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Today's Decisions, Tomorrow's Consequences

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2020 AD


Paris historically was the fashion capital of the world, unfortunately it wasn’t where Marinette needed to be anymore.  Even more unfortunate, Paris still required Ladybug. Opportunity didn't throw itself at you twice.  Luckily apparently for her it did, this time she was going to take her time before she said no, instead  of blindly following Tikki's leadership.

Her good fortune was making her miserable though.  She needed to talk to Chat but he wouldn't understand. Not completely. Alya would only understand to an extent as well.  No one could completely understand.  She was being torn three ways.  She had been accepted to Parsons New School of Design in New York City with a benefactor.  The design house Fumée attended all of Gabriel Agreste's shows as a sign of solidarity since they also called Paris their home and had stayed independent while many brands had become one with Veer, Merton and Leonides more commonly referred to as VML.    While Gabriel had been the one to have contests that she would win and eventually even allow her to shadow him regularly it was Fumée that came to her with the offer.  They would pay for her to attend Parsons New School of Design, not just tuition but books, materials, models, and she could even live in one of their model apartments.  All she needed to do was pay for food then work for them, 2 seasons after graduation.  It was an unheard-of offer.

Except she’d have to leave Chat Noir alone for 3-4 years if they allowed her to come back to Paris for her working seasons.  If she worked in Paris, they would have to pay her.  In the US she would be an intern and she heard they didn't always pay interns over there.  But her clothes would be on the runway which would be far more important.

"Mar-ri-nette!" Alya snapped, literally and figuratively in front of Marinette's nose. "Class has ended, what're you thinking so deeply about?" Her joking smile started to fade.  Something had happened after the fashion show last weekend and it had been eating her and her boyfriend’s best friends up since.  She knew something had to have happened hopefully between them but neither of them had said anything.  "Marinette?  What's going on?" She felt her phone vibrate against her hip-.

"It's nothing," Marinette said glumly putting her books in her pack, walking down the steps, and over to her friend.  "Just having a hard time deciding what to do with the rest of my life." She muttered watching Alya look at her phone and navigate the corridor and text or whatever she was doing while walking -- effortlessly. 

Alya looked up and half laughed, "what are you talking about?  You're going to get up the nerve to finally ask Adrien to the party we're having for finishing school!  We'll help you!  We can't go to Cote D’Azur with you two still single!" Alya snapped her mouth shut. She looked like she didn't mean to say that. Marinette suspected she and Nino were tired of babysitting their single friends whenever they went places but it kind of hurt to have it confirmed.  

Marinette nodded slowly and smiled tentatively trying to cover the small hurt that was irritatingly partly guilt. "Okay," She could think about Parson's after asking Adrien to the party right?  Parsons her brain yelled at her, her shoulders fell and so did her smile, no, she had to make a decision about this.

"Whoa. What just happened? Marinette?" Alya looked at her dejected friend.

"Alya, I gotta, go home" she said briefly looking up at Nino and Adrien and without a second glance, trip or embarrassing moment quickly walked away. That was how Alya knew something was truly wrong.

***

Tom and Sabine sat down at the table across from Marinette with their tablets open to their bank accounts and their various funds.  Sabine smiled brightly, "we've been saving since before we had you.  I'm Asian," she said with a wink as if Marinette had never known she was half Chinese.

Tom laughed, "Sabine, everyone does that, not just Asians."

Sabine smiled brightly, "well, as I was saying we originally planned to have more children so we have been putting aside more than what most would."

Marinette smiled because she knew her mother wanted her to, but her stomach got a sick feeling inside. "Oh?"

"Yes!" Sabine looked up at her husband with a gleeful smile.  "We haven't been paying attention.  Usually that's bad but this time it is good!  We've saved more than enough!  You can choose any University in Paris!  Everything will be covered. I know how important quality material is and there is enough for that too.  And to pay for models for shows .

Marinette became nauseated, "Wow," she smiled hoping she looked and sounded sincere. It looked like tonight was the night she was going to have to bring up the Parsons offer.  “Um, actually, there’s another offer on the table I need to discuss with you. I haven’t made my mind up about it yet, and I need your advice.” 

Her parents looked at her with such trust and openness, Tom spoke up after clearing his throat, “Go on.”

“Last weekend Thérèse DuPont from Fumée came to me after the show.  She said knew a designer when she saw one, and she had been following me for years.  She offered to send me to the top design school in New York.  If I work for Fumée for 1 year after graduation.  I never planned on Parsons, but,” Marinette sighed and looked off into the distance, “people who go there, go to the top.”

Sabine looked sad but still smiled, it wasn’t fake either.  A thoughtful smile, her daughter was grown and understood the world worked the way it did and you had to jump in and work in the space you had been given.  Only then could you begin to make it right for you. You couldn’t expect the world to create a space for you just the way you are. Everyone is unique but we all have to work together.  One thing bothered her though, snatching an apprentice, declared or not was tacky, at least in the baking world, “What did Gabriel say?” 

“He didn’t say anything”

Tom looked down at Marinette sternly, “Does he know?” 

“He was standing next to me when I was offered.”

Tom nodded satisfied, maybe Gabriel agreed it was a good education he looked at Sabine who nodded to him and they both spoke at the same time.  

“Well I think it’s I great opportunity,” Tom stated.

“You should discuss it with Gabriel,” Sabine said smiling gently until she realized there had been a miscommunication in that nod.    

Marinette understood their logic but frankly Gabriel giving her advice for which university when he practically ignored Adrien would be like kicking her crush in the head.  She looked up, she was so lucky, yet another reason going to NY would be difficult no Mom & Dad. “You guys know I love you right? I know I am so lucky to have parents like you two. Thank you.” She felt her eyes well  up and her nose itch.

Her parents walked around to hug her.  “We know, and we love you too.” Her mother said while her dad kept snuggling her.  Was that a sniff? Was he crying?

“Okay, well I’ve got to get to bed,” she said 

“Alright good night honey,” her mom waved her toward the stairs.

Marinette climbed the stairs, through the hatch up the ladder and into bed.  

In bed she lay back and heard a sound that reminded her of squealing brakes. Thinking it was an accident she looked out the window, but nothing was going on out there finally she found the source of the horrendous noise.  “Tikki, what are you doing?”

“Oh, you’re going to talk to me now?” Tikki said angrily.

Marinette rarely ever saw her kwami angry and she always deserved it but this time she refused to be pushed around.  Yes, she was Ladybug, but why? Because she was a good person, she should have her dreams taken away?  It wasn’t fair! The fact she felt guilt at all wasn’t fair! When Marinette and whoever was under the mask of Chat Noir were too old to do their jobs, they would no doubt be discarded and then where would she be? No education, no money, nothing. Chat Noir and Ladybug gave themselves to thousands of Parisians but received nothing and never asking for anything.  At least Marinette had the bakery, a family business to inherit, she never even thought about Chat Noir.  He probably had nothing.

“I have to stay because my job as Ladybug is to take care of Paris. That is what you want to tell me right?” Marinette grumbled

Tikki looked at her with wide eyes and nodded.  “Yes.  Chat Noir needs you to cleanse and rebuild, no one else can do it but you.”

Marinette felt the whole world was trapping her.  She reached up and twisted the lock and opened her hatch and stepped outside to get away from Tikki.  All was dark and calm.  She inhaled the calm, she could smell the yeast, some of the kids at school said it always smelled like bread or sweets even when the DuPain Chengs went on vacation.  Living there she rarely smelled what they meant but was glad she was smelling it now. It was the yeast, a living organism, its one goal to make their bread puff up and give a web of complex bubbles and deliciousness.  She was pretty sure she was going to New York, and she would miss this.  She ju--.

The sound of a page turning scared her, and she whipped around.  Chat Noir was sitting on her chair with a bottle of Orangina and a textbook.  “I was beginning to think you were ignoring meow-n purrpuss” his lips kicked up on one side into a sexy grin, “three, that’s gotta be a record.”

“Sorry, I’ve just got a lot on my mind. I’ve got to make a decision for University.”

“Oh, yeah?  I just figured you’d go to ECSCP like Gabriel Agreste” Chat said.

“Mm. Agreste attended Studio Bercot, I was accepted there, and Esmod, both were first choices, I never thought I could make it into  ” Marinette rolled her eyes normal people don’t go to schools  like Parson, ECSCP, Studio Bercot or Esmod, only real fashion designers did.  Is that what I am? When did that happen?

“So, you didn’t apply?”

“Oh, I applied, or rather Nathalie and my mom did,” she went on mumbling, "behind my back.”

Chat dropped the pen he had been holding, and his chin.  He picked it up and closed the book nonchalantly, “Is that her friend?”

Marinette shook her head, “No, it’s Mm. Agreste’s personal assistant.”

“Wow.”

“I’m sure it’s a formality.”

Chat mentally rolled his eyes, in what world? What did Nathalie and Father want from Marinette? “Still, that’s pretty cool.”

“I need your advice.”

“On what?”

“Should I stay, or should I go.”

“Now.” Back in full Chat Noir mode he pointed at her with both hands, clicked his tongue, and shot her with his finger guns and winked. 

“Very funny.  But also, true, either way there will be trouble.”  She sighed and moved a plant off her spool table and sat.  

“Where are you going?”

“New York.”

Chat thought he might choke, she wasn’t allowed to go that far away, what if something happened? He wouldn’t be there to protect her.  And the crime! “For how long”

“I’m not sure, three or four years.”

Chat felt the overwhelming urge to call his suit off, he couldn’t breathe. It was too tight, the mask was restricting his nostrils, maybe all those models really were getting their noses fixed because they had a deviated septum. Maybe he had one too!  The mask must be putting pressure on it! He should see a surgeon immediately. 

Marinette looked over at Chat, he didn’t look too good, “Cha-

Chat gasped and pulled his bell away from his body letting air in but not pulling it down, “Why?!” he whined.

***

Marinette looked at him perplexed, and surprised “for school. I’ve been offered a full scholarship to Parsons in New York.” His suit isn’t stuck to him!?

Chat narrowed his eyes, histrionics finished, why is she lying? “Parsons doesn’t give scholarships.”

Marinette didn’t notice that, “Well, it wasn’t really a scholarship.  See, there’s a designer, well she’s really one of the heads of an old house, her name is Thérèse DuPont, you probably don’t know her”

His lips went flat, fortunately Marinette was looking at the sky. Oh, he knew her. He knew she needed to learn to keep her hands to herself.  Off of the models and off of other designers’ designs. At least she had waited till he was 19 before she had decided he was public property.    

“She’s one of the top designers of Fumée.  I had already been accepted to Parsons, it was one of the schools Nathalie and my mom and sent my portfolio and application to.  She told me that Fumée would pay for everything for my education not just tuition but books, materials, models, and they said I could even live in one of their model apartments. Whatever that is.”

”It’s where they let models stay when they’re on assignment for them in that location,” Chat said glumly without thinking. Still in his head about Thérèse.  If Guillaume (he would never call him Gorilla again) hadn’t come, he was pretty sure what would have happened.

“Oh, that makes sense. Well, all I would have to do is pay for my food and any other personal expenses.  And in return I would have to work for them for 2 seasons.”

“Like fall and winter?” Adrien said trying to cover his earlier fashion knowledge.

“No silly kitty.  Fall and Spring.” Her words were upbeat, and her voice even sounded like it was trying to be but her body language didn’t seem happy at all.

“One year is not two seasons.” Adrien said knowing that was exactly what it was in the industry.  

“Should I stay, or should I go?”

Adrien thought he would die answering her, “it’s the chance of a lifetime isn’t it?”

She nodded.

“You should go.”

She nodded

“Is there anyone who you need to talk to?” Chat couldn't understand why he felt so betrayed.  He wasn’t.  He knew he wasn’t, but his friend had decided to leave without telling him.  She was talking to some strange man who only showed up for food and comfort at his convenience. She saw him every day, yet she made the decision to leave him with Chat Noir. He hated hating himself.

Marinette looked up at him knowing Ladybug needed to talk to Chat but she still had no idea how to have that discussion.  So she simply replied, “Mm. Agreste,” then very softly “and you,” knowing he wouldn’t understand.

Adrien felt a knot in his throat.  “Anyone else?”

“My friends don't know, I should talk to Adrien."

“Why?” why was he pushing? Isn’t that what he wanted?

Marinette became flustered and leaned on the table wrong causing it to tip precariously, “no reason!” she squeaked, then, “he’s a model and Gabriel’s son, he'll have good advice.  He's just a-a good friend.  I respect his opinion.”  She rushed on.

Chat wasn’t quite sure he should be giving the designer any advice.  They were living on different sides of the stitch at this point. Her words stirred his thoughts.  At least then he could tell her about the rumors of Thérèse stealing protégé’s designs.  Chat wouldn’t know anything about it.  Her voice stirred him from his thoughts.

“I know you said you couldn’t tell me who you were, but I feel pretty confident we’re close to the same age. Are you graduating this year?”

Chat sighed and nodded, “I can’t tell you much more than that, you know that.”

Marinette nodded appreciating how serious he took their vows.  She suddenly found her eyes filling with tears, this was getting ridiculous.  She turned away from him to get control of her emotions.  She stood up and walked to the railing and looked at the Seine.  It’s good to know he takes some things seriously, she smiled. “Are you going to University?”

Chat shook his head, “I’ll be working for the first year.” He’d already been booked since he’d been 17 and he had gained 12 kg in muscles.  He had probably added more with the model regimen and Chat Noir work.  All he knew was some mornings he just hurt.  He wasn’t sure how it would work but Ladybug and he would figure it out.  He had to go on location out of country a few places, he was kind of excited about the Great Wall.  Marinette would love that, he’d have to remember to tell her about it.  But he’d have to spread the out of region shoots apart so his Lady wouldn’t be left alone. “Maybe even 2 years”

Marinette turned away and frowned, looking Notre Dame with it's depressing shrouds and scaffolding still waiting for her tower.  That’s what she thought, even with the low cost to students Chat wasn’t going to be able to afford university and with his laissez-faire attitude he probably had not saved anything yet.  She took so much for granted.  She didn’t know what to say.  “Oh,” was all she managed.  She knew so little about her partner.  He wore Adrien fragrance, but Ladybug bought it for their anniversary, other than that she didn’t know anything. 

“It'll be exciting,” he said looking forward to getting away from Gabriel’s aggressive parenting and seeing the world between photoshoots. 

It was sweet how he was making it sound good after she made her good luck sound bad.  Now she felt terrible. She turned back to him with a bright smile.

Chat flinched, Marinette looked like she was in pain, her smile was so obviously forced. What had she said, ‘either way there will be trouble’, what did she mean? They both spoke up, “What's the trou-" he cut off.

“I should go to bed-I-mean sleep" she blushed.

It was getting late, but everything seemed perfect, what was the problem? She never told him that part.  He sighed picked up the tiny empty bottle, books and pen.  He unzipped his suit's pocket to put the pen away and arose from the hammock chair his body rippling. Marinette usually just rolled out. She blinked and hoped she wasn’t staring.  Did he always look like that? His claws were gripping the glass bottle gently in front of Marinette’s nose, “could you take care of this for me?”

“Sh-sh-sure,” she nodded as she took the bottle.  

Chat gently took her free hand letting his claws touch her skin, he pulled her close in a hug that felt more than friendly but somehow less than romantic and whispered, “don’t leave before we see each other again.”

Marinette couldn’t stop her tears this time, the lack of sleep and stress pushed her over the edge.  The boy who had become a man by her side had no idea the woman in his arms would never leave him easily.  That was her biggest problem, leaving her partner. Leaving him. “Never.” She whispered looking down feeling her tears fall, hoping he didn’t see them.

Chat felt terrible, he hadn’t meant to make her cry.  He resisted the urge to nuzzle the top of her head with his cheek.  There had been so many times she had given him comfort yet he still hadn’t figured out how to do it for her. He felt more than heard her sigh and pulled away.  “I should go, I have an exam tomorrow.”

Marinette nodded, “me too. Good luck!”

***

It wasn’t until Adrien was lying in bed that he realized he still didn’t know what the big problem was that was keeping her from happily jumping on the first flight to New York.  It certainly didn’t have anything to do with Thérèse or she wouldn’t have such admiration in her eyes.  

Adrien felt sick, and naïve.  Something happened to nearly every model, did he really think nothing would happen to him? Why? Because he was the son of the great Gabriel Agreste? 

He felt his nose itch and his eyes water and immediately felt Plagg’s presence floating near his ear.  “You’re safe kid.  He got you. You’re alright.”  Adrien turned to look at Plagg.  He’d been shocked the Kwami had been understanding at all.  Adrien had, had no intention of telling him what had happened.

He hadn’t been able to wear his ring in the show and gave it to Master Fu in the audience.  That night when Adrien woke up screaming and Guillaume his bodyguard came running into the room to find nothing but a terrified boy in a man's body he sat down on the bed and gathered him in his arms and sang to him until he calmed.  It was one of the most incredible moments of his life and he had a pretty amazing life. 

Plagg had hidden and watched the whole thing then heard the conversation after. Guillaume had told him he was still a man, a kind, wise, brave and wonderful man and no one could take that from him.  His actions created the man he had become and no one else's actions could change that.  Adrien clung to him and cried while being reassured.  What he still hadn’t told anyone was he felt guilty.  He didn’t feel entitled to his shame or pity or encouragement. He hadn’t been raped, there were no bruises or scratches.  He felt like his feelings were hurt, it shouldn’t be considered a sexual assault.  Yes, she’d touched him inappropriately, and yes, she probably would have forced him into a compromising position, if someone hadn’t come, but they had. “Kid?”

Adrien sat up and swung his legs over then walked over to his desk and back to his sofa.

“You know I hate that.” Plagg grumbled. 

Adrien hissed at Plagg like the cat he had become more like, then lit the cigarette in his mouth then took a deep pull and closed his eyes calming.  Then felt his eyes burn and the tears escaped his closed lids.

Plagg floated close, not a fan of Adrien’s smoking but knowing this wasn’t the time to harass him. “Talk to me kid."

Adrien took a deep drag and shakily let it out looking at his snarky yet wise friend, “you know what happened at the last show?”

Plagg murmured to the affirmative, not saying anything more, not sure what to say.  He usually screwed up when he spoke.

“Her name was Thérèse DuPont.  She's very powerful in fashion.  I’m not the first.”

“Why haven’t you told your old man?”

“You already know the answer to that,” Adrien said crossing his legs at the knee and stretching his body back over the back of the sofa and his arms across the entire width of it.  Such an innocent move would have surely put Marinette in the hospital had she witnessed him stretching. He relaxed and looked at Plagg. “He'd never let me out of the house.  He'd sue, it would be a ‘he said’ ‘she said’ battle, and I would lose. Father would be made to look like he had made it up to make another house look bad.  Then he would lose customers and worse.”

“Yeah, then where would I get my cheese?”  Plagg said sarcastically, floating over to the table where he sat down.

“She offered to pay for Marinette’s schooling in exchange for 1 year of work.”

“Sounds pretty good, are you worried she will do the same thing to Marinette that she did to you?”

Adrien sat up, eyes popping open with smoke pluming out of his nose like an angry dragon.  The idea had never even occurred to him before! Would she? It was all about power, he relaxed and shook his head, “I don’t think so.  What she would do to her is bad though too.  There’s been rumors of her stealing one of her subordinates’ designs and saying they were hers.  No one believes it because Thérèse has so much experience and the designer was so young but being friends with Marinette has shown me age means nothing compared with talent and dedication. What if Thérèse is just setting her up?” Adrien took one last inhale then stubbed out his Gauloise and stood up feeling overheated.  He’d been wearing sweats to bed since The Incident, but this was the first time he felt too warm. He pulled his sweatshirt off leaving the undershirt on beneath and headed back to bed folding the bulky sweatshirt as he walked. Setting it on the end of his bed he got in, “any ideas?”

“Tell the truth?”

“About?”

“The designer.”

Adrien sighed and nodded.  “Sounds good, ‘Night Plagg”

“Night”

***

Marinette sat terrified in Nino’s seat with a box of chouquettes.  Her hair was up in its bun being held in place with 4 pencils (today) of various hardness ready for her to pull out whenever inspiration hit giving her a peacock effect.  She looked behind her to see Alya give her two thumbs up and mouth “You’ll do great!” that’s when she noticed all the girls in the class were looking at her.  Staring at her, she gulped, she was going to do this right, even if she had to speak slowly or start over.  Just remember the mantra she thought: Adrien is my friend. He won’t hurt me even if he doesn’t like me. Adrien is my friend.  He wo-

“Marinette are you okay?” Adrien walked over and sat down next to her.

Marinette jumped up then sat back down after banging her hip against the table, audibly. She heard some of the students around her whisper “ouch” in sympathy.  They were right.  She bit her lips together and nodded, “Mmmhmm, yep, fine.” he was sitting next to her. Wow, he smelled good, even sitting he was so tall.

“Marinette? Are you sure you’re okay?”

She sat up straight and decided to not look directly at him.  The box! She looked at the chouquettes box and slid them over to him so they couldn’t fall out or any other disaster could happen. “I brought these for you.”

“To share?”

“If you want, they’re yours.”

Adrien looked down something had changed, normally everything was a group gift.  He leaned close to her ear, “chouquettes are my favorite, thank you”.

Marinette’s eyes widened impossibly watching him lean back seeing his beautiful green eyes.  She wanted so badly to reach her hand up and touch his jaw. “Will you go with me to the graduation party?”

