“Your eyes are green.”
It was a downright stupid thing to say and Marinette knew it was stupid even as she said it. Because she knew perfectly well that Adrien’s eyes were green—she’d known from the very first day that his eyes were green with very vague amber flecks. She’d written a poem about the very same eyes and stared at them regularly via the pictures she had stuck up all over her walls.
“Uh, yeah,” Adrien agreed, looking a bit dubious as he stared down at her. “Always have been.” He said it kindly, but even so, Marinette found herself blushing at her own idiocy. Turning away, she ignored how he continued to watch her for a moment, before he returned his attention to the conversation that had originally been going on between the four of them—him, Marinette, Alya, and Nino. Adrien had turned to her to ask her about something, but she found that she couldn’t remember quite what.
It was probably for the best that he hadn’t pursued it further. She was having a bit of a crisis, as it would turn out, despite the fact that she was doing a pretty good job of hiding as much (or so she hoped).
Chat Noir’s eyes were green too.
This, of course, she’d always known, because his miraculous changed his eyes so they matched Plagg’s. She’d found this out when they’d been fighting Reflekdoll the day before, when she’d used Chat Noir’s ring herself. Her own blue eyes had been masked in the same green, any and all traces of her natural color hidden away.
And though they’d been far too preoccupied by their enemy at the time to show it, she’d been startled when she’d finally encountered Chat Noir using her own miraculous. Not because the sight of Mister Bug had been alarming, but because as she’d leaned in enough times to talk to him, she’d come to the realization that Chat Noir’s real eyes were green too.
But so what? Plenty of people had green eyes. Well, not plenty. It was one of the rarest eye colors in the world. The bright vibrant color that Adrien had inherited from his mother was even rarer than the normal. Yet, somehow, Chat Noir had eyes of an almost identical hue.
It could just be coincidence, of course. Of all the people in Paris, there were sure to be some that had a similar eye color to Adrien no matter its rarity.
None of this had really occurred to her at the time, but it’d burrowed into the back of her thoughts without her realizing it, which was what had left her so stupidly startled when Adrien had turned to look at her.
Though she was far more familiar with Adrien and his face than she was Chat Noir’s without the mask (obviously), Mister Bug had flashed through her thoughts the moment Adrien had turned her way.
Which was what had her in a bit of a panic.
What, exactly, had Mister Bug’s eyes looked like? They’d been very similar to Adrien’s, she’d noted that at the time of Reflekdoll. But how similar? As similar as his height was to Adrien’s? And his hair?
What about his voice? Did they have similar voices?
Why couldn’t she remember?
She saw both Adrien and Chat Noir at least every other day. If they had similar voices, certainly she’d have noticed.
“Hey, Marinette, you okay?”
She released an incoherent noise as she flailed back, once again startled by Adrien, though this time in a more physical sense. He’d placed a hand on her shoulder, which she’d slipped out from underneath, and was now watching her with concern painted over his expression.
Imbedded in those green eyes.
“Oh yeah,” she said, laughing uncomfortably as she did. “I was just dinking—I mean, thidracted—I MEAN, DISTRACTED!” She smiled. “I was just thinking…”
Adrien laughed lightly, looking at her as he often did when she couldn’t be understood—with total sympathy, if not with some underlying puzzlement. Like he just didn’t quite get her, but had made peace with the fact.
She supposed that was her own fault.
“Everyone’s headed to class,” he explained, gesturing toward the stairs.
Which was when she saw it, that flash of silver.
Reaching out, she found herself grabbing him by the wrist before she pulled his hand up so she could get a better look at his ring. There didn’t appear to be anything special about it—just a silver ring with a circle carved in the top. There were four tiny prongs that surrounded it, the same as the black cat miraculous when it was active. But different from what the ring had looked like when she’d worn it. Hers had been rose-gold and more delicate in shape.
All this flitted through her thoughts in but a second, before Adrien was yanking his hand rather harshly out of her hold.
Looking up at him, she saw unease apparent in his expression as he held his other hand over his ring, hiding it.
“Where did you get that ring?” she blurted.
“I… uh… It—It was a gift,” he blundered out, before tossing her a smile that was clearly quite fake, even for Adrien. Adrien, who smiled even when there was nothing to smile about in that soft, understated way that Marinette had long since realized had been hammered into him by constant politeness and expected manners.
“From who?” Marinette pushed.
Adrien’s smile faltered, his expression finally beginning to harden into something akin to defensiveness. “Why do you want to know?”
