Continuing Tales

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A Miraculous: Tales of Ladybug & Cat Noir Story
by DarkReyna16

Part 16 of 37

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The holidays seemed to pass by in a blur…and yet, at the same time, key moments seemed to stand still, holding Adrien in place for as long as he possibly dared to linger.

He knew what caused the difference, and it was beginning to concern him.

So on the first Wednesday after the holidays, he fled to Ivan’s office, shed his jacket and scarf at the coat rack, and then flopped down onto the shrink couch.

“Bad holiday?” Ivan asked, sounding concerned as Adrien groaned, his face pressed into the couch.

“He’s being a drama queen,” Plagg insisted, escaping from Adrien’s coat, showing the usual lack of care for being discreet, since the cat was already out of the bag as far as Ivan was concerned. “Where’s the cheese, Big Guy?”

Adrien glanced up, dim sparks of amusement and annoyance rolling through him at how damn near casual Ivan was about withdrawing a wheel of camembert from his desk, allowing the kwami to have at it. Glutton.

“I’m sorry,” he apologized, cringing at the disgusting display of Plagg stuffing his face with the foul-smelling cheese. “I was already resigned to my fate of forever smelling like a cheese shop a long time ago, but to have you be roped in—”

“I don’t mind,” Ivan assured him, and Adrien noted with some surprise that his therapist actually meant it, watching Plagg with a mix of curiosity and amusement on his face. Huh. What a strange pair of friends they made.

Before long, Ivan’s gaze switched to Adrien.

“So, do you want to talk about it? Your holidays, I mean.”

Ugh. Where did he start?

The aftermath of the Winter Ball had already been confusing enough for him, but when he showed up at the Dupain-Cheng household for Christmas dinner, things got even more bewildering.

Tom and Sabine had been as nice and welcoming as always, of course: as soon as he arrived, Tom had swept him away to change, and Marinette had nearly laughed herself stupid at the sight of him drowning in one of Tom’s large and horrible Christmas sweaters. (The number on the Trouble Meter in his head had cautiously crawled up from ninety-five to ninety-six.)

Then, they had started on the cookies because Tom had wanted them to bake and be ready by the time they finished dinner. Adrien had had no clue what he was doing, and Marinette had hardly been helpful, teasing him and dotting his nose with cookie dough. He had smeared a finger full of dough on her cheek in retaliation, and it had almost become an incident, but Sabine had intervened, and she had put him and Marinette in separate corners to cool off for a while. (Trouble Meter: Ninety-six point five.)

And then dinner happened, with Adrien losing by half a plate to Marinette, but only because he wanted to eat more cookies than her…but his reasoning had fallen on deaf ears as Marinette gloated over her victory for twenty minutes straight. In retribution, he had asked Sabine to tell the “potty dance” story again, and Marinette had refused to speak to him until the cookies were finished, her face so red it put roses to shame. (Trouble Meter: Ninety-seven point five.)

Decorating the cookies had been…embarrassing. Adrien had had no clue over how to work the frosting devices, and he kept missing the cookie he was trying to decorate because he hadn’t been sure how tightly he should squeeze and for how long for what amount of frosting to come out. Marinette, who had apparently decided to take pity on him, had moved over to help him, her hands encircling his so she could show him the correct pressure and position to use on the pastry bag, standing on a stool behind him so she could supervise his work when he tried it on his own. He had been very aware of her presence as he frosted, her body heat like a physical touch, the nerves in his back tingling in a strange way that made him shiver. But it wasn’t until she had leaned forward and spoke into his ear—something about how good a job he was doing or something, he couldn’t remember—that Adrien remembered how very sensitive his ears were, and he jumped and got frosting everywhere, which took a while to clean up, with him red-faced and apologizing profusely to her parents every chance he got, though they had already assured him several times that it was no big deal. And Marinette, as they helped her parents clean, had regarded him with curious blue eyes, eyes he could not afford to meet if he wanted to keep the last of his sanity throughout the night. (Trouble Meter: Ninety-nine.)

But the final nail in Adrien’s future coffin had been hammered into place when they had sat down to watch Christmas movies together, Tom and Sabine on one part of the couch, him and Marinette on the other. Adrien wasn’t sure exactly when he had drifted off to sleep, but when he awoke, it was to find that Sabine and Tom had disappeared, and he and Marinette were swathed in a warm blanket, Marinette’s head resting on his shoulder as she dozed, looking so very peaceful and unguarded and beautiful… (Trouble Meter: He was fucked.)

It had been a struggle to get out of there and go home, because while Adrien had certainly been embarrassed by the circumstances, a part of him—a very large part of him, if he was being honest—hadn’t wanted to leave. It had felt so right being there, joking around with the Dupain-Chengs, eating heaps of Sabine’s cooking, enjoying Tom’s lame dad jokes while Marinette groaned, horsing around with Marinette herself…

It had felt like home.

And for Adrien, for whom the concept of ‘home’ had been shattered a long time ago, the thought of a new definition of the word was both incredibly tempting…and incredibly terrifying.

He had done his best to avoid Marinette for the rest of the holidays, turning down her and Nino’s invitations to Alya’s New Year’s Eve party, making up a work event he didn’t have in order to hide out in his house all evening. It was lonely, but at least he hadn’t felt wrong-footed all night, trying to act normal and not be so aware of Marinette when it seemed like that was quickly becoming impossible—

When he didn’t say anything for a while, Ivan switched tactics.

“Do you just wanna choose a playlist for today?” He asked, turning his computer monitor around. Adrien sighed. Was this backsliding? Maybe. But since his head was still spinning over this seemingly sudden development…

Adrien didn’t pay close enough attention to the playlists; he just chose one at random, turning away to head back to the chaise and sulk—

If there’s a price for rotten judgement

I guess I’ve already won that.

No man is worth the aggravation

That’s ancient history

Been there, done that!

Adrien paused as a four part chorus harmony began to play, frowning in concentration. This song…he knew this song…where was it from again…?

No chance, no way,

I won’t say it, no, no.

You swoon, you sigh

Why deny it, uh-oh~

It’s too cliché,

I won’t say I’m in loooove~

Adrien froze.

That’s right…he hadn’t watched it in ages, but he remembered: this song was from the Disney movie “Hercules”, and it was the big number with the love interest, Meg, who was fervently denying what the Muses and the audience could see quite plainly—

You keep on denying

Who you are and how you’re feeling

Baby, we’re not buying

Hun, we saw you hit the ceiling—

Before the chorus could insist that he face it like a grown-up, Adrien whirled around and hastily hit the skip button on the playlist, and a new song began to warble through the room—

Wise men say,

‘Only fools rush in’

But I can’t help

Falling in love with—

Cursing now, Adrien jammed his thumb into the skip button, but it slipped, accidentally moving the bar that indicated the length of the song at the top of the screen—

And IIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII will always love—

“Gah!” Adrien yelped, and he hit the stop button at last. The music halted, and Adrien, breathing hard, got a good look at the playlist he had chosen without really thinking about it:

The title was “Love”.

Adrien groaned and sank down into the nearest armchair, defeated. To Ivan’s credit, he didn’t laugh at Adrien…but it took a suspiciously long amount of time for him to say something, and he had to start over a couple times, his voice warbling in a telling way as Plagg outright cackled at Adrien’s humiliation.

“Ahem…so, um…is there something on your mind of the…romantic nature, Adrien?”

Adrien let out another strangled sound, his hands over his face. What he wouldn’t give for a hole to just open up in the floor and swallow him up right now…

Careful what you wish for,’ Joked a playful voice in his mind, one that seemed to have taken residence in his head along with the snide voice of Chat Noir. ‘You know it’d suck if an akuma swooped in to make your hasty wish come true. Don’t lose it, dude.

Adrien forced himself to take a deep breath.

Nino, though he wasn’t here, was right—Adrien shouldn’t panic and lose his mind over this. He was a grown man for god’s sake. He could handle this…couldn’t he?

…Well…maybe not. But that was what Ivan was here for, wasn’t it?

Inhaling deeply once more, Adrien dropped his hands, giving Ivan a dejected look.

“I fucked up,” he said oh so eloquently, causing Ivan’s eyebrows to climb higher up his forehead before they met in the middle, crinkling in concern.

“What do you mean?” Ivan asked carefully.

With a grunt, Adrien got to his feet, much too restless to sit still for too long. As he paced, he felt Ivan’s eyes on him, though, as usual, the gentle giant did not push. He merely waited patiently as Adrien gathered his thoughts, pondering how best to approach this new and absurd and terrifying situation he had found himself in…

“So…there’s this…girl,” Adrien began, cringing at how lame he sounded. So much for being a grown man. “And, uh, things have gotten…complicated.”

“I see,” said Ivan, Adrien glancing over to find him getting up, rounding his desk in favor of one of the armchairs in the room. During one of their sessions, Adrien had learned that Ivan didn’t like having a desk between him and his clients when he was helping them work through something; too distant, he had said. The fact that he was moving now had Adrien wondering if he looked as desperate as he felt. “Can I hazard a guess and say that this girl is a certain red and black spotted superhero?”

Oh. Oh man, Adrien hadn’t even been thinking about her lately, so stressed was he about Marinette. Did that mean…he was getting over her…?

One problem at a time, man,’ Nino’s voice reminded him, and Adrien sighed heavily.