Adrien nodded, “That was the plan--”

“No, will you go with me

Adrien smiled softly, “Mar--

“Class please clear your tables the examination is being passed now and silence is required.  Your conversations can resume at the end of the class.”

Chapter Text

Marinette looked around, her friends looked as put out, as she felt.  She came so close.  When she finished the exam she turned it in and reached for her bag under the table and went to leave but felt Adrien’s strong familiar hand grip her wrist and his eyes look into hers.  Then he shook his head.  She nodded and left.

Adrien finished answering his last answer and walked out, but Marinette was nowhere to be found. Didn’t she understand don’t go?

Marinette was right.  Adrien wouldn't hurt her, intentionally. The tears fell and her shoulders shook because it still hurt.  She tried to quickly walk home and quietly sob but as she waited in a crowd to cross the street, she decided she didn’t want to stay in her room crying.  It would be better to let the wind dry her cheeks as Ladybug, she had earned some of the perks. She walked into a crevice of the school, “Tikki transform me” she took her yoyo out and flung it out and let herself be pulled away from the pain.

Adrien saw Ladybug flying through the air and was happy he was able to finish his test.  He transformed and followed. He found her sitting on the roof across from the bakery he’d been at last night.  “M’Lady, what’s going on?”

“Nothing, just patrolling.” she said. 

Chat looked at her closely, she looked like she had been crying “are you sure? You know you can tell me anything.”

Ladybug laughed hollowly, “that’s what they all say, then they still hurt you.” 

Chat frowned and scooted close to his partner and pulled her close to him in a hug.  “I’m sorry.”

She sniffed, “you didn’t do anything.” 

Chat rubbed her back. He knew she didn’t love him, but he still wanted to tell her about Marinette asking him before he said yes to Marinette.  He just didn’t want Ladybug to feel like he was rejecting her even more... Especially since she’d been crying.  “Wanna go get some sweets?” she shook her head “Coffee?” she shrugged.  “Let’s go.”

They went to a little bistro they knew made a delicious cafe au lait, croissant and tartine breakfast, since it was still early.  The owner even allowed them to sit in the employee area for privacy.

Chat wrapped his fingers around the back of his neck and looked over at Ladybug. “Lady?”

Ladybug looked over and again had a moment of shock at how big he had become and nodded sliding her eyes up to his wondering for the thousandth time what they looked like under the green magic. He’d gotten tall too.  “Yeah?”

“I’m not going to be here in a few weeks for 5 days.  And I think I’m going to ask or I guess accept a girl, if that’s okay with you,” Chat said hesitantly, knowing this was the wrong time but also aware there was never a time he was going to be able to ask the woman who held his heart if he could please have pieces of it to give to someone else.

Ladybug nodded, “No problem, I think I’ll just head home.  Study for my test tomorrow.” She stood up and rested her hand on his shoulder then walked out.

Chat lit a Gauloise and finished drinking his coffee nibbling bits of dipped croissant. He signaled to the garcon and found their bill had already been paid.   He handed him €25 and told him to use it for someone who was hungry and left.  He walked around the building and found a secluded area to transform. 

Plagg peeked out from inside his shirt, “What’s the plan?”

“I’m going to Marinette’s house to accept,” he walked around the bakery going to the front door, he loved this place.  He walked in to find a line and waved to Mrs. Cheng and pointed to the stairs to their private apartment for her permission. 

Sabine nodded without her characteristic smile.

Adrien didn’t notice and skipped up the steps and knocked on the door.  He bounced on the balls of his feet, this was kind of exciting. He reached out to knock again but the door swung open.

Marinette was wiping macaron crumbs from her lips. She had come home and decided the bed tent life was for her and changed into her pajamas. A failed outfit she'd made for Rose consisting of a sleeveless shirt, black with pink polka dots and wide leg pants in pink with black dots. She'd pulled the pencils out and shook her hair out letting curls fall around her shoulders “Adrien?” what do you want? 

Adrien’s smile slipped.  Was she mad at him? He reached his fingers back and clutched the back of his neck. “Well, I thought you understood I was asking you not to leave after the exam but when I finished you were long gone.”

Marinette looked thoughtful, “I misunderstood, so I just came home to study for  tomorrow’s exam,” a large flake clung to her bottom lip making it difficult to concentrate on her words. 

“That’s good, I was afraid there had been an emergency.”

Marinette shook her head.

Adrien smiled and reached for Marinette’ hand, “would you be my date for the graduation party?”

 Marinette looked up at him stunned and nodded. 

Adrien’s smile transformed into blinding. “That’s great!” he was surprised how excited he was about this.  All the years of being refused he should have just walked away. “Same schedule? Guillaume and I will pick you up before going to Alya's  house?”

Marinette looked stupefied but nodded. Only then did she notice she hadn’t let him in yet. “would you like to have a seat?”  She gestured to the sofa.  He walked in and sat down.  She went to the kitchen and returned with a tray of sweets, bottles with 2 glasses and 2 cups which she set on the table.

While she had been in the kitchen Adrien had pulled out a textbook and smiled when he saw the treats.  Her father made the best macarons in Paris.  “Your father makes the best macarons,” he said leaning forward to take one.

“Thanks. Would you like coffee or tea? Anything?” She didn’t want to sit down, she did but she knew she would screw something up if she did, better to keep moving. 

“No, wine is fine, come sit.” 

Marinette poured herself a glass, picked up a sweet and sat down.

“Any plans for university?” Adrien said leaning forward pouring himself a portion of wine and taking another cream-colored macaron knowing he’d have to work twice as hard if he mixed it with alcohol but not caring in this moment.  He sat back and crossed his legs.

Marinette nodded, “I wanted to talk to Alya first so please don’t tell Nino but I’ve been accepted to Parsons.”

Adrien forced an excited smile, “New School? In New York? That’s fantastic Marinette!” he took a drink and looked around the room.

Marinette watched him, maybe he was allergic to something, in the macarons he was rubbing his chest and hips. Then she noticed the dark blue box. “Adrien, when did you start smoking?” she said gathering everything up onto the tray.  “I have a balcony, let’s go.”

Adrien knew the way and he was not looking forward to this conversation without the nicotine brace, so he followed eagerly.  Walking up the stairs to her room he wondered, not for the first time, how her father got into her room through that small hatch, he barely fit anymore.  He followed her then he realized she had stopped and why.  

The way out was over her bed.

“Uh, one second,” she went to a pile of industrial fabrics and pulled out a rough looking faux leather then walked ahead of him draping it across her bed concealing everything.  Including the cat he loved and walked back down for the tray, “okay, follow me,” then she ascended setting the tray on her bed to open the skylight.  They both hopped out.  

It was a very different experience emerging from below, instead of landing.  Marinette pulled out an ashtray and placed it on her table.  Adrien's eyes popped wide, “you?”

“Only sometimes, it’s mainly for Rose.”

Adrien nodded taking out his pack placing it next to the ashtray with the top open in offer and reached for his glass and his cookie.  “You were saying, about New York?”

Marinette looked torn picking up her glass she walked forward reaching for his pack when he nodded. She leaned forward and he lit the cigarette, it was incredibly intimate for some reason when it had never been with anyone else.  “Thérèse DuPont of Fumée offered to pay for everything if I work for there 2 seasons after graduating.”

Adrien took a sip then put his glass down. “that’s an amazing offer Marinette!” he said reaching for his own and lighting it.

She nodded. “I have to talk to your father, I want to make sure I’m making a good decision.”

That was great! Maybe he wouldn’t have to say anything! His father could take care of it!  Maybe he could even convince his father to give her a better counteroffer.  Still he needed to say something, “Marinette, there’s some things you need to know about Thérèse” 

Marinette nodded looking at Adrien in the tiny chair. Between him and Chat maybe she should get bigger chairs she definitely needed more places to sit… safely. There was always the wide ledge where she moved the tray of food to and sat on the crate.  She gently flicked some ash and turned back to him, not believing he was there. “Pretty incredible, isn't she? Becoming so high up, so young, in such an old house?”

Adrien's lips flattened, “erm yeah, about tha-"

“She's so creative!  She seems to find inspiration everywhere.  Every season something new and fresh.”

Adrien mentally rolled his eyes imagining it was because they were other designers' designs. Their creativity, “Actually, that's what I wanted to talk to you about. There are some pretty strong rumors about her. You need to be careful."

Marinette looked taken aback, Adrien never spoke badly of people behind their back. “You believe them?”

“I don’t have proof but it’s better to be cautious,” he said frowning looking towards Notre Dame’s missing spire.

Marinette sighed and put out the end of the cigarette and picked up her wine then sat next to the ashtray.  “Alright, what are the rumors?” She asked and took a sip then reached over for a macaron.

Adrien never noticed her cleavage before, but that angle and that top had him noticing.  It was definitely designed with Juleka's taste in mind, but he wasn’t complaining. Focus! His eyes shot up, she smiled indulgently, he'd definitely been caught.  He blushed, “Uh, er, a few years ago she had a protégé who claimed the line Thérèse put out were her designs.”

“People who work together are naturally going to have similar concepts.”

“No, Marinette, the collection matched the portfolio.”

Marinette sucked in a breath. “that’s a pretty strong accusation.”

“The girl had her portfolio."

“Then why is it a rumor?”

“Thérèse had one too.”

Marinette sighed, “It was her word against Thérèse's.”

Adrien nodded.

“But Thérèse obviously has more exper-”

“Marinette, experience does not make quality.  Experienced designers can have blocks.  Your designs are better than plenty of professionals, Father has said the same!” Adrien exploded.

Marinette had never seen this side of him and knew it mattered.  Plus, he really thought she was that talented?! “Alright.”

“Thank you,” he sighed. “Are you excited to see Côte d'Azur?”

Marinette nodded, mainly to see him in swimwear, she blushed, “Yeah, usually we go north or west, it’s exciting to go where all the famous people go.”

“Our house is in Antibes not quite in Nice but close, it's good for privacy.”

“I can’t believe your father allowed us to come to your shoot,” Marinette remembered she still needed to speak to Gabriel.  They talked for a few more minutes but eventually she asked him if he was planning on going straight home from her house.

“I think so, why?”

“I have to talk to your father.  I figured I would just go with you. To keep you company.” She followed up after she realized she had begun to sound like a stalker. He had agreed to be her date, not her boyfriend. “If that would be okay?”

“Don’t you want to tell Alya first?”

Marinette shook her head, “Not after what you told me. I want his perspective, Nathalie’s too if she’ll give it.  This is important.”

Adrien fluidly stood up and once again Marinette was shocked.  What was it with boys getting up from that chair?  Did they have special muscles? “Thank you, Marinette, I would love your company,” he said and theatrically bowed.

She giggled, curtsied back then, picked up the last cookie and placed it against his lips.  His teeth took a bite and smiled holding the cookie with his lips.  He reached up and took the half and  brought it to her mouth hanging open in shock and pushed her chin up. She chewed and he leaned toward her, past her and picked up the tray.  Damn the man.  “Thank you,” she mumbled

Adrien held the tray, hoping it didn’t become necessary but grateful he had it in case he had to hide behind it. Feeling blood pounding in his ears, cheeks, and between his legs. “Sharing is caring.” Sharing is caring?! What, why the hell would anyone say that!? 

She giggled and opened her window and slipped into her room, then called, “clear,” for him to come down.

“I’ll just go down and wait for you,” Adrien said.

Marinette looked down realizing once again she had spent one of her most important life moments with him in pajamas, and blushed, “Thank you.”

Adrien continued down and placed the tray onto the counter of the DuPain Cheng’s kitchen and sat on a stool facing the steps waiting for Marinette.  So, what was she, exactly?  She didn’t feel like just a friend anymore, and she wasn’t just a date either.  He’d went with Chloé to Cannes one year, she had been his “date” they’d had their picture taken on the red carpet and everything, but this didn’t feel the same.  He felt something, it didn’t feel like he was escorting her or she him.  He wanted to be with her.

Marinette descended she was wearing high waisted flowing black pants with slits on the sides to above her knees, her top was made of the same gauzy material it looked like it was just the cloth folded over and wrapped strategically a few times but he knew it had taken hours because there were red roses embroidered in various areas.  She walked across the room and opened a closet and pulled out a pair of black flats with red trim and slipped them on and turned to him.  She was wearing makeup. Not much but still, she had lipstick on her wavy black hair was brushed out around her shoulders and she looked amazing.  “Okay, ready, thanks for waiting,” She said reaching for her large portfolio, he hopped down and took it for her.

“I got it. You look really great.”

She blushed, “Uh, thanks.”

They walked down and since the bakery was busy, they just waved to her parents rather than stopping to talk and were on their way.

***

When they reached Adrien’s home Nathalie was already waiting for them.  “Adrien please practice your Chinese, your tutor will be here in 20 minutes.  Marinette I was able to squeeze you in to see Gabriel.  I appreciate you calling ahead. He will be available in a few minutes.”

“Um, Mme Sancoeur, would it be possible for Adrien to join us? He actually has first hand knowledge of what I am coming to speak with M. Agreste about.”

“Until his tutor comes.” Nathalie turned and walked up the stairs to Adrien’s room.

“Mme Sancoeur.” 

Nathalie stopped and turned, “Yes?”

“Thank you.” Marinette smiled, “for helping my mom and sending out applications.”

Nathalie’s face softened, “You’re welcome Mlle DuPain-Cheng.” 

Marinette walked to the left and sat down and waited.  Eventually she heard familiar footfalls on the stairs and Adrien appeared in front of her.  “Hey.”

Nathalie suddenly appeared before Marinette could reply to him, “M. Agreste will see you now.” She declared and led them to Gabriel’s office.

Gabriel gestured to the seats in front of his desk.  “Marinette, Adrien, what can I do for you?”

Marinette explained the offer Thérèse had made and was disheartened to find Gabriel hadn’t even noticed she’d said it in front of him. If it were possible, he stood even taller.

Adrien’s hand dropped down and his little finger brushed Marinette’s.  She linked hers around it.  He decided to push his luck and slid all his fingers through hers, she responded by gripping his hand tightly.  He understood, his father’s anger could be very threatening, even when it was directed at someone else.

Gabriel’s back was to them, “This is quite the opportunity Marinette, I was planning on making a similar offer.” He turned around and zeroed in on their linked fingers, but continued, “I would prefer you to stay near me learning the trade in school and with me.  However, The New School is quite an irresistible offer. What is its current rank?”

“Number two. M. Agreste, I’d like to take it unless it will upset you.”

Gabriel turned and walked back to sit behind his desk, “No, it won’t, I completely understand your desire for a full education. Now, let’s discuss my proposal. After one year at Fumée you will come back and come here to work beside me.  We will work together to start your own line.”

Marinette’s jaw fell open, surely, he was joking, she was only 18 and he was making these bold promises. Uncertain what to say she just sat trying to regain her composure.

“I assure you I have thought about this before.  Your designs are primarily feminine, mine masculine.  They both range from haute couture to ready-to-wear. Your styles are very compatible with the brand.  You could start out as a companion brand.  I’ve already thought of the name Gabrielle or Adrienne.  It would launch the year you start.  Five years and it would break off and rebrand to whatever you want to call it.”

Wow, he really had thought about it. “That sounds, amazing.  I-I, uh, thank you?!”

Adrien knew his father could be generous, but this was exceptional.  He wondered if he had ulterior motives as well. “Father I wanted to discuss with her some of the rumors surrounding Thérèse and possible ways she could keep her designs and herself safe from plagiarism if they’re true.”

Gabriel’s smile turned downward, and his lips flattened in a grimace. “Adrien, we do not follow gossips.”

Adrien felt his blood boil. “Alright, then please teach her ways to keep her safe from people stealing her work,” he said between clenched teeth.

Gabriel looked at his computer, then to his son he cooly said, “it’s time for your Chinese lessons, go.”

Adrien squeezed Marinette’s hand one last time before letting go, getting up, and stalking across the room to walk out the door like a big angry cat.

Marinette didn’t know where to look. This wasn’t the first time the two had been hostile in front of her, but it was rare and always uncomfortable.  No one wants to witness a family spat.  

Gabriel sat down behind his desk. “Now, where were we?  Plagiarism, yes, nasty people are out there, but you’ve experienced it before, haven’t you?  Your creativity both won the contest and showed you were the true designer. “

Marinette nodded, he was right, “But I can’t hide my signature in all my designs, it’s not realistic.”

Gabriel stood and walked around to survey her outfit gesturing for her to stand and turn.  He spoke, “this is yours isn't it?”

“Y-yes.”

“No,” he said drawing out the word. “The answer is ‘Yes,’ there should be no hesitation.  That is more yours than a child is to its mother, do you know why Marinette?”

Marinette’s heart raced Gabriel had never spoken to her like this, she shook her head.

“A child is only half yours. Your creation is 100% yours from inspiration to hanger.  Do you know how I know this is yours?”

She shook her head again.

“Details: stitch size, embroidery, flow, material quality, you notice all of these things and it shows. When you go to school you will be surrounded by people who you will assume to be knowledgeable but I assure you, they will be imbeciles compared to you.  I guarantee someone will try to steal your work, and  possibly succeed.”

Everything he was saying was horrible. Marinette didn’t want to think of the horrible side of fashion. “So, what can I do?”

Gabriel smiled then, with teeth, it wasn’t the smile he used for the media, it was actually kind of scary, an intimidating smile, “You need to be an icicle.  Sharp like a sword, Hard like a rock and cold as ice, no one should be able to break or melt you though.  You need to learn strength.  Whether you are or aren’t you cannot allow yourself to be perceived as weak. Do you know what happens to weak people, Marinette?”

She shook her head.

“Why won’t you answer me?”

She spoke in measured words, “I didn’t want you to yell at me for stammering.”

“They bend or break, under other people’s will.”

Marinette felt anger creep up her spine and righteous indignation spark, but she knew she couldn’t say anything because he was her superior, not to mention Adrien’s father.  

“Say it, say what you were feeling a moment ago.”

“You think bullying me is going to help?”

“That’s what you were thinking?”

“Yes.”

“And there is your answer.”

Marinette didn’t like that it worked. “So, you want me to be rude to you? That is your plan?”

Gabriel laughed a rich luxurious sound filling the room, its sexiness taking Marinette by surprise, “Not at all, but I’m not going to let you leave without preparing you for the big bad world and first you need to always be self-assured or at least appear to be. As for your designs. That’s easy. Digital imaging. While sketching take pictures. Upload your images to your space on our server.  Images will be timestamped, proving when you created it.  Having it located on marinette@agreste.mode would give anyone pause if they were to question you.  Marinette remember appearances are more important than reality.  Using that server space gives the appearance this company stands behind you.

Marinette desperately wanted to ask, but do you? “But what happens when someone more experienced or powerful says the designs are theirs?”

“Ah, yes, power. Marinette remember you are an icicle.  The best you can do at this time is digital imaging.  Make sure many people see you sketch at a time.  Never work with one or two people alone. I would strongly state unless you have to, do not work with only one person.  I know you like to help people but resist the urge to be helpful.  Focus on you, think of it this way, I am depending on you to become my partner.” He knew how to manipulate so well.

She nodded, he made sense.  They talked a bit longer about more trivial things and he offered her Nathalie to drive her home.

“No, thank you.  Have a good evening M. Agreste.”

“Good evening Mlle Dupain-Cheng."

As she was leaving Gabriel walked out and looked at Marinette while speaking to Nathalie, "Nathalie, put Mlle Dupain-Cheng on the schedule next Monday for 30 minutes." He looked at her face surprised to find lightning crackling in her eyes, "make sure you're available, you will be tutoring her on crisis management."  She made him feel like smiling, with her attempt to cover her palpable jealousy.  She was so beautiful, but his wife was waiting, he felt the grinding pain once again swallow him.  He also saw Nathalie's reaction, pretty Nathalie, sexy stunning Nathalie who showed the world an icicle raced from jealousy, to relief, to defeat and he knew he had no one to blame but himself.  He  nodded his head curtly, "thank you, that will be all Nathalie."

Marinette left feeling lighter knowing she was making the right decision for Marinette.  She just needed to talk to Chat and figure out how to fix things for everyone else.

She pulled out her phone and called Alya on her way home.

Chapter Text

Alya and Marinette met at a café near Alya’s house.  As they sat and waited for their coffee Marinette told her about her plans for school. She saved her news about Adrien till the end.

Alya smiled sadly, “I’m gonna miss you so much girl!  You’re going to amaze them.” Alya reached over to hug her friend.  

“There’s more. I can’t believe it, but more.”

“Well go on then.”

“M. Agreste offered me my own line when I return.”

Alya sucked in a breath, “woah.”

Marinette nodded. “There's more!”

“Stop that! Go on!”

Marinette giggled, “Adrien came over.”

Alya's eyes widened in surprise and she nodded, Marinette didn’t look devastated, that was a good sign.  She looked elated, a very good sign. “Maaarinette!” she whined!

“We’re going to the party together!” Marinette squealed.

Alya leapt to her feet and hugged her friend, “I knew you could do it.”

“Actually, it was mutual. I started to ask, and he sort of finished.”

Alya’s eyes bugged behind her glasses, “he asked?” she half whispered half shrieked. 

Marinette nodded smiling so hard it hurt. “There was a misunderstanding and he came to my house to clear it up.  That’s when he asked.” She went over the whole story.  She heard a huge crash behind her and jumped spinning around. She was tired of having to leave in the middle of important moments to save people who would just get akumatized again.  She relaxed when she realized the woman sweeping under the tables across the street had accidentally knocked down the chairs from the top of the table.

