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I Want You To Ruin My Life

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Friday 30th August 2019

Adrien paused for a moment, trying to catch his breath through the material of the balaclava. Out of all the things he’d been expecting to do tonight, this was not one of them. But he had to do it, for the sake of his mum. This was the only way he could get her back. And if he didn’t do it… he didn’t want to think about the repercussions from his father.

He carefully walked across the roof of the apartment building, approaching the open skylight, and peered in. It was a simple one-room apartment. Not that Adrien had ever been inside one. Bar his photo shoots, he’d spent his life locked away inside the Agreste Mansion. Through the window, he could see a small kitchen, a breakfast bar, a settee, a small television, and a bed. Asleep on it was a balding man and Adrien bit his lip. He felt bad: he was about to steal from him. But he couldn’t not do it. All he had to do was steal a ring and some earrings, then his mum would be back with them. This man would understand.

The blond seventeen-year-old pried open the skylight so he could fit inside, then he slowly wriggled his way into the apartment and landed softly on top of a bedside cabinet that he hadn’t seen before.

He glanced back over at the old man. Still asleep.

Adrien got down from the cabinet and glanced around the room. It was dark, and he couldn’t risk turning the lights on. He would have to find this so-called “miracle box” by touch and moonlight.

He slowly searched through the apartment, avoiding the bedroom area and starting with the kitchen. He checked all of the cupboards and the drawers in the breakfast bar, but sat down on the settee when he came up with nothing.

His father had sketched him a picture of the miracle box. It was fairly large, octagonal in shape, and black with red markings on. Adrien glanced back over at the kitchen cupboards. It was too big to fit in there. Maybe it was underneath something?

He rose from the settee and tiptoed over to the bed. After checking that the old man was still sleeping, Adrien crouched down and waved his arm back and forth. There was nothing under here.

He sat back on his haunches. Anywhere else?

He glanced around again and smiled when his gaze landed on the settee. It was the perfect height to hide the miracle box under. He crawled over to it and waved his arm back and forth, and this time, his hand hit something wooden. He grabbed it and pulled, and the miracle box came out.

It was exactly like his father had described to him: black, red, and octagonal. He lifted the lid, and immediately, dozens of small drawers all opened, but that wasn’t what alarmed Adrien.

In the top tray, curled up next to a bee-themed hair comb, was a tiny creature. It was green with… a shell on it’s back? Was this a kwami? He knew his dad had one, but he didn’t mention him much. Either way, Adrien had to be careful. He didn’t know if it could talk.

He peered at all of the jewellery and he bit his lip. His father had said a ring and some earrings… which were right next to the snoozing kwami. Amazing. He reached for the ring first, but as the tips of the fingers touched the metal, the kwami woke up and shoved his hand out of the way.

‘What do you think you’re doing?!’

‘I-I…’ Adrien stood up, frightened by the small creature, and in the process, knocked over the miracle box, scattering the jewellery inside all over the room.

‘Master Fu, Master Fu!’ the little creature shouted, but Adrien ignored him. He couldn’t leave here empty-handed.

‘Wake up, Master! Someone is here!’

There was a groggy hum from the bed and Adrien got down on his hands and knees, fumbling in the dark. His hand closed around the ring and he quickly put it in his pocket, but he couldn’t find the earrings. Where were they?!

‘Oi!’

Adrien hissed in pain as he was hit over the back of the head with a book. He scrambled up and darted over to the bedside cabinet.

‘Hey! Don’t leave! I need you to return whatever you took!’

The blond boy glanced at the old man. ‘I’m sorry,’ he whispered, then he disappeared out of the skylight.

Master Fu jogged towards it, but by the time he reached it, the boy had gone.

‘What do we do now?’ Wayzz asked.

The old man sighed. ‘Okay, we need to leave. We can’t stay here. But first, we need to find all of the miraculouses and see what’s missing. We already have two missing ones. I can’t afford to have more.’

‘What if he has the ladybird earrings, though?’

He sighed: he could only hope they didn’t.

Adrien narrowed his eyes as he listened to their conversation. Luckily for them, he didn’t get the earrings, but he’d at least got one miraculous. One was better than none.

A slap resounded throughout Hawkmoth’s lair. One was not better than none.

‘You stupid boy!’

Adrien bowed his head. He had always sought approval from his father and had never received it. But if he could do this, which would bring his mother back to life, then maybe his father would finally show him some affection. And if his father didn’t, then his mother would be back and she would offer it to him. She had died five years ago, but Adrien remembered her well. She had given him affection in spades.

‘I’m sorry, father.’

Gabriel huffed and turned away from his son. There was another way to get the ladybird miraculous, but it would be a lot harder. He turned back around and held out the black cat ring to Adrien.

‘Take it.’

With shaking hands, he did. ‘Why?’

‘You’re going to use it to get the ladybird miraculous.’

‘How?’

Gabriel rolled his eyes. ‘This is what I want you to do. On Monday, all of the schools in France will be returning for the next academic year. You will be with them.’

Adrien’s eyes lit up. ‘Really?!’

‘Quiet! You will be with them, but for the sole purpose of drawing out the wearer of the ladybird miraculous. I can only akumatise people when they feel negative emotions. You must bully or rile up other students who I can akumatise to get whoever owns the earrings to come out and play. Can you do that?’

Adrien bit his lip. He didn’t want to. He wasn’t that sort of person. But he was being given the chance to go to school, to escape this mansion for several hours a day and several times a week. It was what he’d always wanted. He couldn’t refuse. And he’d get his mother back, too. Nothing bad could come of it.

‘Yes.’

Chapter Text

Monday 2nd September 2019

Marinette groaned as her alarm blared away. She’d been getting herself up for school since she was ten years old. After seven years, the sound of her alarm still agonized her.

She fumbled around for her phone and found it half hidden under her pillow. Through bleary-eyes, she pressed something on the screen and the alarm stopped. She let out a satisfied groan and closed her eyes again: a few more minutes wouldn’t hurt.

‘Marinette!’ her mum shouted from downstairs, and she jolted awake.

She reached for her phone again. 8:34. School started at nine. Marinette groaned into her pillow and forced herself out of bed. She wouldn’t have time for a shower even though her school was only across the road. She would only have time to get dressed, do her hair, and grab a croissant for breakfast.

Marinette forced herself out of bed and down the ladder that led to it, and stood in front of her wardrobe, just staring at her clothes. Come on, she could do this. She was applying to go to fashion college soon. She could put an outfit together, even if she had only got up twenty seconds ago.

She glanced at her window. It was sunny, and more than likely hot, since it had been yesterday okay, so… a skirt? Marinette grabbed the first one she came across: a denim mini skirt. She stared at it for a moment before picking out a strappy black top and light blue, white and brown flannel shirt. This would be okay for today.

By the time she’d finished fumbling and got it on though, it was now quarter to nine.

With a sigh, she pulled a brush through her hair but left it down: she had no time to do anything with it. Marinette grabbed her school bag then, sending a thank you in her head to herself for packing it last night, and went downstairs to the bakery.

Her mum was stood out in the hallway, her hands on her hips and a fond smile on her face. ‘Good morning! You’re not late. Yet.’

Marinette rolled her eyes. ‘I’ll be fine, mum.’ When she got to the bottom of the stairs, she kissed her mum on the cheek.

‘Come on, your dad made you some macaroons to take with you.’

Macaroons followed her mum into the bakery and Tom turned around with a large smile on his face, completely ignoring the person he was currently serving. ‘Marinette!’ he exclaimed and welcomed his daughter into his arms. ‘I can’t believe you’re starting your final year at high school. It seems like only yesterday you were starting elementary school.’ Her dad sniffed.

‘Dad…’

‘I’m fine.’ He pulled away and handed Marinette a rectangular box, along with a croissant. ‘Have a good day.’

‘Thanks, dad,’ Marinette said, then kissed him on the cheek before she left the bakery.

By the time she reached the crossing by Dupont, Marinette had practically inhaled the croissant and checked her phone. 8:55. She bounced on the balls of her feet, watching the traffic carefully. Come on, come on…

Suddenly, an old man from the side of the street Marinette was stood on walked out into the road. He hobbled across the road, leaning on his stick, and the cars approaching the crossing started beeping their horns.

Marinette squeaked and ran into the road, grabbed the man by the elbow, and gently pulled him to the opposite side.

‘Are you okay?’ she asked, glancing over the old man briefly. He had balding grey hair and was wearing a red Hawaiian shirt, but other than his walking stick, he seemed fine.

He smiled up at her. ‘Yes, thank you. I wouldn’t normally do something like that, but I’m in a hurry.’

Marinette smiled. ‘That’s alright. Just be more careful next time.’

The man narrowed his eyes. ‘Are those macaroons I can smell?’ he asked.

Marinette opened the box, relieved she hadn’t broken any in her dash across the road. She had been very clumsy when she’d been younger, and whilst she still was, it wasn’t as bad as it once was. ‘Would you like one?’

He took one from the box and popped it in his mouth. ‘Mm, tasty.’

The school bell rang then and Marinette shut the box. ‘I’m sorry, but I really have to be going or I’ll be late for school. Will you be okay?’

He smiled. ‘I’ll be fine.’

Marinette smiled at him, then she scampered up the steps to Dupont and jogged to her classroom. She knew which one it was. It had been the same every year since she was thirteen. Except this time, Chloé was sat in her seat.

‘Chloé, you know that’s my seat.’

The blonde huffed. ‘Don’t you think I know that by now, Dupain-Cheng? Believe me, I would have sat in my seat, but she was there.’ Chloé jerked her head over to her usual seat and Marinette turned to look.

Sat in Sabrina’s seat was a girl with glasses and auburn hair. Marinette had never seen her before, but she seemed nice.

‘Okay, so?’ Marinette said. ‘You can still sit there, Chloé. You don’t need to take my seat.’

Chloé scoffed. ‘Do you honestly expect me to sit without Sabrina? And I don’t even know that other girl. Haven’t you ever heard of stranger danger, Dupain-Cheng? Besides, my best friend, Adrikins, is starting here today, and if he sits there,’ she said, motioning to the spare seat next to Nino, ‘we can talk all lesson long.’

Nino turned around then. ‘Chloé dude, please, don’t talk during class. I want to pass my exams.’

‘Shut up, Lahiffe.’ She turned back to Marinette. ‘Either way, this is my seat now.’

Marinette rolled her eyes. ‘Fine. Be rude. Or should I say, be yourself.’

Chloé glared at her then. ‘I resent that comment.’

‘Resent it all you like, but it’s true.’ Marinette walked over to where the new girl was and put her bag down before she sat in Chloé’s seat. ‘You’ll get used to her soon.’

The new girl smiled. ‘I doubt it. I’m Alya, by the way.’

‘Marinette.’

Mme Bustier entered the classroom then, bright and cheery as usual. ‘Good morning, class.’

They all murmured their responses back and Mme Bustier rolled her eyes fondly.

‘Alright, so, last year of high school, everyone. Final exams will be in June and July, and we need to be filling in university or job applications, depending on what you want. We also have two new students joining us: Alya Césaire and Adrien Agreste.’ She frowned then. ‘He doesn’t seem to have arrived yet. Okay, Marinette, will you come with me to get some exercise books?’

Marinette nodded and followed her teacher out of the room, but all the while, Chloé glared at her.

Adrien’s left leg jiggled up and down as the Gorilla drove to Dupont at a snail’s pace. He was so late. But maybe that was his father’s intention. If he was late, then maybe that would rile his teacher up. Part of him wanted to make a good first impression, but a larger part of him wanted his mother back. She was so wonderful. Adrien would do anything to see her again. Including this.

Finally, the Gorilla came to a stop outside Dupont, and Adrien grabbed his bag. ‘Thank you, see you after school!’ he shouted as he climbed out of the car, but as he ran towards the school steps, he careered into an old man, sending them both onto the ground.

Adrien got up first and brushed himself off, then he went over to the old man to help him up.

‘Are you alright?’ he asked, trying to stop the recognition from showing on his face. This man… this is the one who he had stolen from.

The man looked up at him with a smile on his face. ‘I’m fine. Thank you for helping me, young man.’

‘It’s alright. It’s the least I could do for knocking you over.’ Adrien smiled, then he went over to where his school bag lay on the ground. He placed it back on his shoulder and lifted the flap to check the contents. Nestled between his water bottle and pencil case was the black cat miraculous. He hadn’t put it on yet. He wouldn’t until he needed to.

He jogged up the steps to the school and took his phone out, following the instructions his principal, M Damocles, had emailed to him. He was to go straight to his classroom on arrival, but Adrien stood and stared for a moment at the courtyard before him. This was a school. An actual proper school. Most seventeen-year-old boys probably didn’t get excited about that, but he was beyond ecstatic to be here. Even if he was here for far more than getting an education.

He followed the directions he’d been given to his classroom, and as soon as he entered, he saw his childhood friend, Chloé Bourgeois, putting gum on someone’s chair.

‘Marinette was only telling the truth!’ the girl sat in the seat beside the gum exclaimed and Chloé just huffed.

‘Dupain-Cheng is a liar. She can’t expect to go around and be able to say those things. I’ll have you know that my daddy can sue her for defamation.’

Adrien rolled his eyes. ‘Really, Chloé?’

The blonde girl gasped as she turned around. ‘Adrikins?!’

He gave her a small smile, then she was launching herself at him.

‘I haven’t seen you in so long! I didn’t think you were going to make it today!’

‘Yeah, sorry, I was a bit late. But that doesn’t make it okay to put gum on someone’s chair.’ He pushed Chloé away from him then and grabbed a tissue out of the box on the teacher’s desk and went over to the chair with the gum on, trying to ease if off using the tissue.

It was stuck pretty fast, but he was halfway there, and if he just… oh. He should probably stop. He could use this to try and akumatise whoever this Marinette-girl was.

‘What are you doing to my seat?’

Adrien stood up then, shocked by the sweet-sounding voice behind him, and he couldn’t help but feel his heartbeat speed up when he saw the girl addressing him. She was almost an entire head smaller than him with black hair, bluebell eyes, and pretty pink lips. She would have looked stunning if she hadn’t been glaring at him.

