AN: For cheklmn. Thanks so much for requesting this, I hope it's okay! I asked my friend for a keysmash to use as Marinette's username, so everyone can blame him for the nickname that comes afterwards (along with my bad poem, I promise I won't include any more). The prompt was for Adrien to not care about her identity, so I'm saying now that there's no reveal. Teasers for upcoming stories can be found on my tumblr (xiueryn).

Miraculous: Tales of Ladybug & Chat Noir © Thomas Astruc

It started with a mistake.

After months on end of fumbling with her words, ending up accidentally hitting him once in class when she'd been talking enthusiastically with her friend, Marinette decided that, maybe, speaking verbally wasn't her strong suit. So, after some consultation with her blue-eyed kwami—a being that was able to turn her into a literal superhero, but wasn't able to cure her of her negative emotions—she came to the conclusion that writing might be able to get her point across.

After a few nights of mumbling to herself from embarrassment, and Tikki touching her cheek and whispering words of affection, assuring her that she was worth every bit of love that she was longing for, she'd crafted a letter that she'd planned to slip through the door of his locker.

Being tongue-tied and a nervous wreck in front of her class-mate had never been the friend. Yet, somewhere along the way of Adrien joining their class, Marinette became aware of her feelings towards him. From the way he tried to muffle his laugher in class by covering his mouth with his hand, to the fond smiles he gave his friends that showed his dimples, and the odd conversations that she was able to hear from her seat behind him.

It just didn't help that Adrien seemed to be under the impression that she was only reluctantly his friend.

But it wasn't that at all. Marinette couldn't get that across when her crush was so juvenile that she stuttered and ended up blurting out the wrong words, only to correct hastily correct herself and get it all wrong once more (sometimes to her friends' amusement and exasperation—they were all aware of her feelings, and she couldn't fault them from how obvious she was being).

Tikki, being the supportive friend that she was, talked her through her options, and in the end, Marinette decided that telling him would be for the best. She knew him well enough' Adrien was kind, polite to any stranger he met, and as he treasured his friends, she knew that she wouldn't be pushed away from admitting her feelings—and if he didn't feel the same way, she would be fine.

With the help of Tikki—her make-shift alarm clock that she wasn't able to turn off by sleepily reaching for a button—Marinette woke up early, stomach churning uncomfortably as she picked up clean clothing and styled her dark-coloured hair carefully, trying to look her best. With her school supplies packed the day before, along with sweets for her close friends, she left without eating breakfast.

Going to school earlier than usual didn't raise any suspicion from her parents, not when they were pottering around the kitchen and making sure everything was ready for their day, and she usually met her friends in the classroom, rather than meeting up along the way.

With her heart hammering, Marinette walked along the hallway to where she knew his locker was located. After checking that no one was there—a feeling of dread from the mere thought of someone catching her—she slipped the sealed envelope through the door, immediately turning away and striding outside the front doors to meet her friends outside, trying to pretend that nothing had happened.

She had time. Adrien usually didn't check his locker until midday, when he needed a certain book for a class, and there was always lunch where she could avoid him to try and calm her nerves. There was a good half a day before she had to face the consequences of her bravery fading, but it was inevitable that he'd have some sort of a reaction to it.

When her best friend came and pulled her into a hug as a greeting, Marinette clung to her tightly.

Alya laughed, pushing her spectacles up when she pulled away. "You're energetic today," she commented, amused. "Already had some chocolate?"

"No," Marinette denied, taking off one of the straps of her backpack to reach inside and take out a small container. "But here's your share."

They were mostly the leftover ones that couldn't be sold at her family's store—the chocolates not even, or broken in some places—but Alya's face still visibly lit up as she took off the lid and reached out to put one in her mouth, making a new of appreciation.

Marinette grinned happily.

When they made their way to class, Marinette adamantly kept her eyes from straying to the blond-haired male that was sat in front of her. She doodled on her notebook, idly replying to Alya every now and then, as they waited for their teacher to appear. She knew that she still had a few hours before the card would be read, but that didn't stop her from feeling the nerves already.

Adrien didn't talk to her one-on-one often. Maybe it was because of how she clumsily replied, but they usually interacted when Alya or his best friend, Nino, was present.

It helped that she'd known Nino since she was younger, having been in the same class for years on end. So, Nino had looked at her in amusement when he'd realised her crush for what it was, but he was kind enough not to embarrass her for it. He shared fondly exasperated looks with Alya about it, though, especially when Marinette buried her face in her hands after Adrien had walked off, lamenting her mistake.

Nino and Alya exchanged matching grins when she spotted each other, hugging quickly before sitting down in their separate seats, promising to exchange their gifts for each other after school. The two of them dating had been strange at first—especially when she'd only just been informed of her friend's feelings—but they were sweet together, at first.

It also meant that the four of them being together wasn't odd.

When Nino got his chocolates from her, as he did every year, he made an excited noise and readily shared them with Adrien in front of her, a stark difference to the previous years, where he'd kept them to himself, swatting away the wandering hands of class-mates that had already finished their own.

After Adrien had two (which was all Nino was willing to give him), he turned around to face her, smile reaching his green-coloured eyes as he said, "They were really good! Did you make them yourself?"

Marinette stared, focusing on the chocolate that was on the corner of his mouth.

"They're the rejected ones that her parents can't sell," Alya interjected, sparing her. "And here I thought you were raised properly, Adrien. You need to learn to wipe your mouth."

When he turned back around to face the front, the top of his ears were reddened from embarrassment.

Alya was usually the one to encourage her, to try and convince her that Adrien would return her feelings somehow if she managed to pluck up the courage to actually talk to him normally, but she kept the card to herself. If Adrien ended up rejecting her—which she was honestly expecting—she didn't really want to have someone there to offer her their sympathies.

