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One Win, So Many Losses

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“Marinette? Why won’t you come inside?”

His voice was so wonderful. What a romantic scene this would have made. The rain pouring down, her standing just at the gate.

If only Gabriel hadn’t been so heartless. ‘The Brand.’ What a joke. Couldn’t he see his son was happy with her?

Apparently, happiness wasn’t something the Senior Agreste was familiar with.

“I’m sorry, Adrien.” She said softly.

“Sorry for what?”

“We…we aren’t good for each other.” The tears welled up in her eyes, despite how many times she had told herself that she wasn’t going to cry.

“What are you talking about? Of course we are! We love each other!”

She swallowed. “No…I don’t—I don’t love you anymore.” And that was as much as she could say. She hated liars. She hated lying. And she had already lied to him enough by hiding her identity. So she ran. She ran across the street and into the entrance of the Subway.

Tikki came out of her purse the moment they were cleared.

“Oh Marinette…” said she, her voice thick.

“No. Don’t talk to me like that.” She said, gathering herself. She sighed, pushing her despair away. “This isn’t over. I still love Adrien, and he loves me. I…I’m going to find a way to work this out.”

“Are you sure?”

“I’m Ladybug. I always have a solution.” She smiled at that, briefly. “I…I don’t know what that is right now. And the thought of breaking Adrien’s heart—“ She clenched her eyes shut, willing away the tide of anguish. She would not get upset. Not over this. Mr. Agreste had won, but Hawkmoth wouldn’t.

“Marinette!”

Oh god, he sounded so broken. Adrien was running towards her, desperation pouring from him. He stopped on the top of the stairs. “Marinette…you don’t really mean…?”

Oh, he was crying. Tears rolled down his cheeks, and he looked absolutely broken.

She took a shuttering breath. “You should go back inside, Adrien. You’re getting wet.”

“I don’t care. I just want you. Please, Marinette…what did I do? Why don’t you love me anymore?”

She wiped the tear that gathered at the corner of her eye. “Adrien. Listen to me very carefully. Things are going to be okay. It hurts right now, but you need to hold onto hope. We’re kids. It’s not the end of the world.”

“It’s the end of my world!” He cried. “Why can’t I be upset about this?!”

“That’s why.” She pointed above them.

He turned, and saw the black butterfly only a few feet above his head. He gasped.

“Adrien, please calm yourself.” She begged.

Meeting her eyes, he saw her plead as something more. ‘I don’t want to fight you

Although it was hard, Adrien took a deep breath and forced himself to think about something else. Ladybug was his usual happy place, so it took a little extra digging, but finally found peace in a joke that Plagg told him earlier in the day.

Things are going to be okay.

That’s what she said. That’s what Ladybug said. And he trusted her completely.

Although it was hard for him to take her at her word, especially when things seemed so bleak. But as he glanced up at the akuma, it  was higher up now, farther from them, but still lingering.

“Go home, Adrien.” Marinette commanded. “Please.”

He looked to her, and then to the akuma, “what about you?”

“I’ll watch it.”

He got the code. Once he left, she’d transform and purify it. So he really wasn’t doing them any good by standing here. “O-okay…” He swallowed again, looking at her. She was so beautiful with her hair down. It was so hard to leave.

“I’ll see you at school tomorrow, okay?”

“Yeah.” His voice was flat, and he finally pulled himself back to the house.

Inside, he glanced out the window, only to see a yo-yo fly out of the subway entrance, and capture the akuma.

Without a word to anyone, he went upstairs to his room. As he closed the door, he leaned against it and slid down to sit.

“You okay, kid?” Asked Plagg.

“No,” Adrien answered miserably. “I thought—I thought we were made for each other! First she doesn’t want Chat Noir, now she doesn’t want Adrien?! What did I do?! Am I that unloveable?!”

Plagg nuzzled his face with a purr. “I love you, Adrien. I don’t say that very often, but I mean it.”

“Thanks Plagg...that means a lot.”

“And...About Marinette,” Plagg continued. “Pigtails isn’t the type of person to break up with someone without talking out their issues. Something must of happened.”

“Yeah…like she found out I’m Chat Noir! Or she found out I know her identity and didn’t tell her!”

“Again, I think she’d want to talk it out. Just…give it some time, Adrien. If she said everything is going to be fine, then it will be.”

Adrien wiped his face with his shirt. “Sure…whatever you say. How am I supposed to face her tomorrow at school? Or tomorrow night during patrol?”

“Chat isn’t dating Ladybug, so act normal. And at school…just be friendly, and try to reassure her that she didn’t totally snap your heart over her knee and pulverize it under her heel.”