‘I-I…’ he stuttered. How could he turn this around? ‘I was putting gum on your chair.’

The girl raised an eyebrow. ‘I don’t even know you.’

‘Yeah, well, I heard you deserved it.’

The girl in the other seat tutted. ‘Ignore him, Marinette. He’s lying. Chloé did it. This is her precious Adrikins.’

Marinette shook her head. ‘Of course, he is. I wouldn’t expect anything less from one of her friends.’

‘Excuse me, Dupain-Cheng,’ Chloé shrieked, ‘but my Adrikins is not like that.’

‘Keep telling yourself that.’

‘You’re ridiculous! Utterly ridiculous!’

Marinette rolled her eyes and put the books Adrien hadn’t even realised she’d been holding down on the teacher’s desk. She returned to her seat, stepped around Adrien, and removed the gum herself before taking it to the bin.

The whole time, though, Adrien stood in the same spot, only moving his head. He was completely transfixed by her. He hadn’t met very many girls. He’d posed with a couple during photo shoots, but those occasions were few and far between since his father usually preferred for him to model alone, and those female models didn’t usually talk to him, and when they did, they came across as vapid and shallow. Marinette didn’t. She wasn’t tall enough to be a model, but she dressed and carried herself like she was one, despite the sporadic stumble in her walk. And if she could stand up to Chloé, then she definitely seemed to possess more intelligence and integrity then most people Adrien knew. Which, to be fair, wasn’t a great number of people, but she stood out against everyone in the class, and not just because of her beauty.

She sat down then and stared up at Adrien. ‘What? Are you going to apologise?’

‘I-’

‘Ah! You must be Adrien!’

He looked up then and smiled when he saw who he presumed was his teacher. ‘Hi. It’s nice to meet you.’

She returned his smile. ‘I’m Miss Bustier. Why don’t you sit beside Nino?’ she offered, gesturing to the empty seat opposite Marinette.

Adrien slid into it quickly and risked a glance across the aisle at Marinette. She didn’t look angry anymore, and was now attentive. Why was he so fascinated by her?

‘Okay, so, you missed this before, so I’ll say it again for you, Adrien. This is your last year of high school, so we need to be applying for universities and jobs, and final exams are in the sum-’

‘Kim!’

The whole class turned around to see an enraged Ivan out of his seat, trying to pry something out of a laughing Kim’s hands.

‘Ivan, sit down!’ Mme Bustier shouted, and with a huff, he did, and their teacher sighed. ‘Adrien, I’ll have to tell you all this later. For now, we need to get on with class. Half of you will be going to the stadium for P.E., and the other half will stay here for music class. The half going to the stadium will be Adrien, Kim, Max, Rose, Juleka, Alix, and Mylène. Kim, since you’re so disruptive, you can help Adrien get there.’

Adrien stood up with the rest of the P.E. students, but Chloé reached forwards and pulled on his arm. ‘Will you be okay without me, Adrikins?’

‘I’ll be fine.’

Kim slung an arm around Adrien’s shoulders then. ‘He’ll be with me, Chloé. You’ve got nothing to worry about.’

The blonde girl huffed. ‘That’s what I am worried about.’

Kim just laughed and led Adrien out of the room, but the model couldn’t help but glance back and look at Marinette. She was talking to the girl next to her, and a radiant smile took over her face. God, he wanted her to smile at him like that.

‘I saw that,’ Kim said as they exited the school and headed for the metro entrance.

‘Saw what?’ Adrien asked.

‘You looking at Marinette.’

A blush overcame the blonde’s face. ‘I-I wasn’t looking at her.’

‘There’s no use in denying it. Every guy in the school has had a crush on her. Who is it at the minute, Max?’

The other boy came to the side of Adrien Kim wasn’t on. ‘Impossible to say. There are too many variables. Marinette’s beauty, kindness, intelligence, caring nature, plus her infinite supply of cake… I’m not sure. But out of our class, I would guess that at the moment, both Nino and Nathaniel have feelings for her.’

Adrien bit his lip, as if that would help distract him for the jealousy he was now feeling.

Kim sighed as they got on the train. ‘Ah, they’re going to get their hearts broken. Like me, in my first year of high school. And like you, in your third year, Max.’

The other boy sighed. ‘Yes. It’s inevitable, Adrien. You’ll fall for her, then she’ll break your heart when she rejects you.’

Adrien narrowed his eyes. ‘Wait, how do you know she would reject me?’

‘Ah! So you do like her!’ Kim shouted and Adrien shook his head.

‘N-no. I only met her today. I’m just saying… how would you know she would reject me?’

‘Marinette rejects everyone,’ Max said. ‘She always says the same thing.’

‘You’re very nice, but I’m sorry, I just don’t have feelings for you,’ Kim and Max recited together.

‘Whoever gets her in the end will be very lucky,’ Kim said, and Adrien just nodded. If he hadn’t been captivated with her before, he certainly was now.

Marinette balanced her chin in the palm of her hand as she stared out of the classroom window. Everyone else had gone to the bathroom and they would all come back before they headed to their music class, but Marinette wasn’t concerned with that. She was instead thinking about that boy.

Adrien.

She should have recognised his face the moment she saw him. She wanted to be a fashion designer. Of course, she knew who Adrien Agreste was. And she’d been so rude to him. But he’d deserved it! She tried to be kind to everyone, but he was putting gum on her chair. Or he wasn’t? She didn’t really understand why he said that if he hadn’t done it in the first place. But either way, she’d been rude to him and completely messed up any chances she had working for Gabriel. That was, if he told his father about how she’d acted. But why should she even apologise? He’d been so rude.

Marinette groaned and Mme Bustier glanced over at her. ‘You alright?’

‘Yes, miss.’

Mme Bustier smiled and Marinette returned to staring out of the window, trying to stop thinking about Adrien. She should have recognised him. It was stupid she hadn’t. She’d seen dozens and dozens of pictures of him and every time, it had sent her heart into a frenzy. And he looked so much more handsome in real life. She held in another groan. She couldn’t fall for him. He was friends with Chloé. Why would he be friends with her, of all people? And he’d been rude to her, too. Not to mention, he was way better looking than her. There would never be anything between them. She would sit opposite him all year, and then she would never see him again. The way it should be.

The rest of the class came back then, but as they grabbed their bags to head to the music classroom, Mme Bustier frowned. ‘Where’s Ivan?’ she asked.

Before anyone could reply, there was a loud roar from outside and the whole class turned to the window. Outside, a huge man made out of stone was wandering around, and he let out another shout:

‘Kim!’

Mme Bustier gasped. ‘Okay, class, go straight home! Please be careful!’

The students left without hesitation, and Marinette ran back home. What was that thing?! People were running around everywhere, trying to get away from it as it walked in the direction of the stadium. Could it mean Kim from her class? That’s where he would be. Marinette bit her lip. Should she go and help? How could she, though? He was a huge stone man!

She paused outside the bakery and took out her phone, selecting Kim’s number in her contacts. No answer. He was probably still on the metro. He wouldn’t have any signal. She would have to try again later.

She turned and entered the bakery, and a moment later, her dad ran for the door and locked it behind her.

‘Thank god, you’re okay,’ he said, as he and her mum both welcomed her into a hug.

‘Miss Bustier sent us all home. What’s going on?’

Sabine sighed. ‘I’m not sure. Nadja reported on it, but she doesn’t know either. They’re going to send in the army. Why don’t you go to your room, darling? Get a head start on your homework.’

‘I don’t have any yet. We didn’t even get to the start of the first class.’

‘Well, then, go and do some sewing. Or drawing. Or something.’

Marinette could tell her mum was scared, so she nodded. ‘Okay. I’ll be in my room. Everything will be okay.’ She kissed her mum on the cheek and went up to her room. She shut the trap door behind her and threw herself on her chaise. What a great first day back at school this was. Only in Paris could this happen.

With a sigh, she reached for her school bag and fumbled around for her sketchbook, but her hand closed around something unfamiliar. With narrowed eyes, she pulled it out, and stared at the red and black hexagonal box she was now holding. Where had this come from? It certainly hadn’t been in her bag last night when she’d packed it.

Cautiously, she opened it, revealing a pair of red and black polka dot earrings inside. She’d definitely never seen these before.

Suddenly, the earrings began to pulse with a bright pink light, and with a shriek, Marinette dropped the box and leapt over the back of the chaise.

When the light had vanished and Marinette had got her breath back, she risked a peek over the top of her chaise. The earrings in the box had gone, and were now being held by…

She let out another shriek when she saw the red and black spotted creature holding the earrings.

‘No! Don’t shout!’ it said, it’s voice impossibly high-pitched, and flew over to Marinette.

‘You’re a… you’re a…’ Marinette was at a loss for words.

‘I’m a kwami!’ it said, voice bright and happy. ‘My name is Tikki and I am the kwami of the Ladybird miraculous! And you are the new holder of this miraculous.’

‘I’m the what?’

‘The new holder. It’s nice to meet you! What’s your name?’

‘Marinette. What does being the new holder mean?’

‘Here, put these in.’

Tikki dropped the earrings in Marinette’s hand and she put them in, still in a daze. What was going on?

‘Now, what?’

‘Okay, you need to listen to me first before you do anything. So, when you shout “Spots on”, you will transform into a superhero. You’ll have increased physical strength and dexterity and a magical yoyo that will help you move around the city and defeat akumas. Now, an akuma is a butterfly that has infected a person who feels negative in any way. An evil man named Hawk Moth sends them out. You need to attack the akumatised person and find the object on them that akumatised them. You must destroy it, then cleanse the akuma. To help you, if you shout “Lucky Charm”, you will be given a special object to help you save the day. And when you’re finished, you need to throw the object into the air and shout “Miraculous Ladybug”. It will clear up any damage done. But be careful: once you activate your lucky charm, you will only have five minutes left before you transform back. Your earrings will count it down for you. You can’t let anyone know your secret identity. That’s why Hawk Moth sends out these akumas – to get your miraculous, and you can’t let that happen. And you need to get his back. He’s evil. Do you understand?’

Marinette just stared at Tikki. ‘No.’

Tikki sighed. ‘Look, shout “Spots on”, then “Lucky Charm”, then “Miraculous Ladybug”, and the goal is to cleanse the akumatised person, but also to get Hawk Moth’s miraculous. And above all, do not, I repeat, do not let anyone know your true identity and never take your earrings out.’

‘Ever?’

‘Ever. Don’t do it yourself, and don’t let anyone do it for you. Okay? Now, come on! Transform! That stone man will seriously hurt someone soon! We can talk more later!’ she finished with a smile. There was still the business of the blond boy who had taken Plagg and the black cat miraculous, and Master Fu had told her to tell the person he gave her to, but Tikki didn’t want to. From what he and Wayzz had said, he was young and impressionable, and could probably be changed for the better. And Plagg would try and convince him to change, too, once he realised that he’d been stolen by his wearer. But maybe she should warn her own wearer in case the boy showed up today. ‘Actually, wait-’

‘Spots on!’ Marinette shouted, and once again, the room filled with pink light, and then a moment later, she was transformed and she glanced in the full-length mirror that hung on the wall.

Her feet, legs, chests, arms, and hands were completely covered in a red and black polka dot material. It was an odd material, too. It felt a bit like latex, but it was heavier, and no matter how much she tried to pinch it, it wouldn’t budge. Tied around her waist was what she presumed was her magical yoyo, and on her face was a mask that matched her costume. Marinette tugged on it, but like the suit, it wouldn’t move. She grimaced when she saw her hair, though. It was in two little pigtails, each tied with a red ribbon. She hadn’t worn her hair in pigtails since she was… maybe thirteen? She didn’t like that style anymore, but she had to admit, it suited the costume.

There was another roar from outside and Marinette flinched. Right. She had a job to do.

She climbed up to her balcony, and in the distance, she could see the stone man, still heading for the stadium. She took her yoyo out and gave it a few cursory spins before she threw it to her neighbour’s chimney. As soon as it wrapped around the pipe, it launched Marinette over to it and she let out a shriek. This was going to take some getting used to.

‘Kim!’

Adrien, Kim, Max, Rose, Juleka, Alix, and Mylène had only just arrived at the stadium, but they heard the booming shout when they were halfway across the pitch.

They all turned around, eyes wide when they saw the huge stone man looming over the stadium, and they all screamed and dispersed as his foot came crashing down onto the pitch.

‘Run, everyone!’ Adrien shouted, and they all did, but despite his size, the stone man was quick, and he started to back Kim into a corner. Adrien had to do something, but what?

He gasped, remembering about the ring, and darted into the locked room. It was completely empty: everyone would have gone as soon as they heard the shouts. He sat down on a bench and took the ring out of his bag. It was nothing special, just a plain silver band. He slipped it on, and the room filled with a bright green light.

He’d seen his father do this dozens of times with his broach, and he knew a kwami would appear next, and he smiled when he opened his eyes and saw a tiny black creature with large green eyes staring up at him.

‘Who are you?’ it asked.

‘My name’s Adrien.’ He held out his hand, as if for the kwami to shake, but he ignored it and flew up so he was only a centimetre away from his face.

‘I wasn’t told that I would be getting a new wearer.’

Adrien laughed nervously. ‘It was sort of a last minute thing. Your name’s Plagg, right?’ His father had already told him a lot about the miraculouses.

The kwami nodded. ‘Alright, well, you need to know how to transform and –’

‘I already know the phrase. And it’s “Cataclysm” for my power and after I use it, I have five minutes left until I transform back. Anything else?’

Plagg stared at him with narrowed eyes. ‘I need to recharge after you change back. And I only eat camembert.’

Adrien groaned. ‘Seriously?’

‘You want magic, kid, that’s the price you’ve got to pay.’

‘Fine. Let’s do this. Claws out!’

The locker room filled with the bright green light again and Adrien twisted this way and that to get a good look at himself. Steel toe-capped boots, a black leather-latex cat suit, a belt for a tail, a mask, ears, and a silver baton. As first days at high school went, this had to be the most unique by far.