Which was when Marinette realized that perhaps she’d gone a little too far. “Oh, no reason,” she lied, supposing it was her turn to throw out an exaggerated, fake smile. “I just notice you wear it all the time and was curious.”
“It’s really important to me,” he said steadily, still looking quite defensive as he flicked his attention back to the stairs. “We should go to class or we’re going to be late.”
“Oh, right, of course,” she agreed, laughing stupidly as Adrien finally dropped some of his guard to smile back. He headed for the stairs shortly after, Marinette following silently behind. She held the strap of her purse rather tightly, if only because she knew Tikki was inside.
Tikki knew Chat Noir’s identity. Just like Plagg knew her identity. Certainly if Chat Noir was… was Adrien Agreste, Tikki would have given her a hint or something. But, then again, kwami weren’t supposed to compromise the identities of their owners. Perhaps this rule stretched to the identities of other miraculous holders, even if the spell that kept them silent didn’t.
Ugh, there was no point in thinking about Tikki. Her kwami was strict with the rules and even if Marinette had a suspicion, she wouldn’t verify it one way or the other.
Besides, she was getting ahead of herself. There was no way Adrien was Chat Noir. They were totally different, even if they did look a little bit alike (a lot alike, but whatever). Chat had said it himself—he was the “cunning, ultra-charming Chat Noir,” full of humor and rash decisions.
Adrien… Adrien wasn’t like that. Adrien was charming, sure, but in a totally different way than Chat Noir claimed to be. Adrien was kind and considerate and… and Chat Noir was those things too, but that was beside the point! Adrien wasn’t cunning… even if he did sometimes sneak out or come up with excuses to get out from under his father.
Okay, the main point was that Chat was a goofball with a bad sense of humor and Adrien, well… if he had a sense of humor (which he did, obviously because everyone did, Chat Noir’s opinions aside), she had no idea what it was like.
Adrien never told jokes or goofed around or…
Had much of any fun, really. The most fun he seemed to have was when he was hanging out with his friends, and even then he was more subdued than most. Always trying to do the right thing and always stepping aside to let other people have a chance.
Despite being a model, he was always happy to let someone else take the lead and have the spotlight. Just like Chat was always doing for Ladybug, seemingly with little qualms on the subject.
Ugh, now she was just getting confused. So maybe Adrien and Chat Noir had a few things in common, yet they were also very different. She wasn’t exactly sure how they were alike or different, because the longer she thought about it, the more convoluted the whole thing became.
She just needed to stop thinking about it. So they had the same eye color and both wore a ring on the same finger. Big deal. That didn’t mean they were the same person.
But what if…
Personality differences aside, Marinette found as she sat through class that day that she’d opened up a rather big can of worms as far as what her brain was willing to entertain pertaining to Adrien and Chat Noir.
If—and this was wholly fictional, or so she told herself—Adrien was Chat Noir, then it’d make sense how their miraculouses had gotten switched. She’d had to remove her earrings for their shoot and since Adrien had ended up modeling, he’d have removed his ring to wear her own line of jewelry. After all, she couldn’t advertise jewelry that she hadn’t designed.
So that would mean he’d have had to keep his miraculous close by, just like she had. Maybe… Maybe Tikki and Plagg had been in the car together? Could that—No, that couldn’t possibly—No way.
It was just too… surreal.
Adrien wasn’t Chat Noir. No matter how any circumstances lined up, that was just… It’d be too serendipitous.
Determined this had to be the truth, Marinette squashed any active thoughts on the matter. Or she attempted to, once lunch came around. Yet, as soon as their regular group of four came together, her brain was making constant comparisons between Adrien and Chat Noir. But even with all their similarities, she couldn’t completely prove her theory one way or another.
Probably because it wasn’t true.
But what if…?
“Huh?! What?!” Whipping around on Alya, Marinette was wide-eyed as she stared at her disapproving best friend, who had her hands on her hips and was giving her the stink-eye.
“We were trying to decide where to go to eat,” she explained. “Are you okay with going to the park?”
“Oh, yeah, sure, that’s fine,” Marinette replied. “Sorry, I was a bit distracted.”
“We could tell,” Nino muttered, clearly looking between Marinette and Adrien. Which had Marinette blushing while Adrien looked on in confusion.
“Then let’s go! I’m starving!” Alya announced, grabbing Nino by the hand before leading the way out of the school doors. Marinette followed about a step behind Adrien, her finger pulling at her lip thoughtfully as he walked on in front.
Those jeans he wore really were tight. It really provided her a good view of his… “figure.”
