Inspired by an AU by Asian-simba
Marinette wasn't exactly surprised that Ladybug's follower count spiked in the days following Adrien Agreste's re-gram, but she was surprised by just how much it did. People were speculating whether or not they knew each other (they didn't), whether or not Adrien had a secret girlfriend no one knew about (he didn't), and whether or not Ladybug was an attention-seeking whore (she wasn't).
Alya told her not to read the comments. Marinette did anyway. For every negative comment posted to both la_mode_coccinelle and adrienagreste, there were at least two positive ones. Unfortunately, each negative comment hit just as hard as the one before it.
What made it worse was that it had started trending. Adrien Agreste was a celebrity. Celebrities' lives were always up for scrutiny, to the point where innocuous photos of models they admired were grounds for no less than the juiciest of gossip. On the other end of that, the subject of such gossip became an easy target for hate messages.
"I'm not trying to steal your man!" Marinette yelled at her phone one afternoon when she'd had enough. "I don't even know him! He's not yours! You don't even know him!"
That was when Alya smoothly nabbed the phone from her hands, logged out of the la_mode_coccinelle account, and changed the password from her own phone.
"I'll handle this for a little while," she said. "Concentrate on your final exams. Take your mind off it."
Well, that was easier said than done, but Marinette tried her best.
She finished her school assignments and passed the exams with flying colors. She put in extra hours at the bakery. She finished the qipao, and she and Alya took some time late one afternoon to find the perfect spot to do the photoshoot.
"Say what you want about the controversy," Alya mused as they wandered the French countryside about an hour outside of Paris, "but our last photo still got more likes than any of our others. And no one knows who we are, so our personal lives haven't been affected."
Marinette nodded. "Yeah, that's true," she said.
They wandered a little farther in silence.
"Soo …" Alya said, "Who's Le Chat Noir?"
Inexplicably, Marinette felt heat rising to her cheeks. "I don't know." She shrugged. "He's some cosplayer I started talking to a while back. I don't really know why I responded to him when so many people were trying to talk to me. He just seemed genuine, I guess."
"Mm-hmn. And the fact that he's fit as hell didn't have anything to do with it?"
"I … was more focused on the costumes," Marinette said weakly. "And the cats."
Alya hummed again, like she didn't entirely believe Marinette but wasn't about to push any further. "Anyway. I should probably give you access to the account again. He's super concerned about you. I guess talking to me wasn't good enough."
"Here, give me your phone."
Marinette dumbly handed it over.
"Do you know his name? Age? What his face looks like? It's obvious he takes care not to show it in his photos."
Marinette could only shrug. "No, but he doesn't know any of that about me, either. I've taken to calling him Chat Noir, at least in my head. We just complain about sewing projects to each other, that's all."
A minute later, Marinette had her phone back. Despite wanting to check lechatnoir's messages there and then, she forced herself to slip the device back into her purse. Alya was already suspicious enough.
"I have an idea for the photoshoot," she said instead. "Let's go to those trees over there."
The photo would be of her, leaning back against a tree looking totally and utterly relaxed. She needed to show that she wouldn't be scared off by the internet's negativity, and this felt like the right way to do it. In that moment, with her eyes closed and the wind rustling through the trees, she really did feel more relaxed than she had in weeks.
She caught up with the Ladybug Instagram – which Alya had taken to calling the Ladyblog – as soon as they got home that night.
lechatnoir: yo dude I saw that Adrien Agreste re-grammed that post! Congrats!
lechatnoir: you didn't respond to my last message and that's fine, I'm sure you're busy, but take a look! The costume is finally cooperating!
lechatnoir: it's been a few days. are you okay? You shouldn't listen to what the haters have to say, you're great
lechatnoir: Ladybug? I'm getting kind of worried please message me when you get this
la_mode_coccinelle: Hi, this is Ladybug's photographer speaking. She's doing just fine, she's just taking a break from Instagram and all the negativity until after her exams are over. I'll let her know you messaged, and I'll have her contact you first thing. Sorry for not responding sooner, Ladybug gets a lot of messages that she doesn't reply to. I didn't realize yours were any different until now.
lechatnoir: oh okay! Yeah, just let me know.
Marinette sighed. It was sweet of her friend – yeah, she supposed they were friends at this point – to worry about her like that. She thought for a moment, then composed a reply.
la_mode_coccinelle: Hey! It's me, Ladybug. Sorry about the scare. I got really busy and wasn't handling the attention very well, so I stepped back for a little bit. But right? I still can't believe it happened. And the costume is looking great!
