Chapter 1: Kindness
Marinette’s phone alarm went off, officially starting her day with Adrien. Well, at least the morning she would be spending with Adrien. A couple hours, probably. She paused with a frown while brushing her hair in front of her mirror. Come to think of it, she didn’t really know how these photoshoots tended to go. From what she could tell from her well-researched Adrien schedule they could last anywhere from half an hour to half the day. Either way, she intended to make the most of this invitation.
An invitation which she had gotten by having her room, plastered with his gorgeous face, broadcasted on television. And yet still his first concern was for her safety and wellbeing. She sighed dreamily - such a gentleman. If today went well, then marriage and three kids and a hamster wouldn’t be such a distant dream for much longer!
Needless to say, she had taken every precaution against being late. The alarm that had woken her up was the first of five - at least her own excitement had helped her sleep lightly. Everything she might need was packed and ready to go, which included a sketchbook just in case he really believed that she was interested in his pictures for the fashion. She patted herself down to make sure she had everything - purse, sketchbook, backpack, drawing utensils, phone, cookies, and the most important thing of all…
“Tikki! Ready to go?”
“Whenever you are, Marinette.” The red kwami flew into place in her purse and Marinette made her way out the backdoor of the bakery. As early as it was, there wasn’t nearly as many people on the streets as there usually was, but that was sure to change soon. Clouds broke up the summer sunlight into mottled patches of bright and dark. “Where is the photoshoot, again?”
Marinette made sure to glance around before talking into her purse. There had been enough instances of people looking at her like crazy. “Not too far, but not that close either. Thanks to the clouds, they’ll be doing an indoor photoshoot, but the place they chose is just barely in walking distance.”
“That great! What about- wait. Is that Nino?”
Sure enough, Nino was standing in front of a flower shop looking about as out of place as he could be. He was biting at his nails at he looked around in uncertainty at the wide array of blossoms and bouquets. The poor boy was overwhelmed, occasionally reaching for a few flowers only to pull back at the last minute. Someone needed to help him. Tikki held her phone up. There was still plenty of time to meet up with Adrien - she had left early after all.
“Hey, Nino!” She tapped him on his shoulder, suppressing a giggle by biting down on her lips as he jolted at her sudden appearance. “You seem lost. Anything I can do to help?”
“Oh! Hey, dude. I’m just, uh,” He rubbed the back of his neck and his cheeks darkened. He glanced around before pulling Marinette into a huddle and whispering, “Listen, I was gonna surprise Alya with some flowers, right? Sounded cool and romantic and stuff, right? But who knew there were this many different types! I have no idea which ones she’d want!” He looked at her with pleading eyes. “You gotta help me, dude.”
She blinked, trying to make sense of the rapid fire information he just unleashed on her. Slowly, a grin dawned on her face. “Aw! That’s so cute! Of course I’ll help. C’mon.” She walked among the flowers slowly, searching very carefully while Nino stayed close behind and wringed his hands nervously. She helped his nervous tick by passing the flowers she found to him. “This one is her favorite, so we’ll have the most of them. Here are some that represent love and joy. And here are some to help balance out the colors and make it smell all the sweeter.”
His eyes lit up as he looked at the finished bouquet in his hand, around a dozen in all. “I can’t thank you enough, dude! You are a total life saver!” She followed him to the cashier. “Is there anything I can do to help you out?”
“Take a photo of Alya’s face when you give it to her, it’d be nice to see how much she appreciated it. Other than that, don’t worry about it, I was glad to help.”
After a brief hug, they parted ways and Marinette was back on track. She’d lost about fifteen minutes, but it was well worth the cost - Alya was going to love it. As she continued walking through Paris, doubt began nagging at the back of her mind. If she stayed on her planned route, she’d only get there just barely on time. Taking the shortcut through the park would save her a few minutes and she’d much rather be early and get that much more time with Adrien. With that precious extra moments, she was sure they would hit it off and then he’d propose and they’d live happily ever after and-
She was stirred from her pleasant daydream by someone crying. The tall trees and hedges did even better work than the clouds in blotting out the sunlight, creating an empty and shadowed section of the park that she had thought was free of people. For a brief moment, she considered turning away. Maybe it had just been the wind, or maybe she had misheard. But then the crying returned, stronger than before and there could be no doubt in her mind. With only a slight pang of regret, she looked for the tearful stranger.
Nestled away on a bench within the hedges, she found a familiar bob of red hair and Marinette once again hesitated. Sabrina may not have been as bad as Chloe, but there were plenty of times where she had caused someone else to run off in tears. This could have been justice, in a sense. Even so, Marinette couldn’t bring herself to leave, instead sitting next to the other girl.
Her head jerked toward Marinette, but the wild hope in her eyes vanished once she saw that it was her. “Oh… hey, Marinette.”
“Something wrong?” It wasn’t hard to tell what had happened - it was a common enough occurence for Sabrina and Chloe to fight, and it wasn’t like Sabrina was close with anyone else. Maybe because of her friendship with Chloe. Still, it wasn’t nice to presume without asking.
She wiped away her tears and tried to stifle her sniffles. “Nothing out of the ordinary.” She flashed a watery smile that went away quickly.
The silence stretched out. What could she say to help her? Past attempts to get her to not put up with Chloe anymore had ended in failure and trying now wouldn’t help much anyway. Which really just left her one choice…
“Did you see the latest episode of Fill My Shoes?”
Sabrina latched onto the topic and they spent a good long while talking - drifting from the reality show with Jagged Stone to fashion to games, all the while dancing around the topic of why Sabrina had been hiding by herself in a shadowy patch of park. After half an hour, they got up to leave. The redheaded girl gave her a hug and a whispered thanks before quickly parting ways with Marinette.
She stood still and waved as Sabrina left, only hurriedly digging around for her phone after she had left her field of view. Now she was late - very definitely late. Her shoulders slumped in defeat.
“Don’t give up just yet, Marinette!” Tikki chirped from her purse. “Maybe they started late, or maybe it’s a long photoshoot! There is still hope!”
Smiling down at her kwami, she nodded. “You’re right. Even if it is a shorter photoshoot, there should still be an hour left, right? Plenty of time to get Adrien to fall for me!”
“That’s the spirit. Now let’s go.”
With a bit of forced cheerfulness in her step, she resumed her journey to her dream day with Adrien. Yes, this wasn’t ideal, but she could still make it and have at least a nice time with him. Hopefully. Besides, the first half hour was all prep work probably. Did she really want to watch them apply make-up to Adrien? Yes. Yes she did. Well, he wouldn't be able to chat with her while they did so, thus it probably wasn’t a big loss. Everything was fine!
Until she heard the commotion and wailing come from inside the church she was passing by. She crouched into a combat stance, completely prepared for the panicked screams to start up, but it seemed that Hawkmoth had better things to do today. The door to the church was open and Marinette was curious, so she stepped inside.
It was pandemonium. Great care and been taken with elegant decorations. The church was practically packed with men in suits and women in dresses, all murmuring worriedly among each other. Every now and again another round of sobs could be heard coming from the back. Right at the entrance stood an older man in a suit, glancing nervously towards a backdoor.
Marinette tugged at his suit sleeve. “Excuse me, sir? Is something wrong?”
“My daughter’s wedding gown got torn when someone stepped on the bridal train and ripped the hem. They are trying to figure something out, but the store we got it from is closed and it would be expensive to get another tailor in without the warranty paying for it.”
“Well… I do design work in my spare time. Maybe I could try to fix it?” The man looked down at her dubiously. It sparked a competitive fire in her and she puffed out her chest pridefully. “I won a design contest by Gabriel Agreste, the fashion moghul.”
He seemed to weigh the options before shrugging. “Well, it’s worth a shot. Come with me.” They navigated the field of haggard loiters, the fraying best men, and the panicked bridesmaids. The door swung open and Marinette’s eyes widened. The dress was beautiful, to be sure, but what the man had described as a tear was even worse than he let on.
The harried bride turned at the sound of the opened door and Marinette saw the familiar flash of dashed hope when she saw it was just her and the older man that had entered. “Any luck, dad?”
“No word from the store, but!” He added quickly as he put a hand on Marinette’s shoulder. “This young lady thinks she might be able to help.”
She sighed and shook her head. “If you’d brought in a high schooler an hour ago, I would’ve declined. But now I’m desperate.” She walked over to Marinette. “What’s your name, sweetie?”
“Uh… Marinette. Marinette Dupain-Cheng”
“And do you think you can do it?”
Squaring her jaws, she reached into her purse and retrieved her pocket sewing kit. This was a challenge, just like any other. “I know I can, miss…?”
“Sit tight then, Miss Emilie and I’ll get this fixed in no time at all.” At least, so she hoped. Fixing it wouldn’t be the problem so much as how long it would take it pull it off. On the bright side, she had lots of practice with working under pressure.
In truth, Marinette didn’t know how long it had taken her to pull it off. After she had taken the silky material in her hands, the outside world faded away and it was just her and the task in front of her. That was the part she had always enjoyed about creating - everything becomes much simpler when the world shrinks down to pouring herself into her work. Emilie seemed curious at first of her industriousness and impressed when it actually looked like she would be able to pull it off. Once she had reached the final stretch, Emilie gave her a round of excited applause, all stress melted away.
“And to finish off, I’ll close this last little seem with some baby blue thread.” Marinette smiled up at her. “Something blue, right?”
Emilie hugged her as close as the dress would allow, and kissed her cheeks. “It looks fresh from the tailor! I can’t thank you enough, Marinette. Is there anything I can do to help you?”
“No, no I just need to get going. I’m running behind for a date.”
“Oh? I’m so sorry for holding you up! My father can drop you off, it’ll be a little while before we can get started again anyway.” She held up a hand to cut off Marinette’s protest. “Please, it is the least we can do, my little hero.”
Marinette, growing slightly desperate, accepted and found herself in front of the building where the photo shoot would be taking place. And she was only… two hours late, she realized with a wince. She didn’t even have the opportunity to build up any hope before it was broken, since she saw camera equipment being moved out from the space and into waiting vans. She shambled into the building, completely drained and slightly depressed. Maybe she could still at least see Adrien. Then she could pretend like this had all been worth it, pretend that she hadn’t shot herself in the foot with this. Or maybe she should just slink out the way she came and pretend she had been sick today. At least then she’d have a believable excuse.
“Marinette!” At the sound of her name, she turned around, only realizing mid-turn that it was Adrien’s voice. He was frowning, worried. “Hey, I was wondering where you were. I saw Nino’s post about you, so I was sure you were going to be here on time.”
“Post…?” She pulled out her phone, and noticed the notifications - she’d been tagged by Nino. It was a candid photo of Alya smiling, eyes misty as she held a familiar bouquet in her hands. Marinette found herself smiling as well. Nino had remembered to take the picture for her. “Y-yeah, I got side tracked…”
“So I heard from Chloe. Apparently she and Sabrina had a fight, but Sabrina came back and they talked it out. You came up at some point in the walls of text she sent, so I guess that was what held you up?”
“Well, uh, sort of. See there was this wedding-”
A car horn blared from outside and they both looked back to see Adrien’s bodyguard standing outside his car, staring at the both of them. Adrien glanced back at her, then at the car before saying, “Could you stick around for just a minute?”
“S-sure…” He walked away and Marinette collapsed onto a chair in the lobby. She’d only managed to get a couple minutes with him, and she’d basically implied she’d had more important things to do than hang out with him. There was no doubt in her mind that he wouldn’t be inviting her to any more photoshoots and she couldn’t blame him.
Her bitter reflections were cut off when she saw Adrien’s car drive away, and she felt the tears coming on. Before she could really work herself up into a good cry, Adrien appeared, smiling.
“Hey! I just convinced the Gorilla to give us a couple hours to ourselves. Do you want to hang out? After the day you’ve had, I’m sure you could use something to eat. You can tell me all about it over lunch.”
Feeling like her soul had left her body, Marinette could only nod as Adrien took her by the arm and started walking her to their lunch date.
Chapter 2: Pre-Origins
It was the last day of class. All she had to do was get through one more day and she’d be free for the rest of summer. Maybe then she’d finally be free of her. Given that Chloe had been in her class in the last three years, it seemed that fate was determined to keep Marinette’s own personal devil looming over her for as long as possible.
Speaking of looming…
“I can’t believe you wore that to class today.” Chloe broadly gestured at all of her. It was practically a dance at this point. She’d find something about Marinette that would cause such offense that she’d have to lash out at her about. Given Chloe’s own vanity, it was almost always something to do with how she looked.
Marinette sighed, already resigned to how this was going to play out. “But… this is what I usually wear… Besides, I made it myself.”
“And with that ugly little bun that you always wear,” she continued, completely ignoring Marinette’s tepid defense of herself. “You look absolutely ridiculous. Is there anything you can do right? What am I saying. Of course you can’t.”
While Chloe worked herself up into another rant against her, Marinette glanced around the room, hoping to find some support. Most of her classmates weren’t here yet and those who were here didn’t exactly come rushing to her side. Nino was in his usual spot way in the back, blaring music into his headphones and completely oblivious to the world. Ivan, just one row behind her, was similarly listening to music, eyes closed and scowling as he vigorously nodded his head. No support from a sleeping Alix either. Which left Julekka, who Marinette still hadn’t gotten more than a couple words out of this entire semester. They made eye contact only briefly and she looked away. No surprise - Juleka was another favorite target of Chloe and no doubt she didn’t want to draw the blonde demon’s ire her way.
Marinette really couldn’t bring herself to blame her. They barely knew each other, after all, despite going to school together for a few years. The same went for most of the class - there were a few friendships here and there but the general rule was that they kept to themselves.
The bell rang, signalling the end of her rant and the start of class, leaving Marinette alone with her darkening thoughts. It was easy enough to tune out Chloe for the most part, but sometimes her words hit hard. Marinette reached up to the bun that held her hair, feeling self conscious after getting torn down. The bun had served her well, but she was getting tired of it. Maybe she shouldn’t just let Chloe walk all over her. Maybe she should get to know her classmates more.
Maybe it was time for a change. And what better place to start than herself?
Chapter 3: Tea Time
Marinette turned around to the sound of the trap door to her room opening and smiled when she saw Rose ascend in a poofy pink dress of Marinette’s own design. Once she closed the door behind her, she rushed forward to pull Marinette into a hug and twirled her around. Despite her small size, Rose was surprisingly strong when she was excited. Which was most of the time. But she seemed especially excited now.
“I take it you like the dress, then?”
Rose giggled and nodded vigorously. “I can’t believe you made this! It’s even better than what I was planning to get online!” She ran her fingers over the fabric, and rumbled it in her hands nervously. “Are you sure I can borrow it?”
“Of course! I won’t be needing it since, I, uh…” Marinette hunched over, staring at the ground. “Well, I won’t need it for now.”
Her hands were held by the other girl, pulling her attention back to Rose’s face. Concern was evident there, wide eyes filled with sympathy. “What happened? You went through so much effort to make such a beautiful gown.” She gasped. “Is it about Adrien? Were you going to go to the ball with him?!” The grasp on her hand shifted to her wrist and Marinette was being pulled down the stairs to her kitchen. “You have to tell me everything!”
Even though she was groaning, on the inside Marinette was happy to vent to her. If anyone would take her side in all this, it would be Rose, who might be an even bigger Adrienette shipper than Alya.
Once they were in the kitchen, they went to work making tea. It was a tradition of theirs - whenever either of them was about to unload whatever was weighing down their, they’d do so over hot cups of tea. Rose insisted that it was because tea was relaxing and good for the soul and Marinette wasn’t about to argue with her. They went through the motions in focused silence and only when they were sitting opposite each other at the counter did Rose pick up the conversation again.
“Okay! So what is this all about?” She leaned forward onto her hands, staring attentively at Marinette.
Rubbing at her eyes, she started from the beginning. “Well, a couple weeks ago, Clara Nightingale sent me an email…”
“Y-yeah. Apparently she remembered me from her music video thing and from Jagged Stone talking about me.” The fact that she was a topic of discussion among celebrities was a whole level of weird all its own, but she was choosing not to dwell on it right now. There were more pressing things to deal with. “Anyway, so she wanted to know if I’d be interested in going to a fancy party that she was having. She even offered to send me an extra invite if I wanted to bring a date-”
“Ooo!” Rose shimmied in place with excitement. “That’s soooo romantic! But,” her enthusiasm melted away into confusion, “what happened? Did Adrien say no?”
Marinette wringed her hands and looked down in shame. “Well… I never… actually… managed to…” She briefly glanced back up at Rose as her voice lowered to a whisper, “...ask him.”
“Then that means he hasn’t said no yet! There is still a chance, Marinette, you just have to believe! The power of love is always so strong!”
“But Rose! I looked like a total dorkasaurus in front of him!”
“Don’t worry, that doesn’t sound like anything new! Sorry,” she smiled timidly when Marinette shot her a glare. “He is always so patient and understanding those other times! What could you have possibly done this time that would be so bad?”
Sniffling, Marinette wailed, “I pulled down his pants in public!” She covered her face with her hands and continued, “I knew I wouldn’t be able to go through with it so I wrote a note to give to him. He was leaving school and was almost to his car, so I ran down the steps but I tripped. He tried to catch me like he always does, but I missed and collided face first with his stomach.” Her face was burning now as she remembered the embarrassing story. “I flailed to get my balance and grabbed at his waist and kept falling and I… I took his pants down with me.” She looked out from between her fingers and saw Rose’s expression caught somewhere between horrified and fascinated.
“That’s… how did he take it?”
“His face went red and he dived into the car that had come to pick him up.” Marinette, for as long as she lived, would never be able to forget the utterly stunned look she saw in his eyes in the brief moment their eyes met before the door closed. There was no recovery there.
There was a long pause. Rose picked her words very carefully. “That’s not… the worst thing that could have happened. At least you only collided with his stomach and not his-” She cleared her throat nervously under Marinette’s embarrassed glare. “I’m sure he isn’t… mad or anything. It was an accident after all.” Another pause. “Right?”
