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Adrien isn’t exactly sure when he pieced together the heroines’ identity.

 

Maybe it had been when Adrien had fallen atop Marinette after a rather nasty injury during an Akuma attack that resulted in clumsiness and his ankle giving out. He had collided with her, sending the two falling down the steps to their seats, both in the center of the floor, laughing it off together. She had flashed a smile at him, one that he was only used to seeing from Ladybug, kind and full of warmth he hadn’t felt since his mother was alive. He had ended up a stumbling mess just moments after, cheeks flushed and chest warm. His heart fluttered a time or two, but he ignored it, marking it off as something to examine later. [He didn’t have the time and soon forgot.]

 

Maybe it had been when Marinette had given him a hug the same day Ladybug had, the fresh scent of sweet treats sticking on both of the girls. He had frozen up for a split second, though the blue-haired beauty didn’t seem to notice. Instead, she had pulled away after a moment, her cheeks flushed bright pink. She had laughed it off, just like the first time.

 

Or maybe, just maybe, he had finally pieced it together when he heard Marinette yelling during an Akuma attack and mistaken it for Ladybug. It hadn’t helped that he heard the Tikki, spots on just moments later, her voice sounding all too much like his heroine friend and school friend at the same time. His mind had been blurred that fight and he had ended up with a nasty scratch on his cheek, though he knew he could easily blame it on clumsiness if asked. It would get covered by expensive makeup that made his skin look yellow and yucky until the cameras and photoshop came out, tinting his hair and molding him into a figure that he wasn’t, though it seemed plausible all the same when they saw him in real life. He was a lot clumsier than the world thought he was, anyway.

 

He glances at Plagg, eyes wide as he gushes about the girl that he knows is his favorite hero. “Plagg, you don’t understand,” he insists, ignoring the bored sigh coming from the kwami, “Marinette is Ladybug. Not only is she out of my league whenever we’re in our suits, but she also is out of the suits, too.” He throws his hands up in defeat, cheeks flushed red with annoyance and a sadness that he isn’t sure he’s ever felt before.

 

“You’re so oblivious, Adrien,” the creature calls back, flopping down on the desk, not minding as Adrien has his little mental break. “You are a literal supermodel. She’s already head over heels for you! You two have the same best friend group. Alya and Nino are together, which means it’s practically bound for you two to end up together like all that romantic movie crap your mom plays in.”

 

Adrien is quick to shake his head, ignoring his mothers’ mention in favor of spewing out his problems once more. Mentioning her had become somewhat more common between the boy and his kwami, the two trusting each other enough to relay information they wouldn’t dare with any others, such as Adriens’ current dilemma. “No, you seriously don’t get it. She’s so out of my league, Plagg! She’s a million times better than I am!”

 

“How so,” the kwami asks with a quirked brow, hovering over the desk suddenly to examine his holder with a curious eye.

 

“Well, for one, she creates stuff. Great stuff. All I do is destroy things, both in and out of the suit. She’s so graceful. Well, for the most part, but I think her kwami helps with that.” He stops looking at the kwami, speaking with his hands. He uses wide motions, a variety of things going through his head and out of his mouth. He repeats things, stumbles over his words, skips entire chunks of sentences to get out what he wants to be said. It doesn’t exactly make the most sense, but Plagg pieces it together without a single hitch, just like Ladybug patiently did every single time Chat Noir had something like this happen. His hands move with every syllable, yet one of his many habits he had yet to drop. He didn’t care if it had been laid claim as a feminine trait, it was just something he did without noticing most of the time. When he did, he always stopped, but he couldn’t care less at the moment, rambling on and on with a wide grin and star-struck eyes.

 

Plagg only stops him when he sees the other is quickly running out of breath and not inhaling enough, his excitement blurring with worry and anxiety as his thoughts go deeper and deeper into the rabbit hole of comparing himself to his practical idol. He gently presses a paw to the others’ cheek, jerking the blonde’s attention to him. It’s so unlike the kwami, so uncharacteristically soft and different from the jagged edge that every stray cat carried with them. It’s soft and gentle. He’s not making puns and his smile is gone, replaced with furrowed brows and lips pursed.

