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Caged

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It wasn’t a normal week in Paris if something wasn’t getting destroyed. This week was no exception. Ruble littered the ground, and giant vines twisted around from a flower shop to Notre-Dame.

Yet, Marinette hadn’t had the time to transform. Vines had wrapped her entire body, leaving only her head poking out of the thick, green plant. She shifted, trying to, at least, free one of her arms. But her struggle was useless. Her tension eased, when she saw a blur of black and yellow.

“Chat Noir!” she called instinctively. A clank and a thud later, he was standing in front of her.

“How do you keep getting wrapped up in these situations?” Marinette rolled her eyes. A part of her almost regretted asking for help, but her reasoning part knew she needed her partner.

“Just get me out of here!” she insisted. Chat gave a small giggle, right before calling on Cataclysm. The vines around her evaporated in a black mist. The cat-boy caught her just before she hit the ground, arm wrapped around her back.

“You’re lucky I like you, Princess. I might have left you if--”

“Look out!” Marinette quickly scrambled to her feet, grabbing the boy by the bell and pulling him out of the way, into the ground.

BOOM!

A large vine hit the pavement where they had been standing only three seconds ago. Both looked at the plant, eyes wide. Chat’s lips quickly curled into a smirk, before looking back at his savior lying next to him.

“I say we’re even now,” Marinette blinked once, registering what had just happened. Finally, she quirked an eyebrow, and gave him a small smile, saying: “Guess we are.”

“We gotta get outta here,” he quickly said, standing up and grabbing her, throwing her over his shoulder. Marinette protested for the way she was been handled, but gave up, once he was already running from rooftop to rooftop, away from the battle. A normal person would have gotten dizzy, but the blue-haired girl was used to seeing the world from strange angles already. It still didn’t change the fact that being dragged over someone’s shoulder was insanely uncomfortable. At last, the leather-clad hero stopped down in an alley, away from prying eyes.

“You should be safe here,” the blond said. “Hopefully no one else has been caught.” And just like that, he gave a short salute and ran off, back into the fight. Marinette let out a sigh of relief.

“That was lucky,” she breathed. Just then, a red blur zipped out of her purse.

“Marinette, the akuma!” the teen gave a determined look.

“Right. Tikki, transform me!” a flash of bright, red light flowed through her, turning her into the most beloved superhero of the city: Ladybug. With a swift movement of her wrist, she sent her yo-yo flying to the nearest chimney, and pulled herself into the air. She swung for a minute, until she was once again back at the scene, Chat Noir standing on one of the towers of the cathedral.

“Nice to see you buzz in, My Lady,” he greeted cheerfully. Ladybug raised an eyebrow.

“Buzz? I’m not a bee.”

“Ladybugs make kind of a buzz sound. Or would you prefer flutter?” the polka-dotted heroine rolled her eyes for the second time that day. Always with the puns, she thought. “Any idea where the akuma is?”

“Her gloves,” Chat responded proudly. Ladybug frowned.

“How do you know?” Immediately, the cat-boy pointed. Ladybug followed his index to see Entangler, holding out her hand, and small seeds sprouting out of the tip of her fingers. Right after, she threw the seeds to the ground, and they landed like bombs into the concrete, breaking the pavement and sprouting vines from the ground. Ladybug’s lips rounded into an ‘o’, in understanding. A beeping noise caught her attention.

“We’re gonna need to do this fast,” Chat was looking at his ring as he spoke. “My time as a charming knight is almost up.”

Ladybug nodded, promptly calling on her Lucky Charm. A grappling hook landed on her slim hands. Her eyebrows furrow for a second, and she started looking around. Bluebell eyes focused on the vines moving around Entangler. She knew exactly what to do.

“Chat, I’m going to need a distraction.”

“No problem,” Chat winked, right before leaping off the tower. Ladybug shook her head, smiling. She leaped after him. The alley cat ran to the woman in the skintight green suit, covered in leaves, and shouted: “I knew flowers bloomed in spring, but don’t you think you planted one too many?”

This enraged the akuma, making her wave her hand to move one of the many vines sprouting from the concrete. He dodged just in time, taking out his baton as he did. Extending it, he made one of his battle poses, ready to move again.

“What kind of fertilizer do you use? Must be powerful for your plants to grow in such lengths.” Another thick vine crashed right where he had been. Meanwhile, Ladybug sneaked behind the akuma, spinning both the grappling hook and her yo-yo, waiting for the right time.

“Any chance you can plant some catnip there too?” With those words, the akumatized victim finally had it. She raised both her arms, making two vines rise on her sides. NOW! Without a second thought, Ladybug threw the grappling hook to wrap around one vine, and her yo-yo to wrap around another one.

“Chat!” she called, throwing him the rope of her Lucky Charm. The blond caught it and smiled, already understanding the plan. On cue, both started running around Entangler, causing the vines, rope and string wrap her completely, leaving only her hands sticking out. With two ripped gloves and a swing of her yo-yo, the akuma was purified.

Bye-bye, petite papillon,” she said after the white butterfly. “Miraculous Ladybug!” the grappling hook turned into magical ladybugs in the air. Every brick disturbed by the vines came back to its place, leaving Paris spotless, once again. And Fleur de la Tour was back into her teal long-sleeved shirt, blue pants and striped gardening apron, looking around, confused.

Bien joué!” cheered Ladybug and Chat Noir in unison. Just then a frantic last beep came from the leather-clad hero’s ring.

“Sorry to cut this short, My Lady, but this cat has to leaf,” he gave a short salute, quickly vaulting into the roofs, disappearing. Ladybug looked at his vanishing figure. She gave a low chuckle.

“Silly chaton,” she whispered. A flick of her wrist later, she was bounding across the rooftops, heading back to Tom & Sabine Boulangerie Patisserie.

And thus, once again a victim was purified and Hawkmoth’s plans thwarted. Once again, Paris was safe. But Marinette’s homework and chores were not. And the sooner she got to her home, the better.


 

Adrien only showed his face in the kitchen to pick up camembert for Plagg, before quickly running to his room and locking the door. It had become a habit when he didn’t have his usual lessons, practices or photoshoots, to either shake off his bodyguard in the city or escape through his bedroom window in cat ears. This was one of those days of the latter.

“But patrol is not until nine!” complained Plagg, holding a piece of the smelly cheese.

“It’s not like I’m leaving now,” retorted Adrien. “We’re just leaving a little earlier.”

“But we fought an akuma today!” the small kwami insisted.

“So?”

“So!” Plagg popped the piece of camembert into his mouth and zipped up to the boy’s face. “Can’t you see I’m tired? Do you have no consideration on this poor, ancient soul?”

The blond gave him an incredulous look. “You have to do it anyway, whether it’s at six or eight. It’s just two hours of difference. I don’t get why you’re so upset.”

“I’m upset because it’s two hours less I can nap,” Plagg dramatically placed his tiny paws on Adrien’s nose. “Napping is sacred!”

Adrien scowled. He grabbed the ancient being by the tail, making him hang upside down.

“You were napping all day before the akuma attacked,” the boy said, like stating the obvious. “And you’ll have plenty of time tomorrow on basketball practice.”

Plagg crossed his arms, eyes squinted. “It’s not the same.”

With a defeated sigh, the boy let the kwami go. Plagg effortlessly straightened up.

“I’ll compromise for an extra hour. How does seven sound?” Plagg placed one of his paws on his chin, deliberating the offer.

“Fine,” the black creature raised his paws. “On one condition: more camembert before we leave.”

Adrien rolled his eyes, but obliged nonetheless. Anything to have more time as Chat Noir.


 

Seven came by in a flash. After eating a quick (and lonely) dinner and finishing his homework, Adrien was more than ready to escape his luxurious prison. Plagg barely rubbed his eyes, when the model called him into his ring.

This was his favorite way of relieving stress. Jumping from rooftop to rooftop, landing on balconies with tiny gardens every now and then. This time, he decided to take a different route. One that lead to a certain bakery a blue-haired girl happened to live in. It wouldn’t be the first time he leaped past one of his friend’s rooftops without them noticing. Except for once, at Chloé’s. The one time he passed by her balcony, it did not go unnoticed. She had tried to lure him into finishing their physics homework. After that, Adrien made a conscious decision to avoid Le Grand Paris at all costs.

Of course, he didn’t actually expect for someone to be at the rooftop of the bakery. Just as he was about to leap away, he heard a low squeak, and turned to look from where it came from.

What happened next went by in the blink of an eye. One second, Chat was raising his hand to wave, the next: CLANK! An aluminum watering can hit him squarely on the forehead, making him stagger backwards and support his weight on the railing, rubbing his forehead. Marinette’s hands clapped over her mouth, in embarrassed shock.

“I’msorryI’msorryI’msorryI’msorryI’msorry,” she repeated as she ran to aid him, frantic.

“It’s okay,” groaned Chat, still rubbing his forehead. “That was a good throw,” he straightens up as he says it. “You’re stronger than you look.”

Marinette took a step back, giving a nervous laugh.

“Yeah, well, I-I help out a lot in the bakery, a-and, you know, the ingredients are heavy…” she trailed off with another nervous laugh. She cleared her throat, looking to change the subject. “Uh-what are you doing here, Chat Noir?”

“I was just taking a stroll before my nighttime patrol,” he responded, not questioning Marinette’s odd behavior, to her relief. “It’s an occasional routine. Although I don’t usually get hit on the head.”

“Sorry, again,” she fiddled with her hands and looked to ground, only to realize the watering can was still lying on it. Chat absentmindly followed her gaze, stopping at the aluminum object. With two fingers, he lifted it from the handle and extended his arm towards Marinette.

“Next time, make sure it’s an akuma or an intruder and not your savior before attacking.”

Marinette’s apologetic attitude was gone in a heartbeat, given away by her now crossed arms.

“You weren’t invited into my home, so technically, you are an intruder.”

“Ah!” Chat raised his index finger. “But I’m not in your home, I’m actually on it. So, technically, I’m not intruding,” he puffed his chest proudly, but a second later, gave her a deadpan look. “Also, you weren’t supposed to be up here.”

“It’s my balcony,” scoffed Marinette, “I can come up here whenever I please.”

“Well then you’re gonna have to get used to the fact that I jump around here whenever I please.”

The girl in pigtails scoffed again. “Rude.”

Without skipping a beat, Chat Noir gave a hearty laugh. Adrien had never seen Marinette so worked up, or so expressive for that matter. It was… new. She was usually very mellow around him. Or awkward. He knew she was capable of standing up to people, and he did see her get upset for being compared to Chloé once, but that only lasted for about four seconds that time. But this was different. She seemed comfortable, even confident, despite the fact that she was talking to a superhero people tended to idolize. Unlike others, she wasn’t taking any of his crap.

“What’s wrong, Princess? I thought you liked the ‘great Chat Noir’,” he flexed as he used her own words from that time before the Evillustrator’s date. Marinette slapped a hand to her face, and muttered something that sounded suspiciously a lot like this can’t be my life. As a response, Chat gave he a wide cheshire grin and winked. The blue-haired girl was not amused.

“Yeah, as a superhero you’re great. Doesn’t mean you can’t be a little full of yourself.”

“Meowch,” Chat dramatically grabbed the suit from his chest with his free hand. “So blunt.”

“Didn’t you say you were going on patrol or something?” Marinette placed her hands on her hips, but softened her expression this time.

“Yeah,” the hero confirmed. “At nine. Wait, are you throwing me out?” he gave another dramatic performance with a loud gasp. “So cruel.”

“You’re quite the performer, aren’t you Chat Noir?” the girl’s pigtails bounced as she tilted her head. The boy beamed, arms on his back and chest puffed.

Adrien couldn’t get over how much fun he was having. He already knew his classmate was pretty amazing: mad videogame skills, great class president, and a talented designer. He had no idea her personality was just as intriguing, to the point of almost reminding him of a certain bug. He wondered if his other friends also had hidden sides of themselves. What if Chloé had one? That’s not worth the risk, he thought, remembering the homework incident. But maybe Nino did. Or Alya. Although, Alya was probably not a very good idea either, being the creator of the Ladyblog and all.

Chat started tapping one of his fingers behind his back. He realized he was still holding the watering can on his right hand. He almost didn’t want to give it back, for the sake of keeping the conversation going.

“Here,” he sighed, extending his arm once again. Marinette retrieved the can, causing their fingers to brush for a mere second. “Please look before you throw.”

“I’ll try,” she held the aluminum object with both her hands and gave a slight nod. Chat gave her a salute. He turned to grab the railing.

But he stopped. An idea occurring to him.

“Hey…”

“Hm?”

“Do you hang out here often?” the question made Marinette’s eyebrows furrow.

“Uh… Sometimes. Why?”

Chat gave a mischievous smile. “Just wondering if it would be okay to stop by every now and then.”

The girl’s eyes went wide.

“What?!”

“I’ll take that as a yes. Are you around on Thursday?” he responded like he was having the most casual conversation ever.

“I-uh—” she stuttered, arms flailing.

“Yes? Okay. See you then, Mari,” he gave another salute and jumped off the railing, vanishing into the sun that had just started to set. And Adrien internally laughing.


 

The designer’s mouth was agape, still staring off towards where her partner had just disappeared to. She barely even noticed when the little red kwami floated up to sit on her shoulder. Tikki gave a sigh of relief.

“That was some quick thinking, Marinette,” she complimented. It so happened that when Chat Noir landed on the balcony, the kwami had been in plain view. “If you hadn’t hit him with the watering can, your identity would have been exposed for sure.” But her charge wasn’t listening, still staring off into the horizon. “Marinette?”

Finally, the teen frowned, pursing her lips to the side.

“That mangy cat,” she snapped. “What on Earth is he thinking? Is he trying to get himself discovered? And how dare he overtake my free time?” Her head whirled towards Tikki, who had started giggling. “And what’s so funny?”

“It’s not as bad as you make it seem.”

“Still…” Marinette bit her lip. She knew Chat was a tad reckless sometimes, and it worried her the idea of him carelessly risking his secret.

“Don’t worry,” Tikki moved up to her cheek. “Chat can be impulsive, but he would never allow it to endanger anyone.”

“I hope you’re right,” the designer gave a resigned sigh. With a tender smile, she gave Tikki a soft scratch on the head, as the small being nuzzled against the girl’s soft face. “Anyway,” she lifted her watering can, “I should finish up here, before the sun sets.”

Marinette resumed the last of her chores for the day, leaning towards the rose bush hanging off her railings. The water trickled down the plant, into the earth, grazing the stem and its tiny buds beginning to sprout. It was, after all, the start of springtime.

Chapter Text

The texts had been non-stop the night before. Of course Alya wanted to know all about Marinette’s rescue by the famous Chat Noir. If only that amateur video hadn’t been posted on the Ladyblog by a random citizen. But it did. And now the pig-tailed girl had to endure her questioning before class.

“Come on, Mari!” the young journalist pleaded. “I’m dying here! You gotta give me something more!”

To Alya, her best friend was the worst interviewee she had ever experienced. Her friend’s answers were so short and vague, she could neither quote her on a written work nor have at least thirty seconds of a video. It was frustrating, really.

“What do you want me to say?” the designer waved her arms.

“What was it like to have Chat Noir carry you across rooftops?” Alya was holding her phone up, recording. Marinette placed her index finger on her lower lip for a moment, and placing it back down before answering.

“Fun!” she finally shared.

But that was it.

Alya gave her a deadpan look, eyebrows flat. She was doing it again, and Marinette knew so, but she had to hide her secret at all costs. Even if it meant momentarily making a fool of herself.

“Girl, you’re hopeless,” Alya sighed, turning off the screen of her phone. “There has to be a way to get more than one word outta you.”

“I’m sorry, Alya. I guess I’m just not good at interviews.” Lies.

“Hey, Marinette!” the familiar voice of Adrien made her neck snap to the right. A nervous laugh escaped her lips, right before giving an awkward smile.

“Morning hello—I-I mean, goodmorningAdrien!” the girl’s arms tensed on her sides, embarrassed at, once again, mixing up her words in front of her crush. And she thought she had made progress.

“I saw the video of Chat Noir rescuing you yesterday, on the Ladyblog,” the golden boy placed his hand on her desk, leaning a little towards her. “How was it?”

Oh my God, Adrien is actually making conversation with me!

“I-It was cool. I mean, who gets rescued by Chat Noir? Ha ha, I mean, lots of people, of course, but not that often,” Marinette’s hands flailed throughout the entire broken response. And Adrien’s smile did not help matters.

“I saw that you saved Chat Noir too. That was pretty brave of you,” he pointed out. Marinette’s eyes softened, thinking of the moment she had to pull her partner out of the way. It had been nice saving his life, for once. After all the times he had placed himself in danger for her, it was nice returning the favor.

“Yeah,” she responded, feeling the nervousness diminish a little. “He’s saved me a few times. The least I could do was do the same for him. I wouldn’t exactly call it brave, though. Stupid, probably, but brave…”

“Not anyone would have done what you did,” the designer’s eyes snapped back up to his. She gave him a sheepish smile.

“Good morning, class,” Miss Bustier had just walked into the classroom, prompting Adrien to lift his hand and sit in his desk. Marinette sighed and placed her chin on her hands. She gave Alya a quick glance, only to realize the young reporter was furiously typing in her phone.

“Alya…?”

“You didn’t think I was gonna waste that marvelous quote you gave Adrien, did you?” Alya cut in, without even looking at her best friend. The designer shook her head, but smiling nonetheless.


Conversation with Marinette was not something Adrien would usually seek out during school. But after seeing another side of the girl on that balcony, the model couldn’t help wonder if he could recreate the event in school. Unfortunately, the endeavor turned out to be nothing but a disappointment. And the one moment he thought the shell was cracking, Miss Bustier had to walk in the room. He was going to try again at lunch, but Chloé whisked him away before he could do anything, yet again. Her clinginess was already getting beyond annoying.

Adrien opened the door to his room, his calm actions hiding the train of thought that had been nagging him almost the entire day. The second the lock twisted close on the doorknob, Plagg flew swiftly to the computer desk, assuming it was the place his charge was headed.

“Can we get a fridge or something in the room?” the kwami started chatting, unaware of the fact his words weren’t reaching listening ears. “We can stash as much camembert as we want, and we wouldn’t have to keep sneaking into the kitchen.”

There was a short expectant pause, waiting for an answer.

“Where was the sass?” Adrien suddenly asked. Plagg blinked twice, dumbfounded by the abrupt change of subject. “Where were the witty comebacks? The confidence she showed with Chat Noir? Is she not… comfortable with me? Does she distrust me?”

“Who cares?” the kwami lazily responded.

“I care,” retorted the teen. “I thought she was my friend, but now, I’m not so sure. Can’t help but wonder about my other friends.”

“Maybe it’s just her,” Plagg sighed. “She’s always been kind of a weird one.”

Adrien gave the kwami an unamused look.

“She’s not weird. She’s just… different, around me… for some reason…” he trailed off, unsure of what he was saying. He didn’t exactly have an explanation for Mari’s change in behavior. What if it was Chat Noir she acted differently around? No, he had seen her like that with others. No. It was definitely Adrien the one with the problem. Why? And were the rest of his friends like that?

“Maybe I should visit Nino as Chat. See if the same happens with him,” the model pondered out loud, a finger on his chin.

“Are you insane?!” Plagg intervened. “Do you want to get found out?” Adrien’s eyebrows furrowed, puzzled. “If you start visiting all your friends as Chat Noir, it’ll only be a matter of time before they figure out who you are.”

The boy waved his hand. “They won’t figure it out—”

“Yes they will!” the kwami zipped away from the desk, closer to his charge now. “You don’t think your classmates are going to question why Chat Noir is visiting them? You don’t think some of them will brag about it?”

“Marinette hasn’t bragged to anyone,” Adrien placed fists on his hips.

“That you know of,” retorted the small being under his breath. His charge scowled, so he continued. “What do you think would happen if everyone started sharing stories about Chat Noir visiting them, and they figure out you’re not one of the ones being visited?”

“I’ll tell them I am being visited. Or that Chat Noir can’t because of my dad.”

“And what about when they go to an interview or something, looking for five minutes of fame?”

“They wouldn’t do that…”

Plagg gave him a look of pity.

“You naïve soul,” the kawmi shook his head. “Adrien, your friends may be loyal to you, but they may not be loyal to Chat Noir.”

The sentence hit him like a truck. He hadn’t thought of it that way.

“Besides,” Plagg continued with a lighter note in his voice, “you wouldn’t want any one of them becoming targets, do you?”

The boy looked up at the tiny cat. He hesitated for a moment.

“Alright, I won’t visit other friends,” Adrien caved, dejected. “But I already promised Marinette I’d see her tomorrow. She’s not off the table.”

“Fine,” Plagg accepted, annoyed. “But please don’t be stupid and reveal yourself by accident.”

Adrien frowned at the insult.

“Come on, give me a little credit,” he flicked the kwami’s forehead, sending him rolling backwards in the air. “I’m not that reckless.”

Plagg rubbed his head and huffed, to which Adrien chuckled. Okay, so he couldn’t see all of his friends. But he still had Marinette. Cool, amazing Marinette. This was good.

This was enough.


 

The girl who saved Chat Noir

By Alya Césaire

Many can say they have been rescued by Ladybug and Chat Noir, but only one can say she has rescued one of Paris’ superheroes herself. That is the story of Marinette Dupain-Cheng, daughter to the owners of Tom & Sabine Boulangerie Patisserie, Tom Dupain and Sabine Cheng.

The teen student and part-time fashion designer was one of the victims of last Tuesday’s akuma attack, by the plant-themed villain Entangler. After she was rescued by the cat-themed superhero, the girl had to push him out of the way, to save him from a falling vine.

“He has saved me a few times. The least I could do was the same for him,” Dupain-Cheng expressed to a classmate in Collège Françoise Dupont.

In addition, Entangler is not the first attack the designer has been involved in. The student has also had direct crosses with The Evillustrador, The Gamer and Lady Wifi, the last one in control of The Puppeteer. In all three occasions, Chat Noir saved her life.

The fact was initially revealed by an amateur video recorded and posted by a member of the Ladyblog’s forums.

Marinette gave a loud sigh as she finished reading the piece on her phone for the third time. The article, posted Wednesday afternoon, had already given her a little unwanted recognition, with a few channels, newspapers and radio stations calling the bakery, in hopes of an interview. Thankfully, her papa had taken it upon himself to act as her public relations assistant. Of sorts. It was annoying, but she knew it would blow over soon. Most victim stories did.

Of course, she wasn’t just any victim; she was the girl who saved Chat Noir. Which made her extra special for the press.

“Don’t worry, Marinette,” Tikki stroke her charge’s hand from her sitting position on the railing. “People will forget about it in a few days. A week at most.”

“I know, but I’ll still have to endure the interviews,” she softly spoke to the kwami, as she saved her phone in her pocket. “I just hope the week goes by fast. I don’t need attention in my civilian life at the moment.”

“It’ll go by quicker than you think,” the little red being grinned. The designer returned the smile with one of her own, and gave a low hum, right before turning her gaze to the now setting sun. Tikki really was a Godsend. Anytime Marinette felt anxiety start to take over, her little friend always knew the right thing to say. She always made the teenager feel better, and learn about her experiences. Almost everything she said was soothing to her emotions.

“Marinette,” the blue-haired girl shifted her gaze to the small being. Strangely, she was staring off into space. “Today is Thursday, right?”

“Yeah, why?” Marinette asked, confused. But Tikki didn’t answer. Instead, she took a nervous breath and rapidly fluttered to the girl’s room, phasing through the trapdoor. Her charge stared after her, utterly puzzled. What’s gotten into her?, she pondered. But a vibration on the railing underneath her arms disturbed her train of thought. Marinette jumped, flailing her limbs into a defensive position.

“I come in peace!” Chat Noir threw his arms over his head. The designer let out a breath, heart struggling to settle.

“Chat Noir? What—” but she halted her question. Oh. Right. Thursday. He actually came. And she had completely forgotten about it. So that’s what Tikki had been staring at.

“Don’t tell me you forgot about meow,” the leather-clad hero raised his head a little, peering through his raised arms. Marinette gave him a sheepish smile, hands on her back. With everything that had been going on the last two days, she had almost forgotten she actually saw him twice on Tuesday.

“I’ve been… busy,” she managed to get out, a little ashamed. Chat gave a dramatic gasp and jumped down to the tiles of her balcony.

“And to think I was pawsitive I left an impression on you last time,” Marinette fought the urge to roll her eyes so early in the conversation.

“You’re definitely leaving one now,” she said instead. Chat smirked.

“You’re not feline regret for saying yes to my visit, are you?”

Nope. That was it. Her eyes rolled at the lousy pun, to the point that she even groaned.

“Last time, you didn’t have so many puns,” she recalled, annoyed.

“Last time they were knocked out of my head with a watering can,” he retorted, without missing a beat. Marinette huffed, with guilt mixed in it.

“I said I was sorry!” her arms were stiff on her sides. “Also, I never actually said yes to your visit.”

“I figured you wouldn’t say no to your knight in shining armor,” Chat teased, doing a quick flex with one of his arms. But didn’t get the response he expected. Marinette crossed her arms, her right foot tapping the floor, look disapproving.

Yeah. He shouldn’t have done that.

“I’m sorry,” his cat ears drooped a bit, and his right hand momentarily on the back of his neck. “I guess that was a little too hasty.”

Marinette shook her head, without taking her eyes off him. “Chat, you have an identity to protect. Isn’t it… a little risky to visit people while in costume?”

“Yes,” he pipped up, regaining a little of his playful attitude. “But you’re the only one I visit, and this balcony is pretty secluded and easy to hang out in without actually invading your home, so I think we’re in the clear.”

He leaned against the railings of the balcony, but Marinette’s disapproving stare did not disappear yet.

“You’re being reckless, Chat Noir,” she sighed.

“I could say the same to you,” he retorted. “You know, this week was like the fourth time I’ve seen you involved in an akuma attack.”

“I rather be involved in akuma attacks than cause them,” the blue-haired girl scratched her cheek, pointedly thinking of Chloé’s record in that department. And her own shameful record. “Getting attacked is not something one really chooses.”

“And yet, somehow, you’re often in the middle of the action,” the boy concluded slyly. Marinette settled to simply holding her hands together. This was a conversation she didn’t exactly want to get in. The less she had to lie, the better. Sure, it was to protect her identity, but if there was no need to, she preferred not make use of her deceiving skills.

There was a short pause, until the boy broke it.

“Hey Mari, I was thinking,” Chat lifted himself from the railings, his left hand stroking the back of his neck, “I never actually thanked you for saving my life.”

“Oh,” the girl expressed in a low voice, a little taken aback. “It… it was the least I could do, after the times you’ve saved me,” not just as Marinette, but also as Ladybug. But he couldn’t know that.

“Most of the people I save don’t save me back,” the boy locked his eyes on hers.

That’s when she saw it. The tenderness in his eyes. The unsaid appreciation for what she did for him. Marinette couldn’t help the smile that curled into her lips.

“It was my pleasure, chaton,” she responded the gratitude, even though he didn’t actually voice it. Chat Noir blinked. It almost seemed like he momentarily shuddered. It took her ten full seconds to realize she had just called him by the nickname she used for him as Ladybug. She swallowed, and prayed he didn’t think too much into it.

“Thank you, Marinette,” he finally said. His hands had come together over his stomach, fingers fiddling with each other. “You’ve kinda been surprising me lately.”

“Surprising you?”

“I-I mean, I never knew you had it in you,” he tried to correct, but it only deepened the designer’s frown. “I didn’t know you well enough, so… I didn’t know,” he finished. Marinette crossed her arms, a raised eyebrow and a smirk reflected on her face.

“Do I see Paris’ Chat Noir become bashful?” she teased. Chat’s arms tensed for a second.

“Pfft,” he waved a clawed hand. “This cat does not get bashful,” he pointed at his own chest with a thumb. “I’m the cat’s meow. Didn’t you know?” and started flexing. The action prompted the roll of Marinette’s eyes.

“So much for humility,” she whispered to herself, pouting.

“What was that?” the leather-clad hero asked. But Marinette didn’t answer, instead opting for a deadpan look.

“Don’t you have patrol or something?”

“Throwing me out, again?” Chat dramatically placed his hand over his chest, in feign disbelief.

“I am just being considerate to your schedule,” she waved a hand, in a matter-of-factly manner. Chat laughed and rested his elbows back on the railing.

“You know,” he started, Marinette responding with a low ‘hm?’ before he continued, “it’s kinda fun hanging out with you. You don’t seem affected by the fact that I’m famous or a superhero. Most people just gawk at me.”

“Don’t you get that luxury in your civilian life?” the question escaped her with little thought. She shouldn’t be prying on the boy behind the mask.

“Unfortunately, I’m pretty well known in my civilian self too,” he responded almost not holding back. “The only one who doesn’t idolize me is Ladybug. But I often think it’s because she met me before anyone knew who I was.”

Marinette stood there, a little sad for him. It was usually easy for her to handle her double life, knowing that she didn’t have to bring her fame into her civilian life. But having everyone idolize you all the time, afraid to be themselves no matter your half, must be pretty lonely. All of a sudden, being friends with him as Marinette didn’t seem like such a bad idea.

“Well,” she started, unsure of what she was about to offer. I can’t believe I’m about to say this. “You’re welcome here anytime, if you need someone to talk to.”

Chat’s leather ears stood upright. He beamed at the pig-tailed girl.

“That would be clawsome,” he almost whispered the words. They stood there for a few seconds, until he turned to look at the horizon. “Welp, the sun has almost set, and this cat’s gotta run.” He jumped to the railing of her balcony. “See you around then, Princess.”

And just like that, he vaulted along the rooftops into the setting sun. The teen looked after his disappearing figure, with lips curled into a tender smile. That was, until a realization struck her.

Marinette slapped a hand to her face. “I’m the one who’s gonna get found out if this keeps going.”


 

Adrien hadn’t meant to be so direct with some of the things he said. He hadn’t meant to reveal that he’s famous on the other side of the mask, too. But Marinette was just so… comfortable to talk to. He started to feel like there was definitely more to her than meets the eye, maybe even more than what her own friends know. But most importantly, he was starting to feel like he could be his full self with her.

Chapter Text

By Saturday, the news of the girl who saved Chat Noir seemed to have already blown over. It turned out that most of the press that had called to the bakery were mostly calling to confirm a few facts, but none for an actual interview. This relieved Marinette, since making a public figure out of her civilian identity was not something she was ready for.

Classmates had already stopped asking her questions about the hero. The routine was back to normal, with everyone sitting in their usual seats, chatting amongst each other, and of course, avoiding Chloé at all cost. The only thing that remained changed was a certain model who sits in front of Marinette.

Adrien had been awfully chatty lately. Nothing very substantial, really, but enough for Marinette to notice. Although it was like a dream come true, it was also nerve-wrecking for the pig-tailed girl. She felt like the more he spoke to her, the more chances he gave her to make a fool of herself. But she tried to manage.

As for her newfound friendship with Chat, she noticed he was visiting her in days of his patrol. A while ago, they had agreed Ladybug would patrol Sundays, Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. The rest of the days the cat would cover them. And it was in those days that he showed up for the upcoming week. So far, they mainly spoke of superficial subjects: movies, videogames, baked goods, among other things. Marinette tried not to pay too much attention, in case he slipped up, but she couldn’t deny his company was one to enjoy.

On the next Thursday, though, things went a little different.

Marinette had just finished helping her parents down at the bakery, when she decided to wait for Chat Noir on her balcony, like she had done last time. The moment she opened the hatch, she noticed her partner was already there, sitting on the railing, overlooking the cloudy horizon.

“Chat?” the leather-clad hero turned his head to her.

“Oh. Hey, Mari,” he gave her a weak smile.

“How long have you been sitting here?” she asked, stepping out of her room.

“A while,” he simply responded, turning his view back to the city. Marinette’s eyebrows furrowed a little, in concern. She could feel something was wrong. He was barely smiling, which was unusual for Chat Noir. She walked up to the railing, and rested her arms on it. They stood there for a minute or two, quietly enjoying each other’s company. Mari didn’t want to encourage her partner into talking about his civilian life, so the best she could do was stand with him, as a reminder that, whatever was bothering him, he wasn’t alone.

“You ever feel like, no matter what you do, you’ll never be good enough?” he pondered suddenly. Marinette turned to him and blinked. She never expected such a heavy question from someone who was usually so cheerful. She looked back at the horizon, thinking.

“I used to,” she spoke softly. “Then something happened. I gained new friends who made me realize my true potential. They reminded me that I shouldn’t let others dictate who I am, or what I’m capable of. They reminded me that I can stand up for myself, and that others opinions are not what matter, but my own.”

Chat sighed next to her, but did not express any more. Marinette squeezed her hands together.

“You’re more than enough, Chat,” the boy’s cat ears perked up. “People in your civilian life may not appreciate you, but the entirety of Paris does. If it weren’t for you, Ladybug wouldn’t have been able to get through some of the most difficult akumas. You always go far and beyond in your role as a superhero. You’re also caring, selfless, despite your puns and flirts,” the last bit brought a chuckle from Chat, “but above all, you never give up. You deserve more credit than you get.”

There was another moment of silence. Finally, Chat broke it.

“You know, Marinette,” the girl shifted her eyes to him, just as he turned his head, giving her a toothy smirk, “you’re an amazing friend.”

The compliment brought a tender smile to her lips, fully reflected in her eyes. While it may have seemed like a bad idea at first, Marinette was finding that she didn’t regret her decision. Sure, it was a little risky, but it’s not like they were hanging out in the park or some other very public place.

Although, it kind of sucked at the same time. She couldn’t share their friendship with anyone. She couldn’t even introduce him to Alya, or Nino, or Adrien. Okay, maybe introducing him to her crush was not necessary. She wouldn’t want Adrien to think Chat’s constant flirting meant something. Nevertheless, it would be nice to have him in her constant group of friends.

A light drop of water on her hand drifted the thoughts away. Both teens looked up at the sky, darkened by full clouds.

“I should get inside,” Marinette spoke absentmindedly. She started to the hatch, without noticing Chat’s gaze following her. It took a small thud on the floor for the girl to turn around. The boy was standing on her balcony, hands slightly above his chest, like he didn’t know what to do with them. He seemed… lost.

“I think it’s unnecessary to get wet when I have a perfectly dry room underneath my balcony,” she cleared up.

“Oh,” Chat caught on, making his cat ears droop and his hands fall to his sides.

“Sorry chaton, I wish I could stay out longer,” the designer dropped down into her room and looked back at the cat-boy. He looked so deflated. Marinette bit her lip, clicking her teeth with a fingernail. “Unless…” one of Chat’s ears flicked. “You want to come in?”

The girl barely got a glimpse of the hero’s fake ears perking up, before he jumped right past her, blowing her hair in the process.

“I’ll take that as a yes,” Marinette said with a monotone voice, staring bored to where Chat Noir had just been a mere second ago. She closed the hatch and looked down from her loft, to where he had already scurried to. He placed his hands on his hips and smiled up to her.

“Thanks for the hospitality, Princess. Very kind of you to bring this stray to your humble abode.” Marinette rolled her eyes, shook her head and gave the smallest of smiles. “Nice place you got here,” he said, as he looked around the room, the sound of droplets of water echoing through it. Suddenly, he stopped and pointed at the wall. “Isn’t that Adrien Agreste?”

The blue-haired girl stopped midway downstairs, eyes wide. I forgot! The next second, she was slapping her back against the poster he was pointing and gave a nervous laugh.

“Oh… um—heh, uuuhhh… i-it’s not—”

“You like Gabriel Agreste’s line of clothing?” he added.

Phew, Marinette sighed. “Uh, yeah!” she pipped up, trying to covertly roll up the poster behind her. “Yeah, that’s t-totally it. Big fan. Yeah, total big fan.” It was technically true. She greatly admired the designer’s work. But that was obviously not the reason she had all those posters up.

“Hm,” Chat pondered, with his hand on his chin.

“Yeeaahh, I was gonna take some of these down anyway,” Marinette justified her taking down the poster. As she walked across the room, the cat boy followed her with his gaze, until she reached her desk.

“So if you admire Gabriel Agreste’s work, how come you only have pictures of Adrien?”

The girl froze, poster still in hand. Why couldn’t you stay clueless, she thought miserably.

“Do I sniff a celebrity crush?”

“Hey, don’t judge me!” she turned around and pointed at him with the rolled up poster. “Besides, it’s not a celebrity crush. He’s in my class and I happen to genuinely like him.”

“Oh really?” Chat teased, hands back on his hips.

“Yes!” Marinette fumed. “He’s not just some random model. He happens to be a very kind person, who cares about his friends, looks on the bright side of things and supports me when I stand up to Chloé, despite the fact that he’s been friends with her his whole life.”

Chat seemed to be taken aback for a moment. His lips curled in a smile.

“Okay, I believe you,” he raised his hands in surrender. “And don’t worry. This cat knows how to keep a secret. Plus, I know what it’s like to love someone who’s out of your reach.”

Marinette arched an eyebrow, thoughtfully. “Ladybug?”

“Who else? From the first akuma she cleansed, my heart was already hers,” he had walked to her chaise, and was now lounging on it. “Oh the nights I’ve dreamt of meeting my fair lady without her mask,” he recited dramatically, the back of his hand on his forehead. “How I patiently await the day I see underneath that spotted disguise.”

“Well Hugo, maybe if you weren’t flirting around so much, she might have noticed,” teased the blue-haired teen. Chat cut his act, and gave her a mischievous smile. Suddenly, he was up and only two feet away from Marinette.

“Mari, can you keep a secret?” he whispered.

Marinette blinked. “Better than you think.”

Chat gave a slow sigh. “I only flirt with her.”

Her eyes went wide. Wait, but…

“But you’ve kissed my hand,” she finished out loud.

“That’s just me being a gentleman,” Chat waved it off. “Also, to cover it up, in case you spoke to her. But let me ask you something: have I ever asked for a kiss from you?”

She furrowed her eyebrows as she thought. No. No he had not. Ever. Not as Marinette, that is. This new piece of information gave a light tint of pink to her cheeks.

“Why don’t you tell her?” WHAT?! What am I doing?! I shouldn’t be asking this, Marinette mentally kicked herself for the stupid question.

“Why don’t you tell Adrien?” he shot back.

“Are you crazy?!” her reaction was instantaneous. “I can’t just go to him and ask him. What if he rejects me? What if it gets weird between—” she stopped abruptly, pieces clicking into place. “Okay, I get your point.”

“Besides, it’s not just that,” he continued. “What if a rejection from her hurts our hero dynamic? I’ve thought about it a lot ever since my failed attempt at confessing to her—”

“Wait, what?!” Marinette couldn’t help but cut in. “You were gonna confess once?”

Chat blinked. “Yeah. But,” a hand went up to the back of his neck, “I got hit by Dark Cupid before I could say anything. By the time I came to, we barely had time to purify the akuma. So I never got to.”

She remembered that day. She remembered Chat had tried to tell her something, but he never got to. Since he never brought it up again, she figured it wasn’t important, that it was just Chat Noir being Chat Noir. Now she felt guilty for dismissing him so casually. Guess he wasn’t such a mangy cat after all.

What was more, he tried to confess on Valentine’s day, the same day she tried to confess to Adrien, with a letter without signing it. The thought of it made her chuckle. Chat gave her an offended look.

“What’s so funny?”

“Sorry, it’s just that, boy, are we pathetic,” Chat arched an eyebrow, confused. Marinette blushed, tightening her grip on the poster she was still holding. “I tried to confess to Adrien on Valentine’s, too.”

“Really?” he expressed in surprise. She nodded, before continuing.

“I wrote a letter telling him my feelings. But,” she slapped her palm to her face, “I got caught up with a ladybug that landed on the letter, what my friend Alya was saying at the moment and I… forgot to sign it,” the last part came out so miserably, that Marinette shut her eyes. After a few seconds of silence, Chat erupted in laughter.

“And I thought my attempt was bad,” he cleared his throat, trying to recompose himself, but failing after seeing Marinette’s murderous stare. “Sorry, Mari. Um…” he hesitated for a moment. “W-what did the letter say?”

“Uuhh,” the blue-haired girl’s hands fidgeted on the scrunched up poster, “I responded to a poem of his I happened to find,” because there was no way she was going to tell him she dug it out of a trash can. She’d had enough embarrassment for one day. “I even wrote it in a cute heart shaped card and everything, but…” and she finished with a defeated sigh.

“Oh,” Chat quietly responded. Was that a hint of disappointment she heard? She looked up. He was just standing there, staring at her. She tried to read his expression, but she wasn’t sure what to make of it. Maybe she imagined it. Then again, after what she just learned, she should already know not to dismiss the things he says.

“Are you okay?” she asked, tentatively. He shook his head and gave her a toothy smile.

“Yeah, just zoned out for a moment there.”

“Are you sure?” he placed his hands on his hips, again.

Pawsitive, Princess,” he winked at her. The pun brought a groan to Marinette’s lips, and Chat chuckled. He obviously didn’t want to talk about whatever was bothering him, and Marinette decided not to push, considering the possibility that it could be civilian related. He turned his head to look out the window. She did the same, and noticed the rain had stopped.

“I should get going,” he said suddenly. “Wouldn’t want to intrude any longer.”

“It’s no intrusion,” the girl responded automatically.

“So does that mean I can come in whenever I want?” Chat waggled his eyebrows to her. Marinette frowned.

“Don’t push it, minou,” she warned. But he simply laughed.

“We’ll chat another time,” and with that, he gave her a two-fingered salute, before jumping up to her loft. Marinette had already turned her head, looking for Tikki, but a splashing sound and a cuss from Chat made her look up.

He was standing on her bed, dripping. What did he do?!

She ran up the stairs and stared in horror at her drenched bed. The cat-boy gave her an apologetic smile.

“Sorry about that,” he cringed. Marinette gaped.

“How?!” she gestured towards her bed.

“The embodiment of bad luck, remember?” Chat pointed at himself with a thumb. Marinette gave a loud, exasperated groan. By instinct, she swung the raggedy poster to hit him, but he jumped in the nick of time up to her balcony, laughing as he did so. She tried to go after him, but by the time she stuck her head out the trapdoor, he was already two buildings away.

“Grr,” she growled, “I’m gonna kill that cat!” and in her frustration, she accidentally ripped the rolled up poster in half.

Once again horror was drawn on her face, but this time directed at the now two pieces of paper squeezed in her hands. She barely even noticed when Tikki slowly approached by her shoulder.

“Marinette?” she called quietly. The girl’s eye twitched. The kwami gave a low sigh and started padding her charge’s cheek. “You can get a new one tomorrow,” she comforted.


 

It wasn’t until a few hours later that Adrien was able to think about the knowledge he had gained at Marinette’s. After finishing patrol, the boy silently landed in his room. Without uttering a single word, he sat on his desk and let his head fall to the surface of it.

He spent about a minute laying there, before voicing a plead.

“Plagg?” Adrien moaned from his desk.

“Yeah?”

“Tell me I’m garbage.”

“You’re garbage,” Plagg obliged. “Why am I calling you garbage?”

Adrien gave a loud sigh before starting to hit his forehead against the cool wood. “I. Was not. Supposed. To know that,” each pause was marked with a bump. He turned his head to the side, resting his cheek on the surface he had just beaten with his head. “I feel like I savagely invaded her privacy.”

“You didn’t know,” the kitty kwami softly landed on the boy’s blond hair. “Who would have thought she would have a gazillion pictures of you plastered on her walls? Besides, she invited you in, remember?”

Adrien kept an unamused look.

“I told you she was weird,” Plagg stated, stroking one of his whiskers. Without warning, Adrien rose to straighten up on his chair, sending the little god spinning. The boy scowled.

“She’s not weird, she’s… passionate.”

“Same difference,” Plagg retorted in a bored tone, as he managed to catch himself. “Anyway, you still haven’t given me cheese. I’m hungry”

“What am I supposed to do?” Adrien ignored him. “I can’t just act like nothing’s going on.

“Sure you can! Now give me camembert”

“How do I not lead her on? How would I even know if I’m leading her on? I’ve never been in this kind of situation.”

“Don’t do it. You won’t. There’s always a first time. Now cheese.”

“She’s the last person I would ever want to hurt. Is there even a way to reject her without breaking her heart?”

“No. Cheese, Adrie—argh!” Plagg’s charge grabbed him with both hands.

“I’m serious!” the creature’s ears drooped a little, and his expression was one of annoyance.

“You want my advice?” the blond vigorously nodded. The kwami sighed. “There’s nothing you can do. As long as she doesn’t know you know, you don’t have to do anything. Just hope she doesn’t try to confess again.”

The last sentence made Adrien tense. While he worried about Marinette’s feelings, he had almost forgotten about that part. He groaned and threw his head back, letting Plagg free.

“I was so sure it was from Ladybug,” he breathed. “How did she even get my poem?”

“Maybe she dug it outta the trash,” the kwami suggested. Adrien gave him an incredulous look, before glancing at the heart-shaped card taped next to his computer. He took a deep breath and grabbed it from the wall. He sat there for a moment, simply staring at the ladybug red of the heart. Softly, his finger slid through the crack to open it. He reread the poem for the hundredth time, but it was different now. It was no longer his Lady he heard saying the words, but Marinette. The girl who sat behind him in class. The girl who stood up against Chloé whenever it was needed. The girl who was class president. The girl who had won his father’s design contest. The girl… who had just confessed to him, without even knowing it.

A black blob suddenly blocked his view, forcing Adrien to come out of his thoughts and focus on a very impatient looking Plagg.

“Can I have my camembert now?” the boy rolled his eyes, but pleased him, nonetheless.


 

Marinette tried not to think too much about what she learned the previous day. Chat didn’t know he had confessed to Ladybug, so there was no point in dwelling on it too much. Of course, she would be a little more conscious about the things she said as her alter-ego from now on, but that was as much as she could do for the moment. At least, that’s what she resolved after a short talk with Tikki.

Her time in school had been pretty uneventful by midday. By the time Missus Mendelev told her pupils they could pack up and go, Marinette had forgotten already.

“Lunch?”

“Ooohhh, I’m definitely in the mood for some of your dad’s croissants,” Alya responded, almost giddy.

“Sounds good,” Marinette nodded, and started saving her things in her bag. “I could convince papa to let us try the new lavender and coconut macarons. I saw him baking them this morning and they just looked so tasty and—what?”

Alya had elbowed her friend and whispered: “Girl, look,” eyes fixated on the entrance to the classroom. While most of the students were walking out the door, Adrien was just standing there. Staring.

A squeak lodged in her throat. Without thinking, she gave him an exaggerated smile and waved, subconsciously remembering Alya’s coaching. Adrien’s cheeks went pink, as he awkwardly waved back. Suddenly, he stiffened and bolted out of the room.

“Uuuhhh, what was that?” pondered Alya, with a raised eyebrow.

“I don’t know, but it was amazing,” Marinette responded dreamily, her hand still up. Alya rolled her eyes and gave an amused look.

“Come on. I’m hungry,” she pulled the pig-tailed girl from her daze, and finally headed for the bakery.

Once outside the school, Mari almost kept walking straight, instead of turning towards her home. Her best friend had to drag her by the arm so she wouldn’t step on the street. The moment she realized what happened, she scratched the back of her head and gave a nervous laugh.

“Girl, get a grip!” Alya warned, holding back a laugh. “I don’t wanna have to scrape you off the pavement.”

“Sorry,” Marinette blushed a bit. The journalist sighed, as she placed her figertips on her forehead.

“Dear, sweet Mari; have I failed you as your coach? Have I not taught you well enough?”

“Oh, Alya,” she placed her arm around the redhead. “You have been an amazing teacher. I’ve just been a terrible student,” she leaned her cheek in misery on her friend’s shoulder. Alya pated Mari’s hand on her other shoulder.

“I have faith one day you won’t act like a total dork,” Marinette pouted at the name, but Alya simply laughed. Her blue-haired friend joined. Other people joined.

Wait. Those weren’t laughs.

Their chuckles abruptly stopped, as their eyes darted to where the sound was coming from. People were running from down the street, some sporting horrendous white wigs from the eighteen hundreds. Alya’s eyes sparkled.

“Akuma attack!” she professed, hands demonstrating her giddiness over her chest. Before Marinette could do anything, her best friend had started running into danger.

“Alya!” she called.

“Don’t worry, Mari!” the redhead responded, running backwards, ignoring the people going past her. “As long as Ladybug is there, I’ll be good!”

But Ladybug was not there, and Marinette knew that better than anyone. Just as she was about to call again, a large, white blob flew through the air and landed with a loud splat! on the side of the school building. The pig-tailed girl quickly looked for her friend, relieved when she saw her running back.

“He’s coming this way!” she yelled, and ran past Marinette. The designer stood her ground, to take a better look at who was coming, to at least have an idea of what the new akuma was like. As people finally spread out, she finally saw it: a man in a white buttoned up shirt, a purple vest, with purple pants and white shoes. A white line ran from his forehead to the back of his smooth, black hair. The familiar purple butterfly mask hid the man’s face, as he strutted down the street, holding a shiny silver straight blade on one of his hands.

“No one can run from Monsieur Barbier,” he stated. Suddenly, he waved his straight blade towards a running citizen. Silver lines flew through the air for a moment and hit the person, making his head shine bright for a moment and leave a white wig in its wake. The man screamed of embarrassment, and sprinted as fast as he could.

A snort escaped Marinette’s lips, but she quickly composed herself. As funny as it looked, it was still an akuma, and it was dangerous. She turned to start running back to the school to transform, but ran face first into a black figure that had just landed there.

“Ow. Oh, hey Marinette!” Chat Noir greeted cheerfully, waving his hand like a goofball. The girl groaned as she rubbed her face.

“Where did you even come from?” she looked around, as if she were expecting a cartoon arrow to tell her the spot from where he showed up.

“I have my ways,” he proudly retorted, hand on his chest. “I’m the one who should be asking why you’re playing damsel in distress again.”

“I am not a damsel in distress,” Marinette angrily responded. “I just happened to be around here. It’s not my fault akumas like to show up near my school.”

“Maybe they sense a princess in the school,” Chat smirked. The pig-tailed girl rolled her eyes and focused her gaze on Monsieur Barbier instead. “What better place to attack than the one harboring the Princess of Paris? But good thing this knight is here to protect this beautiful maiden—”

“Beautiful?”

“—from the atrocities of the villainous Hawkmoth and his minions.” He finished his monologue with an extended hand, Shakespeare style, and a goofy smile plastered over his face. The girl’s eye twitched before she sighed and squeezed two fingers over the bridge of her nose.

“Chat…” she looked around just in time to see a giant white blob coming their way from the akuma.

“Blob!” and without thinking, Marinette pushed him out of the way, barely missing the giant ball of what looked like shaving cream. They landed hard on the ground, the leather-clad hero taking most of the hit and the blue-haired girl only hitting his chest. When they stopped sliding, she quickly rose her head up to look at her partner, face filled with concern.

“Are you okay?” Chat stared at her, stunned with her quick reaction. He blinked twice, before finally responding: “Purrfect.”

Marinette sighed in relief, momentarily placing her forehead on his chest. The moment she looked back up, assessing her surroundings, she noticed the familiar redhead standing only three meters away, holding a phone with a ladybug charm, jaw hanging open.

Chapter Text

Marinette and Chat Noir were staring at the phone pointed at them. While Chat simply blinked, the girl’s eyes went wide. She quickly scrambled to her feet, but the young reporter did not waste any minute.

“Marinette Dupain-Cheng, you just saved Chat Noir for the second time, do you have anything to say?” Alya shoved the phone in front of the pig-tailed girl.

“Uh-you…bluh… instinct?” Marinette raised her arms in a questioning manner, face contorted in a grimace. “Uuuhhh, I’m gonna…” she started backing away towards the school, “I’m gonna take cover. Akuma. Dangerous. You know…” and like that, she awkwardly ran off into the school. The reporter turned her phone to the leather-clad hero standing before her now, who was dusting off his suit.

“Chat Noir, how does it feel to be rescued by the same girl twice in two weeks?” the cat-boy placed a hand on his chin, in thought.

“I have a feline I may have found a second bug to look after my nine lives,” he puffed his chest proudly and gave a crooked smile to the camera, like he had given the greatest statement in history. Alya gave him a deadpan look over her phone.

“That was… Amazing!” the girl gave a wide grin, giddy for the response of her interviewee. “And tell me, what do you think of Marinette Dupain-Cheng? Any particular aspects of her you wanna point out?”

But this time, Chat was not so eager to answer. He straightened his posture and cleared his throat. But Alya barely noticed with her excitement. She figured it was a harder question.

“Well,” he started, cautiously, “I think Marinette is a very—”

“CHAT NOIR!” the two teens jumped at the sudden outburst, just in time to see another large chunk of shaving cream flying their way. Immediately, the boy scooped Alya up and jumped out of the way. He ran for two blocks before placing her back on the ground.

“Sorry to cut short our interview. Gotta hairy situation to deal with,” and with a two finger salute, he leaped back into the fight. Despite knowing she had been dragged two blocks away for her safety, Alya ran back to the scene and hid behind the corner of a building, phone extended to get a better look at the battle.


 

The boy in leather maneuvered from side to side, avoiding the shiny silver lines coming from Monsieur Barbier’s straight razor.

“No self-respecting gentleman would wear such a horrendous style,” the akuma made a sound of polite disgust, his instrument pointing towards Chat.

“Sir, you really gotta get with the times,” the hero retorted. “I’m purrfectly well groomed.”

The man huffed in irritation and made a swift, elegant movement, and a ball of shaving cream formed out of thin air. Chat Noir jumped just in time, using his baton to lift him to one of the buildings. Luckily, the akuma didn’t see properly to where the hero had gone. Just as he was staring down towards the barber, he heard the familiar yo-yo as it wrapped itself around the building’s chimney. Three seconds later, his partner lightly landed right next to him.

“Heard you needed some help,” she smirked, standing firm as always.

“Nice to see you again, My Lady,” Chat automatically grabbed her hand and kissed her knuckles, as usual. He smiled and started loosening his grip, used to her always pulling away.

A couple of seconds passed, and her hand was still in his. Chat frowned and looked up. Ladybug was staring at him, lips slightly parted, face… Wait a minute, was she blushing?! No, it couldn’t be. His moves never worked. She had always brushed him off.

“My Lady?” he questioned, his cheeks starting to feel hot. All of a sudden, Ladybug started laughing nervously, pulling her hand away.

“Hehe, uh… we should, you know, do our job,” and she ran past him. Chat was still in a bow, hand in the air where it had been holding Ladybug’s moments ago.

“What was that?” he breathed. It took him a few more seconds to shake his head and land back in reality. He looked at the spotted heroine, who was standing at the edge of the building, assessing her next move.

“The akuma is definitely in the razor,” she stated, without turning her gaze from Monsieur Barbier.

“Most likely, yeah,” Chat responded, distracted. He hesitated before asking: “Uh, are you okay, Bugaboo?”

Ladybug snapped her head towards him, eyes wide.

“Y-yeah, totally,” she gave another nervous laugh, her voice higher than usual. It was strange for Chat to see her like that, so… flustered was the word? It kind of reminded him of someone else, but couldn’t quite put his finger on who. “Don’t worry about it, chaton,” she continued, waving her hand away. “I-I just have a lot on my mind and—DUCK!”

But Chat was too distracted to react on time. Before he knew what was happening, silver lines hit him square on the head, making him stagger backwards. A bright, silver light shone on his head, and left behind a powdery white wig like some of the victims were already wearing. Ladybug rose up from the floor, staring at him stunned, as he grabbed one of the now white locks.

“My beautiful, golden locks,” he breathed. Ladybug snorted, suddenly bursting in thunderous laughter. The boy scowled at her.

“It’s not funny!” he snapped, but it only made her roar even louder, holding her sides now.

“It’s… very… funny!” she tried to catch her breath with each word, tears starting to stream down her face. The leather-clad hero tried pulling the wig off, but it wouldn’t budge. At this point, his partner’s knees were bending, as she tried to control herself.

“Don’t we have an akuma to catch?” Chat crossed his arms over his chest, annoyed. The pigtailed girl took deep breaths and wiped the tears from her flushed face.

“S-sorry,” Ladybug cleared her throat, and straightened up. “Let’s go!”

She hooked her yo-yo to a lamppost and swung down near Monsieur Barbier. Chat followed with his baton, extending it to the ground below and sliding into the scene.

“Ladybug, Chat Noir,” the man gave them a short bow. “If you would be so kind to hand me your miraculous, I will be on my way.”

“How polite,” Ladybug commented, hand on chest in feign flattery. “But I’m afraid we must kindly decline.”

The heroes made battle poses, ready to defend themselves.

“So be it,” grunted the akuma. He immediately waved his arm to make another ball of shaving cream. Both teens diverted the attack, spinning their weapons against the object. Ladybug quickly tried to grab the straight razor with her yo-yo, but Barbier was too fast. He made a short, elegant leap backwards, barely missing it.

“Try again,” he mocked.

“Oh, we will,” Chat threatened. He launched against the enemy with his baton. Once again, the man avoided the attack softly. The two in tights tried a few more times, running from side to side, but the akuma was as smooth as a well done shave. After a few minutes of rinse-and-repeat, the two came to a stop, a few feet away from Monsieur Barbier. They were both breathing heavily.

“This is not working!” Ladybug growled.

“I think it’s time,” Chat stated. The girl in red looked at him and nodded.

“Lucky Charm!” she called. A light shone from her yo-yo, and an object appeared from thin air, landing on her hand.

“Scissors?” Ladybug frowned.

“Don’t we have enough barbers already?” Chat groaned, obviously still perturbed by his hairdo. The hero in spots placed the handle of the scissors on her lips, eyes darting from one place to the other, looking for a way to use her Lucky Charm. She looked from her partner to the akuma, until she gave a smirk.

“What are you…? No!” Chat trailed off as her mischievous smile widened a bit, already realizing what she was about to do.

“Oh come on, it’s not like I won’t fix it,” she reasoned.

“But what if it affects my real—” but he cut short his sentence, like Ladybug had just done with a good chunk of the powdery white hair. He gaped, tiny pupils following the locks as they fell to the ground.

“You missed a spot, Monsieur Barbier!” the shameless hero called out, while her partner was still out of it.

“You dare destroy my masterpiece!” Chat’s eyes snapped up in time to see the silver lines come his way again, but this time, he dodged them. Monsieur Barbier waved his arm three more times, but each time, the cat-boy managed to avoid them. After a fourth throw, the hero broke into a run.

“Dark Cupid, Reflekta, Pixelator, seriously, why am I always the one getting hit?!” Chat muttered under his breath, irritated, running in circles around the corrupted barber. He knew the answer was obvious (I’m always the distraction, that’s why), but messing with his hair was a no-no. He may feel indifferent about being a model, but he still cared much for his hair. Also, his dad may throw a fit if his hair gets damaged.

“That is it!” a giant blob of shaving cream appeared out of thin air and flew towards the alley cat.

SPLAT!

This time, he was not so lucky. The substance trapped Chat Noir; head, hands and feet sticking out, unable to reach anything. He squirmed a few times, but what was shaving cream at first, turned hard. His movements did nothing. Monsieur Barbier pointed his straight razor to the stuck superhero.

“A true gentleman looks at his finest at all times,” he stated. But before he could do anything, a polka-dotted yo-yo wrapped around his wrist and shook it enough for the straight razor to fall out of his hand. The instrument flew in the air and landed at the feet of Ladybug. In one determined step, she broke the straight razor in half under her heel. With the grace of the lucky miraculous, she purified the little butterfly, and sent it on its way.

“Miraculous Ladybug!” the magical insects fluttered around the city, fixing every spot affected by Monsieur Barbier. The shaving cream on the side of the school disappeared, citizens cheered when their hairs went back to normal, and where the akuma had stood, now lay a man in a leather brown apron, utterly confused. Chat Noir stood up to quickly pad his now blond locks, giving a sigh of relief. He and Ladybug found each other’s gaze.

Bien joué!” they played out their end-of-battle ritual.

“So, can we talk about what was bothering you now?” Chat innocently asked. Ladybug’s face contorted into a grimace, just as her miraculous started beeping.

“Oh, would you look at that, my earrings are beeping. Gottago, seeyalater. BYE!” she quickly waved goodbye, and swung her yo-yo to the nearest building, away from the scene. The cat-boy stared dumbfounded after her disappearing figure.

“What the hell?!” he asked in bewilderment to no one in particular.


 

Ladybug swung, and swiftly flung herself through the window into the school restroom. With a light thud, she landed as her transformation released. Marinette barely acknowledged her little friend before she pressed herself against the wall, with hands covering her face. Tikki zipped close to her charge.

“Marinette, what’s wrong?” the girl gave a miserable groan under her palms.

“That was so awkward,” she sunk down into the bathroom floor. “I’m so conscious about what I say to him now!”

“Why?” Tikki patted the blue hair. Marinette raised her head from her hands, with a look of concern.

“What if my rejections hurt him? What if they hurt our partnership?”

“Didn’t it almost get hurt by your awkwardness today?” the little god gave her a reproachful smirk. The girl’s eyes went wide, and her hands flew to her head.

“I did not think this through! If he finds out that I know—” she cut her own words short with a squeak, teeth clenched.

“But he doesn’t have to find out!” the red creature grabbed the teen’s nose, trying to knock some sense into her. “As far as Chat Noir knows, Marinette knows, not Ladybug. Ladybug doesn’t have to do anything, but pretend she doesn’t know. Not just to keep your current dynamic, but to protect your secret identity. Unless you want to tell him who you are.”

“No!” Marinette quickly responded. “That is out of the question!”

Tikki and her charge stared at each other for a minute, until the designer sighed, with a hint of defeat in it.

“I shouldn’t have let my emotions get in the way of rational thought. I knew hanging out with him was a bad idea. And I went and did it anyway.”

“It’s okay to take a few risks every now and then,” her little friend tried to comfort.

“Some risks, yeah. But this was just plain reckless,” she lightly shook her head. She bit her lip as she thought about her next move. She knew what she had to do.

“I… I have to give it up,” Marinette’s voice turned hollow, emotionless. “It’s too complicated.”

“Just because you had one mishap, it doesn’t mean you have to give it up,” Tikki advised. Her charge gave a small smile.

“It wasn’t just a mishap. I shouldn’t encourage this anymore. I don’t want something like today happen again.”

BAM

The kwami hid just in time as the door banged open and Alya came through it. The reporter gave her friend the widest of smiles: “There you are!”

Marinette weakly waved her hand. “Hey, Alya.”

“You have to see what I recorded.”


 

Marinette was pacing around her balcony the next day. She was nervous, afraid Chat might take it the wrong way. Then again, he was a superhero. He should be able to understand her decision. And it was not like she was doing it willingly: she was doing it out of necessity.

After a few minutes, the familiar thud resonated on the metal railing. Her gaze shot towards the crouching cat-boy, dreading. However, he didn’t seem to notice, for he gave her one of his trademark cheshire grins and said: “Good afternoon, Princess.”

The girl felt a weight starting to lift from her. She hadn’t even realized how tense she was.

“Hey Chat,” she greeted back. Her partner hopped down and leaned against the bars now behind him.

“Well this is exciting,” he said all of a sudden. Marinette’s eyebrows furrowed.

“Exciting?”

“I’m talking to the girl who saved Chat Noir. Twice,” he lifted two fingers to heighten his point. “I should change your nickname to Super Princess. Or would you prefer Super Marinette?”

The designer rolled her eyes. How could he take it so lightly? This was serious. The bakery’s phone had been bombarded with calls from the press since the previous day. And this time, it wasn’t just fact checking: they were asking for interviews. Everyone wanted her for their newspaper article, for their radio talk show, for their television program. It would be overwhelming, if it weren’t for her parents telling everyone she was not doing interviews at the moment. She crossed her arms on her chest and scowled at him.

“Oh, come on, it’s just a joke.”

“Just a joke?!” Marinette gave him an incredulous look. “You have any idea how many calls I’ve gotten? How many times my parents have had to switch off the phone to, at least, have dinner in peace?”

Chat shifted. “I have an idea,” he muttered, ears drooping a little. “It’s why I wanna keep the mood up.”

The pig-tailed girl sighed as she shook her head. “Thanks for trying, but this hasn’t exactly been a cake walk.”

“Did you just make a bakery pun?” Chat’s cat-ears perked up, but Marinette simply shrugged it off. He exhaled. “It’ll blow over,” he responded in a more serious tone. “It happens. When it’s new, they all want to get their hands on it. But it’ll lose newness soon. By next week, they’ll be asking ‘Mari-who?’”

This time, the joke managed to get a small chuckle out of her.

“Thanks. That one actually worked,” her lips curled into a soft smile, which he returned with a smirk.

“I still can’t believe you saved me, again,” he suddenly said. “That was pretty amazing of you. Very brave.”

“I would’ve done it for anyone,” Marinette tried to downplay her heroism. Chat shook his head.

“I feel like it was more than that,” he spoke evenly. “You really are amazing, Marinette.”

The girl arched a playful eyebrow. “Is that what you were gonna say about me to Alya?”

“Of course!” Chat jokingly winked at her. “And other things.”

“It really was nothing,” she brushed it off again.

“Give yourself more credit,” he retorted. Marinette frowned. “You did an amazing thing yesterday.”

Just what she needed: more praise. Sure, she didn’t mind the praise, but today, she was on edge. The last thing she needed was a reminder why it had been difficult to transform for patrol the previous day.

“Seriously,” Chat continued, “I don’t think anyone has ever done what you’ve done for me lately.”

Marinette’s frown deepened for his comment. “You keep saying stuff like that, but hasn’t Ladybug saved you like hundreds of times?”

“Yeah,” Chat shrugged, “but that’s her job. She’d save anyone. Plus, she has magic. Pretty easy to rescue anyone like that,” Marinette’s teeth clenched, holding anger swelling up in her chest. Did he really think that was the only reason she saved him all those times? He was her partner, her friend. Without him, Alya and Tikki, she wouldn’t be the person she is now.

“But,” the boy continued, the girl doing her best to not let her feelings bubble out unintentionally, “you don’t have that luxury. You could’ve gotten seriously hurt, and yet you risked it anyway. You didn’t even have to think about it, did you?”

“H-honestly, I just like to help,” her anger subsided, and was slowly turning into something else. Was it bashfulness? Okay, perhaps a compliment or two were not so bad, specially coming from Chat. About his opinion on Ladybug, she could fix that later.

“Well you were great help,” Chat crossed his arms over his chest. “No need to be so modest, Princess. Just accept it and say ‘You’re welcome, my charming knight’.”

Marinette rolled her eyes, but giggled nonetheless. She took a step forward and bowed, in mock of the boy’s own.

“You’re welcome, my charming knight,” she recited with a hand on her chest and a wide grin.

“Ah, you’re learning,” the leather-clad hero beamed, pointing a finger gun at his friend. Marinette straightened up, hands on her back.

“What can I say? I learned from the best,” they both released hearty laughs at their exchange. All the girl could think of was how great her times with Chat Noir had been. What was more amazing was how quickly they became so comfortable with each other. Despite the fact that she couldn’t reveal her alter-ego, she had never felt more herself.

And the more she thought about it, the less she wanted to give up these moments. It was the right thing to do, there was no doubt about that, but it was definitely not what she wanted. She gave a sorrowful sigh that was not missed by her partner.

“You’re thinking I should stop visiting, aren’t you?” the girl’s pig-tails bobbed as she raised her gaze. His cat ears were drooping a little, and he bore an expressionless look.

She could tell: he didn’t want to break the friendship either.

