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Unsteady Bloom

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Adrenaline pumped through Marinette as she took hold of the door handle in front of her. Today was the day. After all the years she had dedicated to learning fashion and design, it was finally all paying off. Today, was the first time she would have her own collection featured in a real fashion show.

The only thing left to do was to actually go inside, but Gabriel Agreste, the most important person of the fashion industry in all of Paris, was in there.

The thought of facing him kept her frozen in place where she stood outside the double backdoors of the dressing room. She tightened her grip on the handle, her nerves starting to make her slightly dizzy. Of course he was in there, this was his show. His show that he had personally invited her to be a part of. That is, if having his assistant send out an email counted as personal.

Originally he had become interested in her work after seeing the durby hat she had made two years earlier. He followed up by having his assistant request further designs from her and since then they’d communicated briefly, her occasionally sending him designs which he gave his input on and sent back, until eventually she had a small collection completed and ready to be presented at one of his shows.

Marinette still couldn’t believe she had come this far despite the minimal communication she had with the famous designer. She’d rarely ever even met him in person, and even less if she didn’t count the times when she was sporting her alternate identity. Thinking back now, she realized the only time she’d actually met him face to face as her civilian self, was when she was returning the miraculous book she had “borrowed” from Adrien. The memory made her face heat up in embarrassment. Somehow, he had still been willing to help her build her career which she was forever grateful for.

A few loose strands of hair blew in her face bringing her out of her thoughts, the cool wind feeling wonderfully refreshing against her overheated skin. Her legs were covered by her favorite pair of pink jeans, but the short-sleeved floral top she was wearing left her arms vulnerable to the cold air. She hadn’t remembered to bring a jacket. It wasn’t a problem though since she would be inside soon, and she was already practically sweating as it was.  

Looking back to the door, she realized her hand was shaking.

Taking another moment to try and calm her nerves, she tilted her head up to the sky and took in a few deep breaths. The sun was already halfway set, and dark clouds were making their way across the sky, threatening to bring a storm along with them.

Just as she was convincing herself to finally step inside, the other door beside her flew open causing her to jump and let out a squeak.

“Marinette!” Adrien exclaimed in surprise.

“H-Hey, Adrien.” Her wave came out more mechanical than she would have liked, but she figured the dumb smile plastered on her face probably distracted from it enough.

“I’m so glad you’re here, I’ve been waiting for you,” he greeted warmly. “Father also wants to check in with you to make sure everything’s ready to go.”

Her heart slammed in her chest while she watched him move to hold the door all the way open for her. All at once her body sprung to life.

“O-Of course,” she stammered, quickly making her way inside so he wouldn’t have to stay out in the cold for any longer, especially since he wasn’t wearing a shirt.

Oh my god he wasn’t wearing a shirt.

She had to remind herself that of course he wasn’t, he was a model. Modeling. In a show. He just hadn’t changed into his first outfit yet, everything was fine. Marinette was fine.

Now that they were standing inside the stuffy room filled with bustling with people, there was nothing to help hide the fire that raged across her cheeks. Her only saving grace was that since she always blushing around Adrien, he probably just thought it was her normal state of being.

It had been over two whole years since Adrien first came to school, and now they were both in their senior year of high school. And Marinette had barely, barely improved her speaking skills around him. The only times she ever really hung out with him outside of class was if their whole friend group was out together.

Being alone with Adrien was still so foreign to her, and the idea of working one on one with him for this show was terrifying. The collection she had created under his father included outfits for both men and women, so Adrien had been assigned as her male model. Of course. As if she didn’t already have enough to worry about without all the horrors that came with the total klutz she turned into whenever she was around him.

Even though they wouldn’t actually be alone here in the busy dressing room, she still didn’t know anyone else besides him and his father, so really, it was just as nerve wracking.

“I’ll be over in makeup.”

The pat on her arm startled her and she turned to look back to Adrien. To his face specifically, not his chest. She was definitely not staring at his bare chest.

“A-Alright.”

She watched as he walked off to sit in a makeup chair and a stylist immediately began spraying his already meticulously done hair. Another girl came and sat in the chair next to him and the two started chatting, though Marinette couldn’t hear what they were saying from where she still stood near the entrance. After a moment she realized that the girl was wearing a dress she recognized as her own. That must be her other model for the evening.

Before she could go over to greet her properly, she remembered that Adrien had said his father wanted to speak with her. Deciding that it was probably best not to keep his father waiting any longer, she began to scan the room for him. There was about an hour left until the start of the show, so she would still have plenty of time to come back to Adrien and her other model and make sure they both looked perfect before they went down the catwalk.

Marinette walked around the room, weaving through all the moving people and looking behind every dressing rack, but Gabriel Agreste wasn’t there. She paused in confusion for a moment. Perhaps he was somewhere within the backstage halls? Quickly, she left the dressing room and spent a couple of minutes wandering the few short hallways that made up the backstage area. She even started asking other people around her if they’d seen him recently or if he might be found in the main lobby, but it became apparent that he was not in the building at all. 

It didn’t make any sense, Adrien had just said he’d spoken to his father. Where could he have gone in such a short amount of time?

In a bit of a rush, she returned to where Adrien sat with a new stylist now patting his face with powder.

As soon as he noticed her return, he happily introduced her to the other model who Marinette now recognized from some of Gabriel Agreste’s previous shows she’d watched on TV. Being around so many experts only added to the pressure Marinette already felt, but she silently told herself to borrow a pinch of her Ladybug confidence. She could do this. She would not disappoint her fashion idol.

“Oh Adrien, do you happen to know where your father is?” Marinette asked, mentally praising herself for getting out a whole sentence to her crush without her normal stutter. “I’ve booked, I-I mean looked all over for him but I can’t find him anywhere.” There it was.

Adrien seemed surprised by her words. “That’s weird, he was right here just before you came. He didn’t say anything about leaving to go anywhere else.”

Marinette drew her eyebrows together in confusion as well, but then quickly erased any worry from her face before he could notice.

“I-It’s alright, I probably just didn’t see him. I’ll look again.”

Marinette left them in a hurry, scanning the room a couple more times, though she was almost positive she would not find him here. Her heart rate was starting to pick up again.

By the time she reached the double doors she had originally come in through, adrenaline was hitting her at full force, making it so that she could barely breathe in the suddenly suffocatingly stuffy room. Before she even realized what she was doing, she found herself back outside and leaning against the wall of the building. She tried to take a deep breath. There was nothing for her to be afraid of out here. It was just her, the parking lot, and the clouds from earlier that now blanketed the entire sky.

The clouds puzzled Marinette momentarily, she didn’t think she’d been inside that long.

A moment later she received the explanation for them in the form of a harsh wind blowing against her, sending her pigtails flying against her neck. Once the wind died down though, her attention went straight back to the relentless pounding of her heart.

Why did she have so much anxiety about this? Well, obviously she knew why, but tonight something was different. Her worries about the show, Adrien, and his father aside, there was some other feeling pulling at her nerves and yet she didn’t know what it was. The only way she could think to describe it, was that it almost felt like dread. It was as if she could practically feel that something bad was about to happen.

In an attempt to clear her mind, she let her head rest fully against the wall and her eyes fall closed. She stayed that way for a few minutes, until the only thing she focused on was breathing in the cool air.

When her heart rate finally died down and her palms were no longer sweaty, she stood up from the wall. It was probably just the impending storm that was throwing her off.

She moved to head back inside so she could check on her two models, but all thoughts of the show left her mind when she spotted a small flying purple dot appear from behind one of the few trailers stationed across the parking lot.

Marinette blinked. The purple dot was still there.

Marinette rubbed her eyes.

A man came into view, walking around from behind the trailer the same way the dot had come.

No wonder she couldn’t find him inside.

Silently, Marinette began to panic. Even though it was hard to make it out at this distance, she knew there were very few things that the purple dot could possibly be. Something in her gut told her that she wasn’t wrong in her assumption as to who it was.

She watched frozen in place while Gabriel Agreste pocketed his cell phone, clearly having not noticed her presence yet. His mouth moved while he stood in front of the trailer door, face to face with the purple dot, but unfortunately she was just too far away to hear anything he was saying.

“T-Tikki,” Marinette trembled in a whisper. Her voice came out so quietly that she wasn’t sure if she had even said anything at all.

When she didn’t hear a response, Marinette looked down to her purse, though she only dared to take her eyes off of Gabriel for a moment. She found her kwami with only her tiny head popped out, staring across the parking lot with wide eyes just as she herself had been.

Marinette was certain that she had never seen her kwami look so shocked before.

“Nooroo,” Tikki breathed.

Her kwami was shaking. Or maybe it was just herself, Marinette couldn’t tell which.

Maybe it was both of them.

Snapping her attention back across the parking lot, Marinette suddenly felt the danger of the situation come crashing down on her.

“Come on, we need to hide,” she rushed out. She didn’t waste any time in waiting for her companion’s response, and immediately darted to crouch behind the nearest car, all while making sure she never lost visual on the man by the trailer. And his kidnapped kwami.

It felt like Marinette had stayed there in hiding for hours before she watched Gabriel eventually move to step inside the trailer, his kwami following right behind him. In reality, she knew she had only been there for a couple minutes, but logic did not seem to register with her anymore.

The door of the trailer fell shut closing Gabriel and Nooroo inside, but by some stroke of luck Marinette could still see his head through a single half-opened window.

“Ch-Chat. We need to tell Chat,” she whispered while remaining completely still except for the small movements of her lips.

Without averting her gaze, she heard her kwami take a small breath to speak, but a flashing purple light that suddenly streamed out from the window of the trailer stopped her. Just as quickly as it had come, the light disappeared, leaving them both in a stunned silence.

Marinette had never felt her stomach drop like it did when she realized that a masked face, the very same face of the one person she’d spent the last two years trying to track down, now took the place of Gabriel’s.

She knew she needed to move. She knew she needed transform. If Hawk Moth was transformed, then she knew she had very little time before a new akuma would be rampaging across the city. But in that moment, she just didn’t know how to make her body cooperate.

“Marinette.”

She finally looked back down to her kwami who was calling her. When she looked into Tikki’s tiny eyes, she felt her Ladybug strength begin to seep back into her veins, replacing the terror she had been so suddenly overcome with.

This was not the time to be afraid, she had a job to do.

Taking a deep breath to center herself, Marinette looked all around, making sure that she was still the only other person in the parking lot besides…

“Tikki,” she called in a low whisper. “Spots on.”

 

~~~

 

Adjusting the knot of his tie into place, Adrien glanced around himself in search of his friend. It was almost twenty minutes ago now that she’d said she’d gone off to look for his father, and since then he hadn’t seen even a glimpse of her. His father would have only wanted to speak with her for a minute, he was more than sure about that, so where was she?

Adrien was starting to get concerned. He knew how nervous Marinette could get sometimes, and he was worried that she might have gone off to hide somewhere. And if turned out that really was the case, he didn’t want her to be alone. She was his friend, and he didn’t exactly have too many of those.

The first place he went to look for her were the backstage restrooms thinking maybe her nerves were hurting her stomach, but he arrived only to find them empty. He stood in place for a moment to think. He’d modeled in many shows at this venue before, so it wasn’t difficult as he closed his eyes and tried to map out the building in his head.

Quickly realizing that there weren’t too many places to go within the building that she was allowed be, he came to the conclusion that she probably wasn’t inside at all. It made sense, back when he’d first started modeling he would often need to step out for fresh air too. Sometimes, he still did.

A frown pulled on his lips as he made his way through all the rushing people that filled the large dressing room. A few voices behind him called his name, but he pretended not to hear. He was only focused on finding his friend as he reached the double doors and pushed one of them open.

It was dark. He scanned the parking lot and the areas surrounding the building, trying his best to ignore how the cold was biting at his cheeks, but it was hard to see anything without his night vision. He walked around, calling out her name. Nothing. It was completely silent save for the rustling of leaves being scattered by the chilling breeze. There was not a soul out here besides himself and the kwami hiding somewhere inside the jacket of his suit.

A shiver went down his spine as the wind picked up, blasting him with a freezing gust. He really needed to get back inside before his hair got tussled up too badly, his stylist would probably already have a fit as it was.

Turning around, he started walking back towards the entrance. Marinette would turn up before show time, he was positive. He’d seen her take on a number of difficult leadership tasks at school in the years he’d known her, and every time he’d watched as she pushed through until she succeeded. She may get shy and nervous sometimes, but she was also very determined. A small smile replaced the frown on his lips as various memories from over the years replayed themselves in his mind.

It didn’t take long for him to arrive back at the doors, though now he was practically shaking from the cold. Wherever Marinette had gone off to, he hoped she was warm. The moment Adrien’s hand touched the door handle, the sound of screams bombarded his ears.

Within seconds he found some cars to hide behind and called out for his kwami. With a quick flash of green light, he pounced off into the sky, the thought of seeing his Lady already beginning to warm him up against the icy wind that whipped at his face.

He only needed a minute to track down the source of the screams, and just as he was expecting, he found an akuma parading around the streets below. From up high he couldn’t make out many details, only that the akuma was dressed entirely in a vibrant yellow causing them to stand out strikingly against the dark night. A few rooftops away from the akuma, he saw a girl facing away from him who was dressed from head to toe in spots. Instantly the warmth in his chest increased.

Dropping down behind his partner, he purred out a greeting.

“A lovely evening to save the world with a lovely girl, is it not?”

After giving her a gentle bow, he held out his hand hoping she would place her own atop it, but she remained facing away from him.

It wasn’t unusual for her to shrug off his flirtatious antics, he knew that, but right now she wouldn’t even look at him. He barely registered the rain beginning to fall as his cat ears flattened against the top of his head.

“Ladybug?”

Resting a hand on her shoulder hoping to coax her around, he quickly thought over the last time they’d met. It was when they’d gone on one of their regular patrols two days ago. He tried to think of anything he might have done to upset her, but he came up blank.

“LB please, the akuma…” he trailed off, unsure of how to approach her right now.  

He waited silently for another minute, until finally, she turned around. Her gaze was fixed on some point in the distance, and she looked absolutely furious. The mask she wore only highlighted the pure rage in her eyes.

In all the years they had worked together, he had never seen her look like that.

Immediately he shrunk away, apologies spilling out of his mouth even though he didn’t know what for.

“Ladybug I’m sorry, I’m not sure what I did, but I’m really really sorry. Please talk to me, I’m so sorry.” His heart was pounding and his mind was racing, he had absolutely no idea what was going on. He didn’t know if it was him or the akuma, but surely one akuma alone wouldn’t be enough to make her this upset. That meant it had to be-

“It’s not you,” she said, finally lifting her gaze to meet his own.

He only felt slightly relieved upon hearing that. Seeing her like this filled him with the overwhelming urge to fix whatever it was that was bothering her.

“What is it?” he asked as softly as he could, not wanting to aggravate her any further.

“It’s-”

More screams from the street below cut her off.

“I’ll tell you after,” she continued, moving to stand at the edge of the roof. “Right now we have to take care of this akuma.”

He nodded, falling in place beside her. “As you wish, My Lady.”

“We have to be careful though, it’s only a little boy,” she spoke up again, the anger in her voice now beginning to fade as she turned her head to look up at him. “His power is to give people their own personal storm cloud. There’s no actual lightning from what I can tell though, only the sound of thunder, so it doesn’t seem to be a very threatening ability. I’m guessing the kid was just scared of the oncoming storm.”

Chat stayed silent while she spoke, listening intently to every word.

“I hate when he preys on children,” he responded when she finished, his voice low.

Fury flashed again in her eyes, but she quickly turned her attention back to the street. “Me too.”

And they were off.

 

~~~

 

It hadn’t taken them long to reach the akumatized child, and with a single lucky charm and one quick cataclysm, the young boy was returned to his real self.

The rain had begun pouring down by the time they’d finished, and the fight had landed them right outside the venue the fashion show was being held in. Or really, the venue it was supposed to be held in. Chat had no doubt it would be canceled now. Even though they'd taken care of the akuma relatively easily, it had still caused chaos for everyone inside and there was no way they could stick anywhere near the planned schedule. Knowing his father, it would simply be pushed out to a later date instead.

Ladybug’s angry expression from earlier flashed in his mind, and he dropped all thoughts of the show as he ran back to her side. Due to the time and weather, there was not too big of a crowd left in the surrounding area. Off-handedly he thought more akuma attacks should be in the rain, it was far easier to move around when there were less civilians to worry about.

Ladybug’s miraculous beeped as he approached her, the sound followed shortly after by his own. However, if she heard them, she didn’t show it. She simply stood there holding the boy securely in her arms, not saying a word.

Chat started to ask the boy where he lived, but a crying woman came running up to them before he could get his question out. He watched as Ladybug handed the boy back to his mother who was now thanking them both profusely.

“Thank you so, so much Ladybug and Chat Noir! I don’t think I could ever repay you enough for saving my boy!”

“Of course, it’s our pleasure,” Chat replied for both of them.

The mother didn’t stick around after that and ran off in a hurry, probably not wanting to keep her son out in the rain for any longer, and so Chat Noir was left to stand there alone with his partner.

He watched as Ladybug looked to him, and then up to the roof of the tall building next to them. He understood.

Silently, they made their way up in their own special harmony.

“My Lady,” he whispered once they landed, reaching out a clawed hand to delicately pull the soaked strands of hair away from her face. She barely even seemed to notice as she looked up and stared into his eyes.

She was definitely still angry, but now that the battle with the akuma was over, it almost seemed like she was slightly afraid as well. Chat’s heart was beating faster now than it had been during the battle, and he desperately wondered what could have caused her so much distress.

“I know who Hawk Moth is.”

Oh.

He felt his breath escape him, and for a moment he forgot how to breathe new air back into his lungs.  

Before he could even form his question, she answered.

“It’s Gabriel Agreste.”

Those three words felt like a strong, ruthless punch to his gut.

“Ladybug what are you talking about, Gabriel Agreste is not Hawk Moth.” Evening saying those two names in the same sentence made him want to squirm. It was just so wrong.

It baffled him as he watched his partner’s expression quickly morph from anger into bewilderment.

“Chat I’m serious, I saw him transform with my own eyes. He had Nooroo.”

She was faintly shaking now, and he couldn’t tell if it was from the cold or not. He almost wasn’t sure he wanted to know.

“That can’t be true, there’s no way,” he said roughly. “He’s been akumatized before. We saved him, don’t you remember?” He stared at her in utter confusion. Whatever she thought she saw, she had clearly seen wrong. No question. His father was below them inside the venue, probably working to reschedule the show as they spoke. He was certainly not an evil mastermind.

“I’m not stupid, I know he was akumatized,” she said, almost sounding offended.

Really? She was the one offended right now?

Chat set his jaw. “Ladybug-”

“But I also know what I saw,” she cut in. “It’s Gabriel Agreste, I swear on my miraculous.”

Chat really didn’t know how to respond to that. A part of him was getting increasingly worried for her, but another part of him was mad at the fact she could even think to suggest that. None of this made sense. She had told him about her suspicions of his father once years before, but they had been immediately debunked that very same day when his father was akumatized into The Collector. Chat thought she had dropped her insane theory way back then.

They really needed to sit down so he could talk some sense into her and figure out what was actually going on. He didn’t know if he could take listening to her speak his father’s name like that again. He knew better than anyone that his father wasn’t always the most pleasant person, but this was just absurd.

The rain pounded down around them, nearly drowning out the next warning beeps of their miraculous.

“We don’t have much time left right now,” she spoke up again, “but I think we need to go see Master Fu. He needs to know.”

“There’s nothing for him to know. You’re wrong.”

His words came out harsher than he intended, but he couldn’t help it. Frankly, he was pissed. He was pissed at whoever put this insane idea in her head, he was pissed at her for believing it, and most of all, he was pissed at Hawk Moth. The real Hawk Moth, whoever he was.

Clenching his fists, he took a deep breath and reminded himself that she didn’t actually know she was talking about his father. To her, Gabriel Agreste was just a fashion designer, just another citizen. How was she supposed to know that the one person she was accusing, was also the only family member he had left?

The sound of a sniffle brought him out of his thoughts, and he looked back to her face only to have his heart shatter in his chest.

“Chat,” she called to him, her voice cracking.

With the rain relentlessly soaking her face he couldn’t tell if she was crying or not, but it didn’t make a difference. She was hurt. His words had hurt her. Until this very moment, he’d never known it was possible to feel so much anger and so much despair at the same time. He’d never wanted to see her face twisted in pain, and he hated himself for now being the one that caused it.

He didn’t care who they were, he would never forgive the person that tricked his partner, his one and only love, into thinking that his own father could possibly be the same person that terrorized the city of Paris on a daily basis.

“Please believe me, I would never lie to you,” she tried again, placing a hand on his shoulder. He shrugged it off. Everything about this was wrong.

The final warning beeps of their miraculous sounded off, one right after the other.

He needed to be alone. He needed to time to process this so he could figure out just what the hell was going on.

Her eyes met his one final time before she took off into the rain. As soon as she was out of sight, he took off as well.

One right after the other.

Chapter Text

The world around her was nothing more than a wet blur as Ladybug flung through the streets of Paris, praying that she would reach the narrow alley near Master Fu’s shop before her transformation dropped.

Normally she would never cut it this close, but ever since she’d watched her fashion idol transform into her number one enemy before her eyes, she hadn’t been able to think clearly at all.

She didn’t remember much from the battle with akuma, even though it had only happened mere minutes ago. It was like her body had moved on it’s own while her mind was occupied with trying to understand why she hadn’t realized Hawk Moth’s identity sooner. Though she supposed she had realized it before, but back then he’d ended up akumatizing himself, no doubt to throw them off. God she felt so stupid.

The worst part of all this though, was Chat. He was supposed to be her best friend, the person she could trust more than anyone else in the world. Everyday she trusted him with her life quite literally in his hands, and he had always done the same with her. Occasionally they would have a petty argument, they were still human, but in the end they never left each other’s side. They were like two halves of a whole. She'd always felt so complete around him, so safe.

Not that she would ever tell him to his face though, that would only result in him drowning her with “Bugaboos”. But she didn’t have to voice it, he already knew. Or so she’d thought.

His reaction just now when she’d told him the key piece of information they’d spent years searching for in order to save the entire city, if not the whole world, was not anything she was prepared for. She didn’t know what she’d expected exactly, but it certainly wasn’t that. He’d refused to believe her, and then he’d actually gotten angry at her. It didn’t make any sense. All she understood was that suddenly it felt like her whole world was falling in on her. Chat was the one person, the one single person, that was never supposed to turn her away when she needed him, especially in times of crisis. Now she felt hollow to her core, as though she were just a box and he had taken out her last bit of hope. 

Tears pricked at her eyes again as she landed down in the alley and her spots finally wore off, but she refused to let the tears fall. She had come very close to it when she was talking to Chat though. It had taken everything in her to fight them back, but she’d managed.

It was her duty.

Now that she finally knew Hawk Moth’s identity, she needed to focus solely on stopping him and saving Paris once and for all. She could save the tears for later.

Rubbing her arms as she walked down the block in the pouring rain, she thought about what her next step was going to be. Obviously she couldn’t just burst into the Agreste mansion and start swinging, though the idea was tempting. To be honest, she didn’t really know what to do. Master Fu would though, he always did.

As soon as she reached the front of his shop, she tried to open the door but found it was locked. Assuming that he was probably upstairs and wouldn’t hear her knock, she called out to her kwami.

“Tikki, would you mind opening the door for me please?”

“Of course Marinette,” a muffled voice replied from inside her purse. She watched as her tiny friend zipped out and into the lock on the door handle, looking like nothing more than a red streak in the night.

Within moments the two of them were inside, and it was then that Marinette realized she was shivering. She may be immune to the cold as Ladybug, but her civilian self was certainly not. Luckily she’d managed to stay mostly under awnings when she was walking down the street, so her clothes were not actually too wet. Her hair was soaked though. Opening the door back up partway, she leaned out of the building and wrung her pigtails out as best she could. As soon as she was done, she locked the door again from the inside, and started to make her way up the stairs. She wasn’t soaked anymore, but she was still chilled to the bone.

“Master Fu,” she called out as she climbed up, her kwami flying freely beside her. When they reached the second floor, she still hadn’t heard a response. “Master Fu,” she called again while knocking on the door to his main room.

“Ah, Marinette,” his voice responded from the other side.

She heard the light sounds of his footsteps coming closer until he opened the door for, gesturing her inside while Wayzz floated near the back of the room.

“Come, come, you look freezing. I’ll get some tea and you can tell me what has happened.”

“Th-Thanks,” she responded through her chattering teeth, crossing the room to sit down at her usual spot on the mat while he left to go start the kettle. Wayzz and Tikki settled on the cabinet beside her. Chat’s words to her from their conversation just now played over and over again in her mind while she waited for Master Fu to return.

After a few minutes, he came back with two steaming cups in hands.

“Thanks,” she said as she accepted the cup he reached out to her.

“Now tell me,” he started, sitting down across from her. “What has brought you here tonight?”

Marinette looked down to the cup of tea she held in her hands. It was so warm. She took a deep breath, praying that the man in front of her would believe what she was about to tell him. She didn’t know what she would do if he didn’t.

“It’s Hawk Moth.”

Lifting her head back up, she saw Master Fu’s eyes go wide, though he stayed silent.

“He’s Gabriel Agreste,” she continued. “I know I’ve said this before, but I’m absolutely positive this time. I saw him transform in the parking lot of his fashion show about an hour ago. Maybe it was two hours, I- I can’t tell anymore.” She paused, running her free hand through her bangs as she took in a shaky deep breath. “But, Master Fu, he had Nooroo. I saw him, I swear I did, and Tikki did too. There was no mistaking them.”

Her lip was trembling now but she quickly moved to drink some of her tea in an attempt to stop it. Not yet. She couldn’t cry yet.

She watched as he scratched his chin, processing what she’d just told him.

“Have you told Chat Noir?” he asked, his tone gentle though very serious.

She felt right then as if a knot twisted low in her gut.

“I-I did, but…” She took another deep breath, trying not to let the hollow feeling take over her. “He didn’t believe me. He got mad when I told him, and he kept telling me I was wrong. It was almost scary, I’ve never seen him look that angry before. And now, now I don’t know what to do.” Though her teeth were no longer chattering, her voice still quivered.

“I see,” he responded, looking up to Wayzz. The guardian and his kwami shared a solemn expression that Marinette did not quite understand. They didn’t seem shocked by what she’d told them at all.

“You believe me, don’t you?” she asked, looking between the two of them desperately.

Master Fu snapped his head back to her. “Of course I do, Marinette. When I gave you the miraculous of the Ladybug, I entrusted you, alongside Chat Noir, with the task of defeating Hawk Moth and saving Nooroo. I chose you because you are honest, and you are always willing to do whatever it takes to help those in need. Marinette, I know you would not lie to me or to Chat Noir.”

A sigh of relief escaped her lips that she hadn’t realized she’d been holding in.

“I still don’t know what do,” she said, setting her half-finished tea down beside her before adjusting herself on the mat, bringing her knees up to rest her chin upon while her arms wrapped around her legs. “I know we need to act soon and form some sort of plan, but I don’t think Chat is very willing talk to me right now. I doubt he’s transformed anyway, our miraculous were on their last beeps when we parted.”

The man across from her hummed in thought. “If Chat Noir is unwilling to help right now, then perhaps you should focus on retrieving Adrien Agreste. Being the son of Gabriel Agreste, he is in danger if he stays in his home.”

Upon hearing her classmate’s name, Marinette felt all of the air escape her lungs. She immediately spent the next few moments trying to take in deep steady breaths so she wouldn’t start panicking too badly.

“Oh god, Adrien,” she whispered.

How could Adrien of all people have slipped her mind? She spent the vast majority of her time drooling over the boy, and yet now that he was in real danger she just forgot about him? Leave it to Hawk Moth to disrupt her mind and distract her so wickedly.

“What should we do?” she asked. “His mother has been missing for years and his father is the only family he has at home. Oh no, this is really terrible. Where would he even go?”

“You can bring him here,” Master Fu replied.

Marinette nearly choked. “What are you saying!? We can’t bring him here, he’ll find out about our miraculous!”

“Marinette,” the guardian said calmly, “we do not have many options. This is the only place where we know he will surely be safe. With Wayzz’s magic of protection, we can make sure that his father will not find us here.”

“But the miraculous...”

“Do not worry about the secret of the miraculous, no one knows how to manage it better than us,” he answered, offering her a small supportive smile.

“Yeah, I guess you’re right,” she sighed.

Looking up to the cabinet beside her, she noticed that the two kwamis were now resting against the base of the gramophone that secretly housed the Miracle Box. Marinette had no idea what she was going to tell Adrien, and it made her heart ache deeply to even think about having to break that kind of news to him. Master Fu had been right though, she would do whatever it took to keep him safe.

“If we’re going out again, I need to get Tikki something to eat first. You wouldn’t happen to have any cookies on hand would you?”

“Of course,” Master Fu replied, standing up from the mat. “I am always prepared for Tikki’s sweet tooth.”

“Hey!” a tiny voice squeaked from above Marinette.

She couldn’t help but giggle softly at her kwami’s protest. It felt good to laugh. It reminded her that even though it didn’t feel like it right now, everything would be okay.

She stood up as well, and finished her tea while the red kwami sat nibbling away on a plate of chocolate chip cookies Master Fu had then brought out for her. For the first time since she’d seen Gabriel transform in the parking lot, Marinette finally felt like she could think clearly.

As she let herself and her kwami recharge, she tried to figure out where Adrien would most likely be right now. The akuma fight had taken them very close to fashion show, and everyone inside who had not already been given a storm cloud had gone into hiding. As a result, the show had been left completely unattended for quite a while. It was a safe bet to say that it had been canceled for today. She also knew that Gabriel didn’t let Adrien actually go too many places, especially at night, which meant that by now he was probably just back at his home.

It made sense now why his father was always so controlling about where he went. Couldn't have his son get caught up in too many of his own attacks. People might get suspicious.

Tikki flew to Marinette's shoulder a few minutes later, declaring that she was all charged up and ready to go.

“We’ll be back,” Marinette said with a wave, quickly crossing the room to leave.

Master Fu nodded back to her. “Be safe.”

“Thanks, we will."

Once she passed through the main doorway of the room, she ran.

As she sped down the stairs, the memory of the time she’d saved Adrien when his akumatized bodyguard had dropped him off a skyscraper flashed in her mind. She couldn’t stand the thought of leaving him alone with his father for another second.

“Tikki, spots on!”

Marinette didn’t pause her pace as the familiar pink light engulfed her, and as soon as she made it past the front door, she threw out her yo-yo and swung herself back out into the rain.

The Agreste mansion was not too far from Master Fu’s shop, so it only took her a few minutes to drop down onto its roof.

She walked over to the edge closest to where she knew Adrien’s room was. The sooner she got this over with, the sooner everyone would be safe. Even though the akuma from earlier had just been a little boy, Hawk Moth, Gabriel, had been creating more and more powerful akumas lately. It was usually taking her and Chat much longer to defeat them now, and the fact that they’d saved the boy so easily tonight worried her. It was almost as if he was just a distraction while Gabriel planned something bigger, and she wanted to take his miraculous away before they could find out what it was the hard way.

Ladybug looked down. The ledge outside Adrien’s windows was narrow, but she could manage. Her heartbeat picked up again as she lowered herself down with her yo-yo, the reality sinking in that she was really about to tell her crush that his father was actually a supervillain. Once her feet landed on the ledge, she released her yo-yo and put it back in its place on her hip.

Through the large clear windows she could see Adrien lying on his back atop the covers of his bed. His knees were drawn up and he had both of his arms crossed over his face, but she couldn’t tell if he was actually asleep or not. The suit she had sewn him herself was disregarded on the couch in front of him, and instead it looked like he was wearing casual sweats and a white t-shirt. She hadn’t even gotten to see him wear the suit this evening.

Even with the rain pounding against her back, she could feel her heartbeat thrum throughout her entire body.

She gulped.

With one hand still gripping the wall, she knocked loudly against the glass, and watched as Adrien slowly moved his hands away from his face in confusion. The moment his eyes landed on her, he bolted up from the bed and ran over to her.

“Ladybug?” he asked once he undid the lock and pulled the window open. “What are you doing here?”

She stood frozen in place on the ledge while the wind blew her hair harshly behind her. She opened her mouth to speak, but the words refused to come out.

He looked up at her from below, clearly surprised at her presence, though who wouldn’t be. However, she noticed that he also looked very tired, almost even sad.

And he was definitely afraid of something.

She told herself that it was probably just because when a superhero came to visit you at night in the pouring rain, it was usually not for a fun reason. He most likely thought there was an akuma after him. Ladybug almost wished it were that simple.

“Ladybug?” he called again, concern growing in his voice.

She needed to say something, anything, at least greet him. Instead, tears welled up in her eyes.

He held out a hand to her, silently inviting her inside. She took it.

As she climbed down into the room she didn’t trust herself to speak, for fear that if she did then the tears would finally fall. She needed to be strong for Adrien. She couldn’t begin to even imagine what it would feel like for him once she told him.

“Wait here,” he said softly, turning away from her to walk to his bathroom.

He returned a moment later with a light green bath towel in his hands, and it was then that she realized her hair was dripping wet all over again. She flushed as she took it, quickly drying the excess water from her hair before wrapping the towel around her shoulders.

“Th-Thanks,” she finally managed out, staring at her toes.

“Of course.”

His voice was so gentle, and the familiarity warmed her heart, but she kept her gaze down, afraid that she would never be able to get her message out if she was looking right at him.

“A-Adrien.”

Though she tried her hardest, she couldn’t stop the single tear that fell down onto her mask as she spoke his name.

He stood only a foot in front of her now, and his presence felt as if it were pulling her in. Her head tilted up before she could stop it, and she looked into his eyes, her tear now on full display.

“Adrien I’m-,” she tried again, “I’m s-so, so sorry, but-”

“No.”

The single word shook Ladybug to her core. “What?”

He took a step back. “I said no. Please don’t say it.”

Their eyes remained locked, and she saw his fear from before now consuming him.

“But, I haven’t even said anything yet,” she replied, trying to figure out what he was thinking. Did he really already know what she was going to say? There was no way. She was certain that Adrien had never known about his father’s secret identity. But then, what reason would he have to cut her off? And why on earth did he look so terrified?

She was lost.

“Ladybug.”

His pained expression made her chest tighten.

“I’m begging you,” he whispered, his voice cracking. “Please don’t say it.”

Ladybug didn’t understand what was going on. The only other person who could have possibly known about Adrien’s father was Chat, but he had made it pretty clear that he didn’t believe her. Though it was still possible that he’d already come to warn Adrien anyway.

“I-I…” she stuttered, unsure of how to respond.

“I’m sorry,” Adrien said, backing away from her. “I can’t.”

Ladybug watched as he turned and ran from her, making a straight line for his bathroom. The door fell shut loudly behind him, though she didn’t hear a click from any lock following it. She remained stunned in place for a few seconds before she dropped the towel from her shoulders and ran after him.

“Adrien!” she called out, knocking on the door.

No response.

Putting her ear to the door, she listened carefully. Though her hearing wasn’t as good as Chat’s, Tikki’s power still gave her a bit of a boost.

Ladybug closed her eyes and concentrated.

The only sound she could hear was a soft wind rustling what she guessed was probably a shower curtain.

“Adrien?” she tried again.

As she’d feared, he still didn’t respond. She was running out of options. She really didn’t want to push him, but it wasn’t safe for him to stay here. The plan for what would happen after tonight was still unclear, but she knew that right now she needed to get him out of here. Slowly, she pushed down on the door handle, cracking it open only an inch wide.

“Adrien I know you’re upset, but I really need to talk to you.”

She listened carefully, but even with the door now open she couldn’t hear any sign of him. Taking in a deep breath, she knew what she had to do.

“I’m coming in now, okay?” Pushing the door in all the way, she immediately looked around the large bathroom. Her stomach dropped when she didn’t find him. She continued walking up to the tall glass doors that led to the shower and bath area and peered through, but the lights weren’t even turned on.

“Adrien, please,” she called out into the darkness as she pushed open one of the doors.

She felt around the wall inside until she found the light switches, immediately turning them all on. But she still couldn’t find him.

For a moment she stood there completely baffled as panic began pumping through her veins.

The wind from the opened window rustled the shower curtains again, drawing her attention to them. If she hadn't had her spots on in that moment, she was sure she would have never gathered the courage to pull the curtains back. She closed one eye as she did, but was left staring in shock when she found the shower completely empty as well.

“Adrien!” she yelled, spinning around to frantically look around the bathroom again. But it was no use.

He was gone.

Chapter Text

Standing in the center of the bathroom, Ladybug felt her panic begin to choke her. There was only one way Adrien could have possibly left his bathroom: the window. The high window.

She knew he was fit, but she highly doubted he would be able to actually climb down from this height, let alone with the storm raging outside. The only other possibility though, was that he had somehow climbed up to the roof and that seemed even less likely.

There was only one way for her to find out for herself, and it wasn’t by continuing to stand there gaping like an idiot.

Not wasting another second in the empty bathroom, she jumped up through the window in one elegant leap, glancing to the ground as she hoisted herself up onto the roof. From what she could see, the ground below his window was bare, and dread grew in her stomach as she realized the roof was as well. Running across it now, she looked down on all sides of the mansion trying to see if Adrien was even still on the property at all, but it quickly became clear he wasn’t.

She had to force herself not to scream out his name. It was very possible that Gabriel was inside the mansion, and though he hadn’t seemed to hear her shouts from inside Adrien’s room, she still had to avoid directing his attention to her at all costs. Right now it seemed Adrien was the cost.

Opening up her yo-yo in a flash, she tried calling Chat while silently begging that he was currently transformed. After only one ring it went straight to voicemail though, and she roughly snapped her yo-yo shut, cutting off his recorded voice.

This was really bad. If Adrien was all alone while he was this upset, he would be the perfect target for one of Hawk Moth’s tainted butterflies. She wouldn’t put it past his father to take advantage of his own son like that, the same way he took advantage of everyone else.

Her arms moved faster than her brain, and before she realized it, she was already swinging through the nearby streets scanning every person she passed. The rain made it difficult to see the details of the ground below her, but that didn’t dissuade her in the least. She was positive she could recognize Adrien anywhere.

With every street she looked through though, her worry only increased. He wasn’t anywhere near his house at all anymore.

If any other tears fell from her eyes as she swung through the air, she didn’t notice.

Time escaped her as she searched, but after what had to have been at least half an hour since she’d leapt off the roof of the mansion, she began to accept the fact that she simply would not be able to find him. It had never occurred to her before that he was someone so good at hiding, but clearly there were many things she still didn’t know about him. Maybe that would have been different if she’d actually been able to squeeze out more than a single broken sentence whenever she was around him, but there was nothing she could do about it now.

She’d already looked through all the streets he could have possibly run to, and fear consumed her as she continued to speed through the sky. She’d even swung by the bedroom windows of Nino, Chloe, and Alya, but every one of them had been completely alone. The only thing that calmed her worries in the slightest, was that she hadn’t heard any screams come from the civilians below her. Wherever he was, he probably hadn’t been akumatized.

Probably wasn’t good enough though, and her chest burned.

There was nothing left she could think of to do except return to Master Fu and try to explain how she’d somehow managed to lose an entire boy.

Turning herself around in the air, she started swinging back in the direction of the same alley she had dropped down in earlier. It would be easier to just detransform once she was inside Master Fu’s home, but she couldn’t risk anyone seeing her enter the shop as Ladybug, especially not when so many other miraculous resided there. It was already bad enough that she’d come out the front door transformed earlier.

This time when she landed in between the tall buildings and let her transformation drop, she ran as fast as she could down the street while trying her best to wring out her pigtails without slowing her pace. The water in her hair felt like it was weighing her down so much more now, and she wanted it gone.

When she came up to Master Fu’s shop, she quickly made her way inside, not even registering that her kwami had opened the lock for her again. The moment the door fell shut behind her, Marinette yelled out to Master Fu and began to race down the hallway and up the stairs.

“Master Fu! Adrien’s missing! I went to talk to him like you said, but then he ran off! And I still can’t get a hold of Chat!”

When she finally stopped outside the door to his main room, she was panting.

“Do not worry, it is alright,” Master Fu called from the other side.

She could tell from the sound of his voice that he was all the way across the room, and she practically squirmed while she waited for him to come over.

“It’s really not-”

The rest of her words died in her throat when he pulled the door open and the room behind it was revealed to her.

There, in the exact same spot she had been sitting in earlier, was Adrien. He had a small blanket draped around his shoulders, and his hands held a steaming cup of tea.

Just like hers had.

She stared at him with her jaw dropped open, and he was staring straight back. His mouth remained closed, but his eyes were wide.

Unable to form words, Marinette turned to look at Master Fu for an explanation, but the elderly man only nodded at her silently and her eyes snapped right back to Adrien. How had he even found his way here? Back in his room she’d never gotten the chance to tell him where she was supposed to take him, and the only other person besides herself that would even know to seek Master Fu’s help was...

Oh.

Oh.

Conveniently, it was only then that Marinette noticed the black kwami lounging on the center of the mat, surrounded by a pile of cheese dumped out of its box. She’d met the kwami before, it was back when Chloe’s mother had been akumatized and Marinette had needed to save... Adrien.

“Oh, hey Marinette,” Plagg called out nonchalantly.

But Marinette’s eyes were already locked with Adrien’s again.

“H-Hey,” she breathed.

He stayed silent, setting his cup of tea down on the floor beside him, but he did not break her gaze. It seemed it was his turn now to be rendered speechless.

Slowly, she set her purse down by the door and began to walk across the room to him. With every small step she took, more and more things became clear, like a thousand puzzle pieces suddenly connecting together inside of her mind.

When she was halfway to him, she finally noticed the drying tear streaks that ran down both of his cheeks. She felt a sharp pain in her chest as she finished connecting all the dots. Of course he’d been upset when she’d tried to tell him about Hawk Moth the first time. And the second.

Now though, all of his anger from earlier was completely erased from his face. Instead, he stared up at her in shock while she continued to walk delicately towards him.

She could tell he was connecting his own dots as well, she had learned to read his expressions as if they were her own. There just wasn’t a mask blocking the full view from her anymore.

When she finally stopped her movements across the floor, she was less than an arm’s-length away from him. Standing there before him, she was unsure of what to say. There were a million thoughts that her mind wanted to blurt out, but true to her nature, she couldn’t get out a single word as she stared into the familiar eyes of the boy who sat in front of her at school.

She watched as a deep pink flush formed across his cheeks and his eyes began to water, but he held her gaze like he would shatter if he looked away.

As if almost acting on instinct, she sat down beside him wordlessly and wrapped her arms around his shoulders, gently pulling him towards her until he rested his cheek against her shoulder. She couldn’t see his face, but she could feel the wetness that seeped through her already damp shirt. She didn’t mind.

When he started sniffling, she lifted one of her hands to slowly massage her fingers through his hair. When his sniffles turned into sobs that raked his body, she held him tighter.

They stayed like that for a long time, and the rest of the world faded away. She didn’t know if they had been there for minutes, or hours, or even years, but it didn’t matter. All that existed now, here in her arms, was the boy she loved. The same boy who loved her too.

Somewhere in the back of her mind, a voice was screaming at the revelation that her over-flirtatious, crime-fighting partner, was also the person she’d spent the last few years falling head over heels for. She didn’t give much attention to that voice though, she would have plenty of time to freak out about it later.

The feeling of his head slightly shifting drew her out of her thoughts. She wasn’t sure when exactly she had brought her own head down against his.

His sobs had died down now, but his breath was still hot and it set the skin beneath her shirt on fire. A few hours earlier she’d been blushing furiously when he'd merely held a door open for her, but now she couldn’t even imagine life without the feeling of his breath against her collar bone.

“Adrien,” she whispered, speaking for the first time since she’d come over to him.

He made no move to lift his head away from her as he took in a shaky breath. She was glad he didn’t move. She never wanted either of them to move.

“Marinette,” he rasped out.

It startled her. Suddenly it felt like she was hearing him say her name for the first time.

In a way, she guessed he was.

“Marinette,” he breathed again.

She’d never heard his voice be so delicate before, neither as Adrien nor Chat. It sent a chill down her spine, but she was warmer now than she had been all evening. Maybe even more than she’d ever been in her life.

Continuing to gently card her hands through his hair, she felt him take another breath to speak.

“Is it…” He paused as another tremor shook his body. “Is it true?”

He didn’t need to clarify what was he was asking, and it was clear he already knew the answer anyway.

Marinette started to offer him another apology, but she swallowed the two words right before they could leave her lips. He wasn’t looking for any more of her pity. He was trying to accept reality. And even if it was painful for her, even if it made her whole heart ache, there was nothing she wouldn’t do for him.

“Yes,” she whispered against his hair.

She waited, focusing on how his hair tickled her cheek, but he didn’t speak up again. He only wrapped his arms around her waist, pulling himself further into her.

Breathing in deeply, Marinette could make out the faint scent of leather, and despite the sadness in her heart, it made her smile.

Not long after that, she felt Adrien’s grip loosen and his head begin to droop off her shoulder.

