Continuing Tales

Both of You

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

Part 40 of 53

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As he plummeted to the ground, Chat Noir let out a heartfelt groan. They had been fighting for hours already, without gaining a single inch on the rightfully angry akuma.

Paparazzo kept escaping their assaults, making the ground shake menacingly with each "earth-shattering" new secret he uncovered each time he succeeded in dazzling a poor citizen with the flash of his camera, making them unwillingly spill their dirtiest secrets for all the world to see.

The worst part? This one was a teleporting akuma.

He kept cackling madly, vanishing and reappearing elsewhere every time either of the superhero managed to get within reach of him. Every time he teleported, Paparazzo snapped a few other pictures, reeling poor citizens in his unhealthy cycle of revelations all the while reiterating over and over again that the media were everywhere, unstoppable.

Not for the first time in his life, Chat Noir wished that this statement was false.

It became obvious rather quickly that Paparazzo was on a personal vendetta, striving to get back at the leather-clad hero who had wronged him.

As he painfully got up to his feet once again, he received a call on his staff that he reluctantly took, "Now's not really the time for a chat, m'lady. Where you at?"

"Running out of sight. Listen, Minou," Ladybug huffed in her compact, the wind in her pigtails corroborating the fact she was trying to ditch the akuma, "it's the second time Vincent Aza has been akumatized. Do you remember how we defeated Pixelator?"

"A mirror," breathed Chat Noir. Desperately clutching his weapon, he jumped out of the way of yet another camera flash trying to blind him and uncover all of his darkest secrets.

"There you go, Chaton. Try to find the biggest mirror you can, alright? I'll distract this baddie in the meantime."

The implications of her statement painfully sunk in. "Bug, no! We're gonna do it toget-"

The end of his sentence was met with a black screen, which he didn't have much time to dwell over considering Paparazzo's renewed interest in him. Shooting a stray of bright flashes his way, the akumatized villain marched menacingly toward the feline hero, madly cackling under his breath. "There, there, there. The almighty Chat Noir isn't that proud when his disgusting bug isn't there to back him up."

"Don't you dare insult her," growled the hero between clenched teeth, rolling out of the way of yet another volley of blinding beams. Before he could fully make it back to his feet, a blur of black and blond collided hard with his chest, enclosing him in a deathly embrace.

The unexpected movement knocked off his balance, effectively sending himself and his unforeseen opponent tumbling on the concrete in a blurry mess of limbs. "Run," a startlingly familiar voice quickly whispered in his ear, as the body pressed against his chest hurriedly teared itself from him, facing Paparazzo and dashing away from him, effortlessly dodging the unrelenting bombardment of camera flashes and successfully driving them away from him.

Before he could even register exactly what had happened, Chat Noir found himself racing madly in the opposite direction. He couldn't help the grin spreading on his face from ear to ear as the previous events finally sunk in. It had last barely a split second, but he had seen it. Recognized it. The well-known bluebell eyes, plump pink lips, the faint hint of red under the black mask.

He didn't have time questioning where in the world Ladybug had found such a convincing costume of her counterpart, but he had to recognize that from afar, she was doing an amazing job impersonating him. Carefully avoiding making any sound that could reveal the trickery, she was running across the rooftops, dragging the enraged akuma as far as she could from her rather impressed boyfriend. The mock-up staff was safely tucked in her back, and it was clear to him that she was purposely avoiding any jump that would require using her yoyo —but Paparazzo was none the wiser, following her like a moth drawn to a flame.

Intent on making good use of her odd but welcomed distraction, Chat Noir rushed into the first furniture store to cross his path. He dived through the aisles like a madman, waving off the frightened clerk with a quick, "Don't worry, whatever I take I'll put back."

Once he found what he was looking for, the leather-clad young man tore the full-length mirror from its stand, ripping a nearby curtain to strap it onto his back. Satisfied with his curious setup he dearly hoped to be effective, he flashed a cocky grin to the still hyperventilating clerk and darted back into the street.

Finding his way back to the fight was an easy feat given the way Paparazzo kept boasting loudly about all the dirty secrets he had uncovered, threatening his opponent while intently trash talking about Ladybug. He was obviously trying to get Chat Noir to lose his focus, to make a fatal mistake out of sheer anger. If he was to be honest with himself, the true Chat Noir knew that it would have happened sooner or later should it have been himself dealing with the snarky akuma. Blessing his lady foresight, he broke into a sprint, following his enhanced hearing.

If Ladybug's clever disguise was her lucky charm like he rightly suspected, they were on a timer.

Spotting the fighting pair from afar, Chat Noir jumped on a nearby rooftop and shouted at the top of his lungs, "Hey! Paparazzo! It's me you want? Come and get me!"

Paparazzo's attention instantly snapped on him, his teeth bared in sheer anger as he snarled menacingly, "I've been fooled." He brought his polaroid back to his eyes, pressing on the button and sending a threatening flash directly toward Chat.