The girl sunk down to the chair on her balcony and exhaled.

“This sucks,” she said at last, chin resting on her hand. “Why-oh-why did I have to get the attention of the media? Ugh,” she covered her face with her palms, “why did Alya have to be there?”

“Pfft, that girl is always scooping around,” Marinette gave him a scowl that he responded with a chuckle.

“Look,” Chat crouched in front of her, resting his forearms on his knees. “I may not visit, but that doesn’t mean we can’t still be friends. In fact, the minute this whole thing blows over, I’ll come right back.”

“Reeaally?” the girl arched an eyebrow and gave him a playful smirk. He raised his right hand.

“I swear on my nine lives,” he proclaimed. The action gave way to a snicker from the designer.

“You know you don’t actually have nine lives.”

“I still promise,” Chat interjected, hand still in the air. It earned him another chuckle from the girl.

“Fine,” she finalized. “Have it your way.”

The boy brought down his hand and smiled. But it wasn’t his usual toothy grin. This one was small, kind. It almost seemed familiar. Before Marinette could give it more thought, though, he looked away at the setting sun.

“I have to go,” he whispered, smile faltering a bit. “Ladybug will kill me if I miss patrol.”

“I understand,” the blue-haired girl nodded.

“Hey,” she blinked as his gaze returned to her this time with the wide grin, “we’ll see each other soon.”

He placed his hand on her wrist and gave it a light squeeze as he stood up. Marinette followed as he walked away from her. Then he stopped. He turned to look at her.

“I’ll see you around, Princess,” he lifted one of his hands in a fist and waited for her to bump it. She blinked, surprised at the gesture usually reserved for Ladybug. Nevertheless, she returned it with a kind smile.

“See you around, chaton,” the nickname made Chat’s grin grow wider. He looked like such a dork, that Marinette was unable to stifle a snort.

“You’re such a dork,” she blurted out.

“Made you laugh, though,” he said as he backed towards the railing. He gave her one last wave before leaping off into the sunset. Marinette rested her arms on the metal bars and sighed, looking towards his jumping figure.


 

Chat stopped and looked back at the balcony on top of the bakery. He noticed the pig-tailed girl was still standing there, staring towards his direction. He waved again, trying to drown the embarrassment he was feeling. To his surprise, she waved back, with a bright smile.

Something inside him stirred. He was actually… sad. He realized he was really going to miss this side of her. He was going to miss the sass, the confidence, but more so, her unyielding friendship. The part of her that wasn’t so afraid to talk to him. And that someone he could actually talk to, without judgement or a time limit.

Chat just hoped that this whole thing would blow over as quickly as the first time.

Chapter Text

RIIING

RIIING

Tom and Sabine Boulangerie Patisserie, how may I help you?” Tom Dupain answered in a cheery mood. A mood that was quickly replaced with a slight frown. “As I have said before, Marinette is not up for any interviews. And she won’t be for a while. Have a good day, monsieur,” and just like that, he almost slammed the phone back to its place. “The nerve…”

It was Monday morning, and already the phone calls had resumed from Saturday. Television channels, radio stations, newspapers and Internet media started calling at seven in the morning. More so, Alya had been there to witness the constant rings.

“How many times have they called?” she asked Marinette, leaning against the counter near the cash register, holding a piece of baguette with jam.

“I’ve lost track already,” the blue-haired girl responded with a sigh, focused on a notebook in front of her, marking the orders that had already been finished while her mom brought fresh pastries to display. “This is getting ridiculous.”

“Yeah, you’re doomed,” the redhead took a large bite off of her breakfast. “Haf you tol’ ‘em you’re ‘ot in’hersted?” A few crumbs flew out of her mouth.

“All the time,” Marinette mindlessly grabbed a cloth and wiped the counter clean from the bread. “But it’s like they don’t take ‘no’ for an answer. I think they’re hoping I answer the phone one of these days, instead of my parents. It’s getting beyond annoying.”

“Why don’t you just do the stupid interview?” Alya said it almost lazily, and then stuffing her face with the baguette again. Marinette stared at her friend with bulging eyes.

“Are you insane?! Don’t you remember the last time you tried to interview me?”

“Girl, how could I forget,” the bespectacled girl chuckled at the memory of it. “The only coherent word I got out of you was ‘instinct’.”

“Exactly!” Marinette’s arms flailed. “I’m a disaster at that. Class president is one thing, but public figure for the entirety of Paris? I can’t do that!”

Alya popped the last piece of bread into her mouth and walked behind the counter. “My dear, sweet Mari,” she placed an arm around her best friend’s shoulders. “If you plan on continuing with your design stuff, you gotta get used to it. It’s good practice for when you’re ‘famous designer Marinette Dupain-Cheng’,” she extended her arm, as if showing off a magnificent view. Marinette gave her an unimpressed look.

“I don’t intend on getting famous yet,” she retorted. Just then, Sabine Cheng came back to the register and thanked her daughter for manning it while she was busy.

“You girls should head to school. It’s almost eight thirty.” The teens gasped, before quickly scrambling to get their bags and run through the door, off to school. Unfortunately, they didn’t get very far.

“Marinette!” a woman’s voice called before they could cross the street. They whirled on their heels and saw Nadja Chamack standing in front of the bakery.

“Oh, hi Nadja!” Marinette waved cheerfully at the woman who’s kid she constantly babysat. “Are you going to see my parents?”

“Oh no, actually, I came here to see you,” she pleasantly responded, hands locked together.

“You need me to babysit later?” Marinette cocked her head to the side, a quizzical look beginning to form on her features.

“No, no. I was hoping you could grant me an interview,” she finished with a sense of professionalism.

Of course. Of course she wanted an interview. Every journalist in Paris wanted an interview.

“I-uh… I’m sorry, I-I’m late for class,” Marinette fumbled backwards towards the road. A car honked and Alya grabbed her friend by the arm, just in time to avoid an accident. With a nervous laugh, the pig-tailed girl turned, looked both ways and crossed towards the school, dragging the redhead with her. It wasn’t until they reached the bottom of the stairs of Collège Françoise Dupont that Alya spoke up.

“How have you managed to save Chat Noir twice, when I have saved you twice from being ran over? And in less than a week!” she said with an incredulous tone.

“Ugh,” Marinette rolled her eyes. “Right place, right time kinda thing, I guess?”

Alya chuckled, but the pig-tailed girl couldn’t quite find the humor in it. She thought they would have started to get tired. It was Monday already; they should be over it. But if journalists still ran around after Ladybug and Chat Noir… Guess I should have known better, she thought miserably. But to them, I’m still a civilian that just happen to save one of the heroes of Paris. Twice… They’ll get bored. They’ll find other stories. They’ll forget about me.

Right?


The week went on, and Hawkmoth was at it again. This time, it was someone called The Gift Maker: wrapping the citizens of Paris in decorative paper one by one. Seriously, how did Hawkmoth come up with these guys? What was his real evil plan? Taking their miraculouses or making the puniest of villains?

Ladybug and Chat Noir parkoured over rooftops after having lost him from sight. They jumped down to the sidewalk, using Ladybug’s trusty yo-yo. Once on the pavement, they looked around, but everything seemed relatively normal.

“Where is he? I just want to wrap up this mission,” Ladybug almost cringed at her pun, but pushed through it for her partner’s sake. Since Chat showed up for the fight, he had seemed a little… off. So, she tried to cheer him up, even at the cost of awful puns. She arched an eyebrow, waiting for him to react. But he didn’t. So she tried again. “Get it? Wrap up? Like, wrapping presents, you know… Chat?”

“Huh?” his ears twitched in confusion, as he turned to her.

“Are you okay, minou? You seem pretty distracted,” she brought her yo-yo to her hip and gazed intently at her partner.

“Sorry,” he rubbed the back of his neck. “I’ve had a lot in my mind.”

“Wanna talk about it?” she said before she could stop herself. Chat’s ears perked up in surprise, before his gaze turned towards the distance. He took a deep breath, and Ladybug felt that, perhaps, she may have asked for too much. “If you don’t, that’s—”

“I miss my friend,” Ladybug’s mouth closed shut, processing what he just said. He missed her? That was so… sweet. She could feel a smile creep up her lips. Why did it give her such a warm feeling? But wait; hadn’t it only been like four days?

“I know it hasn’t been long,” he sighed, almost as if he were reading her thoughts, “but just knowing that I won’t be seeing her in a while, makes me miss her.”

She placed a hand on his shoulder in a comforting manner.

“I’m sure that, whatever is keeping you guys apart, it’ll be over soon,” she reassured him. Chat Noir gave a weak smile in exchange.

“I’m not so sure about that,” he said quietly.

“Why do you say that?” she frowned. But Chat didn’t respond. Instead, he shied away a little from her and started nervously fiddling his fingers together.

“Chat?”

“Um…” he hesitated. Why is he—oh, wait. I think I have an idea. “Uh… please don’t be too mad.”

Ladybug crossed her arms over her chest. “Just spit it out already, chaton,” she pushed, exasperated to hear what she already knew.

“Weeellll…” he dragged, turning his gaze away from her bluebell eyes. “I may have been visiting a civilian in my superhero persona,” he said it as quickly as he could, without mushing his words together. The girl in spots blinked. Now that he said it, she wasn’t sure how to act. Should she pretend to be surprised? Angry? No, that would be hypocritical. Maybe she should just go neutral. Yeah, that seemed like a good idea.

“That’s reckless,” she spoke in a flat tone, careful not to show much emotion. Despite that, the cat-boy cringed.

“I-I was… curious,” Ladybug was about to retort with a ‘curiosity killed the cat’ comment, but she couldn’t help but wonder herself, now.

“Curious?” she pried.

“It’s a long story that I can’t tell without revealing too much of my secret identity. And you wouldn’t want that, would you?” Chat wiggled his eyebrows teasingly at her. She rolled her eyes and mustered all her strength to not blush at the action. She had managed to keep her fears of hurting him under control, but she was finding it harder to deal with the fact that she knew that everything he said, even if it sounded like a joke, he meant it.

“No, I would not,” she tried to keep her previous tone as much as possible.

“Although,” he continued, “I don’t regret my decision. I know it was reckless, but,” he smiled to himself, “it was worth it.”

Ladybug couldn’t help a snort. “Sounds like you reeaally like her,” she teased. The insinuation, though, did not go over Chat Noir’s head.

“Please, it’s not like that,” he dismissively waved his hand. “I’ve just found she’s very easy to trust. It would be sad if I never get to see her again.”

His cat ears drooped, and Ladybug couldn’t help but feel the greatest sympathy for the alley cat. To the point that, for a moment, she forgot about his crush on her hero self.

“Well, if anything ever happens, I’ll be here to be your confidant,” she said in a soft voice. The boy’s ears perked up once again, and he gave her one of his widest grins.

“Aw, I always knew you loved me,” he gushed, leaning towards her face.

“Don’t get ahead of yourself, minou,” she responded, pushing his face away a little with her index finger on his nose. “But,” her tone became more serious, “I do care about you. You’re not just my partner, you know? You’re my friend.”

Chat blinked. His lips curled into an appreciative smile Ladybug hadn’t ever quite seen from him.

“Thanks, LB. I consider you my friend too,” he said with a grin. Ladybug returned the smile. She couldn’t help to feel a bit of relief wash over her. He really did know how to read her.

“And you know, if there’s anything you ever want to—” but she was cut off, as they noticed what looked like a person fully wrapped in colorful gift paper, hopping from the corner of the street. Ladybug and Chat Noir stared at it, mesmerized by the jumping figure. As it reached the other end of the block, the cat-boy finally broke the trance, pointing: “I’m guessing the akuma is that way?”

“Uh-huh,” Ladybug nodded. She looked at her partner and said: “Time to go.”

And like that, their conversation ended, and they were off to finish fighting The Gift Maker. Hopefully, Chat Noir would no longer feel like every time she rescued him, was only due to her job.


It was finally Friday, the last day of the week. A week since Marinette had rescued Chat Noir for the second time. And yet, it was worse than Monday. Sometime during the week, journalists had stopped calling so often, but now they were showing up near the bakery and the school. Alya explained that the more she refused, the more interesting she became. Everyone wanted the exclusive. They wanted to be the first to get an interview with the mysterious, and hard to contact, Marinette Dupain-Cheng. She had resorted to running from her house to the school, rushing past a few cameras and microphones.

But the strategy only worked for her civilian persona. She couldn’t even fathom what it would be like if she had to suddenly transform at an early hour, or if they saw her jumping out from her balcony in full costume. This could only work for so long, and she knew it. She had to find a way to end this as soon as possible.

Once again, she found herself walking at a fast pace to school. The amount of reporters had doubled since Tuesday. It was even getting harder to get past them. What if Alya was right? What if the only way to get rid of them is by giving them what they wanted? As she crossed the front of the school, an idea struck: maybe, if she gave a lousy interview, they would leave her alone.

The moment she reached the top of the stairs to the entrance, she turned on her heels and stomped a foot on it, with a scowl on her face. The journalists and paparazzi halted and became silent. They waited, hopeful for a response to any of their questions. Marinette inhaled deeply while she closed her eyes. When she exhaled, there was a look of determination on her bluebells. She looked at them all, and finally opened her mouth.

“I will only do one interview, with previous appointment.”

It didn’t even take a second for the pig-tailed girl to be bombarded with requests for her to be on their morning shows, in one-on-one interviews, radio talk shows, podcasts, and other news outlets, to the point that they started crowding her, trying to be as visible as possible.

“Enough!” a voice suddenly yelled in the midst. The girl with the red curls had come out of nowhere and started clearing the space around Marinette. “Anyone who wants or needs any information on Marinette Dupain-Cheng will have to go through me,” she declared to the crowd.

“Who are you?” a man in a grey vest asked. Alya smiled.

“I am her public relations agent, Alya Cèsaire. Also, owner of the Ladyblog,” she added the last part as a side note. She cleared her throat before continuing. “Any questions about Marinette or interviews you wanna do, you’re gonna have to speak to me first.” She turned to her friend and winked. Marinette gave her an appreciative smile.

“Y-yes,” she took a step forward, following her best friend’s lead. “From now on, anything you need from me, should be directed to Alya. That is all.”

And without another word, she turned again and walked into the school, with Alya following.

“Girl, it was about time!” the redhead gushed, squeezing and arm around Marinette’s shoulders.

“Hey, dude, when’s the interview?” Nino had just pushed his way past the reporters outside the school, and was adjusting his red cap from the confusion.

“Hasn’t been set yet,” Alya responded, pushing her glasses to the bridge of her nose. “But I know exactly who to set it up with. And I’m so gonna start coaching you for it.” She gave Marinette another squeeze, that made her smile weakly.

“Keep me posted then. We’ll totally wanna hear that,” he gave her a wink, but the blue-haired girl simply furrowed her eyebrows.

“We?”

“Bro, everyone!” he responded excitedly. Marinette had only then realized that behind him, Max, Kim, Alix, Mylène, Ivan, Juleka and Rose were standing with the giddiest faces she had ever seen them with. She gulped, trying not to panic at the amount of people that would be listening to her making a fool of herself.

Because that’s exactly what she was going to do.

Give one, very boring, very tedious interview so the rest of the journalists would get discouraged from doing one themselves. She smiled awkwardly at them, already a little upset that she was going to let them down. On purpose.

The bell rang, and they all started walking to their classroom.

“We’re rooting for you, Marinette!” Rose pipped up.

“Break a leg, twin-tails,” Kim gave her finger guns and a wink.

“Good luck, Mari!” Alix lightly punched her bicep.

All the while, Marinette could only keep the smile that was slowly turning into a cringe, and her body tensed.

“Oh, come one, girl. Relax!” Marinette jumped with Alya’s sudden voice. “Just follow my lead, and everything will be fine.”

“I don’t know, I didn’t do very well last time,” the blue-haired girl scratched the back of her head.

“And that is why,” Alya finally let go of Marinette and raised two fists, like she was about to box, “I’ll make a celebrity outta you.”

“Let’s not get ahead of ourselves,” Marinette chortled. “I only agreed to one interview.”

“You what?!” Marinette froze on the spot. She recognized that voice. With her cheeks automatically turning red, she spun around, momentarily losing her balance, to look at the boy with the golden locks.

“H-hi,” she breathed. But Adrien barely reacted to her greeting.

“Did you just say you agreed to an interview?” he cleared up.

Marinette blinked.

“Y-yes,” she confirmed, not knowing what else to do. This was… unusual. This entire week he had been… off. Sometime ago he had started trying to strike up conversations with her, moments that left her dazed and giddy. But the moments didn’t last long, because he was usually whisked away by Chloé. And this week had been even weirder. Like he wanted to talk to her, but didn’t know how to, or what to say. Which made it even harder for her to keep her cool.

“Oh, please,” someone else sneered. Another unmistakable voice. “Like anyone is actually interested in you. They just wanna know about Ladybug’s sidekick.”

The she-devil herself came to stand next to Adrien, her long ponytail waving with her erratic movements.

“You’re just upset because the cameras aren’t pointed at your bratty butt,” Alya quickly jumped in to defend her friend.

“Please,” Chloé waved her hand in dismissal. “I’m the mayor’s daughter. I get interviewed all the time. Marinette, on the other hand, will only make a fool of herself, like she always does.”

“Chloé!” Adrien snapped suddenly. All three girls turned to him, somewhat startled. But of course, the queen bee had to break the momentary silence first.

“You don’t know her Adrikins, she’s a disaster,” she spoke in an overused condescending tone. “I bet she’s gonna sit there and stutter all through the interview.”

Marinette’s hands curled into fists. Oh, how she wanted to prove her wrong, but this was not going to be one of those times. For once, Chloé was partly right, except for the part that she was a disaster. While she was going to make a fool of herself, she had her reasons for it.

“You just wait and see, Chloé,” Alya said with a venomous tone. She then grabbed her friend’s arm. “C’mon, Mari. We don’t need this.”

And just like that, she dragged Marinette away. The pig-tailed girl, while she let herself be pulled by Alya, she also stared longingly back at Adrien. So close!, she thought. Why does Chloé have to ruin everything. And surprisingly, the boy stared back, with what seemed like concern in his green eyes. Whatever the reason for it, Marinette simply allowed herself to enjoy the fact that he was talking to her again. A giddy smile creeped its way onto her lips, and before they turned into the classroom, she could have sworn he returned it.


Once again, Marinette was leaning against the railing of her balcony. It had been a long week for her, but it would all be over soon. She would make sure of it. Alya ensured an interview on Monday with Nadja, since it was the only person Marinette knew, and thought she would be more comfortable with her. Alya even made sure that it would be on the reporter’s radio show, instead of television, so Marinette wouldn’t have to worry about her facial reactions.

Her train of thought was not to last, though. A vibration under her forearms and a clank of metal against metal made her turn, startled. There, crouching on the railing stood the cat-boy who was not supposed to be there.

“Chat? What are you—”

“Is it true you’re doing an interview?” he cut her off.

Marinette blinked in surprise. She asked the obvious: “How do you even know about that?”

“I have my ways. Is it true?” he pushed, hopping down to the floor. He practically dismissed her question.

“Have you been spying on me?”

“Marinette!” he pushed once again.

“Yes, it’s true. What’s it to you, anyway?” she crossed her arms, becoming irritated with his attitude. So pushy.

“Do you realize how dangerous that is? For the both of us?” he inquired, stepping a little closer to her. Marinette shifted uncomfortably, making her way to the rosebush hanging off her balcony.

“I was thinking more on the lines of getting it over with and making myself uninteresting,” she responded truthfully. No use lying to him, since he was part of the reason she was doing it.

“You’re gonna have to explain that,” Chat added with a quizzical tone, taking a few more steps forward.

“Well…” Marinette started, focusing her attention at the little buds on the bush, trying to keep it as casual as possible. “I figured that if I go to one interview and make myself seem boring and difficult to interview, then maybe they’ll leave me alone.”

Chat Noir frowned, unconvinced.

“I don’t think that’s a good idea,” he stated.

“I’ve thought this more than you think,” she said, as her fingers started trailing along the tightly closed buds, still not ready to bloom. “My friend knows a lot about how the press works and she gave me some advice on what to do. And I will do the exact opposite of what she recommends.”

“Please, explain further,” he pushed, getting even closer to the pig-tailed girl. Marinette kept her gaze on the plant under her palm.

“She’s been coaching me on how to talk properly and be a good interviewee, how to respond with full sentences, etcetera. But instead, I’m just gonna give one word answers and be all boring and plain.”

There was a momentary silence. The boy seemed to consider what she was saying.

“What friend?” he asked. Marinette’s hand froze. She softly cleared her throat before responding: “A friend that knows how the press works.”

“It wouldn’t be Alya, by any chance, would it?” the disapproval in his voice was unmistakable. The girl frowned, and her hand resumed its movement around the tiny green buds, with slivers of red.

“She’s not some inconsiderate paparazzi, you know? She actually knows quite a lot about how the press works. And she’s my best friend, she’d never sell me out,” Marinette reasoned at the best of her ability. And it was true. Alya may be very curious about their secret identities, but she never followed them when they were about to detransform. In fact, she had even pointed out when their time was running out.

“Even so, you’re not a public figure, Marinette,” Chat retorted. “This doesn’t sound like a really good plan. It could backfire completely.”

“It won’t. I’m not stupid, you know,” a hint of irritation invaded her voice.

“I never said you were.”

“Then why are you doubting me?”

“I’m not.”

Marinette sighed, exasperated, but kept her gaze away from him. Why was he being like this? Didn’t he trust her? Hadn’t she proved herself already?

“I’m just looking out for,” he whispered.

“You don’t have to worry about me,” Marinette responded.

“What if it backfires?”

“I’ll deal with it.”

“How?”

“I’ll figure it out.”

“Marinette!”

Suddenly, Chat grabbed her hand, making her stop her absentminded movements. Marinette’s bluebells snapped to his emerald ones. She hadn’t realized the intense look of concern in them, and something else in there. Something different, sincere. What is that? But before she could delve any further, he seemed to realize his forwardness, for he quickly let go, with an embarrassed look.

“S-sorry,” he rubbed the back of his head. “I just have to make sure that you’re sure.”

“Chat Noir, do you not trust me?” she said, slightly offended, eyebrows furrowed.

“Of course I do,” he quickly said, almost frantic. “I’ve just had my share of experience with the press, and it hasn’t always been positive.”

“Oh, right,” Marinette remembered, “because you’re famous under the mask.”

Chat twitched. “Please,” he asked, “please, don’t do it.”

“It’ll be fine,” she rolled her eyes. “Stop worrying so much. It’s not like I can give away your secret identity.”

“No, but you could give away our friendship.”

“That’s not gonna happen,” Marinette spoke between gritted teeth. What is wrong with him?! “I thought you said you trust me.”

“Journalists can have a way to push things outta you,” he took a step forward. “I don’t think it’s a good idea.”

“Well thanks for the opinion, but it’s my decision,” she placed her hands on her hips and leaned a little forward. This was getting beyond irritating. Chat, on the other hand, grimaced at her response.

“And I say it’s a bad decision,” he snarled back.

“So is that why you came? To scold me?”

“No, to warn you!” his voice started rising.

“I’m capable of making proper decisions, thank you very much!” Marinette’s did the same.

“Says the girl I’ve had to rescue several times,” Chat scoffed.

“That is different, and you know it!” a stern finger poked the cat-boy on the chest.

“I’m just looking out for you!” he repeated, indignantly.

“Well I don’t need you to!” she retorted curtly, as their faces were only centimeters from each other.

There was a short pause filled with heavy breaths. They could almost feel the heat between them, consuming them in anger. At last, they turned away, huffing and crossing their arms.

“And I thought I had already met the most stubborn person in Paris,” Chat kept his pose.

“I could say the same about you,” Marinette scoffed, not bothering to turn either.

“Fine,” he growled. “Be like that. Just don’t complain when your face is plastered everywhere.”

“Oh, I won’t need to,” she hissed, finally turning her gaze back towards him.

“Fine,” he snapped his head to her.

“Fine,” she retorted with finality. Chat Noir scowled, clearly upset with her decision, but did not respond. Instead he jumped up to the balcony railing and extended his staff. Just as he was about to jump off, he stopped and turned his head slightly.

“Just be careful, Princess,” and with that last comment, he vaulted off into the setting sun, like he always did. Marinette stared at his disappearing figure.

“Ugh!” she growled, fists clenched. “What is wrong with him?! Why the heck is he being like this!”

She huffed one more time before turning on her heels and dropping down to her room. We’ll see who’s right then, she thought.


Marinette still couldn’t believe she was standing there. Her fingers fidgeted with each other, trying to control her nervousness. She was used to interviews. She did them all the time. She even had a one-on-one with Alya once. But this was different. She was Marinette, not Ladybug, and Marinette was not supposed to be interesting yet. Not until her designing career took off.

Her eyes kept darting from the console in the room, with all the buttons and levers, to the large window, where she could see Nadja interviewing some senator about the economic issues of the country. Just seeing his dark blue suit, a little too big for him, made her wish she had the security of her suit at the moment.

No, she thought, this is about making Marinette uninteresting. Giving a weak interview so they stop bothering me.

That was the real plan, she reminded herself. To seem as boring as possible so other journalists would lose interest and decide she was not worth their time. Sure, she could have used this exposure for her designing career, but it didn’t seem like the time. She also didn’t want her career to be forever tied to her daring rescues. No, that was something she wanted it to grow on its own.

A squeeze on her shoulder made her turn her gaze towards the redhead standing next to her.

“You’re gonna do fine, Mari,” Alya tried to reassure her. Marinette gave a weak smile. Just then, the door to the studio opened.

“Thank you for your time, senator Roux,” Nadja shook the hand of the graying man coming out the room.

“Anytime, Miss Chamack. If you ever need a political guest again, you can always call to my office,” he spoke in well manner, but with a hint of cautiousness. It was common amongst politicians: they knew anything could be used against them, and the smart ones were very careful about everything they said. The senator gave Marinette a cordial nod and walked right past her. The girl stared after him, lost in thought. A part of her was still wishing for her suit.

“Marinette?” she snapped her head back at Nadja, eyes wide and fingers locking themselves together. “Please, come in.”

Followed by Alya, she walked into the small room. She allowed her gaze to wander, in hopes to relax. She took in the gray walls and the purple carpet, soft under her soles. Then she turned to the table in the middle, the same color as the walls that surrounded it. On top of it, four silver microphones stood, waiting for someone to speak through them. Marinette couldn’t help but huff at them, as if they were mocking her. She pulled one of the white chairs and sat on it, placing her forearms on the table surface, hands still locked together.

“I hope you don’t mind, we’ll be having another guest soon,” Nadja announced, taking her seat. Meanwhile, Alya settled next to Marinette.

“Who?” the bespectacled girl quickly asked.

“Alec, how much time left?” Nadja ignored Alya’s question.

“Only sixty seconds ‘til we’re on air,” the bald man responded through her headphones. The woman with fuchsia hair turned back to the girls.

“Okay, to clear up, I will be asking you about the two times you recued Chat Noir, and a little about yourself as a person. I’m sure our audience would love to know a little about who Marinette Dupain-Cheng is. So don’t be afraid to talk about yourself,” she winked at Marinette, as a sign of reassurance. In return, the blue-haired girl gave another weak smile. She was starting to feel a little bad that she was about to give a deplorable interview. But it’s for a greater cause, she reasoned. I just hope she doesn’t get akumatized.

“Good to know. Now,” Alya leaned a little closer to Nadja, “what was that about a guest?”

“Nadja,” Alec called through the headphones. “The guest is here.”

“Good,” the reporter placed her hands together, pleased. “Marinette, we’re gonna need you to speak as clearly as possible, at a decent speed. And don’t be afraid to elaborate on your answers.”

“Nadja, ten seconds,” Alec announced. The woman with the indigo jacket straightened up and covered both her ears with the headphones.

“Let’s get this exclusive started,” Nadja said eagerly, checking the microphones one last time, making sure they were on the right height for the teens to speak through them.

Marinette could feel her heart beating at a million miles. It felt like it was about to burst out of her chest from nervousness. You got this, she repeated the words Tikki told her before getting to the studio. You can do this. You’re Ladybug, you can get through any situation. The music of the show started playing. Her heart sped up. You can DO this.

“Welcome back to ‘The Interview with Chamack’. I am your host, Nadja Chamack, and I am sitting here with a very exclusive interview with none other than the girl everyone has been talking about for the past week. She has rescued one of our beloved heroes not only once, but twice. Yes, I am speaking of the student designer, Marinette Dupain-Cheng, savior of Chat Noir. Welcome to the program, Miss Dupain-Cheng.”

Marinette cleared her throat. “H-hello,” she stuttered, on purpose.

“And accompanying her is her public relations agent and creator of the Ladyblog, Alya Césaire. Welcome to the show, Miss Césaire.”

“It’s good to be here, Chamack,” Alya responded like an expert. Marinette looked at her friend and saw that glint of confidence in her eyes. Like she had been waiting for this moment her whole life. Marinette couldn’t help but smile at her friend’s internal giddiness.

“Now, Dupain-Cheng, I must ask, what’s it like being the girl who saved Chat Noir?”

Marinette deliberated for a moment too long, before responding: “Interesting.”

Nadja and Alya stared at her expectantly. When she didn’t continue, Alya bumped her with an elbow, nudging her to expand on it.

“V-very interesting,” she added. The redhead grimaced at her flimsy answer.

“It must have had quite the impact in your life, am I right?” Nadja pushed, but keeping a cool head. Like she wasn’t very worried about the lack of cooperation from her interviewee.

“N-not really,” Marinette responded truthfully. “Only a few cameras outside of my home and school.”

“Of course, many are interested about the girl who dared to do what only Ladybug has done. And I believe these rescues were not your first encounter with the superhero, was it?”

“N-no.” Keep them short, she reminded herself. She looked around nervously, just in time to see Alya slap a hand to her face.

“Well, perhaps our special guest can elaborate on that.” Marinette’s eyes snapped back to Nadja. “Not only did we manage to snatch an interview with the rescuer, but with the rescued himself.”

Wait—

The door to the studio burst open.

“Just get in there!”

No… there’s no way…

And a startled Chat Noir was pushed into the studio, and the door slammed behind him.

“We’d like to welcome the daring hero, Chat Noir. Welcome to the show.”

Marinette gaped.

He is such a… hypocrite!

“Please, sit with us, so the listeners can hear you,” Nadja gestured to the vacant seat next to her. But Chat hesitated.

“I-I was told this was about the latest akumas,” he scratched the back of his head, as what Marinette now recognized as a nervous habit.

“And it is. In particular, the ones Dupain-Cheng was involved in,” Nadja reasoned. In the meantime, Marinette could already feel her nails digging into her skin, and a very noticeable scowl painted on her face. One that went unnoticed by the two journalists in the room.

“This is completely unethical!” Alya burst in outrage. “We were not told that you were bringing a guest, and the guest was not told of the subject at hand. It is very unprofessional.”

You mangy cat, the pig-tailed girl stared daggers into Chat Noir. And the boy seemed to feel them, for his steps towards the chair were slow, like he just realized he made a big mistake. Marinette barely noticed the exchange going on next to her.

“We had invited him over a week ago. But due to Dupain-Cheng’s acceptance to do an interview, we decided that it would be best to do both at once. Now, Chat Noir, tell us, how did it feel to be saved by a civilian?”

“Well—” he started with his usual confidence, but was cut short the second he noticed the bluenette still scowling, eyes in thin slits. He sunk into the last chair. “Uuuhhh… it was quite the experience.”

“Did you ever think someone, other than Ladybug, would risk her life for you?”

“Uuuhhh,” holes were burning on his head, clearly conscious of the girl he had berated as irresponsible only two days before. “Well, I wouldn’t put it past anyone to try and save an honest guy like me.”

But his attempt at regaining his usual confidence was negated by a loud huff from Marinette’s direction. All three turned to her.

“Anything you want to add, Dupain-Cheng?” Nadja inquired.

“Oh no,” Marinette finally freed her hands from the painful lock they were in. “I’m just totally agreeing to Chat Noir’s honest statement.”

Chat frowned. Clearly, he did not miss the sarcasm in her comment.

“And, Chat Noir, what do you think about the fact that it was Dupain-Cheng who rescued you?”

“I think it was just lucky,” he gave a mischievous smile to his balcony friend. “Anyone could have done it, really.”

Ha! You wish. I’ve saved your butt more times than I can count and you don’t even know it. Why did he decide now to push her buttons?

“Well, not just anyone,” the words spilled out from her lips like vomit. “Other people expect you to save them, not the other way around. Someone else might have just left you. It wouldn’t be the first time you take a hit, anyway.”

“It is true that you take many hits, Chat Noir. Why is that?” Nadja asked.

“It’s part of my job,” he didn’t take his eyes off Marinette. “I’m what you would call a tank in a videogame. I take the hits so the other one can get to the goal. It’s a strategy. Something that others lack.”

Oh, you did not just say that.

“Would these others be referring to—”

“Maybe others use a different kind of strategy that you don’t understand. Or is it that you don’t want to understand?”

“I’m sure our hero has good—”

“Oh, I can understand. I can understand when a strategy is stupid and could completely backfire. And I tend to be right all the time,” he gave her a knowing smirk.

You little—

“That’s all very—” Nadja tried again.

“Isn’t Ladybug the strategist of the two? Isn’t she the one who’s always right?” Marinette lost sense of where she was.

“Don’t peg me for the dumb one. You’d be surprised with the plans I’ve come up with.”

“Didn’t you end up with a white wig with Monsieur Barbier?”

“Miss Dupain-Cheng—”

“That was…” Chat Noir started.

“You didn’t duck on time. Seemed pretty impurrfect to me,” Marinette snarled.

“Well at least I don’t go around crashing into strangers during akuma attacks.” Chat Noir shot back.

“Chat Noir—!” Alya tried to intervene.

You run around panic citizens, see how you fare!”

“I do it all the time, and you don’t see me hitting other people. Maybe you should start staying away from attacks altogether.”

“Then maybe I should stop rescuing you.”

“Yeah, and maybe you could stop lecturing me.”

“Or maybe I should have thrown you off my balcony the other day instead of getting lectured,” Marinette blurted with finality.

Chapter Text

It took two seconds for Marinette to realize her mistake, and clap her hands to her mouth. In Tom & Sabine Boulangerie Patissere, one of the owners chocked on a croissant. In Le Grand Paris, Chloé’s nail polish swerved to her skin. Nino, Kim, Alix and Max gaped at the small speaker they were sitting around of. Rose accidentally pulled the violet-specked hair she was braiding. Mylène’s hand froze on a cupcake she was feeding Ivan, getting frosting on his nose.

And Nadja and Alya stared with wide eyes at Chat Noir, who was stunned by Marinette’s slip up.

“You visit her?!” the reporters gawked in unison, both using their journalistic instincts to push through the shock. The question snapped Chat Noir out of his stupor.

“Marinette!”

“I’m sorry!” the girl responded desperately. “I-I didn’t mean to—… It just slipped out!”

“Are you kidding me?!”

“Is it true?” Nadja intercepted the attention.

“Do you visit her often?” for the moment, Alya forgot she was there as Marinette’s public relations agent. In fact, she forgot she was in an interview at all.

“No! Uh…” the boy’s response seemed automatic. “J-just once. It was an accident!”

“It was my fault!” the designer intervened, trying to help out. “He was patrolling. I thought he was an intruder, s-so I… threw a watering can at him,” she finished miserably. Alya had never seen her friend so close to panicking. Not even for Adrien.

“When exactly was this?” Nadja pushed for more information. Chat Noir and Marinette stiffened and glanced at each other. Alya narrowed her eyes. She knew that exchange. It was a look her and Marinette often gave each other when they were trying to settle a lie. When they were settling stories. It was clear: Marinette had been holding out on her.

“The day of Entangler,” chorused the pair in question. The young reporter’s eyes widened. Since Entangler?! That was three weeks ago!

“This explains quite a lot,” Nadja bore a very bright smile on her lips. Like she had just discovered the secret to the universe. “Something we noticed here in FMi. We looked back at the video recorded by Miss Césaire, and we noticed that you addressed each other in a very familiar manner. Alec, would you play the sound clip for us?”

“Which video?” this time, it was Alya who was downright worried. She was sure she hadn’t done anything to screw up Marinette’s reputation. She would never do that.

“This is part of the audio from the live stream recorded on the attack of Monsieur Barbier. Alec, please, play it.”

Alec obliged, and an audio played over the small speaker in the middle of the table, which none of the teens had noticed before. The voices sounded like they were a little distant, but they could clearly make out Chat’s and Marinette’s voices.

“Hey Marinette!”

“Where did you even come from?”

“I have my ways. I’m the one who should be asking why you’re playing damsel in distress again.”

It sounded familiar…

“I am not a damsel in distress. I just happened to be around here. It’s not my fault akumas like to show up near my school.”

“Maybe they sense a princess in the school. What better place to attack than the one harboring the Princess of Paris? But good thing this knight is here to protect this beautiful maiden—”

“Beautiful?”

“—from the atrocities of the villainous Hawkmoth and his minions.”

There was a short pause. Alya definitely recognized that conversation. It had been right before…

“Chat… Blob!”

And there was a sound of crashing bodies and a large mass of something else splatting. Like shaving cream.

“Are you okay?”

Purrfect.”

The clip ended there. The redhead had been so focused on the little speaker, that she hadn’t noticed both Chat Noir’s and Marinette’s reactions. The superhero had a hand on his face, his pink cheeks betraying his embarrassment. While across from him, the pig-tailed girl grabbed the bridge of her nose.

“I must say,” Alya broke out of her thoughts as Nadja resumed speaking, “judging from this conversation, you two seem more than acquainted. May I ask, have you two explored a romantic relationship of any kind?” Nadja pushed, once again.

The reactions were instantaneous.

“Of course not!”

“No, she likes Adrien.”

Two clawed hands clapped to Chat’s mouth, while Marinette made a noise that sounded like the combination of a gasp and a strangled scream.

“NO! I-I didn’t mean… I mean… oh nooooo” he cringed before hitting his head on the table, fingers clutching his hair.

“Dude!” Alya slammed her hands on the table, finally feeling like she could think straight. This has gone on for long enough. With furious hazel eyes, she looked at Nadja. “That’s it! This interview is over, Miss Chamack. C’mon Mari. Mari?”

But the pig-tailed girl was rooted to her seat, eyes bulging and mouth agape. Clearly, traumatized that one of her biggest secrets was just outed to the entirety of Paris. Maybe even the entirety of France.

“Come on!” Alya grabbed her friend’s arm and pulled as hard as she could. Despite the fact that Marinette remained in shock, she still allowed herself to be dragged out of the studio.

“But, Miss Césaire, we still have six minutes left,” Nadja spoke softly, but insistent. Meanwhile, Chat Noir’s head shot back up, following the two girls out the door.

“I’m sure cat-boy here can help you out with that,” Alya snarled. Chat gulped as his eyes locked on the daggers coming out of hers. The young reporter had been upset many times, but nothing compared to the burning anger she was feeling right now. She could swear that, if she tried hard enough, she could breathe fire out of her mouth. But now was not the time to lose it. Not yet.

She dragged Marinette out of the studio and into the hall. She didn’t care about the protests behind her. She didn’t even flinch when there was a commotion that sounded like broken glass and someone yelling the superhero’s name. They reached the elevator, and got in the second it reached their floor. When the doors closed, she finally let go of Marinette’s arm.

Alya leaned on the wall of the small space after pressing the button to the ground floor. Her arms were crossed, and her eyes stared into space, in thought.

“Alya?” Marinette called tentatively. The redhead raised her gaze to meet her friend’s bluebell eyes. “Alya, I am so sorry I didn’t tell you. It’s kind of a long story—”

But the blue-haired girl was cut off as the young reporter raised her hand, telling her to stop. Then, Alya pointed at a corner of the elevator. Marinette slowly followed, and finally noticed the camera on the ceiling. Nothing more needed to be said. It wasn’t safe to talk there. In fact, it may not be safe to talk at all until they reached Marinette’s home.

And so they remained quiet the entire way there. Thankfully, the news of the interview had not travelled far yet. No one in the public transport pointed at the pig-tailed girl, or anything of the sorts. They were able to reach the bakery in peace. Something both girls were very thankful for.

They entered through the side door, and went directly to the bluenette’s house. The second they stepped in, their eyes were met by Tom and Sabine’s disapproving looks.

Suddenly, Alya felt the impact of what had just happened crash down on her.

“Anything you want to tell us, Marinette?” Sabine spoke first, arms crossed and left foot tapping the floor. Alya looked at her friend. She could almost swear the girl’s pig tails drooped, as Marinette lowered her gaze in shame. “When were you planning on telling us you have had a boy in our home without permission?”

Marinette’s lip trembled. Alya had never seen her friend so defeated.

“I didn’t mean to…” she spoke in a barely audible whisper. As a response, Sabine exhaled and shook her head.

“Sweetie,” she took a few steps towards her daughter, and placed a hand under the girl’s chin, lifting her head. “Were you afraid we were gonna say no?”

Marinette pressed her lips together, making them a thin line. Slowly, she nodded. But Alya knew better. Marinette was lying about her reasons.

“Marinette, you should know that your friends are always welcome here, especially superhero ones,” Sabine spoke with a soft smile. “What I don’t approve of is you hiding it from us.”

“I’m sorry,” the pig-tailed girl said quietly. Tom took a step forward, arms crossed over his chest.

“From now on, we’re going to need you to tell us when he’s coming.”

“He…” Marinette hesitated for a moment, but seemed to decide on something. “He never really announces his visits. He just shows up.”

“Then we’ll need to know when he’s here,” Tom finalized. “Especially now with the mess you two made.”

The designer grimaced with the reminder of the fiasco they called an interview. Sabine turned to the young journalist.

“Alya,” the redhead lifted her eyes, “I know you can fix this. Please.”

Alya gulped, but nodded nonetheless. She already knew it was up to her. But before she could try anything, there was something else she had to do.

“I will do my best, Mrs. Cheng,” she assured the blue-haired woman. “Would you mind if I talk to Marinette for a little while?”

Tom and Sabine exchanged questioning looks, before looking back and nodding. Alya thanked them and glanced at Marinette. The pig-tailed girl glanced back, but diverted her eyes away quickly.

Quietly, the two girls made their way to the pink bedroom on the top floor. Once inside, Alya grabbed her friend again and dragged her to the rolling chair near the desk. The redhead placed her hands on the blue-eyed girl’s shoulders, and asked: “Why didn’t you tell me?”

Marinette sighed, like she knew this conversation was coming. She lifted her knees up to her chin, and kept her eyes downcast. She mumbled something under her breath, that sounded an awful lot like “I don’t know.” Alya took a deep breath, almost afraid about what she was about to ask.

“Did… Did you think I was gonna out you?” she asked, disbelief and hesitance mixed in her voice. Marinette’s response: she flinched. Are you serious?

“Maybe not out me, exactly,” Marinette spoke in a very quiet voice, almost inaudible. “I just know how much you love Ladybug and Chat Noir, a-and I didn’t even think about it, honestly. I- it just felt like something I should keep secret…” she trailed off.

Alya had never actually pitied her friend until this very moment. She seemed so defeated, like she had done one of the biggest mistakes of her life. She squeezed the designer’s shoulders before speaking again.

“Marinette, I am your best friend, I would never do that to you, even at the cost of my Ladyblog,” she stated with a firm tone. Marinette looked up, her eyes glistening with unshed tears. “And if you had told me, we could have avoided all of this. I could have found a way to get you out of the interview, or make Chat Noir help out, anything!”

Marinette bit her lip.

“I’m sorry…” she whispered, as she lowered her legs from the chair. Alya took another deep breath.

“Girl,” and just like that, she wrapped her arms around Marinette. “You know you can count on me whenever you need it. Heck, you could be Ladybug herself, and I would keep it a secret if you asked me.”

Marinette tightened her grip on the redhead, in a sign of appreciation. They held each other for a moment, before Alya pulled away, and gave her friend one of her biggest smiles. Marinette gave a half chuckle, half sob, but the tears never fell.

“Now,” Alya returned to a more serious tone, “if we’re gonna fix this, I’m gonna need you to tell me everything.”

As a response, she got a groan from her best friend. A move that prompted the young reporter to place fists on her hips.

“Fine,” Marinette sighed. Alya smiled and pulled the other rolling chair to make herself comfortable.

“Start with when this started,” the redhead went into reporter-mode. Marinette started fiddling with her fingers.

“The first visit was the day he saved me from Entangler.”

“So you weren’t lying about that one?” Marinette shook her head.

“And… I did hit him with a watering can,” the girl cringed as she said it. Alya couldn’t help but snort.

“So, you see a superhero, and your first instinct is attacking him?” she tried to contain a few giggles. Marinette scowled.

“It was an accident!” she defended herself, which only made Alya laugh harder. “I thought he was an intruder or something. My instincts told me to defend myself.”

“Okay, okay,” Alya raised her hands in surrender. “So you threw a watering can at him, then what?”

And Marinette went on to tell her how they spoke for a little while that day. Then how Chat Noir had suggested to visit again, and how Marinette had felt compelled to offer her friendship. How he kept visiting after that for the next week, until she saved him for the second time. How the day after that, they had decided to stay away from each other, until the whole thing blew over. And how Chat broke the rule last Saturday, which ended up in an argument.

“So he knew about the interview?!” Alya burst, outraged. Marinette opened her mouth and raised an index finger, but quickly faltered. Like she realized something.

“Actually, he knew I was going to an interview, but I never told him with who nor when,” she clarified. Her eyes went wide. “He didn’t know Nadja was the one interviewing me.”

Alya sighed, and placed a hand on her forehead. “Looks like you two have a communication problem, too.” She straightened up and looked at her friend again. “There’s one thing you still haven’t explained, though,” she continued, “how does Chat Noir know you like Adrien?”

Marinette went stiff, her fingers tightly holding the edges of her seat, and let out a tiny whimper. Alya arched an eyebrow.

“Uuuhhh… weeell,” she cleared her throat, “the day before Monsieur Barbier, it started raining while he was visiting, so I invited him inside and…” she trailed off, but Alya didn’t need her to finish.

“He saw your Adrien posters,” she completed the sentence. Marinette nodded vigorously. Alya got the urge to slap a hand to her face again, but resisted it this time. Instead, she looked around the room. As she did, she noticed something. “Speaking of which, is it just me, or have you taken down a few posters?”

“Oh yeah,” Marinette followed her best friend’s gaze, absentmindedly. “After that day, I took down a few. Didn’t want to look so obsessed.”

“Why do you care what he thinks?” Alya narrowed her eyes towards the designer. The girl grimaced at the question.

“I don’t care about what he thinks!” she quickly blurted out. “This is about self-dignity. I don’t need more smartass comments from him,” she waved her hand in dismissal. Of course, she couldn’t see the slight shade of pink that was covering her cheeks, which Alya could clearly see. She crossed her arms and legs, leaned back on her chair and gave her friend a smirk.

“You’re still holding out on me, girl,” she said.

“What are you talking about, I’ve told you everything,” Marinette looked at her in bewilderment. Alya huffed about what her best friend couldn’t see.

In fact, now that she thought about it, Marinette and Chat Noir bickered like a married couple back at the radio station. Despite the disaster that was the interview, there was some amusement to be found in the whole situation. Marinette acted so freely around him. She seemed so comfortable.

And she totally cared for him.

Marinette may not know it herself yet, but the way her cheeks flared just know, how quick she was to deny anything between them… There was something between Chat and Marinette that transcended beyond what she could understand. Something that, from the looks of it, Marinette didn’t understand it herself, either.

“Okay,” Alya beamed, basking in her own internal discovery.

“Okay?” Marinette frowned.

“Okay,” the redhead repeated. “I will work on a new strategy to fix this whole mess, I will make some calls and I’m gonna need to talk to Chat Noir too, if we want the dust to settle.”

“Right,” the designer nodded. “I’ll tell him next time he visits. I’m sure we can settle a meet.”

“Excellent!” Alya gave her best friend two thumbs up and rose up. “I’ll let you know if anything new comes up.” She started walking towards the trapdoor. “Oh, and,” she turned to Marinette again, “no more secrets, okay?”

The pig-tailed girl hesitated for a moment, before responding: “I’ll tell you everything you need to know.”

Alya said her goodbyes and climbed down from the room. Hopefully, this could be fixed. No. She would make sure it got fixed, no matter the cost. As a member of the press, she would not allow her best friend’s life be ruined for the sake of entertainment.


While some may feel bad about breaking a window to get out of a building, Adrien felt no shame when he did it to get out of the most embarrassing situation he had ever been in. Shortly after Alya dragged Marinette out of the studio, he made a jump for it, because there was no way he was going to make their situation any worse than it already was.

He had been pacing around his room for twenty minutes already. From the moment he got there, he incessantly ranted, more to himself than to Plagg. First it was about how stupid he had been for telling the world she liked… Well, him. Then he progressed to fuming about how she slipped up. About how right he had been. Then he was kicking himself for letting her go in the first place. And now, he was just asking over and over again how in the heck did they get in this situation.

“This was not supposed to happen! How did this happen?! How did I let this happen?! Oh man, Ladybug is gonna kill me. What is she gonna say about all this? How is she gonna take it? What if she stops trusting me? I just sold out a friend. How is she supposed to trust me ever again? How am I ever—?”

“Kid, you’re giving me a headache!” Plagg suddenly burst from the coffee table. At last, Adrien stopped on his tracks. He scowled at the kwami.

“Plagg, this is serious!”

“I know,” Plagg cradled a piece of cheese in his tiny paws. “But I can’t think when you’re asking a hundred questions at the same time. Take a break, please”

The boy groaned, but slumped on the white sofa, nonetheless. They sat quietly for a moment, Plagg munching on camembert. After he swallowed, he sat up straighter, and stared intently at his charge.

“What’s done is done. Stop asking yourself how could this happen and ask what you’re going to do instead.”

The model mulled over what the little god’s advice. For a lazy bum, he sure had his moments. He took a deep breath.

“Okay, let me think,” Adrien pondered, a hand going up to his chin. “I can’t take back what we said, so the best we can do is damage control. I have to talk to Marinette about all this, not just as Chat Noir, but as Adrien. I should also help her out getting away from paparazzi. Maybe show her some of my tricks to avoid them.”

“You ‘houl’ also afologi’e for tellin’ all Pahis she like’ you,” the cat kwami added with a mouthful of the smelly food. Adrien winced, remembering his stupid slip up.

“Yeah,” he sighed. Plagg swallowed.

“Let’s hope she didn’t get akumatized out of embarrassment alone,” the small cat casually said. But the statement made saucers out of the blond’s eyes. He had not thought about that! Others had been akumatized for less!

“I gotta check on her!” he was suddenly on his feet.

“What?”

“Plagg, transform me!”

“Waitwait—” but like many times, Plagg was rudely dragged into the miraculous ring. Once transformed, Chat Noir leaped to the outside world from his window.

He jumped from rooftop to rooftop as fast as he could. Begging, praying that his worst fears hadn’t become true. It was bad enough he had to fight Nino once. He didn’t want to fight a close friend ever again, much less Marinette.

He slowed his pace once he reached the building complex where her house was. The ambience didn’t seem disturbed, so he peered around her home, making sure there were no reporters outside of it. Luckily, there were none at that hour. Nevertheless, he kept himself low as he sneaked to Marinette’s balcony. With great care, a claw tapped on the trapdoor that lead to her room.

It was an agonizing twenty seconds for Chat Noir. The fear that it wouldn’t open and a scream would resound somewhere in the city was too great. The thought that he was too late kept running circles in his mind.

I’m such an idiot! What have I done? I should’ve thought about how it would affect her. Heck, I should have thought before I opened my big

The latch creaked open, and shiny blue eyes met wide green ones.

“Chat?” Marinette whispered in confusion. “What are you doing here?”

Relief quickly flooded the leather-clad hero. He let out the breath of those twenty seconds he waited, and took a new one to start speaking.

“Hey, um, may I come in?” The girl before him seemed to hesitate for a moment. She glimpsed into her room for a second, and turned back to him, finally agreeing with a silent ‘sure’. As he lowered himself inside, Marinette went to the trapdoor leading to the rest of the house and locked it. It wasn’t until he hopped down from the loft and was standing in front of the girl he betrayed, that it occurred to him he had no idea how to begin.

And from the looks of it, neither did Marinette.

They stood silently, awkwardly, waiting for the other to start.

“Mari—”

“Chat—”

They blinked.

“You go—” they started again in unison. Chat cleared his throat.

“You know what, let me start, because I really have to say this,” he almost begged, hands clasped together over his chest. Marinette sighed, but agreed anyway. Chat Noir took a deep breath, and started his apology. “Marinette: I am so, so, so sorry for saying you like Adrien on live radio, and I’m sorry I accepted that interview with Nadja Chamack. I had no idea she was the one who was going to interview you, and I had no idea it was the same interview as yours. And I’m sorry for arguing with you when everyone was listening. I’m really, really—”

“Chat,” Marinette interrupted, placing a hand on his shoulder and the other on her chest. “I’m sorry. I should’ve listened to you when you warned me about the media. You were right. My plan backfired completely. I should’ve known they would pull something like that—”

“The only way you could have known is if I had told you about my interview,” Chat stepped in. “Honestly, your plan was working before they pushed me into the studio. That was the most boring interview I have ever heard in my life.”

“It doesn’t change the fact that I was the one who let it slip that we’re friends,” she insisted. Chat paused. He had been so worried that she could get akumatized, that he almost forgot about that detail. Basically, they both messed up. “That one is on me,” Marinette continued. “I shouldn’t have let my emotions cloud my better judgement, again.”

“Again?”

“It’s a long story,” she waved a hand in dismissal. “The point is that this could have been avoided,” her arms flailed and she started pacing around her room. Chat simply followed her with his gaze. “And now, thanks to my stupid blunder, I placed a large target over me. Not just for the press, but for akumas. I wouldn’t be surprised if Hawkmoth was also listening to that interview. And the worst part is that now everyone’s gonna think I’m important to you or something.

“That’s not the worst part,” Chat intervened, his heart starting to quicken, shorting his breath.

“What is the worse part?”

“That they’re right.”

Marinette halted. He was starting to feel the fast beating in his throat, making it hard to swallow. What the heck is wrong with me? Why am I so nervous? he furiously thought. He had always cared for the girl in front of him, so; why was it so hard to admit it? She was his friend after all. The first person he ever called a friend after entering public school.

The blue-haired designer slowly turned to look at him. That’s when he noticed the light shade of pink on her cheeks. Before courage deserted him completely, he closed the distance between them and wrapped his arms around her.

Time stood still, as he tightened his grip on her. Marinette was tense for a moment, but her body slowly relaxed. He felt her warm hands slide up his back, and rest upon his shoulder blades. This was the closest he had ever been to her. And that closeness made his sudden fear grow even more. The thought of her getting hurt because of him… No. He couldn’t let anything happen to her. She was a very important friend to him.

He couldn’t lose her.

“It’s gonna be okay,” Marinette whispered against his neck. “I can take care of myself.”

“I know,” Chat responded softly. If he was being honest with himself, he was a little afraid of pulling away. But not because of the fear inside him at the moment. No. It was the heat he was feeling on his cheeks. He could feel them burning like the sun on summer. Sure, he hugged his friends often, specially Nino and Chloé, but he was rarely the one to initiate them. There was also something about hugging Marinette that felt both comforting and familiar. Familiar in a sense that felt deeper than friendship.

He squeezed her even tighter and closed his eyes, as if that would help the thoughts disappear.

“Chat, we’ll figure this out,” Marinette spoke a little strained. “I’m sure Ladybug will help out too.”

The hero’s eyes snapped open at the mention of his partner. He finally pulled away enough to look into the designer’s bluebells.

“Ladybug,” he repeated, staring intently at the girl in front of him. “She… She’s gonna kill me.”

“Hey, no, listen,” Marinette’s hands slid from under his arms to cup his face, “I am sure Ladybug will understand. People make mistakes, and I’m sure she’ll understand that.” She gave him a reassuring smile and brought her hands down to his chest. “How about from now on we try to communicate a little better? And not yell at each other.”

A chuckle escaped from Chat’s chest. Without thinking, he tucked a lose hair behind her ear, and gave her a soft smile.

“Sounds like a plan, Princess.”

They stood there for a moment, Chat’s thumb stroking Marinette’s cheek. His heart was ramming against his ribcage for some reason. He felt like something was about to happen. Something exciting, that made each beat sound like thunder in his ears. Something—

“OH!” Marinette suddenly slapped a hand against her forehead. “I almost forgot! Alya told me that she needs to talk to you.”

“Huh?” Chat blinked out of his strange daze.

“Yeah,” she quickly ran to her desk, searching for something. Meanwhile, Chat tried to figure out what had just gone through his head. “She’s gonna help us fix this whole mess, but she needs both of us to get our stories straight. Aha!” she exclaimed, holding a packet of sticky notes, triumphantly. “Since you’re the one who’s hard to track down, we need you to set the date. What day would be good for you?”

“Uh,” Chat barely managed to get out, still processing what just happened. He shook his head to clear it. “Tomorrow’s good. At six. The sooner we get this over with, the better.”

“Exactly,” Marinette wrote on a sticky note. When she finished, she ripped it off and stuck it on Chat Noir’s chest. He took it in his hand and marveled at how the ‘i’ in mardi was pointed with a heart. “So you don’t forget,” she added, leaning forward with her hands on her back.

A toothy grin spread over Chat’s face. He gave her an exaggerated bow and said: “This knight will not disappoint you, Princess.”

“I’m sure he won’t,” Marinette snickered. “Anyway, you should get going before my parents call for dinner.”

“Right,” Chat pointed a finger gun at his friend. “I’ll climb out of your tower, before the King and Queen have me beheaded.”

Marinette shook her head in amusement, while Chat scrambled to the circular window behind her chaise lounge.

“I’ll see you around?” she called out when he already had one foot outside the room.

“Defur—Ow!” the leather-clad hero rubbed the crown of his head, which hit the top of the window. Marinette clapped a hand to her mouth, unsuccessfully trying to cover up a snort. Chat pouted at her for a moment, but her silent laughter made it hard for him to keep the expression. “See ya, Marinette.” He gave her a two-fingered salute and vaulted away to a nearby rooftop.

His heart was still giving strange flips on his way back home, but he ignored them. Instead, he focused on the sheer happiness he was feeling. He still had his friend. She didn’t hate him for what happened. If anything, their friendship had just become stronger.


Marinette giggled as Chat Noir bounced away from rooftop to rooftop. She was so glad they managed to fix things, that her friend was still her friend. Heck, if anything, they had become closer. A thought that elated her, and made her smile with pure joy. She sighed in content, closing the window and turning back to her room. She crossed to her desk and opened her sketch book, all of a sudden feeling very inspired to design something. Anything.

Something good. Something that described her inexplicable happiness at that very moment. Something inspiring to others, that would make them feel what she was feeling, despite the fact she wasn’t sure what it was. But it was nice and bright. It was…

“Is that ‘Rockin Tonight with You’ you’re humming?”

“Huh?” Marinette turned to Tikki, who was sitting on the computer mouse. Marinette stared in bewilderment for a moment because of the question. Then it dawned on her: she had been absentmindedly humming the Jagged Stone rock ballad since Chat Noir left.

She kept staring until Tikki let out a giggle.

“What?!” she snapped.

“Alya was right. You are still holding out on her,” Tikki teased.

“What is that supposed to mean?” Marinette crossed her arms, only slightly irritated.

“Nothing,” Tikki dismissed her. “I’ll let you figure this one out.”

And with those last words, the little kwami fluttered up the loft where the bed was, leaving the young designer with only one question: Why does everybody keep saying that?


The large amount of reporters waiting outside Collège Françoise Dupont the next day came as no surprise to Marinette. The second she crossed the street, microphones, recorders and cellphones were pushed to her face. Her path had been completely blocked, with the help of people holding cameras behind some of the reporters. All she could hear were the clicks of photojournalists and incessant questions thrown at the same time.

“Miss Dupain-Cheng, is it true you’re close with famous superhero Chat Noir?”

“Do you know his secret identity?”

“How long have you known each other?”

“Have you had any romantic relationship with Chat Noir?”

“Is the Adrien he mentioned famous model Adrien Agreste?”

“Are you two-timing the two famous boys?”

“What?!” Marinette stopped her attempts of getting to school after hearing the preposterous question. She turned to look at a portly, middle-aged woman with flaming red hair. She was in a flowered blouse, holding a microphone with a logo she recognized, but couldn’t remember at the moment from where.

“Are you two timing Chat Noir and Adrien Agreste?” the woman with red trimmed glasses dared to ask again. How dare she?! Who does she think I am?! Marinette opened her mouth to respond, but was interrupted by a loud outburst from someone behind all the journalists and paparazzi.

“NO COMMENT!” An arm pushed itself through the crowd, reaching out for her hand. Marinette barely got time to glimpse at the silver ring, when the mysterious boy’s fingers entwined between hers and pulled her to the school.

“Mister Agreste, care to comment on Chat Noir’s reveal yesterday?”

“Are you and Miss Dupai-Cheng in a relationship?”

“Is it true she won one of your father’s fashion competitions?”

“Do you worry she’s using you to get ahead in her career?”

Marinette’s jaw dropped in incredulity. What is wrong with these people?! She had never seen reporters so relentless. Not even as Ladybug. Not even Alya, who she knew to be pretty pushy at times. She was so caught up with the nonsense they were asking, her brain barely registered the fact that she was holding hands with… Adrien freaking Agreste!

Her eyes snapped to the blond who was dragging her up the steps and ducked just in time under Principal Democles’ arm, who was standing at the entrance.

“Ladies and gentleman of the press! May I remind you that this is a school, and you are not allowed to be in the premises with your cameras or microphones. Unless you want to be escorted out by the Police.”

The threat was all they needed to finally scatter. Some tried to linger a little longer, but they got one last look at the grouching old man, and decided to leave too. Principal Democles turned to Marinette and Adrien, who were still standing only a few meters from the entrance. He gave them a courteous nod and walked to his office. Marinette gave a loud sigh, and so did someone right next to her.

“Are you okay?” Her bluebells rose to meet spring green eyes, that were shining into hers with concern. She began to become daze, until she remembered the reason he had to drag her away from the media. The reason there was so much press in the first place. Her eyes went wide, and her lips turned into a line.

“A-Adrien… I’m—”

“YOU!” The two teens jumped when an approaching voice bellowed to them. Marinette couldn’t help but groan the moment she caught sight of the girl with the black t-shirt, decorated with a bright green paw print and the words Chat Noir Fan Club embroidered on it.

“Charline—”

“You little tramp! How dare you play with Chat Noir’s feelings like that!”

“Excuse me,” Marinette huffed with the accusation, her free hand going to her hip. “I’m not playing with anyone’s feelings here. Chat Noir and I are not a couple.”

“Then why didn’t you deny it yesterday, huh?!” the girl with dirty blond hair fired back. Marinette growled.

“I did! It’s not my fault people focused on Chat’s stupid answer instead of mine.”

Charline pointed her index at the pig-tailed girl, her gray eyes shooting into the bluebells. “You’re not getting away with this, Dupain-Cheng.” Her braid slapped Marinette’s face as she whipped around, marching away to the lockers.

This morning just kept getting better and better. And she hadn’t reached her classroom yet! Anything else the world wanted to throw at her this early?

As if the question the question needed to be answered, the sound of someone clearing his throat brought her back from her thoughts.

Right. Adrien.

Adrien!

“Uh, who was that?” he asked tentatively.

Oh good, and easy question.

“That’s Charline Neveu,” she responded in the most nonchalant way possible. “She’s president of the Chat Noir Fan Club and jump rope champion. Totally obsessed with Chat.”

“Huh. I see.” Adrien lifted his free hand to his chin in thought. Wait… Free hand? Marinette’s eyes wandered down to her hand, only to realized her fingers were still tangled with Adrien’s. She could feel her heart beat quicken, rising up to her throat.

She was holding hands with Adrien.

Holding hands with Adrien!

How many times had she had to repeat something amazing in her mind in the last few minutes?

Unintentionally she let out a squeak, which broke the blond model out of his thoughts.

“What is it?” He took a step forward. But Marinette kept her gaze fixed on their hands. Slowly, Adrien followed the trail, and his breath hitched when he noticed it too.

“Ah.” At last, he loosened his grip on her. Marinette had to bite back a whimper of disappointment as their hands became their own again. “Sorry,” he added.

“N-no! Don’t be!” the blue-haired girl blurted out. “T-thank you, actually. You saved me b-back there…” but she trailed off, once again remembering why she needed saving. The beating from her heart slowed, and it sank from her throat to her stomach. He must know. He had to know. Everybody did. She let out a defeated sigh. “Actually, I’m sorry, Adrien.”

Adrien arched an eyebrow, taken aback. “Sorry for what?”

“I’m sorry Chat Noir put us on the spot like that,” her hand reached for her elbow, as her shoulders slouched. “He didn’t mean to say it on a live broadcast. It was an accident. And I know he’s really sorry too.”

“Oh,” Adrien’s entire being seem to falter. “Right. That.”

Oh no, what did I do? Marinette’s mind started going into a panicked frenzy. The last thing she wanted was to make him feel uncomfortable.

“D-don’t worry! You don’t have to do anything! You don’t have to be my boyfriend. Not that I expected it. I mean, I d-don’t expect it because you don’t like me. I mean, you like me, but not like me, like me. Or do you? No! I shouldn’t be asking you that! Bad Marinette!” she slapped her own hand, as if reprimanding a child. She was about to continue her blubbering mess when a warm, carefree laugh broke through.

The next second, a wave of heat invaded her shoulders, Adrien’s fingers squeezing them.

“Calm down, Marinette,” he chuckled. “I know that wasn’t how you wanted me to find out. And I know you would never force me to anything. You’re not that kind of person.” But the curve that was his smile slowly turned into a line. “Maybe, it’s not the right time to discuss this, especially with the media watching your every move.”

Wait… did he just say we need to talk about it? There’s something to talk about? While Marinette tried not to get her hopes up, the implication of what he was saying was hard to miss.

“Are you—”

“Marinette!” This time, the designer didn’t even bother to be polite with a loud groan, directed at her best friend who should know better than to interrupt a moment with her crush. The redhead skidded in front of them from a run, heavily panting.

“Alya! Can’t you see I’m in the middle—”

“Sorry, Mari, but…huff…this is important,” she lifted her phone to the bluenette’s face, while she tried to catch her breath. There was a morning talk show playing on the screen, with a man in a suit and a woman in a white dress sitting on a purple couch. It seemed to be a live stream.

I mean, did you hear his voice when he said Adrien? You didn’t have to be in the room to feel the coldness in those words.”

You said it, Margot. That poor kitty is so in love, he doesn’t even know it. But how is this Adrien any competition at all?

Well I’ll tell ya, Dorian. People have been speculating that this Adrien is none other than famous model for Gabriel Fashion, Adrien Agreste.

Whaaat?

You heard right. It turns out that, not only do they go to the same school, but they’re in the same class. Looks like this girl has an eye for famous boys.”

But surely there are many Adriens in Paris. Couldn’t it be another?

I thought that too. Until our very own Annabelle Billard got exclusive footage of Adrien Agreste himself holding hands with said girl.” The screen was split into two squares, one showing the hosts of the show, and the other one a video from this very morning, when Adrien was dragging Marinette away from the crowd of reporters. “Looks like Miss Dupain-Cheng is quite the heartbreaker. I just hope Chat Noir and Adrien Agreste get out of her trap before it’s too late.

