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

Part 25 of 37

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He looked so old.

Nino felt trepidation humming through him as he took in Master Fu’s appearance—his face had more lines and liver spots than the last time Nino had seen it, his hair pure white now, and thinning, contrasting the white beard growing longer and thicker from his chin. His gnarled hands stroked through it, the movement stiffer than usual, as if it took more effort for the old master to move now.

It was official: for as long as he had eluded it, old age had caught Master Fu at last. And it wasn’t pulling any punches.

Nino and Marinette sat across from the old master in a cozy little lounge bar in Quartier Chinois. Nino had been surprised at first when Master Fu had led them there, commenting that he thought the old master was strictly a tea guy. Master Fu had chuckled and said that the occasional alcoholic beverage was healthy as well. Nino and Marinette had exchanged glances at that, but neither of them had argued, so here they were.

It seemed Master Fu was considered something of a regular—everyone in the bar greeted him as soon as he came in, and he stopped to chat with one or two people for a moment before moving to one of the unoccupied tables, ordering a simple cask of ginger beer for the table to share. Normally, Nino wasn't a beer guy, but he had to admit, after Master Fu had poured him a glass, the ginger gave it a little something. As he drank, Marinette handled most of the conversation in a hushed tone—they were in public, so that meant no raised voices, and no kwami sightings. This would be a very low-key meeting, Nino suspected.

“Shade,” Master Fu said, pronouncing the name slowly, as if to test it on his tongue. Beside Nino, Marinette nodded.

“Have you heard of her before?”

Master Fu fell silent, closing his eyes. If he hadn’t continued to stroke his beard, Nino would have thought he had fallen asleep.

“Not so much her…but I believe I have heard of such a thing as a Snake Miraculous before.”

“Really?” Marinette asked, surprise etched into her features. Master Fu opened his eyes, smiling at Marinette.

“Just because I was the Guardian to a specific set of Miraculous does not mean that other Miraculous do not exist in the world,” he reminded Marinette, whose expression grew sheepish.

Nino smiled to himself. He hadn’t been particularly surprised when Marinette divulged this new information of a character named ‘Shade’ to him—training under Master Fu had taught him that there were many mysteries about the Miraculous that had yet to be discovered in their entirety. It didsurprise him when she mentioned, casual as anything, that Camille was actually Erika…but that was neither here nor there right now.

“What we don’t know,” he chimed in, “is whether what we’re dealing with now is the ‘Shade’ chick Erika mentioned, or if it’s a coincidence or a copycat.”

“Which is why we came to you,” Marinette added, folding her hands in her lap as she watched Master Fu anxiously. “We need to know if fake akumas are a part of the Butterfly Miraculous’ powers, or if we should be looking for something else entirely.”

“Hmm,” Master Fu hummed, closing his eyes again as he thought, stroking his beard pensively. “The Butterfly Miraculous has been lost to me for quite some time…but to my knowledge, it should not be able to create false akumas.”

Nino watched as Marinette frowned down at her lap, gripping her chin in thought. Nino was privately amused at that, wondering if she, too, would be stroking her beard if she had one.

“So this is the work of someone else,” she surmised, seemingly talking to herself, for the most part. “If this is the same Shade Erika mentioned, what would be her motivation to come to France and help The Butterfly?”

“You don’t think it’s the same Shade Erika was talking about?”

“Well, I don’t know,” Marinette admitted with a huff, glancing up at Nino with a cringe. “The way Erika described her, she was supposed to be a hero in America.”

Nino frowned.

“Someone who can get inside your head and manipulate you into doing bad things, all while making you think you want to do them?” He raised his eyebrows. “Sounds like Hawk Moth to me.”

“Well…when you put it that way…”

“So,” Master Fu cut in, his quavering voice still strong, despite his appearance, “what will you two do?”

Nino and Marinette stared blankly at him.

“Um,” Nino said, feeling awkward as he rubbed the back of his head, “well, we were hoping you could, uh, tell us where we should go from here.”

This appeared to amuse Master Fu.

“Really?” He asked, folding his hands around his half-empty glass as he peered at Nino and Marinette. “And why would I do that?”

“Because you’re our mentor,” Marinette pointed out, giving Master Fu a strange look, as if she was concerned about his mental state. Master Fu laughed at this, the tail end of it ending in a wheezing cough that had both Marinette and Nino glancing at each other in concern.

“I may be here, should you need guidance,” Master Fu said, that strange, mirthful glint still in his eyes as he looked at them, “but I think you are both too old for a mentor.”

“Age has nothing to do with this,” Marinette insisted, her tone a bit too severe, in Nino’s opinion. But he guessed she was just as concerned as he was, with Master Fu’s mortality now staring them in the face. “I don’t care if I’m forty-five and still doing this—you’ll always be my mentor, Master Fu.”

Master Fu smiled at this.

“Thank you for saying so, Marinette. But I’m not going to live forever. And that’s fine,” he added when Nino and Marinette exchanged another frown. “No one is meant to live so long, you know. Death comes for us all, in the end. It is a fact of life, one I am unconcerned with.

“But while I am still here, it would be unwise to rely on me too often to plot your next moves for you,” he continued after a sip of ginger beer, suddenly businesslike. “It is a dangerous habit to fall into—if you are always asking and never seeking for yourselves, what will you do once I am gone?”

“So in other words,” Nino said, eyeing Master Fu shrewdly, “we’re on our own for this one.”

Master Fu smiled at him.

“It is simpler than you believe, to move forward on your own.” Master Fu set down his glass, peering at both of them in that way that always made Nino feel that Master Fu held all the secrets of the universe, and if they wanted to know them, they had to ask the right questions. “Think for a moment. A new lead has been presented to you—the mystery of a being called ‘Shade’. You know nothing concrete about this being, but hearsay tells you that she possesses the Snake Miraculous, that she was active in America some time ago, and that the powers she possesses are similar to what you have encountered in your clashes with The Butterfly. None of this is supported by any proof you have found yourself, but merely on the words of a friend, an ally.”

Master Fu folded his hands in his lap, surveying them wisely, and Nino felt a test of some sort coming on—

“Where do you go from here?” Master Fu inquired, smiling slightly, like he was secretly enjoying a game of wits, where only he was keeping score. Granted, he was cheating by practically leading them to the answer, despite what he said about not relying on him for said answers, but…

From the corner of his eye, Nino saw Marinette frown, looking frustrated. It seemed like she was expecting more solid advice from Master Fu, rather than an impromptu quiz. Honestly, Nino was surprised that she expected anything else…but perhaps his one-on-one training with Master Fu had taught him more about the old man than Marinette’s occasional visits with him.

Since Marinette appeared to be busy wrapped up in her annoyance, it was Nino who answered.


Blinking, Marinette turned to frown at him next.


Nino gave a shrug.

“Erika said she never saw these ‘abilities’ of Shade up close, right? Only through videos?” He raised his eyebrows meaningfully. “Wouldn’t watching said videos tell us more about what we might or might not be dealing with, if it is this Shade chick that’s helping The Butterfly? Hell, we’ll probably find more than videos if she was as infamous as Erika made her out to be.”

Marinette’s lips parted in surprise, her eyes alight with sudden understanding.

“Ohhhh,” she huffed, smacking the heel of her palm to her forehead. “Duh. Why didn’t I think of that?”

“This is why it’s good to have friends, ‘Nette.”

“Speaking of friends,” Master Fu interrupted, and Nino turned to find him stroking his beard again, regarding him and Marinette curiously, “I notice that a certain someone is missing from this meeting…”

“…Oh, you mean Whiskers?” Nino realized after a moment of confusion. He frowned at the expectant look on the old master’s face. “We never bring him with us, though.”

“Not even now that he has returned to fight at your side?” Master Fu questioned, his eyes going to Marinette, who flushed under his gaze.

“Um…w-we don’t know who he is, underneath the mask,” she mumbled, looking uncomfortable for reasons that would probably make Nino sigh, if his suspicions were correct.


Nino didn’t like the sound of that ‘hmm’.

“You’re not saying we should reveal ourselves to him, are you?” He questioned, remembering to keep his voice low. Master Fu stroked his beard and closed his eyes again, taking his time with this answer.

“That depends on you, of course,” he said in the end, opening his eyes to watch Nino and Marinette. “If you feel you can trust him, then it stands to reason that you’ll be better-coordinated with each other, if you know each other in your civilian lives as well.” He raised a hand, gesturing between Nino and Marinette. “You two are able to provide support to each other—at a moment’s notice, if necessary—because you know how to contact each other outside of the suits. Perhaps, ah…‘Whiskers’ should be afforded the same courtesy.” Master Fu paused, stroking his beard once more, his gaze locked with Nino. “He is under the most pressure at the moment. Extra support from his allies would most definitely be appreciated.”

Nino frowned, feeling personally attacked. Yes, he was starting to trust Chat Noir, but it was a slow process, especially when he was working to make sure Marinette didn’t get too cozy with him before she made up her mind about which blonde man she wanted to commit to. To even think about revealing his identity to a perfect stranger, even if that stranger was working his ass off to redeem himself in the eyes of his allies and the whole of Paris itself—

“I don’t know,” Marinette mumbled, and Nino glanced over to find her face bright red, her teeth worrying her bottom lip. “That kind of decision…that kind of trust…I-I don’t know.”

Huh. Nino wasn’t the only reluctant one here, it seemed…

Master Fu seemed to measure Marinette with his eyes for a brief moment, before he nodded in understanding.

“It is a decision that should not be rushed into, or taken lightly.” He took up his glass again after refilling theirs as well, taking a measured sip. “However, speaking from a mentor’s point of view…it is a decision I feel should be given due consideration.”

Marinette glanced up at Master Fu, and Nino saw the glint of something in her eyes…something she was burning to know…

“You…know him, don’t you?” She asked, her voice more hushed than usual, as if they were suddenly discussing something forbidden. “You know who he is under the mask.”

“Naturally,” Master Fu replied with a smile. “I was the one who gave him the ring he still wears to this day.”

Marinette was fidgeting, Nino couldn’t help but notice. She looked uncomfortable, at war with herself—her fingers twisted in her lap, her leg bounced in an agitated fashion, and her teeth kept sinking further and further into her bottom lip, as if she was trying to physically restrain words from escaping her mouth—

After a tense moment of struggle, she appeared to cave.

“What’s he like?” She asked, leaning forward and watching Master Fu with such intensity that Nino felt she was trying to see right through the old master. He almost told her to chill, but Master Fu only chuckled, his dark eyes alive with mirth and a little bit of something else…mischief?

