Adrien strolled as casually as he could along the sidewalk, trying his best not to look suspicious. It wasn't as though there was any reason he shouldn't be there, walking along the sidewalk next to the warehouses edging the Seine in the middle of the afternoon, but it was his destination that was making him nervous.
For the first time since he'd been assigned his Miraculous and met Plagg, he would officially be seeing Master Fu again.
Oh, he'd spotted the man occasionally in his day-to-day life. They never approached each other, since someone might see then and realize the significance of Master Fu's presence. It wasn't likely, but it was a chance neither of them was particularly willing to take.
"And right...here," Adrien murmured to himself, pulling out the slip of paper that he had received three days ago and doubling-checking the address. All it had written on it was a date, a time, and an address, as well as a scribble of come as yourself and bring Plagg. It didn't have a signature, and it didn't need to. The patterned border on the paper told Adrien all he needed to know about who had shoved the envelope through his window.
"Stop being so nervous," Plagg complained quietly from his spot in Adrien's coat. "I'm trying to take a nap and your heart is racing so loudly it's like trying to sleep at a metal concert. Master Fu isn't scary."
"To you, maybe," Adrien shot back. He couldn't help but be nervous, even if all the signs pointed to this being a regular check-up on how he and Ladybug were working together. He was always worried about the possibility of Plagg being taken away from him, leaving him stuck as plain old Adrien forever. His fighting had been a bit off in a couple of the recent fights, which was the basis for most of his worries. What if Fu had found someone whose fighting skills were better than his? What if he thought Chat Noir was flirting too much with Ladybug during fights?
Taking a deep breath, Adrien took a last quick glance around and ducked into the silent warehouse. It was full nearly to bursting with crates of something, some stacks nearly reaching the ceiling. Master Fu stood in the middle of the room, watching the door. He smiled as Adrien darted in, making sure to close the door tightly behind him. They couldn't risk someone wandering in and overhearing their conversation.
"Adrien. Plagg. Welcome." Master Fu smiled as Plagg popped out from Adrien's jacket to perch on his shoulder.
"Hi, Master Fu. It's good to see you." Adrien forced down his nerves, forcing himself to sound as normal as possible as he spoke. "What did you want to talk about?"
Master Fu smiled again, clearly not totally fooled by Adrien's outwardly calm demeanor. "Oh, this is just a check-in. But we should probably wait for Ladybug to come, don't you think?"
Every muscle in Adrien's body froze. Ladybug was coming? He had assumed that she would be talking to Master Fu desperately, since Fu had requested for Adrien to come untransformed. Master Fu blinked at Adrien's sudden deer-in-the-headlights look, so Adrien forced his frozen lips to move. "Ladybug is coming, too?"
Master Fu looked more confused at the question. "Well yes, I wanted to talk to both of you and this seemed like the most efficient way to do it. Why?"
"I'm not transformed!" Adrien practically wailed, only just keeping himself from flailing his arms around.
Master Fu blinked at him. "...and why is that a problem? You and Ladybug know each other."
Adrien could only gape at the older man in a combination of confusion and disbelief. "No we don't! Ladybug didn't want us to reveal ourselves yet, and you even said that it would be best if we didn't know who the other was for a while!"
Master Fu looked a tad exasperated. "That was so that you could develop a team dynamic without preconceived ideas about each other messing things up. It was especially important since I picked you, since you're well-known. Keeping your identities secret from each other also is important for if I need to take a miraculous away in those early months. It's only happened once, where I picked a bad person for Chat Noir. But after those first few months, it's perfectly fine. Your kwamis keep you from getting possessed and posing a threat to each other." Master Fu frowned. "But you say you do not know each other yet?"
"Right. We haven't even talked about revealing ourselves for ages." The mere mention of someone getting their Miraculous taken away was enough to send Adrien's heart rate spiking again. It's not happening to me, he reminded himself.
"But I've seen you together!" Fu insisted, planting his hands on his hips and looking vaguely perplexed. "In groups and on a date! How can you tell me you don't know each other?"
