Chloé Bourgeois was not an idiot. She was very smart, thank you very much. Just because Sabrina did most of her homework did not mean that she did not understand what the work was about. She was just tired of doing busy work because the teacher wanted them to.
She didn’t expect this, however.
“Adrikins,” she whined, feeling a small amount of panic rise up in her throat, “what’s that on your collarbone?”
Adrien blinked at her slowly. “What?” he asked, smiling pleasantly but looking incredibly confused.
Chloé sighed and tapped Adrien’s shoulder. “There’s writing under your shirt collar.”
Adrien put down his tea and pulled back his shirt, craning his neck awkwardly to try to read whatever it said.
Chloé felt like she was going to throw up.
“Hey, Chlo, I can’t read it,” Adrien said, his eyebrows pushed together in concentration. “What does it say?”
“It says,” Chloé stopped, “uh, it says, ‘Marinette Dupain-Cheng is Ladybug and you are in love with her.’”
Chloé would have normally denounced this immediately and loudly but… she was a smart person, and this statement actually seemed to make a strange sort of sense to her.
Marinette was clever. She stood up for what she believed in. She was surprisingly strong and agile, even though she was one of the clumsiest people in the world. She helped everybody. And, the most ridiculous of all, she was constantly making excuses to leave the room whenever there was an akuma attack.
If Chloé remembered correctly, she even once said she had to go give birth to a child in the middle of the school day, and for some reason, none of them batted an eye.
Adrien was staring at her as she thought through all of this, his green eyes bigger than she had ever seen them before. “You’re serious?” he asked.
Chloé shrugged. “Why would I lie?”
“To, I don’t know, tease me or something?”
“I would never do that about something so serious,” Chloé hissed at him, suddenly realizing that they were in a very public café talking about the secret identity of Paris’s favorite superhero. “I may be cruel and callous sometimes, but I know how you feel about Ladybug.”
Adrien nodded dumbly.
She tapped her fingers on her mug before sighing. “When did someone write that on you?”
“Do you know whose handwriting it is?” Adrien asked, dodging her question neatly, she noticed.
“It does look like Marinette’s,” she said. “And, well, I guess it could be the truth—she is very similar to Ladybug—but she also has a huge crush on you and has for years now so maybe she wrote it to get your attention.”
His eyes were somehow even bigger. “She’s… she’s what? She’s had a crush on me for years now? Are you serious?”
Chloé rolled her eyes.
“Anyway,” she pressed on, “when did she write that on you? Surely you would have noticed.”
“I’m freaking out right now,” Adrien said. “Like, I might look calm, but everything inside my brain feels scrambled and like a bunch of huge yellow exclamation points.”
She studied his face. “You do look rather ridiculous right now.”
He laughed, a weird, breathy laugh that was abnormally quiet, even for him. “Thanks.”
Chloé sat with him for a moment, letting it be silent so he could think, before rolling her eyes again. “Are you ever going to answer my question?”
“Oh!” Adrien exclaimed. “Um… Oh, god.”
“Is it embarrassing?” Chloé asked.
“No!” he said. “No, it’s just… hm.”
Chloé startled when he reached for her hand and stared into her eyes, so serious, more serious than she ever remembered him being. “Yes?” she asked, hoping she seemed unaffected.
She probably didn’t.
“You can’t tell anyone,” he said earnestly. “This is my biggest secret.”
“What? You have a secret goldfish in your room?” Her heart was thrumming in her ears.
“Be serious, Chloé,” Adrien said, drawing back like he had been stung.
She rolled her eyes again. “Please tell me. I won’t tell anyone. I know how to keep a secret.”
Adrien eyed her nervously and bit his lip, something she hadn’t seen him do for a long time. “Um, okay. I’m…” He lowered his voice and looked around. “I’m Chat Noir.”
Chloé nodded slowly, her mind blank.
“Chlo?” he said after a moment. He was squeezing her hand too tightly.
Chloé sniffed and smiled slightly. “Okay,” she said. “That still doesn’t explain when Marinette would have written that on your collarbone. Actually, I think it makes it a little more confusing.”
“You don’t have… like, questions for me?” Adrien asked warily. “You know, about what I just told you?”
