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don't ask questions you don't wanna know

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“I’m going to ask her to be my girlfriend!”

Marinette choked on her own saliva. 

She broke out in a coughing fit, enduring helplessly as Chat Noir patted her back until she recovered.

“Sorry, what?! ” she asked, letting go of the metal beam of the Eiffel Tower she was holding onto for dear life up until now and wiping down a drop from the edge of her mask. 

“I’m going to ask her to be my girlfriend,” Chat repeated, his beaming smile never wavering. 

“But you said-”

“Yes, I want to be her friend.”

“Chat, that’s not how...” Marinette tried to explain, massaging the bridge of her nose. Her head was thumping with all the nonsense he just dropped on her. 

“You don’t understand, m’lady!” he whined, twirling his hands in the air. “I’m going to ask her to be my girlfriend so she can reject me and offer to be my friend instead!”

When his partner only kept on staring at him, unblinkingly, he added. ”You know, that’s how asking that question worked out in the vast majority of the cases for a few thousand years now. I’ve even consulted Plagg. He thinks it’s a foolproof plan.”

Well, that explained it. Marinette should have seen from the start that the little cheese gremlin’s paw was in on the ruse. At least, she now knew where the wind was blowing from. Not like that helped. 

Plagg must have had enough of his chosen fawning over Ladybug and encouraged him to carry out this ridiculous plan that obviously was going to fail. It didn’t matter how many times Marinette herself has turned down Chat’s advances, she was no fool to think anyone else would do the same.

Because quite clearly, Chat was amazing. He was supportive, loyal, and charming in his own dorky way. Hell, he was funny, even though Marinette would never admit that to his face. There was no way he wasn’t a keeper out of his costume too, and no chance for anyone — apart from him — to miss that. 

The mysterious girl was not going to say no to him. 

Which was devastating great! It wasn’t like Marinette could have told him she actually liked him, a lot, and that if it wasn’t for Adrien they would have been dating for months, anyway. 

“She is going to say yes,” she said instead. 

“What? No, she won’t! She mentioned it multiple times that she isn’t interested at all.” Which screamed definitely interested. Marinette would know. “Why would you think she’s going to say yes?” he asked tentatively, raising an eyebrow.

Marinette dismissed the question with a flicker of her wrist. “I just know.”

“Fine, keep your secrets.” He rolled his eyes, staying silent for a bit before a conspiratory smirk slowly appeared on his face. “But… how certain are you in your statement, m’lady? Would you, I don’t know, bet on it?”

“What did you have in mind?” she asked slowly, cocking her head in interest. 

“If you’re right and she says yes, I’ll do whatever you want me to, for, let’s say, a week!” 

That offer sounded awfully generous.  

“No horrible puns for a week? That does sound pretty tempting,” Marinette tapped her chin theatrically. “But, out of curiosity, what would you get if you’re right, and she rejects you?”

“Well, that means I’m left without a date, doesn’t it? Maybe you could fix that?” He wiggled his eyebrows as if he just proposed the deal of the century. 

Marinette’s heart sped up at the idea of finally accepting his invitation. She really wanted to for a while now, and maybe, if it was part of a bet she can justify it, but that still left the issue of Adr-

“Okay!” she exclaimed, forcefully breaking out of her spiralling thoughts. 

“Okay? Y-You mean-” 

Chat stared at her with eyes wide as saucers. 

Marinette stared back. 

In reality, neither of them anticipated that she’d accept his conditions.

“O-Okay,” she said again, with a tiny nod. She could feel how the blood rushed to her cheeks, painting it pink, so she averted her gaze from him, looking out to the city instead. “If she doesn’t want to, I’ll go on a date with you. But if she does-”

“Yeah, yeah, I’ll do whatever you want for a week!” Chat rushed to confirm. He extended his pinky in her direction, attracting Marinette’s attention. “Deal?”

Marinette stifled a smile and linked her own finger with his. “Deal.”

Maybe it was an awful idea. But on Marinette’s defence, it wasn’t likely that she would lose the bet, anyway. Even if she wanted to. 

“It’s finally happening! I’m going on a date with Ladybug!!!” Chat applauded as soon as he let go of her pinky. “Any special request of where can I take you, m’lady?” he asked, but with childish excitement this time instead of his usual extravagance.

“Not so fast, kitty! You still have to ask out your classmate first,” she laughed.

“Sure, I’ll take care of that first thing tomorrow!”

The bulletproof beam he was wearing on his face really looked good on him. 

“Anyway.” Marinette tried to shrug off her excitement at the idea of the date, their date, and take back the control over her own features. Namely, erasing the giddy smile blooming insistently on her face. “What’s the whole elaborate ruse for? Why don’t you just make friends with her like with a regular person?”

“Because she isn’t a regular person,” Chat huffed, as if she just said something offensive. “She’s absolutely awesome! She’s the sweetest and kindest person I know, so of course, she’s insanely popular. But she’s also incredibly smart and creative and brave! And she’s so confident — well, usually. She’s the class president, and she always stands up for everyone and looks out for the others. Actually, I wouldn’t be surprised if we’d have to deal with even more akumas if it wasn’t for her.”

As Marinette listened to his rambling about this amazing classmate, acid pooled in her stomach. Suddenly, she wasn’t having such a hard time hiding her smile anymore.

Anyone who looked at Chat right now could see clear as day that his eyes were shining just as brightly — from even just talking about this mysterious girl — as they did when Marinette accepted his bet. 

Which could mean only one thing. 

Even if Chat didn’t realize it yet — looking at Ladybug with his rose-coloured glasses as he did — he was head over heels for his soon-to-be (girl)friend. And even though losing him now, when Marinette finally admitted liking him, made her sick to her stomach… Wouldn’t he be better off with someone who was kind, and wonderful, and most of all normal

Someone who he didn’t need to hide his civilian identity from. Someone who could hold his bare hand walking down the streets of Paris. Someone who could answer definitely if she was ever asked, was she in love with Chat Noir or Adrien Agreste?

Marinette came back to her senses to her nickname rolling off his lips. She couldn’t not pay attention to that. She has always known that it was one of her favourite sounds. Until now, she just didn’t realize how special it — he — really was for her. 

“-n’t worry, m’lady. As I said, I’m only asking her because I want to be friends with her. My heart will always belong to you.”

Marinette snorted with laughter as stubborn tears started to well in her eyes. 

He doesn’t even realize he is lying.

“Don’t worry, I know, Chaton.”


Today was the day! The day when Adrien would finally ask Marinette to be his girlfriend. 

Well, of course, not for real. All things considered — her charming personality, her supportive social cycle, how she even impressed Ladybug with her state-of-the-art problem-solving skills as Multimouse —, he knew that she was way out of his league. Combined with the fact that she has told him multiple times, point-blank, that she wasn’t interested, his plan couldn’t have been more solid. He would cash in his rejection and his ticket for her friendship in no time. 

Of course, it wasn’t like Adrien wanted to trick her into being his friend. However, months passed, they spent more and more time together, and she still acted more nervous around him than Adrien had ever seen her. 

He hoped that if she’d finally consider them friends, she could relax. Then, he could finally enjoy all the perks that came with being Marinette Dupain-Cheng's friend, not just admire all the things he was missing out from afar. He could see more of her humour (so far mostly only glimpsed by him as Chat Noir) and her fiery confidence (like when she asked for the constipation medicine from London, which must somehow have been superior in quality).

So yes, Adrien was desperate to become Marinette’s friend. So sue him. 

His little bet with Ladybug only enhanced the anticipation pooling in his stomach and made him want to get the whole thing over with as fast as he could. 

He wasn’t straight up joking when he proposed the idea to his partner, but he never in his wildest dreams thought that she’d actually accept his proposition. And even though he had no idea what caused her to suddenly change her mind, with things going as great as they were now, he wasn’t going to question it. Of course, their date was all technically hypothetical until he got his rejection from Marinette, but how else could that go? 

He could hardly sleep all night because his mind kept alternating between excitedly screaming ‘I’m going to be friends with Marinette!’ and ‘I’m going to take Ladybug on a date!’. This was the best thing that has happened to him since getting his Miraculous, no questions asked. 

He still felt all giddy on the inside in the morning, practically bouncing on the balls of his feet as he waited on the stairs of the school for his classmate to show up. When, dangerously nearing the start of their first class, two pigtails dashed towards the building, Adrien ran down the stairs in the frenzy of students to meet up with her. 

“Hey, Marinette!” He called out to attract her attention.

“A-Adrien! Hey,” she squeaked, coming to a sudden halt in front of him. 

“I wanted to ask something from you, aaand it looked best to get it over with first thing today,” he said, scratching the nape of his neck as they stood clear of the other student’s way. 

“Y-Yes?” she asked uncertainly, crinkles appearing between her eyebrows. She looked adorable when she was trying to puzzle out a situation.

Adrien took a deep breath, trying to keep his nervousness excitement at bay.

“I wanted to ask you if you’d be my girlfriend?” he offered with a shy smile.

A squeak left Marinette’s throat before she brought up her hands to cover her mouth. 

And then, she didn’t say anything. 

She just stared at him, with an expression on her face that Adrien could only describe as utter bewilderment. 

“It’s okay if you don’t want to be my girlfriend, though,” he rushed forward, trying to lead the conversation the way his imaginary script prescribed. “You’ve told me multiple times that you aren’t interested, so I completely understand if you just want to be friends instead...”

It was as if the word ‘friends’ overloaded Marinette’s system. For the barest second her eyes went wide but the accompanying emotion went so fast, Adrien couldn’t read it; before her expression slowly morphed into one of calculation and- Was that awe? Adrien wasn’t sure.

However, she still didn’t say anything.

“Soooo”— Adrien had no idea what was happening, but he needed a definite ‘no’ —“even though I’m asking if you’d like to be my girlfriend, it’s perfectly okay if you say no because-”

“No!” she practically exclaimed.

Yes! 

“No, I’m not saying ‘no’,” Marinette continued much slower. She licked her lip, her gaze never letting go of his. “I’d love to be your girlfriend, Adrien. ” 

The way she articulated his name around her smirk almost sounded sinister. 

“What-What did you say?” Adrien choked, going white like a wall.

“I’d love to be your girlfriend,” she repeated, leaning forward into his personal space. Her smile was so sweet that Adrien could feel his heart pumping faster by the sugar rush it gave him. She reached out confidently and took his hand in hers, interlacing their fingers. “Shall we go to class now, mon Adrien ?”

All Adrien was able to do was stutter out an enervated ‘sure!’ and let Marinette lead him up the stairs by their joined hands. 

He was in no condition to form complex, or even coherent thoughts right now, albeit one still registered. 

He was fucked.

Majorly fucked.

Chapter Text

Chat Noir — Adrien Agreste! — was a little shit, and Marinette loved him to pieces.

Sitting behind him in class as she was, the world was still spinning with her from her exhilarating revelation. It wasn’t just the sheer fact that, as it turned out, she was never in love with two people at the same time, for it was him and only him all along. True, this finding in itself would have made today the best day of her year — even though it was only May — but there was more to the story! 

She could hardly believe it, but the fact of the matter seemed to be that the girl she’d gotten so jealous of yesterday, because Chat told her so many good things about her that he must have had feelings for her, had also been Marinette. He loved both sides of her, he was just too stubborn to admit it. 

Fortunately, though, Marinette had all the time in the world to make him change his mind. Just not by the straightforward and self-explanatory method of revealing her identity to him. After his attempted ruse to get her friendship by making her friendzone him, that would have been much too easy.

