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Runaway Home

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Hawk Moth had been defeated. After two long years and a strenuous battle, Gabriel Agreste was taken into custody as Ladybug and Chat Noir watched. Blue and red lights flashed and in the light Marinette noticed Chat Noir’s devastated face. She had never seen him look more…empty.

“Chat?” she asked tentatively, putting a hand on his shoulder. “Are you okay? I know that was a rough fight.”

He turned and seemed to stare straight through her. “I…don’t know. I don’t know. Everything is different now.”

Marinette hadn’t thought of that. He must be worrying about Paris no longer needing them. “Hey, there will always be some sort of crime that needs stopping. This isn’t the end.”

“Maybe not for you,” he muttered. “My life…my whole life…” Chat looked around helplessly, like a lost child.

“Chat?” she asked again, growing more concerned. She had never seen her partner like this. He was always so silly, never acting like anything got to him. “Please, tell me what’s wrong.”

“I have to go,” he said. “Please. Handle the reporters for me. I can’t be the one to talk to them.”

“We did this together,” Marinette protested. “You deserve the credit too.”

He shook his head violently. “No. I don’t want credit for this. I have to go.”

She reached out for him but he was already vaulting over rooftops with his baton.

“Ladybug, how does it feel to have finally discovered Hawk Moth’s identity?”

“What will you and Chat Noir do now?”

“Why isn’t Chat Noir sharing in your victory?”

The reporters swarmed like bees, buzzing in Marinette’s face. She didn’t want to answer any questions, she wanted to find her partner and find out what was wrong. “Any questions at this time should be fielded to the police. I have to go.”

Voices tripped over each other in protest but Marinette swung away on her yoyo, trying to see if she could catch up to Chat Noir, wherever he went. Half an hour later and she still couldn’t find him so she went home, confused and upset. This should have been a good day. First she finds out that the love of her life’s father was a supervillain, then her partner went AWOL.

Adrien. This whole time she’d been freaking out about Chat Noir but hadn’t even thought of Adrien. He had to have seen the news of his father’s arrest. What was he going to do now? How must he be feeling? If she were closer friends with him she’d go try to comfort him but coming from her it would probably seem insincere and gossip-mongering. Maybe she could talk to Nino and see what was going on?

Her phone buzzed with a message from Alya. OMG did you see the news?? Poor Adrien!

Marinette sighed. She didn’t want Alya to turn her crush into a scoop. Adrien was probably suffering enough. She texted back, Yeah I did. Please tell me you aren’t going to ask him about it.

Alya’s irritated response came in a minute later. Girl, do you have any idea how conflicted I am right now? This is major Ladyblog news! Ladybug’s arch nemesis is defeated! Of course I have to cover it. At the same time, I don’t want to bug Adrien. Everyone is going to be all over him tomorrow.

That was very true. Marinette’s heart broke for her crush. Everyone would be asking him what happened and if he had any idea what his father was. She wanted to protect him, but how? At least she could bring him some goodies from the bakery. It probably wouldn’t mean anything but she couldn’t do nothing. It was the least she could do to show she cared.

I know you feel duty-bound to report it, just please leave him out of it. He’s going to be getting too much negative attention as it is. Marinette hit send and turned her phone off. She didn’t want to discuss it anymore. She was too worried, about Adrien and Chat Noir both. Without any more akumas, who knew when she’d see her feline friend again? It was a disconcerting thought.

                                                            ***

School was the madhouse Marinette predicted. Before the bell rang, everyone was crowded around Adrien’s desk waiting for him to come in. He slumped into the room, eyes downcast, with Nino protectively in front of him.

“Back off,” Nino tried to intervene but no one was listening to him. Everyone’s questions bounced off each other’s.

Adrien looked so miserable. Marinette couldn’t take it. Using her powers as class rep, she silenced everyone with a loud “HEY!”

Dozens of eyes stared at her in shock, which she took as a cue to continue. “Give the guy some space. Go on. In your seats. Now.”

Some classmates looked alarmed, others looked annoyed, but to Marinette’s relief everyone went to their seats and continued hushed conversations. She smiled softly at Adrien.

“I can’t imagine what you’re going through right now and my saying sorry will probably be meaningless but I really am sorry for what happened. I brought you these,” she said while placing a box of assorted treats on his desk. “If it becomes too much, come find me. I’ll scare off anyone nosy.” It was the longest coherent speech she’d ever gotten out while speaking directly to Adrien and he looked at her in something akin to awe.

“Thank you,” he said fervently, meeting her eyes and giving her a small, grateful smile. Nino put an arm around his friend’s shoulders and gave Marinette a thumbs up.

Alya looked at her with a mixture of shock and pride. “You go, girl.”

Marinette shrugged. Adrien’s need was greater than her own embarrassment and nervousness. He needed someone to stand up for him and she was the only one who would do it. How could she not be there for him when he was so obviously hurting?

When the bell rang for lunch Adrien waved off Nino and waited at his desk for Marinette to gather her things. “Can I come to lunch with you? Normally I go home, but…” He wouldn’t look at her, rubbing the back of his neck nervously.

Marinette’s heart constricted. He actually wanted her help. “Of course, come on.” She looped her arm through his and glared at anyone from the curious masses who dared try to approach.

On the way to the bakery she made sure to talk about meaningless trivialities, like the upcoming chemistry test, to distract him. He seemed to appreciate the small amount of normalcy.

“Maman, Papa,” she announced. “You remember my friend Adrien. Can he stay for lunch?”

Sabine Cheng looked at Adrien in compassion. “You’re always welcome here, Adrien. Go on up.”

“I left sandwiches on the table,” Tom Dupain added. “There should be enough for both of you.”

“Thank you,” Adrien said in a polite, subdued voice. Marinette didn’t like hearing him so downtrodden.

They ate their sandwiches in silence and Marinette desperately wished she could think of something to say, something to do that would actually help. “Do you want to play Ultimate Mecha Stike V?” she blurted. Adrien was in crisis and all she could think of was video games.

He brightened a little. “Yeah, that’d be great!”

Marinette won the first two rounds but as time went on Adrien began playing more aggressively and ended up wiping the floor with her. Her mouth dropped open. “I can’t believe you beat me! No one beats me at this game.”

“Well I just did,” he crowed and struck a pose. “Adrien style!”

She burst out giggling. That was so out of character for the Adrien she knew and yet it was nice to see him being so lighthearted about something.

He suddenly looked embarrassed. “Sorry, I don’t know what came over me.”

“No,” Marinette protested, waving her arms about. “Don’t apologize. It was actually great seeing you smile.” Her face turned bright red. What had possessed her to say that?!

Adrien seized her in a hug and she was stiff for a moment from the unexpected contact before melting into it. “I don’t know what I would have done without you today. You’re a really great friend.”

A great friend. She wilted a little before remembering what Tikki had told her some time ago. A lot of great friendships lead to romance. What was she thinking? The boy had lost everything and she was thinking about being in a relationship! He didn’t need that right now. He needed a friend, so a friend she would be.

“I’m happy to help,” she said softly. “I care about you.” At that, Adrien tightened the embrace and they stood in each other’s arms until Sabine called up to remind them it was time to get back to school.

They broke apart, both pink in the face, and quickly grabbed their backpacks before scurrying down the stairs.

Back at school, everyone was just settling into their seats when Madame Bustier came into the room and leaned over the edge of Adrien’s desk. Marinette could barely hear what she whispered. “You’re needed in the principal’s office.”

Adrien’s shoulders slumped yet again and Marinette wanted to reach out to him, to tell him it would be okay, but she couldn’t. He was already out the door and didn’t come back for the rest of the day, which really worried her. What could she do? He didn’t even know she had his number so she couldn’t even text him to ask what was wrong.

She sighed heavily and trudged home, intending to fling herself onto her bed only to find someone was already sitting on it.

“Chat Noir?”

Chapter Text

When Adrien was called to the principal’s office everything came rushing back. For a glorious half hour he had almost been able to forget that the world had ended, just playing video games and laughing with Marinette. Marinette. She had always seemed so nervous around him. Always kind, but ill at ease. Not interacting as effortlessly as she seemed to with everyone else. He enjoyed spending time with her in group activities but one-on-one she was different until today.

She had defended him. Brought him treats. Acted like everything was normal even though nothing would ever be normal again. Sure, Nino had tried to ward people off but hadn’t succeeded. Marinette was capable of getting people to listen to her. The protection she offered meant the world to him.

“Monsieur Agreste,” Monsieur Damocles said. “We have a Mademoiselle Masson here to see you.”

Adrien blinked up at the unfamiliar woman whose tight bun and pencil skirt gave off the impression of sternness, much like his father’s assistant Nathalie. Who had ended up being in league with Hawk Moth so she was gone too. Gone forever.

“Since your father has been arrested and bail has been denied due to flight risk and you have no other family, you are now a ward of the state. One of my people will escort you home to pack your things and we will be on our way to a foster care facility,” Mlle. Masson said primly.

No way. They weren’t taking him anywhere. Sure, his house was colder and emptier than ever without his father and Nathalie there but they couldn’t make him leave. It was the last link he had to his mother. He had to come up with a plan!

“Okay,” he said dully. He’d find a way to talk to Plagg, they could figure something out. He was NOT going into foster care and potentially changing schools, leaving behind the only people who cared about him: Nino and Marinette.

Marinette! She said she would be there for him. Her home was a safe haven, the kind of atmosphere he’d always dreamed of having but never did. He could go to Marinette, she’d help him.

Mlle. Masson led Adrien out to a car that took him to his father’s mansion. Not home anymore. He might never see it again. He grabbed a suitcase and began filling it with clothes, his favorite video games, a flash drive filled with pictures of his mother, and all the camembert in the house.

“Adrien,” Plagg hissed from inside his shirt. “You aren’t really going to let this lady take you away without a fight, are you?”

He snorted. “Of course not. I’m just grabbing some stuff before heading to Marinette’s.”

Plagg was skeptical of this plan. “Adrien, if they find you at Marinette’s they’re going to take you back.”

He froze in his tracks. Why hadn’t he thought of that? Well, he thought with a devious grin. They could catch Adrien Agreste, but they couldn’t catch Chat Noir. “Not if they don’t know it’s me.”

“Kid—” Plagg cautioned.

“Claws out!”

Plagg was sucked into the ring and the suitcase Adrien was holding melted into the suit. Convenient. He was out the window before any of Masson’s people could notice and vaulting over the handful of rooftops between the mansion and the Dupain-Cheng bakery.

He landed silently on the balcony and was thankful to find the hatch unlocked. Well, why wouldn’t it be? Who else could sneak in through the roof? He jumped down and landed on Marinette’s bed with a soft flump.

A light was turned on, momentarily dazing him.

“Chat Noir?”

“Hey Princess,” he said sheepishly once he saw the look of disbelief on her face.

“What are you doing here?”

His cat ears drooped. “I have nowhere else to go.”

Her initial shock faded and was replaced by a look of concern. She sat down on the bed next to him.  “Why don’t you tell me what happened.”

Adrien hesitated. What if it gave him away? How many other people had been arrested recently? He decided to be vague. “My parents aren’t around anymore. Social services came for me and I couldn’t do it. My whole life just got turned upside down; I couldn’t go somewhere strange where I might never see my friends again. They’re all I have left.”

Marinette’s bluebell eyes widened. “Oh, Chat, I’m so sorry. But why me? What can I do?”

He deflated. Had he misread her kindness earlier? Was she not going to help him? He didn’t have any other options! “I don’t have a way to contact Ladybug—she’d know what to do—and you were the first person I thought of.” He rubbed the back of his neck uncomfortably. “Can I stay with you until I find her and figure something out? They’re probably looking for me—the other me—right now so I can’t detransform and home isn’t safe and—”

His words were cut off when Marinette threw her arms around him. “Of course you can stay here! It’s the least I can do for one of the heroes of Paris. You’ll have to be sneaky though, if my parents find out we’ll both be in trouble.”

Adrien nearly melted in relief, reflexively kissing Marinette on the top of her head. “Thank you thank you thank you! I’ll be a good kitty, I promise. You won’t even meow I’m here.”

She looked up at him, a slight smirk on her face. “I think that’s pushing it a little.”

He shrugged, relief still flooding through him. She wasn’t turning him away. He knew he could trust Marinette! “Where should I put my stuff?”

Her eyebrows scrunched in confusion. Oh right, his suitcase had melted away with his regular clothes. “Um, I’d have to detransform to get my suitcase. Could I use your bathroom?”

She bit her lip. “It’s down the stairs but I’m not sure whether or not my parents are in the bakery right now. Be careful.”

“I’ll be the picture of stealth,” he promised and crept down the stairs, quietly shutting the bathroom door behind him. “Claws in!”

Plagg whizzed out of the ring and looked at him skeptically. “You really plan to stay here when all of Paris will be looking for you.”

“Yes,” Adrien said defiantly. “I’m not going back. A few more months and they won’t be able to hold me anyway. I’ll be 18 and able to live on my own.”

“You’re going to stay here for a few months?”

“I don’t know!” Adrien threw his hands in the air. “I need to find Ladybug, maybe she can help me. This is just temporary until I figure something else out.”

The kwami shook his head slowly. “I think you’re in over your head, Adrien.”

“I’ll be fine,” he insisted. “Here, eat your stupid cheese and then we’re transforming again.”

Plagg chowed down on the camembert and Adrien made sure he wasn’t touching the suitcase when he transformed back. He crept back up the stairs with the suitcase in hand and Marinette looked relieved when he was back.

He shook his head in mock sadness. “So little faith in me, Princess.”

“You were taking a while and I got worried,” she explained. “You can put it under my desk.”

He did so and sat cross-legged on the ground. “So, what does a cat have to do for entertainment around here?”

“Um, I have some videogames and some books in here but the TV is downstairs and I actually have to study for a test right now,” Marinette hedged.

The chemistry test. They’d talked about it earlier. Man, that seemed like in a different lifetime. He supposed it was. “Right. Well I guess I’ll just purr-owse your room then.”

“Just don’t move anything,” she requested, cracking open her chemistry book.

“Cat’s honor,” he said, holding up a clawed hand before starting to look around. It was very pink, and there were some discolorations on the wallpaper as though posters had been taken down recently. A sewing machine and pile of fabrics sat on a table in the corner with some sketchbooks. “Can I look through these?”

“Huh?” she turned and saw he was holding the sketchbook. “I guess. Just don’t laugh.”

“Why would I laugh?” he demanded as he flicked through some of the designs. “These are really good!”

“You think so?” she sounded surprised. “Thanks!”

“You’re welcome. So is this just a hobby or do you want to be a fashion designer?” He was curious. He knew Marinette designed, he had seen some of them during his father’s hat competition a few years ago.

Her eyes lit up. “I want to be a fashion designer more than anything! I get to start applying for schools soon so I’ve been trying to round out my portfolio and I might do an internship over the summer but my designs have to be perfect for my submissions and I’m boring you, aren’t I?”

“Not at all,” Adrien said sincerely. He might not be the biggest fan of the fashion industry but it was cute seeing her be so excited about something. She looked happier talking about fashion than he’d ever seen her.

She flushed a light pink. “Oh good. I know I can get a little overexcited. Anyway, I should get back to studying.”

Once he finished his perusal of her room, he lay down on the chaise with his hands behind his head, basking in the warmth of Marinette’s home and trying not to think of his father. The last thing he wanted was to break down in front of her.

“Marinette! Time for dinner!” Sabine called, jolting Adrien from his half-asleep state.

“Coming!” Marinette yelled back. She turned to him. “I’ll bring you something back.”

His stomach growled. “Thanks.”

When she came back, she had a plate full of pasta and a couple of breadsticks. He tore into one and moaned appreciatively. “These are so good!”

Marinette frowned. “Have you eaten anything today?”

“I had a sandwich for lunch but that was it. It’s been a kind of busy day, being on the run and all.”

“Well, there’s plenty of food here. You’re safe, chaton.”

He smiled at her gratefully. “You have no idea how much you doing this means to me. Thank you.”

She returned his smile. “You’re welcome. I still have some studying to do but when I’m done I can kick your butt in Ultimate Mecha Strike V.”

He grinned, thinking of when he beat her earlier. “You’re on.”

Studying for her test took another hour and he found himself reading one of her books to keep busy. When she finally announced she was done, he jumped up eagerly and pulled out the controllers.

“Someone’s eager to lose,” she teased.

“This cat’s moves may surprise you.”

Marinette won the first round and Adrien saw his name on the leaderboard. “Who’s that?” he asked with a smirk, knowing full well it was him. “The only other name on the leaderboard is yours.”

“He’s a friend from school,” she said dreamily with a blush on her face. “We played earlier today and it’s the first time I’ve been beaten in over a year.”

“Looks like I have some competition,” he mused. “Another round?”

“You’re on!”