You said it, Margot. Well, coming up next, a snake that predicts the weather. Stay tuned to find out more.”

Marinette was almost crushing the phone, staring at it in horror, while Adrien slapped a hand to his face. This was too far. How dare they assume what Chat felt? How dare they call her a heartbreaker? How dare they assume she was using her friend and her crush? This was far beyond preposterous; this was an outrage. She’s just a teen, how dare they drag a teen through the mud like that?

This was television, for goodness sake! Anybody could be watching! Her parents, her classmates, her enemies, her…

Wait—

“Alya, who in the school was watching this?” she asked, urgently. The redhead, who had composed herself from the sprint, fiddled with her fingers. She silently cleared her throat, and responded: “Everyone.”

As if on cue, screams flooded the school, and students started running out of a classroom on the second floor. Alya, Marinette and Adrien huddled a little closer subconsciously, eyes trained to the source of the screaming. A loud cackle burst through the yelling, and a black blur shot out to stand on the railing.

A girl with dirty blond hair in a braid, and a leather black suit with cat ears, trained her eyes to the gaping trio near the entrance, a smirk forming on her lips.

“You have played with Chat Noir’s feelings for the last time, Marinette Dupain-Cheng.”

The three teens blinked. Finally, Marinette opened her mouth.

“Oh, you’ve got to be kidding me.”

Chapter Text

“Run!” Adrien yelled, right before he grabbed Marinette’s hand and started dragging her away. Subsequently, Marinette grabbed Alya’s wrist to bring her along.

“NO!” the akuma bellowed, taking a rope from her hip. She swung it towards the running trio, and the weapon wrapped around the designer’s ankle. Marinette fell to the ground, accidentally making Adrien and Alya hit it, too.

Before she could even attempt to get up, the cat-themed villain pulled the pig-tailed girl towards her, until she was hanging upside down between the first and second floor. In the process, her school bag dropped to the floor, but thankfully she was able to hold on to her purse.

“You have played with Chat Noir’s feelings for the last time, Marinette Dupain-Cheng!” The girl hanging by the rope furrowed her eyebrows.

“Charline?!”

“NO! That’s Chatte Noir for you!” the akuma corrected, irritated.

“I’ll go get help!” Marinette heard Adrien say down on the first floor, and brought down (up?) her gaze just in time to see him run off to the school’s exit.

“Let her go!” Alya demanded. Marinette turned to her in surprise. “She’s not with Chat Noir. Those’re just rumors!”

“LIES!” Chatte Noir pointed a finger to the young reporter. “I saw Margot and Dorian’s show this morning!”

“Those two make stuff up all the time!” Alya retorted, exasperated. “Their show is a joke. They wouldn’t know real journalism even if it hit them in the face.”

“I heard the audio! My poor Chat Noir sounded so heartbroken.”

Your Chat Noir?” a voice on the opposite site of the courtyard called. Perched on a railing of the second floor was the real cat-themed hero, with a smirk plastered on his face. “Sorry lady, but this cat’s loyalties lie with someone else.”

“Chat Noir!” the akuma squealed and clasped her hands together. But in doing so, she accidentally let go of the rope holding Marinette. The girl crashed with a loud thud and a squeak, with no one able to get to her on time.

A few ooo’s and ouch’s were heard from several corners of the school, while Chat Noir winced.

“You okay there, Princess?” Chat called.

“Are you seriously calling me that now?!” Marinette responded as she rubbed her lower back.

“She’s no princess!” Chatte Noir intervened. “She’s a low life tramp who two-times famous boys. She doesn’t deserve cute names!”

“Jeez, why do you have to yell everything,” Chat complained, using his index fingers to cover his ears. In the meantime, Marinette untangled what she now realized was a jumping rope from her ankle. This has to be where the akuma is.

“Psst, Alya,” she whispered. The redhead turned to her. “Keep her distracted.”

Alya gave her a thumbs up and a wink. “Yeah. Princesses don’t yell. Maybe you can pass off as an evil stepsister,” she yelled at the villain.

Chatte Noir growled at the insult. Her attention was directed at the young reporter now.

“It’s evil stepsisters the ones who go around hurting others,” she snarled. Alya retorted once again, but Marinette didn’t get to hear the rest. She managed to get away towards the restrooms. The second she made sure there was no one inside, she unclasped her purse.

“I’m pretty sure you heard all the commotion,” she said to the little red creature.

“Should have known it would be a matter of time,” Tikki lamented. Marinette sighed.

“I guess. But now is not the time to ponder on that. Tikki, transform me!” A flash of pink light invaded the room, and left Ladybug standing in all her power. Like many other times, she jumped out the window and swung to the rooftop of the school. She ran until reaching the hole that was the courtyard. But the scene she found was not exactly what she expected.

For how long was I transforming?

Chatte Noir was jumping around in circles, while Alya was holding for dear life to the end of her rope, all the while Chat Noir was running after them both.

“Alya, let go!” he called to the redhead.

“I know the akuma is in her rope!” she yelled. Right then, the villain fiercely flung her weapon, once again trying to shake off the unwanted holder.

“Get off!” she screamed in frustration. Chat tried to grab at Alya, but Chatte tugged on the rope just in time to avoid him. Ladybug couldn’t help but slap a hand to her face. She really needed to have a long talk with Alya about getting too involved in akuma attacks.

A sudden yelp made her come out of her annoyance just in time to see Alya flying through the air. The spotted heroine barely made time to gasp. Her yo-yo lodged itself to one of the railings, allowing her to swing to save her friend. Her arm caught the journalist by the waist and dragged her to a spot away from the fight.

“What were you thinking?!” she blurted out.

“The akuma is in the rope!” Alya pointed towards the enemy. “I just know it!”

Ladybug slammed her hands on the girl’s shoulders. “I appreciate the help, but you could have gotten seriously hurt. Please, don’t do that again.”

Alya blinked, but Ladybug didn’t wait for a response. Instead, she turned on her heels and ran towards the cat fight on the other side of the school. Chatte Noir was using her rope like it was a whip, trying to slap Chat with it. Unlucky for her, the hero kept dodging and blocking her attacks with his baton, which had been split in two.

“Hey!” Ladybug called, throwing her trusty yo-yo and managing to entwine it with the end of Chatte Noir’s jumping rope. “Chat, I need you—whoa!”

The akuma pulled on her rope, making Ladybug stumble forward, and the yo-yo loosen off Chatte Noir’s weapon. Almost immediately, Chatte waved her rope, but Ladybug rolled just in time to avoid the whip-like hit. The hero had to dodge two more times, until in the third one, she started spinning her yo-yo and blocked it instead. Chatte Noir growled.

“Stop moving!”

“But we’d lose,” Chat automatically retorted. “That would be a catastrophe.”

Ladybug groaned. That one was really bad.

“Give it up, Chatte Noir!” the spotted hero said with determination.

“No!” And with no other words, the villain wrapped the end of the rope to a railing and pulled herself up to the school’s roof. Ladybug was about to follow, but was stopped by a clawed hand on her wrist.

“Where’s Marinette?” Chat Noir looked around as he asked.

“Uh-She’s safe,” Ladybug nervously answered, pulling out of his hold. “Let’s go Chat. We can’t let her get away.” With a swing of her yo-yo, she pulled herself up to the school’s roof and started running across rooftops after the fanatic akuma. Chat Noir quickly followed her.

They jumped, dropped and slid from one building to another, using their weapons to cross larger gaps. Suddenly, a rope tightened in front of them. While Chat Noir managed to dodge it in time and slip under it, Ladybug did not have the same luck.

Her face smacked right onto the imposter’s weapon, making her fall on her back. Again.

“Ladybug!” Chat called back.

“Ugh, this really isn’t my day,” Ladybug muttered, rubbing her nose. As Chat Noir helped her up, the rope loosened, and Chatte Noir jumped from behind a chimney, landing ahead of them.

“Come on, chaton,” the akuma stretched her weapon between her hands. “I’m on your side here. I’m only defending your honor.”

“Okay, no,” Chat Noir raised a finger, while his other hand landed on his hip. “Sorry lady, but only two women in my life get to call me that, and you are neither.”

“Aww,” Ladybug gushed, placing a hand on her chest. “So kind, chaton.”

“Kind enough to earn me a kiss?” Chat wiggled his eyebrows and leaned towards her, puckering his lips. Ladybug’s giddy look quickly turned into a deadpan one, as she placed two fingers over his mouth and pushed him away.

“Aaand you ruined it,” she stated, receiving a chuckle from Chat in return. “Come on. Let’s show her what it takes to be granted the honor.” With her yo-yo spinning, she ran head first towards Chatte Noir, followed by her partner, all the while ignoring the growing heat on her cheeks.

The cat-themed villain wasted no time in jumping out of the way. The rope shot like a whip to Ladybug, but was deflected by the spinning yo-yo. In the meantime, Chat tried to get her from another angle, but the attack was dodged. Despite that it was two against one, Chatte Noir was very agile. It was like fighting a combination of their powers: Chat Noir’s agility with Ladybug’s weapon skills.

After a while of forth and back, the rope wrapped itself around Chat’s baton, while Ladybug’s yo-yo wrapped around the rope. The three started pulling, but made no difference.

“Why are you two defending that tramp?!” Chatte huffed with annoyance. Ladybug was about to retort, but her partner beat her to it.

“Stop calling her that! You don’t know a thing about Marinette!”

“I know enough to see that she doesn’t deserve you!”

“You shouldn’t believe everything you hear,” Ladybug calmly responded. Now Chatte Noir’s attention was directed to her.

“I thought, of all people, you would understand, Ladybug. She stole your man!”

“Yeah, she wishes.” Ladybug chuckled. Then she paused, eyes startled at her own words. “Wait, what?”

But whatever epiphany she was about to have was interrupted, as the akuma took advantage of the momentary distraction to launch forward. She kicked Chat Noir’s baton and managed to loosen Ladybug’s grip. Once freed, she started running again. Without hesitation, the two heroes followed, all the way to the park near Marinette’s house.

When they landed, Chatte Noir was standing in front of their statue. Ladybug frowned.

“Enough is enough. Lucky Charm!” The yo-yo worked its magic, and from the ladybugs emerged what looked like a paper butterfly. She frowned. “What am I supposed to do with this?”

“I thought we were supposed to be getting rid of butterflies, not creating them,” Chat couldn’t help but comment. Just then, the rope wrapped around Chat’s baton and pulled him forward, prompting the hero and the akuma to engage in battle again. Ladybug took the opportunity to try and figure out the object on her hand. She noticed the bottom wings were a bit odd.

That’s when she realized what it was. Her eyes quickly darted across the park, noticing a man drinking coffee from a thermos, and then the large fountain.

I got it.

“Chat!” she called to her partner as she ran to the man with the thermos. “Sorry, sir, I need this,” she grabbed it, despite the man’s protests, and threw it at Chat, who caught it by instinct. Then, she whistled at Chatte Noir. “Hey! Isn’t it contradictory to be fighting who you claim to love?”

Chatte Noir huffed, before she leaped backwards, away from Chat.

“Our love is stronger than any fight can break,” the blonde stretched the rope between her hands.

“For goodness sake,” Chat quietly groaned, but both girls ignored him.

“Don’t flatter yourself,” Ladybug retorted, a little sharper than intended. But thankfully, it got the effect she was hoping for. Chatte Noir launched, trying to wrap the rope around her. The heroine dodged just in time, all the while winding the butterfly toy in her hand. They were closer to the fountain. But not close enough.

“Is that all you got?” she provoked the akuma. Chatte ran head first, but Ladybug dodged once again.

She took a quick glance at Chat Noir, who instantly got the message. He threw the thermos behind Chatte, just as Ladybug let go of the toy butterfly, which fluttered on the villain’s face. The sudden object made the cat-themed villain stumble backwards and slip with the thermos, making her fall inside the fountain. The girl released a loud hiss, like a cat in an alley dumpster.

“Cataclysm!” Chat Noir yelled, instantly grabbing the rope and throwing the other end of it to Ladybug. The spotted heroine caught it and pulled, making the weapon shatter to ashes and release the akuma. As it was custom, Ladybug purified it and set it free. The butterfly toy was thrown into the air, and all property damage was repaired, along with a very confused Charline.

Bien joué!” The heroes bumped their fists in their celebratory ritual.

“What happened?” a low voice from behind them uttered. The two turned to find that the victim was still sitting on the floor. Ladybug was about to walk to her, but was stopped by a hand on her shoulder.

“I’ll handle this one,” he gave her a light squeeze before letting go and starting to Charline. When he reached her, he offered her a hand. “You were akumatized. But you’re safe now.”

The girl looked up at him, her face rapidly turning a dark shade of red. Ladybug crossed her arms, her nose scrunching up.

Is he seriously flirting with her? She stubbornly thought.

No, he’s just being nice, another part of her brain tried to reason. Yet, for some reason, it bugged her.

Well, she did call me a tramp, she tried to explain to herself. She then saw how Charline had started sputtering about how much she loved and admired Chat Noir. Ladybug couldn’t help but roll her eyes.

“This is really just a huge misunderstanding,” the spotted hero heard her partner say. “Marinette and I are not together. She’s not playing with my feelings like people are saying. Those are just rumors made up for ratings on a program.” Ladybug was about to swing away, but Chat continued. “Marinette is actually a very nice person, and she doesn’t deserve to be dragged through the mud like that.”

Ladybug turned back to them. Chat Noir’s tone actually came out… harsh. That was very unlike him. Charline even looked ashamed due to his words. Time to intervene.

“Okay, I think she’s got it, Chat,” she said, wrapping a hand on his arm. “Don’t worry Charline, everything will be fine, but we have to go now.”

She pulled her partner away as far as she could. She couldn’t shake off the feeling that this was going to start becoming a problem. As flattered as she was that he was defending her honor, it could end up being more harmful than good.

“What was—”

“Chat,” Ladybug interrupted, “we’re gonna have to talk about this.”

The boy blinked. “We don’t usually talk about common akumas.”

“Not her. About your… press situation.”

“Oh, that.” Chat Noir scratched the back of his head. A move which Ladybug was starting to find a bit endearing.

“Meet me at the usual spot at seventeen-thirty.”

“Actually, I have an appointment at eighteen hours,” Chat interjected. “It may be cutting it a bit close.”

“Don’t worry, I’m sure it won’t take long. See you later, chaton.” And with a wave of her hand, she was on her way back to the school. She barely reached a hidden spot on the side of it, when her transformation gave away. She cupped her hands so her kwami had a place to land. After a quick congratulation, Tikki zipped into the pink purse, and Marinette started running into the school. All she had did was step one foot in it, and Alya was suddenly in her way.

“Where have you been?!” The bespectacled girl flailed her arms, both hers and Marinette’s school bags hanging off her back.

“Uh-Ladybug placed me in a safe place. But I’m fine, and that’s what matters.”

Alya placed a hand on her chest. “You scared me, girl. I’ve been looking all over for you. Class has already started.”

The redhead held up the pink backpack for her friend. The pig-tailed girl took it with gratitude, and the two headed to their French class. When they reached the door, Marinette stopped and took a deep breath. At least class would have started when she got in. No break for anyone to say anything. Her shoulders squared, her back straight, and she finally pushed the door open.

The moment the two girls stepped inside, all eyes went to the designer. Marinette tried to simply ignore them. Pretend they didn’t exist. By looking at the floor.

“Marinette, Alya, please take your seats,” she directed them. The two friends didn’t need to be told twice. Not a moment had passed before they quietly went to their desks. It wasn’t until they were taking out their tablets that Marinette noticed something was missing.

BAM

The door to the classroom slammed open, and a frantic Adrien ran through it.

“Miss Bustier! I need help! I can’t find Marinette!” he blurted out, his green eyes wide, focused on the woman in front of the class. She gave him an amused look, before pointing towards Marinette’s desk. Adrien’s puzzled expression turned into one of relief the moment he noticed the pig-tailed girl.

“Please, take your seat, Adrien.”

“Yes, ma’am,” he responded, bashfully. He quietly took his seat, purposely ignoring a huff that came from the other desk at the front. Marinette, on the other hand, was doing her best to not gush about the fact that Adrien had been worried about her.

“Dude,” he heard a whisper in front of her. “Have you been looking for her this whole time?”

“No!” Adrien responded with a quiet yell. “I-uh…was looking for help. And I found Chat Noir on the way, and-uh…he went to the school. After that, I hid for a while and when I thought it was over, I went looking for Marinette, to make sure she was alright.”

Although she heard his entire response, Marinette barely got the second half of the story being told to Nino. Mainly because her brain was looping that Chat Noir and Adrien met! Oh nononononoNO! I hope Chat didn’t say something to him!

Her thoughts were interrupted, though, due to a snicker coming from the boy with the red cap.

“Met your competition, eh, bro?” He elbowed Adrien on the ribs teasingly.

“What?! No!”

“Adrien! Do you want to be sent to the principal’s office?” Miss Bustier reprimanded the blond.

“Sorry,” Adrien was quick to respond, straightening on his seat. When the teacher turned back to the class, the boy scowled at his friend, who was trying to muffle laughter.

“Shut up,” he said in a low voice, which only ignited more chuckles from Nino. Marinette internally groaned. This was going to be a lot harder than she thought. Heck, she almost wished for an akuma to avoid all the drama.


Morning classes had felt short that day, thanks to Chatte Noir. The bell rang at the same time as always, but the moment was not like always.

Marinette suddenly found herself surrounded by her classmates, asking questions at the same time.

“What’s it like being friends with Chat Noir? Is he really that handsome up close?”

“Have you touched his ears? Do they move?”

“Does his bell make noise?”

“Have you guys had a thing? Because it would be so romantic if you have.”

“You think I could take him on? Like on a race?”

“Hey, hey, hey, hey!” Alya intervened, her arms raised. “We’ve got enough questions from the press, we don’t need you guys asking stuff too.”

“Alya,” Marinette placed a hand on the redhead’s shoulder, giving it a reassuring squeeze, “I can’t run away from this forever. Besides, they’re not press.”

Alya gave her a hard look, but nodded in the end. “Just don’t screw up.”

Marinette nodded back. “Okay. Max,” she turned to the bespectacled boy in green, “I have not touched his ears, but they do move. Don’t know how, but I doubt there’s much science behind it, as opposed to magic. Alix,” now she looked at the pink-haired girl, “I wouldn’t know. I’ve never touched his bell. Kim,” her gaze went up to reach the tall boy in the red hoodie, “no, I don’t think you could take him on a race. Magical suit, remember? And Rose,” Marinette directed her eyes to the short blond, but paused.

She had just noticed everyone inch a bit closer. Like it was the question everyone wanted answered. Well, the three questions.

“No, Rose,” she finally responded. “Chat Noir and I are not and will not be a thing. We’re just… acquainted. But nothing more than that.”

“And is he handsome up close?” Rose asked again, her face lit up like a Christmas tree. Marinette hesitated for a moment. It wasn’t something she really thought about. Not often, at least. Maybe once or twice. She was also reluctant to answer that in front of Adrien, who was also part of the group listening intently to her answers. But if she didn’t answer, they would think something else.

“Well,” she started cautiously, “I guess you could say he’s handsome in an obvious kind of way, but he’s so goofy and ridiculous, you hardly notice.” She waved a hand in dismissal.

“I bet you could feel every one of his muscles in that suit,” Alix pointed out, to which Marinette’s bluebells widened.

“I-I wouldn’t know,” she lied. Of course she knew. She felt them all the time as Ladybug, and once as Marinette just the day before. She had especially felt his strong back.

“You liar,” Alix snickered, along with a few classmates. What the heck?

“Okay, enough questions,” Alya started pulling her friend.

“Hey, there’s no shame in it,” Alix smirked. “He’s a superhero after all. I’d be blushing too.”

“Blushing?!” Marinette blurted out, her hands clapping her cheeks. She could suddenly feel them very hot.

“You gotta admit: hero trumps model,” the pink-haired girl winked.

“I’m right here, you know,” Adrien huffed at Alix. Now Marinette could safely assume her face looked like a tomato.

“Oh, pah-lease,” a sneer cut through the class like a cold blade, as a spot in the crowd parted when Chloé finally decided to join in the discussion. The air became apprehensive now, tension beginning to rise. “You people are so gullible. Don’t you see what Marinette is doing? She probably told that mangy cat to say that she liked Adrien to get attention. What, being called ‘The girl who saved Chat Noir’,” she made air quotes as she said the last phrase, “was not enough fame for you?”

“That is not what happened,” Marinette retorted, her redness no longer of embarrassment, but of building anger. “Chat Noir… I don’t know why he said what he said.”

“Oh, wait, that’s right,” the girl with the ponytail gave a fake chuckle. “Because it was you who said something about talking to him on your balcony. Like a superhero would ever visit you.”

“Well, for your information—” but Marinette stopped, as a hand squeezed her bicep. She turned to see Alya giving her a pointed look, begging her to be mindful of her words. Marinette took a deep breath and nodded. “For your information, Chloé,” she continued in a more subdued tone, “Chat Noir and I have not talked enough to plan anything. Maybe if you had listened earlier, you would know that. And when a person is angry, they can say really dumb things.”

“Pah!” Chloé barked, her nostrils flaring. “And doing dumb things is so like you, isn’t it?”

A few growls were heard, but the pig-tailed girl barely noticed due to a certain blond stepping between the girls.

“Chloé, that’s not nice,” Adrien glared at his old friend. “If you have nothing productive to say, maybe you should just leave.”

Tiny gasps were heard, and Nino could be heard whispering: “Ooohhh, snap.” Marinette was also taken aback. While it was true that Adrien often called her out for being mean, he never told her to leave. Much less like that. Despite the Queen Bee’s attitudes, the boy always went easy on her in honor of their years long friendship. Meanwhile, Chloé looked like she had been slapped on the face, a hand on her chest.

“I think I have the most important fact to share here,” she snapped, her other hand landing on her hip. “From the looks of it, I’m the only one here who sees the attention seeker for what she is.”

“No, you’re not,” Adrien stood his ground. “You’re just being mean.”

“Yeah,” Nino stood next to his best friend. “Not cool, bro.”

“No one’s talking to you, four-eyes,” Chloé once again sneered.

“Who uses that insult anymore, seriously?” Kim had just stepped up to Adrien’s other side, his arms folded over his puffed chest. “Plus, you do realize your best friend wears glasses too, right?”

Chloé gasped and quickly turned to Sabrina, who was standing slightly behind her. The ginger simply shuffled her feet uncomfortably, avoiding the blonde’s eyes.

A finger poked Marinette’s arm. She turned to see Alya jerk her head towards the exit of the classroom. But the pig-tailed girl hesitated. At this point, Alix and Rose joined in the calling out of Chloé, and a shouting match had started. Although Adrien had become quiet, she still couldn’t wrap her head around the fact that he was the one to start defending her.

Alya tugged on her jacket. Reluctantly, Marinette followed. Once they were walking in the hallway, Alya started speaking.

“From now on, keep your mouth shut unless I say so.” Marinette scowled.

“I think I did pretty well,” she defended herself.

“Sure.” Alya arched an eyebrow. “Until you started blushing.”

Marinette sputtered and halted so suddenly, she almost fell face-first to the floor.

“I was not!”

Alya sighed. “Sure.” She then kept walking like it was nothing. Marinette huffed before she started marching alongside her best friend. For the rest of the afternoon, she continued to try and convince her that she had not been blushing.


His father needed to speak to him. Of course his father needed to speak to him. Adrien didn’t even need to be told. From the moment he saw Nathalie standing in front of the school after classes were over, he knew what was coming. So Adrien cautiously walked into his father’s study. He was pretty sure he knew what this was about. After all, he did get himself into this mess, both as Chat Noir and Adrien.

“You called, father?” Adrien watched the man carefully.

“It has come to my attention that you have become the most recent target of the tabloids.” Gabriel showed no emotions in his eyes. As always, he handled it with grace.

“Yes,” Adrien confirmed.

“I believe they have placed you in a… love triangle of sorts with Miss Marinette Dupain-Cheng and the superhero Chat Noir,” he spoke softly. Adrien furrowed his eyebrows.

“You remember Marinette?” he couldn’t help but ask.

“Of course I remember,” Gabriel answered in a matter-of-fact tone. “I’ve been keeping an eye on her ever since she won the derby hat contest, as a potential future designer for my company.”

“Right,” Adrien deflated. So much for his father becoming interested in his friends.

“I’m sure you’re aware of how this makes us look in the public’s eye,” he continued in a firm tone. “It is not something I tolerate.”

Adrien could feel his stomach dropping. He didn’t like where this was going.

“I know,” he whispered.

“Adrien, we cannot afford any distractions at the moment,” he paused, but the boy didn’t respond, so he continued. “And for that, I don’t want you to be seen with Miss Dupain-Cheng anymore.”

“What?!”

“This could ruin not just the company’s reputation, but yours and that of this family. It’s best to stay out of business that doesn’t concern you.”

“But… she’s my friend,” Adrien tried to reason. Gabriel was quiet for a moment. He took a deep breath and said: “You should be more careful of who you choose as your friends.”

Adrien didn’t need to be told anything more. He knew that no matter how much he insisted, his father would not budge. If anything, it would probably make it worse. So instead of arguing, he turned on his heels and left to his room with his gaze downcast. His leaving was so sudden, he never noticed how his father sighed as he left.

The second the door to his room shut, Plagg zipped out of his over-shirt and looked at the boy.

“We’re leaving, right?”

Adrien smirked as he dropped his school bag. “Yeah. Plagg, transform me!”


When Chat Noir landed on the rooftop he and his partner usually went to discuss strategies and other things, Ladybug was already waiting for him. It was a building with a flat roof. Comfortable for them to pace around it, and sometimes spar, if needed.

“You’re late,” she teased. Chat Noir shrugged.

“Sorry. Got held up. But I’m here now.” He grinned. Ladybug gave a quiet sigh.

“Well, you’re here. That’s what matters.”

There was a beat of silence. So the boy decided to break it.

“So, is this our first date?” Chat waggled his eyebrows. “Because if it is, I know much nicer rooftops.”

“Knock it off, this is serious,” Ladybug reprimanded him, but despite seeming to be serious, Chat noticed a bit of amusement in her tone.

“I know,” he responded, grinning. “I’m trying to put it off at least a little longer.”

Ladybug groaned and rolled her eyes. “We still have to talk about it, might as well get it over with.”

Chat pouted. He slumped to the floor and crossed his legs and arms. Ladybug did the same, except she placed her hands on her legs.

“Chat—”

“Before you start,” the boy interrupted, “I need you to know that Marinette never meant to slip up, and it was partly my fault for showing up to the interview and arguing with her, live. She’d never do something like that on purpose.”

Ladybug simply stared at him for a moment. Finally, her lips curled into a warm smile, which made some of the tension he was feeling melt away.

“I’m sure she’s a trustworthy girl. I trusted her with The Evillustrator, remember?”

Chat smiled at the memory. Of course he remembered. That was the first time he had a close interaction with her as Chat Noir. She was the one who got the idea on how to get out of the glass case the akuma trapped them in.

Huh. Seems like Marinette has a thing for saving the day.

“Anyway,” Chat was yanked from his thoughts as the spotted heroine continued, “I wanted to ask you to be careful.”

He blinked. That’s it? That can’t be it…

“I wanna make sure that you know what you’re doing, and that you’re willing to do what needs to be done to fix this.”

I don’t like where this is going.

“What are you saying?” he asked her. Ladybug’s eyes turned sad. The shift in her mood made his eyes widen. “You want me to stop seeing her, don’t you?”

“I didn’t say that,” Ladybug quickly responded, but Chat was not convinced. Just because she didn’t say it, it didn’t mean she didn’t imply it.

“But that’s what you mean, isn’t it?” He could feel his temper wavering.

“Chat,” Ladybug placed a hand on his shoulder, “all I’m saying is that you should prepare for anything, even if it means making a sacrifice or two.”

There was a pause with a scowling Chat Noir. He tapped one of his fingers under his arm, until at last, he stood up, making Ladybug’s hand slide off.

“Fine,” he responded. “Are we done?”

Ladybug seemed to be taken aback with his tone. He knew there was a rude undertone in his voice, but at the moment, he didn’t care. He was angry. Yes, he knew she had good reason to say the things she was saying, but the timing was awful. He couldn’t help but mix it with his father’s words. Ladybug stood up too, with a sad smile on her lips.

“I’m just looking out for you,” she said softly.

“Thanks, Ladybug, but I gottit covered,” he snapped. He could see his partner frown, about to retort, but seemed to reconsider. Instead, she took her yo-yo and readied herself to jump.

“Just be careful,” and like that, she swung away.

A growl rose up from his chest. What does she know? he thought. It’s not like she’s the one on the spotlight right now. And it’s not the same as dealing with the rumors of just superheroes. I bet Marinette wouldn’t suggest staying away from each other, too.

Huffing one more time, he started to Marinette’s house.


Chat Noir sat awkwardly on the chaise, trying to figure out what to do with his hands. Should her put them together? Should he keep them over his knees? He was too conscious to make a decision. He could feel three pairs of eyes scanning him, as if he were some foreign object they were responsible for.

He took a quick glimpse to his left, where Marinette was sitting, but was too aware of the others staring at him. He hadn’t known the meeting was going to include Marinette’s parents. The fact made him slightly nervous. Absentmindedly, his hands started lightly slapping his thighs, trying to create music. What music? He had no idea, but at least it wasn’t so quiet anymore.

Oh please, say something! He internally screamed.

“Sooo,” Alya started. Finally! “Chat Noir…” she trailed off. Suddenly, she got up from her seat with determination. “You know what: before we start, there’s something I need to do.”

“Oka—Ow!” Chat yelped the moment a powerful fist struck his arm.

“That’s for outing my friend on live radio,” she reprimanded him, her hands on her hips.

“So violent,” Chat found the courage to joke. Sure, the punch didn’t actually hurt, but it didn’t stop him from being scared of the redhead.

“Me? Violent? You fight villains all the time,” she scoffed.

“Yeah, but they’re villains, and I’m a superhero,” he reasoned. “It’s part of the job description.”

Alya huffed one more time before taking back her seat.

“So,” Marinette tried to better the atmosphere, “Alya, what is this grand plan you have for us?”

“Well, I’m glad you asked,” the redhead was suddenly back to her cheery, upbeat self. “First things first,” she clapped her hands with each word. “You two need to straighten out your stories. We can’t risk you two telling something different, if you get interviewed separately.”

“Easy,” Chat nodded. “I lie all the time to hide my identity.”

Everyone stared at him for a moment. I really need to learn need to keep my mouth shut sometimes.

“Rule number one: learn when to talk and when not to,” Alya deadpanned, earning a sheepish grin from the cat-boy. “Mari, Chat, I’m gonna ask you a series of questions that you may get asked, and you two settle on a story. But not too complicated.”

“I don’t know how comfortable I feel about our daughter learning to lie,” Tom muttered, his arms crossed.

Pappa, this is an emergency. I wouldn’t do it otherwise,” Marinette reasoned. Tom merely sighed, clearly not liking the idea, but feeling he had no choice but to play along.

“First question: when did you two first meet?” Alya started her questionnaire. Both Chat Noir and Marinette pondered. Chat couldn’t help but think of the gum incident on his first day of school, but he knew that was Adrien’s story. As Chat, it was…

“The Evillustrator,” Marinette pointed out. She then went on to tell how Ladybug had given her the mission, how Chat Noir had protected her and how they failed to get the akuma.

“Chat?”

“Yeah, that sounds about right,” he leaned back on the chaise. “All that is actually true, so no need to lie there.”

“Well, that’s one headache down,” the redhead placed a hand on her chin. “Next question: how often have you seen each other since then?”

Chat exchanged a look with the pig-tailed girl next to him. Before Entangler, not much, but after her, every week. Even more these last few days. Yeap, here come the lies.

“N-not much, really” Marinette stuttered. “He’s saved me a few times, b-but that was about it. Oh, and the times I saved h-him.”

“Rule number two,” Alya raised two fingers, “control your stuttering. They’ll be able to tell you’re lying if you keep doing that.”

Marinette fiddled with her fingers, slightly dejected. In the meantime, Alya motioned Chat to answer the same question.

“We really haven’t seen each other much,” he responded with more determination than his partner in crime. “Just enough for me to notice she’s a total damsel in distress.”

Marinette huffed. “Pfft, a damsel in distress who’s saved your butt twice.”

Chat chuckled. “And how many times have I saved you? Four?”

“Three,” Marinette corrected.

“Alya begs to differ.”

“Alya was possessed at the train station.”

“Ah, so I can say I rescued you anyway.”

“You can say it, but it won’t be true.”

“What about today?”

“I wouldn’t call ‘Chatte Noir getting distracted by her love for you and letting me fall’ a rescue.”

“OKAY!” Alya interrupted them. They quickly straightened on the chaise with her outburst. “Rule number three: control your banter. Both of you.”

Chat Noir and Marinette looked at each other in bewilderment. The redhead’s eyes went wide, giving them and incredulous look.

“Do I really need to spell this out for you?! What do you guys think got you in trouble?”

The gears in the boy’s mind clicked into place. While it did end up as an argument back at the studio, it started off as banter. Banter with which he responded to Marinette’s angry remarks. It was after that that Nadja played the short exchange they had before the second rescue. The two of them basically had no filter when they hung out.

The two sighed at the same time.

“Okay, I see your point,” he conceded, his cat ears drooping.

“Cool, they do move,” Alya suddenly commented, distracted. Chat furrowed his eyebrows, but the journalist cleared her throat. “Moving on.”

Alya continued making all kinds of questions reporters could ask them about their history. The two agreed on not hiding whatever happened before Entangler, since it wasn’t really of big consequence. They decided that the meet they had after Entangler, the watering can incident, had been the longest conversation they had had.

They came up with the idea that in that conversation, Marinette had mentioned an outfit Adrien wore for a photoshoot, and kept going on and on about it, which Chat mistook as her liking the guy. They even planned for Marinette to rebut that publicly and ‘clear up’ that it was the fashion line what she had been smitten over.

It was a blatant lie, but they had to deny the crush one way or another. And it seemed the best way to do it. Both of Marinette’s parents agreed to help out, and even made a few suggestions, in case they were interviewed too. As for Chat’s nickname for the designer, they all agreed on the truth: that had always been his nickname for her. And after saving her several times, it stuck.

“I think that’s about it,” Alya closed a notebook she had taken out during the conversation. “Just three more things: one, we’re gonna have to work on the way you express yourself; two, I suggest avoiding more visits, especially during daytime; and three, we may need to discuss some of this with Adrien, just in case.”

Chat couldn’t help but notice how Marinette stiffened at the mention of his alter-ego. He had to fight to avoid letting out a snort.

“Do we have to?” she groaned.

“Yes. And I think he’s used to the attention, so I’m sure he’ll understand,” Alya waved her hand in a matter-of-fact way. You got that right, Chat couldn’t help but mentally respond. “Well, I gotta go then. I’ll see if I can set up a few interviews and start getting this ball rolling.”

“Thank you, Alya,” Marinette called out to the redhead as she was heading out. Alya gave her a bright smile.

“What are best friends for?” she winked and left through the trapdoor.

“I’m going to get dinner started,” Mrs. Cheng announced, going down the trapdoor too. Meanwhile, Tom stood his ground.

“What about you?” he directed to Chat Noir, arms folded over his large chest. The hero’s fake ears perked up, and he could have sworn even his tail stood on end for a moment. He knew Mr. Dupain was a nice person, but at that moment, he felt like he probably wasn’t at best odds with the man.

“I-I’ll be heading out, sir,” Chat responded almost too quickly, standing up, ready to march out of the room.

Pappa,” Marinette quietly groaned, a palm on her face. “I’ll see him out.” She assured him, as the two teens headed up to the balcony latch. Before Chat went up though, he noticed Tom point two fingers to his eyes and then to Chat, letting the boy know that he would be watching him.

The teen gulped, just before hopping up to follow Marinette. Of course, he didn’t get to see Tom chuckle when he was out of view.

“Your father scares me,” he confessed, his cat-ears drooping. To his annoyance, he received a snicker from the pig-tailed girl.

“He’s just teasing,” she tried to assure him. “He may be big, but Pappa wouldn’t hurt a fly. And I think he actually likes you. He wouldn’t tease you if he didn’t.”

Chat’s heart fluttered at the idea of Marinette’s father liking him.

“Anyway,” Marinette turned to a more serious tone, and Chat couldn’t help but suddenly feel wary. “I wanted to talk to you about your visits.”

No, he thought. Please don’t say what I think you’re about to say.

“I really enjoy them, even more than I thought I would. I’ve had some of my best times just hanging out with you up here. But,” her voice turned somber. Her gaze went somewhere far off. “Maybe… Maybe you should stop visiting,” Marinette said, quietly. “For real this time. Maybe this was a bad idea after all.”

Chat Noir’s heart stopped. He felt like someone had just dropped a bucket of cold water on him. First his father, then Ladybug, now her? Well, it is the right thing to do. He knew that.

He just didn’t care.

He didn’t want to stop seeing her, neither as Adrien or Chat Noir. It’s not fair. Why should he give up a friend because of some stupid gossip? Those idiots didn’t know what they were talking about. They had already messed enough as it was, and he’d be damned if he let them ruin his friendship with Marinette.

“No,” he whispered, his voice somewhat hoarse. He hadn’t even meant to speak at all; it just came out.

“What?” Marinette responded in surprise.

“I don’t care,” he spoke with more determination this time. He’d gotten this far, might as well go all the way.

“Chat…”

“No, I don’t care,” he raised his voice. “I’m sick and tired of my life being controlled. I’m tired of being kept in this stupid little cage because of what others might say. I can say all you guys need to the press and I can pretend we don’t know each other in public. But I will not be controlled by it. And I’m not giving you up!”

Marinette stood surprised for a moment, but it quickly turned into a scowl.

“This isn’t just about what people might say! You saw what happened today. We actually created an akuma. Not only that, but she targeted me directly. I wouldn’t be surprised if it happens again. This is about being safe!”

“I’ll protect you!” Chat placed his hands on her shoulders, much like he did that very morning on the other side of the mask. He bit his lip and looked away from her eyes. “It’s not fair that I get to lose one of the few friends I have because of other people. It’s not fair…”

A part of him was afraid to look back at her, that was a little embarrassed at his little outburst. But another side hoped to see something reassuring on her. Before he could decide, though, a soft hand grazed his jaw.

“Oh, chaton,” she whispered. “I know it’s not the most ideal situation, but it may be for the best.”

You’ve gotta be kidding me…

The boy could feel something inside him start to crumble. Something breaking…

“No,” he snapped this time, making Marinette take a step back, her hand falling back to her side. “What about what I want? I know, I got myself into this mess, but why is it that I’m the one who has to make the sacrifice?”

“You think you’re the only one making a sacrifice?” Marinette suddenly snapped. At that moment, Chat couldn’t find what to do. He got so fed up with people telling him to stop seeing Marinette, he forgot to think about how she felt about it. Now that he looked at her properly, he noticed that despite her determination, her eyes were downcast, and somewhat glassy. Like she was placing all of the strength to not cry.

In a rush to convince her, Chat Noir took Marinette’s hands, and softened his tone.

“Marinette, I know that not visiting could be the best way to avoid any more problems, but why should we pay the price for what others are making up? We don’t have to break the friendship; we just have to be more careful. Besides,” a crooked smile formed on his lips, “how would we keep our stories straight if we don’t keep contact?”

Marinette gaped at him, while he anxiously waited for a reply.

“How are you doing that?” Marinette blurted out. Chat gave her a puzzled look.

“Do what?”

That. Convincing me,” the girl squeezed his hands.

Chat snorted. “Are you sure there’s not a part of you that wants to be convinced?”

“But it’s not what my head is telling me…” Marinette responds absentmindedly.

“It’s okay to listen to your heart every once in a while,” he spoke softly, a little closer now. Marinette bit her lip, something Chat couldn’t help but find a little amusing. He could tell she was having an internal struggle.

Without warning, the girl flung her arms around his neck in a tight hug, which Chat reciprocated almost immediately.

“Thank you, Chat Noir,” she whispered into his ear, her breath warm against it.

“For what?” he asked, his heart suddenly beating much faster than before. But she didn’t respond immediately, instead holding on him tighter. After almost a minute, she pulled away and gave Chat the brightest smile he had ever seen come from her. A smile that made his heart give a sudden jolt that ran through every one of his veins.

“For being you,” she beamed. And in another sudden action, Marinette leaned in and crashed her lips on his cheek.

Chat Noir forgot how to breath. He wasn’t sure what it had been: the surprise of the action, or action itself. But whichever it had been, it was clear it left him breathless. When she stepped away, her grin was still in place, as her hands on his shoulders. She had no idea how the interaction had just affected him.

He gulped. “S-so, can I k-keep coming?” He barely got the words out. What the heck? Since when is this so hard?

Marinette gave a determined nod. “Yes. But only after nineteen-hundred hours. Reporters don’t seem to hang around once it starts getting dark.”

“Deal,” Chat Noir nodded back. Now that he seemed to be coming down from the strange daze, he became aware that his hands had slid down to her waist when she pulled away. His breath hitched again.

“I’ll see ya?” Marinette snapped him out of his thoughts again, as she lifted a fist and waited for him to bump it. I’m thinking too much, he reasoned in his mind. Of course we’re getting closer.

She’s my friend.

With a cheshire grin, the boy let go off her waist and bumped his fist into hers.

“I’ll see ya, Princess.”

With one last wave, Chat Noir leaped off the railing and started his patrol. He still couldn’t believe everything that was happening. To think he would end up in a ‘scandal’ with his classmate. But hey, at least is with someone I trust.

Sure, he knew that continuing his visits may not be for the best, but at this point, there’s no way things could get any worse than they already were.

Chapter Text

A bright light shone over Marinette’s bed, but that wasn’t what woke her up. Even though the girl turned off her alarm and decided to ignore it, her phone kept making incessant noises. Marinette pulled her sheets over her head, trying to drown it out.

It didn’t work.

With a loud groan, the girl threw the sheet to the side, grabbing the cursed brick.

“What’s making so much…noise…” she trailed off, jaw hanging. A hundred and thirty-seven messages! From who?!

She immediately pressed the texting application, and saw tons of messages from unsaved phone numbers. Strangers. She scrolled down, looking at the previews of them.

Hey, I dont care wut ppl r saying…

You don’t deserve wat’s happeni…

Could you tell Chat Noir to visit…

You two are together, aren’t you?

I ain’t believing ur stupid attenti…

Hey, if anyone’s sending you ba…

Maman!” Marinette ran down to the kitchen, where Sabine had just placed a plate of croissants on the counter.

“What is it, dear?” she asked, startled. Marinette shoved the phone to her face.

“I don’t know any of these people!” she practically yelled in her panic, quickly biting into her lip apologetically. After a quick scolding look at her daughter, Sabine took the phone in her hands to look it over. Marinette started fiddling with her fingers.

“Have you given your number to anyone recently?” Sabine asked, to which Marinette shook her head. The woman sighed before handing the phone back. “We’ll get you a new one when you get off class today.”

“Why is this happening?” Marinette pleaded miserably.

“We’ll figure it out, sweetie, I promise.” Sabine stroke her daughter’s bangs and gave her a soft kiss on the forehead. “For now, get ready for school. Okay?”

“Okay…” Although there was a slight sense of panic still lingering, her mother’s warmth helped her regain enough composure to think clearly. Calmer now, she climbed back up to her room, where Tikki was waiting on the desk, munching on a chocolate cookie.

“Wha’ ‘appen’?” she asked with a mouthful of the sweet snack. Marinette went ahead to tell her, giving the phone to her little friend.

“Now my parents are gonna have to change my number. This is ridiculous! How did this even happen?” The designer was pacing around the room at this point, flailing her arms.

“Any idea who it could have been?” Tikki questioned, looking through the different numbers that contacted her charge, her cookie left forgotten to the side.

“It could have been anyone! A friend, a classmate, a client, someone who I don’t know who happened to have stumbled on my number, somewhere.” Marinette let out a loud breath. “This just keeps getting better and better, doesn’t it?”

“Mmm,” Tikki hummed. Marinette’s brows furrowed when she realized the kwami was distracted, her blue eyes squinting at the phone screen. Before she asked, though, Tikki spoke. “There’s a number that sent several messages. And they’re pretty positive, too.”

The girl snatched her phone to read the supposed positive messages. They started at six forty-five. And they were… nice.

Hey. Nice to meet you. Sort of. I just wanted to say you’re pretty brave and cool.

Hey, me again. I saw some people comment that they were going to tell you mean things, so I wanted to tell you to not listen to them. They’re just jealous.

Hey. I must be getting annoying, but the others are probably more annoying. Please don’t listen to them. They’re jerks. I think you’re amazing.

The messages continued in the same manner, telling her to not listen to the others and complimenting her on both her personality and looks. Marinette couldn’t help but smile. There was something about the messages that seemed very familiar.

They reminded her of Chat, when he was not in his pun-loving self. When he wasn’t being so extra. Could it be? She wondered. This person was the only one to keep texting her, so… maybe. The thought was enough to replace her anger with fondness, and motivating her to start getting ready for school.

After finishing up and eating breakfast, Marinette prepared to exit through the bakery. She knew that no matter which exit she decided to take, there would still be reporters, so may as well take the shorter route. Taking a deep breath, she swung the door open and shot right through the horde of reporters standing outside.

Luckily, the traffic light was red, so Marinette was able to sprint across the street and run up the school entrance stairs, skipping a few steps in the process. Reaching the large door, she threw herself in, like she had just reached home base in a baseball game, skidding across the floor. The move earned her a few odd stares from nearby students, but thankfully no comments. Except for one.

“Now that’s what I call an entrance.”

Marinette raised her head and was met by a pair of orange Gabriel high top shoes. She could feel her face becoming hot as her eyes traveled up to meet Adrien’s amused expression.

“Need a hand?” he chuckled, extending his hand towards her. Marinette gulped. Well, at least he found it funny, she miserably tried to comfort herself, accepting his help. “Sorry I didn’t help you this morning, but after yesterday… well, I didn’t wanna make it worse.”

“N-no, it’s fine,” Marinette assured him, dusting off her clothes. “That wasn’t your fault.”

Just then, her phone rang out. It had already made the notification sound several times since she got out of the bakery, but the run had distracted her from them. She was about to ignore it, but another message arrived, which prompted a growl from the girl.

“What’s up?” Adrien tilted his head.

“Somehow, the whole world has my stupid number, and now I’m getting texts like crazy,” she said as she scrambled to get the phone out of her pocket.

“Oh yeah, I noticed it this morning,” the model pointed out. Marinette stopped tapping on her phone to stare at the boy. So he elaborated: “Someone posted it on the Ladyblog forums. I tried to comment, but when I pressed ‘send’, it said the post no longer existed and the forums were closed. I think it’s safe to assume Alya was not happy about it.”

Marinette growled again.

“Good to know the source. Any chance you know who it was?”

“No, sorry,” Adrien responded with a shrug of his shoulders. “Most posters are anonymous or have a username.”

“Greeeaaat,” Marinette groaned. There went her plans on finding the culprit. She looked back at her phone and noticed the most recent message was from the positive person. The possible Chat? She wondered. Without thinking it twice, she tapped on the text.

Hey, again. Just want to wish you a good day in school. Hope people don’t bother you too much.

A smile tugged at her lips once again. She bit her lip, hesitating for a moment, but ultimately deciding on tapping on the response box.

Hi stranger. Thank you for all the positive messages. They have made this morning easier. I don’t know you, but—

“I thought you were irritated with the texts.”

Marinette squeaked and flailed an arm, accidentally hitting Adrien on the face. Who had moved to stand behind her.

“S-sorry, I—” but she stopped, registering something as he rubbed his nose. “Were you reading my text?”

The reaction was instantaneous. The model stiffened, his cheeks turned a rosy color, and his hand went up to the nape of his neck.

“I-I didn’t mean too,” he said quickly, almost mushing the words together. “Sorry, you just looked to happy…”

Marinette blinked. “Huh?”

Adrien cleared his throat and straightened his posture. “Not everyone giving you a hard time?”

“Oh, no,” Marinette shook her head. “There’s this one person who’s actually been pretty cool. They keep telling me a lot of nice things, and… I don’t know… Adrien?” She asked suddenly. Adrien hummed in response. “Can I trust you?”

He smiled. “With your life.”

Marinette returned the gesture and finally voiced what had been in her mind the entire morning: “I think this person might be Chat Noir.”

There was a pause. Adrien arched an eyebrow.

“What?”

“This person keeps calling me stuff like amazing, brave, stuff that Chat Noir has actually called me. It reminds me of how he is when it’s just me, when he’s not trying to impress anybody.”

“I don’t think it’s him,” the model blurted out, narrowing his spring green eyes.

“You don’t know him like I do,” Marinette defended.

“Don’t you think Chat Noir would think it was a bad idea contacting you in his civilian self?”

“Well, Chat has a tendency of being reckless. Not that I can speak much better about myself lately, though.”

“Even so, that seems like pushing it. Wouldn’t he be more… discreet?”

“What could be more discreet that an anonymous text to a number that was released to the public?”

Adrien opened his mouth, but after a moment of hesitation, he closed it. His brows furrowed, something processing in his mind.

“You actually have a point,” he whispered, so low that Marinette almost didn’t catch it. She beamed internally, basking in her small victory.

“Perhaps you should learn to give my chaton a little more credit, Agreste.”

Your chaton?”

It took her a whole second for the question to properly register. MY CHATON?! Why did I just say that to Adrien?! And why did I call him Agreste?!

“N-not like that!” she hastily tried to correct. “It’s just a stupid nickname, he’s not actually mine. He’s my friend, t-that’s it. I-it’s a joke, but he’s not mine, mine. I-I don’t even know why I said that. We can’t even see each other because of our mess.” What are you talking about?! “N-not like I see you, heh.”

“Actually, father told me not to be seen with you.” Marinette halted her antics to stare at the blond. She expected him to look at least a little upset, but he actually seemed beyond amused.

“Oh,” she uttered. “I…I guess that makes sense. Your father is not one for scandals…”

“Yeah. But don’t worry Prin-uh Mari,” Adrien spoke with a chipper tone, despite the little rain cloud Marinette suddenly felt on top of her. “I’ll still help you through this whole thing and make sure you get off unscathed from this.”

The storm going on in the girl’s heart reached its eye, and a bewildered look took over her face.

“W-wait, I-I thought your father doesn’t want you hanging out with me.”

“Correction,” Adrien placed his hands on his back in mock innocence and leaned towards her. “He said he didn’t want me to be seen with you. Since he was talking about the tabloids at the time, I assume he simply meant in front of them.” He finished his sentence with a mischievous grin Marinette had never seen on the golden boy. He looked so…proud.

It was annoying.

“Since when are you such a rebel,” she crossed her arms and arched an eyebrow.

“Pfft, please,” Adrien shrugged. “I’ve always been a rebel. How do you think I traverse Paris without my bodyguard? This ca-uh-guy is no saint.”

Without meaning to, Marinette groaned. There was something about his current attitude that was so… so… exasperating. It reminded her so much of—

Her train of thought was cut short when she noticed the blond’s expression slightly shift to a warm smile.

“What?” she frowned. Adrien shook his head.

“You’ve just never been like this with me,” he spoke softly. Marinette squinted.

“What do you—”

“MARINETTE!”

The two turned to the source of the call, only to see Alya running their way.

“Girl, please tell me your phone hasn’t been bombarded with strangers,” she pleaded, slapping both her hands on the designer’s shoulders.

“Sorry, no such luck,” Marinette grimaced.

“I’m sorry,” the redhead sighed. “I tried to delete it as soon as I saw it, but it was too late. I spent all morning looking through the forums, but—”

The first bell of the day rang, signaling that it was almost time for class. The sound made Alya remember her surroundings and realize Adrien was standing there with them.

“Hey Adrien,” she waved. “Mind if I borrow Marinette for a little bit?”

“Sure, we gotta get to class anyway,” he reasoned as he adjusted his bag. “See you in class, Marinette.”

With one last wave, he headed off to class. Marinette awkwardly waved back, the strangeness of their conversation finally sinking. Did I just have a normal conversation with Adrien?

“Well, see you too,” Alya mumbled. It was then that it dawned on Marinette that Adrien barely acknowledged the presence of her best friend. But the thoughts were cut short as Alya started speaking louder know. “This is becoming a nightmare. I can’t believe somebody actually used my own blog against you!”

“Any idea who it was?” Marinette pleaded to her best friend, as they started walking towards their classroom.

“Not yet,” Alya responded. “But I will find out. Trust me.” The redhead shook a fist in the air. “Ooohhh, and when I do, whoever it was, I’m gonna kick their butt so hard, they’re gonna need a spaceship to get back on Earth.”

Despite the designer’s distress at the moment, the comment managed to get a giggle out of her. Sometimes she forgot how protective her best friend could get when it came to her.

“Anyway,” Alya continued after composing herself. “I got you an interview for an evening talk-show. You think you’re ready?”

Marinette nodded. “I’m ready. I wanna get this over with as soon as possible. ‘Cause it’s seriously getting ridiculous at this point!”

“I know!” Alya nodded vigorously, arms crossed. “Can you believe people have started stopping me in the streets to ask about you?” She changed her voice in mock of random citizens. “Is she with Chat Noir? What does he see in her? Can she contact me to Chat Noir? She’s a nobody! She’s so lucky! Uuuggghhh!”

Marinette winced at the image going through her head. She had almost forgotten the toll that it was probably taking on the reporter, too. And Adrien. And her parents. Uuuggghhh, why did I have to be so stupid?!

“Hey!” Alya broke Marinette out of her self-deprecating internal freak out. “Don’t do that. Don’t beat yourself up. And don’t tell me you weren’t, ‘cause I’d know that face anywhere.” The redhead placed an arm around the bluenette’s shoulders. “Remember: I chose to help you, knowing full well you’re prone to disaster. I knew what I was getting myself into.”

Alya gave her friend a soft, encouraging smile, accompanied by a light squeeze. Marinette returned the gesture.

“Thanks, Alya. So, when and where is the interview?”

“Tomorrow, at the TVi studio building.”

“Wait,” Marinette raised a palm, “you mean in the same building Chat and I messed up?”

“The one and only,” Alya nodded.

Marinette groaned. She had been hoping to avoid the building as much as possible, leave it for last. But from the looks of it, her best friend thought the exact opposite.

“They were the first ones to respond,” Alya responded, as if she could read minds. “Plus, don’t you think it’s kinda poetic?”

“Or a bad omen,” Marinette sighed.

“Chill, girl,” Alya wrapped an arm around the pig-tailed girl as they headed to class. “I’ll coach you tonight, and you’ll do great.”

“Tonight?!” Marinette choked. Tonight it was her turn to patrol. “I-I got stuff to work on. Maybe tomorrow at lunch?”

“Hmm,” Alya pondered. “Fine, but at least practice a little tonight?”

“I will.”

“Great. So,” the redhead’s tone turned to a teasing one, “you and Adrien seem closer lately.”

“Whatta you mean?” Marinette frowned, bewildered.

“Well, first he rescued you from a bunch of reporters, then he went nuts looking for you after yesterday’s akuma attacked, then he defended you against Chloé, his childhood friend, and this morning, I find you guys actually talking,” the redhead concluded.

Marinette’s eyes became round. With all that had been going on in the last few days, she hadn’t noticed Adrien’s sudden closeness with her. It wasn’t like before, where he simply tried to form short, random conversations. He seemed to be deliberately looking for her. Sure, it could easily be attributed to Chat’s slip up about her crush… But what does that mean? Does… Does it mean that he likes me?

Her heart started drumming hard on her chest, but not exactly how she expected it. It didn’t feel right. It felt like it was partly dread making it run. Why would she feel dread? Isn’t this what I’ve wanted this whole time?

“Maybe Chat Noir did you a favor, after all,” Alya continued, patting Marinette’s shoulder. “Maybe Adrien hearing that you like him was the push he needed.”

“I guess,” the blue-haired girl whispered.

“Girl, are you okay?” Marinette raised her gaze to meet Alya’s hazel one. She shook her head and nodded to her best friend, assuring her that everything was great. While the reporter looked unconvinced, she was nice enough not to question as they entered the classroom.

Why do I feel like this? She thought. I should be happy. There’s a chance Adrien is finally seeing me as more than just a friend. So why am I not happy? Why do I feel dread? Am I just scared? It could be… Yeah, that has to be it. I’m scared, which is a very normal reaction. Yeah… that has to be it.

Yet something still felt wrong about her statement. It felt both familiar and alien to her. But as they sat on their desk, Marinette dismissed the thoughts. She already had enough on her plate. She didn’t need to add ‘boy trouble’ into it.


Classes went by as usual. Thankfully, most classmates seemed to have gotten the questions out of their system, making Marinette glad, for once, that she accepted answering them. Of course, things still weren’t exactly the same: someone had still released her phone number for the whole Internet to see.

Although midday arrived pretty quickly for Marinette, what came next, made the next hour feel like an eternity.

The second Mrs. Mendelev left the classroom, everyone started picking up their bags to follow suite. But none managed to even get near the door before Alya ran head first to it and shut it. Everyone stared. Kim and Alix, the only ones who had gotten up already, stopped on their tracks. Alya squinted menacingly.

“No one leaves this room, yet.” Her hazel eyes shifted from classmate to classmate, watching each one carefully. “Alix, Kim, get back to your seats.”

The two didn’t need to be told twice. They weren’t exactly scared of the redhead, but from experience, they knew that when the reporter set her mind to something, it was best to stay out of her way.

“I need to use the ladies room,” Chloé demanded from her desk.

“Your makeup session can wait,” Alya narrowed her gaze to the blonde. Chloé scoffed and crossed her arms, but said no more. Alya took a deep breath.

“I,” she started walking to the front of the classroom, “wanna know who was it.” Her fists landed on her hips.

Everyone stared. Some shifted uncomfortably, confused. Kim and Max exchanged looks. Chloé’s nails started tapping her desk, while her head rested on her other palm. Slowly, Rose lifted her hand in the air.

“Yes, Rose?”

“Who did what?” she pipped up.

“Who put Marinette’s phone number on the Ladyblog forums?” Alya cleared up. A few made noises of understanding, while others groaned in annoyance.

“Oh, this I wanna know,” Alix muttered, punching a fist to her open hand.

“Who cares?” Chloé said loudly. “It’s not like Marinette minds the attention.”

“We’re not getting into this again, Chlo,” Adrien quickly intervened. The spoiled girl scoffed again, but did not retaliate. She didn’t seem too keen on the idea either, considering the entire class ended up yelling at her last time.

“Seriously guys,” Alya drew the attention back to her. “I know for a fact not many have Marinette’s number, and most of them are in this class, and we need to start ruling out people. Anybody who has her number, raise your hand.”

Without missing a beat, almost the entire class raised their hands. All except Adrien, Chloé and… wait…

“What are you doing,” Chloé silently hissed at Sabrina, pulling her arm down. Marinette’s eyes narrowed at the exchange.

Alya seemed to have noticed too, because she stepped up to the girls’ desk, crossing her arms.

“Sabrina,” she said carefully, “do you have Marinette’s phone number?”

“N-no!” she squeaked. “I-I don’t have it. N-never have.”

“That’s a lie!” Marinette suddenly burst, standing up from her chair. Her classmates stared at her in surprise, but she didn’t care. Her vision had turned red. She knew. Oh, she knew. What was more, it wouldn’t be the first time the two girls did something of the likes.

She stomped down to their desk and slammed her hands on it. Alya had even stepped back to allow her the space. Marinette glared down at the blonde and the ginger.

“I know for a fact Sabrina has my phone number, ‘cause she called me a gazillion times when we had to do a project together,” she explained, her bluebells shifting between the two as she spoke. Then, she narrowed them to Chloé. “And we both know she often ends up doing your dirty work…” They glared at each other for a moment, the blonde doing so daringly. Daring Marinette to say it. And said it, she did: “It was you, wasn’t it?”

Chloé gasped dramatically, a hand on her chest.

“How dare you, Marinette Dupain-Cheng!”

“Oh, cut the theatrics!” Marinette snapped. “If there’s anything I’ve learned from you, is that you’re capable of anything. So just admit it.”

There was a moments pause, where the entire class held its breath. It was already pretty common for the two girls to butt heads often, but this was a whole new level. None, not even Alya, had ever seen Marinette so furious.

At last, Chloé huffed.

“So what? It’s not like you mind the attention. I did you a favor.”

“I KNEW IT!” Marinette bellowed, just as she grabbed the blonde from her yellow jacket. “You little—”

“Marinette, that’s enough!” someone grabbed her shoulders from behind, but she didn’t budge. Her bluebells glared daggers into Chloé’s electric blue eyes. For once, Chloé actually looked scared of the small designer.

“You have any idea what I’ve been through this week?!” she continued yelling. “I’ve been publicly humiliated, all my commissions are on halt because of this mess and I almost lost a friend. Why do you always have to go out of your way to make my life even worse?!”

“Mari, stop!” someone else grabbed her by the arm, while the other person slipped his hand around her waist. Together, the two people succeeded in pulling her away from the Mayor’s daughter.

“LET ME GO!”

“STOP IT!”

The second scream came from the very back of the classroom. From the one that the students had learned to ignore, because they didn’t trust her. The other person who had not raised her hand when asked if they had Marinette’s phone number. Lila was standing up on her desk, using it as a stage, glaring at the scene in the front of the classroom.

“Just, stop it!” she repeated. Lila dropped down to the floor and stalked her way to the front. “You shouldn’t waste your time with her. She’s just a bully. She doesn’t deserve your attention.”

Excuse me,” Chloé drawled to the Italian girl. “Nobody asked for your opinion.”

“I don’t need to be asked to defend someone from a bully looking to humiliate someone else.”

Marinette felt a pang in her heart. She knew exactly the source of her words: Lila knew what it was like to be humiliated by Ladybug. She slumped back to whoever was holding her by the waist, and the person grabbing her arm let go and stepped forward. Alya was now standing in front of her.

“She doesn’t need your help,” she growled. Marinette could only imagine she was still miffed about the girl lying on the Ladyblog. Lila looked the side, and was about to turn away.

“Wait!” Marinette blurted out. The redhead whirled to her in surprise, while Lila looked back at the pig-tailed designer. She took a deep breath. “You’re right.”

“She’s what?!” Alya and the guy holding her said in unison. Marinette felt her head finally clear, and was at last curious about the arm holding her in place. A hand wearing a silver ring.

“You think so?”

“Marinette,” Adrien warned to her ear, his breath making her body shudder and her heart skip a beat. Why did it feel so familiar?

She cleared her throat to respond.

“Look, I know everyone has every reason to mistrust her—”

“That’s an understatement.” Nino crossed his arms, glaring and the exchange student.

“She lied about Prince Ali,” Rose pipped up once again from the back. Looking around the classroom, Marinette realized Alix and Kim had stood up again.

“I say we kick Chloé’s butt. And Lila’s too, for good measure.” There was a murmur of agreement amongst the students, cut off by yet another scoff from the spoiled blonde on the front.

Papa would get all of you suspended before you can even blink. At least Adrien still has my side, unlike you lot.”

“Chloé, I pulled Marinette away from you because I don’t want her to get suspended,” he corrected her. The girl’s expression deflated. “What you did was awful, and I don’t condone it.”

“Then you and I were doing for the same thing,” Lila spoke softly to the boy.

“I’m not gonna do anything!” Marinette interjected the conversation. “Goal achieved. Would you let me go, Adrien?”

It seemed the model had not realized he’d been holding her this entire time, for his cheeks became the reddest Marinette had ever seen. He quietly apologized and slipped his hand away.

It was probably the cutest she’d ever seen him. Yet… Why don’t I feel more nervous? Am I getting used to him? She shook her head, driving the thoughts away, just as she straightened her clothes.

“Come on, Alya,” Marinette implored, getting both hers and Alya’s backpacks from their desk. “We got work to do.” With a quick glance at Chloé, Lila and Adrien, she turned on her heels and yanked the door open. She didn’t even wait for her friend.

There was just too much in her mind. She was still angry at Chloé, but decided it would be best to not let those emotions take over. The last thing she needed was to become an akuma herself. She was also conflicted about Lila’s defense. Part of her felt like she didn’t deserve it, after how harsh she was to her as Ladybug. But another part of her saw it as a chance. Maybe she could redeem herself, and make sure Lila never lied again.

But above all, Marinette was confused about Adrien. She was still in love with him, she was sure. But there was something off today that she couldn’t quite place. Something both comfortable and alarming. She felt more herself with him, able to keep words coherent. Which was alarming in itself, because: since when? The question had been in the back of her mind since that morning, as much as she tried to keep it out. And she still had no answer for it.

Alya finally caught up to her, asking Marinette if she preferred sneaking to her home instead of the bakery, to avoid all the reporters. Marinette was grateful for her friend not asking any questions about what had just happened, instead offering her calm and serenity. As they both agreed, they headed off to Alya’s apartment for lunch.


It was Thursday evening, and saying Marinette was nervous was an understatement.

Marinette, Alya and Sabine arrived about thirty minutes early to the TVi studio. At first, the pig-tailed girl felt a little embarrassed about having her mom with her, but after seeing how she defended her honor a few times, she felt relief. It gave her a sense of security.

Once at the studio, they had time to familiarize themselves with some of the crew members, and as a plus, they got to see how the host treated his guests. So far, he seemed like a decent guy. But so was Nadja with her, until recently.

After a few minutes, they separated, Alya to speak with a few other crew members and Sabine to call Tom, updating him on everything in the studio. Meanwhile, Marinette stayed close to the stage, focused on the interviews happening before hers.

“Everything’s gonna be okay,” a tiny voice came from her purse. “You can do this, Marinette. You’re ready.”

Marinette smiled. “Thanks Tikki.” She took a deep breath, and started talking more to herself than to her kwami. “I can do this. It’s a piece of cake. I’m ready for this. It could be worse. It can’t get any worse.”

“Hey, Princess,” a cheerful voice purred behind her.

Marinette screamed, raising her arms and a leg defensively. A move that earned her a snort from the stray. Who was not supposed to be there. Again.

“Chat!” she reprimanded, taking a quick glance at her now-closed purse once her initial shock ceased. “What are you doing here?!”

“Nice to see you too,” he retorted with a smirk, hands behind his back. “Looks like we’ve been tricked again,” he leaned towards her. “We really need to work on our communication skills.”

This can’t be happening!

“Hey, don’t worry,” a clawed hand warmed her shoulder. Wait… Did I say that out loud? “We got this.”

She looked up to his beaming face, and a sense of security rushed through her. Well, he was her partner after all. Marinette returned the gesture and gave him a determined nod. The move relaxed the cat, but almost immediately, the same hand went up to the back of his neck.

“Uh, while we’re on the subject of tricking, you should probably tell that Adrien guy when you have interviews, too,” he said, nervously. Marinette’s brows furrowed, and Chat quickly continued. “I-I mean because, uh—if, um, they trick me like this, they could do the same to him, and—uh—I-I’m sure you don’t want that happening. Right?”

The moment the words registered, she stopped questioning his strange stammering and a sudden panic overtook her thoughts. A gasp escaped her lips, hands going up to her hair.

“They’re gonna drag Adrien into this!” she burst, teeth clenching. “They’re gonna be all over him! Oh no, and they’re gonna make him so uncomfortable! He’ll never, ever, ever, ever speak to me again!”

“Hey, hey, don’t worry,” Chat reached out for her wrists and slowly brought them down. “Everything’ll be fine. And I’m sure there’s no way Adrien could think any less of you. I know I wouldn’t.”