“Oh, trust me, we are coming back to that later,” she said. “I’m freaking Queen Bee and you didn’t bother to tell me who you are? Utterly ridiculous. I thought we were best friends.”
“But we will move past it for now to talk about this,” Chloé said, nodding her head towards his chest. “Was it the akuma from yesterday?”
“Yeah,” Adrien said, shifting uncomfortably and removing his hand from hers. “I genuinely don’t remember much from the akuma attack. Hawk Moth has been creating more akumas that center around love, you know, and this one was… I don’t know if you got caught in its path, but it was… well, suddenly I was an unmasked Chat Noir standing in front of an unmasked Ladybug.” He bit his lip again. “I didn’t know who she was and I was crushed that I couldn’t place her.”
“You didn’t recognize Marinette?” Chloé asked. “I didn’t hear much about yesterday’s akuma.”
Chloé was suddenly struck by the realization that she was being an actual saint for the duration of this conversation. She was so proud of herself.
“No, the akuma made us not recognize those we loved,” he said. “So… I don’t know, maybe she knows it’s me.”
Chloé rolled her eyes. “Oh my god, no, she… trust me, that girl is in love with you.”
“Okay, I know you said she’s in love with me, Adrien, I guess, but…”
She watched him squirm in his chair again. So undignified. His father would never had stood for that. “You think she loves the idea of Adrien and doesn’t love Chat, who is really you, yes, yes, I understand why you’re theoretically upset.”
Adrien blinked slowly at her. Chloé could practically imagine the tail twitching behind him.
“Yeah, I mean… Ladybug has made it clear several times that she does not love Chat, so, she was probably not lying,” he said, shrugging helplessly.
“Ugh,” Chloé said, making up her mind and regretting it instantly. She stood up and put some money on the table. “Come on.”
Adrien hesitated before standing. “Where are we going?”
“To a bakery,” she said venomously. “Because not only do I need to help you through your emotional problems, but now I’m about to go set you up with Dupain-Cheng.” It felt gross to say that out loud, but not as bad as she imagined it would. Maybe knowing Marinette was Ladybug was actually making her appreciate her more.
“Uh,” Adrien started as they left the café.
“And before you argue and say you need some time, just remember that you could have had a whole day to think about this if you looked in the mirror today,” Chloé added. “You’re so dumb. The words were right there for you to see. Imagine if you had taken a shower before you looked at yourself.”
“Thanks, Chlo, really making me feel good here,” Adrien said dryly as they headed in the direction of the Dupain-Cheng bakery.
“That’s what I’m here for,” she said sarcastically.
They walked in silence for a while. Chloé could feel Adrien’s tension rising as they got closer but she pushed the urge to counsel him down for as long as she could take it.
When he started running his hands through his hair over and over, she knew he was about to lose it and she sighed. “You really had no idea she was Ladybug?”
“Not until you read it off my body,” he said.
“Why do you think Miraculous Ladybug didn’t remove it from you?” Chloé asked.
She realized immediately that was Not a Helpful Question. Tension flared up in his shoulders and his eyes. “Uh… I don’t know.”
“Maybe something to ask Master Fu,” Chloé suggested casually.
He looked astonished. “You know Master Fu?”
Chloé sighed. “I know a lot of things, Chat Noir.”
He bit his lip. Chloé winced when she saw some blood settling where his teeth had just been.
“What are you worried about?” she asked.
She was going to be Exasperated soon, she thought.
“What if I disappoint her?” Adrien asked after a moment of excruciating silence.
She wondered how long he had been waiting to ask that question. “Why would Marinette be disappointed that you’re her partner?”
“I don’t, I don’t know,” Adrien said. “Because she’s Ladybug and she’s amazing and wonderful, and I’m… me?”
“What’s wrong with you?” Chloé asked indignantly.
“I don’t know,” he said again. “I’m… quiet and don’t stand up for myself, and I’m a nerd, and not even in the popular way, and I’m just a pretty face.”
“You had that answer ready way too quickly,” she said, coming to a stop and grabbing his arm in one smooth motion. “Adrien, stop.”
He stopped and turned to stare at her.
“Adrien, you are quiet, and you don’t stand up for yourself.”
He laughed, a short, ugly sound that Chloé didn’t like at all. “Thanks.”
“And you are a nerd! And you have a pretty face. But you’re more than that, you know.”