Alya laughed, “you’re jittery!”

Marinette laughed with her friend then told her about the day’s events not leaving anything out.  They made plans for the Riviera and when they would go shopping for the party and vacation.  It was supposed to be a party but a few years ago a few schools held a ball similar to a Hollywood awards night with a red carpet and paparazzi. The money went to charity.  It had been quite noble. Knowing Chloé that was what she was planning since now she was head of student government since Marinette stepped down to spend more time with Gabriel as his student.

***

Gabriel waited for Adrien to sit across from him in his office then stood leaning across his desk at his son.  “How long have you been with my apprentice?”

Adrien’s chin dropped,  of all the things to get into trouble for this was not one he expected. “Huh?”

Gabriel walked around the desk and leaned over his son, “how, long, have, you, been, sleeping, with, Mlle. Dupain Cheng?”  He said annunciating every word crisply between clenched teeth.

Adrien’s lips thinned and his back stiffened in anger, “I haven’t.  In case you haven’t noticed I am always here! I haven't slept with anyone yet.”

Gabriel felt a portion of his anger release.  He pinched his bridge then looked over at Adrien and tried to salvage the situation.  He put his hand on Adrien’s shoulder then gently explained, “do you understand dating you could cause her to lose her credibility?  People will think the only reason I'm working with her is you. The offer I put on the table is nearly unheard of but completely deserved.  Now people will think I’m only doing my son’s,” he sneered distastefully, “tail, a favor.”

The fire came back into Adrien’s eyes.  

“I’m only saying what everyone else will say.  Remember, appearances are what matter, not intentions.”

Adrien hung his head.  He couldn’t ruin her future.  “What would you do if it were Mother?”

Gabriel sucked in a breath Emilie and their romance was a forbidden discussion.   It could literally send his father to bed with depression for days.  

“I know, we aren’t supposed to talk about her, but I need your advice.  What would you do if it were Mother?” he said pleading with his father.

Gabriel was taken aback.  He had never told his son he couldn’t talk about his mother. He didn’t want to think about what he would do for her, he'd quite literally do anything, for her, except... “I would not harm her future.” He said finally, but saw Adrien’s head drop, and he knew he had to be completely honest, “but I would never let her go, as long as she would have me.”

Adrien’s head popped up with a sliver of, hope in his eyes, “Is there anything that I can do?”

“Do not allow the press to know she is your girlfriend. We will think of something,” he said. Pressing his intercom, “you’re needed" he simply said. Turning back to Adrien he told him to tell no one of your relationship, "text her now.”

When Nathalie walked in Adrien realized she liked his father.  She walked the way Alya walked in front of Nino and Marinette with him. Like right below the last rib their bodies had been replaced by cat limbs, they didn’t walk they flowed and sauntered. How had he never noticed? “Yes, sir?” Nathalie said.

“We have a situation that requires urgent care, my son is seeing Mlle. Dupain Cheng, this cannot get to the press before our plans have been made public." He turned to Adrien, “what did she say?”

“She hasn’t replied yet.”

Gabriel pinched the bridge of his nose again, “you’re dismissed, come to me immediately when you have any news.”

Adrien nodded curtly, wishing he was being included in their plans and walked to his room.

***

Walking home from her meeting with Alya, Marinette felt her phone vibrate and pulled it out smiling when she found it was from Adrien.  She tapped through to read the text

Adrien Agreste:   don’t tell anyone were together 

Adrien Agreste:   ^we're going together

Adrien Agreste:   we need to talk, it’s about my father.

Marinette felt all her giddiness evaporating.  He was embarrassed by her.  She felt her nose burn and hot tears track down her cheeks burning her skin even though night air was still hot and humid.  She hurriedly texted Alya before she sent out a mass text to everyone at school.

Primary Account:   don’t tell anyone about Adrien and me yet

Alya Césaire:   ??? 

Primary Account:   he asked me not to

Alya Césaire:   I already told Nino. 

Alya Césaire:   I won’t tell anyone else.

Alya Césaire:   You ok?

Primary Account:   …I don’t know.  I’ll tell you in the morning. I just want to go to sleep.  Today has been all up and down. Good night.

Alya Césaire:   I’ll talk to you in the morning.  Good night.

***

Alya couldn’t believe this. She video called Nino.

“Hey Ba-"

Your ‘Bro' just texted Marinette telling her not to tell anyone about them.” She said putting bro in air quotes.

“Woah, not cool.” 

“yeah, ‘not cool'"

“So, what're you wea-"

Nino!”

He looked glum now, “I’ll talk to him.”

Alya smiled and lifted her phone higher tilting it down so he could see more, “And Nino? Call back when you’re done, the answer is only what you can see."

Nino smiled back at her, she was his caramel & chocolate covered pretzel fox queen. Hard and salty on the inside but sweet and brown on the outside, he sighed so hot.

Alya smirked and winked at him knowing exactly what he was thinking. “I’ll talk to you soon, babe,” she said, and the screen went to the background for an ended call.

He hurriedly dialed Adrien. He picked up on the second ring, “Seriously dude, What the fuck?!”

Adrien frowned, his friend was actually angry at him, “what?”

“You basically told Marinette she was just your dirty little secret.”

Adrien’s eyes bugged out, “What!? No! It's for her, for her career, people need to know she earned her way, it doesn’t have anything to do with dating Gabriel Agreste’s son!” Adrien realized he was yelling.  He also realized how important what his father was doing as he was telling Nino.

All the heat went out of Nino, “oh, well, that’s good, makes sense too.  You know what would be smart?  Telling her all that.  For being so smart you really do have shit for brains.”

“With friends like you, who needs enemies.”

“Dude, it’s called constructive criticism.”

Adrien burst into laughter, “is it?”

“Yeah, call your girl.”

“We're just friends.”

“Sure, you are.  I’m gonna call my just friend back. Bon soir dude, call the girl, fix the ish.” Nino said and hung up.

Adrien looked at his phone a picture of Nino, Alya, Marinette, Max, Kim and he stared back at him.  For the first time seeing the body language, his arm was around Marinette's shoulders and her head was slightly tilted toward him, must be why everyone told him he had a cute girlfriend. He sighed and dialed Marinette, it rang twice and went to voicemail.  “seriously?” he clicked off and hit the text button, 

Primary Account:   Marinette, I need to explain, please pick up.

Adrien tried calling again and it rang with a beep signifying she was on the phone with someone else and ignoring his call.

***

After calling Adrien, Nino called Alya back and explained the situation.

“Why didn’t he just tell her?  That makes complete sense.”

“Dunno Babe, so where w-"

Alya waved him off, “I’ll call you back.  I need to call Marinette.”

“Adrien's calling her.”

Alya laughed, “she’s not going to answer him! Talk to you later!”

Nino groaned, so uncool.

***

Marinette sat on her roof with a cup of hot, spiced wine and an unlit cigarette, her tears leaking unchecked while her shoulders shook.  If he had not spoken to her at all it wouldn’t have mattered, but he’d pulled at the tiny stitches of a heart getting over a crush.  She heard her phone buzz and looked at it. Adrien?! What did he want? She hit the cancel button and the buzzing stopped.  She wiped her cheeks and below her eyes with her hands and sniffed.  Her phone buzzed again, she looked over to see it was a text from Adrien.  She read it. But then her phone rang, she answered it weakly, “what?”

“Nino just talked to Adrien.   He didn’t mean it the way you think. It’s because of your brand or something. You need to call …”

Marinette looked up Chat was standing on her roof, in front of her, situating himself to sit down on her table.  Marinette nodded after something about Nino, probably something scandalous and spoke into her phone, “I’ll call him, I gotta go,” she said hanging up.

Marinette looked at Chat Noir, hoping her nose wasn’t running, but knowing it was swollen, she'd always been an ugly crier.  She didn’t believe anyone looked good when they cried. Maybe Adrien did, shit! Here come the tears.

Chat watched the tears slide down her face causing every tear to burn through him like lava, from guilt.  

She covered her face with her hands and sobbed from shame at crying in front of him and from what Adrien had said, “I’m so sorry,” then she began alternating between, “sorry" and “you should go" over and over.

Chat’s heart was breaking, what happened to happy Marinette?  Had he done all this?  He stood up and silently walked to her and picked her up, then sat on the chair praying it held both of them, it looked old, “hush, Little Princess, shh, I’m not going anywhere, he said pulling her head against his chest.  What happened, are your parents ok?”

She nodded and had stopped crying but was making little shuddering gasps.

Chat rubbed her back gently, “is it school?  Did something happen to the Parsons offer?”

She shook her head again bumping his bell the soft tinkle somehow relaxed her further into his arms.  She slowly calmed the seconds passed into minutes then she felt soft vibrations then she heard it, it hadn’t happened in years, somewhere deep in his neck under her head came a rumbling growl it wasn’t the same as when they were kids but somehow was still comforting. “Are you purring?”

Chat smiled, “is that a problem?”

She shook her head. “You know I read some felines roar and some purr, the air travels the same path, it just makes a different noise depending on the type of feline.”

She was so sexy when she talked facts. Nino and he had decided years ago their fetishes were smart, strong women.  “I’ve only done it a handful of times.” He felt her sigh and held her closer.  He never wanted this to end, was this cheating? He felt like the dance was more than a date, but she hadn’t said anything about it.  Maybe going as each other’s date was just a formality for her.  Then why all the upset?

She closed her eyes but continued pulling him from his distracted thoughts, “based on the growls you’re making maybe we should call you Panthère Noire.”

“That name has been taken,” he laughed.

“Most are actually leopards, so Léopard Noir would also be befitting.”

He could feel her smile and nuzzled the top of her head.  “I will take it under consideration.” Why was Marinette so relaxed around Chat Noir, but not Adrien? Then it dawned on him. Marinette must like Chat!  Instead of making him feel good it just made him angry. What was so wrong with Adrien, besides how was he supposed to have a relationship with her like this?  He wasn’t quite sure how it worked but he thought Plagg might actually be his suit or something like that.  

Marinette found the growls that had been disconcerting at first, bordering on scary now, “you’ll always be Paris' Chat Noir,” she said to placate him.

Huh? He looked down and decided to be direct, he wouldn't lose this woman, not when he just realized what he'd had all along, “Marinette, I like you.  Is there any chance you like me too?”  

Marinette stiffened; Adrien had finally given her a chance. Then again, he’d also decided she didn’t measure up. She remembered Chat's words this morning with Ladybug.  Had he been asking her permission to ask her out? This duel identity was truly baffling sometimes.  He had wanted to keep his intentions honest, could there be a more honorable man? She sighed, how had she missed this?  “I, think so.”

He pulled her close by the hips surprised to hear her gasp of pain.  He instinctively pulled her clothes out of his way to assess the damage. A terrible dark line of a bruise began at her right hip and traveled 5cm toward her belly button.  Wow, she was fit,  he'd never noticed before.   He also was just realizing how still she was and how low he had pulled her pants down.  Low enough he could tell that she probably waxed but not lower that anymore was seen than at a public beach. He swallowed, hard, and gingerly pulled her pants back up. Incredibly turned on, about 1000° hotter and redder than he'd ever been in his life; but still upset, “What happened?”

Marinette’s brain was malfunctioning, “huh, wha? Tha? Huh?” she was embarrassed to find herself unable to speak, 'it was an accident that he pulled my panties down too! Pull yourself together woman!' She took a bracing breath, “I stood up wrong behind my table in class.”

“Yeah," he said remembering her slamming her hip, he'd heard it, but when  she acted like it didn't happen, so he respected it and pretended he hadn't heard anything. "That would definitely cause this kind of trauma," he hurried to say hoping to cover his accident.

She looked at him closely, “are you in my class?"

“You know I can’t answer that.”  He leaned back once again and carefully pulled her back into his arms into the position they had been enjoying before.  This time being careful not to touch her injury.

She narrowed her eyes, she couldn’t tell if she knew him.  Once again, that stupid eye mask threw her off.  She wondered what his eye color was.  “I was really surprised to find you were my age, I thought you were a couple years older than me,” she said settling into his arms again, this was nice.

Chat smirked, “Naughty Little Princess, stop trying to fish for more information.” He did agree though, when he transformed his body did change, he did look a little older and more muscular.  It was starting to balance out now.  He had a theory, that along with other powers their bodies were enhanced toward their peak.  Physically their bodies took a lot of abuse, it would make sense for them to stay centered around roughly 22-24 years old.  When he first transformed, he was surprised to find his shoulder to hip length was different as Adrien than it was a Chat.  Now, there was no difference he could see at all.  

Marinette nuzzled Chat, intentionally bumping his bell with her nose.  “Can you blame me?”

Chat turned his head resting his cheek on top of her head and saw her cup, he cleared his head nervously, “May I have a sip?”

Marinette nodded, she hadn’t had any yet anyway.

He picked it up and saw the cigarette that had been behind it and mentally snorted, the ashtray was for Rose she had said.  He put the cup back down and picked the cigarette up and held it in front of both of their faces. “This looks like my brand.  I didn’t know you smoked Little Princess. Are you a Style Queen?” implying she smoked because she was a designer.

“Only sometimes.” She stiffened she didn’t like to be judged, nearly everyone smoked, people called France “Europe’s chimney” but it was only bad if she did it?  How dare he judge her when he was a smoker himself?

Feeling her getting upset, he realized it wasn’t just his brand but actually one of his, from earlier today.  He rubbed her back and reached for the cup and took a drink the wine long since cooled off but the spices burst across his tongue strong and aromatic.  Probably not how it was supposed to be but he loved it.  “This is amazing! Does your mother make it?”

She shook her head, “My mother doesn’t drink, she’s Muslim.”

Once he got over his initial shock he felt a little ashamed at being shocked at all.  He knew not all Muslims were Arab but he’d never met a Chinese Muslim--actually apparently he had. He wanted to say something but he couldn’t, he wanted to ask but he hardly knew Sabine.  “Is Sabine her real name?” He felt her shaking and realized she was laughing.

“I take back what I said earlier, I do like you.  You know when most people find out she’s Muslim they start acting funny.  They go over everything they’ve ever said,  how many times they’ve said an insulting Muslim joke to me.  Or they start asking about China and Islam, or they start asking about my faith or thoughts on current politics.”

“Some of my friends are so I don’t find those funny and know I didn’t say any.  I’ll be honest I am actually curious about Islam in China now and it’s pretty obvious if you wanted to discuss what you were you would have said ‘we’re’ not ‘she’s’”

She pushed herself up off his shoulders to look at him, “You’re pretty smart for some kitten off the street.”

He smiled at her endearment and was saddened by the dark blue under her eyes.  “Alright Pretty Princess, flattery will get you everywhere. One smoke then I’m putting you in bed,” the innocent words held a double meaning and his mouth felt dry, “to bed-to sleep!” they both laughed.  He reached for the cup and took a sip disappointed it didn’t take hold of him like the first sip had, still delicious though. He pulled out a lighter and lit the cigarette and offered it to Marinette.

Lost inside her mind she barely saw the short cigarette dancing in front of her nose.  He could stay, all she had to do was invite him. Who was this gutsy woman?!—I don’t know but I like her! She reached out and took the cigarette and inhaled deeply and felt her head spin and rested back against Chat.

This was nice.  Maybe he could tell Marinette eventually, it wasn’t cheating, he was Adrien, after all. She was so snuggly. He heard a yawn then felt her move to get off him.

“I’ll be right back, can I bring you anything?”

“Water please.”

“Absolutely, I’ll be a moment.” She climbed into her room then jumped off her bed and threw off her clothes and what am I going to wear!  She jostled through her nightwear until she found it and ran to her sink for a little refreshment then pulled the pajamas on. Finally she ran downstairs to get his water and catch her breath, then climbed out side.

Chat turned and saw an amazing amount of honey white leg walking to him.  It was obvious he had a type, Ladybug, Marinette, Kagame, and Lyrica Okano freckles on East Asian girls, killed him. He saw Marinette pop up from her room. She’d changed, obviously they were just pajamas, not intentionally seductive, he needed to calm down.  She’d probably made them.  Very cute actually, something that would sell well in her future line. Short light pink thin satin shorts with ruffled hems with tiny embroidered grey squeeze bottles on the hemline. Paired with a cropped tank top with a bunny foaming at the mouth with cotton fluff for the foam and the English words “Rabid Vicious” above the bunny, and “Bunny” below it.  He laughed uproariously. “Lapin Dupain!” (Bunny Dupain).

Her lips flattened, this was exactly why she chose to use English for the front. Crisply she responded, “if you’re finished, I have an exam in the morning.”

He stopped laughing, obviously she did not have his sense of humor. He nodded, “me too,” he found himself stuck to the chair.  What had he meant ‘put her in bed?’  How did you put someone in bed?  Was his mouth even connected to his brain. She turned her back to him and he saw the back of her shirt which was even better, the same bunny now with 2 big clean sparkling teeth in a huge smile and a bottle of tooth paste above in French it said Je Plaisante (Just Kidding) and below it said Dentifrice (Toothpaste!).  He laughed, and got up “am I allowed to laugh at this side Little Princess?” 

She was pulling her hair all to one side and braiding it together and he realized she looked as nervous as he felt.  They weren’t even going to do anything. Were they? She nodded. It took him nearly a minute to realize she was replying to his question not his musings.  She'd finished her braid and had tied it off with a little red elastic, but she still hadn’t let go of the braid. Finally, she spoke up, “I’d better, uh,” she said motioning to her window.

Chat quickly jumped to the window, opened it and hopped inside.  Once there he motioned her to him, instead of helping her step down he cradled her down then placed her on the bed and pulled her cover over her.  Ha! Put in bed!

Marinette wasn’t quite sure what had just happened, but it went from sexy to romantic to something she couldn’t quite figure out.  The look of accomplishment on his face was comical but she dared not laugh.

He leaned down and whispered in her ear, “all tucked in, time to go to sleep Little Princes.”

Marinette pulled all her courage together and whispered back, “you could stay awhile,” looking intently over his shoulder.

Once the idea had been planted, he desperately wanted it.  He nodded afraid to look at her not sure if she would change her mind or if he said something it would ruin the moment. He leaned down and she heard a zip then another.  

She slid toward her wall to give him space and he climbed close that’s when she noticed his bare feet.  His boots come off! How unfair! She mentally grumbled. Then she heard a snap and saw him pull out his staff.

He looked at her directly, “no touching!” he said shaking the compacted staff.

She nodded, “I would never!” She said affronted. 

 He flicked it open and fiddled with it then snapped it shut putting it next to the pillow. He laid down but kept a gap between them.  

Marinette looked at the gap then up at Chat confused, maybe she’d read the situation wrong. She sighed and moved to roll over.

Chat reached out and touched her shoulder and whispered, “Marinette, this is a bad idea,” he held up a huge hand, “these claws can cut through anything.  I could hurt you in my sleep.”

Marinette slid closer and took his hand and placed it on her hip reminding herself he had touched her this way thousands of times.  Sort of. Not really this way. She looked up at him, “you won’t hurt me, I know you and trust you even in your sleep.”

Chat's worry didn’t dissipate but his heart nearly burst from her deep trust. “Alright." He slid closer and rubbed his thumb softly across the exposed skin of her abdomen.

Marinette’s teeth clenched, what he was doing felt amazing, but all her weight was resting on her bruised hip.  But if she moved, he might stop, or think she didn’t like what he was doing. 

Chat was entranced.  He wished he could feel her skin against his but knew it wasn’t possible without showing her who he really was.  He heard a whimper of pain and whipped his hand away to seeing if he had torn her skin.  Nothing, her skin was smooth. His eyes shot to face to find her nostrils flared and her teeth biting her bottom lip and she leaned onto her back.  How could he have forgotten, her damaged hip? He got up on his hands and knees over her to switch places, but once he was over her it didn’t feel so innocent, somehow his lips touched her nose, it all happened in a blur. He only meant to switch sides and apologize. He dipped his head to kiss her nose.

Marinette sighed and looked up to ask if everything was alright when his mouth came down on her open one.  He immediately pulled back, but Marinette leaned forward and brought her lips back to him.  She let her eyes drift shut for expecting more kisses but felt his position change and he pulled away.  Her eyes opened, worried.  

Chat looked over at Marinette with a small smile, her chest was rising and falling rapidly.  “You should have said something,” he said quietly.

Marinette turned on her good side and slid her hand from his wrist to his shoulder then her hand was on his skin, it felt so good, this must be what drugs made you feel like, she could barely think, “I didn’t want you to leave.”

Chat pulled her impossibly closer and held her hand to his neck.  He had no way to touch her, but he needed the skin to skin contact.  He desperately wanted to hold her hand and feel her skin touch his. He was drowning.  Why had he wasted so much time, chasing Ladybug? He would only have Marinette for two months, even less with his schedule, before she moved to New York.  He nuzzled the top of her head.

“I love that,” she whispered bringing him out of his musings.

Chat was drifting but was still listening to her, “hmm?” his right arm nestled under their shared pillow and his left hand traveled further around to her back pulling her completely against him.

“You’re purring again,” she said her eyes drifting shut while her hand slid down from his face but never broke contact with his neck.

