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What being "just a friend" can do

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Adrien was glad: it was almost summer time, he was not having any photo shoot for the whole day and had miraculously been granted the permission to hang out with his friends after school by Nathalie since his father was coming back from another business trip only the next day. In those amazingly rare conditions, the boy would have time with Alya, Nino, Kim, Alix, Rose, Juleka, Mylène, Ivan, Max, Nathaniël, Marc, and Luka, who had been deciding to hang out for the whole afternoon at the bakery with Marinette. The plan was fairly simple: the friends were aiming for a good time all together, talking, eating pastries, jamming music and playing games. At first, everything was perfect! When Adrien arrived, everyone was busy and happy.

While Luka and Nino were talking about music, Kim and Alix were trying to beat each other at Mecha Strike IV and Max was reciting the statistics chances of both players to win.

Alya was talking with Nathaniël and Marc about their next comic book, enthusiast when they mentioned their wish to include Rena Rouge and Carapace in it while Mylène, Ivan, Rose, and Juleka were helping Marinette to prepare and bring up gigantic plates of sweets, refreshments, and napkins, along with pillows and blankets for everyone to get comfortable enough. When everyone was, Marinette finally sat to take a look at all of those amazing persons she was lucky enough to be close to.

Because of her responsibilities as Ladybug, it was rare for her to be able to host such a fun time with all of her friends and she had missed it, no matter how tired she was. The night before, an akuma had ruined her sleeping schedule and she had spent most of the day trying to pass some exams. She needed a break and when her class had proposed to take a well deserved time all together to relax, Marinette had proposed to make it happen at the bakery.

The pigtails girl knew that she needed to be prepared to host such an event, so she had read the last comic book of Nathaniël and Marc to be sure that if they were to talk about it, she could follow, Nino’s and Alya’s favorite beverages and snacks were ready to eat and Marinette had religiously looked at the last updates on the Ladyblog, listened to Nino’s last tunes and was more than ready to comment on them and to encourage her friends if needed. The aspiring designer had remembered that Mylène and Ivan, being the cuddly couple they were, needed a comfy spot to cuddle through the afternoon so she had made sure to bring them the biggest cushion she owns and had hidden all the fragile things she had into a safe place…after all, Alix and Kim could be pretty dangerous if they were to become too excited and throw bets at each other. Her blue eyes had shone brightly when she had told Luka to come along and that he could bring his guitar if he wanted to and her smile was warm and content when she proposed to Rose and Juleka to let them have fun with their make-up kit on her, reassuring the two excited girls that if they wanted to play with her hair too, it would be her pleasure to let them experiment. For Marinette, it was a little bit like a spa moment and it was helping her relax. When Juleka and Rose were done having fun applying make-up on her face and playing with her hair, the results were also often inspiring her for some designs, so she would gladly let the two girls have their fun. Marinette’s video games collection was proudly displayed near her controllers too—Max, in particular, would want to play and she would be happy to oblige—and the Jagged Stone playlist in her phone was ready if anyone wanted to put some music to dance and that Nino wanted to dance with Alya without being the Dj. Even Adrien had been able to make it, so she had prepared the selection of pastries accordingly, knowing how restrictive his diet was. She had memorized his favorites sweets and their flavors, made them herself and tried new recipes too. It had been a lot of work to make sure that everything was going to be perfect, but now that the afternoon was beginning, all in all, the girl was enjoying her time.

Surprisingly, at that moment, Adrien chose to come to thank her for the efforts she had deployed to host the little party, telling her how excited and glad to there he was. Marinette was going to melt, she knew it: Adrien was sitting next to her—close to her!— and was thanking her, eyes sparkling, voice kind and looking at her with affection…but then, the inevitable happened… Giving her a light hug, he says the only words who could crush her bubble of happiness.

— You’re such a fabulous friend to us, Marinette!

Her heart sank and she tried not to flinch. That was it, again. The same refrain to a tune playing on the radio, but it was not like Nino’s or Luka’s music…It was more like « Impossible » by Shontelle…and it was as if Adrien was deaf. The words « a friend to us » were resigning in her mind and it was as if each one was a knife in her heart… The girl could not even be a particular friend to him! Sure, she should have anticipated this; after all, she was « Marinette, the just-a-friend-girl-who-had-a-helpless-crush-on-him »…and he was not even conscious of it. Being friend zoned once was hard, but being friend zoned each time he was calling her a friend with this sweet content smile…The girl tried really hard to keep up her previous cheerful demeanor, but suddenly, Adrien’s hug was like an acidic poison and she needed to get out of his embrace. Pushing him back, she tried not to look too panicked or sad when she gets up, bitting her tongue and not looking at the boy who just broke her heart again without even seeing it, but her voice was trembling when she answered him.