It took a few more tries but eventually Adrien beat his own high score, adding ‘Chat Noir’ to the top of the leaderboard. Marinette scowled. “You play dirty.”

He flexed. “You’re only saying that because I annihilated you.”

She pouted. “I think it’s time for bed.”

“Already?” he whined.

“I have school in the morning,” she replied with a yawn. “I’m going to go get ready. You can sleep on the chaise.”

She came back some time later in a pair of pink pajamas with her wet hair down and an extra pillow and blanket in her arms. “Here, these are for you.”

As she turned off the light and crawled into bed he thanked her again. “You’re the best, Marinette. A lifesaver. Really.”

Her voice rang out in the darkness. “You help people all the time. It’s about time someone helped you.”

With that comforting thought, Adrien drifted off to sleep.

Chapter Text

Marinette woke in a panic to the sound of her mother’s voice. “Marinette! Get up, sweetheart, you’re going to be late!”

“Coming!” she yelled, looking around wildly before spotting Chat Noir dead to the world on the chaise. She let out a breath she didn’t even know she’d been holding and padded over to him, gently shaking his shoulder.

He moaned and rolled over. “Five more minutes, Nathalie.” Who was Nathalie? His sister? His mother? His aunt? Marinette didn’t know a thing about the life behind the mask and he’d just spent the night in her bedroom.

“Chat Noir,” she hissed. “I have to get ready for school and don’t want Maman to find you here.”

He bolted up, moving his head back and forth frantically before remembering where he was. “What time is it?”

“School starts in fifteen minutes, I have to go.”

“What am I supposed to do all day?” he asked. “I can’t just stay here. What if your parents find me?”

Marinette hadn’t thought of this. “You could hang out on the balcony, they never go up there. Or, I don’t know, what do you usually do during the day?”

He looked at her like she’d grown another head. “A lot of stuff that I can’t do now. My secret identity is missing, remember?”

“Right,” she said distractedly. “Maybe you could patrol? Look for Ladybug? Something that will keep you out of the house until I’m home for lunch?”

He sighed. “I’ll figure something out. Can you bring me breakfast before you go?”

“Yeah, it’ll have to be fast though. Not that it really matters, I’m always late.” She dashed down the stairs, stuffed a croissant in her mouth and grabbed a few more for her guest, and claimed she forgot her backpack upstairs.

“Here,” she shoved them into his hands. “I really do have to go. Stay out of trouble, okay?”

As predicted, she was late. Everything screeched to a halt when she realized Adrien wasn’t there. She leaned over to Nino. “Where is he?”

He answered miserably. “I don’t know. I haven’t heard from him since before lunch yesterday.”

Lunch was the last time she had seen him too. What happened in that meeting in the principal’s office? A sudden thought struck her. Adrien’s mom had disappeared years ago, presumed dead. Without his dad around, where would he go? “Does he have any other family?”

“No,” Nino replied, confused before realizing the implications. “You don’t think social services took him, do you?” That’s exactly what she thought. He could be anywhere in France right now. Their conversation ended when Madame Bustier walked into the room and began class but Marinette’s mind wouldn’t turn off, worrying about Adrien. Where could he be? Why hadn’t he at the very least texted Nino where he was or even if he was okay?

“Hey girl, can we do lunch at your place today?” Alya asked when the bell rang and students began filing out of the classroom.

Frantically, Marinette remembered Chat Noir. Alya couldn’t be there, she’d want to interview him. “My parents need me to help in the bakery,” she lied. “Maybe Monday?”

“I’ll hold you to it,” her friend said with a wink. “See you later!”

“Later,” Marinette agreed and she sprinted home.

Chat Noir was waiting for her in her room. “I can’t find Ladybug,” he said worriedly. “I can only contact her when she’s transformed. What if she never transforms again? What if I never find her?”

Little did he know. “I’m sure you will,”Marinette soothed. “What time did you usually patrol together? Maybe try meeting her in the usual spot. She might show up.”

He pondered her idea before giving her a sad smile. “It’s worth a shot. Anyway, did mew bring me lunch?”

She rolled her eyes at the pun. “Baguettes and soup.”

As they chowed down, Chat Noir talked about what he did all day. “I watered all your plants, took a nap, played video games when I knew your parents were down in the bakery, stopped a couple of petty thieves, and got some ice cream. You should have seen the cashier’s face! It was amazing. I never get ice cream.”

She eyed him strangely. What kind of life did someone lead where they never got ice cream? “Why don’t you ever have ice cream?”

He realized he’d said too much about his real life. “Oh. Dietary restrictions. But now I can do whatever I want. No one’s stopping me,” he finished bitterly.

Marinette wrapped her arms around her knees as she digested this. “Using the fewest details possible, what was your life like?”

He seemed surprised by the question. “You really want to know?” She nodded and he continued, fatigue radiating from him with every word. “Rigid. Controlled. Every second of every day planned out. Hardly any time to just be a kid. I had to sneak away to do things with my friends. Fight to go to regular school and have any sense of a regular life. Being Chat Noir…I’ve been able to truly be myself in a way I couldn’t at home.”

The only thing Marinette could think to say was, “So you don’t normally make puns?”

The blanket of sadness over him dropped momentarily while he laughed. “Nah, only my best friend knows how much of a punster I am. He’s…probably really worried right now.”

“Why don’t you call him? Just to let you know you’re okay?”

He shook his head. “I don’t want him asking questions. What if they find me that way? He’d never give me up on purpose but I can’t be too careful. I am NOT going back.”

“What about school?” she asked. “You are in school, aren’t you?”

He sighed heavily. “I was. That’s where they cornered me. Can’t exactly go back without getting caught. Until I’m 18 anyway.”

They were the same age? She’d never considered that. He seemed so much younger, probably due to his sense of humor. “You’re in your last year of school?”

“Yeah, why?”

“If you want to stay caught up, you can study with me,” she blurted. “Your whole future shouldn’t have to be put on hold because of this. You can go back when you’re 18 and potentially still graduate on time. You may have to put off university applications until they’re done looking for you, but—”

Chat Noir’s grin lit up his face. “That’s brilliant! And it will give me more to do during the day. Has anyone ever told you you’re really smart?”

You have, on a semi-regular basis, Marinette thought with amusement. She simply shrugged before glancing at the clock. “Oh no! I have to get back!”

Slinging her backpack over her shoulders, she put a hand on Chat Noir’s arm. “I’m glad you told me about your life. I’m glad you feel like you can trust me.”

He smiled softly. “Of course I trust you. You’re all I’ve got right now.”

Overcome with affection for her partner, she gave him a brief hug before fleeing down the stairs.

Chapter Text

Adrien brought some of Marinette’s textbooks with him and found a random roof to read on. He did want to go to university. His birthday was in four months. He had to keep up with four months’ worth of learning without actually going to class.

“Why does this matter to you so much?” Plagg asked. “You’re free! Why bother with school stuff outside of school?”

“I don’t want my whole future wrecked just because my father happened to be a psychopath,” Adrien said in a pained voice. “He didn’t think about me at all, what would happen if he got caught. The fact that I was there the whole time and all he wanted was to bring back my mother but ignored me in the process. I’m so angry with him! He can’t control my life anymore. Not with the photoshoots and extracurricular activities and not with preventing me from having a better future without him in it.”

He glared at the little cat god. “I’m bothering with this for me.”

Plagg held his paws up. “Alright, alright, don’t get your tail in a twist. It’s just so boring. I miss your room.”

“You think I don’t?” Adrien said with a sigh, rubbing his face. “I miss almost everything about my old life. Even too much structure was better than having literally nothing to do all day. I wish we’d never caught him.”

“You really wanted to be fighting akumas for the rest of your life?”

“Yes…no…I don’t know! I knew what to expect. I had my freedom, friends, and Ladybug. I was a hero. Now all I have is Marinette.” He took a deep breath. “That’s not fair.  Marinette’s been so good to me. I just miss my old life.”

“That’s perfectly normal when things change,” Plagg offered in a rare moment of wisdom. “I may think you’re crazy for wanting to do school on the sly rather than running off to a beach somewhere but it’s probably good for you.”

Adrien laughed. “Thanks, Plagg.”

He lost track of time reading about ancient history and didn’t realize just how much time had passed until the sun was going down. “I have to get back to Marinette’s! Claws out!” Plagg protested, as he’d been just about to eat more cheese, but was sucked into the ring.

Adrien leaped over rooftops until he landed on Marinette’s balcony. She opened the hatch and scowled at him. “You could’ve at least told me when you’d be back.”

“I’m sorry, I lost track of time,” he said sheepishly. “I was reading your textbook. World War II can be interesting.” He handed it back to her and her scowl softened.

“I’m glad you’re okay. Come on, you should eat before heading back out to meet Ladybug.”

He frowned. “How did you know when I usually meet Ladybug?”

“Um, I’ve seen her swinging around the city a lot this time of day? Besides, with Alya and the Ladyblog, I kind of know her patterns and stuff? Yeah,” Marinette fumbled.

Adrien shrugged it off. “Well you’re right. Thanks for the food. I’ll be off, Princess.”

He sped towards their usual meeting place and only had to wait five minutes until Ladybug showed up. “My Lady!” he cried. “It’s so good to see you! I thought—”

“—you’d never see me again?” she finished with a smile. “Come on, chaton, you know me better than that. I’d never leave without saying goodbye. Besides, I told you it wasn’t the end. What have you been up to?”

“You wouldn’t believe me if I told you,” he said, slumping over his baton.

She put her hands on her hips and smirked. “Try me.”

So he did. He told her about his family falling apart, being flagged down by social services, and hiding out with a friend. It was the most personal conversation he’d ever had with Ladybug and they’d been working together for years. She put an arm around his shoulders as the story got progressively harder to tell and he was pretty sure he was bright red by the end of it.

Ladybug squeezed his shoulder. “I’m sorry you have to deal with all that, kitty. How can I help?”

Adrien was relieved. He knew Ladybug would know what to do. “I’m not sure. I was hoping you could help me figure that out.”

She frowned. “Well, I don’t see how anything I could offer would be better than the set-up you already have. I mean, three meals a day, a place to sleep, and the opportunity to keep up with schoolwork?”

“You think I should just hide out at my friend’s house for the next four months?” he asked incredulously. “Do you know how bored I’ll get? Can I at least have the purr-leasure of your company now and then Bugaboo?”

She laughed. “I never said we couldn’t hang out. We still need to figure out what being the heroes of Paris means when there isn’t a supervillain to fight. How about we get pizza next Friday?”

“In our costumes?”

“Come on, like you’ve never gotten food in your costume before,” she said with a raised eyebrow. He flushed.

“Okay, you’ve got me. But still, this isn’t like you. I’m kinda confused why you’re doing this for me.”

She looked…hurt? “You’re one of my best friends, Chat Noir. You’re going through a hard time right now. Of course I’d be there for you in any way I can. I care about you.”

Adrien held his breath. “You do?”

She rolled her eyes. “Duh! Best friends, remember?”

He deflated. “Right. Well, I look forward to it milady. Here at six?”

“Purrfect,” she said with a wink.

“You do like my puns!” he said delightedly.

“I admit nothing,” she said as she gave him a salute and swung away.

Adrien headed back to Marinette’s feeling more lighthearted than he had since this whole mess started. He hadn’t lost Ladybug after all.

Chapter Text

Marinette was getting more suspicious by the day. Adrien had officially been classified as a missing person and had been gone a week, the exact amount of time Chat Noir had been camping out in her bedroom. Nino finally heard from his best friend, getting a mysterious text that said Adrien was safe but hiding out somewhere. This disproved the assumption he was actually with anyone from social services at all.

Had she ever seen Chat Noir and Adrien in the same place at the same time? She wracked her brain, trying to come up with one time. She supposed there was the Volpina incident (she tried not to think about that one too much) but Adrien had been an illusion. There had been moments close to each other that she had seen them, but never at the same time.

Had Chat Noir’s identity been staring her in the face this entire time? She tried to think of what she knew of the two of them. Before this whole mess began, she wouldn’t have even considered it. They acted too differently. But Chat Noir admitted he didn’t act the same in his civilian life. They both had family problems that resulted in them being homeless. Chat Noir came to her, of everyone in Paris, right after she said she’d be there if Adrien needed her.

The most convincing piece of evidence was how upset Chat Noir was after they caught Hawk Moth. Why hadn’t she seen it sooner? In hindsight, that should have given him away completely. Still, she wasn’t 100% sure and didn’t want to confront him. She could see how upset he was over the whole thing. Sure, he laughed now and then and still made ridiculous puns but some of the light had left his eyes and she could have sworn she heard him crying a couple of times when he thought she was asleep.

But if Adrien was Chat Noir…she had put his father in prison. How could he ever forgive her for that? He seemed relieved to see Ladybug the one time they met after Hawk Moth’s defeat but that didn’t mean he wasn’t harboring some form of resentment. Would he hate her if he knew? Marinette felt so guilty, so personally responsible for his situation. She had tried to be a good friend to Adrien and to Chat Noir. Could it be enough to make up for ruining his life?

“Hey Marinette, watch this!” broke into her raging thoughts. She looked over and saw Chat Noir doing a one-armed handstand on the balcony rail. He grinned at her and did a flip onto the balcony before taking a bow. “Tada!”

She put down her watering can to give him a few ironic claps. “Bravo. A feat for the ages.”

“Come on, I spent like an hour practicing that,” he whined.

She cracked a smile. “How many times did you fall?”

“That is classified in-fur-mation.”

“I see how it is.”

He walked behind her and rested his chin on her head. “Are you getting sick of me?”

Marinette turned to face him. “Why would you think that?”

He shrugged dejectedly. “I don’t know, you just seem distant. If you want me to go—”

“No!” she exclaimed. “Please. I’m sorry I’ve been so distracted. It’s not about you.” Well, it was about him but not in the way he thought. “I don’t want you to go. I like having you around.” It was the truth. She and Chat Noir had been partners a long time and she’d never fully appreciated him because most of their interaction had been during the heat of battle. He was funny (though she’d never tell him that), insightful, and kind. He was surprisingly good company.

“Do you really mean that?” he asked hesitantly.

She searched his face and saw raw emotion there. He was really worried she didn’t want him around. With a pang, she nodded. “You’re one of my best friends.”

He chuckled at that. “After a week of being forced to share my company that’s the conclusion you’ve come to?”

Of course, he didn’t know how long they’d actually known each other. She shrugged. “I guess you’re just irresistible.”

Chat Noir preened a little. “Of course I am, look at all this!” There was some of his old bravado. It made Marinette feel a little better.

“Who could resist that?” she said with a laugh.

“Ladybug,” Chat Noir sighed before panicking. “Ladybug! I’m supposed to meet her in ten minutes!”

Crap, she’d completely forgotten. She was the one bringing the pizza. “You’d better go then.”

“Later Princess!” he called behind him as he leaped to the next roof.

Tikki popped out of her bag. “Well, we better hurry if you want to get that pizza.”

“I didn’t even order it yet,” Marinette moaned. “Tikki, spots on!”

After transforming, she swung to the nearest pizza place and thankfully there happened to be an extra because someone’s order was messed up. The toppings were a little strange, but they’d just have to deal with that.

“Milady I was beginning to think you weren’t going to make it,” Chat Noir teased. “Did someone forget to order the pizza in time?”

“You got me,” Marinette sighed. “I was with a friend and lost track of time. So we have Pizza Surprise.”

He opened the box. “Anchovies…pepperoni…pineapple. This is by far the worst topping combination I’ve ever seen—”

“I know, I’m sorry.”

“—I want it.”

She eyed his doubtfully. “You want anchovy pineapple pepperoni pizza? Without picking any of the toppings off?”

“It’ll be an adventure,” he declared. “Come on Ladybug, live a little.”

“Ugh this is so gross,” she complained after taking a bite. It was the strangest flavor combination she’d probably ever had.

“Deeeeelicious,” Chat Noir purred as he wolfed his down.

“You’re ridiculous.”

“You know you love me,” he claimed.

Marinette did a double take. She knew he was just teasing but…how could she not feel something for him after spending a whole week seeing all new parts of him? And if he really was Adrien… “I suppose so,” she said, scratching behind his cat ear. “You may be a silly kitty but you’re my silly kitty.”

He choked on his pizza. “Your silly kitty?”

“Yep,” she said popping the ‘p’ and tapping him on the nose. He blushed. If she could still make him blush…maybe he didn’t hate her after all.

“I like the sound of that,” he said softly.

Remembering their earlier conversation where he thought she was sick of him Marinette blurted, “You know I care about you no matter what, right?”

“What?” He looked confused at the sudden turn in the conversation.

“I care about you,” she repeated. “You matter to me, Chat Noir. I want you to know that.”

“You do?” He looked at her with his heart in his eyes and she was acutely uncomfortable at the thought that Adrien might be in love with Ladybug…and not in love with Marinette.

“Yes. With or without the mask.”

