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I won't tell if you don't

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Adrien and Marinette were playing a dangerous game of relationship chicken, and Adrien was probably going to lose. 

He didn’t know how one lost such a game, but when it came to playing games with Marinette he had learned one important thing. Marinette always won. It didn’t matter what the game was, be it Monopoly, table tennis, or UMS IV. Even early releases Adrien had practiced on for weeks before Marinette got her hands on them were a wash. Occasionally it would look like he had the upper hand, he might even win a round or two, but eventually, she would have him backed against a walk begging for mercy. 

Which… translated well to this particular game. 

He contemplated this, wondering how it was that he found himself half asleep and in Marinette’s college apartment wearing nothing but his boxers. He pouted as she carefully folded her laundry on the floor instead of napping with him. She, the cruel mistress that she was, simply taunted him in her sports bra and running short combo. 

“Do that later, come back here and cuddle me, I’m tired and neglected,” he whined. 

“Oh hush, I need to finish this so I can unpack the rest of my stuff and actually be able to find everything.” 

"I swear it didn’t take me this long to unpack my stuff."

“Well not all of us rich little cat boys who had everything moved in for them.” 

"Hey, I moved stuff."

"You moved your clothes. Everything else came pre-furnished." She had him there. 

Her back was facing him, and she leaned over from her position on the floor to grab the next item from her basket. Adrien grinned devilishly and snuck over from the bed. Being Chat Noir made him stealthy, and even Ladybug couldn’t hear him most of the time, so Marinette was easy prey. Once he was close enough, she turned slightly, suspicious of the quiet, only the be tackled to the ground with a squeal. He kissed her before she could complain about being distracted. He maneuvered himself until he was rested between her thighs and her hands were pinned over her head, their fingers interlocked. He slipped his tongue into her mouth, and she sighed softly, her warm breath brushing against his cheek. He soon broke awash from her lips and began a trail of hot wet kisses down her neck and chest. 

He released her hands to hold her a little closer, and she began lightly scratching his neck and shoulders. “What did she do this time to get you so worked up?”

“Who says she had to do something? Can’t I just want to spend time with you?” He said while still pressing kisses to her bare skin. 

“You can definitely want to spend time with me, but I know there was an Akuma attack earlier, and you usually get… I don’t want to say needier, but maybe a little more forward, than usual when she did something. So what did she do?”

Adrien sighed and buried his face into her neck. He mumbled something into her hair. 

“What was that?” She pulled lightly on his hair so his voice wasn’t so muffled. 

“She didn’t do anything,” he let out an exasperated groan and repositioned himself so his head was pressed to Marinette's chest, “she just told me I did a good job.”

“What? Really, that’s it?”

“Ugh, you know how I get when I get approval from authority figures.”

She chuckled lightly looking at his embarrassed face with fondness. “You consider Ladybug an authority figure?”

“Yeah, she comes up with the plans, she’s in charge, I care deeply about her opinion. All the classic elements one needs to be an authority," he said, waving his hand flippantly. 

“Yeah, but you guys are partners, which makes her your peer. Like me, or Alya and Nino.” She began playing with his hair as he sank further into his embarrassment. 

“First, I never said it was logical, daddy issues are a real SOB. Second, it was the way she said it. She looked me right in the eyes-“

“Eye contact is what does it for you huh?”

He glared at her, “Shut up, I’m not going to tell you now.”

She laughed at him, making his head bounce slightly against her breast. “Sorry, I’ll stop. Please continue.”

“It’s just that she hadn’t come up with a way to use her Lucky Charm yet, and I had an idea. Which never happens! Not even that one time I was Mister Bug. So when she did it, and it worked, she gave me this look that just made me feel like she was so proud of me. Then she said, ‘Chat, that was amazing. You did a really good job today, thank you.’ Her voice was so nice, and everything combined made me feel so good, I nearly collapsed right there.” He heaved a shuddering sigh. 

“And third, I would definitely not put you, and Nino and Alya in the same category.” Then, to prove his point he began caressing her thighs slowly and deliberately. 
She hummed thoughtfully, “So what you’re telling me, is if I were to say, oh I don’t know-“ her voice turned sweet, and she pulled his face close to hers, “you’re the kindest, most thoughtful person in my life, and I am so lucky to have you here with me - you’d be putty in my hands?”

Adrien was shaking. Hearing something like that, especially from Marinette who was the girl that everyone seemed to admire, made him want to implode. The only answer he could vocalize was a high-pitched whine as he buried his face into her cleavage. She laughed. And dug her fingers further in his hair, sending waves of pure pleasure down his spine. 

“Or if I say, you’ve done an amazing job keeping Paris safe and working nearly full time as well as being a student. I sometimes look at your sweet sleeping face and think that you are the strongest, smartest, and most resourceful person in Paris.” If she kept this up he was going to have to need to kiss her senseless, and then some. “And you're pretty good in bed, too.” 

That was it. He couldn’t handle it anymore. Adrien could either cry, or make her stop, and he was not going to cry.  He jumped up and kissed her passionately, his tongue pushing her lips open. He could feel her nails running trails up and down his sides. 

“If you don’t stop, you’re going to make me fall in love with you.” He said between searing kisses. His hands began to wander to the band of her sports bra. He hovered above her face, noses touching, lips nearly brushing. 

“We wouldn’t want that now, would we?” She brought one hand up and lightly traced his lips with her finger. He looked into her eyes, looking for something. What he wasn’t sure. All he saw was mirth, mixed with desire. His hand crept further under her bra. 

He bit back the reply that too easily sprung to the tip of his tongue. Would it really be so bad? This was part of the game they played. They weren’t dating. It was just physical. And emotional. And Adrien probably loved her. And the days she was busy were lonely. But they weren’t dating. 

Because how could you date your best friend, when you were still in love with your other best friend? The one you had to see on a regular basis to save the city. The one who could reduce you to a boneless mess with a kind word and a smile. So they weren’t dating, and he had a game to lose as valiantly as he could. 

“No, definitely not. You can’t have me getting too attached. A mangy cat hanging around is bad for your image.” He smiled ruefully. This was part of the game they played. 
She pursed her lips together into something close to a smile and swept the long hair falling into his face aside to place kisses along his jaw and down his neck. 

“So you agree you need a haircut.” She breathed against his collar bone. 
He gasped in mock offense, but his reply was cut off by a knock on her bedroom door. 

Adrien jumped off of Marinette so fast he knocked several cheap trinkets from her bedside table with a crash. 
Marinette laughed at his startled expression. 

“Relax. It’s probably just my roommate. You don’t have to be as sneaky here.” She whispered to him as she righted herself and walked to answer the door. 
She was right. Her roommate stood in the hallway in front of Marinette's door. She angled her body so Adrien was out of sight, and smiled. “Hey, what’s up, Margot?”

“Hey! So the rest of us are going to the orientation party on campus tonight and wanted to see if you could come with us. We know you’ve been busy, but we’d all like to hang out and get to know each other!”

“Oh, is that tonight? Uh, I actually have a friend over, but let me see if they want to come.” she turned to where Adrien was pulling on his shoes. “Did you want to go? I was thinking of going, but if you wanted to stay in and hang out that would be fine.”

Adrien smiled widely, “Yeah, I did actually. I totally forgot it was tonight with how busy work and stuff was today. I’m cool if you wanted to stay in though.”

Marinette rolled her eyes good-naturedly. “It looks like we're coming, when are you guys leaving?”

“Like 20 minutes? It starts in a half-hour, but we have to walk.”

“Great! That sounds perfect. I just need to change! And maybe do my hair. But I’ll be quick!” She began shutting the door.

“She’ll be ready in half an hour! Be prepared to be late!” Adrien called from where he was lounging on her bed, now fully dressed and ready to go. 

“Rude!” She pounced on Adrien and smashed his face into the bed. She could hear Margot laughing from behind the door.

“I’ll keep that in mind!” Margot called back. 

“Ignore him!” Marinette shouted back over Adrien’s muffled laughing. “Why do you gotta make me look bad in front of my new roommates!”

“They have a right to know!”

“Ugh, whatever. I’m going to change.” She got up and moved to her closet and began pulling out different pieces and laying them down on her desk.

“Ooh. I can help!” He jumped up and pulled her close by the waistband of her shorts.”I do know fashion after all.”

She reached behind her and pushed his face away. “Your version of helping is more likely to make me later than anything else.” 

He grinned, “But it’s the most fun.” He reached out and tickled her waist. She jumped and wiggled out of his grasp.

“That’s it! You’re waiting in the living room! Out!” She grabbed his beanie hat and glasses, shoved them into his hand as she pushed him out the door. 
He put on his hat and glasses, both more for anti-paparazzi than any aesthetic purpose, and pouted at the door. “Come on, Mari. Don’t be like that!” He tried the door only to find she locked it. “Seriously, you're locking me-owt, princess?”

“Yes, You’re being distracting! Now go wait on the couch like a good Kitten!”

“Kitten, huh?”

Adrien whirled around to find a tall thin woman in a dark band t-shirt and dark jeans leaning against the only other door in this part of the apartment. 

“Uh, hi,” he responded awkwardly.

“You know, I wouldn’t peg you as a cat boy by looking at ‘cha, but you do you.”

“It’s… and inside joke. I’m not a “cat boy” as you called it,” he said, nervously. Because, he is a cat boy, the most famous cat boy in France, but she didn’t need to know that. “Are you one of Marinette's new roommates?”

“I’m Bette. I’m studying Chemical Engineering. What about you? You go to the University too, Kitten?”

“Yeah, Physics and Business double major.”

“Oof, Double major? And one of them is physics? You some sort  of masochist?”

“It’s the result of a Parental Negotiation and Compromise. He pays for everything, I major in at least one of the things he wants me to do.”

“I hear that. I’m guessing you’re coming to the party.”

“Yup.”

“Well, I’m sick of standing after the 10-hour shift I just pulled, so let's go sit down while the others finish getting ready.”

She lead him to the couch where they sat in silence for about 10 minutes. A tall Blonde with sharp features joined them. 

“Hey, Yvonne. You ready?” Bette asked.

“Yup! Who’s this?” She smiled at him coyly. Adrien was used to looks like the one she gave him. He was a Model after all, but it never failed to make him want to retreat into himself. He also realized he now had a problem. He didn’t know how much Mari had told her roommates about him, or even if they’d recognize his name. The hat and large thick-rimmed glasses tended to make him look just different enough that most people didn’t realize who he was, but once he said his first name people often put two and two together. He’d been brainstorming how to introduce himself to people on campus but hadn’t found a good way yet. 

Thankfully, Bette had her own idea.

“This is Kitten, Marinette’s little pet. I found him scratching at her door because she kicked him out like the bad cat he is.” She grabbed his chin and shook it a little. He pushed her off and glared at her. Adrien wasn’t sure if he really liked Bette, or if she really annoyed him, but he knew he didn’t want to give her any more ammunition.

“I have a name you know.” He shouldn’t have said it, but his mouth wasn't always his best friend. 

“I don’t care. You’re Kitten now. No one is allowed to call you anything else.”

Yvonne laughed and sat down in the chair closest to his part of the couch. “Well, It’s nice to meet you, Kitten. I’m Yvonne. Will we be seeing a lot of you around the apartment? Cause we could make you our official house cat.”

Adrien forced an uncomfortable laugh. “Mari’s an old friend, so I’m sure you’ll see me around, but I'm not sure how much we’ll be hanging here.”

“Oh, but think of how much fun we’d all have together.” She simpered, leaning forward to give him a good view down her low-cut shirt.

“Down girl. Find your own pet.” Bette said leaning over and pushing Yvonne back against the armchair.

“Bette! Don’t be rude! I’m just letting him know we’re a fun place to be. He can make his own decisions.”

“Von, we talked about this. You gotta learn to tone down the flirting when they look uncomfortable.”

Yvonne perked up and looked at him with wide eyes, “I wasn’t making you uncomfortable, was I?” 

He stammered for a bit, not sure what the polite way to respond was.

“I was, wasn’t I? Damn it, and here I was thinking I was getting good at noticing. Sorry, I’m not always good at certain expressions. I’m kind of face blind, and my default is to flirt. You just gotta tell me if I bother you.”

“Oh, um. It’s okay. I’m kind of used to it. I work with a lot of models and they’re kind of like that too.”

“Oh, are you in the Fashion Course like Marinette and Margot? I always wanted to try designing, but I can’t sew or draw to save my life.”

“No, but I work on a lot of photoshoots, but I’m not going into it. I’m more into STEM.”

“Ooh, smart and hot! Marinette's pet is quite the catch!”

“Don’t I know it!” Mari said, wrapping her arms around his shoulders and squeezing.

“Hey, you made it out with time to spare! It’s a miracle!” he said, trying to turn around to see her.

“Yeah, because  I didn’t have a huge nerd distracting me!” She said, rubbing the top of his head with aggressive affection. “Are we just missing Margot?” She said, looking at her other two roommates. 

“Yeah, just killing time with Kitten over here while you two fashionistas get ready,” said Bette.

“Kitten?” She asked.

“She heard you call me Kitten, and now refuses to even learn my real name.” He grumbled. 

Mari laughed a full belly laugh, “Serves you right for being a pest while I’m trying to get ready. Besides, I like it. You are my little Cat Boy after all.”

“Ah-ha!” Bette Exclaimed. “I knew it! You are a cat boy!”

“No, I’m not! It’s an inside joke.”

“Yeah, it’s an inside joke because you’re a cat boy!” Bette's devilish grin was practically splitting her face in half.

“Mari, help me out here!”

“Nope, you know how I feel about lying.” She said with a matching grin on her face. 

“Maaaaarrrrrriiiiii!”

“Fine. He’s not a cat boy.”

“Thank y-”

“He’s a cat MAN.”

“Ugh, why do I even hang out with you?” He whined, burning his face in his hands.

“Because I’m your nicest friend, and you like getting your butt handed to you in Ultimate Mecha Strike V. for some unknown reason.”

“Well, maybe it’s time I get new friends.”

“That’s fine. That is why we’re going to this party tonight.” She hugged his shoulders tighter and rested her chin on his head. “You won’t be stuck with just me on campus, since Alya and Nino are clear across town. Maybe you’ll find someone who’s actually nice to you.”

“Whatever,” He murmured. 

“Do we know what part of Campus the party is?” Marinette said.

“It’s by the Library!” Margot said walking into the living room from her bedroom. “Is everyone ready?”

“Definitely! Come on Kitten, you’re coming with me and you're going to explain science to me,” Yvonne tried to pull him up by his hand. Mari was still holding his shoulders, so he resisted. 

“He’s going to explain science to you? What kind of science?” Bette responded standing up and taking her hand off of Adrien’s wrist. 

“Any kind of science. Just science in general.”

“Well, Yvonne, I’m sure Marinette and her boyfriend want to walk together. Maybe we can have him explain all of science to you later.” Margot said kindly as she grabbed her purse and keys from the hook by the door. 

“We’re Not Dating(TM).” Marientte and Adrien said in unison. 

“Oh,” Margot looked a little confused, “I guess I just assumed because of the hugging and - You know what never mind it’s not my business.”

Marinette finally stood and walked to the door to grab her keys as well. “It’s okay. We get it a lot. We were both third wheels for most of school since our best friends are dating. We ended up spending a lot of time together, so we’re just really close.”

There was a quiet moment where everyone looked a little uncomfortable, and then Yvonne piped up, “Well that means you can explain science to me after all Kitten! Let's go.” She dragged him from the couch, past a laughing Marinette who cruelly ignored his pleading eyes and all the way to the orientation party.  

Chapter Text

Marinette was good at secrets. She hated lying and liars, and it killed her, but she was good at secrets. It had become increasingly apparent she had to get better at it after her first year as a superhero. Especially after becoming Guardian. Several of her friends and boyfriends had been Akumatized just to learn the secret she hid so poorly. They always wanted to know why she would run out during movies, or sleepovers, or class, or any number of activities that were interrupted by Akumas. It was because they loved her, and wanted to help, but they couldn't help. No one could. So she practiced excuses in the mirror, had proof of places she’d been saved to a secret file on her phone. Her reputation for being late, taking too long to get ready and sleeping in was a built-in saving grace, something she relied on heavily. Even when it stopped being true. Tikki had quickly become an accomplice in distraction, pulling alarms, knocking things off counters, making weird noises in other rooms, anything to prevent someone from poking holes in her stories. 

The most important skill she had learned was the one that killed her the most. The art of letting people think they knew her, that they were close to her, but keeping them at enough of a distance that they couldn’t get hurt. She did all of this for them because she loved them, but she was so tired.

She was playing with fire when it came to Adrien. She loved him so much. Not in the obsessive school girl way she now pitied her younger self for. It was a robust, adult love, and knowing he was Chat only made it worse. He was her best friend. Every dumb joke he made was now a plea to be allowed a moment of silliness in an otherwise serious life. Every time he jumped in front of a hit meant for her was a brave boy with nothing to lose but her. 

It killed her not to tell him. He deserved to know, especially since she knew about him. Yet, every time she tried to get the words out of her mouth something would get in the way. An akuma Alert, or her parents walking in, or even Tikki deploying her carefully devised distractions. Then she would remember when Luka became Truth, or the time her second boyfriend, was cornered by an akuma whose power was to force people to find things for her, and she had sent him to look for Ladybug, or any other countless times where her life would be in danger  if even one person knew who she was.

Most importantly, she would remember Chat Blanc.

To be fair, Chat had still been a teen when everything had happened. The exact events leading to it were going to be different, but she couldn’t be sure it wouldn’t happen again.

So she lied and kept him at bay. She didn’t tell him how much she adored him. They weren’t dating, they weren’t in love with each other, so they couldn’t fall apart. She lived off what affection she could get from him - which admittedly was becoming more and more common- and they didn't tell anyone about the nights Adrien snuck into her bedroom to spend the night. In a strictly platonic way. Sort of. 

Her chest ached with the love she felt as she laughed with her roommates as they all walked towards campus. Yvonne was interrogating Adrien about random science questions that often he had no clue the answer to. 

“Okay, Kitten. Why is it that when I eat a lot of ice cream my brain hurts, but if I eat a lot of hot soup it doesn’t? They’re both a lot of… temperature, so shouldn’t my brain want to tell me to stop for both?” She said walking backward with Margot kindly leading her by the elbow. 

“Uh, I guess because you have a system in place to protect you from eating food that’s too hot?”

“It does?” Margot pulled her away from a lamp post seconds before she knocked into it.

Adrien had his arm over her shoulders, very platonically, and his fingers lightly brushed the skin not covered by her blouse, sending little sparkes through her whole system. 

He laughed, “Yeah, it’s called burning your tongue.”

They all laughed and Marinette pulled herself closer to him. It was a warm day, so she didn’t think to bring a jacket, but occasionally a breeze would hit her just right and send a chill through her. 

“Okay, Next question. Why does hair get darker when it’s wet when water is clear?”

“Well..” His response was cut short by Bette’s enthusiastic cry.

“Oh, thank the lord. We’re here. No more science questions! You could have googled every single one of those.”

“Yeah, but he was having fun. At least, I think so. Were you having fun?” She asked him with a pleading look in her eye.

“Sure, I was having fun.” He chuckled as Yvonne flipped Bette off. 

“Told ya!”

“Uh-huh. There’s no way he was just being nice.” Bette said.

“You are a rude person, Bette Lemarie.”

“And yet you continue to choose to be friends with me.”

Yvonne huffed as she scanned the accumulating crowd. “Let’s get a drink. I’m thirsty from all that learning I just participated in.”

She pulled Bette and Margot towards the place the crowd seemed the thickest, which seemed to be a wide variety of beverages. 

“Don’t tell me this is how you’re going to be after all your classes because you’ll spend all of University drunk off your ass,” Bette grumbled as she was swallowed by the masses. 

“Are you thirsty?” Adrien asked her as he led her through the crowd following the others. 

She smiled at him, “Just a soda or some juice is fine. No alcohol.” She made a face to show disgust. She didn't hate the taste so much as she never wanted to get caught drunk during an akuma attack. Tikki told her it would be fine, but she didn't want to risk it. 

“That’s fine by me. I have a feeling we might need to watch out for Yvonne though. We might be reprising our starring role of Drunk People wranglers by the end of the night.”

She sighed and took the can of soda Adrien grabbed for her as she tried to see past the masses. It was a large party. The University hosted one every year according to her admissions counselor. There were booths for different organizations on campus, a place to meet people in the same program, and several games and activities as well as snacks and drinks at almost every station.She checked her phone for the time.

“Do you want to start by checking out the booths for our majors and then do some of the games?” She had to almost shout in his ear because it was getting loud. He nodded and looked over the crowd, trying to find the right direction. Thankfully, Adrien was tall enough to see over most people's heads and had them going in the right direction after only a moment. He deposited her by the Fashion major booth, and let her know he’d be just a few booths down at the Physics one. She doubted they’d make a stop by the Business Majors. 