No, instead she could make him realize that his feelings for Marinette could just as well be the replica of his feelings for Ladybug. After all, it would have been a pity to deprive him of the experience of falling for her twice, just the way she did for him. 

The corner of Marinette’s lip curled into a smile as the bell rang, indicating the end of the first period. She got up and, followed by Alya’s scrutinizing stare, leapt directly in front of Adrien’s desk. 

“So, how was your weekend?” 

“It was alright, nothing too exciting. I had a photoshoot for the new late-spring line but uh, don’t want to bore you with the details.” He smiled timidly as he stood up from his place.

Even though he was well trained in treating surprising situations smoothly — mostly diverting inconvenient questions of the press —, Marinette could tell just how off-guard their previous exchange got him. She was glad to see he was mostly back to his old self, calm and collected. Without that, it would have been no fun getting Chat flustered in her company all over again. 

“Oh, no, I’m interested!”

“Oh, okay.” He looked around in the classroom carefully and upon seeing that no one was moving from their places, he pointed at the door. “Shall we go out?”

“Yes, I’d love to! Are you free Wednesday afternoon?” she asked, a smirk in the corner of her lip. 

She didn’t need super senses to hear Adrien’s sharp intake. 

“I, ugh, I mean- I think so?” He fumbled for words, his cheeks turning redder by the minute. 

Marinette could see from her peripheral vision how Alya promptly dropped her books, staring at them along with Nino, both of their mouths agape.

“Wonderful!” she grinned, linking her arm through Adrien’s. “But, of course, we can go out to the courtyard now if you want to.”

She was just about to drag him out of the classroom and ask about the photoshoot — mainly, whether he enjoyed his modelling job at all, or it wasn't as much fun as parkouring over the rooftops of Paris? Oh, he didn’t do parkour? She must have misunderstood something — when a huffing Chloé came to a halt in front of them, stomping her feet with her hands on her hips. 

“What do you think you’re doing, Dupain-Cheng?” she questioned, pointing a finger at their linked elbows. 

“Chlo, it’s okay!” Adrien tried, obviously wanting to avoid making a scene. Unfortunately, things have slipped out of his control way too long ago.

In the crossfire of stares attracted by Chloé’s outcry, Marinette drew power from her partner's hand in hers to keep her sentences coherent. “Going out with Adrien,” she said, pointing at the door with an innocent smile. “Do you have a problem with that?”

“As a matter of fact, I do. You’re being awfully suggestive, considering that last I checked Adrien’s type was ‘charming and confident’, not… well, you,” she said, running her critical stare down on the girl in front of her. 

Even if their classmates’ ‘ohh!’-s and ‘ahh!’-s tinted Marinette’s cheeks pink, she overcame it with a sly grin. “In that case, I recommend checking your sources more regularly.”

For the first time, there was a waver in Chloé’s confidence as her eyes darted to the boy. “Adrikins? Are you and her…?”

Adrien licked his lips, looking over their classmates who were holding their breaths, waiting for the verdict, before his eyes settled on Chloé’s care-worn expression. 

Marinette acknowledged with a small smile how Chloé almost fainted at the announcement. 

Things were going exactly according to plan. 


Things were so not going according to plan!

At first, by some inexplicable miracle Marinette accepted his offer, then — despite Adrien’s best efforts to keep their ‘relationship’ low-key until he had time to talk things through with her and explain the misunderstanding — it also went viral until he couldn’t walk down the halls of the school without whispers rising behind his back. 

It was a disaster! And, of course, now, when things got ugly because of his scheming, Plagg was useless, laughing at his holder’s misery until his side hurt so much, he couldn’t even eat. At least, that’s what he told his chosen, but by the time Adrien’s afternoon photoshoot ended, the slice of Camembert he prepared to keep Plagg company mysteriously evaporated. Figures. 

It looked like the consequences of their plan were only weighing heavily on Adrien. However, standing still in various places and positions and being able to do nothing all afternoon had the beneficial effect of granting him time to mull over his situation. And thinking things through in their full complexity did prove fruitful, bringing Adrien to two unshakable conclusions. 

Since Marinette had yet to stutter or get visibly uncomfortable since this morning when he proposed the question, it was safe to say, his plan to help her ease up in his company worked. Even if not exactly the way he originally envisioned it. 

It was a shame it all had to go down the drain because, quite clearly, Adrien had no other choice than breaking up with Marinette as soon as possible. He definitely had to get it over with before things got even more complicated and she started to fall in love with him or something. 

It was lucky that Sundays and Mondays were his and Ladybug’s designated days for patrol — the other days of the week were covered by other members of their team, like Rena Rouge or Viperion — so he could immediately share the update on the situation with her.

“You can’t just break up with her!” Ladybug protested, her legs dangling faster off the edge of the building at his cruelty. Adrien didn’t blame her, he was equally disgusted with himself for this but what else was there to do?

“I can’t keep dating her, m’lady! The longer I wait to blow it off, the more it’s going to hurt her!” he reasoned.

“Then don’t blow it off,” she shrugged, leaning back on her palms. 

“Argh, that’s not how-” he groaned, clenching on his hair with both hands. Did she seriously not get why he couldn’t stay with Marinette?! “At one point or another, I’ll have to break up with her. You know that I don’t love her. I love you!” he whimpered.

It was absolutely infuriating how Ladybug dared to smile at his misery. 

“It doesn’t matter if you don’t feel the same way, I get that,” he huffed indignantly. “But I can’t lie to her about my feelings for her, it wouldn't be fair.”

“Don’t you think that if only you gave her a chance, you could fall in love with her?” 

Her question was so sincere, it got Adrien off-guard. He only blinked at her, the bluebell eyes staring back at him, practically pleading for him to try. 

“That’s not how it works,” he whispered finally, turning his gaze away. 

“Why not? You said she is amazing.”

Because she isn’t you, he wanted to say. 

“Just because,” he said instead. 

“That’s the lamest excuse I’ve ever heard,” Ladybug snorted. Adrien felt her soft touch on his shoulder, prompting him to turn in her direction. “It’s lucky that I’ve won our bet then.”

Adrien’s eyebrows rose in question at her smirk. “How is a pun-free week going to solve this issue?”

“A-a-a. You said you’d do anything I want from you for a week and I don’t want you to stop punning.” 

“Aww, I’ve never thought you’d say that, m’lady. What a mice surprise,” he said half-heartedly. That was too good to be true. There had to be a catch.

“Instead, I want you to keep dating your girlfriend for a week.” The screech that left Adrien’s mouth was nothing short of unholy, but it couldn’t stop Ladybug from continuing. “Try to actually see her as more than just a friend. If she said yes to you, she clearly likes you more than that.”

“But m’lady! I don’t want to lie to her!” he cried, baffled by her request. Who even did she think this served, besides obviously her, who was having her fun at his frustrating situation.

“The harm’s already done, isn’t it?” she shrugged, the barest smile tugging up her lip. “What’s the harm of letting it go on for a little longer? It isn’t like she’s going to fall helplessly in love with you under the span of a week.”

He had to admit, there was some truth to that. In the grand scheme of things, what would a single week count? And letting the ruse go on for a few more days would also provoke fewer questions about the abrupt end of their relationship. Still, it did feel like using Marinette to his own advantage and despite how the situation looked, that was one thing Adrien never wanted to do. 

But maybe, all things considered, Ladybug was right. If the harm was already done, at least trying to see her in a new light couldn’t hurt, right? Only… how did one even go about trying to fall in love with someone? It sounded ridiculous. 

“And… how would I even do that? Convince you that I was trying, I mean,” he said slowly, experimentally tasting the words of ‘dating Marinette Dupain-Cheng’ on his tongue. 

“I don’t know. Just go to places with her, spend time together I guess. If you say you tried I’ll believe you,” she said with one of her most beautiful smiles. She seemed awfully hopeful about a thing Adrien suspected wouldn’t work out the way she expected to, but he didn’t want to ruin her mood. 

“Okay. Okay, I’ll try,” he sighed resignedly.

Out of the blue, Ladybug’s arms wrapped around him tightly, squeezing the air out of his lungs as her cheers echoed in his ear. She smelled of vanilla and happiness. How did she even expect him to have eyes for anyone else when she was here with him like this, always understanding, optimistic, shining

Despite it all, Adrien hugged her back just the same. 

After a while they let go and laid on their backs, looking up at the starless sky in silence. One time Adrien felt Ladybug’s gloved hand brushing against his, but that must have been an accident. If she wanted to hold his hand, she would have asked. She would have asked long ago. 

“Why?” he asked instead, to distract his mind from his wishful thinking. 

“What why?” she asked back, turning her head his way.

“Why do you want me to try and fall in love with her?”

“I just want you to be happy,” Ladybug said, as easily as that would have been the most self-explanatory thing in the world. “And the way you talked about her yesterday… Well, I just think she has it in herself to make you very happy.”

Chapter Text

“So, you’re dating now?” Alya cocked an eyebrow, examining Adrien and Marinette critically from the other side of the cafeteria table. 

“That’s right, we are,” Adrien confirmed as cheerfully as he could. 

Rule number one of falling in love with someone: Be all in!

At least, that’s what Adrien gathered last night from the surprisingly many articles that popped up to the search word ‘how to fall in love?’. That’s right, he wanted to make sure Ladybug couldn’t accuse him of not trying hard enough when at the end of the week he’d announce her plan didn’t work, so he did his research. 

“I see. So, how did this happen?” Alya pushed on, narrowing her eyes as if she doubted their story. All things considered, it was a reasonable reaction. “Don’t think you’re avoiding the questions by skedaddling at the middle of the school day, Buttercup!” 

“She’s just irked because Marinette wouldn’t tell us anything without you,” Nino explained with a shrug, taking a big bite out of his sandwich. 

Adrien spared a side-glance at Marinette who was busy unpacking her own lunch but — as if prompted by some well-practised battle instinct — she looked up just in time to catch his eyes and send a sweet smile his way. Tentatively, Adrien smiled back. 

“There isn’t really a huge story around it. No schemes or convoluted plans, it just kind of happened,” she said.

Adrien stiffened a chuckle at the irony before adding, “Yeah, I just asked Marinette if she wanted to be my girlfriend and she said yes.”

“Wait, wait, wait! You asked her ?” Alya pointed a fork at him in accusation.

But before Adrien had time to confirm, Marinette chimed in with a laugh. “Crazy, right? What a coincidence? Just when I started to entertain the idea of asking him out. I mean, what are the odds!”

If looks could kill, Adrien was sure Marinette would have been no more, but she seemed unbothered by the threat in Alya’s stare and glared back at her just the same. Adrien had no idea what to make of the silent duel, but both girls looked terrifying enough that he didn’t want to ask. He ducked his head instead and started to pick on his lunch that he just bought in the buffet. No such luck as a home-packed meal. 

“Right,” Alya huffed at long last. 

“Sooo, now that we all know what really happened and definitely not just a sugar-coated version for convenien- Auch, Alya!” Adrien peered up at Nino — who was rubbing his side with a grimace — in confusion. “Anyway, do you wanna come to the mall with Alya and me on Saturday?”

“Yes, we could finally go on a double date!” Alya added.

Adrien wasn’t exactly sure how a double date differed from a normal afternoon when the four of them just hung out, but by the second rule of falling in love with someone (Spend time with them!), he wasn’t going to turn that opportunity down. 

“Sounds good to me! What do you think, Marinette?” 

“You’re taking me on a date? No way I’m saying no to that,” she said with a smirk. 

“Yeah- I- Cool!” Adrien managed, feeling his cheeks heating up. 