Adrien teared up again. “That’s totally what she did!”

“Okay okay…you know Ladybug, right? You know she didn’t want to do this. She was crying too.”

“Yeah well…good.”

“Don’t get bitter.”

Adrien pushed away from the door and flopped face first onto his bed. “I just wish…she had given me something else to work with. She just said ‘I don’t love you anymore’ and ran off.”

“Why don’t you play some video games or watch that anime you like so much? Get your mind off of it. Ladybug might have stopped that akuma, but who knows if Hawkmoth will send more?”

Adrien sat up, looked flatly at the TV, and sat at his desk instead. “Homework.” He gave by way of explanation. “I wish we lived in a world where I could cry and not worry about getting possessed by the Mothman.”

“Well, then I wouldn’t be here, so deal with it.”

Marinette dragged herself back to the bakery, dropping her umbrella—Adrien’s umbrella— on the floor.

“Oh darling…” Tom sighed, seeing her despair. “Did you…did you do it?”

She sighed right back, determined not to cry. “What if we were to have a secret relationship?”

“Oh cupcake. Mr. Agreste may know fashion, but he doesn’t know love. He’ll see the mistake he made. If not…you’ll only have to wait until Adrien’s 18.”

She started bawling at that.

“It was a joke! I’m sorry!”

During the last month of Adrien and Marinette dating, it had become a sort of ritual to watch them meet up at school. The girls from the class gathered at the top of the stairs, and waited, because it was always a spectacle. It was like being apart for the night was agonizing for the couple, and they reunited like they had been apart for weeks. 

“I think Marinette’s going to run to Adrien today.” Said Rose.

“I bet you five bucks that Adrien is going to run and pick her up.” Alya pointed back.

“Ugh, they’re so flashy. ‘Oh I’m in love! And not dead inside.’ I hate them.” Drawled Alix.

“Oh oh! Here comes Marinette!” Rose pointed down the sidewalk.

“And here comes Adrien, right on time.” Alya nodded to the car pulling up.

Adrien got out, and looked right to Marinette on habit.

They looked at each other. A thousand words unspoken between them. Marinette gave a quirk of a smile, and Adrien waved.

But then Marinette turned from him and ran into the school, stunning everyone.

Adrien looked like he was going to run after, but deflated, and trudged up the stairs at a slower pace.

“Uh oh, honeymoon’s over.” Alix joked, only to get elbowed by Mylene.

Alya stopped Adrien with an iron grip on his arm. “What. Did. You. Do?” She spat with venom.

Miserably, he turned to look at the girls, who were all very cross with him. “I…I don’t know. Did she say anything to you? Any of you?”

“No, we just found out something was wrong now. What is wrong?”

“I don’t know…she came to my house yesterday, and said…that it was over, and she didn’t love me anymore.” As he talked, his voice raised, and he swallowed back a sob.

What?!” The girls shouted in unison.

“I’m going to murder her!” Screamed Rose. “All that time! All those plans! For a month! A measly month! I subscribed to Adrienette for a lifetime!”

Adrien shuttered again, his shoulders shaking. “I-I did too.”

Alya reached out and hugged him. “Oh Sunshine…there has to be a misunderstanding somewhere. Just yesterday she was showing me the binder with all of her wedding plans in it.”

“She planned our wedding? Was it beautiful?” He croaked.

“Shh. You know how Marinette gets. Sometimes she overthinks, and she comes up with the worst case scenario. I’ll talk to her, and we’ll get this all figured out.”

He nodded, desperate for a fix.

Meanwhile, someone else overheard the whole conversation, and went to confront Marinette in the locker room.

“Dupain-Cheng!” Chloe shouted, startling those lingering around.

Marinette groaned. “Not today, Chloe.”

But Chloe wouldn’t have that. She slammed the locker door closed, nearly taking Marinette’s fingers off. “You want to explain to me what you’re doing, breaking Adrien’s heart like that?”

Marinette looked away, unable to reply. But she was keenly aware of all the other students around.

“I saw him out there with the other girls. He was crying, Marinette. Crying. He hasn’t cried since his mother died! And if you don’t explain to me what the hell you’re thinking, I swear to God I will exile your whole family to Easter Island!”

“Chloe…” Marinette sniffed.

“Nah uh! Don’t you cry to get sympathy from me! It’s not gonna work!”

Marinette looked around, the other students still watching conspicuously. She debated with herself. Actually, if anyone would understand, it would be Chloe.

She shuttered and grabbed Chloe by the arm. “Not here.”

