Bright lights, feel alright
I’m gonna see her again tonight.
And now you’ve got me started
I’m gonna shake it right tonight.
- The Preatures, "Is This How You Feel?"
“Oh, God,” Alya whispered. “Marinette, look at the time.”
Alya held out her phone to her friend, the time on it undeniably reading 10 pm.
“We've been here for five hours?” Marinette whispered back in disbelief. They had been cooped up in the library since school had let out, preparing for three different tests they had the next day. However, between gossiping, stalking social media, and making a long SnapChat story to prove that they were studying, the time had gotten away from them.
Marinette groaned. For once, she didn't have a curfew – her parents were gone at a culinary convention, and would not be back until the weekend was up. Still, she didn't especially enjoy the idea of leaving her friend and returning to a quiet empty house – nor did she enjoy the idea of admitting that she could study no longer and would have to accept that the knowledge she had then was all she was going to have come test time.
“Come on, girl,” Alya said, starting to pack up their notes and books. “We couldn't stay any longer if we wanted to. They close at 11, but really try to get people packed up and out by 10:45.”
Marinette sighed in agreement, putting her own things away and trying not to bother the napping Tikki in her bag. She was at least thankful there had been no akuma attacks that day. Marinette couldn't remember the last time she had had a full, uninterrupted day to do anything productive, let alone study. She desperately needed it as well – not that her grades suffered horribly since becoming Ladybug, but it certainly made things tight. Plus, Tikki deserved a rest anyway.
“Do you need a ride home?” Alya asked once they were outside.
“Oh, I don't want to inconvenience you. I'll be fine! I live in the opposite direction anyway,” Marinette replied.
“You sure? It's really dark already. I don't want anything to happen to you...you know what kind of weirdos lurk around at night in the city.”
“I know, but I'll be fine! My house isn't that far away, and besides – if I get into trouble, we have heroes. Ladybug will show up to punch out all the creepers.”
Alya appeared slightly more convinced at the mention of Ladybug, but was still apprehensive. “It's really no trouble to have my mom swing by your place, really...”
“Alya. I'll be fine. Trust me,” Marinette said with a smile, squeezing her friend's shoulder.
“Mm, fine...if you insist. But you'd better text me when you get home. Promise?”
“Promise,” Marinette agreed with a smile, hooking pinkies with Alya as her mother pulled up to the library with a honk.
“Text me,” Alya reiterated, getting in her car.
“I will, I promise!” Marinette giggled, glad anyway that her friend cared enough about her safety to try to give her a ride. She waited until the car turned onto an unseen street before sneaking into the nearest alley. She hadn't lied when she said that Ladybug would protect her and punch out all the creepers. And she was very aware of the sketchy people that hid around the city at night, just waiting to prey on vulnerable young girls. So there was no harm in getting home as Ladybug, she decided. A quick trip home would not be enough to overexert Tikki, and swinging across rooftops made the trip so much faster.
“Tikki, are you up to transforming?” she whispered into her bag, waking the kwami from her sleep.
“Do we have to fight?” she mumbled sleepily.
“No, I just need to get home safe and sound.”
Tikki nodded and shook herself awake, transforming Marinette just after she double checked to make sure no overly curious civilians were passing by her particular alley.
She swung herself onto a nearby rooftop, appreciating the cool breeze in her hair. It was lovely night, despite the fact that the winter seemed to be lasting long into the spring time. Though her suit let no skin show, it was not exactly the warmest of outfits – this, she blamed on her disposition as a bug – but tonight, for once, the crisp fresh air was welcome after having spent so many hours in the musty library.
Therefore, she elected to take a longer, more scenic route home. She was fast enough with her yo-yo that Alya wouldn't get suspicious over her taking too long – she hoped. It would be easy to text her before she actually did make it, but her suit restricted her access to her civilian phone. That, and she already felt so guilty keeping her biggest secret from her best friend that she had resigned to never lie to her about anything ever again. If she were to text to say she made it home before she had made it, especially when Alya actually cared, Marinette would probably end up hating herself for weeks after.
