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That morning at school, Marinette felt her good luck working in her favor.

Adrien—that Adrien, what other Adrien was there?—was assigned as her partner for a history project. In the two years they’d been in the same class—the same friend group, too, thanks to Nino and Alya—she’d actually learned how to string a few sentences together in his presence. She had confidence that she could succeed in working together on a project with him and not make a complete fool of herself. She just had to channel a little bit of her Ladybug personality, and she would be positively golden.

And now, as she sat across from him in her favorite coffee shop, pulling out notebooks and papers and a textbook so that they could start planning their presentation, she was nearly giddy with excitement. Marinette knew that her cheeks were flushed, but she hadn’t tripped on their way here, so she was thanking her lucky stars…for now.

“So…what do you think we should focus on?” Adrien asked, almost shyly, as he turned a few pages in the textbook. “We were assigned chapter seven, but the guidelines say we can pick a specific section if we want to.”

“I-I’m fine with anything, really,” Marinette said softly, leaning forward to read some of the section headings as the blond continued to flip the pages, slowing down a little more so she could get a good look, too.

“We should probably include at least part of section three,” Adrien mused as he quickly flipped to the first page of that particular section. “This chapter has a lot of stuff that’s still relevant today…”

She wondered if his eyes caught the documentation of Paris’s first akuma attack, because that’s what her eyes had just lit upon and she held her tongue. If she mentioned it right now, she’d be afraid of giving herself away. She had researched that particular event in detail shortly after she’d met Tikki and become the city’s famous Ladybug, so she had more background knowledge on akuma attacks than your average 11th grade student. And it wasn’t just with that, too.

The longer she lived this dual life, the harder it was to keep the two worlds apart, after all.

“A-agreed,” she said instead, pointing to a paragraph about a politician’s wedding—and how his wife seemed to hold all the power after the marriage. “Like this one! People say that he let his wife run the city after they got married, and that’s why downtown was neglected for a period. What kind of lame excuse is that?”

Adrien laughed, and the sound was music to her ears. Marinette really was a lucky girl…

“Or here?” he pointed to another paragraph. “When Paris was becoming the fashion capital of the world and people were sure it was going to be the end of France?”

Marinette snorted in a very unladylike manner, then flushed and covered her mouth quickly. To her relief, Adrien just chuckled one last time and continued flipping through their chapter. Eventually, the duo started to make an outline, got their coffees, continued the research, and somehow settled on Paris’s history of akuma attacks since the 1700s as their overarching subject, as they both seemed to know more about those than anything else.

The dark-haired girl had to admit that she was far more knowledgeable about akuma attacks than anything else in the history of France, and while the subject tiptoed on the borderline, she was determined to see it through. It was a school project, after all, and there was a limit to the information that one could get about akuma from books. She just had to make sure to stick with all the facts that the public knew and refrain from suggesting anything that only the holder of a Miraculous would know.

That should be easy…right?

 

The time seemed to fly, and before Marinette knew it, the sun was descending and their study session had to come to an end. As they packed up to leave, Adrien muttered a soft, “Oh!” and quickly started scribbling on a scrap of paper. She pretended she hadn’t noticed, lifting her bag to her shoulder and adjusting it so it didn’t cut off her circulation, picking up her now empty coffee cup so she could dispose of it properly.

“Here,” Adrien said to her as he quickly stuffed his pen in his bag and held the paper out to her. His cheeks were a faint pink that she didn’t even notice as she carefully took the folded slip from him. She did her best not to show her flush as her fingertips brushed against his, and she retracted her hand as calmly as she could once the paper was in her possession. She cracked it open and to her surprise found a number…and not just any number. She glanced up at him, surprised, and he scratched the back of his head, almost nervously, as he told her, “Send me a text or something later so that I have your number, too. I never realized that we hadn’t exchanged, even though we’ve been friends for a while. But, this way, we can meet up over the weekend to work on our project.”

“S-sure!” she managed, and then somehow she made it through their farewells. It was then and only then that she let out a tiny squeal, after his distracting blond head disappeared around the corner. She turned towards her home and family bakery as she whipped out her phone, excitedly entering the digits he’d given her.

