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The sound of Adrien’s alarm woke Marinette far too early for her taste, especially when she was comfortably settled into his arms the way she was. He groaned and turned over to turn the alarm off. Marinette whined at the loss of her very warm pillow/blanket/teddy bear. She followed after him and wrapped herself around his bare back and pressed her face into his neck. He chuckled quietly, gently rubbing her arm with his free hand. He stayed still as he flipped through his phone, probably looking at emails from Natalie about his schedule for the next week. Marinette quickly fell back into semi consciousness for several minutes before Adrien began moving again. She gripped him tighter, but he simply turned back over and pulled her back against his chest. She sighed and relaxed against him as he purred softly.
“Morning,” he said, pressing his forehead against hers.
“Correct. It is morning.” she said, still refusing to open her eyes.
She could practically feel his smile as he pressed a quick kiss to her nose. She moved to get a real kiss, because she wanted one and she could, ( it was included in her Benefit package after all) but Adrien moved his face so that she got his cheek instead.
“Nuh-uh. Your morning breath is atrocious today.” He said cheekily, while pressing another kiss to her nose. She scowled at him, but quickly hid her face.
“Sorry, I didn’t bring my toothbrush. Sadly my finger is a poor substitute.” She tried to sound sarcastic, but there might have been just a little bit of insecurity that leaked in.
“Did you not see the toothbrush I got you?”
Marinette’s eyes shot open, and she looked at him a little bewildered.
“You got me a toothbrush?”
“Yeah.” He pushed his long bangs out of his face and rubbed the back of his neck. “Was that weird? I didn’t want to presume, but I figured if you ever wanted to stay over you might want one… Sorry, I made it weird didn’t I.”
Marinette’s Heart was trying to figure out if it wanted to pound it’s way out of her chest or melt into a puddle on the bed. The fact that he had put so much thought into making her feel comfortable in his new apartment was so sweet, so thoughtful, so Sexy and so utterly Adrien that it was going to kill her.
He was looking down at the sheets self consciously playing with one of the wrinkles by her waist. She had to push his chin up so that he would look her in the eye as she grinned at him.
“It’s not weird. It’s actually really, really sweet. You’re so thoughtful, probably the most thoughtful and kind person I have ever met, and I really appreciate it.” she rubbed his chin with her thumb feeling the sandpapery feeling of his stubble. Her grin widened as he blushed a lovely shade of scarlet before he pulled his face away and hid it in the pillows with a pained groan. She laughed and placed a kiss just behind his ear, which was as close as she could get to his cheek. He mumbled something into the pillow sullenly.
“I’m sorry. What was that?”
He pulled away from the pillow just enough to be heard before returning his still red face to it’s hiding place. “You’re going to be the death of me, Dupain-Cheng.”
“Maybe just a little.” The only response she got was a muffled grumble. “Well, I’m going to go brush my teeth with MY toothbrush that my very kind and handsome friend got me. Let me know when you’re done hiding.”
Another groan followed her to the bathroom. She opened a few of the bathroom cabinets until she found a brand new pink toothbrush sitting next to her favorite brand of toothpaste. She stood still looking at the toothbrush. Her eyes were NOT misty, definitely not. This small almost loving gesture did not make her throat tighten. It was just because she just woke up and her throat was dry and her eyes bleary, not because she was getting choked up over a toothbrush.
She noticed Tikki watching her from a nearby shelf with a knowing grin on her face.
“I didn’t know you liked toothbrushes so much, Marinette!” She said cheekily.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about. I have no particular feelings toward toothbrushes.” She said in a low voice in case Adrien heard her talking.
“Then maybe it’s the person giving you the toothbrush.” Tikki gave her a wolfish grin and floated over to her to hide in the hair that had fallen out of her bun. “You should tell him you love him. I think you would both be happier that way. No more pretending.”
Marinette snorted derisively. “You know why I can’t do that.”
“You would be so much happier if you could tell your friends about your relationship, and go on dates and hold his hand and all the other lovely couple things I know you daydream about doing.”
“Yeah, that would be nice, but he’s still in love with Ladybug.”
Tikki lovingly patted her cheek. “You are Ladybug.”
“He doesn’t know that.” Marinette’s voice was quiet, and a little broken, “And until that changes, or he decides to pick the everyday girl over the magical one in a mask, this is the best I can get. I’d rather it be this than nothing at all.”
Tikki hugged her neck, and Marinette brought her hand up to press it against her small friend’s side. “I just want you to be happy, Marinette. You’ve had such a hard time.”
Marinette smiled sadly and rubbed a forming tear from her eye. “I’m a lot happier now. Don’t worry. Hopefully, everything will change as soon as we can get those Akuma trackers set up.”
“I really hope so.”
She sighed and began her morning routine. Adrien Joined her after several minutes- Causing Tikki to dive through the wall to avoid being seen. His face was still a little pink, but she decided not to point it out. He sat silently brushing his teeth against the shiny white counter watching her as she blatantly stole his expensive face wash. He made a little grunt when she started putting on one of his 3 serums, but she ignored it. He made another wet grunt, this one sounding a little more distressed, when she put another product on. She gave him a side eye, but continued. Part of her was hoping he would say something, since it was obvious he was annoyed or upset with her using his products. He rarely set boundaries, unless they were big and had been pushed for so long that it burst out of him before his good manners could stop it. The fact that he even showed that he was upset was an improvement. She squeezed a little dollop of eye cream onto her fingers while making direct eye contact with him. He let out a little whine and visibly winced as she dabbed it under her eyes where her bags were the worst.
“Is something wrong, Adrien?” She challenged lightly. She raised her eyebrows and gave him a teasing smirk.
“Youw dowin et wong.” he said around a mouthful of toothpaste.
“What?”
He spit into the sink. “You’re doing it wrong.” he despaired.
Marinette burst out laughing. “That’s why you’re upset? Because I’m doing it wrong? Not because I’m using your stuff without permission, but because you’re offended by my technique?”
“You’re doing it very wrong!” He defended.