As gently as she could, she lowered him onto the mat until he was laying down on his back. Suddenly remembering that the two of them weren’t actually the only ones there, she looked around the room. She found Master Fu walking towards them from one of the smaller side rooms, carrying a large blanket and a couple of pillows with him. She accepted them silently, mouthing out her thanks to him before he turned and walked back to the room he’d come from, shutting off the lights above them on his way out.   

Never in a million years did Marinette think she would actually be tucking in Adrien Agreste while he slept. Then again, she never thought she’d be tucking in Chat Noir either. The very idea almost made her want to roll her eyes and chuckle, but she refrained from the temptation. When this was all over though, she would definitely be teasing him about it.

The small blanket he’d wrapped around himself earlier was now underneath him, and she decided that it was probably easiest to leave it where it was. Carefully, she cupped her hand beneath the back of his head and lifted just enough so that she could slide one of the pillows underneath. The way his short strands of hair spread out against it made her stomach flutter. She already thought he couldn’t possibly get more beautiful, yet even in his sleep, here he was proving her wrong. That was so Chat of him.

Only until after another minute had passed did she force herself to tear her gaze from him. Standing up, she tiptoed across the room as quietly as she could and slipped off her shoes next to her purse by the door. Her clothes were basically dry now, but without his touch she still felt freezing. Goosebumps scattered across her arms as she walked back and placed the second pillow down right next to his.

Gently lowering herself down beside him, leaving about two feet in between them for courtesy, she spread out the large blanket over the both of them. She didn’t realize how exhausted she really was until the moment she let her head fall against the pillow. Though she supposed it made sense. With all that had happened, her adrenaline must have been running in overdrive all evening.

She had only closed her eyes for a moment when she remembered that she hadn’t told her parents she wasn’t coming home that night. Luckily they always went to sleep early in order to start baking in the morning, so they were expecting her to come home from the fashion show after they’d gone to bed anyway. Reaching into the pocket of her jeans, she pulled out her phone. The light blinded her for a few seconds, but her eyes quickly adjusted and she typed out a text to her mom saying that she was sleeping over at Alya’s for the night.

With that one less worry off her chest, she set her phone down beside her pillow and slid back under the thick blanket until only her head remained uncovered.

She laid on her back for a while with her eyes closed, but as exhausted as she was, sleep wouldn’t come to her. Even though she was fully engulfed in all of the warmth the blanket had to offer her, it wasn’t enough.

She turned her head towards the boy beside her, watching as his eyebrows drew together in discomfort while he slept.

Turning fully on her side, she scooted closer to him until her head was barely still on her own pillow. She then reached a hand out beneath the blanket and traced her fingertips down his arm with feather-light touches until she found his hand where it rested flat against his stomach. With butterflies swarming in her chest, she placed her hand on top of his and laced their fingers together, mesmerized as the tension on his face finally relaxed into a peaceful expression.

The last thought that went through her mind as she drifted off, was of how badly she would probably freak out in the morning when she opened her eyes only to find her school crush laying beside her.

 

~~~

 

As consciousness slowly crept back to Adrien, the first thing he noticed was that he was unusually cozy. His eyes remained closed, but he was rapidly becoming aware of the feeling of something tucked beneath his arm and against his chest. Someone, he realized when he registered the warmth of their breath against his skin. Slowly, he let his eyes flutter open, blinking a few times to adjust to the sunlight that streamed down from clear skies onto the both of them. It surprised him for a moment when he realized that the light was not coming from the large windows of his bedroom, but from two small glass-paneled patio doors framed with an elegant wood.

So it was all true then.

It took only a moment for a fresh wave of despair to come crashing down on him again, nearly drowning him as all the connections between his father and Hawk Moth flashed through his mind, just as they already had a million times the night before. His heart rate began to pick up and he closed his eyes again, trying just to breathe.

After running away from Ladybug last night, he’d gone straight to Master Fu to get clarification on just how wrong she’d been. But even on his way there, ever since Ladybug had first left him alone that night really, he couldn’t help but think of all the things that suddenly made sense if he considered what she’d told him to be true. It would explain why his father always hid from the public eye, why his father didn’t want to let him go to school, why his father was in possession of the Miraculous Spellbook, and worst of all, it would explain why his father had been akumatized only minutes after Ladybug had first told him of her suspicions all that time ago. He didn’t know how his father could have possibly heard them talking about him when they had been on rooftops nowhere near his home, but that only scared Adrien more.

By the second time Ladybug had tried to tell him about his father last night, he’d desperately needed to hear from someone else that it wasn’t true. When he’d arrived at Master Fu’s though, the guardian had only looked upon him with pitiful eyes. It was like he’d already known exactly why Adrien had come, but he didn’t want to say it either.

“I’m sorry.” That’s all the guardian had said to him.

Adrien’s attention was diverted from his recollection of the previous evening when he felt the person currently cuddled into him shift, causing the top of their head to brush against his chin. Marinette was pressed right into him, her forehead and the tip of her nose warm against the top of his chest which had been left exposed by the v-neck he was wearing. Even their legs brushed together, though his remained covered by his sweats and he could tell she still wore her jeans.

Despite all the pain the events of last night had caused him, he couldn’t bring himself to wish they’d never happened. Not all of them. Obviously it hadn’t been the most ideal way to reveal his identity to his partner, but the feeling of her small body curled up against his more than made up for it.

Ever since his mother had disappeared, he’d always feared that one day his father would leave him too. With every passing day his father became more and more distant, and everyday Adrien’s fears grew just a little bigger. He’d never felt more alone in the world. Even though he did have friends at school, he was rarely ever allowed to hang out with them, and he wasn’t as close to them as they were to each other anyway. He was simply the odd one out.

His only salvation was his masked partner. When he was with her, it was only just the two of them. There were akumas to fight and civilians to save of course, but when there weren’t, when there was just her, himself, and the stars above them as they sat on the high beams of the Eiffel Tower, that was when he truly felt like he wasn’t alone anymore.

It was his favorite feeling in the world.

Or, it had been. He decided right then that his new favorite feeling was having her body flush against his without any magic suit to block her breath from tickling his skin.

He’d definitely been surprised last night when he’d heard someone who could have only been Ladybug running up the stairs, only to find the girl he’d left back at the fashion show standing behind the door instead. He wasn’t in the least bit disappointed though. Out of the few friends he had at school, she was definitely the girl he enjoyed being around the most. He’d always thought of Marinette as a person who, although could be a bit klutzy sometimes, was brilliant in her own spectacular way. He hadn’t realized it before, but once he’d taken a moment to think back, so many similarities overlapping between Ladybug and Marinette became obvious. They had the same fierce confidence, the same adorable laugh, the same beautiful eyes. He sort of felt like an idiot for not seeing it sooner.

Given that she was also the girl he’d always tried desperately to impress, it probably should have been embarrassing when he'd cried into her shoulder for what seemed like hours. But it wasn’t. He’d simply felt safe, like she was the one person in the whole world who he could break down in front of without fear of any judgement. And really, she was. If it had been her who needed him, he would have been there for her in a heartbeat. She was more than his best friend, she understood him on a level that was almost hard to comprehend. Very often he found that they both knew what the other was thinking without either of them saying a single word. Last night when she’d held him, he’d been especially grateful for that.

He didn’t actually recall falling asleep, but it must have been while he was still in her arms. To think that she’d stayed with him until morning though, that was something he’d never actually expected. Then again, she always seemed to know exactly what he needed.

Last night, the night he’d essentially lost his father too, he had simply needed to not be alone anymore.

Taking in a shaky breath, he tightened his hold around her just a bit.  

He knew his father wasn’t actually gone, not like his mother was, but somehow it felt just as awful if not worse. Like his whole world was really crumbling down around him.

He didn’t know what he was supposed to do now. It wasn’t like he could just put his life on pause to have time to get this all figured out. He would still have to go home, go to school, go do all the activities he normally did, but how could he actually do any of those things when he was so close to defeating Paris’s supervillain? And how could he defeat Paris’s supervillain knowing that he would have to fight his own father in the process? He didn’t know. He didn’t even want to think about it. He’d already done so for hours yesterday and it had only resulted in endless tears. The only thing he wanted to think about now, was the girl he cradled against him.

Even if his world was crumbling, even if despair was trying its best to drown him, as long as she didn’t leave him too, somehow, he would make it out okay.

The sun was now beginning to reach his eyes through the patio doors, and although he didn’t know the exact time, he knew they would need to get up for school soon.

Leaning back just a little, he tilted his head down and placed a gentle kiss to the top of her head.

“Marinette,” he whispered.

The girl in his arms only let out a weak groan before hunching her shoulders in and cuddling into him further, as if trying to use his body to block any daylight from reaching her. It was without a doubt the most adorable thing he’d ever seen in his life.

“Maariiii,” he called a bit louder in an almost sing-song voice.

“Five more hours,” she grumbled into his chest, though her voice was so faint that he was just barely able to make out her words.

It took more control than he expected to not let out the laugh that bubbled up inside him, and instead he forced himself to simply smile into her hair.

“Don’t you mean five more minutes?” he asked, slowly beginning to rub her back with the hand he had wrapped around her.

“Nn-nh.”

He couldn’t help the giggle that escaped past his lips at that. Even in her sleep she was as stubborn as ever. God he loved her so much. He wanted to wake up like this everyday, he never wanted his arms to be empty ever again.

However, he knew that she didn’t actually love him return. Not the same way he loved her at least. She was his miraculous partner through and through, but she wasn’t in love with him romantically. She’d always told him that she couldn’t accept his invitations because she was already in love with someone else in her civilian life. Before yesterday he’d had no way of knowing who it could possibly be, but maybe now he’d at least have a chance of finding out. Either way he knew he would never be able to stop feeling the way he did about her.

The glare from the sun blinded him then for a moment, reminding him of his task at hand: to wake the sleeping beauty. Clearly gently calling her name wasn’t doing the trick, so that meant he had to resort to other means.

“It’s time to wake up Bugaboo,” he said quietly right against her ear.

She jolted in place as he spoke his special nickname for her, and he smugly smiled to himself in triumph. A moment later he felt her body relax again, though he could have sworn her face now felt a little bit hotter. He figured that like himself, she probably just hadn’t been expecting to wake up wrapped in someone’s arms. Or more specifically, in her fellow superhero’s arms.

“Are you gonna get up for school?” he asked with another giggle.

She shifted for another moment before giving her muffled response. “You can go, school is cold. I’m staying here cause you’re warm.”

“My dearest Lady,” he purred, “that makes no sense.” Finally unwrapping himself from her, he slowly sat up while being careful not to move her too much from where she still laid on the mat. He had to admit though, the idea of staying cuddled like that all day was more than a little tempting. If he hadn’t already forced himself to pull away from her, he probably really would have stayed there all day.

He watched in amusement as she peeked open one eye to look up at him and glare accusingly.

“Shut up,” she mumbled.

Quickly closing her eye again, she reached for the blanket, pulling it all the way up to her chin, and he used the opportunity to take in her true morning beauty for the first time. Her hair was still in its pigtails from yesterday, though they were now very uneven and random strands were sticking out, and her cheeks were flushed with the most precious shade of pink. The way the golden morning sunlight streamed across her face though, dusting her eyelashes and highlighting her tiny freckles, was what was truly enchanting.

“Ah you are awake, good morning Adrien,” a voice called out quietly from across the room.

Following the sound of the voice, he turned his head around to find Master Fu walking into the room carrying a tray topped with a teapot and three steaming cups.

“Good morning,” Adrien responded with a small wave before moving his hand to rub the back of his neck. “Sorry for kinda crashing on your floor.”

The guardian regarded him with a kind smile, the pity now mostly gone from his eyes. Mostly.

“It is no problem at all, you both are always welcome here,” he assured. Sitting down across from them, the guardian placed the tea set on the floor in front of himself. “Perhaps you should wake her up soon though, you both need to get ready for school do you not?”

“Oh don’t worry,” Adrien said with a small chuckle as he reached for one of the cups. “She’s already awake.”

“No I’m not,” a muffled voice called out from beside them.

Lightly smiling into his cup as he took a sip of the tea, Adrien watched the girl laying before him in awe. He had just received the worst possible news imaginable, and yet here he was the next morning smiling away regardless, simply because of her. He knew everything would really catch up to him once he was more awake, but for now he tried his best to simply enjoy being able to smile at her sleeping form. Pretend-sleeping form.

“Marinette,” he cooed, reaching out one hand to gently rock her body under the blanket. “Your tea is gonna get cold.”

He watched as she groaned again and squirmed under the blanket before reluctantly pushing herself up and letting the blanket fall into her lap.

“Good morning,” Master Fu greeted from where he sat only a few feet away from her.

She took a moment to blink the sleep from her eyes. “Good morning.”

Her words trailed off into a yawn, and she reached up to pull out the red hair ties from her pigtails which were mostly fallen out anyway. When her hair was fully free, she combed through it with her fingers and Adrien thought his heart might actually jump out of his chest. He rarely got the chance to see her with her hair down, and the added bit of bedhead made it feel extra special. It was like she allowed him to see her in a state that the rest of the world wasn’t invited to. It also happened to look ridiculously cute.

Reaching out with his free hand, he picked up the remaining cup of tea for her.

“What time is it?” she asked as she accepted the cup from him.

“7:16,” Master Fu supplied with a quick glance to his watch.

The two teenagers responded to him in unison.

“It’s so late.”

“It’s so early.”

With questioning eyes, they both turned their heads to face each other.

“No it’s not.”

“No it’s not.”

“Stop being in sync with me!” she said while pointing a finger at him, though the corners of her lips were upturned in a smile she was clearly trying to suppress.

Adrien snorted. “I’m pretty sure being in sync with you, is like, the number one thing I’m good at.”  

“Yeah yeah, whatever,” she grumbled, bringing her knees up and hiding behind the cup she finally began to drink from.

However, neither the cup nor her hands were very effective in hiding the way her pink cheeks deepened in shade until they were nearly red. He was used to seeing Marinette get flustered often, but it was very rare to witness it happen to his Lady. Now that he knew her little secret, he could have so much more fun with that, especially with their masks on.

After another minute of silence though, he watched as her flush calmed down and a sadness seemed to settle in her eyes. He moved his gaze down to the floor directly in front of him. It was obvious what she was thinking about. They’d have to address it this morning eventually, and he couldn’t actually stay here for much longer. He was supposed to be fully groomed and in the dining room of the mansion by 7:30. If he left here soon then he could probably get there on time, and even if he did end up being a few minutes late then he could just tell Nathalie he overslept. Any longer than that though, and he would be really pushing it.

“Is it safe?” Marinette spoke up quietly next to him. “Like, to go to school I mean?”

Adrien kept his gaze down.

“Yes it is safe,” Master Fu answered. “Hawk Moth-” The guardian’s words cut off though when Adrien looked up to him with tears suddenly threatening to form in his eyes again.

He really didn’t want to cry anymore, but hearing that name was so difficult all of a sudden. Even though he’d spent the entirety of the previous evening coming to terms with the fact that his father and that man were one and the same, actually hearing it spoken out loud was like having it engraved into his mind with a knife. And it was painful. Extremely, painful.

He didn't realize he’d started holding his breath until he felt a body press against his side, forcing his focus to shift to the feeling of her arm against his. Her presence was grounding. She wasn’t holding him now like she was last night, but she had scooted over until she sat leaning lightly against him, and it was enough to help him remember to take a deep breath.

“Gabriel does not know your identities,” Master Fu started again, “so you are not in any harm from going to school. In fact, it is important that you go so that you do not draw any attention to yourselves by your absences.”

It was true. If they wanted to continue to have the advantage over his father, then they would need to stay under the radar as much as possible. Luckily for him, it wasn’t terribly hard to go unnoticed by his father.

The ache in his stomach from last night returned to him at that thought.

“Speaking of absences,” Adrien spoke up, though it took much of his willpower to keep his voice steady, “I should be getting home soon before anyone actually realizes I’m gone. Normally I would have woken up a bit ago and they’ll be expecting me in the dining room soon.”  

“Y-yeah me too,” Marinette said. “I need to get my school bag and stuff. And wash my hair. I can’t see it right now, but to be honest, I’m kinda scared to.”

Despite all the anxiety that swirled around inside of him, he found himself letting out a breathless chuckle.

“Trust me My Lady, you look as beautiful as ever.”

“Yeah, says the literal model.” She punctuated the last word with a gentle poke against his shoulder before standing up beside him and stretching out her arms above her head. After taking a moment to adjust her shirt, she reached one arm down in front of him with her palm open and facing upwards. It was such a simple gesture, but at the same time it wasn’t. Normally it was only himself who offered her his hand, and only when they wore their masks. They certainly never did anything of the sort outside of them, not before now.

When he looked up to her, butterflies slowly began to flutter inside of him, and even though they didn’t fully drown out his stomach ache, he still welcomed the feeling. Placing his hand in hers, he let her help him up.

“Are we ready to go?” a high-pitched voice asked from behind him once he was standing. He was taken aback for a moment, it wasn’t a voice he recognized.

Turning around, he found three kwami’s flying towards them, only two of which he’d met before. The third was a red kwami with big blue eyes and very familiar black spots.

“You must be Tikki, Mari’s kwami! I’ve heard so much about you,” he said with a delighted wonder taking over in his eyes while the other kwamis dispersed.

“Yes I’m so glad I finally get to meet you face to face Adrien!” Tikki squealed, spinning around in a circle excitedly. “Marinette has told me all about you.” The red kwami gave him a knowing wink and Adrien’s eyebrows shot up.

“Has she now?” he responded with a smirk pulling on his lips.

“Oh yes! Especially-”

“Tikki!” Marinette’s betrayed voice exclaimed from behind them.

Both he and the kwami giggled lightly as they turned their attention back to her. Upon her shoulder Adrien found his own kwami who was currently laying on his back and playing with strands of her dark hair as if he were a kitten with a ball of yarn.

“Well I see Plagg has already made himself comfortable,” Adrien said with distaste.

“Relax, Marinette and I go way back,” the black kwami threw back.

Adrien looked up to Marinette disbelievingly, but she smiled back, scratching Plagg’s head with one of her fingers.

“It’s true, we teamed up together to save you a long time ago. I gotta say, he’s got quite the powerful cataclysm for being so small.”

Adrien blanched. “Wait what?”

A mischievous gleam shined in her eyes then, one he knew all too well.

“I thought you were late getting home? Surely you don’t have time for silly stories of the past,” she answered in an exaggeratedly innocent tone.

Plagg stuck his tongue out at him from his spot on her shoulder.

Adrien rolled his eyes.

“Just keep him, I’m sure Tikki and I will have a great time discussing all your favorite things about me.” He then began to walk towards the main door with the red kwami sitting atop his head, leaving behind the seated guardian, the other kwamis, and one freshly flustered Marinette. “Thank you for your hospitality Master Fu, I am forever grateful, but I believe I must be off.” He called out his thanks with a dramatic half-bow and a quick wave while he walked, but he paused right in front of the door when the guardian responded.

“Do come back here after school you two,” Master Fu spoke up from his spot on the floor. “We need to begin forming a plan, we should not waste any time.”

Of course. That was the reason they were here in the first place. No amount of losing himself in his Lady’s playful banter could make him forget it. Although, that didn't necessarily mean he wouldn’t try.

Adrien looked back to the guardian and then to Marinette, the mischief now gone from her eyes as well, and it was only through holding her gaze that he found his voice to respond.

“Okay.”

She nodded. “Okay.”

The two of them looked away from each other a moment later when Master Fu stood up with a nod and carried the tray which once again held all the cups back to the kitchen with the little green kwami following close behind him.

Once they were alone again, Marinette walked over to where Adrien was standing by the main door, and she slipped on her shoes quietly. He pulled the door open for her while she picked up her purse, but she didn't make any move to walk through. She looked distraught, like she wanted to ask him something but she didn’t know how.

It wasn’t hard to guess what it was.

“I’ll be fine at home, don’t worry,” he assured her.

Though he wasn’t actually sure he believed it himself. He’d held himself together enough this far, but only because she’d been by his side. And cuddled into his chest. He didn’t know how he would hold up once he was alone at his home again.

Realistically, he knew he would be alright. He wasn’t in any actual danger, not anymore so than every other day. If he just went through the motions like he always did, then he would be at school with her again before he knew it. It wasn’t like he would actually see his father this morning anyway, the man never came out of his office during the day except for the occasional meeting or event.

“Are you sure?” Marinette looked like she didn’t really believe him. “I can always wait outside, j-just in case, or something…”

“No, it’s alright, really I’ll be fine.” Maybe if he said it out loud enough times then he actually could convince himself to believe it.

Letting go of the door now, he took a step towards her.

In one swift motion he took one of her hands in his and brought it to his lips, placing a light kiss to the back of it just like he had so many times before. The only difference now was that there were no spots to hide her bare skin.

“Go home My Lady, I’ll see you soon.”

A deep rose color flooded her cheeks as she nodded. “O-Okay.”

Another moment passed, but she still hadn't made any move to pull her hand away from his. Usually she would have done it almost immediately.

He quirked an eyebrow at her and her flush only deepened, brightening the sparkling blue of her eyes in contrast.

“I-It’s just that, I-I…”

“That you...?”

The butterflies in his stomach flapped their wings a little harder as he waited for her to find her words.

“I need Tikki to get home,” she rushed out in one breath, finally letting go of his hand to point at the kwami that sat in his hair.

Looking up as if he could actually see the top of his head, he pushed his lips into a fake pout.

“But she hasn’t even told me all your deepest secrets yet.”

Marinette's cheeks went cherry-red while her jaw dropped accusingly at his words.

“Yeah,” the kwami giggled above him. “Like about your cr-”

“Tikki, spots on!”

A wave of pure adoration washed over him as the girl standing before him transformed from his classmate into his very best friend in a flash of sparkling pink light. He’d known it was coming, but finally seeing it with his own eyes after all this time was simply stunning. She was so beautiful.

“Well don’t just stand there staring, you transform too!” she huffed. Her suit was almost as red as her cheeks.

“As you wish, My Lady.”

The kwami who was still sitting upon her shoulder decided to speak up then. “Hey I better be getting a lot of cheese-”

“Plagg, claws out.”

Familiar green light engulfed him only for a moment, and as it faded away he found her staring at him in complete awe, her previous embarrassment now seemingly forgotten.

Letting one cat ear fall against his head, he gave her a look of pretend bewilderment. “What, do I have something on my face?”

She rolled her eyes at his antics, but she giggled nonetheless and the angelic sound made a pressure dissolve in his chest that he hadn’t even realized had grown there.  

In that moment, he knew he would be okay when he went home. He knew because once he was there, then he would be driven to school, and then once he was at school he would have the entire day to try and make her giggle as much as he possibly could.

With his eyes still focused on her, he nodded his head towards the patio doors. “Shall we?”

 

~~~

 

Back in his room, Adrien finished pulling on a clean shirt over his freshly washed hair, and let out a sigh as he glanced over to the clock on his desk. He was already seven minutes late for breakfast, and he wasn’t looking forward to being reprimanded by Nathalie.

“Plagg,” he called out, glancing around his room for the kwami.

It was weird. Nothing in his room had changed in the night he’d been gone, and yet for some reason, it felt like he was a stranger standing in it for the first time. The feeling had come over him when he’d first landed down from the window a few minutes prior. He didn’t understand it. He left his room all the time during the night to fight akumas, yet as he looked around now he just couldn’t help but feel like he didn’t truly recognize anything here. Like it was all someone else’s life that he just happened to stumble upon. Surprisingly it wasn’t a frightening feeling, it was just odd. Numbing, almost.

There wasn’t anything he could really do about it though, except for continuing to go through the motions of his morning routine until he could get to school. He’d already showered and gotten dressed in a flash, something he was used to doing from all those akuma nights, and now all that was left to do was go downstairs for breakfast and then wait until 8:20 when his bodyguard would drive him. Maybe if he said he had to talk to a teacher before class or something, he could get his bodyguard to drive him sooner.

Plagg.”

At the second call of his name, the kwami finally appeared in the air in front of Adrien. He hadn’t looked to see where the kwami had been, but he could certainly smell the stink of Camembert coming from his breath.

“Ugh, you’re disgusting.”

Plagg only snickered in response before dashing into the school bag that was propped up on the floor against the desk.

Adrien walked over to the bag, lifted it onto his shoulder, and then made his way out of the room -the room that didn’t actually feel like his- and towards his breakfast that awaited him downstairs.

As he approached the dining room, he made sure to wipe his face clean of any emotion. It would be bad if he went in looking suspicious. He would simply apologize to Nathalie for being late, tell her he overslept and that it wouldn’t happen again, and then that would be that.

When he actually entered the dining room though, it wasn’t Nathalie’s disappointed face that he was greeted with. It was his father’s.

Chapter Text

“You’re late.”

The man seated at the far end of the dining table stared him down, but Adrien only continued to stand frozen by the doorway.

Danger. Fear. Hawk Moth. Run.

Adrien's mind screamed all of them at once, and he had to struggle to keep his feet planted in place. If he ran then it would be the same as admitting he was afraid, and that would only give his father further reason to question him.

He didn’t understand why his father was here in the first place though. He couldn’t really have known that Adrien had spent the night away, could he? Adrien left his room all the time during the night for akumas and patrols, and his father had never showed even the slightest hint of noticing before. He didn’t think he cared enough to. All that man cared about was terrorizing people and stealing the very ring that Adrien wore on his finger.

Luckily for Adrien, his father wasn’t very good at the latter.

Still, he brought his hands together behind his back and used his left hand to cover the miraculous on his right.

“Adrien.” His father’s voice was more impatient now.

There were a number of reasons his father could have chosen to eat breakfast in the dining room this morning, and the only safe way for Adrien to go about this was by assuming the man was ignorant of his overnight absence like always.

“I’m sorry Father,” he said, bowing his head down. “I overslept.”

He was used to apologizing to his father, used to trying to do everything he could to please this man who mercilessly controlled nearly every aspect of his life, but suddenly, having to bow his head as if begging for forgiveness from him made Adrien’s chest feel like it was being filled with smoke.

“I can see that. Don’t let it happen again.” The threat was clear in his father’s voice.  

Adrien lifted his head back up to find the man watching him with ice in his dark eyes. 

“Yes Father,” Adrien replied obediently. The words tasted like ash on his tongue, and the initial panic that had overwhelmed him was draining away now.

It left behind a bitter anger in its place.

Taking a quiet breath, Adrien forced his expression to remain calm while he sat down at his normal spot at the table, opposite from where his father currently sat. Apparently staying under the radar was already turning out to be much more challenging than he’d thought it would be. In an ideal scenario he could run right up and rip the stolen miraculous away from his father, putting an end to all of this before it could go any further. But unfortunately, he was not Chat Noir right now. In this moment, at this table, he was simply the “perfect child” Adrien Agreste.

And perfect children did not rip brooches from their father’s necks.

The chef of the kitchen entered the room then, wordlessly setting down a plate with a small omelette in front of Adrien before disappearing back into the kitchen. There was no plate set in front of his father.

“I do not have more time to waste here,” his father spoke up from across the table. “I only came to see for myself that you got home unharmed from the show last night. I understand your bodyguard wasn’t able to drive you home until after the akuma interruption was dealt with, and obviously I was too occupied with organization matters at that time to see you.”

The cooling omelette was left untouched as Adrien’s mouth parted in astonishment. Many akuma attacks happened around him that, were it not for his superhero identity, he would surely be caught up in as a civilian. However, very rarely did his father actually express any genuine concern over his safety. The akuma last night hadn’t even been that powerful, and Adrien knew for a fact that no one had been injured. And yet, here his father was going out of his way to make sure that he was okay.

A warmness began to grow inside of him at his father’s unexpected display of affection.

“I… Thank you Father, I’m perfectly fine.”

Adrien watched as his father then stood up with a curt nod and promptly exited the room.

Looking down now at his breakfast, Adrien felt his appetite escape him. In a matter of three minutes, his father had made him go from feeling terrified, to mad, to... cared for.

However that too was quickly shattered once Adrien took a moment to remember that, if his father truly was Hawk Moth, then it was directly his fault that Adrien had been put in danger in the first place.

Reaching out a hand, he slid the plate in front of him a few inches away from himself. He didn’t know what he was supposed to think. On one hand, his father had created an akuma while knowing full well that it was close enough to attack his own son, and on the other, he just witnessed his father be about as caring, and well, fatherly, as he got. The fact that the man had actually taken time out of his office just to check on him was a huge deal.

Although, it would also make sense if his father had only done so as part of some intermittent way to ward off any suspicion from himself as being the cause of the akumas.

But still, what if it wasn’t?

Adrien wanted to believe that it wasn’t. He wanted to believe that his father really had purely wanted to make sure that he was okay. If it had been any other day, then Adrien would have believed it right away too. But now, after the last twelve hours he’d had, he couldn’t tell what was real and what was a lie from his father anymore, and the two possibilities raged against each other in his mind. Much like they had last night while he’d been buried into Marinette's embrace.

As he sat here now at the table, going around in the same circle over and over in his head relentlessly, he only found himself at more of a loss. And yet he couldn’t seem to stop. He was only pulled out of his thoughts at the sound of another voice coming from the doorway.

“The car is ready for you Adrien,” Nathalie said in her usual matter-of-fact tone as she entered the room.

Quickly reaching into his pocket, Adrien pulled out his phone to check the time. It was already 8:18 and he hadn’t even touched his omelette.

Time flies when you’re only parent turns out to be a supervillain and you spiral into a resulting crisis. Or so the saying goes.

“Coming,” he replied, standing up from his chair and picking his school bag up from the floor beside him.

He was almost there. He was so close to being with Marinette, with Ladybug, again. He could still feel the ghost of her touch from where she’d been tucked into him beneath the blanket this morning, and a shiver ran down his spine at the memory.

He knew that no matter what he did today the thoughts of his father wouldn’t truly leave him, but of all the possible distractions, the freckled girl was certainly his favorite.

