Actions

Work Header

takes two to love

Chapter Text

For what it’s worth, Adrien would like it to be known that he has never once done anything wrong in his entire life. 

In the annual review from his father, he’s noted as the “epitome of perfection” (though with side notes: could be better). He’s in the Top 10 of the Parisian tabloids “Sweetest Celebrities”. Even the Ladyblog’s viewership voted him “Least Likely to Be Akumatized” last month. In all honesty, Adrien Agreste lives and breathes the whole halo-and-wings uniform, and some swear that celestial hymns are heard wherever he goes. 

If you asked Adrien, he’d tell you that the evidence speaks for itself: he has not, and never will, cause trouble. 

…that doesn’t mean trouble doesn’t happen though.

Because it does. It actually happens a lot.

That’s sort of what happens when you wield the Black Cat miraculous, he figures. No matter how much sunshine runs through your veins, darkness always creeps into the pallor of skin and the silence between heartbeats. It’s not something he can control, even though he’s spent the last few years trying, so all Adrien’s left with is the product of bad luck and cataclysms. 

Basically, it goes like this: Adrien’s been screwed from the moment he was born. 

That’s why when he ends up in situations like this, trapped between his secret identity and a girl, where he’s not left with many options other than to 1) lie, 2) embarrass himself, 3) distract, 4) panic and then 5) …lie really well (not always in that specific order, mind you).   

For all intents and purposes, it hadn’t started off as a bad day—things were actually looking up. His father is on a business trip to London for the rest of the week, Nino and he are going to the movies after school, and he and Marinette have planned a video game marathon this Saturday. But then Lila Rossi waltzs into the classroom with that charismatic smile and glittering eyes, all beautiful and deadly in a way that was way too dangerous, and lights the match on the latest clusterfuck of a forest fire to burn down his life in a few words.

“Of course I have a boyfriend,” she’s telling Alya over textbooks and breakfast. “Like it’s nothing official, but we’re basically dating at this point.” She slips that easy smile onto her face, dazzling anyone caught in her trap. “You can only kiss and tell so many times before something else, you know?” 

Adrien doesn’t mean to listen to her (doesn’t particularly even want to), but he can only absently reread the assigned reading before it turns monotonous and his body practically forces him to be distracted. Unfortunately, Lila’s conversation registers before the thud thud thud of Marinette hustling into the room with two croissants, a coffee cup, and a feral look in her eyes that reads of unnamed horrors and the looming fear of tardiness. 

If it had been three seconds earlier, Adrien would have happily turned to his friend when she entered and asked (read: interrogated) her for the story regarding her latest conundrum (because with Marinette, there always is one). But, like he mentioned earlier, Adrien Agreste is a victim of bad luck on a regular basis, and today is certainly no different. 

“Who could you have possibly been kissing?” Alya asks Lila, the quizzical expression basically trademark of the young investigative journalist. From his spot behind them, he can see the curiosity glinting like a sharp knife in the light, poised to strike. 

“No one special, honestly.” Lila crosses her arms against her chest, Cheshire grin stretching even wider. (Adrien wonders if that hurts her face at all). 

“Come on,” Alya says. She pokes the other girl in the shoulder and laughs. “You always have a story to tell, so don’t clam up now.” 

Lila shakes her head, shoulder trembling, though Adrien can’t tell if it’s due to amusement or excitement. It’s one of the biggest thing that bothers him about Lila Rossi: he can never get a read on her. Body language and expressions have always been an open book to him, having spent much of his time watching instead of doing as he grew up, that he’s normally always able to read a person’s story with ease. Lila, however, is an ever-shifting enigma to him: he’s never able to tell.

Lila.” Alya’s voice drawls out, long and loud. Beside her, Marinette tosses back her coffee like a shot and follows it up with a huge chunk of croissant, crumps stuck to the front of her blouse. “Come on.”

“Fine, fine, fine.” This time, she giggles and clasps a quick hand over her mouth, eyes skittering across the classroom for any potential onlookers. She’s not discrete though; Adrien knows enough to pick up on this, at least. She’s subtle in a way that calls attention to herself, and, as he should have realized sooner, this was Lila’s goal all along. 

Lila leans closer to Alya’s eager ear and whispers (read: at fucking regular volume), “I’m dating Chat Noir.”

 

… 

 

Adrien has never believed in bad luck until he became Chat Noir. Sometimes he wishes that Plagg had been completely honest the day he accepted the Black Cat miraculous about what the powers of destruction entailed, but then against, even with some curse following him around, he probably wouldn’t change anything. So he’s forced to live every day as it comes: finding calm in the calamity. 

Right now, though? Right now, he’s decided he’s going to tie Plagg up in a drawstring bag and throw him into the Seine when he gets home because this is a cruel and unnecessary form of torture. 

Do you know that earth-shattering roar that starts as silence and gradually builds into a crescendo of sound until it’s nearly deafening? Because Adrien can’t hear past that: I’m dating Chat Noir, I’m dating Chat Noir, I’m dating Chat Noir….

Realistically, he should have known she was lying (because that’s what Lila does), but the panic sets into his brain before sense does, and all Adrien can do is open his mouth and say, “You are?” 

(Why didn’t anyone tell me? is his next thought, and he nearly smacks himself in the face for it.) 

“Of course, I am,” Lila says, obviously not prepared for Adrien to be the one to follow her up on the statement. Flabbergasted, Alya stares at the other girl, for once at a loss for words, and the rest of the class is quickly tuning in (because they’re all fucking vultures when it comes to Parisian heroes, god, teenagers are worse than paparazzies). “Do you think I’d make something like that up?” 

If Adrien were a smarter man, he would’ve just left her alone instead of calling her bluff, but to be honest, he was voted “Sweetest Celebrity”… not Smartest. “Yeah, I do.”

The musings and side comments of the entire class quiets. Eyes linger on him and Lila with a ferocity he hasn’t seen since the rare Ladybug collectibles were released to the general public. Alya still hasn’t responded, and Lila burns with a fire he has no hope to putting out. Marinette’s still munching on her croissant and desperately cramming the assigned reading into her brain before class starts.

“You lie about a lot of things, Lila,” he points out even though his voice trembles, his hands tremble, his brain trembles. Danger, danger, Will Robinson. “I’m just not sure why we should believe you this time.” For a brief flash of insanity, Adrien has to check that he hasn’t astral projected into Marinette’s body because this seems like something she’d do, and he wonders when he picked up her temperament towards Lila Rossi. 

