Adrien was truly beating himself up when, for the second akuma battle in a row, he choked up on his words before he could tell Ladybug about his father.
"It's not like I'm scared of Ladybug," Adrien complained to Plagg as he headed to the Dupain-Cheng house to hang out with Marinette. "Because I'm not! And my father deserves to be arrested, I'm not trying to protect him. But..."
"It's okay to be nervous about change," Plagg said, uncharacteristically serious. "Which I think might be your problem. Even if you don't like the status quo-"
"-the unknown can be scary," Marinette told Adrien five minutes later, after Adrien had expressed the same concerns to her. Her reassurances echoed Plagg's almost word-for-word, which was funny but also, admittedly, pretty reassuring. "Even if you know that all of us will be there for you."
"I just feel bad about allowing the akuma attacks to continue when we could be ending them," Adrien admitted, fussing with a corner of the pillow before catching himself and smoothing it back out. Not that he thought that anyone would care, really- after all, the two of them were hanging out in his room and if the bed was less than perfect, it didn't matter- but even though he trusted Marinette (and clearly Plagg trusted her too, if the number of times he spotted the two of them talking was any indication), he didn't want to seem like an anxious wreck in front of her.
He was one of the city's two main superheroes. He couldn't let himself be an anxious wreck.
"They've been pretty slow this week," Marinette commented, shuffling a little to get more comfortable on the bed. "Because your father is busy, right? I mean, we've only had two this week, and neither of them were a particularly long fight."
"Yeah, it's the usual summer line launch. It keeps him busy this last week and next." Adrien flashed a smile at her. "Helpful, really, since we have exams."
Marinette nodded in agreement.
"He'll probably not have time to do any more akumatizations before he leaves, at this rate," Adrien commented, glancing at the calendar. "So I guess I shouldn't feel too bad about the attacks. But I still do. And if there aren't attacks, then I don't know how I'll reach Ladybug- she's going to be just as busy as we are, studying for exams."
"You could talk to Ladybug at the mural dedication this weekend," Marinette pointed out, and grinned when Adrien whipped around to stare at her in surprise. He had forgotten about that, honestly, what with everything else going on. "Best friends with the Ladyblogger, remember? She's been talking my ear off about it."
"You are an actual lifesaver. I would have forgotten about that, what with everything else that's been going on." Adrien let out a breath, trying to settle the nerves that had sprung up with the idea of having a set date for telling Ladybug. It made everything more real. "I'll tell her then."
Marinette scooted closer to him, reaching out and taking one of his hands in hers. "We'll be here for you, you know that. And you'll be staying with us this weekend, too."
"Right." Adrien smiled over at her, so thankful that he had Marinette and her family right now. He would be a mess without them and their unquestioning support. "Thank goodness."
She smiled back, then glanced down at the bed for a moment. Adrien followed her gaze, wondering if he had messed up the sheets somehow- how, he had no idea, but maybe the older fabric had torn and he hadn't noticed?- when she spoke up again.
"Is it too warm for the blanket down here already?"
Adrien blinked at the sudden change of subject before answering. "Oh. Yeah, a bit, so I took it off the bed."
"I usually keep all of mine still on my bed in a big nest, but I suppose that's a personal preference," Marinette said with a giggle. "I have a ton of blankets and pillows now and just drape myself over all of them. Which you've probably seen before when you leave in the morning."
Adrien had tried not to look at the still-sleeping Marinette when he left in the mornings via her trapdoor, actually, because it just seemed intrusive, but the whole idea of a blanket nest sounded really nice. If Adrien tried it at the mansion, though, things would have tumbled off the edge of his bed. It would happen here, too, actually, because the bed wasn't up against a wall. "I'd normally keep the blanket, but, well..." He shot a sheepish look in her direction. "It's just...I could tell that the blanket had been in the closet for a while, if that makes sense? It wasn't an awful smell, just... a lot."
