Adrien sat at his desk, staring miserably at the blank homework sheet in front of him.

Plagg peeked over his shoulder with a wide yawn. "You haven't even done any of it?" he asked shaking his head. "It's late, Adrien. Why don't you just go to bed?"

"No, it's fine," Adrien told him, gripping his pencil tighter. "I was just about to get started, honest."

Plagg glanced doubtfully at the clock. "It's 1:23."

Adrien struggled to come up with an excuse. "I want to get some done tonight so I don't have to worry as much on Sunday," he finally replied, shrugging grumpily.

"Is this about that girl in your class?" Plagg asked suddenly, pinning him with a frown.

"No," Adrien said quickly, his throat tightening. "... yes. I don't know."

"Why are you so worried?" Plagg asked. He rolled his eyes. "You told her the truth."

"It's not that simple," Adrien replied, sinking lower in his chair. Marinette had been trying so hard not to let it show, but he had seen the look on her face when he told her, and it made him feel a million more times miserable. "I still hurt her feelings. Badly."

"So? I thought you decided to give up on her and pursue Ladybug instead," Plagg said with a shrug.

"Marinette's my friend," Adrien said defensively. Or at least, he hoped she was—though perhaps he didn't deserve even that much after all this. Marinette had been so painfully shy around him for so long. But no sooner had she finally started to open up around him than he had to go and dump this on her. "Besides, I'm not 'pursuing' anyone."

Plagg's frown grew. "Didn't you break up with that girl because of Ladybug?" he asked, sounding confused.

"I did," Adrien said, his exasperation growing. Sometimes he wished desperately that Plagg had a better grasp on human emotions—at times it seemed like the little kwami cared little for the world if it didn't directly affect him. "But Ladybug has already made it clear that she's not interested in me."

"I don't get it," Plagg said, shaking his head. "You gave up on someone who does like you because of someone who doesn't?"

"I… yeah, I guess," Adrien replied. His chest tightened—when put like that, it sounded even more miserable.

"Love is ridiculous," Plagg replied dismissively. "You should take up an interest in cheese instead—it's far simpler and so satisfying."

"Thanks," Adrien replied dryly, unable to keep a grimace from his face. "I'll keep that in mind."

"Don't mentio—"

Plagg cut off so suddenly that Adrien turned to him in concern. He had gone very still, except for his whiskers, which vibrated violently.

"What's wrong?" Adrien asked.

"I'm not sure," Plagg replied slowly, face twisted in a contemplative frown. "I think it's Ladybug."

Adrien leapt up from his computer chair, anxiety slicing through his chest. "What is it? What's happening?" he pressed. Ladybug had never tried to contact him outside of a mission before—whatever it was, it must be dire.

"I don't know," Plagg replied, still speaking that slow, measured tone. "You should probably transform."

Without wasting a second, Adrien quickly cried, "Transform: Chat Noir!" As soon as the transformation was complete he ran to his window and shimmied out, pulling out his beeping baton as he went.

"Chat?" Ladybug asked, her face popping up on his small screen.

"What's wrong? Are you in danger?" he asked her, glancing at his screen as he worked his way onto the roof. "I'm already on my way—just send me the coordinates."

"No, no, Chat, I'm fine," Ladybug said all in a rush. Adrien took a deep breath of relief, closing his eyes for a moment as his heart began to settle from its breakneck pace. "Sorry about that," she added sheepishly.

"No worries, it's fine," he told her, looking back at his screen. "I'm just glad you're not hurt. What is it?"

"I…" Ladybug hesitated, and Adrien felt his gut clench. Now that his panic had worn off, it seemed they were back to that awkwardness that he didn't quite know how to address.

"I really need to talk with you," Ladybug continued, a bit more firmly. "Can we meet somewhere?"

Oh god. They needed to talk? So badly that it couldn't wait? Adrien tried to think of what it could possibly be so important, but all of the topics popping into his head were not conversations he wanted to have. "Yeah, sure," he said, trying to bite back his uncertainty. "Where do you want to meet?"

"The usual, if that's okay," she told him.

"No problem, I'll be there soon."

Adrien shut away his screen, then clicked his baton in place behind his back. This would be good—there were times when it was extremely beneficial to live right next to the Eiffel Tower. Particularly because the roof of his father's mansion provided an excellent perch to access the Tower without having to worry much about the guards.

Adrien snuck up the Tower, skirting the general observation deck and heading to the beams a bit above, where he had met with Ladybug on a few other occasions. The night was cool around him, and he tried to let the air calm his nerves as he worked his way up. What if she didn't want to work with him anymore? What if she was leaving?

