It's a cool, clear night, with only the sound of his footsteps for company. The best kind of night, really. Chat Noir nimbly leaps from rooftop to rooftop, using his baton to propel him upward where necessary, until he spots his target. Ladybug is standing on a rooftop, staring out at the city. Her back is to him, and it seems like she’s not paying attention. He lands behind her, mouth opening to let out a witty comment -
- and Ladybug turns around, her eyes full of tears.
Chat Noir can't help gaping at her. He doesn't ever remember seeing Ladybug cry. She's the calm, collected one of their duo. Concern immediately overrides everything else, and he closes the distance between them quickly to gently grasp her shoulders. "My Lady? What's wrong?"
She collapses against him with a wail, her hands coming up to cover her face. Between her stuttered gasps and sobs, he manages to make out the reason for her uncustomary state of mind: her parents have found out she's Ladybug, and they've forbidden her to continue out of concern for her safety. Chat Noir's blood runs cold. All he can do is stand there, hugging her, and stare at the top of her bowed head as she tells him that this is the last time she's allowed to transform; as soon as she goes home, they're taking her miraculous away.
"This is... this is the last time I c-could come. I told them... I had to let you know," Ladybug finishes, wiping at her eyes. She lifts her head to look at him with watery eyes and tries to smile. "I wanted... I wanted you to know, so you wouldn’t think I’d just disappeared on you."
"Ladybug..." It's all Chat Noir can say, even though he wants to say so much more. How is he going to do this without her?
Her lower lip quivers and she reaches up to her earrings, pulling them out. Her transformation dissolves in a wash of reddish pink light; a bright red ladybug kwami tumbles through the air and lands on her shoulder. Marinette Dupain-Cheng stands before Chat Noir, tears streaking her face. She squares her shoulders and seems calmer when she speaks again.
"My-my name is Marinette and I'm so sorry, Chat," she says. "I should've been more careful. But here. I don't want my parents to have them. Paris needs a Ladybug. You need a Ladybug. Master Fu and Tikki will be able to help you pick someone else -"
"I want you," Chat Noir says. He knows it's cruel but he can't help himself. Selfishly, he pulls her into another hug. She comes willingly, burrowing into him. He can't fathom fighting alongside another Ladybug. How can he have a partner who doesn't roll her eyes at his jokes, or put her finger on his nose to push him away, or cuddle up to him at the end of a long, cold night?
"I'm sorry," Marinette whispers again, miserably.
"It's not your fault, Marinette. Your parents... there's no way?"
"I've talked to them a lot. For hours. They just won't bend."
"What if I kept your miraculous, and you just met up with me when an akuma shows up?"
She shakes her head, another stiffled sob breaking free. "I'm grounded. Either I'm at school or the bakery. Maman is going to walk me there and back. Papa said they were going to be checking on me every twenty minutes to make sure I’m still there, and if there’s an akuma attack I have to be with one of them at all times."
The world feels like it's falling out from under him. "I can't do this without you."
"You have to, Chaton. Paris needs you." She steps back from him again, and it feels like he's losing her. It's the most unbearable feeling.
"Plagg, claws out!"
"Wait!" Marinette yelps, but it's too late. Her eyes grow huge when she sees Adrien, mouth working silently for several seconds before she says, "Why? Why would you do that? It didn't matter if you knew who I was, because I'm not Ladybug anymore - but I can still be akumatized, and Hawkmoth could find out - you stupid cat!" She's the one who grabs him this time, her thin, strong arms winding around him desperately. Adrien hugs her just as hard, trying to memorize the way she fits against him.
"I need you," he whispers into her hair, and she sobs in response. It’s the saddest, most heartbreaking sound he’s ever heard and he can’t think of a way to make it better. His own eyes blur with tears that burn hot. He’s finally found out who his lady is and now he’s losing her.
"Why don't you just get married?"
"What?" Adrien says, turning his head to blink dumbly at his kwami.
Plagg shrugs from where he’s hovering right beside their heads. "Then your parents wouldn't have any say, right? It worked for the last Ladybug and Chat Noir who had this problem."
The last ones?
"Plagg!" Tikki says, launching herself off of Marinette’s shoulder. "These are different times. That's not acceptable now."
"Why not? It would solve their problem. You could both do whatever you wanted then," Plagg says, cocking his head. He's wearing that shit-eating grin that means he's trying to stir up trouble. Tikki just rolls her eyes at him and then looks worriedly at Marinette, who is avoiding all their eyes by staring at the ground.
"Can you take me home?" Marinette asks in a tiny voice, touching Adrien's hand. Fresh tears rise in his eyes and he wipes them away.
He transforms and scoops her up. She feels unbearably fragile in his arms, her small arms winding around his neck, and the trip is over far too soon. Watching her walk back into the bakery is the hardest thing he's ever done. When she stops at the door and turns to look at him, the sight of the tears on her face physically hurts. A big man that must be her father appears, pulling Marinette inside and shutting the door.
Chat Noir barely remembers the trip home; he falls onto his bed as Plagg drags Tikki over to share his box. Tikki is crying. Adrien stares up at the ceiling before closing his eyes. Marinette's face after she de-transformed flashes through his head immediately. He finally knows who Ladybug is, but this isn't how he thought he'd find out. He'd happily live with never finding out if it meant that Marinette could continue to be Ladybug and fight at his side.
Somehow he manages to fall asleep, but he doesn't stay that way. Around 3am, Adrien finds himself thinking about his trust fund. His mother set it up when he was a baby. It's funded by several investments she made, but he also knows that half the money he makes modeling gets tucked away in there too. He's not supposed to know that, but he does. There must be a considerable amount of money in there by now, but he's never looked into it because he’s not allowed to touch it until he's twenty-five.
Or until he's married.
He can't seriously be thinking about this. He buries his face in his pillow, head spinning. They're too young. He and Marinette are only sixteen. Even though Adrien could easily support them both - even though it would allow Marinette to continue being Ladybug - even though he loves her with everything that he is - even though she might love him - even though...
Adrien sits up and looks around for Tikki and Plagg. They're both sleeping. There are tear streaks on Tikki’s face. The Ladybug Miraculous sits on the dresser beside them. He reaches over to the nightstand and fumbles around until he finds his phone, and spends the rest of the night looking up laws on marriage in France.
The next morning, Adrien tucks Tikki and Plagg into his backpack and eats his breakfast and lets the Gorilla drive him to school. As he gets out of the car, he sees Marinette. She's on time for once, walking towards the school. An older woman that looks a lot like Marinette watches from the corner, arms crossed. Seeing Marinette's slumped shoulders and the downcast look on her face hardens his resolve.
"Marinette!" he calls out, and she visibly flinches.
"A-Adrien," she says weakly, looking up at him. Her blue eyes are red-rimmed and puffy, like she’s been crying all night, and all he wants is to see her smile.
He walks over to her. "How are you?"
"I've been better," she says. Her fingers tighten around the strap of her bag. "So."
"So," Adrien echoes.
Marinette looks away. "Have you chosen someone new, then?"
"What?" Adrien stares at her in shock. "No!"
"You need to. An akuma could attack at any minute." Marinette's voice is soft and pained.
The thought of fighting alongside a new Ladybug is what breaks him. He can’t fight beside someone else, especially not now that he knows he was fighting beside Marinette. It may sound dramatic, but the thought of losing her, losing his lady, feels the same as it did when he lost his mother. He needs her. He looks down at her, at her beautiful face, and cracks.
"W-what?!" Marinette exclaims, finally looking at him.
His backpack is jostling in surprise as Plagg and Tikki react, but he takes her hands and it's like they're the only two people in the world as he says, voice soft, "Marry me, Princess."
"I mean it. I have money; we can get a small apartment. You can be Ladybug and I'll be Chat Noir and nothing will change."
Marinette stares at him. "You're serious."
"I've never been more serious," Adrien says. His heart has been pounding all morning; now, it calms. He wants to fall to his knees and hug her so tightly that she'll never be able to leave. It feels like like she's slipping through his fingers, and it's agonizing.
"We can't," Marinette says. "We're too young."
"We're sixteen. That's legal."
"We're so young..." Marinette whispers, though she doesn't sound convinced. She looks down at their hands. Adrien holds perfectly still while she thinks.
They both jump when the bell rings, and Marinette casts a glance over her shoulder to where her mother is still standing, watching them. Adrien wonders what her mother sees, and then realizes that he doesn’t care.
"Can I think about it?" she asks.
"Of course. Yes," Adrien says, so grateful she's not dismissing him immediately that he could cry.
Marinette nods. His hands feel cold when she lets go. They walk into the school together, where Alya immediately accosts Marinette. Adrien drifts to his own seat and sits, but he doesn't hear a word that their teachers say all day. It doesn't help that Marinette avoids him. He can feel the pressure of her eyes on the back of his head, but she doesn't speak to him and he takes the hint and keeps his distance.
He thinks she's going to say no. It would make sense. She's right. They are young, and how many people would say that they're being foolish? They'd say that first love never lasts, and that both of them will move on and find someone else, and that Adrien will learn to work with a new partner.
Maybe those people are right, but the punch to the gut he feels later that night when he gets a one word text from Marinette makes him not care.
"She said yes!" Plagg yells to Tikki, who pops her head up out of the box with a shocked look.
"Really?" Tikki says.
"Yes," Adrien says, feeling lightheaded.
He's getting married.
I don't know much about courthouse weddings in Paris, so let's pretend that this is all correct.
Adrien doesn't know how long he sits there staring at the physical proof that Marinette is willing to marry him, but at some point reality kicks in and he gets up. He packs a bag with clothing and a couple pictures of his mom and dad from back when things were still good. He also sneaks down to Nathalie's office, quiet at this time of night, and unearths the documents that contain the information about his trust fund. He stuffs those and his laptop and his phone and anything else he can think of that he might need into his bag.
At the last minute it occurs to him that Tikki likes cookies, and of course Plagg is all about cheese, so he heads down to the kitchen and takes enough food to keep them both happy for the next week or so since he's not sure how long it will take for him and Marinette to have access to their funds. Fortunately, he's got a small stash of cash that will keep them in a hotel room until he can get to his trust fund if needbe.
"Adrien, are you sure about this?" Tikki asks, hovering around his face when he walks back into his room.
"I love her," Adrien says. "I've never been more sure of anything in my life." He means it, and he can tell Tikki understands. Her eyes soften and she nods.
With two bags strapped to his back, Chat Noir crawls out the window of the Agreste mansion for what is probably the last time.
Marinette is waiting for him on her balcony. Her face is flushed red and her eyes are watery, but she still smiles when she sees him: the first time she’s smiled since she told him what was happening with her parents. It's like a heavy load has fallen off her shoulders.
"Hi," Chat Noir says awkwardly, alighting on her railing.
"I tried to talk to them again. They wouldn't listen - Tikki!" Marinette drops the bag in her hands, bringing both hands up to clutch her kwami to her cheek when Tikki goes flying over to her. Chat Noir feels warm from head to toe at the sight of them cuddling. He can’t imagine anyone taking Plagg away from him. Their kwamis have been their constant companions for so long now that life would seem empty without them.
"These are yours," he says, holding out his hand with the Ladybug Miraculous in it.
"Thank you," Marinette breathes, and those words hold so much more meaning that Chat Noir can parse, but they make him smile and she smiles too. She takes the earrings and slides them back into her ears, calling out her transformation phrase. In a flash of light, she's Ladybug again.
Chat Noir tries really hard not to hug her. He fails, hopping down form the railing and pulling her into his arms before the red light has even faded away. She hugs him back hard, so hard it hurts, but he doesn’t care.
"Let's get a hotel room," he says into her ear. "We'll go to the courthouse first thing tomorow."
"Right," Ladybug says. She picks up her bags and takes one last look over her shoulder. She looks sad and determined when she faces Chat Noir. "Lead on."
Typically their time together is spent with laughter and jokes and teasing. Tonight, their journey over the rooftops is quiet. Chat Noir has already picked out a small hotel that's out of the way of both their typical civilian circles, so the likelihood of anyone finding them is slim. They detransform and Marinette goes inside to get their room so Adrien won't be noticed. He only enters when she beckons to him, following her quickly and quietly across the lobby and into the elevator. They exit in silence and walk down the hall to their room, where Adrien closes and locks the door against the outside world.
"Are you okay?" he asks, feeling awkward all over again.
"No. I'm not sure I'll ever be okay again." Marinette hugs herself. She's wearing her pajamas, a tank top patterned with cherry blossoms and pink pants. "I can't believe this is happening. I tried so hard to make my parents listen, but it’s like I’m talking a different language and I hate it." She bites her quivering lip.
Adrien hesitates. Chat Noir and Ladybug have always been handsy and affectionate with each other. He's not sure where the line is now that it's him and Marinette. But she's let him hug her before, so he dares to walk over and hug her now. She sinks into him so easily and he closes his eyes, trying to get a grip: the thought that he could've lost this before he even really had it is so painful that it takes his breath away.
"Marry me," he whispers, because he wants to hear her say it in person.
"Yes," Marinette whispers back.
"I love you." Adrien doesn't mean to say it, but it tumbles out anyway. Marinette tenses.
"What?" she says, stunned.
"I love you, Marinette."
Marinette blinks, her long lashes making crescents on her cheeks. "I - Adrien -"
"I just wanted you to know that," he says quietly, "before tomorrow."
She swallows and hugs him again, tugging his head down onto her shoulder. Adrien hugs her even tighter.
Unsurprisingly, they don't sleep much that night so they're both tired and a little cranky when they leave the hotel the next morning. It feels weird not to be going to school after Adrien fought so hard for the privilege. His phone is off to keep Nathalie and his father from tracking him, but he's positive that it's filling up with texts and missed calls demanding to know where he is. He thinks about his father's face when the news gets back to him and feels cold head to toe. He's a coward for not telling Gabriel Agreste beforehand, but it's too late now.
They feed Tikki and Plagg at the hotel before Marinette goes to get her and Adrien some breakfast. Adrien takes the opportunity to slip into a jewelry store while she’s gone. He can't afford much right now, but she deserves to have a ring. He picks out two plain white gold bands and has an engraving done on the inside of both: a cat on one and a ladybug on the other. It costs extra, but he doesn't care. Plagg's approving nod tells him that he's made the right choice.
"I got you a croissant," Marinette says as they meet up. She's pale and sipping at a coffee. Adrien takes the croissant and breaks it in two, handing her half automatically. They often share food on patrol; it's practically second nature.
She makes a face but nibbles at it as they walk to the courthouse. The croissant gone, they stand outside taking turns drinking the coffee until it’s gone and they have no reason not to go inside. Her buttery, trembling fingers find Adrien's and cling to his hand tightly as they walk up the steps together. They join the end of a line and remain quiet in a crowd of chattering people. A bored-looking clerk finally waves them up about fifteen minutes later.
"We want to get married," Adrien says.
"Fill this out with the right information. Make sure you've got your I.D.," the clerk says. "And the fee."
Marinette takes the forms. "Thank you."
The clerk just jerks his head, waving to the next person. Marinette shuffles over to a nearby counter. Adrien peeks over her shoulder as she begins filling it out, occasionally whispering information in her ear. He finds out that Marinette's middle name is Sabine, after her mother, and that her birthday is October 26th. There's a lot he doesn't know about her. Ladybug was always so careful to keep their identities locked down, and he and Marinette have never been particularly close.
But rather than be frightening, all that realization does is make him want to get to know her more.
When the forms are filled out and they've both signed, they rejoin the line. Adrien pays the fee. Their identification is checked and approved. His heart begins to race as they're ushered into another room. A man comes forward to greet them and tells them that he's going to marry them. They look at each other. Marinette's face fills with that same determination from last night.
"I love you," she says.
Adrien's jaw drops. A strangled, squeaky sounds emerges. The officiant coughs to cover a laugh.
"This isn't just about the team," Marinette says, looking him in the eyes. "You're my other half. My partner. I will never leave you behind."
Her promise make him ache. His throat hurts. He fumbles for her hands. "I love you too. You're my other half, my partner," he repeats, because it's true. "I will always be by your side."
The officiant is smiling. "Those are lovely vows," he says quietly. "Adrien, do you take Marinette to be your wife?"
"Yes," Adrien says firmly.
"And Marinette, do you take Adrien to be your husband?"
"I do," she says.
"Do you have rings?"
Marinette's lips form the word 'no', but Adrien pulls the box from his pocket before she can vocalize the word. Her eyes widen as he slides the ring with the cat engraving onto her finger.
"When did you -?" she hisses at him.
He smiles helplessly. "Magic."
She rolls her eyes and takes the ladybug ring, gently sliding it onto his finger.
"I now pronounce you husband and wife. You may kiss your bride," the priest says.
Kiss. Their first kiss. There's something bitterly amusing about that, but any desire to laugh dies when Adrien looks into Marinette's eyes. He steps forward and inclines his head, brushing a chaste kiss across her lips. She gasps, her fingers finding and clutching at his shirt. They stare at each other.
"Congratulations," says the officiant politely. "Now, if you'll just sign the marriage license..."
Adrien signs. Then Marinette signs. Two witnesses sign. They're given a copy and sent on their way. And just like that, they're married.
When they step out into the sunlight, Marinette starts to giggle. "We're married," she says in wonder, looking at the ring on her finger. "I'm Marinette Agreste."
His heart flip flops in his chest at the sound of her name, and he laughs too. Nothing can keep them apart now. His father and Marinette’s parents can’t do shit. They're legally adults, legally married, and they'll be together forever. He scoops her up and spins her around until she's giggling uncontrollably and people are having to move around them to get inside, but he doesn’t care. He can’t care about anything but her.
"Marinette Agreste," Adrien breathes, looking up at her. Framed in sunlight, she's the most beautiful thing he's ever seen.
She smiles down at him. "Monsieur and Madame Agreste."
Shit. Adrien doesn't mean to drop her, but his arms go weak at her words; she lands easily on her feet and grabs his shirt, pulling him down too. Their lips meet in a kiss that sends chills racing up and down his spine. He can feel the strength of her smile. He would do anything to make that smile stay.
"Congratulations!" Tikki chirps from Marinette’s purse.
"Let's celebrate with cheese!" Plagg says, and Marinette bursts out laughing again, breaking the kiss.
Adrien is too happy, too thankful, to be mad. "Cheese it is," he says, draping his arm over her shoulder. "We'll run to the bank, then get something fancy and take it back to the hotel."
“The bank?” Marinette asks.
“I have a trust fund. I don’t have access until I’m twenty-five or married,” Adrien says. It hits him all over again, a slow, private thrill that starts in his stomach and swells up through his chest. He’s married. Marinette is his wife. Ladybug is his wife.