Before she’d finished, her phone started ringing and surprised her. With a nervous chuckle at the way she’d jumped in shock, she picked up the call from her mother, belatedly realizing that she’d forgotten to call her in the excitement of working with Adrien.

“It’s starting to get dark out, dear,” the woman warned lightly, but Marinette knew it that her mother wasn’t angry. “You should head on home now.”

“I’m on my way, Mom!” Marinette assured her with a laugh. “I got caught up working on a group project at my favorite coffee place, and we just realized it was getting late.”

“Is Alya with you? You can invite her over for dinner, if you’d like.”

“No, Mom, it’s not Alya. We were assigned partners this time instead of choosing for ourselves. I’m working with my friend Adrien.”

She felt the red rush to her cheeks—friends. It was a good start, and Adrien himself had said that they were friends. She definitely giggled a little, and she heard a connecting-the-dots sort of oh from her mother’s end of the line, followed by a knowing chuckle.

“Well, you can invite him over to work on the project this weekend, if you want,” her mother offered, and Marinette was mortified by the lilting, almost teasing tone that the older woman was using. She tried not to let it get across though. It wouldn’t do for her own mother to know that she had an almost unhealthy crush on the boy. Sabine would probably never let her live it down…especially when she told Marinette’s father, too.

“Sure! I’ll send him a text when we get off of the phone and invite him to come work on it tomorrow.”

“Alright! I’ll see you when you get home, and we can talk about what kind of snacks to have ready for the two of you tomorrow.”

“It’s not a big deal, Mom!” the blue-eyed girl insisted quickly, blushing furiously. “And I’ll be home in about ten minutes. I’ll see you soon! Love you, Mom!”

“I love you, dear,” the older woman’s voice was cheerful. “Bye, Mari!”

“Bye, Mom!”

With a soft sigh, Marinette ended the call, took a breath, and went back to entering Adrien’s contact information.

When it asked for a name to put on his number, she almost put My Prince <3, but then she realized that this would be a very poor decision and slowly, carefully, typed in Adrien. The feeling was surreal, and she waited a moment before saving the contact because she had never thought she’d make it this far…and now she actually had his cell phone number. The thought made her warm and content.

Marinette moved her thumb to the Save New Contact button and pressed it, her heart fluttering.

And then it felt like her luck had worn off.

Error!

“What…but I’m sure I put the number in correctly!” She murmured to herself, glancing up to make sure it was safe to cross the street. She reopened the contact information and the error message displayed clearly.

Contact already exists. Replace information or leave the same?

Marinette was thoroughly puzzled as her eyes traveled down the screen to find the number that coincided with Adrien’s, and she nearly dropped the phone in shock, right in the middle of a street.

The flustered girl had the brains to make it to the sidewalk before freezing to stare blankly at her phone screen. This name just couldn’t be right. She’d had this contact information for just over a year and a half now—if it was Adrien’s, shouldn’t she have known?

She thought she had known pretty much everything there was to know about Adrien, but there it was, glaring at her as plain as day. Evidence that she most likely didn’t know Adrien as well as she’d always thought she did. Evidence that she didn’t know the other contact quite as well as she’d always believed, too.

Existing Contact: Alley Cat

“He’s…” her voice was a strangled whisper, meant for no one but herself. “He’s Chat?”

“What was that, Marinette?” a tiny voice asked, tucked in the purse at her side. She glanced down to see wide eyes staring up at her from the teeniest, unzipped portion of her purse, and she just gazed blankly at her kwami for a few moments before tilting the phone slightly so that the hidden fairy creature could see.

“Did you know…that Adrien was Chat?” she managed to breathe, so low that she could barely hear it herself. The red and black ladybug kwami’s eyes widened and she shook her head vigorously, honestly shocked by the news.

“I haven’t seen Chat Noir’s kwami, Plagg, since before you two became Ladybug and Chat Noir,” Tikki assured her softly. “I could sense him around school sometimes, but I didn’t pay it much attention because I knew you wanted to keep your identities secret. I just never expected…”

Marinette chuckled, still in a state of mild shock, as she murmured, “I never would have expected it either.