 

Worry, Adrien’s mind supplies, smile falling, Concern. He’s so far from used to seeing the expression that he instantly sobers up, feeling his stomach churn with guilt. He had caused that expression on his closest companion. His entire mood does a one-eighty, filling with dread. He wants to ask what’s wrong, why he’s looking at him like he was a kicked kitten just barely breathing on the side of the road, but the kwami doesn’t let him.

 

The kwami puts a paw against the others’ lips, eyes trained on the boys’ face and speculating. He’s slow to begin his words. “It doesn’t matter who you are or are not outside of the suit, Adrien. She’ll love you no matter what if she doesn’t already.” Plagg removes his paw, moving to nuzzle his holder’s cheek. “Stop comparing yourself to her. She’s her and you’re you. That’s enough.”

 

Adrien slowly nods, ignoring the way his eyes sting. He holds the kwami close. “Thank you,” he whispers.

 

-

 

Adrien’s cheeks are bright red as he gently knocks on the door to Nino’s home. He didn’t often come over, but his father had given him this one-time opportunity to ditch after rain canceled an entire day of photo shoots. He had made sure the other was home first, though, and that it was alright to come over. The only hitch had been that Alya was over, too, waiting out the storm. Adrien didn’t mind. If anything, her presence was appreciated. After all, who knew Marinette better than Alya, her best friend?

 

Tikki, his mind remarks miserably, but he ignores the comment in order to focus on Nino, who opens the door with a wide smile. He looks much healthier than he had the week before, finals kicking everyone’s asses into gear with stress and questions. It didn’t dare help that Nino had been sick the entire week, anyways. His allergies had practically killed him.

 

Nino is quick to invite Adrien in and get him seated, the blonde sitting between the two lovebirds. Alya smirks and asks, “So, Adrien, what’s this big secret that you wanted to spill? Give me all the juicy details.” She smirks. This wasn’t the first time she had been on the receiving end of the boy spilling secrets. Just a few weeks ago, she had [accidentally] gotten the news that he was trans, though that was mostly because she had walked into the boys' locker room to check on the boys when she had been met face to face with the teenagers struggling to get the blonde out of his binder.



“Guys,” Alya asked, knocking softly on the door.

 

The only response she got was a few grunts and Nino’s, “Come on, man, push,” with Adrien’s breathy, “No, Nino, pull!”

 

She had expected to see something that definitely shouldn’t be don’t on school grounds, something not safe for work, just something that isn’t what she got. She busts the door open with anger firing in her chest, boiling. However, the instant she opened the door, she regretted it. “Oh, God,” she called, cheeks flushing bright red.

 

The two looked like deers caught in headlights. It didn’t help in the least that Adrien already had the Bambi expression down, anyway, not needing any practice. Wide eyes look back at her. His shirt is discarded on the floor, arms jerked above his head, chest out for the entire world to see. She stumbles out of the room, apologizing the entire way there.

 

Adrien later told Marinette, deciding that if two out of three of his friend group knows a secret, the third should, too. Ever since, the two had gossiped together, though Adrien was much more intent on just having information and getting Alya the newest perfumes just before they released than actually getting into any of the drama, anyway.



He sighs softly. “I… I think I have a crush on Marinette,” he announces, letting it out in the open. He knows that he sounds miserable about saying it, but that’s the first time he’s actually said it. It means that it’s real, that he can’t take it back. But, after an entire week of stressing out because of daily akumas and finals and ghosting practically everyone -- Plagg excluded-- in his life without consideration of what might happen, he knows that this was just something that needed to be out there and known, even if it was just for them.