“Because it’s true,” Lila points out simply. In a fluid motion, the seventeen-year-old pulls down the collar of her shirt, showing the dark bruise along her collar bone. “Where else would I have gotten this?” 

“Probably from the diplomat’s son at my father’s hotel.” Chloe’s voice, bored and monotone, sounds from the front of the classroom; she doesn’t even look up from the magazine she’s currently flipping through. “I’ve seen you go in and out of his room all week.” 

“Excuse me?” Lila’s cheeks are flushed with streaks of red. “How would you know that? Are you stalking his hotel room, Chloe—” 

“If you’re trying to imply something, Rossi,” Chloe interjects, “I’m gonna stop you right there. I’m way too gay for your shit.” 

There’s silence that lingers between them, everyone too afraid to say a word. Marinette’s slurp of coffee is the only thing heard. 

“Besides,” Adrien tries again, even though he should probably stop while he’s ahead, “Why would Chat Noir be dating you? He doesn’t seem like the type of person to put a civilian in danger.” 

“Because I’m worth it,” Lila retorts hotly. “And if you keep going on about this, Adrien, I’ll have to assume you’re just jealous of us.”

Adrien shakes his head, cheeks burning with embarrassment. “You aren’t dating Chat Noir!” 

“And how would you know?!” Lila stands up in a flourish, hands tightening into white-knuckled fists at her side. 

Adrien suddenly finds himself thrown for a loop, and his mind blanks as he fumbles for an explanation. No proof, no evidence, nothing to back up his claim: he’s basically screwed at this point. What else can he say though? Secret identities, he reminds himself, there’s only so much you can do. The way he sees it, he’s only left with three options for how he should proceed. 

One: Adrien Agreste says he’s dating Chat Noir. (Pros: he can control any rumors and lying would be pretty simple considering they’re the same person. Cons: he’d had to endure Chloe’s wrath that he didn’t say anything when she came out, and it would include a very awkward conversation with his father.)

Two: Adrien lets Lila have her way. (Pros: he won’t have to deal with it anymore but just endure the tarnished reputation of Chat Noir. Cons: he’s a stubborn ass and there’s no way he’d ever do that. If he hasn’t caved to Hawkmoth yet, he certainly won’t cave for Lila Rossi.) 

Three: Adrien has Chat Noir date someone who he actually likes. (Pros: the person would be someone he trusted, so it’s give him some control over the rumors and gossip that follows. Cons: the only person he actually likes who deals with Chat Noir on a regular basis is Ladybug, and she’d never go for that.)

 

… and… 

His mind freezes, his mouth runs before he can process anything. Fuck secret identities, he apparently thinks, even though there’s no room for thinking right now. (He certainly isn’t if this is the option he goes with.)

“Because Chat Noir is dating Marinette.” 

The sound of a coffee cup hitting the floor echoes through the room, and Marinette, who chooses that exact fucking moment to become privy to the conversation, stares at him, wide-eyed with a croissant stuffed in her mouth, and speaks three words that will haunt him for the rest of his existence. “What le fuck?” 

Crumbs dribble onto her blouse again. She doesn’t notice. 

Instead, she stares at him with those soul-bearing crystal eyes that send icy shivers down his spine, and his face just burns and burns and burns. “Y-Yeah,” he squeaks out. “I-It’s okay to admit it, Mari. Y-You’re dating m-m… Chat Noir.” 

He gulps in terror. Marinette’s going to kill him when this is all over; he knows it. 

But the only thing he can do right now is plead with her, whole heart and all, eyes wide and pressing for her to just go along, but he’s also panicking because he doesn’t know how good her telepathy skills are. Somehow though, things seem to click for Marinette. Her expression clears into smooth glass, eyes shuddering shut with some emotion he can’t quite place, and she drops her croissant onto her desk and squares her shoulders to face Lila. 

“Yeah,” Marinette says lowly. “I’m dating Chat Noir.” 

The class erupts. Alya cusses. Lila gasps. Chloe flips through her magazine.

And Adrien?

He’s fucking screwed.

Chapter Text

“Did you know the human brain isn’t fully developed in teenagers?” Marinette’s voice sounds from the last row of desks in the back of the deserted classroom. She drums her fingers against the wooden surface in a systematic rhythm that sounds alarmingly similar to a funeral march.

Adrien gulps.

The text comes before lunch: Meet me in the 329. That particular classroom is renowned throughout most of the school for a multitude of reasons, largely for the make-outs, but right now Adrien’s pretty sure it’s for his take-out.

For a moment, he pauses in the doorway, gaze skittering across Marinette’s form, lounging easily in the desk chair, and tries to see if there’s any knives or firepower hidden away. (The only guns he sees are the ones tucked into the sleeves of her knit sweater, and he wouldn’t put it past her ability to murder him bare-handed. 11 out of 10 people in the school would agree, as Nino’s survey showed last year.)

“That’s… an interesting fact,” he murmurs as he finally enters the room and softly closes the door behind him. It clicks into place, and his heart leaps into his throat, and if you don’t think he’s already mapped out three escape routes, then you’re dead wrong

“Fact?” Marinette cocks her head as if she can’t quite understand him. “No, that’s your excuse."

“Excuse?” From the way her eyes gleam, he suddenly regrets asking.

She presses her lips into a thin line and chuckles without a hint of mirth; it’s not an expression he likes on her. “Yeah, for being stupid.”

“I’m not stupid,” he retorts. He can’t help it—it’s instinct. “I got a 95 on the physics test today.”

“Oh yeah?” Marinette quirks a brow high. “What’d you get about the one with gravity and the guy who got thrown off the building?”

Adrien’s smile freezes. “Funny,” he says. “I don’t remember that one.”

“Hmmm.” She shrugs and locks her eyes with his, the icy blue sending shivering down his spine. “Guess I must’ve just looked ahead.”

…Do you ever wonder what it’s like to watch your life pass by, knowing that you’re about to die? You’d think that after a few years relentlessly battling Hawkmoth for the peace of Paris, dealing with death and chaos on a regular basis, that Adrien would be more inclined to figure out when he’s close to being murdered… But apparently, it hasn’t clicked yet.