“You don’t know who I am,” he said sadly. “You wouldn’t say that if you did.”

If he really was Adrien, he had no idea how ironic that statement was. “I want to,” she said quietly, her words echoing in the dusk.

“You…want to know who I am? The whole time you were the one insisting we keep our identities a secret!” he cried.

“Things are different now,” Marinette offered. “Hawk Moth is gone—”

“There will always be a new danger,” he said dejectedly. “You’re only doing this because you feel sorry for me.”

“That’s not true!”

“Isn’t it?” he gave a dry laugh. “Thanks for the pizza LB, but I’m going home.”

“Chat!” she yelled after him but it was no use. How on earth was she going to beat him back when he had a head start? Maybe if she came in from the bakery he wouldn’t suspect.

She swung into an alley near her home and detransformed, walking casually toward the bakery entrance. Her parents spotted her and were confused, thinking she was upstairs, but she explained she was out with Alya and they must not have heard her come down the stairs earlier.

When she got to her room Chat Noir attacked her with a hug. “Princess? Where were you? I came back and you weren’t here and…I was worried.”

She used the same excuse she’d given her parents. “I met up with my friend Alya. I don’t see her much these days.”

“Oh. That’s my fault, isn’t it?” His cat ears drooped. “I can’t do anything right today.”

“Stop that,” Marinette insisted. “She’s fine. You need me more.”

“I guess,” he said glumly, flopping across the chaise. “I’m just making everyone’s lives harder right now.”

“Chat Noir, don’t talk like that,” she said sternly. “You’re important. Not only that, you’re important to me. I wouldn’t be doing this if I didn’t want to. Please accept that.”

“It’s hard to,” he whispered. “I don’t know my place in the world anymore.”

“Isn’t your place with Ladybug?”

He frowned, thinking about it. “I don’t know. Things with Ladybug right now...are complicated. Right now, my place might be with you. You’re the only one who’s been there for me through this whole mess.”

Marinette’s heart thumped wildly. Why was she reacting like this? Because he might be Adrien? Or just because of him? “I have an early day helping my parents in the bakery tomorrow. We should go to bed,” she said lamely, not knowing how to respond.

“Oh. Okay.” He went to fetch his blanket and pillow but Marinette stopped him.

“I—I was thinking, if you wanted to—you totally don’t have to—maybe you’d be interested in sleeping with me tonight?” Her cheeks burned. “Not like that! Just in my bed. Because you seem sad and I’m a little sad too and it might be comforting but—nevermind, it was a stupid idea.”

“No! I’d like that. I think I’d feel less alone that way,” he confessed. “I’ve been having a hard time sleeping lately.”

“I know,” she whispered. “I’ve heard you.”

“You h-heard that?” He turned away, embarrassed. “I’m so sorry, Marinette, you weren’t supposed to hear and ugh you must think I’m such a baby. Chat Noir, hero of Paris, crying himself to sleep.”

“I don’t think you’re a baby,” she said gently, taking his clawed hands in hers. “I think you’re going through something really hard right now and aren’t allowing yourself to grieve. There’s no shame in crying, A—Chat.” She’d almost slipped and she wasn’t even sure! How mortifying. Maybe this was a bad idea. Well, she’d offered and he’d accepted. Too late now.

They started out on opposite sides of the bed, stiffly clinging to the edges in the dark. Several minutes later they found themselves almost back to back.

“Marinette?” Chat whispered. “Can I hold you?”

Heart pounding against her ribs, she whispered back, “yes.”

He closed what little distance there was between them and wrapped her in his arms. His even breathing helped calm her frenzied heart rate. It was strangely relaxing being this close to him. Chat Noir. Her partner. Her best friend. Possibly the love of her life. She wanted to ask him the truth but after the way he’d shot down Ladybug…she’d have to keep her suspicions to herself. They both drifted off to sleep, still holding on to each other.

Chapter Text

Adrien woke up feeling happier and more relaxed than he had in a long time, Marinette’s head nestled into his chest. He tightened his hold just slightly, so he wouldn’t wake her. What would he have done the past week without her? She’d been a better friend to him than he deserved and he still didn’t understand why.

Everyone else—with the exception of Nino—had abandoned him, only cared out of morbid curiosity, or didn’t know what to say. Even Chloe…that had hurt. Sure, they’d drifted over the years and ever since he’d gone to public school she seemed more interested in his looks and status than she was in him as a person, but he hadn’t expected to be ignored by his first ever friend. He supposed he couldn’t blame her. She’d almost been killed by akumas multiple times.

So when Marinette—who seemed so nervous around him even on a good day—stepped up to the plate and not only got everyone to back off but treated him like he was more than just his father’s son, he’d been profoundly grateful. Confused, but grateful nonetheless. Getting to know her beyond the shy, stumbling girl on the surface had been a nice surprise. Marinette was actually pretty amazing. Beautiful, too.

He jolted a little and heard Marinette sigh as she readjusted her position to be more comfortable. Beautiful? Where had that come from? Adrien loved Ladybug. But Ladybug hadn’t been the one piece of sanity in this mess. He wasn’t sure if Ladybug would ever talk to him again. He’d been hurt and so confused when she suggested she wanted to know who he was. Two years of him asking, during better times, and she always refused but now when his life was a mess she wanted to know? Could his lady really be just another one of the curious horde? He didn’t want to think so but…Marinette had never asked him who he was. The thought that Marinette, who he’d only really known a week aside from saving her a few times, cared more than his partner and one of his best friends was too painful to contemplate this early in the morning.

“What time is it?” Marinette asked sleepily. Ugh, she was even cuter than usual when her hair was messy and she couldn’t quite open her eyes. Why were people so much more adorable when half asleep?

“About 6:30. I’m used to waking up early. You’ve still got time, Princess. Go back to sleep.”

“Mmkay,” she mumbled into his chest. “You should sleep too.”

“I’ve never slept better,” he assured her. Really, sleeping with someone else in the bed was so comforting. He’d fallen asleep faster and stayed asleep longer than he had since before his father was defeated.

She sighed and snuggled closer. Adrien’s heart was fit to burst. Did he…like Marinette? Had it really taken his life falling apart to realize that? All this time, she’d been right behind him and he’d never noticed her like that. He softly traced circles on her back and nearly had a heart attack when he realized he could feel the fabric of her t-shirt with no leather between.

“Plagg!” he hissed. “Where are you?”

“I have a life you know,” the cat god said crossly. “Or at least I would if you weren’t transformed 24/7.”

“Come on, Plagg, you don’t want me to be seen, do you?” Adrien was shocked. His kwami had always emphasized the importance of secrecy, when he was actually being serious that is.

“What does it matter at this point? Hawk Moth’s gone. I doubt another supervillain is going to pop up anytime soon. Just tell her. You wouldn’t have fought with Ladybug if you’d just given it up. What’s stopping you?”

“I’m nothing without this mask anymore,” Adrien said with an air of defeat. “Maybe before it could have been different but now…Chat Noir is all that’s left.”

“Kid, you have to know that’s not true,” the kwami said exasperatedly. “Look at you!”

“Yeah, look at me. Homeless, jobless, friendless. Maybe I’ll make something of myself someday but for now, I can’t be—” he lowered his voice so Marinette wouldn’t hear on the off chance she was awake. She looked pretty out of it. “—an Agreste.”

“Whatever, Adrien,” Plagg scoffed. “I’m going to get some cheese. Be back later.”

“Plagg!” Adrien protested. If Marinette woke up before he came back…but he couldn’t exactly go traipsing about the house looking for the little cat. He was stuck.

The enjoyment from being close to Marinette had turned to terror. If she so much as opened her eyes while facing him…would she kick him out if she knew? Turn him over? Tell him he had to go somewhere else? Turn back into the stuttering mess she used to be around him? He didn’t want that. He enjoyed this new Marinette.

He was shocked out of his train of thought by an alarm going off. No! Not now!

Marinette stirred. “Can you get that?”

His finger slammed the off button so fast he was surprised the phone didn’t shatter. “Uh, Princess? I have a problem. I need you to keep your eyes closed.”

“Why?”

“I’m not exactly Chat Noir right now and I’m not sure if I’ll be able to transform,” he confessed.

She gasped, but kept her eyes firmly closed. “My mom will be here any minute to drag me out of bed!”

“I know,” he said nervously. “Is there somewhere I can hide?”

Footsteps sounded on the stairs, making Adrien flinch. “Under the bed!” Marinette commanded, falling over him in her haste to get up before her mother made it to her room.

“Morning Maman,” she yawned. “You needed helping frosting cupcakes, right?”

“Yes dear, we have about two hundred of them getting picked up this afternoon. Your father has already made most of them but we’re counting on you to help decorate them,” Sabine said sweetly.

“I won’t let you down,” Marinette promised. “Let’s frost some cupcakes!”

Two steps of footsteps went back down the stairs. Adrien’s heart was hammering in his chest. That was too close. He crawled out from under the bed. “Plagg! Plagg get over here right now!”

“I’m coming, I’m coming,” Plagg said impatiently. “I just wanted to spend a little more time with—” He cut himself off.

“With who?” Adrien asked curiously. “There’s no one else here.”

“Myself,” the kwami finished lamely. “And my beautiful camembert.”

“Sure,” Adrien said skeptically. “Come on, I need to transform back in case she comes up at some point. Claws out!”

“Adrieeeeeeen,” Plagg whined as he was sucked into the ring.

Adrien didn’t know how long frosting those cupcakes would take. It was a Saturday. If things were different, he’d be either at a photoshoot or sneaking out to meet Nino at the movies. What if he went to see Nino? That might make him feel better.

He was on the way to Nino’s apartment when he saw his best friend strolling with Alya in the park. Oh. He was on a date. If Adrien went over there, Alya would go into full-on Ladyblog Mode and the date would be ruined. He wouldn’t do that just to prevent his own boredom. Maybe he’d just run across the rooftops for a while. If he was lucky, he’d run into Ladybug and be able to explain himself better.

Of course he had no such luck. Three hours of running around the city and there was no spotted heroine to be found. He trudged back to Marinette’s balcony in low spirits.

“Chat, is that you?” she called up from the open hatch.

“Hey Princess,” he sighed.

“What’ve you been up to?” She climbed out of the hatch and sat down on the chair in front of him. He noticed she had smears of frosting on her face and arms.

“This and that,” he said vaguely. “Looks like you lost a battle to the frosting army.”

She looked down at herself. “Oh yeah. This stuff gets everywhere.”

“Is frosting cupcakes hard?” He was curious. He’d lived above the bakery for a week and still had no clue how things worked. Probably because he wasn’t actually allowed in it.

“I want to say no but I’ve been doing it since I was about five. I wasn’t very good at it then,” she mused. “It took a lot of practice.”

“Could you teach me?” he found himself asking without a thought.

She looked at him funny. “My parents might get a little suspicious if Chat Noir started frosting cupcakes in their bakery.” Seeing his disappointed expression she amended. “I’ll make you a deal. As soon as you’re 18 and a free agent again I’ll give whoever you really are a free lesson.”

Adrien frowned. “That would mean you’d have to know who I am.”

“That’s my deal, take it or leave it. I can’t bring a superhero or a boy on the run downstairs so that’s the only way it would work.” She said it matter-of-factly, like his identity being a secret didn’t matter. It rankled a little.

“You want to know who I am?”

“How else are we going to keep in contact when this is all over?” she demanded. “You’ll go back to your life and I might never see you again!”

He hadn’t thought of that. Crime rates were at an all-time low following Hawk Moth’s defeat. When Marinette was in school he’d tried stopping smaller crimes but there hadn’t been many to do. When he could be a freer version of Adrien and there weren’t any akumas to fight, would he even need to be Chat Noir anymore?

“I know you can’t stay here forever,” she continued. “And I don’t want you to. You deserve better than hiding in my bedroom for the rest of your life. You deserve a life of your own. But I—I’ll miss you. A lot.” She wrapped her arms around her knees as if the confession pained her.

Adrien softened and sat down next to her. “I’m sure we’ll figure something out.”

“How?” she asked softly. “I don’t even know you for real. Do you not want to be friends anymore after this?”

The thought of being without Marinette hurt. He supposed he could try to be friends with her as Adrien but just because she had been great to him that horrible day didn’t necessarily mean things would be the same. She might go back to stuttering around him again and he couldn’t bear that. Not after all the time they had spent together when he was Chat Noir.

“That’s not fair. I have my identity to protect.”

“What does it matter anymore?” He was startled to see she had tears in her eyes as she echoed Plagg’s earlier sentiment. She swiped at tem furiously. “I’m sorry, Chat I’ve had a confusing couple of days. Don’t feel obligated. I’m just…going to go.”

“Marinette—”

“Don’t mind me,” she repeated as the tears fell faster. “I’m sorry!” she choked out before completely breaking into sobs and dropping into her room.

What was with her? This couldn’t have started just because he wanted to frost cupcakes. There had to be more going on here. He started to go after her and discovered she had locked the hatch. Well then. He knew when he wasn’t wanted.

He leaped over to the next rooftop and glanced behind him, seeing something small and red whizz around Marinette, as if trying to comfort her. Was that…a kwami?

 

Chapter Text

“I’ve ruined everything, Tikki,” Marinette sobbed. “He hates me now He’s never coming back. Have I…Have I lost both of them?”

“Marinette,” the kwami’s voice said soothingly. “I’m sure he’ll be back. When has Chat Noir ever held a grudge?”

“What if it’s different this time?” she asked, hiccupping. “What if—” There was a tap on the hatch door. Was he back already? He’d only been gone about a half hour. “Hide!”

Tikki zoomed out of sight as Marinette went to unlock the hatch and sure enough, there he was, looking repentant. “I’m sorry, Princess. I didn’t mean to upset you.”

She swiped at her nose and looked at him in confusion. “I thought I upset you!”

“Nah,” he said nonchalantly, rubbing the back of his neck with his hand. That move was very Adrien. “I was just caught off-guard. You’ve never said anything about wanting to know who I am before.”

Hope blossomed in her chest. “So you’re not mad at me?”

Chat Noir smiled. “How could I be mad at you, Bugaboo?”

Marinette’s eyes widened in shock and for a moment she couldn’t remember how to breathe. “You—how—but—I was so careful!”

“I do give you credit for hiding it as long as you did,” he said with a gleam in his eye. “I never would have guessed! But I suppose it’s obvious in hindsight. You look exactly the same.”

Marinette was still having a hard time processing this at all. “How?” was all she managed to get out.

“Oh, I saw your kwami when I left earlier. I should’ve known, Plagg—my kwami—pulled the vanishing act this morning claiming he wanted to spend time with someone but cut himself off before saying who. Who else would he want to spend time with here? He knows to stay out of sight,” he explained. “Tikki, isn’t it?”

“Nice to meet you!” Tikki said, popping out of Marinette’s closet.

“Nice to meet you too. Did you enjoy your visit this morning?”

The little bug god nodded. “Oh yes! I haven’t seen Plagg properly in ages. It was nice catching up.”

Marinette’s brain still wasn’t working. “How are you so calm about this?” she demanded. She was freaking out! Definitely freaking out.

He smiled at her sheepishly. “I already did my freaking out on a random rooftop. Plagg got an earful but ended up giving me a hard time because he figured it out forever ago. He wouldn’t stop laughing about how dense I am.”

“You’re…not upset.” She said it as a statement rather than a question. Honestly, he  looked more cheerful than she’d seen him since Hawk Moth’s defeat. Why?

“Are you kidding? This is amazing! Two of my favorite people are actually the same person!” he grinned, spreading his arms wide. “I didn’t have to—” He cut himself off.

“Didn’t have to what?” she asked curiously.

His face turned red and he mumbled something she couldn’t catch.

“What was that?”

“I didn’t have to choose between you,” he said blushing even harder. “Come on, you had to know I had a crush on you as Ladybug.”

She did have some idea. But it didn’t seem all that serious; he was just a flirt! He had flirted with her as Marinette too, not knowing they were the same person. A thought struck her. “Wait, so you’re saying you like me? Marinette me?”

“Uh, yeah,” Chat Noir said lamely, rubbing his neck again. “Is that okay?”

It took her several minutes to formulate a coherent response. Chat Noir—Adrien?—liked her? Actually liked her. Both sides of her. That didn’t seem possible. She was 95% sure but she needed to know. He’d already outed her secret identity, what was stopping her from doing the same? “That’s more than okay, Adrien.”

He fell off the chaise in shock. “How long have you known?”

“About three seconds,” she laughed. “But I’ve suspected for several days now. You’re just so much the same.”

“Really?” He seemed curious. It made sense, considering how subdued his civilian side was compared to how downright silly he acted as Chat Noir. On the surface, the two were as different as could be.

“My first clue was that you both had the same problem at the same time,” she admitted. “But the more I thought about it, the more I realized I’d seen glimpses of Chat Noir in Adrien, like when you beat me in Mecha Strike. You look alike and you’re both kind, brave, smart…The coincidences stacked up too much.”