They made their way over to a janitors closet, and flicked on the light. Marinette made sure they weren’t followed and then closed the door.

Chloe crossed her arms, giving Marinette a look. “Alright, spill. I thought you liked Adrien?”

“I do. I love him…”

“That’s not what he said! He said you showed up, called it off, said you didn’t love him anymore, and ran off!”

Marinette was thankful he hadn’t mentioned the akuma. That was already complicated.

“So what? Is he not good enough for you?”

“He is!”

“Not rich enough!?”

“Chloe…” Marinette started to cry. This was so hard to talk about in the first place, and she wasn’t making it any easier. “I didn’t want to…”

“Did want to what? Break his heart? Because you did. And I’m five seconds from breaking your face!” She raised a fist.

“Okay! I’ll tell you! Just—don’t tell Adrien, okay?”

“No promises!”

“Gabriel told me to!” She blurted.

And just like that, Chloe’s anger was redirected. “What?”

“Gabriel…well, Nathalie with an iPad, came to the bakery yesterday. He said…he said me dating Adrien was ruining the Gabriel brand…and I had to break up with him or—“ She sobbed. “—Or he’d pull Adrien out of school and he’d never see his friends again! And I—I know how important school, you, Nino, and all the others are to him…so I…I let him go.”

Chloe dropped her fist and her jaw. “Marinette…”

“You can’t tell anyone! Not even Adrien!”

“But why not?! He deserves to know!”

“He—He should be angry at me! His relationship with his father is already unstable…I don’t want to be the reason it falls apart completely…and if anyone was to find out I was blackmailed…it would look really bad on Adrien.”

Chloe groaned. “Ugh, you are such a good person!”

“I’m not though…I hurt the person I love the most in the whole world…in the most painful way. I made him cry…” She barely managed to whisper.

“This is so ridiculous. Utterly ridiculous! As much as I hate to admit it, Adrien was really happy with you! Happier than I’ve seen in a long time…and for Gabriel to ruin that for…for what? I don’t think you’re doing anything wrong. If you were a bad kid or an attention whore, maybe…but you’re not. This is so stupid.”

“It is,” Marinette whispered. “And I’m trying to find the loophole.”

Chloe crossed her arms. “Well. I’m telling Sabrina. And we’re going to figure out a plan to fix this mess. Because as much I dislike you, I dislike seeing Adrien upset even more. So I’m willing to put our differences behind us, and kick Gabriel’s ass.”

“Thanks Chloe. That means a lot.”

“Don’t get used to it.”

Marinette managed a smile. “I know Adrien will appreciate it too.”

“Yeah, well he better. Anyways, go out and have the most awkward day of your life.”

It truly was, the most awkward day.

As far as explanation, she hadn’t offered more than a shrug and ‘feelings change’ as an answer.

That wasn’t good enough, by the death glares she was receiving from her classmates. It seemed the story had made its way over to the boys side as well. Everyone was angry, except for Chloe and Adrien.

But boy, did he look heartbroken.

They didn’t talk at all. And she couldn’t stand to look at him. Marinette knew the atmosphere they had created was volatile and potent, but she didn’t know how to clear the air.

Sometime after lunch, she couldn’t take it any longer. So she stood in front of the room, took a deep breath, and cleared her throat to get everyone’s attention.

Well, she got it. And she was almost crushed under the weight of their anger.

Gabriel had no idea what he messed with.

“Hi,” she said, her heart in her throat. “I guess…everyone knows now. And I know you all want an explanation…and…I’m sorry. I can’t give it to you. I know that’s even more frustrating. But…I’m begging all of you…to let it go.”

“After all you put us through to help you get him, you’re stupid to think we’d just ‘let this go’!” Alix shouted. “I hate mushy stuff, but you guys were so annoying before! I think we all deserve an explanation!”

“You do,” Marinette confirmed with a whisper. She clenched her eyes shut tight, trying not to cry. “But I can’t. I’m not asking you to forgive me. I’m asking you to let go of your anger. For Ladybug and Chat Noir’s sake. They’ve fought almost everyone in this room. Don’t make them do it again.”

With that, she took her seat again.

Adrien turned around, and gave her his soft eyes. “That was really brave, Marinette.”

She blushed, and found herself leaning towards him. “Thank you, Adrien.” But she stopped herself, and sat back, looking away from him.

After school, she was quick to run from school before questions could be asked, or before Alya could corner her. She ran home, greeting her mother in the bakery with a kiss.

“Survive alright?” she asked.