“Ugh, you’re too nice! You should at least expect me to ask before stealing your very nice stuff! I’m pretty sure this moisturizer is worth like 100 euro, or something stupid like that.”
“We didn’t exactly give ourselves time to go pick up your stuff from your apartment, so it’s- hey wait. Like 10 Minutes ago I was your most thoughtful and kind friend and you really appreciated it, and now I’m too nice? What just happened here?”
“You Are my nicest friend, and I do appreciate it, but I have really nice friends. To reach that status you have to be a little too nice sometimes. It’s not the worst character flaw to have.” He pouted at her. “I just want you to tell me when something upsets you. Like, setting boundaries and stuff. I want you to be comfortable.”
“I AM comfortable. Nothing so far has bothered me, so we’re good.” She gave him a pointed look. “Ok, setting aside the ‘inciting incident’, to which I reacted poorly, everything is good. I promise I will let you know if something bothers me. I’ll even set a boundary right now.”
He rinsed the rest of the toothpaste from his mouth and stood in front of her.
“You can use my skin care anytime you want,” He said authoritatively, waggling a finger at her, “but you have put it on right. I heard my dermatologist lecture me about these stupid products often enough that it is almost physically painful to watch you try to put toner on top of a nighttime serum.”
“Oh, monsieur model. Teach me your superior ways.” She teased. He did not tease back. His face was serious as he washed his hands.
“Ok. First off. Rinse your face. We need clean damp skin.” She complied with a roll of her eyes.
After she patted her face dry he lifted her onto the counter so she was eye level with him. She let out a tiny squeak at the sudden movement and tried not to let her memory of him tossing her around last night distract her. Especially not with the way he was standing between her thighs.
He began explaining the correct order and method of application. She was trying very hard to listen, but then he grabbed a cotton pad and pulled on the back of her knees so she was right on the edge of the counter.
Did she have a thing for him taking control? No, that would be weird. Right?
Either way there was a bonfire in her gut as he began tenderly applying each product. She closed her eyes as he got near her eyes with the cotton pad and kept them closed as he spoke calmly but firmly. She relaxed, letting out little hums of understanding when it seemed appropriate. Her hands found their way to his sides and she rubbed his warm smooth skin with her thumbs. The world seemed to shrink down to the small warm air surrounding them. It felt domestic being in an apartment alone, getting ready for the day together. She wanted to press this memory in the pages of her favorite book like she had the dozen or so flowers he’d given her over the years. She wished there were a way to save this for a rainy day when the world felt dingy and dark. She Would pull it from a box, carefully unfold it and lay in under its warmth, so for just a moment she would know that even for a brief time, he was there and he cared for her.
Although what she really wished was that this could happen every day. That she would be able to wake up next to her best friend, to smile and laugh with him as they brushed their teeth and got dressed, sit down at a table and eat breakfast together, and then do it all again the next day.
She was fully lost in her daydream when she noticed that he had stopped talking. She opened her eyes, and noticed his startled expression. Her first thought was that he somehow knew about her daydream (unlikely), the next was that he saw Tikki and knew she was Ladybug (Terrifyingly a possibility). She tried to keep the panic out of her voice as she asked, “Is something wrong?”
He shook his head like he was trying to clear it, and swallowed painfully. “Nothing, I just- Realized something.”
“What did you realize?” oh, no. Oh, no. oh, no,no,nononono.
“It’s just-” He rubbed his eyes with the palm of his hand. “It’s stupid, but I just realized this is the first time you’ve spent the night.”
Oh, thank the heavens, that’s it? She laughed in relief. “Well, yeah. You didn’t live here until a week ago, It’s not like I could have stayed here before then.”
“You know that’s not what I meant.”
“Then, what did you mean, because you’ve slept over at my house plenty of times, and you snuck me into your room like 3 weeks ago. So how is this different?”
He shrugged and resumed. “Neither of us actually stayed over. I had to leave super early in the morning so we didn’t have to explain what I was doing in your room to your parents. And when you stayed in my room you left while I was still asleep for the same reason. Which I still don’t know how you managed to do without getting caught by the security cameras. So it just felt different, it was stupid.”
“No, I get it. It definitely is a little weird.” Domestic her brain traitorously thought. “It feels more like we’re adults suddenly, not kids sneaking behind our parents' backs. We definitely still are kids sneaking behind our parent’s backs, but now it’s easier to not get caught.”
He laughed. “Exactly.” He began rubbing a product into her neck, paused and tilted her head slightly. “Although, maybe not that much easier. I may or may not have accidentally left a mark last night.”
“What?” She whipped around to look at herself in the mirror, pulling on her skin to try to find the hickie hidden slightly behind her left ear. “Adrien! Are you kidding me! This is the first time we’re going to be seeing Alya since we started sleeping together, and you gave me a hickey?! This is A disaster! I was already nervous she’d think something was up, and here you are leaving her clues!”
She had hopped down from the counter and was anxiously rubbing at the spot hoping that would help it go away.
“I’m sorry! I thought I was being careful! It’s not that dark, we can probably cover it. I think I have some concealer that might match you.” He began rifling through drawers with pursed lips, stiff shoulders.
Her incessant rubbing wasn’t making the mark go away, so she just resorted to pacing and pulling on her hair. “That probably won’t work! She notices way too much! She’s going to Say, ‘Oh, Marinette? What’s that on your neck! Who gave you a hickey? ADRIEN maybe?’ then you’ll go all red, and then I’ll go all red, and she’ll know. Then she’s going to ask how this started, and won’t give up until she knows every detail, which means she’s going to figure out you’re Chat Noir, and then you’re vulnerable if she ever gets akumatized, and then everything is over. Poof There goes the whole world! That’s it I’m cancelling!”
“No, don’t worry. I can fix this! We just need some color corrector. Ugh, I think orange helps with purple, and green helps with red. So maybe if we layer it?” He began pulling several make-up products from the drawers. “I don’t think I have anything in your color, but if we can just cover it now, and then put your foundation on at your house.”
“What if it washes off?”
“Well, are you planning on going swimming?” came a smug voice from over their heads.“Because that would definitely cause a problem.”