Why was he being ridiculous? The base principle of dating was, well, going on dates. He knew as much. So of course she wanted to go on a date with him — however unbelievable that sounded. Still, saying it out loud… 

“Awesome! We can eat somewhere, or book an escape room — I’ve always wanted to try one of those — or, oh I know, we can watch a movie!” Alya said, taking a meaningful look at Nino. “I’ve heard they are screening ‘The Kissing Booth’, that should be fun!”

Oh.

Oh, no.

Kissing.

Adrien didn’t even think about kissing. 

Adrien didn’t want to think about kissing because oh god , couples kissed, so it would have been perfectly natural for Marinette to expect him to kiss her on their date. What, on their date, even before that! During the week, a n y t i m e

After all, they were dating. There was no need for an occasion to kiss. 

She surely expected him to kiss her, and it had to be impeccable because, of course, it had to be impeccable, that was what she deserved, and Adrien didn’t- He couldn’t kiss her! Because what if she has never kissed before? He couldn’t be her first kiss and then break up with her at the end of the weekend! That wouldn’t have been fair! 

The first boy who kissed Marinette had to feel the luckiest man on Earth! 

A light hand landed on Adrien’s shoulder, making his heart leap — as if its intent thumping against his ribcage so far wouldn’t have been enough — and he felt the colour run out of his face as Marinette’s blue eyes stared at him from only a few centimeters distance. 

This was it. 

She was waiting for him to kiss her. 

This moment marked the end of one Adrien Agreste’s life, because-

“Macaron?” 

Huh?

He must have said that out loud, for Marinette chuckled and gently bumped a paper box against his arm. 

“I asked if you want a macaron? It’s passionfruit flavoured.”

Adrien stared down at the box, dumbstruck. 

“Passionfruit is my favourite,” he managed.

“I hoped you’d like it,” she smiled.

When Adrien still didn’t reach for the treat, she picked up one and lifted it between them. In a tentative motion, she neared his lips with the macaron. However, as soon as her eyes met Adrien’s terrified gaze, she drew back. She placed the sweet on the napkin in front of him instead. 

“Thanks, Marinette,” Adrien stammered out, fumbling to pick up the macaron and finally take a bite. It was absolutely delicious!

“Of course,” she said, a small smile on her lips. “What are friends for?”


Marinette wasn't hiding from Alya, she was just… avoiding talking to her. Which proved to be an increasingly difficult task, given they were bench mates. Still, she was relatively safe during classes and she could always find something to keep her occupied in breaks. 

She went out of her way to help Ms Mendeleiev clean up after their class in the lab ended. She was the first to volunteer to bring Myléne some painkillers from the school’s nurse for her stomachache. She insisted on walking Adrien to Ms Bustier’s office to let their teacher know about his absence on Friday because, by his father’s wishes, he was supposed to help prepare for a gala in the evening. (It was one of those fancy events where, as the heroes of Paris, Ladybug and her team were also frequently invited. Marinette guessed it made sense now why Chat Noir never cared to join her.) 

And Marinette’s plan of avoiding Alya worked beautifully, up until the end of their last lesson, when Alya promptly hooked her arm through Marinette's and ignoring the boys, marched out of the school with her.

“You didn’t tell Adrien.” 

It wasn’t a question. 

“I will… Eventually,” Marinette said, chewing on her lower lip. Things were nearly not as black and white as Alya thought. 

"Okay, so let me get this straight. Adrien actually asked you to be his girlfriend, you said yes so you're dating now, and you still didn't tell him how you feel,” Alya said, massaging the bridge of her nose over her glasses.  “What are you even afraid of, girl?" 

"It isn't as easy as it seems," Marinette huffed, crossing her arms on her chest. 

That was all she could say because honestly, how could have she explained to Alya that Adrien didn’t ask her out because he wanted to date her? That they weren’t even dating — at least not for real? 

All of the complications hid behind the convoluted constellations of secret identities, and she had no way of explaining why throwing all her love all at once on Adrien wouldn’t be such a good move when he was only getting used to the idea of seeing Marinette as more than just a classmate he really wanted to be friends with.

Of course, her plan for the following week did very much involve making him fall head over heels for Marinette — in speedrun edition — but she seriously doubted the best way to achieve that was to introduce him to the chest stuffed full with his birthday presents for the foreseeable future. 

“I just don’t want to jump him, you know,” she shrugged, prompting Alya to stop in her monologue as she must have realized, Marinette didn’t hear a word of it. 

“Just promise me you’ll tell him. Soon!” Alya sighed finally. 

“Of course I’ll tell him!” Marinette beamed, happy to be let off the hook so easily. “We just need to get to know each other a little better first, so it’s all cool when I go up to him like, ‘Hey, Hot Stuff, I have news for you!’” She winked at Alya over two finger guns for dramatic effect but her friend didn’t seem amused. 

Others, on the other hand… 

“Hot Stuff? Who’s Hot Stuff?” Adrien asked, innocent as a toddler caught with his hand in the cookie jar. 

“Eeep!” Marinette yelped, her cheeks turning beet red as her brain automatically jump-started on coming up with more or less viable excuses (“Hot? No, no, no, I said ‘Spot Stuff’, that’s what everyone calls Ladybug these days!” or “Sorry, no time to explain, gotta go water my cat, seeyoubye!”) before she realized, after the innumerable occasions when Chat Noir called her Bugaboo, she had absolutely nothing to be embarrassed about. 

“Oh, we were just talking about-” Alya started but Marinette cut in. 

“That would be you," she said, a smirk tugging up the corner of her mouth. "Any objections, Hot Stuff?”

“Eeep!” Adrien answered eloquently, his face now matching Marinette’s. 

Alya and Nino exchanged a look that roughly read ‘these two were truly made for each other, I just can’t decide if it’s because they're the cutest people I know, or the most embarrassing.’

“No, I’m-I’m good, that’s- good. Anyway, what did you want to tell me?” Adrien asked hurriedly.

“Just, um, wanted to check if you’re still up for our date tomorrow.”

“Oh no! We agreed on tomorrow?” he said, his eyes going wide. “I totally forgot and I have a photoshoot in the afternoon. I’m so sorry, Marinette! You must think I’m the lamest boyfriend, forgetting about our first date, but I swear I didn’t mean to!”

“Hey, no, it’s okay! Nothing happened,” Marinette smiled at him warmly, placing her hand on his arm in an unbidden comforting gesture at the look of his panicked expression. “We can reschedule. How does Thursday sound?”

“That-That should be good. Thank you, Marinette!” He smiled back, his muscles somewhat relaxing under the girl’s touch.  

“Awesome! See you tomorrow at school then?” she asked, a little disappointed at seeing his car roll up in front of the school so soon. 

“Yeah, see you!” Adrien waved, then, after a moment of hesitation, he leaned to her and pressed a chaste kiss to her cheek. 

Marinette just couldn’t help the smile taking over her face as she touched her skin, right where his lips have been a second before. She watched Adrien run down the stairs, before he abruptly stopped halfway and turned back to Marinette with a frown on his face. “It’s probably silly, but I could ask Nathalie if you could come to my photoshoot tomorrow. If you want to, that is.”

His tentative question only made the grin on Marinette’s face grow wider, her desire to show him how appreciated both he and his offer was all the more stronger. “I’d love to!”

Chapter Text

Adrien never liked photo shoots much. They were nerve-wrackingly monotone and no one ever took the time to explain to him why one or the other piece he was modelling was interesting or exceptional, so all he saw was yet another jacket. 

That is, until this afternoon, when he successfully sneaked Marinette into the tent where he had to change between his shoots. In theory, she was supposed to let him concentrate and only watch people work from afar, but Adrien didn’t invite her just to spend their afternoon separately. Besides, he wanted to show her around backstage, since — given her interest in fashion — he supposed what was just yet another grey weekday for him could potentially prove to be fascinating for her. And judging by the little excited squeaks she made rummaging through the racks, indeed it did. 

“Wow, this is extraordinary, just look at it!” she gushed when Adrien emerged from the changing cabin, dressed in the pants and shirt matching the blue, checkered suit jacket she was holding in her hands. 

“It’s nice, I guess,” he shrugged before flashing her a sly smile. “Although I much prefer black.”

“Figured as much,” Marinette chuckled then added with a smirk. “Honestly, both look so good on you, I wouldn’t be able to choose.”

“T-Thanks,” Adrien said meekly, his cheeks flushing pink.

“Oh, come on now! Can’t take a little flirting from your girlfriend?” she tsk-ed playfully. “Anyway, as I was saying, the colour isn’t the point. True, this suit would look more elegant in black, it’s much more modern like this, but the devil is in the details.”

She motioned him closer and when Adrien stepped beside her with a curious look on his face, she flipped out the jacket. “Look at the handiwork on the shoulder pads! And the embroidery on the handkerchief! They aren’t noisy, but details as such — ones that you don’t even notice on the first look — are what really make a special piece.“

Truth be told, these little moments were why Adrien wanted to befriend Marinette in the first place. Her unadulterated enthusiasm was infectious, it couldn’t just not make someone’s day. As Adrien touched the shoulder pads in the trail of her fingers, he started to actually like this piece of clothing. 

“You’re going to be late,” Marinette smiled at him, holding out the jacket.

“Yeah, we wouldn’t want that,” he laughed, taking it.

He shimmied into the suit, but there seemed to be a problem, for it wouldn’t smooth the way it was supposed to on his back. 

“What’s wrong?” Marinette asked, immediately picking up on his frown. 

“Something is off at the back,” he said, trying to check it out in the mirror without stretching the fabric too much and ripping the seams. 

“Let me see!” Marinette stepped behind him, trailing her hands down on his back, sending shivers down Adrien’s spine as she went. 

Who would have thought her hands would be so cold? ( Yeah, through three layers of fabric, an unamused voice, that suspiciously sounded like Plagg, deadpanned in his head.)

“I think I got it!” Marinette said, fetching a pair of scissors from the nearby table. A single cut and Adrien’s shoulders could finally relax, the jacket falling perfectly in place on them. 

“Thanks, Marinette!” he said, turning to face her. 

“Of course, it was just a forgotten temporary seam,” she beamed, reaching up to neaten the handkerchief in his pocket. 

She was so close, Adrien could feel her breath on his face now. Actually, it was nice. She smelled of vanilla and something achingly familiar that he just wasn’t able to put his finger on. 

At this very moment, having to kiss Marinette — a threat that was constantly looming over Adrien’s head since they started dating — didn’t seem that unimaginable. 

“Oh, love is in the air! Look at them, aren’t they adorable?!” A female voice gushed, startling both of them. They spun around, only to be faced with Clara Contard, gossip news reporter of the national TV station, standing in the door with a cameraman behind her. 

Adrien felt the first waves of panic sneaking up on him. The thing was, he didn’t technically disclose the nature of his relationship with Marinette when he asked permission for her attendance — what good would have it done to announce a girlfriend who could very well be history by the end of the week? — but the prospect of his father finding out about his relationship from the news wasn’t a pleasant one. 

However, Marinette didn’t seem to be thrown off track as she calmly let go of him and put some distance between Adrien and her. 

“So, would you introduce me to your girlfriend, Adrien?” Clara asked suavely, stepping closer as if she belonged to the set — she, in fact, did not.

“Khm, sure, this is Marinet-” 

“Marinette Dupain-Cheng,” she cut in, offering her hand to the reporter with a cold smile. “I’m Adrien’s friend from school.”

Adrien ignored the feelings of how pleasant hearing her say they were friends sounded — while at the same time, it just seemed to lack something — in favour of sending an ever grateful smile her way. 

“You must be very close then, it’s not every day Mr Agreste allows friends into the set,” Clara chuckled, shaking Marinette’s hand. 