“If you would like to know so badly, Marinette…I think you should ask him to show you sometime,” he answered simply, as Nino expected he would. Marinette slumped back in her seat. She was clearly disappointed, but she gave a nod all the same. Nino reached over and patted her on the back, hoping a simple gesture would take the sting out of her disappointment.

“Well,” Master Fu began after quiet had settled at the table, “now that that’s all out of the way…won’t you enjoy one more drink with this old man before you go?”

“Of course,” Nino replied for the both of them, raising his full glass in a toast. “To your health, Master Fu.”

“And to your eventual victory,” Master Fu added, raising his own glass for a moment, and Nino clinked his glass against his.

“And to peace in Paris,” Marinette tacked on after a moment. She lifted her glass, and Nino clinked his glass against hers as well before the three of them drank. They made small talk for a while after, and once the pitcher of ginger beer was empty, Marinette and Nino accompanied Master Fu home before they left Quartier Chinois, the light of the nearly full moon guiding them. It was called a waxing gibbous, Nino believed…but he didn’t dare say so out loud. Alya teased him about being a moon nerd enough as it was; he didn’t need Marinette jumping on that particular bandwagon as well.

Marinette moved in silence beside him, looking lost in thought. Nino almost asked what was on her mind…but then figured he probably didn’t want to know. Besides, if it was important, she’d share it with him…he hoped…

In the meantime, he felt it was probably best to discuss the other thing that had been nagging at him for a couple days now.

“Hey ‘Nette…have you noticed how, uh, chummy Alya and Adrien have gotten lately?” Nino asked as they climbed into Marinette’s car. She frowned to herself as she inserted her keys into the ignition, and the pink VW Beetle rumbled to life.

“Yeah, I have…do you know what’s up with that?”

Nino gave a shrug as Marinette pulled into the road after checking her mirrors and blind spot.

“No. I’m wondering if we should be worried, though.”

“Not if we don’t want to be hypocrites,” Marinette pointed out dryly, and Nino chuckled uncomfortably.

“True. It’s not like I’m worried about it, but…seems pretty sudden, don’t you think?”

“A little. I can’t really guess why…unless they’re hanging out to get back at us for ditching them all the time?”

“I don’t think that’s it…well, whatever it is, can’t be that bad, right? It’s just Alya and Adrien.”

“Right. How much trouble can the two of them get into, with Adrien’s charm—”

“—and Alya’s diabolical brain…”

They paused and glanced at each other nervously.

“…I don’t think we should think about this anymore,” Marinette mumbled.

“Yeah, I think we’re better off not knowing, if just suspecting is gonna give me chills.”

“I think we should just be grateful that they like us.”




“…Alya, we’ve been looking for hours now. I really don’t think it’s here.”

“Fuck you, it is here,” Alya snarled, her hands frantically searching through the many, many comics under her hands that were not the comic she was looking for. “I don’t care if I have to tear this whole damn shop apart, I will find it!”

“She’s kidding,” Alya heard Adrien hastily say to someone; she spared a brief glance, noting the nervous look of the shop worker as he eyed her nervously. Good. She bared her teeth at him for good measure and resumed her search, hell-bent. There was no way that it wasn’t here—Alya had followed the development of this comic religiously, had eagerly anticipated its release for months. There was no fucking way that it wasn’t here somewhere—

“AH-HA!” Alya finally cried in triumph, yanking out the first issue of “Fin Lad and Flame Lass” the moment she spotted the familiar cover art. “Finally! See, Agreste, I told you it was—wait a minute, why is this in the discount bin?!” She whirled on a nearby shop worker, nearly shoving the comic in her face in outrage. “Do you people have no taste?! This is going to be a classic one day, and you throw it in the discount bin like its trash?! Do you hate money?!”

“Alya, please,” Adrien hissed, and Alya was abruptly yanked backward, away from the petrified worker. Damn, his angelic face was hiding some serious strength; she totally forgot. “Sorry. She’s just…enthusiastic.”

“Shit, cheerleaders are enthusiastic,” Alya huffed, wriggling from his grasp and holding the comic up over her head in triumph. “I’m motherfuckin’ ecstatic over here! And you said we wouldn’t find it, hah! Suck it, Agreste!”

Adrien lifted a golden brow at her.

“I had no idea you were so…into comic books,” he admitted, looking embarrassed as Alya went into her standard ‘I-found-the-thing-I-was-looking-for-despite-the-haters-so-in-your-face’ victory dance. Once she processed his comment, she snorted.

“What, and you’re not?”

“Well, I like comic books…but I don’t think I’m anywhere near your level of liking them…”

“Then you need to get good, scrub,” Alya commented with a smirk, plucking at the comics he was clutching. “And what are you buying? DC or Marvel?”

“Marvel. I like Spiderman,” Adrien replied as he and Alya lined up at the counter to properly gain their spoils of war. Alya turned to raise an eyebrow at him.

“Hmm…a superhero in a red costume who swings around the city fighting crime…I cannot fathom your tastes, Agreste.”

“Shh,” Adrien urged her, looking around furtively. Alya snorted at him once again.

“What’re you so self-conscious about? You’re not any different from anyone else who’s a fan of Ladybug. Besides,” she added with a proud flip of her hair, “I’m her number one fan, so once again, you need to get on my level before you can start getting all blushy over there.”

Adrien was quiet for a while as they paid for their comics. Once they moved to the sitting area of the comic book shop, he spoke up.

“Well, technically, I’ve known her longer…so I would say I’m her number one fan.”

Alya lowered her glasses for a moment to stare at him, wanting to check that he was indeed daring to spout such blasphemy.

“Are you challenging me for the throne, Agreste?”

Adrien smiled at this, playfulness alight in his gaze.

“I believe you’re challenging me for my throne, Cesaire.”

Alya’s eyebrows shot up into her hairline.

“Oh, kitty has claws,” she noted, smirking as Adrien cringed; he was too easy to make fun of now. Setting her precious comic to the side for now, she leaned forward in her chair, her smirk evolving into a grin. “You sure you wanna dance this dance with me?”

“I have to defend my title,” Adrien replied with a shrug, the nonchalant gesture ruined by his smirk. “Be careful though: if you’re aiming for the king, you best not miss.”

What a little shit,’ Alya reflected to herself, amused. He never acted like this when the four of them were hanging out—he could be cheeky, sure, but he chose his moments instead of being all out…Chat Noir. Maybe he was more comfortable showing this side of himself now that Alya knew the truth?

Either way, Alya was going to have to break this little delusion of his. Partner or not, no one knew Ladybug better than she did.

“All right, let’s do this: Ladybug’s favorite color?”

“Pink,” Adrien answered immediately, and Alya cursed under her breath; she didn’t actually expect him to know that, since many of Ladybug’s fans were deluded into thinking her favorite color was red, simply because that was the color of her costume. Alya grew weary of explaining over and over to the ignorant commenters on her blog that the two things were not the same.

Hmm…but then again, with the way she had witnessed Chat Noir acting around Ladybug, perhaps it wasn’t so surprising that he knew her favorite color…

“Her favorite landmark in Paris?” Adrien asked Alya, who rolled her eyes.

“The Eiffel Tower, duh.” What did he take her for, an amateur? Even without her ace in the hole, Alya had interviewed Ladybug so many times that her knowledge of the woman—in and out of the mask—was nigh unbeatable. She ate, slept, and breathed Ladybug facts. Adrien was going to have to do a lot better than that.

“Favorite food?” Alya shot at him. Adrien paused, his brow furrowing, and Alya’s grin widened, certain that she had him—

“Do you mean actual food or sweets?” He asked, smirking when Alya’s face fell. “Because her favorite meal is stir fry, but her favorite sweets depend on the kind of day she’s had. If it’s a normal day, anything with strawberry is good, but if it’s a bad day, then it’s chocolate, chocolate, and more chocolate.” Adrien snorted at the dismayed look Alya wore. “Oh come on. Didn’t you expect me to know this much, at least?”

Cheeky bastard,’ Alya thought uncharitably, her frown growing in tandem with his smirk. Okay…so he knew a little more than she was expecting. But so what? It still didn’t mean that he knew Ladybug better than Alya did—

“Deepest fear?” Adrien asked, and Alya raised her eyebrows at him. Oh, so they were suddenly upping the ante, were they…?

“Losing control,” Alya said after some thought, frowning to herself as she carefully worded her answer. This wasn’t strictly true in regards to Ladybug, exactly; Alya was drawing more on her knowledge of Marinette than anything. But since they were the same person, it wasn’t exactlycheating… “Because she’s Ladybug, she feels she’s supposed to handle anything that comes her way…so when something doesn’t go to plan, it stresses her out for a bit before she finds a way around it.”

When Alya blinked herself out of her thoughts, it was to find Adrien watching her, surprise rounding his green eyes. She grinned.

“I’m not the moderator of the Ladyblog for nothing, you know,” she teased him. Adrien blinked a couple times, giving a hesitant smile in return.

“Right…well…” he cleared his throat, tugging at the collar of his shirt. “It’s your turn to ask a question.”

Alya watched him for a moment, thinking. It was probably a bad idea for her to let on that she knew more than she was supposed to…but ever since finding out his catty little secret, she was constantly wondering: did Adrien really not know…?

“Ladybug’s real name?” She asked before she could talk herself out of it. Adrien sputtered, blinking in surprise at her.

“Wh—that’s not a fair question,” he complained immediately. Alya didn’t reply right away, watching his reactions critically. Adrien frowned under her gaze. “Seriously, it’s not. Neither of us know the answer, so even if I did give you a name, you wouldn’t know if it’s right or not anyway, right?”

He didn’t know. He sincerely didn’t know.

Adrien Agreste was every bit as clueless over Ladybug’s identity as he appeared. The poor sap.

Alya inwardly sighed. As tempting as it was to tease him about her ace in the hole…she couldn’t bring herself to be that cruel.

So she gave him a sheepish grin instead.

“I suppose it is an unfair question,” she conceded, before smirking at him. “I thought it might be a safe bet, since you’re partners and you’re in love with her…but you’ve already said that neither she nor Emerald Shell knows who you really are, right?

Adrien flushed red, his jaw locking stubbornly.

“I am not in love with Ladybug,” he refuted with a frown, and Alya inwardly snickered over the fact that that was the only detail of her speculations he seemed to register. “I’m…sort of seeing Marinette, remember?”

Oh yes, Alya remembered.

And the irony was not lost on her whatsoever; she had to work not to say ‘same thing’ and keep her mouth shut. As much as she wanted to, she couldn’t tease Adrien with this. It was not her secret to tell.

