It starts with a single sentence.
“There’s this girl…” It takes Ladybug by surprise to hear it from Chat Noir of all people. He looks at her, quiet and uncertain, and suddenly the slight drop in his flirty comments starts to make sense. Someone has caught his attention, and from the looks of it, just a little more than that. She confronts him, and eventually manages to worm out a handful of sputtered words before he confesses to a crush on a civilian he’s known for almost two years now.
At first, she doesn’t know what to think. She’s gotten so accustomed to Chat Noir’s constant attempts at courting that to think they might suddenly disappear sets her on edge. Another, much louder part of her wants to encourage him. With this, she can continue to pursue Adrien without guilt or worry that she’s going to hurt her partner and best friend.
It takes several pushes on both sides, but they come to an agreement. That afternoon they will run a quick once-over of the city early, and end with the setting of the sun. By then, most their age are returning home, and makes it easier to find their respective targets with ease. When they depart, they will both try to find the people they’ve been tip-toeing around for so long and voice the feelings they’ve kept close to their hearts. At midnight, they will meet again at the top of the Eiffel Tower and celebrate acceptance or console rejection. No matter what the results, in the end they are partners. Victory and loss alike are to be shared.
They depart from one another with words of assurance and encouragement. Each goes in a different direction, only to be met by the crushing reality of a dark bedroom and no one to open the window. With heavy hearts, they turn away and race back across the city. It isn’t until they both reach the tower, several hours too early, that they laugh through the burning of their eyes at the double dose of bad luck.
“What’s she like?” Ladybug asks and tries to ignore the weight settling in her chest. She’s told herself time and time again that she’d made her choice. She can’t live a double life and keep two boys secret from each other, it wouldn’t be fair. There is a chance, she thinks, to try and make things work out, but as Ladybug, that complicates things. Needing three people to hold a secret and a relationship on top of everyday life is a strain she’s not even sure she can handle or ask of someone else. “The girl…”
“Oh?” Chat’s smile doesn’t fully reach his eyes and Ladybug feels her chest tighten again. “Scoping out the competition, my lady?”
“Haha, kitty.” Ladybug rolls her eyes and smiles, “It’s my job as your partner to poke around. I can’t let just anyone adopt my favourite alley cat.”
“Favourite?” Chat laughs quietly and turns his attention back to the city below. “You pawsitively flatter me, my lady. It warms my heart to hear you care so much.”
“Mmhm,” Ladybug nods again and reaches over to give his nose a firm tap. “But enough pussyfooting around. Let’s hear about her.”
For a moment, Chat beams as the wind curls his tail in what looks like a gesture of approval. It’s rare he ever gets to enjoy jokes from her, but soon he turns away and releases a breath he doesn’t realise he’s been holding. If he asks, Ladybug will back off. She’s always respected the privacy of their lives behind the mask, but this is his chance to move on and get the push he needs to let go. As much as he wants to hold on, he knows it will only hurt them both in the long run.
“She’s in my class at school,” he begins and rests his hands in his lap. “She’s quiet most of the time, but strong. She’s kind and compassionate… and sometimes really shy, but when it matters, she’s not afraid to stand up for her friends and what she believes in, even if she’s afraid. But… I don’t think she has much confidence...” The thought saddens him, and Ladybug sees it in the droop of his ears and the inward curl of his shoulders. “But I wish she did, because she really doesn’t seem to realise just how amazing she is.”
With a heavy sigh, Chat leans back and catches his weight on his palms. He feels like he could talk for hours about all the things he’s noticed about the sweet, gentle girl he can’t seem to get off his mind. “She’s so passionate about her hobbies and goals. She’s a designer, you know? She’s even won a few of m--uh, the Agreste sponsored design competitions and she just…” He raises his hands in wide, dramatic gestures. “She comes to life when she talks about them. Her eyes shine and her face lights up and her smile … Her smile…” He shakes his head and looks at Ladybug with a faraway grin. He can’t think of the right words to do it justice.
