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When a Cat goes to a Ball

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“I even made you a mask to wear out of your suit.” Marinette held out a green mask, with matching ribbon to be used to tie around his head. “I mean, if you agree to come to the Masqurade that is. Which you don't have to go. It's stupid.”

“It's not stupid.” Chat Noir stood on Marinette's balcony, reaching out and taking the mask. It was around the same size as his black hero mask, but green with black stars sewn in a line under the eye holes. It was certainly elegant enough for the Masqurade, he would even argue it was more elegant than the one his father had gotten for him. The plain black one to match the tux. “I just...why me?” Chat tilted his head at Marinette. She had called out to him when he was on his way back home from patrol, and she had just, blurted out the question, asking for his company to the big Masqurade at the Agreste mansion.

“Weell...” Marinette started playing with one of her pigtails, “I was planning on asking this guy from school, but while I was trying to practice what I was going to say, a girl interrupted me, and I spit out a lie about already having a date before she called over the boy I was going to ask, and now everyone at school thinks I already have a date to the Masquerade. And I just...don't want to be seen as a liar. Though at least I managed to clear up that it's not a date date, just me taking a friend to the ball, cos he doesn't get out of his house much and I thought it would be great for him to get out and interact with other people.” Finally, Marinette paused to take a breath, and Chat blinked. He remembered Marinette had told Chloe she was bringing someone to the dance, he remembered feeling...odd about the news. And now, here he was, with Marinette asking for him to do her a favor, to save face in front of her classmates. The irony of his life was certainly something to take note of.

Chat Noir knew it would be a tricky endeavor, to be two people at one ball, but this was Marinette asking him, and he couldn't just say no. The girl had become a good friend, they had so many random conversations over the past few weeks, and hers was the place to stop when he needed a pick me up between patrols with Ladybug or after akuma attacks. Marinette had done a lot for him, he wasn't sure if she knew how important her company was on some of his lonelinest nights, so this would be the perfect opportunity to repay her.

“Okay.” Chat grinned. Marinette looked up, her hands dropping slowly from her hair. Her eyes widened and Chat felt his grin grow wider. “I'm honored you asked this stray kitty to such a prestigious event.” Chat Noir bowed, holding out his hand. Her fingertips were cold when she placed her hand in his. He gently pressed his lips to her knuckles, she squeaked. He chuckled. “I will find an appropriate suit for this mask, and I will meet you outside the mansion.” Chat Noir let go of Marinette's hand.

“Okay.” She squeaked. Chat Noir turned to go, “wait!” He looked back over his shoulder. “What am I going to call you? I can't just...call you Chat...that's not a name.” Chat Noir smirked.

“You shall call me Felix...I'm really feline that name.” Marinette rolled her eyes, but she also chuckled. “Then I shall see you the night of the Masquerade Ball.” Chat Noir saluted his friend and headed home.

#

Adrien found a suit to match the green mask, it was also a dark green, with a black tie. He tried it on, tried on both outfits actually, pursing his lips glad they looked different enough that he should be able to pass as two different people.

“Are you sure about this?” Plagg sat on the rock wall, patting his belly since he had just eaten a slice of camembert. “Adrien and Chat Noir at the same party? It seems a bit much to pull off. And you won't be in my suit...no glamour to help hide your identity.”

“Relax Plagg. I can handle this.”

“You do realize the glamour affects your voice as well.”

“And you told me humans were stupid and wouldn't think twice about me actually being Chat Noir when I was supposed to be him for that music video.”

“Well...yeah. But...” Plagg sighed, “okay, fine. Just don't say I didn't warn you.” Adrien chuckled as his Kwami pretended to not care about his party plans.

“This will make the party more interesting. Usually I'm bored out of my mind at these things, but now...if I get bored as Adrien, I can be Felix and vice versa.”

“As long as I get food and a pocket to hide I'll come with. This will be hilarious.” Adrien smirked at his friend.

“I made sure to request a cheese plate with all the finest varieties of cheese.” Plagg hugged Adrien's wrist.

“You are the best Chosen ever.” Adrien chuckled, looking at his two outfits for the ball laid out on his bed.

“Thanks Plagg. You are the best Kwami I've ever had too.” Plagg rolled his eyes, but the two of them smiled at each other all the same.

#

The night of the Masquerade Adrien made sure to have Felix's suit and mask ready, hanging on the inside of his closet door. He had to start the night off as Adrien, stand next to his father when he announced the start of the ball. Adrien put on the black tux and mask. Personally he thought a tux was a bit much, but he was wearing a tux to match his father.

The Masquerade wasn't just a planned night of fun, it had a purpose. It was bringing in a group of famous people for Adrien to meet. Apparently Chloe's dad thought it would also be a good idea to open it up to citizens of Paris, make it a charity event. His father couldn't say no to the mayor (though he stalled agreeing to the last moment, trying to figure out a way to say no). And then Adrien, who really didn't want to spend a night just rubbing elbows with other people in the fashion industry, convinced his father to let him invite his classmates, on the promise, he would behave and mingle with everyone, with significant time spent with the VIP's.

Adrien was looking forward to be able to see his friends between draining conversations as Adrien Agreste the model, ones where manners and etiquette were to be held at the highest level, where being perfect mattered more than anything, and where, to be honest, Adrien knew he didn't matter so much as the modeling jobs he had done with Agreste as his last name. He would be able to drop some of that act around his classmates, and he would be able to act completely different as Felix.

Adrien knew Felix wouldn't make it to the ball right on time. Since he had to stand next to his father when he made the announcement for the Masquerade to begin, but Marinette was notorious for being late, so he was kinda banking on the streak to continue and he would change suits and meet her outside the mansion at his first opportunity.

Adrien held his posture perfectly straight, hands clasped behind his back, a mini version of his father, whom was also in a tux with a plain black mask. Adrien's eyes scanned the crowd, careful to not break into a goofy grin when he saw his classmates gathered in a cluster near the back of, well, the ballroom. A room which hadn't been used in nearly a year, a room Adrien had kinda forgot about, though he had fond memories of sock races with his mother when he was younger.

When the music started playing, he knew he had to at least let his father introduce the fashion men and women he wanted his son to spend some time mingling with. He committed their masks to memory and then made polite excuses to greet his friends.

“Adrien!” Nino slipped an arm around his shoulder, “I can't believe you actually got us in. How did you convince your father to let us come when he didn't even want to throw you a birthday party?” Adrien chuckled. His friend was in a navy blue suit, with a blue mask, with music notes sewn under the eyes. Adrien thought he recognized the work.

“A promise to mingle with the people he wants me to. And to be on my best behavior.”

“Adrikins!” Thin arms shoved Nino away and then wrapped around Adrien.

“Hi Chloe.” His childhood friend, the only classmate that would have been allowed to come if Adrien hadn't managed to convince his father, was wearing an elegant blue ballgown, with a black mask. Adrien patted her arm and she reluctantly let go. Alya came up, phone in hand. She was wearing a black dress, in heels which surprised Adrien, and she had an orange mask with swirl designs done in black.

“Hey Adrien,” Alya looked up from her phone. “Fancy party, thanks for getting us in.”

“You're welcome.” Adrien glanced around, expecting this, but he had to play the ignorant game if he was going to pull it off. “Is Marienette running late?”

“Actually no.” Alya threw her shoulders back. “I managed to get her here on time, she's just waiting for Felix outside.”