“Of course it was just an accident!”
“See? I’m sure he won’t hold it against you!” Rose tapped her chin thoughtfully, eyes narrowed in focus before looking at her curiously. “Do you still have the note you wrote? I’d love to read it - knowing you, it’s sure to have come straight from the heart!”
Marinette reached into her purse. “Yeah, it’s right-” Her fingers brushed up against the usual objects - pocket sewing kit, a wallet, plus the odds and ends of any purse - but no paper. Her digging became more frantic and she dumped out the contents onto the table and sifted through it. No note. “I… I’m sure I had it…”
At that moment, Marinette’s phone vibrated among the spilled contents of her purse. The two girls shared a look. When it became clear that Marinette wasn’t about to see who sent her a text, Rose reached out tentatively for the phone. Her eyes flew open and she squeaked in excitement.
“It’s Adrien! Wait, you named him Baedrien in your phone? And with all those heart emojis! That’s so cute!”
Snatching the phone back from her, Marinette read the text out loud. “Hey Marinette! I just found your note in my backpack. I already had an invitation to Clara’s party - I was actually going to invite you, but you beat me to the punch! If the offer is still up, I’d be happy to go with you.”
“That’s! So! Romantic!”
The phone vibrated in her hand again and Marinette glanced down at it, face reddening as she read the second text from Adrien. “I’ll be sure to wear a belt this time.”
Chapter 4: Affection
Adrien and Alya throw a party for Marinette. Jarl rewrites the end of Mayura.
“She absolutely deserves it.”
“You don’t have to tell me that, sunshine.” Alya scrolled through the document he’d just shared with her. “You sure don’t do things halfway, do you?” She put her hands on her hips and looked up at him. “So what’s changed? I know you don’t throw parties for just anyone. What makes Marinette so different?”
He rubbed the back of his neck. A fond smile found its way onto his face. “Well, you know. She’s always helping out others and I think we sometimes take that for granted. Maybe it’s time we do something for her now.”
“Now you’re talking. Do you think everyone else will go for it? It is kinda short notice after all.”
“Oh definitely! Who wouldn’t want to throw a party for Marinette after all she’s done?”
“You got me there. I’ll see what I can do to pull them all together this weekend, don’t you worry.” As he walked away, Alya muttered under her breath. “Oh, centerfold. You’ve got it bad and you don’t even know it.”
“Please stand! I mean, sit!” Marinette smiled nervously at him while screaming internally. Some days were easier than others when dealing with her crush and she could manage to actually say coherent sentences in front of him. Today was not one of those days.
Adrien smiled indulgently back at her, mercifully ignoring her rambling. “Thanks!”
They moved to take their spots in the picnic circle, all their classmates being present. Her eyes moved between them all, impressed with all the goodies they’d brought. The sight of some presents set her on edge since she had no idea who they were for. According to Alya, they were just here to relax after that whole heroes’ day mess. Despite the trepidation she felt at not bringing gifts, the sight of all her friends and Chloe meeting together outside school and enjoying themselves filled her with a quiet sense of pride.
Beside her, Adrien’s phone buzzed and he frowned. Glancing up at Marinette, his frown disappeared and he put it away without answering it. “Whatever my father wants, it can wait.” He turned to face her more fully and spoke more loudly, causing the other conversations to come to an end. “Marinette, I… we wanted to tell you something. You’ve been there for us - all of us,” he looked pointedly at Chloe, who huffed and looked away. “Like when you helped me see my mother on the screen.” Chuckling, he added, “And all in your pajamas!”
Marinette blushed but before she could respond, Rose chimed in. “It’s true! You’re always helping people. We all came together to throw you this party - it’s the least we could do to thank you!”
At her side, Juleka nodded. “Totally. Without you, I never would have broken my photo curse. And you did it in the coolest way possible with that photoshoot in the park. It was loads of fun!”
The realization that this party was in her honor started to hit Marinette and she was doing her best to keep it together while dabbing at the tears in her eyes. It felt weird to be recognized for her good deeds like this - she certainly wouldn’t have asked to be, but even so it choked her up as the feeling of being appreciated hit her like a physical force. Ultimately, it was Adrien putting her arm around her shoulder and squeezing her into a half-hug that helped her pull herself together.
“Plus, Marc and I only started our collab on our comic book series because of all your work in introducing us.” Nathaniel winced. “Sorry about my initial freakout, by the way. I should’ve known you never would have pranked me like that. You’re far too kind for that.” There was a smattering of nodding heads around the circle.
Ivan gestured with the long sandwich he was in the process of eating. “And don’t think I forgot that you were the only one who was encouraging me to ask out Mylene.” He shot a glare at Kim. “Without being a dick about it.”
The playful banter was short lived as Marinette said, “Thank you! All of you!” She smirked and looked across the circle at her best friend. “Especially you. Don’t even try to deny that you organized this whole thing. This has ‘Alya’ written all over it.”
“I definitely had a big role in it, girl, but it’s actually sunshine here that put the idea in my head and pushed hard for it.”
Marinette turned to look at the boy in question as he rubbed the back of his neck and blushed. “Adrien…? You really did that for me?”
He stared at the ground. “Y-yeah! You’re awesome, Marinette and you definitely deserve it!”
Her heart felt overfull as he looked back at her with eyes full of admiration and it could have just been her imagination, but maybe - just maybe - there was something more, something more than friendly affection in the way he was watching her. She bit her lower lip as she warred within herself. It took a mustering of all the courage she had, but she leaned forward and gave him a kiss on the cheek, to the cheers of all her friends. “Thank you, Adrien!”
A brief moment of surprise gave way to tenderness as his blush deepened. He spoke softly, as if whispering for her alone. “You’re welcome, Marinette.”
Chapter 5: Garden
In the pleasant warmth of the early spring day, Marinette took the opportunity to work on her little balcony oasis. It had been left barren during winter when she had moved all of her plants into her room to keep them alive, but the weather was expected to stay warm and sunny. Not only was she glad to have the extra space freed up in her small room, she knew her plants would prosper in the sunlight.
“Wow, Marinette! You really do have a green thumb, don’t you?” Tikki emerged from a particularly vibrant bush just before the watercan could reach it.
“Thanks! I’ve always enjoyed tending to plants and helping them grow.” She winked at her kwami. “Maybe if the designing doesn’t work out, I can open my own flower shop.”
Tikki giggled and landed on her chosen’s shoulder. “I’m sure you won’t need to, but it’s nice to know you have other talents if the worst comes to pass.” Her grin settled into a smile of almost paternal affection. “I couldn’t have chosen a better wielder of the miraculous of creation.”
“You’re almost as sweet as those cookies you love so much.” Marinette turned and cradled Tikki as she planted a kiss on her forehead. “But seriously - That means a lot to me. Thank you!”
After she finished watering her plants, she took a few minutes to bask in the fruits of her hard work. The plants didn’t hold her attention for long as there was still design work that needed to be done, and pieces that she was eager to return to. She returned to her room and in that enclosed space, she missed the cold wind that blew through the city…
Alya’s phone vibrated as she was in the middle of writing a new article for the Ladyblog, pausing only briefly from her fevered writing to glance at the name, fully expecting to set it back down again and return to work. An eyebrow quirked up as she saw who the text was from - Marinette. She knew better than to text Alya during her prime writing time, so it had to be something serious. Her heart dropped as she saw the text and the accompanying picture.
The cold snap had come out of nowhere, the last bitter attack by a rapidly fading winter. Most people had been annoyed but otherwise unaffected by the sudden freezing temperatures, but this time Marinette’s industriousness had proven her downfall. She had moved all her plants outside and, judging by the pictures, not even her legendary green thumb would be able to revive them. Alya put a hand over her chest in sympathetic pain.
But it wasn’t her nature to just idly sit by while her friends suffered. Pulling up her contacts list, her lips thinned in determination as a plan came into focus…
Sitting alone in her room, surrounded by the empty pots that once housed the plants that she had coaxed from seeds, Marinette wasn’t in the mood to do much of anything. Tikki had done her best to cheer her up, but this loss had come as a big punch to the gut for her. There was only so much even tiny gods could do for her right now, and eventually Tikki had decided to let her grieve, at least for the time being. Not even the breaking of the cold spell over the last couple days lifted her spirits.
It was in this state, sitting on her chaise and hugging her knees to her chest, that she heard a knock on the trapdoor to her room. It was probably her mother, come to check up on her. She’d helped empty out the pots when it became clear that none of the plants would make it, so she was very much aware of how heartbroken she was.
“Come in, the door’s unlocked,” she croaked out.
To her surprise, it wasn’t her mom that walked into her room. Instead, the girl squad filed in, each one holding onto a different potted plant. The five new plants now sitting on her desk were a small consolation after losing her garden, but she appreciated the gesture nonetheless.
“Aw, girls, you didn’t have to!”
Alya grinned at her. “Oh, we aren’t done yet. We got a bunch more downstairs and the whole afternoon to help you get them all transplanted and moved up to the balcony.” Marinette looked around at the girls’ faces and saw them patiently waiting for her to tell them where to start. Falling easily back into her leadership role, she did just that.
Although her room needed to be cleaned afterwards, Marinette couldn’t care less as she basked in the restored splendor of her garden made through the kindness of her friends.
Chapter 6: Creation
A chat between Tikki and Marinette
Marinette placed the finishing touches on her latest piece and took a step back to admire her handiwork. It had taken her surprisingly little time from start to end, something she attributed to her improving skills. The beautiful pink dress even had her favorite design - her flowers - embroidered into it, making it uniquely hers. She smirked. As if her flowing gold name hidden within the floofy layers hadn’t already done that.
The sound of something rolling caught her attention and she saw Tikki pushing an apple almost as big as she was down the desk toward her. Her self-satisfied smirk gave way to a heartfelt smile. There wasn’t a lot the kwami could do to help in the process, but she did what she could. Scooping up the apple in one hand, she took a bite.
“Thanks, Tikki.” She turned back to her new dress. “How do you like it?”
“It’s wonderful! It’s always so amazing to see how my chosen transform things into masterpieces and I know you’re going to be one of the best at it!”
She looked at Tikki curiously. Normally, the little deity didn’t bring up past Ladybugs, but today she seemed to be more open to the topic. Deciding to probe a little, she took a seat on her swivel chair and asked, “Are Ladybugs usually designers like me?”
Shaking her tiny head, Tikki replied, “No one is like you, Marinette. But there have been a few designers and seamstresses. Almost all Ladybugs share one thing in common: They all have a knack for creation.”
Marinette looked at the kwami dubiously. “Seems a little on the nose, don’t you think?”
“Well, look at it like this - to make the most of Ladybug’s powers, the chosen must be adaptable and imaginative. They should be able to think a few steps ahead and understand the impact they can have on the world.” She zoomed in front of Marinette’s face. “And what does good art require? The ability to react well to change and bad circumstances. Being able to see what can be, instead of what is.”
“Huh… I guess I never thought about it like that…”
A tiny paw touched her nose. “Just watching you work gives me great hope for my miraculous. I know you’ll be one the best Ladybugs yet!”
Rolling her eyes affectionately, Marinette poked Tikki’s belly. “You’re just saying that to get extra cookies.”
The kwami giggled and pulled away from her digit. “While I won’t say no to some fresh sweets, I’m telling the truth.” She gestured broadly before crossing her arms over her abdomen. “You have the potential for greatness, Marinette!”
“I’ll do my best to live up to that.” Marinette stood up and made her way to the trap door leading downstairs. “I’ll be back soon, with enough treats for the both of us.”
Chapter 7: Side Effects
Marinette gets sluggish and cold easily in winter. Thankfully Adrien knows just what to do.
It was the time of year when the cold was so unwelcoming that even the sun would spend as little time outside as possible. The days were short as a result, the nights were long, and everything was miserably chilly. That was Marinette’s opinion before she became Ladybug, which changed a few things. Whereas previously she disliked the depths of winter, now she held nothing but loathing for it. There was the obvious - swinging around Paris in what amounted to a skin tight suit wasn’t exactly the most ideal of winter clothes, even if the magical material was passably warm. The less obvious was the small changes Marinette had gone through after receiving her miraculous. One of those tiny alterations was a vulnerability to cold, and a tendency to get tired and lethargic in winter. According to Tikki, for most Ladybugs it wasn’t a huge issue, but for Marinette, who already dealt poorly with chilly weather, it was a colossal problem.
After all, it was because of that exhaustion that she was forced to reveal her identity to Chat Noir last year. Well, okay, it wasn’t entirely the exhaustion that did it - if she was a little less stubborn, she would have let the feline hero take up more of her patrols in winter. She could hardly blame him for following her to make sure she was alright. If he hadn’t, she would have stayed asleep, untransformed on that rooftop in the freezing cold. He brought her home and let her borrow his warmth until she woke up and once again, she owed Chat Noir her life. It seemed only fitting she repay him by letting him drop his own transformation.
Then Chat Noir became Adrien Agreste and things moved very quickly from there.
Which brings us to the present, the last day of classes before winter break. Despite the rumbling of the furnace, the classroom remained uncomfortably chilly, although it was a far cry from the bitter chill outside. The bell rings and Marinette only barely hears it as she titters on the edge of the waking world and the dreaming one. Voices drift into focus around her.
“Can you grab her bag?”
“Sure, sunshine, but what are you-”
The world shifted and Marinette instinctively wrapped her arms around her boyfriend’s neck as he snared her legs with his arms. She nuzzled into the warmth of the blue scarf she made for him, too tired to do anything but enjoy the piggyback ride. The frosty air battered her the moment she was carried outside, but this only prompted her to wrap around her warm, soft kitty all the more tightly. Before long, the chill was replaced by a gentle heat and the familiar scent of fresh bread.
“What’s up, du- I mean, Mrs. Cheng?”
“Hello, dears. Marinette start dozing off again?”
“Yeah. Do you mind if I take her upstairs?”
“Go right ahead. Should we prepare extra plates for you three?”
“Sorry, but not today. Me and Nino are going on a date.”
“Oh, how lovely! You two have fun, but not too much fun.” Her mother giggled at the two teenagers’ groans. “And what about you, sweetie?”
“I’m going to hang out with Marinette, if that’s alright.”
“Of course!” Her mother seemed almost offended. “You know you are always welcome here.”
Adrien’s voice was quiet as he replied sincerely. “Thanks. That means a lot to me.” Then she felt herself ascending as he plodded up the stairs with her.
When they reached her loft, Marinette was reluctant to let him go. Being so close to the roof, her room was cooler than most of the house and as such her bed was cold, a far cry from the loving warmth of Adrien. When he tried to pry her off, she latched on even tighter, and even the fog of sleepiness couldn’t loosen her grip. If anything, it might have strengthened it since it became pure instinct to hold onto him. And not only because of his warmth.
“Princess,” he cajoled while gently undoing the knot of fingers around his neck, “if you don’t let go, we can’t get started. And you won’t be able to change into your pajamas.”
“Ugggghhhhh,” she groaned, but conceded the point.
Mustering all her energy, she loosened her hold on the blonde and let him slink back down into her room. She was vaguely aware of Tikki lazily floating a little ways over onto her kwami bed, where Plagg followed and wrapped himself around her. Shortly after, a pair of pajamas and a baggy T-shirt was thrown up at her and she caught both gracefully. Or, at least, if one considers allowing them to collide bodily with her and them picking them up to be graceful. The trap door clicked shut and she got changed, tossing the discarded garments below into her hamper.
A few minutes later, Adrien was climbing the stairs again and piled blankets next to her. He ran back down and returned with her laptop under arm and set it up nearby. While the intro was playing on Lady and the Tramp, he was busy making a nest of blankets around the two of them. When he was done moving, Marinette curled up against him and rested her cheek against his chest, basking in his heat as the movie began in earnest.
“Thank you, kitty,” she mumbled sleepily.
He didn’t say anything in response, only rubbing her arm as he kissed the top of her head.
Chapter 8: Partners
The pleasantly cool night wind rushed through her hair as Marinette swung across the Parisian sky. It was here, up in the air, that she felt truly weightless. Far away from the ground and all the problems she had while she was there. On a normal patrol night, she… well, not quite zoned out, but thought of little besides what she was doing in that exact moment. It was just her and the city. The sound of running feet on the rooftop beside her made her make a slight adjustment to that thought. It was just her, the city... and her trusted partner, Chat Noir.
The spot she chose to land on gave a commanding view of the surrounding area, but she didn’t stop here for the scenery. Chat Noir sidled up beside her without a word - not even a joke or off-handed flirt. She must have clued him in that something was bothering her, an idea supported when he reached out to place a reassuring hand on her shoulder. Looking over to him, she saw the same steady loyalty that she’d grown accustomed to over their partnership.
“What’s bugging you, my lady?”
Ignoring the pun, she turned around and sat down against a chimney, Chat Noir following after a moment. “Does it ever get to you?” When he didn’t respond immediately, she continued, “Just… the weight of it all?”
“Is this about Zombizou?” He asked the question with a gentleness that she usually didn’t hear from the boisterous hero. It was a fair guess on his part - it was the last akuma victim they’d fought recently and the closest they’d come to defeat in a long while.
She nodded. “We’ve gone up against desperate odds before, you know? But yesterday…” Closing her eyes she rested her head against the brickwork behind her. “When I went home afterwards and went to bed, I woke up from the nightmares. Yeah, it wasn’t the scariest akuma we’ve faced but… I’ve never felt that kind of weight on my shoulders.”
He bumped shoulders with her and gave her a wink when she looked over at him. “Don’t worry about it, bugaboo! We always save the day in the end.”
The surprise was evident on his face when she shook her head bitterly. “That’s what they were always saying! It’s one thing know that we’re the only ones that can stop Hawkbutt’s villains of the week, but it’s another when everyone about to get runover by a horde of off-brand zombies spends their last moments saying ‘oh I’m not worried, I know you’ll fix everything!’” Chat Noir tried to cut in, but Marinette barrelled straight through. “Like, I’m glad they have so much faith in me, but… what if we failed? And don’t say it can’t happen ‘cause we’ve gotten super close to it before! I just… it’s a lot of trust to put on us, right?” She looked at him with pleading eyes.