“Well…no,” Adrien replied slowly. He just caught the surprise that flashed across Ivan’s face, and sighed again. Might as well get all this out, now that he had already thoroughly embarrassed himself for the day… “It’s another girl, actually. Ladybug…I’m working to get over her.” Running a frustrated hand through his hair, Adrien grumbled, “But I don’t think this is the correct way to do that. God, I’m an idiot.”

“Hold on,” Ivan requested, frowning in confusion. “So, Ladybug isn’t the ‘complicated’ situation here?”

“No,” Adrien grumbled, moving over to the chaise and flopping face-first down onto it again. “It’s over with Ladybug. She gave me the closure I needed, so I’m trying to move on in a healthy way. But somehow, I fucked up and…god, she doesn’t deserve this! We just became friends again, she just started trusting me again, and all because I’m a sentimental asshole…Alya’s going to kill me!”

“…Oh,” Ivan spoke after a tense silence, in which Adrien had stiffened, realizing his mistake much too late; he had been so focused on not saying Marinette’s name that he hadn’t registered the threat of speaking the name of others involved… “I see.”

His tone implied that he indeed saw the whole situation for what it was. Adrien groaned, pressing his face further into the chaise, folding his arms over his head, as if it would be enough to make his humiliated desire to disappear from sight a reality.

“I’m an asshole,” Adrien repeated. The words were muffled, but they weren’t any less true because of it; they’d been ricocheting around in his brain since Christmas Day, reminding him relentlessly of the sins he was committing by daring to fall for Marinette. Marinette! His friend, Marinette, the one who re-introduced him to Ivan the Therapist, the one who got out of bed in the middle of the night to pick him up after a stupid, rage and alcohol-induced bar fight, Marinette, the woman who took no shit from him when he was being a dick, the woman who kissed his cheek under a mistletoe after midnight on Christmas, Mari. How could he do this? How could he manage to fuck up the one good thing in his life that had spawned many other good things: his and Nino’s restored friendship, his reform from his twisted view of justice, his reconsidering making a career out of a job he couldn’t stand…she was so wrapped up in so many things in his life, so intricately weaved in the chaos that came with Adrien Agreste…how dare he complicate the situation even further by developing feelings for her?!

“You’re an asshole because you like someone?” Ivan asked, framing the question so that it sounded ridiculous when spoken out loud. Adrien, however, knew the truth, knew that this could not possibly develop any further than it already had. He turned, peering up at Ivan with a bleary eye.

“It’s Marinette, Ivan,” he reminded his therapist with a cringe. “Marinette.

Ivan gave a frown.

“You’re clearly very distressed about this,” he commented. Adrien groaned again, rolling over to lie on his back.

“You think?” He quipped, turning to give Ivan a quirked brow, which caused the therapist to smile a little.

“I told you he’s being a drama queen,” Plagg chimed in, zooming over to rest on one of Ivan’s broad shoulders, a piece of camembert between his two little paws. “He’s been acting like a love-sick kitten around her for weeks, but did he listen to me when I called it? Nope. And now, here we are.” Plagg shook his head dismissively at Adrien, annoying him. “You brought this on yourself, Adrien. You should have just listened to me.”

“Shut up, Plagg,” Adrien hissed, and Plagg smirked at him.

“Talk me through this, Adrien, please,” Ivan requested, interrupting the banter between kwami and Chosen. “You’re viewing your developing feelings for Marinette as a bad thing. Why?”

‘Why’? Oh god. Again, where did he even begin?

“Because it’s Marinette!” Adrien burst out, huffing at the look of incomprehension in Ivan’s eyes. “She’s…wonderful. She’s smart and sassy and sweet and pretty and she smells nice—”

“See?” Interrupted Plagg with a roll of his eyes. “Love-sick kit—mmrph!”

Ivan, it transpired, learned fast: as soon as Plagg began to antagonize Adrien, the therapist promptly shoved the piece of camembert Plagg was holding into the kwami’s mouth. It wouldn’t keep him occupied for long, sadly, so, taking advantage of the momentary distraction, Ivan waved for Adrien to continue. Slightly amused at the absurdity of this situation, Adrien went on.

“The point is,” Adrien huffed, turning his eyes to the ceiling, “she’s everything any man could ever want. So…what would she want with someone like me?”

“Someone like you?” Ivan quoted, tilting his head to the side. Adrien snorted without amusement.

“You know…” he gestured to himself. “A mess.”

Ivan smiled.

“You’re not a mess, Adrien. You’re just…under construction.”

“Great, so I’m an inconvenient mess,” Adrien grumbled, causing Ivan to laugh.

“That’s not what I meant,” he assured his patient. “I only mean that you’re working on becoming better than you were before. That’s going to take some time and a lot of hard work. Cut yourself some more slack.”

“But that’s exactly my point, Doc: Mari deserves to be with someone who actually has his shit together. Someone who knows what he wants to do with his life, and…” Adrien snorted again, “…and who doesn’t come calling on her unexpectedly in a leather cat suit. God, I’m an idiot…how did I not see this coming…?”

“Because you don’t listen!” Plagg chimed in once again, only to have Ivan shush him.

“So…does Marinette know you’re Chat Noir?”

Adrien’s eyes widened at that.

“No! Oh god, no,” he denied, sitting up so abruptly that he nearly slid off the chaise in his haste to become upright. “If she knew it was me…if she ever found out I was Chat Noir…she would hate me.”

Ivan’s brows drew together once again.

“Is that true? ‘Hate’ is a strong word to use...especially because it’s Marinette we’re talking about, here.”

Adrien frowned. Well…he supposed that was true: Marinette didn’t seem to have a hateful bone in her body, even when it came to people who tried her daily, like Chloe back in school. Besides…hadn’t Marinette already admitted to him that she still believed in Chat Noir…?

That was before you told her we were turning tail and running from our responsibilities,’ Chat Noir reminded him snidely. ‘You really think she’d still hold admiration for a coward?

Dude, if you honestly think that, you don’t know ‘Nette nearly as well as you think you do,’ Nino’s voice cut in, ignoring the way Chat Noir hissed at him. Adrien groaned, rubbing his temples. Too many voices, not enough therapy time.

“I don’t know,” Adrien settled for, for the moment. “In any case, I don’t plan on telling her. About Chat…or about my feelings.”

Adrien clenched his fist, staring down at the charm bracelet that now always occupied his right wrist, as if it would be unbearable pain for him to remove it.

“She definitely deserves better,” he said softly. And, though the words caused him misery, he couldn’t fight them—they were true, after all.

“What makes you think she wouldn’t return your feelings?”

Adrien’s head snapped up, and he stared at Ivan in slack-jawed shock. In response, Ivan merely shrugged.

“She had a pretty huge crush on you when we all attended Dupont, remember?”

Oh boy, did he. That fact kept cropping up, unbidden, to Adrien’s thoughts as he lay awake at night, impossible scenarios and imaginings taking over his mind when he was nowhere near sleep, scenarios borne from the most desperate desires of his heart…

Adrien shut those imaginings down, as he always had to, and shook his head fiercely.

“She didn’t really know me back then,” he asserted, scowling at his lap. “She was in love with my image, not me.”

“I see. And how does she react around you now, knowing who you truly are?”

Adrien snorted. That was the uncomfortable bit about it: did anyone truly know him? He led a double-life, after all, and the only two beings to know about it were sitting in this room with him. How could he hope to have a normal relationship with anyone while keeping a secret of this caliber from them? When the random, half-explained disappearances and the mysterious injuries got to be too much…wouldn’t any woman simply leave him?

“She treats me about the same as she would treat any friend,” Adrien replied, smiling in response to the image of a smiling Marinette in his head, her blue eyes twinkling with kindness and mirth. God, she was beautiful…and he was in so much trouble. “Maybe she gives me a little more shit than she would Alya or Nino…but it’s only because I give it right back to her, I guess.”

That’s right—she wasn’t afraid to tell him exactly what she thought of him anymore. The change from teenage Marinette to adult Marinette had been jarring at first, but once Adrien grew used to it, he found himself adoring this new, confident Marinette…adoring her a little too much, in fact…

“Well, if you’re comfortable enough to be so candid with each other, doesn’t it stand to reason that talking about your feelings with Marinette would help you?”

Adrien turned a wide-eyed look onto Ivan.

“Do you want me to die?” He asked him, ignoring the way Ivan blinked in apparent confusion. “Is that what you want? Because lemme tell you: if I try pulling anything with Mari, Alya will kill me.”

“You’ve said that twice now…what makes you so sure this would be Alya’s response if you, uh, ‘tried anything’ with Marinette?”

Adrien gave Ivan a look so deadpan that it would’ve made Marinette proud.

“This is Alya.” When Ivan continued to look curious, Adrien added, “More importantly, this is Alya being protective over Marinette. Her best friend,Marinette.”

Adrien was satisfied when his therapist’s eyes rounded in understanding.

“Oh. Well, uh, that’s…” He coughed. “That’s a…rather difficult situation.”

“So you see my problem. And that’s only the tip of the iceberg.”

Heaving yet another sigh, Adrien flopped back down again, crossing his arms under his head as he started dismally at the ceiling.

“…I don’t know what to do here, Ivan,” he mumbled after a quiet moment. “It’s not like I can avoid Mari—not like I want to, either. But…I’m scared. For eight years, I was so hopelessly in love with Ladybug that it ruined all of the other relationships I’d tried to have with other women. And then, the minute I decide it’s time to move on…here I am again, just with a different woman. I feel like an addict that’s trying to recover by trading one addiction for another…and I don’t want to do that. I don’t want Mari to become a crutch for what I’m too weak to do.”

