The university had provided a wide variety of food, mostly carbs, for the party. Adrien grabbed pretty much everything and ate it happily, occasionally slipping something cheesy into Marinette's large purse where Plagg liked to hang out when he could. His nutritionist would balk at the sheer amount Adrien packed into his stomach as they wandered around, but that was future Adrien's problem. He listened happily as Marinette told him everything she had talked to the other fashion students about, gesturing wildly, and dancing around as she remembered something exciting.
This was his favorite part about becoming Marinette’s friend. He loved watching the way her face told more of the story than her words, and how her hair brushed her bare shoulders when she moved her head. She was funny and passionate, and incredibly theatrical for someone who had been so self-conscious when he met her.
Sometimes he was jealous of the people who got to see her like this right away. They didn’t have to power through several painfully awkward interactions to get the occasional genuinely comfortable friendship. Like that Ollivier guy. He had spied them talking as he was heading over. Marinette looked stunning in the beautiful handmade outfit that fit her perfectly. Adrien knew Ollivier saw it. Who wouldn’t? So when he grabbed her arm and gave her his cell phone, Adrien’s heart dropped just a little. He quickly squashed his jealousy, it had never served him well in the past, but it still lingered like a bitter taste at the back of his tongue.
He was distracting himself from those thoughts by watching the way Marinette’s top lifted and fell with the movements in her arms, exposing a thin strip of her toned stomach, when he heard a familiar and shrill voice pierce through the crowds.
He hadn’t seen Chloe very often since they graduated college, she had insisted on going to a fancy private lycee, while he wanted to stay in public school with Nino. Chloe's Behavior had changed a bit since then. She now only fawned over him at public events or when certain people were watching. When she saw him in private she would often either ignore him or treat him with mild indifference. But they were in public, and so far he had been able to keep anyone from noticing him.
That’s why he’d told several people to call him Adi. He was only getting more recognizable as time went by. The agent His father had hired was starting to get him actual acting jobs instead of just voice work, and with him reaching adulthood more people felt it was now okay to objectify him, even if they were three times older than he was. So the opportunity to be somewhat anonymous among his new classmates? It was a necessity.
Marinette met his eyes and both silently agreed to make a break for it, hiding among the crowds going in the opposite direction from where they’d heard Chloe’s voice.
“Ugh, I forgot that he attends this university,” Marinette said as they ducked around a corner.
“Just be glad she’s not in your program. I’m afraid I’ll end up having a class with her.”
“Which would completely end your chances of pretending to be a normal student.”
“Exactly, and here I thought the whole glasses and a hat thing was going to work.” The crowds were thinning out and Adrien began looking for anything to hide behind in case Chloe had followed them.
“It’s been working so far, right? Maybe she just saw me, and then realized it was probably you. She knows we’re all going to this university since I saw her vague posting about the school just letting anyone in now, and I know it was about me. She tagged me in the comments.”
“How is that vague?” They were mostly surrounded by booths for smaller programs, and a few clubs, so they stopped at the magic club display to pretend they were interested. No one was currently manning the booth so they continued to chat.
“It’s vague for Chloe. Normally she would have tagged me in the original post.”
He laughed. “Yeah, that sounds about right.” They hung around just long enough to determine that Chloe was not in fact going to follow them. They decided to stroll the rest of the way down the row of booths. Most of them were packing up, but a few stragglers were still chatting. Adrien noticed Marinette shivering as they neared the end of the row.
“Are you cold?”
“Just a little. I forgot that it’s getting cold at night now, and didn’t bring a jacket. It’s okay though. I think I saw some sweaters you could win at one of the games. I’ll be fine until then.” She said, rubbing her arms slightly. He rolled his eyes and shrugged off the denim shirt he was wearing. She tried to protest when he dropped it over her shoulders and tucked her into his side, but her resistance melted when she realized how warm she felt. They were about to turn around and head towards some of the games when they both recognized a familiar face.
“Hey! Max!” Marinette called to one of the men packing up the final booth on the row. He turned around looking confused until he spotted them. The years had treated Max well. He was still as gangly as ever but had grown into his body. He’d grown his hair out and pulled the braids into a bun on top of his head, probably inspired by his short stints as Pegasus. He waved enthusiastically and jogged over to them.