“I’m sorry, LB. You’re right, it is a lot to ask of us.” He settled back against the chimney. “I guess I’ve never really thought of it like that - I’ve either got you beside me, or I’m mind controlled and can’t remember anything anyway.” His met her gaze and she saw sympathy in his big green eyes. “I can’t imagine fighting by myself against those kind of odds. It must feel terrible.”
“It usually doesn’t bother me, to be honest. Sorry, kitty, but whenever Hawkmoth gets control of you, I kinda always trounce you.”
A rueful smile graced his face. “Sounds about right. Not even magic would make me fully turn against you. The power of love, always so strong.” He attempted to kiss her hand, which she pulled away at the last minute before bopping him on the nose.
“Most of the time, I’m too focussed on the fight at hand that I don’t really think about what happens if I fail - or even really the chance of failing. But people in the process of coming under an akuma’s control telling me they’re sure I’ll save them…? That got me thinking.” She sighed. “It didn’t help I was slowly losing civilians over the course of the day, no matter how hard I tried to keep them safe.” She glanced back at him before looking at the ground. “You know, not one person besides me made it to the end of that fight unakumatized.” She finished in a whisper, “I failed everyone.”
“...Before saving them, you mean.” She looked back at him. “I mean sure, it would’ve been awesome if we all escaped without losing anyone, but you were kinda set up from the start there with how easy it was to lose people to the curse. And in the end, you did spectacularly! You beat Zombizou without breaking a sweat and saved everyone.” She pulled her knees up to her chest and was surprised when he pulled her into a half-hug. “I know it had to have been scary, but even with most of Paris turned against you, we still won in the end. That has to count for something, right?”
“I suppose, but…” She trailed off and continued looking out into the middle distance as Chat Noir pulled back from his hug.
“Listen, I know it’s a heavy burden to bear, but just know that I’m not going to let you bear it alone, alright? We’re partners and we’re in this together.”
He held out his hand and after a moment’s hesitation, she took it, finding certainty in Chat’s unwavering support. They held hands as they sat in a comfortable silence, enjoying each other’s company as around them Paris slumbered under their protection.
Chapter 9: Dreams
“I guess this isn’t much help to you, huh girl?” Alya nudged Marinette as they walked between the booths set up for the career fair at school. “You’ve already got your future planned out pretty well. And not just professionally.”
Marinette followed her stare to Adrien who was chatting amiably with Nino. She felt her cheeks heat up ever so slightly and mentally groaned. If that was her reaction even to just seeing the boy, it’d be awhile before she’d get to that perfect life she’d daydreamed for the two of them. But like Alya said, at least she didn’t have any such uncertainty with what she wanted to do for a living. Her outfit - one hundred percent designed and tailored by her - was tangible proof of that.
It had been her aspiration for years now, ever since her grandma brought her home a particularly fetching article from abroad. Hearing that it had been hand made by local artisans only fueled her awe, and it was then and there that she had decided that she would be a designer. She didn’t know how long it would take before her name carried the same kind of weight that ‘Agreste’ did, but she wouldn’t stop until she got there.
Speaking of Agrestes, she needed to start thinking about if she would keep her last name or take Adrien’s. Keeping hers meant that she could make her own way in the world by building her own brand unaffiliated with the Agreste line and wouldn’t have to live under Gabriel’s shadow. She’d be able to create her own unique style. On the other hand, ‘Marinette Agreste’ had a nice ring to it, and the tabloids might have a field day with them if she kept her maiden name.
Lost to her musings, she accidentally walked right into her future husband, who seemed entirely unbothered by it as he turned around to face her. Not for the first time, she hoped that at least one of their children would inherit his vibrant emerald eyes. It would be a tragedy otherwise.
“Hey, Marinette! How’re you liking the fair?”
“Oh! Uh, I haven’t really been paying attention. I, um, I already know what I’m going to be doing so…” She was glad she was coherent around him these days. It was at least a start.
“Really? That’s cool!” He fell into step beside her, Alya and Nino having disappeared, much to her dismay. “I’m kinda in the same boat. My father wants me to get into the family business. I guess I already am, but I can’t model forever, right?”
Smiling, she replied, “No, I suppose not, but I think it’ll be awhile before you go out of style.”
“Thanks,” he blushed and rubbed his neck, looking away.
After a brief but comfortable silence, she asked, “Do you like it? Modeling, I mean.”
He shrugged. “I don’t dislike it. But it’s always just been something I do, not something I’m passionate about.” Chuckling, he continued, “It drives father crazy that I haven’t taken an interest in fashion. I’m sure he’d love to have had you as a daughter.”
Well, if everything goes according to plan… “Running a design label seems like an odd choice for someone who doesn’t have an interest in fashion. Is that really what you want to do?”
“What else would I do?”
Marinette gestured broadly to the entire area around them where all the booths were set up. “Whatever you want to do. Care to look around? Maybe I can help you find something to dream about.”
He smiled as he looked back at her. “I’d like that.”
Chapter 10: Video Games
The girl squad gets together for a sleepover.
“Marinette! One of your friends is here!” Her maman’s voice called up the stairs, interrupting a frantic bout of cleaning. She’d lost track of time and put it off until the last minute once again, but at least now her room looked presentable when (or if) the party moved upstairs.
“Coming!” With a few last minute adjustments, she raced down the stairs to see who had arrived first. When she saw her maman chatting away with Alya in the kitchen with her duffel bag, she shook her head with a smile. Who else would’ve showed up an hour early? Her best friend noticed her arrival and grinned.
“Hey, girl! You ready to party it up this weekend?” Alya held out her fist, which Marinette gladly bumped. Before she could respond, her maman cut in.
“Hopefully you’ll remind your friends not to ‘party it up’ too hard, right dear?”
Marinette gave her most winning smile. “Right, we’ll be on our best behavior.”
Her maman seemed dubious. “Even Alix?”
The smile became strained and uncertain. “Y-yes. I’ll do my best.”
With a kiss on her forehead, her maman replied, “That’s all I ask. Have fun, dear.”
Once she left the room, cup of tea in hand, Marinette turned back to Alya. “Did you bring everything you’ll need?”
“Relax, girl. I’m psyched and ready to go for this weekend-long slumber party.”
Doing her best to play the part of the unconvinced friend, Marinette crossed her arms and cocked an eyebrow, though her grin gave her away. “So we aren’t going to have a repeat of last time?”
Alya threw her hands up. “Come on, girl! It was one time. What’s a midnight convenience store run between friends?”
They chatted until the sound of the front door opening drew their attention. Marinette rushed over to greet her guests, only to have Rose rushing to meet her at the same time.
“Marinette! I’m so happy to see you!” She collided with Marinette, ensnaring her in a hug. Over Rose’s head - the bubbly girl being one of few people Marinette was taller than - she saw Juleka give a small smile and a timid wave.
“Rose, Juleka! It’s great you could make it. Did you remember to bring everything?”
Rose nodded enthusiastically in way of response, while Juleka said while reaching into her bag, “We even brought games like you asked…”
“Hang on, don’t tell me what game you brought until everyone gets here. It met all the requirements, right?”
“Mhmm. It works on one of your consoles and we could theoretically do multiplayer on it. Or be fun to watch.”
“Awesome!” She lead her three guests into the living room. “We’ll be sleeping in here tonight since the bakery is closed on Sundays and we won’t have to worry about papa waking us up at four in the morning.”
“Sweet, there’s a little more space down here.” Alya sat down on the couch facing the TV. “Any clue when Mylene and Alix are supposed to arrive?”
Scrolling through her texts, Marinette replied, “Alix is going to be late-”
“-but Mylene should be showing up any minute now. Once she’s here we can make some snacks while we wait on Alix.”
Rose, seated next to Alya, bounced up and down on the couch. “And then we can start the gaming marathon!”
“Yup! I just hope we can get through all the games…”
“Don’t sweat it, girl!” Alya leaned back. “I was kinda hoping to play mine after everyone was gone anyway. It wouldn’t be that exciting for everyone, and it’d just get jumbled with too many people around. And it would take awhile to get through.”
She could already guess what Alya had brought, given what had been occupying her free time outside hanging out and her work on the Ladyblog. Before she could dwell on it too much, the door opened once again. Marinette went to get her, the others following shortly after.
“Hello!” Mylene waved with one hand while clutching the strap of her backpack with the other. “Everyone else here?”
“We’re waiting on Alix.” Marinette pointed out the way they came from. “You can drop your stuff off in the living room. We’re going to make some food while we wait.”
They had burned an hour cooking in the kitchen, doing their best to stay out of the way of her parents as they went about running the bakery. By the time the last guest arrived, it was midday and the bakery wasn’t going to be open for much longer anyway. Marinette crowded around the living room table as she considered this. It would probably be best to do Mecha Strike III first then, so papa would be less likely to interrupt for a challenge bout. She loved him to pieces, but maman and him seemed to enjoy butting in when she was trying to have friends over.
“Okay everyone. Pull out the game each of you brought and show it to the rest of us.” Marinette suited action to words by slapping down the Mecha Strike III case as though it was a gauntlet. The groans and grumbling she got from the rest of them was like music to her ears.
“We’re agreed that we’ll deal with Marinette trouncing us for as little as possible?” Alix looked around the table and the rest of the girl squad resolutely nodded back at her, like the judgement of a sage council.
“Oh come on! It isn’t that bad,” Marinette attempted to get their hopes up, secretly relishing the thought of dashing it against the ground.
“Max trained for a year and you tore him apart.”
“Well, duh. Fighting the AI only gets you so far!”
“Whatever, here’s my pick.” Alix tossed her game on top of Marinette’s - Grand Theft Auto. Somehow Marinette wasn’t surprised.
“That game doesn’t have split screen and it’s mostly just messing around. How does that fit the requirements?” Marinette crossed her arms over her chest, still slightly miffed from the resolute dismissal of her choice.
“Oh don’t worry about that, pigtails.” Alix smirked. “I have a plan.”
“Well… okay. Mylene?”
“I, uh, brought a Mario Party.” She began to get quieter as she rambled on. “I don’t have a lot of games and we play it a lot at my house so, I, uh… thought you guys might like it. I know it has a bit of a reputation as a friendship-ended, but still-”
“Chill, girl.” Alya patted her shoulder. “It’ll be fun losing to someone who isn’t Marinette for once.”
Marinette stuck her tongue out at Alya as Juleka gently sat her game, the remake of Resident Evil 2, on the table. When the rest of the girls looked to her for any kind of explanation or defense of it, she simply shrugged and said, “I liked it. Plus, not a lot of split screen horror games, you know? Have to take what I can.”
“Fair enough. What about you, Alya? Still playing those detective games?”
“Of course! Gotta keep my mind razor sharp if I’m going to unravel Ladybug and Chat Noir’s identities.” The aspiring reporter shuffled in place, hands empty as she didn’t reach for her duffle bag. “It’s a computer game though, so I don’t have a physical copy. If you don’t mind, I’ll start downloading it now and we can play it tomorrow.”
“Sure. You know the password and everything so go ahead.” While Alya left the room, Marinette turned to the last member of the group. She never really gamed with Rose before, so she didn’t know what to expect. What she definitely didn’t expect was Dark Souls III. Yet, that was the game Rose was waving above her head excitedly. Her mind reeled for a moment before settling on something to say. “Uh, Rose? Isn’t that also single player? What is everyone else going to do?”
Juleka smiled as she put her arm on Rose’s shoulder. “Watching her get into the zone is something to behold.” Seeing the dubious expression on Marinette’s face only caused her grin to widen. “You’ll see.”
Leaving the matter at that, they settled into place to start their marathon. First up - Mecha Strike III.They were packed tightly on the couch, except for Alix and Rose who preferred the ground anyway. The latter leaned back against her girlfriend’s legs while playing, and the former kept scooting closer and closer to the television as the loses piled up. It only took an hour of easy victories for Marinette before they unanimously decided to not play it again for the rest of the night.
Next up was Grand Theft Auto V. While Alix clambered forward to switch out the games, she explained to them. “Here’s the plan - we’re each going to take turns at it. Our goal is to steal a tank.” She whipped back to look at them, a manic glint in her eyes. “Clearly, since I’m the best at this, I’ll go last to give you all a chance at it before I sweep in.” She brandished the controller. “Who wants first?”
After half an hour of a cycle of spawning, charging into a military base via ramping car, dying, and repeating like the world’s worst version of Valhalla, the controller finally ended up in Alix’s hands. She had spent the entire time smugly commenting on how each person messed up, detailing what they should have done. The next person would take that into account and fail at a completely different obstacle. With a knowing smirk, she turned to everyone else and said, “Now watch the master at work.”
The first step was to get a car, which everyone had accomplished in true GTA fashion by standing in the middle of the road and carjacking whoever stopped to avoid hitting them. Alix stepped onto the road boldly, an admirable start. Instead of slowing, however, she was hit full speed and sent flying by wonky physics. Immediately the screen turned black and white and the text ‘Wasted’ appeared on the screen as her character sailed through the air. There was a moment of stunned silence before everyone (sans Alix) absolutely lost it. She didn’t even look back to hand Marinette the controller, simply thrusting it behind her. After a few more rounds, Alix’s as unlucky as always, the person who ended up winning the challenge was none other than Rose. After a celebratory rampage, she closed the game and they were free to move on to Mario Party.
Looking back, Marinette couldn’t remember much about the two (or was it three?) matches they played, probably because each match had been about an hour long. The turns ran together after a while. They passed by in a blur of competitiveness, fully absorbed with the friendly and eventually not-so-friendly banter. At the end all she could say was that she didn’t win. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Mylene took that honor for at least one of the matches, having had the most practice with the minigames and the layout of the maps.
The change from Mario Party to Dark Souls was as sudden as it was jarring, trading bright, cheerful colors for the bleak wastes of a ruined kingdom. It didn’t take long for Marinette to figure out what Juleka had been talking about; immediately, Rose became hyper focused on the game as she laid in front of the television on her stomach, tongue sticking out in concentration as she deftly ducked and rolled away from enemy lunges. Marinette watched carefully, but the first time she saw Rose get hit was about an hour in, long after the fight with the first boss.
When she finally put down the controller, the only thing the rest of them could do was applaud.
Which left the last game of the day, Juleka’s horror game. Fitting, since by this point it was later in the evening, though not quite midnight. Marinette remembered even less of this game, at least partly because of how often she excused herself to the kitchen for any number of excuses - wanting everyone to have full drinks, extra snacks, stretch her legs, whatever she could do. Horror… not her favorite genre of movie or game.
At least I’m not alone, she thought while eating some cookies with Mylene in the kitchen. If the danger was real, it was much easier to handle for reasons even Marinette herself couldn’t wrap her head around. By the time they finally out of excuses, everyone was getting tired and they agreed to turn off the games and go to sleep in the living room. They managed it, even if Alix kept deliberately annoying everyone by asking random inane questions at all hours. Marinette could practically hear Alix’s smirk as she lobbed at pillow at her face. But eventually even Alix got tired and fell asleep, a fitting end to an eventful day.
When Marinette managed to drag herself out of bed, two things became apparent - one, the sun was unfortunately up and preventing her from drifting back to sleep and two, everyone else was gone. It was this second fact that caused Marinette to actually get up rather than stay wrapped up on the floor for a little while longer.
“Hey, girl,” Alya quirked an eyebrow over her toast as Marinette walked into the kitchen. “Pleasant dreams, Sleeping Beauty?”
Deciding that the smell was delightful, Marinette elected to make herself some toast too. “Mhmm.” Once she had her breakfast in front of her, she asked, “Everybody else leave?”
“Yup! They’ve got early plans.” She winked. “But don’t worry, you won’t be getting rid of me that easily. We still have some investigative work to do, if you remember.”
Playing along, Marinette asked, “What’s the case?”
“‘Shadow At Water’s Edge.’”
“Sounds spooky. Thankfully, we can count on each other.” She swallowed the last of her toast and added, “Let’s get to it then. After you, detective.”
The two rushed upstairs, Marinette eager to continue her well deserved break in excellent company. It felt good take a break in fiction - reality was far too strange a place for her anyway.
Chapter 11: Guardian
Marinette opened the door to her apartment after another long day at work interning under Gabriel Agreste. While she definitely learned a lot while in his employment, only half of that was things related to design and her craft. The other half was how awful a boss he was. Her entire self felt expended - creatively, physically, and emotionally. As she flicked on the lights and saw the many piled plastic boxes, she was reminded of another reason she was so drained. They’d been sitting there for weeks now and she really needed to go through them. She didn’t feel like doing it now, but then, when would she ever feel like it? Deciding that she ought to get it taken care of, she prepared some tea… She winced and decided that maybe coffee would be better. Besides bringing up memories now tinged with sadness, she would need the extra energy to get through this.
The bulkier furniture was still in storage - she didn’t know if it would fit in her apartment, but she lacked the time and the personal strength to bring all of it here herself. Maybe she could get Adrien to help her once he came back from Milan, but it didn’t matter right now. There was still plenty besides furniture to sort through. The first boxes contained pretty common items she could probably find at any value store - kitchen utensils, silverware, blankets, and the like. Some she took for herself. Most went back into the boxes they came from, to be donated to charity. There was too much to just stuff somewhere and she didn’t need the extra spatulas and threadbare pillowcases.
The next boxes were of a more personal nature, clearly things that had been held onto for a while, that care had been taken in their maintenance. Pestles and mortars. Beakers. But mostly, it was handmade trinkets from China and a few higher quality blankets and throw pillows. Those boxes took longer to go through - it was harder to throw aside such a tangible connection to her mother’s culture. Maybe she could send some of it to her? Again, this space was too small for her to keep everything, but some of these things… they felt like they belonged more in a museum than on a curio cabinet. She paused. Knowing where they came from, maybe she should contact a museum curator about some of it. Carefully closing those boxes, she moved on.