Silence lingers between them as a tangible tension, like the ice that freezes over the Seine during early winter: so easy to break, fragile and dangerous in a way that only stupid idiots dared to try. Adrien knows what Marinette’s getting at, but he’s of the opinion, like with most things in his life, that if you ignore it hard enough, then it’ll have a tendency to disappear. (Like his mother.)

Marinette has always been one to surprise him though, such as going along with his desperate lie to Lila in the first place.

“Adrien, we need to talk,” she says softly, and he’s taken back by how quiet she is. If there’s one thing about Marinette Dupain-Cheng that he knows, it’s that she’s only quiet for two things in her life: fashion (that starstruck, breathless wonder) and Lila (that desperate, thou-shalt-not-kill commandeering aura).

(Right now, he wonders where he falls, but the stupid part of him desperately tries not to: maybe she just likes my new shoes.)

“I know,” he finally relents and fiddles with the strap of his bag, refusing to meet her stern gaze. Wordlessly, he climbs the stairs to the last row, slinging himself into the seat beside her and drops his head in his hands. “I screwed up.”

“Screwed implies a mistake,” she comments. Her fingers drum against the desktop: one, two, three. “You fucked up.”

There’s no words needed. Adrien simply groans into the desk.

“One thing I don’t understand though,” Marinette starts, and that’s when Adrien’s heart speeds up a bit because there’s more to this than just his murder apparently. “Is why are you, Adrien, lying to Lila?”

“Excuse me?” he asks because the words lie and Lila sound great in context but not when they involve second-person and Adrien. (Continuing off the idea that Adrien Agreste as never purposefully done anything wrong in his entire life, secret identities and overbearing father’s aside).

Marinette is leaning back in her chair, eyes to the ceiling and lips pursed in a quizzical expression. Her mind is doing that thing that leaves him breathless, running a million miles a minute with no room for recovery. (It’s impressive and somewhat terrifying, especially during their video games marathons). It’s clear she’s trying to puzzle her way through whatever possible excuse he comes up with, probably disproving them before he’s even had a chance to think them into existence.

“Lila lies,” she tells him as if reciting one of the most natural facts of the world. “It’s just what she does, and I know that after dealing with it for two years.”

“Doesn’t stop you from getting involved,” Adrien quips in.

She narrows her eyes to glare at him, but there’s no heat behind it. “Mainly because I’m bored, and it’s fun to watch her flounder.”

“Since when have you believed in passive aggression?”

Adrien recalls many, many times Marinette’s lost her temper: the many WWE matches she’s battled out with Chloe, the time she had every police officer in Paris gunning for her after the incident with the pigeons, the time she broke into Gabriel Agreste’s office full of state-of-the-art security to prove a point and get an internship. The point remains that Marinette Dupain-Cheng is deadly and aggressive, and she’s been known to lead with the knife even before she’s spotted the target.

“About the same time I started dating Chat Noir apparently.” She crosses her arms against her chest and spins around in the chair to face him head-on. “But you’ll have to remind me when that started because my memory’s been a little spotty the last couple days.”

 

TARGET ACQUIRED.

 

This is the point Adrien should really start running, but he’s always been attracted to danger and deadly women (read: Ladybug) and believes that sometimes death is worth.

…This probably isn’t one of those times, but hey, he’s come this far so he might as well see it to the end.

“Okay,” Adrien starts, shifting towards her. “Hear me out.”

“This should be good,” Marinette mumbles. She digs into her school bag and pulls out her lunch, and he sees the tea and strawberries and croissants, and—, (okay, hold on, because the croissants take Adrien by surprise because he’s pretty sure he saw her inhale two of those earlier when his life imploded).

“Do you stock-pile those?”

She takes a bite out of one in retaliation. “What’s it to you?”

“Not important.”

“Good answer.”

“So, Lila was saying—” Adrien tries to explain, but he must have been going too slow because Marinette interrupts with a shake of her head.

“I know what Lila said, and I don’t care.” Adrien watches as she turns quiet and inward, eyes shuttering close to prevent any emotions from leaking out. “I just want to know why you said what you did because that’s all that matters.” She turns her gaze on him again, imploring him to speak, and it’s all honest and soft that he’s almost afraid to talk. “You told the whole class that I’m dating Chat Noir.”

“Yeah.” He was there this morning, after all.

“It wasn’t just Lila, Adrien, I mean… you told everyone.”

“Yeah, Mari, I… I was there, you know?” He's beginning to wonder if she was though.

“Then I just want to know what made you say that?” She throws her hands into the air with an exasperated moan before looking at the ceiling. Adrien lets his gaze wander up there too, but he doesn’t see anything of significant importance. “I’m not dating him, Adrien. I think I’d know if I was dating a famous superhero.”

“I know you aren’t.” He can’t say much more than that, and he doesn’t know how to explain it in a way that won’t give away his secret identity. In the heat of the moment, Adrien saw stars and panicked, and unfortunately, he did what he usually does in times of crisis: turn to the nearest girl with black hair and bluebell eyes.

Marinette cocks her head in confusion, sipping at her tea. “Really? Because after earlier, I just wasn’t sure if you’d gotten that memo, so I thought I’d just, you know, check in about it.”

Adrien sulks in his seat, running a tired hand through his hair, tugging at the strands disheartened. “I really didn’t have a lot of options, and I just panicked, okay?” He’s honestly lucky he was able to make sense of his thoughts at the time (for the most part… before his mouth got trigger-happy).

“What’s there to panic about?” Here’s where Marinette shrugs like this whole thing is a normal occurrences. “It’s just Lila, and someone would’ve called her on it later anyway. Probably me during second period after listening to Madame Fischer drone on about the Copernicus.”

“Well I’m glad I saved you the trouble.” His words are bitter, tasting like ash when they fall from his tongue.

“You ‘saved’ me the trouble?” Her brows fly sky high, and Adrien knows he’s said the wrong thing… (again). “I’m sorry, should I be on my knees thanking you?”

“That’s not what I me—”

“No, Adrien, you caused me trouble,” she points out, and there’s a fire in her eyes that’s growing brighter into a raging inferno. “And that’s why we’re having this meeting instead of going to the café with Nino and Alya. I could’ve had my hazelnut latte, but you being a dumbass is making that a bit hard.”

“I hope Nino brings me back a coffee,” he grumbles in response. “I need some.”

“Trust me, I know the feeling.”

