Adrien agreed. “She did say she wants to talk to Audrey soon. Maybe tomorrow.”

“I’m sure Mrs. Bourgeois will be extremely shocked to hear from her,” Sabine said, smiling wryly.

“Definitely,” Adrien replied. “I would love to see her face when she hears.”

“Me too,” Marinette said with a giggle. “Thanks Maman,” she said as Sabine put a sandwich in front of her before preparing a cup of tea and sitting down with them. “Is Papa asleep?”

“No, not yet,” Sabine replied. “Getting ready for bed though. It’s been a busy day and everyone is tired. I just need to have some of this bedtime tea to relax.”

“Goodness, how late is it?” Adrien asked, looking alarmed as he pulled out his phone.

“Probably not that late,” Sabine laughed. “Unless you’re a baker who's been up since four!”

“I hope I didn’t put you out too much taking the weekend off,” Marinette said anxiously.

“Nonsense dear. You deserved some time off after everything you’ve had to deal with. And you had plenty more to handle today.”

“You deserve everything,” Adrien said, reaching over to stroke her back gently. “When you fixed that Miraculous… I think that must have been what made Mother wake up.”

“I think you might be right although you are just as much responsible for that light as I am,” Marinette reminded him. “I do remember you saying something about how maybe she had held the Miraculous.”

“I did wonder,” Adrien admitted. “Nathalie started getting sick in the same way and when we started to suspect that she was helping father, it made sense to me… but I never would have thought that he had Mother….” he shuddered. “Under the house.”

“Good evening everyone,” Tom said as he came into the living area in his pajamas. “I’m glad you’re both back. How’s your mother doing, Adrien?”

“Ok, as far as they can tell. They say she’s in shock. I think they want to keep her another night which is probably a good idea. I don’t know where she’ll want to go when she gets out and I think she needs time to figure that out.”

Adrien was interrupted by his phone ringing and he pulled it out of his pocket. He looked at the caller ID on his screen and his brow furrowed. “Kind of late isn’t it?” he muttered before answering the call. “Mr. Blanchet, what can I do for you?”

Marinette looked at her parents anxiously as he walked toward the door. “Gabriel’s lawyer,” she murmured in explanation.

“Excuse me!” Adrien said suddenly, his eyes narrowing as he paused. He had been about to leave the room but he now stood completely still. They could hear the lawyer talking in an aggressive tone but couldn't tell what he was saying. “No, you can stop right there Mr. Blanchet… I don’t know how you heard about this but I’m not under any obligation to tell my father one fucking thing about what amounts to tabloid gossip regarding my mother… No, I don’t care what… now you listen to me. I know you have a job to do but you do not get to speak to me like this.”

Marinette exchanged a look with her parents. None of them had ever seen Adrien react to anything like this. Marinette had seen hints of anger and frustration but she could tell whatever Mr. Blanchet was saying had completely infuriated him.

“So you were foolish enough to tell Father about this completely unsubstantiated story then?” Adrien asked. “Well, that’s unfortunate but not really my problem. It doesn’t matter if it’s true or not at this point. It is not my place to tell him anything. You aren’t my lawyer and I don’t have to tell you anything either. If it’s true, you’ll find out when you’re meant to and it won’t be from me. This is… this is an incredibly unfair position to put me in.” He sat down on the couch heavily. “Listen, I’ve had a hell of a day and I’m just a kid having to deal with all kinds of adult problems thanks to my asshole father. You’re calling me at almost nine o’clock in the evening on a school night because some taxi driver says they drove my mother to a hospital. Whatever I know or don’t know is none of your damn business or Father’s at this point…. I would be a lot more courteous if you had been polite to begin with… I’m sure he is very eager to know but he’s not entitled to that information… I don’t know what the rush is anyway. He’s not going anywhere one way or the other is he? Ok… let me be clear, if I have anything to share with you and my father, it’ll be coming from my lawyer... This… this isn’t right and you know it. Yeah, whatever, go cry to my father about it.” Adrien took the phone from his ear and emphatically tapped the hang up button.

“Sorry,” he said apologetically. “I probably should have left the room but he was just immediately on the attack and it took me by surprise.” He sighed as he got up and returned to the table. “I knew she should have gotten an ambulance but then maybe that would have been too noticeable as well. Poor Mother…” he sighed again.

“I don’t know son, I kind of enjoyed that,” Tom admitted, his eyes twinkling. “It sounds like that lawyer wasn’t expecting so much pushback.”

“He probably thought I would just give him what he wanted. I have a reputation for being agreeable I guess but I’m tired of being treated, even indirectly, like a doormat by my father,” Adrien replied. “I’m sure he’s beside himself wondering but let him. My mother has been in some kind of coma in the basement I didn’t know existed for years. It’s so awful, I just… I feel sick thinking about it. I sure am glad that he isn’t Hawk Moth anymore. I’d be…” he paused, looking pale. “I wonder if that’s how that happened.”

“I don’t know,” Marinette said. “It could be.”

Sabine looked at them in concern. “What are you two talking about?”

“I once… travelled into the future with a Miraculous holder,” Marinette explained. “I made a mistake that somehow led to Chat Noir being akumatized and becoming Chat Blanc… when I had that nightmare after Adrien’s birthday, it was about that. I used to have nightmares about it a lot actually but I haven’t dreamt about it for awhile now.”

“I have no memory of it because she ended up preventing it from happening in the end,” Adrien said. “But since she was there, she can never forget it. It happened to her even if it didn’t happen to me.”

“As I said, I don’t know any of the circumstances that led up to it or how long it was from the point that I made the mistake to the point that I arrived at.. He was so incredibly powerful… the moon… it had exploded up in the sky… but eventually, I found the butterfly and then he was free and I was able to go back and fix everything. It will always be something that happened to me but thankfully, not to anyone else… well… apart from that Miraculous holder. I think she may know the whole story but since she came from a future that doesn’t exist, maybe that will just never happen. Time travel is very strange.”

“You never told me about the moon,” Adrien said softly, putting his arms around her.

“No, I guess I felt like it didn't matter since it didn’t end up happening,” she said quietly.

“It happened to you though… so it does matter to me,” he told her. “I’m so glad we found Mother now and not earlier. It could have jeopardized everything.”

“I know,” Marinette agreed quietly. “Had you gone looking for confirmation about your father… and found her instead, I hate to think what might have happened.”

“I’m sorry, Tom,” Adrien said. “This probably isn’t a very relaxing conversation and I know you have to get up tomorrow.”

“It’s alright son. I feel like with my schedule I end up having to ignore things I don’t want to ignore. I’d rather know and get less sleep tonight,” Tom replied.

I think I’ll make more of this tea for the rest of you,” Sabine said.

“Good idea,” Adrien said. “I need to refocus on what is true right now. My mother…is back.”

*******

“I feel… really unsettled,” Adrien said as they got into bed. “That damn taxi driver… I wish they would have shown a little discretion. I don’t even know what I should do tomorrow. I want to go to school but I don’t know what that’s going to be like. I wanted to keep the situation with Mother private longer than this.”

“I know,” Marinette sighed. “Maybe… your mother wanted to talk to Audrey… maybe you should call her before school tomorrow.”

“Yeah, that’s a good idea,” Adrien said thoughtfully. “I wonder if I should check in with Mother first. I don’t know how much information is too much information to give her at this point.”

“I wish I had the answer to that,” Marinette told him as she snuggled closer to him. “I only suggest getting Audrey involved because she really seems to care about your mother and she is not someone people want to mess with.”

“That’s true,” Adrien agreed, laughing softly.

“Was your mother… okay with me being around so much?” Marinette asked hesitantly.

“She seemed to be,” Adrien said, kissing the top of her head. She was kind of all over the place when I was talking to her but she said nice things about you and she could tell I was serious about you. As far as I could tell, she seemed ok with that.”

“It must be so difficult, realizing that so much has happened and getting all that information at the same time,” Marinette sighed.

“I know. I was really trying not to overwhelm her but I thought if I ignored any of her questions, that would be worse than answering them,” Adrien replied.

“I’m sure she sees the effort you are making and appreciates it,” Marinette assured him, propping herself up for a moment to look at him.

Adrien smiled as he gazed back at her. “You are so beautiful. The time we had together was incredibly special to me.”

“It was special to me too,” Marinette replied softly. “Even with everything that has happened, I keep thinking about it.”

“So do I,” Adrien admitted, closing his eyes as she leaned down to kiss him. “Honestly, I’m thinking about it right now… although I really should stop so I can get to sleep.”

Marinette giggled. “Same,” she laid back down, resting her head in the crook of his arm. “I love you Adrien.”

Adrien yawned and kissed her forehead. “I love you too Marinette.”

Chapter Text

“I’ve decided, I’m going to call Audrey,” Adrien said as they were finishing breakfast the next morning. “Wish me luck.”

“Good luck,” Marinette replied obediently, grinning as she cleared the table.

“I’ll stay in the room. This might be an interesting conversation,” he replied with a laugh. “I guess it’s just as well she texted me that party invitation. Now I have her number.”

Marinette giggled. “Go ahead Gorgeous. I’m dying to hear how she reacts.”

Adrien smiled as he found the number and pressed ‘call’ on his phone.

“Audrey Bourgeois’ phone,” someone answered.

“Oh, good morning,” Adrien replied as Marinette stood close by listening in. “This is Adrien Agreste. Would it be possible for me to speak with Mrs. Bourgeois?”

“One moment,” the person on the other end responded.

“Is it true?” Audrey asked, having apparently abruptly taken the phone from her assistant. “I’ve been hearing a lot of gossip about… is that why you’re calling me?”

“It is,” Adrien confirmed. “It’s true although I wish it hadn’t gotten out so quickly. She… she’s in the hospital. The doctors can’t find anything wrong with her apart from the fact that she’s in shock.”

“I’m sure she is,” Audrey replied crisply. “How much does she know?”

“Not much,” Adrien admitted. “She knows Father is in prison but I haven’t said much about what he did to end up there. She knows he was Hawk Moth but… she already knew that.”

“My god,” Audrey said, sounding shocked. “Where is she? Can I see her?”

“She’s at a private hospital,” Adrien replied. “I’ll text you the address. She was talking about wanting to see you yesterday. I haven’t told her that I’m doing this… I’ll call the hospital after this if you are going over there so they know to let you in.”

“Of course I am,” Audrey said, her voice softer and more emotional than Adrien had ever heard it. “Oh Adrien…” she took in a deep breath. “Anyway, I’ll be there soon. Goodbye.” She hung up abruptly, leaving Adrien staring at his phone in bemusement.

“Well,” he said after a moment. “I guess I’ll let Mother know then.” Quickly he dialed the hospital. “Hello? This is Adrien Agreste. Can I speak to my mother? She’s in room 222.”

*****

The throng of reporters outside the bakery was larger than ever when Adrien looked outside to see if it was safe to go to school. “I sure wish Gorilla was back,” he sighed.

“I’ve already called the police,” Sabine told him. “When is Gorilla arriving? It’s sometime today right?”

“Yeah, later this afternoon with Amelie and Felix… and I haven’t told any of them anything. I guess I should call Sacha and ask him to share that information,” Adrien answered.

“Why don’t you go ahead and do that now?” Sabine suggested. “No one is going in or out until an officer gets here.”

****

“Sorry we’re late,” Marinette said as she and Adrien hurried into class.

“Don’t worry about it,” Miss Bustier reassured them. “I don’t know if the rumors are true but either way it’s more drama for you to deal with .”

Adrien hesitated. “I can’t really say,” he replied eventually as he went to his seat.

“That’s perfectly fine Adrien. It’s no one’s business but yours,” she assured him gently.

“Some weekend, huh girl,” Alya murmured as Marinette sat down next to her.

“Yeah,” Marinette whispered back as she got out her things. “I’d love to catch up with you. Maybe tonight.”

“What about...” Alya trailed off, nodding silently at Adrien.

“I guess… we’ll see how it goes today,” Marinette replied quietly. “I’ll text you later, okay?”

“Sure,” Alya replied, giving her an understanding smile. “Just let me know.”

*******

“I just had a text from Gorilla,” Adrien said as they got their things from their lockers after school. “He knows. Sacha told him.”

“Does Amelie know?” Marinette whispered.

“Probably,” Adrien murmured back, sighing. “Anyway, Gorilla said he was on his way when he sent the message so he should be waiting outside by now.”

“What do you want to do?” Marinette asked.

“I want to… not go to the bakery… maybe Gorilla can give us a ride,” he replied. “Would you… come with me? Just for a little while?”

“Of course!” Marinette exclaimed. “I don’t want to interfere but if you want me to come, I’ll be happy to join you.”

“It’s just I couldn’t help but overhear you talking to Alya this morning about hanging out so… I feel bad for asking,” Adrien confessed guiltily.

“It’s ok,” Marinette reassured him. “I’ll come with you this afternoon but I think I should get out of the way eventually.”

“You are never in the way,” Adrien replied. “But I guess… I should spend some time with her on my own. It’s just so overwhelming and everything is different. I don’t know if I’m doing the right things or saying the right things.”

“Look, there’s Gorilla,” Marinette pointed out softly. “We can talk about this more openly in the car.”

“Yeah,” Adrien agreed, nodding at him as he opened the door and they both got into the car. “Hey Gorilla,” he continued after Gorilla got into the driver’s seat. “I am so glad you are back!”

Gorilla smiled. “I go away for a few days and then all this happens. I’m looking forward to seeing her. How is she doing?”

“She’s doing ok. Kind of confused sometimes and she gets tired pretty quickly,” Adrien replied. “Where are Amelie and Felix?”

“At the hotel,” Gorilla said. “I know Amelie would like to see her sister. I’m a little worried about that myself.”

“Really?” Adrien asked. “Why’s that?”

“Well,” Gorilla paused as he pulled away from the curb. “The meetings in London were very contentious and I think Emilie would be rather horrified by the stance her sister was taking.”

“Why?” Adrien asked. “What did she want to do?”

Gorilla sighed. “When I was hired, my salary was agreed to be paid from Emilie’s trust for as long as she wanted to employ me. In the event of her… death, it was to continue until you at least turned eighteen. Of course Emilie disappeared and there was no proof she was dead or alive. Now that you are emancipated, Amelie felt that agreement should end and whatever was left of Emilie’s trust account should be frozen until…”

“Until what?” Adrien asked. “I’m sorry Gorilla. I don’t really understand.”

“I’ve been trying to do that myself,” Gorilla admitted. “I didn’t want to let my own feelings toward you and your mother to prevent me from considering that her argument could be reasonable but so far, it isn’t working.”

“Maybe that just means her argument isn’t reasonable, whatever it is,” Marinette suggested.

Gorilla chuckled softly. “That thought had entered my mind. Amelie wanted to freeze the expenditures from the account until Emilie was missing long enough to be declared dead and then that money would be… absorbed into the general trust fund for...future beneficiaries.”

“What?!” Adrien exclaimed. “Was she hoping Mother was dead?”

“No, I don’t think that was the case but she had accepted it and she didn’t see why you should receive funds from more than one trust account,” Gorilla explained. “Your lawyer was not very happy with her proposal. He said you had been dealing with so much and it wasn’t necessary to resolve that issue so immediately. I said I was actually intending to retire fairly soon and I wouldn’t accept a full-time salary from you, especially if I continued to look after the house. Adrien, I would like to keep working with you but I would also like to spend more time with my family.”

“Of course,” Adrien said, looking shocked. “Gorilla, I had no idea… I never would have wanted to keep you from your own family.”

Gorilla smiled reassuringly. “I still have managed to go meet up with them sometimes, especially at the holidays but I would like to do so more often.”

“I think this is something we’ll need to work out with my mother as well but not quite yet,” Adrien said. “Everything has been very overwhelming for her.”

“I can’t even imagine,” Gorilla said with a sigh. “Where has she been all this time? Sacha just told me she was awake and in the hospital.”

“I guess I didn’t say…” Adrien replied. “This is very difficult to tell you Gorilla but… she was under the house in some secret room. I know it’s somehow accessible from Father’s office but… that is really all I know at this point. The police went over after they talked to her but they couldn’t figure out how to access it.”

Gorilla shook his head. “Your father… I’m so sorry Adrien.”

“Thanks,” Adrien replied softly. “Use whatever language you want in reference to him. I certainly have. So… how did Amelie react to the news about her sister?”

“She was very shocked. Not unhappy or angry but not excited or pleased. Given the timing of our discussions and the news coming from your lawyer as we returned, I think she believes this is… some kind of scam or something,” Gorilla explained.

“Damn it,” Adrien groaned. “If I had known, I would have called her myself. It is very much true.”

“Hopefully when she discovers that fact for herself, she’ll be happy,” Gorilla said. “She was completely despondent when Emilie disappeared. She had so many investigators on the case and nothing came up. She was always… suspicious of Gabriel.”

“I will let Mother know that Amelie is in Paris now… but I won’t tell her the rest for now,” Adrien said as Gorilla pulled up outside the hospital.

“Ok,” Gorilla agreed. “I’ll wait nearby until you are ready to leave.”

******

“Hello Mother,” Adrien greeted Emilie as he and Marinette entered the room. “How are you feeling?”

“Better,” she replied. “Thank you for sending Audrey over. She was able to answer a lot of my questions in her usual no-nonsense way.”

Adrien laughed. “Is that what you call it? I can tell you are friends because that is the kindest way I’ve ever heard her described.

“Oh I know Audrey is… rather abrasive. She and Gabriel never got along because they were both like that with huge egos. They were forever butting heads,” Emilie sighed. “Anyway, she’s offered me a suite at the hotel for now and I’m going to take it. The more I learn, the more I can’t imagine staying in the house. I just… I want to be rid of it but… I suppose I’ll have to discuss that with… Gabriel.” Emilie closed her eyes and a few tears slipped down her cheeks. “I’m sorry darling. I fell asleep while he was still… a devoted husband and I woke up and he’s…” she trailed off. “I can’t resolve the feelings I had in the moments I regained consciousness with what I’ve discovered… the things he’s done… it’s too much.”

“I can’t imagine,” Adrien said quietly, sitting down next to her on her bed. “The way my feelings have changed happened gradually and it was still a shock… and it is occasionally shocking me, even now. It suddenly crosses my mind and I still can’t believe it.”

“How much longer… do you think the trial will be?” Emilie asked.

“It just started,” Adrien replied. “I don’t know when it will end. I know that I have to testify against him. The trial went on recess after Mayura was captured. It was meant to resume today but I think they delayed it again for one more day.”

“So it resumes tomorrow?” Emilie asked.

“Yes,” Adrien confirmed. “The maximum sentence he could receive is… for life. I don’t know how likely that is. The thing is, trying to figure out his intent when Ladybug was able to fix all the damage. People may have died but if they did, she brought them back. People were hurt, buildings and other property were temporarily destroyed but no one remembers being an akuma and a lot of the akuma victims don’t remember what happened to them. The main thing against him is how well documented the battles were so people can watch them and see what happened at least.”

Emilie sighed. “Audrey told me that word was out about me. Has your father… asked about me?”

“Oh yes,” Adrien said dryly. “His lawyer was pretty rude to me last night because I wouldn’t confirm anything. I told him any actual news regarding that gossip would come from my lawyer and not from me.”

“Thank you darling,” Emilie said. “I’m just… so appalled at what he’s done. I did worry. He was so desperate for a solution. We went to doctors.. We even went back to Tibet and tried to get some of the Grimoire translated… and then he started disappearing on his own… probably working on that capsule. I couldn’t tell you anything about that.”

Adrien sighed. “Princess,” he said suddenly as he realized Marinette was sitting quietly in the chair next to the door. “You’re being awfully quiet.”

“Why don’t you come join us Marinette,” Emilie invited her. “I’m sorry. This conversation has become rather dreary hasn’t it? I’d like to learn more about you… starting with your nickname which Adrien can explain to me.” Her eyes twinkled with mischief in a way that made Marinette instantly think of Chat Noir.

Adrien laughed, smiling at Marinette as she sat right next to him on the edge of the bed. “It’s pretty simple really. She lives across the street from the school and she has a roof balcony on top of her room. I’d often see her up there as I was getting to school since Gorilla drops me off so early. Anyway, I always thought she looked like a princess so when we finally got together, that became my nickname for her.”

“That is very sweet,” Emilie replied. “Marinette, forgive me if I’m being nosy, but do you have a nickname for him as well?

Marinette blushed. “Yes,” she admitted. “I call him Gorgeous because… well he is… everything about him is.”

Emilie smilied, her expression soft and affectionate. “I don’t know you very well yet but I’m looking forward to that,” she said. “I can tell that your relationship with my son has given him a lot of peace even as the rest of his life has probably been… extremely tumultuous…” she trailed off, closing her eyes wearily. “I hate to say this but… I’m feeling very tired.”

“Why don’t you get some rest Mother?” Adrien suggested.

“Yes, I think I should,” she agreed. “Gorilla is back now right? And Amelie is in Paris?”

“That’s right,” Adrien confirmed, giving her a careful hug. “She’s staying at the hotel.”

“Could you tell her I’ll see her after I get discharged tomorrow? I know you’ll be at school. Do you think Gorilla could pick me up?”

“Definitely,” Adrien assured her. “I’ll write down his number for you.”

“Here,” Marinette said, offering him her pen as he picked up a small notepad from Emilie’s bedside table.

“Thanks Marinette,” Adrien said as he took her pen and wrote down Gorilla’s information. “Once you’re out we’ll have to get you a new phone Mother. That will make things a lot easier for you.”

“Thank you darling,” she replied, laying back against her pillow. “There really is so much to think about… and I keep forgetting things. It’s hard to keep all these details together.”

“Get some sleep Mother. You are pushing yourself too hard,” Adrien told her, looking concerned. “I’ll check in with your nurse a few hours before visiting hours end. If you are awake, I can come back.”

“I’d like that darling,” Emilie said, reaching up to touch his cheek for a moment. “I’ll see you both later.”

Chapter Text

“How is Emilie?” Gorilla asked as they headed back to the bakery.

“She’s ok. Very tired,” Adrien said. “She told me to let Amelie know she’ll see her tomorrow after she’s discharged. Mrs. Bourgeois has given her a suite to stay in for now. I gave her your number so you can pick her up.”

“Wonderful,” he said. “I’m looking forward to seeing her. Do you want me to call Amelie now and you can tell her about your mother?”

“Yeah, why not,” Adrien said, lacing his fingers through Marinette’s and squeezing her hand.

Marinette smiled at him, listening to the phone ring on the handsfree system.

“Gorilla?” a woman’s voice came on.

“Hello Amelie,” he greeted her. “I’ve got Adrien here. He wants to speak to you.”

“Adrien,” she said. “Is it true?”

“Yes,” Adrien replied. “I’m just leaving the hospital so Mother can rest. She told me to let you know she’ll see you tomorrow. She is going to be staying at the hotel for a little while so she’ll meet you there.”

“Oh my god,” Amelie said, her voice breaking. “After all this time… I couldn’t imagine how it could possibly be true. What happened to her? Where has she been?”

“She fell into some kind of coma,” Adrien explained. “Father… he…” Adrien broke off. “I’m sorry… Father… he had her under the house in a secret room… in some kind of life support pod apparently. I only know what Mother has explained to me. I'm afraid.”

“What?” she exclaimed loudly. “You mean he knew… all along?”

“I imagine so,” Adrien replied. “I haven’t talked to him about it. His lawyer called last night after he heard the rumors and I wouldn’t confirm one way or the other.”

“Ha!” Amelie laughed bitterly. “No more than he deserves. You better believe I’ll be at the trial first thing tomorrow. When is… when is she getting discharged?”

“I’m not sure yet,” Adrien said. “I’ll probably be at school whenever it is.”

“Thanks for calling Adrien,” Amelie said. “I know you didn’t have to and I’m sure you’ve heard about… the meetings by now. I’m regretting what I said. You were in the situation where the only person who could advocate for you was a lawyer and… I should have thought about that.”

“Well,” Adrien paused. “At least you are thinking about it now. I’m sure I’ll see you later, Aunt Amelie.”

“Yes,” she replied, sounding slightly taken aback by his tone. “Goodbye for now.”

Gorilla chuckled as she abruptly disconnected the call. “She deserved that,” he said, shaking his head. “Now that your mother has reappeared she wants to stop being selfish?”

“I know. I was hurt and disappointed by what you told me about the meetings,” Adrien said. “It pisses me off that she would initiate something to end an agreement my mother made on my behalf just to preserve wealth. Financially, I can work this all out but… she was awfully quick to get on this once I was emancipated.”

“Yes,” Gorila sighed. “It’s a conversation that could have waited a few months and should have included you. I wasn’t sure exactly what they called me and Sacha in to discuss when I was told to come but it all seemed a little sneaky to me.”

“Clearly Felix learned from the best,” Adrien said sarcastically. “Thanks for the ride, Gorilla. I might call you later if Mother wants me to come back.”

“Of course,” Gorilla nodded. “See you both later.”

******

“Hello you two!” Sabine exclaimed as they came into the bakery. “I was just about to go upstairs and start dinner. I’m just waiting for Tom to come out of the kitchen.”

“What’s that dear?” Tom asked as he came into the front of the shop. “Ah, hello Macaron, hello Son! How’s your mother doing?”

“Ok,” Adrien answered. “She gets tired so easily though. I may go back later and see her on my own if she’s up.”

“You should,” Marinette encouraged him. “It’s really nice that she wants to get to know me but I think it’s pretty exhausting for her to try at this point.”

“You’re right,” Adrien said with a sigh. “Then she feels bad when she forgets things. Her short term memory isn’t that great right now.”

“I really feel for her,” Sabine said sympathetically. “Why don’t we go upstairs?”

“Good idea,” Marinette agreed. “Where are all the journalists anyway?”

“Lieutenant Raincomprix chased them off,” Tom grinned. “It was getting ridiculous and he said he’d warned them enough to not block the entrance. I think he actually ticketed quite a few of them as the rest got the hell out. Anyway, go upstairs before somebody tips them off again.”

“Yeah, that’s a good point,” Adrien replied. “See you later Tom.”

******

“You have a message Marinette,” Tikki said as soon as they were upstairs.

“You do too Kid,” Plagg said. “Probably the same one.”

“Thanks,” they both said in unison and then laughed.

“Tikki, spots on!” Marinette called.

“Plagg. Claws out!” Adrien added.

They sat together on the couch as they got out their communicators. Sabine shook her head at the rather absurd sight of two superheroes sitting in her living room and went to work starting dinner.

“Is your message from Gallicus, Kitty?” Ladybug asked.

“Yeah, it’s about Mother,” he said. “The hospital informed them she’s being discharged just after twelve tomorrow and they are concerned for her safety. He’s asking if we can show up at the hospital and then follow it to the hotel.”

“Mine’s the same,” Ladybug said. “I guess it’s during lunch so it won’t be too difficult, timing wise anyway.”

“It’s fine with me,” Chat said with a shrug. “It’ll be a lot more pleasant than escorting my father was.”

“Indeed, maybe we’ll even see Felix,” Ladybug said with a smirk.

“You going to give him another smackdown, Bug?” Chat asked, playfully pulling her ponytail.

“Hopefully he won’t give me a reason to!” she laughed.

“I think I remember hearing about him from Tom,” Sabine said thoughtfully. “He got a bunch of your friends akumatized right? Did you do something to him because of that?”

“No,” Ladybug said. “I hit him because while he was pretending to be Adrien he tried to force me to kiss him.”

“Oh… oh my goodness dear,” Sabine said, looking stricken. “I suppose you couldn’t…”

“I couldn’t tell anyone because it would have compromised my identity,” Ladybug replied with a sigh. “Don’t worry, he didn’t manage to do anything. I knocked him on his ass before he could. I just haven’t seen him since so it’ll be... interesting if I run into him again.”

****

“Mother is awake now,” Adrien said as he got off his phone. “I’m going to go see her if that’s ok.”

“Of course!” Marinette exclaimed as she finished clearing the table. “I’ll text Alya in that case.”

“Good,” he replied, smiling at her. “I feel bad for monopolizing your time.”

“You aren’t,” she assured him. “I’m just trying to balance getting to know your mother with you spending time with her on your own. I thought it would be nice to see Alya while you got to see your Mother without making you feel like you had to include me.” She took her phone out, quickly typed her text and sent it. “There… when is Gorilla going to be here?”

“Twenty minutes,” Adrien answered.

“Why don’t we go up to the balcony?” Marinette suggested.

“Yeah, good idea. We’ve been stuck inside all day, haven’t we?” he asked, stroking her hair.

****

“I have to admit, if Gorilla wasn’t going to be here so soon I’d be tempted to get carried away,” Adrien murmured as he sat down on the deck chair and pulled her into his lap.

“Maybe I’ll be waking you up early for some Adrien time,” Marinette teased him.

“Oh really?” he teased back. “Did you have something in mind?”

“I do actually,” she said, kissing his neck.

Adrien shivered. “Ok… well… I guess I’m going to try not to think about that while I’m visiting my mother.”

Marinette giggled. “You asked.”

“I guess I did,” he agreed, gently tilting her face up to his and kissing her. She sighed feeling the warmth of his other hand against her skin as he gently stroked her back just under the edge of her t-shirt. “I love you,” he murmured when he finally broke away.

“I love you too,” she replied, sighing in contentment

“This is really nice, just sitting here in the sunshine,” he told her, cradling her to him.

“Yeah,” she agreed, closing her eyes and nuzzling his neck. “Mmmm, you smell good.”

Adrien smiled, closing his own eyes as he soaked in the feeling of her curled up against him, her warm breath against his neck. They sat together in silence, completely absorbed in the comfort of each other’s presence until they were interrupted by a text notification on Adrien’s phone. Reluctantly, he sat up and retrieved it to check the message.

“It’s Gorilla,” he said.

“I’ll come down with you,” Marinette said, getting off his lap and checking her own phone. “Alya texted me back that she was on her way so she’ll probably be here any minute as well.”

Gorilla was waiting patiently in the car when they exited the service door.

“Here comes Alya,” Marinette observed. “Good timing.”

“Have fun.” Adrien said, pulling her close and kissing her fervently.

Marinette smiled up at him and stroked his cheek when he pulled away. “Enjoy your time with your mother.”

Adrien smiled back and kissed her again. “See you later Princess.” He waved at Alya who waved back before he got in the car.

“Hey Girl,” Alya greeted Marinette as Gorilla drove off. “That looked like a pretty epic goodbye.”

Marinette laughed. “We’ve barely been apart lately,” she admitted. “Let’s go inside. Do you want to hang out on the balcony or in my room?”

“I don’t mind either way. I just want some deets,” Alya replied with a grin.

“Ha!” Marinette snorted. “Not sure I’m going to share the really good ones.”

“So there are some really good ones?” Alya asked mischievously as Marinette went into the living room and quickly made up a plateful of cookies.

“What do you think?” Marinette asked, rolling her eyes as they continued up to her room. Alya opened the door and Marinette walked in after her, sitting down on the chaise with the plate as Alya shut the door again and joined her.

“Just so you know, taking lots of bubble baths together is cute but does not constitute really good deets,” Alya informed her, helping herself to a macaron.

“Putting your journalistic skills to work I see,” Marinette observed with a giggle. “I’m not sure that’s going to work on me. I know you too well.”

Alya sighed. “They probably are good deets if you’re dancing around my questions like this. Considering that kiss after you two took down Mayura, I’m not that surprised.”

“I suppose we did get a little carried away. It crossed my mind later that Maman and Papa probably saw that on the news,” Marinette replied, blushing. “I’m pretty sure they knew exactly why I asked for the weekend off from the bakery. At least they’ve been nice enough not to tease us about it.”

“Wow, that didn’t even occur to me!” Alya laughed. “Of course you’d have to ask them first if you wanted to be gone all weekend.”

“Yeah,” Marinette agreed. “So tell me… how… how did you find Emilie?”

“We didn’t find her really. I just noticed her when we were walking. I always think it’s funny when I catch someone really studying Sunshine’s billboards. I noticed her looking and then… it seemed like there was something unusual about the way she was looking at it. We got closer and I saw her profile and… well Adrien is in profile in that picture.. And then I just had this sense of who she probably was. I couldn’t believe it at first. I was holding Nino’s arm so hard that he was complaining at me and she turned to look at us and her expression…” Alya paused and fanned her eyes. “Sorry girl… just thinking about it makes me want to cry. She recognized us from a picture in Adrien’s room apparently and she got that soft look that Sunshine gets and… I lost it.”

“I’m sure I would have too if I was in that situation,” Marinette said, consolingly.

“So where was she all this time?” Alya asked. “Do you know? Are you allowed to say?”

“I’m not really sure but I’ll tell you anyway. She’s been… in a coma and Gabriel had her hidden in a secret basement somehow accessible from his office. I’m guessing that’s why he wanted our Miraculous,” Marinette explained.

“Holy fucking shit!” Alya screeched. “So what woke her up?”

“Ironically, we did,” Marinette said ruefully. “Our bond energy repaired the Miraculous. It’s funny… if you make a wish using the Miraculous, it exacts a terrible price to fulfill your wish and… that still happened to Gabriel because of his choices.”

“Fuuuuck,” Alya moaned in shock. “Sorry… apparently all I can do now is swear but what you are saying…”

“I know,” Marinette replied. “And she’s horrified by what he did. She didn’t even want him to know yet. I don’t know if anyone has confirmed it with him or not. Gabriel’s lawyer called Adrien on Sunday night demanding to know and Adrien got angrier than I have ever seen him.”

“Really? Even as Chat Noir? Alya asked.

“Are you kidding?” Marinette laughed. “He’s a big sweet goofball when he’s Chat Noir. He’s very protective of me and sometimes lectures someone if they deserve it but the worst I’ve ever been able to describe his mood is grouchy. And frankly, that was mostly when he was Mister Bug and I was trolling the hell out of him. Even as Chat Blanc… his emotions were all over the place. He might have been really angry at points but when I got there…” Marinette trailed off. “It’s hard to describe. I guess the word ‘unstable’ would have been accurate.”

“It’s kind of hard to imagine… and I can’t help but wonder if Gabriel knew who he was akumatizing,” Alya confessed.

“We’ve talked about that lately,” Marinette admitted. “We were speculating that perhaps Gabriel used his mother somehow to akumatize him because it’s been so difficult for him to process finding out where she was and that’s with the fact that she’s awake. Imagine if he… found her body instead.”

Alya shuddered. “I’m glad he didn’t. That would have been awful. Plus it could have changed everything and maybe it wouldn’t have led to you purifying the Miraculous.”

“We had to wait for the right time,” Marinette agreed. “I have spent far too much time over the last few years thinking about what conditions I would consider ideal for all kinds of scenarios. Apparently becoming the Guardian has made me a better judge of timing which is good.”

“I’ll say,” Alya shuddered. “You’ve had so much to deal with on your own girl. Do you talk to Adrien about the Chat Blanc thing much?”

“No,” she replied. “It was an incredibly traumatic experience for me and I don’t see any benefit in going into further detail with him about it. Those memories had a lot of power over me for a long time and now I just want them to fade away. I’ve learned what I needed to learn from that in the most horrible way possible. What’s left has no value to me”

“I’m sorry girl. I shouldn’t even have asked. As you said, it’s something that has no bearing on current events and only hurts you,” Alya said apologetically.

Marinette shrugged. “Don’t worry about it. I understand the curiosity about it but to be honest, I’d talk about my weekend in excruciating detail before I said any more about that, not that this means I will!”

Alya laughed. “It must have been weird going from romantic weekend to Adrien’s mother showing up out of the blue.”

“Yeah, it was,” Marinette admitted. “We definitely had other plans for Sunday before that happened.”

“It didn’t seem like Nino interrupted anything when he called anyway,” Alya said slyly.

“It was good timing on his part,” Marinette agreed with a grin.

Alya giggled. “He was very hesitant to call. Sunshine must have scared him a little.”

“I have no idea,” Marinette replied. “I don’t know what he told him. I’m not sure I even saw him look at his phone except to check the time or order food. It was sitting on his bedside table plugged into its charger the whole time.”

“Ah-ha! Does that mean you were in bed when we called?” Alya asked craftily.

Marinette giggled. “Well Detective Cesaire, the person who answered the phone was.”

“Good point,” Alya said thoughtfully. “He did yell for you pretty loudly so I guess you weren’t right next to him.”

“I was in the shower,” Marinette replied. “He kind of scared me actually. I was in my own little world when he yelled my name.”

“You must have been so surprised when he told you,” Alya said.

“Extremely,” Marinette agreed. “It’s been surreal talking to her. I don’t really feel like I’ve met the real Emilie yet because she is… well I think she’s still in shock. I hope it will be easier for her to focus on Adrien tonight without me there.”

“Poor Sunshine,” Alya said, sighing. “He’s had a lot of really fucked up things to deal with. It’s kind of amazing to me that he isn’t… you know… a complete asshole. I wouldn’t have expected a rich kid with so much family baggage to actually be a nice person.”

“I’ll tell him you said that,” Marinette teased her.

“Don’t!” Alya exclaimed, laughing. “And don’t tell him I cried when I saw his mother either.”

“Ok, ok,” Marinette agreed, giggling. “We wouldn’t want him to know you have a soft spot for him as well as Chat Noir.”

“Oh god,” Alya groaned, burying her face in her hands. “You are never going to let me live that down are you?”

“Nope,” Marinette agreed cheerfully.

“Neither is Nino,” Alya sighed. “He thinks it’s hilarious.”

Marinette laughed. “I’ll bet… Come in!” she called as she heard a knock on her door.

“Hi Alya!” Adrien greeted her, smiling at the sight of the two girls curled up together on the chaise. “Hi Princess,” he added as he bent down to kiss Marinette.

“Hi!” she replied, smiling back at him as he sat down on her desk chair. “How’s your mother doing?”

“She seemed better,” he replied. “More together than she has been. She asked me for my father's lawyer’s contact information so I guess she’s going to call him. I told her I’d add her to my phone plan but she said she’ll get that sorted out herself. I guess when she’s feeling better Gorilla can take her anywhere she needs to go.”

“Aw Sunshine, it’s nice that you’re trying to help her. It must be so hard waking up and everything’s different, Alya said.

“Yeah,” Adrien sighed. “Thank you so much Alya… for noticing her… and paying enough attention to realize… she was so tired and disoriented that first day, anything could have happened to her.”

“I’m glad I did,” Alya replied as she got up. “It’s getting pretty late. I guess I better get going.”

“Thanks for coming over,” Marinette told her as she got up as well and gave her a hug.

“Anytime girl!” Alya exclaimed. “And you!” she exclaimed, turning to Adrien. “I’ve heard about the new apartment from Nino but I want to see this place for myself. I’m starting to feel left out!”

