Adrien had been surprised that his friends had sent him videos to encourage him on the anniversary of his mom's disappearance. So, he made that video thanking them and apologizing for somehow not getting their videos. Later on, after his aunt and cousin went home, he was cleaning up his phone's camera roll to free up some space for new photos of Ladybug and his friends. After he deleted the photos that were honestly duplicates or bad angles, he went into the 'Recently Deleted' folder to finish the clean-up. Oddly enough, there was more than just the photos he'd deleted.
Frowning, he tapped one to find that it was a video from Nino. He put everything together and mentally cursed his cousin and their unusual similarity in appearance. It especially made sense when he found the video of 'him' that had been sent to his friends. Sighing tiredly, he restored the videos of his friends and permanently deleted the photos and video of his cousin.
He got a laugh out of Rose's message, and the rest were moving or at least made him smile. Finally, he came to Marinette's message and her declaration of love left him speechless. It was a several minutes before he re-watched the video to make sure he heard right.
So many things went through his mind as he tried to process this new information. Like, how long had she been in love with him? Was that why she turned into a blubbering mess around him for so long? And some of the crazy ways he's bumped into her. The way she reacted to him making a present for her birthday.
With that in mind, he searched through his phone contacts and found Marinette's number. He smiled and texted her.
You doing anything later? Was his message. The 'typing' message flashed across his screen for a solid five minutes as she probably typed and deleted the same reply multiple times.
Yeah, I'm baking, she sent, but then the typing message popped up again. Not that I can't hang out! Just making some stuff for the fundraiser. She added.
Mind if I join you? He texted her back. The reply was even longer in coming than her first response, and he hoped she hadn't combusted or something.
Sure! She finally replied and he wrote a note for Nathalie before sneaking out. He headed over to Marinette's and knocked on the door.
"Hello, Adrien!" Sabine greeted him. "Marinette's in the bakery kitchen," she told him and he went to the space. Marinette was kneading a slab of dough that seemed larger than she should have been able to manage. She had a karaoke style song playing on her phone as she worked.
"Un altro posto come questo no non c’è," she sang with the music, chopping a bit of dough and shaping it. "Il Paradiso è un sorriso," she continued, tossing the shaped dough onto a tray. "Il resto poi verrà da sé, E’ un’isola incantata che ognuno ha dentro sé!" her knife made a resounding noise as it landed on the board with the beat. "Che aspetta solo no."
Adrien couldn't help but smile as he watched her work.
"Sotto la pioggia o col sole…Canta la nostra tribù! Te quiero, Mambochiwambo, I love You! E quando viene--" she broke off as she turned to put her suddenly full tray aside and screamed. Fortunately for the pastries, she didn't fumble them.
"Sorry to startle you," he laughed. "Was that Italian?"
"Yeah," she laughed. "Speaking of…Hey Siri! Play Rock Giant at fifty percent volume," she instructed her phone and a robotic voice confirmed the instructions before the music changed. "You wanna help with these pastries?"
"Sure. I've never baked before though," he admitted.
"I'll tell you what to do," she assured him, sliding her tray onto a rack.
"Don't those go in the oven?" he questioned.
"They need to rest from being handled before baking," she explained, picking up her knife again. "To start off, go wash up! There's a station over there," she told him, pointing her knife towards a sink before she started chopping the dough. Adrien nodded and washed his hands and arms. He also snatched up an apron from a hook and put it on to try and protect his clothes.
"All right…now what?"
"Try and copy this," she said lightly and picked up a bit of dough. He watched carefully as she spun it and folded it into a shape. He swallowed nervously and tried to copy her motions. It was a little rough, but there was very little difference between her pastry and his, and that made him proud. She smiled and they filled tray after tray with the pastries.
"So…," he started when she pushed the rack of trays towards the ovens.
"What's up?" she asked, putting a tray into the oven.
"I found the videos you guys sent me the other day," he sighed. "My cousin didn't cover his tracks all that well…"
"S-So…you saw my…," she trailed off, blushing as she put two more trays into the oven and set a timer.
"Yeah…and that means that you only said that you were joking at the museum because you were embarrassed…"
"More like mortified," she muttered. "And I've been trying to forget that whole incident…"
"So…," she paused, taking a deep breath. "Look…I already know you have feelings for someone else. I just had to get it out of my system."
He started to argue, but he had told her that he was in love with someone. She probably assumed it was Kagami, after the ice-skating fiasco. And he knew that Kagami liked him and his father wanted him to date her.
"Please don't make this awkward, Adrien," she sighed, cutting him off. "I…I've come to terms with it already. I want to stay friends though." She turned away from him and went to the sink to clean up.