There’s silence between them, but this time it’s companionable and even a bit comfortable. Now that Adrien’s sure that Marinette’s not mad (read: won’t murder him in cold blood), things have settled to a point that he can make sense of the situation he’s found himself in, dealing with the fall-out of both his and Lila’s lies, sequestered off from the rest of the world by Marinette to plan on how to proceed with the consequences he’s set before them (…maybe he shouldn’t write off murder yet).

Marinette pops a strawberry in her mouth and chews it thoughtfully. “Look, the way I see it: there are three reasons why you could’ve lied and dragged me into this clusterfuck.” 

“Oh boy.” There she goes.

 

BULLSEYE.

 

“One: you’re jealous of Lila and had to take the superhero out of the game, and since Nino’s already dating Alya and Chloe’s gay, I was your only option.”

Adrien squawks (read: full of masculinity) in protest. “That’s not true. Lila’s not my type.”

“Okay, fine,” she concedes and counts out the second choice on her fingers. “ Then let’s discuss option two: it’s not Lila who’s the problem but Chat Noir.” Oh shit, Adrien thinks to himself because he sees where this is going. “Maybe you’re the one dating him and couldn’t stand the idea of someone else dragging your boyfriend into the spotlight, even if it was for a harmless lie.”

“Wait, hang on, that’s not—” he tries to say, but Marinette holds her hand up as an interjection.

“Relax, I know Chloe would murder you if you were dating him and didn’t tell her.”

“Thank you—”

Suddenly, though, her eyes narrow into daggers, and she fixes him with a sharp smirk. “Then again, you do seem to like women who can kill you.” Another bullseye.

“Excuse me?” His voice turns high, and this time he’s not exactly sure where she’s taking this—

“Kagami—”

Fuck.

“—okay, let’s not talk about that—”

“—because we all remember what happened last year in the supply closet with you two and the fencing swords.”

“Mari, please,” he begs because he doesn’t know why this is happening to him. He doesn’t know why he deserves this bad luck, and it can’t be just because he’s Chat Noir or because Plagg’s a bad influence.

She rolls her eyes, huffing out a soft laugh. “Then that just leaves option three.”

“Which is?”

“Not sure yet.” She presses her lips into a resolute expression. “I was hoping you could fill in the rest.”

“There’s really not a lot to say.”

“I just don’t get why you lied, or why you brought me into this.” Marinette picks at her croissant, drawing pictures in the crumbs that dust the desk underneath it. “You could’ve just told the truth.”

“The truth?” His heart lurches into a helicopter’s beat: shitshitshitshit, secRET IDENTITY, does she KNOW?!

“Yeah.” She shrugs helplessly with a soft smile. “I know you were with Chloe when you guys caught Lila going into the diplomat’s hotel room. No one would fault you for spying. It makes sense.”

Yes, Adrien, he thinks to himself. What a perfectly logical and sensible explanation for the situation at hand that completely combats Lila’s lie and further adds proof to Chloe’s claim. What a smart cookie you are for thinking of such a beautiful rebuttal.

“Marinette,” he says, cringing internally because that is going to hurt for years to come. “I really didn’t mean to drag you into this.”

“I just want to know why.”

“Fine,” he relents, mind desperately trying to come up with a solution that doesn’t include I’m Chat Noir, but his mouth’s going trigger-happy again, and he can only hope that whatever it comes up with this time that he’s at least invited to the wedding. “But only if you let me talk for like two minutes without interrupting me.”

Marinette dutifully takes a bite of her croissant.

“Listen, I know Chat Noir.” Beside him, Marinette scoffs, and a warm blush dusts the tips of his ears as he nudges her side with his elbow. “I know that sounds like a stupid joke, but it’s true and I just… can’t stand the thought of someone dragging his name around when he can’t do anything about it.”

“It’s not the first time people have talked about him, you know.”

Inside, Adrien’s stomach squirms in protest because he does know that. It’s not the first time that he replays the scene from earlier this morning, trying to pinpoint explicitly what made him jump down Lila’s throat and call her on her lies. Perhaps it was because everyone’s been against Ladybug and him for the last couple months, and he didn’t want to handle even more gossip about responsibility and reliability. However, with a barely restrained sigh, Adrien has to admit that there’s more to it.

He thinks of Ladybug, wondering what she’d think of him if she heard the rumor of him dating a civilian, especially someone like Lila Rossi, who’s caused more trouble for them in the past than either can bear to admit. Even if she hears about Chat Noir traipsing around with Marinette, even with the later giving fuel to the fire, at least Ladybug trusts this particular civilian and knows that the seventeen-year-old can take care of herself. Adrien can recall numerous times that Ladybug herself has mentioned utilizing Marinette, whether it’s just to talk out some problems or involving her in strategies against rampaging akumas.

Chat Noir isn’t alone in trusting Marinette Dupain-Cheng. Ladybug has in the past, and there’s no reason why Adrien Agreste shouldn’t be to as well.

“You know how much shit Ladybug and Chat Noir have to deal with right now—with the media, the mayor, and everyone else in Paris riding their asses.” Adrien shakes his head, trying to shake the latest headlines of incompetence from the forefront of his mind; he doesn’t have the time to get lost in that right now. “I know it’s been two years and Hawkmoth is still causing trouble, but they’re trying their best and dealing with some stupid rumors isn’t going to help anything.”

Marinette’s expression seems to soften, so he urges himself on. “Plus: what if Hawkmoth hears about Lila’s lies? She could be a target, and even though she started it, that’s still on Chat Noir.” He clasps his hands into white-knuckled fists. “I’m not going to make their lives more difficult—his or Ladybug’s—so if I can jump in and try to stop that spark before everything else catches fire, then I’ll do it.”

There’s a soft pause, the space of a single heartbeat, and then Marinette asks, “But why me?”

“Huh?”

“You specifically said that I was dating Chat Noir.” Brows furrowed in confusion, she approaches the situation like it’s a particularly difficult math question. “It’s could’ve anyone else: Ladybug, yourself—”

Adrien pokes her with his index finger. “Listen, Hawkmoth might be bad, but it’s Chloe I’m scared shitless about. I won’t put myself through that.”

“That doesn’t answer my question, Adrien.” She smacks his hands away with a small laugh.

“Because…” Danger, danger! High levels of fuckery detected. He struggles to come up with something because he seriously doesn’t know what made him turn to Marinette and go all Pokémon on her (read: Marinette Dupain-Cheng, I choose you!!)