Tikki came out from Marinette’s old scrap organizer to get a cookie and surveyed this situation on the bed and audibly gasped at the sight that greeted her.  Obviously, Marinette was one of the Ladybugs who needed constant supervision.  She wanted Marinette to be happy, but she needed to stay in Paris.  She reassessed the situation in front of her. This could work very well, very well indeed.  If she started a relationship with him, she might not want to go to New York then everything would be just as it needed to. It was safer this way.  She dipped down to the kitten and whispered in a sweet echoing voice, “protect and serve her.”

Chat’s eyes snapped open and he saw a flitting movement in the corner of his eye, then it was gone.  He reached down and pulled the blanket over them and pulled her against him again and went back to sleep. 

Chapter Text

“Marinette! Marinette! You’re going to be late for your Economics Exam.”

Marinette heard hinges and sprang up out of bed looking for Chat, but he was long gone.

“I’m awake!” She yelled, but her mom had already entered her room.

Sabine surveyed the room, it was tidy enough, but she wrinkled her nose, “Still spraying Gabriel before you deliver an item?”

Marinette was changing but nodded, knowing her mother was smelling Chat's cologne as Marinette had been too busy with school to do any Etsy orders recently.   She came out from the other side of her screen, “Maman, how do I look?” she asked.

Sabine had noticed over the past year Marinette’s greys had been shifting darker and more black had found its way into her wardrobe while the pinks had become a wide array of shades including red, but this was something new.  She typically only tried new clothes after school but she only had 3 more days with her school friends before graduation, maybe she felt more emotionally free to try new things. She had let her hair down and was wearing tight black pants with a tight black shirt under a black men's dress shirt.  She had rolled up the long sleeves and wrapped it around her waist then tied it in the back. The only color was the little red G in a circle over her left breast and a red yin symbol dangling from a black leather cord. She walked over to a pile of boxes and moved stuff around until she found what she was looking for and pulled out some high heeled black pumps.  One of a kind, completely black with tiny butterflies cut from the soft leather then inlaid with opal in the heel. She’d won them in a shoe design competition. The sole was black with a red G in a circle at the instep. While she did look amazing, she did not look happy she was leaning over her sink and putting on red lipstick. The crimson looked wonderful on her but she only ever wore it when she wore traditional Chinese outfits.  

“Why?” Sabine asked.

Marinette checked her teeth grabbed some bobby pins and a couple ties for her hair then reached for her black hand bag and put it in front of her scrap box for Tikki to hop in. “What do you mean why?”

“You never dressed that way before.”

“Nice?”

“Marinette, you always dress nice, what is this all about?”

Marinette reached for her Fumée Ma Chérie perfume then changed her mind and reached for her Dion Killer perfume instead and dabbed wrists and neck with the spicy scent.  She checked her watch, “Oh, I’m going to be late!” she reached over and grabbed her phone, sketch pad and pencils then rushed down the stairs.

“You look beautiful,” Sabine called after her.  She walked over to Marinette’s fabric scrap box and pulled out the bottom drawer tsking when she found macaron pieces, "Tikki you’re going to give us rats.” She murmured as she cleaned out the box.  

 ***

Marinette ran into the building firmly believing if she lived further from the school she would make more of an attempt to be there earlier, thus being on time.  She hurried up the stairs and ran into the class, right into Adrien. Of course, she thought angrily, her eyebrows snapping together. She heard a couple “Ooh La La’s” from her classmates.  Then felt his hands on her hips, his left hand skittered away and slid to take her hand.

“Marinette, I tried to call you, so many times, I texted and called you this morning too.  Did you get my message?”

Marinette felt his warmth wash over her, he felt so good. Then she felt ashamed.  She and Chat hadn’t specifically stated what they wanted in a relationship or one at all, but she was pretty sure 5 hours after snuggling up to him snuggling up to a different man was not acceptable.  Besides, she was mad at Adrien! She pushed away from him the heels giving her a different perspective. “it's fine. I’ll meet with your father and his assistant at their convenience.”

He heard Alya's sharp gasp.  He was upset himself, why wouldn't she let this go? On the other hand she looked so amazing, she was wearing his color, it was like she had marked herself, and with her looking like that he could nearly forgive anything.  

The proctor came to her and pointed to her sketch pad. “Mademoiselle, you must surrender that until the end of the day.”

Marinette nodded handing it to the proctor.  

He took it and put it on the desk.  Then looked at the clock and the class.  “This is a 2 part exam. When you finish bring your booklet to me and you may exit the class.  Do not, I repeat, do not leave the school. Once you have exited the property your test cannot be reviewed by you nor may you have the second  part of the exam which would automatically cause you to fail. I cannot stress this enough, do not leave the building. Any questions?”

Alix called from the back, “what’s the answer to number 4?” disseminating the tension in the room.  Marinette smiled glad she knew they would be together for years to come.

The proctor smiled this joke was common but he still found it funny and replied, “Canada via Luxembourg. Seeing as there are no other questions… silence, you may open the books when I say.”

After about an hour Marinette heard a distinct knocking sound then she felt Adrian’s fingers on her arm.  She pulled away. She couldn’t look at him during the test, what was he thinking. She continued ignoring him and the knocking sound until she felt Adrien’s hand on her thigh sliding toward her knee? She gasped, who did he think he was, the knocking was faster and louder until she realized it was her and her heels. She picked his hand up off her leg and dropped it to the table top and turned back to her exam.

Adrien finished first and went out and down the stairs to the courtyard.  What had he been thinking, Chat Noir could touch Marinette, not Adrien! He groaned.  Last night had been such a good idea in theory but such a bad idea in practice.  He'd only meant to get her to soften up and then listen to Adrien, he hadn't intended to fall for her as Chat.  Now what was he supposed to do?

Alya appeared behind him, “What happened?  Didn’t you talk to her?”

He shook his head, “she never replied.”

Marinette exited the classroom and walked down the stairs toward her friend.  “Alya, I need to speak with you privately.”

Adrien reached for her wrist but missed it, “Marinette, I need to explain.”

“Adrien, you’re absolved, I won’t be going to the graduation party,” She turned around grabbing Alya ignoring both of their sounds of dismay and walked toward the cloak hall.

Once the door shut behind them Marinette’s body melted her strength flowing out of her.

Alya turned to her friend with her arms crossed, “Well, you finally figured out how to talk to him.  What do you mean you’re not going to the party? What about your dress?"

“I mean I am not going to the party. I can wear it some other night, to something else! It was made more for M. Agreste anyway."

Alya looked her up and down frowning, “So, you dressed like that to punish him?”

Marinette smiled secretly, “A little bit, but I felt like wearing it.”

“All black?”

“Mmmhmm,” Marinette mumbled remembered Chat’s arms holding her close and his vibrations soothing her to sleep.

“Nino is probably done, we should get back out.”

“Wait,” Marinette said pulling on Alya’s arm, “I met someone.”

Alya turned back irritated, “yes?”

“But I don’t know how much I can say.”

Alya's irritation soured into anger, “Let me understand this, you’re mad at Adrien because he has a valid reason to not talk about your possible relationship. Protecting you . But you cannot tell me, your best friend, about some strange guy that you ‘met’ or what that even means.  Marinette you need to get your priorities in order.” Alya pushed the door open filled to the breaking point with irritation at her friend who was willing to throw away their group's dynamic then turned back to Marinette, “And those shoes and that business shirt are all that is keeping that outfit from making you look like some Chat Noir fangir- ohmigod!” Alya's face was priceless while her brain processed at the speed of lightning an idea too ridiculous to not be true.  

Adrien had followed them up to the door to eavesdrop and when it had opened he had done the logical thing-hidden behind it.

Marinette, forced a high pitched laugh, “what, no. Besides, how would someone even have a relationship with a superhero?” Then she snorted and coughed. “The entire idea is ridiculous.  Isn’t he dating Ladybug?” 

“Oh, my, God, you are!  I don’t know why you’re even trying to hide it from me.  I won’t put it on the blog, how did it happen?”

Adrien inwardly sighed, at least that was something, getting Alya to keep something this juicy off the Ladyblog was an act of God.  He nonchalantly watched them through the still open doorway and smiled watching Marinette, she really was the world’s worst liar.  

Marinette shook her head exiting the cloakroom, “I have no idea what you’re talking about?”

Adrien popped up behind them, “Marinette, we really need to talk,” maybe this time she would feel rescued and listen to him.

Marinette looked to Adrien, she really did not want to talk to him but she didn’t know what to say to Alya.  “Okay, yes?”

Alya nodded, and whispered her way, “I knew it. You’re trying to get out of talking to me.”

Marinette’s teeth clenched, but she smiled and shook her head.  “You’re crazy, Adrien has been trying to talk to me since last night. Right, Adrien?”

He smirked, “Yeah, can we speak privately?”

She sighed dejectedly and he remembered how she looked last night when he first popped on to her roof.  She nodded and lead him to the cloakroom where they could talk privately. 

“Father & Nathalie are organizing a press conference to announce the new line.” He rolled his eyes, “’Adrienne’, he said you will take the lead after returning from school and collaborating with fellow Parisian designers at Fumée.  It’s his way of guaranteeing they uphold their end of the bargain. The reason we can't talk about us is if anyone finds out before the press conference or even a few weeks after they will say it’s only being done because you’re dating me.  Father wants the world to acknowledge you for the amazing designer you are not the girl dating his son.”

Marinette nodded, she should have answered her phone.  Now she was more confused than ever. She looked up at Adrien sadly, “last night I, I, I, met up with a friend I haven’t seen in a long time and since I didn’t think you wanted to be with me… I’m sorry, I really am, I should have called you back.”

“So, who is he? Is he your boyfriend?” 

“I’ll can’t do this right now, I don’t know.” She said frowning.

“Why aren't you coming to the Bac Ball?  What do you mean you don’t know?”

“The what?”

“Chloé decided to make it a formal dinner and ball and call it the Baccalauréat ball, but we're all calling it the Bac Ball.  So why aren’t you coming?”

“The new guy, I’m seeing, he, it, I don’t think,- I’m just not!”

Adrien smiled inwardly, outwardly frowning down at her, maybe Ladybug would let him tell her. If he begged.  It would be worth it. To go with her. “You should come with us even if it’s just as friends, he should understand.  This is the last time you’ll be with all your school friends. It’s important.”

Marinette understood the argument but after only one night she really didn’t want to be without him.  Ugh, she did not want to be one of those girls. Please God don’t let it be because I’m a fangirl! That would be even worse! “Okay, but I’m not going as your date anymore.  It just wouldn’t be right.”

Adrien nodded, he would definitely be speaking with Ladybug tonight.  Then he would be telling his girlfriend that she was his girlfriend tonight.  Then he would figure out how to tell her he was the guy who made her so angry yesterday that she ended up with him anyway. Tonight was going to be busy. “Father's heels look nice on you.”

Marinette actually laughed, “that is a very interesting sentence.  Just for the record, these are my heels.” Referring to the original high heels Gabriel had made with her as her prize after she had won the shoe competition.  Women's shoes were one of the few women's item's Gabriel Brand made. GB mass produced the shoe but not exactly like hers. Hers were made with real opal and the butterflies furthest from her heel weren't polished to a high shine.  Gabriel said it was symbolic of her growth and her polish as a designer. The ones off the shelf were made of synthetic opal and were all high polish. Marinette loved her shoes but never wore them.

Adrien looked down at her, “You look beautiful Marinette, I think I should have said that more.”

She sighed, “Adrien, what’s done is done.” She stood to leave

“Marinette wait, what about the beach?” He almost laughed at her reaction. 

She blanched, “I know he won’t  be able to get off to come to that."

Yeah, little did she know.  He stood and followed her out.

***

Marinette got a call two hours after the  exam. Enough time for her to call her doctor and get her records in order for her move and get some questions answered. The call came from a number marked “do not answer, solicitor" Cat Noir's number to her phone's secret second account.   “Where?” She answered her normal answer.

“No emergency, I need to speak with you.  Can we meet?”

“Normal place.”

He clicked off, which meant it worked for him.

She transformed and met Chat.  “Yes?”

“Your hair is different,” he said with surprise.

“Huh?” Ladybug said reaching back feeling her hair in the same braid she had worn to bed last night over her shoulder with a tie defying gravity at the end.

“And makeup?”

“What!” she said leaning up to look at herself in his bell.  Her red lipstick was still on her lips. She’d have to remember to take it off before he came over later.  “Ugh, my kwami is mad at me.”

Chat squinted at her, “So she gave you a makeover?”

Ladybug shrugged.  “I don’t know, maybe?”

“Looks nice,” he said shrugging.

“Then you wear it!”

He smiled cockily at her, “my hair’s not long enough.”

Ladybug rolled her eyes but couldn’t help but laugh, “What’s up?”

“I want, to… I, I need, you see, my friends, I won’t tell them, I.” He inhaled deeply through his nose then let it out through his mouth, knowing he made no sense he began again “I want to tell her.”

Ladybug’s mouth dropped, then she’d have to tell him who she was, absolutely not! “I don’t think that’s a good idea.  Besides, you only just decided to see her yesterday. What is she to you?”

Chat Noir narrowed his eyes at her, “she’s the woman who actually respected me enough to give me the time of day.”

Ladybug stepped back as if stabbed, she supposed she deserved it, even though it hurt.  It was weird, feeling jealous of herself though. She nodded.  

“I’m sorry, that was uncalled for.  Do you want to meet her tonight? She’s pretty amazing.” He said with a smile

“Chat how well do you know this girl?  You’ve met her a handful of times, she could just be a fangirl. You have tons of them probably as many as him,” she said pointing to a billboard of Adrien.

Chat Noir looked at the billboard, it was one of his most recent ones.  They had definitely begun to exploit his body, that photo shoot had more to do with him and less to do with his father’s clothes.  He was wearing a grey business suit with the black shirt fully unbuttoned with the arms pushed up exposing his forearms, 'huh, that's the same shirt Marinette wore today' he thought.  He had his suit jacket hooked over his shoulder with his first and middle fingers of his left hand and his suit pants were unbuttoned and obscenely low with his legs angled apart and his hips thrust forward.  His right hand’s first finger was crooked in a gesture urging the viewer to come to him. He looked at Ladybug, reading the longing in her eyes, oh, come on, not his partner too! “I don’t think that’s possible!  Besides I feel bad for him. He probably has no privacy.”

“We’re getting sidetracked.  I wouldn’t worry about him, he probably is dating three women and has a drug addiction.”

Chat's lips pressed together and turned white, “I really didn’t think you were the type to stereotype someone based on their job.”

Ladybug sighed, she might have laid it on a bit too thick in her attempt to keep him from realizing she actually knew the model.  They had both rescued Adrien. Chat just didn’t know he was her friend... if he still was.  “I’m sorry, I think it’s a bad idea. You just don’t know her well enough. You’ve rescued her a handful of times and spoken to her a total of 2 hours?  How could you possibly get to know her?”

Chat hung his head but looked up at Ladybug with his eyes and whispered, “what if, I know her behind th-“

“STOP!” she yelled covering his mouth with her hand.  She was breathing hard her chest rising and falling as if she had just ran a marathon.   “Chat, if you can’t tell me how does it even make sense you can tell some random girl?”

Chat had never been truly deeply angry with his partner before but so far she'd insulted him and Marinette over 5 times.  He was done with this conversation, she said even her kwami was mad at her. His teeth were clenched when he replied, “look at us! How can I have a relationship dressed like this? I’m afraid to hold her with my gloves on! The suit doesn’t come off! I can’t even hold her hand.  Ladybug, I’ve never even felt her skin on my hand.”

She sighed, “Is this about sex?”

Chat would be lying if he said he hadn’t thought of that himself.  “it’s everything, I can't go to the beach with her, I cant run my fingers through her hair, I cant touch her and okay yes, in the future I won't be able to make love to her."

Ladybug turned away from him hit by another wave of jealousy.  “Let’s come up with a workable solution that doesn't blow your cover and I'll make you a deal."

“Hmm?”

“I'll tell you something very revealing about me in July and I'll let you tell your little girlfriend who you are on your wedding night.” 

“Deal to the first part, very funny to the second part, and do you have any ideas?”

She shook her head, “Not really, the best I can come up with is wearing a mask.”

“I am wearing a mask.”

“No, I mean, transforming to your normal self then wearing a mask.  The only problem is, your eyes will show.”

“No big deal.  How about you toss your yo-yo and see what your lucky charm gives us.”

Ladybug threw it into the air intentionally allowing it to fall onto his head like she had when they were kids hoping to ease some of the tension, “Oh, oops.”

“Alright, I’ll talk to her about it," he said rubbing his head, wondering if he had ears simply to keep his skull safe from her yo-yo, not really minding it though.  "I’m going there around 10, I need to study for my next test. I only have two left. How about you?”

“Two as well”

“So, 10 at Tom & Sabine’s bakery, meet us there so you can get to know Marinette.”

“Actually, I’ve already met her, she’s Alya’s friend from the Ladyblog.  She’s a nice girl. Just be careful. Don’t break her heart either Chat Noir,” she said firmly.

He smiled, “I’ll try my very best not to.”  He jumped off the roof and headed towards home, he had some studying to do and a favor to ask of Chloe.

***

When Marinette walked through the door at the top of the bakery’s stairs she wasn’t prepared to see Nathalie sitting next to her mother sipping tea.  “Marinette!” they both said then Sabine laughed softly and Nathalie smiled. Over the years Marinette found her to be an acquired taste and she liked her overall.   

“Hello Mme Sancoeur, Maman.  Can I get you anything?” she said placing her sketchbook pencils and purse all on the stairs then turned to get a glass of water after the women welcomed her home and told her they were fine come sit down with them when she was finished.  Marinette walked back into the sitting area and sat across from the women. 

Nathalie coughed once. “Has Adrien spoken to you yet?”’

“Adrien and I are no longer anything more than friends.” Marinette.

Sabine’s smile dropped away, “Oh, sweetie are you okay?”

“I’m fine, we’re both fine,” she said looking to Nathalie.  “Everything is fine.”

“That’s good, I’m here to schedule a press conference regarding the new line of women’s clothing that you will be the head of when you come back.  I have explained everything to your parents. Is there anything I need to explain to you?

“Profits and rights.”

Nathalie nodded smiling to her, “good girl.  Adrienne it’s logo and all it’s affiliated symbols are subsidiaries of Agreste SA.  All designs you create while leader of Adrienne will belong to Agreste SA. However, all styles will be affiliated with your name and future brand.”

Marinette sat next to Nathalie on the sofa, “this is really happening, isn’t it.”

“You’re very talented, which is 40% important in my opinion, you are also organized, have good social skills, time management skills and are a good leader these are all very important in building a business along with the obvious education which I know you have.  There are some very sensitive items in this paperwork that cannot even be discussed with your parents. Would you like a lawyer?”

“Can I at least read it before signing it?”

Sabine stood up, “I’ll go down to the bakery.  Marinette, if you need us to call the lawyer it’s no problem.” She said and walked out the door.

Nathalie handed her the contract, “page 32, third paragraph. But before you read it, you have to understand you cannot speak a word of it to anyone except your lawyer, Gabriel or myself, is that understood?”

Marinette nodded then turned to the page and began reading out loud softly.

“In the event of Gabriel Agreste’s death, his son Adrien Agreste will inherit Agreste SA and all future business holdings associated with it. Marinette Dupain-Cheng will inherit all intellectual property to fashions designed by Gabriel Agr-“

Marinette gasped, “No!”

Nathalie shook her head and tapped the papers, “Keep reading.”

“-Gabriel Agreste.  In the event they are married Adrien Agreste will inherit 85% of Agreste SA and Marinette Dupain-Cheng will hold 15% of Agreste SA with the understanding that all will be inherited by the future grandchildren of Gabriel Agreste.”

Marinette looked up at Nathalie, “Is this normal?”

Nathalie didn’t really know how to answer that without insulting Gabriel. “It’s very common, for people to write provisions for their grandchildren.”

Marinette knew when Nathalie was shutting down and it was pointless.  “So what about divorce?”

“It’s later but contractually the 15% of Agreste SA would be yours upon marriage, after a divorce it would still be yours, however should you remarry it cannot be inherited by any children other than Adrien’s.”

Marinette nodded understanding the ramifications of the grandchild clause. “There’s a lot here.”

Nathalie nodded, “That’s why I wanted to come not just send it by courier.”

“I need to speak to my parents—Don’t worry not about the inheritance.  Just in general, would you like some wine, more tea, coffee?”

“Water would be fine.” Nathalie said reaching for her tablet marking something.

“One moment.” Marinette walked down the stairs to find the bakery empty of patrons, her parents preparing ingredients to mix before bed.  Suddenly she desperately wanted to be a child again, take away all the responsibilities and just watch her father sweep or knead while her mother sang her to sleep. She overheard her father speaking and stopped ducking below the glass so they didn’t see her.

“We will think of something.”

“Why couldn’t she stay in Paris? All of LVMH is here.  Why would she leave?!”

“Sabine, you know Fumée isn’t part of the conglomerate.”

“What happens when we need her?”

“We’ll be fine, we were fine when she was too little to help, we’re going to be fine now,” he said walking away from his dry measurements to pull his wife into his arms. 

Marinette popped up and walked into the room to find her father hugging her mom.  “Hi, I think you’re right. It would be a good idea to call the lawyer. This is a lot of information.”

Her parents parted and her mother walked toward the back of the bakery to a closet sized room where her mother picked up a book then a corded phone and dialed.

Marinette turned to her father, “Do you have any new snacks?,” she said then walked toward the cooler and pulled out a large glass bottle and put two glasses on a bread tray then added the bottle.