“Speaking of Marinette,” Adrien began, looking uncomfortable again as Alya’s gaze snapped to him once more. She took in his awkward expression, beginning to smirk.

“Are we finally going to discuss this ‘favor’ that made you follow me all the way here?”

“Well, I would’ve brought it up earlier, but you were so eager to find your comic—”

“Can you really afford to fall into more debt with me, Agreste?” Alya ribbed him, her smile becoming dangerous. “You know I’m going to ask you for something in return for whatever this ‘favor’ is, right?”

“Of course,” Adrien replied, though he looked more resigned than anything. “All magic comes with a price.”

“That it does. I’m glad you understand.” Alya took up her comic once again, pretending to be interested in the cover art more than the conversation. “So, what’s this ‘favor’?”

“Well…Valentine’s Day is coming…”

“Uh-huh?” Alya hummed, thumbing the corner of the plastic wrap that surrounded her comic, wondering whether she should open it now or wait until she got home. Hmm…

“I was just wondering…has Mari…mentioned it? Like, has she talked about a place she wants to go to, or…any plans about it? At all?”

Alya sighed, lowering her comic to her lap so her vision was unobstructed, enabling her to give Adrien a flat look.

“No. As a matter of fact, she hasn’t mentioned it at all. In fact, she refuses to talk about it because someone won’t ask her directly whether she has any plans for the day or not.”

Her pointed stare made Adrien blush and shift uncomfortably in his seat. Good.

“I just…I don’t know if she—”

“For god’s sake, Agreste, you’re twenty-two,” Alya cut him off with a shake of her head. “And you face danger on a daily basis. If you can fight akuma—”

“Not so loud, Alya—”

“—Then you can ask the woman you’re ‘sort of seeing’ out for Valentine’s Day, can’t you?” Alya finished, ignoring his protest. Adrien huffed, rubbing the back of his neck.

“It’s complicated,” he insisted.

“Oh?” Alya drawled, crossing one leg over the other as she rested her head against her fist, raising an eyebrow in a “do tell” gesture. Adrien didn’t seem to appreciate this; he pouted at her before finishing his thought.

“Well, without delving too deep into my fucked-up psyche, it’s like this: I don’t want to hurt Mari by getting into a relationship before I’m ready to actually be in one…but I really, really want to spend Valentine’s Day with her.”

Alya watched, becoming amused as Adrien rested his chin in his hand, his eyes misting over, most likely entering that romantic headspace she’d seen him occupying whenever they talked about Marinette. Boy had it bad.

“I want to spoil her, buy her presents, take her out to a nice restaurant—”

“Get laid?” Alya suggested with a smirk, the realistic suggestion setting fire to Adrien’s face.

“I…well, I’d be lying if I said that didn’t cross my mind…” he shook his head, blonde locks flying. He seriously needed a haircut. “But it’s not about sex. I…I want to be with her, you know?”

Adrien sighed, running a hand through his hair.

“I want to hear her talk about her day, whether it was good or bad. I want to hold her when she’s feeling down, or when she’s feeling happy, or for no reason at all. I want to see her smile when I make breakfast for her, or lunch, whatever. Being near her just makes my day, like, a hundred—no, a million times better. And she doesn’t even try. She just has to be Marinette, and I’m…I like her so much…”

Though he was seriously asking for it, Alya didn’t have the heart to make fun of him and his cheesiness; he looked so conflicted, trying to give her best friend due consideration while also wanting to be with her so much that it seemed like he actively had to restrain himself. Boy was so far gone that he no longer knew what to do with himself. It was cute…if not a little bit sad.

Shaking her head a little, Alya reached forward, patting his knee.

“You know, Adrien: all that stuff you just said? That’s part of being in a relationship,” she pointed out gently, smiling a little when Adrien glanced at her. “And if you want to do all that stuff so badly…I think you might be ready to be in one.” She sat back, smiling easily. “But that’s just my opinion. It’s not like I’m smarter than you or anyth—oh wait.

“Ha ha,” Adrien said dryly, though he was smiling a little as well. “You and Nino are too much alike.”

“Which is why we’re perfect for each other,” Alya surmised, flashing her engagement ring with a smirk. “Anyway, we still haven’t gotten to the issue: what’s your favor, exactly? Just advice?”

“Well…I was thinking more of what Marinette’s favorite brand of chocolate is, whether or not she’d let me buy her jewelry…maybe a restaurant you know she likes?”

Alya let her elbows rest on the armrests of her chair, locking her fingers together as she surveyed Adrien over the tops of her hands.

“This is sacred information you’re asking for, Agreste,” she said gravely. “It’s gonna cost you more than a simple favor.”

“Even if it makes your best friend happy?” Adrien tried, looking hopeful. Said hope faded from his expression immediately the minute Alya’s bloodthirsty grin appeared.

Especially if it makes my best friend happy.” She paused, raising a finger. “But…I think I’ll be nice and give you the answers first, just this once.”

This did not appear to comfort Adrien; he eyed her warily instead, as if he sensed a trap. A wise reaction, in Alya’s opinion.

“…And what do you want in return for this information, Godmother?”

Alya smirked, resisting the urge to go along with the joke by telling him to kiss her ring.

“Oh, don’t worry—I’ll think of something.”



The twenty-second was next week.

Next. Week.

In just nine days—nine days—the fate of Marinette’s future fashion career would be sealed.

But no pressure or anything.

It was only after Adrien accepted her final outfits—which were only present in photographs, given the fact that bringing them all in on her own would’ve been a huge pain in the ass—that Marinette allowed herself to breathe. One hurdle down…

“You okay?” He asked, looking amused and concerned as she let out a huge breath.

“Yes,” she assured him, brushing her bangs out of her face and closing her eyes for a moment. “It’s just that it feels like February’ll disappear the minute I look away for too long, and then I’ll suddenly remember that I forgot a crucial part of the design, or one of the masks’ll fall apart at the last minute, or I’ll show up to Desiree’s class with my work next Wednesday and realize that I forgot to put on pants—”

“Mari,” Adrien interrupted, reaching a hand forward to squeeze her shoulder, “breathe.

Marinette did so, inhaling deeply through her nose. She held it for three seconds, and then let it out slowly through her mouth. It didn’t help very much…but she could pretend.

“Thanks,” she said sheepishly as Adrien’s hand fell away from her shoulder. “And sorry. I’ll feel better once this is all over, it’s just the waiting that’s torture right now.”

“You’ll be fine,” Adrien assured her, giving her a wink. “And, speaking strictly from a professional’s point of view…I think you have a pretty good shot of winning this competition.”

Marinette fixed him with a stern look.

“Remember what I said—”

“I know, I know,” Adrien said, raising his hands in the air in surrender, a smirk twitching across his lips, “no favoritism. The feedback I’ll give Desiree will be nothing short of professional, promise.”

“Good,” said Marinette, getting to her feet as the obligatory beep from Adrien’s desk indicated that their time was up, and his next meeting was waiting. “I don’t want to give anybody the chance to say that I won for anything other than my talent.”

“Perish the thought,” Adrien agreed, moving over to his desk to answer his intercom. “Give me a couple more minutes, Sylvia.”

Marinette raised an eyebrow as Adrien turned back to her, something like awkwardness cracking through his professional mask.

“Why do we need a couple more minutes? Is there something wrong with one of my designs?”

“No,” Adrien denied with a slight shake of his head as he moved closer, “nothing like that. I…well.” He frowned, rubbing his mouth with the back of his hand as he glanced away, his face reddening. “I know we’re supposed to keep these meetings professional…but I wanted to ask you something. About tomorrow.”

Marinette felt her heart give a hard thump before it picked up speed, her blood racing, body tingling with anticipation. On the outside, however, she worked to keep her expression politely interested.


“Yeah…” Clearing his throat, Adrien gave a hesitant smile. “I was wondering—if you don’t have any other plans—would you…like to have dinner with me?”

Holy shit.

Adrien was asking her out.

On a date.

For Valentine’s Day.

Fourteen year old Marinette would have surely died of happiness…and twenty one year old Marinette wouldn’t blame her one bit.

Marinette felt herself blush, but she pushed past it, tapping her chin as she pretended to think about it.

“Hmm…I think all my other suitors are busy…so yes, I believe I’m free for dinner tomorrow night.”

“Whew,” sighed Adrien, wiping imaginary sweat from his brow…though if Marinette looked closely, she could see a certain amount of tension actually drain from his face. She stared at him, wondering if he was really so surprised that she would want to go out on a date with him. Was she being too subtle in her display of how much she liked him?

She knew she shouldn’t do what she was thinking of doing…but hell, Adrien had already made this personal. What was one more step in that direction?

Smirking, Marinette stepped closer to him, carefully stretching onto her toes to give him what she meant to be a quick kiss…but the minute their lips touched, something sparked between them, and before Marinette knew it, his arms were around her waist and her hands were buried in his hair, small gasps of air exchanged between them as they lost themselves in the taste of each other for a few precious seconds—


“Mr. Agreste? It’s been two minutes. Should I send your next appointment up?”

“Damn it,” Marinette mumbled, laughing a little breathlessly as Adrien growled in frustration against her neck. “And we’ve been so good so far.”

“You started it,” Adrien reminded her, and Marinette stuck her tongue out at him when he pulled back to look at her.

“I’m finishing it, too.” She slid out of his grasp, smoothing down her blouse. “So, I’ll see you tomorrow?”

“Yes,” Adrien agreed, straightening his tie with a shifty grin that made Marinette smirk. “Pick you up at seven?”

“It’s a date,” Marinette promised, giving him a wink as she headed towards the elevator, pushing the ‘down’ button. As the doors slid open to admit her, she turned, giving Adrien a parting smile and some advice:

“By the way…though it is a good shade on you…you might want to wipe off my lipstick before you meet your next appointment.”

Marinette giggled, just able to glimpse Adrien turning red and running a hasty hand over his mouth, smearing the pink lipstick she had left there before the elevator doors shut, and she was descending. The illicit kissing had been worth it, just to see that expression on his face.

Marinette allowed a stupid grin to cross her features for a moment as she leaned against the back wall of the elevator. A Valentine’s Day date with one ex-supermodel/CEO Adrien Agreste…she never thought she’d see the day, honestly. When February began, she had been careful to keep her expectations low, not wanting to pressure him into anything, especially when he had been perfectly candid with her about not wanting to be in a relationship. Just because they were sort-of seeing each other didn’t mean that he was obligated to spend time with her on Valentine’s Day, after all. Hell, he had even told her that he would respect it if she didn’t want to wait for him, so if Marinette chose—

A familiar grin suddenly flashed through her mind, centered just below a black mask, green cat-like eyes gleaming from the darkness.