With Tikki's sweet presence, she didn't need someone else to comfort her for the inevitable result. She only hoped that once Adrien was aware of why her replies were lacklustre when they spoke, that they would be able to be better friends; do to more than occasionally talk during school, and meet up outside when their best friends there.

When lunch came, Marinette took Alya by the hand and tugged her to the opposite side of the school, ignoring the amused look that her friend gave her.

"Don't want to see others giving Adrien gifts?" Alya questioned as they sat down at a free table.

Marinette had her back to the door that everyone entered through. "Sure," she replied absent-mindedly, deciding it was an convenient explanation.

"I think he's too oblivious to realise some are supposed to be romantic presents," Alya remarked, fiddling with her food instead of eating it. "And even so, he wouldn't be the type to string them along."

"Kind rejections, then?" she queried, having already imagine the scenario for herself.

Alya shrugged. "Maybe a bit blunt, too. That sounds like Adrien to me."

Halfway through lunch, Nino slid into the seat next to Alya, placing a kiss onto her cheek exaggeratedly. "I almost thought you were avoiding me."

Where Nino went usually meant that Adrien was there, too.

Marinette jumped when Adrien pulled out the seat beside her, sitting down and offering her a smile that didn't quite reach his eyes, and the sight of it made her stomach drop.

He—he surely couldn't have thought that it was a good idea to confront her right there. Sure, their friends opposite them were clueless and chatting away, ignoring the two of them, but they were still in public, and Marinette was never good at hiding her frustrated tears for when the situation turned negative—

"Hey," he greeted quietly.

The most she could offer him was a grimace.

When it became clear that he wasn't going to say anything to her, instead patiently waiting for their friends to acknowledge them again, hands tucked into his pockets.

Marinette went back to staring at her food, appetite gone.

After a minute or so, Alya kept her hand linked with Nino's as she shifted her attention back to them, eyes locking onto Adrien with a wide smile that showed her teeth. "Got any confessions today, heartbreaker?" she questioned, sounding amused.

Stiffening, Marinette kept her gaze anywhere but beside her.

"Heartbreaker?" Adrien repeated with a laugh, and she could see from the corner of her eyes that he ran a hand through his hair in an endearing way, one that she'd seen countless times from being sat behind him five days a week. "I got one, but I'm pretty sure it's a joke."

She was terribly aware of how loud it sounded when she swallowed.

"You didn't say that to their face, did you?" Nino enquired.

"No, no," he assured them quickly. "It was a card in my locker, not face-to-face. But I don't think La—I've never seen them at this school?"

That—that didn't sound right. Sure, it was possible that someone else had slipped a card through the cracks of his locker, but if he'd read one, then he would've gone on to see hers, too, wouldn't he?

Unless he was waiting to talk to her alone, not wanting to talk about it in front of their friends. That sounded more like the Adrien that she knew; not someone that wanted to embarrass her.

Alya looked at him sceptically. "So you know them outside of school?"

"I—no," Adrien blurted, breathing out audibly as he slumped back against his chair. "It was just a joke, that's all."

"Why would you think that, dude?" Nino questioned, furrowing his brow. "It could be real, for all you know."

Alya nodded from beside him. "And they could've given it to a friend that goes to our school! There's lots of possibilities, so don't write them off as being a joke immediately."

Adrien was quiet as he said, "But—"

"It's not like you're aware of every single person that has feelings for you," Alya interrupted, brushing some red hair behind her ear. "Right, Marinette?"

She stiffened, eyes wide as she looked between the three of them staring at her—Alya with an encouraging smile that just made the beating of her heart even worse—before she settled on Adrien's curious gaze.

Rather than the eloquent reply that she wanted to say, all that came out was, "I—what—"

Adrien's gaze flickered down to settle on the table as he reached up to scratch one cheek and ask, "Can we just talk about something else, please?"

She felt nauseated.

It didn't get any better when they went back to classes. Adrien was less enthusiastic than before, staring into space and not realising that the teacher had called upon him twice, and Marinette was jittery and constantly fidgeting in her seat.

But by the end of the day, he hadn't approached her. She even took a while to pack her belongings away, purposely taking her time, but he simply put his backpack on and went to the door after waving good-bye to everyone, leaving without mentioning the envelope once.

And then the panic came.

That evening, Tikki talked her through her worries—the possibility of the envelope going into the wrong locker, that she'd forgotten to sign it and the one he'd been talking about had been hers—and they decided that the most likely conclusion was that he hadn't opened it that day.

And yet, for the rest of the week, he didn't mention it. Adrien tried to strike up conversation with her a few times between classes, but none more so than usual, and Alya and Nino seemed oblivious to the fact that she'd sent a card.

She'd almost been convinced that Adrien would tell Nino about it immediately.

When the weekend came, her nerves had almost fizzled out. She was relieved, for once, that she wouldn't have to see him for a few days, able to lounge around in her bedroom without any plans for them to meet up with their friends.

She spent her time in pyjamas, idly doing homework before playing games online, doing all the things she'd been too busy to do during the week. When she'd put a blanket over herself to watch a film that she'd finally downloaded, she became aware of an alert on her phone.

The downside of being a superhero meant that there was almost always a villain in return. While her city was plagued with someone that was able to infect those that were feeling low, turning them into grotesque versions of themselves that caused havoc through the streets—causing damage that could only be repaired with magic—it meant that she had to gather the courage to fight.

With the whispered words to transform herself, Marinette took to using her bandalore to navigate the rooftops, swinging with ease from buildings with grace that she hadn't had back in the beginning, she arrived at the scene of an akuma attack roughly a minute before her partner appeared.

Chat Noir, ever-dressed in his black suit with cat ears placed on his blond hair, saluted cockily at her.