In the near distance, she saw a large, familiar house – if house was even an appropriate word. Really, it was nothing short of a mansion. A mansion that she had found herself walking by time and time again, staring at and longing at, particularly in the evenings when the lights were on in the hundreds of windows, and she stood before it on night patrols, trying to determine which room he was in.
But now, she knew which room was his. She had been in it herself when Jackady's haphazard army was after Gabriel. And she had not been by the Agreste mansion at night since then. Surely it wouldn't hurt to go by, just for a moment. Just to see if the lights were on, and then she would go home.
She found a place on the tall fence to perch, and there is was, where it has always been. It was different know that she knew which window was the correct one. Before, it had just been speculation, but now...she had confirmation. That one, there, on the corner, was Adrien's room. And his lights were on. And though she couldn't see him, she was comforted with with feeling that she didn't have to share this moment with anyone. There was no Alya nudging at her ribs. There was no Chloe glaring her down, or getting in her line of sight. There was no akuma demanding her attention. It was just her and the window. Adrien's window.
And damn it all if the little light from that window wasn't like a lighthouse, beckoning her closer, because she had made it from the ground to her spot on the fence in an instant. And still, it wasn't close enough.
Could I make it to his trellis? His window ledge, even? Without him noticing? she wondered to herself. She had traumatic flashbacks to Twilight, and Edward watching Bella sleep. This wasn't like that, right? Surely he would at least be awake. His light was on after all. Maybe it would be more like Romeo and Juliet, and all tragedy and stupidity aside, that seemed so much more accurate. But soft – what light through yonder window breaks? It is the east, and Adrien is the sun.
Yes, that was better. And he would come out and declare his love and they would plan their marriage before his nursemaid called him away. Perfect.
Or maybe she could be like Peter Pan, stealing Wendy away in the night. Because there was no way that could go wrong, either. At the very least, she might be able to teach him to fly, and yo-yo him up to the top of the Eiffel Tower. If she could even speak in the first place. At least her mask provided her with some confidence.
At some point during the midst of her internal monologue (somewhere between reciting Romeo's speech at the balcony and fancying herself as Peter Pan), Marinette found that she had worked her way to the platform outside Adrien's window. It was small, not quite worthy of being called a balcony, but large enough for her to stand on, and stay just out of the way of the window, which she now noticed was open just a crack.
And there he was, framed conveniently in view. Her breath caught in her throat. She definitely had not planned for this, and in her mind, she had been much more sure of herself. But here he was in person, and despite her suit boosting her confidence, she was still Marinette, and she still had strong feelings for the boy in the window, and he was going to be breathtaking to her whether she was wearing a mask or not. He was awake, as she had expected he would be, engrossed in a book on his sofa, with a large board of various cheeses at his coffee table.
How refined, she thought to herself. It figured that this was how he would spend his nights. Even in a room full of everything a teenage boy could possible dream of, he elected to enjoy a quiet night with book and a fancy snack – even if it was a lot of cheese for just one person. I wonder if he would enjoy Papa's cheese tarts? I should bring him some sometime.
The same spell that enticed her before, causing her to end up from the street to the window without a second thought, had taken hold again. She had started to lean against the windows edge to watch him, somehow unable to keep herself from trying to get even closer, but when Adrien shifted slightly to adjust a pillow, she jumped, worried that he was about to look her way, and realizing that she would have been perfectly in his line of sight. He didn't look up, but jumping caused her lose her balance and fall over, bringing a potted plant down with her. The terracotta shattered immediately, and if he had not heard the impact of her body, he definitely heard the break of the pot – especially on account of the window being open just the slightest bit.
Wonderful to know I'm just as much a mess around him in my suit as I am otherwise, Marinette groaned in her head.
“Damn cats again,” she heard him mutter as his head shot up, but he froze when he saw her, still in an awkward pile on the ground.
Her teeth clenched. She had been caught, and there was no way to pretend that she wasn't sitting directly outside his window. What was she meant to do in this situation? Stand and swing away without a word? Greet him politely? Ask for his hand in marriage? That's what Romeo did. No, stop taking romance tips from Romeo. That's what got you into this mess.