She’s quiet, still waiting for an answer.

“Because you know him too,” Adrien says, and it all comes out in a breathless rush. “You’ve mentioned meeting him before. You guys actually talk and have conversations sometimes. It’s almost like your friends.”

(For god’s sakes, they shared a plate of spaghetti last time he visited in the faux-leather. If marinara and noodles aren’t a way to friendship, then Adrien needs to go back and rewatch his entire anime collection.)

“Yeah…” Marinette’s eyes turn distant and wistful. “We’re something.”

“You’re important to him,” he goes on and hopes he’s not overstepping. The masks hides his identity, but it also hides others. He can’t be sure what goes on outside of it. “So I figured… if anyone else was going to play along, it’s you.”

“Well, you’re lucky I am.” She takes a sip of tea, and he nearly chokes on his own spit because he knew he forgot something.

“Which brings up another point: why did you agree?” he presses.

“Huh?” Marinette has the indecency to look shocked, as if she isn’t currently aiding in tearing his life apart.

“You could’ve backed out and saved yourself a whole lot of trouble, but you didn’t. You agreed and jumped into this hellhole with me.” He makes sure to keep his voice level so not to scare (read: anger further) her; his mama didn’t raise no hooligan after all. Manners are a man’s best friend.

“Because…” She flounders for the right words. “I care about him.”

“…That’s it?”

That’s definitely the wrong thing to say. (And god, is he on a roll today.)

“Listen, I will put up with a lot of shit from Lila.” She crowds into his personal space, blue eyes burning and expression stony as if carved from marble. “It’s fine if she lies about me, or Jagged Stone, or Ladybug: I don’t care. But when it comes to Chat Noir, that’s the one person I won’t let her touch.” Her voice grows louder as she goes on. “So yes, Adrien, I do care about him, and we are friends, and I won’t let her drag his name through the mud.”

Adrien’s stunned beyond words. “Wow,” is the only thing he can get out, you know, like a smart person.

“You’re right.” She huffs and falls back in her seat, fingers toying with the stray hem on her sweater sleeve. “He does have to deal with a lot of shit right now, and if I can do something to help with that, just like you, I will.”

“Really?” Adrien can’t remember the last time a friend or classmate was as passionate about Chat Noir as he was (which is saying something, considering he is Chat Noir, in case anyone doesn’t know).

Marinette stares at him for a long while. “I look out for my friends, Adrien.”

As if the last two years haven’t proved that, Adrien reminds himself. Plastering a soft smile across his face, he turns on his charm and says, “I’m glad. The world needs more people like you, Mari.”

“Please.” She avoids his gaze.

(Sometimes he forgets just why she’s one of his best friends, and then she opens her mouth and does this, and he hates himself for forgetting in the first place.) 

“Really,” he presses. 

“Shut up.” With a barely concealed cough, cheeks blossoming with a warm rosy hue, she turns back to her lunch and moves on. “Anyway, I’m not sure how you plan to keep this lie going, because unless you actually bring Chat Noir in, we’re pretty much at a dead end now.” 

“…I could probably do that.” He’s pretty sure he can swing that. 

“What?” 

“Seriously,” he urges her. “Let me talk to him. Maybe he can help.” 

Marinette mumbles around the last bit of her croissant, spewing crumbs as she speaks, “Oh, this I’d love to see.” 

A flash of annoyance shoots through him, but it’s not from any lingering hostility towards his friend but because she just declared a challenge, and if there’s one thing about Adrien Agreste that no one knows, it’s that he’s stubborn as fuck and doesn’t like to lose. “Fine, I’ll talk to him tonight.”

“Fine. Sounds like a plan then.” Marinette’s quick to agree, but he can tell from the way her eyes linger that she doesn’t believe him. 

They fall into a comfortable silence once more, deciding to concentrate on food for the first time since the entire disaster started, and Adrien can’t believe that things are actually working out for him. He isn’t Ladybug: good luck doesn’t just happen to him. Despite the wonder he’s done and miracles he’s made, bad luck still haunts him like a reaper, a shadow that refuses to move. 

Things like this are reserved for people like Marinette and Ladybug.

The thought gives him pause as he turns back to his friend. “Oh, by the way, Mari…” 

“Hm…?” She quirks her eyebrow high, mouth falling open around a strawberry 

“About what you said about Lila lying about everyone…” He fidgets in his seat. “You’d totally stand up for Ladybug too right? Not just Chat Noir?” 

“Nah.” Her answer is quick and overpowering, like a gunshot. 

Adrien’s eyes widen in surprise. “But she’s—” 

“—not as important,” Marinette finishes and swallows her strawberry, wiping her fingers on a nearby paper towel. 

“Excuse me?” The sheer nerves of this woman, he thinks, how dare such blasphemy fall from her lips. 

Marinette simply shrugs. “What? I’m just being honest.”

 “You like Chat Noir best?”

“Yeah, he’s my favorite.” The bubble of joy that swells in his chest shouldn’t be so big, but It grows and grows and settle warm and content inside. 

It still doesn’t take the focus off the growing problem at hand though. “I can’t believe you have the audacity—” And that’s when Marinette pushes her lunch away and gets ready to fight. 

The argument continues well-past lunch, simmering into angry texts that buzz into their inboxes for the rest of the day.

 

It’s going to be a long night.

Chapter Text

There’s a certain type of wonder that comes with being Chat Noir.

While ancient gods, magic, and enhanced physical abilities (read: super strength, yay!!) are a perk of being one half of the famed superhero duo that protects Paris, it’s an entirely different story when he’s skipping across rooftops and flying through the crisp evening air during twilight. There’s a freedom that sings in his bones and dances through his blood—something that lets his laughter disappear on the breeze and eyes glitter as bright as the stars. 

Adrien loves being Chat Noir, which is exactly why he absolutely cannot fuck this up. 

Since he took the hero mantle, there’s been an unspoken rule for him and Ladybug: if your secret identity is revealed, then everything is over. It’s why they’ve kept the masks and secrets and mysteries, why real names and personal lives are forbidden, why the weight they carry on their shoulders is always ten times heavier than anyone their age should bear. 

He’s played this game for two years—played it well—up until now. Now, he’s stuck himself between a girl and a mask, and he’s going to face horrible, awful consequences if this stupid scheme of his doesn’t pan out right. 