— I…forgot… something downstairs, I’ll be back… You… all just…. continue to have fun, okay?

The girl must have spoken a tad too loud because suddenly, the room went awfully quiet and she felt the weight of her friends’ gazes on them. Marinette liked to think that she was brave in and out of her superhero suit, but that was too much to handle. Without waiting for anyone’s reply, she then ran as fast as she could, trying hard not to cry, letting behind her a confused Adrien and a crowd of angry friends. In fact, back in Marinette’s pink room, everyone was looking at the blond as if he had kicked a puppy.

Ivan tried very hard not to scold and hugged Mylène instead. Marinette had rooted for them from the start and it was paining them to see that she was the one cheering but still alone. Their friend was always supportive and encouraging and when she had understood what was slowly happening between Ivan and Mylène, she had been nothing short of amazing at trying to get them together but they could not help her much with her own love-life. There was nothing more they could do and they knew it, but each time, it was painful to see their cheerful classmate being so in love and still alone.

Marc and Nathaniël were sharing the same thoughts and held hands with each other silently. Max, for once, said something unhelpful while everyone was exchanging sorry gazes.

— There was a fifty-fifty probability of that happening.

Adrien was lost; what was this all about? What was troubling Marinette so much in receiving thanks and compliments?

— Guys, what’s wrong with Mari? I just thanked and complimented her and she just…ran away…

The model turned his question specifically to Nino, to whom he was always referring to in case of misunderstanding, but the way the DJ took off his cap and looking at him with a grave face, he understood he had messed up and that Nino was seeing it but would not say a thing.

— Dude…I know it’s not your fault…but you’re oblivious as hell.

Moving his hands while answering, Adrien felt confused.

— I just don’t get it! Marinette was fine before I talked to her and then…

The blond was beginning to worry. Visibly, no one was going to answer his question, so he got up and stated his intentions.

—I’ll go after her, see if she is all right.

— No.

The emotion behind Luka’s one word and the icy serious glare he sent his way froze Adrien who gulped. Usually, Luka was calm, collected…but with Marinette feeling down, Luka was in a state the blond had rarely seen and it was like a punch in his gut. He knew how much Luka loved their Mari, but it was like an electric shock each time the musician was reaching out to the designer. Somehow, it was eating at him that Luka was always the one to make Marinette go better when he was unable to get her to be comfortable around him…

— I’ll go.

— But…

His objection was coming too late, the other boy was already gone.

Luka was rarely angry and he knew that it was not Adrien’s fault for not having romantic feelings toward Marinette, but each time the amazing girl he liked had her heart broken by the blond model, the musician was torn between two courses of actions: he could either go after the aspiring designer who had the sweetest melody of all or he could make Adrien realize what an ultimate blind moron he was. As tempting as the second option was, it would upset the already shaken girl and Luka was not having it in him to even just imagining causing pain to her, letting their other friends deal with Adrien, who was now trying to sneak out somewhere safe to transform and go after his friend.

In the boy's mind, Marinette would perhaps prefer to talk to Chat Noir about what was eating at her so much…with his bad luck, he should have anticipated that his subtle attempt would be stopped. And not only by one person. Kim and Alix, once both their minds were set on the same things were an unstoppable team and at the moment, their minds were set on not letting Adrien escape and be a torn in their Mari’s side. Kim knew what rejection was feeling like. It has already lead him to be akumatized and he didn’t wish it to anyone and certainly not to their kind and sweet class president, so it was natural for him to join his pink haired friend in her move to stop the sneaky blond boy to make more damages. Alix was exasperated and no matter how worried their local blond idiot was, she would not let him go after Marinette while she was clearly upset because of him again. Gripping his shoulders to prevent him from moving an inch while Kim was placating the door with his massive body, she looked at the model dead in the eyes.

— No buts. You did enough like this, Agreste.

— But what did I even do?!

Alya face-palmed, and tried to breathe in and out slowly… Positive thoughts, Alya, she was telling herself. It’s not because Adrien made Mari cry again that you ought to kill him…Nope, he’s the best bro of your boyfriend and he’s a sunshine socially clueless mess…Breathe in, breathe out…Ho and bullshit with the breathing thing!vHE MADE MY BEST FRIEND SAD AGAIN, THE IDIOT! The reporter could not help herself and for the first time since Adrien had come to public school, Alya lost her legendary patience with someone else than Chloé, storming out of the room without a word, visibly trailing after Luka and her best friend.

— Adrien, you really don’t see it?

Rose then used that sweet voice of hers to both give the oblivious boy a last chance at redemption and to cover the fact that Juleka was right behind Adrien and that he should be worried about it if he knew because Luka’s sister was truly upset.

— What am I missing, Rose?