Adrien has flashed so many fake smiles in his life, he would have known one when he saw one. 

“As a matter of fact I’m interested in fashion myself and plan on taking on an internship at Gabriel , that’s why I was granted permission,” Marinette said without batting an eyelash. 

“Fascinating! Now if you don’t mind, I’d have a few questions for Adrien. You have a few minutes to spare, right, dear?” 

Adrien could only gape at the audacity of this woman, sneaking into a photoshoot and hoping for an impromptu exclusive interview while he was supposed to be working. Unfortunately, because Adrien only knew how to avoid answering too personal questions and give non-committal answers, he had no idea how to ditch an interview entirely without the consequences of bad press — a thing he knew very well, his father wanted to avoid at any cost. 

So, he only let out a sigh, accepting his fate of being interviewed at the most inappropriate time and hoping he could cut it short by cooperating accommodatingly. In the end, adults always got what they wanted, didn’t they?

He shot an apologetic look at Marinette for ruining their afternoon but she looked back without an ounce of resentment, her eyes only blown wide in bewilderment.

“You know what?” she said quickly, before Adrien opened his mouth. “Why don’t we let Adrien go his way, since he’s actually working here? I can answer your questions just fine. After all, they must be about the new late-spring line, right? I can assure you, I know more about the recent trends than him, no offense, Adrien.” 

Adrien’s heart leapt at the offer, the loveliness of ladybugs — that were usually dormant outside of patrol and akuma attacks — living in his stomach fluttering to life. Marinette surely lived up to being his everyday Ladybug. 

“Oh, wouldn’t want to burden you with that, interviews can be quite a handful,” Clara laughed, her eyes glaring daggers through the girl. 

“Don’t worry about me, I’ve got plenty of experience,” Marinette chuckled.

“Thanks a bunch, Marinette, that would be amazing!” Adrien grabbed for the lifeline she was throwing at him with a thankful beam on his face, squeezing her hand lightly. “I really need to get back to work, but trust me, Clara, you’re much better off with her,” he winked at her conspiratorially before dashing for the shoot. 

Adrien felt his shoulders relax as he got farther and farther away from the tent, but strangely, at the very same time, he couldn’t help looking back over his shoulder. It was almost as if an invisible string kept pulling him back.

Maybe his quest wasn’t such a lost cause after all.

Chapter Text

Of course, Ms Bustier had to choose this Thursday to drown her class in homework. 

Marinette’s heart was aching for the date she planned to spend in the gelateria salon on the main street with Adrien, but eventually, she was the one to offer to him to organize a study date at her house instead. As long as they spent time together, she supposed it didn’t really matter. 

They were welcomed by Marinette’s parents when they arrived but fortunately, with the frenzy of lunchtime, there was no time for throughout questions. They made it up to Marinette’s room with an arrangement of pastries in hand just fine. 

It wasn’t like Marinette didn’t want to talk to her parents about Adrien — she didn’t want to talk about anything other than Adrien, to be correct — but in the fragile state their relationship was right now, she figured it was for the better if less people knew. The only reason why she proclaimed it at school was because she couldn’t have a real-looking relationship without their classmates being in on the know. Besides, it would be good for Adrien to feel the consequences of his actions, asking questions he didn’t really mean. 

“Before we get started on homework… Do you want to play a game?” Adrien asked first thing after swallowing the last bit of his croissant. He sat on Marinette’s chaise, one of his legs folded under him while the other dangled off to the floor.

“A little unwinding never hurt anyone,” Marinette shrugged, perched up at the opposite end of the chaise. She swung down the last gulp of her orange juice before putting down her glass. “What kind of game do you want to play? I have the new expansion pack for Ultimate Mecha Strike , if you fancy.”

“No, I actually had something a little different in mind. It’s kind of a… ‘get to know each other better’ type of game,” he said with a sly grin.

A huge smile spread on Marinette’s face as she leaned forward a bit. “I’m all ears!”

“Okay, so, it’s basically just answering a set of questions to each other,” Adrien said, clearing his throat. “So, would you like to be famous? And if yes, in what way?”

“Oh, absolutely!” Marinette exclaimed excitedly. “I mean, it isn’t about ‘fame’, per se , but if you're famous you have made something spectacular. You’ve made something that has an impact on the world. That makes a difference! And I- I’d like that very much,” she finished, feeling the tips of her ears going pink at such a heartfelt declaration. 

“You’re cute when you’re excited,” Adrien said with a smug smile, prompting her ears to darken just a shade. “But you see, fame can just as well be empty. I mean, just look at me. I’m famous,” he wiggled his eyebrows, flashing her a mock-suave smile. 

Marinette snorted, hitting his arm lightly. “For now. But I can assure you, after a few years, no one is going to remember the ad you starred in so carefreely .”

“Thank god! ” he snorted.

“On the other hand,” Marinette went on, a smirk on her lips, “you can still be famous for something else in the future. You can become a scientist when you grow up. Or a world-class fencer. Or I don’t know, a superhero!”

Adrien made a snickering sound at her ‘blind assumption’. “Oh, I’d like that a lot. I had the time of my life being a voice actor for Chat Noir in the Ladybug movie. And you bet I’d look fabulous on merch!”

For Marinette, it only now registered that Adrien put his whole secret identity on the line by voicing himself in the record-breaking movie about their adventures. She was so going to smack him for that, once she could stop the hysterical laughter bubbling out of her at the irony. 

“Okay, next question!” he declared, leaning forward with mischief in his eyes. “Share an embarrassing moment of your life!”

The laughter got stuck in Marinette’s throat as the reminder of each and every one of her backfired love-confession in the past slapped her in the face. “Where are you getting these questions from exactly?”

“They are all part of a package that looked fun,” Adrien shrugged. (In reality, they were from a questionnaire called “36 questions to fall in love” — a fact Marinette only later discovered. She didn’t believe it was possible to fall deeper, but prompted by the fact that Adrien tried to honour Ladybug’s wishes by bringing these questions up, she did just that.) 

“So, any embarrassing memories?” he wiggled his eyebrows, evidently enjoying the situation more than he was ought to.

“Just last month I asked you to buy me constipation medicine, is that not enough?” Marinette laughed exasperatedly, but Adrien only looked back at her with curiosity and a tint of confusion.

That story was clearly not what he wanted to hear. But Marinette was embarrassed, which was just ridiculous in and itself. Why was she embarrassed? She had really no reason for it. Yes, she did a lot of crazy things in her desperate attempts to get the words out in front of Adrien but so did he, trying to impress Ladybug. 

In the end, they were the same. Just two love-sick teenagers trying to fight the overwhelming compound of adoration and the terror of rejection. 

But in all of this, before anything else, they were partners. Always have been. 

It was utterly ridiculous of her to let the fear win. 

“Okay, so, uhhhh…” Marinette took a big, shaky breath and fought back the fear. “There was this one time I kind of stole this boy’s phone after leaving an embarrassing voicemail.”

“Oh, god, Marinette ,” he laughed, unaware. There was no judgement in his eyes, only joy. “What did the voicemail say?”

“I called him a silly nickname and promptly detailed how desperately I want to go out with him.” She paused, taking a deep breath as she forcefully unclenched her sweaty palms. She was careful to keep the eye-contact. “And I told him that, basically, he’s the love of my life.”

“Wow, that’s-” Adrien’s voice wavered, shock evident in his expression. “And does he know?”

“Well, as a matter of fact… Now he does,” Marinette smiled sheepishly, feeling her body relax as the burden of untold confessions finally rolled off her shoulders. 

“What do you-” he started, before his eyes went wide like saucers. “Ohmygod, was it me?

Marinette watched as in milliseconds millions of emotions ran through Adrien’s face — shock, disbelief, surprise, happiness — before she breathed and said, “Yes. Yes, it has always been you.”

“Marinette I- I never knew,” he said, still shaking his head in disbelief. “I’m so touched but I- I don’t know what to say.”

“As long as you aren’t angry with me for stealing your phone, we’re good,” she laughed. She didn’t expect him to return the confession, of course she didn’t, but it was still… 

“It was your first offense, I’ll let it slide this time,” he shrugged with a boyish smile. 

In that moment, Marinette found she wouldn’t even care if he never returned her confession. All that mattered was that she was free of the burden of not being able to tell him. She was free, and the world didn’t fall into tiny pieces. Adrien was still smiling at her, and they were okay. They were still friends. 

That was all that would ever really count. 

“Actually, I’m more impressed that you pulled it off,” he continued his playful musing, stretching out on the chaise with his hand supporting him behind his back. “I mean, I wouldn’t have taken you for a girl with much criminal expertise. You’re too adorable for that.”

“Oh, you clearly don’t know me well enough if you think so,” Marinette countered with a smirk. 

Adrien cocked an eyebrow, as if contemplating how serious she was being. (Dead. Some would say vigilantism was a crime, and Ladybug was definitely guilty.) 

“Well, that sounds like a thing that requires immediate fixing,” he decided.

“Colour me intrigued. Although, and I don’t want to get you down, but I thought we decided on staying home so we could work on the ton of homework we have,” Marinette said, planning something entirely different.

“Ahh, why do you have to remind me of that,” Adrien complained, shutting his eyes as his head dropped back with a groan.

“I only wanted to remind you of the fact that maybe we should get to it,” Marinette shrugged, keeping her voice as neutral as she could. “As you might be aware, you and I, we sure have a lot of chemistry.”

“Yeah but our next class is only-” Adrien bit his lip, stopping abruptly as her words fully registered. His head snapped back, his gaze stopping at Marinette’s Cheshire-grin. 

“Is that how you wanna play now?” he asked, cocking an eyebrow, his cheeks light pink. 

“Have been for a while, if you haven't noticed,” she laughed cheekily.

Adrien shook his head with an unbelieving chuckle. “Seriously, where has this side of yours been until Monday?”

“Conversing with a certain leather-clad superhero on rooftops,” Marinette said, biting her cheeks at her audacity. 

She knew it was a dangerous game she was playing but who was she kidding? It has always been. A game of bold, outstanding moves. 

However, now, when she has finally seen how sweet getting rid of her secrets tasted, she couldn’t help but yearn after cutting loose all the lies that still hung in midair. 

“Oh, I didn’t know you were so familiar with Chat Noir,” he teased, evidently believing he was in on a joke Marinette missed out on. 

As if! 

As a matter of fact, Marinette invented that joke. 

“Mhm, we’re all mushy. He’s practically like my best friend,” she went on, barely able to restrain herself from breaking out in hysterical laughter.

“Oh no, what about Alya? Not to mention, I’m sure Ladybug would have a few choice words about that,” Adrien said with a big smile on his face but a spark of confusion in his eyes. 

That was the point where Marinette lost it. She couldn’t take it anymore and dissolved into a fit of giggles, pressing her palm to her side. When she finally felt like she could regain her composure, she made the mistake of looking Adrien in the eyes, and she gave in to laughter once again. 

“Now what’s that? Cat got your tongue?” Adrien taunted, clearly curious what she found so funny about the situation. 

Marinette finally sat up,  wiped down her tears and took two big breaths to calm herself. 

“No,” she said, the mischievous glint still in her eyes. “No, but I wish he did.”

Adrien made a funny sound, akin of a whimper. The improvised coughing fit he threw right after would have been able to cover it up if only Marinette didn’t know better. 

He cleared his throat before speaking, his eyebrows darting alarmingly high. “Maybe you should be dating him then instead of me, don’t you think?” 

“What?!” 

Could this boy seriously not take a hint?! Several , to be precise. 