It was only because of the magic of the suit that she wasn't winded when the akuma was vanquished. Afterwards, when the city was returned to its previous state and the one that had been infected was with paramedics, to make sure they were okay, Marinette had shared her customary good-bye with Chat before she started to make her way back home.

"Ladybug!" she heard from below her, and although it was common, the reason that she paused was because she recognised the voice. "Ladybug!"

Adrien was on the street below her, hands cupped around his mouth as he stared up at her, looking a bit frazzled before he realised that he'd caught her attention.

Marinette jumped down from the great height, no discomfort as she landed in front of him. "Yes?" she questioned, not at all out of breath, just curious.

"I-I know that you don't have long," Adrien stammered (and she didn't—she had three of five dots left on her earrings, meaning there was three minutes until her transformation dropped). "But did—did you send me something for Valentine's?"

As she stared at him in surprise, her lips parted, but no sound came out.

Adrien flushed, running a hand nervously through his hair. "I—of course you didn't," he quickly said, averting his gaze as his voice grew quieter. "I'm sorry for wasting your time."

It made sense.

Why he hadn't approached her at school, why he'd stuttered at lunch and then quickly claimed that the sender didn't attend the school at all, and why he'd been so reluctant to talk about it. Yet, all she could do was stare at him as she realised her mistake.

She'd been talking to Tikki, lamenting that she would've had an easier time talking to him as Ladybug, but she hadn't thought that she'd signed it as her superhero name, not at all. She was sure she'd checked the card meticulously, but she was more focused on the spelling for the message, rather than where she'd signed her name.

"I did," she blurted, blue-coloured eyes wide as she heard the tell-tale noise of another dot disappearing from her earrings. She wanted to say that it had been a mistake, that she'd accidentally signed the wrong name, but all that came out was, "Did it make you uncomfortable?"

Adrien looked just as shocked as she felt.

"I asked my friend to give it to you," Marinette hastily said, playing with the string of her bandalore that she'd wrapped around her waist, fidgeting in a way that she didn't do as Ladybug often. "I—it was supposed to be signed as my normal name, but that's not an option now, I guess."

The only response she got was redness appearing on his face.

She swallowed.

It wasn't how she wanted to be rejected, not at all. Ladybug was a name that wasn't connected to her stuttering and embarrassing moments around him, but it seemed that it wasn't going to stay that way. She could've laughed it off and said that she hadn't sent anything—but then she wouldn't get a shot to try and confess in the future.

So, it was going to have to happen as Ladybug. It wasn't as though they'd be able to have a relationship was it was—he didn't know her in the suit.

"I'm sorry," Marinette apologised quietly, tucking some stray hairs behind her ear. "It was a mix up, and I know it's even more impossible now."

Offering him a weak smile, one that he didn't return as he was too busy staring at her in shock, she retrieved her bandalore, about to depart when she was interrupted by the sound of his voice.

"No, I—" Adrien cleared his throat. "I like you!"

She looked at him in confusion.

Like?

It was normal for civilians to look up to her, sometimes proclaiming their love on the street as she passed or posting about it on the internet (which had been strange to see at first, but she'd became somewhat numb to it), but she'd never expected for Adrien to be included within that list of people. They'd spoken a few times—mostly when he was caught up with an akuma—but it wasn't nearly enough for there to be affection there.

But who was she to judge someone for their feelings?

The sound from her earrings caused the both of them to be startled.

"I have to go," she said quietly, tearing her gaze away as she pulled her arm back, ready to set off to find somewhere secluded to change.

She was gone before he could answer.

-x-

Adrien,

This might seem really sudden, but I can assure you it's not. I've been wanting to talk to you for a while, but I'm kind of scared, so that's why I'm writing to you instead. I just want to explain myself, I think. Whenever we talk, I end up embarrassing myself one way or another, and sometimes I wonder whether that gets misunderstood. I know we're not close, but I'd like to be. But only if you want to, of course!

What I'm trying to say is that I like you. As in, the romantic way, not the platonic kind. I'm not very experienced with that, so I think that's why I end up being weird around you.

I'm not asking you to be my boyfriend, or even for a date, but I'd like to get to know you better. If that means only as friends, I'd still be glad for that.

From,
Ladybug.

-x-

Adrien was staring at everyone in their class for longer than necessary, gazing across the hall at lunch while Nino tried to talk to him, and generally not paying attention when classes were combined for sports. It took a while for her to realise that he wasn't looking at the same person twice after moving on, and she idly wondered whether he was trying to figure out who her friend was supposed to be.

Even though it was a lie, the prospect of him approaching their school-mates and questioning them on whether they'd put a confession into his locker for a friend had more implications than it would've normally. If he dared to do that, it would be betraying the small bit of trust that she'd put into him—

He knew more about her as Ladybug than others did. Adrien knew that she had a friend at his school—which wasn't a lie—and that information was dangerous in the hands of the wrong person.

But she trusted him—she knew him. Adrien was kind-hearted, thought about whether his actions would hurt someone before he did something, so, surely, he wouldn't betray her trust because of his feelings.

And, boy, was that hard to come to terms with.

Adrien didn't know her as Ladybug, not beyond being his saviour a few times, but she supposed that from his eyes, he'd initially thought the same as her; perhaps that she'd taken a liking to him after seeing him scared witless a few times.

But it wasn't like that. Marinette believed her feelings to be genuine, more than admiration that she was sure he felt for her—but it wasn't right for her to try and make assumptions about how he felt, not when she didn't know Adrien fully. The Adrien that she'd come to like mostly directed his smiles at others, and to know that the one he had affection for was really her was astounding.

If he liked Ladybug, then there wasn't any reason for him not to like her as Marinette. She was the same person, not pulling out a new personality when the red-and-black spotted mask magically appeared on her face, and that meant that she didn't feel any resentment for his feelings not to have been directed at her during the day.