Did they have the same butt? Adrien and Chat? She’d never really paid much attention to Chat’s butt, despite seeing it all the time. Adrien had a cute little butt though. For sure Chat had a—
“Hey, is that your bodyguard waving at us?” Alya asked, jarring Marinette’s thoughts as the group looked over at the curb, where Adrien’s gorilla of a guard was waiting beside his car.
“Yeah, but I didn’t think…” Shoulders slumping, Adrien pulled up his phone and checked his schedule. “Oh…” he said, his spirits dropping even further. “I guess my father rescheduled that press conference the akuma messed up last week for today.”
“So you gotta leave?” Nino asked.
Adrien sighed. “I guess so. He’d be really angry if I skipped out on it.”
“You know, your dad sure expects a lot out of you all the time,” Alya observed. “It wouldn’t be the worst thing if you skipped out once in a while.”
“Maybe not, but the more I screw up, the less I get to do the things I wanna do. Besides, it’d be irresponsible to start skipping things like press conferences and I don’t want to mess up my father’s reputation.”
“You really do have a lot of responsibilities, don’t you?” Marinette found herself saying, her own spirits dropping alongside his own.
He cast her a small smile. “It’s okay. I don’t mind most of the time.” Yet his words didn’t sound the least bit convincing. Still, he waved to them in farewell before breaking away, the three of them watching as he met his bodyguard and ducked inside his car. Soon enough, they were driving away.
“He won’t be back for the rest of the day, probably,” Nino said, sounding quite irritated himself. “I feel like I hardly see my best bud most of the time.”
“He is busy,” Alya said. “I wonder if he ever gets to relax. I know that if I lived with Gabriel Agreste, I’d be uptight all the time.”
“Yeah, that’s true,” Marinette agreed, her tone sounding somewhat hollow, even to herself. “It must be hard, having to live up to those standards all the time.”
“His dad thinks he’s perfect though,” Nino pointed out.
Marinette frowned and turned to continue walking on to the park. “That makes it even worse,” she muttered to herself, the worry in her gut so heavy it felt like she’d swallowed a dozen stones.
“Good evening, Kitty,” Ladybug said as she plopped down on the ledge beside him. He immediately turned to look at her, his smile wide as he beamed.
“Hello, Bugaboo. Fancy meeting you here.”
“We always meet here.”
“Still, I’m grateful.”
Rolling her eyes, Ladybug hummed in amusement, ignoring the urge she had to stare at Chat in the same way she’d been staring at Adrien all morning. She looked out over the rooftops instead, the sun beginning to set and casting the city in a vague, orange glow.
“So where are we patrolling today?” he asked. “The next section of the city on our map? Or did you wanna go over last night’s locations again, just in case we missed something? You seemed a little uncertain about that neighborhood at the end, since we were both getting pretty tired. Then again, Hawkmoth isn’t exactly a subtle guy, so we’d probably have notice—”
“Do you like being Chat Noir?” she asked suddenly, only having been half-listening to his chatter. Her question seemed to take him by surprise, his lips pulling into a frown.
A frown that looked just like the frown Adrien had worn earlier that day…
“What I mean is,” she continued, “do you like having the powers that you have?”
“Uh…” Chat pooched his lips as he thought. “I mean, sure. I think the powers I have fit me pretty well. You said it yourself that I’m a simple, straightforward guy.”
“You wouldn’t want my powers then?”
His previous thoughtfulness turned to unease. “Why do you ask?”
“I just… You’ve used my miraculous now. I guess I just wanted to know what you thought about it.”
He was quiet for a moment, clearly needing time to think of an answer. “I think that… that your powers are amazing, and it was fun being you for a bit, but I don’t really think I’m cut out for it.”
“Why do you say that?”
“Isn’t it obvious?” He grinned good-naturedly. “I wasn’t exactly as good at using your powers as you were at using mine.”
“But your lucky charm did work,” she pointed out.
“After you told me how to use it.”
“My Lady… What is this about?”
She stared down at her lap. “I don’t know. Nothing, really. I’ve just been in kind of a weird… mind-space today. It’s probably best to just ignore everything that I’m saying.”
“I’d never want to do that.”
She flicked her gaze back up to his, taking in his sincere expression despite how it had her heart fluttering inside her chest.
“Why do you pretend like you’re some irresponsible hooligan?” she finally dared to ask.
Her question clearly took him aback, his head rearing a bit as he digested her question. A series of expressions crossed his face then—surprise, confusion, offense (that was short-lived), before confusion again. Finally, he opened his mouth to speak, but then no words came out.