“It may shatter my heart into a million pieces, but just so you know, I’d get it if you wanted to break up with me to date the charming and mysterious Chat Noir instead,” he hummed in exaggerated understanding. “He’s such a cool cat, after all.”

What?! I didn’t mean it like that! I mean, I did but I didn’t-! It isn’t like-” Marinette spluttered, feeling all the blood rushing to her cheeks. 

She decided to hide it by flopping down face-first onto her chaise. It couldn’t get any worse than this, could it? 

“It isn’t like what? Like you just said to your boyfriend of four days that you want to kiss another man?”

Being in a position where Marinette couldn’t see the shit-eating grin on his face, Adrien sounded seriously hurt — which of course made absolutely no sense, but she didn’t stop to think about sense when her partner was hurting because of her. 

She could barely catch Adrien chuckling, “Come on, Mari, I’m just teasing!” because, at the exact same time, she blurted out, “I know you’re Chat Noir!”

Silence. 

Marinette shot up, catching Adrien staring back at her with panic in his eyes.

“What did you say?” he whispered.

Shit.

“I know you’re Chat Noir,” she repeated, much slower this time. She couldn’t take it back but maybe… Maybe, dumping all her secrets on him in one go wasn’t such a good idea, after all. 

“I’m, I’m not, you can’t-” he sputtered, staring into her eyes before dropping his eyelids. “ Shit.

“It’s okay, Adrien, it’s okay.” Marinette scooted closer to him, taking his hand in hers to squeeze it. “I only realized it’s you because of the time we spent together in and outside of the masks, because I’m also-”

“I know,” he said, his eyelids still shut tight. 

“What?!” 

It was Marinette’s turn to gape because honestly, what?! Did this mean, he knew all this time that she was Ladybug and only played along with her ridiculous plan? Did he flirt back because he knew? Was he so shocked when he found out she loved him because he knew? But then why didn't he say it ba-

“I mean, of course, I know! I should have seen that with the time we spend together you’d figure me out,” he snickered awkwardly, scratching the back of his neck. “It’s just a lot to take in at once, you know? I mean, your feelings, that you know who I am...”

A grin broke out on Marinette’s face because yes , it definitely meant he knew! 

She could hardly believe that since she last spoke with Chat, Adrien also figured her out. She was so convinced she was playing this game alone, when in reality, her partner has been player number two all this time. That sneaky cat! And he didn’t even bother to tell her he knew — a fact that Marinette could absolutely not bring up against him, because hell, she did the exact same thing. 

They were both waiting for the right moment, and it was finally here.

“Yes, I understand that it kind of came out of nowhere. It must be a little overwhelming, but it just didn’t feel right to keep it a secret from you anymore. However, everything is going to be that much easier like this, don’t you think?” she beamed, feeling her heart all but swell with happiness. “And about keeping it to myself in the first place, when—” Marinette made a grand motion with her hand, gesticulating at the whole situation. 

Admittedly, Adrien’s job would have been that much easier if only she revealed herself the moment he asked her out, and he didn’t have to discover it on his own that for months now, he was very much in love with Marinette. 

It would have spared both of them multiple chapters of this buckwild love story that they had going on — I mean, seriously, a love-square? Who even does that?

“No, don’t worry! I understand that you couldn’t tell. That’s kind of the point with secret identities,” he chuckled, squeezing her hand back. Marinette’s heart fluttered at the affectionate touch.

“I didn’t want to put you in an awkward position, I swear! But I’m really glad we’ve gotten rid of the secrets,” she sighed, relieved, before lifting their intertwined fingers between them. “And, just to make sure, this is still okay, right?”

It was probably silly to ask, since Adrien confessed his love to Ladybug precisely at the beginning of this week, but she didn’t want any more uncertainties. She was so done with guessing games. 

“I’m sure as hell not breaking up with you because you’re a superhero, if that’s what you’re asking,” Adrien laughed. 

“I sincerely hoped that would be the case, but it’s better to make sure, right?” she asked, leaning her head against Adrien’s shoulder. She smiled to herself as she felt his tense muscles relax against her touch.

“Yeah, it’s better to just be honest to avoid unnecessary complications,” he said, tentatively caressing the back of Marinette’s hand. 

She guessed it must have been a whole new sensation, feeling her bare skin under his fingers instead of the spotted suit, so it was only natural he wanted to savour it. She was definitely doing just that.

They sat there like this for a while, Marinette listening to the only sound that broke the calmness of clarity: his intently beating heart. 

She could easily picture spending the rest of eternity like this, with him. 

In Marinette’s opinion, everything was just perfect.

Chapter Text

In Adrien’s opinion, everything was as far as it got from perfect. 

With the way things were going, it could have been announced the world was going to end tomorrow and he wouldn’t have thought it out-of-character. 

So Adrien panicked. 

But he panicked in silence — just the way he did it the previous afternoon — because apparently, he had a Gabriel gala to attend.

And if there was one thing Adrien hated besides Hawkmoth, it was the monthly Gabriel galas. 

For one, the naming was ridiculous, as his father has never once showed up to them — not since the disappearance of Adrien’s mother — so it was evidently her thing, even back then. Second, Gabriel would also send Adrien to represent the company, which meant hours long of small talk with various CEOs and celebrities, something Adrien paw sitively despised. 

Which brought him to the most important reason he hated the galas. All the heroes of Paris were invited to each and every one of them — some of them showed up, some of them didn’t — and Adrien couldn’t talk to them the way he wanted to. Adrien couldn’t stick with them through the whole night and fool around, trying out the most bizarre party snacks and laughing at each other’s dumb expressions when they tasted something absolutely awful. Joining the exclusive circle of the heroes was Chat Noir’s privilege, who was unfortunately out of business on every such night. 

Besides, tonight Adrien would have needed to speak with Ladybug as her partner, because Adrien Agreste couldn’t very well explain to her how Marinette — Multimouse, oh, what a fool he was for thinking he could keep a secret in front of her of all people — found out about his identity and how it was quite literally a catastrophe!

Of course, Adrien knew about the identity of a few of the other heroes, like Nino and Alya, but this was entirely different. Hawkmoth wasn’t after their Miraculouses. He was after Ladybug and Chat Noir’s, so any event that would violate the duo’s secret identities was to be taken much more seriously. 

And although Adrien didn’t know what this would mean — if it would endanger his or Marinette’s right to hold a Miraculous in the Guardian’s eyes — he knew one thing: it wasn’t her fault that she was so clever that she’d figured him out based on the few and far interactions Chat Noir and Multimouse had. She didn’t need to worry about what this identity fiasco would mean for them, so Adrien didn’t tell her. 

After all, he’d been a hero much longer than Marinette. He would figure it out. He would protect her. 

Still, he wasn’t particularly looking forward to presenting the issue to Ladybug. 

One of the many reasons for that being that he wasn’t particularly keen on telling Ladybug someone else beat her to learning his identity. She was his partner after all, she would have deserved to be the first to know, even if he was dating Marinette now. Even if Marinette was in love with him, and Ladybug wasn’t. 

Which was just a whole new can of worms on top of his secret identity crisis. 

The truth was, Adrien quite liked dating Marinette. She was witty and so fun and easy to be with. She was incredibly brave and she! was! in! love! with! him!  

Which honestly sounded too good to be true, but, with the amount of sincerity and vulnerability in her voice when she told him, Adrien never doubted it. And that wasn’t even mentioning how kissable her lips looked from up close. Just as kissable as Ladybug’s, if he was being honest. 

Which, according to Adrien, was an enormous problem. (According to Plagg it was ‘hilarious’, and ‘the most fun he’d had since the fall of Rome’, and ‘well played, Pigtails!’. [Which, according to Adrien, was not a very nice thing to say since the kwami was the one getting him in this huge mess to begin with.])

So, Adrien was stressed out, to say the least. A problem he normally would have solved by running a few circles at the rooftops of Paris. However, currently, he was stuck in a ballroom with suffocating air and an above-average amount of self-satisfaction radiating from the various guests, which wasn’t helping his mood. 

He wished at least Marinette would be here to help him take his mind off of it all for a little while, but strangely, Multimouse never showed up on these events, despite being invited. Which was admittedly weird. Adrien would have thought she’d take advantage of the networking opportunities, or at least grab for the chance to talk to the elite of the fashion world; still, Marinette never showed. 

Ladybug, on the other hand, was a frequent, fan-favourite guest of the events. One that, on tonight of all nights, Adrien didn’t particularly want to have a conversation with. Not as his civilian self, anyway.

He should have learned by now that against his partner, luck was never on his side. 

“Hello, stranger!” Ladybug beamed, walking up to Adrien when he had just successfully excused himself from a conversation with a particularly annoying CEO. 

As always, she was stunning. Her hair was pinned up in a bun, her hairpins little ladybugs, and her black and red evening gown — courtesy of the special ballroom power-up — looked absolutely breathtaking. Accessorized with the confidence with which she carried herself, and the radiant smile she flashed at him…

Adrien was fucked . Big time. 

“H-Hey, Ladybug!” he managed somehow.

He felt Plagg practically trembling with silent laughter in his vest-pocket. Pretending to swipe off a piece of dust, Adrien smacked him for good measure. 

“How are you on this fine evening?” she inquired, before asking with mischief in her voice, “Is it anything like the last?”

Adrien figured she meant the previous gala a month ago, which, if he was being honest was exactly like this — dead boring until she showed up, only for different reasons. However, another major difference seemed to be that Ladybug hadn’t shown nearly as much interest in him then as she did now. 

“I’m good thank you. What about you? Isn’t a Gabriel party too dull for a superheroine?” he asked with a polite smile, silently hoping she'd agree and just leave him hanging. 

Adrien really couldn’t do this right now. She was beautiful, she was charming, and he had secrets and a girlfriend, goddamnit .

“As long as I can spend time with my favourite civilian, I don’t mind.” She shrugged, her eyes twinkling playfully. 

Adrien’s breath hitched and he broke out in a coughing fit. Honestly, it was quite fortunate — at least he could blame his red cheeks on the lack of oxygen. “Yeah um, that’s- that’s nice of you to say.”

“I mean, sure, I can very much appreciate a calm evening at home with someone special, but then when could I wear this?” she asked and spun around her axis with a tingling laugh. She extended her arms to the side but she didn’t take her eyes off of Adrien’s face, resulting in her stepping on the hem of her dress, which sent her stumbling forward. 

Adrien wasn’t thinking. His muscles moved by their own accord as he leapt out to catch his partner by her waist before she crashed into the polished tiles. 

He held her with steady hands, just a few centimeters above the ground as she looked up at him with those breathtakingly beautiful bluebell eyes that he could get lost in forever. She was so close, her scent was practically scratching at Adrien’s brain, prompting, trying, because she smelled of vanilla and-

“Looks like I’m falling for you, aren’t I?” she chuckled.

Adrien let go. 

Ladybug landed on the floor with a low thump and stared up at him in befuddlement. 

“I’m sorry, Ladybug!” Adrien apologized immediately, reaching for her to help her up. 

Ladybug took his hand, an unbothered smile back on her face. “It’s alright, it just got me by surprise,“ she explained, dusting off her dress. 

Adrien had a few choice words of his own about surprises. 

“Anyway, I was just saying how the party is… rather nice, isn’t it?” he asked, scratching the nape of his neck. 

If everything else failed, he guessed he could still bore her to death, eliciting the end of the conversation.

“Yeah, I usually think it’s nice,” Ladybug chuckled. “You can’t wait until it’s over, can you?”

Adrien just stared at her, dumbstruck. However, before he even had the chance to collect his thoughts, she went on. 

