A/N: My first multi-chapter fic for this fandom. Welcome to my personal Miraculous hell. I'm Princess Kitty1, and I will be toying with your emotions today. Don't forget to tip your waiters.
Disclaimer: Miraculous Ladybug belongs to Thomas Astruc and others that don't include me.
By: Princess Kitty1
Marinette Dupain-Cheng rose before the sun. If she hadn't been a morning person, that might have been a problem for her. But while other Parisians slept undisturbed, or shuffled around their kitchens in search of coffee, Marinette sprang from bed wide awake and ready to take on the day.
Her morning routine hadn't changed much in the last year: wake up, wash her face, fruit for breakfast, get dressed, then downstairs to the bakery where she'd knead, mix, roll, flour, measure, fill, frost, butter, and decorate a day's worth of goods. By the time dawn's colors appeared on the horizon, half the block had been roused by the delicious smells coming out of the little business on the corner.
At approximately thirty minutes to seven, Marinette would emerge from the kitchen covered in flour and sweating thanks to the heat of the ovens. She switched on the storefront lights, put on a pot of coffee, wrote the day's special on a small chalkboard in looping cursive, topped off the cash register, then went around to each table in the sitting area and straightened out chairs.
Only after all of this did Marinette turn on her cell phone, leaning over the counter as she waited for the lock screen to appear.
In the stillness before opening, Marinette couldn't help missing her parents. How many times had she woken up to the smell of fresh bread, to her father's singing and her mother fretting over the daily special? It was their bakery, the child they'd raised together before Marinette came along. Her mother Sabine had chosen the dark green curtains for its six front windows and created the small seating area for the regulars. Her father Tom had perfected their cheesecake recipe and attracted customers with his jovial manner. But when an ailing relative had called Tom and Sabine away from the bakery, it was Marinette who'd taken over with the assurance that she could handle it.
And she could handle it. Maybe not as gracefully as her parents did, but between herself and her tiny staff, the business stayed afloat.
Her phone chirped once. Marinette smiled as she unlocked her screen and opened her email app. "Right on cue."
2 minutes ago
Bonjour, buginette! Did you sleep well? Did you dream of me? Will today be the day I win your heart at last?! If it isn't, well, at least I have something to look forward to. But in the meantime what do you propose I do with all this longing? Climb to the highest point in Paris and shout your name to the wind? Cast myself into the Seine? Have mercy, my Lady! My suffering knows no end!
A rhythmic knock sounded on the door. Marinette left her phone on the counter and walked over to let her assistant in. "It is so humid out there," Manon Chamack cried. The tan-skinned teenager had her long brown hair in one hand and a black hair tie in the other, her apron draped over the crook of her arm. "If the whole day's going to be like this, then—you have flour on your cheek."
Marinette shrugged. "It's in the job description." She followed Manon behind the counter, picking up her phone along the way. "Could you set the pastries out for me? I have to get started on the Labelle order."
"Sure, but can you promise me you'll splash some water on your face before you-know-who comes in for his morning croissant?" Manon ignored Marinette's flustered glare and whipped her apron strings behind her back. "Hey, you're the one with the crush."
"I'm also the one who pays you," Marinette said, and the two grinned at each other. It used to be the other way around: Marinette earned money babysitting Manon for the better part of the girl's childhood, and over the years the two had developed a strong sisterly bond. When Manon came looking for a part-time summer job, Marinette was more than happy to take her on. But that also meant she had to deal with Manon's teasing. They walked into the kitchen where trays of fresh cakes, rolls, croissants, and cookies sat waiting to be put on display. "What difference would it make if I washed my face? I could step out, get my hair and makeup and nails done, put on my best dress, and Adrien Agreste still wouldn't notice me."
Manon rolled her eyes and grabbed two trays. "You're prettier than you think, Marinette. It's your attitude that sucks."
Marinette liked to think she was aware of that. Every morning she took in her glossy black pigtails, her large blue eyes, her body toned from strict exercise to ward off becoming as jolly as her father, her small nose, round cheeks, and shoulders dusted with freckles, and she decided she wasn't hideous. Sometimes she even went as far as admitting she was cute. And it wasn't like she hadn't had boyfriends before; at twenty-six she'd tangoed with love on more than one occasion.
But there was cute-enough-for-nice-boys, and then there was cute-enough-for-Adrien-Agreste: supermodel, Paris's golden boy, son of famous fashion designer Gabriel Agreste, and one of the bakery's regulars.
