A/N: And here we are! The last chapter. I got a record breaking 20 reviews on the last chapter! That's most any of my ML stories have ever received on a single chapter. Thank you very much for that! I will say that I found it kind of funny that the majority of the reviews were incoherent screaming into the void and at Adrien. Please enjoy this final chapter!
"Marinette?" Tikki said soothingly in her ear. Marinette buried her face even farther in her pillow. Tikki's little paws stroked her hair gently as she made soft little clicks. Marinette wished that Tikki would just leave her alone to wallow in her misery. To let the darkness that was invading her swallow her whole and numb her pain. She physically ached all over, tucked up on her chaise lounge. It was like someone was squeezing her chest. Her breath was coming in short, stilted puffs from all the crying she'd done. How her parents hadn't woken up or heard her was a pure miracle. Marinette was already anticipating being 'sick' and staying home from school in the morning. Heartsick wasn't exactly a real medical condition but nobody at school had to know that. "Do you want me to call Alya for you? Maybe she can come over."
Marinette shook her head against her tear-soaked pillow. She'd have made some sort of sound if she thought she was capable of it. Her voice was gone though. All the crying. She'd been crying ever since she'd been two blocks away from the place she'd left Chat Noir standing like an idiot. That had been nearly an hour and a half ago. "Please Marinette…" murmured Tikki. "Let me do something to help you."
"Thank you Tikki but I'll be okay." Marinette whispered. She picked her head up off her pillow and met Tikki's wide blue eyes. Tikki's face fell. Marinette forced a paper thin smile on her face. It tore almost instantly. "I just… I just need some time. Th… that's all." she told Tikki as she scrubbed furiously at her eyes.
It didn't matter though. Tears still slipped down her cheeks. A chill wracked her body or maybe it was just the fact that she was so tired that she had no energy to keep herself warm anymore. Tikki nuzzled up against her cheek. "Oh Marinette," she said as she dipped down and pulled up the throw blanket around Marinette's shoulders. "You're probably dehydrated from all the crying. I'll go get you some water from downstairs."
"You really don't have to Tikki." Marinette called after her but she was already gone. She started to get up but stopped halfway through the motion. Her knees shook too hard. Marinette collapsed back down on to the chaise lounge, pulling her knees up to her chest and tucking the blanket tighter around her shoulders. "I hate this." she whispered to herself.
Marinette hated that she had a massive bleeding wound in what felt like the dead center of her heart. First Adrien and now Chat Noir. Why wasn't she good enough? For a split second, right before she pulled Chat Noir into the alley, she'd been so certain that it was going to be alright. That Chat Noir wouldn't care that she was just a silly girl he'd saved a handful of times. Now, however, Marinette was sure that was all he saw her as. It was like she'd watched Chat Noir's crush on her wither and die. At least she'd never have to listen to him throw another cheesy pick up line her way. Marinette gasped in pain and curled into herself. "How could I be so stupid?"
Adrien had been right all along in his fears. Chat Noir had hurt her. Maybe not anywhere close to the way Adrien had anticipated but he had definitely hurt her. Probably just as badly as Adrien had too. No, this hurt more. She knew Chat Noir better than Adrien. She trusted him so completely. In the back of her mind Marinette knew that Chat Noir probably hadn't meant to cut her so deeply. They would still be friends at least… probably. There had to be a way to pull herself together before tomorrow night's patrol. The very last thing she wanted to do was to let Chat Noir see her weak yet again. At least she already planned on not going to school the next day. Adrien wouldn't see just how broken and stupid she was. Marinette tried to breath through her nose to calm herself. It came out as a pathetic sniffle. Maybe it was a good idea to cancel tomorrow night's patrol too.