“Although I don’t blame you,” she said, reaching out absentmindedly and dusting off his jacket too after the fall. “Today, of all days, I would also rather be elsewhere.”

She winked. 

Adrien’s heart threatened to stop. 

“Ladybug,” he cleared his throat, forming the words tentatively, as he was trying to recover from her latest strike. “I don’t know if you’re aware, but I’m dating Marinette. Marinette Dupain-Cheng.”

She surely didn’t know. That was the only reasonable explanation. After all, he was keeping his relationship with Marinette relatively low-key and it only started recently, so Ladybug must have thought that Adrien was still available — which was still absolute madness in itself, because she has never expressed any interest in him, so what was even happening?!

“Oh, right, silly me,” she said, letting go of his jacket instantly as she looked around in the ballroom carefully. 

That didn’t exactly sound like she didn’t know, but Adrien was willing to take whatever he could get. Only, his relief wasn’t long-lived because Ladybug leaned close to him, covering her mouth with her palm as she whispered in his ear. 

“Why don’t we take this somewhere more private then? How about-”

However, Adrien never learned how about what — and magically not because his heart had ultimately surrendered by that time — but because a clearly agitated Rena Rouge appeared by Ladybug’s side, seemingly out of nowhere.

“Oh my god, Ladybug, I’m so glad I found you! You have to help, Carapace ate something bad and he’s throwing up in the toilet!” she cried, tugging on the heroine’s arm.

“Oh no, that’s horrible!” Ladybug paled, covering her mouth with her hands but soon her eyebrows ran together in a frown. “But why exactly am I needed? I’m sorry, Rena Rouge, but the Lucky Charm can’t cure him.”

“It isn’t about that,” Rena Rouge — well, Alya — snapped. “He might have detransformed, you have to go and check on him!”

“But why don’t you-” Ladybug started, clearly confused, but Alya cut in.

“No time for questions, he looked really bad. Please, just help him. He’s in the bathroom on the first floor,” Alya said, tugging on Ladybug’s arm once again. 

“Right, I’m- I’m going,” Ladybug said, taking a tentative step towards the door. She looked back at Adrien with a small pout before grabbing her dress and dashing out of the ballroom. 

“Shouldn’t we also go and check on Carapace?” Adrien asked worriedly from Alya, who now that Ladybug was out of sight, looked utterly unbothered by her boyfriend’s health, standing still beside Adrien as she was. 

“Oh, don’t worry, he’s going to be just fine,” she waved dismissively as her piercing stare focused on Adrien. “You on the other hand… Are the rumours true that you’re dating Marinette Dupain-Cheng?” she proposed the hypothetical question with an unfriendly cock of her eyebrow. 

Adrien couldn’t help but feel uneasy under her glance. “Yeah, I- I am.”

“Oh, that’s great!” Alya said without even the shadow of happiness in her voice. “She’s such a sweet girl, honestly, she deserves the world.”

Adrien couldn’t agree more but he didn’t quite catch what was stating obvious facts good for. However, before he had a chance to ask, the girl went on.

“Also, fun fact, she’s my ultimate favourite civilian because you can never see her during akuma attacks, she stays out of the akumas’ way, as one should.” 

Adrien would have laughed about how inaccurate that statement was — Marinette being a hero, Multimouse, herself — but he didn’t dare to as much as take a deep breath, in his fear of getting stuck on the daggers Alya stared through him. 

“So, if I ever catch you again flirting with Ladybug,  being too friendly with Ladybug, or as much as looking at Ladybug’s way, I’m going to tell Marinette all about it and end your whole career. Understood, Agreste?” She all but snarled at him. 

Oh.

Oh, no.

“Rena Rouge, I didn’t-” Adrien tried to explain but Alya was not in the mood. 

“Save your excuses, Agreste, I’m not blind. Marinette’s one of the best things that could have happened to you, so don’t screw it up!” she said, and, with a last threatening look, she walked away.

Adrien was left alone in the noisy ballroom with his doubts, as he contemplated how much trouble was he exactly in, and generally, what the hell just happened. 

Later that night he was still mulling over what Ladybug’s sudden interest meant, and — most importantly — what he would make of this unexpected and confusing situation, when his phone buzzed with a new message. 

 

Marinette

sorry we couldn’t talk more today :<



It read under the short thread he exchanged with Marinette during the day. Adrien caught himself smiling to himself as he discovered, he was utterly sorry too, that these few pixels on a screen were all he could get of the girl’s shining presence today. 

It wasn’t nearly enough.

Chapter Text

"Guess who!" A sweet voice sing-songed as Adrien’s vision went black. 

He tensed at first, his battle instincts kicking in, but feeling two petite hands cover his eyes while a small frame pushed against his back just the slightest as the girl had to tiptoe to reach his eyes, his muscles relaxed against her touch. 

"Oh, no, who could it be?” he mused playfully. “Maybe… Maybe Marinette?" 

"Almost," Marinette giggled, squirming in place but keeping his eyes shielded with her fingers.

"Then, um, let's see…” Adrien guessed again, and albeit the bus stop of the  mall where he was waiting for his friend’s arrival was empty the last time he saw it, he toned his voice down as he asked, “maybe my trusted partner, Multimouse?"

"You're such a dork," Marinette laughed, finally letting go of him so Adrien could turn and look at her. 

Did he only miss spending one day with her? It surely felt more. 

“You don’t look too mousy to me,” he remarked, looking her over — black hoodie with a neon paw print on the front, green thigh-length skirt and black boots with stockings which had cat heads sitting just below the hem of her skirt — with a smirk.  

“Is that complaining I hear about my outfit choice?” she asked, cocking an eyebrow playfully.

“I never said that!” Adrien clarified swiftly. He reached for her hood and positioned it on the top of her messy bun, revealing the two little cat-ears sitting on top. “Quite the opposite actually. Of course, you look cute in everything but you might have just found my weak spot,” he admitted, leaning down to press a quick kiss against her hood. 

“One day puns are going to be the death of you, I’m sure,” Marinette giggled, but before Adrien could have asked what she was talking about, she continued, her hand finding his and linking their fingers together without losing eye contact for a minute. “You don’t look too cat astrophic yourself.”

Adrien felt how his heart sped up at the unadulterated joy radiating from her eyes, and his tongue unwittingly licked his lip as he leaned down slowly. He could feel Marinette’s breath on his lips — vanilla and- was this what happiness smelled like? — as in an effort to close the millimeters distance between them she stood on her tiptoes and-

“Marinette!” someone cried, startling both of them and making the girl recoil with a small yelp. 

“Wow, you got here in time, I can barely believe it!” Alya spoke again as she threw her arms around her friend, promptly drowning her in the hug. Marinette had to let go of Adrien’s hand to hold onto Alya, patting her back with a laugh. 

“Good to see you guys! I’ve missed seeing you in school yesterday,” Adrien smiled, bumping his fist to Nino’s, who arrived in the corner of his girlfriend. 

“Honestly, you didn’t miss much. The only noteworthy thing was Alix and Kim’s dodgeball match — oh, sorry, at this point it’s rather a showdown — on P.E,” Nino shrugged, before adding with a beam. “But guess who just got accepted to the school radio to DJ in breaks.”

“Wow, Nino, that’s amazing! Congratulations!” Adrien said with a huge smile, patting his friend’s back. “I would have loved to be there for that announcement!”

“It’s no big, man. You’ll still be able to listen to my awesome mixes when you’re back. Vol. 1 and 2 are already done and ready for playing; now I’m working on the third,” he said excitedly. 

“I’m sure everyone is going to love them, babe, you worked so hard on them,” Alya smiled at him as she took his hand after Marinette had successfully escaped her embrace. 

“Yes, they are going to be crazy popular on Spotify in no time,” Marinette assured, stepping back to Adrien’s side. She timidly brushed her pinky against his hand, only for the boy to lace their fingers together again without hesitation. 

“Anyway, I’m sure out of all of us you had the most exciting program last night, Adrien,” Alya said pointedly, as the little group started in the direction of the mall, heading for their destination, the arcade. “How was that fancy gala of yours?”

“It was alright.” Adrien shrugged. He didn’t feel like explaining an event in detail on which the three out of the four of them participated, and Marinette obviously wasn’t interested in it, since she chose not to show up. “I had a few… interesting conversations but that’s all.” 

He barely contemplated the possibility of Alya still being pissed at him for flirting with Ladybug, which — quick disclaimer — he did not do, but he discarded the idea fastly. Surely, by now the girl also had to see that it was just a strange and incomprehensible misunderstanding and Adrien had no intention of cheating on Marinette.

“How was your night?” He turned to his girlfriend instead, with genuine curiosity in his eyes.

“I didn’t do anything special but it was great. Really great, actually. I had a talk with a new friend and, well, he’s pretty awesome,” Marinette said, a smirk tugging up the corner of her mouth.

Adrien couldn’t help but wonder if Marinette had many guy friends, or if she had been catching up with Luka. The older boy was a pretty new friend of hers, so that checked out. He was also high-key interested in dating Marinette, which… Well, let’s just say, prior to this week Adrien never thought it would rub him the wrong way, but now he was forced to admit, it definitely did. 

“That’s great, girl!” Alya smiled, leaning forward to get a good look at both of them as the two couples walked side by side. “I also had a little chat with a friend last night and you wouldn’t believe what she told me!”

“Babe, are you absolutely sure-” Nino tried to interject but, well, has that ever stopped Alya?

“I’m sure you don’t know her because she goes to another school — I also only know her from the Ladyblog — but she just told me this wild story about how her boyfriend might be cheating on her,” Alya said, her eyebrows furrowed as she explained to Marinette. “And, of course, I didn’t want to believe her at first — I met the guy and he’s an absolute cinnamon roll — but she caught him outright flirting with another girl, who, let me just say it, is waaay out of his league.” 

She took a meaningful pause before her dangerously narrow eyes found Adrien. “Now we’re just standing still, waiting if it escalates; because really, it would be such a shame if she had to dump his ass.”

Well, that answered Adrien’s question. 

Alya was not, in fact, ready to sweep the incident under the rug. 

Another thing she wasn’t doing, however, was being subtle about her secret identity. Adrien was absolutely certain that even if he didn’t know beforehand, he would have figured out her superhero alter ego based on this little tale alone. After all, there were only so many “coincidences” and offhand remarks that could have gone unnoticed before the inevitable revelation caught up to one, right?

However, lucky for Alya, Ladybug wouldn’t be catching wind of it from him, how careless she was acting with her identity in her personal witchhunt. Mainly, because Adrien and Ladybug were not to have conversations in the near future, in order to avoid situations such as the one occurring right now. 

“Oh, no that’s awful!” Adrien heard Marinette saying, her hold tightening around his hand. 

“Mhm, horrible what some people think they can get away with,” Alya agreed. 

Nino’s hands were fidgeting with the cord of his headphone as he asked, “Babe, don’t you think you’re maybe jumping into conclusions?”

Alya huffed, crossing her arms on her chest. “Oh, no. I know what I saw.” 

Well, that just wasn’t fair. All Adrien did was try to escape the conversation with the love of his life Ladybug — he still loved her, of course, he did, so this whole situation was hella confusing even without Alya meddling in it, thank you very much. 

“Don’t you think, Alya , that it could have just been a baffling misunderstanding? That you didn’t see what really happened?” he asked, probably more irked than he was supposed to be over the misdeeds of a ‘friend from the Ladyblog’s boyfriend’. 

“Don’t you think, Adrien , that I’d recognize two people being more than just friendly?” she spun his way, cocking an aggressive eyebrow. “I’ve been looking at it long enough to know what that looks like.”