Adrien grinned. “Of course! I was thinking we could all get together on whatever day I end up moving the rest of my stuff from the house and spend the night there.”

“Oooh, that sounds fun, count me in!” Alya said. “Do you need to lock up Marinette?”

“Yeah, I’ll come down with you,” she answered. “I’ll be right back Gorgeous.”

Chapter Text

“Princess?” Adrien murmured drowsily. “Mmmmm, what are you doing?”

“Trying to purrrsuade you that it’s Adrien time,” she murmured back, kissing his neck as she caressed his sides under his t-shirt. “Is it working?”

“Wha?” his eyes opened and he smiled sleepily. “What did you have in mind?”

“Leave that to me,” she said mysteriously. “You get to lay back and relax if you’re interested.”

“Very,” he replied, sounding much more awake. “What about your parents?”

“They’re both in the bakery by now,” Marinette told him. “Ideal really.”

Adrien laughed. “I see you’ve taken off your earrings.” He observed as he sat up, holding her in his lap.

“Uh-huh,” she agreed, lifting her arms as he pulled her pajama top off.

“Oh Marinette,” he sighed, holding her close. “I could never get tired of seeing you like this. You are so beautiful.”

“You’re beautiful to me,” she said, taking his shirt off and kissing his chest. Gently she pushed him to lay back and he sighed deeply as she kissed down the side of his neck and back to his collarbone. He squirmed a little as he felt her travelling down his body, kissing his chest and down his stomach. “I thought I’d return the favor,” she murmured, her hands caressing the insides of his arms. “I love it when you kiss me like this.”

“It feels really good,” Adrien sighed, his eyes closed as he savored her touch.

Marinette smiled as she reached for the hem of his pajama bottoms and pulled them off. “Going commando huh Kitty?” she said teasingly.

“I’ve noticed you do the same at bedtime lately,” he replied, grinning but not opening his eyes.

“That’s true,” Marinette agreed as she finished undressing and tossed all of their clothes down to the floor below. “Throwing clothes off the bed is a fun game.”

Adrien laughed. “You can charm my pants off anytime you like, Bug.”

“Maybe not anytime,” Marinette qualified as she laid down on top of him and leaned up to nibble his ear.

“No, I said anytime you like,” Adrien said, sighing with pleasure at the feeling of her body against his. “Nobody has better judgement than you… Bugaboo.”

Marinette giggled. “I’m glad you feel that way Kitty.” She pulled herself up enough to kiss him, moaning as he wrapped his arms around her.

“Mmmm,” he sighed as he kissed her back. “You feel so good Princess.”

“So do you Gorgeous,” she replied, gently nibbling his lower lip for a moment and then sitting up.

“What… what are you doing?” he asked in confusion.

“Trying something different,” she replied, lifting herself up and wrapping her hand gently around his erection.

“Oh my god,” he groaned as he watched her angle herself above him then slowly sink down, letting him push inside her. “Oh…” he sighed, his eyes widening as she started to slowly rock her hips against him.

Marinette smiled at him, taking one of his hands in hers as she continued to rock and lacing her fingers through his. “Those are some pretty intense kitty eyes you’re giving me,” she said softly. “Did you need something?”

Adrien closed his eyes. “I don’t need anything,” he replied. “You look so beautiful. All you are seeing from me is complete adoration.”

“I’m enjoying looking at you too,” Marinette assured him.

Adrien opened his eyes again, taking everything in, the way her hair swayed around her, the first rays of sunlight catching the edges, casting shimmering blue highlights through it. He absorbed every detail in his mind, the pale softness of her skin, the curve of her waist, the way it looked where their bodies met. Her movements were slow and gentle and the feeling of intimacy without urgency was so comforting, he could feel himself relaxing more and more, all the tension he had been collecting fading to nothing.

“I think I can still feel the energy,” he finally said. “It’s not that strong though. It makes it easier just to focus on how this feels.”

“Yeah,” Marinette answered dreamily as she continued to rock. “I’m feeling… pretty relaxed. I have something else I wanted to try but this is so nice, I don’t want to spoil it.”

“Mmmm, do whatever you want,” Adrien replied, a blissful smile on his face. “Especially if I get to just lay here and enjoy it.”

Marinette giggled. “Maybe I will then,” she said, letting go of his hand and leaning forward. She braced her hands gently against his chest, her hair swinging forward and brushing against him as she lifted her hips and then brought them down again, letting him withdraw from her a little ways before sliding back inside.

“Wow,” he managed breathlessly as she built up a steady rhythm. He tried to say more but quickly became overwhelmed.

“Good?” Marinette asked, gazing into his eyes as she continued.

“Very,” he assured her, unable to say any more. He closed his eyes as he got lost in the feeling of her bouncing on top of him. Marinette watched his expressions change as she continued, reveling in the pleasure she was giving him. He eventually opened his eyes and looked up at her, both of them feeling a surge of emotion as they gazed into each other’s eyes. “Princess,” he breathed. “I’m going to… oh…” he moaned and abruptly reached up to pull her against him. She nuzzled his neck, feeling him trembling even inside her. “Marinette, I love you so much,” he finally murmured.

“I love you too,” she replied, snuggling against him as he stroked her hair.

“This feels so good,” he sighed. “I love being connected to you like this.”

“Me too,” Marinette said softly. “I suppose it’s nearly time to get up now.”

Adrien grinned and kissed the top of her head. “Want to take a shower with me?”

“Yeah,” Marinette agreed. “That sounds really nice.”

********************************************

“Hey beautiful,” Adrien said, distracting Marinette from her reverie as she stared blankly into her closet, wearing only her underwear.

“Huh? You’re dressed?” she looked confused. “How long have I been standing here?”

Adrien laughed and wrapped his arms around her. “Maybe ten minutes,” he said, nuzzling the back of her neck. “We got an early start so it’s fine. I’ve just been admiring you for a few minutes which is… probably a little creepy. Sorry…”

“Don’t apologize for that!” Marinette exclaimed. “I’m glad you like what you see.”

“I love what I see,” Adrien murmured, nibbling her ear. “You’re going to reduce me to a puddle if you keep this up. I’ll be like one of those cats that constantly winds around your legs purring and begging for attention.”

Marinette giggled. “You might be able to get away with that as Chat Noir but not so much as Adrien.”

“Lucky for me I get to be Chat Noir today,” Adrien grinned. “Maybe I will.”

“You big goofball,” Marinette teased him, turning and reaching up to tousle his hair.

“You know you like it,” he teased back.

“Yeah, you’re right,” she agreed, leaning up to kiss him tenderly. “I guess I better find some clothes huh?”

*****

“What the hell?” Chat Noir said in amazement as they landed on a building across from the hospital at the agreed time. “What is going on here?”

“I don’t know,” Ladybug replied quietly, surveying the crowd of journalists outside the main entrance. “Someone must have tipped them off.”

“I can’t believe this,” Chat muttered. “Well, actually I can because hey, why not? I see Gorilla is coming. What should we do?”

“Wait a minute,” Ladybug murmured. “He just drove past the main entrance. Let’s see where he goes before we do anything. The journalists don’t know what he’s here for.”

Chat nodded and they watched in silence as he drove around the corner to a small side entrance. “Nice,” he said in approval. Come on Bug, let’s sneak over there and keep things clear for them.”

The journey to the hotel was unremarkable much to their relief but there was another crowd of people waiting outside the entrance to the hotel.

“Damn it,” Chat growled. “She’s just been discharged from hospital. What is wrong with these people?”

“We better get ahead of Gorilla and see if we can clear some space,” Ladybug advised.

“Yeah, that’s a good idea,” he agreed. “Race you there!”

Ladybug watched for a moment as he took off, levering himself past the car and landing neatly in front of the crowd. She cast out her yo-yo, allowing the string to wrap around a nearby streetlight and swinging down next to him.

“Excuse me everyone,” Chat said, shortening his baton until it was just over a meter long. “You need to make some space.”

“Is it true?” someone yelled, shoving a microphone in his face.

Chat pushed it away firmly. “We’re here in service to the police. That’s all you need to know.”

“Are you planning to become officers now that you’ve defeated all the supervillains?” another person asked.

“Not at all,” Ladybug answered. “We’re planning to have a more ambassadorial role… helping the people of Paris and its visitors however we can. We are meeting regularly with police leadership following the capture of the supervillains. They asked us to do this today and we agreed.”

The crowd continued to yell questions, growing even more frenzied as Gorilla pulled up to the curb and got out.

“Hello again,” he greeted the superheroes. “How do you want to handle this? Remember, I have her lawyer along as well.”

“Great,” Chat replied, casually helicoptering his baton above his head which caused the few reporters daring to inch closer to scatter. “What do you say milady?”

“I’ll have you lead the way,” Ladybug said, nodding at Gorilla. Chat and I will link arms with Mrs. Agreste. Her lawyer can walk just behind her. If he wants to issue a statement, he should wait until we have her safely inside.”

“I’ll tell him,” Gorilla replied, walking around to open the door, blocking it with his body as some of the photographers tried to get pictures of the passenger inside. The flashes began going off more and more rapidly as Emilie got out of the car, large sunglasses covering her eyes. She stood behind Gorilla as Ladybug and Chat Noir rushed to either side of her.

“Hello,” she greeted them. “I was hoping I would get to meet you.”

Chat looked at her in surprise as she took his arm. “Even after we…” he trailed off.

“Of course,” she replied softly. “I’m sorry my husband hurt you. My own feelings… are very mixed up right now. But I am grateful for both of you. Whatever you did to the peacock Miraculous… I think it’s why I’m here.”

Ladybug smiled as she linked arms with Emilie. “I’ll be happy to talk to you about it once we get you inside. I’m very sorry for all this. I don’t know what’s happened.”

“Neither do I,” Emilie sighed. “Only my closest friend and my twin sister knew the exact details of my arrival.”

“Huh,” Chat said thoughtfully, sweeping his baton out as people began creeping closer. Ladybug grinned and took out her yo-yo to spin it, forcing the journalists to back away on her side as well. Slowly they made their way forward, Gorilla purposefully pushing through the crowd. Sacha followed close behind and the group formed a little wall around Emilie as they edged closer to the entrance of the hotel.

Finally, they made it to the door. Gorilla and the doorman nodded silently at each other as he held the door open long enough for the little procession to make their way inside.

Sasha paused long enough to make eye contact with the crowd as the doorman closed the door behind him. “I don’t know what you expected to gain from this,” he said severely. “Mrs. Agreste is not taking any questions and will not be available to any of you for the foreseeable future. She will not be coming out here to speak to you, that I can assure you. Good afternoon,” he turned and went inside as the doorman held the door for him, ignoring the follow-up questions that erupted as soon as he finished his statement.

“Please come and talk to me in my suite for a minute if you have time,” Emilie asked the superheroes. “I’ve heard about you from my son but.. I’m afraid that has only made me more curious. I’ll be happy to share anything you might want to know.”

“We have a little time,” Ladybug agreed.

“Emilie!” Audrey exclaimed as she came down the stairs. “I’m so sorry about the crowd. I don’t understand what happened. I promise I didn’t tell anyone you would be here. I was just up in your suite, making sure everything was ready for you.”

“Thank you Audrey,” Emilie said, exchanging kisses on the cheek with her. “And thank you for sending over this suit. It’s beautiful and all my clothing is still at the house apart from what I was wearing when I went to the hospital.” She held up a small bag containing her possessions.

“It’s no trouble,” Audrey said impatiently. Ladybug noticed her expression and couldn’t help but smile. Mrs. Bourgeois was clearly just as uncomfortable with Emilie’s appreciation as she had been with her son’s.

“So where is Amelie?” Emilie asked curiously.

“I have no idea. Probably in her suite with Felix,” Audrey replied. “She knew you were coming right? She… she wouldn’t have told anyone, would she?”

“I really hope not,” Emilie said as the group followed Audrey back up the stairs. “She is the only person that knew apart from you.”

“How about Felix?” Chat asked. “We’ve had trouble with him before, haven’t we Ladybug?”

“Yes,” Ladybug agreed. “I have only met him once before and it’s been years… it wasn’t a positive encounter.”

“Oh,” Emilie said, looking worried. “I haven’t seen my nephew for so long. What about his father? Where is Patrick?”

Audrey sighed. “He died a few months after you disappeared. I don’t know the details. Your sister hasn’t really been the same since losing you and her husband so close together.”

“I can’t even imagine,” Emilie said, looking troubled. “That may… explain a few things although I’m not sure I feel like it excuses them.”

“Here we are,” Audrey announced, inserting a card into the reader on the door handle and then handing it to Emilie. “I’ll have the front desk call Amelie whenever you are ready.”

Chapter Text

“I’m sorry,” Emilie said, wearily sitting down on a plush red softa, patting it in invitation. “I realize you probably don’t have a lot of time and I don’t want to waste it.”

“Please don’t worry, Mrs. Agreste,” Ladybug replied, sitting next to her. “This is important and we will make it work, however long it takes, alright?”

“Please, both of you call me Emilie… I’m not sure I know who Mrs. Agreste is anymore,” she sighed. “I can’t even imagine how my son feels, carrying this name around… but I was someone else before that and I’m not sure how to be her either. Anyway, I’m getting off topic again. I’m sure you are most interested in what I know about the Miraculous.”

“You can talk about whatever you like,” Chat said softly. “Obviously we are both interested in anything you know about the Miraculous but we’ve heard about so many things over the years… things that led to people getting akumatized mostly and… we’ve always tried to help the victims think about how they could resolve their issues. Most of the time it helped prevent them from being akumatized again. Obviously we don’t have to worry about that now but we still want to listen.”

“You’re very sweet,” Emilie said, smiling at him. “Both of you are. I’m starting to learn about… all the terrible things Gabriel put you through and it… breaks my heart. I worried that he might… get obsessed and lose himself in the Miraculous if I… if something happened to me but I never thought he’d end up… a terrorist.” She shuddered. “That is what he’s charged with, amongst other things… the enormity of it is… too much.”

“Have you spoken to him yet?” Ladybug asked.

“No,” she replied. “He knows… he knows I’m awake. I called his lawyer and lectured him because he was dreadfully rude and aggressive to my son… so… they both know and I made it quite clear there’ll be no more contacting Adrien if he wants to see me ever again.”

“So…” Chat said hesitantly. “What do you know about the Miraculous?”

“It all started… quite a while ago now,” she replied thoughtfully. “My son was… nine? Maybe ten? You’ll have to forgive me, so much time passed while I was asleep it’s very hard for me to keep things straight. Anyway, we went to Tibet, Gabriel and I. He was looking for ideas for his next line. I didn’t usually travel with him on trips like that because it meant leaving Adrien but… he asked me to that time so I did. We went all over the place, looking at temples, markets, festivals. He was so excited, making notes, drawing in his sketchbook and taking lots of pictures. Then one day we were walking… out in the middle of nowhere on this old trail… and he saw this book on the ground. It looked very old but in perfect condition despite not being protected in any way. He looked around, wondering how someone could drop something so big and not notice. Gabriel picked it up and opened it. The illustrations inside were beautiful and he was entranced by them. We couldn’t read anything it said but it didn’t matter to him. He loved all the drawings of people in wonderful costumes. Then I noticed something else… something shining brightly on the ground. I bent over to examine it and saw another object nearby. I called for Gabriel and… he came over and picked up the one shaped like a butterfly. To our surprise, a ball of light appeared and a small purple creature emerged. He introduced himself as Nooroo. I picked up the other object, a beautiful peacock brooch. I noticed a small crack running through it but it seemed to work all the same. There was another ball of light and another creature--Duusu-- appeared. They told us to take them somewhere safe and private and they would explain what they were. NooRoo noticed the book and told us it was the Grimoire, a very important book about the Miraculous. So… we took everything back to our hotel. We left a few days later, taking both the Miraculous and the Grimoire with us.”

“I’m guessing they explained how to use them,” Ladybug said.

“Yes,” Emilie replied. “I admit, I was a little frightened. Duusu… she seemed unwell even if she was entirely willing to help me transform to Paonne. We would go for walks transformed after our son was asleep and… go on little adventures. Gabriel would send out these little butterflies sometimes if he saw someone… trying to hurt someone else and they would become connected to him. He would reason with them, find out why they were doing what they were doing and offer them a chance to be a superhero if they stopped. He’d find all kinds of things for them to do and equip them to complete their tasks. When they were done, he’d withdraw the butterfly. We made sure no one ever saw us directly when we were transformed and the people never remembered what they had done.”

“So… did you make sentimonsters?” Chat asked, looking at her with avid interest.

Emilie smiled. “Yes,” she confirmed. “Not every time because it was so exhausting even just being transformed. I ignored all that because Gabriel was so excited and happy. I wanted to be a part of it. I never made anything… harmful. I just played silly pranks. I’d make mythical creatures like unicorns or dragons… whatever came to mind and then I’d make them disappear as soon as someone tried to point them out. Sometimes I’d make a street performer just so I could hear a particular song. Once…” she giggled. “Once I saw my friend Audrey out taking a stroll with her husband and I made a pretend drunk person who tried to argue with the Mayor about some new law he’d been promoting. That was quite amusing. I made the drunk person repeatedly compliment Audrey’s work on Style Queen as well. Gabriel told me I was being too obvious but I couldn’t see how she’d connect me with that. And she never did as far as I know.”

“When you… before you disappeared… had anything changed?” Ladybug asked.

“Gabriel spent more and more time transformed, looking at the book… researching.. Once I was really ill, I couldn’t join him anymore and he swung from spending huge swathes of time with me to going off on his own, sometimes for days. During that period, he paid almost no attention to our son except when he was getting him involved in his company. I thought that maybe they could build some kind of connection through that so I convinced him to hire a younger stylist and I made sure there were other people who knew Adrien in the company. I made an agreement with the trust I am connected with so that he’d have someone at home looking after him too. It was a desperate time really. I was getting worse even though I never wore the Miraculous anymore and I kept waking up each morning, hoping its hold on me would be broken. I renounced Duusu but it didn’t make a difference. I don’t think she could fully break from me even if she wanted to. I could feel myself slipping away. I tried to be brave, reassuring my son that I was doing everything I could to get better… telling Gabriel to appreciate what he had and spend more time with his son. He would become angry or despondent so I stopped… and then one day I guess I didn’t wake up.”

“Thank you so much Emilie for telling us this. I don’t know how much you've heard about our battle with Mayura but… we have a special power-up that we used--first on Hawk Moth and then on Mayura. It purifies any Miraculous that has been used for malevolent purposes and in the case of the peacock, it also restored it somehow. I think that is what woke you,” Ladybug explained.

“Audrey told me about the battle but I haven’t seen it. I don’t think I’m ready for that yet,” Emilie replied. “I’m still trying to work up the nerve to speak to my husband.”

“Don’t expect too much from yourself so soon,” Chat replied softly. “I’m sure even telling us this has been rather exhausting.”

“You’re right,” she agreed. “I’m not even sure how I’ll deal with my sister. I’ve got a bad feeling about that. And… I think she attended the trial this morning so… she’s seen Gabriel before I have.

“Get some rest if you need to first,” Ladybug advised as she stood up. “Come on Kitty. We better get going.”

“Indeed milady, can I whisker you away for some lunch?” he asked with a theatrical bow.

Ladybug and Emilie both giggled. “I’m sure someone will be more than happy to purrvide you with a saucer of milk,” Ladybug teased.

“Not exactly what I had in mind, Bug,” Chat Noir laughed. “Thank you again Emilie. I hope things go well with your sister.”

****

Ladybug and Chat Noir were on their way out of the hotel when Ladybug suddenly whipped around, noticing a familiar face.

“Hello again,” Felix said, smirking with satisfaction. “I’m afraid the crowd outside has only gotten bigger. Good luck getting out of here.”

“Do I have you to thank for all this?” Ladybug asked, looking at him speculatively.

“Maybe,” he said evasively. “Maybe not.”

“You see, I’m pretty sure I do,” Ladybug said, walking up to him.

Felix took a step back. “I’m not sure it’s going to look so good if you hit me again,” he said loudly.

“Don’t worry,” she replied just as loudly. “As long you don’t try to force a kiss on me again, that won’t happen.”

Felix looked around at the disgusted expressions on the faces of the various bystanders who had stopped what they were doing as soon as they had seen the superheroes enter the foyer. “That was… a misunderstanding,” he faltered.

Ladybug stepped closer, grabbing the collar of his shirt. “You dressed up like Adrien Agreste and tried to force yourself on me,” she said clearly. “Try anything like that again and I’ll hit you so hard you’ll skip across the ground like a stone on a lake.”

Chat snorted with laughter. “Come on Bug,” he grinned. “I think you made your point.”

“I think you’re right,” she agreed, her voice calm again as she abruptly let go of Felix. “Let’s get out of here Kitty.”

******

“Why is it so sexy when you chew out my family?” Adrien asked, grinning as he detransformed in Marinette’s room.

Ladybug laughed. “Not all your family members,” she corrected. “Just the assholes.” She quickly took out her communicator and started writing a text message. “I know we don’t have much time before we need to get back to school but… I’m texting Gallicus to see if he can pass a message on to your mother that it was Felix who tipped the press off. She deserves to know.”

“Thanks Bug,” Adrien replied, reaching out to tweak her ponytail. “I really, really want to kiss you but… that would definitely make us late getting back.”

“It would,” she agreed. “Tikki, spots off!”

****

“So it’s true?” Rose asked as she came into the locker room and saw Marinette and Adrien packing up after school. “I saw the news that she was discharged from a private hospital.”

“Yes,” Adrien replied. “It’s true… I can’t talk about the details but.. Mother was very ill… and hidden away. She was only in that hospital for a few days.”

“Oh my gosh!” Rose squealed, throwing her arms around Adrien in delight. “I’m so happy for you, Adrien!”

“Thanks,” he answered softly. “She just turned up on Sunday. Alya saw her out by the Grand Palais when she was taking a walk with Nino.”

“Wow,” she said in awe as she let him go. “Alya!” she exclaimed as she and Nino came into the locker room. “How on earth did you keep that a secret?”

Alya shrugged. “I would never have revealed something like that to anyone. It made me so angry that someone tipped off the press today.”

“I heard about that,” Juleka said, walking in. “Apparently it was Felix.”

“That guy that dressed up like Adrien and sent us that horrible message?!” Rose yelled. “What kind of asshole is he?”

“A ginormous one,” Marinette replied, scowling.

“Yeah, you should see this video of Ladybug reaming him out at the hotel today,” Juleka said, holding out her phone. “Apparently he tried to force her to kiss him the last time he was here as well.”

“Holy shit!” Rose exclaimed. “So he’s an asshole and a total idiot as well?”

“It seems so,” Juleka agreed as Rose took her phone from her. “You should all watch this. It’s very satisfying.”

“I want to see this,” Alya said, crowding behind them. “Ha!” she snorted as soon as the video came to an end.

“Like a stone on a lake,” Rose said, cackling. “God, she’s sexy when she’s mad. She can step on me anytime she likes.”

“Excuse me?” Juleka asked, looking slightly shocked.

“Ah come on Sweetie,” Rose said with a grin. “Should that opportunity ever present itself, I’ll be happy to share. Not that it’s likely. She’s pretty into Chat Noir now and who can blame her? All that black leather…” her expression grew dreamy. “As a matter of fact, they can both step on me.”

“I think I’d stick with just Ladybug myself,” Juleka replied thoughtfully.

“Hey, that’s the spirit, Jul,” Rose cheered. “It’s unlikely but we can dream.”

Adrien laughed as he swung his bag over his shoulder. “I hate to walk away from this very entertaining conversation but my phone is blowing up. We’ll see you all later.”

*****

“So,” Marinette said quietly as they walked to the bakery. “Is your phone really blowing up or was it getting too difficult to keep a straight face?”

“It really is,” Adrien laughed. “And never have I been so grateful.” He took it out of his pocket. “Celine, Frederic, Victor, Martin…” Adrien trailed off as he paused to cross the street. “They are all asking about Mother. I guess I should start filling everyone in on what’s happened.”

“Hello you two,” Sabine greeted them as they came into the bakery. “Any plans for today?”

“Nah,” Adrien said. “I’ll probably call Mother later to check in on her but I think she probably needs some rest.”

“Have you told her anything about Helios yet?” Marinette asked.

“No,” he replied. “I’m not sure when will be a good time for that. I’m going to go up and read all these texts. I definitely owe Celine a phone call by now.”

“Take some snacks with you,” Sabine offered, giving Marinette a plate of Madeleines.

“Thanks Maman,” she replied, giving her a kiss on the cheek.

****

“Ugh, I feel so bad,” Adrien said as they headed for Marinette’s room. “I’ve barely looked at my phone since Friday and Celine is probably wondering what the hell is wrong with me by now.”

“Of course she isn’t,” Marinette said consolingly. “I replied to her text to me on Saturday so she knows you had a good excuse for not replying to her messages.”

Adrien laughed. “Oh really?”

“I didn’t say much,” Marinette defended herself. “I didn’t need to, to be honest.”

“Aww, I’m just teasing. I really don’t mind. Frankly the combination of that… plus Mother showing up means she cannot possibly be mad at me for ignoring her,” Adrien told her, opening the trap door. “Let’s go snuggle on the chaise and I’ll put her on speaker phone.”

“Ok,” Marinette agreed, giggling as he scooped her up and carried her to the chaise. He sat down with her in his lap and took off his shoes before swinging his legs up on the mattress.

“All right cutie bug,” he said, kissing the top of her head as he dialed Celine’s number. “Hey Celine,” he greeted her as soon as she answered. “I’m putting you on speaker so Marinette can hear you. We’re in her room.”

“Babe!” she exclaimed. “Thanks for calling! It’s so good to hear from you.”

“Sorry I didn’t call sooner,” Adrien replied apologetically. “Things have been really crazy.”

“You don’t have to apologize,” Celine replied firmly. “Adrien, I am so happy for you! When… when did your Mother find you? And where? Or did you find her?”

“Are you by yourself?” Adrien asked cautiously.

“Yeah,” Celine replied, a smile in her voice. “In my new office, thank you very much.”

“Awww. that’s great,” Adrien said. “So… Mother was in some kind of coma and… Father had her hidden in a capsule in a secret room under his office at home. I don’t know how to get into it yet. She woke up, looked around the house and eventually decided to go for a walk. Alya and Nino were out Sunday morning when they happened to see her looking at the Gabriel billboard near the Grand Palais. She recognized them from a photo she had seen in my room and then Nino called me and Marinette and we got a taxi and rushed over.”

“Wow,” Celine said softly. “There were already rumors going around Sunday night. That must have been rough.”

“Very,” Adrien agreed. “Apparently the taxi driver that took us to the hospital tipped off the press on Sunday. Then my idiot cousin Felix tipped them off again when she was discharged today.”

“That little asshole,” Celine grumbled. “I did see the video of Ladybug lecturing him today. I can’t believe that fucker tried to force himself…” she trailed off.

“I certainly found the terrified look on his face to be very gratifying today,” Adrien said. “You’d think he learned something from before.”

“I’m really sorry Marinette. That must have been so awful whenever that happened,” Celine said.

“It… wasn’t nice,” she admitted. “But I literally knocked him on his ass. The fact that he tried was… very upsetting but I knew I could defend myself given the circumstances. I’ve defended myself from much, much worse… it was just.. I was only fourteen and no one had ever tried to force me to kiss them like that. It made me feel kind of gross I guess. Still… I’m not done with Felix. He’s going to get a special present from Ladybug and I’ll make sure I have an audience.

Celine laughed. “Maybe you should tip off Ladyblogger.”

“That is an incredibly good idea!” Marinette exclaimed. “I definitely will.”

“So how’s everything at Helios?” Adrien asked. “I saw I’ve received a lot of text messages from quite a few people there. I’m guessing this is all to do with Mother.”

“I’m sure it is,” Celine agreed. “On Monday everyone was just hoping it wasn’t some horrible hoax. And then today, there she was on the news. Everything is fine here by the way. I haven’t had a chance to get an update on sales yet from Raphael but we are just focused on the fall line for Helios and perhaps rather optimistically, starting work on a spring line. Does your mother know about Helios?”

“Not yet,” Adrien answered. “I think I’ll tell her about it the next time I see her. I’m not intending to go over tonight because I think she needs some rest.”

“Well, I hope that goes ok for you Babe,” Celine said. “I’ll let you get going so you can get back to everyone else.”

“Thanks,” Adrien said. “I hope we can all meet up soon.”

“I’d like that,” she replied. “See you later Babe. Bye Doll!”

“Bye Celine!” Marinette exclaimed.

“Bye Sis,” Adrien added before disconnecting the call.

Chapter Text

Emilie woke up late the following morning when someone knocked sharply on her door. Sleepily, she rolled out of bed and put on her freshly cleaned outfit that she had worn to the hospital and went to answer it. She found a rather impatient-looking Audrey waiting for her.

“Hello Emilie,” she said, not bothering to wait for an invitation before coming inside. “I made a few phone calls and sent Butler Jean out to do some errands on your behalf. Here you are!” She handed Emilie a debit card and a phone. “That’ll probably need to be charged up some more. I did add any numbers I had that I thought you would want.”

“How… how did you manage this?” Emilie asked, looking bewildered.

Audrey shrugged. “Does it matter?”

“I suppose not… as long as this really is connected to my account,” Emilie said, looking at her suspiciously.

“Who else’s would it be?” Audrey laughed. “Mine? My husband doesn’t even have access to that.”

Emilie’s expression relaxed as she went to plug in the phone and found a hair brush. “Ok then,” she relented.

“So I got this all set up so that you’d have a phone plan and you’d be able to spend some money. You need some new clothes and a haircut. For god’s sake, it’s been years and it shows. Although whatever you were in, it certainly kept your skin perfect. You don’t look a day older which is very unfair. People better not start assuming that I’m older than you.”

Emilie laughed. “They wouldn’t dare,” she teased. “So how do you propose we leave? I don’t want to get swarmed by journalists and I assume there is still a crowd out there waiting for me.”

“That’s what helicopters are for,” Audrey said smugly. “I’ve got mine up on the roof and a driver waiting at a landing pad nearby.”

“I can always count on you for an adventure,” Emilie replied, laughing again.

*****

“So what did you make of Ladybug and Chat Noir?” Audrey asked as they climbed into the waiting sedan.

“They were sweet… and shockingly young. They’re good listeners. I had fully intended to ask them a lot of questions but I ended up doing most of the talking.”

“I noticed you never asked to meet with your sister yesterday,” Audrey observed.

“Yes,” Emilie replied, sighing. “Between what the lawyer and Gorilla have told me and Felix tipping off the press… well I ended up taking a nap and then ordering room service… I thought about calling her after dinner but I suppose I’ll see her at some point today. It hurts… to feel this way about my sister but I can’t really help it. I don’t even understand what she’s doing here for the trial. To my knowledge she has made no effort to spend time with Adrien.”

Audrey shrugged. “Probably just here to gloat.”

I think you may be right,” Emilie replied. “I can’t believe I woke up to… this. I had no idea I could be so disappointed in my own family.”

“You should tell them,” Audrey said matter-of-factly. “Obviously I’m very pissed off with Gabriel but… I’m also disgusted with Amelie. You’re awake. It’s what she always wanted… to see you again and where is she? What is she doing to help? She ought to be trying a lot harder than this. I’m doing more and that’s a low bar to reach.”

“It is not!” Emilie protested. “Audrey, you’ve been incredible. I don’t know what I’d do without you. I don’t want to rely too heavily on Adrien. He’s had so much to bear already so I’m especially glad and thankful you’ve been here for me.”

“Yes… well,” Audrey said awkwardly. “I’ve missed you Emilie. It hasn’t been… pleasant… watching your husband’s decline. And clearly what could be seen on the surface was the least of it.”

“I know,” Emilie replied quietly. “Part of me wants to march down to that prison and scream at him and part of me just never wants to see him again.”

“I don’t think Option Two is going to work. You should try Option One though,” Audrey advised. “Maybe it will help you to resolve some things.”

Emilie sighed. “Maybe I should call his lawyer and arrange an appointment for after the trial concludes today.”

“Absolutely,” Audrey declared. “I’ll take you there myself. Let’s call his office right now. What’s his name again? It shouldn’t be hard to look him up.”

****

“I can’t believe I’m doing this,” Emilie murmured as the car pulled into the grounds at five thirty that evening.

“I can,” Audrey replied. “And now you look the part.”

Emilie laughed. “I look like one of those murderous widows from noir films.

“Exactly,” Audrey said. “That’s what I was going for. And if you somehow fulfill the role, I’ll get you a better lawyer than this Blanket fellow or whatever his fucking name is.”

“Audrey!” Emilie’s laughter grew louder. “Believe me, you won’t have to worry about that.”

“I can dream,” Audrey shrugged. “That asshole has akumatized my entire family more than once. Being a calm, rational person has never been my forte, which he knew damn well. I think he really enjoyed it actually, the sick fuck.”

Emilie sighed. “Well now I’m starting to feel angry again,” she said.

“You’ve got plenty to be angry about,” Audrey assured her. “Now go and at least make him think you’re contemplating murdering him if nothing else.”

“I’ll do my best,” Emilie said, rolling her eyes as she got out of the car.

Emilie tried to quell the mixture of nerves and returning exhaustion that were creeping up on her. It was frustrating getting tired so easily when there was so much that needed to be addressed. She had to admit, she felt better and more confident with new makeup and a fresh haircut. Plus shopping with Audrey was always invigorating. She loved wearing beautiful clothing and her friend always knew exactly where to go to achieve whatever look she had in mind. Thus she had ended up spending an eye-watering amount of money in Dior and walked out wearing her new off the shoulder black dress and some absolutely stunning heels made out of sheer tulle covered in black polka-dots. She had talked Audrey out of the black headband with netting over the face, making her reluctantly admit that might be overkill and agreeing on some rather bold red lipstick as a compromise. She knew Audrey had always had a reputation for being a difficult person but somehow she had always been able to find the fun, snarky person buried under her extremely prickly persona, a feat even her husband the Mayor struggled to achieve.

The guard at the door looked surprised as Emilie climbed up the steps of the grim-looking building but jumped to open the door for her.

“Thank you sir,” she acknowledged him as she slung the gold chain of her small patent bag over her shoulder and walked in, heels clicking on the smooth floor. She could feel all the attention she was drawing and was extremely grateful that Audrey had picked such a dramatic but chic style for her. It made it possible to convince herself that the attention was due to her clothing and not the fact that she was the long missing wife of one of their most notorious prisoners. Emilie blinked, shaking the thought from her mind and went up to the reception desk.

“Hello,” she greeted the receptionist. “I’m here to meet with Gabriel Agreste.”

The receptionist did her best not to gape at the stunning blonde woman in front of her. “Of course,” she managed, trying unsuccessfully to keep a squeak of surprise from her voice. She hadn’t been told to expect any visitors for Mr. Agreste but a quick phone call assured her the woman waiting patiently on the other side of the desk was not there in vain.

After passing through security, Emilie was escorted down a large corridor. It all felt very surreal. The history of La Santé was well known to the French but she had never expected to be this intimately acquainted with it. The idea that she might have to return here several more times made her feel nauseated but that feeling went away as soon as she saw Gabriel’s hopeful expression through the small glass window in the secured room she was about to enter. ‘Why does he look hopeful? Doesn’t he realize what he’s done to me?’ she thought to herself and her anger returned full-force.

“Emilie?” he asked as soon as the door shut behind her. There was a police officer and his lawyer in the room as well. The lawyer sat in a folding chair and the officer stood in the corner next to the door. Emilie’s eyes were drawn to the shackles on his wrists and ankles and the nausea returned again.

“Gabriel,” she said, her calm voice belying how shaky she felt inside.

“It’s really you,” he said, his eyes brimming with tears. “How is this possible? I tried everything… exhausted every avenue that existed… I assure you it’s been the only thing I’ve done.”

“I’m aware of that,” she said acidly, unwilling to take a seat since it meant getting closer to him. “You neglected everything else, especially our son. How dare you… how dare you… assure me that you ignored our child for my sake. How dare you!

“Emilie… please.. I know I wasn’t a good father to him,” Gabriel pleaded. “I’ve apologized and I am genuinely very sorry for what I did. I know I hurt him terribly… and his girlfriend… all I could see was my grief and loneliness and it made everything darker and darker. I couldn’t relate to his happiness. It angered me.”

“Maybe it wasn’t your grief,” Emilie said coldly. “Maybe it was choosing to become a goddamn supervillain. Did you ever think of that? I met Chat Noir and Ladybug yesterday… yes, that’s right Gabriel,” she confirmed as she saw the shock on his face. “They’re children… you’ve been fighting them for years apparently and they’re still just kids. Gabriel, how fucking could you?”

“Emilie, please,” Gabriel begged as tears began falling from his eyes. “I know… I know what I did was wrong. Believe me, I live with my remorse everyday… but I would do it all again if it has led to you waking up.”

Gabriel’s words were like gasoline on the fire raging in Emilie. “You think what you did was worth this?” she asked, letting out a small laugh of disbelief. “You thought I would be happy to wake up… relieved? To see all this? To talk to you in a prison? To find out you hit our son? Are you mad? And for your information, you didn't wake me up. Ladybug and Chat Noir did… they did something when they defeated your little friend Mayura and it purified the Miraculous.”

“What?!” Gabriel exclaimed, his face becoming very pale.

“That’s right,” Emilie said grimly. “Maybe if you had sought out their help instead of trying to harm them, they could have helped you. You focused on a terrible solution and now here we are.”

“Oh… oh my god,” Gabriel said brokenly. “That light… I should have… I should have known. She was so powerful.”

“Who, Ladybug?” Emilie asked. “It’s too bad it took this for you to realize what wonderful things she is capable of. Instead you tried to hurt her. A young girl with the power to perform miracles. What were you thinking?”

“I… I don’t know,” Gabriel stammered, tears now flowing steadily down his face. “Listening to you… to your anger… I’m sorry Emilie. I’ve done everything wrong.”

“It took this for you to understand? Gabriel, what the hell happened to you? Other people lose their wives… lose even more than that and… they don’t do this.”

“No… they don’t,” Gabriel said, his voice desperate. “All I ever wanted was to talk to you again and listen to your voice. Adrien was right. He said you… you’d be disgusted by me…”

“Of course I’m disgusted,” Emilie cried. “In what world would the things you’ve done be at all acceptable to me? I spent all the years we were together trying to encourage you, finding ways to spend time with you and when I thought I was dying, i did everything I could to show you and tell you how to carry on without me and this… this is what you did instead?”

“But I kept you safe!” Gabriel pleaded. “You wouldn’t be here at all if I hadn’t gone to such great lengths.”

“You could have stopped there,” Emilie replied inexorably. “You could have been patient. You could have continued your search for the Guardian and asked for their assistance instead of … what Gabriel… Did you do something to the Guardian?”