There were a few well dressed people next to several poster boards and displays showing pictures from previous years, and a few sample pieces of clothing. Marinette immediately started looking at one of the sample dresses, a lovely iridescent ball gown with embroidery and beading along the waistline, inspecting the stitching and construction of the bodice.

“That’s my favorite one.” She jumped at the voice behind her. One of the upperclassmen manning the booth was looking over her shoulder. He was a tall lean man about her age with dark brown hair and sharp features. He smiled and nodded back at the dress. “It got the highest score in last year’s final showcase.”

“I can see why, it’s lovely.” she said almost reverently, “Although, something seems off in this part of the embroidery. I think it’s missing a couple stitches.”

The man looked at her, obviously stunned. “It took Madame Allard 20 minutes to find that! How? I barely noticed and I spent 200 hours on it.”

“What are you fussing about?” Another upperclassman, an even taller brunette woman, called over from where she was fixing fliers that had gotten shuffled by the wind.

“She caught my missing stitches in like 2 seconds,” he said, grabbing Marinette’s shoulder to indicate the ‘she’ he was referring to. Marinette turned further to look at the woman and shrugged just enough that his hand fell away. 

“Sorry, I didn’t realize it was yours, I shouldn’t have said anything.” She was feeling rather self-conscious about his overzealous reaction. 

“Pfft, He deserves to be knocked down a peg or two. He’s been insufferable about that dress since last April.” The taller woman walked over and looked Marinette up and down. “Okay, forget about his shoddy workmanship-”

“Hey!”

“Where did you get the Corset top? Talk about embroidery! I absolutely need one!” She grabbed Marinette's shoulders and turned her slightly to look at the details sown into the thin panels of her top. She had layered it over a sheer lavender Peasant blouse, and now with both sets of eyes looking at her appraisingly, she felt a little exposed. 

“Uh, I actually made it myself.” She said awkwardly. 

The other woman looked at her with manic excitement. 

“Okay, Sooo many thoughts, the most important of which are, can I get you to make me one, also teach me your ways, because I have tried to make a corset and the boning is a real bitch. AND!” She shook Marinette’s shoulders for emphasis. “Puh-lease tell me you're in the fashion course.”

Mari smiled and laughed, “Okay, so I can make you one, but it probably wouldn’t be for a while, but I can give you my number and we’ll see about those first two things. But yeah. I am in the Fashion course.”

Cue an enthusiastic hug. “Okay this is awesome. I’m totally going to geek out with you later, You said you’d help me and now you’re stuck being my friend, so deal with it. Honestly, no  wonder you caught his mistake, you are a crazy good seamstress.”

“Yeah, I actually worked in the sewing room at Gabriel up until about a week ago.” She turned to the man, who was watching his counterpart with amusement, “That’s the only reason I even noticed the missed stitches. I got absolutely reamed by several people for a couple missed stitches on a final sample piece my first few weeks there and got good at catching them so it would never happen again.”

He smiled at her, “I’m honestly more impressed than anything else. The only reason they’re still there is because I ran out of time before the showcase. I’m Ollivier, by the way. The over-enthusiastic puppy is Iris.”

“Hi!” Iris said as she adjusted her grip to squeeze Marinette in a side hug. 

“I’m Marinette. It’s nice to meet you both. Are you both seniors?”

“I am, but Ollie here is just a widdle junior.” Iris finally detached herself from Marinette and pinched Olivier’s checks. 

He batted her away. “Yeah, well this ‘Widdle Junior” kicked your’s and every other upperclassmen’s butt in the end of year Showcase,” He looked to Marinette and wiggled his eyebrows, “Which makes me the first-ever second-year student to win. I mean, it’s not a huge deal, but they did put me in the newspaper.”

He was obviously super proud, but Marinette had to really fight down the smirk that was trying it’s best to surface. She really couldn’t say that she was in the newspaper on a daily basis, or that she had several blogs dedicated to her and her partner, but imagining his reaction was really quite funny.

“Wow, that’s super cool!” 

“Thanks, I thought so too.” He stepped closer to her, getting a little in her space. “But enough about me, let's hear about my new competition. Tell us about Marinette. What is she looking to get from a prestigious Fashion Design degree? Obviously, you have some knowledge of the industry if you worked at Gabriel .”

They continued chatting for several minutes about the gap year Marinette had taken ‘to work at Gabriel .’ The job had really been a bit of a front for her real reason for putting University off, but saying you were trying to catch Hawk Moth would sound a bit odd. Soon Iris was extolling all the virtues of some professors, and letting her know the professors to watch out for. She even suggested talking to Mme. Allard about being put in the Advanced Contruction course. Olivier had excellent tips for resources to use for tight deadlines and stress relief. By the time Iris split from the conversation to say hi to a few more design students Marinette felt prepared and excited for class on Monday. 

She turned to take one last look at some of the displays and say her goodbyes when Olivier lightly grabbed her elbow.

“Hey, so the course booths are going to be closing down in like an hour, I'm free after if you want some company?” He gave her a wide smile, bordering on charming and nonchalant.

“Um, well I’m here with some friends, but you can totally join us later if you like. My roommate Margot is also in the program, I’m sure she’d love to pick your brain.”

“Oh, yeah, that sounds great!” His smile faltered for just a second, but then he whipped his phone out of his pocket. “Let me get your number and I can text you when I’m done. Plus, my roommates and I were going to have a little fashion program together next Saturday.  It’s kind of a tradition we started to celebrate making it through the first week of classes. I can send you the details. I’d love it if you came, I have a feeling I need to keep my eye on you if I want to keep my title of best in the program." He wiggled his eyebrows.

“Oh, I would love a chance to get to meet more people in the program. I should be free then, but I’ll let you know if I can make it.” She took his phone and created a contact for herself. As she was typing in her number she felt a familiar arm drape around her shoulders. 

“Hey, you done talking to all the other nerds?” She said without looking up as she drafted a text to herself.

“Oh, not even close, but I saw some fun games that I really want to try and I smell food. Are you almost done here?”

“Yup!” She handed Ollivier his phone back. “Ollivier was just telling me about a get-together for a bunch of the fashion course people next. I was thinking of going.”

“I thought Saturday was Alya’s ‘Mandatory’ Clubbing night.”

“Um, maybe. I’m pretty sure that’s Friday night. We can check tomorrow when we meet them for lunch.”

“Well, even if you can only make it for a little bit it’s going to be fun.” Ollivier smiled magnanimously and turned to Adrien. “If you want, you can come too-” 

He paused with a hand extended for a handshake, clearly asking for a name.

“Adi. Call me Adi.” 

Marinette gave Adrien a puzzled look as the two men shook hands. 

“It’s nice to meet you, Adi. You seem familiar. Have we met before?”

Adrien shifted uncomfortably. “Uh, maybe? I’ve met a lot of people through my job, and I don’t always remember everyone. Sorry.”

“Oh, what’s your job?” 

“I- uh,” Ollivier still hadn’t let go of Adrien’s hand, and Adrien seemed to be getting flustered at the prolonged awkward contact. “Um. I work on a lot of stuff for fashion shoots or shows, and some- sometimes movies- ca- sorry. What was your name again?”

“Olivier.” He finally released the handshake, and Adrien quickly reached up and began pulling at the edges of his beanie. 

“Well, it was nice to meet you, Ollivier. I’m sure I’ll see you around, but right now I’m super hungry and I think I smell some crepes. Mari, are you hungry yet, or do you want to hang here for a bit?”

She noticed his eyes widen just slightly, pleading for her to help him get out of an uncomfortable social situation. She put her arm around his waist and smiled at him. 

“Yeah, I’m actually starving.” She sent one final smile to Olivier, “I’ll catch up with you later! Thanks for all the great tips! Text me the details for Saturday.”

She waved slightly as Adrien began to pull her away. After they were out of earshot she smirked at adrien and said, “So, Adi, huh?”

Chapter Text

The university had provided a wide variety of food, mostly carbs, for the party. Adrien grabbed pretty much everything and ate it happily, occasionally slipping something cheesy into Marinette's large purse where Plagg liked to hang out when he could. His nutritionist would balk at the sheer amount Adrien packed into his stomach as they wandered around, but that was future Adrien's problem. He listened happily as Marinette told him everything she had talked to the other fashion students about, gesturing wildly, and dancing around as she remembered something exciting.

This was his favorite part about becoming Marinette’s friend. He loved watching the way her face told more of the story than her words, and how her hair brushed her bare shoulders when she moved her head. She was funny and passionate, and incredibly theatrical for someone who had been so self-conscious when he met her.

Sometimes he was jealous of the people who got to see her like this right away. They didn’t have to power through several painfully awkward interactions to get the occasional genuinely comfortable friendship. Like that Ollivier guy. He had spied them talking as he was heading over. Marinette looked stunning in the beautiful handmade outfit that fit her perfectly. Adrien knew Ollivier saw it. Who wouldn’t? So when he grabbed her arm and gave her his cell phone, Adrien’s heart dropped just a little. He quickly squashed his jealousy, it had never served him well in the past, but it still lingered like a bitter taste at the back of his tongue.

He was distracting himself from those thoughts by watching the way Marinette’s top lifted and fell with the movements in her arms, exposing a thin strip of her toned stomach, when he heard a familiar and shrill voice pierce through the crowds.

“Adrikins!”

He hadn’t seen Chloe very often since they graduated college, she had insisted on going to a fancy private lycee, while he wanted to stay in public school with Nino. Chloe's Behavior had changed a bit since then. She now only fawned over him at public events or when certain people were watching. When she saw him in private she would often either ignore him or treat him with mild indifference. But they were in public, and so far he had been able to keep anyone from noticing him.

That’s why he’d told several people to call him Adi. He was only getting more recognizable as time went by. The agent His father had hired was starting to get him actual acting jobs instead of just voice work, and with him reaching adulthood more people felt it was now okay to objectify him, even if they were three times older than he was. So the opportunity to be somewhat anonymous among his new classmates? It was a necessity.

Marinette met his eyes and both silently agreed to make a break for it, hiding among the crowds going in the opposite direction from where they’d heard Chloe’s voice.

“Ugh, I forgot that he attends this university,” Marinette said as they ducked around a corner.

“Just be glad she’s not in your program. I’m afraid I’ll end up having a class with her.”

“Which would completely end your chances of pretending to be a normal student.”

“Exactly, and here I thought the whole glasses and a hat thing was going to work.” The crowds were thinning out and Adrien began looking for anything to hide behind in case Chloe had followed them.

“It’s been working so far, right? Maybe she just saw me, and then realized it was probably you. She knows we’re all going to this university since I saw her vague posting about the school just letting anyone in now, and I know it was about me. She tagged me in the comments.”

“How is that vague?” They were mostly surrounded by booths for smaller programs, and a few clubs, so they stopped at the magic club display to pretend they were interested. No one was currently manning the booth so they continued to chat.

“It’s vague for Chloe. Normally she would have tagged me in the original post.”

He laughed. “Yeah, that sounds about right.” They hung around just long enough to determine that Chloe was not in fact going to follow them. They decided to stroll the rest of the way down the row of booths. Most of them were packing up, but a few stragglers were still chatting. Adrien noticed Marinette shivering as they neared the end of the row.

“Are you cold?”

“Just a little. I forgot that it’s getting cold at night now, and didn’t bring a jacket. It’s okay though. I think I saw some sweaters you could win at one of the games. I’ll be fine until then.” She said, rubbing her arms slightly. He rolled his eyes and shrugged off the denim shirt he was wearing. She tried to protest when he dropped it over her shoulders and tucked her into his side, but her resistance melted when she realized how warm she felt. They were about to turn around and head towards some of the games when they both recognized a familiar face.

“Hey! Max!” Marinette called to one of the men packing up the final booth on the row. He turned around looking confused until he spotted them. The years had treated Max well. He was still as gangly as ever but had grown into his body. He’d grown his hair out and pulled the braids into a bun on top of his head, probably inspired by his short stints as Pegasus. He waved enthusiastically and jogged over to them.

“Marinette, I have been meaning to speak to you! The program we were working on is almost done, I just need a few things from you. Do you think Alya could get a hold of Ladybug and Chat Noir? I need someone to place a few prototypes to test the algorithm. Also, are you finished building the protective cases? I want to make sure the hardware fits with the mechanics you were designing. I need to make sure it has at least a 90-degree range of movement in all directions.”

“Hi, Max, it’s good to see you, too,” Adrien said teasingly.

“Yes, sorry hi.” He gazed briefly at Adrien and opened his mouth to say something more to Marinette, then stopped and did a double-take. “I’m sorry, do we know each other?”

“I know we haven’t seen each other in a while but I didn’t think you’d forget me this fast!” He joked, “And here I was thinking the whole glasses thing wasn’t working.”

“I told you, Chloe just made a lucky guess,” Marinette said, poking him in the side.

“Adrien? I feel so embarrassed. I can’t believe I didn't recognize you.”

“That’s alright, that’s kind of the point. I’m just glad it actually works.” Adrien looked around. “Hey, where’s Markov? I have a great riddle for him, there’s a 50% chance he won’t know the answer.”

The game they all called Stumpkov started when Kim spent three days straight trying to ask Max’s AI robot a question he didn’t know the answer to. Very few of them had managed to actually accomplish it, Adrien not being one of them. He still liked to occasionally try his hand whenever he ran into Max and Markov.

“Markov actually stayed back in my apartment tonight. He’s actually working on the program for Marinette.”

“What program?”

“I thought if we had an early Akuma detection network set up we could maybe narrow down where they’re coming from and give the hero’s a better place to work. I haven’t really told anyone because I didn’t want to get anyone’s hopes up in case it didn’t work.” She looked at him with a soft rueful expression. The meaning was clear. I didn’t want to get Your hopes up. Because it was true. Now that there was a light at the end of the tunnel, a type of progress he could physically point to, his hopes were up. He would get to go through his day without slipping out to fight akumas, he wouldn’t have to be afraid of doing something to set off a photographer or designer, or heaven forbid a fan. He would get to know who his lady was. This last thought brought him so much joy, maybe she would finally let him in. Their relationship as superhero partners had only gotten better over the years. Sometimes he would catch her looking at him so softly, like earlier today with the Akuma, that he was sure he would have a chance if it weren’t for Hawkmoth.

Then he remembered that it was Marinette that was doing this for him, and he felt a slight twist in his gut. What would happen to their...friendship, after this was all done for? If it turned out he was right and Ladybug actually could love him back, how on earth could he face Marinette? Their current arrangement was born out of mutual sexual frustration and several bad decisions in a row. They both knew this was temporary. She had said before that she didn’t mind that he was in love with someone else, and even seemed to enjoy it when he gushed about Ladybug. But something sat wrong in his gut. He wished, not for the first time, that he could somehow have both.

He sighed slightly and realized Max and Marinette had been talking for several minutes while he stewed in his inner turmoil. He tuned back into the conversation just in time to hear Max ask Marinette if she could talk to the superheroes sometime soon. She smiled a secret little smile and pinched his side lightly to let him in on the joke.  “I bet I can talk to them one way or another. I’ll send them your way if I see them.”

They chatted for several more minutes about the computer science and robotics course Max was enrolled in. The conversation was cut short by one of the other guys at Max’s booth calling over for him to help take down the table. They said their goodbyes and Adrien and Marinette began to stroll back to the main thoroughfare.

Adrien Asked Marinette several questions about her villain catching scheme and was surprised to learn that it had been in the works for over a year now. Marinette had spent several months compiling every piece of footage she could find of the now-iconic purple butterflies. She had worked with businesses to scour their security footage and had even petitioned the mayor to no avail. Her best resource had of course been the Ladyblog, citizens would often send in footage of attacks and any Akuma sightings. Max was now using the footage to teach an AI how to recognize an Akuma and send a notification to an app to help triangular patterns and perhaps narrow down where Hawkmoth was hiding if he was staying in one place at all. She told him all this in a low tone, in a secluded corner near a few of the noisier spots. She asked him to talk to Ladybug the next time he saw her. He readily agreed. They talked some more about placement and what to look for. His head was spinning, whether it was from the sheer amount of work Marinette had been putting into this project or the fact that he might actually get everything he’s ever wanted, he wasn’t sure.

There was one thing Adrien couldn’t get out of his head though. “Why?” He asked as they left their hiding spot to mingle with the crowds again. 

“Why, what?” She grabbed his wrist as she was jostled by a passing group. It was getting later, and more people were either splitting off to party elsewhere or congregating near a speaker they’d set up by the library.

“Why are you doing this?”

She looked at him oddly. “Why wouldn’t I?”

“It’s just that most people just expect the superheroes to take care of it. This is the first time I've heard of anyone putting together a program like this. Why are you taking up so much of your time doing this? You could be working on your designs or catching up on sleep, or one of the million other things you do for people”

“I don’t know. I guess I just realized that Shadowmoth has the advantage. Ladybug and Chat Noir go out regularly and are at greater risk of exposure. He can sit back in his lair and have some poor citizen do his dirty work for him. This is my way of helping take back that advantage.”

He looked at her in amazement. “You’re amazing Marinette. Paris is lucky to have you.”

She turned back to him with a glint in her eye. “I could say the same for you.”

 

 

They spent the next few hours playing games, dancing, and talking to half-drunk strangers. They caught up with Marinette’s roommates after a while and were introduced to a slew of people whose names they forgot immediately. Bette continued to insist that everyone call him KItten, but he still managed to get a few of them to call him by his new secret identity“normal human man” Adi. They even ran into Olivier at one point, but Margot quickly latched on to him to ask him several questions about the program.

They also won themselves a pair of university jackets. The first was for Marinette so he could get his shirt back, to which she staunchly refused, simply shrugging the jacket over the top of the shirt -she claimed that she would have to warm up the jacket and would be too cold until then. Adrien suspected this wasn't entirely true. He would have been annoyed if it weren't for the fact that Marinette looked really good in his clothes. So he went ahead and played several games at a dart-throwing booth for the second, and when he couldn’t manage to get it, Marinette swooped in and won it in one go.

At about Midnight Adrien was exhausted, and he noticed Marinette was trying to hide several yawns behind the over large sleeves of her jacket. He fought a responding yawn.

“You look pretty tired, are you ready to go?” He asked her, rubbing his hands up and down her arms.

“No, I’m wide awake. We should stay,” she said, forcing her eyes open wider and a too-wide smile.

“Hmm, that’s too bad,” he said thoughtfully.

“What, why?”

He pulled her closer with a hand on her waist to whisper in her ear. “I was just thinking how you should come over tonight.”

He could see the goosebumps forming on the back of her neck as she turned to see if anyone was looking. They were all too busy with their own conversations to notice how close the pair were standing. “In case you forgot, I still have unpacking to do,” she whispered back.

“Do it tomorrow.” He began to play with the hem of her blouse, his fingers occasionally brushing her warm skin, a total accident off course. She suppressed a shiver. He suppressed a grin.

“We have lunch with Alya and Nino, and you wanted me to help you pick out actual decorations for your new apartment. I’m going to be busy tomorrow,” she pouted at him.

“What better way to prep for our shopping spree than to get a good feel for the apartment.” She pursed her lips, he could tell she was considering it. Time to deal the final blow.

“Plus, it would give you a chance to try out the giant jacuzzi tub I was telling you about that you’re so jealous of. I think I even have some bath bombs you could use.” Her eyes lit up with a devilish gleam, and he realized he might have been played for a fool.

“Oh, well, I supposed I could take some time for a bath. If you insist.” He chuckled.

“Let’s say our goodbyes because I insist.”

Marinette walked over to where Margot and Bette were watching Yvonne playing a very intense drinking game. She spoke quietly in Margot’s ear, who nodded and turned to wave goodbye. He waved back, and soon they were walking the three blocks to his apartment. He dropped his arm around her waist and watched out for any paparazzi lurking in corners as they walked.

He lived in a newer building close to campus, and it was one of the few concessions his father had made the nearly year-long negotiation on when and how Adrien would be able to attend University. He like Marinette had taken a year off after lycee to work full time at Gabriel. In exchange for working on the business side of the fashion house, representing his father at meetings, and taking whatever modeling or acting job his father deemed beneficial to the brand, Adrien got to study Physics and live away from the mansion. He’d only lived in his apartment for about a week and a half and had barely spent any time in it because he was busy trying to wrap up loose ends and finish shooting the romantic comedy he’d been filming all summer. It was bigger than he needed, a two-bedroom two-bathroom penthouse, and was decorated in the same grandiose and soulless style as his room had been in the mansion, but he was already finding himself enjoying the freedom. Especially as he walked Marinette through the front door. Knowing he could have someone over without his father breathing down their neck was a relief, he could almost pretend he was a normal university student.