The simple gesture was enough to calm her nerves, and just as another smile was tugging at her lips, a loud clearing of someone’s throat popped the bubble Marinette hadn’t noticed the two of them had created between themselves. She hadn’t even noticed when Chat’s hands had slid down to hers.

The two quickly let go, turning to Alya. Marinette gave a nervous laugh, scratching the back of her head sheepishly. Next to her, Chat awkwardly waved.

“What are you doing here, cat-boy?” Alya reprimanded, fists on her hips.

And there he went again, with his hand on the back of his neck. A move that just got cuter each time he did it. Wait, cute? What do you mean cute? Marinette berated herself.

He’s cute when he does that. Can’t deny it, a voice in the back of her mind responded.

Yeah, if by cute you mean silly and ridiculous, yeah he’s cute, she tried to reasoned. But it brought no comfort. In fact, it brought the exact opposite. This wasn’t exactly news; she had admitted his good looks just a couple of days ago. Why did it feel different then?

“Marinette, you’re up in like five minutes. You can’t go on TV looking flushed,” Alya interrupted her thoughts. Marinette had been so engrossed in her inner confusion, she didn’t register the conversation Chat Noir and Alya had been having. A palm slapped to her cheek.

“Flushed?!” Unlike last time, she could actually feel heat on her round cheeks. Where the hell is this coming from?!

“Relax, girl,” Alya waved a hand dismissively. “You guys will do fine. Just need to go over a few things first.”

The redhead started reminding them of their last conversation about interviews, and Marinette used to opportunity to shoo away whatever those thoughts were earlier.


Sabine looked from afar towards the three teens. She had to admit it was a bit amusing seeing their exaggerated antics for the simplest things. More so, she could already see the closeness between her daughter and a pretty handsome boy. Honestly, she was a little disappointed that it wasn’t Adrien, but this kid treated her with such warmth and respect, she couldn’t help but like him, and hope for him joining the family someday. If he could.

She looked around to see if anyone was aware that a superhero had just walked into studio, when a flash of fuchsia hair caught her attention. There, amongst the crew members was Nadja, holding a microphone, looking for something. Until her brown eyes locked on Sabine’s grey ones.

Sabine huffed and turned away.

“Sabine!” Nadja called. The short woman turned her scowl to the reporter. She could tell the look cut through the reporter like a knife, sending cold chills down her spine. Nevertheless, she took a step forward and whispered: “Please…”

“What could you possibly want with my family now?” Sabine said coldly. “Do you want an autograph? Do you want my daughters baby pictures?”

“Sabine, I just wanted to apologize for what happened,” she spoke. Despite trying to keep a determined tone, there was a low shakiness to it. “But you have to understand that it’s my job.”

“Don’t give me that,” Sabine hissed. “Marinette is not some job. She’s my daughter, your daughter’s babysitter. You took advantage of our friendship and exploited a minor. Do you have no shame? Whatever happened to that young woman who swore would never sell her soul to corporate media?”

“You don’t understand,” Nadja almost pleaded, losing her composure. “It’s my job!”

“She’s my daughter!” Sabine retorted. “Thanks to you, she’s been through so much. She may be strong, but this is not something a normal fifteen-year-old should be dealing with!”

“I could’ve lost my job, you have to understand I have a little girl to feed,” the reporter continued trying to justify herself.

“Either way, you lost a babysitter,” Sabine scowled. Nadja took a step back.

“What?”

The small woman took a deep breath. “Nadja, you’re no longer welcomed in our home, and I will no longer allow Marinette watch over Manon,” she declared. “I am so disappointed in you,” Sabine whispered sadly and walked away towards her daughter, leaving a defeated looking Nadja.

As much as she loved her old friend, Nadja had crossed a line, and she wasn’t willing to forgive so easily.


Marinette tried her best to hide every time she shifted uncomfortably. She was too conscious about the fact that everyone, both the crowd and the cameras, could see every one of her movements.

But she had to get through it, one way or another.

I’m Ladybug, dammit, she repeated for the hundredth time already. I can do this.

“We go live in three, two…” the man behind the camera raised an index finger to signal the one, and then pointed to the host. The crowd started applauding as one of the cameras panned around the studio, and other two moved around the front of the stage, focused on the tanned man behind the desk.

“Welcome back to The Evening Show with Kudret, and we’ve reached our segment of the special interview of the night. Now, I’m sure most of you have dreamed of being saved by one of Paris’ own heroes, Ladybug and Chat Noir. But what are the odds of one of you saving them instead? For one civilian, the answer is two! Ladies and gentleman, give it up for The Girl who saved Chat Noir, Marinette Dupain-Cheng, accompanied by none other than superhero Chat Noir!”

A sign lit up with ‘applause’ written on it, and the crowd released the excitement they had been holding for a few minutes already. Marinette tried to make her smile as genuine as possible, but her mind kept travelling back to her amazement in all this. It boggled her how scripted the show was, despite being live. On the armchair next to her, Chat Noir enthusiastically waved. Pfft, leave it to him to show off.

“So tell me Marinette,” the man continued as the clapping died down. “How does it feel to be known as a hero?”

What an ironic question, Marinette thought, fighting back a laugh.

“I wouldn’t call myself a hero, Kudret,” she responded flawlessly, channeling her inner Ladybug. “I only happened to be at the right place, at the right time.”

“And Chat Noir, did you ever think you’d be saved by a civilian?”

Chat Noir blinked. It seemed that he had been distracted by something, so Marinette widened her eyes a little, in warning.

“Oh, well,” he shook his head, “I believe any civilian has the ability to be a hero. Of course, I wouldn’t recommend it. It’s very dangerous. Best leave it to the professionals.” He pointed a thumb to himself, and Marinette resisted the urge to groan. Rule number one: know when to stay quiet.

“So, I must ask: rumors have been going around that you two know each other more than mere acquaintances; how true is that?”

The designer could feel a sliver of panic rise up her throat. She took a deep breath. Rule number two: control the stammering.

“We actually don’t know each other that well,” she responded, once again almost effortlessly. “It’s just very easy to interact with someone who has a mask and you think you’re not gonna see again.”

The first two minutes were actually pretty pleasant. Kudret was polite enough to ask proper questions. Most of them could be responded with either the truth or the story the two teens cooked up with Alya. But alas, it was not to last.

“So a few things came out on your interview in FMi last Monday, where Chat Noir mentioned that you like someone called Adrien, and from what our sources have gathered, you are classmates with none other than fashion icon Gabriel Agreste’s son, Adrien Agreste. Is he the boy Chat Noir was talking about?”

Moment of truth. Let’s see if I can pull this off.

“You know,” Marinette started, appearing amused. “This is all just one big misunderstanding. And I think I know how it happened.”

And she started telling the lie they had come up with, about Chat mistaking her love to the Gabriel brand. The words came out so smoothly, she almost believed it herself. Which she took as a good sign of her acting.

“That conversation makes so much sense now,” Chat feigned surprise. Not that the crowd knew that. “I was wondering why you kept talking about his clothes. I thought you just liked his sense of style. Should’ve recognized that star-struck look after seeing your reaction the first time you met me.”

Unexpected to Marinette, Chat Noir wiggled his eyebrows. The hand holding on to her purse tightened, as she fought back a groan. She strained a smile.

Rule number three: no bantering.

“Yeah,” she said through clenched teeth. “I was pretty star-struck the first time we met. Just like any other person.”

“You should have seen her, all excited because she was gonna work with ‘the great Chat Noir’,” Chat started flexing his arms, much like he did in their first meeting. Marinette’s other hand flew to the strap of her purse, holding it tightly. He’s never gonna let me live it down, is he?

“Well, how often does a hero ask for your help, right?” she laughed nervously.

“Wait, hang on a second, when did you two actually meet for the first time?” Kudret intervened, his brown eyes sparkling with enthusiasm the moment he noticed he may actually get exclusive information.

“We met long before Entangler,” Chat started. “I believe the owner of the Ladyblog mentioned it in her article about the first time she rescued me.”

“That’s right,” and Marinette went on to tell the television host the story of The Evillustrator. Or at least the civilian version, where she wasn’t Ladybug.

“And does this boy still like you?” Kudret pushed this time. And it was a question that had never occurred to her. Did he? She never asked Nathaniel. She had thought it would be easier for him if she just pretended she didn’t know. Less awkward.

“I-I don’t know,” she confessed. What else am I supposed to say?!

“Let’s not get off topic here,” Chat suddenly cut in, rescuing her from what was about to be another disastrous moment with the press. “The real story here is how Marinette is a total fangirl.” Scratch that. “I mean, seriously, seeing her swoon about her idols, including me,” he added with another wiggle of his brows, “it’s probably the side of her I’ve seen the most.”

I swear to God, I’m gonna—No, Marinette mentally tried to calm herself. I can’t do that. It’ll only make it worse. Just follow his stupid lead.

“I guess I overreact often,” she said, doing her best to keep a neutral tone.

“Oh, I think we all know that already,” Kudret laughed. “Well, we need to take a short break, but stay tuned for more on The Evening Show with Kudret.”

The applause sign was lit up once again and a camera panned away from them.

“Cut!” the man behind the nearest camera yelled. A murmur rose up in the crowd, while Kudret turned to the interviewees.

“Thank you so much for your time,” he extended a hand to the two of them. “You did great. You have no idea how good this was for the ratings.”

“It was our pleasure,” Chat responded, shaking the man’s palm. “Unfortunately, we need to be on our way now.”

“Of course. I wish you two the best of luck.” The man winked, making Marinette almost choke with her own saliva.

“Oookay, good night,” she said with a tremor in her voice, scurrying off the stage to the back rooms, closely followed by Chat. When they reached and emptier area in the back rooms, near a clothes rack, they stopped.

“That went well,” he grinned, despite Marinette’s unamused look.

“Yeah, for you,” she mussed.

“Come on, you gotta admit looking star-struck helps dissuade suspicion.”

“At the cost of my dignity?” Marinette crossed her arms. Chat’s grin turned into a sheepish one.

“Too far?”

Marinette sighed. “Let’s just say that I had to fight every fiber in my being to stop myself from blurting out that you like Ladybug just to embarrass you.”

Chat Noir was taken aback, but then smirked. He opened his mouth to say something, but whatever it was, it was drowned by something else.

“Is it true?!”

The two teens jumped at the sudden outburst from an unknown voice, turning to see a man holding a camera, jumping from behind the rack with the colorful outfits. Marinette and Chat Noir stared wide eyed at the man, frozen.

“Chat Noir, are you really into Ladybug?”

This cannot be happening! A million thoughts ran through the girl’s head. A million emotions crossed her face in less than a second. But the top one was definitely anger. Anger with such imprudent people. Anger at the way her life had turned upside down. Anger at the lack of privacy. Anger at not being able to have one stupid conversation with a very dear friend.

“OH, COME ON!” she bellowed suddenly, making Chat take a step back and stare at her. It just occurred to her she hadn’t shown her temper in front of him as Marinette, but at the moment, she didn’t care. This is ridiculous!

The man, though, didn’t seem bothered by her outburst. In fact, he looked… delighted. Like his day (or his paycheck) had just been made.

“Does she know?” he prodded, ignoring their glares.

Marinette growled loudly. She was about to grab the guy from his shirt, much like she did the previous day with Chloé, but Chat grabbed her arm before she could.

“We just finished an interview with you people. What more do you want!” he growled dangerously.

“But is it true?” the man ignored Chat’s comments.

“LEAVE HER ALONE!”

The three of them jumped and turned towards the voice. Standing close to one of the entrances to the room, there was a woman, completely clad in black, and what looked like a rectangle over her eyes, similar to the effect used on television to censor people’s faces. Her short hair and full lips were a bright shade of green.

“You will no longer hurt Marinette,” she pointed at the paparazzi with what looked like a news microphone, with a picture of a purple butterfly on the carton decorating it.

An akuma.

“Get behind me!” Chat Noir instructed, stepping in front of Marinette. For the paparazzi, though, it was too late. The woman had shot a green beam from her microphone that hit him directly in the face.

“I can’t see anything!” the man said, but his voice was not the same. He sounded like he had a voice modulator. When he turned to them, both teens jumped, for his face was distorted by pixels. Not horrifying, but… weird.

“You are now censured,” the woman said as she swiftly walked towards them.

“Is that your name? Mrs. Censor?” Chat Noir mocked, hands steady on his weapon.

“No,” she stopped, standing tall before them. “I’m Damage Control, and I’m here to fix what we destroyed.”

“We?”

“Marinette,” she extended her microphone to Chat Noir, “I will fix your reputation, even if it’s the last thing I do.”

“Why would you care about—” but Marinette cut herself off, as the gears clicked in her head. “Nadja Chamack?”

“Don’t be bemused, sweetie,” she said with a dark tone. “It’s just the news.”

Just then, she waved the microphone and shot another green beam, this time towards Chat Noir. Luckily, his cat reflexes didn’t fail him, as he deflected it with his staff just in time. She shot him several more times, forcing them to keep stepping back, outside of the room. They were back at the large area with all the lights, cables and other recording equipment. Which worked as a disadvantage for Chat.

In his attempt to keep moving backwards without looking, he tripped on one of the cables, making him miss a shot and getting hit on his hand. The move made him drop the baton.

“Stop!” Marinette stepped between them, with her arms extended. “If you want to hurt him, you’re gonna have to go through me.”

Damage Control sighed. “Mari, Mari, Mari,” she lamented, pacing around while she fiddled with the bottom of the microphone. “I was really hoping it wouldn’t come to this, but,” she stopped to glare at the girl, “so be it.”

Before the two teens realized what was happening, the akuma pulled a cable from the bottom of the microphone and tossed it around Marinette. The designer became paralyzed, with her arms stuck to her sides. Immediately, Damage Control threw the other end over a beam on the ceiling and pulled the girl up, her feet dangling in the air.

She was stuck.

Chapter Text

Marinette kicked the air as hard as she could. If she could get the cable to budge just a little higher on one of her sides, she could get out.

But alas, she was not successful.

“Marinette!” Chat Noir managed to call, before he had to leap away from the green beam coming from Damage Control. In the process, he grabbed his baton from the ground, extending it once again to block the new incoming attacks.

“This is all your fault, foolish cat,” the akuma accused.

“My fault?” Chat responded, incredulous. “Newsflash, Miss Control, you invited me to your show, withholding information. Isn’t that what they call fabricating a story?”

“You know very well what you did,” she insisted, stepping closer to the cat-themed hero. This forced him to take steps back towards the exit of the room. Chat glanced at the pig-tailed girl hanging from the metal beam of the ceiling with a pained expression.

“I’ll come back for you, Princess!” he called out to her.

“Wait, what?!” Marinette kicked nothingness a few times.

“Ladybug will come soon!” And with those last words, Chat Noir blocked a few more beams from the akumatized reporter and ran out, Damage Control on his heels.

“Chat Noir, come back here!” But it was no use. He was gone. He moved the fight to where she wouldn’t get accidently hurt. She knew that was the reason he did it. Yet it still didn’t change the fact that she was left alone, a cable tied around her arms and stomach, unable to escape to transform.

Well this is just great, she inwardly groaned. She was about to call out her tiny magical partner for help, when quiet steps coming from where Chat had just left resounded. The girl narrowed her eyes towards the sound, until at last, her mother scurried inside the room.

Maman!” Marinette called, her legs kicking the air again. Sabine looked around until she found her daughter hanging of a metal beam.

“Sweetie!” she exclaimed, already looking for the other end of the cable.

“Where’s Alya?” Marinette’s gaze kept shifting around the room, looking for her redheaded friend. Sabine stopped in front of a large black box and grimaced, slowly turning to her off-spring.

“Well…”

“Mrs. Cheng, where did you go?!” a strange modulated voice came from a nearby hallway.

Marinette gasped.

With her hands outstretched and a heavily pixelated face came Alya, tripping on every cable scattered around the floor.

“Alya, I told you to wait for me,” Sabine scolded the teen as she reached out to her and led them to the large equipment box.

“Marinette’s in trouble, I can’t just wait around,” Alya flailed her arms around, hitting her hand on the large box in the process. She hissed and started rubbing it. Sabine rolled her eyes before focusing her attention on the box’s handle, to which the cable was attached to. After a hard look, she grabbed Alya’s hands and placed them around the rubber rope.

“Alya, I’m gonna need you to hold that very tight,” she instructed. The redhead hummed and nodded in agreement, as Sabine started undoing the knot. Once free, the weight fell on Alya’s hands, making her stumble, to the point that Sabine had to grab her by the waist and Marinette yelped, now several feet lower.

Please don’t drop me, please don’t drop me, please don’t drop me, Marinette prayed, already having enough of falling-on-her-butt the last few days. Prayers that were answered as Alya and Sabine slowly descended her from the ceiling.

“What’s going on?” the designer asked, as the other two started undoing the cable around her arms.

“She’s attacked half the reporters in the building,” responded Alya in that strange, altered voice. “She’s hitting anyone she think’s responsible for the mess you’re in.”

“I don’t get it. Why did she hit you?” Marinette frowned.

“Why do you think?” the redhead crossed her arms.

Marinette blinked. Of course: Alya was a large reason this whole mess happened. First, she gave Marinette the name of The Girl Who Saved Chat Noir. Then, she filmed the second rescue. And finally, she was the one to set up the interview with Nadja. Wait… Is this all her fault?

She shook her head. Like Alya had said before: if she had known Marinette and Chat Noir were friends, she would have been more careful, and even cover for her. The designer was sure Alya would never do anything to hurt her. At least, not intentionally. It was just a streak of bad coincidences.

Besides, Alya was already doing everything in her power to correct it.

“You girls need to hide,” Sabine said, starting to usher them into a hallway. “It’s dangerous out here.”

“What about you?” Marinette turned to her mother, just as the woman led them into a dressing room.

“I can’t sit and do nothing,” she responded. “I may be upset with Nadja, but I still care for her.”

Marinette’s eyes softened. It was exactly what she would have done, Ladybug or not. With one last glimpse, Sabine closed the door, leaving the two teens on their own. Marinette kept staring at it, until she heard an irritated growl behind her.

“This sucks,” Alya was saying as her best friend turned to look at her. She was holding her phone as close as possible to her face, but didn’t seem to have much success in deciphering the pixelated images. “I couldn’t record the fight even if I wanted to.”

The fight.

Chat Noir.

He was fighting alone.

Damn it! She may not be trapped up a ceiling anymore, but was now in a small dressing room with Alya. Who would notice if she suddenly transformed into Ladybug, even with all the pixels. Marinette looked around the room, while the reporter continued to grumble about her situation. At last, the designer’s eyes landed on a small closet.

Perfect to shove her friend into.

“I hear something!” Marinette suddenly gasped.

“What?! What is it?” Alya took a bracing stance.

“We need to get in the closet!” Alya asked what was wrong, again, but Marinette started pushing the redhead into the nearby closet. Once she got her friend in it, despite her protests, she closed it and slid a nearby hair brush between the handles.

“Sorry,” Marinette whispered, wincing. Walking away from the rattling doors due to Alya’s punches, the designer opened her pouch.

“Don’t worry, Marinette,” Tikki zipped out of the pink purse. “She’ll be safe now.”

“I know,” the girl sighed. Almost immediately, a determined look invaded her face. “Tikki, transform me!”

A moment later, she was Ladybug. Immediately, she used her yo-yo to beat one of the corners of an air vent loose. She jumped and grabbed the loose piece of metal to pull it down. At last, out of the way, she jumped and pulled herself up into the air duct. After a few turns here and there, she crawled out of another vent, landing her close to where she had been hanging some time ago.

She followed noises coming from a nearby studio, planning what would be the perfect unexpected entrance. Outside the room, she took a deep breath, and burst through the door. Before she could even utter a word, though, Chat Noir crashed with her, with a loud ‘oof’.

Ladybug groaned under the weight of her partner. So much for being the one to make the surprise entrance.

“Sorry,” Chat Noir said through clenched teeth. “Didn’t mean to drop by like this.”

Ladybug groaned. Why did he always have such bad timing with his puns?

“Less punning, more getting up,” she demanded with a strained voice. Quickly, her partner helped her up.

“Don’t worry, My Lady,” he lifted a hand. “I have managed to keep the akuma at bay.”

As if to contradict him, a green beam shot between them, the two barely dodging it, by leaping backwards.

“Welcome to the studio, Ladybug,” greeted Damage Control with a menacing tone. “Rumor has it, Hawkmoth wants your miraculous. Care to comment?”

“In fact I do,” Ladybug responded with a smirk. “I would like him to know he’s not getting it.”

“How tragic.” The akuma shot another beam that the girl easily defected with her spinning yo-yo. A few more were thrown at both superheroes, which they managed to block all and accidentally made one bounce off a silver object in the studio.

“Chat, go high!” Ladybug yelled. With an ‘okie dokie’ and a two-finger salute, Chat Noir extended his baton to the ceiling and landed on the black, metal beams. This was enough to distract the villain. The spotted heroine swiftly swung her weapon to Damage Control’s hand, trying to grip what she was sure was the akumatized object.

Unfortunately, Damage Control noticed in time, and managed to tighten her grip on the microphone with both hands. The two pulled, while Chat landed back on the ground, slowly approaching the scene. The villain gasped when she saw him get closer.

Without warning, she stepped forward to grab another part of the string, making Ladybug stumble backwards at the loss of leverage. With the new momentum, the akuma pulled with enough force that sent the heroine flying directly to Chat Noir. Their bodies crashed against the wall behind them, leaving them in a mess of limbs, much like earlier.

When Ladybug lifted her head, Damage Control had already untangled her hands.

“Give me your miraculous, and I promise you won’t end up in the evening news,” she warned. Ladybug scowled.

“I don’t know about you, My Lady, but I’m not willing to give up my freedom of speech,” Chat quipped. Ladybug groaned. He really has the worst timings for his jokes. She was about to retort, when a short figure stood between them and Damage Control.

“Nadja, stop this,” Sabine pleaded with a firm tone. “This isn’t you. Don’t do this.”

“I have to!” the villain retorted. “I have to protect Marinette. And our friendship.”

Although Ladybug couldn’t see her face, she could tell her mother had been taken aback. She had no idea how this happened, but now she was sure that her civilian self’s growing bad reputation was a large part of the reason she got akumatized.

The thought was enough to push the heroine to her feet and call on her Lucky Charm. From a swirl of ladybugs appeared a flat, circular object.

“What is this?”

“It’s a light reflector,” Chat Noir responded almost immediately, joining his partner. “We use those at work all the time.”

“You have a job?” Ladybug asked without thinking. It wasn’t common for Chat to reveal somewhat personal information to Ladybug.

“Of course,” he shrugged. He then leaned towards her, arms crossed. “How do think I can afford my good looks?” He wiggled his eyebrows. Ladybug almost chocked at the gesture, but pushed him away with a finger on his nose, nonetheless.

“N-not the time, chaton,” she stuttered. She wasn’t sure why, but her heart started beating erratically. Maybe I’m just embarrassed, she reasoned. Yeah, that’s it. It makes sense that he has a job. I mean, he did say he’s famous outside the mask. Yeah, that was a dumb question. That’s why I’m embarrassed.

But something about that explanation didn’t feel right. A feeling she was starting to find annoying. It felt like she was lying to herself. But that couldn’t be it. It made no sense. It also made no sense why her cheeks were starting to feel warm.

“So what’s the plan?” Chat asked after rubbing his nose. Ladybug used the distraction to shake her head and focus on the job at hand. Her eyes scanned the studio, noticing the other two light reflectors in a well-lit stage. One of which had reflected Damage Control’s beam earlier.

Simple.

“Chat!” she called on her partner. “I’m gonna need you to lead the akuma over there.” She pointed at the stage. Chat Noir nodded before making his way to the villain. In the meantime, Ladybug ran, moving around the light reflectors. When everything was in place, she gave a loud whistle.

On cue, Chat Noir leaped backwards, landing beside Ladybug.

“For a reporter, you’re very bad at keeping your sources,” Chat Noir mocked. “Can’t even get your target audience.”

Biting into the bait, Damage Control shot a beam to the heroes. The two instantly dodged to opposing sides. Ladybug, on her part, rolled to the spotted light reflector, just in time for the beam that had been bouncing from reflector to reflector to reach hers. The green beam shot directly to the villain’s microphone, destroying it.

As per usual, Ladybug caught the black butterfly in her yo-yo and purified it, followed by restoring everyone’s faces to their normal state.

“Bien joué!” Ladybug and Chat Noir fist bumped. The spotted heroine opened her mouth to bid her partner goodbye, but…

“Ladybug!” someone called out from behind them. Ladybug turned to be met by the same paparazzi from earlier: the one behind the costume rack. “Ladybug, are you and Chat Noir in a relationship?”

It felt like every single drop of blood she had rushed to her face.

“Are we what?!”

“We’ve received information that Chat Noir is in love with you. Care to comment?”

Ladybug stood wide-eyed. In love?! That’s not what I said! This paparazzi in particular was already starting to piss her off. What was worse, he seemed to have less of a filter now that she was Ladybug. Her expression turned into a deep scowl.

“An akuma just attacked the studio you work in, and that’s what you get out of it?!” she almost yelled. She could feel her patience abandon her completely, tired of this awful week that seemed to have no end. “Whatever is up between me and Chat, or Marinette and Chat, or Marinette and Adrien, is none of any of you people’s business.” At this point, she started poking the man’s chest. “Stop getting in people’s business. And don’t ever dare ask that again. Got it?!”

The man stared at the heroine in disbelief. But Ladybug didn’t care. The more crap happened to her, the less she cared for keeping her cool. She turned on her heels to walk away, but froze when she noticed Chat Noir petrified, gawking at her. It was then that it occurred to her that she wasn’t supposed to know about his crush on her. He didn’t know he had already confessed by accident a while ago. To him, the paparazzi had just confessed for him.

And she was the one who made it happen. Even if it hadn’t been intentional.

Ugh, I can’t believe I dragged myself into this. That’s like if Chat were Adrien and he was the one who said his own name in Nadja’s interview.

Heh, yeah right. Like Adrien would be careless enough to do that.

She cleared her throat.

“Chat Noir?” she called cautiously, taking a few steps towards him. He didn’t move, but she could have sworn she saw the exact moment saliva went down his throat. “Chat?” she tried again.

Chat made a loud, clearing noise from his throat. “Yeah,” he squeaked, forcing him to clear his throat again. “Yeah, I’m fine. Sorta… I don’t know.”

Ladybug bit her lip. She couldn’t even imagine the embarrassment her partner was feeling at that moment.

“That’s not how I wanted you to find out,” he suddenly blurted out. Ladybug took a large breath. With a quick glance at the paparazzi, she grabbed the cat-themed hero by the wrist and dragged him away from the unwelcomed onlooker. Once they were out of earshot, she turned to look at him straight in the eyes.

“Chat—”

Beep beep.

A hand automatically went for one of her earrings. Heck of a timing, she internally grumbled.

“It’s okay, Ladybug,” Chat Noir interrupted her thoughts. “We don’t have to talk about it. You have to go.”

She hesitated. Although she wasn’t sure what she could say to him, it felt wrong not saying anything, or doing anything.

“Don’t worry about it,” he assured her, like he could read her mind. “There’ll be time.”

Ladybug sighed. “Could you care for the victim?”

“Of course,” he nodded. Ladybug gave him an appreciative smile. It amazed her how, even though one of his biggest secrets had been outed, he didn’t treat her any differently. He was just as considerate as always. Overwhelmed with gratefulness, Ladybug grabbed him by the shoulder and pulled him into a fierce hug.

For a moment, Chat was frozen. Very slowly, he returned the gesture. Ladybug couldn’t help but frown. It felt…different. Different from what she was used to. Lately, he returned her hugs without hesitation. She even dared to kiss him on the cheek, and he never seemed uncomfortable.

Of course, that had been as Marinette…

Oh.

The second it hit her, she pulled away, her cheeks quickly becoming red with embarrassment. A bodily reaction that was starting to get on her nerves.

“I-I’ll see ya,” she squeaked, accompanied by a shaky wave.

And she ran.

Ladybug reached the air duct from where she came from and quickly made her way back to the dressing room. Just as she was lowering herself, her transformation gave away, making her land as Marinette. Tikki, on her part, landed on her chosen’s shoulder. Marinette silently gestured the kwami to be quiet, as she opened her purse. Without uttering a word, the little being hid inside.

A quick scan of the room confirmed that Alya was still locked in the closet, much to her relief.

“Somebody there?” came her muffled voice from behind the doors, no longer altered. Marinette held back a snort as she gave her friend freedom. The first thing Alya did was pounce on the pig-tailed girl.

“I’m so glad you’re safe!” she cried. “I thought something happened to you!”

“I’m fine,” Marinette comforted. “It was a false alarm.”

Alya pulled away, but kept her hold on the designer’s shoulders.

“You need to stop scaring me during akuma attacks,” she pleaded. Marinette could only give her a sad smile and a promise that she would try. A promise that could barely be kept due to the circumstances. But Alya didn’t know that.

After making sure the Miraculous Cure worked properly, the two walked out of the dressing room, headed to where Chat Noir was comforting Nadja. That was, if glaring at the reporter could be called comforting. What is up with him lately? She wondered, remembering how he almost lost his cool with Charline.

It was then that she noticed her mother was also there, with a similar expression. Now her, she could understand. Their friendship had just taken a hard hit.

“What’s going on?” she asked as she got closer.

“Do you have anything to say for yourself?” Sabine scolded Nadja.

Maman…” Marinette warned he mother, reminding her that the reporter was as much a victim as they were.

“I’m sorry Marinette, and I’m sorry Sabine,” Nadja spoke with a choked voice, but keeping her eyes on the two. “I should’ve never taken advantage of our friendship for ratings. It was not only wrong, but selfish of me. I should’ve thought about the consequences. I should’ve done my job ethically, and I promise I will never do it again.”

“You realize this is not easy to forgive,” Sabine said, coldly. “I know you got akumatized for your guilt, but I just don’t think that’s enough.”

“I understand,” Nadja softly nodded. “You were right earlier. I sold my soul, and for what? I betrayed you, I betrayed your daughter…” she sighed. “If you let me, I will do everything in my power to fix this. I could give her the interview she deserves.”

“I don’t know” the short woman hesitated. “She’s… She’s the light of my life.”

“I know. I would feel the same if it were Manon. Which is way I can’t let Marinette’s name continue to be dragged through the mud,” the reporter’s tone became firmer. “I would treat her the way I should’ve the first time. I would interview as the hero that she is, and not as the love interest of a superhero. I promise.”

Sabine hesitated. Marinette waited anxiously. Despite going through a lot due to that interview, she didn’t want their friendship to end because of a stupid mistake.

“Alright,” the woman concluded. “But I want to be there this time.”

“Of course,” Nadja assured. There was a moment of silence between the two. The reporter sighed and started to turn away, but was stopped by a sudden embrace from her short friend.

“Don’t ever again give me a reason to want to kick your butt,” Sabine whispered. The reporter couldn’t help but smile. As they pulled away, Nadja glanced at Marinette, who gave her an enthusiastic nod with a soft smile. Making a comment about Manon being in her office alone for too long, and a quick wave, Nadja left the room.

“Well, that was something,” Marinette commented, turning her attention to her partner. But her smile faded when she realized how tense he was. “Hey, Chat, are you okay?”

“Ladybug hugged me,” Chat blurted out suddenly. Marinette frowned. His hands were fiddling with each other, and… Is it just me, or is he shaking? She blinked. Yeap, definitely shaking.

“Oookay,” she drawled, unsure of what emotion she should have. “That’s…nice.”

It was weird.

The silence was not as comfortable as it usually was. It felt like something was being left unsaid, but she couldn’t pin point what it was. What was more, despite her answer, he still seemed shaken, for some reason. It’s like he had just admitted a terrible deed he committed. Why would he think that was a bad thing? Shouldn’t he be happy? Ladybug freaking hugged him.

Wait, she stopped her thoughts. Isn’t that giving him false hope? What am I doing?!

“Adrien held me by the waist yesterday!” The words came out like vomit. She said the first thing that came to mind that could squash that hope. Yet… He has no clue I’m Ladybug.

Even so, it seemed to do the trick.

“Oh,” he whispered, his body finally becoming still. “Uh… boy getting a little handsy?”

He cringed. Yet, it made her laugh at how awkward the sentence came out. So much so, it released some of the tension between them.

“Don’t worry, chaton. He was only trying to stop me from beating up Chloé into a bloody pulp.”

“Heh, yeah,” he released a laugh, but quickly tensed back up. “Wait, why would I be worried?”

Well, that didn’t last.

“Um, well, some guy groping me without my permission?” That was the reason. Right?

Chat gasped and his eyes widened, a clawed hand flying to his mouth.

“I-I’m sorry,” he sputtered, the little bit of his showing skin turning a deep shade of scarlet. “I didn’t think about that. I-I—”

“Hey, i-it’s fine,” she sputtered back. Ugh, what is up with us? Since when are we this awkward?

It was those questions which finally managed to calm her down. Why were they being awkward? This was ridiculous. He’s my friend, I can act like a normal person with him.

“He didn’t actually grope me,” she spoke with more resolve. “He just held me by the waist, no biggie. I-I don’t even know why I brought that up anymore.”

“R-right,” Chat stuttered. Wait, what? “I-I should get going.”

“Y-yeah, I guess,” she responded, still processing the fact the her terribly flirty partner was stuttering. She shook her head, trying to get rid of the thought, and raised a fist, ready to be bumped. “See ya later?”

Chat Noir stared at her hand, some of the redness finally fading from his face. Slowly, a soft smile spread over his lips. Cheerfully closing his eyes, he bumped her fist.

“I’ll see ya, Mari.” Marinette gasped. It had been a while since Chat had used that other nickname. And for some reason, it felt different now. She searched his eyes for a moment, since they were now staring at her with the most tender look she had ever seen. She wasn’t exactly sure about what she was trying to find, but it felt important.

Before she managed to get any answers, though, he pulled away. With a two-finger salute, the leather-clad hero bid her goodbye and left the scene. Marinette felt in a trance as she watched him go. It still felt like something very important was left unsaid, but couldn’t figure out what it was.

“Alya, are you thinking what I’m thinking?” Sabine asked with a teasing tone from Marinette’s left.

“I don’t know, Mrs. Cheng. What are you thinking?” Came Alya’s voice from her right.

“I’m thinking Marinette’s room is getting a makeover.”

Marinette’s face contorted, right before she whirled around. “What is that supposed to mean?”

Neither responded immediately, too busy snickering under their breaths. Alya was the first to settle.

“Yeah, she’ll probably be needing new posters,” another snort escaped the redhead’s lips, while Sabine covered her own mouth.

“What do you mean—” but the designer cut her words short, catching on to what they were trying to say. They’re not serious, are they? She thought, incredulous. They couldn’t possibly be implying that…

“You two have no idea what you’re talking about,” she crossed her arms and huffed, scrunching her nose. Her mother and her best friend exchanged looks, holding their giggles. Sabine shook her head, prompting Alya to take a deep breath to control herself.

“Come on,” Sabine said. “We need to get Alya home. It’s pretty late.”

Marinette huffed one more time, but followed her mother nonetheless, her best friend on her side. She knew they were just teasing. It didn’t change the fact that the suggestion was preposterous. Her and Chat Noir? As if.

He was just a friend. Nothing more.


After running through the rooftops for half an hour, in an attempt to clear his head, Chat Noir quietly slipped into his room in the Agreste mansion and released his transformation. Plagg instantly started complaining about keeping the transformation for so long, and in a patrol night to boot, but Adrien barely listened. He was leaning against his large windows, deep in thought.

His heart was still racing, and it had little to do with the extra thirty minutes running around Paris. Despite his attempts, it did little to stop him from thinking about the events of the day.

Ladybug knew. She knew about his feelings for her. Yet, for some reason, it was stressing. He thought he would be happy if she ever found out, but instead, he wished she had never known. And he had no idea why he was feeling that way.

Why did it feel like he had betrayed Marinette somehow? It didn’t make any sense.

It was not like he couldn’t have several close friends at the same time. In fact, he’d never even felt that way when it came to Nino. So why was it different with Marinette? Granted, she knew him differently than his bespectacled friend, but even so…

But why wasn’t it the other way around? Shouldn’t he feel guilty for sharing much more with Marinette than Ladybug? Well, to be fair, it was easier to spend time with his classmate who lived right next to their school than the superheroine who only showed up during akuma attacks and patrols. Patrols for which they took turns, to not overexert themselves.

“Ugh, just tell me what’s eating ya,” Plagg suddenly snapped. Adrien blinked as he looked at the little being cradling a piece of his precious camembert.

“What?” he mumbled, confused.

“You’ve been sulking on that window frame since we got here. It’s annoying,” the kwami whined. Adrien was about to deny it, but ultimately decided it was pointless lying to his obligatory roommate. Who knows: he had his moments of helpful advice.

“I’m… confused,” he released, finally. Plagg nodded, signaling he was listening. So, the boy continued. “I feel…guilty…for some reason. Like I betrayed Marinette for hugging Ladybug and letting her know about my feelings. But that’s ridiculous, isn’t it?”

Plagg blinked. His frown disappeared, and was replaced with a knowing smirk that showed his tiny fangs.

“Ooohhh,” he drawled, like all his questions had just been answered. Which only bewildered Adrien even more.

“Whatta you mean ‘ooohhhh’? What is that supposed to mean?” But the only response he got was a loud cackle from the black being. Adrien crossed his arms. “And here I thought you may actually be of some help. What was I thinking?”

For a whole minute, the laughing didn’t stop. The blond already had half his mind made up on pulling on the kwami’s tail, when Plagg flew up to his nose.

“I saw this coming from day one, and you just blatantly denied it. Who’s talking nonsense now?” he managed to get out between snickers.

“What are you talking about?” Adrien demanded. Plagg popped the chunk of cheese into his mouth, quickly swallowing.

She’s just a friend,” Plagg imitated air quotes as best as he could, given the little nubs he had for hands. “I knew you’d end up falling for her one day.”

Adrien could have sworn he felt a short-circuit occur in his brain. He had to have heard wrong.

“Plagg, I’ve had feelings for Ladybug since the beginning, you know that.” The stubborn part of his brain took charge.

“Ugh, you really are dense,” the kwami slapped a paw to his forehead. “I’m not talking about Ladybug.”

Nope, he definitely heard right.

“You’re crazy,” Adrien waved a hand dismissively and started towards his desk.

“Ha! You wish,” Plagg followed his charge. “You’ve been talking about her none-stop since you found out she likes you. You even cancelled on Nino a few times just to go hang out with her.”

Adrien stopped on his tracks. He turned on his heels to face the little god, but couldn’t find the right words to say. His mouth opened and closed a few times.

“Yeeesss?” Plagg teased, his smirk still in place.

“I don’t like her that way!” the blond blurted out. “And I have not cancelled on Nino for her. I just… happened to have plans already.”

“With Marinette.”

“Well—!” Adrien tried to retort, but his mind went blank. Plagg obviously didn’t know what he was talking about. Marinette was his friend. There was a perfectly good explanation for cancelling on Nino. And he finally found it: “Superheroes don’t have a fixed schedule!”

He blurted it out with victory, thinking it was enough proof that Plagg was dead wrong.

“I can go out with Nino whenever I want, but I can’t see Marinette whenever, you know? A-and it’s not like Marinette is in her home all the time, a-and I only see her right before patrol—”

“Hours before patrol,” Plagg corrected. Adrien stared. Looking at the kwami, he realized none of his words seemed to be convincing him. Which was annoying.

“You know what?” the blond pointed a finger at Plagg, who responded with a bored what, before Adrien continued. “I’m gonna make plans with Nino for Saturday. Right now.”

Without waiting for a response, he sunk down to his desk chair and started checking his phone, only to see three missed calls and seven text messages, all from Nino. Adrien cringed. Maybe he had abandoned his friend a little. Now the guilt was starting to manifest inside him. Without missing a beat, the blond called his bespectacled friend. It only took two rings for it to be answered.

“Dude! Where have you been?!” Adrien distanced the phone away from his ear. Nino could be very loud sometimes.

“Hey Nino,” he responded, already used to his friend’s exaggerated antics.

“Have you watched iTV today?” Adrien cringed again. He already had a pretty good idea what the DJ was about to gush about. He didn’t watch it, he freaking lived it!

“No, why, whassup?”

“Marichat is what’s up!” Nino responded. Adrien frowned.

“Mariwhat?”

“Marinette and Chat Noir’s shipname!”

“ShipWHAT?!” Adrien chocked.

“It’s been all over the Internet!” Nino exclaimed, oblivious to his friend’s distress. “Except the Ladyblog. Alya hasn’t opened the forums since yesterday. But everywhere else, people are posting gifs and photos of the two. You’ve got mad competition, dude.”

“Why does everybody keep saying that?” Adrien grumbled under his breath. It took Nino asking ‘what’ for the blond to realize he said it out loud. He shook his head. “Nino, he’s not my competition. There’s no competition. Marinette and I are just friends.”

“Could’ve fooled me,” the DJ retorted.

“And what is that supposed to mean?” Adrien demanded for the second time that night. From the other side of the line, his best friend snorted.

“Dude, you could not be more obvious!” he barked. “First you got all awkward with her, then you rescued her from the reporters, then you were crazy red when you pulled her from Chloé, I mean, I’ve never seen you seek her out so much.”

“We’ve just… gotten closer,” the model feebly responded.

“Hmm, sure,” Nino drawled. Pinching the bridge of his nose, Adrien spoke again.

“Are you free on Saturday?”

Just like that, Adrien planned his entire weekend, as means to prove to Plagg he didn’t care he saw Marinette or not. But also, to make up for leaving his friend in the dust for a while. Perhaps he could see the designer another time. Maybe at lunch next day.

Yeah. That could work.


 

Running through a horde of reporters to get to school was already becoming a routine for Marinette. It wasn’t much of a change, since she always ran to school anyway, but now it was like an obstacle course. What was more, the number seemed to have doubled after the previous night’s new discovery.

Everyone wanted to know her feelings on Chat’s love for Ladybug. Couldn’t get more ridiculous than that.

At least Marinette was starting to get a handle on how to get past them. This morning she managed to stumble through the large doors without throwing herself in the school. Even so, she was still late for class. Thankfully, Miss Bustier was understanding of her situation, and her classmates were polite enough to not whisper behind her back, unlike most other students in the school.

At midday, the bell rang, signaling it was time for lunch. Marinette saved her tablet in her bag, and placed it on her desk, waiting for Alya to finish talking to Nino.

“Hey.” She looked up, and her bluebells locked on those familiar spring green eyes of Adrien. “How you doing?”

She gulped. “H-hey, Adrien. I’m alright. Uh… you?”

The boy shrugged, hand tightly holding to his bag. “The press hasn’t seemed that interested in me, for some reason.”

“Oh. That’s—” but her words were cut off by the sound of falling books and papers behind the golden boy. A very flustered Nathaniel shuffled down to the ground, trying to pick everything up as quickly as possible. On instinct, Marinette left her chair to help him out.

“Here you go,” Marinette offered the last book with a warm smile. An action that made the boy’s cheeks become as red as his hair.

“Thank you,” he whispered, so low, Marinette nearly missed it. A tentative hand reached out, but then hesitated. He visibly gulped before he spoke. “Uh, I wanted to tell you something, Marinette.”

Marinette’s head tilted to the side. The boy gulped again.

“I-I just w-wanted to tell you that you don’t have to worry about me,” he got out through stutters. But the words only accentuated the girl’s confusion, so he continued. “I-I don’t have a crush on you anymore.”

THUNK

The book Marinette had been holding was now back on the floor, and her hands clapped to her mouth. Panic started rising in her. She needed to correct the situation!

“I-I-I’m so sorry!” she sputtered. “I didn’t think about how I would be putting you on the spot, talking about you when you were akumatized, and about your crush, and that I never actually told you what happened, and how—”

“It’s okay,” the artist spoke softly, picking up his book and standing straight. “I just wanted to let you know.”

“O-okay,” Marinette lamely responded, as she got up to his level. She started biting her lip for a moment, trying to decide whether to keep talking or not, to which her brain so kindly responded with a yes. “So you moved on?”

Nathaniel shrugged, tightening his grip on the books over his chest.

“T-that’s good.” God, this is so awkward! “Who?” Shut up, Marinette!

But the boy didn’t respond, simply pulling more into himself, his cheeks turning scarlet once again. Without another word, he rushed past her, out of the classroom. Marinette stared after him, slightly worried. Her concerns were cut short, though, by a chuckle coming from her side.

“Are you sure he’s over you?” Adrien was now resting against her desk. Marinette opened her mouth to respond, but was once again cut off.

“He’s over her,” a steely voice responded for her. The two turned to see Lila standing where Nathaniel had been just moments ago. “I’ve seen him draw Ladybug nonstop. Says he would’ve been a goner without her, whatever that means.”

A low groan ushered through Marinette’s lips. Well, at least that’s just a celebrity crush, she comforted herself. It was less complicated that way.

“Do you have plans for lunch, Marinette?” the Italian bluntly asked. The designer blinked at the exchange student. Since when were they friends?

“Actually,” Adrien took a step forward, “I was hoping to ask the same thing.”

Wait, what?

“We could all go together, if you want,” Lila responded with the sweetest voice she could muster, slowly blinking.

“I don’t know how I feel about that. Our last outing was pretty disastrous,” the blond retorted.

“I’m sure Ladybug won’t be there to ruin it this time.”

Never mind, Nathaniel, this is awkward.

“Hey, that’s a little unfair. She apologized for that.”

Wait, how does he know that?

“It doesn’t change the fact that she humiliated me.”

“Please, stop,” this time, Marinette spoke out loud.

“She made a mistake. She may be a superhero, but she’s still human.”

“A very mean human.”

“Guys,” Marinette pleaded, stepping between them with raised arms. The two looked at the designer between them for a moment, before glaring at each other.

“She’s having lunch with me,” Adrien declared with finality, grabbing one of the designer’s wrist.

“No, she’s coming with me,” Lila grabbed her other wrist and pulled, making Marinette stumble.

“Try again,” The hand that had been on his bag strap grabbed Marinette’s bicep and pulled, making her stumble again.

“Gladly,” Lila’s arms snaked around Marinette’s other arm and pulled, making it painful this time.

“Guys!”

“Stop hogging my friend!” Alya stepped up to the struggling trio, fists clenched on her sides and closely followed by Nino. “You’re gonna break her arms.”

“Oh, thank goodness,” Marinette breathed as the other two slowly let go of her.

“What’s going on?” Nino adjusted his headphones around his neck, to listen to the conversation better. “Why’s everyone fighting over Marinette?”

“Good question,” Marinette groaned, miserably. She had never had people fight over her. She could understand Lila: she was lonely ever since the Volpina fiasco. But since when had Adrien been so adamant about hanging out with her? Not that it was bad, but it was weird as heck.

“I just don’t see why I can’t hang out with her for just one day,” Lila sneered, crossing her arms. “You guys have had her the entire school year.”

“Well, we don’t think she needs new friends,” Alya retorted, to which Marinette cringed. Never mind. You’re no help, Alya.

“I don’t think you’re the one who gets to decide that. Right, Marinette?”

The pig-tailed girl froze. She could feel the blood draining from her face as Alya, Adrien, Nino and Lila pointed their gazes at her. Despite being in all kinds of crazy scenarios these past few weeks, Marinette hadn’t felt more on the spot than she did now. So much so, that all she could do was laugh nervously.

“You’re not serious, are you?!” Alya snapped.

“Dude, that’s a terrible idea!” Nino followed instantly.

“Marinette, you can’t,” Adrien added.

All the while Lila gave a triumphant smirk. Which prompted a resounding “NO!” from the other three.

Marinette squeaked. In a surge of panic, she grabbed her bag and rapidly started backing out of the classroom.

“W-we don’t really have to decide anything today, do we?” she sputtered, still taking steps backwards to the room’s exit. “Maybe we could just calmly think about it, and maybe next time deci—OOF!”

“Marinette!” the four called in unison the second a tall figured crashed with the small girl on the hallway, spreading a mess of books and limbs on the floor. Marinette sat up and rubbed her shoulder, while the figure next to her was shaking his head. The other four quickly started fuming over her wellbeing, lifting her from the ground.

“It’s fine guys,” she brushed them away, turning her attention to the stranger. “I’m so sorry, I wasn’t looking where I was going.”

“It’s fine,” the blond boy assured her, rising to his feet. Marinette rushed to lightly hold him by the arm as he dusted off his clothes. With one last headshake, he straightened up, locking green eyes with her. He blinked.

“Marinette Dupain-Cheng,” he said in a soft, monotone voice. Marinette was taken aback for a moment, and let go of him.

“Do I know you?” she couldn’t help but ask. It seemed to have snapped the boy out of whatever daze he had gotten into, because he curtly shook his head and started to pick up his books. Marinette promptly helped him, but something kept nagging on the back of her mind. Something about this boy…

“Here you go.” She handed the last of his books. The boy nodded, but remained still for a moment, staring at her. They stood there, until he silently cleared his throat, finally looking away.

“Good day, Princess,” he whispered, and walked away from her.

Marinette could have sworn her heart stopped. Princess. He called me Princess. There’s only one guy who calls me…

A gasp escaped her lips. She turned on her heels and stared at the fading figure of the boy. Of… Chat Noir?

“What was that all about?” Nino uttered, barely managing to ground Marinette.

“A weirdo, if you ask me,” Lila provided.

“Nobody asked you,” Alya retorted through clenched teeth.

The three teens started squabbling, all the while not noticing Marinette’s dazed look and Adrien’s deep scowl. 


 

Adrien had kept his word about not seeing Marinette on Saturday. Instead, he left a note on her balcony saying he’d been busy. Which he had been. He actually had a great time with Nino. A good reminder of why he had considered visiting him as Chat Noir, too, at the beginning.

Even so, he had to admit that he missed Marinette. He wished he could hang out with both at the same time, without having to choose. But that was only possible if she knew he was Adrien, and that was just not going to happen. So instead, he waited until Tuesday, as usual.

Chat stared from far away. He wasn’t sure why he was still standing there, looking from a distance. Something felt… different. He could come up with ideas, but he refused to believe that was it. Yet there was one thought that kept circling his brain as he looked at her: there was something mesmerizing about her standing on the balcony, staring off into the sunset. Something that gave him peace.

Chat Noir took a deep breath, making sure a brown paper bag he brought was well attached to his belt, and jumped across, landing on the railing. Marinette’s gaze snapped up to him, surprised, but pleased, from the looks of it.

“Hey,” he whispered. Marinette gave him on of the softest smile he had ever seen come from her.

“Hey,” she responded.

“Were you expecting me?” he couldn’t help but ask, to which she simply shrugged.

“Think I haven’t noticed your schedule of Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays?” she spoke in a matter-of-fact tone. A wide grin spread over his lips, as his cat ears perked up.

“So you noticed?” He hopped down to the ground to stand next to her. “Anything else you noticed?” He playfully elbowed her arm, wiggling his eyebrows. Marinette rolled her eyes and shook her head, but a smile painted her lips.

“I am not feeding your ego,” she declared, but the amusement was clear in her voice. Chat smirked.

“Poor Princess, doesn’t know she has already fed it without knowing it,” he feigned pity, dramatically placing the back of his hand on his forehead.

“What is that supposed to mean?” Marinette squinted. Oh, this is gonna be fun.

“Well,” he started, bringing his hand down to his chin, “rumor has it you think I’m… oh, how was it?” He smirked. “Handsome in an obvious kind of way?”

Marinette’s face contorted, an eye twitching. It was hard to tell with the setting sun, but he was almost certain her cheeks had become pink.

“Where do you keep getting your information?!”

He laughed. Never would he have thought teasing Marinette could be this fun. A thought that now warmed his heart.

“I told you,” he chuckled. “I have my sources.”

Marinette groaned under her breath. “Well, I also said that you’re goofy and ridiculous, so don’t get your hopes too high.”

“Irrelevant,” he perked up. “You think my good looks are obvious.”

Without even thinking it, he started flexing, to which Marinette responded with a groan, and her head landing with a thunk on the railing. Oh yeah, this is fun.

“How are we friends,” Marinette grumbled, her head still hiding between her arms.

“You know your life is better with me in it,” he responded, without missing a beat. Marinette turned her head to look at him, a mix of irritation and fondness in her bluebells.

“More like complicated,” she sighed. A sliver of fear started creeping up from the pit of Chat’s stomach. That wasn’t bad, right?

“I hope that’s a good complicated,” he cleared his throat. He felt he had enough confidence with Marinette already to know she didn’t mean it that way, but a part of him couldn’t help but worry a little about the possibility of her starting to dislike him. Especially after everything that’s happened.

She raised her brows, almost as if she were reading everything he was thinking. Once again, a soft smile curled her lips as she playfully elbowed his arm, much like he did earlier.

“Surprisingly, yeah,” she whispered. Chat gave her one of his trademark toothy grins in response.

“So,” she continued, “can I ask about the bag, or should I wait for you to bring it up?” Marinette jerked her head towards the paper bag snugged under Chat’s belt. He gulped, but gave her an overenthusiastic smile. He cleared his throat, for what seemed like the hundredth time that night.

“Well, I was gonna wait a few days for it, but I couldn’t help myself,” he spoke as he removed the bag from his belt. This is really stupid, he thought as he hesitated for a moment, a claw tapping the bottom of the bag underneath. “I know it doesn’t mean much, but I kinda wanted to commemorate our friendship, so…” He trailed off as he offered the bag to Marinette, a blush starting to creep up his ears.

Marinette’s brows furrowed while she carefully grabbed the bag. Slowly, she opened it, peering inside. Chat held his breath. This is really, really stupid.

With much less care, Marinette shoved her hand inside the bag, taking out a plastic spray bottle. One commonly used to water plants.

“Watering cans are old fashioned,” Chat blurted out as he stared at Marinette’s bewildered look. “I figured you would like something a bit more modern. And less painful,” he added with a grimace. But the girl kept staring, so he continued. “Exactly four weeks ago, you threw a watering can at me, and I got to know a side of you I didn’t know existed. It was painful, but it was worth it. I know it hasn’t been a full month yet, but I really wanted to give it to you.”

Marinette kept staring, stunned. A reaction that was starting to make him nervous.

“I-I know things have been… messy for a good portion of our friendship,” he started rambling, “but I’m glad it was with you. I mean, I would’ve preferred no mess, but there is a mess, and I’m justgladI’mgoingthroughthismesswithyou.”

Chat Noir (nor Adrien for that matter) was not one to usually mess up his words, but this was one exception he had never realized he was capable of. This was probably one of, if not the dumbest thing he’d ever done. And was then deeply questioning why he had been so sure of it earlier.

A snort distracted him out of his thoughts. The blue-haired girl started laughing before him, in the most carefree way he had ever heard.

“You weren’t lying when you said you don’t have many friends, were you?” her laughs became more subdued, and a hint of sadness sprinkled over it.

“This is really stupid,” he finally voiced his thoughts, cat-ears drooping. “I should’ve gotten you something better, like jewelry or a videogame, or maybe—”

“Chat,” Marinette placed a hand on his forearm, giving him that shinning beam of hers. “Thank you. I love it.”

“Really?” Marinette nodded.

“It’s the most thoughtful gift you could’ve come up with,” she placed the bag aside to the patio chair on her balcony, and tightened her grip on the spray bottle. “And to be completely honest, I’m glad I hit you with my watering can, too.”

The toothy grin was back with a vengeance. Strangely, that was probably one of the nicest things anyone had ever said to him. Marinette hesitated for a moment, but before Chat could ask what was wrong, the girl slowly snaked her arms under his, embracing him in a warm hug. This was something he was already starting to get used to. By instinct, he reciprocated, placing his cheek on her head.

Huh. Never noticed her shampoo smells like flowers. It was a scent that reminded him of springtime, when the flowers were blooming, giving color to what had been colorless for winter. A time that gave him a sense of new beginnings, of growth. It also reminded him of the tiny little bugs that would flutter in that time. Like ladybugs.

“Chat.”

“Hmm?”

Marinette pulled away. Chat Noir tried not to feel too disappointed with the lack of flowery smell going up his nostrils. Wait—

“Uhh,” Marinette shifted from foot to foot. The blond did his best to get his head out of the tiny garden residing on the girl’s head, trying to encourage her to say whatever she wanted to say. Marinette took a deep breath. “I’m curious about something, but I don’t wanna make you say something you shouldn’t. In fact, you don’t have to answer, e-even though it’s not that revealing, but I-I don’t know how you would feel about it, if it’s too personal, or not, or—”

“Marinette,” Chat stopped her. He lightly squeezed her biceps, accompanied by a soft smile. “Just ask.”

The girl exhaled and nodded. “Okay…” Slowly, she lifted her gaze. For some reason, Chat’s heart accelerated. Was something exciting about to happen? And why could he feel a combination of excitement and anxiousness crawling its way through his body? “Chat,” Marinette started, making his heart speed up even more, “have we met, outside of your mask?”

If it weren’t for the fact that Chat Noir could still feel himself blink, he could have sworn he had a heart attack right there and then. Why was she asking that? Did she know? Oh no, she knows. Wait. No. That couldn’t be it. He’d never given himself away. Or was she asking because she wanted to know his identity? But why would she want to know his identity? Now? She’d always been so respectful about it.

“Y-you don’t have to—”

“Why are you asking me that?” Chat Noir cut in. It wasn’t until that moment that he realized his hands were back at his sides, and a tension had begun to grow on his shoulders. At the same time, Marinette was holding the spray bottle tightly against her chest.

“I’m just curious,” she quietly responded. “Like I said: you don’t have to answer. Much less if it reveals too much about your identity. I know it’s important to keep it secret, especially now that we’re in a media disaster. I’m just… curious.”

The boy couldn’t help but feel conflicted. A part of him wanted to say yes, that they met a long time ago. That the first day they met, she probably hated his guts. That she more than knew him, she was in love with him.

But the other part of him could hear Plagg and Ladybug scolding him for revealing his identity to a civilian, who was already starting to become a constant target for akumas. The part that knew it was too dangerous for her to know the truth. That the best he could do for her was say that no, they did not know each other.

But he couldn’t find it in his heart to blatantly lie to her, so he responded with one word: “Maybe.”

Marinette’s eyes widened, as she inhaled a deep breath. Her grip on the spray bottle slightly shifted. Her lips parted.

“Oh,” she squeaked. “That’s, uh… that’s interesting… Cool. I guess.”

“Wait,” Chat frowned, “you think you know who I am?”

“No!” Marinette squeaked once again. Then cringed. “Maybe? I don’t know, I-I could be wrong.”

The girl turned away to look at the setting sun, which was almost completely gone. This was probably the latest Chat had ever stayed over. Meaning he should also go on patrol very soon. But this had just gotten interesting.

“So, the Princess believes she has found her knight,” he teased, a smirk curling his lips. “And who may this lucky guy be?”

“I don’t know, Chat,” she spoke with a firmer tone now. “I have some suspicions, but I’m not going to act on them. I just… couldn’t stop thinking about it, for some reason.”

Chat Noir found it hard to gulp. Ugh, what is up with me?! Why do I keep feeling like I’m about to throw up my heart? He took a deep breath to try and distract himself. With little success.

“Do you want to know?” he asked, slowly. Marinette scoffed.

“Whether I want to or not is not what matters,” she sighed. “I guess I just never thought you could be so close, yet so far.”

They became silent. It had never occurred to Chat how blindsided Marinette was in their friendship. He knew so much more of her than she did of him. And even when he tried to correct that, something always got in the way, whether it was Chloé, Hawkmoth or, most recently, Lila.

“But it’s fine.” The boy’s cat-ears perked up as his friend continued. “Maybe someday.”

Marinette was looking at him again, smiling like the shinning sun. A star that warmed him, especially his cheeks.

“Maybe someday,” he echoed her. “Who knows. I’ll probably be who you least expect.”

“I doubt it,” Marinette snorted. Chat snickered, but said no more.

He stayed a few minutes more, enough for the designer to inform him of coming interviews that week. All in the hopes that, this time, they would not be taken by surprise. By the time Char Noir leaped off the railing of her balcony, the sun had completely set. But he didn’t mind. It was worth it, just to spend more time with one of his best friends.

Friend. Nothing more.

Chapter Text

Everywhere Marinette walked, whispers followed. Before, she had heard a few things here and there, but now it was a constant, annoying buzzing. Some even dared to point. Some gave gleeful looks. Others, pure envy. And one word kept standing out from the not-so-silent conversations: Marichat.

It was a dumb ship name someone came up with over the Internet. But the damn thing caught on. Yet Marinette refused to die of embarrassment. No way she was giving the whole school the satisfaction of seeing her become flustered over a silly name.

Because it was a silly name. There was no Marichat.

No. Marichat.

“Ugh,” Marinette groaned under her breath.

“That’s like the third time you’ve done that,” Alya complained, slamming her notebook shut. The two were sitting on a bench at lunch time, working on their Physics homework. “Spill girl. What is it?”

The pig-tailed girl did the same with her book, resigning any attempt at concentration.

“I just keep thinking about everything,” she flailed her arms in frustration. “Can you believe they gave us a ship name? It’s like I say one thing, and they understand the complete opposite. And worse, they’re horrible at hiding it. Like seriously, I’m standing right here! And from right here, I can see Aurore pointing at me!”

Marinette sent a sharp look to the blonde in the baby blue dress a few meters away. Aurore silently yelped, before turning tail as quickly as possible. The designer huffed.

“Mari,” Alya sighed, placing an arm around her best friend. “Just ignore them. They can whisper all they want, it’s still not gonna make their rumors true.”

“But they keep spreading them!” Marinette groaned. “I feel so powerless.”

“Girl,” Alya pressed her friend’s shoulder, “I promise this will all blow over soon. Something new is gonna come up and they’ll forget all about Marichat.”

Marinette gave the redhead a deadpan look at the mention of the ship name. Alya raised her hands in surrender.

“I’m just saying,” she added.

Marinette sighed. “I’m gonna take a walk. Need to clear my head.”

After an ‘ok’ from the young reporter, Marinette left the bench to walk the halls. It didn’t stop her from thinking about everything that had been happening, but at least it gave her a chance to process it, even if it was just a little.

It still boggled her how one measly video caused everything to blow up so suddenly. If only she hadn’t gone to that dumb interview. Or, at least, had kept her mouth shut.

Absentmindedly, she took out her phone. She had avoided it at all cost, ever since the number incident. Sure, her parents had changed it, but it was still the same phone, and all the messages were still in the memory of it.

She frowned at it. Those messages really didn’t need to be there, did they? Marinette opened the messaging application and started scrolling through them. Most of them were either positive or curious, but there were several nasty ones that did not deserve a spot in her device. Determined, she started to delete them.

Marinette had already deleted around eight messages, when she stumbled across one she had almost responded to. It was an unknown number, but she could still remember looking at the words sent and genuinely smiling. She tapped on it, to realize the person continued to message her until the number was changed. It was all positive and encouraging speech.

Why hadn’t she responded? Oh, right, Adrien had interrupted her. And it had been a weird day, too.

In other words, she forgot.

Was it too late? Would the person even believe her about her identity?

Only one way to find out, she affirmed internally. Without giving it much thought, she started typing in the response box.

Hey stranger. It’s Marinette Dupain-Cheng. You sent me a few messages a while back when my phone number was on the Internet, and I just wanted to say thank you for making me smile during such harsh times.

Yeah. That seemed right.

Shutting her eyes, Marinette tapped ‘SEND’, and let out a long breath. She knew there was a good chance she could be wrong about the person’s identity, but she still felt the need to thank whoever it was. It was only too bad that it took her so long to respond. After several more minutes walking around the school, she gave up on a response and started to head back to Alya. She was almost back at the bench when…

BZZT BZZT

Marinette froze. Her phone vibrated in her pocket, once again. Shakily, she took it out once again to see a notification from a news app and a response from the messaging app. Thankfully, that news wasn’t about an akuma, so she quickly skipped that one and went directly for the response. There was only one question:

How do I know you’re really Marinette?

She huffed. That’s rich, coming from a total stranger. Nevertheless, she answered: The last message you sent me said ‘I don’t know how much longer you’ll have this phone number, but I hope they change it soon, even if I can’t write to you. Remember that you’re amazing.’

A basketball flew by her left side, leaving her ear tingly with the wind.

“Sorry!” called Kim from the court. Marinette shook her head and walked away from the area to avoid another close call.

BZZT BZZT

It really is you. Never thought you would respond. I hope you’re doing okay.

The girl held her breath. Her heart started beating slightly faster as she typed.

Yeah, it’s been crazy lately. I just wanted to say thank you for treating me like an actual human being. Most people just asked me questions.

She sent it. Almost at the same time, she could’ve sworn she heard a ring.

But she shrugged, and focused back on the message sent. It wasn’t much, but it made her feel a little better. Like there was, at least, one person out there who saw her as an actual person, and not a piece of media to consume. She was about to close the messaging application, when her phone vibrated, a new message popping up on the screen.

I just wanted to make sure you’re alright. I know how overwhelming fame can be.

The girl’s heart made a strange jump. Could it be? She asked herself. This person knew what fame was like. Didn’t Chat say he’s famous under the mask, too? Her fingers moved like lighting across the virtual keyboard. Barely checking for grammar, she sent it.

Realy? Like would you seay tha youre famous orsomething?

Marinette cringed, but stood her ground, hoping the message got across. She was so preoccupied by it, she almost missed the notification sound beep once again. Her head swung from side to side, brows furrowed. Was it just a coincidence?

Her phone vibrated again: Something like that. Are you okay?

She took a deep breath, trying to type more calmly this time: Yeah, I’m fine. I just didn’t expect that.

Sent.

Beep, beep.

The sound was definitely nearby. It seemed to come from outside. To where she was now headed. She stopped at the entrance doors, thankful that it was empty of reporters, unlike last week. Good to know I can go out for lunch again.

Another vibration: Yeah, I guess famous people don’t usually go seeking others out. I just felt for you, you know.

Her heart accelerated. She typed slower this time: That’s nice of you.

Sent.

Beep, beep.

Marinette could almost feel herself heaving. Her eyes shifted from left to right. It sounded so close. This whole time? This close? Her phone vibrated again, but she didn’t care. She cared more about where the beeping was coming from.

Without even thinking it, her legs took her down the flight of stairs. She tapped on a letter and sent it.

Beep, beep.

Now it sounded slightly farther. That’s weird, she pondered. She sent another random letter. Beep, beep. It was behind her. But she had just been standing there! She turned on her heels and sent another random letter. Beep, beep. It couldn’t be up the stairs, it was empty. So…?

The side of the stairs.

Marinette walked around to the grassy area next to the building, where she had hidden plenty of times, to work up the courage to talk to Adrien. There, leaning against the wall, was someone staring bewildered at his phone, but typing, nonetheless. He stopped and, almost instantly, the designer’s phone vibrated. Semiconsciously, Marinette tapped on a letter and sent it.

Beep, beep.

“You.” The word came out before she could stop it. The boy’s head snapped up, his green eyes locking into her blue ones.

“Marinette Dupain-Cheng,” he responded. Despite his stoic tone, his eyes slightly widened. But the pig-tailed girl barely paid mind.

“You’re the one who sent me all those messages,” Marinette spoke in an almost accusatory tone, despite not meaning to. The boy averted his gaze from her, and a slight shade of pink filled his cheeks. “Why?”

He hesitated, before responding: “I told you, I thought you needed it.”

“I mean—Wait,” she suddenly stopped, her brain finally catching up. “I know you.”