It was at the end of the week that she went to school early, copying her actions from before as she placed another sealed envelope into his locker.

After lunch, it was clear that Adrien had gotten the letter. He was full of smiles, enthusiastic even when he put his hand up to answer a question, and laughed off the odd looks that Nino gave him from his sudden jubilant mood.

"Just excited for the weekend," he answered with a shrug.

"Dude." Nino squinted at him. "You're practically under house arrest unless you plan two weeks in advance."

Adrien's grin didn't slip. "Stuck inside with a new game that finally got delivered? Yes."

Whether it was a lie or not, she was glad to see him so happy.

When they were packing up their belongings, Marinette shyly reached forward to tap him on the shoulder. "The game. What is it?"

Adrien blinked.

"Oh," he said, visibly struggling for words as he put one strap of his backpack on his shoulder. "I—I can't remember right now, sorry."

That made her grin.

He was already turning away, speeding out of the door with a wave to their friends, but she wasn't offended from it.

From his positive reaction, she hoped that he'd take her up on the offer to meet and talk. After some debate with Tikki on what would be acceptable (it turned out planning to wear baggy clothing and a wig wasn't), the weather forecast had been what cemented her decision.

As predicted, the weekend and miserable and wet. The pouring rain didn't deter her from brushing her hair for longer than necessary, or kissing her parents' cheeks as she said she was going out to meet a friend. When she'd found a suitable place to transform, Marinette made sure to put her umbrella on the floor, not touching it so it wouldn't be replaced with her dotted suit as bags that she wore usually were, and then avoided the crowds as she made her way to the park that she'd arranged to meet Adrien at.

There was a chance that he wouldn't appear, but she wasn't planning to wait for too long. Marinette stayed beneath her umbrella, leaning against a tree as she stayed on one side of the park, where the trees were low and offered shade when the sun was shining. In the rain, however, droplets continued to fall down despite the coverage, but it didn't really matter when the only skin she had exposed was her face.

The umbrella gave her something to fiddle with while she kept dry.

She didn't have to wait too long before Adrien appeared.

His hair was wet, sticking to his forehead before he stopped in front of her and hastily brushed it aside, and his damp clothes were sticking to him uncomfortably, and when she looked down to see that his shoes weren't suitable or the weather—surely one step into a puddle would've caused his socks to suffer—she didn't hesitate to move aside to make room for him under the umbrella.

"Thank you," he mumbled, the flush on his face either from the weather or embarrassment.

"When I asked to meet you, I didn't mean for your health to suffer because of it," she said quietly, almost drowned out from the wind. "It's winter and you're out here without a proper coat."

He pulled down the sleeves of his thin jacket to cover his hands. "I couldn't exactly sneak downstairs to get something else to wear without getting caught."

Marinette felt bit overwhelmed from their close distance when he looked nothing like his normal self. There was no styled hair, pristine clothing, or polite smile that she was accustomed to seeing, and the fact that he'd forgone his appearance to meet her had to mean something.

Having to hold the umbrella higher due to their difference, Marinette shot back, "Standing me up would've been better than catching a cold."

Rather than reply to that, Adrien changed the subject as he cast a pointed look to her suit. "When you said you'd have an umbrella to identify yourself, I almost thought you wouldn't be Ladybug."

She blinked. "I did think about wearing a disguise but I... we're not close enough for that."

He just looked at her.

"No," Adrien agreed quietly, gaze averted as he fiddled with his soaked sleeves. "You're right."

It hadn't been her intention for her to reject him.

"I keep on messing this up," she mused with a sigh, tucking some stray hairs behind her ears, the dry strands a stark difference to his. "This—this wasn't supposed to happen this way, it really wasn't."

"I can't say I'm not disappointed," he said, looking at the rain rather than at her. "I just—I couldn't quite not take it as a joke when I saw your card, you know? I was actually pretty hurt that someone would do that."

That hadn't been her intention at all. She'd wanted to get her feelings across before possibly being a better friend to him. "But you approached me," she pointed out, tightening her grip on the handle. "You could've ignored it, and I would've just... I would've thought that you rejected me."

"It's not like I had some way to contact you," Adrien defended weakly. "There was no phone number or even an e-mail address!"

Because he would've recognised them; Adrien had her number in his phone, along with the rest of their class-mates, and they'd only shared homework when they were in a group together, sending the files through e-mails. He should've just been able to pull her aside during school to politely reject her, but that wasn't what happened at all.

So, she had to lie.

"Exactly," she agreed, staring down at her feet instead. "It should've been signed with a name that you wouldn't recognise, but I messed up. I wasn't expecting you to—to want to meet."

She was aware of him looking at him, but she didn't meet his gaze.

"Are you kidding?" he asked, incredulous. "Of course I'd want to! You're—"

"A superhero," she interjected. "I... dating anyone while I'm like this isn't an option, that's why I asked to talk to you."

The affection he had for her wasn't safe. It wasn't that she was jealous that it was only directed at the secret side of her life—she kind of understood, feelings would develop when saved from dangerous situations—but it was because she liked him that she knew that she had to be the one to draw the line between them.

Having Adrien involved in akumas without it being her fault was more than enough.

When she raised her eyes to look at him, she couldn't quite make out his expression.

"To talk," he repeated flatly.

Somehow, she didn't flinch. "I'll be honest," she started, stalling a bit as she adjusted her grip on the umbrella. "I was expecting you to reject me—that's kind of why I sent it. A last chance and a possible good-bye to my feelings, I guess?"

He breathed out audibly. "But I like you."

"Yeah," she answered with an incredulous laugh. "I—that was never part of the plan, you know? Then again, neither was confessing my feelings while wearing a skintight suit."