Marinette sighed. “Just barely. If anyone comes, I don’t want to talk. I didn’t tell anyone what Mr. Agreste did, so they all think I’m a monster for breaking Adrien’s heart.”

“Alright darling,” Sabine said, kissing her head. “I’ll tell anyone that you’re grounded, and that we’ve taken your phone. We’ll fix this mess.”

Marinette wasn’t quite sure how that was going to happen now, now that everyone knew and was mad at her. Short of throwing Gabriel under the bus, which was looking increasingly tempting, she wasn’t sure what to do to make this all better. The damage had been done. And even if she took it back, she’d be seen as fickle. It was a lose-lose situation.

“I think I’ll tell Chat tonight.” She mused aloud.

“Chat? Are you sure thats a good idea?”

“I’ve got to tell someone! Someone who isn’t Chloe! I’ll spare some details, for identity sake, but he’s my best friend and I trust him with my life. If there’s anyone I can talk to, it’s him.”

Tikki didn’t look so sure. Although she didn’t know that Adrien knew Marinette’s identity, she did know who he was. And he’d probably figure her out if she gave a few clues.

“But…you know Chat’s still pretty in love with you. Do you think that’s fair to him?”

“Yes, Chat loves me. But he’s there when I need a friend, and he’s pretty clever. He’ll at least be someone I can bounce ideas off of.”

Tikki winced, realizing she was losing the argument. “If you’re sure…”

Marinette spent the next several hours doing homework, or at least trying to. Her phone sat nearby on her desk, and buzzed with several messages from classmates. She was just lucky that she could only read the first few words.

 

Alya: Lila was right about you…

Nino: You’re my friend, but…

Sabrina: Chloe gave me the low-down…

Rose: How could you do this to…

Alya: So this was a giant waste…

Nino: He’s just really upset…

Alya: I think I deserve some closure…

Rose: You’re better than this…

Alya: You’re not even going…

 

Adrien: I’m sorry.

Adrien: I love you.

Adrien: I always will.

 

Tikki took Marinette’s phone away, and turned it off. “You’re torturing yourself. This isn’t your fault, Marinette.”

“I can’t help but feel like it is.” Marinette shrugged.

“Sure. With everyone telling you it is, that’s only natural. But I’m telling you, this isn’t your fault. Not at all. I’m older than everyone, and I’ve been in your purse through it all. You didn’t do anything wrong. You are stuck between a rock and a hard place.”

Marinette took a deep breath, and agreed. “Okay. I believe you.”

Patrol came too soon for Adrien, and not soon enough for Marinette.

Friday night patrol started at a rooftop overlooking Place de la Concorde, a busy plaza during the day, and a pick pocket haven at night.

Though in the cold mist, there wasn’t that many people out anyway.

Chat was already there when Ladybug arrived. He sat at the edge of the roof, his shoulders hunched up in the cold. His ears were flat to his head, and his tail lifeless on the rooftop.

“Alright,” said Ladybug with a sigh. “I know why I’m bummed, but what’s got you upset?”

Chat hunched more, in a shrug, but didn’t look at her. “Life.”

She sat next to him with a sigh. They were almost touching, but just enough space to breathe. “Not gonna elaborate?”

He was quiet before finally confessing, “I broke up with my girlfriend. Or…she broke up with me.”

Ladybug’s eyes widened. “You had a girlfriend? I thought you were still tragically in love with me.”

“I am. Tragically.”

“Oh…” she sighed.

“Look, I don’t really want to talk about it. What…what about you? You said you’re bummed?”

She grimaced. “Well…if you’re upset, I don’t really want to dump on you.”

“No My Lady, I’d rather think about someone else’s problems for a while.” Because her problems were hopefully his problems, and he’d finally get some answers. “Hit me with your best shot.”

She let out a massive sigh, then laid back, her fingers intwined on her stomach. “Well…ironically. I broke up with my boyfriend.”

“Mr. Perfect? Why? Did you find out he’s not so perfect after all?” There was true melancholy in his voice, that he hoped she wouldn’t pick up on.

“That’s not it at all…he’s…he’s so perfect…” Her voice wavered. “…I love him so much.”

Chat watched with a twisting heart as his Lady unraveled. It started out as sniffles, and then she brought her hands up to cover her face as tears started to roll. Then more fell, until she was a sobbing wreck.

A sick part of Adrien wanted to be pleased seeing her upset. She broke his heart!

But he didn’t feel any satisfaction at all. He felt worse. Because he still loved her abundantly.