“Plagg, go be unhelpful somewhere else.”
“Fine. I was going to help you, but I guess I won’t tell you my ancient Chinese cure, a 100% guaranteed way to get rid of your weird human mating bruises.” He turned to float back through the wall.
“Wait. No, don’t go. What is it?”
“Well, I don’t think I want to tell you now. What would I even get out of it?”
“I will make you your favorite cheese bread and deliver it to the movie set while Adrien’s at work tomorrow.”
“Deal!” He flew over and took one of Marinette's fingers in his paws and shook it.
“Okay what is it?”
“You whisk it.”
“What?”
“Get a whisk and you whisk it. It takes like 5 minutes.”
“And this is an ancient Chinese secret?”
“Er well not REALLY, I saw it on tick tock. But I really want to see if it’s real! Please?”
“Plagg, now is not the time to talk about tick tock! Where did I put that really nice concealer that I got last year during that one weird photo shoot?” Adrien said, still rummaging through his drawer. He had pulled half of the contents onto the counter and was stacking large items on the floor. He finally found the item he was looking for and rushed over and began to apply it to the bruise. “ Marinette, I'm so sorry I messed up. I’m the worst. I’m going to fix it. I promise!”
Now that some of the panic flooding her system had resided she realized exactly how panicked Adrien seemed. She grabbed his hands and held them firmly. He looked at her with all the grace and fortitude of a half drowned kitten.
“I promise I'll fix it,” he said quietly.
“I know you wil,.” she replied.
“I really didn’t mean to, it was dark and I couldn’t see that well, and I didn't realize how bad it was.”
“I believe you.”
“I’m sorry.”
“I know, I’m not mad. Just a little panicky.”
“You’re not?”
“No. stressed out of my mind, and a little annoyed, sure, but not mad,” she took a deep breath, “I’m just already nervous about seeing Alya today. You know, with everything,” she gestured between them, “and she’s been gone, so I’m afraid she’ll notice a huge difference, and won’t leave it alone, which would be really bad for your identity.” and mine.
“I get that, but Nino hasn’t noticed anything and I see him all the time on set, so maybe it will be okay?” he said hopefully.
“Adrien, Kitten, I love Nino with all my heart, but he’s not exactly the best at noticing things. Especially compared to Alya, the queen of investigative journalism, expert on all things Marinette and superheroes, the two subjects we most want to keep her away from right now.”
“ Guess you’re right.”
“Are you guys done being weird and gross again? I want to see the magic trick with the whisk.” Plagg came darting between them.
“We are not being gross! and it’s not a magic trick. It’s a gimmick. You can’t trust things you find on tick tock.”
“That’s why I want her to try it! It’s called the scientific process. Have you ever heard of it.”
“Heard of it?! I’m the reason you even know what that is!”
“No you’re not! One of my other Chat’s was a scientist too, and I helped him invent it.”
“You did no such thing! I remember explaining the concept to you while I was working on homework and you were bothering me.”
The tense air that had filled the room, and had built up a pressure chamber in her chest was starting to dissipate listening to them bicker like siblings. SHe sighed and rolled her eyes, walking past them to the kitchen. She found the whisk in the third drawer she looked in, and made her way back to the bathroom where to no one’s surprise Adrien and Plagg were still arguing.
“All I’m saying is we can’t be sure exactly what will happen, so we should try it if we get the chance!”
“Plagg, If you light toilet paper on fire, it just turns it into fire! Anyone with the logic of a 12 year old knows this.”
“Plagg, Magic trick. What am I supposed to do?” She interrupted before Plagg could fire off another response.
“Just put it on the spot and turn it like you’re mixing it. It takes a while according to the video, but it should work.”
“That’s ridiculous. I feel like it would just make it worse.” Adrien said incrediously
“Maybe it will, but We’ll try it. How about you finish getting ready, and I’ll just wisk my neck. If it doesn’t work we’ll use some of your foundation to atleast get me home so I can get the one in my color. You’re Way to orange for me.”
-

Marinette ended up staying at Adrien’s later than she expected. The ‘magic trick’ had worked passably well, and as an apology Adrien insisted on making her breakfast, (a plate of pretty decent scrambled eggs and hashbrowns he very proudly presented her). After that he begged her to show him how to do his laundry like a real adult (just real quick, Mari). She managed to get a promise to be allowed to do her laundry whenever she wanted to in exchange, so she didn’t mind too much. By the time they finally left it was approaching mid-morning and she would have to hurry to get ready for their lunch with Alya and Nino.
When they entered her apartment she saw a very pale Margot at the stove heating up some french onion soup for a miserable looking Yvonne.
“Hey Guys!” Margot said cheerily, causing Yvonne to groan at the noise. “I didn’t realize you’d left, Marinette. I thought you were still asleep.”
“Or did you not come home last night?” Bette said slyly as she slid into the seat next to Yvonne. “That’s a nice shirt you’re wearing, but it’s a little big for you and not quite your style. Could it be someone else’s? Kitten’s Perhaps?”
She looked down at the stupid cat shirt she had stolen from Adrien’s closet this morning. She wasn’t sure how exactly to answer but she had to figure it out quickly to throw off Bette’s (accurate) suspicions. It was time to pull out Marinette’s Guide To Lying to Everyone You Care About.

Marinette’s Guide To Lying To Everyone You Care About
Rule #4 Tell as much of the truth as you can. This Makes is easier to execute rule #2.

“Oh, this? Yeah, it is. Kitten has an extra room and wanted some help with setting up his new apartment. It was easier just to stay over than it is to get up super early and walk over.”
“You have an extra room. As in, no one has moved in yet, right? Not like you have an extra room that no one ever uses right?” Bette said with interest.
“Um, sort of. My father insisted that I have one just in case he ever needs to house a business acquaintance for some reason.”
“Really?”

Rule # 10: Add details that will distract from the original question.