“They already sound perfect for each other.” Chloe muttered dryly, adjusting her hair. Adrien rolled his eyes.

“Well, I think some of my dad's VIP's are eyeing me, so I better go. I'll see you guys later.” Adrien waved at everyone and used the crowd in the room to his advantage. He slipped out a side door, using the unused servant corridors to sneak back to his room.

#

“Again, are you sure this is going to work?” Plagg was eating a piece of cheese, watching Adrien change outfits, and changing the part in his hair. Adrien tied the green mask on, glancing once more in the mirror before collecting Plagg.

The knowledge of the servant corridors came from his childhood, playing with a child of a servant. Adrien couldn't remember the other kid's name, but his father eventually got another job and Gabriel Agreste forbid him to use the corridors. Adrien smiled to himself as he walked around the hedges at the side of the house, turning to see the front of his mansion, and the girl waiting for him. He paused for a moment at the corner of his house, observing her.

Marinette's hair was down, brushing against her bare shoulders. Her dress was a crimson, tight bodice with a looser knee length skirt. The skirt had layers of red and black tule, and the girl was wearing black flats, which Adrien knew was a sensible choice for a girl known to be klutzy. Her back was to him and he could see the matching mask ribbon tied in a neat little bow at the back of her head.

Adrien started walking again, his pace quickening. “Marinette!” Adrien called out. The girl turned, his breath caught for a moment, to see how well the dress moved with her and to see Marienette's eyes light up when she saw him. Her mask was a matching crimson, with stitches ending in an embroidered needle next to her right eye. It was a beautiful ensemble, she was beautiful. And he wanted to tell her so, but it seemed the cat really got his tongue.

“Felix!” He smiled back at her, wondering if his smile was as radiant as hers.

“I'm sorry I'm late. I forgot how much longer conventional means of travel are compared to, well, more unconventional means.” Adrien, knowing he couldn't be Felix at the beginning, had thought about a good lie.

“No worries. My friend Alya says all we missed is a boring speech.” Adrien offered Marinette his arm. “You still want to go through with it? I mean, it isn't too late to back out.” Adrien reached over for her hand, placing it on his arm.

“Shall we go in? You can introduce me to this friend Alya I've heard so much about.” Marinette nodded, taking a deep breath. Adrien walked into the foyer, pausing to let his mouth drop open. “Woah, this is fancy.” Marinette chuckled before giving Adrien's arm a tug towards the ballroom.

“You do remember Alya runs the Ladyblog, right? She will grill you, us...she's mad I never mentioned you before.”

“What is there to mention? I'm just a kid who stops in your parent's bakery once in a while, we chatted sometimes, friendly but not really close until recently, when I would stay longer so I could avoid going home, and since you know how much I hate being home, you invited me here.” Marienette blinked at him.

“That's...a really good story actually.” Adrien grinned, hoping to capture some of the mischievous glint he had seen in some of the photos and videos of Chat Noir.

“Do not worry. I would not have come if I was not confidant I could keep my...volunteer work behind the mask.” Marinette sighed, smiling at him before she walked into the ballroom.

“Woah...this is...beautiful.” Adrien glanced around the room quickly, but mostly observed Marinette's face. Her eyes widened, the wonder in her eyes, taking note not only of the room itself, but of the people, of the fashion on display. Adrien was just about to nudge Marinette out of her trance when another person beat him to it.

“Marinette!” Alya's voice carried through the room, and Adrien was impressed how she was able to traverse the crowd so nimbly, even in heels. She was dragging Nino with her, and Chloe was sulking behind him, only coming Adrien knew, because she had to know more about Felix. Adrien felt Marinette tense up next to him, glancing over. Adrien winked at her. “And you must be Felix.” Alya held out a hand.

Adrien did an exaggerated bow, taking Alya's hand and pressing his lips to her knuckles. “And you must be Alya, the best friend I've heard so much about.” Alya blinked, and Nino narrowed his eyes at him. Marinette laughed nervously.

“Don't mind him, he is always doing ridiculously silly gestures of grandeur.” Marinette waved her hands around. Adrien put his hands over his heart, feeling Plagg wiggle under them.

“Marinette, don't wound me so. You know that doing ridiculously silly gestures is the only thing my family has been good at for the last seven generations!” Chloe snorted and Adrien couldn't help but chuckle before turning to her. “Another beauty,” Adrien offered his hand, but Chloe didn't take it.

“Don't mind Chloe,” Alya rolled her eyes, “being standoffish and mean is the only thing her family has done for the past seven generations.” Marinette laughed.

“Anyway.” Marinette swallowed her laughter, “Yes, that's Alya, the blond is Chloe, and the gentleman with the music note mask is Nino,” Marinette gestured, “Alya's boyfriend.”

Adrien held out a hand to Nino, his best friend shook his hand, which gave Adrien flashbacks to his first day of school. “My apologies if I overstepped any boundaries.” Adrien pulled his hand back, rubbing his head, careful not to move his mask. “I don't get out much, mostly I interact with tutors and servants.”

“Then how did you meet?” Alya pressed closer and Adrien recognized the look in her eyes, it was exactly the kind of look she had whenever she cornered Ladybug or Chat Noir.

“I get outings when my grades are good. And I chose the Dupain-Cheng bakery one time, and I kept going back, eventually, literally bumping into Marinette, getting powered sugar all over us.” Marinette squeaked, turning a bit pink, but Adrien figured she invited him, Chat Noir, to this party, she should expect some teasing. And it wasn't a complete lie, she had brought up treats for them once, and then spilled powered sugar all over them. He wasn't a very black kitty that day. “It was quite the mess, and that is when we started talking. I usually stop by, a couple times a month, for my sweet tooth.” Alya and Nino laughed.

“You're lucky it was just sugar,” Chloe flicked her hair over her shoulder, “she once spilled all the chemicals in the lab, turning the bottom of everyone's shoes purple.” Adrien chuckled, remembering that day vividly. His father found it less amusing since the bottom of his shoes were ruined.

“Hey,” Marinette pointed to the wall where the food was laid out, “let's see what kind of food there is.” Adrien took Marinette's arm again, and followed Alya and Nino. Chloe just huffed and left them, for which Adrien was grateful. If anyone was going to see behind the mask, it would be the girl who had grown up with him.

Nino and Alya were a few feet ahead of them. Marinette leaned her head closer to Adrien. “Did you have to use the powdered sugar incident?” Her breath was warm on his ear, sending tingles down his neck.

“They believed it, didn't they?” Adrien mimicked her, leaning in close, his mouth nearly brushing her ear as he whispered. He watched her face turn bright red, matching her mask as he pulled away.

Alya had other questions, and Adrien got to build his Felix persona around what he had already told Marinette, the practice of lying as Chat Noir making it easy for him, and he knew he sounded natural. And Marinette could even jump in, with stories of his that she knew, adding to the believability of their lies.

One of the fashion VIP's passed by the group of friends, and he heard his name on their lips. Adrien sighed, knowing he should probably get to talking to them before his father decided to never let him invite his friends to anything ever again.

“I'll be back new friends. I must take my leave for a few.” He grabbed Marinette's hand, again pressing his lips to her knuckles. “I will hurry back.” He grinned at her before he slipped away from his friends.

#

Adrien moved quickly changing his suit and mask. He went and found the fashion VIP's. Adrien was stuck talking to them for a while, before there was a break in the conversation natural enough for him to get away. He made a detour for the food table, so he could grab some cheese for Plagg.