Gazing at the photo of the Link cosplay before her, she got an idea for her next outfit. Rushing over to her computer, she typed a couple words into the search bar. She surveyed the results before her and made a few mental notes.
Okay, she decided. That's doable.
She would make a run out to the fabric store tomorrow – it was too late to go anywhere that night. But as she got ready for bed and laid down to go to sleep, she was drafting sketches in her head.
With all her materials laid out before her the next day, Marinette had to admit that she felt a little bit out of her element. Although she had been designing and making clothes for years, costuming had never been her strong suit. It felt wrong, trying to copy a design down to the minutiae. She felt like her creative freedom was stifled, and she didn't like it.
So, she decided then and there that she wouldn't. She would take inspiration, but this work would be her own, just like everything else she had done up until this point.
She started with a simple sleeveless beige underdress that fell to just above her knees in the front and trailed longer in the back. To the front, she added a layer of shimmery chiffon that hung to just below the hemline. From there, she added a purple off-the-shoulder layer that swept back to follow the hemline of the dress, hiding where the chiffon was sewn to the fabric in the front. She added some trim and took the time to make a pair of shimmery white gloves as well.
The belt was the hardest part. Staring at the original design, it took her ages to transfer the pattern to the belt in such a way that it worked, but wasn't tacky.
The entire outfit took less than a week. It would have been done even faster if Alya hadn't dropped in to tease her about 'that cat boy' what felt like every three seconds. The way Alya told it, Marinette liked this guy she knew nothing about – which wasn't true. She had just been inspired by his cosplay, and had decided to do something Zelda-themed as a sort of apology for scaring him so badly.
The accessories were the hardest thing to find. It took two days of looking before she and Alya found a dainty circlet and necklace that matched well enough to use. The sword Marinette wanted to use as a prop would have been another problem, but Alya had some friends in a theatre program that were willing to lend them a sword for a day.
They found an empty field to do the shoot in. Marinette, clad in her design and a pair of gladiator sandals, leaned casually upon the sword and stared into the distance as Alya scrambled to get her best shot.
It took some courage to post the photos from that shoot. What if Alya was right, and it came across that way? But still, she had made the outfit and gone through the effort of doing the shoot – and she was proud of it – so there was really only one option.
la_mode_coccinelle Not my usual, but I was inspired by a friend of mine #fashion #cosplay #loz #zelda
It wasn't long before the likes and comments started flooding in. As usual, most were complimentary. Some were hate. Many of the comments boiled down to "omg loz is my FAVE," while others critiqued the adaptation. There were more comments than she usually got, but she supposed that was to be expected when her outfit was easily recognizable as something that a lot of people knew and loved.
adrienagreste liked your post
lechatnoir liked your post
lechatnoir commented: oh my god you didn't *heart eyes emoji*
Marinette just smiled and rolled her eyes as she liked lechatnoir's comment, as well as a couple others that stood out. As she did so, she couldn't deny the fact that she wished Adrien would comment on a photo of hers again, despite the drama it had caused the last time. He hadn't commented on anything since, and it was bumming her out a little bit more than maybe it should have.
It was probably for the better, anyway. Her internship would start soon, and she didn't need to accidentally act familiar with Adrien Agreste when he didn't even know who she was.
She shrugged. C'est la vie.
On the other side of town, Adrien Agreste threw his phone down on his bed, where it thudded softly against the sheets. Moments later, there was a much louder thud and the squeak of bedsprings as his body followed. Laying back, he dragged his hands down his burning face.
She didn't have any right to be affecting him as much as she did. She was just someone on the internet. An anonymous someone. He didn't know who she was. Hell, she didn't know who he was – not really.
Adrien couldn't help but think that maybe he shouldn't have regrammed her photo. He had proudly watched her follower count blow up, but at the same time he'd also seen the abuse that had been hurled in her direction. To anyone else, she might have seemed unaffected by it all – the account continued to post as it usually did. Adrien had only realized that everything wasn't as hunky-dory as it appeared to be when Ladybug stopped replying to lechatnoir's DMs.
He hadn't meant to fall head over heels for the designer and model when he first followed her. Even when he'd first messaged her from his finstagram account about a sewing question, it had been the last thing on his mind; he had only cared about getting his cosplay perfect. Somewhere in between then and now, his feelings of admiration and friendship had gotten muddled.
And so, here he was.
A blushing mess.