The strangest things came last, buried under others and stacked distinctly away from the rest. On the very top of them was an electronic notebook. She’d go through it later after she had studied a bit more on how to decipher those codes. Packed tightly into the boxes were a variety of strange and eclectic objects. Oyster pearls and semi-precious gemstones. Seaweed and dried exotic fishes. Vials filled with a variety of mysterious liquids, each having a note with Chinese scrawled on them. Something else she’d need Adrien’s help with - unfortunately, given the nature of the reagents, she couldn’t ask her mom to translate. She didn’t know what she would do with all these things.
The last box of all had arrived before all the others. It had been delivered to her personally, whereas everything else had been brought here by movers and hired hands. She ran her fingers over the smooth wood of the gramophone, tracing the ancient symbols there. Her heart was heavy as she realized they probably still didn’t know. Opening the Miracle Box, she put all the miraculous within on full display and touched each, calling their kwami into being. The little spirits paid her little heed at first, more excited with the new space than anything. How long had some of them been in that box? Months? Years? Decades?
She sighed as Tikki rounded them all together. A choir of tiny faces looked up at her, some confused, some scared, most curious. Taking a deep breath, she broke the news to them with a sad smile.
“Hello, all of you! Welcome to my home. My name is Marinette Dupain-Cheng and I am the new Guardian of the Miraculous.”
Chapter 12: Phone Thief
Marinette sets out to complete the theft of her friends' phones by swiping Nino's.
Honestly, it was his fault. If you think about it.
Everyone knows Marinette has a competitive streak a kilometer wide. It is also common knowledge that she’s been getting bolder and bolder, a trend which only became more pronounced when she and Adrien began dating. Her friends understood that once she got her mind fixated on something she wasn’t going to stop until success was in her grasp - much like her crush with Adrien. After all, only someone as fiercely determined as Marinette could’ve gotten through that homeschooled obliviousness and made their feelings known.
The first mistake was when Alya let it slip during a Mecha Strike III match at the Dupain-Chengs that Marinette had palmed phones in the past. The declaration had its intended effect, of course, and she became just distracted enough for Alya to squeak in a victory. Nino had thought that the audacity of the lie was what caused the slip up - but the glare Marinette shot her, and the way Alya apologized… Nino realized the claim was real.
It took some more prying that day, but Marinette revealed that she had, at one point, swiped two of the three phones of the people at the house at that moment - Alya and Adrien’s. Only Nino had never had his phone nabbed. After getting an explanation, they all had a laugh at Marinette’s expense, but Nino, in his foolishness, had said this:
“No way you could steal my phone, dude. I’d know in an instant if you took it.”
Marinette had laughed nervously. “Yeah, yeah. Whatever you say, Nino.” Outside her field of vision, Alya was desperately trying to silence him, but he foolishly continued.
“I’m serious. My phone is my lifeline, I use it all the time! And I get that you’re pretty sneaky dude, but you would never get the drop on me. I’d even be willing to make a dare on it.”
There was a hard glint in her eyes as she turned to him and smiled mirthlessly. “I accept your challenge. Within two weeks, I’ll have your phone. Loser does free work for the other - me with design work, you with music. Don’t worry,” she added with a friendly wink, “I’ll give it back right after.” They shook hands, sealing the deal.
Needless to say, he spent the entire rest of the night clutching his phone like it really was his lifeline. Despite his paranoia, she didn’t seem to make an attempt on it that night and he made it home with it still in hand. They hadn’t had much of an opportunity to see each other since then, too occupied with school and extracurricular activities. After all, Marinette was far too busy to devote time and energy into this. Right?
And so a week passed as Nino slowly untensed and began to think he was in the clear. It was the day before the last possible day that the challenge could be accomplished and Nino had almost entirely forgotten about it. Until, of course, Alya calls.
“Hey, babe! We still on for tomorrow?” He’d been looking forward to this date night for the past few days, eager to have some relaxation time with his girl.
“Of course! And I have great news,” she paused for dramatic effect, or maybe because she was adjusting her phone, “It’s going to be a double date! Marinette and Adrien are coming along too. Isn’t that great? We haven’t really gotten to hang out with them in, what, two weeks?”
“Y-yeah!” Worry crept into his voice as Marinette’s promise echoed in his head. “Too long…”
“Awesome, I’ll see you tomorrow then! Love you!”
“You too, babe.” He hung up and put his face in his hands. He was doomed.
It may have been a bit unfair of him to keep his distance with Marinette, but he’d seen how over the top she could get in the pursuit of her goals and he didn’t want to be on the receiving end of it. Besides, it was only for an afternoon, right? He just had to get through a romp in the park, watching a movie, and dinner at a restaurant with his friends. Simple. Easy, even. He let himself relax as he sat down on a bench and chatted with Alya, waiting on their friends to arrive so they could head out.
This was a mistake.
“Hey, Nino!” A voice cheerfully called to him, causing him to tumble off the bench. He looked behind him to see Marinette standing right behind the bench, covering her mouth with her hand as she bit down her giggling. “I see you won’t be falling for my tricks today.” She gave up on suppressing the laughter as he checked his pockets, feeling the reassuring weight of his phone still there.
“Good one, lovebug!” Adrien beamed as he appeared at Marinette’s side. Nino had found it odd at first that they had taken up the nicknames that Paris’ superheroes gave each other, but considering how deep in the fandom they both were (Adrien because of his former obsession with Ladybug and Marinette through Alya), it wasn’t too surprising. He held out a hand to help Nino up off the ground. “Ready to head to the movies?”
“Sure, but try not to torment my boyfriend too much, okay girl?”
Marinette held up her hand in a solemn oath and said, “I promise won’t do anything else to him for the rest of the day.”
Lies, Nino thought to himself, even as he forced himself to relax a little.
The trip to the movie theater was uneventful, as was finding their seats. Although, once again, he put as much distance between them as possible while keeping their group together. Although that did leave him away from his bro Adrien as well, it was a small price to pay for the pleasure of not guarding his pockets for the duration of the film. The real challenge to his nerves came about midway through the movie during a lull in the action. Marinette walked past him to get to the aisle. Even in the darkness of the theater, he could see her grin and once again his hand went to the reassuring weight in his pocket. It stayed there until she had come back and taken her seat as he was painfully aware of how crafty Marinette could be.
One last challenge before the day was over… the restaurant. It was his favorite pizza place and with the few other customers in at the moment, they’d even managed to snag a booth all to themselves. Seated across the table, he was feeling as secure as he could be. They ordered their food and just after the waitress left, Nino heard a familiar ringtone. Marinette and him began reaching for their pockets at the same time, which confused him. Did she change the ringtone on her phone?
Then he watched, dumbfounded as she removed his phone from her purse. His hand went to his pocket where, as always, the same reassuring weight still was. He pulled out the ‘phone’ only to realize that it was just a stock card replica with the same shape and weight. When he looked back up, Marinette was smiling serenely as she held it out to him. By the time he was done talking to the caller, the pizza had arrived. But all he was hungry for was answers.
A pizza slice stopped midway to her mouth. “Remember in the park? I swapped them out around that time.” She gave an exaggerated wink. “I think that means I win our little challenge and I got my full set of pinched phones.”
“But why wait? It would’ve been less cruel to just get it over with as soon as possible.”
“Yeah, but you were on guard. Besides, you’d never be on your phone all the time during a date. It was the perfect opportunity to take it and hold onto it for a while.”
Nino held up his hands in defeat. “You got me, dude. I’d say fair and square but there wasn’t anything fair and square about this . I was set up from the very start.”
The others laughed while Marinette nodded resolutely, a sparkle of mischief in her eyes as she replied, “And don’t forget it anytime soon.”
Aaaand we're back! Sorry for the delay, nature is doing it's best to wipe civilization away in a massive flood in my area. On a related note, sorry if the next chapters are rougher than normal, my beta had to relocate to get to work and college, leaving her too busy to proofread for me.
Chapter 13: Akumanette
Alya engages in some speculation with Marinette.
“What sort of akuma do you think you’d make?”
The question came completely out of the blue to Marinette. It was so unexpected that she couldn’t respond for a few moments, shocked into silence. Or maybe it was because she was in the middle of taking a drink and had to recover after descending into a coughing fit. In either case, it was a few minutes before Marinette was composed enough to say any sort of response to that question.
“Why do you ask?” It honestly wasn’t anything Marinette thought of often - sure, she was worried about becoming akumatized. Although that worry was mostly because if she fell to Hawkmoth’s influence, then he stood a much greater chance of winning. How would the akuma get purified without Ladybug? Or how would Paris get fixed without the miraculous cure? Despite that worry, she had never considered what form she would take if akumatized - after all, her goal was never to get to that point anyway.
“Well, for the longest time it was just you and Adrien that had never been akumatized. But then, when his akuma cherry got popped last week, it was suddenly just you left out of the entire class - and that includes teachers and Principle Damocles.” Alya adjusted the pillow she was cuddling on the chaise while she waited for a response. As sleepover talk went, Marinette supposed this wasn’t the weirdest line of questioning she’d suffered through.
Adrien… another reason why she should never get akumatized. It wasn’t hard for her to put two and two together when Chat Noir didn’t show up to battle Deadline. A suspicion which she might have been willing to let go of if Chat Noir hadn’t confessed the next day, guilt ridden over both fighting her and abandoning her in one swoop. Not quite how she wanted the reveal to go, but the point remained - if she got akumatized, it would be a major hint to her identity.
Realizing Alya was watching her patiently but expectantly, Marinette stumbled over herself to give an answer. “I… don’t know. I guess I’ve never thought about it much.”
Alya sat up and cleared her throat, giving Marinette the sense that she had given this a lot of thought beforehand. “See, there are some akumas whose powers were pretty random since that’s what they had on hand at the time. Nino as the Bubbler, for example. But most of the rest are at least partially tied to the personality or at least profession of the person involved. Rogercop, Stormy Weather, Gamer, and yours truly.” She pushed up her glasses and cupped her chin. “So with that info in mind, what makes Marinette… Marinette?”
That questioning stare was turned back to her. “Oh! Um… well, I like designing. And, uh, I’m madly clumsy. So maybe something to do with those?”
“Maybe something like Kung Food, where you have a fabric purse you can pull all sorts of weird things out? That’d be scary with how creative you can be.” She tapped her cheek. “Madly clumsy… maybe Chloe mocks you too much one day and you become like an akuma that spreads curses or drains luck.”
Fitting for an akumatized Ladybug… Marinette shuddered at the thought. “That’s… possible, I guess. Feels too much like a retread of old akumas though.”
“Shoot, you’re right. Although, I wouldn’t put it past Hawkmoth to get lazy after a while.” She looked off into space for a while before snapping her fingers. “Oh wait, hey, you also hate liars! But then, you’d be muscling in on my villainsona turf.” She crossed her arms and frowned.
“Uh… I think design might be the strongest competition.” And also the furthest away from her Ladybug powers. “There has to be something there, right? Maybe I would have big scarves or something that acted as giant arms, like Doc Oc.”
Alya nodded slowly. “Possibly, or maybe you have the power to bring clothes to life? Kinda like what Robustus did, except with fabric. Although,” amusement shone in her eyes, “if we go the clumsy villain route, you could be… Miss Fortune!” She held out her hands and waited for the laughter, but seemed even more pleased at the groans.
“If I end up with with that name somehow because of you, then you’d be the first person I go after.”
“Ha! Well, I bet Lady Wifi could kick Miss Fortune’s butt any day.”
“No way! At the very least, I wouldn’t leave the heroes in an easily escapable trap. Besides, it’s like you said, I’m super creative when I want to be. No matter what powers I’d get, I’d be a force to reckon with.”
“Hey! You try thinking clearly when you’re hopped up on dark magic and a butterfly man is angrily whispering in your head.” Her face scrunched up in distaste. “At least I think that’s what happened. Which reminds me, what do you think would finally push you over the edge? And don’t say it can’t happen to you, ‘cause that’s what Adrien said up until he became Deadline.”
“Do you want in on the secret?”
Alya’s eyes widened. “There’s a secret to it? Girl, why didn’t you spill before?!”
“Well, the truth is, I’ve almost gotten akumatized twice now.” At Alya’s gasp, she nodded and continued. “First time was Zombisou - the akuma that got Ms. Bustier was meant for me, I think. The second time was about Lila.” She charged on just before her friend decided on which of the flurry of questions that came to her mind she was going to ask first. “In both times, I calmed myself down pretty quickly. That’s the secret - it’s okay to get upset, but you can’t hold onto that sadness or anger. Otherwise, the akumas can get you.”
“Huh. No wonder no one else has pulled it off yet.” Alya looked at her friend and nodded approvingly. “You really are something else, aren’t you, girl?”
Chapter 14: Restore
Chat Noir arrives on Marinette's balcony with a strange request.
The day had come and gone pretty normally, even if Adrien was absent for most of the classes. Something about cleaning up at home. It didn’t sound like anything that he needed to do during class hours, but who was she to question it? It honestly wasn’t anything new since his father was prone to scheduling Adrien for events at all times of the day, heedless of everything school related except tests and events like class photos. Regardless of the older Agreste’s reasoning, Marinette was used to Adrien being absent, so it wasn’t jarring to not have him illuminating her life from a row in front of her. So the day wasn’t anything out of the ordinary.
It was the night that was strange.
She heard an insistent, almost desperate tapping at her window. It usually wasn’t wise to open up to that since odds are the only person knocking at her window at this hour (or any hour really - she did live in the attic after all), would be an akuma victim. But Marinette felt the desperation in the knocking and she would never turn away someone in need, even if she was risking her own safety.
The window swung open, revealing for a split second bright green eyes before a leather-clad mass of feline grace was rolling into her room. Reflexes honed over dozens of battles allowed her to duck out of the way, but sadly did not give her the presence of mind not to let out a startled squeak in the process.
Her protest died in her lips when Chat Noir stood up and looked at her through teary eyes before thrusting a tattered stuffed animal at her. “Can you fix him?!”
She gently took the ragged looking lion from him and began turning it over in her hands. It had seen better days, that was for sure - it was missing an eye and the other one was only barely holding on, much like the barely holding on right leg and left arm. A lot of the stuffing was gone or doing it’s best to get gone through one of the many small tears threatening to become larger tears. It was dusty and didn’t smell bad so much as it smelt old. There were also a few wet patches, presumably from Chat Noir’s tears. Despite all of the wear and tear, the one thing still holding strong was it’s smile.
Looking back at the hero, her heart ached to see how visibly distraught he was, wringing his hands and doing his absolute best not to cry anymore. It was not a fight that he was winning. Even if she wasn’t sure she could help, she had to at least try.
“Well, I have everything I need to do it, but I’m not sure if-” Chat hunched over, despair already setting in. “I’m going to do everything I can, alright? Just stick with me.”
He weakly nodded as Marinette gingerly set down the stuffed animal before getting to work. Thankfully, it didn’t look like it was too complicated or fancy a toy and she had the right supplies to do a fair enough job restoring it. But the lion wasn’t the only one that needed rescuing at the moment.
“So, Chat… what’s the rush? I can’t imagine your lion-”
“Mr. Scruffs,” came a timid but firm correction from Chat.
“...Odd choice of name for a lion.”
“I was four!”
“Right. Well, anyway - I can’t imagine Mr Scruffs got this damage all at once. What happened?”
Chat squirmed in place and rubbed the back of his neck guiltily. “Well, I had kinda… forgotten about him until today. Father and I were going through a bunch of old things from…” Marinette looked back at him to see him staring off at nothing, looking pained and took his gloved hand in hers. It seemed to snap him out of his fugue and he gave he a brief, appreciative smile before finishing, “...from before mom went away. I found Mr Scruffs in with a bunch of other stuff.”
“He must mean a lot to you.” It wasn’t the first time she’d spoken with Chat about his missing mother - either as Ladybug or as Marinette. It was old ground, but still clearly painful for him. She turned back to working on the doll, stitching together the smaller tears to keep the stuffing in. While Marinette wouldn’t claim that Chat didn’t get worked up over things from time to time, this was something else entirely. The best she could do for him was keep him in the present and get this thing fixed. Determination stirred within her - she would not let Chat down!
“He does,” Chat replied softly. “I have a lot of memories tied up with him. Purr-fect memories, of a better time in my life. All of them came rushing back when I saw him again.”
“...Is that why you were so flustered and eager to get him fixed?”
There was a long pause before he responded again. So long she nearly stopped teasing new stuffing into Mr Scruffs to look back at him. When he spoke again, there was a chill in his voice, somewhere between anger and sadness. “No. Father wanted to throw him out with the rest of it.”
That shook Marinette - it was easy to see how attached Chat was to the animal. Who would be so cruel? But the last part of the sentence is what caught Marinette’s attention. “Rest of what?”
“A lot of stuff from my childhood. A lot of mom’s stuff. He just… he saw it all and just…” He paused again, almost audibly composing himself. For his sake, Marinette pretended not to hear the sniffles. “Something came over him, he just wanted all of it gone. When I tried to save Mr Scruffs, he tried to take him from me and…”
Marinette paused in the middle of sewing the arm and leg back onto the torso, suddenly realizing where he could have gotten such an injury. Not for the first time, she was grateful for their still secret identities. Otherwise Paris might have woken up to news of Ladybug assaulting a man over a stuffed animal.
“It was kinda a blur after that. I ran to my room, locked the door, and left as Chat. And now, uh, now I’m here.” She could hear him rubbing the back of his neck. “Sorry, by the way. I know it’s late and I’m realizing this is all very silly, so…”
Setting down her needle, she turned around in her swivel chair and grabbed Chat’s face with both hands, lifting it up from his hunched over position. She stared him in the eye and told him, “Chat, do not apologize for coming here and venting. Was patching up an old lion doll what I expected to be doing today? No. Am I happy to help my good friend Chat Noir? Yes.” She stood up and began walking towards her trapdoor. “Now, you are going to stay right here while I get some cookies and milk. I’m only going to let you leave once I know you're feeling better.”
He gave a mock salute, grinning all the while. “Yes, ma’am.”