“Oh.” A tiny frown crosses her face, but then she looks down at her ring and it softens into a tender smile. “Lead away then, Monsieur Agreste.”
“This way, Madame Agreste,” he says, taking her hand and kissing it, lifting his other hand to stop a cab.
Tikki and Plagg go back to hiding in Marinette’s purse, and she and Adrien climb into the cab. Nerves start to get to him as they pull up in front of the bank, but Marinette’s warm hand keeps him steady. He knows that his father is going to be furious, and he’s torn between fear at what Gabriel Agreste might do and satisfaction at having finally done something that Gabriel will never have seen coming.
When they get to the bank, all Adrien has to do is show his I.D. and the teller immediately calls for the official who handles the affairs of the Agreste family. Her name is Jeanne Dufour, and she has a much friendlier demeanor than Adrien is expecting. She’s all smiles as leads them back to her office and gets them both settled, then walks around the desk and takes a seat in her own chair.
“Well,” she says, “this is a surprise. I don’t believe I’ve met you in person before, Monsieur Agreste. I’ve done plenty of business with your father, and he’s mentioned you, but it’s nice to finally put a face to the name.”
“I haven’t needed to come before,” Adrien says, feeling slightly awkward.
Jeanne smiles. “Fair enough. What can I do for you today?”
“I’m here about my trust fund.” He lets go of Marinette’s hand to pull out his wallet, extracting the papers he tucked in there earlier. He spreads them out across Jeanne’s desk so that they face her. Her eyes flick down, examining the papers briefly, before returning to his face.
“I’m aware of your trust fund,” says Jeanne. “However, I also know there are stipulations surrounding it. You are aware that you’re not allowed to touch that money until you’re twenty-five?”
“Or unless I’m married,” he points out.
“Yes, not unless – ” Jeanne stops, her eyes darting between them.
“This is my wife, Marinette Dupain-Cheng,” Adrien says, and wow. What a rush. His wife. He could get used to saying that.
Marinette takes their brand new marriage certificate out of her purse and lays it on the desk for Jeanne to see. Jeanne picks it up and examines it, her eyes still flicking between them occasionally.
“I see,” she says at last, but that’s all she says, and there’s something about her tone that makes the hair on the back of Adrien’s neck rise.
“It’s all legal,” Adrien says defensively. “We were just at the courthouse, and we’re both sixteen so –”
Jeanne holds up a hand to stop him. “No need to lecture me on the legalities of the situation, Monsieur Agreste. I’m intimately familiar with government documents, and I can see by the seal that this is legitimate. You’re correct in that this allows you to access your trust fund, though I would… strongly discourage you from withdrawing all of the money. There’s a sizable amount in your account, and I recommend that you speak to one of our financial advisers on how best to handle it.”
She thinks that they’ve gotten married just for the money, Adrien realizes. It’s not an unfair assumption for her to make, considering the circumstances and their ages and the fact that their marriage certificate is dated for today and it’s not yet eleven in the morning, yet it still makes him flush with anger. He decides then and there that Jeanne will not be handling his and Marinette’s finances, and that he’ll be finding someone at the bank who doesn’t know Gabriel Agreste do it.
“We hadn’t planned on withdrawing everything,” Marinette says softly, looking uncomfortable.
“We?” Jeanne repeats.
“Yes, we. My wife should have full access to everything I have,” Adrien says. Marinette starts, shock flashing across her face, but he continues before she can stop him. “I want her name on everything. If something happens to me, I want it all to go to her.” He looks at Marinette. One, or both, of them dying in battle is a very real possibility. If it happens, he hopes that they go together. But in the event it doesn’t, he wants to make sure Marinette is taken care of.
“I see,” Jeanne says again. She sits back and takes a deep breath. “Okay, if that’s what you want. I will have the appropriate papers drawn up. It may take a day or two. In the meantime, Monsieur Agreste, I can obtain a debit card for you.”
“Two,” Adrien says.
Jeanne nods and gives a tight smile. “Two. Excuse me.”
“Adrien, are you crazy?!” Marinette hisses the second she’s gone.
“Possibly,” Adrien allows.
She glares at him. “I don’t want your money.”
“Our money,” he corrects, taking her hand again. “Princess, if I die, I want to know you won’t be left alone. That you won’t have to go back to living with your parents, and either give up your Miraculous or lie to them. I want to know that you’ll be taken care of.”
She bites her lip. Her eyes get bright. “That won’t have to happen, because we’re both going to come out of this in one piece,” she whispers. The shake in her voice pierces him to the core. He wonders if the thought of losing him is as terrifying to her as the thought of losing her is to him.
“Yeah, we are,” he whispers back, because he wants it to be true and he thinks she needs to hear it. “It’s the two of us against the world, Bugaboo. We can do anything.”
A small smile crosses Marinette’s face. “Like telling our parents?”
Adrien grimaces. “Even that. My dad is going to be pissed.”
“My parents will be, too.” Marinette pauses, fiddling with the claps on her purse. “Do you think you’ll keep modelling, Adrien?”
“I… don’t know.” He hasn’t actually thought that far ahead. He supposes he should, if only to keep bringing some money in, but he’s not sure whether or not his father will allow that. Gabriel Agreste is famous for hating what he can’t control, and Adrien has officially slotted himself into that category.
Then again, it probably wouldn’t be too hard to get work with another fashion company. Gabriel has plenty of enemies who would jump at the chance to get their hands on Gabriel’s son. Adrien can see his father keeping him on as a model purely to keep Adrien out of the hands of those other companies. It’s the spiteful kind of thing that Gabriel would do.
“Do you want to?”
He blinks at her. No one’s ever asked him that before. “I don’t know. Do you want me to?”
“It’s not really my decision.”
“It kind of is. We’re married now. Aren’t decisions like jobs something we’re supposed to talk about?”
Marinette opens her mouth, then pauses. “Actually, you’re probably not wrong,” she admits. “I think if you should if you want to, but…”
“You’re so tired all the time. You have a lot on your plate.” She touches his miraculous meaningfully. “Maybe you should try to cut back on a couple things.”
That warm feeling from before returns, swamping him. He likes the idea that Marinette worries about him. No one’s done that since his mother was around. His father never stops to think about whether Adrien wants to do something, or whether he has the mental or emotional capacity for it. All Gabriel cares about is making sure that everything Adrien does reflects well on their family name.
“I could, though I’d have to think about what.” He has plenty of extracurricular activities. He likes fencing and Chinese lessons, but some of the others could probably stand to go. He’s pretty tired of piano lessons.
“You have lots of time to think about it,” Marinette says. She starts to say something else, but goes quiet when the door opens again and Jeanne walks in.
“Your cards,” she says, holding them out to Adrien. “You’ll need to set your PIN the first time you use them. I have some paperwork for you both to sign.”
He takes the cards and gives them both to Marinette, then picks up a pen. In the end, both he and Marinette have to sign several documents. Adrien has more to sign than she does; it seems like the bank wants endless confirmation that he really does want Marinette to have access to everything. It’s frustrating. He always assumed that married couples share everything equally, but perhaps that’s not the case. He promises himself then and there that it will be that way for him and Marinette.
In the end, they’re at the bank for longer than Adrien anticipated, because he asks Jeanne about having someone else handle their affairs and it turns into a whole ordeal. It’s nearly supper time when they leave. He can tell that Marinette is exhausted, and frankly he’d tired himself. They make a quick stop at a café for supper and take it back to the hotel with them rather than eat in public.
As soon as the door is closed, Plagg explodes out of Marinette’s purse and makes a dive for the promised fancy cheese. Tikki comes out too, but she hovers by Marinette’s face. “Marinette, are you okay?”
“I’m fine,” Marinette says, but her voice has a tell-tale quiver to it. Adrien forgets all about food; he walks over to her and pulls her into a hug. She slumps against him.
“What’s wrong, Princess?” he whispers into her hair.
“It’s just… so much,” Marinette whispers. “Our parents… the bank… and we don’t even have a home yet.”
It is a lot. For a few seconds, thinking of everything they have to do makes Adrien feel kind of panicky. He has to force himself to calm down. “It’ll be okay. Hey, we’ll go see your mom and dad tomorrow morning. Then maybe we can see Alya and Nino. I bet Alya would like to go apartment hunting with us.”
“We’re telling them?” Marinette asks.
Adrien pauses, then says, “I assumed you’d want to. You already have one big secret to hide from her. I didn’t think you’d want to hide another.”
“I don’t. But how will we explain?”
“I’ll use my father as an excuse,” Adrien says.
Marinette tips her head back to peer up at him. “Your father?” she echoes.
“Nino and Chloé already know how he can be. It’s… not good.” Adrien tries to breathe through the tightness in his chest. It’s hard to put into words, and he always feel dumb when he tries. So what if his father never touches him or compliments him or even smiles at him? So what if sometimes Adrien is so exhausted he can’t see straight? So what if sometimes he get so hungry that he feels weak? That’s the life of a model. It’s just how it is.
“Adrien…” Marinette whispers. She wraps her arms around him in a tight hug, this time letting him lean against her. It feels unbearably good.
“I’ll just say I can’t take it anymore. That my father decided he wanted to send me to Italy to be a model full-time. It’s something he’s talked about in the past. Threatened me with. I didn’t want to go.” The thought of having to leave Paris, leave Ladybug, used to make him so anxious that it could take Plagg hours to talk him down. “You were kind enough to marry me and give me a chance to get out from under his thumb.”
She’s quiet for a moment, her grip sure and strong. “I would’ve happily done that for you, Chaton,” she says finally.
“I know,” Adrien says, and that’s just one reason why he loves her. “We only need to tell Nino and Alya. I’m not going to tell Chloé. The school will know, but I think they’ll understand why we’re trying to keep it under wraps.”
Marinette nods slowly. “You’ve given this a lot of thought.”
“I didn’t actually sleep much for the last couple nights,” he admits. “I didn’t want to ask you until I was 100% sure that I could make it work. The point of this was to make our lives easier, not harder.”
“I guess I married a smart kitty,” Marinette says.
Adrien’s stomach chooses that moment to growl. He looks at her sheepishly. “And a hungry one.”
She giggles, and it’s the best sound in the world. “Come on, then. What kind of wife would I be if I let my husband starve?” She gives him one last squeeze before letting go and moving over to the table to see what she can salvage from Plagg. Adrien stares after her, dumbstruck. Even if he lives to be a thousand years old, he’ll never forget Marinette referring to them as husband and wife.
They split the food and eat until they’re both stuffed and even the kwamis have rounded little bellies. Then Marinette sprawls out on the bed with a groan. Adrien joins her, tucking his hands behind his bed and staring at the ceiling. This room is about a fourth of the size of his bedroom. It’s filled with tacky furniture and not overly clean. But it feels more like a home right now than he’s had in years, and he knows it has everything to do with the woman lying in the bed beside him.
Adrien doesn’t mean to fall asleep, but the next thing he knows there’s early morning sun shining in his face and Marinette is sprawled on top of him. Her face is buried in his collarbone and his arms are wound tightly around her waist. It should be uncomfortable, but it’s not. Her weight is actually comforting, but he also has to pee.
There’s no way he can get out from under her without waking her up; Marinette groans in protest, flopping over into the warm space and curling up in a grumpy ball.
“She’s always like this,” Tikki says before Adrien can ask. “Marinette hates getting up in the morning.”
“Ah, I see,” Adrien says sagely, and he really does. His mother used to be the same way. He has several memories of Émilie and Gabriel Agreste having some spectacular spats first thing in the morning.
He decides to let Marinette wake up on her own and retreats to the bathroom to pee and shower. When he comes out, Marinette is sitting up, but she’s still cocooned in blankets. A pair of bleary, cranky blue eyes track Adren’s progress across the floor. He perches on the edge of the bed and pries at the cocoon until he can see all of her face, then leans in to press a quick kiss against her mouth because he’s allowed to do that now.
“Sorry to tell you, but you can’t turn into a butterfly. You’re not that kind of bug,” he says somberly.
Marinette pulls a face. “You’re a morning person, aren’t you?”
“I don’t mind getting up,” Adrien says carefully. In fact, he loves getting up on days when he gets to go to school.
“Ugh. I want a divorce.”
He snorts. “How about coffee? Pastries?”
Marinette narrows her eyes, considering the offer, then sighs. “There’s a chance my parents may feed us,” she allows. “Let me get dressed.”
“Do what you need to do,” Adrien says, swallowing a laugh. He putters around the room while Marinette’s in the bathroom, setting it to rights. He knows that there’s a maid service, but it just feels weird to be in a place with any amount of clutter.
“Are you ready for this, kid?” Plagg asks, following him.
“No,” Adrien says. “Tikki, how do you think will go?”
Tikki looks up at him. “Not well.”
Adrien swallows. It feels like an omen. He hopes she’s wrong, but as the bathroom door opens and a pale Marinette walks out, he thinks she’s probably not.
The closer they get to the bakery, the tighter Marinette’s grip on his hand gets. Even when it genuinely starts to hurt, Adrien ignores the pain. He can’t even begin to grasp how hard this must be for her. He wishes he could spare her this, but he can’t.
Sabine is manning the front counter when they walk in. It takes her a few seconds to notice them. When she does, her eyes open wide. “Marinette?”
“Maman,” Marinette says, her eyes tearing up. She lets go of Adrien’s hand and rushes forward, meeting Sabine in the middle of the room for an embrace.
“Oh, Marinette. My Marinette. We’ve been so worried,” Sabine gasps. “Tom! She’s back!”
Oh shit. Marinette’s father. Adrien swallows hard as Tom barrels into the room, wrapping his huge arms around Marinette and Sabine. He forgot how big Tom is.
“Where have you been?” Tom demands. “We woke up yesterday morning and you were gone! Why didn’t you answer your phone?”
Her phone. Adrien figures she’s turned it off, just like he turned his off. Though Marinette probably turned hers off because it wouldn’t stop blowing up with messages and phone calls, and not because she was worried about her parents tracking her through it.
Both of them are asking questions so quickly that Marinette can’t answer. She finally puts a hand up. “Maman, Papa, please. Let me speak.”
“This better be good, young lady,” Sabine says, concern melting away into anger.
“I’m moving out,” Marinette announces.
It’s clearly the last thing either of them expects. They gawk at her. Tom says, “What?” in this dazed voice.
“You said that as long as I lived under your roof I couldn’t be Ladybug,” Marinette says. “So I’m not going to live under your roof anymore.”
Sabine’s expression is priceless. “Marinette, don’t be ridiculous. You’re sixteen. You can’t move out.”
“I can and I am.”
“Where are you going to live?” Sabine demands. “You’re still in school. Alya’s family can’t take you in; they have enough on their plate.”
“I’m not going to live with Alya,” Marinette says. “I’m going to live with my husband.”
Everything stops. It seems to take a moment for the word to sink in. Marinette backs up, her hand reaching for Adrien. He takes her hand automatically, watching as Marinette’s parents absorb his presence for the first time. Sabine’s eyes dart between the two of them, her cheeks flushing. Tom is perfectly still. It’s impossible to tell what he’s thinking, but Adrien’s stomach curls with nerves.
“Excuse me?” Sabine says after a beat of silence.
“Adrien and I are married,” Marinette says. Her voice is firm, but her hand is trembling. “He has a trust fund that can support us both until we’re out of school and can get jobs. We’re going to get an apartment and it will be ours and no one will be able to tell us what we can and can’t do.” She sets her jaw, tipping her head up, shoulders squared. Ready for battle.
“I can’t believe this,” Sabine says. “I can’t…” She shakes her head.
“No! Marinette, I think this is the most foolish thing you’ve ever done,” Sabine snaps, and Marinette flinches. “You’re sixteen! How could you think that getting married at sixteen was a wise idea?! Is that even legal?”
“Yes,” Adrien says, and all eyes snap to him. “It’s legal and it’s official.”
“This is insane,” Sabine says.
“You wouldn’t listen to me,” says Marinette.
“You’re a child! My child! It’s my responsibility to keep you safe!” Sabine’s voice is rising.
“And who will keep Paris safe?” Marinette yells back. “I am Ladybug whether you like it or not! There is no one else who can do it! It has to be me!”
“Stop saying that! I’m more than capable of being Ladybug. I’ve been doing it for years!” Marinette’s face is flushed, her eyes bright and angry. “I won’t stop protecting Paris and I won’t leave my partner and I am moving out!”
At the mention of her partner, Sabine’s eyes dart back to Adrien. “Your partner. Chat Noir, I take it.”
Shit. Adrien can’t think of a good way to refute the accusation, and that’s what it is. She looks at him like he’s a thief, stealing Marinette away, and that hurts.
“Leave him out of this.” That’s all Ladybug, steely and protective in a way that makes Adrien’s heart melt. She takes a half-step in front of him. She would fight them, he realizes in a flash. She would fight her parents for him.
“Marinette, you have to see how crazy this is,” Sabine says, putting a hand to her head.
“It’s not crazy. It’s what I had to do,” Marinette says. “I’m not getting a divorce, and you can’t make me. And I’m not staying here.”
Sabine goes to speak again, but Tom’s hand on her shoulder stops her. Tom moves slowly, looking at Marinette. “Let’s have some tea,” he says. Unspoken, Adrien hears, ‘let’s calm down’.
Marinette exhales, glancing at Adrien. It feels funny to think that a week ago, Adrien wouldn’t have understood the silent question she’s asking. He didn’t have the context of Ladybug to filter through. Because he knows Ladybug, knows her body language and facial expressions like the back of his hand after countless battles, and so he knows Marinette. He can tell that she’s torn, because she wants to stay as much as she doesn’t, and he can tell that if she leaves now she’ll regret it.
“Sure,” Marinette says finally.
“I’ll get some tea. Sabine, could you ask someone to come cover the front? Marinette, you go sit down. Son, why don’t you help me in the kitchen.”
Son. Tom called him son.
Dazed, Adrien follows him automatically. It’s only once he’s in the kitchen that he realizes what a monumentally bad idea it could be to be alone with Tom Dupain. But then he feels the fabric of his shirt shift, and a familiar, furry ball tucks itself against his spine. He relaxes a little then, knowing Plagg is with him, and watches as Tom moves around the kitchen with a kettle.
“When Marinette was little,” Tom says suddenly, “she used to dream about her wedding. Most little girls do, of course, but Marinette sketched out her wedding dress and her groom’s tuxedo and everything else with amazing detail. She still has those sketches. I thought someday I would see her walk down the aisle wearing the real thing.”