“I… I captured him,” Gabriel said guiltily. “He renounced his role and passed it on to Ladybug. She’s the Guardian now.”

“Oh...my...god…” Emilie looked at him in contempt. “I’m not sure I even want to know how that came about… and you continued to draw Ladybug out… a teenager with that much responsibility thanks to you… was there truly nothing you wouldn’t do?”

Gabriel looked down at his shackled hands. He had thought the remorse was horrendous to experience but the shame was even worse. He had done everything he could and it was all wrong. “Emilie,” he said softly. He knew how pathetic he must look with tears running down his face and he fought the urge to wipe his nose on his sleeve. “I’m so sorry. You are right of course… right to be angry… right to be disappointed. I… I didn’t listen to you… I didn't listen to Adrien… I only listened to Nathalie because she said what I wanted to hear… and if she didn’t, I ignored her or argued with her until she gave in. I wanted… I wanted to see you as soon as I heard the rumors but… I should have considered what you woke up to, thanks to me.”

“You're damn right about that,” she replied. “I woke up to a son who has been taken care of by people he isn’t even related to and is now charged with entering adult life early so that he doesn’t have to be tied to you. I went to sleep with a devoted husband that I loved and wanted the best for and I woke to you being in prison and on trial. I was leading a quiet life before and now I’m a spectacle. I’m exhausted and confused and trying to start all over again. I’m glad to be able to see my beautiful son… to see him loved by other people, especially that sweet girlfriend of his… But I have no idea who I’m going to be in relation to anyone else because virtually every truth I held onto no longer exists.”

“I’m sorry,” Gabriel repeated. “I know it isn’t enough but I’m sorry.”

Emilie sighed. “I’m glad you are sorry at least. I’m going to go now. I have other things to deal with. Goodbye Gabriel.”

“Will… will you come back?” he asked anxiously.

“I have no doubt,” she replied. “I’m not sure I have a choice really.” With that, she turned on her heel and walked out.

*****

“You received a text message,” Audrey informed her when Emilie returned to the car. “How was your little talk?”

“He’s still alive,” Emilie replied dryly. “But you’ll be pleased to hear I made him cry. It was… very tiring but it also… made me feel sharper. Everything has seemed… a little blurry and surreal but shouting at Gabriel certainly made things clearer to me.”

“Think you’ll be ready for round two with your sister?” Audrey asked as she handed Emilie her phone.

“Thanks,” Emilie said, smiling as she read the messages from her son. “How did you end up with Adrien’s number?”

“I needed to talk to him,” Audrey shrugged. “Chloe gave it to me.”

“Chloe,” Emilie said, a soft smile on her face. “I’d like to see her.”

“I’m sure she’d like to see you too,” Audrey said. “You always mothered her better than I did.”

EmilIe looked at her friend carefully. “We do things differently Audrey, that’s all.”

“Not entirely,” Audrey admitted as the car drove out of the prison grounds. “I became rather neglectful as things got busier in New York. It was actually that girl… Marinette… who convinced me to spend more time here with Chloe.”

“My goodness,” Emilie said quietly. “I can tell there is something very special about her. Adrien is absolutely devoted to her.”

“She is… rather remarkable,” Audrey said. “I suppose… I suppose I should let you learn more about that yourself.”

Emilie smiled and patted her friend’s hand. “I’m so glad to have you around, Audrey. I realize things have changed a lot since I… disappeared but this still feels the same to me and it’s very comforting.”

“I’m glad you’re back,” Audrey said gruffly. “I… missed you.”

Chapter Text

“Emilie!” Amelie exclaimed, rushing into the hotel suite as soon as the door opened. “Oh how I’ve missed you!”

Emilie backed up and shut the door, folding her arms to avoid her sister’s embrace. “I’ll make this quick,” she said crisply. “I’ve had a trying afternoon and Adrien and Marinette will be here any moment to meet me for dinner.”

“But Emilie,” she replied in confusion. “It’s been so long and I’ve been dying to see you!”

“It doesn’t seem like that to me. You’ve been occupied enjoying the spectacle of the trial,” Emilie said. “I expected more effort from you but Audrey told me she hasn’t heard a thing from you since before I was discharged. Too busy gloating at Gabriel I suppose.”

“Surely you aren’t on his side!” Amelie exclaimed in disbelief.

“Of course I’m not,” Emilie replied irritably. “But I cannot believe you would come all this way and spend all your time doing that of all things. Have you even seen Adrien?”

“Well… no,” Amelie said uncomfortably. “I did speak to him though.”

“You could do that from England! Have you called him at all since Gabriel was captured?”

“No,” Amelie admitted. “I haven’t.”

“And did you offer to come here when Adrien needed a legal guardian?” Emilie persisted.

“No...I… that wasn’t really an option,” Amelie stammered. “Felix…”

“Isn’t he homeschooled?” Emilie asked.

“He is…” Amelie paused. “I can understand why… this would make you upset.”

“Can you?” Emilie asked. “I am glad Marinette’s parents took on that role but it breaks my heart that none of my family was willing to come, even for a little while. Adrien must have felt so alone. And then I heard… that you tried to withdraw my funding for Gorilla within what… maybe a month of his being emancipated? You didn’t even talk to him about it.”

“Yes,” Amelie admitted. “That was a mistake. I shouldn’t have done that. I just felt it wasn’t fair…”

“Fair? Fair that I pay someone to look out for Adrien so they stick around rather than wait for anyone else to volunteer?” Emilie asked. “When Felix comes of age, are you honestly telling me you’ll stop providing any kind of financial support? Will he be using his own money to pay rent and bills?”

“Well,” Amelie paused. “Bills… yes… but he’ll be using our flat in Chelsea as his home. No one else needs it.”

“So what’s wrong with me helping my son?” Emilie asked. “I certainly intend to help him now that I’m here but you would have ceased my wishes to support him since I wasn’t here to defend them.”

“Yes,” Amelie sighed. “That was wrong of me. I’m so sorry Emilie. I can understand why you’ve been so reluctant to see me.”

“You’re right,” Emilie agreed. “It’s been very sad for me to learn these things. I don’t want to fight with you Amelie. But… you can’t do things like this anymore… and Felix…needs to do better as well. I’ve been informed that he was the one who tipped off the press yesterday.”

“Oh… oh, I am very sorry about that,” Amelie replied, an embarrassed look on her face. “I’ll speak to him, I promise.”

“Good...I was sorry to hear about Patrick,” Emilie said, her voice softening. “I know things were very difficult for you.”

“Yes,” Amelie agreed, relieved that her sister no longer seemed to be as angry. “It was hard. Felix has never been the same and I suppose… neither have I.”

There was a knock on the door and Emilie smiled. “That’s probably Adrien and his girlfriend. Let me get that.”

Amelie stood back, allowing Emilie to pass her and open the door.

“Mother!” Adrien exclaimed in surprise. “You look great! I guess you’ve managed to get some rest!”

“Thank you darling,” she replied, leaning up to kiss his cheek. “Rest and a haircut… and a shopping trip with Audrey.”

“I should have known,” Adrien said, grinning as he led Marinette in. “Hello Aunt Amelie, this is Marinette Dupain-Cheng, my girlfriend.”

“It’s nice to meet you,” Amelie said, leaning over to exchange kisses with her. “I’ll… leave you to your company Emilie. Perhaps we can meet for lunch tomorrow?”

“I’d like that,” Emilie said, giving her a hug. “So,” she said after Amelie left, “We can order room service or go down to the restaurant… what do you think?”

“Are you really up for that level of scrutiny?” Adrien asked.

“I need to get used to it and today has been mad enough that I don’t really care,” Emilie said. “I went to La Santé today and gave your father a piece of my mind. It was difficult but necessary.”

“Wow…” Adrien said, replied, shaking his head. “What was that like?”

“I shouted at him. He cried… quite a lot,” Emilie said. “Breaking through his delusions wasn’t fun. He was remorseful but… he’s never had a lot of empathy so he hadn’t really considered how his actions would feel to me… or anyone else.”

“Well… he always cared about how he made you feel,” Adrien said. “I’m sure being forced to understand exactly how much he hurt you…” he trailed off.

“It was obviously agonizing for him,” Emilie replied. “Anyway, let’s go to the restaurant and act like normal people while everyone stares at us, what do you say?”

Marinette giggled. “Sounds like fun. I’ve gotten some practice at that.”

“I’m… a bit more famous than I was before,” Adrien admitted.

“I’d like to know more about what I’ve missed,” Emilie told him as she looked at both of them smiling. “Where’s your outfit from, darling? It doesn’t look like your father’s work.”

“It’s not,” Adrien said, wrapping an arm around Marinette’s shoulders. “Marinette made it for me.”

“Really?” Emilie asked, her expression full of delighted surprise. “Come on you two, let’s go down to the restaurant. Do you regularly design clothing, Marinette?”

“Yes,” she confirmed as they left the room. “I design and make most of my clothing and I’ve made some things for Adrien.”

“Did Gabriel know about that?” Emilie asked softly.

“He did,” Marinette replied. “I won a school competition when I was thirteen. He chose a derby hat I made for Adrien to wear at a show. I interned at Gabriel a few times this year as well.”

“What… what’s happened to Gabriel… the company?” Emilie asked as they reached the restaurant. “I hadn’t even thought about that.”

“Long story, Adrien answered. “I’ll tell you all about it when we get a table.”

****

“Emilie?” a familiar voice called quietly as soon as they were seated.

Emilie turned and smiled. “Chloe! I’m so glad to see you!”

“I… I can’t believe this is real,” Chloe stammered as Emilie stood up again to give her a hug.

“Neither can I,” Emilie answered ruefully. “All you kids are so grown up now! I always knew you’d be a glamourpuss. Did you want to join us?”

“Oh! No.. no that’s ok,” Chloe said. “I was just leaving when I saw you were being seated and… I’ve been hoping to see you ever since Mother told me.”

“We’ll have to catch up sometime soon,” Emilie said, smiling at her affectionately.

“I’d love that,” she agreed. “Hi Adrien, Marinette… it’s nice to see you too.”

“Have a good evening,” Marinette said politely. “See you at school tomorrow.”

Chloe nodded and gave Emilie one more hug before leaving the restaurant.

“I didn’t know you went to the same school,” Emilie said after she sat back down. “And Chloe doesn’t call you that nickname anymore?”

“Thankfully,” Adrien sighed. “It’s been… well… Chloe has always been… not very nice to Marinette but things got worse after we got together and I had to end our friendship. After everything happened with Father, she finally apologized and has been trying a lot harder to be a good friend.”

“I’m sorry, Marinette,” Emilie said sympathetically. “I know Chloe has never handled her insecurities well but that doesn’t entitle her to treat you badly.”

“It’s ok,” Marinette assured her. “We’re finding ways to be courteous to each other even if we don’t understand one another very well.”

Emilie smiled and patted her hand before turning her attention to Adrien. “Once we’ve ordered, I want to hear what’s been going on at Gabriel. I see a waiter is coming with our menus.”

****

“So,” Adrien said, taking a deep breath as soon as the waiter had left with their order. “You are probably going to think I’m… well… I don’t know what you’re going to think actually but… I agreed to take ownership of Gabriel from Father and… it’s not called Gabriel anymore. It’s Helios Design Studio.”

“What?” Emilie gasped, looking completely flummoxed. “I… I didn’t realize you had taken that much interest in it.”

“I… haven’t,” he confessed. “I know… that sounds strange. I don’t relate to it on a creative level but when Marinette was interning there, she connected with all these people who were looking out for me without me being aware of it. Father had me working with her on an Instagram campaign for a new diffusion line called Helios and it was a really good experience. I discovered all these people trying to work around Father and… I guess I could relate to that.”

“Instagram?” Emilie asked, looking slightly perplexed. “The camera app? What’s an Instagram campaign?”

“Social media has evolved quite a bit. People get paid to do sponsored posts--taking pictures with a product--for just about anything,” Adrien explained. “We’ve just done a campaign, which is to say a series of photos released over a period of time on the app, to promote the Helios summer line. You probably remember Frederic. He and Dominique came up with this diffusion line which has a younger target audience and a less formal look.”

“For someone who isn’t that interested, you certainly know a lot about it!” Emilie exclaimed.

“I learned a lot about it doing the internship with Marinette,” he explained. “I don’t know how to make things but… I know how to listen and present information. I want to go to University after I finish school but I’ll keep Helios for now… and maybe a long time if it manages to continue on. As it is, sales really took a hit with all of the scandal so it’s in survival mode at the moment.”

“What do you want to study at University?” Emilie asked curiously.

“I’d like to become a psychiatrist,” he answered. “I like listening to people and trying to understand what they’re feeling. I started going to a therapist myself after Father was unmasked and the way she talks to me… I’d like to do that for other people.”

Emilie nodded thoughtfully. “How about you, Marinette?”” she asked, turning toward her slightly.

“I’m planning to go to Design School,” Marinette replied. I want to be around lots of other people with similar talents and abilities. I feel like I could learn a lot from that.”

“Did you make the dress you’re wearing?” she asked.

“Yes,” Marinette replied. “I wore it on our second date actually. The first one was a double date with our friends Alya and Nino.”

“Here Mother,” Adrien said, scrolling back through his photos and then offering her his phone. “This is a picture Sabine took of us.”

Emilie smiled softly as she looked at it. “I definitely want to see more pictures. This is lovely. I especially liked the one on your computer Adrien… with the two of you dancing together.”

“I didn’t know you had that!” Marinette exclaimed in surprise.

“Vincent sent it to me,” Adrien said. “I totally forgot about it though. It was only a few days before I… left. I’ll find that email and forward it to you.”

“So how did you become so well known?” Emilie asked.

“It started with Father naming a cologne after me and I was the face for it so there were pictures of me and videos of me everywhere," Adrien explained. "People started following me around more after that. Then I did a fall billboard for Gabriel last year and sales went up a lot so Father had me working on a swimwear campaign. By that point, he was getting more and more difficult. He put a lot of pressure on me to achieve a certain body type that I didn’t want to have. The team managed to talk him around but he still controlled what I ate at home. Anyway, after the shoot he got mad at me and put one of the swimwear billboards right outside the bakery which is also near the school so Marinette’s parents and all my classmates had to put up with seeing me in a swimsuit for months.”

“Oh Adrien,” Emilie sighed. “I may have to start keeping a list of all the things I need to shout at your father about the next time I see him.”

Adrien took a deep breath and then let it out slowly before replying. “It’s been… really hard. I wish… I wish it hadn’t come to this.” Marinette noticed his sad expression and put her hand over his. He looked at her and his face immediately brightened. “Thanks, Princess,” he said. “You should show her that picture of us on the star train.”

“Ok,” she agreed as she scrolled back on her phone. “That was a few years ago so give me a minute.”

“Years?” Emilie asked.

“Yeah,” Marinette replied, blushing slightly. “My friend Alya, the one who you met… she knew how much I liked Adrien and engineered an opportunity to get him to sit next to me when I was asleep.”

Emilie giggled. “Everyone needs a friend like that. She was very kind to me the other day when she saw me.”

“Alya and Nino are both fun to hang out with,” Adrien said. “We went to Cyprus together after Christmas and they were part of the first Helios campaign.”

“Here’s the picture Adrien was talking about. We were on our way to London on a school trip,” Marinette said, passing the phone over to Emilie.

“Oh,” Emilie sighed. “What a sweet picture. You’ve both grown up quite a bit since this was taken.”

“It looks like our food is coming,” Adrien observed. “If there’s anything else you want to know about, just tell me, ok Mother?”

“Thank you darling,” she replied. “I think I’ll be downloading Instagram on my phone tonight.”

****

“Your mother seems a lot better now,” Marinette said as they headed home after dinner.

“Yeah,” Adrien agreed. “She still gets tired pretty quickly but she’s definitely more herself. It’s amazing how much better she already is than she was when she disappeared. It went on for months and she just got more tired and more weak. Now she’s getting better and better. It’s funny, I have a hard time even remembering what she was like before she was sick. It’s just such a long time ago now.”

“It was brave of her to go see your father. That must have been very difficult,” Marinette said thoughtfully.

“Yeah, I can’t imagine going to La Santé,” Adrien said. “I guess I may at some point. Even if things really go in his favor, he’ll be there for years.”

“Do you… want to talk to him?” Marinette asked cautiously.

“At this point… no,” Adrien replied, sighing. “I don’t know. I talked to my therapist about some of this but I literally ran out of time without getting through all of it.”

“I’m glad you went,” Marinette said softly. “Especially since you had to miss it last week because of your Helios stuff.”

“Yeah, that was last week, wasn’t it?” Adrien asked, shaking his head. “A week ago I thought my mother was never coming back. Now… I’m getting text messages from her. It’s just… amazing. After my father was put in prison I… honestly, I felt like I’d been orphaned and it was a sad, lonely feeling.”

“Oh Adrien,” Marinette sighed. “You’ve been through so much.”

Adrien pulled her close and gently kissed her forehead. “And you’ve been here… through all of it. I don’t think I can express just how much that has meant to me.”

Chapter Text

“You ready for this Bug?” Chat Noir asked as they stood on the roof of a building across from the courthouse.

“Ready to get it over with, I guess,” she replied. “I have no idea what they are going to ask me.”

“If it helps, Mother has taken to calling Father’s lawyer Blanket. She wouldn’t tell me why,” Chat said, grinning.

“Just don’t go calling him that by accident today,” Ladybug told him, bumping her hip against him playfully.

Chat laughed and leaned down to kiss her cheek. “I promise,” he murmured in her ear.

Ladybug shivered. “All right Kitty,” she said, squirming slightly as he nuzzled her neck. “We better go brave the crowd or we’ll be late.”

“Ready when you are,” Chat said, extending his baton.

They leapt off together and the crowd of journalists converged around them the moment they landed in front of the courthouse.

“Back off!” Chat exclaimed, swinging his baton out as he held Ladybug close to him. “Let us through!” He forced his way through the crowd as Ladybug kept her arm tightly around his waist, matching her stride to his.

“How do you feel about testifying today?” someone shouted.

“Is that why we’re here?” Chat answered. “That’s meows to me.”

Ladybug snorted. “Yeah, I thought we were just here for a tour. Still… as we’re here, I guess we might as well, huh Kitty?”

“Yeah, why not,” Chat said with an unconcerned shrug. “Could be interesting I guess.”

They grinned at each other and without saying another word, Ladybug let go of him and they simultaneously pushed forward through the crowd until they reached the entrance. Ladybug opened the door as Chat held his baton out to keep the crowd back and they slipped through the door.

“Hello Chat Noir! Hello Ladybug!” Emilie exclaimed when she saw them. “I heard you were testifying this afternoon.”

“I’m afraid so,” Chat said apologetically. “I hope it won’t be difficult for you to hear.”

“Don’t worry about that,” Emilie assured him. “This is my second day attending the trial so… I guess… I think I’ll be all right. I do appreciate your concern.”

There was a snort of derision behind her and Ladybug narrowed her eyes, glancing around the room until she saw Alya, already recording the scene.

“I’m sure everyone is so excited to hear from the heroes of Paris,” Felix said sarcastically. “As far as I can tell, their word is law around here. Maybe they should just skip testifying and sentence my uncle themselves.”

“Felix,” Ladybug said sweetly. “How lovely to see you again. I was really hoping I would.”

“What?!” Felix replied, unable to hide his surprise. “Why?”

“Well,” Ladybug paused, looking up at him, her blue eyes twinkling and a playful smile on her face. “I brought you a present.”

“Really?” Chat asked. “What is it? A swift kick in the--”

“Now Kitty, let’s play nice,” she said, grinning as she reached into her yo-yo and pulling out a black baseball hat with red block printing across it. “Here you are!” she proclaimed, jamming it on Felix’s head. Emilie read the message on it and burst into giggles.

“Sorry, I’m not Adrien,” she gasped as she tried to control her laughter. “I think you definitely earned that Felix. I saw the video the other day.”

“And how do you know she’s telling the truth?” Felix challenged. “There was no one there but the two of us!”

“I don’t know,” Chat replied thoughtfully. “Maybe it’s the fact that I arrived from hiding Adrien from several akumas who existed because of your cruel behavior to find you disguised as him. Whatever you were doing, it was clearly under false pretences.”

“It certainly wasn’t consensual,” Ladybug said. “I didn’t know who or what you were when you tried to kiss me. I only hit you because you backed me up against a wall. Why would I have hit you if I wanted to kiss you?”

“Maybe I didn’t do anything. Maybe you hit me just because,” Felix countered.

“I think we already established that you tried to kiss her when we saw you at the hotel the other day,” Chat pointed out dryly. “You should keep that hat on. It looks purrrrfect on you. Come on milady.”

“Sorry about my nephew,” Emilie murmured as they walked past her. “I don’t know why he insists on being so rude to you.”

“It’s fine,” Ladybug assured her. “Now I don’t feel remotely guilty for giving him that hat. We better get going. It’s nice to see you again.”

Emilie smiled and nodded before turning back toward Felix who had taken the hat off but seemed unsure of what to do with it.

“Why on earth were you pretending to be my son anyway? What else did you do?” they heard her ask as they walked toward the courtroom.

“I’d love to hear him try and explain his way out of that,” Chat murmured to Ladybug and she giggled.

“If he actually tells her the truth, she’s going to be really angry,” she replied. “I guess we better go find out what we’re supposed to do now.”

“Do you think we just… walk into the courtroom?” Chat asked.

“I suppose so,” Ladybug replied. “It doesn’t seem like the trial is in session right now.” She took Chat’s arm as they both looked around uncertainly.

“Ladybug! Chat Noir! I’m glad I found you!” Directeur Dufort said as he briskly approached them. “Let me take you inside and introduce you to the prosecutor. She will explain how this will work.”

“Good afternoon sir,” Chat greeted him. “I’m glad you found us. We were trying to figure out what we were meant to do next.”

The Directeur smiled. “Follow me then!”

Chat nodded, feeling Ladybug’s hand tighten on his arm and the pair followed the Directeur inside, trying to ignore the curious looks from the various people attending the trial. Ladybug couldn’t help but notice Felix looking very uncomfortable as he sat between his mother and his aunt, both of whom looked upset. Amelie’s arms were folded in front of her and her cheeks were flushed, her expression a mixture of embarrassment and anger. Emilie practically radiated fury, sitting very straight, her hands clutching her bag so tightly that her knuckles were white.

“I think both Amelie and Emilie know,” Ladybug whispered, letting go of his arm and subtly elbowing Chat.

“I was just thinking the same thing,” he whispered back. “Not gonna lie, this is… a very satisfying situation to be in.”

Ladybug covered her mouth, smothering a giggle. “It really is,” she agreed.

“Chat Noir, Ladybug, I’d like to introduce you to Ms. Leroy. She is representing the city of Paris against Gabriel Agreste,” Directeur Dufort said.

“It’s an honor to meet you,” Ms. Leroy greeted them, reaching out to shake each of their hands. “Given the substantial charges involved in this trial, you may be aware already that this is being tried in Cour d’ assises and we have seven judges who will be hearing your testimony today although only one will be speaking, the President of the tribunal. He will ask you questions based on the information he has for the case. I may ask a few questions as well if I feel it’s necessary and Mr. Blanchet--Mr. Agreste’s lawyer--may do the same. I can assure you there will be nothing confrontational about this, all right?”

“Ok,” Ladybug agreed.

“Excellent,” Ms. Leroy said. “You can wait here with me until you are called to the stand.”

A few minutes later, the judges returned and all conversation in the room ceased as court was called to order. Everything about this trial was far more intimidating than the experience of Adrien’s emancipation and the gravity of the charges was made even more clear as Gabriel was led back to his seat by a police officer.

“Ladybug,” the presiding judge called. “Thank you for coming. Could you please come up so we can ask you some questions?”

“Of course,” she replied, making her way up to a seat at the front with a microphone attached. She sat down, looking at the President of the tribunal expectantly.

“First of all, can I ask when you assumed the role of Ladybug?” the judge asked.

“It’ll be… four years in September,” she answered.

“Does that mean it’s always been you that has faced Hawk Moth who we know to be Gabriel Agreste as Ladybug?”

“That is correct,” she replied.

“Can you confirm that Stone Heart was the first akuma you faced?”

“Yes, that’s right,” she agreed.

“Do you know how many times you directly faced Hawk Moth?” the judge asked.

“Hmmm,” Ladybug said thoughtfully. “Five times. The last two were at the Miraculous Temple in Tibet.”

“What do you think his intent was?”

“To get both Chat Noir’s and my Miraculous,” Ladybug replied. “He wanted to create a situation where we would willingly give them to him but he was also ready to resort to force if necessary.”

“How would you say your encounters with him changed over time?” the judge asked.

“Well,” Ladybug paused as she searched for the right words. “The akumas became more… erratic. Some of them were very difficult and dangerous, others were simple and straightforward. Also, I saw an increasing trend toward people being akumatized under worse and worse circumstances.”

“Can you give me some examples?” the judge requested.

“The one that immediately comes to my mind was a police officer who had gotten upset after taking part in his first recovery mission… for a person who perished in the Seine. That incident still bothers me and I often wonder about that officer and the victim’s family,” she answered. “He also akumatized a child after she accidentally set fire to her home and also several firefighters, all of whom were working to prevent their colleagues from doing their jobs. That was also very difficult because even though we were able to deakumatize everyone, I couldn’t… fix most of the damage because the fire wasn’t magical. I guess those two cases were emotionally difficult for me as well which meant I had to be careful that they didn’t result in my getting akumatized. That really would have been disastrous.”

Chat tuned out for a moment and looked over at Emilie who was watching Ladybug intently, clearly wanting to catch everything she said. Meanwhile, Gabriel sat quietly, his eyes closed, his expression inscrutable. It was hard for Chat to imagine how his mother could have made this seemingly emotionless man so upset that he cried. Chat wasn’t even sure he had ever seen his father cry. He had never even considered that up to this point, sitting in a courtroom watching Ladybug speak.

“Those are all my questions,” the judge said. “Prosecution? Did you wish to add anything?”

“Just one question,” Ms. Leroy said. “Ladybug, were you ever scared for your own well-being?”

“I tried not to think about it too much because I needed to focus on what I was doing but yes, I was scared sometimes,” she answered.

“Thank you Ms. Leroy, Defense?” the judge turned to Mr. Blanchet.

“Would it have put anyone in danger if you had just given Mr. Agreste your Miraculous?” he asked.

“I’m certain of that,” Ladybug answered. “Combining our Miraculous can give the person something they want but at a tremendous cost that they cannot control. The universe exacts a balance. If it gives you something, there’s no telling what it will take in return.”

“But you can’t say definitively what it would have been?” Mr. Blanchet returned.

“I can’t tell you exactly what would happen but I have no doubt it would have been terrible and there wouldn’t have been Miraculous Ladybug to undo the damage,” Ladybug said, looking very serious.

“That’s all I have,” Mr. Blanchet said.

“Thank you for your assistance Ladybug. Chat Noir, can you take her place?” the judge requested.

“Of course Monsieur le Président,” he replied, getting up as Ladybug returned to the seat next to him.

“Chat Noir, it has been my observation that your role is often to protect Ladybug. Do you know how many times you’ve been seriously injured in your efforts?” the judge asked.

“I honestly couldn’t tell you a specific number,” Chat replied. “Plenty of bad things have happened to me over the years but nothing has been lasting thanks to Ladybug.”

“What are the worst things you’ve experienced?” he asked.

“Being cataclysmed by an akuma who had taken my ability was pretty horrible. My suit absorbed the damage but it did hurt a lot,” he answered. “I’ve been completely paralyzed… and one of the last ones either knocked me unconscious or it could have been… even worse. I got hit very hard and I don’t remember anything at all until the point where Ladybug restored everything.”

“Were you a minor when you became Chat Noir?”

Chat hesitated for a moment. “Yes,” he answered.

“Are you still a minor?” the judge continued.

“Yes,” Chat replied quietly.

“When were your last two encounteres with Hawk Moth?”

“The first was between Christmas and the New Year and the second… was on the first of May,” Chat answered.

“How would you describe Hawk Moth’s demeanor when you encountered him?”

“Well,” Chat said. “This doesn’t just relate to direct encounters but akumas as well… and especially more recently. He became more and more ruthless, manipulative and cruel. The final time we fought him, he’d done… whatever it takes to make multiple akumas with those red butterflies and he just seemed completely deranged. That was the first time we used our power-up and I was so thankful that Ladybug just… instinctively knew what to do.”

“In your conversations with him after that event, did he seem different?”

“I only really spoke to him once, right after that and yes… he did seem different although I’m not sure I’d want to say definitively whether the change was real or not… The way he spoke to me did seem very apologetic and remorseful as far as I could tell.”

“Thank you Chat Noir,” the judge said. “Prosecution?”

“Thank you, Monsieur le Président. Chat Noir, do you think Gabriel Agreste is still a danger to this city?”

“Well..” Chat trailed off as he considered her question. “I don’t trust him. It would have helped if he had been more forthcoming about Mayura. A lot of people were put in harm’s way because of her attack and once again we were tasked with addressing the poor choices of an adult who really should have known better.”

“Here, here,” Ladybug said under her breath, grinning as one of Chat’s leather ears flicked her way.

“Ultimately though, I don’t know if he would be a danger or not,” Chat continued apologetically. “I don’t trust him personally but I don’t believe I’m qualified to comment on his character since he was unmasked.”

“Thank you Chat. I don’t have anything else to ask,” Ms. Leroy said.

“All right. Defense?”

“Why don’t you trust Mr. Agreste?” Mr Blanchet asked.

Chat couldn’t help but laugh in disbelief. “Are you kidding me? One apology for years of aggression and abuse? I’m glad he said what he said but I don’t trust him at all. He’s never done one thing to show me I could. Frankly, I’m not sure what the point of working toward that would be now.”

“I just wondered if you had some specific reasons,” Mr. Blanchet pressed.

“Mostly, just the fact that he was totally willing to cause me immense physical harm to get what he wanted and the only thing that changed that was us forcibly purifying and removing his Miraculous and using it against him. If he found a Miraculous in the street, I think he’d go straight back to his old ways,” Chat answered.

“Ok, I think I’m done,” Mr. Blanchet said.

“Are you sure?” the judge asked. “Your client seems to have something he wants you to say.”

Mr. Blanchet sighed in resignation. “Chat Noir, you are very welcome to speak further to Mr. Agreste. He would welcome a visit from you.”

“Excuse me?” Chat replied, looking shocked.

“This really isn’t the time for anything other than gathering testimony,” the judge said reprovingly. “If your client doesn’t have any actual questions, I think we should let Chat Noir and Ladybug leave.”

“No Monsieur le Président, I have no more questions,” Mr. Blanchet said.

“Thank you Mr. Blanchet. Let’s adjourn for today then. Chat Noir, Ladybug, you are free to go… thank you for your time.”

*****

“I think Mr. Blanchet’s been spending too much time with my father,” Adrien said after dinner. He had been telling Tom and Sabine about the trial after helping clear up. “He seemed a perfectly reasonable person the first few times I talked to him.”

“I imagine it isn’t very pleasant being the person defending Hawk Moth,” Tom said wryly.

“Yeah, I suppose there is that,” Adrien replied. “I don’t know why he didn't just turn it down.”

“Maybe it sounded exciting to begin with,” Marinette suggested, sitting down on the couch. “Or maybe he just hadn’t really considered the full extent of your father’s actions.”

“Yeah, maybe he didn’t really keep up with all the Miraculous stuff,” Adrien said. “I’m not looking forward to testifying as myself next week. I wonder what questions I’ll get from him then.”

“When’s that?” Marinette asked, smiling as Adrien laid down and put his head in her lap.

“Tuesday,” Adrien sighed.

“Do you think your Mother is going to stay at the hotel for very long?” Marinette asked as she started massaging his scalp.

“Mmm,” he sighed blissfully. “I don’t know. Maybe I’ll ask her sometime this weekend. My brain is too fried to think about it now.”

Tom laughed as he noticed Adrien’s content expression. “You really are a big cat, aren’t you son?”

“I sup-paws I am,” he agreed, his eyes closed as he focused on Marinette’s attention.

“A big dorky pun-loving cat,” she teased.

“What’s the matter, Purrincess? Don’t you like my meowvelous cat puns?” he asked.

“Always kitten around aren’t you?” she replied, ruffling his hair affectionately.

“That’s right,” he agreed, “I'm pawsitively hiss-sterical I’ll have you know.”

Chapter Text

“I wonder what all the commotion is,” Sabine remarked as she and Marinette stood inside the bakery Sunday morning.

“I don’t know,” Marinette said with a shrug. “But I am truly sick of those reporters hanging around outside.”

“I guess I’ll have to call the police again,” Sabine sighed as the noise from outside grew louder. She took her phone out of her apron pocket and pulled up the number.

“Wow, you’ve saved that to your contacts now,” Marinette observed.

“I know,” Sabine said, rolling her eyes. “Not a good sign is it-- Hello? I’m sorry to be calling again. This is Sabine... at… yes... that’s right… thank you Marie… goodbye.” She hung up her phone. “I’m getting to be on a first name basis with quite a few of them as well I guess.”

Marinette giggled, her eyes drawn to the door as it opened. She saw Gorilla just outside, pushing back the crowd as Emilie Agreste walked inside.

“Good morning,” she greeted them with a bright smile. Sabine and Marinette both tried not to gape at her as she walked up to the till. Her smile faltered slightly at their expressions. “I’m sorry… is this… too much?” She gestured at her light green dress that flared slightly at her knees. “I suppose it’s…” she trailed off, looking uncertain.

“No, you look really beautiful,” Marinette assured her. “Did you get that dress yesterday when you went back to the house?”

“Yes,” Emilie replied. “I only took a few favorites. I was glad Adrien came to keep me company. I know Gorilla is around but… I didn’t really want to go to my room and pack by myself. I did feel bad for him… having to see my old bedroom. He said he hadn’t been in it in years. Gabriel… just left everything untouched. I threw away all my old cosmetics yesterday as well. I can’t understand it.” She sighed and shook her head. “Anyway, Adrien promised me a tour of his new apartment. I texted him when I got here.”

“Hmmm,” Marinette said thoughtfully. “I wonder what is taking him so long.”

“Was he awake when you came down here?” Sabine asked.

“No,” Marinette replied. “But I can’t imagine he’d still be asleep by now.”

“Hello Mother,” Adrien said, entering the bakery. “Sorry to keep you waiting. I was in the shower when you messaged me.”

“That’s all right,” she reassured him. “I was going to suggest we walk but that crowd outside has me thinking otherwise.”

“I think it would be safer to have Gorilla take us,” Adrien told her.

“I agree,” Emilie said, taking his arm.

“Looks like the police just arrived,” Sabine said. “That should make it easier for you to get out of here.”

“Let’s go then, Mother,” Adrien said, winking at Marinette playfully.

“Will you be back for lunch?” Sabine asked. “Please join us Emilie if you don’t have other plans.”

“If you’re sure?” Emilie replied hesitantly.

“Very much so,” Sabine said. “Have a nice time.”

*****

“Well, here we are,” Adrien said, unlocking the front door. “It’s coming together slowly. I haven’t really felt like getting the rest of my things but I suppose I should.”

“You know I can understand that,” Emilie replied ruefully. “I don’t like going back there either.”

“I’ve been here once over the past week to drop off an electric piano I got but that’s been it,” Adrien told her as he led her inside.

“I’m so glad you still play,” Emilie told him. “I saw my piano was in your room.”

“Yeah,” Adrien said. “Father made my room a rather gilded cage. I’ve spent very little time anywhere else in the house since you… since you disappeared.”

Emilie sighed. “Is it bad that I just want to burn the whole thing to the ground?”

“No,” Adrien replied. “I think we’re both entitled to feel that way. What are you going to do with it?”

“I intend to sell it once sentencing is completed on your Father’s trial. I’ll happily split the proceeds with him but I’m not looking after the bloody place,” she said grimly.

Adrien chuckled. “I can always tell when you’re really angry. The Britishisms start appearing.”

Emilie laughed. “I suppose that’s true. I grew up with two rather different cultures. My parents were… a unique sort of couple. Not that I really knew them very well. They embraced that rich-detached-let-the-nanny-bring-up-the-children lifestyle.”

“Did I ever meet them?” Adrien asked.

“A few times,” Emilie replied. “They weren’t really any better as grandparents. I suppose that’s why I clung on to you so much. Audrey had a very similar upbringing and I think… I think she struggles not to be like that herself. Anyway, we can talk about anything you like but I want a tour first.”

“Of course,” Adrien agreed. “Here’s the living room and dining area. The kitchen is through those front doors.”

“Was it blue in here when you got it?” Emilie asked, wandering around the room and stopping to look at the fireplace.

“No, I picked this color,” Adrien answered. “My old room felt overwhelming and I wanted this place to feel calm.”

“It’s lovely,” Emilie said. “The couch is nice too, lots of room to sit.”

“Yeah, I got a sectional one because I wanted something… sociable,” Adrien explained. “I want to have friends over… whenever I want.”

Emilie smiled as she peeked into the kitchen. “This is a very nice size for an apartment,” she said. “And you got a little balcony!”

“Yeah,” Adrien replied with a smile. “I’m going to open the door actually. I haven’t tried that yet.” He unlocked the balcony door and let it swing open, allowing a pleasant breeze into the room. “Remind me to shut that before we leave,” he said. “I’ll show you the rest now.”

Emilie followed him out and down the small hallway, peeking into the bathroom and the study before following him into his room. “I see you used that blue in here as well,” she observed. “It’s a nice room. Does it have its own bathroom?”

“It does,” Adrien grinned. “I’ll show it to you.”

“Oh my goodness,” Emilie said as she looked around. “It’s… pink.”

“Yeah,” Adrien laughed. “I was wondering what you’d make of that! I promised Marinette a pink room since it’s her favorite color. I like it actually.”

“I do too,” Emilie said. “It surprised me but it’s very pretty. I’ll bet Marinette loves it, doesn’t she?” She cast a sly look at her son who couldn’t stop himself from blushing.

“Yeah,” he admitted. “I also got all the taps replaced with ones I saw her admiring at one of the places we went shopping at. I think I spent about half the money I earned from Paris Fashion Week getting this place together, what with all the furniture and kitchen stuff along with everything else.. Well worth it, I think.”

“You were in Paris Fashion Week?” Emilie asked.

“Yeah, we did a small informal show for Helios and a bigger runway show for Gabriel which I was the lead model for,” he replied.

“Do you like modelling?” Emilie asked as they walked back to the living room.

“It’s ok. I’m getting better at it,” Adrien told her. “It’s more fun when I get to do that with Marinette but I know it can be quite intimidating to her. She has no desire to do it on her own.”

