La Curiosité du Chat
Chapitre 10 : Une Inversion des Sentiments
KarmaHope


Hi my name is Karma, it's been almost three years since I last updated, and I have nothing to say for myself.

Surprise?


Adrien. exe has stopped working.

Adrien sat on the end of his bed, staring blankly out the large picture window on the other side of the room. He'd been sitting there since he'd gotten home from Marinette's – and honestly, he didn't remember what had happened between then and now.

He went to a party at Marinette's.

He, Nino, and Alya stayed after everyone else left.

He chased after Alya and Nino and got caught up in a very feline akuma attack as a civilian.

He fell behind and was rescued by Ladybug, who left him on a rooftop.

He transformed and helped Ladybug defeat the akuma.

Marinette gave him a keychain exactly like the one Ladybug had given Chat Noir.

Okay, the two keychains weren't identical, per se – Adrien's was purple while Chat Noir's was green – but they were very obviously from the same source. They dangled from his fingers, mostly forgotten in the wake of all the other thoughts running through his head.

This confirmed that Marinette was Ladybug, right? Combined with everything else he'd noticed since Ladybug told him she was going to China, this couldn't mean anything else. This was the proof he needed!

And he hadn't even needed to snoop through Marinette's bedroom to get it.

"– drien?"

So Marinette was Ladybug. And Ladybug was Marinette. He'd suspected this – known this for weeks, but it still caught him off guard. Merde, how was he supposed to act around Marinette now? How was he supposed to act around Ladybug?

He thought he did pretty well tonight, all things considered. Hell, he'd had more comfortable interaction with Marinette in one night than he'd had in one year! But therein lay the problem.

"Adrien? Kid!"

Adrien finally snapped out of it and turned to the kwami, who sighed.

"You're useless," Plagg said. "Absolutely useless."

Adrien groaned and fell backwards on the bed, the charms still clutched in his fingers. "Tell me something I don't know," he said. "I knew she was Ladybug! This just confirmed it! Why am I like this?"

"Couldn't tell ya," Plagg replied. "Maybe it's 'cause your two crushes are actually one person and you don't have any excuse not to do something about it now."

Adrien blinked at Plagg's rare insight. His eyes widened in horror and he groaned again, louder this time. "Marinette didn't even like me until just recently! Like, she never even talked to me! Mon dieu, this is even worse than liking Ladybug!"

At least he'd known Ladybug was unattainable. He could flirt until the cats came home, but he knew it wouldn't – couldn't – happen. But Marinette … Marinette was his classmate. Marinette was a regular person, the same as Adrien, and therefore within reach. If he were serious about Ladybug, and about Marinette, he'd take this opportunity for what it was. An opportunity.

But …

That was scary. Pining after Ladybug had somehow been so much easier than pining after Marinette.

Was he pining after her?

He was. Well, shit. That was a realization that didn't need realizing but was realized anyway.

"What am I going to do?" he asked nobody in particular, since he knew Plagg wouldn't be any help. Raising his hand above his face, he watched the two charms dangle from his fingers. "She doesn't know that I know. Should I tell her that I know? Or will that absolutely ruin any chance that I have? Chat Noir is Ladybug's friend, but she doesn't feel anything romantic for him. Me. Whatever. Would that transfer to me? Like, Adrien-me?"

He sat up with a start. "Would it even be safe to tell her?" He asked, turning to Plagg. The kwami had claimed a spot on the bed and curled up. An ear flicked toward Adrien as he spoke. "We weren't telling each other our identities because it'd be easier for Hawkmoth to find out if he caught one of us, which would be disastrous. So it's technically still safer if she doesn't know, right?"

"That's for you to decide," Plagg said. "But you'd better figure it out quickly, because here she comes."

"Wait, WHAT?"

Adrien looked up at the window again, and sure enough, there she was. Swinging right toward him. He panicked. What was she doing here? Ladybug – Marinette? – Ladybug didn't know Adrien and Chat Noir were the same person. So why was she here at Adrien's place?

It's not like Ladybug ever visited Adrien like Chat Noir visited Marinette.

His gaze shot to the charms he still had in his hand. Was he ready to tell Ladybug he was Chat Noir? He should He really should – he hated the thought of lying to Ladybug or Marinette – but he couldn't do it. Not now.

He would, though.

He would.

He scrambled to hide the charms, settling for shoving them beneath the comforter. It wasn't the best hiding spot, but it would do. He didn't have time for anything else.

When he looked up again, Ladybug was at the window. There wasn't any windowsill, so she held onto her yoyo string with her feet up against the glass. She knocked hesitantly, but she didn't need to – their eyes met, and she shrugged.

Taking a deep breath, Adrien pushed himself off the bed. Waving to Ladybug, he opened the lower panel of the windowpane closest to her. As it was incredibly close to the floor, she ended up crawling awkwardly inside.

"Sorry about that," Adrien said, pasting a smile on his face. "I know it's kind of ridiculous."

