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All I Want For Christmas

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Sunday 1st December 2019. 11.54 a.m.

Marinette slowly drifted up towards consciousness as she nestled in the warm cocoon of her blankets. No alarm had jarred her awake this morning, no shout from her mother that she was going to be late, no explosions that she needed to investigate, just a nice and natural trip towards being awake.

It had to be a Sunday.

The bakery was closed, there was no school, and most of her friends knew better than to contact her before noon unless it was a life or death situation. It was the one day of the week when she could sleep in.

For a good few minutes, Marinette lay in her blissful half-asleep state and contemplated rolling over and drifting off again. What a wonderful way to while away a Sunday morning, falling back into her dreams of...

Wait?

Dreams!

Her eyes snapped open as her dreams came rushing back into her mind in startling clarity, leaving her no option but to roll over and bury her face in her pillow and scream. And scream, and scream, and scream.

Nope. No way. She was not going back into those dreams today, no thank you. Or at least not until she’d done a lot more screaming and talked through things with Tikki.

Things had been so busy yesterday with school and chores and shopping and working in the bakery that she hadn’t had the time to talk about it. Hence why her subconscious had tormented her all night with those dreams.

She was blaming the akuma.

It went against everything she’d been arguing for the last two years but right now she didn’t care. She was blaming the akuma. It was all his fault. If it hadn’t been for that akuma then she wouldn’t know what she knew now.

She wouldn’t know Chat’s identity and things would be just fine.

She let loose with another scream into her poor, abused cat pillow.

It was all the akumas fault. Worst akuma ever! Because of course the akuma would be just tricky enough to eat up all her free time for the day, and of course she and Chat would be down to their last minute by the time she was able to cleanse it, and of freakin’ course they would choose the same alley to detransform in, and of course there would be no time for either of them to come to terms with this new knowledge because both of their phones began ringing as they were reminded of the many, many things they had to do for the rest of the day.

Quite honestly, it was a miracle that Marinette had been able to keep this scream contained until Sunday morning.

Adrien Agreste was Chat Noir.

She screamed a little more, internally and externally, and she allowed her mind to run through all the catastrophising and the major freak out that she had been delaying.

Though she had never admitted to it, Marinette had always been curious about the true identity of her partner. How could she not be? She trusted him with her life on a daily basis, she trusted him to work alongside her and save her city and her friends all the time, how could she not be a little curious about who was under the mask.

She had just never, ever, ever expected to already know him. That was one doozy of a shock.

Adrien was Chat!

It just… how did… her brain was just refusing to process it. How could it be real?

How could sweet, gentle, and polite Adrien be the cocky, brash, and outgoing Chat? How could her daft, goofy, dork of a partner be her serious, studious, and unfairly overly-talented classmate? And how the hell could they be the same person when Chat was always seen out and about in the city and never had any issues getting to an akuma attack while Adrien was always horribly busy and excessively over-scheduled with every minute of the day accounted for?

She gave one final scream into her pillow, letting the last of the stress and tension and shock out of her body in one shrill note. It just didn’t make sense!

Except’ she thought to herself as she rolled over to stare at the ceiling again, ‘it kinda does.’

Sure, on the surface, it seemed totally implausible, completely impossible, for two boys so very different to each other to actually be one and the same. There was no way Adrien was Chat; she remembered being so sure of it as she told Alya one day, years ago, when the journalist had been teasing her.

But she knew them both better now, a lot better, and she could honestly say that there were a startling number of similarities to them.

Sure there were physical similarities - both were blond with gorgeous green eyes, and both had roughly the same build, and they both went through a growth spurt at the same time and both now towered above her at roughly the same height - but the more she got to know both of them as friends, and the more she forced herself to think about it while cocooned in her duvet, the more she realised just how deeply their similarities ran.

Both were amazingly kind and patient, whether helping her with physics problems or consoling an akuma victim. Both had the same wonderfully awful sense of humour, even if Adrien didn’t show that side of himself very often. Both were amazingly loyal. Both had a deep-rooted sense of justice and right and wrong. Both were lonely. It was no surprise really that Chat was so over-the-top, flamboyant, and energetic when Adrien had so few outlets for that thanks to his father.

They both loved the same things too, like fencing, video games, pastries, and superhero comics. Both could talk for hours about the things they loved with the same passion, the same energy, the same smile.

It made sense.

Adrien was Chat.

Honestly, the more she thought about it, the more she was amazed that she hadn’t realised the truth sooner.

How had he sat in front of her for two years without her noticing?

“It’s the glamour magic of the miraculous,” Tikki said, yawning as she floated over from her hidden home by Marinette’s bed. She landed on Marinette’s shoulder and immediately burrowed into the warm duvet, giving a happy chirp and she settled.

“I said that out loud, didn’t I?”

“Yep.”

Marinette winced. “Sorry Tikki. Sorry about the screaming too. Did I wake you?”

Tikki shook her head. “Not really. I was mostly awake, but I knew you needed to get this out of your system. You did so well holding it all in yesterday.”

Marinette smiled and nuzzled her kwami in thanks before resuming staring at the ceiling like it could give her all the answers she wanted even though she didn’t know the questions.

Her mind was awhirl, jumping from thought to thought and memory to memory, but in the chaos only one thing stood out clearly to her.

“It's him.”

Tikki grinned. “I know.”

“I can't believe it,” Marinette laughed, positive there was a dopey and ridiculously happy grin on her face right now. Tikki’s giggle confirmed it and she quickly reached for her phone to avoid her kwami’s knowing gaze. “I just can’t believe it. Not in a bad way, because I know it is him, I saw it with my own eyes yesterday, and I dreamed about him all last night and I spent-” she quickly checked the time on her phone and groaned when she realised “-nearly an hour screaming about it this morning, so I know it's him. I meant it in a good way… in a how did I get so lucky way.”

“You're happy.”

“I am. I really am.”

“It’s like your Christmas came early.”

“It did,” Marinette sighed and lay back down, fully aware of the smile on her face. “It was a totally unexpected present, but those are the best kind.”

“I’m so happy for you Marinette!”

“Thanks Tikki.”

She allowed another happy sigh to escape as she snuggled under the duvet with Tikki, determined to linger in her warm cocoon of bedding for as long as possible before she had to get up. She had nothing planned for today so she was letting herself indulge for once. Besides, there was no way this grin was leaving her face for a while, her love-sick-for-Adrien grin as Alya had dubbed it, and she was not ready to face her mother’s curious and knowing looks when she went down still wearing it.

Marinette wondered if her mother would believe her if she said she had good dreams? Or had been fantasising about his face when he saw her gift? Or thought of another amazing gift to make for Adrien? It wasn’t like she could tell her the real reason for this grin.

She let her thoughts drift down the desk below her bed where all her Christmas presents for friends were sitting in various stages of completion. There was one there for Adrien, a Marinette-original Jagged Stone t-shirt that wouldn’t be released by the rock star for another month yet as well as the three shirt designs that didn’t make the cut. She’d got Jagged’s permission to give them to Adrien weeks ago as well as a card signed by the man himself. But there was also a special present just for Chat of a terrible Christmas jumper complete with cat puns. She’d been planning to make them both their favourite treats to go with the clothes too. But much as she knew he would love them, it wasn't enough. Not now that she knew.

She needed to do something more. Something to prove to that adorable dork that she was happy knowing it was him, to prove to him that they were still good, to show him that he was her most important person.

"You've got that look on your face."

Marinette looked down to see Tikki grinning cheekily up at her and feigned innocence as best as she could. "What look?"

"The look that says you're probably going to stay up late and lose more sleep than you should by designing something big."

"That's not a look."

Tikki just cocked an eyebrow and Marinette crumbled. There was no point lying to her kwami about anything. Tikki saw it all and heard it all.

“Ok Tikki,” she sighed. “It’s a look. But I'm not designing anything. I'm still planning.”

“Planning what?”

Marinette tried not to wince at the suspicious tone. She wasn’t that bad. Not really. Was she? “A gift for him.”

“You’ve got him two already though?”

“One for Adrien and one for Chat… but I want to give him a gift now that I know he’s both. I want him to know that I’m happy that we know now, and because I’m so glad he’s him.”

Tikki sighed but smiled and nuzzled Marinette’s cheek. “I can’t stop you when you’re on a roll… but promise me you’ll look after yourself and not pull too many all-nighters this time?”

“I can promise to try?”

Tikki just shook her head fondly. Marinette gave a wry chuckle back. When she was on an inspiration kick the passage of time was hazy at best to her. It was easy to forget things like eating, drinking, sleeping… but fortunately for her she had a pocket-sized friend always there to help her out.

Besides, she wouldn’t be spending that much time on her designs. Not this time. Her presents were all mostly finished and only really needed a few tweaks here and there. This special gift wasn’t going to take up too much of her free time either, not when she could already be using that time to spoil him and let him know just how much he meant to her.

Marinette snuck on hand out of her cocoon and grabbed her phone again and quickly wrote out a text to Adrien.

Christmas had indeed come early and she was going to use that as an excuse to spoil him with treats.

She was still blaming the akuma though. Worst akuma ever!


Adrien grinned as he lay back in the stylists chair and stared up at the ceiling. He couldn’t have stopped smiling even if he had wanted to, not after yesterday’s akuma.

Best akuma ever!

Hands down it was his best one ever, even beating the one that was giving away free chocolate for the whole fight. And he loved that akuma. He had managed to eat so many delicious chocolates while Ladybug hadn’t been looking.

But yesterday’s akumas was even better than that one! Not because of the akuma itself; it had been pretty generic as far as akumas went. No, it was the best because in the aftermath of the battle he had been lucky enough to find out the true identity of his Lady.

Ladybug was Marinette Dupain-Cheng.

The amazing and beautiful girl from his class, an up-and-coming sensational designer, best class rep ever, and one of his closest friends was actually his fearless, gorgeous, courageous and insanely creative partner.

And he thought he couldn’t fall any deeper in love with her?

Adrien did his best to conceal the love-sick sigh that was threatening to escape. No way could he explain that to his stylist and make-up team. Plus there was always guaranteed to be at least one spy of his father’s in his entourage at any given time and the absolute last thing Adrien needed was his father hearing he was dreaming about a girl.

He’d never leave the mansion again.

And he couldn’t let that happen. Not now. Not when he had been given the best present of his life. Not when he had plans to spoil Marinette like the Princess he had once called her. Not when he was determined to use this festive season as a way to show her how much he cared, how much he treasured her, how much he loved her.

He hadn’t been able to stop thinking about her since then, his every waking and sleeping moment had been consumed by her even as he posed for the cameras and showed off the clothes to perfection. She had been the only thing he thought about. He knew he had been in many conversations with people yesterday but honestly he didn’t have a clue about what they had spoken about and couldn’t find it in himself to care that it was going to come back and hurt him at a later date.

How could he care when he had realised two very important things from his musings. One, he was a blind idiot for not seeing the truth sooner. Of course it was her; there was simply no other possibility at all. And two, Marinette Dupain-Cheng was the greatest treasure on this earth and he would be an idiot if he didn’t do everything in his power to show her how much he loved her.

In truth, he had been a heartbeat away from a romantic declaration in the alley yesterday when his phone rang, followed seconds later by hers. Nathalie had been dragging him back to his modelling obligations and he could hear her promising her parents she was on her way to her bakery shift as she ran out of the alley. They had barely been able to wave goodbye before their separate duties dragged them away from each other.

Christmas was always a busy time of year for both of them. The bakery had a vastly increased volume of customers, their special orders practically quadrupled overnight, and every year they found themselves making more bûche de Noël than the year before and still running out. Adrien was usually busy with one photoshoot after another, fittings for the lines coming out for fashion week in the New Year, various galas and charity events, and putting on a show as his father’s heir for the press.

Between the two of them they barely had time to breathe. But Adrien was working on a plan that would give him more time with his Lady, his Princess, his love. He was determined to make this Christmas the Christmas she knew how much he treasured her. All he had to do was make it through the rest of today’s activities and he could start putting it into action.

Christmas was going to be amazing this year!

Chapter Text

Monday 2nd December 2019. 07.30 a.m.

Adrien raced through his breakfast - or at least he raced as much as he could while Nathalie stood at his elbow reciting his schedule to him. He didn’t need her to give him another hour long lecture on decorum and etiquette in the dining room. He also didn’t need her to catch him rolling his eyes as she recited the same activities over and over again each morning. He’d been going to public school for over two years; he knew what he was doing by now. Still, it was part of his daily routine, almost comforting in a way, and so he let her list his activities and obligations to him while doing his best to feign paying attention while he inhaled his breakfast.

School, fencing, a fitting, Chinese, talks with his PR rep, another consult with his stylist. It was just a typical Monday. Nothing new.

When she finished listing everything that was expected of him he assumed that would be the end of it. He should have known better. Very few things slipped by Nathalie Sancouer, and his luck was terrible.

“Adrien, why are you in such a rush?” Nathalie glanced at him over the rim of her glasses, a knowing look that never failed to make him confess to whatever he was doing.

Today was no different. Fortunately, he had prepared an alibi last night just in case she noticed. “I need to see a friend before school about some homework. It’s a collaboration and I just had a thought about a new direction we could go in. It would probably improve our final grade.”

“Hm,” Nathalie glanced back at the tablet and checked a few things before nodding. She believed him, as he knew she would. “Very well. I’ll call for your driver now. Will half an hour before school be enough or should I adjust your schedule further?”

Adrien grinned. “It should be ok, but would I be ok to eat at school today just in case we need more time?” She was actually offering him more time with his friends? With Marinette? This was an op-purr-tunity he was not going to pass up.

“Will you need it?”

“I don’t know until I talk with my friend.”

“Very well,” Nathalie nodded and tapped on her tablet again. “Let me know before school starts if you need to stay so I can cancel your chef until this evening.”

“Thanks Nathalie.”

She acknowledged his gratitude with a nod even as she was walking out of the door to call for his driver. Adrien didn’t care at her abrupt dismissal, he was far too used to it by now, plus his excitement at getting to see Marinette easily overshadowed any twinge of annoyance or disappointment at another lonely breakfast.

The second he was sure no one was watching him, he broke into a run and sprinted towards his bedroom. He had packed his school bag the night before and quickly grabbed it off his desk, stopping only to grab a few wheels of camembert at Plagg’s request and shove them in next to his history homework. He grabbed his kwami out of midair and shoved him into his jacket pocket before racing out of his room. He slowed to a walk as he passed Nathalie’s office before sprinting down to the waiting car the second he stepped out of the front door.

Gorilla, his bodyguard slash chauffeur, smiled and nodded in greeting. Adrien grinned right back. His smile grew even bigger when he realised that Gorilla was wearing the snowman themed tie that Adrien had bought for him as a Christmas gift last year. The man adored the festive season.

He was so distracted over the tie, and thrilled that Gorilla so obviously liked Adrien’s present, that it took him a few moments to realise they were driving the wrong way out of the gates. He barely contained a frustrated groan. Today was obviously one of those days when they took a long and winding route to avoid paparazzi and fans. There were so many security precautions to take with his trips to and from school that it was extremely rare for Adrien to go directly to school in spite of the fact that he lived three streets away from it.

It was the start of December though, and Gorilla loved Christmas and the festive season. Maybe Adrien could take advantage of that today?

“Um, excuse me?” Adrien leaned forward in his chair slightly. “Is there any chance we could hurry today? I need to talk to a friend about some homework.”

Gorilla didn’t take his eyes off the road but eventually he nodded. “Very well, straight to the school.”

“Actually… it’s my friend Marinette. Could you drop me at her family’s bakery please? The one right next to the school?” This time Gorilla’s eyes flickered up to him in the mirror and Adrien felt a twinge of guilt for lying to him. “It’s important… and I’ll bring you a Christmas treat too?”

“I’ll be parked outside to see you safely into school. And thank you.” The smile was faint, but it was there, and Adrien grinned back at him.

It didn’t take them long to arrive at the bakery. The car pulled up at the side of the road and Gorilla grabbed a book from the seat next to him, settling in to wait for Adrien to cross the road to the school once he’d spoken with Marinette. Arien smiled. Gorilla was just the best. He scooped his bag up but then paused with his hand on the door handle.

“Would you like anything special?”

“Surprise me,” Gorilla shrugged and opened his book. “Have fun.”

Adrien nodded and leapt from the car, hurrying into the bakery. His enthusiasm dipped a little when he saw just how crowded it was.

Usually the morning rush had cleared by the time school started. Everyone was buying baguettes for their breakfast or snacks to take to work with them and so the rush was over and done with in the first hour the bakery was open. But there were easily twenty people in here, gawking at the beautiful displays, clamouring for service, trying to leave without crushing their bread and pastries.

Adrien began to doubt whether showing up unannounced was a good thing. They were really busy with the festive rush. He wouldn’t be surprised if Marinette was helping her father with the baking in the back and unable to talk to him. It’s why they hadn’t been able to speak over the weekend after all. He was just toying with the idea of leaving and trying to catch her in the school locker room when Sabine caught sight of him.

She called his name happily and beckoned him to the front of the shop as she finished serving one of the customers. She’d finished with two more by the time he’d been able to get to the front of the queue.

“Good morning Adrien,” she pulled him closer and bussed his cheek in greeting. “Are you here for Marinette, food, or both?”

“Um, both?”

“I thought so. Here,” she gave him a knowing grin before passing him a box that had been stored under the counter. “You know the way up. Make sure she eats something proper before school.”

He grinned at that, now fully able to understand why Marinette often ran into class eating a croissant or a piece of fruit. “Thanks, Mme. Cheng.”

Adrien let her push him into the back of the bakery before she returned to serving customers. He waved to Tom on his way through and got a grin and a wink in return. Ordinarily Tom would grab one of Marinette’s friends for a conversation or even a bear hug whenever they passed through, but today Adrien was glad that the bigger man was occupied with kneading a batch of dough and unable to stop. He loved the attention the couple gave to Marinette’s friends but today he was on a mission to see his Lady and didn’t want any interruptions.

He was stood in front of their door when the doubt set in.

Should he really have come over unannounced like this?

He’d always been welcome here before, as both Adrien and Chat Noir, but inviting himself over for breakfast was different. Especially now that they knew. This wasn’t just a friend coming over for croissants before school, this was Chat Noir coming into Ladybug’s home to talk to her about their new knowledge… and talking about their identities was never something the two of them had done before.

Yes he had always wanted to know, and yes he had teased her a lot about it before, but he’d never forced the issue and even helped her conceal her identity like the time they had fought Lady Wifi. Yet now they knew and the first thing he did was to barge into her home to talk about it?

Adrien sighed. This was probably a bad idea.

He felt a rustling against his chest and looked down to see Plagg poking his head out of his jacket pocket in exasperation. He jerked his head towards the door with a look that clearly said ‘just get on with it’ and then when Adrien hesitated he rolled his eyes and zipped over to the doorbell, pushing it before Adrien could stop him.

Footsteps headed towards the door.

Plagg!”

“You’re welcome!” Plagg whispered as he darted back into Adrien’s pocket.

When he heard the handle start to turn Adrien felt a sudden urge to flee. He was not ready for this, he should not have here right now, he should have tried to contact her first, he should…

Marinette’s happy smile turned his brain to mush. Her beautiful bluebell eyes widened in surprise at seeing him stood there but then her smile somehow grew even more happy and warmer and he could practically feel himself melting. He didn’t even care that this one amazing girl had the power to turn him into jelly, not when she looked at him like that.

“Hi.”

“Hey,” Adrien grinned back at her. He held up the bakery box to answer her unspoken question. “Apparently, I’m under orders to get you to eat this morning.” She giggled and Adrien nearly sighed. That was his new favourite sound.

Marinette stepped to one side and pulled the door open wider. “Come on in then.”

He stepped inside, letting her shut the door behind him, and was momentarily distracted by a pink blur darting straight into his shirt. There was a small scuffle in his pocket with Adrien trying to pull away from the ticklish sensation before two kwamis darted out of his shirt and straight for the kitchen table, giggling and chittering as they went.

Marinette laughed behind him. He turned to her, intent on teasing her about whether she was laughing at him or the kwamis, but forgot how to speak a single word of French at the sight of her.

He had clearly interrupted her right in the middle of getting ready for the day but she was such a beautiful sight he couldn’t find it in him to feel guilty. Her half brushed bedhead and tired smile made him weak at the knees, and even though her outfit was incomplete it looked stunning. She had on a thick, woolen winter skirt that fell to her knees over a pair of cream leggings. The model in him knew that it would look gorgeous with a chunky-knit jumper, but right now she hadn’t got that far. She was still in an old and worn Jagged Stone t-shirt and had fuzzy pink socks over her feet.

Adrien honestly thought she was the most beautiful girl he had ever seen. Plus, now that he knew she was Ladybug, he didn’t even feel guilty about admiring her. Before, he had always felt torn. Marinette was cute and adorable and downright gorgeous but he loved his Lady and always felt annoyed at himself for being so smitten with Marinette. That wasn’t an issue at all now though.

“So why are you on breakfast duty today?” she asked him as she set the box on the table and opened it up.

Right. Talking. He could do that. “Well I - thank you,” he automatically took the croissant she handed him. What had he been saying. “I was hoping we could talk?”

“Talk?”

She looked confused and all of his panic and guilt from a few moment ago came back to him. He knew he should have asked before showing up. “I-I mean, if you want to? We didn’t have time to on Saturday, and I was really busy with everything yesterday so I didn’t even have a chance to text you, and… well, I was really hoping we could talk about all of this. What it means - if you think it means anything that is? I just… I just want to know where we stand.”

Oh god that was pathetic. Kill him now.

“Oh, kitty…”

He spared a glance at her and fought a blush. Her gaze was so kind, so fond, so soft, it was all he could do not to melt again.

She reached into her skirt pocket for her phone and tapped it a few times. “I want to talk about all of this too. I just meant this.”

He took the offered phone and glanced at it. It was a text to him, asking to talk on Wednesday when they were supposed to meet. He knew she meant their Wednesday patrol but he was wracking his brain to think of how he could possibly have missed this message. He’d been banned from using his phone during all his shoots and fittings yesterday but he’s kept it with him just in case she got in touch.

And then he saw it. Draft saved.

Adrien snorted out a laugh. “Oh. I see.”

“Yeah,” she giggled a little, clearly embarrassed. She took her phone back and tucked it away again. “Typical clumsy me, huh? I bet you never thought Ladybug was this much of a klutz in real life.”

“Oh, I don’t know,” Adrien could help but tease her, delighted to see her grin at him. “I remember a certain Mlle. Maladroit getting us tangled in her yoyo on our first outing… and many, many more instances since then.” Marinette blushed this time; Adrien nearly fist-pumped. “Honestly, I’ve been kicking myself for not being able to connect the dots sooner. Of course the two most amazing women in my life are that same person.”

Her blush deepened and Adrien decided that making her turn as red as his suit was his new favourite thing ever. How many more times could he do that before they had to leave for school? That was something to consider.

“Adrien, I-I…,” she paused and breathed, gathering herself. He didn’t mind her stutter but if she wanted to do this without then he would support her. “I don’t know whether to thank you for the compliment or hit you for the pun,” she laughed. “ But for what it’s worth, I’m really glad it’s you, kitten.”

Well, now he had to fight his own blush. “I’m so happy that you’re you, Marinette.”

Plagg, of course, had to ruin the moment. “Hey spots, got any camembert?”

While Marinette went to check the cheese drawer in the fridge, Adrien did his best to murder his kwami with his glare. He was mentally promising Plagg a thousand painful deaths for interrupting, each worse than the last, and willing his kwami to feel the weight of his displeasure. Plagg looked completely unaffected while Tikki just giggled at the two of them.

The moment had passed though and Adrien wasn’t going to try and get it back again. There would be other chances.

Marinette made them both a hot drink while she was in the kitchen and quickly rejoined him at the table. The two of them did their best to deplete the contents of the breakfast box he had been given by Sabine while trying to figure out where they stood now. Tikki helped by eating a whole pain au chocolat but Plagg stayed on the other side of the table with the small wedge of camembert that Marinette had cut for him.

In the end there wasn’t enough time to speak properly about their new knowledge. Not if they wanted to get to school on time too. Marinette hadn’t been expecting him and so she still needed to get ready for school, and Adrien didn’t know if he would be able to get any more time from Nathalie today. They agreed to put off any serious conversation until their patrol on Wednesday. Adrien just counted it as a win that they were both happy with who their partner was.

He chatted with Tikki whie Marinette hurried upstairs to finish getting ready for school. When she came back down he was very thankful that he had already finished his drink or he knew he would have choked.

She was beautiful!

She had pulled on a festive red jumper, with a black and white pattern around the hem, and hidden her fuzzy pink socks in a pair of stylish ankle boots. Her hair was left down for a change but artfully teased and drawn back from her face on either side with two Christmas themed clips. She was wearing minimal make-up but her lips looked darker and he realised that she had used some tinted pomegranate lip balm on them.

He knew that’s what it was. Ladybug frequently complained to Chat Noir about going through so much lip balm in the colder months and Adrien had heard Alya and Marinette having several mock arguments about lip balm versus lip gloss (those arguments were just to pass the time since they both used balm).

Well. He was screwed. She was definitely going to kill him by the end of the month.

Somehow he managed to function like a normal human being and help her clean up after their second breakfast, before they shrugged into their coats, grabbed their bags and their kwamis, and headed downstairs. Marinette left him waiting by the stairs while she ducked into the still crowded bakery to grab one of their festive cookie selection boxes for Gorilla and to say goodbye to her parents - who both bellowed their goodbyes to Adrien too.

He was grinning for the whole walk to school, with a brief stop at his car to give Gorilla his treat. Marinette’s parents were the best.

Adrien’s smile didn’t even fade when Alya slunk over to them. She was grinning and teasing them about arriving at school together, even going so far as to do a suggestive eyebrow wiggle. He had no idea how to respond to that but fortunately for him Marinette stepped in. She rolled her eyes and explained about Gorilla’s love of festive treats and Adrien’s desire for excessive carbs.

She pouted but accepted it, having been foisted into the role of Marinette’s breakfast-feeder once or twice herself. Alya quickly shepherded them towards the locker room where Nino was already waiting and began to talk to them about how much traffic her blog was getting after the akuma attack on Saturday.

Adrien and Marinette shared a grin behind her back. They knew all about that attack. Marinette also shot a pointed and concerned look towards Alya when she slipped away to kiss her boyfriend good morning and Adrien nodded. He could see the Ladybug in her so clearly now. She was telling him to be careful about Alya’s curious nature - she was already intrigued by them walking to school together this morning, they didn’t need her digging too deeply.

They put their things away before heading to their classroom, chatting about the new films that were coming out before Christmas, greeting friends along the way, and making tentative plans to meet up over the holidays.

Everyone fell silent with anticipation when the door opened and Mlle. Bustier walked in with a happy smile. “Good morning everyone!” she greeted. Her bun was wrapped with silver tinsel, she had Christmas tree earrings on, and there was a fake poinsettia flower broach on the lapel of her jacket - but all eyes were fixed on the snowman decorated bag in her hands.

It was the official class Secret Santa bag.

“It’s that time of year again,” Mlle. Bustier confirmed, holding the bag up. Everyone started murmuring happily while she put the rest of her papers away. “Now, we all know how this works by now so I won’t go into details, but I will remind everyone that this is called Secret Santa. No presents that will give away your identity, either due to the effort involved-” she gave a pointed look to Chloé here.

The mayor’s daughter just scoffed and pulled a nail file out of her bag and began fussing over her manicure. Most years they did a Secret Santa, Chloé ignored it until the morning of the gift exchange. She would grab a cheap voucher for the Hotel Grande Paris coffee shop on her way to school that morning and simply hand it over without ceremony. Everyone hated Chloé’s gifts.

“- or the expense -” Mlle Bustier let her gaze trail over to Adrien with a smile.

He blushed. He couldn’t help it. His first Secret Santa in school had been Alya and he had bought her the best and most expensive video-editing software on the market to help with her blog. She had known it was him immediately.

Mlle. Bustier looked behind him to Marinette, still with a smile. “- or the craftmanship -”

Adrien didn’t turn around but her was sure that Marinette was blushing. She usually made something for her Secret Santa and even those pieces she didn’t sign were obviously her handiwork. Unlike with Chloé, everyone wanted Marinette to be their Secret Santa.

“- or predictability.” Mlle. Bustier finished with a look at Alya who just chuckled. She always gave out Ladybug and Chat Noir themed presents. The rest of the class laughed too. “Also, please try and keep things reasonable and try not to spend more than €20 on your gifts. We’ll go around the class like we did last year to remind people about allergies or issues you may have with gifts, and to point people in the right directions. Would you like to start please Chloé?”

Chloé didn’t even bother looking up from her manicure. “I doubt anyone in this class could afford even a half-way decent gift for me so whatever, I guess.”

Mlle. Bustier sighed. “Chloé, that’s not very helpful. How about saying something like your favourite colour, or your favourite chocolates, or anything like that?”

“Urgh fine, my favourite colour is yellow - this exact shade that I’m wearing - and I like honeycomb chocolates. Happy?”

Mlle. Bustier knew a losing battle when she saw one and gestured to Sabrina to continue.

Sabrina hesitated. “Oh, um, my favourite colour is teal, I’m not a big fan of chocolate, and, um… well, I’ll be happy with whatever I get I know it.”

Mylène was next. “Um, well, I-I’ll be happy with whatever I get, really. My favourite colour is green and I prefer savoury treats to sweet, but please don’t get me bath bombs - I get so many of them from my auntie,” she turned around and shot an apologetic glance at Rose, who was giving an embarrassed giggle. She hadn’t realised that Mylène’s aunt worked in a bath bomb factory when she got Mylène a set of shimmer bath bombs for Christmas last year.

“I’m not fussy,” Alix said, taking her turn. “I need some new skates but I doubt a €20 limit would let you buy them so go wild. I like black, plain shortbread, chocolate covered fruit, and kittens.”

Kim jumped in next. “I’m the easiest person to buy for because I like everything. I’m lactose intolerant but that’s never stopped me before.”

Everyone groaned at that. Just about everyone in their class had been stuck helping Kim get home at least once after the dare-enthusiast had eaten some ice cream or drank some milk or anything else he shouldn’t be eating or drinking. Every time he swore he wouldn’t do it again and every time one of them believed him.

Max gave Kim a resigned glare before addressing the class himself. “I like computers, coding, and video games, but if we’re shopping to a budget the best things would probably be extra stationary or gift cards.”

Rose stood up next, practically bouncing in her excitement. “I love cute things, especially little animals, and pink is my favourite colour. I’ll be happy no matter what you get!”

She nudged Juleka up next and encouraged her to speak. “I like purple and, um, you know, stuff.”

Nathanael had been doodling and needed Mlle. Bustier to remind him to speak. “Anything arty is fine with me, I always need sketchbooks, pencils, pencil cases, that sort of stuff, and I like all colours and snacks. Don’t forget I’m Jewish though,” he smirked at Kim who had the decency to look embarrassed. Last year he had given Nathanael a box of fudge chocolates, not a single one of which was kosher.

“I don’t dislike anything,” Ivan shrugged. “I really like music, especially Jagged Stone.”

Alya stood up next. “You know me, anything Ladybug or Chat Noir and I’ll be happy.”

It was Marinette’s turn now and Adrien shifted in his seat to give her all of his attention. If he was lucky he could be her Secret Santa and have another excuse to spoil her. He didn’t see Nino and Alya perk up at his attention, or the significant look they shared.

Marinette thought for a second and then shrugged. “I like lots of things really, so I’d be fine with whatever I got,” she yelped when Alya elbowed her in the side and made a ‘continue’ motion with one hand. “Sewing things would definitely be appreciated,” she added, and got another elbow. “Ow Alya!” she scooted away when the redhead moved to nudge her again. “Ok, ok, my favourites are pink, pretty fabrics, candles, flowers, raspberry chocolates, cute things, and anything Chat Noir related.”

For a fraction of a heartbeat, Adrien thought that she might have been teasing him with her last comment… until he realised she was pouting at Alya and lifting the sleeve of her jumper to see if her arm was bruised, therefore she probably didn’t even realise what she had said, and he almost fainted in shock. He nearly fell out of his seat again when Alya shot him a wink. She had orchestrated that whole thing for him.

Nino smirked at Adrien before taking his turn, correctly assuming the model needed a moment to compose himself. “I love all things music and film, not that big on sweet treats but I can never resist cookies, and I don’t have a favourite colour.”

Adrien cleared his throat before speaking, unsure if it would hold. “I love the colour blue, specifically bluebell, I like science things, cats, most types of music, I love sweet treats but I’m not allowed a lot of them, and I’m allergic to feathers.”

Mlle. Bustier smiled at them all. “Wonderful. Now please try and keep that in mind when you come up and select your Secret Santa.”

She called them up to the front in reverse order and Adrien thought his luck had finally improved. He had first choice. There was no chance of anyone else getting Marinette’s name before him! This was it!

He pulled out the bright red gift tag from the offered bag and opened it up to see the name printed inside.

Alix Kubdel.

He was only able to hide his disappointment thanks to years of modelling. Damn. So close! He took his seat again once Mlle. Bustier had seen that he hadn’t drawn his own name and let Nino go up for his turn. Alya quickly followed him and then Marinette, but both girls drew their own names on their first go.

Nino leaned over to him while the girls were occupied. “Don’t think I didn’t notice how much attention you paid to Marinette then, my bro,” he murmured, keeping his voice low to prevent anyone (mainly Alya) from eavesdropping. “Something you want to share?”

Adrien was tempted to fib his way out of this. To tell Nino a half truth that would keep the DJ off the trail of the real reason why he was pining so much over Marinette. But it wasn’t really necessary and quite frankly he could use someone to talk to whose advice wasn’t limited to just camembert. “You remember when you turned into a total dorkasaurus overnight?”

“Yeah?” Nino frowned, then gaped when he realised why Adrien was bringing up his week long infatuation with Marinette. “Yeah! Really? Dude!”

“Shhh! Keep it quiet,” Adrien hissed, seeing Alya walking back towards her seat. Marinette was still at Mlle. Bustier’s desk having drawn her own name again. “I’ve got a few things planned but…”

“You need help?”

“Honestly I just want this kept quiet. Can you imagine my father’s reaction?”

Nino winced. “Ouch.”

Adrien just nodded. It was true but it was also a convenient excuse to keep some things from Nino. “I’ll tell him eventually, but only if it goes well.”

“I don’t think you’ll have anything to worry about there. So, did you get her name?”

“No,” he held his card out under the desk, away from their teacher’s gaze. “You?”

Nino shook his head and held out his own card. It said Rose. “Sorry bro. I’d swap with you if I did.”

“I know. Thanks anyway.”

“No worries, bro. You need any help with anything you let me know. I’ve got your back.”

Adrien grinned and held his fist out and Nino eagerly bumped it. He might not have drawn Marinette’s name from the bag but at least he had Nino on his side. This could still work out purr-fectly.

Chapter Text

Tuesday 3rd December 2019. 08.00 a.m.

When the doorbell rang the next morning, Marinette was not at all surprised to see Adrien on the other side with another breakfast box. She had planned ahead and made sure she was fully dressed this morning - though Tikki had spent a good chunk of the day yesterday assuring her that Adrien absolutely did not mind. Quite the opposite. She wasn’t sure whether or not to believe her.

She was also completely unsurprised that the first words out of his mouth were: "Plagg wants to have breakfast with Tikki again."

Marinette giggled. "Then you simply must come in."

She fussed around at the kitchen table making sure that all four of them had a decent breakfast and a hot cup of tea - and she really needed to go shopping for some more cheese if Plagg ate like this all the time; thank goodness Adrien was rich - but also in an effort to stall for time.

This new dynamic they had going on was awkward simply because it wasn’t awkward at all.

It had been a wonderful surprise to see him yesterday, and she was still floating in a euphoric haze after hearing him admit he was happy it was her, but it was starting to bother her that it wasn't awkward between them.

Marinette was used to awkward. She was used to being a klutz in front of Adrien. She was used to stuttering and stammering her way through conversations. She was used to feeling faint whenever he smiled at her, and going weak in the knees whenever he touched her shoulder. She was used to her heart racing and feeling like swooning every time she thought of his dreamy smile. Ladybug, on the other hand, was used to teasing and bantering with Chat Noir. She had absolute trust in him and knew he would be there for her no matter what was going on. She counted on him to support her like she supported him.

Marinette had gotten better at it over the years - less stammering, stuttering, and swooning all around, and her overall coordination had drastically improved - but she was used to the mess of her emotions bubbling up inside her. Knowing that Adrien was Chat Noir… well, her overwhelming emotions hadn’t disappeared, but they had changed. Her relationship with Adrien was merging with her relationship with Chat Noir and it should have been a whole lot more awkward than it was, but the complete lack of awkwardness was actually making her more awkward than before.

Great. Her mental babbling was still there. That was one check in the normal category at least.

This was just one of those things she was going to have to get used to.

She was more confident around Adrien now, which was a great thing, but the blushing and the swooning had to go. Chat Noir had always wanted to make Ladybug blush and she’d done quite enough of that around him already thank you very much. She did not need him teasing her like he did yesterday morning - and yes she had caught on to the excited kitten behaviour he’d been full of.

While she had been making the tea and serving their breakfast, as well as dealing with her internal crisis, she had somehow managed to have a mostly normal conversation with Adrien too. He’d asked for help with his Secret Santa gift for Alix (Marinette knew she needed new shin pads and elbow guards) and had volunteered information on the gift that Marinette would need to get for Nino (there were three different albums he wanted but he knows Alya was planning on getting one of them).

It was also during their talk that she realised that he was practically inhaling the croissants this morning, rather than eating them in the relaxed way he had yesterday.

“Hungry kitten?” This time he was the one to blush and she fought back a smug grin. “There’s plenty left, don’t worry about it.”

“Sorry,” he grinned bashfully and rubbed at the back of his neck. “I guess I was a little over eager there.”

Marinette had to bite back a gasp. She knew that gesture very well. She had swooned over that action from Adrien before, gushing about his gorgeous face and perfect shy smile and how is just made him look all the more handsome. When Adrien did it he was usually embarrassed about some social thing he didn’t know or because he had unintentionally flaunted his wealth… but whenever she had seen Chat Noir make that same gesture it was because he was nervous and uncomfortable.

“I didn't say it was a bad thing,” Marinette finally said, hoping to break him out of his mood. He still didn't take another one and she wondered if she had made him self conscious somehow. She had teased him like this before, but never without their masks. Was it too much?

She was just about to apologise when he finally spoke again, staring at his tea cup instead of her.

“Nathalie told me this morning I'm being pulled out of school right before lunch for some photo shoots, fittings, and press things this afternoon. There's never any good food at these things - all low calorie cardboard.”

That was the information Marinette needed to pull it all together. Chat Noir could give as good as he got when she teased him about snacks and treats and food, and with anything really, but Adrien was far more used to watching what he said and comporting himself in the right manner. Yes, they were the same person, but she knew better than anyone how the feel of a mask on your face helped you act differently. The psychological impact of that scrap of magical fabric was huge. It was Chat Noir and Ladybug, him and her, but it was also Adrien and Marinette. They just needed to get used to that.

She knew exactly where to start too.

“Well,” she drew the word out, catching his attention, even as she refilled their tea cups from the pot. “It's a good thing our food doesn’t count towards your calorie count then.”

“Oh really?” He cocked an eyebrow at her and she really had to stamp down on the urge to swoon. Damn him and his gorgeous brows. “Since when?”

“Since I just decided. Eat up kitty.”

“I won’t be able to fit in my suit if you keep this up, Princess.”

Marinette scoffed (praying her cheeks weren’t as red as they felt) and added another croissant to his plate. She paused, considering, and then added the rest of the box to his plate, only keeping one back for herself and one for Tikki. He tried to protest but she just shoved a croissant in his mouth. He spluttered, ate the croissant, and when he tried to protest again she held up another croissant threateningly.

Adrien finally held his hands up in surrender and carried on eating his breakfast, smiling at her the whole time.

They didn’t touch on any more big subjects for the rest of their hurried breakfast, keeping to things like school and homework. She promised to copy her notes for him for this afternoon and he promised to help her with their homework in exchange.

They kept up the stream of inane chatter as they donned their coats and scarves and slipped downstairs. Tom met them near the side door and saw them off with a hug each and the promised treat for Gorilla.

Adrien’s bodyguard nodded a greeting at Marinette as Adrien dropped the treat off and she saw his jaw drop before a huge smile broke out over his face at the delicate cake. Marinetet had explained Gorilla’s love of Christmas to her parents earlier, as well as the deal he had with Adrien, and they had promised to pick the best Christmas treat the had to show their thanks to the stoic man. The extra large slice of the bakery’s special recipe Christmas Opera Cake seemed to be a winner.

She wasn't surprised to see Alya waiting for them at the school steps with a huge smirk on her face. She'd been hoping Alya wouldn't be there, but she wasn't holding her breath for it. Alya’s picture was under the dictionary entry for curious. No way was she ignoring Marinette and Adrien today.

"Did your bodyguard enjoy today's cookies?" Alya teased.

Adrien smiled and nodded. "He got the Christmas Opera Cake today and it looked amazing. If I wasn't leaving for a shoot at lunch I'd definitely have got a piece myself."

Marinette brought a hand up to hide her smile. Alya visibly deflated at Adrien's reply, perfectly delivered with just the right amount of innocence and a new tidbit of information to distract her. It worked too.

Or at least it seemed to.

The second Adrien was distracted by Nino’s arrival, Alya latched onto Marinette for some girl talk and dragged her away for what Marinette could only assumed would be a nightmare of an interrogation.

Instead, Alya pulled her into the corner where their lockers were and proceeded to silently freak out. “Ohmygod, ohmygod, ohmygod, ohmygod! This is amazing!” she was bouncing up and down and waving her arms madly, much like Marinette herself had done over the weekend in her post-reveal joy. “Girl I think this is it!”

“Alya, no.”

“Alya, yes!” she paused to adjust her glasses before grabbing Marinette by the shoulders and shaking her gently. “Yesterday could have been a one off but it was the same today! Did you not see the way he looked at you? Did you not hear the way he talked with you? That’s some prime flirting!”

Marinette sighed and pried Alya’s hands off her arms, clasping them in her own. “Alya, I don’t want to get my hopes up and I most definitely don’t want to interfere with whatever is going on between me and Adrien.”

“So you admit there is something?”

God, why did Alya always have to ask the hard questions? It wasn’t like she could admit the truth - that they were Ladybug and Chat Noir and had just learned each other’s identities and were trying to regain their balance. But at the same time… she wasn’t sure that was all there was to it. Was she reading too much into his soft looks and happy smiles? Was she seeing what she wanted to - because she had spent years dreaming of Adrien looking at her with such tender care, like she was his heart, like she was his world… like he had been doing these past few days.

Marinette groaned and let her head drop onto Alya’s shoulder. “I don’t know!” she wailed into Alya’s jacket. Secret identities were hard! “But if there is I do not want to risk it stopping because we came up with another plan that I was too anxious to go through with and messed it up. Ok?”

“But that didn’t-”

Marinette lifted her head and glared at Alya, daring her to contradict her. It was true and no one knew that better than Alya did. She’d messed up handing him his birthday scarf, the voicemail message fiasco was still a forbidden subject, the time Adrien had asked her to the zoo on Nino’s behalf and Alya had had to answer on hers, any conversation the two of them had had when they first met - god, even when he’s complimented her hat designs right before the competition! They’d had a whole conversation planned out and his unexpected appearance had freaked her out and so she’d hidden behind the bench in stunned embarrassment.

When she tried to stick to a plan something always derailed her and she was not going to risk whatever this thing was between them stopping before it had a chance to start because of an upset plan.

Alya wilted. She couldn’t argue against that. “Ok, ok, fine, we won’t plan anything. But don’t you dare let him go!”

“Like there’s a chance of that happening.”

They quickly put their things away and headed to Mlle. Bustier’s class. Nino and Adrien were already there and they quickly drew the girls into their conversation about the new superhero blockbuster about to be released before Christmas. The rest of their classmates drifted in over the next few minutes and Mlle. Bustier soon followed.

Everyone fell silent when she walked around the back of her desk and lifted several boxes up from the floor where they had been hidden from view by her desk. They were plain brown cardboard, no designs or writing to indicate what the contents were, but obviously bulky and heavy by the way Mlle. Bustier struggled to lift them up.

She smiled at the class. “Now that we’re all here we can begin. I’m giving you a class project.”

Everyone groaned and Alix even let her head thud loudly onto the desk. Class projects were the worst.

Mlle. Bustier just smiled at them all. “You will have the next twenty minutes, and yes I am timing you, to decorate the classroom for Christmas.”

“Really?” Rose squealed, already bouncing in excitement. Marinete couldn’t help but feel happy too. The room was too bare. Everyone else looked intrigued too, and were looking at the boxes in a new light.

The boxes were opened one by one as Mlle. Bustier told them exactly what she expected from them. “You must all agree on what goes where and it must look tasteful. There is an artificial tree in one of these boxes, and various other decorations, and if you wish you are allowed to create your own decorations. Your time begins when I leave the room to get my papers from the staff room. It ends when I return. Understand?”

Marinette nodded along with everyone else, not surprised in the slightest to see that Alix and Kim were both in racing poses on their desks.

Mlle. Bustier wisely stepped away from her desk. “Good luck everyone.”

The second the door closed behind her there was a mad dash for the boxes at the front. Kim and Alix were determined to be first, Alya wanted to document it all, Rose and Mylène were excited to see what their teacher had for them and dragged Juleka along… it was sheer madness. Marinette was one of the few who stayed seated to avoid the carnage, and she winced when there was the telltale crunch of a bauble meeting its demise on the floor.

Alya soon got fed up of being jostled as she tried to snap some photos and crawled up on her boyfriend’s desk before letting loose a shrill and ear-piercing whistle. “Simmer down!” she yelled and everyone turned to look at her. “We don’t have time to fight! We need an organised approach.”

Chloé finally looked up from her compact mirror. “Well since I have the best taste, I should obviously be in charge. Let’s make it all gold!”

Sabrina nodded eagerly but Alya scoffed. “I was thinking someone with more people skills and more experience than you, Chloé. Marinette, you’re class rep, get this mess organised girl!”

Rose squealed. “Oh, yes, Marinette will you please help us?”

“You’ve got a great eye.” Mylène agreed.

With the rest of the class looking at her for leadership (she was deliberately not lingering on Adrien’s supportive and proud gaze) Marinette crumbled and agreed. “Uh, sure. So, um, who wants to do what?”

The second she asked that question she regretted it. Everyone began talking over each other at once, begging to do this job, or suggesting someone for that job, or complaining that she had been given control of the room (that was just Chloé but she was loud enough to easily be heard over everyone else) and Marinette just groaned. Looks like she was going to have to assign roles. A beseeching look at her best friend had Alya whistling the class into silence again.

“Ok, ok, how about this… does anyone really want to do the tree?

Rose launched her hand into the air, bouncing as high as she could go. “Oh, me, me, me! Please? I love decorating trees!” she begged. Juleka also held her hand up and blushed under the glowing smile her girlfriend gave her.

Marinette hadn’t planned on separating the two of them anyway. “Ok, Rose and Juleka are in charge of the tree. Nathanael, how about you draw some Hanukkah symbols? We want you to celebrate too.”

He gave her a curt nod and hurried to his seat, pulling his art supplies out and immediately starting to sketch. Marinette knew his work was good so she figured he could have carte blanche to do what he wanted.

“Mylène, would you and Ivan like to help him making new decorations?” She asked, and the couple nodded and joined Nathanael at his desk. “Max, can you take stock of what we’ve got? That way we’ll know how to spread it around the room.”

Max was already walking over to the boxes before she had even finished speaking. “Of course. Kim and Alix can help me unpack.”

“Perfect,” Marinette turned to Chloé then and her smile dimmed somewhat. Quite frankly, she didn’t trust the blonde not to be petty and hinder their efforts. “Chloé? If you’ve been helping your father’s staff do the trees in the hotel every year then you do have a good eye for display, so why don’t you sit back and look at the bigger picture? Make sure it all melds together?”

“That’s what I told you I was going to do.”

Marinete breath a silent sigh of relief when she took her seat again without too much fuss. “Thank you. Alya, can-” Kim suddenly yelped and another three baubles smashed on the floor. “Can you keep an eye on those two, please?”

“You got it, boss! Oi! Kim! Put down the tinsel!” she leapt into the fray with all the gusto of an older sibling frequently called in to babysit little terrors.

Marinette winced as another bauble smashed. “I think I just sent a fox to guard the henhouse,” she muttered to herself, praying that Mlle. Bustier wasn’t too attached to these decorations. Adrien snorted and for a moment she was confused. At least until she recalled the time Chat Noir had told her his senses were gradually improving without the mask thanks to his Miraculous. He and Nino were stood at her elbow patiently waiting for their assignment. “Preference?”

Nino grinned. “Not a one.”

“Adrien, what are you good at?”

He cocked his head to one side in though before he grinned at her. “Following orders?”

Marinette almost snorted and asked since when. She knew he was referring to their akuma battles where she would shout an order and he would be complying before he realised it, throwing out quips and jokes as he went. The only order he didn't follow was to stop joking about in a fight.

She was very tempted to keep him by her side and have him help her, but she didn't think her heart could handle that. Not when he kept looking at her like that. She would be a blushing mess before their time was up if she worked with him.

Marinette shook those thoughts away. “You two boys head over to the tree. Rose can direct you.”

He nodded and for a moment all Marinette could see was Chat Noir. The confident way he held himself as he ran off to do her bidding, trusting in her plan, the smirk on his face because he knew it would all work out. Any second now he would kiss her hand and throw out a illy quip before vaulting off. How had she not seen this before? His hand twitched by his side, as if he had to stop himself reaching for hers as he usually did, and the illusions was broken.

Marinette gave her head a small shake to clear her mind and let the heat fade from her cheeke, before turning her attention to the classroom.

Chloé was sat back filing her nails and shouting out that the classroom needed to look more golden, and Sabrina was eagerly agreeing with her. The rest of the class was ignoring them and getting on with their assigned tasks.

Nathanael already had some gorgeous designs sketched out while Mylène and Ivan were stapling together some paper-chains with the coloured paper Nathanael had donated. Alya and Max had finally wrangled Kim and Alix into doing some work and they had almost every decoration out of the box and sorted into different categories across the front row of desks. Nino and Rose had the artificial pine tree half assembled, with Adrien and Juleka passing them things and checking the instructions as required.

It was going great.

Marinette floated around the room from group to group, helping when needed and directing their efforts and soon the classroom was looking significantly more festive. Chloé was still arguing for a more modern look than the Victorian Christmas Card look they found themselves with, but as usual everyone was ignoring her.

They were done with only seconds to spare.

“Oh, this is beautiful!” Mlle. Bustier gushed as she returned to the classroom with their papers. “Wonderful, absolutely wonderful! Congratulations everyone!”

“It was all my idea, Mlle. Bustier,” Chloé grinned and Marinette sighed. How unsurprising.

You could practically hear the collective eye roll from the class at her predictable response.

Mlle. Bustier merely smiled and moved on. “I hope you’re already for a thrilling Literature lesson?”

Marinette found herself being completely unsurprised by the note Alya shoved across her desk five minutes later. Nino just confirmed it! Adrien is into you girl!! Double date?

She rolled her eyes again. Typical Alya.

Chapter Text

Wednesday 4th December 2019. 11a.m.

When Alya waved them off for their private lunch at a local cafe with a smug and excited smile, Adrien realised that he might just be coming across as overly-eager to spent time with Marinette.

He was.

He totally was. If he could he would spend every spare minute of his time with her. Especially now that they didn’t have to pre-arrange rooftop meetings, lie to friends and family about their whereabouts, or drain their kwami’s energy to spend time together. He couldn’t not see her. Not now he knew. It would be easier to lose a limb than to be apart from her. He just didn't think he was being so blindingly obvious about it.

Gorilla had driven him to the bakery without even asking, Sabine had greeted him with a box of treats and a kiss on the cheek before he had even said good morning to her, Tom slipped an extra pain au chocolat into the box as he passed by with a wink, Alya and Nino had both given him suggestive looks and made kissy faces behind his back when he and Marinette had shown up at school together for the third morning in a row. They might say that they believed his claims of homework and wanting to eat his own weight in carbs but they soon wouldn’t if he kept this up.

In fact, Nathalie seemed to be the only one fooled by his claims of homework which was a bit of a disappointment. She only cared enough to ensure that his work was of his usual high standard and that his “homework meetings” wouldn’t run into his other commitments.

He could bear the knowing looks, the happy smiles, and the sly grins from the people who cared about him if only because he was positive that Marinette wanted to spend as much time with him as he did.

She had two mugs of tea and four plates ready for him this morning as well as photocopies of all the notes she had taken for him yesterday. She looked to him first this morning when Mlle. Mendeleev announced they were doing paired lab work (and he knew it wasn’t just because he was great at science). She had been the one to suggest they go over the notes she had copied for him when he was away yesterday while they ate lunch. And she had been delighted when he had suggested they go to a local cafe to talk rather than eat at the bakery as usual.

Adrien really hoped she was thinking that this was a date. He wanted it to be a date. He wanted that so badly. He was even ready to push Nino away from this lunch. Whenever Adrien was allowed to eat lunch away from the mansion he usually ate with Nino. It was rare to see the two of them apart over lunchtime. But Nino had been two steps ahead of him and the second Adrien had suggested a cafe he had chimed in and said he was going to Alya’s for lunch to help her get her sisters ready for their big afternoon.

He had the best friends!

So yes, he might be ecstatic to spend time with Marinette, but he was almost positive she felt the same too.

“Oh, is this it?” Marinette beamed when she saw the cute little bistro a few streets over from the school. “It looks lovely.”

“It is,” he agreed. He was not looking at the cafe.

“Do you go there a lot?”

He paused to let them cross the road, guiding her through the crowds with a hand on the small of her back. “Sometimes I do,” Adried admitted with a shrug. He dared to leave his hand on her back and was delighted when she didn’t make any effort to move it. Yes! “It’s my go to place whenever I slip away from a photoshoot. The owner never lets it slip that I go here and so far no one knows - not even Gorilla.”

Adrien prayed that she understood what he was saying. That he trusted her with everything, that he wanted her to be part of all of his life, that he wouldn’t hide from her. Judging by the faint blush on her cheeks she knew what he meant.

They slipped in the open door and were quickly waved to a secluded table in the back. The owner quickly showed up to take his order personally, something Adrien was so thankful for since it lessened his chances of being discovered, and then disappeared to make ‘Ambrose’ his usual order.

Marinette waited until their drinks had been brought over, two fully loaded hot chocolates, before turning to him with a smile. “Ambrose?”

He smirked. “Yes, Princess?”

She squeaked and blushed beetroot. “You- I- that- he-” she groaned and covered her eyes with her hands. “Explanation please?”

“Ambrose happens to be the name of the best Adrien Agreste lookalike in Paris,” he grinned. God she was just too cute. “Bastien knows I’m the real deal but calls me Ambrose anyway.”

He launched into an explanation of how he had, quite literally, stumbled across the cafe one day when his fans had mobbed an outdoors photoshoot and he had been forced to flee for his safety. It was full of exaggerations and embellishments designed to take her mind off her embarrassment and to get her smiling and laughing again, which she did freely.

Adrien was not at all ashamed to admit that he was so captivated by the sight - how was she just so gorgeous? - that the whipped cream on his hot chocolate ended up smeared all over his nose and cheek when he missed his mouth the first two times. Fortunately for him, Marinette didn’t notice as she was retrieving the spoon she had just knocked onto the floor and he was able to quickly wipe his face.

Two muffled giggles from Marinette’s school bag told him that while his partner was oblivious Plagg and Tikki were not. They had seen it all. Adrien just knew they were going to tease him about this later. Mercilessly. Frequently. Embarrassingly.

Oh well. She was worth it.

Bastien returned with their food while Adrien was finishing his grandiose tale and he reluctantly wrapped the story up so they could eat. He didn’t want a face full of food or for Marinette to choke because she was laughing so much.

They were about halfway done with their meal by the time he worked up the courage to ask her.

“So… do you maybe want to talk before patrol instead of after?”

She frowned at him. “You’re booked solid until patrol, Adrien. When could we talk?”

“I’d skip it all to spend time with you,” he grinned.

She giggled. “Nice try, kitten, but you know I’m going to be busy all afternoon.”

“I do?” it was his turn to frown. She hadn’t mentioned anything about being busy earlier, had she? It was a Wednesday and... “Wait. Oh cats, it’s the first Wednesday in December! Yes!”

Adrien was on Cloud Nine! The First Wednesday in December, the best day of the year - Christmas Cookie Day! How could he possibly have forgotten? Every year on the first Wednesday in December Ladybug - Marinette - would spend the afternoons baking with some of the little angels she babysat. She would always bring the extras on patrol for them to enjoy later that night.

How could he have forgotten?

Marinette snorted into her napkin. “Did you really forget Kitty? You had the date marked in your calendar last year.”

“Well excuse me for having something more important on my mind this year, m’Lady,” he feigned affront.

“Oh yeah? What?”

“You,” Adrien grinned, leaning over and booping her on the nose.

He was delighted to see her blush before she rolled her eyes. “I walked right into that one.”

It was a tease, but it was also the truth. He had been so wrapped up in the amazing girl sat opposite him that he had completely forgotten about Christmas Cookie Day. It also gave him a prime opportunity that he could not ignore. “Is there room in the kitchen for one more, Princess?”

