I got this idea from a sermon a few weeks ago. It was supposed to just be a one shot, and then it got out of hand. This will have maybe two more chapters.

Nino would feel guilty in the days to come after unconsciously making her burst into tears, Marinette knew. It wasn't actually his fault, but there was so many layers to this onion that she couldn't explain it if she wanted to.

I had been a simple request. He was going on to create a sequel of Horrificator, with Mylene and Ivan starring again. He had simply asked if she would be able to create a costume that matched the akuma on film, though it didn't need to be perfect, since they'd be filming it Blair Witch style.

Before she could even respond, Lila had butted her head into the conversation and said something along the lines of 'oh my father's college roommate is a famous monster movie costume designer! He could totally whip something up for you!'

Her butting in hadn't been the problem. Marinette was totally used to it now. She practically expected it.

"Oh that's awesome, Lila!" Alya had chirped. "That would be so amazing!"

"Yeah dude! We're going to start filming soon, so if you could reach out to him and give me an answer about it, that would be awesome!"

"Of course! And that way you don't need to bother Marinette. She always so busy in the bakery…"

"I would have loved to do the costume." Marinette clarified. "It really isn't a problem. So if this falls through, let me know, okay?"

"Thanks Marinette!" Nino beamed.

Then Lila smirked. And Marinette sensed that she had sealed her own doom.

How? Easy.

Lila would put off on confessing that her contact was busy, and then Marinette would be forced to work too quickly and do a half-assed job, or reject it completely.

Making her look like a flake, or a bad designer.

She rolled her eyes at the thought, and took out her sketchbook and pulled up the Ladyblog on her phone. Of course Lila had no contact. There was no reason to wait for a response. She'd might as well just get started on it now.

"It's so cool that you know so many people, Lila!" Alya said from her side.

"Oh, I try not to think about it too much. I don't want to be a braggart."

Marinette bit her tongue, trying not to respond.

From in front of her, Adrien had leaned his head on his arm, on her desk, watching her work. "That's smart." He said softly. "Let me know if you need anything, okay?"

"Thanks Adrien." She smiled at him, a little solemnly. Her stuttering was mostly gone now. She was trying to be a good friend and let him go for Kagami's sake. But it was so hard! Especially since they weren't official yet.

Alya sat next to her, ignoring her 'jealousy' to her classmate. "Girl, before you came around, Marinette was doing everything around here! Now we've got you so we can pull from all different talent pools!"

Except they weren't. It was still Marinette.

Doing everything. As class representative, as craftsman, as liaison, as a tutor, and even a therapist. She was constantly bending over backwards to help.

And still no one appreciated her. Now she was working with shorter deadlines, and less respect. More skepticism and less mercy.

Everyone was taking advantage of her, and she was too nice to put a stop to it.

Or too naïve to notice it was even happening in the first place.

Of course, this was all on top of her guardian and Ladybug duties, which was already a full time job. And also a full time student, with remarkable grades!

And she was expected to do her chores and help out part time in the bakery.

She couldn't remember the last time she designed something for herself.

"Of course," clarified Nino, who had been sitting on his desk, "when you're working with famous people, things don't always work out. That's why it's nice to have Marinette around! She's so clever! She always finds a solution!"

It was supposed to be a compliment. He was trying to let her know they still liked her and needed her.

But it came to a screeching halt with Nino's words.

"Marinette?" Adrien asked, noticing the tears first.

She covered her mouth, lest she sob out loud and get too much attention.

But the concern in Adrien's voice had already grabbed the attention of those around her.

"Girl..." Alya said with far too much pity. "There's no reason to get upset."

"Yeah Marinette." Said Lila, with fake sympathy. "I know you want to be helpful, but you're only one person. There's no reason to be jealous. You can't master everything!"

"Lila, maybe you should stop talking." Adrien said patiently. "You know she doesn't like you."

"And I can't imagine why! I've only ever been nice to her!"

Alya winced. "It's...complicated."

Lila gasped. "You're not still jealous because of Adrien are you? After all, he's dating Kagami, and she's your friend! That's not fair to me, Marinette!"

Any minute now, Marinette was going to burst into gut wrenching, uncontrollable sobbing. And she would rather do it as Ladybug so she could snatch up the Akuma before they landed. Classes were over for the day anyway. She had just stayed behind to attempt to socialize with her friends for just a few minutes.

Looked like that was in vain.

She stood, "I have to go."

Alya grabbed her wrist. "No you don't. Let's just sit and talk this out."

Lila continued to twist the knife. "Yeah Marinette. Let's air our grievances like adults. We can be friends."

But Marinette frantically scooped her belongings into her bag, holding onto every shred of dignity that she could, while Lila continued to rip it away from her.

"Can't you see how your stubbornness is hurting your friends? You're causing a lot of unnecessary drama."

"Lila's right, you know. Acting like this is really hurtful to me." Said Alya, still full of sympathy.

She should have stayed silent, but her anguish spoke for her. "I've told you again and again that I don't like Lila because she's a liar. No one believes me, so there's no point in talking about it!" Her voice cracked at the end.

"Marinette, we know Lila has a condition that causes her to misremember information. That doesn't mean she's maliciously lying!"

Marinette shook with untapped rage. She was a ticking time bomb. "She is though. She threatened me. I warned her that her lies were going to catch up to her, and she said that she was going to war with me. To take my friends away from me!"

"How dare you!" Lila shouted, with a pathetic snivel.

She was overacting, to be honest.

"You did that to me! How dare you try to make me the villain?! I was willing to let it go, but apparently, you're worse than I believed!"

"Are you sure you aren't misremembering that too, Lila?" Marinette bit.

"I could never forget the attempt someone made on my life! You gave me nightmares! You threatened to kill me! All because I was talking to the boy you were in love with—no! Obsessed with!"


"That's awful!"

"Why would you do such a thing?!"

But Marinette didn't respond, knowing that it was futile, just shouldered her backpack, half empty coffee cup in hand.

Adrien, bless his heart, packed up with her. "I'll walk with you," he offered.

Eloquence was not on her side, nor was grace or kindness. All that was holding her together was the utter desire to get away. "Leave me alone!" She shouted, before leaving.

Or, attempting to leave. She was short on the step and slipped, thrusting her coffee cup forward and right onto Lila.

"Ow!" Lila cried, as the day-old lukewarm coffee hit her. "It burns!"

Marinette, who wasn't buying the pain, did feel guilt for spilling coffee. Because even if it wasn't hot, it still stained. "Oh my gosh, I'm so so sorry Lila! That was an accident! Let me run home, I'll get you a change of clothes!"