Marinette jerked, knuckles going white around the blanket. She could feel her nails through it. Light footsteps fell above her head from her rooftop patio. Instinctively, Marinette's eyes rose and she turned her head towards the noise. Thick boots and creaking wood. The only person who could've possibly be up there, especially at such a late hour, knew very well how to sneak around and be quiet when he didn't want to be caught. He was very good at it. The fact that Marinette heard him at all meant that he wanted her to know that he was there. He didn't want to surprise her. Marinette's heart sunk even deeper into her stomach. With each step and creak her chest felt tighter and tighter. "Please… go away." she mumbled, burying her face in her palms.
The footsteps stopped. Marinette looked up at her ceiling again. She waited. She hoped. She prayed. It was all in vain.
A soft, timid, hesitant knock sounded through the room as Chat Noir rapped his knuckles on the trapdoor above her bed. Marinette held her breath. It was locked and he wouldn't come in without her permission. Maybe if she just ignored him, he would go away. She waited. Apparently she had even worse luck than what she thought. "Can we talk? Please?" asked Chat Noir, his voice just loud enough to carry through the door.
"Go away Chat Noir." she called up to him. Marinette burrowed herself deeper into her blanket and pressed herself closer to the back of the chaise lounge. It was almost like she was trying to get away from him.
"I didn't get a chance to say anything to you." he said, voice bordering on pleading.
"You didn't have to." Marinette said it so quietly that she doubted that he even heard her.
"I just want to talk to you. Please let me in or come up here or something."
"You should go." Tikki told her. Marinette jumped and twisted to face her. Somehow Tikki balanced a half-full glass of water between her tiny little paws. "I know you don't want to but he came all this way to see you. That says something doesn't it?"
"It hurts so much Tikki." Another stab of pain in her chest punctuated her words. Marinette covered her ears.
"I know but maybe if you two talk it won't hurt so badly. Perhaps the two of you can sort it out." Tikki insisted. Her voice was kind and gentle. She sat the glass down on the floor beside the chaise lounge before floating back up to caress Marinette's face. "It will be okay."
Marinette couldn't bring herself to meet Tikki's gaze so she stared at the upholstery instead. Above her, Chat Noir had fallen quiet. She could practically feel his presence though. There was no way that he'd left. Part of her wondered how long he'd actually sit up there. The rest of the night most likely. Marinette glanced up at her trapdoor and then over at Tikki. She'd have to face Chat Noir at some point no matter which way she felt. Now or later. It didn't matter. The distinct iron heavy dread would still sit in her stomach. She'd feel it's weight for months before it finally became manageable again like it had with Adrien.
Mechanically, Marinette unfolded herself from the chaise lounge. Her legs twinged uncomfortably as she stretched out from being squished up so long. Tikki gave a relieved sigh. "Do you want me to come with you?" she asked.
"No, it's fine. I'll be okay." Marinette shook her head and dropped the blanket back on to her chaise lounge. Her knees wobbled as she walked up the stairs to her loft. She really hated the way her hand shook when she pressed it up to the wood. The trapdoor was the last barrier that kept her from Chat Noir. Marinette took a breath to try and steady her nerves. It didn't work very well. She pushed the trapdoor up. There would most likely never be a better time for this. On the so called bright side, at least there was nothing worse that could happen to me tonight!
Cool night air brushed Marinette's skin. Chat Noir was standing at the far end of the patio by the iron wrought fence. His faux ears were drooping to the side. He shuffled from foot to foot awkwardly and held his hands behind his back. There was tension in his shoulders. He resembled a tightly wound spring that was ready to snap if any more pressure was put on him. The guilt on his face was palpable. "What do you want Chat Noir? It's late." Marinette told him.
Chat Noir took a deep breath before saying, "I wanted to say that I was sorry."
The apology cut straight through to her. The apologies, Marinette had found, were the absolute worst! He was so sweet which was why it sucked so much. She supposed it would've been much harder for her to feel brokenhearted if Chat Noir was a giant jerkface. The same went for Adrien.
"You don't have to apologize for how you feel." she told him quietly. She wrapped her arms around her chest and tried to rub away the chill that was seeping through her skin. "I'll be okay eventually Chat. Just give me a little bit of time alright. A couple of days and some space. I promise that I'll be able to function and that I won't make it weird for either one of us."
