As glad as Alya was that her best friend was now dating Adrien after pining after him for so long, she couldn't help but feel somewhat surprised that the two were still together, several months in. After all, if it had been her in Marinette's position, she would have been exasperated by the number of dates that had been cancelled last-minute because...
Well, Alya didn't know why, precisely. It sounded a whole lot like either Adrien or Marinette just wouldn't make it on time and so the date would get cancelled or rescheduled or just really, really shortened. From what Alya could tell, neither of the duo ever actually asked why the other one had been twenty minutes late or an hour late or just so late that they couldn't make it at all, and neither one was offering up any excuses voluntarily, either.
Which did not a healthy relationship make.
"Once or twice without an excuse, I could understand excusing," Alya complained to Nino as they watched their friends cuddle by their lockers before classes started. "But they've been doing this for months and I swear, at least a quarter of their dates are just cancelled without any warning at all. And no explanation, either! I wouldn't be able to tolerate it. Like, the second time it happened, I would be demanding a decent explanation."
"Yeah, I don't get it either," Nino commented, shrugging. He didn't look as bothered as she felt, which was frustrating. Couldn't he see that their friends had a problem that might lead to them breaking up in the future? That would make their group dynamics awkward. "But maybe we just shouldn't worry about it. They're happy with each other. I'm sure if they thought it was a problem, they would talk to each other about it."
Still, Alya frowned.
"Look, they do the same thing sometimes with group projects, too," Nino pointed out, still looking utterly unconcerned. "Though at least there, they do at least make some sort of attempt to make an excuse, even if that excuse is blatantly ridiculous. But at least it's not just something they do only to each other is what I'm saying. They're not, like, only disregarding their relationship."
"I still don't like it," Alya grumbled. "It's not healthy. And I don't want Marinette to go forward thinking that it's normal when it's not."
"I feel like I should at least say something about it!" Alya exclaimed, throwing her hands up in the air. "Otherwise, there's no way they're going to last. One of them is bound to get annoyed about it eventually, and then they'll blow up and everything will be awkward. If they talk about it now and fix it, then maybe they'll actually last. And considering that they're otherwise good for each other, I don't want them to break up right away."
Nino sighed. "I think you've been hanging around Marinette too much. You're starting to do the same thing as her with the over-the-top worst-case scenarios."
"If I was doing them like Marinette, I would say that they would have a screaming match in the middle of school that would get them both expelled and then Adrien's dad would blacklist Marinette from the fashion industry for getting his son kicked out of school," Alya corrected him. "My version is completely realistic and un-exaggerated, thank-you-very-much."
"Since they're both doing it, I doubt that they would blow up at each other," Nino pointed out reasonably. "They rarely even seem that upset about it when it happens. I think they're keeping things pretty casual for now too, which probably helps. I swear that half of their 'dates' are actually just study dates, instead of them going out to eat or to the movies or whatever."
Alya didn't look at all mollified. "But-"
"Alya, they're happy together," Nino insisted, steering her away from their friends before she could freak them out with her staring. "I've certainly heard no complaints from Adrien about him and Marinette. The dude won't stop gushing about her, actually. If you say something now, you might introduce a problem. Like, I know you don't understand it and I don't either, but what they're doing works for them."
"But for how long, though," Alya grumbled, glancing back one last time at Adrien and Marinette. They were talking excitedly about something, clearly not upset with each other at all despite their cancelled date the night before. "Like, if this keeps up, I don't see how they'll make it to the end of the year. And when they break up, I doubt that it's gonna be pretty."
Tikki had to admit that it was kind of funny how it was actually easier to get away with lying to another Miraculous user than it was to lie to a normal civilian about their double life. One would probably logically think that Adrien and Marinette would figure each other out pretty quickly because they would know what clues to look for- unexplained absences, showing up in weird places at the same time, not being seen during akuma attacks, awful excuses- but no, it was the complete opposite.