“Yes, that can feel quite scary,” Emilie replied thoughtfully as she sat down on the couch.

“Were… were you a model?” Adrien asked in surprise as he sat down next to her.

“I was… when I was a little older than you are now until—well that’s how I met your father. I was doing runway shows and I met him at one of the aftershow parties. I really wanted to act though and I was hoping modelling would lead to that. In the end, Audrey knew how important it was to me and she talked my sister into helping to fund it and my father as well--he always had a soft spot for her--and that’s how Solitude was made.”

“Oh,” Adrien replied. “I can’t believe I never knew you were a model...or any of that really.”

“Well, I stopped after I married your father. The movie… I made that with Audrey two years before you were born. Once you were here, that changed everything really. I wanted to be more present as a mother than my parents were and there was a lot to learn.”

“I guess you figured it out,” Adrien said softly. “You were always there when I needed you. It must have been difficult when you were sick. I can look back now and realize how hard you must have been trying… trying to prepare me without making me too sad or scared.”

“I’m thankful if it seemed that way,” she replied, reaching over to stroke her son’s hair before gently resting her hand on the back of his neck for a moment the way she had done when he was little. “Anyway,” she continued. “Enough of the old days. Sabine said something that caught my attention while I was waiting for you at the bakery.”

“Oh?” Adrien asked, looking at her curiously. “What was that?”

“She asked Marinette if you were awake yet when she came down to help this morning,” Emilie’s sly look had returned as she grinned at him.

“Ah,” Adrien laughed self-consciously. “I think I know where this is going but… continue.”

Emile threw back her head and laughed. “You really want me to?”

“Probably not,” Adrien admitted. “Ok, fine… yes I’ve been sharing her room with her.”

“Anything else you’ve been sharing?” Emilie persisted, her eyes twinkling mischievously.

Adrien groaned. “Yes, we sleep in the same bed.”

“I’m surprised her parents are all right with that!” Emilie exclaimed.

“Well…” Adrien paused. “I guess I’ve done my best to make myself trustworthy to Marinette and to them. I used to work in the bakery with Tom on the weekends and I got to know him pretty well that way. He understands that… I’m committed to Marinette. He’s happy about all that to be honest.”

Emilie smiled. “I think it’s wonderful that you’ve made such an effort and I’m glad that you found people that care for you. I never had that with your father’s family nor he with mine.”

“I’m glad you’re ok with it,” Adrien hesitated for a moment. “I… I could never have replaced you but… it’s been comforting to have adults who wanted to take care of me. I went a long time without that and after Father, after everything... I felt like,” Adrien drew a shaky breath. “I said this to Marinette the other day… that I felt like an orphan… like I didn’t belong to anybody. And they took Guardianship so readily. It wasn’t enough to make it better but it meant a lot.”

“Oh Adrien,” Emilie sighed, wrapping her arms around him. “That must have hurt terribly.”

“It did. And Marinette… she did so much to help me get through that without asking for explanations or anything. She just made herself available however she could and none of it… not even the darkest moments scared her away. She is an incredibly brave person and she knows what I need sometimes before I do,” Adrien explained. “I know I’m really young to be thinking about a relationship this way but... I don’t care what it seems like. I know and she knows that it’s special and…” he trailed off.

“You don’t have to justify it to me, darling,” Emilie assured him. “I wouldn’t dream of getting in the way. What was your father like about it?”

“Oh god,” Adrien sighed, burying his face in his hands. “Very, very manipulative. I didn’t tell him right away because… well I was scared about it. He was so controlling. I didn’t know how he would react. He was fine about it when we told him and I was so relieved. Then he woke me up in the middle of the night holding me down in bed… really angry about it. It was scary. I couldn’t fight back and he left bruises on my arms.”

“Oh Adrien,” Emilie whispered, tears falling down her cheeks.

“After that, I started exercising at home,” he continued. “Father would rarely let me do anything in the evenings so I started lifting weights every night in my room. I was determined that I would at least be strong enough to push him away if I needed to. Then he wanted me to do the swimwear thing and… he was pissed off that I had gotten so much ‘bulkier’ as he put it in front of a bunch of people at Gabriel during a swimsuit fitting. It was really awful. Anyway, I already told you that he started limiting calories at home. That was annoying but pretty pointless since Marinette brought lots of snacks to school for me. I did the shoot over Christmas break and then… I told you about the billboard. Then he tried to humiliate Marinette in a meeting because he was angry that I picked a picture of us together for the Instagram campaign and she was wearing a bikini. He told her he didn’t want her parading around half-naked in front of me. She didn’t back down to his face but… it really hurt her. I guess that gives you some idea about what he thought of our relationship.”

“I understand now why you want to explain your feelings,” Emilie said. “You don’t have to worry. I only want to get to know Marinette better. You may be young to experience this sort of relationship but I don’t see why that would make it any less real. Honestly, what does age have to do with anything? Your father… threw everything away and… he must be fifty now.”

“Yeah,” Adrien said. “He did. I’m sorry to have to tell you all this. I’ve got to testify on Tuesday so I’m sure I’ll have to talk about some of it again.”

“They’ve asked me to come in on Tuesday as well,” Emilie said. “From what I understand, closing statements will be made on Friday.”

“Wow,” Adrien said. “It’s almost over. If you sell the house, are you going to stay in Paris?”

“Yes,” Emilie said, smiling at her son’s relieved expression. “There is more for me here than anywhere else. I’m still repairing my relationship with Amelie but I don’t think we’re cut out to live in each other’s pockets.”

“Is that another Britishism?” Adrien asked with a grin.

“Probably,” Emilie laughed. “It’s what my father used to say about us whenever we came home for the summer from boarding school. We were never allowed to room together at school so we made the most of our summers.”

“Why wouldn’t they let you room together?” Adrien asked.

“Who knows,” Emilie said, rolling her eyes. “There were many things about boarding school that I hated. I should have let you go to regular school though. I can tell it’s been good for you.”

“I’m not arguing with that,” Adrien laughed. “I never would have met Marinette otherwise...or Nino… or Alya. It’s always fun when the four of us get together.”

Emilie looked at her watch. “I suppose I should call Gorilla if we’re going to get back in time for lunch. Thanks for showing me your new place and for trusting me with so many things about yourself.”

“I’m just so glad you’re here, Mother,” Adrien said, hugging her. “I never would have imagined I’d get to see you or talk to you again.”

Chapter Text

“What time is your mother testifying today?” Marinette asked as they headed back to school after lunch.

“Three,” Adrien answered. “I’m scheduled for four. I don’t think I’ll be there in time for hers but she said she would stay for mine. You’re going to come with me, right?”

“Of course I am,” she assured him, taking his hand and squeezing it. “And anything that will make you feel better afterwards, just name it.”

Adrien laughed. “Thanks Princess. I guess at least Amelie and Felix left yesterday so I don’t have to deal with them sitting in the audience.”

“Yeah,” Marinette frowned. “Did you even talk to Felix?”

“Nope,” Adrien replied. “I did see Amelie a few times but.... Mother told me that after the confrontation with Ladybug, Felix admitted to a few things he did the last time they were here and Amelie confessed the reason they were visiting was for the anniversary of her disappearance. So Mother was understandably very angry at the timing of his horrible behavior. She went up to their suite after the trial and… everything came out… including the fact that Felix stole Father’s ring which I never knew. Mother and Father had matching rings and apparently they are family heirlooms on her side and Amelie wanted hers back. I’m guessing my Father started wearing Mother’s so no one would notice what happened because I’ve never seen him without it. Anyway, Mother said she didn’t want to be anywhere near Felix so if he found himself in the same place as her or me, he better leave.”

“Felix is such an asshole,” Marinette said, scowling. “He deserved what he got. Now I wish I had hit him again anyway.”

Adrien grinned and kissed her cheek. “Your outrage on my behalf is very sweet.”

“Plenty more where that came from,” Marinette assured him. “I’ve got an itemized shit list in my head.”

“Ha!” Adrien snorted with laughter as they went into the locker room to get their things for the next class. “Same here, Princess. I’m sure it contains a lot of the same people.”

“Probably so,” she agreed. “Maybe even exactly the same people.”

****

Adrien sighed as they pulled up to the courthouse after school. “Look at this crowd,” he complained, straightening his tie and putting on his sunglasses. “I really hope this is less of a problem once sentencing is over.”

“Me too,” Marinette agreed.

“Stay put you two,” Gorilla instructed them. “I’ll at least get you to the entrance.”

“Ok, thanks Gorilla,” Adrien agreed.

Gorilla nodded and got out of the car, pushing the crowd away as they got closer and closer to the car.

“I will never understand this,” Adrien sighed. “I guess it’s because I’m his son more than anything, isn’t it? Just being a model wouldn’t be enough of a reason for this.”

“That and your mother returning,” Marinette reminded him.

“You’re right,” Adrien said. “Believe me, if I could keep a lower profile, I would. I’m only here because I have to be.”

“I know,” Marinette replied, taking his hand as Gorilla opened the door.

“Are you ready?” Gorilla asked. “I’m going to try and get you up to the doors as quickly as I can.”

They nodded and Marinette hopped out, pulling Adrien with her. They stayed right behind Gorilla as he made a path through the crowd for them to follow.

“What sentence do you hope your father will get?” someone yelled.

“Do you want Mr. Agreste to be freed or to stay in prison?” someone else called.

“How do you feel about the increasing interest in your father’s designs?” another journalist asked.

Marinette kept a tight hold of Adrien’s hand and she felt him pause for the briefest moment when he heard the third question. His expression didn’t change but he dropped her hand, putting his hand protectively on her back as they approached the entrance.

“Thanks Gorilla,” he murmured as his bodyguard opened the door. He nodded at Adrien and closed the door as soon as he had propelled Marinette through the entrance, staying close to her side the whole way.

“I haven’t had a chance to talk to Raphael for a few days,” Adrien murmured, taking his sunglasses off. “Maybe I’ll text him now. Do I have time?”

Marinette glanced up at the clock in the foyer. “You have ten minutes. Let me take your sunglasses. I can put them in my bag.”

“Ok, thanks Princess,” he said, handing her the sunglasses before taking his phone from his pocket and unlocking it. Quickly he opened one of his text conversations and rapidly typed a text. He silenced his phone as soon as it was sent and put it back in his pocket. “I need to find some time to get over there,” he said fretfully. “I know…. I’m not the one doing all the work but I don’t want people to think I’ve forgotten about it.”

“I’m sure they don’t think that,” Marinette reassured him as she leaned up to kiss his cheek. “Come on Gorgeous. We need to get inside the courtroom.”

Just then, Sacha poked his head through the door. “You made it!” he said in relief. “The crowds were terrible when Emilie came in.”

“They’re still bad,” Adrien informed him.

“Just so you know, I’m purely here for your benefit,” Sacha told him. “I won’t be asking any questions. If something seems problematic, I’ll speak up. Primarily I’m concerned about Mr. Blanchet but if he gets out of line, the presiding judge will most likely deal with that.”

“Ok,” Adrien replied. “Is Mother done?”

“She just finished,” Sacha answered. “They’re ready for you.”

“Great,” Adrien said dryly. “I guess I’m ready to get this over with.”

Marinette and Adrien followed Sacha inside, reminding themselves that they were meant to be completely unfamiliar with the venue, the prosecuting lawyer and the presiding judge.

“Adrien,” Emilie called quietly, waving them over.

“Hello Mother,” he replied softly as he escorted Marinette to her seat. “How did it go?”

“It was… sad,” she said. “And tiring. If I start to nod off, give me a little elbow ok Marinette?” Emilie asked, giving her a weary smile.

Marinette smiled back at her as she let go of Adrien’s arm to sit next to her. “Here,” she said, reaching into her purse and pulling out a roll of Vichy Pastilles. “Take one, it’ll probably wake you up a bit.”

“Do you always carry these around?” Emilie asked as she took a mint.

“I came straight here from school and I always have them in class so I won’t fall asleep,” Marinette explained.

Adrien grinned. “She’s trying to avoid any more participants in the Marinette Challenge,” he said, winking at Marinette before turning to go.

“Good luck,” she called after him quietly.

“Thanks Princess,” he murmured back.

Emilie watched Adrien walk over to Sacha and then the pair went over to the prosecuting lawyer so Sacha could introduce them. “What’s the Marinette Challenge?” Emilie asked.

“I fall asleep pretty easily when I’m tired,” Marinette confessed. “I used to constantly overcommit myself so it happened a lot and my classmates would take pictures with me wherever I had fallen asleep and put them on Instagram. They used the hashtag ‘marinettechallenge’ so you can look them all up with that. I haven’t done that in class for quite awhile. I do have a tendency to fall asleep on Adrien sometimes and I like taking naps with him.”

Emilie smiled. “Now that I think about it, I saw a picture of you two asleep on a couch on Adrien’s computer. I think it may have been at your house.”

“I know which picture that is,” Marinette said. “Papa took it. I didn’t know Adrien had that on display.”

Emilie nodded. She was about to say something else when the judge called the hearing back to order. Her brow furrowed as she watched Adrien make his way to the stand. Impulsively, she reached for Marinette’s hand and squeezed it. Startled, Marinette glanced down at the smooth, perfectly manicured hand in hers. She could tell how anxious Emilie was feeling so she squeezed back gently.

“Hello Adrien,” the presiding judge said. “Thank you for agreeing to join us. I’ll be asking most of the questions but I will allow questions from both prosecution and defence when I’m done.”

“I understand Monsieur le Président,” he agreed, nervously rubbing the back of his neck.

“Just so you are aware, although Mr. Agreste has been charged with acts of terrorism, he is still charged for assault and abandonment of a minor so some of my questions will relate to that, alright?”

“Ok,” he agreed softly, avoiding looking at Gabriel, who was sitting in the same place as he had been when Ladybug and Chat Noir had given their testimony. He was facing the front so Marinette could not see his expression and she couldn’t help but wonder what this was like for him. She shivered at the thought, causing Emilie to look at her in concern.

“I’m ok, sorry,” she whispered, taking a deep breath and letting it out slowly as Emilie squeezed her hand again.

“Going to the events that led to your initial charges against Gabriel Agreste, was that your first experience of such treatment from him?” the judge asked.

“No,” Adrien replied. “There was… one time before that involving… physical abuse.”

“You chose not to tell authorities on that occasion?” the judge asked.

“Yes,” Adrien said. “I told some trusted adults but I didn’t want to press charges. I hoped it would never happen again and I wasn’t sure what would happen to me if I did report it.”

“What do you mean… what would happen to you?” the judge asked.

“I didn’t know how seriously the accusation would be taken and I didn’t want to make my father any angrier… also, I didn’t feel like I had anywhere to go,” Adrien explained.

“You specified physical abuse. Were there instances of other kinds of abuse?” the judge asked.

“Yes, especially after that,” Adrien said. “He was a… difficult person up to that point but after the first time he hurt me, which was in October, things got worse. He was more controlling, more prone to say things that were demeaning or frightening… also more withdrawn so I saw less and less of him and when I did see him, they were mostly negative interactions.”

“Did you ever suspect him of being Hawk Moth?” the judge questioned, looking at him speculatively.

“No,” Adrien replied. “I just assumed that he could no longer handle his grief over my mother’s absence. He’s never been the same since… she disappeared.”

“But up until… this past October, you never experienced abuse from him?” the judge asked.

“He was controlling and frequently neglectful. I guess some people might call that abuse. I never considered it. I was… pretty isolated a lot of the time,” Adrien answered.

“At the point when he assaulted you in April, had things been escalating?”

“Yeah,” Adrien replied. “My home life was… really awful. It felt like something bad could happen but I was never certain of it. The minute he walked into the dining room that day, I was finishing my lunch and I instantly felt like… it felt dangerous.”

Marinette had been focusing on everything Adrien was saying even though none of it was news to her. As he described the day his father had attacked him and what happened next, her eyes were drawn to Gabriel for a moment. She realized that Emilie was also looking at him and as if he could sense this, he turned his head to glance at his wife. Something about his expression angered Marinette and she scowled back at him. He looked startled and Marinette looked over at Emilie, quickly noticing that she was glaring fiercely in his direction as well. When he turned to face the front, Emilie returned her gaze to her son, her expression instantly softening.

“That’s all I have,” the judge said, snapping Marinette back into the moment. “Prosecution?”

“Did Ladybug and Chat Noir tell you why they needed you to come with then?” she asked.

“No,” Adrien answered. “They were in a tremendous hurry. They accidentally woke Marinette as well and they told her she could come along and record what happened. It was all… a terrible shock. They did that light sphere and I was trying to figure out what they even needed me for and then… Hawk Moth was suddenly… my father. Chat Noir told me later that they didn’t want to say anything until they were absolutely sure but if it was, they needed me.”

“For what?” the lawyer asked.

“To make my father understand what he’d done,” he explained. “Ladybug realized that since we were going so far from Paris, she needed to bring the person he hurt the worst and let him feel it.”

“You’re referring to her using the butterfly Miraculous against him, correct?” Ms. Leroy asked.

“Yes, that’s right,” Adrien confirmed.

“That’s all I have, Monsieur le Président,” she told the judge.

“Defense?” he requested.

“Do you think your father is sorry for what he’s done?” Mr. Blanchet queried him.

“I think so,” Adrien said. “I’m not sure he would be if Ladybug hadn’t done what she did. But I do believe he is genuinely remorseful. I am not sure he totally understands how his actions affected me from the point my mother disappeared until now. He’s never had that much empathy.”

“Do you think he should be punished for not being very empathetic?” Mr. Blanchet asked.

“Having a hard time relating to other peoples’ feelings doesn’t necessitate the sort of choices he made. I don’t think he’s on trial for having a character flaw. I think he’s on trial for making really terrible decisions,” Adrien answered evenly.

“I don’t have anything else,” Mr. Blanchet said, somewhat hastily.

“In that case, you can step down Adrien,” the judge instructed.

“Thank you Monsieur le Président,” Adrien replied, slowly standing up.

Marinette made eye contact with him as he walked over to her and his mother, carefully avoiding looking at his father.

Adrien had been forced to glance at his father in order to make eye contact with Mr. Blanchet during his questions and the experience had completely drained him. He had never seen his father look so defeated. His eyes were red and there was evidence of tear stains on his face. Nothing Adrien had said had made him cry so obviously they were remnants from Emilie’s testimony. He had realized as he had spoken that he had never in his life felt like he mattered to his father the way he mattered to his mother. He knew his relationship with his father had changed after Emilie disappeared but having spent time with his mother after so many years, he now knew there were many things that had always been missing between him and his father.

“Hey Princess,” he said as he reached Marinette and Emilie, managing a small smile as he noticed his mother’s hand still clutched in Marinette’s. “I’m going to text Gorilla. I’d really like to get out of here.”

“Me too,” Emilie agreed, letting go of Marinette’s hand. “Thanks for the moral support Petal. I really needed it.”

“So did I,” Marinette replied, standing up.

Adrien took her hand and kissed it after he put his phone away. “I just texted Gorilla,” he said. “Let’s go out to the foyer.”

Emilie nodded as she stood up to join them and they all filed out of the room together.

Chapter Text

“Raphael messaged me while the hearing was going on,” Adrien said as Gorilla drove to the Mayor’s hotel. “Apparently they have been selling quite a bit more of the Gabriel stuff. Helios is doing better now as well.”

“I hope it continues,” Marinette said. “I’d love to see the full fall line for Helios released.”

“Me too,” Adrien agreed. “And I’d like to have some kind of fall campaign as well.”

“Who is Raphael?” Emilie asked curiously. “I don’t remember anyone with that name at Gabriel.”

“He’s the CFO,” Adrein replied. “He’s been very helpful and patient explaining things to me. He started after you disappeared.”

“I know you mentioned Frederic the other day. And of course Celine… Is there anyone else at Helios that I would know?” Emilie asked.

“Yes there are a few others,” Adrien replied. “Victor and Louise are still there as well… you might remember the photographer, Vincent as well.”

“A little,” Emilie said. “I spent a lot of time with Frederic and Victor… and quite a bit with Louise. I do remember someone named Claire as well. Is she still there?”

“Did she work in patterns?” Marinette asked.

“Yes, that’s right,” Emilie said, smiling.

“She’s still there. I worked with her when I was interning there last fall,” Marinette said.

“If you want to come visit, I’m sure everyone would love to see you,” Adrien told his mother. “Frederic was asking me if you wanted to come intern again, Marinette.”

“Definitely,” Marinette replied. “When?”

“Whenever you like!” Adrien said with a laugh. “Do you work more hours in the bakery during the summer?”

“Yeah,” Marinette replied. “I usually work Wednesday and Thursday afternoons when it’s slowest and Maman and Papa take an afternoon off each.”

“I wish there was a way they could take more time off together,” Adrien said.

“They talk about having days when the shop is closed every week,” Marinette replied. “I’m all for it but they can never decide what day it will be.”

“Have they always worked so much?” Adrien asked.

“Not when I was little. The older I got, the more they stayed open. It started with taking more and more special orders which meant working on those things when the bakery was closed. Then Papa just figured he might as well make more things and open the bakery more often and eventually they just ended up being open every day,” Marinette explained.

“I don’t know how they can work so much. It seems like it would be exhausting,” Adrien sighed.

Emilie’s eyes twinkled mischievously. “I’m sure they’ll slow down when they’ve got some grandkids to play with.”

Adrien groaned. “Not you as well Mother! Tom is bad enough as it is!”

“Sorry!” she laughed, not sounding the least bit apologetic. “You just sound so cute conspiring to get Marinette’s parents to work less.”

“I would like to do something nice for them,” Adrien said. “They’ve done so much for me.”

“Yes,” Emilie agreed. “We’ll have to come up with something… well, this is my stop,” she said as Gorilla pulled up in front of the entrance to the hotel. “I’m going to get some room service and then go to bed I think. I’m exhausted.” She leaned over and kissed Adrien’s cheek. “Have a nice evening you two.”

“Sleep well, Mother,” Adrien replied.

“Thank you Gorilla,” she said as the bodyguard opened the door and helped her out.

Adrien and Marinette watched as he shut the door and escorted Emilie through the small throng of journalists outside the hotel.

“You know,” Adrien said thoughtfully. “I’ve just thought of something I would really like to do tonight.”

“What’s that Gorgeous?” Marinette asked, smiling up at him.

“Kwami Swap?” he asked with a hopeful look. “I feel so drained. I want to see if the meditation… if it would feel different to me.”

“Of course!” Marinette exclaimed. “We can do a patrol as well.”

“We should let Alya know in that case,” Adrien told her. “We could go out around eight.”

“Great idea,” Marinette agreed as Gorilla returned to the car.

******

“You’re not going to do anything… untoward with my kid… are you?” Plagg asked suspiciously as Marinette took out her earrings.

“Well Plagg,” Marinette replied mischievously. “What’s the worst I could do really? There’s only so much I can accomplish in a super suit anyway.”

“More than enough as far as I’m concerned,” Plagg muttered.

Marinette giggled as Adrien slid his ring on her finger.

“With this ring, I thee Plagg,” he joked.

“Oh, it’s beautiful, thank you,” she cooed, grinning as she showed it off to Tikki who giggled and pretended to admire it.

Plagg muttered something under his breath as he glared at them.

“What was that?” Adrien asked as he put in Marinette’s earrings.

“He said ‘I hate all of you,’” Tikki said helpfully.

“Thanks a lot Sugar Cube,” Plagg growled.

Tikki smiled sweetly at him. “Anytime Stinky Sock!”

Marinette laughed. “Ah, come on Plagg! We’re gonna have fun, I promise!” Marinette said, scritching behind his ears. “I’ll give you some Camembert too.”

“Don’t bother,” Plagg sniffed. “Tom always leaves some out for me anyway, remember?”

Marinette and Adrien exchanged mischievous looks, Adrien mouthing ‘Oooh’ at her.

“Plagg, claws out!” Marinette cried.

“Damn, and I thought it was hot when you wore my shirt,” Adrien exclaimed after she transformed. “Tikki, spots on!”

“Awww, yes! It’s my Buggaboy!” Lady Noir cheered.

Laughing, they both scrambled up her ladder and out onto the balcony. They cautiously looked around before launching themselves to a nearby rooftop.

“Nice!” Misterbug called to her, watching her lever herself across.

“Same to you!” she replied when she landed as he twirled the yo-yo.

“Thanks, I’m just trying not to hit myself with it this time,” he replied, grinning. “We’re heading for the tower right?”

“Yep,” she agreed.

“I’d race you but… I don’t want to die,” he said, still grinning widely.

“I know what you mean!” she exclaimed. “We have plenty of time. Feel free to lead the way. I haven’t stared at your ass enough yet.”

Misterbug threw back his head and laughed. “I can practically feel Plagg cringing, Miss Kitty. I’m happy to oblige as long as I get a turn later.”

“He’s got no one to blame but himself and it will be my pleasure,” she purred.

They spent the rest of their journey laughing and teasing each other and by the time they reached the tower, the trauma of Adrien’s testimony felt like a mercifully distant memory.

“Hey! Over here!” Alya called, waving at them from underneath the tower, Nino standing nearby, a bemused grin on his face as he recorded the scene. “I hoped that message was legit!”

Lady Noir laughed. “I guess sliding into your DMs worked. Glad you saw it,” she replied with a wink. “Hello Mr. Ladyblogger, I’m purrleased to see you here as well.”

Misterbug snorted with laughter as Nino blushed deeply. “Watch out,” he warned. “She doesn’t appear to have a filter when she’s Lady Noir.”

“You don’t seem to mind,” Alya teased.

“I don’t mind at all,” he agreed, reaching over to scritch one of her ears. He laughed loudly at the surprised look on her face when she began to purr. “I was hoping that would work.” He scritched her other ear and her eyes closed blissfully.

“That does feel good,” she admitted. “The purring is strange. I don’t feel like I can stop it.”

“So can we expect to see you two out and about more frequently?” Alya asked.

“Probably not quite like this,” Misterbug said. “But we do want to maintain visibility in the city.”

“Definitely,” Lady Noir agreed. “We hope we can find other ways to be helpful now that we’ve achieved what we were originally tasked with.”

“Do you have any thoughts on the trials for the two super villains?” Alya asked.

“Not particularly,” Misterbug answered. “The Miraculous are safe. Whatever happens next is up to the City of Paris and the court.”

Alya nodded. “I saw you at Court the other day. I understand you were there to provide testimony.”

“Amongst other things,” Lady Noir said mischievously.

Alya laughed. “Yeah that was great. Thanks for giving me permission to recreate the hats as Ladyblogger merch. People are ordering them like crazy. Oh! And I know Adrien so I asked him as well like you suggested. He thought it was funny.”

“It was a pretty pawesome hat,” Lady Noir agreed. “I don’t think its recipient thought it was very claw-ver.”

“I can’t imagine why,” Misterbug said with a grin. “Anyway, the testimony is the full extent of our involvement in the Hawk Moth trial. I’m sure we’ll end up doing the same for the Mayura trial too.”

“We’ve really appreciated the support from the police since we captured Hawk Moth,” Lady Noir added. “As we’ve said before, we don’t have any intention of becoming police officers but we’ve been able to help them with a few things and we hope to continue that. I hope we can help the city in other ways but we’ll probably wait until after the trials are over to discuss that with city officials.”

“I think what everyone really wants to know, following your...uh… recent displays of affection.. are you together now?”

Misterbug and Lady Noir exchanged a look. “Yes,” she confirmed. “That’s really all I feel comfortable saying.”

“I bet you’re relieved, huh Misterbug?” Alya teased him. “I know you waited a long time for this.”

“I did,” he agreed. “I always thought she’d be worth it and I was right.”

“Awww,” Lady Noir cooed, leaning up to kiss his cheek. “You’re the sweetest, Buggaboy.”

Misterbug rolled his eyes. “I can’t believe I’m even trying to have this conversation when she’s in troll mode.”

“At least I’m fun to look at,” she smirked, whipping her long braid around playfully.

“That… is certainly true,” he admitted with a grin.

“It’s like the superhero equivalent of her wearing your t-shirt,” Nino spoke up.

“Ha! I said the same thing,” Misterbug agreed, laughing.

“So, any plans for your evening?” Alya asked, raising an eyebrow suggestively.

“Wouldn’t you like to know?” Lady Noir teased, playfully spinning her baton around, tossing it into the air and then catching it.

Misterbug grinned and quickly stepped out of the way as Lady Noir attempted to pounce on him. “Trying to use my own tricks against me huh Miss Kitty? You’re going to have to be more creative than that. Oh… that’s right! I’m the one with the creative Miraculous right now aren’t I?”

Lady Noir made a face at him before scampering away and performing a series of acrobatics under the tower.

Misterbug shook his head, looking at her affectionately. “She really can’t handle this much mischief,” he said. “As far as plans go, I think for now we’ll just practice getting around with the wrong tools. I’m not very good with the yo-yo yet.” He looked over at Lady Noir who was doing cartwheels and handsprings around Nino. “Come on Kitty Girl, you can leave him alone now. We should get going.”

“See ya later, Mr. Ladyblogger. I hope you and Ms. Ladyblogger have a purrrfectly lovely evening!” Lady Noir called, giving them both a rather mocking salute.

Alya giggled. “See you later. Thanks for the scoop!” she exclaimed, smiling as the two heroes raced off.

******

“That was so much fun,” Misterbug said when they finally returned home. “I’m pretty sure you calling Nino Mr. Ladyblogger was the highlight of my entire day. That was amazing. I don’t think I have ever seen him blush that much.”

“He’s lucky he was the one filming,” Lady Noir replied, a mischievous grin on her face. “Like you said, I don’t seem to have a filter when I’m wearing your Miraculous. So… did you want to try meditating?”

“Definitely,” he agreed as they sat across from each other on the bed. “I’m so curious to see what it’s like with Tikki. I doubt we’ll be able to make as much light but I hope there will be some.”

“I really don’t know what to expect,” Lady Noir said as she took his hands carefully. “You look fucking delicious though.”

“So do you,” he said, grinning at her. “It’s weird seeing you with green eyes though.”

“Yeah, I hadn’t thought of that,” she replied. “I guess we both have green eyes right now.”

They both lapsed into silence and closed their eyes, focusing on their mantras and each other. They could both feel the energy although it didn’t seem to flow in quite the same way. Misterbug sighed deeply. “This feels pretty amazing,” he said as he focused on the sensation of the energy building up inside of him. “Although I have no idea how you can stand it when it gets really powerful.”

“It took awhile,” Lady Noir reminded him. “I had to build up some tolerance.”

“What does it feel like when you fly up in the air?” he asked.

Lady Noir paused for a moment as she considered his question. “Pure adrenaline,” she finally replied. “For a moment, it’s just a head rush and I can’t feel anything else. And then I’m… full of focus and purpose… no fear… no doubt.. Just a clear path to what needs to happen.”

“Wow,” Misterbug murmured in awe.

Lady Noir opened her eyes and smiled. “Hey Buggaboy,” she said quietly. “You should open your eyes.”

“Ok,” he agreed, doing as she suggested and looking around at the arcs of light sparking between them. “Oooh,” he marvelled, “This is really cool.”

Lady Noir looked at his awestruck expression and felt a huge rush of affection for him. He smiled as he felt her emotions channeling into him. “I love you,” she said, gazing into his eyes.

“I love you too,” he replied, dropping her hands and pulling her into his lap.

They looked at each other for a moment, their faces only a few inches apart, drawing closer and closer like magnets trying to connect.

“Plagg’s gonna kill me,” Misterbug murmured as he gently laid her down and kissed her.

“Plagg’s probably going to kill both of us,” she replied, pulling him on top of her and wrapping her legs around him.

“Oh,” he moaned softly as he pushed against her. “You feel so good Kitty Girl.”

“So do you,” she replied, sighing as he kissed her neck, unable to stop the purring that started deep in her chest.

“I want you,” he said quietly, nibbling her ear and running his hands up her sides.

“I want you too,” she whispered, moaning as he pushed against her again. “Maybe… we should detransform.”

“Mmm,” he sighed, kissing her deeply. “Ok,” He let her go reluctantly and sat up. “Tikki, spots off!”

Tikki appeared in an explosion of sparks, giggling at the sight of Adrien’s flushed face. “Plagg is not going to be happy,” she teased them.

Marinette grinned. “It’s his own fault he’s so mischievous. Plagg, claws in!”

Plagg appeared, shuddering deeply. “I was having fun until all the feelings,” he complained. “I need a snack. Come on Sugar Cube.” She nodded and the two Kwamis phased through the trap door.

“That could have been a lot worse,” Adrien said, grinning playfully at her.

“I know,” she agreed, still laying on the bed and looking up at him.

*************************************************************

“You look,” he paused, taking in her bare legs and short fitted gray shift dress, “so hot.”

“So do you..” she replied, drawing in a sharp breath as she watched him strip down to his underwear. “Wow… did you want me to…”

“Not yet,” he murmured, laying down on top of her and running his arms up her legs and over her hips as he pushed against her. Marinette moaned as he kissed her, thrusting his tongue in her mouth and shivering as she lightly ran her nails across his back. “Mmm,” he sighed as she arched up into him. “You feel so good. Did it help the other day when you took your earrings out?”

“Yeah,” she said. “Tikki said she could… still feel a lot of energy but she didn’t fly off.”

“Good,” he replied, sitting up to take the earrings out and hopping down to put them on her desk. Marinette sat up, waiting for him to come back.

“Hey,” she replied softly as he crawled back across the bed to her.

“Hey,” he replied, kneeling in front of her. “You look outrageously sexy right now.

Marinette felt her hair falling out of its ponytail and looked down at her rumpled dress which had ridden up her legs several inches. “You like the dishevelled look huh?”

“If I’m the one doing the dishevelling, definitely,” he assured her, pulling her against him and kissing her again, his hand finding the zipper on the back of her dress and slowly pulling it down. She shrugged the dress off her shoulders and pulled it the rest of the way off.

“How did I not notice this earlier?” Adrien asked, lightly touching the clasp on the back of her black bra before unhooking it and tossing it and her dress off the bed.

“I got dressed while you were in the shower,” she said, giggling as he pushed her back down on the mattress.

“Is this ok?” he asked quietly as he looked down at her.

“Yes,” she said simply and he smiled as he leaned down to kiss her.

“You are so beautiful,” he murmured. “I just want to take care of you the way you take care of me.”

“I love taking care of you,” she replied softly, reaching up to stroke his cheek. “And you already take care of me,” she added, smiling up at him.

“Well, I want to do more,” he told her, trailing kisses down her neck.

“Go ahead then,” she replied teasingly.

“Maybe I will,” he teased back, gently tracing the curve of her waist and down to her hip.

Marinette sighed and closed her eyes as she felt his lips traveling across her body. He returned several times to kiss her lips and murmur endearments to her, tenderly cupping her face in his hands each time. “Adrien,” she murmured when he returned the third time, wrapping her arms around him.

“Yeah?” he asked, shivering as he felt her breasts pressed against his chest. “It feels really nice when you hold me like that.”

“I want to feel more of you,” she told him, tracing his calf with her foot.

“Getting impatient huh?” he said with a grin, kissing her hard on the mouth as he ground against her.

“Oh,” she moaned, letting him thrust his tongue into her mouth again. The room fell to silence apart from the sounds of their breathing and occasional quiet moans and giggles. Finally, Adrien took off his boxers and then began to slowly pull Marinette’s underwear down her legs. She couldn’t help but heave a sigh of relief when he finally threw them off the bed.

“Is that how it is?” Adrien asked, laughing as he crept up to nuzzle her neck. “Maybe we should just go take a shower and go to bed.”

“Noooo!” Marinette protested. “If you tease me anymore, I might explode.”

“What kind of explosion?” he asked, grinning playfully at her.

“Not the good kind,” she assured him.

“Oh well that’s no fun,” he murmured, ducking his head down to nibble on her earlobe. “I’m only interested in the good kind.”

“Yeah, then show me,” Marinette challenged.

“Mmm, I guess I could try,” he replied teasingly, laying down carefully on top of her, positioning himself between her legs.

“Oh,” she groaned as he pushed himself inside. “Oh Gorgeous, you feel so good.”

“You feel incredible Princess,” he murmured as he started to slowly thrust into her, over and over again.

“Mmm,” was all she managed as she closed her eyes, feeling his movements become faster and harder.

“Is this ok?” he asked breathlessly. “I’m not hurting you am I?”

“No,” she assured him, moaning quietly and opening her eyes again as he went even faster. “This feels amazing.”

“Good,” he replied, panting slightly as a bead of sweat landed on her chest. “Sorry.”

“Don’t be, you look so fucking sexy,” she purred, grinning as something in his expression changed. He ducked his head lower but didn’t slow down. “What’s going on Buggaboy? Don’t hold back,” she murmured in his ear. “I’m all yours remember?”

“Marinette,” he groaned, feeling his entire body tense up. He continued to thrust into her, completely lost in the sensations of her body joining with his and the adrenaline coursing through him until he couldn’t control it anymore. Marinette pulled him close as she felt him start to shake, wrapping her arms and legs around him as he came.

“I love you so much,” she sighed as she held him as close to her as she could.

Adrien shivered, feeling almost disoriented by how good he felt. “I’m here right?” he asked, weakly resting his head next to hers. “That wasn’t a dream?”

Marinette smiled as she ran her hands across his slightly sweaty skin. “Definitely not a dream,” she assured him.

“I want to do more,” he said. “I need to catch my breath though.”

Marinette smiled as she stroked his hair. “Did you have anything particular in mind?”

“Believe me, I’m thinking of many things,” he replied. “But I think I’m getting way ahead of myself.” Carefully he withdrew himself from her and moved to spoon up behind her. “For now I’d like to do this again,” he added, pulling her hips against him.

“Mmmm, yes please,” she sighed, moaning softly as he pushed back inside her and wrapped one arm around her chest. “Are you going to tell me what you were thinking of?”

“Did you want me to?” he asked, moving his free hand down between her legs.

“Y-yeah,” she stammered as he began moving his fingers against her.

“When I was kissing you earlier,” he paused. “I kept wanting to kiss more of you.”

Marinette sighed deeply, “This feels so good… tell me more please… what do you want to kiss?”

“I think you know what I mean,” Adrien countered, firmly cupping her breast.

“I’m pretty sure...I do but… I want you to say it,” she replied, groaning quietly at the feeling of his increased pressure and speed.

“Fuck,” he whispered breathlessly, instinctively pushing into her as he felt her squeezing him. “You feel so good Princess… I I keep thinking about… going down on you… you smell so good…I just want to…” he trailed off, unable to say anymore.