 

 

They had been silent for most of the walk, but it was a comfortable silence. Marinette leaned heavily into his side as they entered the elevator. Once the door closed she pulled him down into a searing kiss. His back was pressed into the wall of the elevator as he pulled her as close as he could. Her hands wandered from his torso to his neck. She pulled his hat from his head and began raking her fingers through his hair. He whined slightly when she got caught in a tangle. He could feel her smile against his lips as she lightly pulled at the hair on the back of his neck. He grunted in annoyance and bit her bottom lip, pulling with his teeth. She gasped, which sent a shock down his spine. He flipped their positions and pressed her against the wall lining his whole body against hers. Both of their breathing was ragged, and he pulled away to breathe for a second as Marinette began pressing kisses to his neck. The elevator came to a stop on his floor and they jumped apart. They looked at one another sheepishly and laughed.

His apartment was at the end of the hall. The short walk seemed a lot longer with Marinette pressed against his side, her hands under his shirt tracing circles against his stomach. He fumbled for his key nearly dropping it when her hands hooked onto the waste and of his jeans.

“Marinette, you're making this very difficult.” He hissed. He finally managed to unlock the deadbolt and moved to the main lock. He paused when Marinette let out a scandalized gasp. He looked to see her wide eyes and a shocked smile. “What?”

“You missed a pun!”

“What? No, I didn’t.”

“Yes, you diiiid!” She sang. “Am I making it difficult or am I making it-“

“Oh, my g- just, ugh. It’s because you're being very distracting.” He told her indignantly. He managed to finally slide the key into the lock.

“Sorry,” she was definitely not sorry, “I’m just really excited for that bath.” She said the last part softly, her warm breath brushing softly against his neck. To accentuate her point she undid the bottom of his pants in one smooth motion. He quickly pushed open the door.

“Dear lord. Just get in the apartment before I go insane.” He pulled her in, and quickly shut the door, and pushed her against it. He kissed her deeply, running his tongue along her lower lip. She pushed his jacket off his shoulders and began pulling his shirt over his head.

“Excuse me, but can you please not do this in the front room?” A nasal voice said from over his shoulder, "Some of us would like to eat our snacks in here. Unless you WANT me to eat Camembert on your pillow.”

“Sorry, Plagg.” Marinette said sweetly against his mouth.

“Go away, Plagg.” Adrien said at the same time, still pressing kisses to Marinette's lips.

“Hey, I live here too! I heard what Nino said about respecting common areas! This is a common area!”

Adrien growled, but before he could respond Marinette was pushing him backward.

“Come on. Bedroom, now.”

They stumbled their way to his bedroom, only crashing into furniture once, both still securely attached, only pausing to lose her jacket, and both their pants. He was struggling with the hooks of her top when she finally pulled away. She reached around and finished unhooking the clasps for him. He slowly pulled it away and helped her pull the blouse she wore underneath over her head. He ran his hand over the red lines where the corset had been digging into her sides. He took a moment to look at her, the way the moonlight streaming through these windows made her eyes sparkle against her flushed skin. The soft curve of her waist.

She was beautiful, he couldn’t deny it, and with the way she was gazing at him, he was powerless to stop whatever it was they were. He leaned in slowly, his nose brushing against the skin of her cheek. He could feel her panting breath against his face. He wrapped both hands around her trim waist and tossed her squealing onto the bed. He pounced after her, pinning her to the mattress. He kissed his way from her shoulder, up her neck and back to get mouth. She smiled and tried to squirm out from underneath him.

“Okay, I’m ready for my bath now. Thanks for helping me get undressed.” She managed to wiggle her way closer to the edge of the bed before he pulled her back giggling the whole way.

“Oh, no you don’t. I have something else in mind first. “ He kissed the spot just below her ear, sucking slightly. She sighed happily, pulling him closer.

“Why don’t you show me then?” She hummed against his ear.

“Gladly”


 

 

 

Adrien woke to the feeling of fingers softly running across his jawline. He cracked his eyes open to a mostly dark room and Marinette's face hovering over his with a blank expression. His head was on a pillow cradled in her lap, and he watched as her eyes followed her fingers along his cheekbones and around his lips. Her touch was so gentle he almost couldn’t feel it. When after a moment she noticed that his eyes were open and her blank expression changed to one of mild embarrassment.

“Hi.” He said, voice cracking with sleep.

“Hi.”

“Whatcha doing?” He said this teasingly, grinning slightly at her chagrin.

“Um, I was meditating. It helps to have something to focus on, and you were right there, and you were sleeping so soundly you didn’t even move when I moved your head, so I thought you wouldn’t notice or mind. I’m sorry if I made you uncomfortable, I was almost done I promise. I won’t do it again.” She moved to take his head out of his lap, her face the same signature red he remembered from their early friendship. He grabbed her hand and brought it back to cup his cheek.

“Hey, it’s okay.” He smiled at her and turned to kiss the palm of her hand. “I didn’t know you meditate.”

She stopped trying to move, but still averted her eyes from his. “Yeah, I started a few years ago after the attacks started getting worse. I’m not great at it. I have a hard time focusing most of the time on all the projects I’m always working on, but I try to do it for like 20 minutes every day before bed. I don't really talk about it.”

“Why not?” “I guess I’m just worried people are going to think that if they meditate then they won’t get akumatized, or that their life will get easier or better if they do it, and then have them get mad at me when it doesn’t work."

“That makes sense. It’s not true, but it makes sense.” He traced comforting circles into the back of her hand with his thumb. “Feel free to use my face anytime you need to.”

She laughed softly and pressed a kiss to his forehead. “Good to know.” She paused and in a quiet voice, she murmured “Thank you. I’m sorry I woke you up.”

“You’re more than welcome, Princess. Besides, if anything it’s a good thing. I need to wash my face, or my dermatologist is going to have a heart attack. Can’t have this perfect face breaking out.” He stretched and took a peek at the windows. It still seemed like night, but it had to be quite late. “What time is it?”

“A little after 3.” He looked up at her in mild shock. “I thought you were exhausted. How are you still awake?”

“Who says I didn’t fall asleep in the bath?” She gave him a shrewd smile, and he took notice of the loose wet hairs around the back of her neck and framing her face. “Those jets lulled me right to sleep. I think I might just be in love. If you ever move I’ll never speak to you again.”

“Good to know. I’m glad it was everything you dreamt of.” It was at this point that he realized that she was wearing his clothes, a t-shirt, and a pair of boxers he never wore. He sat up to give her a pointed look. “I see you also had fun raiding my closet.”

Her smile widened. “Well, what did you expect me to do?” She batted her eyes innocently, “Sleep in my birthday suit when there was a whole drawer of perfectly good shirts right there begging me to wear them?”

“No, no. You’re right.” He leaned in until they were nose to nose, fighting a smile. “Although, I wouldn’t have minded the birthday suit.” He darted forward to press a quick kiss to her lips before jumping away. She scoffed indignantly and threw the pillow at him, which he easily dodged on his way to the bathroom.

“That’s right, go do your 20 step skincare routine like the coward you are, monsieur Model! I’m going to sleep.” She called after him. He chuckled and quickly went through his annoyingly extensive skincare routine, brushed his teeth, and put on a pair of pajama pants.

True to her word Marinette was well on her way to dreamland when he finished. She grumbled as he crawled in beside her, but flipped onto her other side to press her face into his collarbone. He wrapped his arms around her and pulled her close, breathing in the soft floral smell of the bath bomb she’d used. He signed and relaxed into the mattress.

He was definitely going to lose.

Chapter Text

Every good game starts long before anyone makes a single move. The dance of a rivalry, an invitation, the setup, all important to the tone of a match between two opposing forces. There are stakes there, there is tension because they have years of built-up interactions to account for.

 

Love stories, and specifically a relationship akin to our two lovers, is no different. The best romantic tales are rich with interactions, history, and missteps on both sides. Romeo and Juliet, the most well-known love story in western culture, is fraught with history and hardship, and background built long before the first move is made. All Love stories begin with the smallest choices. They begin with turning left when one would normally go forward, or arriving at a party one might have stayed home for. Perhaps they began long before that. If one person had not said this or that to another, then perhaps they would never have found themselves on that crossroad. They say history spins on small hinges, and every good love story has to begin somewhere.

 

Perhaps Marinette and Adrien’s love story truly began the moment Gabriel chose to become Hawkmoth, or perhaps even further back when he met and married Adrien’s mother. That moment led to the unfortunate circumstances with Emilie’s coma and thus becoming Hawkmoth. However, that’s beside the point is it not? Because the true moment the love between Adrien and Marinette began much later. On a balcony in the evening where two lovesick teens bore their hearts to one another and came to understand the other in a better way. This moment was merely the earliest stages, the dance leading to an invitation. The invitation begins thusly.

 

It’s a hot day in Paris, certainly too hot to wear a black leather catsuit, and Chat Noir is wilting. The sun should be setting soon, but for now, the sun is beating into him, and the Akuma just won’t go down. Adrien was supposed to be studying for his final exams. Instead, he watches as Ladybug stares in confusion at a shiny polka-dotted key chain. He can see her fatigue is making her sluggish. He knows she needs time, but the Akuma is coming at them with the full force of their radiating ‘heatwave.’ The Akuma was too hot to engage with in close combat, so distraction was Chat Noir’s best tool. He jumped from his lady’s side towards a nearby fire hydrant, destroying it with a quick call of his cataclysm. The red metal gave way to black dust and water began to gush from the ground. The Akuma flinched away from the urban geyser keeping his eye on the water inching closer to them. Chat Noir saw Ladybug sit up straighter, and he swore her eyes began to sparkle like the magical anime girl he knew she was.

 

She dashed over to a nearby shop and grabbed several bottles of beer. He grinned and began using the baton to try to splash the Akuma from a distance. They began to back away from the water.

 

“Well, Helios don't you know the best way to beat the heat is a nice swim? Come on, the water feels great!” He yelled. “No! No more swimming! I need a break.” Helios yelled, a new and disgruntled lifeguard.

 

“Yeah, Chat everyone knows you just need to open a cold one with the boys!” Ladybug yelled as she opened one of the bottles with her lucky charm keychain and used the bottom of the other bottle to tap the opening. The beer began to shoot out, and Ladybug used her thumb to spray the Akuma in the face as they turned around at the sound of her voice. Startled Helios began stumbling backward, and Chat took the opportunity to slide through the water and kick the Akuma's legs out from under them. Ladybug snatched the lifeguard float that the Akuma dropped and began tearing at the vinyl plastic cover. A small black butterfly began to flutter away, but Ladybug quickly caught it, purified it, and tossed her lucky charm in the air to fix the damage done by the Akuma.

 

Ladybug and Chatquickly settled the poor victim down. Chat insisted that he be the one to take them home. Neither Superheroes had beeping timers after both reaching 18 this last year, so they often took turns helping victims after they got de-akumatized. A small part of Chat Noir taking a long cold bath, and several sugar-free popsicles. He set the person up at their front door and began the long journey home, stopping occasionally in a cool shadow. The cool rush of water from the fight had managed to cool him down slightly, but that had all gone back to the pipes once the miraculous cure was completed.

 

During one of these breaks, he heard a voice calling his name. He looked around to find an exhausted and sweaty Marinette waving to him from her balcony. He smiled widely. He hadn’t seen his friend in months. He and Alya had ended up in the same lycee, but Marinette and Nino hadn’t. Nino’s parents had found a better apartment further from the city center, and Marinette was on the other side of the boundary separating her from the same Lycee. After Alya moved, she and Nino had broken up.

 

He never fully understood the exact reasons behind it. Nino had said something about ‘long distance’, it was a ‘40 minute train ride one way', and needing to be ‘young and single’, all of which seemed like a petty excuse to him. After that, it became harder to hang out with Marinette, even when he did have the time. He didn’t realize how much he had relied on Alya and Nino's relationship to spend time with one of his favorite people until it became too awkward to try forging their own bond separate from their friends. He now only rarely saw her, and often it was during an Akuma attack as Chat Noir.

 

However, here was a perfect time to just spend a few minutes resting in the shade of her canopy catching up with a friend. And by the looks of it, she had a jug of cool water tempting him further. He vaulted over and landed on her railing in a crouch.

 

“Well, Princess! It’s been absolute ages! What can I do for you on this blisteringly hot day?” He said, crawling off the railing and posing theatrically against it. She smiled and rolled her eyes.

 

“I noticed you looked hot-”

 

“As usual,” He quipped quickly, kissing his biceps and smirking before she could continue. She scowled but chose to ignore him,

 

“and I thought you might like something to cool you down.” She pointed towards the jug of water, and he noticed a small cooler under the table she had set up as well.

 

“Well, if you don’t mind the company…” he said slowly, eyeing the condensation on the outside of the pitcher.

 

“Of course! Sit down. Have a glass.”

 

“Thank you,” he said appreciatively as he sat under the shade and picked up the pitcher. He could hear ice swirling around in there. He poured a glass and quickly drank it, the cold water biting his tongue. He quickly poured another, as Marinette offered him a popsicle from the little cooler. “Why are you out here with all this stuff? Wouldn’t it be cooler inside where there isn’t any sun?”

 

“Maybe in a normal house, but during the day when the ovens are all on in the bakery, it’s a sauna. Papa bought a little window cooler for the living room but we don’t turn it on until the ovens are off for the day. It’s a waste of energy otherwise. So I sit out here with ice water and popsicles to work on homework on hot days.” she shrugged and flipped the page of a textbook she wasn’t really looking at.

“What about you?” She asked, taking her eyes off her book for just a second to look him up and down, then quickly looking back at the text. “Why are you still out? I thought the Akuma ended like 15 minutes ago.”

 

“It did. But the gentleman who was akumatized lives pretty far away, and I didn’t want him to have to walk all that way, so I took him. I stopped to sit in the shade on my way back. It’s hot walking around in all black. It’s a magical suit, but somehow it doesn’t come with air conditioning.” He said this last bit sarcastically. He had talked to Plagg about it a few years ago, and the suit was quite breathable for how thick and sturdy it was. The problem wasn’t his suit really, it was the boy in the suit overheating and there was little Plagg could do about it.

 

She scowled, not taking her eyes off the page. “Why didn't you ask Ladybug to do it? You should have gone home and cooled down.”

 

“I know.” He traced patterns into the condensation on his cup. He could see her dark hair through the glass. He watched the way the slight breeze blew through her bangs. “I just like being out of my house.” He hadn’t meant to say it. It probably sounded pathetic. Marinette didn’t seem to pay any mind to it though. She merely hummed in acknowledgment and scribbled something down in a notebook.
“Well, feel free to be out of your house here. I’m just studying for my history exam.”

“When’s your exam?”

“Next week, it’s my last one, and the one I've studied for the least.”

“Are you excited to graduate?”

“Yes, and no.” She reached into the little cooler and pulled out a popsicle, offering it to him silently.

“Nervous about university?” He asked as he unwrapped the popsicle. He wasn’t looking at her so he couldn't see the sadness in her face, but he did hear her sigh defeatedly. He looked at her curiously as he took a bite of his treat.

“Not exactly.” She said, rubbing her arm nervously. “I’m not going.”

He nearly choked on his popsicle, “What? Why not?”

“I have things I need to do. I’m taking a year or two off. Once I'm finished I’ll go.”

“What are these all-important ‘things’?” She shifted nervously and flipped another page. He wasn’t sure she was actually reading anything with the way her eyes darted around the page. “Just some projects I wanted to get finished, saving money, stuff like that.”

She seemed to not want to talk about it, but he wanted to stay and talk to his friend but wasn’t quite sure how to proceed. Thankfully, she asked him a question from her textbook, and they spent several minutes chatting amiably as he helped her study {with only slight distractions}. His heart felt extraordinarily light as she hugged him goodbye. Marinette quickly let go, face red, and began apologizing.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to hug you. It’s just a habit for me to hug my friend goodbye when she leaves, and I must have just gone based on habit. That was weird, I’m so sorry.-”

"It’s fine,” He said, cutting her off. He smiled. “Thanks for helping this Chat keep his cool.”

She rolled her eyes as he stepped onto the railing of her balcony to dash away. “If you stop by enough you might actually become a cool Chat.”

He gasped dramatically, “Princess, such cutting remarks, they hurt! I think I’m feeling faint!” He brought the back of his hand to his forehead and dropped backward off her balcony. He expected her to gasp or call his name, but when he flipped and launched himself away with his baton he looked to see a very unimpressed Marinette shaking her head as he leapt away.

He ran quickly back to his house, and slipped through the window, and quickly transformed. The quiet of his room was quickly filled with the loud grumbling of his very annoyed Kwami.

“I can’t believe you made me stay transformed in that heat just to talk to your girlfriend.” He grumbled loudly from inside his cheese cabinet. “She’s not my girlfriend!” Adrien shouted back indignantly.

“I haven’t seen her in ages and we’re friends! I’m allowed to say hi to my friends.”

“Why couldn’t you say hi to her as Adrien? Trying to impress her with your superhero persona? News flash, she’s not that impressed.”

“She was the one who waved me down.”

“And you’re the one who stayed for over an hour when you should have been studying.” Adrien knew Plagg was partially right. He should have been studying, and he’d stayed longer than he should have, but he forgot how nice it was to talk to Marinette. She was funny and kind, had excellent taste in tv, books, music, you name it.

Adrien rubbed his face and sighed. He was still too hot. There was no way he would get any real studying done until he stayed in a very cool bath for twenty minutes. He checked the time and realized he’d have to study later that night because his languages tutor would be there in 30 minutes. Adrien stripped and started filling the bath. He resolved to figure out a way to talk to Marinette as Adrien sometime soon.


The rest of his week was long and packed with schoolwork, extra lessons, photoshoots, and the ever-present Akuma attacks. Saturday morning and afternoon were filled with the normal activities, but he had somehow managed to convince his father to let him have the evening off for a sleepover at Nino’s house. He was quickly grabbing a few necessities and putting them into his bag while trying to keep Plagg from packing his whole stash of stinky cheese when he heard a knock on his door. Plagg hid, and Adrien cautiously opened his door, disappointment sitting heavily in his chest. It had to be his father changing his mind about letting him go. Adrien sighed when he saw that it was indeed his father on the other side of the door looking as nonplussed as ever.

“Yes, Father?” He asked, trying to keep the disappointment out of his voice.

“Adrien, I wanted to speak to you about university.” Gabriel stepped into Adrien’s room, forcing his son to take several steps back.

“University?” He asked, suddenly confused. “What about it? I applied to all the ones you asked me to and got into the best one in Paris. What else do we need to talk about?”

“Plenty.” Gabriel pulled a packet from behind his back, handing it to Adrien. He continued into the room, only sparing a quick glance at the half-packed bag on the bed, and settling himself on the couch.

Adrien looked at the packet, noticing it was a welcome booklet for the university, as well as what looked like a movie script and several different spreadsheets and contracts. Adrien joined his father on the couch and began flipping through the university booklet. He noticed a second smaller booklet wedged in its pages. It was for the physics program. His heart dropped.

“I thought we agreed that you would be studying business so you could work for Gabriel once you graduate. I did not consent to send you to the top university in Paris to study Physics.” He spat the last word out like a swear word.

Adrien’s hands were trembling. “I never said I wanted-”

“This isn’t about what you want. It’s about what's best for you.” Gabriel was very obviously restraining himself and failing.

“Being a physicist is a good career, Father. It’s something that pays well, and I enjoy it.”

Gabriel scoffed and stood abruptly causing Adrien to jump slightly. Adrien was not afraid of his father hurting him (though he definitely should be), but after years fighting for his life, sudden movements triggered his superhero fight or flight instincts. He had to physically restrain himself from putting space between him and his pacing father. “What do you know about a good career? You have one laid at your feet, one that will not only pays you well but keep you amongst the highest circle of society! Instead, you want to debase yourself with a career where you spend your free time locked in a lab begging for the funding you need to complete useless experiments.” Gabriel took a deep breath, visibly clenching his hands and jaw. “You will be studying business. I already have several important projects you are to work on during the year, and I’ve spoken to the business professors who are willing to let you attend remotely so you can take part in them.”

“Father, please!” He sounded like a child with his voice threatening to crack, not an adult who should be allowed to make his own decisions. “I want to study physics. I know it’s not what you imagined I would do with my life, but I’m an adult. Shouldn’t I have some say in my own future?”

“Your brain hasn’t even finished forming, you're barely an adult. You’ve never lived on your own, you don’t have any real-world skills. I suggest you don’t test me on this. You wouldn’t last long on your own.”

Adrien felt anger pooling in his chest. “Are you saying that if I don’t study Business and work for your company you’d kick me out?”

Gabriel didn’t say anything but gave him an emotionless look that said it all. Adrien suddenly couldn’t take it anymore. He stormed over to his half-packed bag and shoved the remaining things he’d packed into it. He then pushed several more things from his desk and closet into the top.

“What are you doing?” His father said in a warning tone.

“Exactly what you want me to do.” He said bitterly. “Leaving.”

He slammed the door behind him as he angrily pushed past a weakly protesting Natalie. He saw Gorilla on his way out the door, but his bodyguard made no move to stop him. He half walked, half jogged about a block and a half before he realized he’d gone the wrong direction. He refused to turn around and risk his father seeing him walking past the house. He ducked into an alleyway and checked the inner pocket of his shirt for Plagg.