But the feline hero was ready.

Spinning on his heels, he presented his back to the incoming attack. Just like he had years before, Vincent Aza's akumatized form found his own offensive reflected on the sleek surface of the mirror and coming back right at him without mercy. He stumbled for a second, dazed by the intense light, and fell on his knees in the middle of the street. Shaking uncontrollably, he sobbed miserably as his darkest secret escaped his clenched lips, "I'm a nobody who makes a living out of ruining other people's lives."

The fake Chat Noir kneeled in front of him, removing his camera from around his neck and shattering it on the ground with a regretful look in her eyes. Minutes later, the akuma was cured, the city was restored, Ladybug was herself again and Vincent Aza was returned to his original state.

Painfully gulping, the guilt clenching at his insides, Chat Noir put a hand on the unsuspecting man's shoulder, "Look, while I still think it's very wrong to expose other people's private life for the world to see without their consent, I understand your mistake. And as a show of good faith that we don't hold a grudge, I may be able to help to mend your precarious career. Nobody managed to snap a clear picture of Ladybug and I kissing yet."

The paparazzi eyes lit up hearing those words. "Why would you do that?"

Chat smiled warmly, reminding himself that the man before him was only that, a man trying to put bread on his table. A shrill beep disturbed the silence, and the spotted lady visibly tensed beside him. Offering his hand to the man he had unwillingly destroyed trying to mend his own life, the leather-clad hero breathed softly, "I also have my wrongs in this story. I shouldn't have lied to try and fix things up. You were right, it wasn't me that alleyway. But it wasn't Ladybug either. You should have looked closer, because what you happened to witness that day was an elaborate roleplay session, granted featuring a really realistic Ladybug cosplay, between a charming young couple of fans. All you managed to do is cause a lot of problems for a couple who were just having a bit of fun. You gotta know there are some amazing cosplayers out there. Even we get mixed up sometimes."

Ignoring the warning beep coming from his girlfriend's earrings along with the stunned look on the paparazzi's face, Chat Noir went on, "We tried our best to clear things up without publicly outing them, but no one was willing to listen. We also... didn't want them to be ashamed of a hobby that obviously pleases them both. So, please take your picture, forget the whole ordeal for all of our sakes and consider us even. Just hurry. My lovely lady here is on the clock as we speak."

A moment later, kisses were properly given for the show, pictures taken for posterity, are farewell and apologies rightfully made. A worried Chat Noir gathered his girlfriend tight against his chest right at the last second, holding her close to his beating heart as he ran across Parisian rooftops, trying his best to shelter her civilian body from the bite of the cold of the night quickly dawning on them and from prying eyes. When he finally landed in the alley behind the bakery, he gingerly deposited her on the concrete, a sad smile dancing on his face. "Your parents must be worried sick about you. We've been fighting ever since school ended."

A loving hand caressed his cheek, making him shiver in pleasure and leaning into her touch.

"You know your father is worried too, Adrien. He loves you as much as I do, I know he does," she said tenderly, her blue eyes searching his.

The blond averted her gaze, his shoulders suddenly slumping. Marinette cocked an eyebrow, stepping further into his personal space, "Adrien Agreste, you are loved, do you hear me? I love you so much I can't even put words on it, my parents simply adore you, and I know your father also loves you. How could he not?"

"Things… things aren't that simple between us, Mari. I… I think he lost interest in me a long time ago."

Not to be deterred, Marinette crossed her arms in front of her. "You're lying."

"What do you even know about my father?" Chat Noir huffed, a bit harsher than intended. "He's been ignoring me for almost five years now."

"Have you tried inviting him to the graduation ceremony? Surely, he'll come. It's a once in a lifetime event." Marinette provided, her voice soothing and understanding.

Planting a chaste peck on her lips, the blond sighed. "I haven't. It's no use, he'll say no or cancel, like he always does."

The young woman stretched herself, pressing her lips firmly against Adrien's, a clear statement of her feelings toward him. "Humor me. Ask him to come, tell him how much it means to you. If he says no nonetheless, you get to choose the next five movies we see at the cinema."

His sad smile widened as he wrapped his arms around her, nuzzling his nose in the crook of her neck. "I hope you love cheap horror movies, princess, cause you're in for a treat."

Adrien paused for a second, his fist halted mid-motion, his heart caught somewhere in his throat. He knew he shouldn't feel like that, like an intruder about to enter a war-zone, but he couldn't help it. Years of neglect, years of behaving like a mere employee came crashing back on him all at once. All the times his father failed to show up at important-to-him events, all the times his hard-earned achievements were met with an indifferent "You can do better than that." Every single missed birthday, every lonely Christmas suddenly reared their ugly head back, seemingly chanting in his ear "He won't come, he won't come, he won't come."

True, his father had never been a pleasant person to be around to begin with, despite how much his son strived heart and soul to please him. But right then, Adrien felt his throat painfully constrict at the unnerving prospect of confronting the stern man, of asking something from him. Of showing himself vulnerable in front of the man who was supposed to take care of him.