“Adrien,” Nino waved him over. Adrien joined Nino, Alya, and Marinette.

“Hey guys.” Adrien nodded to Marinette. “Welcome to the party. Nice mask.” The girl smiled, but didn't look Adrien in the eye, which disappointed him, since he wanted to see her eyes light up at the compliment.

“Thanks! Mask made I...I mean...I made the mask.” Her face was pink and her eyes were firmly on the table.

“Forgive her humbleness, she made her mask, mine, Nino's, er...basically everyone's mask from class except Chloe's and Sabrina's.” Alya was looking around the ballroom, trying to point out their other classmates, but shrugging as she gave up.

“And Felix's.” Nino added, speaking around his fruit skewer.

“Oh yeah! Felix's.” Alya nodded, glancing around. “He has to be around here somewhere...” Adrien turned to Marinette.

“Sounds like you kept yourself busy since I invited everyone to the Masqurade.” She glanced up, for a split second, before looking down again, twisting her napkin in her hands. Adrien bit his lip, wondering, not for the first time, why she seemed to act so different around Chat Noir than him.

“Super busy. She did her dress too.” Alya added, nudging her friend with her elbow. Adrien had to make a show of stepping back from the table to get a good look at her dress.

“Very nice Marinette. I think that rivals some of the work of father's VIP's.” This time her neck and face turned bright red. He had the urge, again, to say she was beautiful, the bashful way she took the compliment, and the way she stuttered through a compliment of his suit was adorable.

The compliment was on the tip of his tongue, when Chloe's thin arms wrapped around his arm. “Come dance with me Adrien!” Somehow, Adrien saw his father, staring right at him. There was a glint in his eyes that meant he couldn't refuse.

Adrien went with Chloe to the dance floor. He danced with her, for what felt like the longest song in his life. Chloe kept trying to get closer, so Adrien took advantage of his ballroom dance lessons, twirling Chloe across the dance floor. The whole time he wanted to dance with Marinette. Adrien said a goodbye to a slightly disorientated Chloe, sneaking out of the ballroom.

#

Adrien switched outfits and his part, and practically ran back to the ballroom. Marinette probably wouldn't dance with Adrien, but how could she refuse Felix, the superhero cat doing her a favor?

He noticed Marinette was standing alone at the table, a quick glance around revealed Alya and Nino were on the dance floor already.

“Wanna dance?” Adrien held out his hand. Marinette looked up, eyes switching from his hand to his face. He bit his lip, wondering if he had just assumed Marinette would dance with him. Maybe he was wrong.

“Okay.” Marinette put her hand in his, smoothing her skirt with her other hand. Adrien couldn't help but swallow, his mouth feeling a little dry. He led her to the dance floor, and, while he wanted to just hold her close and sway back and forth, he actually put his lessons to good use. He didn't twirl her as much as Chloe though, not wanting to make her dizzy, but he did have Marinette spin, thinking it would be a waste of her skirt if she didn't get to show it off swoshing around her legs.

They danced a full song, Adrien with a goofy grin from ear to ear. Near the end of the song, Marinette asked him how he was so good at dancing. “Is it that surprising? I'm light on my feet. Some would even say I always land on them.” Marinette rolled her eyes at him. Adrien spun her, and then moved the hand from her waist to the small of her back, dipping her. She blinked up at him. “I know it wasn't my best pun, but not even a fake haha, that hurts you know.” Adrien was still grinning, so he knew, she knew he was kidding, playing it off as a joke.

“Ha ha.” Marinette cocked an eyebrow at him. “Are you sure you're feline okay? Your lack of puns masks me worry.” Adrien laughed as he helped Marinette out of the dip.

“You call my puns lame and then throw them back at me? Not very Princess like.” He let go of her hand and back, bringing his hands to his stomach as he chuckled.

“Felix!” Nino called, coming over with Alya, “You have some epic moves on the dance floor.”

“You know, only one other person our age could probably rival you.” Adrien tilted his head.

“Really? Who?”

“Adrien. He's probably stuck with the VIPs, but he should be back soon.”

“Wait, you mean the son of the man holding this Masquerade? Do you know him or something?” Both Alya and Nino turned to Marinette.

“She didn't tell you?” Alya shrugged her shoulders, “he's a classmate of ours.” Nino pulled out his phone, scrolling and then holding it out to Adrien.

Adrien found himself looking at a recent selfie, one Nino and Adrien had taken at the Louve on a school field trip. He had an arm around Nino, and the boys were sticking their tongues out at the phone. “My cousins didn't believe I was friends with him, so I made sure to get proof.” Adrien slowly nodded. “You two would get along great I think.” The four of them walked back to the table. Alya and Marinette agreed. Adrien had to be careful not to smirk as the three of them discussed how well he would get along with...well...himself. It was pretty funny. He was surprised at how well he was pulling off being two different people. It was going much better than expected.

Someone snapped their fingers in front of his face. “Felix!” Alya then waved her hand in front of his face. He blinked and then looked over at her. “So, did Marinette tell you about how no one believed you existed at school?” Adrien chuckled, glancing at the girl who was turning redder.

“Well, actually she said she was going to ask someone from her class, but something happened and then she invited me. It's not surprising though, I am too good to be true.” Alya looked over at Marinette.

“Really, he was invited after Chloe caught you practicing? Not before like you originally said.”

“Uh, er...um...” Marinette sent a glare to Adrien. “Uh...I-” she sighed. “Fine. I lied to Chloe. I asked Felix after she caught me and tried to humiliate me in front of the class.”

“Marinette Dupain-Cheng,” Alya gasped, “you lied! But you hate liars and lying.”

“Well, it was better than letting Chloe humiliate me. And besides, it's better this way, I wouldn't have been able to ask him out anyway. No matter how much I practiced.” That was one thing she hadn't told him. Who she had been planning to ask out. There weren't too many options, being a small class, but Adrien was curious, though, he also wasn't sure if he could ask. If she wanted him to know, she would have told him already, and asking in front of her friends seemed a little backhanded, pushy even.

“I'm happy to help, trust me. This is a lot better than my previous plans.” Adrien leaned against the table. Alya asked what his previous plans included. “Oh, just ice cream and a marathon of my favorite video game. Or maybe I would have done a bakery run for some sweets for my late night gaming.” He looked over at Marinette, who smiled softly back at him.

“Wait, did your parents actually let you come to this?”

“Tonight is my lucky night. My parents are out of town, so what they don't know won't get me grounded.” Or really, he wasn't even leaving his house. But that was a secret.

“Geeze.” Nino shook his head. “Sounds like you even have it worse than Adrien.” Adrien blinked at Nino. “Speaking of which...” Nino was craning his head, looking around the ballroom. “I don't see him schmoozing it up with the VIPs or his father.” Nino sighed. “You two have a lot in common.” Adrien felt Plagg move in his pocket, stifling laughter.

“Thus is the curse of overbearing helicopter parents.” Adrien noticed his father also seemed to be scanning the ballroom. It was probably about time for him to do some more, as Nino said it, schmoozing. “Speaking of overbearing parents, I'm going to have to step outside for a moment, whenever they are out of town, mine call to say goodnight. I'll be back after I convince them I'm off to bed too.” Adrien started walking away, but not before he heard Nino make a sad comment to the two girls.

“At least he gets a break, and they talk to him.” Nino muttered before Adrien was out of earshot. He glanced at his father, taking a moment before he slipped out of the ballroom, to wonder when the last time the man had bade him goodnight was.

