Standard Disclaimer: I do not own Miraculous: Tales of Ladybug and Cat Noir and am not affiliated with them in any way.

Found this in my unfinished folder and decided to complete it in an effort to get over my writer's block.


OPERATION: Date Night

It was finally the end of the school day and Marinette breathed a sigh of relief. Alya waved goodbye, already halfway out the door, and Marinette waved back. Her friend had said she had something to do today, so instead of hanging out, Marinette could sit and relax on her own, and maybe design those new accessories she had been thinking about. She began piecing them together in her mind as she exited the school.

"Marinette! Psst, Marinette!" came a familiar voice from beside the stairs she was coming down. She looked around, and saw Adrien waving to her, putting a finger to his lips. Elated and intrigued, she hurried over to him.

"H-Hi, Adrien," she said, proud that her voice barely stuttered. "What's up?"

"Alya and Nino are going on a date after school," he whispered conspiratorially, looking around to make sure they weren't overheard.

"What?" Marinette squawked. "She told me she had something to do, but not that she had a date!"

"Exactly," Adrien said, grinning at her mischievously. "And Nino even knew I had the afternoon free today! He's totally ditching me for his girlfriend! So, I was thinking… wanna stalk them?"

Marinette laughed and then smirked back.

"Absolutely!"

This was going to be perfect! Alya totally had this coming to her for trying to coach her through that date at the zoo! And she could get some awesome pictures of the couple to tease her friend about later!

Plus, she got to spend time with Adrien!

Adrien laughed at her eagerness and held out his hand, pulling her over to his car as soon as she nervously gave it to him. Oh my gosh! Oh my gosh! She screamed internally. Is this really happening?

"I overheard them saying they were going to go shopping at that big music store downtown first," he said, holding the door open for her and giving directions to his driver once they were in. The man looked surprised to see her, but just nodded and started the car without any fuss.

"You sure this won't cause any trouble?" Marinette asked shyly.

"Nope!" Adrien said cheerfully. "My photographer got sick this morning, and everyone else was booked so we had to reschedule the shoot for another day. My Chinese tutor is actually in China right now on vacation and my fencing instructor—" he gave her a pointed smirk and she meeped, flushing dark red, "had somebody bean him in the head with a stray football during gym class today."

"That was totally an accident!" she cried, burying her face in her hands. "And I apologized like a thousand times already!"

"It was still an awesome shot, though!" he laughed at her as she groaned. "Max was trying to calculate how fast it was going and Kim was thinking of convincing you to join the team!"

"Not a chance," she muttered. "I've got enough on my plate as it is."

"Yeah, I know the feeling," he said, still smiling.

They both let out a deep sigh.

"So, err, what part of China did your tutor go to?" Marinette asked curiously. Soon, they were talking animatedly about different regions in China. She had family there, and he really wanted to visit some places. Apparently, his father and mother had gone on a trip years ago, and had absolutely fallen in love with the whole country. The only reason his father had decided to stay in Paris was for the fashion industry.

Before they realized it, they were pulling up in front of the designated store and had to get out.

"I'll call you when I need a pick-up," Adrien said to his driver, who just grunted in agreement and drove off. "Nino and Alya would've had to take the bus to get here, so they probably aren't here yet," he added as they peeked inside the windows of the store.

"The problem is how we're going to keep them from knowing we're following them," Marinette said, thinking. "Alya's pretty good about being aware of her surroundings, so hiding probably isn't going to be enough." Her eyes landed on a nearby boutique and she squealed with excitement, grabbing Adrien's hand and pulling him inside.

"Marinette, what—?"

"We need… disguises!" she said with a flourish, slipping on a pair of oversized sunglasses. Adrien lit up with delight.

"Oh my God, yes!"

She giggled a bit as he eagerly went straight for the hats, doing silly poses with each one. He grabbed a black beret with a speculative look and put it on her. Then he studied her, nodding. "Not bad." She blushed and grabbed a black newsboy cap, holding it out to him. He took it with a grin and put it on. "Nice!" he said, grabbing a pair of shades to complete his look.

Marinette wondered if it was possible to spontaneously combust. Because, hot damn. He looked good. They looked at scarves and jackets too, but it was still warm out. They'd probably look more conspicuous with them on.

"Oh, there they are!" he said, quickly pushing her behind a rack of scarves. Marinette peeked around it to see Alya and Nino walking by, chatting animatedly. Suddenly, Adrien snatched the hat off her head and grabbed the sunglasses she was still holding. "I'll get these," he said quickly. "You keep an eye on them!"

"Ok!" she agreed, happily spying on her best friend as Alya passed by the store window. Then she blinked. "Wait, Adrien!" she cried, chasing after him just as he got to the counter. "I can't let you buy me those!"

"Why not?" he asked, looking surprised and already holding his wallet. "They looked great on you!" Her face flamed.

"Err, well, I… uh… it's just, umm…."

He slowly raised an eyebrow at her stammering and then suddenly looked over her shoulder and pointed. "Look, it's Cat Noir!" he exclaimed.

"What?" she cried, spinning around. Why was Cat Noir here? Was there an akuma? Danger? Did she need to go hide and transform? But there was nothing behind her, just racks of clothes and accessories and innocent shoppers. She looked around for a few more seconds, wondering if she'd just missed him, when she heard some suspicious snickering behind her.

She turned back to Adrien with a glare, but he was already pocketing his change and grinning at her cheekily.

"Aww, don't be mad, Marinette," he said, plopping the beret back on her head. "I have to take care of my partner-in-crime."

She flushed bright red as he held out the sunglasses she'd chosen earlier. She snatched at them with as much dignity as she could muster.

"Fine, but I'm paying you back later."