“Do you feel like you’re using her as a crutch?”

Adrien closed his eyes. He pictured Marinette, in all her loveliness: her dark hair, those cute little freckles that were sprinkled across her nose and cheeks…those blue, blue eyes that seemed to pierce through him and all his pretenses with just a glance…that smile that shaped her plump lips into something tempting, inviting…

His heart thumped unevenly, and he let out a breath.

“…No,” he answered after a moment, keeping his eyes firmly shut. “Whatever this is I’m feeling for her…it’s real. And it’s scary.”

“Why is it scary?”

“Because I don’t want to lose her.”

Slowly, Adrien opened his eyes, moving a hand to rest against his forehead, pushing his hair out of his face.

“…I guess that’s what it boils down to,” he muttered, resignation beginning to seep through him. “I…have feelings for Marinette. But I don’t want to lose her. I don’t dare to run the risk of a relationship if it means losing her as a friend. She means so much to me…I can’t lose her.”

Adrien made himself swallow. His poor, abused heart. How much more could it possibly take?

…But if it came down to breaking his own heart, or possibly breaking Marinette’s…well, the choice was clear, wasn’t it?

“…So you’d rather suffer in silence on this one?”

Adrien turned to look at Ivan. His therapist’s brow was furrowed, clearly concerned about this turn of events. Even Plagg didn’t seem to have anything smart to say; he merely watched his Chosen from the height of Ivan’s shoulder, his green eyes enigmatic.

Adrien forced himself to smile. It was an automatic gesture, and it was not genuine…but what else could he do?

“If it means I get to stay near her without hurting her…then yes,” Adrien answered. He sat up, feeling misery beginning to creep in at this decision…but he was firm on it. Marinette was too important for him to try and complicate a good thing. She wouldn’t be interested, he couldn’t be with her fully while keeping his superhero secret, and she deserved better anyway. Those were the three chains that bound Adrien to his misery, and though he shackled himself in resignation, it was also with the heartening knowledge that Marinette would never be forced to shed another tear over him.

With a sigh, he eyed his watch and stood up.

“Time’s up,” he announced for Ivan, beckoning to Plagg. “Sorry for whining so much today.”

Ivan snorted at that.

“It’s my job to listen to you complain about things,” he reminded Adrien, getting up with a smile as Plagg zoomed across the room to the coat rack, where Adrien’s jacket awaited. The smile faded after a moment, however, and he reached over, a large hand grasping Adrien’s shoulder. “…But are you going to be all right?”

Adrien chuckled weakly at the question.

“No. But that’s what I come visit you for, isn’t it?” Stepping out of Ivan’s grasp, Adrien went to the coat rack, pulling on his Ladybug jacket and his scarf…two things Marinette had made for him, three, if he counted the charm bracelet, though she hadn’t made it specifically for him. It was like he was trying to mark himself with all these gifts she’d given him, and the thought made him blush, tugging at his scarf when he accidentally pulled it a bit too tightly across his throat.

“Ladybug Man…”

Adrien cringed, turning to face Ivan again, who looked like he was trying not to laugh.

“Mari made it for me. It’s a little awkward, considering the circumstances,” Adrien admitted with a sheepish grimace. “…But she made it for me, so—”

“You don’t have to explain yourself to me, Adrien. I get it,” Ivan assured him, smiling now. “See you next week?”

“Yeah,” Adrien sighed, giving Ivan another sheepish look. “Thanks, Ivan. Seriously. You’re awesome.”

Ivan’s face tinted red at the praise, and he rubbed the back of his head with a shy smile.

“I do what I can,” he replied, and Adrien sent him a more genuine smile as he left with a parting wave.

The weather had taken a turn for the worse during the hour Adrien was inside Ivan’s office. Dark storm clouds rolled across the skies, threatening doom and gloom and lots of rain. The heavens trembled, lighting bursting across the sky, followed by a deep rumble of thunder. Adrien stared up at the sky, taken in by the dark beauty such a picture presented. It was as if the weather was trying to echo his mood…that, or Stormy Weather had somehow been turned loose again…

There was a buzzing in his pocket. Adrien withdrew his phone, spotting on his lock screen the dozens and dozens of notifications he was getting, as CEO of Agreste Fashion. There were also a few modeling jobs that required his attention, an e-mail or two from Desiree Trace reminding him that a couple of her students had cancelled their meetings with him today, one sounding like he was suffering from a meltdown of some kind…

Overall, it just looked like a headache to Adrien. Acting on impulse alone, he shut off his phone.

His car waited for him in the parking lot; he ignored it as well, setting off on foot. He didn’t know where he was going, exactly…but maybe he didn’t need a destination. After all, what was the problem if he just…walked…?

The sky rumbled overhead, as if the dark clouds would rip open at any moment and unleash icy, skin-chilling rain upon him for daring to behave so irresponsibly.

Adrien turned his face towards the sky and smiled.

Bring it on.



“Thank you for stopping by!” Marinette called after the couple as they left the bakery. Once they were out of sight, she let her cheery smile drop, and sighed in exhaustion. Running the bakery by herself was hard work, and she had a newfound appreciation for what her parents did, day in and day out. But she was sort of wishing she hadn’t insisted that they go on their day trip to Quartier Chinois while Marinette held down the fort here. True, they had agreed that she could close the bakery earlier than usual, and Marinette had shooed them out the door, insisting that she could handle things here…but man…she had not anticipated the influx of customers at the end of the holidays.

“‘But of course they want our holiday cookies, Marinette!’” Marinette quoted her father, imitating his boisterous manner when he and Sabine had called about half an hour ago, wanting to check on her. “‘It’s the end of the holidays! To keep that depression from setting in, you need some food with Christmas cheer in every bite! That’s why they come to Boulangerie Patisserie!’”

Marinette giggled as she restocked the trays that were running dangerously low on pastries. Well, her father wasn’t wrong—twenty minutes to closing time, they were nearly almost out of Christmas cookies. A shame, since Marinette wanted to bag a few to take home…and maybe share with her friends…

Immediately, her mind jumped to Adrien. She hadn’t seen him since Christmas…apparently, he had gotten stupidly busy at work, and he wasn’t even able to make it to Alya’s New Year’s party. That was a shame, in Marinette’s opinion—the poor guy was way too hard on himself. He needed a lot more fun in his life. Hmm…maybe she’d stop by his place with some cookies after all, just to check on him, make sure he was all right, and not overworking himself, and eating right…

You’re not his mom,’ Marinette chided herself with a shake of her head, using some tongs to rearrange a couple pastries, carefully keeping the heavy bread tray balanced on one hand. ‘It’s not like he’s your responsibility, despite Mama constantly asking you about him…

And yet…not seeing him for a couple days still had her strangely anxious…what was that about…?

The bell over the door chimed, and immediately, Marinette turned with a smile.

“Welcome to Boulanger—eeek!”

The shock of who dared to walk in made Marinette unbalanced; the heavy tray tipped out of her grasp and went crashing to the floor, sending flaky bread everywhere. She couldn’t focus on it, however—she was too busy being frozen in place, her mouth open in outrage, her empty hand finally forming an accusing pointer finger as the other limply held the tongs she’d been using.

“What are you doing here?!” She demanded to know as Felix stepped into the shop, closing a sopping wet umbrella. He quirked a pale eyebrow at her.

“…Buying pastries,” he replied, his tone dry and obnoxious. “This is a bakery, is it not?”

Marinette restrained herself from snarling at him with difficulty; despite her personal feelings about the guy, he was currently a customer…and her parents had raised her to always respect the customer…

With an enormous effort, Marinette managed to put a smile back on her face…even if it was a smile that was plainly warning him to return to the storm from which he came.

“Of course. Please, have a look around. When you’re ready to purchase something, please bring it up to the register, and I’ll ring you up. Please, take your time,” she recited through gritted teeth. Felix’s expression suggested that he found her ridiculous…but what else was new? Marinette waited until he turned his back on her, inspecting the wares, before she dipped down, picking up the heavy tray and scurrying to the back with it. Her heart was pounding hard as she located the broom and dustpan, holding each item like a weapon as she reentered the shop. Felix gave little notice of her, however, as she began to clean up her mess, though she shot his back warning looks every few seconds, as if he would suddenly turn and pounce on her. It just occurred to Marinette how very much alone she was right now, in this shop, with Felix…what was his last name? How had she worked with him for two years and never learned his last name? Well, whatever, it didn’t matter at the moment. What did matter was that Marinette didn’t trust him, and was more than a little wary of him, after overhearing that strange argument he’d had with an unknown entity on Christmas Eve. So, what the hell was he doing here…?

“Are you out of blueberry muffins?” He suddenly asked, his voice cutting through the tension of the room. Marinette hated herself for jumping, nearly upending the dustpan and sending pastries everywhere once again. She straightened up with the pan, sending a frown Felix’s way as she headed for the trashcan behind the counter.

“Oh. Buying for Symone, huh?” She asked as she dumped the tainted pastries into the garbage. As she returned, she stopped just short of Felix, frowning up at him. “What happened to that other pastry shop Symone likes?”

Felix gave a shrug.