Marinette's expression lit up in understanding. "Ah! Okay, I know what you're talking about. We have cedar balls in the closet to make sure that we don't get bugs in our linens. It's a nice scent, in my opinion, but I can see where it would get overwhelming."
Adrien nodded. "That's a good description. And since it's warm enough, I just put it back in the closet so that the sheets wouldn't pick up the scent. Well, more than they already have."
"We can wash them!" Marinette said at once, hopping up. "And the blanket too, if you want, but it'll have to be a separate load."
"Mm. I think I'll pass. I'm not going to freeze." Adrien slid off the bed, helping Marinette pull the sheets off. Once they had gotten everything, he took the larger half of the pile of linens from her- there was no point in Marinette trying to struggle down the stairs when she couldn't see, after all- and followed her down to the laundry room. "You're gonna have to tell me what to do here, I've never done laundry before."
"And we don't want you to flood the laundry room," Marinette finished, grinning at Adrien's alarmed look. "It's not that likely, stop looking so scared. You just have to make sure that you don't put in way too much soap. See, all you really need is just a little bit."
Adrien pouted at her, trying not to smile as he did. "You just said that to freak me out!"
The smile that Marinette was clearly trying to hide told Adrien that that had totally been her intention. He pouted at her some more, then scooted over to her side to watch as Marinette showed him how to adjust the settings, explaining each one as they went. It wasn't overly simplified- Marinette knew that while he was unfamiliar with the machines and with paying attention to washing labels on clothing, he wasn't dumb and he picked up on stuff fast- or too detailed as to be confusing, and soon enough Adrien felt confident that he could probably put laundry through without ruining stuff.
Probably. Marinette had promised to help him with his first few loads of laundry once he was no longer at the mansion just in case, because his designer clothes might have some different washing instructions and he didn't want to destroy things right away.
"That blanket didn't fit your bed very well anyway," Marinette said as they got the load started and water started pouring into the machine. She hopped up on top of the dryer, settling down. "I was thinking of making a quilt for your birthday, and I'll try to get it done earlier than that, so you can have it on your bed- unless you have a blanket at the mansion that you want instead!" Marinette added immediately, her words all of a sudden rushing together. "I don't want to assume, I don't know if you have any blankets that you're attached to, or-"
"I would love a quilt," Adrien said at once, unable to help the way his voice went all breathy at the idea. He loved all of the gifts that Marinette had made for him- and yes, that included his favorite scarf, which he had discovered was a Marinette gift after he overheard a conversation between her and Alya- and a quilt?
He had had a moment of wondering why Marinette would think that he had an attachment to any of his blankets at home when she first asked- why anyone would have an attachment to a blanket- but with as soon as he thought about what Marinette had said about a quilt and- well, he could already he can see how an attachment could form. If Marinette did make him a quilt, he would probably keep it forever. Even if he ended up with a larger bed later on, one that the quilt didn't fit on... well, Adrien would either try to keep it on the bed regardless, or he would keep it on a couch to curl up with on cool evenings.
All of the blankets that he had at the mansion were typical department store ones (or mail-order catalogue ones, he really didn't know- but either way, they were plain and had no meaning to them) that either Nathalie or the interior designer had picked out to go with the rest of his room. They weren't anything special, even if he had had them for a while.
Marinette was smiling, clearly relieved that she hadn't somehow overstepped. "Oh, good. Do you want to look at patterns? I've been bookmarking some things and if it's not a surprise, then you might as well have some input."
Adrien followed Marinette back upstairs eagerly, a bounce in his steps. He had seen quilts before, of course, and they were so pretty. And so much work, too, so Adrien kind of couldn't believe that Marinette had been planning on taking so much time just for a birthday gift for him.
Not that jackets and bags and dresses- all things that she had made for her friends before- were exactly quick things to make! But quilts...
There were lots of little pieces, for one. The cutting and sewing together probably took forever, even for someone as talented as Marinette. And then there was the actual quilting part.
While his current bed was a full size- larger than a twin, not quite as large as a queen or king- well, that was a still a lot of fabric to cover.