Marinette shook her head fiercely to put the image out of her head.

No. She had made her decision: she was sticking with Adrien. Even if he wasn’t ready to be with her, he was still better for her in the long run than Chat Noir, even if they only stayed friends, with or without benefits. Besides, Chat Noir was seeing someone else, and was therefore off-limits. Marinette’s mind was made up, and she refused to debate the issue any further—at this point in time, it was either Adrien, or no one.

And, since a certain cat man was not included in that decision whatsoever, Marinette was just fine with that.

Once the elevator reached the ground floor, Marinette stepped out, giving Sylvia a passing smile and wave as she exited the building, rummaging through her purse for her phone. She hoped Alya was free to talk right now—if there was ever a time Marinette needed advice about underwear, it was now.



It really wasn’t fair.

Adrien had seen Marinette in all kinds of outfits at this point—mostly bundled up in the thickest set of winter clothes she could find—and he had seen what she looked like when she dressed for a night out, but this

“Hi,” Marinette greeted him as she came down the steps, pulling her white peacoat closed…but not before Adrien caught sight of the dark red dress he could see she was wearing underneath, cutting off just above her knees. And it was…snug.

Adrien let his gaze linger too long; when he finally remembered it was impolite to stare, he glanced up to find Marinette smirking at him, her lips dark red to match her dress. He had never seen her wear red before…it was a good look on her. Very good…

“See something you like?” Marinette teased him, and Adrien let out a chuckle that was slightly strained. It would be a miracle if he didn’t end up dead by the end of the night.

“You look beautiful,” he made sure to compliment her, although it was the understatement of the century. But Marinette smiled nonetheless.

“Thank you.” Her bluebell eyes simmered as she gave him a once-over so slow that Adrien felt himself blush from his neck all the way to the roots of his hair. After a moment, Marinette smiled a mischievous little smile, which didn’t help him cool down at all.

“You look handsome as always, Mr. Model,” she teased, winking at him. Adrien grinned too widely; he tried to fix his expression, but too late, Marinette was already grinning at how stupid he must look. Why did he have to be so pleased with any kind of praise he received?

“Thanks. Ahem…shall we?” He asked, opening the passenger side door for Marinette, who grinned and slipped past him, so close that he could smell her perfume. It was something floral…mmm…

“No extravagant bouquet this time around?” Marinette asked as he slipped into the car beside her, starting the engine with a quiet purr. Adrien glanced at her, taking in her smile with a pinch of trepidation—did she want flowers? “I’m kidding,” she assured him before he could get too worked up, and Adrien sighed in relief.

“Yeah, sorry, no flowers this time…” Reaching into the backseat, Adrien pulled a pink, heart-shaped box into view, tied closed with an extravagant white ribbon. “Will chocolate do?”

“I can never say no to chocolate…especially not from my favorite chocolate shop,” Marinette replied, awe permeating her voice once she untied the ribbon and took note of the brand name stamped across the box. Adrien did a small, celebratory fist pump with his free hand as he pulled out into the road. Bless Alya. He really did owe her for this.

“Go ahead and try one,” Adrien encouraged, shooting a grin Marinette’s way as he drove. He could feel her gaze on his face, though he sternly told himself not to look at her too much, lest her beauty distract him and run them both off the road.

“Is that okay? I don’t want to spoil my dinner…”

Adrien snorted at the teasing lilt in Marinette’s voice.

“One little chocolate won’t ruin your appetite.”

“You assume I’ll be able to stop at just one,” Marinette pointed out, and Adrien laughed.

“I have faith in you.”

“That is faith wasted.” The sound of wax wrapping paper filled the car, followed by the soft crumble of chocolate…and then there was a satisfied sigh. Adrien smiled.

“So did I choose right?”

So right,” Marinette mumbled around a mouthful of chocolate. “This filling is great: I love strawberry-flavored stuff. Usually I save the chocolate for a bad day, but since tonight’s Valentine’s Day, it couldn’t hurt to indulge, right?”

Hmm. That sounded familiar…

“Indulge as much as you like, Mari,” he said, smiling warmly at her for a moment, keeping his eyes off the road long enough to notice her blush. She was so cute, to be so pleased with chocolate, when there was still one other present Adrien wanted to give her…ah, he’d better save it. It was more of a ‘after dinner’ present anyway.

Adrien had the pleasure of watching Marinette’s jaw drop when they pulled up to Cygne, an elegant little restaurant that Alya had shown him, stating that it was Marinette’s goal to one day have a meal there in celebration of a large milestone in her life. He hoped she wouldn’t mind her first meal here being a Valentine’s Day date…

As he parked his car, Marinette turned to him, a spark of suspicion in her gaze.

“You owe Alya another favor, don’t you?”

“I do,” Adrien confirmed grimly, stepping out of the car and jogging around to open Marinette’s door for her. “I’m in hock up to my ears at this point with her.”

Marinette shook her head, blushing a little as Adrien slid an arm around her.

“You’re playing a dangerous game here, Mr. Agreste,” she warned him in a dire tone as he led her up the walkway to the restaurant, opening the door for her once again.

“I like to live dangerously from time to time,” he remarked with a wink, and Marinette muffled a giggle as they approached the maître d’, who, with the mention of Adrien’s name, led them immediately to their table.

The setting could not be more perfect—the restaurant glowed softly with candlelit chandeliers, and a jazz band played in a corner next to a small space where a few couples swayed to the music, loud enough to be pleasant, but soft enough where normal conversation could take place. Flowers in pinks and reds were arranged on each table, mini bouquets in celebration of the holiday. Adrien shed his coat and took his seat at their table, which was near the dance floor, mildly disappointed that the maître d’ was already pulling out Marinette’s chair for her after helping her out of her coat. Adrien saw that he wasn’t wrong about how snug that dress was on Marinette—it was like a second skin on her, clinging to every curve she possessed seamlessly, leaving her calves, arms, and shoulders exposed; a sweetheart neckline was at the top, and something resembling short sleeves, though they looked more like thin straps of red fabric, clung to her upper arms. She turned to thank the maître d’, and Adrien nearly choked—there were thin red straps criss-crossing all the way down to her lower back, leaving her back nearly bare, much of her pale, freckled skin exposed in the candle light—

Why don’t they serve water right away here?’ Adrien wondered to himself, feeling himself flush as Marinette took her seat across from him, completely oblivious of the effect she was having on him. The date had barely started, and he was already overheated. And thirsty. He was very, very thirsty…

Luckily, their waiter did not take long. He smiled, greeted them, and filled their glasses with water while handing them menus to look over before taking their drink orders. Adrien ordered a bottle of merlot for the table, and the waiter left, promising to return soon. As he took a drink of water, Marinette quirked a brow at him.

“Showing off?”

Adrien cringed.

“Does it seem like it?”

“A little.” She smiled, the mischief in her gaze telling Adrien that she was enjoying herself so far. Good. “Are you trying to impress me, Mr. Agreste?”

“Noooo,” Adrien drawled with a careless hand wave, hastening to clap along with the dancing couples as the jazz band finished a number.

“Thank you,” said the jazz singer in a smooth, velvet voice. “Our next song is requested by Adrien A., dedicated to his date, Marinette. Happy Valentine’s Day, Marinette.”

As the band picked up another tune, Adrien turned, snickering at the way Marinette’s jaw dropped, her face flaming.

Now I’m trying to impress you,” Adrien teased, getting up and offering his hand to Marinette. “Dance with me?”

Marinette smiled, pushing her chair back and taking his hand. She had gotten her nails done for the occasion, too—a sparkling red to match her dress. She had really gone all out tonight, huh? Well, her assassination attempt against him was working so far.

“You won’t let me fall, right?” She wanted to check as she carefully stood, drawing Adrien’s attention to her very high red heels, the sight of them impressing Adrien; he knew some models who would have some trouble maneuvering in such cute little death traps, but Marinette was handling them well.

To put her mind at ease, Adrien slid an arm around her, drawing her flush against him.

“Never,” he promised Marinette, smiling as her blush grew. He led her onto the dance floor, keeping his eyes on her the whole time. He had been so distracted by her dress when he first saw her that he hadn’t fully taken in the little details about her appearance tonight—her hair was curled and pinned up in the back, the tail end of it bouncing against the back of her neck, and the fine chain of a necklace circled her neck, ending in a small blooming rose that rested a few centimeters above the neckline of her dress. Her earrings were…surprisingly simple, Adrien couldn’t help but note as they claimed a spot on the dance floor, revolving slowly on the spot to the soft jazz tune. In fact, those were the same earrings he was pretty sure she wore every day. It seemed like she never wore any other pair of earrings, like those were significant in some way…perhaps a family heirloom of some kind? Hmm…that could pose a problem for him later…

“What’s on your mind?” Marinette asked him, gently tugging Adrien from his thoughts with the sound of her voice. His gaze switched to her sparkling eyes as she watched him, a little smile playing across her lips. God, she was beautiful.

“Have I already told you how lovely you look tonight?” He asked, fully aware of the fact that he had. But Marinette giggled and blushed, which was his goal all along, so mission accomplished.

“If you keep complimenting me like this, I’m going to get spoiled,” Marinette warned him with a grin as he carefully twirled her around before bringing her back into the safety of his arms.

“I fail to see the problem,” Adrien remarked, answering her grin with one of his own. “I happen to like spoiling you.”

“Really?” Marinette raised her eyebrows. “What if I start demanding that you bow and kiss my feet every time I leave or enter a room?”

“Then I shall worship you like the queen you are,” Adrien answered without missing a beat, and the redness in Marinette’s face climbed higher, her ears flushing along with the rest of her face.

“Y-you’re ridiculous,” she huffed, cringing at the stammer. Adrien chuckled, bringing her hand to his lips to place a kiss upon her knuckles.

“And you’re adorable when you’re flustered,” he teased. Marinette stuck her tongue out at him, her lipstick not even smudged after the fact. Hmm, must be quality. The lipstick she left on him yesterday was easy enough to get off, but he wondered if it would be the same for this brand…

Before he could try it for himself, the song ended, and he and Marinette applauded the band before deciding to return to their table. Their waiter was standing by; he brought the merlot to the table, letting Adrien test it first. Once he gave his approval, the waiter poured them generous measures of wine before asking if they were ready to order. Adrien glanced up at Marinette, raising a questioning brow.