Ladybug – Marinette – Ladybug. While she was Ladybug, Adrien would think of her as Ladybug, or else it would get confusing. Ladybug shrugged. "I've done worse, more embarrassing things," she said. "It's fine."

Adrien bit his tongue before he could agree with her. He wasn't Chat Noir. He wasn't Chat Noir. He was, but Ladybug didn't know that, and so he wasn't.

"Ah," he said. "Cool." Well, this was going well. Racking his brains for something to say, he blurted, "What are you doing here?"

Ladybug blinked and paused for a moment before replying. "I, uh. I just thought I'd come by and check on you. You know, after the akuma attack earlier?"

Oh. "You uh, didn't need to do that," Adrien said, fighting a blush. "I'm fine."

"I left you on a roof!" Ladybug exclaimed. "I'm so sorry for that, by the way. I went back to get you, but by that point you were already gone."

So that's what Ladybug meant by 'gotta go take care of things.' Maybe he should have tried to get back to the roof to be less suspicious, but Alya and Nino had been waiting for him and … oh well.

"It's okay," he said. "I found the fire exit and got down that way. I didn't want to worry my friends."

"Oh," Ladybug said, searching his face for … something. "Okay. Again, I'm sorry."

"It's okay," Adrien said. "Really." He scrambled to find something else to say. Once upon a time he might have asked if Ladybug wanted to hang out for a little bit, because who wouldn't want the opportunity to hang with his crush even if she didn't know who he was, but now it felt … wrong.

If he wanted to do this right, he needed to talk to Marinette as Marinette, not as Ladybug.

It was Ladybug who broke the silence. "Well, uh, it's late. I should probably just … go …"

"Oh! Um, yeah. Maybe," Adrien said. Marinette had to get up in the mornings to help her parents in the bakery, right? She needed her sleep!

… Then again, they'd been out on patrol a lot later than this before. Maybe he should start pushing for them both to go to bed earlier.

"Okay," Ladybug said. "Well, have a good night. I'll see you around?"

"Yeah," Adrien said. A wave of guilt rushed over him – here she was, going out of her way for him, and he'd essentially just given her the cold shoulder. "Hey," he said, stopping her on her way out the window, "thanks for swinging by. I really appreciate it."

Ladybug smiled, ignoring the unintentional pun. "It was the least I could do after stranding you on a rooftop," she said. And then she was gone.

"Well, that went well," Plagg drawled from his hiding spot under the covers. "You're supposed to be gettin' closer to her, not drivin' her away."

"It's … not that simple," Adrien said, dragging his hands down his face.

Plagg snorted. "Humans and their relationships. Glad I don't have to deal with that – give me a block of cheese and I'm happy. Speaking of cheese, I want some."

"Of course you do," Adrien sighed. "Of course you do."


Despite feeling like he had made some sort of mistake the night Ladybug came to visit, Adrien made headway in the Marinette Dupain-Cheng department in the weeks that followed.

He texted her the morning after the party. Nothing much, just a simple I had fun last night! We should do it again sometime, but she'd responded. He came up with a reason to text her back again, and the longer they texted, the faster her replies became.

That was a good thing, right?

Adrien just didn't know anymore. Still, it didn't matter a whole lot. With how busy his schedule was, it wasn't like he had time to hang out with her or anyone else. It was all work, work, work, fencing, piano, work.

Texting was about all he could manage.

At least, it was all Adrien could manage. Chat Noir still joined Ladybug on their nightly patrols, racing across Parisian rooftops and talking about this, that, and whatever else they could think of. It was difficult sometimes, the amount of care it took to avoid revealing anything that could identify him as Adrien. He slipped up sometimes, but Ladybug – as oblivious as she still was – never noticed.

But Chat Noir noticed. He noticed the tiny nuances in Ladybug's stories that were well and truly Marinette, and he also had to take care not to let on that he knew exactly what she was talking about. Had it been this exhausting before he had confirmed she was Marinette? He honestly couldn't remember.

He wished he could tell her the truth. It would make things so much easier for him.

Unfortunately, it would make things so much easier for Hawkmoth as well, and thus he kept his mouth shut.

Between his text conversations with Marinette and his rooftop conversations with Ladybug, Adrien felt he was doing pretty well. Of course, until Marinette-slash-Ladybug figured out that Adrien and Chat Noir were the same person, doing pretty well as Chat Noir didn't help Adrien and vice versa.

Oh well.

Up here, on the rooftops, it almost didn't matter. Chat Noir still wouldn't trade the time he spent with Ladybug for anything. There was something about being under the masks that allowed them to be more honest and open with each other than they were as civilians. There was no need to save face, no need to consider what their friends thought about their actions. It was just Chat Noir and Ladybug, as it should be.

But Ladybug had been quiet tonight. While Chat chattered on, she only hummed or acknowledged things when she usually would have responded. Even when she was listening, she had a hundred-yard stare that indicated she wasn't actually engaged.