With Adrien and Marinette, one would blurt out some kind of ridiculous excuse and the other would be so focused on getting away and making their own excuse that they wouldn't question it at all. They would see the other person near the akuma attack and be far more concerned about making up their own story to really listen to the other person's- or, more recently, they just didn't bother with the excuses at all. They seemed to have some sort of mutual "if they don't ask, then I won't ask, and if they don't have an excuse, then I don't need to have one either" policy going on, and it was working.
It was working really well, actually. Surprisingly well. Marinette had been really concerned after their first few weeks of dating that Adrien would dump her after she missed a few dates thanks to poorly-timed akuma attacks. She had been so concerned that she even fell behind on her homework because she was spending the time frantically trying to figure out excuses that would actually be believable and wouldn't make Adrien feel as though she was ditching him. When it became apparent that they were both missing dates at the same time, she had finally relaxed and been able to properly enjoy her relationship.
Right now, all Tikki was worried about was if Alya's pointed questions about the missed dates and tardies would plant a seed of doubt in Marinette and mess everything up. She was concerned enough, in fact, that she suggested that Marinette start lying to Alya about the number of dates that got affected.
"If you just don't mention it, then maybe she'll stop bugging you about it," Tikki practically pleaded a week later as Marinette raced towards the meeting point she had set up with Adrien after she had wrapped up yet another battle with an akuma. "And I know you hate how big of a deal she tries to make it when you and Adrien can't make it to a date."
"But then Adrien might mention it to Nino, and then you know that Nino will tell Alya," Marinette grumbled as she jogged towards the park. She glanced towards her phone for the time, then picked up her pace. "And then Alya will think that I'm trying to hide it because I'm upset about it, when I'm not. I mean, I won't mention anything this time, since I'm only five minutes late, but for other times..."
"Maybe you can talk to Adrien about it," Tikki suggested, making a mental note to mention the same thing to Plagg so he could talk to Adrien about maybe not mentioning all of the late arrivals and cancelled dates. "And then you could decide together what to tell or not to tell Alya and Nino."
Marinette made a face. "But that means that we would have to talk about the whole being late thing. I like it better when we just ignore that it happened at all. I don't have to try to think up excuses to hide the fact that I'm always missing when there's an akuma."
Tikki sighed. This whole thing would be a whole lot easier if Marinette and Adrien- ah, Chat Noir- could reveal their secret identities to each other, but that still wouldn't be safe, not while Hawkmoth was still active and they didn't have any plans in place for a final battle. Once that happened, Adrien and Marinette would finally know why the other person was always late at the same time.
For now, Adrien and Marinette would just have to keep their relationship intact without that particular bit of information.
"You would tell the truth if you were late for a date for a non-akuma reason, right?" Tikki double-checked as Marinette pelted around a corner and continued towards the park. "If you lost track of time while sewing or overslept or something?"
"Of course!" Marinette sounded outright offended at the thought that she might lie when she didn't have to. "I only ever make stuff up when there's been an akuma attack!"
Tikki smiled and retreated back into Marinette's purse. That was what she had been hoping to hear. She knew that relationships had to be built on truth and trust, and while Marinette and Adrien couldn't be entirely honest with each other quite yet, it would be better if they didn't get into a habit of lying if they didn't have to.
"I don't see him," Marinette said as soon as she entered the park. She slowed and glanced around, frowning slightly. "Maybe he hasn't made it yet, either?"
Tikki only shrugged when Marinette glanced down at her for a second opinion. She was certain that Adrien was probably racing towards the park right now, and he would arrive any minute. More than anything else, Tikki was just pleased that Marinette wasn't immediately freaking out about Adrien not being there. The first few times that they had dates affected by akuma attacks, Marinette had panicked immediately, wondering if she should call Adrien and try to apologize for not being there on time. Now, she just settled in to wait if she beat Adrien back from the attack.