“You…really believe those things about me?” He looked at her oddly hopeful with a hint of something else she couldn’t identify. “But you always seemed so afraid of me, until recently.”

“Adrien, the only reason I couldn’t talk to you like a normal human being was because I had a crazy crush on you.” She sucked in a breath. Well, it was too late to take that back and besides, hadn’t he already admitted he liked her?

“What changed? Did you…stop liking me?” His voice was subdued. “You stopped liking me because my dad is a super villain, didn’t you.”

It broke Marinette’s heart to see him look so sad. She walked over and squeezed his shoulder. “No! Of course not. You needed me. Being your friend was the priority and it helped me stop fumbling over my words like an idiot.”

“I never thought you were an idiot.”

She smiled at him gratefully. “And I would never judge you based on your family. You are your own person, Adrien, and I think you have a bright future ahead of you. Promise.”

He let out a small cough and looked up at her with watery eyes, wringing his hands nervously. “Will…will you be in it?”

Oh. Marinette’s heart was racing as the implications of that set in. “Well,” she tried to play it cool. “I still have to teach you how to frost cupcakes, don’t I?”

“Marinette,” he said seriously. “Do you really want to be with someone like me?”

His cat eyes met hers intently and she felt heat rush to her cheeks. “Exactly like you.”

“Even though I’m a mess,” he said doubtfully.

She reached out to touch his cheek. “You’re not as much of a mess as you think you are. You’re going through something hard right now.”

He seized her in a tight, desperate hug. “I don’t deserve you.”

“You deserve the world, Kitty,” she whispered. “I’m sorry I can’t do more for you.”

“Hey.” He tilted her chin up to look at him. “You’ve done so much and it means the world to me. You mean the world to me. Claws in.”

With a flash of green light, Adrien Agreste was standing before her with his heart in his radiant eyes, smiling at her in a way Marinette had never dreamed possible. The moment was interrupted by a black ball of fuzz speaking up in disgust. “Ugh, lovebirds. Get me out of here. Come on, Tikki.”

Adrien sighed. “That’s Plagg.”

Marinette giggled. “Is he always like that?”

“Yep.”

They stood there awkwardly, truly seeing each other for the first time. He was gazing at her with such affection she thought she might scream. “WannaplayMechaStrike?”

“Huh?”

“Do you want to play Mecha Strike? Give me a chance to redeem myself since you beat my high score twice.” Marinette couldn’t go all spazzy on Adrien again. He was Chat Noir. She was comfortable with Chat Noir.

“You’re on, my lady!” he said gleefully. “Dibs on player one!”

“Come on, it’s my game,” she complained but was actually glad he seemed so happy.

They played several rounds (Adrien barely won once, claiming he was distracted by her beauty) and ended up watching Sailor Moon at his request. He was super into it and Marinette couldn’t help but giggle. He was such a nerd. Eventually she found herself drifting off curled into his side as he gently stroked her hair. It had been such a crazy day. She never would have seen it ending like this, cuddling with the boy she loved.

Chapter Text

A month after revealing themselves, things had fallen into a sort of routine. As much as Adrien had hated being rigidly scheduled before, having some sort of structure to his day was helpful. He typically spent the day by himself as Chat Noir, sometimes studying, sometimes helping Marinette out by cleaning her room or water her plants. He figured if he got caught by her parents he’d rather do it as a superhero than as a runaway teenager.

He’d transform back into Adrien when Marinette came home for lunch and once she left he’d become Chat Noir again, racing across the rooftops of Paris, looking out for trouble that usually didn’t come. After school, he’d help Marinette with her homework and they’d play videogames or watch things on her computer, occasionally braving the living room when her parents were gone to actually use the TV. They also spent quite a bit of time on her balcony, looking out at the city lights at night or watching the sunset and discussing the future.

Not their future together. After that original conversation, their “relationship” or whatever it was had come to a halt. Sure, they had become closer after clearing the air but there hadn’t been any romance or any planning that included both of them once school was over. Adrien couldn’t help but wonder if he’d done something wrong.

They still slept in the same bed every night but they hadn’t kissed or anything. After that first time, Adrien had prepared to go back to the chaise when Marinette surprised him by asking what he was doing. She seemed to think her offer hadn’t been a one-time deal and who was he to refuse? Being near her helped him sleep better. Being near her made him better. He wanted to be the type of guy who was worthy of someone like Marinette.

Footsteps sounded on the stairs, shaking him out of his thoughts, and he immediately dove under the bed to hide.

“I can’t believe you aren’t freaking out more about Adrien being missing for a month,” a familiar voice said.

“I’m sure he’s fine, Alya,” Marinette replied. “He has money and connections. He’s probably hiding out somewhere.”

“If the love of my life were missing, I’d be freaking out,” Alya said matter-of-factly. “Does this mean you’re over him?”

Adrien held his breath. Was he about to get some answers?

“No, I still care about him. I just think he can take care of himself,” Marinette explained.

Vague and unhelpful. He sighed. He really needed to ask Marinette what they really were and what she wanted.

“You’re crazy, girl,” Alya said with a shake of her head. “Anyway, I’m glad we were able to actually hang out for a while today. I never see you anymore.”

“You see me at school,” Marinette protested. “And I am sorry, I’ve just had a lot going on at home lately and getting my portfolio ready and applying for schools—”

“I get it,” Alya interrupted. “I’m busy preparing for journalism school too. Let’s just try to do something outside of school at least once a week, yeah?”

“I can do that,” Marinette said with a smile. “Anyway, here are your notes back. Thanks for letting me borrow them. You know I can’t make heads or tails of physics.”

“Anytime. I’ve got your back! Now that our resident physics expert is missing.”

“Give it a rest, Alya. He’ll be back eventually,” she said with confidence. “See you Monday.”

“See you!”

A few beats of silence before Marinette called out, “Come on out, Kitty, the coast is clear.”

“Good, I was getting claustrophobic under there,” Adrien said as he popped out with a grin. “Love of your life, huh?”

She rolled her eyes but the blush on her cheeks was unmistakable. “I told you I had a crazy crush on you. Did you not believe me?”

He detransformed and hugged his friend. “I missed you.”

“I missed you too, even though you always tease me.”

“I don’t always tease you,” he said, pretending to be offended. “Give a cat some credit, milady.”

She poked him on the nose. “I’ll only give credit where credit is due.”

“Meowch,” he said, grasping his heart dramatically. “You wound me, Marinette.”

“Oh! I almost forgot!” she began excitedly. “My parents are going to be out of town all weekend, they won’t be back until Sunday night! So we can actually do stuff!”

“Really?” No interruptions…that could be the perfect time to find out how she really felt. “That’s great! We should have a movie marathon. And you can show me how to frost a cupcake!”

She smiled. “I knew you’d be happy about it. We have the run of the whole place because the bakery will be closed.”

He bounced a little in anticipation. “Purrfect!”

Marinette just laughed. “Come on, let’s get stuff to set up a blanket fort downstairs after they leave.”

Two hours later, the Dupain-Chengs were gone and Marinette and Adrien were watching a Studio Ghibli movie in a glorious blanket fort.

“I can’t remember the last time I made one of these,” Adrien remarked. “My mom and I used to do it when I was little.”

“Alya and I used to do it for sleepovers. My parents didn’t mind as long as they weren’t the ones who had to clean it up.”

“It’s cozy,” he said with a smile. Being all cuddled up with the girl he loved—because he knew for sure he loved her after the past month of unwavering support and quality time spent together—was one of the best things that could be happening. He just had to find a way to bring up whatever it was they had and it would be perfect.

Marinette scooted closer to him and leaned her head on his shoulder with a contented sigh. “I love being able to actually spend time with you outside of my room.”

Well, it was now or never. “When this is all over I’d like to take you on a real date,” Adrien admitted. “Outside.”

“Really?” She gazed up at him, unsure. “You want to be seen with me?”

“Why wouldn’t I?” he asked, surprised. “You’re everything to me.”

“I trip over air on a regular basis and run into walls. I’m an embarrassment.”

“That’s not nearly as much of an embarrassment as being a former model with a supervillain father,” he mumbled, ashamed. “If anything, you shouldn’t want to be seen with me.”

“How many times have I told you I don’t care about that? His choices were his own. They don’t reflect on you at all! You’re a wonderful person, Adrien,” Marinette said fiercely as she looked him dead in the eye. “Anyone would be lucky to be with you.”

“Then why don’t you want to?” slipped out of his mouth before he could stop himself.

She looked at him in confusion. “When did I ever say that?”

“It’s not what you said, it’s what you didn’t say,” he mumbled. “Whenever you talk about your plans for after school you never mention anything about us. If you want to do things by yourself, just tell me now.”

Marinette’s expression softened and she laid a hand on his cheek. “That’s not it, chaton. You’re still trying to figure things out. I didn’t want to pressure you with relationship stuff on top of everything else. I’ve waited this long, I can wait longer.”

This completely derailed him. She thought he didn’t want a relationship because his life was in total chaos? “I may not know much about what I want,” he conceded. “But I know this: I want to be wherever you are, as long as you’ll have me.”

“Oh,” was all she said as an adorable blush crept into her cheeks. “Really?”

He nodded and pulled her close. “Even with everything else being wrong, I’ve never been as happy or content as I have the last few weeks. Before that, I kept missing home. But now…you are home for me.”

She let out an adorable giggle that nearly made Adrien melt into a puddle of sentimentality. “I’m glad I can make you happy.”

“You do make me happy. But you know what would make me even happier?” he dared to ask. “If you’ll let me kiss you, Princess.”

Her eyes widened in shock before her face broke out into a dazzling smile. “I would love that,” she said huskily.

That was all the invitation Adrien needed. He leaned down and kissed the beautiful girl next to him, slowly and unsurely at first—with his sheltered life he’d never done this before—but gaining passion as she responded with enthusiasm. How had he ever lived without this? Their tongues danced together for a while before he reluctantly pulled away, not wanting to overdo it the first time.

Marinette was panting, her eyes dark with desire, after they broke apart. “I love you.”

Adrien’s heart nearly exploded. “Good, because I love you too. So much.”

With that, she jumped into his lap and began kissing him again. “I’ve waited so long for you to say that,” she said between kisses. He tightened his hold on her. Two years. It had taken two years for him to notice Marinette and now she was all that mattered—the scent of her skin, her hands in his hair, the little noises she made as they kissed.

The end credits were playing by the time they stopped making out. “Adrien?” Marinette said sleepily. “We should go to bed.”

“But I’m so comfortable right here.” He was relaxed against a pile of pillows with Marinette’s head on his chest and his arm around her. He couldn’t think of anywhere he’d rather be.

“We should at least turn off the TV.”

Adrien fumbled for the remote, trying not to jostle her. Once the TV was off, she snuggled closer with a contented sigh and he kissed her forehead tenderly. “Goodnight, Princess.”

                                                            ***

Adrien was squished, as Marinette had somehow managed to end up completely on top of him in the night. “Wake up, milady!” She only groaned in response.

“As much as I enjoy being your pillow, I’d like to get up. Come on, don’t make me push you off,” he begged.

She rolled over and landed on his arm, still pinning him down. Not much better. “Marineeeeette,” he whined. “I just need to go to the bathroom. I’ll come back for cuddles in a minute.”

Still not opening her eyes, she rolled over again and hit the corner of a chair helping hold up the blanket fort. “Ow!”

“Sorry Princess!” he cried as he rushed over to her.

“I’m fine,” she grumbled, waving him off. “Go.”

A few minutes later he came back and found her in a ball, glaring at the chair she had hit. He gently scooped her up and placed her in his lap. “You okay?”

“I’m fine. It was the chair’s fault.”

He kissed her elbow, the spot she had hit. “There. All better.”

She smiled at him. “You’re a dork.”

“But I’m your dork,” he said happily.

“Yes you are,” she replied, mussing his hair affectionately.

“Now that your elbow has been magically healed, can we make cupcakes?” Adrien asked excitedly. He’d been looking forward to it ever since Marinette said her parents would be gone.

She sighed. “Of course that’s all you care about. Sure. A promise is a promise. Just give me a minute to wake up.”

“I’ll carry you down the stairs,” he offered.

“Fine. But if you drop me, I kill you.”

“You’re really not a morning person, are you?”

“It’s taken you a month to notice that?” she asked incredulously as he lifted her bridal-style.

“Well usually you’re scrambling to hide me first thing so I don’t think I’ve gotten the full Marinette Morning Experience until today.”

“You’re still a dork.”

“But you looooove me,” he said cheerfully. She loved him. That really was a miracle.

“Yeah, yeah.” He set her down and she handed him a recipe card. “Help me gather these ingredients, would you?”

An hour later the last batch of cupcakes was cooling and both of them were completely covered in flour.

“My parents are going to kill me,” Marinette moaned.

Adrien, the instigator of the flour fight, grinned. “Don’t worry, I’ll clean it up while you take a shower. Might take a while to get all that out of your hair.”

She stuck her tongue out at him. “Don’t bother until we’re done with the frosting. That makes a mess too.”

“Goody,” he said dryly, making her laugh. He loved her laugh.

“Time for your frosting lesson, chaton!” she chirped, stuffing frosting into piping bags. She managed a beautiful rosette on the first cupcake and Adrien eagerly reached for the bag, ready to follow her instructions. It looked more like a child’s drawing of a sun.

“That looks terrible! Let me try again.”

Three cupcakes later, Adrien was getting more and more frustrated. It wasn’t helping that he could tell how hard Marinette was trying not to laugh. “Here, let me.” She placed her hand over his on the frosting bag and guided it to make another perfect rosette.

He tried again on his own and failed epically. “Ugh, I’ll never get this!”

“I guess your career as a professional cupcake froster just isn’t meant to be,” Marinette deadpanned. “At least you’re pretty.”

It was high time to tease her back. “You mean like this?” he asked, striking his most provocative model pose. He was rewarded by her face turning bright red.

“Stop that,” she insisted.

“Stop what?” he asked innocently as he kept striking model poses.

“Being too attractive.”

“There’s no such thing as too attractive.”

“Yes there is!” She gave him a small shove and he lost his balance. Right into the frosting bowl.

For a moment they stared at each other in shock. Adrien’s face and hair was stiff with the stuff and Marinette looked so obviously horrified. Then he burst out laughing and couldn’t stop.

“Adrien—I’m so sorry—I didn’t mean to—are you okay?” Marinette’s hands flailed around her face and she looked to be on the verge of a complete meltdown. This just made Adrien laugh harder, clinging to the counter for support.

“Why are you still laughing!” she screamed, burying her head in her hands.

“It’s funny,” he wheezed. “Okay, okay, I’m done.”

Marinette sighed in relief and he started laughing again.

“You’re completely ridiculous, you know that?”

“What gave it away?” Adrien chuckled.

“Let’s just clean this up before the frosting hardens You can shower first, I’ll do the dishes.”

“As you wish, milady,” he said with a Cheshire grin, bowing as he exited the room.

He could still hear her laughter down the hall. Life was good.

 

Chapter Text

It had been two months since Chat Noir had come to her for help and Marinette still couldn’t believe her luck. She woke up next to her best friend every morning and he looked even more adorable than usual with bedhead. Plus it was cute how snuggly he was when half-asleep. He probably didn’t even know that he tended to move closer to her in the night whenever they drifted apart. It was almost like she was his teddy bear.

The light turned on suddenly and Marinette froze. Adrien wasn’t transformed! Even if he was transformed, there was still a boy asleep in her bed.

“Marinette Dupain-Cheng, you have some explaining to do,” her mother’s voice said sternly.

“This isn’t what you think—”

“It’s exactly what I think,” her mother countered. “You’ve been hiding Adrien Agreste in your room for two months! What were you thinking?”

“Can we move this downstairs?” she pleaded quietly. “He’s still asleep; he was up half the night with nightmares.” They had been bad ones, about his father and the final battle. But instead of his father getting arrested, he had won and Ladybug had died. It had taken a long time assuring him that she was there and okay for him to fall back asleep.

“Fine.”

They moved to the living room and her mother’s arms were crossed over her chest. She didn’t look nearly as angry as Marinette would have expected. “Explain. And know that I’ll know if you’re lying, Ladybug.”

Marinette was completely floored. “What?! How long have you—”

“You’re not exactly subtle, dear,” her mother said with the hint of a smile playing on her lips. “You talk first, then I will.”

Okay, she’d have to take that. Her initial fear of being grounded forever had faded somewhat seeing her mother’s facial expressions. She took a deep breath and launched into the story. “It started with the defeat of Hawk Moth. Chat Noir was so, so upset and I didn’t know why, or how to help him. He left before I could do anything. The next day at school Adrien was being mobbed so I stood up for him and brought him here for lunch, remember? Afterwards he went to a meeting with social services and didn’t come back, so we all assumed he went with them until the missing person notice went out.