“Marinette, I have been meaning to speak to you! The program we were working on is almost done, I just need a few things from you. Do you think Alya could get a hold of Ladybug and Chat Noir? I need someone to place a few prototypes to test the algorithm. Also, are you finished building the protective cases? I want to make sure the hardware fits with the mechanics you were designing. I need to make sure it has at least a 90-degree range of movement in all directions.”
“Hi, Max, it’s good to see you, too,” Adrien said teasingly.
“Yes, sorry hi.” He gazed briefly at Adrien and opened his mouth to say something more to Marinette, then stopped and did a double-take. “I’m sorry, do we know each other?”
“I know we haven’t seen each other in a while but I didn’t think you’d forget me this fast!” He joked, “And here I was thinking the whole glasses thing wasn’t working.”
“I told you, Chloe just made a lucky guess,” Marinette said, poking him in the side.
“Adrien? I feel so embarrassed. I can’t believe I didn't recognize you.”
“That’s alright, that’s kind of the point. I’m just glad it actually works.” Adrien looked around. “Hey, where’s Markov? I have a great riddle for him, there’s a 50% chance he won’t know the answer.”
The game they all called Stumpkov started when Kim spent three days straight trying to ask Max’s AI robot a question he didn’t know the answer to. Very few of them had managed to actually accomplish it, Adrien not being one of them. He still liked to occasionally try his hand whenever he ran into Max and Markov.
“Markov actually stayed back in my apartment tonight. He’s actually working on the program for Marinette.”
“I thought if we had an early Akuma detection network set up we could maybe narrow down where they’re coming from and give the hero’s a better place to work. I haven’t really told anyone because I didn’t want to get anyone’s hopes up in case it didn’t work.” She looked at him with a soft rueful expression. The meaning was clear. I didn’t want to get Your hopes up. Because it was true. Now that there was a light at the end of the tunnel, a type of progress he could physically point to, his hopes were up. He would get to go through his day without slipping out to fight akumas, he wouldn’t have to be afraid of doing something to set off a photographer or designer, or heaven forbid a fan. He would get to know who his lady was. This last thought brought him so much joy, maybe she would finally let him in. Their relationship as superhero partners had only gotten better over the years. Sometimes he would catch her looking at him so softly, like earlier today with the Akuma, that he was sure he would have a chance if it weren’t for Hawkmoth.
Then he remembered that it was Marinette that was doing this for him, and he felt a slight twist in his gut. What would happen to their...friendship, after this was all done for? If it turned out he was right and Ladybug actually could love him back, how on earth could he face Marinette? Their current arrangement was born out of mutual sexual frustration and several bad decisions in a row. They both knew this was temporary. She had said before that she didn’t mind that he was in love with someone else, and even seemed to enjoy it when he gushed about Ladybug. But something sat wrong in his gut. He wished, not for the first time, that he could somehow have both.
He sighed slightly and realized Max and Marinette had been talking for several minutes while he stewed in his inner turmoil. He tuned back into the conversation just in time to hear Max ask Marinette if she could talk to the superheroes sometime soon. She smiled a secret little smile and pinched his side lightly to let him in on the joke. “I bet I can talk to them one way or another. I’ll send them your way if I see them.”
They chatted for several more minutes about the computer science and robotics course Max was enrolled in. The conversation was cut short by one of the other guys at Max’s booth calling over for him to help take down the table. They said their goodbyes and Adrien and Marinette began to stroll back to the main thoroughfare.
Adrien Asked Marinette several questions about her villain catching scheme and was surprised to learn that it had been in the works for over a year now. Marinette had spent several months compiling every piece of footage she could find of the now-iconic purple butterflies. She had worked with businesses to scour their security footage and had even petitioned the mayor to no avail. Her best resource had of course been the Ladyblog, citizens would often send in footage of attacks and any Akuma sightings. Max was now using the footage to teach an AI how to recognize an Akuma and send a notification to an app to help triangular patterns and perhaps narrow down where Hawkmoth was hiding if he was staying in one place at all. She told him all this in a low tone, in a secluded corner near a few of the noisier spots. She asked him to talk to Ladybug the next time he saw her. He readily agreed. They talked some more about placement and what to look for. His head was spinning, whether it was from the sheer amount of work Marinette had been putting into this project or the fact that he might actually get everything he’s ever wanted, he wasn’t sure.