“Actually, I’ve been working on a savory lox macaron, would you like some?”

Marinette nodded, “That sounds delicious,” she said but her father had already walked away to start on them, “Thank you!” she called to him, then walked back upstairs.

When she walked through the door she saw Nathalie on the phone looking at the shrouded form of Notre Dame covered with scaffolding, her sight still causing Parisians heartache.   No one felt the loss as acutely as Marinette, Chat and their team, most especially Viperion and Bunnyx who'd been told they weren't to interfere or play with the timestream. They were supposed to protect Paris and they had let down their Great Lady.  It was some sick punishment that her house and school faced it forcing her to look at her failure nearly every moment of every day. Nathalie hung up and gestured to the old church, “She’ll be back you know.”

Marinette nodded solemnly.  

She turned away from the windows, set the tray on the family kitchen counter and poured water into the glasses, “I asked my mother to call our lawyer.”

Nathalie nodded and took the glass that was offered to her. “That’s a very good idea.  How are your Bac exams concluding?”

“Very well,” Marinette said taking a sip not sure what else she should talk to Nathalie about before the lawyer got there. “Tomorrow Greek Literature.”

Nathalie nodded, “very good.  Adrien has that too. What will you be focusing on?”

“Psyche, Cupid's wife.”

“Very good story, few ever take a moment to see it from Venus’ point of view though, she just wanted to protect her son from a virtual stranger who broke their trust.  He was too much in love to see how badly. Her son gave his wife everything, the only rule was the blindfold. Sometimes love is blind, he was lucky, then again he was a love deity, maybe he didn't need luck.”

The door opened, before Marinette could respond and her father appeared holding a tray with pretty cream colored macarons their fillings exposed as salmon and white stripes, their tops resting elegantly angled as if they were little berets with black toasted sesame seeds on top

They enjoyed the macarons then went over the contract with the lawyer and finalized the press conference for next Tuesday.  

Marinette was finishing her cleaning of the apartment after Nathalie left when she received a text from Chloe.

 

Chloé Bourgeois:   Baccalauréat Ball update!  Masquerade! Wear what you like but make sure you wear a mask on your face.

Chloé Bourgeois:   Try a bag, Marinette Dupain-Cheng

Primary Account:   That was a private message wasn't it? 

Chloé Bourgeois:   Only the last one. :p. =:(|||)-

Primary Account:   Didn't you say LB said you couldn't talk about being the bee?

Chloé Bourgeois:   I didn't I just used a cute emoticon... and it's QUEEN Bee Marinette Dupain-Cheng! 

 

Marinette snorted and smiled as she walked up her steps to her room and shut the door behind her.  She never would have believed her fragile friendship with Chloé would have ever existed even 2 years ago.

Tikki flew at her as soon as her bedroom door shut. “You’re avoiding me.”

Marinette blushed, “Yes, I am.”

“You slept with Chat Noir last night.”

“Yes, I did.”

“It matters to you doesn’t it?”

Marinette looked at Tikki confused. “Yes, of course it does, what do you mean?”

Tikki shrugged, “We don’t feel the same as you do.  I could even procreate with other Kwami and it would not be the same as it is for humans.  It can be used as a physical bridge for emotions before couples are ready for the next step but… meh.”

Marinette was fascinated but was also having a hard time following.  “So are you in a relationship with someone?” 

“He wishes and you’re trying to avoid confrontation.” 

“I am but this would be fascinating anyway.  Tikki, I’m leaving, we can keep our memories sweet or we can fight.  I’ll go to Master Fu and he can pick a replacement.”

Tikki was momentarily speechless but was about to speak when they both heard tapping from the window.

“Hide! He’s here early!” Marinette ran for the stairs and pushed the window open slamming it into Chat’s face.


Chapter Text

“Woah!” Chat said bounding backward rubbing his forehead.  

“Hi! I wasn’t expecting you!” She lied.  “I was just studying.”

“For what?”

“Greek Lit, I have my summary and a new idea to write about.”

“Those are dangerous, you shouldn’t introduce new ideas at the last minute,” He held his hand out for her to take and pulled her through the opening.  

She had to admit it was pretty romantic, did he take classes or something?  “What was your elective?”

If he said Greek she would narrow it down to their class, “Greek, Ancient Greek Literature.” Take that Ladybug, he thought , joke about telling me to tell her on my wedding day.

“Are you in my class?” she asked for the second time in as many days, Naughty Kitty knew he was giving too much personal information.  He was doing it intentionally to spite her because she had said no.

He reached up and pushed her hair behind her ear with a sad sigh, “Marinette, you know I cannot answer that, a lot of schools are having their Greek Exam tomorrow.” 

She nodded and sighed.  That was true.

“You look amazing in black, come here, I missed you all day.” he pulled her close and thrust his fingers into her hair and his lips crashed on to her mouth, growling when she wrapped her hands around him.  

“Are you ready for your exam?”

“Yeah, as much as I can be.  Just tired.”

“Oh, did you want to stay?” Marinette blushed but offered.

“May I?”

Marinette nodded.

“I, um, wanted to talk to you about something important.”

Marinette nodded and followed him down into their favorite chair to snuggle.

He pulled her closer, “I spoke with Ladybug today.  I’m going to detransform when we’re together, I’ll wear a small mask, but at least then I can finally touch you.

It wasn’t until he said it that Marinette realized how stupid her idea was, “It could fall off!”  she said in a panic.

Chat looked at her back confused, “Most people would want to know my secret identity.” 

“Uh, I do, but when you’re ready.  Not because of some cloth.” 

He sighed and snuggled her tighter, could she be anymore amazing?  “It’s going to be fine. Marinette, you know” he was rubbing the small of her back soothing her but he felt nervous, “you actually don’t know but you’re my first everything.” He rushed on, “not kiss, I’ve done that, but nothing else.  Last night, meant a lot to me I want to be more than the boy who pops through your window.”

Marinette snuggled closer, then shyly replied, “me too.  ‘boyfriend’ seems wrong when we haven’t been out on a single date but we’ve been together for a long time.”

Chat snuggled the top of her head, “Little Princess, will you do me the honor of being my girlfriend,” he said with overly grand flourish. 

Marinette flicked his bell and leaned forward to look him in his green cat eyes, “I would love to kind sir.”

Chat smiled and almost immediately began to purr.

Marinette loved it, she tried hard not to but who couldn’t love it?

The purring stopped and Chat sat up, “One last thing.”

“Mmmhmm.”

“It’s important, I need to know if you suspect you think you know who I am.  You cannot ever tell anyone who I am.”

“Hmm?” Marinette had not expected that, she felt a little insulted.  She wasn’t some fangirl trying to get into Chat Noir’s carbon fiber super suit. She sighed, and he never thought that way until Ladybug had said the girl he was seeing was probably just a fangirl.  Ugh! She did this! “Chat, I wouldn’t tell anyone you wouldn’t want to know. I do have a question, how can I have a boyfriend outside of my bedroom?”

 “Does it embarrass you to be dating Chat Noir?”

“I think embarrass is the wrong word.  I love dating mon minou .  I don’t love people assuming the wrong things.”

Chat understood that.  “If you’re in the public’s eye your truth will usually be twisted into a lie.  I don’t mind if you tell people we’re dating.”

“Isn’t that dangerous?”

“Ladybug wouldn’t let me tell you who I am, I won’t let her keep me from having a relationship with you too.” 

“But Kitty, I or even my parents could be kidnapped to exploit your weaknesses it’s not safe.”

“Mari, if I could tell you who I was, I would kiss your cheek and leave and come back through the side door of the bakery and date you as just the boy behind the mask.  I could take you to dinner, parties, the beach, go on vacations with my friends. I can’t offer that. The best I can do is allow you to tell people who you’re dating.”

Marinette was nodding, when they met this afternoon she should have listened to her partner instead of acting like a child and being jealous of herself.  Look what it had gotten her. She looked down when she felt something touch her ankle to find his tail wrapped around her leg, then sliding around and rewrapping itself.  “Are you consciously doing that?”

Chat looked over to find his tail playing with Marinette, and laughed, “Not consciously!” he said a little embarrassed.  “Come on, you have no idea how eager I am to get in bed.”

Marinette smiled not quite sure how he had meant the statement but loving it nonetheless.  “Since you insist.” Marinette hopped off his lap and turned to him with a smile offering him her hand with a yawn, “Monsieur Noir, if you would but accompany me.”

Chat popped out of his chair, took her hand, and followed her into her room.

Mari was making her way across her bed when she felt his hand wrap around her ankle.

“Where are you going?”

She turned back to him, “To change and give you some privacy to take off your,” her mouth felt dry, “suit,” she squeaked.

Chat’s sexy smirk lit her room with 1,000 suns, “are you thinking about me naked under my suit, Little Purr-incess?” he said, truly purring instead of just saying the word and every R a large cat’s growl rather than a human R.    

Marinette had absolutely no defense against this psychological torture, so she just nodded, she would be embarrassed about it later.  She shook her head blushing furiously, “er, no, no, no.”

Why was it so fun to torture her? He slowly pulled her closer to him by the foot and loomed over her and whispered in her ear, “you can help.”  

What did that mean?  “Huh?”

“Pull the zipper, Little Princess and then I’ll say the magic words,” ugh, it sounded better in his head.

“Huh?” 

His bronzed hair fell over his eyes and he reached down to pull her fingers to behind the bell where a little zipper hid.  She grabbed for dear life and pulled. Tearing wrapping paper off a present had never been so satisfying. She gasped, his skin was completely devoid of hair and soft and smooth over what felt like stone, it was unreal, she ran her fingertips, then her hands, still it wasn’t enough, she turned her hands over and ran the backs of her knuckles and hands against his chest and abdomen. 

Chat let go of her foot and pulled her over him her legs automatically spreading on either side of his waist, he thrust his fingers into her hair and pulled her down to him she resisted in favor of running her lips against his exposed chest and stomach.  He heard a ragged breath and she looked up at him with a twinkle in her big blue eyes, “Did you have some magic words?”

Chat groaned.  Ugh, he just knew he would regret that, especially with what he chose to wear, “It’s a—a little more complicated than, just, you see, it’s not the same.”

“Huh? Do you need to be alone?”

“No, it’s just, I’ll be fully dressed again.”

Marinette laughed, only her Kitty could get himself into these situations, “But,” she rubbed his chest, “this is your skin isn’t it?” she feigned confusion.

He sucked oxygen through his nose so deeply she was afraid she’d need to call Emergency Services. “Yes,” he said from between clenched teeth.

As a purely scientific endeavor she pulled at the bottom of the zipper then tried to see if she could reach inside any further but like her own suit it was attached.  “So, where are your clothes?”

He shrugged, “Magic?” he said breathlessly.

She smiled her eyes twinkling again, “Indeed.”

He had dropped the mask he planned on wearing, and pointed to it, “I need that.”

She picked it up between two fingers dangling it above him like string above a cat, “what? This?”

He pulled her down to him and snatched it, “I can’t transform without it.”

Marinette watched him tie it behind his head, “should I go? It seems private.”  She certainly didn’t want anyone seeing her go from Ladybug Savior of Paris to Marinette Dupain-Cheng bakers’ daughter.  

He shook his head, “No, I, I want, I want you to be with me.   If I could I would but I’m not allowed to tell you who I am.”

Marinette slid off his stomach and sat next to him, “Why not just meet me without your mask?  We could start dating?”

He snorted, “One, the first man who comes up to you whether it is me or not you will assume is me. Two, wouldn’t it be awkward someone out of the blue acting like they know you so well? It would be like a stalker, not a future partner.  Let’s face it, I screwed up, I should have come to you without my mask long time ago. Or I should've just ignored Ladybug's rules.” He hung his head down. “this is me, I’m sorry.”

Marinette shook her head, knowing she was responsible for a large portion of their problems and wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed his cheek. “I think you're wonderful.  I want to know you too but it’s safer not to, right? You can tell me after you defeat Hawk Moth. The fact you are doing what your partner and you agreed to do shows me you’re honorable.  I agree, it would have been great to have dated you behind the mask but,” she shrugged, “what’s done is done.”

She’d said the same thing to him this morning when Adrien had told her she was beautiful.  He leaned forward and gave her a chaste kiss on the lips, “has anyone ever told you, you’re amazing Marinette?”

She smiled.  “I'll go get us some refreshments, any preference?”

He grabbed her hand, “No, I mean, no and no but stay.”  He took a deep breath and whispered something she couldn’t quite hear and in a flurry of black and green a sexy man/boy in a mask was sitting on her bed wearing an expensive olive green Gabriel sleeveless undershirt with pajama shorts, Plagg floating next to him.

She let out a breath she didn’t know she had been holding onto, the mask had stayed, she’d been terrified it would vanish with the rest of his suit.  Then looked at Plagg with what she hoped was a gasp of surprise.

Chat smiled, “This is Plagg, he's my Kwami.  He's how I transform.”

Oh, my!” she said.  Maybe she was laying it on a little thick, she wasn’t very good at this.

Plagg narrowed his eyes at her and motioned with his hand from his eyes to her then back to his eyes to show, he was watching her, then turned to Chat, “Kid? Cheese?”

“I was just going down to get some snacks, you can come with me,” Marinette said brightly, knowing it sounded suspicious as it left her mouth.  It sounded like she was planning Grand theft Kwami.

Plagg shook his head and opened his mouth to reply but Chat beat him to it.

“Great idea!  Plagg loves your father’s food!” 

A tiny giggle came from below the bed and Marinette hurriedly giggled to cover it. “He would be so complemented.” She got up and that’s when she noticed his body, it was somehow incredibly familiar and not as Chat's, even the way he was sitting seemed...  “Okay, get comfortable, unless you want to go back up then I'll meet you up there.” She walked down the stairs and opened the hatch to the living room andTikki zoomed through with Plagg, Marinette closed it behind her.

Plagg turned on her as soon as the door shut, “’gasp oh my Chat Noir save me'” he said in a high falsetto, “you should have just let him show you who he is.”

Marinette opened her mouth to defend herself but tikki jumped to her defense. 

“Leave her alone Plagg, you know the rules."

You know the rules Sugarcube, they’re more than partners now, or they probably will be.  Just because your ladybug is afraid to get hurt doesn’t mean my kitten should have to be tortured.  And I know you did something to us last night.”

Marinette ignored them and found  4 glasses and 2 bottles then went to the bakery and walked back in a minute later with her hands full.  She put everything on the tray, then went to the cupboard where she had hidden her bribe and put the wheel of camembert on the tray too. Dead pan she said, “Tikki told me it was your favorite. I want to know him too.  I want to take him to the party my school is having, I want to go out with my boyfriend like a normal girl with my friends. But I can't and he can't.  Please don’t make this harder. Would you like some bread?”

Plagg kind of felt bad for her when she put it like that, and she had gotten him quality cheese too, “Anything will do.”

“Oooh!  More of these!” Marinette said finding her father's new macarons.

“Try to keep the treats low calorie. He will appreciate it.“

“Plaaaaagg,” Tikki warned.

“Uh, okay,” Marinette said looking for the impossible in her home.

Plagg turned to Tikki, “how many times have I explained humans can't see anything.  This kitten should have figured out who his ladybug was years ago. And look at your bug, they’re so obvious but neither can see, how are they the smarte-.”

Tikki flew at him covering his mouth with both her arms.  “Plagg, that is enough!

“Tikki can Plagg stay with you tonight?” Marinette asked.

How on earth was it possible for someone red to blush? “That was what we were planning, after all there’s plenty of space,” she said with a giggle.

Marinette mentally gaped, they were a couple!  No wonder he was so mad, he wasn’t able to visit unless Chat knew who she was.  It was pretty unfair to be so powerful and yet bound to less powerful people. “Anything else?”

“Get something sweet for Tikki.”

“Plagg! Stop being rude! She already put them in my house.  We're fine Marinette, let’s go" she said then floated behind her hair incase Chat saw them when they came in the room.

When they walked in the room it was empty. Tikki and Plagg zipped to the scrap box.  Marinette left their preferred items in the bottom drawer of the scrap box then set the tray next to her computer and pulled off her pants and underwear, praying this was a good idea then removed the rest of her clothes, when she was done she pulled the businesses shirt back on and buttoned back up.  It hung nearly to her knees she ran to the mirror to check on her makeup remembering what Alya had once said ‘if you cannot count on your lipstick to make it through a situation don’t wear it’. Marinette rubbed at her lips to give them color then used some lip balm to give them shine, grabbed the tray and made her way up to her newly acquired boyfriend.

Chapter Text

Chat sat in Mari's chair thinking about Icarus & Daedalus, the father and son who had gone through so much in the labyrinth. Daedalus had made fake wings to escape and said they would melt if they flew too close to the sun, but his son Icarus didn’t listen, so he died.  That was the story he had chosen to write about for tomorrow's exam and analysis. It was how he felt when he wasn’t with Ladybug or Mari. Like his father’s craft was killing him. When he was completely alone he could hear Therese's heels snapping on the floor and her words threatening to destroy his career, feel her smack and rub then tell him he enjoyed it. The window being pushed open knocked the bad memories away and a tray appeared.  “that looks good, but is there a girlfriend in there?”

“Ha, ha,” she said dryly.

She popped out and his breath caught, she looked amazing.  All morning he’d been wanting to untie that damn shirt but this was the best idea ever. “Wow!”

She set the tray on the side edge, “wine or water?” She said. 

“Wine.  Cigarette?”

“Sure,” She poured them both glasses of wine and put lox macarons on plates for both of them.  Then she pulled her shelf over to put their plates on and sat on him to have a good look at him and gasped with surprise, “you have green eyes!”

“I’ve been told I also have blond hair.” He said managing a straight face for a  few seconds before laughing. 

“It’s not really blond anymore, more bronze" Was that a mistake? Surely girls remembered what he looked like when he saved their lives.

“Yeah, getting older,” he said pulling her down onto his lap, I'm sure they'll want me to bleach it soon."

“Your hair is different!” she said with surprise, not understanding his comment and ignoring it. 

He nodded and ran his fingers through his shorter tidier locks.  “Yeah”

She sighed and leaned up to kiss his neck.  He snuggled her closer wrapping his hand around her he took a puff then handed it to her.  He carefully rested his hand near her hip then put his other hand on her thigh under the shirt.  It stirred the memory from earlier in the day during her test when Adrien put his hand on her thigh, she shook it off.  He took a last puff on his cigarette then offered it back to her, telling her he was done and rested his cheek on her head. 

She took it but put it out, she still had a little more research  to do for tomorrow’s exam. She pulled out her cellphone and continued researching for her test.  He just relaxed under the nearly full moon and stars. It wasn’t until she finished reading the scholarly article she noticed something was missing and she sat up and looked down at him.  “You’re not purring.”

Chat blushed, “Chat Noir has ears, a tail, can run on all 4's and purr, I can't.”

She smiled, “so I guess you aren’t the cure to my insomnia then?”

“You’re not mad?” He asked confused. 

His reaction was more confusing to her.  “I know I met you as Chat but I’m pretty sure I like you for more than that. Something just like this is perfectly fine with me,” she said telling him the words she was desperate to hear someone say to her, “I’m not looking for a superhero, just someone I can kiss,” she looked up and kissed the underside of his chin. 

He smiled, he knew the song well and her words resonated deep in his soul,  like a bell filling him making him feel whole. Her words fit his desire to find someone that could love the child his mother had loved, not the model Adrien Agreste or Chat Noir but Adrien, just Adrien.   

"You, Marinette Dupain Cheng, are the most marvelous person I know."

Marinette shrugged the words off, "I'm not, I mean, you're Chat Noir, you know everybody including Ladybug, they're m--"

He stopped her, "They're not you Marinette, ask yourself where I am.  I choose you, you really are the most amazing person I know." It was true, only she really understood he had chosen Marinette over Ladybug.  Did he really find her so special? His words seemed to hang in the air almost tangible somehow coating her, enveloping her, most definitely protecting her from her belief she was not good enough.   

They both felt completely at peace with the other.  Whole.

***

He was pretty sure he had found her, the one .  Was it too soon to know?  It didn’t feel like it. They’d been together as friends for years surely that counted for something.  He decided it did and it wasn’t too soon. 

What was he going to do for the next 3 years?  Maybe Ladybug would let him go, at least for extended visits? That could work! He looked down and returned her kiss deepening it breathing in her sweet breath.  He ran his hand up her thigh surprised to find nothing under the shirt. He pulled away to look at her in shock. “Marinette Dupain-Cheng, naughty, aren’t you full of surprises?”

She blushed causing the little freckles to stand out, his hand slid between her thighs causing them to part without her knowledge.  The tip of his thumb brushed her smooth labia but nothing else. The grip of that large hand on her thigh was nearly painful keeping her from falling off his lap, but she would die before telling him to stop so delightful was the pressure. She had begun to make strangled gasping noises.

Chat popped up from the chair, cradling her in his arms, “We're on the same page right?” he said walking the two steps to her window.

Marinette nodded, “I’m on birth control.”

She was looking at him, what did he say? 'Good?' No, that sounded like he wasn't prepared. 'It's okay I've got it covered' with a wink? But having condoms kind of sounded like he was planning on this… but he kind of was. Why wasn't there a manual?! Maybe he should say  nothing, when in doubt keep your mouth shut! 