“Of cou- wait, are you asking to come over and help bake this afternoon? I thought you were busy?”

“I could always tell Nathalie it was an important school assignment. I mean it. I’ll drop everything else for you.”

“Oh yeah?” she just rolled her eyes teasingly at him. “I think you’re forgetting a little detail about Christmas Cookie Day there, Adrien.”

“I am?”

It wasn’t hard to believe. Just five minutes he had forgotten about the day itself. While that was completely understandable given the circumstances, there wasn’t much about that day to remember. He didn’t have to bring anything, just himself, and they would pick out a nice rooftop to sit one while they ate the cookies and she moaned about the three little angels she had been-

“Oh!” Adrien paled. “Oh god. I know your three little angels.”

“Yep.”

Had he really just volunteered to join Manon Chamack and Ella and Ette Césaire in the kitchen? “Wow, would you look at that,” he let out an embarrassed laugh and pointed to the blank screen of his phone. He loved Marinette, but not that much. “My afternoon is super busy. I’d love to help, Bugaboo, really I would, but I’m swamped.”

She laughed and reached over to flick him on the nose. “Naughty kitty. See if I save any cookies for you then.”


Wednesday 4th December 2019. 9p.m.

Chat Noir touched down on the Eiffel Tower with a huge sigh of relief.

He and his Lady had parted ways after their wonderful little lunch-date (hopefully-a-date?). He had walked her back to the bakery where Gorilla had been waiting to whisk him off for the various activities that had been scheduled for him.

A fencing lesson followed by a briefing from his Press Officer, then a Chinese lesson, followed by a fitting, a sudden photoshoot, a quick dinner that he enjoyed alone once again, before Nathalie dismissed him for the night. He took his time showering and getting ready for bed, making sure Nathalie saw him in his pyjamas and closing his computer down, before giving Plagg a chunk of camembert and calling for his transformation.

He was exhausted. Completely wiped out. He could have done with going straight to bed but his Lady was waiting for him with some cookies and-

Wait? Where were the cookies?

Ladybug was sat alone on their favoured beam of the Eiffel Tower just staring off into the city. No box or bag or anything that could hold cookies. Had she been serious when she said no cookies for him? Had he pushed their teasing too far? It was far too easy to forget where the boundaries of their relationship lay after that day in the alley. Did he overstep them accidentally?

If he did, he only had himself to blame. He still got the pleasure of her company though - a joy he wouldn’t trade for all the cookies in the world.

He sauntered over, grin on his face, and winked at her. “9p.m. on the dot, Bugaboo. How purr-fectly punctual I am!”

Chat felt his heart lift as she giggled at him, rolling her eyes fondly. “Skip the puns kitty,” she teased. When she made no move to leave for their patrol he figured it would be safe to sit next to her. He almost purred when she leant into him with a happy hum. “Sorry Chat, we can get going in a minute, I just wanted to imprint this into my memory.”

“The city?” he had to swallow his purr when she let him wrap an arm around her waist.

Ladybug shook her head before resting it on his shoulder. “That too, but it’s the overall picture. This is my favourite view in the whole world and I’m itching to draw it one day - small silvery pinpricks of light set in a velvety blue black that fades into a golden glow of the city. It’s beautiful.”

Looking at it though her eyes showed him just how beautiful the city was. Their miraculous enhanced vision made it possible for them to see the tiny dots of starlight that were ordinarily hidden by light pollution and the crisp silver of the stars on top was a beautiful contrast to the golden electric lights below. It was stunningly simple and elegant. He could see why she wanted to immortalise it on paper.

“Have you drawn it?” he said.

She shook her head again. “I’ve tried but so far none of them have come out quite right.”

“Why don’t you bring your sketchbook with you next time?” Chat said, offering a suggestion that was now a real possibility. He knew who she was so he wouldn’t question why she was drawing the city halfway up the tower.

“I might just do that - can you imagine how gorgeous this would look on a t-shirt, or a dress?”

“It is stunning,” he grinned at her. “And I’m sure if you craft it then it will be miraculous.”

“Ok, time out on the puns,” she groaned and pulled away from him. He let her go reluctantly and stood up too. ”We’ve got a job to do, so how about you see if you can catch me?”

She darted off the tower with a laugh and he whooped and leapt after her at once. Down the tower and up over buildings they dashed and dodged and darted around in their cat and bug game. Sometimes she would drift closer to him, sometimes he would pretend to pounce, sometimes they would set their game aside to see to a citizen in distress or one who wanted a photo, sometimes he thought she wanted him to catch her.

It was a quiet night with only their laughter echoing around them and both of them were giggling hard as they finished their patrol on top of Notre Dame.

“That was fun!”

Chat leant against one of the gargoyles, pulling her next to him in a half hug. “I still say I had you near Pont de la Concorde.”

“We were posing for photos, kitty, it doesn’t count!” Ladybug flicked his bell and then laughed when he stuck his tongue out at her. “We should really do that again. It was a lot of fun.”

She smiled up at him and for a moment Chat forgot how to breathe. He never wanted to escape her warmth. But then her words came back to him and he realised that this was it for the night. They’d both had long days and needed their rest.

Chat reached for her hand and pressed the gentles of kisses to her knuckles. “How about Sunday, my Lady? I’m sure I can fit a rooftop race into my busy schedule then,” he winked, then lowered their hands. “Until then-”

“Wait, what?” she frowned and squeezed the hand holding hers, stopping him from moving. “Chat, why are you leaving?”

“Patrol is over?”

“But the cookies? I-” she blinked up at him before her mouth fell open in a silent ‘o’ of understanding. She shook her head fondly before bringing her other hand up to cup his cheek, her thumb caressing just beneath the line of his mask. “Oh, mon chaton, I was just teasing you earlier. Of course we’re going to share cookies. I just thought that having them inside with some freshly made hot chocolate would be better than freezing outside.”

His ears perked up. “Really?”

“Yes,” she giggled before leaning in a pressing the briefest of kisses to his cheek. When she pulled back her face was almost as red as her duit and judging by the heat in his cheeks he looked the same. “Now come on silly kitty, before I become a Bug-sicle!”

“Well, we can’t have that!” he scooped her up in to a bridal carry and vaulted over to her balcony, her delighted squeal lost in the night. It was only when he had set her down that he remembered exactly what he had been doing before he transformed. “Oh, um, I should just go home for a minute. I’ll be right back.”

“Chat?”

“I, uh, well I thought this would be like last year and so… I’minmypyjamasunderthesuit.”

She blushed again, and couldn’t quite meet his eyes even as she pulled him towards the hatch. “Me too. Come on Adrien.”

They quickly detransformed and Marinette managed to stammer her way through a series of apologies about the state of her room - apparently the girls decided that they needed all of her blankets out to make a fort while the cookies baked and cooled, and of course the fort ended up becoming the scene of an imaginary battle - but all he could think about was how adorable she looked.

She was dressed in a set of fuzzy pink and black pyjamas, made from a thick and warm fleecy material, and she looked snug as a bug in them. The fit wasn’t quite right so he assumed they were shopbought rather than homemade but he could see the bits of Marinette-flair on them proving that she had embellished them a little. There was a ring of tiny ladybirds circling the hems of her slightly too long pink shirt sleeves, and a ring of green cats paws around the hems of the black sleep pants.

She’d made it into a Ladybug and Chat Noir set. God she was adorable.

Adrien hadn’t missed her not so subtle appraisal of his clothes too and he found himself wishing he had more choice in his wardrobe. He was in a long-sleeved navy blue pyjama set with a few stripes here are there to break up the plain colour. High end Gabriel brand and utterly boring.

He snatched up the comifest looking blanket and made himself at home on her bed, the only safe place in the ruins of her room, and chatted with Tikki and Plagg while he waited for her to return. It didn’t take long for her to reappear with a tray and carefully make her way up to her loft bed. There were two large mugs of hot chocolate, along with a much smaller cup for Tikki, and a large tin filled with a variety of biscuits of all shapes and sizes. His mouth was watering just looking at them.

Marinette helped Tikki settle with her drink and a few cookies while Adrien picked out all of the cheese biscuits that had been made just for Plagg that afternoon. He pulled Marinette under the blanket with him and they ate a few biscuits in silence.

Why did this feel awkward all of a sudden?

Marinette sighed. “So… we should really do that talking thing, huh?”

He really couldn’t help himself. “Your eloquence once again renders me speechless my Lady.”

“Oh hush you,” she shoved a piece of shortbread in his mouth but he just smirked and ate it. “You know what I mean.”

“I know.”

“We’ve been talking about this all week…”

“… and now we’ve both suddenly gone silent,” Adrien finished for her. He shifted slightly, wrapping an arm around her shoulders and pulling her closer to him under the blanket. She came willingly and he felt so relieved that at least this was still normal for them. “I guess it’s because all the other times we’ve talked about it were different to this one - this is The Talk about our identities.”

“You’re right. It’s something we’ve never talked about before either - something we’ve been unable to talk about before. I guess it makes sense that we’re a little awkward now.”

“That does make sense Buginette.”

Adrien suddenly froze with his drink halfway to his lips. Buginette. Ladybug-Marinette. How did he not see it sooner!

“Oh my god that was the perfect pun nickname! No wonder you hated it!”

She groaned. “That is probably the first thing we should talk about - I didn’t realise until now that we’ve been calling each other nicknames all the time since then. So far we’ve not been overheard, but can you imagine if Alya was the one to overhear us call each other my Lady and mon Chaton?”

Adrien winced. “Ouch, yeah that… that would be terrible.”

Terrible was the biggest understatement actually. Knowing Alya she would either correctly assumed that they were the secret superheroes themselves or she would suspect they were involved in some sort of strange super-roleplay… which would lead to a whole other series of terrible and horrible scenarios that he did not want to think about tonight.

“I’ve called you kitty so much this week,” Marinette flopped her head onto his shoulder and groaned into his pyjama top. “Oh god, Alya would have killed me. I didn’t even think about it until you mentioned Buginette. I was just so happy that you were you that I didn’t think.”

Adrien felt a warmth go through him that had nothing to do with his hot chocolate. “Me too, Princess,” he grinned and hugged her closer. “Me too.”

And that, Adiren realised, was why this particular talk was so daunting.

It wasn’t just saying they were happy with the other, or talking about avoiding certain nicknames in front of a certain nosy reporter, it was completely sharing things with their partner. It was Ladybug and Marinette and Chat Noir and Adrien getting everything on the same page at last.

They had revealed their identities already but now they were revealing themselves. It was a much more daunting prospect, to open yourself up fully to your partner without holding anything back.

And they didn’t.

Their talk continued late into the night, long after the cookies had been eaten and the last drops of hot chocolate drunk, and long after their kwamis curled up and fell asleep nestled in the blankets between them. They didn’t want to stop talking, they didn’t want to stop sharing, but time and their own tiredness were against them.

Soon they were yawning more than they were talking and they reluctantly agreed to talk some more at another time. Two years of secret superheroing could not be brought into the open in a single night after all. What they had shared though led them to learn so much more about their partner - somethings were obvious in hindsight, some were surprising, some shocking and some delightful, but all of it was good to know.

Chapter Text

Thursday 5th December 2019. 4.30 p.m.

Marinette shoved the last box up through her window hatch with a triumphant cry. Tikki giggled from her perch on her shoulder. “You sure do have a lot of decorations.”

“I know,” Marinette groaned, resting against her cat pillow and catching her breath. She might be a superhero but wrangling large boxes through a small window hatch was difficult! At least they were all up on the balcony now. “I always end up buying and making so many every year. I always forget how many I actually have until it’s time to pull them out of the loft again.”

Tikki grinned. “But they look so pretty!”

“Which is exactly why I keep adding to them,” Marinette said. “Now come on my Little Ladybug, we need to wrap up warm and get out there. That balcony won't decorate itself.”

Tikki followed her down into her room where she had left their winter gear on her chaise. “You don't have to do it today Marinette,” Tikki took the tiny kwami sized snowsuit from Marinette but made no move to put it on just yet.

Marinete didn’t blame her for trying to stall - neither of them did well in cold weather - but it was a case of now or never. Plus she really, really, really wanted to beautify her balcony. “I can't tomorrow because we're patrolling, and I'm busy helping my parents all weekend - besides, I deserve a pick me up after yesterday afternoon.”

“They were certainly on their most angelic behaviour.”

Tikki giggled as she remembered how energetic Manon, Ella, and Etta had been yesterday. Her giggling turning into full on belly laughs as Marinette groaned and grumbled under her breath as she shrugged her coat on.

It had been a lot of fun to bake with the girls, but it had been loud, messy, and completely draining too. Alya escaped with her sisters as soon as the cookies were done but Marinette had been stuck with Manon and the clean-up for another two hours before Nadja Chamack managed to escape work and collect her daughter.

Tikki decided she wouldn’t fuss about the cold today. It really was her only chance to decorate her balcony and she did need the pick-me-up after yesterday. Besides, if they both worked together, they could get it done quicker. She slipped into her kwami sized snowsuit, wrapped her scarf around her neck, and popped her mittens and boots on before hurrying after Marinette.

They both shivered as the cold air rushed over them and both decided they wouldn’t be out here for too long. Boxes were opened and contents emptied.

“Oh, these are gorgeous!” Tikki cooed over a set of frosted glass icicles.

Marinette grinned. “Aren’t they just? I did an ice and snow theme up here a few years ago. It was stunning when the light caught them at just the right angle.”

“Can we do that now?” Tikki begged, then frowned. “Wait, we probably shouldn’t be making this place look any colder. That won’t be nice for either of us.”

Marinette hummed her agreement. She wanted something warmer. Her gaze flicked to the boxes thoughtfully, cataloguing the contents and figuring out what would work. Reds and golds and greens would look warmer than silvers and blues and whites, but those icicles really were pretty. She wanted to use them if she could.

Her eyes fell on a box containing a pine branch garland and everything clicked together. She grinned. “I’ve got an idea.”

Tikki listened and squealed in delight, somersaulting around the balcony in her eagerness. “Let’s do it!”

The pretty glass icicles were attached to the frame of her window hatch along with a small string of yellow fairy lights, creating a warm and icy look. The garland was strung up across the length of her balcony and attached to the railing with bright red ribbons. There was a tiny 50cm artificial tree in one of the boxes and they quickly set it up between her chair and the window hatch before setting an advent wreath on the table with some battery powered candles.

The next box was filled with baubles, bells, and beads of all shapes, sizes, and colours. Tikki was entrances and Marinette couldn’t help but giggle as her kwami dove into the box with a shriek of glee. The bells chimed as she danced through them and Tikki giggled even louder.

“It’s like that song from earlier,” she said happily. “The one your English teacher played! The bells of Christmas are ringing.” Tikki quickly started singing the rest of the song and Marinette joined in, laughing as she sang.

Their English lesson that morning had been filled with English Christmas songs. It was meant to be an exercise to help them understand the language when spoken, or in this case sung, but in reality it was just an excuse to have a laid back lesson before Christmas. Marinette had used the time to speak with Adrien. He had come over for breakfast again that morning, but he was leaving school after lunch for his modelling commitments. It was such a busy time of year for him but luckily he wouldn’t be missing much more school. After this week Nathalie had been able to arrange most of his commitments outside of school hours. They had spent the whole lesson talking, with the occasional interruption from a curious Nino and Alya.

The songs weren’t Marinette’s usual choice for a music genre but they were happy and upbeat and damned catchy. Tikki had been humming verses all afternoon and now she was singing along as they decorated. She had a very pretty singing voice actually.

Tikki changed songs as they turned their attention to the miniature tree. They strung beads and baubles through the branches and added fake presents underneath the tree before turning their attention to the garland. They added gold baubles next to the red ribbons and trailed tinsel and beads down the posts as they went, singing all the while.

‘Cause you are near and everything's clear, you're all I need, underneath the tree-

“Well, Purr-incess, I'm paw-sitive I won't fit under that tree, but I can still be all fur you if you wish?”

Marinette turned around and grinned at Chat. She was impressed not only by the puns but also by the fact that he had managed to slip onto her balcony and sit in her chair while her back was turned. Someone had obviously been practicing his stealth. He knew he had caught her unawares too and boy did he look pleased with himself. In fact he looked like that cat that got the canary.

She giggled at her own joke. “Someone's in a good mood tonight, kitten. Did they serve the good tuna at dinner?”

Meow-ch!” he placed a clawed hand to his heart in mock offence but couldn’t keep it up and giggled with her.

“Um, excuse me?”

They both looked over at Tikki who was hovering eagerly by Chat’s elbow. She gave him a devastatingly good copy of his own kitten eyes.

“If you're going to be staying for a bit, could I borrow Plagg please?”

“I, uh,” his eyes quickly flickered to Marinette to see what she wanted and her heart melted. He was always so concerned about overstepping his bounds, especially with her. She was more determined than ever to prove to him that she loved knowing who he was and that he was always welcome here. She nodded eagerly and his answering smile was pure sunshine. “But of course, Little Lady. Claws in.”

“Plagg!” Tikki squealed and tacked the black blur that was her partner before he had even fully materialised out of the ring.

They went flying through the air, with Plagg wrapping himself around her as he coalesced. His purr was already echoing loudly. “Tikki!”

“Come warm me up, smelly cat!” she giggled and dragged him over to the window hatch. “Thanks Adrien!” she shouted as they phased straight through the glass.

Marinette held a glove-clad hand to her lips to muffle her giggles. Tikki was just too darn cute whenever she was with Plagg! “I never realised just how much she missed him until now. Thanks for that Chaton, I…”

Her words failed her when she saw what Adrien was wearing - or rather what he wasn’t wearing. He had on an emerald green Oxford shirt with perfectly tailored black suit trousers. A slim back tie was draped around his shoulders, untied for now, and his gold embellished waistcoat was left open. The rest of his suit was missing and he only had a pair of thin wool socks on his feet.

Marinette stared at his aghast for a moment, wondering why the heck he had detransformed out in the open like that, before she quickly reached for her scarf and started undoing the knot. “Adrien, what were you thinking, dropping your transformation out here like that? You'll freeze!”

Her gloved hands fumbled with the knot but his bare hands quickly came up to clasp hers and stop her. “I'm not taking your scarf, Lovebug. You don't tolerate the cold as well as this cat does.”

“I've not been up here that long, and at least I dressed for the weather!” she tried to slip out of his grasp with a small growl.

“I’m still not taking it.” Adrien chuckled and lifted a hand to her cheek, cupping it gently and cutting her grumbling off immediately. She blushed but didn’t pull away from his hand and he felt a warmth flare within him that made him almost forget the cold surrounding him. Absently his thumb started stroking her cheek as he smiled softly down at her. “I’m not taking your warmth, Marinette. I don't want a bug-sicle for a partner.”

The look in his eyes was so soft, so impossibly tender, that Marinette found herself flustered and tongue-tied in front of him in a way she hadn't been in months. Worse, even. At the height of her crush on Adrien she had never felt this overwhelmed. But he wasn’t just Adrien he was Chat and that made her feelings all the more powerful.

He still didn’t know how she felt. They hadn’t managed to get that far in her talk last night before they were just too tired to continue. She wanted to tell him, she wanted to tell him right now, but all that slipped out was…

"Your hands are freezing, Adrien!"

He laughed at that and pulled his hands back only long enough to breath on them before returning them to her face. “Better?”

She trembled as his thumb caressed her cheek again, more from the sweet gesture than the fact that his hands were still ice cold, and just managed to shake her head. “Come inside and warm up properly, silly kitty. I don't want my partner turning into a cat-sicle either.”

He followed her through her hatch and made sure it was shut securely behind him. She shoved him onto the chaise and gestured at the piles of blankets from her baking and babysitting day yesterday. She had folded them neatly ready to put away later but now she was seriously considering using them to make an Adrien-burrito. Chat Noir might not feel the cold like Ladybug did but Adrien had been stood out there in next to nothing and needed warming up fast!

Tikki and Plagg were huddled by the small fan heater she used on particularly cold days so Marinette quickly stripped her scarf off and made a little kwami nest for them in front of it. She smiled when Tikki dove in with a happy chirp and pulled Plagg after her. A rumbling purr soon floated up from the nest.

It was briefly echoed from over by the chaise and Marinette couldn’t help peeking over her shoulder.

Adrien had gone through the stack of blankets and pulled out one from halfway down the pile (fortunately not disturbing the ones on top or Marinette would have definitely gotten her spray bottle out to teach her cat a lesson about messing up her room) and was wrapping it around his shoulders with a contented smile and a barely there purr. Marinette had to stifle a giggle, knowing how self conscious he was about his purring, but it stopped as quickly as it had started.

“What are you even doing here, kitty?” Marinette asked as she shrugged her coat off. “You’re booked solid every single day this week.”

Plagg snorted. “Like that stops us.”

“You skipped out?” Marinette said, shocked. “But won’t your father be mad?” Adrien grinned as Plagg cackled and Marinette didn’t know if that was a good thing or not.

Adrien eventually answered her. “I’m in the middle of a piano lesson right now - or at least that’s what everyone thinks. I record most of my practices so I can play them back when I want to sneak out,” he said with a wink. “No one has caught on yet.”

Tikki tutted. “It’s risky to push your luck like that Adrien.”

“Pfft, don’t fret so much Sweets,” Plagg scoffed, nuzzling up to his partner and purring.

“I’m blaming you for this,” Tikki said, unimpressed with him.

“Don’t. The kid was doing this long before I met him,” Plagg looked over at the two humans on the chaise and gave a loud and obnoxious fak sniffle, wiping a tiny paw under his eyes. “I’m so proud!”

Marinette rolled her eyes. She could already tell that this was going to become very commonplace. “Knock it off you two. Adrien, are you sure you’re ok to sneak out like this?”

“Yep. No one will be in for at least an hour so I figured why not come and see my Princess?”

“Aww, did you miss me that much already kitty?”

She meant it as a gentle tease, the way Ladybug and Chat Noir had bantered for years, the way she heard Adrien and Nino joke about all the time, but try as she might she couldn’t hear even the tiniest hint of teasing in his answer.

“Yes.”

Adrien smiled at her, once so impossible soft that she felt a rush of warmth that had nothing to do with her hot chocolate. It was all she could do to keep the blush from rising to her cheeks. There was no way she could form a coherent response to that.

Fortunately she didn’t have to. Her kitty came to her rescue once again, without even knowing he was doing it.

“You know who I am. It’s so… freeing,” he said, sighing happily. “I can come over and hang out with you without having to plan it and run it past Nathalie and my father, waiting months for it to happen only to be cancelled for an urgent photoshoot or a fitting or something else as silly as that.”

Adrien scowled briefly, thinking of those terrible reasons his father had cancelled his plans with friends via Nathalie. There had been far too many times over the last few years when Adrien had walked into school looking utterly distraught, only a day or two before he was supposed to go out with his friends, yet having to tell them that he couldn’t for one reason or another. They never blamed him from that but he still felt awful every time he had to cancel.

He shook his head to avoid getting too lost in thoughts. “I can be with you whenever I want without having to come up with some crazy cover story for how I managed to escape my house like I do with Nino and Alya. You know me, all of me. There’s no need for any kind of pretence. It’s amazing, it’s miraculous. So, yeah, of course I missed you.”

“Adrien…” he could see her heart breaking for him even as she smiled. She reached out and covered his hand with hers, barely blushing as he quickly laced their fingers together. “You know you’re welcome here whenever you want.”

“I do,” he grinned and brought her hand up to kiss her knuckles, finally winning that blush from her. He smirked then. “Thanks Lovebug. I absolutely will not abuse that privilege.”

Marinette groaned. Nothing good ever came from that grin. “Oh god, you will, won’t you? You’ll be dropping by at all hours of the day and night and then I’m going to have to listen to you tease me about my bedhead, or my fuzzy slippers, or whine because you’re not getting pets when I’m in the middle of a project.”

“I can neither confirm nor deny!” he sing-songed.

“Adrien!”

“You know I won’t bug you too much,” he said. She automatically swatted his arm for that but he only laughed again. “If there’s no akuma Plagg will only transform me if he’s in a good mood.”

That sparked something in Marinette’s memory. “Oh, wait here a second.”

She rushed down to the kitchen, please to see her parents were still busy with the bakery - though judging by the time they would be coming up for their dinner soon. She needed to wrap things up quickly. Fortunately, Adrien did say he wasn’t going to be staying for long. He’d only popped over to see her briefly.

She felt her cheeks her up again. He was just too sweet! That boy was going to kill her with cuteness and honestly she wouldn’t mind that at all.

She grabbed the final wedge of camembert from the fridge and set it on a plate, making sure to add the pungent cheese to the shopping list stuck to the fridge, before grabbing a handful of cookies from the tin and setting the on another plate. That was the kwami’s taken care of for now.

Her eyes then fell on the box of discarded treats her parents sent up for her to snack on earlier. They were the ones that hadn’t risen properly or had cracks in or lopsided icing. Stuff that still looked mouthwateringly edible but that wasn’t up to the usual high standards that Tom and Sabine demanded of the foods they offered for sale. They did this every year for her in the Christmas run-up, when Marinette was busy with school work, commissions, extra babysitting, bakery shifts, and (not that they knew this) extra superhero duties. Since she was so busy they wanted to make sure there was always food on hand for her to snack on.

It was a nice mix of savoury and sweet treats, stuff that was easy to snack on, relatively healthy, and definitely filling. She wasn’t going to have one herself, not with dinner so close, but she knew a certain cat hero who never turned down snacks of any kind. She picked out a few petit fours, a tartelette aux fruits, and the last two croissants and stuffed them into a smaller box for Adrien.

Marinette hurried back to her room, closing the hatch behind her, and setting the two plates near the little kwami nest. “Here Plagg, so you can transform when you need to go back. Is this enough?”

The camembert was gone before she could blink. Plagg sat back with a happy smile as he licked the last traces of cheese from his whiskers. “Purr-fect, Purr-incess. Kid, this is good bug, you need to keep her.”

She was about to comment when Adrien’s chuckle silenced her.

“You know I’m not letting her slip away, Plagg,” he grinned, enjoying the way the blush coloured Marinette’s cheeks and how she fought to hide it. “Now get over here, Bugaboo, you need to warm up too.”

He barely managed to hide a laugh as she wrinkled her nose at him. “You know I hate Bugaboo.”

When she added a pout, Adrien did laugh. How could he not? She was adorable!

He grabbed the second blanket he had pulled from the pile, the soft pink one that she favoured, and held it out to her invitingly. She let him wrap it around her shoulders without too much complaint and smiled at him in thanks.

Their conversation flowed freely after that. They talked about their schoolwork, all of the homework that kept piling up, funny stories from Adrien’s shoots and fittings, moaning about the akumas that just wouldn’t stop coming, and touched on a few more things regarding their secret identities. It came as quite a surprise to them when Adrien’s phone alarm went off. Neither of them had noticed the passage of time. It was a good thing he’d set it to remind him to return home in time for Nathalie’s inspection or she would undoubtedly have found an empty room.

Plagg and Tikki floated over and reluctantly parted, Tikki huddling on Marinette’s shoulder under the blanket while Plagg gave a cocky salute and let himself be drawn into the ring as Adrien was replaced by Chat Noir.

“Until tomorrow, My Princess,” he bowed theatrically and kissed her hand.

Marinette merely rolled her eyes at him. Such a goofball! He turned to head up the stairs to her loft bed and get onto the balcony and Marinette automatically followed to see him out. She was not expecting to walk face first into his surprisingly toned leather-clad chest and… ok, she was not going down that trail of thoughts, no way, no how.

He cocked an eyebrow at her. “Where do you think you’re going?” he asked, then didn’t bother waiting for her answer. “It’s far too cold outside for you two. You don’t need to see me out.”

“I…”

Marinette froze when his hand cupped her cheek and he leaned down to press their foreheads together. His gaze was so warm, so fond, she felt like she could drown in it. Surely he could hear her heart racing?

He smiled. “I know you want to see me out, and I love that you want to do that, but it really is too cold out there for you,” he murmured. She could feel his breath ghosting across her skin and she wanted nothing more than to lean in but her body was still frozen in shock. “Please, Princess, let me look after you too.”

“Ok…”

He smiled and Marinette swore she felt her heart skip a beat or five when he leaned in and pressed the gentles of kisses to her forehead.

Chat Noir gave a wink and his typical jaunty salute before bounding up the stairs to her bed and slipping out of her window. She could see him setting int back into place securely before his footsteps sounded nearly the railing and then he was gone.

She felt Tikki nuzzling against her neck as she peeked out of the blanket. “So…?”

“So?” Marinette twisted to see Tikki to confirm that, yes, her kwami did indeed have a grin on her face that match her smug tone of voice.

“Maybe we’d better label that the official Chat-flap,” Tikki giggled. “The two of you are getting awfully close now.”

Marinette huffed. “You can’t blame him for feeling lonely at his house, Tikki,” she scolded. She wrapped a protective hand around her kwami and flopped back onto her chaise. “There’s no one there for him but Plagg. Even the times that Nathalie checks on him run to his father’s schedule. That man is a bigger icicle that the decorations we just put up.”

She heard Tikki hum in agreement before settling back on her shoulder and burrowing into her hair.

Marinette shifted uncomfortably against her chaise. She shifted again before huffing and pulling out whatever it was she had sat on, only to blink in surprise at the thin patchwork quilt she had inadvertently sat on.

It was the first one she had ever made, thin and lightweight but oh so warm, super soft and comfortable. One end of it was messy and showed her inexperience with quilting, but it transitioned into flawless work and perfect stitching towards the other end. She kept it for that exact reason, to remind herself of how far she had come whenever she was down about her work.

It was also the quilt Adrien had chosen to wrap himself up in yesterday and again today. The quilt he had wrapped around himself and purred in delight.

“You’ve got that look again.”

Marinette didn’t bother trying to deny it and just hummed noncommittally instead.

Tikki sighed. “What is it this time?”

“Did you see how much he liked my quilt?”

Tikki nodded. It had been hard to miss, especially when he had started purring. Tikki didn’t blame him for liking it, it was one of her favourites too, but… her train of thought promptly derailed when she realised exactly why Marinette was asking. “Oh, no, no, no, Marinette, you don’t have time to create a whole quilt between now and Christmas!”

Marinette just snorted. “Please, I can do an absolutely basic quilt in less than half a day.”

But you wouldn’t make his quilt basic!” Tikki almost screamed. She couldn’t be serious, could she? There was no way Marinette wanted to make a whole quilt in less than three weeks, right?

“It wouldn’t be extravagant either! Just trust me on this Tikki. Please?”

Tikki held firm for a moment more before realising she stood no chance against Marinette Dupain-Cheng on a design roll. She sighed. “Ok. But I will use your phone to call Adrien and get him to help me stop you if you push yourself too far with this,” she warned, even as she snuggled back into Marinette’s hair. Her Chosen was too good for this world sometimes. “I know you want to make him a wonderful present but please look after yourself too.”

“I will. I promise.”

Marinette knew that this was one time she could actually keep that promise.

She hadn’t been lying to Tikki. An absolutely basic quilt would take her no more than half a day to throw together. She’d done it before, sitting at her sewing machine and sewing squares from her fabric scraps basket together, before attaching some batting and then sewing it all to a thick backing fabric. Manon had wanted a pretty quilt like hers for her dolls’ picnics and so Marinette had made her one. She hadn’t timed it but it couldn’t have taken more than three or four hours total.

Yes, the quilt she was going to make for Adrien was going to be a little more complex than that, but it still wouldn’t take too long. She wasn’t going to make it too big, she wasn’t going to do irregularly shaped patches, or any heavy embroidery… no, she had something different in mind. Something to prove to Adrien that she was happy knowing that it was him.

She was pretty sure he’d like this quilt too. He’d looked so happy and snug under her quilt earlier, when he had coaxed her over to the chaise to talk and...

Marinette gasped and shot up, sending Tikki flying with a yelp, and stared up at the window in stunned disbelief.

“Did he call me Lovebug!?! Twice!?!”

Chapter Text

Friday 6th December. 10.15a.m.

Marinette just knew that Alya and Nino were going to attack today. She knew it.

She could see it in their excited grins when she and Adrien walked to school after having breakfast together in the bakery - for the fifth morning in a row. Nino was looking proud of both of them while Alya looked like she was seconds away from spontaneous combustion with how hard she was fighting to keep still and not jump up and down screaming.

She honestly didn’t think that either of them would have the patience to wait until their morning récré though. It was actually kind of impressive that they’d held it together for so long.

Alya exploded into action when the bell rang, ending the lesson. She shoved her things in her bag, did the same to Marinette, grabbed her best friend by the arm, bussed Nino’s cheeks, and ran out of the classroom dragging a stumbling Marinette behind her. Marinette prayed that she would survive this interrogation. For Adrien’s sake she also prayed that Nino hadn’t been taking lessons in questioning from Alya. The last thing she saw as she was dragged into the locker room was Adrien’s worried green gaze.

Adrien let Nino steer him to their favourite bench in their courtyard, in a quiet out of the way corner, and tried not to let his panic show. He was beginning to think that Nino knew more than he was letting on; that Nino wasn’t buying his pastry excuse. He wondered if there was any way he was getting out of this without admitting to more than he wanted to.

“So…” Nino drew the sound out with a grin.

Adrien just smiled back. “A needle pulling thread, la a note to follow s-”

The rest of his deliberately off-key singing was quickly muffled by Nino’s hand. He glared at the laughing model. “Dude, you suck. How dare you pull a Sound of Music on me!”

“Oops?”

“Betrayal!” Nino removed his hand only so he could point at Adrien, wagging his finger is disapproval. “Ultimate betrayal!”

“I’m assuming you wanted to talk about something other than musicals then?” Adrien gave Nino his most innocent smile, but couldn’t hold it for long. He ended up laughing as Nino continued to over-exaggerate how disgruntled he was, how betrayed he felt by Adrien.

But then Nino dropped all pretence of teasing and smiled at him. Adrien knew nothing good could some from that smile. He just knew that Nino’s next words were going to be worse than the teasing.

“You and Marinette, eh?”

Damnit. Why did he have to be right about this? He feigned innocence again. “Yes?”

“What’s really going on with you two?” Nino asked. Adrien opened his mouth to give the same excuse he’d given Nathalie all week but shut it with a click when Nino gave him that look. “I know you’re saying it’s so you can stock up on carbs while you’re doing all your fancy pretty-boy stuff this week-”

“It’s easier to call it modelling, you know.”

“-but I totally know better,” Nino rolled his eyes. “Nathalie wouldn’t let Gorilla go anywhere near Marinette’s bakery if she knew you were eating carbs. The only reason she’d let you go is school-related and I know you two aren’t working on any projects together. Except for the science one we got on Wednesday but you were visiting her before that. Plus, you’re the one who admitted you’re a dorkasaurus. So, spill. What’s the real story?”

Adrien didn’t bother trying to argue against it. Why should he? Nino was his best friend and he needed all the help with this that he could get. Plagg didn’t count, he just kept whining about not getting enough camembert to stomach Adrien’s confession plans. “Oh god Nino I’m hopeless. I really am a total dorkasaurus around her!”

“Trust me, you don’t look it.”

“But I feel it. I feel giddy and happy and just so-” he trailed off and made an inarticulate noise that reminded him of the time he had accidentally trodden on Plagg’s tail. It was a very accurate summation of his emotional state truth be told. “You know?”

Nino nodded. He understood that emotion very well. His short-lived crush on Marinette had frequently made him feel like that, even though that day in the panther cage had resulted in him dating Alya instead. Now it was Alya who often made him feel like that. It was awesome! “I know, bro. I know.” He gave Adrien a consoling pat on the shoulder and didn’t even fake injury when his blond head suddenly crashed onto his shoulder. Instead he just wrapped an arm around Adrien’s shoulders and let him vent.

“I just want to be near her,” Adrien sighed. Nino had never heard a more pathetically love-sick noise in his life. “I told Nathalie it was a big project that could seriously affect my grade, and Gorilla waits outside in exchange for a Christmas treat.”

“The dude does love Christmas,” Nino agreed.”

“It isn’t just for the carbs no matter how delightful they are. I just… I just want to be with her. I… I like her.”

Nino chuckled. Adrien had it so bad, way worse than he thought. Alya was going to be ecstatic when he told her - though he needed to wrap this up now, before she got back from interrogating Marinette. He let go of Adrien’s shoulders to slap his back comfortingly and grinned. “Well fortunately for you, I am awesome!” he said gradiosely. Adrien snorted and Nino just slapped the back of his head. “And despite you quoting the forbidden song at me just then, you traitor, I am cool enough to help you out here.”

“Thanks man,” Adrien grinned. He really did have the best friends ever. “I’m going to need all the help I can get.”

“You definitely will.”

Adrien was about to thank Nino, because he was desperate, he needed a foolproof and fast way to win Marinette over. He forgot all about that when Nino smirked at him again. Twice in one conversation. This was not good. Whatever Nino was planning was not worth it, he should-

“Yo, Alya!”

Adrien snapped his head around and sure enough there were Alya and Marinette exiting the locker room, adjusting their scarves and gloves as they came out. Marinette was as gorgeous as always but he was pretty sure there was a hint of pink in her cheeks. It could be the chill in the air, but as Alya was wearing the same grin as Nino he was more than willing to bet that her blush was the result of Alya’s interrogation. Damnit. They'd been played. Divide and conquer. It was the oldest trick in the book.

Adrien’s suspicions were confirmed when Alya nudged Marinette and said something that made her turn bright red. This had to be his fault. Going to the bakery every morning this week, sighing over her, admitting his dorkasaurus nature to Nino on Monday… yeah, it was totally his fault. He really hoped he didn’t end up giving their identities away with how obvious he was being.

The girls arrived and Alya quickly gave Nino a kiss before sitting next to him. Marinette caught his gaze and rolled her eyes at their friends before squeezing onto the bench next to him and curling up against his side. He had to fight the urge to wrap his arms around her and help her warm up - he didn’t need to give Nino and Alya any more ammunition right now.

“So,” Nino began. “The four of us haven’t hung out in ages-”

Alya snorted. “Nino we’ve been together every récré all week.”

“-and that’s a damned shame,” Nino carried on as if he hadn’t heard her. “So I think we should-”

Alya wasn’t finished though. “And don’t forget all the lunches last week.”

Nino shot her a pleading look and then made a very obvious gesture towards Adrien and Marinette. “Babe, please.” Alya quickly caught on, smirking evilly.

Adrien fought the urge to facepalm. He caught Marinette’s eyes and did his best to convey a thousand apologies by gaze alone. She shook her head and then looked at their friends as if to say they should both have expected this and it wasn’t his fault.

“Anyway, as I was trying to say,” Nino forged ahead. “There’s this cafe I like a few streets over so why don’t we go there for lunch, just the four of us?”

“I’m in!” Alya instantly agreed.

Marinette knew better than to even try and evade her best friend and gave in gracefully. “That sounds great.”

Adrien wanted to say yes but, as always, there was the complication of his home life. “I’ll have to get permission first but I like that idea,” he said. He pulled his phone out and shot a quick text off to Nathalie, asking permission to have lunch with his friends for homework purposes. He wasn’t stupid enough to mention that they would be leaving school grounds; she would never say yes to that at such short notice. He wasn’t surprised when her answer came back immediately but he was very surprised to see that he was allowed to go. He whooped in delight. “I’m there!”

“Awesome bro!”


Friday 6th December 2019. 11.45 a.m.

Nino opened the door to the cafe with a flourish. "Behold, Paradise!"

Adrien wasn't sure why he was so enthusiastic about this place. It was a pretty generic cafe on first glance. Warm and comfortable, definitely, but generic.

There were tables and chairs set up for proper dining, as well as bars and stools for faster eating, and comfy sofas and armchairs with low coffee tables for a more leisurely experience. It was clean and well presented and the food je could see looked great, but he just wasn't sure what made this such an amazing place...

...until his eyes landed on the stage in the corner. It had a full sound system, turntables, microphones, and an array of instruments ready for use. The piano was a pretty good one from what he could see. A sign advertised that the stage was open from 3pm to closing every day and the last two hours were open to anyone who wanted a go. He could see why Nino loved this place.

"How awesome is this, right?" Nino grinned at them.

“It's something,” they all agreed.

“Is this where you come for your inspiration?” Marinette asked. The two creators of their group often traded tips for overcoming blocks and finding inspiration - her go-to place was the Trocadero, and Nino had mentioned that his was a cafe before.

“Yep. I do homework here a few times a week and listen to everyone. I've even started networking.”

“That's amazing Nino!”

“This is my usual spot,” he pointed at a low lying table surrounded by a two-seater sofa and two armchairs. It was halfway between the stage and the cafe entrance, on the opposite side of the room to the kitchen and order point. He dropped into one of the armchairs, shoving Alya into the other, then smirked at Adrien while he gestured to the sofa. Adrien fought the urge to facepalm and settled for glaring at his unsubtle friend. Nino just ignored him. “Lunch today is on my bro here.”

“What, why?”

“The forbidden song.” Nino scowled, his tone inviting no argument.

Adrien just sighed and nodded. He should have enough cash on him for lunch at least. He could see Marinete giggling behind her hand and almost blushed. Nino was supposed to be helping him, not embarrassing him in front of his Princess!

He was pretty sure he could hear Plagg cackling away in his bag too. Traitor.

“Ok, fine,” he agreed. “What does everyone want?”

With perfect timing, a waitress drifted over to them with four menus and introduced herself as Celia. Her mother was the owner of this place and the two of them had a soft spot for Nino who had quickly become one of their regulars. Celia was delighted to finally meet Nino’s girlfriend and friends after hearing him talk so fondly about them.

Nino blushed but ordered his usual from Celia, soup and a sandwich. The others copied him and Celia promised to be back shortly with their food.

“This is the place that I’ve been too busy for you to bring me to, isn’t it?” Alya asked, giving her boyfriend an apologetic smile.

“Yeah, it is, but you’re here now babe.”

Nino explained to them how he had found this place - quite literally stumbling across it in an act of clumsiness to rival Marinette’s - and Ceila and her mother, Laure, had helped to patch him up. He’d ended up staying for three hours that day, so entranced by the music. He did his best to come back at least once a week from that point on. Often more.

Celia and Laure were both quite fond of him - he’d certainly made a unique first impression on them - and they were the ones who encouraged him to start networking after he had finally admitted his own musical skills to them.

When Celia returned with four mugs of soup and a giant sharing platter of sandwiches she started to add to Nino’s story of finding the cafe, but Nino quickly changed the subject with a deep blush. Celia walked away laughing while Alya eyed her boyfriend thoughtfully.

Marinette leaned over to Adrien. “I bet you she’ll have the story out of him by this time next week.”

“No way,” Adrien snorted. “She’ll have it out of him by the end of the weekend.”

Nino changed the subject as quickly as he could, but Adrien assumed by the resigned look on his face Nino knew he had only bought himself a temporary reprieve.

Instead they talked about their Secret Santas - Alya in particular was stumped since she was banned from giving out Ladybug and Chat Noir merchandise - random bits of gossip that they had heard around the school - apparently Aurore had herself a secret admirer who was going to ask her out for Christmas - and, unfortunately, the mountain of homework that they had to clear by the end of term. Since Adrien was only busy with his modelling commitments for a few more days they all promised they would try and get some study groups arranged. Adrien was the only reason the other three were passing science, Marinette had literature nailed, Alya was best at French, and Nino was their English expert. They’d get good grades from those study groups.

With that in mind, the four decided to head back to school a little earlier than first planned so that they could grab some more books from the library. No time like the present after all.

Celia waved them out and all four promised they would be back soon.

They were only a street away when Alya began hinting that she needed more caffeine to get through the rest of the school day and wow, what a coincidence, Marinette’s favourite coffee shop just happened to be close by. Marinette buried her face in her hands and groaned while Adrien just chuckled. Alya wasn’t subtle at all but he did want to know all of Marinette’s favourite things.

As soon as he agreed to buy their coffee like he had bought their lunch, Alya grabbed Nino and led the way to the coffee shop. Marinette took the opportunity to lean closer to Adrien. “Sorry about her,” she said with a forced smile. “She means well.”

“I don’t mind.”

She looked up at him, not surprised at all to see that he really meant it. She had known that both Adrien and Chat Noir were generous to a fault before this, but now she knew that sweet and kind Adrien had the stubbornness and determination of Chat Noir she knew it was a fight she wasn’t going to win. She made a mental note to make sure that he got extras when he inevitably came round for breakfast tomorrow morning. If he was going to spoil her with food, she was going to do the same.

Their route to the coffee shop took them through a large park, easily three times the size of the one by the bakery, but instead of heading straight through it they meandered towards one side of it following the sound of singing.

The local école children were gathered in the park singing carols for the enjoyment of all. A teacher dressed as an elf walk walking around collecting donations from the crowd and explaining that all money was going to the local children’s hospital where one of their students was receiving treatment. Judging by the smiling and waving there were seval proud parents in the audience as well as people who had simply been drawn in by the beautiful sound.

The four were quickly captivated by the choir. Their voices were lovely and the atmosphere in their corner of the park was happy and joyful.

The collection box soon arrived in front of them and they quickly donated. Nino emptied his pockets out, Marinette gave all of her spare change, Adrien nearly made the Elf cry by slipping in just over €200, but then the Elf had a hard time not laughing as Alya dumped her whole purse into the collection box and then had to pick out her phone, pens, and breath mints and other non-coin donations.

“Oops,” she chuckled.

Marinette began to shiver as the teacher announced the titles of the two final songs they were going to sing. She tried her best to hide it but when she caught green eyes looking at her in concern she knew she was caught. Chat Noir was hyper vigilant of his Lady’s safety after all.

Alya was the one to question her though. “Are you cold? Should we head back to school girl?”

“No, I'll be fine for a few more minutes,” Marinette said, still not taking her eyes from the children. She really didn’t want to miss the last of the concert. “And they only have two more songs to sing anyway.”

They might have believed her if it wasn’t for the strong gust of wind that blew past them just then.

Marinette couldn’t help the violent shiver that she gave then. She was becoming increasingly more sensitive to cold with each year she held the Miraculous. Tikki promised that it would eventually plateau but until then she was dreading the depths of winter and the concerned looks she would get. Much like the one Alya was sending towards her now.

She didn’t even have time to reassure her best friend before a familiar set of arms quickly wrapped around her and she gratefully sank into his warmth. Chat never minded giving her a bear-hug of a cuddle to help her warm up…

… his arms tensed around her then as he realised at the same time that she did that he wasn’t actually Chat Noir right now.

Marinette felt her brain go into blue screen mode while she struggled to reboot it to come up with an explanation but Adrien saved her. He reached out and snagged Nino, pulling him into their huddle on their left while holding his arm out to invite Alya in on their right.

“Great idea, Sunshine!” Alya snuggled right in, always happy to be a human heater for her bestie.

Marinette sighed at the added warmth. This was the way to enjoy a carol concert in the park with friends. Full after a good meal and pleasantly warm. She could stay like this forever.

A shrill scream pierced the air followed by maniacal laughter.

Marinette sighed. Akumas always struck at the worst possible times didn’t they? She’d just started to feel warm again.

Alya shrieked and grabbed Nino out of the huddle, both of them running towards the screaming. The concert was swiftly wrapped up, parents and teachers grabbing their children and hurrying back to the school while the rest of the audience ran for the nearest shelter they could find. Marinette let Adrien steer her out of the park until they stopped in a quiet alleyway, already mourning the loss of warmth.

He pushed her into the corner, making sure they were out of sight, before he grinned down at her. “Ready, my Lady?”

“Ready.”

Pink and green light filled the alley as they called their transformations and soon Ladybug and Chat Noir were swinging into battle.

Chapter Text

Saturday 7th December 2019. 08.00 a.m.

Adrien had successfully managed to spend a whole week having breakfast with Marinette in her home. Quite honestly he had no idea how his luck had held out for an entire school week. It had to be Marinette’s good luck at work, that was the only explanation.

They both decided to take half of their breakfast to school with them to share with Nino and Alya before classes started. Their friends had been shaken up when they couldn’t find them or call their phones during yesterday akuma attack, pathetic as it was, and some quality time with the besties and some croissants was the answer to that.

They were eating and talking together when the classroom door slammed open, startling a yelp out of Nino and almost making Marinette fall from her seat were it not for Adrien’s quick and cat-like reflexes. Alya merely chose to glare at the intruder who had disturbed her otherwise wonderful morning. Adrien just hoped that they could survive this encounter peacefully.

Chloé stood in the doorway, immaculate as usual in the most expensive designer brands on the market, and surveying the room as if she were a queen. Her smug grin faded when she saw Adrien and Marinette together but she pushed the scowl away and instead marched to the front of the classroom. Sabrina trailed after her as usual. What was unusual was the way the redhead was practically bouncing in excitement before Chloé had even said anything.

This was going to be interesting.

Chloé tried to smile at the room but it came out too forced. “Oh good,” she simpered. “Everyone is already here.”

“Those words have never been followed by good news,” Marinette muttered to Adrien under her breath. He just nodded and helped her right herself and take her seat.

She thanked him with a smile before turning to Alya who had leaned over to grab her attention. “You’re class rep, so answer me this. Should we gag her to stop her ruining our Christmas cheer?”

Chloé glared at them. “If you two losers would shut up, I have a little announcement to make!”

Marinette rolled her eyes. “We’re all ears.”

Clearly her tone was too sarcastic for the heiress who shot her a look of pure loathing. Marinette might have cared more if she didn’t get looks like this every other day. They had lost most of their effect from overuse. She did notice Adrien sitting up and frowning at his childhood friend and she really hoped he wasn’t planning on saying anything right now. Provided he acted more Adrien that Chat Noir right now they would be fine.

She wasn’t going to hold her breath.

Chloé turned her nose up at Marinette. “I don’t care if you listen or not, Dupain-Cheng, but don’t you dare interrupt me!”

One imperious click of her fingers later and Sabrina thrust several gilded tickets into her waiting hand. Most of the class now looked intrigued, but it was more because this was out of the ordinary for Chloé rather than any real curiosity.

She gave another simpering smile to the room. “My Daddy is having an intimate little soirée on New Year’s Eve at his hotel. Only the best of the best of Paris will be there but it’s going to be such an extravaganza! He told me that I simply had to invite people so here we go.”

All it once it became clear to everyone exactly why Chloé was trying, and failing, to appear kind. Her father had ordered it. He also had to be holding something over her to get her to agree, such as no more designer shopping sprees, no more new handbags, or no more exotic and imported fabrics. Marinette shook her head. She was more than a little annoyed by Chloé’s antics. She could throw somewhat decent parties but there had to be a huge incentive for Marinette to willingly go, like the one and only party at the hotel she had attended

Chloé scowled at her before tossing her hair over her shoulder and walking around the room and up the stairs to stand before… Alya? She held a gold-edged ticket out to the journalist, but Alya looked at it like it was laced with poison instead.

Chloé scoffed. Marinette was pretty sure she could hear her muttering ‘ridiculous, utterly ridiculous’ under her breath. “You should be there with your phone to put this on your quaint little blog, if your cheap phone can handle it that is. My Daddy used his connections to get Ladybug and Chat Noir to agree to attend.”

“Seriously?”

Alya snatched the ticket from Chloé’s hand with a shriek, reading over it intently and ignoring the blonde’s histrionics about her manicure and papercuts. Marinette snuck a quick peek at Adrien while Alya was suitably distracted. He looked as shocked as she felt and subtly shook his head at her. He hadn’t heard anything about this invitation either and he was not willing to go. That was another thing that was starting to make sense now that she knew who he was - sometimes Chat Noir would decline invites to such parties, parties that Marinette was desperate to go to so she could see the gowns, but that was because he attended more than enough of them as Adrien.

“That’s huge!” Alya squealed again, beaming excitedly at the ticket. “Oh, and I get a plus one too? Sweet!”

Chloé rolled her eyes. “Urgh, whatever. Just don’t embarrass me with what you think qualifies as decent taste in fashion when you show up,” she wrinkled her nose before grabbing another ticket and handing it to Nino. If possible he looked even more shocked than his girlfriend did. “This one's for you. After your second big television win you'll be a fantastic addition to the party."

Nino blinked. "Thanks?"

"Daddy is keen on supporting local talent," Chloé explained, waving the ticket in Nino's face. "Not that you have any."

Nino snorted but took the ticket anyway. He leaned back to compare tickets with Alya when Chloé flounced off to the back of the room to bother Nathanaël. Since Nino got one for winning a music competition, it made sense to offer Nathanaël a ticket too for winning a major youth art contest a few weeks back. He still looked terrified of Chloé though. Marinette winced in sympathy at him, before turning questioningly to Adrien.

He shrugged.

Adrien had heard of Chloé's father's party of course. Their families moved in the same social circle so it was impossible not to hear about galas and parties. He just hadn't realised that he would be invited.

Adrien winced. He knew Chloé had an invite in her hand for him - why wouldn't she? She'd made no secret of her interest in showing him off to others, but the excuse of childhood friends just wasn’t cutting it any more. Still, she had probably told her father that she wanted him to attend with her, and of course Mayor Bourgeois had told Gabriel, which would explain why he was suspiciously free on New Years Eve. His father was probably expecting him to attend in order to represent the brand, never mind that he would have Chloé hanging all over him if he did.

Or would he?

Alya and Nino both had plus one options on their tickets, and it sounded like Nathanaël did too. If he had one then maybe he could ask someone else? Someone who he actually wanted to have on his arm that evening. Someone who would love to see the gowns and haute couture on display at such a party, who made boring events easier to endure just by being there, and who he was definitely hoping to catch for a New Years’ kiss when the clock struck midnight.

Adrien could feel a blush staining his cheeks at the thought and quickly started going over the stages of the Krebs cycle, the subject Mlle. Mendeleev was going to test them on this afternoon, in an effort to distract himself.

He was totally getting ahead of himself there.

He didn’t even know for certain if Chloé was going to give him a ticket or not. Right now it looked like she was in the middle of a glaring contest with Alix. Adrien sighed. This particular contest could go on for a long time. Neither girl was the type to give ground.

Which is probably why the whole class gaped at Alix when she rolled her eyes and broke their glares with a huff. “Let me guess,” she said groaning. “Your dad wants to do business with my dad, so I have to suffer through a lame party and wear a dress?”

Chloé grimaced. “Like I even want you there!”

Despite that she did hand over the ticket, making sure no part of her real gold manicure touched any part of Alix at all, before turning to Adrien with a predatory smirk. He had to fight a shudder. At least it meant he was getting a ticket. All he needed to do now is come up with a way to ask Marinette to go with him. Nino should be able to help him with that, since yesterday’s akuma interrupted their planning session.

Chloé stood a little too close to him for comfort and leaned it, fluttering her eyelashes. “And of course it wouldn’t be a party without you there, right Adrihoney?” she simpered, placing the ticket in his hand and folding his fingers around in. “You will save me a dance, won’t you?”

Was there a way he could get away with saying Hell no without his father hearing about it and grounding him until he was 80? Probably not. Damn.

“We’ll see, Chlo.”

Chloé smirked. “I know you will,” she said, leaning in.

Adrien jerked back. No way was he going to let her kiss him. “Careful, I think your make-up smudged on my shoulder.”

“What?” she looked utterly horrified before she sprinted towards the door, racing for the locker room as fast as she could in four inch heels, screaming for Sabrina to follow her as she went. Sabrina hurried after her and slammed the door behind them.

Adrien sank down in his chair in relief. “Oh thank god.”

He wasn’t as quiet as he thought he had been as the class burst into laughter around him. Nino even went so far as to wipe a fake tear from his eyes and slap him on the back.

Kim was howling with laughter and beating the desk. “Nice one, Agreste!”

“Dude, that was awesome!” Nino leaned in and wrapped an arm around Adrien’s shoulders. “I’ve never seen her run so fast.”

Alya slipped her phone away and gave him a double thumbs up. “It’s a pity you won’t be able to pull that one on her at the party when she starts getting clingy again - though you could always say her dress got ripped.”

Adrien blamed Plagg for the thought that popped into his head. “Well, she always goes for a gigantic skirt and train, it could happen.”

“Maybe with a little help?”

Kim started laughing again. “Who’d have thought the model would willingly destroy clothes?”

Adrien turned around and grinned at him “I’m saying nothing.”

“Well what I want to know is what kind of party could possible make the Alix Kubdel wear a dress?” Kim said, smirking at Alix.

She just snorted. “Why don’t you pretend to be me for the night? You’d rock a dress, numbnuts.”

Kim took that as an invitation to stand up and flex. “While I have to agree that I would look awesome in anything,” he smirked down at her, “I’m too tall to pretend to be you.” Alix wiped the smirk off his face with her pencil case and the class laughed at Kim’s yelp.

Max took pity on his best friend. “Kim is forgetting to say that he and his family are coming to spend Christmas and New Year with my family down in Lyon. We won’t even be here for the party. He couldn’t impersonate you even if he wanted to Alix.”

Alix sighed and glared at the ceiling. It was pretty obvious that she really didn’t want to go to this party and Adrien couldn’t blame her for that at all. “That sucks. Anyone else want to pretend to be Alix Kubdel plus one for a night?

Rose and Mylène both jumper up. “Me please? Oh.”

“I’m not the only one with a ticket you know.”

Alya perked up. “Awesome idea! There’s one-two-three… twelve of us here, but two aren’t going, and five tickets with plus one options! We can all go!”