While her roommates were once again interrogating Adrien, she slipped into her room and quickly got ready. She pulled on a loose jumpsuit and a short sleeve shirt, and put minimal makeup on, covering the slightly red spot on her neck with her best foundation. She threw her hair into pigtails and refilled Tikki’s cookie stash, as well as throwing a portable charger into her purse so Tikki could charge the old Ipod touch she used to watch tv or movies during long boring days. A few of the Kwami’s were out of the miracle box working on random projects or quietly watching something on her computer. They didn’t love that she had moved out of her spacious room with her parents several floors below to a place where people were usually somewhere in a small apartment and might hear them if they got too loud, but they were understanding.
She dashed back out of her room to see Margot showing Adrien how to fry an egg. The sun streaming through the kitchen windows washed over his warm golden skin making him shine with a brilliance that took her breath away. He looked up at her with an expression of pure joy and pride. Her knees felt weak and she felt a little warm all over. She smiled back brightly.
“Marinette, look! Now I can make you an egg sandwich like the one your dad makes! All I need is some fresh bread and cheese.”
She felt movement in her bag at the mention of cheese and she had to adjust her grip so to make it look natural.
“That’s amazing. Maybe someday I’ll have to teach you how to make something other than eggs.”
“Yes Please!” He flipped the egg onto a plate with some other breakfast foods and handed it over to Margot.
“I can’t believe you’ve never taught him before. Aren’t you like an amazing chef or something?” Margot asked.
“I tried a few times last year, but papa really likes to feed people and had a hard time letting us cook something without ‘accidentally’ taking over.”
“Like the time we tried to make cookies while he was down in the bakery, and when he came up and saw us he started suggesting things we could add to make them taste better, and then he ended up making 4 different batches of cookies and made us vote which one was better?”
Marinette groaned, “Ugh, yeah. I had enough cookies in the freezer for an army. It’s a good thing that I really like cookies, and that Alya ate almost a whole batch by herself.”
“Yeah,” Adrien sighed at the memory, then checked his phone for the time, “Speaking of Alya, we should get going.”
“Oh, yeah. Let’s go. You know Alya is going to blame me if we’re late, so hurry up, I don’t want to pay for her drinks again.”
They waved goodbye to Marinette’s roommates, and closed the door behind them. After a moment of silence in the apartment Bette turned to the other two and said, “Okay, which is it? Did she Friendzone him HARD or are they secretly screwing?”
“Bette! That’s gross! Plus, Marinette said they were just friends, so we should believe her. why would she lie?” Margot said.
Yvonne smiled up at Bette cheekily from where her head was laying on the counter, “Oh, I’m pretty sure it’s both. A guy that is attractive? If she’s not jumping his bones on the regular I’d be ashamed.”
“Yvonne!”
“Alright, so we’ve got one vote, Friend with Benefits, one vote friendzone. What does the winner get if they’re right?”
“Lunch! Anywhere under 20 euro. Wait, what’s your vote?” Yvonne asked.
“Oh, they’re definitely doing it. I think they’re just in denial about how much they love each other.” She replied.
“Both of you are terrible!” Margot said as she dished up another serving of soup for herself.
“Yeah, but I’ll be terrible if it gets me a free lunch.” Bette winked as she sipped her soup.

 

The four planned to meet at a small restaurant about half way between where they all lived. It took Marinette and Adrien about 35 minutes to get there by train, it would have taken 25 if Adrien didn’t insist that they avoid the station that had a large poster of his face in the same terminal as their train. He had managed to map out all the major billboards and posters of the current Gabriel ad campaign, thanks to a fan site dedicated to the ads.
He was still wearing his paparazzi outfit, his long impossibly blonde hair tucked into a bun beneath a hat and his ever present thick rimmed glasses, but they decided not to risk it as much as possible. If anyone saw them then their whole day would probably go down the drain.
They ended up only being five minutes late, but somehow got there before their friends. Marinette sat at the edge of the booth they’d snagged, her leg bouncing from a mixture of nerves and excitement. She hadn’t seen Alya since she’d left for an internship in America at the beginning of the summer break, and video calls just never seemed the same. Adrien placed his hand on her leg just above her knee to settle her down. The gesture, while well meaning, only served to heighten her nerves and make her other knee bounce instead. He switched his hand over to the otherside, but then she started bouncing the leg he’d just let go of. He let out an annoyed huff and put his free hand on that leg, and held them firmly. Which meant that Marinette just had to start bouncing slightly in her seat.
Adrien was just about to complain when she saw a flash or orange at the door and she bolted out of her seat and towards her friend. Alya had almost no time to brace herself before the pink blur that was Marinette slammed into her, almost knocking her over. She quickly righted herself and pulled Marinette in for a bone crushing hug.
“ALya! I missed you so much!” Marinette said, her voice muffled against her friend's shoulder.
“I missed you, too.” replied with force.
“Was New York as amazing as you thought it would be?”
“Yes, It was amazing! I wish you could have been there!” Both girls were still holding on to one another. They were standing in the middle of the restaurant, and there were a few people watching them curiously, but neither girls could bring themselves to care.
“Geez, you guys are acting like you didn’t literally spend five hours on the phone last week.” Adrien had followed Marinette from the table, at a much slower pace, and was now watching them with an exasperated smirk.
“Shut up Agrest, you got to see my bestie AND my boyfriend all the time while I was gone, so I don’t want to hear it. Also, phone calls can’t replace the real thing.” Alya twisted slightly within the hug to jokingly glare at Adrien. She then pulled one of her arms away from Marinette and waved him over. “Come on, join the cuddle puddle. You know you missed me.”
Adrien smiled and let himself be pulled into the hug, Nino following soon after. After what was definitely too long to be hugging in the middle of a busy restaurant during saturday lunch, someone at another table cleared their throat and they all broke apart sheepishly. They all ended up crowded around their table, with Marinette and Alya in the middle between the two boys. They ordered their food and chatted about everything Alya had missed while she was gone.
“Honestly, I think Alya was more excited to see Marinette than she was to see me.” Nino said with a sigh. “The first words she said to me when I picked her up from the airport yesterday was, ‘Hey, Nino. Where’s Marinette?’ Can you believe it?”