His silence worried her and she moved to be let down, he pulled her close for a hug and a peck on the nose then put her down.  She walked over to the tray and grabbed it before hopping onto her bed like the pro she was. She put the tray on the large ledge she had installed over the rail around her bed for this exact purpose while he climbed down after her.  She poured herself a glass of sparkling water and took a sip looking back at him shyly. Maybe she had misjudged the situation. She heard rustling and looked over her shoulder he was under the covers fiddling with his phone when she leaned over he snapped it away from her sight.  What was she thinking? She was the one who insisted on anonymity. She plugged her phone in, on the shelf behind her bed and crawled in between the sheets not sure of the situation anymore.  

Chat knew he'd killed the mood and the fire in his groin demanded he fix it. He was really happy for their height difference as he was too embarrassed to look at her.  He put his hand on her outer thigh and began rubbing up and down slowly, “did I do something wrong?” he whispered into the hazy darkness of her room.

She lifted her face her lips colliding with his chin and shook her head vehemently.  “I thought you were mad at me,” she sighed happily when the hand, at her thigh slid up to her butt and pulled her to him. Well, this was much more promising, she thought feeling the thick outline of him against her abdomen. 

“Never,” he said then kissed her forehead.

She leaned upward and kissed his chin.  Together they worked to meet in the middle and they began kissing softly at first almost in apology, that they had stopped the earlier freight train of passion.  But those kisses quickly were left behind in favor of hungrier ones. Somehow the shirt was unbuttoned enough to come off over her head the same as his shirt, only his shorts remained.  She felt his hands everywhere except her hip, how he could remember anything was beyond her. The kisses had become manic their hands touching each other’s faces. She was grateful for the darkness, if his mask came off there would be no harm no foul. Suddenly his other hand was under her and she was on her back and he was over her.  It was like a dream. Only the littlest bit of moonlight light came through but no features could show her the man she was giving her virginity to. He leaned down and placed his finger over her lips while kissing his way to her left nipple. She hadn’t realized it hurt until his mouth soothed it. He said he had no experience but he seemed to be pretty amazing.  He rubbed her hard aching breasts and then switched to her right one. Slowly his right hand snuck down with a gentle scrubbing sensation. That’s when she realized his hand had calluses, probably from his baton. Then his fingers found the hopeful flesh between her legs, waiting for his fingers return, if only for a touch. 

His fingers softly traced the bare flesh, “I wish I could see you,” he said, his familiar voice a comfort in the dark.

“I have a reading lamp,” she offered wanting to see him too.  

“We can't, my mask fell off when we were kissing.” He rubbed outside, which felt amazing but he was needed against her clit, “so smooth, so soft,” he said leaving her breasts for apparently silkier pastures.  The moment his lips kissed the top of her pubic area she swore she would never curse her epilator or wax again because his feather light touches felt like lightning.

Her hands ran across his amazing expanse of muscles.  His body was unreal. Did he practice like Nino and Alya? “You’re pretty amazingly smooth yourself.”

“Laser hair removal, 2 years ago,” he sighed, “It's a popular option Father wanted it done, everything except my head, forearms & calves.  It was a pretty painful summer."

She vaguely remembered a few times him saying he had was in pain a couple summers ago, she had assumed he meant he had been hurt in battle.  Then his words struck her and she swallowed hard, “everything?”

“Feeling shy, Little Princess?” he said petting her with his knuckles against the slick slit.

Why lie? “A little."

That surprised him, “really?”  He said kissing her hip where his guessed her bruise was.

Seriously? Did he take classes on being charming during sex? “Yes, but you’re making me feel pretty calm, so I think I'll be okay,” she said squirming breathlessly.

“That’s good to know,” he said and all civility fled, he must have been calculating location the entire time because he simply extended his long fingers and they were past her labia and teasing the rim of her vagina. Her muscles immediately clamped down on the intruder.  Not in attack but to take him prisoner, he laid one last kiss to the top of her soft, silky pubic triangle before burrowing between her labia to find her clitoris with his tongue. He may not have ever done any of these things but he certainly heard enough about it in dressing rooms.  First and foremost the clit, that’s what they all said.  He could her little mewling noises and if he didn’t love what he was doing he would have teased her about who the cat was in the relationship, after all, a lot of people called this a pussy he thought humorously. Then again, he was lapping up a lot of cream. Her legs went wild, he slid his free hand down her leg and guided her foot to his shoulder.  She mimicked with her other leg, while he playfully licked at her clitoris, batting at it with the tip of his tongue then soothing it with long languorous licks.  It was so responsive, he wished he could see it, he reached out with his finger and barely touched it and her legs were wrapped around his head again,then spread wide begging for more. He was having so much fun, he didn’t even notice when her restless movements had stopped.  However her hips did keep trying to further impale themselves on his fingers which were now completely wet. He finally was able to understand she was actually saying something over and over again.

Marinette was dying, surely this was not what people loved to do, her muscles were exhausted beyond belief her clitoris felt swollen to the size of her leg, her vagina felt like nothing would ever fill it enough at this point.  She was terribly embarrassed to feel tears on the edges of her eyes even though she knew they were simply from exertion, right? She was covered in sweat, her hair was sticking to her face and neck.  She didn't look sexy anymore and she didn't feel it either. She looked at the clock across the room, they’d been doing this over 40 minutes, how had he not suffocated? It had started out delicious. Then even more exquisite, now, however, her body felt like a balloon over filled except it needed to pop, she wasn’t sure when the moaning began, but she had moaned, eventually she couldn’t moan anymore so she began groaning and now she was begging, “please-please-please, inside, I-need-inside,I-think-please. I cant anymore please" over and over again she begged but he just continued, ignoring her pleas. And then suddenly and swiftly the two long lovely fingers shot deeply into her and she covered her mouth with both hands while she screamed with satisfaction.  It was amazing, bursts of purple fireworks shot off behind her eyelids and every ounce of tension fell from her body.

That he had not expected. She lay like a dead body, but he hadn’t done anything yet. He curled his fingers inside of her. And her body jumped.

Her voice was hoarse and broken, “are you try-tr-trying to kill me?

“Just a little,” he said with enough of his sexy suggestive grin that she could hear it. Apparently he was a fan of double entendres as well as puns.

His implication was not lost on her, she laughed, “You already have, Naughty Kitty.”  She said grabbing his large forearm. “I want you inside of me.”

Chat flexed and spread his long and strong pianist’s fingers inside of her, “I am inside of you,” he laughed then licked her clit while adding a third finger to which she either had no response or could not give one. other than the low nearly demonic groan being pulled from her deep inside her chest, she dug her fingers deeper into his arm and holding it to her like a lifeline, not caring about the awkwardness of the angle.

“Hurts,” she whispered and he stopped and pulled his hand out causing her to desperately grapple for him in the dark, then understanding dawned on her, “ mon Minou , my throat hurts from screaming.  If you don’t put something inside of my vagina you will die a very final death.”

Chat let out a relieved breath, “oh, thank God,” she was so wet and she had already had one orgasm, he pulled his shorts off.  “Marinette I’ve never-so you don't have to worry but I have a condom if you want me to wear it-I understand.”

She touched his face with her hands then covered his lips with her finger, “me too.  We'll be safe I always take my meds on time and I’m not sick right now so we don’t have to worry about decreased effectiveness.”

Chat smiled mentally,  only his Marinette would think of ‘decreased effectiveness’ when she was this horny.  He wasn’t going to say it yet but he was pretty certain he was in love with her. He gently pulled her labia apart with his thumbs taking her writhing and  whimpers as good signs he continued with a prayer he didn’t make this terrible. That was the other thing everyone agreed on, their first time was always bad.  He slowly slid forward desperately hoping not to hurt her.

Marinette appreciated the gentleman between her legs but if he did not drive his shaft into her she was going to flip them both over in a moment.  Instead she chose to be more diplomatic and tell him. She grabbed at his shoulders and whispered “Right now I need a tiger not a kitten, don’t make me beg when it hurts to talk.”  She was grateful for the darkness knowing the blackness covered the blush that went from her hair to her breasts. But it worked.

Chat lifted one of her legs and drove forward ripping another scream from her which she quickly assured him was pleasure and pulled him close scratching his shoulders and back.   “Mari let go, let it happen,” he groaned feeling her muscles gripping, him tightly but also rippling. It was definitely not the same as his hand when he needed to  take care of himself. He put her shin against his chest but she moved her leg around and put her thigh against his chest, he was too tall for her to put her knee over her shoulder but it didn't matter what mattered was the battering ram against her cervix.  She was really flexible and athletic, how had he never known?  She wanted a tiger that was exactly what she was going to get he buried his face in her neck and pulled out only to thrust forward without a moment’s hesitation.  Her happy sigh told him everything he needed to know, he continued this pace and reached down to rub her tender abused clit and she went over again; grabbing his arms and back pushing herself harder up on him until she forced every drop of her orgasm from her body.  The only parts of her body against the bed were her head, shoulders and her right heel. He could taste the salt on her skin she wrapped her right leg around his waist and suddenly it felt like her body was everywhere and shaking, he couldn’t fight this, he couldn’t wait any longer. He joined her quietly breathing deeply through his nose from the sound of it.  He laughed happily and pulled her close their bodies wet from their exertions. “be honest, was it bad?”

Marinette stiffened.

Chat noticed immediately, “that came out wrong! People say the first time is always bad, oh, shit, yeah, see, now it is.”  He groaned.

Marinette laughed then hit him playfully, “hurts to laugh!” she whispered hoarsely. 

He pulled her close and found the blankets to cover them.  It was getting cold on their damp skin.

“It was wonderful mon Grand Minou.   I’m grateful it was with you.”  She was starting to fall asleep when she remembered, “Chat, don’t forget your mask,” she murmured before falling into an exhausted sweaty asleep in his arms.

Chapter Text

The next morning Marinette woke up feeling like the world was made of silver linings.  She hurried down her stairs took a shower and got ready. She wore her hair down letting her hair dry into waves and curls.  She absolutely refused to wear anything black and green like his fangirls wore but she wanted to wear something to commemorate the loss of her virginity to very possibly the most amazing man on the planet, she sighed.  She saw a corner of a skirt she hadn’t worn before and smiled. She pulled on a black button down collared halter top blouse then wrapped the printed sarong skirt over it careful so that her modesty would stay intact but her leg would still show appropriately, then slipped into her plain black heels and grabbed her black Longchamp bookbag purse for Tikki.  

“Ready Tikki?” she said softly in her dry sore voice. No response, “Tikki?” She tapped on the drawer “Tikki”

Tikki grumbled uncharacteristically, “I’m up!  Stop yelling!” Then she appeared from below Marinette’s desk.

“Okay?”

“Plagg got me drunk.  He thinks it’s funny, he does it anytime he has an opportunity.”

“You a couple?”

Tikki blinked, then ignored her saying “Marinette you look nice.  You know what would be nice?”

“Hmm?”

“Staying out of other people's business.”

Marinette turned red, then she whispered hoarsely “you’re a nasty drunk. I’m leaving, stay or come.”  Marinette stood back up, walked around, and looked in the mirror then reached for some pink lipstick. She looked at her watch and realized she was running late, again.  How, she had no idea, she started with more time than normal, she came downstairs and saw her mother who looked her up and down looking at the pattern of her skirt trying to discern if there was some kind of hidden message in it.

“Better rush, There’s a croissant on the counter for you.”

“Thanks,” She whispered

Sabine took a sip of her tea and smirked at her daughter's whisper, “You’re welcome, now go.”

Marinette ran down the stairs and out the door.  She checked the sign and crossed the street and up the stairs into the school she hurried into the classroom and to her seat waving to her friends but completely missing the hunger in Adrien’s eyes upon seeing her in the tiger print sarong skirt.

“Hey! Wow, you look amazing.” Alya said as soon as she sat down.

Marinette turned pink.

“Wow, like that is it?! So, details?

“I don’t have a voice.” She replied in a quiet voice.

Alya laughed, “What did he do to you.” 

Everything , “Alya!” she squeaked.

The proctor walked in as Chloe was walking to the front of the class.  After the proctor had gotten their attention Chloe reminded everyone their school would be participating in what they hoped would be a new tradition.  Instead of just picking up their certificates they would join their professors for a dinner at the Mayor’s hotel, Le Grand Paris, where they would all receive their diplomas then they could stay and dance the night away.  “Last minute reminders, it is a masquerade, wear a mask, and don’t be boring,” she looked over at Marinette “consider it a gift to you, since we’ve been going to school together since childhood, it’s a party where you can come, and cover your face at the same time.”

 Chloe didn’t know it but it was a gift.  Making it a masquerade meant Chat might be able to come.  “Thanks Chloe,” she croaked.

“Marinette Dupain-Cheng what happened to your voice?  Did you lose it begging for money to pay for university?”

Adrien almost laughed at how close Chloé was to the truth she was with her insults.  After all Marinette had lost her voice begging, just not for money.

“I have laryngitis!” she whispered angrily.

Adrien turned to look at Marinette, and the words were out before he could stop them, “Cat got your tongue Marinette?”

She turned 50 shades of red but had a secretive smile. Then to the whole class she called out in a soft logical voice, “We're losing time we need for our exams,” and all the fight and fun flowed out of everyone in favor of passing.

The proctor was one who liked to move people around, and she found herself sitting next to Adrien, except two people could have sat between them she put so much distance between them.  For part one she had to write a summary of the formal analysis she had turned in a few months prior. When she finished she went downstairs to join Alya who was complaining about how classical history was a bullshit term for European History since it didn’t include all cultures.  As a minority person of color (albite mixed) herself she agreed. It would have been fun to write about a Chinese legend instead of always the same Greek and Roman myths but to be fair this was an elective and it was ancient Greek literature. Marinette grabbed Alya’s arm and pulled her away from their friends toward the cloakroom.   

When the door clicked shut Alya looked at her as if she’d lost her mind.  

Marinette sucked in a breath then let it out slowly.  “I have so much to tell you. He said I could tell everyone about him.  I think it’s a bad idea, but I don’t know, I just want to scream his name from the rooftops.  My throat hurts so bad but I want to tell you everything.”

“How about you start with who you’re dating.”

Marinette looked at her best friend and turned dark red and felt herself overheat, and it seemed the redder she got the bigger Alya's eyes became. It was the first time she was telling anyone, she didn’t want to be judged and she didn’t want him to be judged. She swallowed “Chat Noir,” she let out the breath she’d been hanging onto, “Chat Noir is my boyfriend and last night I lost my virginity and it was amazing.”

Alya hugged her and screamed, “OHMIGOD! Interviews whenever I want!” Then everything her friend said registered through her giddy haze of success. And her huge eyes nearly took up half her face in her surprise the rest was her mouth hanging open from shock. “you had sex with Paris’ most eligible feline.”

Marinette’s face screwed up, “Ew, don't say it like that, he's human.”

The door pushed open and Julika, Nino and Adrien walked in.

Alya pulled Marinette over to their friends, “You will never guess who Marinette’s secret boyfriend is!”

Nino, shrugged but looked her up and down, “someone in fashion.”

Adrien had to admire his friends and classmates, they were so good at this it was almost hilarious.  “A tiger?”

Marinette looked like she was going to hyperventilate.  And Adrien had to bite the inside of his cheek to keep the wicked smile he knew was brimming around his lips.  Use your model face, think about Icarus' death he told himself.

Alya laughed unaware calling Chat 'Tiger' was causing damage to her friend's sanity. "Close," she said pointing at Adrien, instead and pushed Marinette, “tell them!”

Marinette took a steadying breath and whispered, “Chat Noir,” she said happily, as if just saying his name out loud brought her happiness… who was she kidding.  It did.

The satisfaction he thought he was going to feel at her telling their friends about him never came.  The pride he’d been feeling died, replaced with jealous burning anger. Adrien smiled what he hoped appeared happily, “I'm really happy for you Marinette,” he said then walked out of the cloakroom slamming the doors with far more force than a happy man should have.

Nino looked at the door with worry, as it stuttered slowly trying to ease shut after its mechanisms’  assault, “uh, I'm gonna go take care of that.”

Alya nodded worried for their friend realizing Adrien may have felt more strongly for Marinette than they had realized.  Maybe more than he had realized.  Adrien walked to the other side of the courtyard not wanting to hear his friends, pulled out his cell phone and texted Ladybug.

Secondary Account:    I can't do this.  I need to tell her.

Piao Chong:   No.  Busy, talk later. 

Ugh!  Bitch! Instantly he felt ashamed, his mother and Nathalie too would be appalled if they heard his thoughts.  Fine, if LB wanted to be this way, he would see Master Fu. He was done fucking around with Ladybug, and her irritating rules.

“Dude, you okay?” Nino said sitting on the bench next to him.

Adrien leaned back and crossed his legs stretching his back over the back of the bench releasing some of the tension in his back, there were even some audible cracks.  “Yeah, why?”

“Because you’re a liar, and if we were alone you would be lighting up.  Dude, you’re a professional, it’s your job to make yourself look a certain way. If you’re worried about anyone else figuring you out, don’t, it’s my job to read your real feelings you look totally chill.  But let’s talk, when did you finally figure out you wanted Marinette?”

Adrien looked at his friend with surprise, “what do you mean? Marinette is a great friend.”

“Seriously, still ?  Denial is not just a river in Egypt.  You’ve liked her since you got here. When you were with Kagami you stopped panting after her—”

“I’ve never panted.”

“Sure you didn’t bud, not at all like a dog on a summer day. So, as I was saying, you stopped flirting or being over the top nice when you were dating Kagami.  You treated her like Rose or Alix, you know normal. But seriously, dude, it wasn’t even a month after Kagami split and Mari was back on her pedestal.”  Nino shook his head, “her body wasn’t even cold, that’s cold.”

Adrien poked Nino in the soft spot between his shoulder and chest for maximum pain, “Kagami's not dead, she’s engaged.  Happily, I might add.”

“Besides the point!” Nino said with sage wisdom. “why does this bother you so much?  When she dated Max it didn’t make you this mad and he’s our friend.”

“Sorry, Nino, I just don’t want to talk about it right now.”

Nino nodded, Alya, he and the rest of the crew had, had their suspicions for years, after all whenever someone was akumatized Adrien and Marinette were the first to 'find a safe place' or 'become victims'. Later when Max joined the team he ran the probability. Were Adrien and Marinette, Chat Noir and Ladybug, and it was higher than 95% sometimes, other times it was only 7%, it was weird, he and Markov said it had to do with extenuating and alternating variables.  With their upcoming holiday it would have been amazing to have been correct but apparently they’d been wrong. If Adrien were Cat Noir he wouldn’t be pouting on the other side of the school because his girlfriend was happily telling people they were dating. Bummer. 

Meanwhile, by the time the proctor called the class back for the second part of their exam their class and most of the school knew Marinette Dupain-Cheng was Chat Noir's girlfriend.  As the class filed in the proctor pointed them to places to sit Adrien grunted when he saw he was placed next to Marinette. She smiled brightly and he was reminded of her words last night that she didn’t need him to be Chat Noir to make her happy.  He made her happy.

“Mari I need to tell you something,” he whispered, putting his hand on her arm.

Her smile hardened but never fell, he gave her credit for that for a girl going into a very public world she would need that skill. She gently disengaged his hand and brightly smiled up at him, “yes,” she hoarsely said.

Knowing he was partly responsible for her voice made his body tighten.  He didn't care what Ladybug said anymore. He was telling her, right now! “Marinette, I am,” ' don’t do something you're going to regret, not here ,' his conscience admonished in his father's voice.  He continued, “really happy for you.”

Marinette blushed her smile turning blissful, “Thank you.”

As the proctor droned on about this portion of the exam Marinette looked over and noticed Adrien’s right arm had small bruises on it in a weird V shaped pattern.  He ran his hand through his hair and she almost gasped as she saw a larger one below the inside of his elbow, as though it had been grabbed at an abnormal angle. She blushed remembering  when she held Chat's arm with all her unusual strength, so he wouldn't be able to pull his hand away from her aching vagina. She looked up into his startling green eyes, they looked startled.  'Chat's eyes are brilliant green too ' an unbidden voice said in her mind.  Stop it , she told herself, fate couldn’t be that cruel, not after pining for him for so long.  He looked at her with a question in his eyes, she shook her head. Nothing, it was nothing.  It wasn't possible, 6 years of being madly in love with this boy for him to be her partner and now her lover?! No, not possible, and just speculating like is wasn't fair to Chat.

***

Sabine ran into her daughter’s room as soon as she heard her daughter run out bakery’s side door.  The sounds coming from this room last night had been unmistakable, also something no parent wants to hear but there are reasons to tolerate it the number one reason being marriage or destiny, same thing depending on who you asked.  Although times had most definitely changed since she was a girl. 

Most importantly since no one came through their door only one person could have gotten into their daughter’s room. Chat Noir.

As soon as she entered the room, it was obvious, the smell of their joining lingered in the small room.  Sabine threw open the three small windows to get a good breeze in the room and went to Tikki’s box. As she had suspected, more than one kwami had stayed there by the look of the mess, it smelled, mildly of cheese, a stinky one.  Sabine smiled, she knew it, fate, destiny, kismet, whatever you want to call it would not be ignored. Marinette had been predestined to be a Ladybug just as this young man had been to be to be a Black Cat. Unified they would be unstoppable very literally two halves of one whole.  Everything about them created balance but only if they were in balance.  Sabine cleaned the desk and the scrap box but left everything else in her daughter’s room untouched, she could clean up after herself.  