"Sometimes, things just don't work out," Adrien agreed, running a hand through his damp hair once more. "I actually wrote you a card before, but I never got the courage to give it to you."

She blinked. "I've never actually gotten anything for Valentine's that wasn't from friends."

He snorted. "If you had a post-office box, you'd have countless."

"Is that from experience with your fans?" Marinette asked, raising her eyebrows. "

"Maybe," he said vaguely, not giving any explanation as he went back to looking in front of them, avoiding eye contact. "Wouldn't you count yourself as my fan?"

That was a loaded question.

"I'm not sure," she admitted hesitantly. "I didn't care about you until my friend started to describe what you're like at school—I like that Adrien a lot more than the one I can read about in articles. It helps that I've been able to see first-hand how selfless you are when things can become dangerous."

It wasn't all a lie. Before Adrien had joined her class—a transfer that had came out of nowhere—she'd only read his name in passing in articles that mentioned his father, and even then she hadn't developed an infatuation because of his attractive looks.

He touched the nape of his neck. "You can't say things like that out of nowhere."

"You're the one that asked," she replied, shifting her weight on her feet. "And by that logic, you're a fan of me, aren't you?"

She could see the colour that appeared on his cheeks wasn't because of the weather. "I'd like to be more than that."

She swallowed. "Adrien—"

"A friend!" he hastily explained, turning to look at her with wide eyes, shoulder knocking against hers before he righted himself to stand up properly. "If—I mean—I'd like to get to know you, if you're not against it."

Her brow furrowed. "How?"

"You—you could give me your phone number, or set up a new e-mail if you're worried that I'll recognise your personal one," Adrien quickly babbled, hands moving to emphasise his words in a way that showed that he cared about what he was saying. "Or we could even meet when the weather's just as bad again. I'm actually growing a bit attached to your creepy letters now."

Heat blossomed on her face. "It wasn't supposed to be creepy."

"I had to wonder whether someone broke into my locker at first," he said with a laugh. The sound was ruined when he sneezed, covering his nose with one hand before grimacing afterwards. "Sorry."

"It's my fault," she muttered. "I thought you'd have enough sense to dress for the weather."

He squinted. "Are teasing me after you mercilessly rejected me?"

"I—" Marinette started, about to try and explain herself before she saw that he was trying hard not to smile, the neutral expression visibly faltering. "I guess I am. I never thought the day would come where the situation would be reversed."

Adrien smiled reached his eyes. "You don't give yourself enough credit, you know. I'm sure you're just as amazing outside of the suit."

"Of course I am." She blinked. "The only reason you don't see that is because I'm not wearing an ostentatious outfit while kicking someone's ass all the time."

He didn't look away as he proclaimed, "I'm a fool, then."

"Yeah," Marinette agreed fondly, "but I still like you."

-x-

Adrien,

I know I shouldn't be doing this, but did you mean it when you said you like me?

If so, I'd really like it if we could talk. I hope this isn't too forward of me, but I know that you're not allowed out after curfew. Friend's talk, especially when they're class-mates with someone who's famous.

Could you meet me at the park next to your school at noon tomorrow? There's a lot of cover, and since I doubt it'll be nice weather, we'll be able to talk. I'll be the girl with the black umbrella.

From,
Ladybug.

-x-

Although it hadn't worked out how she'd wanted it to, she wasn't too sad. Sure, she was frustrated and lounged around in her bed for a bit, but she didn't cry into her pillow afterwards.

Instead, a bit stunned, Marinette murmured, "He likes me."

It was only just hitting her what he'd meant. Maybe it was from how they'd just talked while she held the umbrella up over the two of them, no class-mates hovering or interjecting themselves into the conversation, and she was able to see a nervous side to him that she didn't see too often.

The following week, she was looking forward to being in classes again. Marinette was working up her courage, determined to talk to him normally, but it disappeared when their class was informed that Adrien was off sick with a cold.

She felt guilty that it was her fault.

There wasn't anything she could do, though, not really. Nino, Adrien's closest friend, wasn't allowed to go over to visit when Adrien was ill—meaning there was no chance that anyone else was welcome—and beyond sending a message to his phone telling him to get better, she was out of options.

Showing up at his house as Ladybug would've been horrifying, and if the situation was reversed, she definitely wouldn't want anyone climbing into her home without permission.

It was after some deliberation that she slipped another note into his locker, that time after school when she'd lagged behind and spoken to a teacher about an assignment. Tikki had agreed with her decision—the red-coloured being a reliable source that always told her when she wasn't thinking clearly—and it was after scrapping the idea of digging through her drawers for her last cell phone that Marinette decided to set up a new e-mail and create an instant messaging account with the purpose of talking to him.

She was there in the morning to see Adrien arrive partway through the week.

Nino broke off from what he was saying, dramatically running towards where Adrien was climbing out of his usual transport vehicle, giving him a hug and loudly exclaiming how glad he was to see them.

Adrien laughed and returned the hug.

When he was close enough—greeting her and Alya before walking inside—she was able to see that his nose was red, but his voice wasn't nasally when he spoke.

She tried to hide her smile when she saw him fumble with his locker, glancing at the envelope before putting it into his backpack for another time, clearly not wanting anyone else to see what it said.

The only problem was that Nino was standing beside him. "What was that?"

Adrien visibly faltered. "I—well—"

"Quit teasing him already," Alya scolded, taking Nino's hand into her own and tugging him towards their classroom. "He's only just got back. You can ask about his secret admirer later."

As the two walked off, Marinette was able to see how Adrien was looking at Alya's retreating form in surprise, lips parted silently as he watched her go through the doorway. It was clear from the words that he wasn't against the assumption that Alya was the friend delivering the letters, as she did fit the criteria.

"You—are you okay?" Marinette questioned, adjusting the strap of her bag.