It was one in the morning by the time he’d left, belly full of sweets, heart full of love, and arms laden with a good-as-new stuffed lion named Mr Scruffs.
Chapter 15: Support
Marinette had an awful day today. Maybe her friends can come together and help cheer her up!
“Today was a disaster!” Marinette tried to muster the energy to freak out, but that well was long since tapped. Mostly, she just felt drained and disheveled. “Nothing went right.”
Alya put her arm over her and pulled her into a half-hug as they stepped out of the school. “I know it was rough, girl. All that work got ruined and Chloe was twice the brat she usually is. But there’s gotta be a bright side, right?”
“I don’t know. At least the day is over, I guess. I can go home and curl up in bed for a nap or something.”
“Hey, now there’s an idea! Why don’t I come over and we have a movie day, huh? And I’ll let you pick whatever you want to watch.” She kept her hold on Marinette while they crossed the street towards the bakery.
Marinette perked up a little at that. “That sounds nice. Maybe snag some snacks from the kitchen, too? And some hot chocolate?”
“Whatever you want girl.” Autumn was already giving way to winter and there was a chill in the air - perfect weather for the beverage. “I’ll see if I can get anyone else to show. Don’t worry,” she patted Marinette's shoulder when she whipped her head towards Alya, a panicked look on her face, “it won’t be more than two people. I figured you wouldn’t want to see most of the class until Monday after everything that happened today.”
“Oh… Okay, I guess. Who were you going to invite, then?”
“You just leave that to me, girl.” Alya let go of Marinette to open the door for the two of them, slipping inside once Marinette had passed the threshold. They bumped into her mom once they rounded the corner and after Alya gave a quick greeting, she escaped into a side room, phone already in hand. Marinette had no idea what Alya was planning, but once again, it was hard to muster the energy to care. She just had to trust that her best friend knew her well enough to set up a nice surprise.
Nino arrived halfway through the second movie, stumbling into the darkened room to find Alya and Marinette huddled together under a few blankets. They obliging paused it while he got his bearings.
“Hey, babe.” Alya’s grin was faintly illuminated by the light of the screen and the hallway light filtering in from behind him. “If you want cuddles, you’ll have to wait your turn.”
“No problemo, dudes.” He took a seat next to Alya, staying outside the cocoon of blankets. “I came as quick as I could, even when my daddio tried to lump a bunch of chores on me.”
A faint smile graced Marinette’s face. “Thanks, I appreciate it. I don’t think we’ll be doing anything that exciting though…”
He waved his hand as if scaring the idea away. “We’re here to chill with you and that’s gonna be a good time no matter what we do.” There was the buzzing of a phone set to vibrate and Nino stood. “Shoot, I, uh… almost forgot to beg your parents for some more blankets! Right. Be back in just a sec.”
Alya groaned while Marinette giggled. “Your boyfriend really isn’t that good of a liar.”
“I guess that’s a good thing? Except in this situation, obviously.”
“What is he actually going to go do? Who texted him?”
“You’ll see, girl.”
Surprisingly enough, Nino did return with more blankets, which he set up on the couch opposite where Alya and Marinette and dug in. The cold of the room and the warmth under the blankets was enough to start making Marinette drowsy as the credits on the third movie began to play. With great reluctance, she slipped out from the nestled heat to switch out to the next Disney film. It wasn’t often that she just sat down and watched them - usually they’d be background noise. But today… she just needed something comforting to watch. At least Disney heroes got their happy endings. Just as that thought crossed her mind, the door to the living room opened, bringing in the chill from the hallway just outside it. Marinette shivered and looked back at the figure standing in the doorway. With the light right behind them, she couldn’t tell who it was.
“Hello?” She asked cautiously.
“Hey, Marinette!” Adrien replied, stepping forward and shaking some of the snow out of his hair. Wait. Snow? Seemingly following her train of thought, he added, “It started coming down just as I got here. Thankfully, I’m already here so father won’t risk making me come home early. I might have to spend the night here, if that’s okay…?”
“S-sure, yeah you’re fine, I mean! That’s fine, we’re fine, haha.” Her fingers suddenly numb, a couple of her dvds slipped from her hands and she scrambled to catch them. Crisis averted, she went back to her spot, only to realize Alya had snuck out from beneath their shared cocoon and darted into Nino’s.
“Awesome!” He took in the seating arrangement and came to the same realization Marinette did - there was only one spot left for him. “Do you mind if I share your blankets? It got really chilly in the last few hours.” He smirked. “I guess winter was done waiting.”
Not trusting herself to form words at this juncture, she simply nodded and opened up the blankets to him.
“Thanks!” He ducked in, shivered, and pulled her into a hug. Her only response was a surprised squeak. “Sorry, I wasn’t lying when I said it was getting cold. But hey! We can help each other stay warm right?”
“R-right. Definitely. Like friends do.”
The movie resumed and Marinette slowly untensed. After the initial cold shock, Adrien proved to be a great source of warmth and before the end of the film she’d started leaning into him, her exhaustion (both physical and mental) from the long day dulling her nervousness around him. It was already getting late by the time Adrien had shown up and when the fourth movie was done she was asleep, turning around in her sleep to hold him tight.
On the other couch, Alya watched with a self satisfied smirk as she stood up to make her and Nino a proper makeshift bed. The day had taken its toll on both her friends and she was glad they could find support with each other. Even if it had taken a little nudge on her part.
Chapter 16: Triumph
Adrien watched the chaotic maelstrom of students trying to go about their assigned duties with a quiet sense of resigned acceptance. Everyone was moving with purpose and he knew that there were only a few things he’d be pushed into - it’s not like he had a lot of applicable skills, after all.The talent show had been kind of thrown together at the last minute, a means of raising emergency funds for the school. Then again, calling it thrown together would be a great disservice to Marinette’s diligent work. As class president, she was the one primarily responsible for making things run smoothly and in spite of the tremendous odds stacked against her she was doing amazingly. He watched her from a distance, a frown on his face as she watched her frantically issue commands and deal with people running up to her for help.
Help… His frown gradually faded into a smile as he waded through the crowd towards her, a plan already in motion. Well, less a plan and more a desperate question. Now, he just needed to be on his best behavior to make sure she didn’t freak out like usual when he talked to her.
“Y-yes? Can I help you?” She barely glanced up at him before returning her attention to a myriad of issues, but what he saw made him realize - she was already freaking out about a dozen other things, there was no room to spare for Adrien-based spazzing.
“Actually, it’s how can I help you.” He followed her as she went around to check on each group - some dedicated to procuring snacks, or making posters, or brainstorming talents. “See, I can’t do anything for the talent show since Kagami is already going to be doing fencing and I hardly want to do the catwalk. You look really busy so…” He rubbed the back of his neck, nerves getting the better of him, “...I figured I could help you out!” He finished with his best pleading smile as he saw her stiffen as the last part of his sentence.
She slowly turned back to him. “Help as in… like, a director’s assistant?” At his nod, she smiled warmly up at him. “S-sure! You can come over after we’re done here and help with the planning. Sound good to you?”
“Perfect! I look forward to working with you, Marinette!” He waved and got ready to leave, already excited to help out anyway he could.
Over the next couple weeks, Adrien was practically attached to Marinette at the hip. Every moment he had spare was dedicated to helping her achieve this goal, evening convincing his father to scrap a few planned events to help get extra time. Even so, he didn’t feel like he was doing much. Marinette was like a whirlwind of activity. There was always something that she had a hand in helping with and she gave the sense that she was everywhere at once. Gone was the girl who tripped over nothing and garbled her words when talking to him. Well… not quite gone. Heck, it was almost an unofficial part of his position to catch her when she stumbled, but the single minded dedication at least seemed to calm her nerves around him. None of it detracted even the slightest from how impressed Adrien was with her.
Normally, being overshadowed like that would make him feel inferior, but with Marinette? It was amazing, practically poetry in motion. Marinette on a mission was a sight to behold.
Their time working together was only two weeks, but it felt simultaneously like it had been months and minutes by the time the show itself rolled around. Now it was the day of the show and she could finally sit back and relax, letting her hard work speak for itself. Adrien decided to go the extra mile for her and offered piano accompaniment for whoever wanted it. In the end, eight people took him up on his offer and each of them personally thanked him afterwards, but the greatest reward came from glancing up in the middle of a piece to see Marinette swaying gently to the music. Or, even better, finding that just as he was sneaking glances at her, she was doing the same at him.
He smiled to himself, a dopey grin of absolute bliss.
The after party couldn’t come soon enough.
It took a while to get a word to her - she was the center of attention for most of the people there, everyone wanting to applaud her for her excellent work in pulling off the talent show without a hitch. His pride in her only built when she tried to deflect the praise on to others - the designers of the posters, the people actually in the show, even Adrien himself for his help.
Well, he couldn’t have that. Finally, their schoolmates dispersed to enjoy the party, leaving Marinette alone at the snack table provided by the Dupain-Cheng bakery. Adrien pulled a chair up beside her.
The noise made her jump. “S-sorry! Hear you didn’t coming! I mean - I didn’t hear you coming. Sorry! Did I say that already?”
He smiled reassuringly back at her but felt like smacking his face in frustration. After all the time they’d spent working together, he wouldn’t let her slip back into the old stuttering ways - no matter how adorable she looked when flustered.
“You know, you don’t have to be modest. None of this could’ve happened without you.”
She shook her head. “I don’t know about that-”
“But I do know. Don’t forget, I was there for most of it. And let me tell you - you’re amazing, Marinette. I can’t think of anyone else who could’ve managed this even half as well. It was awesome helping you out.” He rubbed the back of his neck. “Even if I wasn’t super helpful.”
“Hey!” She poked him in the chest, even as her cheeks burned from his compliments. “Don’t talk like that. You were plenty helpful, mister!”
He held up his hands in mock defeat. “Sorry, sorry.” They sat for a while in silence, watching the rest of the party go on around them. After a few minutes he said, “It’s weird. While it was going on, it was really tough to handle but… I kinda liked it? It might have been difficult, but it was fun to hang out with you at least.” She didn’t respond, but her blush which had only just left, returned. “In a way, I’m sad to see it go. Now I don’t have an excuse to go over to your place.”
“Well… you don’t need a reason, do you?”
“You’re more than welcome to hang out whenever you want. We don’t even need to hang out at my house.”
“Really? Like at my house or something?”
“Like your house, sure. Or...” She struggled for a moment to say the next words, which she spoke slowly and quietly. “...Like maybe at the movies this Friday…?”
Adrien blinked at her as she squirmed under his scrutiny. He smiled warmly at her. “Sure. Friday sounds great.” He stood up and gave an overly dramatic bow. When he rose, he winked at her. “It’s a date.”
Chapter 17: Failure
Not all days can end in success.
The bell above the bakery entrance announced her presences as Marinette trudged inside. The rain water slid off her black umbrella as she closed it and stashed it nearby. It had been her hope that bringing it along would help give her courage for what she wanted to do today, like some sort of magic talisman, but it hadn’t worked. None of it had worked out and she was right back to where she started once again.
“Hello, sweetie-” Her mother gasped and rushed over from behind the counter. With a gentle sweep of her hand she brushed aside the nascent tears that Marinette had hoped the rain would help hide. “Sweetheart, what happened?”
“Nothing, mom, really just…” She gave her best reassuring smile. “More of the same, I guess.”
This did nothing to console her mother, who stepped behind Marinette to flip the sign on the door to ‘Closed.’ “Follow me, dear, we’re going to make some nice soothing tea and then you’re going to tell me all about what happened.”
She knew better than to argue. Besides, who was she to decline an offer of her mom’s tea? No matter how hard Marinette tried, she could never quite make it the same way her mother could, leaving it with this special quality that instantly gave her some small piece of mind. Sure enough, after watching the almost zen ease with which her mother made the brew and taking a few sips on the kitchen table, Marinette was already feeling calmer.
“There’s only three things I can think of that could get you this worked up and I don’t remember you having any problems with Alya or your designing recently. Is this about Adrien?”
Marinette nodded slowly before burying her face in her hands on top the table. “Am I really that predictable?”
Patting her daughter’s head, she replied, “I just know the things that you feel the strongest about. Your emotions are very powerful, dear, and you feel them with all your heart. You’re filled with such passion.” She cupped Marinette’s cheek, pulling her eyes back onto her. “But sometimes that can come back and hurt you.” She let go of her and took a sip of tea. “So tell me what happened.”
“Today was going to be the day. I was going to tell him how I felt.”
Her mother put her hand on her chest, sympathetic pain evident in her face. “Oh no, dear. Did he…?”
She shook her head bitterly. “No, I was too scared and I just… let him go without saying anything.” She bit back tears. “Today I was finally going to tell him how I felt. It was going to be different. But I didn’t. Just like everyday.”
Suddenly her mother was at her side, holding her in a hug. “Oh, sweetie. You can’t force these things, no matter how much you want to.”
The feeble attempt she’d been making to hold back finally broke. She cried into her mother’s shoulder and got mad at herself for it. Nothing happened. He didn’t reject her, she just didn’t do anything. Why should she get so worked up over it?
“I know it’s frustrating,” her mother continued soothingly, as if reading her mind, “and I know it hurts. It’s alright to feel this way.” Her hand settled on the back of Marinette’s head. “It might not have worked out today, but you’ll get there eventually. You just need to be patient and get there in your own time. Otherwise, you’ll be making up arbitrary deadlines for yourself like today and just causing yourself misery.”
“Do you think he’ll like me back, mom?”
“He’d be an idiot not to.” That pulled a laugh out of Marinette, which her mother joined. “And if he is an idiot, then the best thing to do is move on with grace. Life is too short to pine over what might have been, sweetheart.” Her warmth left her as she returned to her seat. The topic changed to safer, more mundane ground. When Marinette finished her tea, she kissed her mom’s cheek and went upstairs. There would be other chances.
Today was a setback, but one day… one day, she’d confess to Adrien.
Chapter 18: Fears
A camping trip with the Girl Squad.
How did she let herself get roped into this?
That was unfair - she really did like spending time with the girls and a weekend of camping seemed like a great idea. The fresh air of the countryside, the long walks in the woods, and the absence of drama all made for a pleasant change of pace. Setting up tents had been a challenge she had taken to with gusto, and sparking a wood fire in the evening had been a reward all it’s own. All in all, the past couple days had been a blast and she wouldn’t trade a minute of it for anything.
However, it wasn’t the day time she was worried about, but rather the night.
Like with most things, the instigator had been Alix. Their first night of two that they’d spend out here and she had the idea to tell stories around a campfire. But not just any stories - scary tales. Ghost stories. The sort that had left Marinette trembling in her little tent, jumping at any noise from the woods. It was all very… frustrating. Put any sort of akuma in front of her and she’d be the brave and courageous heroine that Paris needed. Fictional dangers though? Shook her to her core.
And now here they were, starting up again. All six of them sat around the campfire on carved logs, waiting for the main activity to begin with varying levels of excitement. Rose had her same aura of bubbly energy that she always had, though dampened slightly by tiredness - being a morning person, she never managed to stay up late, even during normal sleepovers. Juleka and Alya were, unsurprisingly, pumped since this time Alix had coaxed them into the storyteller role as well. Although in Juleka’s case, she practically thrived on the entire horror genre so even when she was just listening she was having a great time. Yet another reason Marinette didn’t speak up against it - who was she to rob them of their fun? Then again, maybe Mylene would appreciate the support. Out of the six present, only Mylene handled horror worse than Marinette.
“Can’t I just… go to bed and leave you guys to it?”
Alya shrugged, affecting an air of apathy. “Oh sure, girl, you could wimp out, but then you’ll be skipping out on the snacks that we bought for it.” She waggled the bags of imported goods, the eyes of everyone present tracking them carefully.
Marinette had been dubious about s’mores at first but… she couldn’t deny they were good. Maybe not worth the horror stories, but they seemed to be reason enough for Mylene, whose eyes narrowed in determination before closing and humming one of her comfort songs.
While they began making their foreign treats, Alya left Marinette’s side to take her spot at the storyteller seat - a place which ensured the low-burning fire was between her and everyone else, while also keeping everyone in her line of sight. Alix took Alya’s place, smirking at Marinette as she nudged her shoulder.
“Scared?” She leaned forward with a wicked grin. “You will be soon.”
Suddenly feeling nervous again, she whipped her head towards Alix but before she could ask anything Alya began telling her ghost story.
The tale was a local legend and had just enough truth to it to sound plausible. Of course, given what Marinette knew about real magic and spirits and such by way of Tikki, the realm of possibilities was much broader than anyone else here knew. Alya’s tale of murder and the suspicion of some renegade killer loose in the woods didn’t shake Marinette too much… At least, until she would try sleeping tonight. Then every sound she hears in the woods may as well be the snap of a twig as the Woodsman stumbles upon their camp…
With a shiver, Marinette joined the others in light applause as Alya bowed and reclaimed her spot from Alix.
“Hope I didn’t scare you too much, girl.” She winked at Marinette, clearly unbothered on whether she did or did not. The nights got cold out here and fear was one of the things that would definitely have her latching onto Alya during the night. Maybe she had an ulterior motive in volunteering to tell spooky stories.
“Yeah yeah, spooky axe murders. We face worse everyday back in Paris, remember?”
Alya pouted, but didn’t argue.
“You guys about ready?” The murmur of conversation around the fire died down as Alix’s voice cut through everyone else’s. For someone so small, she sure made a lot of noise. “Good, then let’s get back to the spook-ing.” She rubbed her hands together manically and get straight into the tale.
What Alix lacked in traditional storyteller virtues, she made up for with enthusiasm. There wasn’t much room for nuance in this technique, but she was clearly enjoying herself if the sweeping gestures and occasional cackling was anything to go by. Marinette would almost have been impressed if the gory story didn’t end up making her feel more nauseous than frightened. As it stands, she made do by giving a tepid clap with the others once the story was over. Alix didn’t seem to mind - she took in the looks the others were giving her with a proud, evil smile. It was only once she’d traded spots with Juleka that Mylene peeked open her eyes and looked around.