#

Adrien didn't really want to put on the black suit and mask again. He had been having a lot of fun as Felix. And he was pretty sure his father was going to give a lecture about his manners. It was probably a don't in the rules of etiquette to run around as two different personas, trying to avoid being stuck in boring conversations. Not that he was regretting his choice, but now that he was in the thick of it, the possible consequences were more clear. He could really screw things up if he wasn't careful.

But none of that stopped him from putting back on the Adrien Agreste outfit and returning to the ballroom to schmooze. His father didn't approach him for a lecture, but did give him a subtle nod. It wasn't quite approval, but it was acknowledgement that he wasn't backing out of his promise.

Schmoozing with the VIPs drained a lot out of Adrien, glad to finally get away, finding himself wandering back to the table his friends had claimed. Nino was the only one there and for the moment, Adrien was thankful of that.

“Dude, you okay?”

Adrien sighed. “It's the same conversation, over and over. And it hurts my brain after a while.” Nino shook his head.

“I'm sorry. Are you done with them for the night?” Adrien glanced back to his father, wondering if the man expected him to go and have the same conversations for a third time.

“Not sure yet. But not for a while anyway. So, what's up?” Nino glanced around before he scooted over to stand next to Adrien.

“Did you see Marinette dance with Felix?” Adrien shook his head. “That boy has got some elegant moves. And helicopter parents. He's outside right now apparently, assuring his parents he's going to bed on the phone, since they are out of town. You'd get along I think.”

“Mmm.” Adrien made a non-committal grunt like noise. “How is Felix?”

“He's pretty cool. A little...over the top. Doesn't seem like the serious type, but then again, this is a party and it sounds like he is alone a lot, so maybe this is just a just a reprieve from being serious all the time with his parents. Though when he gets back, you can see for yourself.”

“Mmm.” Adrien was tired, not trusting himself to say much without accidentally giving a hint to his best friend that Adrien and Felix were the same person. Nino put an arm around Adrien's shoulders.

“Is this frown from all the schmoozing you had to do, or is it about Felix? You seemed a little off when we heard Marinette was bringing someone to the dance, and now you haven't even met the guy and you seem to be keeping your distance.”

“Why would the frown be about Felix? I'm just tired of hearing the same thing over and over.”

“Then you don't care Marinette says it isn't a date, but Felix is totally smitten with her.” Adrien looked up, blinking. “He's kissed her hand, like, at least three times.” Adrien was pretty sure Nino had only seen him kiss Marinette's hand once, but he couldn't say anything, he hadn't even met the guy yet. “And dipped her in the dance.”

“And you are telling me this why?” Adrien hated repeated things. He should have thought about that before he decided to be two people at the same ball...two people traveling in the same friend circle. But he couldn't say no to Marinette, those bright blue eyes, when she actually looked at him, as Chat Noir, or as Felix, he could drown in those eyes. She was amazing and talented, and was always helping him out, so saying yes to the favor seemed like a no brainer.

“Because, if you were to ask me, at least part of this sour mood, is because you are jealous of Felix.”

“That's ridiculous.” He couldn't be jealous of himself...that wasn't a thing...was it? “I mean, it sounds just like Marinette to invite someone out when they don't get the opportunity very often. She's sweet that way.”

“She is, isn't she?” Alya said, pairing her words with a light punch to his shoulder. Adrien turned to see the girls had returned from wherever they were. Alya was smirking at him, and Marinette was looking down at her shoes, face a light pink. “How was schmoozing?”

“Boring and repetitive.” Adrien shrugged his shoulders.

“You know what isn't boring at a Masquerade?” Adrien glanced at Nino, but his friend shrugged like he had no idea what his girlfriend was planning. “Dancing.” Alya grabbed Adrien's hand, and put Marinette's hand in it before she grabbed her boyfriend. “Let's dance!” She led the way to the dance floor.

Adrien looked at Marinette, clearing his throat. “You want to dance?” She looked up, the pink across her cheeks turning a deeper red. “You don't have to, I heard you already danced with Felix, so if you are still tired-”

“No!” Marinette blurted. “I mean yes! I mean...” Marinette sighed, looking down and playing with her skirt. “I want to dance.” She finally mumbled. It was kinda cute, the stumbling over her words, it was how Adrien saw Marinette. Though the more he interacted with her as Chat Noir or Felix, the more he saw other amazing aspects of the girl. (And he would tease her a lot to get her flustered enough to stumble on her words like this.) He just wondered why he never saw her confidence as Adrien.

He led her to the dance floor, as the song slowed down. He looked at Marinette, to find her looking back at him, her cheeks glowing, her mask almost seeming a part of her face. Usually she would look away, but for the moment, their eyes locked, while Adrien adjusted his grip on her hand and placed a hand on her waist. She placed her free hand on his shoulder, and she finally glanced away, but Adrien had to focus on leading, carefully since the dance floor was filled to the brim with couples. He had to hold Marinette closer, to avoid bumping into other couples. Adrien could smell the vanilla and bread scents he associated with her parents' bakery lingering in her hair.

He led her in spins, smaller spins, when he noticed Marinette had room to spin without tripping on another person. He steered away from Chloe and stayed as far away from his father and VIPs as possible.

“Having fun?” Adrien asked as the song began to wind down. Marinette looked up, shifting her weight the wrong way, leaning into Adrien. He supported the extra weight, while the girl nodded quickly. “Good. I'm glad you are having fun.” Adrien smiled, and Marinette tripped, backwards this time. Adrien shifted his hand from her waist to her back, tightening his grip on her hand, catching her in a dip, lower than the one he had led her in as Felix.

She squeaked out something that Adrien assumed was an apology. “It's okay, I got you. I won't let you fall.” Did she not trust him? There was the misunderstanding gum incident. Was she still mad about that? Adrien had thought about asking Nino or Alya about the way Marinette acted around him, but he couldn't get up the courage after all they did was praise her and insist he should get to know her. It had been hard to get to know her with this stuttering barrier as Adrien, but as Chat Noir, he saw what Nino and Alya saw.

Marinette was pretty amazing. Talented, funny, kind, brave, understanding. And, Adrien realized the more time he spent with her, the harder it was to remember his major crush on Ladybug.

He pulled Marinette up, smiling gently before he pulled his hands away. She looked at him, and for the first time he could remember, he looked away first. “I better make sure none of the VIPs can complain about my absence to my father.” Adrien started walking, before he glanced back at her. “Dance again later?”

“Y-yeah.” Adrien smiled, lifting a hand to wave, before he walked off the dance floor. He checked in with the VIP's again, banking some time so he could spend a few more minutes as Felix.

#

Adrien sighed as he switched masks. Plagg frowned at him. “Not so fun anymore is it?” Adrien narrowed his eyes before he sighed again.

“It's just...I'm lying through my teeth. And Marinette hates liars.”

“And you like Marinette.” Adrien blinked, glancing in the mirror. The truth settled in his chest the way he would sink into his bed after a long day. Soft, supportive, comforting, warm.

“Yeah...I like her a lot Plagg. And if I screw up, I could end up grounded, hurting her and my friends, or both.”

“Well then, you better not screw up.” Adrien nodded before sneaking back to the ballroom.

On his bed was a green suit and a black mask.

#

Adrien wandered over to the food table, he grabbed a few things, realizing he hadn't eaten in a while. And his brain was starting to hurt from switching back and forth. He hoped food would help.