Not that she knew that she had beat him back from the attack, of course. Marinette just seemed to assume that Adrien was just running late for no particular reason and instead of wondering about it, she was just thankful that he hadn't noticed that she was late.
They were too busy hiding things from each other to notice that the other person was doing the exact same thing. If Tikki weren't so thankful for it happening, she would be crazy frustrated by their dancing around each other.
"Hey, Marinette!" Adrien called from across the park. Marinette perked up and turned around. "Sorry I'm running late! I hope I didn't keep you waiting at long."
"Not at all," Marinette responded cheerfully, bouncing up on her toes to press a kiss to Adrien's lips. Adrien grinned and responded, ducking down to momentarily deepen the kiss before they broke apart. They headed off a moment later arm in arm, lateness forgotten as they planned out where they wanted to go.
It worked for them, and that was all that mattered.
Sometimes, Tikki appreciated the superheroes' mutual obliviousness. Other times, she could barely stand the irony. Even half a year into their dating, Adrien and Marinette were still stubbornly ignoring the suspicious timing of each other's absences, and while it was definitely good for their safety- Chat Noir had gotten hit by an akuma again only a month into their dating while blocking an attack meant for Ladybug, and since Ladybug had had to detransform and recharge during the time he was possessed it definitely would have been a disaster for him to know who she was- it was also very, very difficult to watch.
Like now, for example. Marinette and Adrien had been planning on meeting up at the park near the school, but an akuma attack had pulled both of them away before they could arrive. The tussle had carried them halfway across the city, and apparently both of them had to detransform before getting far back towards their intended destination.
That meant that thirty minutes after they were meant to meet in the park, Adrien and Marinette collided right next to an alleyway way across the city. They yelped, startled, and then exclaimed as they recognized each other.
Tikki cringed from her place inside of Marinette's purse and braced herself for a slew of excuses. How were either of them going to explain this? It would look like both of them were trying to avoid the other.
What Tikki hadn't expected was for Adrien and Marinette to simply greet each other enthusiastically and then head off on their date with absolutely no further comment or questions about why the other person had been there instead of at the park.
"I'm not even going to question it," Plagg told Tikki as they shared a small container of popcorn in Adrien's bag while their Chosens cuddled and kissed up above, ignoring the movie playing in the front of the theater. "Adrien is happy, and if he starts questioning their relationship then he won't be happy."
"I'm just surprised it's gone on so long," Tikki said. She accepted another kernel of popcorn. "And that they're just willing to let stuff like this slide. I really thought today they would at least make an attempt to make an excuse, but they just..." She waved her paws around and then shrugged. "They were just like, okay! This is a totally normal place for us to meet, let's go!"
Plagg sniggered. "I don't know why you're upset that they didn't bother with their little song and dance. It's almost physically painful to listen to them try to come up with their little lies. If they do this until Hawkmoth is taken care of and they can reveal themselves, then they'll understand everything and it'll all be peachy, and I won't have to listen to their absolutely awful excuses in the meantime. Speaking of which- why can't we ever get Chosens that are actually good at lying? Every single last one of mine has been terrible. Not one consistently believable liar in the lot of them."
Tikki just sighed. Plagg could be exasperating when he wanted to be. His priorities were absolutely all over the place.
Meanwhile, on the other side of town, Alya (and, somewhat grudgingly, Nino) were crouched behind some bushes in the park where Adrien and Marinette had originally been planning on meeting for their date. Alya was peering around, occasionally glancing at her watch.
"They were supposed to meet forty-five minutes ago, Nino," Alya finally said, flopping back into the dirt. "And neither of them showed up! Are you positive that this was where Adrien said they would be meeting?"
"Then neither of them even bothered to show up!" Alya exploded, making a couple kids nearby jump and eye the hiding duo warily. "I can't believe I missed an akuma attack for this!"
"No one asked you to follow Adrien and Marinette around on their date," Nino pointed out. "You could have just skipped out and tried to stalk them- I mean, follow them around in a completely non-creepy way- some other time."