 

~~~

 

The sky above showed no trace of last night’s storm as Marinette walked towards the school building, and she noticed that there weren’t a lot of other students around yet. That was a first. She didn’t think she’d ever been this early in her life. She hadn’t actually checked the time when she left her room a few minutes earlier, she’d only been focused on getting back to Adrien as soon as possible.

When she’d first dropped down onto her bed that morning from her balcony window, she’d suddenly realized just how many pictures of the boy she really had around her room. It wasn’t like she hadn’t already known, she’d put them there herself, but every time she blinked she’d been met with another dozen faces of the boy who she’d just left to go home to Hawk Moth on his own devices.

Alongside his safety, she was also very worried about how he was handling the toll of it all. He’d cried for so long last night, letting out so much grief, and although this morning he’d seemed to bounce back to his normal self, there was no way he could really just be okay. She hadn’t missed the way pain took hold in his eyes at the mere mention of his father’s name.

Every minute she’d left him alone while she was in her room felt like an hour. She’d gotten ready for school quickly and ended up laying on her futon, staring at the ceiling until she just couldn’t sit still for any longer. On her way out the door, she’d grabbed a couple freshly baked croissants, tossing them into her backpack for whenever her appetite returned. Although right now it felt like it never would.

Looking around herself as she approached the school, she spotted a familiar head of auburn hair walking towards the large cement steps not far ahead.

“Alya!” Marinette called out, waving one of her hands up high as she walked over to her.

The girl ahead halted and turned around to her with surprise clearly written on her face.

“I don’t believe my eyes,” Alya said. “Marinette being early to class? On a Monday!?”

Marinette rolled her eyes while her thumbs subconsciously pulled at the straps of her backpack. “Come on, it’s not that big of a deal.”

“Are you kidding?” Alya laughed. “This is a moment that will go down in history!”

“It’s only because I got woken up at the crack of dawn,” Marinette explained with a yawn. If she woke up everyday like she had today, she would probably never be late to school again. And even then if she was still late, at least it wouldn’t be only her seat in the classroom that was empty. The memory of arms wrapped around her this morning flashed in her mind, and she felt heat rise to her cheeks as she looked back to her friend who was smirking devilishly at her.

“Let me guess,” Alya said in a tone that implied she in no way needed to guess. “After the fashion show got canceled you were up all night thinking about Adrien?”

Marinette felt her face get even hotter when she watched her friend wiggle her eyebrows on Adrien’s name. If only she knew just how spot on she was.

“S-Something like that…” Marinette responded, slipping off her backpack in search of the water bottle she knew was in there somewhere. Suddenly, she’d become parched.

Alya threw a hand against her head with laughter. “Girl you are too much.”

The moment she found her bottle, Marinette chugged.

“So did you get to see him last night?” Alya asked. “I saw on the news that the show got canceled pretty early on with akuma attack and all, but you still would have had time to get out a few good stutters to him right?”

Thinking back to the fashion show made Marinette choke on her water and she started coughing harshly.

“Woah are you okay?” her friend asked, reaching out a hand to rub her arm soothingly.

“Y-yeah,” Marinette choked out as she tried to ease her throat.

Alya wasn’t wrong, she had only spoken to Adrien back at the dressing room for a few minutes and in that time there was certainly stuttering involved. It was just, that was before she knew he was Chat and suddenly thinking of how she’d been fumbling over her words simply from being in his presence seemed so silly. That wasn’t to say her insides hadn’t turned into putty whenever she’d looked at him this morning as well, because they definitely had, but he was also her partner and if there was anyone whose presence kept her calm, it was him.

“Yeah I uh, I saw him there,” Marinette said once her coughing fit died down and she could pull her backpack onto her shoulders again. She kept the water bottle in her hands though.

“What about Ladybug, did you get to see Ladybug?” Alya’s eyes gleamed in excitement now, just like they always did when she was on the hunt for new information about the superheroes.

“Um, yeah, yeah I saw her swing by. I only got to see her for a couple seconds before going off to hide though, sorry.”

Alya pouted. “Aw man, I still need to find a good witness so I can write more about it on the Ladyblog. Did you get to see Chat Noir at all?”

Before Marinette could try come up with another hopefully convincing lie, a chirping sound rang out from her back pocket.

Pulling out her phone, Marinette held it in front of herself to see who was texting her. From this angle Alya could see the name on the screen too, and Marinette watched as her friend’s mouth dropped open wide.

“Adrien’s texting you!?” Alya took her glasses off and cleaned them on her shirt before placing them back on and blinking a few times.  

As she watched her friend’s dramatics, Marinette tried to think of a believable enough way to explain how she and Adrien were actually quite close now. She couldn’t think of anything to say for herself that didn’t involve compromising secret information though.

So she avoided the subject completely.

“Uhh, one sec.” Taking a step back, Marinette turned her phone away from Alya’s view and opened the new message.

      From: Adrien

      are u at school yet? I’ll be there in a min :3  

She nearly chuckled to herself in relief as she read his text. He’d used the same emoji he often sent her when he texted her on her yo-yo. It was so lame, but she loved it. He’d probably been doing fine at home, just like he’d told her he would before they’d parted.

Still though, she couldn’t wait to see him for herself.

      To: Adrien

      yeah kitty, i’m out front rn with alya

Marinette stared at the screen for a moment after she pressed send. Even after everything that had happened last night and this morning, it was still hard to wrap her mind around seeing “Adrien” and “kitty” in the same text chat. It probably would be for a while, her relationship with Chat and her relationship with Adrien were just so different. But now they were one, and rereading the two names together sparked a flutter in her chest.

“Hello!?” Alya called from a couple feet in front of her.

Looking back up, Marinette offered her friend a sheepish smile.

Alya stared back at her as if she had suddenly grown a second head. “Well? What did he say!?”

“Oh that,” Marinette said with a dismissive wave of her hand. “He just said he’s gonna be here soon.” It was probably the first question from her friend this morning that she could answer honestly.

Unfortunately the answer she gave only seemed to make Alya even more stunned, and now the girl squinted her eyes in suspicion.

“Who are you and what have you done with Marinette!” she demanded.

“Come on,” Marinette said as nonchalantly as she could. “All he said was that he was arriving in a minute. Is it really that weird?”

Alya threw her hands up in the air. “Yes! The Marinette I know would be having a heart attack on the ground right now!”

She didn’t know how to counter that, Alya made an extremely fair point. If she had received a text from Adrien on any other morning before this, she would have definitely been freaking out about it. Regardless of how silly today-her thought that would be.

Alya stood before her clearly waiting for a reason to believe that Marinette hadn’t been replaced with a clone, while Marinette herself could only keep opening and closing her mouth in trying to figure out how to respond. Luckily, she didn’t end up having to.

“Hey guys,” a voice she knew far too well called out from behind her.

How she had not realized his identity years ago was beyond her, they sounded exactly the same. Except of course, for the part where ninety percent of the words that came out of Chat’s mouth were usually either flirts or puns.  

She turned around following his voice, and the moment she laid eyes on him her insides definitely melted into putty all over again.

“Hey,” she greeted, smiling up to him as he joined them.

“Hey,” he echoed with a wink.

“Uh, hey!” Alya exclaimed from beside them. “What is going on here!?"

Marinette watched as Adrien glanced over to their friend and then back to her, giving her a look as though to ask what exactly Alya had been referring to. Instead of answering though, her face turned bright red and her hands pulled at the straps of her backpack again. Adrien didn’t actually know that she had a crush on him, at least she didn’t think he knew, and there was no way she could tell him why Alya was so shocked without letting him in on that particular little detail.

When she didn’t respond to his gaze with one of her own, he turned back to Alya.

“What do you mean?” he asked.

Marinette prepared for the worst.

“I mean what happened at the fashion show last night!? You two can’t just start making googly eyes at each other like that and then act like nothing happened!”

Surprise overtook Adrien’s features for a moment, but his lips quickly turned into a grin and Marinette knew he was thinking about their sleeping arrangement this morning.

She started to unscrew the lid on her water bottle again only to realize it was already empty. Great.

“I-I… He… We…” Marinette tried to come up with something to satisfy her friend, but her brain was sputtering and the smug gleam in Adrien’s eyes only made it worse.

“Oh nothing much happened,” he answered. “We simply bonded over our love for Ladybug, that’s all.” The smirk he directed at her while he spoke was insufferable.

Marinette groaned, rolling her eyes as she crossed her arms over her chest. At least it was a plausible cover. However, it wasn’t completely a lie either and her cheeks burned as the word “love” echoed over and over in her head.

“Yeah,” she grumbled. “What he said.”

Alya’s excitement abruptly calmed down as she instead looked between the two of them in confusion.

“I don’t understand,” she said. “I literally run the Ladyblog and you don’t ‘bond’ with me. Mari doesn’t even care that much about Ladybug anyway.”

Once again Marinette was left at a loss for a reply, so she looked to the boy beside her, urging him with her eyes to come up with another oh-so-genius explanation for them and fast.

He looked far too delighted as he silently accepted.

She sent him a warning glare.

“I don’t know if I would say that,” he started, keeping his eyes carefully trained on her even though his words were directed at Alya. “Ladybug can be pretty irresistible you know.”

“Would you quit it!” Marinette blurted as she smacked his arm with her empty plastic bottle.

“What?” he giggled, taking a couple steps back to dodge her next blow. “I’m only telling it like it is.”

It amazed her how even with the weight he now carried on his shoulders, he could still be so upbeat and, just, himself. If it were one of her parents that had turned out to be Hawk Moth, she was sure she wouldn’t be able to still laugh like he was right now. His strength was incredible, and she didn’t have the heart to truly take away his fun. Even if he found it in teasing her.

“Marinette?” he questioned.

It was then that she realized she’d stopped her attack, and instead was simply standing there gazing at him like a lovestruck idiot. She opened her mouth to tell him it was nothing, but her stomach growled loudly before she could get any words out. In her embarrassment, she quickly moved her hands to cover her stomach as if that could possibly stop the noise.

“Girl have you eaten anything yet today?” Alya questioned with a raised eyebrow. “I thought you said you’ve been up since the crack of dawn.”

Adrien looked down at her then in his own befuddlement. “The crack of dawn? Mari we woke up past seven.”

“Yeah but it felt like the crack of dawn” she countered, throwing her arms out on both sides of herself.

At that moment a large gasp sounded beside her.

Both Marinette and Adrien turned to face their friend who suddenly looked as if she had seen a ghost. A ghost that had just told her a very, very juicy secret.

“Scandalous,” the blogger breathed.

Marinette stared at her in confusion while quickly going over what she and Adrien had just said in her head, trying to figure out what on earth the girl before her was gaping about. It took a few seconds, but soon Marinette gasped loudly as well.

We. He’d said “we woke up”. As in, together. In the same bed. And while that was technically true, she knew that Alya did not take it so innocently.

“I-It’s not w-what it sounds like!” Marinette exclaimed, frantically waving her hands in front of herself. But Alya only continued to stare at her frozen in place. Looking back to Adrien, Marinette saw that he had gone bright red as well, clearly finally aware of what their friend thought he’d been implying. Seeing him so flustered was making her heart race out of control and so she covered her face with her hands, speaking only from behind her fingers. “Oh my god Adrien, you broke Alya.”

She didn’t hear a response from him, and the awkward air only grew thicker around the three teenagers as they each stood shocked into silence.

After what felt like an eternity, a new voice called out to them and Marinette slowly lifted her hands away from her face.

“Hey guys wazzup,” Nino said as he approached them with a friendly wave. He only took a moment to take in all of their expressions before stepping back in confusion himself. “Woah dudes, what did I miss?”

It was Alya who spoke up then. Or tried to at least.

“Th-They...”

The two accused teenagers finally found their voices again at the exact same moment.

“No we didn’t!”

“No we didn’t!”

Marinette gulped. She had to fix this before Alya could start telling Nino some absurd story about her and Adrien.

“L-Look,” she said, glancing to the blond boy beside her and silently pleading for him to follow along. “After the uh, the fashion show, it was pretty late so Adrien and I had a- um, a sleepover. That’s it. That’s all that happened.”

Adrien nodded vigorously at her words, but Alya still looked at them skeptically, her journalist eyes scanning them from behind her glasses as if she could detect any lies if she squinted hard enough.

“Hmm,” she hummed as she analyzed them. “What do you think Nino, was it just a sleepover?”

Marinette watched in horror as Nino threw one arm around his girlfriend’s shoulders, and brought the other up to scratch at his chin in exaggeratedly slow strokes.

“I don’t know babe, they look pretty suspicious to me.”

With a defeated groan, Marinette brought her forehead down into her palm while Nino and Alya burst out laughing in front of her.

Deciding then that she was over being the center of entertainment for her snooping friends, she spoke up to the equally mortified boy standing next her.

“Oh my is that warning the bell?” she rushed out. “I still need to go to my locker before class, Adrien let’s go.” She reached for his arm as she spoke, fully prepared to drag him up the steps if she needed to.

He took an agonizingly long moment to look down at her hand on his arm before looking back up to meet her eyes with puzzlement.

“I didn’t hear any bell?”

She stared back at him with fierce eyes, a commanding gaze that she normally only used when accompanied by her spotted mask.

“Yes you did.”

“Yes I did,” he parroted. Rapidly turning back to face their two friends who were now nearly doubled over in their laughter, he lifted two fingers to his forehead in a mock salute. “Later.”

Marinette tugged on his arm again, practically squirming to get out of there. She sighed in relief as he moved with her, and together they made their way up the stairs in a hurry.

The moment they were in the courtyard of the school and out of earshot of the two friends they’d left behind, they burst into their own fit of giggles.

“I cannot believe that just happened,” Marinette laughed incredulously.

Adrien only giggled harder.

“This is your fault!” she scolded, leaning her forehead into the side of his arm to hide her flushed face from the world. She felt as his body shook lightly against hers in their laughter, and it was so different from last night when he’d been shaking with tears. However, his skin was still just as warm beneath her fingertips as she held onto his arm. “Just be glad we weren’t wearing our masks, otherwise it would defintitely be all over the Ladyblog by now.”

“You say that like it would be a paw-blem.”

Immediately she backed away from him with another admonishing glare, but it was rather ineffective seeing as her lips refused to cooperate and her smile still slipped through.

Adrien looked even more amused. “Leaving my side already Bugaboo? I thought this morning you said you wanted to cuddle with me aaaall day long.”

She side-eyed him as she continued walking forward again.

“I didn’t say that.”

However, the knowing look he was giving her with those gorgeous green eyes of his made her give in pretty easily.

“I didn’t say that... exactly. Besides, I’d rather not give anyone else around here anymore crazy ideas.”

“As you wish My Lady,” he chuckled.

The two of them soon fell into a peaceful silence as they walked side by side the rest of the way to the locker room.

She wanted to ask him how things had gone at his home this morning, or if he’d seen his father at all, but she also didn’t want to remind him of it again. Not for as long as she could help it. They would have to go back to Master Fu's later to start coming up with a plan anyway. The least she could do was try to help keep his mind off it for now.

When they approached her locker, she stepped up to open it wordlessly and he waited beside her. All she needed from inside it was her French textbook, though to her embarrassment, her stomach grumbled loudly again as she pulled it out.

“So you really haven’t eaten yet?” Adrien asked gently from beside her as she shut her locker door.

She hugged the book to her chest, staring down at her toes.

“I-I wasn’t really hungry at home.” She didn’t add on that it was because she’d been too worried to eat, he could figure out that much himself.

“Me neither.”

Suddenly remembering the croissants she’d packed as a last minute thought, she looked back up to him. “What about now? I’ve got two croissants I snagged from the bakery this morning in my backpack.”

His eyes lit up instantly at her words and the sight made her stomach flip. Even without the ears, he still looked an excited kitten.

“Are you offering me a treat from the most delicious bakery in all of Paris?” he questioned.

“That depends,” she answered in a sly tone. “Are you gonna start purring if I do?” She spoke as if teasing him, but they both knew that on occasion he was in fact known to let out the light rumble in his chest that only real cats should be capable of. What he didn’t know though, was that despite the fact she’d always made fun of it in the past, she was secretly extremely fond of the sound. Frankly, it was adorable. She’d just never let herself enjoy it before, because back then she’d been adamant on rejecting Chat for Adrien.

Clearly the universe was intent on making sure she got her fill of purrs.

“Definitely,” he answered.

She rolled her eyes with a smile, pointing behind herself at her bag. “Just get one out for me too.”

With croissants in hand, the two of them ate in quiet harmony while they swung by Adrien’s locker as well before heading off to their classroom. When they arrived, they each found the seat the next to their own already occupied by two people who looked ready to drown them in questions.

Still standing by the doorway, Marinette turned to the boy beside her. “If you say anything funny about me to Nino, I’ll kill you.”

He snorted in response.

“I mean it Chaton,” she warned in a whisper.

“I would never,” he assured while drawing a hand dramatically against his chest, giving her the most unconvincing look she’d ever seen.

At that moment the final bell rang out overhead, and any retort she may had intended to give him was forgotten as they briskly went to their seats before Ms. Bustier could walk in and catch them standing.

They both made it just in time, and Marinette sighed in relief when Ms. Bustier announced that today was going to be a lecture day. That meant she could escape Alya’s prying questions at least for now.

When their lunch break rolled around, Marinette bolted out of the room with Adrien in tow before Alya or Nino could catch up to them. The two of them grabbed food from her parent’s bakery and ended up eating hidden on the rooftops in costume, watching in amusement as their other two friends wandered around in confusion below, before eventually they transformed back, fed their kwamis, and headed back to the rest of their classes for the day.

When the last bell of the day finally rang, Marinette packed her tablet and pen into her backpack before pulling the bag onto her shoulders and walking up to the desk in front of her own.

For the most part, Adrien had seemed to do alright during the day. He’d been cracking jokes, making terrible puns, but now... now he looked scared.

To everyone else he probably seemed normal, a little uneasy at most, and she realized then just how good he was at controlling his appearance in public.

She could see his fear though. To her it was plain as day.

Standing next to where he sat packing his own things away, Marinette looked to the couple that was whispering to each other and blatantly staring at her from the other side of the desk.

“Sorry guys,” she said to them. “I’ve gotta, um, go help my parents in the bakery.”

Alya pointed a finger at her, the meddling gleam in her eye only slightly dimmed down from this morning. “Alright, but don’t think I’m letting you off the hook Missy. I will get those deets.”

“O-Of course,” Marinette replied with a meek smile while rubbing the back of her neck with one hand.

“You’re not off the hook either,” Alya added as she moved her hand down to point at Adrien, though he was clearly zoned out of the conversation and didn’t respond.

Nino stepped up then, taking the hand his girlfriend held out into his own.

“Alright alright, I think we’ve pestered them enough for one day babe.”

“No we haven’t!”

Nino glanced back to Marinette one more time before he began dragging Alya towards the door. “Later dudes.”

Marinette waved to them, keeping the smile on her face as they left. Once they passed the door of the classroom though, she let her lips fall.

Looking down to the boy sitting in front of her, she reached out and lightly placed her hand on top of his to get his attention. Although when he finally looked up to her, she didn’t actually pull it back.

“Ready?” she asked softly.

He didn’t say anything out loud, but the way he looked at her was more than enough of an answer for her.

As he stood up, she adjusted their hands until their fingers were fully threaded together. His ring felt strikingly cool compared to the heat of his palm, and to her surprise, the butterflies inside of her weren’t as rampant now. When he looked at her in a mild shock, she simply nodded her head towards the door. Together they walked hand in hand back to the locker room, and it was only once they were back outside at the top of the front steps that Adrien finally spoke up.

“I have to let my bodyguard drive me home so they don’t suspect anything,” he said quietly, gazing down at their joined hands. “But I’ll leave for Master Fu’s as soon as I get there. I don’t… I don’t really want to stay in my room for longer than I have to anyway.”

Marinette rubbed her thumb in slow circles against his hand. He looked so torn, and her heart ached for him. She just wished she could do something to make all of his pain disappear in the blink of an eye. He didn’t deserve any of this, it wasn’t fair.

But all she could do was keep rubbing circles.

“Okay,” she whispered.

Still looking down, he brought her hand up to his lips. And she let him.

“Okay,” he whispered back, his lips brushing against the skin on the back of her hand as he spoke.

Her palm became vulnerable to the chill air once again as he pulled his hand away from hers. She remained in place, watching as he walked down the steps and disappeared into the car that awaited him at the bottom.

The moment the car drove off, Marinette started to quickly make her way down the steps as well, heading straight to the bakery. Her parents would expect her to be home too, so it was best to make sure they saw her there before she transformed again.

“Hi Mom,” she called out as she walked through the front door, its bells jingling lightly behind her. 

The store wasn’t too packed at the moment and her mom stood behind the counter handing a box of macarons to a young boy and his mother. After a moment, Marinette realized that it was the same boy she’d saved last night.

That felt like a lifetime ago.

She almost walked up to say hi, but she stopped herself before she could take even one step towards them. Neither the boy nor his mother would know who she was. They’d only met Ladybug, not Marinette.

“Marinette sweetie how was school?” her mother asked as the two customers walked away with their box.

“It was fine, but now I have a big project to work on so I’ll probably be really busy in my room for the rest of the day.”

In truth, she had no idea how long she’d be gone. All she knew for sure right now was that she was filled with an itching need to be close to Adrien again. It was the same feeling she’d had throughout the day whenever they’d been sitting in their separate desks during class, and it was also part of why she’d held his hand just a few minutes ago. The closer she was to him, the more balanced she felt. And she could tell it was the same for him.

“Alright dear, just don’t work yourself too hard,” her mother said before turning to greet the new customers that were walking in.

Immediately Marinette headed to the back of the bakery where the stairs were, nearly sprinting the moment she was out of view from everyone else.

As soon as the trapdoor of her room closed behind her, she tossed her backpack onto the floor and called out for her kwami.

“Tikki, spo-”

“Wait!” the red kwami exclaimed, flying up to hover in front of her face.

“Tikki we need to go,” Marinette urged. “Adrien’s already on his way.”

Her kwami only stared back at her though, giving her the same look she often did whenever Marinette was apparently missing something obvious.

“What is it?”

“The pictures,” the kwami replied, gesturing all around the room with her tiny arms.

“The pictures?”

“Yes. Of Adrien.”

Marinette had no idea what point her little companion was trying to make. “Yeah?”

She watched as Tikki flew across the room and over to one of the collages that decorated the walls above her desk.

“If Adrien doesn’t want to sleep at his home where Hawk Moth is,” the kwami said slowly as if to break it down for her, “are you going to let him sleep here instead?”

She hadn’t thought about that. Tikki was right though, he’d just mentioned that he didn’t like being in his room, understandably so, and they couldn’t keep invading Master Fu’s floor forever either.

Her eyes went wide. “Oh my god the pictures.”

She looked around in horror for another few seconds before jumping into action and pulling them down as fast as she possibly could.

“What should we do with them?” Tikki asked from somewhere on the other side of the room. Marinette didn’t pause for even a second to look back.

“The chest, put them in the chest!”

With a couple minutes and a few drops of sweat, the room was cleared of any photographs of the blond boy save for only one that still sat on her desk in a green frame she’d bought specifically because it matched the beautiful shade of his eyes.

Her room would feel too weird if she didn’t leave up at least one.

“Thanks, you’re a lifesaver,” Marinette said, holding out her hand for the kwami to fist bump.

“You bet!” Tikki cheered as she tapped her hand. “Are you ready to go now?”

“Yeah,” Marinette nodded, though her gaze had already wandered back to the remaining photo on her desk.

He was smiling so brightly in it.

“Tikki, spots on.”

In the next instant she was up on her balcony, leaping off the edge and swinging herself over the streets below. She landed down a few minutes later in an alleyway on the other side of Master Fu’s shop from the one she’d used yesterday. Wasting no time, she dashed down the busy street.

As she came up upon the shop door, she spotted Adrien down the street in front of her. She waited outside the door as he walked closer, but even at a distance she could still see the fear etched into his features. It didn’t even look like he was trying to hide it anymore.

When he finally reached her, he stayed silent. It was like he wanted to say something to her but he didn’t know where to even begin.

Not wanting to stay on the bustling street for any longer, she opened the door and stepped inside while he followed closely behind. Once the door was shut again behind them though, neither of them made any move to walk up the stairs.

“Adrien,” she said softly, reaching up to delicately brush her thumb against his cheek. “No matter what happens, I’m not going to leave your side.”

His eyes nearly began to water again, but no tears dripped down onto her fingers. He only lifted his own hand to cover hers, pressing her palm firmer against his skin.

“Promise?” he asked in a whisper. His voice was so quiet that if she hadn’t been as close to him as she was, then she wouldn’t have heard anything at all.

As she stared up to him, she felt a small smile tug at her lips. His question wasn’t something she even had to think about.

“I promise.”

Instantly he relaxed beneath her hand and her smile grew just the tiniest bit bigger. Only one tear slipped down his cheek then, and she moved to wipe it away with her thumb. She knew there were many reasons behind that tear, not just sadness. He was scared, he was confused, he was anxious, but most of all, in that moment he was relieved. If he needed her to reassure him that she wasn’t going anywhere, then she would do so over and over until time itself ceased to exist.

He closed his eyes then.

With the hand he had on top of hers, he brought her palm to his lips, but it wasn’t really in a kiss this time. It seemed more like he was just breathing in her touch, convincing himself that she was really there.

He stayed that way for a minute before eventually taking in a few deep breaths and opening his eyes again.

“Okay,” he said quietly. His voice had more strength than before. “Let’s go.”

He brought her hand back down between them, and together they linked their fingers once again.  

Finally they walked towards the stairs, continuing all the way up until they reached the main door of Master Fu’s home.

It was Marinette who knocked for the them.

“Master Fu?” she called out.

“Ah yes, perfect timing,” the guardian’s familiar voice responded from the other side.

She felt Adrien tighten his grip in hers as Master Fu pulled the door open for them, though she didn’t think he was actually aware of it. His eyes were focused on the back wall, looking at something only he could see.

Together they walked in and sat on the mat side by side while the guardian sat down in front of them. The tray with the three steaming cups was already waiting for them on the floor, but neither of the teenagers reached for it. Both of Adrien’s hands were already too occupied with holding Marinette’s hand in his lap, and it didn't look like he planned on letting go any time soon.

For years she had dreamed about him holding her hand between his like that, but now she couldn’t help but feel resentment towards his father for turning it into something so painful for Adrien. She couldn’t say she was surprised though, Hawk Moth was a master of manipulating other people’s emotions.

“Where do we begin?” Adrien asked in a low voice.

Chapter Text

“Will something that simple really work?” Marinette asked from where she sat beside Adrien.

The guardian in front of them nodded gently. “I believe it is your best opportunity.”

Adrien remained silent, fixing his gaze back down to the delicate hand he still held between his own. He could feel her eyes on him, but he stayed focused on the small strokes he massaged into her soft skin. It was probably doing more to soothe himself than her at this point, but she didn’t pull her hand away and so he continued.

Master Fu was right, the plan they had come up with was probably their best chance at putting an end to his father’s reign of terror. All they had to do was sneak into his room during the night and take the miraculous from him while he was asleep. They would also bring Rena Rouge with them so they could have her make his father’s room look like some sort of dreamscape before they entered. That way if his father woke up, then he would hopefully think it was all just a dream.

It was just as Marinette had said. Simple.

The three of them had easily agreed it was safe to assume that his father never took the brooch off and that there was no way that they could get him to hand it over willingly, so taking it while he slept was the easiest way to get it back without starting a real fight.

However, even though their plan was straightforward, they still only had one shot to get the job done. Their plan relied entirely on the fact that his father was not aware any of the superheroes knew his identity. If they failed, then his father would know and it would be practically impossible to catch him off guard again.

The very last thing Adrien wanted was to have to go hand to hand against his own father. He knew that even if the situation became dire, he wouldn’t be able do it. There was simply no way.

Adrien was pretty positive they would be just fine though, and it wasn’t actually the plan itself that he was fretting the most over right now. It was what would come after. No one had seemed to want to say it out loud, but it was pretty obvious that once they got the miraculous away from his father then they would have to have him arrested. But Adrien was only seventeen, and he didn’t have any other family that lived in Paris. Or anywhere nearby at all. And he wasn’t about to leave the city, especially not right after he finally learned Ladybug’s true identity. Most likely he would be able to stay in his home with Nathalie, but he was nauseous at the mere thought of living in that house if it were even more empty than it already was.

“Shall I get out the Fox Miraculous for you then?” the guardian asked, moving to stand up from the mat.

It wasn’t really a question that required an answer. They’d already decided that they needed to act tonight.

As long as his father was in possession of the Butterfly Miraculous, he would continue to come after them and innocent people would get put in danger in the process. They couldn’t wait any longer. A few akumas had come close to snatching his and Ladybug’s own miraculous in the past, and they couldn’t risk giving his father the time to create new akumas that could potentially succeed.

At the sound of Master Fu’s footsteps coming back towards them, Adrien finally lifted his gaze from his lap.

He watched as Marinette reached up with her free hand to accept the small wooden box that the guardian handed down to her.

“Good luck,” the elder man said with a gentle bow of his head.

Adrien couldn’t summon his voice to respond. He was more terrified than he’d ever been in his life, and yet at the same time when he drew a breath to speak it felt like his mind was drawing a blank.

“Thank you,” Marinette replied to Master Fu for the both of them, and only in following her lead was Adrien able to offer a small nod to the man as well.

The guardian smiled down to them in return, but Adrien could see the pity that once again filled the man’s eyes. Adrien did not want to look at it anymore. He looked right back down to his hands instead, listening as the guardian’s footsteps disappeared into the kitchen.

Just like that, the two of them were left alone with one extra miraculous, and one duty to save the world.

“Um, A-Adrien?”

Hearing her say his name, his real name, was captivating. He loved all her cute nicknames for him of course, but his real name was something that he’d begun to think he would never get to hear Ladybug call him by. Until yesterday. He’d realized of course that she’d called him by it countless times at school before, but it was different now. It was much more intimate. His name was a secret that no one else was supposed to know. Now it was their secret.

And he drank in the sound as it left her lips.

“Mhmm?” he hummed in response.

“I, um, I-” She paused to clear her throat and Adrien swept his gaze up, taking in the roses that bloomed on her cheeks.

“I k-kinda need my hand to put the box in my purse.”

Immediately Adrien felt his own cheeks heat up as he let go of her hand. He didn’t have to see his face to know its color already matched hers.  

Even though she was his partner, it was still selfish of him to hold her hand for so long. They weren’t dating, and she certainly wasn’t his girlfriend. She might be able to practically read his mind, but he did not have extended hand-holding privileges.

It was true that earlier that day it had been her who’d taken his hand into her own, but that was obviously only done as a way to comfort him, nothing else. No matter how much he wished it had meant something more.

“Sorry I... sorry,” he fumbled.

Her eyes widened just a bit while her flush deepened. “I-It’s fine! Really, I don’t mind.”

But Adrien knew it was not fine. She was in love with another boy, and over the last day he knew he’d been really pushing the boundaries of her personal space. He wasn’t doing it on purpose, but that didn’t make it any better. It was still basically taking advantage of her affection for him as her partner. He needed to stop. He couldn’t risk pushing her too far and having her leave him too.

She’d promised she wouldn’t, and he trusted her, but he was just so scared. She was all he had left.

Without her touch, he was left unsteady. But it was a far better alternative to being left completely alone.

“So…” she continued, looking down to the box she now toyed with in her hands. “Do you know what time your father goes to sleep?”

“Yeah,” Adrien said on an exhale. “Normally he’ll leave his office to go to his room at a decent hour, but sometimes he stays in there until around midnight.” Adrien paused to take in a deep breath. It almost felt like he was betraying his father by giving away the information that would cause the man’s downfall. Factually, Adrien knew he was doing the right thing. After all, it was his father who had betrayed him first, and Adrien was simply doing his job as any superhero would. But still, his heart twinged with guilt as he continued with his words. “If we want to make sure he’s really fast asleep, then we should get there around 2 a.m.”

He almost expected Marinette to groan in response, he knew how much she hated being woken up in the middle of the night to deal with akumas. But she did not groan, not this time. She simply nodded to affirm she understood.

“I guess we can wait to get Alya until right before it’s time then,” she said as she finally opened her purse to put the small miraculous box away. “There’s no point in waking her up before, we should let her get some sleep.”

Her words left Adrien horribly confused. Was Marinette really planning on waking up Alya in the middle of the night to... what? Have her livestream their mission for the Ladyblog? Wasn’t this whole thing kind of a little completely top secret?

“Uh, Marinette.”

“Yeah?”

He wasn’t one to normally doubt her ideas, she was the most clever person he knew, but this was… out there. And that was saying something considering all that he’d been through in the last twenty-four hours.

He continued to stare at her, wordlessly asking that she explain further.

“What?” she replied, drawing her eyebrows together. “Do you think we should wake her up earlier?”

“No, no I don’t think that. I don’t understand why we’re waking Alya up at all.”

The way Marinette stared back at him dumbfounded made him start to wonder if really he was the one who wasn’t making any sense. Maybe he’d finally lost it.

“Why?” she echoed. “But we just-” She cut her words off abruptly though, bringing her hands up to cover her mouth in a flash as her suddenly shocked eyes stared into his baffled ones.

She only stayed that way for a few moments though, and soon she began giggling behind her hands.

Yup. Adrien had definitely lost it.

“Call me crazy,” he said in the most neutral tone he’d been able to muster since he got there, “but I have absolutely no idea what you’re talking about.”

He watched as she lowered her hands from her mouth, revealing a sly smile.

“Mon Chaton,” she said in an almost sultry voice.

He gulped.

Obviously she was only teasing, but when she said the nickname like that, it was unfairly attractive. Not that he was complaining, but this hardly seemed like the time.

She leaned forward towards him then, moving all the way until her lips brushed against his ear, and it caused his whole body to suddenly feel like it was on fire.

“Do you wanna know a secret?” she whispered.

A sharp shiver went down his spine as her hot breath tickled his skin, and he nodded his head just enough for her to see.

“But I already told you it,” she said with another small giggle.

“Huh?”

He didn’t mean to sound so blunt, but he didn’t understand what she meant at all.

“The fox, Chaton.”

The fox... she had to mean Rena, they needed her with them for their mission tonight. But this whole confusion had started over Marinette saying they needed to go get Alya, not her. Now that he thought about it though, it was kind of odd that Marinette hadn’t made any mention of how or when she was going to give Rena her miraculous. Not unless…

“No way,” he breathed.

Marinette’s shoulder brushed lightly against his as she leaned back again chuckling, and somewhere in the back of his mind he noted that her face still wasn’t actually very far away from his own. The mischief had dissolved from her eyes, and instead she looked to him with a satisfied smile, no doubt enjoying his reaction to the secret she knew he’d waited so long to be in on.

He realized then that this was her way of trying to cheer him up.

A feeling that he could only describe as pure love for her blanketed over him. It didn’t cover up everything he was feeling towards his father, all the fear and guilt, all the anger, but it was there. And it was warm. Whoever it was that she was really in love with, was the luckiest guy on earth.

“But, how can she be though?” he asked, not attempting to hide his amazement in any way. “She runs the Ladyblog.” As he spoke, he couldn’t help the tiny smile that began to creep up at the corner of his lips. Marinette’s was simply contagious. 

“Duh,” she said with a casual flap of her hand. “It’s the perfect cover.”

It most certainly was. Adrien knew the blog had started far before Rena Rouge had ever had a miraculous, so that meant Marinette had chosen her friend with that specifically in mind.

“You, My Lady, are a genius.”

Marinette’s lips parted and her sparkling eyes stared into his for a few silent moments before she averted her gaze down, rubbing the back of her neck with one hand.

“Y-Yeah, I um, I guess I have my moments.”

Adrien could only continue staring at her in wonder. She was being bashful. Ladybug was never bashful, she always was too busy being the backbone of Paris. But here, when she was free to just be herself, one little compliment had her blushing away even when she’d been acting so playful only a minute before. It only made him want to shower her with a million more. He knew more than anyone how much she deserved it.

He refrained though, if only for the sake of sparing her the heatstroke.

Soon she brought her hand back down to her lap to mindlessly rub at her fingers, but she still didn’t look back up at him.

“So what do you want to do until it’s, you know... time?” she asked quietly.

Adrien felt his smile fall. That was another thing that had been adding to his anxiety. Despite how much he did not want to be in the mansion right now, Nathalie would still be expecting him to come down from his bedroom for dinner. He’d considered telling Nathalie that he would “eat in his room”, but if he did that then someone would eventually come by to collect the dishes and undoubtedly notice he was gone.

Unlike before when he’d only left his room for the length of akuma attacks or patrols, now he didn’t want to have to return to his room for as long as he could possibly help it. He didn’t know where exactly he planned on being instead, but anywhere was better than there. His best option was to go have dinner in the dining room and just eat quickly.

“I have to go to the mansion for dinner soon,” he answered, finding his voice suddenly sapped of its strength all over again. “So they don’t notice I’m gone.”

Her eyes finally wandered up to meet his again, but unlike the guardian’s, it was not pity that filled them. It was worry. He almost went to reach for her hand again but he stopped himself.

“But after that,” he continued quietly, “I… I don’t…”

“What about my room?” she rushed out.

He felt his breath hitch. The idea had crossed his mind, but he’d been worried that it would come off as too invasive, too personal. Too pushy. And he was scared.

“O-Only if you want,” she continued. “We don’t have to, but I was thinking maybe we could t-try and get some sleep before we go, like take a nap or something, or at least try, but we don’t have to, or-”

“Yes.”

As adorable as she was, he knew she’d keep going until she ran out of breath if he didn’t cut in with his answer.

He reminded himself again then to keep his hands where they rested in his lap, but that didn’t stop him from losing himself deep in her ocean eyes.

“I’d be honored, My Lady.”

 

~~~

 

From where he sat on the futon in Marinette’s room with his knees drawn up, Adrien watched as the picture of himself on her desk went out of focus, and then in focus again. And then out of focus, and then in focus. Out, then in. Blurry, then clear. Nothing, then something.

The picture had caught him off guard when he’d first seen it that evening, but he hadn’t made any comment on it since Marinette had already fallen asleep by the time he’d arrived through the unlocked balcony window.

That was a while ago though. He didn’t know what time it was now, but he had no desire to check.

He simply continued to let his gaze fall in and out of focus as the light sound of his partner’s even breaths drifted down to him from where she laid on the bed above with the two sleeping kwamis. He hoped she was warm enough. She hadn’t actually gone under the blankets, so he’d taken off the light jacket he’d been wearing and spread it across her, hoping to ease the goosebumps that had covered her arms.

The jacket was something he’d grabbed after dinner only as an afterthought, and he didn’t mind letting her have it instead. He didn’t really need it anyway. His mind was far too occupied with other things to actually register something as trivial as whether or not he was cold.

He wished he could stop thinking so much though. It was exhausting. But his brain refused to let him fall asleep, and so staring in silence at the picture of himself from Marinette’s last birthday party was the closest thing he could get to a peace of mind.

The picture really had caught him off guard. In a heartwarming kind of way. Marinette had tons of other friends in her civilian life, he hadn’t expected her to frame a picture of himself of all people.

Over the years he’d been in her room a couple times, mostly to deal with akumas, and he’d seen all the modeling pictures she’d had of him, but she’d only had those because she was an aspiring fashion designer herself. Not because they were of him specifically.

The single photograph she had now though, this one was real. There was no makeup, no photoshop, no giant screens out of the shot to make the lighting hit him just right. This one was just him.

He’d been so carefree and happy when it was taken.

Now he was jealous of the Adrien in that photograph. That Adrien only had to worry about school work and figuring out his next pick-up lines for Ladybug to laugh and roll her eyes at.

That Adrien’s father was a world-renowned fashion designer, nothing more.

Although if someone had told that Adrien that almost a year later he’d be sitting in Ladybug’s room while she napped under his jacket, no costumes involved, then that Adrien would think the person was totally crazy.

Maybe that Adrien would have been jealous of his current self.

Maybe not.

He’d started the day on a high from the fresh reveal of their identities, and in the morning it had been so easy to lose himself in their familiar teasing banter. Being able to talk to Ladybug like that outside of the mask, being able to talk to her outside of the mask at all, was nothing short of thrilling.

But as the day had gone on, reality had seeped back into his bones, and his feet had begun to feel heavier with every step he took.

His father was his arch enemy. The girl who was his whole universe was in love with someone else, and he didn’t even know their name. God he hoped it wasn’t Luka.

A soft dinging sound from his phone rang out then, and all thoughts of the blue-haired boy dropped from his mind. Leaning forward into his knees, Adrien pulled out his phone from his back pocket and tapped the screen to turn off the alarm.

It was time to go steal back a miraculous, arrest his father, and somehow cope with losing the last shreds of his family. He would wait to figure out the coping part until he got to it though. Right now he had a sleeping beauty to wake up. His alarm had been set to a low volume and he hadn’t heard any rustling come from her bed.

If this were any other situation, he probably would have been feeling smug right now for already knowing how to wake her up. Instead he just told himself not to kiss her head this time.

To his surprise, when he climbed up the ladder and peered over the bed, he found that she was curled up on her side and staring at the blank wall. His unzipped jacket was now more securely wrapped around her.

If she had stared at the window above herself instead, then at least she could have had the stars to gaze at. But still she stared at the bare wall. He could understand.

Opening his mouth to speak, he realized he didn’t know what there was to say. So he closed his mouth again. Their mission was straightforward, they both knew what they had to do now.

“After,” she spoke up quietly, her gazed still fixed on the wall, “I don’t know where you’ll want to go or if there’ll even be more time to sleep, but if there is, if you want to, you can sleep here.”

A small weight lifted off of his chest at her words, and he watched from the steps while she snuggled further into his jacket, her shoulders rising as she took a deep breath with her nose buried into the fabric. She probably found the scent comforting. He felt that way about her whole room too, he honestly didn’t know how he hadn’t pieced her identity together sooner. Everything smelled like her, like Ladybug. Like sugar, and roses, and something else uniquely her that he didn’t actually have a name for.

Despite everything else he was feeling, it coated him with a sense of safety in a way that nothing else could. Just like it always did.

“I…” she spoke up again, her soft voice now muffled by the jacket she held against her lips. “I sleep better when you’re with me.”

He would have accepted her offer anyway, but now he had to do it. Now it wouldn’t just be him acting selfishly and craving her presence. Now she was asking something of him. And he would do anything for her.

“Me too.”

 

~~~

 

The night air was silent save for the light tapping of two pairs feet as they landed in unison on a small balcony outside a sleeping girl’s bedroom. Or, a girl that was supposed to be sleeping. The lights were turned off inside, but through the window Chat could clearly see their friend whose profile was illuminated by the screen of the desktop computer she typed rapidly away on.

He lifted his hand up to knock. It felt like lifting a boulder. He was a superhero though, and if a boulder needed to be lifted so he could save the world, then he had no choice but to lift.

Immediately Alya’s fingers froze on the keyboard and she turned her head towards the sound. Chat watched as confusion, delight, and then concern all crossed over her face in a matter of seconds. At least there wasn’t pity. He was already getting really sick of pity.

The pink screen of the Ladyblog was left forgotten as Alya got up to open the window for them. She approached them quickly but Chat could definitely see the caution in her steps.

“What’s wrong?” she asked as soon as she unlocked the window.

The question almost made him laugh. He didn’t though.

“May we come in?” Ladybug asked from beside him.

Immediately Alya stepped back from the window, holding an arm out in invitation. “O-Of course.”

As Chat followed Ladybug inside, he found that his mind was already starting to drift again. He heard the sound of Ladybug’s hushed voice beside him explaining the situation to Alya, but he didn’t actually pay attention to what she was saying. He didn’t want to hear it again.

The more times he heard it, the more real it became. The more real it became, the harder it would be to go through with the mission. So he zoned out. He didn’t even have to try this time, his mind was doing it automatically now.

He took in a deep breath. Sugar and roses.

He wondered if he’d get the opportunity to sleep tonight. He wondered if he would even be able to fall asleep if he tried. He’d been awake a long time.

If did get to go back to her room though, he’d take the futon. He couldn’t risk pushing a boundary and upsetting her. She’d said she slept better with him there, but she didn’t necessarily mean with him directly beside her. She’d also been referring to her nap and he hadn’t been on the bed with her then. The only reason she’d even slept by his side last night was because he’d been crying and he’d needed someone to hold onto. He’d needed her.

Now though, he wasn’t crying anymore. Tonight she would have no reason to hold him.

He still needed her.

His hands suddenly felt very empty. Focusing his gaze on them, he saw that he was still holding his baton. He tightened his grip on it, just for the sake of feeling that it was really there. Who knows what might slip from his grasp next.

If all went well with their plan tonight then there would be a portion of time when he would have neither Ladybug nor his baton. He wasn’t looking forward to that. Adrien was supposed to be asleep in his bedroom, so he’d have to go there and detransform before the police arrived. No doubt they’d have questions for him. He wasn’t looking forward to answering those either.

His focus then drifted back towards Ladybug’s voice, it was such a soft voice, like pure silk. He couldn’t help but be drawn to it.  

“...and that’s when I’ll remove the brooch,” he heard her explain.

His own voice pushed past his lips before he could even fully register what he was doing.

“I’ll do it.”

The two girls both immediately looked to him, but while Alya only seemed surprised, probably since it was the first thing he’d said since he’d gotten there, Ladybug seemed very concerned. He was a bit surprised himself that he’d said it. He wouldn’t take his words back though, he really did want to be the one that took the miraculous from his father. He needed to be.

“I’ll do it,” he repeated, if only to affirm it for himself. “I’ll take the miraculous from my- from Gabriel.” The name felt completely foreign on his tongue. He didn’t know who this man was at all. He’d thought he did. He’d been wrong.

Ladybug looked like she wanted to ask him whether or not he was sure about this, but she didn’t say it. Not out loud at least. They couldn’t give Alya a reason to wonder why it might be difficult for him in the first place.

“Okay,” Ladybug said, holding his gaze.

“Are you guys gonna arrest him?” Alya asked from beside them.

Chat couldn’t have responded to that even if he’d tried. All he could do was continue to stare to Ladybug. He wished he was holding her hand.

Apologetic eyes stared back to him for a few more moments before Ladybug turned her attention to Alya again. “We can’t do anything like that until we get the miraculous back. As long as he has it, he’s too powerful.”

She was very clearly dancing around the real answer.

He almost wished she would just say it.

“But once we do get it back,” Ladybug continued, her voice suddenly much quieter, “then yes we’ll need to let the police take it from there.”

She really did always know what he was thinking.

“Alright, that makes sense,” Alya said after taking a moment to think over Ladybug’s answer. In the next instant though, her eyes were overcome with the exact same look that Master Fu had been giving him. “What do we do about Adrien?”

That sure was the million dollar question.

When he looked back to Ladybug, he found that she was already watching him. Her expression had suddenly become sharp, her eyes portraying the full extent of her strength.

She held his gaze firmly. “Adrien is under my protection.”

Her voice left no room for argument.

Tears tried to prick at his eyes but he forced them back. He’d already spent enough time on crying. He didn’t know what these tears would even be for, all he knew was that her words made him want to collapse into her arms again. With the way she’d said it, she’d probably let him.

For a moment he forgot the two of them weren’t alone and he started to reach out to brush strands of her bangs behind her ear like he’d done so many times before, but the sound of Alya’s voice snapped him back to his surroundings before his hand could move more than an inch.

“Okay, are we ready to go then?” their friend asked.

Before either of them answered, Ladybug asked him the same thing. Only she didn’t use any words to do so.

He nodded his head. Just enough for her to see.

“Yeah,” Ladybug answered. “Just one more thing.”

Both Chat and Alya gave her their full attention.

“If anything goes wrong,” Ladybug said, “meaning if he wakes up, then we have to leave immediately.”

Chat nodded. It was a bit of a given, but he guessed it didn’t hurt to say it. The last thing they needed was to stick around if Hawk Moth was awake while their miraculous were literally within his reach.

“Got it,” Alya confirmed as well. She sounded determined, all traces of her usual excitement from being around Ladybug gone. She sounded like a superhero.

“Alright then,” Ladybug said. Opening her yo-yo, she reached into it and pulled out the small miraculous box that she’d transferred to there from her purse right before they’d left.

As soon as Alya accepted it, she pulled the necklace on and called out to kwami that appeared, doing it all so fast that Chat barely got a decent look at the unfamiliar kwami before it was sucked into the necklace and Rena Rouge was left standing in Alya’s place.

With one last round of affirmative glances, the three superheroes took off into night sky becoming nothing but wisps of color that blended in with the sea of city lights. All too soon though, they were landing down on the rooftop of his home. Suddenly this plan of theirs didn’t seem so straightforward anymore.

“Do we know which room is Gabriel’s?” Rena asked in a whisper. She was looking around as if she could possibly identify his father’s room from all the way up here.

Chat knew he was obviously the only one that could answer that question, but he couldn’t find his voice to do so. Not until he felt a hand on his arm. He looked down at it before trailing his gaze up to the face it belonged to. Ladybug looked sad.

Of course she looked sad.

But still, with her touch, even through their suits, he felt a sense of balance return to him. Not a lot, but enough to keep going. That’s all he could really ask for.

“Yeah,” he answered. “It’s this way.” He started to walk around the narrow roof, but Ladybug’s touch didn’t leave him. In fact she adjusted her arm until it was linked with his. They couldn’t stay that way for long, so for the few moments he could, he let her warmth soak into him.

He could hear Rena Rouge’s light footsteps right behind them. If she wore any surprise on her face, it went unseen by him.

He stopped walking when they were standing on the edge of the roof directly above his father’s room.

“It’s on the top floor, the room right below us.”

Rena came up to stand on his other side.

Ladybug hugged his arm tighter.

“Alright,” the fox heroine whispered. Bringing the flute in her hand up to her lips, she blew out her short tune. “Mirage.”

A flash of light came from the end flute which she now aimed at the roof beneath their feet, and in the blink of an eye the light disappeared into the room below.

Five minutes on the clock.

He looked down to Ladybug beside him.

She met his eyes for only a moment before pulling out her yo-yo with her free hand, and throwing it out so that it wrapped around the small tower at the center of the roof. Her arm then unhooked from his, but a second later she wrapped it fully around his waist, pulling him into her so she could lower them both to the ledge below that lined his father’s windows.

He could have easily just jumped down to the ledge himself, but he much preferred going down this way. Although Ladybug probably already knew that.

As their feet touched the ledge, Chat peered inside the room and let out a small gasp.

Clouds. An expanse of pink and orange clouds. The entire room before him had been transformed into a beautiful sunset sky, and all of his father’s possessions were gone save for the single bed that floated through the air, dusted in sunlight that streamed upon it from a sun he couldn’t see.

His father’s things were still there of course, this was only an illusion after all. But it was an incredibly convincing one. This looked like the last place one would ever think could possibly be home to a supervillain.

A pink cloud was blocking his view of his father’s face, and he didn’t know if that made this easier or harder. Good thing he didn’t have a choice.

Rena Rouge dropped down beside them on the ledge next, wasting no time in pushing on one of the large window panels to see if it would open. It didn’t.

“Alright don’t panic guys,” Ladybug whispered.

As if he’d done anything but panic for the last day and a half.

With her arm still wrapped around his waist, she turned her head up to him. She was asking if he would open it.

Of course he would.

Anything for her.

He nodded down to her, and she finally drew her hand back to her own side, taking a step back. Rena Rouge took a step back from him as well.

Cataclysm.” It was probably the weakest he’d ever spoken the word.

It didn’t matter though, his hands were consumed by bubbling black energy just the same, and his clawed fingers still felt the familiar itch to destroy.

He pressed his hand to the glass panel in front of him, and in seconds it was dissolved into nothing but ash that blew down around them in the gentle night breeze. The flakes that landed inside the room were strikingly dark against pastel sky, marking where the floor actually was beneath the window. With the ashes as his guide, Chat stepped down into the room and the other two superheroes followed closely behind.

He knew the light was only an illusion, but he swore he could feel the heat of the sun beating against him.

He looked around. Adrien was rarely allowed in his father’s room, but he’d seen it enough to know where things were. Lucky for them his father had a rather minimalist style, so there wasn’t really much for them to bump into.

Rena stayed by the window while Chat began to walk with Ladybug in a straight line towards the bed that held his completely unaware father.

It was difficult to walk on a ground he couldn’t see. He had to take slow steps. Halfway there he still lost his balance. The hand on his right arm steadied him before he could actually fall though.

He hadn’t realized she’d been holding onto him again.

Static bursted throughout his entire body as he stared to the bed only a few feet in front of him now. With his arm woven into Ladybug’s, he forced himself to continue the rest of the way until he was standing right at his father’s side. The pink cloud that had hovered there finally drifted off, revealing his father’s sleeping face to them.

The man didn’t so much as twitch in his slumber.

The covers were only pulled halfway up his chest where he laid on his back, and sure enough, right over the top button of his pale purple pajama top was the Butterfly Miraculous.

Stars entered Chat’s vision, and he tried to breathe. He tried. Something small and light was pressing against his shoulder. He couldn’t take his eyes off the brooch to see what it was. He had to focus.

Reaching out his left hand, he noticed his whole arm was shaking. There wasn’t much he could do about it though, so he ignored it. He was almost there, he couldn’t let something like that stop him now. All he had to do was take the brooch and this would all be over.

He reached closer and closer, holding his breath as he brought forth his other hand so he could unhook the brooch as delicately as possible.

When his fingertips were just centimeters away from the miraculous, another hand moved. It gripped Chat’s left wrist and he stared at it. It was not his hand. It was not Ladybug’s hand.

Terror flooded through him as his mind caught up with what was happening, but he found that his body did not seem to be responding to him right now, and so he stood in place, capable of moving only his gaze. He looked up to his father’s face. The man looked exactly the same as he had a minute before. His eyes were still closed and his breathing was still even. His grip was terribly strong around Chat’s wrist though.

A faint beeping sound reached Chat's ears then. It sounded familiar.

“Chat.”

At the whisper of his name, he turned his head to look behind himself. Ladybug looked extremely worried. She was tugging on his arm. Hard. He wanted to tell her that his feet weren’t working right now, but he couldn’t because his voice wasn’t working either.

She pulled on him harder. She was strong.

Then there was a tug on his left arm.

Chat turned his head back to look at his father who suddenly opened his eyes. Those were not the eyes he knew. Those were the eyes of a malicious predator who looked like he finally had his prey right where he wanted them.

All at once Chat’s awareness came back to him in what felt like a sharp flash, and immediately he tried to pull his arm back. But his father didn’t let go.

A moment later awareness must have come to his father too, because the man’s eyes moved off of him to look in puzzlement at the room around him. The second his father’s grip faltered, Chat pulled his arm free and used his baton to bolt out of the room. He didn’t have to see Ladybug to know she was swinging right beside him.

The cold night air blew harshly against his face, and he welcomed it. He barely got more than a rooftop away though before his enhanced hearing picked up on the sound of his father yelling.

Nathalie go search the house, check on Adrien’s room. Now.

His father must have been using the intercom that connected to Nathalie’s room.

“Wait!” Chat called out, dropping down to whatever rooftop was below him. Ladybug and Rena dropped down beside him a second later.

His heart was pounding and the world was spinning around him, but he put all of his effort into focusing on the girl dressed in red before him.

“Chat what are you doing, we need to go!” Ladybug’s voice was stern but her face showed only concern.

“I can’t,” he rushed out, shaking his head. “I have to go back.”

Ladybug suddenly looked more scared than he’d ever seen her in his life. “No you don’t Chat, let’s leave.”

He felt out of breath. Maybe he hadn’t been remembering to breathe at all, he couldn’t recall.

“He just sent Nathalie to check on my room, I heard him. I have to go.”  

She stared back at him, her mouth parted, her chest heaving, and her eyes petrified. He wondered if his own eyes looked petrified too.

“She’ll see I’m gone Mari. I have to go.”

After searching his eyes another few seconds, Ladybug dropped her head, squeezing her eyes shut and clenching her fists at her sides. “Dammit.

Bringing up a spotted hand to rub at her eyes, she took a deep breath and straightened her posture. He hoped she wasn’t hiding tears. He didn’t want to her to cry.

After another moment though, she opened her eyes again. “We’ll meet at the alley two blocks from Alya’s.” It wasn’t a question. “Be careful.” Neither was that. They were orders.

“Okay.”

Anything for her.

Before even the next pound of his heartbeat, the night air was whipping at his face again as he leaped back towards the mansion. Back towards his father.

Back towards Hawk Moth.

Chapter Text

Every bone in Ladybug’s body begged for her to follow her partner as she watched his blond hair disappear through one of the window panels of his bedroom. It was the same panel she’d entered through merely a day earlier when she’d come to tell Adrien the truth about his father.

Ladybug’s stomach lurched.

Now that Chat was out of sight, desperation flowed through her veins, quickly swallowing up all of her other senses until it was all she could feel.

Fighting akumas was easy for her, a honed skill that she’d had years to perfect. Fighting her mind though, fighting her heart that screamed at her for standing in place while the love of her life was left all alone to be at the mercy of his cruel father... she didn’t know if she’d ever done anything this hard before.

Even though Gabriel was after the superheroes right now, not his son, she still feared for Adrien. If there were ever a time when he would be vulnerable to his father’s mind games, it would certainly be now.

“Ladybug?"

Rena’s voice called out to her, laced with urgency. But at the same time she sounded hesitant. As if she weren’t really sure that it was actually Ladybug she was speaking to.

Of course. A minute ago Chat had very clearly called her by her real name, though he hadn’t seemed to notice it himself, and there was no way Rena hadn’t heard him. She’d been standing right beside them. She was still standing right beside Ladybug.

Surprisingly though, their exposed identities seemed to be the least of Ladybug’s worries at the moment. In fact, she was relieved that Chat was speaking at all. He’d gone into some sort of daze back in his father’s room, and now if he wanted to stay safe, he needed to be able to at least use his own voice. Especially since she couldn’t be there by his side this time.

The beep of a miraculous sounded out then, piercing the otherwise silent night, and it was quickly followed by Rena’s increasingly distressed voice.  

“Ladybug, please,” the fox heroine called in a whisper. “It’s not safe for us here.”

Upon registering her friend’s words, Ladybug finally forced herself to tear her gaze away from the windows of the mansion, turning to face her friend though she kept her head down. She needed to focus. Even if Chat wasn’t here, he was still counting on her to do what she did best: to keep people safe. Rena was going to transform back any minute now and it was Ladybug’s job to make sure that her friend was hidden and protected when she did. There was no telling what sort of attack Hawk Moth might come after them with now that he knew the superheroes were so close, and Ladybug needed to be prepared to fight.

“You’re right, I’m sorry,” Ladybug answered, though her voice came out much weaker than she intended it to. It startled her for a moment, but she brushed it aside.

Focus.

“Let’s go,” she said, her gaze still fixed on her toes. She didn’t think she could look her friend in the eye right now.

As she threw out her yo-yo, she heard Rena let out a sigh of relief, and in the next moment the two of them were gliding through the air once again. The wind felt harsher against Ladybug’s cheeks than it normally did as she swung, but she couldn’t tell if she was actually traveling faster or if it was just her dizziness that made it seem that way.

It felt like she’d been swinging forever before the alleyway she’d told Chat to met them in finally came into view. It had probably only been less than a minute though.

She looked around, quickly making sure that no passersby would see where she and the fox heroine were headed. Normally it wouldn’t have been a huge deal, but she couldn’t risk anyone knowing their location, not when Hawk Moth was probably actively searching them out.

Deciding that the coast was clear, Ladybug dropped down into the alley. However when her feet touched the cement ground she nearly lost her balance, only managing to catch her fall at the last second. As she did so, Rena’s miraculous beeped one last time and her transformation wore off completely, the bright orange kwami spiraling out of her necklace and into the air beside her.

Ladybug didn’t pay much attention to her friend or the kwami though, she was already swarmed with worries about how Chat was holding up by himself. Mindlessly setting her yo-yo back in place on her hip, she wondered if he’d made it back before anyone had noticed he was gone. Why had his father sent Nathalie to check on his room in the first place? Was his father planning on waking him up and having them flee? Was his father simply checking to make sure his son was asleep and unaware of the attack he would bring upon the superheroes? Would his father even attack them at all?

Now that Gabriel knew his identity was compromised, Ladybug couldn’t tell what his next move would be and it was tearing her mind apart.

She was a superhero. She was supposed to be able to handle anything.

And she would try her best, but she was not one to work alone. Now more than ever she felt like her mind was muddled without Chat Noir by her side.

She just wished he was doing okay.

“He’ll be alright.”

Alya’s voice was gentle, leaving Ladybug baffled. She thought Alya would have every right to be mad at her now that she knew her true identity, after all Marinette had spent years telling her nothing but lies about pretty much everything concerning the superheroes. It was all for Alya’s safety of course, but still, she’d lied and lied for so long.

If Chat hadn’t exposed her, she would have kept doing it too.

Staring right back at her toes, Ladybug tried to respond, but only then did she realize just how hard she was breathing.

She squeezed her eyes shut.  

“But… But what if he’s not alright?” Ladybug croaked out. It was so difficult to breathe. “You saw how he froze up in there. Maybe- Maybe I should go back-”

“Marinette.”

As if she were being pulled by a string, Ladybug’s head lifted to meet her friend’s fiery eyes before she could stop herself. She could feel as tears began to form, and unlike before, she couldn’t find the strength to even try to hold them back if they chose to fall.

“If you go back there,” Alya said carefully, her voice not much more than a whisper, “then you’ll be delivering your miraculous right into Hawk Moth’s hands.” Alya paused then to place a reassuring hand on Ladybug’s shoulder the way she often did when the two of them were out of costume.

The familiar gesture was comforting to Ladybug, but she found that her friend’s touch felt distant. As if it didn’t quite reach her.

“I know you’re scared,” Alya continued, “and I know he’s scared. But he’ll be here soon. Right now you have to trust him. You have to believe in him.”

“Of course I believe in him!” Ladybug blurted out. Her suddenly forceful voice came as a surprise to herself, but Alya seemed unfazed. Instead her friend’s gaze only softened.

Ladybug took a deep breath, or as close to one as she could get, focusing on trying to regain control of at least her voice if nothing else. There’d be a time to fall apart, but it wasn’t now. Not as long as she still wore her mask.

“Of course I believe in him,” she repeated, her voice now quieted down to the volume Alya’s had been. Reaching up with one hand, Ladybug tucked away strands of her hair that were blowing against her cheeks in the night breeze, the same way Chat sometimes did for her. It wasn’t the same when she did it herself though. There was a delicate grace in the way he moved his sharp claws carefully across her skin, one that she couldn’t recapture on her own. “More than anything.”

Alya gave her a warmhearted smile. “I know.”  

She was showing her admiration not just as a fan of Ladybug, but as Marinette’s best friend. Ladybug appreciated the sentiment, but as the seconds ticked on, the guilt that weighed down in her chest from lying to Alya for so long only grew heavier and heavier.

“Besides,” Alya continued in a light tone, “he said it was only Nathalie that was going, not his…” She paused to clear her throat.

It was a difficult thing to say, Ladybug understood that well.

“Not his father,” Alya finished after another moment, though her voice had rapidly become meek.

“I’m sorry,” Ladybug whispered, feeling as her tears danced at the brim of her eyes, teasing her. She wished they would just fall already so she could get it over with. Ladybug was supposed to be the one person in all of Paris who didn’t cry, and lately that seemed to be all she was doing. Even Adrien had the decency to wait until he was detransformed.

“Sorry?” the girl before her echoed. “For what?”

Ladybug drew her eyebrows together beneath her mask at her friend’s perplexed tone.

“For not telling you before. About us, I mean. About… About me.” Her voice cracked as she referred to herself, and with it her tears finally made their way down her mask and onto her cheeks. She didn’t bother to wipe them away, more would just fall anyway.

The unmasked girl standing before her remained silent, looking as though she were concentrated on figuring out the final pieces of a puzzle.

“I’m sorry,” Ladybug repeated, though her words were now carried by a small sob.

So much for having control over her voice.

“Oh, Marinette,” Alya gushed before taking a step forward and wrapping her arms around Ladybug’s shoulders in a tight embrace.

Ladybug didn’t understand it. She expected Alya to be mad at her, annoyed with her at least, but Alya hadn’t shown even the slightest trace of resentment towards her. She really did have the best friend in the world.

It took her a few moments, but soon Ladybug lifted her arms and returned Alya’s hug, crying into her friend’s shoulder much like Adrien had done with her the previous evening. As comforting as it was in the moment though, she really hoped there would start being less tear sessions soon. Still, Ladybug had to admit that she already felt better, every tear seeming to leave her while taking bits of her anxiety and guilt with them.

“So,” Ladybug spoke up quietly before pausing to sniffle. “So you’re not mad?”

“Of course not,” Alya assured, gently sliding up each of her hands to the top of Ladybug’s shoulders.

The superhero felt as she was softly guided back, but only just until she could meet Alya’s eyes.

“My best friend is like, the coolest superhero ever,” Alya continued. “And you chose me to be a superhero alongside you too. How could I possibly be mad at that?”

Taking in the sincerity in her friend’s features, Ladybug felt her own lips crack into a watery smile. Since Alya was a miraculous holder too, she was probably one of the few people who truly understood why Ladybug had always been so adamant about keeping her identity a secret. The more Ladybug thought about it, the more obvious it became.

“Thanks,” the spotted superhero said with a sniffle, realizing then that her tears had stopped flowing. Her chest felt lighter now, freer, and even though she was still extremely worried about Adrien, she felt that now she could be there for him properly when he returned to them.

“Pluuus,” Alya said with a playfulness seeping into her tone, “I know you two only just learned each other’s identities anyway.”

Ladybug was immediately taken aback. “What- But- H-How do you know that?”

“Girl, please,” Alya chuckled. “You’ve spent years trying to just get out complete sentences to the boy at school, and then all of a sudden today you two were joined at the hip.”

As if on cue, Ladybug felt the familiar heat of embarrassment rise to her cheeks.

“We were not joined at the hip!” she protested, though now that she thought back, she realized the two of them sort-of-kind-of had been right by each other’s side the entire day. It had just felt so natural to be beside him, and between hiding from Alya’s questions and trying to cheer Adrien up, she hadn’t really spent much time thinking about how it must have looked to other people.

“Also you smacked him with a water bottle,” Alya added nonchalantly. “It’s not a hard leap.”

Ladybug opened her mouth to retort but she closed her lips again a moment later, instead bringing up a hand to scratch at her forehead absentmindedly with one finger. “Yeah... I guess I did do that.”

“So, what do you say?” Alya asked with a gleam in her eye that Ladybug knew far, far too well. “Can I post on the Ladyblog that Ladybug and Chat Noir are finally a couple or what?”

Ladybug blanched. “Alya!”

 