“Ready when you are,” she replied, thumbing through her menu with a smile.

“Ladies first?” Suggested the waiter, and Marinette ordered a ceasar salad as an appetizer before requesting filet mignon with a side of garlic potatoes and fresh vegetables.

“And for the gentleman?”

“I’ll have the same,” Adrien said, handing his menu to the waiter, who once again promised to return soon. Marinette gave him an amused look as the waiter left.

“Didn’t feel like choosing your own entrée?”

Adrien gave a nonchalant shrug.

“You have good taste.”

“At least you’re no longer eating like a model.” Marinette openly eyed him, and Adrien fought the stupid grin he could feel trying to make a comeback from earlier. “You’ve filled out nicely.”

“Have you been checking me out, Miss Dupain-Cheng?”

Marinette raised an eyebrow, red lips tilting into a smirk.

“Is that a problem, Mr. Agreste?”

“Not at all.” He raised his glass. “How about a toast?”

“Are we toasting anything in particular?” Marinette teased him as she lifted her own glass. Adrien’s brow puckered as he pursed his lips, pretending to deliberate.

“How about to our good health?”

“A good toast…but it’s kind of vague,” Marinette critiqued, grinning. “Try again.”

“To world peace?”

“Aren’t you virtuous?”

“Not really,” Adrien replied, letting his gaze dip down once again to Marinette’s wardrobe. “My next toast was gonna be to that dress. Especially the back.”

Marinette grinned, clinking her glass against his at last before taking a sip of her wine.

“I thought you might like it,” she teased with a wink. “It’s an old design of mine, but I added that alteration at the last minute.”

“Even though you knew you’d be cold?”

Her smirk grew into a devious little smile that threatened to ruin Adrien.

“I’m plenty warm right now,” she told him, the slightest touch of flirtation in her tone. Adrien swallowed, reaching for his water glass again. He had to calm down—the temptation to ask her to skip dinner and head back to his place was growing stronger by the second, and he wanted to do this right. He needed a distraction, quick!

His struggle must have been obvious—their waiter appeared again, setting down their salads and offering cheese and pepper. (Adrien opted only for the pepper, afraid of tempting Plagg, who was asleep in his coat pocket at the moment. Marinette asked for both.) After making the additions, the waiter wished for them to enjoy their salads, promised that their entrees would be ready soon, and left again. Bless that waiter—Adrien was going to leave him the biggest tip possible for his timing.

“Good?” He asked as Marinette dug into her salad, a little amused at the fervor with which she ate. At his comment, she flushed, carefully poking a corner of lettuce hanging from her lips into her mouth.

“I might have skipped lunch today,” she admitted sheepishly. In a quieter voice, she added, “I was…a little too excited about tonight to eat anything this afternoon.”

Adrien paused, his fork poised in the air, waiting for his attention. But he couldn’t focus on anything other than the telling blush that filled Marinette’s face, highlighting the freckles sprinkled across her nose and cheeks as she looked away from him, nibbling on her red bottom lip…

“I got you something,” Adrien blurted out before he could stop himself; it was his turn to flush now as Marinette glanced up at him in surprise. Damn it—he had been trying to wait until dessert to surprise her with the gift, but she was sitting there looking so adorable that he just had to show her just how much he appreciated her, whether it be words or gesture. So he chose gesture this time, reaching behind him to dig into his coat pocket—whoops, wrong one, Plagg was in this one. He awoke from his nap and swiped at Adrien’s fingers for daring to invade said pocket, and Adrien bit back a curse. Huffing, he reached into his other pocket, fingers finally closing around the small box within. As he drew it out, Marinette’s gaze went to it for a brief moment before returning to his face, her lips parted in surprise.

“You didn’t have to get me anything,” she protested softly, as he knew she would. He chuckled and shook his head. When would she learn that Adrien no longer did anything because he had to?

“I know.” He set the box down next to her plate. “Happy Valentine’s Day, Mari.”

Her face was turning as red as her dress, Adrien noted with amusement as Marinette picked up the box, a spark of excitement lighting her gaze; no matter what she said, Adrien knew she enjoyed these little gifts he gave her. Well, this one was not so little, but—

Her small intake of breath was like music to him, and her eyes grew wide as she inspected the flower-shaped earrings housed within the box for a brief moment before her gaze snapped to him, trepidation marring her surprise.

“These aren’t…pink diamonds, are they…?”

“Nope,” Adrien replied easily, smiling a little at the way Marinette’s shoulders slumped in relief, only to tense again when he added, “they’re pink sapphires.”


“Oh come on, it’s Valentine’s Day. Let me spoil you, please?” Adrien requested, pulling the face he knew she had trouble saying no to (though she did manage it from time to time). He watched her bite her lip again, her blue eyes dropping to the earrings. One of her hands wandered up to touch her earlobe, and her eyes tightened.

Oh…that didn’t seem like a good sign…

“…Unless you don’t like them?” Adrien wondered, working to keep his tone polite and hiding his disappointment. Hmm…now that he thought about it, Alya warned him against earrings when they were discussing jewelry choices, but Adrien had just thought it was because she was trying to push him into a ring of some sort (she didn’t bother trying to be subtle about it). But now, he realized that Alya must have known what she was talking about when she said no earrings…damn, but he just had to buy them, because they were cute and pink and reminded him of Marinette—

“Oh, no!” Marinette protested with a hasty wave, looking contrite. “It isn’t that at all! It’s just…I—”

The restaurant suddenly gave an alarming tremor. Startled cries tore through the air, and Adrien seized Marinette’s hands, which had automatically clung to the table as the floor moved unnaturally below them. Adrien closed his eyes and suppressed a groan.

Please let it be an earthquake, please for the love of god let it be an earthquake—

Because it had become silent in the restaurant, Adrien could hear it when the screams began outside, could hear the squeal of tires screeching across pavement, could hear the very chilling, very telling sound of diabolical laughter—

Needless to say, the people in the restaurant panicked.

As rich patrons called for their checks immediately and the jazz band began to pack up at the speed of light, Marinette and Adrien stood at the same time.

“I have to go to the bathroom,” they announced simultaneously before pausing and giving each other strange looks. Huh…this was a strange kind of déjà vu for Adrien…

“Meet back here?” He suggested, laying a hand on his coat, and Marinette nodded, grabbing the gift earrings off the table and stuffing them into her purse.

“Be safe,” she urged him, and she took off first, heading towards a back hall that looked promising. Adrien snatched his coat off his chair and started to follow her, but then he noticed there were men coming from another hall, one of them hastily zipping his fly shut as he rushed to get out of the restaurant.

“Marinette!” Adrien called after his date as she disappeared behind a door in the back. “Marinette, that’s the wrong way!”

She didn’t hear him amidst the chaos, and Adrien couldn’t go after her—there was no time. He assuaged his conscience by reasoning that she’d figure it out soon enough on her own before he sped off towards the men’s room, locking himself into an empty stall and releasing Plagg from his coat pocket.

“What? I’m doing what you said, I’m behaving! There’s no need to—” the kwami began to complain grumpily, looking annoyed at being roused from his nap once again. Adrien cut him off by shoving his ring in the kwami’s face.

“There’s an akuma we need to take care of. Get in the ring.”

Plagg’s green eyes peered up at Adrien as he rested his little arms on top of the ring, looking dispassionate.

“What about your date with your girlfriend?”

“That’s why I’m in a hurry,” Adrien huffed, running a hand through his carefully coiffed hair. “I want this taken care of before she notices that I’m gone too long.”

“Why not just let Ladybug handle it, then?”

“Because I can’t do that. Just because she can do it alone doesn’t mean she should.”

Plagg’s ears twitched, his eyes narrowing at Adrien.

“I thought you were over this thing with Ladybug already?”

“I am,” Adrien insisted, though he could feel himself turning red. “I’m…I’m working on it, okay? Just get in the damn ring.”

“What’s the password?”

“Transform me!”

Chat Noir slipped out of the bathroom window and clawed his way up to the roof of the restaurant, eyes scanning for signs of trouble. And he found them—there was something ripping up the pavement of the street below…from below. Chat stared, his eyes narrowing as a bulbous head abruptly popped out from under the pavement, a whirling drill perched atop it as the figure gave another shout of laughter.

“Run! Scramble, little mice! You call this the day of love? Bleh! In my life, there is only the love of dirt!”

He tossed handfuls of dirt at fleeing civilians, splattering them with filth and grime, cackling at their screams of outrage.

“That’s right, flee! Flee before the might of…Mole!”

“Figures,” said a voice next to Chat Noir, and he jumped to attention, blinking in surprise at the red and black spotted figure beside him. Why hadn’t he heard her approach?

“Good evening, My Lady,” he greeted politely nonetheless with one of his silly bows that had Ladybug smirking. “You’re looking ravishing as al—are you wearing make-up?”

“Problem?” Ladybug asked him, her smirk growing, bringing more attention to those red lips of hers…though that shade of lipstick was a little too dark to match her suit…

“…Hot date tonight?” Chat Noir asked, his tone just a bit guarded. He knew he shouldn’t be asking, because he wasn’t sure he’d like the answer…but he was just so curious…

Ladybug measured his expression for a moment, her smirk fading a little.

“Jealous?” She asked him, and though her tone was playful, there was something…odd in her eyes. Searching, like she was expecting something…though what it could be, Chat could only guess.

He didn’t bother to, however, too preoccupied with how to respond to her jab. He really shouldn’t be jealous—he had someone else, and she was never his to be jealous over in the first place. But…

Swallowing that pinprick of disappointment he felt, Chat Noir managed a smile.

“As long as you’re happy, My Lady,” he wished her sincerely. Ladybug smiled, but the movement seemed automatic—her bluebell eyes were still intent upon him, still looking for something. Abruptly uncomfortable, he looked away from her, rubbing the back of his head awkwardly.

“So! Uh, where’s Speedy?”

Ladybug shrugged, evidently too used to the nicknames Chat used to refer to Emerald Shell to bat an eyelash anymore.

“I don’t know. I called him, but he didn’t pick up his ph—uh, communicator,” Ladybug corrected hastily, clearing her throat awkwardly and avoiding Chat’s suspicious gaze. “I guess he must be busy…but I think the two of us can handle this particular akuma.”

“Just like old times, then, huh?” Chat stretched his arms over his head, grinning. “Whaddya say we make an entrance?”

Ladybug smirked as she sent out her yo-yo, giving Chat a wink.

“Just follow my lead.”

Chat chuckled as she swung away, following quickly after her. ‘Follow her lead’, ha, good one. After all, hadn’t he proven by now that he was done going rogue?