“I know you’re not,” she continued, when it was clear he didn’t know what to say. “You act like being Chat Noir is easy and like everything we do is a joke, but if you really felt that way, you wouldn’t work as hard as you do.”
He gaped again for a while longer, before finally managing to gather some words together. “I feel like I’m in trouble for something,” he admitted. “But you’re not exactly saying bad things about me.”
“You’re not in trouble. I’m just trying to understand, I guess.”
“Well… it’s like you said. I act like it’s easy, but we both know it’s not. I guess I figure that being serious all the time doesn’t really help anyway, so why bother?” Another frown pulled down on his lips. “I have to be serious all the time, when I’m not Chat Noir. And it makes life pretty miserable. We’re already fighting akumas, so why make it worse than it already is?”
“I have a hard time imagining that you could be serious all the time when you’re not transformed,” she admitted.
“You wouldn’t recognize me, I promise you that.”
“Why do you have to be serious all the time?”
He shrugged, seeming to mull over her question before he answered. “I guess there’s just a lot of pressure for me to be perfect all the time. Anytime I mess up, it’s like—like…”
“I just have to be careful, because if I mess up too badly, I might—My father—It’s complicated. He’s not exactly known for being lenient when he thinks things aren’t going his way. I feel like I’m on thin ice with him most of the time as it is, just for doing normal things everybody else my age is doing. And I don’t mean bad stuff. Just going to the movies or hanging out after school. Stuff like that. And it’s stupid because I do exactly what he says all the time and he has this huge schedule with all this stuff I have to do every day and if I even let my grades slip a little or if I complain that I’m tired, he assumes it’s because I’m hanging out with my friends too much or staying after school too long, even though I barely ever do those things anyway. So I can’t ever be less than perfect because if I am then he takes away everything that I do like doing and blames my friends. So… yeah… that’s why, I guess…”
He was clearly frustrated, but also seemingly embarrassed by his rant, his cheeks a little redder than usual.
“Sorry,” he said, voice quiet. “I shouldn’t have said so much.”
“It’s okay,” she replied softly, her own thoughts running over everything he’d said, though likely for different reasons than he was imagining.
“You have enough to worry about,” he continued, before managing a small smile. “After all, I know what it’s like now, to be you. Being Ladybug is no easy job.”
“Your job wasn’t easy either, for the record,” she countered, before winking. “Even if I made it look like it was.”
“Coulda fooled me,” he admitted. “You were doing everything right even when I was screwing up.”
“You weren’t screwing up that badly,” she comforted.
“I was,” he insisted. “But it’s okay. I screw up all the time as Chat too.”
“You do not!”
“I do too!” He laughed. “You’re the one always pointing it out!”
“Well…” She bit the inside of her cheek.
“I said it’s okay,” he replied.
“I don’t want to make you feel bad…” she admitted, which sobered him immediately.
“You never make me feel bad,” he said straight.
“You were just saying how your father—”
“You’re not my father,” he interjected rather sternly. “I mean, I’ll admit, I was a little worried when we first met, but you don't—you’re not…” He sighed. “I guess I feel like I can screw around with you and you’re not going to be mad about it. Most of the time anyway.”
“Sometimes you enjoy it a little too much.”
He grinned. “Gimme a break! You’re the only person I get to goof around with.”
“Why don’t you goof around with your friends?” she dared to ask.
His grin went a little sideways with unease. “Ah, I dunno. I guess because, like, when I’m not Chat Noir, I always… have to be careful?”
“But if your father isn’t there…?”
“I guess…” He turned away, as if he was trying to hide from her in plain sight.
“Chat,” she said sternly.
“When I’m, you know, me, I can’t just—I have to be careful—If someone sees me and I’m not doing exactly what my father expects…”
“How would he even know?”
He cringed. “I can’t really explain. If I do, you might figure out who I am.”
An admission that took Ladybug by surprise despite the fact that she was already sniffing out more than he was likely anticipating that she could. But maybe she’d kind of tricked him with her questions, even if he had no way of knowing that.
She felt a little bad.
“Alright. But you shouldn’t be so paranoid about your father. Your friends are missing out, not being able to be as annoyed by you as I am all the time.”
He leaned closer, bumping their shoulders together. “That just makes you even more special.”
“Uh huh, sure.”
“It’s true, Bugaboo. You’re the apple of my eye. The light of my life. The yin to my yang. The—”
“Alright, I get it,” she cut in, shoving him playfully away as she did. “I guess you do deserve your miraculous—sounds like you’d have a mental breakdown if you had to deal with my responsibilities on top of your civilian life.”