Adrien really liked that idea. It meant he would be surrounded by friends for that horrible party and Alya had quite neatly solved his dilemma of how to ask Marinette to be his plus one. He was just about to agree, enthusiastically, when he saw Marinette frown at her best friend. That wasn’t a good sign.

“Alya, are you that desperate to see Ladybug and Chat Noir?”

Damn. Adrien had been so caught up in whether or not he was going to get an invite to the party that he forgot he had an invite to the party. The other him, anyway. If it was up to him then neither superhero would make an appearance, but he could see Marinette seriously considering it if it would make Alya happy.

Alya saved him from making two appearances by shaking her head. “Please, I’ve learned my lesson with Chloé. How many times has she claimed they’re going to show up? Hundreds. And how many times have they actually shown up? Never! But it is a great excuse to party,” she held her ticket up with a grin and Adrien saw Marinette relax and smile back. “Plus there might be a few people there that the Ladyblogger could network with… or perhaps even a young up-and-coming fashion designer like yourself?”

“Oh… oh! Oh, the gowns there would be beautiful!”

“Aaaaand I’ve lost her,” Alya chuckled. She sent her best friend a fond look before leaning around to talk to the other girls. “Hey Mylène? Do you and Ivan want to go with me and Nino as our plus ones?”

Mylène shot a quick glance to her boyfriend and, when he nodded, eagerly accepted Alya’s offer. “Oh yes! Please!”

Alix sighed. “Guess I’m not getting out of this shindig then?” she stood up and turned to the back row. “Rose, you’re with me! Nath, you’re taking Juleka, kay?” she waited for them to agree before sitting back down and pressing her forehead to her desk. “Awesome, now let be bemoan my fate in peace.”

There was only one person left to ask. Adrien was acutely aware that every single eye in the room was on him, save for Marinette who was still in a fashion centric daydream behind him. Even Alix had turned to one side so she could watch without having to take her head off her desk.

Adrien did his best not to blush as he turned to face Marinette. He almost lost it when she still had her happy and dreamy smile on her face, picturing all of the gowns and suits she would be seeing. She snapped out of it when he cleared his throat.

Be cool, be cool, be cool.

“So I guess that means you’re going to the party with me then Marinette… i-if you want to, t-that is?”

Damnit!

Marinette blinked then flushed a deep red and Adrien felt like he might faint from the sight alone. When she smiled he considered it a minor miracle that he managed to stay upright in his seat since he was pretty sure all of his bones had liquefied.

“I… yes!”

His bones had suddenly reappeared and he wanted to leap into the air and scream his success. She said yes!

Marinette giggled. “Yes, I’d love to go… ohmygod I need to get designing!”

With a squeal she lunged for her school bag, yanking her sketchbook and her pencils out. The second she touched pencil to paper she was lost to her designs, dress forms appearing over the page, with notes on skirt types, necklines, and hems. She was completely oblivious to everything around her. Adrien didn’t mind at all. He loved seeing her in the zone. Her passion and her focus were amazing to behold. And she still had a happy smile on her face, and smile that he had put there when he asked her out. He was sure there was a matching grin on his own face. Perhaps even a love-sick smile.

He had asked her out. He had asked Marinette Dupain-Cheng out on a date. And she said yes!

This was the greatest day of his life!

Adrien didn’t even care that everyone was watching him, of that Nino seemed to be writing something down, or that Alya had her phone trained on him, or that… wait, were Kim and Alix exchanging money?

Alya put her phone away and applauded. “Way to break her, Agreste.”

He threw her a questioning look? She wasn’t upset or anything, was she?

Alya rolled her eyes and leaned over Marinette’s shoulder, peering at her designs. “Hey, M, you’re not going to pay any attention today at all are you?”

Marinette made a humming noise as if to say she was paying attention when she clearly wasn’t.

“Never mind,” Alya chuckled. “Agreste, since you sent her into a design binge, you are responsible for making sure my girl here has copies of your notes. No way is she taking any of her own today.”

“I can do that.”

He would be delighted to have another excuse to spend some time with her. Perhaps he could even get a sneak peek at her designs too.

Adrien gave his Princess one last fond look before turning around and waiting for their lessons to begin. The bell would go any second now to start the day.

Nino slid a piece of paper over the desk. When Adrien paused he tapped it and indicated that he should read it.

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, my bro, but you do realise that you didn’t say that this was meant to be a date! She might think you asked her as friends since the rest of us did. You are a total dorkasaurus. You and me, on the bench, this lunchtime. I’ll help you ask her out.

Adrien’s happy mood evaporated by the time he got to the end of the note. Surely Nino was wrong? He went back over everything that everyone had said and nearly sobbed when he realised that Nino was right. They had all arranged to share tickets so they could go as a group, there was nothing romantic about that, nor had he said he was asking her out on a date or to be his girlfriend. Why would Marinette think it was anything other than an invite between friends after his spectacular failure just then?

Holy cats!

He hadn’t asked the girl of his dreams out on a date after all!

Nino shuffled along the bench and held an arm out to Adrien. He took the invite and buried his head into his friends shoulder, muttering and grumbling about his rotten luck. He really did need all the help he could get.

Chapter Text

Sunday 8th December 2019. 11.34 a.m.

Adrien missed Marinette.

He felt a little silly for admitting to it - she’d hadn’t left Paris or anything drastic like that, and he’d seen her less that 12 hours ago for patrol - but he missed her all the same. He loved spending time with her, loved talking to her, loved hearing her laugh, he just loved her. He and Nino had made so many plans to ask her out yesterday, properly this time, but he hadn’t seen her yet.

Nathalie had unknowingly thwarted all of their plans.

Since today wasn’t a school day he wasn’t allowed to go to the bakery before school so he couldn’t see her then. Since they were also doing the last of the outdoor photoshoots today he wasn’t allowed his phone on him. Since they were going to be busy with all of this he wasn’t allowed to waste time with any of his friends - he couldn’t even invite them to the shoot since they were trying to keep the crowds to a minimum. Not that that worked. There had to be at least one hundred die-hard fans of his here.

It would have been nice to see some familiar faces in the crowds but Nathalie had put her foot down. Adrien was stuck here without company.

Adrien grumbled internally even as he smiled and posed for the camera.

He resigned himself to his being a terrible day and was just making plans to escape with Plagg later on that night when a flash of pink in the crowds caught his eye.

Marinette.

Adrien fought the urge to state, to look away from the camera and proe to himself that she was there. A tiny hint of pink in the midst of a sea of dark coloured coats didn’t meant that it was her, just that he firmly associated the colour with her. But on the off chance that it was her (and not just his imagination conjuring her up because he desperately wanted to see her) he didn’t want her to disappear before he could try and flag her down.

He got his chance when Vincent started screaming about spaghetti and left to get another memory card for his camera.

It was her.

Adrien grinned. Marinette was there, she was actually there, trying to weave her way through the dense crowds in her pastel pink parka. He could see a spot of darker pink in the fleece-lined and faux fur trimmed hood and knew that Tikki was hiding there to stay warm too. She was holding several shopping bags tightly and trying to make her way home but the crowd was frustrating her at every turn.

Vincent returned quickly and Adrien began posing again, making sure to keep Marinette in his peripheral vision. He wasn't losing her.

He could tell the moment she got too annoyed with the unmoving crowd, the moment she gave up and decided to take another route home, and he could tell the exact moment when she realised just who they were all gathered to watch. She managed to shuffle to the edge of the crowd and took up a position near the park railings, looking over the proceedings with a smile. She was directly in his field of view now, just over Vincent’s left shoulder, and he couldn’t resist.

He winked at her.

Adrien barely held back a grin when he saw the flush across her face deepen the second she realised he had caught her watching him. It gave him a warm thrill right down to his toes to think that she could be as captivated by him as he was by her, even if her interest in the shoot was mostly professional. When he saw her straighten, and force a bit of confidence into her smile and posture, he knew exactly what she was thinking. Two years of partnership meant they could read each other like books.

It came in very handy for akuma battles, but it was just as useful for teasing your partner from across the park.

He knew she was thinking that she could pass it off as her Ladybug tendencies, that she was pink from the chill in the air, but he was onto her. He grinned at her then, and made sure to infuse it with every bit of smug satisfaction he could muster. Caught you Bugaboo.

He saw her turn a shade pinker before rolling her eyes almost without thinking. In your dreams, kitty.

The sound of the shutter clicking quickly caught his attention again and he glanced back at the photographer. He was hopping around in front of Adrien, trying to get every single angle he possibly could as Adrien moved through the same sequence of poses. It was mind-numbingly boring and not for the first time did he wish it was over already. Especially now that she was here.

Nathalie was hovering nearby, with the Gorilla on standby, both of them ready to pounce at a moment’s notice. Adrien was going to have to be quick to ditch them to spend some time with Marinette. The Gorilla was there for security purposes and would be easier to avoid that Nathalie, all Adrien had to do was ask him (or bribe him with a Christmas-themed drink from the nearby cafe); Nathalie, on the other hand, was there for scheduling purposes and would be keen to rush him into another activity as soon as the photoshoot was over.

Adrien just had to hope that his Lady’s luck was strong enough to help them dodge Nathalie as soon as his photographer was through with him.

Vincent barked out a few more orders and Adrien effortlessly moved into a new pose, held it for a few heartbeats, then melted into a second and a third and a fourth while Vincent raved about spaghetti around him.

The second it was safe, his gaze flicked straight back to the corner of the park and he was delighted to see Marinette still there. She was doing her best to hold back her giggles as she watched the flurry of activity around him. Poor Chaton.

He managed a small shrug between poses before flicking his gaze down to the bags in her hands and quirking an eyebrow at her. What have you got there?

Marinette seized on the chance to distract him from the photoshoot and from teasing her. She hadn’t known he was going to be here when she set out that morning to buy all of her fabrics for her dress for the gala and for his quilt. In fact, if she hadn’t got so annoyed at the crowd she never would have peeked at what they were looking back and could have walked home without even knowing how close to him she had been.

She missed him that morning. She’d even gotten up early just in case he could escape the mansion. Tikki and her parents had been stunned to see her up so early on a Sunday. Still, it wasn’t wasted. She’d managed to hit her three favourite fabric and sewing supplies shops and it wasn’t even noon yet. Marinette had the rest of the day to start working on her dress and Adrien’s quilt.

But she could definitely spare a few minutes now to help him get through a dreary photoshoot.

And tease him.

He wanted to know what was in the bags. She wasn’t going to let him. She tapped the side of her nose and smirked. That’s for me to know and you to find out.

He pouted then nodded in determination and threw her a wink. I’m more than up for that challenge, Princess.

“No, no, no, no! Adrien! I want more seriousness! Not flirty!”

Marinette bit her lips as Adrien returned his attention to the photographer. Teasing him like this probably wasn’t one of her better ideas. Not when he was working. And was that… yep, that large figure off to one side was Gorilla and she can just make out Nathalie there too. Not a good idea.

She waited until he could safely catch his eye again before nodding her head towards the street. I’m going to go now.

He looked shocked before frowning at the photographer and rolling his eyes - and she was positive that she was the only one to see those glances because he did them all ridiculously quickly and made sure they were hidden between poses. No one else was close enough or would be paying enough attention to notice. What? Why? Because of him? Don’t worry about it.

She bit her lip and shook her head. I don’t want to get you in trouble kitty.

Adrien brought out the big guns then and put on his kitten eyes. Please.

Marinette tried to avoid them, she really did, but dammit she had never been able to resist Chat Noir’s kitten eyes. She had learned to withstand them from Manon over the year but never from her partner. She crumbled. Besides, it wasn’t like she wanted to leave him there anyway. She missed him.

She looked around them and tried to come up with an idea. Gorilla and Nathalie were hovering close by, both of them looking worried as they kept an eye on the crowd. The crowd actually seemed to be growing and several of them had their phones out. Several surrounding shops, mostly small businesses and cafes, had people gawking out of the window at the scene. Vincent was looking increasingly happy as he danced around Adrien taking hundreds of photos and extolling the virtues of spaghetti.

She didn’t see this photoshoot lasting for much longer.

Marinette waited until he was looking at her again and nodded. I’ll stay. She had to bite back a giggle at the sheer joy that crossed his face at her answer. If he was transformed his ears would have perked right up. She tilted her head towards a coffee shop over the road then cocked her head at him questioningly. I’ll stay but I’m getting a drink first. Want one?

He nodded and then gave her a look that just screamed surprise me Bugaboo.

Mariette rolled her eyes. Don’t call me Bugaboo.

She turned away before he could give his reply and hurried into the tiny little coffee shop. Unlike the ones she usually frequented, this one was part of a large big brand chain of coffee shops. The service was quick and the room was a much warmer temperature that the streets outside but she missed the cosy and warm atmosphere of the smaller shops. Not to mention the food. Marinette suspected that she might be a bit biased having grown up in her parent’s bakery.

There were only a few people ahead of her in the queue and pretty much everyone else had their noses pressed to the shop windows so Marinette decided to risk a quick conversation with Tikki. She slipped her phone out of her pocket and pressed it to her ear while she loitered near the counters and pretended to look at the menus.

“Sooo,” Tikki slipped into place under the phone, huddled against Marinette’s neck and letting the phone and Marinette’s hair hide her from view. It was a ruse they’d perfected over their time together. “You and Adrien again, huh?”

Marinette groaned. “Less teasing Tikki. I want a warm drink and something with sugar so I know you will too. What looks good to you? They have come cookies and-”

“I will disown you if you give me one of those cookies.” Tikki snapped. “Those aren’t made with love.”

Marinette blinked at the unusually harsh tone of voice Tikki used. “So… what do you want?”

“A hot chocolate please. With whipped cream and extra chocolate sprinkles.”

“The special Christmas peppermint one? I’m going to get that for Adrien and me.”

“Not for me, not this time thank you.”

“Ok,” she nodded, her eyes already scanning the board and the display case of food. “Would Plagg like anything from here?” Marinette asked. She listed every food item with cheese and grew more and more despondent as Tikki kept saying no until she finally said yes to a slice of cheesecake. “Ok, I’ll get that. I’ll get a slice of millionaires shortbread each for Adrien and me. We can handle the missing ingredient.”

Tikki let out a huff and Marinette just knew she had her arms crossed. “Your loss.”

Marinette put her phone away and joined the queue. There was only one person waiting in front of her now and they were served fairly quickly. She gave her order in, paid, and waited for them to bring the drinks over.

“Order for Mar-”

Screams poured in from outside.

The barista jolted and stared at the front of the shop in shock. Marinette tensed and started looking around the coffee shop for her best chance to escape. Or a spot to safely transform if she couldn’t escape in time. There was a door towards the back that looked…

“Ohmygod it’s Adrien Agreste!” “He’s even more handsome in person!” “I love you Adrien!” “I want to have your babies!”

A blond blur raced past the coffee shop windows followed by a stampeding crowd.

The barista sighed. “Oh thank goodness, I thought it might have been another akuma.” He cleared his throat, double checked the order, and started again. “Order for Marinette?”

“Thanks.”

She took the order and left the shop as quickly as she could. Her happy mood from this morning was well and truly gone, and now she had a handful of drinks and desserts that weren’t going to get eaten. Tikki nuzzled into her neck in an effort to console her and Marinette gave a small smile. Some of the treats would get eaten with her little Sweet Tooth here, but the rest? Maybe she could take them home and treat her parents? They weren’t too far from the bakery.

Mind made up, she cut through the small alley next to the coffee shop...

… and nearly screamed when two black leather clad arms encircled her. “Chat Noir!”

“Hold on tight, Princess!”

He scooped her up into his arms and extended his baton and soon had them soaring above the shops. Leap after leap, bound after bound, they soared away from the behind fans still screaming for Adrien until they landed almost soundlessly. She was impressed that he hadn’t spilled a drop of the drinks in their escape bid. She was even more impressed when he set her down on her own balcony.

One flash of green later and Adrien appeared and sank into her chair wearily. “I hate mobs.”

“That one was too close!” Plagg groaned, flopping onto Adrien’s lap listlessly. “They nearly had his hair!”

“Poor Chatons,” Marinette cooed. She shoved her shopping bags to one side hoping that he was too worn out to notice. “I have the cure for a hard day right here.”

“Yeah?”

“Peppermint hot chocolate, sugary treats, and cuddles!”

With that she scooped Plagg up and hip checked Adrien further along the seat as she squeezed in next to him, delighting in the way he wrapped his arms around her with a big smile. Tikki pounced on Plagg and did the same before dragging him back into Marinette’s warm hood. A tiny hum of a purr soon followed.

“That is purr-fect,” Adrien agreed. He took his drink from her and sipped it, letting out a pleased hum. “I haven’t had flavoured hot chocolate before. It’s good!”

“It’s one of my favourites,” Marinette admitted. She took her own drink and set the kwami treats to one side for whenever they were finished cuddling.

Adrien just hummed his agreement and took another long sip before relaxing into the chair with her. “I love this cure.” He gave a happy sigh which ended on a rumbling purr.

Marinette snuggled into him. “I love your purr.”

“Glad someone does,” Adrien grumbled. Marinette just laughed at him. It sounded so weird around his purr. He scowled, then frowned. “Plagg? It won’t shut off?”

His answer came from Tikki surprisingly. “Of course it won’t.” She giggled before pulling Plagg out of Marinette’s hood and landing on their knees. Plagg immediately curled around her and started purring louder. “Plagg and his kittens purr to help warm up me and my bugs. When the cold bothers us nothing warms us up better that purrs and cuddles. Now that you’ve started, you won’t stop until you get Marinette into the warmth.”

Plagg cracked one eye open. “What she said.”

“Hush, silly kitty,” Tikki giggled again. “You two either need to go inside and warm up or get to some serious snuggling!”

Marinette was lucky that Adrien could see how red her face was from this angle.

Chapter Text

Monday 9th December 2019. 11.30 a.m. Mlle. Bustier’s classroom.

The bell rang and Mlle. Bustier's class cheered and packed their things away eagerly. Alya and Nino waved goodbye to their friends and sprinted from the classroom so quickly that Adrien was surprised he didn't see dust clouds behind them.

Adrien was both glad of Nino's support and embarrassed by how obvious he was being. At this rate Marinette was going to realise that he had asked Nino to keep Alya occupied for lunch so he could be alone with Marinette.

"Shall we?" He gestured to the door.

Marinette giggled and allowed him to escort her from the classroom. He steered them towards the locker room to collect their things before heading to the school entrance. They were having lunch together at her home today.

Today was the day.

Today was the day that he finally asked Marinette out.

He and Nino had texted back and forth all evening and come up with a foolproof plan. Nathalie had banned him from breakfasts at the bakery but she eventually agreed to allow him to have lunch at the school or at the bakery for homework purposes. That gave him two weeks worth of lunches to spend with his friends but mainly Marinette.

Adrien may or may not have pouted to get her to agree.

Nino had been overjoyed at the news and helped him plan his confession. Nino would keep Alya occupied, check, they would head to the bakery, in progress, he would steer the conversation towards the dance, and then he would tell her he didn't mean to go with her as just friends. He wanted more.

It would be perfect.

He steered Marinette pit of the door and turned right towards the bakery. He was completely shocked when she suddenly burst out laughing as they approached the crossing. She was still giggling as she pointed to the hedges around the school.

Adrien snuck a quick peek and nearly fell over laughing.

Nino and Alya were behind the hedges, matching grins on their faces and stars in their eyes, and both had their phones trained on the secret superheroes. Their camouflage was somewhat ruined by their incredibly bright clothing.

Adrien snorted as they crossed the road. "Do they really think they’re being subtle?"

"I-I don’t know about Nino," Marinette said around her giggles, struggling to catch her breath. "But Alya is way too excited to even consider subtlety."

Adrien nearly tripped as they walked into the bakery. Why would Marinette know that Alya was excited? He knew Nino had told Alya because Nino didn't keep anything from his girlfriend (even the stuff that he should) but had Alya told Marinette? Did Marinette know?

He couldn't ask her then because her parents swept them along to the front of the queue, hugging and kissing both of them, and hurrying them upstairs where they promised a hot meal was already waiting for them. Adrien just managed to nod to Gorilla who was waiting by the counters before he was pulled upstairs.

His bodyguard had insisted on being close by when Adrien walked Marinette home for lunch but Adrien privately suspected that he was here for macarons as much as for Adrien's safety.

They were halfway up the stairs when Adrien found his voice again. "So, uh, why is Alya so excited?" He asked. Marinnete just blinked at him. "Did… did Nino say something to her?"

"Nino?" Marinette frowned as she opened the door to her home. "Why would Nino be excited?"

"Oh, well, I just…"

The words died on his tongue as he got a good look at her home. They had decorated over the weekend, with a gorgeous Christmas tree set in the corner, beads and garlands and tinsel and flowers and candles covered every other surface in their home, but what really caught his attention was their coffee table. It was piled high with twigs and leaves and what looked like broken decorations. There was also a small mountain of pine cones, half of which had been painted gold and silver. It looked more like they'd tipped a bin full of rubbish on the table than part of their decor.

"Whoa, what happened here?"

"Ah. I forgot to tidy it away." Marinette flushed. "Sorry Adrien, I’ll get that right now."

He reached out and caught her arm before she could rush over. This was a great start to his confession, embarrassing her like this. "It’s fine. I’m just curious - you know us cats," he grinned and winked.

It did the job of cheering her up and she giggled. "Tell you what, why don’t we eat first and then I’ll show you before we head back to school. Ok?"

Adrien was sure he had died and gone to food heaven.

There was a large slow cooker on the dining table, filled with a beautiful cassoulet. The smell alone had his mouth watering. There was a ladle in the pot and two bowls next to it so they could serve their own portion and a baguette fresh from the oven with a pat of butter.

His dietician would have a fit but he didn't care.

Marinette had obviously sent a message home to her parents because there were two small bakery boxes on the table - one filled with cookies, macarons, and a pain au chocolat, and one filled with gougères and cheese bread. Marinette went to the fridge and added a chunk of camembert to the second box.

Adrien grinned and opened his coat. "Lunch is ready Plagg."

A black blur shot out, sipping into the box with a shriek of delight. Tikki popped out of Marinette's bag, laughing at her cat as Marinette helped her out of her thick snowsuit. She floated over to her own box more sedately but ate her cookies with as much enthusiasm as Plagg was.

There was no sound at the table while all four of them dug into their lunch

For the next half hour the only sounds at the table were the sounds of cutlery on china and murmurs of delight at the taste of the food.

Plagg was the one who broke the companionship silence. As usual.

He had inhaled his food at warp speed, as was his habit, then spent a good deal of time licking his whiskers clean and savouring the lingering taste of his cheese. That couldn't hold his interest for long though and soon he was looking for something else to occupy him.

Naturally that something should be Adrien's bowl of cassoulet.

He prowled across the table, staring intently at the bowl. Adrien was far too used to the cat kwami doing this and reached out a hand without looking to block Plagg from sticking his head into his bowl. Plagg was not to be deterred so easily though and tried to poke his head around the hand blocking his way. Adrien simply moved his bowl to the end of the table. Adrien was far too used to this to bat an eyelid. Plagg maybe a tiny god-like being, but he was also a cat. He behaved like a cat too.

Two feminine giggles came from the other side of the table. When the boys looked up sheepishly, it just caused the two girls to laugh even more.

Plagg scowled and sauntered back over to his and Tikki’s boxes, looked Tikki right in the eye, and deliberately pusher her box off the table.

Tikki gave an outraged cry and leapt at her partner, wrestling him to the table. Plagg gave as good as he got and soon they were rolling over everywhere.

Marinette was laughing too hard to speak and instead just gestured at the pine cone filled table behind them. Adrien nodded through his own chuckles and did as told, sitting by the coffee table whie Marinette bustled about in the kitchen. He saw her load the dishwasher and set the slow cooker, still half full with the glorious cassoulet, to one side for later, then turn the kettle on. When she joined him a few minutes later the kitchen was clean, the kwamis were still fighting, and they both a had a cup of tea.

He took it with a smile. “So what is all of this for?”

“They’re old Christmas decorations. Whenever they get too faded or beaten up I recycle them into new decorations - that was an artificial tree we had in the bakery but it was falling to pieces.”

Marinette leaned forwards and picked up a branch from the table, holding it out for him and letting him see that it was actually artificial. Most of the pine cones and all of the flowers were too. She’d been intending to do this over the weekend, but Adrien’s text this morning had changed that. He’d told her that Nathalie had finally put a stop to his morning bakery trips. She’d been upset of course but it had turned out to be a bit of a blessing. She had spent most of the morning hacking the old and worn out tree to pieces and getting all of this ready, fully intending to finish her work over lunch and after school, leaving her weekend free for dressmaking and quilting.

Adrien meeting her on the school steps and telling her he had permission to go to hers for lunch if she was ok with it completely obliterated all thoughts of her craft project from her mind. She’d said yes immediately, forgetting all about the mess on the table. She was just lucky he was interested in it and not bothered by the mess.

“Now that it’s all cut up, I’m going to recycle it into newer decorations and make wreaths and table centrepieces.”

“Really? That’s so cool!” he grinned at her and she blushed at his praise. Then his expression transformed into a much softer one, a fond warmth in his eyes that rendered her almost speechless, before he huffed out a laugh and shook his head.

“What?”

Wow, was her voice really that breathless?

“You’re amazingly talented, Marinette, and the most creative person I’ve ever known. I still can’t believe I didn’t see it sooner. We’ve known each other for two years and it took accidentally detransforming in the same alley for me to see it.”

His voice was full of both awe and annoyance. Marinette knew exactly how he felt. She’d been kicking herself ever since the reveal for not seeing it sooner - because it was just so frickin’ obvious - but it seemed that Tikki had given her more of an explanation than Plagg had given Adrien. Unsurprising really.

As if her thoughts had summoned them the two kwami finished their squabbling on the kitchen table and floated over to land on the coffee table in front of their Chosen. Plagg immediately started batting at some ribbon and Tikki just rolled her eyes at him. Marinette did her best to muffle her giggles.

“Please don’t fret Adrien,” Tikki soothed. “The glamour magic makes it impossible for people to see who you really are. It can sometimes be broken, but those circumstances are extraordinarily rare, so it pretty much always takes transforming in front of someone for your identity to be discovered.”

“Thanks Tikki.”

Plagg scoffed then and for some reason the sound filled Marinette with dread. What was he planning?

He rolled his eyes at Tikki them smirked at Adrien and her. “Yeah, there’s glamour magic on the jewellery, but that wasn’t why he couldn’t see it. He was just too gaga for Ladybug to notice any other girls. Including the one under the mask, when it was so obvious she was head over heels for him,” he chuckled. Marinette could feel her cheeks burning as Plagg exposed her secrets, and when she snuck a glance at Adrien his were too. “He is one smitten kitten. Like wow, I’ve never heard so much poetry in my life, he’s such a sap, and holy camembert don’t get me started on the lovelorn ramblings. They were supposed to decrease when he found out the two girls he liked were the same person - not increase!”

Tikki giggled and Marinette tried to speak, to tell her to stop, she knew her kwami, she knew that giggle, she knew Tikki was going to join Plagg in blurting everything out, but her tongue felt like it was glued to the roof of her mouth. “I never considered that before… but that is probably why Marinette didn’t notice either. I have never had a Chosen daydream as much, or give so many dreamy sighs over photos of haute couture and photos of magical black leather.”

The strangled sound Marinete managed to make was akin to a dying frog and she could feel that she was blushing more intensely than she had ever blushed before. Quite frankly it was a miracle there was any blood left in the rest of her body with how hot her face felt. Next to her, Adrien whimpered, but she didn’t dare look at him. If she did she’d do something silly like faint.

Tikki gave her a smug grin. “You know I’m not wrong.”

Plagg cackled before pulling Tikki up into the air with him. “You two weren’t going to say anything, so we did it for you. You can thank us later. Now come on Sweets,” he pulled Tikki into the kitchen with him. “There’s some food with our names on!”

For several long and excruciating moments the only sound in the house came from the two giggling kwamis in the kitchen as they found and devoured their snacks.

Marinette was pretty sure she wasn’t even breathing. Tikki and Plagg had killed her, dead, gone, no more, her soul had left her body, she was bereft of life, she was done.

How could she do that? How could Plagg do that? Just blurting that out without any care for her feelings, or Adriens! Tikki knew, she knew, that Marinette was planning on telling him about her crush on him - on both of him. She didn’t need to just blurt it out like that. She was blaming Plagg. She was totally balming Plagg for all of this. Tikki was a lovely kwami before she reconnected with that little imp. She wouldn’t have said anything if Plagg hadn’t delighted in teasing Adrien about his feelings for...

… wait?

Adrien was Chat Noir who liked Ladybug who was Marinette. But Adrien also liked Marinette. That meant that all this time Adrien had been unavailable because of his secret crush on Ladybug. She had been her own god damned competition!

Marinette.exe has stopped working.

Adrien wasn’t faring much better but he at least was used to Plagg and his antics. The shock didn’t hit him anywhere near as hard as it hit Marinette, though it still took him a good deal of time to reboot. His brain was stuck in a loop of I’m going to kill Plagg followed by Holy Cats and Kittens she actually likes me back then skipping back around to homicidal urges and speculations on whether kwami being immortal meant they were un-killable.

He risked a glance at Marinette and saw her sat there still frozen, horribly embarrassed and exposed and reeling from the shock, and made the decision to table this conversation for another day. It was too much to talk about now - for both of them - no matter how much he really, really, really wanted to.

“So what were you thinking of making with all of this then?”

She blinked and looked at him in surprise. “What?”

“All of this,” he waved a hand at the mess on the coffee table. “What are you making with it? I know you said wreaths earlier but I don’t have a creative bone in my body so I have no idea how to get to that from this.”

She blinked again. “Oh, yes,” she paused and blinked again. “Right, well,” she reached over and picked up a small cardboard box, tilting it towards him so he could see the beautiful wreath inside. It was made primarily of silver frosted pinecones with a few tree branches woven through it and some silver baubles. In the middle were four glass candle holders. It was beautiful. “Th-this is an a-advent wreath I did last y-year,” Marinette frowned, then took a deep breath. “I was going to do the same again this year, only some will be smaller and have one candle in the middle.”

“That would look great. Hey, uh, do you think I could commission you to make one?” the words were out of his mouth before he could stop them. “As a present for Gorilla, I mean. He really loves Christmas so I try to get him something Christmassy every year.”

“I, well…” she looked down at the box and the table. “Why don’t I show you how to make one? It would probably mean more to him knowing that you made it yourself.”

“Really? Yes! I mean, please, I’d like that.”

“We don’t have enough time to do it now, but we can start it if you want?”

He was surprised to see that they only had twenty minutes until they were needed back in school. Just how long had the two of them been frozen on the sofa thanks to their meddling kwami?

He decided to go with an Advent wreath for Gorilla and, with a little help from Marinette, was able to quickly decide on what the finished piece should look like. Adrien knew his bodyguard favoured the warmer Christmas colours, reds and golds mainly, so he chose those colours. Half of the pine cones he chose were plain, while the others were stained gold around the edges, and he chose the bright red ribbon that Plagg had been batting. He let Marinette choose the best branches to weave into the wreath (he trusted her judgement on this way more than his own) while he selected four pretty glass candle holders with snowflake designs etched into them. A few small red and gold baubles and some tiny poinsettia flowers and they had what would become a beautiful wreath for Gorilla.

Marinette used the box that had held last year’s advent wreath to hold the pieces for Gorilla’s gift and set it to one side. She started fussing with the items on the table and it was then that Adrien realised she was nervous, and probably still a little embarrassed. He was too but at least he had been planning on talking to her about their feelings today.

“We should get going,” he said after a moment.

They headed to the door in silence and grabbed their bags and coats. Tikki and Plagg flew over silently and slipped back into their hiding places. It was when Marinette blushed and looked away when their hands accidentally brushed as he handed her her coat that Adrien decided he had to say something, to add to the speech that Plagg had made.

“Hey.”

She looked at him as she shrugged her coat on. Adrien smiled at her and reached out to carefully brush her hair away from her face. She froze at the contact, blushing again, her hands clutching at the top buttons of her coat as if to ground her.

“Plagg’s an idiot with terrible taste in food and appalling manners… but he wasn’t wrong,” he smiled, dropping his hand down to hers and prising one away from her coat. Slowly, deliberately, he raised it to his lips and brushed the softest of kisses against her knuckles. He looked deeply into her bluebell eyes, willing her to know how sincere he was in this. “I really do adore you. WIth everything I am I adore you.”

For a moment he thought he had broken her. Her mouth moved but she couldn’t actually say anything. Adrien watcher as she closed her eyes and took a deep breath, visibly pulling herself together, and then his heart skip a beat or five when she brought their still joined hands towards her.

Heat flared across his face when her lips brushed over his hand and he completely lost the power of speech. He could barely even think as he stared at her. “I feel the same way, kitten.”

“I…” he licked his lips, mouth dry. This woman could kill him and he wouldn’t mind at all. “I would really like to talk about this properly later… when we’ve gotten over that!”

Marinette nodded emphatically. “Oh god yes, much later!”


Monday 9th December 2019. 1.30 p.m. Mlle. Mendeleev’s classroom.

Nino had been on the edge of his seat for the whole of their lunch break. He had nearly screamed when Adrien and Marinette walking into school together, both smiling happily and both with traces of a blush on their cheeks. He tried to study their body language - they weren’t holding hands but were they walking a little closer than before? Had their relationship always been that touchy-feely as friends? - but it was inconclusive.

And those dorks weren’t saying anything.

His patience snapped five minutes into their lesson and he scrawled out a message and slid it over to Adrien, risking life and limb and detention until Christmas for passing notes in Mlle. Mendeleev’s class. He didn’t care. He had to know.

It took Adrien a few minutes for him to be able to safely read the note. Nino was sure he had a heart attack or three during the wait.

Dude!! Did you ask her out? Did she say yes? I need to know dude!

Adrien looked at him, smiled, and just when Nino was about to cheer he shook his head. No.

Nino’s head hit the desk with an audible thud and dragged all eyes to him. Mlle. Mendeleev scoffed. “Well, I’m sorry you don’t find polysaccharides as interesting as the rest of us do, M. Lahiffe.”

“Sorry, I slipped. It won’t happen again, Mlle. Mendeleev.”

Chapter Text

Tuesday 10th December 2019. 08.15 a.m. Collège Françoise-Dupont.

Since Adrien couldn’t have breakfast with her any more Marinette was free to head to the school when she wished. Tempted as she was to stay in bed just that little bit longer, she still wanted to see Adrien more and managed to get herself to school with fifteen minutes to spare. She had seen Gorilla drive away on her walk over and so knew that Adrien was safely in school. Maybe she could grab him and they could share the blueberry muffins she had brought for them?

When she saw Alya waiting for her on the steps she knew that wasn’t going to happen.

Marinette resigned herself to another best friend interrogation.

Alya immediately pounced, dragging a non-protesting Marinette into their corner of the locker room and rounding on her with a scary gleam in her eyes.

“What’s going on with you two?” she whisper shrieked. “Last week you were both excited and giggy around each other, like you two had an in-joke that the rest of us didn’t know, and yet after lunch yesterday you two were as thick as thieves but so much calmer about it?”

Damn. Marinette hadn’t thought they were that obvious. Tikki and Plagg had really thrown them for a loop yesterday. She’d have to work on that.

Alya wasn’t done yet though. “What is that about? Three months ago you nearly fainted because he gave you a handshake! Now he’s all over you!”

“He’s not all-”

“He’s as good as all over you!” Alya interrupted with a fierce look and Marinette snapped her mouth shut. She was not foolish enough to interrupt this Alya Césaire. “I’m lucky if I can get a hug from my own bestie. And don’t you dare tell me that he isn’t paying you special attention, girl. He does not act like that with any of his other friends!”

“I-” Marinette hesitated for a few heartbeats. She couldn’t tell Alya the whole truth, but telling her most of it would work. “Alya, I think you were right.”

“I’m right about a lot of things. What am I right about this time?”

“I think he does like me. Like that.” Marinette couldn’t stop the happy squeal bursting from her even if she had wanted to.

Alya blinked one, twice, then shrieked and threw her arms around Marinette. The two friends were bouncing in their excitement. “I knew it!” Alya let go of Marinette and did a victory dance that had them both in stitches. They ignored all the funny looks they were getting. “So,” she said once she had her breathing back under control, “what are we doing about it?”

“Nothing?”

“Nothing?”

Marinette smiled at Alya’s incredulity. “I meant what I said to you the other day Alya. I’m not going to force things along or potentially upset things by coming up with plans. I like him, and after yesterday I’m pretty sure he likes me, and-”

“Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait!” Alya waved her hands about before placing them on her hips. Uh oh. Lecture imminent. “After yesterday? Girl, don’t tell me that something happened and you did not immediately tell me about it?”

“Nothing happened, honestly. I just… we were talking about decorations, like I already told you, and I suddenly realised that he does actually like me the way I like him.”

“So that was all it took for you to calm down around him? Confirmation of his feelings?”

Marinette could tell what Alya was thinking and she knew she needed to stop that right now. She was thinking that Marinette didn’t trust Alya’s word enough to believe all the times that Alya had hinted, insinuated, and outright declared that Adrien loved Marinette. Oh, if she only knew how true that had actually been. No, Marinette didn’t want Alya thinking so poorly of their friendship.

“Confirmation from the source, from him, yes.”

Alya frowned but nodded. She had been pursuing journalism long enough to know that until Adrien himself confirmed his feelings all Marinette had was their speculation, and Marinette would not push herself for mere speculation. “And there’s nothing I can do to give you a little push?”

“Not this time,” Marinette shook her head. “I’m positive things are going to end up the way I want them to, so I’m just going to go with the flow this time. Way less stress that way.”

Alya sighed fondly. “I can’t argue with that - but don’t you dare keep me out of the loop again, got it?”

“Got it!” Marinette drew herself up and gave Alya a crisp salute that sent both of them flying off into giggles again. When they had calmed down she threw herself into Alya’s arms in a tight hug. “You are the best and I love you!”

“I love you too girl.”

They stored their things in their lockers, chatting about anything and everything as they did, then when they were ready for the day marched arm in arm to their classroom. Alya gave the bakery bag in Marinette’s hand a very pointed look but deliberately didn’t say anything. Marinette gave her a tight side hug to thank her for her understanding. They were not expecting to walk into an argument between their boys when they got there.

“At least you didn’t get detention?” Adrien said.

“Don’t even go there, my dude.” Nino scowled.

Marinette and Alya relaxed as soon as they realised it was a mock argument. It probably wasn’t even possible for Nino to be truly mad at Adrien and she didn’t think that Adrien could get angry at anyone (outside of Hawkmoth and their akuma battles, of course, but that was a huge exception to pretty much every rule). Nino’s annoyed frown kept threatening to slip into a huge smile and Adrien’s lip was twitching in the way that meant he was seconds from bursting into laughter.

“An extra page of homework! A whole extra page.” Nino wailed dramatically.

Adrien snorted. “I’ll help you?”

“You’d better, and also - hey girls! - you do not get to say no to this.”

“To what? Hi Alya, good morning Marinette.”

Alya took that as her cue to enter the room, empty of all their classmates right now, and slide up to her boyfriend for their morning kiss. “Hey!” she said, sitting on his knee and inviting herself into the conversation.

Marinette walked up to Adrien a held out the bakery bag, smiling happily at the excitement that filled his face. “It’s a good morning now,” she teased, waving the bag about.

“It certainly is,” he agreed, looking straight at her. Marinette had to force down a blush even as she heard Alya try and muffle a scream.

She had been planning on taking her own seat but Adrien scooted over to make room for her and she eagerly slid in next to him and took the muffin he offered her. Nino and Alya cheered when he slid the bag over to them because of course Marinette wasn’t silly enough to leave their best friends out. He wrapped an arm around her waist, more to keep her from falling off a bench that was not designed for four people, but he wasn’t subtle enough about it.

Nino let out a strangled noise. “Right, I was going to be lenient because pastries, but now, no, you do not get to say no.”

“Fair enough,” Adrien shrugged. With his Lady by his side he could face anything. “What am I not saying no to?”

“I’d like to know that too babe. And why?” Alya added, staring at Marinette over Adrien’s shoulder. He didn’t need to look at his Princess to know that she was fighting a blush. He felt her nod too.

Nino pointed his half-eaten muffin at Adrien accusingly. “After the stunt he pulled with me yesterday I have decided that lunch is on Adrien today - next door at the Christmas Market!”

Alya squealed. “Oh yes, girl you have got to come with us, that market is awesome.”

“I know.”

Neither Adrien, Nino, or Alya had been expecting that answer from her and they all paused in shock for a moment.

Alya recovered first. “You’ve been? But it only just opened?”

Adrien felt like pouting. He’d been considering places to take Marinette on a date when he finally asked her out and the Christmas Market in the park next door was right at the top of his list. It happened every year and was the highlight of the festive season for the 21st arrondissement. Stalls appeared overnight and could be rented out for a day or two by local businesses, craftspeople, or anyone with anything Christmassy to sell. It lasted one full week and had some of the best festive gifts going. He had been hoping to take her there yesterday but Plagg and Tikki’s teasing during lunch had quickly put a stop to that idea. They were both too embarrassed to go out anywhere.

“My parents and I man a stall there every year. We have Friday and Saturday this year. It’s always amazing!”

Adrien perked up at that. “Well I’m sold,” he grinned. He would make a point of being at the Dupain-Cheng stall as often as he could. “I’ll text Gorilla but he’ll be ok with me going there today. Especially if I get him a gift.”

“Excellent!” Nino beamed. “Just make sure you bring your wallet my dude.”


Tuesday 10th December 2019. 11.45 a.m. The park by the bakery.

Adrien stared in awe at the beautiful and vibrant Christmas market. The sights and sounds and smells were calling to him, beckoning him to enter this festive place. Alya had already dragged Marinette off, eager to show her something, but he heard them making plans to split up to cover as much of the market as they could.

It was a good plan. Some of the stalls changed hands daily so it was a fresh and new market each day. There was no guarantee that the stalls they saw here today would be here again tomorrow. He was about to follow the girls and find some excuse to shadow Marinette - yes, he wanted to see the market, but he wanted to be with her more - when Nino grabbed his arm.

“So, here’s the plan,” Nino grinned. “You are going to accidentally bump into Marinette near the arts and crafts stalls.”

Adrien couldn’t help but groan. “Is this another set-up?” He had his own plans for confessing, but with Plagg and Nino helping him it didn’t seem likely to happen today.

Nino just ignored him. “Yes it is now shush, I’m on a roll. He paused and frowned. “Where was I?”

“Accidentally bumping into Marinette?”

“Right, yes, that’s what you’re going to do. Just don’t literally bump into her.”

“I wouldn’t!”

Nino smirked. “I don’t know dude,” he drawled, giving Adrien a side-eye. “You’re very clumsy as a dorkasaurus.”

“Thanks!”

“Don’t sass me!” Nino grinned again and Adrien decided that his best friend was having far too much fun meddling in Adrien’s attempts to confess to Marinette. “After yesterday you owe me this. Anyway, you accidentally bump into her, escort her around the market, maybe buy her a few trinkets and stuff that she likes but won’t buy - I’ve seen Marinette at markets like this for years and there’s always something she wants that she can never afford - and on your way to the refreshment area then you confess to her. Don’t worry about Alya interfering either, I’ll keep her away. Got it?”

“That’s a great idea actually, Nino.”

“Of course!”

Adrien made sure his smile was as innocent as he could make it and was very satisfied to see Nino’s smug expression fall. Two can play this game. He turned on his heel and started walking into the market, calling out to Nino over his shoulder as he went. “I was thinking about getting something extra to put with her Christmas present. Thanks man!”

“Adrien, did you not hear what I said about confessing? Adrien? Adrien!”

Adrien just laughed to himself as he strolled through the market.

It was really sweet of Nino to be so supportive and to try and help him with these confession schemes, but thanks to Plagg’s meddling a big confession wasn’t necessary any more. Marinette knew he loved her and he now knew that she loved him. That thought never failed to bring a smile to his face and a blush to his cheeks. It still felt like a dream.

Marinette loved him. Him. It was all of his dreams coming true… though in a more frightfully embarrassing way than he had ever imagined. Quite frankly Plagg’s intervention was more out of a nightmare than from any pleasant dream he’d had.

Still, mortifying as that ordeal had been, everything was out in the open now. They had also agreed to talk about it when they could stop being so embarrassed by their kwami’s actions. Did Plagg really have to tell her about the poetry, the sonnets, and the odes to her beauty? Traitorous kwami.

He admired the market as he walked around searching for Marinette’s pink coat. Even if Nino hadn’t told him where to look he would have gone towards the arts and crafts stalls. He knew they were her favourite things.

There was a stall selling Santa hats, Elf hats, stockings, and gifts bags of all shapes, colours, and sizes. He had to tell Gorilla about that stall. There was a stall selling real pine trees right next to one selling artificial garlands and wreaths - though Adrien thought that Marinette’s were infinitely better than the ones they were selling. He might be a bit biased though.

He finally caught sighed of her by one of the clothing stands. This was one of the few non-Christmassy themed stalls, selling last minute gifts for people to purchase for friends and family instead of decorations. He’d walked past one selling handmade soaps and bath bombs, and one selling ceramics of all shapes and sizes. He had been so tempted to buy the ‘World’s Okayest Dad’ mug for his father, but he valued his ability to leave the mansion too much to actually get it for him.

The stall Marinete was at sold hats, scarves, mittens, and coats and hoodies to suit all. She had just bought a very attractive looking zipped hoodie, in charcoal grey with colourful and vibrant musical notes all over it. It had to be her Secret Santa present for Nino.

She had just slipped it into her bag when she caught sight of him and smiled.

Adrien almost forgot how to breathe. She was stunning! And he still couldn’t believe that this amazing girl loved him. Him.

He was still blushing when he reached her and pulled her into a hug. She giggled as he squeezed her tightly and that was something he would never ever tire of. When she pulled back her beautiful smile had turned into a wry grin. “They’re trying to set us up again, aren’t they?” she correctly surmised. Adrie nodded and offered her his arm, delighted when she took it.

He picked a random direction and walked. “Nino certainly is. He was very disappointed that I didn’t ask you out yesterday.” Damn. That blush was back. At this rate they would be able to talk about their feelings properly before the New Year. At least Marinette was blushing too.

Plagg poked his head out of Marinette’s bag where he had been hiding with Tikki. “He’s not the only one.”

Adrien frowned. “Hush you, you’re still not fully forgiven.”

“Oh come on,” Plagg rolled his eyes. “You weren’t going to do it.”

“Yes I was and you knew that. Your punishment still stands.”

There was a scuffle in the bag and Plagg yelped as Tikki shoved him down and took his place in the clasp. “Punishment?”

Adrien grinned. “He can only have cheddar for the rest of the week. Not a bite of camembert.”

A loud and theatrical groan echoed up fro Marinette’s bag, fortunately covered by two feminine giggles. “Maybe I should do something like that too?” Marinette mused and Tikki gasped in horror. Adrien could tell she hadn’t fully forgiven her kwami either, but he didn’t think she would follow through. She turned her gaze back to him then. “I knew that’s what bothered Nino in class yesterday.”

They briefly paused at a stall selling slogan t-shirts but soon drifted away again. Adrien had seen Marinette make better ones before. The next stall was more promising. It had knitted and crocheted goods of all kinds, from tiny phone pockets and baby socks up to gigantic blankets and shawls. They both bought phone pockets for their kwami to use as sleeping bags, and Adrien brought a new scarf for Nathalie as a Christmas present. Marinette also got into a heated discussion with the stall owner about the benefits of a certain type of stitch when knitting. They left ten minutes later with the owner’s thanks and her business card.

His arm somehow ended up around Marinette’s shoulder and she hummed happily and burrowed into his warmth. He squeezed her to him just a little bit tighter. Adrien was pretty sure his face was on fire when her arm tentatively wrapped around his waist but he didn’t care. This was heaven. If only Nino could see him now. He’d know then that there was no need for any ridiculous confession schemes.

Marinette must have been thinking along the same lines. “Alya might be trying a set-up too,” she said quietly. “But I think I might have convinced her to just let things happen without interference.”

“Wow. Where are these powers of persuasion when it comes to getting her away from akuma battles?”

Marinette sighed. “They somehow magically disappear.”

Adrien snorted. “Given our lives, I would believe that comple-” he jerked to a stop.”Oh, can we look at that one?”

It was a small stall tucked away in a corner of the market but it had a wide array of beautiful Christmas ornaments. A sign above the booth proclaimed that every single one was hand carved and painted by the stall owner.

There was a large selection of traditional ornament like stars, snowflakes, angels, and candles with flames so delicate they looked real. There was also a much more modern selection from the cartoony and cheesy Santas and Elves to beautiful ornaments like the Louvre pyramid and the Eiffel Tower.

Marinette slipped away from him and cooed over the miniature tower. He was about to tease her for being so drawn to their spot when another section of the display caught his eye. His jaw dropped.

Ladybug and Chat Noir.

The man had made Ladybug and Chat Noir ornaments!

There were some amazingly accurate miniature statues of them in various heroic poses - those appeared to have sold fast. There were also funny ones that had the duo in silly Christmas jumpers, one where Ladybug’s spots were snowflakes and Chat’s bell was a Christmas star, one with Chat pole-vaulting with a candy cane and Ladybug swinging from a bauble, there were versions of them in Santa hats, Elf hats, Reindeer horns, ice skating, making snow angels. They were all amazing!

And then there were regular Christmas ornaments that had Ladybug and Chat Noir featured in them somehow. They were riding in the sleigh with Père Noël, baking with his wife, helping make toys with the Elves. Candle holders had been carved with Ladybug on one side and Chat Noir on the other. They were on bookends too.

He tapped Marinette on the shoulder and she squealed when she saw them all. “Oh my gosh, we need to call Alya! She’ll love this!”

“She’ll put it all over the Ladyblog you mean.”

The stall owner startled then. That hadn’t realised he was so close to them. “Excuse me, but did you say Ladyblog? As in, you know the blogger herself?” he asked, stunned. Adrien hesitated to answer and he could see Marinette biting her lip too. The owner and carver smiled at them. “I’m a huge fan of her work and if you can get her to come here and photo this for her blog I will give you one free ornament each and 50% of any others. The exposure from that would be huge!”

It only took a few seconds for them to come to the same conclusion. Alya would more than likely end up at this stall at some point today and the second she saw it had Ladybug and Chat Noir merchandise she would indeed be photographing it. There was no reason for them not to call her.

Marinette nodded and stepped away to make the phone call and Adrien turned back to browsing the ornaments. He could get the Eiffel Tower for Marinette now while she was occupied. He hadn’t been able to buy her anything else so far, she’d been watching him too closely, but he had made careful note of some of the things she had really liked. If he was lucky he could sweet-talk Gorilla into going to the market with him after school to buy a few things for his Princess. Assuming those items were still available of course.

Then he saw it.

It was tiny, it could easily sit in the centre of his palm, but it was so incredibly detailed and richly designed. It was a tiny gingerbread house, with sweets covering the outside that looked real enough to eat, and a small loop of ribbon tied to a hook in the chimney. It looked bright and happy and warm and everything that Adrien thought Christmas was about. What really caught his eye though were the two additional figures around the house. On the front doorstep was a tiny black cat with rich green eyes and a golden bell on its collar, gazing longingly up at a small red dot with five black spots.

It was a Ladybug and Chat Noir gingerbread house!

He could see it in his home. He could see it on his tree at home today and years into the future. He could see Marinette giggling as she put it on their tree every year, sharing the joke with him. He could see it being joined by other special ornaments as their family increased. He could see him telling his children the real story behind this ornament one day. He could see it all.

It was perfect.

He had to have it.

The carver was looking at him with a knowing smile. “So you found the one you want then, lad?”

“This one, please,” Adrien nodded. He reached for his wallet automatically, but the older man waved it away.

“No, no. I meant it. One free one each for you and your girlfriend.”

“But Alya isn’t even here yet.”

“She will be though,” the carver smiled at him. “I can see it when I look at you two. You’re telling the truth.”

And sure enough, as if summoned by their conversation, and very excited Alya came racing through the market with Nino in hot pursuit. He pouted when he saw that they were interrupting Adrien and Marinette but even he wasn’t crazy enough to get between Alya and anything Ladybug and Chat Noir related. He soon forgot all about his annoyance when he saw the amazing works of art at the stall.

When Alya began squealing and taking hundreds of photos, the carver handed over two small paper bags to Adrien with a smile and a wink before going over to answer the millions of questions that were tumbling from Alya’s lips.

Adrien opened both bags and saw his gingerbread house as well as the snowy Eiffel Tower that Marinette had been admiring.

“What’s got you smiling over here, kitten?”

“Our free ornaments. Look.”

Marinette gasped when she saw the miniature tower she had fallen in love with only a few minutes ago. The details were remarkably precise. She should know. She frequently got a better view of the tower than most Parisians did in their whole lives. The tiny snow banks on the beams and the glints of ice on the metal were beautifully captured and the lights at the top made her think of all the times she had been up there with Adrien.

“It’s so…” she shook her head. “I can’t accept this for free. He put too much work into it.”

“I’m pretty sure the exposure Alya is giving him is payment enough. Look.”

He held his phone up and sure enough Alya had already posted several pictures and a keysmash rant about the stall and its amazing decorations. Comments were already pouring in and most of them were saying that they were on their way to get a bargain before he sold out.

Considering the quality of their pieces in front of her, Marinette had no doubt at all that he would sell out today.

“What about you? What did you choose?”

Adrien just held his hand out.

“Oh.” She could instantly see why this ornament had caught his attention. It was everything he wanted his Christmas to be. Marinette could resist leaning up to kiss his cheek and wrap him in a hug. “It’s purr-fect, kitten.”

He didn’t reply, but hugged her back tightly.

Since their friends were distracted they went over to the refreshment stands and got hot drinks and crepes for everyone. Adrien devoured three of them on their walk back to the stall, which was already significantly busier than before, and they shared the rest with Alya and Nino. Alya had a small bag full of the ornaments, Nino had picked a few for his family, and Marinette and Adrien couldn’t help but buy a few more either.

Adrien got himself a pretty silver star, one that reminded him of the story his mother read to him as a child: le Petit Prince. She talked about the wonders of planets and asteroids and stars each time she told him the story and it became his favourite part. He also bought a bûche de noël ornament for Gorilla, certain that his friend didn’t already have something like this on his tree.

Marinette also bought a bûche de noël for her mother and a tiny Nutcracker soldier for her father. It wasn’t really Christmas for the Dupain-Cheng family until they had made a few thousand bûche de Noël and seen the Nutcracker ballet.

It was with great reluctance that Adrien pointed out the time to his friends and they bid a fond goodbye to the now incredibly busy carver. Marinete was able to pull Alya away from the stall and return to school just in time. They entered the classroom seconds before Mlle. Bustier entered.

Marinette was understandably distracted by the beautiful ornaments all evening. She knew her mama and baba would adore them just as much as she did, but that wasn’t the problem. Her issue was that Adrien didn’t have a tree to hand his ornaments on. He had told her about the gigantic tree they had in the entry of the mansion and about the fit that Gabriel had thrown when Adrien had accidentally knocked an ornament off and put it back on the wrong branch. Gabriel Agreste’s tree had to live up to his design as much as his clothes did, apparently.

The more she thought about it though, the more obvious her solution turned out to be.

Later that night, when Ladybug knocked on his window, he eagerly let her in with a warm hug and warmer smile looking completely unsurprised that she had brought her tiny tree over for him to have in his room.

Chapter Text

Wednesday 11th December 2019. 12.15 p.m. 21st arrondissement.

Marinette was many things.

An amazing designer, a fantastic baker, the best class rep Mlle. Bustier’s class had ever had, so resourceful and creative. She was also a superhero but that one was a secret and so not commonly known.

One thing that she wasn’t able to do was to withstand Alya (or any of her friends) begging for help.

“Why am I here again?” she grumbled as Alya’s pulled her to the shops on the other side of the arrondissement, far away from the school and from Adrien.

Alya grinned. “You promised you’d help me with my Secret Santa shopping, that’s why. And I need help.”

Marinette sighed. She couldn’t dispute that. Mlle. Bustier had practically banned Alya from giving out anything with Ladybug or Chat Noir on it and Alya knew nothing but the basics when it came to art - which was a pain when she had drawn Nathanaël’s name out of the bag. Alya needed all of the help she could get, which is of course why Marinette had agreed and given up on the chance of seeing Adrien at lunch.

That was fifteen minutes ago and Marinette was starting to have major regrets.

First, Alya couldn’t just walk in a straight line to the shops on the other side of the arrondissement. On no. That would be far too easy and something a normal person would do. No, Alya instead had to dart from street to street, zigzagging across the arrondissement, and sometimes doubling back on herself. Secondly, Alya wouldn’t listen to her advice. Never mind that Marinette knew exactly where Nathanaël’s favourite art supply shop was, the internet recommended these random shops. Half of them weren’t open and the other half had closed down since those reviews had been posted. And finally, when the did find a shop that was both open and had good recommendations, all Alya wanted to do was window shop.

Sometimes Marinette really didn’t understand her best friend. She loved her to pieces but right now she would gladly strangle her if it put an end to this so called shopping trip.

Alya checked her phone for the hundredth time and grinned. “You know what, let’s do it your way? Let’s head straight for his favourite shop.”