Alya scowled. "There's just something weird about their relationship. They just let way too many cancelled dates slide, and I don't understand why they're cancelling them in the first place! Marinette isn't telling me anything about why and now she's stopped telling me when they cancel or delay dates altogether, so I have to investigate. I'm already invested, so I'm not going to back out now."
She ignored Nino's grumble. She knew that her boyfriend didn't think the poking around was necessary, but this was weird. If Alya had believed Marinette, then she would think that all of their dates were running as planned.
Clearly that wasn't the case.
"Do you think..." Alya started, frowning at the still-empty park. "...do you think that their relationship is fake? Like, Adrien wanted Chloe to back off or something and so they decided to pretend that they were dating and going out on dates all the time? That would explain why neither of them gets upset when the date they had planned got cancelled." And Adrien had stopped mentioning the delays and cancellations at the same time that Marinette had, which suggested that they had talked and agreed to do that.
Nino frowned at her. "Um, but then would they not tell us that? We wouldn't tell Chloe if they were doing it to get her to back off. And I know she's overheard them talking about dates that got cancelled."
Alya thought harder. Nino was right. But then why were Marinette and Adrien so chill about their relationship, when they both seemed equally excited about it when they first started dating? It just didn't make sense.
So on Monday, Alya asked.
"You were stalking Adrien and I?" Marinette exclaimed, sounding upset. "Alya!"
"You keep being all secretive about your relationship with Adrien!" Alya defended herself. She had worked so hard to get Adrien and Marinette together, and while she did usually get details about the dates they did manage to go on, there was still the matter of the missed dates and lack of excuses for them.
And now, the fact that Marinette was apparently lying to Alya and claiming that all of her dates had gone off as normal when not all of them did. Alya had waited all morning for Marinette to mention the date that neither she nor Adrien showed up to, and nothing.
Actually, worse than nothing. Marinette had told Alya about the movie she and Adrien had supposedly gone to, and about how they had spent most of the movie cuddling and making out with each other.
"And now I find out that you were lying about at least some of your dates. Neither of you even showed up at the park!" Alya crossed her arms and frowned at Marinette. "So fess up. What's going on?"
"First of all, stop stalking us," Marinette said, crossing her arms and frowning at Alya. "That's not cool. And, if you must know, Adrien and I just ran into each other doing errands across town and started our date from there. And it was fun. So there."
With that, Marinette stalked off to go join Adrien.
"Marinette looks ticked off," Nino commented as he joined Alya. "Did you ask her about their date?"
"She wasn't thrilled," Alya admitted. "And she said that they just ran into each other before the date and went from there."
Nino nodded. "Yeah, that's what Adrien said, too, and he showed me a selfie they took on their date. They looked super-happy." He glanced towards the couple laughing by the lockers and shrugged. "I mean, is their relationship weird sometimes? Yeah. But Al... unless we want to risk ticking them off, I think we should stop prying. Whatever they're doing, they're happy with it."
"Fine," Alya grumbled, scowling. She didn't like just dropping things, especially when it came to her friends' happiness, but Nino was probably right. "But I still think that they're going to end up breaking up."
Nine months after Adrien and Marinette started dating, Tikki had gone from glad that Adrien and Marinette didn't know each other's identity, to exasperated at the irony, to barely being able to wait until Hawkmoth was defeated and the duo could reveal themselves to each other. Watching Marinette and Chat Noir interact was actually painful, to the point that Tikki was starting to wonder if she had done something to upset the universe.
"So, uh, why is the akuma after you, Princ- er, completely random citizen of Paris?" Chat Noir asked, and Tikki cringed again as Marinette, looking thoroughly confused, told him about how she had apparently upset some guy by turning down his request for a date. The boy apparently hadn't realized or had decided to ignore the fact that Marinette was already dating someone, and ended up akumatized.