"Mm hmm," he said, noncommittally, rolling his eyes. He slipped on his own hat and sunglasses. "Back to the chase, then?" he grinned. Marinette couldn't help her own smile. He looked like he was having the time of his life. She put on her own sunglasses.

"Let's go."

They slipped into the music store, noticing Nino and Alya were towards the back, sharing headphones and listening to a preview of something that had both their heads bobbing. Marinette giggled and took a picture. Beside her, Adrien was attempting to beat box and make his own spy music.

"Don't you think the 'Mission Impossible' theme would be more appropriate here?" she asked slyly.

"Ehh, I was trying not to go for cliché," he said, shrugging.

"Hey!" she said indignantly. "There's cliché, then there's the classics."

He stopped and gave her a big, warm smile. "I completely agree."

She gasped and pushed him out of sight as Nino and Alya finished their own song and turned to find another one. She and Adrien quickly pretended to look at the music around them. Marinette nearly laughed aloud when he picked up one CD with a disgusted face. It was Mr. XY.

"There's cliché, there's classic, and then there's repetitive," he said, holding the CD like it might infect him. "Ugh."

"The same four chords for two minutes straight," she agreed.

"And the lyrics aren't even that good. I swear, if I had to hear 'baby' one more time in that last song…."

She giggled, knowing exactly what he was talking about.

"But did you hear that new single by Jagged Stone? The one he wrote about Ladybug?" Adrien asked eagerly.

Marinette's eyes lit up. "Oh, yes! It was wonderful!"

"And that rift after the second verse?"

"KILLER!" they exclaimed together, then burst out laughing.

"Oh, hey, looks like Nino found what he wanted," Adrien said, looking towards the exit.

"Alya too," Marinette said. "Hey, wait, that's—she already has that CD!"

"Maybe it's a present?" Adrien suggested.

"It better not be for me," Marinette muttered. "She keeps trying to get me into jazz."

"You don't like jazz? But it's so romantic," he said, pouting.

"Some of it is ok," she conceded, "but most of it just puts me to sleep. Not good for when I wanna listen to something while I'm studying."

He shrugged. "Let's follow them," he said as their friends headed out the door. "I wanna see where they go next." She agreed, and they hurried out the door, feeling like the spies they were pretending to be. They hid behind poles and buildings, trying to get close enough to hear their friends. At one point, Adrien even hid behind an ad that had his own face on it, and took a moment to pose to beside it mockingly. Marinette snapped a picture, covering her mouth to stifle her laughter.

"Send that one to me," he said eagerly, bounding back over to her. "I gotta make a meme about being 'beside myself' or something. Here's my number." Marinette flushed and made a show of entering his number into her phone, hiding it just long enough so he didn't see it was already in there. She quickly sent him the photo, and then they spent a couple of frantic minutes looking for their friends.

"There they are!" Adrien finally said, pointing to a nice-looking restaurant where Nino and Alya were just sitting down to a table by a window. They went in and Adrien quickly took the maître d aside, whispering to him. Marinette pretended not to see the large bill he handed the man before they were escorted over to a secluded booth, which gave them a perfect view of their target couple. She was seriously going to have to pay him back, somehow, for this. Maybe a gift or something from the bakery? At least he still looked super-excited about their little adventure. They took off their hats and sunglasses and got comfortable, since it looked like Alya and Nino were ordering already and would be here a while.

"Wow, Nino really went all out for this date," Adrien said, looking around in awe.

"It's not really Alya's style either," Marinette said, thinking of her casual, laid-back friend. "Is it their anniversary or something?"

Adrien got out his phone and tapped on it a bit, frowning. "I don't think so. Does four-and-a-half months count as an anniversary?"

"May I take your order, Monsieur and Mademoiselle?"

"Oh, uh…," she and Adrien shared identical "eek" faces as they quickly looked at their menus. It'd probably be rude not to order something while we're here, right? Marinette reasoned. Deciding to kill two birds with one stone, she ordered a dessert. Adrien raised his eyebrow before smirking at her.

"Got a sweet tooth, huh?" he asked. She just grinned at him until the waiter left.

"Actually, I'm going to compare the taste to my parents' recipe," she whispered conspiratorially. Comprehension blossomed on his face.

"Why you sneaky little spy!" he whispered back, grinning. She gave him a cheeky salute.

"That was the point of this, no?"

They both burst out laughing, trying to keep it down so their friends wouldn't hear. Marinette couldn't stop smiling. This was fun! She'd just have to make sure Adrien didn't try to pay for her again. That'd make it seem too much like they were on their own date.

A date with Adrien. A date with Adrien! This was just like a date—No, Marinette! Don't make it weird! she scolded herself. Friends! You're just friends stalking other friends for fun! Focus on Alya! Alya and Nino!

"So, uh, what do you think they're talking about?" she asked nervously. Adrien glanced over to where their friends were, studying them for a moment.

"Well, they just got out of a music store, so maybe music?" he mused. Marinette nodded. That made sense. "Then again, Alya's on her phone, so maybe they're discussing the Ladyblog."

Marinette laughed nervously. "She's probably trying to figure out a game plan to get closer to the action during the next akuma attack," she sighed. Adrien winced.

"Ugh, I hope not. I mean, I love some of the shots she gets, and it's great that she cares so much… but sometimes…."

"It's just not worth it," Marinette finished, shaking her head.

They had a few moments of silence stretch out between them. Marinette took a couple pictures of their friends to give to them later, but was too shy to ask Adrien to take a picture with her. She was just about to cave and talk about something inane when their drinks arrived. Then her phone started buzzing. She picked it up to look, then dropped it on the table like she had been burned.

"She's texting me! Adrien! Alya's texting me!" she said, panicking but remembering to keep her voice down. Adrien looked alarmed, then his phone started buzzing too.

