: I own none of these characters.
Ladybug swung through the streets, occasionally dipping low to wave at someone but usually staying higher up on the rooftops where she could see and be seen without getting tangled in the traffic below. What they'd come to think of as "patrol" was mostly social labour – making sure that while the citizens of Paris didn't know how the magic worked or why someone would cause so much trouble for whatever a Miraculous was, they trusted and listened to the two masked magical people. Making friends was the one thing Ladybug and Chat Noir could do to keep themselves distinct from Hawkmoth. Well, that and never starting the fights. If they ever lost that "hero" status, they'd be in deep trouble.
She drew near to the Agreste mansion. She could hear the sound of piano playing on the breeze, and stopped her flight on the roof across the street to listen. Only for the music, of course. Alya would have been elbowing her and saying "Sure, girl, the music, you tell yourself that". But Alya wasn't here, so Ladybug could dream a little. Besides, it was patrol time. Appreciating the talents of the citizens of Paris was part of that. Without thinking, she flipped her yoyo across to the mansion's roof and swung over, hanging nearby the window that the music came from. Adrien was inside, she guessed – it was dark inside and bright out so she could see a silhouette. The music paused and a voice said in surprise "Ladybug?"
She suddenly realised where she was and what she was doing, and almost let go of the yoyo in fright. Running through her patrol mantra - "make friends, be a hero" twice, she got her breath back enough to say a cheery "Hello!". Just like she'd given everyone else she'd spoken to today. Even if it still sounded a bit like "H-he-l-l-ello!", and she was pretending it didn't. "I heard your music. It's really wonderful to listen to." The sentences came out smoothly enough, as long as she concentrated on being Ladybug. Ladybug had no reason to stutter around this boy. Even if he was the most handsome, the most beautif... wait, what?
Adrien had come to the window to look out at her. And... he... he...
Ladybug took another deep breath, and let it out carefully, then said in a carefully not-negative-akuma-causing tone of voice...
"WHAT ON EARTH ARE YOU WEARING?"
OK, so she'd meant to keep her voice sweet and even. But this... this was a travesty.
Adrien's normal simple, casual-but-elegant outfit was gone. He was wearing a navy suit from one of his father's lines – but it was from three years ago. Usually Gabriel made sure that his personal walking advertisment and style leader was wearing the most on-trend, on-point clothes of their brand. Three years was very out-of-date for him. Under it Adrien had a crumpled silk shirt – the kind that have the crinkles heat-sealed in – in a light peachy coral kind of orange that could have blended with the navy well – but somehow really didn't. The whole outfit was... amateur, if not incompetent. And it didn't fit right around the shoulders.
Adrien looked at her, a little puzzled. "Clothes?" he said.
Ladybug went red. "Yes, clothes, you're wearing clothes, of course you're wearing clothes I mean but", and her fashion sense reasserted control over her mouth, "why THOSE clothes?"
"Oh", he said deprecatingly. "It's for a charity after-5 gala I'm going to in an hour. Father sent me over the pieces from his new collection that he wanted me to wear, and I thought I might as well get ready now and save time later".
There was a short silence. Then she asked "Do you know much about fashion and your father's designs?"
"Well, a bit I guess. I mean, I'm around it all the time, but I don't really pay that much attention to what they put me in. My job is to wear the clothes."
"Adrien." He looked up at her, startled by the decisive tone in her voice. She said "We need to talk. Can I come in?".
A few minutes later in his bedroom, Adrien was even more startled. Ladybug was like a taut piece of elastic, and full of questions. "Did your father really send those to you?", she asked.
"Of course", he replied. "That's pretty normal, he usually does that. He picks out the outfit. A courier dropped the suit bag by earlier with everything in it."
"Is there a theme to the gala? A costume?"
"No, it's just lots of pretty people trying to out-dress and out-donate each other. The usual charity thing. That's why I get sent in our newest stuff".
"...newest stuff", Ladybug echoed. She was almost glaring at his wall, and he didn't know why.
"Yes, newest", he repeated. "I haven't even seen these clothes myself before today."