While the sheets went through the wash and then the dryer, the two of them looked over Marinette's folder of quilt patterns. There were a lot of ideas, and it was pretty overwhelming at first, seeing all of the patterns, but, well...
There were some patterns that just called to Adrien more, and they narrowed it down to three of his favorites. By the time the sheets came out of the dryer and it was time to wrestle them back onto the bed, he had managed to select a favorite.
He was really looking forward to the quilt now.
"Want to come along with me to the fabric store and help pick out fabrics?" Marinette asked once the sheets were back on the bed and she had written up a list of how much fabric she needed. "Quilting fabric is so much fun to pick through. All of the patterns to choose from... all of the colors..."
Adrien grinned at her. Marinette had clearly already entered what he had previously dubbed the Fabric Haze. She had a sewing project in mind, and now she was entirely focused on it. "Shouldn't we be studying? I mean, I know we have most of the weekend for that, but with the mural dedication that I have to go to, that'll take some study time, and if you have fabric, uh..."
Marinette puffed up at him. "Are you saying that I'll get distracted? I can behave with fabric in the house! I wouldn't start to sew until after exams are over."
"Mm-hmm." Adrien snickered some more, then calmed down. "How about we save the fabric errand for after the dedication? I know it's a bit more time then not spent studying, but it might be nice to have something to look forward to for after I tell Ladybug about...you know."
"That makes sense." Marinette glanced longingly towards her computer, where their chosen design was pulled up on-screen. She startled and looked away right away when Adrien snickered again. "So, uh, studying?"
"Studying," Adrien agreed, following Marinette to her desk. In all honesty, they probably should have started sooner instead of spending so much time on the quilt, but he wasn't going to complain. Not at all.
Not when Marinette was doing her best to make him feel at home.
The mural dedication on Saturday morning was boring, to say the least.
It hadn't always felt like a snoozefest to do these sorts of things, Chat Noir reflected as he stood next to Ladybug, both of them standing a little bit behind and off to the side of the mayor as he talked. When their statues went up- well, that had been cool. But the two of them kept getting invited to dedications (some superhero-themed, others not) and now, several years into their superhero careers, the formalities had become stuffy. Journalists were welcomed, the two of them got name-dropped, there were thank-yous to sponsors and builders or artists or whoever was involved, and then some background on the project and why it was done and-
Well, Chat Noir was usually well and truly tuned out by that point.
He felt a little bad about that, sometimes. In cases like this, where it was obvious than an artist had worked super-hard at bringing their vision to life, it probably would have been nice to listen to how the superheroes had apparently deeply inspired them and the thought process behind the symbolism in the painting. But he was even more distracted than usual today, and so the symbolism that the painter had used in the painting was going straight over his head, the explanation going in one ear and out the other.
And then after the speeches, there was mingling.
"I told the mayor that we couldn't linger long," Ladybug murmured in Chat Noir's ear as the crowd in front of them started to shift, signaling an end to the speeches that he had somehow missed. "That we have other obligations today, so we can only talk for a few minutes before we leave."
"Yay exams." Chat Noir glanced around, wincing when he spotted reporters pushing through the crowd to get to them quickly. Presumably the mayor had made a comment about the superheroes not being available for long, or else they wouldn't be in such a hurry to reach the two of them. Their presence was going to make it hard for him to tell Ladybug about his father, and he had promised himself that he was going to do it today.
"Ladybug! Chat Noir! A couple minutes of your time?"
"A couple minutes is all we have to spare, unfortunately," Ladybug said smoothly, turning to them. "But we can answer a couple questions before we go."
Madam Chamack dove in first. "We're glad that the two of you could make it, but are we ever going to see the other members of your team at any of these events? This dedication in particular, it seems, it might have been prudent..."
"We appreciate that our part-time teammates both past and present are being honored in the mural, but they only come out for emergencies," Ladybug told the cameras. "It doesn't seem like a great idea to have so many Miraculous out and in one area unless it's strictly necessary."