“Felix!” Adrien looked up, stepping around the chocolate fountain to see Marinette running toward him, and then she stopped dead in her tracks. “Adrien?” He tilted his head, looking down, seeing his black suit. Then, he hesitated, but he pulled off his mask and looked at it. The green one with black stars. He blinked at it, and he felt like hitting his head on the wall. In his talk with Plagg, he had forgotten to switch suits. “Umm...m-mask Felix...where?” Adrien blinked at the mask.

“Oh, I went to the bathroom to splash water on my face, another boy was there too, in a green suit. I guess I accidentally grabbed his mask when I left.” Marinette's face was pink, and she wasn't looking at him. “Alya and Nino said you made almost everyone's mask. Why stars for Felix?” If Adrien had known each mask was personalized, he would have imagined tiny cat paws outlining the eye holes of the mask. Marinette shifted on her feet.

“Silly. Stargazing. Joking. Stories. Balcony.” Adrien closed his eyes, remembering the night. It had been a rough week, lots of photo shoots, and tests at school, and something had to give and it was an English in class essay, mostly lost points due to spelling. His father yelled and Adrien yelled, and then he was grounded, but he didn't want to stew at home all night so he transformed and went about running across the rooftops. He saw Marinette's light still on and landed on her balcony. She came out, and well, he didn't talk about why he was running across Paris, but she let him lay on one of her lounge chairs on her balcony, telling silly stories about constellations he made up. She joined in. Adrien couldn't remember a night he had laughed more.

“Oh,” Adrien opened his eyes and smiled. “Hey,” He held out his plate. “Can you hold on to this for me? I'll see if Felix is still in the bathroom looking for his mask.” Marinette took the plate and he creapt out of the ballroom, again.

#

“I can't keep lying Plagg.”

“You tell her you are Felix, you tell her you are Chat Noir. You have a secret identity for a reason.” Plagg sighed. Adrien put on the green suit, grabbing the black mask. He sighed.

“You're right. So, I'll go down as Felix, hear that Adrien is looking for me to switch masks, then I'll switch masks, sneak Marinette up to the roof, stargaze for a few, and then Felix will make his exit.”

“How is Felix going to know how to sneak Marinette onto the roof of Adrien's house?” Adrien sighed.

“Good point. So we'll just go outside. I'll talk to her, tell her this was fun, but Felix has to go, and then I'll take my leave and spend the rest of the night as Adrien.”

“The boy your crush can't talk too.” Adrien sighed.

“The boy who is real. Felix and Chat Noir will disappear one day. Adrien Agreste will stick around.”

“I warned you it wasn't a good idea.” Adrien rubbed his temples before he donned the black mask, looking in the mirror.

“Yeah yeah Plagg. I know.” Adrien left his room, heading to the ballroom.

#

Adrien went straight toward where he saw Marinette last, finding her not far, standing at the table with Nino and Alya. That made inviting her outside a little more complicated...as Adrien. He was Felix at the moment, he would ask her to meet outside for a few after he got his mask back.

“Hey guys,” Adrien tried to act nonchalant, like Felix would.

“Umm...” Alya pointed to his face. “Why do you have Adrien's mask?”Adrien blinked, but he didn't remove his mask, that would be a catasrophy. Punning in his head reminded him who he was acting as.

“I do?” He shrugged. “Guess I grabbed the wrong mask when I went to the bathroom to splash water on my face.”

“Adrien went back to look for you.” Marinette stated. He turned to look at Marinette, choosing for the time being to ignore his best friend and his girlfriend.

“Then I guess I should go too, I would hate to lose the mask you catered to that time we made up our own constellations.” Marinette giggled, it was a super cute giggle. “Wanna meet me outside, see if any of our constellations are out?”

“I'm supposed to watch Adrien's plate of food.”

“Nino and Alya can handle that.” Marinette glanced at her two friends.

“Okay. Meet you out there, find Adrien first. I have to go to the bathroom anyway.” Adrien nodded. Marinette started walking, and he was about to walk as well, but Nino grabbed his arm.

“What are you up to Felix?” Nino's eyes were slightly narrowed.

“We're just going to talk Nino.” His friend raised an eyebrow. “Look, as awesome as Marinette is, I know I'm not right for her if that's what you are worried about.” Adrien pulled his arm away. “I better get my mask back from Adrien, it'll make a nice souvenir.” Then Adrien walked away, slipping unnoticed back to his room to grab his green mask.

#

He was standing outside the mansion, looking up at the stars, when Marinette stepped out into the moonlight. Adrien's breath caught in his throat as he watched her walk over to him.

“What's up kitty?” Her voice was a whisper, and he realized he had missed her calling him kitty all night. “You seemed a little down in there.”

“Well, it is almost time for my green mask to turn black again.”

“A Cinderalla reference?” Marinette cocked an eyebrow. Adrien chuckled. “I get it, thanks for coming.” Marinette wrapped her arms around him. It wasn't the first time they hugged, there had been many friendly hugs, but he was usually Chat Noir. And he hadn't realized how much he actually liked her. He really liked her, and he hugged her, gently. Though he wanted to pull her in tightly, hold her to him and never let go, but he had to. “I owe you one.” Marinette and Adrien stepped apart.

“Then go back in there and at least dance with the boy you wanted to ask to this Masquerade. And tell him how you feel, maybe not tonight, but before the next time I see you.”

“What? Why? We don't even see each other on a regular basis, you just kinda show up at odd times. Besides, I...I can't just...no. I can't do that.” The girl was shaking her head, her black hair falling in front of her face. Adrien reached out, tucking her hair behind her ears.

“Sure you can. You are amazing. All your classmates know it, surely the boy you wanted to ask knows it and he'd be a fool not to say yes to a dance. He'd be a fool not to take a chance on such a kind, brave, talented person such as yourself.” Marinette's face was turning redder, so Adrien felt it was time for Felix to take his leave. “Good bye Marinette.” Adrien pulled his hands away and turned around. He started walking to the front gate, already planning how to sneak back into the mansion in the back.

“Wait!” Marinette grabbed his arm. “Why does this feel like a final goodbye?”

“Once Hawk Moth is stopped, I won't be Chat Noir anymore.”

“And once he is stopped, you can talk to me, prove that's who you were and we can still be friends.” Adrien looked at the ground. How could he still be friends, when the girl could barely talk to the identity that would stick around?

“Maybe, though I wouldn't be able to hang out as often.”

“That's why people invented phones and the internet.” Adrien chuckled.

“You sure are stubborn.”

“And you seem content to just...disappear. Are you really?” Adrien sighed.

“Look, we are friends, and as your friend I am trying to let you go. You don't have to feel...burdened by me.”

“You are not a burden.”

“But I'm a liar!” Adrien pulled his arm out of her grasp. “I am a liar. Details changed, things exaggerated, I'm not even sure where Felix and Chat Noir end and where I, the real me, begins.” He didn't look back, he couldn't look back, was afraid to see her hurt.

“You have to, for the good of Paris. I'm not mad about those lies. I still trust you with my life knowing I may never see your real face.”

“Because I am a superhero. You are supposed to trust me with your life. All of Pairs trusts Ladybug and me to save the day.” Adrien started walking again, rolling his eyes to himself when he heard her coming after him.

“Not just that. I don't just trust Chat Noir, I trust you Felix, or whatever your real name is. Powers or not you are someone I trust with my life.”