Ladybug snapped around to look at him, and he took a step back. She took a step towards him and he took another step back. Soon he was up against the wall. She reached out one finger and stuck it on his chest. "You wore that suit in a six-page spread printed in Vogue France three years ago. 'Never seen it before', indeed."
Adrien shrugged. "If you say so?..." Inside his head, he was trying not to tremble. Ladybug was... well, glorious but also she had a finger on his chest like... well, he was having trouble remembering to breathe. Focus, Adrien, focus. Try not to stammer. "I.. I meant it when I said I wear the clothes. I pick up bits and pieces, but to be honest one suit is much like another. And I've been put in all kinds of... well, not usually by my dad's label, but... that's modelling, you know?" He gave her a sheepish smile. The look in her eyes wavered for just a moment, dipping to his shirt and then as if it gave her strength and fury, coming right back at him.
"One suit is just like another. Right", she drawled. Then she stabbed that finger at his pocket. "See these button loops on the pocket? Gabriel Agreste put those on his suits for Just. One. Year. Not even that. One season. Only because someone famous had worn some in a big movie and he let one of his designers do some clothes inspired by it for his mid-range line. But they're clunky, they're inelegant, they don't press properly without a lot of fuss, and they Spoil. The. Lines." The finger jabbed at his chest again with each of her last three words. "Your father dumped them as soon as the box office had forgotten about it."
Adrien was stunned. "My.. uh, Ladybug, you follow fashion?"
"I love it. I breathe it."
Her reply was unexpectedly fierce, and also somehow... familiar? The puzzling feeling was drowned out by her proximity. Her face had drawn closer as she made her points, and her lips were so close... He felt his breath hitch, and started to close his eyes. There was no way she'd... no way...
The pressure on his chest vanished. He opened his eyes again.
Ladybug was standing in the middle of the room, tapping a finger on her cheek, thinking. "Where's the gala?" she finally said.
"It's at the Hotel Grand Paris, in the ballroom", he said. "Why?"
"Well, it's your shirt. Crushed silk is an unpopular fabric at the moment, totally off-trend. Maybe that's your dad deciding to take a creative risk, but..."
Adrien suddenly saw where she was going with this. "My dad's usually more conservative than that. You think someone has changed the clothes?"
She sighed. "That's my best guess. The outfit you're wearing – it's not very good-looking, I mean, you look good in everything, you're good-looking, I didn't mean to say you weren't..." She was blushing. They stared at each other red-faced for a moment, Adrien filing away her words for later. She'd, well, it sounded like she liked him? Couldn't be. He must be misinterpreting it. He broke the silent moment. "So why is the hotel important?"
"That ballroom is lit with those retro halogen tube lights. They change the colours of things a little bit, and I can't imagine your dad wouldn't know that and plan for it. This colour in silk? It'll look like someone has put carrot juice in custard. With those crinkles, curdled custard." They both winced.
"Right", Adrien said. "I guess I'd better change clothes again." He looked at his wardrobe. "Um..." he said, wondering how to ask without sounding either like an idiot or completely desperate. "Um... well, you obviously know more about this than me, um..." He trailed off. Ladybug looked at him expectantly, and he took a deep breath then pushed all the words out at once. "Canyouhelpmechoose?"
Ladybug grinned. "I would be delighted" she said in a purr that she thought even Chat Noir would have approved of. "Relax, Cinderfella. Your fairy Bugmother is here to help." She walked over to his wardrobe and threw the doors open, standing dead centre and surveying its contents.
Straight away, she could see a problem. There were a couple of business suits, but there was only one suit in a style suitable for a gala. Thankfully, a black one, not that navy he had on that was so terribly mis-matched with his colouring. If his father normally sent him specific clothes for events, then this one was probably there for only emergencies. Just like this. It would have to do. But the shirt...
"What are your shirt measurements?" she asked. Adrien rattled them off. "Chest 91, waist 73 as of last week's fitting. Why?"
"Because the shirt that's with your dress suit is too small."
"You can see that from a glance?"