"That's not what I was apologizing for." Chat Noir said quickly. He took a half step forward to her. Marinette backed away on instinct. Anything to try and spare herself from more pain. A wince flashed across Chat Noir's face. He gave a frustrated groan and shook his head. "Please… just listen okay. Don't say anything because you kinda did all the talking earlier and now it's my turn."
"But you…" she started.
Chat Noir jumped in, "I'm serious! Let me talk and get all the way through this before you say anything alright. I want to start by saying that I'm a grade A idiot and yes. I do owe you an apology. God! I can't believe just how stupid I am. All I can think about is how all this time you trusted me and confided in me and I was the one who hurt you so badly."
His shoulders jumped weirdly as he fought to keep his hands behind his back for some strange reason. Marinette shifted uneasily as she watched him. Chat Noir hadn't hurt her until that evening yet he was acting like it was an ongoing issue. "You aren't making any sense."
"Of course I'm not! Why would I ever make sense? I can't ever do anything right! I fall in love with you, Ladybug, and then when you, Marinette, tell me that you like me I'm a blind nitwit that might as well be looking at the world through a giant paper sack! Everything is so painfully obvious to me now and I'm kicking myself. My lady… princess? Marinette? Ladybug? I don't even know what to call you anymore because I've lived with my head shoved so far up in the clouds that the lack of oxygen must have killed half my brain cells. My dad would be so proud of me! All those extra lessons on random things were supposed to keep me sharp and I'm about as sharp as a dull spoon!"
"What?" she shook her head, mouth falling open slightly. She'd have asked him to repeat himself. The way Chat Noir sped from one thought to the next told Marinette that he wasn't thinking really hard about his words.
"Here!" Chat Noir's voice jumped up a whole octave and three whole decibel levels. He held out a beautiful bouquet of red roses and bright daisies to her abruptly. His hand shook. The flower petals trembled on the stems. Marinette's heart ached at the sight of the flowers. Pity flowers? 'I'm sorry you aren't the girl I thought you were' flowers?
She bit her lip. Don't accept them, her better judgement told her firmly. You're hurt and confused and he's doing something that he hopes will make you feel better about yourself. It isn't going to change the way he feels. It will only make it hurt worse. There was something that didn't match up with the desperate look on Chat Noir's face.
"I'm sorry. I'm so, so, so sorry!" he said emphatically. The flowers wavered but he didn't let them drop.
Marinette's hands seemed to rise of their own volition. She said nothing as she took them from Chat Noir's tense hand. That was about the time she noticed that he was as white as a ghost. "You didn't have to." she mumbled as she tried to summon the strength to wrap her fingers tight around the bouquet.
"I did!" He ran his hand through his hair, gripping it by the roots and making it messier than what it already was. "I did and I know it's not enough. I tried to get you something that you would like but I wasn't sure because you said as Marinette that daisies were better than roses. Then as Ladybug you told me that roses were best."
Wait a minute! When had she ever said that she liked daisies? As Marinette as a matter of fact. It wasn't like she made a point of hanging out with Chat Noir outside of the costume. Something wasn't adding up at all.
"I was so confused that I didn't know what to get so I just got both. Now I'm standing here realizing that a handful of crummy flowers isn't anywhere near enough to make up for all the pain I've caused you. Hell, for all I know I've lost any chance that I might have had!"
"Chance?" Marinette's brain stuttered to a stop on that word. Whatever else he had said didn't matter any more. All that was important was that one little word. Chance.
Chat Noir nodded. He still held one hand behind his back. His shoulder sagged from the weight of whatever he was holding.
"Chance." he repeated, "But before you say anything I need to give you this. Here."