"You did that on purpose!" Lila sobbed, holding her arm. "I think it might be third degree! Ow!"

"Marinette, seriously? What's wrong with you? You're out of control girl!" Alya scolded. "We need to tell the principal about this!"

"What? No! That was a complete accident! But the coffee is from this morning, it shouldn't even be warm—"

"Come on Lila, let's go see the nurse!" Rose, ever vigilant and noble, grabbed the lying girl and escorted her out of the room.

Marinette stood there quaking. Stupid. Unfair. Cruel. Why had fate turned everything against her? Why was everything unraveling?

Why did she mess up with every step?

"Marinette—" Alya started.

Furious, and not quite herself, Marinette poured the rest of the coffee on the desk, on Alya's hand.


"She's a liar! She's always been a liar, and that's all she'll ever be!" Then she finally stalked out of the room.

Alya scoffed with a shake of her head. "God, bitterness is so ugly."

"I'm going after her." Adrien stated, making sure he had everything.

"Dude, leave it. Marinette's always upset these days. Don't worry about it. If what Lila says is true, we should just let her go. We should be more concerned about Lila."

Though Alya didn't quite share the sentiment as she touched the puddle of cold coffee on the desk. "Well...Lila might be being a little dramatic, or it could be shock. Either way, it's just another day of drama. Marinette just needs to calm down. Even if she did have a lapse of judgement, that doesn't mean we can't just let bygones be bygones."

Always upset these days? Was she really? How much of a friend to her was he if he had never noticed before?

Ignoring his other friends, Adrien left the classroom, hoping to catch up to her.

She was in the locker room, packing up her bag while she trembled and hiccuped.

"Marinette?" He asked.

"Please leave me alone." She whispered.

He frowned, coming closer. "I don't think I want to."

"I don't want you to see me like this."

"Like how?"

She shrugged her shoulders miserably. "Weak? Ugly? Pathetic? Take your pick!"

"What? Because you're crying? That's not weak at all. And you want to see an ugly crier? I'm an ugly crier."

"I highly doubt that." She whispered.

"No really! I get all snotty and hiccupy. When you cry...your eyes get all sparkly."

Adrien had seconds to brace himself as her lips trembled, before she started to sob.

"Hey..." he reached out for her, wrapping his arms around her slowly so she could pull away. But instead, she just returned the hug, burying her face in his shoulder.

He could feel her tears leaking through. Still, he just held her, rubbing her back gently.

Suddenly, a switch flipped and she shoved him away. "No! No I can't!"

"Marinette?" He asked, startled.

"It's not fair! I can't take comfort from you!"

"Sure you can!" He laughed incredulously. "I'm here for you, Marinette."

"It's not fair to Kagami!"

"Kagami? She'd want me to comfort my friend."

Marinette trembled. "No! It's more than that! You're with her and I can't cry on you because I don't want to hurt her because I'm in love with you and it's not fair to take advantage of you! It's not fair that you don't know that!"

His eyes blew wide. "You...what? Lila was telling the truth?"

Marinette made a horrible choking sound as she realized what she blurted. "No no no...no this can't be happening. I didn't, no I—I'm just a fan! I love you, like a friend! Like—like—!" She sobbed. "Ugh! I'm ruining everything! Everything is falling apart! Why am I so stupid?!"

Adrien grabbed her arm tightly, almost painfully. "Marinette, we need to go."

She looked up sharply, seeing that he wasn't looking at her.

He was looking at the black butterfly crawling through the edge of the window.

"No, you—you've got things to do. I'll go—"

He squeezed her tighter, "you're crazy if you think I'm leaving you alone."


"Come on!" He yanked her, pulling her out from the locker room and into the courtyard, where students were milling about. Including their classmates.

"Oh Marinette—" began Alya.

"Shut up!" Adrien retaliated.

"No!" Marinette dug her heels in as a purple light formed a mask over her face.

Adrien didn't let go. Couldn't let go. He didn't see where the Akuma had landed. Her bag? Her hair ties?

Marinette trembled. "I—I can't. I won't!"

Adrien turned to her, cupping her cheeks in his hands. "Marinette? Marinette listen to me. Look at me. You don't need him, okay? You're smart, and wonderful, and kind. He's not going to help you. He's lying to you. You hate liars, right?"

Marinette nodded mutely.

"Then tell him to piss off!"

"I can't—" she choked. "I can't be akumatized. I can't!"

"And you won't!" Adrien argued. "There's always a solution, no matter how bleak or overwhelming. And I will help you fix this!"

Marinette clenched her eyes shut, every muscle in her body coiled tight.

Then she whispered out, in a very even tone, "Hawkmoth, leave me alone."

The light disappeared, and the black butterfly flew away.

For a few moments, everyone was tense, still, and silent, the only sounds coming from Marinette as she stifled her cries. Adrien moved his hands from her face down to hold her hands.

Then she collapsed, and started wailing.

Powerful, horrible, heartbreaking wails. The wails of hopelessness, fear, and loneliness, bubbling and bursting out of her like a waterfall. On and on, she just screamed, not caring who heard or saw.

The crowd was at a cross between embarrassed and concerned. Some wanted to give her privacy, some wanted to just leave. Either way, everyone eventually trickled away. Her classmates leaving last.

Adrien crouched, sitting beside her. Close enough she could lean on him if need be, but far enough away for her to pretend she had privacy. But he kept his hand on the back of her neck, moving across her shoulders occasionally for support.

"Marinette," he moaned, once they were alone. "I know you must need to cry…but I can't bare to watch this…do you want to talk about it? What happened? This isn't just about what just happened in the classroom. Although that didn't help..."

"It's Lila!" She screamed. "And-And Alya! And you! And Master Fu! And Luka—And And—!" She wailed, her words turning into moans.

"Whoa whoa whoa what?"

She just wailed harder.

He exhaled slowly. "Okay, that's a lot to unpack…" He glanced around, taking note of the lack of people. Fencing started soon, but he was obviously skipping.

"Marinette? Don't you want to go to your house?" He asked softly.

"I don't know! I don't know what to do!"

"Hey, hey, let's breathe together. Okay?" At least she wasn't screaming anymore.

She hiccuped a few times, but finally took a deep breath along with Adrien.

"Okay." He said, smiling at her. "You're doing great. Now let's slowly talk things out. Once we know what we need to do, we can take care of your problems in little chunks."

"I can't tell you my problems!" She yelled, clenching her fists. "That's the whole problem! I can't tell anyone! Not my parents! Not my friends, not—" she cupped her hands over her mouth, holding back a sob.