Well, actually she wouldn't with most people. But she had spent a lot of time looking at Adrien, not that she would ever admit that, and she knew he'd grown a little in the last six months. "I can see that that shirt won't fit across the shoulders", she hedged. "You'll be rubbing around the back of your collar all night." She turned her attention to the other shirts. "Pity there's not much time before you go out. I... I mean my friend, she's a designer, she's been practising making men's shirts and I bet she'd have one exactly your size." Half-truth: she knew she had more than one in his size because she'd been using him as her inspiration. And she'd mentally measured him more than once. Also not admitting that. She could be proud of herself for getting the numbers exactly right later, probably when she was screaming into a pillow after this was all over. Focus, Ladybug. Fashion. Not Adrien's chest. Fashion. "Our closest option is", she said, frowning, "to look through these other dress shirts and see if we can find one with enough seam allowance to let it out enough, that's also not going to look too crazy under a suit at a gala."
He stepped up next to her, now focused. Fittings, last minute alterations and restitchings were something he did know about. "Do we have time for that? It usually takes Father's people up to an hour, including the time for re-pressing the shirt to get rid of the old seam creases." He grinned at her. "How good a seamstress are you, Ladybug?"
"Good, but I don't know if I can do it quite that quickly", she admitted. "Your father's people have a lot more experience than me."
"Well, does your designer friend live nearby? I could go past her shop on the way to the gala and get changed there."
For some reason, Ladybug turned bright red. But she seemed to gather her wits quickly enough and replied "Yes, she's not far from here. But she doesn't have a shop. Do you know where the Dupain-Cheng boulangerie is?"
"Are you talking about Marinette?"
"...yes? Do you know her?" Ladybug gave him the most innocent look she could muster. Which was not easy.
"Sure, she's a friend from school. Actually, if it's one of her shirts, that solves a different problem. Father might have a bit of a fit over me not wearing a Gabriel shirt, but I can say it was made by one of my friends and pass it off as a quirky solution to not having to wear that other thing. Plus it'll be mostly hidden by the suit anyway so as long as it's not too off-point he'll forgive me." I hope. Father doesn't do quirky well. But carrots in curdled custard would be much quirkier. Keep telling yourself that, Adrien.
"Great!" Ladybug said enthusiastically. "I'll zip right over there and tell her you're coming. Bye!" And she was off out his window before Adrien could even reply. He went to the window and looked out, sadly. To leave so quickly, he definitely must have been mistaken about what she'd said before. About liking the way he looked. Everyone liked the way he looked, and she was just referring to that. Which wasn't really important.
He sighed, put the suit in a suit bag, then went to tell his driver-cum-bodyguard that they were leaving a little early.
Sabine greeted Adrien as he stepped into the quiet bakery. The after-work rush wasn't due to start for another half an hour. "Marinette said you were coming by", she said. "Go on up."
Marinette herself had taken all the shirts she'd been making and could grab in two armfuls down to the family room, laying them out on the sofa and flipping through them to pick out the ones closest to Gabriel Agreste's kind of conservatism. Men's dress shirts were harder to make than many dress styles. Most of them weren't completely finished, she'd been jumping back and forth between projects to solve different problems, but they were near enough that they could be with about five minutes of stitching. She was focused enough on the problem that when Adrien came into the loungeroom she forgot to stutter and just said "Stand there", pointing at a spot in the middle of the floor. He did so. Then she proceeded to hold up several shirts to his torso in rapid succession, discarding some into one pile with mutters of "won't fit well enough" and others into a pile of "colour not right". After a minute or two there were two shirts left, one white with fine gold swirls, and one black with closely-set emerald green pinstripes.
"Which do you like out of these two?" she said, holding them up to him. "They should both fit you and be all right for the gala."
"I can choose?" he said in surprise.
She looked back at him in equal surprise. "Of course you can choose. You're the one who has to wear it."
He looked at the two shirts, a smile dawning. "In that case... I prefer black."
"Great, now put it on and I'll check the fit before I finish those last seams."
Adrien obediently started shrugging his shirt off to put on the new one. As he pulled it over his head he heard an "Eep!". When he could see again, Marinette was standing facing away from him with her hands over her face, every bit of skin he could see bright red. It took him a moment to realise she was trying not to look at him.