“Kid, I understand you’re upset. I’m about a second away from doing something Tikki will yell at me for, but you need to think this through. Where are you going to live? What are you going to do for money, how-”

“I don’t know and right now I don’t care.” he interrupted. Plagg opened his mouth to ask more questions Adrien really didn’t want to talk about, so he quickly called his transformation, and began bounding across rooftops. He made it to Nino’s apartment building in less than half the time he would have if he had been driven by his bodyguard, so he spent several minutes pacing a few buildings over working on the grounding exercises he’d looked up on the internet. Once he was calm enough to thoroughly suppress any negative emotion he was feeling, Adrien jumped down into an alley and called off his transformation, and began running before Plagg could start talking again.

“AAADRIEEEN! Get back here!” he heard his kwami call after him.
“No!!” He pushed the buzzer several times, hoping that Nino was close by. He was buzzed in almost immediately and was once again on the move, skipping the elevator and running up the stairs.

“Adrien, I’m just as fast as you! I can fly. The counselor lady at school would be very upset that you’re avoiding your problem instead of talking it out.”

Adrien was slightly out of breath but was almost there. “I don’t have to outrun you. I just have to get to Nino’s. Also, I doubt I’ll be seeing her for a while after today, so she can’t be upset with me.”

He burst into the hallway and sprinted the last few feet to Nino’s door. Thankfully it was unlocked, and Plagg was no longer able to try to make Adrien think about the fight he’d just had with his father. In all honesty, Plagg was right. Adrien knew it, and it was especially concerning that Plagg actually wanted to talk about it. Plagg wasn’t exactly a big fan of talking through Adrien’s problems, so when he made the effort to do so it was always a really big deal.

Which was exactly why Adrien did not want to talk about it.

Adrien was glad to be back in Nino’s small apartment. It was small, cramped, filled with clutter, but clean and warm. He saw Chris and Nino Playing a game of Mario Kart on the couch, but was much more interested in Mrs. Lahiffe taking her signature Moroccan Chicken pie out of the oven.

“Hey, dude! You’re here early! I thought for sure the old dungeon master would keep you home for a lot longer.”

Adrien grimaced slightly at the mention of his father, but quickly schooled his features to a morse pleasant expression. “Who says I didn’t just sneak out? You know you can’t keep me pinned for very long!”

“Well, we’re very glad you could come, dear.” Mrs. Lahiffe said as Nino hooted at the game from the living room. “Would you mind helping me set the table? You know my crazy boys won’t help until their race finishes.”

“Of course!”

She handed him plates, and silverware, and brought the cups over to the small table that had been shoehorned into the small space between the living room and kitchen. He set four places on the table as Mrs. Lahiffe began bringing over dishes overflowing with food. This was his favorite part of staying at Nino’s. Hearing Nino and Chris bickering in the background while their mother lovingly set out dinner, humming a song he had only heard her sing. He felt like a part of their family, like he was wanted, rather than a guest actor acting on a stage too large to feel like home. He had to fight the moisture in his eyes, trying very hard not to think about the spectacle he’d left his house in.

He felt a soft hand on his elbow and saw the woman he considered a second mother looking at him with a soft warmth that made his heart constrict. He smiled tightly at her, and she pulled him in for a tight hug. He had to bend slightly to hug her back. He hadn’t had to do that the first time he met her, but he’d grown so much in the last year that he was taller than all of the women in his life. He wondered what it would be like to hug his own mother now that he was this tall. Would it feel foreign, like hugging a stranger? Or would he be able to sink into her arms and feel like the naive and unburdened child he’d been?

Adrien quickly pushed that thought away and hugged Mrs. Lahiffe tighter.

“Hey, quit trying to steal my mom away, dude!” Chris pushed lightly on Adrien’s hip. Adrien let go and wiggled his eyebrows at the boy to hide his internal distress.

“Too late! She’s my mom now! Maybe if you’d appreciated her more it wouldn’t have been so easy.” He joked, picking Chris up and slinging him over his shoulder. Chris squealed, squirming to get out of Adrien’s grasp.

“Oh, no Chris! You’ve done it now!” Nino laughed as he sat at the table. “Adrien’s going to put you outside in the dumpster and steal your room!”

“No!”

“Mrs. Lahiffe, I’m just going to take the trash out to the chute. I’ll be right back!” Adrien joked, adjusting his grip on the very squirmy 10-year-old as he walked toward the front door.

“That’s fine, dear. Just make sure you wash your hands after!” She called after him.

“NOOO!!!” Chris cried. It was getting harder to keep him in place because Adrien was laughing too hard. He made it to the door before Chris managed to slip out of his grasp. When Adrien took one of his hands off the back of Chris’ knees to turn the knob, Chris bucked and crashed to the floor and landed on his butt. He quickly scrambled up before Adrien could grab him again, and hid behind his mother. He was glaring at Adrien from behind his mother as he rubbed his sore bottom.

“Adrien, that’s disgraceful! You dropped the garbage all over the floor.” Nino said, fighting a smile as he dished food onto his plate.

“Darn it! I guess I’ll have to do it after dinner then.” He replied, sitting down at the table. He reached for the spoon for the vegetables when Mrs. Lahiffe slapped his and Nino’s hands away.

“Wash your hands! I know for a fact that Chris’ clothes are not clean, and those controllers are filthy!” All three boys quickly jumped to wash their hands. After all hands had been washed, everyone tucked into dinner. They all chatted happily about school and work. Adrien ate way too much and laughed hard enough to make his sides hurt, but he found himself a little sad as they cleaned up dinner. Mrs. Lahiffe asked Nino what the boys were planning on doing for the rest of the evening.

“Well, I was talking to Clara this morning, and she said that Alexandre was having an end-of-year party at his house tonight. Would it be alright if we went?”

“What kind of party?” She asked as she handed him a clean plate to dry. “Just a small one at his house to celebrate graduation. She said only a handful of people are going to be there.”

“Why didn’t I hear about this party?” Adrien asked as he put the leftovers into dishes. “Because it’s small and everyone knew if your old man caught wind of it he wouldn’t let you leave the house at all this weekend.”

Adrien scowled but nodded in understanding, Turing away so they couldn’t see his face.

“How late and how drunk are you planning to come home tonight?” Mrs. Lahiffe said sternly.

“That depends, how late are you planning on staying up to wait for us?” Nino said, walking a fine line between cheeky and cautious.

His mother put the dishes she was washing back in the sink and pointed a long soapy finger at Nino. Nino attempted a smile but it came out too wide and forced to be comforting like he probably wanted. “I am your mother. I will stay up the whole night if I have to to make sure my boys are safe. So how late and how drunk are you planning on coming home.”

“Before two and not very?” Nino said nervously.

“If it helps, ma’am, I don’t drink at parties so I’ll make sure he comes back safe,” Adrien interjected.

Mrs. Lahiffe's expression softened, and she stepped forward and placed a still wet hand on his cheek.

“You are a good boy, Adrien. You deserve to have fun.” She sighed and returned to washing dishes. “I suppose you are both adults now, and I can’t really stop you.”

Nino cheered.

“But you must listen to Adrien! If he tells you to leave or to stop, you do it!”

“You’re making him my babysitter?”

“Yes! Because you are a baby! My baby! And he is too responsible for his age. So make sure he has fun! But not too much fun. He is my baby too.”

Oh, great. Here comes the waterworks. He thought as he tried to discreetly wipe the excess moisture from his eyes.

Nino let out a loud whoop and began running to his room to gather his things. His mother quickly called him back to help finish cleaning up dinner.


The party was in full swing by the time they got there. Adrien stuck close to Nino’s side as he walked from one group to another. He had plenty of friends at the party but always felt more comfortable with his best friend by his side. It was not a “small” party. There were several dozen people Adrien had never met hanging around the house and small shared courtyard. He knew most of them were looking at him and most likely recognized him, how could they not when his face was plastered all over Paris. He wished he’d brought a disguise, though nothing short of actual magic would probably help him. Plenty of very lovely girls and a few boys tried to come to talk to him if they thought he wasn’t engaged in the conversion of whatever group he was in.

The conversation went one of two ways every time. They would come up, and say, “Hey, sorry! Do I know you?” or “Hey, pretty boy. Do you want to ditch this party and talk somewhere else?”

He would always respond with a polite, “No, I don’t think so.”

Then they would likely try to introduce themselves, and the more forward would say something wholly inappropriate, and the more sly ones would slip a little innuendo into the conversation. He would get wildly uncomfortable and would find an excuse to tap Nino into the conversation. Nino was a godsend in these conversations. With his years of DJing, he had learned the art of smooth-talking. He still used the word dude too often, but it usually worked in his favor.

The only problem with passing fawning girls off on Nino is that occasionally he would really hit it off with one of them. They would laugh and talk about things that Adrien had never been able to get them to talk about. It made him a little sad to see them be so open and interesting with someone else. They were often too busy trying to make a good impression on someone famous to be a real person.

It happened after about an hour this time, pretty quick for a party of this size, but Nino was a little drunker and a lot more smooth than usual. He left to go get a drink with his new friend Daliah and Adrien was left standing against a wall chatting with a couple people from one of his science classes. They were talking about the programs they’d been accepted into, some getting coveted spots in the best schools in Europe. As they all talked more about their plans for life after graduation his gut twisted more and more. It got to the point where he felt like he might throw up, so he excused himself. He wandered around the slightly too dark living room looking for Nino amongst the chatting groups, and the few couples making out in corners. He was about to move to the Kitchen when a loud commotion from the front door drew his eye.

“NETTIE! You made it!” Adrien saw the host, Alexandre pulling a dark hair girl in for a tight hug. He smiled wistfully. He then noticed the brunette standing behind the first girl and felt like shouting himself.

“ALYA!” he began pushing toward her as she began looking around for the source of her name. Her face lit up when she spotted him.

“Marinette! Look, it's our second favorite blonde!” She grabbed the shoulder of the girl currently being crushed by Alexandre, prying her away to reveal Marinette. Adrien quickly scooped both girls into a hug.

“I can’t believe you’re both here! It's been forever!”

“I know! I’ve missed everyone!” Alya said excitedly as they untangled themselves from their group hug. “It’s been ages since I’ve been able to make it over here for anything other than an Akuma attack, and that’s even pretty rare these days.”

Marinette rolled her eyes at Alya’s pout and shoved her face playfully. “Yeah, and it’s been ages since I’ve had a panic attack about you getting hurt in the process.”

“Adrien! Tell Marinette that I do important work for Paris by reporting on the action and that I’m always fine!”

“Well….” He thought back to all the times Alya got in the way, or purposefully put herself in danger (without the fox miraculous, of course), “Seeing as I'm only your SECOND favorite blonde, I’m going to have to side with Marinette on this one.”

“Haha! Suck it, Alya.” Marinette stuck her tongue out, and pulled Adrien in for another side hug, “It’s two against one, you have to stay safe and out of the way, that’s the rule.” Adrien laughed at the pure betrayal on Alya’s face. He squeezed her closer to his side briefly before she let him go.

“Wait, Nettie. You know Adrien?” Alexandre chimed in. Adrien was so happy to see his old friends he honestly forgot Alexandre was there, and now he’d butted into the conversation. Adrien kind of wanted to just push him away. Was it so wrong that he wanted to talk to two of his best friends for a few minutes without interruptions?

“Yeah, I do. We’ve been friends for a while now. We actually worked on that movie project I was telling you about the other day when you came to the bakery.” Marinette quickly explained. “But I haven’t seen him in ages.”

“Yeah. He abandoned us to the wolves, and now we only get to see his face on billboards.” Alya had her arm wrapped around his waist and was hugging him affectionately. He returned the gesture and laid his cheek against Alya’s head. He missed how affectionate Alya could be and was happy to bask in it.

“Uh, if I recall correctly you’re the one who moved, so if anyone was abandoned it was ME.” He said.

“NOPE. I was abandoned. You should have used your influence to get my parents not to move across town. Or snuck me into your giant house to be your live-in maid so I could stay.” She responded.

“Apologies. I can’t believe I was so selfish.”

“Oh, no. How will she ever forgive you?” Marinette said dramatically, their head back and resting the back of her hand on her forehead. Alexandre took the opportunity of Marinette stepping away from Adrien to wrap his arm around the small of Marinette's back. This move was annoying, a little possessive, and Adrien was bothered by it for some reason. Probably just because it was a weird thing to do in a group setting.

“I don’t think I can,” Alya replied, mimicking Marinette’s impression of a swooning old-fashioned Hollywood actress, and taking it a step further by pretending to fall into Marinette’s arms. “I’m too weak from this betrayal for forgiveness.”

“If the lady is weak, then perhaps the fine snacks and drinks provided for party goers will give her strength to consider it? You must be famished from your long train ride.” Alya pretended to think about it for a moment, then jumped up from Marinette’s arms.

“Apology accepted, on the condition, there are some good snacks and decent drinks.”

Adrien laughed and turned to Marinette. “Do you want me to bring you back anything? Or would you also like an escort to the snacks?”

“I can grab her something. Don’t worry about it.” Alexandre interjected before Marinette had a chance to respond.

“No, it’s okay Alexandre. I’ll go with them. I thought I saw Kai going into the kitchen and I needed to talk to her about something for my maman anyway. Besides, it looks like you guys were about to leave.” Marinette smiled kindly at him as she stepped away. She looked pointedly at the small group of boys waiting by the door, looking at him expectantly. He looked slightly put out by this development but tried to play it cool.

“Oh, that’s cool. We were just going to get some ice cream from the store and maybe get a movie to watch later when the party dies down before the stores close for the night.” He shoved his hands into his pockets. “That sounds wonderful!” Marinette said happily.

“Oh, pick a good one! Nothing too sappy!” Alya said as she began pulling at Marinette and Adrien's arm. Alexandre waved pitifully as they backed away. Adrien almost found the compassion to feel a little sorry for the dude. He’d seen it plenty of times with other classmates. Marinette was an easy girl to like, with her big blue eyes, and dark black hair that contrasted beautifully against her porcelain skin. If Ladybug hadn’t come crashing into his life, Adrien would probably have been one of the dozen smitten teens vying for her attention in College. He shook those thoughts from his head and focused on his two friends as they chatted on their way to the kitchen and Alya immediately dived into the snacks and poured herself a drink.

“Do you want anything, Marinette?” Adrien asked.

“Hmm. I’m a little thirsty, do they have some juice?”

“They have cranberry juice. I could make you a vodka Cranberry. I'm very good at those.” Alya said, coyly.

“It’s literally the easiest cocktail, of course, you can make it. But no. I don’t want to drink tonight. Not with Alexandre here.” The last part of her sentence caught his attention and made his gut twist with sudden anxiety. “Why not with Alexandre here? Do you think he’d try something?” Alya asked. Adrien edged closer and kept an eye out. He knew Alexandre wasn’t there anymore, but he suddenly;y felt extremely wary.

“No, nothing like that. He’s always been a perfect gentleman. He just likes to talk a lot, and there are a lot of things I would rather he not talk to me about right now, and I don’t know if being drunk will help with that.”

“It might. You don’t know until you try! Come on! I've never seen Drunk Mari, and I just know she would be so much fun!”

“I'm sure she would be, not tonight though.”

“I think I saw some lemon soda in the fridge earlier. Let me get some for you.” Adrien said, stepping between the two girls.

“Thank you, Adrien. What a good friend, listening to what I want.” Marinette said pointedly.

Alya grumbled something into her drink that Adrien couldn’t quite catch. After all three of them had gotten a drink and Alya had grabbed a plastic bowl and filled it with several types of snacks they made their way to the back yard and sat on a few free lawn chairs in the back. They all chatted happily about school and exams. Alya was in the middle of telling a very interesting story about someone getting locked in the janitor's closet while trying to play a prank on the principal when Nino finally made a reappearance. He was walking arm in arm with the girl he had saved Adrien from earlier. They were walking towards a dark corner, and she was being very handsy. The sight made Alya stop her story mid-word.

Marinette quickly jumped up and tried to pull Alya up from her chair. “Hey, how about we go inside for a bit? Maybe I’ll let you make me that Vodka Cranberry after all.”

Alya tried to wave her away, “It’s fine. I’m happy for him. He was the one who didn’t want to break up in the first place, I'm glad he found someone.” She turned to Adrien, “How long have they been dating? She seems lovely, I hope she’s nice because he's a great dude and he deserves someone nice, and- yeah.”

“Well… I don't really know, I’m sure she's nice, but they aren't dating. They met like two hours ago.”

“Oh,” was all Alya managed to say to that. She was staring intently at her drink and biting her lip. She took several deep breaths. “I'm going to go refill my drink. Do you guys want anything?”

“Alya, we can all go inside. We don't have to sit out here anymore if you are upset. I can even take you back to the bakery if you want.” “Seriously Marinette. I’m fine. I just need a minute to breathe. I'll be back in just a few minutes.” Marinette backed away, still looking skeptical as Alya went back into the house.

She huffed and sat back in her chair, a crease forming between her eyebrows.

“Sick of the whole break-up drama, too?” He asked “Ugh, yes! She’s being weird about it, and won’t tell me what happened.”

“Nino’s the exact same way! I know he misses her like crazy, not that you’d notice after that display. He gives me some lame excuse why they broke up, looks into the distance like a dramatic soap opera character, and then changes the subject.”

“Right? She is seriously being weird about it. ‘It’s just too far, We’re too different, It’s what we both wanted, I don’t need to date the same dude my whole life, I need to branch out.’ Blah, blah blah blah. It’s all a bunch of bull if you ask me.”

They both sighed and sunk deeper into their chairs. Adrien kept sending mildly concerned glances to where he could see Nino and the girl standing very close together, and back toward the door hoping Alya wouldn’t come back quickly.

“She still loves him, you know,” Marinette said pensively.

“He definitely feels the same.”

“Ugh, I just wish they would get over whatever their problem is and get back together, they would be so much happier. I would be so much happier not having to hear about every little thing Nino used to do when they were dating.”

“Cheers to that.” He extended his cup and Marinette lightly bumped the cups against his. He sighed heavily. “They just need a little push. It doesn’t help that they never run into each other in settings where they have to interact. Then maybe they’ll get talking and realize that they were perfect for each other.”

Marinette froze and looked at him with a hint of mania sparkling in her big blue eyes. “Well, maybe a little push can be arranged.” Her smile was wide, devious, and a little frightening.

“What do you mean?”

She leaned forward practically buzzing with excitement. “I’m her best friend, and you're his best friend, so we have a lot of influence on where they go and when. Alya is always at the bakery, and she’s going to be over at my house basically the whole summer. My parents have even made up the spare room for her because she has an internship at Nadia Chamack’s news station and needs to be nearby for work. Nino will probably be so excited that you are able to hang out with him. He'd got just about anywhere. We can orchestrate a run-in whenever we need to.” She grabbed his arm and shook him excitedly. “THINK OF THE POSSIBILITIES!!!”

He laughed at her manic excitement. “Okay! Okay. We can try, I would certainly love to get them back together,” He stopped. The argument he’d just had with his father rang painfully through his ears, causing him to slump. “But who says I’ll be available?”

“Pfft. We’ll work around any crazy schedule you have.” She waved him off. “Plus, you’re an adult. You have money, you can get a job. You don’t have to do everything your father wants you to. He just thinks he has leverage on you because he always has. We can figure something out.”

“Yeah, but he’s my father and despite his faults, I do love him. I don’t want to drive a wedge between us more than there already is. Although, That ship might have already sailed anyway.”

There was a moment of tense silence where Adrien was very pointedly NOT looking at Marinette and regretting saying too much about the very thing he did not want to talk about right now. He could feel Marinette’s intense gaze on him, and he wondered when she got so bold around him. It felt like she could see right through him. All she had to do was poke and the facade he had built out of balsa wood, denial, and bits of chewed-up ego would crumble, revealing the sad 13-year-old who missed his mama underneath. He honestly wasn’t sure if he could handle Marinette seeing him like that, so he reinforced the walls with pure avoidance.

Unfortunately for him, Marinette could tell he was hiding something. She lifted up her chair and placed it so she was facing him, and gently took one of his hands from their death grip around his cup.

“Did you two have a fight? Did he do something?”

Adrien’s throat was tight, easily blocking his automatic denial from slipping between his lips.

“Adrien, look. You don’t have to tell me.I know I haven’t been around all that often, so I don’t know what’s been going on, but it might help to talk about it with someone else.”

He could feel Plagg patting him encouragingly through the pocket of his shirt. He swallowed, and took a couple deep breaths, focusing on Marinette’s hand massaging his palm while she waited.

“Ye-” his voice was dry and cracked. He hated how broken that one syllable sounded to his ears. He cleared his throat. “Yeah. We fought before I left for Nino’s.”

“About?” She continued to rub his palm and the repetitive motion soothed his aching heart.

“School. He wants me to go for business and work for the company the whole time, and I-” He suddenly felt silly, but the burning in his eyes made it very hard for him to see anything. He quickly rubbed his eyes.