Adrien swallows hard. His mouth is very dry. “Maybe someday you can,” he says hoarsely. He’s not opposed to having another, larger wedding later on. Maybe after Hawkmoth is gone. Marinette deserves it if that’s what she wants.
Tom gives him a sharp look. “I’m sure you can see how this looks to my wife and me, Adrien. You’re a rich teenaged boy and Marinette’s been in love with you since you joined her class. As much as I like to think my daughter has a good head on her shoulders, I know what teenaged boys are like.”
“That’s not –!” Adrien is both embarrassed and infuriated by the insinuation. Okay, sure he’s dreamed about Ladybug. He has several great fantasies about her that he’s jerked off to. But the thought of sex hasn’t crossed his mind even once during the past three days, not even when he and Marinette were sharing a bed. He doesn’t even know if Marinette wants that. There’s been so much going on that sex isn’t even on the list of things to talk about.
He has to stop and force himself to reign in his temper, because yelling at Marinette’s father is not going to help here. Slowly, he says, “Marinette and I don’t have that kind of relationship right now.”
“Right now. But you might in the future.”
“She’s my wife,” Adrien says flatly. “My other half. I would give her anything she wanted.”
“Those are big words,” Tom says, still staring at him with narrowed eyes. “A steep promise to hold up to.”
“I love Marinette,” Adrien says.
“I don’t doubt that. But you’re also sixteen, so forgive me if I have to question whether or not you understand what love is. Marriage isn’t for kicks, Son. It’s work. Hard work. You don’t stay married for twenty years by a happy coincidence. It’s a commitment that takes time and energy. Are you ready for that?”
“Yes,” Adrien says without hesitation. Because Chat Noir and Ladybug have had that kind of partnership for the past two years, and yes maybe the romantic component wasn’t there, but he doesn’t see why it would change things that much. If he and Marinette can work together to defeat Hawkmoth, they can do anything. They have to.
“You sound awfully sure.”
“Frankly, Sir, the day that all Marinette and I have to worry about is a fight over money is a day I look forward to very much,” Adrien says, trying not to let his ire show.
Tom’s frown deepens. “Ah yes, Chat Noir. If you loved her, you wouldn’t let her put herself in danger like that.”
Okay, no. Adrien is done being polite. “With all due respect, it’s not my place to tell Marinette what she can and can’t do. She is my wife, my partner, in every sense of the word. Ladybug and Chat Noir are the only ones who are capable of protecting Paris. I can’t do it by myself. Now Ladybug, she’s strong enough and amazing enough to take care of every akuma that crosses our path all by herself. I’m the sidekick. I get that. I will be with her every damn time to protect her as best I can, but Paris needs her and she needs them. Marinette would never be able to live with herself if something happened that she could’ve prevented. I understand that about her, but I have to wonder if you do.”
The words come out in an angry rush. Adrien is left blinking by the time he’s done, at once shocked and a little horrified that he actually had the gall to say that to Marinette’s father. His father-in-law. He’s half-expecting Tom to kick him out on his ass, but instead – much to his shock – Tom is staring at him with a thoughtful look.
“I can see your point. But she’s my daughter. I have to think about her safety before anyone else’s,” he says.
Feeling jittery from the rush of adrenaline, Adrien nods tightly. “Fair enough. But Marinette and I don’t have that luxury.”
“You’re just children,” Tom says.
“I haven’t been a child for a long time,” Adrien says quietly. “Neither has Marinette.”
Tom sighs and busies himself by pouring water into the kettle and setting it to boil. Finally, he says, “I don’t like it. I don’t like anything about this. I don’t want Marinette to move out.”
“Will you let her be Ladybug?” Adrien asks.
The lack of response speaks volumes, and Adrien nods.
“Then you can’t expect her to stay here.” He thinks about telling Tom how devastated Marinette was by her parent’s decision, and how she feels that they’ve forced her into a corner. But those are Marinette’s emotions to tell, so in the end he stays quiet.
“If I asked you to stop this out of respect for her mother and I, would you?” Tom asks at last. “You could divorce before anyone even knows what happened.”
“You wouldn’t even think about it?”
“No,” Adrien practically growls, crossing his arms. He can feel Plagg’s fur bristling against his back. In about three seconds, the last of Adrien’s hard-won composure – earned from years of dealing with his father and prickly photographers and snippy models – is going to snap, and he’s not sure what will happen but it won’t be pretty.
Tom nods, like he was expecting that. The kettle whistles and he silently picks it up, setting it on a tray alongside four tea cups. “I need to get some pastries,” he says, and walks out of the kitchen.
Alone in the kitchen now, Adrien fumes. “How dare he,” he hisses under his breath.
Plagg finally emerges from beneath Adrien’s shirt, floating up around Adrien’s head. “They’re very set on breaking up Ladybug and Chat Noir. I don’t like it.” He’s radiating a nervous energy that makes Adrien feel all prickly. He rubs at his arms and clears his throat, wanting to reassure his kwami but too wound up to do so in a way that would make it seem believable to either one of them.
“Don’t worry, Plagg. That’s never going to happen.”
Adrien jumps at the sound of Marinette’s voice and quickly turns around to face her. Before he can say anything, slender hands grip the collar of his shirt and haul him down into the most passionate kiss of his life. His toes actually curl as his mouth parts for Marinette’s tongue, letting her in. She kisses him until he can’t breathe, until he’s gasping, and still he chases her when she finally pulls away.
“I fucking love you, but you’re a fucking idiot,” Marinette says, quietly but fiercely. “Chat Noir is not Ladybug’s sidekick, understand? We are partners. I couldn’t do this without you. The ability to cleanse akumas doesn’t mean shit.”
“I… wha… buh,” Adrien says, still trying to form coherent thoughts.
Marinette sighs. “I should’ve kissed you after I told you off,” she says, rolling her eyes, but a smile plays around her lips. “What did my dad say to you?”
Adrien gives his head a shake and finally regains the ability to form actual words. “I thought – didn’t you hear what he said?”
“I only heard you yelling about how we’re partners,” she says.
“Ah. Well, first he implied I only married you to be your sugar daddy –”
“- and then he basically said he thought that we were going to break up over the first fight we have, before asking if I would divorce you out of respect for him and your mother.”
Marinette stares at him, jaw hanging so low he can see all of her bottom teeth. Adrien shrugs at her. What else can he say?
“Unbelievable,” Marinette breathes finally. “I don’t know why I thought this would be anything besides a disaster.”
“Do you want to leave?” Adrien asks.
“They’re your parents, My Lady. I’m willing to sit and have tea with them if you want me to.”
“I know you are.” Marinette heaves a frustrated sigh, rubbing at her temples. “Okay, you know what? No. I don’t want to stay. I can’t do this right now. It’s only going to end in more yelling. I can’t believe he said those things to you. I’m so mad right now I could scream.”
“Are you sure?” Adrien says. “Because I don’t mind.”
Marinette looks up at him, and her face goes all sweet and soft. “I know you don’t, mon minou. You’d sit there and let my dad imply all sorts of shitty things, and let my mom side-eye you and mutter under her breath, and you wouldn’t say a thing if you thought it would make me happy. And that’s exactly why we’re leaving.”
“Marinette, I don’t want to be the reason you and your parents hate each other.”
“Oh, Adrien. My parents don’t hate me. They don’t hate you either. They’re angry and upset and scared for us. They’re still dealing with me being Ladybug, and now we’ve dropped this bomb on them. Of course they’re freaking out. They need some time, and I need some time. And once we’ve had that time, we’ll probably yell some more until we’ve worked it out. But it will be okay eventually.”
Adrien stares at her. “That makes… no sense.”
Marinette’s smile is sad. “I know. I just need to grab some things from my room. Will you wait out front for me?”
“Sure,” Adrien says, and, once she’s gone, he turns to Plagg. “I’m not wrong, right? That made no sense?”
Plagg shrugs. “I’m with you, but then I’ve never professed to understand women.”
“Right,” Adrien mutters. He walks out of the kitchen, tracing his steps back to the front room. It’s empty except for the young man watching over the front counter. Adrien gives him an awkward smile and moves away, pretending to examine a display.
All of the pastries look amazing. His stomach growls a little, reminding him that he and Marinette never did get to have breakfast. He’s wondering whether he can talk Marinette into grabbing a quick snack before they meet Alya and Nino when he feels the eyes on his back. Plagg darts into his shirt and, tensing, Adrien glances over his shoulder. He’s not sure whether to be surprised or not when he sees Sabine standing there.
“You’re so young,” she says, and Adrien can’t tell whether she’s sad or frustrated. “Why does it have to be my little girl?”
“I don’t know,” Adrien says honestly, turning to face her. Master Fu chose them. He knows that much. But he’s not sure why they were chosen out of everyone in the city, or if it could have been someone else. Maybe he and Marinette were always meant to be Chat Noir and Ladybug; maybe that’s what they were born for. Adrien certainly can’t imagine anyone else as his Ladybug. That’s the reason they’re in this mess.
“Marinette is everything to Tom and me. We just wanted to keep her safe. I wish she’d talked to us before doing something so drastic.”
Adrien doesn’t know what to say to that. He’s pretty sure that Marinette’s parents would’ve locked her away had they known what she was going to do. Certainly, after the first battle where he and Ladybug got hurt, they wouldn’t have let her continue. But he’s not dumb enough to say that out loud, either.
“And you…” Sabine looks back at him, eyes penetrating. “What does she mean to you?”
“She’s my everything,” Adrien says, and he means it.
Sabine shakes her head slowly. “You’re just kids. You’re too young to know what love is,” she whispers. “Marinette has never even dated anyone else. She doesn’t know… First love has such a low rate of making it. Did anyone ever tell you that? Statistically, you’re likely to end up divorced by the time you’re in your early twenties, if you even last that long.”
“Marinette and I are different.” Adrien can tell, even as he speaks, that she doesn’t believe him. It’s frustrating to hear her say that they don’t understand what love is. Isn’t love wanting to see Marinette smile? Isn’t love that warm feeling he gets when he sees Ladybug waiting for him on the Eiffel Tower? Isn’t love wanting to protecting her? Isn’t love wanting to be with her for the rest of their lives? Isn’t love that feeling you get when you think of home, and it turns out to be a person instead of a place?
“Of course you’d think that now. You just don’t understand,” Sabine says. She probably doesn’t mean to sound as condescending as she does.
“It’s you who doesn’t understand. Paris needs us. We will do whatever it takes to protect this city,” Adrien says. Paris belongs to them just as much as they belong to Paris. He knows that Marinette’s parents are worried for her safety. No one gets that more than he does. But that doesn’t change the facts.
Sabine’s cheeks puff up, her grey eyes flashing with a particular glint, and in that moment she looks remarkably like Marinette whenever Marinette is about to come out with an inappropriate or angry remark. Adrien braces himself, because those moments are when Marinette is at her most cutting, and he thinks that she probably comes by that trait honestly.
But it never comes. Sabine visibly reins herself in, exhaling as her mouth flattens into a thin line. “Here,” she says, shoving a package into his hands.
“What’s this?” Adrien says, startled.
“It’s for you and Marinette. Enjoy.” She stalks into the back of the bakery, leaving Adrien blinking after her in bemusement. The box is large and warm and surprisingly heavy, suggesting that it’s stocked with pastries.
Marinette walks out a few moments later, hefting a bag over her shoulder, and pauses when she sees Adrien standing there. “Mon minou? What’s wrong?”
“I… nothing,” Adrien says, looking up at her. It’s not that he doesn’t want to share what’s going through his head, but that he can’t. Even when they’re angry, even when Marinette’s deliberately disobeyed them, Marinette’s parents still love her enough to give her pastries. That’s not something that Gabriel Agreste would do in a million years. Adrien is fully expecting to go there and be disinherited for daring to go against his father’s will in such a dramatic way.
What would it be like to have parents who care like this?
Marinete cocks her head and frowns like she knows there’s more to it, but just reaches out a hand. “Come on. Alya texted me. She and Nino are skipping class to meet us. They’re both bursting to know where we are. Also, you should know Nino is mad at you for ignoring his texts.”
“I have my phone turned off. I didn’t want my dad to track me,” Adrien admits. Frankly, he’s shocked the police haven’t shown up yet. Certainly, he’s sure that Nathalie and the Gorilla must be combing the city for him.
“I didn’t think of that. We’ll have to get you a new phone,” Marinette says, biting her lower lip. “Maybe we can do that tonight.”
“I’m not overly worried. You and Nino are the only people I really care about contacting,” Adrien says as they duck out of the bakery and start heading up the street.
“Incoming,” Marinette mumbles suddenly. Adrien shoots her a confused look and then jumps when an Alya-shaped missile blasts by him and practically tackles Marinette. Nino is slower to approach, shoving his hands in his pockets and wearing a worried, confused frown.
“Mari, where the hell have you been?!” Alya practically screeches, grabbing Marinette around the waist in such a big hug that Marinette’s feet actually leave the ground.
“Alya, oh my god!” Marinette squeaks out, dropping her bag.
“Dude,” Nino says. “You’ve been M.I.A. for the past two days.”
“I know. It’s a long story,” Adrien says, rubbing at the back of his neck. He looks at Marinette and Alya, then back at Nino and shrugs helplessly. Nino finally cracks a smile and nods back at him. A little of the guilt on Adrien’s shoulders eases.
“Alya – Alya – I can’t breathe!” Marinette finally squirms free, gasping for breath. Something red flutters from her pocket into her bag. Adrien smothers a smile as he picks up Marinette’s bag and sees a dazed Tikki huddling in it. Plagg quickly zips out of Adrien’s shirt and into the bag with her. He hooks the bag over his shoulder where it’ll be safe.
“Where have you been? I demand answers!” Alya says, grabbing Marinette by the shoulders.
“Why don’t we go get drinks and then sit in the park and chat?” Adrien suggests, because it looks like this could go on for a while and the smell from the box is starting to drive him crazy.
“We’ll get drinks,” Alya says, linking her arm through Marinette’s and shooting a narrow-eyed look at Adrien. Like she thinks Adrien might tuck Marinette under his arm and take off running. Which, in all fairness, has occurred to Adrien as a plausible course of action more than once over the past couple of days, so her suspicions aren’t actually all that far off.
“Fine by me. C’mon, bro.” Nino jerks his thumb towards the park. Adrien falls into step behind him, though his head swivels automatically to track Marinette’s progress. It’s hard to be away from her, knowing how close he came to losing her. Marinette’s head turns and she looks back at him too, like she’s thinking the same thing.
The park is mostly empty, which isn’t surprising considering it’s just after 11am on a Thursday, but that’s exactly what they need right now. He and Nino make their way over to the picnic tables. Adrien sets the box down on the table and takes a seat, putting Marinette’s bag beside him so that it will be between him and Marinette when she sits down. Nino sits across from him, a curious look on his face.
“What?” Adrien says, tired of the scrutiny.
“Are you okay?” Nino asks. It’s a gentle question, nothing like Alya’s panicked demands, and Adrien straightens up to look at him.
“No, I’m really not,” he admits, surprising himself as much Nino.
“It was… ugh, just parent stuff,” Adrien says with a shake of his head, which isn’t actually a lie. He hasn’t specified which parents, after all.
Nino’s face floods with sympathy. “I thought that might be what it was. Your dad…” he trails off with a shake of his head. “Though that doesn’t explain why Marinette hasn’t been around. Even her parents didn’t know where she was. Have you guys been together this whole time?”
“Yeah, we have.” Adrien drops his gaze, looking down at his hand. The sight of his ring sends a thrill through him. Then, suddenly, Nino gasps.
“Adrien – dude – is that –” He grabs Adrien’s hand, looking at it closely. “What is that?”
“It’s a wedding ring,” Adrien says.
Nino pales and looks at him with wide eyes. “It’s a what?!”
“WHAT?!” comes a shriek from the direction where Alya and Marinette went. Adrien winces.
“A wedding ring,” he whispers quickly. “My father decided that he wanted to send me to Italy to be a model full-time. I… I begged him not to send me, but he wouldn’t listen. I ran out. I was upset… I took a walk and Marinette found me. We talked and one thing led to another.” Adrien’s chest feels tight as the words tumble out. The lies are too smooth on his tongue and he hates himself for them. Nino and Alya don’t deserve to be lied to, but what choice do they have?
“Dude,” Nino says, sounding stunned.
“I know. It’s a lot,” Adrien says, trying to smile. He thinks he probably fails at even that much.
“That’s… that’s more than a lot. I just…” Nino sits back, blinking. “I don’t even know what to say.”
“I’m guessing Alya doesn’t have that problem,” Adrien says wryly, lifting his head. Over Nino’s shoulder, he sees Alya charging towards them and suspects he’s going to be yelled at for the third time this morning. He’s starting to get used to it.
Alya runs up to their table and grabs Adrien’s hand, pulling it up to her face. “Oh my god, it’s true,” she breathes. “Agreste, what the hell were you thinking?”
“Alya, I already told you that it wasn’t his idea,” Marinette says, coming up behind Alya with a plate of drinks. She looks frustrated and annoyed, but also stunning. The sunlight brings out the blue tint to her hair and makes her eyes sparkle.
“I have a hard time believing it was yours,” Alya says. “I mean, I know you always planned to marry him and have three kids –”
“What?” Adrien says.
“Alya!” Marinette shrieks.
Alya ignores them both. “But a week ago you couldn’t even get a full sentence out around him!”
“Three kids?” Adrien says, looking up at Marinette in fascination.
She goes pink and elbows him as she sits down. “Shut up.”
Three kids. Adrien takes the drink she hands him absently. He’s thought about kids before, in that abstract, maybe someday kind of way. He’s not sure how to feel about the fact that Marinette has thought about them in what is apparently a much more concrete way, considering that she’s decided they’re going to have three. He hides his smile behind a sip of iced tea, already planning the best way to tease her later.
“Alya, hey, come on,” Nino says.
“What? You have to admit that this is crazy! We’re sixteen! You can’t be married at sixteen!”
“Actually, you can,” Adrien says, waving his hand as proof.
Alya glowers at him. “This is all your fault,” she hisses.
“Alya!” Marinette says again, sharper this time. “That’s enough. I already told you why we did it, but it was not Adrien’s fault. Don’t say that again.”
For a moment the two girls glare at each other. Then Alya deflates. “I’m sorry, Adrien.”
“It’s fine,” Adrien says, a little surprised that she capitulated so easily.
“I’m just freaked out, that’s all. You guys were both gone and Marinette, your mom and dad had no idea where you were and they were getting ready to call the police and –” Alya’s eyes are tearing up, her chin quivering. Marinette’s anger melts and she jumps up, rushing around the table to pull Alya into a big hug.