There was a momentary beat, where the boy in question shifted uncomfortably. Marinette raised a finger to point, still frowning.

“You’re the guy I ran into last week,” she said in a low voice, heart now banging against her chest. “Y-you’re the guy who called me Princess.”

The blond barely moved. That was, until he raised a hand.

“Félix Pelletier,” he said in the same monotone voice as the previous week. “Nice to officially make your acquaintance.”

Marinette’s look was no longer accusatory; it was now gaping. The person whom she had been texting was the same boy who called her Princess. What was it she said to Adrien about the person texting her? I think this person might be Chat Noir. Yeah, that.

Looking at him properly… Blond hair, green eyes, about the same build and height… Is it possible?

He softly cleared his throat, and Marinette realized she hadn’t returned the gesture. Quickly, and clumsily, she shook his hand.

“Meet to nice you—I-I mean, n-nice t-to meet y-y-you,” she stammered, her legs imitating her voice with a slight tremble.

“I’m sorry I didn’t tell you last time we met,” he continued. “I was going to, but I wasn’t sure how your friends would take it.”

“I-it’s fine,” Marinette furiously nodded, scratching the back of her head. “W-wasn’t the time or place anyway.” The girl tried to give a chill laugh, which came out nervous instead.

“I thought so, too,” he responded. They fell silent for a moment, where Marinette just stared at him. It wasn’t until he cleared his throat, once again, that she realized she was still holding his hand. Immediately, she let go, as if it had burned her.

“Sooo, my friend and I are doing some homework. Wanna join us?”

The offer came out before she even had time to think about what she was offering. Technically, she had no idea who this guy was. But the idea that he could be Chat Noir was too overwhelming. If he was…

If he was, then what?

“I wouldn’t mind,” he responded, saving his phone in his pocket. Marinette gave him a shy smile. Nevertheless, she led the way back to the school.

They remained quiet in the short walk. Yet, for the designer, it felt like an eternity, with a million questions screaming in her head. The first one being: Is he Chat Noir? Along with: How could he be so careless? I can I be so careless? What if he isn’t? What if he is? Did he want to get to know me as himself? What are the chances of me being wrong? This is so confusing!

Okay, the last one wasn’t a question, but it was a very valid declaration.

They reached Alya, who was distracted reading her notes. Marinette cleared her throat.

“Hey Alya!” she squeaked. The redhead looked up. “I just made a new friend. Mind if he joins us?”

Alya blinked, her lips parted.

“Uhh…” She frowned. “You look familiar,” she finally said.

“Oh, yeah,” Marinette winced. “He’s the guy I crashed with last week, remember?”

Alya’s eyebrows shot up in recognition. “Oh!” But almost instantly, she was frowning again. “Since when do you two hang out?”

“Since now,” Marinette managed to say, despite the temptation to say a month. “He seemed lonely,” she added.

With those last words, the redhead smiled.

“Well, any friend of Marinette is my friend,” she said and scooted to make room for the new boy.

For the next half-hour, the three chatted amicably. In the conversation, they found out Félix was a national chess champion, headed for a Europe-wide tournament. It also wasn’t the first time he’d gone, making him pretty popular in certain magazines.

So, famous.

Check.

Blond and green eyes.

Check.

Calls me Princess.

Check.

Terribly timed puns and cocky attitude.

Yet to show.

While he had many attributes similar to Chat Noir, he had yet to show a side like that. Although, he did mention once that he was a little reserved in his civilian form for image reasons, but this seemed much more than a little. It was even hard to distinguish his voice, if it was possible. Of course, that could just be his way of covering his identity in front of her.

By the time they started walking back to class, and after going their separate ways, Marinette was rubbing her temples, trying to fit Félix and Chat Noir into one. But there was still a piece missing. Something beyond the attitude. But what was it?

“Something’s bothering you again,” Alya said, without looking away from her phone.

Marinette hesitated for a moment. Although Alya mentioned she wouldn’t tell anyone if she turned out to be Ladybug, Marinette wasn’t sure if her friend would extend that courtesy to the guy who told Paris about her crush on Adrien.

Perhaps she should keep part of the information to herself.

“You remember when Chloé posted my number on the Ladyblog’s forums?” Alya arched an eyebrow, turning her attention to the blue-haired girl. Marinette then proceeded to tell the story of how they actually started to hang out, excluding the part where she suspected him to be Chat Noir.

“So, realizing he probably doesn’t have many friends, I figured it would be a nice gesture if—”

“What are you not telling me?” Alya cut in. Marinette’s heart accelerated.

“W-whatta you mean?” she stammered.

“I find it odd that you would start hanging out with some creep that anonymously texted—”

“He’s not a creep!”

“And you’re already defending him, despite barely knowing him,” Alya finished.

Marinette mentally cursed her friend’s journalistic skills. And her own rash decision to randomly hang out with a strange (probably not a stranger) boy.

“I-I…I guess I just identified with him, you know?” she lied. “The hazards of fame and stuff? It was nice to talk about it with someone who understands.”

“Why didn’t you just talk to Adrien?” Alya asked with a frown.

“Because—” Marinette drew a blank for a second. “Because his Adrien.” Wait, why did that sound like an excuse? “It’s different.”

A deadpan look painted Alya’s face, unconvinced. Nevertheless, she stopped pushing, and gave a simple ‘okay.’ Meanwhile, Marinette let out a breath of relief.

She trusted Alya, but if Félix did turn out to be Chat Noir, she had to protect his secret. Not only was it not hers to tell, but she was sure he would do the same.

Speaking of blond boys, why did she skip out of such a perfect opportunity to talk to Adrien?


Friday, finally.

Marinette stretched her limbs in the midday sun, reveling in the springtime wind sweeping the park nearby the school. After several weeks avoiding reporters and paparazzi, it felt nice to finally have the freedom to go outside. It was like what happened to Nadja drove some of them away, unwilling to end up akumatized, too.

It also made it easier to include Félix to their group of friends. While Alya was still skeptical about the inclusion, she didn’t say anything. Now, the three of them were sitting nearby a tree, relaxing in their own ways: Félix was reading a book, Alya was watching the midday shows on her phone and Marinette had been napping, after she had stayed late the night before doing homework.

She was about to close her eyes again, when Alya cursed. Her eyes snapped open and she directed them to her reporter friend.

“What happened?” she asked.

Alya’s eyes shifted, while Félix closed his book, joining the conversation.

“You don’t wanna know,” the redhead grunted. And it was all Marinette needed to know what it was about.

She groaned. Of course something new happened. Of course her peace didn’t last. It had been a good week. She had even managed to have a peaceful hangout with Chat the previous day, without having to talk about press mishaps. What could they possibly have now?!

“Oh, for goodness sake, just tell me,” she sighed.

Alya took a deep breath before sliding back the bar dot on the video.

“This just happened,” she explained, giving the phone to Marinette and raising the volume.

When it played, there was an image of a portly, middle-aged redhead beckoning her camera man to follow her on what seemed like a crowded sidewalk. She slowed down when she reached a girl with chestnut brown hair.

Excuse me, Miss?” the woman called in a fake sweet voice. “Miss Lila Rossi?

Marinette’s blood went cold. Lila? The girl turned around, revealing the Italian exchange student with a bewildered look.

Who’s asking?”

Miss Rossi, sources suggest that you are close to Marinette Dupain-Cheng. Is that true?” the reporter asked.

Um, I like to think so,” Lila responded, seeming uncomfortable.

What has Dupain-Cheng told you about her relationship with Chat Noir?

Not much, really. I don’t see why you’re asking—”

Were you aware that Chat Noir confessed to be in love with Ladybug, while also having an intimate relationship with Dupain-Cheng?” the reporter interrupted.

Intimate?” Lila frowned. “Define intimate.”

It’s been revealed that they spend time together off cameras. Care to comment?

I don’t think that’s any of your business.”

Do you think Chat Noir should be with Ladybug or the girl who’s potentially two-timing Chat Noir with Adrien Agreste?

“Two-timing?!” Lila yelled. “That’s insane! Marinette would never—” but she stopped, like she was thinking through on what she was saying. For a moment, Marinette could’ve sworn she saw a strange glint on the girl’s eyes. “You know what, you got me. Marinette didn’t want it public yet, but you leave me no choice. Marinette and Chat Noir have a very close, intimate relationship. She wanted to keep it secret in consideration of Ladybug, since she’s so uptight…ahem…And there’s nothing going on between Adrien and Marinette. That’s just something Chat Noir said to drive away suspicion. Now leave my friend alone, and stop treating her like a slut.

The video stopped.

Marinette could feel her blood start to boil. She had not told anything to Lila, which could only mean one thing: Lila was lying again. Why?! The question resonated in her mind. Why does she lie?!

In a swift movement, Marinette stood up and started walking, ignoring Alya’s calls. She could only think about the cursed interview. Can’t I catch a damn break?! She huffed in frustration, her hands curled into fists already. It’s been a nice week. Why-oh-why do my days have to keep getting ruined?!

Lucky for her, she recognized the part of the city Lila had been in. It was actually close to the school. All she had to do was head that way and—There she was.

“Lila!” Marinette bellowed at the Italian girl.

“Oh? Hey Marinette,” she turned and waved, but slowed her moves when she noticed the designer’s mood. “Is something wrong?”

“Oh, I don’t know, you tell me,” Marinette crossed her arms. “You don’t think there’s a reason I should be mad?”

Lila’s brows furrowed slightly. “No?”

“You are unbelievable,” the pig-tailed girl hissed. “How could you tell a reporter Chat and I are a thing?”

Lila’s brows shot up, seeming to finally realize what Marinette was talking about.

“I was defending you,” she justified. “That reporter, if you can even call her that, was saying a lot of bad stuff about you. I was doing you a favor.”

“A favor?!” Marinette said, incredulous. “In what universe did you think you were doing me a favor? Because it certainly wasn’t in this one.”

“Why are you being so mean?” Lila snapped. But Marinette didn’t back down.

“I don’t know why I even bothered trusting you,” she snapped back. “Once a liar, always a liar.”

“You’re not even giving me a chance!”

“I don’t need to. You already had your chance.”

“We had never even spoken before last week!”

“And yet you’ve already messed up!”

Lila took a step back, hurt clear in her face. A look that hit something in Marinette. A sense of familiarity. And not in the good way.

“Wow,” Lila whispered. “I really thought you were different. I thought: ‘well, here’s someone who actually knows what is like to be unnecessarily called out. Someone who understands me.’ But you know what,” Lila hissed, “You’re just like Ladybug.”

And just like that, she turned on her heels. It took a minute for the words to register, but when they did, Marinette extended her arm and yelled: “Wait!”

But Lila didn’t turn, speeding up instead. Marinette’s shoulders slumped in defeat. Technically, the Italian wasn’t wrong. She was Ladybug, but she still didn’t want to be seen as someone who humiliated other people just for the heck of it.

“Marinette!” Tikki zipped up to her face. “Go after her! You can’t just leave it like that.”

“What can I do?” the girl argued, slightly abashed. “She’s right. I am Ladybug, and I’ve mistreated her twice now.”

“Don’t beat yourself up over it,” comforted the small goddess. “Lila has done some questionable things, but we’ve both seen the good she’s capable of. She just needs someone to give her a chance. To steer her in the right direction.”

“But maybe there’s someone better suited for it,” Marinette sighed.

“I don’t know anyone better than you, Marinette,” Tikki concluded with a smile. And perhaps she had a point. Marinette pondered for a moment, looking back on the last few weeks and the first time they met. While Lila had good reason to dislike Ladybug, she had very little reason to ignore Marinette, except for what had just happened.

With that in mind, the girl gave a determined nod and ran off to where Lila disappeared. She couldn’t have gotten too far. She was bound to catch up soon. But after ten minutes of running around, Marinette stopped, confused.

That was… odd.

“I was sure she went this way,” she said to herself, a hand on her chin. Another scan of the area brought nothing. Lila simply vanished. Her shoulders slumped, as she let out a sigh of defeat. “That is so weird,” she continued rambling under her breath. “Could she really have been so mad that she ran? Or maybe she got inside a shop? Hmm… weird—EEP!”

Marinette yelped, as a tall, dark figure landed in front of her.

“Hello there, Marinette,” the tall cat-boy greeted.

“Jeez, Chat, you scared me,” Marinette reprimanded, a hand on her chest. “What are you doing here? In public!” Her head swirled from side to side nervously.

“I needed to talk to you,” he said, in an uncharacteristically serious tone that made Marinette frown.

“Is something wrong?”

“Yes,” Chat Noir responded almost instantly. “It’s about us. I think we should not be friends anymore.”

The world froze before Marinette’s eyes. Her heart went up to her throat, and every beat clashed in her ears. Her knees weakened. Her stomach dropped. What the heck was he saying?!

“What?” she managed to get out in a choked tone.

“This whole press mess has brought us too much trouble,” he continued in the same tone. “I think it’s best if we stop being friends.”

Marinette’s heart accelerated, but something nagged at the back of her head. Something important.

“Are you okay, Chat?” she said, breathless.

“I’m only doing what I think is best.” He extended his baton into a staff, getting ready to leave.

“Chat!” Marinette went to grab his arm, but the second her hand tried to squeeze on his bicep, who she thought was Chat Noir disappeared in a puff of orange smoke. She coughed a few times, as the smoke dissipated. Her vision clearer now, Marinette searched for her partner, but was nowhere to be found

“An illusion,” she rationalized out loud.

“Well, aren’t you perceptive,” someone spoke from behind her. Marinette turned on her heels to find the culprit standing on a street lamp, in an orange suit. “I knew you were lying through your teeth about you two.”

“It can’t be,” the blue-haired girl gasped, eyes widening.

“Only a liar can tell apart a liar, now can’t you, Marinette?” Lila, in full Volpina costume sneered, with a smirk.

“How are you akumatized again?!” Marinette shouted, more out of surprise than an actual question.

“Hawkmoth is full of surprises,” the Italian answered simply. “Now,” she pointed her flute towards the girl in question, “let’s bring the cat out of the alley.”

Instantly, she threw her flute in Marinette’s direction. Luckily, the girl managed to dodge in time and start running in the opposite direction. She heard Volpina yank her weapon from the cement, but the designer ignored it, turning a corner instead and entering a small café. Without thinking, she hopped over the counter and dashed towards a back door, only needing to dodge one pair of arms trying to stop her from barging where she shouldn’t have been.

Once in the back alley, she hid behind a dumpster and transformed into Ladybug. The next minute, she was swinging over the rooftops of Paris, looking for the problem she caused for the second time, somehow.

This is bad news for us, she anxiously thought. This means that any of our old enemies could come back at any moment.

“Nice to see you, LB,” a voice cheered next to her as she started running on a long, old apartment complex.

“You saw her?” Ladybug asked, focused on the task.

“I managed to distract her before Marinette disappeared into a coffee shop,” he said casually. But Ladybug heard anything but casual. She had almost forgotten what happened before having to run.

“Wait, you were there?” she halted. Chat Noir did the same.

“I saw a fake me and then Marinette run. Didn’t even have time to transform, I just threw my kwami’s cheese at her,” he cringed. “I’m gonna get one heck of an earful when I get home.”

Ladybug’s heart did a somersault. The dummy saved her life once again, and she didn’t even get to see it.

“Did you see Marinette, by any chance?” he suddenly asked. Another flip from her chest.

“Y-yeah,” she pointedly looked away, “she’s fine, just a little shaken.”

“Why? What did that fake me do?!” Chat Noir implored. Ladybug bit her lower lip, cursing her dumb wording.

“He—It just said some hurtful things to her, but she knows it wasn’t you, so don’t worry about it,” she finished with a nervous chuckle. But Chat was not convinced.

“What did it say?” he snarled. Ladybug studied him closely, noticing that his fake-ears were flat. Like a hissing cat ready to scratch. She hesitated for a moment, but the slits that were his eyes made her feel it would be best to tell the truth.

“It just said that he didn’t want to be friends and that the press problem was too much trouble for him. But!” Ladybug quickly tried to get the next words out, as Chat’s scowl deepened. “She knows it wasn’t you, and you would never do that, so she’s fine now. I promise.”

But Chat Noir ignored her. Instead, he walked to the edge of the building, holding tightly to his silver baton.

“Chat?”

“Oh, she’s gonna pay for that,” he whispered, in a low, dangerous voice Ladybug had never heard come from him. Before she could stop him, he propelled himself to the next building. The spotted heroine called his name several times, to no avail. Instead, she ran as fast as she could to catch up.

“What’s with you?” she demanded. “Why are you acting like this? It wasn’t that bad.”

Not that bad?!” Chat snapped, incredulous, only sparring a quick glance to his partner. “She hurt Marinette under my name. That is unacceptable! After everything she and I have been through, and Volpina dares to tell her she’s too much trouble. Tsk!”

They hopped to the next building.

“Marinette is one of the sweetest, kindest and most amazing people I know. She doesn’t deserve to be hurt like that, much less with a sacrifice she almost made herself, even though she didn’t want to, and was even hurting for it,” he huffed. “I swear, when I find Volpina—”

“You will not lose your cool,” Ladybug finished forcibly. Chat frowned at her. “While I’m sure Marinette would be flattered of you defending her, you can’t go barging into a fight. We need a strategy.”

“Fine. You tell me your strategy while I kick her butt.”

The two jumped down from a three-story building to the sidewalk, landing in matching poses.

“Chat Noir, I’m serious!” Ladybug reprimanded as they straightened. “I get that you care about her, but that is just reckless. Jeez, it’s like you’re in love with her or something.”

The last sentence came out before she could even think about the implication of it. But when it hit, it felt more like an airplane crash from fifteen thousand meters high into the Earth. They stared at each other, both becoming alarmingly red. Ladybug was so red, her skin could be confused as part of the suit. And Chat was not far off.

“WHAT? NO!” Chat blurted out, much louder than intended, flailing his arms. “I-I’m not in love with her. S-she’s just a friend, nothing more! Why does everybody keep freaking saying that?!”

“R-right, what was I thinking?” Ladybug quickly tried to amend, scratching the back of her head. “That was a dumb question. Of course you’re not in love with her, you’re in love with Ladybug… with me…”

If only the ground could open up and swallow her whole. And how was it possible for Chat Noir to become any redder?!

“Well… yeah,” Chat said finally, despite his increasing embarrassment. “I can’t be in love with two people at once…”

They stood awkwardly. A silence stretched between them, like they were afraid of saying something stupider than what had already been said. It was the most uncomfortable pause they had ever experienced as a team. And yet, Ladybug’s brain seemed determined to make it worse, as she asked the only thing that occurred to her: “What do you mean people keep saying it?”

Chat stiffened. Then, he whined and covered his face with his hands.

“I am not talking about this,” he mumbled behind his palms. Ladybug placed her hands behind her back. A very evil, twisted part of her couldn’t help but find it hilarious and wanted to tease him. But the more rational, responsible part of her was telling her that that was a very bad idea, and could possibly result in even more embarrassment for the two.

“Fine,” she concluded. “We should get moving anyway.” She paused. “Think you’re up for it, chaton?”

Slowly, Chat nodded, still covering his face. This really was an experience. Who would’ve thought the theatrical, pun loving cat was capable of getting embarrassed to such level?

“Come on,” she placed a hand on his shoulder, “we need to find Volpina.”

“No need to look further, Ladybug.”

Ladybug and Chat Noir whipped their heads toward the voice. The spotted heroine let go of her partner’s shoulder to take a step towards the villain.

“Give it up Volpina,” she demanded. “We all know how this is gonna end.”

“I wouldn’t be too sure of that,” the akuma snickered. “Much less when I have a surprise for your partner up on the Eiffel Tower.”

“What is that supposed to mean?” Chat Noir stepped up, next to Ladybug.

“Why don’t you see it for yourself?” Volpina gave a dark laugh and the image of her disappeared in a puff of orange smoke. Another illusion.

The two heroes exchanged looks, right before taking off in the direction to the iconic monument. Lucky for them, they were only minutes away; whatever it was, it didn’t have to wait long. When they arrived, they were greeted by Volpina once again, on one of the lower iron beams.

“Took you long enough.”

“What did you do, Volpina?!” Chat Noir bellowed, with ferocity Ladybug had never seen from him before.

“Give me your miraculous, and you’ll find out,” she sneered, prompting Chat to jump towards her, swinging his staff. Once again, the illusion fell.

“Chat! You gotta stop doing that!” Ladybug scolded. “We’re not gonna get anywhere if you keep rushing headfirst.”

A whistle distracted them. Another Volpina was higher up on the tower. Immediately, Chat Noir started climbing the structure, with Ladybug swinging up, calling his name. Another illusion was beat down by her partner and he was about to jump again, but was grabbed by the tail.

“Chat Noir, slow the hell down, now!” she snapped. Chat’s fake ears perked up, surprised by Ladybug’s stern tone. Meanwhile, she took deep breaths before speaking again: “I know you’re worried, but if you keep going like this, you’re going to get yourself hurt, and that is the last thing I wanna see right now.” Her expression turned softer. “Please chaton.”

The cat ears drooped and Chat’s shoulders slumped. When she felt it was safe, Ladybug let go of him. As if by instinct, the boy took the tail and stroke it.

“I’m sorry,” he sighed. “I just don’t—”

But a whistle cut his words short, and they both looked up to see Volpina holding… Marinette?!

“If you want your girlfriend back, give me your miraculous!”

Ladybug’s eyes widened. It was the same trick she pulled last time, except that it was with her civilian identity.

“Chat Noir, help!” the fake Marinette yelled, tears building up in her eyes.

“Chat, that’s not—!”

“That’s not Marinette,” Chat Noir finished for her. Ladybug’s lips turned into an ‘o’.

“What?” she gasped.

“It’s an illusion,” he said, firmly.

“How do you know?”

Chat Noir turned his gaze to her with a wide smile. “Trust me,” and with a wink, he threw his baton at the fake Marinette. The second it hit her, the illusion disappeared in the already familiar orange smoke.

Without hesitation, the two continued climbing the Eiffel Tower, until they reached the top. There stood Volpina, much like last time.

“Now isn’t this familiar?” the girl sneered.

“Lila, it doesn’t have to be this way,” Ladybug pleaded. “I’m sorry about last time. And I’m sorry you’ve felt humiliated once again. But this is not the answer.”

“What do you know!” Volpina snapped. “You’re loved by everyone. You don’t know what it’s like to have to work for people to like you.”

Ladybug straightened, taken aback. That was when it hit her. It wasn’t humiliation what drove her to become akumatized this time; it was loneliness. Lila must’ve lost hope on friendship when she pushed her away as Marinette. Tikki was right: she had to fix this.

“Lila, there’s so much love waiting for you out there,” she tried again. “You don’t have to try as hard as you think you do.”

“Whatta you know about me?!” Volpina snapped, making Ladybug flinch. “Stop acting so high-and-mighty. You’re nothing!”

Before the superheroes could respond, the fox-themed akuma blew on her flute again, and moments later, a ball of energy revealed about twenty more Volpinas.

“Time to play Guess Who again,” Chat Noir managed to quip before he and Ladybug leaped out of the way of five flutes that swung to where they had just been standing. To avoid them better, they started scaling down the Eiffel Tower, the army of Volpinas on their tails.

“I need time to call on Lucky Charm!” Ladybug called to her partner, just as she hit a Volpina with her yo-yo and it vanished in another puff of smoke.

“If it’s a distraction you need,” Chat jumped over a Volpina, “you’ve only to ask, LB.”

“Chat!”

“Cataclysm!” Chat Noir yelled. In a swift movement, he placed his powered hand on one of the beams, making several collapse, taking down a few Volpinas with them.

“Lucky Charm!” a small swirl of ladybugs flew up and revealed a small strip of chewing gum that landed on Ladybug’s hand. “Really?”

“You really think it’s time to quench your sweet tooth?” Chat Noir quipped, but was immediately distracted by two more Volpinas.

The heroine’s eyes searched her surroundings, at last landing on one of the Volpinas’ flute: the one that was actually playing it.

“Chat, follow me!” she called again, right before popping the gum in her mouth. The two made their way to the base of the tower, and beat as many of the illusions as possible, until there was only one left. Volpina lifted the flute to her lips once again, but Ladybug took the chance to jump her.

The two wrestled for a moment, trying to hold on to the flute. After a few seconds, Volpina did a twirl and managed to trap the spotted heroine with the flute.

“What’re you gonna do now, Ladybug?” Volpina sneered.

Ladybug couldn’t help but smirk. She took the opportunity to spit the chewing gum into her hand and plug one of the flute’s holes with it. Immediately after, she jerked her head back, hitting the akuma on the nose and making her loosen her hold on the spotted heroine, who quickly slid away.

Volpina growled and placed the flute on her lips again, but one of the fingers got caught on the slimy gum.

“CHAT, NOW!”

The villain looked up, but her efforts became useless, as she was dropped to the ground by Chat Noir’s staff. The leather-clad hero was then on top grabbing the necklace, to then throw it at his partner. Upon receiving the familiar piece of jewelry, Ladybug snapped in pieces and finally caught the pesky butterfly.

“Miraculous Ladybug!” she yelled at last, fixing the damage on the Eiffel Tower and, for the second time, the fox necklace.

When the ladybugs were gone, the heroine gave a long sigh. It was still hard to grasp the fact that she had had to fight Volpina twice. What was worse, it had been a different akuma this time, unlike Stoneheart. She lifted her gaze and saw that Lila hadn’t moved, despite no longer being transformed.

“Lila—”

“Don’t,” the girl interrupted. “I still don’t like you. I stand by what I said last time.”

Ladybug frowned. “Fine. We don’t have to be friends,” she said, “but I am sorry.”

Lila shrugged. “Just go away.”

Ladybug slumped, but didn’t push. There was only so much she could do transformed. But she was sure there was much more that was possible as Marinette. With new determination, she turned on her heels to find a place to detransform, but her heart leaped when she was met by a staring Chat Noir.

Bien joué?” He lifted a fist.

Bien joué,” she smiled, reciprocating the gesture.

BEEP BEEP

“Looks like this illusion is about to run its course,” Chat quipped. “I also have a princess to make sure she’s okay, so I’ll be taking my leave.”

Princess? Oh right… me.

For some reason, her cheeks started feeling warm. It could be the unexpected mention of her civilian persona.

“Right,” she whispered, more to herself than to him. Chat Noir gave her a two-finger salute, and was about to walk away, when Ladybug suddenly remembered something. “Wait!” she called, reaching out to him. He turned his head to her, with a quiet hum. “I-I was meaning to ask: how did you know that was not Marinette on the tower?”

Chat turned the rest of his body towards her. The bewildered look on his face faded, slowly turning into a tender smile.

“I know her,” he answered simply. Ladybug blinked, so he continued. “I know her well enough to know she would never beg me to save her. She would either demand it, or try to save herself. I also know she rarely calls me by my full name. But mainly,” his smile grew, “she’s one of the bravest people I know. And that girl up there was not brave.”

“Oh,” Ladybug managed to breath. Her lips were left in the shape of an ‘o’, while her cheeks were becoming hotter. Never, in her life, did she think he would be able to recognize so many traits of her. It took Chat Noir throwing his baton for her to recognize Adrien was an illusion the first time they fought Volpina, yet it didn’t take her throwing her yo-yo for him to realize that Marinette had been an illusion.

Her train of thought was interrupted, as both their miraculouses made beeping noises.

“I-I gotta go,” she stammered, starting to back away. “See you around, Chat.”

And, once again, Ladybug rushed away from Chat Noir. Like she was running away from something. What that something was, she wasn’t sure, but there was definitely something.

But whatever it was, it was going to have to take a back seat. Priority was getting to Lila as soon as possible.


It didn’t take long for Adrien to find a place to detransform before the last beep of his ring. Lucky for him, he managed to find an alley close to where they left Lila. Knowing Marinette, she was probably looking for Lila. He’d seen her apologize to Max after he had been turned into The Gamer. It wouldn’t be much of a stretch to assume she would apologize to Lila, too.

That was just the kind of person she was.

“Where you going?” the voice of Plagg stopped him on his tracks. “School’s the other way.”

“I need to make sure Marinette is okay,” he reasoned.

“Ladybug did her magic, she’s fine,” the kwami groaned.

“I still need to check.”

Plagg gave him a deadpan look, but went into his shirt anyway, grumbling something under his breath that sounded suspiciously like this kid and his obsession. Nevertheless, Adrien ignored him. There were more important matters at hand.

He walked out of the alley and sped in the direction where Lila had been deakumatized. Just as she came into view, Marinette had caught up to the Italian girl from the other side and called out to her.

“Why are you here?” Lila snapped, stiffly turning around to face the designer.

“I’m sorry,” Marinette said, without hesitation. “It’s my fault you got akumatized again. I shouldn’t have been so harsh to you. It was reasonable for me to be upset, but it wasn’t right of me to humiliate you like that. I’m really—”

“Save it,” Lila interrupted. Adrien quickly started mentally preparing for a possible rematch. “You’ve done enough damage already. I don’t think we can be friends anymore, so go away.”

The sense of déjà vu was not missed on the boy. It was almost the exact scenario Ladybug had gone through with her. Lila’s hair swung almost hitting Marinette’s face. She was about to walk away, just like last time.

Except this time…

“No,” Marinette said firmly, grabbing one of Lila’s shoulders. The chestnut-haired girl looked at her, incredulous.

“Excuse me?”

“I said no,” Marinette repeated, with no reservations. “Running away every time you have the slightest disagreement with someone is not gonna give you friends. Yes, I was mad at you. Yes, I disagree with you. But that doesn’t mean I’m out to get you. Unlike others, I’m a very forgiving person. I get that you were only trying to help me, but here’s the thing about me, Lila: you don’t have to lie to get me to like you.” Her features softened. “Wouldn’t you rather people like you for who you are, than by some image you created?”

Lila could only gape. She searched Marinette’s eyes, as if looking for the lie in them. But didn’t seem to find it.

“What’s wrong with you?” the Italian blurted. Marinette’s teeth clenched.

“Excuse me?”

“Why would you want to be friends with me after what happened?” Lila took a step towards Marinette, but the short girl did not budge.

“Because I’ve seen other sides of you,” she declared, without hesitation. “I know who you really are, and that’s someone who’s trying too hard to be accepted, when she doesn’t need to.”

Lila’s resolve faltered. Adrien could see the tension leave her shoulders, and her features soften. Marinette placed her hands on her back and said one more thing: “Well?”

Without missing a beat, Lila threw her arms around Marinette, making the poor girl stumble. Nonetheless, she seemed pleased with the outcome.

“Thank you,” the chestnut-haired girl sobbed. “I’m sorry for disappointing you, Marinette. You’re the last person I wanted mad at me. I thought you would like me if I did something for you. I never intended it to hurt you. I just wanted you to like me.”

“I-it’s okay,” Marinette assured, awkwardly patting the other girl’s head. “Just don’t let it happen again, okay?”

Lila nodded against Marinette’s shoulder, letting out a few more sobs before finally letting go.

“I’ll do my best to stick to the truth from now on,” she sniffed, wiping her nose.

“And I’ll do my best not to blow up again on you,” Marinette beamed. That amazing smile that could fix anyone’s mood. That one smile that Adrien now realized was reserved for the people who most needed their day to be brightened up.

A smile that was rapidly becoming his favorite.

In fact, he was so distracted by it, he barely noticed when it got wider and was directed to his direction. A large blob of saliva downed from the back of his mouth to his throat, making his tongue feel strangely sandy. His heart almost leaped out of his chest when her expression suddenly became bashful, accompanied by a hesitant wave.

Of course, she likes me, he reminded himself. Which caused his cheeks to feel very hot all of a sudden. Stiffly, he quickly raised his hand to wave, but accidentally hit someone else who was coming from behind him.

“Sorry about…that,” he trailed off the second he recognized the boy next to him.

“No worries,” he waved it off in a monotone voice, barely paying mind and continuing his path. It was then that Adrien realized he was not the one Marinette had been waving to with a blush on her face.

It was… that guy.

“Are you okay?” the blond asked a flustering Marinette.

“Y-yeah, I’m fine. OH!” she slapped a palm to her forehead. “Lila, Félix. Félix, Lila.”

“Who the hell is Félix?” Adrien blurted. The other three turned to him in surprise. “I-I mean,” he tried to amend, a hand rubbing his neck, “y-you’ve never spoken of him before, Marinette.”

Marinette’s brows furrowed. “No, we barely started hanging out yesterday. Are you okay, Adrien?”

“Yeah, fine,” he responded immediately, hand falling to his side. But he couldn’t keep his mouth shut for long. “Aren’t you the guy who crashed with Marinette the other day?”

Marinette pointedly looked anywhere but at the two blonds before her. Lila, on the other hand, narrowed her gaze on Félix.

“Hey, he’s right,” she hissed. “You’re the weirdo.”

“He’s not a weirdo,” Marinette quickly defended.

“Looks like a weirdo to me,” Adrien mumbled through clenched teeth. Which did not go unnoticed by the pig-tailed girl.

“Something you wanna say, Agreste?”

There she goes again, calling me by my surname.

“So, since when are you two on speaking terms?” Adrien dodged the question.

“Oh, that’s actually a funny story,” Marinette pipped up, forgetting the blond’s cold attitude. “Remember that person that was texting me? Turns out it was Félix. Who would’ve thought, right?”

She gave a nervous laugh, while the gears started turning at full force in Adrien’s brain. What was it that she said about the person texting her? I think this person might be Chat Noir. Yeah, that was it. So… she couldn’t possibly think…

Nooo.

“Anyway,” Marinette continued, oblivious to Adrien’s inner turmoil, “I’m gonna get back to school. Coming Lila?”

“I’ll catch up,” the Italian responded. Marinette shrugged and walked away with Fé—No. With that guy. He was about to head back too, when a hand on his shoulder stopped him, which could only belong to one person.

“What?” he drawled in annoyance.

“I have a bad feeling about that guy,” Lila muttered. The blond froze, not sure how to react at the fact that they were on the same page.

“Whatta you mean?”

“Don’t you think it’s a bit creepy that he was texting her without knowing her? Also…” she hesitated for a moment, searching for the right words. “I’m not sure what it is, but there’s something familiar about him. And not good familiar. And, of course, the fact that you obviously don’t like him hanging around her.”

“What? I don’t care that they hang out,” Adrien stubbornly denied.

“Sure,” she uttered, eyes shifting. “By the way, are your palms hurting yet?”

The blond frowned and was about to ask, but he was suddenly very aware of how his nails were digging into his skin. Turned out that his hands had been curled into fists for some time already. Lila huffed.

“You’re not very good at hiding your feelings, Adrien,” she sneered, just as she started walking back towards the school, and not allowing the model to respond. Instead, he was left gaping after her.

“And here I thought she was an oblivious one,” a voice from his pocket cackled. Adrien glared at the little head poking out of his over-shirt.

“You guys don’t know what you’re talking about,” he snapped. “I’m more concerned about a guy pretending to be me.”

“Who said he’s pretending? He probably has no idea she thinks he’s Chat Noir.”

“Then why would he call her Princess?” he snapped again. “I’m the only one who calls her that, no one else.”

“Are you sure you’re not just jealous?”

“Jealous?!” Adrien choked. “Why on Earth would I be jealous? I’m not jealous, I’m concerned that some guy is lying to her. Can’t I worry about my friend?”

“You can worry about your friend,” Plagg nodded. “But I think you’re more worried about someone stealing your girl.”

Adrien halted, an eye twitching. With a huff, and a muttered: “she’s not my property,” he shoved the little god back into his over-shirt and continued his path. Plagg had no idea what he was talking about. No clue, whatsoever. Just because he was worried about Marinette, it didn’t mean he was jealous. That was stupid.

Besides, he had already learned his lesson. Jealousy only led to bad decisions. There was no way he was sinking down there and creating an akuma, again. And there was no reason to be jealous. He didn’t like Marinette that way. Never, in a million years.

Right?


There you are again, setting up your kit.

The song had been in her mind for the last few hours. This time, Marinette was conscious of the fact that she was humming it. She wasn’t sure why, but it just felt… right. Like something of that song was speaking to her.

Give me a minute, to get my guitar.

The wind was pleasant as she climbed out of her bedroom. A perfect evening for patrol. She looked towards the horizon, where the sun was setting. To where Chat Noir often vaulted to when he visited. Too bad it was still Friday.

I said we’d meet again, when you said ‘no way’.

She sighed contentedly, her hands ready to open her purse for Tikki.

Yet here we are again

It’s been six months since May.”

Marinette yelped, turned and flailed her arms in one sweep, ungraceful movement, heart pounding in her throat.

“Hey, hey,” Chat Noir laughed, holding her by the arm before she stumbled again. “It’s just me.”

“Goodness Chat, you almost gave me a heart attack,” she breathed, her free hand on her chest. The boy only laughed harder.

“Seems like someone is up to no good,” he joked. “What kind of mischievous acts is the beautiful Princess of Paris planning on committing?”

Marinette stared, dumbfounded. That was, until she realized she was supposed to retort.

“Why do you assume I’m up to no good?” she arched an eyebrow, while moving the hand on her chest to her hip.

“I’ve never seen anyone jump so high if they aren’t up to something,” he reasoned, still amused.

“I-I,” Marinette scrambled for an excuse, “I didn’t… expect for someone to join me tonight.” And now that she said it… “What’s with the surprise visit?”

Chat Noir shrugged. “Wanted to make sure you’re okay. Today was… intense.”

That’s putting it mildly.

“Yeeeaaah,” she drawled, remembering his intense reactions from earlier. “I saw from afar. You seemed pretty upset with Volpina.”

The hero’s shoulders slumped slightly, cat-ears also drooping, for a moment. But almost immediately, he squared his posture and he put on a kind smile. Almost relieved.

“I may have overreacted a little,” he cringed. “And I guess Lila is not so bad.”

“You know her?” Marinette frowned.

“Let’s just say I was nearby when you made peace with her,” he said, pointedly looking away. Meanwhile, the girl’s heart accelerated. That was probably the biggest hint he’d ever given of his identity. It was one thing to have video games and such in common, but it was a whole other to admit he had been close when she spoke to Lila after the attack. In fact, the only people she saw were Adrien and… Félix.

“Anyway,” Chat Noir said loudly, “Enough about earlier. Did I hear you humming ‘Rockin Tonight With You,’ or did my cat senses deceive me?”

“What? It’s a fun song. Wait, you know it?”

Chat chuckled. “Now the speakers and the lights are on,” he sang.

Marinette smiled. “The crowd calls our names,” she followed.

The cat-themed hero gave one of his trademark toothy grins. Those that he used when he was genuinely happy or giddy for something. Or his head was in the gutter.

With almost no warning, the gloved hand that had been on her bicep slid down to her hand. He brought their hands over her head and gave her a twirl, as if they were dancing in a ballroom. A very small ballroom.

Whoa-oh going wild, with my guitar and you with the drums,” he sang. While Marinette was surprised, she couldn’t help but giggle at the antics of her partner.

Woah-oh rockin’ out, until the dead of the night,” she followed.

With you-ooh ohh, with yooouuu,” they sang in unison. Chat Noir gave her another spin, this time having her land on his forearm to pull her back. Marinette could only give a hearty laugh, even as he brought her back to her feet.

Sweat, sweat, sweating, you really move those arms,” Chat continued.

Shred, shred, shredding, what my strings can’t handle,” Marinette followed.

You know I want-cha, girl, I really want-cha.”

But for the moment, let’s blow this crowd away.”

Now the speakers and the lights are on.”

The crowd calls our names.”

They sang the chorus again, each taking their turn, despite the song not being a duet. They weren’t exactly pitched, but they were perfectly synced. They even danced a bit, until the chorus finished and Marinette yelled: “Epic solo!”

On cue, she played an air guitar and Chat Noir played air drums, imitating the sounds the instruments made in the song. Marinette did the best shred impression she could, while Chat abused his imaginary cymbals.

Whoa-oh going wild,” they sang in unison this time, “with my guitar and you with the drums. Woah-oh rockin’ out, until the dead of the night. With you-ooh ohh, with yooouuu.”

With you-ooh ohh, with yooouuu.”

Their shoulders pressed against each other, and their gazes met, prolonging the last note of the song. At last, they stopped, but kept their eyes locked on each other, for a moment.

That was, until they burst in laughter.

They laughed louder than they ever had together. There was no embarrassment, no one making fun of the other, no funny wig. It was pure, blissful joy, shared between two people who had never imagined they would care so much for each other.

The cackle reduced to giggles, and their gazes met again. They smiled at each other, finally controlling their fit.

“We make a good duet, chaton,” Marinette complimented. Her statement made Chat release another giggle. He raised a finger, about to say something, but stopped all of a sudden, his face contorting in what seemed like realization. Just as quickly, he bit his lower lip, and rapidly started—wait. Is that…?

“Are you blushing?” Marinette blurted out with fascination. Chat’s hands darted to his cheeks, which didn’t help much, considering his whole face was red now. Marinette gasped in amazement, which made the cat-boy scowl.

“For your information, I’m just flushed, from, you know… er… the singing,” he lied. The pig-tailed girl narrowed her bluebells playfully, not believing a single word.

“Who would have thought the great Chat Noir was capable of getting flustered. But to lie about it,” she gave a dramatic gasp, a hand over her chest.

Chat’s scowl deepened. “Fine. I was thinking about My Lady and what it would be like to sing with her.”

“Oh,” uttered the designer, slightly taken aback. But then, she started giggling, a light shade of pink creeping up her cheeks.

“HA!” Chat barked in victory. “Who’s blushing now, Princess?”

One of Marinette’s hands quickly shot up to her cheek, but she simply giggled harder. Chat stared in awe for a moment, before starting to laugh again. This time, though, they weren’t exactly sure why.


Of course! You and I make the perfect couple.

It was already past midnight, but Adrien couldn’t sleep, not even if his life depended on it. He simply stared at the dark ceiling, hoping drowsiness would come.

But it didn’t.

His mind kept working in overdrive, running over and over again the events of that day.

We make a good duet, chaton.

For the fifth time that night, the blond tried to smother himself with the pillow.

Of course! You and I make the perfect couple.

The words he almost uttered before he bit his lip repeated itself like a broken record.

Of course! You and I make the perfect couple.

The sentence was so embarrassing, he was barely able to admit it to himself. It was something he felt he couldn’t even tell Plagg. He didn’t need the little smartass god making remarks on how Marinette was his girlfriend.

Because Marinette was his friend, not girlfriend.

And he was in love with Ladybug.

And why, oh why, did he almost genuinely flirt with Marinette?!

Maybe she reminded him of Ladybug for a moment…

Yeap. That had to be it. It must’ve been the song. We sang it so well, so in sync. Kinda like Ladybug and I are when we fight. Like we’re reading each other’s minds, unafraid of physical contact...

Yeah, that had to be it. There was no other explanation. Unless…

Of course! You and I make the perfect couple.

He let out a muffled groan, squeezing his pillow, trying not to think of the other option. Because of course, any other explanation was dead wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

“Okay, that’s it,” an annoyed voice said in the darkness. “Kid, either you stop fuming and let me sleep, or tell me why you’re still up so late.”

Adrien gulped. Ever so slowly, he raised the pillow from his face to get a view of what looked like a pair of floating green eyes. He took a deep breath before saying: “For once, I could do without the advice.”

He couldn’t see the little guy’s face, but from the way his glowing eyes squinted, he assumed a scowl was not so farfetched.

“If it’s gonna make you shut up, I will gladly give it without making a fuss.”

The boy deliberated for a moment. He sighed as he got up from his bed and walked towards the big windows of his room. To where there was more light. He rested an arm on the window frame, and his head on top of it. Plagg quietly followed him.

“Tell me, what’s eating ya?” the kwami crossed his tiny arms. Adrien’s eyes shifted to him for a moment, but then focused back on the world outside. He was debating Plagg’s offer. Although a part of him thought the little being would do anything for a good night’s sleep, Adrien couldn’t help but think this was too good for him to keep his mouth shut. Was it worth it, though? He desperately needed the advice.

“You won’t make a fuss about it, right?” he warned the black cat.

“I won’t,” Plagg rolled his eyes.

“Promise?” The kwami squinted suspiciously.

“Promise,” he drawled. “What is it?”

“I…” the boy gulped. His heartrate increased. “I think I…” he gave a breathy sigh. He tried again, but only got as far to the second ‘I’ again.

“You what?” Plagg groaned in exasperation.

“I-I…” Adrien clenched his teeth before pulling a Nino: he squatted and grabbed his hair. “I can’t say it!”

“Uuuggghhh,” the kawmi slapped his paws to his face and dragged them down. “Spit it out!”

“I can’t!” the blond whined.

“Just say it!”

“No!”

“I wanna sleep!”

“FINE! I LIKE MARINETTE!”

Chapter Text

There was a beat, in which the two just stared at each other with wide eyes. Suddenly, both slapped their hands to their mouths, but for completely different reasons.

Plagg was doing everything in his power to hold his laughter in, while Adrien’s eyes had grown to the size of dinner plates, mortified.

“Don’t—”

“BWAHAHAHAHAHA!”

Adrien whined and covered his whole face with his hands. As Plagg’s laughter became louder, the boy let himself fall headfirst on the floor.

“I knew—PWAHAHA!” Plagg heaved. “I knew you couldn’t deny it forever!”

The blond let out a muffled ‘shut up,’ while Plagg laughed even harder.

Oooh no, she’s just a friend,” the kwami mocked. “Friend my butt. Didn’t believe that even if you were dancing around naked professing your love for Ladybug.”

At last, Adrien removed one of his hands to give Plagg a bewildered look at the image the little god created. But he didn’t seem to care, as he continued cackling. A strong annoyance suddenly rose within the boy, that wanted to shut the damn cat up. So, in a rash move, he grabbed Plagg by his small body, making him let out a strangled yelp, and brought him close to his face.

“This is not funny!” he almost shouted.

“You’re squeezing me,” the kwami wheezed.

“Plagg!”

“It’s very funny!”

“I can’t have feelings for two girls at once.”

There was a pause.

“Yes you can,” Plagg finally said. Adrien gave him a look of warning, so the kwami continued. “Look, it happens. You can’t always control your heart, but you can control what you do about those feelings. That doesn’t make you a bad person.”

Adrien stared at the cat-being, until deciding to let go and sulk on the floor again. Meanwhile, Plagg gingerly took a seat at the edge of the coffee table.

“How did this happen? When did this happen?” the boy whispered.

“I think that if you use your brain, you’ll find the answers to your questions,” Plagg responded in a matter-of-factly tone.

While Adrien was annoyed by Plagg’s attitude, he took him up on the advice. He turned his back to the floor and started thinking.

It was clear that those feelings had been developing for a while. The question was when and how. And why.

He knew he’d had feelings since before today, otherwise he wouldn’t had gotten jealous of Félix.

No use in denying it now, he internally sighed.

Definitely before giving Marinette the spray bottle. He remembered feeling comforted by the smell of her hair when they hugged.

Before Damage Control, because he felt he betrayed Marinette for having close contact with Ladybug.

Before Chatte Noire, because he defended her honor against Charlene.

Before the interview with Nadja Chamack, because he told the world Marinette’s heart belonged to Adrien.

Before…

The letter.

Adrien bolted up into a sitting position.

That can’t be right, can it?

Despite the disappointment he had felt when he found out the heart-shaped letter hadn’t been from Ladybug, he had also been beyond flattered for what Marinette had said about him. And that the letter belonged to her.

Absentmindedly, Adrien left the floor and allowed his legs to drag him to the desk. In a swift move, he snatched the red paper, moved his computer mouse for light, and read it for the hundredth time.

Those words… Those words were from Marinette to Adrien. Marinette had been able to see beyond her first impression of him, further than he ever imagined she would. What was more, with Chat Noir she was kind, open, cool… and has saved his life more than once. To Chat Noir she offered a friend the moment he needed one the most.

Marinette was… amazing.

“Dammit!” the blond said, as he smacked his forehead against the desk. The light weight of Plagg shortly laid on his shoulder, but he ignored it. “I’ve liked her for almost a month.” He let out a deep breath. “And I really, really like her.”

“Tell me something new, kid,” Plagg sighed, as he started stroking the back of the boy’s neck.

“But I still love Ladybug.” Plagg stopped for a second, but then continued his ministrations, saying nothing. So Adrien continued. “This is so unfair to them. Especially Marinette.”

“Why is it worse for Marinette?”

Adrien snapped up so quickly, Plagg had to grab on to his charge’s shirt.

“Because she has feelings for me,” Adrien reminded. “And I don’t know if my feelings are as strong as hers, but now I’m aware, and I don’t know if I can pretend not to like her in school and when I visit her, plus I can’t just tell her my feelings while I still love Ladybug, who, by the way, finally knows how I feel, but hasn’t shown she feels the same way, but I know Marinette can return my feelings, and UGH!” The boy smacked his head back on the desk. “This is a mess.”

Plagg gave an exasperated sigh. Swiftly, he swooped down to sit on the desk, as close to Adrien’s ear as possible.

“It’s not as complicated as you think,” Plagg said. The model merely grunted. “You just have to organize your feelings. First ask yourself: why do you love Ladybug?”

Adrien turned his head to look at the kwami. He knitted his brows together for a moment, until he found the answer to the question.

“Well,” he started, “she’s brave, nice, yet she doesn’t let herself be messed with so easily. Very selfless, smart and… cool. I know we like some of the same stuff, like Ultimate Mecha Strike and Jagged Stone. She may be a little stubborn, but in the end, she always listens to reason. And she’s capable of admitting when she’s wrong, and pushes when she knows she’s right. Plus, she can be funny when she wants to.”

The boy sighed. Maybe he was wrong about his feelings on Marinette. Maybe he overestimated those feelings due to their newness. Maybe it was a small, temporary crush.

“What about Marinette?” Plagg interrupted his thoughts. “Why do you like her?”

Adrien gulped. Slowly, he straightened up, unsure on what to answer.

“Uh,” he stammered. “I, uuh…”

“No holding back,” Plagg suggested softly.

The boy nodded. He took another deep breath and tried to think of Marinette, and Marinette only.

“Marinette,” he said out loud. “Marinette is sweet, kind,” he rested his head back, trying to let out everything he had denied for a while now. “She’s fun, cool, insanely brave, to the point that I’m scared for her life,” he chuckled, sinking further into the idea. “She can deal with trouble so gracefully, like she did with Lila, but can also be so rash, like she was with Chloé. She’s a kickass gamer, she actually designs for Jagged Stone, which is beyond cool. She’s smart, selfless and…” He swallowed. “And she likes me for me. Not because of my status or my father, but because of who I am, as a person.”

Without meaning to, Adrien let out a wistful breath. Now that he said it out loud, having a crush on The Girl Who Saved Chat Noir didn’t sound so bad.

“Huh,” Plagg let out. “You seem to have a type.”

“A type?” Adrien drew his gaze to the cat-being.

“Brave, cool, selfless, likes the same stuff as you. You know, a type.”

Adrien blinked. “I don’t… have a… type,” he feebly defended.

“And dark hair, to boot,” the kwami added.

The boy sunk down in his chair, his cheeks starting to feel warm. He never thought he had a type. He had also never realized how much Marinette and Ladybug had in common. Wait

“I didn’t fall for Marinette because she reminds me of Ladybug, did I?” Adrien asked out loud.

“Do you think you did?” Plagg retorted with.

“I mean—I don’t think so,” the boy said, thoughtfully. “They have some things in common, but Marinette doesn’t need powers to save people. She also takes my puns better than Ladybug. Not great, but better. Marinette is also more open to listening and just talking. And she’s more affectionate with me. Like the first time I hugged her. She just hugged me back, like she had wanted it too, but hadn’t dared to do it.”

Another wistful sigh escaped his lips, as he thought about how wonderful it had felt to be closer than a fist bump to her.

“Are you sure you’re in love with Ladybug and not Marinette?” Plagg intervened.

A load of saliva caught on Adrien’s throat. The more he talked about Marinette, the more he liked her. And it had been going for so long… Could he?

“I-I… I don’t know,” he admitted. He then pursed his lips, thinking it better. “I’m not sure about my feelings. I know I love Ladybug, but my feelings for Marinette are also strong. But I’m still not sure how strong.” He placed his forearms on his knees, hands clasped together. “I can’t tell them. At least, not yet.”

Plagg tilted his head, so Adrien explained further.

“I can’t tell them until I figure what I’m actually feeling. If I’m not clear in what I want, I shouldn’t be making that decision.”

“Huh. Sounds like a plan,” Plagg responded, stroking one of his whiskers.

Adrien arched an eyebrow. “That is the quickest you’ve ever agreed with me.”

“I know you don’t want to hurt them,” the kwami stated. “And I know you would kick yourself if you do.”

The boy couldn’t help but give his partner a soft smile.

“Thanks,” he said.

“No problem,” Plagg bowed. “Now, can I have my beauty sleep?”

Adrien rolled his eyes. Even so, he knew Plagg cared, whether he showed it or not.

“Yeah, I think I’m good,” he chuckled.

With nothing more to add, Plagg zipped away to the trash can beside the desk. Probably for more silence. But Adrien remained in his seat, the heart-shaped letter still in his hand. He stroke it with his thumb, still processing what he’d just realized.

I like Marinette, he repeated in his mind. The thought of the wonderful girl who sat behind him in school sent his heart in leaps and bounds. He thought about every time he has held her close, how her aroma comforted him. He thought about all the great times they have, how they enjoy each other’s company, and how carefree she was with him. How she started showing that freedom with his civilian identity more often now.

He thought about the times she saved his life. He thought about the times she addressed the class as president. He thought about her creations. He thought about the way she presented herself on the Evening Show with Kudret.

And he could clearly see why he was falling for her.


Helping out in the bakery was done. Saving clean clothes in her closet, also done. Worked on new designs, did her homework, clean up her desk. Done, done and done. There was only one thing left to do: sit crossed legged on her chaise and think about what she had been avoiding all day.

She almost wished an akuma would show up, but that would also mean seeing Chat earlier than programmed, so she let go of that wish.

Because the one thing she was dreading was seeing Chat.

“Marinette, you’ve been sitting there for two whole minutes,” Tikki chirped, invading the girl’s line of view. “You’re starting to worry me.”

Marinette opened her mouth, but closed it almost instantly. Truth be told, she didn’t know what was up with her. All she knew was that she felt… strange. About Chat. Something he did or said the previous day…

“He called me beautiful,” her subconscious let slip. She blinked, at last finding the source of that tingling feeling in her stomach. “Chat Noir called me beautiful yesterday.”

“So?” Tikki shrugged. “Hasn’t he called you that tons of times before?”

“As Ladybug, yeah. But as Marinette…” she thought for a moment, “not very often.”

She sat still, trying to think of all the times he called her beautiful as Marinette, but could only come up with two: the time before fighting Monsieur Barbier and the times from the previous day. What was more, both times he mentioned the nickname ‘Princess of Paris.’

“It’s probably nothing,” she resolved, her fingers fidgeting. “It’s probably just part of his nickname for me.” Was it just her, or did that sting a little? “Besides, I’m probably not the only girl he calls beautiful.” Ow.

“That’s a lot of probablys” Tikki mumbled, before letting out a hearty breath. With a flutter, she zoomed to her charge’s knee and sat crossed legged. “Why do you care in what context he calls you beautiful?” she questioned.

Marinette’s face contorted.

“It’s not that I care!” she corrected. “I just find it odd, that’s all. And I guess a little careless if he starts flirting around with every girl he meets.”

“You know he doesn’t do that,” Tikki half scolded her charge. “Besides, you used to think he did that, and never gave it much thought. Where is this all coming from?”

Marinette took a minute to think. Why was she bringing all this up? It wasn’t like it made any difference in their friendship. Or did it? No, it makes no difference, she assured herself.

“You’re right, Tikki,” she sighed. “I’m getting worked up over nothing. Not even I know where that came from. I’m being silly.”

She gave Tikki a sheepish smile, but noticed the little goddess didn’t seem convinced.

“What?”

“I might know what’s going on.”

“But you were just asking me,” Marinette frowned. “Why would you ask me if you already know?”

“I wanted to know if you had noticed it yet.”

“Noticed what?”

Tikki sighed. She opened and closed her mouth several times, as if undecided whether to say it or not. She then took a deep breath and opened her mouth one more time.

“I—”

THUD

The two looked up to the ceiling. Marinette then looked at the time on her phone: it was too early for Chat to visit, and he was usually much quieter. By instinct, she grabbed the Chinese umbrella hanging off the back of the chaise and made her way upstairs.


Chat Noir dusted off his suit with trembling hands. It had been a while since he had such an ungraceful landing. But his nerves seemed to be in charge at the moment.

“Okay,” he took a deep breath. “You can do this. It’s just like every other time. Just a normal visit to your friend Marinette.”

But his mind corrected “friend Marinette” to “girlfriend Marinette,” in a voice suspiciously alike Plagg’s.

“I can’t do this!”

As quickly as he could, he crossed the balcony, grabbed hold of the railing, placed a foot on it—

“Chat?”

And froze.

Dammit! He thought, already starting to panic. It turned out trying to get over the visit earlier did not make matters easier.

“What are you doing here so early? Are you okay?” Marinette asked from behind him.

No. He downed a large gulp while slowly putting his foot back on the ground. He took a deep breath and used the most casual tone he could muster.

“Hey Princess! Wazzup?” he said as he turned and gave her finger guns. Marinette arched and eyebrow. It was then that he noticed she was holding an umbrella. “What’s that for?”

“Oh! I… thought you might be an intruder,” she gave him a sheepish grin that sent Chat’s heart into a frenzy. So, to calm it, he focused on the red umbrella.

Man, it sucks being aware of my feelings, Chat thought miserably.

“You okay?” Marinette asked again.

Oh God, she’s asking again.

“Me? Pfft, I’m feline great.” He waved a hand in dismissal. “Never better. Totally clawsome today. So, so purrfect.”

Chat internally cringed at the amount of cat puns he was letting out.

“I see,” Marinette responded at last. “Is that why you’re letting out such catastrophic puns?”

Oh, it’s on.

“I’ll have you know that my puns are top marks.”

“Not today, minou,” Marinette chuckled, yet somehow managed to sound concerned too, making Chat lose his bravado. “Seriously, Chat, what’s wrong?”

The boy looked into her eyes (had they always shined so much?), and could no longer find it in him to pretend. But he still couldn’t tell her the whole truth.

“I’m just… going through some stuff,” he resolved to say.

“Wanna talk about it?”

Chat gave her a pained look. “I can’t.”

“Oh,” Marinette uttered, as her shoulders slumped. Chat couldn’t help but wince.

“Marinette, I promise that I trust you, but this is something—”

“Hey, no, you don’t have to explain,” Marinette cut in. She then gave him a soft smile. “I, better than anyone, know you can’t tell me everything, especially if it endangers your secret identity.”

“I’m sorry,” Chat Noir sighed, cat ears drooping.

“Hey,” Marinette used the point of her umbrella to lift his chin, “don’t be. I’m sure you would tell me if you could.”

Chat Noir gave her a lopsided grin, thankful that she used the umbrella and not her (probably soft) hand.

“Is there anything I can do?” she asked.

“You can distract me.” To keep my mouth shut, he mentally added.

Marinette tapped her lip in thought. Then looked at the umbrella and smiled.

“Did I ever tell you the story behind this umbrella?” she chirped.

Chat Noir blinked, looking at the object that was usually hanging off the girl’s chaise. Slowly, he shook his head.

“It used to be my grand-maman’s,” she explained, giving the umbrella a twirl before opening it. “She gave it to maman when they moved to Paris. Maman was lonely in a strange country, so grand-maman said that, as long as she had this umbrella, she’d always have a piece of home and would never be lonely.”

The boy furrowed his brows. Marinette continued.

“When I was younger, Chloé decided to be extra nasty to me, and I was left friendless for a little while. One day, maman came into my room and told me her story. She then gave me this and promised me I would never be alone again, and it would protect me of any negative emotion that tries to overtake me. And you wanna know a secret?”

Chat Noir nodded.

“I met my friend Kim the very next day,” she smiled. “He then introduced me to Max and Alix. Then Ivan and Mylène, and so on. Haven’t been alone since.”

The boy returned a kind smile.

“That’s some powerful magic,” he said quietly. Marinette took another look at him, so he moved his gaze to the ground. But his plain of view was quickly invaded by her hand, holding on to the handle of the umbrella.

“Take it,” she said.

Chat Noir gawked at her for a moment.

“N-No!” he blurted out. “I could never—It’s not mine—”

“I’m sure you’ll give it back,” she said, with that shining beam of hers once again. “I just think you need it more than I do right now.”

The boy’s lips parted. He could feel his heart thrumming in his chest, an excitement rising inside him. A feeling he recognized. Something he had felt sometimes, when he was very close to her. A desire? Yes, that was it.

A desire to kiss her.

His cheeks reddened, and to shake off the feeling, he swallowed and slowly reached for the handle of the umbrella. For a brief moment, his index brushed with hers, sending a spark through his veins that reached his heart. He got so flustered, he accidentally pressed a button on the handle and the umbrella closed on his face.

“Pfft,” Marinette snickered, but quickly clapped her hands to her mouth.

Chat Noir liberated himself as delicately as he could, only to find the girl before him shaking.

“You can laugh,” he chuckled.

Without needing more prompting, Marinette let out a hearty laugh that only sent Chat Noir’s heart into a frenzy. She looked so carefree and happy.

And he did that.

Almost instantly, Chat Noir was laughing too. It was almost like the night before, except this time, Chat knew exactly why he was laughing: Marinette Dupain-Cheng. Her laughter was contagious, and it made him happy.

“Oh, before I forget,” Marinette pipped up, finally controlling her fit. “I got a call from the Margot and Dorian Show, and they said that they want to interview us.”

The boy’s giggles died away.

“Us?” he frowned.

“Yeah, you and me,” Marinette cleared up. “I know we’ve been avoiding interviews together, but I think it would be a good idea for both of us to go on this one.”

“Isn’t that show the one that was saying—” But Chat Noir stopped abruptly, remembering what they had said.

“Yeah, I know,” Marinette waved a hand dismissively. “They’re the ones who said you’re in love with and that I’m two-timing you with Adrien.”

Exactly. Chat Noir gulped.

“But I think it’s a perfect opportunity to set the record straight, don’t you think?” she finished.

The boy stared at her, like she had grown a second head.

Set the record straight?! How am I supposed to tell a crew of cameras that I don’t have feelings for you, when I clearly do? Wait— Those guys noticed it before I did!

“Y-yeah,” Chat Noir pushed himself to say through gritted teeth. “That sounds like a plan.”

“Great!” Marinette clasped her hands together. “They invited us for the special Saturday show next week. So we have the entire week to get ready.”

And for my feelings to possibly become stronger, Chat Noir bitterly thought. He didn’t think he would long for the days he didn’t know about his new crush. It had been so easy to deny it before.

“Sounds good,” he sighed.

“Chat,” Marinette frowned. “You don’t have to, if you feel uncomfortable.”

The boy blinked. While he did feel self-conscious, he couldn’t exactly leave her to the wolves on her own.

“I’ll make it,” he said, more firmly this time. “Count on me, Marinette.”

“Thank you, chaton,” the designer smiled.

Chat Noir did his best not to let out a whimper of misery, as his stomach lurched the second Marinette curved her lips. Why is she being cuter than usual?! And the nickname did not help matters.

The same affectionate nickname Ladybug often called him by.

I’m screwed, he thought.


“And I’m sure we’ll be seeing more of you in the fashion business in the future.”

Nadja Chamack concluded her second interview with Marinette. Unlike last time, this one had gone smoothly, and had been much more focused on the girl’s achievements than her love life.

“We will now move on to calls from our audience, if you don’t mind Marinette,” she informed.

“Not at all,” Marinette agreed.

“Great. We already have our first caller,” Nadja announced. “Good afternoon, you’re on the air.”

“Yeah, I have a question for Marinette about Chat Noir,” the caller said. “Is he your boyfriend? Because they keep saying that he is.”

Marinette shifted in her seat. She expected the question, and now was the time to make sure things were clear.

“No,” she firmly stated. “He’s not my boyfriend or anything. I just happen to save him a few times and I’ve seen him once or twice when he patrols. But that’s it.”

“But that’s not what some friend of yours said,” the caller insisted.

“Ma’am, we already cleared this up earlier,” Nadja intervened. “The comments of Lila Rossi have been denied as truth. Even Miss Rossi made a public apology herself. Next caller.”

This time, a man spoke. “Good afternoon, I just wanna say that what you did, while it was pretty brave, I think you should leave it to the superheroes. A little girl like you shouldn’t be playing hero.”

Marinette’s eye twitched. If only you knew.

“I wasn’t trying to play hero,” she defended herself between deep breaths. “Sometimes instincts beat the brain.” She finished with a nervous laugh.

“Thank you for your input. Next caller,” Nadja rushed through, looking at a clock on the wall.

“Hi. I was listening and I realized it was never asked if you, Marinette, have been a more constant target for akumas lately. Has it happened?” the person, that sounded like a young woman, asked.

Marinette couldn’t help but smile. A real question, for once. “Thank you so much for that question, and the answer is yes, unfortunately. People think having a connection with Chat Noir is cool, but it has brought a lot of misfortune for me when it comes to akuma attacks.”

“That sucks. Hope you don’t get more trouble, Miss,” the caller added.

The girl’s smile grew softer at the concern of the person. It was rare for the good ones to show themselves.

“Thank you so much, but that’s all the time we have,” Nadja announced. “Thank you, Marinette, for taking the time to come to our show. With this we conclude today’s edition of The Interview with Chamack. I’m Nadja Chamack, and don’t be bemused, it’s just the news.”

A music played through the reporter’s headphones, and the ON AIR light was turned off.

“Thank you again for giving me a second chance,” Nadja said once again, but this time it was directed to Marinette, and not the microphone.

“It was nice to have a second chance at this interview,” Marinette said. “Last time was a disaster.”

“It really was,” Nadja agreed. “But I gotta say, you handled yourself like a champ this time. You were so nervous the first time around and gave such vague answers. But today you were a whole new Marinette.”

“Hehe, yeah.” The girl scratched the back of her head as she started to get up from her chair. “Guess I stopped caring about how I might sound, or something.”

Nadja nodded, while she started directing Marinette out of the studio, where Sabine and Alya were waiting.

“And what about Alya’s coaching?” the reporter asked as they entered the console room.

“Oh, yeah, that’s been a huge help,” Marinette added. While it wasn’t a lie, it felt like half a lie, at least. The girl had never been as hopeless as she initially led them to believe.

“It better be,” Alya joked. “Girl, you did great! I think you’re ready for the Margot and Dorian Show.”

Nadja halted.

“Please tell me you didn’t just say the Margot and Dorian Show,” she intervened. The women looked at each other and nodded. That sole action made the reporter inhale deeply and bring her index to her lips, like she wanted to say something, but didn’t dare to.

“Just say it,” Sabine sighed.

“I highly advice against that show,” the reporter blurted out.

“I think Marinette’s been through enough to know how to handle rowdy reporters—”

“No, you don’t understand,” Nadja interrupted, starting to sound insistent. “What I did was unethical journalism, but Margot and Dorian… They’re not journalists. They’re people who hide under the pretext of press to invade people’s privacy and invent stories. And the worst part is that a lot of people believe them.”

“But those people are the prime example of trashy television,” Alya added.

“Yet a lot of people eat it up,” Nadja responded. “Even worse, they have someone who did study journalism, but uses her skills for gossip and garbage. I’m sure you’ve heard of Anabelle Billard.”