Marinette blinked then took a deep breath and counted to ten. She was calm, she was not mad, she did not want to kill Alya. She was calm, she was not mad, she did not want to kill Alya. She was calm, she was… oh, who the hell was she trying to kid, she was definitely mad at Alya.

“Seriously? Seriously!”

“What?” Alya smiled. “We have a €20 budget. I want to get him something good but it needed to be budget-friendly. His favourite shop is a little pricy.”

Marinette couldn’t deny that. Quality tools sometimes cost a little bit more, but still…

“That doesn’t mean you can drag me all over the place, wearing me out, making me freeze, and using me as a puddle shield!”

Alya finally looked a little remorseful. In fact, she even winced when she took in Marinette’s somewhat bedraggled state.

They’d been walking in the cool breeze for nearly half an hour without going inside a single shop to warm up and Marinette knew she was looking a bit blue because of it. That was one of the worst cons of being Ladybug. It didn’t help that when they’d stopped at one shop window a car had driven past the very large puddle they’d somehow not noticed and drenched them from their toes to their knees. Marinette had taken the brunt of that blow and now she couldn’t feel her feet.

Marinette felt fully justified in wallowing in her foul mood and she was seriously considering just heading home and rearranging things.

“Marinette, I’m sorry. Really. I just got a little carried away. I promise we won’t stop anywhere else and this is the last place we’ll go to today, ok?”

Marinette was cold, wet, and tired, but she still couldn’t say no.

She sighed. “One shop, then I go home.”

“You’re the best girl!” Alya squealed. She lunged forwards and hugged Marinette tightly before grabbing her hand and pulling her along.

Marinette barely paid attention to the streets. She was too worn out for that. Paris passed by her in a blur but she didn’t mind. The route was familiar, one she had walked hundreds of times before, one she could probably walk blindfolded though with her clumsy nature that was not a theory she wanted to test, and she trusted Alya not to let her fall over her feet or walk into anything. All she had to do was get to this one last shop and then she could go home and warm up.

When they stopped she was surprised to see they were at a tiny greengrocers. She knew the art shop wasn’t far, just around the corner in fact, but she had no clue why Alya would possibly stop in the middle of the street in front of a greengrocer.

Until Alya held her phone up that is. Incoming call from her mother. Marinette nodded.

Marlena Césaire was the only person who could make Alya, quite literally, stop in her tracks.

“Sorry girl,” Alya frowned. “I’ve gotta take this. The shop is close, why don’t you head over and start looking and I’ll catch up to you. Sound good?”

Marinette sighed, a tired and resigned sound, but nodded anyway and puller he coat and scarf tighter around her and set off walking again. It really wasn’t far at all to the art shop, just a few more steps to the corner then turn and it was the third shop along. Not far at all. She could make it, especially as it would give her the perfect chance to get out of the chilly wind and warm up. She forced her numb feet to cooperate and move forwards, step, step, step, automatically directing her body along the familiar route.

She was thinking about what Nathanaël needed - he preferred inks to pencils for his work and liked to experiment with paints too, while Marinette preferred pencils of all kinds for her fashion sketches, so there wasn't much overlap in their tools, and therefore she couldn’t say with certainty exactly what type of pens Nathanaël would like best - as well as planning retribution against Alya should her best friend ask for just one more shop after this - it would be swift, decisine, and downright cruel, she knew that much - and dreaming about what she would do when she could finally return home and warm up - a hot bath was definitely at the top of that list, Tikki would love that too, and her best and fluffiest pyjamas and fuzzy dressing gown, before curling up under a mountain of blankets with a hot chocolate and ignoring the world.

She should have been paying attention to where she was going. At least that way she wouldn’t have walked straight into the old other person on the street.

She yelped as she slammed into him, stumbling over her feet and grabbing onto his coat for stability even as his arms caught hers. What a mess! “Oh, I’m so sorry, I-”

“Marinette?”

She blinked up at him. “Adrien?”

He grinned down at her and slid his arms from her around her back into a gentle embrace. She let herself relax into him because, yep, that was him, it wasn’t a hallucination because she missed him, and her kitty was warm and just what she needed on this cold day. She lay her head against his shoulder with a happy sigh.

Though she did wonder what he was doing out here though? He had agreed to have lunch with Nino somewhere near the school when she’d told him that Alya had demanded her help and-

Oh.

Oh, she was going to murder Alya.

Adrien sighed. “So, it looks like this is today’s set-up attempt.”

“Seriously?” Marinette knew she was whining but she didn’t care. It had been hell this afternoon she was entitled to a little venting thank you very much. “Why couldn’t they just let us have lunch together like we’d planned?”

“Sorry Princess.”

“Don’t be. Alya is the one who will be sorry when I’m done with her,” she grumbled, not letting go of him as she reached into her coat pocket for her phone. Alya was really going to get it this time - that supposed phone call from her mother had to be a set up, it had to, and she was going to have words with her about that. She punched her password in, ready to hit dial and yell at Alya, but stopped when she saw she had a notification. Marinette blnked then scowled. “She’s already text me?” it had better be a good explanation for this or…

Marinette shut down when she saw the message - or rather the single photo that Alya had sent. It was a photo that Alya had taken at the Christmas market yesterday, one of many she had taken while cooing over the amazing merchandise available, but she had circled the upper corner of it. In that circle, one Alya had surrounded by sloppily drawn hearts and exclamation marks, were Marinette and Adrien, clearly happy together, cuddling, and looking at each other with the expressions that Plagg had taken to calling nauseatingly sappy.

A second message popped up.

You two are practically dating, you know. Why not make it official with a lunch date at a local restaurant?

“Oh god!”

“Marinette?”

She whimpered and hid her scarlet face in his shoulder, unable to look him in the eye right now, and handed him her phone. She heard him groan and curse under his breath before clearing his throat. “Yeah, I-” he cleared his throat again, voice cracking. “I still don’t think we’re quite ready for that talk.”

“Nope!”

It may seem like they were just delaying their talk for no reason - they’d admitted they loved each other after all - but Marinette really couldn’t handle talking about anything beyond that. She had barely gotten used to the fact that Adrien and Chat Noir were the same person, she needed a bit more time to come to terms with her feelings about that. When Tikki had tattled she hadn’t been lying when she said that Marinette had liked both boys, but she hadn’t said anything about how torn Marinette had felt for liking them both. Now they were actually the same person and he returned her feelings. It was a lot to cope with.

Plus she still felt like fainting when he gave her that smile and it was far too easy for her to start stammering and blushing around him whenever he caught her off guard for a moment. She needed a bit more time before she was ready to face any conversation about what happens now.

She knew Adrien felt the same and was so relieved when he didn’t address the matter of the photo again. “So how did she drag you out here anyway?” he asked.

“Secret Santa shopping. She got Nathanaël.”

“Ah. Yes, she would need your help.”

“And she isn’t getting it now.” Marinette finished her grumbling and pulled away from Adrien so she could see his face at last. For a moment she was certain that his arms held her against him just a bit more tightly, like he was determined not to let her go, before relenting and letting her do what she wanted. She really did love this man. “I don’t know why she did this when she knew we were planning on having lunch together anyway. Lunch in my warm home, eating really good food, without getting my feet wet. For that she can get help from the internet to buy Nath’s present now.”

Adrien wholeheartedly agreed with her sentiment. He wouldn’t help Alya either if she had done this to them. Sure, it was a pleasant surprise to bump into her, and there were some gorgeous restaurants nearby that he could take her to, but they’d already planned to spend time together. Marinette had promised to help him finish the wreath for Gorilla today. What was the point of this set-up?

He gave her a quick once over and took in how tired she was, how drenched the bottom of her jeans were, not to mention her shoes, and how cold she was beginning to look. He needed to get her inside and warmed up fast.

“How about we go to my favourite cafe and warm up? My treat.”

“Oh that sounds wonderful. Lets go.”

He didn’t need any more encouragement that that.

Adrien managed to hurry Marinette to his favourite cafe but he was getting very worried about her by the time they got there. She was visibly cold and tired and just starting to tremble despite the thick layers she was wearing. She was leaning so heavily against him that it felt like the arm he had around her back was more to keep her upright than to keep her warm.

What had Alya and Nino been thinking?

Bastien took one look at them when they walked in and immediately shooed them towards a table - not the table he usually gave to ‘Ambrose’ though. On the walk over he explained that this was the warmest spot in the cafe, closest to the heaters and furthest from the door, and he would bring their hot drinks over straight away while he waited for Ambrose’ usual order, times two, to be ready. He was back with two hot chocolates in less than a minute.

Marinette immediately curled up on the seat by his side and he could feel the urge to purr increasing. Instead of giving in, Adrien slipped his coat off and draped it across her lap like a blanket. Plagg immediately darted from his pocket into Marinette bag where he wrapped himself around Tikki and began purring. It was too quiet for anyone else to hear, thank goodness, but it did the trick. Tikki’s happy sighed floated up to them and Marinette smiled as she leaned into her own black cat, sipping her drink happily.

“So while we’re on the subject of Secret Santas,” Adrien began, scrambling for a topic that would help keep Marinette awake. He could recall several times when Ladybug had been almost too sleepy to patrol in previous winters. He didn’t want Marinette to fall asleep now. “Do you know what Alix needs? She said skate stuff but I don’t know enough about the sport to guess.”

“You’re in luck actually…”

“All because of you, Bugaboo.”

Marinette scoffed and he laughed. It might have been an obvious joke but she sort of laughed so he counted that as a win. “I just did a new racing top for Alix and she mentioned needed new shin guards, knee pads, and elbow pads. She wanted to colour coordinate them so she was very specific about the colours on her top.”

“Can you get them from anywhere.”

“Grab your phone.”

He did as she ordered and watched as she typed an address into his browser. A page for a mid-range sports shop popped up and she navigated to the correct section straight away. He made sure to memorise the name for future reference since it looked quite good. They even had a fencing section that he promised himself he would look at soon.

Bastien dropped their food off while she was showing him a few things that Alix had mentioned before and he bookmarked most of her suggestions to come back to later. They ate quickly and quietly after that, occasionally looking at something else on the website.

“I think you could get her anything from here,” Marinette hummed thoughtfully. “It’s her favourite place to shop for her sports goods.”

“They do delivery and click and collect too. Purr-fect.”

She gave another hum and snuggled into him. “You’re perfect.”

Adrien would have melted at her sweet comment if it didn’t worry him too.The more tired she got, the more of her filter she lost, and given the surprises they had had in their relationship recently he was positive she would not had said that under normal circumstances.

“Uh oh. Looks like we’ve got a tired bug here.”

“I’m not-” her protest was immediately cut off by a yawn and she pouted. “Damn.”

“You’re tired, Princess. Why don’t we head back to yours?”

“I don’t want to waste time walking in the cold when you’ve not got much free time today. I’d rather be here with you before you have to go home.”

God, could she get any more adorable? “We’d still have time together.”

Tikki popped her head up. “She’d be even more sleepy after another walk in the rain, Adrien. Us bugs hate the cold and it’s always worse when we’re tired. Marinette didn’t sleep well last night.”

He frowned at that. “Are you ok?” she hadn’t seemed too tired in school earlier but he knew she was very good at pushing through tiredness. What had kept her up? Nightmares? Designing? Insomnia?

“I’m fine. I just…” she trailed off into a yawn and pouted again. “When I brought the tree over for you I knocked some of my balcony decorations loose. I didn’t realise at the time until they all came crashing down in the middle of the night.”

“Oh dear.”

She blushed a little. “I thought it was an akuma at transformed before I was fully awake,” Marinette admitted, then glared at him when he laughed. He couldn’t help it. It was just too cute of a reaction! “Anyway, the jolt from that kept me up for a bit. I didn’t even fix the decorations last night so I could try and get some more sleep but-” she trailed off into a yawn again “-it obviously didn’t work.”

Adrien wrapped an arm around her. “Come on, Lovebug. Let’s get you home and snug under a blanket. I can always visit you later.”

“Not until my balcony is clear you can’t.” She pouted again and he was seriously considering telling her to stop because it was doing wonderful and terrible things to his heart. She was going to be the death of him one of these days, but all he could think about that was what a way to go.

“Still, let me get you home and warm. We’ll even have time for a purr before I have to go.”

“You drive a very hard bargain, kitten,” she mock glared at him then nodded. “Let’s go.”

Half an hour later she was fast asleep on her chaise and he was letting himself out of her home.

Tom and Sabine had taken one look at their exhausted daughter when they stepped into the bakery and ushered both teens straight upstairs. Adrien was under strict orders to get her upstairs and wrap as many blankets around her as she needed to warm up. He picked his favourite quilt out of the blanket pile she still hadn’t put away and wrapped it around her shoulders before finally letting his purr loose. The effect was almost instantaneous. She hummed happily and snuggled into him, relaxing against him and letting her eyes drift shut, until her even breathing told him she had finally fallen asleep.

Adrien decided to indulge in a few moments of cuddles before he slipped out of her embrace and adjusted the blanket around her.

He grabbed Plagg from the kwami nest on her desk - admiring what looked like a work-in-progress quilt set out around her sewing machine - and the two cats slipped out of the room quietly.

The second they were alone on the stairs Plagg zipped out of Adrien’s pocket and floated in front of him, arms crossed, annoyed scowl on his face. “You still didn’t ask her out, huh?”

“When we can talk about our feelings without turning into tomatoes and getting tongue-tied in embarrassment, then we will talk and then I will ask her out. Understand?”

“I guess it was a little much the other day,” Plagg said after a moment’s silence. He did actually look contrite too. “Sorry kid.”

“Thanks Plagg.” Adrien couldn’t stay mad at him for long. It had been mortifyingly embarrassing but Plagg really had only been doing it to try and help him. And it had worked out this time at least. He had confessed to Marinette (sort of) and she had reciprocated. “I’ll lift the cheese ban on Friday, ok?”

Friday!?”

Adrien walked out of the bakery quickly, covering his pocket, and hoping that no one heard the moans and groans and wails about the unfairness of life that were coming from his coat. There was no way he could explain that.

Chapter Text

Thursday 12th December 2919. 11.45 a.m. Collège Françoise-Dupont.

Adrien was enjoying the co trite look on Nino's face. He was stood with Marinette in the school locker room, both of them glaring at their remorseful-looking friends, and laying down their plans for lunch. The bell for lunch had rung ten minutes ago and the four of them were the only ones left in the locked room, everyone else had either gone home for lunch or gone to either the school canteen or the library.

Adrien was once more free and he and Marinette were looking forward to spending it together. Hence their intervention. Their best friends had meant well yesterday but their over-eager interference had just made things worse. Today was going to be different and Nino and Alya were going to abide by their rules this time.

Marinette finished listing the conditions with a decisive nod. "And that is our only offer."

"And you cannot say no to this, got it?" Adrien added.

Nino sighed as his words from a couple of days ago were thrown back at him but nodded anyway. "Got it. Sorry dude."

"You will be," marinette promised.

Alya winced. "Yeah, sorry girl. We both got a bit carried away yesterday."

"A bit?"

"Ok, a lot!" Alya sighed again, clearly remorseful for her actions. Most of them. "I didn’t think we would have got splashed by the car though."

"That was on me," Nino quickly admitted. "Sorry M. I got held up in class and didn't leave when I was supposed to, so Alya had to spend too long stalling you. If I'd been on time you probably wouldn't have got splashed."

Adrien frowned at that. Neither of them seemed to grasp that he and Marinette were annoyed because they had already planned to have lunch together and their meddling meant they couldn't. They'd barely been able to grab a sandwich at Bastien's cafe before he had to hurry Marinette home.

Nino, as usual, was the first to catch onto Adrien's annoyance and after a moment's thought he finally realised why they were both mad.

"We're sorry about the set-up too, but you guys have lunch at the bakery all the time. We just wanted you to go somewhere different and fancy. Like that restaurant near the art shop."

Adrien guessed that he could forgive them. They really had just been trying to help. He had forgiven Plagg, after all, even though he was deliberately keeping his kwami in the dark about that so as to enjoy a week where he didn't smell like stinky cheese, and Plagg's interference had been so much worse. He still couldn't think about asking Marinette out without suffering severe embarrassment.

He could forgive Nino and Alya.

Or not, judging by the irritation on Marinette's face.

She sighed and pinched the bridge of her nose in an effort to stay calm. "You mean the restaurant that is closed on Wednesdays? The one we couldn't have gone to yesterday even if we had wanted to and even if I wasn't cold, tired, and miserable after being dragged on a wild goose chase?"

"What?"

Judging by the way both Nino and Alya paled, Adrien realised they hadn't known about the restaurant at all, probably hadn't even bothered to check, and were only now coming to realise what a mess they had made of yesterday.

Marinette took another calming breath. "We may forgive you for that, eventually, but you two have to promise not to do anything that ridiculous again. We had already planned on having lunch together and we actually couldn't because of those mistakes. You two have got a lot of grovelling to do. Starting with buying lunch at the market today."

"Understood."

Alya nodded. "We’ll even buy lunch for all of us next week too if that helps?"

Adrien shared a look with Marinette, having a wordless conversation with her unknown to Alya and Nino. She gave a small shrug, basically saying that it didn’t matter to her if they got an extra lunch, provided that their friends didn’t do this again. He nodded, completely agreeing with her. That was the best part of the reveal in his opinion. Chat Noir knew Ladybug so well and that dynamic was transferring over to Adrien and Marinette bit by bit. He could read Marinette so well right now, it was amazing.

“We’ll let you know if we can fit it in.” Adrien said. “Now let’s go, we’ve not got much time left.”

They hurried next door to the market where they could see Alix, Mylène, and Ivan grabbing some food at the refreshment stalls having already been through most of the market judging by their bags. They waved to them but didn’t join them. There was a lot of shopping they wanted to do before stopping to eat.

Over three quarters of the stalls had already changed hands since their visit two days ago. Alya admitted that the carver who made those amazing Ladybug and Chat Noir ornaments had only been there for one day, and he had completely sold out before the market closed for the evening, but she had his card and was certainly going to be keeping track of his work. Marinette agreed and Alya promised to send her a copy of the carver’s contact information.

Adrien was intrigued by that too but he was far more concerned with Marinette. After getting so chilled yesterday he didn’t want her to get too cold again today, not when she still looked tired. After he had gotten her bundled up on her chaise she had napped for a couple of hours before waking up and calling him. They’d done their homework together over the phone and she had also worked on some sewing projects but she had still been exhausted and ended up going to bed early.

He couldn’t help but worry about her. Adrien was determined to keep her warm today and promised himself he would stick close to her ready to get her a warm drink, take her home, or even purr to warm her up. Whatever she needed.

She smiled up at him then, with a glint in her eye. For a moment he thought she was teasing him about his over-protectiveness, a conversation they had many times before, and he still maintained he was exactly the right amount of protective, but it wasn’t that kind of glint. It was a knowing once.

“Where should be go first?” she asked.

Adrien laughed and tugged her in a random direction. It was their favourite game to play on patrol, and often ended up turning into rooftop tag.

There were plenty of stalls selling more christmas goods. One sold table ornaments, one sold Nativity figures, one sold ceramic statues of Père Noël and his wife in all shapes and sizes.

There was one very interesting one that kept their attention for a while. It sold ingredient kits. Marketed as the perfect present for foodie friends or a great way to spend some quality time with loved ones, it had boxes and jars and bottles filled with ingredients to make all manner of Christmas treats with the most common instruction being ‘just add water.’ Nino bought the Mulled Wine spices for his family, knowing they would like the wine and the pretty wooden box it came in, and Alya got the triple chocolate brownie mix in a glass jar for her sisters.

They didn’t always stay together, drifting apart when something caught their eyes, then regrouping and carrying on exploring, but it was when both Alya and Nino had accidentally left them alone again that Marinette saw it.

She squealed and dragged Adrien over in her excitement.

The stall was filled from floor to ceiling with homemade candles and cosmetics. It was her one real weakness. She adored scented candles for relaxation, and since she had become Ladybug she had been using a lot more of them.

Marinette reached for a pretty green candle, wrapped with a festive bow, and immediately brought it to her nose. Spiced apple.

“Oh this one is gorgeous!”

She reached for another one and did the same. Orange and cranberry. Marinette gave a happy hum as she considered whether or not to buy it. The bakery was full of scents like that over Christmas but she did love them.

“I could buy the whole stall!”

Adrien chuckled and pulled her hand towards him so he could smell the beautiful scent too. “They’re really good.”

She nodded and chose another candle to try, this one a bright red and set in a small glass jar. Pomegranate. She was definitely going to buy this one.

She grabbed a few for herself, and grabbed some handmade soaps with the same fruity scents, as well as a divine raspberry scented body lotion, then gathered a few more as gifts for her mother and her friends. Sabine got a soothing lavender one to help her relax after a long day in the bakery, Alya got a spicy citrus one called Energise, and she got a small selection pack for Nadja Chamack.

Adrien also grabbed a selection box once she had pointed them out to him. She knew he had been looking for something for Nathalie and for his contribution to the class present for Mlle Bustier. Nathalie got a set of three - Soothe, Calm, Rejuvenate - and Mlle. Bustier got a rainbow pack simply called Joy. When Marinette saw a pretty ivory candle set called Inspire she point it out for his father, and gave a startled laugh when he smirked and immediately bought it. It was meant to be a joke. Hopefully M. Agreste thought it was a good one.

Marinette wasn’t so distracted by the sights and scents that she didn’t notice Adrien adding a few extras to his order. Extras that just happened to be her favourites.

“Adrien!”

“What?” his face was pure innocence.

“Don’t what me, you didn’t need to do that.”

“I know,” he said. She began to protest - she didn’t need extra gifts since she already knew that he had gotten presents for both Marinette and Ladybug - but when he reached out and grabbed her hand she paused. “I wanted to. Don’t deny me this little pleasure Marinette. Please.”

He gave her the kitten eyes then and she scowled. He just had to ruin that sweet moment, didn’t he.

She groaned, making it a bit more theatrical than normal. “I need to ban you from using that look, kitten.”

“But it works so well.”

“Careful kitten,” Marinette teased, poking him right where his bell normal was. She got a small thrill from the warmth in his eyes as he winked back at her. “Your Chat is showing.”

“How ap-paw-ling!” Adrien chuckled and leaned over until her was right by her ear. “I’m not the only one showing my spots, my Lady,” he whispered.

Dammit, she said she wasn’t going to blush today. How could she not though? Chat was an incorrigible flirt and she loved it. She loved him.

Alya and Nino suddenly reappeared by the side and the moment was over. The four of them headed over to the refreshment stalls to get some hot food and drink to warm themselves up, and Marinette eagerly pointed out which stall her family was going to be using tomorrow and Saturday. It wasn’t long before they had to drift back to school for their afternoon lessons. Marinette glared at Nino and Alya when Adrien wrapped his arms around her shoulders to keep her warm, just daring them to say anything.

Chapter Text

Friday 13th December 2019. 08.10 a.m. Outside the Tom and Sabine Boulangerie-Pâtisserie.

Marinette was exhausted.

She had passed tired several hours ago and quite frankly she had no idea how her body was putting one foot in front of the other to walk her to school that morning. In spite of her best efforts she did not have a restful night and had already worked her two jobs before the school day had even begun. At this rate she was going to fall asleep in class and finish the year stuck in detention.

She was so tired she nearly walked straight into the to-go cup of coffee that was floating in the air in front of her.

Marinette stopped, blinked, and inhaled. The delicious aroma woke her up just enough to realise that no, of course the cup wasn’t magically floating in mid air, though given how much magic was involved in her day-to-day life that could possibly happen one day. Instead, Adrien was stood there with a fond smile on his face holding it out to her.

“Coffee delivery, as promised.”

Marinette lunged for the cup. “Oh my god I love you!” she mumbled around the lid as she took a deep drink. God that was good. It was certainly helping her feel slightly more prepared for the day than before.

“I can't tell if you were talking to me or the coffee.” Arien chuckled.

For a moment she had no idea what he was talking about, she was far too focussed on draining her coffee cup. But when it was half empty the caffeine kick-started her brain enough to realise exactly what she had just said to him. She nearly choked. “The coffee,” she squeaked. “Definitely the coffee.”

Adrien didn’t seem to believe her. In fact, he smirked at her. “Purr-haps, but I'm paw-sitive I recall a chat where you admitted that you adore me.”

Marrinette gave him the biggest glare she could manage in her exhausted state. “No. Just no.”

His smile dimmed somewhat. “Too much?”

“Yes. I am way too sleep deprived for any of this.”

That apparently was the wrong thing to say. Or the right thing depending on how you looked at it.

The miniscule trace of hurt in Adrien’s face fell away immediately, and Marinette was kicking herself for being a little too harsh in cutting his teasing off, and for not seeing his reaction sooner, but he was moving before she could even begin to think of an apology, let alone speak it. She was wrapped in his arms before she knew it and held firmly in his warm embrace. She could just detect a hint of his purr and that, the hug, and the coffee combined into a wonderful feeling of warmth.

It was heavenly. She could honestly fall asleep right here right now in his arms.

“Oh Princess,” Adrien sighed, his voice rumbling with the promise of a purr, and he nuzzled at her head. She sank into him with a happy sigh. She really did love the cat side of him. “I'm sorry. Did you get any sleep after I took you home?”

Did she? “Maybe half an hour? I guess?”

Last night they had been unlucky enough to get a night-time akuma.

These akuma were fortunately quite rare, probably because it was hard for Hawkmoth to find a target when most of the city was fast asleep, but they were among the most trying opponents to face. The akuma alert had gone off just after midnight and the akuma had been tricky enough, and they had been tired enough, that it wasn’t defeated until just after 4am.

Adrien had taken Marinette home, dropped her off on her balcony with the promise of a large coffee in the morning, then promptly gone home and passed out in his bed. Marinette knew this because Plagg had used Adrien’s phone to send Tikki a text to assure them that their cats were fine. He’d managed to get some sleep before the battle and a few hours afterwards and so he wasn’t looking too bad right now.

Marinette, on the other hand, was utterly exhausted.

In spite of her best efforts to go to sleep early she hadn’t managed to go to sleep until almost 11 p.m. and had only just scraped an hours sleep before the alert went off. By the time the post battle adrenaline had worn off enough for her to sleep, she was barely able to get 30 minutes of sleep before her alarm was going off again.

Today was the first day that her family had a stall in the Christmas Market.

They loved doing the Christmas stall each year. It was their chance to show off their skills and their products to a wider market as well as greatly expand their repertoire. As they were a boulangerie-pâtisserie their product range was necessarily limited to ensure that their customers were able to purchase a little of everything. They mostly relied on seasonal specials and recipes of the week to showcase their skills.

But they could go all out with the Christmas stall.

They had done christmas treats from all around the world this year, along with Parisian favourites, and their much sought after marzipan creations.

Marinette got up early to help them make the marzipan, colour it, shape it, and pack it ready for the public. It was precise and delicate work, exactly the kind of work she should not be doing when this tired, but somehow she had muddled through it all. She had worked with her father to sculpt the intricate creations then helped her mother to decorate them. Tired as she was though she still made sure to set a box of her finest work aside for Adrien to have later. She was pretty sure that her parents had given her some teasing looks but she had definitely been too tired to notice and react to them.

She had toyed with the idea of staying home from school but she was too tired to come up with a good enough excuse for her parents as to why she was so tired. She couldn’t claim to be ill after working so hard and she couldn’t tell them the truth. She’d just have to tough it out.

But it was so tempting to just stay here in Adrien’s arms and drift off to sleep.

He gave her a small squeeze. “Can you manage a cat nap in today?” it took far too much effort for her to lift her head and glare at him, but she did it anyway. He just chuckled. “How about this then? You take it easy in school, rest since you can't sleep, I'll make sure you have all the notes from our lessons today, and I'll bring you another drink after lunch and after school, does that sound ok?”

It sounded perfect, just like him. “I love you,” Marinette murmured into his shoulder.

Adrien choked. That one didn’t sound like a tease but she was exhausted, so… “Me? Or the coffee?”

Marinette gave a tired hum and snuggled deeper into his embrace. He wasn’t about to complain about that but he did want an answer to his question since it was the most important one he had ever asked in his life. Though he was hoping that there would be a few other important questions in the near future.

He almost didn’t hear her reply. “You. Always you.”

Adrien felt like screaming his joy to the world. He felt like crying. He felt like dancing and singing. He felt invincible. He felt like transforming and running through the city to shout his joy from the rooftops.

Instead her just held her tighter. He basked in the feel of this incredible, amazing, wonderful, miraculous girl in his arms, the girl who held his heart, and the girl who had just given him hers.

He nuzzled against her before leaning close to her ear. “I love you too, Marinette,” he whispered.

Adrien was not prepared for her reaction.

She stiffened and pulled away, almost spilling her coffee, and looking up at him in pure shock. He could see the blush staining her cheeks and travelling down her neck. “Oh god,” she groaned. “Please do not tell me I was so tired I just blurted out a confession?”

Adrien laughed. He could hear it echoed from his school bag and Marinette’s tiny purse which just made Marinette moan and him laugh a little louder. That was his Lady. “Afraid so my Lovebug.”

“Just kill me now,” Marinette whined. She sank back against him and seemed determined to smother herself in his winter coat.

“Nope, sorry, you're mine now, no killing allowed.”

She sighed. “Just make sure you bring me lots of coffee today.”

“But you're so entertaining without it.”

Marinette pulled back and glared at him. “Don't push your luck,” she warned, poking him in the chest for emphasis.

A wolf whistle startled them then.

Adrien automatically zeroed in on the sound and was immensely relieved to see that it was only Alix. She was stood over the road in the entrance to the park with Rose and Juleka at her side, both of whom looked delighted to see him with Marinette. He could clearly see her smirk as the girls walked over to greet them.

“Are we interrupting anything here?” Alix teased.

“Hi guys,” Adrien smiled. “I was just giving Marinette a little present before school.”

The second he said those exact words he knew he’d messed up. Alix’s smirk turned positively evil, Juleka gaped, and Rose looked to be so excited she was on the verge of passing out.

“Oh you were, were you?”

Marinette sighed and turned to face her friends, showing them the coffee cup. “He means this, Alix.”

“Whoa, what happened to you?” Alix frowned, losing all hints of teasing.

Rose gaped. “Are you ok, Marinette?” Juleka flanked her girlfriend and nodded.

Marinette smiled at them, glad of their support. “Insomnia kicked my butt last night,” she said. It was a half truth - something did kick her butt last night but it wasn’t exactly insomnia. “I only fell asleep half an hour before I had to help baba get the marzipan ready for our stall today.”

The girls winced in sympathy. “School is going to suck for you today,” Alix comisserated.

“I know!” she flopped back against Adrien with a whine. “I'm going to die.”

Adrien shook his head. “No you won't,” he promised. “I'll keep supplying your coffee for you.”

She was surprised and pleased that he did. He took notes for the both of them in school all day, walked her home for lunch and picked her up afterwards with another fancy coffee, and he had Gorilla meet him after school with a third coffee for her. He walked her over to the stall, Gorilla following discreetly behind, and marvelled at the beautiful display they had put on. Marinette was just pleased to see that the stall was popular - Tom and Hélène, one of their workers, were currently manning the stall - and that her special box for Adrien hadn’t been accidentally sold.

He gave her a hug goodbye and kissed her cheek before letting Gorilla walk him back to the waiting car. Marinette did her best to ignore her father’s happy sighing behind her.

It might have been Friday 13th but it had been a very good day for her indeed.

Chapter Text

Saturday 14th December 2019. 3 p.m.

Adrien stared intently at his computer screen, fingers flying across the keyboard before hitting save with a flourish. “Done. All I have to do then is to polish up my bibliography and then it’s complete.” He sighed and slumped down in his desk chair. “Finally!”

A giggle sounded from his left and he automatically smiled. “It wasn't that hard,” Marinette’s voice echoed through his phone’s loudspeaker with a teasing lilt. He couldn’t see her, but he could clearly picture the smirk she had on her face right now.

Adrien wished he could see her. Actually, he wished he was doing his homework with her in person, preferrably at her house where his food wasn’t monitored, but he would settle for seeing her on facetime instead. Marinette insisted that she couldn’t facetime right now beaus she was working on a special project she didn’t want him to see just yet. He was positive that meant her dress for the New Year’s Gala - and he really needed to talk to her and clarify that he wanted that to be a date - but she wasn’t even giving him a hint.

He missed her. Doing homework over the phone just wasn’t that same.

“I am only passing French literature because of you and you know it,” he groaned.

I still don't get why you chose to write about the symbolism of the rose in la Belle au Bois Dormant if you hate literature so much.”

Adrien shrugged even though she couldn’t see it. “It seemed like a good idea at the time,” he fibbed.

He had actually chosen it not long before their reveal as an excuse to look up flower symbolism so he could get a custom bouquet for Ladybug to confess his feelings for her. He loved to give her roses and, although she had protested the sentiment behind them, she did like getting them as gifts.

Of course all of this was a moot point now after her adorable accidental confession yesterday. He still couldn’t believe she loved him. Him.

He cleared his throat to conceal the lovesick sigh trying to escape. “And speaking of roses-”

A seamless transition.”

“Hush you,” he mock scolded. He chuckled. It was an accidental pun, ha! “Speaking of roses, the marzipan rose you gave me yesterday was amazing. I want to put an order in for one thousand.”

He was joking, sort of, about the gigantic order. The rose had been a pale yellow, tinted with red at the edge of each petal, and it had looked so vibrant and so real that for a moment Adrien though she had given him a real rose, perfectly placed in the centre of the box of marzipan shapes - cats, ladybirds, small budding flowers, all of which framed that perfect rose so beautifully. It had tasted as good as it looked too and he had enjoyed every single bite (once he had managed to convince himself to eat the work of art that it was).

Adrien couldn’t help but wonder if the rose choice had been deliberate, or if she had just chosen to give him the nicest looking one. He really hoped it was deliberate. He knew that a red-tinted yellow rose meant friendship developing into love and with her accidental confession yesterday… well, he just really wanted it to be true.

He also really did want more of that marzipan because it tasted divine.

Marinette giggled and mock-scolded him. “Adrien!”

He grinned. “You're right, that's silly, make it five thousand!”

Adrien! Oh my gosh you are such a- eek!”

Adrien jolted up. He didn’t like the sound of that shriek. “What's wrong?”

Urgh, nothing,” she gave an annoyed sigh, swearing under her breath in Chinese. He gaped at his phone, wondering if she had meant for him to hear and understand that, or if she had just underestimated how good his hearing was. She sighed again. “I just stabbed myself with a needle again. Occupational hazard.

“Again? How many times have you stabbed yourself?”

Marinette laughed. “In my lifetime? Loads.

“I meant today, Princess.” Adrien scoffed.

There was a pause from Marinette and when she spoke again her voice was definitely pitched a little higher than normal. “I, uh, haven't been counting. It's not a lot though, I swear.

“Right,” Adrien drawled, rolling his eyes. She was a terrible liar. He went for his secret weapon in this conversation. “Tikki?”

Tikki chirped up immediately. “This is number nineteen!”

Tikki!”

“Marinette!” Adrien sighed. “If you're picking your fingers this much that it must be time for a break. I'm sure whoever the present is for would rather you keep your fingers intact than rush things.”

Marinette snorted. “Please, you know I finished most of my presents weeks ago.” He did indeed know this. Ladybug had bragged about it on patrol one night and he had reluctantly admit that he hadn’t even begun thinking about presents yet. “The only ones that need a little more TLC are the knitted things anyway.

“Then what are you sewing so urgently?”

Curiosity killed the cat.

“But satisfaction brought it back!”

Marinette had just finished wrapping a small plaster around her injured finger with Tikki’s help and she snorted at the phone. He was so predictable sometimes. She couldn’t resist the tease. “Are you asking me to satisfy you, Chaton?” she smirked, deliberately goading him. Tikki was trying desperately to hide her giggles by covering her mouth with her paws but a few slipped out anyway. “How bold of you.”

There was silence on the other end of the phone before Adrien made a strangled sound followed by a high pitched whine. Plagg suddenly started cackling. “Good going, Miss Spots. You broke him!”

Plagg!”

Wait, never mind, he's still alive.”

Tikki floated over to the phone as soon as Plagg began speaking and Marinette smiled at her. So far the cranky kwami had stayed out of their conversation, and she had assumed he was sleeping. Marinette could see her trying to hold back her smile as she scolded him. “Plagg, stop teasing him. You know how excited he is to see Marinette's dress.”

You're working on your dress?”

“Not anymore,” Marinette shook her head, pulling her abused hands away from her dress. A break was certainly overdue.

She couldn’t help but smile at how happy and excited he sounded. He had been doing his best to wheedle the details of her gown out of her since she had designed it but so far she had managed to keep it a secret. She couldn’t wait to wow him when he saw her in the finished result. She was surprised that he hadn’t managed to guess the pattern she was using considering they had talked about it only a week ago.

Marinette admired the way the midnight fabric draped over her dress form. It was going to be perfect when it was done. If her hands could survive all the pinpricks that is.

Determined, she put away her needles and the remaining beads. “I’m going to take that break now, Adrien. You were right about needing it.” She grabbed her phone and sat on her chaise, absently picking up her work-in-progress knitting.

Does that mean you're going to take a real break, or just switch to another project?” Marinette cursed under her breath. Sometimes he knew her too well. He sighed. “Marinette, put the knitting needles down.”

“I haven't even picked them up yet!” she fibbed.

Good. Don't.

She huffed. He could be so bossy sometimes. “Oh but there's practically nothing to do. Manon needs one extra colour on her striped mittens, the scarves for Alya's sisters just need tassels, and Rose's infinity scarf needs just a little more pink on it but then I'm done.” See? It was next to nothing to finish them off. Nothing compared to her dress of Adrien’s quilt that it.

Adrien wouldn’t listen though. “Nope. Rest your hands. Take a real break and talk to your devilishly handsome cat.

“Fine, if you insist. Plagg, how are you?”

Both kwamis burst into laughter, Plagg’s loud cackle echoing down the phone and drowning out Tikki’s lighter giggle, but neither could cover up the sound of Adrien’s groan. Marinette joined in the laughter then. Her poor kitty.

I totally set myself up for that one,” he whined before sighing. It was softer than his previous sighs, almost reverent, and Marinette felt herself flushing for no real reason. “You do need to look after yourself more, my Marinette. You put so much care into everything you make. So much love. It’s amazing. And you’re so fast! I mean, you gave me my patrol scarf just over a month after I asked for it. You must have been working flat out on that the whole time. I should have been way more appreciative than I was.

More appreciative?”

Marinette could clearly remember the day she had given Chat Noir his patrol scarf. It was a bright green, almost a perfect match for the pads on his ring, and she had added buttons and buttonhole to it having designed it with practicality in mind. One he wound it round his neck the sides would fasten together with the buttons so there were no loose ends that could get snagged on rooftops or grabbed by fans or akumas, but the buttons could also be popped open quickly should he need it.

Chat had lost his mind with excitement. He enthused over every single tiny detail, marvelling over the colour, cooing over the black cat buttons she had spent days tracking down just for him, sighing in bliss at the soft wool she had used, and staring in awe at the signature she had accidentally knitted into it. That had been a mistake, she had made Chat’s scarf just a few weeks after Adrien’s birthday scarf and added it in without thinking, but fortunately for her he hadn’t noticed that it spelled her name. Thank goodness.

But Chat had showered praise on her every single time they had met up for weeks after receiving his gift. Weeks!

“Kitty, you gushed about that for so long that I had to beg you to stop!” she laughed.

Adrien didn’t reply. She frowned at the phone, seeing only the smiling face of his profile picture on the screen. There was no sound at all.

She shared a concerned look with Tikki. “Kitty?” she tried again. More silence. “Adrien?”

You made me a scarf,” Adrien finally said, so quietly she could barely hear him.

Marinette grabbed her phone and took it off loudspeaker, pressing it to her ear. Tikki nuzzled in on the other side so she could eavesdrop. “I know?”

No, Marinette… you made me a scarf.” Adrien’s voice was soft and breathy and awed and she felt herself blushing again. “That's why you gave me my patrol scarf, because Adrien had already been given one!”

It hit her like a tonne of bricks. “Oh my god!”

Chat Noir had cornered Ladybug after patrol one night to ask what was bothering her - she had been visibly off her game for a few weeks but it hadn’t started to affect her performance against akumas. Yet. He was concerned.

So she told him. While giving him as few details as possible she explained that she had made a birthday present for a friend, a scarf, and she was bothered by the fact that he didn’t know it was from her. Ladybug had told him that there had been some mix up with the gifts, that he thought it was from his father, and that she wasn’t sure whether she should bring it up or not. Obviously she didn’t tell him at the time because she didn’t want to upset him on his birthday, but it was weeks later and he still didn’t know the truth.

Chat had listened patiently and advised her not to seek him out and tell him but not to lie to him if he asked. Since his father hadn’t pointed it out to him it was likely that their relationship wasn’t good or that he hadn’t even bought a gift so her friend would be hurt if she told him and he knew she didn’t want that. But if the friend discovered the truth and asked her then she should confirm it and explain things.

Ladybug had thanked him for the advice and for setting her mind at ease and he had jokingly replied she could thank him by making him a scarf too.

That was partly why he had been so stunned when she had actually given him a scarf a few weeks later on patrol.

“Oh my god,” she repeated. How had she not realised this sooner?

Adrien let out a huff. “Oh my god!” he yelped. Several loud thudding sounds followed.

“Adrien?” Marinette didn’t hear him on the other end of the line and bit her lip in concern. “Are you ok?” Still nothing. Tikki floated around to look her in the eye, giving her a supportive look. She bit her lip again before launching straight into a nervous babble. “Look, I'm sorry I kept it a secret for so long, but you told me I should and you were so happy, and-” several more thuds came across the line and she felt her heart sink. Was he that upset that he was taking it out on his room? “Adrien?”

Plagg was the one to answer her. “Relax Princess,” he drawled. His voice was oddly soothing. “He's destroying his wardrobe right now to find-

They're a perfect match!” Adrien screamed.

-both of the scarves.” Plagg finished with a sigh. Marinette could hear Adrien grab his phone then.

You made me a scarf.” He sounded breathless on the other end of the phone, breathless and adoring. She could tell he was smiling. “You made me two scarves. They're incredible. You're incredible, Marinette.”

Marinette felt some of the tension in her release but she still had to check. “So you're not upset, right?”

Upset?” he gave a breathy laugh. “Hell no! How could I possibly be upset? They're the best gifts I've ever got and you, you're amazing my Marinette, utterly amazing, you are perfect and I love you and Plagg, Claws Out!”

She could hear the phone clatter to the ground, then claws and heavy boots scrabbling against the floor, and then silence.

He was on his way to see her.

Marinette would normally have melted at that. He was so sweet and so adorable and she just loved him so much. It made her heart race to think that he was coming over to see her just because she had made him so happy.

The reason she wasn’t currently a puddle on the chaise was because she was looking straight at her dress and Adrien’s quilt. Two things that were meant to be kept secret from him. Two things that he would undoubtedly see when he arrived any second now!

“Tikki! Help! Quick!”

The two girls managed to get a sheet thrown over the dress, hiding everything from sight, and shove his quilt into her work-in-progress box before a thud on her roof announced his arrival. He jumped through the window and swung over her bed and landed in a crouch in front of her, completely missing her bed in a display of athleticism that had her green with envy.

He dropped his transformation and scooped her up into a gigantic hug, laughing happily and swinging her around so her feet didn’t touch the ground. All she could do was laugh and hold onto him tightly.

While their Chosen were otherwise occupied, Tikki floated over to Plagg and handed him a swatch of fabric.

Plagg grinned. “This should shut him up. He really wants to match her colours at this fancy shindig.”

“It’s so romantic,” Tikki smiled. Plagg might act contrary, but she knew he wanted to see Adrien happy. “Let’s give them a moment and go and watch some funny videos. I found one that you’ll just love!”

Chapter Text

Sunday 15th December 2019. 10.55 a.m. Collège Françoise-Dupont.

Marinette stood in front of her school bright and early on a Sunday morning wondering why on earth she was even there.

Sort of. It wasn't bright, it was actually fairly dull, and it wasn't early, it was just before 11 a.m. which was early for Marinette but not for most other people, but it was a Sunday and Marinette really was wondering why she was going into school. Normally she would still be asleep at this time on a Sunday (akumas permitting).

It was for a good cause.

That was the thought that kept her going. It was the thought that made her get up early and go to school. That and another opportunity to see Adrien.

It was for a good cause.

She had already been in the school once this morning, to meet Mlle. Bustier. Marinette had helped her teacher open up their classroom and set everything up for her friends. Mlle. Bustier had promised to leave them to their own devices while she did some paperwork in her office, connected to the back of her classroom, and asked that they please keep the mess to a minimum. Marinette had assured her they would be as quiet as possible while they were there.

A wall of noise hit her as she opened her classroom door and she had to repress the urge to sigh. So much for that promise.

She had only been gone for a short while, just long enough to walk back home and grab the bakery box of treats her parents had insisted she take to feed her friends, and apparently everyone had chosen that moment to arrive at the school. Almost everyone, that is. Adrien, Alix, Sabrina, and Chloé were missing, but everyone else was there.

Alya was the first to notice her. “Hey girl!” She bounced over and grabbed Marinette in a hug, being very careful not to jostle the large bakery box she was carrying. Everyone else shouted their greetings and cheered for the arrival of the food. “Ready to get wrapping?”

“Aren't we waiting for Adrien, Alix, and Sabrina?” Marinette asked. She knew there was no way that Chloé was going to attend and so didn't bother asking.

Alya just rolled her eyes. “Chloé won't let Sabrina come - she needs her bag carrier when she goes shopping this afternoon,” Alya scowled at that. Most people hated how Chloé treated her supposed friend but found themselves powerless to help. “Alix is running late, she had to help her dad with something but she's on her way. As for Adrien…”

“Didn't he text you?” Nino grabbed his phone from his pocket and checked it. “I got a message like ten minutes ago saying he couldn't make it. Nathalie's got every minute of his day planned out and this isn’t acceptable.”

Marinette stared. “What? Seriously?”

She couldn’t get her own phone out to check because her hands were still full with the box of treats, but she had got a text from him just before she picked up the food. Hers was completely different to Nino’s though.

See you soon Purr-incess!

It had been followed by several winking cat emojis and had made her laugh as she collected the treats. He was such a dork sometimes! But now she was getting worried. Had he tried to leave and been stopped by Nathalie? Could he not get back in contact with her and so sent a text via Nino? Was he ok?

Wait a second.

Purr-incess?

He might like cat jokes and cat emojis but he did his best to stay away from puns that were a little too Chat Noir. Purr-incess was definitely one of them, so for him to use it had to mean…

Footsteps on the stairs confirmed it.

Marinette groaned. “That silly boy,” she grumbled. Alya cocked a questioning eyebrow at her. “Just wait for it.”

Less than a minute later, the classroom door opened and Adrien walked in smiling happily at them all. “Good afternoon.”

Nino leapt at him. “Dude!” he pulled Adrien into a hug that looked more like a headlock and Adrien reciprocated, laughing loudly. “You said you couldn't come!”

Alya pried him out of her boyfriend’s arms and gave him a short hug of her own. Everyone else shouted their greetings to him. He waved before walking right up to Marinette and she made sure to look unimpressed as she shook her head. “Piano again?”

“Tchaikovsky.” Adrien agreed, looking at the box with interest.

“Of course,” she huffed. What else had she been expecting?

She opened the box then, letting Adrien have first choice of snacks. He grabbed a handful of cookies, and the cheese bread that she had put in there for Plagg, winked at her, and then quickly dodged out of the way as the rest of the class stampeded towards the front of the room for their turn. He sat on top of his desk, legs swinging, watching the treats evaporate under the onslaught.

Marinette dumped the bakery box on Chloé and Sabrina’s desk, it obviously wasn’t going to be used today, and barely managed to wiggle her way out of the crowd intact. Once she was safe she hopped up next to Adrien on his desk. He handed her two of the cookies and she ate one, slipping the other into her bag, and smiled at him. Her smile dimmed when she saw Alya looking between the two of them suspiciously. That was never a good sign.

“This isn't the first time you've snuck out…” Alya deduced correctly. Her eyes were still flicking between them while she put the pieces together and even though Marinette knew there was no way Alya wouldn’t come up with the correct conclusion she still prayed that her best friend was wrong. It didn’t work. Alya’s jaw dropped and she gaped at the two of them. “You two were… he… you.. Ohmygod!”

“Dude!” Nino nodded approvingly.

Rose squealed then, alerting Marinette to the fact that she and Adrien hadn’t been very subtle and nor had Alya been particularly quiet. The whole class was staring at them while they ate their snacks.

Rose looked like she had stars in her eyes as she swooned over them. “Oh that's so romantic!”

“Urgh,” a groan from the doorway announced Alix’s arrival. “I came here to wrap presents, not gush about romance.”

Marinette took the opportunity with gusto. “Alix!” she leapt off the desk and pulled her inside, shutting the door, and shooing everyone away from Chloé’s desk. “Great, now we're all here… Rose, this event was your idea, why don't you start us off?”

“Really? Thanks Marinette!” she set her cookies down and hurried to Mlle. Bustier’s desk, skipping in her excitement. “So, as you all know, this Friday we will be turning the whole of Collège Françoise-Dupont into the North Pole, complete with snow, games, and Père Noël in his grotto!” she began excitedly.

Everyone nodded. The school’s Christmas planned had been talked about at length for months as everyone planned the main event and decided who was going to contribute what. Rose had proposed the idea to collect money for the local Children’s hospital. Collège françoise-dupont would host all the nurseries and schools in the arrondissement for one day, collecting money from donations and sales of food, drink, and Christmas ornaments, while showing off their skills to all interested parties. It was unanimously voted in. Their class was here today to finish off their contribution which was to wrap the presents they had already bought for Père Noël to hand out in his grotto.

“So today, we are here to wrap up all of the presents for…” Rose paused in her explanation. “Do we have the final numbers yet, Marinette?”

Marinette nodded. She’d spent weeks contacting everyone they had invited to pin the final numbers down and she was very pleased with the results. “Everyone said yes, so we will have three école maternelles and two écoles coming to see Père Noël this Friday. That’s a total of 600 children, assuming they all come, and 50 staff, with each school having a designated time to arrive so we can hopefully stagger their visits throughout the day.” The class started murmuring around her, in shock and surprise at the numbers, and despairing over wrapping all of those presents. She held up a placating hand. “I know it seems like a lot of work to do today, but our class got lucky. We’re in charge of the presents, not the games, the refreshments, or the extra supervision on the day.”

There were several eager nods around the room. Kim was the one to say what they were all thinking. “Yeah, I do not want to be in charge of a bunch of screaming kids at school.”

Alix grinned. “I don’t know. I’d think I’d pay good money to see that.”

“You say that, but there’s no way I am trusting my sisters to Kim!” Alya scoffed.

“Getting back on track,” Marinette quickly interrupted, determined to head that argument off. “Our class is in charge of the presents. We aimed to get 700 presents but we smashed our total and got just under 1000 so well done everyone! Any presents we don’t get rid of on Friday will go to the hospital the day after with the money. I’m looking at you Alix.”

Alix grinned back, unashamedly. “It was shortbread, it was my favourite, it was a crime to let it go uneaten!” Marinette gave her a flat stare as she gave up the act. “Ok, ok, I won’t take any presents this year - but I won’t need to. Check these out!”

She leaned back in her seat and set her feet on her desk, proudly displaying the neon green and pink shin guards wrapped around her racing leggings. She pulled the matching knee and elbow pads out of her bag, monogrammed with her initials and her favourite designs, and held them out smiling happily.

Adrien felt his heart sink when he saw them. Those were the exact ones he had ordered for Alix for her Secret Santa gift, minus the monogram, and they had only just arrived late yesterday. He hadn’t even taken them out of the box yet. Marinette slipped her hand into his and gave it a sympathetic squeeze and he interlaced their fingers before she could pull her hands back. The whole class thought they were already dating so he didn’t care if anyone saw this time.

If he had time later then hopefully he could go to Marinette’s again and get her help with finding another Secret Santa gift for Alix. He could easily sneak out again after dinner if he feigned exhaustion and wanted and early night. Nathalie wouldn’t look in on him and his father was working at the main office on the other side of town today so he wouldn’t be home until very late on.

Alix was fortunately oblivious to his fretting. She carried on showing them off while their class cooed over them. “Dad said I could have these early for helping him out with all his exhibitions this month. Awesome, right?”

“They’re gorgeous Alix,” Marinette agreed. She gave Adrien’s hand one final squeeze before letting go and hopping off the table. “Now is everyone up for the challenge ahead?”

“Oh yeah!”

“Bring it!”

Max adjusted his glasses and stood up. “I estimate that we will have all of the presents wrapped up in less than three hours - providing of course that those of us who are good at wrapping help those of us who, uh, aren’t as proficient.”

He looked down at his desk, clearly placing himself in the latter category, and Adrien felt a surge of sympathy for him. Max wasn’t actually that bad at wrapping gifts but he had been unlucky enough to get Chloé’s name in their class Secret Santa - twice. Adrien had witnessed Chloé verbally eviscerate Max for his shoddy wrapping job both times.

He wished there was something he could say to cheer Max up, but fortunately for him Rose beat him to it.

She hurried over and wrapped an arm around Max’s shoulders. “That’s a perfect idea! We can all team up - and the team that wraps the most presents can get a special prize!”

Kim perked up at the hint of a competition. “Like what?”

“Oh, um, I don’t…”

“One free selection box from my bakery!” Marinette volunteered. Given how quickly the twelve of them had demolished the snacks she had just provided, Adrien thought it was quite probably the best incentive they could have today.

Kim whooped in delight, proving him right. “Oh I am so going to win this one! That box is mine!”

Adrien saw Marinette shake her head in bemusement. “Max, do you want to pair everyone up?”

“Very well. The worst wrappers in our class are myself, Nino, Nathanaël, and Mylène. I don’t know enough about your skills to place you Adrien.”

Adrien thought about it. “Does putting things in gift bags count?”

“Poor,” Max ruled. Adrien tried not to pout, a feat which became easier when Marinette took his hand again. “The pairs therefore are: Rose and Juleka!”

Rose squealed and tackled her girlfriend in a hug. Juleka blushed a little at the attention but happily held Rose to her. Adrien smiled at them. They always did their best work together so Max was right to pair them up.

“Nino and Alya.”

They fist bumped and Adrien’s happy smile turned more smug. He can see where this is going now.

“Nathanaël and Alix. Mylène and Ivan. Adrien and Marinette.”

He gave their still joined hands another squeeze and smiled at her. His perfect partner. They were so going to win this. It didn’t even bother him that the whole room was sending them knowing grins, or that Nino had just caught them holding hands and was trying not to freak out and draw Alya’s attention to them.

Max nodded approvingly. “That leaves myself and Kim. Is that acceptable?”

“Totally!” Alya jumped in before anyone could object, smiling down at him and Marinette in her typically very unsubtle way that had Marinette rolling her eyes. Adrien felt like doing the same. Their friends may have promised not to set them up again, but technically they had made no promises about exploiting existing opportunities.

Rose pumper her fists in the air. “Now let’s get wrapping!”

There was another human stampede as everyone race to Mlle. Bustier’s desk. All of their wrapping supplies were stored there, with plenty of scissors and tape to go around, a few kilometres of ribbon, and a miniature mountain of rolls of wrapping paper. The presents the class had bought over the last few weeks were stacked behind the desk in large bags and Adrien watched as Kim took three of the bags before being tackled by Alix who managed to wrestle one away from him.

He was content to wait with Marinette until the chaos died down a little and they could safely collect their own supplies. There was still plenty left when they approached the desk.

Adrien steered Marinette towards his usual desk, since Alya had claimed hers and Marinette’s for her and Nino today, but then was content to let Marinette take the lead in setting up their supplies. Gift bags were the extent of his wrapping experience, save for that one time he had seen Nino start to wrap up Alya’s birthday present. Start, but not finish.

He looked around the room at what everyone was doing. Most of them placed the gift on the wrapping paper, marked a line, and then cut the paper, before wrapping, folding, sealing, and decorating it until it looked like a masterpiece. He didn’t think his would turn out that well at all. Rose and Juleka were both on their third gift, Max was cutting several sheets of wrapping paper to size while Kim folded them around the presents in a production line method, Alix was a speed demon, and everyone had huge smiles on their faces.

He turned to look at Marinette who was waiting for him with a patient smile. “So it looks easy, but…”

“I know you can do this. Just follow my lead.”

“Always.”

He could practically hear the confusion radiating off Nino and Alya as they shamelessly eavesdropped behind them. Adrien thought about teasing them a little more, maybe dropping another in-joke that he and Marinette had, but reluctantly decided against it. Fun as it would be he was still technically in the middle of a piano lesson and his time was limited. He would much rather enjoy the little time he had with Marinette and their friends today before he had to rush back to his duties at the mansion.

Chapter Text

Monday 16th December 2019. 08.15 a.m. Outside Collège Françoise-Dupont.

Marinette was on her way to school when Rose rushed by her in a blur of pink, shouting a quick hello and see you later as she ran past Marinette and into the bakery. Marinette waved back and carried on walking to school. She could see Adrien stood with Alya and Nino on the front steps and didn't want to delay meeting them for what was a very common occurrence - her friends were always popping into the bakery for a quick and heavily discounted snack, and Rose was probably just hurrying to collect her free selection box for having won the present wrapping competition yesterday.