Upset enough to slap the model’s head, cross her arms against her chest and look grumpy enough to scare Hawkmoth to death…which gave Adrien the chill. Apparently, it was a family trait in the Couffaine’s household to be scary when angry…

— But what did I even do?!

Marc exchanged a look with Nathaniël who nodded.

— He definitively used the F***** word…

— The what?! I didn’t say « Fuck » to Mari!

Nino hoped for his best bro that he would understand fast because everyone was losing their patience and he tried to help the best he could.

— Not that word, bro, not that one… it also begins by « F » and when you say it around Mari, it breaks her. Each time.

A word that was breaking Marinette? Adrien felt uneasy and rubbed the back of his head nervously. He was a shitty friend to never had noticed that a specific word could make Marinette feel so crappy… But if this was so painful for her, why hasn’t she speak up?

— Why didn’t she talked to me about it? I could have stopped saying it! I mean, I never want to hurt her.

As he slowly tried to process the clues, the boy was pacing around the room under the watching eyes of his classmates, mumbling to himself.

— Wait a minute…an « F » word… It can’t be fabulous. It’s not a thing to break down because of this word, right? I told her that she was a fabulous friend…and if this is the word that broke her…it means….She really hates me, doesn’t she?

His heart broke and he felt crushed. What had been an opportunity to hang out with his classmates had become a social disaster. Looking at the floor, he tried to understand what he could have done to make their class representative hate him that much…Until Mylène’s shy voice made Adrien turn in her direction.

— No, she doesn’t hate you…

And Ivan tried to reassure him by adding his own knowledge on the matter.

— It’s quite the contrary…

Mylène suddenly let out an exasperated sigh, took Ivan by the hand and lead him to Adrien. Marc and Nathaniël, Juleka and Rose came closer too, just like Max, Alix, and Kim, then Nino joined them until the model was in the middle of a circle of tensed but determinate friends. They had been silent for a long time and felt like there was no way out of this mess. It was time to tell him and everyone in the room was hoping that their Mari could forgive them. Adrien, sweaty palms and heart beating like crazy knew they had a bomb to drop on him and it was making him as nervous as them, so when Rose slowly said his name but nothing more because she was searching for the right words, he bites his lips and closes his hands in fists.

— Guys, we’re killing him, I think we should get over with this already.

That was Nino, acting as his best-bro life-saver once again ad Kim, God blessed him, was the one to start the ball.

— What do you always answer…

Only to be interrupted by Alix, who was firmly convinced that she needed to say that part.

— whenever someone ask you what you think of Marinette?

Well, that was an easy question, really and the boy answered what he had always answered without seeing what the problem was with it…

— That she’s…

Everyone then cut him to put emphasis on what the problem was.

— JUST!

— A friend…?

Then Max placed his glasses correctly on the top of his nose.

— Funny fact; when the person you’re saying that about has a crush on you, that’s called friend-zoning someone, Adrien…

As Ivan and Mylène nodded solemnly, Adrien felt dumb. Yes, he knew about the friend-zone, that’s where Ladybug was putting Chat Noir constantly and man was it hard! Suddenly, Adrien got an epiphany… Yes, that was it, totally!

— So Marinette got friend-zoned by someone, and each time I say that she remembers it? Yes, that’s it!

The boy’s exclamation had given hope to his classmates but saddened him, and his friends were hoping that he would understand himself, each of them praying a different god…That is until he opened his mouth to say the most stupid thing.

— Who’s the guy so that I could punch him for hurting our Mari? I’m gonna kick his ass! This dude must be the reason why it’s so hard for me to become better friend with Marinette!

Juleka facepalmed, Rose pinched herself to be sure that this catastrophe was really happening and that it was not a nightmare concocted by her mind to hurt her romantic heart.

Kim felt glad that Alya was not there, otherwise, Adrien would be dead by now and would all suffer for this.

Nino could not believe his ears and the only word able to pass through his lips was a desperate dude, followed by broken sounds of incredulity, while Marc and Nathaniël were whispering with Ivan and Mylène.

— It’s kinda scary when he talks of himself at the third person…

— I agree.

— How could a sunshine child be so…?

— Blind, dense?

It was Max that made the more articulate and accurate comment, as usual.

— Adrien Agreste’s only computed and downloaded 50% of the problem…perhaps that we need to reboot the battery. Or should we reprogram him?

— I’m on it!

That was Alix. Alix approaching the blond from behind…and Alix losing her cool enough to literally kick Adrien’s ass. Turning back to face the pink-aired girl, the boy was angry.

— OUCH! WHAT WAS THAT EVEN FOR?!

Kim answered in a comprehensive tone, putting one hand on Adrien’s shoulder.