Marinette barely had time to adjust the bouquet of flowers against the crook of her arm so they didn't get smashed by the giant book that Chat Noir had pushed unceremoniously into her arms. She actually staggered a bit under its weight. "The Complete Works of William Shakespeare," she read as she quirked an eyebrow up. "Um… Chat, what exactly is this and why do you want to give it to me?"
"So you can beat me unconscious with it." Chat Noir explained. "It was the thickest, heaviest book I could find on my bookshelf."
The words took a moment to sink into her brain. Marinette really didn't know whether to laugh or cry. She settled for continuing confusion instead. It seemed to be working for her for the time being. "You're being a tad bit melodramatic again aren't you kitty? Why would I want to beat you unconscious?"
Chat Noir closed his eyes, backed a step away from her, and shook his head. His shoulders slumped forward as he spread his arms out wide. It was like he was trying to make himself as small as possible. He definitely didn't seem to be in control of his fingers because he was trembling. "It will make more sense in a couple of seconds. Just… just please don't hate me for… for everything I guess." he begged her with a tremor in his voice.
"I could never…" Marinette started. Chat Noir promptly cut her off.
"Don't speak so soon," he mumbled. He took a step backwards, closed his eyes tightly, and spread his arms out wide. "Plagg, retract claws."
Electricity crackled around Chat Noir. Shots of green light rose in the air. Marinette stepped back as it lit up the entirety of her rooftop patio. His familiar suit vanished before her eyes, replaced by something else nearly as familiar. The black plated ring on his finger faded into silver as his little cat kwami, Plagg if Marinette remembered correctly, popped out. Chat Noir's mask melted away last. Marinette's breath froze in her throat and her heart stopped beating altogether. Plagg's large green eyes, the soft glow of the street lamps below, and the small patch of light that escaped through her trapdoor were the only things that illuminated the small space. It wasn't much but it was definitely enough to make out the person standing nervously in front of her.
Marinette's mouth fell open, completely speechless. Then again… what exactly was she supposed to say about this? She took him in with wide eyes. Why hadn't she seen it sooner? His hair? His eyes? The bridge of his nose? All his mannerisms and gestures? His smile… his laugh? They were all the same! Every last one of them! Marinette had to be the dumbest girl in all of France if not the entire world.
"Apparently you and Alya call me 'Felix' when you talk about me in public, but it's really just me unfortunately." Adrien Agreste said, trying to put on a joking front. It would've worked better had the words not sounded so hollow, or had Adrien not been cringing away from her. Marinette's brain was still stuck in place. "Say something please. Scream at me, tell me that you never want to see me again, beat me unconscious with that book. Just say something!"
The book fell out of Marinette's hands with a thunk that could be heard all through the neighborhood. The bouquet would've went too had it not been pressed into the crook of her elbow. Another sound cut through the tense air too. A sharp kind of half squeak and half flustered cry. Adrien cracked his eye open. "Prin… my la… Marinette?" he stammered.
"Oh for the love of…" snorted Plagg before breaking off and saying, "Will you just quit it with the masochistic junk kid? The girl looks like she's about to pass out not throttle you!"
Marinette would've disagreed with him. However, it was kind of hard because her knees were shaking so hard that she was pretty certain they'd turned to jelly. Her tongue had also conveniently disappeared. Adrien moved forward, just a hair, hand outstretched to her and hovering tentatively like she was going to shatter into pieces at any moment. In truth, Marinette probably was. "It's you." she gasped. "All this time?"
"Marinette… I can't even begin to tell you just how completely and utterly sorry I am." he told her emphatically. His hands wavered in the air. Marinette didn't move.
"Oh God!" She couldn't wrap her head around it. Chat Noir had confessed to her months ago and she'd turned him down because she was in love with Adrien. But Chat Noir was Adrien. And Adrien was Chat Noir. They were both the same person! Marinette looked up at Adrien again. He was wincing and she didn't blame him.
"Don't beat yourself up about it too much little kitten." Plagg told her, rolling his eyes. "He was just as clueless as you were up until a hour and a half ago."