Instead, she hit cancel on her new contact, locked her phone, tucked it in her purse, and headed straight for home. When she got there and after she ate supper, she’d figure out what to do with her new information. For now, however, she didn’t want to make her mother worry and she had to do something—anything—to keep her mind off of the fact that the boy she’d been madly in love with so long had turned out to be the flirtatious cat-eared superhero she had befriended and went gallivanting about the Parisian night with.

She had to do something about it tonight, though, or Adrien would be wondering why he never received a text from her and he’d start to think that she hated him. Or something.

 

After dinner, and after spending almost two hours pondering her plan of action, Marinette made her decision.

Hey, Alley Cat. When you’re done with your patrol tonight, meet me at the usual spot.

The text she sent was vague and, she hoped, not too desperate. And just an hour later, she was dangling her feet off of a cathedral’s roof, staring out at the twinkling stars above as she waited for her kitty to finish his patrol. He’d sent the affirmative, so she knew he would show up unless something huge came up to prevent it, so she was willing to wait.

But just when she had decided that, she heard the slight whoosh of something flying through the air, and she heard the impact of feet on the roof. She lifted her head to see her companion striding towards her as if he owned the rooftops, a walk, she belatedly realized, that belonged to Adrien when he was on the runway for one of his father’s fashion shows. How had she never recognized that strut? She only saw it nightly…and the countless times she had watched Adrien’s videos in the early stages of her fangirl crush.

“What’s so important that My Lady called me out?” he grinned stepping up and sliding gracefully to the seat beside her.

“Hey, kitty cat,” she said softly, still staring out into the night. She knew what she wanted to ask, but now that she was here, Marinette was trying to take the place of Ladybug. The knowledge of what this reveal could mean was suffocating, but if she didn’t do this now, then he would surely wonder why Marinette had never texted him back so he could have her number.

“Seems like something’s on your mind,” he lounged back and, with a lazy grin, continued with, “You can always talk to your Chat about that…unless, of course, the cat’s got your tongue?”

“I’ll push you off this roof,” she said before she could think any better of it. Chat just laughed, and Ladybug felt strangely more at ease after hearing the sound.

They sat in a comfortable silence for a few moments longer before she finally sighed and took a deep breath.

“We got assigned partners for a project in one of my classes today,” she announced, as though she wasn’t the one trying to keep their superhero life and civilian life separate. “Imagine how happy I was when that boy I’ve liked for so long was assigned to be my partner!”

She chuckled drily—she knew of Chat’s longstanding affections for her, which she was still convinced were at least half a joke, and she had finally mentioned to him that she had a crush about a year ago. She studiously ignored his eyes, though, for the fear of seeing even a minute flicker of hurt in them.

“What a lucky lady,” her faithful cat grinned. She laughed, smiling up at the stars.

“Sometimes. But then after school, and after we had done some planning for the project, he gave me his phone number so we could work on the project more over the weekend instead of waiting until next week. I was ecstatic, as you can probably imagine.”

He gave a noncommittal hum, so she knew he was still listening.

“And then I put his number in my phone, tried to save it to the contacts, and got an error. My first thought was that luck had deserted me, but when I looked closer I realized I’d had his number for about a year and a half now, if you’d believe it. It was just under a different name.”

“Unless you really need someone to talk to, you probably shouldn’t keep going. You’re the one who wanted to keep our civilian lives private, My Lady,” Chat softly reminded her.

“I can’t do that anymore,” she laughed, sliding out her phone. “I haven’t texted him yet, even though I said I would. But…I’ll do it right now.”

She already had the message typed out, in fact. All she had to do was hit send.

And she did just that.

Hey, Adrien. It’s Marinette! My mom said to invite you over to the house to work on our project tomorrow if you’re free!
A soft chime sounded, and Chat, with a sideways look at her as she pretended to finish typing, reached for his own phone. He opened his new message, puzzled at the fact that My Lady had popped up on his screen and assuming that it had been delayed due to poor service—she was, after all, texting her classmate.

But then his green eyes widened, his phone nearly slipped out of his hand, and his breath hitched in his throat.