Ever since Marinette had detransformed so that a concerned and distracted Chat Noir could "move her to safety", Chat Noir had been alternating frantically between being super-protective and trying to distance himself, doing his best to pretend that he didn't know Marinette really well and that he hadn't had his tongue down her throat only a couple hours before.
If Tikki had a cookie for every time that Chat Noir had cut himself off mid-nickname (or mid-name, it seemed) to replace it with a not-at-all convincing "random citizen of Paris!", she would probably have enough to last for several days, maybe even a week, even if she ate as much as Plagg did every day.
"You should be safe here, Ma- er, citizen of Paris," Chat Noir announced grandly as they set down. He glanced around nervously. "Just stay hidden, okay?"
Marinette nodded and promised, and then Chat Noir was off again.
"That was strange," Marinette commented as soon as Chat Noir was out of earshot. "He clearly knew who I was when he was talking to Ladybug, but he was pretending that he didn't know me at all when he was with me. He's never done that before when we interacted! If anything, he used to always be more familiar with me than I would have expected."
Tikki winced. Chat Noir really hadn't been even remotely subtle next to Marinette. Of course, she couldn't fault Adrien too much for acting weird while behind the mask when Marinette was nearby. According to Plagg, only the week before Adrien had had to detransform when an akuma was after him, and apparently Ladybug had been just as bad with her attempts to act like she hadn't been sitting in his lap making out with him only a couple hours before.
Before Tikki could get too concerned about Marinette putting the pieces together, her Chosen just shrugged and passed her a cookie to recharge. "Maybe he's just getting more serious about not letting civilians figure out his secret identity by pretending that he doesn't know any of them personally. It would work better if he didn't do that with people who he's clearly known for years, but I guess it makes sense."
Tikki resisted the urge to bang her head against the wall. Instead, she took a steadying bite of cookie and, in the calmest voice she could muster, said, "Marinette?"
"Do me a favor- once Hawkmoth is taken care of, do the reveal with Chat Noir right away, all right?"
Both Adrien and Marinette turned up to their one-year anniversary dinner an hour and twenty-two minutes late. Marinette was nervous for the first part of their slightly-delayed date- surely being so late for an anniversary was grounds for Adrien being upset at her- but when Adrien said nothing about it other than mentioning that he had only arrived a few minutes before her, she relaxed and focused on thoroughly enjoying her dinner with her funny, sweet, handsome, amazing boyfriend.
Was it maybe a little strange that he never complained when she was late? Maybe, but she wasn't about to question it. Besides, Adrien was sometimes pretty late, too, and if he was willing to not make a big deal out of her occasional tardiness, then she was more than willing to extend the same courtesy to him when she arrived for their dates first.
Besides, he had never completely skipped out on her, and their tardies always seemed to line up pretty well. Maybe his father wouldn't let him leave the house during akuma attacks, and Adrien was just embarrassed about it or something.
"Well, one year," Adrien said, grinning over at her and lifting up his glass. Marinette copied the motion, clinking them together as they waited for their dessert to come. "To many more to come! I've really enjoyed dating you."
Marinette grinned, taking a quick sip of her sparkling juice to try to hide the pinkness in her cheeks. "And I could say the same for you. I always have fun when I'm with you."
Adrien grinned over at her, mischief twinkling in his eyes. "Even when I'm helping you with Physics?"
"You can make even physics at least bit enjoyable, which is saying something," Marinette teased him. Her lips twisted up in an impish smirk, remembering their last 'study session'. "Besides, we don't only study when we get together to do schoolwork."
Adrien gasped dramatically, clapping a hand to his heart. "Marinette! You're corrupting the innocence of my pure soul!"
She couldn't help the giggles that spilled out. One of the best discoveries that she had made during the duration of their relationship was how much of a goofball Adrien could be when he was feeling comfortable. "Uh-huh Are you saying that I initiated all of those make-out sessions? Because that's not how I remember it. And who was the first one to stick their hand up the other person's shirt, hmm?"