“The same day, Chat Noir showed up in my room more upset than I’d ever seen him. He said he had nowhere to go and needed help until he could figure something out with Ladybug—he didn’t know it was me at the time—and he was my partner, so what could I do? I had to at least try to help him so I let him sleep on the chaise and started sneaking him food. As time went on I started suspecting he might be Adrien but he didn’t want to tell me so I just let it slide and tried to be a good friend to him as Ladybug and Marinette.

“Eventually we got into a fight over something stupid, I was overreacting, and he figured out who I was. He ended up telling me who he was. He’s been so upset over this whole thing Maman, it’s been killing me! But after we told each other our real identities things got better and he seemed happier and I’ve tried to be there for him as best I can and he told me he feels at home with me and how could I possibly kick him out after that? He needs me. I’m all he has! He only has two months until he’s 18 and able to be on his own. Please Maman, he’s my best friend and my partner and no one has ever needed me as much as he needs me. I can’t let him down.”

Her mother seemed to ponder this. “I did wonder what would compel you to take in your long-time crush. Him being Chat Noir adds a tiny bit of sense to this. But Marinette, sweetheart, you realize you’re technically harboring a fugitive? What if the police find out? Your father and I will be the ones getting into trouble, not you.”

Marinette hadn’t thought of this and clapped a hand over her mouth. “Maman, I swear I didn’t know, I was under pressure and had to help a friend.”

“You’re too selfless for your own good,” her mother sighed. “And I suppose it would be heartless to turn him away at this point. He seems very…dependent on you.”

Marinette flushed. How much had her mother seen before turning on the light? Adrien was being particularly cuddly.  “Our relationship isn’t like that, I swear. Being near me helps him sleep. He’s been so neglected all his life and he’s still struggling with what his father did…and that he had to be the one to take him down. It’s eating him up inside, still, and I’m doing the best I can to help him but sometimes I think it’s not enough.” A thought occurred to her. “You said you’d tell me how you knew.”

Her mother sighed and rubbed her forehead. “You’ve been spending way more time than usual in your room and sometimes I can hear you two talking or laughing about something. It took a while for me to catch you, I’ll give you that. I just wish you’d told us.”

Marinette wrung her hands and looked anywhere but her mother’s face. “You would have sent him back.”

“We could have figured something out. Like I said, it’s too late now. That poor boy has been through enough and if you’re actually making a difference for him, what’s two more months? But I do ask you this: are you prepared for what happens next?”

“What do you mean?”

“Once Adrien is 18 and free to go back to school or whatever it is he plans on doing, where will he go? He won’t be able to stay here anymore. It would be highly suspicious.”

Marinette’s heart sunk. She hadn’t thought that far out. Would Adrien even have somewhere else to go at that point? “We’ll figure that out when it gets closer. I’ll talk to him.”

Her mother pursed her lips. “I still can’t believe that poor boy has been stuck in your room for two months. How has he not gone completely crazy? That won’t do. He’ll need to stay out of the way of the customers but he needs something to do. He can help your father with chores in the bakery.”

She still couldn’t believe it. “You’re letting him stay? For real. Letting him live with us.”

“I’ve already talked to your father about my suspicions. He was the one who suggested keeping him on to help us out instead of hiding in your room all day, once you confessed.”

“And you’re not mad at me for hiding a boy in my room for two months?” Marinette asked in a small voice, hunching her shoulders forward.

“It might not have been the smartest thing to do, but you were just trying to help someone important to you. You may be under our roof a little longer but you are technically an adult and old enough to make your own decisions. We’ll support you as best we can,” her mother said, laying a hand on her shoulder. “Just…be smart about the physical things.”

“Maman!” Marinette yelped, cheeks on fire. “We’re not like that!”

“But you could be eventually,” her mother added. “Be prepared for the contingencies. I don’t want you doing something that could mess up your future.”

Marinette was ready to sink into the floor but her mother seemed to think she had been punished enough and let her go back to bed.

Adrien was sitting up, looking around frantically, before seeing her and relaxing. “I had another nightmare and woke up and you were gone. What happened?”

“My mom found us out,” Marinette said sheepishly, wanting to get it out into the open as quickly as possible, as if that would make it less awkward.

“No no no no no please don’t let her send me back!” he pleaded, jumping off the bed and burying his face in her hair.

“Don’t worry, chaton, she’s letting you stay. She and Papa want you to help in the bakery so you’re not stuck up here all day while I’m in school.”

He looked down at her, hope and mistrust mingling in his eyes. “Really?”

“They know. Not just that you’ve been hiding out here but who you are,” she confessed. “And who I am. I think that’s the main reason they aren’t freaking out more. I honestly thought I was toast when she came up and turned on the light.”

“They want me to stay,” he said dazedly. “They aren’t kicking me out.”

“You’re not going anywhere, Adrien,” Marinette promised, holding him closer. “Come on, let’s go back to sleep. We’ll face the music in the morning.”

Hand in hand, they walked back to her bed and it took a whole lot of hair stroking for Adrien to fall back asleep. Marinette took even longer, still reeling from the turn of events, but eventually she too drifted off in the arms of her partner.

                                                                                                                                   ***

“Hey Princess,” Adrien greeted cheerfully. “Look what I made!” He proudly held out a tray of perfectly browned croissants. “Your dad showed me how and helped me with a couple batches but I did this one all by myself.”

She plucked one off the tray and tossed it back and forth between her hands to let it cool before taking a bite. “Delicious!”

He looked pleased. “After the frosting incident I thought I’d be no good at baking but I’ve actually made a lot of stuff this week, even if I did get help at first.” Adrien had been working behind the scenes in the bakery for two weeks now and at first he was only allowed to help minimally because he wasn’t the best at following a recipe. The fact that her father had entrusted him to make a batch of anything by himself was tremendous progress.

“Are you having fun, chaton?” Marinette asked. His green eyes had regained some of the sparkle so frequently gone since his father’s arrest.

He nodded happily. “This is great! Baking is so much more fun than modeling.”

“I’m glad you’re enjoying yourself,” she said sincerely, planting a kiss on his cheek. “I’m going to go work on one of my sewing projects, okay? Meet me upstairs when you’re done.”

“Will do, milady,” Adrien said with a salute and went back to mixing more dough, humming to himself.

She passed her mother on the stairs, who gave her a small smile. “It really is nice to see him so happy, isn’t it?”

“You have no idea,” Marinette said fervently. She couldn’t possibly have imagined things turning out this well. Impossible as it had seemed, Adrien was healing. He was doing things he liked to do instead of what his father wanted him to do. Baking had done wonders helping him with that. It was something his father never would have allowed him to do.

“I’m proud of you, sweetheart,” Sabine admitted. “Your methods may not have been the best, but you’ve made a world of difference for that boy. I’ve seen it.”

Marinette impulsively gave her mother a hug. “Thanks, Maman.”

Chapter Text

Adrien didn’t know what he was going to do once he turned 18, as Marinette had explained her mother’s concern about the police suspecting they were harboring him all along. He supposed he could go back to the mansion, the police hadn’t seized it so it technically would belong to him, but the very thought made his chest tight. He’d have to go back completely alone. It was bad enough before, with a handful of his father’s employees milling about. He couldn’t bear the thought. He half-wanted to ask Marinette to go with him, but he couldn’t do that to her. She had a family who loved her. Why would she want to leave that for him?

He loved being around the Dupain-Chengs. He loved Tom’s jokes and Sabine fretting over whether or not he was eating enough at meals and feeling like he was actually doing something by helping in the bakery. And Marinette. How on earth could he survive without her sunny optimism, the way she teased him, and the fact that she was the only person since his mother disappeared who loved him unconditionally?

Marinette was always there to put her arms around him and tell him it would somehow be okay. When they were in the same room, they rarely didn’t touch in some small way: holding hands, sitting shoulder-to-shoulder, having her legs across his lap when she was reading one of her textbooks. He needed that affection. And how was he ever supposed to have a decent night’s sleep again without her? The nightmares still happened a few times a week but having her there to soothe him back to sleep made a huge difference. She would always hold him, rub his back, and whisper reassurances until his heart rate slowed.

Even if his turning 18 and having to leave wasn’t a concern, what about after? Marinette had applied to fashion schools all over Europe. What if she left? He’d follow her anywhere, but what if he couldn’t get into a school near her? He couldn’t start his applications for another month, to be safe. He was going to try to apply to schools near the ones she applied to but what if it wasn’t enough?

He realized Marinette was asking him something. “What?”

“I asked you what you thought of this skirt I was working on three times. What’s wrong, kitty?” She dropped what she was working on and came over to lay a hand on his arm reassuringly.

“The past month has been like a dream, Marinette. Something out of someone else’s life. But it’s going to end soon and then what happens to me?” His voice was more vulnerable than he wanted it to be, but he supposed it didn’t really matter. This beautiful girl had seen him at his worst.

“I’ve been thinking about that, actually.” She sat down on the chaise next to him and wrapped a slim arm around his waist. “What would you think about being an official employee of the bakery? Papa has really appreciated your help. It would give you an excuse to be over here every day, even if you couldn’t stay the night.”

“Really?” He brightened a little. “That would be great! You know I love your parents.”

“I was also thinking…” she continued nervously. “I don’t want you to be alone. You should never have to be alone again. Wherever you go, I’d like to go with you.”

His jaw dropped. “You have a life here, I can’t just make you—”

She placed a finger on his lips. “I’m still going to be working in the bakery after school too. It would be a formality, really. A place to sleep. I’ve talked to my parents about this and they said their doors will always be open to us. We can find somewhere nearby, to make getting to school and the bakery easier.”

Adrien was speechless. She had really thought this through. All this effort put into helping him. Because she loved him. “You’d really do all this for me?”

“I’d do anything for you, Adrien,” she said sincerely. “I love you.”

He pulled her in for a tight hug and choked out, “I love you too.”

They were wrapped in each other’s arms for a while before Adrien spoke up. “I’m going to sell the mansion.”

Marinette looked at him in surprise. “Are you sure?”

He nodded. “My mother is never coming back. There’s no reason to keep it. I can probably get a lot of money from it to help us live somewhere nice and go to university.”

“You can’t pay for me to go to university!” she protested.

“Why not? You’ve done so much for me, Princess. You’ve taken care of me. Let me take care of you.”

“It’s a lot of money,” she said quietly. “You don’t have to feel obligated—I didn’t do any of this expecting compensation. I did it because I cared.”

He grasped her hands. “And I want to do this because I care. Chat Noir and Ladybug are a package deal, remember? Wherever you go, I go.”

She bit her lip. “It’s a lot to take in, Adrien.”

“I know,” he sighed. “You’ve just done so much for me and I need to do something for you. I don’t want you to regret anything down the line.”

“I’ll never regret helping you,” she promised, leaning over to kiss him. “You say I’m everything to you. You’re everything to me too. I’m not going anywhere.” She smiled at him so sweetly he thought he’d melt right into the floor.

“You’re amazing, Marinette,” he sighed contentedly and leaned down to kiss her more thoroughly.

                                                            ***

“Happy birthday Adrien!” the Dupain-Chengs chorused, standing over him with a tray of breakfast food.

He blinked and rubbed his eyes. “Is this for me?”

“It’s a birthday tradition,” Marinette explained. “Breakfast in bed.”

A grin broke out on his face. He’d never had breakfast in bed in his whole life. “You made all this?”

“Well, Maman made the crepes, but I did everything else,” she said bashfully. “Eat up.”

“Thank you,” he said with tears in his eyes. “All of you.”

The birthday breakfast was delicious and it took him finishing it before he noticed there was a small, wrapped box on the tray. “What’s this?”

“Why don’t you open it to find out?” Tom encouraged.

It was a key.

“For our apartment,” Marinette explained. “Papa may or may not have gone ahead to set some things up last night so we’d be ready to go. You may want to sneak back to your old room to get more stuff beforehand but I’ve packed almost everything I need.”

Adrien jumped up and surprised Tom with a hug. “Thank you.”

“Don’t worry about it, son,” he said warmly. “We’re glad we were able to help you as long as we did. Now it’s time for you to spread your wings.”

Adrien turned to Marinette. “Will you help me pack?”

“Sure! We should probably go as Ladybug and Chat Noir though and sneak in the windows.”

It had been weeks since he’d transformed. “I’m down for that,” he said with a smile.

They arrived through the window without difficulty and Adrien stared at all the dust around the room. “It looks so empty.” It wasn’t even that there was much missing. There just weren’t any signs of life.

“Where do you want me to start?” his red-spotted girlfriend asked.

“Well, I figured I’d just bring my computer and my anime and video game collections but is it terrible of me to admit I want the foosball table?”

She laughed. “We might have a hard time sneaking that out the window. We can come back for it later. Now that you’re an adult you can start selling things off. How much of this do you want to keep anyway?”

“Not much,” he admitted. “It might be kind of weird, but I’d like to keep the portrait of my mom in the study. It’s kind of huge, and probably won’t fit in our apartment, but I want to store it somewhere.”

She smiled at him with understanding and laid a hand on his arm. “It’s not weird wanting to hold on to memories of someone you love. There’s so much stuff here you’ll probably need to get a storage unit anyway.”

She really got him. Adrien’s heart melted a little and he shot her a dazzling grin before resuming packing. It took a couple of hours but they talked and laughed so it didn’t seem like very long at all.

Eventually they stood on the doorstep of their new apartment surrounded by bags. Adrien unlocked the door and looked around in awe. It wasn’t very big, only a few rooms, but it was theirs. He was overcome with emotion but decided to play it light.

“I think the foosball table can go right there.”

Marinette laughed. “As long as it’s not in front of the TV, I’ll be happy. Come on, I’ll show you the rest of the place.”

She took his hand and led him through the kitchen, the bathroom, and the bedrooms. He turned to her in surprise. “There’s only one bed.”

She shrugged. “We always sleep together anyway. I figured, what’s the point of having separate bedrooms? The other one could hold my sewing stuff.” She gave him a sly grin. “And the foosball table.”

Adrien wrapped her in a hug. “You’re the best.”

“I know,” she teased.

                                                            ***

“Are you sure you’re ready for this?” Marinette asked as she fingered the strap of her backpack.

Adrien was bouncing on the balls of his feet. He had missed school more than anything. He’d actually be able to be around his friends again! Go outside! Be free. “Yes! I can handle the questions.”

“I’ll be there to help you,” she assured him. “I just want this to go well. I know how much it means to you.”

“It’ll be fine,” he said optimistically. “Let’s go, I know you have a habit of being late.”

Marinette stuck her tongue out at him and followed him out the door. It was a cold, wintry day and Adrien was wearing a scarf and hat Marinette had made. He eagerly grabbed her hand and pulled her enthusiastically down the street as he laughed.

When they arrived at the school he looked up at the building fondly. “It’ll be good to be back.”

Marinette looked worried but still gave him a smile. “Let’s go.”

They walked into the building hand in hand, ignoring the stares from passersby. Everything was fine until they stood in the doorway of the classroom.

Alya shrieked, “Marinette Dupain-Cheng, you have a whole lot of explaining to do!”

Adrien glanced down at their entwined hands. Crap.

 

 

Chapter Text

Marinette and Adrien dropped hands as if they’d been burned. He turned to her, a stricken expression on his face, and she gave him her best reassuring smile before they went to their respective seats.

“Not right now, Alya,” Marinette said wearily.

Her best friend stared at her like she’d lost her mind. “You walk in holding hands with a guy who’s been missing for four months and you expect me not to have a million questions?”

“I said not now. Go ahead and interrogate me later. Class is about to start.”

Her heart ached as she saw Adrien’s shoulders curl forward. He could clearly hear every word and was worried about getting in trouble. He brightened a little when Nino came in and gave him a bear hug—they had  sporadically kept in contact even though Adrien hadn’t been able to give him any details—but Marinette was still concerned. Maybe coming back to school had been a terrible idea.

“Settle down,” Madame Thenardier said as she walked in the room. Her eyes bugged out of her head when she saw Adrien. “Monsieur Agreste, where have you been?”

“Doesn’t matter,” he said flatly. “I’m 18 now and within my rights to go to school.”

The teacher was taken aback but didn’t push the issue further. Enough people were staring already and she had material to cover. “Alright then. Everyone, open your books to chapter twelve…”

Marinette hardly heard a word all period. More than anything she wanted to reach forward and squeeze Adrien’s shoulder—do something to let him know it would be okay—but she couldn’t. She’d already called too much attention to their relationship and Alya was going to go full Inquisition Mode as soon as class got out.

When the bell rang, her first instinct was to grab Adrien and run but he was crowded by too many people. She couldn’t get to him.

“Where have you been?” Chloe screeched louder than the rest of the crowd gathered around Adrien’s desk.