“She wanted pastries from here today,” he answered. Marinette narrowed her eyes at him. This could just be her being paranoid…but she could almost swear that—

Felix’s eyebrow quirked again.

“So…out of the fashion business, I see.”

And there it was.

“If you’re here to antagonize me, you can get out right now,” Marinette growled, pointing with the hand that held the broom at the door, where the thunderstorm outside continued to rage. “Go get Symone’s blueberry muffins somewhere else, because I’ll just spit on every one I sell to you.”

Felix’s lips pressed together. Marinette stared at him, her narrowed eyes turning into slits as the corners of his lips twitched.

“Are you laughing at me?!”

“Not at all,” Felix denied with a straight face…but there was something off about his usual cool gaze, something dancing in those ice blue eyes…was that amusement? From Felix?

Huffing in exasperation, Marinette marched away from him, returning to tidying up the mess she made.

“However,” drawled his voice behind her, and Marinette had to work very, very hard to remind herself that assaulting customers—even aggravating ones—was a no-no, and her parents would not be impressed. “I find it surprising that you’re working in a bakery now, rather than another boutique. It’s like you’ve given up on your dream.”

Welp. There went the last of Marinette’s patience.

First of all,” she began, swinging around and aiming the broom handle at his throat, a move Felix regarded with his perpetually raised eyebrow, “don’t talk about my dreams as if you know anything about them. Second of all, while I don’t have to explain anything to you, I will say that this is my parents’ bakery and I’m only helping them out for a while. And third of all, despite your boss blackballing me, I haven’t been beaten yet.” Lowering the broom, Marinette let her free hand rest on her hip as she scowled at Felix. “So you can run back to her and laugh behind my back about my current employment situation, but you won’t break me. I’ve only just started, and leaving that damn boutique was the best decision I could’ve ever made for my career. So, once again, if you’re just here to irritate me, there’s the door.”

Sweeping up the rest of her mess, Marinette stomped over to the counter once again to dump the dustpan and put it and the broom away in its designated corner. When she returned…it was to find that Felix was still in the shop. How annoying.

“We close in ten minutes,” Marinette told him none too gently, folding her arms tightly across her chest as she glared at him. “If you’re actually going to buy anything, do it now.”

Felix regarded her for a long, silent moment…and then he moved away from the shelves, approaching the counter. Marinette swallowed, but she stood her ground as he loomed over her, grateful for the counter between them. God, what was with all these tall, blonde men around her? This was not okay.

“Symone sent me here to offer you your job back,” Felix announced after a tense moment. Marinette gaped up at him for a second, her eyes narrowing again.

“You’re kidding.”

“I’m not. While I have no proof…it’s probably true that she’s blackballing you. But since winter has come and gone, her unfinished winter line has tanked, and she needs new ideas. She’s offering you a raise and your own office if you return to Tres Bien.”

While that would have been tempting, once upon a time, now, Marinette merely regarded Felix with a mistrusting gaze.

“And, what? She’ll try and bleed me dry for a spring line while taking all the credit?” Marinette shook her head. “No thank you. Normally, I’d tell you to tell her where she can put her raise…but I’m still on the clock, so I’ll just thank you to leave.”

Felix didn’t move, his face impassive as he stared down at her.

“Symone won’t be happy about your refusal.”

“I don’t care,” Marinette replied, scowling. “I’m way past caring what Symone thinks at this point. And frankly, I don’t see why you put up with her, Felix.” Her scowl turned thoughtful as she inspected him. Sure, right now, she didn’t trust him, and he gave her bad vibes…but once upon a time… “You seem way too smart to be working as someone’s assistant. Don’t you think it’s a waste?” Marinette pursed her lips. “I think you could’ve done a lot better for yourself. Hell, before all this happened, you and I might’ve even been friends.”

Felix stared down at her…and then abruptly, his face split into the first smile Marinette had ever seen on him. It was a sarcastic smile, to be sure…but the shock of seeing any expression on him other than his straight face had Marinette gaping at him in shock.

“I doubt it,” he replied, leaning forward so that his face was waaay too close to Marinette’s. She stared at him, wide eyes taking in his cool blue gaze. “I wouldn’t be a very good friend to you, Marinette. You’d only regret it.”

Danger,’ her mind warned her needlessly. Reacting automatically, she pushed his face out of her space with a finger to his forehead. He blinked at this, seeming surprised before his poker face fell back into place, and Marinette frowned at him.

“Well, I guess we’ll never know now,” she replied before pointing at the clock. “It’s closing time. Goodbye, Felix.”

Felix lifted and dropped a shoulder, turning from her.

“Goodbye, Marinette. I’m sure I’ll run into you again soon.”

“I really hope not,” she told him point blank. A corner of Felix’s mouth twitched suspiciously once again, but he said nothing more, pausing only to retrieve his umbrella before he exited out into the storm outside. Marinette waited for about three minutes after he was gone before she marched across the shop, locking the door and turning the sign over from ‘OPEN’ to ‘CLOSED’, relief in the breath that escaped her. Well, that had been an ordeal…

“Are you okay, Marinette?” Tikki wanted to know, popping out from one of the pigtails Marinette chose to wear today, for nostalgia’s sake. Marinette sighed, and then nodded.

“Yeah. Dealing with Felix was annoying, but…” Folding her hands together, Marinette briefly leaned against the bakery door, frowning at the floor. “…Tikki? Can I ask you something that might sound crazy?”

“Sure, Marinette.”

Marinette took a deep breath. Here goes nothing…

“Do you think Felix could be Chat Noir?”

She glanced over at her kwami, just able to see her from her peripheral vision. Tikki had her eyes closed, her tiny features fixed into a frown of concentration. After a long moment, her large, indigo eyes opened, and she fixed Marinette with a perturbed look.

“…I don’t know,” she admitted. “There is something strange about him…but I can’t really tell what it is. It’s like something about him is blocking my senses. It’s very strange.”

Marinette frowned, swallowing now. That had been her easier question…but since the answer hadn’t been definitive…

“…Then do you think he could be The Butterfly?”

“I don’t know, Marinette,” Tikki repeated, her eyes large and worried. “But whatever he is, I think you should just leave him alone.”

“Ugh, I’m trying to,” Marinette grumped as she went around the bakery, preparing to close up shop for the day. As she swiped the last of the holiday cookies, she fed one to Tikki with a pout on her face. “It’s him who won’t leave me alone.”

“On Symone’s orders, too,” Tikki added, swallowing a bite of her cookie before she scowled. “She has some nerve, asking you back now!”

“I know, right? Like that would ever happen. I’d bet on hell freezing over first,” Marinette said dryly, and Tikki giggled.

Closing the bakery for the day took about ten minutes. By the time Marinette was ready to go, the storm had let up, but only just, the rain still falling, though not cascading as it had been all afternoon. Marinette peeked out the window, frowning at the clouds. She was willing to bet that this was as good as it was going to get; if she was going to walk back to her apartment, it might as well be now.

Grabbing her black, nondescript umbrella, save for the initials A.A. carved into the bottom of the handle, Marinette bundled herself up, made sure Tikki would be dry in her coat pocket, and stepped out into the rain, locking up her parents’ house behind her before she set off down the street, avoiding the larger puddles of water in her haste to get back home. As tempting as it was to wait out the storm at her parents’ house, Marinette had some work to do, since she had just started working on the bee outfit of her spring line. She had also been playing with the idea of a turtle outfit, now that Wayzz was safe in Nino’s hands…but since it was crunch time now, she had to focus on what she already had before she went on adding designs that weren’t necessarily needed…and she still had yet to settle on a design for Ladybug…

Marinette promptly became lost in her designer thoughts, surfacing only when she noticed a figure in the distance, staring up at a building that had been abandoned for seven years…a figure in a red and black jacket…

Marinette blinked. What in the world was he doing out here?




Adrien didn’t know how long he stood here, staring up at his childhood home. The cold look to it was nothing new, but now that he was on the outside looking in, it felt rather strange to just be staring at it and not going in. Not that he wanted to…the place had the obvious look of neglect; ivy was climbing the walls outside, and the large, imposing gates out front were probably rusted shut from disuse. Adrien had no idea why he had chosen to come here and stare up at a place with so many miserable memories…but somehow, he couldn’t pull himself away, either. Why?


The sound of his name startled him, though he was slow to react; he turned to his left, blinking when he found no one there, and then turned to his right—

His heart threw itself against his ribcage, almost in audible surprise and pleasure when he spotted Marinette just a couple meters away, staring at him. Self-consciously, he reached up to smooth his hair…only to find that it was plastered to his head from the rain. Oh, right.

“What are you doing out here without an umbrella?” Marinette questioned as she moved closer to him. Adrien was privately amused as he got a good look at her and spotted her hair in pigtails—just like old times. And the umbrella she held was vaguely familiar…but no, it couldn’t be…

As she lifted it high enough to encompass his height, Adrien got a good look at the bottom of the handle. The initials A.A. stared in him the face. Adrien blinked at the letters, surprise coursing through his otherwise numb body.

She still had it? Even after all this time…?

A touch to his cheek jolted him out of his own thoughts, bringing his attention back to Marinette, who was staring up at him in obvious concern.

“You’re freezing!” She exclaimed, and Adrien blinked, his brain moving a little sluggishly, now that she was here. Her touch was searing on his cheek, but he didn’t dare move away from her. “How long have you been standing out here in the pouring rain?!”