"Oh Marinette..."

"No! No I can't do this anymore! I'm 15! I can't handle this kind of pressure! I've ruined all of it! Paris needs someone better, and I can't even handle my own problems let alone everything else demanded of me." She fumbled with her earrings, before slapping them down in his hand. "You take them! They're your responsibility now! I quit!"

A flash of pink took over the earrings as they went from the plain black stones she wore, to the flat gray stubs he saw as his stint as Mister Bug.

He choked.

His reaction snapped her out of her hysteria. "I shouldn't have done that! I should not have—!" She swiped the earrings back and put them back on with fumbling hands. "I need to go before anything else happens! I'm a walking disaster!"

"Hey, whoa whoa whoa, Marinette—"

"No, stop talking!" She snapped. "I'm sorry—I didn't mean to yell. I'm just—panicking."

"Yeah, I can see that." He sighed, and then took her hand in his. "Look, let's get out of here. We'll go to your house."

"But—But don't you—aren't you—will someone be looking for you?"

"I have fencing."

"I don't want you to be late!"

"Marinette! I'm skipping!"


"Yes! You're way more important to me then some stupid sport!"


He helped her to her feet. "I'll text Kagami so she can cover for me. Don't worry about it, Marinette."

"...I just don't want to burden you."

"You're not. I'm promise, you're not."

She gripped his sleeve. "You can't tell Kagami, or—or anyone. Please Adrien, I didn't mean to say it. It's not...not that I don't trust you. I'm just..." she sighed in frustration. She was so overwhelmed, words weren't coming the way she wanted them to.

"Marinette, I get it." He assured, taking hold of the hand gripping him. "You trusted me with the snake, even though I failed back then, I never breathed a word of it to anyone. I'm not going to say anything. See, I've already forgotten what you said."

She managed a watery giggle. "Thanks Adrien."

"Now come on. Let's go talk somewhere private."

Resigned, Marinette allowed Adrien to tug her along. On the front steps, students were milling around, having evacuated the courtyard. Adrien didn't say a word to anyone, while Marinette kept her eyes firmly on the ground.

Once they were away from the school, Tikki peered out of the bag, taking note of the fat tears rolling down Marinette's cheeks. She was spiraling again, assuming the worst.

But Chat Noir was here, and they'd work everything out.

In the bakery, however, things reached a fever pitch as Lila, still wet with coffee, stood at the counter, talking to Sabine.

The conversation halted as the little bell above the door chimed.

Lila just looked at them and smirked, her face turned away from Sabine.

"Thank you for telling me, young lady. I'll handle everything." The woman said, edge in her voice.

Lila nodded pitifully and walked passed them to the door.

As she passed Adrien, she whispered, "I'm going to your father next." And then left without a rebuttal.

Marinette looked at him, wide-eyed and horrified. "Did she just—?"

"Adrien," Sabine said sternly. "Thank you for escorting Marinette home. But I have to ask you to leave. I need a word with my daughter."

Adrien panicked for a moment, not sure how to navigate this situation. He never talked back to authority figures.

Well, not as Adrien. But his Lady was in danger, so Adrien was going to sit this one out, and let his Chat Noir persona deal with it. He held up a hand. "Mrs. Cheng. I don't know what Lila just told you, and frankly, I don't want to know." His tone was stern and demanding, one he adopted from his father in the most cutthroat situations. It was scary, to Sabine and Marinette. "Lila Rossi is a liar and has been harassing Marinette for a while now. She's the one responsible for her expulsion, and lying to get it reversed as well. I've spent the last—" he took out his phone to look at the time. God. "I've spent the last hour holding Marinette while she cried. That gave Lila plenty of time to come here and do damage."

Sabine just stared between him and Marinette. "Marinette, is this true?"

She could only sniff and nod.

"Madam Cheng?" He said, a little softer. "My father doesn't trust me. I never did anything to warrant that treatment, but he doesn't. It hurts that I don't have an adult I can turn to when I need help. Don't be like that to Marinette."

Sabine gasped a little. It was harsh, of course, but seein0g Marinette—his lady—so broken was stirring up some ugly emotions in him.

"I'm not leaving." He told her. "Marinette needs me."

"Of course dear. Thank you so much. I found it hard to believe that Marinette would become violent with anyone, but after that ridiculous expulsion, I didn't know what to believe. I'm not at school, I know Marinette, but—" she shook her head.

"I tripped." Marinette whispered. "The coffee was cold. It was an accident."

"Now that, I believe," Sabine hummed fondly. "Madam Rossi probably deserves a phone call. Why don't you two go up to her room? I'll bring up some tea in a bit."

Adrien massively sighed. "Thank you Madam Cheng. And...sorry for being rude."

"You were stern. It was important." She walked over and hugged her daughter, petting her hair. "Marinette, I'm so sorry for making you feel like you couldn't talk to me about this. I trust you, both of us do." She kissed her head. "Don't be afraid to ask for help every once in a while, okay?"

Marinette could only nod against her.

"I'll let you two go. When you're calmer, you can tell me what happened, if you want. Either way, I'll disregard what that girl said."

"Thank you, Maman." Marinette whispered.

"Of course baby." She kissed her forehead tenderly.

Then Adrien took Marinette's hand again and pulled her away upstairs.

Once in her room, Marinette sat on her chaise, pulling her legs up to her chest. She was silent.

Adrien grabbed a blanket from her bed, and wrapped it around her shoulders, then sat by her side and pulled her to lean against him.

"Whenever you're ready to talk, I'm here to listen."

She whimpered. "I'm scared."

"Of what?"

"...of saying something I'm not supposed to. I wasn't supposed to tell you about...any of that. It just all came out."

"Sounds like you've been bottling yourself up. That's not healthy, Marinette."

She pushed away from him, standing, her back to him. "I'm sorry, Adrien. I really appreciate you being here with me, but...it's just too dangerous. And, like I said, it's not fair to Kagami."

Adrien huffed, his bangs fluttering over his forehead. "Marinette...I'm just trying to help."

"And I appreciate that, but I can handle it." Then quietly, more to herself. "I have to handle it."

Swallowing a growl, he looked at his stubborn lady. "What about Chat Noir?"

She hunched her shoulders. "What about him?"

"Have you talked this out with him? Does he know you're struggling?" He knew the answer, but he was curious to what she would say. Would she lie?

Her hiccups and sniffles weren't exactly what he was expecting, but it wasn't surprising. "He's already so disappointed with me!"

"What?" He stood too, whirling to face her. "What are you talking about?"