"And…if I want to be more than friends?" he asked softly. Marinette didn't even glance at him, even when she finished cleaning her arms and drying off. The timer went off and she turned to get the trays from the oven, setting them on a counter and immediately putting more trays into the oven. He watched her methodically transfer the pastries to waiting trays to cool properly. The look on her face was almost like the familiar expression Ladybug donned while coming up with one of her crazy plans for her random Lucky Charms.
"What about Kagami?" she asked at last.
"She's a good friend," he said simply. To his surprise, she slammed a tray down and outright glared at him.
"Then you shouldn't lead her on!" she shouted at him. "She seriously believes you like her! You know that she wants to be with you, right?" He nodded dumbly.
"Well, yeah…," he mumbled. "But…"
"But? But what? It wasn't too difficult for you to tell me that you were in love with someone else. She thinks you're invested in a potential relationship with her, you know."
"What?" he gasped, shocked at that. He had already told Kagami that he 'wouldn't switch targets'.
"Maybe you should clear the air with her before you try and start something with me," she snapped. "Like I said. I just had to get the confession out of my system. I came to terms with the fact that I got the nerve up too late. And here she is, determined that she has a chance with you."
"I already told her that I was in love with someone else," he tried defending himself.
"And yet you go to events with her in matching outfits and out of every friend, you make more time for her than any of us."
"What does wearing matching outfits have to do with anything?"
"It's a way of telling photographers that you're dating someone at events like that," she sighed.
"My father arranges our attire for those events though…," he grumbled. "And Kagami's the only friend that he doesn't push for Nathalie to cancel plans with."
"So, let her know that little titbit," she sighed. "Because at this point even our friends think that you're dating her."
"Oh…I didn't realize…"
"Obviously…," she muttered. "You're oblivious and it's adorable, but only until people start getting hurt."
He swallowed a little and nodded. They finished the baking in silence.
Adrien quickly cleared things up with Kagami and apologized for accidentally leading her on. After their mid-term exams were finished. He was planning to talk to Marinette, because he had in fact realized that he really did want to be more than 'just friends' with her. He'd even mentioned to Ladybug while they were on patrol that he was re-examining his feelings and that he was just in love with her qualities, and he'd met someone that shared those qualities and actually returned his feelings.
But when he planned to talk to Marinette, everything went wrong. It started in Mme Bustier's class, where she handed out the results of the exams and asked to see Marinette after school. The same happened in all of their other classes, though Mme Mendeleev demanded that Lila stay after class as they were all filing out. Concerned, Adrien listened in on the teacher speaking with Lila.
"Is something wrong, Mme?" Lila asked cordially.
"Yes, Lila. Why are you purposefully trying to fail my class?"
"What? I'm just struggling to catch up after being out of town for so long…"
"Statistically speaking, the only way to succeed in getting a zero in any exam is to either not answer any of the questions or to know all the correct answers," the teacher sighed. "Therefore, I'll be having you re-take my exam after school and I'll be watching you very closely during it." Adrien frowned and went to find Marinette. If Lila was purposefully failing tests, she had to have been plotting something.
"Hey, dude!" Nino greeted him as he entered the quad, where his friends were all gathered discussing their scores. He saw Chloé off to the side, griping at Sabrina over something, but he ignored that. "How'd you do on the exams so far?"
"Pretty good. All in the nineties…though according to my father the scores would be terrible. Um…Marinette, can we talk really quick? In private?"
"Sure," she sighed, probably catching his concern. They went to the locker room and he sighed tiredly. "What's wrong? Did you talk to Kagami?"
"Yeah, I talked to her…and I talked to the girl I was crushing on…but that's not what I wanted to talk about," he groaned. "I think Lila's up to something. She got a zero in Mme Mendeleev's exam…"
"And it was multiple choice…to get a zero she would have had to not answer anything or know the right answers…," she mumbled. "I wonder--" she broke off, eyes wide. Her expression morphed into a scowl. "Took her long enough."
"What do you mean?"
"Remember when she came back and we agreed to leave it alone…let her tangle herself up?" He nodded. "Well…I didn't tell you this…but I almost got Akumatized that day. She literally cornered me in the bathroom and threatened to destroy my friendships and reputation…"
"What?!" he gasped.
"Yeah…she hasn't been doing anything major…just getting herself in deep with all the lies…literally one or two phone calls would unravel everything…at this point I'm just waiting for her to either make a short term promise she can't keep or get her into a situation where she calls herself out accidentally. But if she's trying something big with the exams…I'm going to go see what Mme Bustier wanted to talk to me about." She hurried out of the locker room and up to their homeroom. When Adrien returned to the quad, everyone had gone to the cafeteria for lunch.