He ran out of the locker room, only to be greeted with the sight of the stone man trying to stomp on Kim. Adrien needed a plan and quick. The general plan had been to wait until whoever had the Ladybird miraculous showed up and take their earrings, but they weren’t here yet. And if he waited any longer, then Kim would be flattened. Adrien would have to change tactics. Perhaps it would be for the best to help Kim for now, that way, he could get on the side of the person with the Ladybird miraculous and coerce them into handing over the earrings. That sounded better.

He sprinted across the pitch, taking out and extending his baton as he went, and he slid under the stone man’s foot, holding it up the baton to stop him from standing on Kim.

‘Run!’ Adrien shouted, and Kim did, rolling out of the way just as the stone man lifted away his foot from the metal baton.

Kim sprinted to the exit, and the stone man followed him, but Adrien darted in front of him and tried to hold him back by pressing his baton against one of his stone legs.

‘Hey, listen, boulder guy. We need to wait a bit. Can you just calm down?!’

He growled down at Adrien. ‘My name is Stoneheart!’ he roared.

He went for Adrien then and he did two backflips away from him, then extended his baton up so he could climb up onto the edge of the stadium’s slightly curved over roof. ‘That was a close one…’

‘It was. Sorry I wasn’t here earlier.’

Adrien looked up and his eyes widened when he saw the girl stood beside him who was dressed head to toe in red and black polka dots. Instead of being rude and immediately reaching for her earrings, he leant on his baton and smirked at her. ‘Don’t worry. I had it handled. I’m… Chat Noir,’ he said after a moment of consideration.

‘I’m… Ladybug. Yes, Ladybug.’

‘Please to meet you, my Lady,’ he drawled, trying to sound like he genuinely cared. He was sure she was a lovely person beneath the mask, but he automatically hated her. What he and his father were doing was good. But befriending Ladybug seemed the easiest way to get her miraculous right now.

‘What should we do about him?’ she asked, just staring at Stoneheart. His face was framed with a weird purple butterfly-shaped outline, and when it faded, Stoneheart set off again, completely ignoring the two of them. He climbed back over the stadium walls and started heading in the direction of the Eiffel Tower.

Chat Noir groaned: his father had told Stoneheart where Kim had gone. ‘Come on! We have to follow him!’

Together, the two of them ran across Paris’ rooftops, the city eerily quiet for midmorning. But when they got to the Eiffel Tower, it was completely surrounded by the police and the military, all of whom had guns pointing at Stoneheart, who was slowly approaching the Tower and Kim, who was taking refuge underneath the structure. But he wouldn’t be safe there for much longer.

‘We have to get closer,’ Ladybug said as they perched on the top of the Palais de Chaillot.

‘But the army-’

‘That boy is in the danger. And so is the person who’s been akumatised.’

Chat Noir watched as Ladybug threw her yoyo so it wrapped itself around the nearest lamppost and then jumped so she was between Stoneheart and Kim.

‘That’s enough, Stoneheart!’ she shouted up at him, but someone laughed from behind her.

‘Oh, I don’t think it is.’

She turned around, and hovering just above the first stage of the Eiffel Tower was a face made out of purple butterflies, snarling down at her.

‘You’re Hawk Moth, aren’t you?’

He smiled then. ‘Yes. I am. And I need your miraculous!’

‘You won’t ever get it,’ Ladybug said, remembering what Tikki had told her. She didn’t know why it was so important, but the kwami had been very insistent.

‘Oh, I will. And it’ll be sooner rather than later. Because right now, almost every single Parisian is feeling negative emotions, and my akumas will get them all! And then you’ll have no choice but to hand over your miraculous!’

Ladybug glared up at him. If this morning in class had proven anything, it was that she didn’t like bullies. And she certainly didn’t like someone who was threatening her city. ‘You’ll never get near it!’ she shouted, then she took out her yoyo and threw it up at the akumas.

Chat Noir stayed sat on the Palais de Chaillot, watching in complete amazement as Ladybug absolutely went for it, sweeping her yoyo back and forth, destroying Hawk Moth’s face and sending every single butterfly to the ground. She was completely insane.

Using his baton, he vaulted over the ranks of soldiers and police officers so he was stood beside Ladybug. ‘Not bad, Bugaboo.’ He held up his fist. ‘How about we-’

‘Not now, Chat!’ she said, her face still full of anger. ‘We need to hurry and defeat Stoneheart before those butterflies akumatise anyone else. Lucky Charm!’

Marinette slumped in her seat at school, trying not to let her eyes droop close. The Dupont students had been called back after lunch, since Stoneheart had been defeated, and now Marinette was pretty tired. It hadn’t taken long for her and Chat Noir to defeat Stoneheart after she called for her lucky charm, but once she had deakumatised Ivan and cleansed Paris, Officer Raincomprix and the soldiers had wanted to thank them, and by the time she was done, she only had thirty seconds left before she changed back. She had to hide in the Palais de Chaillot, then get the metro all the way back to school. All the physical exertion had taken it out of her, and now she was exhausted.

‘Marinette!’ Alya shouted as she came running into the classroom. ‘Can you believe what just happened?!’

‘Er, no. It was pretty insane, to be honest.’

‘I know, right?! But… I may have snuck out of my house and gone to film it.’

Marinette’s eyes widened. ‘You did what?!’

Alya giggled. ‘And they’re showing it on the news. Look!’ She fiddled with Mme Bustier’s computer for a moment, and then the TVi channel flashed up on the projector screen.

‘Don’t be bemused, it’s just the news! Nadja Chamack here. Earlier today, a giant stone man named Stoneheart attacked Paris. It seemed all hope was lost until Ladybug and Chat Noir showed up. Let’s take a look at some amateur footage sent in by Alya Césaire.’

The screen transitioned to a shaky recording filmed on a mobile, but you could still see clearly what was happening. It was after the purple butterflies had dispersed, and it showed Ladybug shouting commands to Chat Noir as they both attacked Stoneheart.

It flipped back to Nadja then. ‘These two superheroes saved the day, but after Hawk Moth’s warning, it seems there will be more incidents like this on the way. Can they save us again? Paris is relying on our new guardian angels, Ladybug and Cat Noir, to save us all. Our lives depend on them.’

‘Isn’t she so badass?’ Alya asked as she closed the browser window.

‘Who? Nadja?’

Alya laughed. ‘No. Ladybug! Chat Noir’s pretty fly, too. I’ve started a blog for them!’ She thrust her phone into Marinette’s face, and loaded on the screen was the Ladyblog. There was only one article so far, but it had dozens of comments.

‘That’s really impressive, Alya.’

‘Thanks,’ she said as she sat down, more people coming back into the classroom now. ‘I really want to be a journalist, so if this takes off, it’ll look amazing on my university application.’

‘It will, but please be careful next time. It looked like you put yourself in a really dangerous situation.’

‘Don’t worry about me, girl. I got this handled. Speaking of which…’ Alya trailed off as she stared at Chloé and Sabrina’s empty seats. ‘Shall we go and sit over there?’

‘Are you sure? You’ll invoke the wrath of Chloé for all eternity.’

‘Ah, it’s fine. If I can handle the military and Stoneheart, I can handle her.’

They grabbed their bags, then hotfooted it to the other side of the classroom and sat down, Alya behind Nino, Marinette behind Adrien’s empty seat.

Nino turned around. ‘Dudes, as kick ass as that move is, Chloé will murder you both.’

‘Too right I will!’

The two girls rolled their eyes when they heard Chloé’s voice, and a quick glance to the door confirmed their suspicions. The blonde girl was stood in the doorframe, Sabrina at her side and Adrien just behind her.

Marinette felt her heart beat start to speed up, but she clenched her fists and turned away from the door. She wouldn’t let herself fall for Adrien. She couldn’t.

‘What are you two absolute idiots doing in our seats?!’ Chloé said as she and Sabrina came over.

Marinette rolled her eyes. ‘I don’t see your name on these seats. Besides, if you really want to talk about who owns them, then it’s me. I’ve sat here since I was thirteen. And Alya’s moved now, so you two can have your old seats back.’

Chloé huffed. ‘This isn’t over, Dupain-Cheng.’ She and Sabrina stalked off to their seats and Adrien sat down without a word, then Mme Bustier came in.

‘Okay, let’s try and start the day again. Time for geography class!’

A couple of the students groaned as they got out the correct textbook, but Adrien strained his ears, trying to listen to what Marinette was doing. He couldn’t see her now without being completely obvious about it. But it was probably for the best. This way, she would be out of his sight, and out of his mind.

Except she wasn’t. He concentrated on the lesson, but he also couldn’t stop himself from noticing every noise she made through their afternoon classes, and by the time it started to rain halfway through maths, he could still hear her over the soft pitter patter of the raindrops on the classroom windows. She hummed when she didn’t understand something, squeaked every time she accidentally kicked herself under the desk, and giggled softly whenever Alya whispered something funny to her. He wanted it to be him sat next to her. But he’d ruined his chances of that ever happening.

‘Alright!’ Mme Bustier shouted over the school bell. ‘You’ve got plenty of homework to be getting on with. Have a good evening everyone!’

They all started to pack away their belongings, and once they were out of the classroom, they all darted across the courtyard and to the sheltered entrance of the school to get out of the rain.

‘See you tomorrow, Marinette!’ Alya shouted before she ran with the majority of the class to the metro entrance. More students followed, until the only people left were Marinette, Adrien and Chloé.

A silver car pulled up a moment later, though, and one of the hotel staff got out of the car with an umbrella and came up the steps for Chloé.

‘Well, this is me. I’ll see you tomorrow, Adrikins.’

‘Bye, Chloé.’

She blew him a kiss over her shoulder, then she was escorted to the car.

It was just Marinette and Adrien left.

She could just run home. It wasn’t far. She could quite literally see it. But it was raining hard now. She would get absolutely soaked. As if on cue, the rain came down heavier and changed direction, now wetting her legs. Great.

He adjusted his school bag on his shoulder. His bodyguard would be here soon. He glanced over at Marinette. Her legs were getting wet. She looked uncomfortable. Adrien reached inside his school bag and took out an umbrella. He put it up then looked at Marinette.

‘You can stand under here if you want.’

Marinette hesitated. She didn’t want to. Well, she did want to. Because she was getting wet. And she wanted to be closer to Adrien. But she shouldn’t want that. She looked away when she felt a blush overtaking her face. She should just do it.

Quickly, so she wouldn’t change her mind, she darted under the umbrella, their chests almost touching. It was very small: it would have to be to fit inside Adrien’s school bag. But it sheltered them from the rain.

They stood in silence for a moment and Adrien couldn’t stand it, not when Marinette was so close to him. He had to try. ‘I’m sorry.’

She looked up him, her beautiful bluebell eyes wide. ‘For the gum?’

‘Yes, I… I didn’t do it. Chloé did. I was trying to get it off. I know this is no excuse, but I haven’t actually been to school before. I’m not really sure how to act.’

Marinette stared at him for a moment before she let out a pretty little giggle. ‘You’ve never been to school before?’

‘No. Or left the house much. My father doesn’t like me leaving the house. Your laugh is cute.’

Marinette’s blush darkened, but she was thankful that Adrien wouldn’t be able to see it given how dark the sky had become. ‘I-I-I…T-thank you.’

Adrien smiled. ‘You’re welcome. Do you think… if I haven’t completely messed up my chance, that we could be friends? The only friend I really have is Chloé.’

Marinette’s face saddened for a moment. ‘Chloé’s your only friend?’ What kind of upbringing had Adrien had for him to have only one friend?

The blond nodded and Marinette placed her hands on her hips. ‘Of course, I’ll be your friend. In fact, tomorrow, I’ll introduce you to everyone. I’m sure they’ll want to be friends with you, too.’ She bowed her head then. ‘I should apologise as well. For the way I spoke to you.’

‘Don’t worry about it. I would have spoken that way to me, too.’

They shared a smile and a horn beeped from the pavement, and they both turned to see another car, one that Adrien recognised. ‘That’s my bodyguard. Can we give you a lift home?’

‘No, it’s okay. I only live over there,’ she said, pointing to the bakery across from the school. ‘I just wanted to wait until the rain slackened off a bit so I wouldn’t get drenched.’

‘Here, let me walk you home.’

‘No, it’s okay, you don’t to.’

‘I insist. It’s the least I can do for how I treated you today.’ Adrien held out his arm, and after a moment of consideration, Marinette hooked her arm through his.

They walked down the school steps together, then across the road to the bakery, all the while, Marinette’s heart was beating like crazy. She had never felt like this before. And Adrien wasn’t feeling all that dissimilar. There was a funny sensation in his stomach, a mixture of butterflies and something else. It made him feel a little sick, but at the same time, he didn’t want it to stop.

‘Thank you,’ Marinette said as they approached the bakery door. ‘Would you like to come in for cake and a drink?’

‘Oh, I’d love to,’ he said, managing not to tag on the end how much he’d love to spend time with her, too. ‘But I have to go. My father can be quite strict, and I have my Chinese class and then my piano class in an hour.’

‘Wow, okay, then let me get you a cake to take with you.’

She darted into the shop before he could say otherwise, and she came back a moment later with a cupcake topped with swirly light pink icing and white sprinkles. ‘Here. It’s called a Mari cupcake. My dad introduced them to the menu when I was a little girl. Pink’s my favourite colour. I used to wear it a lot.’

Adrien took the cupcake from her. ‘Thank you. And you should wear it again. It would suit you.’

She blushed, and Adrien could see it this time, thanks to the bright lights of the bakery. ‘I-I’ll see you in the morning, Adrien.’

‘Bye, Marinette.’

She went back into the bakery and Adrien waltzed back over to the car, protecting the tiny cupcake from the rain. He took care not to jostle it as he got in the car, and he ate it as they drove back. He wasn’t allowed sweets unless it was his birthday or Christmas, and it would be confiscated as soon as Nathalie saw it, so he had to be quick. But he didn’t want to be. He wanted to savour it since it had been a gift from Marinette. And because it had been named after her. But even though he ate fast, he still managed to identify all the flavours. The cupcake was chocolate, and very sweet, but the icing, although pink, was orange flavoured with popping candy hidden inside it, giving it a punch. It was like Marinette. Sweet and kind, but unique in every other way. No wonder all the boys at school liked her. Including him.

