Adrien's experience in volunteer work was limited and, well... virtually non-existent. He'd always wanted to participate in big events for charities, help out the homeless, or even simply work at a dog shelter, but Gabriel Agreste was a force to be reckoned with, and damn it all if Adrien were to ever "stoop so low."
So when Marinette Dupain-Cheng, possibly the kindest girl he knew, approached him after school one day asking if he wanted to join her and a group of other people on a day trip to plant trees, he hesitated.
"When is it?" he asked her, already afraid that he was going to have to decline.
"This Sunday," Marinette replied, the bright smile on her face dimming. "I get it if you're too busy, though. You have a pretty crazy schedule."
Adrien wanted to go so badly. He bit his lip and looked away from the girl he'd come to grow closer to over the past couple of months. "I'll have to ask my father, and you know how he can be."
Marinette nodded in understanding and placed a hand on his shoulder. "I get it if you can't go. I was only asking because Ladybug's gonna be there, and I know you're a fan."
Adrien started, eyes blowing wide. "Ladybug's gonna be there?"
Marinette cracked a smile and looked away from him. "Yeah, she is. But if you can't go..."
The prospect of seeing his girlfriend was almost too much for him to take. "Wait!" he called after Marinette as she began treading down the steps. "What time should I be there?"
"8 AM. I'll tell her you said hi." And then Marinette, with a small giggle, hurried away.
Adrien melted at the thought of seeing Ladybug for longer than a couple of hours. They'd been dating for two months (two months in four days, anyway) now, and Adrien had never been happier.
The real hardship was getting to go on dates with her. Most everything they did was away from prying eyes, and all Adrien wanted to do was show her off to the world (not as Ladybug, but as the girl beneath the mask).
Getting the extra opportunity to be with her as her boyfriend instead of being stuck in the friendzone as her partner?
He'd take it.
* * *
Adrien shoveled down his breakfast on Sunday morning, eager to get out before his father or Nathalie had the chance to grill him. He'd lamely told them that he had a mid-term coming in one of his advanced classes that he needed to study for, and his friends were holding a study group.
As much as Adrien hated lying, there were some people worth lying for.
"Ah-ah," tutted a stern voice that echoed in foyer, stilling Adrien in his attempt to sneak out the front door. "Where do you think you're going, Adrien?"
Adrien tensed into a wince before slowly turning around, expecting the worst. "Study session?" he said unconvincingly, shrinking into his frame.
Gabriel's expression was as stoic as ever, though his eyebrow had inched up his long forehead. "With?"
"My friends," Adrien ground out, coming to the faint realization that this was probably a losing battle.
"I'm giving you the chance to tell me the truth, Adrien," Gabriel snapped, eyes narrowing angrily. "Take it before I punish you."
Adrien flinched, his eyes finding his shoes. "I'm going out to volunteer and plant trees," he muttered softly, feeling ashamed even though he knew there was no reason to be.
Gabriel's face pinched in displeasure. "I will not allow this," he stated, hands remaining stiffly entwined behind his back.
Adrien pursed his lips and racked his brain for something he could say. An idea hit him, and Adrien spoke before his father had the chance to leave. "Would you allow it if I told you that this was a televised event where everyone could see the Gabriel brand represented doing charitable work for the environment?"
Gabriel's eyebrow inched up in interest, and Adrien could see the gears in his head whirring.
"Well...," Gabriel drawled, gaze contemplative as he eyed Adrien. His attention flicked away as he turned and began to walk back toward his office. "Don't get yourself too dirty."
Adrien watched Gabriel disappear from sight, shoulders sinking in relief. How he'd managed to talk himself out of this one, he wasn't sure, but he was more than grateful.
* * *
The moment Adrien stepped out of the limo, people swarmed him from all sides, shoving microphones and tape recorders into his face.
"Adrien Agreste! Are you here to exclusively advertise the Gabriel brand?"
"Agreste! Will Monsieur Agreste be joining you?"
"Adrien, Adrien! When is your next ad coming out?"