There was one thing Adrien couldn’t get out of his head though. “Why?” He asked as they left their hiding spot to mingle with the crowds again.
“Why, what?” She grabbed his wrist as she was jostled by a passing group. It was getting later, and more people were either splitting off to party elsewhere or congregating near a speaker they’d set up by the library.
“Why are you doing this?”
She looked at him oddly. “Why wouldn’t I?”
“It’s just that most people just expect the superheroes to take care of it. This is the first time I've heard of anyone putting together a program like this. Why are you taking up so much of your time doing this? You could be working on your designs or catching up on sleep, or one of the million other things you do for people”
“I don’t know. I guess I just realized that Shadowmoth has the advantage. Ladybug and Chat Noir go out regularly and are at greater risk of exposure. He can sit back in his lair and have some poor citizen do his dirty work for him. This is my way of helping take back that advantage.”
He looked at her in amazement. “You’re amazing Marinette. Paris is lucky to have you.”
She turned back to him with a glint in her eye. “I could say the same for you.”
They spent the next few hours playing games, dancing, and talking to half-drunk strangers. They caught up with Marinette’s roommates after a while and were introduced to a slew of people whose names they forgot immediately. Bette continued to insist that everyone call him KItten, but he still managed to get a few of them to call him by his new secret identity“normal human man” Adi. They even ran into Olivier at one point, but Margot quickly latched on to him to ask him several questions about the program.
They also won themselves a pair of university jackets. The first was for Marinette so he could get his shirt back, to which she staunchly refused, simply shrugging the jacket over the top of the shirt -she claimed that she would have to warm up the jacket and would be too cold until then. Adrien suspected this wasn't entirely true. He would have been annoyed if it weren't for the fact that Marinette looked really good in his clothes. So he went ahead and played several games at a dart-throwing booth for the second, and when he couldn’t manage to get it, Marinette swooped in and won it in one go.
At about Midnight Adrien was exhausted, and he noticed Marinette was trying to hide several yawns behind the over large sleeves of her jacket. He fought a responding yawn.
“You look pretty tired, are you ready to go?” He asked her, rubbing his hands up and down her arms.
“No, I’m wide awake. We should stay,” she said, forcing her eyes open wider and a too-wide smile.
“Hmm, that’s too bad,” he said thoughtfully.
He pulled her closer with a hand on her waist to whisper in her ear. “I was just thinking how you should come over tonight.”
He could see the goosebumps forming on the back of her neck as she turned to see if anyone was looking. They were all too busy with their own conversations to notice how close the pair were standing. “In case you forgot, I still have unpacking to do,” she whispered back.
“Do it tomorrow.” He began to play with the hem of her blouse, his fingers occasionally brushing her warm skin, a total accident off course. She suppressed a shiver. He suppressed a grin.
“We have lunch with Alya and Nino, and you wanted me to help you pick out actual decorations for your new apartment. I’m going to be busy tomorrow,” she pouted at him.
“What better way to prep for our shopping spree than to get a good feel for the apartment.” She pursed her lips, he could tell she was considering it. Time to deal the final blow.
“Plus, it would give you a chance to try out the giant jacuzzi tub I was telling you about that you’re so jealous of. I think I even have some bath bombs you could use.” Her eyes lit up with a devilish gleam, and he realized he might have been played for a fool.
“Oh, well, I supposed I could take some time for a bath. If you insist.” He chuckled.
“Let’s say our goodbyes because I insist.”
Marinette walked over to where Margot and Bette were watching Yvonne playing a very intense drinking game. She spoke quietly in Margot’s ear, who nodded and turned to wave goodbye. He waved back, and soon they were walking the three blocks to his apartment. He dropped his arm around her waist and watched out for any paparazzi lurking in corners as they walked.