No, don't think about it, he scolded himself, taking another deep breath. You can figure out how to deal with whatever is when she explains it. No need to get all worried about possibilities.

Of course, that advice was far more easily said than done, and by the time Adrien neared their spot, his heart was back to performing a stuttering, fast-paced beat.

He was surprised to see that she was already there, sitting quietly on a beam and looking out over the city. In the early morning darkness she was but a silhouette against the velvet, dark blue sky, and for a moment she stole his breath away. He struggled to push back against the writhing mass of emotions rising in chest as he climbed the last stretch of beams.

"You got here fast," she said, eyebrows raised as he sat down beside her.

Darn. Of all the nights for his proximity to the Tower to be a bad thing. "I was already out around this way," he said, trying not to flinch. "I needed some air." Both statements were sort of true, at least.

"Ah." She trailed off, as if not quite sure how to reply, in turn leaving Adrien uncertain if he should say anything else.

For a moment she just sat, looking out over the city in silence. Adrien took a deep breath and forced himself to do the same, trying to enjoy this rare moment of peace with her. Even this late, the city retained its fairy glow, a halo-like dome hanging just over top as if protecting its inhabitants in its warmth. The view from this perch was simply beautiful, yet Adrien couldn't stop the anxiety that was steadily gnawing at him from the inside.

"I owe you an apology," she said suddenly.

Adrien froze, his mind already supplying the words he feared were about to come. I'm leaving town. I can't work with you anymore. I—

"The other day, with the video stream, I should have never—"

What? Adrien turned to her, completely taken off guard.

Ladybug took a deep breath, squaring her shoulders as she met his gaze. "The way I treated you wasn't right. I totally disregarded your feelings and let my own frustration and anxiety get the better of me. I still think your timing was atrocious, and I don't think it was right of you to put me on the spot like that. However, even if my feelings weren't the same, I shouldn't have treated your feelings as if they didn't matter." She paused, earnestly watching him, and added, "I'm sorry."

His first thought was that he wanted to kiss her. No, NO, he warned himself sharply. She doesn't want that. She had literally just said that she didn't feel the same—though the thought sent a sharp pang through his heart. And on top of all that, she was seeing someone now.

"It's okay," he told her instead. Because it was. "Really, I was so worried about how to tell you that I didn't take your feelings into account either. You wouldn't have been put in that situation if I had just thought things through better."

"I guess we were both at fault," she said with a hesitant laugh.

"Yeah."

She opened her mouth, as if about to add something else, then faltered. Adrien felt his own stomach clench. Even with both of their apologies now out in the open, it seemed there was still something holding her back, and he didn't know how to cross that distance.

Trying to lighten the air between them a bit, he said, "You know, I'm kind of surprised that you called me out so late at night just to apologize."

"Oh," Ladybug replied, apparently taken off guard. "I guess I didn't even think, I just—oh my goodness, your girlfriend! Will she mind? I'm so sorry, this is awkward isn't it. I should have realized. I—"

"No, no, it's fine," Adrien hurriedly assured her. For a moment his mind flashed to Marinette, and he felt an irrational stab of guilt. He quickly tried to push her out of his mind and focus on the girl in front of him instead, who was still watching him with big, worried eyes. "It … well, it didn't really work out, so there's nothing to worry about."

He almost asked if her boyfriend would mind—almost—but he was a weak person, and kept his mouth shut tight.

"Oh," Ladybug replied, still sounding hesitant. "I'm sorry about that."

"No, really, it's fine," he told her in feigned lightness. Truth be told, it was far from fine. He had utterly crushed Marinette, all because he couldn't stop thinking about Ladybug. But he couldn't tell her that. He had already learned the hard way that he needed to think of Ladybug's feelings first and foremost. He would do that from here on out, starting with this.

There was a strained silence, and Adrien could feel each second as it ticked away, widening the gap between them. Somehow, things had grown even more uneasy, and he had no idea how to stop it before it snowballed out of control.

A part of him kept urging him to be the gentleman and take his leave now, before things became even more awkward. But he hardly ever had the chance to just sit with her like this, not worrying about an akuma or responsibilities.

Instead he watched her. She almost looked like a picture—the hero of Paris, looking down on her city. The ambient glow of the city caught in her eyes, liquid beads of gold swimming in blue—

With a start he realized she was crying, the light reflecting off a tear as it worked its way down the curve of her cheek.

"I'm so sorry," he quickly blurted out, watching with horror as more tears streaked down her face. "I didn't mean to make you sad." He had no idea what he had done wrong, but seeing Ladybug cry tore his heart into shreds.

