"My Lady, do you remember Marinette? You gave her the Mouse Miraculous once?"
Ladybug stiffened a bit at the mention of her civilian identity. "Y-yeah, I do. What about her?"
"I've...been visiting her a lot lately. As my superhero self. I know that's dangerous but…" Chat trailed off, his shoulders hunched slightly as if preparing himself for a scolding.
Yeah, I know that, you dumb cat. You're visiting me.
"Well, it is really dangerous but I trust you. Just be careful about when you visit her. If Hawk Moth finds out, it won't be good for her." Ladybug watched the tension in his shoulders relax just a bit and it seemed like he let out a breath he was holding.
"Of course, my Lady. I would never want to put Marinette in any danger." It seemed like he had more to say but was holding back on letting it out.
"Is that all you wanted to tell me?" She intentionally phrased her question like that to give him room to back out if he didn't want to talk about whatever else he wanted to say.
Chat went quiet for quite a bit longer than was normal for him. He seemed to be either gathering his thoughts or gathering his courage. Had something happened? It seemed like it had something to do with her civilian identity since he brought it up but she couldn't remember anything happening that would've made it hard for him to talk to Ladybug about it.
All they did when he visited was have friendly hang outs: play games, eat pastries, talk about stuff. Heck, he had even been her model for a few of her upcoming projects. It was nothing she did at least, so what had happened?
Despite her desire to ask, Ladybug just sat patiently and stared out across the Parisian landscape from their perch at the top of the Eiffel Tower. She wouldn't push the issue if he didn't want to talk about it.
After about a full five minutes of silence, Ladybug assumed he wouldn't bring it up again and moved to stand up. Patrol had been over for a while now and it was getting kind of late. She was about to wish him a good night when he finally spoke.
"...I think I love her."
Ladybug felt like a bucket of ice cold water had been dumped on her. That...was not at all what she expected to hear. Chat loved her? Civilian her?
"...as a friend?" she asked, as she'd gotten too used to hearing that addendum.
Silence hung in the chilly Parisian night as she processed those words. A huge part of her wanted to run, to take some time to figure out exactly how she felt about that and what she would do about it, but that would be selfish. Chat was obviously really nervous about telling her something like this and running off afterwards would just make it seem like she was upset at him. She had to respond.
Still, while she pushed down the part of her that wanted to run, a smaller part of her felt warmth and affection swell at the knowledge that he could love both sides of her. That she had been wrong and she was infinitely glad that she had been for some reason. Of course this boy only had love to give and now, he'd fallen for both sides of her.
After what must've felt like an eternity for her partner, she finally responded.
"Are you going to tell her?" Her voice sounded kind of funny when she spoke. Like she was barely restraining her emotions. Chat didn't look up at her.
"I don't know...I want to, but being with a superhero would only cause trouble for her. We wouldn't be able to go out places, I wouldn't be able to tell anyone, I know her in my civilian life and I would have to pretend that she was just a friend. I don't even think she feels the same way but even if she did, there's just too much against us."
Ladybug froze. Chat knew her as a civilian? They were friends? This conversation was starting to get really dangerous and Ladybug found that she didn't care as much as she once did. Being the Guardian, she would've had to find out his identity sooner or later so at least she had decent justification.
That aside, Chat really put a lot thought into what a relationship with her civilian identity would be like. This didn't seem just like infatuation, he really liked her. She refused to say love, for personal reasons.
"You've really thought this out, huh?" Ladybug moved to slide back down next to him. Chat nodded softly, his ears flat against his head.
"I do still love you, my Lady, but it's a different kind of love now, I think."
Ladybug smiled a little and just because she was curious, asked him what he meant by that.
"Okay, don't laugh because I'm about to get poetic but I can't describe it any other way. You'll have to bear with it." Ladybug laughed a little but nodded and Chat continued.
"It's like, when I fell for you, it was fast and it was hard, like being in the middle of an ocean storm. It's hectic and overwhelming and just when you breach the surface to take a breath, a wave crashes over you and pulls you down until all you feel is the current as it takes you away. All you can do is accept it and let it take you.
When I fell for Marinette, it was like...walking outside after the rain and feeling the sunshine. It was quiet and warm and I didn't even realize it was happening until it happened. Being around her is just warmth and sometimes, it can be kind of overwhelming when you're not used to it.
I won't go into specifics so I don't risk my identity but, my home life isn't great. My father is distant, almost to the point of negligence, my mother is...gone, and my extended family have pretty much cut my father out since my mom...left. I've spent most of my life stuck in our house with only one friend that my father had pre-approved, a strict schedule of lessons for things I don't care about, a strict diet, and given everything I could ever want but the one thing I needed. Love.
Being around Marinette, being in her room, in her house...I can feel what love is supposed to feel like. It's in the air, her family's love for each other, their love for baking and fashion, their love for their house and all the precious memories they made there. In all of her pictures, she's smiling wide and genuinely. When she talks to me, I can feel how much she cares, how much she wants to help me when I'm down, how much she values me as a person, how much she just wants me to be happy, how much she...loves me...even if it's not in the same way."
Chat sniffled a little and wiped at his eyes with the back of his forearm. He refused to look up at Ladybug until he could finish what he needed to say.
"I notice now, how much I stare at her. I know she knows I'm looking but she never says anything. I watch her working on her projects and doing her homework and playing video games and I just...I can't bring myself to stop. I love her. I didn't know love could be so quiet and intense at the same time until I met her."