"It was written all over his face during the last fight! He knows I gave away my mentor's identity! I'm the reason Chloé got upset! And I keep stringing him along!" She sobbed. "He had to do everything in that last fight! I couldn't plan, or think or—or do anything! And he hasn't talked to me since!"

Adrien's warm hands landed on her shoulders. "Marinette, Ladybug, you know that's not true right? Chat's your partner. He'd never be disappointed in you!"

"How do you know?"

He shrugged. It wasn't the right time to reveal himself. She was already dealing with so much. Surely revealing himself would cause another spiral. "I just do."

She shook her head in disbelief.

He pulled her back down to the chaise to sit, and rested a warm hand on her back. Then he eased her over to lean against his shoulder again.

"I won't say a thing. I'm not Adrien, I'm not anyone. Just a pillow with ears. Why don't you talk it all out. And once you're done, I'll stuff this day far into the back reaches of my mind where no one will find it. All your secrets are safe with me."

Marinette started to relax against him, despite the absolute panic of being close to her crush. He was warm, and his arms held her securely. She felt safe.

Tikki made her appearance, coming out of Marinette's bag that had been set on her desk. "Marinette?"

Marinette only looked back at her, ashamed and embarrassed.

"It's alright. You can trust Adrien," is what she said. Not, "you've failed and I hate you. How dare you!" There was no judgement, no reprimanding. Just comfort.

She wanted to cry again, but Adrien petted her head, a soothing rhythm.

With a shuddering breath, she began, "Lila's been threatening me. I knew she was lying because I'm Ladybug. I didn't like that she was using my name to get close to you. I saw her getting away with all these other lies too because no one bothered to fact check her. It was frustrating that every time I urged Alya to listen, she wrote me off as jealous. I'm not jealous of her. I have no reason to be. But because I have a...crippling crush on you—" she bit her lip.

Adrien gave no reaction.

She continued, "—I was automatically deemed jealous because she was talking to you. Lila confronted me in the bathroom, fake concerned about my well being when I was moved to the back of the classroom. But when I told her I knew she was lying, and that everyone would figure her out, she threatened me. She said she was going to make me her enemy, that my friends would leave me behind and you'd—you'd be with her. I tried to ignore it, and take the high road like you suggested, but..."

"Did you tell anyone she threatened you?"



"I was so scared Alya would treat it like every other thing I said to her about Lila. She'd pass it off as jealousy. She's supposed to be my best friend but she doesn't believe me!"

"Forget about Alya then. If she doesn't believe you, then that's her fault. You've got nothing to prove. What about anyone else?"

Marinette shuttered. "I thought...no one would believe me."

"Even me?"

She pushed away from him, hugging herself, the guilt starting to creep back in. "I can barely talk to you...how was I supposed to tell you I was being threatened?"

"That's fair, I guess. I just...I could have helped you."

She was quiet, hugging her arms to her chest. "I...didn't think about it. It was my problem to deal with. And I'm not great at asking for help. I'm sorry."

"Aw, you don't need to apologize for that Marinette. You didn't do anything wrong. Lila's the one with the stick up her ass."

Marinette giggled. She had never heard Adrien swear before.

Suddenly, Adrien's phone rang, interrupting the conversation. He sighed heavily. "Gee, I wonder who that could be." He took it out, and saw Nathalie's name. "I'm sorry, I have to take this. Then you can have my full attention."

She highly doubted that, but nodded him on.

He answered, "hi Nathalie."

"Adrien, your father wants you home immediately. Considering that you answered, I'm assuming that you're not in practice anymore...or maybe you never went."

Adrien swallowed, but realized there was no point in arguing. Not with her at least. "Put my father on, please."

"You can talk to him when you come home."

"This is urgent, Nathalie, give the phone to my father." He couldn't keep the bite out of his tone, but allowed his protectiveness to take the reins, filling him with adrenaline.

"One moment."

The phone went quiet before Gabriel's voice cut in, "Adrien, I want you home. Now. You are in danger with that girl—"

"Do you trust me?"

Gabriel sighed, "I'd trust you more if you did as I asked."

"No, father, I need to know if you will listen to me and believe me when I have something important to tell you."

"Yes yes," he said, and Adrien could imagine him flipping his hand. "What is it, Adrien? What is so important?"

"Lila Rossi has been sexually harassing me." He blurted. Not the argument he was planning on making, but one that might make his father listen to him.

Gabriel paused before asking, "what?" All anger in his voice had evaporated, which was new.

"She touches me without my permission. And she threatens any other girls that get close to me. I don't know what she told you about Marinette, but she's been threatening her for a while. Marinette had a break down at school. I'm trying to comfort her."

A pair of slender arms wrapped around his waist from behind in a gentle hug. She rested her cheek against his spine. Adrien rested a hand over hers, appreciating the comfort.

For once, Gabriel didn't respond. Adrien took that as a cue to keep going.

"I don't feel safe around Lila. She lies to people to get her way. She got Marinette expelled almost effortlessly. I'm scared that she'll do something like that to me. To us. What's stopping her from accusing me of sexual harassment or worse?" He swallowed. "Please don't make me model with her anymore."

Gabriel continued to be silent, and Adrien took it as quiet contemplation.

Finally, Gabriel responded. "You're concerns are valid. You make very good points. Thank you for bringing this to my attention."

Adrien exhaled in a whoosh.

"I will be working through dinner, so you may stay with the Dupain-Chengs if they'll have you. Just be home by 8. I'd like to talk with you more about this then."

"Thank you, Father."

"Thank you for being honest with me, son." And he hung up.

Adrien took a shaky breath as Marinette pulled away from him. "Sorry for the hug, I know you were just talking about being sexually harassed—I just know that was a hard conversation to have and—"

"Marinette." He stopped her, holding her hand. "It's more than okay. You can hug me whenever you like. I don't mind."

"You sure?"

"Absolutely." He smiled. "Your hugs, whether intentional or not, are nice."

She blushed.

"I-I mean...Lila and Chloe hang on me, or clamp down like...like a pair of handcuffs. You hold me. Sure, but gentle enough I can pull away. It's nice."

Still blushing, and unable to look him in the eye, she hugged him again, hiding her face in his chest.

He gathered her close, savoring her touch. He had found her. Finally. Of course, it was in a horrible way, and she didn't know who he was. But he found her, and he still loved her without the mask. That's more than he ever could have asked for.

"Your hugs are really nice too." She mumbled into his shirt.