Right on cue, his phone vibrated in his pocket, forcing his thoughts back on rational matters. Pulling it out of his jeans pocket, he couldn't help himself but smile as he saw the characters displayed on the digital screen.

[19:14] Mari :3 : Thinking of you :3 Even if he ends up saying no, you'll still have my folks cheering for you. I love you :3

Her encouraging words were all the push he lacked to raise his fist back and land three dry knocks on his father's office door, his heart pounding in his ears.

"Come in."

Trying to ignore the oppressing feeling in his chest, he pretended he didn't notice the sheer indifference in the tone of voice, the hints of annoyance at the disturbance, and he pushed the heavy door open. "Evening, father."

"Adrien?" startlingly replied the busy man, pushing his glasses back on his nose but not quite tearing his icy blue stare from his computer, "I wasn't aware that we were scheduled to meet tonight."

Gulping painfully, Adrien closed the door behind him and made his way toward the heavy wooden desk. "We weren't, father. I'm sorry to interrupt, but I came to talk to you about something."

This at least had the result of bringing the older man attention on his son, his eyes scanning him intently. "What is it, Adrien?"

"It's my graduation ceremony on Friday evening," the blond managed to utter, nervousness pooling in his stomach as he spoke, "and it would mean the world to me if you could attend."

Gabriel eyed his son carefully, visibly weighing the pros and the cons of what he was about to say next. "It has come to my attention that Mlle Bourgeois is planning some kind of event to celebrate the end of your studies."

The odd answer made Adrien pause for a second, eyeing his father warily. "She's throwing a ball on Saturday, yes, why?"

The older Agreste leaned back in his chair, still looking at the man before him intently. When he spoke, his words were measured, shy even. "I would prefer if you'd refrain attending. Young adults get-together like this tend to get a little bit… messy, and the press would have another field-day—"

"I won't get Marinette pregnant, if that's what worries you." Adrien blurted out, unable to understand the motives behind his father's reluctance. "Mother and I had the birds and the bees talk a long time ago, and Mari and I are taking precautions."

The upfront admittance at the level of intimacy both young people had already reached together took Gabriel by surprise, and he could only manage to blink in sheer astonishment as he tried to put his thoughts back on track. "Adrien, I know you're a responsible man and won't make any harsh decisions, but—"

"With all due respect, father, Marinette and I were really looking forward to that event." Adrien insisted, dead set against conceding this victory. His lady has been all hyped up to the prospect of dressing up and celebrating among their friends, and he was more than happy to oblige her. And, truth be told, the idea of seeing his girlfriend all dolled-up was quite appealing on its own, and he wouldn't accept getting ripped of those last careless moments.

Refusing to let go, Gabriel crossed his arms on his chest, looking sternly at his offspring. "Well then, maybe we could organize some kind of private celebratory event for you and Mlle Dupain-Cheng? You could take the town car and treat her to some fancy dinner—"

"I'm accompanying Mari to that ball whether you agree or not, father." Adrien answered, a definite hint of certainty in his voice. "This is the last time our class will be gathered together in the same room, there's no way I'll miss out on that. It's way too meaningful in my eyes. Moreover, I wasn't asking for permission. I only came here to invite you to my graduation ceremony, which also happens to be very important to me."

"Adrien, please reconsider—"

"You know what, father," Adrien snarled, ignoring the venom pooling in his mouth as the word rolled out unpleasantly, "do as you please, like always. It doesn't matter if you don't show up, because you never did anyway. How sad is it that Marinette's parents already bought me a graduation present and saved me a spot at their table, because they know that I'll be, one last time, the only parentless student in the room?"

He spun on his heels, anger flaring in his eyes. What was he expecting? For his father to become a present and loving parent all of a sudden? They had a quiet understanding as of late, to stay out of each other's way, but hoping for a real father/son relationship, something even a quarter than what Marinette had with her parents — heck, about himself had with her parents — apparently was a tad far-fetched.

"I am proud of you, you know."

His father's defeated voice stopped Adrien dead in his tracks, his hand hovering over the door handle.

"I may have been absent, and most of the time unreachable, but I have kept close tabs on you and your progresses all of those years. You have grown into an amazing young man, and I couldn't be prouder of you, Adrien. Marinette is a lucky girl to have caught your heart, and I can foresee a really bright future for both of you. Your mother would be really happy to see how fine a young man you turned out to be, despite my failure at being a proper father for you."

Tears prickled at the green eyes, but he refused to face his father, to show him his weakness. He instead settled on bowing his head down, willing his voice to be as steady as he could as he quietly replied, "It's not too late to try again."

And as his hand turned the handle, Adrien heard his father answer, a faint touch of foreign softness lingering in his voice, "You said Friday? I'll have Natalie clear my schedule. Tell the Dupain-Cheng to save another seat."

Both of You

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

Part 40 of 53

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