The closer she got to the school the quicker she ran. Yes, she was really eager to see Adrien again, but as she neared her friends she could see the tension between them, Adrien's disbelieving frown standing out clearly. It looked like the conversation they were having was seconds away from descending into an argument.

"Dude, I swear!" Nino held his hands up in a placating gesture even though Adrien wasn't even mad. "I swear on my headphones, we did not do this!"

Alya nodded. She dropped her backpack on the floor and Marinette just caught sight of something green sticking out of it before Alya blocked her view. "We really didn’t. I mean, I totally get that we're your chief suspects right now, and in your place I would definitely be suspicious too, but face it - it would not be this much of a random mess if we had done it. We would have targeted you two directly."

Well, wasn't that just a delightfully ominous thing to hear on a Monday morning?

"Do I even want to know?"

Marinette announced her presence with that question, growing more concerned when both Alya and Nino startled. They had been so caught up in protesting their innocence that they hadn't seen her walking straight up to them. That was never a good sign.

Adrien had noticed, of course. He always knew where she was. She hadn't been able to take him by surprise in a game of rooftop tag for months. He smiled warmly at her and offered her one of the two to-go cups in his hands.

Marinette took it, brought it to her face, and inhaled, barely holding back a moan as the delicious aroma of peppermint hot chocolate drifted up. He had gone back to that little coffee shop they had found the other week just for this.

"Oh you’re the best." Marinette took a long sip, giving a happy hum.

Adrien's answering smile was unbelievably fond. "I’m keeping you." Adrien declared. Alya choked on air and Marinette had to hide her smile with her cup. "You’re great for my ego," he continued with a wink. Marinette just snorted. "And we’re talking about that!"

It took Marinette's Monday morning brain a few moments to realise exactly what it was in the school that Adrien was pointing at, and even longer for her to believe what she was seeing.

"What the-?"

The school was green.

Somehow someone had covered every doorway and almost every square centimetre of the ceiling in mistletoe. M. Damocles was stood in the middle of the courtyard and gesticulating wildly at an annoyed Mlle. Mendeleev, a frowning M. D'Argencourt, and Mlle. Bustier who was doing her best to hide her grin. From the few snippets of their loud conversation that she heard, Marinette could tell they were trying to figure out who had done it and how.

The how was fairly straightforward. To her at least. In the gaps in the foliage where she could see through to the actual ceiling, Marinette could also see a sort of netting held up on small hooks. That made sense. If all the mistletoe was tied to the nets beforehand then it would be easy and fast to cover the ceiling with the plant before school. As for who, well Marinette didn’t have a clue. In her class alone there were multiple suspects - Kim and Alix would both have done it for a dare and they were fast enough to do it; Nathanaël could have done it as an art project because as much as he loved his comics and sketched her also loved gigantic performance pieces too; Chloé had the money at her disposal to buy all of the materials and hire someone to do it, plus it gave her a good chance to grab Adrien under the mistletoe; and of course there were Alya and Nino to consider...

Marinette turned to her best friend and gave her a look that screamed explain now.

Alya held her hands up in surrender. “I said it wasn’t me girl.”

“And you have mistletoe in your backpack, because…?”

“What?” Adrien gaped.

“It’s not for that, I swear!” Alya grabbed the sprig of fake mistletoe from her bag and showed them the gift tag she had attached to it. To: Marinette. From: Guess who! “It was meant to be a little joke, see? I was going to put it in your locker.”

“It’s true, M,” Nino agreed. “Besides, like we told my bro, if it had been us we wouldn’t have gone that mad.”

“True enough,” Marinette agreed.

Because they were right. If they had wanted to use mistletoe as a tool in their schemes to set her up with Adrien then there would have been a lot more planning involved for starters. Alya would have had a master list of prime locations in the school to set them up - undoubtedly including over Marinette’s locker, their classroom door, and the ceiling between their desks - and she wouldn’t have been very subtle at all in her hints for them to kiss.

With the mistletoe covering every inch of the school there would be a significantly increased risk of someone else getting between them too, and Marinette knew that there would be no way Alya would do that to her. She was far too loyal of a friend to risk having another girl accidentally fall under the mistletoe with Adrien. This was definitely not Alya’s work.

Her little joke present, yes, that was 100% Alya Césaire. It might have even worked too, Marinette mused, thinking of how surprised and happy she would have been to have found that in her locker. Of course she would have assumed it was from Adrien, they were practically almost dating as it was, they had admitted that they loved each other for crying out loud, so of course she would have gone to him with the mistletoe and perhaps been bold enough to hold it above them and tempt him in for a kiss and…

Alya pointedly cleared her throat and snapped Marinette out of her daydream before she could get too lost in it. Thank god for best friends!

“Well,” Marinette looked around desperately for a change in topic and her eyes were drawn to the still arguing teachers. M. Haprele had arrived with a ladder and some scissors so it looked like they were ready to start taking it down. That was good enough. “I guess I’d better do my class rep duty and see what’s going on.”

Alya swung her backpack on and links her arm together with Marinette’s. “I’ll be your bodyguard girl. You can smooch me instead of any of the losers in there.”

“With an offer like that how can I refuse?” Marinette laughed.

She was about to grab Adrien and pull him along too when she noticed the crowd of his fangirls stood in the entryway under a large cluster of mistletoe. No wonder he had been waiting outside in the cold. She settled for a wave before dragging Alya into the school with her to get this mess sorted out.

Adrien waved back to her, glad that Alya was there to protect her when he couldn’t - he loved her with all his heart but he didn’t think he could face up to the fangirls even for her - but got distracted when Nino sighed.

“Dude,” he wailed mournfully. “Your girl is trying to steal my girl.”

“She’s not my girl.”

“Yet,” Nino winked. “Still not asked her out yet?” Adrien gave him a pointed look. “It’s curiosity not interference.”

Adrien shook his head. “Not yet, but I have the best plan for it. And no I’m not sharing it. With anyone.”

He said that last part loud enough for Plagg to hear and he felt his kwami hiss in his pocket. He would probably find camembert in his clothes later on for that slight but he didn’t care. It would be worth it for him to ask her out the way he wanted to, not have confession opportunities forced upon them.

“That’s fair,” Nino nodded. He kept a wary eye on the fangirls and nudged Adrien when there was movement. “Looks like you’ll be safe soon. They’re starting to take it down.”

There was a small squeak behind them and they turned to see Rose, clutching a bakery box to her chest, looking up at the school in dismay. Juleka was walking over to them from the park behind them.

“Oh no, why are they taking it all down?”

“Rose?”

She blushed as pink as her coat and look down at the ground. “I-I-I just wanted to do something nice for everyone, and maybe catch Juleka a few times, and-”

“You did this for me?” Juleka said quietly. Rose jumped and almost dropped her bakery box, had Adrien not managed to catch it, before turning and grabbing her girlfriend’s hands in her own apologies pouring from her lips until she looked at her girlfriend. Juleka was smiling down at her looking happier than she had the day her photo curse was broken. “You covered the school in parasites just for me?” she asked. Rose nodded. Juleka beamed and leaned down and kissed Rose thoroughly.

Adrien smiled at the two of them. Juleka looked so happy with Rose’s gift that he found he couldn’t be annoyed any more. He turned to Nino, intending to suggest they leave the girls be and go inside the school, but stopped when he saw Nino looking between the girls and the school in confusion.

“Parasites?” he yelped.

Juleka broke the kiss slowly and turned to the boys with a nod. “It’s a parasitic plant that leeches life from its host trees, draining them dry. Awesome, right?” Both Adrien and Nino blinked then decided it was safer to now. Juleka gave them another smile before catching Rose’s hands again. “Let’s find ones with lots of berries before they’re all gone.”

Rose nodded and took the bakery box back from Adrien and raced back into the school with Juleka, leaving Adrien standing there very confused. “Berries?”

“Oh, I know that one,” Nino grinned. “One berry equals one kiss between the couple caught under the mistletoe, no more berries, no more kisses.” Adrien shot him another look at the obscure knowledge and Nino’s grin turned into a smirk. “I tried mistletoe with Alya our first Christmas together and she took great delight in pointing out she wasn’t obligated to kiss me because the sprig I had didn’t have any berries… however it looks like those do.”

He pointed to the school where Rose and Juleka were enthusiastically kissing in the doorway. Alya was wolf-whistling them and gesturing for Nino to come into the school and Marinette was walking over to them. Adrien felt the sudden urge to drag her into the doorway too, but decided against it when he saw Chloé hovering nearby. Nope.

Nino slapped him on the back in farewell and then raced up to his girlfriend. Adrien burst out laughing as Alya dipped Nino in a grand gesture. Marinette was giggling too when she reached his side and took the arm that he offered to her. He reached over and squeezed the hand that was holding his arm.

“I think I should warn you,” she started. “Mlle. Bustier said that we could keep one sprig of mistletoe in our classroom. And Chloé looked very happy to hear that.”

Adrien winced. “Is it too late to go home sick?”

“Don’t worry, kitty. The rest of the class is playing bodyguard for you.”

Adrien couldn’t turn that opportunity down. “I’d much rather that you guard my body,” he said with a wink.

There was the tiniest hint of a blush on her cheeks and he counted it as a win - until she smirked at him and deliberately trailed her eyes up and down his figure. “And what a fine body it is too,” she purred. Adrien swallowed hard and willed his blush to dim. His Lady was far too good at teasing him back. She giggled and took pity on him. “Let’s get to our lockers and get to class before the fangirls come at you.”

Somehow they made it to the locker room undetected and without stepping under any of the remaining mistletoe. They put their things away and grabbed their books for their first lesson, and Plagg slipped out from Adrien’s and shot his Chosen a haughty look before joining Tikki in Marinette’s bag. Adrien sighed. Plagg was going to be insufferable all day now.

They weren’t as lucky on their way to the classroom. Three Adrien fangirls blocked their way, all of them waiting to grab Adrien when he walked under the mistletoe.

To Adrien’s deight, Marinette hadn’t been joking about their class standing bodyguard for him. Kim ran at the first girl making exaggerated kissing noises and she shrieked and ran away from him, leaving the jock laughing hysterically under the mistletoe. Ivan and Mylène took up position under the second bunch of mistletoe and started kissing while Alix glared at the third girl and started cracking her knuckles in clear warning. The two fans wisely gave up at that point.

Max and Nathanaël escorted Adrien and Marinette towards the stairs but stopped at the bottom when they had accidentally steered them under the last sprig of mistletoe.

Max grinned and adjusted his glasses. “According to the rules of the tradition, you two must kiss.”

Adrien wanted to. Oh, how he wanted to. He was so tempted to pull her into his arms, to tilt her head up to his, to lean down and capture her lips for his own, to finally kiss the love of his life. He could see the same yearning on Marinette’s face. It didn’t matter to him that they had an audience or that he hadn’t actually managed to ask her out properly yet, not when he knew they both wanted this.

But instead he leaned down and brushed a tender kiss across her cheek, ignoring the loud booing from Kim and Alix, and wrapped an arm around her shoulders to pull her upstairs.

“Your bag,” he whispered to her.

She nodded. “I know.”

The second they had stopped under the mistletoe, Marinette’s bag had begun moving at her side. Her bag with both of their kwami inside. He had no idea what was going on, and judging from the concern on Marinette’s face neither did she, but there was no time or privacy for them to ask Plagg or Tikki. They would have to wait for morning récré.

Their luck ran out.

When the time came for morning récré Chloé immediately positioned herself by the classroom door and smiled at Adrien. He shivered. Her smile was as friendly as a shark’s and if he had to choose between the two he wouldn’t be kissing Chloé.

Alya huffed and grabbed Nino, intending to shove Chloé out of the way, but she stood firm. “Oh Adrikins?”

He shuddered again. Where was an akuma when you needed one?

Marinette sighed behind him and leaned over the aisle. “Alix,” she hissed. “Free shortbread at the bakery for the rest of the year if you can do something about that.”

Alix’s answering smirk was wicked.

Ignoring the stairs, Alix leapt up onto her desk and bounded across to Marinette’s desk. Adrien’s heart nearly stopped when Alix only just managed to miss landing on Marinette’s hands and he had to duck quickly and she jumped onto his desk before launching herself up onto Kim’s shoulders and then over Chloé’s head to the mistletoe.

With a triumphant cry she snatched the plant off the wall, landed in a crouch in the doorway, and raced out of the classroom with Chloé in hot pursuit. Alix was laughing while Chloé screamed at her to bring that back because she needed it.

“Holy shit,” Alya gaped. “That was awesome!”

She grabbed her phone, hit record, and ran from the room. The rest of the class followed a heartbeat later, eager to see how this would end even though they all knew there was no way the Chloé of all people could catch Alix.

The second the coast was clear Marinette put her bag on the table and snapped the clasp open. “Tikki? Plagg?”

Adrien peered over, as concerned about their kwami as she was, and very confused when Plagg floated out with a very dopey and satisfied grin on his face. His fur was ruffled and sticking out everywhere and his tail was curling lazily in contentment. He’s only ever looked that blissful after devouring half a fromagerie’s worth of camembert.

Tikki popped up next to him with a giggle. “That mistletoe is fun!”

Both of them stared at their kwami in shock but eventually Adrien couldn’t take it anymore and burst out laughing. Marinette was quick to follow.

Plagg was still smiling goofily but Tikki had the grace to look a little embarrassed. “Sorry about that,” she said. “But this tradition wasn’t around the last time we were active. We’ll be more careful next time,” she promised, winked, and then dragged Plagg back into her bag with her.

Marinette burst out laughing again. “And to think we were worried,” she giggled and grabbed her things.

Adrien agreed but he was also slightly annoyed that he had missed his chance to kiss Marinette because Plagg was kissing Tikki. This was the second time that damn cat had interfered with his plans and Adrien wasn’t sure he could survive a third.

He sighed and looked up at the now vare doorway. “You know it’s a shame she had to run off with all the mistletoe.”

“Oh?”

Adrien smiled. “I was actually looking forward to the challenge of catching you under it without an audience and trying to steal a kiss.”

Marinette blushed but then smiled back and Adrien just knew he was going to die. “You were, were you? Well…” she leaned forward over her desk and placed one hand on his chest. He immediately covered it with his own. “I’ll let you in on a little secret, my sweet kitty,” her voice dropped to a whisper as she leaned closer and he couldn’t have stopped himself from leaning in if he had wanted to. She leant towards his ear and whispered. “You’d have been able to get a lot more than one.” With a quick kiss to his cheek she bounded away, grinning happily, and racing to the classroom door. “Cat-ch me if you can, Adrien!”

Adrien grinned and gave chase. He was right. Marinette was going to be the death of him but what a way to go!

Chapter Text

Tuesday 17th December 2019. 7.45 p.m. Marinette’s bedroom.

Marinette was humming to herself as she carefully sewed some more beads onto her dress. It was really starting to come together now.

It had taken three days to measure, cut, and sew the main body her gown, another day to ensure the fit was perfect, and another day to add in some minor embellishments. Ever since then she had been working on the beading to make sure it looks as perfect as she had envisioned it. It was time consuming, and painful when the needle slipped and pricked her fingers, but it was a labour of love and the end result would be more than worth it.

Marinette could hardly wait to show it off at the New Year’s Gala. There were bound to be some people there she could network with, maybe get a few commissions, and possibly even someone to mentor her or help her to get into an exclusive fashion internship. Alright, so that was a little unlikely but, hey, a girl can dream right? Alya had given her some business cards as an investment in her future for her last birthday and Marinette could hardly wait to put them to use.

That was why her dress had to be perfect.

Of course, that fact that she was also going to the gala with Adrien was a pretty big deal too. She wanted to leave him stunned when he saw her.

Her phone beeped on the table next to her but she ignored it.

Tikki didn’t. She swiped at the screen and checked what the notification was for. “Alya sent you another text.”

“What’s she threatening this time?” Marinette said, grinning even as she threaded a few more beads and set about securing them in place. She didn’t get very many opportunities to tease Alya and so she was milking this for all it had.

Tikki didn’t share her laughter though. “She is going to revoke your maid-of-honour privileges and you are no longer godmother to her firstborn. Wow, she's getting serious.”

“She knows I'm just teasing.”

Tikki sighed. “Maybe you should tell her the truth now?” she suggested with a stern look. “Telling her you put her joke mistletoe to good use without elaborating was fun, but it’s been hours since you told her and she’s really getting wound up.”

“Are you telling me that giving it to you and Plagg wasn’t a good use?”

Tikki actually blushed. “No, but…”

“Don’t worry about it, Tikki,” Marinette paused in her sewing to smile reassuringly. “Alya knows I’m busy with my dress now, she’s just killing time until I’ve finished and I can talk to her. I’m going to tell her the truth in a little while.”

Marinette privately suspected that Alya already knew the truth. She gasped and screamed and pulled at her hair in frustration all morning after Marinette had told her that she had put the mistletoe to good use and then said nothing more. She had let Plagg and Tikki hide in her bag with the mistletoe before presenting it to her parents for the bakery - and then she pretended not to see the lipstick marks all over her father’s face for the rest of the day.

Alya probably expected her to say something like that even though she obviously hoped to hear Marinette say that she had used the mistletoe on Adrien and kissed him. Marinette wished that was what she would tell Alya too, but the timing wasn’t right for their kiss. Not yet.

She gave a happy sigh as she turned back to her beading. It was still hard to believe that it really was a yet and not an if. She had dreamed of kissing Adrien (and Chat Noir if she was honest) for so long; and now it was going to happen. She wasn’t stupid. She knew it was going to happen.

Tikki nodded. “Okay. So long as you tell her.”

“I’ll do that as soon as I’ve finished this section of beading,” Marinette promised.

Tikki floated over and perched on her shoulder, cooing at her dress in awe. “It’s looking beautiful! Adrien won’t know what hit him.”

“I hope so.” She couldn’t wait to see his face when he saw the dress.

As if her thoughts had summoned him her phone started to ring and Adrien’s contact photo flashed up on screen. Marinette blinked at it in surprise. Did he really have that magical sixth cat-sense that he was always bragging about?

She reached for her phone, paused, and withdrew her hand. “Am I going to have to hide my things again?” she wondered, eyeing her dress and wondering how she could hide it if this phone call was about him visiting via the Chat-flap. Marinette decided to cross that bridge if and when she came to it and grabbed her phone, hitting answer straight away. Tikki, as had become her habit, snuggle up on her shoulder next to the phone so she could listen to the call. “Hey Kitty.”

Hey.” Adrien greeted. Marinette and Tikki shared a concerned look. He sounded really strained. “Can I speak to Tikki please?”

Marinette’s eyebrows shot up. This was certainly odd. “Uh, sure?”

She didn’t bother moving the phone from her ear, fully aware that Tikki could hear everything, but she did tilt it towards her kwami a little more. Tikki shifted around to face the phone. “Hello Adrien.”

Quick question - do you hate me?” he asked. Both girls gasped, wondering how on earth he could even think such a thing, but Adrien forged ahead without waiting for them to formulate an answer to his shocking question. “Because right now I can’t think of any other reason for you to show Plagg that video!

Tikki squeaked in shock. “Oh. Oops?”

Oops? Oops!

Marinette was a little lost until she remembered the funny cat video that Tikki had found a few weeks ago. She had been delighted with it and made Marinette watch it with her multiple times. That was the only video that Adrien could be referring to. “You mean the Christmas cat video?”

Yes!” Adrien snapped, letting the stress in his voice show. “She showed it to Plagg who-

There was a yowl in the background and then Plagg’s voice echoed down the line. “It’s Christmas time at last, I’m gonna have a blast-

Adrien actually whimpered. “Oh god, no, not again!”

To help with the decor, I knock it to the floor-

Several smashes and thuds happened followed by a yelp.

Plagg no, not the lantern! Don’t eat that!

‘Cause when it comes to decorating less is more!

Marinette could hardly believe her ears. “Tikki, you didn’t?” the wince she got was answer enough. The girls could only sit back and listen in shock at the unfolding carnage in Adrien’s bedroom.

I’m not always understood, sometimes they think that I’m a brat-

You damn well are!

But Santa knows if I’m bad or good, he also knows that I’m a cat, so I’m climbing up the Christmas tree to help with the festivity, I’m climbing up the Christmas tree neow!

There’s nothing festive about that!

The garland takes a spill because of my goodwill, I chew the lights to save on the electric bill-

Adrien yelped. “Spit that out! Spit that out right now! Oh god, Tikki why do you hate me so much?

Marinette was beginning to think she should transform and go over there. “What were you thinking Tikki?”

Tikki winced. “I didn’t think he’d be this bad!”

Adrien choked on the other end of the line. “You knew?”

I’m an artist not a dog, I eat the tinsel just to make a tiny Yule log!”

Don’t you dare go near my clothes!”

Marinette covered her face with her free hand. It sounded like Adrien was having a nightmare of a time with Plagg but she had no clue if it would help the situation at all for her to go over there. She would in a heartbeat but Plagg was a crafty little thing who could probably run circles around both of them.

Tikki was also hiding her face as she listened to Plagg’s singing and destruction binge. “I’m sorry Adrien, really I am. He can usually control himself so much better.”

There was another loud crash on the end of the line and the girls winced as Adrien groaned in frustration. “Why is he doing this?

“Well, he is a cat kwami.” Tikki said.

Make up your minds fool, In the meantime you’ll See me on the Christmas tree ‘cause all cats rule!”

Tikki was the one to groan this time. “That includes all of their annoying traits as well at their endearing ones.”

Annoying? This is way beyond annoying!

As for your smelly guests, Can’t make no promises, I might poop in their shoes and eat their shoelaces!”

You stay the hell away from my wardrobe Plagg! Tikki how do I fix this?

“...you can’t.”

Marinette gasped. “Tikki!”

Tikki waved her tiny paws frantically. “I didn’t mean it like that. When cats get like this you have to wait them out. He’ll calm down soon enough.”

How soon is soon?”

I'm climbing up that Christmas tree neow!” Plagg answered Adrien’s question. His voice rose in volume significantly before holding the final note for several beats then falling quiet with a sigh.

The sudden silence was deafening.

Adrien sighed. The girls could hear a shifting sound, like he was finally sitting down and resting after chasing Plagg all around his room. “Thank god,” he murmured. “I’m still annoyed with you though, Tikki.

“That’s fair. Do you need help cleaning up?”

Marinette was willing to transform and race over there to help him after that ordeal. So willing in fact that she would have transformed before he could have finished saying the word yes. She was a little disappointed by his answer though.

No. Thank you, but I’m going to leave it and have an early night.

Tikki nodded. “Okay. Goodnight Adrien, and I’m really sorry.”

“Are you sure you’re ok kitten?” Marinette couldn’t help but ask. He sounded so tired. He’d had a ridiculously early morning today for some fittings and a piano rehearsal for one of his father’s events and then had to go to school on top of that. He must be exhausted right now.

Over in the Agreste mansion, Adrien smiled at the concern he could clearly hear in her voice.

Adrien sat on his bed and forced his muscles to relax and let the stresses of the day fade away. “I’ll be fine Lovebug,” he reassured her. Despite Plagg’s antics the room was still fairly intact. A few ornaments had been broken, all of them the ugly gaudy ones that his father had given to him, but Plagg had mostly just run around singing in his hyperactivity. “I just get stressed when Plagg gets like this in case he gets discovered. An early night will fix me up again.”

He could hear her sigh on the other end of the line. “If you’re sure? I promise I’ll give you plenty of cuddles in the morning though.

Adrien smiled again. “That is perfect. You are perfect.”

So are you. Now get some rest my kitten. I love you.

There were no sweeter words in the French language, Adrien decided. “I love you too.” He hung up the phone and let his hand drop on the bed next to him. Plagg was lay face-down on his computer desk, work out from his mood. Adrien had seen this far too many times before, though never usually this early in the day. 2 a.m. was Plagg’s favourite time to act out. “Is it out of your system yet Plagg?

“Yeah, sorry kid,” Plagg spoke into the desk, muffling his words. He barely managed to lift his head and look at Adrien with tired eyes. “I can usually hold it in better.”

Adrien knew that was true. He’d seen Plagg successfully ignore laser pointers and turn his nose up at fish before. He could control his cat tendencies if he wanted to so it was concerning that he couldn’t stop his manic behaviour. “You’re not ill are you?”

“Me?” Plagg snorted. “No way! I think-” he paused and stretched before yawning and showing off his tiny fangs. “I think it was the excitement of seeing Tikki again,” he mused before zipping over the bed and curling up on his favourite pillow. “I get why you and your Princess were taking things slowly now - it’s a little overwhelming, isn’t it?”

“Yeah it is.” Adrien reached over and scratched Plagg behind the ear. His purr started up automatically and his tiny paws began kneading the pillow. He glared at Adrien but didn’t try to stop his cat-like behaviour, clearly too tired to care. “Sorry for shouting.”

“Sorry for trying to eat the tree.”

“I knew you wouldn’t. There was no cheese on it.”

Plagg shook his head. “I still say it would be better with cheese, but there’s no accounting for taste.” They both chuckled at that. It was an old argument between them by this point. Adrien was just starting to lie down in bed when Plagg lifted his head up again. “Why didn’t you let her come over?”

He’d wondered that himself. Especially when she had promised him cuddles. “She’s busy and I’m tired.” Adrien said after a moment’s thought. It was true. He had already changed into his pyjamas for an early night after his long and stressful day.

“Yeah, but you could have given her the gift you bought for her today.”

Two sets of eyes landed on the small jewellery box on his bedside table and Adrien couldn’t help but grin.

Gorilla had picked him up after school to take him to another fashion related activity - Adrien didn’t even care to recall it - and they had got stuck in traffic behind a broken down car. They hadn’t been stuck long but they had stopped in the perfect position for Adrien to see the window display of a tiny jewellery shop.

That was when he had seen this. The gift he had been looking for.

It was the perfect gift to show Marinette that he was happy with who she was, the perfect gift to mark a new chapter in their heroic partnership, and hopefully a gift that signified that start of something more between them.

He really wanted her to have it now, but his patience with this would definitely be rewarded. “That is for Christmas,” he reminded Plagg.

“So it could have been an early gift. You could have also got a goodnight kiss.”

Adrien was really regretting not inviting her over now. He groaned and flopped down on the bed, burrowing under the covers and stretching in a very feline manner. “Don’t start that again Plagg. I’ve been fending texts from Nino all day about whether or not I caught Marinette under the mistletoe.”

“I’m just saying…”

“You don’t need to worry. I have the perfect plan for all of that.”

And he did. He had gone over it from every angle he could think of and it was perfect. With a bit of luck he might just get a girlfriend for Christmas this year.

Chapter Text

Wednesday 18th December 2019. 12 p.m. Marinette’s home.

Marinette had realised within months of meeting him that Adrien, for as much as she and her friends teased him about being the only teen to like going to school, actually liked getting to spend time with his friends away from his large and empty mansion. He had always looked happy at the start of the school day and when returning from lunch at home, but recently he had started to look ecstatically happy when leaving school too. The fact that this coincided with all of his lunches and outings with her wasn’t lost on her either.

Which is why, as she let them into her home for lunch now that school had finished for the day, she was very surprised to see that his normal enthusiasm had somewhat diminished. He was still unbelievably happy to see her. That much was obvious. But there was something bothering him and dulling his bright smile.

She waved him to the table where her mother’s cooking waited for them - wonton soup, Marinette’s favourite - and decided to wait him out.

She didn’t have long to wait at all.

“I need your help,” he grumbled before they had even touched their meal.

He didn’t sound scared or pained or worried so she assumed it wasn’t anything bad. “Of course,” Marinette said. He didn’t even need to ask her, she would always be there for him. “What with?”

“My Secret Santa gift.”

“You still can’t find anything?”

After discovering that Alix already had the skating equipment that Adrien had bought for her gift, Adrien had been spending all of his spare time searching for a replacement. Marinette had helped him where she could, sending him links to online shops, helpful articles about women’s sporting equipment, and texting him every little thing she could remember about Alix’s preferences.

It had apparently all been in vain though.

Adrien shook his head. “Everything they had was either not her size or style or she already has it. I’ve given up on the sporting angle, but the only other things I know is she likes shortbread - and you’ve given her unlimited access for the rest of the month.”

Marinette knew he was underestimating just how much Alix loved shortbread. “You could still give her some as a gift. Trust me, she will not say no. She’ll love it.”

“But €20 of shortbread seems like I just gave up,” he sighed. Marinette was about to reassure him that it wasn’t, that Alix really would love all of those biscuits, but Adrien suddenly looked around the kitchen with interest. “Wait, would it be better if I made her some? It’s the thought that counts right? And you said it was one of the simplest biscuits to make.”

“Well, it is, it’s just a 1:2:3 ratio,” she shrugged, thinking of the thousands of times she had made shortbread over the years. Sugar, butter, and flour, mixed in that order, made it one of the best beginner recipes she knew. Adrien probably could make them easily enough if he could sneak into his kitchen at home and… Marinette shook her head, pulling her thoughts back into order. Baking the biscuits wasn’t the issue here. “Adrien, I know that Alix would love the shortbread whether or not you made it.” Marinette then made the mistake of looking at him and her resistance crumbled. He looked like a sad little kitten. “How about this? If Nathalie lets you stay after lunch, I will help you make some for her.”

Adrien was pulling his phone out of his pocket before she had even finished speaking and Marinette wondered just what she had let herself in for.

“She said yes. Thank god.”

Marinette gave him an indulgent smile and hoped she didn’t regret this. “Good. Let’s eat now, kitten. Then we can decide exactly what to make.”


3 p.m. Marinette’s home.

Adrien was giving the small biscuit in front of him his utmost attention as he moved the icing bag over it and gently squeezed a thin line of icing out.

He was extremely pleased to say that Alix’s shortbread were made almost totally by him. Marinette had had to help him with a few things, such as showing him how to properly hold and use the icing bag without making a gigantic mess, but for the most part she had given him instructions and hints while sitting back and watching.

Adrien had creamed together the butter and sugar, mixing until Marinette told him it was blended well enough, that added the flour and rolled it all out on the kitchen worktop. He was covered in flour and bits of caster sugar at that point but he was having the most fun ever so he didn’t care. He just had to make sure that Nathalie didn’t see him looking like this. Marinette had given him a box full of hundreds of shapes and styles of biscuit cutters and he had chosen five different designs - a Christmas tree, a present, and a star because ‘tis the season, and a kitten and a roller skate because they were for Alix.

He had cut them out and while the first batch was baking Marinette showed him how to make piping icing and colour it black, red, green, and yellow. While the first batch was cooling and the second went in to bake she showed him how to apply just the right amount of pressure to control the flow of icing.

His hand had been shaking so badly when he had started to ice his first biscuit, a tiny little kitten, but once he had ice two green eyes and a set of black whiskers it had looked so adorable he just had to do another. Marinette had just giggled and asked if he was making them Chat Noir themed or whether he was doing a portrait of Plagg.

Plagg hissed and Adrien laughed so hard that he squirted out far too much red icing onto the present shaped biscuit. For a moment he thought he had ruined it until Marinette demonstrated how they could fully ice these biscuits rather than just adding a little detailing like on the kitten biscuits. The presents were completely red with a bright yellow bow.

The Christmas trees were completely iced too, green from tip to trunk with a few blobs and lines of red and yellow for baubles and tinsel. The roller skates were left mostly bare though, with the wheels coloured green and the laces piped in thin black icing.

“And… done!” Adrien finished the last of the skate laces and looked proudly at his handiwork. Four out of five designs were finished, with a third batch in the oven right now. “What design would look best on the stars?” he asked Marinette.

She picked up the yellow icing bag. “How about this?” with a few deft movements she outlined the biscuit then drew a line from the centre point to each of the five tips. “Is that good enough?”

Adrien smiled. It was way better than merely good. “It’s perfect my princess,” he smiled up at her and then froze. He had been paying so much attention to the biscuits that he hadn’t noticed that she was as messy as he was. “You, uh-” he vaguely gestured at her face.

Surprisingly, she understood right away. “Icing?” he nodded, entranced by the tiny smear of green icing under her right eye. She looked good in green, he realised. In his colour. She touched it gently and gave a resigned sigh when her hand came away coloured green. “It’s an occupational hazard. Can you pass me that cloth?”

“I could.”

Later, Adrien would blame his actions on the fact that the icing was green and seeing her in his colour knocked his brain offline. He picked up the cloth but instead of handing it to her he bent down towards her and quickly kissed it off her cheek. When he pulled away she was previously unseen shade of red. “Or I could do that,” he smirked, overjoyed that he could have such an effect on her. “That icing was wonderfully sweet, Princess.”

He should have expected her to retaliate.

She glared at him, still that delightful shade of red, and then jabbed her piping bag onto his cheek and leaned up on her tiptoes to kiss off the icing. Adrien swore he had died and gone to heaven at the feel of her lips on his cheek and holy cats she was lingering there way longer than she had to.

“You’re right, kitten.” Marinette pulled back and smiled at him and, yep, this was heaven, he had to be dead, she killed him. “It is sweeter this way.”

Adrien whimpered. “I think you killed me.”

“Why would I do a silly thing like that? I like you alive and well.”

Was it his imagination or did she sound a little breathless?

Adrien’s brain finally came back online and he registered just how close she was standing. There was the smallest of gaps between them and her hand was still on his elbow from when she placed it there to lean up to kiss his cheek and his hand, when did that even happen, had come to rest at her hip. She was so close, and she was looking at him with so much open affection. His eyes flicked down to her lips. It would be so easy, so very easy, to lean down and finally kiss her. Her head was already tilted upwards to him, her eyes were sliding shut, he leaned forwards and…

… the oven alarm went off.

He sighed and pressed a kiss against her forehead, chuckling when she nuzzled under his chin in apology before hurrying to the oven to stop the biscuits from burning.

Adrien turned his attention back to the already iced biscuits on the table but found himself staring at their two kwami instead. So far Plagg and Tikki had mostly stayed out of the kitchen, sitting on the sofa and watching silly Christmas films, but now they were here and Plagg was looking at him in what could only be described as frustration. He looked between Adrien and Marinette before letting out a strangled sound and burying his face in his paws. Tikki gently pat his back in comfort and sympathy before looking at Adrien. She very deliberately pointed at him, then Marinette, and then made several exaggerated kissy faces. What are you waiting for?

Adrien shook his head at the two of them. They were way too invested in his love life.

He shooed them away, ignoring their scowls, before returning to his critical examination of the shortbread. It looked amazing, surprisingly so given that this was his first time baking, and he was actually starting to think that Alix would really like this.

He turned to Marinette who was sliding the shortbread onto a cooling rack. “You know, I don't think we need the back-up batch. These turned out perfect.”

Marinette snorted. “You're only saying that because you want to eat them yourself.”

“Not just for that reason.”

Marinette set the baking tray aside and walked over to stand next to him, examining the shortbread as he had just done. Adrien was delighted when she gave him an approving nod. “Okay kitty. We can eat the extras, but only after we've boxed Alix's up and after they've cooled. Yes?”

It was easy enough to agree to that.

Marinette had got a plain box from the bakery before they had started mixing the dough and helped him to decorate it with Christmas doodles while they were waiting for the shortbread to bake and cool. It only took a few minutes to fill and seal and then he was stood by the cooling shortbread with Tikki while he waited to dive in. Marinette snorted at their eagerness and handed Plagg a chunk of camembert.

It seemed all too soon when Adrien got a text from Gorilla telling him that he was outside with the car waiting to collect him and return him to the mansion.

Marinette walked him down the stairs and quickly stuck her head in the bakery. “Mama, baba, Adrien is leaving now.”

Sabine couldn’t get away from the counters quickly enough and so shouted her goodbyes but Tom dusted his hands off and came over to see Adrien off. Adiren smiled back when Tom gave the box an approving look. “Oh, let me get a closer look at that.” Tom froze in the doorway, looked up, then pressed a theatrical hand to his forehead. “Oh, heavens no, Marinette ma choux, we've been caught under the mistletoe.”

Marinette tried to flee but Tom grabbed her in a large bear hug and placed a large smacking kiss on her cheek and Adrien thought he would drop the box from laughing.

“Baba no!” she squealed and wriggled out of her father’s grasp. She turned a mock glare onto Adrien. “He will do it to you too, don't let him catch you.”

“Spoilsport,” Tom winked and then walked away from the mistletoe to peer in the box. Adrien didn’t realise he was holding his breath until he sighed in relief at Tom’s approval. “They're beautiful son. Good job. I know that Mlle. Shortbread will love them!”

“Thanks!”

Gorilla was waiting for him by the car with a smile on his face. He nodded in greeting to Marinette before opening the car door for Adrien to get in. Adrien paused, then turned around to wave one last goodbye to Marinette, and the sigh of her beautiful smile knocked the wind out of him.

Or that could be because Gorilla grabbed him by the jacket and yanked him backwards, out of the way of a reckless bike messenger riding over the pavement, and crushing the box of shortbread that Adrien had accidentally dropped when grabbed. Gorilla glared at the biker then looked apologetically down at Adrien who tried to reassure him but found his arms full of Marinette.

“I'm fine, really, he didn't touch me.” Adrien did his best to reassure both of them.

“But the present. We could-”

“Hey,” he placed his hands on her shoulder. “It's fine, princess, I can grab something for her on the way home.”

“Are you sure?”Marinette asked. Adrien thought she might even look more upset that he felt. “We could make more during lunch tomorrow?”

Fun as it had been to bake with her, Adrien really didn’t want to waste another lunch with her in the kitchen. Not when he knew that Nathalie would almost certainly be demanding he eat lunch at home again when school resumed in the New Year. These lunch not-dates with Marinette were too precious to him.

“I'm sure,” he reassured her again. “I'll just get her a gift that isn't so fragile.”

SHe nodded reluctantly before kissing his cheek goodbye and walking back inside. Gorilla helped Adrien into the car before collecting the destroyed box and throwing it in the bin. Adrien couldn’t believe his luck sometimes.

They set off and Adrien made a spur of the moment decision. “Can we make a quick stop at the sports shop on Rue du Jardin de Tatiana please?”

Chapter Text

Thursday 19th December 2019. 11 a.m. Collège Françoise-Dupont.

Alix was shivering so violently you could actually hear her teeth chattering together. “S-s-screw Hawkmoth!” she growled, rubbing her hands up and down her arms. She was the only one in class without a coat.

Mylène pulled her closer to her and Ivan, sharing her coat and warmth as much as she could, and Nathanaël moved closer to her back. Everyone else shifted tighter together and agreed with Alix’ sentiments.

Kim was shivering as he held Max and Sabrina tightly. “I’m so going to punch him in the face when they find him.”

“Yes!” Alya nodded enthusiastically towards the middle of the huddle. “I would immortalise you on the Ladyblog for that, Kim.”

Adrien agreed with that sentiment wholeheartedly. He wished Hawkmoth had accidentally turned himself into an ice cube by akumatising today’s victim.

Someone in the school, Adrien had already forgotten their name, had become upset that morning when they heard on the weather report that Paris was not going to have snow on the 25th this year. Finding out that their friend was going away on a skiing holiday over the Christmas holiday was the last straw.

He was remade was White Christmas and was determined to create the Winter Wonderland of his dreams right there and then.

Snow began falling around the school in blizzard-like proportions and piling up against doors and windows, a thin sheen of ice developed over every surface, and the temperature began to plummet rapidly. By the time Adrien realised it was the work of an akuma, and not a faulty heating system as Mlle. Bustier had initially assumed, they were frozen inside their classroom.

Try as they might they couldn’t get the door to open. The ice was already at least three centimetres thick on the outside of the door, and not even their combined strength could pull it open. It was the same story with the windows. They were trapped.

Mlle. Bustier had done her best to reassure them that it wouldn’t be for long, that Ladybug and Chat Noir would have everything fixed in no time, that they should all take their seats again and carry on with the lesson.

Adrien shared a concerned look with Marinette. There wouldn’t be a rescue unless they could escape.

Instead of taking his seat again Adrien had shoved Nino next to Alya then walked around to Marinette and pulled her into the tightest hug he could manage, giving her his scarf and gloves in a vain attempt to keep her warm. Everyone had gaped at him until Max spouted off some facts about sharing body heat and the probability of the temperature growing colder before the cure could happen.

Mlle. Bustier ordered everyone to huddle up together near the blackboard. The heating pipes ran right under it and it was the warmest part of the classroom and right now every little would help.

Adrien pulled Marinette along with him, shrugging out of his coat and wrapping it around her shoulders as they went, and pulled their friends around them so she was as close to the centre of the huddle as she could be. Ivan pushed Alix and Mylène in close to them, and everyone else crowded around them.

“Are you ok?” Adrien whispered into Marinette’s ear, pitching his voice low enough that no one could hear him.

He was pretty sure she nodded but she was shaking so badly that he just couldn’t tell. This was without a doubt the worst side effect of being Ladybug. Marinette was far too susceptible to cold temperatures; if it got too bad she just shut down. There had been one terrifying occasion where she had been dunked into the freezing cold Seine by and akuma and had been unresponsive for nearly fifteen minutes while Chat had to warm her up.

But there was no way he could warm her up now. Not while they were trapped. He couldn’t even purr for her without giving their identities away - and with the way Tikki kept glaring at him from inside Marinette’s coat she knew how much he wanted to.

Adrien was doing his best to talk himself out of transforming in front of everyone, reminding himself that it would be a Very Bad Thing if he gave his secret away, but honestly he was only moments away from not caring at all so long as Marinette was safe. Besides, the class wouldn’t talk. Alya would probably beat him around the head with her camera for lying to her all these years, Max would want to talk magic vs. physics, Nathanaël would probably ask him to model for his superhero comics, and Kim and Alix would try and rope him into some challenges. But no one would betray his secret. They all cared about him too much to do that.

His transformation phrase was on the tip of his tongue when two distorted shapes appeared at the classroom door, two shapes that seemed familiar, two shapes that quickly began attacking the ice surrounding the door, and two shapes that grew more and more familiar with each blow. The class cheered in delight and began standing up, stretching their aching limbs, and getting ready to run for warmth as soon as they were rescued.

Nino smiled even though his teeth were chattering. “D-Dude, I love your bodyguard.” He gently nudged Adrien before trying the same with Marinette. “M. M! Look! Your papa’s here!”

She barely responded and Adrien shared a concerned look with Alya and Nino. He hoped that she would be able to transform soon because, while getting somewhere warm would undoubtedly help her, what she really needed right now was the Miraculous Cure.

With a powerful swing, Gorilla forced the axe through the door and, together with Tom, shouldered it open. Gorilla charged straight into the room making a beeline for Adrien and Marinette, while Tom stood at the door and helped their classmates and Mlle. Bustier out. Alya grabbed her phone and Nino and ran for the front door muttering about vengeance. Everyone else followed at a more sedate pace.

Adrien reluctantly handed a shivering Marinette to Gorilla and stood up, wincing at the stiffness in his muscles, and did his best to hobble after his bodyguard. Tom took one look at him and scooped him up in his arms before hurrying across the road to the bakery. They ignored the main entrance and went straight round the side, hurrying up the stairs to the living room where a worried Sabine was pulling out almost every blanket they owned.

“Marinette! Oh, lái fú, here!”

Sabine indicated to Gorilla that he should put her on the sofa where she had set out a large blanket. She wrapped it around her daughter’s shoulders and did the same for Arien when Tom steered him into a seat. There was a small portable fan heater on the table in front of them, one Adrien recognised as being from Marinette’s room, and Tom started to fiddle with it while Sabine fussed over their blankets and how cold and pale they were.

A few angry shouts from the bakery echoed upstairs and Gorilla was walking to the door immediately.

“Wait, Christophe,” Tom called him back. “It’s only the customers.”

“Are you certain?”

“Yes. We don’t have any extra staff today.”

Marinette had slowly been gathering her wits about her, extremely slowly, and while she wasn’t working at full mental capacity just yet she was aware enough to understand what her father was saying. He and Sabine had left the bakery to rescue her and Adrien the second they knew she was in trouble, leaving the bakery completely unstaffed and exposed.

God she loved her parents. Amazing as they were though she needed them gone so she could transform.

It took far more effort that is should have for her to lift her head and open her eyes. “G-g-go. M’fine.”

“But-”

“M’frine now,” Marinette insisted again. “It’s warm here and the cure will go out soon. Please, do and sort that out.”

She watched her parents share a look over her head and she knew that they were considering her words. Marinette had done her best to make sure she didn’t stutter or stammer thanks to her shivering and it seemed to do the trick of convincing her parents to leave her temporarily.

Sabine nodded and leaned down to kiss her forehead. “We’ll go down and get rid of them. Adrien, can you make sure she warms up?”

Marinette could feel Adrien nod next to her but she didn’t look at him. She was putting all of her energy into staying upright and looking coherent at the moment. She needed her parents to leave them alone. She could recognise the anger in their frames though and felt a small surge of sympathy for the angry-sounding customer. He’d be lucky to leave intact.

They left and Gorilla fussed around them for a moment, setting some extra blankets and cushions close at hand, adjusting the heater, before he stood and nodded at them. “I need to call this in,” he said, grabbing his phone out of his pocket and gesturing to the door. “Try and keep yourselves warm. I’ll be just outside monitoring the situation.”

It took Marinette a few tries to realise that they had been left completely alone. “C-c-convenient.”

“I know,” Adrien sighed. He had a strange look on his face that Marinette couldn’t decipher. “Honestly I try not to think about his actions too much. Are you ok to go out there?”

Well that was a loaded question. “I will be. I’ll have to be,” she leaned against him, trying and failing to keep her eyes open. “I need the cure.”

“Don’t worry Adrien,” a small voice chirped from inside her coat pocket. Tikki poked her head out but she was shivering so much that Plagg immediately pulled her back inside and revved his purr up as loud as he could. “Transforming will give her a boost of energy. You’ll still need to finish it quickly though.”

“I can do that. Plagg, Claws Out!”

Marinette felt a pair of leather clad arms lift her into a familiar embrace and snuggled into his warmth, sighing in pleasure at the rumbling purr. It was always louder when he was in the suit and she loved it! She let him carry her up to her balcony without protest because, honestly, she was in no fit state to manage all those stairs, and then, with a nod from Tikki, she transformed too.

Fifteen minutes later they were sat on her sofa again, snuggled up under a miniature mountain of blankets with the heater on, basking in the warmth of their embrace and watching some terrible daytime television show. Marinette could tell that Adrien wasn’t paying it any attention at all. Truth be told, neither was she, but they had to give the appearance of having been here all the time.

There was a knock and Gorilla walked in, pocketing his phone. He nodded approvingly when he saw their blanket cocoon. “We’ll be staying here for a while yet, young sir,” he announced, smiling at them. “There’s still a fair amount of chaos on the street. I have informed home and they agree with my judgement.”

“Thanks.”

Adrien smiled up at Gorilla and Marinette managed to muster one of her own. He really was the best. She knew he was keeping Adrien here so he could warm up with people who cared about him rather than making him return home. The chaos on the streets, not that it could really be called chaos since it mostly consisted of kids who had come running out for a snowball fight aimlessly wandering home, was just a convenient excuse for him.

“I’ll be stationed downstairs if you need me. How are you feeling now young sir, Mlle. Marinette?”

Adrien nodded but Marinette managed to voice her answer this time. “Better. Thanks M. Guerin.”

“Good.”

She tried to relax against Adrien again but he was sat up and staring at the door. “How do you know his name?” he blurted it out. “It took me five years to learn it.”

Marinette shrugged. “I asked.” After the first few times that Gorilla had dropped off and collected Adrien from their bakery it had felt rude not to know his name.

“You’re the first he’s answered,” Adrien chuckled, finally sitting back against the sofa cushions again. Marinette immediately snuggled against him and nudged him until he started his purr. He gave a rumbling chuckle. “He must like you.”

“I like him too.” Marinette yawned and pulled the blanket tighter around her. “He keeps you safe, he lets you have fun.”

“Yeah, he does.”

Marinette let herself doze against Adrien. There was no need to get up and she was safe and warm snuggled into her purring kitty’s arms. This was heaven. She was only vaguely aware of her parents and Gorilla coming in and out of the room to check on them and tell them that the school had decided to close early for the Christmas holiday so they didn’t have to go back.

The last thing she knew before sleep claimed her was the gentlest brush of lips against her forehead and a purring voice whispering “I love you.”

Chapter Text

Friday 20th December 2019. 09.30 a.m. Collège Françoise-Dupont.

Marinette glared up at the tiny flakes of snow falling gently from the sky. This was exactly what she didn’t need today, and unlike yesterday’s akuma she couldn’t get rid of this snow with her Miraculous Cure. Nope. This was real snow.

All around her everyone was cooing at the delicate flakes, far too light and delicate to actually stick to the ground, but they had been falling somewhat steadily since last night. Marinette had woken up from her cold-induced nap yesterday to Alya screaming down the phone at her that it was actually snowing. While Alya had clearly been delighted Marinette wanted to strangle someone. There was no reason for her to have frozen yesterday if it was actually snowing in Paris. If White Christmas had only waited a little longer before getting angry enough to have been akumatised then this wouldn’t have happened.

She glared at the sky again before waving Rose over to her.

“Everything is going great, Marinette!” she reported.

“I can see. We’re on target for when École Ficelle arrives at 10 a.m., but-”

Rose reached out and placed a hand on Marinette’s shoulder. “It’s fine. We’ve got it covered. You should really be at home, you know.”

Marinette tried not to snap at Rose but it was just so difficult not to. If she heard one more converend comment she was going to scream! Just because she had turned blue in the cold yesterday did not mean she was suddenly a fragile porcelain doll who didn’t know her own limitations.

Yes, she was still tired and cold and cranky, but she was the class representative and she had a job to do here in school getting everything ready for their Christmas Grotto for the younger children of the arrondissement. Since the school had closed early thanks to White Christmas it was actually a much easier job, but there was still so much to organise. She and the other class reps had been working overtime for weeks to get this ready.

“I’m fine, really,” she said, trying to give Rose her most reassuring smile. “But we need to make sure that the melting snow doesn’t make too many slip hazards for when the children get here. It would be awful if École Ficelle had to send any more children to the hospital.”

Rose gasped and nodded eagerly, horrified at the thought and successfully distracted from worrying about Marinette.

When getting the numbers of attendees from the school, Marinette had been surprised to learn that École Ficelle had also been the small school choir that she had stopped to listen to with her friends at the start of the month. One of their children was very ill in hospital and they had used their carol singing to raise money for a trip to the hospital to see him on Monday. It was the same hospital that collège françoise-dupont was also raising money for, so they really didn’t need to send another child there as a patient.

Nathanaël and Mlle. Bustier walked over to them then, both of them giving Marinette concerned looks which she ignored. “Is Père Noël ready?”

Mlle. Bustier smiled. “M. Damocles is really getting into the festive spirit. Thank you again for your help with all of the costumes Marinette,” she gestured to her own Elf outfit with a smile and Marinette nodded. She hadn’t made them from scratch since she didn’t have the time or resources this year, but she did pretty them up and tailor them for a better fit for all of the staff and students involved. In her unbiased opinion they had the best looking Père Noël and Elves in Paris.

Nathanaël smiled too, adjusting his Elf ears. He had asked to be an Elf early on in the planning stages because he wanted to help give the presents to the children. “All the other reps have their class in hand, and our class wouldn’t dare step out of line today, so you can head home now.”

Marinette forced her scowl away. They really were just trying to be nice to her. “I’ll be fine for a few minutes more, Nath. You don’t have to send me home just yet.”

“Oh, I didn’t mean us,” he grinned then pointed over Marinette’s shoulder. “I meant him.”

Marinette turned and was completely unsurprised to see Adrien heading straight for her and ignoring everyone else in the school. She bit back a groan. Her kitty was way too overprotective sometimes. Maybe it would be better to admit defeat now. There was no way she was going to win this one with everyone working against her, and the school was pretty much ready for the children’s arrival...

Adrien gave them all a charming smile when he reached them. “Excuse me for interrupting but I’m here for Marinette.”

Marinette ignored Rose’s giggle and Nathanaël’s knowing look. She knew she was going to leave with him but she had to try once more. “I’ll be going in a minute, I just needed to finalise some of the details.”

“What you need is to go home and warm up.”

He gave her outfit a very pointed look and she could feel herself blush. Save for Adrien, who had just walked in from the cold, Marinette was the only person in sight still bundled up in her coat, hat, and scarf. Yet, even with all of those layers she was still shivering. Damn her susceptibility to the cold.

Tikki had explained that it wasn’t uncommon for her Ladybugs to feel the effects of a bad chill for days afterwards. Though the cure had helped her yesterday, it didn’t change the fact that she had been stuck in a freezing room for nearly an hour yesterday morning. She would be stuck with a chill and the urge to sleep for a few more days, but thankfully, since she was human, she wouldn’t actually hibernate like Tikki could if she got too cold. Marinette would only get drowsy and lethargic.

“Ten more minutes, tops.”

She knew it was the wrong thing to say when Adrien smirked and shook his head. “Your maman and papa want me to bring you home now and so, excuse me…”

With a brief nod to their friends he surged forward and scooped her up into his arms before turning around and heading for the main entrance. She gave a squeak, more out of surprise than fright, and scrambled to get a decent grip on his shoulders. She trusted him but usually when he did this one or both of them was in their supersuits which decreased the chances of any accidents happening. Marinette was sure she could hear Rose and Nathanaël giggling behind them.

Adrien!”

He just shook his head. “Nope, you’re coming with me, my Princess.” He glanced around before pitching his voice a little lower to avoid any eavesdropping. “We’re going to your house to cuddle on the sofa with hot chocolate, purrs, and silly Christmas films.”

Marinette wouldn’t have argued against that even if she wanted to. She sighed and relaxed into his hold. “You know I can’t say no to your purrs.”

“Good. Come on Princess. A whole day of lounging around awaits us.”

“A whole day?”

Adrien’s answering smile was blindingly brilliant. “Père is away from Paris for a business trip right now. He left this morning with Nathalie, meaning that Gorilla is the one in charge. And since he likes you so much I get to spend as much time with you as I want!”

“Really?” Marinette gave a happy squeal and pulled him to her in a tight hug, overbalancing him just enough that he had to set her down just inside the main entrance. It was only then that Marinette realise he would have carried her the whole way home if necessary. Silly kitty. “Then let’s get started!”

She grabbed his hand and ran back to the bakery with him, waving to her parents and Gorilla who was just leaving the bakery with a large box and a happy smile, and racing upstairs. Tom shouted up after them that he would send some snacks up soon and Gorilla added that he would be there whenever Adrien said he was ready to come home.

The blankets from yesterday were still folded on the sofa, just waiting to be used again and Adrien quickly set to work building a large nest for them to snuggle in. There was a tiny one set in there for Plagg and Tikki too, and he laughed as they immediately dove in and Plagg started purring. He could hear Marinette laughing in the kitchen as she made them some hot chocolate.

Sabine was the one who brought them up a plate of snacks from the bakery, piled high with croissants, pain au chocolat, macarons, and petit fours, and she lingered just long enough to give them both a hug before returning to help her husband downstairs.

Adrien had their blanket cocoon set up perfectly, and had already eaten three of the macarons, by the time Marinette wandered over with their hot chocolate. She had already shrugged her hat, coat, and scarf off, and kicked her shoes off, leaving her in just a jumper and a pair of pink jeans, and she immediately snuggled under Adrien’s arm with a happy sigh.

“Let our Lazy Day of Doing Nothing begin!” she proclaimed.

Adrien snorted into his hot chocolate but even as he began purring he couldn’t deny that this was exactly what he wanted.

None of the films of TV caught their attention until Marinette mentioned that one of them was truly awful to watch. Adrien immediately went for the remote and, after a mock battle, managed to win it from her and select the awful film.

It was telling the story of Christmas from the reindeer’s point of view, but the dialogue, the animation, and the acting were all awful. It was the good kind of terrible though. They spent the whole film giggling and mocking it while demolishing their drinks and snacks as they cuddled into each other.

Marinette chose their second film, Santa Claus: The Movie, and she set her head on his shoulder as they watched it in silence. This was the first time Adrien had seen this film and he rather liked it. He didn’t miss how drowsy Marinette seemed to be getting. He knew that she’d be sleepy for at least another day after her chill yesterday and so deliberately revved his purr up a little more.

She gave him a drowsy glare but didn’t protest as he wrapped an arm around her.

She was almost asleep by the time that Tom stuck his head around the door with the news that Alya and Nino were here to visit - though he did say he could send them away if Marinette was too tired for visitors. That revived her enough to insist her friends be shown in. Tom nodded and left them alone and Adrien barely had time to stop his purr before they joined them in them in the living room.

Nino and Alya took the seats on the other side of the sofa and both gave Marinette concerned looks. “That was a terrible akuma yesterday,” Nino began, stealing a spare blanket for Alya and himself. “How are you holding up, M?”

“M’fine,” she mumbled into Adrien’s shoulder, barely able to keep her eyes open.

Alya snorted. “Sure you are girl.”

Adrien did his best to change the subject. Marinette would either fall asleep or wake up enough to talk to them on her own without any interference. “How’s it going at school?” he asked. Both Nino and Alya had volunteered to help with the schools arriving in the afternoon.

Nino shook his head. “We are not going to talk shop in front of Marinette. She needs to take a break from the school.”

“Besides, we have other things to talk about,” Alya agreed with a manic grin. “Like yesterday’s akuma battle. It was awesome! Ladybug and Chat Noir took that akuma down. Honestly, it was like they had a grudge against him.”

“Especially Chat Noir,” Nino agreed and Adrien winced internally. “That cat man was practically feral. Remind me never to get on his bad side.”