— You wanted to kick the ass of the boy friend-zoning our Mari, right?

Adrien nodded, blinked twice…but was still utterly lost and Alix, subtle and patient as she always was totally lost what was left of her control on her temper.

— Well, it’s not something you can do to yourself, so I give you a foot! Plus, Max wanted to reboot your battery, so here! That’s it, too late, I did it! Do you understand now, Agreste?!

Gaping like a fish out of the water, Adrien all but squeaked his surprise. He must have misunderstood something, or this was a dream, a hallucination or something but if it was, he would not have been slapped by Juleka or kicked by Alix, so what in the sweetest hell was happening?! The air was heavy and the tension in the room was like a big toxic fume making the model totally panic even more than before.

— What?! Marinette. Me. Crush?! I mean, Marinette got a crush on me?! AND EVERYONE KNOWS IT!?

— She never was a subtle one, bro…

Everyone nodded and suddenly before the young man could compute correctly all the pieces of information he just had been told, a crying and angry voice was heard from outside…

— I AM « FRIENDZONE » AND I’LL MAKE SURE THAT YOU’LL SEE ME AS SOMETHING ELSE THAN JUST A FRIEND FROM NOW ON!

At the same time, the Ladyblog was announcing that a new akuma was on the prowl in Paris. From the blurry live video Alya had been able to take, the bunch of friends saw a pigtail girl with puffy eyes and ruined mascara in a pink uniform decorated with broken hearts…

— Oh shit no…

— Don’t tell me…

— SHIT! Marinette got akumatized!

Now, Adrien knew it for sure: he had really messed up, needed to transform and to find a way to gently deal with his broken-hearted friend. He had been so blind and now…Now kind, sweet, awesome Marinette was paying the price of his mistake. It was all his fault and the fact made him feel as if guilt was a full delivery truck that had rolled on him. He should have seen how she was feeling, he should have transformed faster and ran after her, but instead…Instead, all he could do was to tell her in his head what was in his heart: « Wait for me, Princess, your idiotic knight is coming to the rescue! I’ll find a way to save you, Mari…I’m sorry…so sorry… »

Chapter Text

Adrien was not sure how he escaped the bakery to transform, but there he was, a guilty alley cat on a mission. Vaulting from rooftops to rooftops, his only thoughts were that he had messed up big time and that kind, sweet Marinette was not supposed to become akumatized because he had failed to see the real nature of her feelings and was already head over heel for his Lady. Even if he had not been, the boy realized, he would have not been able to believe that someone was loving him for his real self and not for his name, reputation or look. Adrien had lacked unconditional love since his mother’s departure and at first, to be able to make friends had blown his mind so much that romantic love had just not seemed like an option…When he had received his miraculous, experienced complete freedom for the first time in his life, and met Ladybug, it had been a revelation. With her, there was no need to pretend or to be the perfect everything and it had given him hope: she was treating him like anybody else, not more, not less. Vaulting out there with the mask and his spotted partner by his side was the air he always needed to truly breathe. In those conditions, how not to fall in love with the polka-dotted heroine and hope that she too could fall for him? His feelings were strong and deep, sincere… and not for the first time, it was hurting him because for one, she was not returning them…and because now because his faithful heart had set itself on a girl out of his reach, he had involuntarily hurt one of his first friends. This was wrong, terribly wrong. His Princess was deserving better than that, after all, she was doing to make sure that both Chat Noir and Adrien were all right whenever she could….Marinette was a cheerful, positive, awesome person. She was a believer, a fighter, a winner in her own way…and his civilian self had stripped her of that all with a few words over and over without thinking twice about it. How many times had he said, talking about her, that she was ‘’just a friend’’, breaking her heart and crushing her hopes so casually in a few breathe? Sure, he was in love with his Lady and would have never lead the aspiring designer on, but still! If he had known about it, the boy would have told her not to hope too much from him…

Marinette was one of his first friends and no matter how good of a friend she was, well, in his head, she was still that, a friend from both sides of the mask covering his face…
Someone whit whom he could joke around, talk, eat and play videos games with…
Someone he had hurt, repetitively caused pain to and somehow, he knew that the pigtail Akuma he was going to face was her.
The girl who gave him her lucky charm, kissed his cheek and who was often finding a way to brighten his day or, at least, his lunch.

Of all the people Hawkmoth could have chosen to akumatize, he had chosen one of the most kind-hearted, generous, funny, confident, clever, crafty girl out there and she would make a hell of an akuma, one he would feel bad to even tackle to the ground because he had already hurt her so much that even his Lady’s miraculous cure would not take care of her heart…and that one more bruise on her caused by him would make him cry. Of all the akuma he had caused since he got his miraculous, this one was the hardest to accept. Being dumbly oblivious was never a quality, but that day, it was even worse than an inconvenience, it was almost a fight against himself that would be playing itself when he would have to face Marinette and the consequences of his own blindness.