Adrien blinked. "I—yeah. It was just a common cold, but I was told to stay inside."

"Okay." She smiled. "I'm glad you're okay."

It was only when she was walking inside that she realised that she'd barely stuttered.

When the four of them sat together at lunch, before other class-mates came over for a bit to catch up with him before breaking off again, Marinette spoke a lot more, too. She wasn't overthinking it too much, nor where her hands growing damp from nerves from all the possibilities of what could go wrong and—

It was amazing how such a little thing as knowing he liked her helped boost her confidence. Past the stuttering of her words and the awkward conversations they sometimes had, he'd seen her at awful times where her heart was beating from nerves that were something other than worrying about her crush, and to know that he liked her was astounding.

Even if he had a crush on her, it was still more than she'd expected.

She kept looking at him from the corner of her eye, a bit embarrassed when Adrien noticed her and sent her a polite smile, and she managed to keep herself from tapping her foot on the floor anxiously. He'd been the one that wanted to talk to her, to get to know her properly even though the mask couldn't be taken off, so her offering the branch to him with her username shouldn't have made her feel nervous.

But it did.

As it turned out, an akuma attack kept her mind off of worrying for a little bit. After cleaning up, making sure the victim was being looked after, and talking to Chat before she had to leave, Marinette returned to her home later than usual. As it was protocol to stay in the school when there was an attack, exit to a designated safe space or hide until the ordeal was over, her parents didn't ask her too many questions about where she'd been.

After dinner, Marinette signed into her new account on her computer—not trusting herself to sign out of it on her phone, and she definitely didn't want an alert to appear when she was at school—while she idly did her homework and other things, trying to stop herself from worrying too much.

The sound had been turned off so she wouldn't disturb Tikki's nap, which was the reason that she didn't notice a new notification immediately. Marinette stared at the screen in surprise, opening up the tab as she settled down in the seat.

adrien [20:05]
hello?
is this who i think it is?
i've checked but it's like you smashed your keyboard to get this name
so this could easily be someone else

gduiuightr [20:19]
you're not wrong
I definitely just pressed random keys to get this, I'm not gonna try and deny it

adrien [20:20]
oh wow
you're here

gduiuightr [20:22]
honestly
I wasn't sure you'd actually want to talk to me?

adrien [20:23]
shouldn't i be saying that to you?

gduiuightr [20:24]
true

adrien [20:26]
this is so weird though
is it because i got ill?
you don't have to do this because you feel sorry for me

gduiuightr [20:31]
I do feel guilty about that but that's not why I'm doing this
you said you want to be my friend, right?

adrien [20:33]
absolutely?

gduiuightr [20:35]
then there's the reason

adrien [20:36]
you can't blame me for freaking out
you're actually talking to me and i don't know what to do

gduiuightr [20:38]
maybe you should start by telling me how your day was

adrien [20:39]
it got so much better when i found this mysterious envelope in my locker
which sounds like a plot to a horror film
you don't want to murder me, right?

gduiuightr [20:41]
I think that depends on how well we get along.

adrien [20:42]
ominous
but true

-x-

Adrien,

I'm sorry you caught a cold because of me. I feel even worse because I know your friend's can't visit you. That sounds a bit weird, doesn't it? I promise I'm not stalking you, I just get filled in on what happens in your class through my friend (such as when one of your teachers slipped last week).

Anyway, you said before that we don't have a way to talk to each other, so I'd like to fix that. I put my new contact details on the back.

If you ignore this, I won't be upset.

From,
Ladybug.

-x-

Getting to know Adrien wasn't daunting.

It was nice to hear about his day from his point of view, and learn the little things that she hadn't been able to before. Marinette responded in kind, replacing the names of some of her friends (referring to them as A, B, and so on to keep it a secret), and within a few days, she became more comfortable with him. They spoke whenever they weren't at school, save for when she had to leave her bedroom and not be able to get to her computer, and Adrien greeted her with just as much enthusiasm as he did the day before.

She was given links to silly videos, pictures that amused him, and they discussed video games that the both of them liked. Sure, she didn't share personal details of her life, but that didn't mean she couldn't tell him about her favourite food, hobbies, and what shows she liked to watch on television. It was the small things that she was able to tell him, and Adrien did the same, allowing her to know things that she would've only heard in passing from Nino otherwise.

It was only a bit awkward when he mentioned her actual name in passing, praising her for a funny joke that he'd overheard her saying to Alya.

And it was with every message that came from him that her feelings increased some more. It hard hard to looking at him in class, trying not to draw too much attention to herself, and she was still slowly able to talk to him more naturally as class-mates. Adrien didn't seem to think anything was different when she stopped stumbling over her words most of the time, but the raised eyebrows she got from their friends proved that others had noticed the change.

It was a good one, though. She wasn't panicking over messing up one word any more, and that meant she was able to talk to him normally—as a person—rather than putting him on an impossible pedestal where she couldn't reach. As she learned about his strange taste in books, along with the videos that he spent his time watching, it made her realise just how silly she'd been.

Sometimes, she wanted to speak up in class with a quip that she knew he'd appreciate, but she kept her mouth closed. As much as she'd come to know him, she didn't think she could hold back her knowledge fully when it was about the little things, and a few thoughts of blurting out a teasing comment about a personal joke the two of them had kept her quiet at their table at lunch.

The best way to describe their friendship was a long-distance one. Marinette didn't reveal too much, and Adrien didn't push her to tell him anything that was too personal. They both knew that they lived in the same city, but that was it. There was no talk of meeting again, no questions of where she was going to be, and whenever she did tell him about stores that she'd visited, he tried to recall the last time he'd been there.

They were friends in the evening.

The first time she logged on after an akuma attack, she felt warm from the concern that was in his messages, asking whether she was okay with what had happened.