"Nino, too!" he said, staring at his phone in disbelief. "What's it say? Can you answer it without giving us away?"

Marinette looked, then breathed a sigh of relief. "It's okay, she's not onto us. She just wanted to know what I'm doing." More specifically, the text was the very simple, "Hey, girl. What's up?" She quickly replied just as vaguely.

MARINETTE: NM. HBU?

Her answer came back just as quickly.

ALYA: Babysitting. Woo hoo.

Marinette scrunched her face into a frown. "Liar," she muttered. "Oh, I am sooo calling you out on this one tomorrow."

"Huh?" Adrien said, looking at her curiously. She showed him the text. To her surprise, he laughed lightly. "Well, in her defense, Nino is acting like a kid. He's trying to chat with me about anime in the middle of his date!" He showed her his own phone as he shook his head at their friends. "Gah, Nino. I gotta help him somehow." Marinette was about to ask how, when she got another text.

ALYA: So, whatcha working on this afternoon?

Marinette grimaced. She hated lying to her friend, but desperate times called for desperate measures! She had been meaning to work on that new idea of hers…. Quickly, she typed up a reply.

MARINETTE: You remember those Cat Noir accessories I mentioned in class this morning? Those.

ALYA: OMG, girl! PICS!

Marinette winced. Whoops. She should've known Alya would be super-interested in anything to do with Ladybug and Cat Noir. She should've gone with something more generic. Now she was gonna have to work on them extra hard tonight, because Alya would definitely be over tomorrow. But she could at least stall her for now.

MARINETTE: No pics 'til they're done! :P

"What does she want now?" Adrien asked. Marinette hoped he didn't think she was ignoring him by texting during their—not a date, Marinette! Not. A. Date! You will not make this weird!

"Pictures," she said. Adrien cocked his head, looking confused. "I'm supposed to be at home right now, working on some new Cat Noir accessories I'm designing." His eyes went wide.

"Y-you're making C-Cat Noir accessories?" he repeated incredulously.

"Just some little things," she said with a shrug. "A choker with a bell, some gloves with his paw print on the back of the hand, maybe a hat with some kitty ears attached…. I thought about doing a jacket to go with it, but the—Adrien?" The blond was gaping at her. She wasn't quite sure he was breathing…. "Um, Adrien? Are you okay?" she asked timidly. Great, I broke him.

He visibly shook himself out of it. "Yeah, yeah, I'm fine," he laughed nervously, rubbing the back of his head. "Oh look, our food's here!" And it was. They took a minute to get everything settled, then once the waiter was gone again, he cleared his throat anxiously.

"So, uh, you have… pictures of these… accessories?" he asked.

Marinette shook her head. "I'm not actually working on them right now, am I?" she grinned. Adrien flushed a deep red.

"N-No, I g-guess not," he said, suddenly becoming very interested in his food. He'd ordered some sort of cheese and pasta dish, and seemed to keep dropping it off his fork every so often, ducking down, embarrassed as he tried to clean it up under the table. While he was distracted with that, she discreetly broke off some bits of her dessert and slipped them into her purse for Tikki.

Marinette studied Adrien in the silence that followed while they ate. Why was he nervous all of a sudden? Had she done something weird? Was he feeling guilty because she was off playing spy with him instead of getting her work done? She opened her mouth to tell him that the accessories weren't important, a hobby really—

"So, you… like Cat Noir?" he asked hesitantly. She blinked. Like him? Like, like him like him? Oh! Oh no! No wonder Adrien was so uncomfortable! He thought she had a crush on Cat Noir!

"Oh, no! No, nononononono! Nothing like that," she assured him, shaking her head and both her hands to get her point across. To her surprise, he looked disappointed. "I mean, he's great and all," she backtracked. "Always saving the day and everything… but he's not really… my type."

Wait, was he pouting?

"So, then, why are you making all these accessories?" he asked. Oh, he wasn't pouting. He must still be confused. Whew. For a second there….

"They're a side project," she explained. "For his fan club, mostly. You'd be surprised how much some of those girls are willing to pay for anything Cat Noir-related." She rolled her eyes. Of course, the Ladybug fanboys weren't much better….

Adrien laughed nervously. She couldn't blame him. The thought of fangirls must make him anxious. They even tried to swarm him at school sometimes.

"Have you… made any… Ladybug-themed ones?" he asked, not really looking at her directly. She blinked. A slow smile spread over her face as she took in how red he was.

"Why? Are you a fan?" she teased. He flushed deeper and tried to stammer out some sort of denial, which she completely missed as she giggled behind her hand. Oh my God, he was so cute! And it just so happened, she did have pictures of some things he might like! She quickly thumbed through her gallery on her phone and held it out to him. His jaw dropped as he took it from her and she preened with pride as he thumbed through the pictures.

Hats and gloves, scarves and wallets, she had quite a collection going for her alter-ego. But out of everything she'd made, there was one item she was particularly proud of; a nightshirt with a picture of a cartoonish ladybug sleeping on a pillow, complete with "zzz" above it, and her own favorite catchphrase, "Bug Out" emblazoned in bold red letters, with her Ladybug symbol as the "O." And judging by Adrien's delighted look, that was the picture he was looking at.

"I'll take two!" he told her excitedly. She giggled again at his enthusiasm as she took her phone back from him.

"I only have one left," she said regretfully. (It was the one she'd been hoping to keep for herself!) "But I'm sure I can get some more made here soon. Maybe I'll even include the Cat Noir counterpart," she added with a wink. "It's gonna have a kitten curled up around a bell with the words 'Cat Nap.'"