Adrien excused himself from the onslaught of questions that the reporters were chucking at him, shoving his way through the thick crowd.
Once he actually made it through, he was nearly pressed against the glass front doors of the local environmental center. People wearing green t-shirts were crowding the interior, talking and moving around.
Adrien gathered his courage and pushed the doors open, not looking up until he was sure that they were firmly shut behind him. When he turned to face the throng of volunteers, all conversation had died, and they were all staring at him.
Adrien swallowed nervously, his hands finding his pockets as he took a small step forward.
"Er—hi. I'm Adrien, and I'm here to... volunteer?"
Was that a question?
Suddenly, the congregation of people parted, and a figure haloed in red strolled through, a green t-shirt thrown over her normally scarlet suit. She had another green shirt in her hands, and it was only when she was standing in front of him did Adrien completely register her in her entirety.
"Hi," he whispered breathlessly—when would he ever not be breathless around her?—, cheeks flushing with warmth.
Her smile was soft, and her eyes spoke volumes about her joy in seeing him. "Hi." She pressed the shirt against his chest. "Better get changed."
Adrien, at this, couldn't help but smirk. "Right here? In front of everyone?" He leaned toward her, his voice dropping from a whisper to a low murmur. "Why, Ladybug, how scandalous."
Ladybug laughed, and the sound was reminiscent of bells. "It's only scandalous if you get caught," she whispered back, her smile lighting up the room as she leaned away from him and began to walk back toward the crowd of volunteers.
God, he loved her.
Adrien found a bathroom and switched out his shirts before resurfacing and finding himself in chaos. People were rushing in every which direction, a sea of green, and for a moment, Adrien thought there was an akuma attack.
A hand grabbed him and pulled him around the corner. The hallway was empty, and the wall stuck out at a funny angle, almost like a divider, and shielded them from the world.
Ladybug's hands were in the back pockets of his jeans as she leaned against him. Her hair tickled his chin and neck, and he chuckled before returning the embrace.
"I missed you," she said into his shirt, seemingly foregoing professionalism as long as no one was around to see.
Adrien settled his hands on the dips of her hips as she pulled away, and he planted a kiss on her forehead. "I missed you, too, chérie," he murmured softly, reveling in the way her blush peeked out beneath her mask.
Her hands rested on the front of his shirt, and she surprised him with a fleeting yet hot kiss to the mouth before pulling back. She pursed her lips, eyes narrowing in contemplation, before she went up on her toes once more and caught him in a firmer, longer kiss.
They broke apart after a long moment, both looking around cautiously, before sharing a smile.
"They've been loading the trucks and buses that they're taking to the site, but I was thinking that you could catch a ride with me?" Ladybug asked hopefully, her arms looping around his neck.
Her bangs were spilling over her mask now, and it occurred to Adrien that her hair was getting longer. Instead of playing with said hair (he loved playing with her hair), he hooked his arms around her lower back.
"Is the famous Ladybug offering me an exclusive view of Paris?" Adrien queried jokingly, feigning surprise.
Ladybug darted out of his arms in a flash of red, her bright eyes innocent as she tapped her chin.
"Yes?" she said uncertainly, eyes narrowed in deep thought. She shrugged and sashayed away from him. "But I understand if it's too much pressure. Not everyone is as brave as, say... Chat Noir and I." She shrugged again. "It is pretty high up, I suppose."
Adrien scoffed. "Oh, please. I think I can handle it."
How wrong he was.
Ladybug had taken Adrien all around Paris via yo-yo many times before, but this time was different.
This time she was actually trying to give him a heart-attack.
Adrien gripped her tighter as they sailed right past a billboard (one of his, coincidentally), missing it by inches.
"Hey, Lady Love?" he called out to her over the howling wind, trying to catch her eye and simultaneously track the direction she was taking.
"Yes, handsome?" she hummed, unabashed as they skirted through a tight alley.
"Are we almost there?"
A hint of a smirk quirked Ladybug's lips. "Why do you ask?"
Adrien blew out a breath and shook his head, unable to help but smile at his girlfriend's antics. "No reason."