Naturally, she did nothing but remain on the ground, eyes fixed on Adrien's as he walked over to the window. His face was entirely red and his eyes were wide, swimming with a mixture of emotion – fear, surprise, disbelief. Was he angry as well? How did a regular civilian act when a famous hero literally fell on their balcony in the dead of night without a warning? But then, Adrien wasn't a regular civilian. How would she feel if Chat were to land on her own balcony at night with no warning? She would scream most likely, she decided. But then, she couldn't count herself as regular either, seeing as she already had a relationship with Chat. Adrien didn't scream, so at least he was better than her in that regard.
He opened the window wide and his curtains blew out in a light gust.
“L-Ladybug?” he whispered, sounding frantic and concerned. “What are you doing here? Are you okay, what happened? Is there danger?” He stuck his head far out the window, eyes wide, looking for the non-existent akuma. His hands were shaking slightly, she noticed, still gripping the window sill tight.
Right, if I'm out as Ladybug, of course he would assume there's danger.
“No,” she answered, almost surprised at how quickly she was able to find her own voice. She blushed softly at her own confidence but rode on the adrenaline. She decided to tell as much of the truth as she could without revealing her deplorable creepiness. After all, she had already stolen his phone to almost detrimental results. How much worse of a stalker could she be? “I was just...getting home. It's kind of nice to be able to get home as Ladybug...no one will bother me. I am, after all, just a girl under this suit...and I...got distracted, and missed a ledge, and fell. Lucky there was a platform here.” She prayed with her entire being that he wouldn't see through what a ridiculous explanation that was.
“Oh my God, y-you fell, how rude of me,” he spluttered. It was strange to see him this flustered. It wasn't a side of him she was commonly faced with, but it was comfortingly familiar. He held a hand out to her with a soft smile. It was the same image she had that day he held the umbrella out to her, and it was an image she had strived to see again every day since. In some ways, it seemed unfair that it was Ladybug that had drawn it out of him again, since she could hardly look him in the face unsuited. Still, it was heart stopping, and she took the hand gratefully. He pulled her to her feet and into the room with ease, as the window was much more like a French door.
“Mm, ouch,” she grunted, stumbling to her feet. She had fallen a little harder than she realized in the commotion of Adrien noticing her. Nothing was broken, but it hurt enough that she could focus on the pain of the fall despite standing in Adrien Agreste's room.
“Are you alright?” Adrien asked politely. The urgency and fear in his voice had died away, especially upon realizing there was no real danger, but he did seem a bit nervous still, his hands continuing to tremble slightly.
“I'm – yes, I think so, but that's going to be a nasty bruise,” she replied, rubbing at her thigh.
“Can I get you anything?” he offered. “Water? I have a stocked mini fridge.” He didn't acknowledge the cheese, she noticed, not that she wanted any in particular. She figured he liked it too much to give any of it away.
“Um...actually, that would be nice, thank you,” she agreed, noticing that she had gotten thirsty between studying and swinging around. She followed him to the fridge, and considering the size of his room, they actually had to walk quite a way from the window.
The fridge was by his computer, which she remembered seeing before displaying the picture of his mother, the last time she had been in his room. At that point though, they were both too busy and had too much on their mind to really speak.
She nearly finished the entire water bottle in one go, making a mental note that she needed to hydrate herself more and not wait to drink anything until Adrien himself handed her a bottle of what she realized was a rather pricey artisan bottle of water.
“Well, I'm glad you accepted my offer,” Adrien said. “Looks like you really needed it.”
She blushed, wondering if it had been rude to be so gluttonous. “I just get really busy and so caught up in things that I forget to take care of basic human needs. Like hydration.”
“I know the feeling,” he replied, looking down seriously at the floor. “Between photoshoots, and Chinese, and fencing, and actually attending school in person now, and...” he paused wincing slightly, as though catching himself from saying too much. “And...everything else, it's like I forget to be human sometimes.”