She was pretty sure Adrien's smile couldn't get any wider. "Oh my God, that's purr-fect," he said.

She shook her head at him, laughing. "Don't you start!"

"I'm serious. I'll pay you for those."

She waved him off. "Don't worry about it, Adrien," she said. "I already owe you for the disguises earlier, remember?" He scowled at her, clearly not liking this arrangement. He opened his mouth to argue with her, when they suddenly heard an angry shriek.

"FIVE YEARS! Five years, we've been together, Pierre! And you think you can do this to me now? How dare you? HOW DARE YOU!"

Marinette winced as she heard the sound of shattering glass, even as several of the waiters rushed to their upset guest, separating the couple and ushering them out before they could cause more of a scene. She sighed.

Great.

Ladies and gentlemen, if you could please set your akuma alerts to orange, our local evil villain will most likely wreck the rest of your lovely day with his latest attempt to steal jewelry by capitalizing on someone's else's pain, she thought sarcastically.

Across the table from her, Adrien appeared to have the same thoughts as he pinched the bridge of his nose and signaled a waiter for their cheque.

"Alya's gonna wanna follow that woman and see if she gets a black butterfly," he said to Marinette.

"Yup," Marinette said glumly.

The waiter came and, as expected, Adrien had his wallet out before Marinette could even move towards her purse.

"Oh, no, you don't!" she said, shaking her finger at her friend. "You already paid for the disguises. I can buy my own food."

Adrien frowned at her, then looked startled at something behind her. "It's Ladybug!" he cried, pointing.

Marinette gave him a dry stare. "Jumping above?"

"The power is on when things go wrong…," Adrien sang weakly, hopefully, looking like he was trying to save it. Marinette wasn't having any of it. He pouted a bit, but then laughed. "Not gonna work twice, huh?"

"Nope."

"Aww, c'mon, Marinette, it's rude for a gentleman to make a lady pay for her own meal!" he exclaimed. Marinette was about to protest that, yeah, that might've been true years ago…. "Besides, I can think of this as the down payment for all the stuff I'm gonna order from you later," he said, winking.

"I-I already told you, I'll give that to you in return for the disguises!"

"Look, if I let you pay the tip, will you let it go?" he asked. "I get more allowance than I need, and I hardly ever get to splurge on my friends like this." He looked at her with puppy-dog eyes.

Oh damn. She never could resist those eyes….

"Alright," she agreed, grumbling.

Adrien paid cheerfully, then left to go use the restroom before they lost sight of their friends again, who were also trying to pay (Alya was frantically looking out the window for the woman they'd seen earlier, while Nino shook his head at her). Marinette sank down to her chair once more. She was enjoying herself, but that boy was going to be the death of her… He'd only looked at her and she'd melted!

"Would mademoiselle like a breath mint for later?" the waiter asked with a wink. She groaned and tipped him extra. Not that she needed a breath mint. If things went that far with Adrien, she'd probably just die.

Adrien came back, just as excited as before. "Where'd they go?" he asked. She pointed out the window to the park across the street. The distraught woman was crying on a bench, while her date was already on the phone, looking like he was doing the bare minimum at calming her down. Alya and Nino were watching the scene from behind a tree a few feet behind them.

"Real romantic, Nino," Adrien said, grimacing.

"Oh, you and I both know Alya's having the time of her life," Marinette muttered. "The only thing that'd make it better for her is if Ladybug and Cat Noir actually showed up." Adrien sighed, but had to agree with her.

"Well, if that happens, then our evening is going to get a lot more active," he said, scanning the sky for butterflies. It was strange, nobody ever saw where they came from. He gave her a wry grin. "You got your running shoes on?"

"Never leave home without 'em," Marinette grumbled. And it was true. She hadn't worn high heels since she'd become Ladybug; there was too much risk of a random attack. And she did not want to see if they translated into her costume, uh uh. No way was she jumping buildings in heels.

"Hey, are you okay?" Adrien asked as they finally exited the restaurant. They put on their hats, but the sun was going down and it was getting too dark for the sunglasses, so they slipped them into their pockets. Marinette was determined to treasure hers forever. But now she looked at Adrien in surprise. He looked concerned as they took up a position behind a bus stop that allowed them to see both their friends and the woman the couple was watching. "You don't look as excited about all this anymore."

"I just—," she looked over to where Alya and Nino were. How could she tell Adrien she was worried about what he might think if she had to ditch him to go turn into Ladybug? She couldn't exactly tell him, 'wait here, hot stuff, while I take out this monster!'

"Ohh," Adrien said, sounding like he'd figured something out. Marinette looked at him warily. Surely she hadn't given herself away…. "Alya told me once that you've never gone on a Ladyhunt with her. Do the akumas scare you that much?"

"Well, shouldn't they?" she asked in surprise, falling easily into the persona she'd practiced for months. "I've seen people I've known for years turn into raging monsters who suddenly want to kill because their feelings got hurt!"

Adrien blinked at her. "Huh. I guess it makes sense when you put it that way," he admitted. "Do you wanna go home?"

Marinette shook her head. "They don't come for everyone," she said, turning back to the scene in front of them. She smiled. "And I am having fun with you."

"Still," he said, putting his hand on her shoulder and turning her so she was looking at him again. "If it does happen, I don't want you to worry about me, okay? You run as far and as fast as you can. We'll meet up later. I've got your number now, so it should be easy to find each other again after its gone."

Marinette smiled in relief. Adrien had just made things a whole lot easier. "Thanks," she said.

"Well, I don't want you to feel uncomfortable," he smiled back. Then he looked at Alya and Nino's hiding spot and gasped. Marinette whirled around, expecting the worst, but instead, it looked like their two friends had decided to take advantage of their secluded spot and the non-action going on around them, and were currently making out. She barely stifled her squeal of delight and quickly got out her phone, seeing Adrien do the same.