“And you don’t.” Marinette finished for him. He simply nodded. “What do you want to do? I know you always really like science, maybe chemistry or physics. Something like that?”

The surprise at her remembering what kind of classes he liked shocked the building tears back just enough for him to see her clear blue eyes piercing into him. She looked so concerned and so open and kind it sent a stab through his heart.

“Yeah, Physics. Apparently, that’s not good enough for an Agrest though. I’m going to spend the rest of my life ‘begging for funding’ from people who are actually ‘successful’ like a vagabond, according to my father.”

“That’s bullshit.”

He laughed at her blunt phrasing.

“No seriously, Adrien, that’s a bunch of shit, and he knows it. First of all, plenty of people make lots of money with physics degrees, and they don’t necessarily have to work at universities. Second, you probably have enough money to still be in upper society no matter what you do for work, and having an advanced degree in something other than a business makes you seem fancier, like with that American actress with a Ph.D. in Neurobiology. And third!” She punctuated her sentence by shoving her first three fingers into his face, finally breaking him fully from his gloom. “You could probably do both. You’re smart enough, and,” She leaned in conspiratorially, “Business degrees aren’t that hard. My dad went back to school part-time when I was a kid to help learn how to run the bakery better, and he said he already knew most of the things they taught.”

He found himself smiling at the mischievous twinkle in her eye. “You seem to have thought about this a lot, how about you go talk to my father for me?”

“Don’t ask me like you think I won’t. Who was the one who got him to let you go to New York? That’s right, me, so tread lightly my friend.”

“That was really cool. It’s too bad Hawkmoth ruined it,” he sighed.

“Yeah, screw him. And screw your father.” Hearing her say that sent an uncomfortable prickling sensation across his skin. He tried not to let it show, but his face must have given him away. She looked away guiltily. “Sorry, that was rude. True, but rude, I shouldn’t have said that.”

“No, It’s okay. It probably looks really bad to other people, but I know he’s just trying to do what’s best for me.”’

“Yeah, but what he thinks is best for you might not be right. You should be happy. You deserve to be happy. Also, you deserve to have enough time to help me manipulate our friends into getting back together for our own sanity. It’s for the greater good.”

“Hmm, I don’t know if he’ll consider helping Nino and Alya get their act together a part of the greater good. I could be doing fragrance commercials instead, and that is invaluable.” He joked.

“He will understand, he has to!!! This is a matter of life or death!” She draped herself dramatically across his lap, almost knocking his drink out of his hand.

“I doubt anyone will die if we can’t get our friends back together.” He said sarcastically, trying fruitlessly not to giggle at her theatrics.

“Oh, someone will die for sure.” She looked up at him from his lap with an intense gaze filled with more weight than he felt the situation called for. “If I have to hear how good of a kisser Nino was in that same sad defeated tone one more time, either Alya will die at my hand, or I will.”

Adrien let out a startled snort of laughter, which made Marinette start laughing.

“Oh my God, Nino is the exact same! ‘Adrien, dude. She was the perfect girl, and her butt was out of this world.’” He said, using his best Nino impression.

Marinette let out the loudest and least dignified snort he’d ever heard, which only added fuel to Adrien’s giggles. They kept exchanging mocking impressions of their best friends until they were both laughing so hard Marinette toppled off her chair, pulling Adrien with her onto the cool grass. Every time one of them started to catch their breath the other would look at them and their laughter would start all over again.

It got so bad that Nino and his new ‘friend’ came over to see what was the matter with them. Which of course made it that much worse.

“Are you guys okay over here?” he asked in concern. Adrien just pointed at Nino and wheezed, tears leaking from the corner of his eyes. “Seriously, what happened?”

Marinette let out a pained giggle and grabbed Adrien’s arm, and just whispered, “Oh, his- but his lips!”

Adrien choked on his own laughter and grabbed the shoulders of Marinette’s shirt and shook her in punishment for making it worse.

“N- No! No m- No more! I- I can’t” He managed to sputter out through laughs.

“It hurts!” Marinette cried back.

Nino looked so confused, and the girl he’d been talking with looked absolutely baffled, and a little disappointed at the crack in the perfect Adrien Agreste facade. There were others there, several curious party-goers had gathered wondering what the commotion was. Adrien was definitely starting to feel self-conscious but was trapped in a cage of his own giggles. It really wasn’t that funny, but the combination of being tired, tense, and weirdly free for a few minutes was like lighter fluid on a campfire. He couldn’t stop even as he hid his face into Marinette’s shoulder to prevent anyone filming him having a giggle fit at some random party. The sensible part of his brain reminded him it wouldn’t be good to get caught at the party, even if he had threatened to move out just a few hours earlier.

“Alya?” Nino exclaimed from somewhere over his head.

He managed to compose himself just enough to start filling his lungs. He might even be able to speak a complete sentence if he could just forget about Marinette’s face for one sec- and he was back to square one after Marinette made the most ridiculous strangled cackle he’d ever heard.

“Okay, everyone move on. You standing here is not helping,” Alya snapped at the gathered crowd, her militant tone effectively pushing them back. “And you! Delete that! I doubt your five followers will be interested in two weirdoes having a laugh. Back off!”

He soon felt Alya’s firm hand pulling him away from Marinette and rolling him to his other side. She pushed their heads apart and sat between them so they couldn’t look at one another and waited for them to calm down. Adrien forced himself to take long deep breaths. His body was starting to relax. This was probably the hardest he’d laughed since the time Ladybug had tripped off a building while they were on patrol and somehow ended up tangled in her yoyo above a large group of tourists.

“Care to share the joke?” Alya asked when Marinette and Adrien were calm enough to speak.

“Nope,” Marinette said.

“You probably wouldn’t find it funny anyway,” Adrien added.

“I don’t know, I think we would all like to hear it.” Nino cut in, his new friend had left and it was just the four of them- Adrien, Marinette, and Alya all on the ground and Nino towering over them with a stern look on his face. Adrien chuckled at his best friend as he pulled him unceremoniously to the ground.

“Hey!” He protested, but sat cross-legged in a position that looked like he was facing Adrien, but would give him a peripheral view of Alya.

“To be fair, it wasn’t all that funny. I’m just super tired so everything is funny.” Marinette assured their two best friends.

“Ah, the famous late-night Dupain-Cheng Giggles. That explains you, but what about Agreste over here. He’s usually so composed. What did you do to him? Spike his drink perhaps?” Alya accused Marinette jokingly.

Adrien noticed Nino’s eyes flicking towards Alya occasionally as they spoke, like he wanted to see her but didn’t want to get caught staring. “I’m just as tired as she is apparently. I’ve been going non-stop all week. I’m too weak to fight the influence of the late-night Dupain-Cheng Giggles.”

“We should probably get going if you’re so tired.” Nino attempted to stand but was quickly pulled back down by three sets of forceful but friendly hands.

“No!” Adrien shouted. “I’m having a good time, and I haven’t seen Alya or Marinette in ages. We’re going to hang out like old times.” He then leveled Nino with a pointed stare, daring him to say something. “Unless you have a problem with that?”

“No, no, no! That’s fine.” He said quickly. “I just don’t want you to be dead tomorrow.”

“Uh-huh,” Adrien said, unconvinced.

They ended up talking for several hours, with only a few awkward pauses between Alya and Nino, but Marinette more than made up for it. She had grown into her confidence over the last year, that was for sure. She had always been a little weird at times In college, but now she was vibrant and funny. She was still occasionally weird, but they seemed more purposeful now like she was settling into herself as a person. He grinned the whole night, even as he herded a sort of sober Nino home. As they waited for the final train of the night Adrien heard Nino sigh. Nino’s face was illuminated by the light of his phone as he stared at a picture Alya insisted they all take.

Adrien rolled his eyes and sent Marinette a single text message that simply read:

“Project DJWifi is a go.”

Chapter Text

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!”

Chapter Text

Gorilla dropped them off by the elevators in the Parking garage of Adrien’s Apartment. He led all three of them to his apartment, and quickly unlocked the door. He thought briefly of the night before as he twisted the lock and had to shake the far too pleasant thoughts off quickly. Instead he tried to focus as Nino and Alya gushed over the size and luxury of his apartment. They dropped everything they’d purchased in the entryway and he was roped into giving them a tour. Alya gushed at the views from his windows, Nino thoroughly inspected his sound system, and they both immediately jumped onto his bed. They both claimed it was the most comfortable bed they had ever seen, and Alya suggested that they take a nap before putting any of their purchases away.

Marinette quickly shut that idea down, stating that she would be able to relax much better if the construction of the shelves and other smaller furniture was built first. So each person was given a task, and set to work. Thankfully the apartment had a fairly open plan, so Alya could organize the new kitchen utensils in the drawers while Adrien and Nino attempted to build the shelves, and Marinette set to changing out the plain black pillows and monotone artwork in the living room. Keeping himself busy was one of the best things for Adrien as he tried to relax his still anxious body while also trying not to think too much about the warm feeling he got when he thought about Marinette decorating their- his- definitely his- home. The quiet hum of his friends working in the same area, occasionally commenting on something they were working on, or asking questions began to add to the feeling of this being a home.

The only issue was that this damn shelf would not come together! Nino was also struggling, but had made significant progress on his project. He was honestly overjoyed when the blaring emergency alarm went off on their phones. An Akuma meant he had an excuse to leave the shelf and go do something he knew he was good at, hitting things with a big stick.

Screamed in excitement when she looked at her phone. “It’s only a few blocks away from here! On my first full day back in France too! I gotta go we some footage for the Ladyblog!” She dashed out the door before Nino’s protests could be heard.

“Ugh, Bro. If I didn’t love her so damn much I would be so annoyed right now,” he said as he got up to follow her.

Both Adrien and Marinette protested about the couple running head first into the fight, but knew it was useless. They both sighed heavily, and Adrien stood and stretched, calling for Plagg. His kwami streaked out of Marinette’s purse.

“You ready for another Akuma?” he asked.

“NO, I was having a very nice dream about that cheese we got when we went to Italy. I could almost taste the mold!”

“Gross,” he replied. He called his transformation, and got ready to jump out the balcony window. Marinette stopped him with a hand to his shoulder.

“Wait for a moment, Alya’s still close by, she might notice you.” She was watching Alya’s live stream on her phone.

“Oh, That’s right.” He paused, and after a moment Marinette lifted her hand off his shoulder and told him to be careful. He took another step towards the window, then thought better of it.

He swept Marinette into his arms and kissed her deeply, his clawed hand caressing her cheek. She stepped into the kiss to wrap her arms around his waist.
When he finally broke the kiss they were both a little breathless, and flushed. She smiled at him, “Not that I mind, but what was that for?”

“Well, I’ve got to give my Marinette lucky charm a chance to do it’s magic, don’t I?”

She rolled her eyes and pushed him towards the door. “Get out there and save the day, dork.”
He resisted slightly, he knew he needed to get out there, Ladybug was probably fighting all alone, but- “I think I need extra luck though! I think I need another kiss.” He tried to pull her back, but she stepped away.

“You’ll get another kiss if you make it back without getting hit by the akuma first.”

“Deal!” he grinned,and swooped in and stole another quick peck before leaping out into the sky.

“Ooh, Chat Noir! You’re in for it!” She muttered under her breath as she watched him vault across buildings. She felt weak in the knees, and her heart still pounded a little from the frankly heart stopping kiss he’d laid on her. She shook herself slightly and when he was far enough away, she called her transformation. As Tikki was sucked into her earrings she could have sworn that her kwami was grinning smugly.

 

Ladybug landed behind Chat in an alley as he watched the akuma working it’s magic. The man who’d be akumatized seemed to radiate his own soft golden light. He was surrounded by several people who were frozen in an exaggerated pose, hair midtoss, clothes being gently blown by the wind, and a perfect half smile. He was stalking down the street away from them looking for more subjects to shoot.
“What is he doing?” She asked quietly.
“I’m not sure, but have you seen the way I look in this lighting? Meow! I sure hope someone gets some good pictures today, I’m hoping to get a new headshot for when they talk about us in the news.” He grinned at her and wiggled his eyebrows suggestively.

“Hmm, I’m a big fan of the one Nadia used last week, I think we should stick with that one.” She said, smirking as she crept around the corner to follow the akuma.
He stared after her in horror.

“You mean the one they got of me sneezing as a pigeon flew into my face? The only bad picture I have ever taken? That’s your favorite? You are a cruel woman.” As he said this he made the mistake of stepping on a piece of plastic someone had left on the sidewalk, which in the eerily quiet Parisian street was loud enough to alert the victim of their presence. He whipped around to face them and shot a concentrated golden beam towards them, which they narrowly missed by jumping to buildings on opposite sides of the street. The man kept shooting beams of golden light at them, all while shouting at them to hold still so he could get the perfect shot.

“Geez, what’s got you all worked up,” Chat Noir Said, as he tried to evade a beam and get close enough to the victim to knock the camera he was using out of his hands.

“Apparently I am not a good enough photographer for the stuck up Agrest’s to even deign to show up to the photoshoot I had planned for them! But I will show them! I am Goldenhour, and Goldenhour always gets their shot!” He shouted, choosing to take a more hands on approach by swinging his camera at Chat’s head when the superhero stumbled at the mention of his family name.

Ladybug scowled, knowing it was likely all Gabriel’s fault, but that Adrien would take all the blame on himself. She jumped into the fight, dodging attacks as she searched for the most likely place for the akuma to be hiding. She only had to grab Nino and Alya out of harms way once, before the journalist got a hint and hid in a better spot to film the fight.

This went on for several more minutes and began to move further into tourist territory as he tried to make his way to the Eiffel tower, and hopefully find Adrien on the way. Ladybug was getting sick of the back and forth, and she could see the strained way Chat’s smiles and jokes fell slightly flat when he thought she wasn’t paying him any attention.
She called for her lucky charm, and revived a vacuum with a long extension hose. She looked around for a minute and saw the scaffolding around a building under construction, the dangling straps of the akuma’s camera, and a small pin on his lapel.

“Chat, I need you to go over to that building and cataclysm is in exactly 3 minutes. Do you think you can do that?” She asked.

“Oh, a rugged construction shot? I’m down for that. I have a few construction jokes, but Sadly I’m still working on them!” he shouted as he vaulted across the way towards the steel girders.

Ladybug began stalking closer to the akuma, Vacuum in hand.

“Ooh, Ladybug, thank you for bringing something to clean the set up with, but I would much rather have you in the starring role, next to that elusive pretty boy I’ve been trying to find! Perhaps you hand run to find him for me, Apparently I’m too imcompitent for him. You might have better luck!” He paused, “Oh, look at me. I punned! Now run along, before I make you part of my collection and take those pretty little earrings from you.”

Ladybug Didn't notice the way Chat Froze in the shadow of the building as Goldenhour pinned all the blame on Adrien. She was too busy dodging attacks, and strategically getting him into the correct position. She got Goldenhour right where she wanted him, and had managed to suck the dangling straps into the vacuum thus ripping the camera away from his hands, but the looming shadow of the scaffolding had not started to move yet. She whipped around to see Chat with his cataclysm activated, but standing stock still breathing heavily, eyes wide. She silently cursed herself for not realizing the problem earlier and quickly shot the camera’s beam at the victim. He jumped out of the way quickly, and landed on one of the upper beams of the scaffold.

“Chat!” She yelled, “NOW!”

He seemed to surface from his thoughts slowly at first, taking a second to realize his surroundings. It was too slow for Ladybug, so she jumped after Golden hour to keep him on the beam. They fought hand to hand for another few seconds, before she felt the metal beneath her begin to shift. She shot another beam towards the victim, missing yet again. However, the rocking of the ground they were standing on, coupled with the instability he’d created by quickly jerking away from Ladybugs attack caused the Akuma to fall back into the correct position as the saffold fell down around him, missing his body, but smashing the pin fastened to his lapel.

Ladybug tried to dismount and catch the butterfly flying away, but fell off the building. She groaned as she tried to stand up. Chat Noir ran towards her to help her up.

“I’m fine! I just need to get the Akuma. Which way did it go?”

“If flew that way!” He pointed over the rooftops. Ladybug threw her yo-yo in the direction he pointed.

“Grab the lucky charm. I’m going to catch it.”
Thankfully the butterfly hadn’t made it very far and she was able to purify it within a few minutes. She turned to bounce back to where the victim was lying in the street, but was met with the solid wall that was Chat Noir's chest. She squeaked in surprise and stumbled back, only being prevented from falling by Chat’s Hands grabbing her elbows.

“Whoa! Careful!” he said, righting her carefully. “I brought the lucky charm, do your Miraculous ladybug, quick. The Victims panicking.”

“Oh, shoot. Yeah.” She took the Vacuum from where Chat had placed it and quickly threw it in the air to make everything, and everyone, go back to normal. “Pound it?”
“Pound it.” He replied, pressing his fist to hers.

“Are you okay Chat? You froze for a second, and You seem a little upset.”

He instantly straightened his posture and settled into an easy expression, “No! I’m Okay, I just lost count! I am a-okay. In fact I would say I’m a-meow-zing.”

She narrowed her eyes at him, knowing exactly what had upset him. LadyBug wanted to tell him that he can’t expect to live his life poorly because Gabriel couldn’t control himself. The problem was this was something that Marinette could talk to him about, not Ladybug. He widened his smile, trying to look happy enough to get her to drop it. She sighed and shook off the anger she felt at Gabriel/.

“All right. If you’re sure. I want you to know I am not upset, and that you did great work today. Thank you.” She reached out and grabbed his hand, willing him to believe it. She looked down to see Alya waving frantically at them for an interview. She sighed again. “Looks like our favorite journalist is back in town. Let’s do a quick interview, then I have to bug out before I’m missed.”

“Wait! I have something I wanted to talk to you about.”

She paused, “Oh? What is that?”

“I have a friend, who is planning something, and she wants our help.”

“Chat, I know you love going to surprise parties, but we can’t keep going places transformed.”

“No, It’s not like that. It’s- Look, can I tell you about it tomorrow night around 10? At the 2nd alternate meet-up?”

She pretended to think about it for a minute then agreed. They both hopped down to the street to talk to Alya for her first official interview back in Paris. As soon as they answered a handful of questions she made her excuses and dashed back to Adrien’s apartment so no one would realize she’d been gone. She landed through the bathroom window only a few minutes before Adrien landed in the living room. He found Marinette quietly building the shelf He’d given up on.

“Hey,” She looked up from the screw she was tightening to give him a once over. “I saw what happened. Are you okay?”
He stood there, took a deep shuddering breath, and then melted into a puddle at her feet.

“Oh, dear. That’s what I was afraid of.” She pulled him into her arms.

This had become a sadly common thing for them. Adrien had been working on setting more boundaries the last several months with the help of his therapist, and gentle encouragement from Marinette and Nino. Gabriel did not take these boundaries well and it absolutely gutted Adrien every time his father lashed out because of it. It was especially hard when Gabriel hurt someone other than Adrien, like today with Vincent.

Adrien spent several long minutes shedding himself of the burden his father unfairly put on him. Marinette spent that time reassuring him that it was not his fault but his fathers. As Adrien was coming out of the worst of his spiral, a message from Alya came through her phone letting her know the couple had decided to get some food for everyone on their way back and would be a while longer.

“Are you hungry?” She asked, pushing his hair away from face, gently stroking his skin in a way that made Adrien close his eyes in pleasure.

“No.” He said as his stomach let out a growl.

“Hmm,” she looked at him thoughtfully. He scrunched his nose up, and turned so his face was pressed into her stomach. “So you don’t want them to pick up some Saag Paneer and samosas for you from the Indian place you like?”

He tensed slightly, then peaked at her from his hiding spot. “With extra sauce and garlic roti?” He asked tentatively.

“Yeah, too bad you’re not hungry” she pulled out her phone and began typing a message. “I’ll just tell them to get whatever they want.”

He groaned, “Nooo. Fine! I’m a little bit hungry,” his stomach growled again, “But I’m still miserable, so I think I need some malpura too- and a head massage.”

She smiled and rolled her eyes as she sent the text. She began to gently scratch his scalp. He purred and pushed his head against her hand. “You know what this poor kitty should do?”

He opened his eyes and fixed her with a glazed look.

“Help me change your bed sheets and comforter to the ones we got today.”

His pupils dilated and a huge grin covered his face. “And the fluffy pillows?” He asked.

“Pffftt. Of course.”

He jumped up and grabbed the bags from where they dumped them by the door. “ Then what are you waiting for!!”

They spent 10 minutes excitedly making up the bed. Adrien's posture still seemed defeated and stiff, but it was an improvement.

After everything was perfectly arranged, They bit stepped back to admire their handy work. Adrien looked over to Marinette who looked pleased, she turned to him and smiled widely. His smile got even wider.

“It looks great, princess. But there’s one thing missing.”

She sighed, “Yeah. There were a few things they didn’t have in stock that I thought you’d like. We can order them tonight if you want.”