“…I don’t know,” Adrien admitted, becoming sheepish when Marinette gaped up at him. “I’ve just been kind of…wandering around…”

“In the rain?! Are you crazy?! You’ll get sick!”

Huffing, Marinette took hold of his wrist and tugged him after her.

“Come on. We have to get you into dry clothes, now.”

“My place is the other way…”

“Who said anything about your place? My apartment is closer,” Marinette told him, tugging on his arm to make him keep pace with her so she could hold the umbrella over both of them, despite the fact that he was already wet. Adrien didn’t bother paying attention to where they were going, content to stare down at Marinette instead. She seemed to always pop up when he was in need, didn’t she…?

“Are you gonna make me wear your clothes, Mari?” He asked, smiling a little at the ridiculous thought. Marinette glanced over at him, eyeing him up and down.

“Yes,” she replied without hesitation, causing Adrien’s smile to drop. “At least until your clothes dry.”

“You probably don’t have anything that’ll fit me…”

“You’ll live,” Marinette answered him with a dry look, picking up the pace, her hand firm on his wrist. “Hurry up. You’re shivering.”

Was he? Huh. He was currently so detached from his body that he couldn’t really tell.

In no time at all, they reached Marinette’s apartment. She made him hold the umbrella as she fished out her key, unlocking the door and yanking him inside once it was open.

“Your floor…” Adrien protested, cringing at the puddle he immediately made when he stepped onto the hardwood floor. Wow, he was making such a pest of himself, wasn’t he?

Marinette waved off his concerns with an impatient hand.

“Who cares?” She huffed, taking hold of his wrist again and pulling him further into the apartment, into a room he had previously never seen: the laundry room. “We need to get you out of those clothes.”

“Can’t wait to get me naked?” Adrien said before he could stop himself, immediately turning pale when the words registered in his mind. Oh god,did he wish he could bite down on his tongue with enough force to chop it in half…

Marinette’s back was to him, so he couldn’t see her face, but he rather thought the tops of her ears had turned pink.

“Ha ha,” she drawled, rummaging around in a cabinet of some sort as she waved Adrien away. “Take off your jacket and your scarf and leave them on the washing machine; I’ll hang them up later.”

Adrien did as he was told, though the two simple tasks took a bit longer than they usually would; his fingers were numb and useless from the cold, and once he had his jacket off, he finally registered that he was freezing. His jaw rattled, but when he clenched it shut, his spine shivered, and he curled his arms around himself, hating life. Why on earth had he thought it would be a good idea to wander around in the rain all day?

“Why on earth were you just out wandering around in the rain?” Marinette echoed his thoughts, suddenly behind him. Adrien turned to find her shaking her head, pushing him back so that he perched awkwardly on the washing machine as she threw a towel over his head, beginning to rub his hair and face dry. “It’s January, you know! You could catch pneumonia with this kind of behavior! I don’t know what was going through your head, but I hope you’ll think twice the next time you…you…”

Marinette trailed off, staring up at him, her hands resting on the sides of his head, the towel in between her skin and his hair. Adrien stared back, taking in all the worry those blue eyes offered him, lips pursed in disapproval…when Marinette’s face suddenly flushed pink. He blinked, trying to identify the reason for the change as she stared at him. What? Did he have something on his face? Was he, perhaps, staring too intently at her to be allowed?

Letting out a slow sigh, Marinette’s hands began to trail from his head, the action causing Adrien to shiver, thought its meaning was lost, since his body was already trembling.

“…But I shouldn’t be scolding you like I’m your mother,” Marinette finished in an embarrassed voice, glancing away from him, the heat from her hands seeping from him as she began to pull away. “You’re a grown man, you don’t need my help to dry off or—”

Adrien caught one of her wrists before she could draw away from him completely.

“I don’t mind,” he said softly, keeping her gaze. And he truly didn’t—the berating made it clear that she was concerned about his well-being, and he had been stupid to wander about in the rain without an umbrella…and her rubbing his hair dry felt really, really good…

Marinette’s face flushed further, but before Adrien could figure out why, she pulled the towel over his face with her free hand.

“Well I do,” she replied, though there was a hint of playfulness underneath her exasperated tone. “I’m gonna step outside so you can strip—uh, I mean, u-undress…j-just leave your clothes in the dryer and I’ll, uh, take you upstairs—so you can use my shower! That’s it! Just to shower! Um, make sure you wrap a towel around yourself, and then I’ll, uh, show you where it is. Yeah. So, I’ll just, um…”

Adrien peeked out from under the towel just in time to see Marinette fleeing the room, slamming the door shut behind her. Huh…becoming flustered at the thought of him being nude…?

Adrien endeavored to squash the swell of hope he could feel bubbling within him at such a reaction. It didn’t mean anything that Marinette might be embarrassed at the thought of him being naked; maybe she’d be embarrassed at the thought of any man naked in this situation…not that she’d probably never seen a man naked…she had probably conquered that territory, as beautiful as she was. Adrien couldn’t imagine any man that she decided to go to bed with would be unwilling—

Swerving, dude,’ Nino’s voice chided him, and Adrien shook his head. Right—now was not the time for such thoughts. He was freezing; he had to get warm fast to get rid of these aching shivers.

There was a muffled scuffling from under him, and Adrien hastily jumped up, allowing Plagg to escape the confines of his soaked jacket. The kwami shivered, glaring up at Adrien.

“What the hell were you thinking?!”

“Plagg, shhh!” Adrien hushed the kwami, trying to make a grab for him. Plagg ‘tch’ed and flew out of his reach, scowling at him through narrowed cat eyes.

“The next time you choose to wander aimlessly in bad weather, kindly leave me at home! I would rather not freeze to death, thank you very much!”


The kwami ignored him, zooming away, into the vent leading out of the laundry room. Adrien gaped up at the vent, a feeling of dread stealing over him. Surely Plagg, no matter how pissed he was at Adrien, knew to stay out of sight and out of trouble when he and Adrien were guests in someone else’s house, right? He wouldn’t cause mayhem just to spite Adrien…would he?

Gulping, it was a moment before Adrien remembered he was cold and had to get a move on, because Marinette was probably waiting for him. Ironically enough, removing his wet clothes was torture; his slick, bare skin screamed in protest when exposed to the chilly air of the laundry room, and Adrien grit his teeth, forcing himself to remove every stitch of clothing before he followed Marinette’s instructions and flung the sopping mess into the dryer, leaving his shoes on the floor. Though he knew how to do his own laundry at this point, Marinette’s dryer was a different model, and had a lot more words and knobs than he was used to. Feeling like a helpless child, Adrien let the machine be, wrapping a towel securely around himself, and adding another to clutch around his shoulders as he shivered. God, he was cold. It would be a miracle if he didn’t wake up with a fever tomorrow. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

Adrien exited the laundry room, keeping an eye out for Plagg, but he only found Marinette mopping up the mess he’d made of her hallway floor. She paused her movements when she heard him approach, though she did not turn to meet him, choosing instead to lean her mop carefully against her front door.

“Come on,” she said to him, face still turned resolutely away as she marched up the stairs, her arms folded in front of her. Torn between chagrin and amusement, Adrien followed her.

Her room was a mess: fabric was everywhere, her work desk littered with what looked like masks for her outfits, and a couple dressmaking dummies sat in a corner, outfitted with her works in progress. Adrien stared curiously, wanting to get a closer look, but the clearing of Marinette’s throat had him snapping to attention, cringing in apology…though she still wasn’t looking at him.

“The bathroom’s there,” she announced, still facing away from him as she waved at the only other door up there. “In the shower, the right knob is hot water, and the left knob is cold water. You can use what you need in there. I’ll leave you the biggest clothes I can find on my bed when you’re done. And don’t go nosing through my stuff. I’m covering everything with a sheet, and I’ll know if you peek, got it?”

Though this warning would have been more effective with her glaring at him, her tone was strict enough for Adrien to decide not to test her, despite how curious he was.

“Got it,” he replied, moving to the bathroom. Over the click of the door closing, he could hear her sigh in relief, and he suppressed a smile.

A glance to the mirror almost made Adrien’s heart stop: he had Chat hair. He hastily fixed his locks before he realized it was unimportant, since Marinette hadn’t looked at him once since leaving the laundry room. Whew…talk about a close one. That was not a conversation he would have liked to have while freezing several of his body parts off in nothing but a couple towels…though there was still the threat of Plagg floating around, though he had hopefully just taken refuge somewhere warm for a while.

Despite the protests of his freezing skin, Adrien made himself drop the towels, turning the right knob on full force and the left knob on half way before he stepped into the tub, musing over the last time he’d been here, forced to endure Marinette’s aid as she sewed up a wound that would disappear as soon as Ladybug used her restorative powers…well, it was the thought that counted, wasn’t it?

The water was too damn hot. Adrien bit back a yowl of protest and fumbled for the left knob, waiting until the water cooled to a more tolerable temperature before he dared to mess with the hot water again, the shivers wracking his body leaving him little by little as he stood under the warm spray, closing his eyes as rivers poured down from his head and trailed down his skin. He had seen quite enough water for one day, he thought, but the blessed warmth was too much to resist, and so he lingered longer than he normally would have before remembering that Marinette had given him permission to use what he needed in her shower. Turning, he found her bathing products lined up neatly, noting with amusement that nearly all of them were strawberry scented. Fitting.