"No, you didn't do anything," she said quickly, swiping at her eyes and turning away. "I just… I can't stand this! This awkwardness between us—I can't—I don't know what to do. I want things to go back to normal between us. I want it so badly. I want you to joke like nothing's wrong, so I can roll my eyes and joke back like everything's fine. I want us to work together, as a team. It feels like it's ruined now, and neither of us are to blame. God, we're such a mess. How are we supposed to protect Paris when we can't even figure out something this simple?"

Her shoulders were shaking, and Adrien physically had to hold himself back from wrapping his arms around her and trying to make it okay. But he also couldn't help the intense wave of relief that washed over him now that it was finally out in the open.

"It's okay," he told her gently, shushing her a bit. "We'll work it out." With a grin he added, "We're Ladybug and Chat Noir—nothing is going to stop us, not even this."

Ladybug choked on a weak laugh, more tears spilling over even as she tried to smile, and Adrien's heart broke all over again. Was this what it was going to be like—having his heart ripped out every time he was with her? But she was worth it—god, she was worth the world.

"But how?" Ladybug pressed. "It's been killing me for days, and I still just don't know…"

"Probably just like this," Adrien told her gently, smiling again. "It there's a problem, we should probably talk about it, rather than both of us ignoring it and hoping it will go away, even if it's difficult to talk about. Right?"

She nodded, wiping away more tears with obvious irritation. "Yeah, you're right," she said with a shaky breath.

"And maybe we should try to make sure we have time to talk when there isn't an akuma destroying the city," Adrien continued, hesitating a bit. "You know, outside of our normal superhero duties." Then, before he could go weak and stop himself, he added, "So long as your boyfriend doesn't mind."

For a moment Ladybug was completely silent, and Adrien cursed himself for having brought it up. Of course her boyfriend would mind. Meeting up with some other guy, probably at night, just to talk? Why did he have to go and—

"He dumped me." The words were quiet and trembling, and suddenly more tears were pouring down her face, twisted with pain.

He had wrapped her in his arms before he even realized what he was doing.

"He's an idiot," Chat said decisively. "You deserve the world, and he's an idiot."

Marinette shook her head against his chest, trying to stop crying. Instead, all it resulted in was her starting to hiccup, the air forcing its way painfully up her throat.

Chat shushed her quietly again, hugging her closer, and Marinette let herself be cradled.

You shouldn't be dumping this on him, she tried to tell herself. But she couldn't deny that his warm embrace made her feel a little better—grounded, as if the world were no longer yanked right out from under her feet.

Finally giving in, Marinette let her head fall against his chest as all the pent up tears worked their way free. He didn't say anything as she cried, just quietly and reassuringly held her close.

After everything she had put him through, Marinette couldn't help but feel like she didn't deserve this from him. How on Earth was Chat able to be so calm through all of this? She had broken down on him, not once, but twice this evening, and yet it was Chat who kept a level head and was able to work through their problems.

You deserve better, Adrien had told her. No, I really don't, she thought miserably. Not after all of this. Not after the way she had dismissed his feelings, only to have him turn around and so carefully look out for hers.

God, how had she ever thought that Chat had been merely fooling around? She had taken all of his flirting and assumed he was being insincere, when really it was the exact opposite. Rather, here was a guy who really cared about her. Who sat with her when she needed it. Who waited patiently for her to make her apology.

Overwhelmed, Marinette pushed back a bit, and Chat eased his hold, letting her sit up straight. "Sorry," she told him for the millionth time, wiping at her face again. Her skin was beginning to feel raw from all the friction.

He smiled at her, and her breath caught in her throat, eyes beginning to water again as her lips quivered.

"No, please," Chat said quickly, a soft smile spreading across his face, "You should smile, My Lady."

Marinette laughed breathlessly, even as a few more tears pushed their way forward. My Lady. How long had it been since she had heard those words? She hadn't even realized how much she had missed them, nor known how comforting it would be to hear them again. Her heart was swelling painfully in her chest, even as she continued to laugh, her cheeks hurting from the strain of smiling and and laughing and crying all at the same time.

There was a split moment of hesitation, and then he leaned in towards her slowly, and Marinette was surprised to realize that she didn't mind one bit—that it felt oddly right. Then his lips were pressing against hers, making her heart stutter and thud painfully.


A/N: ELEANOR MADE SOME MORE AMAZING FANART, THIS TIME OF THE BUBBLE GUM SCENE, AND I AM SO EXCITED AND YOU ALL SHOULD CHECK IT OUT ^0^ (you can find it on my Tumblr (Konekat) by adding "/post/135181476984/") And check her out too! (She's un-petit-papillon on Tumblr.)