He skidded to a halt beside Ladybug as she planted herself firmly in Mole’s way. Upon closer inspection, Chat could see the huge magnifying glasses the akumatized victim wore, swelling his dark eyes to three times their natural size, which made his blinking at them all the more comical. Chat struggled to remain stoic as Ladybug addressed Mole:

“Tsk tsk! Didn’t your mother teach you that it’s not nice to throw dirt at other people?”

Mole snarled at them, showing off jagged teeth.

“Ugh, you two. You’re the worst, you know that?!”

Chat made a show of being offended.

We’re the worst? You’re kitten me, right? Do you see us flinging filth at anyone?”

Mole clutched at his handful of dirt almost protectively as he eyed the two of them in disgust.

“No, but you’re both so…so shameless! Running around the city, acting all lovey-dovey. Bleh! You make me sick!”

Without warning, Mole dove back into his hole and barreled right past them, the crevice in the pavement the only sign of where he was going. Chat stared after him for a brief, bewildered moment before turning his gaze onto Ladybug, who was tracking Mole’s movements, red-faced. With just a gesture for him to follow, she took off running after the akumatized victim, Chat scrambling to follow her.

“We don’t…really look like that to people…do we?”

“Not now, Chat,” Ladybug huffed as they ran, though he rather thought her blush increased. “I’d rather get this over with quickly.”

Oh, right. Chat supposed this wasn’t a night for simple chatter—he had a date to get back to, as did Ladybug, apparently…

Get over it,’ he growled to himself. It didn’t matter if Ladybug was seeing someone or not—he was with Marinette now, and he was happy. There was no reason for him lament what could have been, when what he already had was so amazing already. So, as soon as this was done, he was throwing whatever lingering feelings he might have for Ladybug to the wolves.

Ladybug came to an abrupt stop, and Chat, not expecting it, ran into her; his hands shot out to steady her as she tipped forward, letting go as soon as her feet were planted with a mumbled apology. Ladybug didn’t seem to register it, however: she was glaring at the ground and cursing vehemently.

“Where the hell did he go?!” She demanded to know, stomping her foot as Chat inspected the ground as well, noting that Mole’s trail went cold just before the jewelry shop in front of them. “Urgh, I so do not have the time for this!”

“Relax, My Lady,” Chat said soothingly, straightening up to look at her. “We’ll find him.” Jeez, she must be really eager to get back to her date…

Ladybug frowned, pinching the bridge of her nose.

“Yeah, but—”


She and Chat whipped around towards the source of the noise, and Chat turned back to give her a significant look.

“Where there’re screams—”

“—There’s an akuma,” Ladybug finished for him, tossing her yo-yo to wrap around one of the streetlights and zipping into the air. “C’mon, hurry up!”

“I’m coming, I’m coming,” Chat assured her, tugging out his staff and extending it so he could gain the same aerial leverage, jumping onto a rooftop and keeping pace with Ladybug as she flew through the streets beside him. It didn’t take long to re-locate Mole: he was busy dumping as much dirt as he could find onto an elderly woman who was squawking profanities at him in a hoarse voice, her jade dress now ruined by all the dirt he had buried her in.

“What a pest,” murmured Chat Noir as he and Ladybug landed on the roof of a flower shop. He cringed when he realized his words and sent a sidelong glance Ladybug’s way. “Pardon my French, My Lady.”

Ladybug rolled her eyes.

“Never mind—even if he isn’t exactly being dangerous, we have to stop him.”

“I’ll say—ruining that woman’s dress is a crime against fashion,” Chat remarked, clucking his tongue in distaste. “Well, Ladybug, if you have a plan ready, I’m all—”

Chat turned, startled to find how close Ladybug suddenly was to him. Her eyes were closed, and she was breathing deeply, face angled towards his neck. Chat blinked in surprise. Was she…smelling him…?

“Er…My Lady…?”

Ladybug slit her eyes open, staring up at him.

“You smell good,” she said, slowly drawing back as she gave him that laser-focused gaze once again. “What’s the name of that cologne, and why are you wearing it?”

Mystique,” Chat Noir replied, admittedly flattered that Ladybug liked his cologne. He had been afraid that he had put on a little too much—Plagg had complained about the smell permeating his coat—but if Ladybug liked it…

Marinette popped into his head, and Chat checked himself.

Right. Date. With Marinette. Right…

“And as for why I’m wearing it—”

“Who’s next?!” Mole called, breaking the superheroes’ conversation. They turned just as he pointed a filthy finger at a startled couple that had just turned onto the street, hand in hand. “You there! Lovebirds! I bet this dirt would go great with that blue crystal necklace of yours, my dear! And on your glasses too, skinny!”

The dark-skinned, white haired woman shoved her blonde boyfriend back around the corner, giving Mole the evil eye as they fled, something he did not take kindly to.

“Why you—! Get back here!”

As he dove underground once again to pursue his new targets, Ladybug and Chat Noir gave chase once again, both huffing in frustration.

“Ladybug, if you have a plan for capturing the akuma, I’d love to hear it!”

“I’m thinking!” She snapped, looking openly frustrated. “If he would just stay still—”

“Why don’t you try a Lucky Charm? That might help.”

Ladybug blinked, as if she had forgotten that was a thing that she could do.

“Oh, right!” She tossed her yo-yo into the air. “Lucky Charm!”

The heroes skidded to a halt just as Ladybug’s Lucky Charm tossed out…

They stared at the spotted item, and then looked up at each other.

“…A bar of soap,” Ladybug grumbled, shaking her head. “This…this is the strangest one yet.”

“But then again,” Chat began, watching with interest as the woman and her boyfriend began to zig and zag through the street, apparently realizing that they could confuse Mole by not running in a straight line. “A guy who likes to play in dirt doesn’t seem like he’s the biggest fan of soap…”

“Hmm.” Ladybug eyed the bar of soap, and then glanced up at Chat. “Ready for the return of the old one, two?”

Chat grinned, taking the bar of soap as Ladybug slapped it into his hand.

“It’s been too long, My Lady.”

Springing from the rooftop, Chat landed on a streetlight before jumping down to the street, just as the couple swerved around a fire hydrant that abruptly cracked; judging by the tracks, Mole smacked into it underground as he was trying to follow the couple. He came up to the surface, cursing fluently and yanking the drill off his head, which was now dented.

“Son of a—look what you did!” He spat at the couple, digging his hands into the dirt surrounding him, ammo ready to fly as he sneered at them. “You’ll pay for this!”

“Ah, ah, ah,” Chat tutted, strolling leisurely forward, allowing himself to grin as Mole’s attention shifted to him. “I don’t think you wanna do that, my burrowing friend…”

“Oh yeah?” Mole challenged, cocking his throwing arm back further. “And what are you gonna do if I do?”

“Oh, not much…probably bury you in guilt as I scold you…or I could just shove this in your face.” He raised the bar of soap, his grin becoming mischievous as Mole’s face paled. “Whaddya say, pal? Call it a wash?

Mole hissed, scrambling out of his hole, backing up until his back hit the closed garage door of an auto-repair shop.

“Keep that away from me!” He spat, baring his teeth, even as he cowered against the auto-repair shop. “If you come any closer…I’ll…I’ll…”

“Oh, don’t worry: I won’t move from this spot,” Chat assured him, idly tossing the bar of soap and catching it before tossing it up again. Mole’s large eyes followed it, completely oblivious to the shadow of a certain hero descending upon him.

“You’re…you’re not going to throw it at me, are you?”

“Nah. Me and the soap aren’t gonna come near you...”

Mole gasped as, suddenly, his magnified glasses left his face, and Ladybug flipped out of the air, yanking her yo-yo back to her side. Chat grinned at the almost betrayed look on Mole’s face.

“I didn’t promise anything about her, though.” He said simply. Ladybug smirked and snapped the glasses in half, the guess proving to be right when an akuma flitted out, and was successfully captured within the healing chamber of her yo-yo.

“Bye bye, pretty butterfly,” she bade the white butterfly, and Chat tossed her the bar of soap, which she flung into the air. “Miraculous Ladybug!”

As the damage to the street was reversed and the victim de-akumatized, Chat turned to Ladybug, lifting a fist.

“For old time’s sake?”

Ladybug smiled, the sight radiant, as she bumped her fist against his.

Bien joue,” they congratulated each other, reminiscent smiles on their faces. As Ladybug went to check up on the couple watching from a distance, Chat moved to the victim, snatching up his glasses from the ground before kneeling down to return them.

“You okay, buddy?”

“I…I think so…” Blinking beady eyes, it wasn’t until Chat returned his glasses that the man was able to see, it appeared. He took a good look at Chat and gasped, his face growing pale once again. Cringing, Chat lifted his hands into the air to show he meant no harm. He supposed he wouldn’t be met with a friendlier attitude anytime soon…his fault.

“It’s okay, I’m not going to hurt you. I just wanted to check that you’re all right.” When the man made no move to run or scream—he just stared at him, blinking owlishly—Chat slowly lowered his hands, folding them together in front of him. “Do you remember what you were doing before you were akumatized?”

The man blinked a couple times.

“Uh…nothing.” He frowned. “I never do anything on this day. Valentine’s Day…it’s such a nuisance. What’s the point? Yeah, I get it, you’re in love—do you have to rub it in my face?”

Chat raised his eyebrows behind his mask. Was that bitterness he heard…?

“No date this year?”

“No date any year,” the man huffed, sticking his narrow nose in the air. “And it’s not as if I care to date—I’m not interested in that kind of thing. I have my work to satisfy me, being a pedologist, but every time this day comes around…”

As Chat watched, some of the annoyance left the victim’s face, to be replaced with chagrin.

“I don’t want to be in love—I’m not really interested in it. Never have been, really. But this day—seeing all the couples and the advertisements, the flowers and the candy—it’s uncomfortable. As if there's a whole day dedicated to reminding me how…wrong I am.”


“There’s nothing wrong with being aromantic,” Chat Noir insisted with a frown. The man looked up at him, blinking wide eyes from behind his thick glasses.


“Aromantic. It’s when you don’t experience romantic attraction to other people.”

The man’s mouth came open in surprise.

“There’s…a word for it?”

“Yeah,” said Chat, smiling a little. “You can look it up yourself and see if it’s an accurate description, but from what you’ve just told me, it sounds like you’re aromantic. And that’s fine. There are a lot of people who aren’t interested in romantic relationships.” His smile fading, Chat added, “But don’t you think it’s a little much to ruin the holiday for people who do like it?”