After another moment, a soft pink light flashed, and Marinette smiled softly at the leather-clad Chat Noir. Her nervousness was trying to get the better of her, but she beat it back as well as she could, leaning forward to hug her knees and look back up at the twinkling stars.

A soft light came from her right, and from the corner of her eye she saw Adrien—beautiful, perfect, nice, polite Adrien—where the flirtatious Chat Noir had just been sitting.

“When we originally exchanged numbers,” Marinette’s voice was tiny. “I thought it would be fine. I never thought that any of my classmates could possibly be Chat Noir, and by then I had most of their numbers. I had never expected to find out this way, but then I put the number you gave me into my phone and nearly had a heart attack.”

“I can’t…I can’t believe…Marinette?”

She turned to him, taking in his wide green eyes, the dropped jaw, the way his hair swayed in the breeze, and the way he didn’t flinch away from her gaze. She could see him doing the same, examining every aspect of her and asking himself, just as she had been doing, how they hadn’t noticed before. He was smart, and extremely clever, so she was almost surprised he hadn’t figured her out sooner.

“Don’t leave your jaw hanging too long, alley cat,” she teased halfheartedly, reaching forward to push his chin up. “A bug might fly in and I don’t want to deal with your yowling.”

Her gentle touch on his chin seemed to ground Adrien a little more in reality, and he reached forward, fingers stopping just millimeters away from her cheek. She held still, never breaking eye contact, and after a few moments, he gently touched her skin, as if making sure she was real. A slow smile broke across his features, and then it morphed into a very Chat Noir smirk as the blond model leaned closer to her, resting his forehead on hers as their noses touched.

“Marinette,” he said softly, “Princess. My Lady.”

Marinette shuddered at the way his voice dropped, becoming lower and almost seductive when he called her My Lady.

“Adrien,” she retorted, in a voice equally as soft, though with a teasing lilt near the end. “Chat. Kitty.”

His hand slid from her cheek to her shoulder, and then he pulled her into a tight hug, a chuckle rumbling up through his chest. The tension of the moment lessened because she was no longer staring into his eyes, and Marinette found herself giggling along with him, her nose perfectly nestled in the crook of his neck. He smelled like coffee and cologne and springtime, and she wanted nothing more than to stay right there, in the circle of his arms, for as long as she could.

“All this time,” he murmured, his breath ghosting across her ear and sending shivers up her spine. “All this time, you were right behind me. And I never even noticed.”

“I had it easier,” she retorted, her grip on his shirt tightening as she chuckled against his shoulder. “I should have found out ages ago! I was always staring at the back of your head, simultaneously praying you’d turn around and then realizing that I wouldn’t be able to string three words together if you did, not to mention that one time, almost two years ago, Alya drew Chat Noir’s outfit on a picture of you and I laughed it off thinking that it was impossible!”

Oh, she’d just said something mortifying!

The gentle chuckle in her ear and the way his strong arms squeezed her even more tightly than before, though, was proof enough that she hadn’t said too much. And then she felt it—her hand was resting over his heart, and it was beating probably just as fast as hers was.

“I usually do my patrol an hour early, just so I can wait for you and go with you for yours,” he admitted lowly, pulling back to look her in the eyes with a sheepish grin, more like Adrien than Chat. “I’m always willing to use any trick I can to stay with you, even if I’m just looking at your back the entire time, or if you’re not in the mood to talk.”

“I always pretend I’m more annoyed with a certain kitty than I really am,” she quipped, nudging him with a smile.

“I always wondered why the clumsy, bubbly girl from my class couldn’t form a full sentence in front of me,” he teased back, sliding one hand down her arm.

“Sometimes, I wondered why my partner seemed so sad behind his mask.”

“Sometimes, I wondered who the person that My Lady was always thinking about could be.”

“I wished that I could work up the courage to talk to my crush,” Marinette flushed, averting her eyes as his fingers were slowly interlaced with her own.

“I wished my crush would finally realize that I was flirting for a reason,” his voice was softer, his hand squeezing hers lightly. Her cheeks burned even hotter with the realization of all the things she’d just admitted…and all the things that he’d admitted, too.