Adrien removed his hands from his face to pet the cats that had jumped up beside him. They always managed to make him feel better. The larger of the two, Plagg, allowed the pets for a minute or two before lying down just beyond arms' reach to get black fur all over Adrien's white sheets. Plagg's sister Tikki, a more even-tempered calico, took advantage of Adrien's now-undivided attention and curled up right beside him.
"I'm the only one she really talks to," Adrien marveled out loud.
He had been convinced that Ladybug had several people she talked to on the app. After all, she was a popular fashion account, and she had been so willing to answer his question. From what her friend-slash-photographer said, however, it sounded like she rarely responded to the large number of messages she received.
"What makes me special?" He looked to his cats as if they could give him an answer, but all he got was an uninterested yawn from Plagg. "She doesn't know who I am. She thinks I'm just some nerdy Legend of Zelda cosplayer with a food and a cat obsession. That's not special. Merde, that could be anyone!"
At the mention of Zelda, Adrien blushed again. If he hadn't been in love with Ladybug before, he certainly was now. Ladybug's latest post had destroyed him. He was no longer a human being, just an Adrien-flavored puddle of goo.
The image of Ladybug in the Zelda-inspired dress wedged itself into his mind and stuck. Her unspoken apology was clear, but at the same time, he didn't feel like he deserved it. He had been the cause of her hiatus from Instagram in the first place. Would she forgive him if she knew the truth?
Scratch that. Even if he wasn't Adrien Agreste, would she forgive him?
Scratch that again. After all, if he wasn't Adrien Agreste, he wouldn't be in this situation in the first place!
"What would you do?" he asked Tikki. She butted her head into his side and just kept purring.
"Of course. That makes sense."
He took her soft mew as one of agreement, and he sighed. He never should have started this whole double-identity thing.
As if on cue, his phone lit up with a notification.
la_mode_coccinelle: god I feel like such a poser rn. I know absolutely nothing about loz ^^"
Adrien couldn't help the fond smile that appeared on his face.
lechatnoir: surely you know a little bit. who is Zelda?
la_mode_coccinelle: the princess. that's easy, i just googled her for a couple days straight!
lechatnoir: and the hero's name is?
la_mode_coccinelle: Link? Come on, his name is constantly in your photo captions
lechatnoir: See? There you go! You already know more about loz than like 50% of the population, I promise
Adrien couldn't keep the grin off his face as he explained to her that a large number of people thought Link's name was Zelda. He laughed outright at her indignant response.
A little voice in the back of his head told him that this was the first conversation he'd had with Ladybug that didn't revolve around costuming and sewing. With every message he received, he desperately hoped it wouldn't be the last. She was so much fun, and so genuine … and also genuinely interested in what he had to say about Zelda, which he could talk about for hours.
Eventually, though, the conversation wound down, and Adrien let it go. As desperate as he was to learn more about the woman behind the ladybug spots, he didn't want to come across as, well, desperate.
la_mode_coccinelle: I think I'm gonna call it a night! Another long day tomorrow …
lechatnoir: that's totally fine, I should probably do so myself soon too. Goodnight, my lady :)
Merde, why did he send that? Yes, the English pun had been on his mind for weeks, and this was the first chance it seemed appropriate to use it, but was it really appropriate? When she didn't respond immediately, he hopped on damage control.
lechatnoir: get it? bc in English 'coccinelle' is 'Lady-bug'
Ladybug didn't reply for what seemed like another eternity.
Adrien's heart leapt into his throat.
la_mode_coccinelle: your puns are paw-ful
la_mode_coccinelle: get it? bc in English 'terrible' is 'awful' and 'pautte' is 'paw' so, 'paw-ful'
lechatnoir: go to bed
Adrien dropped his phone after sending that last message, stunned beyond belief. Had he just been flirting with Ladybug? Had Ladybug been flirting with him?
He never thought he'd be one to fall for someone he'd never actually met, but the girls he met because of his modeling career usually only wanted one thing or another from him. Combine that with the fact that he spent all his free time working on cosplays and attending conventions … well, he was no shrink, but it wasn't surprising that he had latched onto Ladybug the way he had.
He stroked Tikki's ears absently. God, he was in so much trouble.
Here I am, a month later with another chapter! Study abroad is going well, but it's taking up most of my time. I have the next chapter written already, but I'm going to hold onto it for a while to guarantee I have something to post.
As for this chapter: "It's impossible to write both ladynoir and ladrien SIMULTANEOUSLY," they said. "Adrien can't be both Chat Noir and himself at the SAME TIME," they said. They were wrong.