“It can’t have been that bad, surely?”

He hoped so anyway. Obviously he had been worried about Marinette, but feral? Surely that was a stretch? Although it had been a terrible akuma and a tiring fight, so maybe he had looked a little mad. Maybe.

Alya just waved it off. “It was no worse than any of the other times the Ladybug got hit,” she said.

Adrien barely managed to hide his flinch. He was sure his heart had stopped when Ladybug had been hit with an icy blast in yesterday’s fight and ended up with one arm frozen to the wall. He had brought his cataclysm down on the ice immediately before rushing at the akumas and, okay, yeah, he could sort of see how Nino would describe him as feral in that fight. The akuma had gone down less than a minute after hitting Ladybug.

Neither Nino nor Alya noticed his distraction though. In fact, Alya was bouncing in her seat in her excitement. “But on to the good news! Everyone had agreed to meet here tomorrow with their Secret Santa gifts so we can still exchange them! We’ll meet up in the park outside, or in here if Marinette is okay- oh!” she smiled softly at Marinette and Adrien realised that she had fallen asleep again while they had been talking. “Poor girl. This was probably the worst akuma attack for her to get caught up in.”

Alya didn’t know how right she was. “She’ll be fine with some rest.”

“I know she will, I’ve seen her like this before.” Alya’s smiled morphed into a devious smirk as her eyes drifted from the sleeping Marinette towards him and Adrien felt the sudden urge to flee. That look did not bode well for him. But he was pinned down under a sleeping angel with no chance to escape… which of course is exactly why Alya chose now to attack. Nino was grinning next to Alya so he knew he wouldn’t get any help there. Traitor. The only thing he could do was to bear it with grace and die with dignity. “But,” Alya drew the word out thoughtfully. “That of course begs the question, how do you know? You got real close to my girl real quick and I want to know how and why.”

That… that was actually good. She wasn’t even hinting at something, she was just fishing for information. He could work with that. He had learned how to deal with interviewers from an early age, and Alya didn’t have anywhere near the experience of some of the reporters he had dodged through the years.

Adrien smiled back at her. “Come on Alya, everyone knows that the cure sorts everything out. Of course she’ll be fine. And you know I’ve always considered Marinette to be one of the people closest to me.”

Her smirk dimmed a little. “Cute. That wasn’t what I meant and you know it. You grabbed her before it got really cold. How did you know it was going to bother her like that?”

“Like Max said, the temperature was dropping too quickly. It was only going to get worse. Besides, I know how much Marinette feels the cold.”

“Oh really?”

Adrien was a little hurt by her skepticism. “Yes? Remember last winter? Remember when you tried to set us up in front of the art shop?”

Alya blushed and Nino grimaced at the reminder of their well-meaning but pointless set-up that had spectacularly backfired on them. They had been trying to do something nice which was the only reason that Adrien and Marinette weren’t holding a grudge over it. Nino looked at the clock then nudged Alya and Adrien knew that the questioning would be over soon enough.

Alya made one more valiant effort to get some information. “So the fact that you two went from friends to this,” she gestured to Marinette sleeping comfortably in his arms, “practically overnight, means nothing?”

“It definitely means something to me, Alya.”

She waited a moment for him to elaborate and then sighed when he stayed silent. “You’re not going to say it, are you?”

“Say what?” he gave her his most innocent expression and only then did she realise he had been messing with her the whole time.

Alya actually growled at that. “Urgh, come on Nino!”

She dragged her boyfriend up off the sofa and out of the door. Adrien expected that the only reason she didn’t slam it in frustration was because Marinette was sleeping. The vitriolic rant she was all but screaming on the other side of the door was proof enough. Adrien actually blushed at some of her comments.

“Babe, I think you’re overreacting.”

“I’m not making this up!” Alya hissed.

“I know you’re not!” Nino’s voice had taken on the calm tone that Adrien often heard him using when trying to get Alya to stop running into akumas battles. He prayed that this conversation went better than those. “I’m seeing what you’re seeing. They’re closer than ever before… but have you considered that it might not be some major conspiracy? Have you considered that it is probably just my boy not holding back anymore?”

That seemed to take all the fight out of Alya. “Holding back?” she said, sounding confused.

“You know how much of a dick his dad is. Adrien holds everything back until he’s really comfortable with someone - and now he’s just realised he’s head over heels for our girl in there so of course he isn’t holding back.”

Alya sighed. “I really wanted there to be a juicy scoop.”

“And there will be when they start dating. When, not if.”

When their footsteps sounded on the stairs and gradually faded away, Adrien let out the breath he hadn’t realised he was holding. Thank god for Nino. Alya’s curiosity was really bad for their secret identities but that explanation should throw her off.

Plus when he finally did ask Marinette out, and he didn’t have much longer to wait until he could go through with his perfect plan, Alya would be so happy she would forget all about their sudden change in dynamic. All he would have to worry about then would be getting the shovel talk from Alya. He faced down akumas all the time though, how bad could Alya Césaire be?

He winced at the thought and pulled out his phone to distract himself from visions of his creative demise at Alya’s hands.

When Marinette drifted back to consciousness, she was dismayed but not surprised to see that Alya and Nino had already left. She couldn’t help but feel drowsy in the winter, and it just got worse when she was cold for any length of time. It was annoying but she had grown to accept it as one of her Miraculous-induced tendencies. Tikki had spent most of her time since the battle asleep too.

Of course, having Adrien purr for her didn’t help much either. Damn that knocked her out quickly. At least she knew it would be a great cure for insomnia in the colder months.

She was surprised to see his watching the strange quiz show they had pretended to watch yesterday. Marinette still couldn’t figure out what the rules were supposed to be.

“Hey there Sleeping Beauty,” he smiled down at her.

“Hey. Sorry I fell asleep on you.”

“Don’t be.” Adrien shifted to pull her closer to him. “I dozed for a bit too. It’s the purr-fect way to while the day away.”

“Still, you came over to watch films with me.”

“I came over to spend time with you, my Princess.”

Damn her blush. “Why on earth are you watching this?”

He shrugged. “It isn’t that bad. Besides, I didn’t want to start another film without you.”

“Well, I’m awake now. What do you want to watch?”

Marinette started to reach for the remote on the table in front of them but squeaked when she was pulled back to Adrien again. “Kitty!”

“I got cold when you moved,” he pouted.

“You’ll be fine, I just want to get-” Once again, she was prevented from grabbing the tv remote off the table, and turned a suspicious look onto her far-too-innocent looking cat. He was up to something. “Kitten?”

“What?”

“Why don’t you want me to change the channel?”

He blinked. “Oh. Sorry, I didn’t realise… I was cold.”

Marinette glanced at the table and saw that her phone was lying next to the tv remote, and given that he had sounded surprised she wanted the remote she would bet that there was something on her phone he didn’t want her to see.

She lunged for it but Adrien was right behind her, pulling her back by the waist, but she managed to wriggle out of his grasp and almost had her hand on her phone when he started tickling her. She shrieked and tries to twist away but his grip was too tight. He expertly blocked her kick even as she tried to pull the blankets away to get at his own ticklish spots. She didn’t even realised she had dislodged their kwami from their scarf nest in the scuffle.

“Oh, for gruyère’s sake, HERE!”

Plagg slapped her phone into her hand and, with a triumphant cry, she swiped her notifications open…

… and promptly screamed.

“There is a reindeer loose in the school?” Marinette yelped.

Alya had sent her the first photo of a ridiculously smug Kim stood next to the reindeer over half an hour ago, and the following photos made her blood run cold. The reindeer was patiently posing for photos with until Kim accidentally dropped the reins and it wandered off. Kim naturally gave chase and the reindeer bolted while Alix laughed, the visiting children cheered, and several teachers looked on in horror.

How the hell did that happen?”

“Alix and Kim had another dare.”

“You knew? You knew!” she turned on Adrien and began beating him up with a pillow. “Why didn’t you wake me up?”

“You needed the sleep and they can handle things.”

“Alix and Kim cannot handle things!” she shrieked as he grabbed the pillow and threw it away. She settled for jabbing her finger into the ticklish spot on his ribs. “And don’t you dare bring up Alya because she is just as bad as them!”

“I also called Gorilla!” he gasped between bouts of laughter and Marinette stopped tickling him so she could hear his explanation. “I called him in for back-up because I knew you would freak out, and I just want to stay here and cuddle you,” he said, then gave her the biggest set of kitten eyes she had ever seen. “Is that so wrong?”

Marinette groaned. “One of these days that look will not work.”

“But it is not this day!”

“Dork.”

Chapter Text

Saturday 21st December 2019. 10.10 a.m. Marinette’s home.

“Good morning Adrien! Good morning Christophe!” Tom shouted from in front of the dough mixer. “Everyone’s already upstairs so go straight on up!”

Adrien gave a small sigh. Gorilla patted him on the back consolingly. He was a little disappointed to find that they were the last to arrive despite aiming to be one of the first to get to the bakery. It couldn’t be helped though. Just as they’d got into the car to leave, Gorilla had got a security alert to his phone. One of Adrien’s very pushy fans had been seen in the area and so, out of necessity, they had to detour around some of the other arrondissements before arriving at the bakery.

It was annoying but it was also a necessary evil in his life.

Sabine appeared at the door then, a large tray full of snacks in her hands. “Good morning you two. Is that your Secret Santa gift, Adrien?” she looked at the brightly wrapped box in his hands and he nodded. “Wonderful. If you could leave it in the large sack with the others, that will help to keep the secret.”

Adrien only just hid a wince. Even if no one saw him leave it, everyone would know it was him when Alix opened it.

Sabine walked them both upstairs, chatting on about the snow, how glad she was that it was sticking, and then gently reminded Adrien to leave his present in the bag and opened the door to her home.

“Look who’s here!”

“Adrien!”

Everyone shouted greetings to him and he smiled back at them. They were all clustered around the coffee table, with every spare centimetre of space occupied by someone. Only Chloé was absent but that wasn’t really surprising. If she wasn’t the centre of attention at a gathering then she wouldn’t attend, especially not if it was hosted by Marinette. Nino and Alya waved him over to where they had saved a seat for him on the sofa next to Marinette and he hurried over, giving Nino and Alya a fist bump and a hug before sliding into his seat and wrapping an arm around Marinette. “Hey.”

She smiled at him. “Good morning. Now, who wants presents?” The cheers were deafening. “Okay, okay, mama, if you please?”

Sabine grabbed a scrap of fabric off the kitchen table where she had been stood talking with Gorilla and Alya’s mother (Adrien couldn’t believe he had missed her standing there but a group this size probably needed some supervision) and threw it into the crowd. Ivan grabbed it when it sailed past his head, startled, and Kim groaned.

Marinette smiled. “Ivan, you got the hat, so you’re our Santa!”

He chuckled but obligingly put the red and white hat on his head and accepted the large bag of presents from Sabine with a smile. “Who will be first?”

Kim and Alix both groaned. “Stop teasing!” “Get on with it!”

“Ok, the first one is for…” he reached right down to the bottom of the bag and pulled out a green and gold wrapped present and read the tag. “Mylène!”

Mylène took the present with a soft smile, ignoring Kim’s joking cries of the draw being fixed since Ivan gave his girlfriend her present first, and quickly tore the paper open. “Oh, how lovely!” she admired the set of fruit scented candles and the Marcel Marceau biography. “Thank you Rose!”

Rose blinked. “But how… oh, the candles!” Rose hid her blushing face in her hands and giggled. Her mother made those candles and Rose was always able to give them to her friends as gifts, but it wasn’t the best choice for a Secret Santa gift. Juleka wrapped a comforting arm around her girlfriend’s shoulders.

Ivan reached for the next present. “This one is for Kim.”

Kim whooped with delight and ripped open the paper, spilling the lactose free chocolate bars all over the floor. He grinned sheepishly and picked them up before looking at the card that was wrapped up with them. “Three free lactose-free ice creams? Awesome! Oh, and… no way!” he burst out laughing. “My Secret Santa dared me to go lactose free for all of January! Whichever one of you did this… I accept!”

Everyone laughed at him then waited for the next present to be drawn. Ivan complied. “Chloé?”

Sabrina perked up at that. “I’ll take it, thank you.” She accepted the bright yellow wrapped gift from Ivan with a small smile. “Chloé couldn’t make it here today but I promised her that I would get our presents and hurry over so we could open them together.”

A few people frowned at that but Alix was the one who spoke first. “So you’re not staying once you’ve got yours?”

Sabrina shrugged, suddenly finding the floor very interesting. “I promised.”

No one knew exactly what to say to that and so it was up to Ivan to draw the next present. He reached down into the bag and revealed a large box beautifully wrapped in teal and silver paper. “Sabrina.”

She blinked, not having expected her name to be drawn so soon, and took the present slowly. “Oh, wow,” she stared down at it. “It’s beautiful. It really is.” Her fingers twitched towards the ribbon but then she snatched them back. “I… I’m sorry but I promised Chloé.”

Marinette leaned over Alya to place a hand over Sabrina’s. “That’s ok, we understand. We’re just really glad you came over.”

Sabrina nodded and quickly made her goodbyes, thanking Sabine for letting her stay, and hurried out of the room. Alix waited only a few seconds before speaking. “So, I got Sabrina’s name,” she started. “I got her some spa stuff, because damn does that girl need a rest, but also this new book series. Jalil’s boyfriend works for the publishing house and got it for me. It reads like a fantasy fiction adventure, but it’s actually about recognising and getting out of toxic relationships.” Alix smirked at the door. “I really hope she puts it to good use.”

Everyone looked impressed at that save for Mylène who looked worried. “I got Chloé,” she admitted. “All I got her was a fancy box of honeycomb chocolates. I hope she doesn’t get mad at Sabrina for having a better gift.”

Ivan placed a comforting hand over Mylène’s. “Don’t worry, love. Sabrina’s strong,” he murmured then reached for another present to distract them from their worries. “Rose.”

Rose grabbed the bright pink present with a happy squeal and carefully opened the ribbons and paper, saving them for later for her scrapbooking. She screamed in delight when she saw the fluffy pink puppy plushie and hugged it to her in delight. “I love it!”

Adrien saw Marinette nudge Nino and grin and suddenly knew who had drawn Rose’s name. Looks like he wasn’t the only one who went to Marinette for help with gifts. She startled when Ivan called her name next and beamed as he passed over the second pink present of the day.

She gasped in surprise when she lifted the lid of the box and saw a sea of pink sewing accessories. Adrien knew what some of them were, a measuring tape, a pin cushion, and a seam ripper, but some of them were unfamiliar to him, like the odd scrap of fabric with grooves in. Marinette, however, beamed and looked straight at Juleka. “I love it, Juleka, thank you so much! It’s just what I needed!”

Juleka nodded. “How did you know?”

Marinette held up the pin cushion. “I taught you how to sew these.”

It was Rose’s turn to comfort her girlfriend for giving away a gift with an obvious tell, but everyone quickly looked to Ivan again. “Nathanaël.”

He carefully opened the generic snowflake themed paper and handed it straight to Rose for her collection and smiled at his treats. He had a large box of kosher fudge and a Ladybug and Chat Noir themed sketchpad. “Thanks Alya.”

Alya laughed. “I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t get you something heroic. Maybe you could use it for your comics?”

Adrien tensed when the next present that Ivan pulled out of the bag was his gift to Alix. He had wrapped it as nicely as he could, which was far better than his previous attempts now that Marinette had taught him how, but it was the contents that were the issue. Marinette gave him a concerned look that vanished when Alix screamed.

And boy did she scream!

Everyone looked stunned as she held up the brand new top of the line and extremely expensive skates that Adrien had bought for her, looking at them in awe, before carefully handing them to Max and launching herself over the table to grab Adrien in what was meant as a hug but looked more like a headlock.

“Adrien Agreste you rule! Oh my fucking god this is awesome!” she shouted then screamed again and she brought one hand up to ruffle his previously perfect locks.

The rest of the room was laughing at him, including Gorilla who just smiled over his cup of coffee and snapped a photo on his phone, and Adrien blushed. “You’re welcome?”

“Dude!” Nino chuckled. “What did Mlle. Bustier tell you?”

“I know, I know, but there was nothing else!” he just about choked that out around Alix’s grip.

She plonked herself down in his lap, still clinging to his neck, and pointed at everyone else. “All you losers need to up your gift giving game! This beats all others, hands down!” she grinned at him. “If I wasn’t aroace I’d totally fight Marinette for you. I’d lose, but I’d totally fight her.”

“You would indeed. Now hands off!” Marinette said, completely deadpan.

Alix rolled her eyes but did as told and hurried over to hug her skates. She held a threatening fist up to Kim when he tried to touch them. The rest of the room was in varying states of laughter, and Ivan wiped his eyes as he reached into the bag again and pulled out an envelope for Alya.

She opened it and scoffed. “€20 on a gift card. Wow, Chloé, you really shouldn’t have,” she drawled and pocketed the card. Chloé always did this.

Ivan drew his present next and stared in awe at the not yet released copy of Jagged Stone’s autobiography. His hands were shaking when he opened the cover to reveal that it was autographed. He looked up at Marinette. “Did you…?

“No.” She shook her head, also looking at the book in awe. “He said he’d get me an advance copy when he visits in January, but I never thought to ask for one for this.”

Everyone looked at the book now. The only other people in their class who could get this book were Adrien and Chloé but they knew it wasn’t either of them.

“Sabrina,” Mylène breathed.

Ivan looked down and the book and nodded. That made sense. He quickly took off the hat, dropping it on Mylène’s head, and whipped his phone out of his pocket. “I need to tell her thanks.”

Mylène leaned up to kiss him on the cheek before taking over Secret Santa duty. “Nino.”

Ninoe didn’t waste any time tearing into his present, leaving the wrapping paper in shreds, and unrolling his hoodie. “This is so freakin’ awesome!” He pulled it straight on and held his arms out. “What do you think?”

Rose giggled. “Marinette does awesome work! It looks great.” Marinette pouted at being found out. She had bought the hoodie but been unable to resist embellishing it.

Mylène grabbed another gift. “Adrien.”

He reached for the present, admiring the superhero themed Christmas paper for a moment before ripping into it, then promptly burst into hysterical laughter when he saw the notebook. Science cat. It was covered in images and jokes and science-cat puns, and each page inside had a different joke written on it. “Purr-fect.”

Max was next, meaning that Juleka had the one remaining gift in the bag, so Mylène handed them both out and counted to three. They both gently opened their gifts, keeping the paper and ribbons intact for Rose, and cooed over their gifts.

Max got a book on coding and a ticket to a computing conference that he had wanted to go to. “Kim, these are perfect. Thank you.”

“What makes you think it was me?”

Max laughed. “You’re the only one who knew that I wanted both of these things.”

Kim gave up protesting then and wrapped and arm around Max’s shoulders then, grinning wildly. “Anything for you!”

Juleka, meanwhile, was holding up her brand new purple and black polaroid camera and marvelling at it. It didn’t take long for her to put one of the film packs inside and she immediately pulled Rose in for a selfie. She had become quite the photographer after her photo curse had been lifted, but she always made sure to take a good selfie with her girlfriend.

“And that’s everyone!” Mylène smiled and folded the bag up. “It was so much fun!”

Everyone agreed but Alya was the one to speak up. “I kinda don’t want to leave just yet. It’s been super fun.”

“If you don’t want to go, ma chou-fleur, then you could always play in the park,” Marlena Césaire spoke up, looking out of the window with a smile. “The snow out there is pristine, and perfect for a-”

SNOWBALL FIGHT!” Kim roared.

“Girls against boys!” Alix added.

Everyone else whooped and grabbed their coats, running towards the door en masse, racing down the stairs in a waterfall of teenage enthusiasm. Adrien had jumped up with them but then stopped. He could practically hear what his father would say about joining in a snowball fight, and it wouldn’t be good.

“Come on, kid,” Gorilla walked over, shrugging his coat on, and holding Adrien’s out for him. “Show them how good your aim is.”

“Really?” he beamed. “Thanks!”

Sabine chuckled and walked over with Marinette’s winter wear and helped her daughter to bundle up. “Have fun and destroy your opposition,” she grinned. “I’ll make some hot chocolate for you all in a bit. Can’t have all of you freezing.”

Marinette was bouncing in her excitement. “Thanks mama! Let’s go Adrien!”

They hurried after their friends, Gorilla following at a more sedate pace, and screamed as they were immediately assaulted by snowballs the second they stepped through the park gates. Kim jeered, having gotten both of them, but then yelped when Alix smashed one in the back of his head. “No one is getting Adrien while I’m around!” she declared.

“That’s fine!” Kim smirked. “Because I’m not after him, I’m after you!”

That signalled the start of the Great Class Snowball War. It was meant to be girls against boys but it quickly descended into a free for all brawl. Kim and Alix were going after each other with great gusto, and Ivan soon joined in on Alix’s side after a stray snowball of Kim’s hit Mylène. Mylène sat out with Nathanaël at that point but contributed by making as many snowballs as they could for the rest of them.

Rose and Juleka had chased each other around the fountain for a bit but found it much more entertaining to make snow angels. Max stood by them to prevent the others from running over - he greatly disliked using snow as a weapon but he loved to play along, so his job was always to keep score between Kim and Alix, because they were the only ones interested in the score, and so wherever Max stood was a no-play zone.

Alya and Nino had hoped to team up with their friends in a mini boys-v-girls battle of their own, but Adrien and Marinette were having far too much fun trying to destroy each other to pay any attention to them, so they shrugged it off and joined Alix and Ivan against Kim who immediately called unfair. Try as they might, though, they couldn’t help but keep watching their friends.

Adrien and Marinette were in a world of their own and completely unaware that they were being watched. They were having far too much fun for that. Bending and swooping down for more ammunition, using the terrain to their advantage, hiding behind trees, leaping over benches, twisting around the fountain, spinning and turning in an intricate dance as they launched icy projectiles at each other… it was just like their patrols when they played rooftop tag. They were completely in their element here and having the time of their lives.

When Adrien got distracted by a well-aimed snowball from Kim Marinette took her chance.

She slipped around a tree and ducked behind a bench to scoop up a handful of snow. She didn’t press it into a ball though and just waited for the right opportunity.

There.

The second his back was turned, quick as lighting Marinette crossed the distance between them and raced up behind him, yanking the back of his shirt down and pushing the handful of snow against his skin.

The sound Adrien made was barely human, in fact it was more reminiscent of a cat having its tail stepped on, and everyone stopped in their tracks to watch the scene unfold.

Marinette giggled uncontrollably as Adrien flailed about, yelping and slapping at his back, trying desperately to dislodge the snow. It was a bit mean of her to laugh at his misfortune but he had never looked or sounded more cat-like before. She wiped away a few tears from her eyes but her laughter quickly stopped when her turned and looked at her, his smirk promising dire vengeance.

She shrieked and ran as fast as she could, darting around the fountain to the other side of the park and yelping when he ran straight through the currently empty fountain to get to her. He had the clear advantage on the ground where she had it in the air, and he caught up to her in no time and tackled her to the snowy grass. He rolled them mid-air so he took the brunt of the fall and so she wasn’t the one who was lying on the cold ground and wrapped his arms around her waist.

“Well what do you know, the cat caught the bug this time,” he smirked.

Marinette stared down at him, still trying to catch her breath from their battle, and watched as his expression changed from victory and smug satisfaction into something resembling worship and adoration. He brought a hand to his lips and bit down on his glove, pulling the wet fabric off his hand before cupping her face and caressing her cheek with his thumb. She didn’t dare breathe as a hint of determination joined the awe and love in his eyes.

“You know, I had a whole plan for this.”

Marinette’s heart was racing in a way that had nothing to do with the snowball fight and everything to do with the way Adrien was looking at her. He looked at her like she was his world. “For what?” she managed to ask, sounding far more breathless than she should have from playing in the snow.

His smile was so soft and tender that she thought her heart might skip a beat. “Asking you out.”

Ok, scratch that, now her heart skipped a beat. Or five. Was it possible for a heart to race so fast that it felt like it had stopped? Because Marinette was pretty sure that was what was happening to her right now. She knew this was coming, how could she not with all of their flirting and declarations of love, but the reality of it was so overwhelming.

Fortunately, Adrien was unaware of her mental shut-down. He carried on talking, gently sweeping his thumb across her cheek, and looking at her with love in his eyes.

“I had a plan that I thought was pretty damn perfect, I had a speech prepared and everything, but this-” he used his free hand to gesture around them and between them and Marinette became aware that she was still sprawled on top of him in a couple of centimetres of snow in the park. “This is just so much more.”

He sat them both up then, which was a good thing because Marinette’s brain had lost all connection with her body and she wasn’t sure how to do things like moving or talking. Heck, she was impressed she was still breathing. He carefully brushed the snow off both of them and took both of her hands in his, never dropping eye contact for a moment.

“Marinette, will you go out with me?”

Talking.

Talking would be a good thing to do right now. Like, right now!

“Really?”

Adrien smiled. “Yes.”

Sabine interrupted them. “Kids!”

She stood in the doorway of the bakery, a coat held loose around her shoulders to ward off the chill, and shouted over to the group in the park. The rest of their friends stopped their snow games and looked over to Sabine, and Marinette realised that no one had been close enough to witness Adrien’s question. They were all completely oblivious to what was happening between them on the other side of the park.

Sabine waved them all over. “Come at get some hot chocolate before you freeze!”

Rose, Juleka, and Mylène led the charge back to the bakery, but the whole groups soon followed. Alya was wrapped up in Nino’s arms as she went, shouting back over her shoulder for Marinette to hurry or she would miss all the mini-marshmallows. She wouldn’t have been so laid-back if she’d known what had happened between Marinette and Adrien just then.

Adrien pulled her to her feet and helped brush the last of the snow off her clothes and out of her pigtails and Marinette caught his hands before he could pull away. “Yes.”

Adrien froze. “Yes?”

“Yes.” Marinette nodded.

“Yes!”

With a whoop and a shriek of pure joy, Adrien scooped her up and spun her around. His happy laughter was joined by two tiny high-pitched screams from Marinette’s bag where Plagg and Tikki were hiding (and losing their minds by the sound of it). He gently lowered her down until they were pressed forehead to forehead, beaming in pure joy.

“Yes,” he whispered.

She giggled. He sounded so relieved. “Did you really think I would say no, kitten?”

“Nothing was certain until you said yes, my Princess,” he laughed and kissed her forehead. “Now let’s get you inside and warmed up before you turn into a bug-cicle.”

Gorilla was waiting for them by the bakery door, where he had stood guard for the duration of the snowball fight. Marinette swore she hadn’t seen him look so happily at Adrien before and she couldn’t help but blush when the large man winked at both of them. He was way too observant.

They hurried upstairs where Sabine gave them two tall mugs of her special recipe hot chocolate and they joined their remaining friends at the table. Mylène and Ivan had taken their drinks to go as they had promised to help Mylène’s dad with some stuff for the Christmas plays his theatre company staged. Nathanaël was getting a lift home with them as his house was on his way to the theatre so he had accepted a to-go cup of hot chocolate too. Kim and Max had bowed out too so they could finish packing for their trip down to Lyon on Monday, thanking Tom and Sabine excessively on their way out.

That left Rose and Juleka at the table with Alya and Nino.

Alya noticed their unusually happy smiles as they sat down but didn’t say anything. Instead, she got that gleam in her eyes that meant she was planning something and deliberately started drinking faster. She put her hand under Nino’s cup and tilter it up, making his drink faster too. Rose and Juleka looked at her in confusion until they caught the way she was looking at her best friend and then they eagerly drank their drinks too.

Ten minutes later they were left alone at the table as the rest of their friends saw themselves out with profuse thanks and sly looks at the new couple (not that they knew that). Marinette barely resisted the urge to facepalm at Alya’s behaviour.

Next to her, Adrien relaxed into the sofa and chuckled. “Wait until she finds out.”

“Let me live in peace for a little longer, please.”

He just laughed again. “So are you busy on Christmas Eve? That was when I’d planned to ask, but I’d love to be able to take you on a special date then.”

A loud crash from the doorway startled them and they turned to see Tom stood there, a shattered mug of coffee on the floor in front of him, and the largest and happiest smile they’re ever seen on his face.

“Date?” If anything his smile got bigger. He turned to the door and stuck his head out. “Sabine! Sabine! It’s happened!”

Marinette didn’t resist the urge to facepalm this time and groaned into her hand. She mock-glared at Adrien through her fingers, pleased that he looked a little flustered. “I hope you didn’t have any plans for dinner, because you’ll be staying here now.”

“Don’t worry, Mlle. Marinette,” Gorilla’s answering laugh had her groaning and Adrien blushing again. “We’re not busy tonight. We’d love to stay.”

She glared at Adrien again. Dating for only half an hour and they’d already landed in the middle of an embarrassing dinner with the parents. He gave her a sheepish chuckle. “Oops?”

Chapter Text

Sunday 22nd December 2019. 8.50 p.m. Marinette’s balcony.

It was the Sunday before Christmas and that meant that it was time for Ladybug and Chat Noir to meet on top of the Eiffel Tower and exchange presents on their patrol. They had chosen the date at random for their first Christmas as partners and exchanged boxes of chocolates. They didn’t know each other well enough then go give anything more personal, and food was the best choice of gift to keep their identities safe. Their second Christmas they met up on the Sunday again and Ladybug gave Chat a book he wanted while he gave her three balls of the expensive wool she had mentioned she liked.

They were due to meet in ten minutes but Marinette wasn’t hurrying. She knew her boyfriend very well - and boy did she wants to squeal in sheer delight every time she thought of him as her boyfriend - and she knew he wouldn’t let her go to the Tower alone.

So there she was, curled up under the window hatch with a good book and a blanket around her shoulders, Tikki snoozing in the crook of her shoulders, waiting for him to arrive. Sure enough…

Thud.

… five minutes before they were due to meet he landed on her balcony.

She chuckled and set her book to one side, nudging Tikki awake, and opened up her hatch. Chat Noir stood there, green patrol scarf secure around his neck, and was beaming down at her in such sheer glee that she couldn’t help but return his smile.

“I should be surprised to see you here, but I’m not.” She teased.

Chat smirked and shot her a cheeky wink. “How else am I supposed to sweep you of your feet tonight, my Princess? I am a gentle-cat after all,” he swept his arm around and bowed elegantly from the waist. He extended a hand to her to help her climb out of the hatch. “It’s only right that I collect you for our date.”

Marinette couldn’t help the blush that crossed her cheeks. This wasn’t even there real first date but she still got such a thrill when she heard him say that. “Patrol date, kitten. Work before play,” she reached out and flicked his bell. “And that also includes our presents.” Marinette looked very deliberately at the hand he was keeping behind his back, holding a present that was too large to fully hide.

“You got me.” Chat brought the present out for her to see and she giggled at the homemade Ladybug print paper. It was so sweet of him to do that. “I was actually hoping to leave this here until later, if my Princess agrees. Since we don’t need to exchange presents on top of the Eiffel Tower any more, I thought we could do it here. Where you could stay warm.”

Tikki answered for her. “She accepts!” She zipped up through the closed window and went straight to Chat, nuzzling his face in greeting. Even though she was wearing her winter clothes she still looked cold. “When you two get back can I have Plagg please? I need purrs and cuddles!”

“Cat’s honour, Little Lady.” Chat gave Tikki his trademark two finger salute before holding the present out to Marinette. “Ready?”

Marinette nodded, quickly stashing the present just inside her window hatch. She had left hers down in her room but it would be easy enough to collect his from her bed later so she left it there and closed the hatch securely. He was watching her when she turned around again and flushed when she caught him. She and Tikki both giggled as her kwami came over to rest in her hands.

“Tikki, Spots On.”

The pink light of her transformation swept over her, leaving Ladybug stood where Marinette had been, and she was thankful that her mask hid the blush on her face when she saw the gentle look Chat was giving her. She might never get used to him looking at her with so much love in his eyes.

He gave a soft sigh before reaching out and brushing aside the lock of hair that had escaped her ponytail when she had transformed. He tucked it behind her ear but let his hand linger on her cheek like he had yesterday when he finally, finally, asked her out.

“Beautiful…”

The breathy sigh made her blush again (and damn her pale cheeks for highlighting even the tiniest blush and damn him for making her blush so much) so she reached out and booped him on the nose to get their equilibrium back. “Flattery won’t stop me from beating you in a race to the tower, my silly kitty.”

“I speak only the truth, my Lady-love.” His hand fell from her cheek to catch hers and he brought it to his lips to brush a kiss against it. “I would never stoop so low to use your unparalleled beauty as a tactic to win a race.”

Damn that smooth talking cat. Ladybug could feel her knees go weak and right there and then she promised herself she must never let him know how he affected her. She would never hear the end of it otherwise.

“But I would do this!” Chat smirked, winked, and leapt off the balcony, vaulting away on the baton he had extended while she had been somewhat distracted, whooping in victory as he did. “See you at the Tower Bugaboo!”

“You mangy cat!” Ladybug took a second to process what had just happened before shooting her yoyo out and darting after him. Oh she was going to kill him when she caught him. “Get back here!

Their laughter echoed around them in the night, causing the Parisians on the street below to smile up at their antics. It was always good to hear their heroes having fun while they protected the city.

It only took four streets for Ladybug to realise that Chat Noir wasn’t interested in winning this race at all. He wasn’t heading straight for the tower, not even close, and seemed content to simply play a game of rooftop tag with her. She was more than happy to go along with that.

The trip from her home to the Eiffel Tower usually took no more than five minutes, three if she sprinted, but it was almost half an hour later that she set eyes on it. They had raced up and down la Seine, played hide and seek at the Louvre, and raced down the Champs-Élysées before settling on a rooftop only a few streets away from the beautiful tower.

Naturally, that was when Chat became competitive again.

She was ready for him this time, sprinting after him only a heartbeat after he raced towards the Tower. He might have caught her in the snow with ease yesterday, not that she had been trying too hard to get away from him, come on, she wasn’t stupid, but while he was faster on the ground she ruled the skies. He put up a valiant effort but he just wasn’t fast enough to catch her - until he started cheating again. Knocking her yoyo, grabbing her ankle, he tried every trick in the book but she was still ahead of him.

Right until he tackled her again.

They landed on the tower in a tangle of limbs and laughter, with Chat sprawled all over her and his tail and her yoyo tying them together.

“I win!”

“You most certainly do not!”

“... call it a draw?”

She rolled her eyes at him. “Sure kitty. Why not?”

Once they had managed to untable themselves, Chat swung his legs over the edge of one of the beams and quickly pulled her down into his lap. She squeaked, more from surprise that out of any embarrassment, and he chuckled at her. Ladybug stuck her tongue out at him and he just wrapped his arms around her, pressing her back to his chest, settling his chin on her shoulder and staring out at the city. Neither made any move to break the silence, enjoying the moment where, for once, it was just them and the twinkling lights of the city.

Chat could never stay quiet for long though. “So what do I get for winning our race?”

Ladybug snorted. “Nothing! If anyone won it was me, you cheater!” she twisted around so she could reach back and poke him on the nose, then laughed when he pouted.

“So cruel, my Lady,” he sighed, hamming it up, before pressing their cheeks together and giving a soft purr. She immediately relaxed into his arms. “Well if that’s what the Lady wants, name your prize Bugaboo.”

There were lots of things she could have asked for but there was only one thing that she really wanted right now. “Let’s head back home for presents, purrs, and cuddles with hot chocolate.”

“I can do that.” Chat immediately jumper up, keeping her in his arms and making her squeal, and dove off the side of the tower.

When they were about halfway down she launched her yoyo and swung them towards her home and the second his feet touched the floor she wiggled from his grasp and the race started again. They were both laughing aloud as he gave chase. There was no weaving about this time as they aimed right for the bakery but Chat grabbed her right before they landed so his feet touched her balcony first.

“You can’t say I didn’t beat you here this time,” he winked. “Now, what do I win?”

“You can choose which present to open first.” Ladybug promised and jumped out of his hold, immediately opening the window hatch and slipping through. “Now come on, my kitten. I was promised purrs!”

Since she didn’t release her transformation Chat followed suit and quickly slipped into her room. He made sure the hatch was securely closed behind him and grabbed his present off her bed on the way down. Ladybug was folding up a scarf on her desk near the tiny fan heater he knew was for Tikki and making a little kwami nest. Only when it was done did she murmur her release phrase and Tikki reappeared. She looked at him expectantly and he immediately dropped his transformation so she could have Plagg.

Adrien and Marinette shared a fond look as their kwamis embraced and settled into their warm nest. Marinette gestured to the hatch and Adrien nodded, settling on the chaise as she slipped downstairs to make their hot chocolate and leaving him with the presents. He had won the race home which gave him the right to choose which present was opened first, but he was having a hard time choosing.

Marinette’s present looked beautiful.

Adrien gathered it up from the chaise, marvelling at her handmade Chat Noir themed paper. The tiny green paw prints stood out beautifully against the black paper and they looked so much better than the spots he had drawn on his red paper. He had tried so hard to get them all even but they all ended up being slightly different sized. There was a length of satin ribbon wound around it, in a darker green that complimented the design beautifully, and Adrien had to fight the urge to bat at it. Instead he gave the present a quick squeeze, unable to resist trying to figure it out, and realised that it was as soft as his.

For a moment he feared that they had chosen the same present for each other. It wasn’t completely impossible, there had been several times when they were so completely in tune with each other in the past. Hers felt smaller and lighter than his though so the odds were that they weren’t the same gift. He really wanted to open hers, to see what she had got him. But he also really wanted to see the look on her face when she saw his gift to her.

Adrien sighed and looked at the two gifts. It was such a hard decision to make!

“Is everything ok?”

Adrien startled. He had been so deep in thought that he hadn’t even heard Marinette returns to her room. She was gently shutting the trap door with one hand while balancing a heavily laden tray with the other. There were two large mugs filled with hot chocolate, three slices of a divind looking chocolate cake, and a large wedge of camembert. She set the tray down on the floor by the chaise and set the cheese and one of the cake slices to one side for their kwami, who immediately emerged from their cocoon to eat.

He gave her the most reassuring smile he could. “I can’t decide which one of us goes first. Plus it feels a little like cheating, opening our presents now,” he shrugged. “I know that Ladybug and Chat Noir have always exchanged gifts before Christmas, though, so…”

Marinette smiled and reached out to take his hand. “We didn’t know we’d find our identities out this Christmas, so why don’t we stick with our tradition this year?”

“This year?” Adrien pouted at that. “Does that mean we’re going to change things next year? I like our Ladybug and Chat Noir traditions though.”

He could tell he hadn’t fooled her. “You just want an excuse to buy me more presents.” Marinette accused.

She was right and Adrien knew there was no argument he could come up with on the spur of the moment to convince her otherwise. That left pleading. He leant back on the chaise and pulled her to him, starting up his purr and cuddling her close, delighting in how easily she relaxed against him. “You can’t blame me for wanting to spoil my girlfriend a little.”

He adored being able to call her his girlfriend.

She still wasn’t fooled but he could see a hint of pink on her cheeks. “Are you purring because you’re happy, because its my prize, or to butter me up to get me to agree to more presents?”

“All of the above? Anyway, I have decided that you should open your present first. Ladies first, my Princess.”

Reluctant as he was to let her go, he was excited to see her reaction to his gift.

Adrien handed Marinette the red and black present and was quite pleased to see her carefully open the present to keep his wrapping paper intact. When she finally unfolded it to see the gift he was treated to a gasp of pure delight.

“Oh!”

Adrien hadn’t been afraid to use his name to find the softest and warmest wool on the market and have it dyed Ladybug red. There was a pattern of white snowflakes of different sizes scattered all over the blanket like polka dots and Marinette eagerly wrapped it around herself, humming happily at the feel of it.

She beamed at him. “I love it! It’s perfect!”

He sagged in relief next to her. He had been in turmoil ever since the reveal for fear that Marinette, up-and-coming fashion star Marinette Dupain-Cheng, might have found some flaw with the wool or the dye or the pattern that he wouldn’t have noticed. Adrien had wanted this present to be perfect for her. He leaned over and kissed her cheek. “You’re welcome.”

She pulled the blanket a bit tighter before grabbing his gift and handing it to him. “I hope this is ok. I actually only finished it the day before we found out, so…”

“All of your presents are phenomenal, my Princess.”

Adrien unwrapped her gift with the same care she had shown his - there was no way he was letting this amazing Chat Noir paper go to waste - and his jaw dropped when he saw the jumper inside.

It was bright green, with wintery designs in black and white around the hem, cuffs, and collar, and right in the centre was a grumpy looking green-eyed black cat with a Santa hat perched jauntily on its head. Above it was the caption Meow-y Christmas. It was a typical terrible Christmas jumper with too-bright colours and patterns bordering on garish.

It was the best thing he had ever seen in his life!

“Oh my god!” he scrambled to pull it over his head, not surprised that it was a perfect fit, and stared down at it in delight. “I love it! Oh my god, I’ve never had a Christmas jumper before and this- ohmygod I love it so much!”

Marinette giggled at him. “Meow-y Christmas, my kitten.”

Adrien turned, intending to thank her again for one of if not the best gifts he had ever received, but froze when her lips caressed his cheek and just caught the corner of his mouth. She had obviously been leaning in to kiss him when he had turned around.

There was a small part of him that was mad he didn’t turn around further and complete the kiss, but there was one thought that stood out far more clearly than the small hint of annoyance.

This was it.

No one was here to interrupt them, there were no jobs to complete, biscuits to bake, or akumas to fight. There was nothing to stop them. Marinette was blushing but she was still so close to him. She hadn’t moved away. She even dropped her gaze to his lips. She wanted this as much as he did.

“You know,” he breathed, unable to raise his voice above a whisper. “I had a whole plan for this.”

Adrien deliberate chose the same words he used to ask her out. A small smile crossed her face when she realised what he meant. “Oh?” she murmured, shifting closer to him on the seat. “And what would that be?”

“It was simple, really.” His arms moved of their own accord and wrapped around her waist. “I was going to ask if you would go out with me, and I still can’t believe you actually said yes to me, like holy cats, you said yes.” Adrien sometimes couldn’t believe his luck that he had Marinette as his girlfriend. “And then I was going to take you on a date.”

Her hands were wrapping around him now too, one settling over his heart while the other moved towards his shoulder. “Really? Would it have been as good as the dates we’ve already had?”

“Even better, “ he grinned. “But I can’t tell you just how amazing it would be - that will spoil the surprise for Christmas Even when we go out. But once we’d had this miraculous date, I was going to walk you home and ask for a kiss from my Princess.”

Marinette was barely a breath away from his lips. “So what’s stopping you now?”

He spared a quick glance at Plagg and Tikki just to make sure they weren’t going to stop him (and he would kill them if they did). They were sat there, paws intertwined and food forgotten, watching their Chosens with an eager and excited intensity. No way were they going to interfere.

Adrien turned back to Marinette and smiled. “Nothing at all,” her murmured against her lips before finally pressing them together.

Chapter Text

Monday 23rd December 2019. 10.30 a.m. Marinette’s bedroom.

Marinette hummed to herself happily as she dipped her favourite embroidery needle in and out of the fabric and brought her design to life. If she happened to be humming sappy romantic songs more than her usual rock preferences, well, that was just because she was finishing the quilt for her amazing boyfriend.

A happy sigh fell from her lips.

Her boyfriend. Adrien Chat Noir Agreste was her boyfriend. She didn’t think she would ever get over how wonderful that made her feel. Or how wonderful and special he made her feel.

A small squeal escaped her as she thought about their first real kiss last night. She couldn’t help it, and she deliberately ignored Tikki’s smug giggle. It wasn’t the first time she had squealed this morning and it wouldn’t be the last. It had been perfect. As had the one after that, and the one after that, and the one after that. They’d been a little clumsy, and knocked noses a few times, but practice makes perfect and they’d certainly practiced enough last night to start to get the hang of it.

Marinette bit her lip and wondered if she could convince him to come over today and practice some more.

She yelped when the needle pricked her finger again.

Tikki giggled. “Either embroider or daydream. You can’t do both.”

Marinette mock-scowled at her kwami but reluctantly admitted she was right. Sighing and dreaming about the kisses they had shared last night, those amazing kisses, those tender and perfect kisses, the kisses that put all of her previous fantasies to shame, the-

Another yelp and this time the needle dug deep enough to draw blood. Tikki giggled again and Marinette sighed. Daydreaming or embroidery, she had to pick one and stick with it. Much as she would love to continue daydreaming, and she really did, there wasn’t much left to do on Adrien’s special quilt so she would stick with embroidery for now. That way she could give it to him on their special Christmas Eve date tomorrow.

As Marinette was searching for a plaster to wrap around her finger to stop any blood from staining the quilt she heard her phone ding with a notification. Tikki was using her phone to browse cat photos to send to Plagg and she would tell Marinette if it was anything she needed to pay attention to. Marinette doubted it would be anything important though. Not at this time in the morning.

“Marinette!” Tikki squeaked. “Hide the quilt, quick.”

There was only one reason why Tikki would say that. There had to be a Chat Noir sighting on the Ladyblog.

She ignored the plaster and scrambled to fold and hide the quilt before he got here. “Why is he coming over now?” she hissed to Tikki.

Marinette had been helping her parents in the bakery all morning, hence why she was awake so early in the school holidays, and Adrien knew that. She was on her half hour morning break right now but she hadn’t told her boyfriend when she was taking it, determined to work on his quilt as much as she could before returning to the kitchens. So why was he coming over now?

She and Tikki tidied away all of the evidence of her sewing that they could find and she grabbed a book and opened it to a random page, hoping to look somewhat presentable when he showed up.

When almost five minutes had passed with no sign of the black cat hero landing on her balcony, she turned to Tikki in confusion. “What could be keeping him?”

“I have no idea,” Tikki shook her head. “The Ladyblog alert said he had been seen near Notre Dame. I thought for sure he would have been here by now. Unless…” Tikki’s confusion melted into a teasing grin. “Maybe he’s off to buy his girlfriend more gifts.”

Marinette blushed. “Tikki!”

“I’m just saying.”

“Well don’t!” Marinette huffed and reached for her phone. “Let’s see if Alya has put anything else up and- oh!”

Tikki floated over to read over her shoulder and cooed at the article. “Oh, he really is a sweetheart, isn’t he?”

“Yeah,” Marinetted sighed.

Alya’s article talked about how Chat Noir had been seen out and about, most recently near Notre Dame, with a Santa hat set on his head and doing good deeds for the people of Paris. He had helped people carry their shopping, saved a bicyclist from a collision, rescued pets, and joined in snowball fights with several young children. He had the kindest and largest heart she had ever known. Now that she knew he was Adrien though she realised just why he gave so much of himself when in the suit. He wanted the recognition he received to be because of what he had done, not who he was or how he looked. More than that he just wanted to be happy and be with people.

An idea formed in the back of her mind then and she looked at the quilt. There really wasn’t that much more to do there, surely she could take a little break from it?

“Hey Tikki, are you up for a little baking?”

If Tikki was surprised by the sudden change in subject she didn’t show it. “Always. What are we making?”

“Something to help Chat. But first, Ladybug needs to make a phone call.” Marinette smiled at Tikki and tapped her earrings. “Do you mind?”


3.30 p.m. l’Arc du Triomphe.

After a fun but long day racing about the city and doing good deeds, Chat Noir was tired. It had been an amazing day and he had laughed and joked with so many wonderful Parisians, including that lovely grandmother who had insisted on feeding him for saving her grandson from the too tall tree he had climbed, and oh god was that food good, but right now all he wanted to do was to head home and fall into his bed for a well-earned cat-nap.

Or at least that was his plan until he caught sight of a certain lady in red stood on top of l’Arc du Triomphe.

He was running to her before he even realised he had changed direction.

“Bugaboo!”

He landed close to her, crossed the roof with three large strides, and swept her up into his arms with a delighted laugh. She was ready for him this time and wrapped her arms around his shoulders as he twirled her around, giggling at his exuberance, and pressing their foreheads together. When he finally slowed to a stop and lowered her to her feet Chat couldn’t resist leaning in for a hello kiss.

Judging by her happy hum and the way one kiss turned into two, then three, then more, he would bet that she had been looking forward to this as much as he had.

Chat finally broke the kiss for air and nuzzled his nose against hers. “I missed you.”

She giggled. “You were with me most of yesterday, silly kitty,” she teased, but then he was treated to her gaze becoming softer and warmer. “I missed you too, though,” she admitted, pushing herself up on her tiptoes to kiss him again. He gave a low purr and ran one of his hands up her back and over her neck to tilt her head just enough to deepen the kiss and pull that happy sigh from her again. She was the one to break them apart this time. “I saw on the Ladyblog that you’ve been having a fun day.”

He shrugged. “I’m just spreading some Christmas cheer and having a bit of fun before Père returns tomorrow.” It was always the same whenever Gabriel returned from any kind of trip away. He was always disappointed in the quality and quantity of work that his son had done in his absence and curtailed his freedoms until, in his cold eyes, Adrien had made up for his mistakes.

Ladybug held him tighter and that but thankfully didn’t comment upon it. “I remember how much fun you had playing Père Noël last year-”

“Ah-ah-ah!” Chat waved a finger in her face with a grin. “That’s Santa Claws to you, my Lady.”

Ladybug rolled her eyes and ignored him. “-so I thought I’d come and help you out today.”

She pulled back from him only enough to turn and gestire to the large bag he had somehow missed seeing as he raced to her side, filled to the brim with boxes from the Tom and Sabine Boulangerie-Pâtisserie that contained, to his eternal delight, Ladybug and Chat Noir themed cookies.

“When did you have time-”

She pressed a gloved finger to his lips and winked. “Well,” she drawled, and he instantly knew this was going to be a good story. “When I saw my sweet kitty out and about on the Ladyblog I figured I had to come and join him. Then I remembered that lovely little école carol concert that got ruined by an akuma, and then I remembered the reason why they were singing, and then I remembered there is a lovely little bakery right near the collège where we fight most of our akumas.”

She winked at him and he had to bite his lip to hold in his laughter.

“Since the école were going to the children’s hospital today I thought a superhero entourage might be appreciated, and of course I had to bring gifts. That bakery seems good enough so I swung by to see if they could do a special order for us. I think I gave their daughter a heart attack when I dropped in on her.”

Chat couldn’t keep it in any more and burst into laughter. Only his Lady could come up with such a convoluted and yet believable cover story as to why she was suddenly making hundreds and hundreds of cookies.

“You are the best, my love,” he managed to say through his giggles, and pressed a quick kiss to her forehead. “Just when I think you can’t get any more wonderful, you go and surprise me like this. So where are we going?”

“I spoke to the hospital and the school earlier, and I may have let a hint or two slip to the Ladyblog,” she grinned. We’re meeting the children at the school at 4 p.m. and going to the hospital with them on their coach.”

“What are we waiting for then? Let’s go!”


5 p.m. Local Children’s hospital.

The trip to the hospital had been full of happy screaming children and parents and teachers begging for selfies with the heroes. When they got to the hospital the screaming and the selfie requests had only gotten worse. What should have been a three minute walk from the front door to the main children’s ward took twenty minutes as they were stopped by just about every person in the hallway.

Alya was there recording for the Ladyblog but at least she had the decency to stay back and let the kids monopolise Ladybug and Chat Noir’s time. Ladybug made a mental note to give Alya another exclusive interview for this. They had left the school and the very excited children in the main ward and were now touring the other wards with the hospital director and his head of staff and, of course, Alya and her ever present camera. Everywhere they went they were greeted with delighted children who adored the cookies as much as they adored the heroes.

Ladybug could understand why Chat loved to do this so much when she saw their happy faces.

The final ward they visited was for children recovering from surgeries, both minor and major, and they were just as crazy about superheroes as all of the other children had been.

Ladybug got roped into a conversation with a sweetheart of a girl called Aimee, completely decked out from head to toe in Ladybug pyjamas, socks, and slippers, who jabbered away a mile a minute while her parents looked on fondly. Aimee looked like she might faint when Ladybug signed both her arm cast and the giant get well soon card on her bedside table.

“Ladybug!”

She looked over to where Chat was on the other side of the room, beckoning her over with a wild smile, and nodded. She made her excuses to Aimee and her parents and hurried to join her partner, waving at the other children and giving some of them high fives as she went.

Chat’s smile only grew as she approached. “Come and meet Hugo, my Lady!”

Ladybug suspected it was only the magic of the suit that kept her knees from giving way beneath her when she saw the child that Chat wanted her to meet child - one with bright blue eyes and warm blond hair, wearing home-made Chat Noir pyjamas with fuzzy green socks, sitting happily in her partner’s lap and gazing up at his hero in pure joy.

For the briefest of moments, the tiniest iota of a second, she felt like she was looking at her future as she watched the man she loved laugh and talk with a giggling child. It was so easy to imagine that this Hugo was actually theirs, it was so easy to picture their two other children there, one blonde and one dark-haired, their Louis and Emma, clambering about their father, excited to be picked up and play with his magical cat ears.

She was going to marry this man.

She had been saying that for years, of course, but she never truly believed it until this moment. Not until she saw him there with a Hugo who wasn't theirs and smiling so happily and so lovingly over at her as he beckoned her to meet his newest friend. He was her future.

“Hugo, this is Ladybug.”

She took the hand he offered and let him pull her onto the chair with them. It was a tight squeeze but they made it work. “Hello there sweetheart.”

“Hi,” he mumbled shyly. “Where's your hat?”

“I let Aimee borrow it for a while,” Ladybug smiled.

Because of course Chat had made her put a bright red Santa hat on before they came to the hospital. It had barely spent any time on her head though, all of the kids wanted to wear Ladybug’s hat and so she let them share it. Ainee had looked at it like it was a priceless treasure and not a cheap €1 hat from a supermarket’s seasonal aisle. Still, the kids loved it, so who was she to protest?

Perhaps that was why Hugo was asking? “Would you like to borrow Chat’s hat?”

Hugo shook his head forcefully. “Nu-uh. Without his hat, he can’t be Santa Claws,” Hugo picked Chat’s hand up and pointed at his claws with a grin. “Get it? Claws!”

Chat and Hugo both dissolved into fits of giggles and Ladybug bit back a sigh. Did she really want to marry this dork?

The answer to that would have to be yes. As she looked up at him, laughing in delight with Hugo over that silly little pun, she knew that she did. He was her future, bad jokes and all. She couldn’t wait.

Chapter Text

Tuesday 24th December 2019. 1.45 p.m. Tom and Sabine Boulangerie-Pâtisserie.

By the time they got to the bakery on Christmas Eve most of the customers had already been and gone. As always, Tom and Sabine only opened for half of the day so that they could spend some quality family time together later on while still making sure their customers were able to get fresh bread for the day and the bûche de Noël for their own festive celebrations.

Technically, that’s why Adrien was there.

As Gorilla was the only adult in the mansion, he had been tasked with collecting the bûche de Noël for the Reveillon meal in the Agreste mansion later that day. Naturally, Adrien had to come along too so that Gorilla could keep an eye on him. At least, that’s what they would tell Gabriel later when he returned from his business trip. In actual fact Adrien was there to collect Marinette for their first official date and Gorilla was going to be a taste tester for Tom and Sabine - they would later claim that they had to hide in the bakery for a bit when a fan saw Adrien.

That hadn’t even bothered to take the car this time, Gorilla deeming it unnecessary for the short trip from the mansion to the bakery, especially as Adrien would be walking with Marinette on their date. So long as they were back in the bakery for 3.30 p.m. then Adrien could get back to mansion in plenty of time to greet his father.

They walked through the door just as Sabine finished serving another customer. “Thank you, goodbye.” Sabine waved the other customer away and turned to greet them with a pleasant smile on her face. It melted into a truly delighted smile when she realised who it was and Adrien felt giddy with joy that she was so happy to see him. Marinette’s parents had been wonderfully welcoming, even more so after he had accidentally revealed that he and Marinette were dating after their snowball fight on Saturday. She quickly rounded the counter to hug him and shake hands with Gorilla. “Adrien, Christophe, it’s so good to see you here,” she grinned. “Are you all set for your date today?”

“I hope so,” he chuckled. “Is Marinette?”

Sabine nodded. “She was just helping Tom in the back, although it would be more accurate to say she was doing her best to ignore her father’s woeful interrogation skills. We haven’t been able to get a word out of her about this date yet and it’s driving Tom crazy!”

Adrien laughed. “That would be my fault. I’m hoping to surprise her today so she doesn’t know what I have planned.”

“A surprise? How exciting!” Sabine grinned. “I’ll go and fetch Marinette now. You two can help yourself to anything you’d like from the counters.”

Gorilla began to look through the counters with interest but Adrien did his best to ignore the temptation in front of him. He had planned to get a small bite to eat while he was out with Marinette today, and there was the Reveillon meal with his father later, so he didn’t want to spoil his appetite - no matter how divine, how delectable, how delicious all those treats looked.

“Adrien!”

That was all the warning he received before Marinette ran up to him and he eagerly swung her up into his arms. God he had missed her. He leaned down to kiss her but remembered at the last minute that they had an audience and kissed her cheek instead. “Hey love. Ready to go?”

“Almost. Here,” Marinette ran behind one of the counters, letting Adrien admire the Christmas themed jumper dress she was wearing, and grabbed a box. She hurried up to him and held it out. “I saved the best one just for you.”

He cracked open the lid to reveal a truly exquisite looking bûche de Noël. The chocolate looked like actual bark, it was decorated with a marzipan sprig of holly with bright red berries, and topped with a dusting of icing sugar for snow. He easily believed her when she said it was the best as it was the best one he had ever seen. “It’s perfect. How much?”