Marinette’s brows furrowed. “Sounds familiar…”

“It should,” the reporter stated. “She was the one who interviewed Miss Rossi, and also the one who sent the video of Adrien pulling you into the school the day after our interview. She’s vicious, and could even be dangerous.”

Alya suddenly snapped her fingers. “I remember her,” she said. “But I didn’t know she worked for them.”

“And she’s very good at her job,” Nadja added.

Marinette sighed. “Well, she can’t be that good, because she’s yet to uncover my deepest darkest secrets,” she joked, nose pointing up. When she saw at the questioning looks of the other women, she decided to make herself clearer. “All I’m saying is that, after everything we’ve been through, I’m sure we can handle anything she throws at us.”

“I hope so,” the reporter muttered.

“Don’t worry about it,” Marinette made the most reassuring pose she could, chest puffed out and fists on her hips. “Chat Noir and I will be a team, and he won’t let me down. Besides, it’s not like we have anything to hide. Once Margot and Dorian see that their assumptions of Chat’s love for me are wrong, they will be the ones feeling exposed.”

“You have the strangest moments for confidence,” Alya laughed, placing an elbow on her best friend’s shoulder.

“Whatever happens, I’ll be there with her,” Sabine assured. “But thank you for warning us.”

Nadja smiled at her friend. A smile that looked more appreciative than anything else. One that was thankful that Sabine had forgiven her.

“Yeah,” Marinette added. “I promise to be careful with what I say.”

“In any case, I’ll keep coaching her,” Alya pointed at herself with a thumb.

“Good,” Nadja sighed.

Marinette nodded one last time. She appreciated Nadja’s concern, but she also couldn’t wait to clear the air with Margot and Dorian. After Chat’s last visit, she was beginning to worry that their words had gotten to him to some degree. There was something… off about him. He seemed jumpy, for some reason.

But maybe this would do them good. Clear the air. Making the news meaningless. But most of all, stop feeling so tense every time she got close to the boy.


“Where is he?” Marinette asked for the hundredth time.

And for the hundredth time, Chat Noir heard from afar.

He had gotten there early, but decided to stay hidden up on the metal beams on the ceiling of the studio. Even thought he had promised he’d be there for her, there was a very strong part of him that wanted to disappear. After he visited Marinette the week before, the boy did his best to hide his feelings, whether it was as Chat Noir or as Adrien.

Yo, bro, wanna hang out with the girls? Nino had asked.

Sorry, I gotta, uh… practice piano, Adrien lamely answered.

Hey, dude, you mind giving this book to Marinette? Alya had requested.

No, I gotta, um… a shooting, sorry, he excused.

Hey Adrien, you mind making a quick pose for a sketch? Marinette had had the guts to say.

I-I…um, pfft-I uh…Shower got to—I-I mean, Igottashower, Adrien had spluttered, leaving Marinette bewildered.

And as Chat Noir, he hadn’t fared much better. Every time she got close, he got dazed by her smell. Every time she laughed, his heart would accelerate. Every time she smiled, he just wanted to kiss her. Each and every passing day, what he predicted became true: his feelings got stronger.

And seeing Marinette from afar, hanging out with Félix did not help matters.

From the way she acted with him, Adrien was more convinced that she thought Félix was Chat Noir. The guy didn’t exactly scream Chat Noir, but he continued to call Marinette by Princess every now and then. It drove Adrien crazy, yet there was nothing he could do about it. Only hope the girl he liked didn’t fall for it.

And that hope strengthened his feelings, and his determination for her. He knew it sounded selfish, but just this once, he didn’t care.

“I’ve looked everywhere. Still can’t find him,” Alya walked up to Marinette, shaking her head.

“No luck.” Sabine joined the other two.

Marinette gave an exasperated sigh. “We’re on in like five minutes. Where the heck is he?”

“Maybe he’s waiting for the right moment to make a grand entrance,” Alya huffed, crossing her arms.

“Maybe,” Marinette said, pacing and distracted. “It wouldn’t be unlike him… You guys mind giving one last round?”

Sabine and Alya nodded and wished the designer luck, just in case. The moment they were gone, Marinette started looking around. She then looked up. Chat tried to hide, but from the deadpan look on the girl’s face, he figured he failed.

“Chat Noir, you get your tail down here this instant,” she scolded, pointing a finger to the ground.

The boy let out a whimper before extending his staff into a pole and sliding down in front of the designer.

“Hello Mari,” he shamefully greeted, gaze on the floor.

“I told you, you didn’t have to come if you didn’t want to,” Marinette said.

“I couldn’t just leave you alone with those two. They’re awful,” Chat insisted. A question then occurred to him. “How did you know to look for me?”

“Alya gave me the idea,” Marinette explained. “You do have a tendency to be theatrical. But I get the feeling that’s not why you were hiding up there.”

Chat Noir scratched the back of his head.

“Chat, you don’t have to do this.”

“Yes, I do.” He grabbed her hand. “We’re in this together, right? What kind of a cat would I be if I left my master hanging?”

“Cats leave their masters all the time.”

“But they always come back,” Chat grinned. Marinette smiled back, and the boy was quickly reminded on why he had considered running.

“Thank you.”

“Anytime, Princess.” Without thinking, Chat Noir lifted the hand he was holding to his lips and gave it a soft kiss. “I’m always loyal to you.”

He brought his eyes up to hers and instantly froze. Her eyes were wide, her cheeks were pink, her mouth was in the shape of an ‘o’. She too was petrified.

“M-Mari?” he stammered.

Marinette only let out a few ‘ers’ and ‘ums’. At last, she resolved in giving a large, dorky smile that Chat Noir had only seen in his civilian form. And for some reason, it made his heart skip a beat.

The second he felt that leap, he let go of the hand, as if it had burnt him.

“Thirty seconds ‘till we’re live,” a man yelled.

The two teens quickly took a step away from each other, each dealing with their fluster as much as they could. After several breaths, Chat Noir asked: “Ready?”

“Y-yeah, ready,” Marinette nodded.

“Everyone in position,” the man, who was the producer, called to everyone. From the hosts that were sitting on the center of the stage, to the crowd that was murmuring behind the cameras. “We go live in five, four, three, two…”

He raised one finger and pointed it at the hosts of the show. The music started, cameras slid across the studio and the crowd started applauding.

“Welcome back, lovelies, to the Margot and Dorian Show, Saturday Edition,” Margot started, waving her blonde hair. “And we’re gonna start this segment with a very special interview.”

“That’s right,” Dorian added, in his usual chipper tone, despite the professionalism his suit suggested. “This is the moment everyone’s been waiting for, isn’t it Margot?”

“Indeed, it is, Dorian,” Margot responded, overly-energetic. “You’ve seen them in social media, you’ve heard them on the radio, and we have them right here with us.”

“Please welcome, CHAT NOIR AND THE GIRL WHO SAVED HIM!” Dorian called.

In unison, Chat Noir and Marinette took a deep breath just as they stepped on the stage. Applauses invaded their ears. Lights blinded them momentarily. They tried to walk at a reasonable speed. At last, they reached one of the famous purple couches from the show.

The crowd quieted down.

“Welcome, welcome, welcome,” Margot said, excitedly. The two teens merely gave shy waves. “How good it is to have you two here. I must ask Marinette, where did you get that cute purse?”

That’s a stupid question, Chat Noir grumbled internally.

“Oh, I made it myself,” Marinette answered, almost mechanically.

“It’s super cute. Anyway, into the real stuff, what’s it like to save a superhero?” the blonde woman asked.

“Please, spare no details,” Dorian chuckled.

“Well,” Marinette drawled for a moment. “I honestly wasn’t thinking about it at the moment, but I guess it feels like saving anybody else.”

“Uh huh, uh huh,” Margot nodded. “And what about you, Chat Noir, what’s it like for a civilian to save you?”

“Pretty much the same,” he commented. “I get saved by Ladybug all the time, so I’m kinda used to it.”

“Are you comparing Marinette with Ladybug?” Dorian quickly asked.

Chat Noir almost choked. “NO!” He coughed. “No, I would never do that. I can’t compare them, that’s not fair. I mean—” the urge to slap himself became strong. “That’s not what I meant. That’s all.”

Almost immediately, Chat felt an elbow hit his ribs, unbeknownst to the crowd.

“Then what did you mean?” Dorian pushed, leaning slightly.

Control yourself, control yourself, control yourself. Chat Noir continued to repeat the phrase over and over in his head, in the hopes of calming his nerves.

Ahem, what I meant was that it’s unfair to compare a civilian with a superhero, for obvious reasons.” Go on. “What Marinette did was very… unique. I’m just, personally, used to getting saved every now and then.”

He could’ve sworn he saw a glimmer of disappointment in the hosts faces with his answer. He would count that as a victory, but he still couldn’t help but worry.

“Well, very unique indeed, right Marinette?” Margot directed her gaze back to the designer. Marinette merely responded with a feeble ‘yes.’ “Something that only Ladybug would do. Speaking of Ladybug,” Margot exaggerated, as if it had just popped into her mind. But Chat Noir knew better. “We tried getting her for the show, but she refused our invitation. Any idea on why, Chat Noir?”

Because she knows better. “I’m sure she had her reasons,” he answered out loud. “But I’m guessing she didn’t think this subject needs her commentary on it.”

“Now, you would think that,” Dorian intervened. “But word has it that she yelled and threatened a poor reporter for simply asking about the nature of your relationship with her—”

“That’s not what happened,” Marinette and Chat Noir interrupted in unison, both scowling.

There was a short pause, where the crowd started muttering between themselves.

“Oooh, then what did happen?” Margot pushed, moving to the edge of her seat, yet still making sure her white dress continued to look impeccable.

It took only a glimpse from Marinette for him to know he was the one who had to tell the story. Then again, she wasn’t there, he reminded himself.

“That reporter was asking questions that had nothing to do with the akuma that showed up that night. Ladybug refused to respond because it wasn’t the place or time, or his business.”

“Right, we heard you’re in love with Ladybug,” Dorian intervened.

Chat Noir tensed, and he could swear Marinette did the same.

“I have to ask, what is my purpose here?” Marinette suddenly burst, starting to sound irritated. “I’ve only been asked like two questions, and one of them wasn’t even a proper one. Can I go?”

“Oh, dear Marinette, of course you have a purpose,” Margot clasped her hands together. “But before we get to you, we want a response from Chat Noir. Are you in love with Ladybug?”

The boy took a deep breath. “No,” he responded what he and Marinette had agreed to lie about earlier in the week. “Marinette only said that because she wanted to get back at me for talking too much about her admiration of me,” his heart did a quick summersault, “so she said she got tempted to say that just to shut me up. But no, I am not in love with Ladybug.”

Except I totally am, but I can’t tell her now because I just realized I’m also in—woah, Chat Noir stopped himself before finishing that sentence. No, that’s too far, I’m not there yet… I think.

Panic started to rise.

“That’s right,” Marinette said as he tried to even his breathing. “We were having a private conversation which was taken out of context. But I meant it as a joke. It’s not fact.”

“Hmm, I see,” Dorian nodded, exaggerated. “I don’t know about you, Margot, but I’m confused.”

“Me too, Dorian,” Margot responded. “There’s been so much information flying about, I don’t know what to believe anymore. I think we need to call an expert.”

“We definitely have to.”

“Who should we call.”

“Oh, you know who.”

Oh, just get on with it.

“I definitely do. Please welcome to the stage our very own, Anabelle Billard!”

There was a new round of applause when a portly, middle aged redhead stepped into the light and started waving to the cameras. What was more, she looked…

Chat Noir immediately glared at her the second he recognized the woman. He’d seen her before, in a crowd of rowdy reporters incessantly asking questions to Marinette outside their school. Because of her, he had had to intervene, so the girl in question didn’t say something she could later regret.

It was the woman who had dared to ask Marinette if she was two-timing Chat Noir and Adrien Agreste.

And from the look on Marinette’s darkening face, she remembered her too.

“It’s good to be here,” Anabelle spoke quietly as she sat down in an additional chair between the hosts and the invited couple.

“Anabelle, you know so much more on this story than we do,” Margot feigned ignorance. “Tell us; what are the facts, so far?”

“Well, the fact is that these kids change their story more than Hawkmoth changes akuma,” she said, in a firm, confident tone that made Chat Noir’s blood boil.

There was a collective ‘ooohhh’ from the crowd.

“Are you implying that I’m a liar?” Marinette scowled, hand squeezing the arm of her chair.

“I have been studying every public appearance the two of you have had, and I noticed a discrepancy between the story you tell and the way you act,” Anabelle explained. “Here’s the thing, Margot: when these two are interviewed, after the FMi incident of course, they know exactly what to say. But when they’re caught off guard, their attitudes towards each other changes dramatically, to the point Marinette has her own nickname. Right Princess? Or is Princess of Paris your full name?”

Chat Noir’s heart did a flip, hearing someone else call Marinette by the nickname he had reserved for her, and her alone.

“I don’t—”

“He doesn’t—”

“I have proof,” Anabelle interrupted them. She then directed her gaze to Marinette. “I’ve been analyzing the videos of your rescues, and noticed in both occasions Chat Noir called you by the same nickname. I also have witnesses that say he called you by said name before fighting an akuma in your school, called Chatte Noire. Yet, none of the other women he’s rescued have claimed the nickname. Care to comment, Dupain-Cheng?”

“So what?” Chat Noir blurted out, almost over Anabelle’s last question, heart racing. “I give nicknames to people all the time. Why not Marinette? Especially after saving me twice.”

“Except, after analyzing the first video, I noticed you called her so before rescuing you. In fact,” she waved a hand, “why don’t we play the first video? Keep in mind, we’ve enhanced background sounds to better hear the conversation that went down that day.”

Why the hell did we think this was a good idea?! Chat Noir mentally kicked himself.

Just then, the screen behind them showed a transition animation, right before playing that very first video that started it all.

The image was shaky, showing vines crashing all over the place. One dragged a girl out of a fabrics shop, who was furiously trying to free herself, to no avail. The person recording got closer, just when the girl seemed to have called someone. Seconds later, the superhero landed, and the video stopped.

“Listen closely to the conversation we managed to salvage,” Anabelle pointed out.

The video played once again, and the conversation was finally heard.

“…in these situations?” Chat Noir finished.

Just get me out of here!” Marinette insisted. Chat Noir gave a small giggle.

Cataclysm!” he yelled, making the vines evaporate in a black mist. He then managed to catch her before hitting the ground, arm wrapped around her back.

You’re lucky I like you, Princess. I might have left you if—”

Look out!

“Right there!” Anabelle stopped the video, just as Marinette was pulling Chat Noir by the bell to save him. “Not only does Chat Noir call her Princess, but he admitted to like her the very day Dupain-Cheng saved him the first time.”

There was another collective ‘ooohhh’ from the crowd. Meanwhile, Chat Noir placed a hand over his mouth as discreetly as possible, covering his heating cheeks as much as he could. And the frozen image with Marinette pulling on his bell did not help matters.

“He was obviously joking,” Marinette affirmed, brows knitted together. “I think it’s already been established that Chat Noir is the theatrical one of the pair. And, again, like he said; he gives nicknames to everyone.”

“Sure, that could be all,” Anabelle waved a hand dismissively. “Except that it is not only his commentary that’s intriguing, but also your demand, Dupain-Cheng, that he rescue you. Now, from what I’ve gathered, you tend to be a… generally well-mannered girl, yet you acted so… unbothered.”

Chat Noir inhaled deeply and shifted his eyes towards Marinette. Who seemed… livid.

“Well,” she started slowly, “I don’t know if you’ve ever been a target for an akuma, Billard, but from my experience, you don’t exactly have time to gawk at a superhero. The only thing the adrenaline makes you think about is: ‘how am I gonna get out of this alive?’ So excuse my lack of tact in a stressful situation.”

To finish it off, Marinette smirked and rested her elbow on the arm of the chair. The one she had been squeezing only moments before. Like it was nothing.

It was so….

Flawless.

Chat couldn’t help but stare at his current partner in crime for how flawlessly she batted that question. Even better than how she started the interview with Kudret. That confidence that made her look like an almost completely different person and was just so… so…

His cheeks felt even hotter.

“Are you sure it was lack of tact and not familiarity?” Anabelle pushed.

“Absolutely.” Marinette nodded. “Besides, Chat Noir probably doesn’t even have time to hang out with civilians. Right, Chat Noir?”

Crap!

The boy’s eyes widened their stare at the girl beside him, hand still over his mouth, which he hadn’t dared to move. He could feel everyone’s eyes on him. He could see Marinette stare at him. He knew he was supposed to respond. But he was frozen with an uncontrollable blush that simply refused to leave.

“Chat Noir?” she asked. Yet, even though she sounded worried, her eyes were begging him to say something. He swallowed, but it didn’t help.

“Cat got your tongue?” Anabelle dared to quip.

Instantly, both Chat Noir and Marinette shifted their gazes to the reporter, Marinette with a scowl. The cat hero, in the meantime, managed to get his breathing under control. Because that was one comment he would not stand for.

“No,” he finally responded, slightly croaked. “I don’t have time to waste on befriending civilians. I have more important things to do, like protecting Paris, for example.”

“And yet here you are,” the redhead poked, pushing up her red trimmed glasses. “Spending your time in an interview with the same civilian, once again, instead of patrolling the city.”

“You invited us!” Marinette’s arms flailed.

“You get mad if I don’t patrol, but you also get mad when either me or Ladybug refuse an interview. It’s like there’s no winning with you guys!”

“Because you refuse to admit the truth,” Anabelle pushed once again.

“What truth?!” Chat Noir and Marinette yelled in unison.

“That you two are in love!” she finished.

“This is ridiculous! We’re not a thing!” Marinette cleared up for the hundredth time. “How many times do I have to say it?”

Marinette continued numbering the times she has had to clarify the status of their relationship, but Chat Noir barely paid attention. All he kept thinking about was how Anabelle was half right in her conclusion. While he didn’t feel in love yet, his feelings had become strong enough for him to contemplate the possibility that he could, potentially, fall in love with her.

But she can’t know that, he reminded himself. Neither Marinette or Anabelle could know, for completely different reasons. He sighed. If I can deny my love for Ladybug on live TV, I can deny my feelings for Marinette.

“Do I need to repeat it?” Marinette finished.

“That’s right,” Chat Noir intervened, straightening his posture, ready to lie his way out of this mess, even if it hurt. “I don’t have feelings for Marinette, no matter how many times I call her Princess. The truth is that I would never be with her, not only because of the obvious,” he pointed at his mask, “but I don’t even know her well enough for that. And even if I did know her better, I still wouldn’t be with her. It’s just never going to happen. Not in a million years I would be with Marinette.”

The boy exhaled with difficulty, but kept his eyes directed at Anabelle, ignoring the stabbing pain in his heart. Another round of murmurs began in the crowd. The reporter fixed her glasses as she glanced at the girl beside him. A spark shone in her eye, but Chat Noir continued scowling at her, hoping to intimidate her somehow.

“That’s too bad,” she said, the edge of her mouth twitching. Like it was holding a smile.

“Well, that was in-tense,” Margot intervened, with her over-energetic attitude once again. “But unfortunately, that’s all the time we have left, as we need to go on a commercial break. But stay tuned, because we have many more surprises coming your way in the Margot and Dorian Show, Saturday Edition. We’ll be right back!”

A music played, the crowd applauded and a man behind one of the cameras yelled cut. Conversation spread among the crowd, and Chat Noir was more than ready to leave the cursed studio.

“I’ve learned a lot today,” Anabelle commented.

“Yeah, well, that’s all you’re learning for ever. Come on Mari—” But the boy didn’t finish his sentence, because when he turned to look at said girl, she had already gotten up and was walking away from the stage. He frowned.

“I have a feeling we’ll be seeing each other again,” Anabelle stated, fixing her glasses once again.

Chat Noir gave her one last scowl, before leaping behind the sofa and rushing in Marinette’s direction. He had just reached her, when Alya and Sabine showed up.

“Girl, you just pulled off a miracle!” the young reporter said, while she slapped her hands to her friend’s shoulders. “You left Anabelle Billard with no words. That was awesome!”

“I’m so proud of you,” Sabine added, placing a hand on her daughter’s cheek. “But I don’t think I’ll allow another interview with that horrible woman. She almost massacred you two out there.”

“Y-yeah,” Marinette stammered, gaze towards the ground. “I-I suppose…we did do a good job.”

“Good job?! It was an awesome job!” Alya cheered on. “When you said that thing about your lack of tact, I literally squealed. Just ask Mrs. Cheng.”

“She really did,” Sabine laughed. “Come on. We have to take Alya home.”

“Marinette?” Chat Noir blurted out.

The three women turned to look at him. It was then that he noticed Marinette’s eyes seemed to have lost their shine. Something was bothering her.

“I-I…” but he didn’t know what to say. He was afraid a reporter would suddenly jump out, and a private conversation would once again become public.

“Thanks for the help, dude. We can take it from here,” Alya intervened, giving him a warning with her eyes.

“Right,” Chat Noir deflated.

Alya and Sabine softly pulled Marinette towards the exit. He wanted to go after her, find out what was wrong, but it was too risky.

Perhaps he needed a new strategy.


The spray bottle rolled on Marinette’s desk for the fourth time, sent by its very owner. The girl rested her head on one of her arms, while the other kept mussing with Chat Noir’s gift. She hadn’t been there for long. Only minutes ago she had gotten back from the most awful interview she had been in so far. It may had been seen like a success by everyone else, but for the pig-tailed girl, she saw very little reason to celebrate.

“Marinette?” Tikki called once again, after the many times she did since they got home.

Without uttering a word, Marinette got up, spray bottle in hand, and walked down the stairs. She didn’t even stop to make sure her kwami got in her purse, trusting in the swishing sound she heard before closing the trapdoor. As she got to the kitchen, she let her parents know she was going out and exited the apartment.

While it had been her intention to walk around the streets, she only got as far as the park by her house and collapsed onto a bench. She stared at the spray bottle in her hands, finger stroking the green cap. For some reason, half her mind wanted to hug it close, while the other wanted to chuck it.

“Marinette, what’s wrong?” Tikki placed her paws on her charge’s arm. But the girl didn’t respond. “Please, talk to me.”

Marinette continued to hesitate for a few more seconds, undecided on whether to talk or make up her mind about the spray bottle.

“I’m…” she started. “I’m hurt.”

“Hurt?!” Tikki’s antennae stood straight, surprised. “Why? What happened?”

“Didn’t you hear?!” Marinette snapped, finally looking at the kwami. “Not in a million years I would be with Marinette,” she mocked Chat Noir. “What? I’m not good enough for the great Chat Noir or his dumb famous secret identity? Tsk. I swear, if I could, I would reveal myself just to make him bite his tongue.”

“Why do you care?”

“I don’t!”

“Yes you do,” Tikki snapped. “Otherwise you wouldn’t be this upset. The question is why.”

“I don’t know!” Marinette finally cracked. “I don’t know, okay? I—” she searched for an answer, “I guess I’m offended that he would want Ladybug, but not her civilian identity. It’s rude.”

“But he doesn’t know!” Tikki reasoned. “Besides, who’s to say he didn’t just say that for the cameras?”

Marinette opened her mouth to retort, but closed it almost immediately, with eyebrows knitted together.

“You think he didn’t mean it?” she asked instead.

The kwami placed her tiny jaw on her nubby hands.

“I think it’s a possibility,” she responded with a soft smile.

Marinette’s eye’s shifted from side to side, like she was trying to figure out something.

“Tikki?” The kwami hummed. “What’s happening to me? Why am I being like this?”

“I can’t always tell you what you’re feeling.”

“But you know, don’t you?”

Tikki nodded. Marinette sighed and started thinking. What was the real reason she was upset?

“Do I feel like I’m losing my partner?” Marinette looked at Tikki for a reaction. And a deadpan look was what she got.

“Marinette, I know you’re not this dense,” the kwami said.

Marinette cringed. It was like whatever it was, it was at the tip of her tongue, but a sort of denial was holding her back.

“I can’t—”

“Marinette!” Tikki scolded. “I can’t always tell you when you like a boy!”

The girl almost chocked on her own saliva. “Like a boy?!” she repeated, incredulous. “I don’t—” but she stopped abruptly as a couple passed by. When they were out of earshot, she started again, more hushed this time. “I don’t have feelings for Chat Noir.”

“PAH! Yeah right,” Tikki laughed. “You gave him your umbrella.”

“So? Adrien gave me his, doesn’t mean he has feelings for me.”

“Yours was a family heirloom,” Tikki deadpanned.

Marinette’s face contorted. “He’ll give it back.”

“And you’ve been trying to find out his identity,” the goddess added.

“No I haven’t,” Marinette denied, starting to shift uncomfortably in her seat. When she saw her kwami boring her gaze into her, she felt the need to retract her words. “I mean, not intentionally. I happened to find a lead and I held onto it. But it’s not like I’m investigating to see if I’m right.”

“You were googling Félix two days ago,” Tikki deadpanned, again.

“I wanted to know if he was famous, like he said,” Marinette defended.

“You wanted to know how much he fit the profile for Chat Noir.”

“No I didn’t.”

“Urgh!” Tikki gave an exasperated sigh. “You can be so stubborn sometimes.”

Marinette huffed and sunk down in her seat. She stared harder at the bottle in her hands.

“Why is it so hard for you to admit that you may like Chat Noir as more than a friend?” Tikki asked.

“Because that would mean I didn’t love Adrien,” Marinette confessed, without missing a beat.

All of a sudden, a large amount of tension that had been building up for so long was lifted off her shoulders.

She found the source.

“Oh, Marinette,” the kwami soothed. “Liking Chat Noir wouldn’t mean you don’t love Adrien. Sometimes the heart works in ways we just can’t control. But you have to, at least, consider the possibility.”

“The possibility?!” Marinette repeated. “I-I can’t… I mean, I-I shouldn’t…”

But the words died in her mouth. Was it possible? Could she really like her partner in crime-fighting? As more than a friend?

Yet, when her heart started to accelerate, her thoughts were interrupted, as Tikki yelped and hid in the pink purse.

“Hey, Marinette,” a shadow in front of her spoke.

The designer looked up, to find one of the blond boys complicating her life.

“H-hey,” she stammered.


“Thanks!” Adrien waved at Mr. Dupain, as he exited the bakery to find Marinette.

He had been so tempted to vault up to her room and hold her as tightly as he could, but, at the moment, he couldn’t help but feel watched as Chat Noir. So, his secret identity would have to do. And now more so, since she wasn’t in the privacy of her room.

“She’s probably fine,” Plagg insisted, poking out of the boy’s over-shirt. “Can’t we go somewhere more interesting? Like a cheese store?”

“She’s not fine,” Adrien insisted. “I could tell. There was something wrong, but she couldn’t tell me in such a public place.”

“Are you sure you’re not just making excuses to see her?”

“I’m telling ya, she’s upset. And whether I’m Adrien or Chat Noir, I’m not gonna—”

But Adrien froze as he reached the park. Plagg asked several times what was wrong, but the boy didn’t listen, as his eyes were focused on a bench on the other side of the park:

Marinette and Félix were close. Too close, if anyone asked him.

“Oh, hey, it’s the weirdo,” the kwami commented.

The words were enough for a growl to escape Adrien’s lips. As quickly as he could, he snuck from tree to tree, trying to get as close as possible without been seen.

“What do you think you’re doing?” Plagg whispered when Adrien got to the nearest tree possible.

“What is he doing here?” he snarled under his breath.

“Talking?” Plagg suggested. Adrien ignored him, and instead tried to listen to the conversation.

“You think so?” Marinette was asking Félix.

“Well, if it were me saying it, I’d definitely only say it for the cameras,” Félix responded to whatever Marinette had been questioning. “You’re one of the most amazing people I’ve ever met. Smart, kind… beautiful.”

Marinette shifted, looking away, her cheeks turning pink.

Meanwhile, something stirred within Adrien.

“What is he doing?!” Adrien hissed. Plagg called him several times, but the boy continued ignoring him.

“All descriptions befitting of a Princess,” Félix added, leaning closer to the girl in pig-tails. Who was, in turn, turning a darker shade of red.

“You’re just saying that,” she giggled, using the tip of her index finger to push him away, but only slightly.

Something awoke inside Adrien.

“Uh oh,” Plagg let out. On cue, Adrien grabbed the little god and brought him close to his face.

“I’m gonna need one serious favor right now,” he said, darkly.

“I am not transforming you because you can’t control your jealousy.”

“I’m not jealous!” Adrien denied. “There’s some guy there who Marinette thinks is me. This is about saving a friend!”

“Bull—”

“Plagg, transform me!”

The little cat being was rudely dragged into the miraculous ring, and for the second time that day, Adrien was Chat Noir. The second his transformation finished, he vaulted up the tree and used his trusty staff to jump high enough to land him right in front of Marinette and the imposter. The moment the two jumped, startled, Chat Noir uttered three words:

“Hello there, Princess.”

Chapter Text

“Ch-Ch-Ch-Chaaat?” Marinette stuttered, dropping the spray that was in her hand.

“Long time, no see,” Chat Noir smirked, hands on his hips. “Well, half an hour, to be more precise. And who’s your friend here?” He leaned towards Félix.

Marinette looked to her side, where Félix had turned whiter than a sheet of paper.

“Uh…” the boy uttered.

“You know, I couldn’t help but overhear while I was passing by something about -oh, what was it- ‘Qualities befitting of a Princess’?” Chat Noir clucked his tongue. “Now, I don’t know if you’ve been watching TV lately, but I have a pet peeve about people using the nicknames I assign to people. Something about it just,” he exaggerated a deep breath, “really prickles my fur.”

What is going on?! Marinette started to panic.

“Chat?”

“I-I…” Félix cleared his throat. “I didn’t think…”

“You didn’t think what?” The leather-clad hero placed a foot on the bench and leaned closer to the civilian, forearms now resting on his knee. “That you would be caught? That I would never find out?”

“Chat.” This time, Marinette called with a frown on her face.

“And a little mouse told me this isn’t the first time you’ve used that nickname. Is it a habit of yours to try to take other people’s place?”

“Chat Noir!” Marinette called firmly this time.

The superhero whipped his gaze to her, like he remembered Félix was not the only one sitting on that bench. When his eyes locked on hers, her heart did a summersault, remembering her conversation with Tikki before either of the boys showed up. Her cheeks started heating up, and when his eyes softened, she knew: Félix was not Chat Noir.

The girl bolted up to stand next to her partner. Her mind was going back and forth between her realization of Félix’s lie and her embarrassment at the thought that she might have feelings for Chat Noir. So much so, that she wasn’t sure on which one to act first.

“You—Him—Whah…Félix? Chat? You…” Spit it out! Her brain tried to salvage what was left of those words, but her mouth just wouldn’t cooperate. “Going what on—I-I mean, on going on—M-mean I—Uuugh!”

Both boys arched an eyebrow simultaneously, as Marinette pulled on her pigtails.

“WHAT IS GOING ON?!” she finally managed to get out.

Instantly, Félix shifted his eyes to the ground, while Chat Noir smirked at him.

“Yeah,” the boy in black inquired. “What is going on, Félix?”

Marinette looked back at obviously-not-Chat Félix, who visibly gulped. Meanwhile, his knuckles were becoming whiter, as he squeezed a book he was holding.

“Oh no…” the designer breathed.

“Marinette, I swear it’s not what you think,” Félix spoke at last, yet it came out shaky, which she had never heard from him.

“Why do you call me Princess?” Marinette demanded.

“You knew, didn’t you?” Chat Noir intervened. “You knew that’s the nickname I use for her, so you tried to take advantage.”

“Not…take advantage,” Félix tried feebly.

“I will have you know I’m the only one allowed to use that name,” the hero insisted, pointing a thumb to himself. “Now unless you want me to beat your butt to the moon, I suggest you apologize to Marinette right now.”

“Wait—” the designer arched an eyebrow, bewildered.

“What are you asking me to apologize for?” Félix asked. “For misleading Marinette or for hurting your ego?”

“Félix, that’s—”

“How about for being a prick?” Chat Noir snarled, grabbing the front of the blond’s shirt and lifting him off the bench.

“Chat, stop!”

“And you call yourself a superhero?” Félix spat.

“Don’t encourage—”

“At least I’m the real deal, unlike your sorry—”

“Stop!” Marinette yelled, finally catching the attention of the two boys.

Félix took the opportunity to push Chat Noir off. With a huff, he turned tail and stomped away. From beside the designer, the leather-clad hero huffed in victory, saying: “Good riddance.”

“Chat!” Marinette scolded, turning back to him.

“What?” the boy raised his hands in a questioning manner. “I just don’t like it when—”

“I don’t care what you don’t like, that was rude!” the girl shot back.

Chat Noir opened his mouth to say something, but suddenly hesitated. Their silence was enough for them to take a moment to look around themselves. Just as expected, several people had stopped walking. One of them was holding up a phone, like they were recording.

Marinette cleared her throat. As nonchalantly as possible, she grabbed the spray bottle from the ground and started walking away from view, adding a whistle for good measure. From behind her, she heard Chat Noir clank against the ground. Probably leaping away from the scene. After passing several trees, she looked behind to check if she was still being watched. To her relief, the crowd went back to whatever they were doing before.

She had just let out a breath of relief, when a black blur landed in front of her, making her yelp.

“Rude?” Chat Noir questioned. “How is me calling out a liar ‘rude’?”

“You could’ve gone about it better,” Marinette reasoned. “Didn’t Ladybug make that mistake before?”

“And how would you know about that?”

Marinette’s eye twitched. “I-I, uh… Lila told me,” she said, the first excuse she could think of.

“Right,” Chat Noir said under his breath. “She’s practically told anyone who gives her their time.”

The designer bit her lip to suppress a sigh. Almost instantly, she shook her head, trying to remember her outrage with the boy’s attitude.

“Anyway, you remember in what that resulted in, right?”

Chat Noir winced. “But he was calling you Princess,” he tried defending himself.

“So?” Marinette snapped. “I know it’s annoying, but I think you’re gonna have to learn to deal with it. Thanks to the press, everybody knows you call me that. But what I don’t understand is why you lost it with Félix, when you were so cool-headed earlier with Anabelle.”

“I-I—” Chat Noir started, but faltered almost instantly. He then proceeded to fiddle his fingers together.

Marinette crossed her arms, the spray bottle hanging loose from her fingers. “I don’t get it. What is up with you lately? You’ve been so jumpy and weird. It’s like you go from zero to a hundred in an instant.”

“I-I haven’t… I mean… It’s complicated,” the boy whispered.

The way his cat ears drooped made Marinette soften. Could it be that thing he wouldn’t tell her about?

“Chat, is there a problem with us?”

Us?! There’s no us!” the boy blurted out. But the second the words got out, he cringed, just as Marinette frowned. “I-I mean, not an us-us, you know?” he tried to amend, bewildering the girl more in the process. “Not like relationship-us, just friends-us. Not us-us, like…us. Just… us—Man, is it hot in here?” He added the last part as he pulled on his collar.

“Oookay,” she arched an eyebrow at the display. “You mind telling me what the heck is really going on?”

“Nothing is going—”

“Don’t,” Marinette warned, poking a finger to his chest. “First you tell me there’s something you can’t tell me. Then you get all jumpy and awkward. Then you go from being incapable of saying a word on live TV to saying too much. And now, you blew up on a civilian.” She flailed her arms. “And I don’t even know what to make of that last one! It was so bizarre, and you can’t even give me a proper explanation. If I didn’t know any better, I’d say you were jealous of Félix.”

A large gulp of breath was taken by Chat Noir. A silence hung between the two for a moment, and in that time, the boy’s visible skin became red at an alarming rate. Marinette’s eyes went wide, registering her partner’s reaction to her words. There was no witty remark. No pun. No joke. Just a whole lot of blushing, which she had never seen before. That couldn’t mean…?

“Chat—?”

“Heh, no, you’re right,” Chat Noir finally blurted out, scratching the back of his head. “I’m sorry, that was bad, I shouldn’t have done that, totally uncalled for—”

“Chat?”

“—and very unsuperhero of me. Should I look for him? I should look for him and apologize. Yeah, that sounds about—”

“Chat!” Marinette grabbed him by the shoulders, the spray hitting one of them. Chat Noir froze, staring at the designer. She looked at him for a moment, trying to find the answer to her question before asking it again. “Are… Are you jealous?”

“Psh,” Chat Noir let out, his lips vibrating. “Me? Jealous? I don’t get jealous. Why would I be jealous? I have no reason to be jealous. Jealousy is not in me. Not once have I ever—”

“Copycat,” Marinette deadpanned, remembering how he had once told her the story on how Theo was truly akumatized.

The boy started chewing on his lip, the blush becoming impossibly darker. For Copycat, he had been jealous of Theo. Of course, he loved Ladybug. But why would he be jealous of Félix? Unless… No. He can’t be—

WOOSH

A sudden, strong gust of wind blew by the tree they were nearby, causing it to become leafless. Both Marinette and Chat Noir stared at it, baffled. It wasn’t… normal.

“Oh no,” Marinette said under her breath.

“Look out!” Chat Noir suddenly yelled. At the same time, he grabbed the girl’s hand, making the spray bottle fly off it, and pulled her just in time to avoid a large, magical word that hit the ground. Thankfully, nothing seemed to get destroyed, the word vanishing the moment it missed its target. Even so, Marinette remained within the arms that now surrounded her.

“Always rescuing each other,” a cold voice said nearby, somewhere… above? “How romantic.”

Marinette looked up to the direction of the voice. Floating in midair was a blond boy, dressed in a loose, grey buttoned shirt, dark green pants and black boots, all with a seventeenth century design to it. Over his face, he had a butterfly shaped mask, with his eyes completely white. And his blond hair was loose and wild.

Félix.

“What’ve I done?” Chat Noir said under his breath next to Marinette.

“Chat, we gotta run,” the designer warned her partner, already starting to pull on his bell. “RUN!”

Just then, the akumatized Félix waved his hand and a collection of words flew by and hit the tree previously de-leafed. As the pair of heroes ran past it, three holes cracked open on the tree trunk, creating a jagged face. The newly sentient plant suddenly swung its branches towards them, almost scratching Marinette. Luckily, Chat Noir pulled her his way on time.

“In there!” the leather-clad hero called, pointing towards the alley close by.

Yet, suddenly, words started crashing on the building next to them, sending concrete and dust flying about. They managed to dodge it and turned to enter, just as the last words flew towards them. In a swift movement, Chat Noir pulled Marinette towards him and pressed her against the wall, just as the words hit the corner. In the process, Marinette let out a painful groan, as a new bump formed on the back of her head.

“Are you okay? Are you hurt?” Chat Noir fussed, checking for injuries where the girl had started to rub.

“I’m fine, just a light hit on the head.”

The boy deflated in relief. Softly, he tucked a loose hair behind her ear, and opened his mouth, like he was about to say something. But instead, he did something, before Marinette could register what was going on:

Time froze. Marinette knew there was much going on around them, but for her, it seemed the seconds decided to stop ticking. Chat Noir’s lips were on the side of her head, making warmth flow from that point to the rest of her, especially her cheeks. It wasn’t like that quick kiss on the cheek she gave him once. It was more like a kiss that wanted to reassure her that everything will be alright. That, as a person who cared so much about her, wanted to make sure she was safe.

The warmth stopped, and time ran again. Yet Marinette could only stand there, staring at the boy before her.

“Please stay safe, and try not to go heroic again,” Chat Noir said, finishing it with a wink. Immediately after, he stepped back and used his staff to vault closer to the akuma.

In the meantime, Marinette continued to stare after him for several seconds.

“Okay,” she wistfully breathed, a dopey smile curving her lips.

“Marinette!” a small voice scolded. “You’re a superhero, remember?”

The bubble popped…

What. Was. THAT?!

The girl’s eyes went wide. Quickly, she lightly slapped her cheeks in an effort to pull herself together from… whatever that was just now.

“Right! Rightrightright,” Marinette reminded herself, now rubbing her cheeks. “Okay. Tikki, transform me!”

One flash of pink light later, Ladybug was swinging out of the alley, back to the park. But stopped when she saw a familiar bottle left forgotten on the ground. She swung low enough to grab it, and then pushed herself in the direction of her balcony. The second she got there, she placed it on the small table. After making sure it was safe, she jumped away, back to where the action was supposed to be.

With only a brief look, she found Chat Noir fighting two civilians that seemed to have gotten possessed. Immediately, her body sprang into hero-mode, managing to knock out both people with her yo-yo.

“Nice to see you, LB!” Chat Noir cheerfully greeted, with that adorable toothy—

Toothy grin of his…

Ladybug blanched. Her brain started to scurry in circles, questioning what was going on with her thought process. Could Tikki be right? From white, her face turned red now, and her lips pressed together.

“Ladybug, what’s wrong?”

It wasn’t until then that the flustered hero realized Chat Noir was only a foot away from her, giving her a concerned look. Ladybug yelped.

Me?! Nothing’s wrong! Why would anything be wrong? I have no reason to be wrong— Wait, what did I just say?” Ladybug rambled.

“Uuuh,” Chat Noir uttered. “Did the akuma hit you on the head or something?”

“No! That’s not what…” Ladybug let out a defeated sigh. “Let’s just get this done.”

Without another word, she started searching for Félix. Hadn’t he been around just moments ago?

“You forget that I can read you like an open book, LB,” Chat Noir purred.

Ladybug stopped on her tracks. “Only been here five seconds and you’ve already started with the puns,” she chuckled.

“It’d be a pretty boring story if I didn’t,” he quipped.

She snorted. “Please, Chat. You’re more than jokes and puns.”

“Nice of you to notice,” Chat Noir grinned, slightly leaning towards her.

“Y-yeah,” Ladybug stuttered, taking a step back. “A-anyway, where’s the akuma?”

“He kinda bailed when he possessed those two civilians,” the cat-themed hero explained, placing a hand on his chin. “Almost like he was looking for something.”

“Probably for Marinette,” the spotted heroine muttered.

Instantly, Chat Noir whipped his head towards her, eyes the size of dinner plates.

“Marinette!”

“No, wait!” Ladybug managed to grab her partner’s tail just in time before he fully ran off. “She’s safe. There’s no way he can find her.”

“How can you be so sure of that? Ugh.” Chat Noir slammed a hand on his forehead. “This is all my fault. I just couldn’t leave it alone, could I?”

“Well… Wait, no,” Ladybug shook her head. “This isn’t your fault. This is all Hawkmoth’s doing. Don’t beat yourself up.”

“No, you don’t understand,” Chat Noir said as he twirled to face her. “Even if Hawkmoth hadn’t been involved, I still messed up. If I hadn’t been so—” But the boy cut himself off, his cheeks taking a light shade of pink.

“If you hadn’t been what?” Ladybug pushed unconsciously.

“U-um, aaahhh…” Chat Noir scratched the back of his head.

But that was as far as he got, for the next second, a cone of ice cream landed on his shoulder, smearing his suit. As he let out a low ‘ew’, the two heroes scanned for the culprit, and found an ice cream man placing fresh dessert on a new cone. As if preparing ammunition.

“Possessed,” Ladybug let out as she pulled Chat Noir by the arm, avoiding another incoming sweet.

With a determined move with her yo-yo, the spotted heroine grabbed a pole on the ice cream cart and pulled it away from the man. As soon as the cart was near them, Chat Noir pushed it even further. But the action only angered the man. He took several swipes at them, but without his tasty weapons, he was much slower and easy to dodge. With one swing, Chat Noir hit the man’s head with his baton, knocking him unconscious.

“Ooohhh,” Ladybug and Chat Noir cringed in unison.

“Hope he comes out okay of that,” the boy commented.

“Where’s Marinette?!” A voice from above demanded.

The two heroes turned, looking up to the akuma’s floating figure, whom Chat Noir called ‘The Storyteller’ under his breath.

“Somewhere you can never find her,” Ladybug said triumphantly, not noticing her partner’s sigh of relief.

“Seems like you’re gonna have to settle for little-ol’-me,” Chat Noir quipped, pointing a thumb to himself.

Unfortunately for the pair, the joke was not well received. The Storyteller’s gaze became as hard as marble, and his hand started waving over the open book. In a matter of seconds, the word CRASH became legible. Simultaneously, Ladybug and Chat Noir gasped, jumping out of the way just in time before the word landed on the ground and dirt started flying all over the place.

Before they could catch their breaths, the akuma was already throwing new CRASH’s around the park, causing all kinds of destruction the duo of heroes hadn’t seen in a while. The two teens ran out to the street, headed to a café across it. Just as they were entering through the door, a deafening noise came from behind them. Ladybug looked back just in time to scream: “EVERYBODY DUCK!”

In a blur, everyone in the café crouched underneath their tables, while Ladybug tackled Chat Noir to the ground. Suddenly, the door and windows blew off their place, broken to shreds. Several people screamed. The second the dust settled, the employees started rushing people through the back of the establishment.

Meanwhile, Ladybug and Chat Noir were still lying on the floor. The heroine, on her part, was groaning, having hit her head for the second time that day. Somehow, on their way to the floor, Ladybug managed to twist them and land on her back, with Chat Noir on top of her.

“That was a rough landing,” the boy hissed.

Ladybug merely groaned, still blinking away the spots in her vision.

“Can you get up?” she heard Chat Noir say.

“In a second,” she responded. “I just need to—” But she stopped midsentence. It wasn’t until her vision finally cleared that she noticed the suggestive position they were in. And it seemed her partner was oblivious to it. She held in a squeak, before finally saying: “Yeap, I can get up.”

Quickly, the boy got on his feet and held out his hand. Ladybug accepted it almost instinctively.

“You okay?” she heard Chat Noir ask, while he helped her up.

“Yeah,” Ladybug groaned. “Just a regular day in the job, right?”

“Tell me about it,” Chat Noir sighed. “It’s been a while since I’ve been thrown around that hard, though.”

“Definitely. But you know there’s nothing we can’t—” But Ladybug stopped abruptly, noticing her hand felt oddly warm.

“Ladybug?” she heard Chat say.

Her eyes snapped down, finally noticing Chat Noir was still holding her hand from when he helped her to her feet. When Ladybug looked at him, he had just snapped his head up too, and quickly grinned, like he had done many times. Except this time, it sent a jolt through her body. By instinct, Ladybug yelped while pulling her hand away. Unfortunately for Chat Noir, the spotted hero accidentally hit his nose in her haste to remove her hand.

“Oh! I’m sorry!” Ladybug cringed. She then slapped a hand to her forehead. “Ugh. Why am I being so clumsy?”

“And here I always thought you hit me with your yo-yo on purpose,” Chat Noir quipped as he rubbed his nose.

But neither got a chance to discuss the subject further, due to tables suddenly moving by themselves to the sides of the café. From the broken entrance floated The Storyteller, calmly caressing his book.

“This story doesn’t have to end in tragedy,” he said, in his monotone voice. “Just give me your miraculous, and I can guarantee you two a happy ending.”

“Sorry, but I prefer writing my own story,” Ladybug quipped, taking a battle stance.

“We’ll see about that.” As The Storyteller said it, he opened the book and waved his hand to form the word MINION several times, in the end throwing them towards the back door of the café. Where four employees had just finished evacuating their clientele. “Minions, get me their miraculouses.”

“Looks like we’re about to be served an unhealthy meal, LB,” Chat Noir quipped, making a pose like hers.

“LB, Ladybug. LB, Ladybug. Whatever happened to My Lady?” Ladybug couldn’t help let slip.

Chat Noir frowned at her. “What?”

“I haven’t heard you call me that in weeks already,” she dared elaborate, with less shakiness than she felt. “You’re not losing your sense of humor, are you?”

“I’ve called you My Lady recently,” he defended.

“When?”

“Well…” But he trailed off, his eyes shifting, like he was seeking an answer. “There was that time…wait, no, that was a month—” his eyes suddenly became wide. “Oh my—”

But he was unable to finish that expression due to a plate he had to dodge. Ladybug whipped her head over her shoulder just in time to avoid another incoming plate from a possessed waitress. With the coming attacks, she started swinging her yo-yo rapidly, blocking the projectiles. Next to her, Chat Noir was doing the same with his staff.

“I can’t remember the last time I called you that!” he almost screeched. “I mean, not to your face. The last I remember, to you, was like a month ago, but I’m not sure.”

“Why did you stop?!” Ladybug shrieked, offended she had lost one of her nicknames.

“I don’t know!” Chat Noir admitted. “I mean, I guess it could be—MOVE!”

The leather-clad hero pushed them both just in time to avoid forks and knives coming from another waitress. In a swift move, they rolled under a table and turned it on its side, to use as a shield against the sharp cutlery.

“What were you saying?” Ladybug pushed.

But Chat Noir hesitated. “It’s…personal,” he said, at last.

“Personal?!” Ladybug couldn’t help but use an incredulous tone. “I don’t get it.”

“Look,” Chat Noir looked at her straight in the eyes. “I’ve been going through some things lately and I’m really confused, so I can’t give you a straight answer. And until I don’t come to a decision, I’m gonna have to keep a few extra secrets.”

“Oh,” Ladybug uttered, lips in the shape of the sound she just made. “Okay.”

“Okay?”

“Okay,” she nodded.

“Huh,” Chat Noir arched a brow. “That was easier than I—”

Once again, his words were cut off, this time when a larger and robust waiter lifted the table in which they were hiding over his head. With a loud growl, the man went to smash the piece of furniture on their heads, but the duo dodged it in the nick of time. They moved towards the counter, only to be ambushed by flying coffee cups thrown by the barista. Lucky for the heroes, they countered the attacks with their own weapons on time, sending coffee, milk and water all over the dining room.

“Careful!” the akuma suddenly barked.

Ladybug turned her head just in time to see The Storyteller desperately trying to clean the pages of the book. Realization struck her like lighting, and she pressed her back against her partner’s.

“Chat, I need a distraction long enough to call on Lucky Charm,” she said.

“Your wish is my command, partner,” Chat Noir responded. Almost immediately, Ladybug felt him slump. “I’m in so much trouble,” he mumbled.

But the heroine didn’t get the time to dwell on his words, for the next second he was drawing the attention of the possessed employees, long enough for her to call on her special power. The usual swirl of ladybugs emerged from her yo-yo, and a roll of fishing line appeared.

“Another great item to discover,” Ladybug muttered to herself, right before looking around the room. A look at the espresso machine and the akuma’s book later, she knew what to do.

“Chat, take this!” she ordered, giving the end of the line to her partner. Without another word, she ran to the machine and tied the other end to several of the hosepipes, blocking the liquids and putting pressure on it. “Pull!” she called.

In unison, the two heroes ran towards the exit. The Storyteller was about to follow them, but it was too late: water, milk and coffee grounds exploded all over the dining room, damaging the akuma’s book.

“What have you done?!” he bellowed, now running outside, trying to escape.

Unlucky for him, Ladybug was fast enough to wrap her yo-yo around his ankle and land him face-first against the concrete.

“It’s over, Félix,” the spotted heroine said, making her way to the akumatized object. “Your story has ended.”

As it was now the usual ritual, Ladybug broke the book in two, caught the akuma, purified it and bid it farewell. As for the Lucky Charm, Chat Noir brought what was left of it. With another ritualistic move, ladybugs flew about in the city, fixing everything damaged. And lastly, Félix was back to his usual, monotone self.

Bien joué!” Chat Noir said, raising a fist for her to bump.

Yet Ladybug only stared at it, reminded of all the times she bumped that fist with a bare hand. Reminded about how much more he told Marinette, and not Ladybug. How, at this point, he was probably closer with her civilian identity than her hero identity.

And how she almost treated someone else the same way she treats him.

Her head whipped around to scowl at Félix, now sitting on his knees, looking embarrassed. Ladybug didn’t even notice when she had stomped her way to him, until she was standing only inches in front of him. In an impulsive move, she grabbed the front of his clothes and lifted him high enough that his feet dangled about a centimeter off the ground.

“Why did you do it?!” she demanded, ignoring Chat Noir’s shocked calls next to her.

While Félix stared with wide eyes at first, his gaze lowered in shame.

“I didn’t mean to hurt her,” he whispered. “I was just… lonely.”

Ladybug huffed. “That’s your excuse?”

“You don’t know what it’s like,” Félix snapped. “When you’re a public figure, people treat you like an untouchable idol. They expect you to be perfect and they change their views just to accommodate yours. They use you, they’re only friends with you to see what they can get out of you. So, when I saw how Marinette treated a celebrity, I…” Félix pursed his lips. “I got envious.

She was so down to earth with Chat Noir. She didn’t care about calling him on his mistakes, and even scolding him. Yet she still cares, enough to save him twice… I wanted that. I wanted a real friend, not followers or fans. I got… desperate.”

Ladybug’s look softened slightly. She could understand the sentiment: she’d heard Chat Noir complain about it many times, and also suspected Adrien went through the same thing. She also experienced it as Ladybug, every time Chloé asked for a selfie, without knowing she bullied the girl behind the mask.

But…

“Look, I can understand what you’re going through, but if you think I’m just gonna—” but she stopped abruptly when she felt a hand warm her shoulder.

“Let him go,” Chat said, quietly.

“But he—” Once again, she stopped midsentence when she turned her gaze to her partner.

“I know it was wrong,” he cleared up. “But I also know what it’s like to not be treated like an actual person.”

Ladybug’s breath slowed, remembering the stories Chat Noir had told her. The longing he had felt to be treated like a normal person. One of the main reasons he started visiting her as Marinette.

She sighed, but still held on to the boy’s shirt.

“I’ll let it slide for now, but it was still wrong for you to lie to Marinette about being Chat Noir,” she stated.

Félix gave her a puzzled look. “Um, I never told her I’m Chat Noir,” he spoke slowly. “I just acted like him a bit and hoped she would assume.”

The girl’s face contorted and her brain started running at a hundred miles per hour.

Now that he mentioned it… it was true. Not once did she ever stopped to think that she could be wrong, that she had been latching on to the wrong guy.

So much time that she had spent with Chat Noir, and she hadn’t been able to recognize when someone had been pretending to be him.

I’m a horrible friend.

Félix yelped when Ladybug dropped him on the floor, but she barely heard him. Her mind was too busy kicking herself for such a dumb mistake. How could she just assume?

I’m a terrible, horrible, awful friend, she mentally berated herself.

“Ladybug?” she heard Chat call her. But she merely waved her hand and started walking away.

It wasn’t until she heard the beeping from her earrings that she picked up the pace and ran to a nearby alley. She could still hear her partner calling, but decided to ignore him. Once in the alley, she stood behind a dumpster and let her transformation go.

“Marinette?” Tikki called, worried.

“OH MY GOSH!” Marinette snapped, slapping her hands to her forehead. “I can’t believe I thought he was Chat Noir!”

“Shh!” Tikki desperately shushed her.

“How could I just assume!” the girl started pacing. “Gah! I know Chat! I know he can be reckless, but he’s not an idiot. I’m an idiot!”

She kicked the dumpster in a surge of anger, but it only resulted in shooting pain up her big toe. Marinette hopped on one foot several times, cursing under her breath. But a faint giggle made her stop and scowl at her purse.

“Tikkiii,” she whined. “You’re laughing at my misery?”

“Sorry,” the kwami snickered, “but you can be so dramatic sometimes.”

Marinette gave the goddess a deadpan look. “You want dramatic?”

Before Tikki could answer, the girl shut her purse and started marching to her house.

No. She was not facing Chat Noir or Félix. She was not about to make further fool of herself. She was going to go home and scream into a pillow.

“Marinette?”

Nope. Home. Pillow.

Marinette sped up, ignoring Chat Noir’s calls coming from the park. Just as she heard his staff clank against the pavement behind, she ducked into the door to her apartment building, and closed it on the superhero’s face.

“Marinette, what the hell?” he called from the other side.

“There’s no Marinette here,” she called back, leaning against the door. “Just a terrible person who can’t recognize her own friend.”

There was a pause.

“Wait, you’re not mad at me?” Chat spoke again, sounding bewildered.

“Of course I’m mad at you!” she snapped. “But I’m madder at myself. I can’t believe I assumed he was you. I’m an idiot!”

“Hey, no, don’t do that to yourself,” he tried to sooth her. “It was and honest mistake. It could’ve happened to anybody.”

“But it happened to me!” Marinette whined.

“Come out here, so we can talk about this.”

“No!” she stubbornly refused. “I’m going to crawl in a hole and die of shame. Bye Chat! It was nice knowing ya!”

With those last words, Marinette marched up the stairs, ignoring Chat’s calls. Her focus was solely on that pillow up in her room, where she could scream her lungs out.


“Marinette! Urgh!” Chat Noir gave an exasperated growl, his hands pulling at his hair. “Why am I surrounded by stubborn girls?”

“You should’ve seen her when she found out about Lila’s lie,” Félix commented. Chat Noir gave him a deadpan look.

“Why are you still here?” he said.

“I’m worried, too,” Félix defended. He then looked up to the building. “Is she gonna be okay?”

“Yeah,” Chat sighed, also turning his gaze to the building. “She’s just being dramatic. She’s probably in her room, waiting for me to knock.”

“Would you tell her I want to apologize to her?”

Chat’s eye twitched.

“Okay, let’s get something straight here,” he started, raising his index fingers, “you and I,” he pointed back and forth between Félix and himself, “we are not friends, and I am not doing you any favors.”

“Whatever happened to ‘I know what it feels like’?” Félix crossed his arms.

“I didn’t want Ladybug to go too hard on you, doesn’t mean I want you sticking around.”

“What is your problem with me? It’s not like I straight up lied to her.”

“No, but you implied the lie, and then got all chummy with her.”

Félix frowned. “It almost sounds like you’re jealous.”

“Yes, I am. Got a problem with that?” Chat snapped, without missing a beat.

Félix blinked, while Chat Noir glared at him. At this point, the superhero couldn’t care less about what that guy thought of him. He just wanted the imposter to go away.

“So you lied in the Margot and Dorian Show?”

“Are you trying to call me out?”

“No, no—”

“Because I think you’re the last person—”

“I just find it interesting—”

“—who has the right—”

“—because it sounded so believable—”

“—to call me out on a lie.”

“—even Marinette believed it.”

They went quiet. Chat Noir stared with wide eyes, registering Félix’s last words. Finally, the civilian boy sighed.

“I highly advice you tell Marinette,” he said.

“And why should I take advice from you?” Chat Noir crossed his arms.

“I’m not a monster,” Félix defended himself once more. “I gave into desperation and made a mistake. But I’m not an idiot.” He deepened his gaze. “Tell her. You’ll thank me later.”

With those last words, he walked past Chat Noir, bumping into his shoulder. Chat stared after him.

Thank him? Why would I thank him? The boy pondered for a moment. If anything, she’ll reject me saying that she likes… well, me. Unless…

Chat Noir’s gaze snapped up to the little he could see of her balcony. He had no reason to believe in Félix. If anything, that guy could be setting a trap for him, knowing full well Marinette didn’t like his superhero persona. At least, not that way. If only he could remember what they had been talking about before he intervened earlier.

With an exasperated sigh, he stuck the metal staff on the ground and lifted himself up to the top of the building. Once on the small terrace, he placed the baton back in its place and looked down at the latch on the ground. As much as he wanted to figure out if Félix’s ‘advice’ was any good, perhaps this wasn’t the time.

TOC, TOC

“Marinette,” Chat called, but no response. He knocked again, and this time, a muffled ‘no’ responded. He chuckled. “Come on, it wasn’t that bad.”

The trapdoor opened a sliver, only Marinette’s bangs and shiny bluebells visible.

“Not that bad?!” she responded, incredulous. “It was horrible.”

The latch shut. Chat Noir sighed and knocked again.

“It happens. We all make mistakes.”

She opened the latch again. “I thought he was you!” Closed again. Chat was about to rap it again, but, once again, Marinette opened. “I genuinely, stupidly thought he was you.” It snapped closed again. Then came a muffled: “I’m a terrible friend.”

While Chat had felt a bit hurt that Marinette thought Félix was him, he couldn’t really blame her. He’d done a good job hiding his identity, just like Plagg had asked to. He didn’t even call her Princess as Adrien (although, it had almost slipped out a few times already). Yes, she made a mistake, but it also said a lot about how much more she wanted to get to know him. That, in itself, was a nice sentiment.

“Marinette, you could never be a terrible friend,” he called, not bothering to knock this time. The crack opened once again, exposing furrowed brows.

“I should know you well enough to know that you take your secret identity very serious,” she argued her case. “I did wrong. I failed. I have dishonored myself, my family and my cow. Good bye!”

Marinette pulled to close it back up again, but Chat managed to grab it just in time before hitting the frame. The girl’s eyes widened and blinked, staring at the gloved hand.

“Mari, if it had been me who had thought some girl was Ladybug, I probably would’ve done the same dumb thing.”

“But that’s different,” the girl whined. “You like Ladybug and she’s also your partner. I had no right.”

“Would you just come out?”

“No,” Marinette stubbornly refused. “I need to stay here and die in shame.”

“No, you need to get out and get some fresh air,” Chat retorted, starting to become irritated.

“I do not deserve fresh air.”

Chat groaned loudly, throwing his head back. There has to be a way to get her out. He thought for a moment, until an idea occurred to him. With a deep breath, he laid his stomach on the ground and placed his chin on his forearm, giving him a clear view of the pig-tailed girl’s bluebells. With the best kitty-eyes he could muster and a tiny pout, he said one word: “Pwease?”

Marinette’s face contorted as she released a strangled squeak. Yeap, it’s working.

“Don’t do that,” she hissed, but Chat only exaggerated the expression more, adding a light whimper, which prompted the combination of a loud groan and a growl from Marinette. “Fine!” she said at last, in defeat. “I’ll be right out.”

The latch closed again, but this time, Chat could hear shuffling from inside. Mission accomplished, he mentally basked in his victory, while standing and dusting off his suit.

He slowly paced the balcony, until he heard the trapdoor open again. The boy turned and was about to thank her for joining him, but the words died in his throat when he got a good look at her.

Marinette was wrapped from head to toe with a pink blanket. She looked like a little girl playing ghost.

It was adorable.

And hilarious.

Unable to contain himself, Chat barked out a laugh. Marinette merely whined again, tightening the blanket around her.

“I’m going back in.”

“Nononono,” the boy quickly reached out to where her arm was buried under the pink blanket, but still laughing. “I’m sorry, but you caught me off guard.” He let out a hearty breath. “Can you please stop hiding?”

Marinette grunted. Chat bit his lip, holding a commentary of how cute she was being. Instead, he pulled her closer and tried pulling the cloth away from her head, but was met with resistance.

“Do I need to say pwease again?” he jokingly scolded. The designer gave another low groan, but her grip slackened anyway. Slowly, Chat pulled on the material, enough to uncover her very flushed face.

He grinned. “There’s my Princess.”

Her cheeks became redder. “Your Princess?”

Chat almost chocked. A hand flew to the back of his head and he stammered out: “I-I mean, my friend, the Princess. Y-yeah, that’s what I meant.”

Internally, he could almost feel himself kick his own butt for that comment. And he had been playing it so cool, so far. It had been a week already since he found out about his feelings for the girl in front of him, yet he still couldn’t get used to the idea.

“Right,” Marinette whispered, dragging Chat Noir out of his thoughts. “Friends.”

The leather-clad hero studied her face for a moment, and realized that although it was red, her gaze was one of sadness. Was she really beating herself up that bad about it?

“Hey, Mari,” he placed his hands on her shoulders. “It was an honest mistake. It could’ve happened to anyone. Please don’t be sad.”

Marinette raised her gaze towards him, with slight confusion at first, but was quickly replaced with the shame from before. Weird.

“I thought some creepy weirdo was you. I have insulted your cat’s honor.”

Chat Noir chuckled. “Trust me; it takes a lot more to insult my honor.” He paused. “Wanna talk about it?”

Marinette hesitated. So, to encourage her, the boy skipped to the patio lounge and sat on it. To finish it off, he patted his lap, signaling her to sit with him.

“Come talk to the cat superhero,” he called, as if he were a commercial. “He’ll listen to all your troubles.”

I’m an idiot, he mentally barraged himself for his silly antics. That was, until Marinette giggled and made her way to join him. I’m a genius!

Without even questioning it, the girl sat on his lap, still holding tight to the blanket. Finally, she uttered two words: “I’m sorry.”

Chat Noir sighed. She really wasn’t making this easy. He placed his arms around her and pulled her closer.

“We all make mistakes,” he whispered into her flower-smelling hair. Oh, that wonderful scent. Focus, Adrien! “A-and it’s not like you did it on purpose. Some guy pretended to be me, and you jumped at the opportunity.”

“But I know better,” she interjected. “I know you well enough to know you wouldn’t give out your identity like that. Try to hang out with me more, maybe. But to be so obvious…”

Chat Noir gulped. He suddenly felt very lucky to be in the same classroom as her, otherwise she would’ve figured out his identity a long time ago. Oh, and that he had dragged his civilian self in the mess.

“Maybe someday,” he responded breathlessly, heart racing in his chest. “Someday, you’ll have to stand me in and out of suit.”

“That doesn’t sound so bad,” Marinette happily sighed, making herself comfortable on him and spreading the blanket over both of them. “I could show you off to my friends.”

“Yeah, and then complain about my puns to them,” Chat joked, lightly stroking her arm.

“Now why would I do that?” the girl spoke in a sleepy tone, her head lying under his neck.

“Because you’re always groaning every time I pun,” he chuckled.

“Chat,” she whispered, “I’ve always liked your puns.”

The boy could’ve sworn his heart stopped beating. She WHAT?!

“You just have terrible timing,” she finished.

Yet the additional information didn’t deter his new mood. She likes my puns! She actually likes my puns! He repeated the sentences several times in his mind, all the while tightening his grip on the girl in his arms. What did I do to deserve such a wonderful human being?

It was official: Marinette stole his heart. She came into his life and offered more than friendship, even before either of them knew it. She gave him comfort, smiles, warmth, laughs, kindness…

Love.

She gave him unconditional love. It took him this long to realize that it wasn’t her good looks what had the other boys going crazy for her, but her amazing treatment of others. That even though she had no idea who he was under the mask, that he was the boy she was in love with, she still did everything in her power to make him happy. She liked him for who he was, even if it was only bits that she knew.

Chat Noir closed his eyes and gave a happy hum. Just a friend. Those words seemed so far away now. How could he ever think she’d be just a friend? The thought seemed insane now. It was like she had had his heart the entire time, yet he hadn’t noticed until recently.

“You’re amazing, Marinette,” he sighed softly in bliss.

“So are you, Chat Noir,” she slurred.

The two remained still in each other’s arms. Consciousness fleeted away from them. They merely enjoyed their warmth.

In the process, they forgot they were sitting on Marinette’s balcony. They forgot Chat Noir was supposed to patrol that evening. They forgot there was a limit to the miraculous magic that suited up the leather-clad hero.

And they had fallen so deeply asleep, neither noticed when the leather disappeared, and turned into a soft, expensive fabric.


Cameras surrounded Marinette. Lights were flashing all around her. Behind the many faceless reporters, she could only see gray. Why was it so dark behind them?

“Marinette, are you in love with Chat Noir?” a redheaded reporter yelled, pushing a microphone to her face.

“I already said I don’t!” Marinette defended herself.

“But Tikki told us you do!” the reporter said.

The blue-haired girl gasped and looked at a floating red speck next to her.

“You little traitor!” she accused.

“But it’s true, Marinette!” the disembodied speck defended herself.

“Since when are you two in love?” The girl turned back to Anabelle, whose eyes were magnified by those red trimmed glasses, making her look like a bug.

“I-I, uh…” Marinette stuttered.

“NO COMMENT!” someone suddenly said, breaking through the crowd and grabbing her wrist.