 

Alya looks like she were staring at the best thing she’s ever seen in her entire life the instant she takes in his words, a wide smile gracing her. Her fingers lace together, a clear plan forming, a grin bursting across her features. “This is great! Double dates! Twin themes! Everything about this situation is great, Adrien!”

 

“Babe, Babe, hold on,” Nino calls, motioning for her to calm down. He glances at Adrien. The boy looks like he’d been told his oldest, most cherished pet had just gotten run over. Alya’s excitement pauses that instant. “Adrien, dude, this is good news. What’s wrong?”

 

Adrien can already feel the tears brewing. The incessant burn of them isn’t something he gets comforted by, either. He didn’t come here with the intention to cry and yet he can already feel his throat closing. Of all his friends, he was the only one with yet to cry over anything. Surprisingly, Nino cried the most, often over animals that are just too damn small, Adrien, have a heart every once in a while. Marinette was second most, who cried when she got angry and would happily fistfight someone while sobbing full force. Alya had only cried a few times that he could remember, one of them being over the stress of finals.

 

Adrien? Adrien could only remember the time he stood at his mothers’ funeral, sobbing until his throat felt like it had a boa constrictor around it, burning from the force of it all. The entire time, his father had told him to knock it off, to stop crying. He ignored the way that he found his father sobbing in his study that night, the word hypocrite fresh in his mind.

 

The tears fall and he knows he’s going to spiral. “She’s just so--” He’s not sure why he’s crying. He wasn’t even sure why he almost cried the first time he had talked about this with Plagg. He can’t get the words out, frustrated. He knows that if he bumbles out words the same way he had with Plagg, Nino wouldn’t understand all of it and Alya would barely understand the bumble. It was always like that. The last time he had info-dumped on his friends, only Marinette had been the one to understand. He understood why, now.

 

He ends up info-dumping, all the same. He knows he’s not acting like himself. He was always optimistic, but this girl had captured his heart and he had it bad. He felt so idiotic for not even realizing who she was, but he keeps the fact that she’s fucking Ladybug to himself. He cries, hard. He isn’t ready for love, isn’t ready to watch love get torn apart as it had with his parents, wasn’t ready for someone to stand by and get upset over it. He wasn’t ready for the hurt of his emotions to override the comfort of it. Nothing about this felt normal to him. He hadn’t exactly grown up in the most stable home. His mother had a constant battle with herself if she wanted him to grow into fame or not, but she eventually decided that she did before her husband decided for both of them. He didn’t even get a choice in it, either.

 

He sobs in Nino and Alya’s arms. He sobs about his family. For fuck's sake, his mother was dead and his father had practically abandoned him. His bodyguard and assistant were both better caretakers than anyone else was. They stepped into the parental roles much better than his father had after his wife got sick and they sure as Hell were a million times better than after she had passed. He had shut himself off from anyone that dared pass a glance at him. That had been years ago and the only thing that changed was that he was in public school. Aside from that, he was still actively getting isolated every single day.

 

The two let him cry, let him sob until he’s exhausted himself and the rain is just a pitter-patter against the windows. He quietly ends with, “I’m not ready to be like my father.” He sniffles and wipes his face, out of fight in him, out of tears to cry. For the first time he had cried since his mother’s death. It’s… Relaxing.

 

“I’m sorry for dumping all that on you two,” he whispers, “I feel all better now, so it was pretty pointless.”

 

Alya shakes her head, smiling at the blonde. “No, no, Adrien, this is great! Now, when things happen at home, we have some insight into it. We can help in the future!”

 

Nino nods in agreement with his girlfriend. “Besides, it’s good to just get things off of your chest every once in a while, anyway. It’s not healthy to keep everything bottled up.”

 

Adrien isn’t surprised when he gets a call from his father ten minutes later, demanding he come home. He’s surprised it’s his father, of course, but the angry voice isn’t a comfort in the least. Despite that, he feels about ten times lighter than when he first got there. Plagg is sure to support the chipper attitude the best he can.