“I’m sorry. I couldn’t risk Maman or Papa knowing where I was,” Marinette murmurs, hugging Alya tightly. “But I should’ve texted you.”
“Why didn’t you tell them?” Nino asks, looking back at Adrien.
“Marinette knew they wouldn’t allow it,” Adrien says, which is the truest thing he’s said in the past twenty minutes. He knows that their excuse for what they’ve done is remarkably flimsy, and he can’t blame Alya for being skeptical. Had his father really wanted to send him to Italy, Adrien doesn’t know what he would’ve done. He couldn’t have gone because of Ladybug, but getting married would’ve been an extreme answer.
Then again, it’s entirely possible Plagg would’ve suggested it in that scenario too. He’s just not sure whether Marinette would’ve gone for it if it was him at risk. Would she have proposed? Or accepted his proposal? He looks up at her just in time to catch her eye. The look on her face – the look that says she’s looking at her whole world, a look Adrien recognizes because he’s seen it in the mirror when he thinks about her – leaves him breathless, because it says that she would’ve.
Maybe this story isn’t so flimsy after all. Just… less believable without the miraculous context.
“We just came from the bakery, actually,” Marinette says. “They’re very angry.”
“I can just imagine. My parents would flip if I did that,” Alya says, leaning back and wiping her eyes.
“How’d your dad take it?” Nino asks.
“He doesn’t know yet,” Adrien admits, stomach flipping with nerves. Marinette lets go of Alya and retreats back to their side to take Adrien’s hand.
Nino whistles softly. “He’s gonna be pissed.”
“To say the least,” Adrien sighs, taking solace in Marinette’s firm grip. He intertwines their fingers.
“Well, he’ll just have to understand,” Marinette says, lifting her chin.
“No, he won’t,” Adrien says wryly. It’s why he hasn’t put much thought into a cover story for his father. Gabriel won’t want to hear it no matter what Adrien tells him.
“We can handle it,” Marinette says.
Adrien blinks at her. “We?”
“You didn’t seriously think I was going to let you go see him alone?” Marinette says incredulously.
“Well, I guess…”
Marinette cuts him off. “Oh hell no. I am your wife. I will be there to back you up.”
Alya and Nino look flabbergasted at the use of the word ‘wife’. Adrien is equally shocked, but for a whole different reason.
“You – you don’t have to –” he stutters.
“Adrien, shut up,” Marinette says again, but it’s softer this time. She leans into him, pressing their foreheads together and cupping his cheek with her free hand. “I’m going to be there, kitty, okay? We’re a team. Everything we do, we do together.”
The utter certainty in her eyes makes any arguments in Adrien’s brain die. He knows that he shouldn’t accept her offer. Gabriel can be cruel at the best of times. He won’t hesitate to cut Marinette down, or threaten her future as a fashion designer in Paris. It’s what he’s always done, which is use people’s hopes and dreams against them until he gets what he wants. Adrien should keep her as far away from him as possible.
But he’s weak. Ever since his mother left, all he’s ever wanted was someone who was on his side. Someone who loves him enough to stand beside him. A partner.
“I love you,” he breathes, overwhelmed.
Marinette’s smile is tender. “I love you too,” she whispers back, pressing a kiss to the tip of his nose.
“Oh my god.”
Suddenly remembering that they’re not alone, Adrien jerks back and blushes. Marinette turns pink again, looking equally embarrassed. Alya’s eyes are darting between them and she’s got her phone out and focused on the two of them. Nino’s mouth is hanging open. There’s a very tense silence during which no one says anything and Adrien tries and fails to think of something to say that’s not utterly embarrassing.
Then Alya clears her throat and puts her phone down. “So,” she says, “Nino and I have been collecting notes for you. I can email them to you, Marinette.”
“I, uh, sure,” Marinette stutters, fumbling for her own iced tea. “That would be great. We plan to come back to school on Monday, so it would be great if we weren’t too far behind.”
“On Monday? What are you guys doing today and tomorrow?” Nino asks.
Marinette and Adrien look at each other. Finally, Marinette says, “What don’t we have to do? We need to find a place to live, talk to Monsieur Agreste, finish dealing with the bank, talk to the school…”
“Talk to the school?” Alya echoes.
“We don’t want our marriage becoming public knowledge if we can help it. The longer we can fly under the radar, the better,” Adrien explains. He and Marinette don’t need more attention. That will put their identities at risk. “We were hoping that our teachers might be willing to keep quiet.”
“I think they will. I hope they will. Can you imagine if Chloé finds out?” Alya shudders. Marinette grimaces. Adrien just frowns, wrapping an arm around Marinette’s shoulders.
Chloé is his oldest friend, and Adrien loves her. Or rather, he loves the Chloé that he remembers from when they were kids. He’s never wholly sure how to handle this angry, cold, spoiled person that she grew up into. He’s always tried to stay out of the arguments that Chloé picks with people, but Marinette is his wife. His partner. His choice. This probably isn’t going to go well.
Nino shoots him a sympathetic look, knowing exactly what’s going through Adrien’s mind, and says, “Alya and I can help you with finding a place to stay if you want. We can look this afternoon.”
Alya brightens immediately. “Yes! Nora’s been looking for a place with her boyfriend, so I know all the sites. Mari, you should totally try to find somewhere that’s furnished and has all your utilities included. Then you won’t have to worry about electricity or heat. Less things with your name on them means less chance of someone figuring it out and blabbing it all over the place.”
“Oh,” Marinette says, “that would be ideal.”
“Let’s look.” Alya grabs her phone again and jumps up, coming around to their side of the table. She squeezes in on the end with Marinette. As their heads bow over the phone, Nino wiggles his eyebrows at Adrien and jerks his head. Adrien nods and gets up.
They walk a little bit away from the picnic table. Nino shoves his hands in his pockets and says, “So. Marriage.”
“I know.” Adrien ducks his head, feeling uncomfortable.
“I don’t even know what to say,” Nino admits. “Originally I was going to scold you for choosing Marinette, but after that little display…” He looks sideways at Adrien, who can feel his face heating up. “You really love her?”
“I do. I’m not just saying that, or using her,” Adrien says.
Nino shrugs. “Can’t blame me for thinking that. I knew Marinette was your friend, but you never paid much attention to her before now.”
“It kind of happened without me noticing,” Adrien replies. He may not know Marinette as well as he wants to, but he does love her. “I can’t imagine my life without her, Nino. I don’t know how to be without her.”
“Dude.” Nino stops, staring at him.
“That’s… pretty heavy, don’t you think?”
Adrien looks away, back at the girls. They’re having an intense conversation from the looks of it. He thinks about the first time he and Ladybug met, how she crashed into him and tangled them both up in the string, and then how brave she was when they were facing down Hawkmoth. He thinks about Marinette, and how sassy and sweet and strong she is. Ladybug lit up his life first, it’s true and he won’t deny that, but Marinette… she’s home.
As Ladybug and Chat Noir, and Adrien and Marinette, they would die together or live together.
“No,” he says finally. “It’s really not.”
Nino stares at him for a long moment before he shakes his head and whistles softly. “Damn. That’s crazy.”
“I know.” Adrien shrugs, because it’s true. They’re only sixteen. They’re supposed to be dating and having fun and breaking up and moving on. But when you add something like the Miraculouses into the mix, that changes everything. He meant what he said to Marinette’s dad. He and Marinette are not children, and they haven’t been for a long time now.
“Well, I was ready to give you the big speech about how I’ll kick your ass if you hurt her, but that was because I thought you’d picked her out of convenience. Now I’m not sure what to do,” Nino says, giving him a light punch in the shoulder. “I wasn’t ready for you to look like a besotted puppy when you look at her.”
“You can still give me the speech if you want to, but frankly I’m more concerned about Marinette kicking my ass than you.”
“That’s… fair,” Nino says, nodding.
“Do you really think I would’ve used her that way?” Adrien asks. It hurts more than he wants to admit that Nino might think so lowly of him.
“No. Yes. Dude, no offence, but you’re kind of oblivious sometimes. I know you had no idea Marinette’s had a ridiculous crush on you for like… ever. You wouldn’t have done it on purpose, but that doesn’t make it okay.” Nino looks slightly uncomfortable. “I could see her saying yes just because it’s you, and you thinking that it was just friends doing each other a favor.”
Okay, yeah, Adrien can see how Nino would think that way. Social things are hard for him sometimes. It’s not like he had regular exposure to other people as a child, and it got even worse after his mother died. The modelling world is filled with people who never say what they mean and who wear masks and pretend to like you if you’re deemed important enough no matter what you say or do. He really didn’t know Marinette had a crush on him, though it makes so much sense in retrospect that he’s not sure how he missed it.
Finally, he says, “It’s not like that.” And he knows it sounds weak, and that Nino would have every right not to believe him, but it’s not like Adrien can tell him the truth. He can’t say that they’re partners, soulmates, two halves only made whole when together.
“I believe you,” Nino says with a smile. “Just… you know… keep it in mind in case you ever want to… well, I want to say break up, but I guess for you guys it would be divorce.”
“I literally can’t think of a single thing that would ever make that happen,” Adrien says honestly. He really can’t.
“You’re such a sap.” Nino snorts.
Adrien’s about to respond when he hears an explosion, followed by some screaming. He’s turning before he fully registers, sprinting back to where Marinette and Alya are. Both of them are already on their feet, and, as Marinette’s eyes meet his, Adrien can tell she’s thinking the same thing that he is: what excuse can they use to explain why they’re ditching their friends after asking them to go apartment hunting?
Then, incredibly, Alya yanks out her phone. “It’s been almost a week since the last akuma attack! I have to go get some footage,” she exclaims, and promptly takes off running. Nino shouts her name and races after her, probably to try and persuade her to get to safety.
Marinette and Adrien look at each other. “Well, that was easy,” Marinette says. “Ready?”
“Always,” Adrien says, a quick glance telling him that the park is otherwise empty. “Plagg, claws out!”
“Tikki, spots on!”
With a flash of light, Ladybug throws her yoyo overhead. Chat Noir follows, using his baton to boost himself up to the rooftop. He lands beside her and they both head a few blocks away. The akuma is a woman with blue skin and hair, wearing a black dress covered in dark grey musical notes and holding a guitar. She swungs the guitar and strums a tune, sending a blast of blue energy at a couple of screaming students. The blast hits and the screaming cuts off; the students clutch at their throats, expressions horrified as nothing comes out.
“If I can’t sing, then no one can! I will silence everyone the way they tried to silence me!” she screamed.
“A singer. Great,” Ladybug says. “Maybe you should go yowl at her to distract her.” She grins impishly and Chat has to stop himself from reaching out to kiss her. It’s probably not a good idea for Chat Noir to kiss Ladybug for the first time mere moments after Adrien and Marinette admitted to Alya that they’re married. They’re going to have to keep things under wraps when they’re transformed for at least a couple of months.
Realizing that Ladybug is watching him expectantly, he straightens up and sniffs. “I do not yowl. I assure you, My Lady, my singing voice is perfectly meow-velous.”
Ladybug stares at him.
“That’s the first time you’ve punned since this started,” she says. “Oh my god, I can’t believe I’ve missed it.”
Chat Noir grins at her. “I knew you liked my puns.”
She rolls her eyes. “Let’s not get carried away. Come on.” She leaps off the rooftop and he follows.
“Ladybug!” the akuma shouts. “Give me your miraculous!”
“Not today,” Ladybug calls back, throwing her yoyo out. The akuma dodges and then rears back, obviously not expecting to find Chat Noir right behind her. He lashes out with his claws, but she’s uncommonly fast and his claws end up raking the empty air.
What follows is approximately fifteen minutes that, when Chat Noir looks back on it, blur together. He catches a glimpse of Alya at one point, phone held up and focused on the battle, but doesn’t get much of a chance to dwell on her frustrating habit of running into danger. The akuma seems to have the unerring ability to find people, and she’s likely cursed more than a quarter of Paris by this point.
The sheer lack of sound is disturbing.
When the akuma takes off running, Chat Noir and Ladybug follow without hesitation. They take to the rooftops, chasing her towards the Seine. Ladybug breaks off to circle around and that’s when the akuma turns, sending a blast directly at her. The blast hits her in the chest and she staggers backwards, a stunned look on her face, and slips. Chat Noir swears his heart stops as he watches her disappear over the edge of the roof.
“Ladybug!” he screams. He throws himself off the roof after her without hesitation, catching her before she can fall too far, and lands on a lower rooftop.
Her expression is still flummoxed. She opens her mouth and says something, but no words come out.
“Are you okay?” Chat Noir says frantically, his heart racing. “Did she hurt you? Are you -”
Ladybug holds up a hand to get his attention and then gives him a thumbs up. He takes that to mean that she’s okay, though he doesn’t let go of her.
“Can you use Lucky Charm this way?” he asks.
She blinks, then shrugs. Taking hold of her yoyo, she throws it into the air and mouths the words. They both stare up, hoping to see the familiar burst of light that heralds a Lucky Charm – but nothing happens. Ladybug’s face falls and she looks at him as she catches her yoyo again.
“It’s fine. We’re fine,” Chat Noir says. It’s not fine and they both know it.
She sets her hands on his arms and gently eases herself away from him, then begins to spin her yoyo. As much as he wants to tell her to stay put so that she won’t be in anymore danger, Chat Noir swallows the words. Technically she’s not hurt, and he knows he needs her help with this. They always work best when they’re together. He nods at her and brings out his baton.
They track the akuma by following the utter silence that grips Paris. Down below them Chat Noir can see people who are wandering around waving their arms frantically as they try to communicate. He wonders if Alya and Nino made it out unscathed and hopes that, if they did, Nino was able to drag their friend off somewhere safe.
Ladybug waves at him and then points. He follows her gaze to find the akuma on the Eiffel Tower – why is always the Eiffel Tower? – shooting at people. In a series of quick glances and hand movements, Ladybug communicates her plan. It always surprises him how easily he’s able to follow her and understand what she wants him to do. He gives her a salute and leaps away.
The akuma is in the guitar, unsurprisingly. Ladybug distracts her while Chat Noir sneaks up behind her, summons Cataclysm and gets the strap; her guitar falls into Ladybug’s hands below. Ladybug breaks it over her knee. As the butterfly rises up, Ladybug starts swinging her yoyo rapidly with an expression of confidence. She snaps the yoyo out and captures the butterfly, then sets it free. The akuma bubbles over and reverts back to a puzzled looking young woman.
“Miraculous Ladybug!” Ladybug shouts, and her voice is such a good sound. She throws her yoyo in the air in lieu of a Lucky Charm. The akuma didn’t actually do much damage, but the ladybugs still scatter to repair what’s been done. She looks up at Chat Noir and grins. He grins back.
Behind him, the woman lets out a faint moan and he turns to look at her.
“W-what happened?” the woman stammers. “I… I was at my trainer’s house and then –”
“It’s okay,” Chat Noir says gently. He hates this part. These innocent people don’t deserve to be preyed upon like this. They’re always shocked, if not outright traumatized, when they find out what they’ve done, and he’s seen too many faces drop into expressions of outright horror to feel anything but compassion and anger towards Hawkmoth. What kind of man could take advantage of so many people?
Her eyes focus on him and her mouth drops open. “Oh my god, what did I do?”
“You didn’t do anything that can’t be fixed,” he says, kneeling down and offering a hand to her. “Come on, let me help you get down, okay?”
“I’m so sorry,” she whispers, but she lets him pull her to her feet.
He wraps an arm around her waist and lets her hide her face in his shoulder as he jumps out onto his baton and uses it to lower them to the ground. Were he alone, he wouldn’t have thought twice about just jumping. Either he’d use his baton to slow his progress or Ladybug would meet him halfway with her yoyo. But most people don’t think of heights the way he and Ladybug do, and this woman’s been frightened enough.
Ladybug is waiting for them when they reach the ground. “Are you okay?” she kindly asks.
“I’m – yes,” the woman says, stepping back from Chat Noir. “Thank you.”
“It was no problem,” Ladybug says with a sweet smile. “Are you okay?”
The woman’s eyes dart around. “Y-Yes, I think so. The last thing I remember is my trainer telling me that she didn’t think I was good enough for the stage.” She gulps as her eyes well up with tears, and she covers her mouth. “Excuse me.”
“Ah, wait –” Ladybug lifts a hand as though to stop her, but the woman is already running away. They could chase her down easily enough, but they both know from experience that usually does more harm. Some akuma victims want comfort, but others just want to get as far away from what happened as possible.
“Why does he keep doing this?” Chat Noir asks wearily.
Ladybug sighs. “I don’t know.” She looks over at him. “Want a lift?”
There’s a hint of a sparkle in her blue eyes. Chat Noir swallows hard even as his ring beeps. This will be the first time they leave the scene of an akuma attack together. It feels momentous. It's what he's wanted for so long. He nods at her, mouth dry as she steps closer and hooks her arm around his waist. She spins her yoyo with her opposite hand before releasing it. He feels the familiar jerk around his navel and, moments later, they're airborne.
His rings keeps beeping. Ladybug gets them as close to the park as she can before setting them both down in a dark allery seconds before Chat Noir's transformation gives out; she can't be seen carrying Adrien Agreste mere minutes after carrying Chat Noir. He catches Plagg as Ladybug lets her own transformation go; Tikki lands on Marinette's shoulder as Marinette smiles at him. Adrien smiles back helplessly, filled with a strange flush of excitement.
“Pound it,” Marinette says, offering him a fist, and no. He's been dreaming of this moment ever since the first day he and Ladybug fought together, and now that it's here he can't help stepping closer and pulling Marinette into a kiss.
Just because he can.
Marinette comes willingly, melting into his arms and meeting him kiss for hungry kiss. She tastes like the sweet drink she was drinking before the battle. Adrien licks the taste from her lips and opens his eyes slowly. Their faces are centimetres apart and her cheeks are flushed; the rush of warmth that floods through him is overwhelming. He wants to stand here and kiss her forever, but he knows that Plagg's patience only extends so far and that it's likely Nino and Alya are searching for them. Reluctantly, he pulls back a little and clasps her hand. She opens her eyes and looks at him knowingly when he presses a kiss to the back of her hand.
"We should find some cookies and cheese," Adrien says, surprised by the husky tone of his voice. The flush on Marinette's cheeks deepens.
"Yes. We should," she says dazedly, and Tikki giggles. Adrien grins at her and takes her hand again, pulling her along.