“Wow, Chat,” Ladybug forces a smile and tries to ignore the pain from her fingers gripping the edge of the roof too tightly. “If I didn’t know better, I’d say you were smitten with this girl.”
Chat Noir’s cheeks colour pale pink as he snaps out of his daze and looks at Ladybug with a sheepish grin. “Smitten as a kitten who’s nippin’.” Ladybug groans and Chat fights the urge to laugh, quickly taking the chance to shift the focus. “And what about you, my lady? Who is this lucky man who has you so taken?”
The questions sobers her almost immediately and now it’s Ladybug’s turn to blush. Listening to Chat Noir was mesmerizing, every twitch and movement of his hands and face illuminated by the glimmering lights of the tower they sat on. It fills her with a mixed rush of feelings she still isn’t sure what to do with: happiness for him and something else she can’t place for whoever this girl is. But instead of facing it, she distracts herself with his question. It was only fair after all.
“He’s gentle,” she starts, letting her gaze rise to the stars. What she hopes to find there, she doesn’t know. Maybe inspiration, but they don’t shine half as bright as he does. “And kind… very kind. He’s really handsome with a smile to match it. Everyone knows who he is and everyone wants to be his friend, and somehow, he always manages to give everyone attention.”
Everyone but me , she wants to finish, but lately, that isn’t as true as it used to be. He’s been noticing her, and she’s still struggling to comprehend when it all changed, but it would be a lie if she claimed she wasn’t thrilled. She owes it to Alya, she supposes, and her quick thinking to send Adrien over when she was struggling with Mandarin.
“He even puts up with this really awful girl at our school that I can’t stand , but he does, and I really don’t know how. It’s really amazing. He’s talented and smart -- I don’t think I’ve ever seen him fail at anything . Except puns. His are as awful as yours.”
“Awful?” Chat gasps and throws a hand to his chest, feigning a blow. “My lady, you scratch my heart. My puns are a clawsome delight.”
“But… he still looks lonely.” Her eyes fall to her lap as her fingers twist together tightly. “His smile is so pretty… but it’s also so lonely. It just--it doesn’t… seem to reach his eyes most of the time. But when it does… it’s like watching the sunrise. And I just wish it could always be like that, because he deserves that kind of happiness.”
Beside her, Chat’s expression twists. He’s happy, he is, but he can’t stop the weight pressing against his chest. More than anything, he wants Ladybug to find happiness, no matter where that is. He envies this boy, whoever it is, that managed to capture her heart so easily and fill it with a joy he can’t. It hurts, but he covers it with a gentle smile. He’s resolved to move on, to take a chance, and maybe this time, they can both find somewhere they belong. “He’s a fool if he finds anything but joy by your side.”
“Haha… Thanks, Chat,” Ladybug smiles faintly and dares a glance at her partner. “The same goes for you.”
“That girl,” she elaborates, motioning to the city at large, “whoever she is, she’s really lucky to have such a sweet kitty that cares so much.” A luck, Ladybug hopes, isn’t as twisted as her own. Falling for a boy once he’s fallen someone else while still being in love with another. It’s a mess, but with them both trying to take a step forward, maybe they’ll be okay.
“...just like your mystery boy,” Chat murmurs quietly and earns a worried look in response. He pushes his depressing thoughts away with a smile and mimics Ladybug’s sweeping gesture. “So, do I get to know the name of the boy who net your heart?”
“Chat--” Ladybug begins, but stops as he holds up a clawed hand.
“Don’t get me wrong, my lady, I do want to investigate and makes sure he’s simply purrfect for you, but… If I know who he is, should I see him on the street, I can slow him down.” Chat winks, his expression playful as his eyes warm. “After all, you can’t miss him like you did tonight if I’m keeping him busy. You might even get a date at the right time of day.”
“Oh?” Ladybug hums and rests her chin in a palm with an elbow balanced on her knee. “And what do I get in return for something like that?”
“I’d return the favour, of course,” the wind picks up again and his tail dances in the breeze, punctuating his wide gesture and bouncy words. “I’ll tell you the name of the one who warms this alley cat’s heart.”