Marinette let herself be dragged by a hand with a silver ring, but couldn’t see who it belonged to. Too many cameras were in the way. As the person continued pulling on her, she looked back at the crowd. Yet they became distant. Almost as if she were flying. She looked back at her savior, and before her eyes was Chat Noir, giving her his trademark toothy grin.

“Why didn’t you tell them, Princess?” he asked, oddly cheerful.

The designer searched for the silver ring. She could’ve sworn she saw him wearing a silver ring. Yet there his ring was, as black as ever with the familiar green paw print.

“What was I supposed to say?” she asked, sincerely confused.

“That you love me,” Chat Noir said, nonchalantly.

“I can’t,” she responded. “If I tell them I love you, Adrien will think I never loved him.”

“But you love me.” Without any prompting, Chat Noir wrapped Marinette in a tight hug. “You’re amazing, Marinette.”

The pig-tailed girl didn’t move. She remained petrified in his arms, feeling oddly warm and cozy. Her arms snaked their way up to his back, returning the embrace. After what seemed like no time at all, she pulled back, but only enough to see his face.

“Do you love me?” she asked, tentatively, hopeful. If he responded with a yes, what was she supposed to do? Should they be together? She definitely wouldn’t mind that.

Chat Noir continued to smile. He opened his mouth to say something, but…

“PWAHAHAHAHAHAHA!”

Marinette’s eyes flew open, only to see what looked like a black cat floating in the air. The girl almost immediately jumped, but was quickly held down by a pair of arms pinning her down.

“Don’t get up!” the owner of those arms screeched.

It was then that she froze, finally registering what was happening.

“Chat?” she squeaked, almost drowned by the still cackling floating creature. Which now Marinette realized was probably his kwami.

“Plagg!” Chat Noir scolded. “What do you think you’re doing? What’s so funny?”

“Ooohhh, this is just too good,” Plagg giggled, wiping a tear from his eye. He then stared Marinette straight in the eye. “Really, really good.”

With a smirk, he gave Marinette a knowing look…that could only mean one thing:

He knows.

“Why are you giving us heart attacks?” Chat Noir insisted, unaware of the silent message passing between the kwami and the designer.

“I saw a very funny bug,” Plagg snorted, confirming Marinette’s suspicion.

“And that justifies freaking us out like that?” Chat Noir huffed, making a movement that reminded Marinette of the predicament they were in.

“I have no regrets,” the kwami said proudly.

Chat Noir sighed under Marinette. “Sorry about that,” he whispered.

“Noitsfine,” the designer managed to blurt out. She cleared her throat and tried again. “W-what’s that?”

“Plagg, Marinette. Marinette, Plagg,” Chat Noir introduced, annoyed. “He’s the thing that gives me my powers.” His arms tightened around her. “Which I don’t have right now.”

Marinette gulped as she felt the soft, loose material under her palm.

“O-oh,” she stuttered.

“Why am I not transformed?” the unmasked hero demanded, unaware of his partner’s inner turmoil.

“Just ‘cause you don’t use Cataclysm it doesn’t mean I don’t get tired,” Plagg spat. “You have any idea how exhausting these weeks have been for me? It gets stuffy in there.” He crossed his tiny arms. “It’s not like you even needed the mask. You were sleeping.”

Marinette could’ve sworn she felt her partner tense. What was more, she heard a gulp go down his esophagus. Was he nervous? Why was he nervous?

As if to answer her question, his hands slowly caressed her exposed arm. Just as a shuddered breath escaped his lips.

“Unless you guys want me to stay stuck here all day, I’m gonna have to transform—”

“No!” Marinette blurted out, taking a fistful of his over-shirt, which she now noticed was white.

“Marinette, I—”

“I won’t look,” the designer promised. “But can we lie here a little longer?”

There was a pause. Marinette thought for sure she had just made a huge mistake. Maybe even made him uncomfortable, or mistrust her.

“Okay,” Chat Noir whispered. “We can stay like this.”

Instantly, Marinette’s heart jolted. The hand that had been on her elbow now moved up her forearm, until reaching her own hand.

“How much longer are you gonna stay here?” Plagg whined. When the response he got were a bunch of rambled ‘er’s and ‘um’s, the kwami sighed. “I’ll be in that flower pot, if you need me.”

Without another word, Plagg zipped away to one of Marinette’s plants. One where the girl suspected Tikki was hiding in.

“That’s weird,” Chat Noir muttered. When Marinette hummed in confusion, he elaborated. “You’d think he’d use an opportunity like this to tease obnoxiously. Although… well, you weren’t supposed to meet.”

Marinette swallowed. “Maybe he’s keeping himself as mysterious as possible,” she feebly tried to make sense. “You know, like, the less I know, the better. A-and maybe waking us up was not his intention.”

“Probably,” Chat Noir sighed. “You sleep well, by the way?”

“Uuuhhh.” Marinette reddened, the memory of the dream she had suddenly rushing back to her. A nervous giggle escaped her lips. “Y-yeah, totally good sleep, dreamless nap. Yeap, all good.”

“Are you okay?” the boy asked.

“A-Okay!” Marinette squeaked, tightening her grip on the white over-shirt. “I’m just e-excited tha-that I, um… get to see you wear white! That’s… That’s a surprise.”

The girl cringed at her ramblings. She was really losing it today.

“You know, Princess, you may not be able to see my face, but I can see every single expression you make from here,” Chat Noir chuckled.

“Whaaattt,” Marinette feigned ignorance, but her blush betrayed her.

“Is that why you wanted us to stay here?” Chat Noir teased. “To inspect my civilian clothes?”

“How dare you—” Marinette started, but was abruptly interrupted when she was pushed back down to the boy’s chest. It seemed she had unconsciously started to raise herself, as if about to face him.

“This is really nerve-wrecking,” Chat Noir confessed. “Why do you want to stay here again?”

Marinette opened her mouth to respond, but immediately closed it again. The truth of the matter was… embarrassing? If she was being honest with herself, this was the closest she had ever felt to him. Although they had hugged plenty of times, she had never felt his bare arms around her. And it felt important to her. Like it was something she would probably never get the chance to do ever again.

“Maybe it’s best I—”

“I never thought you’d wear white!” Marinette blurted out.

Was it just her, or could she hear his heartbeat? And if it was, why was it so fast?

“Um, yeah,” Chat Noir responded awkwardly. “It’d be a little too revealing if I pranced around in black all the time, don’t you think?”

“Right,” Marinette laughed.

They remained quiet for a brief moment. Finally, Chat Noir took a deep breath, as he tightened his grip on her.

“I think it’s best I transform,” he said.

Marinette hummed, not exactly in agreement, but not stopping him either. A call to Plagg and several words later, a green light engulfed them both, making Marinette squint.

“It’s done,” Chat Noir whispered.

Slowly, Marinette pushed herself up, far enough to get a look of his face. As always, he was wearing the mask she had always seen him with. His clothes were now as black as ever. And the reminder, that she may never know who the boy under the mask is, struck her. Badly.

She blinked several times and rose from the seat, making the pink blanket fall to the ground.

“Everything okay?” Marinette heard from behind her.

“Yeah, it’s fine,” she lied. “It’s just been a long day.”

“Tell me about it,” Chat Noir agreed, while picking up the blanket and placing it on the chair. “It had been a while since the last time LB and I fought such a destructive akuma. Good thing Miraculous Cure exists, right?”

“Yeah,” Marinette smiled. “A good thing indeed. And that she has you, of course.” Lucky me, she thought, somehow bitterly.

“As a partner, of course,” Chat Noir said pointedly.

His tone made Marinette look at him in curiosity. She had never heard him talk about Ladybug as just his partner. In fact, he was usually very open about his love for her. Was this really Chat Noir she was talking to, and not some impersonator?

“Do I have something on my face?” he asked suddenly.

It then occurred to Marinette that she had been staring for a minute. With warming cheeks, she gave him a sheepish smile and scratched the back of her head.

“Sorry,” she giggled. “I got, kinda… distracted.”

Chat Noir hummed and nodded. He then moved his gaze to the Parisian horizon. Marinette followed his line of view, to realize he was staring at the sun that was almost fully hidden. Meaning there was somewhere he was supposed to be.

“I should go,” he said suddenly, making Marinette’s heart leap. He then looked back at her and gave her a soft smile. “I’ll see you around, Mari.” He turned to the railing, and was about to leap off.

“Wait!” Marinette blurted out, just as she grabbed his wrist.

With surprised eyes, Chat Noir turned to her, dead on his tracks. The girl didn’t know what took over her. She knew it was time for his patrol. He had a duty to fulfill. She knew that better than anyone else. However…

She didn’t want to see him go. After everything they went through that day. After getting the chance to touch his bare skin. After The Storyteller. After Annabelle. She didn’t want to let go. Not just yet.

“Stay,” she said, at last. “Stay, just a little longer.”

Chat Noir blinked owlishly. “I-I…I have to patrol.”

Marinette bit her lip. She couldn’t believe she was about to say this: “I’m sure Ladybug wouldn’t mind if you start a little late tonight.”

A silence stretched for a moment. She could see consideration in his cat-like eyes. Those eyes that, now that she thought about it, reminded her of springtime. Oh, this was a bad idea, she thought, the longer he took.

“Okay,” he said quietly. “I’ll stay.”

Wait, what?

If Marinette was being honest with herself, she didn’t expect for that to work. What was more, she hadn’t planned this far ahead. She hadn’t even known she wanted him to stay until asking him. Now what?

“Great!” she squeaked, earning an arched eyebrow from the boy before her. Thankfully, he chuckled the next second.

“Sooo…” he started. “Whatta you wanna do?”

“U-um…” Marinette looked around her balcony, trying to think of an excuse. “Uuuhhh—Have you ever looked at my plants?”

“Uh, yeah,” Chat Noir responded with a shrug. “It’s kinda part of the reason I gave you the spray bottle.”

“Right,” she nodded. Her gaze went directly to the gift, still sitting on the small table, where she had left it as Ladybug. Why was it that she had it as Ladybug?

The Storyteller, she dropped it when Chat saved her, after they had been… Oh.

She had almost forgotten the conversation they were having before the akuma interrupted them. An unfinished one, which never got a straight answer.

“You know, Ladybug brought it back here,” she said cautiously.

“Well, that explains why I couldn’t find it,” Chat Noir grinned, leaning back against the railing.

“Good to know you remembered,” she smiled back. “And you know, now that I think back, I just remembered something,” she said, landing a fist on her open palm. “You know we didn’t finish our conversation from earlier, right?”

“What conversation?” he frowned.

“When I asked you if you were jealous of Félix,” she dared say, crossing her arms and trying to ignore the way her heart had just accelerated.

And just as she finished, the color of Chat Noir’s face was drained. His fake ears stood straight in alert. His shoulders tensed.

“I thought you forgot about that,” he breathed.

“So you were jealous,” Marinette almost squeaked.

“No, no, I did not say that,” Chat Noir immediately tried to amend, pushing himself from the railing. “W-what I meant was, that, um… I thought you weren’t mad anymore. About what happened.”

“Oh,” the designer let out, feeling disappointed, for some reason. Okay, maybe she knew the reason, but there was no way she was admitting to anything, much less when it seemed she was wrong about earlier. Or… was she? Her eyes squinted. “Actually, yes, I’m mad.”

Chat Noir’s fake ears drooped, making Marinette almost regret her plan.

“I didn’t mean to be so mean, but…” he sighed. “I just didn’t like that he was pretending to be me.”

“And how would you know he was pretending to be you?” she asked, hands on her hips. “Or that it wasn’t the first time he called me Princess?”

“I have my sources, Mari,” he said as nonchalantly as possible, but Marinette could hear the forcefulness in his tone.

“You’ve said that before,” she reminded him.

“They’re very good sources.”

“Or you saw it firsthand.”

Chat Noir didn’t say anything. Instead, his eyes stared at the ground. He might as well had responded with an affirmative.

“We do know each other, don’t we?” she whispered.

“You know I can’t answer that,” he whispered back.

“But you’re not Félix.”

“Of course I’m not that prick,” Chat Noir huffed.

Marinette smirked. “You know, you say you weren’t jealous, but then you say stuff like that.”

Once again, Chat Noir seemed to be at a loss of words. He gave a loud huff, and turned towards the railing. He rested his forearms on the cool metal to clasp his hands together.

“I don’t see any reason why I should be jealous,” he mumbled.

Marinette almost gave an exasperated sigh. His attitude was almost completely opposite of what he was saying. It tempted her so much on forcing out what she thought he was hiding, but the idea sounded so similar to what Annabelle did to them that very same day. Of course, Marinette wasn’t some random paparazzi messing with them, yet it still didn’t feel right.

Instead, she stepped to his left side and tried catching his eye. Noticing what she was doing, Chat Noir averted his gaze away from hers. However, the turn of his face was not enough to hide what was clearly a tint of pink on his cheeks.

“You know you can tell me anything, Chat,” Marinette whispered, trying to suppress a smile.

“Not…everything,” the boy sighed.

The girl frowned. “I know not everything, but I won’t judge you for having mixed up feelings.” Marinette bit her lip for a moment, trying to gather the courage to say what she wanted, while hiding the sting it brought to her heart. “It’s fine if you say you never want to be with me, but feel protective of our friendship.”

She was about to continue, but Chat Noir snapped his head towards her. His eyes scanned her features, making Marinette feel somewhat conscious. She quickly blinked several times, hoping her eyes didn’t betray her own feelings. Slowly, Chat Noir’s eyes widened.

“Marinette, I didn’t mean what I said earlier,” he said, almost blurting it. “I only said that because I got overwhelmed with Annabelle’s questions, and I was very close to mess up. So I said that to compensate for my mistake. But I swear I didn’t mean it.”

“Oh.” This time, Marinette was unable to hold in a breath of relief. “Well, that’s nice to know.”

She looked back at her partner, who was now squinting at her.

“What?”

He smirked. “Why are you smiling?” he asked with a teasing tone.

Marinette’s stomach jolted and a hand flew to her mouth.

“I’m not smiling!” she protested stubbornly.

“Oh really?” Chat Noir drawled. He then proceeded to poke her cheek. “Then what’s this? Because I doubt your face is usually this squishy.”

“Stop.” Marinette lightly slapped his hand away. “Why would I be smiling?”

“Why would I be jealous?” the boy responded mechanically.

They both gave one last laugh, when the questions properly registered for both. They stared at each other with wide eyes for a second, but almost immediately burst into nervous laughter.

“Y-yeah,” Chat Noir started, scratching the back of his head. “Dumb question, I guess. Totally dumb.”

“Heh, y-yeah,” Marinette squeaked. “Silly so—I mean, uh, you know…We’re being silly, right? Chaton? Pal? Buddy?”

Mindlessly, she lightly elbowed his arm, all the while letting out an awkward giggle. When she realized what she was doing, she whined and clapped a hand to her face. When she dared to peek through her fingers, Chat Noir was giving her the most bewildered look she’d ever seen on his face. Almost…familiar.

“PFFTHAHAHAHAHAHA.” His cheeks puffed, just as he fell into hysterics.

Marinette couldn’t help but stare for a moment, something nagging at the back of her head. Yet all instinct led her to simply giggle from behind her hand.

“You know,” the boy heaved, trying to control his laughter. “I don’t think I’ve ever met someone who makes me laugh as much as you do.”

Marinette pouted. “Do I make you laugh at me or with me?”

“Both,” he shrugged.

The girl huffed and stuck her tongue out to him, giving way for another chuckle from the leather-clad hero

“Don’t make this cat catch your tongue,” he joked.

But almost instantly, the implication of the joke made the two teens blush once again and Marinette hide the appendage in question. They remained quiet, until Chat Noir cleared his throat.

“Marinette, can I ask you something?”

“Chat, I think we’re way past the point that you have to ask me if you can ask me something,” Marinette chuckled. Chat gave a light laugh and took a deep breath. Marinette frowned. “What is it?”

Chat visibly gulped. “Why do you like Adrien?”

Marinette blinked. What brought this on? And why did he seem nervous asking?

“Well,” she started, “there’s a lot of things I like about him.”

“I’m not asking what,” Chat quietly interjected. Marinette gave him a curious look. This was… different.

“I don’t think anyone has ever asked me why. Everything okay, chaton?”

“Yeah,” he cleared his throat as he said it. “I’m just curious.”

“Hmm,” Marinette tapped her index on her chin, thinking. “Because… He’s kind. That was the first thing that struck me about him. He cares about the people that surround him, even if they don’t show him the same kindness back. He’s selfless, and he’s much more determined than he realizes. In fact, he was so determined to attend school, he actually escaped his own house against his father’s will. Huh,” she thought for a moment, “I guess I should add courageous to that list.”

She looked back at her leather-clad partner, and was taken slightly aback when she saw a strange expression on his face. It seemed familiar, like she had seen it before. A look she had seen during akuma attacks sometimes.

She cleared her throat when her stomach did that pesky somersault.

“W-what about you?” Stop stuttering, for goodness sake! She cleared her throat again. “Why do you like Ladybug?”

“She’s amazing,” he responded simply, still with that weird— Dazed. She had seen him admire her as Ladybug like that from afar, when he thought she wasn’t looking. Guess he was just lost in thoughts about Ladybug, she thought. But there seemed to be something wrong with that thought. There was something that didn’t fit. Something about her statement was wrong. Why did it feel wrong?

“She’s smart, brave, has a need to help others, which is pretty amazing in itself. You know,” he leaned on the railing, his forearms resting on the metal bars, “she’s a lot like you.”

Marinette almost chocked on her own saliva.

“Whaaat? Nah,” she waved a hand dismissively. “Psh, Ladybug and I? Nah, no way. We’re nothing alike. Ha, ha. That’s crazy talk.”

“Are you kidding?” Chat Noir chuckled. “You two are the bravest people I know. Heck, I’d say you’re braver because you save people without powers.”

“You don’t know that Ladybug doesn’t,” she mumbled. But as soon as she realized her potential mistake, she followed with: “B-besides! I can’t handle myself in an interview as well she can.”

“I don’t know,” Chat Noir shrugged, ignoring her first statement. “You handled yourself amazingly today. I think you could give Ladybug a run for her money.”

The pig-tailed girl cleared her throat, for what seemed like the hundredth time that day.

“Is that you comparing me to Ladybug?” she asked, in an attempt to distract him from the similarities between her and her alter ego.

Yet, to her surprise, he smiled.

“No,” he said. “You’re amazing all on your own, Marinette.”

Oh, I wanna punch you, the designer thought, as her cheeks had grown hotter than they had ever been. I’m screwed, aren’t I?

“Thank you,” Marinette mumbled.

“And I really mean that, Princess.”

Marinette looked up to his eyes. From the softness of them, she could tell his words were genuine.

“Since when are you such a charmer, minou?” she teased, bumping his shoulder with her own.

Chat Noir giggled. “I’m only charming when I want to be, and with whom I want to be.”

He then playfully pushed her with his shoulder. Marinette giggled and did the same. But Chat Noir fell further to the other side, about to fall over. When Marinette grabbed his arm, he quickly straightened, his shoulder pressed against hers once again.

“Kidding,” he chuckled. Marinette groaned and was about to hit him, but realized the hand she had placed on his arm was now trapped under his own clawed one.

The laughter died away. The girl’s eyes were focused on their hands. She could see, from the corner of her eye, that Chat Noir was also staring. Yet, she didn’t pay mind.

Ever so slowly, the gloved hand moved and entwined his fingers with hers. Marinette could feel her heart skipping beats. She then looked up, just as Chat Noir did the same.

There was something different about his expression, like it was searching for something. And like him, she was looking for something, too. What that was, she wasn’t sure, but whatever it was, she wanted it.

She shifted her eyes from one spot of his face to the other. She noticed how his mask seemed to be of a different material than his suit. She noticed how well his skin seemed to be taken care of. She noticed how the pupils of his cat eyes could become larger.

But the last thing she expected to notice that evening was how soft Chat Noir’s lips were.

Chapter Text

This wasn’t supposed to happen.

And yet, there they were, lips pressed together, and neither moving away. Marinette would argue that she didn’t dare to make sudden movements, and that that was why she didn’t pull away. But even she knew that was a lie. The truth of the matter was that she didn’t want to pull away. She didn’t want to stop what she was doing.

She didn’t want to stop a kiss with Chat Noir.

So instead, she squeezed the gloved hand she was holding, and moved her lips in a slow rhythm. A rhythm Chat Noir immediately followed. It was soft and tender, with an emotion Marinette couldn’t make out at the moment. But it felt important. Too important to simply dismiss.

Until, after what felt like days, their lips broke apart.

As her daze started to clear up, the reality of what happened started to sink in. What she did. Her previously lidded eyes now grew wide, focused on Chat Noir’s equally surprised ones.

It only took one second for both of them to jerk away from each other in shock. Their hands released from one another and took hold of the railing instead, all the while they stared away towards the lights of Paris.

“Did…did we just—”

“Yeap,” Marinette interrupted, not wanting to hear the end of that sentence.

“Sh-should…should we…”

“Nope,” Marinette intervened again, but Chat Noir had already trailed away before she spoke.

They stood there, frozen, unsure of what to do next. She chanced a glance towards him, just in time to see him do the same. The moment their gazes connected, their cheeks turned red and their eyes averted once more.

Should they talk about it?  I’m not sure if I’m ready for that.

Should they kiss again? Definitely. Marinette gulped at how quickly that response came into her mind.

Should they ignore it and pretend it never happened?

I can’t, she thought to herself, the memory of the kiss already seared into her brain.

Ahem.” Marinette jumped at the reminder that said boy was still standing next to her. “Maybe I-I should just, um…you know…go?”

Her gaze finally snapped towards him, just in time to see him starting to climb the railing.

“No!” she blurted out, grabbing his wrist.

Chat Noir looked back at her, eyes the size of saucers. Yet Marinette didn’t let go. She wanted to at least say something. Anything. But couldn’t find the right words.

“I-I…” she tried. “I mean…you, me…we…this…”

Oh, this is a disaster, she thought miserably. She took a deep breath, and Chat Noir turned to her fully. He opened and closed his mouth several times, unsure.

“We don’t have to talk about it now,” he said at last, eyes softening. When Marinette’s hold loosened, he slipped his hand into hers. “Honestly, I’m not ready to talk about it.”

“Right,” Marinette breathed. “It’s…complicated.”

“Yeah,” he whispered.

It then occurred to her that what was probably going through his mind was the same thing that was going through hers. Not only had they both said to like different people, but they had just done exactly what they had been denying for weeks to the press.

There were in so much trouble.

“We have to talk about it, though,” Marinette whispered. “And soon.”

“I know,” Chat Noir agreed. “But I need to figure out some things first.”

“Me too.”

They sighed in unison. They stood quiet for a minute, processing the situation. Oh, did Marinette want to try to figure out what this was. But it was too sudden, and there was too much at stake.

“I should go,” Chat Noir repeated, yet didn’t make much of an effort to move. Instead, he tucked a stray hair behind Marinette’s ear.

“Y-yeah.” She could feel the strong temptation to lean into those soft lips again. But she had to fight it. She had to be, at least, a little responsible.

She cleared her throat. “Good night, Chat Noir.”

The boy smiled. “Good night, Marinette.”

He brought her hand to his lips and gave it a soft kiss that made Marinette shiver. Looking hesitant, he backed into the railing. Instead of giving his usual two-fingered salute, he gave her a sheepish wave. Marinette returned it with a lopsided grin and watched as Chat Noir tried to climb the railing while keeping eye contact with her. Causing him to slip.

“Chat!” Marinette extended a hand.

“I’m okay!” Chat Noir assured, holding tightly to the metal, letting out a nervous giggle. “G-good night, beautiful.”

Marinette’s heart skipped a beat and her cheeks took on a rosy color once again. That was the third time he called her that. Yet it had never affected her like it was doing now, where her stomach wanted to fly away from her being in a swarm of ladybugs. A feeling that sent electricity through every one of her nerves, giving her goosebumps.

He thinks I’m beautiful.

“Good night, handsome,” she let slip in her daze.

It wasn’t until he started to look more flushed than before, that Marinette registered the words that escaped her mouth. Immediately, she clapped her hands to her lips, surprised at her own words.

“I-I mean…” she tried to retract. “Normal goodbye. Like, f-friendly good night. Not handsome. N-not that you aren’t handsome. You’re gorgeous. B-but I-I didn’t mean to say that, like that—I mean, I meant it friendly like, not like ‘good night, hot stuff,’ you know?”

Kill me, she whined internally. All the while Chat Noir simply stared at her, turning darker by the second. In an attempt to make herself look casual, she tried leaning against the railing. Unfortunately, her hand only grabbed air, making her stumble. Ultimately, she managed to grab the railing and make the most casual pose she could muster. Yet continued smiling like an idiot.

Chat Noir blinked several times, until a nervous giggle escaped him.

“Y-yeah,” he snorted. “Friendly.” He paused, his eyes shifting from her to the ground. With a deep breath and squaring his shoulders, he said: “We’ll talk about this next time I see you. Promise.”

Again, that pesky jolt in her stomach. The thing that reminded Marinette this was not a one-time thing. She knew it in her gut: this was about to get ten times more complicated.

Not trusting herself to speak, she merely nodded. Chat Noir did the same, holding tightly to his position on the railing. It was an unspoken truth that passed between them: if they said another word, they would fall into impulse again. So, instead, they remained quiet, even after Chat turned away and disappeared into the rooftops of Paris.

Marinette continued staring to the direction in which he left. Slowly, she turned to the trapdoor leading to her room, absentmindedly grabbing the blanket on the patio chair as she entered it. She took quiet steps down from the loft, the cloth forgotten halfway to her chaise. Still in her stupor, she softly sat on the cushioned seat.

Finally, she took a large gulp of breath.

“TIKKI!” she screamed.

“What?! What is it?!” Tikki said, as she zipped down from the loft, expression of panicked confusion.

“I-I… I-I… I kissed Chat Noir!” Marinette finally let out, hands at the sides of her face.

----

“Oh, come on,” Plagg said, trying to get a look at Adrien’s face, which was pressed against the floor of his bedroom. “It’s not that bad.”

But all that came out of Adrien were muffled whines. Plagg sighed.

“I can’t understand you,” he deadpanned. “I can’t help you if I can’t understand you.”

Adrien let out an annoyed breath, but turned his head enough to speak clearly.

“Plagg, I kissed her. I. Kissed. HER!” he whined. “This is a disaster!”

----

“Why?” Tikki asked, genuinely confused.

“Why?!” Marinette sputtered, arms flailing. “Why do you think?! We’ve just proven every paparazzi and reporter in Paris that they were right. That there is something between us more than friendship. And what’s worse, I don’t even know how to feel about all this!”

With that last statement, Marinette fell back into the chaise. Tikki gave her charge a concerned look before floating up to her chest and resting there.

“How do you feel about all this?” the kwami asked.

Marinette looked at the little goddess for a moment. Did she really had to answer that question? Yeah, her brain supplied.

“Well,” she sighed, “for starters, you were right. I do have feelings for Chat Noir. I’m not sure when it happened, but somewhere along the way, he grew on me. I used to think he was just flirty and couldn’t take things seriously, even if his life depended on it. Literally. But now,” she let out a wistful breath. “I know now he’s so much kinder than I ever gave him credit for. He’s sweet, brave, funny, cool, and a hell of a dancer,” she added, reminiscing on the night they danced to Jagged Stone’s Rocking Tonight With You.

“He’s been there for me more than anyone in my life, besides my parents,” she continued. “Even when that whole thing with the press blew up, he still remained by my side, whether it was fighting off reporters or akumas. And whether I was civilian or superhero. He’s loyal, and caring, and just…” another breath escaped her lips. “He’s amazing.”

“Then what’s the problem?” Tikki asked.

Marinette pursed her lips. “Well…”

----

“I still have feelings for Ladybug,” Adrien responded, now lying flat on the floor. “I never decided on what I wanted to do, or who I would pursue. And then I went and kissed Marinette. Just like that! I didn’t even ask her if she wanted to kiss. She’s probably not even over me… civilian me… And I went and kissed her! Like some creepy weirdo!”

Adrien slapped his hands over his face, letting out another whine of misery.

“I shouldn’t have done that,” he drawled. “I probably just confused her and made her question my feelings for people, since now, in her eyes, I can’t stay loyal to one love.”

“What would make you think she doesn’t have feelings for Chat Noir?” Plagg inquired, folding his tiny legs and placing a paw on his chin.

“Why would she?” Adrien snapped, sitting up and revealing his face again. “Not only am I competing against myself, I haven’t given her much reason to prefer Chat Noir over Adrien. In her eyes, Chat Noir has feelings for Ladybug, while Adrien is a free agent. It would make more sense for her to choose civilian me and not superhero me. Especially when superhero me went and kissed her!”

“Ugh, I get it, you kissed her,” Plagg groaned, dragging his paws over his face. “Let me ask you something, though: what makes you think she can’t have feelings for superhero you? I mean, I can’t always remember what happens when you’re transformed, but I don’t remember her pushing you away or anything. Did she?”

“Well— no,” Adrien said suddenly. “But I don’t think—”

“Did you push yourself to her?”

“Not really,” the boy answered honestly. “Actually, she was pretty—”

But he cut himself short, reminiscing on the event. How he had leaned forward, and, if his memory served him right, she…

Adrien gasped.

----

“It was mutual!” Marinette screeched, pulling on her pigtails and sitting up once again. “He leaned in when I did! He… he wanted to kiss me…”

“See?” Tikki encouraged. “He’s not a lost cause. On the contrary, he likes you whether you wear a mask or not!”

“Uuugh,” Marinette groaned, resting her face on her hands. “That’s just even more confusing. He likes me and…me. If I want to pursue him, I’d have to choose with which side of the mask to do it. And I don’t even know if I want to!”

“Then what do you want?” Tikki asked pointedly.

----

Adrien stared at the little god that gave him his powers.

“I. don’t. KNOW!” he said, flailing his arms. “I don’t even know what I’m feeling for two amazing girls!”

“I’m not asking you what you feel,” Plagg urged, already running out of patience. “I’m asking what you want. What do you want for yourself?”

“I want to be happy!”

“And you think you can be happier with Marinette?”

“Yes!” Adrien responded without thinking.

Plagg smirked. It took several seconds for the boy to realize what he said, but when he did, his body slumped forward. He gaped, eyes big as dinner plates.

“I…I wanna be with Marinette, over Ladybug,” he said, slowly.

“Took you long enough,” the kwami sighed, floating as if he were in an invisible hammock.

----

“How is this possible?!” Marinette screeched.

“It happens,” Tikki assured her. “You must have found something in Chat that made him more worth your time.”

“Bu-but—”

Suddenly, Marinette jumped from her chaise and ran to her desk, where her last remaining picture of Adrien stood in a frame. The girl sat on the swivel chair for several seconds, staring at the picture. She then groaned and smacked her head against the hard surface.

“I am not worthy,” she whined dramatically. “My heart has betrayed you. I should just go live in a cave, with the dozens of cats Chat Noir will bring me, because I fell to his spell, and why are you laughing Tikki?!”

“Sorry,” the small goddess giggled. “You can be very dramatic sometimes.”

“With good reason!” Marinette argued.

“Marinette,” the kwami said soothingly, taking a seat in front of her charge’s face. “You can’t betray someone you were never with in the first place. Your free to follow your heart’s desires, if you wish. You don’t have to keep yourself closed off to prove devotion. And besides, what’s the point of denying yourself happiness for someone you’re not even sure you want to be with anymore?”

Marinette blinked. “You’re way too wise for my liking sometimes.”

Tikki arched one of her non-existent brows. The girl sighed.

----

“I guess you have a point,” Adrien conceded, now sitting crossed legged. “Honestly, I… I really, really, really want to be with her. But…”

“But what?” Plagg drawled, still in the hammock like position.

“It wouldn’t feel right to blow her off as one of my identities, while conquering her with the other.”

The kwami’s forehead crinkled. “I don’t get it.”

“I mean,” Adrien clarified, “I can’t sweep her off her feet as Chat Noir, while barely acknowledging her at school, or reveal a crush as Adrien, while staying away from her as Chat Noir. Either way, I’d feel like I’m taking advantage of her.”

“But you still get the girl,” Plagg reasoned. “I feel like I’m missing something.”

“I fell for her while going through this media mess as Chat Noir. That’s something that I don’t want to erase if we were in a relationship. But it would be inevitable if I go after her as Adrien.”

“Then conquer her as Chat Noir.”

“I can’t date her as a superhero. It wouldn’t be fair to her. We wouldn’t even be able to go out on dates in public. We wouldn’t last a month. And of course, it’s not safe. If anybody gets wind that we are dating, the press will have a field day.”

----

“I just don’t see any way we can make this work, without at least one of us revealing our identities,” Marinette lamented, her chin now resting on her folded arms. “And that’s the biggest problem. We’re not supposed to know who we are. Ugh, this is all my fault. I knew making friends with him in my civilian identity was a bad idea. But did I listen to reason? Nooo, I just had to go and do it anyway. So much for responsible.”

She let out a heavy sigh.

“What was I thinking. How could I think for even one shining moment that this could work? It can never work. Not like this. Even if I were to try as Ladybug, I’m not even sure if he feels the same way, judging by today. He hasn’t even called me My Lady. Not to my face, at least. He’s barely even flirting with superhero me, but was totally flirting with civilian me. But I can’t…” she frowned, “We can’t happen. I can’t love him.”

“Wait, love?” Tikki inquired, leaning forward and eyes wide.

Marinette gave a weak smile. “Yeah. Love.”

“You just found out about your feelings,” the kwami insisted. “You can’t tell me that, all of a sudden, you’re in love with Chat Noir?!”

“That’s the thing!” the girl said, sitting straight. “It’s not sudden. I’ve always known I love him as a friend, I just hadn’t realized I’ve fallen for him romantically. If I’m being honest with myself, Chat has given me more reason to love him than anyone else.” She took the framed picture of Adrien. “I love Adrien…But I think I love Chat even more. And you were right, Tikki. My love for Chat doesn’t mean I didn’t love Adrien. Otherwise I still wouldn’t hold a place in my heart for him. I still have feelings for him, but…”

Marinette’s shoulders slumped. With a hint of hesitance, she placed the picture face down.

“Adrien is great,” she whispered. “But I want Chat Noir now… But I can’t have him.”

There was silence. It was an odd feeling. Even though Marinette hadn’t been with either boy, she suddenly felt very lonely. As if she had broken up a long-term relationship. Being a superhero sure had its downsides.

“Maybe,” Tikki started, “you can tell Chat Noir your identity.”

----

Adrien’s head whipped towards Plagg.

“That I can what?!”

“Ya heard me,” the kwami shrugged.

“But you told me I can’t.”

----

“I know,” Tikki agreed. “Keeping identities secret is usually the safer route, especially when Chat Noir gets affected by akumas so often. But I’ve lived long enough to see where this is going.”

“What do you mean?” Marinette frowned.

----

“Welp,” Plagg started, stroking one of his whiskers, “when other miraculous holders keep secrets from their loved one, it tends to take a toll in the relationship. Most of them end up breaking for that reason.”

“That’s not very encouraging,” Adrien muttered, now laying on his stomach on the couch, his arm hanging off the edge.

----

“While it is true that it’s easier to fight against Hawkmoth when neither of you know who the person under the mask is, it may not be as easy when your relationship becomes strained by emotional complications. Besides,” Tikki smiled, “while I appreciate Master Fu’s caution, and admire him for it, I believe we shouldn’t underestimate you two. You have proven to be one of the best paired Ladybug and Chat Noir we’ve seen in centuries. And I believe in you, Marinette.”

The girl gaped. Was she hearing this right?

“Are you saying what I think you’re saying?” Marinette breathed.

The kwami nodded. “You’re ready.”

----

“You can tell her,” Plagg said, almost dismissively. All after convincing Adrien she was trustworthy and that they were being too cautious anyway. “Trust me, it’s no big deal. I’m sure Ladybug would understand. Or don’t tell her, whatever floats your boat.”

“No, I-I,” the corner of Adrien’s lip twitched. “I want to tell Marinette… Are you sure, though?”

----

“Positive,” Tikki assured. “I wouldn’t suggest it otherwise.”

Marinette’s lips quickly curled into the biggest grin she had had all month. With a happy squeal, she grabbed Tikki and nuzzled her with her cheek.

“Thankyouthankyouthankyou, oooooohhhhhthankyousomuchTikki!” she cheered. This was possibly the greatest news she had heard in a long time.

“Wow, you really do love him,” the kwami giggled.

The girl stopped her movements, suddenly pulling her little friend away. Yet, despite her embarrassed grin, a light pink blush dusted her freckled face.

“I-I…I do. I love him.” Her cheeks turned darker, but her smile grew wider. “I love Chat Noir.” She let out a chuckle. “I love Chat Noir!”

----

“I really think I can love Marinette,” Adrien said, letting out a wistful sigh, now looking at the high ceiling. “Honestly, I think we can be great together. Maybe even better than whatever I could’ve had with Ladybug. Especially if I don’t have to hide any secrets.” He snorted. “I’m sure Marinette will be thrilled when she finds out who I am.”

“That’s something I’d love to see,” Plagg cackled, bringing a piece of Camembert to the coffee table.

Adrien couldn’t help but chuckle at the thought. “Honestly, I kinda wanna see it myself. Knowing her, she’ll probably flip out. Maybe even call me a few names. Or she’ll be too embarrassed to talk. I can just imagine her.”

“Ha! And I thought I was the mischievous one.”

“I’m not making fun of her,” Adrien scowled at the kwami. “It’s more like…adorable.”

“Agh, blergh,” Plagg feigned a gag, before munching on the piece of cheese. “Dis is wha’ I wa’ af’aid o’.” He swallowed. “You’re gonna be even more annoying now, aren’t you?”

“Plagg!”

----

Tikki giggled as Marinette turned impossibly redder.

“It’s not gonna be like that,” the girl assured, suddenly closing her hand in a fist and giving a determined smile. “Not this time. I don’t have to worry about whether Chat Noir notices me or not. I know he does already. So, I can just go ahead and confess.”

“Just like that?” the kwami said, sounding almost giddy.

“Just like that,” Marinette nodded. “I want to.”

“So when are you going to do it?”

Marinette tapped a finger to her lips in thought. “Tuesday,” she responded. “He always comes on Tuesdays, so I’ll tell him then. I’ll confess and tell him I’m Ladybug.” As she said that, a shiver went down her spine. “Wow, I’m gonna tell Chat Noir my identity. I never thought I’d see the day. I’m actually—”

----

“—Excited,” Adrien breathed, sitting up from the couch. “I finally get to tell someone I’m Chat Noir. Someone who cares for me, whether I wear the suit or not.”

“When are you planning on doing it?” Plagg questioned, popping the last piece of cheese in his mouth.

“Monday,” the boy responded without missing a beat. “At lunch, I’ll invite her to eat, and I’ll tell her everything.”

----

“I’ll confess everything,” Marinette and Adrien said in unison in their respective rooms, unbeknownst to each other.


Saying Marinette was nervous sounded like a serious understatement. If it were not for the fact that she was sitting, her legs would have given away by now. But she had to tell her. There was no way she could keep it a secret. At least, the feelings part. In case anything with the press came up again, which Marinette expected to happen soon.

That’s why she was sitting on a bench with Alya, overlooking the Seine, half-listening to a story about forum discourse in the Ladyblog.

“But yeah, now that I’ve updated the commenting policy in the blog, there should be less incidents like the one with Chloé,” she said. “So now that I’m done sharing my woes and triumphs, tell me the real reason you wanted to hang out.”

“Of course,” Marinette chuckled. “And here I thought I’d be able to say the phrase ‘I need your advice’.”

“You are talking to your resident Marinette expert,” Alya mockingly bragged, a hand on her chest. “I know when my girl seeks the wisdom of yours truly.”

Marinette barked out a laugh, helping her release some of the jitters that had built up since the previous day.

“Alya, I’m in so much trouble,” Marinette lamented. “I need your advice, not only as my friend, but as my public relations agent.”

“Oh no, what happened now?” Alya groaned. “Did you save Ladybug this time? Or do people think you have a crush on her?”

“No!” Marinette let out with a laugh. “It’s… it’s not public.”

“Thank goodness,” Alya let out a breath of relief. “So what happened?”

“U-um… weeell,” Marinette bit her nails. “I-I guess I should start off by saying that, um… you and maman were right.”

“About?”

Marinette cringed. “About…uh…um…”

Alya sighed, resting her chin on her hand. Like she was preparing herself for the next words to take an eternity to come out. The action alone made Marinette jittery once again. She squeezed her eyes shut, and blurted out: “Chat Noir and I kissed last night!”

There was a pause. When it felt like minutes had passed, Marinette dared to open one of her eyes, only to find Alya gaping at her. She opened her other eye and was about to elaborate, when…

“You WHAT?!” the redhead finally screeched.

Marinette couldn’t help but whimper, recoiling into herself.

“I know!” she flailed her arms. “I’m surprised myself!”

“Wait, stop, timeout,” Alya made the gesture of the last word. The girls sat still for a moment, until the redhead brought her feet up on the bench and sat on her knees. “How? Like, when did this happen? I was with you for half of the day yesterday. How did I miss that? And didn’t Chat say he wouldn’t be with you, like, ever?”

“He lied!” Marinette responded giddily. “He said he only said that to shut Annabelle up. And after you left, I went out.”

With almost no filter, Marinette proceeded to tell her best friend everything that happened with Félix and Chat Noir. She also admitted the real reason she started hanging out with Félix, only to be countered with an ‘I knew it!’ from Alya. Finally, she got to the part of what happened on her balcony, letting out wistful sighs and staring into space in a daze.

“I just can’t believe I didn’t see it before,” Marinette grinned. “It took me like half a second to realize the moment I fell for Adrien, and yet it took me weeks to see it with Chat.”

“That’s because you,” Alya poked her friend’s nose, “weren’t hung up on another guy when you fell for Adrien.”

“Yeah,” the girl in pigtails sighed. “But now I know, and I don’t know how I can act like a normal person in front of him. Worse, in front of other people, like reporters!”

“Easy there, M,” Alya comforted. “I’m sure we can figure that out eventually. But you know this means you two can’t appear together for an interview in a while, right?”

“I figured,” Marinette frowned. “Knowing me, there’s no way I can act like nothing’s going on. Not for a while, at least.”

“Exactly,” the young reporter agreed. “I think you guys need to talk this out before going to another interview. Now, as your friend, I need to ask: what do you plan on doing?”

“Um…” Marinette scratched the back of her head. “Well, I—”

“Marinette!” someone called from the stairs leading down to where they were.

The two girls turned to see Lila running their way, waving her hand high in the air.

“Why are you friends with that girl?” Alya whispered through gritted teeth.

“Be nice,” Marinette scolded, then turning to the newcomer. “Hey, Lila! Didn’t expect to see you around.”

“Thought I needed some fresh air,” the girl with the chestnut brown hair sighed. “But I’m so happy to have bumped into you! I was looking for a good store where I can go buy fabrics, but since I don’t have a way to contact you, I was looking through the Internet. But so far, the options it gives me are not that great.”

“Then you’re lucky you found the right person,” Marinette chirped. She was about to get off her seat, but Alya held her down.

“Do we really have to?” she whined.

“People can change, Alya,” the designer stated. “Don’t you think we all deserve a chance to show the best of ourselves?”

While Alya hesitated, she ended up letting go and following the other two.


“Just because I was turned into a villain that looked like a superhero, doesn’t mean the real superhero is not out there,” Lila argued.

“Even if a superhero Volpina were to show up, you really think she could be taken seriously?” Alya retorted. “The people have already seen Volpina as a bad guy twice. It would be hard to clean that image.”

“But not impossible,” Lila pointed out. “Yes, it would be hard, but the real Volpina is somewhere out there. Somewhere exists the fox miraculous, and whoever has it is a true superhero.”

Marinette groaned for the thirteenth time as her old friend debated with her new friend. On the bright side, the argument seemed to be amicable. On the downside, they wouldn’t let go. They had been at it since the fabrics store, all the way to the Trocadéro. She had just opened her mouth to contribute, but a new call interrupted her.

“Yo! Alya! Marinette!”

The girls turned in the direction of the call, to see Nino and Adrien walking their way. Marinette’s heart hitched at the sight of the boy she proclaimed to love before the previous night. She didn’t think to see him so soon after somewhat getting over him. Yet, she felt…light.

“Hey, guys!” Alya said next to her. “Daddy Agreste let his prisoner outta the cage?”

“Apparently Sundays are the old man’s exception, right Adrien?” Nino elbowed his best friend.

“Huh?” Adrien uttered. It wasn’t until that moment that Marinette realized he had been staring at her since they got there, making a shiver go up her spine. “Uh, right, yeah. Sundays are free.”

“Awesome!” Alya cheered. “We were thinking about getting lunch now. Wanna join?”

“Uuuh…”

“Sure,” Nino interrupted the blond. “Where you headed?”

“There’s this nice café near Marinette’s that they say is amazing,” Alya gushed.

“Yeah. I heard their espresso has quite the punch,” Marinette giggled, thinking of the mess she and Chat Noir made the previous day in that very same café.

To her surprise, she heard Adrien snort at the joke, despite the loud noises of crowds around them. Yet he almost immediately covered his mouth and started… Blushing? Had she ever seen him blush? Not that she could remember. Did she have the guts to tease him about it? It wasn’t like she was very conscious about his opinion anymore.

Oh.

That’s how I’ve been talking to him, she realized.

While six weeks ago she would have been horrified at the thought of getting over Adrien, present her couldn’t help but grin. The idea that she could potentially be happy with the boy who was also her partner, the one person she trusted with her own life, literally, sent ladybugs fluttering in her stomach.

Amusingly enough, that made her much more comfortable around Adrien. She felt more herself, and even came up with ideas to lightly torture him. She had just opened her mouth to do just that, when Lila spoke up.

“I still think we should go to Geneviève’s,” she recommended. “They’re new, fresh and have some of the nicest art I’ve seen in a café.”

“Oh, I’ve been there.” Nino snapped his fingers. “They have some of Nathaniel’s art up on their walls. It’s all local, small-time artists.”

“You didn’t tell me they have Nat’s art,” Alya scolded the chestnut-haired girl.

“Didn’t know,” Lila shrugged.

“’Kay, change of plans,” the redhead shouted dramatically and pointed to the opposite direction. “Onwards to Geneviève’s!”

Marinette giggled at her friend’s antics and laughed harder when Nino and Lila told her she was going the wrong way. The group walked for several minutes until they reached a small café with a colorful sign on the entrance. Like a fancy graffiti.

Inside, there were several booths along the walls and various tables in the middle. From the looks of it, the theme was quite appealing to many, with most of the seats taken and waiters with colorful uniforms rushing around the floor. The walls were filled with artwork of all sizes and styles. Next to the booth closest to the window, there was a particularly colorful drawing of Ladybug, which Marinette immediately recognized.

“This is it,” she squealed, siting in the booth. “This is where we’re sitting, right next to Nat’s work.”

Her antics were quickly met with a giggle from Adrien, while the others took the seat across from her. This left the blond sitting next to her. For the next few minutes, the group was engrossed in conversation, mostly about school and their classmates. On her part, Marinette couldn’t help but notice someone was unusually quiet.

“Something on your mind?” she asked.

Adrien raised his gaze, almost startled. “Uh, a lot, honestly.”

“Wanna talk about it?”

He let out a shuddered breath. “I’m still deciding if I should talk about it or not.”

“Is it bad?” she asked with a frown.

“No! No, not at all. Just confusing.”

“Oh, okay.” Marinette went quiet for a moment, until deciding to change the subject. “So, was it just me, or did you actually laugh at my joke earlier?”

“What?”

“The one of the espresso?” she cleared up. She then proceeded to lean closer and smirk. “I never knew you could turn so red.”

“I blushed?!” Adrien practically shrieked, a hand flying to his cheek. Marinette laughed.

“Don’t worry, your secret’s safe with me. No one will know how much of a dork you actually are.”

“Thanks, I guess?” he said, with a lopsided grin.

She turned back to the other three, in hopes of joining the conversation, but Adrien spoke again.

“So, how’re you doing?” he asked, scratching the back of his head.

“Pretty good, actually,” Marinette shrugged. “You should’ve seen how these two made peace.”

She then proceeded to animatedly recount the journey from the Seine to the fabrics store with Alya and Lila, how they had turned from reluctant company to sworn frenemies in less than two hours. As the story progressed, the others joined, the two in question adding their sides to it. And somehow, they landed on the Volpina debate once again.

To which Adrien sided with Lila, for once.

“But it’s true!” he insisted. “I saw the hero in a book once. She’s real.”

“Exactly!” Lila landed her fist on the table in triumph. “That’s actually how I knew about her. I saw the book too, and that’s how I became Volpina. My akuma was a version of something I aspired for.”

“Like Nathaniel,” Marinette added. “Evillustrator was actually his version of Super Nat, that got twisted into an akuma by Hawkmoth.”

“I don’t remember wanting to be Lady Wifi,” Alya pouted, as she handed the bill to the waitress, with all their money pooled together.

“I still weep at the thought of my Bubbler outfit,” Nino added.

“Every akuma is different,” Adrien said. “Some turn you into something you yearn to be, others give you powers that can help you in your goal and others are a twisted version of something that you are. It all depends on what you’re feeling in the moment of corruption.”

“And others can turn into real-life people, like Copycat,” Marinette added, starting to slide out of the booth with the others. “If someone could turn into someone else, or a girl version of that someone, like Chatte Noire, it’s not such a stretch to think Lila turned into a real-life hero as her akuma.”

“See!” Lila chirped. “She gets it.”

“Of course she gets it,” Adrien breathed wistfully. When four heads turned to him, he sputtered: “B-Because she’s smart! And totally on our side, right Mari?”

“It’s not about being on anyone’s side,” she cleared up, stepping out of the café and keeping the door open for the rest to file out. “It’s just a theory that I support about the real Volpina. But, that doesn’t mean Alya is in the wrong when it comes to how the real one could possibly be perceived now.”

“And that’s my point!” the redhead screeched. “Even if she is real, we’d still have a hard time trusting her.”

“Yeah but that still doesn’t negate the fact that—”

But Adrien didn’t get to finish his sentence, as he bumped into someone when they reached the corner of the sidewalk.

“Oh, sorr…” He trailed off, as he got a good look at who he accidentally stumbled to. “Félix”

Marinette grew stiff. Last time she saw him, she dropped him to the ground after yelling at him for sort-of pretending to be Chat Noir. He was the guy that turned out not to be who she kissed the previous night.

“Hello, Adrien,” Félix nodded, before turning to her. “Marinette.”

The girl in pigtails partly wanted to crawl into a hole, remembering how, at one point, she genuinely thought he was Chat Noir. For how obvious it was that she clearly made a mistake, that Chat Noir wouldn’t be able to keep his jokes at bay, no matter how careful he had to be with his image.

But the other part was fully conscious about the fact that, although Félix didn’t outright lie, his intentions were exactly what had happened. Lonely or not, it didn’t change the fact that he had hoped she confused him for Chat.

So, in true stubborn fashion, Marinette pouted, crossed her arms, and turned her head away from him.

“I’m not talking to you,” she said.

“I’m sorry about what I did,” he apologized quietly, almost making Marinette turn back to look at him. “I shouldn’t have done that. It was wrong.”

Marinette let out an exasperated breath. She was about to turn around, when Adrien placed a hand on her shoulder.

“Hear him out,” he whispered. The girl frowned, yet did as suggested anyway, with a scowl directed at Félix.

“What did you do?” Lila inquired, while Alya took a step closer to Marinette, like a bodyguard.

Félix glanced at the Italian for a second. “What I did was dumb, uncalled for and insensitive. I Should’ve never let you think I was someone else.”

“Wait, whatta you mean—” Nino started, but was cut off by a loud gasp from Lila.

“You didn’t.”

“He did,” Alya confirmed, now taking a step in front of Marinette.

“Wait, who… Oh no,” The bespectacled boy now took a step closer to the girl in question. “I knew you were up to no good.”

Marinette was suddenly very aware of how everyone else banded around her, ready to gang up on Félix. What was more, she noticed the boy take a step back, his thumb nervously stroking the book he was holding. The same book that was infected the previous day.

The thought that he could be akumatized again struck her, and she realized being stubborn, with her friends surrounding her, was probably not the wisest decision in that moment.

“Um, guys, it’s fine,” she said, trying to lower the steam. “I’m fine, really.”

“It didn’t sound fine when you told me the story earlier,” Alya retorted.

“Hey, guys, c’mon,” Adrien intervened. “He’s trying to apologize. I think he deserves at least a little benefit of the doubt.”

“Since when are you on his side?” Lila asked suspiciously. “Heck, you were the one who was jea—”

“LET’S not jump into conclusions,” Adrien cut in, before she could finish. “And I think you’re the last one who should call someone out for lying.”

Lila gaped. “Oh, that’s low, Agreste.”

“Stop, please!” Marinette interrupted. She let out a sigh before stepping aside from Alya and turning to look at them all. “Thank you all for coming to my defense, really. But I’m gonna have to kinda side with Adrien on this one. Of course,” she continued hastily when she saw everyone getting ready to protest, “this doesn’t necessarily mean I condone Félix’s actions. On the contrary, I’m still mad about what he did, but… Lila, weren’t you happy that I forgave you for lying to Annabelle?”

The Italian’s gaze lowered to the pavement, as she shuffled her feet.

“If someone is willing to apologize, and they recognize what they did wrong, I think they deserve a second chance.” Marinette looked directly at Félix now. “Do you promise to never do something like that again?”

A calm smile crossed the boy’s lips. “I think I rather make real friends, the right way. Plus, unless I wanna get beat up by Chat Noir, I think I should do as he and Ladybug asked.”

“Beat up by Chat Noir?” Marinette parroted.

“I-I don’t think he would,” Adrien added sheepishly.

“I hope not,” Félix chuckled. “He was pretty miffed about the whole thing.”

“Yeah…” Marinette agreed, rubbing her arm.

“So, you forgive me?”

The girl stood straighter. “Under one condition: Next time you see Chat, you have to apologize to him.”

“You know, he also—”

“I already scolded him about it. But you know he had good reason to be upset.”

“Yeah, he was very explicit about it in the end.”

Marinette frowned. “What do you mean?”

“Well, he—” but he stopped abruptly, looking at the rest of the group. He cleared his throat. “Now that I think about it, I don’t think it’s my place.”

What did Chat say?! The girl’s curiosity had just increased tenfold. Whatever he said, it sounded like it had been defining enough for Félix to actually feel cautious about her partner. Did it have to do with her? Did he threaten him? That sounded unlike him.

Wait.

What if Félix was lying again? Creating doubt?

But what if not? What if it was something important?

“I’m sure it’s no big deal,” Adrien suddenly interrupted her thoughts.

“It wasn’t,” Félix immediately agreed, giving Marinette the funny feeling he was latching into the first excuse he heard. “Anyway, I’m glad I got to tell you that. I see you’re busy, so I’ll go my way now.”

With another curt not, he turned on his heels and started walking away. Marinette stared after him, her fingers fiddling with each other for a few seconds.

“Wait!” she shouted, running over to Félix, careful not to bump into other people. “Waitwaitwaitwaitwait!”

She skidded, almost tripping, when she reached him. The boy arched an eyebrow, yet continued walking.

“Tell me,” Marinette begged after him. “If you tell me, I’ll be able to tell if you really meant what you said.”

“I really don’t think it’s my place,” Félix insisted.

“If you tell me, I’ll be more forgiving.”

“Are you blackmailing me now?”

“It’s not blackmail if I don’t have information about you,” she reasoned. “Think of it as material to earn your forgiveness.”

“You really want to know, don’t you?”

“Very, very much,” Marinette whined.

Félix sighed. “I don’t think Chat would be very happy if I tell you what he said.”

“Was it bad?”

“Depends on your definition of bad. I don’t think it was, for you.”

“For me?”

Félix stopped, Marinette quickly following. The boy seemed to hesitate for a moment, yet ultimately decided to speak.

“He told me he lied in the show. About what you were worried about, remember?”

“Oh. He told you about that?”

Félix’s head tilted. “You already know?”

“He told me last night,” she confirmed, with a nod. “But I don’t see how that means he would beat you up.”

“Well,” he averted his gaze, hesitant to say the next part, “he admitted to me that he was jealous when I asked him what his problem was.”

Marinette’s eyes widened. That was… bold of Chat Noir to do. Risky. Kinda dumb.

“I think he said it out of impulse, or adrenaline after the battle,” Félix shrugged. “But it did explain why he was so upset about the whole thing.”

“Oh my gosh,” Marinette couldn’t help saying, smacking a hand to her face. “That dork is gonna get himself in serious trouble if he can’t learn to control himself.”

“Hey,” the blond placed a hand on her shoulder. “Look on the bright side: he likes you. Isn’t that what you were worried about?”

The girl’s heart almost escaped through her mouth with that statement. Her breath became uneven, betraying the nervousness she was trying to hide.

“I-I-I’m not—That’s not… I-I don’t know what—”

“Don’t worry.” He smiled. “Your secret’s safe with me. I do mean it when I say I want real friends.”

Marinette let out a shuddered breath. While she was glad Félix was being nice about the whole thing, it worried her that he noticed it so quickly. If he figured it out by the conversation they had yesterday, and Alya had already noticed her feelings weeks before she realized them herself, how long did she have until the media officially caught on?

Or…was it possible someone had already caught on?

She needed to talk to Chat, as soon as possible. If only she could contact him before Tuesday, somehow.

“Everything okay?”

Marinette jumped at Adrien’s sudden arrival.

“Yes!” she yelped. “I think…”

“It is,” Félix nodded.

“That’s good,” Adrien sighed, as the rest of the group joined them.

“Does that mean we have to be nice to him now?” Lila piped up.

“I don’t know if I have the energy to add another questionable member to our group,” Alya said, rubbing her temple.

“Alyaaa…”

“He’s not so bad,” Adrien shrugged. Marinette’s gaze snapped towards him.

“Look,” Nino started, “we’re all going the same way, might as well get to know him better anyway. See if he deserves the second chance.”

“Well then, buckle up, Mr. Chess Champion,” Alya stepped up and poked Félix’s arm, “because you’re about to be interrogated by the most protective best friend and most insane blogger in Paris.”

Félix rolled his eyes and started walking. Yet, that didn’t deter the blogger from following him, making all kinds of questions that were not being answered. Meanwhile, Nino glanced towards Marinette and Adrien, and quickly turned to Lila.

“So, you this way too?” he asked lamely.

“Duh,” Lila uttered, jutting out her jaw.

“How did you find out of Geneviève’s, anyway?” he pushed for conversation, starting to walk in the direction Alya and Félix had.

The question worked, as Lila happily started telling him a story about how she went there with her father. Marinette arched a brow, having a nagging feeling Nino pulled her his way on purpose. Why, though? Well, whatever the case, she and Adrien were now by themselves on the back.

“Unless we wanna fall behind…” she said, gesturing to the sidewalk ahead.

Adrien blinked, seeming lost. “I-I, um, with you?”

Marinette let out an offended gasp.

“Not that it’s bad!” Adrien quickly amended. But the girl huffed and started walking away. The boy quickly matched her pace. “It’s actually nice, I get to talk to you. We don’t talk often, not like this.”

“Like this?” she stopped, puzzled.

“Outside of class, I mean,” he cleared up.

Marinette scrunched her nose and continued walking.

“I just mean that I can get to know you better,” Adrien continued. “I feel we don’t talk much, nor hang out enough.”

“You remember we’re not supposed to be seen together, right?”

“I don’t care what Father says,” he shrugged. “I rather risk getting grounded than not talk to you again.”

She turned to stare at him. “That’s sweet!” she expressed with a grin. “But I wouldn’t want to get you in trouble.”

“Chi-uh, buh, psh, no trouble at all,” Adrien sputtered, scratching the back of his head. “I-I mean, I don’t care about trouble. I laugh in the face of trouble!”

“Pfft,” Marinette snorted, shoulders shaking from the laughter she was attempting to smother. “I’m sure you do.”

From the corner of her eye, she noticed Adrien give her a toothy grin she had never seen. One that fully reached his eyes. She had seen him laugh before, but never simply grin like a dork as he was doing at that moment. Marinette looked ahead at the others.

Nino and Lila had joined Alya in their quest of crowding Félix, and possibly make him uncomfortable, from the looks of it. Yet, despite their silly antics, the new addition to the group didn’t seem bothered. In fact, he almost seemed to be enjoying their company.

Like a person having real friends for the first time in his life.

Marinette sighed contentedly.

“What is it?” Adrien asked next to her.

She hummed, with a slight shake of her head. “I’m happy.”

“Really?”

“Mhmm,” Marinette smiled. “Just yesterday I was scolding Félix. And last week Lila didn’t even wanna talk to me. Yet here they are today. Odd little group we have, don’t we?”

“You have a knack for making the oddest friends,” Adrien commented with a shrug. “You can hit someone on the head with a watering can, and still make friends with them.”

Marinette snorted. “Yeah… Wait, how do you know I hit Chat on the head?”

Adrien visibly stiffened. “Uhh—Wild guess,” he said, rubbing the back of his neck and letting out a nervous giggle.

“Has Chat been talking to you?” The girl narrowed her eyes.

“No!” Adrien responded quickly. “No. Not at all. I was just guessing. It was a watering can, right? I mean, that’s what I remember you saying to Nadja.”

“Yeah,” Marinette smiled. “He took it really well, though. He even praised me for my strength, the dork.”

“You seem very fond of that memory,” the blond commented.

“It’s what brought us together. After that he started talking to me more, and visiting several times a week.” She gave a nostalgic chuckle. “In fact, that event is so memorable, that two weeks ago, Chat gifted me a spray bottle because—”

But she stopped her story abruptly. Why was she telling Adrien all this? Since when had she felt so comfortable with him to tell those kinds of secrets?

“I’m listening” Adrien said.

“Um… You know what? That’s between us.”

“Oh, you have secrets between yourselves,” the blond teased.

“No! Yes…” Marinette involuntarily started blushing, her mind quickly jumping to the previous night. “Hopefully for not much longer,” she muttered.

“Not much longer?” Adrien said, sounding breathless.

“I-It’s a long story,” the designer added, her cheeks turning even darker.

“Did something happen?” he pushed.

“Weeell…” She scratched the back of her head.

“Did he say or do something bad?”

“No, not at all,” Marinette shook her head. “Chat Noir is not that kind of person. He’s actually very sweet. I just need to talk to him, that’s all.”

“May I ask what about?”

Marinette turned to look directly at Adrien, who seemed almost eager to hear her answer.

“Why?” she couldn’t help but ask.

“What?”

“Why do you want to know?”

The boy cleared his throat and placed his hands in his pockets.

“Just trying to make conversation.” He looked ahead for a moment, but then stared at her again from the corner of his eye.

Marinette frowned. “Are you okay?”

“Me? Grate! I mean, great!” he sputtered. “No need to worry about this caaaaaa—sual! Casual dude, just strolling with his friends. Heh, heh.” He scratched the back of his head, for what seemed like the hundredth time already. “I’m fine. Good. Great. Awesome. Pur—Perfect! Perfect.”

“Hey,” she placed a hand on his arm, making him let out an ungodly yelp. “Take it easy. What’s up with you? Why are you so jumpy?”

“Uuuhhh.”

“You can talk to me,” she tried reassuring him, giving one of her trademark smiles. “We’re friends, right?”

Adrien turned his head to look at her fully, his lips parting. Marinette could almost swear she could see a million thoughts run behind his eyes. The stare was so intense, she hadn’t realized they stopped walking.

Well, she may have decided to give up on him romantically, but that didn’t stop her from appreciating his friendship.

“I-I…” he stuttered.

Marinette tilted her head, hoping to assure him she was listening. Adrien visibly gulped. A light warmth softly covered the hand she had placed on his arm: his palm, she figured, as she hadn’t looked. He let out a shuddered breath, yet his gaze became determined.

“Marinette,” he breathed, stepping in front of her. “There’s something I have to tell you.”

“Oh?”

“And I need you to believe me when I say it.”

“Okay?”

He took a deep breath. “Marinette,” he bit his lip, attempting to hold a grin, “Marinette, I’m—”

“Hey, you two!” Alya called from behind him. Adrien slumped and shut his eyes. “You joining us or what?”

“In a minute!” Marinette called, and turned back to the boy before her. “You were saying?”

“Um…” he averted his gaze. “I-I… I don’t wanna say it rushed.”

“Oh, it’s long?” Marinette questioned. Adrien nodded. “Okay. How about tomorrow? Lunchtime, so we don’t have to worry if one of us—me—gets to class late. How’s that?”

Adrien blinked. “You’re the best,” he grinned.

Marinette merely giggled before directing them back to the group.


Adrien could feel his heart trying to break out of his ribcage. He had been so close.

So. Close.

It took an impulsive thought to make him start saying the words he wanted so badly. Now, all courage seemed to have ran off into the wind, jumping like a black cat in an alley after a loud noise. He almost felt dizzy from the rush of adrenaline.

He quietly kept a hand over his chest, trying to calm the nerves that were currently wrecking him. Would he still feel like this the next day? Could he really stand this feeling for almost twenty-four hours?

I’m gonna die, he whined miserably in his head. We could’ve been great. I’ll miss you in the afterlife. Bye, I will lov—Woah, too far.

“Dude, you okay?” Adrien startled when Nino whispered to his ear. The boy in the cap raised his hands in surrender. “Whoa, chill. Didn’t mean to freak you out.”

The blond clutched his shirt, becoming jittery now. Nino noticed, what was stopping everyone else to see it too? What if Marinette asked? What if he wouldn’t be able to hold himself from doing something stupid? Like confessing?

But confess what? That he liked her of that he was Chat Noir? Either one was equally nerve-wrecking. And telling her that he liked her before revealing his identity would probably just confuse her. Or he would doom himself to be with her as Adrien, without ever sharing that special bond they had developed in the last few weeks. Forever trapped in a lie, where she would probably leave him in the end anyway, for running off to save Paris in the middle of dates without explanations. Then he would lose her, and she would never know—

A sharp elbow hit his arm.

“Man, they’re leaving,” Nino scolded, gesturing towards the rest of the group.

One quick scan to his surroundings confirmed that everyone else was about to head their own way, with Lila and Félix heading east, while Marinette and Alya were heading west. And he and Nino had to continue north.

“ByeMarinette!” Adrien blurted out. When he realized his mistake, he sputtered more. “And Alya, and Lila, and Félix. I’ll see ya guys.”

He raised finger guns, hoping he was not coming off as dumb as he felt. Alya and Félix gave him perplexed looks, while Lila and Marinette did their best to hide the laughter trying to bloom out of them. What was more, from the corner of his eye, he could see Nino shake his head.

“Bye, Adrien,” Lila said, as she turned to leave.

“It was nice seeing you again,” Félix bid farewell, with a curt nod, before going in the same direction as the Italian.

“Please make sure he doesn’t walk into a lamppost or something,” Alya sighed, in mock defeat.

“Yes, dudette,” Nino obliged, giving a two-fingered salute.

“Well, see you around, Adrien,” Marinette said with a cute wave and that shinning beam of hers. That smile that he had grown to love so much, that sent ladybugs fluttering from his stomach, through his body. Even as she turned and walked away, the feeling wouldn’t leave, forever etched beneath his skin.

Beside him, Nino snorted out a laugh, but Adrien barely paid mind.

“So, we still got a good hour before your old man starts bugging us, so are you up for some ice cream?”