“Everything is going to be fine,” Adrien says, more to himself than anyone else, because he is an extremely capable person, no matter what Marinette or Plagg thinks.

“You’re going to die,” Plagg retorts around a bite of Camembert cheese. 

There’s a short pause as Adrien pouts from his spot on the couch, lips twisted angrily and arms crossed against his chest and eyes downcast. He’s coiled up tight, no give in his posture and no give on his stance. It’s evident he’s going to see this disaster all the way through, and that just makes his kwami guffaw even harder. 

Adrien rolls his eyes. “You can stop laughing now.”

“I’m going to be laughing about this for centuries, kid.” Plagg floats over, unable to contain his amusement. “This is going down as one of the greatest catastrophes in all of human history. Even the dinosaur extinction pales in comparison.” 

“I thought you were supposed to be supportive of me.” Adrien can’t stop sulking because he thought at least Plagg would be in his corner, but he’s just as bad as Marinette. It’s becoming quite apparent that he has absolutely no one

(How bad is it that even Adrien isn’t in Adrien’s corner?!) 

“I still don’t know why you wanna fake date Marinette. You’re in love with her, right? Because I can’t figure out why.” Plagg spins in a circle, eyes glittering with glee. “I told you that you had a crush on her.” 

“I do not.” 

“You wanna date her.” 

“I do not.” 

“You think she’s pretty.” 

“I do, but I—” 

“You’re in love—” 

Pushing himself up from the couch, he grabs at Plagg in effort to get the kwami to shut up, but it’s no use as the ancient god (read: fucking cat) floats just out of reach. Looking back, Adrien isn’t exactly sure what he expected from Plagg when they got home from school and could talk freely regarding the situation. Some support would be nice, yes. A warning to take care and proceed with caution, perhaps.

Unnecessary taunting and teasing—that’s exactly what he should expect from Plagg. 

Adrien presses his lips into a thin line and looks up at the kwami with a resolute expression. “Look, are you gonna help me or not?” 

“How much Camembert is my help worth to you?” 

Adrien throws his hands up in the air with exasperation, clenching his eyes closed tightly “Are you really doing this right now? Really, Plagg?” 

“Two wheels and the gourmet stuff your cook keeps in the corner of the kitchen.” 

Plagg!” 

“Three wheels. Final offer.” 

Adrien doesn’t know how this happened: getting in a bidding war he doesn’t even need to win with a tiny god, and he’s losing. He takes a deep breath, slow enough to gather his thoughts, before nodding without being sure exactly what he’s agreeing to in the first place.

“Fine, fine, you win.” He taps Plagg’s outstretched paw, flicking another piece of cheese at him from the table as he moves around. “Okay, now help me figure out what to say to Marinette, and what I’m supposed to do as Chat Noir.” 

“I thought you knew what you were doing,” Plagg says around the Camembert. “That this was your plan all along.”

“Well maybe I don’t actually know what I’m doing,” Adrien snaps, too overwhelmed to care about the volume of his voice or what exactly he’s saying. “To be honest, I haven’t known what I’m doing since I became Chat Noir two years ago!”

Plagg simply laughs at him. “You’re doing fine, kid.” 

“Plagg.” Here, Adrien levels the kwami with a frantic, burning gaze, hands clenched into tight fists in front of him. “Believe me when I say that I don’t know what I’m doing—I never have, and I probably never will—because that is what happens when you give one of the most powerful weapons in the world to a fourteen-year-old boy! I’ve barely got common sense, and everything else gets thrown out the window!” 

“Common sense? With you?” Plagg shrugs. “Never heard of it. Is it a new type of cheese?” 

With a quiet huff, Adrien collapses back on the sofa, pinching the bridge of his nose in frustration. There’s only so much he can discuss with Plagg before the two find themselves arguing in a circle (and it truly is a circle—infinite with no significant start or end point). Now, more than ever, he doesn’t know where he stands or where he’s supposed to go, lost in a maze of fuck, oh shit, what the hell did I do? as he rewinds through the day’s events: Lila lying, Adrien lying, Marinette lying. Nothing—absolutely nothing—about this whole situation makes any sense. 

Where’s the error message? How does he refresh this web page? Google, please save me

“Plagg, I… I panicked,” he says, mildly. As an after-thought, adding, “Panicking is bad.” 

(Panic makes Adrien Agreste do bad things—like lie—and Adrien Agreste is no liar.) 

There’s silence as Adrien tries to drown himself on dry land in his own misery and Plagg finishes off the rest of his cheese. The morning’s episode and concurrent fuck-ups as well as the daunting horror of it’s-not-over-yet battle for dominance about which to cry about first, and though he tries to find a bright side for this escapade, Adrien really can’t find anything. Plagg certainly isn’t helping. 

But then that stupid kwami opens his mouth and is actually helpful when he says, “You gotta act like an innocent third party in this.” 

Adrien’s head snaps to attention. “I am?” 

Plagg snorts. “You? No way. Chat Noir? Yes.”

“I’m…. I’m not following,” Adrien says, not following. 

Plagg floats down to rest on his shoulder. “Look, kid, you lied and came up with this stupid plan. Marinette lied and agreed to this stupid plan. Chat Noir, though… He’s got no say in this. As long as Marinette knows, Adrien is asking Chat Noir for a huge favor.” 

“She doesn’t actually believe I can do it,” Adrien tells him with a wry smile, thinking back to Marinette, all fire and wit, in that deserted classroom. Certainly a sight to behold, alright. 

Plagg nods. “There? See, all you gotta do is act innocent as Chat Noir, and then let her come up with something because she’s smarter than you.” 

“She is not!” 

“Don’t argue with me.” The kwami swells with pride, as if he’s the higher being in this situation, like he would’ve told Adrien to shut up and stop talking if he had been given the chance (and he could’ve, at any time, so that’s guilt by association in Adrien’s book). “You told the whole class your secret identity was dating a civilian. That was dumb. You’re dumb. Then again, she's dumb for agreeing with you.” 

Adrien stares at Plagg with a dumbstruck expression, unsure how exactly to respond.   

Plagg seems to take it as a win. “Glad we agreed on that. So after you do that—” 

“I’m not listening to this anymore,” Adrien says, pushing himself to his feet. 

“I’m not done—” Plagg tries to say, but Adrien interjects with a hand in front of him. 

Plagg, claws out!” 