Marinette still remembered the first day he'd walked in. Early morning breakfast rush, her father at the register, Marinette moving back and forth to grab pastries and put them on plates or in bags. She'd hit her stride and was doing just fine, bantering with customers while she prepared their orders, confidence and charm in full swing. Then a noticeable hush fell over the bakery, followed by a shrill, "What are all of you staring at?"
For there in the doorway stood the mayor's daughter, Chloe Bourgeois, with her arm looped through the elbow of Adrien Agreste.
Marinette stared. She couldn't help herself. The sun came in through the window at just the perfect angle to catch in Adrien's blonde hair and create a halo of light around his handsome face. He was dressed in a white polo, designer jeans, and Gabriel brand sneakers. He said something to Chloe in a low voice that she answered with a loud complaint that her outburst had been justified, followed by even more complaints as she eyed the bakery's cheerful interior with open disdain.
Marinette had only seen Adrien in magazines before. Her best friend Alya often teased her that his images were probably doctored at Gabriel Agreste's behest, so no one would find out the real Adrien looked like the hunchback of Notre Dame.
But there was the real Adrien Agreste, stepping up to the counter.
There was the real Adrien Agreste, and he was gorgeous.
"Hello," he said to Marinette in a voice that made mothers weep for joy and had girlfriends' fathers insisting he call them by name.
Marinette continued to stare. Gone were confidence and charm, departed for some faraway shores. The connection between her mind and her mouth had been severed by his eyes, the greenest eyes she had ever seen, eyes that could bring nineteenth century poets back from the dead just to sing their praises.
Then Chloe snapped her fingers in front of her face and Marinette realized what she was doing. Fatal levels of mortification flooded her body. She'd been gawking at Adrien Agreste. "When you're done being incompetent, give me five strawberry macarons and a coffee, to go," Chloe barked.
It took Marinette a few more seconds to untangle her vocal chords. She looked again at Adrien, whose expression had rearranged itself into one of sheepish embarrassment. "A-And you?" she asked.
"Ah, I'd like to try the cheese Danish, please."
Marinette managed a mute nod and stooped over to find the best looking cheese Danish on the tray. When she went to grab Chloe's coffee, she saw that her mother, like any good business owner, had been drawn out of the kitchen by the change in the bakery's atmosphere. Marinette watched Sabine Cheng assess the situation in the span of two seconds, then switch into proprietor mode. "What an honor to have you in our bakery, Monsieur Agreste, Mademoiselle Bourgeois!" She came forward and whipped out a paper bag for Chloe's macarons. "Were you just passing by, or…?"
Adrien answered for Chloe, who stared at her nails like she hadn't been spoken to. "Here on recommendation, actually. I was in the mood for something new and a friend of mine told me this was the best bakery in Paris."
"It most certainly is," Tom Dupain boomed from the register.
Marinette's hands shook so badly that it took several tries to snap on the coffee cup's lid. She wrestled the foam cozy around it and carried the drink to the counter, where her parents had formed a tag-team of hospitality. "We guarantee you'll be back before the end of the week," Sabine said.
"Uh, not likely. Adrien needs to watch his figure," Chloe said at the same time Adrien said, "Looking forward to it." Marinette stood motionless by the coffee pot, hoping she'd blend into the scenery, but Adrien Agreste's beautiful green eyes saw through her attempted camouflage and he gave her a friendly smile. "Thank you," he said.
And then he was gone, leaving nothing but a swarm of paparazzi in his wake.
He came back before the end of the week.
He walked in on Friday, causing Marinette to overfill a coffee cup and burn her fingers. He returned the following Monday to try a cake roll. Chloe was with him on Wednesday, and his driver—affectionately dubbed The Gorilla—came in his stead the next Friday. The bakery saw an increase in business once word spread that Adrien Agreste had made a habit of stopping by. Even Alya came around to gawk at him alongside Marinette, who would not speak to him, could not speak to him no matter how regular a customer he became. At least not in complete sentences.
Which brought her back to the present day. Marinette guessed Adrien kept a rigid schedule because he always appeared at the same time—8:15—on the same days—Monday, Wednesday, and Friday—and on the rare occasions he stuck around, he left after half an hour. Marinette spent this time either hiding in the kitchen or pretending she was very busy. If another regular was in, she'd go out to the seating area and talk to them so she could be closer to Adrien without the pressure of making conversation. But ever since her parents left, it became harder and harder to avoid him.