“Ugh…” Ladybug groans again and begins to shake her head. “Keep up those jokes and she’ll just push you off a roof.”
“Then it’s a good thing I’d land on my feet and live to tell the tail.”
An audible smack fills the air as Ladybug’s hand connects with her forehead and lets out yet another groan. She can feel a bubble of laughter rising in her chest, but releasing it will only encourage Chat’s terrible habit. It’s charming and annoying all at once, and she briefly wonders if this girl of his laughs at them with a carefree smile.
“You first.” Her answer is sudden, the look on her face resolute as she meets Chat’s surprised gaze. “If I tell you, you have to tell me first.”
“That sounds fur enough.”
He laughs; relaxed and easy, something Ladybug is all too glad to hear. It makes the atmosphere feel less tense and the weight in her chest starts to feel a little lighter. Despite everything, things between them haven’t changed, and there nothing to describe just how grateful she is for that.
“So?” she leans over and nudges his leather-clad side. “What’s her name?”
His cheeks darken again and Ladybug grins, not noticing how one of his hands cradles the cuff of the opposite wrist. His ears twitch and bob with the movement of his head as he bows it and he wiggles in his spot. “...Marinette,” he whispers, the name almost lost to the wind and street noise below. “Marinette Dupain-Cheng… her parents run a bakery in the city.”
In an instant, Ladybug feels everything crash down around her. Every kind word, every little thing he’s adored and fallen for has been her . Her pulse flutters and she is assaulted with a mix of elation and agony and it’s a small miracle she’s able to keep the feelings off her face. Of everyone in Paris, Chat Noir has managed to fall in love with her twice. She’s happy, she’s so, so happy, but green eyes and a dazzling smile flash before her eyes and suddenly she feels ill.
It wasn’t supposed to be like this. Chat Noir, despite his overzealous actions and flowery words is a kind, wonderful person and he deserves so much better than her. The girl who has only just managed to start getting sentences out properly around her crush; who pines for a boy who probably sees her as just a friend -- if not just another girl in class.
“M-Marinette?” Ladybug winces at her tone and tries to steel herself. “She--the girl who helped with the Evillustrator?”
Chat Noir nods slowly with a shy smile. “I… she sort of caught my attention back then, and then…” He trails off as his smile grows just a little more. “I guess I just couldn’t stop noticing after that.”
Ladybug’s mind is racing, her stomach churning violently as she scrambles to try and come up with an excuse -- something, anything that would let her just run. Run away from all of this. She owes Chat so much more respect and honesty than that, but she doesn’t know that she can handle this. Not right now. “O-oh?”
If Chat caught the waver in her voice, he doesn’t address it as he fumbles with his wrist and nods again. “She gave me a gift recently,” he continues, and for a moment, the confusion is enough to bring Ladybug back to earth. She can’t remember having given Chat Noir any gifts -- not recently at the very least -- and for a moment, she thinks he has to be making it up. “Or… loaned me something. It was a bit… ambiguous. I haven’t gotten the chance to ask her about it.”
She wants to cry. She wants to cry and sob and tell Chat Noir that she can’t -- shouldn’t -- return his feelings as much as part of her wants to. So, so, so wants to . But it isn’t fair; he is not a consolation prize. He’s not second place. She fell in love with Adrien first and, if only for closure, she needs to tell him how she feels before trying to move on. She doesn’t want to be asking herself what if several years down the road.
...but what about what ifs? about Chat Noir?
With a gulp, Ladybug tries to banish the thoughts and distract herself. The gift. She needs to know what gift he’s talking about. Maybe it was just something small and silly she hadn’t really thought about.
“And what did she give you, kitty?”
He smiles -- oh god he smiles -- and his eyes fill with warmth as he removes something with such gentle care from his wrist, Ladybug doesn’t know what to do. Whatever he has, he’s treating it like a treasure, and the budding guilt in her chest grows heavier still.
“A bracelet,” Chat explains and holds it up. “A lucky charm.”
Like a blow to the chest, all of Ladybug’s breath races out of her and she sways with the dizzying rush of thoughts that hit her.