Because he was vain about his hair, Adrien started there, carefully washing and conditioning it before he took up the bar of soap and scrubbed himself clean, feeling as pampered by these products as he would be with his brand-name stuff at home. But perhaps that was just because he knew they were Marinette’s things…Marinette, who used this bathtub daily…she used this shampoo to wash her hair…this bar of soap dragged across her skin once a day…

Dude,’ Nino’s voice forcefully intruded, dragging Adrien’s mind from the gutter. Flushing, he shook his head, as if to scatter such thoughts from it. Nino was right—he had no place thinking about those kinds of things. Really, how immature of him—he wasn’t some hormonal sixteen year old staying the night at his girlfriend’s place for the first time or something…he needed to get a grip.

Still shaking his head at himself, Adrien shut off the shower and stepped out, hastily drying himself off. He wiped a clear patch into the foggy mirror and frowned at his reflection. What was he supposed to do about his hair? He doubted Marinette had hair gel…her hair always seemed effortlessly flawless…

Pursing his lips, Adrien’s gaze searched the products on the bathroom counter, relieved when he spotted a box of hair ties open and waiting. Even better, there were a couple hair clips sitting right next to it—everything he could need to keep his hair from getting out of control. Eagerly, he reached forward…but then paused, uncertainty invading his thoughts. Did this count as nosing through her stuff…?

She said I could use what I needed in here,’ Adrien reminded himself, and though guilt nipped at him, he claimed one of the hair ties and clips for himself, tying back his damp hair before clipping his bangs off to the side. There: no risk of Chat hair now. Barring any Plagg shenanigans, his secret was safe.

Carefully, Adrien poked his head out of the bathroom, cringing at the cooler air outside of the steamy room he was reluctant to leave. Marinette was nowhere to be found, but nevertheless, he cautiously left the sanctuary of the bathroom, shivering again and hating it. But once he took a good look at the clothes Marinette had laid out for him, he almost decided to stay in the towel he was wearing. She couldn’t be serious, could she…?

Adrien desperately searched her bed for other clothes that would be more suitable…but no such luck. The clothes he was looking at were the clothes she had chosen for him…because, apparently, it was her express desire to humiliate him. Great.

Adrien thought about peeking under the sheets that covered her designs from view in retribution as he reluctantly donned the borrowed clothes…but fear over what she might do to him overrode his current exasperation with her. Still, it was hard to make himself leave her room, to go downstairs and face her in this ridiculous get-up…

She was in the kitchen, fussing over something in a pot that smelled amazing. Adrien took note of the fact that she had changed into more comfortable looking clothes: black sweatpants and a gray, form-fitting t-shirt. Normally, that would have distracted him for longer than he would have liked…but considering the current circumstances…

“I hope you like soup,” she said when she heard him approach, thanks to the creaking of the floorboards underneath his weight. “I don’t have much lying around right now—I haven’t had time to get to the grocery store—so this is all I’ve—”

She cut off as soon as she turned to face him, her blue eyes widening as she took in the pink, fuzzy pajama bottoms that were littered with white stars and stopped about mid-calf on him, and of course, the piece de resistance, the large white t-shirt—large on her, probably, but it was a medium on Adrien—that read ‘Hot Chick’ in bold, hot pink letters. Adrien stared in resignation as her cheeks bulged, a hand flying to her mouth in attempt to smother her laughter. But there was no holding back the mirth, it appeared, and she burst out laughing, a hand clutching at her stomach as her free hand gripped the counter, struggling to remain upright as hilarity consumed her.

“Not funny,” he said dryly as Marinette worked to wipe tears from her eyes. “If you breathe one word of this to Alya or Nino—”

“What, that you’re a hot chick?” Marinette joked with a wide grin. “I don’t think that’s much of a secret, Adrien.”

Oh, she was going to milk this for all it was worth, wasn’t she?

Well, when in Rome…

In response, Adrien pretended to flip his hair in an exaggerated fashion, posing expertly against the doorway of the kitchen.

“Don’t hate me because I’m beautiful,” he drawled, quirking a brow at Marinette, who burst into laughter once again, this laughing fit a little more subdued than the previous one. “So, on an unrelated note…when will my clothes be dry again?”

“Ah…” Slowly, the laughter died from Marinette’s face, replaced by a cringe. Adrien was sad to see the amusement leave…even if it was at his expense. “Well…that depends.”

Higher climbed Adrien’s eyebrow as he stared at her, straightening up.


“My dryer.” She turned from him, stirring the soup on the stove, frowning into its bubbling depths. “It’s a bit of a clunker, the only flaw this place has. It takes forever to dry clothes that are damp, but since yours were soaked…” She glanced over, apologies in her gaze. “It could take a while.”

“Can I have an estimate?”

“At best? An hour. At worst?” She cringed again. “Three.”

Adrien frowned at that.

“You need a better dryer, Mari.”

“I know, but go find the cash for it.” She huffed and shook her head. “Sorry. As soon as I’m done with the soup, I’ll check on them, but it could take a while…I hope you didn’t have anything important to do today…” She shot him an appraising glance. “…Though, since I found you wandering around in the rain, I’m gonna guess not.”

Adrien flushed, scuffing his toe awkwardly on the kitchen floor as he rubbed the back of his neck. It wasn’t as if he didn’t have anything important to do…he just didn’t feel like doing any of them today. Who actually enjoyed having responsibilities, anyway?

“Soup’s ready,” Marinette announced after a quiet moment. She hoisted the large pot off the hot stove with just a small grunt of effort, waving a hand to the tiny table in the kitchen. “Have a seat.”

Adrien did as he was told, trying not to shift too uncomfortably in his seat. The clothes were interesting enough, but pair the fuzzy pajama pants with the fact that he wasn’t wearing underwear, and Adrien was put in a very interesting situation indeed…

Don’t think about it,’ he cautioned himself, turning his attention to the hot bowl of soup Marinette ladled out for him. It was hard not to dig in immediately, the smell of onions and dumplings putting him in a haze. When Marinette set out a loaf of bread to accompany the soup, he felt his will break. Tearing off a chunk of the bread, he dunked it into his bowl a few times before eagerly taking a bite. The soup was hot, and he might have seared the roof of his mouth, but he didn’t care—it was warm and delicious and all he wanted at the moment.

“Mmm. Good,” he mumbled around his mouthful, nodding in approval as Marinette sat down across from him. “You could give Sabine a run for her money.”

Marinette smiled at that, and Adrien was momentarily distracted by it.

“I learned from the best,” she replied, taking up her spoon and dunking it into the soup. Adrien quite forgot about the bread hovering in front of his face as he watched her shape her lips carefully to blow daintily across the spoonful of soup, cooling it off before she popped it into her mouth, chewing thoughtfully. Once he realized he was staring, he hastily pulled his gaze from her, shoving more bread into his mouth. He had never so desperately wished that he was wearing underwear before in his life.


Adrien snapped to attention, blinking at the expectant look on Marinette’s face. Shit—had she been talking while he was distracted? Fuck, he totally missed it. He was an asshole.

“Hm?” He hummed, stalling for time by chewing a large chunk of soup-soaked bread. Marinette pursed her lips at him.

“Are you going to tell me what you were doing standing outside of your old house in the rain?”

Adrien swallowed hastily. Oh, right. That happened…

“…I honestly don’t know,” he admitted, frowning a bit as he tried to recall his thought process. “I just know that I wanted to go for a walk…and somehow, I just kind of…walked there. Unconsciously.”

And he had stood there, staring up at the once imposing building for who knows how long before Marinette found him. That kind of behavior wasn’t normal, and so he didn’t begrudge Marinette for frowning in concern at him. It did surprise him, however, when her hand closed the distance between them, slipping over the back of his hand as it lay flat on the table. His nerves came alive with her touch, the contact heating his skin, and he had to sternly remind himself to keep in check. It meant nothing, she was just comforting him, it meant nothing, calm down, it meant nothing—

“Are you all right?”

The question confused Adrien. Was his inner battle obvious on his face? Or did she mean the question to be a general one? He honestly couldn’t tell…but after a moment, he decided it would be safer to treat it like a general question.

And so he shrugged.

“Yeah, I guess.” He did nothing to shake off Marinette’s touch, staring down at her hand. “Just dealing with some stuff…”

“About your father?”

Amazingly, for the first time in years, his father was not the one wreaking havoc on his psyche at the moment.

Adrien glanced up, wondering what Marinette would say, with her wide blue eyes and scrunched up brow, if he dared to admit that she was the reason he was so out of sorts lately. Would that amuse her? Horrify her? What would she say if he dared to speak the forbidden words he had already resolved to never admit to her?

Her frown was bothering him. Adrien set down his bread to smooth out the crease between her brows with his thumb. She blinked at this, apparently startled, and Adrien smiled at her.

“Smile, Mari. It suits you better,” he encouraged. Marinette gave a short huff, drawing her hand back from him. Inwardly, Adrien lamented the loss of her touch, but he quelled the rebellion sternly. He would not behave like a spoiled child over this…she was not his to have…

“I can’t smile when there’s nothing to smile about.” She sent a pointed look his way, and he gave her an apologetic look. “Seriously, I’m worried. To just go walking around in freezing rain is—”

“Stupid, I know,” Adrien finished for her, resisting the urge to roll his eyes as he finished off his piece of bread and reached for another. “It won’t happen again, Mari. Today’s just been an off day.”