He popped the last bite into his mouth and leant back against the car seat. He liked Marinette. He really did. And now that he had a chance with her, he wasn’t going to ruin it. He wouldn’t try to get her akumatised. He would protect her, at any means necessary, even if that angered his father. Right now, Marinette seemed to be the only good thing in his life, and he would keep this one good thing for himself.

The car came to a stop and Adrien dashed inside, not bothering with the umbrella, and stood in the entrance hall was Nathalie, along with, surprisingly, his father.

‘Oh, hello, father.’

‘Adrien,’ he said, his voice clipped. ‘You worked with Ladybug.’

Adrien bowed his head. ‘Yes, I… I thought, for now, it may be for the best that I try to befriend her. If she believes your akumas are trying to take her earrings, then she won’t suspect me, and I can get her to trust me. I know this way, it might take a bit longer to get mum back, but I think it could work.’

His father hummed. ‘I understand. In that case, you did a good job.’

Adrien couldn’t help but smile.

‘However.’

The smile left his face.

‘You need to do better to akumatise people. The boy who I akumatised this morning wasn’t because of you.’

‘It wasn’t. I’m sorry, father.’

‘Go and do your homework. I’m sure you’ve got plenty to do.’

Adrien nodded and went to his room in silence, but as soon it shut, Plagg flew out from where he’d been hiding in his bag.

‘I knew there was a reason why I hadn’t been told I’d been getting a new wearer,’ the kwami said, looking betrayed.

‘Look, I’m sorry, but I had to do it. This is to get my mum back.’

‘Back? Where is she, kid?’

‘She’s dead.’ Adrien looked down at the floor and Plagg zoomed into his field of vision.

‘I’m sorry, kid, but you can’t use the miraculouses for this. It’s too dangerous. And my sugar cube would kill me.’

‘Your sugar cube?’

‘Tikki. She’s Ladybug’s kwami.’

Adrien nodded. ‘I know it’s probably dangerous, but I have to try.’

Plagg sighed. People had tried to combine the black and cat and ladybird miraculous in the past. They always thought they were right. There was clearly no point in telling Adrien the consequences of it. But maybe he could be gradually changed over time. It seemed his father, who was more than likely Hawk Moth, was behind all of this, and he’d manipulated Adrien to his way of thinking. ‘Okay. I understand.’

The blond gave him a huge smile. ‘Thank you. Okay, before homework, let’s go on the Ladyblog. We need to observe Ladybug’s every move if we’re going to defeat her.’

Plagg just nodded, following his wearer over to his computer. Adrien couldn’t combine the miraculouses. It would rip his whole life apart and ruin him if he did.

Chapter Text

Wednesday 11th September 2019

Marinette tried not to make her staring too obvious, but she found it hard to stop herself. Ever since she’d met Adrien last week, she couldn’t help but be captivated by him. She hadn’t been able to stop thinking about their chat under the umbrella. He had seemed so different from her interaction with him in the classroom that day. He was kind and friendly but came across as quietly confident. Not to mention her heart had been beating a mile a minute because of how close together they’d been stood.

The day after, as promised, Marinette introduced Adrien to everyone in the class, and as they worked their way around, Adrien stood progressively closer to her, and as they walked back to their seats, he had leant towards her and whispered, ‘told you that you looked good in pink.’

She let out a squeak and looked away from Adrien as she blushed, Yes, she had even worn pink. She’d worn it today, too. A bubble gum pink skater skirt along with a long-sleeved black shirt and low black heels. She looked cute, she knew she did, and Adrien had complimented her outfit when she’d come into the classroom this morning.

Alya rolled her eyes. School had ended five minutes ago, and they’d been stood on the school steps for four. ‘Girl, it’s so obvious.’

Marinette snapped out of her daze and forced herself to look at Alya. ‘W-what’s obvious?’

‘That you like Adrien! Go and tell him you think he’s cute.’

Marinette squeaked and held her sketchpad tight to her chest. ‘I can’t do that!’

‘Why not?’

‘It’s not like he would return my feelings…’

‘I don’t think you have that to worry about.’

Alya was right, Adrien thought with a smile. He knew the two girls were trying to be discreet, and he was stood at the bottom of the steps with Nino, in comparison to them at the top of the steps. But Adrien had become attuned to listening for Marinette’s voice, and he could hear her loud and clear from here. He would return her feelings. There was no doubt about it.

‘And I- Adrien, dude, did you hear what I just said?’

Adrien jumped slightly and turned to face Nino with a smile. ‘Sorry, my mind just wandered for a second. What did you say?’

‘I said I like Marinette.’

Adrien forced the smile to stay on his face. He’d been expecting this: Kim and Max had already told him. But he still couldn’t help but feel jealous. Marinette was his. No one else’s.

‘What do you think I should do?’

Adrien’s fake smile widened. ‘Ask her out!’

‘Are you joking?!’ Nino exclaimed. ‘Dude, I know you’re new here, but that’s not how things work with Marinette. She rejects everyone.’

The blond just shrugged. That was the plan. Nino confesses, Marinette rejects him, leaving Marinette all for him. ‘Okay, so ask her to the zoo as if we’re all going, but when we get there, I leave, and you can be alone with Marinette. I’ sure she’ll see what a great guy you are once you’re alone together.’

‘Dude, I can’t talk to her! I get shy just thinking about her.’

Adrien tried not to let his smile slip into a grimace. He couldn’t stand the thought of anyone else thinking about Marinette. ‘It’ll be fine. Plug your ear buds into your phone and put one bud in your ear. I’ll call you and tell you exactly what to say. I’ll guide you through the whole thing.’

Before Nino could have the chance to say no, Adrien turned around and called for Marinette.

‘Go on, girl!’ Alya said, shoving Marinette down the stone steps.

With a squeak, she tripped and clenched her eyes shut as she prepared herself for the fall, but instead of the concrete against her face, she felt large hands around her waist. She opened her eyes and she instantly blushed when she saw it was Adrien who had caught her.

‘Are you alright? You’re not hurt, are you?’ he asked with a gentle squeeze to her waist. She was so small in comparison to him. It was cute. Not to mention she’d worn pink again for him.

‘I-I’m fine.’

He reluctantly let go of her then, and she scrambled to pick up her sketch pad, which he hadn’t even noticed she’d dropped. It had fallen open, though, and on the page facing upwards was a sketch of him. It was really good. And he was very flattered: she must have drawn it from memory since she’d never drawn in front of him.

‘What did you need, Adrien?’ she asked with a blush, Alya now stood next to her.

‘We were wondering if you two wanted to go to the zoo with us? I don’t have my fencing lesson for an hour or so.’

‘Yes! I’ll go with you! Erm… I mean… Alya and I will go with the two of you.’ Marinette let out a nervous laugh. Why couldn’t she speak to Adrien like she was a normal human being?

‘Let’s get going then!’ Alya grabbed her wrist and pulled her towards the metro. ‘This is going to be an awesome opportunity for you and Adrien to be alone,’ she whispered.

Marinette’s blush darkened. ‘As much as I want to, I’m a mess when I’m alone with him.’

‘You just need to get used to being in his company. You can manage it sometimes. When you told me about the two of you under the umbrella, it didn’t seem like you stuttered much then.’

‘I just don’t understand. I’m not like this around other boys.’

Alya laughed. ‘That’s because he’s not other boys. He’s the boy you like. Come on. I’ll help you.’

They boarded the train, Adrien and Nino getting on after them along with Kim.

‘Hey! Where are you all off to?’ he asked. He stayed stood up with Adrien and Nino by the doors, but Marinette and Alya sat down, whispering to each other.

‘The zoo.’

‘Me, too! I have a score to settle with a panther and Alya’s dad.’

Adrien narrowed his eyes. ‘I feel like that won’t go well.’

Kim laughed. ‘It’ll be fine. How come the four of you are going?’

‘Nino’s going to ask out Marinette,’ Adrien whispered.

Kim took in a breath through his teeth. ‘May the luck of every single god be with you, Nino.’

‘Thanks, man.’

‘I’m going along to give him advice,’ Adrien said.

Kim nodded. ‘That’s sound. She seems to like you, Adrien. Come to think of it, she talks to you more than any other boy at the school and you’ve only been here a week and a half.’

Adrien laughed awkwardly. ‘Really? I don’t think that’s true…’

The metro came to a stop and the five of them got off and headed for the zoo. As soon as they bought their tickets, Kim ran off towards the panther enclosure, and the other four ambled around together. Adrien kept an eye on Nino, though, to make sure he wasn’t getting that close to Marinette, and thankfully, his friend was too shy to even look at her. This was probably going to be easier than expected.

When they had moved on from the meerkats and towards the giraffes, Alya took her phone out and read the screen. ‘Oh, I have to go and babysit the twins! My mum just found out she has to go to work.’

Nino smiled at her. ‘That’s cool. See you tomorrow, Alya!’

‘Bye!’ she shouted as she jogged back towards the zoo’s entrance, and Adrien took his own phone out.

He sighed as he stared at the black screen. ‘Actually, it looks like I have to go, too. My fencing lesson got moved up.’

Marinette frowned and walked over to Adrien. ‘Are you sure you can’t stay?’ she asked him, her bluebell eyes wide.

He wanted nothing more than to shove his phone back into his pocket and say yes and tell Nino to leave them alone, but he couldn’t. That would only make the other boy want to pursue her even more. It would have to be like this. But one day, they could come here together on a proper date. ‘I’m sorry, I really can’t. My father can be very… strict. I’ll make it up to you, though. We’ll hang out, just us, yeah?’

Marinette nodded, a smile back on her beautiful face, and Adrien walked off, pausing when he was out of Marinette and Nino’s line of sight. He’d make it up to her? Why did he say that? It made it sound like they really were a couple. Either way, she hadn’t noticed. But he’d meant it. He did want to make it up to her. But he didn’t know when he would next have free time. He’d find a way, though.

He cycled back around, coming up behind Marinette and Nino by the giraffe enclosure. They were sat on a bench, half a metre between them, and Nino had one earbud in.

Adrien hid behind a bush then took out his phone and rang Nino, and he picked up straight away, and now he could hear their conversation.

‘So, you erm… I saw your sketchpad before,’ Nino said. ‘That was a really good drawing of Adrien. Did you do it from memory?’

‘Yeah,’ she said and Adrien smiled.

‘What else do you draw?’ Adrien asked, and Nino repeated it.

‘Oh, not usually people. Mainly designs for clothes I want to make.’

Adrien’s smile widened. He was one of the only people Marinette had drawn. He felt honoured. ‘That’s really cool,’ he said, trying to sound more like Nino. ‘So, you’ve probably guessed why we’re here.’

Marinette glanced at Nino. ‘To look at the animals?’

‘No. I want to confess my feelings to you,’ Adrien said: they may as well get on with it.

‘N-no. I-I want to confess my feelings to you.’

Marinette’s eyes widened. ‘Oh! Well… erm… you see, the thing is… Alya likes you!’

Adrien heard a squawk not that far away that sounded mysteriously like Alya.

‘What? Really?’ Nino said without Adrien’s guidance.

Before Marinette could reply, Kim ran past them, looking terrified. ‘Run!’ he shouted, and a moment later, a hoard of zoo animals ran after him.

Nino and Marinette ran off with no hesitation, and to Adrien’s relief, in different directions, and he watched as the animals ran past where he was hidden. If this was an akuma attack, then he could probably feed Ladybug to the animals. That seemed plausible if he didn’t need the earrings. He would have to think of another way.

He turned around and opened his denim shirt pocket. ‘Plagg?’

The kwami flew out with a frown on his face. They’d been slowly getting to know each other, but Plagg still wasn’t feeling too enthusiastic about being stolen. ‘What is it?’

‘Transforming time?’

‘Will there be camembert after?’

‘Of course, there’ll be camembert. You can even have double camembert.’

Plagg brightened up. ‘Okay! Let’s do this, kid!’

‘Claws out!’

After a flash of green, Adrien was Chat Noir, and he took his baton out and climbed up the nearest feeding house in the zoo. He could see Kim, not too far away, and he’d stopped running, and seemed to be talking to a… panther? Had his dad akumatised a panther? Was that even possible?

Ladybug jumped between them and Chat Noir sighed: he should probably make an appearance. He propelled himself into the air with his baton and landed next to Ladybug.

‘Why don’t you pick on someone the same species as you?’ he asked.

The panther growled and launched himself at him, but he darted out of the way just in time, leaving a path straight to Kim. The panther growled again and leapt forward, but Ladybug grabbed Kim, and using her yoyo, swung them both onto the top of the nearest enclosure.

‘Nice going, kitty!’ she shouted down to him and Chat Noir resisted the urge to roll his eyes.

‘Sorry, but I want to keep all nine of my lives!’ Friends, he had to be friends with her. For now, anyway.

‘You’ll have none by the time I’m done with you,’ the panther snarled, jumping for Chat Noir again, but he extended his baton and joined Ladybug and Kim on top of the enclosure.

‘How come he can talk? He’s a panther!’

Ladybug narrowed her eyes. ‘What?’

‘Animals can’t talk.’

She groaned. ‘A panther wasn’t akumatised, Chat! It was a person!’

‘It’s Alya’s dad,’ Kim said, looking guilty. ‘I may have wound him up a bit.’

‘It’s okay,’ Ladybug said with a smile. ‘Did you see what object was akumatised?’

‘No. I’m sorry.’

Ladybug and Chat Noir peered over the side of the enclosure, which the panther was pacing around, growling up at them.

‘There,’ Chat Noir said. ‘His bracelet. That’s the only object on him. That has to be it.’

‘It must be. Okay, here’s the plan. We…’ She trailed off as the panther was engulfed in a dark purple, almost black light, and transformed into an eagle. ‘Okay, change of plan! Chat, carry Kim and follow me!’

Using their yoyo and baton, the three of them made their way across Paris, the eagle following them, but once the three of them had erratically jumped off roofs and between alleyways several times, he’d lost them.

‘This way!’ Ladybug called. ‘I know somewhere safe.’