He lived in a newer building close to campus, and it was one of the few concessions his father had made the nearly year-long negotiation on when and how Adrien would be able to attend University. He like Marinette had taken a year off after lycee to work full time at Gabriel. In exchange for working on the business side of the fashion house, representing his father at meetings, and taking whatever modeling or acting job his father deemed beneficial to the brand, Adrien got to study Physics and live away from the mansion. He’d only lived in his apartment for about a week and a half and had barely spent any time in it because he was busy trying to wrap up loose ends and finish shooting the romantic comedy he’d been filming all summer. It was bigger than he needed, a two-bedroom two-bathroom penthouse, and was decorated in the same grandiose and soulless style as his room had been in the mansion, but he was already finding himself enjoying the freedom. Especially as he walked Marinette through the front door. Knowing he could have someone over without his father breathing down their neck was a relief, he could almost pretend he was a normal university student.
They had been silent for most of the walk, but it was a comfortable silence. Marinette leaned heavily into his side as they entered the elevator. Once the door closed she pulled him down into a searing kiss. His back was pressed into the wall of the elevator as he pulled her as close as he could. Her hands wandered from his torso to his neck. She pulled his hat from his head and began raking her fingers through his hair. He whined slightly when she got caught in a tangle. He could feel her smile against his lips as she lightly pulled at the hair on the back of his neck. He grunted in annoyance and bit her bottom lip, pulling with his teeth. She gasped, which sent a shock down his spine. He flipped their positions and pressed her against the wall lining his whole body against hers. Both of their breathing was ragged, and he pulled away to breathe for a second as Marinette began pressing kisses to his neck. The elevator came to a stop on his floor and they jumped apart. They looked at one another sheepishly and laughed.
His apartment was at the end of the hall. The short walk seemed a lot longer with Marinette pressed against his side, her hands under his shirt tracing circles against his stomach. He fumbled for his key nearly dropping it when her hands hooked onto the waste and of his jeans.
“Marinette, you're making this very difficult.” He hissed. He finally managed to unlock the deadbolt and moved to the main lock. He paused when Marinette let out a scandalized gasp. He looked to see her wide eyes and a shocked smile. “What?”
“You missed a pun!”
“What? No, I didn’t.”
“Yes, you diiiid!” She sang. “Am I making it difficult or am I making it-“
“Oh, my g- just, ugh. It’s because you're being very distracting.” He told her indignantly. He managed to finally slide the key into the lock.
“Sorry,” she was definitely not sorry, “I’m just really excited for that bath.” She said the last part softly, her warm breath brushing softly against his neck. To accentuate her point she undid the bottom of his pants in one smooth motion. He quickly pushed open the door.
“Dear lord. Just get in the apartment before I go insane.” He pulled her in, and quickly shut the door, and pushed her against it. He kissed her deeply, running his tongue along her lower lip. She pushed his jacket off his shoulders and began pulling his shirt over his head.
“Excuse me, but can you please not do this in the front room?” A nasal voice said from over his shoulder, "Some of us would like to eat our snacks in here. Unless you WANT me to eat Camembert on your pillow.”
“Sorry, Plagg.” Marinette said sweetly against his mouth.
“Go away, Plagg.” Adrien said at the same time, still pressing kisses to Marinette's lips.
“Hey, I live here too! I heard what Nino said about respecting common areas! This is a common area!”
Adrien growled, but before he could respond Marinette was pushing him backward.
“Come on. Bedroom, now.”
They stumbled their way to his bedroom, only crashing into furniture once, both still securely attached, only pausing to lose her jacket, and both their pants. He was struggling with the hooks of her top when she finally pulled away. She reached around and finished unhooking the clasps for him. He slowly pulled it away and helped her pull the blouse she wore underneath over her head. He ran his hand over the red lines where the corset had been digging into her sides. He took a moment to look at her, the way the moonlight streaming through these windows made her eyes sparkle against her flushed skin. The soft curve of her waist.
She was beautiful, he couldn’t deny it, and with the way she was gazing at him, he was powerless to stop whatever it was they were. He leaned in slowly, his nose brushing against the skin of her cheek. He could feel her panting breath against his face. He wrapped both hands around her trim waist and tossed her squealing onto the bed. He pounced after her, pinning her to the mattress. He kissed his way from her shoulder, up her neck and back to get mouth. She smiled and tried to squirm out from underneath him.