"Nice, Nino," he was grinning as they shamelessly recorded the two. Marinette worked hard to muffle her giggles. Oh, she was soo going to tease Alya tomorrow! Hoping for more details, she zoomed in on her friend. Of course, her klutziness got the better of her and she ended up zooming in a little bit too far to the side…. She gasped and stiffened, even as the picture took; capturing the little butterfly fluttering towards the distraught woman.

Adrien looked down at her in alarm, sensing her change in mood. "What? What is it?" he asked. Then he looked at her phone and gasped himself, before looking up and over at the real-life woman Alya had been chasing. Too late though, her form was already starting to change.

"Go! Run," he urged Marinette. "I'll make sure Nino gets Alya a safe distance away."

"But, Adrien—"

"Don't worry, I won't blow my cover unless I have to. Go!" He pushed her off in the opposite direction. Marinette hesitated for a moment, wanting desperately to stay and make sure he was okay too, but….

He'd given her the perfect opportunity to disappear for a while. And Paris needed Ladybug to make sure everyone stayed safe. Including Adrien.

She ran for it, still just barely turning the corner when she heard the akuma's shriek.

"I AM BALL AND CHAIN! NOW ALL OF PARIS WILL FEEL JUST HOW MUCH OF A BURDEN LOVE CAN BE!"

Marinette's heart ached for the poor woman. Love shouldn't be a burden. Distracting and extremely awkward at times, yes….

"Tikki, spots on!" she cried, as soon as they were clear. The magic washed over her and she embraced it eagerly. Maybe once the monster was taken care of, she could talk to Adrien as Ladybug. He'd like that; he seemed to be a big fan. She raced back over to the scene. To her relief, it looked like Nino had successfully convinced Alya to at least get across the street, where she was still filming, but Adrien was nowhere in sight.

She caught sight of Cat Noir instead, who was talking to the akuma as he dodged her attacks, holding out a flower for her. Ladybug smiled and shook her head at her partner. He was so sweet, trying to calm the woman who was trying to kill him. Sadly, it didn't look like it was working very well, and she barely got her yoyo around his ankle to yank him to safety as a giant weight landed on the ground he'd just been crouched at.

"Silly kitty," she said, grinning at her partner. "Don't you know telling a woman to calm down will only make her angrier?"

"Good to know, m'lady," Cat Noir said cheerfully as he pulled himself upright again, dusting himself off. "I don't think me fishing her ex out of the Seine before he could drown helped either."

"She threw him in the river?"

"Yup."

Yikes, this akuma might be a bit more dangerous than she'd hoped for. She desperately hoped Adrien was okay.

"I think the akuma's in her necklace," Cat Noir continued, unaware of her internal issues. "She was screaming something about it being an anniversary gift before she tried to see if he could breathe underwater."

"Good work, kitty!" Ladybug said, delighted. This made things so much easier! She threw up her yo-yo. "Lucky Charm!" A single, red rose dropped into her hand.

"I already tried flowers!" Cat exclaimed. Ladybug hummed in agreement and studied her charm, yelping when she cut herself on the sharp point at the end. Surprised, she examined it closer. Sure enough, it was hard and razor-sharp.

"Wait!" Cat Noir said, looking excited. "I know this anime! Here!" He grabbed it eagerly and struck a cheesy pose. "I really need a cape to do this right, but at least I have the mask. Right, Bugaboo?"

"I have no idea what you're talking about."

Cat pouted a bit. "We definitely need to have an anime marathon night sometime, LB," he said. He took off running at the akuma.

"Cat Noir, what are you—?" she cried as he threw the rose straight at the akuma, point first. It flew like a dart. To her surprise, the akuma managed to dodge it, but didn't step far enough away. The tip of the rose still caught on her necklace, tearing it off to land on the ground nearby. Cat gave a victory cheer, not seeing the akuma aim at him, her powers still very-much intact.

"Cat, look out!" Ladybug screamed, diving for the akumatized item. She grabbed it and flung her yo-yo at her partner at the same time, just as the akuma's magic hit him in the gut, sending him flying towards the river while a magical ball and chain appeared on his leg. The yo-yo twined around his wrist, preventing him from going into the river below him. He shot Ladybug a strained, but grateful look. With the weight on his leg, he doubtless would've gone straight to the bottom.

Ladybug threw the akumatized necklace on the ground and stomped on it for good measure. The monster shrieked as she was once again thwarted.

"Sorry," Cat Noir said, smirking, "but cats hate water. Cataclysm!" He grabbed the ball and chain attached to him, watching them crumble away in satisfaction. Then, no longer weighed down, he leapt away from the edge of the river and tossed Ladybug's yo-yo back to her so she could capture the little, black butterfly attempting to flutter away. She quickly purified it, releasing it with her usual cheery goodbye.

The victim sank to her knees as the dark magic receded, and Ladybug easily retrieved the Lucky Charm, throwing the rose into the air and calling for the Cure. The woman's necklace was repaired, and Ladybug got a tingle that told her that her tiny finger prick had also been taken care of. Good. She didn't want to try to explain to Adrien (or Alya tomorrow) how she'd managed to stab her finger, especially when she was pretty sure her best friend was still recording everything across the street.

Cat Noir approached her with a big grin, holding his hand out for their usual fist bump. She grinned back. This one had been quick and simple.

"Pound it!" they said together. Then they turned back to the victim. Ladybug held out her necklace, smiling apologetically when the woman burst into tears again at the sight of it. Then, Cat Noir was there, bowing to the woman and holding out the same flower he'd tried to give to her akuma earlier.