The man’s expression grew sheepish.


Chat contemplated the man for a moment...and then, very slowly, very carefully, reached forward and patted the man's shoulder. He looked surprised, so Chat dropped his hand quickly, offering a little smile.

"It's okay to be who you are. I'm sorry you don't enjoy Valentine's Day in the traditional sense...but in the end, it's just a day. And maybe you can find other ways to enjoy it, in your own way. Celebrating the love of your job, perhaps."

The man blinked, appearing to consider these words for a moment before glancing nervously away from Chat.

“ and Ladybug aren’t very happy with me, are you? I must’ve interrupted your date—”

“We’re not dating,” Chat Noir denied with a shake of his head. “She’s my partner. That’s it.”

“Oh…I see…”

He kept glancing to the side, Chat noticed with a frown. Just what was so interesting?

Chat turned…and found Ladybug just behind him. His eyes widened—again, he hadn’t heard her approach. Was she getting quieter, or was he too distracted tonight to hear her approach?

Ladybug met his gaze for a brief moment, and then she looked away, giving a kind smile to the victim.

“Are you ready to be taken home?”

“Oh...yes…thank you.”

The heroes escorted him back to his office, as per his request, and then stood watch for any protestors for a minute or two before their Miraculous gave their first warning chirps of the night.

“Good work tonight, My Lady,” Chat complimented, wanting to break the sudden, awkward silence between them, a silence originating from Ladybug for a reason he could not fathom. When she glanced over, he smiled at her, wanting to put her at ease. “We still make a pretty good team, huh?”

After a moment, Ladybug smiled.

“Simply the best team,” she agreed, and Chat’s heart warmed.

“So do I get a reward for being a good kitty?” He teased, raising a hand and bending his fingers to make a paw beside one of his cat ears. Ladybug paused, staring at him, and Chat grinned sheepishly. He supposed that was a dumb joke, even for him—

Ladybug’s hand found his arm and pulled him down, tilting him towards her. Chat blinked, about to ask what she was doing—but all words were lost when, quite suddenly, her lips were pressed against his cheek. It was brief, but even as she released him and stopped standing on her tip toes, Chat remained frozen, staring at her. She watched him, face impassive, as he slowly came back to life, a clawed hand raised to his face, though he dared not to touch it, as if doing so would electrocute him.

Did that…really just happen…?

“…I was joking, Ladybug,” he managed to say, though the words were quiet. As the majority of his brain continued to swirl in mass confusion, Ladybug grimaced.

“I know.” She looked away from him, gripping her arm self-consciously, her teeth pressed into her bottom lip. She looked…conflicted. As if…

With a sigh and what seemed like an enormous effort, she made herself look at him again, bluebell eyes anxious.

“Sorry if I made you uncomfortable. I know you’re seeing someone, so I shouldn’t have—”

“No,” Chat cut her off without meaning to. She trailed off, peering up at him curiously, and he flushed. “I mean, uh…it was…an innocent gesture, right?” He gave an awkward smile. “Thanks for a job well done?”

“…Right,” Ladybug confirmed, smiling almost shyly as she took a step back from him. “Still…you may want to wipe off my lipstick if you have plans to see your…‘someone’ tonight.”

“Ah…yeah, will do,” Chat said with a strained laugh. “That wouldn’t make her happy at all…couple this with the pair of earrings I practically forced on her, and any relationship we might have would go up in smoke.” He chuckled and shook his head, missing Ladybug’s thoughtful frown as he turned, ready to leave. “Well, I should go—she’s probably wondering where I am.”


Chat paused, turning to look at Ladybug again. Now he saw the frown, and it made him blink. What? What did he say?

“My Lady?” He asked when Ladybug didn’t say anything for a moment. She just stared at him, biting on her bottom lip…

And then she smiled.

“Happy Valentine’s Day, chaton.

Chat blinked again, the sentiment surprising him. But hey, who was he to turn down sentiment from his partner?

“Same to you, Ladybug,” he replied, giving a smile and a salute before he raced off, skirting around a closed doctor’s clinic to find a place to safely de-transform that was not too far from Cygne. He didn’t know if the akuma chaos had made the restaurant close down for the night, but it was where he said he’d meet with Marinette again…

After de-transforming and promising Plagg double his usual amount of camembert if just kept up his good behavior until Adrien was able to get home, Adrien casually strode out of the alleyway, glancing into the windows of Cygne. Oh, dinner service had resumed, it seemed. Good…but, hmm, it didn’t appear that Marinette had returned to their table yet…

Upon catching his reflection in the mirror, Adrien’s eyes widened—Ladybug’s lipstick was still on his cheek. Cursing silently to himself, he dragged his handkerchief out of his pants pocket and scrubbed at his cheek, praying that it wasn’t the kind of lipstick that took nothing less than a pressure wash to get off.

Some of Ladybug’s luck must’ve been imbued in the kiss, for though it smudged at first, it came off easily enough. It left a dark red smear across his handkerchief, though, and when it caught the light, it gave off a strange sort of sparkle that wasn’t detectable while on Ladybug’s lips…what a strange function for lipstick. Adrien cringed, hoping he had laundry detergent strong enough to remove it as he stuffed it back into his pants pocket.

As a chilly breeze blew by, Adrien drew his coat closer around himself, shuddering. He should really go back inside and wait for Marinette, but something made him stay put, wanting time alone to himself. He allowed himself a frown, an idle hand reaching up to brush the cheek that Ladybug had kissed. What had that been about, exactly? She had never kissed him before, despite all his efforts otherwise in the past…what about tonight was different?

Maybe it was just a friendly gesture like she said—after all, she seemed to regret it right afterwards, like she was insulting Marinette by daring to kiss him…but that was ridiculous, since she didn’t know that he was Chat Noir, and therefore didn’t know that he was now dating Marinette—

Adrien paused.

Ladybug didn’t know he was dating Marinette.

In fact…unless his memory was failing him, he hadn’t told Ladybug that he was dating anyone.

And yet…

“Sorry if I made you uncomfortable. I know you’re seeing someone, so I shouldn’t have—”

How did she know…?

There was a sudden tap to his shoulder, and Adrien yelped, jumping about a meter in the air in surprise before he whirled around to find Marinette, her eyes wide as she stared at him, raising her hands in surrender. Damn it, why was everyone sneaking up on him tonight?!

“Sorry!” Marinette apologized, looking as if she might be fighting laughter as she watched him breathe deeply in an attempt to calm his racing heart. “I just saw you out here, so…”

“Don’t worry about it,” Adrien breathed, inhaling once more before managing a calm smile. “I just needed air for a minute…sorry, did I keep you waiting long?”

“That was going to be my question,” she said, laughing awkwardly. With a glance in the window, she noted, “It looks like they’re letting dinner continue…”

“Then we have a date with some steak and potatoes…if they don’t think we’ve dined and dashed,” Adrien said with a cringe as he slid an arm around Marinette’s bare shoulders. “Hey, where’s your coat?”

“I…don’t know,” Marinette admitted, biting her lip as they stepped back into the restaurant; luckily, the maître d’ waved them back to their table without a hitch. “I left it when I went to the bathroom, but when I came back, it was gone…I think someone took it by accident in the panic, thinking it was theirs.”

Adrien frowned. Mistake or not, how rude to leave Marinette cold like that…

“You can have my coat when I take you home.”

Marinette smiled up at him, her eyes sparkling.

“Such a gentleman,” she teased, giggling further when Adrien pulled her chair out for her to sit. “Or maybe you’re like a knight in shining armor, fearlessly protecting me from the cold.”

Adrien grinned at this, giving a silly little bow.

“Anything for my princess,” he said, glancing up at her with a wink. Marinette’s smile faded, however, her brow puckering as she stared at him with a searching gaze that had Adrien straightening up, tilting his head to the side curiously.

“Something wrong?”

“…” Marinette blinked, and smiled…though something about it seemed forced to Adrien. Hmm…maybe she was picking up this bad habit from him… “No, I’m fine. You’re just...dorky.”

Adrien mock pouted as he took his seat.

“Hey, my dorkiness is one of the reasons you like me.” He paused. “…Right?”

Marinette giggled, her smile shining in the candlelight.

“True…but it doesn’t hurt that you’re pretty, either.”

She gave a wink, and Adrien snorted, waving their waiter over, who apologized promptly for the disturbance and assured them that their meals would be made fresh and right away. He apologized for the time it would take, but both Adrien and Marinette assured him that there was no rush.

Personally, Adrien felt that any time spent with Marinette—no matter how much or how little—was time well worth it.



“You sure you’re not cold?”

Adrien smiled. She was so cute.

“I’m going to get into my heated car in just a few seconds, Mari,” he reminded her as he walked her up to her door. “A few minutes in the cold isn’t going to be my undoing.”

Marinette’s brow puckered at him as she turned to face him, his coat around her shoulders. As much as he hated to block the view of the back of that dress, it was necessary—couldn’t have Mari suffering from the cold. (And he had made sure to coax Plagg into his pants pocket before offering the coat to Marinette, so there was no risk of her fingers being bitten or scratched, among other questions his presence would raise...)

“Which is it—a few seconds or a few minutes?” She asked him, and Adrien chuckled.

“However long it takes me to say goodnight to you,” he answered, carefully brushing a hand down her cheek, watching the red flame across her face, seemingly following his touch. His fingertips brushed against her earlobes, where she still wore those simple, unnoticeable earrings. Adrien cringed.

“Are you sure you really like the earrings…?”

“Yes, and I’m not giving them back,” Marinette insisted, taking his hand away from her face and squeezing it. “I just don’t think pink and red go well together, that’s all.”

“Hmm,” Adrien hummed, dubious, for he was still half-convinced that Marinette was just being polite. But if she refused to give them back, what could he do?

As if she sensed his misgivings, Marinette suddenly smirked up at him, her hands sliding over his shoulders to lock around his neck.

“But red goes very well with green,” she told him, looking devious as she stepped closer to him. Adrien’s arms automatically slid around her, fingertips brushing against her bare back under the coat. She shivered at the contact, and he grinned.

“Is that so…” As his head tilted towards her, watching the blaze come to life in her blue eyes, he murmured, “Too bad I’m not wearing any red…”

“I can help with that,” Marinette purred, stretching up to close the last bit of distance between them. Adrien matched her enthusiasm immediately, mouth moving against hers, the kisses fervent, needy. He could taste the mint on her tongue from the tea she ordered with dessert, and the feel of her teeth pressing into his bottom lip instead of her own made him moan and press closer to her, pinning her against her door. She didn’t seem to mind in the slightest; her fingers teased the ends of his hair, sending shivers down his spine when they trailed down his neck, scorching him without the burn, but with plenty of heat nonetheless.