They make their way back to the park. Marinette's bag is still there and so are the pastries, but there's no sign of Nino or Alya. Adrien sits down and opens the pastry box, suddenly realizing how famished he is. They never did get to have breakfast and, after the morning they've had, he's starving. He picks out some cheese bread for Plagg and a couple of cookies for Tikki, then selects a croissant for himself. He bites into it and just barely keeps himself from moaning with pleasure as his teeth sink through the soft, buttery layers.
Marinette still shoots him an amused look. "Good?"
"If we weren't married, I'd ask you here and now," Adrien says shamelessly, polishing the croissant off in three more bites. He grabs a green-and-pink macaron next and tastes lime and strawberry when he takes a bite. It's just as delicious as the croissant.
She rolls her eyes at him and takes out her phone, switching it on. It begins beeping immediately as multiple notifications swarm in. Marinette sighs and sinks down onto the bench beside him, leaning her head on his shoulder as she waits for it to be over. Adrien glances at the screen, seeing that she has over a hundred text messages, several missed calls, and over a dozen voicemails. He remembers how worried her parents were when she first showed up at the bakery and stuffs the remainder of his macaron into his mouth instead of saying anything.
"Ah, here we go," Marinette says. "Alya just texted me. She says they're on their way."
"We'll wait here," Adrien says. It's just occuring to him that he never has to follow the advice of his dietician again if he doesn't want to. He doesn't have to put up with people watching every morsel of food he eats, or live with hunger pangs because he's on a diet designed for a sixteen-year-old model who is only moderately physically active, as opposed to the sixteen-year-old superhero who regularly covers the city of Paris in the span of a couple patrols.
"Adrien?" Marinette asks, and he looks up to see she's watching him stare at the box of pastries. Her eyebrows are furrowed with concern.
He shakes his head, but, when her concerned look doesn't go away, he sighs and admits, "I was just thinking that I don't have to worry about my diet anymore. Especially if I stop modelling. It's been a long time since I ate something without having to think about that."
Marinette's mouth presses into a thin frown. She's quiet for a few seconds. Then she says, "Tonight, we're buying as much junk food as we can get our hands on and we're eating all of it in bed."
Adrien blinks at her. "Marinette?"
"So much junk food," Marinette says, a muscle ticking in her cheek. "Pass me a macaron, would you?"
Bemused, Adrien gives her one of the yellow ones and winces when she bites into it savagely. He looks at Tikki or Plagg for help, but Plagg is far too invested in his cheese bread to be paying any attention whatsoever and Tikki just gives him a smile.
Between the four of them, they decimate most of the box. Adrien packs up the leftovers and tucks the box into Marinette's bag. He feels full and content, and doesn't even mind when Alya comes flying over with her phone held aloft, yelling about the brand new footage she got for the Ladyblog. Nino saunters over behind her, shaking his head. Adrien ushers Tikki and Plagg into the bag on top of the pastry box and closes it up, slinging it over his shoulder.
"Apartment time?" he says to Nino, who looks at Alya and shrugs.
"That's gonna take a while. We could look some up online. Save you guys the effort of walking all over Paris."
"Sure," Adrien says, shrugging. "Can we, uh, use your phone? I haven't turned mine on yet. I think I'm going to get a new one."
Nino shoots him a sympathetic look and pulls out his phone without comment, calling up a couple of sites. Adrien leans over the phone and watches as Nino pulls up the location and, after a questioning glance at Adrien, narrows it down to the general area around their school. Which makes sense; Adrien likes the idea of them being able to walk to work, and once Marinette makes up with her parents he knows she'll appreciate being close to the bakery. It doesn't really matter where they are in terms of patrols, so close to the school is probably best.
"One bedroom?" Nino asks in an undertone, finger hovering over the screen. There's no judgment in his voice, but Adrien still blushes.
"Um, yeah," he says. "They're cheaper, aren't they?"
"By a lot."
"Then yeah." Adrien doesn't look at him, keeping his eyes on the screen. Truth be told, he's thoroughly enjoyed sharing a bed with Marinette during the past two nights. He really doesn't want to go back to sleeping alone. Nightmares are easier to handle when he can open his eyes and see his lady sleeping peacefully beside him.
"Okay. Let's see. One bedroom, furnished, utilities included..." Nino toys with the brim of his hat as he hits the search button.
A surprising amount of apartments pop up. Adrien eyes the prices, but honestly he's not even sure what's expensive and what's not. He thinks about the amount in his trust account and realizes... they can do this. It's more than enough to keep a roof over their heads while they go through school and university, and maybe even beyond if they're cautious about what they spend. He has next to no experience with money, but he thinks Marinette might have a better grasp on it. And if all else fails, they'll research it together and learn.
"Mari, we're picking out your new apartment. Get over here," Nino says, cutting Alya off.
Alya scowls at him, but pauses the video. "Anything good?"
Nino beckons them closer and they all lean over the phone. Marinette and Alya gasp when they see some of the prices, which Adrien supposes means they're expensive. He stays quiet as they scroll down the list, flicking through pictures. Some of the apartments seem small, especially compared to what Adrien's used to: some of them are smaller than his bedroom. Then again, when he thinks about the empty halls and how the rooms used to echo, he's not sure he wants an especially large place. He's sick of living in a place that feels perpetually cold and lifeless. He can handle small if it means Marinette is beside him and what they have is theirs.
They narrow it down to three places and Alya gets on the phone, calling the owners. It's a little amazing to hear how easily she gets them appointments to see the places. Alya, Adrien thinks, will make a fantastic journalist, if only because she has a remarkable ability to get people to talk to her. And once they do talk to her, she can usually convince them to tell her whatever she wants to know or do what she wants them to do. He raises an eyebrow at Marinette, and she grins back at him and winks.
"Okay," Alya says, hanging up the last phone. "You're all set. We've got two showings tonight and one tomorrow morning."
"You're a master," Adrien says.
Alya grins. "I know, but it's nice to hear. Treat me to supper and we'll call it even."
"Done," Adrien says. "What time?"
"First one's in half an hour. Gives us just enough time to walk there," says Alya. "Second one is at 4pm. The one tomorrow is at 10am."
"Well, what are we waiting for?" Marinette says brightly.
They walk to the first apartment. It's in a nice building, but as soon as he walks inside Adrien knows it's not going to work out. The landlord keeps giving them these narrow-eyed looks, like he's expecting them to suddenly trash the place. The windows are small enough that even Marinette would have trouble getting out them, which makes transforming a real problem. He can see that Marinette's thinking the same thing, though she takes the time to walk around like she might be interested. It irks Adrien when the landlord follows her, arms folded like he thinks they’re going to damage something, and he's glad when they leave.
"That was a bust," he mutters to Nino as they go back down the stairs. He's suddenly seized by the worry that they may not find a place after all. That they'll be homeless. He squeezes Marinette's hand tighter.
"Maybe the next place will be better," Nino says optimistically.
"I'm sure it will be," Marinette says, squeezing Adrien's hand back. "Let's try the second one."
A woman is hanging around outside of the building when they approach. She tips her head up and eyes them, then smiles. "You here to see the apartment?"
"Yes," Adrien says.
"Good. I'm Bridgette. My husband and I own this building. The rent is non-negotiable, but it includes all your utilities, including wifi and cable."
"We saw that in the add," Marinette says.
Bridgette nods. "We will require a full year of post-dated cheques," she says, her eyes flicking between the four of them. "And a month's rent as security deposit, plus your first month's rent up front. We also need proof of employment or some other proof that you can pay your rent."
"That's fine," says Adrien, thinking that he can show her a copy of his bank statement. That will set her fears at rest, surely?
"Okay then. Come on." She leads them into the building and up several flights of stairs to the very top floor. Alya and Nino are breathing heavily by the time they reach the top, but Adrien's barely winded and neither is Marinette.
The door opens to a living room furnished with a couch and a television. To the right is a tiny kitchen. Bridgette leads them in there first. Marinette bustles around, opening the refrigerator and checking cupboards. Adrien, Alya and Nino wander away. There's a small bathroom with a toilet, sink and shower, including a bathtub. The bedroom is a little saller than Marinette's bedroom, from what Adrien remembers. But it's got a balcony. He zeroes in on that, walking over to it and pushing the door open so he can lean out. The view isn't very good; they're facing the wall brick wall of another building. It's private, though. Frankly, that matters for a lot more.
"I don't tend to count the balcony as a bonus, because the view is shit," Bridgette says from behind him, and Adrien turns to look at her. "And it's small. Most people don't like that there's not enough room for furniture."
There's enough space for him and Marinette to land on, but that's all Adrien cares about. "It will work for us."
She nods, looking pensive. "You're Adrien Agreste," she says, and he tenses up. But there's no point in pretending that he's someone else.
"Yes, I am."
"You're only sixteen."
It's not a question. Adrien just looks at her. Bridgette matches his stare for a long moment, and then she smiles.
"I know you model, but I would still like to see some proof of funds if that's okay. It would make my husband feel better."
"I can show you a bank statement of my trust account," Adrien says.
Bridgette nods. "That's fair. Rent is due on the first of the month. We enforce quiet time after 10pm. No pets, no drugs, no smoking, no alcohol, no wild parties. And we're only looking to rent to one or two people."
"It would just be me and Marinette - the girl with her hair in pigtails."
"Most nights you'd barely know we were here," Adrien says with a small smile.
"Good. We're not looking for trouble here." Bridgette walks briskly out of the room, beckoning to him. "We list this place as a one bedroom, but the price is a little higher because of this." She opens up a door in the hallway. Adrien peers over her shoulder and finds himself staring into a room that's about half to a third of the size of the bedroom. There's a small desk, but that's it. It's definitely not big enough to be a bedroom, probably qualifies more as a large closet.
"Oooh," Alya says, crowding in so she can see too. "Marinette, this would be a great sewing room for you!"
Marinette walks out of the kitchen. "What? Oh." Her eyes go wide and get kind of sparkly when she peeks into the little room.
"Could we have a moment to talk?" Adrien says to Bridgette.
"Of course. Take all the time you need. I'll wait outside."
"I'll get look at the view with Nino," Alya says, glancing between them, and heads into the bedroom.
"What do you think?" Adrien asks.
"I like it," Marinette says immediately. "Do you?"
"Yeah, I think so."
"It's a lot smaller than what you're used to." She looks at him worriedly.
"I don't think we have the money to get what I'm used to," Adrien says wryly. "And we don't need anything that big. It's just the four of us, and Tikki and Plagg don't take up that much space. Though she did say no pets, so..."
They both listen to the squeaks of indignation coming from inside Marinette's bag and grin at each other.
"Do you want to go see the one tomorrow morning?" Marinette asks.
Adrien looks around. Maybe it's dumb to take the second place they see, but, after seeing the reception they got at the first place, he’s not sure how many people will be willing to rent to a couple of teenagers. Besides, he can’t see any major flaws to this place. He thinks he and Marinette can make it work, at least for now, and really so long as they’ve got a place to sleep that’s what matters most.
“Not really,” he says.
She smiles. “Me either. I’d like to fall asleep here tonight, if we could.”
He grins back at her. “Let’s go talk to Bridgette.”
I don't know what it's like to apartment hunt in Paris, so I'm hand waving this. Obviously Marinette and Adrien should've asked waaaay more questions, but they're kids.
Bridgette is waiting for them in the hallway. She looks up from her cell phone when Adrien opens the door and says, "So what did you decide?"
"Is it available now?" Adrien asks. The apartment doesn't look lived in, but it doesn't hurt to ask.
"Yes. The previous tenants broke their lease and left in the middle of the night two weeks ago," Bridgette says. "We're trying to rent it as soon as possible. Every day it's empty is a loss of income for us. Some other people have been by to see it, but most people don't want to live on the top floor with no elevator. Or they don't like the size of the kitchen, or the view from the balcony."
"We like it," Adrien tells her. "Actually we'd like to take it, if that's okay."
"I thought you might. Come with me, then. I'll show you the lease and then you and your girlfriend can sign," Bridgette says. "Because it's halfway through the month, we'll divide the month's rent in half. But I still require the full amount of the security deposit."
"Of course. And I have that statement to show you," he adds. Marinette's been keeping their bank papers in her purse rather than leaving them at the hotel for safety purposes.
"I'll go get a copy of the lease, then."
Adrien slips back inside while Bridgette goes downstairs. He finds Alya and Nino sitting on the couch, checking out the television. Alya gestures towards the bedroom. When he walks back there, he finds Marinette sitting on the bed. Her expression is... well, the only way Adrien can describe it is conflicted. Tikki rests on one shoulder and Plagg on the other, but neither kwami is speaking and Marinette is staring out the balcony door so intently that she doesn't seem to notice him. He hesitates for a moment, wondering if his presence is wanted, until Tikki notices him and beckons him over frantically.
"Marinette?" he says tentatively. "Are you... are you okay?" He gently closes the door behind him for privacy.
"I feel like I should be asking you that," Marinette says, still gazing out at the balcony. "Adrien, you didn't hesitate to ask me to marry you. Even though it meant you had to move out of your home and be away from your father. I know you’re Chat Noir, but I can’t help feeling there’s more to it than that. Were things... was it that awful?"
He blinks at her, genuinely surprised. "You're my partner. It was more important that we stay together than anything else."
Marinette turns her head to look at him. "But you could've found a new Ladybug. I know you didn't want to, but you could've."
"But I love you," he says. "I don't want another partner."
"I love you too," she says softly, automatically, and he wonders if it'll ever stop being a thrill to hear those words pass through her lips. Probably not. He can't remember the last time he heard anyone say that to him before Marinette. It definitely wasn't his father - he's not sure Gabriel Agreste has ever even spoken the word love - so it has to have been his mother before she passed away.
He creeps closer, taking a seat on the bed beside her, and dares to lean over so he can rest his forehead against her bicep. It's easier to talk when he doesn't have to look right at her. "My relationship with my father is... it's complicated at best."
He’s not sure how to put into words that, while he loves his father, it’s a relief to have an excuse to leave. Not that Marinette is an excuse, she’s more than that, but still. He can leave for her, but he never would’ve left like this just for himself. No matter how many hours he had to spend modeling, or how many meals he had to miss, or how many sleepless nights he had. Marinette gives him strength.
She shifts a little, bringing her hand up and resting it lightly on his back. "You don't have to talk about it if you don't want to. But I'm your partner. Your wife. I'm here for you."
God, he loves her. So much so that it hurts. Adrien squeezes his eyes shut. "I've never really talked about it to anyone," he admits. "So it's hard. I just... it's not like your parents. Do you remember when you told me that you'd fight some more and get mad and yell at each other, but then they would forgive you and in the end everything would probably work out okay?"
"Well, I'm not allowed to fight with my dad. Ever. If I fight, he takes things away from me. Things that are important to me. Like school."
Marinette's hand tightens on his shoulder. "Chaton..."
"He's probably going to disown me," Adrien whispers.
There's a choked sound next to him, and when he peers up at her he sees that Marinette's eyes are full of tears. She pulls him into a hug, practically pulling him over - he ends up with his upper body in her lap, Marinette bent over with her upper body curled over him. His face is pressed into her hair and she smells like vanilla and cinnamon. Just like Ladybug does. It's quite possibly the world's most comforting scent. He inhales deeply and hugs her back as best he can considering the awkward angle.
“For me,” Marinette whispers, her voice shaking. “You - !”
“For us,” Adrien corrects, nuzzling into her more. “For me. Much as I’d like you to think that this was purely selfless on my part, it was actually selfish. I can’t be apart from you, Marinette. I think I’d die.”
It’s melodramatic and Adrien knows it, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t feel it with every fiber of his being. Sometimes he feels like he’s drowning, and his partner’s presence has always been the one thing that makes him feel like he can swim. His father has done whatever he can to keep Adrien from getting a life preserver; Marinette is more than that, she’s like a lighthouse in the midst of the storm, guiding him home.
He can do this, they can do this, so long as they’re together.
“You’re a stupid cat. Stupid, stupid, stupid.” She punctuates each word with a kiss to both cheeks, his nose, his forehead, everywhere but his lips.
“But I’m your stupid cat.”
Her eyes are bright with tears but she’s smiling. “Of course. That goes without saying. I’m sorry.”
Adrien blinks at her. “Sorry?”
“I didn’t know it was that bad before. I wish I had.”
“You couldn’t have done anything,” he points out, rubbing his head against her cheek.
“That’s up for debate,” Marinette says. “Are you… do you really think he’ll disown you?”
“I… yes? I don’t know for sure. I hope not, but I wouldn’t be surprised,” Adrien says. “The older I get, the more tense things are. I think he knows he’s losing control, and he doesn’t like that.”
“But you’re growing up. That’s natural.”
He shrugs, wishing he had a better answer for her. He’s never understood why his father is the way he is. Any attempts to find out why have been met with his life getting worse, so he’s largely stopped trying. And after he met Plagg and then Ladybug, he stopped caring.
Marinette sighs. “I don’t like it,” she says. “But you’re my kitty now, and you can do whatever you want whenever you want.”
“Does that mean I don’t have to patrol anymore?” Adrien says, half joking and half overwhelmed. He’s not sure if it’s the thought of being her kitty, or of having his whole life open to him now. No more schedules. No more dieticians. No more asking for permission to do stuff with his friends. No more fear of school being taken away from him. It’s dizzying.
“Unfortunately, we’re still Ladybug and Chat Noir and have all the responsibilities that go with that,” Marinette says, and she’s joking, but Adrien turns his head until their noses brush and he’s looking right in her eyes.
“It’s not unfortunate, Bugaboo,” he whispers. “Being Chat Noir kept me sane, and it led me to you. I shudder to think where I would’ve been otherwise.”
She smiles. “Well I’ve had a crush on you for the past two years, so I like to think we would’ve gotten together eventually anyway.”
“Yeah, Nino just told me that. I didn’t know.”
“How could you not have known?” Marinette says, incredulous. “I was so obvious!”
“Most of the people who have had crushes on me are models who are looking to get a leg up in the industry. I don’t think they really liked me for me,” he admits. “I’ve never had a girlfriend or anything.”
Her lips pinch together, and she touches the side of his face gently. “You know I love you for more than just that, right?”
“You’re the first person who’s ever loved both sides of me,” he says honestly. “If you do. I know you always pushed away Chat Noir –”
“Yeah, because I was in love with Adrien Agreste. It would’ve been so easy for Ladybug to fall in love with Chat Noir. Too easy.” Marinette closes her eyes. “I think I was, but I just wasn’t ready to admit it to myself.”
His heart swells and he kisses her, cupping her cheek is in his hand. She tastes like salt, from her tears, and the pastries they ate earlier. He can feel her smiling into the kiss and it makes him so happy he doesn’t know what to do with himself, so he just keeps kissing her.