Marinette chewed on her bottom lip, inspecting him. He wished she wouldn’t—it wasn’t her fault, of course, but it was enough that he was just distracted by her presence alone. For her to do such suggestive things was threatening to wreck him.

“Well, okay,” she conceded, picking up her spoon again. “But you know you can talk to me, right? About anything?”

Adrien almost snorted. "Anything", huh? That might be debatable, but...

“I know,” he assured her, swirling a chunk of bread around in his soup as he smiled up at her. “But I’ve already spent an hour talking about my issues today with Ivan. Do you mind if we focus on more cheerful topics?”

“Oh, right,” muttered Marinette, biting her lip again, as if she thought she was overstepping boundaries. “Um, so…how was your New Years?”

Ah, right. The New Year's work event he didn't have, contrary to the lie he had told to get out of a couple party invitations...

Adrien made himself shrug, busying himself with his soup.

“Nothing to report,” he replied. Quickly, before Marinette could press for details, he turned the question around on her. “Yours?”

“The usual,” Marinette replied with a roll of her eyes and a good-natured shake of her head. “Nino and Alya made a spectacle of themselves by sloppily making out right as the clock struck midnight. I had to get people out of there pretty fast after that, because it didn’t seem like they’d be cooling off anytime soon.”

Oh dear. Adrien muffled a snort at the shamelessness of his and Marinette’s best friends.

“Sounds fun…who did you kiss?”

The question was out before he even completely registered the fact that it was an inappropriate question to ask. The urge to smack himself was unreal; what was wrong with him?!

Before he could dissolve into a panicked mess, however, Marinette shrugged and answered his question.


Adrien stared at her.

“…Nathanael Kurtzberg?”


“Nathanael Kurtzberg, the guy who had a crush on you while we all went to Dupont?”

Marinette raised an eyebrow at him, looking amused.

“I don’t know if I’d define him that way, but sure, if that helps you remember.” She rested her spoon thoughtfully against her bottom lip. “I dated him for a while.”

Thunder boomed overhead, as if to echo Adrien’s mood at learning such information. As Marinette peered worriedly up at the ceiling, Adrien worked to master the unreasonable jealousy he could feel flaring within him. So what if she had dated Nathanael, once upon a time? Clearly things hadn’t worked out if she wasn’t seeing him anymore…

…So then, why had she kissed him at New Years…?

“Thinking about rekindling an old flame?” Adrien asked as casually as he could, making himself relax physically to illustrate just how much this information did not matter to him. It was painful relief when Marinette laughed at him, as if he was being ridiculous.

“Uh, yeah, let me do that with all that free time I definitely have,” she teased, and Adrien laughed along with her, hoping he didn’t sound too pleased. It was stupid for him to feel this way—he should wish Marinette happiness with whomever she chose, even if it wasn’t him.

Especially if it wasn’t him.

“Besides,” she continued, and Adrien’s ears pricked up, as if sensing trouble, “we want different things, me and Nath. But we’re still friends, and since we were the only two single people at the party, when midnight hit, it just made sense for us to kiss.”

“Ah.” Adrien bobbed his head, swallowing the sting of disappointment. He couldn’t help but wonder just how differently that New Year’s kiss might have turned out, if he had sucked it up and went when Marinette and Nino had invited him…

It was a moment before he recognized Marinette’s curious gaze as she turned her attention onto him once again.

“Who did you end up kissing at New Years’?” She asked, her tone teasing…and yet, there was genuine interest in her eyes, as if it mattered who Adrien might or might not have kissed into the new year…

He was immediately grateful that there was no gossip to be shared on this front.

“No one.”

Marinette gaped at him.

No one? Not even Chloe?”

Adrien made a face.

“Especially not Chloe,” he sighed, ever-thankful for that, at least.

“No one wanted to kiss you when the clock struck twelve?”

Marinette’s expression was doubting, as if she suspected him of lying to her. To avoid doing just that, Adrien decided to tease her instead.

“Well, I don’t really think anyone else could dip me like you, Mari.” He winked, and she blushed. “That’s the only way I’ll accept kisses now. You’ve spoiled me for other women.”

“Yeah right,” Marinette laughed, though Adrien was distinctly pleased to note that the blush refused to leave her face as she got up to put her soup bowl in the sink. Her apparent lack of appetite distracted Adrien.

“Done already?”

“I’m trying to ration the soup until I can get to a grocery store,” Marinette explained with a cringe thrown over her shoulder. “Sorry I’m not better prepared, but I wasn’t exactly expecting company.”

“I don’t mind,” Adrien assured her, getting up with his bowl as well. “Here, lemme clean up.”

“You don’t have to.”

“I’ve already caused you enough trouble for one day,” Adrien insisted, snatching the sponge away before Marinette could grab it. “Let me start repaying you.”

Marinette frowned up at him, lower lip jutting out in a pout.

“You’re not a burden, Adrien,” she reminded him quietly. And Adrien, though his relief was immense at such words, merely grinned at her.

“I know.” He playfully knocked his hip into hers, nudging her away from the sink as he turned on the faucet. “I’m only being so nice so you won’t take pictures of me in this get-up and use it as blackmail.”

Marinette blinked in surprise…and then a sneaky grin crossed her features.

Adrien swore.

“…You weren’t even thinking about doing that, were you?”

“Nope,” Marinette replied, her grin widening. Adrien noticed right away when her hand began to creep along the counter, to the pink phone that waited just next to the refrigerator. “But now that you’ve put the idea in my head…”

Adrien scowled, withdrawing his hands from the faucet and scowling in warning at her.

“Don’t you dare,” he cautioned. Marinette grinned her widest grin yet…and then turned and lunged for the phone. Adrien anticipated her movements, however, and flew at her just as her fingertips brushed her phone. Grabbing her around the middle, Adrien lifted, smirking at the squeak of surprise that escaped her as her feet left the floor.

“Adrien!” She protested, writhing in his grasp until she was facing him, scowling down at him as he grinned up at her. “Put me down!”

“But if I put you down, you’ll take embarrassing pictures of me,” he pointed out, pouting for good measure. “Imagine my shame if those went viral on the internet.”

Marinette rolled her eyes at him, folding her arms and resting them against his collar bone as she frowned down at him.

If I took such pictures, I’d only send them to Alya and Nino. You really think I’d put them up on the internet so the world can see what a dork you are?”

“I think you mean hot chick,” he reminded her, and Marinette’s teeth found her bottom lip again as she bit back a smile. “And you really think Alyawouldn’t put them up online?”

Marinette pursed her lips as she frowned down at him. Adrien could practically see the gears in her head turning, trying to find a way around his logic. Her huff of defeat was relieving.

“Okay, okay, fine. No pictures,” she relented, though she didn’t look happy about it. Adrien eyed her carefully, admittedly not in any hurry to put her down. She was very soft and warm…but this was inappropriate. He should probably end the joke now, while she still found it funny.

“You promise?” He teased her one last time as he began to lower her.

Unfortunately for him, Marinette chose that moment to lower her head so that their foreheads were nearly touching, her gaze strong and head-on as she smirked down at him.

“You don’t trust me?” She asked, feigning a hurt expression for a moment before that mischievous smile returned, blue eyes glinting with laughter. She was so close that he could feel her breath on his lips…

Adrien’s arms flexed around her. He had to put her down now. He had to, before he did something stupid—

“I do,” he replied, quiet and serious. The abrupt change in mood appeared to startle Marinette; he saw her swallow, her gaze dropping once before she glanced up to meet his eyes again, her face turning pink. Adrien blushed in response, once again made aware of how little space there was between them…

“Well…good,” Marinette answered, though now she sounded breathless. There was a moment in which they just stared at each other, a moment in which Adrien found himself lost in those endless blue eyes, his heart pounding rapidly in his chest, the need to be closer to her racing through his blood—


Adrien snapped out of it, blinking rapidly. Now Marinette’s face was completely red, and she was looking away from him, clearly uncomfortable. Swearing inwardly, he put her down at last, raising his hands a moment later to show that he meant no harm.

“Sorry,” he apologized, about as mortified as Marinette herself looked. To her credit, she tried to laugh it off, though Adrien noticed the self-conscious way she held herself, her step back from him, as if he would eat her if she dared to stay too close.

“No problem, ha ha…um, I’ll go, uh, check on your clothes.”

“Thanks,” he said, barely getting the word out as he watched Marinette flee the kitchen in favor of the laundry room. Inwardly flogging himself, Adrien turned to the two bowls and spoons in the sink, accidentally turning the faucet on too high and getting water everywhere before he could get it under control. God, he was such a mess right now. And he really shouldn’t have been messing around with Marinette like that; now he’d made her uncomfortable in her own apartment, a place that was supposed to be safe for her. What the fuck was wrong with him?

Take it easy, man,’ Nino’s voice cautioned him, and Adrien closed his eyes, imagining his best friend was there, a comforting pat going to his shoulder. ‘Soon your clothes will be dry, and you can go home. You can behave yourself until then, can’t you?