"Oh, I'm sorry!" he gabbled. "I'm just so used to this. I forgot you don't do this all the time." He grabbed the shirt and put it on. Part of him couldn't help but notice that she was, well, adorable. Nothing on his Lady though. "There, it's on now, you can look again."
She turned back to face him, still bright red but obviously trying to concentrate. She grabbed a box of pins with a shaky hand. He really hoped she stopped shaking before she put a pin in him. But once again the fashion designer he knew came out. She put a few pins in quite expertly, then held out her hand for the shirt, still concentrating on something. He unbuttoned it and handed it to her and this time she didn't seem to notice him, just headed straight up the ladder to her room and her sewing machine, calling "Back in four minutes" over her shoulder.
True to her word, about four minutes later she was back, holding the shirt out. He put it on and it fit perfectly. "Give it back now", she said, "and I'll iron it. Cinderfella, you shall go to the ball".
He blinked, but dismissed it as a coincidence. After all, she'd talked to Ladybug less than half an hour earlier. "OK, and I'll put the suit pants on while you're doing that." He reached for his zipper.
"Sorry, sorry, sorry! Where's your bathroom?"
When Marinette looked back on that day, she was always surprised that she hadn't turned into a complete mess, watching Adrien stand in suit pants and nothing else in her loungeroom. As he'd put on the shirt she'd pressed, he gave a small twirl and a tiny wink at her, leaving her repeating "He's a model, he's showing the clothes, he's a model" over and over in her head. The fact that it was her clothes, something she'd made, still gave her shivers. She wanted that one day. Wanted her clothes on a runway, modelled by someone who would give them that twirl, that wink, that spark of something that made the difference between just clothes and a perfect outfit. She resolutely ignored the fact that in all her daydreams, that "someone" just happened to have blond hair and green eyes, and was picking her out in the crowd to give that wink to.
When Adrien looked back on that day, he smiled at the memory of his sweet friend hiding her face from his body and then going into raptures over his clothes. Her clothes. Whatever. He was just the clothes horse, but for some reason when it was her work he minded that much less. He knew she saw the person in them as a person, worth respecting their privacy even if he didn't think much of it any more.
When Adrien looked back on that night, he remembered the moment of fear when his father greeted him at the gala. He'd gone straight over to him, explanation ready. His father had simply looked him over, raised an eyebrow and said "Your driver phoned ahead to tell me you were wearing something unplanned. He also told me what he'd seen you wearing before you left the house." There was a pause. Gabriel reached out and turned the collar of the shirt up, looking at a seam, then back down. "Please thank your friend." As Adrien struggled to keep his poise despite the relief, his father added "And tell her, good work. I am not embarrassed."
When Marinette looked back on that night, she felt that same excitement that she'd got when she received Adrien's text message. Gabriel Agreste himself had approved! That was a lot more than she'd expected, let alone hoped for. That excitement had carried her through the following day despite her severe lack of sleep thanks to an akuma attack in the early hours of the morning. An Agreste employee had been fired for some kind of prank involving switching clothes bags and gotten rather upset about it. She couldn't bring herself to care quite as much about the firing as she did with most akuma victims.
When Chat Noir looked back on that night, he still had shivers. His normally-caring partner had been almost ruthless in hunting the akumatised man down. Finally Ladybug had wrapped him up in her yoyo and hung him upside down from a lamp-post. Then she'd sauntered over to him (that walk that made Chat's insides melt), taken a folded piece of paper out of his pocket and ripped it in two, releasing the purple and black butterfly within. As she did so, she'd cheerfully said "You deserve it for that crushed orange silk". Chat pretended he'd heard nothing. It was safer that way.
A/N: I hope you liked this one. I thought I was writing something about 800 words long but it came out much longer. I had to try and choose whether to cut it mercilessly for a much quicker and funnier pacing or leave the details in and let them stew in their own tension some more. Please review, I love reading reviews! (Also, I love sewing, but I would rather write stories than sew men's dress shirts.)