— Chat Noir!

Luka’s voice stopped him dead on his track as the musician called out to him and the worried broken look on the other boy’s face gave no choice the black cat of Paris than to listen to whatever Juleka’s brother had to say. Landing near him the hero tried to keep his cool in front of one Marinette’s closest friend…and it was everything but easy when said friend was looking as if her pain was hurting him too.

— I’m worried about Marinette. You remember her, right? She’s the awesome civilian who helped you out with the Evillustrator.

Adrien nodded. Forgetting Marinette was impossible, be it as Adrien or as Chat Noir, even before he knew about her feelings for him, but he could not let anyone know that, so he kept his mouth shut.

— Apparently, everyone falls for her except the one she really wants. Anyway, her crush rejected her again and I’m afraid that she became… the akuma you’ll have to face today.

The worry and hurt in the other boy’s voice were like a knife stabbing Adrien under his super suit. There was Luka that was caring so much for Marinette, and still, she was crushing on a piece of paper with his face on it. God only knows why the sweet designer was losing her time admiring a crafted version of him…

— Don’t worry, Ladybug and I…we’ll save her.

What a hypocrite, saving Marinette from his own harshness and hoping for the best because his entire class would kill him afterward… If that was the plan, he could only pray for mercy. A weak smile graced Luka’s lips, but it didn’t reach his eyes. Adrien knew about this kind of smiles, those only used when you need to appear natural, showing the whole world how fine you are supposed to be while your heart is broken, your mind blank and your soul numb. Feeling like the worst bastard on earth, he friendly squeezed the other boy’s shoulder, but not a word passed his lips; they were sealed by unease. It’s Juleka’s brother’s voice that cut the silence in a soft tone.

— Thank you, Chat Noir.

How much Adrien wanted to forget about how much this was all his fault and what he needed to do in order to get everything under control again! Luka’s kind look on him was not helping. It was the kind of trusting look Chat Noir didn’t deserve when Marinette was concerned because his own civilian self had been blind, stupid and made a mess for his superheroic self to try to fix with his partner. The blond boy hoped that since Luka was done filling him in, he would say nothing more and let the black cat of Paris deal with the aftermaths of the catastrophe of the day, but the musician was not done: there were still a few more daggers to unknowingly throw with an encouraging voice.

— You know, Marinette always talk highly of you. She always says that Ladybug would be nowhere without her partner…

An explosive pain shattered the hero when the other boy’s words sank in. Would his Princess still think the same if she knew the number of akuma he had caused? Thinking of it…He just wanted to disappear and stop the storm of questions to tear his brain into uneven pieces. Would she still think highly of a moron, blind as a bath and not even able to recognize that an amazing girl was crushing on him, even if he was undeserving and unworthy of her attention? And more importantly, if she knew who was freeing his true self behind a black feline mask and paying her nightly visits, would the trapdoor still be open for him? Would his Princess still let him land and knock again at her window, good or bad day and all? Would her balcony stay their secret meeting place to share pastries, conversations and funny moments? Those questions were killing him and he knew that the longer he waited to answer them or to save the day, the more his remorse would eat him alive. All he wanted to do was to beg her to forgive him…which was not a favour he was deserving her to grant, so instead, he silently prayed Luka to end the torture, repeating broken words like a mantra: let me go to her. Stop talking…Please just let me escape… let me go make things right. But Juleka’s brother was still not done with the agonizing amount of love and concern he was showing.

—This girl sees what’s really inside people, you know…She spends time with them, she learns to know them, to love them for what she perceives in them, no matter if they see it or not…Adrien could have been ugly and poor that she would have loved him anyway….

Chuckling brokenly, Luka looked at Chat, who was petrified by what he was hearing. The musician told him the last thing Adrien was thinking he would hear.

— Mari…she always talks about his kindness and his strong moral compass; how he’s so rich and lonely but still so gentle, so solar, so sincere… The boy doesn’t even know that she’s not after the image of him, otherwise, she would have never let go of the credit she could have taken for his blue scarf … Marinette… she just…she find what there is to love in other people, what there is to protect, cherish and sometimes to make grow….and she give, again, and again, and again…

A big lump formed itself in Adrien’s throat, and he needed all of his years of faking to feel perfectly fine when he just wanted to disappear not to cry on the spot. He could find so many memories of the Marinette Luka was describing… In fact, he could not imagine her otherwise, but as a beautiful dream turning into an unexpected nightmare, he would have to see her otherwise when he’d face her…