“Then go back inside. Enjoy the rest of the Masquerade.” Marinette grabbed his arm one more time. He turned, seeing a pen cap between her lips. He blinked as she pushed up his sleeve, tracing the pen across his forearm, letters appearing, then a string of numbers. For a moment he was curious about where she hid the pen, then he looked down.

“As long as this isn't a final goodbye. My email, and phone number. We are friends, you can't just walk away forever.” Adrien blinked, slowly, eyes on the black ink scrawled across his forearm.

“Fine. But remember, you need to dance with the person you wanted to bring to the dance.” Adrien gently pulled his arm away, carefully rolling his sleeve down. “I'll keep in touch.” It was a promise, though one he wasn't sure how long he could handle keeping that promise. Things seemed so out of his control. There were two sets of blue eyes he couldn't say no too, and eventually he would have to say no, someone was going to get hurt, and it would be his fault for getting entangled in saving Paris, entangled in the life of a civilian.

Adrien waved, turning away. This time, he walked through the front gate, and when he risked a glance back, Marinette was at the front door, glancing back at him too. He nodded once before he left his mansion behind.

#

“Geeze kid. You still going to go back to that ball? You said goodbye.”

“As Felix. Adrien needs to make his final appearance.”

“I suppose. You did tell her to save you another dance.” Adrien groaned as he slipped his black mask over his face. “What?” Plagg shrugged, “I'm just reminding you, you've had a lot on your mind tonight.”

“Got it Plagg. Thanks for the reminder that I'm an idiot who...is hopelessly in love with a girl who can barely look at me and a superhero who is in love with someone else.” Adrien didn't wait for Plagg's response, not expecting comfort or sage advice, not from the Kwami whose sarcastic remarks had grown on him over the past few months. He just put Plagg in his pocket and went back to the ballroom, holding himself together under the black mask.

#

Adrien found the table, his plate of food in front on Nino. He reached for a fruit kabob, taking a bite. Nino started to protest and then, seeing it was Adrien, he just sighed with a shake of his head. “There you are.” Nino's gaze went to the dance floor. “Alya dragged Marinette to the dance floor, probably to ask her about what Felix talked to her outside about.” Adrien didn't take his eyes off his food, afraid if he looked up, Nino would see right through him. “Are you okay? Are you getting sick or something?”

“I'm fine Nino.”

“Or is it just an attack from the green monster?” Adrien's head snapped up. He blinked at Nino. “Are you jealous of Felix?”

“I already told you that's ridiculous.”

“Doesn't seem so ridiculous when every time I say Felix, you look like a I just kicked a puppy, or a kitten, or something else adorable.”

“If there is anyone I can't be jealous of, in the entire city of Paris, it would have to be Felix.”

“That doesn't make any sense and you know it.”

“My life hasn't made sense in over a year. Since my mother disappeared.” Since he went to school, since he put on a magical ring, since he became a hero, since he started falling in love with two different people, since he felt like he was becoming two different people himself.

“Adrien-”

“Not now Nino.” Adrien nodded to the girls. “Our friends are coming back.”

“Hey Adrien,” Alya wiped some sweat from her forehead, smiling at the boys. “I see you managed to find Felix.”

“Yeah, nice guy. Seemed a bit in a rush when we switched masks back. So I didn't talk long with him or anything.” Adrien kept his eyes on the table, feeling Alya's scrutinizing gaze.

“You okay Adrien?” He looked up, Nino's eyes were concerned, flickering between him and his girlfriend. Alya stared right at him. And Marinette stood just behind her best friend, her hands over her heart. Those blue eyes met his, for less than a second, but in that second, Adrien found his way out of a situation becoming more awkward by the moment.

“I'm fine.” Adrien pushed away from the table. He walked to Marinette, tapping her shoulder. “I owe you another dance if you're up for it.” He held his hand out. The moment she took, looking between his hand and his face, felt like forever. But for the nerves in her eyes, there was warmth there too, and more in her hand when she placed it in his.

He walked her to the dance floor and they danced. Adrien didn't allow himself to think beyond where to put his feet, where to put his hands, and sneaking glances at her face, wondering how he had got himself into this mess. Then he would focus again, on his feet, his hands. Him. Adrien Agreste. Teen model, lost mother, practically absentee father. Adrien Agreste with a silver ring. Adrien Agreste as Chat Noir. Superhero. Chat Noir as Felix. Felix a boy in love with a girl he couldn't have. Adrien Agreste the liar.

After the song, Adrien bowed. “Thanks for the dance Marinette.” Adrien looked around the room, not sure he wanted to go back to Nino and Alya, but also dreading going to talk with the VIPs or his father. There was an announcement, the last song was going to play. At least the Masquerade would be over soon. He felt a hand on his shoulder, and he glanced to find Marinette next to him.

“D-dance again?” He blinked at her.

“It's the last song...” Adrien trailed off, keeping himself from saying what Felix wanted to say. He wanted to remind her she should dance with the boy she had wanted to go with to the ball. The girl shifted, looking away, pulling her hand back.

“P-please?” Adrien reached for her hand, intertwining his fingers with hers.

“Of course.” He couldn't say no. Would never say no. Not to her.

Adrien took her to the middle of the dance floor, and he danced. At the back of his mind lay the question of why Marinette asked him for the last dance of the night. But with Marinette in his arms, there wasn't room to question her actions or contemplate his own.

The song was a long one, mixed with fast and slow, or at least Adrien thought so. Maybe he wasn't hearing the song being played, maybe he was dancing to his own song, doing what he wanted without thinking of the consequences. He found himself, breathless with laughter, after the final dance, looking at the girl, who was also smiling at him, breathless, and her eyes were shinning. The question was on the tip of his tongue, to ask her why she asked him for the last dance.

“Adrien,” his father's voice washed over him like ice water. “It is time to say goodbye to our VIPs.” Adrien wanted to hang his head, but pulled himself up straight.

“Yes father. I will be there in just a moment.” He thought about adding on a please, but knew that wouldn't actually help him with his father.

“In a moment then.” The man's steel eyes stared at him behind the black mask. Adrien nodded, knowing he really only had a moment. His father turned on his heel. Adrien looked back at Marinette. Her eyes were wide, but still, she smiled at him. At him, Adrien Agreste.

“T-thanks.” Marinette blinked, everything softening in her features.

“No, thank you.” Adrien caught her hand, pressing his lips, once again, to her knuckles. “I'll see you at school.”

She had asked him to dance, the last dance. When Felix had asked her to dance with the boy she had wanted to ask, she asked him...Adrien Agreste for the last dance. It made his mind spin, and it was the thought that kept him together as he had to say goodbye to his father's VIPs.

#

Adrien found himself laying on his roof. He was looking at the stars, remembering all the nights he spent with Marinette as Chat Noir, and every moment of the Masquerade, as both Felix and Adrien. Plagg was sitting on Adrien's stomach, eating some cheese, finally eating the cheese Adrien had promised him. Adrien's phone was in his hands, tapping away at it every few minutes. Then he would delete what he wrote and sigh. He was supposed to stay away from her. So he merely sighed, putting his phone down, and looking at the stars, reminding himself of how he fell in love with Marinette.

#

The next day, probably because he spent hours laying in the cool night on his roof, Adrien had a fever. And when Nino texted him, he told him he was home sick. He wasn't expecting anything to come from it, but the next time Adrien opened his eyes, it was because Natalie knocked and announced Nino, Alya, and Marinette were coming in for a quick visit. No longer than ten minutes he was told. Adrien furrowed his eyebrows, sure his father wouldn't normally allow this.