Even though she'd seen Adrien take out his phone to send her a message during the day, she never signed in anywhere other than her computer (which was hard enough when she remembered to log off and hide it whenever a friend came to visit),and waited patiently to read his messages after school. Usually, it was a comment about something funny that had happened in class—which she'd been privy to, but humoured him and asked for more information—and other times it was him asking how she was.

It was easy to say they were friends. They spoke constantly, enough that she had to regretfully inform him that she needed to sleep so she'd be coherent for school the following day almost every night, and it surprised her the first time she saw something silly while she was walking and her first thought was to take a picture and send it to him later.

The worst thing was that Adrien insisted that she needed a nickname since he couldn't know her real name and calling her Ladybug all of the time was out of the question.

So, he decided to use the name she'd randomly chosen.

adrien [16:52]
ui i just tripped going up my stairs

gduiuightr [16:53]
didn't you get a lift home?

adrien [16:55]
first of all that sounds like you're stalking me
and yes but i had to talk before i was allowed to be free
now please comfort me

gduiuightr [16:57]
how am I supposed to comfort you when you insist on calling me ui?

adrien [17:00]
you should've thought it through when you named yourself
also try and pronounce it

gduiuightr [17:03]
absolutely not!

adrien [17:03]
it makes me happy

gduiuightr [17:04]
it literally sounds like you're choking

adrien [17:05]
ladybug choking me isn't something i've thought about often

gduiuightr [17:07]
...often

adrien [17:07]
let's take a step back

gduiuightr [17:09]
I confessed because I wanted to maybe hold your hand
and here you are with these indecent thoughts

adrien [17:10]
sorry my connection's bad
you're breaking up

gduiuightr [17:10]
we're not even talking?

adrien [17:10]
please call back later

gduiuightr [17:11]
oh my god

adrien [17:12]
i'm just an innocent boy

gduiuightr [17:12]
innocent boys wouldn't call me ui

adrien [17:14]
it's ridiculous and i love it

gduiuightr [17:16]
love me instead
and call me something else

adrien [17:19]
uiui
you've said we can't love each other

gduiuightr [17:23]
I

adrien [17:23]
you

gduiuightr [17:25]
please don't put me on the spot
I'm a very nervous person

adrien [17:27]
does that mean that when you're shy
you get all red?

gduiuightr [17:29]
i don't want to hear that from you
i've heard about your ears

adrien [17:30]
honestly
sometimes it really sounds like you're stalking me
but that seems a bit insane

gduiuightr [17:33]
I have a really good informant?

adrien [17:34]
so your friend's stalking me

gduiuightr [17:34]
that's not what I said!

adrien [17:36]
i'm kidding
anyone can stalk me by typing in the right words
isn't that weird?

gduiuightr [17:39]
there's blogs dedicated to my ass

adrien [17:40]
hey same
we should start a club

gduiuightr [17:40]
we're not legal so stop creeping on us club?

adrien [17:41]
i don't think you should be in charge of naming anything

gduiuightr [17:41]
look who's talking!

adrien [17:42]
but ui...
you make me feel all gooey...

gduiuightr [17:42]
I hate you

She hadn't said it aloud, refusing to believe that he wasn't typing that to just annoy her, and it was only when Nino caught Adrien messaging her before class started that she heard it for the first time.

"Talking to your mystery girl again?" Nino questioned, amused as he settled his bag down beside him.

Adrien didn't look up from his screen. "Yes."

"Are you ever going to tell us about her?" Nino continued, pushing up his spectacles with one finger. "You're not usually this good at keeping secrets."

That made Adrien laugh, his shoulders shaking as he did so. "She's from another school."

Marinette ignored the light jab she got from Alya's elbow, instead swatting her friend's arm away as she made sure she had her supplies ready for their lesson.

"That's the most I've gotten out of you so far," Nino mused, a bit surprised. "It's the girl who sent you the card before, right?"

"Yeah, that was her," Adrien confirmed, putting his cell phone back into his bag before he rested an elbow on the desk, head leaning onto his open palm. "She's pretty... cool."

Nino snorted. "Cool."

"Shut up," Adrien muttered, running a hand through his hair. "I'm not good at this. And before you even ask—no, I don't want tips from you on how to flirt."

Nino held his hands up in a sign of surrender. "If you say so, dude."

"Having a girlfriend doesn't mean you're not a dork."

"That's the key! You have to embrace that you're an idiot and not try and hide it." Nino leaned back in his chair, giving Alya a knowing grin as he asked for confirmation, "Right, babe?"

Alya laughed, then reached out and patted him on the head. "Sure, that's it."

When Nino turned back to him with raised eyebrows, Adrien shook his head. "Ui already knows that about me."

"...Are you sure you're pronouncing that right?"

He practically cackled. "Well, she hasn't corrected me yet."

Marinette covered up her smile by putting her face in her hands, and from the soft pat that Alya put on her shoulder, she had to assume that it was one of sympathy, with her friend assuming that she was upset by the conversation she'd overheard.

As much as she wanted to tell Alya everything that was happening, she couldn't. The only one that she'd confided in was Tikki, her ever-positive presence one that filled her with comfort, though she had wondered whether to bring the topic up with Chat when they met up to talk—a way to keep their friendship strong outside of attacks—she'd decided not to in the end.

Seeing her friendship with Adrien as a long-distance one was fine.

When she got home, the first thing she did was sign onto her Ladybug account.

gduiuightr [15:59]
so I heard you actually called me ui today

adrien [16:02]
!
your spy is insane

-x-

Unfortunately, along with the nickname came his terrible sense of humour. It was a bit of a shock at first, and she'd stared dubiously at the puns he sent in the beginning, but she grew to like them, too. It helped that the appropriate reaction seemed to be an exasperated reply, and whenever she shook her head and laughed when she read them, it made her wonder how he reacted to her jokes.