She worked straight through opening, arranging the 150 cupcakes for the Labelle order without pause. The event they'd been ordered for was at eleven, but the client wanted them ready by nine so the display could be assembled without rush. Marinette had just put the finishing touches on one row when Manon breezed into the kitchen. "Going to the restroom."
"Sure," Marinette said, "let me just put this frosting bag down and…" She glanced at her watch. The hour hand pointed a little north of eight. The minute hand laid comfortably on three. Marinette gasped. "Manon!"
"It's an emergency," Manon drawled as she disappeared into the restroom.
The bakery door's bell jingled.
"Oh no, oh no oh no oh no." Marinette ran to the sink and squinted at the small mirror hanging above it. Still flour on her cheek. She ripped a paper towel from the dispenser, ran it under water, and took furious swipes at the flour until it vanished. Now her cheek was pink. Not that it'd be noticeable under the raging blush crawling up her neck—oh why did Manon have to grow up into a scheming teenager? Why couldn't she stay five and cute and blissfully unaware of boys?
Marinette took a deep breath. She could do this. She'd spoken to Adrien before, albeit in stuttering, fragmented sentences that were never longer than two or three words. Today would be no different. All she had to do was get him a pastry and ring him up. Simple. She could do it in her sleep. She wiped her hands on her apron, steeled every nerve in her body, and marched stiffly out of the kitchen.
No one was there.
Marinette deflated. Her brow wrinkled. Well, that was strange. It was 8:15, the bell had rung… maybe someone left?
Adrien Agreste stood up from behind the pastry display.
He jerked backwards in surprise. She clapped a hand over her mouth. The patrons sitting at the tables turned to stare at her. A very awkward silence ensued.
Adrien let out a breath. "Wow, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to scare you."
He'd been crouched in front of the display case, examining the desserts on the bottom row. Marinette prayed for the ground to open up and swallow her. Or a lightning strike. Any quick death, really. She wasn't picky. "I-It's okay," she said, even though she felt her heart clawing its way up her throat.
Adrien smiled uncertainly. "You sure?"
Marinette nodded and reached for a pair of disposable gloves. She was going to strangle Manon. "What can I get for you?"
Adrien pointed out a flaky apple strudel with a light coating of powdered sugar. Marinette picked up a ceramic plate and plastic tongs, fumbling with the door of the display case until it opened. She scrutinized each slice of strudel for the biggest, flakiest, and gooiest of the bunch. No way was she going to sell Adrien Agreste anything less than the best after shrieking at him like some whacked out nutjob.
She gasped as she lost her grip on the tray, but caught it again before it hit the glass and scattered the strudel. Her name. He'd said her name. He knew her name. On second thought, could her quick death be postponed until he said it again? "Yes?"
Adrien's grin was that of a kid who'd just won a game. So boyish. So charming. Marinette ascended to cloud nine. "I knew I had your name right," he said. "Marinette… Dupain?"
"Dupain-Cheng," she whispered. "Both. I-I use both."
She didn't know how she managed to stay upright when her legs felt like pudding. "Yes."
Somehow she got the apple strudel onto the plate and to the counter without dropping it or tripping over her own two feet. As she rang him up, she stole a quick look at his clothes. A plain black t-shirt today. Cargo shorts. Loafers. God, he had nice legs.
Adrien handed her a few bills and took his plate. "Tell your mother and father I said hi, will you?"
Marinette nodded mutely. She watched him walk over to his usual seat, a table by the door, and continued to stare until she heard someone clear their throat. Manon stood in the kitchen doorway waving her over. Marinette scurried to her side. "Well?" She jerked her head in Adrien's direction. "How'd it go?"
"I screamed at him."
"That was you?"
"But he knows my name." Marinette's face went from horror to pure, unbridled happiness. "He knows my name."
And later, everyone at the Labelle party could have sworn Marinette's cupcakes were the most beautiful cupcakes they'd ever laid eyes upon, because Adrien Agreste knew her name.
2 hours ago
Not sure what you should do about your longing.
A cold shower, maybe?
Please don't shout my name from high places. You'll upset the pigeons.
The strangest, most wonderful thing happened to me today.
I won't go into detail.
You tend to throw hissy fits whenever I talk about guys who aren't you.
Adrien Agreste dropped his phone on his face.
Beside him, his black cat Plagg let out a small chirp, but couldn't wake up enough to open his eyes. Adrien left the phone where it landed. Twenty-six years old, successful model, a practiced master at controlling his emotions, yet there he was, sprawled on his bed, giggling.
He'd gotten her to pun.