~~~

 

It was hard for Chat to tell how much time had passed since Nathalie had been ordered to check on him. It felt like he’d been moving so slowly, like it had taken him ages to finally make it back into his room. From outside the windows he hadn’t seen anyone inside, but perhaps Nathalie had already stopped by and seen that he was gone.

He had no idea how he was going to explain that one.

After pushing the window panel shut behind him as he entered his room, Chat wasted no time in leaping straight for his bed, frantically pulling the covers up to his chin while simultaneously letting his transformation drop. Before even the cat ears atop his head had fully disappeared, he heard footsteps rapidly approaching his room.

In the next moment the faint squeak of door hinges being turned sounded out, causing his heart to race even faster than it already was. If that was even possible at this point.

Adrien shut his eyes, trying to put all of his focus into listening.

The footsteps that had been in a hurry abruptly became slow and delicate as they continued to come closer and closer towards his bed. But that wasn’t the only thing he could hear. His own breaths were ragged, and he used every ounce of his willpower to try and get them under control. He tried, but it was still very obviously not the breathing pattern of the average slumbering person. If he was lucky, Nathalie would think he was only having a bad dream, nothing more.

It seemed like Adrien laid there for years while his father’s assistant crept across the floor. Was his room really that big?

While he waited, Adrien continued to try and calm his body down. Clearly his father did not want him involved in any of his Hawk Moth business, so Adrien was pretty sure that once his father got word that his son was fast asleep in his room, nightmare and all, that he would leave Adrien alone while he instead focused his attention on the superheroes. He probably only wanted to check that the superheroes hadn’t gone into his son’s room as well, alerting him of their presence and the situation.

In other words, his father most likely only wanted to check that his terrible secret was still hidden from his son.

If only.

But still, if that were the case, then all Adrien had to do now was pretend to be asleep. As long as he was convincing enough, his father would overlook him just like he always did, and Adrien would be free to go. For once he was actually glad for his father’s adamant ignorance. It would make it much easier for him to get out of here and back to Ladybug.

Adrien wanted nothing more than to be back with Ladybug.

Unfortunately though, he clearly didn’t know his father as well as he thought he’d did. The way his father had looked at him when he’d grabbed his wrist, the surprising amount of force in his father’s fingers, none of that was anything he’d ever known of his father before.

His guess at his father’s plans were as good as anyone’s.

Nathalie seemed to be the only one his father called on for assistance, seeing as she was literally spying on Adrien’s room for him at the moment, but Adrien doubted that even she knew the real reason his father had instructed her to do so. His father’s orders had been to check the house, he’d made no mention of the superheroes’ presence to her.

The footsteps approaching Adrien’s bed could only have been no more than a couple feet away now, but suddenly they came to a halt.

Adrien waited. He wondered if Nathalie could hear his heart pounding from where she was standing. Probably.

In the next moment though, the sound of her footsteps began to recede, leaving in the same direction they had come. Even after he heard the sound of his bedroom door click shut, Adrien kept his eyes tightly closed.

Something moved under the covers then, and Adrien felt as his kwami snuggled into his hand. Had Plagg been like that this whole time? If he had, Adrien hadn’t noticed until now. But nevertheless, he was grateful for his kwami’s rare display of comfort.

Straining his ears, Adrien tried to see if he could hear anymore steps outside his room, but he couldn’t hear anything except for his own breathing which had finally begun to settle. It was unlikely that anyone would come back to his room now, but just to be sure, he counted to one hundred in his head. He didn’t trust his own sense of time.

The moment he reached the final number, he shoved back the covers of his bed and headed straight for his closet, grabbing the first set of pajamas he could find and wasting no time in changing into them. Up until now he’d still been sporting his school clothes and he was getting desperate to shed off the day.

As he changed his clothes, he watched Plagg make a beeline for the cupboard that held his stash of Camembert. Normally Adrien would have had some distasteful comment for his kwami, but this time he stayed silent, letting his kwami recharge his energy without interruption.

Adrien just wanted to get out of there as fast as possible. He felt like every time he turned his back, his father would burst through the doors of the room, ready to take him down. Realistically Adrien knew that probably would not happen, but after his father had caught his wrist the way he did, Adrien figured anything was possible. Even the fact that his father didn’t know about his ring was no longer comforting to him. His father was dangerous whether Adrien wore a mask or not.

He needed to go somewhere safe. He needed to go to Ladybug.

Nearly running back to where is kwami was gulping down his favorite, and only, snack, Adrien called out his companion’s name in a cautious whisper.

“Plagg,” he breathed. He knew his father couldn’t hear him from inside his room, but he couldn’t take any chances. He didn’t know what exactly his father was capable of.

The black kwami paused in place at the call of his name with one arm stretched out towards an unopened box of cheese.

“Already?” Plagg whined.

Adrien didn’t bother wasting time in scolding the kwami though. His skin was crawling more and more with every passing second that he stayed vulnerable here in this room. In this mansion. Near his father.

“Plagg, claws out.”

The moment Chat was outside of the window, he gulped in the fresh air while his mind was filled with the image of his Lady’s scared face from right before they’d parted. He needed to get back to her not only for his own sake, but to let her know that he was okay. More or less. She’d told him to be careful, and he had been, but now he had to make sure that she never looked that scared again. He would go to the ends of the earth to make sure she never had to be that scared again.

He had no idea what to do about himself or his father right now, but catering to her... That he could do.

His thoughts clouded his mind as leaped through the air, but luckily for him he didn’t have to think too hard about where he was going. There were many alleyways near Alya’s apartment, but the one he knew Ladybug had been referring to was one that they met near often, usually for patrols. And usually on the rooftops.

As Chat drew closer to it, he saw that they weren’t on the roofs at all. With the aid of his night vision, he could see two figures standing in the darkened shadows of the alley, one with glasses and one with pigtails.

Staying hidden, that was smart of them.

Alya!

Ladybug’s voice reached his ears, and Chat felt as the cat ears atop his head perked up. She didn’t sound distressed or scared, she sounded… embarrassed. The sound of Alya’s light laughter soon followed.

The way Ladybug had just called her friend’s name sounded nothing like Chat had ever heard her do so before. Not with her mask on at least. It was the way Marinette talked to Alya, not Ladybug.

Before he could think on it further though, he landed down beside his partner in the alley, and all his trains of thought came to a halt as she looked up to him. Immediately he noticed the tear streaks on her cheeks below her mask. She really had been crying then.

The feeling of guilt began to creep up on him. He didn’t want her to cry tears of fear. Now, or ever.

Not that he was any better, but still.

Reaching out a hand, he cupped her face, touching her cheek as if she were the most priceless thing he’d ever had the privilege of holding in his hand. And she most certainly was.

“You’re okay,” she whispered, her glassy eyes searching his. She said it as a statement, but she sounded as though she weren’t entirely sure if it was true.

“I’m okay,” he assured her.

Objectively, he was far from it. But all things considered, he’d made it out of his house in one piece, and that was pretty much as good as he could get right now.

“I’m okay.”

He watched in awe as she accepted his answer with a light nod before bringing up her own hand to cover his, a mirroring action of how he’d done when she’d cupped his own cheek just a few hours earlier. Even through their suits, he could feel the warmth of her hand.

“Ahem,” Alya spoke up beside them then, clearing her throat louder than necessary.

Chat turned his gaze towards her, the orange kwami floating patiently beside her, and then back to his hand on Ladybug’s cheek before immediately pulling it back to his side, a light blush tainting his cheeks as he did so. Good thing neither of the girls before him could see very well in the dark. He wasn’t too sure about the kwami though.

“So, what happened?” Alya asked. Though he’d heard her giggling right before he’d dropped down, she had regained her composure now and was addressing him seriously. “You said Nathalie was checking on your room, but, your father didn’t- I mean, you didn’t see your father again, did you?”

Chat’s jaw dropped. A moment later though, everything clicked.

It made sense now why Ladybug had been talking to Alya as though she were out of costume, Chat himself had basically given away their identities the moment he’d told Ladybug that he needed to return to his room. He couldn’t believe that he hadn’t realized it sooner. His mind had been so filled with fears of his father that he’d carelessly let their biggest secret slip.

He looked to Ladybug then, expecting her to be, at the very least, upset with him for revealing their identities. But she seemed unfazed by Alya’s question.

He remained at a loss for words, he didn’t know where to begin with apologizing for something this big. It wasn’t exactly a situation that had ever happened before.

Before he could try though, Ladybug placed a tender hand on his arm.

“It’s alright,” she said, her voice gentle. Even in the dark, he had no doubt she could read his expression. She knew exactly what he was thinking.

It wasn’t alright though, sure he hadn’t done it on purpose, but this was still a huge deal. If anyone else had heard him back there…

“Chat, it’s alright,” Ladybug repeated, her silky voice somehow even softer now.

He nodded wordlessly before moving his gaze to the necklace Alya still wore around her neck. He reminded himself that she was a miraculous holder too, and quite the sneaky one at that. Out of all the people who he could have revealed their identities to, she was certainly the best choice. There was nothing he could do to take it back now anyway.

And there were much more pressing matters at hand.

“No, I… I didn’t see him,” Chat finally answered. He focused on keeping his feet grounded as he spoke. He focused on Ladybug’s hand on his arm, how it steadied him. “Nathalie only checked to make sure that I-” He paused, taking in a deep breath. “That ‘Adrien’, was still asleep.”

Instantly he saw as relief flooded Ladybug’s face, and he thought that it suited her much better than the tears stains and worry.

“I mean, I think that’s all it was,” he continued. “I pretended to be asleep and she left. I don’t know what my father is thinking, or what he’s planning. I just... I don’t know.”

Both of the girls stayed silent for a few moments after he spoke. Alya seemed to be taking in the information while Ladybug seemed to be concentrating, as if forming a plan. That was one of the things she did best after all. And she didn’t seem in the least bit upset at him for not having all the answers.

After a minute, it was Ladybug who broke the silence.

“What you did, going back there,” she said, her voice calm and thoughtful, “that was very brave.” She looked up to him with pure affection radiating from her sparkling blue gaze, and he was sure that she could feel the heat from his cheeks all the way from where she stood. Now that he paid attention to it, he realized the distance was not actually terribly far at all.

“I’m proud of you, Adrien.”

His stomach flipped as she spoke his name. His real name. His secret name.

Her hand was still on his arm.

“I think,” Alya spoke up again, reminding Chat of her presence there for the second time.

He hadn’t meant to ignore her, it was just so easy to get lost in his Lady’s eyes.

“I think we’re safe for now,” Alya finished. “If Gabriel was going to try and come after us with an akuma, I think he would have done it by now.”

That was a good point. His father was sharp, if the man wanted to make a grab for their miraculous while he knew they were close, he would have sent out an akuma immediately. But up until now there had been no screams ringing out into the night, nor had the sky been changed to a bizarre color. The city was still asleep. There was no akuma coming after them.

“Yeah,” Ladybug exhaled. “It doesn’t seem like he’s planning to make an akuma. For now at least.”

Even upon the agreement that they were safe at the moment though, an air of unease still settled between the three of them. His father still had the stolen miraculous, and now they had no idea what he was going to do with it. Whether he was going to run, or attack. Or both.

And they didn’t know how to stop him.

Alya reached up then, taking hold of the borrowed miraculous she wore as if to take it off, but Ladybug stepped up to her, placing a hand on top of hers to stop her.

“Keep it,” the spotted superhero said.

Chat watched as Alya’s eyebrows rose and he knew his own expression looked much the same. The orange kwami looked especially surprised.

“We don’t know when Gabriel will come after us,” Ladybug spoke quietly, “and until we have a new plan, we should be prepared for an akuma to strike at any time. It would be silly to waste time delivering the miraculous to you at this point, so keep it. We need you, we need Rena.”  

Chat waited patiently while Alya gave her best friend a watery-eyed hug with the kwami, Trixx, as Alya had referred to it earlier, cheering beside them.

“Alright,” Alya said as she stepped apart from her friend, her voice laced with determination. “What happens now?”

“Now,” Ladybug answered, “we try and get some sleep. We can work on a new plan after. Class starts in a few hours and I’m pretty sure Nino will get suspicious if all three of us fall asleep at our desks.” The spotted superhero punctuated her words with a big yawn, stretching her arms out high above her head.

Chat let out a breathless chuckle at her display while Alya giggled. Ladybug’s plan was to work with what they could control, and although that didn’t include much, it was enough to give him a sense of clarity and his exhausted mind was grateful for it.

“You’re right about that,” the blogger agreed.

As Ladybug opened her mouth to respond, another yawn came out only this one was clearly not intentional seeing as she sheepishly moved her hands to cover her mouth.

At that the three teenagers promptly bid their goodnights to each other before parting, Chat and Ladybug heading off in one direction while Alya was left with her new full-time kwami to take her back to her room in the other.

 

~~~

 

Lying on her back, her sheets tucked up to her chin, and her head turned to the side, Marinette stared at the wall beside her bed.

The lights in her room had been turned off, but with the aid of the moonlight that shone through her balcony window, she could see all the tiny holes left behind by the thumbtacks she’d taken out earlier. She could see all the photographs that had hung there. A couple had been of her various friends from school, but the vast majority had been of the boy who was now sleeping on the futon below her.

That was the reason she’d taken them down in the first place. Now she had the real deal.

Sort of.

Not exactly.

When they’d landed in her room only a few minutes prior, she’d gone straight to the bathroom to brush her teeth before she crashed out again. When she’d returned to her room though, she’d found Adrien spreading out a blanket across the futon, clearly intending on sleeping there. Not her bed.

And that was completely fine of course, Adrien by no means had to sleep next to her, especially on something as personal as her own bed.

But, she still sort of wished he had. Last night she’d originally slept beside him for convenience of the situation, but then she’d woken up with his arms wrapped tightly around her. It had been the most wonderful feeling she’d ever experienced.

Now she had neither the pictures, nor his warmth. Now she had holes in the wall.

Their mission just a bit ago had gone south pretty quickly, and they hadn’t actually been out for that long, not according to the clock on her phone at least, so they still had a few good hours to get some sleep.

If Marinette could actually fall asleep that was.

She tried to, she really did. But every time she closed her eyes, she was reminded of just how alone she was under the covers.

It didn’t make sense, she’d been able to fall asleep just fine earlier. Although, at that time Adrien hadn’t been in her room, right out of her reach. She hadn’t been able to hear his breaths.

Marinette closed her eyes again. Her arms felt bare.

She opened her eyes again.

This was getting ridiculous, maybe she should just ask him to come up. If he wanted to of course. In any other circumstance it would probably be weird, but since they’d already slept like that last night, it couldn’t be that weird. Hopefully. Nonetheless she told herself she should try, the worst he could do was say no. Although, that could end up making things more awkward than they needed to be…

She closed her eyes again.

She saw the pictures on her wall.

She opened her eyes again.

“Um, A-Adrien?” The shakiness in her voice was very familiar to her. Up until the night of the fashion show, it had been the way she’d pretty much always spoken his name. “Are you, um, are you awake?” She called down in a fragile voice, just above a whisper, though she stayed where she was, too nervous to actually peer over the end of the bed to see him for herself.

She held her breath.

“Yeah,” he called up, his voice hoarse with exhaustion.

“I, um…” She gulped. She hadn’t actually thought this through very far. It wasn’t that she didn’t want to ask him anymore, it was just that she didn’t know how. There was simply no non embarrassing way to say “please sleep on my bed next to me so I can actually fall asleep”.

She just needed to bite the bullet. This was Chat, after all these years she shouldn’t feel embarrassed just from wanting to be beside him.

“I…” she tried again, “I-I’m cold.”

Immediately she grimaced at herself. That had definitely not been what she’d wanted to say.

But... it was true. She was cold and she knew that all the blankets in the world wouldn’t fix it. There was only one thing that could truly warm her.

She opened her mouth again to say what she had actually intended to say, but instead she found herself holding her breath as she heard the sound of a rustling blanket come from below.

She listened. The rustling stopped a few moments later, replaced with footsteps that lightly padded towards the ladder at the base of her bed. Marinette’s heart pounded in her ears when she heard the sound of his steps change as he made his way up the ladder.

To think he’d understood what she was asking, just from those two little words… It made the butterflies return to her stomach at full force, and they mercilessly flapped their wings inside of her as she watched Adrien’s head appear at the foot of her bed. He didn’t speak, but his eyes were wide awake, glistening as they entered into the moonlight. And, they were silently asking for permission.

Marinette didn’t rely on her voice to respond this time. With him, she often spoke better without it.

Holding his gaze, she carefully pulled back the covers of the empty spot on the bed beside herself.

He barely so much as blinked as he continued onto the bed, crawling across it until his head reached the single large pillow. With a careful grace, he laid down parallel to her before pulling the covers back up to his chest.

The gap between them did not go unnoticed by Marinette. His face was now barely a couple feet from hers as they faced each other, on her own pillow, in her own bed, and yet she still felt like he wasn’t quite close enough.

She let her gaze flutter down, from his nose, to his lips. From his chest, to his arm.

She had to remind herself again that this was still Chat, the person she was closest to more than anyone. If she started thinking too hard about the fact that it was also Adrien Agreste who was in her bed right now, she knew she’d chicken out and scoot away. And then she would never be able to fall asleep.  

Slowly, she reached out one hand to place on his arm, much like she had done back in the alley. Only now, her bare fingertips were met with soft skin.

“Maybe you shouldn’t.”

Upon hearing his voice, Marinette’s eyes snapped back up to meet his. She knew she’d been seeking his warmth, but suddenly she’d been burned.

She pulled her hand back.

She didn’t understand. She’d thought that he’d liked being near her too, being close to her. They hadn’t really talked about it before, but the feeling was sort of difficult to put into words anyway. Not to mention it wasn’t exactly a secret that he was in love with her. In love with Ladybug.

Suddenly Marinette’s blood ran cold.

She hadn’t considered it before, she didn’t think that their revealed identities had really changed anything, but what if… now that he knew who she really was…

“N-Not that I don’t want you to,” Adrien spoke up again, his voice suddenly flustered. “I do, but, I thought…”

Marinette’s heart pounded wildly as she waited for him to continue, she couldn’t have formed a response to that if she’d tried.

“I thought...” he said again before averting his gaze down to the empty space on the sheets between them. “I thought you were in love with someone else.” His voice dissolved into a faint whisper as he spoke, though Marinette heard every word in a sharp clarity.

Over the last couple of days the world had been nothing but cruel to Adrien, and the very last thing Marinette had intended was to add to his distress.

But apparently, by keeping her true feelings to herself, she had done exactly that.

For years she had tried to gather up the courage to confess her feelings to him, but she’d always been held back by the nerves that exploded inside of her whenever she’d so much as stood near him. Although, that was only before she’d realized that nothing made her feel as safe and secure as he did when he was with her. When his hand was holding hers. When she was close enough to him to feel his breath on her skin.

Really, there was nothing stopping her anymore from telling him.

“It’s you,” she whispered.

She watched with bated breath as his eyebrows drew gently together. He looked like a confused kitten, and a smile tugged at the corner of her lips as she watched him try to piece her words together.

“But- you said…” he stuttered out.

As he spoke, Marinette was overcome with an itching need to be closer to him, always closer. But she forced her hands to stay by her side, and her head to remain where it rested on her end of the pillow.  

“It was you, Adrien.” 

For another moment his gaze remained muddled, but then all at once his eyes blew wide, and she could hear his breath hitch as his lips parted just slightly. He reached out then, drawing up one hand to delicately brush the stray strands of her bangs behind her ear for the first time without his claws. She found that his fingertips were sharper though as they set fire to her skin beneath them.

He continued to trail is hand down the side of her face until he was cupping her cheek, and she instinctively reached up to cover it with her own.

“It’s you,” she whispered again, though her heart was beating so loudly now that she thought it might have drowned out her words.

It must not have though, because in the next moment she watched as his eyelashes fluttered while his gaze moved to her lips, his head inching closer to hers on the pillow. Or maybe it was herself who was drawing closer to him. Either way, her lips found his just the same.

Marinette let herself melt. Into his touch, into the bed. Into his kiss. She smiled, tasting the sweetness of his lips while he gripped her cheek more firmly, holding her steady. Every movement of his lips created sparks against her own, and the sensation was addictive. With every beat she pushed closer, with every taste she needed him more, and she drank him in as though he were her lifeline.

Only at the last possible second did she pull back for air, creating a wet string hanging between their mouths as she did. She found she was nearly panting as she tried to catch her breath, but she wasn’t embarrassed. He was panting too.

Before she registered what she was doing, she licked her lips. She could taste him. She only realized that he was watching her every movement after it was too late though, and at that, she felt her familiar blush finally consume her cheeks.

He watched her for another moment, staying perfectly still except for the rising and falling of his chest, before a smile bloomed on his face and he let out a breathless giggle. 

She felt her flush deepen, but at the same time she was struck by how beautiful his smile was in that moment. It was like nothing she’d ever seen of him before. It was captivating.

“W-What is it?” she breathed.

His smile only grew as he traced his thumb in small strokes against her cheek.

“It’s just,” he answered, pausing as his breath caught. “You’re so, so beautiful.”

Normally Marinette would have rolled her eyes at such a comment, but now she could only stare at the boy before her in wonder. Revealing her identity really hadn’t lead him to love her any less like she’d feared, he truly thought she was beautiful with or without her spots.

He leaned forward then, placing a soft peck to the tip of her nose before pulling back just enough so that he could speak.

“Goodnight Marinette,” he murmured, still close enough that his lips brushed against hers as he spoke.

“Goodnight,” she echoed breathlessly. With that, he finally pulled his hand down from her cheek, tracing it down her body until he wrapped his arm around her waist securely, and Marinette tucked herself into his chest in tandem. Soon they laid in the same position they’d found themselves in when they’d woken up the previous morning.

Now that they were in a real bed though, now that they were in her bed, it was a million times more comfortable, and almost immediately Marinette felt the heaviness of sleep begin to pull her in.

 

When she awoke to her alarm a few hours later, she found that she was alone in her bed once again. He must have already gone back to the mansion for the morning then.

Sitting up, she peered over the edge of her bed to the room below. There wasn’t a trace that he’d been here at all, save for the faint scent left behind on her pillow, and his jacket which had been neatly hung on the back of her chair.

Chapter Text

Marinette was having a very, odd, morning. An oddness that was furthered by the fact that nothing out of the ordinary had actually happened. That’s what it was. Ordinary. The sun had still risen, the birds still chirped, the other students milling around in the locker room still went about their business just like they did every other morning. 

And there were no akumas. 

It had been hours since she’d left the Agreste Manor, and Gabriel still hadn’t made any move to come after their miraculous. Normally she would have considered that to be a good thing, but now it only made Marinette weary. He should have attacked by now. Or he should have run and gone into hiding. But she knew he hadn’t done that either because if he’d tried to make Adrien pack up and leave, then Adrien would have at least sent her a text.

Adrien.

As soon as the blond boy entered her thoughts for what must have been the hundredth time that morning, Marinette quickly pulled open her locker door in an attempt to hide her rapidly heating face. She had actually kissed Adrien. Adrien Agreste. The boy of her dreams. In her room. In her bed. And she had no idea what to do about it. 

In all the times she had imagined it, and she had imagined it a lot, she’d always figured that she’d go running to Alya afterwards to gush about it. What she hadn’t imagined (as much) was that she would kiss Chat Noir. And she’d definitely never imagined that she would be kissing both Chat and Adrien at the same time. Now she found herself spending her morning before class by dodging Alya’s path around the school as she waited for the boy himself to arrive. Due to the revelations of last night, if Alya found about the kiss, then the news would most certainly end up on the Ladyblog, and Marinette wanted at least a second to process it for herself before the whole world went crazy about her love life. 

If by “processing” she meant standing with her face in her locker, mindlessly bring a hand up to ghost over where his fingers had held her cheek. Where his lips had brushed her nose.

A high-pitched shriek suddenly rang out behind Marinette, and instantly she dropped all of her thoughts save for finding a place to transform as she rapidly shut her locker door. Before she could even turn around though, the same voice that had shrieked now spewed out three words that made Marinette stop in place.

She let out a sigh. It wasn’t an akuma.

Marinette. Dupain. Cheng.”

It was just Chloe. 

Still facing her locker with her back turned to the blonde whose favorite pastime seemed to be causing needless drama, Marinette took a deep breath and plastered a very tight, very fake smile onto her face. 

As she turned around she realized that after the last couple of days she’d had, dealing with Chloe’s tantrums suddenly seemed like a piece of cake. But at the same time Marinette’s patience for petty fights was rather low at the moment. She hadn’t seen or heard from Adrien since the... events of last night, and she really wanted to get to him as soon as possible. 

“Good morning to you too, Chloe,” Marinette bit out while maintaining the painfully obvious plastic smile. It didn’t take very long at all for rage to flare in the blonde’s eyes as she was quickly realizing that Marinette would not give into her bait so easily, and in the next moment Marinette was met with a pointed finger aimed directly her shoulder. She didn’t have to look down to know what Chloe was pointing at, and even before the blonde could get out her next words, Marinette couldn’t help the bit of smugness that began to drip into her smile. 

“That’s Adrien’s jacket!” the spoiled blonde spat.

Marinette dropped her gaze down then, taking in the large hoodie she was wearing as if she hadn’t realized who it belonged to until Chloe so very helpfully pointed it out to her.

“Oh, is it?” Marinette questioned before bringing her gaze back up to meet Chloe’s eyes in a deadpan stare. “I hadn’t noticed.” 

Immediately Chloe scoffed and rolled her eyes, flipping over the hand she still held out and holding her palm up expectantly. “Ugh, whatever. Just give it back.”

Marinette couldn’t say she was exactly surprised at Chloe’s reaction, but she still found her demand irritating. That wasn’t to say there wasn’t still a bit of fun Marinette wanted to milk out of this before she walked away though. 

“Give it back?” Marinette asked, blinking owlishly. “To who?”

Chloe’s sharp gaze faltered for just a moment before she returned it in full force, glaring at Marinette like she was the actual scum beneath her shoes. It was times like these that Marinette truly wondered why she had ever voluntarily let Chloe use a miraculous. Not her best move.

“To Adrien, obviously,” the blonde growled. 

Marinette hummed in thought as she brought up a hand to scratch at her forehead. “Adrien…? I’m not sure that I know any ‘Adriens’. Sorry.”

At that Chloe’s eyes thinned and a new level of ice seeped into her gaze. “Don’t play dumb with me, Dupain-Cheng.”

Maybe it would have scared off Marinette when they were younger, but Chloe’s attitude had no effect of that sort on her now. Instead Marinette only looked to other girl flatly while raising an unimpressed eyebrow.

“Look Chloe, I don’t know if your eyeballs are working correctly, but Adrien isn’t even here yet.” 

This time Chloe didn’t hesitate before biting right back. “Then give it to me and I’ll take it back to him. I’m Adrikins’ best friend after all.”

“Yeah?” Marinette scoffed. “And I’m his-” She clamped her mouth shut before she could finish the rest of her sentence though. She was his what? His partner? His Lady? His girlfriend? Her stomach dropped as she rolled over the word “girlfriend” in her head, knowing full well that was the word that had been right about to come out of her mouth. She was suddenly very glad that she’d stopped herself before she could say it, saving herself the further rage from the furious blonde girl standing before her, especially since it wasn’t even true. Well, at least Marinette didn’t think it was true. Of course she wanted it to be, but they had shared only one kiss before she’d fallen fast asleep in his arms. 

Right after she’d confessed her love for him.

They weren’t dating though.

Marinette took a deep breath to center herself. Whatever it was that was going on between her and Adrien, Chloe was certainly the last person she wanted to discuss it with. 

“This has been fun and all,” Marinette said blandly, silently hoping that Chloe wouldn’t notice the diversion of the conversation, “but I’m getting bored now. So, if you’ll excuse me.” With that Marinette started to make her way towards the entrance of the locker room, but Chloe quickly held both of her arms out beside herself in the aisle of lockers they were standing in, effectively blocking Marinette from taking any more than a few steps forward. 

“Not so fast, Dupain-Cheng.”

Marinette was starting to get really over this. 

“Seriously Chloe, just let it go. And stop saying my last name like that. It makes you sound weird.” 

After taking only a few seconds to watch Chloe’s appalled jaw drop, Marinette pivoted around to walk out of the aisle in the opposite direction before the blonde had a chance to respond. The moment she was faced away, Marinette dug into the jacket pocket for her phone, choosing to ignore the gazes of the other students that had slowly turned their heads in her direction in favor of checking her phone for any texts she may have missed in the last three minutes. Even though her phone was currently set to full volume. 

It couldn’t hurt to check. 

She barely got as far as swiping in her passcode though before Chloe’s piercing voice once again rang out, causing Marinette to stop and turn around. Again. 

Adrikins! Oh thank goodness you’re here!” 

Whatever dirty looks Chloe may have been sending Marinette in that moment though went completely unnoticed by the freckled girl. Rather, Marinette’s mind was already too occupied with the relief that filled her chest as she watched Adrien approach them from behind Chloe. Upon first glance he definitely looked tired, but he didn’t seem completely worn down, and he didn’t look particularly scared. Which meant he probably hadn’t run into his father this morning. She wouldn’t know for sure though until she could ask him how he was doing for herself, but she didn’t want to ask with Chloe standing right in between them. The aggravating girl didn’t even seem to notice that there was anything off with Adrien at all as she quite literally threw herself onto him, crying out with a few annoyingly fake sobs before either Marinette or Adrien could get even so much as a greeting out. 

“It’s horrible, just horrible!” Chloe cried, clinging to Adrien’s shirt while he politely tried to pry her off. 

At the same time, Adrien shot a raised eyebrow over to Marinette who simply rolled her eyes in response while lightly shaking her head in irritation.

“Marinette Dupain-Cheng stole your jacket!” Chloe continued on in her trademark over-exaggerated distress. “And she refuses to take it off! Can you believe her nerve!” 

Marinette watched as something flashed in Adrien’s eyes while he finished detaching the crying girl from himself, and she definitely didn’t miss the faint hint of a smirk that made its way into his expression. 

So maybe he really was feeling alright after all.

“She refuses to take it off you say?” Adrien asked while not even bothering to look at Chloe. 

Heat rapidly consumed Marinette’s cheeks but she kept her gaze locked with his, if only for the sake of further annoying Chloe.  “I-”

“Yes!” Chloe exclaimed, cutting her off. “And she-”

“I guess she’ll just have to keep wearing it then,” Adrien cut in as well, and Marinette was definitely still not used to seeing such a Chat expression come from him. In that moment she was torn between practically squeaking from how smooth that was, and wanting to groan at him for saying something so cheesy.  

Unfortunately Chloe continued her theatrics before Marinette had a chance to choose.

“But Adrikins! She stole it from you and she’s being a total brat about it!”

Marinette felt her eye twitch on the word “brat”, and she set her jaw. If she opened her mouth in that moment, she would probably regret it. 

“That’s enough, Chloe,” Adrien spoke up, his tone suddenly stern. “Marinette and I have to get to class.” He reached out one hand passed a gawking Chloe in invitation to Marinette, and she simply stared at it for a moment.

The way Adrien had spoken just now, Marinette had watched him defend her like that countless times before, but only ever as Chat and only ever against akumas. Watching him stand up against Chloe for her without the mask was… hot. And the way Chloe’s eyes practically bulged out of her head at it was definitely hilarious. 

Marinette gladly placed her hand into his. 

“You know,” she said tentatively, “I think I just heard the warning bell.” She punctuated her sentence with a wink, and to her relief, today he had no trouble in following her lead. 

“I think I just heard it too,” he agreed as he led Marinette right past where Chloe still stood frozen. The moment the pair had their backs turned to the other girl, they heard her cry out behind them though neither turned their heads back to spare her even a glance. 

“There was no bell!” Chloe yelled, apparently forgetting about playing nice in front of Adrien. 

Marinette simply ignored her, continuing to head out of the locker room hand in hand with Adrien as she looked up to meet his eyes with an amused smile.

“Sorry, Chloe,” he called out, not breaking Marinette’s gaze and not actually sounding sorry whatsoever. “Gotta run.”

The two of them snorted as they heard Chloe scream out in frustration for Sabrina, but they left the locker room completely before they could hear anymore. 

Walking through the open courtyard of the school, Marinette looked down to where Adrien had interlocked their fingers. Before he had arrived, a part of Marinette had been worried that things would be awkward between them now, but the way he was currently mindlessly rubbing his thumb against the back of her hand dissolved those worries into thin air. 

“My hero,” she sighed sarcastically, batting her eyelashes at him as if she were one of his swooning fans. She giggled as he puffed out his chest and stood tall, as though he were a mighty superhero who saved the city from time to time.

“Anything for you, Princess.”

Instantly Marinette felt her cheeks get hotter as he used the nickname that until now he’d only ever called her by with his cat ears on.

“And besides,” he added, “it would be a crime for anyone to ask you to take that jacket off when you look so pawsitively adorable in it.”

Despite his terrible pun that she’d already heard a thousand times before, Marinette giggled anyway. “It’s like three sizes too big on me.”

“And it’s purrrfect,” he said, sounding like there was nothing in this world that could make him change his mind. 

Marinette could swear she saw hearts in his eyes.

If they weren’t standing in the middle of the school, surrounded by other students hurrying in every direction, she probably would have kissed him again right then and there. But, they were standing in the middle of the school, and there were other students everywhere, so she refrained. That, and she knew that they still had some not-so-fun things to discuss before class started. She just didn’t know how to bring it up. She didn’t want to ruin his pleasant mood. 

Her gaze drifted off to nowhere in particular as her mind wandered, and she didn’t realize that he was still watching her until he spoke up again a minute later. 

 “I didn’t see him this morning,” Adrien said, his words quiet and soft.

Marinette blinked. His voice didn’t hold the same sorrow that she’d heard from him whenever he’d spoken of his father ever since they’d... found out. He was still grieving of course, that much was obvious to her, but he seemed to be doing better today. It was as if he were finally able to take in breaths of fresh air after days of a terrible storm. 

She really hoped it would stay that way. 

“That’s g-good,” she said, acutely aware of how he tightened his grip on her hand just the tiniest bit. She wasn’t sure if he was doing so to comfort her or himself, but she welcomed it regardless as they stepped off to an empty corner of the courtyard near their classroom, still far away enough from other people for anyone to hear what they were saying so long as they kept their voices low.

“Yeah, I think it is too,” he agreed. “There haven’t been any, um...” He paused, swallowing as he dropped his gaze. “There haven’t been any akumas, so I think that means he’s just doing whatever it is that he normally does, all holed up in his office.”

Marinette watched as his expression grew distant. If Adrien was right about his father, then that actually really was good for them. Even though the same plan probably wouldn’t work twice, as long as his father stuck to his normal routine, then the superheroes would still have an advantage on him. It was true that Gabriel was now aware they knew his identity, but he was also an incredibly secret man to the general public. He wasn’t at all aware of just how much insight they actually had on him. 

Marinette didn’t say any of this out loud to Adrien though, she could tell he had already come to the same conclusion himself and she didn’t want to make him dwell on it any longer than he needed to. 

“I called Master Fu this morning,” she said gently, bringing up her free hand to absent-mindedly twirl one of the strings from his hoodie around her finger. “I figured I should give him some sort of update since we didn’t return to give him back the um... the Fox Miraculous.” 

Adrien stayed silent for a moment as the real warning bell rang out around them signaling that they only had a few minutes left until the start of class. 

Neither of them made any move to step away from their secluded spot in the courtyard.

“What did he say?” Adrien asked, though Marinette could tell he was really putting an effort into keeping his voice steady.

“Well,” she started carefully, “I asked him if we should go by his place after school, but he said that it would be best for us to rest for today. We can go over tomorrow.”

She watched Adrien furrow his brows. 

“But my- my father,” he stammered, “he could attack us at any time.”

Letting go of the jacket string, Marinette placed her hand on top of where her other one was already being held in his. 

“I know,” she said, her voice now just above a whisper. “And we’ll be ready. But how can we fight or even come up with a real plan when we’re this exhausted.” She watched him carefully as she moved her free hand again, now bringing it up so she could lightly hold his cheek while tracing his cheekbone with her thumb, her touch falling just barely below the dark circles that hung under his eyes. She was starting to wonder if he’d even slept at all. “Let’s get some rest today.” 

He stayed silent again, and Marinette could see that he was mentally debating the pros and cons of not immediately jumping to make a new plan like he very clearly wanted to do. After only about a minute though, the light he’d had in his eyes just a bit before began to creep back, and Marinette found herself letting out a silent sigh of relief.

“Okay,” he finally said, the sudden lightness of his tone surprising Marinette, “I will spend the day ‘resting’ and not chasing down my crazy supervillain father, if…

The playful challenge he had in his eyes now caused Marinette’s stomach to tingle. She had seen him give her that look a million times before with those cat eyes of his, and she was pretty sure she could tell exactly where he was headed with this. 

“If…?” she echoed while eyeing him carefully, practically daring him to finish that sentence. She paused her strokes across his cheek, but she didn’t take her hand away. 

If,” he repeated, “you let me kiss you again.” 

Even though she’d known it was coming, she couldn’t help the tiny squeak she let out as her brain all but short-circuited. Obviously she was more than willing to accept his offer, but the final school bell rang out right then, cutting her off before she could even try to form words. 

Adrien simply grinned. After all this time his attempts at wooing were finally working, and he was looking far too smug about it. 

Abruptly Marinette turned her head towards the classroom that they were now late getting to despite arriving at school so early. “W-We should, u-um-”

He looked down to her with a knowing smirk but began leading the two of them towards the classroom nonetheless, leaning down to whisper into her ear as they walked. “As you wish, My Lady.” 

“It’s a good deal, you should take it,” a muffled voice called out to them then from somewhere inside Adrien’s school bag, catching Marinette off guard. 

A moment later a high-pitched “Plagg” rang out from Adrien’s bag as well. 

The blond boy chuckled as they took their final steps towards the door of the classroom. 

“Well there you have it, the kwamis have spoken,” he whispered with a mock seriousness as he pulled open the door for the two of them. “Looks like I’ll be getting a-”

Immediately Marinette covered her face with her hands, letting out a loud “eep” as she looked into the classroom and saw what was being projected on the giant screen in full display for the class. 

It was of course, the photo Alya had taken of her (as Ladybug) kissing Chat Noir (Adrien) during their battle against Oblivio (that to this day she still had no actual memory of). 

Why this in particular was being blasted on the projector screen was beyond Marinette. All she knew was that right then, in that single moment, she had never been more embarrassed in her entire life. 

Time seemed to come to a halt completely as she stared down the photo of herself and the boy currently right beside her, the boy who she’d completely forgotten she’d actually already kissed twice before, but really she had probably only been standing in the doorway for a matter of seconds before Adrien spoke up again under his breath. 

“I get it now,” he whispered more to himself rather than her, sounding as though he had just reached some sort of enlightenment. 

Marinette smacked his arm. 

The moment she did so, the sound of someone clearing their throat from across the classroom caught Marinette’s attention, and finally she drew her eyes away from the projector screen to find Ms. Bustier staring at the two of them expectantly. 

“Ms. Dupain-Cheng, Mr. Agreste,” their teacher said, “if you would please take your seats so Rose here can finish her presentation.” 

Presentation. That’s right. They all had projects due today on the “positive qualities of the city’s superheroes”. Marinette had finished hers last week, seeing as it was a bit of a no-brainer for her, and she’d packed her flash drive away into her backpack to be forgotten until this very moment.

Marinette quickly looked from their teacher to Rose, who she now noticed was standing at the front of the classroom, and then to Adrien before blurting out an apology and rushing over to her seat with Adrien following right behind. 

Before Marinette had even fully sat down, Rose continued on with her speech and Marinette took the opportunity to try and calm the fire in her cheeks now that the class’s, and Adrien’s, attention were no longer on her. 

“As you can see,” Rose spoke up to the class, the excitement obvious in her voice, “Ladybug and Chat Noir are in love with each other and everyone knows that love makes you stronger. That whats makes them the strongest heroes in Paris!”

Marinette wouldn’t have entirely minded if an akuma came bursting through the windows right then and knocked her out cold. It would be less painful. 

But sadly no akuma came, and instead Marinette was only privy to the sound of Alya’s snickering as Marinette tuned out the rest of Rose’s speech. When the squealing girl finally finished and the class applauded her, Marinette leaned over to groan at Alya who was now fully letting her giggles out, wisely using all the noise of the classroom to not be noticed by their teacher. Ever the schemer her friend was. 

“I hate you, I can’t believe you took that picture,” Marinette whined, though she had no trace of real venom in her voice. 

Alya pretended to wipe a tear from her eye as she kept right on laughing. “I can’t believe you were locking lips with loverboy over there in the middle of an akuma attack.”

Marinette’s cheeks continued to burn as she watched Alya gesture vaguely in Adrien’s direction. 

“You kissing Nino in a random closet caused the akuma attack!” she defended, doing her best to keep her voice at a low whisper.  

Alya paused to glance at Nino for a moment before bursting into another round of giggles, and at that point Marinette simply laid her head down on her desk in defeat, only lifting it again when Ms. Bustier called up Juleka to present next. 

It took right up until the lunch period to get through everyone’s presentations, including Adrien’s and her own, and as soon as the bell rang to signal the start of lunch, Adrien turned around in his seat to look up at Marinette who in return stared back at him flatly.

“You are so unsubtle it’s ridiculous,” she scolded. 

Not only had Adrien’s presentation been entirely about her, but he’d been staring, and smirking for that matter, directly at her nearly the entire time he’d been talking. That, and he’d also used the Oblivio picture in his presentation as well. 

Honestly, there’d already been enough revealed identities in the last few days. The last thing they needed was other people figuring it out just because one certain cat boy couldn’t stop preaching about how “beautiful” and “amazing” she was to anyone who would listen.

Adrien turned more fully around then, gripping the back of his seat with both hands and giving her over-the-top sad kitten eyes in some measly attempt to get her to forgive him. 

Damn he was good at that. 

“She’s right,” Alya chimed in. “With the way you were talking about her, I’m pretty sure the whole class thinks you’re in love with Ladybug now.”

Adrien pouted. “But I am in love with Ladybug.”

Thankfully for Marinette, her mortification had calmed down over the course of the class period and so now that she was in control of her expression again, she was able to simply roll her eyes at him. 

He blew her a kiss in return. 

The three of them didn’t say any more on the matter though as Nino, who’d been the last to present, returned back to his shared desk with Adrien, fist-bumping his friend as he sat back down.

“So,” Alya spoke up now that the four of them were together again. “What are we doing for lunch?”

 