Eventually, Chat's concern became too much.

"Is … something the matter?" he finally asked as their feet dangled off the side of the Eiffel Tower. "You've been kinda out of it all night."

Ladybug looked up at him with those blue, blue eyes of hers. Surprise settled into gratitude. She smiled at him, but there was something almost sad about it. It made him a little uneasy – that wasn't a look he was used to seeing on Ladybug. It wasn't a look he was used to seeing on Marinette, either.

"I'm sorry, Chat," she said. "It's nothing important. I'm just … being silly."

"Why are you apologizing for something bothering you?" Chat Noir asked, giving her a look. "If it's bothering you, it's obviously important."

She gazed out over Paris and shrugged. "I dunno. It's not even like something bad happened. It's … actually a good thing, I think. It's just hard to let go."

"Let … go?"

Ladybug sighed and looked down at her hands. There was a long moment before she spoke. "I know we're only fifteen," she said hesitantly, "but have you ever fallen out of love?"

Chat stared at her, utterly lost for words. "I – have I ever? Wow, Ladybug. That's … pretty heavy. N-no, I haven't fallen out of love."

He'd only fallen in love. Twice. With the same person. Who was sitting right next to him.

But that was beside the point. Marinette had fallen out of love? With who? He didn't even know she had been crushing on anyone! Was it someone in their class? Did she know somebody outside of their class? Had she met someone in China?

Well … this was good, right? If she didn't like anyone else, it meant he had more of a chance.

Ladybug chuckled. "It sucks," she said, and Chat immediately felt guilty for his previous train of thought. "But at the same time … it's kind of a relief."

"The guy didn't like you back?" Chat asked. He was not fishing. No sir, he was not.

Ladybug smiled, but it was more a wry twist of her lips than anything. "No, it was pretty obviously one-sided on my part, and I think it made him uncomfortable. Silly of me, really."

"Oh. Well," Chat said, searching for words, "he was idiot. An absolute moron. Or maybe just blind, because he'd have to be to not see how wonderful you are, my lady."

This time Ladybug actually smiled, and even laughed a little bit. "Thanks, Chat, but it's for the best. He's pretty great, and I think we have a chance at actually being friends now. That's really what's important."

"As long as you're okay," Chat said. "That's what's most important."

Ladybug looked up at him again, and he nearly drowned in her eyes as they reflected the lights of the Eiffel Tower. "You're right," she said. "That is most important."

"You know I'm here for you," Chat said. "If you ever need me, please let me know."

His heart leapt into his throat as Ladybug scooted closer to his side and laid her head on his shoulder. They'd been in close proximity before, of course, but never so intimately. He knew she didn't mean anything by it. She was just feeling down about this other guy, and she was looking for what comfort he could give her. As a friend.

As a friend.

And as a friend, Chat wanted to kick this guy's ass for hurting her, but he really wasn't guilty of anything more than being an idiot. Besides, he didn't – and couldn't – know who it was. He racked his brain trying to think of who in their class Marinette could have liked, but he came up blank. He could name at least three people who had been into her, including himself, but someone she'd been into?

She must have played her cards incredibly close to her chest. It made sense – hell, she was keeping a secret as big as Ladybug; she must have been able to hide something as simple as a crush. But wait … she'd said something about making the guy uncomfortable, right? So she couldn't have hidden it that well.

He was going to drive himself crazy if he kept thinking about it.

So Chat stopped thinking about it and let her sit there, leaned up against his side like he had dreamed of for so long. Even if she was thinking about some other guy, he was glad he could be there for her. She'd bounce back – he knew she would. Nothing could keep Ladybug or Marinette down for very long.

But merde, if this wasn't some sort of special torture in and of itself.

They parted ways earlier than usual that night – Chat Noir was determined to stand by his resolution of getting them both to bed earlier than they had been. Marinette was going to get herself killed if she kept burning the candle at both ends. Ladybug protested at first, but relented when she realized she wasn't entirely up to continuing their patrol anyway.

Despite his promise to Ladybug that he would get some sleep as well, Adrien still wasn't tired by the time he returned to his room. He got into bed, but sleep just wouldn't come. His thoughts tumbled through his head, and he tried desperately to give them some sort of order.

It took him hours to fall asleep, and even then he didn't have anything straightened out. There were only three things he knew for certain:

1. Marinette was Ladybug.

2. He was as much a goner for Marinette as he had been for Ladybug.

3. He needed to play his cards right.

His last thought before he fell asleep was that maybe he'd call Nino in the morning. Nino usually had good ideas.


A/N:

Since I last updated, I started a new fic, INSTAntané, based off an Instagram AU post that was going around tumblr a while ago. I'm hoping to update that one again soon as well.

As always you can find me on tumblr as karmahope, but I also saw some people making discord servers for people to talk about their fics, so if you're interested, I did that. The invite link is discord. gg/ MZchYjU

I have an idea of where I'm going with this again, so it shouldn't be another three years before I update next ^^"