“Okay, I’m ready for my bath now. Thanks for helping me get undressed.” She managed to wiggle her way closer to the edge of the bed before he pulled her back giggling the whole way.
“Oh, no you don’t. I have something else in mind first. “ He kissed the spot just below her ear, sucking slightly. She sighed happily, pulling him closer.
“Why don’t you show me then?” She hummed against his ear.
Adrien woke to the feeling of fingers softly running across his jawline. He cracked his eyes open to a mostly dark room and Marinette's face hovering over his with a blank expression. His head was on a pillow cradled in her lap, and he watched as her eyes followed her fingers along his cheekbones and around his lips. Her touch was so gentle he almost couldn’t feel it. When after a moment she noticed that his eyes were open and her blank expression changed to one of mild embarrassment.
“Hi.” He said, voice cracking with sleep.
“Whatcha doing?” He said this teasingly, grinning slightly at her chagrin.
“Um, I was meditating. It helps to have something to focus on, and you were right there, and you were sleeping so soundly you didn’t even move when I moved your head, so I thought you wouldn’t notice or mind. I’m sorry if I made you uncomfortable, I was almost done I promise. I won’t do it again.” She moved to take his head out of his lap, her face the same signature red he remembered from their early friendship. He grabbed her hand and brought it back to cup his cheek.
“Hey, it’s okay.” He smiled at her and turned to kiss the palm of her hand. “I didn’t know you meditate.”
She stopped trying to move, but still averted her eyes from his. “Yeah, I started a few years ago after the attacks started getting worse. I’m not great at it. I have a hard time focusing most of the time on all the projects I’m always working on, but I try to do it for like 20 minutes every day before bed. I don't really talk about it.”
“Why not?” “I guess I’m just worried people are going to think that if they meditate then they won’t get akumatized, or that their life will get easier or better if they do it, and then have them get mad at me when it doesn’t work."
“That makes sense. It’s not true, but it makes sense.” He traced comforting circles into the back of her hand with his thumb. “Feel free to use my face anytime you need to.”
She laughed softly and pressed a kiss to his forehead. “Good to know.” She paused and in a quiet voice, she murmured “Thank you. I’m sorry I woke you up.”
“You’re more than welcome, Princess. Besides, if anything it’s a good thing. I need to wash my face, or my dermatologist is going to have a heart attack. Can’t have this perfect face breaking out.” He stretched and took a peek at the windows. It still seemed like night, but it had to be quite late. “What time is it?”
“A little after 3.” He looked up at her in mild shock. “I thought you were exhausted. How are you still awake?”
“Who says I didn’t fall asleep in the bath?” She gave him a shrewd smile, and he took notice of the loose wet hairs around the back of her neck and framing her face. “Those jets lulled me right to sleep. I think I might just be in love. If you ever move I’ll never speak to you again.”
“Good to know. I’m glad it was everything you dreamt of.” It was at this point that he realized that she was wearing his clothes, a t-shirt, and a pair of boxers he never wore. He sat up to give her a pointed look. “I see you also had fun raiding my closet.”
Her smile widened. “Well, what did you expect me to do?” She batted her eyes innocently, “Sleep in my birthday suit when there was a whole drawer of perfectly good shirts right there begging me to wear them?”
“No, no. You’re right.” He leaned in until they were nose to nose, fighting a smile. “Although, I wouldn’t have minded the birthday suit.” He darted forward to press a quick kiss to her lips before jumping away. She scoffed indignantly and threw the pillow at him, which he easily dodged on his way to the bathroom.
“That’s right, go do your 20 step skincare routine like the coward you are, monsieur Model! I’m going to sleep.” She called after him. He chuckled and quickly went through his annoyingly extensive skincare routine, brushed his teeth, and put on a pair of pajama pants.
True to her word Marinette was well on her way to dreamland when he finished. She grumbled as he crawled in beside her, but flipped onto her other side to press her face into his collarbone. He wrapped his arms around her and pulled her close, breathing in the soft floral smell of the bath bomb she’d used. He signed and relaxed into the mattress.
He was definitely going to lose.