As the Miraculous magic surrounds him, the familiar warmth settling in the pit of his stomach, heart pumping loud and fast, Adrien can’t help but think of one more thing that being Chat Noir gives him. 

An escape.

  

*

  

The way to Marinette’s is different when he travels as Chat Noir instead of Adrien Agreste, but it’s definitely familiar. (He swears he’s not a stalker.)

Things just tend to look different from above as he flies through the sky, skipping over rooftops and swinging from balconies and diving off chimneys—a much more scenic route than a simple car and street can offer. It gives him time to process the situation though, to lose himself in his pounding heart and pulsing thoughts, both competing for attention as he prepares himself for the conversation with Marinette. 

It’s how he solves most of his problems now a days: a quick jaunt around the city to help him think. 

But the problem today is that he’s been thinking too much.  

So much, in fact, that he completely underestimates the distance between buildings, clipping his foot on the wrought-iron railing of Marinette’s balcony, sending him tumbling head-over-heels into the brick work of the Dupain-Cheng’s bakery’s rooftop. When he finally comes to a stop, face throbbing with evident skid marks, all he can think (and pray, oh god, please!): at least no one saw me

The barking laughter coming from the other side of the balcony proves him wrong. It’s the soprano jingle that echoes through the air like his favorite song, one he’s become intimately familiar with over the last few years, a special one belonging to a certain Marinette Dupain-Cheng. 

“You sure know how to make an entrance, don’t you, kitty?” Marinette sits in the pink lounge chair, a sketchpad open in her lap and a pencil tucked behind her ear. “I thought cats were always supposed to land on their feet.”

“What can I say?” he says, pushing himself onto his hands and knees, cheeks burning a bright pink. “I wanted to get the show rolling.” He wonders if he stays still, if he can just sink through the floor and disappear forever. 

“You certainly did that.” She’s still laughing as she gets up, offering the hero a hand to help. 

He’s brushing off nonexistent dirt when he gets up, trying to center his thoughts around anything other than the girl in front of him. It’s funny, he thinks, because he can’t remember the last time a girl that wasn’t Ladybug or Kagami made him so incredibly nervous. Still, Marinette has a certain effect on people, and it’s different for everyone she meets—whether he’s Adrien or Chat Noir. 

Adrien Agreste is her friend from school, her video game partner on the weekends, the one who ends up reimbursing the Dupain-Cheng’s monthly flour budget after his many, many failed attempts at baking each time he comes over. They share similar interests, similar experiences, similar experiences, similar… everything. (Adrien likes to call her one of his closest friends, and he wonders if she would award him the same standing). 

Chat Noir, on the other end, is something else entirely. He’s someone who meets her during nightly patrols, who sits down and shares spaghetti dinners for long talks about their mutual failed dating lives (hey, heart-felt conversations change people!), who has probably logged twenty marathons at this point carrying her bridal-style across the city whenever an akuma comes because Marinette has a habit of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. There’s a sort of mutual respect and understanding between them at this point—one that this whole situation could break.

At the end of the day, Adrien’s sure of one thing: he doesn’t want to lose her, as Chat Noir or Adrien Agreste. 

“So,” Marinette begins as she invites him to sit in the green longue chair next to her. “What brings you to my neck of the woods?” 

Adrien musters up a soft laugh, rubbing the back of his neck to channel his anxiety. “A little bird told me you were waiting up to see me. Not that Adrien has a bird miraculous or anything, I mean…” (Adrien Agreste: 0. Anxiety and stress and other cardiac arrest-related symptoms: 1). “He said that you and I needed to talk.”

(Please, god help his cortisol levels right now.)

“Adrien…” Shoulders shaking, Marinette can’t restrain her own laughter. “That sly motherfucker.” 

“In case he asks, hero-civilian confidentiality agreement states that I am unable to say—” 

“You silly cat.” Reaching across the divide between them, she pokes his arm with a bright smile. “This isn’t HIPAA, Adrien’s a little shit, and I hate being wrong.” 

There’s a certain ease being around Marinette brings, one that Adrien takes full joy in relinquishing to as he settles back in the chair. “Now there’s the Dupain-Cheng charm I know and love.”

Marinette smiles, all teeth and grit. “Please, I’m always charming.” 

“Yes, you are.” Adrien rolls his eyes, and even though his words are teasing, the truth sings out loud and proud. “Of course, your Majesty. Yes, your Highness. Whatever you say, my Queen.” 

“At least it’s a step up from Princess. You were stuck on that one for a few months.” She picks a piece off of the half-eaten croissant sitting on top of the page in her notebook that she’s been sketching on. (Adrien is beginning to wonder if she has a problem.) 

“I could call you a lot of other things.” Plastering on that Cheshire grin he’s famous, he leans forward, eyes twinkling with amusement. “You forget just how much time we’ve spent together and underestimate just how many stories Adrien’s told me.” 

“Speaking of tall, blonde, and stupid…” Adrien’s heart stumbles to a stuttering stop as Marinette’s words hit him like a bullet train, scattering his thoughts into a frenzy once more. (Oh god, he’s not ready.) “Why didn’t you ever tell me you and Adrien were close? You know we’re pretty good friends.” 

Adrien, like the idiot he is, can only shrug half-heartedly. “I guess it just never came up.” 

There’s a short pause, long enough for him to try to get his bearings, until she continues with, “We should invite him over for the next spaghetti dinner then.” 

(We absolutely should not.) 

He freezes, but it still slips out as, “I would love that.” 

(No, you would not.) 

Inside, he can picture Plagg in absolute hysterics and knows he’s subjected himself to a night full of taunts: I can’t wait to see how this pans out, kid. At this point, Adrien prays that someone would stop him from speaking because he’s continually making this worse. (…Someone should’ve fucking stopped him this morning. Then he wouldn’t even be in this mess.) 

Eager to change the subject, he presses on. “Speaking of dinners this time, Adrien mentioned a certain thing going on with you, him, Lila Rossi, and apparently me.” 

“Oh that!” This time, it’s Marinette’s turn to burn red, cheeks and ears flushing at his question. Adrien finds great glee in being on the serving side of this for once. “You know, just forget—”

“I’m in.” Fuck

“Ex-Excuse me?” Even she’s taken back, and meanwhile, Adrien’s wondering just where the fuck that sudden gunshot agreement came from. Weren’t they supposed to discuss it a little more?! Apparently his mouth is a little bit more disconnected from his brain than he originally thought, and a part of him wonders where he can find a technician to fix that at this time of day.