He did sit up, the sheet falling off his bare chest. His friends came in and he blinked at them, knowing he was covered in sweat, his face scrunched up, unsure what he was supposed to do.

“Woah,” Nino blinked, “You are...sick.” Adrien tried to glare, but he sighed instead.

“Great observation Nino,” Adrien gestured with his arm, realizing too late, it was the arm with pen still scrawled across it, though it was smeared with the sweat coating his body. He blinked at it. He felt Marinette's stare, and he looked at her, they stared at each other, silent.

“You know...” Nino glanced between the two, “we should probably just...er...go...since you clearly aren't feeling well...” Nino reached out to grab Alya's hands, but the girl pulled back, grabbing Adrien's arm, squinting at the slightly smudged letters, eyes then finding his face.

“You have a lot of explaining to do Adrien Agreste, or...or so help me god...” She was practically hissing at him. Adrien practically sank back into his bed. His eyes widened and he trembled, not just from his fever, but a tiny bit of actual fear from the look in Alya's eyes.

“I-er...” Adrien didn't know what to say, didn't have a plan for someone, anyone figuring it out. Alya's hazel eyes bore into him, wanting answers, willing to do anything to protect her best friend. Adrien had to shut his eyes, to try to give himself a moment to think, to salvage his friendships, somehow. To come up with an excuse for his lies, to be prepared to lose Marinette for an unnecessary layer of lies.

Alya's hand left his wrist, and Adrien opened his eyes. Alya was being pulled back by Marinette. “After the last dance we realized we didn't have any way to contact each other, so I wrote on his arm!”

Alya gestured back to him, “And the fact we never saw Felix or Adrien at the same time?”

“Adrien was super busy last night, I saw him talking to a VIP when Felix and I were dancing!” Marinette's words were fast, nervous, blending together. Adrien closed his eyes again, feeling ashamed Marinette had to lie to protect him, protect Chat Noir. He was supposed to do the protecting.

“Oh...umm...” Alya's voice became quieter, calmer, and Adrien slightly relaxed. “Sorry Adrien...” Adrien opened his eyes.

“Er...no problem...” Adrien looked down, clenching his fists in his sheets. “It's okay...I er...ummm...” The stress of the situation caught up to Adrien's body, and he started coughing.

“We should go.” Nino glanced at the girls. “He needs to rest.” Nino sighed, “Hope you get better soon dude, sorry for interrupting your sleep.” Adrien nodded as his friends left the room.

Plagg came out from his hiding place from a hand hold in the rock wall. He was chuckling. “Told you it was a bad idea.”

“I'm a dead man. Marinette is going to kill me for lying, and Ladybug will kill me for revealing my identity to a civilian...hell, she probably would have killed me just for befriending Marinette as Chat in the first place.” Adrien coughed again. Plagg sighed.

“Worry later. Rest for now.” Plagg curled up on Adrien's chest, purring.

“Okay Plagg.” Adrien lay back, feeling Plagg's purr in his chest, focusing on that to fall asleep.

#

Adrien woke up when it was dark out. His fever was gone, the sweat dried and sticky on his skin. He swung his legs over the bed, glancing at the glowing alarm clock, knowing it was too late to do much of anything. But he couldn't fall back asleep feeling so...gross, so to the shower he went. Adrien watched the black ink wash off his skin. Luckily, well, he had saved both the email and the phone number, not that it mattered too much since Marinette had figured it out.

Marinette knew he was Chat Noir. He figured they had a lot to talk about. But for now, it was late, too late for a Chat Noir visit and Adrien decided if he couldn't sleep, he would play some video games.

Tying his towel around his waist, Adrien walked out of his bathroom. And before he could retrieve his pj's, he saw a bright red person sitting on his bed. Adrien blinked, wondering if his fever dreams were still in effect.

Ladybug's face was bright red. The two stared at each other in silence. And in this moment, Adrien remembered his major crush on his fellow hero. Which made him feel bad, guilty, since he also loved Marinette.

“What are you doing here?” He finally asked.

“Who takes a shower at two in the morning?”

“Someone who just woke up from a fever.” Ladybug swallowed, though she didn't look away. In fact, the two of them stared at each other for a bit. Adrien clutched the towel, biting his lower lip. “What are you doing here?” Adrien asked again. Ladybug's mouth opened, and then shut, and her face was just as red as her mask. “Ladybug?” Adrien tilted his head, taking a few steps closer.

“Are you feeling better?” Ladybug straightened up, holding Adrien's gaze.

“My fever's gone.” Adrien paused, realizing that he was just in a towel. In front of one of his major crushes. “Thanks for asking.” Adrien let out a deep breath. “Um, that still doesn't explain why you are here.” Adrien rubbed the back of his neck. He knew he had a bad habit of getting close to a civilian, and with Ladybug's seriousness, he thought she would know better than to visit citizens for no reason. Adrien thought she wouldn't end up making the mistakes he had made.

“Right,” Ladybug sighed. She stood up, her mouth opened again, and then, her eyes traveled down from Adrien's face. “Put some clothes on!” Ladybug squeaked, turning her back to him. Adrien chuckled. It was odd to see normally composed Ladybug freaking out just a little bit. He was almost happy with the development, and a tiny bit smug that he didn't really feel uncomfortable in the slightest. The towel went to nearly his knees, he had shown off more skin when he modeled his father's latest swimsuits.

“Then will you tell me why you are here?” Adrien turned, already opening his closet and grabbing a pair of baggy sweatpants and a t-shit.

“Yep.” Ladybug popped the 'p', her back still turned to Adrien. He smirked to himself as he ducked back into the bathroom.

Once dressed, Adrien walked back into his bedroom. Now, Ladybug was pacing around his Foosball table, a position he had found himself in more than once. “All right, I'm clothed.” Adrien leaned against the Foosball table, cutting off Ladybug's walk. “Why are you here?” Adrien cocked an eyebrow at Ladybug, feeling a tiny bit over confident, channeling a bit of his Chat Noir.

“Why are you such an idiot?” Adrien blinked, tilting his head. Ladybug stood in front of him, arms crossed.

“I, um, I'm not sure how to answer that.” Adrien's interactions with Ladybug were few, so he wasn't exactly sure where this would be coming from. He couldn't recall an incident with Ladybug which would lead her to question him thusly. Ladybug smirked.

“Are you sure you're feline okay? Or did your little dance party tire you out?”

“I'm feline,” Adrien coughed. He didn't use puns too often, not since his mother disappeared, unless he was Chat Noir. “I mean, I'm feeling fine.” Adrien rubbed his hands on his sweatpants. “The ball...was fine.”

“Are you sure the ball wasn't double the trouble?” Adrien narrowed his eyes. Then, Ladybug angled her face slightly, the moonlight shining across it.

“Did...” Adrien leaned more on the Foosball table. “Did you speak to Marinette, by any chance?” Adrien felt his face get a little red. This was the only thing he could think of...the only reason for Ladybug to be there, talking about the ball. A playful smile danced on Ladybug's face.

“No,” she fluttered her eyelashes. “Should I speak to this Marinette girl?” Adrien's whole body suddenly felt hot again. He almost wished it was his fever returning with a vengance, but he knew exactly what was really happening.

“You know don't you?” Adrien put his hands on the edge of the Foosball table, looking down at his bare feet.

“Know what?” There was amusement laced in her voice.

“How much of an idiot I am of course.” Adrien looked up with his own smirk. The two stared at each other.