“That’s not what I’m talking about.”
“Then what–” her question was cut short in surprise when Adrien swan dived into the pile of pillows at the end of his bed.

“Cha- Adrien! We just finished making that!” She said trying to sound stern but really laughing at the stupid little grin he had as he burrowed deeper into the pile.

“Yes, and it’s perfect for a little kitty like me. All I need is a cuddle buddy.” He said, reaching his hands in a ‘gimme’ gesture. “Come on. It’s comfy”

“He’s right, you know!” Came Plaggs muffled voice. “This is the best idea you ever had. You should get me this stuff for my lair.”

“It’s not a lair, it’s a hidey whole, and I will definitely get you stuff like this if it means I won’t turn over in my sleep and get woken up by the camembert stench in my pillows.” He reached out to Marinette, and pulled her into the pile of pillows they were enveloped in.

“Deal!” Plagg said.

The three of them rolled around in the pillows until they all found a comfortable spot, Adrien reclining on the pillows, half under the sheets, Marinette propped up on his chest and Plagg happily purring buried deep into the fluffiest pillow he could find. Marinette was showing Adrien a few additional pieces she wanted to get, occasionally asking him if he liked this or that. Adrien wasn’t really paying attention, he was focusing on his arms round her waist, the smell of her hair against his nose, and the warmth and comfort he felt after the emotionally fraught afternoon he’d had. His head began to feel heavy, and he propped it against Marinette's so it wouldn’t fall. He was more than halfway asleep when the sound of his front door opening caused Marinette to jump about a foot in the air, hitting him painfully in the process. He let out a pained groan and curled into a ball.

“Oh, sorry! Are you okay,” she said gingerly crawling out of the bed and hovering over him.

“Yeah, that just wasn’t the best way to wake up. I’ll be fine in a minute.”

“You were asleep?”

“Just a little bit.”

“I am so sorry!”

“What are you sorry about?” Alya said from the doorway. She was holding a bag of food and looking at them with suspicious eyes.
“We were- I was- uhhh”

“ I was taking a nap while Marinette was decorating, but she tripped and landed poorly.”

“So you’re saying she slipped and landed on your dick?” Alya said in a voice that was somewhere between suspicious and mocking.
“WHAt?” Nino almost shouted as he stepped behind Alya, while both Marinette and Adrien Protested the crude phrasing.

“I tripped! I accidentally hit him in the groin!”

“Don’t say it like that!”

All four stewed in the deafening silence following their outburst, until Alya let out the loudest snort any of them had ever heard and they all broke out into nearly uncontrollable laughter. After they all calmed down they all settled in the living room around the coffee table to eat.

-

After Ladybug and Chat Noir ended their interview, Alya and Nino were still several blocks away from Adrien’s new apartment. Which Alya decided was the perfect time and place to check items of her agenda; get the deets on Adrien from Nino, grab some toothbrushes and other toiletries they’d need for the sleep over, and get some dinner.

While they walked to a nearby store Alya began grilling Nino on what he found out.

“Soooo, was I right or was I right? They’re totally in love right? Marinette is a vault as usual but I bet you got something from sunshine.” she grabbed his arm excitedly.

“Adrien can be just as secretive as Mari, but I did get some info. You’re not going to like it though.”

“No! Don’t tell me he rejected her!” She cried, shaking him forcefully.

“No, no.” He said placatingly, “I do genuinely think they might like each other. But I don’t think it’s exactly romantic?”

“What do you mean?”

“He didn’t tell me a whole lot, but I guess they both like someone else, and for some unknown reason they can’t or maybe won’t be with that person. I think they’ve just decided to be lonely together.”

“Ok, you are talking nonsense. Who else would Marinette like? Adrien, I could see him meeting someone. He works with a lot of beautiful models and agents and sees a million people a day. But who would Mari like? She doesn’t really go out much because she’s always working on something. Plus she would have told me!” Nino gave her a look, “Probably.”

“Alya, I think after how over involved you got with the last three guys she told you about she might not be willing to tell you until she’s more sure.”

“ I didn’t mean to freak out the last one. I honestly thought he knew!”

“I know, hun. But…” He let his sentence trail off. They were at their first stop and Nino led a slightly distraught Alya through the store picking up several items. Their conversation petered out until they’d left the store with 3 toothbrushes, 3 pairs of underwear, and a copious amount of snacks and alcohol for the sleepover.

As they set off towards the restaurant Alya sent Marinette a quick text asking if the other two wanted anything.

She huffed a sigh, “I just don’t get who this mysterious man is. How can he trump the boy she was in love with for like 3 years! When I meet that sick bastard I’m going to kill him!” She said, shaking one of the bags in her hands vaguely towards the sky. Nino wasn’t sure if this statement was meant to be directed at him or at the heavenly being who had the audacity to let this happen.

“My OTP man! How could some man whore swoop in and ruin that? He won’t even date her! It’s an abomination. ”

“Even if there was no mystery man, you're forgetting about the mystery woman. Your OTP is doomed, dude. You’re just going to have to hope LadyNoir happens someday.”

“No! This is unacceptable! If they are going to keep being stubborn, then I’m going to have to do something about it. Plus we have all night to execute a plan! We could play truth or dare, and make them tell us how they feel! Or maybe make them kiss! Maybe we can get Marinette to tell Adrien about her crush on him when we’re were younger which will-“

Nino stopped Alya’s word vomit with a finger to her lips. He looked at his girlfriend warily. “Remember how you said you were going to start practicing the art of subtle digging? Because people clam up when they know you're trying to get something from them?”

Alya glared at Nino, “yeah” she said sullenly.

“So maybe you need to be a little less overt. Plus Adrien already knows Marinette had a crush on him.”
“WHAt?” Alya screeched, causing several patrons at the nearby restaurants to look at them with disdain.

“Yeah, apparently Mari told him about it.. I was pretty shocked too.”

“No! This is terrible news!!!” Alya cupped her face with her hands. “ This means she really did get over it! This is going to be so much harder than I thought!”

“What’s going to be harder? Finding out if they’re dating? Because I’m pretty sure we’ve established that they aren’t. Which means you owe me.” He grinned slightly at her look of horror as he opened the door to the restaurant for her.

“No! I refuse to accept that nothing is going on! This can't be real. They definitely like each other and I am going to get them to admit it, just you watch Lahiffe. Then They are going to start dating, and our kids are going to grow up together and fall in love and then we’ll be family and all of us will share a crypt where our bones will party until Rapture!”

“And how do you plan on doing that?” he asked as he stepped closer to the front counter.

“I have a foolproof plan. Here’s what we’re going to do….”

Chapter Text

The group spent all of dinner discussing the akuma. Marinette had to very pointedly steer Alya away from the fact that the victim blamed Adrien in his rant. Alya wanted to talk all about Chat freezing at the wrong time, and the speculation on what that could possibly mean for LadyNior. So Marinette had to constantly steer the conversation. She couldn’t help but notice that after every mention and subsequent derailment, Adrien took another swig of his beer. It wasn’t a lot, he was responsible afterall, but it was enough to make his cheeks flushed and for him to get a little giggly.

Alya and Nino were another story. Both were drinking freely, and Alya had reached the kind of tipsy that made her talk endlessly. Surprisingly, neither of them mentioned Alya’s suspicions from earlier. Marinette kept bracing for another pointed question, or an innuendo, but none came. She felt like she should be able to put her guard down, but that only made her more suspicious.

Eventually after everyone had eaten their fill the conversation turned to what they should do with the rest of the night. Marinette voted for everyone getting changed and watching a movie. Nino stayed staunchly out of the conversation because he knew what was coming and was powerless to stop it, and Alya of course thought they should all play a sleepover game. Adrien, his judgment slightly impaired, said he had no preference, but did giggle a little bit at the idea of Truth or Dare. He missed the panicked look Marinette was trying to send him so he said they could probably do both. So, despite Marinette’s protests Alya’s trap was set.

“Alright, You get one get out of jail free card, after that if you don’t want to do a dare or tell a truth you have to pick the other one from this app,” She held up her phone with a truth or dare app pulled up, “ set to extreme, AND lose a piece of clothing. Because I’m nice, shoes and socks count, but only as a unit. So none of this one sock at a time biz. If you avoid the truth, you cannot be asked the same question again, but you can get asked adjacent questions. If you avoid a dare, the same rules apply. Everybody got it?”

They all agreed, Marinette somewhat grumpily.

“Alright, I’ll spin this bottle and the person it lands on gets to go first.” she spun the bottle, and added, “Oh, and if you lie and I ever find out, I will make you streak through the champ de mars gardens as punishment.”

Marinette and Adrien shifted uncomfortably in their seats, Adrien just now realizing how bad of an idea it was to play this game. The bottle, blessedly, landed on Marinette, who sighed quietly in relief.

“Alright, hmm.” She looked between her friends trying to pick who to go for first. Alya was obviously the most vindictive choice, but if she did that then Alya could fire back, which Marinette wanted to avoid as much as possible. Nino would likely be a bit better, but might then pick Alya and they would be in the same situation. So Adrien it was.

“Adrien, Truth or Dare?”

He smiled at her and seemed to contemplate for a second before he chose Truth, knowing Marinette wouldn’t ask him anything too compromising.

“What is something you would change about everyone in this room?”

He gaped at her, “Are you serious?”

“Yes, Tell us what you don’t like about us, what we could do better.”

“This is about this morning isn’t it.”

“This morning?” Alya’s overly interested voice broke through the glaring contest between them. “What were you guys talking about this morning? Why were you talking so early?”

“Nothing, we were just chatting. I came over to help him do laundry before we met you guys and I might have mentioned Adrien is too nice sometimes. So chop chop. Be mean. What do I do wrong?”

“Besides your skin care?” Adrien said smugly, knowing Marinette wouldn’t fire anything back without revealing she stayed the night. She glared even harder at him.

“Yes, besides the stupid skin care.”

“Hmmmmmmm.” He deliberated for an overly long time, partially to annoy Marinette, and partially because he was trying to think of anything he would change about his friends. “Uuh, so With Nino, I would probably change where he lives because it’s a stupid apartment that is way to far away.” Nino wiped his eyes exaggeratedly, whispered a quiet 'I love you too, bro.’

“Alya, I would probably give you a good dose of caution and the sense to stay away from akuma’s.” Both Marinette and Alya muttered, ‘that’s never going to happen,’ in response to that.

“And, Uh Marinette…. I would… uh. I would shrink you down so I could put you in my pocket and have an emotional support Marinette with me everywhere I go.”

Marinette protested, citing the fact that he was being too nice, but the truth was not to say the meanest thing about them, but what he would change. After a few minutes of bickering Marinette eventually dropped it, and the game continued. Adrien picked Nino, who he dared to let everyone draw on his face and ended up with several flowers, a cartoon cat and one crude symbol put there by his girlfriend. Nino dared Marinette to let Alya post on her social media. Marinette picked Nino right back, and was asked which of their friends would make the worst couple (hands down Kagami and Chloe because they would tear each other to pieces.)

After that Nino dared Alya to call Kim and sing him happy birthday. Alya of course picked Marinette to go next. There was a gleam in her eye that made Marinette very nervous, and based on the way Alya’s eyes kept flicking back and forth between Adrien and herself, Marinette was in trouble no matter what she chose.

“Come on Marinette, what’ll it be? I’ve got a good one either way.”

Eventually the fact that she decided that Dare would be the least offensive with the treasure trove of secrets Marinette was hiding. Alya’s eyes got even brighter when Marinette gave her answer.

“I dare you to take five shots right now.”

Marinette’s heart stopped. She looked between the bottle of tequila Alya was holding, the empty bottle of beer in Adrien’s hand, his shocked and slightly terrified face, and her purse hanging by the door. It was at that moment she realized she wasn’t wearing many layers. Her shoes were already off and by the door, and she was wearing a jumpsuit and a tee shirt, no socks.

After a moment Adrien gathered his wits and interjected, “Alya, I don’t think that’s a good idea. Mari doesn’t like to drink, and her alcohol tolerance is horrible. She gets drunk on like a half a glass of wine, you can’t make her drink five shots in a row. It’ll probably kill her.”

“Fine, three Shots. Final dare.” Alya conceded, “I wanna see ‘drunk Mari’.”

“You really don’t…” Adrien muttered, thinking it was quiet enough for Alya not to hear. Luck was not on Adrien’s side.

“Wait, wait, wait. Does this mean you got to see my white whale? You? Adrien? You saw ‘drunk Marinette’? When? How? When? What was it like? When!?” She said, shaking his shoulders aggressively.

“Uhh, a few months ago, I guess. It’s not as fun and exciting as you think. Seriously, you can’t dare her to drink that much.”

“Alya, I’m not getting drunk tonight. I want to be able to function. Can you please pick something else?”

“No, that was my final dare. Do you want to use your get out of jail free card, or would you rather strip and pick a truth?”

“That’s not fair! I already took off my shoes earlier! This is Racism! Just because I’m Asian and take off my shoes unlike you three heathens! I demand a special dispensation!” Nino and Adrien were both giggling at her tirade, and weren’t being very helpful.

“Rules are rules Mari!” Alya cackled, “You don’t see the boys complaining. Besides, I gave you a free exception already. You could use it.”

“Adrien literally complained for me! What if I promise to get a drink next week when we go out? Can I get another get out of jail free card?”

Alya took a moment to consider, “Let me speak with the council. Go Stand in the kitchen while we confer.”

Marinette sent a pleading look to both Adrien and Nino, hoping they would be a more sympathetic target, and stepped into the kitchen. She watched anxiously as the three of them whispered with their heads close together, Adrien obviously arguing in her favor, with Alya arguing against her. Nino seemed to be waffling between both options. Finally Adrien Seemed to make a point the convinced both of them and Alya gave up in a huff, calling Marinette back.

“Fine! I will make one exception! But you are required to still do the truth, and I get to pick what cocktail you get, and you can’t back out.”

Marinette sighed in relief, it was a better option, and if she convinced Adrien to stay sober next week and babysit her so she didn’t say anything compromising she could handle one cocktail. “I accept these terms.” She clicked the button on the app for her truth and read the question out loud. “Describe your first time having sex in three words. Uhh…” She thought for a second playing with the hem of her pants. She was still feeling too relieved that she avoided the shots to realize the problem with the question. “Spontaneous? Fevered, and uhhh nice? I guess.” “Fevered , huh? I bet he’d love to hear about that.” Adrien said, the smirk evident in his voice.

“Well, maybe I should have said incomplete.” She fired back without true malice.She looked up to a very shocked and appalled Alya, a confused Nino, and a playfully affronted Adrien. It was then that she remembered that the only person who knew she’d even had a first time was Adrien, mostly because he’d been there.

“You- Y-you had sex?” Alya sputtered out at the same time Adrien said-

“Me-owch. So mean. Poor dude.”

“When? With who? Why didn’t you tell me! I- i just-” Alya continued her shocked ramble, but then Adrien’s comment registered. “Wait. Did you know about this? Why do you know and I don’t”

Marinette and Adrien both felt their hearts stop.

Alya continued to stare at them expecting an answer that neither of them felt like they could give. Finally, Adrien managed to stumble out a half truth.

“It’s just because I know the guy, and kind of set them up? Like we talked about it a little bit, it’s not a big deal.”

“It’s not a big deal! It's NOT A BIG DEAL? It’s the biggest deal. Girl! I told you all the deets of my first time-”

“You did?” Nino said in surprise.

“I did not ask for, or want those details-” Marinette added.

“I expect to at least know it freaking happened! I cannot believe this. We are talking about this later.” Alya said huffily, and began muttering under her breath about how this was ridiculous. She was Marinette’s Best Friend.

After a minute Marinette decided to move on, ignoring Alya’s pouting.

After several more rounds, with little luck in information gathering, and multiple instances of inside jokes and stories Alya had never heard (but Adrien somehow did?!?) something seemed to finally click into place in her brain.

It filled her with a blinding white rage. One that would occasionally dissipate when she got distracted, but she was on the wrong side of tipsy, so you couldn’t blame her. She couldn’t believe that this was happening right under her nose. It was obvious it had been going on for a while. The familiar touches, the meaningful looks, the stealing food from one another's plate, they all pointed to months of her not suspecting a single thing.

Alya spent the rest of the game quietly glaring at the jackass at every chance, getting steadily drunker. She almost wasn’t even paying attention to the game. She knew Marinette and Adrien both used their free pass with one of her half hearted questions about… something. She honestly forgot immediately after asking. The original purpose of the game had been served, she was furious, and everything was ruined. The annoying thing was, she knew exactly how to either fix everything, or prove it completely, and she knew she was going to have to do it. Then She would come at them with the full force of her anger.

“Adrien, Truth or Dare?” She asked when it was finally her turn again.

“Dare,” he said confidently.

Alya smiled like a predator who’d backed a gizelle into a corner. “I dare you to make out with Marinette for a full minute. With tongue.”

“Babe, I don’t think that’s the dare you think it is.” Nino whispered to her quietly, which she waved off. HE was the one who didn’t know.

“Marinette, are you okay with this?” Adrien said, turning to her. She just shrugged, set a timer on her phone and leaned in. Alya was horrified to see them casually kissing, no blushing, no hesitation, nothing. All of her suspicions were true, and nothing was good anymore.

Then to rub more salt in her gaping wound Nino leaned over and whispered into hre ear, “You do realize you’ve tried this before, like a year ago, right? And that it didn’t work the first time? Do you not remember that?” He still thought they were trying to get their friends to date, he didn’t know.

But she did remember it. She remembered how clever she thought she was. Why did all her cupid schemes go so horribly wrong? The first time was bad enough, but this time was so much worse.

They played a few more rounds, but Alyas heart was no longer in it. It wasn’t late, but everyone else seemed ready to finish. Marinette convinced everyone it was time to get ready for bed. Alya reluctantly pulled the supplies her and Nino had bought earlier that evening. Nino grabbed the change of underwear from the bag and asked Adrien if he could borrow some PJ’s.

“Yeah , sure. I have a drawer of older shirts and pj’s at the back of the closet.” He said while cleaning up the leftover food and empty bottles.

“Nino, grab something for me and Mari, too!” She shouted. He sent her a brief thumbs up, and headed to Adrien’s room.

As Alya continued digging through the sacks she realized that neither of them managed to grab toothpaste. “Shoot! We need toothpaste, too!” Nino yelled, ‘gotcha,’ back to her and she turned to Adrien, “You do have toothpaste, right?”

Adrien Looked at her incredulously, “Of course? Why wouldn’t I?”

She shrugged, turning away, “I’ve met college guys away from home for the first time, You’d be surprised what they will live without.” She pulled a couple pairs of underwear out of the bag and tossed one to Marinette, “This should be your size.”

Marinette, who was at the kitchen island helping Adrien clean, when a violent pink and quickly stuffed them into her pocket, “Alya!”

“What? They’re just underwear! Adrien, you’re a model, I bet you see lady’s panties all the time.” Alya said, besides why would you care if he sees your undies, none of it matters anyway, she thought gloomily.

Adrien chuckled, flushing slightly, “I wouldn’t say all the time, but I have seen them quite a few times at runways and in changing areas.”

“See, You’re being silly.” She stood up and headed toward the bedroom, “now if you’ll excuse me, i’m going to change my PANTIES, and help Nino find the toothpaste I’m sure he got lost in your maze of a wardrobe!” she joked half heartedly over her shoulder.

Marinette flipped her off, but Alya’s back was turned. She sighed and rolled her eyes. Turning back to the kitchen island to finish packing the leftover food into containers.

“She’s not wrong though,” Adrien said lowly, leaning into her space, “I do see one lady’s panties quite often.”

Marinette scoffed and pushed his face away as he tried to waggle his eyebrows at her. He made a grab at the pocket she’d shoved them into, which made her try to dance away.

“Come on, Let’s see ‘em. I’ll see them eventually, just show them to me.” Adrien joked, tickling her side to try to break her hold on the wrist going for her pocket.

“Don’t! Alya or Nino might see! If you don’t stop being so naughty, you won’t ever see any of my underwear again.” She hissed. “Don’t think I didn’t notice you trying to tease me during lunch. You could have gotten us caught!” She said, trying to sound stearn, but sounding more flirty than she’d intended.

“I have no Idea what you’re talking about,” he said, his cheshire grin and smug voice undercutting his professed innocence. “I’ve been a perfect gentleman all day. It’s not my fault if you took it the wrong way.”

She managed to peel his hand away from her side and danced out of his reach. “Don’t play innocent with me, I know how to spot a troublemaker from 100 yards.You were being a pest on purpose!”

“Oh, come one, Mari. It’s all in good fun!” he said following her.

“Nuh-uh. Nope. Bad!” She said, still backing away. It was then that they both noticed Alya and Nino standing in the doorway for Adrien’s room. They both were looking quite gleeful, and Marinette’s Immediate response was to freeze and begin panicking internally. How long had they been there? How much had they heard? After everything they’d done to hide their, ahem, arrangement, was this how they were found out?