Sabine ran down to go to her favorite Asian market, if Plagg was here she was going to make him his favorite food, Choudoufu she thought with tears in her eyes. After all there was no one else on earth that had known and loved her as long as Plagg. As an adult she often wondered if Tikki ever really cared or if she just saw her as a tool. She wanted to tell Tom but he was busy with a line already expanding out the door.  She hadn’t seen Plagg since the 1937. He’d been boxed when her brother died, she didn’t remember it, she didn’t remember anything, they told her that was normal that she was lucky to be alive especially since they were twins. To this day only Tom kept her rooted, she felt the shame wash over her, she loved her daughter desperately, but she knew Tom not Marinette was what kept her alive. After Imran had died she had become a vigilante for her people.  As the black beetle, she would strike at night and she had, had no problem killing. It had been a dark time. People like to forget she along with the rest of China like Russia were allies during World War II. When she went after a spy the government found her and she’d had no choice but to run, she fled west her intention to go to New York as many other Chinese Refugees before her but she knew knew the Miraculous box with Plagg & Tikki was somewhere in Germany or France so she sought Asylum there.  In 1953 France granted it first and so it was there she went. France along with much of Europe was reinventing itself after millennia of Emperors, Kings, Czars, Queens and foul dictators had held its people in their greedy fists. Part of its rebirth was new architecture, cuisine and people of different cultures. She changed her name to Sabine Cheng and made dumplings. She wasn't interested making friends, just making a living. People didn't like them or her at first. They called her food 'Ethnic' but they said it they way you say, 'i've dog shit on my shoe'.  But she didn't stop making her dumplings and slowly they fell in love with the new cuisine and got used to the tiny efficient whirlwind. Unfortunately, Sabine had to leave France when too many customers made comments regarding her apparent agelessness. She kept her French property, with a perfect view of Notre Dame but still near the Sorbonne she could always blend in with the youth culture since she seemed to be perpetually 22 years old.  

It was  on the Adriatic sea she met Tom in 1990.  He didn’t flirt or pursue her, it was his kindness and, and warm humanity toward everyone that made her fall in love with him. Her crippled soul learned it could be made whole with a different kind of love.  Her Black Cat had been her brother, she’d never fallen in love, the guardian’s had tried to make sure that she and Imran had found spouses. They'd paraded numerous men infront of her with various personalities and hobbies and likewise women for her brother.  One smart monk secreted in women to her and men to her brother but no one had sparked either of their interest. Tikki and Plagg told them it was because they had one another they felt complete. Especially since they’d been with one another before receiving their miraculous’ or even their birth. 

After Imran died, there was a gaping hole just waiting to be filled but she refused to  let anyone in. Somehow though Tom made it past all her mental and emotional defenses. He left Paris to get away from his father's overbearing rules.  He had absolutely no intention of becoming a baker, he'd worked for years on his physique and weightlifting. He had won plenty of titles and money that was why he was in Italy the weightlifting competitions, he was on his way to winning Mr. Olympia, like his idol Arnold Schwarzenegger.  Sabine smiled remembering, Tom always found himself in bakeries and not just eating but kneading and baking and learning new breads.  She argued that the Eurocentric idea that China did not have bread was offensive and taught him how to make the breads she grew up with.  Slowly he found himself spending less time at the gym and more in the kitchen until he realized he missed Paris and baking. They moved back to Paris after he lost the qualifiers for the shows preceding Mr. Olympia and were married in the Autumn of 1994 and the following summer something interesting began happening. 

The Arrondissement they lived in began flourishing almost overnight.  It hadn't been a bad place to live but suddenly laborers were quite literally singing in the streets.  Sabine finally traced it to a couple. A young man who was a designer and his wife an actress but he never treated her as anything less than his equal.  They had a ward a few years younger than them, too close in age to be called daughter, a blue eyed, freckled mixed Asian girl they'd adopted. The people all over Paris had begun saying their Arrondissement was being run by superheroes, so Sabine began covertly following them, it wasn't hard, she followed the Paparazzi, then used her skills to get past them and into the Agreste's mansion which was like a fortress.  

Then she waited, finally she saw a pretty lacy butterfly float out of a huge window down the street to a woman struggling with a manhole cover but still laughing and smiling as she pulled with her partner.   The butterfly looped gracefully around her before settling into her work glove.  

The woman smiled and nodded then said to the man lifting the cover with her, "don't worry I have it," and she plucked his cover hook from his hand and easily pulled the cover off as if it were nothing but grains of sand.

Her partner smiled, "it happened to you didn't it Renée?"

She laughed and nodded, "a women's voice came in my mind and told me she was the Butterfly and if I promised to continue to serve my city then the power to help was at my command and suddenly I was strong enough to lift it alone."

Sabine gasped it was! The actress had the Butterfly miraculous! She was so focused on the conversation she almost missed the little girl walking  in the park with a doll, both having the time of their lives. Holding hands and running around with delight. The doll could easily be one of the Peahen's creatures.  It was true, they were Miraculous holders!  Maybe they knew who the guardian was. 

Over the years Emilie and Gabriel used their gifts to ease people's work and help them inspire others.   Emilie usually akumatized laborers or people who worked thankless jobs to ease their work, garbage men, nannies, gardeners, and police. Meanwhile Gabriel seemed especially enamored of children with their vibrant imaginations it gave Mayura fertile ground for his Sentimentals, the creatures, made from imagination.  Both always used their gifts in emergency situations. Rescues with super police and magical helpers it was an amazing time silly how no one even seemed to remember it. Around the time she was pregnant with Marinette things began to slow down only in emergencies it seemed the Peahen and Butterfly came out to play and many times even then Parisian authorities handled it without magical assistance.  Maybe that was why people forgot.

And now here she was, nearly 20 years later.  Constantly vacillating between terror and pride at her daughter being the new Ladybug .  Knowing her daughter was now in a romantic relationship with Chat Noir instead of just working with him eased her mind a little.  They would be stronger now. She couldn’t remember how it worked, her and Imran had always had the unity. Most Ladybugs and Black Cats had to find it but once unified they worked better.  Over the years they had begun to work better together anyway but now it would be stronger. Everything would be fine now that Marinette had found her Chat Noir.  But what about Parsons came the little voice that wouldn’t leave her alone for even a complete hour. Sabine ignored it confidently holding onto the mantra, Everything will be fine now that Marinette has found her Chat Noir.

She smiled as she walked through the door to the small shop she loved so much and nodded to her friend at the counter then went to the back where the fermenting curd was kept.

***

Marinette finished before any of her friends and waited on the steps of the school.  Adrien was the first to join her.

“Hey, Marinette,” Adrien said walking over trying to forget last night or at least remember that as far as she was concerned he had no knowledge about last night. 

“Hey,” she said pulling her phone out of her purse, it was buzzing from an unidentified number.  “ Oui ?” she answered.

“This is M. Marteau, from your lawyer’s office.  If you have some time today I think you should stop by.  There are some very… interesting clauses in this contract you should understand before you sign.  Mlle. Dupain-Cheng, if I may be so forward, do you know Adrien Agreste?”

Marinette turned to look at Adrien, unable to control the movement, he looked at her quizzically and shrugged his shoulders to say, what?

Marinette shook her head and pointed to the phone. “Yes, we're friends.”

“You should bring him.”

Marinette felt a throbbing around her orbital bones.  Not this again. “I can’t, confidential.  Even page 34 I’m not allowed to disclose to anyone other than you.”

“Understood. I will contact Mme. Sancoer for that correction, there is no confidentiality against Adrien’s own bodily property in the document.”

“What!?” Marinette shrieked!

“Mlle. As I said before.  It is a very sensitive clause.  I will discuss it with you in the office.  And as I am your lawyer and you stated you are friends with Adrien Agreste I recommend hearing the clause before we contact the other party for corrections.”

Marinette looked up at Adrienne, what on earth could it be?  They were the same age, was she supposed to be his caretaker like Brittany Spears father had made himself? Did his father not trust him so much?  Adrien was one of the most healthy, and responsible people she knew. She sighed. “I can be there in 30 minutes if you are available.”

“I can make myself available.”

“Um, Thank you, I’ll see you soon.” Marinette said standing up, making sure the slit in her sarong stayed below hip level

“Marinette, what’s happening?” Adrien said standing.

“I have to go to the lawyer, about the Adrienne contract.  I’m going to stop by the bakery to get a box of something to take with me, want to come?”

Adrien brightened, “Yeah, sure!” He jumped up to follow dusting his backside off and following her across the street.

“Adrien who writes your father’s contracts?”

“His legal team.”

“What about when he has private or specific personal clauses.”

“Nathalie, why?”

She looked up at him and bit her lips together.  “There is apparently a very personal clause, they want me to come in so they can explain it to me.  They said that you can know what it is in this particular clause because it has to do with you but yesterday Nathalie said that even you were not in confidence of the contract.”  She groaned, “I’m just not sure where I should go from here.”

“Let’s go.”

“What about Nathalie?  Won’t she get into trouble?  What about me? Won’t I?”

“No, and no.  Nathalie wrote it correctly and you were following your lawyer’s directions”

Twenty Minutes later they walked through the door with a box of macarons being walked directly into her lawyer’s office.  Mm. Marteau was a nondescript man, average in every possible way, brown suit, brown hair, brown eyes, everything tidy nothing high polished but nothing in disrepair either.  He gave them an honest and kind smile as he gestured for them to sit in the chairs in front of his desk. His assistant a high polished younger man of Persian descent walked over to the side table and poured water for everyone then pulled up his own chair and pulled out a tablet.

Marinette handed the Lawyer the box of macarons. “Lemon, Papa says, they’re your favorite.”

“He’s completely amazing.” He looked at Adrien then to his assistant, “You know they own one of the end properties of the Place de Vosges.  Her family turned six separate properties into one to make a large home and bakery. The Dupain-Cheng pastries really are the most lucrative in Paris.  If he put another location in they would bring in so much more, I've been telling them for years. I love the new look, who ever did their redesign, c'est magnifique.”

Adrien looked over at a surprised and blushing Marinette.  Why was she surprised they went to an elite school, hadn’t she figured that out?  Everyone’s parents were public figures and wealthy, of course, her parents were too, he thought.

Marinette looked at the lawyer as if he had grown another head, she hadn’t any idea her parents owned their bakery let alone bought and remodeled everything above it.  She looked at Adrien at a loss, then back at lawyers she smiled and replied in her healing voice, “I’ll tell him you were happy.”

“Please do.”  The lawyer opened them and offered some to everyone then turned his computer screen to Marinette and Adrien.

“This is page 52.  It states ‘should Mlle. Dupain-Cheng's health be uncompromised and Adrien Agreste has not provided an heir by 30 years of age Mlle. Dupain-Cheng must provide assistance in providing an heir.’”

Adrien who had been washing down his Macaron with a sip of water, very comically began to cough, or it would have been if he had spit the water out, instead the macaron seemed to lodge.  Tears began to roll down his face. While he drank from his glass. Was his father serious?! How could he ever tell this woman he was her lover? He cleared his throat. “I’m okay. Does that say what I think I says?” he said blushing, he couldn’t help it, his father had written a-a-booty call into a contract?  Adrien, looked at Marinette, her head was hanging in embarrassment, long gone was the confident woman from yesterday or the sexy woman from even five minutes ago, replaced was what looked like an embarrassed and scared little girl wearing someone else’s clothes. He leaned over and rubbed her arm with his hand.  “Hey, it’s okay.”

The lawyer looked at them, with concern, “not completely.  Which can be both good and bad depending on your personal situations when you turn 30 if you haven’t provided an heir.”

Adrien looked irritably at the older man, couldn't he see he was trying to calm his girlfriend down?  Not girlfriend! Calm his friend down, the situation made him even more angry at the lawyer even though he had nothing to do with it.  “Meaning?” Adrien said nearly growling taking control of the situation. Not caring he wasn't Chat in the moment only wanting Marinette to feel better, he wrapped his arm around her shoulders and scooted closer to her.  The entire transaction not missed by the two lawyers.

“There are options.”

Adrien was about to tear the man’s head off.  Marinette was upset couldn't he hurry this along, instead of draw everything out?  “Would you please summarize them?” Adrien managed heatedly.

“Artificial insemination, Egg harvesting with a surrogate or vaginal intercourse,” the lawyer said somehow managing to keep completely clinical. 

Adrien was appalled.  His father was forcing Marinette to essentially sell her eggs if she wanted her own company.  He was whoring one of them for sure but he wasn't sure who, but he was sure his anger had surpassed any he had felt before. 

“Mlle. Dupain-Chen, Mm. Agreste, there is more,” the lawyer clicked and he pointed to something new. “This is page 55, right here it states that at any point should you conceive with Adrien Agreste you will marry if you are both unattached.      It also states barring any health restrictions the child must be born even if Adrien or you are already married.” 

Marinette covered her face with her hands and moaned a sound of humiliation and despair.  “What kind of person does your dad think I am?”

“You? What about me?”

The Lawyer forced a laugh then lied, “He’s just covering all his bases, that’s just a good contract. When you’re writing a contract you have to write it as if you don’t know the people.”  Meanwhile he looked at the couple in front of him thinking, what had they done to deserve this contract.

Adrien looked at M. Marteau and asked him, “You’re her legal advisor, should she sign this?”

The lawyer nodded and looked at his assistant, “Immad would you please show M. Agreste the view of the Seine from here?”

Adrien understood and stood up, “I’ll be right outside Marinette, okay?”

Marinette nodded and whispered, “okay,” in a voice that broke his heart and made him want to break his father’s arm.

Once Adrien had left the office the lawyer turned to her and said, “The only variable in this contract is Adrien Agreste.  It is a very rewarding contract for you but not if M. Agreste is someone you do not want to be around. It is very obvious that Gabriel Agreste would like you to be part of his family in some form.”  The lawyer pinched the bridge of his nose, “I advise you have a counter contract prepared. Which we have done, in the event that M. Adrien Agreste is not the gentleman you are used to or this contract is being abused.  After their lawyers have read it we can all meet before the press conference to sign both contracts. That is what I advise.”

Marinette nodded and thanked him.  When she walked out she saw Adrien standing against a stair rail waiting and smoking looking irritable.  “You okay?” She asked when she walked up to him?

He turned to her, and shook his head with a sad smile and offered her the cigarette.  She took it and inhaled while he spoke, “I should be asking you that. How could he put that in there?  This isn’t La Servante Ecarlate like you’re some, some, purchasable item for his dynasty.” He desperately did not want to call her a baby machine.

“Adrien, it’s okay, I know it had nothing to do with you.  But you should know they’ve already drawn up papers for your father and you to sign.”

“That’s understandable.”

“I’m going to sign the contract, Adrien. I, I mean after, they fix it, or, make the new contract”

He swallowed nodding.  Suddenly, all he could think about was her screaming last night.  He’d never forget her words, even if he lived another 500 years ‘I need a tiger not a kitten’ they would be burned into his skull forever.  “Come on white tiger, let's get you some ice cream.”

Marinette looked down at her sarong, the pattern was white tiger print but still… “Please, don’t call me that.” Adrien grinned rakishly with far too many teeth and Marinette was reminded of all the times Chat had grinned like the Cheshire Cat at her when she was Ladybug.  She turned red, did he know? He knew Chinese but did he know slang? She blushed, at least, he certainly did not know her personal habits, either way. 

“Alright, Lit-uh—Let's see what Alya and Nino are doing.  Are you ready for your test tomorrow?”

Marinette smiled feeling better, she was wrong, he had no idea what white tiger meant, what a relief.  She certainly wasn't going to tell him, he would be too embarrassed, so would she come to think of it. “Uh? No, Alya and Nino sure? Study?”

Adrien laughed, “Gelato first, you call Alya.”

Marinette let Adrien guide them.  She had 15 messages and missed calls from her mother and Alya.

Alya Cesare:   Ignore the call, where’d you go?

Alya Cesare:   We’re going to Nino’s house.  Are we still going shopping for the ball?  What about masks?

Marinette flipped to the next set of messages from her mother.

Sabine Cheng:   We need to talk

Sabine Cheng:   About last night

Sabine Cheng:   I knew you had a visitor 

Marinette moaned internally with embarrassment.  Of course her mother heard them, she should be glad she hadn’t walked in when she heard them.

Sabine Cheng:   He can come back.  It WOULD be more RESPECTFUL for him to come through the door though

Sabine Cheng:   Chinese dinner tonight.

Sabine Cheng:   Your father knows, you should probably avoid him if I’m not home. 

Marinette was groaning looking at her phone and hadn’t noticed they were standing inside of a building.  Adrien had already ordered their Gelatos and was paying for them. She scrolled through the rest of her texts, nothing important, only appointment reminders.

Adrien smiled nibbling at his ice cream, and led them to a tree where they could both lounge against its branches while enjoying their treats. “Are you ready for Chloe's party?”  

Marinette shook her head, “No.  I’m making my dress and Alya’s now I have to figure out masks too.  I have to ask Chat if he wants to come, it seems silly though doesn’t it?”

Adrien shook his head.  It sounded like heaven, that’s why he’d asked or rather urged Chloe to have the idea herself to have a masquerade.  “I think he’d be crazy to not want to go with you. You should ask him.”

Marinette blushed, “think so?” she said while texting

Adrien lapped happily at his cone, he’d have to put in extra time on the treadmill for it but mending his relationship with Marinette and gelato made it worth it.  He pulled out his phone feeling it vibrate insistently telling him Ladybug was texting him. 

Piao Chong:   I need to leave early tonight.  Do NOT tell her until we’ve discussed it further.

While he was reading more texts came.

Little Princess:   My parents could hear us.  They want you to come over for dinner tonight.  I’m pretty sure they know who you are too.

Little Princess:   Not many people can get into my room without getting past them.

Adrien’s stomach felt ill.  Was he too old to develop a lactose intolerance?  He texted Marinette back, glancing at her to make sure she couldn't see his phone, last night he'd almost had a heart attack when she had almost seen his lock screen picture.   She was nibbling at her cone with a blush covering her entire face looking at her own phone texting someone else or playing a game.

Secondary Account:   What time? 

Secondary Account:   Should I bring anything?

Little Princess:   7:30, just you and your appetite, it's Chinese food, REAL Chinese food, any allergies? 

Secondary Account:   I’ll be there, I don't think to any foods.  Can’t wait to see you.   

Adrien looked up and saw Marinette smile.  “Ready?” He said wrapping up what was left of his cone just in case he was lactose intolerant and walking back into the shop to throw what was left away.  When he came back out he saw her clicking shut her bag.

“Ready,” she said.

“So… tell me about your boyfriend.”

Marinette looked at the river, and the sunlight reflecting back at her nearly blinded her.  “What do you want to know?” She said cautiously. 

“Come on Marinette, he’s Paris’s Hero.  How old is he, what’s his favorite color, does he have any pets? Where does he go to school?”

Marinette was taken back by the questions.  She should be able to answer at least one of them right?  Girlfriends should know more than that, their boyfriend had a Greek literature test today. “Um, he’s our age,  he’s taking his final exams too. He only has one more. I actually don’t know his real name, but that’s okay. He makes me happy, he’s always made me happy, I just don’t think I ever realized he was the one doing it.  He was the one making the bad situations in my life easier. In so many ways. Even. He, has no idea how much.” All her confidence was returning but a small blush dusted under her freckles, “I want to tell him so much, but I’m afraid I’ll lose everything and I want to know who he is but he can’t tell me and I understand that too, it’s not safe.  It’s all so confusing.”

Adrien nodded, listening to her was heartwarming but also somewhat confusing.

“Adrien, I don’t even have 8 weeks with him,” she said.

He noticed her voice sounded hollow and he noticed for the first time her voice had completely returned but now was so quiet.  He put his arm around her shoulder and hugged her to his side in a friendly gesture.

“I don’t know how it happened, but I think I fell in love with him.  Is that even possible?”

Adrien’s heart took flight, they could figure out the distance, he could get assignments in New York, maybe Ladybug could move! “Sure, people fall in love at first sight all the time.”

“I’ve known him for a long time.”

“Then it makes even more sense.”

“Long time ago, I was irritated that he liked me because he liked Ladybug too, this time, I don’t care.  She could get twisted in her yo-yo for all I care,” Marinette said viciously. 

Adrien looked at her with surprise, Marinette had always loved Ladybug and had always defended her with a tenacity.  

She shook her head in amazement, “I can’t believe I’m jealous of Ladybug .  Ha, I, mean she’s a superhero!”  She suddenly looked uncomfortable.  

Adrien understood, very few Parisians dared speak ill of the two masked heroes. “It’s okay, I understand.  You don’t really hate Ladybug, you’re mad because she spends so much time with Chat Noir.”

Marinette looked over at the rooftops, “Hmm, yeah, something like that.”

Adrien looked in the direction Marinette was looking.  The Paris skyline was superb, maybe he would take her out tonight.

“So what are you wearing to the ball?”

“White suit,” he made the decision before he even called Chloe. “You?”

“Iridescent green, Navy and Gold, I just need to finish the embroidery and applique.”

“Sounds beautiful, how about Alya?”

“Shades of metallic brown from dark to bronze and platinum at first I was against it but it’s quite striking against her skin”  she was against it because it was too similar to Rena’s ombre color scheme but once she saw the colors against Alya she saw they had no resemblance so there would be no danger.  “She needs her mask too and I haven’t attached any of her applique and she has sequin as well, I think I may have overestimated my talent on her dress.  But I really want to make it, it’s burning in my mind, dying to be made, my fingers are itching to get to make it, I keep stopping in the middle of mine, or what was really bad—studying, just to work on it, I hope your father likes it, I want it to be one of my first designs that are recognized under my name.”  