The look on his face indicated that he didn’t know.
Chloé sighed. “I’m not good at this, you know.” At his confused look, she turned and continued to walk towards the bakery. “Advice. Counsel. Helping people. That’s really Marinette’s job.”
“Hence our destination,” Adrien said softly. He slowed down as they turned the corner and the bakery came into view.
Chloé glanced at him. “Do you want me to come with you or leave you two alone? I’ll do whatever you want.”
“Um…” Adrien frowned. “Okay, if I ask you to come with me and then end up asking you to leave, would that be incredibly rude?”
“Yes,” Chloé said. She smiled. “But I would completely understand.”
“Okay,” he said, slightly breathless. He took a few steps towards the bakery, suddenly looking determined. “Okay, let’s go find her.”
Chloé’s smile grew slightly as she followed her friend.
He waved to Mrs. Cheng and ascended the stairs without an explanation, leaving Chloé slightly speechless. How often did he visit Marinette that he felt it was okay to just walk on up?
Maybe she didn’t know her friend as well as she thought she did.
Actually, looking at him from this angle, his balance impeccable as he walked up the stairs, she could almost visualize the cat ears and the tail, and she definitely did not know her friend as well as she thought she did.
Maybe that was a good thing.
Adrien stopped at Marinette’s trap door and took a deep breath. He looked over at Chloé and she gave him an encouraging nod.
He knocked and entered when a small “come in” came through the door.
Since Adrien went in first, Chloé didn’t see Marinette’s first reaction, but she heard the small squeak, and that was satisfying for her. It was always good to remember that Ladybug wasn’t perfect. And when she went through the door to Marinette’s room, well… Marinette’s face was priceless.
“Um… hi,” Marinette said, confusing clear on her face.
“Hi,” Adrien said quietly.
“Hey,” Chloé said brightly. “It’s nice to see you.”
“Um… not that I don’t love the company, but, um, why are you here? Is everything okay?” Chloé watched as Marinette studied Adrien’s body language. Honestly, how she hadn’t figured out that this clever, cunning girl was Ladybug before was beyond her.
“I, uh…” Adrien’s eyes were wide again. He wildly looked around before turning to Chloé, pleading. “I can’t do it.”
“Can’t do what?” Marinette asked, her voice rising in pitch.
“Oh, don’t panic,” Chloé said. She stepped towards Adrien and unbuttoned his top three buttons.
“What?” Marinette almost screeched. “What are you doing?”
Chloé stepped back and held her hand out towards Adrien’s chest. “That’s your handwriting, right?”
“Um…” Now Marinette’s eyes were as wide as Adrien’s.
There was a very long silence as Chloé waited for Marinette to say something.
Oh, dear god, these two were idiots.
Chloé smirked when she saw a small black creature zip out of Adrien’s shirt and tackle a small red and black creature.
“Well, you clearly have a lot to talk about,” Chloé said, clapping her hands together when it was clear that nobody was going to say anything. “If you decide you need to chat with another superhero so you don’t bug out…” She winked at Adrien. Ugh, she was punning now. “Um, I guess, go to Nino instead of me. I am not meant for this job.”
“Nino isn’t a superhero,” Adrien immediately said.
Chloé rolled her eyes so hard she gave herself a headache. “You disgust me, Agreste. You’re ridiculous.” She glanced towards Marinette. “I’m right, right?”
Marinette nodded dumbly.
“Ha!” Chloé grinned. “Okay, talk to you two later. Bye!”
Leaving them still standing there, she quickly went down the stairs and out the door with a quick goodbye to Mrs. Cheng, because, really, she still had manners, even when she had a crazy day.
Chloé walked down the street and took a deep breath. Honestly, the people of Paris had no right to put so much trust into their superheroes. Those dumb teenagers were too stupid to recognize each other even though they had known each other for four years at this point?
Ridiculous. Utterly ridiculous.
Smiling a little to herself, Chloé wondered what Adrien and Marinette were doing. She figured there was a pretty equal chance that they were doing one of three things right now:
1. Still standing there in stunned silence. Idiots.
2. Talking about their secret identities like they should be doing.
3. Making out.
Chloé wondered if she should text Alya to tell her that her OTP was finally canon.
She shrugged. Alya would find out soon enough.
God, she was smart.