Chat Noir followed her, and a moment later, they had dropped down to the street level and he ran after her and Kim as they entered Marinette’s bakery, but as they stepped through the threshold, he felt a sense of dread overtake him. He hadn’t bothered to see if Marinette had been okay. He’d been so caught up with going after Ladybug, he didn’t even know if she was safe. He’d have to find out later. It would look odd to leave right now. Even if all he wanted to do was run across all of Paris’ rooftops to find her and make sure she hadn’t been hurt. He wouldn’t be able to forgive himself if she had been.

‘Sir! Ma’am!’ Ladybug said, and Chat Noir snapped out of his daze to see that Ladybug was addressing the two people stood behind the counter, who he presumed were Marinette’s parents judging by their appearance. ‘We need to hide this boy in your house.’

‘Of course!’ Marinette’s mum said, and wrapped an arm around Kim, leading him upstairs.

‘You both look like you could do with a drink,’ Marinette’s dad said. ‘Come on up.’

They both followed him through the bakery and up the stairs in the back.

‘We can’t stay long,’ Ladybug said. ‘Animan will have Kim’s scent. He’ll find us soon.’

‘That’ll be long enough for you to rest.’

They entered the kitchen and living room then, and Kim was already sat down on the settee holding a glass of water.

‘What would you both like?’ Marinette’s dad asked.

‘Water’s fine,’ Chat Noir mumbled as he glanced around the room. It looked like… a home. The Agreste mansion looked nothing like this. Or felt nothing like this. He couldn’t even remember the last time he’d even sat in the living room. He usually just stayed in his room. He wandered over to the bookshelf next to another set of stairs, and amongst the books was a photo of Marinette with her parents. All three of them were smiling. They looked so happy. There were only a few photos of the Agreste family altogether and in them, they never smiled. He wanted what Marinette had with her family.

He looked closer at the photo. Marinette was obviously quite a bit younger in this photo than she was now, maybe about thirteen? But that didn’t matter. Her hair… it was in pigtails. Like Ladybug’s.

He glanced at where his partner was stood looking out at the street through one of the windows. She had her back to him, but now that he took notice, her hair was very similar to Marinette’s. Weird.

‘Here’s your drink,’ Marinette’s dad said as he handed him a glass of water.

‘Oh, thank you.’

‘Ah, that’s my daughter, Marinette,’ he said, seeing what Chat had been looking at. ‘She’s a bit older now, but she gets prettier by the day. I’m worried about when she’ll come home with her first boyfriend. A girl as beautiful as her won’t stay single for much longer.’

Chat Noir smiled. ‘I’m sure whoever she picks will be good for her.’

‘I hope so.’

‘Chat Noir,’ Ladybug said, and he looked back over at her. She was facing him now, a light blush on her face. ‘Can you come here?’

He went over, standing beside her at the window. ‘Is everything okay? You’re a bit red.’

‘I’m fine. See that bus?’ she asked, pointing to a deserted one parked haphazardly opposite Dupont. ‘We’re going to lure Animan into it. He probably can’t transform into an animal bigger than that to break free.’

‘Okay, but how?’

‘By using Kim.’

‘Hey!’

Ladybug turned around with a smile. ‘Not you literally. Can I have one of your wristbands?’

He handed it to her. ‘What are you going to do with it?’

‘You’ll see. Just stay up here. Come on, kitty.’

He followed her out of the room and back downstairs, watching as she stretched the wristband and put it on the bannister at the end of the stairs. ‘Perfect.’

‘I hate to break it to you, my lady, but these stairs are nowhere near that bus.’

‘I know. One second.’ She went into the bakery and grabbed a small cake box. ‘He’ll have to transform into something really small to be able to fit through the lock to get to Kim. I’ll catch him in here, then I want you to wait by the front door to the bakery. I’ll throw the box to you, then you need to run to the bus and put the box inside through one of the small open windows. Got it?’

‘Got it.’

He went over to the bakery’s front door, watching Ladybug as she opened the box ready. She was really clever for thinking up something like that. He’d have to get better if he was going to be able to outsmart her enough to take her earrings.

A minute later, the black light oozed through the lock and a ladybird flew into the hallway. Ladybug trapped it in the box, then she threw it to Chat Noir. He caught it, then ripped the door to the bakery open and sprinted to the bus.

As he ran, the box started to change colour as Animan transformed, so he threw it at one of the bus’ window, and thankfully, it went inside, and a moment later, a panther was sat in the bus.

Animan growled and pounced at him, but the window stopped him from getting out and Chat Noir smirked. ‘Too bad.’

‘Don’t tease him, Chat,’ Ladybug said, coming to stand beside him.

‘Sorry, I couldn’t help it. What now, though?’ he asked, watching Animan pace up and down the length of the bus.

‘I’m not sure… Lucky Charm!’ she shouted, and in her arms landed a car jack. ‘What am I supposed to do with this?’

‘Change the bus’ tyre?’ he suggested, then looked back at the bus. There didn’t seem to be an obvious use for it…

Animan pounced at the windows again, then he backed away, engulfing himself in the black light. But it grew bigger and bigger, and Chat Noir grabbed Ladybug’s arm.

‘Erm… my lady…’

She gasped and they slowly backed away just as the bus broke apart. Before them stood Animan, except this time, he was a tyrannosaurus.

‘Pretty sure that’s cheating…’ Chat Noir said, his eyes wide as he stared at the dinosaur.

‘We don’t have any time to question it. But at least I know what to use this for now. Cover me!’

‘Huh?’

Ladybug ran forwards, car jack in hand, and jumped up, right into the tyrannosaurus’s waiting mouth.

Chat Noir stood still, completely stunned. She’d just… this girl was crazy.

She turned around then and smiled at him, sat on the dinosaur’s tongue, and he bit back a gasp. Her smile, her hair… she looked like Marinette.

Then the dinosaur closed his mouth, engulfing her completely.

Chat Noir couldn’t help but fall to his knees then. His heart had felt like it had stopped. How… how…

Animan’s eyes widened then, and he reopened his mouth, revealing Ladybug opening the car jack inside his mouth, disabling him momentarily.

‘Chat Noir! His bracelet!’

‘Right!’ he shouted, snapping out of his astonishment. ‘Cataclysm!’ He dove for Animan’s legs and closed his hand around the bracelet, letting the trinket fall to black rubble through his fingertips.

He watched, mind hazy, as Ladybug cleansed the akuma then threw the lucky charm into the air, restoring Paris back to normal. Then she turned to him with a smile. ‘Pound it?’ she asked, but he shook his head and hugged her instead.

He knew she wasn’t Marinette. But in that moment… she had looked so much like her. He wouldn’t have been able to handle it if he’d lost her. He knew that he’d only known her for a week, but she already meant so much to him. She truly was the only good thing in his life.

‘Chat?’ Ladybug whispered. ‘Are you okay?’

‘Y-Yeah. I was just worried. Are you alright?’

‘I’m fine. I knew what I was doing.’

He pulled out of the hug. ‘I’m glad. Erm… I’ll get the akuma victim home.’

‘Okay. I’ll see you next time.’ She smiled at him, then swung away using her yoyo.

Chat Noir took a deep breath in before approaching Alya’s dad. He truly had been so worried in that moment. But he knew his father would have something to say about it when he got home.

Marinette groaned as she dawdled down the stairs at home. Today’s akuma attack had been something else. And Chat’s reaction had been odd: they barely knew each other. And to top it all off, Alya had asked to meet her outside the bakery. This wasn’t going to be good. Alya had helped her out by coming to the zoo to tell her what to say to Adrien. Or rather, Nino. But either way, she’d come in good faith and Marinette had lied about her. She was a bad friend.

She left the bakery through the side door, and almost bumped into Alya, who was stood with… Nino?

‘Erm… hi!’ she said, glancing between the two of them.

Alya laughed. ‘You don’t need to look so nervous!’

‘I feel like I should! I lied about you.’

Alya laughed again. ‘Don’t sweat it, girl! Nino and I bumped into each other running away from my dad, and we hid together. Turns out, I actually do like him.’

‘And I like her, too,’ Nino admitted with a blush.

‘What?! Really?’

‘Yes! So, we’re dating. Don’t feel bad. It wouldn’t have happened if you hadn’t said what you did, even if it was a lie,’ Alya said with a shrug.

‘So, how about we help you?’ Nino suggested.

‘With what?’

‘Adrien!’

Marinette looked at the ground. ‘I don’t have feelings for him…’ she said, even though she could already feel her heart beat speeding up at the mere mention of his name. But what was the use in admitting that she felt something for him? He was handsome, rich, and popular. She was none of those things. Adrien was so out of her league that it was ridiculous. There was no way he’d return her feelings. It was best to just forget how she felt for him. Even if he was the only boy she’d ever liked.

Gabriel paced around his son in his lair and Adrien tried not to feel nervous, but it was useless. He had known that this was coming. He shouldn’t have hugged Ladybug, no matter how much resemblance she bared to Marinette in that moment.

‘Why did you hug her?’ his father asked.

‘She… I had to pretend to be worried about. She’d just been eaten by a dinosaur. I thought a hug was an appropriate response. I need her to trust me.’

‘I don’t believe you,’ Gabriel whispered, coming up behind him then, breathing against the shell of his ear and Adrien tried not to cower away from him. His father had used to tower over him, and even though Adrien was taller than him now, even if only by about an inch, his father still managed to intimidate him.

‘I hate her. Why would I hug her for any other reason?’

He listened to his father’s footsteps as he walked away. ‘Just to make sure then…’ His father pressed a button on the wall, revealing a row of what his father called torture instruments. They were intended to be used if he ever caught a miraculous holder, or even better, the guardian of the miraculouses. But now was the time he had decided to use them. There was no point in arguing. It would only make his punishment worse.

His father came back to him then. ‘Make a noise, and I’ll hurt you more.’

Adrien didn’t bother nodding or agreeing, he just stood there, and a moment later, some sort of riding crop or whip came down across the top of his back. He jolted forwards slightly, but otherwise had no reaction apart from the tears pricking in his eyes. It hurt. A lot. But his father hadn’t made him take his shirt off. It would have made it hurt more if he had done.

After twenty hits to his back, though, Adrien was crying silently, his lips rolled together to keep in his cries of pain. He could feel something wet on his back. He’d started to bleed, hadn’t he?

The riding crop dropped to the floor then and he listened as his father walked to where the concealed entrance in the floor was. ‘Anyone would think you didn’t want to see your mother again, Adrien. I’m ashamed of you.’

He wanted to retort back, shout and tell his father that it would be his father who his mother would be ashamed of for hurting their son like this, not him, but he held his tongue. It would only make things worse. And his father was right: he had to try harder if he wanted to see his mother again.

There was whooshing noise, signifying that his father had left his lair, and Adrien fell forwards, onto his hands and knees, panting from the pain and his tears.

‘Adrien…’ Plagg said as he flew out of his pocket. ‘How could your dad do this to you?’

The blond boy smiled at his kwami through his tears. ‘We just want my mum back. Don’t worry about me.’ He started to unbutton the soft denim shirt he’d worn that day and let it slip from his shoulders. ‘How bad is it?’

Plagg flew out of his line of vision. ‘Bad. There’s blood. A lot of it. Kid, you can’t let your dad do this to you. It’s not right.’

‘He is right, though.’

With a hiss, Adrien grabbed his shirt and stood up, leaving the lair and walked to his bedroom, his father thankfully nowhere in sight.

‘Shall I get you some ice from the kitchen?’ Plagg asked, flying beside Adrien’s ear.

‘No. I don’t think that’ll help.’

‘Camembert then?’

Adrien managed another smile and wiped away his tears. ‘That’ll help less, but thank you for offering.’

They entered his bedroom then, and to his surprise, Nathalie was stood by his bed with the first aid kit.

‘Your father asked me to tend to your wounds.’

Adrien chuckled. ‘That’s surprising.’

She frowned. ‘He does care for you, you know.’

‘He has a funny way of showing it…’ Plagg mumbled.

‘Here, lie on the bed.’

Adrien dropped his shirt to the floor and led down, his head buried in his arms as Nathalie cleaned the blood from his back. It hurt, but he tried not to think about the pain. Instead, he thought about Marinette. He’d been so stupid today. He should have just told Nino to back off the moment he’d told him that he had feelings for Marinette. And he should have looked for her as soon as Animan attacked. And he didn’t even have time to check if she was okay after the akuma attack was over. He guessed that he would find out tomorrow morning out school, but he hoped she was alright. She had to be. He had to protect her at all costs, no matter the cost to him.

Chapter Text

Saturday 28th September 2019

‘This way, Adrien!’

He faced the photographer and smiled, holding his pose sat on the edge of the fountain, but his eyes slid away from the camera lens.

Sat by the merry-go-round were Alya and Marinette, the two girls smiling and laughing together as they made flower crowns from the wildflowers that grew in the park. He didn’t have a clue how to make one, but he wanted to go over to them. Or rather, just to Marinette. Ever since the incident at the zoo, they’d yet to spend any time alone together apart from a few stolen moments at school. He had loved those moments together, but he wanted something more, even if it was just spending an extra ten minutes together. He had fallen for her. Hard. When he wasn’t being Chat Noir, she was all that he thought about.

‘Adrien!’

He jerked up, realising that he turned his whole body to face Marinette. ‘Sorry,’ he said as repositioned himself.

The photographer smirked at him. ‘Girlfriend?’

No,’ Adrien said with a blush. He hadn’t denied it because he didn’t want her to be. But this photographer knew his father, and if his father found out that he had feelings for someone, then he would use it against him. He couldn’t find out about Marinette.

She looked over at him then and waved, and he waved back, and she laughed, but he couldn’t hear it from here. God, he wanted nothing more than to spend the rest of the day with her and make her smile.

‘She’s just a friend,’ he told the photographer.

‘Sure she is. Let’s carry on.’

Adrien sat on the edge of the fountain now, one of his knees propped up, smiling for more photos, but once again, his eyes slid across to Marinette. He was all in black for this photo shoot, but she was wearing black jeans, a white strappy top, and a silky blue kimono that slid down her shoulders every few moments. Her hair was in a bun, too, showing off her slender neck. How would she look with her hair like that and wearing just that kimono? Adrien bit his lip as he imagined it. She always looked beautiful, but she would look ethereal like that.

‘Yes, keep biting your lip, Adrien!’