"Thank you so much Plagg." Adrien grumbled.
"Spent the first twenty minutes bashing his head against the wall in the very same alley that you left him in." Plagg informed her.
"That's enough Plagg." Adrien ducked his face and rubbed the back of his neck. Marinette could just barely make out the red splotch on the top of his forehead.
"For the record, I see no difference between that and headpressing. You should get yourself looked at before it gets any worse."
"Sh… shut up!" Adrien snapped, turning red enough that it was visible in the low light. He made a mad lunge for Plagg then promptly missed. Plagg darted upwards out of reach while Adrien flailed and tried desperately to keep his balance. He only just barely caught himself before falling flat on his face.
Marinette broke down laughing. Adrien looked up from his still hunched over, balance saving position. "I'm sorry. I'm sorry." she giggled, pressing her hands over her mouth to stifle the sound.
For the first time since he'd shown up on her roof, Adrien looked somewhat relieved. "Plagg, that's enough. Let the kids talk in private. They need it." Tikki called out.
Marinette spun. Tikki's head poked out from her trapdoor and she glared at Plagg. Plagg snickered a little bit but started her way. "I broke the tension and made her laugh kid. You owe me one." he told Adrien as he passed Marinette.
Adrien turned bright red again. "Duly noted."
"He is exasperating isn't he?" Marinette pointed out.
"Like you wouldn't believe." nodded Adrien. He straightened and started to take a tentative step towards her. However, halfway through the motion he just stopped. A guilt ridden look marred his face. "All those nights that you cried on my shoulder because that guy broke your heart… I was the one who did that to you." he whispered.
Marinette dropped her eyes to the ground, "It wasn't like you knew."
"No, but I still can't believe that I was the one who hurt you. Well I mean I knew I'd hurt you when I told you that I liked someone else but I didn't realize that I was the one who'd made Ladybug you cry."
"It's alright. It isn't like you did it on purpose. I did it first I guess. When you asked me out that one night after patrol."
"I was just so… so head over heels for Ladybug that I didn't see, couldn't see, anyone else. It didn't mean that I didn't like you, Marinette. I just…"
Adrien's voice trailed off. Once more the night air felt bitingly cold on Marinette's skin. The cellophane wrapper around the bouquet crinkled as she rubbed her arms against the cold. "You were caught up in your crush just like I was. I understand."
"And then to make it even worse you were right there telling me that I'd made the right choice and trying to make me feel better about turning a girl down who turned out to be you. I should've seen it. I mean, your mask doesn't hide that shade of blue in your eyes."
"Well, now that you know it's just regular, clumsy Marinette under the mask what do you think? The same girl who couldn't hold a normal conversation with you until a few months ago and someone that you've had to rescue from a damp, dark warehouse after she was kidnapped by an akuma?"
She asked the question so quietly that she wasn't sure if Adrien even heard her. He wasn't transformed as Chat Noir. He did though. "I made a promise to myself after like the second or third time we teamed up. It was kind of a passing comment but I didn't realize how much I'd come to meaning it at the time. I swore that I didn't care who was under the mask. I loved Ladybug one hundred percent."
"I'm not Ladybug. Not really or at least all the time like you think I am. I can't even begin to compete with her! I'm trip over thin air. I'm not all that brave or smart. I didn't think you would ever go for Marinette anyways. I knew it was a such a long shot." Marinette explained. For once she didn't rush through her sentences. She managed to keep an even pace the entire time, heart clenching and eyes watering as she forced herself to look Adrien in the eye.
"You're wrong." Adrien said firmly. "I've seen you stand up to Chloe. You're the first person to take charge of a situation when something goes wrong. You don't back down when you know something is wrong. You can solve almost any problem you set your mind to. You're quick on your feet and can come up with a good plan within minutes."
"What about what happened with Wavemaster?" Marinette questioned. "I was practically the ultimate opposite of the heroic Ladybug."