“Marinette?” A knock at the door accompanies Alya’s call. Marinette and Adrien jerk apart just in time to see Plagg and Tikki go flying underneath the bed.
“Uh, come in,” Marinette says, sounding flustered, and Adrien hastily sits up.
Alya pokes her head in the room, looking almost disappointed when she sees them. “Here I thought you might be trying out your new bed.”
“Alya!” Marinette squeaks, turning an alarming shade of red. Adrien blushes too.
“Uh, no, just talking. About stuff,” he says awkwardly.
“Hmm.” Alya’s eyes dart between them. “Bridgette is back with the lease.”
“Oh! Oh, right.” Adrien stands quickly, running a hand through his hair. Alya smirks at him but doesn’t comment, leading the way back to the living room.
Bridgette is sitting at the kitchen table with the lease in front of her. Adrien and Marinette join her and listen as she quickly runs through the terms. He’s not familiar with what leases should look like, having never needed to look at one before, but nothing sounds out of the ordinary. It all sounds really good, actually.
"Any questions?" Bridgette asks as she finishes up.
Adrien shakes his head. "I don't think so. It sounds straightforward enough."
"It really is. The last thing I need to see would be your proof of income."
Marinette digs through her purse and comes up with several papers from the bank. She sorts through until she finds the right one, which she passes over to Bridgette. Adrien notices the way Bridgette's eyebrows raise when she looks at the paper. He's not sure if that's a good thing or a bad thing.
"Okay, everything seems to be in order," Bridgette says after a pause. "I'll need your rent and security deposit tonight."
"I can run to the bank," Adrien says. A frisson of excitement runs through him as he takes the pen and signs, then hands the pen to Marinette so she can sign. Bridgette signs too, and just like that it's official. The apartment is theirs. They have a home. A home. He feels like he hasn’t had one of those in years, and can’t help beaming at Marinette. She grins back.
Nino stays with Marinette while Adrien goes to the bank. Alya tags along with him, surprisingly. She's quiet on the way there, mouth twisted in a pensive frown. It’s only after Adrien has withdrawn the money he needs and they're starting to walk back that Alya clears her throat. He glances over at her and immediately recognizes the stubborn look on her face that means she has an opinion to share. He sighs inwardly and decides to try heading her off at the pass.
"If you're going to give me a spiel about not using Marinette, don't bother. Nino already did."
"I wasn't. You can be oblivious, and I know you didn’t know about her crush, but I don't think you'd ever be cruel enough to break Marinette's heart. You're too much of a gentleman for that. Even if you'd married her as friends, you'd stay married if you thought that was what she wanted,” Alya says matter-of-factly.
"I... oh," Adrien says, thrown.
Alya adjusts her glasses, peering at him overtop them. "I just want to make sure you're really okay with this. Marriage is... it's big. And I love Marinette, but she can be an anxious, over-thinking mess with the best of them. I can tell she's upset about something. There's more to this story than you're telling us."
Shit. Adrien works hard to keep his face composed. "What makes you think that?"
"I know Marinette," Alya says simply, which is hard to argue with. "She would never disappear on her parents unless something big was going down. She wouldn't say anything more than what you told Nino. But I just have to know. Are you guys in trouble?"
"No," Adrien says. They are, but not the kind of trouble Alya means.
"So Marinette isn't..." Alya makes a gesture. Adrien squints at her. She sighs. "Marinette's not pregnant?"
He chokes on his own saliva, and, between coughs, sputters out, "W-what? N-no! Of course not! I've never - I'm not - we haven't -"
"I didn't think so, but I thought I'd ask just to make sure."
"Why is everyone so obessed with Marinette and me having sex?" Adrien grumbles, knowing he's blushing from how hot his face is.
"You're married. It's something people tend to do before that happens," Alya says dryly. "So you're not in trouble, and Marinette isn't pregnant, but whatever it was, it made Marinette's parents angry at her and was big enough to make you guys get married at sixteen..." She purses her lips in a gesture remarkably similar to Marinette, folding her arms. Adrien can see the cogs ticking away in her brain and fights back a wince. If anyone could put all the clues together, it would be Alya.
"I just wanted to stay with her," Adrien says. They stop walking. Alya stares at him. He meets her gaze. "That's the honest truth, Alya. I couldn't bear for us to be separated." And it is the truth, that's the thing. She doesn't need to know that it's because he and Marinette are Chat Noir and Ladybug, and not because his father wanted to send him to Italy to be a model.
"See, that right there is what confuses me!" Alya says, pointing at his face. He recoils slightly to avoid being jabbed in the eye with a finger.
"You! You're in love with Marinette. But up until last week, you guys were barely friends!" Alya stomps her foot in frustration. "What changed?"
Adrien drops his eyes, just in case she can somehow read the truth in his face. "I saw the real Marinette, and I realized how amazing she is."
"Ugh," Alya says. "You guys are going to be one of those sickeningly sweet couples, I can tell."
"I don't know what to say to that."
Alya just shakes her head and taps her foot, twining a strand of hair around her index finger. "You're good at this."
"Good at what?" Adrien asks innocently, cocking his head.
"Telling just enough of the truth to make it seem like you're telling the whole truth," Alya says.
Adrien grins at her. "I may have been homeschooled, Alya, but I've been around more than my fair share of journalists and members of the media." As both Adrien Agreste and Chat Noir. "I know how to talk to them."
She pouts at him. "I will figure this out, mark my words. Even if it means I have to lock Marinette in my room and refuse to let her go until she tells me."
He laughs out loud at that. "Good luck with that." He starts walking again and she keeps pace easily.
"I will," she vows.
"Does it matter that much?" he asks. "You've established that Marinette and I are okay, and that I'm in love with her. Isn't that all good?"
"Of course it is. I've never seen Marinette happier."
Adrien stumbles. "W-what?"
Alya looks at him, amused. "It's the truth. She glows when you're around. Marrying you was probably the happiest day of her life."
"It was the happiest day of mine too," he admits quietly.
"I know. And that makes me happy for you, even if I am mad that I didn't get to be Marinette's maid of honor." Alya sighs and elbows him. "What are the chances I could talk you into having a huge marriage later on? I need pictures of Marinette walking down the aisle."
"If that's what Marinette wants, it'll happen someday," Adrien says, remembering how her father had said something similar. He thinks that right now, such a marriage would draw too much attention to them. It's not every day that a fashion icon's son gets married at the age of sixteen. He and Marinette can't afford that kind of scrutiny. It's hard enough as it is dodging the press as Ladybug and Chat Noir sometimes.
"God, you're so devoted already," Alya says. "I can't decide if it's sweet or gross."
"As though Nino is any less devoted to you."
"Nino and I aren't married."
"That's probably a good thing. I think you'd kill him."
Alya smirks. "Yeah, I would. But what a way to go."
He's still laughing as they climb the stairs back up to the apartment. Marinette looks at them curiously, and Adrien shoots her a wink as he hands the money over to Bridgette. He can't be upset at Alya for asking so many questions. She's Marinette's friend, so of course she would be curious. And she's a journalist to boot, which means she's primed to look at a situation and figure out why something doesn't make sense. He just hopes that she never figures out the truth - or that, if she does, it's a long ways down the road. He doesn't think he and Marinette can deal with anything else right now.
"You're all set," Bridgette says, handing over two sets of keys. "Welcome home."
Home. Wow. Adrien is momentarily speechless.
Marinette smiles at her. "Thanks Bridgette. We really appreciate this. We'll get you the checks as soon as we get some from the bank."
"No worries. Have a good night." Bridgette tosses off a wave and saunters out, pulling the door shut behind her.
There's quiet for a moment, and then Nino claps his hands. "So, I believe someone owes us all dinner."
"I'll go," Marinette says. "And I'll stop by the hotel and pick up our stuff. Alya, come with me." She kisses Adrien's cheek and heads out, taking a set of keys and Alya with her.
Adrien sinks down onto the couch. Home. This is his - their home now. It's kind of hard to believe. He stares at the television and starts to realize just how much shit he left behind at his father's house. He grabbed his laptop, but he's not sure Marinette remembered to bring hers. He kind of wishes now that he'd brought some of his gaming consoles. That stuff is just going to sit in his room and go dusty now. It seems like such a waste. He wonders how much of a chance there is that Nathalie would let him grab some stuff before he and Marinette talk to Gabriel tomorrow.
"You okay?" Nino asks, sitting beside him.
"I think so. It's just... a lot."
Nino nods understandingly. "It is a lot. I never realized how much until I was looking around this place. You guys don't even have toilet paper."
"We don't?" Adrien says blankly. For some reason, he assumed that would come with the place.
"Nope. You'll have to go grocery shopping tomorrow. Have fun hauling all that stuff up those stairs." Nino cracks a grin.
"We'll survive," Adrien says, waving him off. Of all the things they have to worry about, that's definitely at the bottom of the list. Thank god they've got their debit cards already. It sounds like he and Marinette have some serious shopping to do.
He’s suddenly relieved that they decided not to go to school tomorrow. It gives them a few days to sort things out before they have to face school on Monday. He slides down a little further into the couch and shuts his eyes, trying not to think of everything they have to do, and ends up drifting off.
He doesn’t wake up until Marinette and Alya return. Dinner is a relatively quiet affair. Alya and Nino eat and then leave, and Adrien is pathetically grateful to them both for realizing that he and Marinette are just not up for having any more company right now. He barely has the strength to take a shower; when he comes out, he crawls into bed and doesn’t even remember Marinette joining him.
Waking up in a strange place is something Adrien’s familiar with. Before he became Chat Noir and started public school, his father regularly used to take him along on trips. For a while there, he was spending more nights in hotels than in his own bedroom. This is different, though. It’s never been like this. Even before he opens his eyes he’s aware of Marinette’s warmth on the pillow beside him and the soft sound of Plagg’s purrs. Something warm is curled up on his chest and, when he opens an eye, he sees that it’s Tikki.
He could get used to this.
Unfortunately, his bladder demands that he get up. Gently, he slides his fingers under Tikki and transfers her onto the mattress. He pulls the blanket up around her and then hurries into the bathroom. His hair looks like a disaster when he glances in the mirror – that’s what happens when he goes to sleep without blow drying it first. He doesn’t even have a blow dryer, he realizes, and settles for wetting his fingers and coming them through his hair. It doesn’t help much.
Tikki is sitting up, the only one awake, when Adrien emerges from the bathroom. Marinette is all wrapped up in a blanket, face shoved into the pillow. Plagg is cuddled up against her hair, almost disappearing into it, visible only because of the way his body moves when he breathes. Apparently it’s Adrien’s lot in life to end up with people who hate mornings. He finds he’s oddly okay with that as he walks over to Tikki.
“Breakfast?” he whispers to her, and she brightens and nods. He picks her up again and carries her out of the room, closing the door to avoid waking Marinette or Plagg.
“Are you going to talk to your father today?” Tikki asks as they enter the kitchen.
Adrien winces. “Yeah, I guess so. We can’t really put it off any longer. The only reason he doesn’t have the police after me yet is because he’s worried about the company’s image. But that won’t last, and the only thing worse than me telling him is the police telling him.”
Tikki looks worried, but all she says is, “I’m sorry.”
“What? It’s not your fault,” Adrien says, holding her up closer to his face.
“The life of a miraculous holder is often hard,” Tikki says with a shake of her head. “Plagg has had many kittens who eventually have to leave their families behind. The same things happens to my bugs, Trixx’s kits, Pollen’s bees…” She trails off, blue eyes sad. “It’s always hard for them.”
“Why did they have to leave?” Adrien asks. Plagg hasn’t told him much about the miraculous holders that came before then, even though Adrien’s asked. Tikki, fortunately, seems far more willing to impart information.
“Oh, it varied. Sometimes they didn’t get along well with their families. Sometimes there were expectations placed on them that they couldn’t meet if they wanted to keep their miraculous as well. Sometimes they were in the public eye, like you, and it was too much on them. Sometimes it was just easier that way.” Tikki shrugs. “Everyone’s reasons were different.”
Adrien’s quiet for a moment, thinking about that. It’s comforting to know that he and Marinette aren’t the first – he kind of wondered if the two of them had screwed up somehow. He looks back at Tikki and says, “So… how did they do? Once they were out on their own, I mean.”
“It depends. In the end, some of them gave up their miraculous and disappeared. Others were old enough to live on their own and made it work. Back then, people left their parent’s houses much younger than they do now. Sometimes Plagg’s kittens would come to live with my bugs, or vice versa, or they’d move out together much like you and Marinette did. Those were the lucky ones.” Tikki sighs and floats off his hands. She flies up above his head and lands on his hair, much like Plagg often does, and he can’t bring himself to care.
“Do Chat Noir and Ladybug always end up together?” Adrien asks.
“No. It’s not a guarantee. The best Chat Noirs and Ladybugs are close, be it platonically or romantically. You are two halves of a whole, after all, so Plagg and I try to choose people who can be compatible even if they’re initially strangers. We once had a Ladybug and Chat Noir who hated each other in their civilian identities. It… it did not end well.”
Adrien thinks about how he and Ladybug fight, how they’re all up in each other’s spaces. Even before they found out each other’s identities, personal space wasn’t really a concept that existed for either of them anymore. Not to mention the sheer trust they have to put in each other. He can’t let go of a crumbling building and trust that Ladybug will catch him with her yoyo if he hates her. He can’t be her knight if he doesn’t love her.
“The ones who hated each other, did they die?” he asks, moving to pull out the remains of their dinner last night. Fried rice and sweet and sour chicken sound like an excellent breakfast.
“Almost. We opted to take their miraculous away before that happened.”
“I didn’t know you could do that,” Adrien says. Unconsciously, he covers the ring on his hand. Tikki giggles softly.
“Oh, Adrien. Don’t worry. You and Marinette are the best Chat Noir and Ladybug we’ve had in centuries, maybe ever. No one will ever take your miraculous away. They’d have to fight me and Plagg to do it.”
Her sincerity is touching, but he still swallows, peering down at his ring. “But you have before.”
“We had no choice. They were more focused on squabbling and fighting with each other than they were on doing their duty. It was too dangerous. We took the miraculous back to the Master and he ultimately chose new holders for us. Sometimes it happens. We do our best to pick the right Chosen, but you can’t always know how someone will grow up.” Tikki sighs, her breath moving a few strands of his hair. “Usually it was just one of us who had to pick someone new, not both. That’s rare.”
He considers this as he searches for the pastry box, finally unearthing it in Marinette’s bag. He picks out a cookie and hands it up to Tikki.
“But you can choose someone else. That’s what Marinette wanted you to do.”
“I don’t like to. Our bonds with our Chosen mature gradually. As you grow, so does the bond and that allows us to share more of our magic and powers with you. We like that. Starting over from scratch is stiffling, not to mention frustrating.” Tikki crunches into her cookie and then makes a distressed sound. “I’m getting crumbs in your hair!”
He snorts. “I’ll take cookie crumbs over cheese crumbs any day.”
“Plagg leaves cheese crumbs in your hair?!”
“My hair, my bed, my bookbag, my pockets… It’s a wonder that my cologne didn’t smell like stinky cheese,” Adrien says, digging into his own breakfast.
“That cat…” Tikki mutters. “Honestly.”
Adrien smiles at that. Honestly, he’s so used to Plagg’s antics by now that they barely register. “So the times when one of you had to choose a new holder, did the other holder find that hard? Was there friction?”
“Sometimes,” Tikki says after a thoughtful pause. “Not always. It depended on how well they got along before.”
She has no reason to lie to him, but Adrien still finds that hard to believe. Marinette is Ladybug. She’s the only Ladybug he’ll ever fight beside. He munches on fried rice and tries to picture fighting alongside another spotted bug. It just doesn’t compute.
“I couldn’t do that,” he says finally.
“Then why did Marinette suggest it?”
Tikki floats off his head, cookie gone, and alights on the table so that she can look up at him. “Because she’s a good Ladybug, and she wanted to make sure Paris was taken care of first and foremost. She doesn’t doubt your loyalty to her, but she didn’t always understand it either. It never crossed her mind that you would give up the ring before you would work with a new Ladybug.”
Adrien swallows his mouthful of food hard. “I never said…”
Tikki smiles. “Oh please, Adrien. You and Marinette are so intertwined at this point, there couldn’t be another Ladybug while you held the Black Cat miraculous. You’d never be able to balance someone else, and the same goes for Marinette. I told Marinette that, but she didn’t believe me.” Tikki walks over to the pastry box and makes a satisfied sound when she finds another cookie. She crunches into it, antennae waving happily.
“I believe you,” Adrien says, for lack of anything better to say, and Tikki grins up at him around a mouthful of cookie.
“Marinette’s awake,” she says, a twinkle in her eyes. “You should go drag her out of bed.”
Suddenly realizing that it’s getting kind of late, Adrien nods and gets up. He heads into the bedroom, filing everything Tikki told him way from later perusal, and finds Marinette laying on her back in the middle of the bed. She’s unwound herself from her cocoon and is lazily rubbing Plagg’s belly. The sound of Plagg’s purrs fill the room. Adrien stops and crosses his arms, raising a judgmental eyebrow.
“This is sad,” he says.
“Jealousy isn’t a good look on you,” Plagg says without skipping a beat.
“Actually, it is. Green eyes are my favorite,” Marinette says, smiling at him. Adrien smiles back helplessly and walks over to the bed, taking a seat on the side.
“I’m ready to go see my father,” he says.
Marinette sits up. “Are you sure?” Plagg makes a grumpy sound and she absently reaches over to resume the belly rub.
“I don’t want to put it off any longer,” Adrien admits, hanging his head. “If I don’t go today, I won’t go at all.”
“Hey. It’s going to be okay.” She moves closer and takes his hand, putting her head on his shoulder. She’s wrong – it’s not going to be okay, not by a long shot – but Adrien draws as much strength from her presence as he can. He’s made his choice. He made it two years ago when he watched a red-spotted young woman challenge Hawkmoth. It’s always been Ladybug, and that’s not going to change. But that doesn’t make telling his father that any easier.
Seemingly sensing what’s going through his head, Marinette brings their joined hands up and kisses the back of his. “I’m going to get dressed, and then we’ll go,” she whispers.
Adrien sits on the bed and watches her move around the room. He can tell she’s nervous, and that she’s selecting her clothing with more care than usual. He doesn’t have the heart to tell her it won’t matter. She could be wearing the most innovative, stunning set of clothing to hit Paris in centuries and it wouldn’t change a thing. His father’s reaction is not going to be kind.