The model jumped slightly, not realising what he’d done, but held the pose anyway, sliding his eyes back to the camera. Now wasn’t the time to be imagining Marinette wearing very little clothing, or picturing how she might look led in the centre of his large bed, or… stop. This wasn’t the time. He still had to finish this photo shoot, and tonight he was supposed to be meeting the girl who had won the weather presenter competition. Why anyone would want to be a weather presenter was beyond him, and why he had to meet her was just weird. He’d rather spend that time with Marinette.

He managed to glance at his watch. The winner had been announced at three, and now it was quarter past. It had already been decided who he would be spending an evening with instead of Marinette.

Suddenly, there was a flash of lightning and Adrien looked up. It wasn’t supposed to rain…

His eyes widened when he saw a girl his age flying towards the park. Her hair was in pigtails that sparked electricity, and he watched as she pointed the umbrella she was holding at the merry-go-round. A bolt of wind and ice shot out of the end of the umbrella, and everyone by it started to dash away, but it was too late. The entire merry-go-round, and the surrounding area, was encased in ice, and Adrien’s first instinct was to run over to it. His heart was in his throat. It had all happened so quickly. He couldn’t tell if Marinette had managed to run away and save herself, or if she had been trapped. It would be more likely that she’d been trapped in the ice dome that had formed, and he couldn’t do anything in this form.

He ran for the nearest tree and hid behind it, whilst everyone else ran from the park, and once the girl – presumably whichever one it was that had lost the weather presenter competition – had flown away with a cackle, Adrien put his hand into his pants pocket, but found no kwami inside. He sighed: Plagg must have phased out of there during the photo shoot once he’d got bored.

Out of his other pocket, he took out a piece of camembert, and immediately, Plagg came out of one of the photographer’s boxes that held the extra lenses and lights.

‘I didn’t think you were supposed to leave your wearer in case of an emergency,’ Adrien said with a smirk as Plagg practically inhaled the cheese.

‘You’re right, but that photo shoot was exceptionally boring. Why can’t you have more interesting hobbies?’

‘Are Chinese, fencing, and piano not interesting enough for you?’

Plagg hummed. ‘Piano’s okay. I can play a bit.’

Adrien smiled. ‘Then we can play together when we get home. But right now, I need to transform. My friend is in danger. I think she’s stuck in the merry-go-round.’

Plagg glanced over at it. ‘Oh, god, kid. That is a mess. But this friend…’ The kwami smirked. ‘Is it Marinette?’

Adrien nodded, unable to help the blush on his face.

‘Then let’s save your princess!’

The blond boy smiled: that nickname suited her. ‘Plagg, claws out!’

He transformed, hidden behind the tree, then he sprinted over to the merry-go-round. It was completely encased in ice, no holes at either the top or bottom, and the ice was so thick that he couldn’t see through it to see who was trapped within. It was clear at the top, though, and Chat Noir could see the icicles that were beginning to form. If he didn’t get Ladybug to cleanse Paris soon, then Marinette could get seriously hurt. And he wouldn’t be able to forgive himself if that happened.

He paced back and forth for a few moments. Ladybug wasn’t here yet, and he didn’t want to rely on her, especially since it would just get him into trouble with his father, but also because Marinette could be hurt if he waited much longer. He would have to handle this alone.

‘Cata-’

‘Stop!’

He looked up, and sat atop the ice dome was Ladybug. ‘What are you doing?! You can’t use your power yet!’

‘I have to! My friend is trapped in here. Look at the icicles. She’s going to get hurt.’

Ladybug’s facial expression softened. ‘I’m sorry. But we’ll get her out of here, don’t worry. Just save your power for later, yeah?’

‘Okay. Let’s hurry. She went that way,’ Chat Noir said, pointing towards the televisions studio, and they took off over the Parisian skyline together.

The battle and defeat of Stormy Weather was a complete blur. All Chat Noir could think about was Marinette. With every second they battled, the more danger his princess would be in. He went faster, fought harder, and as soon as his fist met Ladybug’s in a quick “pound it”, he sprinted back to the park, having just enough sense to detransform in an alley before he continued on.

Marinette was stood by the merry-go-round, not a scratch on her, and her and Alya were chatting.

Adrien broke into a run again, heading straight for her. ‘Marinette!’ he shouted, and she turned to look at him, and a moment later, he was holding her in his arms, squeezing her tight.

‘I was so worried about you,’ he whispered, cradling the back of her head with his hand. She was so small, tucked against his chest under his chin with still an inch clearance. She was so precious to him. He couldn’t let anything bad happen to her. It would ruin him if she got hurt. ‘Are you okay?’ he asked.

‘I’m fine,’ she said after a moment, the words pressed against his throat. ‘What about you?’

‘I was okay. Just worried about you.’

They pulled apart then, greeted by a grinning Alya. ‘I was fine as well, thanks for asking.’

Adrien laughed and scratched the back of his neck. ‘Sorry.’ He probably shouldn’t have done what he just did in public.

‘It’s alright. I’ve got to get going,’ Alya said with a wink before jogging off.

‘She left her flower crown,’ Adrien said, glancing at the ground. He spotted where Marinette and Alya had been sat earlier, along with their flower crowns, but they had been ruined by the ice.

‘It’s okay. We can always make more.’

‘Can I make one with you?’

Marinette’s pretty bluebell eyes widened. ‘Of course! Don’t you have your photo shoot, though?’

‘I’m pretty sure we had finished. Come on. You’ll have to teach me what to do, though.’

She smiled and they sat down on the grass opposite each other, and Marinette picked a few wildflowers that were growing beside them. ‘Here.’ She handed him one, which he held between his thumb and forefinger, and he watched as she twisted another flower around it, gradually adding more as she went.

Adrien watched her in silence, just enjoying the feeling of their hands touching. She was warm despite the ice she had been trapped in, and her fingers were small but slender. They would fit perfectly between his much larger ones.

‘You make me nervous when you watch me like this,’ she said.

The blond boy smiled. ‘Sorry. I can’t help it. You fascinate me.’

She blushed. ‘How?’

‘You just do. You’re not like anyone I’ve ever met before. You’re so kind and sweet and caring, but you’re not afraid to stand up for yourself.’

‘You mean like I did to you on the first day?’ she asked, briefly glancing up at him as she continued to tie the wildflowers together.

‘Exactly. You’re something very different.’

She smiled. ‘I don’t feel like I am. I’m just normal. Even my favourite film is pretty generic.’

‘What is it?’

The Princess Bride.’

‘I’ve never seen it.’

She looked up at him then, stopping what she was doing. ‘What?! How come?’

‘My father isn’t the most accommodating person.’

‘What about your mum?’

‘She’s dead.’

Marinette gasped. She was an idiot. Of course she knew Adrien’s mum was dead. Gabriel Agreste hadn’t been seen outside since that day almost five years ago. ‘Oh, gosh, I’m so sorry. I didn’t even think.’

Adrien shook his head. ‘It’s okay. It was a long time ago now.’

‘Do you think… your father would ever let you come over to mine so we could watch some films together?’

Adrien’s whole face lit up at the prospect of that. He would love to spend the afternoon – no, the entire day – at Marinette’s, watching films, just the two of them. But the answer from his father would probably be no. But he didn’t want to let Marinette down. ‘Maybe. I’d have to see.’

She nodded, continuing with the flowers. ‘That would definitely make up for you having to leave when we were at the zoo.’

‘Is now not enough for you, Miss Dupain-Cheng?’ he asked with a wink.

She blushed and dropped the flowers she was holding. ‘Y-yes…’

He smiled and stayed quiet, watching as she finished the crown.

‘There.’ She placed it atop his head. ‘Did you want to try?’

‘I don’t think I’d be very good at it. My fingers can’t move quick enough.’

She giggled and Adrien’s heart pounded at the sweet sound.

‘You play the piano, don’t you?’

‘Yes, but that’s very different to making a flower crown. Here. Turn around.’

Marinette did so without any hesitation and Adrien shuffled forwards. He was sat cross-legged on the grass, but he was close enough to Marinette that she was practically sat in his lap. I wish she were.

He ignored that thought and plucked several flowers and stuck them in her bun, arranging them so it looked like a mini crown. It was fitting if she was his princess. Not that he’d say that nickname to her face. ‘Done,’ he said and took a picture of it with his phone then handed it to her.

She gasped and turned to him with a big grin. ‘I love it. Thank you. Do you want to come back to mine for cake? Did you like the cupcake I gave you?’

‘Which one?’ he asked. Marinette brought cake and pastries into school a couple of times a week, and he’d sampled each and every one. If he wasn’t being Chat Noir, then he definitely would have lost his model figure by now.

She laughed. ‘Come on.’ She grabbed his hand and they both stood up, making their way across the park and to the bakery.

Adrien smiled down at their joined hands. This is how he wanted to experience his one and only year at school: as Marinette’s boyfriend. God, he hoped she really did like him if her many conversations with Alya and Marinette’s blushes and stuttering were anything to go by.

Marinette reluctantly let go of his hand as they entered the bakery. What on earth had possessed her to take it in the first place? That fight with Stormy Weather had probably given her brain freeze. She wasn’t thinking straight. She’d made a flower crown with Adrien, invited him round to watch films with her, then held his hand. She needed to go to the doctors or something.

Her parents looked up from where they were cleaning out the cake cases and smiled at her. It was almost five, and most of the cake had already been sold, but a few remained.

‘Marinette,’ he father said. ‘Who’s your friend?’

‘This is Adrien Agreste from school. He’s new this year.’

‘Ah, yes, you mentioned him,’ her mum said. ‘Quite a bit.’

‘Mum!’

‘It’s nice to meet you, sir, ma’am,’ Adrien said.

The two adults laughed. ‘Don’t be so formal,’ her mum said. ‘Tom and Sabine is just fine. Sit down, we’ll bring you some cake and a drink over. Is there anything you’d like to try, Adrien?’

‘I think I’ve had everything on the menu by now.’

Tom and Sabine both laughed and Marinette led him over to one of the very few table and chairs in the café.

‘Sorry, they’re kind of embarrassing,’ she whispered, but Adrien shook his head.

‘Don’t apologise. I like them,’ he said. He wished his own father was just a little like Marinette’s parents.

Sabine came over then with two hot chocolates and two Mari cupcakes. ‘Have you tried these?’ Marinette’s mum asked as she set them down on the table.

‘Yes. They’re my favourite. Marinette gave me one on the first day of school.’

Sabine smiled warmly at him. ‘Ah, after your chat under the umbrella?’

‘Mum!’ Marinette hissed with a blush on her cheeks.

‘Alright, I’m going.’ Sabine went back over to the cake counter and Adrien eagerly pulled away the cake wrapper and started to eat the cupcake. He hadn’t had one of these since that first day at school and he’d been craving it since.

‘You like it that much?’ Marinette asked, her cupcake untouched.

‘Yeah. They remind me of you.’

‘Because of the name?’

Adrien shook his head. ‘Because of the taste. It’s like your personality.’

She smiled. ‘Thank you. You know, you don’t have to wait for me to bring them into school. You can come by anytime for some.’

‘I know, and I want to, believe me, but my father… and my bodyguard-’ Adrien jumped as his phone vibrated in his pocket and he took it out with a sigh. ‘And they want to know where I am. I’m sorry. I’ll have to go soon.’

He watched sadly as Marinette’s pretty lips turned into a slight frown. ‘It’s okay,’ she said. ‘I understand. But ask him about the movie day? So it can be arranged around your busy schedule. Or anytime you’re free actually. We don’t have to watch films. We can do something else.’

Adrien nodded with a smile. He wanted to spend all of his free time with Marinette. He popped the last bite of the Mari cupcake into his mouth and downed half of the hot chocolate. ‘I’ll see you on Monday?’

‘Yeah. I’ll walk you to the door.’

They both stood up and went to the bakery’s front door.

‘Are you sure you’re okay?’ Adrien asked. ‘I was really worried about you.’

‘I was fine. You don’t need to worry about me.’

‘I know, I just… can I give you another hug? I didn’t ask you before, so I’m sorry about that, but can I give you another one? I really was worried about you.’

Marinette gave him a heart-warming smile. ‘It’s alright, you don’t need to ask.’ She stepped closer to him and slipped her arms around his shoulders, and Adrien held her tightly around the waist, his nose buried in her hair. She smelt like chocolate and cake. It was so sweet and intoxicating. He wasn’t allowed sugary food, and he probably wasn’t allowed to date Marinette either. But he didn’t care. He would do anything for her.

‘Did that make up for the zoo?’ Adrien asked against her hair.

Marinette giggled against his throat. ‘Definitely.’

Adrien tried not to groan at how that felt and reluctantly pulled away from her. ‘I’ll see you at school then?’

She nodded. ‘Text me tomorrow?’

‘Of course, princess.’ His eyes widened, only just realising what he said. ‘I mean… Erm…’

Marinette’s face went bright red, but her smile stretched from ear to ear. ‘Bye, Adrien,’ she said with a giggle, and he left the bakery, pausing for a moment outside.

He was an idiot. How could he have let himself slip up like that? Marinette, as brave and confident as she could be, was also quite clearly painfully shy sometimes. Calling her that when they weren’t even in a relationship would be too much. But she had seemed to have liked it. It wasn’t a complete disaster.

‘Nice going, kid,’ Plagg said, peeking out from his pocket.

‘Oh, shut up. I think she liked it. But I don’t think I’ll call it her in public again. Come on, let’s go home.’

Plagg stuffed himself back inside Adrien’s pants pocket and the blond model walked home with a smile on his face. Okay, that had been a bit embarrassing, but Marinette had seemed to have liked it. And she was stuttering around him less. And she wanted to spend more time with him. He just only hoped it would be possible.

He sauntered through the gates to the Agreste Mansion, then through the front door, and as expected, his father was waiting for him in the dark foyer.

‘Good afternoon, father.’

‘What on earth are you wearing on your head?’

Adrien paused for a moment as he processed what his dad had said, then he smiled when he remembered. ‘It’s a flower crown. One of the children at the park saw me modelling and made it for me,’ he said, lying easily.

His father rolled his eyes. ‘Why did you rush?’

‘Rush?’ Adrien questioned.