"It would be too risky," Chat Noir agreed, glad to be playing backup. Ladybug had honestly become better than he had at answering questions without hesitation, and so he let her take the lead. "But yes, it's nice seeing more than just the core two of us being represented. We couldn't do it without our entire expanded team waiting in the wings to lend a helping hand."
Even once Hawkmoth was gone, it would be too risky, in his opinion. There would always be people out there who wanted to steal the Miraculous and use the powers for their own gain, and if there were more targets out... well, then that would just make things easier. And if he thought it was dangerous, then Ladybug would definitely never consider having unnecessary Miraculous out. She was even more cautious than he was.
"There's been a decrease in akumas over the past couple weeks- thoughts on that?"
"Presumably Hawkmoth has a life outside of supervillainry, since that wouldn't pay the bills," Ladybug offered, flashing a small smile at them. She got some chuckles at that. "He may be busy. There have always been times when things slow down or speed up, and it's probably not worth reading into short-term trends too much."
Chat Noir nodded, though he didn't add anything to that.
"Instead, we should be thankful for the slower period- I know I am!- and focus on making sure that we're kind to others and not getting needlessly upset over small things," Ladybug added. It had become a fairly standard plea for them over the years, though how much it actually helped, it was hard to say. Some people, like most of his classmates, certainly tried to be kind and not overreact, but others, like Chloe and her mom and the Mayor...
Well, they certainly caused more than their fair share of akumas, that was for sure. There was usually one Bourgeois-caused akuma per week, which, considering that there were three of them and hundreds- or thousands, rather- of other people in Hawkmoth's favored portion of Paris, was ridiculous.
(Or, to borrow Chloe's favorite phrase- ridiculous! Absolutely ridiculous!)
Ladybug fielded a couple more questions, then gently started to extract them from the press. All of a sudden, Chat Noir started panicking.
He couldn't let this opportunity slip by without talking to Ladybug, not again. But once they left, they would go their opposite ways right away and he wouldn't be able to tell her anything.
"Ladybug, I have to talk to you before we leave," Chat Noir murmured, ducking his head to talk directly in her ear as Ladybug smiled at the reporters for a photo. "Do- do you have a couple minutes to spare for me?"
"Of course," Ladybug murmured right away, glancing up at him. "Is there something in particular...?"
Chat Noir swallowed. It was now or- well, not never, but maybe his only chance for the day, and he would definitely beat himself up over it if he backed out now. "I know who Hawkmoth is. He's-"
Ladybug's eyes snapped to him, then slid over his shoulder towards the still-lingering reporters as she pressed a finger to his lips briefly. "Tell me more once we get up on the rooftops? We can go over a couple blocks so that they don't see us."
That was smart. He had gotten so focused on not chickening out on telling her that he had completely blanked out on being cautious. If any of the civilians nearby overheard them so much as mention that they knew who Hawkmoth was, it would be front-page news by tomorrow, never mind the fact that giving Hawkmoth a heads-up would make the superheroes' job more difficult. And if any reporters heard...
There would be news articles posted online only minutes later.
Chat Noir nodded, waiting for Ladybug to finish answering a final couple questions before following her to the rooftops. He had to give her credit- even though she had to be shocked by the news that he knew who Hawkmoth was, she still managed to flash the reporters her usual smile and wave as they left. Once they had reached a series of rooftops several roads over, Ladybug landed and caught his hand to steady him as he landed. "So you were saying...?"
Chat Noir nodded, taking a deep breath. He had to reach deep inside himself and remember his acting lessons, focusing on not looking affected. "Hawkmoth. His- his son saw him talking to his kwami and, uh, told me. It's Gabriel Agreste."
Ladybug exhaled, long and low. "Ah."
"And Mayura- it has to be his assistant, Nathalie," Chat Noir added. "So. Uh." He fidgeted. "...I don't know where to go from here."
"Well, I think- hmm." Ladybug nibbled on her lip, clearly thoughtful. "It's not great timing, with exams coming up this week, but obviously we don't want to get called away during exams..."