He snickered, imagining her reaction if he was Chat. He couldn't help but think it would be a little different. "Alright," he pulled away slightly. "My problems are on hold. Let's get back to you. Let's get back to what caused you to cry in class. What got you so suddenly upset? Because you started crying before Lila blurted out all that stuff. Was it Lila making another bogus offer?"

She shook her head. "No...it's stupid."

"It's obviously not stupid if it made you cry."

She sighed, but didn't pull away this time. Her walls began to crumble, since he was Adrien and he was so kind.

"It wasn't Lila. It was actually Nino."

"Nino? Really? What did he do? Do you need me to kick his butt?"

She smiled softly. "No, he didn't do it on purpose. I think it was supposed to be a compliment..."

"And that was...?"

"He said that it was nice to have me around when things fail because I always have the solution." Her eyes watered as she spoke.

"Oh. Hmm. I guess I don't really see why that would have bothered you? I mean, you are really smart and clever, and quick too! You always know what to do."

"But I don't!" She threw her arms in the air and began to pace. "That's just it! I can come up with problem solvers when facing an Akuma! And occasionally I have good ideas for dealing with school problems! But right now? I don't know what the heck I'm doing!" She shouted, a few tears leaking out. "My mentor is gone, and it's my fault! I gave away his identity to Hawkmoth and he in turn gave up his memories to protect me and Chat! Now I'm the guardian of the Miraculous and I'm only 15! So not only do I have to deal with that big mess, but I have to deal with balancing being a full time student and superhero without letting anyone catch onto what's happening, which requires a lot of lying, which I hate doing! And now with Lila making these bogus claims and no one listening to me, I'm left scrambling to pick up the mess she makes because I'm the class representative and I'm terrified of disappointing my friends more! I'm already on thin ice with the class and being a social outcast might just break me! So I have to put aside my own problems to deal with Paris and my fickle classmates. I just keep watching you grow farther away, and Chat become more and more disappointed and heartbroken, and Luka become more impatient and I don't even have the emotional energy to decide which one hurts me more!" She outright sobbed.

"Marinette..." Adrien breathed, not able to say much else.

"Just for once, I want my problems to just—solve themselves. Because I'm so tired and I'm so scared! I messed up so badly today—what about tomorrow? What if my next break down is in front of Hawkmoth?"

Adrien stood slowly, approaching her like a wild animal. "Hey...if it's any consolation, you are completely justified in having this break down. This is an unbelievable amount of stress you have. I'm surprised you didn't crack earlier."

"I did. Right before Miracle Queen. Luka found me then. I felt awful for crying on him, because I know he cares about me...but I just don't feel the same. I like him, I really do, but I can't—" she shook her head. "I'm just leading him on at this point. I'm so terrible."

"I know exactly how you feel."

She looked up at him, seeing the sympathy in his eyes. He looked miserable.

"That's exactly how I feel about Kagami."

Marinette wiped the tears from her cheek. "What?"

"She said that my indecision hurt her, which I get but...I can't just stop loving—" he turned red, and turned his face away, "sorry, we're focusing on your problems. Not mine."

"No, don't. Adrien, who are you in love with, if not Kagami?"

The desperation in her voice forced him to look at her. He felt extremely embarrassed and guilty. All this time, he declared he'd know her anywhere, and yet how was he supposed to explain that he looked right passed her?

"Um..." he said smartly.


"It's...you. I'm in love with you."

She choked, her face turning red. "You...are? But I thought..."

"Ladybug, you. To be more precise. But now that I know who you are, the feelings are the same. Or possibly even stronger. Just so you know. It's not just some silly celebrity thing."

She opened her mouth, preparing to speak, but the words were stuck, her throat dry.

"Marinette..." he took her hands gently. "You are amazing, brave, smart, and kind. You're my hero, and while you are going through some really hard stuff right now, you have something that Lila and Hawkmoth don't."

"A life?"

He chuckled, "well, yes. But I was going to say integrity."


"Yeah. Willingness to help others even when you have bad days. Doing your best to keep promises. Being someone dependable, honest, and selfless. It might be exhausting, but in the end, you'll be still standing when everyone else's messes fall down around you."

Her shoulders sagged as she let out a whoosh of air. "That's really sweet, Adrien. But..." she hugged herself. "You told me it didn't matter as long as you and I knew the truth. That I should take the high road and her lies would catch up to her. Well, I almost got expelled, so it obviously isn't working."

"Right, yes. And I'm sorry," he clarified. "When I gave you that advice the first time, I didn't know she threatened you. I thought it just bothered you that she was lying in general. I'm not saying you have to lay down like a dog anymore, I'm just saying that you have an advantage on her. And your character is your foundation. If you were a terrible person, and she was lying about you, there would be no reason for anyone to doubt her. But because you are so amazing, someone's going to notice. And if they don't, that's not your fault. I will help you come up with a way to solve this problem, I promise."

She sighed again, this time in relief. "Thank you Adrien. That means a lot."

"Now," he began, starting to pace himself. "I'm not sure what I can do to help you with the Miraculous. Given that I was a terrible temporary holder, and I'm not even supposed to know about this—"

"You don't need to help me there." She sighed, but in a gentle way, that sounded relaxed and okay. "If we can get the Lila situation under control, I think I'll be able to handle guardianship a lot more."

"What about Chat? Can he take some responsibilities?"

She groaned. "That's another one of my problems. He's so..."

Adrien held his breath, ready to take whatever terrible trait she had honed in on.

"...so wonderful."

Huh. Not expected, but not unwelcomed!

"He's goofy, and impatient, and goes overboard sometimes, but he has such a good heart and encourages me. So during that last fight...it broke me to see him step up and take control while I just spiraled."

"You're a team though. He should be able to take control when you're unable to."

"I know, but it shouldn't be when I'm having an existential crisis! Just when I'm hurt or sick—"

"I'm sure Chat didn't mind stepping up."

"How do you know?"

"I mean, I've seen the way he looks at you."

Marinette groaned again. "And there again! If I keep rejecting him, he's just going to get more and more heartbroken, and then he's going to resent me! And I hate that! I don't want to be the cause of that!"

Adrien paled. Honestly, he was trying to move on with Kagami. He wasn't going to let heartbreak turn to resentment. Especially not towards her, who he still adored. That was yesterday's problem though, things were looking pretty optimistic in the love department now. Though they hadn't gotten that far yet.

"Marinette, I think if that does happen, it wouldn't be your fault. I think...Chat should be mature enough to respect your wishes."

"He has his moments." She breathed. "Did you know I almost gave up being Ladybug right at the beginning?"

"What?! No way!"