“L-Ladybug!” Chat’s eyes widen in alarm as he jerks forward to steady her by the shoulders, but she barely feels it. Her gaze is locked with the all-too-familiar string of beads grasped carefully between black fingers. She knows that bracelet -- of course she would -- it’s been hers for a while. Or was hers. Until she’d given it to someone. A very special someone.
“A-Adrien,” Ladybug chokes out and she sees Chat Noir jerk visibly. His pupils seem to dilate before growing larger, and she almost misses the brief look of panic that crosses his face.
“N-nothing!” Ladybug stands up and nearly loses her footing as her gaze darts everywhere but Chat. Her mind is racing with her pulse and the air suddenly feels too thin and she’s far too high up. She needs to go, to move, and to just clear her mind before she does something incredibly stupid and ruin everything. “I… Chat, I need to go--”
“Wha... Hold on, my la--Ladybug what’s wrong? Did I--”
“No,” she shakes her head frantically and takes a step back. “No, it’s not you, it--I need to go. Please just…” Ladybug draws her yo-yo and goes still, her chest heaving. She really needs to go.
“Go see her.” The words fall out of her mouth before she can stop them and Chat looks as startled as she feels. “Marinette. Go and see her. Tonight. Wait until you can’t see me and…”
“Ladybug, what is-?”
“Chat…” her voice is strained, and something in it makes Chat stop. “Just… trust me. Please…” She turns, just enough to see him and smiles as she reaches out and places a hand over the beaded bracelet. “Trust in your lucky charms, okay?” Her fingers curl and Chat’s mouth opens to protest, but no words follow. “She’ll be there. I know it.”
Ladybug doesn’t give him a chance to respond, and as soon as he blinks, she’s gone, swinging off into the night.
Chat remains still, stunned with mouth open and heart racing. He has no idea what has just happened, but he doesn’t have much time left to think. He looks down at the bracelet and ties it back around his wrist, making efforts to ensure it’s secure. He’s already been Chat Noir for so long tonight, and he knows Plagg will have an earful for him later, but he doesn’t want to let Ladybug’s encouragement go to waste.
Straightening his legs, he assures himself that everything is alright. He’ll confront Ladybug about whatever it was that just happened later, but right now, his gut tells him chasing her will only end badly. With a deep breath, he turns back to the city and leaps.
His princess is in another tower, after all.
When Chat lands on the balcony above Marinette’s room, the first thing he notices is the open window. The latch has been flipped, allowing it to hold the window open by just an inch. He approaches it cautiously, eyebrows drawn together as he reaches for his staff. It isn’t like Marinette to leave her window open like this -- not when she isn’t outside. Unlocked is one thing, but open is an invitation for trouble, but his concern is short lived. A note with hurried handwriting is taped to the inside, words facing out.
"Fix the latch behind you, Chat.”
If he hadn’t still been on a bizarre high from Ladybug’s blessing and encouragement, he might have wondered how she knew he was coming, but as he swings down inside, it doesn’t seem important. He slides down the railing of the staircase with ease and lands on her wooden floor beside the circular carpet with silent toes. It’s quiet, and he grins at the element of surprise he might have over the girl who should be waiting inside, but as he turns to face the desk, he feels a sudden tightness grow in his chest.
The figure sitting in the pink spinning chair isn’t the one he’s expecting.
“Ladybug…?” Chat blinks and his eyes dart around the room, looking for the girl who should be in it. When he doesn’t find her on the chaise or hidden away in a corner, he looks back at Ladybug who is now on her feet and pacing back and forth. Her hands are in front of her chest, fingers twisting and untwisting in quick, jerky movements that only amplify how wide, frantic look in her eyes.
“My lad--are you alright?” He’s worried, concern pouring into his tone as he takes a step forward, only to leap back as Ladybug turns sharply and without warning. “What’s going--”
“Chat Noir,” she cuts him off and looks at him as if he’s something between fascinating and a threat. “You came.”