"Here you are," he smiled at her, "to remind you that not all men are dogs." He winked at her. Through her tears, the woman burst out laughing and took the flower.

"Hang onto this one, Ladybug," she advised, taking her necklace from the superheroine.

Ladybug blushed. Oh no. Why did everyone get the wrong idea? She looked over at Cat Noir to see him smirking and wiggling his eyebrows at her suggestively.

Ah yes. That's why.

"We'll see," she said, not wanting to disappoint the woman about love any more tonight. "He can be pretty useful at times."

"Ooo, high praise, milady," Cat Noir snickered mockingly as the woman walked away. "Careful, people might start to get ideas…."

"Yeah, about throwing you in the river," Ladybug snarked back. "That was a pretty good idea."

"Merciless, as always, my lady!" Cat cried, miming a strike to the heart. He pouted. "Well, tonight, this cat doesn't have to take it." He started sauntering away, swinging his tail. Ladybug grinned.

"Ooo, has someone got a hot date?" she teased. To her surprise, Cat Noir blushed and gave her a little sideways smile.

"Something like that."

And then he was leaping away before she could lift her jaw off the floor and start questioning/teasing him about his new girlfriend. How cute! She couldn't wait to tease him about this later! But for now… she scanned the crowd that was gathering, ignoring Alya's persistent questions, but Adrien was nowhere in sight. She pouted a bit, then waved to the crowd as her earrings beeped and took off. She didn't dare stop to answer any of her best friend's questions. If she did, then Alya would think of nothing else for the rest of the night! She couldn't do that to Nino!

And it looks like Adrien will have to wait until next time to have a conversation with his favorite superheroine too, she mused. The thought of his crush made her grin, even as she stepped into an empty alleyway nearby and let her transformation drop. No sooner had Tikki zipped back into her purse than her phone started ringing. She smiled when she saw the picture that came up.

"Hello?" she said, answering it.

"Hey! You ok?" Adrien's voice came back, sounding breathless.

"Yup," Marinette said, her insides warming at his concern. "I barely got past the alley before I saw the Cure go by. Did they get it already?"

"Yeah!" he said cheerfully. "That may have been the quickest akuma yet!"

It helped that Ladybug had been nearby, Marinette thought. And Cat must've been close too, considering he got there before me.

"I'm heading back now," she said.

"Actually, meet me a couple blocks north along the river," Adrien said, sounding mischievous. "I've got an idea to help our friends." He ended the call and Marinette stared at her phone for a moment. Why did she suddenly have a bad feeling about this? Still, she took off in the direction he'd indicated, keeping a sharp eye out for her other friends, whom she assumed would also be heading in the same direction.

She slowed down when she came to the point he'd indicated and blinked. This must be a popular hangout for couples. There were nearly a dozen pairs just wandering up and down the paths or admiring the Seine at sunset. There was even a band of street performers playing low, romantic music. How sweet! She really hoped Nino brought Alya here, it was—

A pair of hands grabbed her from behind, covering her mouth and muffling her scream.

Marinette's Ladybug instincts kicked in and she quickly shoved her elbow into the stomach of the man behind her, stomping on his foot as she heard him grunt. She spun around, her fist already flying towards his face, but to her surprise, the blow was deflected while her hand was twisted and captured neatly.

"Whoa!" her attacker gasped out. "Remind me to never make you mad!" Marinette froze as she recognized the voice. Then she felt her face burn. Oh, sweet mercy, she'd attacked Adrien! Well, he'd attacked her—or, well, they'd fought… but, damn! He'd kept up with her superhero reflexes!

"Same to you, Adrien," she managed to say, trying to calm her racing heart.

"Sorry, I didn't mean to give you a heart attack," he said sheepishly, letting her go.

"And I didn't mean to hurt you," she said, wincing as he rubbed his stomach where she'd hit him. "I mean, I did, at the time, because I thought you were an attacker—but if I'd known it was you attacking—not that you were attacking me! Obviously! I, um… are you okay?"

"Yeah," he chuckled. "And I deserved it, sneaking up on you like that. Glad to know you've got good reflexes!" He added cheerfully.

"Well, big city and all," she said, rubbing the back of her neck to chase away the last of her embarrassment. "Do you know if Nino and Alya are coming?"

"Yup!" he said, pointing down the road a bit. Marinette looked and saw their two friends walking along the path. Alya was clutching her phone and rambling about something (probably the attack she'd just witnessed and was no doubt putting on her blog this very instant), her eyes bright with excitement. Beside her, Nino was grinning and shaking his head at his girlfriend, occasional interjecting his opinion of something on her screen. She and Adrien quickly hid behind a nearby tree as Marinette quietly cooed. Those two were so cute together! She quickly snapped a couple more pictures for them.

"And just wait! I arranged something extra special, just for them!" Adrien said beside her, rubbing his hands in anticipation. Marinette had that bad feeling go through her again.

"What exactly did you arrange?" she asked slowly.

"Look there!" he said eagerly.

Marinette looked over again to see a small group of the street performers had gathered closer to their friends and formed a small band that was currently playing a cheesy, jazzy love song; and that all the performers were very-obviously focused on the pair in front of them, ignoring all the other couples in the park.

"Oh no," Marinette groaned softly. He'd paid the musicians to play love songs for their friends!

"What's wrong?" Adrien asked, sounding surprised. He looked like a kid in a candy store, just waiting for his sweets to be delivered.

"Oh, Adrien," Marinette sighed. Gorgeous? Check. Sweet? Check. Slightly oblivious? Yup, check. "There's a reason why Nino likes to DJ at dances…."

They both looked over as the cat-calls from other couples began for the singled-out teens. Hoots and coos, and calls for them to "Kiss! Kiss! Kiss! Kiss!" Alya just blushed a bit, but Nino turned bright red, grabbed his girlfriend by the arm, and hightailed it outta there.