“Is… is it over?”
Marinette patted her hand. “Just one more story and we can go to sleep.”
Mylene let out a long-suffering sigh. “Well, more like lying awake in fear for a while and then sleep but… yeah.” Marinette sympathized. At least they were almost done.
“So, uh, this is one of my favorite stories… I’m sure you guys will like it as much as I do.”
“Woah woah there, Jules.” Alix held up her hands to stall her. “Favorite story? How many do you have memorized?”
“Oh, I read all kinds of horror before bed. Classic horror. Modern stories. Creepypastas. All the genres, too. That stuff is super cool to me. Especially the stories that actually involve ghosts and the paranormal.”
“So what you’re saying,” Alix’s grin took on that malevolent glint again, “is that you could keep telling stories for hours if you wanted to.”
Marinette groaned. This was going to be a long night.
Chapter 19: New Look
Marinette's eternal struggle against the cold takes an odd turn before class starts.
Another bitterly cold day, struggling to pay attention to class while fighting the world’s least energetic duel against exhaustion. When she had been offered the powers of the Ladybug miraculous, Marinette had not anticipated winter drowsiness and vulnerability to the chill to be a part of the deal, but here she was. While everyone else was taking off their jackets and hats and mittens, Marinette held herself tighter, as if ignorant of the roaring school heating system. She got a few odd glances her way. Alya would understand, but she was home sick. Even so, most of the students were content to ignore her. Most students.
A Chloe-shaped shadow fell over Marinette and she blearily looked up at the blonde bully.
“Marinette Dupain-Cheng,” she said her full name with that annoying emphasis on each syllable, as if she was enunciating some sort of ancient curse, “why are you wearing that hideous jacket? You’re making me sweat just looking at you. Get rid of that ugly thing.” She made a shooing motion, still standing over her.
Marinette could have pointed out that she was cold and wanted to not be cold, hence the jacket. She could have reminded her that this was an Agreste brand jacket - so unless she wanted to call out Adrien’s father, she might want to rethink how ‘hideous’ it was. She could have said nothing at all. Of course, none of those would have much of an impact, but it’s the thought that counts.
No, Marinette yawned and said, “Chloe, I’m really not in the mood today to do with your crap. Just go sit down and let me warm up in peace.”
There was a scattered giggling from the others which only further infuriated Chloe who had begun to tremble in rage. Sudden, she smiled too sweetly and sauntered over to her seat. Pleased that she’d talked down Chloe early today, Marinette ignored the warning signs, sighed and let her head rest on her arms. Her eyes closed, seeking just a few minutes of warm comfort before she’d have to pay attention to the start of class.
Her world shattered as an icy river of cold ran down her back, causing her to jolt back and get some of the water on her head as well.
“What the hell was that, Chloe?!” The snarled call out drew both girls’ attention to the doorway, where Adrien had just arrived. Marinette was too busy not freezing to death to get excited, whereas Chloe simply tossed her hair nonchalantly.
“This is about respect, Adrik-”
“You know what? I don’t care.” With a huff, Chloe went to her seat and Adrien slide into his. He took off his jacket turned back to look at Marinette. “Are you alright? Your coat must be soaked through.”
A terrible combination of nervousness and chill griped her. “W-w-w-well, I’ve b-b-b-b-been better…”
His eyes were filled with worry. “When Alya said you didn’t like the cold, I didn’t think it was this bad. Here.” He held his jacket out to her.
She pushed it back. “I c-c-c-can’t. You-”
“I’m going to a photoshoot after this class, going from heated car to heated building to heated home. I don’t need it nearly as much as you do.” He held it out again. “I insist.”
Normally, she might be inclined to continue this debate, but desperation was overriding politeness. She quickly shrugged off her coat and took his jacket. It turned out to be much warmer than hers was and she felt a twinge of frustration. Why were boys' clothes always warmer?
She nodded her head in thanks just before Ms. Bustier walked into the room.
Sure enough, Adrien left before the school day was over and since it was Friday she wouldn’t have a chance to return it until Monday.
While she was laying bundled up in layers of blankets in her bed, cuddling the Adrien-scented jacket (‘Adrien-scented’ apparently being a mix of lavender, vanilla, and the very very very faint scent of… cheese?), Tikki floated near her, taking in how her chosen had her face buried in the article of clothing.
“Enjoying yourself, Marinette?”
“Hm…? Tikki! I had an awesome idea.” She crawled out of the blanket mound. “When I give it back to him, I can use that to start a conversation with him! From there, it should be easy to ask him to the movies or something, right?”
“Well…” Tikki saw her chosen’s hope-filled eyes watching her and sighed. “It’s a good idea in theory. It is definitely at least worth trying. I know you’ll do your best!”
“Thanks! What could go wrong?”
“Oh my god! Tikki this is a disaster!” Marinette let herself fall face first onto her pillows, a muffled scream escaping.
“Is it?” Tikki zipped to Marinette’s side, hovering near her face. “I thought what he said was very nice. And from the way you were rubbing up against his jacket when you first got it, I thought you’d be thrilled that he let you keep it.”
Marinette cheeks were tinged pink when she looked up at Tikki. “No! I mean, yes, Adrien of all people saying I looked cute in it is the greatest thing ever, but then I just had to embarrass myself.”
“I wouldn’t worry about that.” Tikki giggled. “It is hardly the first time you’ve garbled a sentence to him. I don’t think he minds.”
Cuddling a pillow as she laid on her side, Marinette asked in a small voice, “You think so?”
“I know so. What are you going to do now?”
Marinette ran her hands over her newly acquired jacket. “Well, if it’s mine now, then it better make it look like it. Care to give me a hand, Tikki?”
Seated at his desk, Adrien was flipping through the last few pages of the assigned reading and fighting back a yawn. He hadn’t slept well last night and it was going to take everything in his power not to accidentally fall asleep in class. How hard could it be?
Closing his book, he glanced at the clock. Still ten minutes before class and the room was mostly empty, just the sound of Ivan’s muffled music and Nathaniel’s quick pen strokes. It probably wouldn’t hurt to rest his eyes. Just for a moment. Just long enough to help shore up his energy for the day. His head gently settled on his arms and his eyes slowly closed. Before he could fully relax, he heard the door open and heard something be placed in front of him.
The object turned out to be a hot cup of coffee from a place a couple doors down. He smiled sleepily and took a deep sip gratefully. “Thanks, Nin-” He looked up. It was not Nino. It was a figure of beauty wearing what may have once been his jacket but was now so much more. His cheek heated up when two additional observations warred for his attention.
First, the figure was Marinette, but then, who else was it going to be? Second, the cup he had just sipped from had lipstick on it and Marinette was digging through her pockets - although she stopped to stare at him just as hard as he was staring at her. He just took a swig of someone else’s coffee like some sort of creep.
Very carefully, he set the cup back on the desk, feeling the burn of embarrassment on his cheeks as he rubbed the back of his neck sheepishly. “S-sorry. I’m kinda out of it today.”
Her own cheeks lit up. “D-don’t worry about it! You- you can have that one if you want.” Her eyes widened and she held out her hands. “Not that I think you’re gross or anything! I don’t mind your saliva at all! I mean-”
Adorable as it was, he mercifully cut into her rambling. “Are you sure? It’s your coffee.”
“Y-yes.” She bit her lower lip to contain a giggle. “It looks like you need it more anyway.”
“That bad, huh?” He smiled. “Well, thanks.”
She took her seat behind him as he nursed the coffee. A few minutes later, he mustered up the courage to turn around. “Hey, Marinette?” Her head shot up from her doodling. While he was curious as to why she suddenly slammed it shut, he pressed on. “I really like what you did with my jacket.”
“Could you tell me more about all the changes you made to it? Maybe over a coffee?” He shook the mostly empty cup in front of him. “I kinda owe you a cup anyway.”
“No, no I couldn-” Alya nudged her hard in the side. “I mean, yes! Yes, that sounds great! After class today?”
Adrien nodded. “It’s a date then!”
I might have a problem, ending chapters on promises of future dates and all.
Chapter 20: Dressed Up
An Animaestro rewrite, with a lot less side drama.
Adrien put on a bright smile and fought back the weariness as the cameras flashed around him. While he was super excited to see the Ladybug and Chat Noir movie, lending his voice to the role of Chat Noir made him uneasy. But his father had insisted and Plagg had been no help, simply cackling once they had reached the privacy of his own room. For once he was glad he and Ladybug hadn’t revealed their identities to each other - he wasn’t sure if she would taunt him mercilessly or be angry with him, but he couldn’t imagine she’d be as tickled as Plagg was with this turn of events.
Now he had to make another public appearance with Chloe hanging on his arm for the entire time. Again. That, more than anything, was going to drive him crazy today. He sighed internally as he waved at the cameras. Anything would be a welcome reprieve from an annoying next couple of hours. He finished giving a smile for all the cameras and entered the gathering proper. That’s when he saw her.
Marinette was standing in the middle of the room, watching him with a deer in the headlights look that he had grown accustomed to - it was the same look she had whenever he caught her staring at him. What was different today was her outfit: instead of her normal clothes, she was wearing a black and white waitress uniform with a light pink skirt. He smiled to himself when he recognized the flower pattern on it - she must have made it herself then. The hair band she wore completed the look, but it mainly served to make him realize she was wearing her hair in a bun instead of her usual pigtails. His heart skipped a beat when several things followed that realization in rapid succession.
First, Marinette in a bun? Peak adorability. Second, were her eyes always so bright and gorgeous? Third, is it hot in here? It felt fine just a minute ago. Maybe they have the heater cranked up high... in… summer…? Weird, probably best not to dwell on that. Fighting down a surge of warm feelings, he waved at her and was ecstatic when she waved back. Unfortunately, his plan to close the distance between them went off the rails immediately when the platter of macaroons (that he only just noticed she was holding) that she was holding almost fell out of her hands. He caught of flash of something going rolling and she was gone.
His smile vanished along with her as he immediately lost her in the crowd. Whatever she lost must have been super important. Maybe she was part of the catering service? If that’s the case, she probably wouldn’t want him to bother her while she was on the job. Knowing her, she’d certainly let him, but would be too sweet to say anything about it. Despite the sound logic, he felt let down and looked for somewhere out of the way for him to avoid Chloe. He could already hear her barking at someone and moved in the opposite direction…
...Only to bump right into Mayor Andre Bourgeoisie himself. “Adrien! It’s good to see you, young man. I know Chloe’s been looking for you. Say, how is…”
He painted a pleasant smile on his face as he listened politely to the mayor ramble, but before he could get too zoned out of the conversation he heard Marinette’s voice.
“Excuse me, pardon me!”
Turning his head towards the sound, his eyes widened when he saw her crawling on all fours on the ground, as if looking for something. He bit his lips to fight down a smile. No matter what Chloe said about her, Marinette was always nice to have around. She at least made things interesting. Excusing himself from Andre, he walked towards Marinette. Before he could make it to her, his foot brushed against small Dupain-Cheng package with a very fancy, well made macaroon enclosed within.
He looked back over to her and had to fight down another laugh. She was half under a table, frantically searching the floor and profusely apologizing to everyone she brushed up against. He picked up the packaged macaroon and turned it over in his hands. Maybe this is what she was looking for?
Reaching under the table to place a hand on her shoulder, he startled her and she bumped her head against the bottom of the table. Her hands went to her head as she sat on the floor. He crouched down beside her and held out the macaroon.
“Here - I think you dropped this?” He put on the most reassuring smile he could muster, to help put her at ease. Some days were better than others with Marinette. Unfortunately, today seemed to be one of her bad days.
Her face flushed and she reached out for the macaroon, only to shake her head. He helped her to her feet, which only caused her to blush more, but she pressed on. “N-no! Not me for special you!” She shook her head. “I mean- I made that for you. Specially.” Her mouth clicked shut, allowing him to process her words.
So… the macaroon… was for him? He opened the packaging, noticing out of the corner of his eye that Marinette was watching him with baited breath. For a moment, he paused. This macaroon had been rolling around on the ground. It was in packaging, unlike the others on the tray that she had been carrying, so it probably wasn’t as fresh. Then again, this was something Marinette had made specifically for him.
Without another thought, he took a bite. His second genuine smile of the day dawned on his face. “Passion fruit! My favorite! How’d you know?”
He would always cherish the way her face brightened with a smile when he said that, as if she had been waiting her whole life for it. There might have been some truth to that, since her response was automatic, almost reflexive, “It’s because you’re so special to me. It’s as if I’ve known you forever.” Her eyes widened in shock after she said it. “Can… can you forget I said that? Please?”
“Ah... no. Sorry.” Panic flashed in her eyes before quickly giving way to hopelessness. He stepped beside her and gently put a hand on her upper back, guiding her toward a relatively empty corner of the room. It took him a few moments after they got seated before he could begin talking, but not because of any fear of being overheard. Rather, he got sidetracked in seeing how the light played on her hair and the way she wrung her apron in her hands, how her brilliant blue eyes only tentatively met his green ones. Once he shook himself out of it, he flashed her a very Chat Noir grin, all cockiness and bravery to help hide the butterflies in his stomach. “So I’m special to you, huh? How so?”
Chapter 21: Tactician
With a busy day planned, it will take all of Marinette's skills to make good on all her promises. But will the pressure get to her before that happens?
“Chris, Manon, please! Can’t you two just get along?”
Nino’s younger brother crossed his arms and stuck his nose in the air. “No way am I going to play pretend like a baby!”
“Marinette!” Manon was holding onto Marinette’s arm, dragging her down with her weight. “He’s so boring! All he wants to do is play video games! Can’t we play without him?”
“We all need to do something together. We just need to decide on what-”
“Then play with me!” Manon suddenly let go of Marinette to begin running around the living room, already making an unholy mess of things.
“I am not going to act like a baby. I. Am. A big boy!” Chris, acting like the big boy he was, stamped his feet in anger and crossed his arms.
Marinette groaned, burying her face in her hands.
“Ahhh… I feel building frustration. The burden of too many responsibilities weighs heavily upon her heart… such easy prey for my akuma.”
Hawkmoth held out his hand in the pale light filtering in from the ornate window. A glowing butterfly landed on the outstretched appendage. After a moment of focus, he charged it with negative energy and released it.
“Fly away, my little akuma, and evilize her!”
Taking a deep breath, Marinette rubbed her temples for a moment. “How about…” Marinette snapped her fingers and turned to Chris. “Okay, Robo Tech Ultimate Destructor. How about you help us liberate the land of rainbows and sunshine from the evil monsters from another world?”
Chris didn’t look back at her, arms still crossed, but after a moment of tense silence he asked, “Can I really be Robo Destructor?”
“Of course! Just play nicely and we can all free the princess kingdom together.”
With a big smile on his face, Chris rushed to his backpack, where Marinette knew several toys waited to be played with. With her hands on her hips and everyone’s backs turned, no one noticed the black and purple butterfly flutter within mere centimeters of Marinette’s back before retreating.
“What?! Where did those powerful negative emotions go?!” He slammed the end of his cane into the ground and put both hands on its head as he looked into the light, deep in thought. That crackling frustration could’ve made a powerful akuma. So powerful, he could still sense the undercurrent of raw emotion bubbling beneath the calm surface. He would need to keep an eye on this one.
“You may have escaped this time, but no one can hide from their emotions forever.” He closed his eyes and angled his head toward the ground, tuning his miraculous-gifted senses toward the young woman as he let his own anger fade into the background. “It is only a matter of time…”
“It was no trouble at all, Mrs. Chamack!”
“I’m sorry I had to ask for your help at the last minute, but I really am grateful for your help. Say hello to your parents for me when they get back!”
“Don’t worry, I will!” Marinette let the pleasant smile drop from her face the moment the door closed behind them. Falling to the couch, she allowed herself a moment of respite before she needed to go man the front of the bakery. With her parents out of town for the weekend, she was responsible for ensuring that the few orders that needed to be picked up today got to the customers without problems. It was especially important since the last time they trusted her like this, only akuma time shenanigans allowed her to avert disaster.
Normally, it wouldn’t be a problem. Unfortunately, she also had to get a package to Rose and make it to Alya’s in time for her sleepover. Rose desperately needed that hat for some charity play she was doing, but couldn’t leave to meet her since she was stuck helping with the set up today. Meaning that Marinette needed to hand deliver it to Rose on her way to Alya’s. And she couldn’t leave until the last customer arrived to pick up their baked goods.
She spared a glance for the three boxes that were left - a cake, a batch of macaroons, and a fresh dozen cookies she made today. Her finger tapped a rapid pace against the front counter. If they didn’t arrive soon, she might not make it to Rose in time. Not for the first time that day, she felt some bitterness rise up within her. Why did she always accept these odd jobs from people? She was swamped enough as is just being Ladybug and working on her own projects, not to mention helping out with the bakery and her duties as class president.
Her finger continued its rapid tempo as the pressure mounted.
Hawkmoth’s eyes flared open as he felt it once again. “Ahhh, I thought there was something familiar about these feelings. If only I had known that this girl’s emotions were so powerful!” Not to mention, she was the last in Adrien’s class besides his son himself that hadn’t been akumatized. The perfectionist in him yearned to complete the set.
“You failed once before, so be swift, my little akuma! Make haste and evilize her while her bitter rage is still strong!”
Marinette closed the shop behind her, hefting two big bags stamped with the Dupain-Cheng bakery logo in each hand. It was times like this she was thankful for the greatest workout of all - saving Paris on a daily basis. Sitting still and waiting for time to run out didn’t sit well with her. If she was going to be late, she was going to do it on her own terms!
She pulled out her cell phone to call the customers individually. “Hello, Mr. Ramier?” She listened to him for a moment. “Stuck at home? Well, I was just on my way out. Do I mind if I make a delivery? Oh, it’s not problem at all! I’ll be there in just a few minutes.”
Hustling faster, she made her calls, frustration sliding off her as she seized the initiative. A plan was already forming in her head. If she took this route, she might just be able to make it to all the customers and drop off Rose’s hat in time! If she was quick about it, she’d even be able to make it home, pack her bags, and make it to Alya’s without any trouble!