“Sooooo…. Adrien.” Nino drawled. “Do you want to tell us who the bright pink toothbrush is for?”

He held up the toothbrush Adrien had given Marinette this morning, waggling it slightly. His and Alya’s grins got bigger as Adrien’s face got redder.

“Uh.. It’s mine?”

Marinette felt like her heart was going to beat out of her chest, suddenly thankful she was already blushing earlier. Hopefully, Alya would just assume it was from the panty incident and not this new, more horrifying predicament.

“Nope, this green one is obviously yours, Try again.” Alya said accusingly, pulling Adrien’s toothbrush from behind her back.

“They’re both mine. I bought them, which makes them mine.” he said.

“Yes, buuuutt….” Alya said, advancing on him like a predator, making the toothbrush dance through the air as she walked. There was an edge to her that told Marinette the toothbrush was not the only thing she was digging for. “Who is going to be using it? Who’s the guest who gets to keep their stuff in your private bathroom when there’s a perfectly good guest bath just down the hall? Perhaps a lady friend who likes to sleep over?”

“I have no idea what you mean. I have two toothbrushes, so what? One’s a back up.”

“Then why is it out of the package?” Nino asked coyly.

“Look, who does and does not use my toothbrush is none of your business. So I’ll just take those,” he grabbed both of them from his friend's hands, “and put them where they belong for when I need them.”

He began walking back toward the bathroom, all three of his friends following behind. Alya and Nino were practically hanging off Adrien’s arms.

“Dude, just tell us who it is. We’re your best buds, I just want to know if they’re good enough for you!”

“Is it Avryll Allard? Nino said you guys were close. Did you catch feelings after all those steamy makeout scenes? Please, just tell us!”

“There isn’t anyone. Drop it.” he said huffily.

Alya let go of him with an annoyed snort. She then seemed to remember Marinette, and turned on her. “Does Marinette know? Of course she does.” She said the last part under her breath slightly, then launching herself at Marinette, “Tell us! Mari, who is it? Please! I need to know!”

“I don’t know! I don’t think it’s any of our business.”

“Please! We just want to know if she’s good enough for you! I promise I won’t scare her off! I’ll just do a little digging. That’s all I swear!”

“Alya, just leave him alone.”

“But- I just-“

“I asked you to drop it!” Adrien didn’t yell, but compared to his normal soft voice it felt like it. Everyone seemed to freeze. Then his face crumpled and he looked stricken. “Sorry, Alya. I didn’t mean to snap. It’s just embarrassing, I- I thought it might - get used, but… I don’t think I need it anymore. So can we please just drop it?”

The air was heavy with tension, not only was this one of the very few times Adrien had ever raised his voice, the awkwardness of his dilemma sat heavy on all their shoulders. Marinette almost pitied him, but then remembered that he was lying out his ass and nearly burst out giggling. Thankfully, Alya and Nino were too busy looking thoroughly chagrined to notice her fighting back a grin.

“I’m sorry, Adrien. I didn’t mean to upset you, I was just - excited and a little anxious for you.” Alya said, reaching her hand out and placing it comfortingly on his shoulder.

“I know you weren’t trying to hurt me, but there are some things I just don’t want to talk about. I have good reasons for it, and I Just need you to respect that. Can we just forget everything?”

“Yeah, I can do that.”

“Totally, dude. I’m sorry.”

“Thank you. Can we all just go to bed? It’s been a very long day, and I’m starting to get a headache.”

“Yeah, That’s fine, How do we want to do the sleeping arrangements? I'm thinking of Marinette and me in the guestroom, and Nino with Adrien in his room?”

Marinette wanted so badly to object, but knew that would seem… suspicious. They’d shared a bed before, Alya had even accidentally flashed her on several occasions. So there was no real reason for Marinette to refuse. Thankfully, Nino ended up being her greatest ally.

“No! You just got back, and you had to spend the night at your parents house last night. I want cuddles!” he grumbled as he grabbed his girlfriend around her waist and pulled her close. “Plus, Adrien is a cuddler, which is nice, but he runs at like 1000 degrees, so it’s not nice. I’m not going anywhere near him.”

“Yeah, but Babe, I don’t think Mari and Adrien would feel comfortable sharing a bed. We have all week before our classes start, you’ll survive.”

Nino gave Alya the most incredulous look he could muster. ‘What are you doing?’ he mouthed to her, confused that Alya was going off plan. It was the one bed trope, she loved the one bed trope! Alya looked at him determidly and shook her head slightly.

Marinette jumped in, “I can sleep on the couch. It’s plenty big, and I’m small. I’ll be fine. You guys take the guest room.”

Adrien did not like this proposal at all. “There is no way I’m letting you sleep on that stuffy couch. I’ll sleep on the couch, you can take my bed.”

“Well there is no way I am letting you sleep on that ‘stuffy’ couch.”

“It seems we are at an impasse. Alya will not share with Nino, Nino won’t share with me, Marinette and I both refuse to let someone sleep on the couch. So our only two options are; Nino and Marinette share, and Alya and I share,” everyone objected immediately and passionately, “or we all get into my ridiculously big bed and cuddle puddle.”

Everyone looked around, and hearing no objections Adrien pressed forward.

“Excellent! Cuddle puddle for Adrien!” He said, clapping his hands together and smiling. “I think we should watch a movie in my bedroom after we all get ready for bed! Last one in bed has to make the popcorn!”

Nino and Marinette both jokingly ran to get ready. Adrien tried to follow, but Alyas hand on his arm stopped him.

“I know what you’re doing”

Pure unadulterated panic flooded through his system.

He knew Alya was good, and he’d been stupid enough to flirt with Marinette all day. It was all his fault and Marinette would never forgive him. He was very suddenly looking down a very dark and lonely future without Marinette ever speaking to him again.

He managed to squeeze out, “What am I doing?”

“Don’t be coy with me. I’m not stupid. Sitting close together, sharing secrets, keeping those secrets from me- and Nino. It’s obvious.”

Oh, no. Shit shit shit shit. This is bad. Marinette was never going to talk to him ever again. If Alya didn’t murder him right here and right now. Then Ladybug would be all alone and Hawkmoth would win. Shit, shit shit.

“You’re stealing my best friend, you stupid rich white bastard!”

What?

“What?” He said, his entire body shutting down from shock.

“That’s right I’m on to you. But you won’t succeed. She’s been my best friend since we were 13, and there is no way that I’m letting the idiot who didn’t realize she was madly in love with him take my status as best friend. You might know a few things I don’t, but rest assured I will soon, and Marinette I will be back and better than ever. So back off!”

Adrien sputtered, still suffering under the whiplash of going from pure panic to utter bafflement. “That’s- That’s- What? I think I just hallucinated. Say that again.”

“You heard me. You are trying to steal my best friend and I am letting you know that I am not letting that happen. You already have Nino, you don’t need Marinette, too! And to think I was rooting for you two. If I’d known you were such a snake, I would’ve-” She paused trying to think of a good threat.

Adrien quickly cut in before she could finish her thought, “I don’t know if it’s because you’re drunk or just a little jet lagged, but I am not trying to steal Marinette from you. I’m just hanging out with my friend. She still considers you her best friend, I’m not trying to get between you AT ALL!”

“I’m Not Drunk, Agrest!” She said, shoving her finger into his face, and swaying just enough to undercut her words. “I just know when someone is stepping in on my territory. I’m a journalist. I know things.’

“I’m sure you do…”

“Admit it! You’re a Friend thief.”

“No, I-”

“Thief!”

“Fine! Yeah, I’m trying to steal your best friend, and after that, I’m going to steal your boyfriend too.” Adrien said sarcastically.

Alya gasped, “Judas!”

“You better go to bed before I go and steal everyone you love. I know Nino thinks I would make an excellent lover, so go claim your man before I do.” He said, pushing her slightly towards the door.

Alya Narrowed her eyes, and ran toward the bathroom without another word, and the four of them finished getting ready in relative silence. Alya clung to whichever one of his friends was closest to him, and gave him a scathing glare.

Eventually they all settled into the bed, the two girls in the middle and the boys on the edges. Someone put on a campy romantic comedy, with a few jokes from Mari and Nino about how soon it would be Adrien’s movie they’d be watching at sleepovers. Alya continued to send him suspicious glares anytime he shifted. She snuggled close to Marinette's side and attempted to pull her away from Adrien at every chance. Marinette noticed Alya’s odd behavior and sent him a questioning look, to which he just shook his head and whispered later, which did not make Alya any happier. However the low light, alcohol and jet lag finally got to her and she fell asleep on Nino’s shoulder and they both slipped further under the covers.

Adrien turned off the movie and settled into bed, putting the popcorn bowl on the table next to him, brushing a few crumbs off the covers. Marinette pulled herself away from Alya’s death grip on her arm, and settled a fraction closer to Adrien.

It wasn’t close enough for him, so he schooched closer and put his head on her shoulder, taking her hand into his. She huffed quietly, but didn’t protest, so he cuddled closer.

“Naughty,” she breathed into his hair as he tucked his head under her chin.

He grinned and lifted himself up to whisper in her ear.

“That’s okay, Alya thinks I'm trying to steal you as a best friend, so I’m going to cuddle you like a good best friend would.”

“Is that what she said to you earlier?”

“Yup. She’s convinced, and wouldn’t listen to me when I told her she was being silly. I’m sure she’s just a little delirious. She'll be back to her normal weird self in the morning.”

“Ridiculous.”

“Utterly. Now come here and cuddle your BFF.” He could feel her roll her eyes as he cuddled her so thoroughly he was basically lying right on top of her.

“You’re so weird.” She said, wrapping her arms around his shoulders and pulling him closer.

“Yeah, but you love me, so this is on you.”

She sighed and placed a quick kiss to his hair, “Only a little.”

He smiled.

“Goodnight, Marinette.”

“Goodnight, Kitten.”

Chapter Text

“Adrien, your father is tired of indulging your temper tantrum, it’s time for you to come home. The car will be round to pick you up in an hour for your shoot, and then to your acting lessons.” Natalie’s tired voice drawled weakly through his phone speakers.

He had only answered because it was nine am and he was dead asleep after being up all night, and didn’t think before picking his phone up. The nausea that had been coming and going all night was back in full force, and he was struggling to remember the pep talk Marinette had given him.

“Is he at least sorry?” He asked. He sounded so weak and pathetic, no wonder his father felt like he could just push him round, he made it so easy.

“What on earth would your father be sorry about?” Natalie replied briskly.

“Yelling at me? Threatening to kick me out of the house for pursuing a degree in a perfectly respectable field?” He said, body sinking further into the half deflated blowup mattress on Nino’s floor.

“Adrien, you know your father wants the best life for you. You haven’t had a job besides modeling, you don’t know how to cook or clean. How would you find an apartment, or provide for yourself in any way? You could have a perfect easy life working with your father. You know he’s doing this because he loves you and he knows how difficult the world is. Don’t cast off the privileges you have been given because of some teenage fantasy.” Natalies tone was softer than normal, but the reprimand was clear, logic unarguable. He didn’t have any real life skills. He could maybe continue modelling, but he would have to start again with a new agent and he didn’t really know how to do that.

“I know, but..”

“There is no ‘but’. He is your father and he knows what’s best for you. You had better be ready and waiting in an hour.” Natalie said, cutting him off and quickly hanging up the phone.

Adrien tossed the phone away from him and towards the pile of clothes nearest him and dug the palms of his hands into his eyes.

I should just not go down. Maybe if I show him I’m serious he’ll back down right?

He scoffed out loud. His father was not one to back down. He had proven that time and time again. As Adrien began cataloging his abysmal options, he felt Plagg land on his pillow and press a small paw onto his cheek.

“You should have plenty of cheese, Plagg, Please let me spiral in peace.”

Plagg pressed another paw into his cheek and began kneading his skin. “I’m not hungry,” He replied.

Adrien lifted one of his hands and looked at Plagg incredulously from the corner of his eye. “You’re ALWAYS hungry.”

“Well, I’m not hungry right now, I will be soon because I ate it all.”

Adrien chuckled quietly, peaking over at Nino, who was in a dead sleep and likely wouldn’t be woken easily. He then sighed and sunk back into the air mattress.

“What are you going to do, kid?”

“I don’t know. The idea of working for my father for the rest of my life sounds as appealing as eating garbage covered Camenbert for the rest of my life.” Plagg gasped an affront, but didn’t interrupt. “But they’re right. I don’t know how to live on my own, where to get food other than at a cafe, how to keep a house clean, cook, buy my own clothes, anything! Where would I live? What could I even afford? I don’t know anything about how to provide for myself.”

“Maybe you could stay with someone and have them teach you. I bet Headphones over there would love to have you.”

“I don’t want to be a burden on them. They don’t have a ton of space as it is.” he gestured towards the cramped bedroom they were squished into.

“Or maybe pigtails or Bakery girl, I bet she’d be happy to let you hole up in her room.” Plagg said, a secret cheeky grin sneaking onto his face.

“Pfft, Ladybug would never agree to reveal her Identity just because my father is being an ass. And Marinette obviously has a lot on her plate if she’s taking a whole year off, so she doesn’t need the stress of teaching the rich sheltered kid how to be a functioning adult.”

“I don’t know about that.” Plagg said pensively. “But no matter what, It might be good for you to get out of there. Maybe your relationship with your father will get better once you have a bit more space. That happened with a few of my Chat’s.”

“Maybe. I don’t know.”

“You don’t have to know right now, there’s-” Plagg paused as Nino shifted in his bed. When it seemed like the other boy had settled down he continued. “There’s options for you. Even if you go back today you can always change your mind later. You are Chat Noir after all. It’s going to be hard for anyone except for another Miraculous holder to keep you trapped in a place you don’t want to be.”

“Yeah, I guess so. Do you think I should go back?”

“I don’t like the idea of you being there. But you don’t have anything except a change of clothes and some change for the bus. You need your things and a plan.”

“You’re right, so maybe I’ll play nice for today and figure out what I can do. I can do that. I just hope he’s not too angry..”

“If he tries anything I’ll kill him.”

“You’re not allowed to use cataclysm without Ladybug to fix the damage, I think that would be a very bad idea.”

“Oh, I won’t need Cataclysm to kill him. I’ll-” A soft knock on the door interrupted him and made him dive for cover. Mrs. Lahiffe cracked the door open and poked her head through. She saw Adrien and gave him a bright smile.

“Come, come. I made breakfast for you and lazy bones. Chris already ate, so please join me, we’ll leave mon cachon to sleep a bit longer.”

Adrien smiled at the teasing nicknames she’d called Nino, and followed her to the table where she had a spread of cut fruits, oatmeal and a pile of fresh croissants with some butter and jam on the side. They both sat down quietly to eat. Mrs. Lahiffe seemed to sense that Adrien wasn’t in the mood to talk much, so talking was minimal, but it was nice to actually have breakfast with someone for once.

All too soon he heard his phone buzzing from the other room. He quickly excused himself to go answer it. It was Natalie calling. He had five minutes before his bodyguard got there. He gathered his things from Nino’s room, and after saying a demure goodbye to Mrs. Lahiffe, walked down to the front of the building where he was met with Gorilla’s sympathetic face. He got into the backseat without a word, already wishing he could go back to sleeping on the floor of his friends bedroom.

Nino: Dude, Why didn’t you wake me up! I freaked out this morning when no one was home!

Adrien smiled fondly at his phone as he sat waiting for the set dressers to finish.

Adrien: Sorry, You were sleeping so soundly! My true loves kiss couldn’t even wake you. I guess we’re just not meant to be.

Nino: Damn! You mean I don’t get your Shiny White Ass for the rest of my life? This is a DISASTER!

Adrien: I am frankly devastated…. >,< why is my white ass shiny?

Nino: Because uhhhh…… fk, uhhh. Oh, because you’re so white your butt literally shines in the sun??? IDK man. I’m a little hung over.

Adrien: HAHAHAHA! That’s so stupid.

Nino: you’re so stupid. Stupid in Love!

Nino: But Maybe not with me…. That’s probably why your kiss didn;t work dudde.I saw how cozy you and Mari were last night..

Nino: Plan on telling me anything???

Nino: Huh???

Nino: You should ask her out! Unless you already did?

Adrien rolled his eyes at the string of texts Nino had sent him, and was about to respond that he and Marinette were friends, when he got a notification from Marinette. He clicked over to her text thread.

Mari: YYYYYAAAAAAAAYYYY!!! You won’t regret this!! I’m so excited. I may or may not have stayed up a little too late last night putting together a ridiculously detailed plan…… I can send you the doc for approval and scheduling around your stuff.

Adrien: >,< of course you did. Haha. Please do, I’ll need it.

Mari: Sending it now. Let me know if you got it.

Adrien pulled up his email, and found a 5 page document listing every possibility imaginable for their plan to work. It was riddled with spelling errors and run on sentences, but for the most part it was a well thought out plan, with options for multiple scenarios. One of the options under the subcategory Fanfic Tropes: Crack, sparked a devious idea and he quickly switched back over to his conversation with Nino.

Adrien: IDK man. She’s cool, and I’d like to hang out with her more, but IDK about dating her. You’re the only one for me. Maybe You and I can go on a double date with her and her true love.

Nino: Ooh… so you’re romancing me now eh? I like it. Maybe we can be poly, Mari will be our third.

Adrien: Okay, I like that. I’m going to ask her. Maybe she's down for a threesome?

Nino: What.

Nino: You’re not actually going to text her right?

Nino: Adrien! I was kidding.

Nino: You are definitely messing with me.

Nino: Right? You’re just kidding right.

Nino: Damn it Adrien. Answer me before I have a panic attack.

Adrien let his friend stew as he returned his text thread with Marinette.

Adrien:Okay, everything on the list looks amazing. We’re def going to need to talk through it.

Marinette: Did you talk with your father?

Adrien:... Not yet.

Mari: That's okay. We can start planning whenever.

Adrien: Okay. I have a couple favors to ask you though. First, do you remember the reasons you gave me that getting a science degree is a good idea? I’m nervous.

Mari: of course!

The typing bubble appeared for several minutes before she sent through the list she’d given him.He watched it as several more panicked texts from Nino came through. Adrien noticed the crew were starting to finish setting up, and he began to slowly drift towards his area.

Mari: What was the other favor?

Adrien: Can you text Nino “Hey, Adrien told me about… your suggestion. I will have to think about it… I don’t know if I see you like that.” and then just screen shot his reaction? It would make my crappy day into the best day of my life.

Mari: Haha… what did he say?

Adrien: something stupid as a joke and I think it would be funny mess with him. I’ll tell you ALLL about it later.

Mari: Okay, bet.

Adrien: Thanks. I have to go, but please send me the screen shots!

Mari: I got you boo.

He laughed and put his phone away. The rest of the shoot dragged, but at least he had something to look forward to before having to see his father.

Natalie had filled his day with so many activities he’d barely been able to keep up with texting his friends, although the screen shots Mari sent and the accusatory texts sent from Nino had almost made up for the simply exhausting day.

His father was predictably locked in his office by the time Adrien got home. Adrien trudged up to his room, glad to avoid conflict, but strangely hurt that his father didn’t care to try to talk to him directly. Instead, Adrien began cataloging the things he would need and googling things he would likely need to know to move out of the mansion. He soon realized that there were several things he didn’t even know how to begin doing, like accessing his accounts, or finding his important documents like a birth certificate. He banged his head on his desk in frustration. At this rate he’d be living under his fathers thumb until he got married, if his father didn’t force him to move his family into the mansion.

He heard a firm quick knock on his door, quickly followed by Natalie pushing her way into the room. He didn’t bother to look up at her, only moving to darken his screen. There was no need for them to know what he was planning.

Natalie cleared her throat, but he decided to ignore her, choosing to stand from his desk and drop face down onto his bed.

“Adrien, stop being childish.”

He tried to respond but his words were muffled by his blankets.

“Stand up and speak clearly.” She snapped.

He lifted his head, and turned to glare at her. “I said, ‘why should I, You think I’m still a child anyway.’”

“If you would listen to the wisdom of people who know better, we wouldn’t have to treat you like a child.”

“Just because you’re older doesn’t mean you know better,” he grumbled as he sat up on his bed.

Natalie had her signature blank expression, but Adrien could see subtle differences, and she was furious.

“I don’t know what has gotten into you, but you are going to snap out of it, immediately. Your father is a great man and is giving you opportunities most children would give almost anything for- and here you are squandering it and treating it with resentment. You need to remember without your father you would be nothing. He has given you everything you could ask for, and your life is one a privilege. Start treating it as such.”

“If he’s done so much for me, why isn’t he here? Why is he never here? I see him once a week if I’m lucky and it’s usually in passing during dinner to get reprimanded for some perceived Inadequacy or as an evaluation on my skills. Instead he sends you in to yell at me and make me obey, which I DO! I have done almost everything he has asked me to do, and all I want to to be able to study what I want to study. I have a list of reasons it would be good for me and for the company for me to pursue Physics, but he doesn’t care enough to even hear me out, so maybe I would rather be without the so called ‘privileges’ he gives me and have a real father who wants to me be happy, instead of rich and important.”