“All I ever wanted--…he was my weakness, Chat. I loved him more than I ever loved someone. I worked so hard to get him to notice me. Every second we were together…I felt like I was home. I felt…completely at ease, and still incredibly nervous. I was always afraid I’d say something wrong…but then he’d smile at me, and my heart would feel so full.” She wiped her cheeks in vain, and pushed off the ground. “I hurt him…so severely, Chat. I made him cry…even if I could take it all back, even if I could explain it all…I could never undo the hurt I caused him.” She hugged herself. “He would forever wonder if I’d just up and leave him again.” Then she added with a whisper, “he’s lost enough.”

Chat watched with a hole in his chest, as tears gathered in his own eyes. “So…what did happen? If you love him so much…was it because you’re Ladybug?”

“No,” her voice was just a whisper, as she sniffed again, desperate to get ahold of herself. “By that logic, I would have cut all ties to everyone in my life…” she shook her head. “It’s…it’s so stupid Chat.”

He just waited patiently for her to explain. Explain that she thought they were incompatible, too different, or something like that.

“His father came to my house.” She began.

With just that much, Adrien’s stomach dropped into his shoes.

“He came to say…that I was a bad influence on him, and I was a…an affront to the family name. He demanded that I stop seeing him, or…or he’d pull his son from school and he’d never see his friends again.”

Chat’s jaw dropped as he stared at her, unable to say a word.

“And he…he made me do the dirty work! He made me break up with Ad-…er, my boyfriend. He didn’t forbid him himself! He blackmailed me! And…” She gave up trying to fight the tears wetting her face. “And I can’t tell him about any of this, because his father is all the family he has left and I can’t ruin that for him!” She clapped her hands over her face as emotion took control.

Chat was crying too, for other reasons.

“You really love me that much?” He whispered.

She still heard it. She turned to look at him. “W-what?”

“Marinette…”

Her eyes widened as she started to scoot away from him. “No…no you can’t…I said too much! I said too much and now I—I’ve messed this all up! All I do is make mistakes!” She wailed.

Chat was quick to follow her, reaching out to take hold of her wrist. “No My Lady…shh it’s okay.”

“It’s not okay Chat! You know who I am! I’ll have to give up my Miraculous!”

His hold was gentle, as he lightly tugged on her to keep her from running from him. “Marinette…I knew a while ago.”

She swallowed. “How…how long?”

“About a month. You left me a gift in my room, and you signed it as yourself.”

“But you weren’t—“ Her eyes blew wide as she frantically pulled her arm away. “No no no! Chat! You can’t tell me who you are! I’m not supposed to know!”

“And Master Fu is going to take them back now?” He demanded. “After all of this? All of our training? He’d start from scratch?”

Ladybug didn’t know the answer to that question, so she just sat there, trembling. “I…I don’t know what to do. I’m supposed to have a solution for everything, but I just keep messing things up.”

“Plagg, Claws in.”

Ladybug shielded her eyes against the flash of green.

And then when she opened them, she was greeted with the beautiful sight of her ex-boyfriend. Clad in pajamas, with dark bags around his eyes…crying. Again.

“My Lady…”

“Adrien…I’m so sorry I hurt you. I never wanted to, but—he twisted my arm and I—“

“I want to see you.” He whispered back. “Please Bugaboo.”

That name was so jarring coming from his mouth. But none the less, she dropped her transformation. It was hard to say no to him. The night breeze was a lot cooler without the suit, and she shivered.

“Come here,” he beckoned, opening his arms.

She shook her head. “No. I don’t deserve a hug. I broke your heart, I revealed my identity, I ruined your relationship with your father—“

He pressed a finger to her lips. “Okay, stop. Shut up.” He said, his tone harsher.

She did as he asked, staring in shock and a little curiosity.

“Marinette, my relationship with my father has pretty much always been bad. Especially since my mom disappeared. You could have told me, I would have understood. But still, you made the best choice with what you had, and yeah…it hurt, but knowing that you…you knew how important being with everyone was for me, and put that above your own happiness?” He closed his eyes, letting the tears just fall, as he was overwhelmed with emotion. “It floors me Marinette. I…I always thought you were amazing. Even before I found out who you were. Knowing that you were Ladybug was just…the final piece clicking together. This month has been the most fun I’ve had in a long time, and every day I fell deeper and deeper in love with you.” He took hold of her hands, feeling the softness of her skin against his own. He brought one up to his lips, and kissed her knuckles. “Marinette, you’re it for me. I know I still have a lot to learn about love and life…but I want to learn it all with you by my side.”

Her heart was melting, and she could barely speak. “Are you sure?”