By the time they reached the edge of the city, Adrien was officially Done™ with yo-yos.
"Well," Ladybug breathed, smiling that stupidly gorgeous smile she always did when she felt accomplished. "That wasn't so bad."
Adrien grumbled a couple of profanities under his breath, not missing Ladybug's responding snicker.
They stepped out into the open to find people already swarming the area. Adrien tried to find some familiar faces in the crowd, but ultimately didn't recognize anyone.
"Hey," Adrien started, a frown curving his brow as he looked down at Ladybug, "have you seen Marinette?"
Ladybug stiffened before curling in on herself slightly. "Uh—who? Oh! Oh, her, yeah, we're friends—no, have not seen her." She shook her head, lips pursed. "She, uh, told me that something came up."
Adrien nodded in understanding, but he couldn't help but feel disappointed. From what he'd gathered, Marinette and Ladybug were pretty good friends, which meant that Marinette might know more about his lady than he did. He'd been looking forward to seeing the two interact, and he'd been meaning to spend more time with Marinette as it was.
"Tell her I say hi, then," he said dejectedly, brushing Ladybug's hand with his own.
Her responding smile felt oddly intimate, but before he could say anything else, she was marching ahead and making conversation with a guy who was holding a clipboard.
Adrien followed suit, and the two of them soon found themselves hefting plastic containers with small trees and dirt in them. They were joined by three others, but they mostly dragged behind, seemingly intimidated by Ladybug's presence.
"Fun date idea," Adrien said casually (teasingly), one container in each hand as he walked beside Ladybug.
She shot him a look, having to peek around the four potted trees she was holding. "Hush, it's for Earth Day. We could be that hippie volunteer couple to rep. In fact, I think we are."
"We are not that hippie volunteer couple."
"What if I want to be?"
Adrien raised an eyebrow. "You're already a superhero."
Ladybug pursed her lips thoughtfully before nodding. "You're right. I'm very busy. You're lucky I was able to pencil you in today."
Adrien snorted. "Ditto."
They shared a look before cracking smiles and brushing arms as they continued to trek through the plain of scattered trees.
* * *
The day was long, to say the least.
Adrien and Ladybug were collapsed against a secluded tree that was away from the other volunteers. Adrien took another gulp of water from the bottle that he'd been handed before passing it to Ladybug, who finished it off.
Her head came down on his shoulder, and he smiled before putting his arm around her and pulling her closer to him.
"I'm tired," she confessed, her voice sending pleasant and warm vibrations shooting through him.
Adrien chuckled. "You mean the best hero in all of Paris wore herself out planting trees?"
It was meant to be a tease, but Ladybug still thumped him with her hand. "I'm not the best hero; Chat's a better one, I think. I'm just the face of the cause."
Adrien scoffed. "No, no, you're definitely the best hero. Chat is good at close-contact, but you're a very skilled and tactical fighter."
Ladybug looked up at him, and her eyes were dark. "We both have the makings of heroes, but I think he not only excels in fighting, but in being a complete hero. I know he has a really busy personal life, but he always carves out time to get out and be apart of society as Chat Noir. He always helps out and volunteers, whereas I can't get out and do those things because my life won't allow me to be gone for long before somebody notices. He doesn't care about that."
Adrien frowned. "But if your life won't allow it, then that's that. It doesn't mean you don't want to."
"Of course I want to," Ladybug agreed, "but Chat also has a life. He puts his duties as a hero and a role model before anything else, and I... I try to, but sometimes I can't." She looked away from him, and her head found his shoulder again. "He's always checking up on the akuma victims. He does so many good things for Paris, and I have a hard time keeping up with him."
Adrien's heart stuttered harshly in his chest. He'd had no idea that she felt that way; that she'd seen Chat in a light of admiration.
She admired him.
Ladybug admired Chat Noir.
Adrien gently directed Ladybug's chin up toward him and kissed her with everything he had.
He didn't care what they were doing, as long as it was together.
And if that meant being a hippie volunteer couple?
He could manage.