His voice was defeated. “Oh, what do you care, Chloe? You dropped me just like everyone else. I thought you were different.”

“I was in shock! Your father—”

His eyes flashed dangerously. “Yeah, my father turned out to be a total psycho. Go figure. I thought you cared about me but all you really cared about was my last name. Once that was infamous you wanted nothing to do with me. Go away.”

“But Adrikins I—” her lip quivered.

“Don’t call me that!” Adrien shouted. “I’ve always hated that nickname. And we aren’t friends anymore so you don’t get to call me that.”

The crowd parted in fear as he turned and he strode out of the room. With a quick glance in Alya’s direction, Marinette hurried after him.

“Leave me alo—oh, it’s you,” he sighed. “You were right. I wasn’t ready for that.”

Marinette sighed. She knew something like this would happen but he was so excited to get some semblance of his life back that he hadn’t listened. “You knew there would be questions.”

He rubbed a hand over his face. “I didn’t think it would upset me that much. Nino wanted to know too but at least he was mostly just happy I was back. Everyone else just wants to gossip.”

“Not everyone,” she said softly. “Alya’s been worried about you.”

Adrien laughed sardonically. “Sure. Alya, the one who’s probably going to be asking the most questions. I’ll bet she cares.”

“It’s going to be okay,” she said firmly, gripping his arm. “It’ll just take a bit to adjust back.”

“How long, Marinette?” he demanded. “There are only five more months of school. I don’t want to be hounded the whole time. And what about after? Most of the schools you’ve applied for are in Paris. I’ll never escape it!”

“It’ll die down eventually,” she reasoned. “You disappeared so soon after…you know…so coming back stirred up the news again. Act normal. Reintegrate yourself. There will be bigger news and this will be forgotten.”

He deflated. “All I’ve ever wanted is to be normal. But that’s never going to happen, really.”

“Kitty…” Marinette didn’t know what else to say that would comfort him. She was out of her depth, having never experienced anything like this.

“Don’t worry about it, my lady,” Adrien shot her a weak smile. “I’ll get over it.”

He trudged in the direction of his next class, leaving Marinette standing there more helpless than ever. The person she loved more than anything was hurting and there was nothing she could do about it.

Alya caught up to her then with a scowl. “I’m still waiting for an explanation, missy.”

“What’s to explain?” Marinette said dully. “He’s hurting, I’m trying to help him.”

That was when the aspiring journalist exploded. “What’s to explain?! When did you two get so chummy? Did you know where he was hiding? Were you the one hiding him? Are you dating? Is this why you weren’t more worried that he was gone?”

“He needed help, I was the one he came to,” Marinette said crossly. “That’s all I’m going to say. This isn’t some big scoop. This involves people’s lives and I’m not the only one who could get in trouble if it gets out. Let. It. Go.”

Alya looked taken aback. “What’s gotten into you? I’d never tell!”

“Has it ever occurred to you that it’s not any of your business? Ugh, everyone is morbidly curious and all he wants is for things to be normal. The details don’t matter! What does matter is that my best friend needs me so I’m going to do everything I can for him,” Marinette snapped.

“I thought I was your best friend.”

“Alya, that’s not what I meant—” she tried backtracking.

Alya shook her head. “No, I see how it is. All those times you couldn’t hang out you were with him weren’t you? And here I thought you were stressed about applications. Proves what I know.”

When they arrived at their classroom, Alya sat by Rose instead of in her usual seat by Marinette. What was she supposed to do? Alya couldn’t understand without knowing that Adrien was Chat Noir but that wasn’t her secret to tell, especially to the girl who ran the Ladyblog. She was torn. Alya was her best friend—had been for years—but Adrien was practically a part of her. She said she would do anything for him and she meant it. She just didn’t think it would be at the cost of her best friend.

Adrien was waiting for her at the door a few hours later when the lunch bell rang. “Let’s go home,” he said quietly.

He looked as miserable as she felt. Throat closed, she nodded and took his hand.

“I’m sorry about Alya,” he said sadly. “Nino told me. It’s my fault.”

“Don’t blame yourself,” Marinette insisted. “I was the one who got too defensive. If I’d explained myself better she wouldn’t be upset.”

He snorted. “Sure, blame yourself for defending me. Sometimes, I can’t believe you. You’re too good.”

“I love you,” she whispered.

“I love you too. I just wish today had never happened. And it’s only half over.”

They spent their lunch hour snacking on macarons and watching Death Note, neither of them saying much, but reveling in the comfort the other provided just by being there. They were a team. They’d been a team for years but it was different now, working together against things other than akumas. Real things. Hard things.

Adrien nodded off against her and she kissed his hair, wrapping her arm around him a little tighter. He had been through so much and she had only been there for a small part of it. He said being with her made up for everything else but she had a hard time believing it. She just knew she wanted to spend the rest of her life making him smile.

“Chaton,” she said gently. “It’s time to go back to school.”

“Do I have to?” he mumbled into her shoulder.

“If you want to go to university, yes.”

Adrien groaned. “Fine, but you’re not leaving my side for the rest of the day. For someone so small you’re surprisingly scary. They give me more space when you’re there.”

“We are lab partners next period,” she reminded him. “That won’t be a problem.”

“Alright, alright,” he said as he pushed himself up off the couch. “At least we’re going to the bakery after school. I really need to pound some bread dough.”

Marinette smiled. “I bet Maman will feed us dinner too.”

“Mmm that’s more than enough reason to go back to school,” he said, salivating over the thought of Sabine Cheng’s cooking. “Let’s go!”

As promised, Marinette didn’t leave Adrien’s side for the rest of the school day. She wanted to talk to Alya, to apologize, but she didn’t get the chance before it was time to head to work. Sure enough, Adrien kneaded bread dough with unnecessary roughness but it wasn’t hurting the bread so her father let him.

“Rough day?” he whispered to Marinette as Adrien continued giving the dough a beating.

She nodded. “Everyone was all over him and he argued with his oldest friend.”

“Well, your mother is making pasta and you know how much he loves her garlic breadsticks. Maybe that will cheer him up,” her father predicted.

His prediction was thankfully correct. Adrien perked up a lot after dinner and was back to joking around and making bad puns as they worked on homework before heading back to their aparment. It gave Marinette hope that they might get through this after all.

Chapter Text

School hadn’t gotten much better after a week and Adrien was more weary than angry at this point. At least Marinette and Nino had his backs. To his surprise, Alya wasn’t asking any questions. Then again, he’d hardly seen her. She’d been avoiding him and Marinette like the plague, which was difficult considering she was still dating Nino. So sometimes she was there, hovering like a vulture, but never saying anything.

He could tell her best friend’s distance was killing Marinette but what could he do? It was his fault but he didn’t know how to fix it. He supposed he could talk to Alya but what would he say? He just wanted Marinette to be happy again. She’d put on a brave face for him but he could tell she was miserable when she wasn’t laughing too hard at his puns or flicking flour at him behind her parents’ backs.

He finally got his chance when Marinette had to meet with one of her teachers regarding a letter of recommendation. Alya was walking with Nino and he jogged over. “Hey Alya, can I talk to you for a minute?”

Her look of astonishment was quickly replaced by suspicion. “What is it?”

“I just want to explain some things.”

She eyed him skeptically before dismissing Nino with a quick kiss. “This better be good, Agreste.”

He led her over to a bench and gestured for her to sit down. Thankfully, she did. “What I’m about to tell you is never to be repeated, understood?” he warned.

She rolled her eyes. “There’s more to me than just looking for the next big scoop, you know. I wouldn’t exploit your situation. You’re my friend.”

So Marinette was right. That was comforting. Adrien pushed on, giving the bare bones without revealing he was Chat Noir. “Okay, okay. That awful day, Marinette was so good to me. When social services came and I had nowhere to go I had the wild, desperate thought to go to her because she had already offered her help. Obviously I didn’t realize the implications at the time. I thought I wouldn’t be there long, only until I could figure something else out. I had another friend I thought could help me but I ended up hiding out with Marinette for a couple months before her parents found out. They were surprisingly cool about the whole thing.

“But they brought up a point neither of us had thought of: harboring a runaway is technically illegal. Marinette was horrified. She didn’t want her parents to get in trouble; she was just trying to help me. And she did, so much. Being with her family helped me more than I could say. When I turned 18 they helped me get my own place so I could go back to school. I still want to go to university and Marinette helped me study so I wouldn’t get too behind. She’s been so amazing and it’s been killing her that she couldn’t tell you or hang out with you more, just to keep me from going insane with boredom. Everything she’s done over the past four months has been to protect me.”

Alya gaped at him. “How on earth did you guys get away with that?”

Adrien shrugged. “Marinette’s clever. It is kind of a miracle though, to be honest. We actually did it. Now I’m free. Well, kind of.”

“Kind of?”

He sighed and rolled his shoulders. “Still being hounded, remember? Marinette and Nino are the only bits of sanity in this mess. She thinks it’ll all blow over but I’m not so sure…”

“She really is looking out for you. I never would have guessed her capable of that. She used to be such a spaz around you,” Alya chuckled.

“I thought she didn’t like me,” Adrien admitted, rubbing the back of his neck.

Alya was shocked. “What! That’s impossible, she’s totally in lo—” She cut herself off, not wanting to betray her friend’s confidence, even if they were fighting.

Adrien laughed. “I know. We cleared the air on that quite a while ago.”

“Are…are you guys together?” she asked hesitantly, not wanting to overstep her bounds.

A lovesick smile appeared on his face. “Yeah.”

“No wonder she was so defensive! I have to go talk to her.” She jumped up and turned back to Adrien a moment. “Thanks.”

He smiled softly to himself as he saw her approach Marinette, who was exiting a classroom after meeting with her teacher. She seemed surprised as Alya looped her arm through hers and started walking with her. His work there was done.

Marinette looked dazed when she met up with Adrien for their next class together. “Alya isn’t mad at me anymore.”

“Oh really?” He feigned surprise.

“I don’t know what you did, but thank you,” she said as she got up on her tiptoes to kiss him.

“I just wanted you to be happy again,” he admitted.

“Oh Kitty, you’re too good,” she sighed contentedly as she wrapped an arm around his waist.

Class went by in a blur and when the lunch bell rang Nino and Alya were waiting for them.

“We’re all going to lunch,” Alya announced. “To celebrate Adrien being back the way we should have a week ago.”

He grinned. “Sounds good to me.” He took Marinette’s hand as they walked over to a deli for sandwiches, chatting and laughing all the way.

Once they sat down with their sandwiches, Alya told a funny story about her sisters that made Adrien choke on his sandwich. Marinette snorted and he shot her a glare through watery eyes. She batted her eyelashes innocently and he couldn’t stay mad. She was so cute.

“These aren’t as good as your mom’s,” Adrien said as they were finishing their food.

Marinette smiled. “You’ve been spoiled.”

Nino groaned. “Dude, Mrs. Cheng’s sandwiches are legendary. Marinette used to trade them for things on the playground.”

“Really?” Alya giggled.

“Oh yeah, she was a regular black market tradesman,” Nino continued. “The teachers were never the wiser.”

“Shut up, Nino,” Marinette said blushing. “I was seven.”

“Aww, little Marinette must have been so cute!” Alya cooed.

Marinette rolled her eyes at her best friend as Adrien cut in. “Oh she was. I’ve seen the pictures.”

“Adrien!” his girlfriend protested.

“There was this one really cute one where she—” Marinette clapped a hand over his mouth. He licked it and she recoiled in disgust.

“You licked me!”

“Not my fault your hand was in the way,” he said with a wicked gleam in his eye.

“You’re the worst.”

“You know you love me,” he said, mimicking her by batting his eyelashes innocently.

“Dude,” Nino spoke up, shaking his head. “You guys are so weird.”

“I know, isn’t it great?” Adrien said cheerfully. Lunch had put him in a really good mood. Finally, he had some normalcy with his friends.

Chapter Text

Since making up with Alya, life had been so much better for both Marinette and Adrien. He seemed more relaxed having some of his friends back and she was relieved that her best friend didn’t hate her. Things passed with relative ease for a few weeks. As she had predicted, some of the attention died down. Adrien still got some weird looks but other classmates like Rose and Juleka had started warming up to him to his excitement.

He was so much happier, humming something under his breath as he worked on a batch of macarons. She smiled fondly at him and stared for a few minutes until he noticed, giving her a crooked grin.

“Like what you see my lady?”

She turned slightly pink. “I was just thinking of how happy you look.”

His smile softened. “You’re a big part of that.”

Marinette reached out to muss his hair. “Good.”

“Marinette, mail for you!” her mother called. The bakery was still listed as her official address in case anyone started snooping around Adrien’s circumstances so mail still went there.

She took the letter from her mother and let out a pterodactyl screech.

“What is it?” Adrien asked, panicked.

“It’s from ESMOD,” she said weakly, leaning against the counter for support. “The most prestigious fashion school in France.”

“Open it!” her mother said eagerly.

“I think I’m going to be sick,” Marinette moaned.

“Just don’t puke on me,” Adrien chuckled.

“Not helping.”

“Sorry, Princess.”

“Are you going to open it or should I?” her mother asked. “Come on dear, it might be good news!”

“Okay,” Marinette said faintly as she opened it with shaking hands. She read the first line and shrieked, burying her head in her hands.

Adrien picked up the dropped letter. “She got in!”

“What?!” Sabine grabbed the piece of paper and all three of them huddled around it. It was there in black and white: Marinette Dupain-Cheng was accepted for the upcoming semester.

“This is great, Marinette!” Adrien exclaimed as he picked her up and twirled her around room.

“I got in,” she said faintly when he set her down. “I can’t believe it.”

“Congratulations sweetie,” her mother said as she wrapped her in a hug. “I’m so proud of you. I need to go find your father to tell him the news. Tom! Tom!”

“I can believe it,” Adrien said. “You’re so talented and you worked really hard on your portfolio.”

“Pinch me, I’m dreaming,” she mumbled, still dazed. “Ouch!” He actually pinched her.

“You said to pinch you,” he said innocently even though there was smirk on his face.

“You’re still the worst.”

“I know,” he said cheekily. “Seriously though, this is amazing news! I knew you had it in you.”

She bit her lip. “You wouldn’t care if we stayed in Paris? I know while back you wanted to leave…”

He took her hands. “I was having a bad day. I’ll be happy wherever you are, my lady.”

“Are you sure?”

“The attention has died down a lot already. I’m sure it’ll be old news eventually, like you said.” As he spoke he wrapped his arms around her. “I want you to live your dream, Marinette.”

She looked up at him gratefully. “Have you finished your applications yet?”

“Most of them. There’s still the matter of getting letters of recommendation, which may be difficult considering the circumstances,” he said bitterly. “I guess I can use my old fencing instructor, Mr. D’Argencourt, for one of them.”

“Your test scores are excellent,” Marinette reminded him, trying to lighten the mood and regretting she ever brought it up. “They can’t fault you as guilty by association. You’re a completely separate person from your father and if people can’t see that they can talk to my yoyo.”

Adrien buried his face in her hair. “How do you always know the right thing to say?”

“I guess I just know you.”

“Better than anyone,” he admitted. “I’m glad I have you.”

“Me too.”

The moment was interrupted when Marinette’s father scooped both of them up. “My baby girl got into her dream school!”

“Papa,” Marinette said, laughing and out of breath. “You’re crushing us.”

“I don’t mind,” Adrien chimed in. “Hugs are nice, even crushing ones.”

The bell on the bakery door pinged and everyone looked up. A business-like woman in a tight bun walked in and Adrien went three shades whiter.

“My name is Simone Masson,” she said while handing Tom her card. “I’m here to speak with you regarding Adrien Agreste.”

“I’m a legal employee of this bakery,” Adrien said quietly. “I only started working here a few weeks ago. They don’t know anything.”

“I’ll decide that for myself,” Mme. Masson said sharply. “You’ve caused quite a bit of trouble, young man.”

He stuck his chin out. “I’m an adult; you don’t have anything on me.”

“True,” she conceded. “But I’m more interested in where you were hiding for four months and more importantly, who you were hiding with.”

Marinette gulped. How had she not seen this coming? Her parents were going to get in trouble with this woman and it was all her fault!

“Why don’t you come into the living room,” she said primly. “At least one of my parents needs to stay in the bakery. We can answer your questions upstairs.”

She was Ladybug, calm and in control. She couldn’t spaz out and give her family away. As much as she wanted to comfort Adrien, who still looked like he’d seen a ghost, she couldn’t show familiarity in front of this woman. She hadn’t seen the group hug—they had been in the back—but Marinette wasn’t taking any chances. They had covered their bases. The only connection Adrien had to them was by working there and his official employment hadn’t begun until a couple days after he turned 18. If she kept her cool, everything would be fine.

Mme. Masson sat down in a chair across from the couch and Marinette was careful to make sure her mother sat between her and Adrien so she wouldn’t slip up and touch him, betraying their familiarity.