Ladybug nodded, trying to put together in her head just how busy he was. She knew, of course. She had memorized his schedule after all. But she often forget that he was just a teenager, too, and she wondered how many people in Paris saw Ladybug the same way. She was, after all, just as much a celebrity in this skin as Adrien was. She wondered offhandedly about Chat Noir as well. Her partner had to have been around their age, and he was in a similar boat. She realized that she rarely thought about her partner under the suit, though she knew he was just as human as she and Adrien were.
“I-I'm sorry, I'm talking about myself to much,” Adrien said. Had she been silent for too long. “I didn't mean to belittle your own experiences.”
No, please, tell me more about yourself, Marinette wanted to say. Tell me about every part of your day, and your fears, and wishes, and your favorite brand of underwear.
“It's alright,” she said instead. “It's nice to have someone that can relate. It's hard to find people who will talk to you as yourself and not a celebrity.” She did, of course, have this, but it wasn't like she could complain to anyone as her other half about how much responsibility she had. Adrien looked up and gave her a sympathetic smile, but she could tell he understood entirely.
“You really do look like her, you know,” Ladybug said.
His eyebrows furrowed. “I'm sorry?”
“Your mother? Do you remember when I was here last time? I saw her picture. You really do have her smile.”
He smiled wider. “Nah...I mean, genetically, maybe. I don't do it justice, though. On me, it's just a smile. On her...when she smiled, it was like a second sun. It was warm. It made everything bad melt away. It was the most comforting thing in the world.” His voice got sad as he trailed off, and she wondered what exactly had happened to his mother. She decided it was was best not to ask as he started to speak again. “Can I tell you something?”
“Of course,” Ladybug replied. Anything.
He got closer to her. Not by much, but enough that it was noticeable and Marinette could feel goosebumps forming under the fabric of her suit.
“I was serious when I said that you had her smile last time. You have that same warmth. I remember the first time I saw you smile and I thought...well, it made me think of her.”
She wondered if he saw that smile in Marinette, too, but then, she couldn't recall when she might have had the courage to smile at him like that without her mask on. She made a mental note to test it out, just under the note to drink more water.
“She was beautiful,” Ladybug said softly, unsure of what else to say. It was true though, she was. And it was no wonder Adrien looked the way he did. Smile or not, she couldn't imagine living up to her likeness.
“So are you,” Adrien said without missing a beat, though he blushed deeply as though surprised by his own words. His hand reached out to brush a strand of hair away that had fallen into her eyes, and though he pulled it back quickly, possibly afraid that he had been too forward, Marinette didn't flinch away. Her heart did, however, feel stopped in her throat, and she had to urgently remind herself to smile to let him know what he hadn't crossed any lines.
He reached past her to wiggle the mouse on his computer and wake it up, presumably to display the picture of his mother again and release the tension, but the computer woke up to the Ladyblog instead, apparently having been the last page he had visited and forgotten to close out of.
“You're a fan, I see?” she commented, feeling instantly flattered. Of course, most Parisians kept up with the Ladyblog as it was just as good a news source regarding the goings-on in the city as it was a fansite. Adrien, however, flushed deeply as though it had been porn that was left on his computer.
“Uh, yeah, I mean, isn't everyone? H-how else do you think I know your smile so well?”
Smooth, she noted, though it was an odd thing to become flustered over. Not that she was one to talk.
“I've met to girl who runs it, actually,” she said, in an attempt to ease him. “She's quite nice and fun to be around. I hope I get the chance to become better acquainted with her, but there never seems to be enough time. Do you know her?”
“I do, actually,” Adrien responded, raising his eyebrows. “She sits behind me in school.”
“Maybe you should talk to her. If you're a fan of Ladybug, who better to talk to then the girl who runs the Ladyblog?”
“Well...I could talk to Ladybug, herself,” Adrien said with a cool smirk.
“I- Yes, I suppose you could,” Ladybug replied, flustered. She had almost forgotten her own identity. Damn, that one was really smooth.