~~~

 

“A picnic, how lovely!” Sabine cooed.

Marinette finished packing up the last of their prepared lunches into the large straw basket she’d grabbed from upstairs as her mother fawned over her and the boy she’d tasked with carrying the giant outdoor blanket. 

“Isn’t it?” Adrien sighed dreamily. 

“Yeah, sure,” Marinette mumbled, concentrating on getting out the door as quickly as possible. It was just the three of them in the bakery at the moment since Alya had gone off with Nino to stop by the library first for something or other, and Marinette knew that her crush on the blond boy was no secret to her mother. She’d had enough embarrassment for one day though, and so although her parents’ nosey questions were inevitable, Marinette decided she’d try and pass on them for as long as she could help it. 

“Oh take these too, Dear!” her mother said, holding out a box of macarons to Marinette despite the fact that she’d already packed a whole other box into her basket already. 

“It’s alright, Mom,” Marinette insisted. “We’ve already-”

“They’re passionfruit,” her mother added tantalizingly.

Marinette faltered for a moment as she looked between the overly-innocent look her mother was sending her and Adrien’s pleading eyes. “Ugh, fine okay.”

Adrien grinned. 

“Thank you very much, Mrs. Cheng,” he said, accepting the box on Marinette’s behalf since her hands were already full with the basket. 

Marinette watched as her mother smiled sweetly at him, and she quickly announced their departure before her mother could say anything to potentially embarrass her further. “Well we’ve got everything we need so we’ll be off. Bye!” 

She all but ran towards the bakery door, ignoring the inquisitive look Adrien sent her the moment the door fell shut behind them. 

“Why do I get the feeling your mother already knows that passionfruit is my favorite?” 

Marinette ignored that question as well. 

“Do you see Alya and Nino yet?” she asked instead, peering around for their two friends as they walked across the street and into the park. There were lots of people scattered around, probably all taking advantage of the warm, sunny afternoon just like they were, but neither Nino nor Alya seemed to be among them. 

“Looks like it’s still just you and me, Bugaboo.”

Marinette’s cheeks grew warmer upon hearing the pet name, but if anyone asked, she would have blamed the heat in her face on the sunshine beating down on them.

They continued to stroll through the park together until Adrien picked out a spot in the grass for them, a pocket of sun right inbetween the shade of two trees. 

“You really are like a cat,” Marinette commented as they worked together to spread out the blanket. 

She tried to position it so that at least some of it was in the shade. 

“Me? Never,” he chuckled.

The sound was soft and light, but Marinette wondered if he was really doing okay. Their mission last night had been so intense for them, especially him, and now he was acting as if none of it had happened at all. 

Marinette sat down on the blanket silently, taking up the bit of shade she’d manage to salvage.

She was worried. Of course she wanted him to be light and happy and cracking terrible jokes, but given all that he’d just been through, it didn’t make sense. She was afraid that by asking him about it though, she’d ruin it. Even if it was just a facade. 

The feeling of something being placed in her lap startled her from her thoughts, and she squeaked when she looked down to find Adrien looking innocently up at her from where his head laid atop her folded legs. The rest of his long body was stretched out beside her as he laid on his back, in the sun of course, with his hands folded gently together atop his stomach. 

“Wh-What are you doing?” 

“Resting,” he answered as if it were the most obvious thing in the world. 

His proposed deal from earlier rang back in her mind then, causing her heartbeat to pick up though he stayed put exactly where he was. It didn’t seem like he planned on moving away from her any time soon. 

She calmed her breathing and watched him as he closed his eyes, bathing peacefully in the sunlight, surrounded by the deep green grass and the tiny little white flowers peppered here and there. They stayed quiet for a few minutes, listening to the sounds of children playing around them and birds chirping, rustling the leaves of the trees above them. In that moment, it was as if the city had never known anything other than that peace. 

No storms, no supervillains. No anguish.

Just peace.  

When she spoke up again her voice was gentle, all the stuffiness from being so flustered before now washed away.

“What do you want to do after school?” she asked.

She watched as he twiddled his thumbs, his eyes remaining closed while he shifted his head slightly in her lap, adjusting his position. 

“I’m supposed to have a Chinese lesson with my tutor,” he answered. 

She hummed in acknowledgement, leaning back on one arm while she brought her other up to tenderly stroke through his hair. 

“What do you want to do… after that?” she asked, giggling when he peeked open one eye.

“Is that a trick question?” 

Marinette couldn’t help but smile and shake her head, though a few moments later she dropped her voice a bit lower. “Did you actually get any sleep last night?” 

He closed his eyes again, clearing his throat. “Well, uh…”

The hand she had in his hair paused mid-stroke as she began to understand just how tired he really was. 

“Adrien,” she asked carefully, “how long have you been awake?” 

He paused as if taking a moment to ponder her question before answering, “I don’t know, what time did we get up again yesterday?”

“Oh my god, Adrien!” 

He simply nestled further against her thighs. “Hey, it’s not entirely my fault okay. You can’t just kiss a guy like that and expect him to like, not be awake the rest of the night.” 

Marinette felt her chest grow heavier. She knew there was no way that was the only reason he’d stayed up for so long, but she didn’t push it any further. Plus she also now felt a bit embarrassed for falling asleep so quickly after their first kiss. 

Well, to be more exact, the first kiss between them that they both actually remembered. 

Before she could dwell on it any more though, a familiar pair of voices called out to them from a few yards away. 

“Hey, lovebirds!”

“What’s up, dudes!”

Marinette waved to her friends as they walked over to where she and Adrien were sprawled across the blanket. 

“Took you guys long enough,” she laughed. 

“Sorry,” Nino said as he sat down. “The printer in the library got jammed. There was ink everywhere. It was a scene.”

“I see,” Marinette responded, eyeing the couple skeptically. “Well there’s plenty of food for everyone in the basket, knock yourselves out.” She continued running her fingers through Adrien’s hair with one hand as she sat up more to reach the basket for herself after waiting for Alya and Nino to pick out the sandwiches they wanted. 

Nino ended up devouring his impressively fast and soon laid down as well, closing his eyes and pulling on his headphones with the music turned up loud enough for the rest of them to hear the thump of the bass. Marinette was pretty sure a plane could land right next to him and he wouldn't have a clue.

It didn’t take long after Nino settled down for Alya to shoot a questioning look over to Marinette who immediately blushed under the scrutiny. Apparently Adrien could feel their friend’s gaze on them too seeing as he peeked open an eye at her before answering her look with a loud whisper. 

“I’m resting,” he explained. “Bug’s orders.”

Marinette paused her stokes yet again, this time to lightly flick his head. 

“You wound me, My Lady,” he chuckled.

She resumed her movements anyway though as his eyes closed again, and only a few moments later, Alya’s expression turned solemn. 

“I’m concerned,” Alya said quietly while Nino’s bass pumped out a different song now beside them. “There haven’t been any akumas coming after us. Even though he knew we were so close.” She brought her knees up then, wrapping one arm around them and using her other hand to rub at the chain of the necklace that disappeared into her shirt. It was a recognizable miraculous after all, it was best to keep it covered. “Our miraculous, they were so close.”

Marinette waited for a moment to gauge Adrien’s reaction to the topic of his father, but the boy in her lap remained silent. To any passerby it would look like he was fast asleep, simply enjoying the spring day. But she knew better. 

“Perhaps...” she started cautiously, “Perhaps he just knew he was outnumbered and thought it was too risky.” She wasn’t entirely sure she believed it herself though. Their numbers on him had never deterred him before, and occasionally he even had that Mayura villain helping him out, though they hadn’t seen any sight of her in many months. Instinct told Marinette that there was something else going on that none of them understood. Yet, at least. 

Whatever it was that Gabriel was thinking, she would figure it out and she would stop him. 

Hopefully sooner rather than later. 

“Yeah, maybe,” Alya agreed quietly, now picking at random blades of grass along the edge of the blanket. 

“It’s not like he can do much now anyway though,” Marinette added in an attempt to reassure both Alya and the boy who was listening in silently. “He doesn’t know who we are, the most he can do is just make more akumas and clearly that doesn’t get him anywhere. Not really…” It was true that over the years a few akumas had gotten as far as taking one of her earrings out, but between Chat and the rest of the superheroes, no akuma had ever been able to get any further than that. 

After years of almost daily battles, Hawk Moth had never won. And Marinette swore on her life that she would never let him. 

“Should I hold onto this miraculous still?” Alya asked.

Say yes,” a new voice chirped from the depths of the picnic basket before Marinette had a chance to respond. Even Adrien smiled at that. 

Alya leaned forward then, peering into the basket where her kwami had apparently gone without any of them noticing, and Marinette watched as her friend’s eyes blew wide.

“Trixx, did you eat all of the macarons!?” Alya gaped. 

To Marinette’s surprise, a second voice answered in unison with the orange kwami’s. 

“It was Tikki!”

“It was Tikki.”

So apparently all of the kwamis had managed to go into the basket without any of them noticing.

Marinette leaned forward then to look inside for herself, regarding the red kwami with admonishing eyes.

Tikki scoffed in betrayal. “It wasn’t only me, Plagg ate some too!” 

At that Adrien finally spoke up, though he remained in place, eyes closed and all.

“Impossible. The day Plagg eats anything other than Camembert is the day I’m secretly Ladybug.” 

Marinette raised her eyebrows. “Well then I guess you better get your spots on because your kwami has got cookie crumbs all over his face.” 

Instantly Adrien sat up, blinking a couple times before turning to stare at the basket with a look of pure shock. “What!? Plagg!” 

“Busted,” Tikki practically sang.

Adrien stared incredulously at his kwami. “Plagg, you bastard. All these years of horrendously stinky cheese when you could have been eating sweet, beautifully sweet scented macarons this whole damn time.” 

The kwami in question snickered, Adrien groaned, and the bass from Nino’s headphones kept right on pumping, leaving the boy who seemed to actually be asleep blissfully unaware of the soap opera happening around him. 

A breeze blew by them then, rustling everyone's hair and causing a few leaves to shower down upon them from the trees above as everyone settled back down.

“Can Alya really keep my miraculous?” Trixx asked, bringing Marinette’s attention back to the more serious matters at hand. “Pretty, pretty, pretty please.” 

“Yeah, for now,” Marinette answered, smiling as the orange kwami twirled around inside the basket excitedly.

“What about Nino’s?” Alya asked, glancing over to her now snoring boyfriend. “Should he hold onto his?”

Once again Marinette was cut off before she had a chance to answer, only this time it was not by a kwami but by the blond boy who was staring at her as if she’d suddenly sprouted a horn on her face like Lila had that one time. 

Nino has a miraculous!?” he gawked, his voice barely maintaining a whisper.

Instead of answering, Marinette took a moment to look to Alya nonchalantly who in return looked nonchalantly back. Both girls then turned in sync to look at Adrien with blank faces, neither saying a word. 

Adrien himself continued gaping for a moment before he quickly sobered up, clearing his throat and running a hand through his hair. “Nevermind. Carapace. Got it.” 

With that settled, Marinette scooted over to Adrien until she was sat right up against his side, leaning her cheek against the side of his upper arm as she went on to answer Alya’s question. 

“Given the situation, I would, but right now it’s being used to guard the rest of the miraculous.” She spoke quietly, watching as Alya showed vast interest in the new information regarding the secrets of the miraculous, however small. “With, um, with everything being so unpredictable right now, it’s safest to have that one stay guarding the rest. If we end up needing Carapace in battle though, my Lucky Charm will tell us.” 

She stayed quiet as Alya absorbed what she’d just told her, letting her friend take the time to understand why they couldn’t bring Nino into their missions despite how much Marinette personally thought he could help them. It was a difficult decision, but Marinette didn’t know how else to best keep the Miracle Box safe. There was simply only one Turtle Miraculous.

“Wait a minute,” Adrien said looking suddenly confused all over again. “Alya knew Nino’s identity, but I didn’t?”

“Well it’s only fair since he knows mine too,” Alya pointed out casually. 

Marinette smiled to herself, she could tell Alya was just messing with Adrien at this point. 

Not that what she’d said was untrue though. 

“No wait,” Adrien said, now turning his head to look down at Marinette. “Those two knew each other’s identities, but we," he gestured between themselves, “didn’t!?” 

At the betrayed look in his kitten eyes both Marinette and Alya burst out laughing, the sound fading into the atmosphere of the peaceful afternoon in the park. 

 

~~~

 

The end of the school day eventually rolled around, and Marinette was now standing with Adrien at the top of the school’s front steps. She was just about to bid him goodbye when a serious expression abruptly crossed his face as he stared to the street below, immediately causing her stomach to drop with concern. 

“Adrien, what is it?” she asked, carefully placing a hand on his arm to draw his attention. 

Upon her touch he turned to face her again, but now she could see the traces of fear return to his eyes that he’d managed to go the whole day without. Until now apparently. 

“I-It’s just, my bodyguard,” he answered. “He should have been here by now. Five minutes ago actually.” 

Marinette looked down to the street below as well, scanning all the cars packed together against the sidewalk while other students waved goodbye to their friends and climbed into them. The silver car that she’d always seen waiting for Adrien was not among them.

There were plenty of reasons why his bodyguard could be running late today though, there was certainly no need to panic. Adrien was probably just more put off by it because of how sleep deprived he was at the moment. It was nothing a solid nap couldn’t fix. 

“I’m sure he’s just caught in traffic,” Marinette assured. “Maybe you could try calling him?” She watched him as he scanned the street some more. He didn’t look convinced at all, but he agreed nonetheless. 

“Y-Yeah, of course.” 

She waited patiently, slowly rubbing his arm as he pulled out his phone with his other hand and dialed. Since she was standing so close to him, she could hear as the phone rang in his ear. 

After half a minute, she could hear as a recorded voicemail message played.

Adrien hung up before the beep. 

Quickly Marinette offered him a supportive smile, trying to keep him from freaking out over something that was probably nothing. “Maybe the uh, maybe the car broke down and he’s just busy trying to fix it.” 

Adrien looked wearily down to her again. Even if he refused to say it, he was clearly freaking out. 

“It’s alright,” he said. “I’ll just walk home, it’s not that far.”

Marinette’s smile faltered. It was obviously not alright, but there wasn’t much else for them to really do about the situation. He needed to get home on time for his Chinese lesson, so walking was the only reasonable solution. Especially since it was far too dangerous to bring the cat ears around the mansion at the moment. 

“I can walk with you,” she offered. 

His eyes lit up just the tiniest bit at that, but a moment later it was gone again, the fear taking a prominent hold in his gaze. 

“I wish,” he said, his voice barely steady. “But Father doesn’t approve of bringing other people by the house.”

Marinette didn’t like it, but she nodded anyway. They needed to stay under the radar around his father now more than ever, she understood that.

“Alright,” she sighed. “I’ll see you after your lesson then?”

“That you most certainly will,” he answered with a small smile. It was tight, but it was still a smile. 

In a mirroring action of the day before, he reached out to take her hand into his own, pressing his lips to the back of it as his parting gift, and Marinette silently wondered if this would become some sort of routine for them out here on the top of the steps every day after school. She hoped so.

He continued to hold onto her hand as they made their way down the concrete steps together, only letting go once they went their separate ways on the sidewalk, Marinette headed to the bakery, and Adrien headed to the mansion. 

When she pulled open the front door to the bakery she was greeted with a crowd of customers filling the small shop entirely. It took her a solid minute to squirm her way through the mass of people and get to the area behind the counters. 

“Marinette, you’re here, great!” her father called to her from down the counter the moment she got through. “Would you mind grabbing me a bag of flour?” 

It wasn’t like Marinette could say no with a crowd like this, it was practically a stampede waiting to happen.

“Of course, Papa,” she called back. She promptly set her phone down on the table behind the counter and dumped her backpack on the floor right below it before wandering off to wash her hands and hunt down a fresh bag of flour. 

Within thirty minutes she was working on her second batch of cookie dough in the back room when her mother came in holding a buzzing phone. After a moment, Marinette realized that it was her phone. And a certain cat’s face was taking up half the screen. 

“I think it’s for you,” her mother said, sending her a look as if to ask why on earth one of Paris’s superheroes had her daughter’s personal cell phone number. 

The superheroes didn’t exactly have a habit of calling civilians. 

Her mother didn’t ask this out loud though, so Marinette didn’t give her an answer. Instead she just sheepishly took the phone as her mother held it out to her, accepting the call and bringing the phone to her ear while her mother left to get back to the storm of customers in the main room of the bakery. 

“Chat?” Marinette said into the phone, opting to use his hero name just in case her mother was still eavesdropping nearby. He didn’t answer right away, but she could hear him breathing heavily into his baton while she carried on with placing the trays of cookie dough into the oven, using her shoulder to keep the phone to her ear. Marinette was suddenly very worried. He shouldn’t be transformed right now, he should be at his Chinese lesson. Maybe his father finally was finally attacking with an akuma. In that case she needed to hide and transform as soon as possible. “Chat, are you okay? Is there an akuma?” 

“No,” he breathed. “No, no he’s gone. They’re all gone.”

He sounded like he’d been crying. It’s possible he still was, but it was difficult to tell over the static of the phone line. 

“Shh, Chat breathe,” she said trying to calm both him and herself, the sudden rapid pounding of her heart beating roughly against her chest. She needed to stay calm. “Who’s gone?”

“Nathalie, my bodyguard, m-my-” He paused to sniffle. “My father. They’re all gone, Marinette. They ran.” His voice cracked and the tray in Marinette’s hands clattered to the floor, the sound causing Marinette’s mother to poke her head back into the room. 

But Marinette never noticed since by that time she was already long gone from the bakery.

Chapter Text

Why.

Why did it end up like this.

Why did the two people in the whole world who were supposed to love him unconditionally, leave him.

Why… Why was the one person who spent every day and night trying to kill him… Why was it his own father.

Chat wiped at his eyes with one hand, the other continuing to propel him across the rooftops with his baton.

He needed to find him.

He needed to ask him why.

Chat didn’t care about keeping his stupid identity a secret from his father at this point, it wouldn’t matter anyway once he took the stolen miraculous back once and for all. He just needed to know. Was it something he did? Was it just himself in general? Was his own existence so terrible for his father that the man truly needed to go to such lengths to try and get rid of him?

The streets below Chat were nothing but streaks. He was supposed to be trying to find his father, but really he knew it was a futile effort. It didn’t matter if his tears obscured his vision, by now his father probably wasn’t in the city at all anymore. Maybe even the country.

Chat!

The voice called out from behind him as he leapt between rooftops, and even though he knew he needed to keep searching, he kept his baton reigned in this time as he touched down. It took only seconds for Ladybug to land beside him, her form just a blur of red in the corner of his eye.

“Adrien,” she called breathlessly.

Despite his racing mind, he was nowhere near able to form words at the moment.

The next thing he knew, the red came into the center of his vision, and a body pressed against his own, strong arms wrapping around him as the two of them stood on some stranger’s roof out in the daylight for any pair of wandering eyes to see.

Why did he leave me behind?

Chat didn’t notice he’d actually voiced the question out loud until Ladybug tried to answer it.

“I-I… I don’t know.” Her voice sounded different than it normally did. She sounded defeated. “I’m sorry, Adrien. I’m sorry. I don’t know.”

Her arms held onto him firmly and her cheek was pressed flat against his chest, the thin material of their suits being the only thing inbetween them.

He didn’t know what he was supposed to think. He didn’t know he was supposed to feel. All he knew for sure right then, was that he wanted her to stay exactly where she was. Everything else was too much.

It was roughly ten minutes before Ladybug spoke up again, the two of them now having made their way over to sit in the shadows of the roof’s chimney as she held him the same way she had that first night.

“Do you think he... knows?” she asked, her voice barely even a whisper.

Given the situation, it was impossible to tell for sure whether his father had already figured out who he was under the black mask or not. But Chat had thought about it a lot. There were so many factors involved, but honestly…

“No,” he answered in a breathy rasp. “I don’t think he does.”

He could feel the vibrations as she hummed against him, although her tone made it sound like she wasn’t quite sure what to believe. He didn’t blame her, his first thoughts when he’d realized that his father had fled was that his secret identity had finally been discovered. Perhaps he had somehow slipped up last night without realizing it and said something that exposed himself to his father. Perhaps standing in such close proximity to his father while in costume had led the man to finally recognize his own child for who he really was.

But… no. None of that seemed right. Not really.

“The housekeepers and the chef,” Chat said quietly. “Those are the only other staff in the house during the day.” He listened for a moment as a plane flew by them. It was too far away for any of the passengers to actually see the superheroes from their hidden spot in the shadows.

Chat took a weary breath.

“Nobody… not the housekeepers, not the chef… nobody saw them leave.”

Ladybug tensed just a bit, but he could still feel it. She stayed silent, waiting for him to continue and giving him all the time he needed.

He closed his eyes.

“When I got home, I found my tutor waiting outside the gates. He said that he’d rung the bell a couple times, but there’d been no answer. I had to use the code on the keypad to get us inside. As soon as the gates opened though, I could see the driveway was empty.”

A hand slowly combed through his hair while he spoke. It felt good.

“I had the tutor wait by the front door while I went inside and looked for my bodyguard, but I couldn’t find him. Or Nathalie. And she wasn’t answering her phone either. After that I asked the staff on shift if they’d seen them at all, but no one had. They told me they thought that Nathalie and my bodyguard had been with me. At that point I risked knocking on Father’s office door, and when no one responded I opened it myself, but-”

“But it was empty,” Ladybug breathed.

From his current position he couldn’t see her face, but he didn’t need to see it to know the look of concentration she wore. He saw it every day when she was figuring out where the butterflies were hiding on akuma victims, or in class when she was focused intently on her tablet screen.

“Yeah,” Chat sighed. “It was empty.”

She shifted a little in place then, but her hands never ceased their blissful movements across his scalp. Specifically behind his cat ears.

She was really, really good at that.

“But what makes you think he still doesn’t know your identity?” she asked. He could practically hear the cogs turning in her head.

He didn’t mind telling her all that he knew, she was so much cleverer than he was. She could make much better use of the information than he could.

“I searched the house again after that. I checked all the rooms, even his bedroom, and when I went to check the office again, I found his wallet inside.” Chat wasn’t surprised as Ladybug’s breath hitched. Back at the mansion, his had done much the same. “I also found his phone. Both were sitting next to each other on his desk. There wasn’t even anything missing from the house, not from what I could tell at least. I went back and told the staff that nothing was wrong, that my father and the others were probably just at a meeting I had forgotten about, and then I sent my tutor home. But the truth was… Father escaped. And it had to have been planned. He must have prepared everything beforehand so that he could vanish on a moment’s notice and make it look like he just disappeared into thin air.”

And when it came to people disappearing, he couldn’t help but think of how his mother had disappeared in a strikingly similar fashion all those years ago. Over time he’d begun to accept the fact that he might not ever see her again, though it had been by far the most difficult thing he’d ever done in his life. Now though… now it was possible that she wasn’t actually gone forever. Maybe, just maybe, she had simply needed to vanish too.

“If he knew my identity,” Chat continued quietly, “then I have no doubt he would have gone straight for my ring. Not with how desperate he’s been with akuma attacks lately.”

Not with how enwreathed he was in his desire to obtain the three little jewels, no matter the cost.

“I think,” Chat whispered, “I think he simply knew he was found out, and that he ran. Just like he’d been prepared to.”

“But what about you though?” Ladybug asked, leaning her head just far back enough from him to be able to meet his eyes.

Although her eyebrows were hidden beneath her mask, he could still clearly see how she knitted them together, her big blue eyes full of confusion and worry.

She looked pained. It seemed that now that she’d heard the whole story, she was stuck on the same thing he was.

“Why did he leave me behind, you mean?” It was the same question he’d asked a bit ago, and his voice felt even more distant from himself as he repeated it. “I don’t know either.”

She stayed silent for a long while after that, thankfully sparing him the question of why his father apparently took his assistant and his son’s bodyguard with him on his escape. The only answer either of them had to it right now was already obvious: they didn’t know.

However, she did come up with a plan.

Of sorts.

A next step really.

“If your father really doesn’t know your identity,” she started carefully, “which I think you may be right about, then I think he would expect you to report him as missing to the police.” She faltered for a moment before continuing. “Y-You know, like your...”

Chat tensed. The last thing he wanted to do was bring the police into this before they had it under control themselves. This was a matter between miraculous holders. If they couldn’t find his father, then the police certainly couldn’t. The police were only helpful against bank robbers, not evil dads wielding stolen magic jewels.

“But if I did that,” Chat countered, “then the whole city would be looking for him, and he’d only go deeper into hiding.”

Suddenly Chat clenched his fists in his lap. That bastard. This was all part of his plan from the start. He wanted Adrien to panic and go to the police, announcing his father’s disappearance to the world, and he must have had an incredible hiding spot already planned. Somewhere where no one could ever find him.

And Adrien couldn’t tell the police that he knew his father was Hawk Moth, because as far as his father was concerned, only Chat, Ladybug, and Rena Rouge knew that. If Adrien went to the police today and told them that his father was Hawk Moth, his father would see the news from wherever he was hiding, and put two and two together. Adrien’s identity would undoubtedly be revealed to his father.

If Adrien did nothing at all though, then his father would get suspicious as to why his son hadn’t reported his disappearance. And again, his father would put two and two together.

Without even knowing it, his father had created the perfect trap.

Even if Chat Noir and Ladybug were the ones to tell the police of his father’s secret identity, it still wouldn’t actually get them anywhere. As long as his father wore the brooch, the police were entirely useless against him. That was exactly why Adrien had been given a miraculous in the first place. Adrien had been called upon to do what the police couldn’t. To stop Hawk Moth.

Unfortunately, Ladybug was right. The only thing he could do now was go about this exactly like his father would expect him to. Adrien had to report his father, and the two staff he’d taken with him, as missing to the police.

Adrien had no choice but to play the part of the poor oblivious boy whose parents both mysteriously disappeared. It was the only way to keep his identity safe.

In his rage earlier he’d hold himself that he didn’t care anymore, but Ladybug had calmed him down now. He knew it wasn't true. It would never be true.

Keeping his identity safe was the only way to keep Ladybug safe.

And he would go to the ends of the earth to keep her safe. 

“Will you come with me?” he asked, his voice meek. “T-To um… to call…”

Suddenly her hand left his hair, instead coming to stroke his cheek below his mask, and he could feel droplets of water being smeared across his skin.

She was wiping away his tears. He hadn’t even realized he’d been crying again.

“I promised you,” she answered. “I’m not leaving your side.”

 

~~~

 

Don’t be bemused it’s just the news. I’m Nadja Chamack, here to bring you all of the latest breaking stories. As of just a few hours earlier this afternoon, world-famous fashion designer Gabriel Agreste has been reported as missing along with two members of his staff: his personal secretary, Nathalie Sancoeur, and his son’s personal bodyguard, G-

The sound of Adrien’s light snore drew Marinette’s attention away from the television. She watched him for a moment as he laid fast asleep beside her on the couch with their two kwamis making themselves right at home on his back. Plagg seemed to be watching the newscast as well, his tiny hands holding a piece of cheese bigger than his own head, while Tikki, like Adrien, was fast asleep.

After a long afternoon of police sirens and endless questions from men and women in blue uniforms, they had finally returned to her family’s apartment, her parents only now finishing with closing up the bakery for the day.

The three were discovered missing this afternoon by Gabriel Agreste’s son, teen model Adrien Agreste, and a classmate of Adrien’s who had been with him at the time. The nature of the three’s disappearance remains unclear, but if anyone has any information regarding the possible whereabouts of these three people, please call the number below.

None of what was being shown right now was new to Marinette. This was the third time the exact same segment had played since she’d turned on the TV.

Back at the mansion, one of the many questions the police had asked them was where Adrien would stay for now until they found his father. For example, if he had any relatives he could stay with. Marinette had quickly jumped in to say that he would be staying with her own family, and despite the policemen's unsure faces, they agreed that it would be alright. They just had to speak with her mother first.

So Sabine had then been called down to the scene, luckily the bakery crowd had apparently died down by that time, and with a look of “we’ll talk about this later” aimed at Marinette, her mother went off with the police to discuss Adrien’s new housing situation.

The remaining staff of the mansion had been called off work until further notice, it wasn’t like there was anybody to actually pay them at the moment anyway, and Adrien had taken only a change of clothes, a toothbrush, and a box of Camembert out of his room, saying that he would come back to get the rest of his things tomorrow. It had been obvious that he was ready for this day to just be over already. Marinette couldn’t blame him.

And so now they were here, Adrien finally sleeping for the first time in days while their untouched dinner plates sat across the room on the kitchen table. He’d passed out basically the moment they'd hit the couch.

Marinette was beyond relieved that her mom had agreed to let him stay with them. It’s not like Adrien wouldn’t have likely found his way over every night regardless, but at least now they wouldn’t have to deal with all the extra stress that came with sneaking around all the time.

There was still her dad to consider though. He’d stayed behind to hold down the bakery while her mother was gone, and as a result Marinette hadn’t seen him since he’d asked her to help out in the bakery right after school. While it was true that her dad was a hopeless romantic who usually went overboard with the heart-shaped soufflés whenever she dared to bring a boy over, Marinette wasn’t quite sure how happy he’d be about a boy actually living with them. Specifically, the boy who’d covered her bedroom walls for years.

But on the other hand, Adrien was a grieving teenager who now had no family to take care of him. He needed parents. A guardian. Something.

And Marinette’s parents both had hearts filled to the brim with love for their daughter. She was sure that her father would set aside the fact that she also happened to have a crush on this particular boy, in favor of giving him the family-love he so desperately needed.

Marinette didn’t fret about it for very long though since her eyelids began to droop as the news segment came to an end for the third time. Even though she’d gotten more sleep recently than Adrien, she was still thoroughly exhausted. She was just about to nod off completely, her head falling back against the couch pillows, when a fluttering movement in the corner of her eye caught her attention. Suddenly, she was wide awake.

So that’s why Gabriel hadn’t taken Adrien with him.

It was all part of his plan.

“Tikki, spots on!”

The red kwami was immediately sucked into Marinette’s earrings as she jumped up from the couch, but Marinette did not stop for even a second to waste time feeling bad about waking the tiny creature so abruptly. Within the blink of an eye, Ladybug was already casting out her yo-yo and using it to capture the black butterfly that flew straight towards its sleeping target.

Adrien was certainly awake now though.

She watched as he slowly pushed himself up into a sitting position while staring at her yo-yo with impossibly wide eyes. The akuma was still inside it. The akuma that had been sent out to cruelly transform Adrien into his father’s own personal weapon.

Releasing the purified akuma. That was supposed to be Ladybug’s next step. But she was too shocked to even breathe. All she could do was stand there staring at Adrien, while Adrien himself looked absolutely horrified, his gaze not budging from the yo-yo in her hands.

She didn’t know how long the two of them stayed frozen like that. Since she hadn’t needed to use her Lucky Charm, there was no time limit on her powers. So they stayed frozen.

It was impossible to tell whether five minutes had actually even passed or not when the sound of her mother’s voice caused both of them to finally move, their heads turning towards the front door in perfect sync with each other.

“How are you two doing? Do you want any desser- Ladybug?”

The superheroine in question stared to her mother, still unable to wipe the shock from her face. It wasn’t unheard of for her to be in the apartment with her spots on, there had been a number of akuma battles that had taken the superheroes throughout her home. But Ladybug’s brain was as good as fried at the moment.

When she didn’t answer her mother, Sabine spoke up again.

“Ladybug, what are you doing here? Where’s Marinette?”

She sounded very worried.

Ladybug realized then that because of Marinette’s apparent absence from the room, her mother probably thought that she was the one an akuma was after.

Ladybug had to respond. She had to tell her mom that she was okay. It was alright now. The akuma was gone.

Almost gone.

She still hadn’t actually released it from her yo-yo.

“I-I..” she tried. “Um, th-there was... I-It…”

“There was an akuma after me,” Adrien answered for her. His voice was surprisingly solid which only served to scare Ladybug more. “Ladybug was following it, and she followed it here. She purified it before it could get to me. M-Marinette is in the bathroom.” With one hand he weakly pointed across the room to the bathroom door.

The worry on her mother’s face lessened after Adrien’s explanation, and Ladybug cleared her throat, trying to regain what little composure she could.

“Y-Yes. What he said.”

At that she finally reopened her yo-yo, lifting it into the air for all three of them to see as the white butterfly left. It flew straight through a glass window before disappearing completely into the sky.

“Thank you,” her mother’s voice spoke softly from behind her.

Ladybug turned away from the window only to immediately be met with her mother’s embrace.

“Thank you for saving him from Hawk Moth.” The love in her mother’s voice was so genuine. For both her hero’s work, and for Adrien.

From where she was standing, Ladybug met Adrien’s eyes over her mother’s shoulder.

“Always,” the superheroine breathed. “I promised.”

A moment later though her mother let go of her again, it wasn’t like she knew she was hugging her own daughter anyway. To her, Ladybug was nearly a stranger. Her city’s hero, yes, a celebrity one might even say, but still a stranger.

“W-Well then,” Ladybug said, watching as her mom moved to sit down on the couch with Adrien. “I’d, uh,” she paused to clear her throat, “I’d better be off.”

With a final nod from Adrien, Ladybug opened the same window that the purified butterfly had flown away through, and swung herself out into the city, quickly turning herself in the air so that she was out of view of the living room.

The moment she was out of their sight, she headed straight back towards her apartment. Luckily the window of the bathroom that Adrien had used as her cover was already open, so she swung herself right in.

There was an old little analog clock sitting on the white wooden cabinet inside the bathroom. When Marinette dropped her transformation, she watched as the thin second hand ticked over and over and over. The hand made its way around the clock three full times before Marinette looked to her kwami with a nod.

She knew she’d only been in there for three minutes but by God it felt like she’d already left Adrien alone for three years. Her mother was still probably in the living room of course, so it wasn’t like he was actually alone, but Marinette would be damned if she let him out of her sight again for the next long, long while.

When she finally pulled open the bathroom door with her kwami now hidden in her shirt, she was met with the sight of her mother handing Adrien a bath towel.

Marinette stepped out of the bathroom as Adrien made his way across the room towards her. He wasn’t looking at her though, he didn’t meet her eyes even once. However, it didn’t seem like he was intentionally avoiding her. It seemed he was just… lost in thought.

“I’m gonna take a bath,” he murmured as he passed her, his gaze remaining distant.

“O-Okay.”

She didn’t know what else to say, and her words probably wouldn’t have reached him even if she did. So she left it at that, instead sitting back down on the couch as the bathroom door clicked shut and the sound of water running through the pipes echoed throughout the room.

It was only then that she realized the TV was still on. The volume was turned low, but it was still loud enough for her to hear clearly. Yet somehow she hadn’t heard it at all since the butterfly arrived.

Marinette stayed on the couch while Adrien was in the bath.

At that point she was only able to pay half-attention to the news, and she fidgeted with her fingers relentlessly. And with the decorative pillows. And with her hair. She could hear the sounds of her mom storing their uneaten dinners in the fridge across the room. When her mom was finished, she sat back down on the couch, and Marinette kept waiting for her to say something, anything, concerning Ladybug’s drop-in while she was “in the bathroom”, but her mother didn’t say a word about it.

Marinette’s mind was too exhausted to think about it too hard. Instead she forced herself to try and focus on the newscasts in case there was any new information on where Gabriel was hiding.

She knew there wouldn’t be though.

She watched anyway.

After a while her father came up from the bakery and joined them on the couch. He only ended up staying for a few minutes though before he bid her and his wife goodnight, saying something about how it’s a baker’s duty to get a good night’s sleep.

And so her father came and left. And Adrien was still in the bathroom.

At some point during her waiting, her mother brought her a mug of hot chocolate. She hadn’t even noticed her mom get up from the couch to make it, but she accepted it nonetheless, taking small sips as she kept her eyes glued to the television screen. Eventually, the mug was empty.

Adrien was still in the bathroom.

“He’s been in there a while,” her mother commented from her spot on the other end of the couch.

Marinette glanced down to the check corner of the screen where the newscast always displayed the current time. He’d already been in there for over an hour.

Suddenly Marinette’s hands dropped the empty mug onto the couch cushions.

“Shit,” she breathed, immediately standing up as her head whipped towards the bathroom door. “No, no, no, not again.”

Two days ago when Adrien had gone running into his private bathroom back at the mansion, he’d immediately left through the window. On that day he’d gone to Master Fu’s, but Marinette highly doubted he would go there again today. If Adrien had really left again, then this time he would’ve gone to be alone.

Or he would have gone in search of his father.

Marinette’s chest hurt with how hard her heart was pounding as she skidded across the hardwood floors of the living room. If he’d left over an hour ago, then by now he could be just about anywhere. And Marinette wouldn’t be able to get there in time to capture any akumas that came his way. She wouldn’t get there until it was too late.

“Damn it,” she cursed under her breath, now standing right outside the closed bathroom door. She shouldn’t have left him alone. She should have realized what he would do sooner.

Some partner she was.

If she was really lucky though, he would still be transformed and she would simply be able to track his location with the GPS in her yo-yo just as she’d done earlier that day when he’d called her.

With that thought, she was able to pull herself together enough to calm her breathing a bit. Everything would be fine. She would simply track him down on her yo-yo, and everything would be fine.

After a few moments of taking hasty deep breaths, she knocked on the bathroom door and called out his name in a chilling repeat of two nights earlier.

There was no response.

Marinette’s stomach felt like it was being dropped from the top of the Eiffel Tower.

This time she didn’t hesitate as she turned the door handle and pushed forward, cracking the door open an inch wide. Since her bathroom wasn’t nearly as big as the one back at his mansion, she wouldn’t need her enhanced hearing this time. With the door open, she should be able to tell from right where she was whether the bathroom was empty or not.

“Adrien, are you still in there?”

After another few moments of pure silence she went to push the door open fully, but a voice called out from inside a mere split second before she finally did.

It wasn’t Adrien’s voice though.

“Yeah, we’re still here,” Plagg called back to her.

Instantly Marinette brought one hand to rest on her hip and the other flat against her forehead as she let out a tremendous sigh of relief. It only lasted for a second though before she remembered that her mother was still in the room.

Slowly, very slowly, Marinette dared to turn her head back towards the couch. She let out yet another sigh of relief as she found her mom’s attention still focused on the TV. Between the voices of the news anchors and the mostly closed bathroom door, her mother didn’t seem to have noticed the kwami’s voice at all.

“I-Is everything okay? Should I come in?” Marinette asked, turning her attention back to the door.

This time she didn’t panic when it took another few moments for a response to come.

Everything was fine.

Both Adrien and Plagg were right on the other side of that door, there were no more butterflies, and Adrien was not off on his own trying to chase down a dangerous supervillain.

“Yeah, you can come in,” Plagg answered back.

“A-Alright,” Marinette replied, though a frown now pulled at her lips. Not that Plagg wasn’t a bundle of joy and all, but she didn’t understand why Adrien was suddenly only communicating with her through his kwami.

And she didn’t miss how neither of the two behind the door answered if everything was okay or not.

Marinette wasn’t really sure what she was expecting as she pushed gently on the door again, but once she quietly slipped inside, the sight she found before her certainly hadn’t been it. The bathtub only a few feet away was filled to the brim with soap bubbles piling easily a foot above the ceramic tub in some places, though somehow none spilled over the edge. In the center of this bubble bath paradise, was Adrien. He was sitting with his knees drawn up, although only the tips of them could actually be seen past the bubbles, and he was unmoving, staring only to the wall directly in front of him. He didn’t even so much as glance in her direction as she took another step towards him.

In a flash, Marinette felt her face grow very, very hot. It had taken her a handful of moments to fully register the scene before her, but now that her brain was catching up with her eyes, she realized that beneath all the bubbles, Adrien was, to put it simply, very naked.

Immediately Marinette mentally reprimanded herself. Adrien was clearly not okay, this wasn’t the time for her to be getting all flustered over a little bit of exposed skin. This was still Chat. She watched him running around the city in a skin-tight suit literally everyday. And quite frankly, his suit did not leave much to the imagination.

She could do this.

“Adrien,” she called softly.

He faintly hummed in response, but he stayed completely still, barely even blinking as he continued to stare in front of himself. A response was a response though, and she was glad that she was at least getting somewhere with him. It was okay if he couldn’t speak right now, she didn’t need words to understand him.

At that she made her way across the rest of the bathroom, carefully taking one step at a time before sitting down on her knees beside the tub and placing one hand lightly on his arm.

Plagg, who’d been hovering near the tub until then, flew to her shoulder, and Tikki subsequently came out of her hiding spot in Marinette’s shirt to join him.

The four sat in silence for a few long moments, Marinette taking the time to simply gaze at her partner.

Eventually it dawned on her that his hair wasn’t even wet. He’d really just been sitting there like this the entire time he’d been in here.

Bringing up her other arm up as well, she folded her forearm along the edge of the tub to rest her chin on, her fingers dipping past the bubbles and into the water. Just as she’d expected, all the heat from the water was long gone. If Adrien stayed in there for much longer with the water as it was, he’d definitely catch a cold.

Delicately dragging her fingertips back and forth across the surface water, she spoke to him in a tender voice. “I know cats aren’t all that fond of water, but technically we can’t actually wash your hair without getting it wet.”

As he finally turned his head towards her, she looked up to him with a gentle smile, her fingers continuing their strokes through the cool water.

It was progress, but his eyes were still distant. She could tell his mind was still somewhere else.

That was okay though. She was gradually bringing him back to the present.

One step at a time.