Marinette’s happy smile turned sassy. “One kiss.”

One kiss. You’re undervaluing such magnificent work. It should be at least 100.”

She laughed. “You know, you’re right. It should be.”

“Save that for outside you two.”

Adrien and Marinette both blushed at Tom’s gentle joke, having completely forgotten that anyone else was even in the room. Adrien counted his blessings that he hadn’t actually kissed her just then. What kind of impression would that have given to her parents.

Marinette couldn’t even look at her parents. “Right, well, bye mama, bye baba, I’ll be back soon!”

She grabbed Adrien and pulled him towards the door but they could clearly hear the rest of Tom and Sabine conversation as they left, furthering their own embarrassment.

Sabine chuckled. “Do you remember being that young and madly in love?”

“I might not be young but I’m still madly in love,” Tom grinned and winked at his wife before turning to Gorilla. “Christophe, excellent, shall we get to the taste testing?”

Marinette pulled him through the door and around the corner and sagged against the wall with a sigh. He didn’t blame her. Things could only get better from here. He hoped. He prayed.

With that thought in mind, he reached out and took Marinette’s hand, interlocking their fingers immediately.

Marinette smiled softly up at him. “Where to first, kitten?”

“You’ll see, my love,” he brought her hand to hip lips for a kiss.

Their first port of call, as it so happened, was Bastien’s cafe.

Marinette appreciated that. It was a lovely little cafe, warm and homely, but it also afforded them the most privacy. After he had asked her out on Saturday, and inadvertently told her parents and Gorilla about their new relationship, they’d managed to have a talk about going public. With Adrien’s celebrity status it wasn’t as easy as holding hands in public and telling their friends. No.

Firstly, they couldn’t risk it getting back to Gabriel before they told him, so that meant keeping it low key enough to avoid any lucky paparazzi shots. It also meant they couldn’t tell Alya or Nino just yet because as much as they loved their friends they weren’t quiet at all. One happy shriek from either of them and their relationship would be all over the news.

Secondly, there were enough reporters prying into Adrien’s life as it was. Keeping it quiet for as long as possible would mean less interference from the press into his life but also into Marinette’s. She was a somewhat famous teen in her own right, having designed for Jagged Stone and Gabriel Agreste, not to mention being the daughter of the owners of one of the best bakeries in Paris. The press would have a field day with her connections, especially as she wanted to go into fashion herself. If they played their cards right and Gabriel didn’t object then they would get all the help they needed from Nathalie and the Gabriel PR department.

Besides, she didn’t want to share him with the world just yet.

“Ambrose, Marie!” Bastien greeted them as soon as they walked through the door. “Delightful to see you again!”

Marinette was surprised that Bastien had given her a cover name too, but she didn’t get the chance to ask either him or Adrien about it. The second Bastien saw their joined hands and correctly deduced they were there on a date they were seated in the warmest booth in the cafe and looking at his special Date Menu. Meals and desserts to share between a happy couple.

They both decided against a heavy meal, instead choosing a plate of sandwiches and following it up with cookies and ice cream. Plagg was delighted with the cheese from their sandwiches and most of their cookies ended up in Tikki’s bag. The conversation flowed easily between them, talking about anything and everything that came to mind, and they were both surprised to find that they had finished their food between topics.

Adrien paid, wrapped an arm around Marinette’s shoulder, and waved to Bastien as they left. “I hope you didn’t mind going there for our first date, Marinette.”

“Why would I? I love that little cafe,” she grinned up at him, wrapping an arm around his waist. “So what else do you have planned for us, kitten?”

“It’s a bit of a trip,” he smirked. “Are you up for it?”

She was.

It was a pleasant surprise for them to transform and run about during the day. Normally their outings ended up in a game of rooftop tag that doubled as a patrol, but today Chat Noir had a specific destination in mind so he headed straight for it with Ladybug close behind him.

Ladybug was intrigued when they landed on a small theatre roof two arrondissements over but she held her questions and let Chat lead her inside, hand in hand once more. She was delighted when they emerged onto a small hidden catwalk above a stage where a choir was setting up and all manner of performers in beautiful outfits were rushing around.

Chat held one clawed finger to her lips and tugged her forward along the catwalk, pausing when they reached a small door. It led into a long-abandoned private viewing box that had only recently been cleaned up - there were two chairs next to a low table, all in need of some TLC to bring them back to their former glory, and in the corner under a dust sheet were several more very broken chairs. A bouquet of red roses lay on the table, along with two champagne flutes and a bottle of sparkling pomegranate juice.

Ladybug pressed her hands to her lips and looked around. She could feel tears pricking at her eyes and blinked them away. “You did all this for me?”

“You say that like I wouldn’t do more if you wished,” Chat chuckled and pulled her over towards the balcony rail.

The lighting was dim, with all the stage lights focussed on the performers, but it was easy to see how beautiful this old theatre had been once upon a time. It was going through some hardships but the performance going on downstairs was lively and passionate and the audience was enthralled. There was a small musical group set to one side, larger than a string quartet but much smaller than a full orchestra, and elegantly garbed in black tie, and they began to tune their instruments for a happy little waltz.

“I looked them up. They do a special Christmas Concert every year on Christmas Eve for local families. Carols, dancing, pantomimes, small theatrical performances - it’s a real variety act,” Chat murmured into her ear as she drank in the beautiful sight.

“I love it.”

“I was hoping you’d say that. It isn’t quite a film, dinner, and dancing, but I was hoping it would be a good first date.”

“No,” she shook her head emphatically. “Not a good first date. A perfect first date. This is so us, Chaton.”

His answering smile was so full of love. “Then would you care to dance with me, my love?”

“I’ll probably step on your toes.”

“It’ll still be a perfect date.”

And it was.

Ladybug let Chat waltz her expertly around the small space, giggling as he twirled her and dipped her, giggling even more each time she tripped over her own feet, until their waltzing gradually turned into swaying. Her arms found their way around his shoulders, one hand trailing up into his hair and scratching just the way he liked it and just hard enough to get him to purr, while his settled comfortably on her hips. She tucked her head under his chin and sighed happily.

Perfection.

When the waltz music died down, a panto was ushered onto the stage, and they moved from their impromptu dance floor to the table where their drinks were waiting. It was a wonderful performance and Ladybug found herself giggling a lot, particularly when Chat almost choked on his drink because he was laughing so hard. A magic act followed and then they called for the intermission.

Chat reluctantly stood up then. “We need to head back now.”

Ladybug didn’t look disappointed, which just made him love her all the more. His inconvenient schedule would be a pain for them to work around, but there would be time for many more dates to come. He grabbed the bag he had stashed to one side and started gathering their things, screwing the cap back onto the bottle and placing it and the glasses carefully inside, then setting the bouquet on top.

They raced back to the 21st arrondissement and found a quiet spot at the back of the school to transform back before walking around the corner arm in arm. When they were outside the side door of the bakery, Marinette pulled him up short and looked at him with a wry grin on her face. “So… is this the part where you ask me for a kiss?”

Adrien huffed out a laugh. Such a tease! “Not quite, sweetheart. I had something else in mind first.”

“Oh? What was that?”

“This.”

He quickly pulled out the small jewellery box that had been burning a hole in his pocket for the length of their date and watched as the teasing smile on her face turned into a shocked expression, then into an understanding one, before settling on excitement. He had expected the shock, considering the box was very similar in size and shape to a ring box. When he had ordered this particular piece online he had expected it to come in a longer box.

One day in the hopefully not too distant future, he would do this with a real ring box. One day he would take her out dancing, give her flowers, and then pull out the ring. But much as he loved her, much as he knew she was the only one for him, they weren’t ready for that yet. Adrien could see that she knew he wasn’t proposing, not yet, but she was still excited to see the gift he had for her.

He licked his lips nervously and tried not to fidget with the box. “After we found out, I wanted to get you something to show you how happy I was that you are you.” Adrien willed her to see his sincerity, to see the love he felt for her. “This isn't a gift from Chat Noir to Ladybug like the blanket, or a gift from Adrien to Marinette like the one you will open tomorrow... this is just a gift from me to you because I love the fact that you are you, and because I love all of you.”

Marinette stared at him.

As he had spoken those wonderful, beautiful words, she felt her heart overflow with all the emotion she felt for him. This wonderful, dorky, goofball she was blessed to call her friend and partner. This amazing boy who was giving her his heart. She was so overwhelmed by the intensity of her emotions that she couldn’t even begin to speak so she decided to let her actions speak for her.

She pushed herself up on her tiptoes, pulled him to her, and kissed him with every iota of passion she felt. If he knew nothing else she would make sure that he knew that he was her heart, her soul, her everything, and she cherished him fiercely.

“I love you too. All of you.”

“You haven't even opened it yet.” Stunned and breathless was a good look on him, she decided.

Marinette giggled. “I love you for you, not because of any gift.” She leaned up to kiss him again, this one more tender and affirming than the last. “But if you bought this just for me, because you love me and you thought I would like it, then I know I'm going to love it too,” she touched her nose to his and nuzzled him gently. “How could I not when you're you?”

“Thank you,” he tilted his head up to kiss her nose and grinned. “Now open it because I can't take the wait any more!”

Marinette gave another giggle and slowly opened the box. She could feel her jaw drop as she saw the beautiful necklace inside.

The necklace was silver, with a long and sturdy chain, and a gorgeous enamel pendant at the end. It showed a black cat lying in a sleeping pose, legs extended, and holding a meticulously crafted red rose in its paws. While the cat itself might have been enamel, the vibrant green eyes and the bright red petals of the rose weren’t cheap. In fact, knowing who gave it to her, she would expect nothing less than for them to be real emeralds and rubies.

“Oh my god, Adrien, Kitten, this is…”

Marinette traced a finger across the pendant, marvelling at its beauty. It was the perfect gift for her. Though she might profess to wanting a hamster, everyone who knew her knew that she loved cats. She always had and she always would. But the symbolism of a black cat holding out a rose was all Chat Noir. It was the two of them, him and her, in jewellery form and she loved it.

She smiled up at him again, blinking away tears. “This is purr-fect.”

“You like it?”

“So much! Can you help me put it on?”

He nodded at her and took the necklace out of the box carefully, pocketing the box, then flicked the clasp open. She turned around and he placed it over her head, letting the pendant dangle just below her collar bones as he fastened the clasp. Marinette gave a happy sigh when she felt him kiss the back of her neck just above the chain and couldn’t resist turning around to kiss him properly. He was too good to her.

“I have a present for you too,” she murmured between kisses. “One that’s just from me to you, but I don't have it on me right now.”

“It can wait for another time.” He said. Marinette pouted but he gestured to the front of the bakery with a nod of his head and she could see Gorilla waiting there. He was reading something on his phone and trying not to look too obvious as he waited for Adrien. “I really need to be going home now.”

Marinette nodded reluctantly. “I could swing by later and drop it off for you if you want?”

“It’s tempting,” he grinned, “but after our meal, Père and I will be going to Midnight Mass at Notre Dame. I used to go with maman every year. I'll be busy with him all night and, call me selfish, but I want you all to myself when I get that gift.”

“It's not selfish at all. I want you to myself too.”

He chuckled at that and gave her one final, tender, lingering kiss goodbye and waited for her to open the door and go inside, before heading off to join Gorilla on the walk home. Marinette shut the door behind her, completely unsurprised to see both of her parents hovering near the door, trying and failing to look like they weren’t waiting for her. They should really take lessons from Gorilla.

“Well?”

She just smiled at them, letting them see how happy and in love she was, and giggled at the twin squeals that erupted.

Chapter Text

Wednesday 25th December 2019. Midnight. Notre Dame Cathedral.

As the bells rang out at Midnight, heralding the start of Christmas Day, Ladybug shifted just enough in Chat Noir’s lap to lean up and brush a kiss against his cheek. “Joyeux Noël, mon Chaton.”

His only answer was to pull her tighter against him. She went willingly, wrapping herself around his as best she could, pulling the quilt more securely against them, and wishing there was something more she could do for him.

In the privacy of her own mind she was cursing Gabriel Agreste. How could he have denied Adrien the chance to go to Midnight Mass? Adrien had been looking forward to it all month as a way to remember his mother and carry on their tradition. He’d gone with her every year since he had been old enough to stay awake until midnight, but Gabriel had put a stop to all of the when she disappeared. And now this? How cruel could he be to promise Adrien they could go then rip it away at the last moment!

Thank god for Plagg. He has sent her a text from Adrien’s phone alerting her to what was going on and letting her know that while Adrien was confined to his room Chat Noir was going to be at Midnight Mass.

She’d grabbed his quilt and raced to the Cathedral, almost beating him there. She’d found him sat cross-legged on the floor up in the highest rafters, tucked securely out of sight of anyone downstairs, and staring unseeingly at the preparations for the service. He hadn’t reacted to seeing her there, save for pulling her into his lap and holding her in a strong embrace. He’d barely let her go long enough for her to grab the quilt and wrap it around both of them.

And now it was midnight on Christmas Day and the church below them was celebrating and he still looked so sad and so lost.

She held him closer and nestled her head under his chin, hoping that she was enough to help him with this.

Together they watched the end of the service, they watched the people cheer and embrace each other as they moved into the new day, and then watched at the gradually filed out of the church to the sound of ringing bells.

Chat shifted then and slipped the quilt from around them, surprising her when he wrapped it around her shoulders and tucked it in tightly. He hooked an arm under her knees and unfolded from the floor, hoisting her up, and walking out of the cathedral while carrying her in his arms. She let him have this and enjoyed the ride home.

He dropped them onto her balcony with almost no noise and let her get her feet under her before leaning down and pressing his head to hers. He sighed and closed his eyes. “I don't know how you knew but I'm glad you were there,” Chat murmured. He nudged at her nose. “And I’m glad you thought to bring a blanket for yourself. I couldn’t really call my purr up then.”

Ladybug’s heart broke for him. She slipped a hand round to the back of his neck to keep him close. “I’ll always be there for you kitten.” She promised. It would be an easy one to keep. Then, before she could lose her nerve, or start second guessing his gift, she carried on. “And this isn’t my quilt, it’s yours.”

She tried to slip it from her shoulders to give it to him but he moved faster than she did. “No,” he hands grabbed hers and kept the quilt in place. She was glad to see him looking at it in curiosity though. “You can’t do that out here, it’s far too cold.”

“Then come inside and I’ll show you.”

Ladybug wasn’t going to take no for an answer but it looked like Chat didn’t have the energy in him to argue either. He stood there and let her open her window hatch and pull him inside. She didn’t move from her bed. Instead, she dropped her transformation and waited patiently for him to do the same. Tikki immediately grabbed Plagg when he appeared and the two kwami zipped down to Marinete’s desk, where she had set out cookies and cheese for them before leaving.

Marinette pulled the quilt from her shoulder and shuffled across the bed until she was sat next to Adrien and she could spread the quilt across both of their legs. She appreciated the extra warmth and she figures that Adrien would too considering he was only wearing a set of thick pyjamas.

“A gift from me to you.”

Adrien stared at the quilt, seeing it spread out before him, and finally able to pick up on all the details he hadn’t seen while they were in the cathedral. It was beautiful. Soft and warm, yet also thin and lightweight, each square of pale fabric was meticulously placed and expertly sewn - he would have expected nothing less from Marinette. She put her heart and soul into everything she did. The squares were in all the colours of the rainbow, but in soft and pleasing pale pastel shades, and some of them had extra embellishments and designs on them. He reached out and idly traced one that looked like a yin-yang symbol.

“You made this, just for me?” he breathed, awed. “This must have taken so long, you couldn’t possibly have had enough time…”

The quilt was quality work, expertly done, and the stitching was meticulous. He could see that the embroidery had all been done by hand. They’d only know the truth about each other for a little over three weeks. Even if she got the idea immediately after their reveal she must have poured every single scrap of free time into creating this masterpiece. He wondered if that’s why so few of the squares were decorated.

“Is that why its incomplete?”

He immediately felt silly for pointing that out. He might not always like being a model but he had developed an eye for quality over the years and this quilt was phenomenally good! Adrien was ready to beg her forgiveness for talking without thinking but she just smiled up at him.

“Not quite, kitten.”

He watched as she turned one of the corners of the quilt back, revealing the underside. The squares were made up of beautiful patterns, including several Ladybug and Chat Noir themed squares, and there were deep, vivid blues, vibrant greens, rich reds, it was beautiful.

“This side is the ‘finished’ side. I picked the patterns and colours that I know you like the most,” she brushed her fingers over the hero themed squared as she spoke. Adrien wasn’t surprised to see that they easily made up the majority of squares. Marinette flipped the corner back so that they could see the top side more clearly. “Now this one is technically ‘unfinished’ but that’s because it’s meant to be filled over a long time. It’s a memory quilt, see?”

It took Adrien a few moments but he did see.

It was beautiful.

The yin-yang symbol he’d traced earlier had their miraculouses in the smaller circles, embroidered in meticulous detail, and the date they found out each other’s identities. The next one along had a stylised black cat with a ladybird on its nose and the date they received their miraculouses. There was a square with all of his friends names embroidered on in different coloured thread. There was a camera and the date he helped their class break Juleka’s photo curse - his first real time getting to hang out with everyone as friends. There was a square with headphones and musical notes and a tube of bubbles bearing Nino’s name, and another with a phone and a wifi symbol with Alya’s name.

There were more of them scattered over the quilt, like a sabre and a medal for his first big fencing win a few months ago and a square with needles and sewing accessories for Marinette, but his eyes were filling with tears so quickly that he was finding it hard to focus on the beautiful designs.

His Marinette, his love, had made this just for him.

She said it was a gift to show that she loved all of him, but she didn’t even realise just how much this meant to him. Yes, there were squares there from all aspects of his life, but it was the empty squares that had his heart bursting with love and joy. To him they represented the future, a future that would have her at the heart of it.

He could so clearly see the squares that would eventually appear on here some day - a mortarboard hat for when they graduated university, a star for when Marinette made it big in fashion, a ring for when he proposed… he could see squares for their wedding, squares for their first home, and squares for the children they would have.

He could hear her speaking, she was telling him something about alterations being easy if there was anything specific he wanted, but he could barely hear her over the racing of his heart.

Adrien did hear her surprised squeak and happy sigh as he yanked her in for a kiss. He poured everything he had into it, all of his love, his thanks, his amazement, his awe at her, everything. All of it was for her.


Wednesday 25th December 2019. 5 a.m. Marinette’s room.

Adrien’s eyes refused to open even as he groaned and swatted at whatever it was messing with his hair.

“Rise and shine, kiddo.”

“Time to get up, Adrien.”

Two small voices murmured into his ear and he grumbled again. He was warm and comfortable where he was, and even without opening his eyes he could tell it was still dark outside. The pillow was soft under his head, the blankets and quilts were wrapped tightly around him, and he had the love of his life in his arms. Why on earth would he want to get up?

“Kid, if you don’t get up now, hairballs in your shoes will be the least of your problems.”

Okay, that was fairly good incentive to get up.

He blearily cracked his eyes open, glowering at the two kwami floating before his face. Plagg just glowered back and Adrien knew the little shit would no doubt make good on his worse-that-hairballs promise. He was a cat after all. Tikki gave him an apologetic shrug. Marinette stirred in his arms, shifted, and fell back to sleep.

Marinette.

Adrien smiled down at her, memories of last night coming back to him the more he woke up. After Gabriel had cancelled their midnight mass plans, begging off with the excuse of jet-lag, this wonderful girl had made sure he wasn’t alone in Notre Dame and then giving him the best present he had ever received. The gift of a future with her. Naturally he’d had to kiss her.

As was becoming a habit with them, one kiss turned into two, then five, then more, and soon they found themselves lying down on her bed, under his brand new quilt, exchanging soft and sleepy kisses between murmurs of love and sweet nothings. He hadn’t meant to fall asleep here but he couldn’t find it in himself to regret it.

“Sorry Adrien,” Tikki whispered. “But you’ll have to leave before anyone notices you’re gone, and before Marinette’s parents find you.”

“Hmm’kay.”

Leaving was the last thing he wanted but Tikki was right. It would be a disaster if he was discovered missing, or worse discovered in Marinette’s bed. He could say goodbye to any approval he had from her parents if that happened. He was as careful as he could slipping away from Marinette but she had such a tight hold on him it was inevitable that she would stir.

“Adri…” she mumbled sleepily. One tired blue eye cracked open. “S’up?”

“Sorry Princess, but I have to go.”

“Go?” the other eye opened and she lifted her head up off the pillow to look at him. A clush coloured her cheeks. “I fell asleep on you?”

Adrien chuckled. “We both did. That’s why I have to go.”

She pouted but released her grip on him, pulling her arms back. “Will I see you later?”

“Probably not,” he huffed. “Père wants me at home today… but I could facetime you if you want? I’d love to see your face when you open my gift.”

“Okay.” Her answering smile was tired but so happy that it made him melt all over again. Marinette was going to be the death of him, he’d said it so many times before, but he would welcome such a sweet death. “Love you.”

Adrien leaned down for one final kiss goodbye. “I love you too.”

He helped her to slide under her duvet but she was fast asleep by the time he had folded up his new quilt. He said a quick goodbye to Tikki then called up his transformation and slipped out of the window hatch. His plan when he got home was to fall into bed and get a few more hours sleep before he was called to the Christmas Day breakfast with his father, Nathalie, and Gorilla, and then spend the rest of the day on the phone with his Marinette.

Not a bad way to spend Christmas Day.

Chapter Text

Thursday 26th December 2019. 11.30 a.m. Tom and Sabine Boulangerie-Pâtisserie.

Tom and Sabine smiled indulgently at Marinette as she clumsily helped her father knead the dough for the afternoon bread. She had volunteered to give them a hand in the bakery this morning, but they all knew it wasn’t because she felt like doing some baking. Nope. Adrien had permission to come and visit once his morning lessons were over and she was eagerly waiting for his arrival while she tried her best to help her father with the dough.

After the fifth time she misshaped the loaf and had to start again, Marinette reluctantly conceded that she wasn’t really helping out and accepted her father’s suggestion that she tidy up the back room instead. Since it pretty much involved putting cake tins and baking trays back on the shelves it was the better option.

Luckily for her, the doorbell rang just after she had washed the dough off her hands.

“Adrien!” Marinette raced to the side door and flung it open to catch him in a hug. Or at least that was what she had intended to do. She hadn’t expected him to be carrying a fairly large box in his arms. She was lucky that they were both secret superheroes otherwise she wouldn’t have been able to dodge the box, and he wouldn’t have been able to free up an arm to catch her. “Whoa!”

Adrien laughed. “I missed you too, Princess.”

Marinette blushed. Partly because of her own exuberance and party because she could hear her parents cooing over them in the bakery. That pet name would given them teasing ammunition for a while. She was also a little embarrassed that she almost flattened whatever it was that Adrien had with him.

“Sorry. I hope there’s nothing broken in there thanks to my clumsiness.”

“Breakable, yes. Broken, no,” he winked down and her and she stuck her tongue out at him. Silly kitty. “I figured I’d share another tradition of mine with you, if that’s okay?”

Marinette remembered sharing Midnight Mass with him, and hearing how important that tradition was to him because it was one of the last links he had to him mother, and she was floored that he wanted to share more with her. It wasn’t in her to deny him anything, but there was no chance she would refuse him when it was something that he cherished so much.

“Of course!” she leaned up and brushed a quick kiss across his cheek then stepped back to allow him into the bakery at last. Gorilla followed him inside, greeting her with a smile. She returned it and giggled when she saw he was wearing his Christmas tie from last year, and the Christmas scarf Adrien had bought him this year. She knocked on the door to the bakery. “Mama, baba, are you coming up yet?”

Whenever they could get away with it, especially around birthdays, Christmas, and Easter, Tom and Sabine would either open the bakery for a half day only or ask their staff to cover for them. It gave them the most time together as a family they could have while having to keep the bakery open. Today was one of those days. Hélène had arrived ten minutes ago to take over the baking from Tom and Colette would be here soon to take over the decorating and the counters from Sabine.

Marinette watch her parents look at each other and have a silent conversation before her father nodded at them. “I think we can get away now,” Tom said, dusting his hands off and leaving things with Hélène. Sabine was dealing with a customer but by the time she finished sering Colette would be here. He quickly washed and dried his hands before joining them by the stairs. “Your mama will be out in a minute when she’s finished at the counter. Don’t worry Adrien-” he winked “-we won’t interfere with the tradition you two are sharing.”

Marinette blushed even as she giggled at how excited her father was, but she was surprised by Adrien’s answer.

“Actually, sir, it’s for you and Mme. Cheng too, if you want?” he smiled and held the box a little higher. “It’s Boxing Day.”

Marinette frowned. She didn’t know what that was but it stirred a faint memory in her mind. She’d heard it before but just couldn’t recall where from, and judging by the confusing on her father’s face he didn’t know what it was either.

It didn’t phase Adrien though. “My maman started it years ago. The way she explained it was that, years ago, people would give out boxes of food and gifts to those people who had to work over Christmas. We used to box up some of our presents, and any leftover treats from Christmas Day, and share them with my father since he couldn’t always get out of working on Christmas Day.”

Marinette wasn’t surprised at all to hear that Gabriel had worked on Christmas Day even before his wife’s disappearance. She might admire his work but her opinion of him as a person had taken a nosedive when she met Adrien and it was still in free fall now. She did her best to keep her opinions from showing and she was pretty sure that both her father and M. Guerin were doing the same. So would her mother if she heard this.

She saw a small blush appear on his face. “There’s, uh, actually half of the bûche de Noël we got from you in here too. I know it seems a little awkward giving you back half of your own cake, but maman always insisted that the cake was the first thing that goes in the box.”

“It was the best way to stop young Adrien from eating the lot,” Gorilla added in a loud whisper.

It was the perfect ice-breaker and Tom laughed aloud while Adrien’s blush deepened and all though of Gabriel was banished. Adrien mock-glared up at his bodyguard who just smiled back.

Tom wrapped an arm around Adrien’s shoulder and gave him a small squeeze. “Thank you for sharing such a precious tradition with us.”

“Yes indeed,” Sabine added as she joined them in the hallway. “We’re very glad to have you here. Shall I put on some tea and coffee to go with the cake? Christophe? What about you?”

Adrien was perhaps never going to get used to hearing his bodyguard called by his real name. Not many people he knew cared enough about him to address him properly - even Nathalie who had known him as long as he had protected Adrien usually referred to him as ‘your bodyguard’ in conversation.

Christophe smiled but shook his head. “Thank you, Mme. Cheng, but no. Another time perhaps? M. Agreste wants me to escort Adrien to his friend’s home and ensure he will be safe before returning to the mansion.” He gave Adrien a small pat on the shoulder and nodded his goodbyes. “I’ll collect you when you call for me.”

Adrien knew he would. “Thanks. Merry Christmas.”

Adrien watched Christophe shake hands with both Tom and Sabine as he left. Sabine secured the door behind him while Tom shooed them upstairs, taking the box from Adrien. Marinette immediately caught his hand in hers and tugged him upstairs with her. Adrien let himself be pulled into their home, smiling happily as he went. This was the best part of Christmas right here, spending time with his wonderful girlfriend.

Sabine disappeared into the kitchen to make the drinks as soon as they walked into their home and Tom took the box to the coffee table. Marinette helped him take his coat and scarf off, and helpfully shield Plagg from view as Adrien transferred him from his heavy winter coat to the special hidden inner pocket that Marinette had sewn into Chat Noir’s Christmas jumper.

He had worn it specifically for that reason, but he was very glad of his decision when he saw the happiness in Marinette’s eyes. Tom burst into peals of laughter when he saw Adrien’s jumper, and took off his apron to reveal his own punny jumper. Get B-ready To Celeb-bake. He was surprised when Tom pulled him in and insisted Marinette take a photo, which she happily did as her mother egged them on from the kitchen shouting out silly poses. It was honestly the most fun he’d ever had at a photo shoot.

Their fun ended when Sabine joined them with a large tea tray filled with plates and forks for the cakes, mugs, a pot of tea, and a pot of coffee. She served poured a mug of tea for herself and a coffee for her husband while he started unpacking the box for them all, leaving Adrien and Marinette to help themselves.

Adrien felt a little embarrassed when the first thing Tom took out was the bûche de Noël. He hadn’t even thought about it when he had packed the cake up yesterday. He was so used to doing that with his mother. IT was only on the drive over to the bakery today that he realised what he had done and worried if it would offend them. That was the last thing he wanted.

He was very glad to see Tom smile at him. “It’s probably a good thing you gave us this, we were so busy yesterday we forgot to keep one back for ourselves!”

Adrien damn near melted in relief. That was the best outcome he could have hoped for. Marinette giggled at him and leaned against him, resting her head on his shoulder, and a wry chuckle escaped him too. It was her luck at work. Tom started slicing the cake and serving it while Sabine took over unpacking the box.

She pulled out a box of candles that he had picked up from the Christmas market and gasped in delight. “Oh these are lovely! I’ll light these tonight!”

Marinette giggled next to him. “There’s no way mama is letting anyone else have them,” she murmured into his ear. “It’s a good thing you added some to my Christmas present.”

He remembered how delighted she had looked over facetime and smiled back at her.

There wasn’t much else in the box since he didn’t know Tom and Sabine well enough yet to guess their likes and dislikes but he’d done his best and they did seem to like everything. Tom lit up when the box of deluxe chocolates was revealed and cradled them to him possessively while Marinette laughed at her sweet-tooth father. They all cooed over the tea, coffee, and hot chocolate sampler pack, and Tom and Sabine were very impressed with the bottle of wine that Adrien had asked Christophe to buy to add to the box. He had even wrapped everything up in Christmas print fabric which Marinette collected gleefully and which earned him a kiss on the cheek.

Sabine queued up a Christmas film for them to watch but no sooner had they finished their tea and cake than a buzzer sounded near the door.

Tom sighed, resigned. “Enjoy the film you two, we’ll be back as soon as we can.”

“Don’t worry, my dears,” Sabine stood up with her husband, and hugged both children. “Hélène and Colette know that should only press that buzzer in an emergency. We should have this sorted out soon.”

Adrien wasn’t surprised when, as soon as the door shut, both Plagg and Tikki flew out of their hiding places. They twirled with each other in happiness before splitting up. Plagg went straight to Marinette and headbutted her cheek, purring and nuzzling up a storm.

“Thanks Miss Spots. It was a purr-fect present.”

Tikki nuzzled up to Adrien’s cheek in much the same way, and he could help but giggle at her tiny tickling kiss. “Thank you for my gift too. They were yummy!”

Plagg had received a bean-bag that was just the right size for him and shaped like a wheel of camembert. He had declared it to be the height of luxury and immensely fashionable and wouldn’t shut up about it for the whole of their call yesterday. The two cats had chosen the largest box of the sweetest chocolates they could find for Tikki and she had been in raptures over facetime after opening them.

Marinette chuckled before leaning up and kissing Adrien’s other cheek. “I loved my gift too, kitten.”

Adrein wasn’t letting her go without a real kiss and the melted against each other with a happy sigh. Tikki cooed at them and Plagg, mercifully, stayed quiet. For a few minutes at least. Then he started making gagging noises even as Tikki tackled him to shut him up.

He kissed her nose when he pulled away, deliberately ignoring the squabbling kwami. “I bet I loved mine more. I can’t wait to walk around in official Jagged Stone merch than my amazing girlfriend designed. Oh, and thanks for helping make that candle wreath. Gorilla loved it!”

“Anything for you kitten.”

Adrien wrapped an arm around her shoulders and settled back down to watch the film and enjoy his day. It was guaranteed to be a good one.

Chapter Text

Friday 27th December 2019. 9 p.m. Gabriel headquarters, 1st arrondissement.

Adrien was beginning to think that his face would be frozen in this grimace of a fake smile if he had to keep it up any longer. At least when he had to smile for a photoshoot he could rest every so often.

Not now.

No, he was the star attraction at the annual Gabriel Christmas Party. As his father wasn’t attending, like he didn’t the year before and the year before that and the year before that, Adrien was representing the family name as well at the company to the employees, the board members, and the business partners that were there to see his father and not him. Nathalie helped as much as she could but it was one of those times when the Agreste name carried more weight than anything else.

As well as all the networking he was doing for his father, all the shaking hands and small talk, he was also providing part of the evening’s entertainment. Gabriel had decided that it was a fine time to showcase one on Adrien’s many talents and so he was one of three piano players there tonight playing light melodies to please the crowd. When he wasn’t talking to the crowd that is.

He was getting sick of it.

Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata, talk with the head of design, charm the newest board member, Debussy’sClair de Lune, shake hands and be photographed with the newest celebrity they were endorsing, tell a witty joke to a reporter, Chopin’s Nocturne no.2, imply to the Mayor’s representative that his father’s political position will remain the same, try not to be seen sneaking canapes when the waiters passed by, Einaudi’s Una Mattina, compliment the lead model of their men’s line, dodge the newly hired model who was trying to ensnare him, Debussy’s Rȇverie, compliment a young up and coming designer on their latest piece, speak with Jacques in acquisitions.

All while keeping that damned fake smile on his face.

It was an endlessly repeating cycle of small talk, handshakes, and music. He hated it. He hated it so much… but there was nothing he could do about it. Like it or not he was an Agreste, he knew fashion, he was the face of the company.

And he had another two hours of this to survive.

Adrien did his best to keep the smile in place as Albin, one of the other pianists, came up to him to inform him that it was his turn to play again. He excused himself from a conversation with… actually he had no idea who he was talking to. Some junior employee, barely high enough up the ladder to warrant an invitation to the party in his father’s eyes, but he had no clue as to their position or department. He bit back a sigh as he took his seat and the piano and arrange his sheet music. Not that he needed it, his lessons had taught him all their pieces he was playing by heart, in fact the only piece he still needed the sheet music for was Flight of the Bumblebee but he had begged Nathalie not to put that on the billing tonight.

As he set his hands above the keys he couldn’t help but let his gaze slip to the south window. When he caught a small but fast glint of red through the glass his smile suddenly didn’t feel quite as fake, and by the time he finished playing Bach’s Prelude No.1 it was definitely real. He’d seen that hint of colour twice before, and the third time was the charm as they say. On her third pass by he could clearly see her waiting for him

Ladybug was here.

As the final notes faded away and the crowd around him applauded politely Adrien looked over the crowd and deliberately caught Nathalie’s eye and gave a slow and deliberate nod.

She gave no indication of having seen him. Instead she carried on her conversation for a moment before pausing and fumbling for her phone. She excused herself, pressed it to her ear, and hurried across the floor as quickly as she could while still managing to look graceful and demure in her elegant gown.

“Excuse me, Adrien. You have an important call from our people in China.”

“Thank you, Nathalie. I’ll take it in my office.”

It was a prearranged signal that he and Nathalie used when he ended up playing many roles in one evening. He was never allowed to take a break if his father was actually here though. Gabriel Agreste wouldn’t tolerate even a hint of weakness. But when he was absent, Nathalie usually allowed him to use the important phone call excuse to hide himself away and rest for up to half an hour. He’d argued for the right to take a break by pointing out his age, his relative inexperience when it came to the finer nuances of the business, and the fact that playing for any length of time usually left him with muscle cramps - all of which would give a bad impression to others.

Still, even if she only allowed him to rest to maintain his flawless image, it was still a rest.

He went straight to lift and hit the button for the second to last floor. When the doors slid shut he allowed the smile to fall from his face and sagged against the wall in relief. God he hated these parties.

He headed straight for his office as soon as the lift doors opened again. Adrien went straight to the hidden mini-fridge he kept there and took out two small wedges of camembert. One he left on the desk for later, the other he all but shoved down Plagg’s throat in his haste to flee the building.

A quick transformation later and he raced out of the window and scaled the remaining distance to the roof.

Chat was treated to the heavenly sight of Ladybug standing there, a welcoming smile on her lips, and a bakery box and thermos in hand. She had barely opened her arms to him before he had crossed the roof to sweep her into his arms. Her soft giggle was the best music he had heard all night.

“You looked like you needed a break, kitten.”

Yep. She was perfect. “God I love you!” Chat pulled back to kiss her, holding her close and basking in her warmth. He sighed, feeling the last of the tension leave his body, and was content to remain this way forever… until his nose caught the delicious scents from the bakery box and he reluctantly pulled away from his love.

Ladybug let him pull away and brought the box up, prying the lid open to show him the macaron assortment she had spent the morning baking with her parents. She’d made sure to choose all of his favourite flavours, even if it meant a little extra work for her since three of them weren’t stocked by the bakery right now, but those extra steps were all worth it when she finally saw a genuine smile on his face for the first time that night.

When they facetimed that morning she could see how fake it was, and when they phoned at lunch she could hear the dull tone in his voice, and his texts to her got flatter as the day wore on. She knew she needed to do something. It wasn’t much but it had done the trick to bring his real smile back.

When he shoved three macarons into his mouth at once she couldn’t help but chuckle. “Has it really been that bad?”

Chat paused in the act of grabbing a fourth and scowled down at the floor. At the party, she realised. “I feel like my father’s performing monkey that he likes to trot out for people to gawk at.”

Ladybug winced. He must be having a really bad time down there if he was being so blunt about it. “Ouch.”

Chat sighed and shrugged it off, eating his fourth and fifth macaron in one bite. “Don’t worry about it. It just so happens to be the less glamorous part of the job. It’s not just looking pretty and showing off clothes, its showing everything else off and making my father look good.”

Ladybug found herself dealing with the now familiar urge to string Gabriel Agreste up on the top of the Eiffel Tower and leave him there. That or punch him. To cover it up and give herself a few moments to calm down she took the lid off the thermos and handed it to him. The hot chocolate she had put in there had probably cooled down quite a bit by now, because it had taken forever to get his attention by circling the building without letting anyone else notice, but it didn’t stop him from drinking half of it in one go. He passed it back and she took a sip herself to help ward off the ever present chill. She hated seeing him so run down by all of this and said so.

“Well, while you are a very pretty kitty,” she booped his nose and startled a laugh out of him. “Not to mention so unfairly talented - seriously? Flight of the bumblebee?”

He’d sent her a few of the piano recordings he had made of himself, the ones he played when he wanted to escape the house, and her jaw had actually dropped when she’d heard his pretty damn good attempt at such an insanely tricky piece. Holy heck was he talented!

“But you need to rest too. You need to look after yourself.”

Chat smiled down at her and gestured to the thermos and the now empty macaron box. “I have you, Lovebug. You can look after me and pull me back when I can’t do that for myself.”

She knew he meant when his father wouldn’t let him. Her heart broke for him even as the trust he had in her overwhelmed her.

Ladybug wrapped her arms around his shoulders and pulled him down for a kiss. If no one else would show her amazing boyfriend how wonderful he was, or how much they treasured him, then she would do it herself. She promised herself there and then that her precious kitty would never feel this sad again.

He groaned against her mouth and dropped the empty box, arms entwining around her and holding her tightly. When she shivered from the chill of the night air his purr started up almost immediately and she gave a happy hum. Best kitty ever.

They hadn’t been kissing for long before she felt something cool and wet against her cheek.

Worried that he was crying, that the strain of tonight had been too much, she pulled back to look at him. She didn’t see the tears she had expected, instead there were tiny flakes of white trapped on his eyelashes and mask and falling all around them. It was snowing! Ladybug pulled back with a giggle and spread her arms wide, spinning among the tiny white snowflakes.

It had snowed, faintly, for a few days after the White Christmas akuma attack but it hadn’t been strong enough to stick. This small flurry wasn’t enough either, the flakes were melting almost before they touched the ground, but it was pretty and she was going to enjoy this one while she could.

She giggled again and tilted her head to the sky, closing her eyes and feeling the snowflakes land on her face. “I feel like I’m in a snow globe.”

Chat chuckled and she peek at him through her lashes. His face looked so soft, so happy, so in love just watching her… if she asked him to join her then maybe that would help to banish the last traces of sadness from his face.

She held a gloved hand out to him. “Come and dance with me, mon coeur. We have a minuet for a dance, don’t we?” Ladybug stopped and pretended to think. “Unless you’ll get into treble if I keep you out? I don’t want that; Nathalie is quite sharp at times.” His lips were twitching as he fought a grin at her puns. “She could try and be more upbeat. So could the ensemble down there. They’re very flat.” Chat let out a snort at that one and her lips quirked up in a victorious grin. Got him. “That seems to have struck a chord with you.”

That last one did it. Chat burst out laughing, leaning forwards and catching himself with his hands on his knees and wheezing as he tried to breathe and laugh at the same time. “You are pun-deniably purr-fection itself,” he finally said, wiping at his eyes.

Ladybug stepped closer to him and cupped his face, carefully brushing a thumb across his cheeks to wipe away his tears of laughter. She leaned up to kiss his nose, then his cheeks, then his eyelids, before finally pressing her lips to his.

“Dance with me, mon coeur?”

“Always, my love.”

They didn’t bother with a waltz this time. They were content to just hold each other and sway. Chat hummed a few chords here and there but his purr often made them unintelligible but they didn’t need any music to dance. All they needed was each other and these stolen moments in a snow globe before he had to return to the party downstairs.

Chapter Text

Saturday 28th December 2019. 9.35 a.m. Marinette’s home.

Marinette finished pinning the last piece of green ribbon in place and stood back to admire her new hairstyle. “What do you think Tikki?”

She was actually fairly impressed with it. This was her first time catching up with Alya and Nino since before Christmas and if that wasn’t exciting enough Adrien had managed to get permission to come with them. They were going to have a belated Christmas celebration, just the four of them, and Nino had already promised to order a junk food take-away so they could ruin Adrien’s diet in style.

It was going to be amazing!

That was why she wanted to do something different with her style. She was in her newest creation, a bright red Christmas jumper with white snowflakes that oddly enough matched the blanket that she had received from her boyfriend in a bizarre coincidence, but it hadn’t seemed festive enough. She’d rifled through her desk drawers for some inspiration and eventually stumbled across some festive green ribbon and some tiny golden bells.

Perfect.

She’d tied the ribbons around her pigtails, with two bells on each bunch of hair, and attached a fifth one to a longer loop of ribbon to wear as a necklace. She loved the sound they made, jingling merrily every time she moved. It was wonderfully festive now.

Tikki didn’t seem to share her opinion though. Not with the way she was smirking. “I think you’re going to kill him and he will love you for it.”

“Huh?”

“The look you’ve gone for.”

Marinette pouted. “What’s wrong with it? I think it looks nice.”

Try as she might she couldn’t see anything wrong when she looked at herself in the mirror again. Her pigtails were even and tied tightly, the ribbons weren’t loose, her jumper fit perfectly as all of her own creations did, she was wearing thick jeans and fuzzy socks and not her pyjama pants, and even her make-up was good. She looked great! What was Tikki talking about?

Tikki sighed and shook her head in a fond way, the way Marinette often saw her mother look at her. “You’re in his colours,” the tiny goddess pointed out. Marinette still couldn’t see the issue but Tikki wasn’t done talking. “You’ll be lucky if he doesn’t jump you.”

Marinette choked.

Tikki smirked again. “Or should that be, you’ll get lucky if he does jump you?”

Tikki!”

“I’m just saying!” she sing-songed and giggled.

Marinette huffed, sure that her blush matched her jumper by now. When did her sweet little kwami turn into this sassy monster? “Well you can stop saying and start hiding. We’re going to be late!”

Tikki giggled but zipped over to Marinette’s desk and began pulling on her think winter coat, boots and mittens. Marinette took a moment to admire the fit of her smallest creations. She had struggled to make them kwami sized but she was more than happy with the result and all of the pinpricks were worth it.

Marinette stepped into her own pair of boots and grabbed her coat and scarf off the back of her chair where she had set them out when planning her outfit. She wouldn’t put them on just yet, not when she had to stop in the excessively warm bakery to say goodbye to her parents and grab some cookies for Tikki, but they really were running late so she didn’t want to waste time by having to go back up and get them. The walk over to Nino’s home usually took about twenty minutes so if she wanted to be on time she needed to leave now.

“Whoa!”

Adrien!”

Marinette had run downstairs, turned the corner out of the kitchen, and nearly crashed right into her boyfriend who was just coming in through the front door. She should have known her silly kitten would have come to pick her up.

Though with the way he was looking at her now, leaving was the absolute last thing on his mind.

Marinette could feel herself blush again. Maybe she should have listened to Tikki. The soft little giggle escaping from her bag didn’t help matters much either…

… but, she really couldn’t lie to herself, there was a part of her that was undeniably pleased with the stunned and adoring look on his face right now. He was staring at her like he had forgotten how to do anything else, slack-jawed in surprise, and a gaze full of worship and warmth. She definitely liked it.

Much as she wanted to bask in his adoration they did have somewhere to be.

“Kitten?”

She could see Adrien try and pull himself back together again. He opened his mouth but nothing came out, swallowed, and tried again. “You… you look…” he gave a shaky sigh and huffed out a laugh. “Princess you’re killing me!”

Marinette bit her lip. “Is it ok?”

“More than ok!” he nodded emphatically, before reaching out and flicking the bell on her necklace and listening to it jingle. He smirked then, all Chat Noir. “You look damn good now, ma minette.”

Marinette scoffed. “Silly kitty. Come on now, we need to get going.”

She pushed herself up on her tiptoes to give him a quick kiss, fully intending for it to be a brief hello, then pull him down to the bakery and hurry to get to Nino’s. She should have listened to Tikki.

His hands came up to cup her cheeks as soon as their lips touched, and the purr that rumbled out of his chest had her melting against him. One of his hands slipped into her hair, she could tell her was being very careful not to damage the ribbons and bells that had ensnared him so, but then he angles her head to better lock their lips together and rational thought bacme a thing of the past.

Marinette was barely aware of the wall she found pressed to her back. She was barely aware of the hand that drifted down to settle in the curve of her waist. She was barely aware of her own arms coming up to hold him closer to her. All she could focus on was him. The warmth of him, the rumble of his purr, and the way his lips brushed so tenderly and sweetly over hers.

Adrien is just as consumed with her as she is with him and he only pulls back from her sweet embrace when the need to breathe becomes stronger than the need to be with her. He felt a thrum of satisfaction when he saw the flush on her cheeks.

He huffed out a laugh at hed his forehead rest against hers. “Thank god your dress for the gala isn’t green. I’d have made a complete fool of myself over you all evening.”

She blushed, nodded, then straightened up and scowled at him. “And how do you know what colour my dress is? Did you- did you peek?”

“No, no,” he chuckled. She was so adorable when she was outraged. “Tikki gave me a swatch a few days ago so I could find something to match you.”

“You… you want to match me?”

“Princess, I want the whole world to know that I am yours.”

When she gaped up at him, he realised that he had been so distracted by seeing her in his colours, and who could blame him for that when she was such a glorious sight, that he had completely forgotten to tell her the good news he had arrived with. Whoops. Time to remedy that.

“I talked with father this morning,” he started gently. “He was greatly concerned about the fact that I facetimed you, a girl, for most of Christmas day, and he tried to give me the talk.”

“No!”

“Yes.” Adrien closed his eyes, trying to burn that horrifying memory from his brain. “I stopped him before he could traumatise me though. Once I told him that you were my girlfriend, and then yelled at him for his accusations of you using me for your career-” he couldn’t help the scowl that crossed his face then. Even hours after that argument it still burned him. The same anger shone in her eyes. “-but after a lengthy talk, an explanation of our relationship, and a lot of ground rules being set down by him, ones I fully intend to ignore by the way, I now have his permission to date you providing we do nothing to interfere with my image too much.” Adrien snorted again. “He’s an idiot if he thinks something as insignificant as his permission would keep me away from you.”

“Really?” she breathed, stunned.

Adrien just smirked. “Technically speaking I’m not supposed to be here with you right now. I’m not allowed in your home, alone with you, like this.”

A cackle sounded from his jacket pocket. “Kid, you ain’t alone! Go for it!”

Marinette burst out laughing at that, and Adrien could hear an echo from her bag. “Naughty kitty,” she shook her head before pressing a sweet kiss to the corner of his mouth. “Just be careful with these rules though, okay? Now we’d better get going or we will be late!”

He rolled his eyes. “We do have a shortcut, you know?” he waved the hand bearing his miraculous.

She wouldn’t hear of it though, instead pulling him down the stairs and out of the bakery and setting off on a quick walk to Nino’s home - after grabbing a handful of cookies and a loaf of cheese bread for their kwami.

Adrien was still annoyed from his talk with his father that morning, and quite honestly he still didn’t know how he didn’t cataclysm the man’s office after those cruel and cutting words, but by some miracle he had been able to stand his ground and successfully argue back against him. He still didn’t know what he said to make Gabriel pause and consider his words but it had worked. So long as they behaved well in public so that no sleazy paparazzo could spin a ridiculous story about them, and so long as they comported themselves with decorum if they ever represented the brand together, Gabriel had no objections to them dating right now.

Adrien was determined to make sure it stayed that way. Marinette was his love, his future, his everything. If Gabriel didn’t like that, then tough.

He felt Marinette slip and arm around his waist and saw her looking up at him with concern. Adrien wrapped his own arm around her shoulders and forced himself to relax.

Why on earth was he thinking about Gabriel when he had the most wonderful girl in the world in his arms?

He should be thinking about all the fun they were going to have at Nino’s. It was going to be a belated Christmas party, just the four of them, and Nino had already told him that his mums had left him some money for a decidedly non-model-diet-approved take-away before they went to work that morning. It was going to be great. Especially now that they could admit that they were dating - it didn’t matter if Alya screamed it from the rooftops now that Gabriel had agreed.

By the time they got to Nino’s he had a bright and happy smile on his face. This was going to be amazing!

Nino had the door open before they’d even rung the doorbell and was pulling him into his arms in an excited hug. Alya squealed and did the same to Marinette. They tumbled inside the door, laughing, giggling, and talking a mile a minute at they tried to catch up on everything that had happened since they had seen each other at the snowball fight.

Nino took them into the living room, pointing out things like the kitchen and the bathroom even though everyone had been there at least once before - and Adrien would treasure the memory of sneaking out to play video games with Nino forever - before collapsing on the sofa with Alya and pointing at the comfy chair with a cheeky grin.

“Me and my girl want to snuggle up,” he wrapped an arm around Alya’ shoulder when he sat next to him, also wearing a teasing smile. “So we hope you don’t mind the comfy chair. It can fit two, but it’s a little bit of a squeeze.”

It was a blatantly obvious set-up but it was also the perfect opportunity to tease them back. How could he resist?

Adrien smiled. “I don’t mind at all.”

He sat in the chair, deliberately spreading out, before grabbing Marinette’s hand and pulling her into his lap. She was shaking with the effort of containing her giggles and he just chuckled at her and kissed her forehead, flicking one of her pigtail bells playfully.

He smiled at the shocked expressions he was getting. “You’re right, bro. It’s very comfortable.”

“Wha- wha- wha-” Nino stammered out, staring at them in blank incomprehension.

“What the-” Alya was just as shocked but she managed to snap out of it faster. Her screeche could have shattered glass. “Marinette no-middle-name Dupain-Cheng you have got some explaining to do girl!”

Marinette just smiled and snuggled further into his arms. “Can’t a girl snuggle with her boyfriend?”

Boyfriend!!”

The screech their friends let out was practically inhuman and Adrien could hold back his laughter anymore. “Yes,” he confirmed, tilting Marinette’s head towards him for a soft kiss. “Her boyfriend.”

Alya choked and Nino let out a whine of pure frustration before, as one, they grabbed the scatter cushions off the sofa and leapt over the coffee table at their friends. Adrien tucked Marinette’s head against him and raised a hand to protect himself from the attack as best he could, laughing hysterically at the sheer outrage in their friends’ voices.

“Dude! Dude!” Nino gave him a few good whacks with the cushion before dropping it and gesticulating wildly with his hands. “You so suck! Weeks of effort, weeks, and you don’t even tell me when you ask her out! Dude! You suck but I am so happy for you right now!”

“And you!” Alya screeched, hitting Marinette with the pillow and making her bells jingle. “You promised-” a blow to the legs “-that you would-” a blow to the arms “-tell me-” her back “-the very second-” and whack to the head “-that something-” another strike “-anything-” she accidentally got Adrien that time “-happened!”

Marinette could barely speak for laughing. “Oops?”

“Oops? Oops!” she screamed and went to town with the pillow again, and Adrien could hear the bells jingling wildly before he snatched the cushion from Alya and threw it behind him. Alya just huffed. “Girl its a good thing I love you and I am so super happy for you now! But why didn’t you tell us!”

Adrien had forgotten about Nino’s cushion though. Once Nino saw his girlfriend had been disarmed he picked his own weapon back up and started hitting Adrien, much to his annoyance and Marinette’s laughter. “We actually-” he blocked a blow “-we couldn’t-” Nino caught him twice and Adrien grabbed his cushion and threw it away with a huff. “Okay, okay, truce! Truce!”

Nino and Alya shared a look before nodding and returning to their seats on the sofa. “Okay, but you so owe us deets!”

“We’ll tell them if you let us speak - and no interruptions!”

They quickly agreed to that and Adrien gave a relieved sigh. They probably wouldn’t get around to ordering the calorie-bomb pizza that Nino had promised him for a while, let alone all the video games they had intended to play, but he would be fine if they got out of here alive once Alya realised that she had been a few scant metres away from Adrien when he had asked Marinette out during their snowball fight. Yup. Death was coming and her name was Alya.

Chapter Text

Sunday 29th December 2019. 2 p.m. Marinette’s room.

It was a lazy Sunday afternoon and Marinette was curled up in her bed with a good book, blankets piled high on top of her, and debating whether or not to read one more chapter or settle down for an indulgent nap.

There was nothing to stop her dozing off. Not today.

She had finished her dress for the gala last night and was very pleased with the results. It was probably her best work yet. She didn’t have any other open commissions now either. Since it was Sunday that also meant the bakery was closed. Her baba was downstairs doing the bakery accounts while her mother was reading a magazine. They’d just had a large family meal together too, so she was certainly feeling sleepy right now.

A nap would be a fine way to spend the afternoon.

Thud.

Or maybe there was a better option.

Marinette grinned with Tikki and looked up to her window hatch where a familiar masked face was peering in. She leaned up to open the latch but before she could scramble out, Chat was quickly climbing inside and locking the hatch behind him.

He gave her a cheeky grin. “It’s still too cold for you out there, my Princess,” he said with a cheeky grin before leaning in for a hello kiss. Marinette happily complied, because kissing her handsome superhero-supermodel boyfriend was a far better way to spend an afternoon than napping. She trailed her hands up into his hair and scratched at his kitty ears and his scalp in just the right way to get him to purr, and giggled into the kiss as he melted against her. “Not fair,” he grumbled, looking up at her with dazed eyes.

She just kissed his nose. “Totally fair, mon coeur. I take it your ‘piano lesson’ is going well then?” It would certainly explain how he was able to sneak out and see her.

Chat snorted and swallowed back his purr. “I can’t believe they still have me practicing for hours even after I played at the party,” he rolled his eyes. She sort of agreed. Yes, it was ridiculous, but he wouldn’t be here right now if he didn’t have a ‘piano lesson’ so she didn’t really mind. And, going by his smirk, neither did he. “But it does mean that I get the chance to come over and ask my girlfriend if she wants to have a superGabriel party. The flurries still weren’t strong enough to have any real effect on daily life, but there were patches of snow on every surface in Paris and it was cold outside. She wasn’t too sure if Ladybug could hold up well enough for an extended date. She wasn’t sure if either Tikki or herself could handle being out in the cold for too long.

Tikki had been watching them with a fond smile and understood Marinette’s unspoken concerned. She just smiled and nodded assuring her they would be fine.

Marinette grinned. “Okay.” Chat grinned wildly and leaned in for another kiss. She pulled back with a laugh before it could get too long. “I’ll slip out the front so mama and baba don’t find me gone if they come up here. See you outside in five?”

Chat nodded and gave her a quick kiss goodbye, that turned into a much longer one that they only broke when Tikki pointedly cleared her throat, before darting out of the hatch. As always he made sure it wasn’t open for long and shut securely behind him and Marinette could help but smile. He had always been concerned about her getting cold but after White Christmas he was extra vigilant.

She quickly scrambled out of bed and checker her appearance in the mirror. She was in jeans and a jumper but she looked good enough for a date - even though he had specified that it was to be a super date, she still didn’t want to look underprepared in case they detransformed for part of it. She redid her hair and touched up her make-up before grabbing her bag and throwing a few extra pocket handwarmers in there and holding it open for Tikki to settle in. Tikki had already pulled on her winter coat and boots and Marinette copied her before hurrying down the stairs.

She grabbed a few cookies from the kitchen fridge as she explained her her parents that she wanted to do one final inspiration run around the city to make sure that her dress design was perfect. They both assured her that her dress was stunning but allowed her to go providing she promised to hurry back if she got too cold. It was an easy promise to make if only because she knew Chat would hurry her home the second he suspected she was getting a chill, not that she told her parents that, and so she kissed them goodbye before racing outside.

Marinette raced over the road and around the school, intending to transform in the private alley at the back, but a familiar pair of arms scooped her up behind the school. She gave a delighted squeal as he hugged her to him and vaulted over the rooftops. In no time at all she was sequestered away on what she recognised as one of their favourite stopping places on patrol, but his lips were on hers before she could call on her own transformation.

This. This was the best way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

She was never going to get enough of her wonderful boyfriend. He held her so tenderly and kissed her so sweetly, like she was the most precious thing in the world to him. He made her feel so special, so loved. She hoped she did the same for him.