“Mmmm.” she moaned, pushing back against him as she squeezed him harder inside her. “Adrien…”

“That’s right,” he murmured. “It’s your turn now.” He grinned as she let out a little squeak and leaned down to scrape his teeth gently over her shoulder. He thrust himself into her again as she started to tremble, letting go himself and holding her tightly as they climaxed together. “I’m so lucky to have you,” he murmured. “I hope I make you feel as good as you make me feel.”

“You make me feel better than I could have ever imagined,” she replied, whimpering quietly as he pulled out of her. “Want to go take a shower with me?”

“I’d love to,” he assured her.

*******

“So what do you think… about what I said earlier?” Adrien asked as Marinette snuggled against him in bed late that night.

“I like the idea of it,” she replied, sounding very sleepy. “I don’t know if I’m ready for that but that doesn’t mean I don’t think about it sometimes.”

Adrien smiled and kissed the top of her head. “I’m just glad you like the idea. I’m not in any rush.”

Marinette drowsily wrapped an arm around him as she rested her head in the crook of his shoulder. “I love you,” she murmured.

“I love you too,” he replied, squeezing her close.

Chapter Text

“We made it Bug! The last day of the weirdest year of school yet and that is saying something,” Adrien said to Marinette when they woke up Friday morning.

“I think that’s a fair assessment,” she agreed. “I made you something by the way.”

“Really?” he asked.

“Yep. I made me something too actually. Remember that agreement we made at Alya’s birthday party?” Marinette asked.

Adrien paused as he climbed down the ladder then laughed. “You made us special pajamas didn’t you?”

“I certainly did,” Marinette confirmed cheerfully. “I started them when you and Nino were transporting the TV and finished them when you were waiting for your furniture to be delivered. They are washed and ready to go now.” She followed him down the ladder and went straight to her closet, pulling out two neatly folded sets of pajamas and handing his over to him.

“They have your handwriting on them!” he exclaimed.

“Uh-huh, I had the fabric custom printed with an online company,” she explained.

Adrien smiled as he read the words ‘Love Marinette’ in her familiar writing arranged in an eye-catching pattern. “Aw, Princess, I love these! What are yours like?”

“Similar,” Marinette replied. “I scanned your signature from your letter to me and created a… complementary pattern.”

Adrien grinned as he saw his handwriting reading ‘Love Adrien’ artfully arranged on the fabric. “I never thought I could be so excited to wear pajamas to school”

“I’m really happy with how they turned out,” Marinette said. “I’m glad you like them too!”

“How could I not?” he asked, pulling her close to him. “I’m glad it’s the last day of school because I think all I’ll be able to think about is you.”

********

“Are you two wearing… pajamas?” Sabine asked, giggling as they came into the bakery.

“Yep,” Adrien grinned. “It was kind of a… mutual dare we made at Alya’s birthday party.”

“Wow, look at that,” Sabine marvelled as she recognized her daughter’s handwriting. “And Marinette’s have your handwriting?”

“That’s right,” Adrien agreed. “I guess those penmanship lessons have finally paid off.”

“Penmanship?” Marinette asked, giggling. “No wonder you have such nice handwriting.”

“Hello you two! I’ve got a big box of pastries for you to share with your classmates,” Tom said cheerfully before pausing. “Did you… sleep in or something?”

“Nope,” Marinette laughed. “I made these especially for the last day of school.”

“They dared each other to do this,” Sabine added, shaking her head in bemusement.

“Do any of your classmates know about this?” Tom asked.

“It was at Alya’s birthday party so some of them might remember. Rose, Juleka, Nino and Alya were all there,” Marinette answered.

“I’m relieved to see less journalists outside today,” Adrien said as he took the box from Tom. “And thank you Tom. You’re about to make a lot of hungry teenagers very happy.”

“I hope they’re hungry anyway!” Tom said with a laugh.

“For your pastries they’ll make room,” Adrien assured him.

“Awww, son… my daughter has great taste finding herself such a sweet guy,” Tom replied. “You two better get going. I don’t want you to be late on my account.”

*****

“What the hell?” Kim exclaimed as Marinette walked in, holding the door open for Adrien. “Are you seriously—”

“Oh my god!” Rose shrieked, interrupting him. “I totally forgot about that! Did you make those yourself Marinette?”

“Yep, matching pajamas,” Marinette agreed, striking a dramatic pose.

“Is that writing on them?” Juleka asked as she came over for a closer look. “Awww, this is so cute!”

“Why, what do they say?” Rose asked as she got up as well. “Is this your handwriting, Adrien?”

“Yeah, and mine have Marinette’s,” he said.

“Oooh, I love it!” Rose exclaimed. “If I paid for the fabric, would you make these for Juleka and I?”

“Sure!” Marinette replied with a smile. “It’s a little expensive per yard but pajamas don’t need that much material. I can send you a link to where I got mine.”

“Awesome, thank you Marinette!” Rose exclaimed. “What’s the box for anyway?”

“Breakfast,” Adrien replied as he opened it and the scent of fresh pastries filled the room.

“Whaaat,” Kim gasped, getting out of his seat. “Damn, how many did you bring?”

“I have no idea,” Adrien told him. “Tom handed it to me on the way out.”

The rest of their classmates crowded around the box, exclaiming over the contents and taking napkins loaded with pastries back to their desks.

“Dude, what is going on in here!” Nino exclaimed as he and Alya walked in. “Uh, nice jammies there bro.”

“Girl, I totally forgot about that!” Alya exclaimed as she started laughing. “Those are super cute though. Is that actually Adrien’s handwriting?”

“Yep,” Marinette confirmed. “And his pajamas have my handwriting on them.”

“She had the fabric custom made!” Rose exclaimed. “Isn’t that so cool!

Alya grinned. “You two are the cutest but we already knew that, didn’t we? Team Adrinette for life right Rose?”

“Definitely,” she agreed, giggling before she took a bite out of a palmier.

“And they brought us breakfast,” Nino added as he stacked pastries on a napkin.

Chloe came in as the warning bell rang followed by Sabrina and Miss Bustier. She glanced at Adrien as he stood next to the pastry box and then did a double take.

“What the…” she paused as she noticed her teacher behind her. “What are you wearing?”

“Pajamas,” Adrien answered nonchalantly. “I dared Marinette to wear pajamas to school and then she dared me. She told me she’d make some for the occasion so… here we are! And we brought pastries.”

Miss Bustier giggled. “Very cute,” she said, helping herself to a croissant. “Tell your parents I said thank you Marinette. This is very nice of them.”

******

It was about ten minutes before the final bell was due to ring and everyone was anxiously fidgeting at their desks, waiting for the summer break to begin. Miss Bustier was weighing up whether sending everyone home early would get her in trouble or not when there was a knock on the door.

“Come in!” she called.

Most of the class gasped at the sight of the slender blonde woman as she came inside, flashing Adrien a big smile.

“I hope you don’t mind me showing up here,” Emilie said as she looked around. “My curiosity got the best of me and I knew today was the last day.”

“Of course not!” Adrien exclaimed as he got out of his seat to give her a hug.

Emilie giggled as she hugged him back. “What on earth are you wearing darling?”

“Pajamas,” he confessed, blushing slightly. “It was a dare between Marinette and I. Everyone, in case you hadn’t already figured it out, this is my mother.”

“Emilie!” Chloe exclaimed as she promptly stood up, rushing over as Emilie pulled away from her son to give her a hug.

“Hello Chloe!” she greeted her, giving her a big squeeze and affectionately pulling her sunglasses down over her eyes.

To everyone’s surprise, Chloe giggled and pushed them back up. “I love your dress,” she said, looking at the knee length cobalt blue sheath dress Emilie was wearing with a chunky gold necklace and black heels. “And Louboutins!”

Emilie laughed. “I’m glad they haven’t gone out of style. They were in my closet waiting for me.”

“That… will never happen,” Chloe assured her.

“I’m very happy you think so! They’re my favorites,” Emilie replied, smiling at her.

“Is she some kind of brat whisperer?” Rose asked Juleka quietly, grinning as Juleka giggled.

“Hi Emilie,” Marinette greeted her shyly. “I’m feeling pretty underdressed now I guess.”

“You look very cute,” Emilie assured her as she walked over to give her a hug. “That looks like Adrien’s handwriting.”

“It is. I custom printed the fabric for both sets. His pajamas have my writing as well. I really like making pajamas,” Marinette explained.

“She’s awesome at it,” Alya interjected. “My pajama drawer has greatly improved thanks to her.”

“Alya!” Emilie exclaimed, a delighted smile on her face. “I haven’t seen you since… well… since you saw me. Can I have a hug?”

“Of course you can!” Alya exclaimed as she got up. “I don’t think I will ever forget when I saw you.”

“Nor will I,” Emilie replied, wrapping her arms around Alya. “I don’t really remember much else because I was in such a state but I won’t ever forget seeing you and Nino.”

“What happened?” Miss Bustier asked, unable to contain her curiosity any longer.

“I woke up… from a sort of coma and I was out taking a walk when I saw a billboard with my son on it… and Alya saw me looking at it and figured out who I was,” Emilie explained. “She and Nino called Adrien and he and Marinette came and got me.”

“Wow,” Miss Bustier said quietly. “That is… pretty amazing.”

“It is,” Emilie agreed. The bell rang and she looked around at the students who were all still looking at her and then at Adrien. “Don’t let me hold you up! I know everyone is probably anxious to get started on their holidays!”

“It’s just…” Rose trailed off. “Adrien looks so much like you… even your expressions.”

Emilie smiled. “Yes, our baby pictures are pretty much identical,” she said.

“Oh god,” Rose sighed. “I hadn’t even considered that. Adrien, I am just so happy for you… that something good happened after all the bad stuff.”

“Thanks Rose,” Adrien replied. “That is really sweet of you.”

*******

“I see you found the kids Emilie,” Tom said cheerfully as he stood in the front of the bakery with Sabine drinking some coffee. “Did you see their classroom?”

“I did!” Emilie exclaimed as she watched Adrien make more coffee. “It was fun meeting their classmates. Hopefully I wasn’t too embarrassing just dropping in like that.”

“No, it was really nice,” Adrien assured her, handing her a cup of coffee. “Do you want milk or sugar?”

“No, I like it plain. Thank you darling, where’d you learn to make coffee like this?” Emilie asked.

“Sabine taught me,” he replied. “I wish I could help in the bakery again. I miss it.”

“Maybe if things settle down after the trials are over, eh son?” Tom said. He paused as he saw Emilie’s surprised expression. “Ah, my apologies Emilie. That sounded rather presumptuous didn’t it?”

“No, not at all!” Emilie exclaimed. “You and Sabine… I… owe you so much. The way you have loved and cared for Adrien means a great deal to me. I’m happy he’s had some adults he can rely on.”

Tom smiled. “I’m glad you feel that way. I certainly don’t want to take anything away from you. We’re all so happy that you’re back.”

“It’s been hard adjusting to everything but I’m glad I’m back too,” Emilie said.

“So kids… any plans for tonight?” Tom asked, ruffling Adrien’s hair playfully.

“I… hadn't thought of that,” Adrien said, taking a sip of his coffee. “Any ideas, Marinette?”

“You don’t… go on dates much?” Emilie asked, looking amused.

“No,” Adrien answered. “It used to be really difficult for me to go out in the evenings. I joined a gym so I could find a way to see Marinette outside of school since that was something constructive that Father approved of. I didn’t tell him that Marinette was coming with, though.” He looked around the empty store before continuing. “When we had that big fight, that was one of the things he was angry about. Nathalie told him about Marinette joining me.”

“What else did he say he was angry about?” Emilie asked.

Adrien sighed. “That I was spending time with people who were beneath me instead of approved friends like Chloe. She was complaining to him about me after I got angry with her for something she did to both me and Marinette which incidentally was on his request.”

“What? Gabriel asked Chloe to hurt you?” Emilie asked, looking shocked and angry.

“He asked her to hurt Marinette and Chloe found a way to hurt me that would cause her a lot of distress,” Adrien explained. “It’s a long story. Anyway, he also didn’t like my attitude and said you’d be disgusted with my behavior… blah blah blah,” he shrugged. “He was… completely unhinged by that point.”

“Do… do they know about all this… at the trial?” Emilie asked tentatively. “I know closing arguments were today. I thought about going but decided against it.”

“They do,” Adrien assured her. “I pressed charges and I told the police all about the argument and what happened.”

“Good,” Emilie nodded firmly. “I am… so very angry about what he did.”

“I go from being angry to being sad,” Adrien sighed. “I definitely felt pretty angry when I was testifying the other day.”

“So did I,” Emilie agreed.

Some customers walked in at that moment and they abruptly ended their conversation. Emilie smiled politely as one of them glanced at her and then looked again in surprise as they recognized her. As soon as they were done ordering and left the bakery with their purchases she sighed.

“I think I’m going to go back to my suite and take a nap,” she said.

“Why don’t you come back for dinner?” Sabine suggested. “Adrien, Marinette, you should go out tonight and do something fun.”

“Ok,” Adrien agreed, smiling at Marinette and pulling her close.

“That sounds lovely,” Emilie agreed. “Thank you.”

Chapter Text

“Princess you read my mind,” Adrien said with a grin as he finished changing out of his pajamas and saw Marintte tying her halterneck dress in place behind her neck. “If I’m going to get papped or end up on someone’s Instagram, I might as well do some advertising for Helios.”

“Exactly,” Marinette giggled, sitting down in front of her mirror to do her makeup. “Any ideas on what we’re going to do?”

“No but it’s really nice outside and it’s Friday night. We can just wander around and figure it out as we go along,” Adrien replied as he slipped his espadrilles on.

“Sounds good to me,” Marinette agreed as she carefully applied eyeliner. Adrien watched her quietly, admiring the way her dark hair fell across her bare shoulders. Finally, she tied the straps on her purple espadrilles and stood up.

“You look so pretty,” he told her, pulling her to him.

“And you’re wearing the pink shirt,” she observed dreamily, stroking his cheek.

“I thought you would like that,” he replied.

“You thought right,” she agreed, leaning up to kiss him.

“Mmm,” he sighed, pushing her hair back. “I suppose we should get going before I start not wanting to leave.”

Marinette giggled. “Probably for the best considering your mother is coming over.”

****

Emilie and Sabine were already sitting at the table drinking wine when Adrien and Marinette came in.

“Look at you two!” Emilie exclaimed with a big smile. “You seem to be coordinating somehow.”

Adrien smiled back. “This is all Helios stuff,” he explained.

“I thought it looked familiar. I’ve been catching up on your Instagram over the last few evenings,” Emilie said.

“I noticed,” Adrien grinned.

“Oh!” she blushed. “I suppose it tells you when I like a photo, doesn’t it?”

“Yeah,” Adrien agreed. “Honestly, it’s really nice getting notifications like that.”

“I have a question for you actually,” Emilie said, putting her glass down. “Is it… a good thing if someone refers to something as wholesome?”

Adrien laughed. “Yes, it means the same thing you think it means. What are you referring to?”

“I guess you haven’t looked at the comments on your last picture of you and Marinette in your matching pajamas,” Emilie replied.

“Not yet,” he said, getting out his phone. “Ah, I see,” he said, smiling softly.

“I just wondered because they used that little sad face with it,” Emilie explained.

“I see what you mean…” Adrien replied. “That face isn’t really meant to be sad in that context… it’s more like ‘that’s so sweet I could cry.’”

“Ah,” Emilie sighed. “Clearly I have a lot more to catch up on.”

Sabine laughed. “If I didn’t have Marinette to ask I wouldn’t understand any of it either,” she replied consolingly.

“Can I take a picture of the two of us and put it up?” Adrien asked.

“Of course darling,” Emilie said, getting out of her seat and standing next to Adrien as he pressed his face close to hers and took a few shots.

“Now that is very wholesome,” Marinette observed with a giggle.

Emilie laughed, watching as Adrien picked one of the photos and added it to his feed.

Welcome to Instagram, Mother! @emilie_is_awake Thank you everyone for your kind comments. It is wonderful to have her back.

“Thank you darling,” Emilie said, kissing his cheek. “Now go have fun!”

*******

“So what do you want to do Princess?” Adrien asked as they left the bakery.

“I… just thought of something actually,” Marinette replied. “Could we stop by the Helios store? I’ve never been inside.”

Adrien looked at her in surprise. “Never? Not even when it was Gabriel?”

“No,” she confessed. “I… peeked inside a few times but I never went in.”

“Well then,” he said. “We need to fix that!”

“Why don’t we leave Gorilla alone and just take the train?” she suggested.

“Sure why not,” he agreed. “I’ve got my Princess to defend me.”

Marinette giggled and took his hand. “Come on Gorgeous,” she teased. “My treat.”

“If you insist,” he replied, grinning as he followed her down the steps. She headed straight for one of the automated ticket machines and quickly bought two. She presented one to him with an exaggerated curtsey.

“What… was that?” he asked, laughing quietly.

“I don’t know,” she admitted. “Just being silly I guess.”

Adrien smiled as he pulled her close, trying to ignore the looks of recognition. “You’re very cute,” he murmured.

Marinette smiled, wrapping her arms around his waist as she looked up at him. “I suppose we better go or our whole date will be standing here in a metro station,” she told him.

Adrien smiled and bent down to kiss her forehead. “Lead the way,” he said.

The train was busy when they got on and every seat was full. Adrien found a place to stand and grabbed the wall mounted handle nearby while holding Marinette securely against him, her back against his chest. The train jolted slightly as it pulled away and she leaned into him momentarily before regaining her balance. Despite all the people on the train, Adrien lost track of everything around him as he held her close. He buried his face in her silky black hair as he felt the contours of her body against him, a feeling that had become more familiar to him than anything else over the past few years.

Marinette smiled as she felt Adrien’s arm tighten around her, keeping her stable each time the train stopped. She put one of her own hands over his, closing her eyes as she felt him sigh into her hair. She took in a deep breath and let it out, savoring the feeling of his body against hers, swaying slightly with the movement of the train. She opened her eyes again as the train slowed down, watching as people dispersed and then others came on board. Some seats became free but she was content where she was, feeling Adrien’s breath in her hair. Eventually they made it to their stop and she pulled away slightly, taking his hand and leading him off the train. As they walked through the crowded station, she held on tightly, unwilling to be separated from him even for a moment. Finally they walked up the steps back into the sunlit evening. They made their way to the Helios store, pausing to admire the new sign.

“That was really expensive,” Adrien murmured. “I’m glad there is only one store. We have consignments at a few department stores but they have just taken the Gabriel signs down for now.”

“Had to be done,” Marinette replied. “And you couldn’t have put something temporary up.”

“Yes, exactly,” Adrien sighed. “Hopefully it will have a purpose for a long time. I’m happy to see there are some customers, especially considering it is getting closer to closing time and it’s such a nice evening.”

“You are probably about to make their day,” Marinette said, squeezing his hand.

Adrien smiled and kissed her cheek. “You’re already making mine,” he murmured.

“Awww,” she sighed. “You are very sweet.”

****

“A- Mr. Agreste!” the saleslady said in surprise.

“Please call me Adrien,” he asked her, still holding Marinette’s hand. “This is my girlfriend Marinette. You might remember her from the staff meeting.”

“Yes of course!” the woman exclaimed. “It’s very nice to meet you Marinette. I’m Nicolette.”

“Marinette was just telling me she’d never actually been in the store and wanted to see everything for herself,” Adrien explained.

Nicolette smiled. “I see you are both dressed for the occasion!”

Marinette laughed. “That’s what made me think about coming here. We’re meant to be on a date and instead I’ve got us doing homework.”

“Ah, that’s very sweet,” Nicolette said. “Feel free to look around!”

Marinette noticed two girls watching them as they talked to Nicolette. She smiled at them as Nicolette went back to her work. “Hi!” she greeted them shyly.

“Hi,” one of the girls managed as her eyes darted from Adrien to Marinette. “I-I didn’t expect I’d ever actually meet you two!”

Adrien smiled. “I don’t tend to drop in that much. I probably should do that more often but I’ve been really busy.”

“Yeah… I suppose you have,” the second girl said.

“So what brings you in?” Adrien asked curiously. “If you don’t mind me asking, that is.”

“I came to get some chinos,” the first girl said. “I’m Sylvie by the way. It’s nice to meet you.”

“It’s nice to meet you too Sylvie! Are you getting them for yourself?” Marinette asked.

“Yes, I wanted the purple ones pretty badly. They’re sold out in my size online but the store had a few pairs left so I hurried down here.” Sylvie held them up.

‘“I have the orange ones,” the second girl said. “It’s not easy finding cute stuff that’s orange but it's my favorite color so I had to have them.”

“You are right about that,” Marinette agreed. “It’s my friend Alya’s favorite color too.”

“The Ladyblogger? Wow,” the girl looked pleased. “I’m Yvonne and I’ve been following her forever. I’m glad she’s still posting stuff now that the supervillains..” she trailed off. “Sorry Adrien, that’s probably not something you want to talk about.”

“It’s ok, Alya is my friend too and I am glad she is posting,” Adrien said reassuringly. “Does it bother you at all that… this was connected to my father?”

“No,” Sylvie said. “It belongs to you now right? He doesn’t get anything from it anymore does he?”’

“That’s right,” Adrien agreed.

“We saw your interview on Face to Face,” Yvonne said. “We think it’s really cool that you are trying to save it and do something good with it. It must feel… I don’t know,” Yvonne trailed off for a moment. Adrien looked at her quietly as she searched for the right words. “I guess it must feel sad that your father wasted so much.”

“Waste is exactly the right word,” Adrien agreed. “He’s very talented and he used to admire and foster other people’s talent. He built something really special and then because of what he did, he had to give it away. It’s very sad really.”

“Thank you for talking to us,” Sylvie said. “It’s really cool getting to meet you.”

“Thank you for answering my questions,” Adrien replied. “I really appreciate it.”

“I should get going,” Yvonne said apologetically. “Maman will kill me if I’m late for dinner again.”

“Same,” Sylvie laughed. “I better go check out.”

Marinette wandered around the store, studying all the displays. There were a few other customers and she carefully kept her distance, not wanting to seem like she was snooping on them.

“How’s the Gabriel stuff doing?” Adrien asked Nicolette quietly after the two girls had left.

“Not bad actually,” Nicolette said. “Name recognition is a strange thing. Sometimes it doesn’t seem to matter why people hear it. I don’t feel like I can ask people why they are purchasing it but I try to really pay attention when I hear anyone discussing it.”

“That’s interesting,” Adrien said thoughtfully. “I suppose international customers might not care as much about… what he did as well.”

“I think you are right,” Nicolette agreed. “I’ve heard online sales have been pretty good. It’s a solid collection so if, um… your father’s crimes are getting some interest abroad, it might not be all bad I guess.”

“It would be… maybe funny is the wrong word but…” Adrien paused. “He always wanted to get in on the Chinese market. He made me start taking Mandarin lessons years ago and I think that could be why.”

“Well, who knows, maybe you will get more use of them if things go well,” Nicolette said with a smile.

“Thanks for talking to me Nicolette,” Adrien said, smiling at Marinette as she joined him. “I’m sure I’ll be back sooner or later. I don’t want to drop in too much and get in the way but I do care about what you do. It’s important.”

“Thank you,” Nicolette answered. “That is very nice to hear.”

*****

“Want to go anywhere else?” Adrien asked as they walked back outside.

“I’d like to get some food somewhere,” Marinette replied. “Is there anything that sounds good to you?”

“Fries,” Adrien grinned. “No one to yell at me for what I do in public so I want to do all the things.”

“Sounds good to me!” Marinette giggled. “I think we passed a cafe on the way here.”

A few minutes later they were seated outside at a table underneath a large cream and red umbrella.

“So what else are we getting?” Marinette asked playfully as she watched Adrien studying the menu.

“This is terrible,” Adrien said, looking up at her, a mischievous grin on his face.

“What’s that Gorgeous?” Marinette asked.

“I can’t just get fries. I have to get a burger too,” he said.

“That is terrible,” Marinette replied solemnly. “Is there a rule that you have to get a Coke as well?”

Adrien laughed. “Not that I can see but it’s a great idea. So what are you getting Princess?”

“Maybe I’ll just have a few of your fries,” she teased.

“Nope, get your own,” he teased back. “I’m not sharing.”

“In that case, I guess I’ll get a burger too,” Marinette said, pretending to pout.

Adrien smiled and covered her hands with his own. “I’m glad your Maman suggested we do something tonight. I’m not sure it would have occurred to me otherwise. I guess I haven’t quite wrapped my head around the concept of doing what I want.”

Marinette smiled back. “It’s a lot to get used to all at once.” She paused as the waiter came over to take their order. After he was done, he rapidly disappeared into the restaurant, returning with two glasses of Coke which he sat in front of them.

“Damn, I can’t even remember the last time I had this,” Adrien said, taking a small sip.

“Me neither,” Marinette agreed.

“I know I said I’d move out as soon as school ended but… I have to say, I’m kind of dreading it,” Adrien confessed. “I really want space for my things and to feel completely separated from my old house but… the idea of not getting to snuggle up with you every night makes me sad.”

“I know,” Marinette agreed softly. “It makes me sad too but I do think we need time apart sometimes even if we don’t like it.”

“I hope I can work at the bakery one day a week with you,” Adrien said. “I really miss it and I want to do something to help after they’ve had all these problems with the press because of me. I don’t have to worry about pissing my father off anymore so I can be more open about being there and if they get a few extra customers on my account, whatever attention I end up getting would be worth it… as long as people don’t try to storm the kitchen or anything.”

Marinette laughed. “I think we should have some sort of schedule with times that we will definitely spend together each week. We can keep going to the gym Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays. Maybe while there isn’t school we can spend our Mondays together and I’ll stay the night at yours… I could stay Wednesday nights after the gym at yours and you could spend Saturday nights at mine and maybe you’ll be able to work on Sundays with me.”

“So we’d definitely spend three nights together,” Adrien mused, stroking her hands.

“Yeah, and I’m not saying that’s the only time we’d get together… just the time we would definitely be together,” Marinette answered.

“I like that idea,” he replied. “Although give me a couple weeks and I’ll get greedy, wanting more time.”

“I’m sure I will too,” Marinette replied. “But I want that to be less taken for granted. If either of us is free, we can text and find out if the other is too. Rose wants to start girls’ swimming club again and Alya has been talking about weekly get togethers.”

“Nino has been saying the same. He wants to hang out more this summer, probably include some of the other guys from class sometimes as well,” Adrien said. “And I’ve been thinking about taking driving lessons so maybe when I’m eighteen I can get my license.”

“That’s a cool idea!” Marinette exclaimed. “Would you get a car then?”

“I don’t know. Maybe not right away,” Adrien said. “I’m not sure what parking is like around the apartment. I wasn’t really thinking about it until Gorilla said he wanted to go part time.”

“Do you think your mother will need him too?” Marinette asked.

“Yeah,” Adrien answered, sitting back as the waiter brought over their food. “Awwww, yes,” he said gleefully after the waiter left.

“You sound like your little friend,” Marinette teased him quietly.

Adrien laughed. “I’m sure I do. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve had fries so I’m excited.”

*****

“Hey Kids! Have a nice evening?” Tom asked as they came into the living area.

‘Yeah,” Adrien said. “I took Marinette to the Helios store since she’s never been inside and then we had one of the most unhealthy meals I have ever eaten.”

Emilie laughed. “I think you can get away with that darling. You both seem to take very good care of yourselves.”

“So what have you been doing this evening?” Adrien asked, smiling in amusement as he noticed that both Sabine and Emilie were clutching nearly empty wine glasses.

“Sharing baby pictures,” Emilie said, patting the large album in her lap. “Gossiping about you… maybe spying on your date a bit.”

“Emilie!” Sabine exclaimed, giggling as she held onto her own album. “I thought that was going to be our secret!”

“It was, wasn’t it?” she replied. “Well, in my defense, I haven’t had more than one glass of wine at once for a very, very long time.”

“So, how were you spying on our date?” Marinette asked. “Did you make Gorilla follow us or something?”

“No,” Sabine grinned. “We used… technology.”

Tom snorted. “As you can see, it’s been a very entertaining evening.”

“Is this wholesome or is this unwholesome?” Emilie asked abruptly. “‘I’ve had three glasses of wine… but I’m looking at baby pictures. I don’t know.”

“You still haven’t answered our question about how you were spying on us,” Marinette persisted.

“Instagram hashtags,” Sabine explained

“Adrinette,” Emilie added. “Very cute!”

“Well,” Adrien said, looking bemused. “I prefer you two spying on us to Father and Nathalie.”

Sabine’s eyes grew wide. “I hadn’t thought of it like that,” she said sheepishly. “Emile was asking me about the Marinette Challenge hashtag and then I told her about Adrinette. When we went to look at it, there were new photos of you in the Metro station. It kept updating with more pictures so we kept looking to see where you’d go next.”

Adrien laughed. “No worries. I know you aren’t going to lecture me for eating french fries so I really don’t mind.”

“Did Gabriel really lecture you for things like that?” Emilie asked. “More things to shout at him about...I’m making a list,” she confided to Sabine.

“Are you going to wear the murderous widow outfit again?” Sabine asked.

“The what?” Adrien asked.

“The Dior outfit I got with Audrey darling,” Emilie explained. “And I most certainly am. I’m starting to feel like going back for the headband. Really get into the part.”

“No method acting,” Adrien said. “One parent in prison is more than enough.”

“Oh I have no desire to kill him!” Emilie exclaimed. “I just want to scare him and make him cry perhaps. Is that horrible?”

“Nah,” Adrien said. “I wish I could make him cry but he doesn’t care enough about me for that to be possible. I really don’t know what he thinks of me.”

Everyone looked startled at the sudden bitterness in his tone.

“Come sit with me Adrien,” Emilie said. “I’m sorry I’m being a bit flippant. Apparently this is as much wine as I can handle.”

“It’s ok,” Adrien said softly, sinking dow on the couch next to her. “I just wish he had cared more. Maybe it could have been enough to keep him from doing all this.”

“I don’t think your father is capable of addressing how he feels about you darling,” Emilie told him, stroking his hair. “It doesn’t mean he doesn’t care but… he’s made some choices along the way that seemed to have blocked him from truly understanding his feelings about you. It’s nothing to do with you though. From what I can see, once I was gone, he wanted to create a world where he did what he wanted with no pushback and he must have known deep down how disappointed you would be. I think perhaps that made him defensive so he kept you at arms length. The longer it went on, the less he could relate to you.”

“That… would make a lot of sense actually,” Adrien said slowly.

“I’m sorry darling, I shouldn’t have gotten into that subject. I just get angry when I hear another example of how your father… Anyway, I’ve had a lovely time going through old photos with Sabine and Tom. I’m not sure I’ve ever known anyone to be interested in doing this with me. And Marinette, petal, you were such a beautiful baby… although that’s probably no surprise to anyone.”

“As were you, Adrien,” Sabine added with a smile. “You were clearly ready for the cameras at a very young age.”

Adrien blushed. “So this is what happens when we leave you three unsupervised,” he teased. “You know,” he said, looking up at Marinette, “we’re just lucky they didn't burn the house down.”

“Hey!” Tom protested. “I only had one glass of wine!”

“And…” Sabine prompted.

“Fine,” Tom relented. “And two beers…Want one Adrien? How about you Macaron?”

“No thanks,” Marinette said.

“A beer?” Adrien asked. “I’ve never tried it so sure, why not?” He reached up and took Marinette’s hand, pulling her into his lap. “Come on Princess. I want to see your baby pictures.”

Sabine grinned and handed Marinette her album as Tom opened another bottle of beer and brought it over to Adrien.

“Don’t worry Marinette,” Emilie assured her. “You can see Adrien’s next.”

Chapter Text

“Hello Darling, Hello Petal!” Emilie greeted them as Marinette and Adrien walked hesitantly into his old home.

“Petal huh? Adrien teased her. “This isn’t the first time I’ve heard you call her that.”

“No mocking my nicknames,” Emilie replied, ruffling his hair as she leaned up to kiss his cheek. “I need to get back what I was doing or Audrey will tell me off. Let me know if you need anything. I had Gorilla drop off a big stack of boxes and tape in your room.”

“Thanks Mother,” Adrien said. “Alya and Nino are going to be here in half an hour. They’re going to text me when they’re outside.”

“Ok, have fun,” Emilie replied, wrinkling her nose. “Back to traumatizing myself.”

“Her room is… really disturbing,” Adrien explained quietly as they went up to his room and shut the door behind them. “Literally nothing seems to have changed since she disappeared.”

“Have the police tried to get in the basement again?” Marinette asked.

“Yeah, they didn’t figure it out. I’m surprised we haven’t heard from Directeur Dufort about it actually,” Adrien replied.

“I will contact him about that,” Marinette said. “I mean, I don’t know if we will be able to help either but we can try while transformed. Perhaps Nooroo can help.”

“That’s a good idea,” Adrien said thoughtfully. “I know Kwamis can’t share certain things but you are the Guardian and I don’t know if secret passages would count.

“I think Nooroo would tell you if you asked,” Tikki piped up, zipping out of her bag.

“I’ll bet he would. You’ve got clout now that you’re the Guardian,” Plagg said, sniffing around his old cabinet hopefully.

“Clout!” Adrien exclaimed, laughing. “Where did you learn that from?”

Plagg rolled his eyes. “It’s not exactly a new word but you kids are using it these days so you know what it means I guess. Do you think I could get away with looking for Camembert in the kitchen?”

“I am pretty sure there won’t be any. I always kept that in here and I took it all with me. Sorry Plagg,” Adrien said apologetically.

“Never mind,” he sighed, zipping off to find Tikki.

“So have you got a plan for this afternoon Gorgeous?” Marinette asked.

“Try not to puke or cry,” Adrien said, grimacing. “That’s about it.”

“I’m sorry Adrien. I know this is the last place you’d want to spend time at but I’m here and I’ll help as much as I can,” Marinette reassured him. “Why don’t we start with your closet? We can make three piles: Keep, Give Away and Trash.”

“Ok, That sounds good to me,” he agreed as he went into the closet and started taking hangers off, inspecting each item of clothing.

“What would you like me to do?” Marinette asked, watching him methodically separate the shirts he was holding into two piles.

“Ummm,” Adrien paused as he considered her offer. “Well, you know all my current sizes so you could go through the drawers in my closet and sort through that. Anything that is too small can go in the give away pile.”

“Sounds good,” she replied as she started her task.

They had been working quietly for about fifteen minutes when she spoke again. “Hey Gorgeous, what do you think?” she asked teasingly.

Adrien turned from what he was doing and his eyes widened. “Marinette!” he exclaimed as he saw her wearing a familiar black t-shirt with stripes across the chest.

“Keep or give away?” she requested, her blue eyes sparkling with anticipation.

“You should absolutely keep that,” Adrien replied, dropping what he was doing to scoop her up in his arms. Oh my god you are so cute. I haven’t worn that in years and it’s still too big for you!”

Marinette giggled as she wrapped her arms around his neck and he carried her out of the closet. “We don’t have much time before Alya and Nino get here,” she reminded him.

“I guess I better be quick then,” he teased her, laying her down on the bed before climbing on top of her and kissing her fervently. “You keep finding new ways to melt my brain,” he murmured, slipping one of his hands under his old shirt to caress her skin.

“That’s the goal,” she murmured back, sighing as he kissed her again.

“Mmm, I love you so much,” he said, looking down at her tenderly and stroking her hair away from her face.

“I love you too,” she replied, pulling his face down to hers and kissing him passionately.

They were interrupted by the sound of Adrien’s phone chiming in his back pocket. Adrien couldn’t help but laugh as he pulled away. “Just as well I guess,” he said ruefully as he read the text message. “There’s no lock on my door.”

Marinette giggled as she sat up and smoothed her hair. “Well, I’m convinced. I’m definitely keeping this shirt,” she told him, straightening the duvet on the bed.

******

“Hey Nino, Hey Alya, thanks for coming over,” Adrien said as he opened the door, Marinette standing next to him.

“Nice shirt girl,” Alya said with a wink. “I see you’ve been treasure hunting.”

Adrien grinned. “I’m definitely a fan,” he said.

Nino snorted in amusement. “I’ll bet. So… what are we doing to help?”

“Come on up,” Adrien invited. “Mother and Audrey are here too, working on her room.”

“Have you figured out your father’s hidden room?” Alya asked quietly.

“I haven’t tried,” Adrien confessed. “We only got here half an hour ago ourselves and the last time I was here, I was in Mother’s room the whole time. Anyway…” he paused as he opened his bedroom door. “Would you be alright shutting off the computer and taking it apart? Marinette and I will go back to working on the closet.”

“Sure,” Nino agreed.

The four of them all went to work. Adrien started organizing all the things he intended to keep on the bed as Marinette continued to find things for the giveaway pile.

“Your room is so clean. I haven’t found a single thing that should be thrown away,” Marinette commented.

“I suppose so,” Adrien replied. “I spent so much time here I never wanted it to feel messy. There is too much stuff in here as it is.

“I used to think it must be amazing to have a room like this but I realize now it came at a cost,” Nino said.

“Yeah, I feel wrong for complaining. I realize I have a lot but I’ve missed out on things too,” Adrien sighed.

“Saying you’ve missed out on things is quite the understatement,” Alya said as she assembled the boxes that Gorilla had left for them.

“What do you want to do with all those books and stuff up there?” Nino asked, nodding at the library overlooking the room.

“Ugh,” Adrien sighed. “Burn them all.”

“Well bro, I’m happy to help if that’s really the plan. I have to say, you are probably better equipped for that level of destruction than the rest of us.” Nino replied with a grin. “I will gladly accidentally deposit them in a flaming garbage can if you like though.”

Adrien laughed. “Thanks Nino. Really.. I’ll just be giving all that away. The books on the shelves around my desk are ones I’ll keep.”

“Ok,” he agreed. “Do you want Alya and I to box up the ones upstairs?”

“Marinette and I are pretty much done with the closet so I’ll help you with that,” Adrien said.

Alya and I can box up all the stuff down here. We’ll start with the giveaway pile,” Marinette said.

“Great, thank you so much. This is making it so much easier, having all of your help,” Adrien said gratefully.

“Are we moving everything today?” Nino asked as he followed Adrien up the stairs.

“The plan is to transport everything over on Thursday and have you guys spend the night if you are available,” Adrien said.

“I can make the time for that,” Nino assured him. “Once we’re done packing… is there anything else you need to do today?”

“Probably just move the giveaway stuff to the foyer so it doesn’t get mixed up with the things to keep,” Adrien replied. “And I think I’ll take the computer to my apartment and drop it off before going to the bakery.”

“We put all accessories for it in a box. It’s on your computer chair,” Alya informed him.

“Thanks,” Adrien called as he climbed the ladder against the library shelves and started handing books to Nino.

“Is there any particular reason you are sorting everything out right now?” Nino asked after awhile as he arranged a stack of books in a box and took it down the stairs.