 

-

 

Ladybug frowns as she glances at Chat Noir. He stares at the moon with half-lidded eyes, focused on nothing in the distance. She even attempts to humor him, looking off at the nothing he stares at. Eventually, she decides to pry. “Chat, are you alright?”

 

The feline jerks towards her, eyes wide and confused. He hums, a noise of confusion that she isn’t exactly not used to. She’s heard it more than just a time or two before. Chat’s eyes quickly dilate, now focused on his partner, instead. “Sorry, what’s up? I got distracted.”

 

Ladybug’s frown only deepens. She couldn’t name a time he had been so out of it, so lost in focus, so not himself. He got distracted and lost focus easily, yes, that’s just how he was, but this was something painfully different. This was like someone had told him horrible news and he had to stew on it. There wasn’t any child-like wonder that she always took comfort in. There was just stewing emotions and puckered lips. She’s slow to take up her question once more. “You’ve been so out of it this week and you keep getting distracted. Is something going on? Do you want to talk?”

 

Chat Noir’s mouth opens, a small o shape leaving him, eyes wide. He looks surprised that she asked about it, that she even noticed in the first place. She ignores the hurt that presses into her chest with a cold, angry touch. He stays like that for a moment, processing her words, deciding if he’s going to tell her anything or not. He knows he looks odd and sort of like a gaping fish, but he needs a moment. Slowly, he decides that he will tell her.

 

“I like someone,” he supplies, “and I’m not sure what to do about it. The only experience I have with girls comes from bad anime plots, my parents, and our friendship, but that doesn’t count because it’s a friendship. I’m not sure if I’m supposed to give her flowers or what. I’ve never taken her on a date and I doubt my f-- parents would let me go, anyway.” Adrien reminds himself that he hasn’t yet told her that his mother was dead, that it was just him and his dad now.

 

She purses her lips, thinking it out for a moment. She idly comments. “Well, personally, I think I’d go with a date to a movie theater and maybe some flowers, but I’m not sure about this mystery girl. DO you mind me asking what she’s like?”

 

“Well… She’s amazing, Ladybug. She’s beautiful and calming. She’s brave and absolutely astounding in every way I can think of. She’s so passionate about everything she does and all around great.” He continues on with his words, smiling and talking slowly in order not to mess up what he’s saying.

 

Ladybug ignores the pang in her chest at his words. She’d never felt it before, no, so it’s easily ignored.

 

The two talk for hours, discussing date plans and what could happen. It’s good for him to get it out, even if what he’s saying and going to do is actually done with her. He’ll follow her plan exactly and hope she takes the hint.

 

-

 

At five sharp, Adrien knocks on Marinette’s door, already let it by her parents. It had been a week since their plans had first been set and he wanted to get them done with but his nerves ate at him constantly. He knows he’s not exactly dressed the best, but Marinette knew he was coming over anyway.

 

The instant she’s down, he bows in front of her, cheeks red as he presents the flowers to her, a mix of reds that he isn’t exactly sure really goes together, but he knew they were her favorites, so he wasn’t going to dare argue. “I know we were supposed to study, but I wanted to know if you wanted to see a movie, instead.”

 

Her cheeks are bright red when she finally takes the bouquet. She nods, unable to talk through her own nerves. Eventually, she stumbles out, “A-A-Are you ask-sk-sking as a-a-a-a-a- date or-”

 

“I’m asking as a date unless you say no,” he’s quick to say, “then, I’m asking as a friend.” he knows he’s typically smooth as water, but now he’s as smooth as crunchy peanut butter, cheeks brushed with bright red.

 

She’s quick to nod. “Date! Date! Y-Y-Ye-e-es-es-s, a date,” she yelps in reply. “I’ll put these aw-away first!” She scrambles up to her room, door slamming shut.

 

He ignores the yelping and the words passed with Tikki. Plagg smirks, bumping his shoulder. “Go get ‘em, tiger,” he chortles before disappearing.