“Do—mm—do you—”

She was trying to ask him something, but she kept interrupting herself by kissing him. Chuckling, Adrien pulled back a little, resisting the urge to sate the mew of protest that left Marinette as he put distance between them. Her eyes were hooded as she stared up at him, her face flushed, lipstick smudged—it was probably all over him now, but what else was new?

“Do I what?” he mumbled, resting his forehead against hers. Marinette swallowed, the rosiness in her cheeks growing.

“Do you…want to…come in?”

The question hung in the air between them, heavy with implications. Adrien eased his panting, closing his eyes as he tried to think with his mind rather than his loins.

He and Marinette had never crossed this particular line before—their make-out sessions had never gone past second base, and were also few and far between, so their experience in exploring each other had basically been nonexistent. But here she was, giving him an opportunity to possibly satisfy all the carnal desires that woke him in the middle of the night, drenched in sweat, his underwear uncomfortably soaked and tight. He had already admitted this to Alya, and he would let himself think it once again: he would be lying if he said sex with Marinette tonight had not crossed his mind…especially after seeing her in that dress…

And yet…

His cheek tingled, an unwanted reminder, but a reminder nonetheless.

Ladybug had kissed him.

It had meant nothing, but even still, it was hard for Adrien to stop thinking about it.

And if he went to bed with Marinette tonight…and Ladybug suddenly popped into his head while they were together…

Adrien let out a sigh that was equal parts frustration and resignation.

He couldn’t do that. Not to Marinette. She deserved better from him.

He opened his eyes to find Marinette watching him, her expression deflating as she read the emotions in his eyes. Cringing, Adrien rushed to assure her.

“I want to, Mari. I really, really want to…” He carefully drew back, his hands moving to cup Marinette’s cheeks instead of her backside. “But I also want to cherish you. And I know I’ve been dragging my feet, and I’m sorry. You’ve been so patient with me…but I want to take it slow and do this right. I want you to be my girlfriend—I want to ask you to be my girlfriend—before we get into anything deeper.” He frowned to himself, unsure whether or not he was full of it at this point. God, he was being anal, wasn’t he? “Does that make sense?”

Marinette stared up at him for a measured moment, her eyes uncharacteristically enigmatic. Adrien watched her anxiously, wondering if this was the night that she would decide that she was done with his emotional baggage, that he was making this too hard, that maybe he wasn’t worth it after all—

He needn’t have worried—just as she always did, Marinette smiled softly, her look of grace the most beautiful thing Adrien had ever seen.

“I understand,” she assured him, taking his hands away from her face once again, holding them within her own. “I don’t want to rush you into anything you’re not ready for.”

Adrien sighed, dropping his head to bump his forehead with hers once again as he closed his eyes.

“Thank you, Mari.”

Marinette giggled, the sound a tad shy, and Adrien opened his eyes again to look at her, take her all in. Beautiful, blushing, patient Mari. What had he done to deserve her? Not a damn thing. But even so…

“That being said…” Adrien cleared his throat, feeling himself flush.

Don’t choke, don’t choke,’ his mind chanted at him, and he drew in a deep breath, squaring his shoulders. He could do this…he could do this…

“That being said…Marinette…will you be my girlfriend?”

Marinette’s eyes grew wide; it was clear that she hadn’t been expecting him to ask her that question tonight. Adrien watched as she briefly floundered, her freckles drowning in a sea of red.

“I—uh, a-are you sure…?”

Adrien grinned. She was just so cute.

“I’m sure,” he promised her, kissing her nose and laughing when she blushed more. “So…should I give you time to think about it?”

Marinette pursed her lips.

“Um…it might look bad if people know I’m dating you before Desiree’s competition ends…”

“I can wait until then,” Adrien said with a shrug. “You were willing to wait for me for a month and a half—”

“I-I didn’t mean I wanted to wait,” Marinette protested, her teeth pressing into her bottom lip. “I just meant…if we’re going to do this…we should be, um…discreet.”

“…So, by ‘discreet’, you mean I shouldn’t send extravagant gifts like giant singing teddy bears or fifty bouquets of pink roses to you while you’re in Desiree’s classroom?”

The blazing red that flashed through Marinette’s face amused Adrien.


“I’m kidding, Mari,” he said to put her at ease, grinning mischievously before it softened into a hopeful smile. “But, by the ‘discreet’ plan…can I take that to mean that you’re…saying yes?”

Marinette’s answering smile was dazzling, and Adrien felt like he could die happy at that very moment.

“Yes,” she confirmed, the tail end of the word ending in a squeak of surprise as Adrien lifted her into his arms, kissing her with such gusto it made her laugh before kissing him back. The heat between them a minute ago gave way to tenderness, their kisses soft and sure and certain that, though neither of them knew what they were doing exactly, this felt right. After a few minutes, Adrien lowered Marinette back down to the ground, resting his forehead against hers once more. He could look into her eyes forever—they were so deep, so blue, and they sparkled and shone, as if they contained the cosmos. She was so beautiful, so smart, so funny, so sweet…and Adrien was so very, very smitten.

“I should go,” he said softly after a moment, the words forlorn. Marinette sighed, her pout tempting.

“Do you have to?”

Adrien chuckled, pecking her lips once more before he stepped back, reluctantly leaving the warmth of her embrace.

“I should,” he repeated, taking one of her hands and planting a kiss to the back of it. “Good night, Mari.”

Marinette gave him one last smile, retrieving her keys from her purse and unlocking the door behind her.

“Good night, Adrien,” she bade him, stepping back into her apartment. Her hand went to the door as she looked at him, smirking a little. “And you know what? I was right: red is a good color on you.”

She giggled as he blushed, probably further proving her point, before she shut the door. Adrien listened for the sound of the deadbolt sliding home, and he sighed, spinning on his heel as he skipped down her stairs, a hand over his heart.

He did it—he asked her! And now she was his girlfriend! He could call Mari his girlfriend now!

Adrien was so giddy that he had almost forgotten—again—about the lipstick smeared over his face. He caught his reflection in one of the windows of his car and had to snort—she had completely covered him with the stuff.

Time for a new handkerchief,’ Adrien thought with a grimace as he drew the fabric out once again to de-grafitti his face. It was a shame, really, since Erika had given him this one, but he was sure she’d understand. In fact, she’d probably be thrilled to learn that the gift had to be sacrificed because Marinette couldn’t keep her lips off him.

Adrien drew the handkerchief back, stepping over to a nearby streetlight to inspect the damage—

The scrap of fabric was covered in sparkly red lipstick.

Adrien frowned. Wait, that couldn’t be right…the handkerchief was folded into fourths, and he had used one corner to rub away the lipstick Ladybug and left on him, and another corner to get rid of all the lipstick from Marinette’s kisses…or maybe he had used the same corner by accident? In that case, it made perfect sense—

Adrien unfolded the handkerchief. On one corner, there was a small smear of sparkly red lipstick. Adjacent to the corner was all the lipstick Adrien had wiped off just now. Both were dark red and sparkly.

The shades were identical.

Adrien’s neck began to tingle. Suddenly, he was very aware of the way his heart pounded in his chest, of the way his tongue had suddenly turned into sandpaper, of the way the world was suddenly tilting, shifting the wrong way—

It’s a coincidence,’ his mind insisted automatically, a defense mechanism to guard his sanity springing into play. ‘This lipstick is probably mass-produced…lots of women probably own this shade…

And two women with the same brand of lipstick just happened to kiss him tonight?

Adrien’s hand began to tremble as he stared down at what he simply could not process. It had to be impossible, it had to be. There was no way he would have missed it if it were true, absolutely no way. This had to be nothing more than coincidence, there was no way that Ladybug—

There was no way that Ladybug should have known that he was seeing someone.

Adrien was sure of it—as Chat, he had never told Ladybug that he was involved with someone. As Chat, he hadn’t told anyone that he was involved with someone—except for—

The sound of doors swinging open intruded upon Adrien’s realization, and he whirled around to find Marinette emerging onto her balcony. Her face was pale, her eyes wide in her face as she rushed to the balcony railing, staring down at him. Adrien waited, on edge, wondering if she was about to cry that there was an akuma in her room or something—

Marinette said nothing. She just stared at him, the moonlight adding a midnight blue sheen to her raven hair, her wide, bluebell eyes laser-focused on him—

Looking at him.

Adrien stared back, hardly daring to breathe, his heart pounding violently against his Adam’s apple.

He couldn’t believe it.

It absolutely was not possible.

But it was.

It didn’t make any sense.

But it did.

Marinette was Marinette.

But Ladybug was…

Marinette’s—Ladybug’s—Marinette’s lips parted, and she took a breath, looking as if she might say something…but she didn’t. After a tense moment, she just shut her mouth, raised a hand…and waved, a small smile on her face.

Unsure of what else to do, Adrien returned the gesture with his free hand, his other balling his handkerchief in his fist. He didn’t know what to do. Half of him wanted to confront her, but the other half…the other half was just in shock. If he was right—and he was half-convinced that he was—then…this changed everything.

…But what if he was wrong?

Couldn’t it all be just a coincidence…?

Marinette turned, looking like she intended to go back inside. So Adrien made himself move too, turning to let himself into his car. But he felt eyes on the back of his head, and he turned just in time to see Marinette turning around again, her back ramrod straight as she went into her room, something clutched in her arms…his coat?

Maybe she meant to tell him that he forgot to take it back. Maybe he should ask for it back. Maybe he should ask to come in after all, because there was no way he was going to sleep if he didn’t get any clarity on this matter—

But the balcony doors slammed shut, and it was too late. Adrien forced himself to take a deep breath, getting into his car. But even then, he just sat there, staring out his windshield for a while. Dimly, it occurred to him that his handkerchief was still balled up in his hand, and he unrolled it again, staring at the lipstick smudges.

They were the same. Adrien knew make-up—it came hand-in-hand with his knowledge of clothes—and he could tell that they were the same exact shade.

Of course, that proved absolutely nothing.

And of course, he could have forgotten mentioning his relationship to Ladybug already.

The earrings…

Well…she could just really like those plain earrings, for some reason…

And the thing with the strawberry-filled chocolates wasn’t so uncommon…

And maybe she did really have to use the bathroom when he’d made the excuse to get away…

It could all so easily be a coincidence.

So, wasn’t it?

Wasn’t it just a coincidence…?

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

Part 25 of 37

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