They leave their new apartment hand-in-hand, Tikki and Plagg safely tucked into Marinette’s purse, and make their way towards the Agreste mansion on foot. A weird sense of calm comes over him as they get closer; he glances over at Marinette. She’s clearly channeling Ladybug, with her shoulders thrown back and a set expression on her face. She looks like she’s ready to punch someone. Possibly his father. In spite of himself, he smiles.
When they reach the mansion, Adrien steps forward and presses the security button. “Nathalie, it’s me. I would like to talk to my father.”
“Adrien?!” Nathalie gasps. “Where have you been?”
“Here and there,” Adrien says evasively. There’s no point in coming up with a lie when he’s just going to be telling them the truth shortly. “Please, I’d like to speak to my father. Is he around?”
“Yes, of course,” Nathalie says, and he fights the urge to snort because she acts like Gabriel is always around and that couldn’t be further from the truth. The buzzer sounds as the gates swing open. Adrien squeezes his wife’s hand and walks inside. Even though he didn’t want Marinette there at first, he’s suddenly fiercely glad she’s there.
Gabriel Agreste is waiting for them inside, hands behind his back. He’s standing at the top of the stairs, gazing down at them, looking as perfectly composed as ever. The sight of him makes Adrien’s stomach do flip flops. No one would ever know that something was wrong, because few people know Gabriel well enough to know what that tilt to his lips or the tightness around his eyes means. He might be striving to look like nothing is wrong, but Adrien knows differently.
His father is pissed.
Adrien chews his lower lip, squeezing Marinette’s hand a little tighter. The fact that Gabriel didn’t have Nathalie escort them to his office doesn’t bode well. Usually, his father likes to have visitors come to him. It’s an intimidation tactic, meant to put him in the place of power, Adrien knows. That he’s here, waiting for them, means that his father is angry enough that he doesn’t care about waiting until they’re in the privacy of his office.
“Adrien,” Gabriel says, somehow managing to make that one word convey legions of disappointment. “Where have you been? You haven’t been answering your phone. I’ve had people out looking for you. You’ve missed several appointments and lessons. Nathalie had to reschedule two photo shoots. Do you have any idea what kind of time and money is involved in that? How many people you’ve inconvenienced?”
“I know. I apologize for that,” Adrien says, because he can and will acknowledge that those people didn’t deserve to have their time wasted. “And I’ve had my phone shut off. I didn’t want you to be able to find me.”
Gabriel is quiet for a moment, eyes darting between them. He’s a smart man and can easily put two and two together. His expression darkens. “What have you done?”
“I got married,” Adrien says bluntly. There’s no other way to say it, and frankly he doesn’t want to dance around. Gabriel’s eyes go wide. A quiet gasp comes from behind them, and Adrien knows that means Nathalie is standing behind them.
“You what?” Gabriel says, sounding like he’s choking on something.
“I got married,” Adrien repeats. It’s easier to say the second time around.
“Why?” Gabriel says, looking stunned. Seeing such an open expression on his father’s face is very strange. It means that Adrien has well and truly shocked him. In a way, it feels like a triumph.
Adrien looks him squarely in the eyes and says the words that he’s been thinking about since he and Marinette left the courthouse: “I have my reasons. For one thing, it means I’m now an adult.”
Let his father take from that what he will. Adrien can never tell him the real reason that he got married. It’s best if Gabriel assumes that Adrien did it as an act of teenage rebellion – because frankly, no matter what reason Adrien gives him, that’s what Gabriel is going to assume anyway. His father could never look at him as anything other than a child, after all.
Frankly, now that Adrien thinks about it, i’s like his father’s been preparing for this moment since Adrien was just a kid. He suspects that Gabriel never thought it would happen like this.
Gabriel’s mouth purses into a thin, angry line and he strides down the stairs towards them. “So you allowed yourself to be taken in by someone who wishes to use your name to climb into the fashion industry. I thought I taught you better than that.”
Anger, hot and bright, unfurls in his stomach. It’s only the tightening of Marinette’s hand that stops him from saying something that will get them kicked out immediately. Adrien glances at her, reading her annoyance and frustration in the lines of her faces and the glint in her eyes. The accusation’s pissed her off, he can tell. Marinette would never even think about doing that. She’s far too stubborn to not want to succeed solely on her own merit.
“That’s not why,” Adren says, when he feels he can speak without yelling. Gabriel reaches the bottom of the steps and stops a few feet away from them.
“I should hope not, because I won’t allow it to happen. I won’t allow this,” he says furiously.
“You don’t have a say in it,” Adrien says, and shit that feels good. He’s dreamed of saying those words so many times. “I came here to tell you as a courtesy, and so that we could discuss how things are going to proceed going forward. But if you’re going to stand there and insult my wife, we’re leaving.”
“Your wife.” Gabriel spits the word out like it’s something dirty. “You are a child, Adrien. You have no idea what you’re talking about.”
“I know I love her, and she loves me,” Adrien replies.
“You don’t know what love is.”
“If I don’t, it’s because of you,” Adrien shoots back, and his father recoils. There’s a moment of tense silence. Then Gabriel straightens up, shoulders tense and eyes bright with fury.
“You’ll not see one penny of my money. The business will go to someone else if you don’t stop this foolishness immediately.”
Strangely, Adrien wants to laugh. He doesn’t, but there’s undoubtedly mirth in his voice when he says, “I never wanted the money, or your business. I didn’t want any of it.” What he doesn’t say, but which he hopes Gabriel can hear anyway, is that all Adrien ever wanted was the one thing he could never seem to get: his father’s love.
“Then so be it. Get out,” Gabriel commands. “You are no longer my son.”
Marinette gasps this time. It’s a soft sound, but it seems to echo. Adrien feels faint. He tried to prepare himself for this moment, but he never really thought –
“Go! Get out of my sight! After everything I did for you –” Gabriel takes a step towards them, and then, like magic, Nathalie is there. She plants a hand against Gabriel’s chest to stop his progress and starts whispering to him. It’s good, Adrien thinks distantly, that she stopped him, because he’s not sure what he would’ve done if Gabriel tried to lay a hand on Marinette, but it wouldn’t have been pretty.
“Adrien, let’s go,” Marinette whispers, gently tugging at his hand.
There’s so much more Adrien wants to say. He wants to threaten his father, and make sure that Gabriel knows not to touch Marinette’s future or her parent’s business. He wants to ask why Gabriel is so obsessed with control that he can’t handle his child having made a decision without him. He wants to know why it has to be this way, and why this feels like the end.
But the words tangle up in his throat and he finds that he can’t even breathe, much less speak. Marinette’s grip turns to iron and she backs away, dragging him with her. They pass through the doors as quickly as they came, and all Adrien can think about is that the whole encounter took less than seven minutes. Seven minutes for his father to look at them and decide that they’re no longer worth his time. Seven minutes for Adrien to be disowned.
Marinette drags him down the steps, up the walkway and out the gates. She takes a left and sets a fast pace, keeping her face down. Adrien walks a few steps behind her, feeling numb to his core. His face feels hot and wet though, and he realizes that he’s crying.
When Marinette finally stops and turns to him, she’s drawn them both into an alley and her cheeks are flushed with rage. But she goes pale when she sees him, and she breathes, “Oh, kitty, no” before pulling him into a hug. Adrien melts into her and starts crying against her shoulder, huge, heaving sobs that make him feel like he’s going to be torn apart. Marinette hugs him so hard it hurts, not saying a word, just there in a way that he desperately needs right now.
“Tikki, spots on!” she says against the top of his head. A wave of red light engulfs them, soft and comforting, and then Ladybug is pulling him even closer. She tucks him into her side and winds an arm securely around his waist. He has the presence of mind to wrap his arms around her neck and go limp as she throws her yoyo overhead.
It’s always different to be soaring above the city when he’s not Chat Noir, and Adrien wishes he were in a frame of mind to enjoy it. He clings to her, trusting her to get them back to the apartment. Ladybug takes the shortest route, and within minutes they’re landing on their balcony. She pushes the doors open and grabs his arm, tugging him inside before she kicks the door shut behind them.
“Adrien,” she says, a little helplessly, and he looks over at her. Her eyes are wide and worried behind the mask. He stumbles back to her and falls into her arms, crying all over again. Ladybug bears his weight easily, slowly lowering them both to the ground.
He's never had this before. He can't remember the last time someone comforted him like this when he was upset. Plagg tries, but even the power of Plagg's purr can't really compare to the warmth of Ladybug's body or the strength of her arms as she hugs him. It feels a little miraculous to have her hands running through his hair, lightly scratching at all the places that he likes, and have her voice murmuring soothing comments every time he gasps for breath. Then Plagg alights on their shoulders and curls up into Adrien's collarbone to purr, and it's the best of both worlds.
He cries himself out right there on the floor with her. His knees ache from their awkward position and he's exhausted by the time he can't cry anymore, like a towel wrung out with water. Ladybug's suit is smeared with tears and snot, but she doesn't seem to mind. She's been crying too, he realizes when he looks up at her. He lifts a trembling hand and cups her cheek, rubbing away some of her tears with his thumb. Her eyes immediately fill up again and spill over, and she leans down to press their foreheads together. Their wet cheeks brush.
"I'm so sorry, Adrien," she whispers. "This is all my fault."
"No," Adrien says, staring into her blue eyes. They're all he can see. All he wants to see.
"It is. If I hadn't -"
"This has been a long time coming, My Lady. I couldn't stay under his control forever. I always knew he wasn't going to take it well."
Ladybug bites her lip. "But it should've been your decision."
"It was my decision. My choice. You're my choice, every time."
Her breath is shaky. "You're my choice too, mon minou. And you always will be. I love you."
"I love you too," he says, meaning it more than ever. He's so damn grateful she's here. Without her, he's not sure he would've found the strength to challenge Gabriel. Adrien's always thought there must be more in the world, but he never really had proof until he met Plagg and Ladybug. They're his connections, his belief, that his world can be better. That he can want more, and have more. Without them, all he had was his father. He can see a future where he would've kept doing what Gabriel wanted just to have those scraps of affection that his father occasionally tossed in his direction.
With Ladybug, with Marinette, it's never been scraps. She gives affection as easily as she breathes. Her heart is in her eyes every time they look at each other, and he knows that somehow it's become his for the taking. An even exchange, considering that his heart has been hers since day one, instead of Adrien pathetically chasing at someone's heels. As much as it hurts, he knows he's better off now. He has a wife who loves him, and two kwamis who will always stand at their sides, instead of a life where his father feels more like a jailer than someone who loves him.
"Are you sure?" she asks, her gloved hand cool on his cheek. "There might be some way to smooth things over..."
"I know him better than that. It's his way or the highway. Me getting married was not in his plans. Not until I got to the point where people would start side-eyeing me for not being a family man. He told me the day I turned fourteen that models without girlfriends were more attractive, and that I needed to stay single because that way I'd have more fans and that meant my clothes would sell more."
She does that little nose wrinkle that always makes his heart skip a beat, and frowns. "That's not true. I can think of plenty of models and actors who are attached and they still have loads of fans."
"Tell that to him," Adrien says wearily, pressing his free hand over hers.
"I will someday," Ladybug says, and Adrien blinks at her.
"Uh, I didn't actually mean -"
"Oh, I know you didn't. But rest assured, my father-in-law and I will be having words someday," she says. "And they will not be happy words."
Adrien stares at her, a little overwhelmed by the threat. "You shouldn't... I mean..." He flails a little, and Ladybug smiles at him.
"Don't worry, Chaton. I'm still sorry things turned out this way, and I can't help feeling a little responsible no matter what you say. But at the same time, I'm not sorry because I was able to be here with you when you needed me." She strokes his hair. "I would hate for you to have gone through that alone."
"Wouldn't be the first time," Adrien says.
A sad look crosses her face, and she hugs him again. "You'll never be alone again, Adrien. Plagg, Tikki and I will always be with you."
He swallows hard, the impact of her statement hitting him harder than he's comfortable admitting, and hugs her back. "He might try to trash your reputation as a designer," he admits, because she deserves to know. He should've told her before they went. "My father has a lot of sway in the fashion world."
"I know. I thought of that already. It will be fine. I know that we can't leave Paris as long as we're Ladybug and Chat Noir, but there are other designers aside from Gabriel Agreste." She pulls back just far enough to smile tremulously. "Maybe I'll have to wait until your dad retires from the scene, or I may not go into fashion at all... I don't know. But that wouldn't, and won't, change my mind. You mean more to me than fashion does."
Adrien stares at her, startled. Knowing how much Marinette adores fashion, he's not sure how to handle the information that she considers him more important than her dream. "I do?"
"Of course you do, silly kitty." She boops him gently on the nose. "You're my partner. My husband. You'll always come first."
"I... wow." He keeps staring at her, wondering how he got so lucky.
A light blush spreads beneath her mask, warming her ears. "Don't look at me like that."
"Like... like I'm some kind of celebrity or something!" She presses her hands to her burning cheeks.
"You're Ladybug right now," he can't help pointing out. It earns him a glare. Adrien smiles at her and takes her hands, pressing a kiss to each one.
"Adrien..." she whispers.
"I look at you the way you deserved to be looked at," he says. "Like you're amazing and fierce and kind and compassionate, because you are."
Ladybug's blush darkens. "Back at you," she says. "You're my strong, sweet, kind, loving kitty, and I'm sorry your father can't see that. You're more than just a model. You're a good person. You deserve better than him."
"I have better now," he says, kissing her hands again.
Her face is a shade of red to rival her suit, and she clears her throat. "My point is, we'll figure out our future together. We're only sixteen. We have loads of time and plenty of doors open to us. Hell, worst-case scenario we'll take over my parent's bakery. That would make my dad really happy."
Adrien ponders that. He's never really thought about what he wants to do with his future, only about what he doesn't want to do - namely, model. He's fine to model for the next couple of years, though he's no longer sure Gabriel will want him to do that. But it's not what he wants to do for the rest of his life. Frankly, he couldn't even if he wanted to: all models reach an age where they phase out of the industry because they can't compete against younger, fitter models who are just coming on scene.
He thinks about the bakery and how it's always seemed like such a warm, happy place, and smiles at her. "I don't know how to bake, but if you're willing to teach me then I'd be perfectly okay with that."
"Baking isn't hard. A science nerd like you could figure it out in no time. Papa will give you lessons if you even so much as hint at wanting to learn."
"I doubt that. He wasn't very happy with either one of us," he says.
Ladybug gets a stern look on her face. "Adrien, listen to me. My parents aren't like your father. I told you, it's going to take some time, but we'll work things out. I know they love me, and they love you too. Especially now that you're their son-in-law."
"I got your parents as in-laws, and you got mine. I think you got the short end of the deal."
"Yeah, I'm not really sure how that happened," she says. "Look. How would you feel about going grocery shopping with me? We never did get around to buying tons of junk food yesterday. We'll buy everything and then bring it all back here and sit around stuffing ourselves on the couch until our stomachs explode."
"I think I love you," he says.
"Buy cheese too!" Plagg pips up, and Adrien startles a little. He's so used to Plagg's purr that it faded into the background, and he forgot the kwami was curled up on his shoulder during their conversation.
"Of course," Ladybug says, drawing a finger down Plagg's back. "Tikki, spots off!" With another flash of red light, Marinette's kneeling before him. "Just let me use the bathroom and we can go." She kisses his cheek and gets up.
"Are you okay, Adrien?" Tikki asks, setting down on his opposite shoulder.
It's instinct to say yes, of course he's fine, but Adrien stops himself. He thinks that Plagg, Tikki and Marinette could see right through it. Instead, he says slowly, "No, but I think I will be. Eventually."
"We're here for you, Kid," says Plagg, nuzzling against his cheek. The affectionate gesture is touching, coming from Plagg, and Adrien nuzzles him back. Then, what the hell, he tips his head the other way and nuzzles Tikki. She giggles and nuzzles him in turn.
"We'll buy lots of cookies and cheese," Adrien says, because he can't bring himself to say thank you, and he hopes that they get what he means. Judging from the nuzzling they both bestow on him, they understand. He doesn't hear the bathroom door open, but he does hear the click of a camera and see the flash. He looks up at Marinette in surprise. She's grinning.
"Sorry, but this is too cute," she says. "And that reminds me. You need a new phone."
"We can stop and get one on the way. Just let me wash my face."
Tikki floats off to Marinette as Adrien enters the bathroom. He looks in the mirror and grimaces. His eyes are red, puffy and swollen. Actually, his whole face is blotchy and pale. His make-up artist would have an actual heart attack if she could see him now. He washes his face with cool water, pressing the washcloth against his eyelids for a few extra seconds. It feels good.
"Are you sure you're okay?" Plagg asks quietly, too soft for anyone else to hear over the running water. "That had to be hard for you."
"It was." His throat gets tight for a few seconds as he remembers his father’s cruel words all over again, but he refuses to cry again. Not right now. Maybe later into a pint of ice cream, because that's a thing he can do now if he wants to, but not now.
"Just say the word. I can bring the mansion to the ground with a tap of my paw. Hell, I could do it just by breathing on it."
"Thank you, but no. It wouldn't change anything."
"You'd get his money. He can't have changed the will yet."
Adrien looks at Plagg, knowing that the kwami is 100% serious, and finds himself oddly touched. "No, Plagg. I meant what I said to him. I don't want or need anything more from him. The trust fund is more than enough for us to live on until we can get jobs. And even if it weren't, I still wouldn't want anything from him. Not after what he said about Marinette. We'd figure something out."
"You should think seriously about the bakery," Plagg says.
"Why, because you love their cheese bread so much?"
"No, because I've had a lot of Chosen who struggled to hold down jobs when they had to keep running off to deal with something. As I understand it, there's not a lot of jobs where you can take off like you can now," says Plagg, and Adrien stares at him as he realizes that Plagg's right. It’s the same reason that neither he nor Marinette can ever leave Paris: their duties as Ladybug and Chat Noir will always have to come first.
Adrien hasn’t ever thought about it like that. He gets leeway now because he's a kid, and people chalk his frequent bouts of irresponsibility up to the fact that his father can be a suffocating hard-ass. But if he were a teacher, or Marinette were working for a design house, and an akuma attacked... they wouldn’t be cute teenagers anymore. He hopes they'll be long done with Hawkmoth by that point, but the idea that they might not be is a troubling one and something they should probably take into consideration.
“I’ll talk it over with Marinette,” he says at last. If Plagg is right, this definitely limits their list of available jobs in the future. He wonders if Marinette could be happy at the bakery. She loves fashion so much. It’s something they’re going to have to discuss in detail, because he’s willing to bet that Marinette hasn’t thought that far ahead either.