Marinette had the great satisfaction of watching Adrien turn a delightful shade of pink.
The waiter arrived with their chocolate lava cake, and Adrien and Marinette exchanged a grin before picking up their forks and digging in. They had discovered that they had a shared love for anything chocolate, which was perfect considering that Marinette was very, very good at baking and could bake treats for some of their dates.
And Adrien loved eating the things she baked.
Marinette let out a happy hum as she took the first bite of her lava cake. The molten inside oozed out onto the plate, and she made sure to get some of the ooze on her spoon with the next bite.
It was so good. Her parents didn't make lava cake because it needed to be eaten right after coming out of the oven, and obviously that wasn't particularly feasible in a bakery like theirs. As a result, lava cake was a proper treat.
"This is really good," Adrien said, echoing her thoughts. He licked his spoon, not at all self-conscious like he had been the first time they had gone out. "Really, really good. Hey, once we're on break, do you want to try baking lava cake as a date?"
Marinette giggled at his enthusiasm. "You just want to eat more lava cake. It's not particularly healthy, you know."
Adrien grinned. "We can follow that date up with an exercise date. Sprints or basketball or something. Or we can try fencing again."
"If I can still remember anything about it," Marinette said with a laugh. "I think I forget half of the rules as soon as I hear them."
"You'll catch on. You have good fighting instincts. Good reflexes." Adrien's grin widened. "A little too good. Fencing has too many rules for your fighting style."
Marinette winced, remembering all of the rules that she kept breaking every time she and Adrien fenced together. She couldn't help it, really- as Ladybug, she didn't just stop and reset if her opponent got a hit in. She just took advantage of them being close to get in a hit of her own. She didn't just fight with her yo-yo as Ladybug, either, and while she had never gotten into a fight to the point where she actually ever kicked Adrien, there had been a couple close calls where she found herself shifting to one foot, or moving around way more than was allowed.
It was a good thing that she didn't have to stay on a mat as Ladybug. That was all she was saying about that.
"It's cute, though!" Adrien added quickly, leaning forward to kiss her cheek. "You'd probably be a terrifying opponent in a no-holds-barred fight."
"Until I trip, you mean." Still, Marinette had to smile, wondering what Adrien's reaction would be if he ever found out that she was Ladybug. "I am trying to learn. It's just so hard to remember in the heat of the moment."
"Oh, I know." Adrien grinned at her. "I can tell, since every time I'm about to open my mouth to remind you about a rule, you hop away groaning about the rule you just broke and I have to try to not die laughing."
"Oh, shush you."
It didn't take them long to polish off their dessert and call for the bill. It wasn't too late, so while they waited for the waiter to return with Adrien's credit card, they tried to decide where to go next.
"I'd suggest a walk, but I don't know how long you want to walk in those heels," Adrien commented, glancing at Marinette's shoes. "I know I've heard the female models complain about their heels being uncomfortable. We could always walk just a little bit and then sit by the river for a bit."
"They're pretty comfortable for walking, actually. I made a few alterations so that they fit my feet perfectly, and they aren't that high of a heel." Marinette picked up one foot and twisted it back and forth so that he could see it. "I don't trust myself in anything higher."
Adrien easily caught her foot, running a thumb over her ankle as he glanced over the shoe. "I can't see anything different about the shoe. I mean, it's gorgeous. But you've hidden any changes really well."
"They're only on the inside," Marinette told him, and Adrien let her foot go as the waiter came back with Adrien's card. "Some things had to be filed down, and then I added some padding in other places. It's because not all arches are the same, and then feet are different shapes, too, and if there's extra space then things will rub."
"That's really smart." Adrien stood up, tucking his credit card back in his wallet and the wallet into his pocket before holding out his hand to help Marinette to her feet. "Shall we-?"