"Yes! But Chat encouraged me. Alya was in danger and that prompted me to put the earrings back on, but Chat actually talked me into being a hero. In my darkest moments, I wonder 'what would Chat say?' Sometimes the answer is stupid, but it makes me laugh. And then I hear his encouragement."

"You care a lot about Chat, don't you?"

"I love him. He's my best friend and the best partner I could ask for."

Adrien's lovesick grin was probably not the best reaction to her praise of someone else. He shook himself into a more relaxed and normal expression. "Have you guys talked at all since then?"

"No. I have no idea what to say to him." She plopped down in one of her computer chairs and leaned her head back. "I wish I knew Chinese!"

"What?" Adrien asked at the sudden change in conversation.

"Don't get me wrong, I know some. But not enough to get me by. My mom offered to teach me some when I was younger, but I was being stubborn and now I regret it! I've been trying to learn more since I started training, but I can't ask my mom for specific phrases, and free apps only get me so far!"

"Why do you need to know Chinese?"

Marinette took a deep breath, and looked at Tikki.

"I mean, he already knows this much, might as well keep going."

She exhaled. "Alright. The miraculous come with...a manual, of sorts. But it's all in code. Some of that code is in Chinese, either Mandarin or something else...maybe even ancient Chinese. I don't know. But I figure being able to read it would help me figure it out."

"Uh...wasn't there a temple or something in Tibet that came back? Could you use the Teleportation miraculous to get there?"

Marinette stared at him, wide-eyed. "You...you're on to something there! Oh but that doesn't fix my Chinese problem! I know how to say 'please', 'thank you', 'good morning' and stuff but not 'hello, I'm the new Miraculous Guardian in Paris and I don't know how to read the book. Can you teach me?'"

"Hello, I'm the new Miracle Stone Guardian in Paris and I don't know how to read the book. Can you teach me?" Adrien said in Mandarin. "At least I think that's what it is. I said 'Miracle Stone' instead of Miraculous, because I think that's a better translation—"

"Adrien!" Marinette grabbed his face with both hands, squishing his cheeks together. "You speak Mandarin!"

"Yes? Isn't that what you were getting to? Asking me to be your translator?"

"I didn't—we couldn't—"

"Because I'm not supposed to know?" He asked delicately.

Marinette didn't answer.

"Or because you believe you have to do this on your own?"

She groaned again. "Are you like a mind reader or something?"

He rested a hand on her shoulders and rubbed back and forth. "One of my many talents."

"But, yes. That is what I'm worried about. I don't want to get you too involved. I should at least talk to Chat about it."

"Yeah, I think you should just be honest with him. Just tell him everything."

"I can't tell him everything, it would compromise my identity!"

"Um, just out of curiosity…why don't you two know who the other is?"

"It was a safety measure, in case either one of us got akumatized, or under the control of an akuma. Our master was very strict about it."

"But, you're the guardian now. Isn't it better to know each other? What if something happens to the other? There's no one that would know who the other is."

Marinette exhaled. "I've been thinking about that too. I just…I don't know."

"Okay. Well, I think you should let him in at least a little more. Just talk to him. He should at least know where your head is at."

"Okay. I'll start there."

Adrien's phone buzzed with a text. "Oh, who is it this time?"

Kagami: Where are you?

"Oh whoops! I needed Kagami to cover for me."

Adrien: I'm with Marinette. There's some class drama going on right now. Can you cover for me?

Kagami: Sure! Tell her she's got me on her side. (Even though I'm not sure what's going on.)

Kagami: Are you doing anything this weekend? I'd love to get Ice Cream with you! 3

Adrien winced, as he read the newest text.

"Is something wrong?"

"Um, just trying to figure out how to interpret this text. I think Kagami is asking me out."

Her heart sunk. "Well, um…are you going to go?"

"Not if it's a date."

Adrien: As friends?

The little dots popped up, indicating that she was typing.

Kagami: I already told you that your indecision hurts me. Are we a couple or not? Please don't waste my time.

"Woof. It's like everyone is falling apart today."

"What's wrong? Can I help?"

Adrien smiled at her. "Not to be a complete hypocrite, but I have to handle this on my own. Should I just be blunt and honest?"

"Quite honestly, that seems like Kagami's language."

Adrien: I really care about you Kagami, and your friendship is very important to me. I don't want to lose you. But I can't be in a relationship with you. I'm very much in love with Marinette, and I just found out she feels the same. But I can't be with her right now because of…extenuating circumstances. I wouldn't be fair to you to be with you while I wait until things clear up for her. You deserve to be happy, and I don't think I can be that person for you. I'm sorry.

"Adrien? Is everything okay?"

"I…I think I'm doing the right thing."

Kagami: Thank you for your honesty. I wish you had told me sooner. We will remain friends, but I need some time. Tell Marinette I said hi and that I hope she feels better.

Adrien didn't know how to respond to this very professional reply, so he just didn't. He had heard you weren't supposed to break up over text, but they weren't exactly dating in the first place. More than likely, this conversation would be continued in person. Or she'd never talk to him again.

Instead, he noticed he had another unread text.

Nino: Did you take Marinette home? Is she okay?

Adrien gnawed at his lip. "Are you okay if I tell Nino kind of what the truth is? Besides your identity?"

Marinette shrugged. "If you can convince him, be my guest." And she took a seat at her desk, pulling out some homework.

Adrien sat in the chair nearby, tapping out an honest reply.

Adrien: I took her home, still with her. She's not great.

Nino: Alya said that Lila went to tell her mom about what happened. Please tell me she didn't.

Adrien: She so did.

Nino: Ugghghhhgghhh We told her not to, especially since Alya confirmed that the coffee was cold. Ngl that whole thing at the end was super dramatic

Adrien: Of course. She's an attention hog, and she demands it however she can get it. That includes lying out of her nose.

Nino: Lowkey bro, I haven't been believing Lila's stories for a while. I've been going along with it because she's nice and Alya's really good friends with her, but today was too much. It was not her place to out Marinette's crush, especially in front of you. That was dirty

Adrien: Wait really? What made you start doubting her?

Nino: When she could never come through with any of her promises. A few times, sure, celebrities are busy, but every single time she said she'd pull a string, it would fall through. Chloe is more reliable than her. Why do you think I asked Marinette for help first?

Adrien: Boy I'm glad to hear you say that! Marinette's feeling really overwhelmed because she has to pick up all the plans that Lila ruins.

Nino: Why? It's not her fault. I love Marinette, but she's got to stop catering to people.

Adrien: Dude…don't get mad, but that's kind of what tipped her over this afternoon. You said something like 'she always has a solution'. She feels like everyone is depending on her to make things right.