“Well, you should have brought her! Besides, we both know I would leave you for Marinette at the drop of a hat.”
“I couldn’t bring her, she was busy!” Nino replied, choosing to ignore the second half of Alya’s statement either from knowing how true it was, or from staunch denial.
“It’s okay, Nino. Marinette’s been pretty much the same. Did I ever tell you about the calendar she kept at her desk that was solely dedicated to counting down the days until Alya got back?” Adrien said, leaning conspiratorially across the table towards Nino.
“Yes, you did, In fact, tell me. Like three times. You’re almost worse than Alya is!” He cried.
“What?” Alya whipped to look at Nino with intensity at the same time Adrien gave an indignant, “Hey!”
“Everytime I see you on set it’s all like, ‘Marinette said this, and Marinette and I did that, Marinette and I went here,’ I swear between seeing you, and talking to Alya on the phone I knew more about Marinette’s life than she’s ever wanted to tell me.” he quickly turned to Marinette placatingly, though she was grinning evilly. “Not that I don’t care about your life, Marinette. I would just prefer to hear it from you, rather than these two knuckleheads.”
“That’s Okay,” she laughed.
“Oh, poor nino! Are you feeling left out?” Adrien said, reaching out to grab his best friend's hand with a mocking pout. Nino slapped his hand away and scowled.
“Oh, no! Is my little chouchou feeling unloved.” Alya simpered, grabbing his chin in her hand.
“No!” he tried to pull his face away from Alya’s hand, “I’m just saying that while I know who the real favorite in the group is, I like to hear about it from her, not at work, or on the phone with my own girlfriend.”
“Well now that the filming is almost done you won’t have to deal with me on set anymore.” Adrien said, laughing. “Speaking of work. You’re going to be there tomorrow right?”
“Yeah, I’m going to be working on lights since that’s the main problem from the original take.”
“Great, I don’t know who it was working lights the last time, but it was a joke.”
“Ugh, I’m so jealous!” Alya butted in, “Adrien’s been using all his cool connections to get you guys awesome jobs, but nothing for me!”
“I’m sorry Alya. I just don’t happen to know anyone In journalism like I do in fashion or film.” He said, and the waiter brought over their food. “If I hear of anything, I’d let you know, but you’re doing just fine by yourself anyway. New York seems like the chance of a lifetime.”
“Yeah, It was amazing,” she sighed as they all quickly dug into their food. Marinette listened intently to all the stories that Alya hadn’t told her during their weekly phone calls. She was paying so close attention that she almost missed the way Alya’s eyes bugged out when Marinette began picking chunks of mushrooms from Adrien’s plate with the familiar ease of someone who’d done it multiple times before. It was something they had both picked up from working together quite frequently at Gabriel. They’d go out for lunch, or get take out and eat it in Adrien’s office and they’d gotten into a habit of eating off each other's plates, especially if it was something the other didn’t like. Marinette felt her face heat up slightly, but chose to pretend like Alya wouldn’t notice with the hope that she wouldn’t bring it up. She didn’t, but gave Marinette a look that said, we will be talking about this later, which made the stone sitting in her chest since this morning settle deeper into her gut.
They continued eating and laughing, and Marinette was glad to finally have her friend by her side, but the feeling of guilt and anxiety that came with seeing her made it hard to stay in the moment. She was so used to telling Alya almost everything, except for the very obvious secret identity thing, and now there was another huge secret in the form of the 6’2” blond sipping lemon water right next to her. Especially since she’d spent years gushing to her about her massive crush on her now secret lover.
Rule #6 don’t let on that you are hiding something.
It was a battle to make sure nothing slipped in her new normal demeanor around Adrien. She second guessed her every move, but still missed a few until it was too late. LIke tucking a stray piece of hair into Adrien’s cap, or touching his arm when she asked him a question. Alya gave her a pointed look each time, to which Marinette had to pretend to shrug off in confusion. The harder task was managing Adriens behavior. He reached under the table to grab her thigh multiple times throughout the meal, hook his foot around hers, and once he even found a reason to playfully grab her sides causing her to squirm. She would glare at him when the other two weren’t looking, and Adrien had the good sense to look sheepish, but it seemed he was either being very forgetful, or was teasing her.
ONce they’d all finished their lunches, Alya sighed contentedly while slumping in her seat.
“Man, it’s been ages since I've had a good proper french meal. Most of the french food in america is just crepes and waffles, or 5 star restaurants I definitely can’t afford. I think I could sleep for a week.”
“So are you too tired to come with us to Adrien’s first ever trip to Ikea, and probably a few other normal people's places?” said Marinette.
Instantly Alya jumped up with wide eyes and a manic grin. “You guys are going to Ikea? Even if There wasn't the temptation of seeing sunshine’s little rich boy mind exploding all over the furniture I would so be there. I love Ikea! Why did we even come here to begin with? We should have eaten there!” She waved the waiter down for their check.
“What about you Nino? Apparently I’m going to freak out everywhere we go.”
“Yeah, totally. My only plan for the day was to hang out with my dudes and my girl, I can do that at Ikea. Plus I need something for my new setup, like a desk or a cheap table, so I’m down. But just a warning, Marinette’s totally going to keep you in there for hours. She loves the place.”
“Well he needs things for his New apartment since it’s literally just a black and white cube masquerading as a living space.”
“Okay, but just be warned. I’m disappearing and sitting on the couches the whole time.” Nino said gathering his things.
They all got up, there was a slight squabble over Adrien paying the entire bill, but he managed to slip his thick black card to the waitress before anyone could stop him. They all made their way towards the nearest IKEA, the two boys following behind the girls as they chatted. Alya began pestering Marinette about her friendship with Adrien in a hissing whisper as they walked
“You two seem super close.”
“WEll that happens sometimes when you see someone every weekday.”
“Yeah, but you’ve been working together for a year now, and something seems different… are you in love with him again?”
Shit. She noticed something was different. It’s okay. Remember rule #3
Rule #3 Keep calm when facing scrutiny
“Really Alya? That’s What you go to? That I’ve backslid so far that I am not in love with my college crush? Maybe I didn’t have my other friends nearby, so I got closer. Adrien and I have a lot in common.”