‘The fight with Stormy Weather. You rushed. Why? The aim is to get Ladybug’s earrings, not spend so little time with her that it becomes almost impossible.’

‘Oh, I was… one of my friends was at the park and he got encased in ice. I was worried he would get hurt.’ Another lie.

‘And what’s this friend’s name?’

‘Nino. I sit next to him in class.’ Adrien couldn’t let his father know about Marinette.

Gabriel rolled his eyes and turned away from Adrien, walking towards the dining room. ‘Friends make you weak. You’re at school to akumatise people, not to be nice.’

‘Yes, father.’

Adrien watched as his dad walked away from him. There was no point in asking him about going over to Marinette’s for the day. There was no chance in hell that it would be allowed.

Chapter Text

Friday 11th October 2019

Adrien leant against the railings outside his classroom, looking down at all of the students. He still didn’t know the names and faces of the majority of people here, but he knew everyone in his class. He could spot most of them, but… where was Marinette? He smiled as he thought about her. She was usually late, and it was twenty minutes until classes started for the day. It was likely she wasn’t here yet.

But maybe Marinette would show up on time. Today was pretty important: his father was hosting a competition at the school. Adrien didn’t know all the details but he knew it was something to do with fashion, and the winning piece would be worn by him at his next big show. He was excited, but he couldn’t help the feeling of dread that rose up in him at the same time. He knew one of the losers of the competition would probably get akumatised. That’s why his father had probably arranged it: because his son couldn’t pretend to be mean enough to get anyone akumatised.

And as much as Adrien enjoyed finally being let out of the house, he wasn’t sure he would be able to fight Ladybug when the time came. He didn’t like her, since she was the one stopping his mum from coming back, but he didn’t want to fight her. She was a genius. He wouldn’t win against her without backup.

With a sigh, he kept glancing around the courtyard and smiled when he saw Marinette. She was sat almost directly below him, alone on a picnic bench, and she had her sketch pad out. From what he could tell, she was sketching the wall and bench directly opposite her, but sat on the bench… Adrien’s smile widened. She was drawing the two of them sat there, Marinette’s head leant on his shoulder. He wanted to do that with her. Except, whilst in the sketch, he was just sat there smiling, he’d wrap his arm around Marinette’s waist, and maybe lift her up slightly and guide her to sit on his lap. And once she was comfortable, he would wrap his arms around her and hold her close and never let go.

He wanted her to win today. She deserved it. She was always so kind and giving to everyone, and from the glimpses he’d seen of her sketchpad, she really liked fashion, too. His princess was impressive. Adrien let out a quiet groan and slouched on the railings. He can’t believe he called her that the other week. And although she had blushed, she hadn’t seemed to mind. Not that he was going to call that to her face again. Or maybe he would, when he asked her to be his girlfriend. He wanted to get to know her more first, though. They’d spent a while together already, but he wanted more time to just admire her in case she ultimately rejected him like all the other boys at this school. And Adrien didn’t even know if he was allowed to have a girlfriend. But he was planning on keeping her a secret if they got together. His father would use Marinette against him and Adrien wouldn’t have that. She was the only good thing in his life. His father couldn’t know how he felt about her.

He continued to watch her, but when Ivan and Mylène came upstairs, Adrien retreated into the classroom and sat at his desk, not bothering to get anything out.

Nino came in next and gave him a high five as he sat down. ‘Morning, my dude!’

‘Good morning.’

‘You sound happy. It wouldn’t be because you just spent fifteen minutes staring at Marinette, would it?’

Adrien blushed, ‘I-I wasn’t.’

Nino laughed. ‘Yeah, okay, I believe you.’

Neither boy said anything else and they both smiled as Marinette and Alya came into the classroom. Nino and Alya exchanged greetings, along with probably a quick kiss, but Adrien didn’t take any notice. He was completely focused on Marinette. She was wearing a black skater skirt along with an off the shoulder red shirt. Not only did the colour suit her incredibly well, but showed off the smooth expanse off her creamy skin at her neck and shoulders. She was gorgeous. Not that she hadn’t been every other day Adrien had seen her.

‘Hi, Marinette,’ he said, trying not to make his staring too obvious.

‘Hey,’ she said, clutching her sketchpad to her chest as she stopped by Adrien’s desk. She looked worried.

‘Are you nervous?’

‘A little. Do you know what the competition will be about?’

Adrien shook his head. ‘Sorry. My father didn’t tell me. I know as much as you.’ He reached out and squeezed the hand of her that wasn’t holding the sketchpad. ‘You can do it, though, whatever it is, I’m sure.’

She smiled timidly. ‘Thanks, Adrien.’

Her hand slipped out of his grip then as she ascended the stairs and took her own seat, drumming her fingers on the cover of her sketchpad. She really was nervous for today. And not just because the competition was for Gabriel Agreste. This design was for his son. For Adrien. Who had called her princess two weeks ago. They hadn’t spoken about it. She wasn’t sure she wanted to. Her face would go bright pink beyond recognition if they did. But that didn’t mean she hadn’t enjoyed it. Him calling her that had been the only thing on her mind for the three days after it happened, and it had made her heart flutter in her chest. She really liked Adrien. She was falling for him. Hard. But him calling her princess was just a mistake. There was no way that someone like him would be even remotely interested in someone like her.

The rest of the class came in, and then Mme Bustier and M Damocles entered, the latter of which was holding a piece of Gabriel letter headed paper. The whole class quietened down, their attention on the headmaster.

‘Good morning! Now, as you all know, Adrien Agreste, son of fashion designer, Gabriel Agreste, started attending Dupont in your class this year. As a result, Mr Agreste wants to hold a fashion design competition. You must be back at the school by 4pm today with your final garment, it must be inspired by Paris, and you must work in pairs. The garment is… a derby hat!’

The whole class just stared at him in silence.

‘What’s a derby hat?’ Alix whispered.

Chloé scoffed and turned in her seat. ‘Why on earth are you even bothering to enter this competition when you don’t even have a basic understanding of fashion? Besides, it’s obvious that I’m going to win.’

Sabrina sniggered from beside her and Adrien rolled his eyes. He really despised those two sometimes.

‘I’m sure you can all do some research on what a derby hat is before you begin designing,’ Mme Bustier said with a smile. ‘But not too long! The competition starts… now!’

Half of the class scrambled to get up, but Marinette didn’t move and Adrien listened to her conversation with Alya.

‘You know what a derby hat is, right, girl?’

‘Yes, but… I’ve never designed one before. It’s not something I’ve been dying to make.’

Alya laughed. ‘It’ll be alright. Come on, I’ll come with you to design it.’

‘No, it’s okay. I’ll design it, and when I have something, I’ll text you what materials I need, you can bring it to mine and we’ll make it together.’

‘Are you sure? I don’t want you to feel like I’m using you.’

‘No, it’s fine. I like designing, so I don’t mind. Why don’t you spend some time with Nino? I guess he’s not taking part since Adrien isn’t.’

‘Okay, girl. I’ll have my phone on me, so just text as soon as you’re done.’

‘I will.’

‘Will you be designing at your house?’

‘No. I think I’ll go to the Eiffel Tower? You know, for inspiration or whatever.’ Marinette left the classroom then and Adrien watched her as she went.

The Eiffel Tower seemed like a good idea. You didn’t get much more Parisian than that. Maybe he could go, too. His father had assumed that classes would be going ahead as normal alongside the competition. In actual fact, they were cancelled, and if his father had known, Adrien would have been collected by his bodyguard and taken straight home. But his father didn’t know, so Adrien was free for the day. Going to the Eiffel Tower sounded like a good idea. Not because Marinette was there. Not at all.

He waited a few moments before he eventually stood up, too.

‘Where are you going, dude?’ Nino asked.

‘Just for a walk.’

Nino rose his eyebrow. ‘Yeah, yeah. That walk wouldn’t happen to be near a certain gigantic metal tower?’

‘I wasn’t planning on it,’ Adrien replied before leaving. He didn’t particularly mind Nino knowing how he felt about Marinette, but he couldn’t have the other boy telling everyone in the class. Especially not Chloé. If she knew, then it would get back to his father. His feelings would have to be kept a secret for now.

He left Dupont just as Marinette crossed the road and started walking along the Seine towards where the Eiffel Tower dominated the skyline. He followed at a respectable distance, watching her walk. She seemed a little stressed. Her steps weren’t as confident, nor as bouncy, as usual. Was she okay? Adrien bit his lip. He didn’t want his princess to be sad.

‘I’m sure she’s fine, kid,’ Plagg said, peaking out the slightest from the pocket of the green shirt that Adrien had picked to wear that day.

‘You don’t know that.’

‘No, I don’t. Maybe she’s just worried that she’s got a stalker,’ Plagg teased.

Adrien knew Marinette had no idea how he felt about her, and she certainly had no idea what he was doing right now. She wasn’t worried about that. ‘Be quiet and eat some cheese.’

‘You left all the camembert in your school bag,’ the kwami sing-songed.

‘Really?’ Adrien groaned. The only things he had on him were his phone and wallet. Trust him not to bring cheese on the one day he wanted Plagg to shut up. For the most part, Adrien enjoyed his company. It had taken Plagg a while to open up to him, since he was well aware that Adrien had stolen him, but they had a somewhat good relationship. They played piano and video games together, they ate together, and they talked a lot, since Adrien spent most of his time at home alone. They talked about Marinette quite a lot, too, but Adrien didn’t particularly want to at the moment, not when he was following her.

Plagg laughed. ‘I’m hungry. Don’t you think we should head back to school instead of following your princess?’

Adrien huffed and poked Plagg’s head so the kwami was fully hidden. ‘I’ll get you some food soon.’

‘Why don’t you buy Marinette some food, too, while you’re at it?’

Adrien mulled it over. ‘That’s not a bad idea actually.’

‘Look at me. Whoever thought I’d be a matchmaker?’

The blond model laughed. ‘No one, probably.’

‘Oh, I don’t know. Tikki always thought I was pretty smooth.’

‘Tikki?’

‘She’s Ladybug’s kwami.’

‘Oh.’ For some reason, Adrien hadn’t imagined that she had one. But she obviously did. That’s how this whole thing worked. ‘Is she red?’

‘Obviously, my sugar cube is red. With a black dot on her forehead.’

Adrien smirked. ‘Your sugar cube?’

Plagg groaned. ‘End of conversation,’ he said as he dived back into Adrien’s pocket.

‘Do you fancy Tikki?’

The only response was another groan from Plagg and Adrien laughed. He continued following Marinette, but she came to a stop at the Palais de Chaillot, where she sat down and began to sketch.

Adrien stood to one side and watched her for a few moments. Her hand worked fast, sketching designs quickly but then discarding them just as rapidly. Maybe this was what she was stressed about. Why did it mean so much to her to win?

Maybe going over would help with her stress. 

With a smile, Adrien sauntered over and sat down on the steps beside her. ‘Making good progress?’

She squealed and her pencil skidded over the paper, drawing a line through the design.

‘I’m sorry,’ Adrien said. 

‘It’s alright,’ Marinette said as she rubbed out the line, then smiled up at Adrien. ‘If you wanted to come with me, you should have said when I left the classroom.’

Adrien laughed nervously. ‘I know, I was just waiting to see if my bodyguard was coming to pick me up. I think my dad assumed that we would be having classes today as well as the design competition, so I’m free for once. I thought the Eiffel Tower would be a good idea, too. I’ve only been here a few times. Not recently, though. The last time I was here, my mum brought me.’

Marinette set her sketchpad down on the stone in front of her. ‘Tell me about her?’

‘Are you sure? You’ve got work to do.’

‘It’s okay. I want to hear about her.’

Adrien smiled. ‘She was really nice. She didn’t work, she stayed at home with me. She home schooled me, and to protect us, my father made us stay at home. We were allowed out occasionally, for educational trips, but we usually just messed around. When she fell ill, my father’s assistant, Nathalie, started to home school me, and then when my mum died, Nathalie took care of me full time as well as helping my father. But we were only allowed outside for photo shoots until this school year.’

Marinette frowned. ‘Didn’t your mother die four, five years ago?’

‘Yep.’

‘And you’ve been stuck inside this whole time?’

‘Yeah. That’s why I like you so much. You’re my first friend.’

Marinette blushed. ‘I thought Chloé was your first friend.’

‘She’s more of someone I just know. I wouldn’t class her as a friend. I don’t think I like her particular much.’

‘Me neither.’ Marinette picked her sketchpad back up and carried on drawing.

Adrien looked at all of the pages she had torn out before. None of them were finished but he could see the general concept of them. And they were all really good. Adrien was certain any of them would win. Why had she torn them all out? ‘Why don’t you like these?’

‘They’re not good enough,’ she said without looking up from her sketchpad. 

‘You are joking, right? These are amazing! My father would like any of them.’

She glanced up at Adrien. ‘Really?’

‘Yes. You’re seriously talented.’

‘Thank you.’ She chewed the end of her pencil for a moment. ‘Do you really think these are good enough? It’s just... I really want to go to fashion college next year, but it’s expensive, but if I win this competition, it’ll really set my application apart, and it’ll make my chances of getting a scholarship better.’

So that was why she was stressed. ‘I wouldn’t lie to you. They’re amazing designs. Any college would be honoured to have you. And if not, then I could try and get you a job at Gabriel.’

Marinette laughed. ‘Don’t tempt me or I’ll take you up on that.’

‘As long as you’re hard working, my father will be happy to have you. Would you like something to eat?’ he asked, noticing a food cart nearby.

‘Oh, yes, please. I was so nervous I didn’t eat breakfast. Here, let me give you some money...’

‘No, it’s on me.’ He wandered over to the food cart before Marinette could insist. ‘Two nutella crêpes, please.’

The lady serving smiled and poured the batter onto the grills with a ladle and Adrien watched her flip them over so they could cook on the other side and spread nutella on the cooked side. He’d had these the last time he was here with his mother. That had been five years ago. 

‘Here you go,’ she said as she rolled them up.

‘Thank you.’ Adrien handed her the money and took the crêpes from her before walking back over to Marinette. Before he got there, though, he tore a chunk off one crêpe and dropped it in his shirt pocket. ‘Here you go.’

‘This isn’t cheese!’ Plagg complained. 