The area was empty except for Lila waiting outside their classroom. He frowned and pulled out his phone, turning the camera on and pushing record as Marinette came out of the classroom, looking serious. He couldn't hear, but it looked like Marinette tried to reason with Lila, telling her something with a smug expression. Lila retorted something and proceeded to walk down the stairs. As soon as Marinette was at the top of the stairs about to ask what Lila was doing, the Italian posed on the floor and cried out in what anyone else would assume was pain.
Adrien frowned and ended the recording. Teachers and students all hurried to the quad, the principal included. Questions were asked and Marinette was accused of pushing Lila down the stairs. Oddly enough, no one suggested calling for an ambulance, and Adrien took that as a cue to rush forward.
"That was quite the tumble, Lila!" he exclaimed. "Sorry I wasn't near enough to catch you," he continued, levelling a look at her that he hoped told her that he saw everything. "We should get you to the nurse and some ice on your ankle! Maybe even get you to the hospital to have some x-rays taken."
"T-The hospital won't be necessary," she argued. "B-but you're right about ice…"
He helped her up, purposefully on the opposite side to the ankle she'd been holding and claiming to have hurt. She paid no heed to that and hobbled along with him to the nurse, favouring her 'injured' leg. While no one was looking, she glared at him as if to say he shouldn't say anything. He simply smirked at her and went to get the ice.
"That wasn't cool, Marinette!" he heard Alya scold Marinette.
"They all believe me," Lila hissed.
"Not for long," he threatened, tossing the ice pack to her. "The principal will probably be in here in a minute to get your side of the story." She narrowed her eyes and put the ice on her right ankle. The door opened and she immediately started with the tears and whimpering.
"Adrien," the principal started. "Did you see what happened?"
"I even got it on camera," he said calmly.
"If you had time to film it, you could have caught her!"
"You think so?" he shrugged. "Considering she walked down the stairs on her own?"
"What? Let me see that video!" Lila gasped. Adrien smirked and showed the video to them both and the principal immediately started reprimanding Lila. His 'work' done, Adrien slipped out and went to find Marinette.
"You okay, Marinette?" he asked her.
"Yeah. I can't believe she'd do that."
"I was surprised that she didn't try to make it more believable," he laughed.
"Seriously, Adrien?" Alya gasped. "Marinette straight up pushed Lila down the stairs…"
"No, she didn't. Lila walked down the stairs and staged it. I have it on video if you don't believe me." He offered her his phone. She snatched it and watched the video.
"Oh my god…why would she do that?!"
"Because I've consistently tried to call her out on her lies?" Marinette groaned. "Do you really think that I would accuse someone of lying if I didn't know that she was lying?"
"She claimed to be a superhero," Adrien sighed. "And she just accused Marinette of pushing her down the stairs. What else do you think she's potentially lied about to get you guys to like her?" That got everyone talking and no one seemed to notice when the principal escorted Lila up to his office and the Italian shot venomous glares at both him and Marinette.
Not surprisingly, there was an Akuma after Lila's accusations, but it was easy enough to take care of her. Adrien did note that Marinette did one of her disappearing acts, but that could mean anything. Afterword, he tracked her down and talked to her again about the possibility of trying to date. She agreed, which made him much happier than he thought he'd ever be.
"And…I know I'm not supposed to tell you this, but if we want this to work, you need to know why I disappear so often and seem kind of flaky," she told him when they went up to her room for a bit of privacy.
"Okay…?" he was about to guess that she had bladder issues, like she claimed at school, but she closed her trap door and uttered two very familiar words.
"Spots on!" she transformed into Ladybug and he tried to stop himself from laughing. All this time, Ladybug had been rejecting one side of him because she was in love with him. "What's so funny? You better not tell anyone!"
"I know all too well how important it is to keep a secret like this, Bugaboo," he said lightly and her eyes went wide.
"So that's how…," she hissed.
"That hat…it was from me," she sighed. "Spots off," she dropped her transformation and Tikki floated between them, glaring. Plagg flew out of his shirt and the two Kwami went to the side, whispering. "I was originally signing it…and I guess you figured out my identity and one thing led to another and you got Akumatized…and destroyed everything, including Hawkmoth and…and me…Bunnix pulled me to that future to fix things and in the end I went back and erased my name from the package and lied to you about it…"
"You…thought I would talk about it, didn't you?"
"That was my first assumption, I'm sorry…it didn't even cross my mind that the way that Chat Blanc knew my identity…was that the one person that could have figured me out was the one behind the mask…"
"Well, I guess that's good? Would have been weird if things started getting awkward because you figured me out," he laughed. She laughed as well and leaned in for a kiss.
Then, they proceeded to be, in Alix's words, the most obnoxious and touchy couple ever. They carefully maintained a professional dynamic as heroes, but with no more secrets (Marinette even let him in on her selections for the temporary heroes) they were a stronger team.