“What do you say?” she asked, tilting her head briefly in the direction of all the various soap bottles lined atop the shelf beside the tub. “May I?”

It took him a moment, but he lowered his head just the tiniest bit, nodding his approval to her before turning his head forward once more. Even though he was staring at seemingly nothing again, there was something about him now that told her he was a little more back to himself.

“Alright, first things first,” she said, unable to keep the smile from her voice. “We need to get you warmed up.”

He didn’t turn his head this time, but he did nod again. This one was even a little stronger than the last.

Standing up then with their two kwamis still riding on her shoulder, Marinette stepped over to the faucet behind Adrien. She used one hand to reach down into the water, feeling for the plug before pulling it out while turning on the faucet with her other hand.

He didn’t say anything of course, but she spoke to him anyway.

“Now don’t panic, I promise I won’t destroy your wonderland of bubbles.”

Keeping true to her word, she promptly walked over to the shelf of bottles while the tub was slowly refilling with hot water and grabbed the bubble soap, pouring more of it into the water near the faucet. By that point the bubbles were much more for her peace of mind than his. They were the only thing standing between her and… all of him, and unlike his skin-tight suit, these bubbles were not indestructible. And they were beginning to disappear down the drain.

She poured in quite a generous amount of more soap.

By the time the water at the far end of the tub was warmed up to her liking and the faucet had been turned back off, the bubbles were back to their full glory just as they had been when she’d first come in. She could only imagine what they must have looked like an hour ago.

After putting the now almost empty bottle back on the shelf, she went for her body wash. Vanilla-sugar wasn’t the most manly of scents per se, but since she’d been the only one to actually bathe in this bathroom until now, it was all she had at the moment. Plus she had a feeling that out of all the guys she knew, Chat Noir was probably the one boy who wouldn't mind sharing with her.

That thought put a bit of a goofy smile on her face as she walked across the room and took out a fresh washcloth from the wooden cabinet. Once she was back at the tub again, she knelt down, dipping the washcloth into the water beside him before ringing it out and pouring out some of the body wash onto it.

She didn’t start cleaning him right away though. Instead she paused, simply admiring him for a moment while she tried to calm the butterflies in her stomach. The metaphorical kind that was, not the magic ones thankfully.

God he really was gorgeous.

She’d already known that of course, he was a model after all, but she’d never really had a chance to take in the smooth, sculpted muscles of his back from this up close and personal before. Not that wasn’t in a magazine at least, but that didn’t count.

This, right now… this was real. This was her, and an unphotographed, uncovered, beautiful boy.

This was her best friend in the whole world.

Marinette brought the washcloth up then, starting at the top of his shoulders and slowly making her way down his back in gentle, soothing circles across his skin. Every so often she would dip the washcloth back into the water and add a little more soap, the sound of sloshing water echoing in the small bathroom whenever she did.

When she eventually washed all the way down his lower back, she straightened up on her knees and scooted over, facing him from the front so she could work on his chest next. She was only a few strokes in when he shifted, adjusting his position just a little. It was the most movement she’d seen from him yet. Even his eyes were more focused now, watching the movements of her arms as she continued wiping down his upper body.

She was pleasantly surprised when he spoke up quietly once she had worked her way down most of his stomach.

“It… It smells like you. Like Ladybug.”

His voice was faint, but it was there.

“Yeah?” she replied, one side of her lips pulling up in a quirky smile as she finished up by his belly button. She didn’t dare to go any lower than that.

He took a deep breath, seemingly unable to get enough of the sweet scent of sugar that filled the air. “Mhm.”

She sat back on her heels then, lightly taking hold of his arm closest to her and gently guiding him to lift it out of the water so she could take the washcloth to it in long, gentle strokes. Once she’d finished with his other arm as well, she hung the washcloth on the side of the tub and placed a hand in his hair, lightly ruffling it.

“Okay, Chaton,” she hummed. “It’s hair time.”

 

~~~

 

Sturdy fingers massaged Adrien’s scalp, finally beginning to lull him away from the endless whirlwind of hopelessness and terror that had plagued him since the moment he’d caught sight of the black butterfly flying towards him back in the other room. “Terror” did not even come close to describing what he felt though. He was more lost and confused than he’d ever imagined was possible. Quite honestly, he doubted a name for what he felt even existed at all. There simply weren’t enough other teenagers with parents who were secretly the most despicable of supervillains for there to be a dictionary entry about it.

However, as Marinette’s petite hands expertly lathered her shampoo through his hair from where she sat behind him, he finally felt his mind drifting away from all of that until eventually all he focused on was the heavenly sensation of her hands in his hair.

He was positive that if he’d been transformed right then, he would’ve been purring like his life depended on it.

Her fingers scratched and rubbed, and he leaned back into her touch, letting himself be completely at her mercy. Normally he hated when other people had control over him, but in that moment, he gladly let her do as she wished with him. He didn’t want to have to think for himself anymore. Not tonight.

He was just so tired.

And so as time went on, he lost himself more and more to her, until eventually something drifted through the air, catching his attention.

He opened his eyes out of curiosity, only noticing right then that he’d even closed them.

After a couple of moments, he realized the thing that had caught his attention was Marinette. She was talking to him again.

He listened, but it took a lot of effort to stay focused on her words over her hands.

“...ember the night we defeated Glaciator?”

Adrien blinked. He remembered it well.

He hadn’t it said out loud, but it was one of the first things that had come to mind when he’d originally seen Marinette standing in Ladybug’s place back in Master Fu’s doorway. Up until that night two days ago, their fight against Glaciator had always been a bittersweet memory for him. It was the first time he’d been truly rejected by Ladybug, but it was also the first time she’d told him just how much he meant to her.

And it had been the night that he’d found a heartbroken Marinette all alone on her balcony.

He’d never regretted bringing her to the rooftop he’d lit up with all those candles, but he couldn’t deny that his heart had still ached for Ladybug. When he’d realized two days ago that Ladybug had actually gone with him after all, just without her mask, he hadn’t been able to help the warmth that seeped into his heart. Maybe he should have felt betrayed, but he also realized now that he didn’t know the whole story. Marinette had said that André was akumatized because of her, not on purpose of course, but that meant something else had happened that night that he didn’t know about.

So he didn’t feel betrayed or upset, because in the end, she’d gone with him that night just like he’d asked.

“That night,” Marinette continued, even though he hadn’t actually answered her question out loud, “you and I were supposed to go with Alya and Nino to get ice cream from André’s. That’s why I said I had plans.” She paused then, and Adrien felt his eyes begin to slowly widen.

After a few moments, he could hear the sound of the faucet turning back on behind him.

“Later on though,” she went on, her hands now carefully pouring warm water through his hair again, “Nino got a text from you saying that you weren’t allowed out that day. So when Chat Noir found me on my balcony that night, of course I went with him. He was my best friend and he’d put together a surprise just for me.”

The sound of running water eventually ceased again, and Adrien watched as Marinette walked around to kneel in front of him beside the tub, his hair now having been thoroughly cleaned. Her big blue eyes looked up into his own, and when she spoke up again, it was with the most gentle voice he thought he’d ever heard from her.

“You were never a mere second choice that night, Chat. I’d simply made plans with Adrien beforehand, and I didn’t want to let him down. He was my friend. I loved him. I-I... I love...”

Adrien froze. Not that he hadn’t already been sitting completely still, but now even his breath escaped him.

Marinette was telling him that they’d actually both had their hearts broken that night because of each other, but when in need of cheering up, they’d somehow found their way back to each other anyway.

Marinette was telling him that she loved him. That she’d always loved him, even all that time ago.

It was true that she’d basically already told him the same thing last night, but now, now she was really trying to say the words. However, it seemed that her breath was escaping her as well.

That was okay. He knew.

Besides, she wouldn’t really be Marinette anyway if she didn’t stumble over her words every now and then. And he loved her just the way she was, her endearing stuttering and all.

The sound of her throat clearing caught his attention then, and his eyes followed her as she stood back up beside him. He thought she was going to go leave the room so he could get out of the tub, but to his surprise, she stayed right where she was. The next thing he knew, his cheeks were being held in her hands, and her lips were pressing against his forehead in a soft kiss.

It only lasted for a moment, as forehead kisses tend to do, but before she pulled her hands away completely, she whispered one last thing to him.

“I kept the rose.”

Chapter Text

When Adrien awoke the following morning, it was in a way he had never experienced before, a way that until now he’d thought he may never get the chance to. He still had yet to open his eyes, but as his dreams faded away he quickly realized what had roused him, like two arms reaching out of a formless light to gently pull him from the darkness of slumber.

It was the sound of laughter.

Adrien blinked a couple times, rubbing at his eyes with the back of his hands before rolling over onto his side. He wasn’t surprised when he found Marinette’s half of the bed empty. He could recognize the sound of her voice anywhere, especially her laugh. And right now the beautiful sound was drifting up to him from the living room below.

Sitting up, he noticed the faint thump of a bass coming from below as well, though he couldn’t make out what song was playing. The music was quiet enough that if this were any other situation, he probably wouldn’t have noticed it at all. But he could say without a doubt that he’d never once been woken up by laughter and music before, and so in that moment he picked up on it intently.

Before he fully pushed the pink comforter away, he simply sat in place for a moment, closing his eyes again. The feeling that was washing over him at the sound… it was strange. But it was nice. It sort of made him feel like he did when he donned his mask. 

Adrien opened his eyes. 

Free. That’s what it was. Despite the corner that his father currently had him backed into, a sense of freedom trickled over Adrien like a faint but refreshing breeze passing by, allowing him to take his first breath of fresh air in days. 

Freedom was something that he often felt as he leapt over rooftops, but rarely ever felt as a civilian. As just Adrien. Really, he never got to feel it as just Adrien. At all. And it was certainly the last thing he expected to feel so long as his father was out… wherever he was, trying to hunt him down with akumas. Even without actually akumatizing him, his father had still managed to thoroughly wreck him. 

But somehow, even despite all that, as Adrien sat in Marinette’s bed with the sound of her distant laughter tickling his ears, that small sense of freedom still reached him. 

His father wasn’t here now. Neither was Nathalie or his bodyguard. And there were no black butterflies attempting to sneak up on him at the moment. There weren’t even any magic masks or secret names to keep him apart from his Lady. Right here, right now, there was nothing stopping him anymore from waking up to the sound of his Lady’s laughter. There was nothing stopping him from going downstairs and greeting his Lady good morning with a kiss on the cheek if he so chose to. Right now, he was free to do as he wished. Granted, he’d never actually spent a morning without Nathalie and his bodyguard telling him what to do, what to eat, and where to go. Deciding things for himself outside of his mask was a rather new concept, and honestly it made him a bit nervous, but he would take that over being tossed around between staff like his father’s dress up doll any day.

Letting out a long breath, Adrien pushed the covers off of himself completely, resigning himself to the brisk morning air, and began to make his way down to the trap door on the floor. He knew he had only just woken up and that this feeling would only last for so long before his father found new ways to strike him down with fear, but even so, he couldn’t help but wonder if he would be able to feel like this all the time once they put a stop to his father’s chaos once and for all. 

On a completely different note, he also wondered if he should get dressed before actually heading downstairs. 

He paused in place, standing before the closed trap door. Back in his own home it had been required that he be dressed and groomed before he left his room, but were all households like that? On TV he’d always seen families walking around in their pajamas, especially in the morning, and there was even that one time he’d gone to the movies with Marinette while she was still wearing them… but still that was only one time, and he had no idea if what he saw on TV was accurate in real life or not. He’d never even been to a sleepover before. Not besides the last two nights, but those weren’t so much sleepovers as they were just him trying to be anywhere but his own room. No one besides Marinette and Master Fu had known his whereabouts anyway. Now he was actually living with a whole new family, and he had no idea what was expected of him.

Although, Marinette hardly seemed to mind whether he was wearing day clothes, or pajamas, or… nothing at all apparently. 

Adrien tried to cool the heat rapidly rising to his face to no avail. He’d been far too out of it last night to be embarrassed about his lack of clothing, but now that he’d actually slept for a whole night and moderately recharged himself, all the embarrassment was catching up with him like a wave of hot lava assaulting his cheeks. It only took seconds before he heard a snicker from across the room somewhere by Marinette’s desk.

Although he couldn’t actually see his hiding kwami, Adrien whipped his head around and narrowed his eyes in the direction his voice had come from. “Not a word from you about last night, or no Camembert for a week.”

“You wouldn’t dare,” the black kwami challenged, quickly flying out from behind Marinette’s computer to meet Adrien face to face. 

The blond boy raised his eyebrows, unamused. “Wouldn’t I though?”

Plagg only scoffed in response.  

With that settled, Adrien backtracked his thoughts to his original predicament. To get dressed, or not to get dressed? 

He decided not to risk it. The last thing he needed was to make a bad impression on his first morning officially living with the Dupain-Chengs. 

Stepping away from the trap door again, he changed into the set of clothes he’d brought over, and fixed his hair in Marinette’s vanity mirror, making it as perfect as he could without the aid of any of his normal hair products. Which proved to be more of a challenge than he’d anticipated, but he was a professional. If anyone could make this bedhead work, it was him. Plus if Marinette put her hands near his hair again today, and he very much hoped she would, it would get a bit messy anyway. 

Once satisfied with how his hair looked, he went back over to the trap door, the mouth-watering smell of freshly baked croissants bombarding him the moment he pulled it open. He climbed down the steps with Plagg now hidden in an inside pocket of his over-shirt, and his eyes instantly drew to Marinette. Who he noted was actually still in her pajamas. 

She was sitting at the kitchen table, laughing over a cup of coffee while her father danced very enthusiastically to the Clara Nightingale song playing on the radio, the wooden spoon in his hand being used as a makeshift microphone. It was the same song that Marinette and he himself had been in the music video for. The one they’d almost played Ladybug and Chat Noir in. 

The double irony of that whole situation only now sunk in for him. 

“Well good morning, sleepy head,” Marinette’s angelic voice called out over the music, her eyes wandering up to meet his. He was still awkwardly standing only halfway down the steps. 

“I- uh, g-good morning,” he fumbled. The irony of the song aside, he was struck in awe at the scene before him. Nothing like this had ever happened at the mansion first thing in the morning before. It was so warm. 

“There he is!” Tom called out as well, though he didn’t stop swaying to the beat of the song as he spoke. “Good morning, son. How are you feeling? Did you sleep well? Was Marinette’s chaise comfortable enough for you?”  

Chaise...?

Adrien glanced back over to Marinette. She remained silent, a warm smile on her face, but he could see the flash of mild panic in her eyes as she sent him an urging look.

Of course. 

Adrien cleared his throat, rubbing the back of his neck with one hand. “Yes, I um, I slept fine, thank you. Marinette’s chaise is very comfortable. Feels just like sleeping on a real bed.” 

He kept his gaze away from Marinette as he finished making his way down the steps and sat down at the table at the seat beside her, knowing that if he glanced over then he would probably be on the receiving end of one of her warning glances for going a bit too close to the truth with that last bit. 

The side of her foot tapped lightly against his leg once he was seated anyway.

“I would have thought you’d want to sleep on the couch, Adrien,” Tom mused while he poured more water into the coffee maker, still somehow moving to the beat of the music. “But I guess you two are a lot closer than I realized.” He spoke so casually, a smile clear in his voice, and Adrien felt his face begin to heat up again. 

When he finally looked over to Marinette, he found she was experiencing much the same. It was sort of silly for them both to be getting flustered over this considering how they were already very used to the entire city claiming they were a couple. Although, he guessed it became a lot more real when it was her father insinuating the same. Except, for the first time, the claims weren’t entirely untrue. They hadn’t technically confirmed anything between themselves really, but over the last couple of days they had done a number of things that were definitely not done between “just friends”.

For starters, there were the various love confessions. 

“W-Well, Mari and I are great friends,” Adrien bit out through a forced smile. Luckily for him, forced smiles were his specialty. 

Marinette nodded vigorously in agreement despite her obviously burning cheeks.

“Glad to hear it!” Tom all but twirled back around to the kitchen table, placing down a large plate of fresh croissants in front of the two of them. Though a moment later, the tall man’s smile faltered and he looked down to the plate as if trying to avoid eye contact with either of them. 

Adrien’s stomach felt heavy.

“I’m so sorry, Adrien,” Tom said quietly, “but the police haven’t found your father or the others yet.” 

Adrien dropped his gaze to his lap. He knew that the police’s efforts were futile, but the reminder of just how thoroughly his father had escaped their grasp truly felt like another blow to his gut. 

“But don’t worry, son,” Tom continued. “The police will find him soon, I’m sure of it. And you’re more than welcome to stay here for as long as it takes.” 

“Th-Thanks,” Adrien replied, though it took every ounce of his control to leave it at that. Suddenly Adrien wanted to cry, he wanted to scream. He didn’t understand how his father could do this. He had practically everyone in Paris wrapped around his finger, concerned for his safety when in fact that very man was the reason they were all put in danger in the first place. Adrien could feel anger bubbling inside of him, and yet there was nothing he could do about it. Adrien wasn’t supposed to know his father was Hawk Moth, if he showed anything besides sadness in front of Marinette’s parents… 

It seemed that his father had wrapped his own son around his finger far more tightly than anyone else. And Adrien could hardly breathe.

“Now, what miraculous breakfast can I whip up for you two?” Tom asked, his tone startlingly cheery.

Adrien went rigid as his gaze shot up to the man in front of him, his mind instantly dropping all thoughts of his father. Instead, he became hyperaware of the silver ring on his right hand.

Marinette choked on her coffee beside him. 

The hand Adrien placed on her back as she coughed was purely subconscious seeing as he was already preoccupied with desperately trying to wipe his face clean of any emotion, especially shock. There was no need to panic, not yet. And acting all suspicious now was the last thing they needed. Marinette’s father could have chosen to use any word, they had no proof he meant to use that word.

“Get it? Miraculous?” Tom tried. 

Okay, maybe there was need to panic. 

Neither of the two teenagers responded though. Neither of them could respond. All they could do was stare at the baker with synchronized dropped jaws. 

Tom’s smile began to falter. “Like the song…?” he continued, jutting out a thumb in the direction of the radio. “Weren’t you both in the music video?” 

Adrien blinked.

Yes. Of course. The song. “Miraculous”. That was written about their, well, miraculous. The miraculous that they were wearing at that very moment. But Tom didn’t know that. He was just making a pun. 

Adrien looked down to Marinette then, who he found was turning to look up at him just the same. Over the next few moments the two of them exchanged various expressions involving quirked eyebrows, scrunched noses, and shrugged shoulders, though neither said a word out loud, the same way they often did when they needed to come up with a plan on the spot without any nearby akumatized person overhearing.

When they were done with their silent conversation only a few seconds later, they turned forward again to face her now visibly confused father, having mutually decided to slide right over the discussion of any and all things miraculous-related.

“Wow, Papa, you’re so funny,” Marinette rushed out.

“Totally hilarious,” Adrien added, and before the baker could respond they diverted the conversation in perfect unison. 

“Crêpes?”

“Crêpes?”

It was the obvious choice really. In the few times they had gone out for brunch donning their masks, crêpes had been their little tradition, just another one of their superhero secrets. One that even Alya and her Ladyblog didn’t know about.

Tom, who of course also knew nothing of their masks or secret brunch outings, only scratched the top of his head, staring at them with a funny look. “Wow, you two are so in sync it’s almost creepy. I guess you really are a lot closer than I thought. Are you sure can’t read each other’s minds or something?” 

The two looked back to each other once more, but only for a quick moment before Marinette let out a small giggle, the sweet sound finally dissolving the thick tension that had built up in the air around them just like that.

“You know,” Adrien said, relaxing back on his stool, “sometimes I honestly wonder the same.” Much to his relief, the song on the radio reached its end, and Jagged Stone’s newest single came on instead, filling the room with eccentric guitar solos played at a low volumed while Tom hummed along and set to work on their requested breakfast. 

While Adrien waited, he simply watched the scene before him, trying to keep his mind from drifting back towards the unpleasant thoughts of his father. He only spoke up to thank the baker when he was handed his own much needed mug of coffee. He wouldn’t have known what else to say right then anyway. Everything he wanted to talk about either seemed way too personal with her dad standing right there, or was genuinely classified information. And then there was also the fact that he was pretty sure if he opened his mouth, one of his many nicknames for Ladybug would slip out before he could stop it. So instead he spent the time by playing a silent game of footsie under the table with the girl beside him, and taking in her beautiful smile and rose-dusted cheeks as she giggled over her father’s antics, the baker now using his whisk as an electric guitar.

All in all it only took a handful of minutes before Tom was returning to the kitchen table, bringing two plates of steaming fruit crêpes along with him. The sweet smell of strawberries had Adrien practically drooling. His own father would have never let him eat something so sugary so early in the day, if at all, and a part of him felt rather guilty for breaking that rule. 

A much bigger part of him felt very hungry. 

“Bon appétit, kiddos!” Tom said as he placed their plates down in front of them, and the two teenagers thanked him in tandem. The baker then brought over his own plate to the table, sitting himself down across from them, and Adrien took that as his cue to dig in. 

After only one bite, his eyes widened. His personal chef back at the mansion was supposed to be one of Paris’s finest, but this… this was incredible. And Marinette’s father had just whipped it up for them like it was nothing, purely out of the goodness of his heart. Adrien wanted to tell him how amazing the food was, but the baker started up another conversion before Adrien could even finish chewing that first bite. 

“Speaking of miraculous, did you know that my daughter is good friends with Chat Noir?” 

This time it was Adrien’s turn to choke. 

Apparently all great things came with a price, crêpes were clearly no exception.

Papa!” Marinette squeaked beside him. 

Adrien didn’t need to see her face to know it was bright red all over again. But he looked anyway. Really he wanted to look anywhere but her father at the moment, and her face just so happened to be remarkably cute to look at, even when it was the same shade as the strawberries in their breakfast.

“Oh, come on,” her father said, sounding as joyous as ever. “I was only saying you’re friends with him, that’s nothing to be embarrassed about. Your mother even said that he called your cell phone yesterday! How about that! A superhero has my daughter’s phone number!”

Adrien watched as Marinette covered her face with her hands and laid her forehead down on the table in defeat.

“D-Does he now…” Adrien choked out to fill the awkward silence as he reached out a hand to the puddle of a girl next to him, carefully pulling away the strands of her hair that fell dangerously close to the sticky plate beside her head. 

He still refused to even look in Tom’s direction lest he give himself away. 

“She doesn’t really talk about Ladybug as much though,” the baker continued on much to Adrien’s dismay. “Oh! But there was even one time she had a huuuge crush on Chat Noir! It was the cutest thing. We had him over for breakfast!”

Marinette let out a garbled sound from beneath her hands, somewhere between a squeak and a groan, while Adrien on the other hand felt a surprising little spark of confidence return at the mention of her crush. He took a subtle deep breath, trying to cool his cheeks for a moment before finally daring to turn his head towards her father. 

“I can see why she would,” Adrien said earnestly, “I mean, he’s super smart, strong, devilishly handsome-”  

A foot kicked his leg beneath the table. However, Tom nodded his head in agreement as if what Adrien had just boasted was simply obvious common knowledge. 

“I know,” the baker sighed, “but unfortunately he’s already in love with Ladybug.”

That he most certainly was.

“I wouldn’t say that’s unfortunate though,” Adrien countered, trying to keep the sudden edge from his voice. Obviously Tom didn’t know he was comparing his daughter to his daughter, but nonetheless whenever Ladybug’s name was dropped in conversation, Adrien simply couldn’t let it be said in vain. “Ladybug is quite an extraordinary girl. She’s brave, cunning, ridiculously charming, honestly Chat Noir would be extremely lucky to have the honor of loving her. They sort of complete each other in a way, don’t you think?” Adrien’s gaze drifted back over to the girl next to him as he spoke, and he watched as she began to slowly lift her head from the table, his heart fluttering uncontrollably as she looked up to him. 

Her eyes were seeming to ask if he really meant it. 

Of course he did. He always had and he always would.

“Y-Yeah,” she answered timidly. “I think they do.”

“Wow, Adrien,” Tom cut in enthusiastically, “you seem to like our city’s heroes a lot too. Do you know any of them personally?” 

Adrien looked back to the baker and gulped.

This was going to be a long morning. 

 

~~~

 

“Are you sure you want to go to school today?” Marinette asked from where she stood in front of her vanity mirror, brushing her hair up into her usual pigtails. If she and Adrien wanted to make it to school on time then they would need to leave pretty soon, especially if she wanted to catch up with Alya before class. Marinette’s phone had started blowing up pretty quickly once the news cameras had arrived at the mansion yesterday, and she’d ended up just turning it off. She knew she owed Alya an explanation for what her friend had undoubtedly seen on the news, but last night Marinette had only had the capacity to focus on one person and one person only. 

“Chaton?” she tried again. 

Turning around, her pigtails now in place, she found the blond boy sitting on her chaise just as he had been for the last ten minutes, his arms loosely wrapped around his knees, and his shoes still on the floor beside him waiting to be worn. He seemed to be staring out the window, but when Marinette followed his gaze she saw nothing outside except the grey sky of a foggy morning, and through it the outlines of the other buildings that lined the street. 

A frown pulled down on her lips as she carefully stepped over to the chaise, sitting down behind him. She sat there in silence for a few moments, but his gaze didn’t waver from the window. Last night when he'd fallen into a similar daze during his bath, it had taken nearly half an hour of coaxing before he even spoke. She didn't have that kind of time now. 

Delicately but firmly, she wrapped her arms around his chest from behind, her chin coming down to rest upon his shoulder. She didn't know what to do.

Adrien startled for a moment in her arms, but he didn’t pull away. 

“Marinette?”

He sounded as though he hadn’t even noticed she'd been in the room at all until that moment, but Marinette was just relieved that he was speaking. There was even an edge to his voice. She would’ve almost said he sounded a little nervous at being so close to her, and if this were any other situation she probably would have felt a sense of playfulness at striking butterflies into the boy who so often did the same to her with that award-winning smirk of his. But this just wasn’t the time. Instead she only snuggled further into his shoulder while her fingers played absent-mindedly with the buttons of his cotton over-shirt. 

“I was asking if you wanted to go to school today,” she repeated softly. 

He leaned his head back from her then, though just enough to meet her gaze, his puzzled green eyes shining down into hers. 

“Go to school?” he echoed. “Of course.” 

Marinette sighed. “I just meant, if you want to take the day off-”

“No,” he cut in, his tone resolute. “No, I want to go. I’ll be fine.” 

That was certainly the lie of the century, but fighting him on it would probably be pointless. Perhaps he wanted to use class as a distraction from his father, Marinette didn’t want to deny him that. But protecting him from akumas would be more difficult at school than in the apartment, and although there hadn’t been any more black butterflies coming after Adrien since the one last night, Marinette had her doubts that Gabriel had given up on his plan so easily. Even for him, akumatizing his own child had to be a big deal. He was already known to akumatize the same random citizens over and over, who knows how many times he would try with Adrien. 

“Um, M-Marinette?” 

She looked back up to him at the call of her name, her gaze having unknowingly fallen to the buttons between her fingers, and she was surprised to find a fresh layer of roses blooming on his cheeks. 

“Yes, Minou?” 

She smiled as she watched his gaze drop to her lips, his hand coming up under chin and lifting her head off of his shoulder to draw it towards his own.

Their lips met for only a moment, just a soft peck, but Marinette could swear that the moment they pulled away, his eyes were shining a little brighter.

Yuck,” a garbled voice suddenly called out from somewhere not far away, instantly followed by an alarmed, “Plagg! Stop ruining it!

Marinette couldn’t help but giggle, and she was even more pleased when Adrien let out a small chuckle as well. She was beginning to get scared that she wouldn’t get to hear his laugh for a long while. Leave it to Plagg’s tasteful comments to bring it out of him. 

Marinette unwrapped herself from Adrien, standing up and crossing the room to grab her backpack from her desk while Adrien pulled on his shoes. 

When Marinette turned back around towards the chaise with her backpack and purse now hanging from her shoulders, she let out a small gasp, one hand flying up to her cheek. “Aww, Plagg. You’re so nice.”

The little black kwami was tying the shoelaces on Adrien’s right foot while Adrien himself tied his left. Marinette wasn’t exactly sure how Plagg was doing it, seeing as kwamis didn’t actually have thumbs and all, but nevertheless the sight was pretty adorable. 

“Oh, please,” sighed Adrien. “He’s only doing it for cheese.”

Plagg scoffed. “Whatever.” 

But the little kwami finished tying the laces anyway, and Marinette’s eyebrows furrowed. Adrien didn’t seem to notice though as he twisted around, turning away from them to grab his school bag from the floor on the other side of the chaise.

As soon as he was faced away, Marinette saw weariness fill Plagg’s small eyes. By the time Adrien turned back towards them just a few moments later with his school bag in hand, the kwami’s expression was back to his usual indifference. 

Marinette swallowed hard. “Alright, to school then?”

“To school,” Adrien agreed, finally standing up from the chaise himself.

“Yay, let’s go!” Tikki cheered, but Marinette could easily hear how forced her kwami’s enthusiasm sounded. She could only hope that Adrien wouldn’t notice. 

With that, the kwamis flew to their respective bags, and the two teenagers made their way down the many staircases of the apartment. Once they were down in the bakery, her father handed each of them a brown paper lunch bag with their names written in marker, and Marinette watched as Adrien accepted his as though it were a pot of gold. 

The baker seemed confused by Adrien’s reaction, but before he could ask, the blond boy rushed out, "Thank you so much."

The baker simply smiled. “Of course, son.” 

Adrien looked right back down to the bag in his hands as though he wasn’t sure if it was really even there. 

“Alright then, kiddos,” her father went on. “Have a great day at school.” He waved them off and disappeared into the backroom of the bakery where they'd passed by her mother working, and together Marinette and Adrien made their way out the front door of the bakery in a calm silence. 

However, they only made it as far as across the street before that silence was abruptly shattered. A short, stocky man wearing a tie suddenly jumped out from the bushes lining the sidewalk, his hands wielding a large camera that he was already using to snap no-doubt unflattering photos of the two of them. 

“Adrien Agreste!” the man exclaimed. “How are you handling the disappearance of Gabriel Agreste, your father? Do you know where he might be? And isn’t this the girl that was with you when you found out? Is she your girlfriend? What will happen to your modeling career now that your father is gone?” 

Marinette’s eyebrow twitched. She recognized this man as one of the many reporters that often showed up after akuma attacks to hound the superheroes with ridiculous questions. A few of those same reporters had tried to interview their civilian selves at the mansion last night with very similar questions to those which the man was asking right now, but Marinette hadn't been expecting them to stake out their school.

Adrien groaned under his breath beside her. 

“I’ve already told the police everything I know,” he bit out. And then before the reporter could start up with another tirade of inquiries, Adrien added, “No further comment.” His tone was final. 

Immediately Adrien picked up his pace with Marinette following right alongside him, and she forced herself to keep her mouth shut as they sped down the sidewalk together. She only dared to let out a sigh of relief once they were safely through the doors and inside the school’s courtyard. Paparazzi weren’t allowed inside, a policy that their principal was sure to firmly enforce due to the popular status of some students. 

Mainly Adrien.

And Chloe, if you squinted hard enough.

“I need to head to the library.”

At the sound of her partner's voice, Marinette’s attention was drawn out of her thoughts and up to his tired face.

“Oh,” she said, her expression turning to mild concern as she pointed in the exact opposite direction of the one they were headed in. “The library’s that way though, Chaton. Come on, let’s go.”

Adrien didn’t change direction though, instead he only stopped in place. Marinette stopped beside him automatically. They were standing close to the center of the courtyard now. 

“No, I um, I-I can go on my own. It’s okay,” he said, sounding about a million miles away from "okay". Her immediate confusion must have been clear on her face, or maybe he really could read her mind, because after a moment, he quickly added, “I just need to return a couple books, it’s nothing important. And there’s not much time left before class starts. I know you still want to stop by your locker.”

Realistically, Marinette knew that it was impractical to be with Adrien every second of the day, and even suggesting the idea to herself seemed a little wild. But that did not change the way her stomach flipped uncomfortably at the idea of him going off on his own, even if it was just for a few minutes. She’d already let him sleep in on his own this morning (albeit, with Plagg), and although she’d bit it down, not having visual on him had been nerve wracking. To leave his side again so soon seemed impossible. So many things could go wrong. His father could send another akuma after him, or he might go out in search of his father, or he could get stuck in his own head again and miss class, or he could trip and fall on the stairs…

He’d already stumbled on the curb just crossing the street to get here. 

But even with all these possibilities swarming around in her mind, it still wasn’t fair of her to expect to be by his side at every waking moment. Adrien would be fine. Plagg would be with him, and Marinette did actually need to go to her locker and hopefully find Alya. 

Realizing she’d been staring at her partner in silence for too long, she straightened up, awkwardly adjusting the straps of her backpack where they rested against her shoulders. If she let her hands roam free, she knew they’d latch onto Adrien and never let him leave. So backpack it was.

“R-Right, of course. I’ll see you in class?” 

He nodded wordlessly, and then just like that, he was off. Marinette tried not watch his back receding across the courtyard as she pulled out her phone to check how much time she actually had left before class. 

Six minutes. 

That was enough time to get to her locker and catch up with Adrien at the library if she walked fast enough. Or, it would have been. She’d made it to her locker, hastily grabbed her textbooks out of it, and was on her way out of the locker room when she spotted her best friend, and her best friend’s boyfriend, in an animated argument just outside the room. However, Alya and Nino were keeping their voices much too quiet for Marinette to understand any of what they were spewing at each other, and the two quickly clammed up the moment they noticed her approaching. Their synchrony was almost comparable to Adrien’s and her own. Maybe it was a superhero thing. 

Before Marinette could even get out a greeting though, Nino turned away from his girlfriend and faced her abruptly. 

“Is Adrien here?” he asked. His expression was softer towards her than it had been towards Alya, but his voice was still laced with a deep underlying hostility. 

“Y-Yeah,” Marinette answered, trying to keep her voice from sounding too startled. “He’s in the library.”

Without wasting another moment, Nino took off in the same direction Adrien had.

“Nino!” Alya called after him, but he didn’t look back at them even once as he briskly walked away.

The couple was known to have their little fights every now and then, but this seemed to be… a bit bigger than that. 

“Is everything okay?” Marinette asked.

To her surprise, Alya’s expression was washed in a dark astonishment. “Is everything okay?” she echoed. 

Marinette bit her lip, and Alya went on to give Marinette the answer she was somehow still hoping she wouldn’t get.

“No! Nothing’s okay! I saw the news last night, dude. Gabriel’s missing. Hawk Moth is missing. Right after we’d finally found him. And I was up the entire night trying to reach you two and neither of you would pick up your freaking phones! What is going on!”

Marinette grimaced, her mouth opening and closing again as she tried to figure out what answer she could possibly give to satisfy her friend when the minutes she had left before class were fleeting so quickly. 

Alya continued on before she could get anywhere. “And to top it all off, Nino’s pissed! And I can’t blame him! All of a sudden I’ve been given my miraculous to wear all the time, but he didn’t get his and I can’t even tell him why! This is so wrong Marinette, we need to give him his miraculous too. He’s one of us, I can’t keep lying like this to him. Whatever crap Gabriel is trying to pull, we clearly need our whole team to defeat him.” Alya paused for a moment to catch her breath. “And Adrien needs him too.” 

Letting out a sigh, Marinette looked to her friend with a troubled expression. “I know.”

Alya’s eyes grew bigger behind her glasses for a moment before she caught herself and drew her eyebrows sternly back together. “Then why-”

“It’s not that simple, Alya,” Marinette said, her voice pleading. “The Turtle Miraculous, it’s… it’s special. I can’t just let Nino keep it all the time like we do with ours. And it has nothing to do with Nino himself, I swear. It’s like I said yesterday, that particular miraculous is already being used to guard the rest. But... you’re also right. We need Nino. And with Gabriel as unpredictable as he is, I may well not have time to go and get the miraculous for him.”

“So then,” Alya said, the frustration in her voice now slowly turning into a cautious hope, “you’ll give it to him?”

Marinette dropped her gaze, lightly scraping the bottom of her shoe against the stone floor. “I don’t know. It's not my choice. I have to talk to the Guardian of the Miraculous about it, but I’ll do what I can. And I know how good it would be for Adrien to finally be able to talk to his best friend about… all of this. Especially now.”

Alya responded with a look that read “obviously”, but out loud she only said, “So when are you going to talk to this ‘guardian’?” 

“After school,” Marinette answered with more confidence in her voice than before. 

Alya seemed sated enough with that answer, and instead turned the conversation back to what she’d seen on the news. “So what happened yesterday? Is Gabriel actually… missing?”

Marinette could feel herself droop at the question. Yesterday had been an excruciatingly long day, and she found herself letting out another sigh as the whole evening flashed through her mind like one of those small books you flip with your thumb to watch the pictures dance. Except there was no dancing being replayed her mind. There were only black butterflies, Adrien’s terrified eyes, and lots and lots of bubbles. 

“He’s not missing, he’s… hiding," she answered. "You probably saw on the news that the three of them vanished without a trace.” 

Alya nodded. 

“W-Well,” Marinette continued, “Since Gabriel knew we discovered his identity, he fled. With his staff. Adrien thinks he planned the whole thing beforehand, you know as a last resort getaway kind of thing.”

Marinette didn’t need to see her reflection to know the dread suddenly etched into Alya’s features was mirrored in her own. 

“But why-,” her friend started, only to be cut off by Marinette. She already knew what Alya was going to ask, and the bell was going to ring any second now. 

“He doesn’t know our identities. At least, we think it’s very unlikely.” Marinette felt like her own breath was choking her now, just as it had last night when her mother had come into the living room while she was still transformed. She hadn’t been able to say it out loud then, about how the akuma had come after Adrien, but he wasn’t here now to explain it for her. She had to say it herself this time. “H-He didn’t… He didn’t take Adrien b-because…” She gulped in a huge breath. “He’s trying to hurt Adrien so he can akumatize him. He sent out a butterfly last night. I caught it before it got to Adrien, but…”

Alya’s eyes were bulging now. “He tried to akumatize his own SON?”

She quickly realized how loud her voice had gotten though and cleared her throat, meanwhile Marinette darted her eyes around them to make sure they hadn’t caught anyone else’s attention. They seemed to be in the clear for now at least. 

Before either of them could say anymore, the bell rang out obnoxiously loud above them, but Marinette was pretty sure her friend could read the answer for herself in her expression.

Staying close together, they walked to their classroom. Alya seemed to be walking purposefully slow as she leaned over to Marinette to ask as many questions as she could before they finished crossing the short distance. She didn’t seem to care in the slightest that they were already late to class. 

“But if his father’s gone, where will Adrien stay? Like, live?” 

“With me.”

“What about Gabriel, how do we find him?”

“To be honest, I'm not really sure. I’ll have to talk to the Guardian about that today too.”

“Okay, but, what are we supposed to do until then? Guard Adrien twenty-four seven? Watch him while he sleeps in case another akuma comes for him? We can’t possibly-” Alya cut herself off though, stopping the movement of her feet altogether and turning to look Marinette directly in the eyes. 

Marinette squirmed under the scrutiny as she stopped walking as well.

“You already have been, haven’t you,” Alya prodded. “You look like you didn’t get a wink of sleep, girl.”

Marinette twisted a strand of hair from one of her pigtails around her index finger.

“Don’t be silly, Alya, I didn’t just sit there watching him the entire night,” she defended, taking a longer pause than necessary before continuing in a barely audible mumble. “Plagg, Tikki, and I took shifts. Don’t tell Adrien.” 

Girl.

Marinette continued walking before her friend could ask more questions though, taking large steps to get to the door of their classroom as quickly as possible. She’d already walked into class late yesterday, and every second she spent out here further risked her chances of getting detention. The last thing she needed was to be stuck at school for an extra hour, sitting at a desk doing absolutely nothing useful. 

Upon reaching their classroom door, Marinette swiftly pulled it open for the two of them, her eyes immediately darting to Adrien who was already in his seat next to Nino. He offered her a small smile as she made her way straight to her desk with Alya following behind her. It was a sad smile, but any smile was better than that blank daze he seemed to keep falling into. 

Luckily, Marinette was able to get away with her tardiness, receiving only a scolding look from Ms. Bustier. Her ability to make her entrance fast and silent was much better today seeing as there were no pictures of herself getting it on with Chat Noir to bombard her. So she sat down at her shared desk with Alya, and tried in vain to make sense of the words her teacher spoke to the class. 