“Uuh…” Adrien uttered, his eyes still trained on the back of Marinette’s head.

“Dude, I swear you’re gonna love this place,” Nino promised, searching his phone for the address. “I haven’t been there myself, but my dad brought me some last Tuesday, and—”

“I like Marinette,” Adrien confessed.

Chapter Text

There was a pause, only broken by the beats of Adrien’s heart. He could swear the organ moved to his head, for how loud it sounded. In that split second, Nino bit his lip, hard. The blond started bracing himself for what he was sure was to be another thunderous laugh from one of the beings he trusted the most in the world.

But instead…

“FREAKING FINALLY!” Nino blurted out, clapping his friend’s back.

“Wait, what?”

“Man, I thought you’d stay in denial forever,” he exhaled, now grabbing on to Adrien’s shoulder and continuing their trek towards the Agreste Mansion.

“So, you’re not making fun of me?”

“Dude, no way,” Nino reassured him. “Now I get to be your wingman!”

“My what?!” Adrien jolted.

“Have you thought about how you’re gonna confess?”

“Nino!” the blond screeched, stopping their walk to the place he wasn’t ready to arrive to. “Slow down, man. You’re literally the first person I tell, so, please, down the pressure.”

“Oh, right,” Nino snickered. “Sorry, dude. It’s just that I’ve had Alya pushing me to help for way too long already, and now I actually can. And you two would make a great couple. I’d love to see you two together.”

Adrien’s cheeks quickly started heating up.

“You really think so?”

“You two idiots are made for each other.”

“Gee, thanks,” Adrien deadpanned.

“You have no idea how long Marinette’s been crushing on you, dude!” Nino exclaimed. “Seriously. For the longest time, I think you were the only one to not notice her feelings.”

Adrien cringed. “I have an idea,” he muttered.

“Oh, right. Chat Noir outed you,” Nino chuckled.

The grimace on the blond’s face deepened. Definitely not his finest moment, now made worse with the realization of why he did it in the first place.

“Sure,” he said through gritted teeth. “Anyway,” Adrien grabbed Nino and pulled him behind a pillar of a building. “I don’t know what to do. I feel like I’m gonna lose it any second. You realize I almost confessed to her back there?”

“Woah, I thought you hung back just to be alone with her, not to freaking confess.”

“I wasn’t planning to,” Adrien said. “We were talking, and it just…For one second there, it just felt right. Ya know?”

“Look at mah boy, all grown up.” Nino wiped a fake tear from his eye. “But since you’re telling me now that you like her, I’m guessing you didn’t get to.”

“Nooo,” Adrien whined, covering his face. “Alya called on us before I could, and I didn’t wanna rush it. I wanna do it right.” He paused. “Which is why I told her we’d talk at lunchtime tomorrow.”

Nino let out an excited gasp.

“Way to go, my man.” He slapped his buddy’s bicep. “That’s what I’m talking abou—”

“No, you don’t understand,” Adrien said, grabbing his friend by his shoulders and staring with crazed eyes. “What was I thinking?! I wanna tell her so badly, but I wasn’t thinking ‘bout what I’m gonna tell her. I just invited her, just like that! What if she doesn’t believe me? What if I say the wrong thing? Or worse: what if she says she loves me and wants to be with me? I’ve never been in a relationship! It’s easy to flirt when deep down you know it’s going nowhere, but when you know it’s gonna happen, it’s so freaking scary, and what if we do get—”

“Okay, dude. Breathe,” Nino spoke up, raising his hands at eye-level and letting Adrien’s fall.

Adrien straightened and inhaled deeply, but the images of the worst possible scenarios kept running through his brain like an old movie reel. He wanted all of it out of his chest so badly. How had he been patient with Ladybug for so long, yet almost crumbled when it came to Marinette?

“First of all,” Nino continued, his hands making motions for his buddy to inhale and exhale, “you’re getting waaay ahead of yourself. You don’t even know how far you guys will get. And secondly, this is Marinette we’re talking about. Even if she didn’t like you that way -which she does- she would never do something to hurt you. And you gotta remember, even if you mess up, Marinette is a very forgiving person. She forgave Félix, for crying out loud.”

Adrien exhaled, body less jittery.

“You’re right,” he said, prompting Nino to finish his calming movements. “Although,” he added suddenly, feeling the nervousness come back, “there’s something else.”

Nino hummed in confusion. So, Adrien continued.

“I did something. Something that ended up in me invading more of her privacy than I should’ve, without her knowing. It’s something I have to tell her, but I’m afraid she’ll feel betrayed. And after Lila and Félix, I don’t know how much betrayal Marinette can take.”

“Did you do it on purpose?”

“Well, no…”

“Then that already sets you apart from Félix and Lila,” Nino resolved. “Those two did things on purpose, and Marinette still forgave them. If whatever you did was an accident, I don’t think you have anything to worry about.”

“What if it’s a big secret?”

“Dude,” Nino place a hand on his friend’s shoulder, “you can say all you want to psych yourself outta this, but I will keep insisting that you tell her how you feel. Even if she says no, at least you won’t be left wondering of what could’ve happened.”

Adrien stared for a moment.

“Wasn’t that your advice to me? To just go for it?”

“Oh, gosh, I forgot you used to have a crush on her!” Adrien gasped, his hands going to his head. “I know you have Alya, but are you okay with me liking a girl you used to like?”

“Psh,” Nino waved a hand. “No sweat, dude. That crush lasted like thirty minutes. And honestly, I think you guys would be cute together.”

Cute?!”

“Yes, cute. Alya’s word, not mine.”

Adrien could feel his cheeks become warmer at the thought of other people approving of a relationship between him and Marinette. More and more, getting together seemed like a very real possibility. And what was more, it seemed everyone was rooting for them. And on both sides of his mask, to boot.

“But seriously,” Nino continued, “I think you guys would be great together.”

“But what about—”

“And if you’re worried about what your old man will say,” he interrupted, “send him to the same place you did when you ran off to school.”

The blond couldn’t help but snort at that last one. That was exactly the last excuse he was going to throw.

“You’re right,” he finally conceded, resting his back against the pillar. “I have to do what my heart tells me. And I shouldn’t let my fears control me.”

“Right on, man,” Nino said, lightly elbowing his friend. “So, what are you gonna say to her?”

“The truth. All of it.”


“You’re smiling,” Alya said in a sing-song voice.

Marinette yelped, covering her mouth with her school bag. It was already Monday morning, and as the two girls walked inside the school, she still felt those pesky ladybugs fluttering in her stomach every time she thought of Chat Noir.

“Relax, girl.” Alya waved a hand dismissively. “This is the happiest I’ve seen you since your days of fame started. It’s nice, for a change.”

“I guess.” Marinette lowered the bag, the grin still in place. “I just can’t stop thinking about that kiss. He was so… gentle. Like he wanted to make sure he wasn’t stepping out of line. And he kept holding my hand. Can you believe I could feel his warmth through his suit? And then, before he left, he called me beautiful!”

“Aww,” Alya cooed. “You’re so cute, I’m gonna puke.”

“Hey!” Marinette stomped her foot. “I had to hear you drone on and on about Nino when you two started. Now you’re stuck with lovesick me.”

Lovesick?”

“Stooop,” Marinette whined, her gaze shying away.

“You said it, not me,” Alya chuckled. “So, does that mean you’re in love with him?”

Marinette almost choked on her own saliva and turned, avoiding the question. In the process, she accidentally bumped into a smaller body.

“Sorry, I didn’t—Rose! Good morning!” Marinette chirped.

“Oh! Um, hi. ‘Morning,” Rose responded. Yet, her eyes barely took notice of Marinette.

She and Alya exchanged looks at the other girl’s unusual behavior.

“Hey, is everything alright?” Marinette asked.

“Huh? O-oh. Sorry, I’ve been thinking about other things—I mean, I’m distracted. Sorry, Ma-Marinette—”

“Rose,” Marinette said loudly, hoping to get her friend’s attention. And succeeding. “I know you well enough to know there’s something wrong. If you wanna talk about it, We’re here. Whatever it is.”

Alya nodded at Marinette’s words. Yet Rose hunched, her gaze still wandering around. After a deep sigh, she finally looked at the girl she had bumped into.

“You always have the best advice, and you know what it’s like to be judged, but…” She lowered her voice. “Your parents are so supportive.”

“Are you worried about your parents?” Marinette asked.

Rose bit her lip, as if regretting to speak. As Marinette gave her a reassuring smile, the small girl burst.

“I’ve been trying to figure out how to tell my parents Juleka and I are more than friends, but I’m afraid of how they’ll react, because I don’t know their opinion on the subject, and others like us, and I don’twannalosemyrelationshipwiththemtobewithmygirlfriend.”

She took a deep breath, and let out a whimper, lips pouting nervously. Marinette and Alya glanced at each other again, clearly not expecting the heavy information Rose had just blurted out. Almost simultaneously, they both softened their looks at their classmate.

“I wouldn’t compare the opinions of thousands of strangers with the opinions of parents,” Marinette started. “I know we care more about parents’ opinions than that of people we don’t even know.”

Rose let out a defeated sigh.

“Anyway,” Marinette continued, “I don’t know if I’m the best person to be asking, but if you want my advice—”

“I do.”

“—I say some risks are worth taking,” she said.

“Umm…” Alya muttered. But Marinette continued.

“I understand you’re worried, but you’ll never know unless you take the plunge.”

“You really think everything will be alright?” Rose asked, almost desperately.

“It wouldn’t hurt to hope for the best,” Marinette grinned.

Right then, the school bell rang. Rose quickly bid them farewell and ran off to their classroom, while Marinette and Alya took their time to reach their destination.

“Looks like someone is seeing things behind rose-colored glasses,” Alya commented.

“What?”

“I haven’t seen you this positive about outcomes in several weeks already.”

“Well,” Marinette said, oblivious to Alya’s wary tone. “I think it’s about time we stop thinking about the worst-case scenario for everything. If there’s anything I’ve learned these weeks, it’s that good can come out of the worst circumstances.”

“I don’t know…”

At that moment, Marinette’s phone vibrated, distracting her from the conversation. On the screen popped up a message from one of the people she least expected.

Are we still on for the talk?

The girl smiled, right before quickly responding to Adrien. If she was being honest with herself, she felt like she could be a sincere friend now that she was in love with someone else. A friend that he probably needed more in that moment, instead of a girl with a crush and a huge paparazzi target on her back.

As they entered the classroom, Marinette had just sent her response when she looked up and found Adrien focused on his phone. Smiling and blushing. Wonder what has him so giddy.

“’Morning,” she greeted.

As if stabbed by an electric rod, Adrien jumped from his seat and glued the phone to his chest. When his eyes connected with hers, he gave her a lopsided smile, accompanied by a shy wave.

“Good morning,” he said slowly.

Marinette opened her mouth to ask if he was okay but was interrupted by Ms. Bustier’s entrance. Instead, she gave Adrien a small nod and walked to her seat behind him. As soon as she was out of his line of sight, she noticed him slump forward and put his phone away. She really hoped whatever he had to tell her would not be bad.


It was lunchtime, and Nino knew better than to intervene in something that was not his business. Adrien made it very clear that, not only did he want privacy, but that he could do it on his own. So, he decided to take the extra time to visit one of the few electronics store left near the school.

And yet, somehow, it turned out he wouldn’t spend lunchtime as alone as he thought he would. There was a tap on Nino’s shoulder that made him lower his headphones to his neck.

“Hey Nino, have you seen Marinette?” the voice of Alya danced through his ears. “I haven’t seen her since she ran off for lunch, and I’ve been looking—”

“Oh, babe!” Nino cheered, clutching his girlfriend’s biceps. “I am so glad you found me. Have I got news for you.”

“Oooh, a scoop.” Alya vibrated, putting her hands together and seeming to have completely forgotten what she had been asking. “What is it? What happened?”

“Adrien happened. He finally admitted he has a crush on Marinette. And it gets better: he’s gonna confess.”

“Wait, what?!”

“I know!” Nino continued, oblivious to Alya’s distress. “I thought he’d stay in denial forever. But he admitted it to me yesterday and I convinced him to tell her how he feels. This is amazing, isn’t it?”

“No, Nino, this is bad!” Alya cut in, grabbing his shirt. “This is not good at all. Marinette has moved on!”

“Wait, moved on?!” Nino raised an eyebrow. “Seriously?”

“That’s what she and I were talking about yesterday,” she explained. “Marinette kissed another boy recently. And I think she’s in love with him.”

Nino gaped for a moment.

“Don’t tell me it’s Chat Noir,” he whined.

“That secret I will take to my grave,” Alya retorted. “But that’s not the point! Marinette is really into this other guy, and she’s kinda vulnerable right now. Even if Adrien gets a yes, Marinette is confused, and I think seriously considering the other guy. He could potentially get his heart broken. We can’t let him confess!”

“Is that why you interrupted them yesterday?”

“Focus, Nino!” Alya now squashing his cheeks with her hands. “When is Adrien confessing?!”

Nino let out a smushed gasp. “Now!”

“NOW?!”

“NOW!”

He immediately took her hand and started power-walking down the sidewalk, back to the school.

“Why didn’t you tell me before?” he said loudly. “You’ve been begging me for months to help you wingman Adrien with Marinette. You had to know I was gonna act the first chance I got.”

“I literally found out less than twenty-four hours ago,” Alya explained.

“So you interrupted them on purpose yesterday then, didn’t you?”

“Huh?”

“They we’re finally alone, behind everyone else,” Nino clarified. “Literally everyone was ignoring them because they were finally talking, and then you went and yelled at them for falling behind.”

“Oh, that.” Alya rolled her eyes. “Uh, duh. He’s been so freaking obvious about his crush lately. But I had already noticed Marinette had been getting over him, and yesterday she confirmed it. It’s my duty as her best friend to protect her.”

“Yeah, like you protected her from the press?” Nino said under his breath.

But not low enough for his girlfriend to not hear it. Alya stopped, looking like she had been slapped on the face. The boy was instantly regretting opening his mouth.

“Nino Lahiffe,” she started, in a low, menacing voice, “if it weren’t because you gave your boy some really bad advice, I would go off on you so hard, you wouldn’t be able to crawl outta your cave for ten days. But if you ever say that again, you will regret it.”

Nino sighed, already sensing a very long conversation they would have at a later time. If Marinette didn’t snap before then, of course. There was only so much that girl could let pass. And her reactions to Lila, Félix and Chloé were proof that her patience was already wearing thin.

“Let’s just go,” he said instead, dragging her to the school once again. “Before it’s too late.”


Marinette could swear the day was purposely dragging. Every five minutes that passed felt like five hours. Even the teachers seemed to be talking slower.

She just wanted this day to be over. She wanted it to be tomorrow evening. She wanted it to be time to confess to Chat Noir. She wanted to tell that boy how much she had fallen for him and wanted to be with more than friends with him. But alas, she had to wait for the natural pain-staking passing of time.

She did hope, however, that whatever Adrien wanted to tell her would be exciting enough to make the day seem shorter.

Marinette approached the park where Adrien asked her to meet up. She took several glances to her surroundings, making sure it was clear of paparazzi. Lastly, she looked towards the picnic tables on the other side of the fenced space. There, looking nervous, was Adrien. He was usually cool-headed, so: what could possibly unsettle him so?

She trudged her way there, starting to get nervous herself. What if it was bad? What if he suddenly said that he didn’t want to be friends with her anymore? Or worse. What if he now hated her for the mess she placed him in?

A resounding gulp went down Marinette’s throat. She took deep breaths, reminding herself of Tikki’s and Alya’s words about the crazy scenarios she always came up with. It didn’t do any good to dwell on events that had never happened.

She passed by Adrien and sat in front of him, startling him.

“Sorry, didn’t mean to scare you,” she chuckled.

“No, it’s fine,” Adrien muttered. He proceeded to clear his throat. “I’m glad to see you’re still in a good mood after the weekend.”

“Yeah.” Marinette grinned. “A lot of good things happened.”

“I bet,” Adrien uttered again. Marinette tilted her head, but in the end decided to ignore the comment.

“Sooo, what is it that you wanted to talk about?” she pushed.

“Right, uh…” Adrien tried to start, but he seemed to be at a loss, scratching the back of his head. “You know, uh…I just wanted to, um…tell you something important.”

“Everything okay?” The girl’s brows furrowed. “Did something happen? Is it about the press? Are they bothering you?”

“What? No, no,” Adrien waved his hands. “No, things are fine in that front.”

“Oh, good,” Marinette sighed in relief. “You sound so serious, I’m imagining the worst.”

“No, it’s not something bad. I mean,” he winced, “I hope not.”

“Hey,” Marinette placed a hand on his arm, that was resting on the table. “You can tell me anything and I won’t judge you. Even if what you need is help hiding a dead body.”

Adrien chuckled. “You know, I still can’t get used to you not stuttering around me.”

“Oh.” Marinette averted her gaze and scratched the back of her head. “Yeah, I-I guess I’ve learned to control it, or something.”

“Hmm,” Adrien nodded teasingly, with a hand on his chin. “Or something.”

“Anyway,” Marinette loudly interrupted, “You said there’s something you wanna talk about?”

“Ah.” Adrien quickly seem to turn as pink as one of her father’s finest macarons. “Right, the talk… I’m honestly terrified on how you’re gonna take what I’m about to say, with everything that’s happened.”

“You already said it’s not bad, so there shouldn’t be anything to worry about.”

“I don’t know, I think this will be a little hard to swallow.”

“Adrien,” Marinette said softly, returning her hand to his arm. “I get being scared about how others see you, but nothing could ever make me think less of you. I may not think of you as this perfect being, but you’re still the sweet guy who gave me his umbrella when I thought you’d put gum on my seat. You’re one of the most amazing people I know. And I’m sure that whatever it is that you want to tell me, it can never—”

But Marinette didn’t get to finish her monologue, for Adrien had leaned across the table and crashed his lips against hers.

Her mind went completely blank, as if all higher brain functions had been disabled. She felt her body so disconnected from her senses, she barely noticed the distinct sound of Alya gasping and Nino smacking his face.

And before she could do anything, Adrien’s lips had already left hers. Her eyes were still wide, as he let out a wistful sigh.

“Marinette,” he breathed, his gaze wandering around her. “I-I’m…” Adrien’s brows furrowed, as he stared at something behind her.

“Y-You—” Marinette started, but was immediately cut off.

“LOOK OUT!”

The girl’s body was enveloped by Adrien’s arms, who had jumped over the table and pulled her out of the way from what looked like a giant cage that fell from the sky. The two crashed on the dirt, with the boy covering her head protectively.

The sudden move was enough to get Marinette out of her trance. She quickly searched for the source of the giant cage, but just as she saw a stranger moving towards them (and Nino dragging Alya away in the distance), Adrien pulled her to her feet and made her run with him.

“MARINETTE!!!” a young girl’s voice bellowed, followed by the sound of crashing metal and screaming.

Marinette looked just in time to see a girl dressed in what looked like a metal-colored dress, except that the skirt was shaped like a birdcage, and her legs were actually covered by leggings. Smaller birdcages covered her shoulders and biceps, imitating puff sleeves. If Marinette was being honest with herself, the girl looked…familiar.

“Why are you stopping?!” Adrien yelled.

Just then he tried pulling her into an alley, but it was too late. The akuma made a cage appear from thin air under their feet. The cage scraped up the small opening, until it got stuck almost three stories high.

The two teenagers stumbled to the ground. When they realized what happened, they crawled to the edge of the cool floor, to where the bars were. Down on the sidewalk was the villain, smirking up at them.

“How does it feel, Marinette?” she taunted. “To be trapped in a life you don’t want? I will make sure this isn’t a phase.”

“Who are you? What are you talking about?”

“You ruined my life!” the akuma yelled. “And now, I will ruin yours. I will make sure your parents are just as unsupportive as mine.”

“Parents?” Marinette’s eyes widened, as a gasp escaped her lips. “Rose?!”

“Birdcage!” the girl yelled back. “You don’t get to call me by my captors name for me. You’re so distracted in your own happiness, you can’t see not everyone has the same circumstances as you.”

“I thought I was giving good advice. I’m sorry, Rose!”

“Save it!” Birdcage spat. “Let’s see how you fare being just as trapped as me.”

With those last words, she walked away.

“Rose! ROSE!” Marinette called, but the villain was gone.

Marinette gaped for several more seconds, hoping against all sense that Birdcage would come back. As reality sunk in, her face slid down the bars. Talk about those rose-colored glasses Alya mentioned. And just when she thought today couldn’t go by any slower! Now she had to wait for Chat Noir to turn up and free her, so she could transform into Ladybug.

Chat Noir.

The boy she kissed the previous Saturday.

Would find her with a boy who kissed her less than ten minutes ago.

The boy she was previously in love with.

Suddenly, she wasn’t very excited on seeing Chat Noir again. All those dorky smiles from that morning: gone. All she could see was betrayal on her partner’s face. Maybe even hurt.

“Any exits over there?” Adrien called from behind her, interrupting her thoughts.

Wait…

Her assessment suddenly turned backwards. Marinette didn’t ask to be kissed. Adrien just went for it, without her permission. What if Chat Noir got angry instead? What if he ended up going on a jealousy rage against Adrien? She wouldn’t put it past him, considering it wouldn’t be the first time he acted recklessly over his feelings. How did everything get so stupidly messy in one weekend?

“Marinette?” The touch of a hand on her shoulder made her jump several feet away. Staring at her was a confounded Adrien.

“I’m fine!” she squeaked. “I mean, we’re fine. I mean, no, me-fine. It’s all good. Except for the fact that we’re trapped. He heh, yeah, that’s actually bad. But it’s fine, we’ll be fi—Could you please stay over there?” she added the last bit as Adrien took steps towards her.

The boy stopped in his tracks. He seemed to have finally remembered what happened before their current predicament, for he took a step back, pointedly looking away.

“Sorry,” he muttered.

Marinette averted her gaze, too. “We’ll talk about it later. Let’s just…wait. Quietly. Far from each other.”

With those last words, she sat on the metallic floor, with her purse ready on her lap. Just in case. After a minute or so, Adrien did the same on the other side of the cage, stealing glances at her occasionally.

They waited for anyone to turn up. As the minutes ticked by, both of them grew increasingly impatient. For Marinette, she couldn’t stop thinking about the situation she was in. Not the fact that she was stuck in a cage, unable to transform. It wasn’t the first time she found herself trapped and powerless.

No, it was more the Adrien-kissed-me-after-Chat-Noir-did-the-same-last-Saturday situation. To think her life couldn’t get any messier in these last six weeks, she had to add a ridiculous love triangle to her problems.

When did this become my life?! She screamed internally.

And Adrien shifting his eyes from her to the wall, and back to her, was not helping matters. And worse, Chat Noir was taking forever to get there.

Ten minutes passed. Nothing.

Twenty minutes. Chat Noir had to already be aware there was an akuma on the loose.

Thirty minutes. Where the heck is that damn cat?!

Tikki kept giving her worrying looks from the opening of her purse. The longer they stayed there, the more mayhem Birdcage could cause. And what was more, Marinette couldn’t take the awkward silence anymore.

“Okay!” Marinette finally let out. She stood up and made her way towards Adrien, who was playing with his phone. “Since it seems we’re gonna be here a while, might as well make one tiny, itsy bit of a question, Adrien: why the hell did you kiss me?!”

Adrien winced. Slowly, he put his phone away and stood up to face her. With the guiltiest expression Marinette had ever seen on him, he responded: “I got caught up in the moment.”

“The moment?” Marinette sputtered. “I didn’t think I’d—I mean, I didn’t create a… Did I create a moment? Oh no, please tell me I didn’t—”

“No,” Adrien cut in, placing his hands on her shoulders. “No, it wasn’t… You were just saying a lot of nice things about me, and I got caught up in it.”

“Oh,” Marinette sighed in relief. But almost immediately, she took that breath back. “Wait. You…like me?”

Adrien’s hands clenched on her, and she could have sworn his jaw tensed.

“Do you like Chat Noir?” he blurted out instead.

“I asked you first,” she shot back.

“Depends on your answer to my question.”

“Why does it matter?”

“I have my reasons.”

“Just answer the question, Adrien. Do you like me?”

“I can’t say.”

“Then I can’t answer your question.”

“Fine! Yes, I like you!”

Wind got caught in Marinette’s throat, almost making her choke. Yes, she pushed it, but a part of her still hoped he would answer differently. But of course, that wasn’t the case. There was no way this was happening, especially now. Now, of all times. It was just her luck.

She let out a groan of misery, along with several mumbled ‘this can’t be happening’. All the while her hands covered her face.

“You haven’t answered my question about Chat Noir,” she heard Adrien state.

Separating her fingers to peek at him, Marinette hesitated to respond. Between him and Chat, he wasn’t the person she wanted to tell first, much less after what just happened. Yet, the least she could do was be honest with him.

“I’m sorry, Adrien,” she whispered, closing her eyes. Meanwhile, the hands that were on her shoulders slowly pulled away. “This is very complicated. But I had kinda decided to give up on you.”

“Why?” Adrien asked. Although, he didn’t sound upset, like she thought he would. Instead, he sounded genuinely curious.

She opened her eyes again, but most of her face was still covered.

“I-I have my reasons—”

“Because of Chat Noir?” Adrien intervened.

“Well!” Marinette flailed her arms. “Well yeah, because of Chat Noir. Yes, I have feelings for a boy who dresses like a cat and jumps around Paris. Happy?”

She expected him to look sad, or angry even. She didn’t expect him to chuckle.

“So you traded one celebrity for another celebrity?” he snickered.

“Chat Noir isn’t just some celebrity, or superhero, for that matter,” Marinette defended. “Chat Noir is… No, my Chat, the Chat I know is one of my best friends, who’s saved my life more times than I can count. He’s kind, courageous, always looks for ways to make me laugh and is willing to do everything in his power to protect me, even if it means putting his own wishes aside. Chat is…” she let out a wistful sigh. “Chat is amazing. His good looks and kissing skills are just a bonus.”

“K-kissing sk-skills?” Adrien stuttered.

Marinette’s eyes widened, registering the amount of information she had let out. Her cheeks turned hot. Her arms where flailing again.

“I-I mean, not that I-we, buh, uh…ugh!” she groaned miserably, covering her face again. “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. Please don’t tell anyone.”

“Pfft.” Marinette raised her head, just in time to see Adrien bark in laughter. She blinked, bewildered, as the boy wrapped his arms around her. “I’ve told you before,” he said, “you can trust me with your life, Marinette.”

Oh no.

“Nope!” Marinette suddenly pushed herself away from the boy’s embrace. “Stop it. That’s…no. You’re confusing me. I already made up my mind. And I don’t want Chat to see us like this when he rescues us.”

“What makes you so sure he’s the one who’s gonna save us?”

“Because he’s the one with the power to disintegrate metal.”

There was a beat. They stared at each other for a moment, Marinette with a triumphant smirk and Adrien with eyes almost popping out of his skull.

“Aw, crap.” Marinette stared, never having heard Adrien use a cuss word in her life. And she continues to stare as he started running around the cage, forcing the bars as if hoping they would suddenly bend open an exit.

“Adrien, what are you doing?” she asked, exasperated.

“There has to be a way out,” he muttered, yet Marinette could still hear him. “I refuse for it to happen this way. Not like this.”

“For what to happen like this?” Marinette frowned.

“Agh, dammit!”

Pushing himself from the bars, Adrien strutted in Marinette’s direction with new determination in his eyes. The next second, his hands were in hers.

“Marinette,” he started, with a slight tremble in his voice. “I just want you to know that none of this went according to plan, and this is not the way I wanted to tell you. I’ve wanted to tell you for weeks now, but I was told I couldn’t. But with everything that’s happened, I can’t keep it a secret anymore. I was gonna tell you today anyway, but not like this. Just know that I’m sorry for confusing you so much, and I’m sorry you have to find out this way.”

With those last words, he took a step back, letting go of her hands. Marinette continued staring with a puzzled expression, trying to decipher what he meant.

But her questions would soon be answered for Adrien lifted a fist and yelled three words:

“Plagg, transform me!”

Chapter Text

The green sparkles covered each of Adrien’s limbs, replacing the expensive Gabriel Fashion outfit with the leather costume provided by the miraculous. In the process, the boy closed his eyes, afraid to look at Marinette’s face. Would he see betrayal? Hurt? Happiness?

Yet, he was determined to see his decision through.

When he felt the transformation finish, he opened his eyes. His gaze focused on his raised fist. It was time to be a superhero.

“Okay,” Chat Noir said, leaving behind the nervous tone from earlier for a firm one. “Now I can get us outta here. So, Marinette, I’m gonna need you to—”

But his words were left hanging when he finally looked at the girl of his… dreams? Because her face looked more like from a nightmare.

Marinette’s eyes looked like they were about to pop out of her skull. Her nostrils were flaring. Her jaw could almost reach her chest. And a trembling finger was pointing at him.

“Ma-Marinette?”

“Gah—” was all she managed to say.

Right before falling over backwards.

Chat Noir cringed, too shocked to have run to catch her. Not that Marinette wasn’t used to getting hurt over her clumsiness, but still. Ever the gentleman, he felt responsible for letting her fall over.

“Great, and now you’ve killed her,” he whispered to himself. “Way to go, Adrien.”

As soon as he finished lamenting himself, he slid to his knees next to her. Strangely enough, she didn’t exactly faint, like he thought. Her eyes and mouth were still open, but unfocused. Did he break her?

“Marinette?” he tried again.

A very faint, whining sound escaped her. Like a deflating balloon. I have officially made her insane.

“Are you alive?”

“I-I-I-I…” She trailed off.

“Do you need me to carry you?”

“Still…conscious,” she breathed, eyes staring off.

Chat Noir tapped his chin for a moment, and then proceeded to smirk.

“If you stay limp, I’m gonna have to carry you over my shoulder again.”

Marinette’s eyes focused at last, right at his cat-like ones. Chat Noir’s smoulder softened into the smiles he reserved only for her. At least now he knew it was only shock.

“We have to go now, before anyone realizes you’re stuck with Chat Noir instead of Adrien.”

Chat Noir extended his hand towards her. For a moment she remained frozen, and he worried that she would stay so. Right before he decided to put his palm away, she grabbed it with a shaky hand. Chat Noir proceeded to quickly pull her to her feet, in case she changed her mind.

As soon as she tried to walk, her knees wobbled, prompting the boy to place one of her arms around his neck. She didn’t seem to actually need it, but one could never be too careful. Once in front of the bars of the cage, he called on his power to disintegrate it. Once the bars were destroyed, Chat Noir lifted Marinette to carry her bridal style.

“Hold on tight,” he said. Marinette stared at him with wide eyes and tightened her grip on his neck. With the suit on now, the boy was able make a powerful jump from the cage to the rooftop. He ran several blocks, hoping to get as far as possible from the crime scene. Just in case.

At last, he jumped down to another alley. One that didn’t have a metal trap stuck above them.

“Okay, I think you’re safe here,” he said, as he placed her down on her feet. He ran to the edge of the alley, looking into the street. “Just promise me you won’t go looking for trouble.”

When he turned back to look at her, Marinette was… exactly where he left her. Staring at the wall. Mouth agape. I really did break her, he thought.

“Marinette,” Chat Noir called, but she didn’t seem to be registering what was happening. “Marinette, look at me, please.” He took her face in his hands and stared intently at her. “I know this is a shock, but I need you to promise me you won’t go looking for trouble and that you’ll stay safe. Okay? I need you to say something, please.”

“Uh-huh.” She nodded.

“Great,” Chat Noir sighed. Suddenly, his lips turned into a smug grin. “I would kiss you now, Princess, but I’ll wait for when you’re no longer catatonic.”

With great satisfaction, Chat Noir watched the girl he liked turn as red as a tomato. He then turned, gave her a two-fingered salute from the side, and vaulted away. Although it hadn’t been the confession he had in mind, he had to admit it felt awesome to finally let it out of his chest.


Marinette stared after Chat Noir… Adrien…. Jumping from rooftop to rooftop, until he was no longer visible. And remained still, staring in his direction.

“Marinette?” she heard the voice of Tikki.

Yet remained frozen. A statue in a random alley in Paris. She inhaled deeply.

“WHAT THE FU—”

“Marinette!” Tikki interrupted.

“TIKKI!” Marinette shot back. “He—Adrien—Chat Noir—same—THIS IS INSANE!”

“I know.” The kwami spoke sympathetically. “But there’s an akuma running around.”

“I need a moment!” Marinette yelled.

She took several deep breaths, laying her back against the alley wall. She felt the cogs of her brain finally unstuck, helping her process what she had just found out. Was she sure she saw what she saw? Did she dream it? Was Adrien really Chat Noir?

Okay, list, she thought.

Famous.

Check.

Blond and green eyes.

Check.

Calls me Princess.

No, but calls me Mari, a nickname Chat Noir has used occasionally.

Terribly timed puns and cocky attitude.

Marinette’s thoughts immediately went to that time he punned and teased her for sliding on the floor, after running from reporters outside the school. In fact, she could have sworn he almost called her Princess that day. And then he proceeded to be cocky on how he found a loophole on his father’s instructions about being seen with her.

“Oh my gosh, he is Chat,” Marinette gasped, hands going to her pigtails. A louder gasp escaped her lips. “I kissed Adrien on Saturday!”

“Marinette?”

But she didn’t listen. She was seeing that night again in her mind’s eye, but instead of Chat Noir, it was Adrien. Her cheeks were about to combust. Her hands went to her face. And an embarrassed scream resounded in the alley.

“This whole time I was falling for Adrien all over again!” her muffled voice said. “Ugh, this explains why he’s been trying to find conversation with me so much lately. It’s how he got the espresso joke. I can’t believe this is happening. I can’t believe he knew of my crush this whole time and—”

Her hands pulled away from her face. “He had planned to tell me his identity. Me, Marinette, the civilian.”

“Oh.” Tikki covered her tiny mouth. Marinette looked at her, remembering her own plan to reveal her identity to Chat Noir. A decision she came to, because he’s not a civilian.

“He told me,” Marinette breathed. “Chat Noir told his identity to a civilian!”

“But you’re not just a civilian,” Tikki pointed out.

“But he doesn’t know that!” Marinette screeched. “To him, I’m just an average civilian who needs rescuing. He doesn’t know the real reason I’ve rescued him so many times. Or why it’s so important to me that he doesn’t get hit by an akuma. He… How dare he tell a civilian his identity! That goes completely against miraculous rules.”

“Marinette!” The kwami zipped up to her charge’s face and placed her paws on Marinette’s chin. “I know this is a lot to take in, but unfortunately you’re going to have to process later. There’s an akuma on the loose and Chat Noir needs your help right now.”

The girl groaned. “Why won’t akumas respect my need to have a mental breakdown.”

Tikki gave her a sympathetic look

“Okay,” Marinette relented, letting out a deep sigh. “Okay, okay, I’ll freak out later. And scold Chat Noir.” Tikki giggled, helping Marinette with the tension in her heart. “Okay. Tikki, transform me!”

A minute later, Ladybug was soaring through the rooftops. While she looked determined and focused, her mind was struggling to not bounce back to her recent discovery. Well, more like atomic bomb that was thrown at her.

She swung for several blocks, until she saw Chat Noir come out from what looked like a cheese shop. Probably recharging. She stopped on top of a chimney, staring as he ran off. Her heart was pounding in her chest.

Yes, she was angry at him. But it didn’t change how she felt about him. Feelings that she had to do her best to keep at bay for the sake professionalism. Ladybug groaned, yet continued her path to the akuma.

At last, she saw Birdcage, already engaged in battle against Chat Noir. With a twirl, Ladybug landed next to him.

“Welcome to the cage-fight, LB,” Chat Noir quipped.

“Not now,” she snapped, still reeling from his revelation.

“Feeling a little catty today?”

How is this guy and Adrien the same person? Ladybug screamed in her head.

“Let’s just focus, please.”

“Really? No comeback? Come on, I’m in a good mood today.”

“Are you seri—”

Her sentence was left incomplete when Chat Noir dove to her rescue, as a cage appeared under their feet.

“Well, well, well.” Birdcage drawled. “Looks like Ladybug is off her little superhero game.”

“Please, Ladybug is always on top of her game. Right LB?”

Ladybug could sense Chat Noir turn to her. But Birdcage was right. While her body was in the fight, her mind wasn’t. All she could think about was that if anything happened to Chat Noir, that was Adrien getting hurt. She was also upset that Chat Noir could act like nothing important had just happened.

Wait, was there something she was supposed to answer?

Ladybug was once again being whisked away by her partner, narrowly avoiding another giant cage. But this time, Chat Noir dragged her further away; away from the fight. The two of them landed on one of the many historic buildings. The boy rested her against the hot zinc, as he placed his hands on her shoulders.

“Are you okay?” he asked, searching her eyes. “What is it? I can tell you’re distracted, so don’t even try to hide it.”

Ladybug breathed heavily. Am I okay? AM I?

“No, I’m not okay!” she burst, grabbing his arms. “It’s barely midday and I can’t even catch my breath for a second!”

“I’m sorry you’ve been having a bad day!” Chat Noir spoke up. “If it makes you feel any better, I’ve been having a pretty off day, too.”

“You just said you were in a good mood!”

“Partly!” he confessed. Ladybug blinked, so he continued. “Yes, something really awesome happened to me, but that awesome thing might just end up blowing up in my face and leave me loveless for the rest of my life. So later may not be as awesome as the rash decision I took earlier. But guess what? I’m not going to focus on that when we have an akuma to save Paris from.”

Ladybug’s lips turned into a line as she digested his words.

“Ugh, you’re right,” she lamented. “I’m sorry, I’m just still overwhelmed with something I just found out.”

Chat Noir gasped, slapping hands on his cheeks. “Are you pregnant?”

“Oh my gosh, Chat, no!” Ladybug covered her stomach, as if to protect it from pregnancy, even though she knew full well that it was impossible. “When you put it that way, what I found out doesn’t seem so bad anymore.”

“Can you fight then?” he asked.

Ladybug hesitated, before looking into his eyes. Adrien Agreste’s eyes. She had already had a hard time fighting akumas knowing she had feelings for him. Now she had to do it knowing his identity and that there was a new set of baggage between them.

“I need a minute.”

He’s Chat Noir. He’s Chat Noir. He’s Chat Noir. She repeated the mantra in her head, taking quick glimpses at him. Hoping she wouldn’t accidentally call him by his real name during battle.

“Okay,” she said, after a deep breath. “I think I’ll—”

A metallic floor appeared out of thin air under their feet, and metal bars surrounded them. Due to the uneven surface of the rooftop, the cage slid off the edge. As they were falling, Ladybug spun her yo-yo fast enough to melt the bars. Immediately after, Chat Noir grabbed her waist and extended his staff until it struck the building.

What was left of the cage crashed on the ground below, as the boy kept a firm hold on his partner with one arm, and hanged on his staff with the other hand. It was lucky the cage was heavier than them. Otherwise Ladybug wouldn’t had been able to make that hole, much like she did with a bus during their fight with Stormy Weather.

“You two are so annoying!” a voice complained from the bottom, as the heroes climbed on the staff. “I can see why Hawkmoth wants your miraculous.”

“Go!” Chat Noir yelled.

Without a second thought, Ladybug wrapped her arm around him and swung them both away from Birdcage. Lucky for Chat Noir, he was able to dislodge the staff just in time to take it with him.

As they landed on the street, Ladybug took a deep breath, only to inhale that familiar expensive cologne.

“Why do you have to smell so good?” she whined.

“Huh?!” Chat Noir screeched.

“N-NOT YOU!” Ladybug panicked, taking a meter-length step away. “I-I mean, not that you don’t smell good, but I-I m-meant, uuhh—THAT!”

“The vape store?”

“No!” She smacked her forehead. “That’s not what I meant.”

“Did you lose an antenna or something?” Chat Noir asked, in a tone that was filled with infuriatingly genuine concern for Ladybug.

“I don’t know if I can get through this fight,” she admitted.

“Well, isn’t that good news for me,” Birdcage said, clasping her hands together.

It wasn’t until the threat was in front of them that Ladybug took a second to take in her surroundings. There were cages all around the block, with people and cars trapped in them. Many were clamoring for her to save them.

Paris was counting on her and she was freaking out over a boy.

“No,” she said quietly. “I am not making this easy for you, Hawkmoth. The citizens of Paris come first!”

“Let’s see about that!”

And there it was. Birdcage placed her hands together over her chest, where there was a silver necklace Ladybug hadn’t noticed before. The object glowed and the duo of heroes had to dodge another cage.

“It’s in the necklace!” Ladybug informed her partner. “I think that if we immobilize her arms, we’ll be able to take it away.”

They jumped again.

“We need to get close to her first,” Chat Noir said. “But these cages are not helping.”

They rolled and crouched behind a car.

“I’m gonna need a distraction, see if I can summon a Lucky Charm that could help me with that.”

“On it,” her partner responded automatically, already getting up to his feet. However, he was quickly yanked back, as Ladybug had grabbed his tail.

“Ah, sorry.” He tilted his head. Ladybug bit her lip. “I just wanted to say… Be careful, please.”

Chat Noir gave her a smile. “Whatever happens, I know you got my back, LB.”

Without giving her a chance to say anything else, the boy jumped out of their hiding place and ran the opposite way. Birdcage took the bait, and Ladybug was able to summon her power. On her hands landed a pirate’s hook.

A quick look around the stores nearby, the craft store caught her attention. At least one of the things she needed was definitely in there. With Birdcage distracted, Ladybug was able to easily cross the street and rummage the place for a small mirror and super glue. The kind used for cosplay armor.

She dashed back to the street, to see in the distance Chat Noir using Cataclysm on a cage he had been trapped in. It was now or never.

So Ladybug ran towards the battling duo, while squeezing the contents of the tube inside the pirate’s hook. Once that was done, she wrapped the string of her yo-yo on the hook and called: “Hey, Birdcage!”

The villain turned just in time to be blinded by the reflection of the mirror Ladybug picked up from the store. When she raised her hand, the hero took the opportunity to slam the pirate hook on it.

When Birdcage came to realize what happened, she tried to take off the hook, with no avail. Meanwhile, Ladybug had jumped over a street lamp, placing the string over it. As she pulled, the villain wailed as she was lifted off the ground.

“Chat Noir, the akuma!”

“Got it!” he called, the second he swiped the akumatized necklace and threw it towards his partner.

Ladybug caught it, dropped it on the ground and crushed it with her foot. A minute later, she had cleansed the butterfly and was throwing the pirate hook, which had been left hanging on its own when Birdcage’s weight had won over. The millions of ladybugs fluttered over the city, getting rid of all the cages.

The purple substance washed away from Rose, leaving her looking small and defenseless on the ground. Ladybug couldn’t help but feel responsible for her grieving. She had been so blinded by her own feelings that morning, that she forgot the world wasn’t as rosy as she had liked to believe. And finding out Chat Noir and Adrien were the same person only further reminded her that the world was more complicated than it seemed that morning.

She slowly crouched to Rose’s level and placed a hand on her shoulder.

“Are you okay?” she asked. Ladybug knew the answer, but she still felt it was important to show she cared.

Rose, however, seemed to either ignore her, or simply not hear her. Her expression was blank, staring into space. Ladybug wanted to say something else, but before she could make up her mind, Juleka was calling her girlfriend from afar.

“Rose, it’s okay,” she whispered, the second she got close enough to embrace her. “You’re okay. Everything’s okay. And what’s not, will be.”

The quiet words seemed to be just what the blonde girl needed to hear. Her trance was broken, and she returned the hug Juleka gave her, with her eyes squeezed shut.

“I told them,” Rose sobbed. “I told them, and they said it’s just a phase. That I’ll be normal when I’m older. Like I’m not normal now.”

“I’m so sorry,” Juleka said, stroking her girlfriend’s hair. “But you’re not alone. You’re never alone, not while I’m here.”

“I can’t go back there. They got so angry when I told them they were wrong.”

“You can stay with me,” Juleka offered. “You know my mom has no problem with you staying home.”

“I felt so trapped, Jules.”

“You’re not,” the dark-haired girl stressed, pulling away enough to look at Rose’s bright blue eyes. “Me, my brother, my mom, our friends, you don’t have to pretend for any of us.”

The blond sniffed and nodded. Juleka rested her forehead against Rose’s and gave her several comforting kisses. When the tears subsided, she helped her to her feet.

“Thank you, Ladybug,” Juleka said, finally taking notice of the heroes.

“It’s what I’m here for,” she responded. But despite her words, she felt highly responsible for what happened. She should’ve asked for more context. She should’ve taken in consideration that, despite her love troubles, she didn’t have to go through a situation like Rose’s. That it wasn’t a fair comparison her love life to Rose’s.

“Um…” Ladybug hesitated. Then took a deep breath. “I saw Marinette. She was beating herself up for giving you such bad advice. She’s very sorry for taking it so lightly.”

Rose sighed. “I think it was still bound to happen someday. But…” Her gaze fell to the ground. “I need some time.”

“Of course,” she immediately agreed. “I’m sure she’ll understand. Take all the time you need.” She stood up straighter. “You don’t owe anyone anything.”

“Thank you,” Rose smiled. Tightening her grip on Juleka, the couple turned and walked away.

Bien joué?” Chat Noir said next to Ladybug, lifting a fist.

Bien joué,” she said with a wary tone, as she bumped his fist. Speaking of messy love lives: “Hey, Chat I, um… I-I ran into Marinette on my way here, a-and…”

“Oh no,” Chat Noir muttered, muscles tensing.

“She wants to talk to you,” she blurted as fast as she could. “Uuh, she said to, um, meet her at the usual spot, above the bakery.”

“I am so dead,” he said under his breath, his claws going up to his hair.

“Really?” Ladybug couldn’t help but drawl out, folding her arms. “Did something happen?”

“Uuuh,” Chat Noir squeaked, looking like an anxious owl. Possibly the first time Ladybug ever heard his voice crack like that. In both of his identities. “Noooooo.”

The liar! She gasped internally. To my face. Oh, he’s getting one heck of an earful when I tell him.

An earful she was tempted to give him at that very moment. She had planned on telling him her identity anyway, so why not?

“Chat Noir, I don’t believe you for—”

“I’ll tell you later,” he rushed in to say. “I have to tell you anyway, but not right now. I want to sort it out with Marinette first.”

BEEP BEEP

“Why with her first?” What am I saying? I am her.

“Because when I left her, she was pretty freaked out,” he said, already taking steps backwards. “I can’t just leave her like that, much less when I know that conversation with you is gonna take a while. She’s too important to me to just leave her like that.”

Ladybug opened her mouth to argue, but instantly changed her mind. She was still feeling a lot of emotions about what she found out, but she had to admit his reasons for not telling Ladybug yet were noble.

Her earrings beeped for their last minute, as so did Chat Noir’s ring.

“I gotta go,” Chat Noir said as he turned around and vaulted away.

Ladybug tried calling after him, but he was gone. She huffed as she zipped away towards the bakery. Although she had seriously considered revealing her identity right there, maybe doing it as Marinette was for the best.


It had been thirty minutes since Marinette arrived home. She had sent a message to Alya through social media, letting her know she was okay. This, because in her hurry to get home, she left her bookbag, and phone, in her school locker.

She tried designing something, anything, but her mind kept looking at the clock on her computer. She went outside, hoping to see Chat Noir jumping his way there. Nothing. She went back inside, where she ended up rolling the spray-bottle he gave her around the floor. Sometime later, she was back outside, furiously spraying water on her plants.

Seriously? After all that talk about not leaving me confused and how I’m sooo important to him, he dares to just leave me—

There was a loud clank behind her, as she watered her lavenders. She froze. Her heart started beating louder. Her eyes widened.

“Hey Princess,” the cocky voice of Chatdrien said.

And he dares to call me by a flirty nickname.

“Took you long enough to—” She stopped mid-sentence, for she had turned around and was immediately greeted by a fully bloomed red rose almost tickling her nose.

“I do hope my royal highness can forgive this feline for taking its time grooming,” Chat Noir said in a theatrical tone. Almost immediately followed by a nervously whispered: “And recharge and psyching myself for this.”

Marinette blinked, before giving Chat Noir a deadpanned look.

“Is that one of my roses?” she asked.

Chat cringed guiltily. “They’re as beautiful as you, don’t you think?”

The girl’s eyes squinted further, as she raised the hand holding the bottle.

“What.” Spray. “Were.” Spray. “You.” Spay. “Thinking?!”

Marinette sprayed him three more times, despite his protests and flailing arms.

“Hey, stop! Cut it out!”

“You revealed yourself to a civilian. What the heck?!” Three more sprays.

“Wait, what?” he yelped, finally getting a hold of her wrist. Marinette gasped as he stared at her eyes intently. “That’s what you’re mad about?”

The second he finished that sentence, Marinette scowled and pushed the nozzle a few more times. Quickly, Chat Noir confiscated the now cursed gift and placed it aside.

“Let’s talk, please,” he begged.

“I’m a civilian, Chat. How could you tell me?”

“I didn’t have much of a choice, now did I? And you were right about me being the only one able to get us out of there.”

“Couldn’t you come up with some excuse so I wouldn’t look?”

“I could’ve, but why would I, when I was gonna tell you anyway?”

“Exactly, you were going to tell me your identity!”

“Why do you think I kissed you?!”

Marinette gaped. “Kissing me was your way of telling me?!”

“NO! That’s not what I meant!” Chat Noir dragged his hands over his face. “I figured it would be fine to kiss you because I was gonna tell you right after. I didn’t expect for my confession to get interrupted.”

“Our confessions always get interrupted,” Marinette pointed out.

“My confession to you was not supposed to involve an akuma!”

“Well, it did, and it still doesn’t change the fact that you told your identity to a civilian.”

“Jeez, it’s like getting lectured by Ladybug,” Chat Noir complained, crossing his arms. “I thought you would be happy to find out who I am.”

“Chat Noir, that’s not the point. I just don’t understand what made you think telling your identity to a civilian was a good idea.”

“Plagg said it was fine.”

Marinette paused. Wait, then that means… Chat…Adrien, told his kwami he wanted to tell me. Plagg, knowing my identity, gave his blessing. That sneaky little cat.

“Would you feel better if I detransformed?”

“NO!” Marinette blurted out. “Sorry! I’m just still not used to it.”

“Oh. Wait…” Chat Noir squinted at her. “You said that was not the point. Does that mean you are happy to find out my identity?”

Marinette squeaked. She really had to be careful with the words she was vomiting.

“N-Nooo, th-that’s not—Psh! I didn’t say that.”

“You definitely did,” he purred, leaning towards her. “Is my Princess being bashful now?”

“Stooop!” Marinette took several steps back and tried to pace in the small space of the balcony. “This is… I don’t know.”

“Marinette—”

“You could’ve talked to me any day,” she finally expressed. “We share the same classrooms. We see each other every day. Why couldn’t you talk to me as Adrien?”

“I tried! But you were just so different and… fascinating when I’m Chat Noir. I got… curious.”

“Curious?”

“Why you were so sassy with me, yet shy with, well, me.”

“I’m guessing you figured out the reason pretty early on.”

“Yes, I found out you were in love with me.”

She stopped. Were Marinette’s cheeks about to explode? They sure felt like it. How was this happening? When had her life turned into this?

“Hey, it’s okay,” Chat Noir soothed, holding on to her wrists. When had she covered her face? “If it makes you feel any better, finding out why you loved me was one of the main reasons I started seeing you differently. Very few people get to see me beyond my fame and money. It was super flattering when you told me the reasons.”

“Wait, if you’ve been Adrien this whole time, how come you told Nadja I’m in love with you?”

“Uuuh.” It was Chat Noir’s turn to blush. He pointedly looked away from her, scratching the back of his head. “I didn’t… Did I?”

“Chat Noir—”

“Okay!” he squeezed his eyes shut. “I may have subconsciously tried to claim you as taken. BeforeIknewIhadfeelingsforyou!”

Marinette made a face that looked like someone had slapped her.

“Are you seriously that insecure?!”

“Yes!” Chat Noir admitted, taking Marinette aback. “You know how father treats me. And you have any idea how desired you are?”

“Me? Desired?!” she sputtered.

“Nathaniel, Nino, Félix. Heck, I think even Lila is getting a crush on you.”

“Oh my gosh, stop.” Marinette placed a hand on the side of her face, as if trying to hide from nonexistent people. “Either way, that doesn’t excuse it. I thought you just let slip a secret I told you, not that you were claiming me.”

“Is it worse?”

“I don’t know anymore, my feelings for you are clouding my judgement.”

There was an awkward pause. How was this both a dream come true and a total disaster? How had it become both very complicated and so much simpler?

“Look,” Chat Noir spoke quietly. “I’m sorry for my less than stellar moments. Telling your secret in Nadja’s interview, being jealous of Félix, all that stuff. But mostly, I’m sorry this reveal hasn’t gone as smoothly as I had initially hoped.”

“This is all just so overwhelming,” she muttered.

“But I promise that it’s real,” he said in a determined tone.

“Is it? I mean, psh, duh, of course it has to be,” she rambled. “I mean, we totally kissed last Saturday, and now today. Which I still can’t believe it happened. Was it real, though? Is this even real? Ugh, what am I even saying—”

“Marinette.”

“Huh?”

Chat Noir grabbed her face with both of his hands and pulled her into a fierce kiss. Marinette had raised her hands, as if to push him away, but instead ended up resting them on his chest. This one was nothing like the one they shared last Saturday. Or the one-sided kiss from earlier that day.

This time, Marinette fully sunk into his lips. Whatever softness and hesitance had been there the first time they kissed was gone. Instead, there was a sureness of their actions. The knowledge that they both wanted it and felt the same way for each other. That this was what they desired.

Perhaps she was complicating herself too much. Perhaps it was pointless to keep making a big deal of such things. She was sure that the claws that softly caressed from her face to her hair was enough to simply let every doubt go. Who cared about such trivial things when the boy she loved had just slipped his tongue into her mouth?

Just like she was feeling overwhelmed by discovering that Chat Noir was Adrien, chances were that he would feel the same way when he found out she’s Ladybug. Of course, she still hadn’t told him, but who cares right now?

He would care, a voice that sounded very much like Tikki responded in the back of her brain.

Dammit!

“Wait, no!” Marinette squeaked, pushing herself away from him. “What are we doing?!”

“I don’t know!” Chat Noir responded, in the same manic tone as her. He then proceeded to crouch, with his hands in his hair.

This was a disaster. It was clear she wasn’t the only one freaking out. And that was without her own confession. Marinette couldn’t imagine how much worse this could potentially get when he finds out she’s Ladybug.

Oh, that’s gonna be fun. She groaned internally.

“Okay,” she said, softening her tone. “Okay, okay. Let’s just… Let’s take a step back. You said telling me your identity was your plan?”

“Of course!” Chat Noir said, in a matter-of-fact tone. And finally letting go of his hair. “I had to tell the girl I’m in love with my—”

But he stopped abruptly. And Marinette tensed.

They stared at each other.

Did he just…?

“Lo-love?” The word came out as if said by a chipmunk.

“I-I, uuh…” Chat Noir seemed to be at a loss. Like not even he knew where that came from. “Love,” he said, with a look of realization.

His eyes quickly turned to her, and he was back on his feet.

“I’m in love with you, Marinette,” he declared. “I am so stupidly, insanely and ridiculously in love with you.”

Marinette could have sworn the ground beneath her feet turned into mushy, fluffy clouds. Her own body felt lighter than a feather. This had to be a dream. The two boys that she had fallen in love with were one of the same, and he returned her feelings? That just like her, he fell for her on both sides of the mask?

“Pinch me,” she breathed out loud.

Chat Noir turned a new shade of red. “Huh?” he said nervously.

Knowing him, Marinette was sure his mind was already in the gutter. She shook her head, trying to figure out a more coherent response to what was the most important declaration Adrien ever made.

Adrien. Chat Noir. Now, officially, the one and only love of her life.

“I know it’s a lot,” he continued, “and it’s okay if you don’t feel the same way—”

“NoIdo!” Marinette blurted out. Looking at Chat Noir’s bewildered face, she tried to soften her features. “I mean, I really do feel the same way. It’s just…”

My secret identity, she finished mentally. It was the last obstacle left for them to have an honest relationship.

“You’re wondering about Ladybug, aren’t you?” he suddenly said.

Marinette cocked her head. “Huh?”

“I know I said I loved her,” he continued, oblivious to Marinette’s confusion. “But the truth is that, while I do care about her, with you I have so much more that I could never have with her.” He took her hands in his. “While Ladybug is brave, you are so much braver. I’ve seen you fight off akumas and rescue people, even when you don’t have superpowers.

“You understand me in ways I have never felt understood. You’re always the word of comfort I need. Somehow, it’s like you always know what to say to make me feel better. And to be better. Marinette, you inspire me to be a better person and superhero. And, you like my puns! No one else likes my puns.

“What I’m saying is that I rather be with someone who appreciates every part of me, at any moment. Both when I’m at my highest and at my lowest.”

Marinette was dead. She had to be dead and sent off to Heaven to be hearing such beautiful words from the person she had dreamt of for so long. A little weird, because he was explaining the reasons why he chose her over her alter ego. Nevertheless, she knew what he meant, and that was all that mattered.

“Oh, Adrien,” she let slip. “I knew you could be poetic, but that was…” She sighed.

“You called me Adrien,” he whispered, slightly closer now. “Does that mean I’m outta the woods?”

“I-I…”

She was sure she had a speech of her own somewhere in her mind, but the intoxicating smell of Adrien made her lose her words. She could feel his breath even closer to her lips. Oh, if he knew who he was actually kissing—

“Wait!” Marinette pulled back suddenly. I can’t kiss him! Not yet! Not until…

Until I tell him my identity.

“Wait, I can’t do this. Not yet.” She hastily added the last part, to make sure he didn’t think she was rejecting him. “There’s something I have to tell you first.”

“Okay? What is it?”

“I just… need a minute.”

Marinette pulled away from Chat Noir and started pacing the small balcony, trying to build up the courage to say it. Something that would have been so much easier if she didn’t already know he’s Adrien.

“Okay, I can do this,” she told herself. “It’ll be fine, because I’m fine. And if I’m fine, he’ll be fine.”

“What’s fine? Now I’m freaked out.”

“I’m sorry,” Marinette squeaked, turning back to him. “Okay. Okayokayokayokay. I can do this.” She took a deep breath. “Chat Noir, there’s something important I have to tell…”

But her words were left hanging, her attention on a glare behind Chat Noir.

“What is that?”


Chat Noir turned around, looking to where Marinette was pointing behind him. On the rooftop of the next building, there was a glare shining off a…

Camera.

As soon as his eyes locked on the lens, the man behind it jumped and immediately started running.

Unfortunate for the photographer, Chat Noir was seeing red. Just when he thought things were finally settling. Without skipping a beat, the superhero vaulted to the offensive building and chased after the man.

The paparazzi ran through the entrance leading to the staircase. The door had almost closed, when Chat Noir yanked it open. He looked down to see the man already two flights down the stairs. With the agility of a cat, Chat Noir ran on all fours, skipping at least five steps at the time, and bouncing off the walls to speed up his turns.

In less than four turns, Chat Noir pounced on the paparazzi.

“Cataclysm!” he yelled. Without hesitation, Chat Noir grabbed the camera, disintegrating it in his hand.

“What the hell, man!” the paparazzi gasped. “You have any idea how expensive cameras are?”

“Maybe you should have thought of that before invading my privacy!” Chat Noir snapped back. “How dare you take pictures of Marinette in her own home. That is her private property. Her family could sue you for this.”

“That terrace is plenty visible for anyone on a rooftop,” the man argued.

Chat Noir growled, grabbing the paparazzi’s shirt and pulling him close.

“I swear to you,” he whispered menacingly, “if you dare try something like this again, I will make you regret it.”

“Never knew Chat Noir was in the business of making threats, considering you’re supposed to be a superhero.”

“I’m a hero to anyone who needs saving,” Chat Noir said. “Even if it’s not an akuma what they need saving from.”

The hero then dropped the paparazzi on the floor and pointed at him.

“You stay away from Marinette.”

The young man gulped. Nevertheless, he ran off down the stairs without another word. Chat Noir took several calming breaths and headed back to the rooftop. From there, he could see Marinette walking around the balcony, looking on every direction. Probably checking for any other paparazzi.

It was a reminder of another important reason of why he wanted to tell her his identity: they no longer had to risk getting caught as Chat Noir and Marinette. It was far easier to explain her friendship with her classmate than one with a superhero.

With one last sigh, Chat Noir vaulted across the buildings, landing safely on the girl’s home.

“Did you get him?” she asked.

“I may have destroyed his camera.” As if to confirm the fact, his ring beeped.

“He must’ve not liked that,” Marinette cringed.

“It’s his own fault for invading our privacy.”

“He still saw us, though…”

There was a pause, as Chat Noir processed what she said.

“You really think he saw us kiss?”

“I think it’s very possible.”

They stood awkwardly for a minute, both wondering their next move and embarrassed that some one else might have seen them kiss. Especially when they weren’t sure of what they were. Were they a couple? Were they still friends? Would they become more than friends?

“Maybe it’s best you go,” Marinette said quietly. “I don’t think we’re safe hanging out here anymore.”

“Clearly,” Chat Noir scoffed. “Good thing I don’t have to be Chat Noir for us to hang out anymore.”

“Riiight. About that,” Marinette said, immediately making the boy freak out internally. “You think we could meet up tomorrow for lunch? There’s something I really need to tell you, but right now, I don’t think it’s safe here.”

Chat Noir mentally let out a breath of relief. “Yeah, that sounds like a good idea. Right now, I don’t even dare to go into your room. Although, can’t you just call me?”

“I want to say it in person,” Marinette cleared up. “Plus, I accidentally left my phone in my locker, so I wouldn’t even be able to call you if I wanted.”

“Gotcha.” Chat Noir gave her finger guns. “So, tomorrow?”

Marinette nodded. Chat Noir had been about to lean in, hoping to give her another kiss. But the way her eyes shifted to the side reminded him that it wasn’t safe. So he backed up to the railing instead.

“I guess I’ll see you around then, Princess,” he bid.

“Will do, chaton.”

He gave her one of his trademark toothy grins, just as he climbed the railing and vaulted away. As he jumped across the rooftops, the events of the day unfolded in his mind. The first kiss, the cage, the reveal, the spray bottle, the second kiss, the confession…

Chat Noir couldn’t believe he admitted to being in love with Marinette. He had been so careful to take it easy. But when the moment of truth came, the word simply slipped out. Yet he was happy it did.

While the day hadn’t exactly been what he imagined, it still felt like a dream. One that had plastered a seemingly permanent smile on his face. Because, for the first time ever, there was a real chance he was going to be in a relationship with someone he was in love with. Like something out of a movie.

Sure, there had been hiccups here and there, but at the end of the day, he wouldn’t have to hide any part of himself. Because that last, amazing kiss with Marinette just made this day the best one he’d ever had so far. And there was no silly scandal that could ruin his mood.


The next morning, Marinette was tumbling around her room as she got dressed, hoping she wouldn’t arrive too late to school. Since she left her phone in school, she had no alarm to wake her on time. When she looked at her computer after getting up, it showed she only had fifteen minutes left for class.

She sped down the stairs and out the apartment, ignoring her mother’s insistent calls behind her. Down on the sidewalk, she could see a crowd of reporters making their way towards the bakery but ignored them, instead taking advantage of the fact that they were later than usual.

As Marinette arrived at François Dupont, she went up the steps two at a time. By the time she got to the entrance of the noisy school, she had to stop for a minute to catch her breath. After all, she didn’t want to look too winded when she saw Adrien again.

Still getting used to that, she thought, finally able to stand up straight and walk her way to the lockers.

Except that it got oddly…quiet.

Marinette looked around the school, only to notice most of the students were staring at her. Which was something she was not used to as a civilian.

Oh gosh, did I forget to wear pants?! She patted her legs, making sure they were covered by fabric. Her shirt and jacket were also in place, so she hadn’t accidentally worn her pajamas to school. Was it her hair? Nope. Face? Didn’t seem like it.

Marinette slowly walked towards the lockers, trying to not make eye contact with anyone. Yet, she could still feel hundreds of eyes following her every step.

She could feel her heartbeat increase. Almost like she could sense something very bad was about to happen. But then again, how many times had she made things seem worse than they actually were? Yes, that must be it. She must be paranoid.

With a deep breath, she opened the door to the lockers… Only to find her entire class in the middle of a heated argument.

“You don’t know what you’re talking about!” Alya yelled at Chloé.

“Oh, pah-lease. You can defend her all you want. Doesn’t change what she is: a lying, wretched—”

“She’s not a liar,” interjected Lila. “I know what a real liar sounds like, and she’s not one.”

“Of course you would know, Lie-la,” Chloé sneered.

“How many times do I have to repeat the same thing.” The voice of Adrien came from the farthest point of the bench between the locker rows. “You’re crapping on the wrong person.”

“And since when do you curse?”

“Since I got done with all this.”

“You weren’t even supposed to be involved,” Nino chimed in next to him.

“Ugh.” Chloé raised her arms. “Why does everyone refuse to see what’s right in front of you?”

“Because she’s not like that!” Nathaniel spoke louder than he usually did. “She would never.”

“She can be careless, though,” Rose said quietly.

There was a sudden loud gasp in the room, and a lone ‘ha!’ from Chloé.

“Rose,” Adrien said, aghast. “You’re not seriously agreeing with Chloé, are you?”

“Not fully agreeing,” Rose tried to amend. “But you have to admit she’s far from—”

But as her eyes wandered through the room, she suddenly caught Marinette’s gaze. Her mouth shut, and her cheeks turned a deep shade of scarlet. The rest of their classmates turned to follow Rose’s line of sight, and a chorus of noises of discomfort invaded the room.

“Speak of the she-devil!” Chloé cheered.

A deafening silence followed. Marinette looked around at the people she never thought to catch talking about her behind her back.

“Why is my integrity being questioned when I’m not here?” Marinette asked.

There was an exchange of looks between the classmates. Some very pointed looks between Alya, Nino and Adrien, that showed more worry than embarrassment. Marinette’s heart thudded louder.

“She has to see it,” Félix, who had been in the corner, spoke up.

“What are you doing here?” Alya followed immediately, rushing up to Marinette. “I’ve been calling you for like thirty minutes to tell you not to come.”

“I left my phone in the locker yesterday, remember?” Marinette defended herself. “I have to see what?”

“No,” Adrien intervened. “She should wait before she sees it.”

“What difference does it make?” Chloé groaned. “She already did it. It’s not like it’s a surprise to her.”

“I’ll decide what I see and don’t see,” Marinette said firmly. “See what?”

Alya took out her phone, but hesitated. “Why didn’t you have your phone today, of all days.” She muttered miserably.

“Can you guys please leave?” Adrien begged.

“No way,” Kim responded, as if speaking for the whole class. “Marinette’s gonna need a lot of support when she sees it.”

Could Marinette’s heart get any louder? At this point, it sounded like a bong that had gone up to her ears. Meanwhile, Alya bit her lip, as she tapped the screen of her phone.

“You guys are scaring me now,” Marinette admitted. “What is so bad that you think I need support?”

There was a tap on her arm. Alya was handing her phone over.

“It’s… It’s bad.”

Marinette frowned. Nevertheless, she took the phone. She looked at the screen, where a player was ready, paused in what looked to be the Margot and Dorian Show. What could those two idiots have to say after the success that was the interview last Saturday?

She watched with eyes that wanted to roll hard. That was, until a few seconds in, when Marinette let out a heart-shattering gasp.