The panicked scream from the other room has him moving before he's fully processed what's happening. Adrien yanks the door open and freezes, immediately zeroing in on the cause for Marinette's alarm. There's a very familiar purple butterfly fluttering around the room, circling Marinette. It keeps trying to land on her earrings or hair ribbons. Marinette is frantically dodging it, trying to make sure that it doesn't make contact with her body. Tikki is darting around trying to slap it away. But the akuma is dodging their every blow and keeps coming perilously close to Marinette.
"Marientte, duck!" he yells, seizing a textbook from the floor. She ducks and he swings the book hard at the same time the akuma is twisting to avoid Tikki. He ends up smashing it against the wall.
"Did... did you get it?" Marinette asks shakily, standing on the opposite of the bedroom, hands clasped protectively over her earrings.
Slowly, Adrien moves the book and reveals a smooshed akuma. He drops the book on the floor and rushes over to Marinette, pulling her into a hug. She clings to him, shaking all over. That was way too close for comfort. He can't fight against Marinette. He can't.
"Are you okay, Marinette?" Tikki whispers, landing on Marinette's shoulder.
"I'm - I'm fine," Marinette croaks, leaning heavily into Adrien.
Plagg flies over to examine the akuma. "That was weird."
"What's weird?" Adrien asks, arms wrapped protectively around Marinette. It feels like their apartment isn't safe anymore, like he's going to see more butterflies if he looks around, and the realization pisses him off. Hawkmoth has no right to invade their home like that.
"Akuma are attracted to people who are experiencing strong negative emotions. You were way more upset than Marinette," says Plagg. "Why did it try to get to her instead of you?"
"I don't know. Does that matter?" Adrien says.
"It could," Plagg says.
"Maybe it was just that Adrien wasn't as upset anymore, which meant I was the easier target," says Marinette. She doesn't sound like she really believes that, but what other explanation is there?
"Regardless, I think you should transform and cleanse it before this thing puts itself back together," Plagg says.
"They can do that?" Adrien says, horrified.
Plagg gives him a grim look. "Unfortunately. You got in a good shot, Kid, but that was just a temporary measure. If Ladybug doesn't cleanse it, then the akuma will keep going until it finds a victim. They're mindless like that."
Marinette wipes her face and pull back from Adrien. "Tikki, spots on!" she calls out. And then, as the red light dies, Adrien starts to see what Plagg means. The remains of the akuma are beginning to glow an eerie purple color. He takes an unconscious step back as the goo flows together, forming into another butterfly. Then the akuma literally peels itself off the wall and flaps its wing a couple of times. Ladybug takes a step in front of him protectively, already spinning her yoyo.
"I free you from evil!" she calls out, releasing her yoyo. She catches the akuma with ease, then draws her finger across the top of the yoyo. "Bye bye, little butterfly."
Rather than post this in two smaller chunks, I opted to post it as a longer last chapter. I may come back to this verse someday and write a one shot that takes place in the future.
They both watch the butterfly as it rises up from the confines of her yoyo, now white instead of purple, and flies out through the open balcony doors. Adrien moves closer to the balcony doors, tracing its path until it gets lost to the blue of the sky and his eyes ache from straining to see it further on such a sunny day. Only then does he close the balcony doors and lock them. It's more of a symbolic move than anything, because they're all aware that akuma can phase through any objects, but it still makes him feel better - like he's locking Hawkmoth out, not just the akuma.
"TIkki, spots off," Ladybug whispers. "That was scary. It got so close to me. That's never happened before." She looks as scared as Adrien feels. He can't imagine how he could fight her. And even if he could somehow figure out how to do that, he can't purify an akuma. If Marinette ever gets akumatized, they're fucked.
"You're okay," he says, moving over to her and hugging her. "We just... have to try and keep positive even with everything that's been going on." It sounds stupid even to his own ears, and it makes him mad. Hawkmoth has no right to pull the sort of bullshit that he does. The people of Paris deserve to be able to feel the way they feel without worrying about falling victim to an akuma.
"Right," Marinette mumbles, burying her face in his shoulder. She's shivering and he hugs her tighter. He's never been threatened by an akuma before either. But then, neither he nor Marinette have ever been under this much stress. When he thinks about everything that's happened in the past week, and how much things have changed, it's kind of a miracle that it's taken an akuma this long to get here. It figures that a visit with Gabriel Agreste would be the straw that breaks the camel's back.
“You know what I think we should do?” he whispers into her ear. “We should go grocery shopping and then invite Alya and Nino over and watch dumb movies that make us laugh.”
Marinette pulls back just enough to look at him. “That sounds… really good, actually,” she says. “School’s not out for a little while, though.”
“That’s fine. We can swing by the bank and finalize everything. Maybe get me a different cell phone.” Adrien tucks a wayward strand of hair behind her ear. “And… maybe some new clothes? I didn’t bring a lot with me.” And he’s never going back to get the rest.
Her eyes brighten. “We can do that. But what if another akuma comes and we’re in a public place?”
“If that happens, we’ll get somewhere private so you can cleanse it. I’m not going to hide away because of Hawkmoth, Princess. I refuse to let him dictate our lives.”
Plagg nods approvingly. “That’s exactly the attitude you should be taking.”
“You just want them to go buy more cheese,” Tikki says, rolling her eyes.
“I can have two reasons for wanting them to leave the apartment,” says Plagg.
Marinette giggles and pulls back fully. “What if I get akumatized?” she asks, looking at Adrien. His heart sinks straight through the floor at the question. He looks at Tikki and Plagg for help, but neither kwami chimes in and Marinette is still waiting for an answer. He takes her hands in his, his mind racing.
“My Lady, I would do whatever it took to save you,” he says. “I made a vow to always stay by your side, and I meant it.”
“Oh, mon minou,” Marinette whispers, blinking rapidly. She leans in close and presses a kiss against his cheek. “Thank you. That makes me feel better.”
Privately, Adrien prays it never happens. He’s not sure if he could fight against Marinette or Ladybug, even an akumatized version. He’d rather end up akumatized than see it happen to her, though he also knows she’d slap him if she knew those thoughts were going through his head. He kisses Marinette on the mouth and hopes that it’s not something they have to deal with.
They’re both on high alert as they leave the apartment, almost to the point of being twitchy, but another akuma never comes. They go shopping, and Nino and Alya eventually join them. They spend a lot of money and drag it all home and then spend the night laughing and eat junk food and playing games. Then, the next morning, Adrien wakes up in their bed, in their apartment, with his wife in his arms, and is happier than he’s been for a very long time. He almost forgot what that was like, being happy.
That happiness doesn’t last.
On Monday morning, they’re both nervous. Adrien can see it in the way Marinette picks at her breakfast. He wants to hug her and kiss her, but he knows that’s not much help right now. They’re about to face their classmates for the first time since everything happened. The one saving grace is that, as far as anyone else knows, nothing about them has changed. Their secret is safe.
He thinks that way up until he and Marinette walk through the gates together. Then Adrien catches sight of Chloé standing on the front steps, holding court in front of a couple dozen students, and his heart sinks straight through his toes. He knows Chloé, even though they haven’t been close friends for years. He recognizes the expression on her face. It’s a perfect mix of anger and jealousy.
“Hide,” Adrien says, not looking at Marinette.
“I can handle her.” He moves forward and Chloé’s eyes land on him.
“Adrikins!” she calls out, her voice shrill, and everyone turns to stare. Chloé darts down the steps and races over to him, latching onto his arm. Adrien has to fight the urge to peel her off.
“Good morning, Chloé,” he says.
“Is what I hear true?!” she demands. “Did you get married?!”
Goddamnit Chloé. That’s what Adrien wants to say. There goes any hope they had of keeping it quiet. He flicks a glance towards the students behind her and sees far too many sets of eyes watching them. This will be in the news by noon, Adrien thinks, and that’s probably a generous estimate. Everyone is going to know within the next hour.
He could deny it, but what’s the point? All anyone has to do is go look up their marriage certificate. The truth is out there in black and white print. And besides, he’s not ashamed of having married Marinette Dupain-Cheng. If anything, he’s proud. Proud that he’s a good enough man that she loves him in return. It’s one thing to not say anything about it, but to deny it? No.
“Yes,” Adrien says, clear and loud. “I got married.”
The students burst into hushed whispers. Chloé’s eyes widen. “It’s true?”
“Yes, it’s true,” Adrien confirms.
Chloé stares at him like he’s broken her brain, her lips parted slightly. It’s obvious she was expecting him to tell her that it was just another rumor.
“How did you find out?” he asks, dropping his voice a little. “Chloé?”
She snaps out of her shocked stupor at the sound of her name, blinking. “I – uh, your father came to see Daddy last night. And when I asked him where you were, he said you’d moved out because you got married… I thought that maybe it was some weird joke…”
“My father doesn’t joke,” Adrien says, feeling a renewed swell of anger. So this is how his father wants to play it. He deliberately told Chloé so that she would spread the news, probably hoping that Adrien would get so overwhelmed by the attention that he would go running back.
“I know, but the idea was just so… so crazy,” Chloé sputters. “Who on Earth did you marry?”
“Me,” Marinette says, stepping up beside Adrien. He looks back at her, seeing the determined set of her jaw, and doesn’t know why he bothered to tell her to hide. Ladybug has never backed down from a challenge, and the stubbornness blazing in Marinette’s blue eyes is 100% bug right now.
“Did you hear that?!”
“Marinette and Adrien are married!”
Adrien cringes a little at the renewed explosion of whispering, but focuses on Chloé’s flabbergasted expression. He gently but firmly removes his arm from her grip, stepping back so that he can slide his arm around Marinette’s waist. She relaxes minutely, leaning into him, and he suspects that he’s narrowly avoided being on her shit list for the next god knows how many weeks. She really does hate when he tries to take blows for her.
“You?” Chloé says slowly, looking back and forth between them. Then she laughs, a sharp, tight sound. “That’s ridiculous. Adrikins, tell me the truth.”
“That is the truth,” says Adrien. “Marinette and I are married now.” He shows Chloé his ring as proof. Marinette holds her hand up too.
“You… she… this is…” Chloé’s jaw works silently for several seconds.
“We can talk about it later, if you want, but we’re going to be late to class,” Adrien says. He steps forward and Marinette moves with him in perfect synchronization, like they’ve practiced it – and they really haven’t, it’s just years of working in tandem and knowing each other’s every move, but Chloé’s head snaps back and her jaw tightens like she’s taken it as a personal affront and Adrien thinks, here we go.
“I should’ve known you’d get your claws into him sooner or later, Dupain-Cheng. You’ve been angling after Adrien since day one. Can’t fight your own way to the top of the fashion industry, so you have to open your legs and ride Adrien’s coattails instead. What, did you get pregnant so he’d marry you?”
Marinette doesn’t even hesitate. She pivots on her right heel, drawing her fist back, and smoothly punches Chloé right in the face, so hard that Chloé loses her balance and topples over shrieking.
“Holy shit!” Alya’s voice raises over the pandamonium coming from behind her. Adrien hopes she got the punch on video.
“For the record, I am not pregnant,” Marinette says coolly. “And I am perfectly capable of making it in whatever industry I choose. Why my husband and I got married is none of your concern, Chloé. I don’t appreciate your insinuation that I’m a slut, either.”
“You bitch!” Chloé screams, one hand cupped over her nose and mouth. “When I tell my daddy about this –”
“You’ll do no such thing, Chloé. That’s enough.”
“Adrikins?” Some of Chloé’s ire drains away. She looks up at him and her eyes are wet and her chin is streaked with blood and Adrien sighs.
“Can I talk to Chloé?” he asks Marinette.
“Of course,” Marinette says, shaking out her hand. She moves forward to join Alya and Nino. Alya is literally vibrating with glee, and even Nino’s grin stretches from ear-to-ear. Marinette’s not the only person fed up with Chloé’s vitriol. The video, if there is one, will be all over the school in no time.
Adrien kneels down beside Chloé. “Are you okay?”
“She just fucking punched me!” Chloé exclaims.
“Considering what you said to her, you’re lucky it was just one punch,” Adrien says calmly. He wouldn’t have put it past Marinette to have tied Chloé to the top of the Eiffel Tower with her yoyo and left Chloé there for a while.
“But she –”
“No,” Adrien says, cutting her off. “If whatever you’re about to say is an insult to Marinette, I don’t want to hear it. We didn’t get married because she wanted to. I mean, she did want to. But I was the one who asked her. This was all my idea.” Well technically it was Plagg’s idea, but there’s no way Adrien’s going to get into that with Chloé.
“You asked her,” Chloé repeats.
“Because I love her,” Adrien admits, and Chloé flinches. He sighs. “Chloé, I’m not saying that to hurt you. I’m not loving Marinette at you. I just… love her. I’m not saying this to be mean, but it really didn’t have anything to do with you.”
Chloé wipes gingerly at her nose. “Why didn’t you ask me?”
There’s a whole host of reasons, most of which only Marinette will ever be privvy to. Adrien goes with a simple, “You’re not the person I’m in love with.”
“But why not?” Her voice rises into a thin whine. “You said you’d marry me someday!”
“We were six years old. You were the only kid I knew.” Adrien studies her miserable expression. “I’m sorry, Chloé. I just don’t love you that way. And we wouldn’t be good together just because of that.” He has enough social awareness to avoid telling her that she deserves better, even though he thinks it’s true. He could never tell Chloé about his miraculous, or Plagg, or being Chat Noir. He would have to keep an important part of himself locked up forever. He can’t live that, not anymore.
“This isn’t how it was supposed to go,” Chloé whines quietly. “We were supposed to rule this school together.”
“It was never going to be like that,” Adrien says gently. Not that he needed it, but that just proves to him that Chloé doesn’t know him at all.
Her bottom lip quivers, but she holds it together. Possibly because of their audience. Their voices may be too quiet for the kids behind them to hear, but Adrien knows they’re there. He can feel their eyes on his back, and he knows that this will make it into the news somehow too. He can only hope that he’s smoothed over the situation enough that Chloé won’t make things worse.
“Why did it have to be her?” Chloé says finally, looking up at him. Behind them, the bell rings for classes to start.
Adrien shakes his head. “It just is.”
She scowls. “I hate her.”
“Chloé,” he reprimands. “This isn’t Marinette’s fault. She didn’t steal me away.”
Chloé scoffs and gets to her feet, wiping again at her nose. She’s not bleeding anymore, but blood has crusted around the base of her nose and her upper lip looks swollen and puffy. Adrien suspects she’s not going to be happy when she gets a look in the mirror, but he hopes that Hawkmoth is otherwise occupied at the moment. They don’t need an akumatized Chloé on their hands.
“She did steal you. Right from day one,” Chloé says shrilly. “I’ll never forgive her. Never!”
“Fine,” Adrien says, rising as well. “Hate her if you want to, but do it quietly. I don’t want to hear you saying anything like what you just said again, got it? Marinette is my wife now. An insult, implied or otherwise, to her is an insult to me.” He looks her in the eyes so she’ll know he’s serious. “I like being your friend, Chloé. Please don’t make me choose between you and my wife. There’s no way you can win.”
“Screw you, Agreste,” she says, voice breaking, and then she turns and stalks away. Adrien sighs, half-tempted to follow, but he knows Chloé well enough to know that going after her now won’t help. When Chloé’s pissed, it’s best to give her space to work through her initial burst of fury. Only after she’s got that out of her system does she become somewhat reasonable.
“That went well,” Plagg mutters from where he’s hidden in the pocket of Adrien’s overshirt.
“I mean, she didn’t get akumatized on the spot,” Adrien says, pinching the bridge of his nose. He’s fairly certain that Chloé will be willing to talk within a week or so, though he’s just as sure that she and Marinette will never get along. Frankly, it’s not like it really matters. He’s made his choice.
Plagg snorts. “I guess you can call that a win, but I would keep an eye out for the rest of the day. You may have one to deal with shortly.”
“Maybe,” Adrien murmurs. Chloé’s always been good at denial. He wouldn’t be surprised if she comes to school tomorrow and acts like she was never in love with him.
A gentle hand lands on his shoulder, an arm sliding around his waist. “You okay?”
“I’m fine,” he says, leaning back into Marinette’s warmth. “I’m sorry. I didn’t expect my father to do that.” It stings to think that Gabriel would stoop that low as to make sure the news got around Adrien’s school immediately. But at the same time, Adrien’s not exactly surprised. Gabriel Agreste has never been known for playing fair.
“It’s not your fault,” says Marinette. “And it was unrealistic to think it would stay secret forever.” She pauses. “I guess it just means we’ll have to be extra careful about transforming for the next little while. This will hit the news in no time.”
“I’m actually not too concerned about that.” Adrien turns, wrapping his arms around her. “My father’s actually hurt himself by doing this. What we did will be chalked up to youthful indiscretion. But this will hurt his reputation. People will wonder if he’s losing control. Long after you and I are nothing more than a footnote, and I fully suspect that will happen as soon as the next akuma makes an appearance, journalists are going to be bringing this up and rubbing it in his face.”
“You sound like you’re looking forward to it,” Marinette says, amused.
“I kind of am,” he admits. “Also, nice punch.”
Marinette smiles. “That was one of the most satisfying moments of my life,” she says dreamily. “Alya got it on video, too. So I can re-live the moment.”
“You’re so cute,” Adrien says, and is pleased to see the compliment makes her turn pink. He glances over her head, seeing that only Alya and Nino are waiting for them now. The rest of the students dispersed, probably when the bell rang, now that the excitement is over.
“We should go in. We’re late,” Marinette says, a little flustered, and slips out of his arms. She turns to go, but Adrien grabs her wrist to stop her. He gently reels her back in; Marinette rolls her eyes but lets it happen, this time winding her arms around his neck.
“I love you, my princess. My Lady,” Adrien whispers to her.
The pink flush on her cheeks deepens as she responds: “I love you too, my kitty. Always have and always will.” She goes up on her tiptoes to kiss him. Adrien kisses her back hard, savoring the feel of her in his arms. They’ve lost a lot to get to this moment. Sometimes he thinks that everything they’ve lost can’t even be counted right now. But he still thinks it’s worth it. A life without Marinette Dupain-Cheng, without Ladybug, is not a life he wants to live.
“Hey lovebirds, break it up!” Nino yells from the steps. “We’re late!”
Marinette squeaks, breaking the kiss and letting go to put her hands over her burning cheeks. “I forgot they were here,” she grumbles.
Adrien laughs and wraps an arm around her shoulders. “Let’s go, Bugaboo,” he says. “I have much more interesting plans for us after school than sitting around in detention.”