“Of course, Bugaboo!” He pulled her in, silencing her anxieties and self doubts with a kiss. Lips warm and soft on each other, with salted tears tasted between. He wrapped his arms around her, his fingers clawing into her back, desperately clinging to her.

It took only a half a second for Marinette to melt into the kiss. She missed him. Just as she did every night when they said goodbye. Seeing each other at school, and for the briefest of chaperoned dates was just not enough. They couldn’t be affectionate like this. A prolonged hug here, a chaste kiss there.

But this was different. This was pure raw emotion. Propriety be damned!

Marinette wrapped her arms around his shoulders, her fingers running through his hair. She eagerly caught up to his kisses, meeting him with an open mouth and a bleeding heart.

They pulled away for a moment, just staring at each other, before breaking into a fresh round of tears and kissing again.

Plagg, who had watched the display with some sort of disgust, opened his moth to speak. But thankfully, Tikki shushed him and led him away to give them privacy.

Adrien ran his hands down her sides, admiring her curves.

She hummed into the kiss, making him respond with a moan of his own.

His tongue darted out shyly, just to tease her lips. She shivered, and responded in kind.

He pushed on, capturing her tongue and sucking on it, sending goosebumps down both of their spines.

“Mari…” he whispered, before going back for another sinful kiss.

“Now I’m hooked.” She giggled, racing to match his lips. “I’ll never…be able…to stop…”

“My plan worked then.” He grinned back. “You’re mine again.”

She pulled him in for a fierce kiss and then pulled away with a smack. “Then what do we do about your father? He said he was going to pull you out of school…”

“Oh my lady, don’t worry. I’ll take care of everything.” He kissed her cheek.

“What if just Ladybug and Chat Noir dated?”

“Im-paw-isble, I can’t keep my hands off of you now!” He purred, giving a gentle pat to her rear.

She squeaked, and returned the favor a little harsher. “You better!”

“Hmm…I’ll think about it.” Then he kissed her again.

The next day was Saturday, thankfully. And Adrien stood outside his fathers office, with an armful of ammunition (selflessly provided by Sabrina and Chloe, of all people.)

“You ready?” Asked Plagg, playing hype man.

“Ready as I’ll ever be.”

“I believe in you.” The Kwami stated, before swooping into his shirt.

Adrien took a deep breath of courage and opened the door with gusto.

Maybe a little too much gusto, considering it slammed against the wall.

“Adrien!?” Gabriel barked, startled.

“Father,” Adrien said calmly.

“Where are your manners? I’m busy. Please check with Nathalie if you need to speak with me.”

“That won’t be necessary.” Adrien said, practicing his father’s own behavior. “I’m just here to let you know that I’m going over to my girlfriend’s house to play video games and eat cookies.”

Gabriel frowned, his lip twitching in a dangerous way. A way that sent a shiver down Adrien’s spine. This man would blow up at any second.

“Interesting. I thought you and Miss Dupain-Cheng were broken up.” He kept his tone neutral.

“Interesting indeed, considering I never mentioned that to you.”

Gabriel’s eyes widened slightly, acknowledging he had been caught.

Adrien attempted to stroll casually into the room, coming closer to his father’s work station. “You see, I have from a reliable source, which is not Marinette or her family, that you told her she was a blight on the brand.”

Gabriel was not dissuaded. “That is correct, Adrien. However fond you are of Miss Dupain-Cheng, your behavior with her has been inappropriate and against what Gabriel stands for. More so, you are the face of Gabriel, and your relationship is a turn off of all the young women who like to pretend you’re eligible. You are getting bad publicity.”

“Oh, you mean like this?” Adrien took out the first article, from Vogue, titled ‘Adrienette sweetest couple of the year’. “Or perhaps this one?” One from People ‘Adrien Agreste and his new girlfriend are the couple we want our kids to be’.

“Those are two. There’s been stories all over the Internet.”

“Of course. I thought you might say that, so that’s why I have these.” And he dropped a stack of papers into Gabriel’s hands. Hundreds of articles, from nobody publications, to household names. Credible sources and even some questionable magazines. The results were in.

Adrienette was ‘cute’.

Gabriel didn’t say anything, couldn’t say anything to argue against it.

Then he flipped the script. “Well, profits have been down this quarter—“

“Actually, they haven’t.” Corrected Adrien, a bit too smugly. “They’re actually up.” He dug out another picture. “You remember this jacket, right?” He held up a design. A silk bomber jacket with teal and blue lining, with a peacock feather embroidered on the back.

“Ugh, yes. We barely broke even with that one. Apparently it was an ‘insensitive’ design in the wake of Mayura.”