“How long have you known Adrien Agreste?” Masson directed her question at Sabine.

Marinette was grateful for her mother’s calm demeanor masking any anxiety she may have felt. “We’ve met once or twice over the years. He’s in my daughter’s class at school.”

Masson’s questioning eyes turned to Marinette and she channeled her alter ego even though she was screaming internally. “We didn’t know each other super well. Sometimes we’d hang out in a group of our classmates but that was about it.” Since she didn’t know he was Chat Noir at the time, it wasn’t even a lie.

“Would you say you’ve gotten to know each other pretty well in the past few months?”

She’s trying to trip me up! Marinette panicked but kept her face smooth, using all of her willpower. “The past few weeks,” she corrected. “The whole class was concerned when he stopped coming to school but the first time I saw him since then was when he applied for a job here. We’ve worked closely since then but I wouldn’t say I know him very well after so little time.”

“I see,” Masson mused. “How long had you been advertising for the position?”

“We had barely put the notice up,” Sabine jumped back into the conversation. “Things have been busy the past few months and my daughter has been so busy with university applications we needed the extra help immediately. Adrien was one of the first to apply.”

“And you hired him immediately with no prior experience,” Masson said dryly through thin lips.

Sabine was slightly defensive. “He was the only one able to start right away and as I said, we needed help immediately. The way we practice our business isn’t relevant.”

Masson’s lips thinned even further. “I see. Well, the rest of my questions are for Monsieur Agreste.”

Adrien finally spoke up. “I don’t have to tell you anything. I’m a legal adult.”

“You weren’t when you ran away,” Masson pointed out. “Where were you?”

“I had money,” he said. “I found a place to hide on my own. Nobody knew where I was.”

Masson was skeptical. “A place where no one asked questions about your age? I assume you had to show ID.”

“Not all hotels ask for ID,” Adrien said. “And I’m done with this conversation. I have work to do. Good day, Madame.” He strode out of the room and Marinette was proud of him for standing up for himself.

The social worker sighed. “I suppose that concludes my questioning. Thank you for your time. This has been very…helpful.”

Once the woman left, Marinette wilted with relief. “I’m so glad that’s over. I don’t like her.”

“I’m not so sure it’s over,” her mother said worriedly. “She might be back.”

“We’ll be ready if she does,” Marinette said as confidently as she could muster.

When she got back downstairs, her parents were conversing quietly so no one else could hear.

“That was awful,” Adrien said in a hollow voice. “She knew. She totally knew. I’ve put your family in danger.”

Marinette stroked his arm to reassure him. “She can’t prove anything.”

“But—”

“We have macarons to finish, chaton. I bet I can finish this batch before you’re halfway done.” She had to distract him so he wouldn’t beat himself up too much. Chat Noir never turned down a challenge.

His eyebrow quirked. “Is that so?”

She upped the stakes. “Loser does the dishes.”

“What does the winner get?” He had a mischievous gleam in his eye.

“Besides not doing the dishes?” Marinette knew what that gleam meant and decided to toy with him a little. “Whatever could you mean?”

He rubbed his chin thoughtfully. “I think the winner deserves some sort of prize. A kiss, maybe?”

“Just one?” Marinette feigned offense. “Seems like a pretty wimpy prize to me.”

He grinned at her. “I think we could arrange more than one.”

“You’re on!”

In the end, as predicted, Marinette won. She had been making macarons for years after all. Adrien groaned as he trudged toward the sink to start the dishes and she teasingly kissed his cheek. “I’ll collect my prize later, when we’re at home.”

“Why do you have to tease me, my lady,” he moaned, shaking his head sadly.

“It’s what I do best.”

“Can’t argue with that. Well, at least I have motivation to finish these dishes so we can go home.”

“We’re staying for dinner,” Marinette reminded him and laughed as he groaned even louder. Distraction successful.

Chapter Text

Adrien was a nervous wreck. His applications were mostly done—Sabine and Tom had helped him edit his essays—but he still had meetings with some teachers trying to get recommendation letters. Mme. Masson had showed up one other time trying to trip Marinette up but she flawlessly stuck to the story. He found it interesting that someone who hated liars so much was so good at it but supposed she had to be, secret identity and all.

“Dude, you’ll be fine,” Nino encouraged as he fidgeted madly on the way to a meeting with his teacher. “You’re one of the smartest people in our class.”

“But I missed so much school, what if they fault me for that?”

“You did well on the dozen or so makeup tests, didn’t you?”

Adrien nodded. All that time spent studying on random rooftops had really paid off, but still…

“You’ll be fine!” Nino continued. “They’d be crazy not to help you out. That’s what teachers are for!”

Adrien took a deep breath. Okay. He could do this. Marinette had already given him a pep talk before he left for school. She was in bed with the flu and he’d insisted she stay down even though she still wanted to go in to support him. “You’re right. I’ve got this. See you later.”

“Later dude!” Nino gave him a fist bump before walking in the direction of his last class.

“Monsieur Agreste, come in,” Monsieur Bernard said and Adrien felt his anxiety increase as he sat down in a chair across from the teacher’s desk.

“Thank you for meeting with me, sir.”

The teacher shuffled through a pile of papers on his desk. “I can see here that your test scores are excellent and I know you do always participate in class…when you’re here.”

Adrien’s knuckles went white from gripping the edge of his chair. “Please sir, there were extenuating circumstances. I kept up on my work while I was gone and aced all of the makeup tests since I got back. I’ve done all the extra credit I’ve been offered!” He took a deep breath before continuing. “You know what happened to my father. I don’t want my entire future destroyed because of him.”

“You have done well in all of the upper level physics courses you’ve taken from me,” the teacher mused. “You have promise. It would be a shame for that to go to waste because of your ‘extenuating circumstances.’ I’ll write the letter—”

“Oh thank you sir!”

“—on the condition that you do an extra credit project to make up for the two-month-long project you missed while you were gone. I’ll give you the rubric. I expect it to be turned in in three weeks. If you don’t meet that deadline, I will call everywhere you applied and rescind my recommendation, understood?”

Adrien nodded vigorously. “Oh yes, thank you so much sir! I’ll start on it right away!”

Monsieur Bernard smiled. “I knew I could count on you. Good luck with your applications, Monsieur Agreste. I’ll get that letter to you after class tomorrow.”

After thanking the teacher profusely yet again, Adrien backed out of the room and let out a small whoop. He already had the letter from M. D’Argencourt so he had met the requirement! He couldn’t wait to tell Marinette.

After school he practically skipped back to the apartment. “Marinette! Marinette I did it! I got both my letters!”

She looked up from the couch and made a brave attempt at a smile. “That’s great!” she croaked. “I knew you could do it!”

“I have a pretty big project to do but who cares? I can actually go to university!” He always liked physics anyway. It wouldn’t be a big deal.

“I knew you had a bright future ahead of you,” Marinette coughed.

He gazed at her in adoration. “Thanks to you.”

He couldn’t tell since she was already feverish but she might have blushed. He settled in on the couch next to her and kissed her cheek.

“You’re going to get sick,” she warned.

“It’s worth it.”

She smiled and shook her head before wincing. “Ugh. My head is killing me.”

He jumped up. “I’ll go get you some more medicine, Princess!”

“You’re the best,” she said feebly.

Adrien smirked, unable to resist teasing her. “I thought I was the worst.”

“Adrieeeeeen,” she moaned. “There’s a time and a place.”

“I think our apartment is the perfect place to tease you.”

“Not when I’m sick, it isn’t,” she protested before dissolving into another coughing fit.

“You two are nauseating,” Plagg piped up. “Once you get her medicine, give me some cheese.”

“Good to see you too, Plagg,” Marinette choked out a laugh between coughs.

“Don’t mind him, he’s always been like this,” Tikki said. “I’m glad you’re taking such good care of my chosen, Adrien.”

He gave the red kwami a pat on the head as he came back into the living room with Marinette’s medicine and a glass of water. “It’s my purr-leasure.”

Tikki giggled and Marinette groaned. “Just give me the medicine.”

He complied. “So cranky, my lady.”

“You’d be cranky too if you felt like this.”

“Touché.” He fluffed up her pillows and gave her a sweet kiss on the forehead. “You sleep. I’m going to work on some homework.”

“Don’t you have to go to work?”

“Not for another hour,” he explained. “Apparently things have been slow today.”

“I guess if I had to be sick today was the day for it,” she rasped before taking a long drink.

“You didn’t miss much at school either. I’ll catch you up once I get home from work, okay? Sleep,” he commanded gently.

“Yes, your highness.”

“I thought that was you?” Adrien said flirtatiously.

“Give it a rest,” Plagg moaned. “Please.”

“Come on, Plagg, you should be used to it by now!” his chosen protested. “It’s been months.”

“I’m never going to get used to that,” he sniffed disdainfully.

“Let the girl sleep,” Tikki chided.

“Play me in foosball and I’ll stop complaining.”

Tikki just smiled as she followed her counterpart into the sewing room. Adrien had rescued it a week ago when he started selling off things in the mansion.

Aside from Marinette’s sleepy sniffles and the quiet clinks of the foosball table in action, the apartment was quiet so Adrien was able to make good progress on his project before it was time to go to work. Marinette was still dead to the world so he gently caressed her cheek before slipping quietly out the door.

“Is Marinette feeling any better?” Tom asked when Adrien walked in.

“Not really,” he sighed. “She was asleep when I left though so hopefully that helps.”

“Poor girl works too hard,” Tom sighed. “She’s been running around like a chicken with its head cut off since she got into ESMOD, trying to make sure everything is ready even though she doesn’t start for months.”

Adrien chuckled. “Believe me, I know. She’s been designing like crazy, wanting to be ahead before she even starts.”

His first batch of bread was barely in the oven when he heard a horribly familiar voice. “Mrs. Cheng, I need to speak with your daughter again.”

“Marinette is sick, she’s probably still asleep,” Sabine said firmly.

“I’m afraid this cannot wait. I insist,” Mme. Masson said as she strode into the back of the bakery.

“What are you doing?” Tom demanded. “You can’t just come back here.”

“Actually I can,” she said with a sneer. “I have reason to believe Marinette Dupain-Cheng lied to me about knowing Monsieur Agreste’s whereabouts when he was missing.”

Adrien’s stomach twisted. She knew! Where had she gotten her information? Oh no. Marinette wasn’t here. If this woman bullied her way upstairs she’d find an empty bed and be even more suspicious. He ducked behind a counter and desperately sent Marinette a text. She needed to be over here in less than five minutes.

He didn’t receive a response and his panic grew. He played indignant. “You can’t just barge in on someone with the flu and upset their sleep to show your power.”

Mme. Masson’s twisted little smile made Adrien want to toss her off the roof but what could he do? He couldn’t stall her forever. She started making her way up the stairs and he exchanged a nervous glance with Tom. Neither of them could do anything without actually grabbing the woman and hauling her down the stairs. That would get them in more trouble.

Both of them followed her up, dreading what she would find and wondering how on earth they could explain Marinette not being there.

“What do you want, you cow?” Marinette said scratchily. “I was sleeping.”

Tom and Adrien stood there open-mouthed, thankfully behind Masson so she couldn’t see their surprise that Marinette was actually there. How had she gotten there in time? Emotions churned within him. He was relieved she was there, terrified of what she might give away while off her head on medicine, and trying really hard not to laugh at the fact she called Masson a cow.

“I have some more questions for you,” Masson said in an offended tone. Adrien’s urge to laugh grew.

“I’ve answered too many questions,” Marinette slurred. “This is harassment. Get out of my room.”

            Tom spoke up. “Madame Masson, this is highly inappropriate and unless you have a warrant—since you are not a police officer I doubt you do—I suggest you leave my home before I escort you from the premises.”

            Masson looked as though she had been slapped. Apparently her authority had never been questioned to this degree before. “Well, I never.”

“You never what?” Adrien demanded, his patience finally snapping. “Expected someone you’ve been intimidating to push back? You disgust me. Here you are, bothering these innocent people who just happened to employ a former runaway who is now a legal adult. What jurisdiction do you even have? Is this just a personal vendetta because I happened to escape you? What authority do you actually have to be here? You can’t do anything to me and if you don’t leave my employers alone I’ll sue you for harassment personally.”

“You don’t have a lawyer,” Masson said shakily. It was the only response she could give. She was in shock.

“My father had a whole team of them,” Adrien said angrily, hands clenched into fists. He had been longing to give this woman a piece of his mind for weeks. It took Marinette and Tom snapping back to give him the courage. He may have been raised to be polite but sometimes politeness just didn’t do the trick. “I’m sure I still have their numbers somewhere.”

“I’m just doing my job.”

“No, you’re pushing farther than you’re supposed to,” he corrected. “I am an adult and it’s time for you to let this go. Leave.”

She gave him an apprehensive look before scurrying down the stairs.

Tom let out a low whistle. “Wow, son. I wouldn’t have seen that one coming. You really socked it to her.”

Adrien blushed, suddenly embarrassed at his outburst. “Well, it’s worth it if she leaves us alone now, right?”

Tom clapped a gigantic hand on his shoulder. “I guess we’ll see.”

“Izzeladygone?” Marinette mumbled. “Tired.”

“How did you get here so fast?” Adrien asked.

Tikki popped up from behind the bed. “She transformed. I saw your text and Plagg and I had to wake her up. Honestly, it’s a miracle she didn’t smash into the side of a building somewhere. She’s pretty out of it.”

His heart swelled. Even sick, his lady was looking out for him. “You’re amazing, Marinette.”

“Yeahyeah lemme sleep.”

Adrien kissed her forehead and pulled the covers up to her chin before heading back downstairs with Tom to work.

“You two never would have gotten away with this if you hadn’t been superheroes,” the big man said, shaking his head in disbelief. “That was a close one.”

“Too close,” Adrien said with a shudder. “Way too close.”

Chapter Text

Marinette squealed in disbelief. “I called her a cow?!”

Adrien grinned. He’d taken her home after his shift ended and she slept until the next morning before school, finally becoming lucid again. “Yeah, you were totally out of it. Doesn’t make it any less amazing though.”

She rolled her eyes before growing serious. “Do you really think she’ll leave us alone now?”

“Your dad seems to think so.”

Marinette wasn’t entirely sure. She rubbed her forehead worriedly and Adrien put an arm around her. “Don’t worry Princess, we’ll be fine.” She gazed up at him and he seemed so confident. How could she not believe that face? Telling Masson off had been really good for him. He seemed more like Chat Noir again.

“You’re going to be late for school,” Plagg piped up from the windowsill. “Not that I particularly care but—”

Marinette shrieked when she saw the clock. “We have a test today! We have to move!” She leapt over the back of the couch to grab her backpack and looked around frantically when she couldn’t find it.

“Looking for this?” Adrien held it up with a teasing glint in his eye.

She grabbed it from him before reaching for his hand and pulling him out the door as he laughed. “Relax, Marinette, we’ll do fine.”

“Maybe you will,” she fretted. “I’ve been sick. I haven’t studied for days—”

“—but you have studied,” he cut in. “Breathe.”

There wasn’t time for breathing, they were running to school. If she hadn’t been conditioned from being Ladybug, she would have been a wheezy mess by the time she arrived. Is it was, she was barely winded.

            Adrien kissed her on the forehead for luck as they walked into the room and she found herself surprisingly flustered. They’d been in a relationship for months and she still got excited over such simple gestures of affection. She snapped herself out of her dreamy haze and thought she did alright on the test at the end. Thank goodness.

She didn’t see her boyfriend at the end of the period. Where was he? He sat right in front of her and always waited for her. How had he disappeared so fast? She scanned the throng of students heading to their next class bordering on panic. He wasn’t anywhere. She knew he could take care of himself—obviously—but where was he and why didn’t he say anything?

Her heart restarted when she saw him talking on the phone in a secluded corner. He was frowning.  Uh oh. Marinette started toward him just as he was hanging up. His eyes brightened at the sight of her but he still seemed troubled.

“Who was that?”

“Oh, it was one of my father’s lawyers. I was within my rights to sell all the junk from the mansion but I can’t sell the mansion itself without his permission. Which is ridiculous because he’s serving a life sentence. He’s never going to be using it again! Apparently he’s willing to let me sell it…if I go talk to him in person about it.”

Marinette gasped. “You don’t really have to do that, do you? I mean, you made plenty from selling things already and you’ve only sold about half of it.”

His face hardened. “I want to take care of us. Selling the house would pay for college…living expenses…even starting your own business if you wanted to.”

“Adrien…I don’t want you doing something that will hurt you for my sake. It’s not worth it.” She laid a hand on his arm. “I don’t need all that. All I need is you.”

He shook his head. “I have to do this. For me. Those other things aside, I need closure or I’ll never be able to put this behind me. I love you, you know I do, and you’ve made such a difference in my life after everything fell apart. But I’ll never be truly okay unless I put the past behind me. That  includes selling the house so I’m never tempted to go back there.”