Once again, a purple butterfly fluttered confusedly in an empty bakery before flying right back out again.
When the butterfly returned, Hawkmoth dropped his transformation and became Gabriel once again. While his pride demanded that he see this through, he had a meeting with some investors that couldn’t be postponed again.
A shudder went down his spine as he imagined her with the Ladybug miraculous. Ladybug was a tough enough opponent as is - functional immunity to his akumas would kill his best hope of taking her miraculous.
The skylight closed, casting the room of butterflies into complete darkness.
Chapter 22: Rare Pair
Marinette attends the wedding of Juleka and Rose.
Marinette dabbed at the tears in her eyes as she listened to Rose’s rambly but sweet wedding vows. The brides were looking amazing in their dresses - Rose’s light and airy and a blinding white, contrasting well against Juleka’s all black gown with purple accents. Honestly, Marinette was still surprised to have been asked to be her maid of honor, doubly so when she learned that Juleka and Rose had fought over who gets her. Still, Marinette felt that Alix made an excellent maid of honor for Juleka, especially in her snazzy pink tuxedo with a black tie. Although all this standing still seemed to be wearing on Alix’s nerves. It was a testament to her love for her friends that she had tolerated it for this long. At least she got pants - the rest of the bridesmaids were wearing the pink bubble dresses that Rose had wanted, while rocking the black eyeliner and lipstick that Juleka asked for.
The corner of Marinette's lips pulled up in a faint smile. With such divergent personalities, a lot of similar compromises had to be made.
Sniffles at her right briefly drew her attention to Mylene, who was having an even harder time than Marinette at holding things together. Despite the preventive waterproof mascara, Marinette was still worried that Mylene would have some streaks of black running down her cheeks before the end of the day. She shifted her grip to hold onto the bouquet with one hand and let the other brush against Mylene’s hand. She took it gratefully, the only non-verbal consolation Marinette could offer during the vows.
Her attention shifted to the officiates, the first two out of the class to have gotten married - Alya and Nino, dressed in their best attire and two years of marriage going strong. As Juleka had told Marinette during the planning, they admired their steady relationship so much that Rose and her wanted them to ‘start them off right.’
Juleka began her vows and Marinette let her eyes drift across the room at all the other guests packed into the park. She recognized it well - it was where she had helped break Juleka’s photo curse. According to Rose, it was also the site of their first kiss and consequently it was where Rose had decided to propose to her high school sweetheart. Where better a place for them to make their love known to the world?
Speaking of love, she caught sight of Adrien standing near one of the doors. Along with Max, Kim, and Ivan, he’d been an usher. Being the love-sick sap that he was, tears were openly running down his face and she felt her heart skip a beat. He was, after all, her love-sick sap.
Soon enough, the vows were over and the festivities could begin. Just before she reached him, she saw Adrien fiddling with something in his pocket. It took all her focus just to get through the crowd to him, so it quickly faded from her mind. Only later, after they’d returned to their apartment, did she remember when she saw the rose petals and champagne.
It turned out to be a wonderfully happy day for everyone involved.
Chapter 23: Family
A young Marinette gets a visit from her grandmother on her birthday.
“Happy birthday, my fairy!”
“Nonna!” Marinette rushed out of her room to greet her grandma, wrapping her arms around the older woman’s legs.
“Oh my, have you grown, Marinetta! I can’t believe you are already five!”
Marinette giggled. “Grandma, I’m seven!”
“My! How time flies, little one.” She picked up Marinette and kissed her forehead. “Hopefully not too old for presents, yes?”
Laughing, Gina replied, “That’s what I like to hear.” She rolled up on her toes to kiss her son’s cheek. “And how are you doing, dear? Is all well with the bakery?”
Marinette lost interest as they talked about boring adult things. What did catch her interest was the bag of wrapped presents her grandma had brought her. It wasn’t often that she got to see her, but everytime she did, something amazing followed. Which wasn’t too surprising, given the letters and postcards her grandma sent to keep her updated on her adventures. Adventures which were often played out in her field of dolls and handmade scenery. Even if Marinette… embellished those stories a bit. Exciting as her romp through the Gobi desert was, it probably hadn’t actually involved aliens battling nomadic horsemen. Thinking of those letters, she gasped and tugged on the lapel of her grandma’s leather jacket
“Nonna, nonna! How’d you get past the guards to the Pyramids?!”
Chuckling, she replied, “Oh, one of them owed me after I beat him in a cheekers match.” She set Marinette back down. “Now, are you ready for your presents?” Bouncing up and down in excitement, Marinette was too eager to give a response. “I’ll take that as a yes, my little fairy. First, here is the candy that you so like.” She passed a tin of Befana candies to her, which Marinette carefully unwrapped. They were every bit as delicious as she remembered them being.
“And here, I had my Algerian friend sew this for you.” Gina passed her a small quilt, just her size.
Immediately, her eyes widened as she set the candy on the table, completely forgotten. Marinette didn’t see it, but her papa and grandma shared a pleased look behind her back. If the quilt was good enough to pull her attention away from her favorite treats, then Gina must have knocked this one out of the park.
The quilt was absolutely beautiful, a colorful array of geometric patterns. She reached out to touch it, shocked at how soft it was, prompting her to hug it close and wrap it around her.
“What do you say, Marinette?” Her mother chided with a smile.
“Thank you, Nonna!” Her face scrunched up in thought. “Your friend… made this?”
“Of course! Every seam holds love and dedication in it, the mark of any true artist.”
It had never occurred to Marinette that something so beautiful could be made by hand. Sure, she had seen her parents make food, but that was different. Something sparked inside her and she saw the surprise written on her grandma’s face when she looked up, tiny face set in determination.
"I wanna make quilts when I grow up! For all the little girls!"
Her grandmother beamed at her bright enthusiasm. "Well darling, you make all the quilts, or really, all the dresses and jackets and scarves and purses you want to."
Marinette’s eyes grown impossibly wide, swimming with the realization that you design more than one item, "I'm gonna make all the pretty things, grandma! The best, prettiest things in the world!" All the adults chuckled at her declaration, but Marinette was quiet, the gears in her mind turning so quickly that even the churning of fate had to work to keep up
Chapter 24: Girl Squad
The girls go out for a day of shopping.
Normally, Marinette loved her friends a whole lot and while today was no different, it was times like this that reminded her that they were a motley crew of clashing personalities.
It was theoretically a straight-forward day out with the girls, the time honored tradition of hanging out and shopping. Excluding Alix, there was no argument there. The real debate happened once they tried to decide on where they wanted to go shopping first. The order was important since their reservation was at six and if they took too long in the stores they wouldn’t be able to go everywhere they wanted to and make it on time.
“I hear this place has the best fandom merch in the whole mall. That’d be our best place to start, right?” Juleka pointed out a new shop on her phone’s map. Marinette had never been there, so she hadn’t heard much about it. “I’ve been meaning to get some stuff for my favorite horror game.”
Of course, the longer they spent arguing, the less time they had to actually do anything.
“Well, I happen to know that the best Ladybug and Chat Noir stuff is over here,” Alya tapped her finger on another store across the mall from the first. “And I need the new action figures of those two for… reasons.”
Fanfic reasons, Marinette corrected mentally. Although she wasn’t supposed to tell anyone about that. After all, the moderator and founder of the Ladyblog couldn’t be seen making mushy Ladynoir fluff if she was to continue to be taken seriously as a hard-hitting news reporter.
“Oh, but if we go there, then we won’t be able to stop by the flower shop!” Rose looked up at them with wide, pleading eyes.
“Rose, sweetie, you don’t ever buy any of the flowers,” Juleka sighed.
“So? I like how they smell and they all look so pretty! If I buy one then I’ll end up buying all of them and I can’t afford that.” She plopped her head onto Juleka’s shoulder and groaned as the taller girl patted her head.
“I’m with Juleka,” Mylene spoke up in the lull in the conversation. “Ivan’s birthday is coming up and that place has the best chance of getting some Zombie Skull Crusher merch that he doesn’t have yet.”
Alya looked at Alix, “What about you? Any preference?”
“Yeah… somewhere to eat before I get to trounce you guys would be awesome.”
Alya pinched the bridge of her nose. “Right, you don’t like shopping. Weird, but I love you anyway, girl.” The moment she was dreading came when Alya turned to her. “Well, girl, care to back me up here?”
Taking a deep breath, Marinette slipped in class president decision-making mode. “Well, we have three options and limited time, so I think we should take Juleka’s idea first - you don’t know, Alya! There’s a chance you’ll find the dolls there, and if not we can head to your store next.” She looked at Rose with a sad shrug. “Sorry, Rose. That means yours is last. We’re going shopping today, not window shopping. We’ll try to make it if we can!”
With that settled, they got to shopping. The store Juleka had chosen turned out to be deceptively large, with a whole wide range of niche fandom merchandise there. They split up pretty quickly, but Marinette made sure to keep tabs on her friends while sticking to Alya’s side to help her find the dolls. From the brief glances Marinette caught of Alix, she could tell that even Alix was having fun perusing the wide selection. It didn’t take long for Mylene and Juleka to find something and with their help they tracked down the latest in Ladybug and Chat Noir action figure technology.
While they were in the area, Marinette snagged a pair of Chat Noir cat ears - she always felt kinda bad that people bought her stuff more often than his and she was happy to support him like this.
Since Alya was taken care of, they were free to visit the flower shop, which had Rose humming happily the whole way over. Poor Juleka could barely keep up with Rose power-skipping (A variant of power walking unique to Rose) while dragged her girlfriend by the hand toward the store. While they didn’t end up walking out with anything, Marinette had to admit it was nice to literally stop and smell the flowers.
Their last stop before their reservation was at the buffet, much to Alix’s enjoyment. The row of food stands lead to everyone spreading out again before coming together with a wide mixture of different lunches. Alix was done before anyone else, leading her to wait for the rest of them by skating up and down the restaurant avenue.
Once they were all finished, they made their way to the reservation at the bowling alley. Marinette wasn’t sure how this ended up being a tradition of theirs, but it was something all of them could get behind. As they all got geared up, Marinette smiled. Despite all their differences, they could all find common ground with each other. Because of that, Marinette knew they’d be friends for years to come.
...Or maybe a bit less if Alix kept being this obnoxious when she won.
Chapter 25: Fashion Show
Marinette has her first fashion show out of university.
Never before in her life had Marinette been this nervous. Which was frustrating to her - after almost a decade of fighting akumas, befriending celebrities, and being class president, what did this little fashion show think it was, making her so scared? Yet here she was, quivering behind the curtains and making last minute preparations for her first solo show following university.
She jolted as arms wrapped around her from behind and a chin came to rest on her shoulder. “Bugaboo, we’ve got it handled back here, okay? Just sit back and enjoy the show.” He kissed her cheek and pulled back, but she wasn’t about to let Adrien escape that easily.
“You know, you don’t have to do this. If you had liked modeling, you wouldn’t have quit the moment you left school.” She turned around to put her hands on the side of his face. “I don’t want you doing something you hate just for me.”
He grabbed her wrists and pulled her hands off his face, kissing one of her palms. “I don’t hate modeling, it just isn’t something I wanted to do forever. But even if I did hate it, I would do it in a heartbeat for you. I know how much this show means to you, and I’m not about to stand on the sidelines and do nothing.”
Shaking her head and smiling, she asked, “What did I do to deserve you?”
Adrien laughed. “Hey! That’s my line.” He began walking backwards and told her, “And don’t worry about dinner - I’ve got that covered too!”
“Oh come on! How am I supposed to thank you now?”
His only response was a grin and a wink before he was lost to the crowd. She rolled her eyes, smiling all the while as she made her way to the other side of the curtains to take her place front and center in the audience. Their apartment might not have been the largest space, but living together with Adrien had been some of the most blissful years of her life - even as the stress of university and work had gotten to her.
Speaking of stress, she’d been preparing for this day for six months and every single moment of that time she’d been a bundle of anxious nerves. Her favorite teacher and overall best mentor out of university had been encouraging her to do this for ages, and her unwavering faith in Marinette’s abilities had been one of the few things that convinced her to go through with it. But the time for working had come to an end and all that was left was hoping that the show went according to plan. It was hard enough when she could work to quiet her nerves, but now all she could do was watch and pray that it all worked out. The lights dimmed and the first model strode confidently onto the stage.
Her worries melted away as Adrien sauntered down the catwalk, his modeling abilities still at their peak despite his absence from the profession. When he reached the end, he was mere feet from Marinette and for the briefest moment he broke character and smiled reassuringly down at her.
Everything was going to be okay.
Chapter 26: Jagged Stone
Marinette's gotten into some trouble at school and there's only one person who can get her out of it.
“I demand you do something about this ridiculous loser!” Chloe stuck her finger in Marinette’s face and while every fiber of her being wanted to bite the digit mere centimeters from her nose, she settled for glaring daggers into the back of Chloe’s head.
“Ms. Bourgeois, from what I understand Ms. Dupain-Cheng did not push you. You simply tripped after a shouting match between the two of you - which, by the way, we will have to contact your parents over.”
Sometimes Marinette pitied Principle Damocles, especially in times like this. It can’t be easy trying to do the right thing when all the power was in evil hands. Hands which even now had their finger hovering over the call button on her cell phone.
“I don’t think my daddy will appreciate being interrupted in the middle of his important mayor stuff.”
With a long suffering sigh, Principle Damocles turned to Marinette. “I will need to speak with your parents immediately.”
She winced. It was the midday rush, so there was no way they could leave the bakery without getting a lot of angry customers out of it, and she told him as much.
“Very well. Hand me your phone. There must be someone we can contact.”
Bemused, she did so, mentally running through the other family members she had saved in her phone. Her Uncle Cheng and Grandma Gina weren’t even in the country, so they weren’t an option. Her other family were either close enough that they didn’t need to be in her phone, or weren’t in contact frequently enough to warrant it.
Yet, somehow Principle Damocles found someone and called them.
“Yes, hello is this-” He paused and listened to the voice on the other end. “No, this is Principle Damocles. Your niece has gotten herself in trouble and-” He pulled the phone back from his ear when yelling came from the other end. “Hello? Hello?” Turning back to the two girls, he said, “Well, he said he would be here in a few minutes, so we’d best wait.”
Marinette wracked her brain to try and figure out who he’d called. Niece? She didn’t have any uncles besides Uncle Cheng and her only aunts were in China. Just who was on their way here? Things clicked just a moment before the door burst open.
In walked Jagged Stone, face a mask of righteous fury and Penny hot on his heels. While Penny stood behind Marinette and squeezed her shoulder reassuringly, Jagged stepped into the middle of the room, arms crossed as he glared down Principle Damocles. “Now what’s this about my little lady being in trouble?”
Principle Damocles explained the situation, “These two were reported having a shouting match in the school courtyard, and Ms. Bourgeois claims that Ms. Dupain-Cheng got rough with her in the process.” Jagged looked dubious and turned to Marinette for an explanation.
“Chloe was picking on Rose and Juleka again, so I stepped in to get her to back off.” She put her hand over her heart and met Jagged’s then Damocles’ eyes, “I promise I didn’t touch her.”
“Standing up for your friends is super rock and roll of you, little lady.” Jagged fist bumped her and turned back to Principle Damocles, his eyebrow raised. “Looks pretty clear cut to me.”
Before he could respond, Chloe stood up with a huff, brandishing her phone like a weapon. “My father won’t be pleased to hear about this if you fail to punish her!”
Jagged put his hands on his hips. “Well, if you call your old man, put me on the line so I can tell him I don’t do business with skum who abuse their power like that.”
Chloe’s eyes widened - even she realized that losing Jagged as a customer would hurt her father’s bottom line too much to risk getting involved. “But- But!”
With a barely concealed smirk, Principle Damocles held up his hand. “No buts, Ms. Bourgeois! You will be facing detention for bullying your classmates. Ms. Dupain-Cheng, Mr. Stone, you are free to go.”
Once they were out and the door closed behind them, Marinette hugged Jagged. “Thanks! I’m sorry you get called out for something like this.”
“Don’t sweat it, you’ve done plenty for me, I’m happy to return the favor.” He grinned as he left, “Rock and roll!”
Penny hung back while Jagged went to his waiting limo. “Don’t hesitate to call if something like this happens again. If she can’t be punished for her wrongdoing, I don’t think that girl will ever change.” She gave Marinette a hug. “Good luck, sweetie.”
Marinette waved them off, surprised at the direction her day had taken, but not unhappy with it. Maybe Penny was right - maybe now, without her get out of jail free card, she could finally get Chloe to see the error of her ways.
So this chapter was inspired by a tumblr post and the comic it spawned. Normally, I would link to it, but despite my best efforts I could not find it again. If anyone stumbles across it, let me know in the comments and I'll provide a proper link here in the end notes!
EDIT: Thanks to piearsonist on tumblr for finding the comic for me!
Chapter 27: Dear Diary
In the aftermath of Oblivio, Tikki is desperate for any information she can get her tiny paws on. Up to and including checking Marinette's diary.
The bedroom was wreathed in darkness, only the soft glow of the city outside and the moon above providing just enough light to see the general layout of the room. A tiny eye peeked open, watched the gentle rise and fall of her chosen’s chest. Marinette was softly snoring, a good sign that she was out cold. Rising slowly from the pillow, Tikki left her chosen’s side and floated over to the desk.
Darkness may be an obstacle to human eyes, but even the meagre illumination this late at night was enough for kwami eyes to see clearly. Once clear of the bed, she went straight for the thing her chosen had called a ‘magic box,’ phasing through the material and unlocking it as she passed. Heaving the book inside with all her might, she opened it to the most recent page, covering the events of the day.
Tikki was thousands of years old and had made a great many memories - good and bad, she cherished them all. When she suddenly found she was unable to remember what had happened yesterday, it… disturbed her. Marinette had been oddly evasive about the akuma known as Oblivio. Maybe it was misplaced anger at Alya being directed towards her, or maybe Marinette hadn’t appreciated her comment about the picture. Either way, Tikki hadn’t gotten much out of her.