Adrien felt his blood boil at her accusations that he’d intentionally do something to hurt Marinette. Yes, the situation wasn’t ideal, but who could have seen that asking to be friend-zoned by the girl wouldn’t lead to them being friends, or starting to date as he moved on from Ladybug for once and for all, but being in love with both of them at the same time? (He had an inkling that Plagg’s answer to this would have been ‘apart from you, anyone’, but right now he wanted none of his kwami’s unhelpful guidance.) 

“Well, even if he was being out of line, it isn’t our duty to solve their problems,” Marinette shrugged with the barest smile. “As long as the girl is aware of the situation there isn’t much for anyone else to do, is there? I’m sure they are capable of solving their own issues.”

“Exactly! Thank you, Marinette!” Nino let out a relieved sigh.

Alya’s shoulders slumped as her gaze flickered to the girl and spoke much softer. “I just… don’t want her to get hurt.”

“And I’m sure he’ll do anything to avoid hurting her. Don’t sell boys in love so short, Alya,” Adrien smiled, hugging his girlfriend closer by her shoulder and planting a kiss on the top of her head. 

Alya stared at him for a long moment, her eyebrow lifted in skepticism. “We’ll see, Buttercup. We’ll see,” she said finally. 

“Look, we’re here!” Nino pointed at the flashing lights of the arcade, presumably in equal parts excited by trying the games, and incredibly grateful that this conversation came to its end. “The first round is on us!” he added cheerfully, dragging Alya to the counter with himself. 

Adrien watched them debate how many tokens they should exactly start off with when he felt a gentle tug on the sleeve of his overshirt. 

“Did you mean that?” Marinette asked, staring at him with bluebell eyes shining in awe. 

Adrien blinked, not being able to place the question. “What?” 

“What you said about… about boys in love,” she said, biting her lip. 

Oh. 

That. 

“Absolutely,” he smiled down at her. 

After all, she wasn’t there last night to know this whole debate was about them. Consecutively, she wouldn’t take this as his practical love confession. 

But that was actually great. He could do so much better than this, once the time came. 


“Not fair, you always win!” Marinette laughed, panting, as she stepped down from the dance mat to give her place to Nino, who was the only one of them with real chances to beat Alya. 

“What can I say, I have super reflexes,” Alya said smugly, re-tying her impromptu ponytail. 

Marinette snorted. She was sure that Alya and Nino’s success in this game had much more to do with the countless hours they spent practicing than with anything else. After all, she and Adrien were superheroes of their own but it seemed determination and hard work could beat simple magical jewels anytime. 

As the couple chose their next song and started to dance to the beat of What I Need , Marinette barely wondered if Nino had any right to accuse their other classmates of taking games too seriously.  

Sipping orange juice through her straw, she turned her attention to Adrien, who seemed to be dazing off, watching their friends dance and nodding mindlessly to the song. However, when the chorus started ( “What I need, what I need, what I need, is for you to be sure”) he winced, coming back to the present and stealing a wary side-glance at Marinette.

“It’s a little hot in here, isn’t it?” she asked offhandedly, chewing on the straw in the already empty cup. 

Adrien’s lips slowly crawled into a smirk. “Maybe it’s just you, Hot Stuff.” 

“I see you’re a fast learner.” Marinette mirrored his expression, feeling her heart skip a beat and deciding, he definitely wasn’t helping her temperature problem. 

“I had a good teacher,” Adrien shrugged, seemingly pleased, before cocking his head with a sweet smile. “Do you want some popcorn? It’s just as sweet as you.”

“Oh, good thing it isn’t as sweet as you. I’d hate to get diabetes so young,” she countered, reaching for the paper bag in Adrien’s hand that still had a few rainbow-coloured popcorn kernels on the bottom. 

However, he drew it away, pointing at Marinette’s hand with mischief in his eyes. “Show me your palm!”

“What?” she asked, opening her palm in confusion, only to discover a sticky black layer coating it.

Adrien’s expression was way too smug, for his discovery of the dirt — that most likely originated from holding onto the dance mat’s pole so tightly — to be a coincidence. “Sorry, Princess, no touching the wares with dirty hands.”

“Why do you ask then, if you won’t share?” she pouted dramatically.

“Who said that I won’t?” he asked with a smirk as he dove into the bag and picked out a few kernels. 

Marinette watched his hand nearing her face with a frown, before the pieces clicked and she slowly opened her mouth, a happy chuckle escaping her lips. Anticipation pooled in her stomach as Adrien, ever so carefully, placed the kernels on her tongue. 

However, the thing with popcorn kernels — as opposed to macarons — was that they were very tiny; which inevitably resulted in his fingertips brushing against her lips in the process. Marinette felt herself shiver under his touch, and she couldn’t help but hold her breath as he slowly brushed a runaway lock behind her ear before drawing back. 

At this moment, she needed all her resolve not to reach after his touch and press him against a wall, kissing him breathless. Instead, she slowly swallowed the kernels — sure enough, they were sweet and tasty, but right now she craved something entirely different — and opened her mouth again, a teasing edge to her voice. “More?”

“Yeah, we should totally get more, I really dig this stuff!” Nino declared cheerfully, leaning over the railing of the dance machine to snatch the bag from Adrien’s hands. 

“Hey, doping is illegal!” Alya pouted, smacking his arm playfully. “I’m sure that’s why you won. I want a rematch!”

Marinette had to stifle a groan as she contemplated why she’d agreed to come on a double date in the first place. At first, Alya bugging Adrien not so discreetly about cheating on her (which Marinette had to admit was one hundred percent her fault for not being able to tone it down last night, but she just couldn’t help herself when she didn’t see her boyfriend all day), and now Nino chiming in at the most inappropriate time… 

Marinette just wanted to kiss her boyfriend stupid, was that too much to ask for?

“We still have a few tokens to burn. Why don’t you do that rematch, and we will get us more popcorn?” Adrien offered politely, but the edge in his voice gave him away. 

Marinette could picture just fine how his tail would have twitched behind him in annoyance if he was suited up.

At least it was nice to know she wasn’t the only one yearning after some alone time with her partner.

Chapter Text

Adrien grimaced as the loud honking of his driver interrupted Marinette’s sentence. His hand flew to the nape of his neck as he asked with a tentative smile. “Would you mind if I dropped by later?” 

Marinette stood really close to him on the sidewalk in front of her house — close enough for his driver to get ideas, but Adrien found he didn’t particularly care — so it was easy for her to rise on her tiptoes and press a chaste kiss to his cheek. “That would be perfect.”

This was how Adrien ended up on the girl’s balcony in his superhero suit later that night, both of them sitting on the ground on pillows. His head rested on Marinette’s lap who was absentmindedly playing with his hair — forcing him to concentrate very hard on not starting to purr. 

"So, did you have fun today?" she asked, scratching behind his cat ears — a sensation that was certainly worth not transforming back to his civilian self for. 

"Absolutely, the arcade was a lot of fun! And hanging out with Alya and Nino was also nice, although…” He trailed off, sitting up to be able to face Marinette and look her in the eyes earnestly. “I’d prefer to spend more time alone with you. Just the two of us.”

"Yes, I’d like that a lot too,” Marinette smiled, grabbing for his hand and squeezing it.

It felt like, at the same time, she was grabbing for his heart too. And Adrien didn’t want anything more than to give it to her, wholly, irrevocably, but he knew he couldn’t. After all, it wasn’t entirely his to begin with. 

And maybe Marinette was aware of this — he never particularly hid his feelings towards Ladybug, so it only made sense — but he felt like he had to say it out loud. To get it off his chest, but most importantly, to ensure they were on the same page about their relationship. 

So Adrien took a deliberate, deep breath and blew it out with a sigh. “Listen, I wanted to talk about something important with you, Marinette.”

“Yes, Minou ?” she asked, still smiling — the question was, for how long?

“The thing is that,” he said, licking his lips, “I like you. A lot. I mean, a whole lot!”

“I had a feeling but it’s always nice to hear it,” she giggled, as if everything would have been alright. 

“Can I just...?” Adrien asked awkwardly.

It was hard enough to get out what he had to say, and Marinette being the happiest he has ever seen her didn’t help his case. 

She grimaced, as if mentally smacking herself, and sat back, still holding onto his hands. “Yes, sorry! Please, go ahead!”

“Thanks. So, uh... The thing is that I like you a lot. But, as you’re probably aware, I’m kind of…” Oh god, this plan wasn’t thought through, at all . How was he supposed to tell her he was in love with someone else too when she was looking at him like that , eyes so jolly and hopeful? “I’m in love with someone else.”

Well, not like that , if Marinette’s eyes instantly going wide in horror and her jaw practically hitting the floor was anything to go by. 

“Sorry, sorry! That came out totally wrong!” he apologized, hopefully before she had time to overthink his reckless declaration. “I’m in love with someone else, too .”

There. Much better. 

“You’re- What?! ” Marinette cried, letting go of his hands and pulling away with her whole body immediately, her eyes shining with nothing but hurt .

“I- I thought you knew,” Adrien said, feeling all his might evaporate in an instant. 

“How- Why would you think I know you’re in love with someone else after confessing your undying love for me daily?!” she spat, jumping to her feet.

In Adrien’s opinion that was quite an exaggeration, as he was certain he had never said anything about loving Marinette out loud. 

“Well, I wasn’t exactly subtle about it,” he said apologetically, scratching the back of his neck. “After finding out I’m Chat Noir, I thought you knew.”

“Chat Noir?” Marinette froze mid-motion, blinking at him. 

“Chat Noir,” Adrien laughed exasperatedly, pointing at his super suit. “It’s kind of a ‘the whole wide world knows’ type of deal that I’m in love with Ladybug. I didn’t think you were left out on the loop.”

“Ladybug?” Marinette asked again, as she dipped back to her knees, ever so slowly. 

“Yeah, you know, incredibly smart and funny and compassionate superheroine of Paris, Ladybug. Saving the city daily and standing up for anyone who can’t fight for themselves, Ladybug,” Adrien said automatically before a wave of panic reached him and made him facepalm, not just mentally. “I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean to ramble about her to you, because you’re just as awe-”

“No, wait! Ladybug is the other person you’re in love with?” Marinette cut in, tentatively reaching out to him as her eyes glistened with… hope?

“Who else would it be?” Adrien asked back, just as startled as she seemed. However, he couldn’t let his surprise at her reaction stop him from explaining properly, so he went ahead. “I’m well aware that this sounds really bad. And I mean, really really bad. I shouldn’t have asked you out when I was still in love with her, but I didn’t expect you to accept it. Like, at all.”

He peered up at Marinette from under his lashes, but instead of shouting at him and running away, she just sat there, mouth agape, and Adrien could practically see how the cogs were turning in her head. He had to give her the full picture so she could understand. 

There was no place for secrets anymore.

“You’re so cool, and I just wanted to be your friend, that’s why I asked you out, but then you said yes, and I panicked. And we had this bet, and Ladybug said that I should try dating you, because we had something special, and hell, she was right because I fell in love with you, but I-” Adrien gasped for air, not understanding why was Marinette smiling, but tears welled in her eyes so this couldn’t be good. 

Not like it mattered anymore. He just had to tell her everything. “But I- I never really fell out of love with her, and I just- I just don’t know what to do, because I don’t want to hurt you,” he said, squeezing his eyes shut because he couldn’t bear to see her smile after this. 

“Adrien, I’m sorry. I’m so sorry,” he heard Marinette whisper and suddenly her arms were all around him, pulling him into an impossibly tight hug. 