Marinette bit her lip. How could she respond to that? “When do you have to see him?”

He seemed relieved she wasn’t arguing the point further. “It’ll take a couple weeks to get on the prison’s approved visitor list so as soon as that’s taken care of.”

“I know you need to do this yourself but will you let me wait for you afterwards? In case you need me,” she explained. What if it went horribly? What if seeing his father made everything worse?

“My lady, you’re too good to me,” he said with a lovesick smile on his face. “I think that will help but you’re right, I do need to do this alone.”

“I’ll support you however you need it,” Marinette promised and he drew her in close for a lingering hug.

“I know you will. Thank you.”

Chapter Text

When the time came for Adrien to see his father he didn’t want Marinette to be anywhere near the confrontation so he’d purposely scheduled it for a day she was busy meeting with a guidance counselor at ESMOD. It wasn’t that he didn’t want her support—he needed her now more than ever—but it was something he had to deal with alone. His father was HIS problem. And a small part of him didn’t want Marinette to have any further reason to be embarrassed by him. She told him over and over that his father’s choices didn’t reflect on him at all but what if seeing him in jail made it more real for her? What if she couldn’t take it?

He squared his shoulders and marched into the waiting area, infusing his voice with as much confidence as he could muster despite being terrified. “My name is Adrien Agreste, I’m here to visit my father, Gabriel Agreste.”

The guard nodded and explained visitation rules as they walked into the waiting area. Adrien wasn’t paying attention to a thing that was being said. He’d spotted him. His father, looking grayer and less autocratic, but still with a cold gleam in his eye. Adrien nearly shuddered.

“Sit,” his father commanded. Adrien complied, panicking. Why had he agreed to this? Marinette was right, this was a terrible idea. He hadn’t had any contact at all with his father since the final battle with Hawk Moth. There was no way he could handle it now.

“What do you want from me?” he asked angrily. “I’m here. What could you possibly have to say?”

“Can’t a father ask what his only son has been up to the last several months?”

A near-hysterical laugh escaped his throat. “What I’ve been up to? When have you ever cared about that?! You never did at home! You didn’t pay a speck of attention to me. You didn’t even realize I was Chat Noir! Even at the very end. So your own son had to be the one to bring you down. Do you have any idea what I’ve had to put up with because of you?”
His father stared at him impassively, which only fueled the fire.

“Everyone treated me like I was the criminal. Then I had to run from social services, losing my home, my friends, and everything I ever cared about. But you know what? I overcame it. I’m back at school. I’ve applied to university. And I live with someone who truly cares about me. That is how I’ve been doing. Do you have anything else to say or will you sign the stupid paperwork?”

Adrien slammed the paperwork that would allow him to be the executor of the estate onto the metal table in front of him, breathing heavily. He hadn’t expected to get out what he’d wanted to say. Marinette would have been proud of how he’d stood up for himself.

“Everything I did, I did for you,” his father said unapologetically.

“You did it for yourself,” he refuted. “You never thought about me at all.”

“You’re wrong,” Gabriel said crisply. “But feel free to believe what you want, Chat Noir. Do tell me though…did you ever find out who Ladybug was?”

Adrien’s eyes narrowed. “Why do you want to know?”

“Curiosity about the girl who ruined me,” he said with a cold shrug. “She can’t be much older than you. Do you know her?”

Did he know her? Dozens of memories flashed through his head. Marinette’s kindness. Marinette’s smile. The way she teased him, held him, kissed him, made him feel like life could get better after losing everything…Marinette couldn’t be tainted by his father.

“I know who she is. But you never will.”

His father scoffed. “Now Adrien, what can I do to the girl? I’ll be in here for the rest of my life. I won’t sign the papers unless you tell me.”

Adrien stiffened. “I don’t trust you. If that’s all you have to say to me, I’m going.” He grabbed the paperwork and stood to leave.

“All I want is a name, Adrien,” his father called after him.

Adrien managed to walk out of the door calmly but as soon as he was out of sight he dropped to his knees, shaking. His father couldn’t do anything to him that he hadn’t done already. But Marinette…did he have any reach outside of the prison walls? Did any contacts in the fashion industry still hold any respect for him? Marinette lived and breathed fashion. If his father found out who she was and discovered a way to wreck her career before it even began…

Why did he even tell his father who he was? To rub it in his face? Or to let him know just how much pain he had caused his only child? Was there a way he could find out who Marinette was just by her association with Adrien? A sick feeling settled in his stomach. “I screwed up, Plagg.”

The kwami spoke up from his shirt pocket. “You worry too much. What can he do? He’s in prison.”

“Yeah, but what if…”

“Don’t think about the what ifs, that’s the dumbest thing you could do,” Plagg said unhelpfully. “Let’s go home, I want to see Tikki.”

Adrien was still freaking out by the time he got home but the moment he opened the door and saw Marinette asleep on the couch with her sketchbook over her chest he couldn’t help but smile. This was where he belonged. His father didn’t matter anymore. Right?

Chapter Text

Marinette sat up and rubbed her eyes, noticing with dismay that her hands were smeared with graphite from sketching most of the afternoon—she’d been inspired by her meeting at ESMOD--and that it was now probably all over her face.

 “Hey, where’d you go? I thought you’d beat me home but you’ve been gone for hours,” she said when she spotted Adrien at the kitchen table. He looked disheveled. More disheveled than he’d looked in months, which could only mean… “You went to see your father without me, didn’t you? Adrien!” She jumped off the couch and put her hands on her hips threateningly. “You told me I could at least come with you as moral support. Why did you lie?”

His head slumped onto the table so he didn’t have to look her in the eye. “I was too embarrassed, okay? And I’d do it again. Seeing him again…he was horrible. You didn’t need to be anywhere near that.”

“I should have been there for you,” Marinette disagreed. “You’re a wreck. What did he say to you?”

Adrien mumbled something into the table that she didn’t catch.

“Sorry, could you repeat that?”

He finally looked up but not at her. “He wants to know who you are. That’s his price.”

“Who I am? What do you—” Marinette sucked in a breath, trying very hard not to get angry. “You told him you’re Chat Noir?! What were you thinking?!” She paced back and forth, fists shaking. She needed to calm down before she made Adrien even more upset but this was not good news.

“I wasn’t thinking,” Adrien said miserably, still facing the fridge. “He made me so angry, sitting there smugly like he’d done nothing wrong. I had to rub it in at least a little but ughhh now what? He can’t do anything to me that he hasn’t done already but…”

“But what?”

“I’m worried about you,” he said lamely. “If he knew who you were…I’m worried he could still try to use his influence to pull something from prison.”

Marinette rubbed her temples. “Like what?”

He hesitated, not wanting to stress her out even further. “I don’t know, just something,” he hedged. “But he won’t be able to find out who you are so don’t worry about it.”

“Don’t worry about it? Adrien, I’m living with you. If he does have any degree of influence left, wouldn’t investigating you at all lead straight to me?” She crossed her arms over her chest in a self-comforting gesture.

“Clearly he hasn’t been investigating me because he wanted to know what I’d been up to since he’d been in prison,” Adrien said with a note of hope tinging his voice. “Maybe he doesn’t have that kind of power after all and was just bluffing.”

Marinette was less sure. “Do you really want to bet on him bluffing?”

“I don’t know! I don’t know what to do about this at all…” Adrien moaned, burying his head back into his arms.

“You two really need to relax,” Plagg piped up from a trash can in the spare room.

“Plagg!” Tikki scolded. “Don’t eavesdrop.”

“What?” he asked defensively. “Hawk Moth is in prison, that’s that. There’s no reason to worry about him anymore. He’s never getting out.”

“Was there anyone he was close to that’s still on the outside?” Marinette asked, trying to be rational now that her anger had mostly ebbed. Adrien looked both miserable and repentant so she couldn’t stay mad at him.

“After my mom disappeared he never left the house,” Adrien said dully. “His only contact with the outside world was through Nathalie…and me. Nathalie’s gone now too. He almost never spoke to business contacts personally, it was always through her. Though…the police would have seized all his files when he was arrested, right? What if we could check to make sure he wasn’t in contact with anyone else? Or at least see who he was in contact with.”

Marinette smiled ironically. “Do you really think they would just hand over those files to a couple of teenagers?”

Adrien finally perked up. “Not just any teenagers. Ladybug and Chat Noir!”

“We haven’t been in costume since we moved here,” she mused. “And it’s been even longer since we’ve made public appearances. What if they’re suspicious?”

“Who’d be suspicious of superheroes?” he asked, gaining enthusiasm. “Come on, milady, this could be our best shot! Besides, it could be fun. I miss racing across the rooftops. Please?”

Marinette couldn’t help but smile seeing him so energetic after previously being like a deflated balloon. “Alright, alright. We’ll go tomorrow. I need to finish this, I fell asleep before I could.”

He grinned.“Yeah, about that…you have pencil on your face.”

“I knew it,” Marinette muttered darkly and Adrien laughed as she went to go wash it off.

Her heart constricted. She loved his laugh. He’d screwed up today, and she’d probably be mad about it again later if she thought about it too much, but he was here. He was happy. He was with her. That’s what mattered. They’d figure this out, right?

Chapter Text

“You want to see Hawkmoth’s files?” Detective Raincomprix asked, narrowing his eyes at the pair of superheroes in his office. “Hasn’t this incident been wrapped up already? Gabriel Agreste is in jail. You already did your job.”

Ladybug sighed. She figured something like this might happen but she couldn’t leave loose ends hanging. Adrien had been on edge ever since he had visited the prison and she hated seeing him like that. If they could make sure that his father wasn’t still contacting anyone on the outside, maybe he’d finally relax.

“We’re concerned he may still have influence on the outside he could use to target civilians. We just want to see his emails and analyze them for ourselves,” Ladybug said calmly. She couldn’t get riled up or the police would likely become even less cooperative.

“Like business contacts?” Detective Raincomprix asked. “I thought his only means to the outside world was Nathalie Sancoeur. She’s in jail too, as you know. Wouldn’t it be more beneficial to talk to her?”

Ladybug and Chat Noir exchanged a look. They hadn’t thought of visiting Nathalie. Would she tell them the truth though? She had always been so loyal to Gabriel. They weren’t even in the same prison but was there a way they were still in contact? Did she know Gabriel’s plan?

“We’ll look into that,” Chat Noir said swiftly. “But we’d still like to see both of their email and phone records in the months leading up to the arrests.”

Detective Raincomprix ran his hand over his face tiredly. “I’ll talk to my superior and see what I can do, but no guarantees. He’s not in today. Is there a way I can contact either of you?”

“No need, we’ll be in touch,” Ladybug said crisply. “We know how to find you.” There was no way she’d give anyone a traceable way to find her, especially now that her former arch enemy was looking into her identity. Even the police.

“Thanks for your time!” Chat Noir said cheerfully with a salute as they left the building.

Five minutes later, they sat on a rooftop nearby, ignoring the points and stares of various people below who hadn’t seen either superhero in months. Ladybug kicked her legs impatiently over the edge of the building, not hiding her frustration.

“Well, that was a bust.”

“Not entirely,” Chat Noir mused. “We hadn’t thought of trying to see Nathalie. Though I don’t know if she’d be willing to see me at all. I haven’t seen her since…” He didn’t need to finish his sentence. They both knew what he meant.

“It’s worth a try, I guess. Aren’t you busy though? Have you even finished your applications yet?” Ladybug fretted. Adrien hadn’t slept much since his visit to the prison. He’d been busy at the bakery, with homework, and with worrying too much.

“Mostly. I’ve applied to as many universities near ESMOD as I could but I may need to branch out to further away just in case.”

“How far away? Would you need to move?” Ladybug looked at him and bit her lip. They’d only just gotten their apartment together. She didn’t want to be apart again.

He shook his head. “The metro does exist, you know. I’m not going anywhere unless you’re with me.”

The smile he gave her warmed Ladybug’s heart and she moved closer to rest her head on his shoulder. “You’re a charmer, you know that?”

“Of course,” he bragged playfully. “Who wouldn’t be charmed by all this?”

She laughed at his bravado. It reminded her of simpler times. Not that she would trade now for anything. She loved being in a relationship with Adrien. Their years of mutual unnoticed pining were a thing of the past and she was grateful for that.

“I’m glad I have you,” she said softly.

He turned to look at her quizzically. “Why so sentimental?”

She glared at him before continuing more seriously. “I’m just thinking of the way things used to be. Before we really interacted for real. I had all my silly little teenage daydreams but I never would have imagined how things would actually turn out.”

Chat Noir smiled a little. “I wish I’d paid more attention to you. My lady was right behind me the entire time and I never would’ve guessed! We could have hung out more.”

“We’ve hung out plenty now,” she pointed out. “I’m just glad things all worked out in the end.”

“Me too, bugaboo.”

She punched his shoulder. “Did you have to ruin the mood with that nickname? It’s been weeks since you brought it up!”

“But it’s just so fun to say,” he laughed. “Come on, say ‘bugaboo’ three times fast and tell me it doesn’t make you laugh.”

She shook her head at him fondly. “You’re so weird. Come on, let’s go back to my parents’ place. My dad made a surprise for dessert but he won’t tell me what it is.”

“That’s kind of the point of a surprise.”

Ladybug rolled her eyes and grabbed his hand to pull him up. “Just come on, already. I’m starving.” She slung her arm around his waist and swung them both across the city. It really did feel like the way things used to be.

 

Chapter Text

“Adrien, why are you here?” Nathalie said tiredly. She had been surprised when she had been told she’d had a visitor. No one she knew was willing to see her the whole time she’d been incarcerated. Seeing that it was her former boss’s son, she knew it couldn’t be anything good.

He leaned forward with his hands clasped on the table. “I want to know who my dad was in contact with before he was arrested.”

Nathalie’s eyes narrowed. “And why do you want to know that?”

Adrien thought a moment before responding. “…he’s giving me a hard time.”

“That’s not an explanation.”

“Do I owe you one?”

Ouch. Nathalie winced. He had a point. He didn’t owe her anything, not after what she did. Her misguided devotion to Gabriel Agreste enabled his insanity and led to them both being locked up and leaving Adrien to fend for himself. She wouldn’t be surprised if he hated both of them for it.

“I suppose not but I don’t have that information on me,” Nathalie said simply. Her tablet with all of Gabriel’s information had been confiscated before she went to prison. She hadn’t heard from him since the arrest. How was she supposed to know what he was up to now?

“All I need are names.”

Nathalie had realized that it was her own poor choices that led to her entanglement with Hawkmoth. She didn’t hate Gabriel but she wasn’t his right hand anymore and never would be again. Giving Adrien names wouldn’t be terrible, would it? If she could even remember them. Then again…all of his work related communication went through her. She couldn’t guarantee that he wasn’t contacting anyone else on his own.

“You expect me to remember minor details from so long ago?” she inquired flatly. “The only people Mr. Agreste had me contact were related to his business or your schedule. If he was in touch with anyone on his own, I didn’t know about it.”

Adrien wasn’t deterred. “We have access to the business contacts. Could you at least tell me if there was anything he was having you look into related to the whole…Hawkmoth…thing before everything went down?”

Nathalie sighed. She had nothing left to protect. Hawkmoth was gone. She may as well tell him. “He was trying to find the guardian of the other miraculous. I don’t know if he contacted anyone about that. As far as I know, his business contacts were all too embarrassed to admit they knew him after he got arrested. If someone was helping him, it probably wouldn’t be one of them.”

“So you’re basically telling me that even what I do know is useless.” Adrien stood up dejectedly and headed toward the door. “Thank you for your time.”

As he was about to leave, Nathalie deliberated before calling out to him. “Adrien!” He turned around and she awkwardly managed to say “I’m sorry.” All he did was nod before hurrying out of the security gate.

                                                                                     ***

“So you’re telling me that it’s back to square one,” Marinette mused as she piped macarons onto a tray. “Do you think she was telling the truth? Or trying to throw you off the trail? How far does her loyalty to your father go?”

Adrien shook his head, frustrated. “I have no idea. She’s never been easy to read… I’m not going to dismiss our only evidence on her word alone though.”

            “Good call,” she approved. “We still need to look through those. About him looking for the guardian though…should we talk to Master Fu? Maybe he’s seen something suspicious.”

            Adrien perked up a little. “I guess that’s something else we can look into. We’ll figure this out milady! Promise.”

            Marinette was the light of his life. He was not about to let anything happen to her when he was there. He leaned against the counter and watched her work. As she piped, she poked her tongue out in concentration the way she always get when designing and it was so adorable he wanted to kiss her on the spot.

            Sneaking up behind her, he wrapped his arms around her waist and spun her around despite her yelps in protest. “Adrien! What are you doing!”

            “You were too cute not to,” he teased with a wink. She rewarded him by squirting a dollop of macaron batter on his face.