‘I said I was getting you food, not Camembert. Shush.’ Adrien sat down beside Marinette and handed her the intact crêpe.

‘Thank you, I could have paid you, though,’ she said. 

‘I know. I wanted to buy it for you.’

They ate in silence, watching as Officer Raincomprix reprimanded Mr Ramier for feeding the pigeons.

‘It’s a shame,’ Marinette said. ‘I always like it when he feeds the pigeons. They must struggle to find food.’

Adrien just hummed. He did like pigeons. He thought they were funny with how they walked and he liked the noise they made, but he stayed away from them because he was allergic to feathers.

Marinette finished her crêpe, and still looking at the pigeons and Mr Ramier, she began to sketch. This time, the derby hat was black with scalloped edge green and purple iridescent patches, and at the base of the hat was a black ribbon with her name written upside down in cursive and picked out in gold. All of it would be set off with a pigeon feather. It was perfect.

How would Adrien look in it, though? She bit her lip. He looked good in anything. Literally anything. He could walk down the catwalk in just the hat and- okay, let’s not go there. But the point still stood. He would be able to make it look good. But that didn’t matter. What mattered was if his father liked it.

‘A pigeon themed hat?’ Adrien asked, peering over her shoulder.

‘Yeah. Do you think your dad will like it?’ she asked, holding her sketchpad up.

‘Judging from just the design, yes. But he’s a stickler for detail. Make sure to be careful when you make it.’

‘Okay. I can do that. I’m pretty good at sewing, I think.’ She took out her phone and sent a quick text to Alya with the materials needed, then she took a pink tape measure out of her bag. ‘Can I measure you?’

‘Oh, if you like. It doesn’t have to be made to my size. It can just be a prototype.’

‘I know, but I want to be thorough. It might help me win, right?’

Adrien nodded. She had a point. He sat still as she knelt before him and gently wrapped her tape measure around the circumference of his head. He’d been measured hundreds of times, but somehow, this felt different. It felt intimate, even though they were in public, and it felt oddly comforting, too. From now on, he only wanted Marinette to measure him.

She wrote the measurement down, then measured from his eyebrows upwards, and once she had that down, too, she put her tape measure and sketchpad away. ‘Okay, I’m going to go and make it. Do you want to come?’

‘No, it’s alright. I think I’ll stay here.’

‘Well, if you change your mind, I’ll be at home. Just ask one of my parents to see me, and they’ll let you up. See you later!’

She waved at him then jogged off and Adrien watched her go for a moment. He really did want her to win. She showed a lot of talent for designing, and she worked extremely hard. She really did deserve it.

And if she won this, not only would it look good on her university application, but it would also put her in the running for internships at Gabriel. Adrien’s heart sped up at the thought of that. The fashion house was one of the only places beside the mansion that was deemed safe, and as long as it didn’t disrupt his studies and other activities, he was allowed to go as much as he wanted. He had never taken his father up on his offer since he found the Gabriel fashion house to be rather boring, but he would go as much as he could if Marinette worked there. He imagined her wandering around behind the high white walls and floor to ceiling windows, wearing heels that wouldn’t make her taller than Adrien no matter how high they were, and him pulling her into deserted fabric cutting rooms to kiss her senseless. Hopefully he would have asked her out by then. Not going to lie, he was a little scared of doing it. What if Marinette did reject him like everyone else? But he remembered what Kim had said: Adrien was the only boy Marinette really seemed comfortable around. Maybe she would say yes to him. And maybe she would apply for the summer Gabriel internship. And then maybe she would get it. Adrien couldn’t help but smile. The thought of spending all summer with Marinette made his heart flutter in his chest.

He hadn’t even considered what would happen when school ended for the summer. Would he get to see his friends? Would he even get to go to university? Adrien bit his lip. It would probably depend on whether or not he’d got Ladybug’s miraculous by then. If he hadn’t, then he’d probably get to enrol at university to try and akumatise more people. But that was a year away. His father would be angry if they hadn’t got her earrings by then. And Adrien did want his mum back. But he also wanted to be free. After only a month of going to school, especially with Marinette, he enjoyed it like he had nothing else in his life so far. He didn’t want to give it up. But he wanted his mum back, too. But he was going to be eighteen at the end of October. He would officially be an adult. He could do what he wanted after that. But would his father let him? He didn’t know. He would have to be cautious.

Suddenly, there was a scream, and Adrien’s eyes widened. Stood not that far away was an akumatised Mr Ramier, dressed as... a pigeon? Like a pigeon furry? Why in the ever living fuck had his father picked that of all things?

‘I am Mr Pigeon and Paris now belongs to the pigeons!’ he proclaimed. 

With a sigh, Adrien ran off to find somewhere to transform. This was the weirdest akuma yet.

...

The akuma hadn’t been particularly hard to defeat, it was just... weird. And there had been no opportunity to take Ladybug’s earrings. But that wasn’t what Adrien was concerned with. It was one minute to four and Marinette wasn’t here. Was the hat not finished? Alya was here, though, stood beside the only empty display podium. What if Marinette had got hurt during the akuma attack? Adrien bit his lip. He hadn’t seen her. Hopefully she got home before Mr Ramier had managed to get to her.

The doors to the school were thrown open then, revealing Marinette with a hat box, and just behind her was Nathalie with his bodyguard. Adrien breathed a sigh of relief. It would be a shame for Marinette to miss the deadline after all of her hard work.

He watched as she unboxed the hat, which looked just as good as the design had, if not better, but then Alya pointed across to the hat on Chloé and Sabrina’s podium. Adrien’s eyes nearly bugged out of his head. The hats were identical. But how? Marinette had designed it from scratch right in front of him. It was easy to disprove that Chloé’s was the original since Adrien had been there, but if he revealed that, then he’d be done for when he got home. But he didn’t want to not assist Marinette. Thankfully, she didn’t look flustered. Rather, a cheeky smirk cane over Marinette’s beautiful face and Adrien smiled: she had a solution.

Nathalie and his bodyguard approached where he and Nino were stood, the latter holding a tablet with his father’s face filling the screen.

‘Hello, Adrien.’

‘Hello, father.’

‘Who’s this?’ Gabriel asked, able to see Nino in the frame. 

‘It’s my friend, Nino. I’ve mentioned him before.’

‘Yo, Mr Agreste.’

‘Ah, Mr Lahiffe. You look well after being stuck in the carousel during the Stormy Weather akuma attack.’

‘Err...’

Adrien laughed and looked at Nathalie. ‘Let’s start, yeah?’

She nodded and went to Rose and Juleka’s podium, but Adrien and Nino hung back.

‘What was that about?’ Nino asked. ‘I wasn’t even in Paris when Stormy Weather attacked. I was visiting my grandma in Nice.’

Adrien laughed again. ‘He’s just mistaken. He’s old.’ His father wasn’t even 40.

‘Alya was stuck in there, though. Are you sure you didn’t get mixed up?’

‘I mean, maybe. Marinette was in there, too.’

‘Really? Alya never mentioned that…’

Before Nino could question him more, Adrien followed Nathalie who were approaching Chloé and Sabrina.

‘Hi, Mr Agreste,’ Chloé said with a wink. 

‘Hello, Miss Bourgeois. Your hat is very impressive.’

‘Thank you, Mr Agreste.’

Nathalie moved and went over to Marinette and Alya. Adrien watched from beside Nathalie as Marinette kept smiling despite his father’s glare. Not even Adrien was brave enough for that.

‘Miss…?’ Gabriel asked.

‘Dupain-Cheng. Marinette Dupain Cheng.’

‘Miss Dupain-Cheng, your hat is identical to Miss Bourgeois’. What is your explanation for this?’

‘This is my design that I came up with this morning, which has not only been made to fit Adrien’s exact measurements, but I can prove that the design is original.’ Marinette picked up the hat and flipped it over and showed the ribbon to the tablet. ‘I signed it.’

Chloé shrieked and Adrien smirked. It served her right for cheating.

His bodyguard marched over to Chloé and flipped over the hat, revealing Marinette’s name in gold.

Chloé stomped her foot. ‘So what if I copied her? She doesn’t deserve to win when she’s hanging around my Adrikins all the time!’

Adrien rolled his eyes. ‘Chloé, I decide who I’m friends with. You don’t have anything to do with that decision, and to try and rip off Marinette’s design because of it is petty and stupid.’

Chloé stomped her foot again and she and Sabrina left the school, and Gabriel cleared his throat. ‘Apologies for the mix up. Your hat is magnificent. It was inspired by pigeons, correct?’

‘Yes, Mr Agreste. There is a real pigeon feather, too,’ Marinette said as she pointed to it.

To Adrien’s surprise, a small smile overcame Gabriel’s face. ‘Unfortunately, we will have to substitute it with a fake one. Adrien is allergic to feathers. I can’t have him sneezing when he wears it on the runway.’

‘W-when?’

‘Yes. You have won the competition. Please give the hat to Adrien to bring home.’

‘Yes, Mr Agreste.’

Nathalie ended the face time call and tucked the tablet under her arm. ‘Let’s go, Adrien.’

‘I’ll meet you at the car?’ Adrien asked. He wanted to talk to Marinette.

Nathalie nodded and left the school, his bodyguard and the rest of their classmates following her until it was only Adrien and Marinette left in the courtyard.

‘I can’t believe I actually won!’ Marinette squealed, then threw her arms around Adrien. ‘Thank you for helping me!’

He smiled and held Marinette around the waist. Having her this close – or at any distance – or, actually, whenever he thought about her – made his heart beat speed up. ‘I didn’t do anything. I just sat there and watched you draw.’

Marinette laughed. ‘Being there helped me. Plus I won’t have to remake it for the fashion show it’ll be worn at since the measurements are correct. So thank you.’

‘It’s no problem, princess.’ He felt Marinette stiffen up in his arms. He wasn’t supposed to say that. It just slipped out. ‘I’m sorry. I should have asked before I called you that. I’ll stop if it makes you-’

‘N-no. I like it. It’s okay. I’m just not used to it yet.’

Adrien smiled as she relaxed back into his embrace. ‘I’m glad you like it.’

Marinette pulled out of the hug then and packed the hat away into the box. ‘Here,’ she said as she handed the box to him and he took it with a smile.

‘Thank you. I can’t wait to wear it. Well, as soon as the feather has been replaced, that is.’

She laughed and they began to walk to the school’s entrance. ‘I had no idea you were allergic, sorry. I would have made a fake one if I had known. But with the akuma attack…’

Adrien’s eyes widened in panic. ‘Did you get hurt?’

‘N-no. But it happened when Alya was on her way with the fabric, so with the pigeons everywhere kind of slowed the making process down a bit. But hey, it was fitting, since the hat was inspired by pigeons.’

They exited the school and stood at the top of the steps together. There were a few other students still lingering around, including Chloé at the bottom, and Nathalie and his bodyguard were waiting in the car.

Adrien turned to Marinette with a smile. ‘I’ll see you on Monday, Princess,’ he said with a wink. 

Marinette blushed but took her phone out of her pocket. ‘Here. Put your number in. I realised I don’t have it. And we can chat over the weekend this way.’

With a smile, Adrien inputted his number, then sent a text to himself with it before she got out his own phone. He saved the number under the name “Princess”, and Marinette watched, her blush darkening. ‘You really do like calling me that, don’t you?’

‘Yes.’

‘Maybe don’t call it me around Chloé, though,’ Marinette said as she glanced at the other girl.

‘I won’t, but only because I don’t want her to be rude to you.’

Marinette huffed and folded her arms. ‘Like that will stop her. She’s bullied me for the entire time we’ve known each other.’

‘How come?’

She shrugged. ‘Because she thinks she’s better than me? I don’t know. But it still hurts.’

With a sad smile, Adrien placed his hand on Marinette’s shoulder. ‘It’ll be okay. Let me know the next time she does it and I’ll talk to her. You don’t deserve to be treated like this. Not someone as kind as you.’

‘T-thank you. Anyway, I have to be going. See you on Monday.’

They hugged again, then Marinette bounded down the steps, then across the road to the bakery.

Once she disappeared inside, Adrien ambled down the steps himself, but stopped by Chloé. ‘Why on earth do you think copying Marinette’s design was an okay thing to do?’

Chloé scoffed. ‘Because I deserve to win.’

‘And you could have if you’d put the work in.’

‘Why should I have to when Dupain-Cheng can do it for me? Like I said, she deserved it. She’s rude and arrogant and she’s trying to take you away from me.’ She reached out then, going to rest her hand on Adrien’s chest, but he took a step back from her.

‘Marinette is none of those things. And she’s not trying to take me away from you. I was never yours in the first place.’

Then he walked away from her and got into the back of the car, and he jumped slightly when he saw the tablet was propped up against the other door, his father on face time once more.

‘Adrien, were you trying to rile up Miss Bourgeois to be akumatised?’

‘Yes,’ he said. He wasn’t. He was just angry that she had been bullying Marinette. If he wasn’t careful, then he’d be akumatised, and he didn’t want to see what his father would make of his destruction powers. ‘She seems like she could be pretty powerful.’

His father hummed. ‘I agree. Good job, Adrien.’ He smiled again, and this one was wider than the one he had given Marinette. ‘I shall eat dinner with you tonight.’

Adrien couldn’t help the large grin that overtook his face. ‘Really?!’

‘Yes. I will see you at home shortly.’

Gabriel hung up the call and Adrien stared down at his lap, still smiling as the car set off. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d eaten with his father. Today had been a good day. He’d be eating with his father, he’d spent a lot of time with Marinette, and he’d got her phone number. Which reminded him…

He took out his phone, now adding a pink heart with stars in it to the “Princess” contact name for Marinette. He really did like her, and for now, he was content to spend time with her and tease her until he worked out how she felt about him. He didn’t know how he would work that out, but he would. Right now, he wanted to be with Marinette more than anything, preferably for the long term. But he wasn’t sure how to achieve that kind of relationship. He didn’t have much to go on. His father had loved his mother. He still did if the lengths he was going to get her back were anything to go off. But he had never shown it when she was alive. But bringing her back would be a second chance for all of them. Adrien would make this work. He would get Ladybug’s miraculous, no matter the cost to his own life.