—I just hope for all of us that this will survive after everything. She forgives easily and she is strong, but it’s always to let ourselves be hurt again and again by someone just because we love them, forgiving, hoping for the best…it’s…it just can’t last forever. She’ll go back to him, you know? Mari will still bring him a coffee and a fresh croissant in the morning because she knows those are his favorite, not expecting more than to watch his green eyes sparkle and a thank when she dreams of a kiss on the cheek, a hug and a way to hold his hand. She wants him to be happy…just as much as I’d like her to be. She deserves it…

This was way worse than he was fearing…Luka was so sure that Marinette would forgive him and still be there for Adrien, no matter how painful it was to be so close and yet so far away from him… He knew the feeling too well: himself would forgive his Lady anything no matter if she was able to love him in return or not and no matter how hurtful it was to never have her to be his, but satisfying his heart by being hers entirely: devoting all of himself to her, trusting her completely, respecting her boundaries too… But wait a minute…What this meaning that…? If Marinette’s feelings really were as genuine as Luka was painting them, Adrien Agreste was a blind idiot who turned down someone who was not in love with the idea of the perfect him, but with who he was deep inside. He had wanted so much for someone to see the real him, to love him for who he was and what did he do when it happened? He friend zoned her everyday…knowing perfectly how hard it was to be in this position, himself being there in his relationship with his Lady. His Lady who never saw him had never taken him seriously or made some time to spend with Chat Noir to learn more about him…while his Princess did it all and more, so much more. She did something that no one was doing to that level: trusting him, believing in him on both sides of the mask, encouraging him and making sure he knew he could always count on her. Somehow, the boy got the feeling that he had taken her for granted in so many ways! Sure, he knew how far Marinette was willing to go for others but had he once took the time to really realize how far she was willing to go just for him? Now he knew that the answer was very far. Perhaps that imagining that she was so equally devoted to everyone’s happiness was a way to deny her loving heart because he was afraid not to be special enough for her to see him otherwise…But this was not the question. There was no more time to beat around the bush. He could have punched himself in the face, kicked his own ass and still be angry with himself. Suddenly, everything was clear: Adrien Chat Agreste Noir needed his Princess in his life and to ensure this, he needed to stop whining about how much of a damn idiot he was and to go save her. She needed him and he would make sure to be the hero she believed him to be, the friend she needed…and the boy who would never assume again so fast that her status was ending with ''friend''. The adrenaline in his veins was flowing and his tail gave an impatient twitching flick. Voice and baton steady, he let out the words he had told so many times while defending Paris, his loved ones and the strangers he had the duty to protect.

— I’ll bring her back safe.

This promise was one he was making to himself more than to Luka because he wanted to bring his Princess back to him, and not to the talented sweet musician who just admitted without saying the words how smitten he was with her. Without another word, the masked hero got away before his newly found resolve could begin to break down under the assault of his own unexpressed self-doubts. He was Chat Noir. Marinette was believing in him, counting on him, needing him. It was time for him to believe in himself too and to become the knight his Princess needed him to be.

Chapter Text

Alya was rarely that nervous. For the first time in the history of Paris’ tendency to host an akuma, the city was way too calm. Bitting her nails, the Ladybloger was at a loss to what she was even doing outside, trying and failing to trail her now akumatized best friend. As it been any other akuma, the red-head would have followed the screams, the crumbling buildings or at least, the unusual phenomenons happening to locate Hawkmoth’s new champion in town…but there was nothing unusual going on. No leads from the usual alarms sent by other Parisians, nothing, nada, niet. All of their friends were roaming the streets, Luka and Nino and herself being the most intensively concerned. Worrying for other people was something Marinette always had been so good at, and for once, it was everyone else worrying on her account…but it was not helping in any way.

Roaming the streets during an attack was a strategy that had never left Alya out of action before…until that very moment. Clenching her hands in fists, she felt defeated. In fact, the word ‘’attack’’ was not even the good one to describe what was not happening! The reporter sighed. Sure, everyone knowing that there was an akuma somewhere was not taking any chance and had gone to safety as soon as informed of the situation, but except for the lack of people outside and the nervous peeking, the city of love was undisturbed, unlike Alya’s mind. Where could her bestie be? And doing what exactly? Strangely, she was not sure that Marinette was really thinking like an akuma. When she had flown to god knows where, she had only claimed that Adrien would see her as more than a friend, right? It had been a firm and positive affirmation. No stammering, no incoherent mumbling nor than any hesitation. Her declaration from earlier had not been a battle cry, more of a convincing statement. She had not mentioned that she needed to get her hand on Chat Noir’s and Ladybug’s miraculous for Hawkmoth or anything similar. In fact, since her outburst, no one had heard of her, but Alya knew better. Her girl was a planner, a person used to work methodically to get awesome personalized results. She knew her friend like the back of her hand and it would count for something!