“Do you think…” she couldn’t believe she was starting to ask this, but now that the words had started she knew she had to finish her question. “Do you think that you could feel the same for the clumsy, plain, boring Marinette…?”

“Definitely,” his answer was almost immediate as he pressed his forehead to hers again and squeezed her hand even more tightly than before. “It’ll be easy, if that same sweet, amazing girl could find it in her to feel the same for an unlucky and flirtatious alley cat.”

Her laugh came out as a hiccup, and she found her eyes burning with the tears starting to well up. She couldn’t find her voice immediately, so she nodded vigorously.

She couldn’t tell him that she’d already started falling for her feline partner at some point within the last year. And after all the revelations of the night, she didn’t think she wanted to tell him just yet. She didn’t want to inflate Chat’s already disproportionate ego, after all. Ladybug would never be able to live it down.

And then her heart was racing when his lips brushed the corner of one eye, and then the other, as Adrien lifted his hands to gently cup her face. He tilted her head down slightly, kissing her lightly on the tip of her nose and then pressing his lips firmly to the center of her forehead. With a laugh, Marinette fell forward against his chest, trying to stifle her nervous, happy sobs, as his arms fell around her once more.

“Do you think it would be too soon after starting to talk more as our civilian selves if I asked you out?” he mused against her hair.

“Alya would have a heart attack,” Marinette’s voice was muffled in his shirt. “She’s been trying to help me ask you out for almost two years now. If she thinks that just a weekend of working on a project together was enough, she’ll kick herself for not thinking of it sooner.”

Adrien chuckled and then, leaning closer to her ear, asked teasingly, “So were those plans the reasons you always stumbled right in front of me, and then couldn’t actually string a sentence together?”

She nodded, and he smiled to himself.

“Well, if you’re that worried about Alya, why don’t we just start with our study date tomorrow and move on from there?”

Marinette pulled away from him, wiping her eyes, before giving him a watery smile that sent his heart careening at a frantic pace. It would probably be quite a while before the sweet, innocent Marinette knew just what she was doing to his heart, but Adrien was so happy that his lady had turned out to be her.

She’d always been a kind, considerate presence around him. She might not have been able to say what she wanted to around him, but he had always known that she was trying to help in her own way. He had seen everything that the blue-eyed girl had done for those around her, after all, and he’d slowly gained the intense desire to start talking to her on a regular basis. Whenever he had tried to get closer to her, she would balk, blush, stutter, or trip over something, and it had been hard to build what friendship they had managed.

But now…?

She was being open with him, and whereas he suspected she’d be a blushing mess tomorrow when the full force of the situation tonight set in, he had confidence that she’d sort it out herself.

“We should probably transform back and head home,” she suggested softly after another long silence, and a wistful sigh escaped his lips before he could help it.

“I know you’re right, Marinette,” Adrien threaded their fingers together once more, even if it would just be for a few moments, “but I really wish this moment could last a little longer.”

“Tikki,” she said softly, and he watched as a red kwami with a few black spots flitted over to the girl. It struck him then that both of their magical partners had opted to stay out of the conversation and leave the two to their own devices, which mildly surprised him. Plagg had a knack for butting in where he didn’t belong, after all.

And speaking of that…”Plagg, let’s go,” he spoke as he stood, and soft glows lit the cathedral rooftop for just moments before two superheroes stood where ordinary teens had been moments before.

“I’ll see you tomorrow, kitty cat,” Marinette’s voice was playful, and when he turned to make a rebuttal he fell into stunned silence. Her lips pressed to his cheek, warm and hesitant, for just a second before she stepped back, flushing as red as her mask, before grinning sheepishly at him and waving as she turned to take a flying leap off the roof.

Chat Noir just shook his head with a light chuckle, turning to head home.

 

His Lady certainly had impeccable timing. As soon as his feet hit his bedroom carpet and a flash of light signaled his return to the plain attire of Adrien Agreste, his phone chimed softly. When he slid it out and checked the message from My Lady, he couldn’t hide the grin on his features.

You were awfully quiet back there. What’s wrong? Cat got your tongue?