“I’m just saying, I saw how couply you two looked, with the touching and all the food sharing. You look more like a couple than Nino and I do.”
Marinette scoffed dismissively as they boarded a bus heading towards IKEA. Alya narrowed her eyes at her best friend but didn’t say anything more since both boys were close by. Marinette knew she’d only bought herself a little time before the interrogation began again, but it was enough time. She stepped over to Adrien and pretended to be showing his something for his apartment but instead showed him a note that said Alya was suspicious. You’re next. Be careful.
He played along easily, looking up at alya through his eyelashes. She was standing a few feet away with Nino, whispering vehemently into his ear.
Alya watched them back as Adrien and Marinette talked about something or other Marinette had pulled up on their phone. They were standing close together, but not abnormally so, just the kind of closeness two good friends had.
“Alya, I really think you should drop it. You know how Marinette is with you trying to snoop into things she doesn’t want to tell you. You remember the week she barely spoke to you because you followed her halfway across Paris?”
“Yeah, Yeah. But this is different. This is an Adrien thing, and she’s ALWAYS told me everything about her and Adrien’s interactions. In annoyingly vivid detail.”
“Well, she’s probably over him, you said she’d started talking about some other dude a while ago.”
“Seriously. Did you not notice the way they were sitting at lunch? I’m pretty sure he grabbed her thigh! She’s touching him all the time. And look at them right now.” They both glanced covertly at the other pair. Marinette had her hands in front of her face and was giggling while Adrien looked at her with a goofy grin and soft eyes that just screamed ‘I adore you’. “Look at how friggin’ cute they are. Look at those damn heart eyes, and tell me something’s not weird.”
Nino blew a raspberry derisively, “That doesn’t mean a thing. That’s his Marinette face. He’s made that same face at her for years.” He clicked open his phone and flipped through the pictures quickly. He pulled up a candide picture taken during their college days showing the four of them standing together in the park. Marinette was clutching a large stuffed cat with a wide open mouth like she was saying something. Adrien had the same soft look on his face.
Alya growled slightly as she grabbed the phone and zoomed in on Adrien’s face. “That doesn’t prove anything.”
“I think it does. Look, Adrien values friendship above almost anything else, and I know for a fact that marinette being able to talk to him like a person was one of the greatest things that ever happened to him. Plus he’s very touchy, so is Marinette, so them touching doesn’t seem that big.”
“You are Wrong Lahiffe, and you are going to help me prove it.”
“Uh, why would I help you prove myself wrong? There is nothing in it for me.”
“There are many reasons why you would help me. I’m your girlfriend who you want to keep happy, if I’m right then we can go on double dates with them, and if I’m wrong I’ll let you take me to that super nerdy football museum you’ve been wanting to see.”
Nino narrowed his eyes, “So it’s a bet we’re talking about, eh? I need clearer conditions. What if I lose?”
“You have to take me to the journalism awards and wear a tux the whole time.”
“I don’t know Alya, those are pretty good, but I just don’t know how invested I am in this.”
“Alright, in addition to these prizes the loser gives the winner 100 Euro, and they get one favor they can cash in at any point for anything they want, within reason.”
“Alright deal! Now, How do I prove you wrong, and get my money?”
“Your going to have to talk to him. See if anything slips. I get the feeling that they’re hiding whatever is happening. Or at least Marinette is. Adrien could very possibly be in deep denial again.”
“Alright, babe. But when I prove you wrong you are so going to regret letting me have the favor.”
The bus pulled up to the stop nearest their destination and the group quickly exited. As they walked Marinette put together a list of things they’d need and some design inspiration in the notes of her phone. Adrien walked closely beside her, grabbing her arm to pull her way from crashing into pedestrians or falling over a crack in the ground. Alya nudged Nino every time he so much as lightly touched her arm.
By the time they got to the store Nino was getting a little annoyed with Alya, and was determined to prove her wrong. He knew the opportunity would present itself soon. He’d been shopping with Alya and Marinette enough times to know that as Marinette saw her most recent design obsession she would turn into a super efficient manic design machine.
Marinette grabbed a bag, foregoing one the provided pencil and paper, instead pulling out a large sketchbook, a pencil, and eraser. “Okay, we’re going to start with your desk-slash-study area, move to the living room, then kitchen, bedroom and bathroom.”

 

Watching Marinette work her way through the IKEA display floor was a sight to behold. Anyone who had had the unfortunate pleasure of witnessing her work in this way would later say they had never seen someone spend so long over the tiniest details of a room. She scribbled in her notebook, took pictures and placed the items directly into photographs of each room to help visualize the overall look.
Adrien did in fact go a little silly looking at the displays. He kept trying to pretend they all lived in the small demo apartments, pretending to cook, or read the Swedish books on the shelves.
The novelty wore off after an hour, and eventually found Nino sitting on the ugliest but most comfortable couch on display where he’d settled himself in 10 minutes into their trip. Figuring that Adrien might be a better target, Alya follows. Nino was showing Adrien a new track he had been working on for Luka. She joined them and waited for the right time to pounce.
Except Adrien, the sweet soul he is, kept asking her questions about her internship. They were thoughtful questions too, ones people dreamed of being able to answer, not the surface level questions everyone asks. And He would listen to the answers! And ask follow up questions! It was insanely annoying. She was barely able to steer the conversation towards what had been happening in Paris the last few months, which only led to him talking about Akumas or work, before he would change the subject back to her again.
Nino was being no help at all. He watched her get more and more frustrated as the conversation went on, smiling widely at her from behind Adrien’s head. It seemed like he was even egging Adrien on. She was about ready to jump over the blonde and strangle her boyfriend when Marinette pulled Adrien away to get his opinion on which kind of shelving he liked better over his desk, and Alya was able to berate Nino in private.
“What was that! You’re supposed to be helping me!” She asked, lightly pushing him in frustration.