She was handing him the perfect opening, honestly. "He's going to be out of the country this week, actually. Er. Apparently. According to his son."
Ladybug raised an eyebrow. "Actually out of the country or his hologram going out of the country?"
Chat Noir couldn't help but laugh. Everyone had heard about that scandal, apparently. "Actually out of the country. He got so much bad press from that that he wouldn't be able to risk it. Besides, people he meets are going out of their way to shake hands with him to make sure it's actually him."
That got a laugh out of her. "I'm sure he's thrilled about that."
"Oh, no doubt." His father had been steamed by the hologram's failure, and in such a public setting, too. And then for his business associates to be subtly reminding him of the scandal every time they met...
It really was pretty funny.
"So we can wait until after exams," Ladybug decided. "Maybe- if he's traveling, maybe we can get the drop on him when he returns? I mean, he's bound to be jet-lagged, right? And it seems like he wouldn't be expecting it."
"And his assistant takes a vacation after he gets back from his trip," Chat Noir said, remembering that important little detail all of a sudden. Nathalie didn't often take vacations, but she worked so hard on the summer launch and there was always so much company business to deal with at the same time that once everything was done, she took several days off and went out of town to visit family. "Which means no Mayura on hand to provide backup."
Ladybug lit up. "That's perfect! We can deal with one supervillain at a time. Attack Hawkmoth when he won't have Mayura nearby to transform and help, and then maybe Portal and get Mayura before the news can get to her? Then it'll be an ambush attack on both of their parts. We would just need to know where she's going to be."
"Are we going to pull in some of the others?" Chat Noir wanted to know, filing a mental note of ask Nathalie exactly where she's going for later. "If we're attacking when he isn't expecting us, maybe we won't need backup, but just in case..."
"That wouldn't be a bad idea," Ladybug agreed. "Keep them back and out of sight, but with clear instructions and a signal for if we need them to help- it's just a question of who we want."
Chat Noir nodded. "Cobra, maybe? I know he's not come out for a while, but the re-do could be good."
Ladybug worried her lip. "I would, but he's gone to university out of the city. That's a good idea to have the Snake out, though. Maybe one of us could use it. Uh- Seabiscuit? If we need help, he'd get people there fast. And Hornet, for restraint."
"If we could get Seabiscuit to open a portal directly behind Mr. Agreste and have Hornet dive through, the fight could be over before it's even started," Chat Noir pointed out. "It would just be a matter of keeping Mr. Agreste sufficiently distracted."
Ladybug lit up. "I know! We could have Vixen make a Mirage of the two of us out there, battling the akuma. He'll be focused on that, and won't be expecting any sort of attack in his lair."
"And if we Portal in from the wrong direction, we can just reset and try again," Chat Noir agreed. "That is- I'd almost call that deceptively complex, honestly. There's a decent handful of moving parts, but with any luck, it should be over pretty fast."
"We'll have to give everyone their Miraculous before Mr. Agreste gets back, because any delay after the akuma shows up will be suspicious," Ladybug said, frowning in thought. "Not ideal- can you find out when, exactly, he's going to return and when Nathalie will be leaving? We can get the Miraculous out before then, with instructions on what we want people to do and where we're going to meet up on the day of the battle. That way, we won't have to spend as much time explaining everything while the akuma is out and about."
"Yeah." Chat Noir let out a long breath, trying not to let the nerves show. It all felt more real now that they had a plan, and it- it wasn't a bad thing, really. Soon he would be able to go directly to the Dupain-Cheng house and stay there, no sneaking around required.
And he was looking forward to it. No matter what the nerves in his stomach were saying otherwise.
a/n: Gah, I keep saying no more delays in posting... and then have delays in posting. In my defense, I've been trying to figure out how the whole "retirement account" thing before I get any older and the research for that has been taking up a good 80% of my free time.
(I'm still confused, honestly. Why are there so many optioooooooooons)
ANYWAY, as always, comments make my day! :)