But Marinette told her diary everything. And while Tikki was loathe to do it, she needed honest answers. She began to read.
A lot happened today. Or, at least I think it did? Something had to have - one moment I was running into an elevator and the next I was being held by Chat Noir. If it had just been that, I might not have given it a second thought. We ARE pretty close after all, and maybe something had almost happened to us and one of us had gotten worried. But then Alya showed us the picture…
UGH! I can’t-
Tikki stopped reading and froze when she heard Marinette toss and turn in her bed. Before long, however, she let out a content sigh and Tikki relaxed. A smile found its way onto Tikki’s face - so it was one of those dreams, the ones were Adrien guest starred. She continued reading, sure that Marinette would tell her all about it in the morning.
UGH! I can’t believe she did that! It was a total invasion of our privacy. Just because we’re superheroes doesn’t mean she can post such an… intimate moment. But what worries me more is WHY was I doing it at all? What did he say or do that could possibly have made me forget about Adrien? It’s KILLING ME not to know.
And yet… somewhere in the back of my head… It felt… right? Like, if I don’t focus on the memory, I can almost remember, if that makes sense, but the moment I try, it vanishes.
Well… thats all for today, diary. Hopefully I’ll have more to report tomorrow after my patrol with Chat Noir.
Bleh. He’s going to be insufferable, I can already tell.
Tikki finished reading the entry and let out a sigh. Nothing new, but… if there was anyone who could break through the magic of the Miraculous Cure, it was Marinette. As much as she didn’t want to, she’d have to check tomorrow’s entry too. She returned to her spot next to Marinette’s head and drifted off to sleep.
Marinette landed face first on the bed, fumbling for the lamp as she did so. “G’night Tikki,” she slurred before immediately dozing off.
The kwami smiled tenderly at her charge and planted a feather light kiss on her forehead. “Goodnight, Marinette.”
Patrol hadn’t quite gone down as Marinette had predicted - Chat Noir had been off his game for almost the entire hour they roamed the city. Both of them had been. Tikki could sense Marinette’s clouded thoughts while she had been sustaining the Ladybug enchantment, the frustration and the tenderness everytime she caught sight of Chat Noir. Neither of them missed that Chat Noir had been watching her intently too, but not in his usual lovesick way. It was almost like he had been… searching for something.
Again, Tikki was eager to see what Marinette’s innermost thoughts on this were. She could feel the emotion but not the thoughts behind them. Had the passing of a day helped at all?
There was only one way to find out.
Today was different. First, I wasn’t stuttering around Adrien which, as you know, is majorly weird. I appreciate it, but I’m not an idiot - something had to have happened. But what? Does it have something to do with what happened yesterday? Today it just felt like… I could share anything and everything with him. That we understood each other. Like we’d been together forever.
And the weird thing is… he was acting the same way. It took us a couple minutes of banter before we realized what we were doing and then I was right back to square one.
Oh! One last thing. I had a dream last night. I was Ladybug again and he was there, but it wasn’t like the other times, this felt REAL like REALLY real, like it ACTUALLY happened. But I’ve never kissed Adrien before - especially not as Ladybug.
Tikki stared into space for a few more moments, grasping at the fragments of memory. She couldn’t remember anything exactly, but she could feel the emotion of that moment Marinette dreamt of. Love. Overpowering love.
Putting the book neatly away, Tikki took up her spot next to her chosen and slept the night away.
The following evening, Marinette ran upstairs and scrawled a brief entry in her diary before leaving as Ladybug, a single destination calling in her mind like a beacon. Tikki wouldn’t read that entry, but it sat there nonetheless, locked away in a magic box, away from prying human eyes:
I remembered everything.
Chapter 28: Alternate Career
Marinette attends to her flower shop when a familiar face makes a welcome appearance.
Busy as she was pouring water onto her wide selection of flowers, Marinette didn’t notice when someone enter her shop. She could be forgiven for jumping in fright - after all, the door was supposed to be locked and wouldn’t be opened for another couple of hours. And besides, who would be here this early in the morning?
That question answered itself the moment his arms snared around her waist from behind. She sighed in relief. “Good morning, kitty. What brings you here so early?”
“Missed you.” His voice was muffled since his face was buried in her hair.
“I saw you yesterday!” She laughed. “We talked last night over the phone, even!”
Letting go, he took a step back and held his hands up in mock surrender. “You got me. I just wanted to check up on you.”
She turned around and while everything about his posture suggested the same ease and tenderness he always had around her, there was something in his eyes that made her sad. He was feeling guilty again. Taking off her gardening gloves, she put her hands on her hips and stared him down.
“I’m fine, kitty. Gardening isn’t anything new to me, I’ve loved to take care of plants since lycee. So what if it isn’t designing?”
He couldn’t meet her eyes. “But you could’ve… if it wasn’t for me.”
Her lips thinned into an angry line. He’d been beating himself up for weeks now over this and while she appreciated the sentiment, there was nothing either of them could do about it. The damage had been done. “Adrien, you did nothing wrong. It’s your father that is the problem. Maybe we should have realized he wouldn’t react well to you dating behind his back. But we can’t go back and change what we did.” She took a step forward, anger falling away as she put a hand on his cheeks and made him look into her eyes. “We’re together. That’s what matters.”
“I’m sorry, you’re right.” He shook his head. “Geez, look at me - you’re the one that got blacklisted from your ideal job and I’m the one that refuses to move past it. How do you do it? I’d be a mess right now.”
She shrugged. “It sucks, sure, but let me tell you something.” She stared out the window, eyes looking at nothing in particular. “When I was dreaming about my future, it was always about the life that I would be making with you, not what I was doing to pay the bills.”
Her eyes landed back on his. “I haven’t given up my dream of being a world famous designer, and not even your father is going to stop me. But for now, I’m happy to be a florist with a dorky kitten for a boyfriend.”
Chapter 29: Mominette
Marinette helped the little girl play through the long-winded adventure that she’d imagined. The thrown together scenery, consisting largely of tape, cardboard, scraps of fabric, and markers, contrasted with the pristine store-bought dolls. Despite the glaring differences in quality, she didn’t seem to mind and happily went through the imagined scenario. Marinette had at first tried to follow along, but it was like jumping into the middle of an ongoing saga - which it very well might have been. Her thoughts drifted away as she thought back to how she’d gotten roped into this situation.
Another of mom’s friends had asked for her help and, as always, Marinette couldn’t say no. Unfortunately, she had way too much energy for Marinette to handle alone - she’d only barely gotten the hang of dealing with Manon and that was with help. Her attempt to call for assistance almost failed the moment Alya picked up and Marinette could just feel how sick she was just from a single ‘hello’. Still, Alya had said she’d hook her up with someone and while Alya did pull through…
...Marinette was starting to realize why Alya had snickered after saying ‘hook her up with someone.’
Adrien sat on the couch a few feet away from the action, attention split between watching them with great interest and snapping back to rapidly constructing the pieces for the next scene. While he’d been really helpful so far, she couldn’t help but feel self-conscious with him there. Playing with little kids was alright when she was alone or with Alya, but getting into character in front of her crush was embarrassing. Their eyes locked once again, prompting them both to look away. As she saw her blush mirrored on his cheeks, she wondered what he was thinking.
Adrien watched the two of them playing on the floor and was glad he was sitting. Otherwise his knees might have given way from the sheer cuteness of it all. While he was doing his best, Adrien didn’t have a lot of experience with kids his own age, let alone ones so much younger than him. At least Marinette didn’t seem to mind, even if she sometimes shot him weird looks.
Taking a risk, he looked up from his work again. Marinette was really getting into her role and the little girl was practically rolling on the ground in delight. Which was pretty par for the course so far today. No wonder she got asked to babysit so often - she was amazing at it, like with most things she did. Humming along as he cut up some more cardboard, he figured she’d make an awesome mom for their kids-
His scissors went silent as he froze. Their kids? Where did that come from? He looked back at Marinette and saw her looking right back at him. Did she somehow hear what he was thinking? They looked away immediately, her cheeks flaring as red as his felt. He stole a glance at her, trying to reign in his own mind, but instead it had the opposite effect.
Desperately, Adrien had to ask himself: Just when had he fallen for his classmate with the pigtails?
Chapter 30: Breaking Point
Adrien wasn’t sure why he looked outside his window at that moment. The bed was calling his name after such a long day and he wanted nothing more than to take a shower to wash out all the product they used during the hours long photoshoot. Then maybe change into some pajamas and answer the siren call of his bed. But that’s not what happened - he set his bag on the floor and looked outside, where the gleam of the full moon illuminated a familiar figure standing on a rooftop across the street from his window.
His heartbeat picked up like it always did when he saw her and before he knew it, he’d opened his window and was leaning out of it, openly gawking at her with a dopey grin on his face. Maybe it was the intensity of his stare that got her attention, or maybe it was the sound of his window opening, but regardless he could feel her piercing blue eyes on him, even if the shadows hide them from him.
The elation he felt at seeing her was dampened by gnawing doubt in the back of his head. Something didn’t feel right. Why would Ladybug be out tonight? This was one of the few days in the week where neither of them patrolled. Despite Adrien’s fervent hopes, there hadn’t been an akuma attack to save him from the photoshoot. His gut twisted in dread as his imagination ran wild. He waved, beckoning her to his window. He didn’t know what he could do as Adrien, but something told him that she needed someone right now.
“Hey, did you need something?” Her voice lacked its usual energy and confidence and that was far from the only thing he noticed. There were bags under her eyes, eyes which lacked their usual spark. The entire way she carried herself, even as she effortlessly stood on the thin edge of his windowsill, spoke of exhaustion, both physical and emotional.
“I…” He struggled to find the right words without coming off as weird or intrusive. After all, Chat Noir knew Ladybug as a close personal friend, but she didn’t know Adrien at all. “You just looked like you could use a friend is all.”
A flicker of a smile passed over her face. “You’re sweet, but I really should-”
“Would you like to come in?” He hated to interrupt her, but he knew that if he let her talk, she’d be gone before he knew it. The last thing he wanted was for her to be left alone to stew in whatever emotions were swirling around her head.
“I… don’t know.” Her eyes held hope, even if her words didn’t agree. “I don’t want to impose…”
He gave a shallow bow and gestured to his room. “Please! It would be my pleasure!”
Hesitantly, she swung past him and walked to the middle of the room. A faint smile barely tugged at the corner of her lips. “A nice place you’ve got here.”
“Thanks.” He rubbed the back of his neck nervously. He hadn’t planned this far ahead and his eyes roved around the room just as she slowly spun in place to take it all in. She was facing opposite the computer when he noticed his screensaver showing - a different picture of Ladybug for every monitor. This, more than anything, galvanized him and he rushed forward to put his hands on her shoulders. He gently guided her towards the couch. “Hey, do you like video games?” He asked, despite knowing full well the answer. “I’ve got the newest Mecha Strike, if you want to play.”
A genuine excited smile graced her features and Adrien felt the worry of a moment ago vanish like fog before the sun. “No way! Mecha Strike IV?! I thought it wasn’t out for another week!”
“For most people, yes. But I managed to get my hands on an advanced copy. There’s this girl in my class that I’ve been trying to get an edge over, you see…” He trailed off. It felt weird to be talking about other girls in front of his crush - especially if that other girl was Marinette.
Ladybug got a knowing look in her eye. “Oh really? Well I’d be happy to help you train then. From what I hear, she’s pretty good.”
“You know Marinette?” He racked his brain trying to think of a single instance where the two would’ve met, coming up with nothing.
“Duh! She won that tournament a little while back, didn’t she?”
It seems Marinette’s amazingness precedes her. Adrien smiled at the memory of playing at the Dupain-Cheng bakery. “Yeah, that she did.” He booted up the game on his console and went to the door. “I’m going to get some ice cream. You have a preference for flavor?”
“Strawberry,” she said to his complete lack of surprise. She was already choosing a character and entering into a match against the AI.
When he returned with a big bowl and two spoons, she was soundly beating her robotic enemy with hardly any health lost. His confidence was shaken, but then again, this is Ladybug. Of course she’d be awesome at it the moment she set her mind to it. He could only hope that his training had paid off…
After his sixth consecutive defeat, Adrien leaned back and groaned at the ceiling while Ladybug did a little victory dance on the couch. The ice cream and the apparently easy victories had made her feel better and although it came at the cost of his pride, he felt it was a worthy trade. While she was still reveling in her latest win, he bit his lower lip. Now or never…
“So, Ladybug?” She looked back at him with a mischievous sparkle in her eye and a cocky grin on her face. “How are you feeling? When I saw you out there, you seemed… sad, almost.”
Her grin faded away and Adrien felt like an absolute villain for doing that. “It wasn’t any one thing. I… I can’t really talk about it since, you know, secret identities and all, but… everything just hit all at once and I… I needed some air, I needed to get away from it all.” She looked down, her hands between her knees, looking as uncertain and vulnerable as he had ever seen her. Not since Stoneheart, at least.
He put an arm around her shoulder, surprising her. “You’re welcome to stay as long as you want. Even if you can’t tell me what’s bothering you, maybe I can help you forget about it for just a little bit.” Her smile returned and she took up her controller again.
“I’d like that.”
Adrien lost track of how long they were at it - they’d gotten bored with Mecha Strike at some point. After all, there are only so many times you can thrash someone and still have fun doing it. Another game passed by, but left no memories because for the entire time Adrien was too focused on the fact that despite the size of the couch, Ladybug was so close they were touching. At some point, she’d glanced at the clock and squeaked in shock when she noticed how late it was.
“Oh no! I really need to get home.” Adrien followed her to the window, where she stopped partway through stepping out of it. She narrowed her eyes in thought for a moment before turning back around. She rolled forward on her toes to reach him. “I had a really great time, Adrien. Thank you!”
And then she was gone and he mechanically went through the motions of getting ready for bed. His last thought before being swallowed by sleep was the feeling of her kiss on his cheek.
Chapter 31: Kwami Swap
Plagg has a chat with Marinette.
This entire mess came about when they realized they’d hit some sort of upper limit on their powers. For some reason, no matter how hard they tried they just couldn’t get any more umph out of their miraculous. Her and Chat Noir had resolved to asked their kwami about it and the next time they met, they hid and detransformed to allow their kwamis the chance to talk it over. Marinette hadn’t been able to follow whatever language they were speaking, so when Tikki returned and explained their solution she was… intrigued, but skeptical.
The idea was sound. In theory. At least the way Tikki had described it, with all that talk about harmonic energy and balancing forces and things of that nature. Or maybe it was all just a load of mumbo jumbo she made up to break them out of their rut. She’d thought she’d asked all her questions before Tikki had left, but only now, after Tikki was long gone, was she realizing there were plenty of things she probably should’ve asked about before Tikki was gone.
Marinette eyed the tiny black cat that was the source of her partner’s powers. Plagg was… not quite as informative or helpful as Tikki usually was.
“Hey, pigtails. Do you have any camembert around here?”
“Um… no.” She cut short his grumblings, “What about gougeres? We should have plenty of those.”
He sighed in a put upon way. “Well, it’ll have to do, I guess.”
Taking that as her cue to leave, she went downstairs and put together a sampler platter of the handful of varieties they had. There was no telling how long this arrangement would last, but Tikki implied the switch would last for at least a week or two. Best to get a sense of what preferences he had. Maybe pick up some camembert for him if that’s what he really wanted.
Her thoughts came to a screeching halt when she returned to find her room distinctly worse off than when she had left it. Granted, it hadn’t exactly been pristine when she left, but she knew where everything was and the floor at least was clear. Not so anymore, and Plagg didn’t even have the decency to stop when she returned.
“Ooo, what’s this? A secret diary?” Plagg grinned mischievously at her before diving for the book. His panicked yelp when the lid slammed shut and locked behind him brought a satisfied grin to her face. To her surprise, he phased out of the box with a grin of his own. “Devious. I like that. My chosen is way too straightforward for my tastes. Good kid, don’t get me wrong, but usually needs a little… nudge to do things the interesting way. I can tell that won’t be a problem with you, pigtails.”
She set the platter down and crossed her arms as he rushed towards the goodies. “My name isn’t pigtails, you know. It’s Marinette.”
The kwami cackled. “Trust me, I know. Which reminds me,” he pressed on, not giving her a chance to think on what he could have meant by that, “I’ve seen you try to talk with blondie over here,” he floated over to one of the many Adrien posters on the walls, “and even I know that beating around the bush with him ain’t going to help much.”
She sputtered indignantly. “Hey! It’s not easy to confess your feelings for-”
“Yeah yeah yeah, but you know what’s harder? Not doing that ‘cause then you’re living with the uncertainty. Anyway, look at this guy - know what I see?”
“A dreamy gentleman, the boy of my dreams?”
“No.” Plagg made a gagging noise. “A dense idiot. Or, more importantly, someone who will interpret everything you do as platonic unless you say otherwise. Rich, lonely kids like that? They get handed valuable things all the time. Getting told ‘I love you’? Rare. Trust me, I’ve had plenty of chosen like that.”
Plagg grinned evilly. “No buts, pigtails.”
The kwami swap didn’t last very long and soon enough Plagg was back in his proper home, gnawing on a wheel of the finest camembert. As he had predicted, Adrien and Sugarcube had gotten along perfectly, their overly sweet natures melding well together. For his part, Plagg had enjoyed his time with the famously clever Ladybug.
After getting hit by a barrage of questions about what Ladybug was like outside the spots - which normally would be fun to dodge, but at two in the morning were tiresome - Plagg said, “Listen kid, you’d better get to bed. You know I can’t tell you anything about her identity.”
Adrien pouted, but gave in, at least for now.
Thinking back to the advice he’d given Marinette, Plagg smiled to himself. He had the feeling that things were going to be getting interesting soon. If things worked out, he should be seeing his Sugarcube regularly again by this time next month.
And that ends Marinette March! It was a fun journey and an absolute joy to write so much just about our leading lady, who honestly deserves more praise than she gets.