Adrien paused, surveying the rapidly emptying shelves as he waited for Nino to return with another box. “Yeah, closing arguments were on Friday which means they are discussing whether or not to convict and what he’ll be sentenced with… that’s probably happening as we speak. I don’t know how long it will take before they announce the verdict but I’m sure I’ll find out pretty soon. Even if he were to be acquitted of everything, which I highly doubt will happen, Mother will make him sell up. She told me she’s just starting the process of divorcing him.”

“Wow,” Alya said quietly. “I mean, that doesn’t surprise me but…”

“Yeah,” Adrien sighed. “It still feels… sad… and I don’t know why. I don’t… I don’t want her to be married to him but… it’s just more destruction… more consequences of what he did.”

“Your mother… what is she going to do when she sells this place?” Nino asked hesitantly.

“She’s staying in Paris, thankfully,” Adrien replied. “I don’t know what her plan is beyond that yet.”

“I’m glad she’s staying,” Alya said. “It has to be difficult with so much attention on her but it would be so sad if she felt like she had to leave.”

“Yeah,” Adrien sighed as he resumed handing books to Nino. “She’s got more of a support network here than anywhere else though.”

The teens lapsed into silence as they worked to fill box after box, most of which was marked to give away.

“Is there anything else left in the bathroom?” Marinette asked eventually.

“Dunno,” Adrien said with a shrug. “Might be some towels… which maybe Mother will want those. There could be some shampoo and stuff like that too.”

“I’ll take a look,” Marinette said, disappearing inside.

“Maybe we should leave the two of you alone,” Nino teased Adrien as they finished with the books.

Adrien laughed and rolled his eyes. “I appreciate the thought, Nino but the longer I’m here, the worse it feels so… I can’t say I’m in a particularly romantic frame of mind now.”

Alya taped her last box shut and stood up to stretch her legs. “I’m very curious about your new place. Is it as big as your room?”

“You know, I’m not sure,” Adrien said thoughtfully. “It might be a little bigger but I could be wrong. There’s not a climbing wall or a basketball hoop or any of that bullshit.”

“It’s definitely a lot more of a normal place to live than this is,” Nino agreed.

“On so many levels!” Adrien exclaimed. “I mean there isn’t a secret underground room since it's a top floor apartment. That’s a real bonus if you ask me.”

“There’s still a chest in your closet,” Alya said as she continued to wander around. “Did you want that?”

Adrien grinned. “I suppose so. Hey Marinette! Alya just noticed the chest. Should I show her what’s in it?”

“If you must,” Marinette called back, emerging from the bathroom a moment later with two boxes. “I’ve got one box of towels and one box of toiletries. I also couldn’t help but notice a large collection of sealed Adrien cologne boxes at the back of the towel drawer.”

“Ha! I forgot about those,” Adrien said. “I’ll box them up to give away. I hate that shit.”

“I can do that,” Marinette assured him, going to get another box and returning to the bathroom.

“So what’s in the trunk?” Alya asked. “Or do I want to know?”

“It’s my super dorky collection of Ladybug merch,” Adrien laughed. “I stopped collecting when I got the real thing.”

Nino laughed loudly as he peered into the closet curiously. “For real dude? That trunk is… not small.”

“I know,” Adrien blushed. “I started collecting stuff... Well as soon as it started appearing.”

“Ah Sunshine,” Alya said. “Once among the many crushing on Ladybug. Poor Rose and Juleka. If they only knew who she really was stepping on.”

“Come on Alya, it’s not like that!” Adrien exclaimed, blushing even more. “Frankly, I’m not even sure what the hell it means to step on someone anyway.”

“Poor sheltered Sunshine Boy,” Alya teased. “Maybe you should look it up. For all you know, you’re already doing it.”

Adrien rolled his eyes. “I don’t even know what to say to that. I certainly can’t think of anything that isn’t incredibly rude.”

“Quit picking on my Kitty,” Marinette said as returned with the box. “And no more fishing for deets. Here’s the cologne, Gorgeous. Maybe you should sign them and sell them for charity.”

“That’s a good idea,” Adrien said. “I’ll talk to Martin about that.”

Marinette smiled, putting the box on the bed and labeling it with a marker. “Let’s get all the giveaway boxes out of here and then we can take the computer to the car.”

“Sounds good to me,” Adrien agreed, leaning down to kiss her.

****

They were carefully transferring Adrein’s computer to the car when Emilie came downstairs.

“You’ve obviously been very busy,” she observed as she looked at the neatly stacked boxes in the foyer.

“Yeah,” Adrien agreed. “This stuff is all to give away. Mostly clothing that is too small and a bunch of books and movies.”

Emilie nodded. “I’ve got some boxes to give away as well.”

“I can move those in a little bit,” Adrien told her. “Do you mind if I have Gorilla take me to my apartment? I need to drop off my computer and then I’ll be right back.”

“Go ahead darling,” Emilie said.

“Thanks, Mother. Could you show Marinette and Alya the wine cellar? I’d like to take at least a dozen bottles of Champagne out. If we sell out of Gabriel stuff, I want to bring enough for everyone.”

“Surely you’d need more than that!” Emilie exclaimed. “How many people are there?”

“Around sixty. We don’t have any contractors at the moment,” Adrien said.

Emilie nodded. “You should take more anyway. And take some bottles of red and white too. Some people don’t like Champagne.”

“Works for me,” Adrien agreed. “I’ll be back in a little while.”

****

“Wow,” Marinette marveled as Emilie led her and Alya through the kitchen. “This is incredible!”

“You’ve never been in here?” Emilie asked in surprise.

“I’ve been in Adrien’s room, the dining room, the foyer… and Nathalie’s office a couple of times I guess. I haven’t been in this house that much. Mr. Agreste was always very strict about Adrien having guests.”

Emilie sighed as she led them down a short flight of stairs. “My list keeps getting longer. I’m going to have to see him multiple times to get through all the things I need to shout at him about.”

“Have you… already yelled at him?” Alya asked hesitantly.

Emilie laughed rather bitterly. “Oh yes, once. It was a good warm up for testifying against him I suppose.”

“Wow,” Alya said. “I’ve always been… a little scared of him. I can’t even imagine talking to him directly.”

Emilie shook her head. “That man spent far too much time intimidating teenagers while I was gone. Truly, take all his damn wine if you like.”

“Don’t you want any?” Marinette asked as she surveyed the rows of bottles in awe.

“Good point,” Emilie said thoughtfully. “Well, there is clearly enough for everyone here. Let me see if the Champagne is being kept in the same place. It should be. Nothing else has changed.”

Marinette and Alya exchanged a look as they watched Emilie pull out a bottle and inspect it.

“Are you… ok, Emilie?” Marinette asked.

Emilie stopped what she was doing. “I’m sorry Petal. I’m angry of course but not at you or Alya. I just don’t understand how grieving over me led Gabriel to treating our only child like shit… and then on top of that absolutely unforgivable fact… becoming a supervillain. It’s horrific. Were either of you ever akumatized?”

“Yeah,” Alya replied. “A few times.”

“I almost was but something happened to the butterfly,” Marinette said. “Sometimes he would do multiple butterflies and they were red instead of purple. He was in my head and then he was gone. My Maman was almost akumatized at the same time along with a few of my classmates.”

Emilie shook her head in disgust. “Do you know… many other people who were akumatized?”

“Oh yes,” Alya laughed wryly. “Almost everybody I know. My Papa, my sisters, Nino, a lot of my other friends, my principal, my homeroom teacher…” she trailed off.

“My Papa was akumatized as well,” Marinette added. “Hell, Gabriel even somehow akumatized himself once. Adrien told me he locked himself in the bathroom, listening to his room get destroyed as Ladybug and Chat Noir battled him. Ladybug repaired everything before he got to see what happened though.”

“Were there other times that he endangered Adrien?” Emilie asked.

“Oh yes,” Alya said. “He akumatized Gorilla once and Adrien ended up falling off the top of a skyscraper. Ladybug caught him with her yo-yo before he hit the ground.”

“Fucking hell,” Emilie muttered angrily as she started pulling out more Champagne bottles. “I’m sorry. I said that out loud didn’t I? Well, that is just the way it is. No one messes with your children if you’re a mother and comes out unscathed, even the person you share them with.”

“Ah, here you are!” Audrey exclaimed as she entered the cellar. “I saw the lights were on in the kitchen.”

“Sorry Audrey,” Emilie said apologetically. “I didn’t mean to take this long but I started asking about Gabriel’s… misadventures.”

“Yes, that asshole certainly kept himself busy,” Audrey said. “What are you doing down here anyway?”

“Adrien wanted to bring some Champagne to Helios if they sell all the Gabriel collection,” Emilie explained.

“I’d say it’s very likely,” Audrey said. “I’m beyond pissed off with him but the collection was fabulous and a lot of people either don’t care what he did or even think it adds a certain cachet to it which is… rather fucked up if you ask me but… people can be very strange.”

“Do you think Helios has much of a chance to get through this?” Marinette spoke up.

Audrey looked at her as if she had forgotten she was there. “I think it’s possible,” she said finally. “I haven’t seen enough from them to have much of an opinion on the clothes but Adrien is a very compelling spokesperson. He knows how to connect with people. As his father’s reputation crashes, his goes up and up. People in the industry are… very intrigued by him.”

“That doesn’t surprise me,” Marinette said. “He is a really good listener, he is incredibly empathetic and he genuinely appreciates anything, no matter how small, that anyone does for him.”

“Yes,” Audrey agreed. “That sums up what I keep hearing very nicely. And a lot of people like his relationship with you?”

“Really?” Marinette asked. “I didn’t realize that went beyond our friends.”

“Well, obviously I’m not referring to my own daughter,” Audrey said dryly. “Although at least she seems to be… acting more reasonable about it now. I’ve overheard many conversations from people that have said as much as they want to be jealous or angry, you are too… sweet and unassuming and he is obviously very happy, so they can’t help but be happy for him. As I said, Chloe is struggling with it but I think she is adjusting.”

“I don’t want to...fight with Chloe,” Marinette said slowly. “I’ve had a very difficult time accepting that she genuinely intends to do better by Adrien. I understand if she doesn’t want to be friends with me but ruining a lifelong friendship with him was…”

“Not acceptable,” Audrey said crisply. “She is very lucky worse didn’t come of it.”

“Why? What happened?” Emlie asked.

“That is a long story,” Audrey sighed. “Maybe you can get Chloe to finally talk about it. I’ve only gotten the sparsest version of the facts. Of course, Marinette and Adrien can fill you in on their side of the story.”

Emilie sighed. “Perhaps I will try. I’m meeting her for lunch tomorrow as it happens.”

“You should… not get too angry,” Marinette cautioned her. “She was jealous and Gabriel manipulated that.”

“Gabriel again,” Emilie groaned. “Is there nothing left untarnished by him?”

“Not much I’m afraid,” Audrey said bluntly.

Marinette surveyed the bottles that Emilie had lined up against the wall as she pulled them out of their racks. “Is there a good way to move these?” she asked.

“Good question,” Emilie sighed. “I’m not sure there will be anything in the house that can hold so many bottles.”

“Gorilla can get some from the hotel when he drops us off,” Audrey said. “The kitchen should have some empty wine boxes.”

“Thank you,” Marinette said. “I’ll let Adrien know.”

“Of course,” Audrey waved her away impatiently.

Emilie looked at Marinette and winked. Witnessing their exchange, Alya smothered a giggle. “We should get going,” she advised. “Why don’t Marinette and I start moving your give away boxes to the foyer Emilie?”

“Ok,” Emilie agreed. “Thank you very much.”

Chapter Text

“Bug,” Adrien murmured. “We need to get up.”

“Ugh,” Marinette sighed, sitting up. “Are you going to be okay with this Kitty?” she asked as she climbed out of her bed and headed to the hiding spot for the Miraculous Box.

“I’m going to try,” he replied, sighing heavily. “I’m not looking forward to it.”

“I’d like to know why they didn’t ask for help before,” Marinette said as she took out the butterfly Miraculous. “Perhaps your father gave them enough information already.”

“Yeah, I guess most of the proof of crime is out in the public domain,” Adrien said thoughtfully. “Maybe they don’t think they’ll need this?”

“Could be. Directeur Dufort seemed happy enough to take me up on my offer of assistance though. I guess I could ask but it doesn’t really feel like it’s my business,” Marinette replied. “Maybe he figures it might help with the case against Nathalie as well.”

“Is it bad if I hope there isn’t any evidence there?” Adrien asked as he quickly got dressed.

“No, for your sake I hope there isn’t,” Marinette replied. “Tikki, spots on! Nooroo, do you think you can follow me to Adrien’s old house or should I unify with you?” Nooroo looked at her nervously and she smiled sympathetically. “Don’t worry, I’ll just unify you with Tikki until we get there. Tikki, Nooroo, unify!”

The trip to the Agreste Mansion was quick and they could see an officer waiting outside for them.

“Good morning,” Chat greeted her as he landed nearby and retracted his baton. “Are we waiting on anyone or should we go inside?”

“Go ahead,” she replied. “The rest of the team is in the office.”

“Thank you, ma’am,” he said. “Come on, Bug.”

“Tikki, Nooroo, divide.” Ladybug said as they walked inside. “It’s ok Nooroo. I can understand why you’re scared but no one is going to hurt you.”

“Thank you Guardian,” the Kwami said nervously. “I’ll do my best to be brave. I really want to help.”

An officer poked his head out of the door of Gabriel’s office. “Good morning! I hope you’ll be able to help with this.”

“I have high hopes,” Ladybug replied. “I’ve brought Mr. Agreste’s former Miraculous and his Kwami. Nooroo was with him whenever he transformed, obviously.”

“Of course! We didn’t think of that,” the officer said.

“Hello,” Nooroo said shyly. “The buttons are hidden in the big golden painting. They can take you to the room where he sent the akumas from or down to where he was keeping his wife. Ladybug has informed me she woke up and isn’t down there anymore.”

“So where should we visit first? And do you remember where the buttons are?” the officer asked.

“I am pretty sure I do,” Nooroo said hesitantly. “I can only show the Guardian. That is the nature of my magic.”

“We’ll wait in the foyer,” Chat Noir said as the officers nodded in agreement.

Ladybug waited for everyone to file out. “Will I be able to show them how to do this?” she asked.

“Yes Guardian. I just cannot relay the things I know about my wielder or what he did to anyone directly except for you. You however are free to do as you wish,” he replied. “You do not have the same magical restrictions that I am under.” Ladybug nodded as she watched Nooroo fly over to the painting. “To go to the lair where the akumas were sent, you press here, here and here,” Nooroo instructed, tapping each spot separately. “All at the same time.”

“So… these spots?” Ladybug asked, touching each button. “But all at the same time?”

“That is correct, Guardian,” Nooroo said. “Do you want to bring everyone up there now or do you want me to show you what to press to go down to where Mrs. Agreste was kept?”

“Before I do that, how do I get back?” Ladybug asked.

“There’s a button to press when you step on the platform. It is quite small so you will have to go and return, one at a time,” Nooroo informed her.

“In that case, I’ll have you show me the other commands later. I’m not sure I’ll be able to keep both instructions separate otherwise,” she replied.

“Of course,” Nooroo nodded.

“Thank you for helping me,” she said.

Nooroo laughed nervously. “Don’t thank me until it works Guardian. I’m just hoping I’ve remembered it correctly.”

“I appreciate that you are trying,” she told the Kwami gently. “I know this can’t be easy for you.”

“Thank you for understanding,” he replied timidly.

Ladybug nodded as she went out of the office. “Ok, I’m ready to try this. You can all watch what I’m doing. I’m free to share this information even if Nooroo isn’t and the platform that takes us there is very small so we’ll have to go one at a time.”

“I’ll go last,” Chat said. “That way we can message each other until everyone is together again.”

“Good plan,” she said, smiling at him. “Ok, here we go.” She inserted her fingers in the spots that Nooroo had shown her and a platform was revealed under her feet.

“Holy shit,” one of the officers murmured. “Where did that come from?”

“I guess he was designing more than just clothing,” the other one said, watching as the platform sank out of sight, taking Ladybug and Nooroo down with it.

Ladybug couldn’t help but hold her breath as the platform abruptly changed direction before starting to ascend. “Nooroo?” she asked nervously.

“It’s ok. It’s supposed to do this,” he said reassuringly. “Stay very still. The floor is going to open above you and the platform will push you to the surface.”

“Thanks for the warning,” she whispered. “I don’t know why I’m talking so quietly. Do I need to?”

Nooroo giggled. “No Guardian. There’s no one left to do us any harm is there?”

Ladybug laughed. “You’re right… oh!” she gasped as she ascended into a completely unfamiliar room. “Wow… are we even in the same building?” Nooroo nodded in confirmation as she stepped off the platform and it promptly disappeared. “I guess I should message Chat and say the next person should call the platform.”

“Yes, that is a good idea,” he replied, watching as she took her yo-yo and pulled out her communicator.

“There,” she said, looking around the large, empty room which was dominated by a huge window with a butterfly design in it. “Wow,” she said again as she peered out. “What an incredible view.” A moment later she heard the platform return with one of the officers. He stepped off, looking around in amazement.

“Well… this is very creepy,” he observed as the platform disappeared again.

“It is, isn’t it?” Ladybug asked wryly as she messaged Chat again. “Not much to see though.”

A few minutes later they were all in the room which lent no real clues as to how it had been used. The empty stillness left everyone feeling unsettled as they thought about its previous purpose.

“Guardian, if you unify with me again, I can show you how he sent out akumas,” Nooroo said.

“All right,” Ladybug agreed. “Tikki, Nooroo, unify!”

“So you’re both Ladybug… and Hawk Moth?” one of the officers asked nervously.

“Not Hawk Moth,” Ladybug answered reassuringly. “Every wielder chooses the name they will go by. You can choose to use the same one but in this case, I definitely wouldn’t. Also, the nature of Nooroo’s power isn’t evil and shouldn’t be used that way. Mr. Agreste was actively harming him by using him like that.”

A single white butterfly flew out from the shadows, catching her attention. Instinctively, she held out her hands and cupped them around it as soon as it landed. She closed her eyes, sensing a myriad of emotions from the inhabitants of the city. She focused on a specific source of happiness nearby and released the butterfly. Everyone else gasped as the large window opened enough for it to flutter out. She promptly recalled it and it returned to her. She cupped it gently again, removing her command and released it to fly back into the shadows.

“I wonder where the butterfly came from?” Chat said. “Maybe they just… materialized in here?”

“I don’t know,” Ladybug said after she divided from Nooroo again. “Maybe the other room will give us some hints.”

“That was quite something to witness,” one of the officers said. “I took a video to show you opening the window.”

“Can I take a few more pictures in here before we go?” the second officer asked.

“Of course,” Ladybug said.

Once the officers were satisfied that they had seen enough, Ladybug found the button on the wall. She pressed it, stepping onto the platform as soon as it appeared.

“I’ll show you the buttons to take us down while we wait for everyone else,” Nooroo told her when they returned to the office.

“Good idea,” Ladybug said, quickly messaging Chat before concentrating on the sequence of buttons that Nooroo was demonstrating.

“This works the same as the other command. You have to press them all at once,” Nooroo instructed. “This one goes straight down and quite a long way.”

“Thanks for letting me know,” she replied, tentatively touching the spots he had shown her. Nooroo nodded in confirmation. She stepped out of the way as the floor opened and watched the officer appear.

“That was one of the strangest experiences I have ever had,” he said. “It’s…making me feel very uneasy just being here.

“Especially when you consider what it was used for,” Ladybug said solemnly. He nodded in agreement as they stood in silence, waiting for their partners to reappear. Once everyone was back, Ladybug returned to the painting. “Is everyone ready for this?” she asked. “Nooroo told me this one goes straight down… and it goes pretty far.”

“Ugh,” Chat groaned. “Why couldn’t this jackass have a secret garage or a secret closet huh? I really am tired of his bullshit.”

“I don’t blame you,” one of the officers agreed, chuckling. “I’m glad that even when you’re as used to magic as you two that this still seems…”

“Really, really weird?” Chat asked. “Well, it tracks anyway. Hawk Moth and his buddy Mayura seemed to specialize in the bizarre. Anyway, enough complaining from me… what do we need to do milady?”

Ladybug nodded, realizing that he was trying to mask his reluctance with humor. “You press these spots: here, here and here.” She paused as the platform reappeared, letting everyone look at the exact locations of each of her fingers on the painting. “See you in a few,” she said, letting go and feeling the platform beginning to sink below the floor again. This time it did not change directions but continued to descend. She gasped loudly as she realized she was in a clear shaft and could look below to see a beautiful garden, lit by another enormous window with a butterfly design. A walkway ran the length of the room and the empty capsule at the end was surrounded by tree roots and shrubbery.

“Oh Emilie,” she signed as they finally reached the ground. “I wonder what it must have been like to wake up here by yourself.” She messaged Chat, resisting the urge to explore the area before he arrived.

“Oh wow,” the first officer said as he stepped off the platform. “Look at this place!”

“The view coming down is incredible, isn’t it?” Ladybug asked as she sent a message to Chat.

“I can’t believe he was… keeping her down here,” the officer said, shivering at the thought.

“Yes, it must have been frightening to wake up all alone,” Ladybug replied. “I’m waiting for Chat before I investigate.”

“Ok,” the officer agreed. “I’d rather you two lead the way. Not being a superhero is making me feel kind of vulnerable down here.”

“Of course,” she nodded and they lapsed into silence, looking around as they waited. Eventually the other officer arrived and she sent another message to Chat.

“Hey Kitty,” Ladybug greeted Chat when he finally stepped off the platform.

“Hey Bug,” he replied, spinning his baton as he looked around. “This is a bit more impressive than the evil lair, eh? I’m not sure what I make of Hawkie’s sense of romance though.”

One of the officers snorted with laughter. “You should have called him that at the trial.”

“True,” he agreed regretfully. “A meowsed opportunity for sure. My apawlagies for such a serious ofursite.”

The other officer groaned. “Are you trying to distract us with cat puns to keep us from freaking out? I do not like it down here.”

“Yeah, neither do I,” Chat agreed. “It’s super creepy… especially with the empty capsule.”

“They’d purrfurr us to go ahead,” Ladybug teased him gently. “Do you mind?”

“At your service milady,” he replied, bowing to her as he kissed her hand.

She grinned as he stood back up and impulsively kissed his cheek before linking arms with him. She could see that he was going to a huge effort to maintain a cheerful facade as they made their way to the circular garden at the end of the walkway. She turned back and nodded to the police and they began following behind cautiously.

“What the fuck Hawkie?” Chat murmured as he walked up to the capsule.

“I wonder how the hell he did this,” Ladybug said, circling around it carefully.

“Magical medical equipment dot com,” Chat answered wryly. “For all your super villain needs.”

“There’s a little release handle inside,” Ladybug pointed out.

“Good thing,” Chat said, shivering.

They looked around the garden silently as the police both took pictures of everything.

“Look at this!” Ladybug exclaimed, leaning down by a shrub. “Cocoons!”

“Whoa,” Chat said. “I wonder if these are a special kind of butterfly and if so, how did he get then?”

“Another thing to discuss at the temple,” Ladybug said quietly.

“Thank you so much for bringing us down here,” one of the officers said. “We’re ready to leave when you are.”

******

“Hey Kitty,” Ladybug said as soon as they landed on her balcony. “Are you okay?”

“I don’t know,” he said hesitantly. “Plagg, claws in!”

Ladybug followed suit, quietly calling off her own Kwami. “What can I do for you?” she asked.

“I don’t know,” he repeated numbly, opening the trap door and going inside, Marinette close behind him. “I did ok, didn’t I? They aren’t going to suspect…”

“You did really well,” she assured him softly as they sat down together on her bed.

“I can’t believe… that was… in my home… this whole time…” he took a deep, shuddering breath before he continued, his voice gradually escalating. “My mother… she was down there for years and I never knew. That asshole was going down there and… looking at her and probably talking to her and he never said one fucking thing about it. We sat and watched her movie together after he nearly got me killed with Gorizilla and that absolute fucking piece of shit had the nerve to tell me we needed to trust each other… honestly… what the hell. I just… hate him right now… I’m glad he’s in prison. Because of him, I keep having to learn about all the dreadful things he did. Why? Why did he do this?” Adrien buried his face in his hands, breathing hard.

Marinette tentatively brought her hand up and rested it on his back. She sat quietly as he took several deep breaths, trying to calm himself down.

“I’m sorry,” he said eventually. “Obviously none of this is your fault. I don’t mean to… yell at you.”

“I didn’t think you were yelling at me,” she replied softly. “You are allowed to be angry. I know you aren’t angry with me and it's okay if you need to express it. If you are hurting, I want to know that. I could see the way your guard was up while we were transformed but only because I know you so well. No one could have ever guessed what you were going through.”

“That’s good,” he replied, looking slightly calmer. “At least… at least the garden was... beautiful I guess. It just… felt creepy because I knew what it was and she was always so close… and all alone.” Suddenly he pulled Marinette to him, hugging her fiercely as he buried his face in her silky black hair. “Thank you,” he murmured. “Thank you for listening… and for being my partner. I couldn’t have done it without you. When you originally sent that message saying… you’d be there if I needed you, I bet you never imagined it would be like this.”

“No, I didn’t,” Marinette admitted. “But I’m glad I can be.”

Chapter Text

“Hi Gorgeous,” Marinette greeted Adrien as he opened the door to his apartment. “Thanks for sending Gorilla over to get me.”

“Well I couldn’t ask you to drag all your things on a walk that long!” he exclaimed, pulling her to him as he shut the door behind her. “I’m glad you’re here. Did you bring the Miraculous Box?”

“Yep,” Marinette confirmed. “Everyone but Orikko is here. I’m not sure when I’ll retrieve him. It is very helpful having someone to communicate with in the police force.”

“I agree,” Adrien replied. “And I think Directeur Dufort is very trustworthy.”

“Definitely,” Marinette said. “I’m sure Orikko is enjoying being an active Kwami as well.”

“Yeah, he has a pretty cool job actually. I got all the Kwami snacks by the way… as well as regular snacks. Consider me your personal supplier of Kinder Happy Hippos,” Adrien told her teasingly.

“Awww, that is very sweet of you,” she replied, wrapping her arms around his neck and leaning up to kiss him.

“Mmmm,” he sighed, picking her up and pushing her against the nearby wall as he kissed her harder. “I missed you.”

Marinette giggled as she wrapped her legs around his waist. “You missed me? You’ve only been away from me for about three hours.”

“I know,” he agreed, kissing her again. “This feels really good Princess.”

“It does,” she replied, moaning softly as he pushed against her. “Mnnngh, aren’t Alya and Nino going to be…” she trailed off, sighing deeply as he kissed her neck.

“They are,” he confirmed. “I’m going to kiss you until they knock on the door.”

Marinette laughed and then groaned as Adrien kissed her hard on the mouth. They both rapidly became absorbed in what they were doing, kissing each other fiercely.

“Ugh, I suppose I should stop,” Adrien murmured eventually. “Or you’re the one who will have to answer the door.”

“That could be awkward,” Marinette agreed, giggling as he let her down.

“I would definitely never hear the end of that,” he said, kissing her on the forehead.

“I’ll put my stuff away for now,” she said, grabbing the handle of her little suitcase and wheeling it into his room. “I’m glad your mother arranged a moving van for the rest of your things.”

“Me too,” he admitted. “It would have been a lot of trips for Gorilla. It was kind of a pitiful load for an entire moving van but it sure made the process quick. I think I may need a book case though. I didn’t keep that many books but I don’t have anywhere to put them yet.”

“Have you got the study ready for Alya and Nino? She asked as she wandered into the room next to Adrien’s to inspect it.

“Yeah, I pulled down the bed and made it as you can see. I’ve set my computer up and I shoved the boxes of books underneath the desk for now.”

“It looks good,” she said. “Did you put some towels in the smaller bathroom?”

“No, I forgot about that!” he exclaimed, opening the small linen closet in the hallway. “Thanks Princess.”

“No problem,” she said, smiling as she watched him arrange the towels on their rack. She heard a knock on the door. “I think they’re here!”

Adrien grinned and kissed her cheek as he came out of the bathroom. “I love you,” he murmured.

“I love you too,” Marinette replied, smiling as she took his hand and they headed for the front door.

“Hey!” Alya exclaimed excitedly as she gave Marinette a hug. “I’m so happy we all get to hang out tonight!”

“Me too,” Marinette agreed, hugging her back.

“Come in!” Adrien invited, getting out of the way as they walked into the apartment and then shutting the door behind them. “Nice hat, bro!”

Nino grinned. “The printing company that does Alya’s merch sent it to her. She’s been selling a lot of stuff so I guess I get a hat… that says Mr. Ladyblogger… thanks Marinette.”

“You are so welcome,” she replied, giggling. “So what’s going on with the merch?”

“I promise I’ll tell you but first I want a tour,” Alya said with a grin.

“Of course,” Adrien said. “Follow me.”

“What’s with all the random food?” Nino asked, nodding at the table.

“You’ll find out in a little while,” Adrien said mysteriously.

“This feels a lot calmer than your old room,” Alya commented as she wandered from the living room to the kitchen. “It’s all really nice Sunshine.”

“Thanks, I like it too. It’s going to be really strange living by myself but Marinette will be here a lot and I hope this will be the first of many nights where we hang out here together.”

“Go ahead and take your stuff,” Marinette said as they went past the front door to go down the hall.

“Yeah, your room is the second on the left if you want to take a look,” Adrien added.

“This is awesome dude!” Nino exclaimed. “I didn’t see it with the bed down before.”

“There’s a bathroom with a shower right across the hall,” Adrien told them.

“I want to see your bathroom if that isn’t too nosy,” Alya said with a grin. “Marinette told me about it.”

Adrien laughed. “I don’t mind. Go ahead.”

They passed through Adrien’s room and Nino grinned mischievously. “Nice bed, bro. Pretty big isn’t it?”

Adrien rolled his eyes. “It’s the same size as my old one.”

“Whoa!” Alya exclaimed as she opened the bathroom door. “I mean… Marinette told me but … damn Sunshine, I have to give you props for going to this level of effort.”

“I like it actually,” Adrein replied. “10/10 I would have another pink bathroom. It makes me smile every time I come in here because it makes me think about Marinette.”

“Awww,” Marinette cooed, wrapping her arms around his waist as she stood behind him.

“That bathtub looks very cool,” Nino commented. “Is it a jacuzzi?”

“Yep,” Adrien grinned. “Well that’s the end of the tour. Marinette, do you want to get out the box?”

“Sure!” she agreed, pulling away from him to go over to her little suitcase.

“What kind of box?” Nino asked, looking puzzled. His eyes widened as Marinette took the Miraculous Box from her suitcase. “Whoa! What’s the plan for tonight?”

“Kwami party… at least for a while,” Marinette grinned, handing him the turtle Miraculous and Alya the fox Miraculous. “We’re not transforming. I’ve just been meaning to let all the Kwamis come out and play since I got Duusu back. That’s what all the random food is for. I messaged the old Guardian because they each have things they like to eat and he messaged me back with everyone’s favorites.. I’ve got one out in the field but everyone else is here.”

“Really?” Alya asked curiously.

“Yep,” Marinette confirmed, handing Adrien the snake Miraculous. “I’m not saying anything more. It wouldn’t be fair to the holder.”

“It’s not a previous holder then,” Alya said questioningly.

“No, I wouldn’t do that,” Marinette replied. “It wouldn’t be safe. All my original holders were revealed far too publicly. Believe me, I wish that wasn’t the case.” Methodically she began putting on the rest of the Miraculous, watching as the Kwamis popped up, one by one.

“Hey!” Trixx exclaimed as Alya put on her necklace. “What’s going on?”

“Kwami Party!” Tikki exclaimed, zipping over. “Duusu, it’s so good to see you!”

“There’s food for everyone on the table in the living room,” Marinette said. “Follow me and I’ll show you.”

“Thank you Guardian,” Wayzz said solemnly as he hovered near Nino. “I don’t believe anyone has ever done this before... that is… gone to the effort of catering to so many Kwamis at once.”

“I thought it would be fun now that Nooroo and Duusu are back,” Marinette said, putting her palm out for Nooroo to rest on. It’s ok Nooroo, we’re all friends here. I understand you like sweet drinks so I made you some lemonade.”

“That is very kind of you… Guardian,” Nooroo said hesitantly. “And Adrien I have been wanting to say that... I am very sorry. I wish… I wish I could have told you… I never knew you were…”

“It’s fine, Nooroo. I’m glad you didn't. It could have put both of us at risk. My father still doesn’t know and I hope he never will,”Adrien replied.

“Does Emilie know?” Duusu asked, looking at him inquiringly.

“No,” Adrien replied. “We don’t make it a practice to tell anyone. A few people have figured it out. And these two, they found out because it was an emergency and we needed to transform quickly.”

“Would you like your mother to know?” Marinette asked curiously.

“Part of me does,” he admitted. “But I know it’s just because I’d like her to know. That isn’t a good enough reason. It needs to be more than that. Why? Do you think she should know?”

“I’m not sure,” Marinette replied. “It’s certainly crossed my mind.”

“Really?” he asked, pulling her close. “Is that… for my benefit or something else?”

“Mainly your benefit,” she told him. “Listening to her talk about wielding the peacock… and how understanding she was of what we did as Chat Noir and Ladybug… it’s tempting. I don’t know if it’s the right thing to do though. I’ve thought about talking to the old Guardian about it.”

“The old Guardian?” Nooroo asked. “Have you been hiding him somewhere?”

“Not Master Fu,” Marientte said. “I suppose you never met him. I mean the Guardian before that.”

“Master Liu?” Nooroo asked in surprise. “Wasn’t he… consumed?”

“When the temple was restored, so were all its inhabitants,” Marinette explained. “The Guardian who chose me and Adrien… he lost all his memories and I made sure he left the city safely with the woman he loved. I haven’t seen him since.”

“Oh my!” Nooroo exclaimed. “I only briefly saw inside the temple when my wielder was unmasked. I had no idea…”

“Couldn’t you tell who he akumatized?” Adrien asked. “He didn’t manage to get Master Liu but he akumatized the rest of the monks.”

“No,” Nooroo replied. “I could feel things… emotions… that was it really.”

“Tikki is the only one of us who gets anything more specific than that,” Plagg said. “She can sense problems or something so she can manifest lucky charms.”

“Yeah, that’s the best way to put it,” Tikki said thoughtfully. “I can’t see what my wielder is seeing or hear what they are hearing. It’s more abstract than that.”

“This is so amazing,” Alya said, her eyes shining in excitement as she cuddled the Kwami to her cheek. “And Trixx, I am so happy to see you again!”

“I’m happy to see you too!” Trixx exclaimed. “I always had fun when you were my wielder.”

“So did I,” Alya said. “Do you want more cotton candy?”

“Yes actually,” Trixx replied, zipping back to the table and giggling as she saw Duusu cramming watermelon pieces into her mouth. “Enjoying that Duusu?”

“Mmmph,” Duusu agreed, nodding fervently.

“This was a really good idea,” Adrien murmured to Marinette as they stood together, watching the Kwamis flying around, eating snacks and playing with their friends.

“Guardian?” Duusu asked shyly, having finished her snack. “Nooroo was telling me how nice it was to make something pure instead of something evil when you used the white butterflies. Do you think you could… do that with me?”

“Yes, of course!” Marinette exclaimed. “I can understand why that would have been healing for him.”

“Ooooh,” Adrien breathed in awe. “I can’t wait to see what you make.”

“You should make another Ladybug,” Alya teased. “Sunshine would love that.”

“No thanks,” he shuddered. “I’d rather not watch a recognizable person fade away. That was pretty disturbing.”

“Yeah, that was messed up on a lot of levels,” Marinette said grimly. “Fucking Nathalie. I think I’ll follow Emilie’s lead. Duusu, spread my feathers.”

The other teens watched in amazement as Marinette transformed. She wore a brilliant blue supersuit with a mandarin collar and bright green tailored tuxedo jacket over it which had a dramatic train of peacock feathers sweeping the grown behind her. Her hair remained black but was swept into an elaborate bun and secured with two silver fa-zan. The mask over her eyes matched the blue of her suit and had a feathered texture.

“Wow,” Adrien gasped. “Princess, you are breathtaking.”

“What’s the Chinese word for ‘peacock’” she asked him.

Adrien smiled as he lightly traced along the edge of her feathered mask. “Kǒngquè,” he answered softly.

“Kǒngquè,” she repeated. She picked up her bag from where she had placed it on one of the dining chairs. She ripped a clean piece of paper out from her notepad and pulled a feather from her bustle which instantly became small and white. She placed it on the paper which immediately absorbed it. A small, pure white pegasus foal with downy, feathered wings manifested as Kǒngquè picked up the piece of paper.

“Oh,” Alya sighed. “It’s so pretty! Can I touch it?”

“Of course,” Kǒngquè agreed. “It occurred to me just now that we never told you that Emilie….” she paused and looked at Adrien.

“My mother was a wielder for the peacock. The Miraculous was damaged and eventually made her so ill that she fell asleep and didn’t wake up.”

“Oh wow,” Alya said. “Marinette told me that repairing the Miraculous woke her up but… I didn’t realize why. I meant to ask but then I got distracted asking about other stuff.”

“Sorry, I’m sure that was confusing,” Kǒngquè said apologetically. “I forgot you weren’t there when Emilie told us about it. Anyway, she told us as Chat Noir and Ladybug that she never made anything bad. She liked making mythical creatures and then vanishing them if someone pointed them out.”

Alya laughed as she pet the baby pegasus. “This little guy is so soft. How did you come up with him?”

“The sentiment attached is something gentle, pure and new… this is meant to make Duusu feel better,” Kǒngquè answered.

“You are so amazing,” Adrien said, kissing her cheek. “You should wear colors like this sometimes. They look stunning on you.”

“Thank you,” she replied, closing her eyes as he lingered, nuzzling her cheek. “I guess you aren’t allergic to magical feathers.”

“No, I guess not,” he agreed, lightly brushing his fingers across the corner of her mask.

“Do we need to leave?” Nino asked him playfully.

Adrien laughed. “It’s fine. I haven’t forgotten you’re here,” he teased back.

“Feel free to tell me it’s none of my business but… did your father previously do… non evil things with the butterfly Miraculous?” Alya asked.

“Yes, he and Mother apparently went on little adventures together and he would turn people into superheroes instead of villains. They did all that in secret so no one ever knew,” Adrien replied.

“It must be really sad for her,” Alya said quietly.

“It must,” Adrien agreed with a sigh. “She’s pretty angry too though. She went to the prison and yelled at my father one evening. I would have liked to have seen that. Apparently she made him cry.”