“Yeah, probably,” he agreed, before whipping around on her with concern behind his mask. “Don’t let anything I’ve said change how you treat me,” he said quickly. “I know your miraculous is way more important than mine and I always want to help you in any way I can. I don’t view being your partner as a break from real life or anything like that—if you need anything from me, you tell me.”
She couldn’t help her own smile then. “Oh I will, don’t worry about that,” she promised, which visibly relieved him. “And just because you can’t purify akumas doesn’t mean you’re not as important as me. I need you here with me and I wouldn’t have it be anyone else.” She reached out and patted him on the thigh, which had him practically purring as he leaned back into her personal space.
“I’m irreplaceable?” he asked coyly.
“Of course,” she agreed. “I don’t think I could ever find a Chat Noir that’s as much of a clown as you. It takes special talent to mess up as smoothly as you do.” Reaching up, she tapped him on the tip of his nose.
“Good thing you always fix everything afterward, huh?”
“Someone has to clean up your messes.”
“Now, hold on, sometimes you make the messes too,” he argued. “Your plans do get a little out of control sometimes. And who was it that broke the Reflekdoll and sent it rampaging?”
She scoffed. “You’d have done the same thing.”
He looked down at his claws far too innocently. “Doubtful.”
“Whatever,” she said, waving him off as she did. “I did what I thought you’d do.”
“And you did it beautifully,” he assured.
“You’d trust me with your miraculous again, then?” she asked teasingly.
“If I had to. Though I must admit, I prefer you as Ladybug. I’d rather gaze into those blue-bells Tikki gives you than the same-ole green I’m used to.” He cocked his head then, looking curious. “Weird that Tikki didn’t turn my eyes blue though.”
It took Ladybug a moment to digest his words. “Wait, what do you mean?”
“Your eyes,” he said. “I thought back when we first got our powers that they were your real color, but then I realized it was probably a perk of your transformation. You know, like how my eyes change. Not that I’d prefer your blue eyes to whatever your natural color is—I’m sure you’re stunning no matter what.”
“Uh, while I appreciate that, what makes you think Tikki changes my eyes? She didn’t change yours, so why would she change mine?”
“Well, because you—I thought—” He appeared abruptly uncomfortable. “I just assumed because you’re, you know…”
“I’m what?” she asked, laughing lightly as she did.
“You’re… Asian?” he asked, flinching back some as he did.
She crossed her arms over her chest and gave him the stink eye. “So I can’t have blue eyes?”
“No! Of course you can! It just occurred to me that it was unlikely your natural eye color was blue. But obviously I’m an idiot and you can have blue eyes if blue is what you actually have. Do you have blue eyes? Is that your natural eye color?”
“Well now I don’t think I should even tell you.”
“Reasonable,” he agreed. “I understand. Honestly, you could have no eyes and I’d still think you were the most beautiful girl in the world.”
“Don’t get ahead of yourself,” she warned flatly.
“But, wait, how do you know Tikki didn’t change my eyes?” he asked.
“Because she doesn’t change my eyes!”
“So your eyes are actually blue!”
“Wow,” he said then, leaning a little too close again and causing Ladybug to shy back. “It should be super easy to find you then. How many Asian girls are there in the city with natural blue eyes, really?”
“Enough that you clearly haven’t found me yet,” she said, a warning clear in her tone.
Not that he heeded it. “Obviously, I was looking for the wrong clues.”
“You’re so oblivious, you wouldn’t know me if I was standing right in front of you.”
“I don’t know,” he said, tapping his chin thoughtfully. “This new information is pretty important.”
“No, it’s not,” she said hastily, scrambling back and onto her feet as she did.
She’d said too much. She’d said way too much. Not that she should be at all surprised. She’d been the one to start it, asking him all sorts of personal questions in her quest to somehow debunk her own stupid theory. A theory that she was quite sure wasn’t so stupid after all. And while Chat could be pretty dense and Adrien even more so about some things, she wasn’t sure she was going to be able to escape this mistake.
She should have just agreed with him and said Tikki changed her eyes. She was so stupid! If Chat’s eyes could lead her to his identity, then of course her own would do the same for her. Yeah, green eyes were rare, but blue eyes on a Chinese girl—even a half Chinese girl—were a dead giveaway.
And here he’d been assuming they were fake. An obvious thing to agree with and she’d totally blown it.
“Ladybug?” he asked, clearly picking up on her distress.
“C'mon,” she said, throwing her yoyo out as she did. “We should have started patrolling a long time ago.”
Vaulting off the edge of the building, she didn’t dare look back.