Adrien wanted to believe that he could, really…but considering recent events, he was beginning to think he might need a chaperone when he was around Marinette. Where was his meddling kwami when he needed him? Adrien severely hoped Plagg wasn’t getting himself into trouble somewhere around Marinette’s apartment, because that would be really hard for him to explain…

The two bowls and spoons didn’t take as long to clean as Adrien needed. But Marinette hadn’t returned from the laundry room, so he was stuck awkwardly in her kitchen, wondering what he should do next, when another house-shuddering boom of thunder sounded overhead. Frowning, Adrien moved out of the kitchen, down the hall, and into the living room. It was early evening now, but the room was darker than it normally would be, thanks to the rain clouds, torn open and emptying their contents without pause onto Paris. Adrien climbed onto the couch to stare out the rain-spattered window, frowning up at the sky. He didn’t mind thunderstorms so much, but even when his clothes did dry, how was he supposed to go home without getting soaked to the bone once again?


Adrien jumped, finding Marinette suddenly at his side; he hadn’t heard her come in. She, too, frowned up at the sky, though there was more anxiousness than irritation in her features.

“I hope it doesn’t rain all night,” she sighed, turning from the window and flopping down on the couch beside Adrien. There was a bag in her hands, stamped with the logo of Boulangerie Patisserie. “I do want to be able to sleep tonight.”

Her pout was adorable, and Adrien bit back his smile as he turned to face her.

“Not a fan of thunderstorms?”

Marinette shook her head, offering the open bag to him. Adrien stuck a hand in, delighted when he withdrew it to find a cookie in the shape of a snowman between his fingers. As he munched on the cookie, Marinette set the bag down on the coffee table in front of them, frowning into the dimness of her living room.

“Of course not. They’re so unnecessary. Like, I get why we need rain. Rain is important. Thunder and lightning? Not so much. It’s like the powers that be are throwing a huge tantrum that we can hear all the way down here. Calm down, please.”

Adrien chuckled. He had never heard it put quite that way before.

“Why don’t we take our minds off it?” When Marinette’s curious gaze switched to him, he jerked his head at her T.V. “I see that console over there. Bet you don’t have the latest Mecha Strike.”

Marinette raised her eyebrows so high they disappeared behind her bangs.

“You think I don’t have Ultimate Mecha Strike V?” She asked, sounding outraged at the suggestion. Adrien smirked and shrugged, letting his arms rest against the top of the couch.

“Well, I don’t see Mecha Strike V on the T.V. screen…” he hinted. And Marinette, because she just loved to prove him wrong, got up, turned the T.V. and the console on, and grabbed the two controllers that rested on the console. She tossed one to Adrien, who caught it effortlessly, brushing off the dust on the controller.

“Been a while, huh?” He noted as Marinette turned on the lamp next to him before she sat back down. “I bet you suck now.”

Marinette smirked at him, the fires of challenge burning in her eyes.

“That is not a bet I would be confident in,” she assured him as the start menu for Mecha Strike V filled the T.V. screen.

“Oh yeah?” Adrien grinned. “Name your price.”

“Don’t make me take your money, Adrien.”

“I’m not talking money.”

Marinette spared him a curious glance.

“So what are we betting, then?”

Adrien considered a moment, tapping his chin in thought. His eyes fell on the open bag of cookies on the table…and he smirked.

“How ‘bout a cookie bet?” He reasoned, pointing to the bag. Marinette snorted.

 “Of course you would want to bet with food,” she teased him, and he poked his tongue out at her. “So, what, we’re betting on who gets to eat all the cookies?”

“Nah, I’d feel bad taking all of them from you,” he taunted, snorting at the way Marinette’s eyebrows rose in a disbelieving manner. “Let’s just say that we’ve agreed to split them, and we bet, like, five cookies each. For each round of the game, we bet a cookie, and whoever wins that round wins two cookies.”

“So, five rounds for each cookie?” Marinette wanted to check, smirking. “That’s a lot of Mecha Strike.”

“Chicken?” Adrien suggested, quirking a brow. Marinette lowered her eyelids dangerously.

“Bring it on, Mr. Model,” she challenged him, and Adrien smirked as they were brought to the character screen. He went with his fail-safe—the Black Cat bot—while Marinette chose the Ladybot, and the first round began.

Adrien, who had been playing Mecha Strike whenever he could squeeze it in, because sometimes he just needed to relax after a stressful day, was fairly confident about his improved abilities. When he achieved the first combo strike, he was feeling pretty confident, and he smirked over at Marinette, who growled in frustration, clearly rusty.

Getting confident was his first mistake: when Marinette came back, she came back swinging hard and fast, and before Adrien knew it, his bot was flat on its ass, swaying in a dizzy motion as the Ladybot posed victoriously over it, the screen blaring victory for Marinette.

Well, I guess that’s one less cookie for you, Mr. Agreste,” Marinette teased, popping a cookie into her mouth and munching it in a way that looked far too self-satisfied. Adrien rolled his eyes and hit the start button.

“Don’t get cocky, Miss Dupain-Cheng—we’re only getting started.”

And it was true: because they were more or less evenly matched, the rounds took a lot longer than they normally would, and therefore, the rest of the evening was consumed by Mecha Strike. They only paused a couple hours later for more soup for dinner before the last round began. For Adrien, the stakes were high—he hadn’t managed to win one round yet, and he was blaming his hideous bad luck for it, because there was no wayMarinette should have been able to pull off half the moves she was getting away with! It was bullshit! Bullshit, he said!

Needless to say, the trash talk was becoming unreal.

“Oh come on!” Adrien protested as the Ladybot sent an energy beam right into his Black Cat bot’s face. “That was a cheap shot!”

“Don’t blame me for your inability to dodge!” Marinette laughed as her bot ducked a blow from his bot, only to shove him back, powering up for a finishing combo.

“Every time I try to dodge, the button sticks!” Adrien protested, biting down on his tongue as he tried to muscle his way out of the situation, all to no avail. “You gave me the broken controller, didn’t you?”

“I don’t need my opponent to have a broken controller to win!” Marinette said, looking so smug as she landed blow after blow on him that Adrien couldn’t stand it.

“Fine, then switch with me,” he suggested, pausing the game and reaching over for her controller. Marinette moved it from his reach, staring at him as if he’d gone crazy.

“What? No!”

Adrien frowned, pursuing her to her side of the couch, groping for the controller even as she held it out to her other side, determined to keep it from him as her free hand pressed into his chest.

“Come on, if you’re so confident, what’s the problem?”

“It’s my controller, Adrien!” Marinette insisted stubbornly, though she was laughing as she shoved a foot against his abdomen now in an attempt to keep him at bay. Adrien grunted, putting his weight on her as he still continued to reach for the controller as she held it firmly out of his grasp.

“What’s the difference? Come on, Mari—”

“No way!”

As they wrestled for the controller, Marinette un-paused the game. Before Adrien could stop her, she rolled out a quick combo that finished his bot, grinning cheekily as he stared from her to the screen in horror.

“No fair! I wasn’t holding my controller!”

“Your fault for trying to take my controller in the first place,” Marinette chided with her tongue out at Adrien pouted down at her.

“And you didn’t even let me win once. You’re brutal, Mari,” he complained. Marinette seemed quite unperturbed by that, and she openly giggled at him and his plight. The sight of her laughter, even at his expense, was enough to soften Adrien, though he wasn’t too upset about losing to her in the first place; clearly, he needed to get better at Mecha Strike before making reckless bets he couldn’t win…

As Marinette laughed, Adrien suddenly became aware of the fact that he was lying on top of her, the warmth of her body soaking through the t-shirt he wore. He blinked, startled at this realization. He had been so busy trying to grab her controller that he hadn’t been properly self-aware, and now…

Adrien flushed, his mind panicking as it went into overtime trying to find a way out of this situation without making it awkward. But why did it have to be awkward? Marinette was too busy laughing at him to realize the compromising position they were in—

As soon as he thought that, Marinette glanced up at him…and then, by the sudden rounding of her eyes and the blush filling her face, seemed to register the same thing Adrien had. Her lips parted in surprise, and his eyes were immediately drawn to them, as if he couldn’t help it.

Damn it—he wanted to kiss her.

That was when his mind stopped working, rendering him useless; he could only stare down at her as she gaped up at him, the quiet between them growing tense and charged. As Adrien floundered with his suddenly non-responsive brain, an apology sprang to his lips, because it was probably appropriate here, and he should move, he should definitely move before he made this any worse or—

Outside, thunder crashed, probably the loudest it had been all night.

And then everything went dark.

Adrien froze in place, the sudden loss of light and power startling him. His eyes adjusted quickly—as Chat Noir, his night vision was excellent, but as Adrien, it was only slightly better than an average person’s night vision. Still, it was enough to see the shocked look on Marinette’s face, her eyes as wide as they could possibly go…though whether it was because she was trying to see him or because the power outage had startled her, Adrien couldn’t be sure. He did register the way her hands gripped his biceps, nails digging into his skin. Definitely startled, then.

Adrien let out a short huff of breath, shifting as he began to draw away from her. As startled as Marinette might be by the sudden power outage, him lying on top of her probably wasn’t helping matters—

As he prepared to back away, Marinette’s grip suddenly slipped from his arms, up to his neck. They rested at his nape, scorching the skin there as his nerves rioted, instantly reacting to the touch, making Adrien freeze in place. What was she doing?

Marinette bit her lip, her brow furrowing. She looked uncertain about something…but the moment Adrien dared to move closer, trying to read the expression in her eyes, something changed, too fast for him to catch it—

And then she was leaning up...

Her lips were warm and soft. That was the only thing Adrien could register as they pressed against his.

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A Miraculous: Tales of Ladybug & Cat Noir Story
by DarkReyna16

Part 16 of 37

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