“Adrien! That is enough!”

His father’s booming voice cut through the air making Adrien’s hair stand on end and his gut wrench. He felt himself cowering on the bed, and tried to sit up straight, but the weight of his fathers icy glare pushed him further into himself.

“Father, I-” He began to back pedal, but it was no use. His father ignored him and began talking over him.

“If you are so disgusted by the privileges you have been given out of the kindness of my heart then you can go without them. Natalie, in the morning I want you to move Adrien’s things into the guest bedroom in the southern wing. Any non-essential activities are cancelled. No more electronics, of any sort.” He reached over and snatched Adrien’s phone from his desk. Adrien made to stop him, but his father brought his hand up, probably just as a warning, but Adrien flinched anyway.

“Father. Graduation is this week. I was supposed to go to the after events.” he finally managed to force out.

“After your behavior the last two days you’re lucky if you even get to attend the ceremony!” His father thundered. “I hope a few days without someone to cook or clean for you, without all your toys and games, will teach you that doing what I say isn’t the worst thing you could ever do.”

His father stormed out of the room, still clutching his phone.

Natalie managed to give him a somewhat sympathetic glance, but quickly followed his father without a word.

The sound of the lock clicking behind her sounded like the closing of a cell door in his distressed state. He hugged his knees, pressing his eyes into the soft material of his sweatpants, trying to press the building tears back into his eyes. He tried to go through his grounding exercises, but he felt a building tension in his chest that made it nearly impossible to concentrate.

“Adrien, you need to go somewhere.” Plagg pushed his way into the space just in front of his holder's face. “Go to the bakery. You need to go see Marinette.”

Adrien couldn’t talk, his breathing was too ragged, and his throat was too tight. He shook his head slightly in response.

“Adrien, go to the bakery. Now. This is not a suggestion. You’ll be safe there for tonight. You can’t be alone tonight. You’re too upset, and an akuma is probably on it’s way right now.”

“I- can’t. She- I can’t.” He croaked out.

Plagg darted away for a moment, but returned with a chunk of cheese and shoved it right against Adrien’s nose. Adrien, repulsed by the smell, let go of his knees and fell back against his pillows.

“Bakery! Now. Say Claws out and go to the bakery.”

His breathing was still ragged, but his throat was less tight, but he felt confused. “Why-” His voice sounded scratchy and broke, he cleared his throat but it didn’t help. “Why do you want me to go to Marinette’s so bad?”

“Because she is the only person in Paris who I honestly believe can help you right now. You wouldn’t talk to me, or Headphones last night, but you did talk to her. Now GO!”

Adrien had never heard Plagg sound so serious, he almost sounded scared. Which kind of freaked him out. He finally agreed and called his transformation. He jumped out of his room, and bounded across rooftops until the lights of the bakery came into view. He jumped into the alleyway nearby, and paused for a moment. Shaking himself, and dropping his transformation he very much wished he still had his phone. Coming on the side entrance, he rang the doorbell, fully expecting to be turned away because of the late hour.

It felt like ages before any noise came from behind the door, and Adrien was about ready to turn around and run away. The only thing that stopped him was Plagg digging his needle like claws into his skin through his shirt. Finally a light behind the door switched on. Marinette opened the door, confused, but ethereal in the golden light of the stairwell. Adrien finally realized what Plagg had meant when he insisted on coming. Because at that moment, Marinette was the only person, besides Ladybug, who would be able to make him feel better. All of Adrien’s muscles turned to jelly and he felt himself sagging under his emotions.

“Adrien? How’d you get here so fast? I just texted you like five minutes ago!”

“You texted me?”

“Yeah. I wanted to see if you could come over to plot with me. Is that not why you’re here?” She asked as she stepped closer to him, she looked so concerned for him, and it was killing him.

“I don’t have my phone. My father took it,” was his only reply. He felt the pressure building behind his eyes again, and Marinette must have seen how distraught he was, because she stepped even closer and wrapped him in a tight hug. Everything propping him up dissolved and he found himself leaning fully against her petite frame.

“Oh, dear.” She began rubbing circles against his back, “I think you should come inside.”

In a dark tower room, Gabriel Agrest, or most specifically Hawkmoth, stood contemplating the future as it related to the present. He watched as an eerie white butterfly crawled around his hand, not quite sure if he should commit this specific sin. He was a man of grey morals, the ends justifying the atrocious means kind of man. Cold, emotionless, manipulating. But this course of action gave him pause.

He could still feel Adrien’s distress, his anger and despair were powerful. His son would be powerful, potentially powerful enough to finally bring him the victory he needed. It would be the perfect plan.

However, there were considerations he must be aware of. Though fatherly love should be a factor, the real deterrent would be motherly love. Emilie would not take him turning her pride and joy into a monster lightly. The Media is another. Every Akuma was widely reported, especially by that annoying blogger, and often the circumstances leading to the event were widely published. How would the press react to Gabriel’s perfect son being Akumatized over something as trivial as a course of study? It would make them both look weak, and give the pandering gossip columns enough fodder to plague all of them for years. Model son rebels against a life of status and ease. Disgusting. He couldn’t abide it.

He also supposed that on the small chance it failed, if Adrien ever knew about his fathers part in his public humiliation, it would make keeping him in line all the more difficult.

He checked back in with Adrien’s turbulent emotions to find them to have dissipated slightly. They felt more distant now, still deeply felt, but less volatile. If he were to risk it it had to be soon.

The ends versus the means.

Marinette guided Adrien up several flights of stairs to the main floor of her family's apartment. She had hoped to see him this evening, but did not expect him to show up looking like a kicked kitten less than five minutes after texting him to come over. She guessed his mood had something to do with his father. His relationship with Mr Agreste was the only thing, other than the tragic loss of his mother, she had ever known him to be upset about for more than a few minutes at a time. In her childhood infatuation she attributed this to Adrien’s strength of character, but now she attributed it to Gabriels weakness as a father.

She sighed as she silently pushed open the door to the living room. Her parents were likely getting ready for bed on the floor below them, so she wanted to keep the noise to a minimum. She hadn’t asked them if Adrien could come over, but in her mind it wasn’t a big deal. They were always happy to have her friends over, which was part of the problem. They were very involved parents. Which is wonderful! Except for when you are trying to make a secret plot that they absolutely would spoil if they knew about it.

Which is why the sight of Sabine Dupain-Cheng making a cup of tea in the kitchen nearly made her jump right out of her skin.

“Maman! You’re still awake!” She sounded guilty, which was annoying because she most definitely was not guilty. Well, not completely guilty.

“Of course I am. Your father and I don’t go to bed for another twenty minutes.” She paused, and looked between a startled Marinette and a very nervous Adrien several times and came to a conclusion. An incorrect conclusion, but a reasonable one for the context she was given. “Why, Hello Adrien. I haven't seen you very much lately, and certainly not this late.”

Sabine, seeming to remember her manners, gave Adrien a stilted grimace of a smile, “Adrien, It’s so lovely to see you. In my house, right before I go to bed, to hang out with my teenage daughter. Alone. In her room.” As she said this Adrien’s guilt and fear of being a burden reared its ugly head, making him shrink into himself slightly. Sabine’s conclusion was seemingly confirmed.

“Why don’t you make yourself comfortable? Here, have some tea. I just need to speak with Marinette alone for a minute.”

Marinette was then forcefully pulled up the stairs to her bedroom. Sabine closed the trap door behind her, and stood eyeing her 17 year old daughter suspiciously.

“What’s wrong, Maman?”

“Why are you sneaking Adrien, the boy you swore up and down you no longer had a crush on, into your room at 9 o’clock on a Saturday?”

“To hang out?” Marinette said.

“Mmhm, and what do you plan on doing while you ‘hang out’?”

“Complain about Alya and Nino? Maybe talk about his dad? They’ve been fighting lately.”

Sabine continued to give Marinette a look that screamed, ‘I know what’s about to happen, don’t try to fool me.’

“I don’t Understand what the issue is!” Marinette said, throwing her arms up in frustration. “I’ve had plenty of people over past 9 on a Saturday before, and you never got mad before! Alya was here all night last night.”

“You always let us know when your friends are coming over much sooner in the day, or at all. Alya is not a very good looking teenage boy. One who you used to have photos plastered all over your walls for 2 years straight. She also can’t get you pregnant. I know I said that I was excited for grandbabies when Mrs. Ng stopped by with little Chen, but I didn’t think you would take that as a personal challenge!” Sabine was overreacting slightly, but honestly Marinette had rebelled so little as a young teen, her parents were just waiting for the day it happened. Out of all the possible ways Marinette could do this, sneaking Adrien Agrest, model extraordinaire, was the most likely.

“MAMAN!!!” Marinette’s face was bright red, and she was completely mortified. It had never occurred to her that’s what her mother was thinking. “That’s not even close to what’s happening! I didn’t even know he was actually coming over. I just texted him, and he didn’t respond because his dad took his phone, so I didn’t know he was coming over. I would have told you if I knew! And the ONLY reason he is even here is to help me manipulate Alya and Nino so they can get back together and stop annoying us. Also, because he’s upset. Maman, you should have seen him when I opened the door. I wasn’t lying when I said he and his father have been fighting. You know how controlling Mr. Agrest is. He’s trying to tell Adrien he can’t go to university to study Physics, but has to work for the company instead.”

Sabine saw the fervor in her daughter's eye, and thought back to the moment she saw Adrien step into her living room. Now instead of a guilty teenager sneaking into her daughters room, it was a browbeaten child looking for a place to go. Her heartbroke for the poor boy.

“Please, Maman. Can he please stay for just an hour or two. I’ll keep the door open, and nothing is going to happen. I wasn’t lying when I said I’m over him. I just want to help him feel better.”

Sabine sighed, and couldn’t deny her daughter’s request. “All right. But I wasn’t kidding about the grandbaby thing. I would prefer to wait a few more years to get called Nǎinai.”

“Maman! Ugh! That’s weird! I’m only 17!”

Marinette’s horrified face dissipated any last fear she had, and she patted her daughter's face lovingly, and exited the room, to find a young blonde boy curled up on her couch, pulling at his bangs and breathing heavily.

“Adrien? Are you okay?” She asked tentatively.

“I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have come here. I didn’t mean to get Marinette in trouble. Please don’t be mad at her, it’s not her fault.”

Marinette came swooping in beside him, grabbing at his wrists. “No, Adrien. I’m not in trouble. It’s okay. It’s good you came here. I promise.”

There were tears firming around his eyes, the vibrant green of his eyes seemed to have dulled with anxiety.

Hawkmoth felt a spike in his son’s emotions and the pragmatist inside him won out. Adriens mother would be the best solution to his son's rebellion. All other sins would be washed aside when his family came back together. He willed the power he had into the butterfly, and released it to the night air.

He waited for the connection to appear. Surprised it was taking so long. Adrien was only a short distance away. What could possibly be delaying his plan?

Adrien wasn’t quite sure how he ended in Marinette’s Room. he didn’t remember getting up from the couch, or walking up the stairs. He must have, because the other option would be that Marinette had carried him there.

He also wasn’t sure how he ended up with his face buried in her neck as he sobbed against her pajama shirt. He could hear her softly consoling him as she ran her fingers through his hair. He would have been embarrassed at how intimate the scene must have looked if he’d been in a different state of mind. However, at the moment, all he wanted was a modicum of comfort, and the feeling of Marinette’s fingernails scratching lightly against his scalp, and the steady rhythm of her breath grounded him more than anything else could.

He couldn’t help thinking that he was being dramatic. Working for his father wouldn’t be all bad, he’d probably move out of the mansion at some point. He could potentially lead a somewhat normal life, eventually. So many other people had real problems. A spoiled brat having a breakdown in his friend's house, potentially getting her in trouble, over something so trivial. His father was right to be angry with him. What kind of son was he to look at his father’s protection with disdain? The only problem is he couldn’t bring himself to be grateful. Which piled onto his misery with each pass of his spiralling thoughts.

Marinette stiffened beneath him and he felt her grip his hair tight enough that it hurt. “Adrien.” She said with an even tension that caught his attention. He’d done something wrong, and now he’d have to leave. He tried to push himself up, but her grip on him tightened. “Adrien. I’m going to need you to calm down for a moment. Think of something happy. Or just clear your mind.”

“What? Why-”

“Adrien, you need to be as calm as possible, and to stay calm. There’s an akuma outside my window. I think it’s trying to come in.”

Adrien’s eyes flew open, his current problems momentarily forgotten. He began taking deep breaths. “We need to call Ladybug.” He said softly, as though it could hear him. He moved to try to see where the dreaded purple butterfly was resting, but couldn’t turn around enough to see it with Marinette’s death grip on him. He was fighting the rising feeling of panic, but the thought that Ladybug would have to fight him all alone mixed with the residual feelings from earlier was a deadly mix.

“Adrien.” Marinette said again, only the slightest hint of panic in her voice. “You need to keep calm. It just slipped through the glass. Try telling me a story, or something.”

He sputtered trying to think of anything other than the tumultuous feelings brewing inside him. “I- I don’t know. I-“

“It’s okay Adrien. I’m going to try to trap it with something. Try telling me about the things on your desk.”

He thought hard trying to concentrate as he listed off the various items he kept at his desk, pens, paper, ladybug figures, etc. Marinette slipped away from him, which made his panic spike slightly, but he fought it down. He could see her out of the corner of his eye. She crept over to a glass jar full of pens on her desk. She carefully emptied it, and padded over to where the Akuma sat on her ladder. Adrien made the mistake of looking up to see where it was. It’s pulsing molten black wings were close enough to see the purple veins writhing across them. He had a sudden vision of Ladybug having to fight against him. She would be furious with him, and with good reason too. Why had Master Fu thought a screw up like him could handle saving Paris. Hawkmoth would have won years ago if it weren’t for Ladybug. She should just take his ring now and be done with him.

The Akuma sensed his dark thoughts, and fluttered closer. Marinette whipped around and saw his wide eyed stare.

“Adrien. You’re not going to get Akumatized, I’m going to call Alya, she can get a message to Ladybug. I just need you to keep calm. It can only get to you if you think there’s no other options for you. And I promise you have options. You can stay here until you know what you’re going to do.”

He looked at her earnest face, and he knew she meant it. He nodded, and wiped at the tear tracks on his face. “Okay.”

The Akuma settled on a book on Marinette's floor. She stepped forward and eased the jar over the butterfly, trapping it.

“Thank you Adrien. You did something really hard, and I’m really proud of you.”

“Thank you.” He replied, her praise easing some of the pain in his heart.

“Can you go sit downstairs? I’m going to call Alya and see if she can get a message to Ladybug to come take care of this. I want you to be as far away as possible in case it gets out.”

He quickly agreed and stepped down the ladder.

Hawkmoth was getting frustrated, it had been 10 minutes, and his Akuma still hadn’t found it’s mark. It should be over by now. Ladybug and Chat Noir's Miraculouses should be in his hands, and Emilie awake and by his side. He screamed in frustration, transformed back into Gabriel, and stepped into the elevator that led to the rest of his house.

Natalie looked up from her computer, startled at his sudden appearance. “Sir, is something wrong?”

“Where is Adrien?” He shouted.

“He’s still in his room as far as I can tell.”

He stormed up the stairs to his son’s room, unlocked the door and barged in only to find it empty. He began checking every nook and cranny, only to be met with empty spaces everywhere he looked.

He heard an alert beep from his phone. He ignored it in favor of searching for how his son could have possibly snuck out of his bedroom without unlocking the door or alerting his bodyguard. He raced back to his office to check the security cameras. Natalie met him at the door.

“Sir, there’s an Akuma alert. You need to check in with your champion.”

She followed him down into his lair. He transformed, just in time to feel his connection with the butterfly end. He recognized the familiar sensation of one of his akuma’s being purified.

“Ladybug Caught it!” He steamed. “Where is the Akuma Alert? That's likely where Adrien is. We need to go collect him.”

“Sir, I’m afraid it doesn’t say. The alert was just a generic one, the text simply asks for Ladybug to contact the blog moderator to get an address.”

“Well then get the address!”

Ladybug hopped through the trap door of her balcony where she’d transformed. She called Alya and pretended to ask for the address of the akuma. She waited a moment more for consistency sake, then lifted the jar and caught the akuma, purifying it easily. She was just about to jump back up onto the balcony to transform back when Adrien’s blonde head popped through the floor.

Shit

“Ladybug? You’re already here?” he stepped further into the room. “Where’s Marinette?”

“Oh, uh. Yeah. I was on patrol nearby when I got the alert,” she lied. “Easiest Akuma I've dealt with all week!” She smiled widely hoping he didn’t catch on to the fact that she sidestepped his second question.

He looked at her strangely for a minute, long enough for her to start to sweat, but then smiled sadly and shook his head. “I wish they were all that simple. If only we had an early warning system that lets you know he sent out an amuka before it gets to someone.”

“Oh, that would be a dream. I’d stop being so late to everything,” she said dreamily. “Well, I should probably be getting back to my patrol.”

He looked at her strangely again. She knew it was a lie, but she felt like her and Chat kept a sporadic enough schedule that most citizens shouldn’t know that, right?

“Yeah, that sounds good. I was actually coming up to check on Marinette, just to make sure the Akuma didn’t get to her. Where’d she go?”

He asked again! Ugh. Why did he have to be so nice? “Oh, she’s just on the balcony. I wanted her out of the room just in case I didn’t get the butterfly fast enough. You know for Safely, I mean safety. I’ll go let her know we’re all good, and be on my way! You just stay right there, she’ll be down right- I mean- right down!” She rambled out quickly. She hopped onto her balcony, grabbing a blanket she’d left out there earlier, and hid under it to hide the light from her transformation from shining down into her bedroom.

“That was close Marinette. Be careful going back down there, we don’t want him to figure out your secret Identity. Especially with how vulnerable he is right now,” Tikki quietly whispered as she dropped into Marinette’s hands.

“I know. I’ll be careful. I wish I knew what I could do to help him. Or even what's actually wrong.” She replied, carefully pulling the blanket off of her head.

“I think just being there for him is the best thing you can do right now.”

“I hope so.”

Gabriel Agrest had lost his son and had no idea how to find him. He had checked with all of Adrien’s classmates, anyone he knew who might know how to find his son. He’d searched through his phone, and for a second thought he might have found the answer in an unread text message from ‘Mari’ asking his son to come over, but it was soon followed by several texts asking him if got their messages. He flipped through every app but it revealed nothing except that Gabriel knew nothing about his son. There were jokes, and conversations that clashed with the image he had of his perfect son, there were pictures of friends and events Adrien had never mentioned.

Overall it was an uncomfortable discovery that made him wonder where he’d gone wrong as a father. It did, however, make him realize he would need to switch tactics when it came to building Adrien’s future.

Later that night, as Adrien was drifting to sleep under the fairylights Marinette had strung up in their blanket fort, she got the courage to ask him a question she’d been wondering since he’d shown up at her door.

“Why did you come here?”

“Hmm?” he asked against her shoulder. His head had found its way there during the movie they’d put on to distract them both.

“Why did you come to my house instead of Nino’s, or one of your other friends? Why did you come here?”

He shrugged slightly. “Dunno. I was talking to… a friend. Online. He knew about us talking yesterday, and said I should try talking to you about it. It seemed like a good idea. You’re an easy person to talk to, Marinette.”

She flushed at the praise.

“Once you get past the incomprehensible blabbering, you have great advice.”

She gasped, “Hey, I don’t blabber!” she protested.

“Anymore.” He said with a sleepy grin.

“Rude!” She pushed him playfully off of her shoulder.

“Hey! That was uncalled for!” He laughed.

“So was your comment, so I guess we are even.”

“But you still love me.”

“Go to sleep, weirdo.” she said, lightly hitting him with a spare pillow.

“All right, all right. Going to sleep right now.” He pulled the pillow from her grasp and stuffed it under his head. He watched her as she carefully stowed her laptop and burrowed under the blankets. When she was finally all settled, she was facing him, and the soft glow of the fairy lights made her look so young and gentle. The fact that he had worked so hard to keep him safe and help him feel better made something warm settle into his chest.

“Thank you for helping me. I don’t know what would have happened if you hadn’t been here for me.” He whispered reverently, as though his gratitude was sacred.

She opened her eyes and smiled at him softly, her eyes literally glittering in the warm light.

“I was happy to do it,” she timidly reached out her hand, lightly grabbing his. “I will be there for you every time you let me. I promise.”



He gave her a teary smile, unable to express how truly grateful he felt with words. He contented himself with squeezing her hand, and closed his eyes.

The next morning, Sabine peaked into her daughter's room to find the teens fast asleep, still holding each other's hands. She smiled as she snapped a picture. While her original assumption the previous evening hadn’t been wholly correct, she had a feeling it wasn’t wholly wrong either.