“Well, two weeks ago, I wore that jacket out on a date, and Marinette got cold, so I let her borrow it. The tabloids got a picture of us together and…it sold out in 48 hours.”

Gabriel’s jaw dropped “What?”

“Yeah. Apparently, girls wanted to look like her. Imagine that. The same thing happened with a blouse I got her for our two weekaversary. Over all, people love her…the only one who doesn’t, is you.”

Gabriel fell silent.

“Which I’m having a hard time understanding. You thought she was talented, right? Audrey Bourgeois thought so too. So…can we talk about this? Why don’t you like her?”

How to answer that question? Because truly, he did like Marinette. Everyone liked her, that’s why she would be such a good akuma. She was a very nice, polite, reserved girl. The kind of girl that he didn’t mind Adrien dating. She came from good stock, since he had met Tom and Sabine in person for several events they catered for. She was also extremely talented for being so young.

Gabriel decided to take the easy way out and blame someone else. “It seems that my intel was incorrect. Very well, I see no further reason that you and Miss Dupain-Cheng shouldn’t date. You may go.”

“Ahem.” Adrien said, crossing his arms.

“What is it? I already gave you permission—“

“You owe Marinette an apology.”

Gabriel blinked. “Are you serious?”

“Completely. She was absolutely heartbroken. If you want a good relationship with your future daughter in law, you better apologize.”

“Future daughter—“ he scoffed. “Fine. Nathalie, if you would escort Adrien to the Dupain-Cheng Bakery?”

“Nuh-Uh,” Adrien protested. “You’re coming and doing it in person.”

Gabriel rolled his eyes. “Now you’re just being dramatic.”

“Oh, am I? Fine. Then I quit modeling.”

“What!?” Barked Gabriel.

“You heard me. Apologize to Marinette in person, or I quit modeling.”

“Now be reasonable! You’d throw your career away for a girl?!”

“For this girl? In a heartbeat.”

Gabriel blinked at the response, then sighed massively. “You know what? Fine. I will go apologize in person. If that will make you happy.”

“It would, father.”

“And when you inevitably break up with her, I expect you to apologize to me.”

“I bet you 50 dollars I marry her.”

Gabriel looked at him flatly. “You think I’m the kind of man to gamble?”

“Either you are, or you’re a chicken.”

Gabriel rolled his eyes. “Since you’re so taken with this flight of immaturity, I’ll see your bet. If you are still seeing Miss Dupain-Cheng in 4 years, I will give you 50,000 dollars to put towards your wedding. But if you break up, you never quit modeling, and you date the girl I pick for you.”

“Deal!”   

“Then let’s get this over with.” Gabriel saved his document and walked out of the office.

A part of Adrien wondered if this was real life, but the rest of him was too excited to contemplate it.

The ride to the bakery was awkward. Gabriel was the silent type, and so he said nothing, just looked out the window. In most things, he considered Adrien too young to understand what was good for him.

But with Marinette, he did seem very enamored. Gabriel considered their relationship if it were to be permanent. How would it factor into his plans? Would she ruin anything?

What would Emilie think of her?

Gabriel smiled as he imagined his wife awake again, and gushing over the girl. “Oh Adrien!” she’d say, “She’s so cute! You’ve picked a great girl!”

“What are you smiling about, Father?” Adrien asked innocently.

Gabriel considered lying, but he blurted out instead, “just thinking about how your mother would react to finding out you had a girlfriend.”

Adrien smiled too, though it was sad. “Mom would love Marinette.”

Then they arrived at the bakery, and Gabriel got out of the car, standing tall.

The Gorilla opened the door, and ushered them in.

Tom and Sabine looked up at the sound of the door opening, but at the sight of Gabriel, they both frowned. Tom slammed down a baking sheet, making a large rattling noise. “I thought I told you to never come back!”

Adrien flinched at Tom’s shout, never hearing the man so angry before (except when he was akumatized, that is.)

“You did.” Gabriel nodded, unperturbed. “And I will leave and never come back. But I made a mistake, and I’m here to correct it. May I have a word with your daughter?”

“I’ll go get her!” Adrien chirped, scampering off up the stairs.

Tom took off his apron, and slammed it in the waste bin. He wasn’t hiding his displeasure at all.

Sabine was silent, just crossing her arms and staring at Gabriel.

Gabriel himself just stood patiently, impassive.

Finally, Adrien dragged Marinette back downstairs by the hand, and then pushed her to stand in front of his father.

“A-Adrien said…you had something you wanted to tell me?” She said shyly.