Fu's words sent Adrien's head spinning. On a date?! With Ladybug? He had to force himself to not comb through his memories to find an instance that could have been confused as a date. Ladybug didn't want him finding out her identity, and he was not going to disrespect that by taking advantage of the information Fu had inadvertently given him. On a date, though...
"We don't know each other's identities, really," Adrien insisted, frowning down at Plagg as the kwami snickered. Clearly Plagg knew something he did not. "I don't know what you saw, but I definitely never went on a date with Ladybug. I haven't been on any dates recently- or ever, really."
Master Fu looked positively puzzled. "Well, maybe you were just hanging out. It certainly looked like a date from where I stood."
If Adrien had been on a sort-of date with Ladybug, his brain would probably explode. But he would have noticed if he was hanging out with Ladybug, right? He knew his partner.
Stop thinking about it, Adrien, he scolded himself. Don't try to figure it out.
"Either way, she should be here soon," Master Fu announced, pulling himself together and straightening up as much as possible. "You were early. Good punctuality."
That brought Adrien's mind back down to earth. "But she doesn't want me knowing who she is!"
To be perfectly fair, he wasn't entirely positive that he wanted her knowing who he was in real life either. On one hand, they could maybe hang out more often, working on homework together or just relaxing. On the other hand... what if her knowing affected how he acted as Chat Noir? She would probably be familiar with him through his modelling, and know how he normally behaved. But he had decided long ago that if she was okay sharing her identity with him, he would share his with her.
Master Fu didn't look particularly concerned. "I was going to have you two reveal yourselves to each other soon if you didn't already know. It's easier for you to contact each other in case of an attack, and past duos have found that they can then cover for each other and keep their friends and classmates from getting suspicious."
"But I don't want to just spring it on her!" Adrien's fingers knotted in his hair. This was not how he anticipated their reveal going down. "How about I go hide behind some boxes and not look, and you can explain the situation to Ladybug and then she can decide if she wants to do the reveal right now? Then she can at least get a heads-up."
Master Fu looked pleased. "Yes, yes, go ahead. That sounds like an excellent plan."
Heart still pounding, Adrien tucked a protesting Plagg back in his jacket and headed across the warehouse floor towards a sturdy-looking set of boxes. He hauled himself up onto them easily, dropping into a concealed area. It wouldn't be too difficult to get out of when the time came, but it would keep him from being seen and would also keep him from giving in to temptation and peeking to try to see Ladybug before she gave him permission.
It was only a couple minutes later when the sound of running footsteps grew nearer and Adrien could hear the door flying open as someone-Ladybug- came dashing in.
"Sorry I'm late, I had to make a few deliveries for my parents," a familiar voice panted, and Adrien had to force himself not to try to remember where he had heard that voice before. It's Ladybug, I hear her talk all the time. That's where I know it from.
He was lying to himself and he knew it.
"It's fine, we weren't about to start without you," Master Fu said cheerfully.
"'We'?" Ladybug repeated uncertainty. "There's someone else here?"
"Ah, yes." Master Fu sounded a little sheepish, Adrien noted. "I may have misinterpreted your and Chat Noir's behavior around each other as civilians incorrectly and came to the conclusion that you knew each other's identities already, so I invited both of you to come at the same time."
"But Chat Noir showed up early and set me straight, so now I know that I was wrong," Master Fu continued on when it became apparent that Ladybug wasn't going to say anything. "He opted to hide himself and not look until he was sure that you would be all right with revealing your identities to each other."
"Chat Noir is here?" Ladybug asked, voice more uncertain than Adrien had ever heard it be before. "Now?"
"I'm not peeking, my lady," Adrien called. He grinned at her barely audible murmur of "of course not, my alley cat."
Her alley cat.
"It would be a good idea for you two to know who the other is," Master Fu spoke up again. "Your partnership is solid, and you can cover for each other at school. You're already friends anyway."
"Wait, what? We know each other?" Ladybug sounded as puzzled as Adrien had.
"I thought I saw you out on a date, but Chat Noir has no idea what I might be referring to."