A crash outside made them both wince reflexively, crouching down behind the table. They looked up in time to see someone in a neon-orange suit run past the window, trailing acid-green bubbles in their wake.
Marinette only barely managed to muffle her groan. Wasn't it enough that Hawkmoth and his stupid, stupid akumas had made her crazy late to her date? Did he really have to make her leave early, too?
Was Hawkmoth trying to ruin her life?
"Go hide, I'll make sure that everyone gets out," Adrien said, cutting through her panicked thoughts. His hand slid to the middle of her lower back, keeping her steady as the ground shook. "Stay safe!"
"You, too," Marinette told him, leaning over to kiss his cheek before they straightened up. "We can try to meet up again once the attack is over, yeah? I don't want you to get caught in the crossfire trying to find me."
"Sounds like a plan." Adrien returned her kiss, then vanished into the crowd. Marinette gazed after him for a moment- her boyfriend was so considerate, trying to make sure that all of the panicky diners got out of harm's way. She would have joined him, but she had to take advantage of his ready-made excuse for her and go now, before the akuma spotted her and decided to make her his latest victim.
Ladybug plunged into the fray two minutes later, joining a very ticked-off Chat Noir.
"He just couldn't lay off today, could he?" Chat Noir asked, a snarl in his voice. "Or at least wait a couple hours, so that I wouldn't be busy?"
"Agreed," Ladybug said, eyes already scanning the akuma for a possible possessed item. She wanted to get back to the restaurant as soon as possible, because if the fight dragged on for too long, then she and Adrien wouldn't get to go on their walk before they both had to go home. "That belt looks out of place. Let's get up high and try for an ambush attack."
Chat Noir nodded, eyes narrowed and focused. He had been on his game earlier, too, unusually down to business. It hadn't made that fight any shorter though, mostly because the akuma kept vanishing.
Hopefully this akuma wouldn't take as long to take down.
One high-energy, furious fight and one very destroyed road later, one purified butterfly fluttered free of Ladybug's yo-yo and into the evening sky. Ladybug and Chat Noir exchanged a very quick fist bump, and then took off hastily, aware of their beeping timers. Ladybug let out a small sigh of relief when she recognized the restaurant, and aimed for a small alleyway next to the building.
She didn't see the darker figure dropping into the far end of the alleyway, too busy trying to come up with an excuse in case Adrien had been looking for her. Ladybug landed hard and wasted no time in heading towards the road, fingers reaching up and brushing against her fingers as she practically sprinted forward. "Tikki, detransform me- oh!"
"Plagg, detransform me- agh!"
The two superheroes collided with a yelp as dual flashes of light lit up the alley. They stumbled, trying to catch themselves before they hit the ground. Chat Noir steadied himself first and grabbed Ladybug as the last bit of their transformations wore off, leaving two normal teens in their wake.
Adrien and Marinette met each other's gaze, eyes wide and utterly disbelieving. They stared at each other for a long minute in utter shock, then both broke down laughing, clutching each other for support.
"Of course it was you," Marinette said fondly, wrapping her arms around Adrien more fully in a hug. "I should have known as soon as you started spouting all of those ridiculous cat puns during our dates. Only one person in Paris could possibly have a sense of humor like that."
"You know you love the puns," Adrien teased, wrapping his own arms around her waist to tug her closer and press a quick kiss to her lips. "I see the smiles you try to hide whenever I pun. And I've heard you pun before, too, Princess. You can't possibly say that you don't like puns."
"I hang around too many punners," Marinette said haughtily, but her tone was a little undermined by the fact that she was running her fingers through his hair, completely messing it up. "It rubs off on me. All inadvertently, you know."
Adrien laughed. "If you say so. Whatever helps you sleep at night." He grinned, shaking his head again. "And you know what else should have given us away? We were always late to dates and study sessions at the exact same time."