"Wha—?" Adrien cried, moving like he wanted to go after them. "What happened? Why'd he run? Was it not romantic enough? I thought we agreed that jazz—"

"I think the problem," Marinette interrupted, holding a finger to his lips before he could get too riled up, "was that it was too romantic, Adrien."

He stared at her with wild eyes, clearly not understanding.

"They aren't quite there in their relationship," she explained, trying a new angle. "They're at like, Step 5, and that," she gestured over to the musicians, who had moved on to another couple nearby, "is more like, Step 9 and 3/4 or something."

"But they've been dating for months!" Adrien protested. "I've seen them kiss, and hug, and all that! And she's over at his house all the time!"

"That's because she'll get roped into babysitting if she stays home," Marinette muttered. "Or the twins will try to take pictures of them in compromising positions…. But anyway, Alya might be okay with PDAs, but Nino… prefers to stay behind the DJ table in public." Adrien continued to stare at her like she was speaking in a foreign language. Marinette sighed again. "Nino thinks he can't dance."

"WHAT?" Adrien exclaimed, Marinette shushed him in vain. "But-but h-he's NINO! He—I've seen him dance before!"

"Mostly Alya guiding him around the dancefloor, spinning in careless circles," Marinette agreed. "He loosens up when he's with her. And I never said he was actually bad. It was just a stupid bet with Kim a couple years back that he lost…."

"How do you know all this about him?" Adrien asked incredulously. "Wait, scratch that—how do I NOT know all this about him? I'm supposed to be his best friend!"

"I've known Nino for a long time," Marinette said, shrugging. "And don't worry, Adrien, you're a great best friend," she added, placing a hand on his arm reassuringly. "It was a cute idea. Just not exactly right for them, per say."

"Ugh, I feel like such a loser," Adrien groaned, banging his head against the tree they were hiding behind.

"Well, you know what we've really lost. The two people we're supposed to be stalking," Marinette said, biting her lip and looking around.

"Don't worry about it," Adrien said dejectedly. "I heard Nino yelling at Alya that they were gonna be late for the movie when she was trying to go after the akuma earlier. It's how I knew they were coming this way. Nino's favorite movie joint is a couple blocks that way." He pointed in the direction their two friends had fled to.

"Perfect!" Marinette squealed, clapping her hands in delight. "Alya's been dying to see that new romcom that just came out. I bet that's where they went!"

"Maybe we should just leave them to it," Adrien said, still pouting.

"Oh, don't be silly—oh! Hello," Marinette said, blinking at the group of musicians that had positioned themselves in front of them.

"Ve are sorry it didn't verk out for your friend, monsieur," one of the violinists said, looking at them sadly.

"No, no, it's okay. Thank you for your efforts," Adrien said, handing the man another bill.

"Oh no, sir, you have already been most generous!"

"I insist."

"Well, then, maybe a tune played specially for you and your own mademoiselle?" the musician asked slyly, indicating Marinette. They both turned red. Then she and Adrien both began stammering at the same time.

"No, no, it's not like that—!"

"We don't—we aren't-!"

"We're friends—!"

"Just friends—!"

"It's not like we're on a date or anything…!"

"Oh my God, this is so embarrassing," Adrien moaned, hiding his face in his hands. Marinette stopped her own ranting to just look at him. He really did seem to be taking this badly. She supposed, he was probably used to being perfect at everything… so when a plan of his failed… he just wasn't used to dealing with it. That and he'd literally chased away his best friend with his "romantic planning." Poor thing. She should do something for him.

That was what friends did, after all. Right?

"Actually," she said to the musicians who were still standing there with knowing smiles on their faces (she was going to ignore that for now), "could you play us a little something with a nice beat to it? This one," she added conspiratorially, jerking her thumb at Adrien, who stared at her curiously, "needs to be cheered up a bit, if you know what I mean." She winked at them and they grinned back at her, starting up a lively little tune that had her head bobbing to the beat immediately.

Channeling Cat Noir, she stepped up to Adrien and gave him a deep bow. "May I have this dance?" she asked, grinning. That startled a laugh out of him, and he bowed back at her and took her hand. Then it was her turn to laugh in surprise as Adrien immediately spun her into a dip, his hands at her waist sure and steady. If it wasn't for the goofy grin on his face, she might've swooned right then. As it was, he easily pulled her out of the move and soon they were half-dancing, half-laughing as they spun each other around in time to the beat.

Whether it resembled anything like a regular dance, Marinette didn't know and didn't care. It was exciting, and silly, and fun to twirl each other around carelessly, (Adrien over-exaggerating his need to duck under her arm for his spin, while she intentionally let go of his hand mid-twirl or pretended to faint so he'd have to lunge to catch her), giggling as they tripped on the grass or pavement (depending on where their feet fell). They both lost their hats more than once, and had to go chasing after them. Marinette was having a great time watching the light come back into Adrien's eyes after their earlier faux pas. She felt a bit of satisfaction swell into the part of her heart that had ached when she'd realized Adrien only saw her as a friend.

This was okay. She could do this, she said to herself. Being Adrien's friend meant she got to see him smile and be himself; laughing and playing with her easily. Being Adrien's date would've meant she would've been stumbling over every little word and just generally embarrassing herself. And probably embarrassing him as well. It hadn't escaped her notice, how quickly he'd withdrawn from having fun whenever someone thought they were a couple. There was probably a story there, but she'd have to get to know him better as a person before she could ask him to share his private life with her. What better way than just being friends?

She'd rather be a good friend than a bad date. Even if he didn't like her that way, she could still get to know such a wonderfully-sweet person.