 

~~~

 

“Master Fu? We’re here,” Marinette called out from where she stood before the closed door to the main room of the guardian’s home, Adrien standing close beside her. When their classes had finally ended for the day, the two of them had left their classroom only to find the sidewalks outside the school crowded with reporters. They were already enough of a hassle to deal with in costume, Marinette didn’t know how Adrien had dealt with this in his civilian life too for so long. But she did know that the crowd of people with cameras and badges were not going to go away any time soon. Gabriel’s disappearance was big. Those reporters were going to try and milk every last penny out of this that they possibly could. 

It had quickly become clear to Marinette and Adrien after class that they couldn’t leave through the front doors of the school without being hounded and followed. Perhaps if they were only going across the street to the bakery, then it wouldn’t have been as much of a problem. But their destination was the home of the Guardian of the Miraculous. And they could not risk anyone following them there. 

With one quick Mirage from Rena Rouge, “Adrien” had left the school building while Ladybug and Chat Noir took off from the school’s rooftop, all the reporter’s cameras too occupied with snapping pictures of the illusion walking down the school’s front steps to notice the masked teenagers above them. 

Marinette wondered how long they would stay crowded outside her home, like vultures ready for whatever scrap of a meal they could get their claws on.

“Master Fu?” Adrien called out beside her, bringing her attention back to the present. He was knocking on the door now, a bit more harshly than her attempt.

Master Fu didn’t normally take this long to answer the door, not when they were calling for him from right outside it. Marinette had already tried calling his phone, but after half a minute it had gone to voicemail. 

She bit her lip. 

What if Gabriel had found out that he was here? What if he’d come and-

The door in front of them opened. 

“Ah, Marinette, Adrien,” the guardian said with a yawn. “Welcome.”

Marinette blew out a large breath she hadn’t known she’d been holding in as the old man before her blinked away the remnants of recent sleep from his eyes. He must have only been napping, like he often did in the afternoons. And Marinette knew how heavy of a sleeper he could be sometimes. Silently, she scolded herself for skipping over the obvious and jumping straight to the worst possible conclusions. If they wanted to have any chance of defeating Hawk Moth, she needed to be thinking with her head. Not her fear. 

“I take it,” the guardian said as he gestured the two of them inside, “that you father is not exactly missing as the news has claimed.” 

Marinette seated herself down at her usual spot on the mat with Adrien beside her, the tips of his knees brushing against her own the same way they sometimes did when they sat side by side on rooftops overlooking the city’s night sky. As they sat themselves down, their two kwamis left their school bags to join Wayzz in nibbling on cookies from the tea tray already on the floor beside them.

“No, not... not exactly,” Marinette answered. She continued on to recount the significant events and discoveries of yesterday afternoon and evening for the guardian, carefully choosing to leave out the more... personal information. When she was finished, the guardian wore a serious expression. He didn’t exactly seemed too shocked, but he did seem annoyed at Hawk Moth's stunts. 

“I’m afraid we have no way of tracking him down,” Master Fu said, only confirming Marinette’s worries. It’s wasn't like she was actually expecting to hear otherwise, they’d never had a way to track him down before, not except for the one night of Nooroo’s birthday, but it was still frustrating to be back at square one all over again.

Looking up to Adrien beside her, Marinette took in his sunken expression and placed a hand on his knee, hoping to comfort him. To remind him that he wasn’t alone. Almost immediately he placed his own hand on top of hers. 

“Continuing your patrols,” the guardian said, “is the best we can do for now.”

“But what if he’s not in the city at all anymore?” Adrien asked quietly, his hand tensing over Marinette’s. “He could be anywhere.”

Master Fu looked to Adrien with a difficult expression, as though he wasn’t sure if whatever he was about to say to the teenager would come across as good news or terrible news.

“Not necessarily, Adrien. Your father still desires your miraculous, I doubt he will have gone far.” 

Master Fu paused as Adrien blinked. Suddenly Adrien looked much more awake. Marinette herself had been so caught up in worrying over him, that she hadn’t even considered that before, even though it made perfect sense. And if her partner’s wide eyes were anything to go by, he hadn’t considered it either. 

“In addition,” the guardian continued, “Hawk Moth’s powers can only extend for a certain distance. That is why his akuma victims have only ever been in this city. Since he sent out an akuma last night, after his disappearance, that means he must still be near.” 

After a long moment of contemplative silence between them, it was Adrien who responded first, his voice low but very steady. “That means we can still stop him. We just need to find him.” 

He looked down to Marinette, his eyes a tangle of hope and fear.

She nodded up to him. 

Despite his current composure, she knew Adrien was not okay. He hadn’t been okay since that awful night three days ago. But they needed to do this. The sooner they found his father, the sooner Adrien would be able to actually start recovering from this whole mess, and the sooner he would be okay again.

Marinette wanted that more than anything. 

Chapter Text

Marinette’s mind was racing. If Gabriel was still in the city then she knew she would be able to hunt him down eventually, but she didn’t know where to even start looking. Their city was huge, millions of people lived here. She guessed it was better than if he were hiding out anywhere across the whole world, but it still wasn’t exactly going to be easy. Not to mention the measures he could take to protect himself. The people he could akumatize as distractions or guards. 

“Alright then, let’s go patrol,” Adrien said, properly taking hold of the hand she still had resting on his knee to help her up.

“Now wait a minute you two.” Master Fu held out a hand to stop them before either of them could fully stand up. “I may not be able to help you find Hawk Moth, but I can help protect you from him.”

“What do you mean?” Marinette asked.

The guardian gestured a proud hand towards his kwami who was still resting on the tea tray with the others. “Wayzz’s magic is very special. He can help create charms of protection for both you and your home. With them, Hawk Moth’s magic, and his akumas, will not be able to reach you.”

Marinette’s jaw dropped in a way that she was sure was remarkably inelegant, but she just couldn’t help it. “Wait, you have magic that can stop Hawk Moth from akumatizing people?  Why didn’t we use this before! We could have prevented his attacks from the beginning!” 

“I wish that were true, Marinette,” Wayzz responded. “Unfortunately, just like any other kwami’s magic, mine has its limitations.”

“Oh,” Marinette said, her cheeks tinted in embarrassment. Since when had she become so quick to accuse?

“Hey,” Plagg chirped up, pointing a half-eaten chocolate chip cookie at his fellow green kwami. “Speak for yourself. My magic is so powerful that-“ 

But Marinette never got to hear how powerful he claimed his magic was because Tikki shoved her own half-eaten cookie into his mouth, effectively cutting the black kwami off as she rolled her eyes and gestured for Wayzz to continue. 

The green kwami seemed perfectly content to ignore Plagg’s spontaneous diva tendencies.

“You see,” he continued, “my protection charms can only protect individual people or individual rooms, and they cannot last without being recharged once a week. To try and use this method to protect the whole of Paris would be simply impossible.”

“But why didn’t you give them to us before?” Marinette asked, using the hand not already being held in Adrien’s to point between herself and said boy beside her. As if Wayzz could possibly misunderstand who she was referring to.

She couldn’t help it. She was feeling a little betrayed here. 

“Hawk Moth was not after you two before, not your civilian selves,” Wayzz answered simply. “The two of you were not particularly his targets, and you both have your own kwamis to protect you.” But then he paused, casting his eyes away from Marinette to share a grim look with the other two kwamis. There was a moment of heavy silence in the room before Wayzz quietly added, “Now though, it seems Hawk Moth’s target is Adrien. We can’t risk him akumatizing Adrien and stealing his miraculous. My charms will protect you both as well as your home, keeping your family and anyone else who is inside safe from akumas.”

Marinette looked down to her lap while Adrien hummed in thought beside her. It hadn’t even been a whole day since the akuma had come into her living room, and Marinette was already really over feeling like every time she looked away, every time she so much as blinked, an akuma would come whisk Adrien away. 

She’d told Alya that she’d split the night watching Adrien with the kwamis, and she hadn’t lied exactly... That really had been their plan. But Marinette hadn’t even come close to sleep. She’d laid there the entire night, Adrien’s arms wrapped around her and his head nestled against her chest, while her eyes had stayed glued to the balcony window above her just waiting for another akuma to dare to enter. It was only with Plagg’s insistence that she’d finally gone downstairs a few minutes before Adrien had woken up himself.  

If Wayzz’s charms could really keep Adrien from getting akumatized, then maybe she could stop spending every waking moment worrying and instead actually focus on finding and stopping Gabriel.

“That sounds cool,” Adrien said tentatively, “but if these charms protect us from Father’s magic, wouldn’t they also keep us from finding him?” 

“No, not at all,” the green kwami quickly assured. “With my charms you will be able to get as close to your father as you want, he simply won’t be able to track your emotions or akumatize you. Think of them as invisible force fields that repel his magic, and any other miraculous magic that is being used for evil.”

“You mean like Mayura’s?” Marinette asked.

“Precisely.” 

Marinette turned her attention back towards Master Fu. “Are there charms here now? Is that what you meant when you said Gabriel wouldn’t be able to find Adrien here when we stayed the night?” 

“Indeed, Marinette,” Master Fu nodded. “Wayzz has kept this place, and more importantly the Miracle Box, safe for many years.” 

The guardian then stood up and walked towards the wooden cabinet the gramophone rested on, drawing her attention to the wall behind it where a short string of wooden beads hung. Marinette had seen the beads before, but she’d never really paid attention to them. There were many small decorations around the guardian’s apartment, and normally when she was here she was preoccupied with more pressing matters than knick-knacks. Although, apparently this wasn’t just any random decoration.

“Wayzz has cast a protection charm on these beads,” Master Fu explained. “As long as they remain here, Hawk Moth’s akumas will not be able to enter. And as long as I wear this,” he paused to pull out a necklace that until then had been hidden beneath his shirt, “Hawk Moth’s akumas will not be able to akumatize me. No matter where I am.” The necklace was of a simple yet elegant design, a thin silver chain with tiny Chinese characters engraved along the front. 

Adrien’s thumb was rubbing lightly against the back of Marinette’s hand, but she barely noticed it now as she instead focused intently on the beads hanging from the wall, Wayzz, and the gramophone hiding the Miracle Box, the three seeming to be lit up against the rest of the world by her mind. 

Suddenly she gasped with an idea. 

All the heads in the room turned towards her. 

“That was your ‘I have a plan’ gasp,” Adrien said, the tiniest corner of his lips turned up an adoring smile. “What are you thinking, LB?” 

She didn’t hesitate to explain. “Master Fu, I’ve been meaning to ask about letting Nino have the Turtle Miraculous full time, but until now I’ve always figured that it was too dangerous to keep separated from the Miracle Box for very long. I mean, in case you needed to use Shell-ter to stop Hawk Moth from stealing the box. But if that charm on the wall can prevent him from finding this place, even when Wayzz is away, does that mean I could give Nino the Turtle Miraculous to keep? At least, until we stop Gabriel?” 

She waited with baited breath as the guardian let out a long sigh. 

“In theory,” he answered hesitantly, “yes the box itself would still be safe. However, putting anymore miraculous out in the open is far too risky.”

“But Master,” Marinette countered, “Nino knows how to keep his miraculous out of reach from Hawk Moth, just like the rest of us. And Wayzz can give him charms too. Please. The four of us, we’re a team. And if we do find out where Gabriel is hiding, I doubt I’d have time to come all the way back here just to get the miraculous for Nino.”

“She’s right,” Wayzz chimed in. “Nino has become a valuable part of their team.”

The guardian remained silent with a conflicted expression for a few moments before Adrien added his say as well. 

“Up until now, Father has always been one step ahead of us,” he said quietly. “The main reason he akumatizes people in the first place is to lure us out, and we always follow the bait because we have no choice. We finally almost got somewhere when we learned his identity, but... but he was prepared for that too.” Adrien’s voice cracked and Marinette felt his grip on her hand tighten. “Father still doesn’t know our identities though, so at least we have that, but letting Nino have the miraculous will give us the advantage we need. We could have our whole team ready to go at any time.” 

“Exactly,” Marinette affirmed. “Not to mention the extra help he could lend us with patrols.” 

The guardian turned his head to share a long look with his kwami, but Marinette was having a hard time trying to tell from his expression whether that was a good thing or not. After a minute or so though, the old man’s shoulders relaxed and he let out a sigh of surrender. 

“Alright, you two may bring the miraculous to Nino. I trust that you will ensure it is used for the greater good.” With a melancholy smile, he slid the bracelet off of his hand and held it out to Adrien. “When you have found your father and saved Nooroo, you will return the miraculous to me.”

Marinette watched quietly as Adrien let go of her hand to accept the miraculous, both pain and determination flickering in his eyes. “Yes, Master,” he responded quietly. “Thank you.” 

While Wayzz brought out a small wooden box for Adrien to store the bracelet in, Marinette turned her attention back to the guardian.

“We won’t let you down, I promise,” she said. 

The old man leaned forward slightly to place a sincere hand on her shoulder. “I know you won’t.”

When Marinette looked back to Adrien, she found him zipping his school bag closed, the miraculous and Wayzz already sealed and packed away inside.

“Alright,” he said, “are we heading out for real now?” 

“Yes, you two are free to go,” Master Fu answered. “But before you deliver the miraculous to Nino, have Wayzz give you your protection charms at your home.”

Marinette and Adrien nodded in tandem, and this time when she placed her hand in his, she was helped all the way up. 

 

~~~

 

Outside the bakery, a decent amount of reporters still lingered. They’d seen the illusion of Adrien walk inside the shop when school had ended about an hour ago, and now Marinette was the one drawing their attention as she walked up to the bakery’s front door, allowing Chat Noir to creep across the rooftops to her balcony unseen. 

The reporters were recognizing her now, referring to her as “the girl who’d been with Adrien last night”. Some called her “Adrien Agreste’s girlfriend”. One of the reporters even knew her name. 

It didn’t take long for the rest to catch on as they hurled dumb question after dumb question at her. 

It was a sacrifice she was willing to make though. After all, she couldn’t let them see Adrien enter the bakery for a second time when he’d never come out after the first, then the reporters might actually start asking the right questions. 

That was something she’d do just about anything to avoid. 

So she brushed them off with practiced ease, walking straight past the small crowd and slipping into the bakery where the cameras were not allowed to follow. Once inside, she greeted her parents with kisses to their cheeks, and when they asked where Adrien was she told them he’d taken the back door to avoid the press. 

Then she made her way upstairs, arriving in the living room just as the trap door to her bedroom opened above.

“I hope it wasn’t too bad out there,” Chat said apologetically as he climbed down the steps.

An idea sparked in Marinette’s mind as she watched him descend the stairs with his leather tail swaying low behind him, his green eyes somber. 

She… She just wanted to make him smile. In a perfect world she would do everything she could to make sure he never wore an unhappy face again, but their world was far from perfect. She knew that this whole disaster was out of her hands. She could do her best to be there for him, but she couldn’t protect him from the pain of it all. 

But even so, she refused to let that stop her from trying to bring back the light in his eyes, even if it only lasted for a moment. 

Had she only known him as Adrien, she may not have had much success. 

But knowing him as the black-clad hero standing before her, she knew exactly how to go about it. There was one thing, besides her, that she knew for sure he endlessly adored.

Maybe she would never live down what she was about to do, but it was for a good cause. 

She slid her backpack off of her shoulders and dropped it onto the floor beside the couch before turning back to face him.

“Oh, Chaton,” she said, theatrically throwing a hand against her forehead in dismay, “it was simply a cat-astrophe outside. I was so lost without my cat in shining armor.” 

Immediately he caught her eye, a hint of a smirk already working its way onto his face while his cheeks were dusted with a light shade of pink. 

Marinette was helpless to stop the grin that crept across her lips. 

Standing at the base of the stairs now, Chat cleared his throat and straightened his posture. “Please do forgive me, Princess. I try not to make a habit of leaving damsels out in distress.”

Fur-give you?” she echoed before looking away to twist a strand of hair around her finger, pretending as though she were actually contemplating it. “Hmm, I don’t know if I’m feline up to it.” Then tilting her head down ever so slightly, she glanced up to him from under her lashes. “Although, purr-haps...”

Chat made a choking sound, somewhere between a chuckle and a grunt.

“If you’re trying to make me swoon with puns, My Lady, it is absolutely working.”

“Why,” she giggled, “what ever gave you that idea?”

He finished crossing the room to her, and as soon as he was within her reach she wrapped her arms around his neck, the ever-present need to be closer to him pulsing throughout every vein in her body.

It all happened so fast. She’d only been attempting to cheer him up, but now his eyes blazed with something else entirely as his arms wrapped around her waist, pulling her more firmly against him until his face was barely a few inches from hers. 

She found her gaze already locked onto his lips without even noticing when exactly it had happened, and she was just about to close the distance entirely, but he spoke up again, leaning his head back just out of her reach.

“You know, you never did give me a kiss for resting yesterday like you asked,” he said with ridiculously fake nonchalance. “That was the deal.”

Marinette’s brows furrowed and she bit her lip in the spark of frustration that flashed through her at being stopped from just kissing him right then. 

Contrary to what Chat claimed, she had, of course, given him multiple kisses since yesterday afternoon. Like last night to his forehead, this morning to his lips… Both of which he was perfectly well aware of if his teasing smile right now was anything to go by. 

Marinette’s heart thudded, and her lips parted slightly in astonishment as she realized what he was doing.  

He was making her wait even though he knew exactly what she wanted, just to make her want it that much more badly. 

And it was working. 

Not that she would ever in a million years give him the satisfaction of saying so out loud though. 

But suddenly his voice dropped much lower and his breath ghosted over her lips, tickling her cheek. “A deal’s a deal, Bugaboo.” And then one of his hands was leaving her back in favor of delicately rubbing his thumb across her lower lip, the tip of his claw just barely scraping over her skin and sending shivers racing down her spine.

She couldn’t stand it anymore. Her cheeks burned as she huffed out an accusative, “Chat.” 

Not even a second after his name left her mouth, he was pressing his impossibly soft lips down against hers, cutting off her squeak and instead making her let out a sigh as his free hand moved to grip the back of her head so his fingers tangled in her hair. She wrapped her own arms around his neck tighter, pulling him down to her even more as her lips glided against his over and over. Soon she found herself sucking on his lower lip, her tongue sliding across it to get a better taste, and as his mouth parted, she continued on, tasting his cheek, tasting his tongue-

Suddenly an involuntary sound made its way out of her throat, and she flushed deeply as she pulled back for air, her brain desperately trying to catch up with what had just happened. 

She took to resting her forehead against his chin while she attempted (and failed) to get her breath back under control. She’d shared only one other kiss like that with him before, back in her bed a couple nights ago, but this time it was different.

It had been exhilarating. 

Maybe it was just due to her lack of sleep, but maybe it was due to the way she had felt the sharpness of his enhanced canines when her tongue had flicked over them. Maybe it was due to the way he had pulled her closer to him, the hand he’d had around her waist pushing into the small of her back while his tail had wrapped around one of her legs.

Now as Marinette started to come back down from her adrenaline rush, she became acutely aware of his chest rumbling softly.

Her body was still fully pressed against his. His hand was still on her back. His tail was still wrapped around her leg. 

And he was purring. 

Marinette didn’t know if she’d ever get her breath back under control.

At the feeling of his lips pressing lightly against her forehead, she finally dared to look back up at him. The smile he wore was full of Chat’s playfulness, and his eyes shone with Adrien’s love. She had no doubt the taste of his lips were all her now. 

“You are one naughty kitty,” she whispered between heavy breaths.

“What can I say,” he said with a wink before swooping down to steal another peck from her. “I have my moments.” 

She rolled her eyes but her lips refused to stop smiling. “You’re impossible.”

“I think you mean, im-paw-ssible.” 

Marinette groaned. She really walked right into that one.

“And I believe that,” she said as she detangled her arms from his neck, “is our cue to get back to work.”

If they didn’t have miraculous business to take care of though, she would have stayed in his arms for as long as he would hold her, letting him purr to his heart’s content. 

He chuckled, his hands and tail lingering on her for just a few moments more before he finally let go. “You’re not fooling anyone, Princess, you know you love it.” 

She pouted defiantly, but it did not last long with the way he was looking at her with knowing eyes. In a flush of embarrassment she brought up one hand to hide her face while she shooed him off with her other. “Yeah, yeah. Just get Wayzz out so we can get this whole charm thing done already.” 

“As you wish, My Lady.” He snuck one last peck to her cheek before finally detransforming, sending Plagg spiraling free from his ring. 

“Oh you owe me so much cheese, Mister,” the black kwami demanded immediately. 

“In the fridge,” Adrien sighed, and as the kwami flew off, he started digging through the school bag that had reappeared on his shoulder.

Tikki flew out of Marinette’s purse then too, flying across the room to join Plagg in his quest at the fridge. 

Once Adrien found the mini miraculous box, he set his bag down on the floor beside hers and opened the box, freeing the green kwami.

“Greetings,” Wayzz smiled. 

“Yeah, long time no see,” Marinette returned, and Adrien set the wooden box down onto the ottoman beside them, leaving it open with the miraculous still inside.

The green kwami looked around in confusion. “Is Nino not here?”

Marinette shook her head. “Master Fu said he wanted you to give us those protection charms first.” 

“Ah, I see,” Wayzz nodded. “Well then, we’ll start with the ones for yourselves. I’ll need you each to pick out a special piece of jewelry you own that isn’t a miraculous. It should be something that has fond memories for you, or perhaps was given to you by someone dear.”

“Is that what you use to cast the charm on-” Adrien tried to ask, only to be cut off by Plagg’s sudden shrieking from across the room. 

Adrien!” the kwami wailed. 

“What? What is it?” the blond in question rushed out as all eyes in the room turned to the small black kwami. He was floating by the fridge, one of its doors left wide open, while Tikki shook her head in her hands beside him. 

There’s no more cheese!” Plagg cried. 

Marinette swore she saw all five stages of grief flash in her partner’s eyes before he took a long, long deep breath. 

“Plagg,” he said in an eerily calm tone, “you already know that we only brought one wheel of Camembert with us yesterday. If you’ve already eaten it, like the glutton you are, then just eat another type of cheese.”

“B-But,” Plagg nearly sobbed, “I’ve already eaten all of that too.” 

Adrien’s jaw dropped and it took everything Marinette had in her to not let out the laugh that bubbled inside of her.

“You ate all of Marinette’s cheese!?” Adrien exclaimed, dumbfounded. “We’ve barely been here for a day! You’re such a pig!”

“Cat, actually,” Plagg corrected, his sob story act already seemingly forgotten.

Adrien’s eyes thinned.

The black kwami continued babbling on though, completely unfazed. “Well then I guess if Marinette doesn’t have anymore cheese, then my only option is to order more.”

“Uh, what about just eating something else that’s not disgusting for once in your life,” Adrien countered. “You like the Dupain-Cheng’s macarons, eat those.” 

“Nah, I think I’ll just use your Prime account to order more cheese,” Plagg replied, starting to float up towards the ceiling.

Adrien blinked. “How? You don’t even have my password.”

“Pssh, yeah I do,” his kwami called back before disappearing through the ceiling completely, no doubt headed for Marinette’s computer in the room above.

And so Adrien’s jaw dropped for the second time in under two minutes. A few moments later though, he sobered up and turned to Marinette.

“I deeply apologize for whatever monstrosity arrives at your door within the next two days.” 

Marinette could only nod with a fist in front of her mouth as she desperately tried to keep her giggles from spilling out. She was his partner, she had to at least pretend to be on his side. 

Truth be told, she was extremely curious as to what monstrosity would supposedly be arriving at her door. 

“Tikki,” Marinette called, clearing her throat. “If you could, um, monitor him.” She pointed up to ceiling. 

“On it,” her kwami called back through a mouth full of cookie. 

Within the blink of an eye, Tikki disappeared through the ceiling as well, and Marinette crossed the room to close the fridge door herself. For ancient magical beings, they sure shared some strikingly similar habits with the kids she babysat.

With a sigh, she returned to Adrien and the one remaining kwami over by the couch. 

“I’m sorry about Plagg’s terrible manners,” Adrien said to Wayzz, although the green kwami seemed remarkably unbothered by the whole encounter.

“Oh, don’t worry. I’m used to it.” 

Marinette couldn’t even begin to imagine how many thousands of years Wayzz and Tikki had had to “get used to it”. 

“So, anyway,” Adrien said, getting them back on track, “you were saying that we need a piece of jewelry for the protection charm?” 

“Yes,” Wayzz confirmed. “Something you can wear all the time.”

Marinette had plenty of necklaces and rings to choose from upstairs, but Wayzz had said to choose something that was special to her. The piece that had immediately come to mind was one she wouldn't even have to go to her room for. She already had it with her. 

Opening her purse, she took out the lucky charm bracelet Adrien had given to her on her birthday a few years ago, the one he had hand-made himself. 

“Will this work?”

“Will this work?” 

Her eyes widened and she looked over to Adrien who had spoken at the same time as her. In his hands he held the original lucky charm bracelet she had given to him. He’d told her a long time ago that he always kept it with him, but that had been years ago. To think he still kept it on him, even after all this time… 

Marinette felt her cheeks heat up rapidly. Though this time it wasn’t in embarrassment. It was in-

“Ugh, can you two stop being so grossly in love for like five seconds,” Plagg drawled.

Adrien’s head whipped towards his tiny kwami. “Hey I thought you were busy hacking my Amazon account.” 

The black kwami only snickered before zipping back up through the ceiling once more, and Wayzz answered Marinette and Adrien’s question as though Plagg had never interrupted at all.

“Yes, those will do nicely,” the green kwami said excitedly. “Now if you could put them on please put them on.” 

Marinette looked down the bracelet in her hands. She was terrible at tying bracelets on one-handed. Tikki normally helped her, but her kwami was a little preoccupied at the moment. 

Marinette looked up to Adrien. It was clear he’d come to the same conclusion himself. 

“Allow me, Princess,” he said in a gentle voice, the polar opposite of how he’d spoken to his kwami. 

She nodded and held out her lucky charm to him, staying quiet while he tied the string around her left wrist. The feeling of his fingers delicately brushing against her skin sent tingles down her arm, and her stomach tightened in an oddly pleasant way. When he finished tying the knot in place, he took hold of her wrist and pressed a soft kiss to her palm. And then another to the back of her hand. 

“Th-Thanks,” she barely managed to choke out as he finally let go. 

“Any time.” 

His eyes were practically glowing. 

“I- um, y-your-” she fumbled. She’d been literally sucking on his lip just a few minutes ago, and yet now she found herself unable to even form a coherent sentence in front of him. Her own brain was ever the mystery to her. 

He held his lucky charm out to her anyway. 

She took it, carefully tying it around his right wrist for him, and as she let her fingers linger on his hand longer than necessary, she wondered if his stomach was tightening too. 

“Great!” Wayzz said enthusiastically. “Now hold out your wrists.” 

Hearing the kwami’s energetic voice felt like being snapped out of a daydream. She figured his excitement stemmed from getting to his use magic on new people, she knew how excited Plagg got whenever he got to use his cataclysm on his own. 

Suddenly Marinette found herself silently praying that Wayzz was much more in control of his powers without a holder than Plagg was. Maybe this whole protection charm thing wasn’t such a good idea. 

It was a little too late to back out though.

The green kwami had already flown up to her braceleted wrist, and now he whispering something in a language she’d only ever heard before when Tikki occasionally talked in her sleep. After a few moments, a flash of green light sparked from her bracelet, and when it was gone the bracelet looked exactly as it had before. 

Marinette turned her hand over, inspecting the charm. “Did it work? I don’t feel any different.” 

“Oh, yes!” Wayzz assured. “Most people don’t feel any different, especially when they are already used to the magic of the miraculous, but rest assured that now Hawk Moth will not be able to track your emotions. Even if he blindly sends an akuma after you, your protection charm will act like Shell-ter, preventing the akuma from reaching you. As long as you keep the bracelet on at all times, of course.” 

Marinette nodded. “I see. Thanks, Wayzz.” 

“Of course, Marinette!” the kwami cheered, flying over to Adrien’s wrist to cast the charm on his bracelet next. After more words she didn’t understand and another flash of green light, the kwami announced that their personal charms were all finished. All that was left was to cast the ones for the apartment.

For every single room in the apartment, to be specific. 

“Even the bathrooms?” Marinette asked. 

“Yes, those are rooms too,” Wayzz answered with his seemingly endless amount of patience. 

She let out a sigh. “This is gonna take forever.”

Maybe if she wasn’t so exhausted then the task wouldn’t seem so daunting, but right now she was about ready to kill for a nap. She couldn’t say that to Adrien though. If she did, then he would know that she’d stayed up the entire night on watch for akumas and she was not about to add another entry on his already very full list of things to worry about. 

Especially not now that she’d finally seemed to break him out of his daze. 

Out of the corner of her eye she caught sight of him watching her with a dumb smile plastered on his face. 

“Come on, Bug. It’s not that bad.”

“Yes it is,” she mumbled, lightly shoving at his arm. But her hand never returned to her side. He’d already caught it and slid his fingers into hers, his lucky-turned-protection charm dangling from his wrist against hers.

It was surprisingly satisfying seeing the two charms side by side like that. It was like that was the way the universe had intended for them to be worn all along. 

Together.

“Besides,” Adrien added, “Getting a Hawk Moth-proof home is kinda badass.”

“Ugh, fine,” Marinette relented, though Adrien’s smile was infectious and as she spoke her lips turned up just the same. “Let’s start at the bakery and work our way up.”

“Sounds like a plan,” Wayzz agreed. 

And so the three made their way down to the bottom floor of the building, sneaking up to the back door of the bakery and pushing it open just enough to peek through. 

Her father was in the backroom, humming to himself as he took trays of fresh pastries out of one of the large ovens. Marinette was already trying to come up with a plan to lure her father away from the room, but in a stroke of luck, she heard her mother call him into the front to help carry a cake out to a customer’s car. 

The moment the bakery was deserted, Marinette turned to the green kwami floating beside her. “Okay, what do we use for the charms here?”

“Anything special to you or your family that is already here, something that won’t leave the room,” he answered.

She looked around quickly. They would only have a couple minutes, if that, before her parents came back. 

After scanning the room for a few seconds, her gaze landed on a spot across the room. It was a framed certificate, an award her parents had won last year for having the best tasting macarons in Paris.

“That certificate over there on the shelf,” she said, pointing it out to the kwami who immediately zipped over and started speaking his special kwami language. 

They continued on like that, Marinette pointing out objects that held emotional value and Wayzz creating flashes of bright green light, until eventually they worked their way all the way up to her bedroom at the top of the apartment. 

As Marinette climbed up through her trap door with Adrien and Wayzz in tow, she found that Plagg and Tikki had apparently moved on from online cheese shopping and were now using her computer to fill the room with music while they played some game with a white goose Marinette vaguely recognized. 

It didn’t take long for her gaze to flicker up to her bed. She didn’t know how much longer her eyelids were capable of staying open.

Maybe she could tape them open like in cartoons.

“Alright, My Lady,” Adrien said, gesturing around the room. “Pick an object, any object.” 

Marinette looked around. There were many things in her room that were special to her. There was the sewing machine her grandmother had bought her, the derby hat in her closet she’d made for the school competition, the last piece of blue yarn from the bundle she’d used to make the scarf she’d given Adrien for his birthday. But none of that felt quite like what she was looking for. 

Her eyes wandered back to the computer where over the music she could hear Tikki whisper-yelling “Run, Plagg, run!” as the screen was filled with the goose being chased by a faceless person. 

Then Marinette’s gaze drifted from her computer to the green picture frame sitting on her desk beside it. 

The last remaining picture of Adrien. 

The last remaining picture that was put up, at least.

She turned to Wayzz. 

“U-Um,” she stuttered, pointing to the picture while her cheeks began to drown in fire. 

“You got it,” Wayzz said.

While the green kwami cast his magic, Marinette dared to peek over at Adrien. She found him staring at the picture with wide eyes, his cheeks much the same color as she was sure hers were in that moment. 

Suddenly the music changed. The speakers hooked up to her computer were now playing a song that Marinette recognized instantly. It was her favorite song. The song that had played when she’d shared her first and only slow dance with Adrien at Chloe’s party a few years back. 

It truly felt like the universe was trying to play matchmaker. 

Or maybe it was just Tikki playing DJ. 

Marinette didn’t know or care which it was. Her gaze was already locked with Adrien’s and the rest of the world was being pushed to the far away, unimportant corners of her mind. 

“Care for a dance, My Lady?” 

Marinette stared at the hand he was holding out to her for only a moment before she was placing her own a top it, letting herself be led until she was standing right up against him.

It was different than the way they’d been when they’d first arrived in the apartment that afternoon. There was no teasing now. There were no desperate needs pulling on her. She simply laid her head against his chest, fitting into him perfectly while he laced their fingers together. 

His free hand came up to gently wrap around her, holding her steadily against him, and she held onto him just the same. When his feet started to move in tiny steps from side to side, she followed without even thinking about it, her only thoughts being of breathing him in. 

Soon her eyes were falling closed, and she buried her face into his neck.

She never wanted to leave his embrace. 

“You know, I was thinking,” he murmured into her ear as they swayed to the song. “Maybe we can deliver Nino's miraculous… later.” 

She hummed her agreement into his neck, and he chuckled softly, the vibrations tickling her cheek. 

They stayed that way for the next few minutes, letting the music wash over them, letting it drown out everything else.

But the song wasn’t going to last forever. All too soon, Marinette realized the song was nearing its end.

Marinette didn’t want it to end. 

“I do believe,” Adrien spoke up again, drawing her attention, “that there is a certain question I am far overdue in asking.”

Her breath hitched. Already her mind was screaming yes, but she forced herself to stay silent, letting him have the pleasure of asking for himself. 

“Marinette Dupain-Cheng,” he said in a voice of pure gold. “The savior of Paris, and the Ladybug of my dreams.” He paused as she giggled, and he took the moment to place a kiss to the top of her head. "Will you do me the honor of being my gir-”

An alarm blared out from his phone, cutting of the end of his question. 

When he didn’t turn the alarm off to resume his question, Marinette pulled her head back from his chest so she could see his face. 

His expression had turned cold. 

“Adrien, what is it?” she asked, unable to keep blatant worry from seeping into her voice. 

He pulled his phone out from his back pocket, reading the screen out of her view.

The alarm stopped. 

“I’m sorry. It’s- It’s my father.”

Marinette’s stomach dropped, and not at all in the pleasant way like it had when he’d tied her lucky charm earlier. “Wh-What do you mean?” 

“I don’t know,” he answered, his voice hoarse. “But there’s a new update on the news.” 

“You have a notification for that?” 

Adrien looked away from her, staring at the floor. “Normally I only get notifications for akuma attacks, but…”

Marinette lightly squeezed the hand she held in hers, her free hand coming up to brush his bangs from his forehead, her thumb trailing gently across his skin. “It’s okay, Adrien. I understand.” 

He nodded, but it was hardly convincing. 

“Do you want to check the news?” she asked hesitantly. As Ladybug, she definitely did not want to be the last to know if there was an update on Hawk Moth’s whereabouts. As Marinette, she never wanted Adrien to have to see his father’s face again. 

Adrien closed his eyes.

“Yeah,” he answered, his voice nothing but a whisper now.

“I got it,” Tikki called out. Marinette followed her kwami’s voice to find the computer screen now showing a paused video of a newscast. 

With a sigh, Adrien unwrapped himself from her, and Marinette couldn’t stop his warmth from escaping her along with him. 

Over at her desk, Tikki used both arms to press down on the computer mouse, starting the video. 

Don’t be bemused, it’s just the news. I’m Nadja Chamack, here with you this afternoon to bring you the latest update on the disappearance of Gabriel Agreste and his two staff members, Nathalie Sancoeur, and G-” 

Plagg sneezed, interrupting the video. Wayzz handed him a tissue.

As of right now the police still do not have any information on the location of their whereabouts. However, they are now saying that G-”

Plagg sneezed again, far louder than any creature of his size should be capable of. 

Tikki thumped his arm. “Plagg.”

“Sorry.”

-is in fact their lead suspect on this case.” 

“What!?” Adrien blurted. 

Upon receiving a tip from an anonymous source, the police have reason to believe that he may be holding Agreste and Sancoeur hostage as a means to obtain some, if not all, of the Agreste fortune. This is of course very alarming news, but the police force asks that you please rest assured they are doing all that they can-” 

“This is ridiculous!” Adrien exclaimed. “How can they possibly think that?”

Marinette didn’t know what to say. She knew the police weren’t always right, but this wasn't even in the ballpark. 

Adrien ran a hand through his hair while his other hand clenched in a fist at his side. “Anonymous tip? Really? God he’s so, so evil.”

Adrien was not wrong. 

Marinette didn’t know how Gabriel had managed to get an anonymous tip to the police without them realizing it was him, but it was certainly a smart move on his part.

She tried placing a careful hand on her partner’s arm. “Chaton…”

He shrugged it off. 

“No, this is some BS.” His voice was rising. “Now he’s trying to blame my bodyguard? Is that the only reason Father even took him? To frame him!?” 

His eyes were begging her to tell him that it wasn’t true. 

Marinette bit her lip. “I… I’m sure that’s not the only reason…”

She could think of one other: To hurt Adrien. To ensure that he was all the more isolated. 

She knew that although Adrien had never liked being guarded all the time, he had actually grown fond of his bodyguard himself. Marinette could only guess that until now, his bodyguard had been the person he spent the most time with besides Plagg. 

“Great,” Adrien said, almost in a laugh. “So now my bodyguard, probably the most innocent of those three, is going to get blamed while Father is still out there turning people into monsters!” 

“Um, well,” Plagg spoke up meekly, “he hasn’t actually akumatized anyone else though, not since he tried last night.”

Adrien’s head whipped up to his kwami, his eyes flashing with rage. With pain. 

“What so now you’re on his side!?” he snapped. 

“Of course not!” 

“Hey, cut it out,” Marinette ordered, doing her best to keep her own voice from rising despite the rapidly growing tension in the room. “Don’t yell at Plagg.” 

Adrien took a long breath, setting his jaw. “You know it’s only a matter of time before he tries to akumatize someone else, and- and it’s all my fault.” 

Marinette’s jaw fell to the floor. “Adrien, it is not your fault.”

“Yes it is!” he cried out before stepping away from her to pace the floor of her bedroom, his hands raking endlessly through his hair. “I lived in the same house with him for years after he started using the miraculous, and I never had a clue! I’m a superhero, Marinette, it’s literally my one and only job to find the bad guy.” 

She’d been so afraid that this would happen. That his father would screw with his head like this. That he would turn to himself to blame. Why couldn’t he just see that his father was only trying to manipulate him!? God, it was so frustrating.

“Uh, newsflash,” she threw back, “we’re both superheroes, and neither of us figured it out before because he’s a villain with a plan and good at it!”  

He stopped pacing for a moment, staring at her flatly. “Yes, thank you for praising my father’s wondrous capabilities.” 

Marinette groaned loudly in frustration. 

As soon as it was out of her system though, she rubbed her hands into her eyes, trying to take a deep breath. She understood why Adrien was so upset. It wasn’t exactly cool of him, but anyone in his position would be driven to this with a father like that, she figured. And getting angry herself wasn’t going to help either of them. 

“Chat,” she sighed. Her hands still covered her eyes, but she heard his steps pause again as she called out his name. “You did everything you could.”

“Yeah, well it wasn’t good enough.”

She moved her hands away, looking up to him across the room as the threat of tears began to form in her eyes. 

“I failed you, Ladybug,” he went on. “I failed everyone!”

Suddenly Tikki flew over to the air between them with horribly worried eyes. “Adrien, you need to stay calm,” she pleaded. “This is probably what your father wanted.”

“Yeah, she’s right,” Marinette agreed, trying desperately to keep her voice from wavering. “He may be trying to frame your bodyguard, but he’s also doing this to make you mad. He wants you to get upset about your bodyguard being blamed.”

Adrien threw his arms out beside himself. “Well it sure as fuck is working, isn’t it!”

“Adrien, seriously!” she shouted back, completely losing the battle of keeping her voice down. “Just stop it! You need to calm down, or-” 

“Or what!?” And suddenly the pain that distorted his features shook Marinette to her core. “It’s not like any of Father’s stupid butterflies can akumatize me anymore!” 

She faltered as she watched him shake his right wrist in the air for emphasis. The wrist that wore his lucky charm. 

Technically he wasn’t wrong, his father really couldn’t akumatize him anymore. But that wasn’t meant to be a free pass to go around being as pissed off as he pleased. That wasn’t why she’d given him her lucky charm. This was wrong. All of this was wrong. And the worst part of it was that even if Adrien was shielded from akumas, his father was still breaking him, shattering him on the inside.

Suddenly Adrien pivoted, making a beeline for the stairs that led to her bed. 

Marinette blinked. 

Her bed...? 

No, whenever Chat was upset she could always find him at the highest points in the city. He favored open air and vacant places. 

It wasn’t her bed he was headed for. It was her balcony above it. 

“Don’t even think about going out in the city on your own!” she yelled up to him just as he opened the latch on the window. 

She watched him pause in place and close his eyes, not even bothering to turn his head back towards her.

“You may be the queen of Paris, My Lady, but you are not the boss of me.”

Without warning, all the air in her lungs vanished. Her chest was stinging. She tried to breath in more air but it wasn’t fixing anything. She didn’t even notice that she’d sniffled until she heard a heavy sigh from the bed above her. 

“Look, I’m not- I’m not going anywhere,” he said, but he didn’t even sound angry anymore. He just sounded broken. “I just- I need some air.”

And then he was gone, the balcony window falling shut with a loud thump behind him.

Marinette needed to get out of her room. She didn’t want to be in here anymore. 

She headed straight for the only other exit with her tears falling now, blurring her vision. As she wiped her cheeks along the way, she found that her fingers were becoming more damp than she'd expected them to. Maybe her tears had been falling for longer than she’d realized. 

Not that it really mattered.

She yanked open the trap door on the floor of her room, desperate to get out. She didn’t want to have to look at her bed anymore. The bed where she’d spent the last two nights with Adrien holding her.

Only once she was halfway down the steps did she even care to look around to the room below, and she nearly lost her balance when she found her mom standing at the base of the stairs with a plate of croissants in her hands, looking up at her with wide eyes and raised eyebrows.

Marinette didn’t even register the rest of her descent. One moment she was still on the stairs, and the next she was already standing before her mother, her tears halted in her shock.

Sabine cleared her throat. “Couple’s quarrel?”

Marinette’s eyebrows folded together. “We’re not a-” But she cut herself off. That wasn’t what was important right now.

Although, it was still true. They really were not a couple. They had never gotten that far. The news report had come between them at the last possible second.

Marinette squeezed her eyes shut.

Her mother was supposed to be in the bakery right now. Her mother who might have just heard their entire fight. Or at least however much of it they’d yelled loud enough to be heard through the floor. 

The walls weren’t exactly thick.

If her mother had been up here for a while…  

Marinette opened her eyes.

“H-How much of that did you hear,” she choked out. 

She needed to know. 

Her mom didn’t respond right away though. Instead she looked like she was hesitantly considering her options, and Marinette’s mind ran frantic while she waited for her mom to just give her an answer already. Did she hear them arguing as superheroes, as the “queen of Paris” and the son of Hawk Moth, or didn’t she.

An entire eternity came and passed before her mother finally spoke again.

“How much did you want me to hear, sweetheart?” 

Chapter Text

The clicking of high heels against a metal surface echoed sharply throughout a large underground chamber as a single woman, dressed in her favorite black suit, made her way down a long, narrow catwalk. In the far right corner of this underground chamber, at the very end of the right wall, was a secret stone door that blended in fully with the stone wall surrounding it. 

It was to this door that the woman was headed.

To anyone who did not know this chamber as she did, the door’s existence would have gone completely unnoticed. Any onlooker would have seen nothing but a blank stone wall. 

But the woman knew this chamber well.

As she finished crossing the long metal catwalk and approached the corner of the chamber, she placed both of her hands on the stone a few inches beside where she knew the door to be, and pressed firmly into specific points on the wall which moved back with her fingers. Only a few seconds later, the door opened inward and the woman walked through, away from the chamber with the catwalk, away from the tall plants where white butterflies were born, away from the unbreathing body lying perfectly preserved in its clear casket, and away from the elevator that rose all the way up to the first floor of the Agreste Mansion. 

Beyond the door was a living room, one the woman had only started to really become familiar with the day before. It was far smaller than any of the rooms in the mansion above, more the size of one that might be found in an average apartment around the city. Although it was still decorated exquisitely to fit Gabriel Agreste’s tastes with its pale grey walls and pair of shiny black leather couches positioned around a black marble coffee table.

Across the living room, a single open doorway led to more rooms which made up the rest of the secret underground apartment. There was a well-stocked kitchen, three bedrooms each with a graciously large bed and a luxurious private bathroom, and of course, a room dedicated solely to a grand piano.

“A fate we must suffer through for the greater good” as Gabriel had put it. 

Really the only thing strange about the inside of the apartment at all was the fact that there were no windows. They were deep underground so it made sense, but it definitely created the sensation of being closed in. 

And the woman liked it that way. It felt comforting, secure. Safe. 

Or perhaps that feeling came from Gabriel himself who was currently seated on the larger of the two couches, a tablet in his lap playing a video of what appeared to be the news. 

...tip from an anonymous source, the police have reason to believe that he may be holding Agreste and Sancoeur hostage as a means to obtain-

“Are you just going to stand there staring, Nathalie,” Gabriel asked over the video, though he never took his eyes off of the tablet, “or do you actually have something to tell me?”

Immediately Nathalie straightened her posture and smoothed her bangs behind her ear. Her boss was clearly in a snippy mood and she didn’t want to upset him further, he was under enough stress as it was. “It looks like the message we sent to the police is working just has you’d planned, Sir,” she said in a calm voice.

At that he finally looked up from his tablet. His mouth was set it in a hard line, and she could see the exhaustion in his eyes.

But akumatizing Adrien did not go as planned.

Though he didn’t say it aloud, the thought was written clearly on his face. Right behind his stoic mask. 

“Sir…” she tried, but she trailed off. There wasn’t much she could say about the matter. What happened, happened. That part of Gabriel’s plan had failed and bringing it up again would only serve to spark his anger.

He sighed loudly as though Nathalie were wasting his precious time. As though there was anything else to even do down here besides watch videos on his tablet. 

“Do you have new information for me, or not?” he questioned in a short tone.

“Yes, Sir.” 

She kept her expression reigned, though she knew it was a wasted effort in the end. Not only could he probably see right past her own stoic mask, but he could sense all of her emotions through his miraculous. There was nothing she could hide from him. 

Mostly nothing.

Nevertheless, she still kept her expression blank if just for the sake of some normalcy around here.

“It appears as though your son is now staying with Marinette Dupain-Cheng, the classmate of his you invited to last Sunday’s fashion show so you could personally observe how she affected his mood.”

“Obviously,” Gabriel responded with an eye roll. “Thirty seconds on any news source, magazine, or twitter account can tell you that much.”

Nathalie smiled tightly. “Of course, Sir.” 

Although it was true that all sorts of news about Adrien and Marinette had been blowing up on the internet, Gabriel was being a bit dramatic about it. The real focus of the news was on Gabriel himself, they both knew that.

“But, I…” he said quietly, and Nathalie watched his stoic mask fall away completely as he sunk back into the couch, pushing his glasses up onto his head to rub his hands into his eyes. “I knew Adrien was fond of this girl, but I was tracking his emotions when she arrived at the dressing room Sunday evening. It didn’t seem at all like he was this close with her. Certainly not enough to move in with her just like that. It doesn’t make sense.” Gabriel pulled his hands from his face and turned to Nathalie, searching her gaze. “There’s something else going on, Nathalie. Something I’m missing.

The hint of a smile began to creep up on her lips. “Well Sir, I’ve been looking into Marinette more and I believe I may have already found the piece of information you’re looking for.”

She watched Gabriel go still, his eyes darting to her in a sharp, attentive stare. “And?” he prompted. 

Nathalie’s smile grew as she finally took a seat on the couch beside her boss, leaving just enough room between them to still be some semblance of professional. “According to her Instagram,” Nathalie answered, “Marinette is the best friend of Alya Césaire, the girl who-”

“The girl who runs the Ladyblog,” Gabriel finished for her.

Nathalie stayed silent as she watched the gears turning in her boss’s head. 

“Of course,” he breathed. “That’s why Ladybug was able to purify my akuma so quickly. Marinette must somehow be in contact with the superheroes through Alya, and that’s why Adrien is staying with her. For protection.”

“My thoughts precisely, Sir.”

Something familiar flickered in his eyes, and Nathalie nearly sighed in relief as he straightened himself up on the couch. The way he was looking at her now was the most like himself she’d seen him act since they’d come down to this underground apartment. 

He turned his gaze down to his hands. “So the insect and the cat are playing bodyguard, hm? Trying to shield my son from me?” He started laughing to himself, the sound low and sinister, and then he reached into his jacket, pulling out a blue pin from an inside pocket and held it out for Nathalie to see. 

The Peacock Miraculous. 

She hadn’t been allowed to even lay eyes on it in a very long time. Gabriel had insisted it was too dangerous. 

Clearly something had changed his mind.

“Well then,” he continued, “I guess Mayura will just have to remind those vermin of their real job. They won’t prioritize guarding just one boy when their entire precious city is in danger.”

Nathalie nodded, trying not to let her excitement get too obvious, but finally, finally, she was crucial to his plan again.

She understood what they needed to do.

Distract the superheroes. Akumatize Adrien. And then… 

She was already reaching for the pin in his hands, itching to get her own hands on it, but he pulled it back out of her reach at the last second, tucking it securely back into his jacket with a little pat once it was in place. 

“Not yet, my dear Nathalie,” he said in a low, satin voice. “I cannot sense any strong emotions from Adrien at the moment. We must wait until the time is right.”