Adrien opened his mouth. Then he closed it again. Marinette squeezed her eyes shut to try and keep the tears from falling. She should've known. Adrien would probably always be looking over his shoulder now to make sure she hadn't become a damsel in distress again.
"I saw a girl who had risked her life to try and save a friend, or rather the idiot guy she liked, from an akuma. Random and unforeseeable circumstances put her at an extreme disadvantage. She was cold, wet, and scared without any sort of real protection yet she was this close to taking my head off with a pipe when I got to her. That girl would've gotten out of that warehouse by herself. And now, as I'm saying this, I'm realizing just how painfully obvious it should've been again that you were Ladybug. Man I'm stupid!"
Marinette blinked, "That doesn't shatter your image of Ladybug? Not even a little?"
"Would it break your idea of Chat Noir if it had been me instead?"
"Of course not!"
"Exactly. We all have moments of weakness. I'm just glad you let me be the one there for you. How many times have you had to bail me out of trouble?"
"You're being generous. I'll always have your back and you'll always have mine. Sound fair?"
"Fair enough. You didn't say anything about my clumsiness." Marinette reminded him, wiping wetness away from her eyes.
"Have you seen me?" snorted Adrien. "Ever since I teamed up with Plagg I spend more of my time on the ground wondering 'why me' than anything else."
"You do not."
"Do too! I just manage to hide it fairly well when I'm not transformed." Adrien broke off. He fell silent for half a moment before clearing his throat.
"Um, about that date you asked me about earlier tonight. Is that offer still on the table because I would really like to take you up on it?"
He held his hand out to her. A timid smile was plastered on his face. Marinette didn't miss the way his fingers twitched. However, he didn't come any closer to her. Adrien waited for her.
Marinette took his outstretched hand and squeezed. Her smile was just as timid and broad as Adrien's. "Yes."
Thank you everyone for following, favoriting, and reviewing! You made this story worth it for me.
NightStar28: Lol, sorry about the cliffhanger. I used two of them in this story and part of me was really conflicted about it. I'm glad that you've enjoyed the story. Thank you for following!
MiraculousLadybugFan995: *pats you on the back and offers you some tea to calm your nerves*
HallowThorn: Again, thanks for your fantastic compliments!
Eclipse Mueller: Some kitty was kinda blind lol!
Sunny Lighter: You can probably say that again.
SoryElena: I couldn't write a reveal without there being a twist on it. Adrien definitely feels like an utter heel right now. I'm glad that you loved it so much.
DarkQueen48: *sets new chapter down and runs* Please don't hurt me. I'm little and easily frightened.
Jojo37: Poor precious children indeed. I hope this chapter was enough to soothe any lingering wounds.
Aiko (anon reviewer): I hope that you had enough time to recover from the last chapter lol. I'm so glad that you've enjoyed the story and my writing. That means a lot to me.
thekageofthenight: One update as requested!
Guest 1 (anon review): Yep, OMG is a good way to put it lol.
YuChyan: I swear I don't mean to kill anyone! I'm glad you're enjoying it!
NitenGale: Absolutely, that totally could've gone better. You're right. Letting the girl he adores walk away isn't his style.
Guest 2 (anon review): You can probably say that again.
Q-A Authoress: That seems to be the common thought lol. Poor guy went straight into a heroic blue screen of death.
CeruleanDreamCat: That was the last cliffhanger I promise. I try not to throw so many of those big ones into a story and I really try not to put two of them together in two consecutive chapters.
Momijifan Low-Ki: The girl is having a hard time catching a break at the moment :(
Cass Zizy: Insecurity definitely got the best of Marinette. Chat Noir looked kind of stunned and horrified to her. She misread that as the idea that he was stunned and horrified that she was Ladybug and not someone 'stronger'/'better.' It definitely wasn't the case. Chat Noir/Adrien was definitely stunned and horrified because he suddenly realized that he was the one who'd broken her heart.
starmienight: Here it is! The last chapter! I'm glad that you've enjoyed it!