“I want to see it.”

Marinette, “You and Alya both!  It’s a surprise. So, how about Nino?”

“He told me today, he’s going with the Masked theme and doing a tortoise thing.”

Marinette tripped what the hell was he thinking?!.  She smiled sheepishly up to Adrien as he helped her unkink herself, “Ugh, I hate heels,” she muttered.  

Adrien, looked at her calves and followed the line from the heel up her calves up to the back of her head then all the way back down paying special attention to her derriere and calves, “they don’t feel the same about you.” He said under his breath but unfortunately loud enough for her to hear.

“Adrien, I mean it, we can be friends but nothing more,” she said coming out from under his arm.  She hadn’t realized how well they moved together until she removed his arm and felt the loss. “We’ve had 6 years to be together, minus the times we were with other people, now I am with someone else.” She stepped away.

“Sorry, sorry, you’re right,” He knew better. “Do you want to go shopping with Nino and I?”  He asked hopefully not wanting his time with her to end.

It would be good to dissuade him from purchasing anything too incriminating. “I think I’d like that but Alya wanted to keep her dress a secret. Let me call her,” she said pulling her phone out of her bag and calling her friend.

Adrien did the same and they hung up about the same time with the same response, apparently the couple had been texting each other while talking to Adrien and Marinette.  They would meet up at the shops.

***

Alya and Marinette went up to her room where their dresses were being worked on.  

“Marinette, please let me see it!”

“Okay,”

Alya looked up from her bag in surprise, “What?! Seriously?”

Marinette looked at the clock, she was planning on showing her friend tomorrow but she didn’t have time to argue she needed to meet with Cat Noir.  She nodded. “Yes. I want you to try it on.” She walked over to the form and pulled the sheet off the top and heard Alya gasp then squeal.

“My God Mari, he’s gonna die.”

“It’s not done,” she said walking over to her sketch pad.  The dress would be classified as a form of patchwork technically but it was ocean waves of curved fabric like her friend’s curls. The browns intersecting colors intersecting creating waves in shades from bronze at the bust to darkest browns at the waist back to lighter browns fading to the lightest bronzes near the hip high slit but at the opposite side it was the darkest brown of her waist.  Marinette held up the appliqe she had yet to place that would cover the area where the pattern couldn’t be avoided but needed to be quickly changed from dark to light from waist to hip slit for her friends hourglass figure. “I also have some sequins to place.”

“Marinette, this is incredible! Can I touch it?!”

Marinette nodded, unzipping the hidden zipper under the arm then helping her friend into the dress. It fit like it had been sewed around her.  

“Now all I have to do is not eat anything until the party.”

“You’re going to have to ask Adrien but I’m pretty sure that’s not how it works, if you do that it won’t fit anymore,” Marinette said dryly.  She reached over to grab her pins and pencil and began furiously marking and pinning applique while looking at the clock.

“Uh, do you have someplace to be?” Alya asked.

Marinette nodded guiltily. “Sorry, and I really should be studying for tomorrow.”

Alya nodded, “it’s cool I should be too.” 

As soon as Alya left Marinette ran back upstairs, transformed and was out her window in a matter of minutes to meet with Chat. When she landed on the roof next to him he looked irritated. 

“What happened?”

“Sorry, I got held up.  We already discussed this.”

“It’s shit!”

“What is?”

“Her telling people she's seeing me.  I hate it.”

The words were cruel, tearing out the heart that had glowed with happiness all day.  Did she pick the wrong man? Especially after the misunderstanding with Adrien. Here Chat was telling Ladybug the same thing, he didn’t want her to talk about them being together.  She covered her surprise and replied calmly, "What?"

“You would think it would be great, but it isn’t”

She shook her head, even more confused, “it isn’t?”

“Think about it.  The man you’re in love with is talking about this amazing woman and is telling the world how much they can't get enough of you," he said pointing at Ladybug's chest.  "He's going for maximum effect talking you up and you’re waiting to hear your name on their lips knowing it’s going to be Ladybug because that’s all they know. But then when he says Ladybug it shatters your world because he didn’t say your name he said your suit,” he said gesturing to his mask and ears.  “Do you have any idea how stupid it is to be jealous of yourself?” He shook his head, "LB I wasn't just jealous, if I could have, I would have taken this suit and put it in front of her and lit it on fire in front of her and everyone she was talking to."

She nodded, “I’ve been jealous too.  Today actually, someone was talking about how amazing ladybug was ad nauseam, and I thought, I wish I were more like her.  It’s like I am two people.  I know what you mean.”

“I keep accidentally trying to touch her, out of my mask.”

Ladybug gasped, he did that on purpose.  She just realized how much information he’d given her.  He did go to school with her, otherwise he wouldn't have heard her telling people she was dating Chat.  But he didn't know Ladybug would know anything, she looked up at him, he looked angry and sad, but not just at her.  "I'm sorry," she said softly, "they're not my rules."

“I’m hurting her, unintentionally.”

Ladybug shook her head, “no,” she murmured but he never heard her anyway, too caught up in his own misery.

"Life would have been so much easier if I had just stayed home," he growled then his eyes flashed to her as if remembering her part in it.  He blamed himself for a lot of his problems but she was supposed to be his friend. She could help and she refused.  Chat noir stood his full height in a very dominant position, Ladybug took a step back looking up at him warily, “I’m going to Master Fu.  I might also be moving I can’t see this new of a relationship surviving distance in less than 2 months.” He said and walked off the roof not giving her the opportunity to reply. 

“Well, shit.” She said into the evening before flinging herself toward home.



Chapter Text

Marinette spent the rest of her free time studying but she really was not a fan of the sciences.  Over the years Chat had actually helped a few times. Little did he know, tonight the body part he was most likely to get into was going to be her brain.  She really should have went shopping tomorrow. 

“Marinette, dinner!”

She got up and walked over to the hatch in her floor, “He's not-“ the words died on her lips, Chat was at the base of the stairs… grinning like the Cheshire cat up her dress.  She blushed and pressed the skirt against her legs as she descended, whispering, “naughty kitty.”

“I like your skirt, Little Princess.  I hope you don’t plan on skinning me in the future though.”

Marinette blushed furiously.  “Just keep it up, I may have a new rug.”

“I told you she was a big girl this time around Tom.” Sabine said placing dishes all over the table.  

Her father smiled tightly and nodded.  It seemed like he still wasn’t 100% on team Chat Noir.  

“Tom, remember what I told you.” Sabine looked dewy, so fresh and happy.  She’d been cooking all afternoon and baking since 3 am. “Marinette I need about 20 pins can you get those for me?” After Marinette walked up her steps, Sabine followed snapping her hatch shut.  “You can come out Tikki.”  

Marinette gasped. But Tikki stayed hidden in her box.

Sabine looked at the box and cursed her in Chinese. Then turned to Marinette, "that reaction will get you killed." She pointed to Tikki, "that one won’t. I’m telling him tonight, that is why I’m telling you now.  I’ve known you were the new Ladybug for a long time. I’m ashamed I didn’t realize it from the very beginning. I would have helped, mistakes were bound to happen but with a city the size of Paris Tikki should never have given you so little information." Sabine looked at her shell-shocked daughter, and sighed, "Marinette, does he know you’re the Ladybug?”

Marinette didn’t really understand what was happening.  She shook her head. Chat did not know. How did her mother know so much.  What was happening? 

Sabine looked at her “You need to tell him.” Sabine spoke to the seemingly empty room, “Tikki, normal bakeries do not bake extra trays of macarons at the end of the day for their daughter to secret upstairs." Sabine waited a beat when no response came she spat out, "Don’t act like you weren't the one who left me.” Sabine said with disgust then walked downstairs leaving Marinette alone.

“Tikki?”

Tikki phased through the side of the box directly toward Marinette in a very Marinette display with her hands covering her face.

“Hey?  What’s wrong?” Marinette asked rubbing her Kwami's head and back in soothing strokes, all thoughts of their recent animosity towards one another gone in light of her obvious distress.

Tikki lowered her arms and her huge expressive eyes were filled with tears. “All this time I’ve never seen your mother.  I’ve seen pictures but never seen her up close.”  

“It’s okay Tikki.”

“I had to leave her.  It wasn’t my choice. They always force us away when it happens.  Incase they go rogue She should hate me.”

“Why? I don’t understand?”

Tikki sniffed and thick pinkish tears fell, “Marinette pay attention!  Your mother is Sabra Ismail, the last Piao Chong of China. She was the Ladybug for nearly 100 years.”

Downstairs Tom was trying very hard to find common ground with Chat Noir.  He could be civil but he wanted to be more than that, he wanted to have a good relationship with the boy.  He just couldn’t. He was disappointed with his decision to have sneak around with his daughter, sex with his daughter… ever.  He was disappointed he hadn’t dated her when they were kids… still. He was disappointed he was too stupid to know that she was his partner.   He was pretty much just disappointed with him in general.  

Sabine had finished setting the table and told them to sit, Marinette would be down in a moment when a crash came from upstairs. 

In a blur Chat was pushing against the door to Marinette’s room but it wouldn’t budge.

“I'm fine, just clumsy!” she yelled through the door.

Sabine looked at her husband pointedly. He groused in reply but had to admit to himself the boys immediate reaction to get to Marinette when he thought she was hurt did make him feel better.

“Maman how old are you?” She asked  walking through the door.

Sabine smiled, “you already know the answer to that, ’30 plus until I look 40'". The answer she had been saying for as long as Marinette’s could remember.

Marinette’s lips pressed together.  “Mmmhmm.” 

Chat Noir led her to the seat next to his.

Tom cleared his throat, “we invited you again for a reason.  Sabine believes this time you may actually have feelings for our daughter.”

Sabine looked at her husband heatedly, “Tom!”

Chat had the grace to blush as he sat, so did Marinette. 

Sabine looked at Chat Noir very seriously until he began to squirm.  “Are you familiar with the name Hei Mao?”

He inhaled sharply through his nose.  Then nodded tightly and fisted his right hand to prevent removal of his ring.  

“He was my twin brother.”

Chat looked at Marinette but before he could question her Sabine continued. 

“Only Tom knows.  And the guardian."

This time both Chat and Marinette gasped.  

Chat looked at her, “That would make you over 150 years old.”

Sabine bowed her head, "your life is greatly extended as the black cat and ladybug.  Your people will always need a hero. Everyone here seems to believe your job will be over after Hawk Moth is defeated.  That isn’t true. The butterfly isn't supposed to be a villain therefore why would your powers exist if his were meant for good?”  She waited patiently for him to answer but received nothing but a rapt audience.

His powers along with the rest of the miraculous are meant to be used for defeating various things.  Some we would even think of as mundane but together they defeat great evil. I’m sorry to surprise you but Hawk Moth is not a ‘Great Evil'.  Great Evils systematically kill, they deprive people of humanity. And I’m sorry but the Ladybugs cannot fix everything which took me a very long time to understand is a blessing.

Marinette and Chat looked confused.

“You see if there is a mass scale destruction that causes someone to be a refugee they might meet their soulmate and have a child.” She said pointedly looking at Marinette, “however if the ladybugs always fix everything they would never have met and that child would never have been born.”

Chat opened his mouth to say something but closed it again, apparently happy to just listen.

“There will never be a point in your life where you will be free of being the black cat.  Unless it is past on, then and I believe it may be Plagg’s choice, maybe the guardian's. What I do know is the relationship of the Ladybug and the Black Cat is important.”

Chat just nodded.

“You already know? Then why are you with Marinette, instead of Ladybug?”

Marinette looked at her mother with shock, she implied that she knew Marinette was Ladybug upstairs and now she was saying this?

Chat blushed, it was somehow shamelessly adorable with him looking like the epitome of sex, all muscles, dipped in what appeared to be black leather, being so innocent as to blush prettily.  “I like her a-a lot.”

“You should be with Ladybug.” Sabine said with no emotion.  “It is what is best for you, for her and everyone you protect.”

Chat never looked over to see the hurt questioning look on Marinette’s face.  He just reached over and took her hand in his and laced their fingers together united against this assault on their relationship.  “How?”

“Personally, I think Ladybugs and black cats should always be siblings but I am aware I might be biased. However, it is logical siblings don’t have to grow a relationship, only one family is in danger, they also always know their secret identity.   I think friends are the worst. Friendships can be broken easier than anything. Romantic partners can evolve into family, they marry, they have children, they may never share blood but they create shared blood. Do you understand?" She looked at Chat.

He nodded.

“Do you really?  Everyone has told you that you’re a destroyer, but  you’re capable of being part of creation. Did you ever think of that?”

Marinette covered her face with her free hand, she could not believe this conversation was happening in front of her.  

Chat shook his head, he really hadn’t thought of it that way.  

“No one has ever explained to you that farmers will use fire to burn their fields to kill the left over plants to allow the seeds underneath to grow, have they?”

He shook his head again.

“Destruction is part of life, you have to break the egg to make the omelet.” Sabine said softly

Chat finally spoke, “Shouldn’t you be telling Ladybug this?”

“I will, she will come to me when she’s ready. I know who she is she knows where I am now, like you she found out today,” Sabine sighed looking at Marinette then at Chat, “You need to be with Ladybug.  Marinette, do you understand?”

“I understand you want him to breakup with me!”

“It’s your choice, Mei Mei," her mom said using her childhood nickname, something she only did when she was sick or hurt.  If she knew she was hurting her then why was she doing it? "Now let’s eat while it’s still good and hot. And I’ve made Plagg’s favorite for you to take home.  It’s particularly pungent so, you may want to keep it away from others.”

After dinner Chat and Marinette both needed to study for their last exam.  They both had physics in the morning. Chat said his goodbyes not making any promises about coming back later that night. 

Marinette walked back up the steps to her family’s living space to find her parents clearing the table and washing dishes.

“Stop,” she yelled looking at both of them, surprising not only them but herself too.  Her mother turned off the water and her father put the dishes he had, had in his hands into the sink, then turned back to her.  “Why?” she said her voice breaking. “Why would you do this to me? Is it because we had sex and I didn't talk to you first?”

Tom spoke before Sabine had the chance to, “No, although we had an agreement about that and having sex with a boy you know nothing about is exactly why parents want their childrent to talk to them before they have sex, just be lucky your mother is who she is.  The reason we're 'Doing this to you' is because it’s time to grow up, you’re not playing superhero any longer. You wanted to move away, and we were supportive of that, you could have, yesterday." 

Sabine shook her head and finished for him, "But last night you solidified your bond with him.  If you weren’t Ladybug it wouldn’t have mattered but you are. Now you can't leave, he needs to be with you, you're stronger together.”

 “He doesn’t know.”

Sabine spoke up, “That doesn’t matter.”  She looked up at her husband, “We were so close! Weeks!  This girl!” 

Marinette rolled her eyes, she’d never got the ‘disappointing kid lecture’ but she knew this is what it sounded like from her Asian friends.  “You know the boy you love so much, he was the other half of the couple that you’re mad at right now. And what was with all the ‘Destruction is good’ talk?”

“Black Cats are shown only negatives and never recognize their gifts for what they are.  They’re led to believe they are nothing but a means to an end and nothing but damage meant to be fixed.  That boy needed to be told he is doing good, he never knew it before. Has he called you yet?”

Marinette realized then she didn’t have her phone and went to her room.  When she got there she found Chat had called her repeatedly since leaving her house. And was apparently calling her now.

“Oui? Huh? Where?” She said feeling out of sorts.

“Are you okay?”

“I’m fine, what’s going on, why are you calling so much?  What’s happening?”

“Nothing like that.  I just met the last Ladybug.”

She had no response.  

“Milady?”

“Yes,” she whispered, he hadn’t called her that since he’d decided to be with Marinette.  Things were already changing, her eyes filled with tears.

“We need to meet. And you need to meet the former Ladybug.”

“I need to study for my exam tomorrow.”

“Ladybug, you have responsib-“ she hung up on him.  

She toed off her heels and walked up the steps to her bed.  She found Tikki in the middle of her pillow holding a macaron with her kwagatama next to her.  It looked like the kwami passed out from crying. Marinette unwrapped herself and laid in bed in her panties and bra unable to muster the strength to change since Chat wasn’t coming it didn’t matter.  She felt the hot sting of tears sliding down the outside of her eyes and into her hairline and the feeling of an invisible needle being driven straight down into her brain. She sat up and walked down, she needed to study anyway.  She walked to her sink and pulled out her medication and checked the clock took it and changed. She walked around to her desk and studied for her test. 

 At some point she woke up to feel arms around her like when she was a little girl and Papa used to move her from where ever she fell asleep to her bed.  She felt safe but, she didn’t smell the flour and he wasn’t as big. “Little Princess, you need a lock.” He said laying her next to Tikki. He had already detransformed and was wearing a green version of what he had worn the night before.  “You didn’t think I wasn’t coming back did you?”

All Marinette could think was, if he had seen Tikki, how had he not known?  And since he didn’t seem to be reacting she needed to get Tikki out of there. “Huh, why would, I want you back?” she said picking Tikki up gently along with the paistry, she realized what she said and looked up at him, “what I meant was, Homework?”

The  look of horror on his face fled replaced with a smile filled with sunshine and he leaned forward to kiss her.  She smiled and ran downstairs to put Tikki in her little home. She ran back up to him and sat next to him. “What’s your last test?” he asked when she returned

“Physics"

“Mine too"

“Where?”

“Nice try.”  He laughed and laid down pulling her to him, “come here, it’s late.  We need to sleep more than—Naughty Little Princess!” He said stopping her hand from massaging his penis.  “I’m serious,” he said laughing. “I need a good grade or my father will be really angry and you do too. Come on lets get some sleep.”

Marinette yawned and reached over to turn the light off but Chat’s hand was already on the switch and it clicked off.

“Kitty?”

“hmm?”

“Do you know who Ladybug is?”

“No.”

“Do you want to know.”

“Unless she’s you I don’t care anymore, she’s making my life a living hell.”

She stiffened

Misreading her reaction he soothed her back, “she’s obsessed with our secrecy.”

“Maman said that’s good but you shouldn’t keep it secret from one another.”

“I’d rather it not be a secret from you,” he said kissing the tip of her nose.

“If you could choose how she would tell you, how would it happen?"

Chat sighed then ran his fingers through her hair until he realized she had braided it again.  “There’s been so many ways in my mind. Usually I’m some kind of conquering hero in the end.”

“You’re always my hero.” She said unthinking.

He kissed her again, “It’s one of the reasons I love you.” He said then realized what he had said, “er, rescuing you.”

“I love you too Chat,  I feel like it’s stupid to say it and it’s too soon and people will look down on me but I don’t care, it’s how I feel.”

He nodded, It was exactly how he felt too.  “I love you too, Marinette. I don’t think it’s too soon, we’ve known each other a long time we just weren’t a couple until recently.  We just waited, that’s the only difference. We made up our minds and knew what we wanted, maybe that’s why we both know we love each other already.”

“Maybe.” Or maybe it was what her father had said, ‘last night you solidified your bond with him’.  She just wanted to make love to him and live in the pretend world her father seemed to think she inhabited so much where she could pretend everything was perfect.  She would never have to have another man’s baby. Or give up one of hers to him. Eggs are not babies she chastised herself. 

“I don’t know anymore.” He laughed with self depreciation, “when I was younger I had this theatrical dream inside my head of her needing me to rescue her and me whisking her out of danger and as I was flying over the rooftops she would revert back.  Then one day that almost happened and I was just scared, it wasn’t romantic. She was scared too. She’s terrified about her secret identity.” He sucked in a breath, “what if she’s one of my teachers?”

Marinette laughed, “be serious,” she said gently tickling him. 

He laughed then sighed. “I just want the truth.”

“But what if she's been lying?”

“About?”

“Who she is.  What if you already know her and she’s been keeping it from you the whole time.”

“I know she has.  I can't blame her though, I’ve been doing the same to everyone.  What about you? How would you want me to show you who I am?”

“How do you know she has?  Do you know who she is?” Marinette insisted.

Chat sighed and leaned up on his side facing her in the light of the faint sliver of the fresh crescent.  “What’s going on Marinette?”

“I, I just, want to know.  I don’t want you to be hurt.”

“I won’t.  Everything she does, she does it for a good reason,” he said sliding his hand under her shirt rubbing her back, “promise.”

She closed her eyes at his blind trust she knew she didn’t deserve.  She didn’t know how to answer his question the only reason she’d ever imagined seeing his face had been because of a disaster she had been unable to fix.  She reached back and pulled his arm around to lead it to her breast.

“Mari, we can’t.” he said leaning toward her drunk for her taking her lips.  He could feel her hands everywhere. He realized she’d managed to take her shorts off.

She pushed him back onto his back.  And sat on his thighs, she pulled her shirt up over her head nestled between her breasts was a necklace hanging from a leather cord.  He leaned forward to taste her ochre tipped breasts. So much for sleep was his last thought before succumbing to her.

He woke up a couple hours later to find the hazy glow of morning sifting into the room.  He looked down at Marinette, finding a painful level of overprotectiveness and insecurity wash over him.  He pulled her sheets over her and his clothes on. He thought he heard something like singing before but it was gone now. “Plagg,” he whispered softly.  

Plagg zipped up after him but took a second to look at the sleeping Marinette grinning when he saw the only thing she was wearing.