Nathalie sat back against the couch, unable to take her eyes off the spot on his chest where she now knew the miraculous was hidden. “Yes, Sir.”

 

~~~

 

Plopping down onto the bed beneath Marinette’s balcony window, Adrien laid back across the covers with his head against the pillow, his kwami hovering above his face with a look of distaste.

Marinette had not come back to her room.

He hadn’t been keeping track of the time so he didn’t know how long he’d been out on her balcony, but the sky was beginning to turn dark now.

Ever since he’d found out about his father, time seemed to drag on so slowly. Minutes felt like days. Days felt like years. And yet even with all this time on his hands, he hadn’t come any closer to stopping his father. All he’d managed to do was push away the person that mattered most to him. The only person he had left. 

The way her tears had dripped with pain and confusion right before he’d left through her window had been horrible to watch. It was similar to the way she’d looked at him after the fashion show three nights ago when he’d told her she was wrong about his father. Only this time it was worse. So much had changed in such a short amount of time, and her pain was rooted deeper now. And just like that night, it was still all his fault. 

He felt absolutely terrible.

He hadn’t meant to yell at all, let alone at her. Usually he was so good at keeping a calm front when he needed to, it was a skill that every person in the spotlight learned quickly. He wasn’t quite sure how his control had dropped like that, but something about his father’s stunt with his bodyguard just caused him to lose it. After everything that had already happened, it had just been too much.

He supposed that was his father’s whole thing though, driving people mad enough to akumatize. 

But Adrien drew the line at taking it out on Marinette. She hadn’t done anything wrong. All she’d done over the past several days was help him. She’d taken him in like the stray he was, wiping his tears, bathing him, letting him sleep in her bed, and all he’d done in return was go and yell at her.

He doubted she’d let him sleep with her again tonight. Getting kicked out of Ladybug’s bed wasn’t exactly a problem he’d ever thought he’d encounter, mainly because he wasn’t sure if he’d ever make it into Ladybug’s bed, but yet here he was, lying on her side of it and savoring the sweet scent of her pillow in case he wasn’t allowed to sleep here anymore. 

He sighed, folding an arm across his face to cover his eyes.

“I was such a jerk, Plagg,” he grumbled. It was the first time he’d spoken out loud since he’d left Marinette alone for her balcony. 

“Yes, yes you were,” came Plagg’s short reply.

Adrien’s stomach clenched at the hurt in his kwami’s voice. “I-I don’t… I didn’t mean to- to…” He moved his arm away from his eyes, meeting the gaze of the small black creature floating before him. “I’m sorry,” he whispered. “I shouldn’t have yelled at you, it wasn’t your fault.”

The kwami eyed him with uncertainty for a few moments, but soon he flew down and nuzzled Adrien’s cheek. 

Adrien let out a breath of relief and brought up a finger to rub his kwami’s velvet-soft head. It wasn’t often that Plagg showed affection like this, but Adrien knew that when he did, he meant it. 

Neither of them spoke for a while, letting the silence heal them while Adrien gently scratched behind Plagg’s tiny cat ears until the kwami started to purr. Adrien thought his heart actually might melt at the sound. He couldn’t help but wonder if Marinette felt the same way whenever he purred himself. She’d always teased him for it, insisting she didn’t like it, but she wasn’t a very good liar. 

Unfortunately for Adrien, once Plagg seemed to realize how his small body was rumbling, he wormed his way out from under Adrien’s hand.

“Alright, alright, enough of the mushy stuff,” Plagg complained as he flew over to sit down on the other end of the large pillow.

Adrien turned over onto his side so he could face his kwami, letting out another sigh with his cheek now squished against the pillow. “None of this was Mari’s fault either. She’s never going to forgive me, not after that.”

Plagg cocked his head to the side and blinked. “Wow you’re even dumber than I thought.”

For a few moments Adrien was too taken aback to respond. 

“Um? Hey?” he sputtered.

Plagg only looked back at him with a bored expression. “Look, this is Ladybug you’re talking about. You know, your partner? Basically your girlfriend? Apparently now your bathtime buddy too, I mean-”

“Okay, okay,” Adrien said, cutting his kwami off before he could have any chance to elaborate on 'bathtime buddy'. It was almost hard to believe that this creature was the same kwami he’d been cuddling with just a minute ago. “And your point?” 

“My point,” Plagg drawled, “is that I think just about the only thing she wouldn’t forgive you for is if you were Hawk Moth yourself. And considering that you’re Chat Noir, I’d say you’re pretty in the clear.”

Adrien stared at his kwami with a dumbfounded expression, but Plagg’s eyes were serious.

After half a minute of silence, the kwami let out an exasperated sigh. “I’m saying you should just apologize to her.”  

Slowly, Adrien rolled over onto his back again as he contemplated that advice. It was true that Marinette had always been very forgiving towards him, and towards everyone else for that matter, but he’d never really fought with Marinette before, not besides the gum incident when he’d first met her. And back then he’d simply apologized, lent her his umbrella, and then everything was okay between them. 

Fighting with Ladybug though, that was something he had a bit more experience with. They’d never gotten into anything big, but the two of them had worked very closely together for a very long time, they were bound to have their occasional petty arguments about this and that. Mostly they’d been over missed patrols, or over who beat who in spontaneous races to the Eiffel Tower. Though sometimes they were over bigger things, like about her crush on the other boy, which, looking back now, he totally realized how stupid he’d been about that. But regardless of whatever it was that had come between them, in the end they’d always fixed it with apologies and hidden rooftop hugs. 

This time it was different though. This time she’d been crying. And he’d left her. This time he couldn’t just retreat into his civilian life, because this time there wasn’t a wall separating the two worlds anymore. 

This time it was one hundred percent his fault, and he didn’t know if one hug would be enough to fix it. 

And that terrified him. 

But… maybe Plagg was right. 

Adrien had to admit that every now and then his kwami actually understood other people more clearly than he could, especially when it came to Ladybug. 

Not that Adrien didn’t understand her, because he did , more so than he understood anyone else, but that was more when they were out on the battlefield, and honestly sometimes Plagg just… knew things. 

“Do you really think an apology will be enough?” Adrien asked, his voice barely above a whisper. 

“If you make it worth enough,” his kwami answered.

Adrien hummed, gazing up at the window above him. The deep indigo of twilight was already washing away the last of the sunset, and he was getting pretty hungry. He needed to go find Marinette. He didn’t know what exactly it was he was going to say, but “I’m sorry” seemed like a good place to start. 

Sitting up on the bed, he stretched out his arms, fixed his tousled hair with his fingers, and then began to make his way down the ladder to the floor of her room. 

He was only a couple steps from the bottom when a knock came from the other side of her trap door. In his surprise at the sudden noise, he half-fell, half-jumped the rest of the way down with an ungraceful thump as he hit the floorboards. 

He quickly righted himself, calling out to her as he crossed the room. “Bug? Bug, I-”

But then the door opened and he clamped his mouth shut, freezing in place. It was certainly not his bug’s head poking up through the door. 

It was her mother’s. 

“Oh apologies, Dear,” Sabine said with a smile. “It’s not Ladybug, just me.”

Adrien stayed completely frozen for another painfully long ten seconds before his brain started to kick back into gear. All he had said was “Bug”, how did she know he’d been referring to Ladybug?

“L-Ladybug?” he sputtered, beginning to slowly walk backwards, though to where exactly he was headed he had yet to determine. “Wh-Why would I be expecting Ladybug? Who’s Ladybug?” And then just as the last question left his mouth, the back of his knees hit the chaise and he was sent flailing back onto his bottom atop the soft pink cushion. 

Marinette’s mother simply stood in the doorway, looking at him as though she wasn’t sure whether she wanted to feel bad for him or laugh. 

“May I come in?” was all she asked. 

Adrien didn’t understand why she was even asking in the first place though. What was he going to do? Say no? This was her house after all. 

But for some reason she still remained in the doorway, clearly waiting for his permission to enter her own daughter’s room.

Deciding that he officially did not trust his voice anymore, he nodded to her with his mouth sealed tightly closed. In his time as Chat Noir he knew that he’d said many blatantly dumb things for the sake of his secret, but “Who’s Ladybug?” might’ve just been the new grand prize winner. Everyone in France knew who Ladybug was. Sabine had seen him with Ladybug in their living room just last night. He had absolutely no idea how he was going to explain himself.

“I overheard you two arguing earlier,” Sabine said softly as she climbed up fully into the room, though her eyebrows were drawn together in concern. “I just wanted to make sure you know I’m always here if you ever need someone else to talk to about… things.”

She… overheard? As in, overhead them shouting about his evil butterfly-controlling father? Overhead him yelling at her daughter for no good reason? Overheard them fighting about Ladybug and Chat Noir’s problems?

Oh this was bad. Very bad. 

Wayzz seemed to have some fancy magic though, maybe he also had like a memory wiping spell or something. Or maybe another kwami could turn back time a little, or-

“Adrien.”

He jolted as he felt a hand placed on his shoulder. Sabine was sitting on the chaise beside him now. He hadn’t even noticed her come over. 

He really needed to get a hold of himself. He needed to think. If Sabine had overheard them then there was a chance she might’ve already figured out their identities. God, Marinette was going to kill him. Keeping their identities a secret was her biggest rule, and he’d barely lasted twenty-four hours here before breaking it. Forget getting kicked out of her bed, he was probably going to get kicked off the team. By this time tomorrow morning, the statue of him in the park would probably already be replaced with Rena Rouge.

Although, he supposed there was still the chance that Sabine hadn’t actually heard. She’d obviously been in another room, so there could’ve been any number of walls between them. Maybe she hadn’t heard what they were saying. Or at least, not all of it. 

There was only one way to find out. 

“H-How… How much did you hear?” 

Sabine pulled her hand back from his shoulder. “You two really do think alike,” she said with an amused smile.

Adrien had no idea what that was supposed to mean.

So much for a direct answer.

He sighed and brought his feet up onto the chaise, wrapping his arms around his knees. He felt so small all of a sudden. Sabine was looking at him as though she could see right through him. As though every thought in every corner of his mind was on display for her like an open book. He knew that wasn’t actually possible of course, but it was quickly crushing any hope he still had that she didn’t know about his tail.

“You know,” she continued, “Marinette found me in the living room earlier and asked me that exact same question.”

Adrien blinked.

So while he’d been sulking on the balcony, Marinette had already had this conversation with her mother? Well, if she hadn’t come back upstairs to demand the removal of his half of the statue then the answer couldn’t be all that bad. 

He really, really hoped it wasn’t all that bad.

“A-And?” he pressed.

Sabine rested a hand against her cheek in thought. “I figured it would be best to let her decide that, so I simply asked her how much of it she wanted me to hear.”

Adrien’s mouth dropped open in a gape as he stared at the woman beside him. She’d really offered to just… pretend like she hadn’t heard anything Marinette didn’t want her to? That in itself told him she definitely had heard at least a thing or two she wasn’t supposed to, but she was willing to simply “forget”…? 

Adrien felt his eyes begin to sting with the warning of oncoming tears. 

In all of the times he’d thought about their identities being revealed to other people, he’d never imagined that anyone would actually help keep the secret. He’d figured anyone who knew would automatically jump at the chance to expose their identities to the world, to collect the fame of uncovering Paris’s biggest mystery.

But apparently, not everyone. Not Sabine.

“Y-You know who we are,” he whispered. “And you… you offered her an out?” 

Sabine seemed to ponder that for a moment before she answered, “Yes, I suppose you could put it that way.”

No non-miraculous holder had ever known his identity before. Up until a few days ago, no one besides Master Fu and the kwamis had known his identity period. Adrien had never been in a situation like this before. This time it was already too late to try and convince the civilian that there weren’t two superheroes secretly living in her home. And he even if he somehow could, he wasn’t sure that he wanted to. 

Logically, he knew he should be hoping that Marinette had taken advantage of the offer, that her answer had been she didn’t want her mom to have heard any of their fight. That way their identities would never be spoken of again, and everyone would stay as safe as possible.

But in his heart, in his broken, exhausted heart, he found himself hoping that just this once Marinette had let it slide. Her mother was sitting right here with open arms. She wasn’t mad at him or trying to use his identity against him like so many others would. She was simply being there for him like… like a parent should. 

That was something Adrien hadn’t experienced in a long, long time. 

He wanted so badly to accept her open arms, but duty came first. And only unless Marinette had allowed otherwise… 

“What was her answer?” he finally asked. 

The corner of Sabine’s mouth quirked up in a smile. “She was quiet for a bit and then she said ‘I need a nap’ and laid right down on the couch.” 

A sort of breathless chuckle escaped Adrien’s lips. Marinette had known their identities were very likely compromised, and instead of trying to fix it, instead of taking the basically once in a lifetime free pass her mother had offered her, Marinette had chosen to sleep

It had been obvious to him that she’d been tired today, but no one was that tired. Marinette had made her decision. By not saying anything, she’d chosen to let her mother openly keep the knowledge of whatever she’d heard, even if it went against like every superhero rule in the book. And honestly, Adrien was grateful. He couldn’t even imagine continuing to live here with what would have been the world record for “largest elephant in the room”.

Though at the same time, the guilt from having lied to Sabine about the real reason he was living in her home began to weigh down on him, and a heavy tear finally fell from his lashes, slowly making its way down his cheek. 

He didn’t bother to wipe it away as it was soon followed by another.

“I’m sorry,” he croaked, averting his gaze to his knees in front of him. “I understand if you’re mad at us for not telling you. If- If you want me to leave.”

“Want you to leave?” she echoed beside him, sounding genuinely confused. “Of course not, Honey. If anything, I’m relieved.” She placed a gentle hand on his back, and he sniffled, looking at her in disbelief. 

“Really?” 

She nodded. “I know you and Marinette have been friends for a while, but the two of you never seemed… particularly close. Then yesterday you two stopped by the bakery before going on your little picnic, and you seemed so different with each other. You seemed, well… 

“Then in the same afternoon your father suddenly went missing and you chose to move in with us, into Marinette’s room, and of course we are more than happy to have you here, but neither of you seemed like the idea of living with each other was weird at all. I know you were both tired and upset last night, but you two clung to each other like being together was the only normal part of everything that was going on.”

As she spoke, Adrien’s cheeks began to heat up. He was used to the internet pointing out how unabashedly close he and Ladybug could act sometimes, but today alone both of her parents had called him out on it as a civilian. It was a little embarrassing.

“And then she left me on the couch last night to walk in on your bath without a second thought,” Sabine continued without any remorse for Adrien’s poor burning cheeks. “I mean, you’re teenagers. Teenagers are usually awkward about that kind of thing. It was a bit worrying seeing you two go from zero to a hundred like that.” 

Despite the concern she claimed to have though, her voice clearly held a flare of amusement, and Adrien covered his face with his hands, pressing his forehead to his knees. 

Honestly, couldn’t a guy simply take a bubble bath with the assistance of his superhero partner without the entire world needing to make fun of him for it.

“However,” Sabine continued, her voice suddenly softer, “if I imagine Chat Noir and Ladybug in place of Adrien and Marinette, then it really doesn’t seem so far fetched after all. And as a mother, knowing that my daughter has invited not just anyone into her room, but the boy who has saved her life more times than I could ever count, it’s all I could have hoped for really.”

Sabine’s hand had started rubbing his back comfortingly as she spoke, and although Adrien kept his face hidden, he felt the tight tension in his shoulders begin to lessen upon hearing her unexpected praise. The sudden sincerity in her voice, the affection, it all felt… it felt nice.

He still wasn’t sure whether she’d heard enough of his fight with Marinette to figure out his father’s identity too though. He wanted to ask, but if she didn’t already know then he wasn’t about to go drop a bomb like that. 

Lifting his face a couple inches away from his knees, he asked instead, “Does um, does Mr. Dupain know about us?”

To Adrien’s surprise, Sabine laughed at his question. The sound was light and warm just like her daughter’s. “Oh, heavens no,” she answered with a dismissive flap of her hand. 

Adrien lifted his head from his knees a little more. “…And you’re not going to tell him?”

As her laughter melted away, a serious glint settled in her eyes and she reached up to gently brush his hair along his forehead with her fingers, the same way his own mother used to so, so long ago. “Honey, the secrets of our city and its protectors are not mine to tell.” 

Adrien didn’t know what to say. He didn’t know how to thank her. Instead, his only response came in the form of tears that dripped down onto his cheeks again, one by one. 

“And besides,” she added, “I’m sure you know how much Tom loves to brag about Marinette already. I love my husband dearly, but he just can’t keep a cat in a bag.”

Adrien’s lips cracked into a faint smile at the pun, and he wiped at his cheeks with the back of his hand. “Thanks.”

“Of course, Dear.” 

For the next couple of minutes she waited patiently as Adrien tried to collect himself. He had almost stopped his flow of tears when he noticed a sense of unease flicker across her face. 

His stomach tightened uncomfortably.

“Adrien,” Sabine said slowly, “about your father…”

Adrien started to shake. 

He didn’t know why he was shaking, he wasn’t cold, and his father wasn’t here. His father couldn’t even hurt him anymore. Yet Adrien was still scared. 

“You don’t have to tell me,” Sabine said carefully, though now there was a layer of sadness in her voice. “I know I’m not part of that world of magic you, Marinette, and your father live in, so maybe you can’t tell me. I understand. But you shouldn’t have to do this alone. So, if it would help, I would like to know. Especially if you’re in danger...”

It was true that he wasn’t supposed to talk about it to non-miraculous holders, but Sabine already knew who he was. The rule was already broken. There wasn’t anything to lose anymore. 

“We’re not in danger,” he said quietly. “My father, h-he doesn’t know that it’s us. He doesn’t know that it’s… me.” A harsh shiver ran down Adrien’s spine and he wiped at his cheeks again with a sniffle. “He shouldn’t have a reason to come after us, not as civilians. B-But he still… Last night he still tried to… He tried to-” 

A sob tore from his throat, cutting him off. 

Not that he would have been able to voice the rest of his sentence out loud anyway.

As he felt an arm wrap around his shoulder, pulling him into an embrace only a mother could give, he didn’t try and fight it. He just cried. 

At the very least he did try and keep from being too loud, aware that Marinette was probably sleeping in the room below them. 

“I-I’m, I just,” he choked out through his tears. “Why, why did it have to be him?” He was met with silence for a few moments, the only sound in the room being his own sniveling.

And then she gave him the same answer he’d already heard before. It was the only answer there was to give. No matter how much he wished it would be different this time.

“I don’t know,” she whispered.

Adrien tried to take slower breaths but it was a wasted effort. “I-I never wanted it to be like this. I didn’t want to lose him too. But I don’t have a choice. I never have a choice.” 

When he had lost his mother, he’d thought she was gone for good. But now, now he couldn’t stop the nagging thought that maybe she was still out there somewhere. That maybe she’d really left him just like his father had. That maybe, that’s where his father went. 

To her.

Without their son.  

Or maybe she’d run away because she’d realized how evil his father really was. After all, it wasn’t very long after her disappearance that his father had started using the stolen miraculous. And that Adrien was given his.

“Sometimes I… Sometimes I wonder,” he said in a broken whisper. “If I wasn’t… If I was normal. If I was only Adrien and nothing more, then maybe-” 

-maybe I would have spent less time frolicking around the city and actually noticed my father’s identity.

But Sabine interrupted him before he could get that far. “Oh come on, we don’t need any of that ‘if I wasn’t Chat Noir’ business. It’s because you’re Chat Noir that you have Ladybug, isn’t it?”

Adrien frowned. That was almost an unfair point. He couldn’t even imagine his life without Ladybug. 

“You love her, don’t you?” Sabine asked, as though it were the most simple truth in the world.

More tears fell as he stared down at his hands, his fingers twiddling with the colorful beads he wore around his right wrist. “Yes,” he whispered.

“And she loves you?”

“Yes.”

“Then isn’t that what matters the most? I know we can’t choose our blood, but Honey, you can choose your family.”

Adrien nearly stopped his blubbering altogether as he took in her words. 

He’d never thought about it that way before. It sounded so simple. So easy. But it didn’t feel easy at all.  

He leaned back from Sabine and wrapped his arms around his knees once again as his shivers lessened and his tears calmed from their downpour. 

“I thought he was my family,” he said, his voice drained. “But then… But then Marinette figured out his identity a few days ago. She said she saw him transform. I didn’t believe her at first, I-I didn’t want to.”

Sabine sat back on the chaise, letting him have his space to breathe. All that remained of her touch was a hand on his shoulder, though it was still warm. “No child would want to believe that about their parent. Adrien, no one can blame you for that.”

His arms tightened around his legs. “Well I blame me. I should have noticed sooner. I should have stopped him years ago. I-I should have prevented all of this. It’s all my fault.”

His gaze stayed focused on his knees, but he could practically feel the scolding pout being aimed at him from the woman beside him. It was a face Marinette sent his way often.

“The past is what it is,” Sabine said. “When it comes to faults, the only things you can blame yourself for are your own actions. Never anyone else’s. And Sweetheart, the only thing you have done is save the life of every single person in this city.”

Adrien’s eyebrows drew together. “But-“

“You are a hero, Adrien.” Her voice left no room for argument. “Your father is his own person and he chooses his own actions. He chose to start this. All of the damage he has done, all of the people he has hurt, that is all on him.”

Adrien rested his chin down against his knees with a sigh. “It doesn’t feel like it.”

“Maybe not right now,” she agreed. “But in time it will be easier to see.”

It didn’t seem likely to Adrien that all of this guilt was going to just suddenly vanish into thin air, but Sabine sounded so sure of herself. He wanted so badly to believe her.

He flickered his gaze over to meet her eyes. “…Promise?”

“Promise.”

At that moment a particularly loud rumble left his stomach, causing Sabine to chuckle and Adrien himself to pout.

“How about we go find some dinner,” she suggested, standing up from the chaise. “And after we can go get more of your things from your house if you want. I don’t think you brought all that much with you yesterday.”

Adrien unwrapped his arms from around his knees. He really did need more clothes, and if Plagg had to go the rest of the night without any cheese, who knows what havoc he would wreak.

“Yeah,” Adrien answered, his voice raw from crying. “Thank you.”

 

~~~

 

When they returned to the apartment a couple hours later, each with a large duffle bag full of Adrien’s belongings hanging from their shoulder, they were greeted with the sight of Marinette fast asleep on the couch just as they had left her. The only changes in the room at all were the additional plate now resting on the drying rack, and the half-finished math homework on the ottoman in place of the sticky note they’d left out for her.

“I can take these bags up to Mari’s room, thanks,” he whispered to Sabine, trying not to disturb the sleeping girl beside them. He would’ve just carried both bags himself this whole time, but Sabine had insisted on helping and he’d quickly found that she was a hard person to say no to. 

“Of course, Dear. Have a good night.” Sabine handed off the bag to Adrien and left to retreat to her own room one floor below for the evening, leaving Adrien alone in the living room with two bags on his shoulders, and one exhausted partner passed out on the couch. 

As quietly as he could, he crept up the stairs to her room to drop off the bags by her chaise, while his mind kept replaying their trip back to the mansion to get them. 

Even though it had been remarkably uneventful. 

When they’d first arrived there, he’d done another check throughout all the rooms, just in case, but he’d found everything exactly the same as how he’d left it yesterday. So without any other delay, he’d gone up to his bedroom with Sabine to gather whatever they could fit into the bags. 

And that was it. 

No Hawk Moth. No Father. No Nathalie or Bodyguard. Just a cold, deserted house. 

Once the bags hit the floor by Marinette’s chaise, Plagg wasted no time in flying out from his hiding spot in Adrien’s overshirt pocket to dive straight for the bag where all his horrible smelling Camembert was packed away. 

Adrien only rolled his eyes and headed right back downstairs, letting his kwami have his way with the cheese. It wasn’t like there was much he could have done to stop him anyway. Whatever Plagg wanted, Plagg tended to find a way to get.

As Adrien tip-toed down the stairs, the white wooden steps creaked faintly beneath him, and Tikki came out from her hiding spot behind the pink couch pillow Marinette’s head currently rested on.

The red kwami flew up to him, looking hesitant. Adrien couldn’t blame her. The last she’d seen of him was when he’d been yelling about his father in Marinette’s room. 

He looked down, rubbing at one of his arms. “I’m… I’m sorry for how I acted earlier. It wasn’t cool.” 

He glanced up with guilt, and was surprised to find Tikki watching him with a warm smile. 

“It’s okay, Adrien,” she said, and she gave his cheek a quick nuzzle just as Plagg had. 

Adrien couldn’t help but mirror her smile back.

With the tension eased between them, the kwami flew around in a small circle, her eyes darting up and down Adrien and then around the room. 

“Plagg’s upstairs,” Adrien explained, still keeping his voice down to a whisper. “And Wayzz is…?”

“Back in his miraculous box,” Tikki answered. 

“Alright, we should prob-”

Chat.

At the sound of Marinette’s voice, both Tikki and Adrien immediately turned to where she laid on the couch, and Adrien stared at her in confusion. She had clearly just called for him, they’d both heard it, but she was still very much asleep. 

She was… sleep talking. 

And just when he’d thought she couldn’t possibly get any more adorable. 

“Chat,” she called again, but he realized now that something about it was off. “Chat, please…” Her voice turned quiet and low, laced with distress.

He really hoped she wasn’t having a bad dream. Especially if he was the cause of it.

His odds weren’t looking too good though.

He watched with his heart thudding in his chest as her eyebrows scrunched up and she curled further into the pillow. 

“Please,” she whimpered. “Please don’t leave me.”

He was kneeling down at her side in an instant, stroking her bangs back behind her ear. “I’m here, My Lady, I’m right here.” He’d already felt guilty for leaving her behind in her room, but now he really felt like an ass. “I’m not going anywhere. I promise.”

As if he’d spoken the magic words to break the spell, her eyebrows unfurrowed and the distress dissolved from her face. The only sound she made now was a content “hm” as she nestled the side of her face into his hand. 

Adrien watched her eyelids twitch and flutter as she dreamed, the tickle of her breath ghosting over his palm where he caressed her cheek, and soon he realized that he had a bit of a dilemma before him. Marinette should be sleeping in her bed upstairs, under her warm blankets, not down here in her school clothes. But he had no where near the heart to wake her up. 

With his lips quirked in thought, he turned his gaze to the staircase behind him, then back to Marinette. Then he looked down at his hands. 

Oh, he had an idea. 

Although it was true that he may not have magical super-strength at the moment, he wouldn’t exactly say he was weak either. He was certainly capable of carrying another person. Especially if that person was a smaller, sleeping, black-haired girl. 

Standing up, he carefully hooked an arm under her back and another beneath her knees, and slowly, he picked her up, pulling her against his chest. 

He’d carried her like this a few times before, when they had been on “patrol” but she was more in need of a nap and the city didn’t need any saving. He would carry her leisurely around the rooftops, and the sway of his leaps would lull her to sleep. Sometimes he would take her up high on the Eiffel Tower, letting the sea of stars above them be her blanket as she rested against him. But in the end, he’d always have to wake her up when their patrol was over, and she would disappear into the night, no doubt headed for her real bed. 

If only she had let him know her identity, then he could have taken her there himself.

He looked down now at the unmasked girl in his arms, relishing in the way her breath warmed his skin through the thin cotton of his shirt. 

It was worth the wait.

As he started to make his way towards the stairs to her bedroom, Tikki flew over to them, picking up Marinette’s arms one by one by the long sleeves of her shirt and draping them over his shoulders. Even in her sleep, Marinette clung to him. She snuggled into his chest, her arms wrapping around his neck and holding onto him firmly as he began to climb up the steps. 

He knew this peace wouldn’t last, that he’d have to face what he’d done earlier when she woke up, but right now he let every drop of warmth she had to offer soak into him, gradually replacing the ache in his heart with something much more pleasant. 

He made it up the stairs and into her dark room without much trouble at all, and he was just about to head for the second set of steps up to her bed when she finally began to stir in his arms.

She slowly blinked her eyes open as he continued across the room, her grip around his neck never faltering. “Adrien…?” 

“Yes, My Lady?”

She took in the scene around her for a few moments, but as soon as she seemed to understand where she was, she looked back to him, her bottom lip starting to tremble. “I’m sorry,” she croaked out. 

Adrien was quick to intervene before she could go down that path any further. She hadn’t done anything wrong, she didn’t need to be sorry for anything. 

“Shshsh, it’s okay, don’t cry,” he murmured, wishing that one of his hands were free so he could stroke her cheek. He was already half way up to her bed but he felt like he couldn’t get there fast enough. “I’m the one who’s sorry. My father is… a lot, and I didn’t know how to handle it. I still don’t. But getting angry, especially at you, that isn’t the answer.” As he reached the top of the ladder, he gently sat her down onto her bed and crawled across the covers to sit beside her. Although once he let her go he kept his hands to himself. “I’m really sorry, Bug.” 

She looked up to him, her eyes watering as though she were trying very hard to hold back tears. But she was strong. No tears slipped past her guard as she gave him a small nod, and the gesture flooded him with relief. 

He wasn’t quite sure what else to say as they sat there in silence, but then all at once her arms wrapped around his stomach and she buried her face into his chest. He startled for only a moment before he returned the hug, pulling her closer.

“I know everything sucks right now,” she said, her voice muffled from how she pressed herself into him. “I know that you didn’t deserve any of this. I know that it’s not fair. And I, I just wish I could-” She tilted her head back to meet his eyes. “I just wish so badly that I could make it all go away. That I could just throw something up into the air, and then my ladybugs would fix everything and you wouldn’t have to hurt anymore.”

A single tear rolled down from her big blue eyes. He wiped it away for her wordlessly as he tried to keep his own from falling, and she leaned her cheek into his hand, closing her eyes. 

“But I can’t,” she whispered. “I can’t fix it, and I don’t know what to do. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.”

Adrien moved his hand from her cheek to wrap around the back of her head, pulling her back down to him.

Didn’t she know? She already fixed things just by being herself. Just by being with him. He didn’t know what to do about his father either, but he did know that even when the world was crushing him, she always managed to make it better. She always knew what to say. She always knew what he needed. Even when she wasn’t saying or doing anything at all. 

She always made it better.

“All I know,” she said into his shirt, “is that I don’t want to fight anymore. I don’t want to be alone. Please…” 

And in that moment Adrien realized he knew exactly what she was going to say before she even said it. 

“Please don’t leave me,” she begged. 

He pressed his nose down into her hair, breathing her in as he held onto her tightly. “For you, Marinette, anything. I promise.” 

He sealed the deal with a kiss to the top of her head, and after a few more minutes of simply holding onto each other, she began to pull back from him, worming her way out of his arms to plop down on her bed. 

“Cover me,” she mumbled face down into her pillow, her voice already heavy with sleep trying to drag her back under. Her ability to bounce back from tears so quickly was something he could only watch in wonder. 

Adrien bit down on his lower lip as an amused smile grew on his face. “My Lady…” 

After a few moments of silence, she cracked open an eye to peer at him. “What?” 

He cleared his throat, his smile never wavering. “You’re still wearing your clothes,” he answered. “You can’t sleep in jeans.”

Without missing a beat, she mumbled back, “Yes I can.”

Adrien blinked a few times. 

Marinette,” he scolded, though it didn’t come out stern at all considering her name was tangled with a giggle.

Twisting back from her pillow, she narrowed her eyes at him. “Is this your way of asking me to strip?”

Immediately his giggles cut off as he instead choked on his breath, a flush already spreading down his neck. “What!? N-No! That’s not- Marinette!

To his dismay, she simply watched for a while as he sat there spluttering before her, before she finally broke out into a snicker and rested back down into her pillow. 

This time it was his turn to narrow his eyes. “Payback,” he mused flatly, or as flatly as he could with his uneven, flustered voice. “Very funny.”

She shrugged nonchalantly, but the mischievous smile growing on her face told him that she was very much enjoying his reaction. He supposed this was a better fate than having his statue in the park replaced at least. 

It wasn’t like he could just go pick a fight with Ladybug and not expect any sort of revenge to be had on him.

“Really though,” he said, nudging her knees. “You do have to change.”

Her lips formed into a big pout, and he rolled his eyes with a snort. She was clearly not intending on making this easy for him.

“How about I bring you up some pj’s,” he offered. 

She closed her eyes and huffed, grumbling something unintelligible into her pillow. 

He was going to take that as a yes.

The lights in her room hadn’t been turned on since he’d returned to the apartment, but the glow from the city outside shined in through her windows, lighting up the way for him as he climbed back down the ladder. At the bottom, he found Plagg passed out and snoring on the chaise atop a box of cheese. 

Tikki was seated beside him, watching Adrien. 

He looked to her in a silent plea for help. 

“This way,” she giggled, and she led him over to the drawers in Marinette’s closet, pulling open the one that was full of folded pajamas. 

Adrien was extremely grateful he didn’t have to go digging around blindly through her drawers on his own. Before Marinette had made her teasing strip comment, he really had just been trying to get her to bed. He hadn’t, believe it or not, been thinking about anything like that

But the seed was planted now, and he could no longer claim innocence of his thoughts. 

Because when seeds are planted, they grow. 

And unlike every other time he’d thought about Ladybug taking her clothes off, which was, he would admit, not horribly unoften, this time she was actually here with him. This time she really would be taking her clothes off. On her bed. That they shared. 

Not that he was going to watch, but still… God.

He took it back, the statue would have been a far more merciful revenge.  

Doing his best to stay focused on the task he’d come down here for in the first place, Adrien pulled out whatever clothes were sitting at the top of the drawer. It was only after pushing the drawer back in place and stepping back out into the faint light of her room that he was even able to really see what prize he’d pulled from the pj lottery. 

A pair of small pink sweats and a baby blue spaghetti strap. 

Nothing he hadn’t seen her wear before, thankfully, but his cheeks, among other parts throughout his body, were still heating up relentlessly as he climbed back up the ladder. 

His plan was to simply hand over the clothes to her and retreat back down to get ready for bed himself, though that was quickly tossed out the window as he reached the top of the ladder and found her in the same exact position he’d left her in, already fast asleep atop the covers.

An adoring smile pulled on his lips so hard at the sight that it nearly cramped his cheeks. Marinette was so cute, that it literally hurt. 

When he got his face all back under control a good minute later, save for flush ever painted on his cheeks, he crawled back onto the bed with her pajamas in hand. 

“Marineeette,” he called softly, pushing lightly on her shoulder. 

The girl lying before him only grunted in response before flipping herself over to face away from him.

He sat back with a sigh, but he wasn’t giving up yet. 

“Come on, Bugaboo,” he persisted. “I could always just change you myself, but don’t you think that would be rather difficult in your current position?” 

He figured the need to whack him for a playful joke like that would at least be enough to get her to open her eyes. 

And open her eyes, she did. 

But no whack came. 

Instead she slowly sat up with a sigh, her eyes blinking heavily with sleep, and Adrien mentally gave himself a much deserved pat on the back. He was just about to hand over the clothes, but then he froze. 

Now that she was fully sitting up, Marinette was lifting her arms up, holding them out above her head. Though her eyes were still only barely managing to stay open. 

Adrien could only stare at her, his lips parted in utter awe.

She was… She was asking him to…

“Are you gonna help me or not?” she pouted in annoyance.

Well like hell we was going to say no

With the rapidly increasing beat of his heart thrumming throughout his whole body, he crawled over to sit on his knees in front of her, and carefully he took hold of the bottom of her shirt, beginning to drag it up her torso to reveal the pale skin of her stomach from under it.

Adrien’s mouth practically watered. 

Luckily for him though, Marinette was not nearly awake enough anymore to notice. 

Probably. 

He took a deep breath. He needed to stay focused on the task at hand, on changing Ladybug.  

Summoning up the courage similar to that which was needed for canon-balling into an ice cold pool, he pulled up her shirt the rest of the way, not letting himself stop until her hands were freed from the sleeves, and the only things left worn on her upper body were the bracelet on her left wrist, and her light pink bra. Her light pink bra with white polka-dots. And a little white ribbon at the center.

And there went any hope for staying focused. 

You see, Adrien was very used to seeing Ladybug covered from the top of her neck to the tip of her toes in her magic suit, and he was used to seeing Marinette wear, well, a variety of different things, she loved fashion after all, but she was still always… covered. 

Well not anymore. Now she was all skin. Lightly freckled, lusciously smooth skin. 

And even though she was only about ten percent awake at the moment, Adrien was hit with the strong urge to taste every inch of it. 

It took just about all of his willpower to hold back.

He managed somehow though, and in doing so he realized that he’d come upon his second dilemma of the evening. Or maybe it was around the twentieth. It’s not like anyone was counting, anyway.

With his lower lip caught in his teeth, Adrien looked down at the blue tank top in his lap and then back to Marinette. Specifically, to her ridiculously adorable bra. Now he didn’t know much about being a girl, frankly because he was not one, but he had spent a lot of time around a lot of models and he was fairly certain that as adorable as bras may be, sleeping in one was not the most comfortable experience. Or so he’d heard from endless hours of backstage gossip. 

Also Marinette hadn’t worn them to bed the last two nights either. 

…Not that he’d been paying attention to that particular detail. 

On the other hand, this was also the same girl who would have just slept in her jeans if he hadn’t stopped her. Comfort seemed to not be her most pressing concern. But still, he should say something. At least one of them had to be responsible around here.

“Uh, M-Mari?” 

She rubbed tiredly at her eyes with one hand. “Hm?”

Now he wasn’t actually about to ask her to strip, no matter how much he may or may not enjoy the view, but… 

Yeah, okay, he was basically about to ask her to strip.

“Are you, uh, a-are you sure you want to sleep in your, um…” He gestured a hand towards her chest and tried not to lose his mind as she sleepily followed his gaze, staring down at them for a solid ten seconds before she finally seemed to understand what he was asking. 

Even with just the dim light from her balcony window above them, he could see the blush that poured into her cheeks, dusting all the way down to her shoulders. 

Adrien swallowed hard. “I-I… Um…” 

She simply rolled her eyes, grabbing the tank top in his lap for herself and pulling it on over her bra. Then with some wriggling around, she was somehow able to take off the bra from beneath her shirt. And once it was free, she tossed it at him. 

He caught it against his chest on reflex. 

It was still warm. 

“There,” she stated flatly. “You have my bra. Congratulations. Can I sleep now?” Though she laid back against her pillow anyway before he had even a chance to form an answer. 

After watching her go down, Adrien stared at the firm pink garment in his hands. He decided right then that he really liked sleepy Marinette. 

And sleepy Marinette was still wearing her jeans, so no, she could not go to sleep just yet. 

He was getting the feeling that had she been alone here this evening, she would’ve changed into her pajamas without any hassle whatsoever. 

But she was not alone, and she had revenge to serve.

And he much preferred it that way. 

Bug."

She opened her eyes. “Ugh, fine.”

He didn’t know why he was even surprised at this point, but he found his chest churning with a thousand butterflies as he watched her reach for her jeans, her slender fingers making quick work of the button and zipper that until now had been keeping the denim secure around her hips. Her hands reached for the waistband of her jeans next, and at that moment, something inside Adrien snapped. Suddenly he was straddling her thighs, lightly knocking her hands away so he could take hold of the waistband himself. 

She had accepted his offer to change her just a bit ago. What kind of partner would he be if he didn’t follow through on his word?

Wide blue eyes stared up into his, and her lips parted in a silent gasp as he began to tug down on the denim in his fingers, revealing the periwinkle panties she wore beneath. It would’ve been so easy right then to just lean forward and kiss her senseless, but he’d refrained for this long. He could hold off for a little longer. 

Besides, he already had a job to do. 

He crept backwards down her legs, pulling her jeans down with him, and much to his delight, she lifted her hips from the bed, twisting here and there to help him remove her pants completely. 

And then they off. And there was a whole lot of leg before him. 

“Gorgeous,” he breathed.

He knew he’d just told himself he could wait, but he was beginning to forget why he’d tried to hold back in the first place. There was an actual goddess lying before him, and he would be caught dead if he didn’t plan on worshipping her.

Tossing her jeans aside, he picked up her pink sweatpants, scrunching up the fabric of each leg and delicately sliding them over Marinette’s feet one at a time. But once her feet were through, he didn’t start to pull the sweats up, not yet. Instead, he placed a tender kiss to the soft skin just below her right knee.

“A-Adrien?” she squeaked, and fire bloomed in his chest, the sensation dripping down into his stomach, and down, down... 

He placed another kiss to her leg above the first. Then higher, to the top of her lower thigh. And as he made his way up, he pulled the sweats up too, covering up her skin with the pink fabric only once his lips had gotten the chance to cover her skin first. 

Although he kept his kisses chaste, the small squeaks and gasps she let out were delicious. But it wasn’t long before there wasn’t much higher up her leg he could go. 

Periwinkle danced in his vision now, just an inch away from where his lips pressed into her burning skin, and he flickered his gaze up to meet hers, taking note of how hard her chest was rising and falling, and how she was looking at him through glassy eyes as though he were the only thing in her entire world.

His lips bloomed into a grin. 

Lifting his face back from her body, he pulled the waistband of her sweatpants the rest of the way up her hips, and planted his hands down on either side of her head instead, hovering his face above hers with only a mere inch between them.  

“See? You’re all dressed,” he breathed. “It wasn’t so hard now was it?”

Her pupils were blown wide as she stared back up at him, her expression contorted in both disbelief and in want, and then the next thing he knew, her small, strong hands were gripping the back of his neck and tugging his mouth down against hers. 

He went down onto his elbows, laughing into the kiss. 

At first he let her take the lead, her tongue pressing into his mouth, brushing against his, and with every taste she took of him, with every tug on the hair at the nape of his neck, tingles were sent down through his body, adding to the heat growing between his legs. He could only last so long here before he would need to address that heat and strategically slip downstairs to the bathroom. 

If he was ever really going to go further with her, then it wouldn’t be when they were both this exhausted from having just recently shed so many tears. 

But that didn’t mean he couldn’t still thoroughly enjoy himself right now in other ways.

He grunted as her body shifted beneath him, and she immediately followed with a moan into his mouth. He loved every sound she made more than the last. 

He wanted to hear more. 

Slowing the kiss down and carefully easing back, he brought his lips over to press gently at the corner of her mouth, causing her to let out a small whine of protest. His heart did a flip in chest at the sound.

He brought his hand down to cup her cheek. Immediately she leaned into his touch. He tried tracing his fingertips down her body until he was caressing her waist over her thin shirt, his fingers pressing into the curves of her body, and she let out a sigh. He placed more kisses below her mouth, trailing his lips down her jaw with pecks that turned into open-mouthed kisses as he neared her throat, and her hands moved higher up into his hair, holding him against her. As his lips reached one particular spot, right below where the side of her neck curved into her jawline, she let out a sharp gasp and squirmed beneath him. So of course he kissed there again and again, lightly sucking on her skin as her body rocked wonderfully against his and she breathed out his name. 

He wouldn’t mind if that was the only way she said his name for the rest of his life. 

After he’d catered to that spot for a bit, being careful not to leave a mark behind that high up on her throat, he continued his kisses all the way down to her collar bone which had been left pleasantly exposed by her tank top. 

He’d only just started tasting the skin there, his tongue sliding over the bone and into the dip above it, when she moaned out, and the intoxicating sound was so much clearer now that he wasn’t swallowing it down.

He pulled back from her a few inches so he could really see her. It was indescribably charming to watch her panting like this entirely from his doing, to see the mighty Ladybug brought down by her kitten. He couldn’t help the little giggle that escaped him. 

“Shut up,” she mumbled through heavy breaths. 

He only giggled more. “But I didn’t say anything at all, My Lady.”

She narrowed her eyes at him. “You-” 

But he went back down into the dip of her collar bone, cutting her off with a wet kiss to her hot skin. 

This time as he sucked on the new spot that had made her moan, he let his teeth sink in just a bit while glancing up to gauge her reaction. Her eyes were closed but her cheeks were red, very red, and she had her bottom lip caught between her teeth. He sucked harder, reveling in the way she moved against him. When her hips jerked and one of her legs brushed up in between his, it sent rolls of pleasure through him and he let out his own moan against her skin.

“Adrien,” she breathed again, and it was truly the most beautiful sound of them all. He continued to trail his lips across the top of her chest, losing himself in the squeaks she let out and the feeling of her body beneath his, in the tug on his hair whenever his teeth grazed her salty sweet skin.

Only when he really couldn’t ignore the throb between his legs anymore did he pull back, moving back up to hover above her face again as he caught his breath. 

“Ch-Chaton,” she panted.

Her hands fell from his hair to stroke down his arms, and he smiled, capturing her lips for one last little kiss. 

“Now you can sleep,” he murmured.

For a few moments she looked as though she had forgotten what sleep was entirely, but soon she nodded, letting go of him as he climbed off of her. The sudden lack of contact left him slightly disoriented, but he wasn’t distraught. Soon he would be headed to sleep himself, and then he would have the rest of the night to hold her. 

There were just a few things he had to take care of before he could, the first being the last request of hers he had yet to fulfill. 

“Cover me” she’d said when she’d first laid down on the bed. 

The blankets were still trapped beneath her, so he nudged her hips up and pulled the blankets back. Her eyes trailed his every movement as he tucked her in, and once she was fully wrapped up under the covers, he placed a soft kiss to her temple.

“Sweet dreams, Marinette.”