Ladybug could feel the warmth of tears cascading down her cheeks as she listened to him. That small part of her that radiated warmth and affection had grown exponentially and now, it was all she could feel. That was how Chat felt about her? About plain old Marinette? Had she deluded herself into believing he would never love the real her? And how dumb was she to think he could ever do anything softly? His love was so intense that had she been standing, it would've made her knees weak.
Ladybug must've been silent for a while as Chat finally turned to look at her only to find her crying. His eyes grew wide at that.
"M-my Lady, what's wrong? If I upset you, I'm really really s-"
His apology was cut off as she wrapped her arms around his neck and pulled him tightly into an embrace. Any lingering doubts she had about protecting their identities were thrown out the window with that speech. She had already planned to discuss the reveal with him anyway but there was no way she could hold off until then. She wanted him to know now. Selfish as it might be, she wanted his love.
During all those visits, Marinette had found herself falling every bit in love with him as he did with her. The only thing that kept her from telling him was her fear that he'd never love plain old Marinette, that he only loved Ladybug. She wouldn't have been able to handle it if he rejected her for her better identity. And now that she knew how he felt, she could let go of that fear. She needed to respond.
"T-that was really beautiful, Chat. I mean, very cheesy but incredibly beautiful too." Chat chuckled a little at the comment and reciprocated her embrace.
They held each other for a while, each enjoying each other's warmth until Ladybug pulled away slightly. She wiped away her tears with her forearm and leaned back to look him in the eye.
"I have to show you something, can I?"
Chat nodded softly, slightly confused as he watched her stand up once again and take a few steps away from him. With a smile, Ladybug called on her detransformation and Chat clenched his eyes tightly against the bright light.
"M-my Lady!?" He kept his eyes shut tight even once the light faded and turned away slightly.
Ladybug smiled at his respect for her rules before she moved back towards him and kneeled down. The boy jumped at the feeling of her hands on his face as she pulled it to face her once again.
"Chat, please open your eyes. Look at me," she asked.
"A-are you sure?"
"I'm sure, Minou. Look at me."
Chat's eyes slowly began to flutter open once again, blinking rapidly a few times as they readjusted to the darkness. She could see when they finally had when recognition sparked across features. His eyes grew wide and his mouth dropped just a little.
"M-Marinette?" Her name was spoken with both disbelief and hope that his eyes weren't tricking him.
"Hi, Kitty. I hear someone's fallen in love with me twice," she teased.
Chat's face nearly broke from the force of his grin as he wrapped his arms around her and pulled her into another tight embrace. "It's you! Of course, it's you! You're amazing, incredible, miraculous!"
Marinette laughed at the pun and hugged him back just as tightly, nuzzling slightly into his neck as she basked in the love she'd ignored for far too long. They once again allowed themselves a moment to just stay like that until Marinette pulled away again, keeping her arms around his neck.
"Do you want to show me who's under there too? I'd like to know the identity of the knight who's stolen my heart."
If it was possible, Chat's smile only grew wider at that and he moved to stand, breaking away from his partner for just a moment.
"But of course, my Lady! Claws in." The tip of the Eiffel Tower was once again bathed in magic light as the other of Paris's heroes detransformed, leaving behind a half smug and half nervous model.
Marinette gasped and she immediately thought about throwing herself over the railing at the realization of how stupid she was. She'd rejected her wonderful partner for the very boy standing before her now so many times! How many times had she crushed his heart in favor of his civilian identity? How was she so blind that she didn't notice there was more to these boys than just how they portrayed themselves?
"Adrien...come here." Marinette held a hand out to her partner with a sad smile. The boy obliged and gently took her hand, only for her to wrap her arms around his midsection. Did he get taller?
"I'm so sorry I've been so dumb," she whispered.
Adrien tilted his head in confusion. "What do you mean?"
"I broke your heart so many times because I was in love with you, civilian you. I refused to give you a chance because of Adrien and I'm so sorry. I know I must've hurt you."
Adrien froze at the admission before he grew a smile again. "You fell in love with me twice too?"
Marinette nodded softly but still held a sad expression when she looked up at him. She was nearing tears at all the guilt she was suddenly filled with.
"I did, but I hurt you so much before that. If I'd let you reveal yourself to me sooner, this could've been so much easier. I'm sorry, Kitty."
Adrien gently cupped her cheeks and wiped away the tears he could see pooling in her eyes. Marinette felt her breath hitch at the look of absolute love and admiration he was giving her.
"It was worth it for this. Plus, I did the same thing to you. I completely ignored the amazing girl sitting right behind me because of your alter ego too. I was so oblivious to your feelings that your confession just now completely caught me by surprise. If I had known, I might've figured how much I loved you that much sooner. We caused each other a lot of pain but we're partners. We'll learn from this and become better people and a better team together."
Adrien leaned down and pressed his lips to her forehead, Marinette closing her eyes as he did so. He moved to press his forehead against hers and lightly run his thumb over her cheek. Marinette met his eyes and they just stared with all the love, guilt and pain that they had.
"Marinette, I really want to kiss you," Adrien breathed.
Marinette felt her face grow instantly hot but used her Ladybug courage to say, "Then what are you waiting for?"
Slowly, Adrien leaned in. Marinette's eyes fluttered closed and Adrien's followed suit. The kiss was everything Marinette hoped it would be and more. More because she wasn't just kissing her crush, this was her partner. The boy she fought alongside almost daily, who protected her when she was careless, who had and would die again (much to her dismay) just to give her a little more time in battle, who loved her in her entirety. And now that she knew all of him, she knew that she loved him in his entirety.
There was a lot to talk about later about how to move forward but for now, his lips and his love were enough. They would figure this out together just as they always did. It was them against the world.