Adrien pictured Ladybug's puzzled expression in the silence that followed, broken only by an unfamiliar high-pitched giggle. In front of Adrien, Plagg perked up and immediately rocketed out of their hiding spot with a screech of "TIKKI!"
"Plagg!" Adrien gasped, twisting around to try to stop his kwami. Plagg was too fast, though, and had already sped out of sight. Groaning in frustration, Adrien slid back down to the ground. He could hear Ladybug giggle in amusement. What a gorgeous sound.
"So, can we get on with the reveal?" Master Fu asked over the sound of the two kwamis greeting each other. "Then we can talk about the recent attacks and how you've fought in them. I've spotted a couple areas where you could tighten up your attacks that we should talk about."
"My lady?" Adrien asked. There was no need to finish the question-are you comfortable with that? If she wasn't, there was no reason they couldn't transform to listen to what Master Fu had to say.
There was a long pause while Ladybug thought about it, only interrupted by a high voice that Adrien assumed was Ladybug's kwami. Finally, she answered.
"I... I think we should. There have been a few fights recently where it would have easier if we weren't being so careful about protecting our identities from each other. Are you all right with it, chaton?"
"I'd follow you anywhere, my lady."
There was a smile in her voice when she responded. "Stop flirting and come out already, Chat Noir."
Letting out a deep breath, Adrien rose to his feet again and pulled himself out of his hiding spot, somersaulting over the top of a box and landing silently as a cat on the warehouse floor. His eyes snapped immediately to the two figures in the middle of the room- or, more accurately, to one of the two figures in the middle of the room. Ladybug stood with her back to him, scanning the opposite side of the room. She clearly hadn't heard him yet. Adrien's heart rate sped up as he approached her, his nerves getting the best of him. He had waited for this moment for so long.
Ladybug was just as slender in her civilian form as she was transformed. Her hair was in her trademark pigtails and looked strangely familiar, even with her back to him. She was still scanning the opposite side of the warehouse when he slid up behind her and, channeling Chat Noir even through his nerves, proclaimed "Ah, my lady is as dazzling as ever!"
Ladybug yelped in surprise and jumped, spinning around to face him and nearly toppling over in the process. Adrien instinctively reached out to steady her, his eyes flashing down to make sure his hand landed in an appropriate place.
Adrien's gaze snapped up to Ladybug's face immediately, his eyes growing wide as he recognized the shell-shocked girl standing in front of him. "Marinette?"
All of a sudden, a lot of things were making a whole lot more sense. Adrien had been getting closer to Marinette recently, and after the first stretch of awkwardness they actually got along really well. He had been surprised at first before deciding that Marinette just had a really inviting personality, easy to build familiarity with once you started to get to know her.
Of course they got along well. They were Ladybug and Chat Noir, power duo of the city, and they already knew each other well even if they hadn't been aware of it.
Marinette's eyes were still wide in shock as she stared up at Adrien. Adrien decided to see if he could have a little fun with the whole situation.
"Now, I vaguely remember once saying something about how if you saw my real face, you would be struck speechless," Adrien said as smugly as he could, letting a very Chat Noir grin slide onto his face and tapping his chin with a thoughtful finger. "And I definitely remember you saying that that would never happen. I think I was right, hmm my lady?"
To his complete and utter delight, she rolled her eyes at him.
"Down, kitty," Marinette shot back, cheeks pink. "I was surprised, that's all."
"Mmm-hmm." Adrien grinned. He tugged gently on Marinette's arm, pulling her to stand in front of him, her back against his chest. When she didn't resist at all, he plopped his chin down on her shoulder and rubbed his cheek up against hers like a cat. "If you say so."
"I do say so." Without thinking about it, Marinette lifted one hand to tangle in his hair, tugging lightly as she gave him little pats. He closed his eyes happily and resisted the urge to purr. His arms wrapped around Marinette's waist, keeping her leaning against him.
"Are we good, my lady?" Adrien murmured into Marinette's hair as Master Fu dug out his notes on their battles. They hadn't really had enough to really react to the reveal.
Marinette smiled up at him, blue eyes twinkling as she smiled. "We're good, kitty. We're good."