A reporter always uses facts to get everywhere, she remembered herself. Unlocking her phone, Alya took a quick look to see if anyone of their class had seen something. A tiny bit of Ladybug’s luck must’ve reached her because the only message popping on her screen was helpful, even if just a tiny bit. A few minutes ago, Luka had sent her a message to tell her that he had lost track of their Mari, but had met up with Chat Noir, who was also patrolling in the neighborhood of Adrien’s house. So she was not near that area…The sidewalk was a good place as any other to find the proper solution to this mental jigsaw puzzle, so the girl sat down and took a moment to really think. If she was shy, sweet, considerate Marinette who was getting a power to get Adrien to like her, what would this power be? Marinette hated to lie or to force people to do as she please, so Alya pushed aside every theory of mind-controlling power. Illusions were a possibility, but again, Marinette was not one to go for something else than the real deal and she wanted things to truly go well, not just to disguise pain and anger until it fades by itself, which was anyway something she had never done. Each time she was done panicking and whining for between a few minutes and a day, she was back on her feet with another idea, or at least a positive attitude leading Alya to try to push them together and as close as possible. Yet here they were, after what was feeling like the last straw. Hiding her face in her palms, Alya tried very hard not to feel too depressed, but it was hard…

The Ladybloger felt guilty. She had hoped that one day, her schemes and plans were going to make the blond model notice the girl who was crushing so hard on him…no matter how many times those had failed in the past, it had never occurred to Alya that there was a certain number of rejections and failed attempts that would trigger so many negative feelings inside of her bestie that even she, bright and positive even if anxious, could get akumatized over. For the third time in less than one second, she blamed herself. They all knew how Adrien was socially awkward, missing even the more obvious clues or not knowing how to respond to some situations! And still, the whole class was just staying silent, not really letting Adrien be free to answer or not to Marinette’s feelings because he was not aware of them! After all, what was it not to love about their Mari? She was generous, funny and kind. She was good at many things and always willing to help and defend her friends. Sadly, there was nothing Alya or the rest of their friends could do to make the boy develop romantical feelings for their Mari. Even telling Adrien how the designer wanna-be was falling for him…it was not the class’ secret to share, it was solely Marinette’s. At least, this is the excuse they had come up with, but…now, the Ladybloger was not so sure that it really was a good point anymore. Not after what had just happened. Why had the class kept Marinette’s secret for so long? What is even a secret at this point? Not for them, but they were all totally fluent in the ‘’Marinette’s mixed signals and blabbering language’’ enough not to need a dictionary. After all, most of them knew the aspiring designer since they were kids…they knew her by heart and loved her, she didn’t have to prove herself to them, they were already friendly smitten with her…

Suddenly, Alya got hit by the biggest strike of inspiration and got her cellphone out in the second and tapped furiously on the screen of the electronic device as if it could solve the whole situation. And perhaps it really could. Marinette wanted Adrien to one to her willingly, to prove herself to him and ultimately, to confess without looking like a fool, but more importantly, she would make anything to make Adrien happy and be able to woo him properly…including planning a marvelously romantic and over the top date like she always dreamed of. And if anyone had heard the girl rant about it, it was Alya, so she knew exactly what the plan was! It was time to text Chat Noir and Ladybug.

When Chat Noir’s baton beeped to signaled a message, the cat-like hero hoped with all of his heart that it was his Lady telling him she had found Marinette, but when he took the time to recognize the ringtone, he looked at Alya’s message with both attention and anxiety.

‘’Marinette always wanted to take care of Adrien, to make sure he was happy…and she would always talk about to take him to a romantic date in this little secluded garden with the fountain. Here’s the map. We really need our Mari back, so please, just…Good luck, Chat Noir.’’

Smiling sadly, the boy took off in the direction of what he had recognized as his mother’s favorite park… This was going to hurt…and in more than one way.

Chapter Text

Each akuma was different: some of them were pretty ridiculous, like M.Pigeon, and were repetitive. A few, like Glaciator had rather unique and sweet weaknesses. A few of them were trying to make the world better in their own crazy ways… The most common cause was someone pissed off by Chloé or truly angry because of one of the mayor’s daughter scheme, though. But as Ladybug and Chat had learned, there was generally three kinds of akumatized villains who really were hard to fight: those who wanted to make everyone share their state and feelings, those who were specifically seeking revenge, and those who were accepting Hawkmoth’s power to change the state or situation they were in. Usually, the two first categories were more troublesome and most likely to try to make puppets out of the rest of the town, but the last one was more tricky to stop… mostly because the reasons for their akumatization were understandable, but also because they were not always causing the city to turn upside down.