“It’s hard to imagine,” Nino confessed. “She seems very… gentle and sweet.”

“I know!” Adrien exclaimed. “I want to know what her definition of yelling is. I’ve never heard her do it. But then, I’ve never seen my father cry either.”

“Emilie mentioned it to Marinette and I… and I can believe it actually. We told her about what happened when Gorilla got akumatized and she was definitely very angry. She said no one messes with your kids when you’re a mother, not even the person you share them with.”

“Damn,” Adrien laughed. “I’m sorry I missed that.”

“I’m going to detransfrom,” Kǒngquè said, removing the feather from the piece of paper and causing the pegasus to disappear. “Sorry Alya.”

“No worries. That was very surreal,” Alya replied.

“Duusu, fall my feathers,” Kǒngquè said.

“Thank you Guardian. That was really fun!” Duusu exclaimed excitedly as she zipped around so fast she was no more than a little blue blur.

Marinette laughed. “Good! I’m going to go sit down now. It’s a little tiring wearing all the Miraculous. I wonder if I can take them off now that you are all out.” She sat down on the couch and proceeded to remove all of the Miraculous except her earrings.

“I can’t get over how pretty this place is!” Alya laughed. “I mean, look at this fancy sofa!”

“Hey!” Adrien protested as he sat down next to Marinette. “I have good taste. And I kept my foosball table so it’s not totally grown up in here. I just wanted somewhere a lot more peaceful.”

“I don’t blame you dude,” Nino said, sitting next to Alya and putting his arm around her. “And I really like it. It has a good vibe.”

“So tell me about the merch,” Marinette exclaimed, smiling as Adrien wrapped his arm around her and kissed the top of her head.

“Well, those hats took off to the point that the supplier was running low on stock so I started doing t-shirts and sweatshirts and those have been selling really well too,” Alya said.

“It’s going to be funny seeing people wearing all this stuff,” Adrien laughed. “I can’t believe how much this prank on my idiot cousin took off. It’s amazing.”

“Oh I can,” Alya said emphatically. “It’s a gift really because I get all the Ladybug and Chat Noir fans plus the Adrien fans. I’m saving every penny I get to rent somewhere in a year. My goal is to have a year’s rent by the time I move out. I’ve got some other ideas I’m working on as well.”

“I’ll be glad when I’m eighteen and I’m eligible for more gigs,” Nino said. “Seeing this place is motivating I have to say. I am really looking forward to us having our own place. The lack of privacy is really getting old.”

“Yeah, it still feels weird to me that there’s no one here that’s going to check up on us,” Adrien said. “Although this also means there is no one here to feed us! I have snacks and drinks but nothing else yet. What does everyone want for dinner?”

“How about that Chinese place that Marinette’s family orders from?” Alya suggested.

“Sure!” Adrien exclaimed. “Marinette, you should do the ordering. You know what all the best stuff is.”

Chapter Text

As soon as Marinette had ordered dinner, she put away all the Miraculous after promising she would have another Kwami party soon. “We really should visit the temple and see Master Liu,” she told Adrien. “I might bring the Miraculous with.”

“Aww, bug, that’s a sweet idea. That is their old home after all,” Adrien said.

“That’s true!” Marinette exclaimed. “I hadn’t thought of it like that. I’ll be right back.” She picked up the Miraculous Box and went to put it back in her suitcase.

“Thanks for bringing the Miraculous, Marinette,” Alya said when she returned. “I feel so lucky to know you… and your secret identity. It’s amazing to hear all these stories even if I can’t share them with anyone else.”

“I’m very glad I could share this with you!” Marinette exclaimed, giggling as Adrien pulled her onto his lap. “I know how much you loved being Rena… and you were the first person I picked. I knew how much you liked superheroes and I always thought you’d make a good one.”

“Girl, I’ve got nothing on you! The more I learn and the more I see… you are definitely the most amazing person I know. I mean… nobody can do the things you do.”

Marinette blushed. “Thank you Alya. I appreciate that even if I think I’m just… a regular person who has adapted to an extraordinary role.”

“I don’t know about that,” Adrien said, wrapping his arms around her and gently squeezing her to him. “I think all of it was always there and being Ladybug just gave you an opportunity to harness it. I’ve seen you do brave things like standing up to my father… as yourself… No one does that… well… apart from my mother apparently!”

“And I’ve seen you stand up to Chloe,” Alya reminded her. “I remember when you absolutely roasted her on the second day of school right when I met you.”

“I guess I missed that,” Adrien laughed.

“Yeah, you came into class right after that,” Nino told him. “I forgot about Marinette’s tirade. That’s how these two ended up sitting behind us.”

“I never knew,” Adrien shook his head. “There’s my buzzer. The food must be here.” He let Marinette go and she slid off his lap so he could get up. “I’ll be right back.”

“So girl,” Alya said quietly, a wicked smile on her face. “Quite the love nest you’ve got going on here. How long did it take after you saw that pink bathroom?”

“Damn Babe! Getting a little personal there aren’t you?” Nino exclaimed, looking flustered. “One I thought we said no deets and two, I really don’t want to think about that.”

“Sorry not sorry, “ Alya grinned. “Although I’m pretty sure the answer is within five minutes.”

Marinette laughed. “You know me too well I guess. No more deets now. You’re going to put your boyfriend off his dinner.”

“What’s that?” Adrien asked, bringing in a large bag of food and putting it on the table.

“Just discussing your pink bathroom game,” Nino said dryly. “Apparently you knew what you were doing with that.”

“Huh?” Adrien looked up quizzically from unpacking the food containers from the bag. “My pink bathroom game?”

“As seduction techniques go, it’s…” Alya kissed her fingers.

Adrien laughed as he went to get plates. “I wasn’t thinking about it like that. I just thought it would make her happy.”

“See? And that’s why it’s perfection,” Alya said. “Who could resist that?”

“Are you saying I should be taking notes?” Nino asked, reaching over to tickle her playfully. “Note to self, get all the things in orange: orange plates, orange cups, orange blankets, orange furniture....”

“Not everything!” Alya exclaimed, trying to bat him away. “But something that would be extra awesome if it were orange.”

“Damnit,” Nino grumbled. “Orange is way more difficult than pink.”

“You’ll figure it out,” Alya said sweetly. “You have plenty of time.”

“Do you want me to get drinks, Gorgeous?” Marinette asked as she got up.

“Sure,” Adrien replied. “How does everyone feel about chopsticks? Do I need to get out silverware?”

“Nah, we’ll be fine,” Nino said, Alya nodding in agreement.

“What’s with all the beer?” Marinette asked with a laugh, looking in the refrigerator.

“Tom,” Adrien called back. “I liked the one he gave me the other night so he bought me a case. Anyone want one? There’s some wine too… and soft drinks.”

“Scandalous,” Nino teased him. “I’m totally trying a beer.”

Adrien shrugged. “I don’t think the four of us are going to get too crazy and we’re not going anywhere anyway. How about you Alya?”

“I’ve had beer with my Papa,” she said. “I’ll take one.”

“I’ve never tried it,” Marinette said, grabbing four bottles. “Papa loves it although he only seems to drink it in the summer. I guess I’ll see what it’s like.” She rifled through a drawer and found a bottle opener before bringing everything over to the table.

“I think we’re set now,” Adrien observed as everyone started helping themselves to food.

“Yep,” Marinette agreed as she opened the beers and passed them out.

Nino held his bottle out. “To Sunshine who gives me alcoholic beverages and lets me share a bed with my girl. Who knew you could be such a bad influence, dude?”

“You are very welcome Mr. Ladyblogger,” Adrien said as everyone laughed and clinked their bottles together.

*****

“So what’s the plan for the rest of the evening?” Alya asked as they all cleared up after dinner.

“I bought a movie I haven’t seen if you want to watch it,” Adrien answered.

“What is it?” Nino asked curiously.

“It’s based on this book that Marinette has. Delicacy?” Adrien replied.

“I’ve read that!” Alya exclaimed. “I’ve never seen the movie though.”

“Have you read this book Sunshine?” Nino asked. “I’m a little suspicious with a title like that.”

“I have and you should,” Adrien told him. “It’s short so it won’t take you long. I’m interested to see how the movie compares.”

“I’ll lend my copy to you Babe,” Alya promised. “Adrien’s right. It’s a short book but it’s very good.”

“All right, I’ll check it out,” Nino promised, somewhat reluctantly.

“I’ll get out some blankets,” Adrien said, pulling two fluffy throws out of a chest next to the couch. He handed one to Marinette and the other to Nino before going to turn on his TV and cue up the movie. “Does anyone want anything? Drinks? Snacks?”

“Nope, stuffed,” Nino replied as he wrapped himself and Alya up in the blanket.

“Same,” Alya agreed. “Thanks though.”

“No problem,” Adrien replied. “How about you Princess?”

“I’m fine,” she said. “Just waiting on you Kitty.”

He smiled as he started the movie and then went back to the couch. Marinette handed him the blanket and he sat down with it draped around him. She sat in his lap again and he wrapped the blanket around her, cradling her against him. Marinette sighed in contentment then giggled quietly as he sneakily pinched her bottom.

“Shhhh,” he teased her quietly. “You’re interrupting the movie.”

“Yeah?” she said quietly, reaching down to squeeze the inside of his thigh. Even in the darkened room, she could see him blush at her touch.

“Ok,” he whispered. “You win.”

Marinette grinned and glanced over at Alya and Nino to see if she had distracted them. Nino’s expression was very dreamy and while his gaze was directed at the television, he didn’t look like he was paying any attention to it. Alya was curled up against him but looked much more attentive. She went back to watching the movie herself, slightly distracted by Adrien’s warm hand against her skin as he reached under her shirt to gently massage her lower back. She sighed deeply as she rested her head on his chest. Adrien smiled as he continued to slowly rub her back enjoying the feeling of her relaxing into him.

“Feeling sleepy?” he murmured, kissing her forehead.

“Yeah,” she admitted quietly. “This is really nice. I feel very cozy. I’m not really watching the movie anymore though.”

“That’s ok. We can watch it some other time. If I even want to pay attention to anything other than you that is,” he whispered back.

Marinette giggled and he smiled again, lightly kissing her lips.

“Well,” Alya said when the movie finished. “They made some interesting changes but it followed the book pretty well. I thought the ending was perfect. What did you guys think?”

“What you said,” Marinette laughed. “To be honest, I was feeling pretty sleepy and didn’t absorb very much.”

“Awww!” Alya protested. “Was I the only one watching?”

“Afraid so, Babe,” Nino said. “I haven’t gotten to sit and snuggle with you uninterrupted for way too long sooo… I was distracted.”

Alya laughed and shook her head. “In that case, you’re forgiven.”

Nino grinned. “That’s a relief,” he said teasingly.

“So what does everyone have planned for tomorrow?” Alya asked.

“I’m working in the bakery in the afternoon since I didn’t today,” Marinette replied.

“I’m meeting Mother for lunch and then I’m going to see Raphael at Helios,” Adrien said.

“Who is that?” Alya asked.

“The CFO,” Adrien answered. “He wanted to update me on sales. Hopefully it’s going to be good news. It’s crazy, I was purposefully keeping my distance for years so I couldn’t get too embroiled in it and now I own it.”

“Well that’s it exactly,” Marinette said. “You own it and no one can tell you where your boundaries are… or make you do anything. You can be involved in whatever way feels comfortable.”

“I suppose that’s true,” Adrien agreed. “I’ll probably come in while you are interning and visit all the departments again.”

“That’s a good idea,” Marinette replied.

“What are you two up to tomorrow?” Adrien asked.

“Babysitting,” Alya said. “Which these days just means keeping the twins from burning the house down. They are getting pretty self-sufficient.”

“Same,” Nino laughed. “I’ll probably work on some stuff for my Soundcloud since I’m gonna be stuck at home.”

“I didn’t know you were doing that!” Adrien exclaimed in surprise.

“It’s my summer project,” Nino explained. “I thought I would give it a try. Join my girl in the online entrepreneur biz.”

“That’s really cool!” Adrien said excitedly. “You should send me a link.”

“Ok,” Nino agreed.

“I hate to break this up but I have to be home by ten in the morning so Maman can get to work,” Alya said apologetically.

“That’s ok,” Adrien replied. “I’m so glad you two could come over. I hope we can do this again soon.”

“Me too,” Nino agreed. “I haven’t had such a chill evening in a very long time.”

*************************************************

“Hey,” Adrien said softly, creeping up behind Marinette and nuzzling her shoulder as she turned on the shower. “Can I join you?”

“Definitely,” Marinette agreed, turning to smile at him.

“Ok, I’ll be right there. I’m going to brush my teeth first,” he said as he retrieved his toothbrush.

“That was the first thing I did,” Marinette told him as she got undressed. “Beer is ok but I don’t like the aftertaste.” She stepped into the shower, sighing happily as the warm water cascaded over her. She closed her eyes, breathing in the steam and focusing on the sound of the water. She smiled as she heard the shower door briefly open as Adrien came in.

“You are so beautiful,” he murmured, reaching over to gently stroke her cheek.

Marinette opened her eyes to look up at him as he stepped under the water with her. Their gazes met as they reached for each other, not even aware of what they were doing until their arms were around each other and they were kissing each other intensely, moaning quietly as their bodies connected.

“I want you,” Adrien murmured breathlessly when he broke away. “But I don’t want to be… inconsiderate… they’re right next door.”

“We can be quiet,” Marinette said softly, running her fingers lightly over his chest.

“I’m willing to try if you are,” he told her, grinning mischievously.

“Oh I am very willing,” she assured him.

Adrien laughed quietly as he got out of the shower and dried off. Marinette shut the shower off, smiling as he proceeded to gently dry her off as well. He hung up their towels and opened the door.

“I can hear the other shower,” Marinette whispered as they got into bed. Adrien nodded as he pulled the covers over them and wrapped his arms around her. She gasped quietly as their bodies pressed together and he bent his head down to kiss her very softly.

“Is this ok?” he murmured as they laid sideways, facing each other.

“Better than ok,” she answered, reaching up to touch his face as he held her close. He smiled and gave her a lingering kiss, one hand making slow circles on the small of her back. She sighed quietly as she kissed him back, one of her hands reaching up into his still damp hair and the other resting on the back of his neck.

“I love you,” he whispered, rolling on top of her and kissing her harder. “I love you so much Marinette.”

“I love you too, Adrien,” she whispered back, stroking his hair as he looked down at her. He closed his eyes, silently savoring her touch and the feeling of their bodies warm against each other under the covers. They kissed again and Marinette sighed into his mouth as she felt his arms tighten around her. She gently ran her hand down his neck, feeling the slight tension in his shoulders as he held her even more tightly against him. She could feel him hard against her thigh and she parted her legs, hooking one around his waist.

“Is that an invitation?” he murmured in her ear.

Marinette grinned. “Seems that way, doesn’t it?” she teased him quietly. He grinned back and kissed her again as he slowly pushed inside her. She moaned into his mouth which compelled him to kiss her even more fervently, their bodies locked together. Eventually Adrien broke away from kissing her, nuzzling her jaw as he began to rock his hips against her very slowly.

“You make me feel so good,” he whispered. “In ways I never knew were even possible. I’m so glad that you’re mine.”

“And you’re mine,” Marinette replied quietly, sighing as he ran one hand through her hair.

Their movements became slower and sleepier until eventually he withdrew himself from her, gently kissing her lips over and over until they both fell asleep.

Chapter Text

“Ready to go Princess?” Adrien asked, walking into the bakery Monday morning.

“Yep!” she agreed cheerfully, picking up a to go cup and handing it to him. “I’ve made one for your mother as well.”

“Awww, thanks. I’m sure she’ll appreciate that,” he replied, holding the door open for her. “See you later Sabine!”

“Goodbye dear… and good luck to both of you!” she replied.

“I am really curious about what it’s going to be like at Helios today,” Marinette said. “I haven’t been there that much since… well… everything. When you did all the behind the scene pictures, it seemed like everyone was in shock.”

“Yeah, I agree,” Adrien replied, nodding at Gorilla before getting into the car, followed by Marinette who carefully ducked in with her and Emilie’s coffee.

“Good morning Emilie. I made you some coffee if you want it,” she said.

“Thank you Petal!” Emilie exclaimed, smiling as she accepted the to go cup. “Your dress is incredible! Did you make it?”

“Yes, thank you,” Marinette replied. “I had the fabric for a long time before I did anything with it. Nothing seemed right and then Adrien suggested that I look at luxury women’s tennis wear and then it all came together.”

“Ah, I can see that now that you mention it. Where did you get the fabric?” Emilie asked.

“It was just marble print when I got it at my favorite fabric store,” Marinette answered. “I painted the colors on myself. I guess I was experimenting a little.”

“It looks like it was a success,” Emilie said. “It’s lovely. I’ve never seen anything like it! I am starting to see what Adrien meant about pink being your favorite color. You wear a lot of it. I have to ask though. Where did you find pink fishnets?”

“I didn’t,” Marinette giggled. “Celine gave them to me for my birthday. I have no idea where she got them from.”

“I’m very excited to see her again,” Emilie said. “I hope she doesn’t mind hugs from virtual strangers because the more I hear, the more I know I won’t be able to resist.”

Marinette laughed. “I don’t think she’d mind. She told me she’d be in the design studio this morning to meet me so maybe that should be the first place you visit.”

“Sounds good to me,” Emilie agreed cheerfully.

“Well, here we are,” Adrien said, sounding slightly nervous.

Marinette gave him a reassuring smile and touched his hand before getting out. The three of them climbed up the steps to the entrance, throwing their coffee cups away as they came inside.

Sophie stood up as the three of them entered the foyer. “Hi Adrien!” she said cheerfully. “Hi Marinette!”

“Hello Sophie,” Adrien greeted her. “This is my mother, Emilie. I’ve been promising to bring her over and this morning seemed to be a good time for it.”

“I suppose you have to deal with sentencing this afternoon, don’t you?” she asked softly.

“You’re right,” Adrien confirmed. “I’m dreading going but I know I should.”

“Frederic told me they are shutting the office early today. Odette was concerned about reporters trying to get statements from employees after it’s announced,” Marinette said. “So I can come with you if you want me to.”

“Please do,” he requested. “That would be really nice.”

“I’ll be going as well, Darling,” Emilie reminded him. “It’s nice to meet you Sophie.”

“It’s nice to meet you too… Mrs. Agreste,” she said hesitantly.

“Please call me Emilie,” she replied, smiling at her reassuringly.

Sophie nodded. “Do I need to let anyone know you’re here?” she asked.

“No, they’re expecting me at the design studio,” Marinette answered.

“Go right ahead then!” Sophie said, gesturing at the elevator.

“Thank you,” Marinette replied as she went over to call the elevator.

“It is… very surreal being here,” Emilie said as the elevator took them up to the studio. “What happened to Gabriel’s office?”

“They emptied it,” Adrien replied. “They donated all the furniture and took all the books and the artwork to the archive. The police eventually returned the computer and IT has that. They put my name on the door. I don’t know if I’ll ever want to use that office but I understand why they wanted to take his name off of it and if it makes them feel better to have my name there instead, I don’t mind.”

Emilie sighed. “Just promise me you won’t let yourself be pressured into doing more than you want Darling. You deserve to have your own dreams just like anyone else.”

“Thank you Mother,” he said quietly as the elevator opened on their floor. “I intend to keep a low profile and let everyone here do what they’re good at. I do hope it succeeds. I want it to survive my father.”

“Do you have a pass?” Marinette asked as they reached the door.

“Yes, but I think I’ll knock first,” he replied, rapping on the door.

“Come in,” they heard and Adrien grinned as he took out his pass and slid it through the reader.

“That sounded like Frederic!” Emilie exclaimed, looking excited.

Adrien smiled as he opened the door. “I know you were expecting Marinette but I wanted to stop by with someone else too.”

“Emilie!” Frederic exclaimed, jumping up from his seat. “Oh my goodness… I can’t even believe this is happening!”

Emilie smiled widely as she exchanged kisses with him. “Frederic, it is so good see you! I don’t know how you managed to create a diffusion line on Gabriel’s watch but congratulations!”

“It was just swimwear to begin with and to be honest, Gabriel was getting more detached so I took advantage of that. Now, I’m very glad I did. As Marinette pointed out when things seemed especially grim, it was our gateway to escaping his name and all that baggage.”

“I’ll tell you, her name gets referenced to me for the most extraordinary reasons,” Emilie told him.

“She’s a gift,” Frederic said simply, smiling as Marinette blushed. “I’m glad these two found each other and I’m also glad that in one of his last acts of good sense Gabriel offered her an internship. I’ll never entirely understand what his motivations might have been but I don’t think we’d be here otherwise… no,” he paused and gave Marinette a rather stern look as she started to shake her head. “I absolutely understand your wish to keep a low profile here but you aren’t going to undersell the way you connected Adrien to this company while you were working here. I know what I saw sweetheart!”

Marinette blushed again. “It was only because everyone was so keen to tell me how much they cared about him. I knew he felt very alone and I wanted him to know there were people thinking about him.”

There was another knock on the door before it opened and Celine popped her head inside. “Is Marinette--” she paused as she saw Emilie and her eyes widened. “Oh!” she exclaimed in surprise as she came in and shut the door.

“Celine!” Emilie exclaimed. “I said to the kids that I was going to have to hug you. I hope you don’t mind!”

“I… of course not,” she faltered, tears brimming in her eyes as Emilie embraced her.

“Thank you so much… for everything you’ve done for my son,” Emile murmured. “I could tell you were special at your first interview. I don’t know if you remember me being there.”

Celine laughed weakly, wiping away tears. “Vaguely. I was terrified when I found out I was being interviewed by both Mr. and Mrs. Agreste. I didn’t expect that. It was… kind of a blur to be honest.”

‘I didn’t usually get involved with hiring but it was my intention to find someone to work with Adrien,” Emilie said. “I’m so glad it worked out.”

“That’s… incredible,” Celine murmured. “I think it worked out for both of us really.”

“I can’t believe I never knew that!” Frederic marveled.

“When I started to… really get ill, I tried to create.. Well a bit of a covert support network for Adrien. I was concerned about what might happen… although I never imagined it would be like this,” Emilie sighed. “Still, the network did what I hoped it would do and really… far more than that, so I’m very grateful for that. And Adrien managed to make that extend even further which makes me very happy.”

Marinette smiled. “Where is the rest of the team?” she asked, looking around.

“Remi is meeting with Jean in Graphics,” Frederic answered. “Dominique and Hugo got a shipment of samples this morning and they are down in Fitting, steaming everything before they bring it up.”

“Oooh, from the fall line?” Marinette asked excitedly.

“That’s right,” Frederic agreed, looking pleased at her excitement. He looked over at Emilie again as she stood, examining one of the mood boards. “Have you seen Victor yet, Emilie?”

“Not yet,” Emilie answered. “We came here first.”

“I can call him up… and is there anyone else you remember?” Frederic asked.

“Louise and Claire,” Emilie replied. “Darling, not to embarrass you but… I’d really like to see the fashion shows. Are there videos?”

Adrien smiled. “I don’t mind if you want to see them. Is there one for Helios? I know there’s one for Gabriel.”

“There is,” Frederic confirmed. “How about we all go up to the board room and I’ll call Victor, Louise and Claire to meet us up there… if you don’t mind, Adrien.”

“Nah,” he shrugged. “I’d like to see Marinette in a swimsuit anyway,” he grinned at her teasingly.

“It’s not like you don’t see me in those suits anyway,” she teased back. “Considering I use them for swimming at the gym.”

“And outfits at pool parties,” Celine reminded her with a wink. “You made my night with that outfit for Audrey’s pool party.”

Marinette giggled. “It was your idea!” she exclaimed.

“And I was right. You looked just as amazing as I thought you would,” Celine told her.

“Ok, now I want to see pictures from that as well,” Emilie exclaimed. “Is that why Audrey had your number?”

“Yeah,” Adrien said. “She went to the trouble of introducing me and Marinette to a lot of people that night.”

Emile smiled. “She can be a lot of fun….” she laughed at Frederic’s sceptical look. “I realize she can be quite difficult. But as you know, we’ve been friends a long time. She has been amazing since I woke up… visiting me in the hospital and giving me a suite to stay in so I don’t have to be in that house,” she shuddered.

“Did she actually help you pack last week?” Adrien asked.

“She told me what I was keeping and what I was getting rid of,” Emilie laughed. “I did all the packing but I was very thankful both for her fashion guidance and the company. I still feel rather out of the loop.”

Frederic smiled. “I have no doubt you’ll catch up. I’m going to call Martin. He can set up video in the boardroom. Then I’ll call Victor, Claire and Louise and invite them to join us.”

******

Fifteen minutes later they were heading up to the boardroom.

“I’m sorry if I’m keeping people from their work,” Emilie said apologetically.

“Are you kidding? We were all beyond delighted when we heard the news. I’m so happy to see you Emilie. And you seem so much better than you were the last time I saw you,” Frederic told her.

“I am,” she replied. “It’s a long story but… i’m no longer ill.”

“That is wonderful,” Frederic said. “This is probably the biggest understatement ever but I’m sure you are very happy to have her back, Adrien.”

“Very,” he agreed, pausing as they got out of the elevator. “I honestly thought I would never see her again and it was so hard to accept that. I just… didn’t want to end up like my father.”

“He’d have done well to follow your example,” Emilie said, watching as Frederic opened the boardroom door.

“Frederic!” Martin exclaimed. “I set the projector up and its screen. The files are loaded on the laptop.”

“Thank you Martin, I appreciate it. I don’t believe you ever met Adrien’s mother. Emilie, this is Martin, our Communications Director.

“It’s very nice to meet you, Martin,” Emilie said, smiling brightly.

“I’m very pleased to meet you,” Martin replied. “I’d heard that Adrien looked a lot like you but… seeing you next to each other…” he shook his head. “I know you have an identical twin but I’ve never met her.”

“That doesn’t surprise me,” Emilie said dryly. “I don’t think she’s spent much time in France since I disappeared.”

There was a knock on the door and Victor peeked in. “Oh my god!” he exclaimed in delight. “Emilie? I just can’t believe this. Is it really you?”

“It is,” she confirmed, smiling as he came over to exchange kisses with her. “It’s so good to see you Victor!”

“I’m so glad to see you!” he said. “When the rumors started, I felt so bad for Adrien. He already had so much to deal with even without that kind of speculation. I was so pleased when it turned out to be true.”

Emilie grinned. “I’m sure it sounded pretty wild… Believe me, the entire story is… well, even stranger.”

“I am just so glad you are here, no matter what led to it,” Victor said firmly. “We’ve all had to watch Gabriel’s… deterioration without being able to do much about it. It was… painful, both professionally and personally.”

“I’m sure it was,” Emilie said gently. “I never thought he’d… go so far to hurt anyone. When I was sick, I was mostly afraid he would become very neglectful, maybe even disappear himself. I just did my best to… prepare him. It wasn’t enough I guess.”

“He just refused to accept anything that wasn’t what he wanted,” Adrien said. “That was all he cared about, at any cost.”

Emilie sighed. “And plenty of people, including him, are paying the price.”

There was another knock on the door and Claire and Louise came in.

“Emilie!” Louise exclaimed. “I can’t tell you how pleased I am to see you! Can I give you a hug?”

“Of course you can,” Emilie said, walking over to embrace her. “I’m so delighted to see you and Claire! I’m not terribly creative as you know but it was always so much fun to come in and see what you were working on.”

“I’m glad to see you too Emilie, and you are always welcome to stop by,” Claire said. “So many of our colleagues have been asking those of us who have been here long enough what you were like. Anytime you want to come in, I’ll be happy to introduce you.”

“I have to say, I am very curious about what is happening here,” Emilie confessed.

Claire nodded. “I can see Gabriel’s influence in the design but… it’s a major progression in a totally different direction. Marinette, are you going to have time while you are interning to come help in my department?”

“I’d be happy to!” she exclaimed. “I work Wednesday and Thursday afternoons in my parents’ bakery but my time is pretty flexible apart from that.”

“I’m sure I can work with your schedule,” Claire said. “So what’s going on up here?”

“I’m being nosy,” Emilie said, giggling. “I asked to see the shows from Paris Fashion Week.”

“Ah!” Louise laughed. “The Gabriel line certainly kept me busy. I had a huge team of contractors to get all the embroidery done. It’s difficult. I’m very proud of the work but it feels so tied to everything else that happened.”

“I’m sure,” Emilie said quietly. “I have mixed feelings about it but I know if I would have been here, I would have been at the show so I want to see it.”

“If everyone is here, I’ll start the Helios one first,” Martin said.

“Please do!” Emilie replied.

Martin nodded and clicked on his mouse. The video instantly began playing on the screen.

“Boooo,” Adrien said quietly as Jake and eventually Noah appeared.

Frederic, Celine and Marinette laughed quietly as Emilie’s brow furrowed. Her expression abruptly changed to one of delight as she saw Adrien and Marinette.

“It sounds like there’s a story happening here but look at you two!” she exclaimed. “You look so cute!”

“I’ll tell you about those two some other time,” Adrien promised. He smiled as she nodded, her eyes still focused on the screen.

When the show ended, she sighed happily. “I bet you’ve sold a lot of swimsuits Frederic,” she said. “With such cute models, how could you not?”

“You’re not wrong there,” Frederic laughed. “And sales for the summer stuff has really picked up since the Instagram campaign.”

“I wondered if that might be happening,” Marinette said. “We went to the store the other day and there was someone there to get a pair of purple chinos because her size was sold out online. Are you doing reorders?”

“No,” Frederic said. “This is exactly what we wanted. We’ll get the autumn line in place as the summer inventory dwindles. We ended up placing the full order after a month of steadily increasing sales.”

“That’s what I met with Raphael about last week,” Adrien explained.

“I’ve got the Gabriel show ready,” Martin said. “Are you ready Emilie?”

“As much as I can be,” she replied. “Please go ahead.”

Emilie was the only one in the room who was concentrating on the show. Everyone else kept subtly looking at her, curious to see how she would react to it. The first time Adrien appeared, she audibly gasped. “Darling? Is that you?”

“Yeah,” Adrien said, looking self-conscious. “I opened and closed the show.”

“You look divine...oh! They just panned to Marinette. Petal, you look beautiful!” Emilie cooed.

“Thank you,” Marinette said shyly.

“Goodness,” Emilie said, giggling as Adrien came on again a few minutes later in his second outfit. “I’ll bet that look got some attention!”

Celine grinned. “You are absolutely right it did. I admit, I like to find edgier things for Adrien. It’s an interesting juxtaposition considering how sweet he is. And he wears anything with a lot of poise and confidence.”

“Thanks I guess,” Adrien teased her.

Celine shrugged. “I’ve said before. I like playing dress up and you and Marinette are my favorites.”

Emilie laughed. “It looks like you are good at it… oh…” she sighed as Adrien came on in his third outfit. “I see what Audrey meant. This is a very strong collection. That foolish idiot of a man.” She continued to watch as the rest of the models went up and down the catwalk and finally Adrien returned on his own in the beautiful embroidered coat. “Gabriel,” she murmured. “How could you throw this all away?” Her eyes followed Adrien as he walked to the end of the runway and took the coat off. She gasped quietly as Gabriel walked on to the runway, immediately noticing the change in his body language and expressions since she had disappeared. “What did he say to you?” she asked quietly.

“He said… you should be there… that he made this for you,” Adrien said, somewhat reluctantly.

“Did he… even thank you… for doing this?” she asked, already fairly certain what his answer would be.

“No,” Adrien sighed. “I’m beginning to realize more and more… that he only ever wanted to make an effort for you… and for what he made… there wasn’t room for anything or anyone else.”

Chapter Text

The trip to the courthouse was very quiet. Adrien had one arm tightly wrapped around Marinette and his opposite hand was clutched in his mother’s. Marinette gently caressed just above his knee, feeling the tension radiating from his body.

“I… I don’t know if I can do this,” he said quietly as the courthouse came into view. “I don’t know if I can hear… whatever they will say. What do I even want it to be?”

“Darling, you don’t have to go in,” Emilie reassured him. “There are no rules, no expectations. Go in if you need to… but not because you think you have to.”

“I don’t know,” Adrien said again, sounding increasingly anxious. “I’m not sure what I need. Are you going to go in, Mother?”

“Yes,” she said quietly. “My feelings for your father are… complicated. I know what I have to do next even if he doesn’t yet but… I cannot leave him to this alone. I… just can’t.”

Adrien looked at her, her expression sad but resolute and sighed. “If you can be this brave,” he finally said. “Then so can I.”

“I’ll be with you too,” Marinette said softly. “I’m not going anywhere as long as you need me.”

To their relief, the press had been contained in a sectioned off area right next to the door. They could hear cameras clicking as they all got out of the car. Gorilla escorted Emilie up to the entrance with Marinette and Adrien close behind. Adrien felt so sick with nerves that everything seemed to buzz around him and he couldn’t even tell what the journalists were shouting. He could feel Marinette’s arm around his waist and the comforting feeling of her body close to his as she matched her stride to his own. Gorilla retreated back to the car as the three of them walked into the building. Adrien took a deep breath, feeling his nausea increase. It was far busier than it had ever been before and he suddenly realized he would have to return for Nathalie’s trial, definitely as Chat Noir and possibly even as himself. As much as he wanted all of this to be over, there was still more stretching out interminably in front of him.

Noticing how pale and sick he looked, Marinette dug in her bag for her roll of mints. “Here,” she offered them to him. “If you aren’t feeling good, this might help a little and at the very least, it’ll be a little distraction.”

“Thanks,” he said quietly, taking one out and returning the roll to her, discreetly popping it into his mouth before they walked into the courtroom.

Marinette could feel all the attention in the room suddenly focusing on them as they made their way to their seats. She and Emilie sat down on either side of Adrien, each of them holding one of his hands. The judges came in and the room abruptly became very quiet. Gabriel was escorted in, looking pale and tired, his expression resigned. The presiding judge quickly called the room to order as everyone looked at him expectantly.

“Thank you for your prompt attention,” the judge said. “We are here to announce a verdict relating to the charges of terrorism against Gabriel Agreste by the city of Paris and the charges of assault and abandonment of a minor by Adrien Agreste. He has been found guilty on all counts.”

A wave of emotions crashed over Marinette as the news created a variety of reactions from those attending the trial. She could feel Adrien shivering next to her, completely overwhelmed by the announcement. She abruptly dropped his hand and wrapped her arm around him, pressing herself against him.

The judge sat quietly as the noise quickly died down before continuing. “It took a great deal of discussion to reach a consensus on the sentence. Even as we all definitely agreed that Mr. Agreste was indeed guilty of the charges, we discussed many factors that impacted what we felt the sentence should be. The main damage he has done to this city has been psychological and it has been impossible to quantify. This being said, the city endured repeated attacks for over three and a half years. Mr. Agreste could have at any point recognized the harm he was doing to the city and his family but he did not. Thus we have reached an agreement to sentence him to twenty years in prison and a €250,000 fine. Time served already will be included. That concludes this trial. The trial for Nathalie Sancouer, accused as a co-conspirator in this case will begin next week.” The judge stood up, nodding at the other six judges and left the room, the rest of them promptly following him out.

“Can we please go?” Adrien asked quietly, shivering more than ever. “I feel terrible.”

“Yes of course, darling,” Emilie said, pausing as she made eye contact with Gabriel.

Marinette felt an unwelcome twinge of pain as she watched Gabriel mouth ‘I’m sorry’ to his wife before being led away. Emilie looked at him steadily, nodding to acknowledge his message before standing up and helping Adrien to his feet. Marinette quickly stood up on his other side, wrapping an arm around his waist supportively. The three of them made their way out of the courtroom, Adrien taking deep breaths in an attempt to steady himself.

“I’m messaging Gorilla,” Emilie said. “Adrien, are you going to be alright if we have to wait for him?”

“Yeah,” he said quietly. “I bet he’s nearby anyway.”

“I guess you’re right. He just texted me back that he will be outside in five minutes,” Emilie replied.

“He has a knack for finding somewhere nearby to wait,” Adrien said. “No matter where we are or what time it is.”

Emilie smiled. “Gorilla is wonderful, I have to agree.”

“I’m not leaning on you too much am I?” Adrien asked, looking at Marinette.

“No, you’re fine Gorgeous,” she assured him.

They made their way slowly through the crowd to the door and when they opened it, Gorilla was waiting to escort them the rest of the way along with Sacha.

“I assume you aren’t ready to make a statement,” he murmured to Emilie. “Would you like to prepare one for the office to release?”

“We can work on that later,” she promised. “For now, we need to get Adrien out of here.”

“Absolutely,” he agreed. “Just ignore the journalists. We are not obligated to answer their questions, ok?”

“Ok.” Adrien said quietly. His shivering had subsided but he was still very pale.

Gorilla pressed forward with everyone following close behind. He unlocked the door and quickly let them in the car. Adrien, Marinette and Emilie slid into the back while Sacha took the front seat.

“I’m sorry Adrien,” Gorilla said as he drove them away from the scene.

“Me too,” he said quietly. “He deserves to be where he is but that doesn’t make me feel any better.”

“No,” Emilie agreed. “It doesn’t make me feel better either.”

“Are you coming to the bakery?” Adrien asked.

“Yes darling. I’d rather be with you… for both our sakes.”

*****

The front of the bakery was mercifully void of journalists, thanks to the intimidating presence of Lieutenant Raincomprix outside.

“Thank you so much,” Marinette called to him as she unlocked the service door, Emilie and Adrien clinging to each other just behind her.

“Of course,” he said. “Sabine called me over twenty minutes ago because they were being overwhelmed. I thought I’d stick around for a few minutes in case you were coming back here.”

“I appreciate it,” Marinette told him as Adrien nodded numbly in agreement without saying anything.

“My pleasure,” the Lieutenant said, looking at them sympathetically.

“Do you know him?” Emilie asked quietly as Marinette opened the door and they all went inside.

“He’s our classmate’s father,” Marinette explained. “Sabrina. Chloe’s friend.”

“Sabrina? I do remember her a little,” Emilie said. “I was already ill when those two became friends. Was she… sitting next to Chloe when I visited you at school?”

“Yes,” Marinette answered as they slowly made their way up the stairs to the living area.

“Hello,” Sabine greeted them when they came into the room. “It was quiet and I saw Gorilla’s car so I thought I’d come up and see if you needed anything.”

“A stiff drink,” Emilie sighed. “It’s been a difficult afternoon.”

“Yeah,” Adrien managed to agree as he sat down wearily on the sofa.

“Yes, to the stiff drink or the difficult afternoon?” Sabine asked as she found a bottle of Grand Marnier she had stashed away.