“What? Of course I did, but--” he trails off, uncertain if it’s safe to try and move forward again yet. “But what are you doing here? Where’s Mari--?”
“She’s here.” Ladybug cuts him off again and points to his wrist, her masked features growing tight. “Where did you get that bracelet?”
Chat frowns and brings a hand up to cover his cuff protectively, as if Ladybug had moved to take it. “I told you on the tower.”
“I need you to tell me again -- the whole story.”
“But why? ” Chat’s tone rises slightly and he looks around the room again. He knows Ladybug would never hurt a civilian -- he wouldn’t ever dare allow himself to believe it. But Marinette is gone and he can’t imagine that she has anywhere to be this late. “It was a gift, my lady, from Marinette. Who should be here. Where--”
“Chat.” Ladybug shakes her head with such ferocity that her pigtails can be hear slapping the sides of her head. “Just… answer me. Why do you have that bracelet?”
“I know! ” Ladybug raises her voice and Chat stiffens. She comes back to herself a moment later and shoots him an apologetic look and tries to relax. “I… I know, Chat. I know. But… please. Tell me how you got it.”
She isn’t making any sense, and with every passing second she only seems to be growing more tense, but it is Chat’s vague hope that answering her might help calm Ladybug down. At least, enough to tell him where his dearest princess is. “There was a videogame competition between different schools for a fighting game.”
“After The Gamer attacked,” Ladybug nods once and motions quickly for him to continue.
“Our school had a contest to find the best players to enter, and Marinette was one of them.”
Ladybug nods again and swallows thickly, waiting for him to say the words she knows -- prays -- are coming next. “I… was the other.”
She wants to cry out, to launch herself forward and wrap her arms around him because it’s impossible to have any doubts now. Adrien, sweet, wonderful, kind, and handsome Adrien is her silly, flirty, loyal, and beautiful kitty. But she can’t speak, not yet, she needs him to finish, to silence all the voices telling her that she’s a fool, that she’s wrong, that this is all a dream and she’s going to wake up in mere moments.
“We--” A loud beep makes Chat stop short and his eyes are immediately drawn to her earrings. “My lady--”
“But your Miraculous--”
“It’s fine, Chat. Just… don’t stop.”
“...We came here to practice after school,” he points to the chair behind Ladybug, “and she… she was amazing. I didn’t know she could play so well. I was really impressed and felt pretty lame in comparison.”
Another beep sounds and he swallows. Ladybug still isn’t moving, and he has a feeling asking if she needs to leave again won’t do any good. He looks down at his wrist to distract himself and runs a finger over the thick beads. “I told her that, but she--my princess--still only had nice things to say about me and claimed all her talent came from this.”
Another beep and he slides the bracelet up, just enough for it to peek over the edge of his cuff before letting it fall back down his wrist. “...and she told me to try playing with it. She gave it to me and I’ve had it for a while now… but she never asked for it back.”
“...you kept it all this time?” Ladybug asks softly and looks at Chat Noir with such gentle eyes he’s almost startled they’re the same ones that looked almost crazed a moment ago. He knows that beautiful blue universe so well, but his mind won’t linger for long.
“Because,” he clutches his wrist and pulls it close to his chest. “I’m Chat Noir -- bad luck follows me everywhere.” He smiles and finds his gaze drawn to the charm adorning his wrist once more. “...but what could cancel that out better than a gift from a purrfect princess like her?”
Another beep makes Chat Noir look up; there’s one dot left and he knows what will happen if she doesn’t leave now . “My lady--please. What is going on? You need to go and--”
“...I used to be in love with a boy from my class.”
The sudden shift in topic is more than startling, but Chat is barely able to stop himself from responding in a raspy whisper. “Was?”
She pauses and looks thoughtful, then offers a small smile. “I still am.”
“The mystery boy?”
“The mystery boy,” she confirms and looks away, “but… right now I’m not so sure anymore.”