He grinned even wider at her. “What? Dude. Were you investigating? My bad. I totally thought you wanted to tell Adrien all about your internship. Next time I'll tell him to shut up so we can interrogate him about his non-existent love-life.”
“Oooh, you are on thin ice buddy. Good luck with you essays this semester. I sure hope you won’t need a proof reader.” She said icily.
“Whoa, whoa, whoa. Let’s not be too hasty. I was just joking around.”
“Mm-hm, Sure. so you’ll stop hindering this investigation and actually talk to Adrien about it?”
“Definitely, dudette. You’ll get nothing but cooperation from me. But i’m going to warn you, I think you’re wrong. Adrien’s been a hopeless romantic since we were all 13. If he and Marinette were more than just friends I doubt he’d be able to shut up about it. He’s too sweet to hide something like that.” Nino paused, thought for a second, “Unless there’s a very good reason,” He amended.
“What do you mean? What good reason would he have?”
“I’m not totally sure, but you know how his dad is. Maybe he has something in his contract that makes dating impossible, or he just doesn’t want his old man to know? Something like that.”
Alya hummed in thought. Perhaps there was something to that theory. She was still deep in thought when Adrien made his way back to the couches. He let out a sigh as he fell into the cushions.
“How’s our little designer doing? Is she manic yet?” Alya asked.
“Yeah, I tried to tell her the shelves weren’t that big of a deal, but she just waved me off. I never knew there was so much to decorating a room.” he replied.
“There isn’t,” Nino said, “Marinette just takes it way too seriously.”
He huffed a sigh. “I just hate that she’s going overboard for me. I was expecting like a few extra pillows and decorations, something to make it cozy. Kind of like her room, but she’s started talking about painting the walls.”
“Oh, no. She’s gone full manic.” Alya sat up. “I think I’d better try to slow her down.”
Alya stood up, and gave Nino a pointed look, then looked between him and Adrien a few times, then to get the point across she mouthed the word essays and made a slashing motion with her hand. He glared back but mouthed ‘fine’ back, so she left him to do his part.

Nino leaned back against the couch and stretched his arm across the back where Adrien was sitting. Adrien had pulled out his phone and was scrolling through Twitter. Nino spent a moment trying to hype himself up. He wasn’t exactly good at the whole ‘bringing up weird and sensitive subjects’ thing. He tried to think of a few natural ways to bring Alya’s theory up, couldn't think of one and ended up blurting out-
“So dude. What’s up with you and Marinette?” Nino cringed at the absolute worst thing he could have possibly said.
Adrien looked up from his phone and gave his friend a questioning look. A look that completely hid the internal panic now running through his system. Maybe he’s been wrong, and Nino had started to notice things were different, and if NINO was noticing it was a matter of time before they were found out.
Mustering all the strength he could, Adrien asked, “Somthings up with Marinette and I?”
“No!” Nino panicked, “no, no. I meant, IS something up? like you guys seem close.”
“Yeah, we’ve gotten much closer than we were a while ago which is nice. I’m just glad she can actually talk to me now. But I don’t know if ‘something’s up’ with us?”
“No, no that’s cool. I get it.” He paused for a moment, trying to think of how Alya would go about this. “Uh, so. Do you know why Marinette used to go all stupid weird around you when we were younger?” He asked, because bringing up old crushes was perfect for confessing a current secret relationship. Idiot.
Adrien Laughed, and began scrolling through his phone again, “Yeah, that massive crush of hers really did a dosy on our friendship for sure. It’s too bad. We would have had a lot of fun together is she could have just talked to me, but 14 year olds aren’t the most logical people.”
Nino Was dumbfounded. He was shocked, scandalized, and frankly baffled. “When did you figure it out?”
“That she had a crush on me?” he asked. Nino nodded, his mouth hanging wide. “I didn’t. She told me about it. Which makes me feel foolish because now that I think about it, she was pretty obvious.”
“She TOLD YOU?” Nino Shouted.
“Yup.”
“And what did you do about it?”
“Nothing?” he replied, raising an eyebrow at Nino’s shock. “I think we watched a movie?”
“She confessed that she is head over heels in love with you and you just watched a movie?”
“Was.” he corrected, “She used to have a crush on me. That doesn’t mean she has one on me now. She got over it.” He began picking at a nonexistent piece of lint on his jeans. “There’s some mystery dude she talks about sometimes, but she won’t tell me much about it. There’s some reason she is not dating him, but I don’t know what it is. Which is fine, because I’m still not over that one girl.”
Nino was trying his best to wrap his head around the several bombs Adrien had just dropped on him. He had been convinced that Marinette still held at least a little crush on Adrien for the last year, if not longer. Now she apparently had some dude that not even Alya knew about? Alya was right, something weird was up, but he was starting to think that Alya was barking up the wrong tree.
“That’s insane man. I just. Wow. She’s got some dude none of us know, and you’re still in love with the same girl you’ve been hung up on since you were 15?”
“13, but yeah. It’s kind of crazy. I think that’s why we got so close. It’s hard being the 3rd and 4th wheel when the person you want to be with is unavailable. We’ve bonded over our mutual suffering.”
“Dude, that sucks. You and Marinette have never considered…”
“Dating? I mean I’ve thought about it, but who would really want to be with someone who would rather be with someone else. I’m afraid until we either get over the other people, or they change their minds, Marinette and I are doomed to the single life.”
“Seriously, that SUCKS.”
“Tell me about it dude.”

 

While the boys were talking, Alya had managed to get Marinette off her shelving based mania, and was trying to slow her down enough to get her to talk. She tried approaching Marinette again while she was flipping through several different photos and sketches. The hope was that a distracted Marinette would be a more forthcoming target. Her hope was wrong. Every question and veiled inquiry was met with a non-committal hum. Alya couldn’t even get so much as a confession to whether or not Marinette still had feelings for Adrien. The girl had sworn she was over him during the course of the last two years, but Alya had always thought it was more wishful thinking than fact.
After several minutes of fruitless conversation Alya gave up and followed Marinette back to the couches where she sat suspiciously close to Adrien as she reviewed her options and got his approval. Alya leaned towards Nino to see if he had any good information to tell, but he deflected saying that he would tell her about it later. Which only fed into Alya’s curiosity.