“And how much is that?” Ladybug eventually whispered.

“Don't you know curiosity killed the cat?” Adrien pulled himself up so he was sitting on the edge of the Foosball table. “Though I guess I'm dying to know since I can't quite put my paw on it, why you'd come check on me at two in the morning.” Adrien smirked, pieces falling together, those blue eyes familiar, too familiar, the kind of eyes he wanted to fall into. “Especially if you didn't speak to Mari,” a flicker in her eyes, the same flicker he saw his many late nights at the bakery. “Then I believe the cat is out of the bag.” Adrien put a hand on Ladybug's shoulder, leaning in. “I really enjoyed the last dance of the ball, didn't you, Bugaboo?” He whispered in her ear.

A squeak which could only have come from Marinette came out of Ladybug. Laughter which was only so inhibited coming from Chat, came from Adrien. Ladybug stepped back.

“So you really are Chat?” She squeaked out.

“And you're Marinette?”

“I thought...I didn't...” Ladybug took a deep breath. “I thought I dreamed it...” Ladybug cleared her throat. “But, it really is you?”

“Claws out.” Adrien held out his hand, sticking his tongue out at the grumpy look Plagg gave him before he went into the ring. Chat twitched his ears. Ladybug held a hand over her mouth. “So,” Chat cleared his throat. “am I right? Or did I just jump to conclusions hoping for a dream come true?”

“Tream come drue?” Ladybug clasped her hands over her mouth. “I mean d-dream come true?” Ladybug spluttered. Chat grinned, reaching out for Ladybug's hands.

“Yes. Because never in a million years did I dare hope my luck would be good enough for me to fall in love with someone so amazing who likes me back. Twice.” Chat gently pulled Ladybug's hands away from her mouth. He squeezed them gently, and she squeezed back.

“Spots off.” She said serenely, face super pink in the moonlight. In a flash of red light, Ladybug was gone, and standing in front of Chat Noir, was Marinette Dupain-Cheng. He pulled her into a hug. She hugged back, burying her face into the crook of his neck. One of her pig tails brushed against his bell, the chime breaking the silence. “H-how yid.” Marinette sighed. “How did you know I liked you back?” She tilted her head, one bright blue eye looking up at him. Her cheek was turning redder as Chat grinned down at her.

“Because Felix asked you to dance at least once with the boy you had wanted to ask to the ball. And when the last dance came around, you asked me.” Chat purred. Marinette poked his ribs.

“Still doesn't make you less of an idiot. You didn't think going to the ball as two different people was dangerous?”

“Claws in.” Plagg grumbled as he came out of the ring, agreeing with Marinette and complaining that Adrien didn't listen to him. A little red being Adrien could only assume was Marinete's Kwami, escorted Plagg to the upper level of his room. “I nearly pulled it off clawlessy. If you guys hadn't stopped to check on me.” Marinette gave him the look Ladybug usually did with his puns. Which only made him grin more.

“Or, you could have washed the ink off earlier.” Marinette wiggled from Adrien's hug. He instantly missed her warmth, but decided she needed the moment to vent. “How did you even catch a fever anyway?”

“Being lovesick on the rooftop!” Plagg yelled down from the railing.

“Plagg!” Marinette's Kwami shushed him.

“I er,” Adrien scratched at the back of his neck. “I stayed on my roof for a while, looking at stars and thinking about the night you and I made up all those silly star stories.” Marinette smiled shyly, her face somehow getting redder.

“Idiot,” she murmured, burying her face against Adrien's chest. He wrapped his arms lightly around her shoulders.

“I love you.” Adrien murmured into her hair. Marinette poked his ribs, just like every other time he had said those words to Ladybug. But this time, she followed with a response in words too.

“I love you too.” Adrien wrapped his arms more tightly around the girl. His breath hitched and he felt Marinette giggle. “Silly kitty.” She pressed up to her toes, so she could nuzzle Adrien's neck. “I should probably go, let you get some sleep. Since you are sick and all.” Adrien sighed.

“Okay Purrcess.” Her breath hitched. Adrien chuckled. “Something the matter Mari?”

“I-it's just that...I'm gonna have to get used to you punning and calling me nicknames.”

“And I'll have to get used to you speaking in full sentences around me.” Adrien grinned. “And resist the urge to turn around during class just to look at you.”

“Oh gawd,” Marinette put her hands to her cheeks. “What the hell are we supposed to do about Felix? Alya's already planning on inviting him out to meet us to do things. And you.” She slapped Adrien's bicep. “Idiot.”

“You're the one who invited a superhero to a masquerade.” Adrien rubbed his arm, sticking his tongue out. Marinette glared at him, no sympathy for the problem she had asked him to be a part of. Granted, she had given him opportunities to back out. “Maybe it's time for Felix's parents to move. I hear his mother has always dreamed of owning a wine vinyard in California.”

“That's brilliant!” Marinette grinned, and then she narrowed her eyes at him. “That was going to be your excuse to me after we were done being superheroes...wasn't it Felix?”

“I mean, it was either that or fess up after Paris was safe from Hawk Moth...” Adrien pushed himself off the Foosball table. “But I mean, it wouldn't have been used anyway, since you would have learned my identity anyway.” Adrien slowly reached a hand out. “And I yours.” Adrien cupped Marinette's cheek. “Since that was our deal.” Marinette sighed.

“True.” Marinette tilted her head against his hand. “Now we just have to make sure no one knows but us.”

“I'm sorry you had to lie for me earlier.”

“Kinda comes with the hero territory.” Marinette brought her hand up to rest on Adrien's hand on her cheek. “You realize we'll have to be twice as careful as to what we say and do?”

“As long as we are still a team, it'll be worth it.” Marinette rolled her eyes.

“And out of the two of us, I thought I'd be the sappy one.”

“Are you sure you worked with and hung out with Chat Noir for the past few months?” Adrien quirked an eyebrow.

“I meant, between Marinette and Adrien. Gawd, I knew Chat has more sap than a syrup farm.” Marinette smirked. Adrien chuckled.

“We are going to make quite the couple Marinette Dupain-Cheng.” Adrien leaned in, and Marinette pressed a finger to his lips.

“Not quite yet. We have to let the ball and the whole Felix situation settle first.” Marinette pulled away. “Spots on.” Adrien blinked, and there was his teammate, Paris' heroine, and the masked form of Marinette. “But soon kitty.” Ladybug winked.

“I'll be waiting,” Adrien scooped up one of Ladybug's hands, pressing his lips to her knuckles. “As long as necessary M'Lady.”

“I'm looking forward to hearing you ask me out, twice.” Ladybug squeezed Adrien's hand.

“Oh,” Adrien tilted his head. “But if you really want to contrast the two relationships, there should be a different initiator in each.” Adrien smirked. “And since all of Paris knows Chat to be trying to initiate something more with Ladybug, I suppose that leaves Marinette to initiate a relationship with me.”

“Touché Adrien Agreste.” Ladybug twirled her yo-yo. “Touché.” She tossed her yo-yo out the window. “Chat'll go first, and then I'll muster up something a week or so later.” Adrien sighed.

“Whatever you think is best Bugaboo.” Ladybug blew him a kiss before she departed. Adrien walked over to the window, watching her head home.

Plagg landed on his shoulder. “That...went mushier than I thought.” The little being frowned slightly. Adrien laughed.

“Don't worry little buddy. I love you lots too.” Plagg stuck his tongue out at him.