After all, she had only been trying to talk up Alya so that Adrien might talk to her more, and by association, talk to Marinette more. Despite the fact that she was standing in the middle of his room, it didn't seem to count for much if he didn't really know her as anything other than a hero. Besides, Alya deserved the publicity anyway, and there were few fans as powerful as an Agreste. Alya deserved such a follower just for being as good and devoted a friend (and fan) she was.
Holy shit, I forgot to text Alya.
“Oh my God,” she proclaimed out loud at her sudden realization.
“What's the matter? Are you alright?” Adrien asked. His eyes darted to her earrings, though they hadn't started beeping yet, thanks to hardly having exerted herself. It was funny that he seemed to know that they were an indication of her de-transformation. Maybe the blog had run a piece on her earrings before that she had missed.
“I – Yeah, I'm fine, but I had been studying for these tests I have tomorrow with a friend, you know, civilian life and all, which is what I had been doing before I transformed to walk home, and I had promised her I would text her when I got home safe, and I don't even live too far from where I was studying, and she doesn't know I'm Ladybug, and then I got distracted when I fell, and oh my God, she's going to be worried sick, she probably hates me or thinks I'm dead in a ditch somewhere, or -”
Adrien grabbed her hand suddenly and squeezed to stop her from rambling. “Hey. It's okay. I understand. I've forgotten the same thing countless times, and no one has threatened to kill me yet. I'm sure you'll think of something to tell her, and she'll forgive you.”
Ladybug blinked a few times, trying to simultaneously register what he was saying to her, and the fact that he was still holding her hand.
“You're right,” she said softly. “God, she's so patient. She puts up with a lot from me, considering she doesn't know my secret. A lot of people do, actually...alright. I'd better go then. Wish me luck.”
“Good luck,” he said, offering that sweet, soft smile again, releasing her hand. “And, uh, good luck with those tests, too. I have a few tomorrow as well.”
Shit, had she mentioned those in her rambling? She hadn't meant to get so specific. She hoped it wasn't too revealing.
She nodded once, not trusting herself to open her mouth again, and turned to leave out the window.
She turned her head instantly at the same time as he grabbed her hand again to stop her.
“Mhm?” she said softly as he drew back closer to her.
“Will you...visit me again?” he asked, which took her by surprise.
“Oh! Um, yes, of course. If you'd like for me too.”
“I'd love for you to,” he replied, and kissed her on the cheek before she realized what was happening. She had to restrain herself from shaking out of her skin. It was too quick and too chaste to register what Adrien's lips felt like on her skin, but that didn't change the fact that Adrien's lips had touched her skin.
“You'd better go,” he said quietly, his cheeks pink. She nodded at him and ran out the window quickly before she could taint the moment.
It didn't take her too long to make it home, now that she was in a hurry, and she de-transformed once she was safe on her own balcony. She was grateful that her parents weren't home, because she could have done without them scolding her as well for coming home too late.
She whipped out her phone immediately to see seventeen texts from Alya.
Oh God oh God oh God.
It was worse than seeing seventeen missed calls from her mother.
They started out politely, asking her if she made it, turning into just her name a few times, then her name in all caps, to finally:
GIRL YOU BETTER HAVE A DAMN GOOD EXCUSE BECAUSE I AM NOT DIGGING YOU OUT OF A DITCH SOMEWHERE
Well, it is a good excuse, kind of, if I could even tell you.
She tapped out a response as quick as possible, hoping to buy herself time to think of something better to say until the next day. At the very least, Alya would know she safe.
I AM SO SO SO SOSOSOO SORRY PLEASE DONT HATE ME
I got distracted, explain tomorrow, and then I fell, and it was a mess, and then I got home as fast as I could, and then fell asleep a little, and then woke up and remembered I forgot to text, I am so soso sorry
She stared at the screen, waiting anxiously for a reply.
but w/e distracted u had better be the best thing in the world i stg
He is, she said convincingly to herself as she fell asleep for real, not bothering to change into pajamas or think of a way to explain to Alya the next day that she managed to fall and run into Adrien on the way home at 11 pm.