Somewhere in there, the musicians shifted to another song, and Marinette accidentally stepped on Adrien's foot. Instead of listening to her apologies, Adrien just raised an eyebrow and gently, but intentionally, stepped on hers in return. Marinette's eyes narrowed. Oh, it was on. The rest of the song was lost as they tried to step on each other's feet, dancing away from the other's attacks while maintaining the grip they had on their arms. All the while, laughing idiotically and making really bad threats and banter. (She should know. She bantered with Cat Noir on a daily basis.)

Finally, Adrien called a truce, and, still gasping for air, called out a word to the musicians that Marinette didn't understand. It was obviously the name of another song, however, as they instantly shifted to a much slower melody.

"I needed a break," Adrien explained, pulling her closer and letting his arm slip around her waist as they continued to dance to the music. (Though much more slowly than before. They were basically swaying in one spot.) Marinette hid her smile in his collar and allowed herself to relax against him.

"Me too," she said, taking a deep breath and feeling him do the same. Being in his arms was both calming and thrilling at the same time, however, and she wasn't sure if her blood pressure was going to come down anytime soon! As long as she didn't read into it too much, she could still enjoy this, right? Letting him hold her?

"Marinette?" Adrien called after a few minutes. She looked up at him and he smiled. "Thank you. You're a great friend."

"O-of c-c-course," she said, inwardly cursing the return of her stutter. She had to get back on track! "An-anything for a friend!"

Adrien slowed to a stop and looked around. "Speaking of friends…," he trailed off uncertainly. She took a deep breath, pulling away from him.

"Do you still want to follow them, or should we call it a night?" Marinette asked. "I'm game if you are."

He grinned at her again. "And miss the chance to tease Nino for making out in a movie theater? No way!" he said excitedly. He grabbed her hand again and pulled her eagerly in the direction of the movie theater. Marinette waved goodbye to the musicians, calling out her thanks for the songs as they wished them both luck in return, many of them whooping and winking at the retreating couple.

Adrien knew exactly where he was going, and Marinette knew which movie Alya had wanted to see, so finding out which showing they'd gone to was child's play. Even with their little distraction with the dancing, they weren't too late, so they stopped by the concessions stand to get drinks and snacks (Adrien apparently really wanted some popcorn and Marinette was sure Tikki would love some little candies), while making sure to be on the lookout for their friends. (Marinette allowed Adrien to pay for the tickets, but she insisted on buying her own treats, even if Adrien suggested that he'd 'gotten a big enough tub of popcorn for them to share, so she didn't need to buy her own….')

They finally found Alya and Nino inside the theater, snuggled up together right in the middle. Since they were late anyway, Adrien and Marinette had no trouble sneaking in towards the back (all the better to watch their friends!). They took off their hats and got settled (Adrien spilled a bunch of popcorn on himself, but just shrugged and said he'd eat it off his shirt during the movie, while Marinette casually opened her chocolate candies before slipping the whole box into her purse). The movie was slightly dull and easy to follow, though the female lead had some good one-liners that Marinette privately thought Ladybug could use to her advantage later.

Still, they were there first and foremost to spy on their friends, so Marinette carefully turned the flash off her phone camera and raised it to take a couple discreet photos of the couple a few rows in front of them. Just as she was about to take it, however, her phone buzzed with an incoming text.

It was from Alya.

Perplexed, Marinette opened it and felt her heart stop.

ALYA: Enjoying your date, girl?

Marinette's jaw dropped, even as she got another one.

ALYA: You're welcome! ;)

Marinette stared at her phone, frozen. She didn't. Oh hell. Of course she did! This had Alya written all over it! The store, the fancy restaurant, maybe even the walk in the park followed by a movie… all the hallmarks of a perfect date! And it had all been for—She felt the blood drain from her face as Adrien shifted beside her to look at his own buzzing phone. He went still as well, his mouth dropping open. Nino must've sent him a similar message. He glanced at her before turning bright red and turning quickly away.

"Adrien," Marinette said quickly, keeping her voice low, "I didn't—"

"I know," he groaned, covering his face with his hand for a moment. A small laugh escaped him.

"We've been had, haven't we?"

Marinette could only nod, mortification at her own best friend's conniving and—dammit, Alya was glancing back at them and winking! She was going to die of shame!

NO! No, Alya was going to die of shame! This meant WAR! She had just gotten to the point where she was okay with just being Adrien's friend!

Marinette chewed on her lip, calculating the distance carefully, and finally pulled out one of her pigtails to test the elasticity of the rubber band between her fingers. Perfect.

"Hey, Adrien," she said mischievously. Beside her, he sighed before turning back to her.

"Look, Marinette, I just—what? What are you doing?" he asked, blinking in surprise.

She gave him an evil smirk, holding out one of her elastic ties from her now-completely-free hair. Twin tails meant one for him, and one for her.

"Wanna shoot popcorn at them?"

Adrien's face immediately lit up and he matched her evil smirk with one of his own.

"Absolutely!"

…..

END.

A/N: Yes, this was a one-shot. I was going to include the rest of the date, including the results of the popcorn shooting (which I do NOT recommend, BTW, 'cause my popcorn went everywhere, but I figure superheroes would know how to shoot straight), but let's just say Alya and Nino would've brought the rating up with their comments and threats of doom that would make Hawkdaddy proud.

And since I was told that I "could probably never do fluff, maybe drama at best," this is my attempt to show those naysayers that I can actually do something lighthearted. I think I did okay, but would love your opinions.

Yes, I know the cover image is terrible. I have to wait until I have money to commission something good.

WaRC

Edits: Just a few grammar things and formatting that I swear wasn't there before. If you see any glaring mistakes, please let me know!