Nino: Aw dude you're so right! I noticed she started crying when I said that! I just didn't get why! Aww man!

Adrien: I don't think she minded helping people, but being asked to help and being expected to help are two totally different things

Nino: For sure dude.

Adrien: You trust me right?

Nino: Yeah dude! You're my dog bro!

Adrien: Then know what I'm about to tell you is the absolute truth. Lila isn't just lying for attention. She's lying maliciously to hurt Marinette on purpose. And not only is she not friends with Ladybug, she HATES her. Chat Noir himself told me that she faked an injury to get him out of a fight and leave Ladybug alone with an akuma. When I told her she didn't need to lie to make friends, she turned straight up evil. Marinette got on her bad side because she told her to knock it off. She lied about Marinette pushing her down the stairs, and all the other stuff that got her expelled. The only reason Marinette was allowed back at school was because I sorta blackmailed Lila. That's when she made up that ridiculous lie about having a lying disorder.

Adrien's phone laid on the desk for a moment, Nino's contact completely silent.

Nino: Dude.

Nino: I gotta find Alya.

Nino: Stay with Mari.

"Okay. So, I think I won Nino over." Adrien said with a relieved smirk.

Just then, Marinette's phone buzzed. She had ignored it since coming home, knowing that there would be a plethora of foul messages from classmates. But she spared the screen a glance. "He just texted me. 'Dude, I'm so so so so so so so so sorry that what I said hurt you. I only meant that you are extremely smart and clever and reliable. I never wanted to take advantage of you, but it's nice to have someone in your corner, who you can trust and knows will be honest with you. You're real, and I'm stopping communication with Lila now. What she did was not cool. Sorry this went on for so long. I'm talking to Alya now. Might take a while to wear her down. You know how she is. But she loves you, so she'll see the light'."

"Aw. Nino's so cool."

Her phone buzzed again. She blushed at the message, and turned it face down.

"What was that?"

"He said 'behave' and then a winky face."

"Ha! I love Nino. It makes sense why you chose him to be Carapace."

"You know about that?"

"Yeah, I know who all of the others are now. Except Chat Noir, but I have my suspicions."

"Oh yeah, who do you suspect?"

"You know the performer XY?"

Marinette gagged. "No. Way. My Chat is way more handsome, kind, and talented than that pompous asshat!"

Adrien guffawed, and when he collected himself, he giggled out, "Handsome, huh?"

"Of course he's handsome! But don't you dare tell him I said that!"

"Your secret is safe with me." He took on a more serious tone. "All of them are, you know? I promised I'd stuff this day in the back of my mind so no one will know."

"Actually," she gave a contented sigh. "It's nice that someone knows. It's nice that you know."

"But we didn't actually solve any of your problems."

"Well, no. But we have a solid foundation to work on. I feel a lot more optimistic about being the guardian and dealing with Lila. I think the rest will fall into place when I have less on my plate."

"And I'll help you with Lila. Again, I'm sorry for my useless advice earlier."

She rested a hand on his shoulder. "Adrien, it was helpful advice for what you assumed was going on."

"I really tried, you know. She weaseled her way into my photo shoots, and I told her I wouldn't boot her as long as she left you alone. And she hasn't. So the deal is off."

"You did that for me?"

"Of course!"

"Even without knowing that I'm...?"

"Yes! Marinette! You were always a very precious friend to me. The first that I really felt like I earned on my own. It really sucked to see you hurting, and I wanted to do whatever I could to protect you."

Tears sprang to her eyes, but in a hopeful way this time. She threw her arms around him and squeezed. "You're the best."

He hugged her back, squeezing her tightly. "I try." He glanced at his phone. "Looks like we got some time before I have to leave. Did you want me to look at that book? Or do you want to just play video games?"

"Honestly, video games sound awesome. Let me just go tell my mom you're staying for dinner."


After she left, Plagg appeared. "You doing okay kid? Your heart is just a hum for how hard it's beating."

"I'm fine, just...I guess still processing everything? No wonder she feels so overwhelmed."

"I'd like to think that by confiding in you, she's feeling a little better."

"I hope. I know how particular she is about her identity. She might still be uncomfortable."

"Are you going to tell her who you are?"

"Not just yet. On one hand, she might feel better knowing it's not some random person who knows who she is, but on the other hand, that's a whole other can of worms and just one more thing to worry about."

"Yeah. But you're also not a stranger to her. You're a good friend and the boy she's in love with."

"Yeah…Marinette's…Ladybug. And she's in love with me…"


That was all the warning Plagg got before Adrien straight up passed out on the floor.

Marinette rushed back upstairs when she heard the thump. And thankfully Plagg heard her steps so that he could hide.


The dizzy spell only lasted a few seconds, as he groggily blinked back to awareness.

"Are you alright? Do you need water? Food?"

"Yes to all the above." He stated with a lopsided smile. "Sorry, I didn't mean to scare you. I just...I think my brain finally processed who you were and I just got really light headed."

"You didn't hurt yourself, did you?"

"No, I'm fine. Thanks Mari."

She blushed.

"Is that okay? Can I call you that?"

"You can call me anything."

"Okay boo boo bear." He grinned.

She started giggling. "Oh no! Not disgusting pet names!"

"Snookie wookums?"


"Sweetie Mari pie?"


"My most ardent desire, love of my life?"

She calmed down her giggles. "That one's pretty good, only if you say the whole thing every time."

He smiled warmly at her. "Actually, I think I have the perfect name for you. But I'll drop it on you when you least expect it."

"Whatever you say...Blondie."

"That's the best you got?"

"I'll think on it. I'll get one that just melts your heart."

There was a knock on the trap door. "Marinette?" Asked Sabine.

Marinette opened the door, and helped her mom with the tray of snacks and tea.

"Here you go. Plenty of feel good snacks to help a wounded heart."

"Thanks Maman." Marinette said earnestly.

"Now, I want you to know, I got in contact with Lila's mother." She sighed. "I'm so sorry honey, but she's right up in Lila's lies. She didn't even believe me when I said Adrien had come over to clarify everything. Apparently, he's dating Lila. There's no way he would defend her bully." Sabine gave them a flat look.

"Me? Date Lila? I'd sooner date a rancid garbage bag. And kiss it too!"

"Well, and least the garbage bag would never lie to you." Marinette smiled.

"So, want do you want me to do?" Asked Sabine. "Stay out of this? Call the principle? Call a lawyer?"

"No mom," Marinette said with an accepting sigh. "I think we'll handle her."