“I don’t know,” Adrien sighed. “It was just horrible. I knew it would be.” He bit his lip as the full realization hit him and his face crumpled before he buried it in his hands.

“Oh darling,” Emile said as she rushed over to sit next to him.

“I’m sorry,” he sobbed as he leaned into her. “I know this is just as bad for you… probably worse… you shouldn’t have to…” Adrien completely lost his composure as Emilie hugged him fiercely to her. “No, I’m too big,” he protested as she tried to support him. “I’ll hurt you.”

Marinette paused as she quickly sized up the situation, watching Adrien vainly attempt to stop crying as his mother tried to comfort him. Something she had been wrestling with for several days abruptly became clear to her and she raced up the stairs to her room. Sabine watched her go in concern as she collected everything for the drink she was preparing, unsure if her daughter was upset but also wanting to help Emilie in whatever way she could. Adrien was gasping as he tried to stop crying but the tears were pouring down his face as Emilie stroked his hair, clearly wishing she could do more. She looked up as Marinette rapidly came back downstairs, clutching something firmly in her hand.

“Emilie,” she said quietly as she stepped in front of her, wanting to sit down and comfort Adrien herself but realizing how much he needed his mother. She held out her hand as Emilie looked at her, uncurling her fingers from the item in her palm to reveal a beautiful peacock brooch. Emilie gasped in recognition as she looked at the pin and Adrien looked up, still crying, his eyes widening as he realized what was happening. He knew there was no reason to ask, that Marinette knew what she was doing and why--even more than she could possibly describe--so he made no move to interrupt her.

“Emilie,” Marinette repeated. “Here is the Miraculous of the peacock. You know what it is capable of but today you only need it for the enhanced strength that comes from being transformed. I’m sorry I can’t allow you to keep this and you won’t be able to tell anyone you’ve been able to wield it again. Can I trust you?”

“How… how do you have this? Why?” Emilie stammered.

“I’m the Guardian,” Marinette said simply.

Chapter Text

“You’re…the Guardian...” realization dawned on Emilie. “Gabriel said he captured…but that means...you’re Ladybug? He… doesn't know...does he?”

“No, and that must never happen,” Marinette said. “Now is the moment that I must trust you with this information but he…cannot ever find out.”

“I am so honored that you feel like I am worthy of that,” Emilie said quietly, accepting the pin. “I will never, ever do anything to destroy your trust, Marinette.” She attached the brooch to the belt around her skirt, smiling faintly as the familiar creature burst out of her ball and squealed with delight. Adrien watched as Duusu nuzzled his mother’s cheek, feeling weak with grief as the tears continued to slide down his cheeks but also having a strange sense of peace.

“Duusu,” Emilie said quietly. “Are you really ok? Can I do this?”

“I’m ok, Emilie,” Duusu assured her. “The Guardian has already wielded me. I promise I won’t hurt you now.”

Emilie smiled. “I never thought I would do this again. Duusu, spread my feathers.”

Everyone watched as Emilie transformed. Unlike Mayura, her colors were those of the green peacock. She wore a bright green feathered sheath dress with slightly darker green tights and elegant gold heels. The peacock Miraculous glittered on a deep blue velvet belt around her waist. A green and blue mask emphasised the brilliance of her green eyes and a dramatic peacock feather fascinator was perched on her blonde hair, now pinned in an elaborate mass of coils on top of her head. Adrien looked at her in complete wonder as she stroked the tears from his face.

“It’s all right darling, you won’t hurt me,” she said.

Adrien looked at her, thinking to himself how much his father would have given to be in his place at this moment and once again the thought came to him that his mother was all Gabriel had ever wanted, not even excepting him and he leaned into her as he cried again. She pulled him halfway into her lap, cradling him to her as he wept, kissing his forehead as Marinette silently retreated to the kitchen.

“We should leave them for now,” she whispered to Sabine. “Let’s go down to the bakery.”

“That’s a good idea,” Sabine whispered back. “I am so proud of you dear. You did exactly the right thing.”

******

Paonne held Adrien until he finally quit crying, the relief of being able to hold him and comfort him more than she could have imagined. The realization that Marinette was Ladybug had in itself been difficult to process but extrapolating from that took her breath away. She kept her thoughts to herself, not wanting to add further stress to her son and knowing he would tell her himself when he was ready.

Having relieved the pressure of all the emotions that he had been holding in, Adrien sighed deeply. It had been more difficult than he could have predicted, finding himself so grown up and so much bigger than his mother on her return. He had only been a little smaller than her when she went away and even then he had worried about hurting her in her weak state and though it had pained him to do so, he began refusing to let her hold him the way she had wanted to toward the end. The comfort of being held by his mother like this was something he could only distantly remember and never imagined could happen again.

“Paonne?” he asked quietly. “Is this what you looked like before?”

“Yes darling,” she replied quietly.

“I can tell that you know,” Adrien said. “You can never tell Father… or anyone else… that I’m Chat Noir.”

“I promise I never will,” she assured him, leaning down to kiss his forehead.

Carefully he sat up, once again looking at his mother, resplendent in blue, green and gold.

“This doesn’t… remind you of Mayura does it?” she asked anxiously.

“No, not at all. She was purple and blue… with some pink,” Adrien said.

“Well, that’s a relief,” Emilie said, giggling quietly. “I do not want to in any way resemble her. She was a pain in the ass even when I was still around. I could see she had a crush on Gabriel but he didn’t seem to notice at all.”

Adrien pulled a face. “Not sure I like having that in common with him. I had no idea how Marinette felt about me for a long time. I was too in love with Ladybug to notice.”

“You mean, you didn’t know who each other was?” Paonne asked incredulously.

Adrien couldn’t help but laugh. “No, the original Guardian said we would have to give back our Miraculous if anyone discovered who we were, including each other. Once Ladybug became the Guardian, she was so scared that she retreated even further. That lasted about a year and it was very painful. I was always very upfront about my feelings for her but she made it clear that she viewed me as a friend and that she liked someone else. I eventually realized I needed to back off and after awhile we came to a place where she felt we should know each other’s identities.”

“What was that like?” she asked.

“Could you… just be Mother now?” Adrien asked hesitantly. “I’m really thankful for… feeling like I wasn’t going to hurt you but…” he trailed off.

“Of course darling,” Paonne said. “Duusu, fall my feathers.” In a flash of deep blue light, Emilie reappeared. “Thank you Duusu,” she said, lightly tickling the Kwami’s cheek. She smiled as Duusu giggled with pleasure. “Stay here where it’s safe all right?”

“Just a second,” Adrien said. “Plagg?”

“Hey kid,” Plagg said, zipping out of the refrigerator. “The Miraculous Club just keeps getting bigger these days doesn’t it?”

“I guess so,” Adrien replied ruefully. “Mother, this is my Kwami, Plagg. Did you notice any melon in the refrigerator while you were in there?”

“No idea,” Plagg shrugged. “You know and I know that all I care about is cheese.”

Adrien smiled and winked at him. “I know, I know. What’s a nice, fresh piece of fruit when you can have the stinkiest piece of cheese in existence?” He got up to see what was in the refrigerator. “Do you like cantaloupe Duusu?” he asked after looking inside.

“Oh yes,” she said excitedly.

“Let me get you a snack and then you and Plagg can go hang out in Marinette’s room.” he said, retrieving the melon from the fridge and cutting it in half. He carefully cut a wedge from one half and put it on a plate before wrapping the rest up and putting it away. Emile watched in bemusement.

“Do you know, I don’t think I’ve ever done that before,” she laughed. “I have very little experience preparing food. I’m either going to have to learn or have a private chef again once I move out of the hotel.”

“Tom and Sabine have taught me a few things… and Marinette for that matter,” Adrien said as he returned to the couch. Duusu finished her snack and then she and Plagg phased through a wall on their way to Marinette’s room. “Back to what you were asking earlier, I was… very happy and surprised that Marinette was Ladybug. I had always liked her and I tried very hard not to dwell on those feelings because of how I felt about Ladybug. It was a relief to find out they were the same person. I was also scared though because I knew Ladybug liked someone but I wasn’t sure who Marinette might like. Then she said it was me and everything just fell into place.”

“When was that?” Emilie asked.

“Last September,” he answered. “We’ve been together ever since. It’s been… the best thing that ever happened to me. Getting to really know her on both sides of the mask… I just feel very lucky.”

“I’m sure that has made the more difficult aspects of your role much easier to bear,” Emilie said.

“Yes,” he agreed. “Being Chat Noir has obviously directly exposed me to everything Father was doing. I never suspected him until after we were together… which is a long story in itself.”

“But you did… suspect him when he was unmasked?” Emilie asked.

“Yes,” Adrien sighed. “And I thought I was prepared for that but… I wasn’t. All along this process, I’ve told myself over and over that I’m ready for what’s coming next and I never am. I just can’t prepare for the pain. And the first painful thing didn’t make the next one any better or the one after that. Just when I think I’ve moved on from the sadness, the next thing happens and I realize it was just… lurking beneath the surface, waiting for me.”

“I’m understanding more and more, why you want to go into therapy as a profession,” Emilie said. “The way you spoke to me when you were Chat Noir and this… there are so many things that you shouldn’t have to understand at your age but… it’s been your path.”

“I don’t regret it either,” Adrien told her. “I’m glad Master Fu chose me. It’s been… humbling sometimes and I haven’t always been sure that I deserved it… but being Chat has been a gift. And learning about other people… helping them… that’s been my favorite part.”

There was a knock on the door and Marinette peeked in. “My parents are closing the bakery. Can I come in?”

“Of course you can, Petal,” Emilie said, standing up. “Let me give you this back. I don’t want you to worry about it.”

“Thank you,” Marinette replied, taking the peacock Miraculous from her.

“I told Plagg to take Duusu up to your room,” Adrien told her.

“Ok, thanks,” Marinette said, smiling and gently running a hand through his hair. “I’ll be right back.”

True to her word, Marinette was back within minutes. By the time she returned, both of her parents were in the kitchen.

“Hello dear,” Sabine said. “I’m making Emilie coffee with Grand Marnier. Do you want one?”

“Ok,” Marinette agreed. “I’ve had that in crepes Suzette haven’t I?”

“That’s right,” Sabine agreed. “It is very nice in coffee with some brown sugar syrup and whipped cream. Your papa is whipping some for me. Did you want one Adrien?”

“It sounds like dessert and you’re making it so yes, definitely,” he replied, a tired smile on his face.

“I’ll make enough for all of us in that case,” Sabine said.

“Cream is ready,” Tom said as he got out a plate and filled it with an assortment of leftover cookies and pastries.

Emilie giggled. “It looks like we’re having dessert for dinner.”

Ten minutes later they sat around the table, drinking their coffee and helping themselves to the treats from the bakery.

“How on earth do you know how to make so many things?” Emilie marveled. “I was just telling Adrien that he clearly knows more about preparing food than I do already. I don’t know how to make anything apart from coffee and tea.”

Tom smiled. “My father is a baker so I grew up with it. I always loved baking although I have a rather different philosophy from him. He’s an absolutely rabid traditionalist. Nothing can ever change with him. I thought that would be my lot in life, but when I met Sabine, she convinced me I would be better off starting over and she was right.”

“I guess you must have related to Adrien a little,” Emile said.

“Yes, although I didn’t have the additional disadvantage of having such an… influential father. I’ve encouraged him to think beyond being tied to his father and just doing what Gabriel wanted him to… but I never imagined it would look like this.”

“I’m glad that you said those things,” Adrien said. “I was so isolated and it was all I knew. You gave me an idea that it could change and that was very comforting as things got worse.”

“I’m so sad you had to go through that,” Emilie said quietly. “The more I think about it, the more I can’t imagine how difficult it must have been going to fight him with that in mind.”

“Well, I didn’t truly know so I tried to focus on that,” Adrien replied. “Once he was captured, we had to take the police to the temple to interview him and later escort him from the temple to prison. Then we had to escort him from prison to court and back again until we captured Mayura.. And then we had to give testimony… honestly, this entire process since we defeated him has been so painful. Fighting him was easier than the rest because I could have a bit of denial about what I was doing.” Marinette reached over and took his hand in hers. He looked at her and smiled reassuringly. “I will be ok, though,” he continued. “I know that things are getting better even as these events have taken place.”

“How long have you known that these two are…” Emile trailed off as she looked at Tom and Sabine.

“I started to suspect just after Adrien’s birthday,” Sabine said. “Gabriel was out of town and Adrien was staying here. Marinette had a nightmare and woke everyone up with her screaming. I raced up to check on her and he was holding her, wearing these Ladybug pajamas that she had made for him and… I just felt like I was seeing two different people as well as them. Adrien had visited us as Chat Noir once and as soon as I started thinking that he could be Chat… everything that happened when they got together made a lot more sense. I didn’t know for certain until the morning after Marinette’s birthday when they came crashing back into her room with Alya and Nino having just defeated Hawk Moth.”

Emile laughed despite herself. “So Alya and Nino know as well?”

“Yes… and Celine figured it out. That’s all as far as we know,” Adrien said.

“Sabine, you said the beginning of their relationship made sense to you if they were Chat Noir and Ladybug. What do you mean?” Emilie asked curiously.

“I’m not sure I’m the best to explain that,” Sabine said. “They are the ones who were experiencing it.”

“I’d be interested to know what you thought,” Adrien said softly. “It changed my entire life when she suggested we reveal who we were to each other. I’d known her for three years and I had reached the point where I wasn’t sure if we would ever do that. I hoped it might be possible if we defeated Hawk Moth but… that just didn’t feel like it was ever going to happen.”

Sabine smiled at him fondly. “I knew Marinette liked Adrien a lot but I tried to stay out of it. Then she came downstairs one evening just beside herself with excitement because he had asked her on a date with Alya and Nino. He came over the next morning to see her during her break from work and there was a comfort level I had never seen between them. Marinette always used to get so nervous around him and that was entirely gone. It took awhile for me to get to know Adrien because he was so guarded and anxious to please but the more I saw them together, the more I could see this… total acceptance between them. I couldn’t make sense of how two sixteen-year-old friends could suddenly have that but I knew I couldn’t interfere. So I tried to be as supportive as I could and encourage them to talk things through right from the start. And the more Tom and I got to know Adrien, the more we couldn’t help but love him. We always wished there was more we could do but we recognized how tricky his life was.”

Emilie smiled. “It just sounds so incredibly special. I hope I would have handled it as well as you and Tom have. I was rather overprotective even as I became more and more unwell. It was startling to wake up and discover that the sheltered life I gave him had just disappeared and left him having to figure out so much for himself.”

“I’ve had a lot of people looking out for me,” Adrien said. “I guess I’ve had to grow up faster in some ways--so has Marinette-- but I’m glad I’ve found adults I can trust along the way. I was afraid that being emancipated would mean I was expected to be completely independent but so far I don’t feel like that. I’ve been doing my best to take care of myself but sometimes I just feel like I’m not ready for it and then I’m really grateful that I can still get help and support.”

Tom grinned. “I’m afraid you are stuck with all of us now, son. If you need help with anything, take your pick. We’re all here for you.”

Chapter Text

“Good morning, Marinette!” Dominique greeted her as she came into the studio. “Frederic will be here any minute. He heard you were going to be in the studio today and he’s been wanting to talk to you.”

“Eeek, I’m not in trouble am I?” Marinette asked, laughing nervously.

“Of course not!” Dominique replied. “I think he just wanted to pick your brain about something.

“Intriguing,” Marinette said with a grin. “This week has been wild. Today things are finally starting to feel normal although Nathalie’s trial starts next week so that may make everything complicated again. Adrien already knows he has to testify.”

“That’s too bad,” Dominique said. “I suppose it won’t be as traumatizing as testifying against Gabriel but I bet he’d rather never set foot in that court again.”

“That’s exactly it,” Marinette agreed. “Still, I’m glad they have been preparing for this trial while the other one was happening. I’d rather get this all over with and so would Adrien. I think it feels like a cloud over Helios to him… having this unresolved.”

“I can definitely understand that,” Dominique sighed. “I mean it does feel like we’re moving on from everything but that has still been weighing on me. I can’t imagine how that feels for Adrien.”

“Well, I hope you are encouraged by how well the summer line is doing now,” Marinette replied.

“You are right about that,” Dominique told her ruefully. “I tend to assume the worst when things aren’t going well and it gets depressing. The increasing sales and positive feedback from our customers have been really reassuring. It makes me feel far more optimistic about the fall line.”

“I know I am very excited about that,” Marinette assured her. “I’m dying to look at the samples.”

“They’re all next door in the workroom,” Dominique said. “We can definitely look through everything in a little while. Frederic might even want to do that when he gets here.”

“What’s that?” Frederic asked as he came in.

“Marinette was wanting to see the samples for the fall line,” Dominique explained.

“Ah, we can absolutely do that Marinette but first of all, I’ve been wanting to ask you about your thoughts after visiting the store. Adrien told me you had never been there before. I really wanted to talk to you about it, especially since you were never there when it was Gabriel. You won’t have that in your head the way I do… and the rest of the team,” Frederic said.

“Oh!” Marinette exclaimed. “Well… I’m happy to talk about it. Was there anything in particular you wanted to know?”

“Considering we are aiming this line at people around your age, do you feel like the store reflects that? Both inventory and ambience wise?” Frederic asked.

“Well,” Marinette said thoughtfully. “It’s kind of minimalist and boutiquey which feels a little intimidating. Not a lot of inventory makes me feel like things are going to be really expensive. I think being able to stock the full fall line will help that a lot.”

“Yes, there definitely needs to be more stock,” he agreed. “Anything else?”

“Yes, you need accessories,” Marinette replied. “Shoes, bags, wallets, belts, jewelry… typical stuff like that but also maybe phone cases, charms, keychains… maybe even water bottles. That sort of thing would give the brand visibility even with people who can’t afford the clothing yet. Plus it gives you a chance to develop an overall aesthetic that can be applied to anything. I know you were working on some kind of graphic to brand the denim with. Did you figure that out?”

“We did,” Frederic confirmed. “We’ve done an eight pointed sun that is influenced by the Vergina Sun imagery from Greek mythology.

“The what?” Marinette asked, getting her phone out of her bag.

Frederic laughed and spelled it out for her as she did an image search on her phone. “Oooh,” she said as she inspected the design. “So you’ve simplified this?”

“That’s right. I suppose we could find ways to incorporate that design on other things. Maybe you could work with the team to research some suppliers,” Frederic said.

“I would love to!” she exclaimed. “I would love to learn more about how that process works and I think it would make the store feel more accessible. If you are trying to get people into the store, you could even have a few products that are exclusively available there.”

“Hmmm,” Frederic said thoughtfully. “I’d have to find out what our sales goals and strategies are in terms of that. Did you have any other ideas?”

“Well,” Marinette said thoughtfully. “This might be kind of ambitious but I think it would be good to do a mini-refresh mid-season. You know, add several new items before Christmas and then when it’s close to summer.”

“That would certainly keep us busy,” Frederic laughed. “I see what you are saying though. It keeps us in mind doesn’t it?”

“That’s what I thought. It keeps people talking about the brand,” Marinette said. “The last thing I have been thinking about is using your couture resources.”

“Oh, I am already with you on that,” Frederic said, smiling at her. “Well… maybe we’re on the same page. We’ve decided to make some limited edition versions of the three hand bags in the line. They’ll be hand-painted with the new sum graphic and we’re producing ten of each.”

“That is exactly what I had in mind!” Marinette exclaimed. “Have you got any of those ready?”

“Just one,” Frederic said, grinning at her excitement. “Come on through to the workroom and take a look for yourself.”

Marinette and Dominique followed him in as he opened the door for them. Hugo and Remi were sitting at a table, sorting through a pile of materials.

“They’re working on the spring/summer mood board for next year,” Dominique explained.

“Sounds fun,” Marinette said with a smile. “Am I going to disturb them looking at the fall things?”

Remi looked up and smiled. “Don’t worry about it,” she said. “It’s nice to see you Marinette.”

“It’s nice to see you too Remi,” Marinette replied.

“I was just telling her about the new logo that you and Jean have been working on,” Frederic said.

“Oh!” Marinette exclaimed. “I guess that must have been where you were when I came in on Monday.”

“That’s right,” Remi agreed. “I can’t believe I missed my chance to meet Adrien’s mother. I am so curious about her!”

“I’m sure she’ll be back again soon,” Marinette reassured her. “I know she is curious about the line. Can I see the logo design?”

“Sure!” Remi exclaimed, picking up a tablet laying nearby. “I’m not sure we’re going to incorporate this into everything or if it’s going to be added to the brand on the sign. I think we’re figuring that out still.”

“Oooh, I like it,” Marinette said. “Is it going to have a metallic finish?”

“We are working on that,” Remi said. “We don’t want it to be… glittery or shiny… Personally I wouldn’t be against a sort of antique metallic finish if it’s possible.”

Frederic smiled in satisfaction, watching as Remi became more animated as she described what they were trying to achieve to Marinette. Soon they were completely immersed in their conversation about how to implement the logo. He exchanged a look with Hugo who nodded in acknowledgement. Remi had been working very hard since switching design teams but this was the first time they had seen her show excitement about her work. Marinette’s enthusiasm and interest seemed to have ignited something in her.

“Let’s come back to the samples later,” Frederic murmured to Dominique. “I’d like to see the sketches you were telling me about.”

*****

“Hey Doll, you found me!” Celine exclaimed as she opened her office door. “I want the gossip so I ordered in for us. I hope you don’t mind.”

“Of course not! Thank you!” Marinette replied as she hugged Celine. “What did you get?”

Celine grinned. “I was missing Cypriot food so I got fallafel delivered.”

“Ooh,” Marinette said, grinning back. “Sounds good to me. Just so you know, I want your gossip too.”

Celine smiled. “Of course! That is only fair.” She gestured to a small table where a takeout bag sat with some bottles of water.

“Your office is really nice,” Marinette told her as she looked around, noticing a large white board covered in color coded notes with several things stuck to it with magnets. There were a few art prints on the wall and a sleek laptop on the desk with a cluster of framed pictures next to it.

“Thanks, it was Frederic’s but he moved to Nathalie’s old office since his role changed. Her old office is very central so it makes him more accessible to everyone,” Celine explained.

“Where is it?” Marinette asked.

“On the main floor, right next to Adrien’s office. I was going to ask you about that actually.”

“Ok,” Marinette agreed, accepting a wrapped pita sandwich from her. “What did you want to ask me about?”

“Well,” Celine paused. “I hope I’m not being...presumptuous but… I’m not sure Adrien wants that office. In fact, I can’t imagine that being comfortable for him. I know Odette wanted him to feel… accepted and welcome but.. I’m worried it seems like pressure to him. I asked him and he said if it made people feel better seeing his name on the door, then that was fine with him.”

“Yeah, that is what he said to me,” Marinette said thoughtfully. “He said he didn’t know if he’d ever want to use the office though. Is it very big?”

“Yes,” Celine said emphatically. “Ridiculously big actually.”

“Could we go look at it after lunch? I’ve been thinking about that and… maybe if I see it in person I can see if any of my ideas would work,” Marinette said.

“Sure! That’s a good idea. I think whatever we do, we need to get Adrien involved in it,” Celine said. “I know Odette asked his permission before she put up the name plate but… I just don’t want him to think he needs to do anything to make us happy.”

“Neither do I,” Marinette said. “I know he wants to be present because he cares about the team. He expects so much of himself because… that’s what he’s used to. But I don’t want this to be a source of stress for him.”

Celine sighed. “I feel guilty for even talking about this without him here. I’m just very aware of all the other things he’s been dealing with him and I don’t want Helios to be anything like Gabriel was for him, even if it’s unintentional.”

They sat in silence for a few minutes as they ate their lunch.

“This is really good,” Marinette said eventually. “How did you find this place?”

“Henri found it,” Celine said, blushing slightly. “This is not the first time I’ve been pining for this kind of food. Henri did some research last time and brought me dinner.”

“Awww, that is really sweet,” Marinette cooed. “I guess that means things are going well! I’m so happy for you Celine.”

“Thanks,” Celine said, grinning. “I’m happy for me too. Henri is… impossible to resist.”

Marinette grinned back. “Oh really?” she asked mischievously.

“Hey! We’re two consenting adults who have apparently by some miracle managed to catch feelings for each other at the same time,” Celine said, laughing. “It’s possibly the first time, I’ve found myself in that situation and fortunately for me, he was patient enough to wait for me to figure it out.”

“Believe me, I don’t want the deets. My friends are sneaky enough trying to get me to say something incriminating,” Marinette replied.

“I assume you mostly mean Alya,” Celine said, giggling.

“You’re right,” Marinette agreed. “I’m pretty sure she doesn’t actually want the answers to her questions but I could be wrong.”

“I suppose there is more than one reason for her interest,” Celine said. “I’m sure it’s hard not to be a tiny bit curious, knowing what she knows.”

“I’m sure you’re right,” Marinette agreed. “She’s always had a lot of interest in both of our relationships… even before we knew who each other was.”

Celine laughed. “I have to say, I have a hard time wrapping my head around that. That must have been… very shocking. I talked to Adrien about it a little right after I figured it out. He said you got together right away. Was that… weird for you?”

“It was very shocking finding out,” Marinette agreed. “So much has happened since that it feels very long ago. Surprisingly, getting together so quickly didn’t feel weird at all. We actually did the reveal in my room, which is a story in itself… and we just… talked everything through and agreed that we wanted to be together that night.”

“In your room?” Celine spluttered. “How the hell did that come about?”

Marinette giggled. “Chat used to sometimes visit me if I was hanging out on the balcony. Obviously he was feeling lonely and would sneak out in the evenings so if he saw me, he’d stop and talk… mostly about Ladybug which was… awkward. You have no idea how many times I wished I could just like the guy who liked me but I couldn’t turn off what I felt for Adrien. Anyway, after I said I wanted to reveal our identities to each other after an akuma fight, he stopped by my house to ask if he could borrow my room and he didn’t say why.”

“Oh wow,” Celine started laughing. “That is too funny. I suppose you agreed.”

“I did, I didn’t know of a good reason not to,” Marinette admitted. “It worked out. I just… I will never forget Adrien Agreste appearing in front of me in my room like that. It was… the last thing I would ever have imagined. When we were just friends, he had this terrible habit of sneaking up on me and either suddenly talking as soon as he was close or tapping me on the shoulder… and I would be so surprised that I’d end up doing something really embarrassing. On the day we revealed ourselves, he did that to me as I was leaving school and I literally jumped into a bush. He had to pull me out and I was all scratched up. It was mortifying. And of course, most, if not all of my classmates saw it happen. He ended up using that for cover with Alya and Nino when he called them, saying he’d wanted to ask me on a double date with them but then felt so bad about how scratched up I was that he just left. I remember how annoyed I was. He was asking me if I needed to go to the nurse and I was just like… ‘Please let me go home where I can die of shame in privacy.’”

Celine giggled. “That… is hilarious. I’m amazed you found your words when you saw him.”

“So am I, honestly,” Marinette admitted. “I think the shock of it just… erased everything else. And then he was happy it was me. That was... just really amazing.”

“It is amazing,” Celine agreed. “I never in a zillion years would have thought I’d be having this conversation… with anyone.”

“Did Adrien tell you that… I told Emilie?” Marinette asked.

“No!” she exclaimed. “What happened?”

“Well, Emilie was… she used to wield the peacock Miraculous and it was damaged and that was what made her ill. I repaired it with the bond energy from Chat and I when we defeated Mayura. I ended up wielding it the other day because the Kwami asked me to and it was fine so I was relieved that it was definitely safe to use. Anyway, there was… well after the sentencing it became clear to me that I had to…give the Miraculous to Emilie for a little while, so I did...which of course meant explaining why I had it. I’d been thinking about telling her anyway but in that moment, I knew it was the right thing to do,” Marinette explained.

“Wow,” Celine replied. “I’m sure that was a relief for Adrien.”

“Definitely,” she agreed. “And he desperately needed that relief. I saw what I needed to do to give him that and it was...not just Adrien… but the bond we have. It was helping him as my partner… Chat… as well. It was a secret that was hurting him on both sides of the mask and I had to take that pain away from him.”

Celine sighed. “Doll, I don’t even know what to say to that. You and Adrien are the most incredible, amazing people I have ever met. The way you look out for each other is just so special.”

Chapter Text

“Hey Marinette! Hey Celine!” Margot greeted them as they left Celine’s office. “What are you up to?”

“Hi Margot!” Marinette exclaimed, giving her a hug. “We’re on a research mission. You can come along if you’re free.”

“Sounds intriguing,” Margot said, grinning as she followed them onto the elevator. “What sort of research are you doing?”

“I’m showing her Gabriel’s old office,” Celine explained as they went down to the foyer.

“Oh!” Margot looked startled. “I’ve never been in there!”

“I haven’t either,” Marinette replied. “I’ll fill you in when we get there, ok?”

“Sure,” Margot agreed, looking concerned. “Is everything all right?

“Yeah, don’t worry,” Marinette said reassuringly.

The elevator opened and Celine led them down the hall to an opaque glass door with a silvery finish. Adrien’s name was on a matte silver plate next to it. Celine pulled out her ID card and slid it through the reader before opening the door.

“Damn,” Marinette murmured in awe as she looked around the huge well-lit room. “This is… pretty fabulous and… it needs to be used… but not as an office and really, really not as Adrien’s office. The idea of him replacing his father in this room… no, no that just cannot happen.”

“I didn’t think of it like that,” Margot said, looking startled. “Not that I came up with it but… you’re right Marinette. After all the pressure he went through, I was surprised he even wanted this to survive. This… isn’t fair to him at all.”

“Exactly,” Celine agreed. “The intention is good but the symbolism of it… I just don’t think Odette’s perspective goes back far enough. I mean, Gabriel had barely been using the office when she started but for Adrien, this room goes all the way back for him. It is definitely… his father’s office to him.”

“There are literally baby pictures of him in this room… in the archives,” Marinette said. “This needs to be entirely repurposed in a way that reflects what is important to Adrien about Helios.”

“I agree,” Celine said, looking relieved. “Doll, you have no idea how happy I am to hear you say that. I know you will be able to discuss this with him in a way that helps him see… that we don’t want or expect him to fill his father’s role.”

“I’ll have to talk to Adrien about this and see what he thinks but… I think this needs to be some kind of meeting room and when finances are better, I think it needs to be divided into multiple private meeting rooms and a general workspace. It’s located right in the middle of everything so it would give people from different departments a place to meet so even if they don’t have their own offices, they could have private conversations. The rooms could have their own schedules that everyone could access so people could reserve them when they needed to,” Marinette said, wandering around the room thoughtfully.

“What a great idea!” Margot exclaimed.

Marinette smiled. “Thank you. I know the way everyone works together is something Adrien especially likes about Helios so I think he would be excited for something like this.”

“I think you’re right,” Celine agreed, giving her a hug.

“He told me he was going to come in after lunch,” Marinette said. I’ll see if he has time to talk. I don’t know if he was meeting with anyone in particular.”

They paused as they heard someone knock on the door before sliding their card through the reader.

“Hey!” Adrien said as he came in. “I was going to see Frederic and I thought I heard some familiar voices in here. What’s up?”

Marinette laughed. “I was literally just saying I hoped I’d have time to talk to you when you came in. Is Frederic expecting you right away?”

“I have a few minutes,” he replied, walking over to her and lightly pulling on her braid. “So tell me, what are you all doing in… here?” Adrien tried to keep his expression neutral but Marinette couldn instantly see the tension in his eyes.

“I’m sorry if I’m overstepping but this has been bothering me for a few days and I’ve been trying to come up with a solution. I needed to see this place for myself to see if any of the ideas I had could work,” Marinette explained.

“Well nobody solves problems like you Princess,” Adrien laughed, his expression relaxing somewhat. “If you have an idea for… this,” he trailed off, wrinkling his nose. “I’m all ears.”

“So, you’ve said how much you like the way people work as a team here and I know you don’t want to replace your father or even run this place in the same way. You shouldn’t be expected to occupy the space that he did,” Marinette said. “If this room is yours, it should be used to reflect what you value, not what your father valued.”

“Well, now I’m very interested. What do you have in mind?” Adrien asked, smiling at her.

“I think for now it should be a private meeting room for anyone to use, especially when they are meeting with other departments. I know you have the boardroom but this could be used for any kind of collaborative work and would be just for employees. When finances are more stable, I think it should be divided into a few reservable private rooms so that people who don’t have offices have a place to have private conversations and the remaining space should remain a sort of collaborative working and meeting space. Its central location makes it ideal for people to come here and meet from different departments.”

“Oh wow,” Adrien murmured, a delighted expression on his face. “Marinette… that is amazing… I would love that!” Impulsively, he pulled her close and pressed a kiss on her cheek. “Is my girlfriend a genius or what?”

Celine and Margot giggled, both of them relieved by the complete change in his demeanor.

“I can’t argue with that nor do I want to!” Celine exclaimed. “This has been bothering me too but I didn’t want to make anything worse. You’ve had so much to deal with already, Babe.”

“I think it’s a really exciting idea,” Margot agreed. “Kind of hilarious after having to sneak around Gabriel for so long that we’d use his old office for private conversations.”

“Holy shit!” Adrien exclaimed as he burst out laughing. “Sorry, I shouldn’t swear but… damn, I did not think of it like that. Sign me up!”

Marinette giggled. “I definitely think you should be involved in making this room come together.”

“I certainly want to,” Adrien assured her. “I think this would really help me actually… to make this room into something that I believe is important for everyone here and not just for me. I have no desire to have a space to hide out in. I’m not here day to day so if I’m around, it’s because I want to be accessible, not tucked away.”

“Well, yay for that!” Celine exclaimed. “We’ll let you get over to Frederic now. What are you up to Marinette?”

“I’m meeting Remi and Jean in graphics. Remi and I had a conversation about creating more accessories for Helios and using the new sun graphic they’ve developed,” Marinette explained.

“Ooh, what kind of accessories are we talking about?” Celine asked, her eyes gleaming.

“Both fashion and lifestyle stuff,” Marinette answered. “I’m not sure who is in charge of working with suppliers here but we might need to include them in this conversation too if they’re available or that may need to happen a little later, I’m not sure yet.”

“I’m sure you’ll figure it out,” Adrien told her, hugging her again. “I better get going. I don’t want to hold Frederic up. I’ll see you all later!”

“Bye Babe,” Celine said, winking at him playfully.

“Bye Adrien,” Margot added cheerfully.

******

“Hey Princess,” Adrien greeted Marinette as she met him next to the car. “Are you free tonight?”

“I am,” she said.” Did you want to do something?”

“Yeah, I just wanted to hang out with you at the apartment. I can order food in… whatever you like really,” he replied.

“Sounds nice,” she agreed, smiling up at him as he opened the door for her. “I probably shouldn’t spend the night though. I’ve got to work in the bakery tomorrow.”

“I know,” Adrien said as he slid in after her. “I’m going to help on Sunday so I’m staying with you on Saturday night. I guess I’ll survive until then. I hope.” He winked at her playfully.

Marinette giggled. “Me too. I hope. I missed you a lot last night.”

“Yeah,” Adrien sighed. “I did too. I’m really happy you can come over tonight for a while though. It’s been a busy week and we’ve each been doing our own things for a lot of it.”

“It feels good though, doesn’t it?” Marinette asked. “At least a little bit?”

“Maybe a little,” he conceded. “It’s become very apparent to me how necessary it is. Therapy has been very helpful in that regard. It gives me some clarity.”

“Well, if you want to talk about that tonight, I’m happy to listen,” Marinette replied softly.

“I might,” he said. “I’m still figuring things out.”

“No pressure either way,” Marinette assured him as she got out her phone. “ I’m going to text Maman to say I won’t be home until later. I can’t imagine it’ll be a problem.”

Adrien smiled and wrapped his arm around her, sighing in contentment as she leaned against him and quickly typed a message then sat watching for Sabine’s reply. The screen brightened as the text came in and she grinned.

“Looks like I’m good,” she said, smiling happily as he squeezed her to him.

*****

“Come snuggle with me,” Adrien invited as soon as they walked into his apartment. He went straight to the trunk next to the sofa and got a blanket out before sitting down, looking at her hopefully.

“Kitty eyes, how could I resist that,” Marinette said as she came over and sat in his lap. He relaxed back against one of the armrests and wrapped the blanket around them. She buried her face in his chest as he held her close.

“Thank you for dealing with the office thing,” he said softly as he played with her hair, wrapping the braid around his fingers and letting it go. “I knew they meant well and I didn’t want to… upset anyone but… I was just trying to ignore how uncomfortable it made me.”

“I’m glad you were ok with it,” Marinette said. “I didn’t want to overstep but I also don't want there to be so much pressure on you, even if it’s unintentional.”

“No, I’m glad you did. And I’m glad it ended up involving a few other people there. I talked to Frederic about it and he thought it was a good idea. He said he would talk to a few people about it and say it was going to be my project. So hopefully, no one will be hurt or upset. I mean, I’m not undoing a great deal of work so…” he trailed off.

“It’s going to be ok,” Marinette reassured him. “As you said, you don’t need it and you want it to be used to help everyone. And if anyone is unhappy that you don’t want to use it, that isn’t your fault. You need to be able to make decisions that feel good to you. Helios isn’t Gabriel. No one gets to tell you that you are obligated to do anything. And while I’m on my soapbox, you have already been making so many good decisions on behalf of Helios. You are doing a great job.”

“Thanks Bug,” Adrien replied, kissing the top of her head. “I love it when you go all Ladybug on me and remind me who I’m talking to.”

Marinette laughed. “What can I say?” I have a strong sense of justice, especially when it comes to you.”

“I appreciate it a lot,” he told her. “I’m really trying not to be so… focused on making everyone happy. I’ve been walking on eggshells for years so it’s a hard habit to break. I don’t want it to matter so much to me but… I can’t help it.”

Marinette shifted in his lap so she could see his face. “You are way too hard on yourself, you know that right?”

Adrien laughed. “See, that wasn’t the message I was getting for a long time. It was more… ‘you should be way harder on yourself than you are.’ I am really trying to get out of that mindset.” His expression grew serious again. “Also, I have to admit, Monday was awful. I felt so… vulnerable and I really, really did not want to lose my composure the way I did. There was just no stopping it though. I couldn’t even try.”

“Are you wishing that I hadn’t…” Marinette trailed off. “Did I do the wrong thing by-”

“No, no you didn’t,” Adrien interrupted her. “Please don’t worry about that. I am… really thankful that you did that. It felt strange at first. I never really let my mother hold me when she was ill, no matter how much she wanted to because I was afraid of hurting her. Part of me did think she was dying and that if I hurt her, she might die faster and on Monday…” he sighed deeply. “I wasn’t sure if it was even ok to want