 “I’m game for it.” Stop speaking, Adrien. Stop s-p-e-a-k-i-n-g. “Sounds fun. Heroes are always willing to help, right? Besides, I owe Adrien a favor, so this is really just me cashing it in for him.” 

(Read: This is me digging myself into a hole I don’t know how to climb out of.) 

“Dating me is only for a favor?” Marinette quirks a brow high, leveling him with a quizzical expression. “That’s all I’m worth to you?” 

“W-What? No, no, absolutely…” He stares at her for a second, and she simply blinks back up at him, all wide-eyed and innocent. “You’re unbelievable, you know that?” 

“Not the first time someone’s told me that.” 

Adrien shakes his head. “Marinette, I swear…”

“Oh come on.” She nudges him good naturedly, smile stretched wide across his face. “You know you love me.” The ease that comes with being around her floods back to him in waves, cooling his frayed, frantic nerves. 

Adrien wonders just what it is about Marinette that makes him act this way: to lose all sort of sense, and then to gain it back tenfold when needed. Whatever it is, he knows it’s something substantial and meaningful. It’s what pushed him to choose her when caught in the confrontation with Lila, what made him sit down and actually commit to this stupid plan in the first place, what makes him lose any filter and keep going because somehow… she makes it possible. 

“Yeah, I do.” He folds his arms behind his head, relaxing into the chair. “I do.” 

“Look, that’s why I’m going to be completely honest with you right now: I don’t want to trap you into this little thing.” With a sigh, Marinette grabs his hand with a tight hold, making sure that he understands. “This thing? It’s just a product of me and Adrien being stupid because Lila’s stupid. I don’t want to get you into any trouble, especially with Ladybug or anyone else, and with Hawkmoth still active…” 

“You’re not causing any trouble for me. Don’t worry.” He ducks his gaze, still trying to gauge Marinette’s reaction. “Unless… you’re worried for your safety?” 

She shakes her head. “It’s not that.” 

“Well if it is, and you don’t want to tell me, then we don’t have to do this and be stupid together.” Leveling her with steely eyes, he places both hands on her shoulders and grips them hard, claws digging into the fabric of her shirt. He wants to make sure he gets this point across—that it’s not lost in the unfathomable void of an enigma that is Marinette Dupain-Cheng. “I already told Adrien this, and I’m going to tell you the same thing: I won’t risk you just for some silly prank. You’re too important, and everything else doesn’t matter.” 

“I’m not worried about that,” Marinette reassures him with the same fervor. 

I care about my friends, she’d told him earlier. 

“So you’re sure you want to do this then?” he asks because he’s tired of dragging out the what-ifs and will-we and just wants to stop hitting that panic button. Adrien just wants to be back on solid ground instead of floundering at sea much to Plagg’s delight. 

“If by ‘this’ you mean platonically fake-date you, then yes.” Marinette turns in her seat to face him head-on, muscle shifting under his hands, tensing as if she’s preparing for battle. “I want to fake-date you, Chat Noir.”

The blunt admission makes his cheeks heat up, much to Marinette’s delight. 

“You’re blushing,” Marinette observes, smirking. 

“I am not.” (Fuck.) 

She cocks her head to the side, watching for a short moment. “Do you have a crush on me, Chat Noir?” 

“No!” 

“Do you wanna date me?” 

“I-I mean—” 

“Do you think I’m pretty?” 

“Yes, n-no, I mean, Mar—” 

“Are you in love—” Her words get smothered by his hand as he darts forward and clasps them across her face. 

“Shut up,” he snaps, body trembling from rapid fire attack. This woman… he thinks. She scares him, whole heat and soul straight to the bone downright terrifies him. 

(It really does scare him because he hasn’t felt this way in a long time—not since Ladybug.)

Marinette pulls away, settling back in her lounge chair and pops a piece of croissant into her mouth. “Okay, whatever. You’re not in love with me. So where do we go from here?” She brushes the crumbs from her lips, staring at him like he has all the answers. 

This…. Adrien was not prepared for this. Plagg was not prepared for this. 

“I thought you might be able to tell me.” His voice trails off, unsure. 

From the look of surprise that crosses Marinette’s face, he has a feeling that she’s going to kill him—not Chat Noir him (because he’s supposedly an innocent third party), but rather Adrien him (the one who’s blood bleeds black with guilt). After all, Adrien’s the one who got them all into this mess, and he’s pretty sure everyone’s expecting him to figure out how to handle this (…him included). 

There’s silence as Marinette shoves the rest of her croissant in her mouth (Adrien is definitely sure she has a problem). “I guess, if you’re fake dating me, you have to be public about it.” 

He mulls over her suggestion. “Like… bring you flowers? Take you on dates?” 

“Give me gifts. Walk me to school,” she continues.

“Hold your hand,” he says. 

“Kiss me,” she mutters. 

Adrien squawks in reply, nearly falling out of his seat as he flails about. “What?” 

Blue eyes glinting under the setting sunlight, she fixes him with a hard glare. “If you want to be convincing, you’re going to have to kiss me, Chat Noir.” 

“I didn’t know that was a option!” 

“Option? It’s a fucking requirement.” Adrien thinks he’s hit her endpoint as he stares at her, slightly worried from the way her voice raises a few octaves, and he expects that’ll soon evolve to some siren song. “No one’s going to believe we’re in a serious relationship if you don’t kiss me!” 

“I’m just not ready,” he says in a breathless rush. “We’ve only been together for five minutes. This is moving too fast for me. I’m afraid of commitment, and I—”

Apparently that’s the straw to break the camel’s back, because Marinette erupts into body shaking, shoulder trembling, voice cracking, head-over-heels laughter. She can barely take in air, wheezing in shrill whistles, and the sight is enough to set him off as well. 

This? This is exactly why he chose Marinette when everything else was going haywire. 

She always finds a way to ground him—to be his anchor. 

“I can’t believe we’re doing this,” he finally admits, shaking his head as he turns his gaze to the sky. 

There’s silence before Marinette responds, still breathless. “We’re gonna screw this.” 

“Oh yeah,” he agrees. “There’s no argument there.” 

We’re fucking screwed

But—with Marinette at his side —he thinks they have a slight chance. 

…Maybe.