Also, for those of you who enjoy making yourselves suffer, I had a terrible thought for a story about Chat dying the other day. I don't plan to write it—I don't think I actually could bring myself to write it. But I did write up my thoughts. Feel free to come suffer with me. (/post/135218472474/)

Apologies to everyone who has left a comment that I haven't been able to respond to yet. I'll get to them asap, but I wanted to post this chapter when I had the chance since it's was ready to go ^^

Omigosh omigosh omigosh omigosh omigosh xD

I just… WE'RE SO CLOSE. How did we get this close? Haha, there's only one chapter left and I am freaking the freak out.

If you've been reading these babbly end notes, then you probably remember me talking about this gigantically long final scene. When I first drafted up the plot summary, this chapter was HUGE, and the last chapter was actually a dwarf in comparison. That's because I was planning to cut things off in a place that just felt right. However, the more I was looking at it, the more I wasn't happy with that. Although I'm primarily concerned with cutting off chapters in a good, logical place, the idea of giving you guys a HUGE Chapter 10 and then a dinky little Chapter 11 kind of felt like … I dunno? Let's just say I thought you guys might be disappointed. I don't want Chapter 10 to be the climax—I want everyone to be holding their breaths with me as we go into the last chapter. But making it ALL one massive chapter also seemed like a bad idea—in part because the longer a chapter is, the more I tend to procrastinate on writing it.

So when I was reading through my summary again, it suddenly hit me that cutting things off at the first kiss might be a good idea. ("First kiss?" you ask, to which I reply "( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)") It leaves the last two chapters much more evenly balanced while still giving the same kind of cliffhanger ending I was originally intending this chapter to leave off on.

"But Kat!" you say, "They still haven't told each other the truth!" (Why am I talking like this? Someone should really stop me right now, I am so sorry ._.) Alas, you'll have to wait just a liiiiiittle longer for that. BECAUSE THERE'S JUST ONE CHAPTER LEFT, AH.

It was really important to me that when Adrien stopped himself from kissing her, his first thought wasn't "She's taken," but rather "She wouldn't want that." Because I feel like he would respect her wishes above all else. Even when he's tried to glean a kiss off of her before, he's never cornered her—only offered himself up. And I know that HawkDaddy feels this is a hugely important trait of his. That said, I realized later that when he DID actually kiss her, she still (supposed) wasn't interested, but. Well. She could have easily stopped him… LET'S NOT COMPLAIN ABOUT A KISS, ALRIGHT? Hahaha.

Also, I know Marinette and Adrien technically weren't "bf/gf," but those terms were just the easiest to use. Besides, Ladybug and Chat wouldn't have known the particulars of the other's situation.

Also, Plagg. I love Plagg, but he also makes me nervous, because I feel like I don't have a 100% firm grasp on his character yet. I just… I feel like there's a lot more to learn about him as a character. Obviously there are many secrets about kwami that we all want to know, but at times Plagg almost feels incapable of empathy. It's hard to tell if he's ACTUALLY incapable of empathy, or if it's a personal choice, and even further (and more importantly, in some ways), if he even has any interest in being empathetic (which also would say a lot about him). In a way he's very childlike, while still feeling mature in age (probably because he's thousands of years old). Anyway, I struggled a bit with the beginning of this chapter because of that.

I was originally going to have them meet up at about 11:30 pm, because it felt sufficiently late. However, apparently the Tower's lights don't get turned off until about 1 am, so I had to push the timing back a bit. I feel like it's a bit odd that Adrien would be up at 1:23 am trying to work on homework—he is, after all, a 15 year old and not a university student. But whatever, I wanted them to meet at the Tower, so I worked with what I had. Luckily I left it purposefully vague when Marinette actually woke up in the last chapter—just sometime after dark xD I almost did a time jump between Adrien leaving his house and reaching the Tower, and then I remembered it's in his backyard xDDD WHOOPS

Also, I actually have an above-average level of experience with security systems and devices (let's just say that I have been interviewed more than once by major news sources regarding security), and I feel fairly confident in saying that it's highly unlikely Ladybug and Chat could ACTUALLY meet there, even after the lights are out. But, in the infallible words of Ewan McGregor, ALL YOU NEED IS LOVE. I'm claiming artistic license on this one.

THANK YOU GUYS, SO MUCH! You guys are seriously amazing, and all of your comments make me smile. Thank you so much for reading! I can't wait to give you guys the last chapter-sometime this weekend for sure. ^^