Finally Marinette seemed to deem their choices perfect, and Adrien’s next adventure - the oversized warehouse filled with flat pack boxes- was the new focus. Alya couldn’t get much of a word in edgewise as they filled their carts with trinkets and furniture. She was almost fuming watching Adrien swoop in behind Marinette as she tried to grab something off a shelf that was far too tall for her. They were giggling as he pretended to drop it on her and she squealed when it almost looked like he would lose hold of the box. Nino was even joking alongside them, as he grabbed a random table leg and began to ‘fend’ Adrien off. It was an irksomely endearing scene. The most annoying part was the fact that she wanted to join them. Marinette and Adrien were being too weird so she couldn’t shut off the part of her brain that needed to figure out what was going on. It made her an excellent journalist, but a terrible young adult.
The jovial attitude was cut down by a very distinctive, but rarely heard, ringtone. The ringtone specifically programmed to play when Gabriel Agreste called.
Adrien Instantly froze. Marinette and Nino looked at him with worry, and Alya felt herself gripping the handle of their shopping cart until her knuckles turned white.
Adrien pulled his phone out of his pocket, looked from the screen, to each of his friends and back to his fathers name. Gabriel Agreste. Not Dad, or Papa, not even Father. Gabriel Agreste. He pressed the accept button and the fashion designer's displeased face filled the screen.

 

“Adrien, why have you not been answering Natalie’s calls? She had been calling you for the last 20 minutes.”
“I’m sorry.” He paused, took a second to collect himself. “I’m Busy. I put my phone on silent.”
“Your phone shouldn’t be on silent! We need you for an emergency reshoot for the fall line. The ad goes out in a week and the photographer leaves town soon. You are expected to be at location in 10 minutes.”
“Again? We’ve reshot this line 4 times now! What’s wrong this time?”
“The lighting isn’t correct, and there is a slight wrinkle in your pants in several otherwise usable pictures.”
“That’s all? The ad team should be able to edit that out. It’s my day off, I have plans that I had approved by you for weeks. I’m not coming in over something trivial.”
“It may seem trivial to you, but you have never been good at details.” His father waved his complaints off, “I’ll send Gorilla to pick you up. I hope you haven’t been eating the trash you are so prone to eating.”
“No, Father. I’m not coming in. It is my day off. I am unavailable.”
“Adrien. You will not disobey me. Not only am I your father, I am your employer. You already had your required day off this week, and this is a necessity. Natalie will be expecting you within the hour.”
“No. The only other day off I’ve had in two weeks was Monday and that was so I could move, and you still called me in. Find another model or teach your photographers to plan better, use photoshop, I don’t care. I will be available to work Monday afternoon.”
“Adrien, this is ridiculous. You have a responsibility to the company”
“As you have so graciously reminded me, as my employer you have a responsibility to uphold the terms of my contract. A contract which includes stipulations that I have more time off and can refuse shoots if I have previous plans. Without retaliation. I will see you later, father. I have to go.” Adrien got off the phone with trembling fingers. He felt weak at the knees and like he was going to throw up. Before he could collapse under the anxiety his vision was filled with Marinette. She pulled his face down to hers and rubbed his cheek as he rested his forehead against hers. “You did a good job, Adrien. I’m really proud of you. That had to be really hard.”
“Yeah” his voice was quiet and pathetic to his ears but she just smiled widely.
“Seriously, that was amazing. You didn’t hedge at all when he got mad. You stood up for yourself and you got what you wanted. Are you proud of yourself?”
“Not yet. Maybe once the nausea passes “
She laughed at him quietly. “You should be. I am”
Ugh she was so good. Her comments went straight to his heart and all he wanted to do was live in them and go swimming through them like Scrooge McDuck in his pile of coins. He felt a large hand slap his back. “So am I dude. That was great! Your old man can suck it!”
“Yeah, Adrien. That was amazing, 8 months ago you would have already been in the car on your way to the shoot before he even called to tell you.” Alya said jokingly.
Adrien Laughed weakly, trying to focus more on Marinette’s hands rubbing up and down his arms than the tightness he felt radiating through his whole body. “Thanks, guys. I don’t know what I’d do without you.”
“Probably spend a lot more time with Chloe.” Marinette stage whispered to the group.
This laugh felt a little more true. But he still felt horrendous, and it felt like people were watching him, which could very well be true. “Can- can we leave soon? I don’t know if I’m up for shopping anymore.”
The other three quickly gave their assent, Marinette claiming that everything she’d wanted to get for both of their apartments was either in the basket, or out of stock. Adrien wasn’t entirely convinced of that, but she quickly assured him she could find everything online and order it for delivery another day. They made their way down to the checkout line, quickly grabbing a few things they missed, or needed to pick up in the warehouse as they went. Adrien was on edge the entire time, and desperately wanted the comfort of Marinette’s hand in his. She would occasionally slip her hand in his and squeeze as they waited in line, but would quickly drop it as soon as either Alya or Nino looked their way.
They got to the checkout line, and Adrien managed to strong-armed his friends (mostly Marinette, Alya and Nino only put up a token protest) into letting him pay for everything. Marinette scowled at him, and the sight of her scrunched up nose and pursed lips was a small comfort. As they gathered their items into bags they all quickly realized the fault of their trip to Ikea. They would have to carry all this on several buses and trains to get it back to their prospective apartments.
“Ugh. Everyone is going to hate us on the 6th!” Alya groaned as she shouldered one of the bags. “It’s going to be packed.”
“If we want I can see if Gorilla is close by, and can come pick us up.”
Thankfully, Adrien’s bodyguard was close, and could take them and their stuff to Adrien’s Apartment, but didn’t have time to take the rest of them home that evening. So Alya and Nino would still have a long commute back to their apartments.
“Well, there’s only one solution to this problem as far as I can see.” Alya said with a devilish expression.
“What would that be?” Marinette asked warily.
“My friends, It is time for a good old fashioned Sleepover!”