Adrien’s eyes shot open at her touch, not understanding the situation, but he didn’t have it in himself not to melt against her embrace.

“I’m the one who should be apologizing, don’t you think?” he managed finally, pulling away a little because however understanding she sounded, he didn’t dare to overstay his welcome. 

“No, you have nothing to apologize for, Adrien,” she shook her head with a dry chuckle. “It’s all my fault and I’m so sorry!”

“How would me breaking your heart, by being in love with someone else too, be your fault?” Adrien asked, frowning. 

“Because I should have made sure you understood when I told you,” she smiled, cupping his cheeks in her hands. “You are not in love with two people. You never were. It always has been one, just one. Just me.”

Adrien felt his heart jump in his chest, beating out of it, because no, that couldn’t be true. That was too good to be true. Because if Ladybug was Marinette that meant that Marinette was-

“Do you remember when I told you I know you’re Chat Noir?” she asked, caressing his skin with her thumb. “You didn’t allow me to finish because you said you knew and I didn’t question it. But it looks like you didn’t fully understand. What I really wanted to say was, that I only recognized you because I’m also-”

“M’lady,” Adrien breathed, and the world erupted in fireworks as she beamed at him.

“Yes, Chaton .”

Slowly, she leaned close, her eyes fluttering shut, and — even though Adrien wasn’t quite sure he believed it yet that he could be this lucky — his arms were already on her back, holding her tight as he closed the distance and melted against her lips. 

They were soft, and warm, and so, so Marinette , that the way they moved against him felt nothing short of perfect . The gentle push and pull, as her fingers crawled up his face to entangle in his hair and hold him just a little closer with every passing second felt like the epitome of love

Marinette tasted of vanilla, and a kind of happiness Adrien didn’t know existed.

As her tongue grazed his teeth, Adrien found, he didn’t give a damn about it that the purr erupting from his throat wasn’t what people called “socially acceptable”. It was only the two of them — not against but — in the world, and Marinette didn’t seem to mind it; nor his hand sneaking its way to her waist and pulling her closer, always closer, until she was sitting on his lap, her arms around his neck. Her chest pressed to his and Adrien was sure, she could feel their hearts beating at once, ever in sync, too. 

When she pulled away to catch her breath, Marinette pressed her forehead against his. And — maybe to no one’s surprise — Adrien couldn’t help the enormous grin breaking out on his face and the words spilling out of him, unbidden. “I love you!”

Marinette blinked once before her smile curled up, mirroring his in an instant. “I love you, too!” she breathed, pressing her lips to his once more.

Then once more. 

Adrien followed her movement as she pulled away, pressing one last peck to her mouth for good measure. 

“Although, I must ask. What did you think I was talking about the last time you were here, if — evidently — not about being Ladybug?” she giggled. 

Adrien felt his cheeks flush at the memory of his unshakable conviction at that moment. “I thought you were talking about being Multimouse,” he admitted.

“Oh, Adrien!” Marinette laughed.

“Well, I wasn’t exactly wrong ,” he huffed. However, it would have been a futile attempt to try to keep a straight face, when his heart felt light like a feather and Marinette’s laugh and ‘I love you’ was still ringing in his ears.

“No, you were right! You were right all along,” she said, her eyes incredibly warm. “It’s just too funny. I mean, I thought the love-square we had going on all this time was ridiculous as it was, but this…”

“Love-square?” Adrien blinked, sliding his hand to the small of her back to support her better.

“Well, you were in love with Ladybug, while I was pining after Adrien so hard, that I couldn’t even imagine dating my partner for the longest time,” Marinette explained with a light blush, brushing a stray lock of hair out of his eyes tenderly. “Then, when I finally would have agreed to go out with Chat Noir, Adrien asked me out with the lamestly disguised ridiculous scheme. And I realized, I didn’t have to choose anymore,” she declared with a dazzling smile that had the power to dispel thunderclouds. 

“Wait, wait, wait!” Adrien protested, feeling his head spin with all the new information, that somehow he felt like he was supposed to know all along, but when the full picture started to come together, the blow was still dizzying. “You mean to tell me, I was Ladybug's other boy?”

“Always have been,” Marinette said, flicking the bell in his neck playfully.

“That’s just… so stupid,” he managed, as a burst of laughter escaped his lungs.

Maybe any other day the sheer idiocy of the situation would have fazed him, but currently, Adrien was too busy turning into a puddle of goo under Marinette’s loving gaze to be bothered by it. 

“Exactly my thoughts,” she nodded cheerily, squirming on his lap to position herself more comfortably, as if she planned to spend the rest of her life right there.  Adrien couldn’t say he minded it the slightest bit. 

“But, just imagine what our kwamis had to suffer through,” Marinette added, shaking her head. “Seeing this play out in real-time and they couldn’t say a thing.”

“They… They knew who we were…” he said slowly, the picture rearranging itself in his head once again as realization dawned on him, painting Plagg’s actions in a very different light than he previously imagined. 

The detransformation phase came to his mouth like the most natural thing in the world. For a moment, green light filled the air before the black kwami’s gleeful expression materialized. 

“It’s good to see you again, Pigtails,” Plagg beamed at Marinette.

“You knew!” Adrien all but exclaimed, pointing an accusatory finger at his companion. “When you proposed the plan you knew I’d be asking out Ladybug ! You knew Marinette would say yes, and all of this would happen!”

He thought the kwami at least would have the decency to look ashamed, but Plagg just grinned, shrugging his tiny shoulder. “I did. And I told you it was a foolproof plan. Not even you could sabotage it.”

Adrien narrowed his eyes, examining the kwami critically. He felt like he should be angry with Plagg for putting him through everything he did all week, and for — judging by the smug expression on his face — immensely enjoying it. However, with Marinette trembling with laughter on Adrien's lap, and just a minute ago having felt the happiest he had ever been, it was hard to mime anything more than indignation. 

“You’re the worst,” he grumbled finally, without really meaning it. 

“What he meant to say is: thank you, Plagg,” Marinette giggled, earning herself a mock-strict glance from her boyfriend.

“No, thank you , Pigtails! The show was exquisite,” the kwami grinned gleefully, before zipping inside Marinette’s room to reunite with Tikki at long last.

“Whose side are you on exactly?” Adrien demanded, but the smile lurking in the corner of his mouth must have given him away.

“There are no sides anymore, Adrien,” Marinette informed him happily, pressing a sweet kiss to his cheek. “And you have to admit that once you come to terms with the sheer stupidity of the situation, it’s actually pretty funny.”

“Oh, is that so?” he asked with a smirk. “Is that why you didn’t tell me I actually asked out the love of my life when I panicked about breaking Marinette’s heart to Ladybug? For the fun of it?”

“I couldn’t deprive you of the agonizing blissfulness of falling for the same person twice,” Marinette smiled, batting her eyelashes innocently. “It wouldn’t have been fair.”

That wouldn’t have been fair? Oh yeah, sure thing,” Adrien laughed, his eyes shining with mischief as he slowly sneaked his hand up to her waist, before launching a deadly tickle attack.

Marinette fell back, laughing, as she tried to draw away from his fingers digging into her side.

“You’re ambushing me, that’s not fair!” she complained, when she could catch her breath as his tickling subsided. 

Adrien leaned over her, a sly grin on his face. His lips hovered just a few centimeters distance from hers. “That’s just how you play, m’lady.” 

“But you still love me,” Marinette teased, returning his smirk. 

Adrien hummed in agreement, pressing a kiss to her nose. "And you love me. You always have,” he said dreamily, carefully tasting the words on his tongue. 

“Oh, shut up!” she laughed, smacking his chest playfully, as if preparing to shove him away. 

However, Adrien’s smile wasn’t that quick to fall. “Make me.”

That was all the cue Marinette needed to yank him down by a fistful of his shirt instead, and crash her mouth against his. Adrien sighed happily against the kiss, melting into her touch.

“Like that?” she murmured against his lips when they broke apart.

“Yeah, that’ll do it,” he breathed, still dazed. 

He had half a mind to roll off of Marinette, not to squash her (with the weight of his emotions.) He stretched out on the warm tiles of her balcony, looking up at the starless sky for a few silent seconds with a dreamy smile on his face, before he turned back to her and sighed. “You know, I’m just so glad it’s you!”

“I’m so glad it’s me, too,” Marinette giggled, turning on her side to face him as they lay next to each other, her hands tucked under her head.

“And, full disclosure, I’m not only saying this because Alya is a terrifying force to be reckoned with. After yesterday’s incident she was ready to come for my neck if I ever as much as existed in the same room as Ladybug,” Adrien added with a lopsided smirk.

“Oh, I bet!” Marinette laughed, her shining eyes never letting go of his. “She seemed really unimpressed by my little stunt last night.”

“No wonder! Hitting on others’ boyfriends is not a nice thing, m’lady,” Adrien chided playfully. 

Now that he was in on the joke, he had to admit that Plagg was right. It was hilarious. She wouldn’t hear the end of it for a good while, that much he could guarantee. 

“I did no such thing, thank you very much,” Marinette pouted, sitting up so she could cross her arms in front of her chest. “And it wouldn’t have even looked like that, if only you played along.”

“Well, forgive me for not wanting to cheat on you!” He beamed, following suit, and capturing her hand to press a kiss against her knuckles.

“Cheat on me — with me?” she teased, her cheeks adorably rosy from the simple affection.

“Don’t be mean now!” he said in mock-indignation. “How was I supposed to know it was you?”

“You swore you knew me, all I did was believe you. Oh, what a fool I was for that!” Marinette swooned dramatically with the back of her hand over her forehead, earning a throaty laughter from the boy. “Besides, is it my fault that you can’t recognize your own girlfriend?”

“As a matter of fact, yes, it is!” Adrien grinned. 

“Okay, I’ll have to give you that.” She shook her head with a chuckle. “But in my defense, I didn’t mean for it to drag on this long. So, really, it’s a relief that the cat is finally out of the bag — for real this time,” she said with a by now well-accustomed smirk on her lips, as she intertwined her fingers with his. 

“Ah, now I see what you meant when you said you had some criminal expertise!” Adrien mused, tapping his chin in thought with his other hand joyfully. 

He earned himself a curious look from Marinette that he answered with a sly grin. “You’re stealing all my best lines!”

“Your best lines and your heart,” she corrected, pulling him closer and pressing a kiss to the corner of his mouth.

“And my heart,” Adrien agreed readily, before- “And my phone. Oh god , Ladybug stole my phone!” 

“Hey, I thought we agreed to let that slide! I was foolish, young and in love; you can’t hold that against me!” Marinette pouted, clearly not grasping the real significance of the events that led up to the phone stealing incident.

“I’m sorry m’lady, but I just can’t do that,” he said, a warm, teasing lilt to his voice. “After all, I wasn’t yet fully aware of all the facts when we made that agreement.”

“And the facts are?” she asked, cocking an eyebrow.

“Just how crazy I actually am for you, of course!” With their bodies being so close to each other, he could feel Marinette’s breath hitch, only making his smile bolder. “I’m sorry, but I can’t pass up the reminder just like that, that you really do love me back.”

“You know, I could just remind you of it every day, Chaton . Because it’ll always be true,” she said earnestly, squeezing his hand. “Forever!”

“Forever is a pretty long time, though,” Adrien answered, returning her soft look in kind. “It doesn’t matter how much I’d love that, I can’t ask it from you.”

“It’s fortunate then, that you aren’t the one asking. It’s me,” Marinette said, leaning closer, until her nose was bare centimeters from his, and Adrien could feel her breath on his lips. “And it’s the one question I always wanted to know the honest answer for. Adrien, will you be my ever after?”