"Don't do anything dangerous." She warned. "I know you're not a bad kid. But don't stoop to her level."

"Don't worry. I intend to handle it with grace and dignity."

"Dignity I can see. Grace? Just do your best."

"Gee thanks."

"Just let me know if you need anything. Talking to her mother didn't work, but if we can a parent teacher conference..."

"That's not a bad idea," said Marinette. "But let me try a little longer. Adrien knows a little more about the situation, and so does Nino."

"Okay baby." Sabine smiled. "I'm proud of you. And I love you. You too, Adrien. I'm proud of you for coming here and making things right."

He blushed. "Thank you Madam Cheng."

"Alright, I'll leave you kids alone. I'll call for dinner."

"Thanks mom!"

The video games were a great distraction from all the stress and revelations the day had brought. Smack talk, praise, puns, and even overt flirting.

"What's wrong, Ladybug? Having trouble in a digital battle?"

"Oh you wish! I've fought in one of these for real!"

"Oh you lie! You think you can just tell me you did anything as Ladybug and I'll believe it!"

"I mean, I can. You can't prove I didn't."

"Yes I can, you're sucking at this!"

"Oh but that's just a part of my plan!" In a super mega ultra combo, Adrien's health bar went from three quarters full, to only one hp left.

"Nonononono!" He cried, mashing the block button.

It didn't matter.

"Victory, thy name is sweet."

"Guhhhh," Adrien moaned as he flexed his sore hand. "And not a single victory for me."

"You'll get there some day."

"When you go easy on me..."

"No promises there, handsome boy."

He grinned at her.

From downstairs, Sabine called, "Adrien! Your bodyguard is here!"

"Wow, is it 8 o'clock already?"

The clock read 7:45.

"You know what they say, time flies when you're having fun."

He smiled softly at her. "And with you, every minute is an absolute blast."

She blushed.

"Look, Marinette..." he trailed off, scratching the back of his head. "I...I want to be more than just a friend. I really...I love you. Truly."


He winced. "A temporary but. I have a few loose ends I need to tie up before I ask you out, properly. I need to talk to my father, and I'd like to make sure Kagami's okay. And I should probably mention it to Chloé."

"Okay. That makes sense."

"I just don't want anything to ruin us before we even start, you know?"

"Of course. I understand completely."

He sighed in relief. "Thank you. And um...I'll leave you with this, so you know I'm serious."

"Leave me with what?"

He swooped in, pressing the sweetest, warmest, lovely kiss of them all on her lips. It only lasted a few seconds, just to leave them both pining for more.

"I'll see you tomorrow?" He asked as they parted.

She didn't have the words, as she only dumbly nodded back.

With his award winning smile, he pressed a tiny peck to her nose and then danced away before she could compose herself.

After he left, she sank to the floor.

"Wow! Looks like talking out your problems with someone really did help!" Said Tikki.

"Uh huh..."

"You okay?"

"Adrien...kissed me."

"He sure did! That was really cute!"

"I love him...I'm going to marry him."

"Okay, maybe slow down..."

"Don't crush my dreams Tikki!"

At home, Adrien arrived 5 minutes before 8. But his father was still waiting outside his office.

"Welcome home, Adrien. Did you enjoy dinner with Marinette and her family?"

It was certainly nice to receive a warm welcome! "Yeah! Her mom made this soup that was really good, and we had fresh bakery bread!"

"Sounds lovely." Gabriel stayed with a pleasant tone. "If you aren't busy, I should like to finish our earlier conversation."

"No. I mean, no I'm not busy! We can talk!"

Gabriel nodded and beckoned him into his office. They sat across from each other in chairs.

"I want to thank you for being so frank about the situation with Miss Rossi. I'll admit, I was impressed with her quick wit and ability to fabricate stories—"

"Wait." Adrien held up a hand. "You know she was lying?"

"Of course. I'm not an idiot. Her lies were obvious, but to the unpracticed ear, they'd go unnoticed. She seemed earnest enough when she told me she cared about you, and so I...had her keep an eye on you."

Adrien felt his skin crawl. "She...spied on me?"

"Hmm. Spied is a little strong of a word. Just reported back to me the goings on of your classmates."

"I mean," Adrien began, sheepishly. "If you wanted to know, you could have just asked. I would have told you."

"I should have. I see that now. Lila was obviously abusing my trust and taking advantage of you. She probably assumed she could get away with anything as long as she reported everything else."

Adrien wiped his sweaty palms on his pants. He desperately needed a shower after this conversation.

"I feel kind of violated."

"I understand. Lila had no business to touch you without your consent."

"No, I mean, yes, that was very violating, but I meant, your spying on me. I thought you trusted me?"

"I do. Adrien, I do. Lila told me you were being manipulated by unsavory types. I now know that she was talking about herself. What you said about her lying to get Miss Dupain Cheng in trouble really hit me. We will be dropping her as a model, and I'll be speaking with my lawyer in case she decides to turn her silver tongue on us."

Adrien sighed in relief. "Thank you father."

"You know if someone ever touches you in a way you don't like, you're allowed to say no. Right?"

"I...yes. I guess."

"You guess?"

"Well, I just...it happens all the time. Models and stuff. Lila was just doing it off set too."

Gabriel frowned in thought. "Does modeling make you uncomfortable?"

"No. Not really. Just...some of the times in like, couple shoots?"

"I see. I'll look into getting you more solo sessions."

This conversation was going a lot better than he expected. His father had certainly lowered Adrien's expectations, but at least he was admitting allowing a teenager to spy on him was a bad idea.


"Now, about Miss Dupain Cheng."

Adrien winced.

"What's your...relationship, currently?"

"Right this minute, we're still just friends. But very soon, I hope to be dating her."

"Mmmm. You're still very young, Adrien."

"I know. But too young to love?"

His father gave a little chuckle. "You are so much like your mother. I suppose it would be hypocritical of me to prevent you from dating, since I dated at your age as well. Marinette has certainly proved to be an upstanding girl. Her family name is well known and respected, even in elite circles. If you wish to date her, you have my blessing."


"But I would like to have dinner with her and her family, once you do ask."

"Yes father, of course. Thank you!"

Today wasn't so bad after all. Of course, it hurt to see his lady in so much pain, but he had been able to bring her so much happiness! And now this!

"There's one more thing I wanted to talk about." Gabriel took a very serious tone.


"Do you trust me?"

"I—yes! Yes of course father."

"Good. Because I need to show you something. Something I should have shown you a long time ago." He stood, and walked to the painting of Emilie behind his desk.