"I was always too busy trying to come up with my own excuses to notice yours," Marinette admitted. "And then later on, I was too relieved that you didn't seem to care about me being late to wonder about why you would be late at the same time." She grinned, all of the questions that she had pushed to the back of her mind now answered. Adrien had been late to dates for the same reason that she had. He hadn't questioned her, because he had been trying to keep her from asking him where he had been. It was all a mixed-up mess, and somehow it had worked out perfectly.
She was pretty sure that she would freak out more a bit later, once the shock of realizing that her boyfriend and her cat-suited partner were the same people had set in, but right now all she felt was relief.
She would never need to worry about being late or missing a date again, because Adrien would understand, and he would be at her side anyway. She could just ignore all of Alya's pointed questions and even more pointed advice, because she and Adrien would both know what was going on, no more ridiculous excuses between them.
Now that I think about it, it only could have been you," Adrien said, hugging Marinette close and kissing her again. "We would be the only ones who would actually tolerate all of those missed dates without excuses and never really notice when the other person was running late because of an akuma attack. That bugged Nino so much, and he isn't even dating me. He kept telling me to clean up my act and at least be on time with you. And I tried, but..."
"Stupid akuma always getting in the way," Marinette finished.
"Do you wanna know how frustrating it was watching you two idiots?" Plagg demanded, appearing next to Adrien's head. "I was so close to just telling you who Ladybug was."
"You know you couldn't have done that, Plagg," Tikki scolded. "You know that."
"I could have appeared in Adrien's hair, and Marinette knows who I am already. She would have gotten surprised and blurted out Plagg! and then they would have been all confused and figured it out in a couple minutes."
"You can't just do that, secret identities are important-!"
Adrien and Marinette exchanged amused looks as their kwamis squabbled. Adrien's arm slid around her back, pulling her close so that she could snuggle into his side. "You know Plagg?"
"Mmhmm. I've met him a few times, when you couldn't get to a battle because you were hit as a civilian and when there was the whole Nooroo's birthday party incident." Marinette grinned as she watched Plagg dodge Tikki's swipes. "He's a bit of a character, isn't he?"
Adrien groaned. "Oh, you have no idea. And he only eats cheese. He's responsible for me always smelling like Camembert."
"Camembert? Do you have Camembert? I'm hungry!"
Marinette giggled at her boyfriend's exasperated expression as he dug out a small wedge of Camembert. For her part, Tikki simply perched on her shoulder, waiting patiently as Marinette dug out a cookie for her to have and then accepting it with a small thanks.
"It isn't ideal that you two know each other's identities now," Tikki said once she had gotten the last of the crumbs into her mouth. "I wish you could have kept it secret until after Hawkmoth was gone, but there's nothing we can do about it now. You'll just have to be extra careful now to not get hit by any akumas."
"We'll be careful," Adrien promised. He gave Marinette's hand a light squeeze. "I'd never want to endanger my Lady, after all."
"And we've been getting better about avoiding the hits," Marinette pointed out. "The last time it happened was nearly seven months ago, and that was just because we needed to use it as a diversion. Chat was only trapped for a minute, tops."
"Because we've been training together without even realizing it, I think," Adrien added, grinning. "No wonder you have such great reflexes for fencing. And a slight disregard for any rules around fights."
Marinette spluttered, planting her hands on her hips. "Well, the akumas don't follow rules-!"
"Maybe you two could learn about other fighting styles instead," Tikki suggested over Marinette's splutters. "That might help you two with your akuma battles."
"I think we'll save that for another date," Adrien said, stuffing Plagg back in his jacket. He offered Marinette his arm. "For right now, though, I think we have a date of the more traditional sort to get back to."
"We do have some time left for that, don't we?" Marinette opened her purse to let Tikki fly in, then took Adrien's arm, leading the way out of the alley. "Come on, kitty cat. I want my romantic walk by the Seine."
Adrien's grin grew wider as he followed her eagerly onto the street. "As you wish, my Lady."
A/N: As with a great deal of my stories, this is a one-shot and is therefore complete.
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