“I think it’s time to put the spots on, my Lady-love.

Part of her brain screamed nope. Not yet. Not when he sounded so breathless. Her more logical side prevailed though and she murmured her transformation phrase between kisses, letting the magic wash over her and he held her tightly. “So,” she panted, “how long do we have before you need to get back?” She saw him pull back and pretend to think.

“Hmm, I think four hours sounds about right.” Chat nodded. “Yes, four,” he grinned and then leaned forward to kiss her nose. He loved the little giggle that never failed to coax out of her. He brushed a kiss against each cheek, then every spot on her mask, across her eyelids, her temples, her forehead, each one drawing a laugh from her, until he got down to her jaw. The sigh that brought out was new. Out of curiosity he did it again and then pressed another kiss to her neck only to draw out a louder sigh. He wanted her to make that noise again. “No, no, no,” he muttered and kisses her way back to her lips. “I meant five. Five hours.”

Ladybug just laughed at him. “Naughty kitty.” She pushed him back with one finger against his nose. She ignored his pout so he kissed her finger and got that scoffing laugh that often mean she found him silly but endearing. “I believe I was promised a date?”

He had promised that, hadn’t he? Tempting as it was to just stay here and kiss, he didn’t want his lady turning into a bug-cicle. Plus there was always the chance to get kisses on their date as well as before. Especially if things went the way he planned.

“And a date you shall have, my love!” It took a lot of effort to pull back from her but he did and gave an elaborate bow. “Do you remember that Winter Fair that Nino and Alya were talking about yesterday?”

“We’re going there?”

She was adorable when she was excited Chat decided. Well, all the time really, but particularly when she was excited. He tucked her arm under his and walked them across the roof in the general direction on the Fair. It had sounded amazing when Nino and Alya had told them about it yesterday. It was a few arrondissements away but they had accidentally stumbled across it when they were on their way to a cinema date and gone back to check it out. They had loved it and had invited their friends along on a double date. That date was scheduled for tomorrow but he hadn’t been able to resist a cats-eye view of the Fair and he liked what he saw.

“I figured we could have a date there today, just the two of us, before we double date with them tomorrow.”

Ladybug nodded eagerly and he grinned back. This was going to be awesome!

He grabbed his baton, extended it, and wrapped an arm around her waist before vaulting them off the roof and in the general direction of the Winter Fair. She held onto him for a few rooftops and he felt like purring in delight - right up until she gave him a sassy grin and jumped away as they touched down on a flat roof. He yoyo was out and she was darting away from him in a heartbeat.

They missed the Winter Fair the first time, getting caught up in their game of rooftop tag as they often did, but Chat quickly tackled her into a snow banks and dragged her back the correct way, both of them laughing their heads off. He set her down on the edge of the roof closest to the Fair and smile at her awed gasp.

“It’s beautiful.”

It took everything in him to hold back the automatic ‘not as beautiful as you’ that sprang to his lips. True as it was he didn’t want to interrupt her first sight of the Fair, and that line always earned him a punch in the shoulder. Though, maybe now they were dating it wouldn’t? He’d have to try that later. Right now he just wanted to bask in her awe.

It was set up much like the Christmas Market by her home had been, with stalls of all sizes set up in the park. There was dedicated refreshments area and some shopping stall but the vast majority of it was given over to Wintery Entertainment. There was a plastic ice rink on one side, a small stage for a variety of different acts and currently showing a mini-circus, puppet theatres, a small carousel for the younger children, and everywhere it was strewn with garlands and lanterns and ribbons and baubles. There was even a reindeer paddock with handlers teaching the audience about how they helped Père Noël deliver presents.

Chat wondered if this was where Alix and Kim had “borrowed” a reindeer from? He’d have to ask later.

“Chaton, this is amazing. It’s a real Winter Wonderland.”

“I know,” he reached out and took her hand. “Would you like to walk around for a bit? Masks or no masks?”

She blinked up at him in surprise then giggled and shook her head. “I’ll leave that choice to you, kitten. We’ll be mobbed both ways.”

“True.” Chat sighed.

He hadn’t thought about that when he suggested their date. If someone got a photo of him without his mask that Nathalie and his father would know he used his piano lessons to sneak out and he’d be placed under strict supervision for everything in the future. No, it was too risky to go out as Adrien and Marinette now, no matter how nice that would be. And it really would have been a good day as-

“Oh! There’s Rose and Juleka!”

-he had just seen two of their friends skating around the ice rink. They were hand in hand and gazing into each other eyes and they laughed and tripped their way around the rink. Juleka giggled when, at the end, Rose dipped her into a kiss before leaving the rink.

“Oh,” Ladybug cooed. “Can we go say hello?”

“I-”

Crash. Boom. Screams. Bang. “Bwahahahahaha!”

“Oh, screw you Hawkmoth!” Chat pouted. There goes his lovely walk with his Lady. Even if they finished the akuma quickly there wouldn’t be any time for their date before he had to get back to the mansion and pretend he had been playing piano the whole time.

“We’ve still got tomorrow, mon coeur.” Ladybug leaned in for a kiss before tugging him along by their still joined hands.

Chapter Text

Monday 30th December 2019. 1 p.m. Winter Wonderland Fair.

Alya and Nino spilled out of the car with excited yells, leaving Marinette and Adrien to climb out after them at a more sedate pace. “Thanks M. Guerin,” Marinette thanked Adrien’s bodyguard as she climbed out.

He nodded back at her before turning to Adrien. “Call me when you’re ready to leave. I’ll be close by.”

Adrien promised he would and Marinette barely waited for him to close the car door before linking their hands together and tugging him along after their friends. This was an officially approved date that Adrien was allowed to go on and she wanted to make the most of it. The Fair was only open for one more day but with Chloé’s gala happening tomorrow they wouldn’t have time to come and see the sights. Today was their last chance.

She felt him tug her back and giggled when he parted their hands so he could wrap his arm around her shoulders instead. Marinette wrapped hers around his waist and snuggled into him. “Possessive kitty.”

“Snuggly bug,” he teased. “So where to first?”

“I think Alya went that way?” she gestured vaguely to left. Adrien let her walk them over there and, sure enough, Alya and Nino were a few stalls in front of them and exaggerating their impatience for them to catch up. Naturally, Marinette and Adrien had to walk even slower. Alya just booed them while Nino laughed.

Their first stop was the refreshment section.

“I figured if we stopped here and poured a lot of hot chocolate down our girl here,” Alya tipped her head at Marinette with a grin, “then she won’t freeze halfway round.”

“Fantastic idea.” Adrien nodded eagerly.

Marinette just sighed. One alone she could deal with, but when both her boyfriend and her best friend teamed up against her she knew she didn’t stand a chance. Not that she wanted to argue right now. A hot chocolate sounded divine.

After a mock argument over who was going to pay, which Nino surprisingly won by paying while the rest of them were occupied, they headed off to see the entertainment with their drinks in hand. Marinette was plenty warm with her vanilla hot chocolate and her cuddly boyfriend and she intended to stay that way.

They went to see the reindeer first, admiring the handsome Dasher and silly Dancer while listening to the handlers talk. Apparently they had also had a third reindeer, Vixen, but she mysteriously “escaped” just before Christmas and was sent back to her farm to rest after her adventure. Marinette didn’t know how the four of them managed to keep a straight face during that speech as they all burst out laughing as they walked away.

Kim and Alix were insane.

They quickly walked through the stalls set up with the youngest children in mind, with puppet shows and a mini-carousel, and Alya regaled them with tales of what her two imps did when they came a few days ago. Ella and Etta were the reason for half of the newer child safety signs. Marinette was just glad she hadn’t been roped in to help, or worse, bring Manon.

She shuddered at the thought.

“Cold love?” Adrien immediately tightened his hold on her.

Marinette shook her head. “Just imagining bringing Manon here.”

This time Adrien was the one to shudder.

After the young kids section came the general entertainment section. The stage was currently empty, but signs advertised a Cinderella panto would be starting in ten minutes. There were rows of benches set in front of the stage, some already occupied, and several ushers stood by with bright blue blankets ready to hand out to the audience if they wanted them. That was something Marinette approved of since the organisers saw fit to set up an open air stage in winter. How silly.

Adrien hadn’t been to a panto before but he had seen many versions of the Cinderella story before and, with both Alya and Nino saying it wasn’t the best panto they’d ever seen, he was willing to give it a miss. He was very glad when Marinette agreed to leave it since he didn’t want her to sit in the open air and freeze.

He smiled when they rounded the corner and found themselves at the tiny ice rink that he had seen Rose and Juleka have so much fun on yesterday. It wasn’t what he wanted to bring Marinette here for but it did look like fun.

Alya gave an excited squeal. “Oh we have got to do this! The twins were too small to go on so I missed my chance the other day. Let’s go!”

She tried to pull Marinette forward but her hands tightened around Adrien. He looked down to see her pulling a face and shaking her head. “No way! Not with my coordination!”

“Oh come on girl.” Alya rolled her eyes and put her hands on her hips. “I’m sure your boyfriend would keep you upright.”

Adrien felt vaguely insulted by the insinuation the Marinette wasn’t capable and that he needed to be reminded to catch her. Marinette scoffed too. “I know he would,” she argued. Adrien felt himself preen. “But I’m not going to risk tripping and knocking us both down the day before the gala.”

Well, there went any chance of him being allowed on the fake ice. If Nathalie found out he had done something that could damage his image so much, because heaven forbid Adrien Agreste get so much as a blemish let alone a bruise, he would never get permission for another unchaperoned date ever again.

He could see Nino and Alya both looking at the fake ice in contemplation. Their coordination was better than Marinette’s but there were plenty of people falling over and tripping others up on the rink already.

“Good point,” Alya sighed and turned her back on the rink. “Yeah, you’re right. It’s not worth it. On the off chance that Ladybug and Chat Noir actually do show up tomorrow-”

Adrien, Marinette, and Nino all snorted at that.

“I want all my limbs intact for the party so I can grab an interview with them.” Alya grinned then blinked and gave Nino a sheepish look. “And dance with you too, babe.”

Nino snorted. “I’m really feeling the love here.”

“Moving on then,” Alya made a shoo motion with her hands as they walked off.

The next row they walked down had a mixture of lots of things. There was a storytelling corner filled with young children, a hook-a-duck stall, a tombola, a fortune teller who claimed to know what the New Year would bring, a selfie stand complete with silly accessories. Alya tried to drag them over but Adrien had to refuse. One of the celebrity cut-outs they had as a prop was a life-sized version of himself, and if he went over there then everyone would know that the Adrien Agreste was there within minutes. He’d like to carry on having fun for as long as he could before he was discovered. Alya pouted but accepted his reasons. Besides, she could always go back with Nino later.

At the very back of the park, furthest away from the Fair entrance was a large oak tree. Its leaves had long since fallen but the canopy above them was filled with baubles and ribbons and paper streamers of all shapes and colours. It looked beautifully vibrant and they just had to check it out. There was a vendor stood at a stall with a mountain of pens and pencils and papers, ribbons, and decorations of all shapes and sizes. There was also a bucket saying donations welcome.

“What’s this?” Alya ran up excitedly.

The man grinned. “It’s the New Year Wish Tree. Write a wish on one of these,” he gestured to the paper and ribbons in front of him, “then tie it to the tree, and your wish will come true at midnight tomorrow night!”

Nino grinned. “I’m game.”

The vendor handed them each a pen and allowed them to choose whatever they wanted to write on. Alya dove for the Ladybug print paper, and Nino gave a fond but resigned sigh and took the Chat Noir one. Adrien shared a look with Marinette, because really, and they both burst out laughing. Only Alya. He eventually settled on a pretty bluebell colour, the same as her eyes and his favourite scarf, and then winked at her when she blushed. He was surprised that she skipped over the pink and went for green until he realised she was matching him and he grinned.

His girlfriend was the best.

They joined their friends on the bench under the oak tree just as Nino finished his wish. “Done!”

Alya snatched it from his hands before he could tie it to the tree and burst out laughing. “To be the most famous DJ in the world?” she read. “Maybe you should go for something a little more attainable - you’re only sixteen, babe.”

He just leaned over her shoulder and read hers out. “To get the scoop of a lifetime - Ladybug and Chat Noir’s identities.” He gave her a look. “Sure! Mine is the unrealistic one.”

“Excuse me!” Alya scoffed. “I am a fantastic journalist, thank you very much, and Ladybug and Chat Noir seem to like me. If anyone can get close enough to get the scoop then it’s me!”

“If you say so babe.” Nino chuckled. “Hey! Let’s leave these lovebirds to make their wish and head over to the photo stand, yeah?”

They headed off, blowing kisses over their shoulders, and leaving a very worried Adrien and Marinette behind. Thank god neither of them had noticed their reaction to Alya’s wish. It would have given them away for sure.

Adrien flopped onto the bench and Marinette immediately curled up against him. He grinned at her, then looked over to where Nino and Alya were barely visible through the crowds. “I really hope this tree isn’t that good at granting wishes” he sighed.

“Me too,” Marinette admitted. She held out her paper. “I really don’t know what to wish for.”

“I know what you mean, I got everything I could possibly want for Christmas this year.” Adrien tilted her head up to him and leaned down to kiss her sweetly. “Everything and more.”

“Silly kitty!” Marinette blushed but pulled him back down for another longer kiss.

A gagging sound erupted from Adrien’s jacket pocket and they quickly broke the kiss and looked down in shock. Plagg carefully stuck his head out and glared at them. “You two are so gross! I don’t want to be part of this right now - can I share with Tikki?”

“Killjoy!”

Adrien groused and grumbled at his kwami even as he carefully snuck him out of his jacket pocket and slipped him into Marinette’s bag. Tikki waved up at him before grabbing Plagg in a cuddle. He couldn’t help but grin. Plagg was a bit brash at times but he was an affectionate little thing. Although sometimes Adrien really wished that Plagg wouldn’t share so much. The last thing he wanted was a wedge of camembert shoved under his nose, or to step in another hairball, or...

Adrien grinned and snatched up his pen. “I know what I’m going to wish for.”

He wrote it with a flourish and signed his name before putting the lid back on and holding it out for Marinette to read. She scanned the paper and then burst out laughing. “No more hairballs for the whole of 2020?” Her laugh was echoed by a smaller one in her bag as well as a hiss. “Well in that case mine has to be-” she quickly uncapped her own pen and scrawled her wish “-I will not stab myself with a needle for all of 2020.”

He burst out laughing. “That is a very good wish my Princess!”

His phone chimed then and he pulled it out of his jeans pocket automatically. He half expected it to be Nino sending him a photo of him and Marinette kissing beneath the tree, or suggesting another date, or pointing out something romantic for him and Marinette to do. After his initial annoyance at being left out of the loop, including his annoyance at having to wait until Gabriel had been told before finding out, Nino had been in full-on support mode. Anything Adrien wanted, Nino would do. Needed a cover story for a date with Marinette? Nino would lie to Nathalie’s face about a homework project. Needed to buy something that couldn’t show up in the mansion? Nino would buy it and hold onto it for him.

Honestly, Adien was blessed with the best friends ever.

Unluckily for him, though, it was a text from Nathalie and not Nino. He frowned but opened it immediately and held it between them so Marinette could read it too. It was not a good idea to ignore communications from Nathalie.

Adrien, our social media team has come across your name in connection with the Winter Wonderland Fair a few times now. While it may be nothing there are already signs that your fans are en route to the fair. Your bodyguard is waiting for you at the entrance. Hurry home now before the fans get too much.

He sighed. There were perks to his job, but there were also a lot of negatives. “I’m so sorry love.”

“Don’t be. I understand.”

He sighed again. This shouldn’t be something she needed to be understanding of. He should be able to go out in public with her for a simple date and not have it called off for security reasons. Maybe he should look into getting a disguise for their dates? Maybe a wig?

“Hey,” Marinette gently cupped his face and turned him to meet her gaze. She was smiling, not looking upset or disappointed at all. Instead, she leaned in and gave him a sweet and tender kiss that almost made him forget anything else existed. “I love you Adrien. All of you. I don’t love you because your last name is Agreste, or because you’re rich, or famous, and absolutely not because of how hot you look in magical leather…”

Adrien didn’t bother trying to fight his grin. “But it is a purr-k.”

She giggled and booped his nose. “My point is that I love you, and all the good and bad that comes with it. I can deal with the busy schedule and the interrupted dates and the annoying fans and press stuff - I am Ladybug after all.”

“And people say you’re the lucky one. Clearly it’s me since I have you.”

He kissed her then, short and sweet but so full of meaning. This woman was his everything and if he couldn’t give her a good date today he was definitely going to go all out for the gala tomorrow. Plus there was that one other surprise here at the Fair that he wanted her to see. He quickly shot off a text to Nino, apologising but promising to see him tomorrow, and shoved his phone back in his pocket.

“There’s one more thing I want to do before we leave today, if you’re okay with that?”

She cocked her head to one side but nodded. They tied their wishes to the lowest branch of the tree and then he took her by he had and hurried away. He did not lead her towards any of the stalls though and he could feel her curious gaze burning into him. He didn’t stop until he’d pulled her along to the last tree along the back wall of the park, the one next to the little green bench, and positioned them right under and very small and well hidden red ribbon.

“I wasn’t telling the whole truth earlier you know,” he smirked. He could see a wary excitement cross her face and his smile grew even bigger. “I got you for Christmas which is all of my wishes come true - except one.”

She frowned at him so he just grinned and looked up. She cautiously did the same… and then burst into hysterical laughter when the saw the tiny sprig of mistletoe that he had hidden there yesterday with the intention of bringing her here.

“Is this why you wanted to come here yesterday?” Marinette barely managed to gasp out between giggles.

He was not at all embarrassed to admit it. “I slipped this in the tree before collecting you yesterday. But then the akuma happened.” Adrien gave an exaggerated sigh and she burst into laughter again.

“Oh, my poor, sweet kitten!” she teased. It didn’t stop her from walking closer to him and wrapping her arms around his shoulders. His purr was already roaring to life in his chest even as he settled his hands on her hips. “To think that nasty akuma ruined all your hard work.”

“It’s not completely ruined.”

She leaned up, her eyes fluttering shut. “Not at all.”

Chapter Text

Tuesday December 31st 2019. 5.30 p.m. Marinette’s home.

Adrien couldn’t help but feel terrified as he knocked on the living room door in Marinette’s home.

Terrified in a good way, of course. There was a whole lot of excitement at seeing Marinette’s dress, which he knew would be amazing, but there was also a lot of nerves over making a fool out of himself at some point tonight. Hopefully he wouldn’t do anything ridiculous in front of her parents, his future in-laws, because he would never live it down and have to change his name and dye his hair and run away to…

Sabine opened the door then and gave him a delighted smile and his nerves increased a thousand fold. “Adrien! Oh, don’t you look handsome!”

“Afternoon, Mme. Cheng.”

She tutted but still had a smile on her face. Was that a good sign? “None of that now.” Wait, was it a bad sign? Oh god he couldn’t take this! “It’s Sabine and Tom to you, young man. Now come inside.”

“Thank you.”

Adrien walked in, letting her shut the door behind him, and counted it as a good sign that he was allowed in their home. He’d not made a mistake just yet. Good, good. He needed to keep it up.

Plagg had laughed his head off at Adrien earlier, when he had admitted his nerves to his kwami, and the logical part of Adrien’s brain understood that he really didn’t have anything to worry about. Tom and Sabine both liked him and they had both been overjoyed when he and Marinette had started dating. Of course they would still like him today.

But he couldn’t help his nerves!

This wasn’t just another date, this was a gala. This was a formal dance where they could be seen and photographed and end up on the front page of the first newspaper of the new decade. This was huge.

There were footsteps on the stairs just then and Adrien felt his heart race. This was it. He was finally going to see her.

It was only Tom though. He smiled at Adrien as he came down from his daughters room and Adrien couldn’t detect anything unfriendly in that look even though he tried. In fact, he looked ridiculous happy, fond, and, dare he say it, proud?

He crossed the room to stand next to his wife and the bookcase, and offered his hand to Adrien. He tried not to shake as the much larger man - seriously, how had he not realised how big Tom Dupain was before now - and returned the smile.

“It’s great to see you again, son. You two are going to make quite the pair tonight,” Tom winked at him and then looked down to the gift in his hands. “I see that you came prepared too.”

“Oh, uh, yes.”

He held his hand out to better show them the gift. He had chosen one single red rose in full bloom. It was utterly perfect. It was a deep ruby red, not a blemish or spot on the leaves, all the thorns had been carefully removed, and the scent was rich. Plagg had teased him for taking nearly an hour to select the perfect bloom but he really did care. It was for his Princess. It had to be perfect. He also had two smaller but finely crafted chocolate roses, looking to very lifelike, as part of his mini-bouquet.

Of course, now that he was here in front of her parents he was beginning to regret not going with a full two dozen.

“I, uh, I thought simple would be better than overboard.”

Tom nodded with a wry chuckle. “That’s probably a good idea. Those roses she came home with on Christmas Eve are still in full bloom. There’s room for one more though.” He turned to his wife and wrapped his arm around her, smiling down at her, before turning to Adrien with a wink. “Besides, I’ll have you know that the way to a Cheng heart is with flowers.”

Sabine chuckled. “And the way to a Dupain heart is with sweets. You made a marvellous choice.”

“Mama, baba!”

Marinette’s voice drifted down from her room, stern but slightly muffled, and he could hear her walking about. The soft click of her heels as he darted around was oddly comforting.

“Will you two stop teasing him!”

“We’re not teasing lái fú. Are you ready?”

“Yes.”

“Are you sure?” Tom grinned. “You haven’t forgotten another thing down here on the coffee table that you need me to bring up right away?”

Baba!”

“Just checking!” Tom winked at Adrien then pulled Sabine off to one side. “Come on down then sweetheart.”

Adrien swallowed nervously. This was it. This would be the big test of his resolve. He knew the colour of her gown and the quality of her work, and her beautiful face was forever carved in his memory. He wouldn’t make a fool of himself in front of her or her parents. He was certain of it… right up until Mrinette appeared at the top of the stairs and his jaw dropped.

He was wrong. He was so wrong.

Nothing could have prepared him for the vision that slowly descended the stairs towards him.

Her gown was nothing short of a masterpiece. The bodice of the dress was cut in a delicate sweetheart neckline and made of a beautiful midnight satin that flowed gracefully down across the smooth flare of her hips and fell into a full skirt. The top layer of the dress, a rich but dark navy chiffon, came up above the neckline of the bodice to rest just below her collarbones and accentuate her delicate neck and shoulders, before flowing down her arms and tapering to a point around her wrists. The many layers of chiffon fell from her waist asymmetrically, high in the front and low in the back, and were cinched in with a soft ribbon about her waist.

As if that didn’t make the gown one of the most stunning he had ever seen, as she stepped down towards him the beading on the bodice and skirt caught the light and made her shimmer. He felt like he was watching a goddess descend to meet him. The beading around the top of the bodice was mostly silvers and whites and a few delicate pearlescent points, further accentuated by a scattering of navy and black beading, while the beading at the bottom was golds and whites and bronzes. The design was complimented by a simple pair of navy shoes and a small bronzed clutch. Part of his mind registered that her clutch was far too small for Tikki to hide in but he couldn’t focus on that right now.

It suddenly hit him then, why he couldn’t shake the feeling of familiarity. This was the view they saw from the Eiffel Tower all the time, the silvery starlight fading into a midnight-blue night sky before dissolving away into the bright golden glow of the city streets below. It was the view she had raved about just a few weeks ago and been itching to draw. It was the view that paled in comparison to the masterpiece she had created here.

Stunning. Completely and utterly stunning.

When he could finally raise his eyes to her face he felt his breath leave his body.

Marinette’s hair had been twisted completely up and wrapped around her head in a loosely woven crown braid, threaded with seed pearls and silver and pearlescent beads. It only further enhanced her status as a goddess in Adrien’s mind as it looked like she was wearing a crown of starlight itself. Her make-up was minimalistic with only a sheer gloss on her lips, but her eyes really stood out, enhanced by an expert touch of mascara and bronze eyeshadow. However it was the faint blush on her cheeks that robbed him of the power of speech as she shyly smiled up at him.

He wasn’t even aware that he had held his hand out to hers to help her down the last few steps until she placed her hand in his.

“You are so beautiful.”

The words slipped out before he was even aware that he was capable of speech and Adrien wanted to kick himself.

Beautiful? Beautiful!

She was so much more than just beautiful! She was dazzling, magnificent, exquisite, utterly bewitching, radiant. She was a goddess in human form and all he could say was beautiful?

Yet his clumsy words seemed to please her and he saw her blush deeply. She smiled up at him and idly reached out to straighten his bronze pocket square. “You’re very handsome too - though, are you sure you didn’t peek at my design?”

Adrien promised himself that he would buy Tikki as much chocolate as she wanted from the very best chocolatier in Paris for a whole year for giving him tips on his outfit. She had given him a fabric swatch which made finding the suit easy enough - all he did was turn it over to Nathalie and she got some of the Gabriel employees on it - but Tikki had been the one to give him hints about what accessories he should pick. She had insisted on silvers, bronzes, and pearlescent colours for his accents

Adrien wasn’t about to out Tikki though and so gave a half-hearted shrug. “I just guessed.” He held out the rose and one of the chocolates for her. “For you, my Princess, though it pales in comparison against you.”

That was smoother and to his delight it made her blush deeper than before. She took the roses from him, handing the chocolate rose over to her mother, and breathing in the scent of the real rose. Her delighted hum was enough to start knocking the tension out of his frame.

Sabine was starry eyed. “I’ll put that in some water for you, dear. You two don’t want to be late.”

Tom let out a loud sniffle then and furiously wiped at his eyes. “Let’s get some photos before you two leave.”

If pressed, then Adrien would still say that his favourite photo shoot was the Christmas Jumper one with Tom on Boxing Day, but that was only because he couldn’t recall a thing about any of the photos that her parents took of them before they left for the gala. He felt like he was floating as he stood and posed and smiled next to the most gorgeous woman to grace this earth.

Tom joined them for a few photos, then Sabine, and then they set up a stand to take one group photo. By the time they were escorted downstairs, where Hélène and Colette cooed over them from the bakery door as they were closing up, Adrien’s mind was starting to piece it back together.

He had enough wits about him at least to hold open the limo door for her, and hold a hand out to help her in. His cheeks were hurting from smiling at her but the delicate flush on her face just made him grin all the wider. How could he get so lucky to call such an amazing girl his? They both leaned out of the window and waved goodbye as Gorilla drove off. He went in the opposite direction to the hotel but Adrien had expected that - they always took a long and circuitous route for security reasons.

He jumped as he felt Plagg shift around in his pocket in agitation and he finally came back online and remembered something important he had to do. Thankfully the privacy screen was already in place between the two compartments so Adrien quickly pulled Plagg out of his pocket, helping his kwami hide his special present behind his back. Marinette got the hint and, instead of reaching for her clutch which Adiren definitely recognised as being too small for a kwami, she reached for her skirt and pulled Tikki out of a perfectly camouflaged hidden pocket.

Adrien didn't have the chance to ask Marinette about her ingenious design because Plagg stood up to his full height, cleared his throat, and produced the second chocolate rose from behind his back. Both Marinette and Tikki gasped as Plagg walked up to his Lady and bowed over the rose.

"Oh fairest of the fair, would you permit this poor stray to escort you tonight?"

There were tears gleaming in Tikki's eyes even as she gave a happy sigh and took the offered rose. "I would love that, my sweet kitten."

Marinette melted over them, cooing in delight, and Adrien found himself admiring how smooth Plagg was. Until he opened his mouth again.

"Then come, my sweet," Plagg smirked and grabbed Tikki's paw and pulled her over to Adrien. "My noble steed awaits!"

“Hey!”

Marinette burst out laughing at his indignation and he shot her a wounded look. Even Tikki was giggling at him but at least she was trying to muffle them. Adrien glared at Plagg, already thinking of bringing the cheese ban back for this, but Plagg was giving him a look that screamed ‘please just play along’ and he folded. How could he fault Plagg for trying to sweep his Lady off her magic feet, when Adrien was doing the same with Marinette? He could go along with it for them.

“Your chariot awaits, dear Tikki,” he sighed and used one hand to hold his jacket open, revealing the specially enlarged pocket within.

It was the only request he had made of Nathalie regarding his suit, and she had given him a skeptical look until he managed to mumble through a hastily created excuse as to why he needed such large inner pockets. When he admitted it was to keep Marinette’s clutch safe while they danced so she wouldn’t have to put it down where Chloé could potentially mess with it or steal it, her skepticism had faded into a knowing look and she had put a rush on the alterations.

However, Adrien mused as he eyed the large chocolate rose in Tikki’s paws, Nathalie would probably kill him if he came home with his special request pocket smeared in chocolate because she would assume he had been trying to cheat on his diet. It wasn’t like he could tell her the truth either.

He used the hand not holding his jacket open to collect both kwami. “Please try not to get chocolate all over my suit.”

Plagg snorted and grinned at Tikki. “Kid, I really don’t think you need to worry about that.” Tikki just gave a sheepish giggle and let Plagg pull her into Adrien’s suit pocket.

He could see that Marinette looked completely unsurprised by her kwami’s behaviour. “I did wonder why my parents were talking about flowers and sweets. One for me, and one for Tikki I see.”

“Plagg insisted.” Adrien couldn’t help the blush that heated his face. “If I was bringing a gift for my lady, then he needed something for his - but you are far sweeter than those chocolates and more beautiful than the rose.”

He was glad to see her blush this time. He hadn’t made her blush enough yet tonight. She covered her flaming cheeks as if to cool them down. “You sir, are a shameless flatterer!”

“Hardly flattery when it’s true, my love.” Adrien reached between them for her hand and raised it to his lips for a kiss. He took a moment to admire her perfect manicure and how much attention she had paid to even the tiniest details when putting together her look for the evening. But then he sighed. “I really want to kiss you right now, but I daren’t spoil your looks before we arrive.”

Marinette was a little disappointed because she really wanted him to kiss her too, but she had spent ages getting her make-up just right. She wanted to arrive without needing to touch it up straight away. “Yeah, good idea. Alya would tease us to death.”

Next to her, Adrien shuddered theatrically, and while she laughed she completely understood how he felt. She slipped her hand into his and gave it a reassuring squeeze. They could get through anything together, even Alya’s teasing.

That chatted for a moment about what to expect. Adrien had been to several of Mayor Bourgeois’ parties before, but Marinette had only attended the one when Chloé was trying to be nice. It had been an ok party but honestly she would rather have a nicer Chloé than one guilt-trip party. This was going to be different since it was actually the Mayor’s party, not Chloé’s no matter how she would hog the spotlight, and so there would be a lot more networking and talking and political dealings.

Adrien promised to spare her as much as he could but he was Adrien Agreste so a little small talk was to be expected.

Marinette wished again that she could kiss him if only so that she could reassure him she was fine with that part of his life.

They arrived in front of Hotel Grande Paris at precisely five minutes to six, which would mean they would be escorted into the hotels’ ballroom at exactly six o’clock. Marinette giggled when Adrien rolled his eyes at her and explained that this was Nathalie’s doing. She prided herself of perfect punctuality.

Her laughter fell away when she caught sight of the few reporters who were already around the red carpet and looking at the Agreste limo. She had expected that there would be some photos taken tonight, but she hadn’t expected to encounter them so soon. What if she fell out of the car? What if she tripped walking up the red carpet? What if…

Adrien’s hand on her snapped her out of it, as did his concerned look. She had no doubts that he would tell M. Guerin to drive off right this second if he thought she was too uncomfortable to go through with this and so she reached down into herself and pulled up every bit of confidence she could muster. She was Ladybug!

Marinette nodded at him and he smiled, a soft and loving look on his face as he picked up her hand and kissed it, before opening the door and stepping out.

This was it.

She gathered her clutch and stuck a smile on her face that she hoped looks good, and set her hand in Adrien’s waiting one. She didn’t trip getting out of the car as her skirts settled around her, and Adrien was quick to wrap her arm around his so he could support her along the carpet.

They were actually halfway to the doors by the time the reporters realised that, no, they weren’t just another two nobody kids coming to the party, it was Adrien Agreste and a date.

The flashes were nearly blinding.

Adrien’s hand squeezed hers where it rested on his arm and his presence by her side was enough of a comfort to get her through this ordeal. The footman by the front door had the door open for them by the time they walked up and shut it securely behind them, blocking the reporters from entering. They still did their best to get some photos through the door though.

An attendant immediately arrived at Adrien’s shoulder, waited for Adrien to produce his ticket, and indicated to them that they should follow him to the ballroom.

Marinette leant against him a little more than was appropriate as they were shown to the ballroom. “That is so different without a mask,” she murmured. It had been nerve-wracking! She knew she got a confidence boost from wearing the mask, but this much of one?

“You did wonderfully though, my love.”

Then entered the ballroom at precisely 6 p.m. - thank you Nathalie - and Adrien turned slightly to see the crowd and plastered on his photoshoot smile. Nice and polite, friendly and approachable, but not too wide and not too aloof. Marinette did her best to copy him but she was sure her’s was a pale imitation. It was harder to keep up when she saw just how many influential people were already there - yet the party wouldn’t even start properly until 7 p.m! Adrien’s best guess as to why they were expected to arrive early was because Chloé didn’t want any of her classmates doing anything embarrassing upon arrival or to have her name associated with them and, honestly, Marinette could see her being than vain and selfish.

By her said, Adrien nodded to one or two people in the crowd, before his smile turned more genuine and he gestured into one of the corners of the room. “Looks like we’re the last ones here.”

Marinette looked in the direction he pointed as was pleased to see the rest of their class was already there. Alya, of course, had her camera phone trained on them and was wearing a manic smile big enough that Marinette could see it all the way across the room. Nino looked smug and the rest of their friends were either cooing over them or looking curiously at their joined arms.

Adrien chuckled. “Shall we go and tell them all the good news?”

“I wonder if their reactions are going to be as entertaining as Alya and Nino’s?”

“Well , there are no cushions, so they probably won’t hurt as much.”

She muffled a laugh with her hand as he led her over.

As always, her designer’s eye was immediately drawn to the colourful array of outfits her friends were wearing. She couldn’t help but smile at how well-chosen their clothes were.

Marinette had helped Alya and Alix find their outfits - a stunningly beautiful plum A-line gown with a halter neck for Alya, and a dashing silver-grey ladies formal suit with pink accents for Alix - and she had not only tailored them to fit but she had also included a wide array of hidden pockets of all sizes for them. Alix was over the moon not to be in a gown and Alya was delighted that she not only had room for her phone, but two power-packs to keep her battery life going, as well as her make-up, purse, and business cards.

Everyone else was a pleasant surprise though.

The three boys there, Nino, Nathanaël, and Ivan, had gone for a traditional black and white tuxedo, but the bowtie and pocket squares were a bright splash of colour. Nino’s matched the plum of Alya’s dress, Nathanaël had gone for a bright red that actually complimented his colouring very well, and Ivan was wearing the same shade of green as Mylène’s sleeveless ballgown. She had delicate ivory gloves up to just past her elbow and Marinette had never seen her so happy.

Rose and Juleka were predictably in pink and purple, but this time Rose’s princess style gown was in a pastel pink so pale it was only a shade or two darker than white, but it had pink and red roses embroidered around the hemline. She wore a matching pink rose in her ear. Juleka had gone for a soft lavender, sleeveless, high collar dress that fell in a straight line to her ankles but that had twin splits from the hem to mid-thigh. Her hair had been pulled back into a bun with a pink and lavender rose accessory holding it in place.

They all looked so beautiful.

They were still a few steps away when Adrien blew their secret and she couldn’t help but roll her eyes at him even as everyone descended on them in a congratulatory hug. Rose was so happy she was nearly crying and Juleka had to get the tissues out of her clutch. Mylène and Ivan wondered if they wanted to go on a double date, or maybe a triple date with Alya and Nino, and Nathanaël just hung back from the chaos and smiled at them.

Alix was the last one to come up to them and she punched them both in the shoulder. She held back a bit so from her in was an affectionate little tap, even though they both winced at the blow. She hugged them both, fully aware that Alya was snapping photos, but instead of letting Adrien go she grabbed him by the lapels and gave him a stern look.

“Even though I lost money on you two I’m super happy for you both. Also, Adrien, treat my girl right or I’ll run you over with those fancy skates you got me. Understand?” Marinette was delighted that she couldn’t see Alix’s glare if it made Adrien look that worried.

He nodded but then smiled over Alix’s head at her. “I have every intention of treating her like a princess, Alix. Don’t you worry about that.”

Alix held her stare for a moment longer before smiling and nodding at him. “Good. Because after Marinette got me a formal suit to wear instead of a gown, she beats you out on the best gift ever list now.”

Adrien pouted. “Aww, so you won’t fight for me any more?”

“I will fight you for her now,” Alix winked and everyone burst out laughing. She then caught sight of something over Adrien’s shoulders and groaned. “Well, dad’s summoned me to meet-and-greet. Catch you losers later, I’m going to mingle!”

“Alix, wait!” Alya stopped her from leaving. The smirk on her best friend’s face was only mildly disconcerting to Marinette. She was more bothered by the fact that Alya was recording this. “Before you go, tell us exactly why you lost money on them?”

“It was a bet with Kim. What else?” she shrugged, slipped her hands in her trouser pockets. “He picked the first half of December, I picked the second half. No biggie. I was only kidding, y’know. I really am happy for them.”

Marinette now knew why Alya had asked and she braced herself. “Alix, we didn’t get together until the 21st. You won.”

“I won?” she gaped. “I won!” Alix threw both fists in the air and pounced. They only narrowly avoided a double headlock. “So I got new skates, a formal suit, and bragging rights over Kim? You two are the best! I will fight the world for you two! Seriously, you give me a name and they’re gone!”

She drew her finger across her throat with a manic grin before waving goodbye and racing over to her father and brother. Whatever she said to Jalil had him blushing and then spluttering while their father ran a tired hand down his face at their antics.

Marinette gave a nervous giggled. “You know I fully believe she would.”

Alya was straight up cackling in delight. The rest of their group were sporting the same nervous smiles and laughs as Marinette was. She might have been joking, but it was a risk they weren’t willing to take where Alix Kubdel was concerned.

“You’d better believe it, girl!” Alya gloated when she could speak again. “Now, Alix had the right idea. I see a few journalists there and a very tempting dance floor! Let’s go people!” There were several murmurs of agreement from everyone and they all followed Alya, stopping only to give Marinette and Adrien another round of congratulations.

She wasn’t surprised when Adrien pulled her into his arms once everyone was gone. “I’m sorry about this, but we’re going to have to mingle too.” He looked so sad that it took Marinette a moment to realise that he thought she didn’t know they would have to meet-and-greet while they were there. “One of the reasons Père allowed me to come once he realised I was bringing you as my date was on the condition that I speak for him and-”

Marinette pressed a finger to his lips to stop his babble. “I know, kitten. I told you before I understand. Besides,” she gave him a wry grin as she removed her hand. “Nathalie sent me a huge email with a list of dos and don’ts and what not to say-” she giggled as he rolled his eyes because of course Nathalie Sancoeur did that “-I mean, I knew a few of those things from our other job, but it was actually kind of helpful. You’re been pretty helpful too.”

He smirked and pulled her hand up to brush a kiss against her knuckles. “Pretty or helpful?”

Marinette rolled her eyes. There was her silly kitty. “Both you goof, now let’s go!”

Adrien was glad that his little tease had put her at ease, and he was determined to make this evening as painless for her as possible. He had the perfect plan to do it too.

But first, a dance.

He waltzed her around the floor for a minute, smiling with Mylène and Ivan who were the only other couple their age on the floor, and he cracked a few jokes to get her smiling and laughing. Once she was more relaxed, he steered the to the edge of the floor nearest to Séréna Chardon. He had seen Séréna as soon as they had walked into the room and that was when his plan had come together.

Séréna was a former Gabriel model who had aged out. She had tried to make it as a designer but ended up finding her dream job as a fashion reporter and critic for a small woman’s magazine. She still sent Adrien a birthday card every year and she adored talking all things fashion. If anyone would show him a friendly face and be kind to Marinette it was Séréna. He knew his Princess was amazing, but if she got a confidence boost from an enjoyable conversation right at the start of the evening she would have far more fun tonight.

“Adrien!”

“Séréna!”

After making the introductions he sat back and let Marinette and Séréna talk fashion. When Séréna found out that Marinette had designed and made her own gown for that evening, once she had picked her jaw up off the floor she was very eager to get Marinette’s details and help her out in any way she could. Adrien tried not to look too smug as he pulled one of Marinette’s business cards out of his pocket - thank you Alya for sneaking them from his girlfriend’s room - but judging by the amused look Marinette gave him he failed. Séréna gave Marinette one of her cards and made her promise to phone her in the New Year.

“Even if all you want to hear are embarrassing stories about Adrien’s first few years in modelling.” Séréna promised and with a quick buss to their cheeks and a wink she was off to mingle.

Their next three conversations were just as easy on Marinette, who positively sparkled as she talked about her passions, and Adrien just knew there would be several comments on him looking sappily in love. Oh well.

That’s not to say that all of their conversations went well. There was a nasty troll of a man from one of the modelling agencies who was determined to get Marinette as either a model or a designer for hire. Marinette had to politely turn him down three times before Adrien stepped in and implied that Gabriel was going to snap Marinette up soon and there was no offer this bottom-feeder could make that the Agreste family couldn’t better.

He stormed off in a sulk and that was the last they saw of him.

Marinette leaned into him under the pretence of adjusting his pocket square. “How bad would it be if Ladybug suddenly appeared and punched him?” she murmured.

Adrien could barely hold in his laughter as two tiny voices chimed up from his suit pocket. “Do it. Do it!” Instead he whisked her off to talk to one of his father’s business associates about the price of silk on the international market.

Between conversations where people sang either his of Marinette’s praises, they managed to squeeze in several more dances on the floor. They waltzed alongside Nino and Alya for one, then switched so that Adrien could waltz Alya and Nino could dance with Marinette. Adrien regretted it after the third time Alya stood on his feet and Nino shot him a smug smirk. Again.

Rose and Juleka were waltzing together too but they were having so much fun with each other that no one had the heart to ask to swap for a dance. Instead, the couples all danced together in a circle so they could easily chat and laugh with each other.

Before either of them knew it, it was already 11 o’clock, and they were in deep discussion with Alix’s father and brother about historical fashions and preserving and repairing textiles. Marinette suggested a combined fundraiser, Gabriel models wearing period accurate and inspired designs in a special show at the Louvre, and M. Kubdel gave his tentative approval for it. Even if they didn’t raise enough money for their conservation project they could certainly raise a lot of awareness and interest.

Adrien was glad when there was no one else to talk to once M. Kubdel and Jalil left them alone. His feet were just starting to hurt from being on them for so long, but if his were only just beginning to ache then Marinette’s must be killing her. He couldn’t believe she was still standing in those heels of hers.

He steered them towards some of the chairs set to one side of the room when an irritatingly fake voice sounded behind him

Adrikins!” Chloé’s voice set his teeth on edge but somehow he managed not to grimace as he turned to greet her. She look unbearably smug and he tightened his grip on Marinette reflexively. That look did not bode well. “Don’t forget you promised me a midnight dance.”

“I actually didn’t forget, Chloé.” Adrien tried not to sigh. He hadn’t forgotten but he hoped she had since she hadn’t sought him out all evening. It had been the best Bourgeois party he had been to in a long time. Still, he had an appearance to maintain. “If you really want a dance then I will give you one, but my midnight dance and all others belong to Marinette.”

His heart sank when he saw just how quickly the smile fell from Chloé’s face. Marinette inched closer to him and he slipped her arm from his in order to wrap his arm around her waist. If Chloé kicked off he wanted to be sure he could get Marinette out of the line of fire quickly enough. He could tell she was thinking the same thing.

Chloé sneered at both of them. “Just because that baker’s daughter somehow managed to trick you into making her your plus one doesn’t mean you owe her anything!” she snapped. Adrien kept his eyes on Chloé but was fully aware that her unique voice was starting to attract attention. M. Kubdel and Jalil hadn’t moved far, and both were watching the three teens in concern. Marinette tensed in his arms when Chloé smirked and he had to fight a shudder of his own. It was pure malevolence. “Besides,” Chloé tosse her hair over her shoulder, “she won’t even be here at midnight so of course I’ll have you all to myself.”

Enough was enough. Adrien wiped his smile from his face. “I’ve already told you ‘no’ Chloé, and I’m telling you again. No. Of course Marinette will be with me at midnight.”

Chloé scoffed. “No she won’t because I’m having her and all the others kicked out at half past, which is-” he made a show of checking the extravagant watch on her wrist “-only ten minutes away now. Daddy may have made me invite those peasants but there is no way I am letting them take you from me. I am getting my midnight dance from you Adrien! Shoo, Dupain-Cheng. No one wants your kind here.”

Adrien felt a cold fury shoot through him. “How dare you insult my girlfriend like that? And our friends!”

“Girlfriend? Her?” Chloé gaped unattractively before scowling again. “I won’t accept it! You’re mine Adrien! I won’t let her have you!”

“I have never been anything more than your acquaintance, and I have never wanted to be more!” Adrien snapped. “I will not be dancing with you at midnight and if you insist on kicking my girlfriend out because you are a spoiled brat who cannot stand being told no - as I have told you many times - then I won’t even be here at midnight.”

Although he had kept his voice even, Chloé hadn’t bothered to do the same and her shrill cries had caught the attention of the couples around them. Adrien had seen them, and spoken accordingly. Nothing he said could be deemed bad or poor taste by his father or Nathalie when they inevitably heard of this. Not that he planned on letting them hear about it second hand. Once he got home he was going to tell them he never wanted to be paired with Chloé Bourgeois for anything ever again and tell them why.

M. Kubdel and Jalil were looking upon Chloé in judgement, there was a reporter from TVi next to them positively vibrating at the thought of the scoop he was going to get - Adrien had better warn Nathalie about that one - Mme. Toussaint and her assistant from the Theatrical Arts committee looks positively scandalised, and Mlle. Chauveau was the biggest gossip in Paris and no fan of Chloé or her father.

Chloé either hadn’t noticed or didn’t care and Adrien didn’t know which one he would bet on. She was far too used to having her father fight her battles for her, but she had never embarrassed the mayor this much before. Adrien wasn’t sure that Andre Bourgeois could come out of this unscathed unless Chloé faced some serious repercussions for once in her life.

Chloé glared and jabbed a finger towards Marinette. “I refuse to recognise her as your girlfriend. She goes. And so do the rest of the rabble. If you know what’s good for you then you’ll stay and meet me at midnight.”

She stormed off through the crowd, head held high and looking like she didn’t even notice them. Adrien saw M. Kubdel holding Jalil back after hearing Alix and their friends called ‘rabble’, but it looked like he wasn’t trying too hard to restrain him. Chloé had better watch her back.

Adrien only had eyes for Marinette though. “Are you okay? I’m sorry love, I-”

For the second time that night Marinette cut him off with a finger to his lips and a sweet and loving smile. “Don’t blame yourself for her temper tantrum, mon coeur. She’s the only one responsible for her actions. If she’s that determined to cause a scene and ruin the party for everyone, then I’ll leave, but you-”

“I am going wherever you go,” he pulled her hand from his lips and brushed a kiss across it, glad that they were leaving as he would finally be able to kiss her properly. “I refuse to stay an an event with someone who won’t accept no as an answer.”

She smiled and nodded at him. “Then let’s go and tell our friends about the time limit she imposed just now before she can do something ridiculous like ruin their clothes or set her security on them.”

“Knowing Chloé I would imagine she would do far worse than that.”

Alix had been there with her father and brother when Chloé had kicked off and in spite of the fact that she obviously wanted to punch the blonde brat’s face in she went quickly and quietly around their friends and gathered them up. Adrien and Marinette only needed to collect Nino and Alya, who fortunately agreed to come along quietly, and they joined the rest of their friends near the ballroom doors.

Adrien stopped then, fully aware that everyone was still watching them, eager for gossip. “One moment. My father wanted me to say goodbye to the mayor when I leave.”

Adrien kissed both of Marinette’s hands before making his way through the crowd to the mayor. He did his best to mirror the cool and disdainful look that he often saw on his father’s face and was pleased when several people stepped out of his way. He stopped in front of a nervous looking Mayor Bourgeois and nodded curtly. “Mayor Bourgeois, thank you for the invitation, but, alas, our time has run out and so my girlfriend and I will take our leave now.” Adrien ensured his words were polite and courteous, but his tone was steel underneath. “Thank you for a pleasant evening. I shall be sure to tell my father all about it.”

The Mayor paled lightly. “I’m very pleased to hear that, young Adrien. Are you certain you don’t wish to stay? The fireworks I have planned for my guests will be truly spectacular.”

Adrien shook his head. “Not with the conditions attached to my remaining here, Mayor Bourgeois. Have a Happy New Year.”

He turned and walked back to the entrance, head held high, pretending he didn’t notice the approving whispers around him. Instead he headed straight to his girlfriend, basking in her proud look, and then kissed her the way he’d been dying to do all evening. Alix whispered a cat-call, Nino sniggered, and the rest of their friends did their best to hold in their giggles, but Adrien didn’t care. Not when Marinette was warm against him.

He separated after only a heartbeat, keeping it tasteful while in public, and offered his arm to Marinette and led her from the ballroom. The teasing started up properly as they gathered in the hotel lobby.

Marinette could feel a blush threatening as she listened to her friends tease her, but honestly, she was just so damn proud of Adrien right now that she refused to let it bother her. He had stood his ground admirably and turned everything right back around onto Chloé and her father, and he had done it in a way that neither his father or Nathalie could fault. She was just so proud of him.

A hotel attendant appeared and directed them to a small ante-room where they could wait for their coats in peace. Marinette was certainly she could see a hint of approval in the man’s face too but he disappeared before she could confirm it.

Nino broke the quiet first with a loud chuckled. “Well, I’m mad we got kicked out, but dude! Oh dude!” he slapped Adrien on the back as he laughed. “It was so cool to hear you give the ‘my father’ line to Chloé!”

Alix guffawed too. “My old man was not happy either. Nor were any of those other eavesdroppers.”

Marinette blinked. Evesdroppers? What eavesdroppers? Oh god what had she said just then, was it good, was it compliant with the email Nathalie had sent her, was it going to reflect badly on Adrien? Was it-

Adrien slipped one arm around her waist and brought her free hand to his lips, calming her with that gesture. He didn’t seem concerned about her performance, not that she had known she was giving one, and so she wouldn’t be bothered by it either. No else noticed her momentary panic though, they were too busy being angry at Chloé.

“Chloé’s name is going to be mud for a long while after this!” Alya gleefully added.

Rose was the only one still looking upset. “I don’t understand why she’s so mean all the time.” Juleka caught her girlfriend up in a hug and kissed her temple.

Mylène nodded. “She usually hides it better in front of crowds too. Not completely. But better. Sabrina usually reels her in too, but…” she trailed off uncomfortably. Sabrina’s absence hadn’t gone unnoticed but there had been no one there to ask. No one except Chloé that is.

Alix just smirked at them. “My Secret Santa gift worked?”

Everyone looked at her in confusion.

“Those books I got Sabrina about toxic friendships?” she jogged their memories. Marinette remembered them but she hadn't thought they would work. But Alix looked too smug for them to have failed. “She read ‘em all. And she’s starting to change. She came by my house this morning to thank me for the books and we had tea and cake and talked. Next thing I know I get here and Chloé is telling me that Sabrina is home deathly ill with the flu and laryngitis and other things Chloé doesn’t want to catch.” Alix snorted. “Honestly, you would have thought she had the plague with how Chloé was going on.”

There was silence for a moment before Alya’s softly murmured ‘holy shit’ opened the floodgates and soon everyone was falling over themselves to say how amazing that was and how happy they were for Sabrina and congratulating Alix for thinking of a tactic to help their friend that hadn’t been tried before.

The attendant returned with all of their coats just as Alix was grandly bowing and accepting their kudos and acclaim. If he thought it was odd, he said nothing.

“That’s amazing Alix!” Marinetted smiled. “We’ll all get together before school starts up and invite Sabrina too, let her know we support her.” It was the least they could do if their usually meek friend had managed to find it within herself to leave Chloé behind. Everyone enthusiastically agreed. Sabrina wouldn’t be alone.

Alya nodded decisively. “Well, we’d best head out before security actually kick us out,” she grumbled. She paused with her handle on the door and looked critically at Marinette and Adrien - more specifically their lack of coats. Marinette hadn’t deemed one necessary since she knew M. Guerin would be driving them to and from the hotel. “You two aren’t thinking of walking are you? Do you need a lift?

She let Adrien reply, noticing that he was currently in the middle of texting Nathalie. “No thanks, Alya. My bodyguard is waiting for my call. We’ll be fine.”

They stood by the door as everyone left, exchanging hugs and kisses and promises to meet up in person again soon, before school started up again, and Marinette turned to Adrien the second the door was closed and cocked an eyebrow at him. “Okay kitty, what are you planning?”

She had been in a prime position to see the text he composed to Nathalie before waving their friends off.

Nathalie. Chloé had a temper tantrum and kicked most of us out. I’ll explain fully when I get home since there was a reporter there. I’m staying with my friends until midnight for safety reasons and I’ll call for a ride later.

Her reply had been practically instantaneous, allowing him to spend time with his friends providing he remain safe, and expecting a full briefing on the issue when he returned.

He winked at her and then tapped his Miraculous. “I think they deserve a pick-me-up after such a dismal end to a party, don’t you?”

Marinette could help but pull him down to her for a kiss. He was so wonderful. “You have the best ideas ever, kitten. Let’s go.”

Having faced so many akumas at the Hotel Grande Paris before - and gee, Marinette couldn’t possibly think of a reason why so many of them occurred in Chloé’s home - she and Adrien knew plenty of side entrances and unused corridors. They were able to discreetly head for a cleaning cupboard near the back doors, transform, and slip out into the alley undetected before quickly making for the rooftops.

Their friends hadn’t gone far, and were fortunately still all together. It looked like they were all going to Nino’s house for the midnight fireworks - which made sense as, other than Adrien and Marinette, he lived the closest to the hotel. It would be easy for them to rest up there, enjoy the midnight countdown, and then get lifts home from their parents.

Alya was the first one to notice them, but her screams quickly alerted the others.

Ladybug jumped down before them, Chat by her side, and somehow hiding her smile. “Is there a problem?”

After explaining that no, they hadn't been invited to Chloé’s gala, and no, they wouldn’t have gone even if they had, Ladybug and Chat Noir pretended to let their friend persuade them to take some selfies and sign some autographs. Alix got Kim and Max on facetime, mainly to gloat to Kim that not only had she won the bet but that she had actually met the heroes, and Kim whined until Alya asked Ladybug and Chat Noir if they could join them again once Kim and Max returned to Paris. When they agreed, the twin shrieks of joy from Alix’s phone made all of them jump.

Ladybug shrieked when Chat scooped her up into his arms, bridal style. “Well, would you look at the time, folks. Got to go. Bye!”

He launched them into the air before she could do or say anything except curl up against him and wait for him to stop. What had gotten into him all of a sudden? They weren’t running for long before he stopped and set her down carefully.

“Chat?” she pulled away and pressed her hands to her hips, idly noting that he had brought them to her balcony. “What was that for?”

Chat grinned and bowed over her hand. “Because, my dearest love, it’s only five minutes to midnight.”

Ladybug spun on her heel, looking out to the countdown clock on the street, stunned that it was already 11.55 p.m. “Oh.”

He chuckled and wrapped his arms around her from behind, his breath tickling her ear. “Yes, oh indeed. Now why don’t we let Plagg and Tikki out, grab a few blankets, and cuddle up on your chair?”

To answer him she simply let her transformation drop and caught a tired Tikki in her hands. He did the same before opening her window hatch and giving a startled laugh. Marinette let out a bashful chuckle, knowing he had found the pile of blankets she had set right there just in case this happened. There was even a kwami sized sleeping bag and a plate of cookies and cheese.

“You’re amazing, my love.”

“Seconded!” Tikki squeaked as she dove on her cookies.

“Thirded!” Plagg agreed as he inhaled his cheese.

Well, she was definitely blushing now.

Adrien chuckled and wrapped a pink blanket around her shoulders, choosing his favourite quilt for himself, then wrapped a third around both of them. He sat down in her chair and pulled her into his lap. Marinette snuggled against him and gave a delighted sigh when his purr rolled out. “Best boyfriend ever!”

He asked her a few questions about the people they had met - and fake-groaned when she insisted she was calling Séréna first thing in the morning - and the next thing they knew there was a cheer from the streets. All around them they could hear people in their homes, gathered with friends, chanting the countdown.

Twenty, nineteen, eighteen, seventeen…

Marinette sat up and pulled away just enough so that she could turn and face him, tucking the blanket around them again when it slipped. If she shivered it wasn’t from the cold, but from the anticipation.

...twelve, eleven, ten…

“Make a wish mon coeur.”

… six, five, four…

“You. All I want is you.” Adrien cupped her cheek and pulled her in.

ONE!

Fireworks erupted in the sky above them but they paid them no notice and stayed wrapped in their sweet embrace. Whatever the New Year would bring them, they would face it together. Ladybug and Chat Noir. Marinette and Adrien. Perfect partners. Always.