“Because you see--there’s this other boy I know,” she begins and Chat isn’t sure what on earth to do. Two trains of thought are currently battling for dominance in his mind, but he’s too stunned, to wrapped in whatever story Ladybug has to tell to focus on either of them for very long. “A silly, flirt of a boy who likes to make terrible jokes and pull stupid stunts. He’s always throwing himself in harm's way to keep me safe, and I hate seeing him get hurt.”
“My… my lady?” Chat chokes on his words. His heart is racing, pounding painfully against his chest. His legs feel weak and he wouldn’t be surprised if they were shaking. The look she’s giving him is too warm, too kind, too, too gentle, and too familiar in the way it makes her eyes sparkle like they’re filled with stars.
“And… I struggled for a long time over which one I liked more. The wonderful boy at school or my most trusted partner?” she pauses to take a breath and looks up at Chat with a smile that’s suddenly grown much too sad for his liking and it hurts to see it.
“But… I told myself I couldn’t move on. Not yet. I couldn’t just give up, even if the boy at school didn’t seem to notice me at all, but then… then he did and I didn’t know what to do. He finally noticed me and before I knew it, he was spending time at my house -- in my room. It was wonderful, he was wonderful, and I was so… happy.”
She moved forward and turned, trailing a red hand along the pink chair. “...I played a game with him here,” she continued, her voice growing soft. “A fighting game to practice for a tournament at school.”
Beep. Beep. Beep.
“And when I won, he looked so sad and talked about how he wasn’t good enough , and it just… it broke my heart. Because he was. He was more than good enough…”
Beep. Beep. Beepbeepbeepbeep!
“So I gave my him lucky charm -- a silly little bracelet with wooden beads and red string.” A flash fills the room and Chat swears he feels his heart burst from his chest. “Because even if he never noticed me again, if he never knew how I felt… I just wanted to see him smile again.”
“Hey, kitty…” Marinette’s voice hitches and cracks as she tries to fight back the sting of her eyes and the threat of tears. Her pulse is racing, roaring in her ears at such a pace it almost makes her feel sick. This whole stunt has been one big gamble, a toss of dice she’s so certain are rigged in her favour but suddenly the what if-what if-what ifs are back and she can feel her legs start to tremble. It’s impossible that anyone else could be standing across from her right now, but what if?
“Marinette…” Chat chokes and takes an uneven step forward. “Marinette, I…”
“I…” Marinette swallows and crosses her arms, hugging her chest as she grips the dark fabric of her jacket tight enough to turn her knuckles white. “I’ve been in love with a boy named Adrien Agreste for a long time.” She tries to smile, but it’s crooked and scared and framed by tears she didn’t want to fall. “But I think I’ve fallen for you too, Chat Noir. Do you… think something like that could ever work out?”
Shrill beeps sound from the vicinity of Chat’s hand, but he doesn’t bother to look down as he moves forward. He wonders how he could have missed the warnings of the energy of his Miraculous wearing out, but the thought is gone as soon as it comes. He’s too focused on what’s in front of him.
“A few years ago, I fell in love with a beautiful Ladybug on the rooftops of Paris,” he begins, not caring that she already knows. “And a while after, I noticed this amazing girl who sat behind me in class -- a princess with a tower all her own.” He reaches out and feels his skin tingle as green light races along his limbs as black leather vanishes and leaves bright cloth in its wake. “And I think I fell for her too.”
Seeing it now, Marinette can’t begin to guess how she didn’t make the connection of similar eyes and a smile that makes her head rush and her knees weak. She can hear it in his voice and see it in the way he holds himself as two images crash together to make one incredible and amazing sight.
Adrien is much the same. He always saw the stars in their eyes, but suddenly now it’s so clear that he was wrong and together they make an entire galaxy. He sees the way her freckles shift without the mask to hide them and accent the smile that brightened his life from the moment they met.
Marinette’s breath hitches as she feels fingers brush against her cheek to brush the slow-falling tears away. Adrien’s hand is so gentle and so warm, and she covers it with her own as blue meets green to finally bring the sky and earth together.
It’s ridiculous and silly and terrifying , but as his arms wrap around her waist and her’s so naturally slip around his neck, they can’t help but think it’s so perfectly miraculous .