Adrien stretched his legs, still smiling from ear to ear when the rest of the sentence slapped him across the face. "Wait." He bolted upright, scaring Plagg enough this time to earn him a green-eyed glare. "What does she mean guys who aren't me?"
Adrien slid from his sleek, modern bed and began to pace the length of the room. His pensive reflection followed him from one picture window to another, disappearing when he reached a wall of overstuffed bookshelves. Why was this so surprising? He knew Ladybug had a crush on someone. Was it that ex-boyfriend of hers? The one who'd ditched her and flown off to America? No, it couldn't be. She never talked about him. Then again, she hardly ever talked about her love life. The mysterious crush had only been mentioned once in passing; Adrien just had an absurdly good memory when it came to all things Ladybug.
He sighed, glared at the email, then turned and banged his head against a row of books. He was crazy, right? Falling in love with someone who'd accidentally emailed him a year ago. Someone whose face he'd never seen, whose gender he couldn't even be certain of. Someone who proved time and again that they had no romantic feelings for him whatsoever. It sounded crazy, even to him.
Plagg watched him from the comfort of the bed. Adrien checked the time on his phone's screen. 10:30PM, and Ladybug's email had been sent two hours ago. He knew she went to bed early. Would she still be awake?
10 minutes ago
My Lady, do you really think the pigeons of Paris will care if I shout at them? Have you seen the way they dodge oncoming traffic? You could fire a cannon at those birds and they'd probably just walk a little faster to avoid getting hit.
Tell me more about this guy who isn't me. I'd like to challenge him to a duel.
17 seconds ago
See what I mean?
There's not much to tell.
He's impossibly handsome and out of my league.
How was your day?
5 minutes ago
Impossibly handsome? Are you sure he isn't me? Because I have to say, buginette, if you ever met me in person I'm paws-itively certain you wouldn't be able to keep your tongue in your mouth.
Do you know what I love about you? You always ask me how my day went, even though I never have anything good to say. It was a day. I lived it. By tomorrow it'll have melted into the blurred landscape of days past. Indistinguishable. Irrelevant. Unless you feel like confessing your undying love for me…?
3 seconds ago
As a matter of fact, I don't.
Listen, Chat Noir.
Whoever you are.
It may not seem like it, but I know how you feel. A routine life where everything is safe and familiar? Never taking risks or chasing after your own ambitions? It's stifling, isn't it? Some days I can hardly breathe.
But strange and wonderful things still happen to sleepwalkers like us.
I accidentally emailed you and, rather than let it go, I took a risk and we became friends.
It's time for you to take a risk.
Adrien read Ladybug's message until he could have recited it from memory. A risk. If she'd known the truth of his identity, she wouldn't have made the suggestion so easily. What risk could a public figure like him take without it showing up in the tabloids the next day? Better still, what risk could he take that his father wouldn't find out about?
He could ask for her phone number, but he was ninety percent sure she'd turn him down.
Adrien sat beside Plagg, who'd resumed sleeping when it became clear his master wasn't leaving the room. The good news, he thought, was that Ladybug viewed their friendship as something strange and wonderful. A risk taken. A break from her routine life. (He couldn't imagine Ladybug living a routine life; she seemed like the kind of person who worked an exciting job and spent her weekends rock climbing or skydiving or free-running through the streets of Paris.)
She must have known the feeling was mutual. One little mistake changed his entire life. Suddenly the endless parade of work and public events became full of mystery and excitement. Suddenly he was checking his phone more often. His smiles were sincere. He felt like a guy for once, not his father's poster child, not Chloe's favorite doll, not the public's eye candy.
Someone in the world knew him. Not Adrien Agreste: supermodel, but Adrien Agreste as Chat Noir: a sarcastic, pun-dropping Casanova who said what he wanted without restraint.
Was it possible? Could he channel Chat Noir and accept his Lady's challenge? He was in desperate need of a miracle.
But he'd have to start small. Nothing too drastic. No dyeing his hair, no announcing his retirement, no tattoos, no trying to find the good in Chloe. Whatever it was, it had to be unpredictable, but not altogether different.
Man, he was hungry. That apple strudel from the Dupain-Cheng bakery this morning had really hit the spot. It should have been illegal for things he wasn't allowed to eat that often to taste so good…
He knew what he was doing tomorrow.
9 hours ago
Your wish is my command.
To Be Continued
A/N: Oh God what have I done.
Quick note: Adrien and Marinette's homes are a little different in this fic than they are in canon because this is an AU. That's about it. If you enjoyed this first chapter, let me know in the box below!