The leather cladded hero had no difficulty to determinate which category his Princess was belonging to…Even as an akuma, Marinette was as kind as she was crafty. Her powers were still unknown to him and somehow, it was comforting. For almost the first time in his superhero career, Chat Noir was walking across Paris during an akuma attack as if nothing had happened. Aside from her earlier declaration to change how her crush was seeing her, she had attempted nothing like the previous akumas had. There were no hurt, endangered or threatened civilians, no hostage, no damage, no crumbled buildings, no screams, no mind-controlled puppets, no army or anything similar, really… If he was believing Alya’s message, he was more likely to find a romantic setting than a fallen Eiffel Tower by the time he would arrive at his destination.

In fact, as he arrived at the park, all he saw was the akumatized girl simply organizing a cozy romantic date. She had chosen a beautiful spot there to write a list of all she needed to sway her crush and the boy felt his throat tighten. Adrien had always remembered the park to be a peaceful place and he loved it. Before her disappearance, his mother had loved to take him on long walks there. It was a well-kept secret between the two of us and neither Gabriel Agreste with his overprotective antics or the sneakiest and well-informed paparazzi were disturbing the little sweet mother-son time. The park was peaceful and mostly quiet, except for the bird’s songs and the other sounds of nature. It was not crowded, for there were modules for children to play, only lovely walking paths, fountains, and flowers…and now a beautiful Princess in pink softly whispering to herself, taking him out of his memories.

— I bet this boy was never romanced properly…But I’ll change that! Enough cowardly miscalculations, enough stuttering and running around like a chicken without a head. I will give him the time of his life like I always wanted to!

Gently tapping her pencil against her chin, she was so lost in her thoughts and planing that she never realized she was not alone anymore. Being one with the shadows of the little forest surrounding the main fountain kept the boy hidden, but still able to listen. If needed, Ladybug could find him by using the trackers included in their weapons, but at the very moment, it really was not what was at the forefront of his mind. Not when she was talking about her plans to woo him the way she had always wanted to…

— I’ll need music and chocolates, the best I can come up with…or ice-cream? Either way, it has to be passion fruits flavored. It’s his favorite, he doesn’t get it often enough and he deserves to be pampered and taken care of! Would some pains au chocolat be better? I’ll just get the three of them! Or…oh, even better! I will bake them! But it’s not enough… What could I possibly…? He loves Ultimate Mecha Strikes and so do I, so we could go to an arcade together just before coming back here to eat our sweets! And after our date, I really need to reach his father too. He should have more time with the man. After all, he doesn’t see him as often as he should and I know how it pains him…

Hidden behind a bush, the boy spying on her felt butterflies spreading their wings to fly in his stomach. Was Marinette really talking about trying to reach his father so he could have time with his son…? She had seen his pain no matter how hard he tried to hide it with a mask of sometimes false happiness and had decided to do something for him? Who knew that the shy wanna-be designer was planning something so big, so special for him? Certainly not him. Awe and gratefulness were screaming at him to pounce on her and hug her senseless, but he couldn’t, he knew it, and was fighting hard to stay there, still and hidden, no matter how much he wanted to join her, which was more than he could tell. He was not sure what he had done for the amazing girl to love him, but he sure as hell wished to have known sooner. Sure, now that he was aware of her crush on him, all the odd habits and unclear signals she had around him—stuttering nonsense half sentences, tripping on air when he was around, blabbering and panicking whenever he was looking at her too long— were making perfect sense…but at first, he had been so sure that she was hating him, loathing his mere existence…or was just plain disgusted by his presence, which was not better, to be honest.

Suddenly, the akumatized girl gasped, half-scaring the masked boy, as a purple mask covered her face and intense pain made her pant and fall to her knees, curling up as if to keep the hurting waves at bay. Chat Noir could not hear what Hawkmoth had to say to her, but he heard her answer loud and clear.

— I get it, you want your jewelry… I’ll take care of it…

When she got able to breathe, she made a tired smile, and in one of the softest voices Adrien ever heard, she ended her sentence, making his heart leap in his chest.

—…but my love first. He always comes first… This is something that ‘’just a friend’’ would not go as far as to do. Perhaps that this way, you’ll see how much I want you to be happy, dearest.

The way she had said it…lovingly, sweetly…it made him shiver and purr and for one moment, no matter how brief, he wished he could really be only another ordinary civilian willingly giving a chance to the woman who loved him enough to go to this extent to let him know how much precious he was to her. In his current state, he had half the mind to let her do her business. But looking at his gloved hands and suited-up body, he let out a sight. The only problem was that he was not having the choice: she was an akuma and when she’d see him, she’d ask for his miraculous, he would tell her no and they’d fight. It was not as if he could just de-transform and go out with her on the marvelous date she was organizing, no matter how tempting it was.