“Yes,” Gabriel cleared his throat. “You know how protective I am of Adrien, correct?”

“Yes sir…”

“An anonymous party came to me with false information and told me you and Adrien were taken to inappropriate behavior in public. I took them at their word instead of doing my own research. More so, I was extremely upset to hear this, because I admire you so much, Miss Dupain-Cheng.”

Marinette’s eyes blew wide and her jaw went slack.

“I’m sorry for what I said. And even if the information I had was true, the way I went about forbidding you to date Adrien was wrong. I shouldn’t have made you responsible for breaking up with him. It was unfair to both of you. I give you my full blessing to be in a relationship with my son, if you’ll have him.”

Marinette continued to stare slack-jawed.

“Mr. and Mrs. Dupain-Cheng, I hope you can forgive me too. I acted impulsively and hurt your family, as well as my own.”

Tom spoke up first, a soft smile replacing his sour frown. “Mr. Agreste, I can understand doing crazy things to protect our kids. I accept your apology.”

Sabine breathed a sigh of relief. “Would you like to stay for lunch?”

“I’m afraid I must get back to work. But Adrien would love to join you.”

“Really?!” Beamed Adrien.

“Yes, I expect you home by 10.”

“Yes! Okay! Deal!”

He looked back at Marinette who seemed to be coming out of her shock. “I expect great things from you, Marinette.” And with a final nod, he left.

Marinette finally snapped out of it when Adrien grabbed her around the waist and spun her around. “My Princess!” He laughed.

Marinette giggled freely as Tom scooped them both up into his arms and squeezed them.

“Adrienette is alive!!”

Monday morning, the girl squad assembled at the top of the stairs. Although their ship had sunk, it seemed that old habits die hard.   

“Well, here comes Adrien,” Alix noted glumly, pointing to the car.

“And here comes Marinette.” Alya gestured to the girl walking up the sidewalk.

“Oh I can’t bare to watch!” Cried Rose, burying her face in Juleka’s shoulder.

But they were all stunned when the unexpected happened.

Adrien stepped out of the car and spotted Marinette. He beamed and opened his arms wide. “My Lady!”

“My Prince!” Marinette shouted, dropping her backpack to the ground. Then she ran at full speed and launched at him, leaping into his arms and wrapping her legs around his waist. They laughed as everyone around them gaped in shock.

“Well…I guess everything worked out.” Alix shrugged.

Alya sighed. “I don’t have the emotional stamina to be invested in this ship anymore.”

Rose sighed too, though it was more happy as she rested her hands on her heart. “I think they’re precious.”

Marinette stole a smooch before detangling herself from her boy. She grabbed her backpack, and hand in hand, they walked up the stairs.

Alya barred their entrance, arms crossed. “I demand answers. Now. What happened?”

Adrien shrugged. “My dad’s a jerk and Marinette took the fall to try to help with our relationship. In the end, she confessed what happened, I talked to my dad, he apologized, and he’s going to pay for our wedding in 4 years.”

Alya blinked, trying to understand all the information he dumped out.

“Wait so…you’re all good? You still love each other?”

Adrien placed his cheek on Marinette’s, gathering her close to him. “Doesn’t it look like we’re in loooovvveeeee?”

She rolled her eyes. “Fine. But this better not become a thing. I don’t think my heart could take it.”

He kissed Marinette’s cheek. “Oh I couldn’t take it either.”

4 years later

Hawkmoth’s plans had gone to shit. All his hard work, his strategy, his sacrifices…it had all been for naught.

All because of his son and Marinette Dupain-Cheng.

Never before did he regret an apology as much as the one he gave to her.

But…Adrien was happy. So there was at least a little silver lining in all of this.

Prison wasn’t so bad. Far from a 5 star hotel, at least he was able to relax now. Ladybug had found a way to wake Emilie up…not that she would talk to him ever again.

In ten years, he’d try to talk to them all. Maybe they would be calmed down enough by then. Maybe they’d see how sad and lonely he’d been. How lost he was without her.

But today was visiting day, and Adrien said he was coming. Something important he needed to talk about. So Gabriel sat at the table, surrounded by guards, and anxiously waited.

Soon enough, Adrien came in, a smug smile on his lips, with Marinette in tow.

Gabriel offered a half-smile by way of greeting.

“Marinette and I have been dating for 4 years.” Adrien said proudly.

“Congratulations.” Gabriel furrowed his brows, sensing there was more to this.

Marinette held out her hand, which sported a gorgeous diamond ring.

Adrien gave a malicious smirk. “Time to pony up, Butterfly boy!”