It wasn't often that she got to tell them to his face.

To her amusement, he'd made it his mission to rhyme her nickname with as many words as possible.

adrien [18:49]
ui with the eyes that are bluey
how do you feel about food that's chewy?
i know our friendship is quite newy
but when i look at you i want to cooey
and before you say oh phooey

if you fly does it mean you flewy?

gduiuightr [18:54]
did your valentine's card even hold a candle to this?

adrien [18:55]
no
i'll never top this
this is my peak

gduiuightr [18:56]
I worry about you sometimes

adrien [18:58]
that sounds like a compliment

Connecting the Adrien that she'd come to know to the one she had the occasional conversation with in class was a bit hard, but she wasn't disappointed. It just showed how little she'd known in the beginning, too convinced that she liked him despite barely knowing him, so to find out that her feelings remained—even when she found out he had a tendency to send her messages in the middle of the night if he had a strange dream—made her happy.

She could list off his habits, favourite things, and even his schedule without finding out that information from another source. Marinette ditched looking at the articles on the internet, knowing that he'd fill her in on anything important that happened in his life, and when he sent her pictures of him in a dressing room before a photoshoot, she realised that he was showing that he trusted her, too.

He was known for his own identity, something that she found daunting at times. Marinette couldn't imagine walking around all day with everyone knowing who she was; the anonymity of Ladybug was one of the main perks, and she was certain that if anyone could walk up to her and know that she was Ladybug in an instant, she would've cracked from the nerves.

Yet there was something keeping from anyone looking at Ladybug and then realising it was her, but Adrien didn't have that. His face was on advertisements, large on billboards, and showed on the television at times. There wasn't much peace, especially not when he went to popular locations, while she enjoyed her daily life with barely anyone looking at her twice.

gduiuightr [11:04]
do you ever wish that people didn't know you?

adrien [11:09]
that's a pretty depressing way to greet me
hello ui nice to talk to you too
it's a lovely day, isn't it?

gduiuightr [11:11]
I meant for you
I'm fine!

adrien [11:12]
you could just ask me how i am instead

gduiuightr [11:13]
you're tragically on house arrest
because you ditched your driver to hang out with friends

adrien [11:15]
for once that's not info from your informant

gduiuightr [11:16]
you literally told me yesterday
while trying to convince me to watch a film with you

adrien [11:16]
trying?

gduiuightr [11:18]
it's downloading
I'm bad at doing illegal things

adrien [11:19]
that's kinda the point of being a superhero

gduiuightr [11:20]
I have yet to be arrested for causing terror.

adrien [11:22]
officer
ui stole my heart please help me

gduiuightr [11:24]
how does no one realise how weird you are?

adrien [11:24]
they're blinded by my genetics

gduiuightr [11:25]
is that you admitting you're attractive?

adrien [11:26]
uiui!
i never knew you felt this way about me

gduiuightr [11:28]
I regret confessing to you

adrien [11:28]
no backsies

gduiuightr [11:29]
that's not how this works!

adrien [11:29]
you told me yourself that you're inexperienced
listen to this wise and innocent boy

gduiuightr [11:30]
wise and innocent is not a way I'd ever describe you

adrien [11:32]
but you still like me
so i can't be that bad

gduiuightr [11:35]
all I wanted to do is ask if you ever wear a stupid hat to go outside
and now I'm being exposed

adrien [11:36]
oh like a disguise?
i tried once with a hat and sunglasses but it just brought more attention to me

gduiuightr [11:37]
really?

adrien [11:37]
it was winter

gduiuightr [11:39]
you might want to work on your disguise skills

adrien [11:41]
listen
i'm very limited in my options
it's not like i can just order some ridiculous outfit to be delivered

gduiuightr [11:42]
parcels get checked?

adrien [11:44]
all mail gets checked by someone first
so they'll see it and know it's me if i wear it

gduiuightr [11:45]
that must be frustrating

adrien [11:51]
at least i'm still able to sneak out if i need to

gduiuightr [11:52]
to catch a cold again?

adrien [11:52]
it was one time!

Adrien had asked whether they could switch to talking, but Marinette had to say that she didn't have a microphone for her computer. He knew that she wasn't comfortable sharing her number with him—he just didn't know that he already had it—so it was some days after that rejection that Adrien was talking to her, and she was typing back while she was eating her dinner.

"So," he said, drawing out the syllables as his chair audibly creaked, a sign that he was leaning too far back on it. "Are you doing anything this weekend?"

At first, it felt a bit strange to type to him to reply, but after he suggested they played a game online together, it became significantly less awkward (especially when her replies were riddled with typos from trying to type fast, so she wouldn't die in the game). After the time they'd played together in her bedroom, she hadn't thought they'd do it again, and definitely not over the internet.

gduiuightr [19:58]
nothing, I'm free from homework for once

"Nothing planned with your parents?"

gduiuightr [19:59]
they're busy with work

Adrien made a noise of acknowledgement, and as they went back to playing—with him making exaggerated noises whenever he died, which amused her greatly—she presumed the subject had been dropped, especially as he'd already told her previously that his schedule was luckily free, too. It was the reason was one of the reasons they were staying up past the usual time that they said their farewells to each other in the evening.

"Hypothetically," he started, "what's the chance of you agreeing to go on a date with me?"

They'd stuck to being friendly, flirting a little awkwardly with jokes and pursuing nothing more as they got to know each other. Marinette had grown increasingly fond of him over that time, but she'd thought that, maybe, his romantic feelings for her had dwindled.

She purposely died in the screen so she could reply.

gduiuightr [20:03]
zero

He laughed. "Well, that was quick."

gduiuightr [20:03]
I was still typing!

"Sorry, sorry," Adrien apologised insincerely, not sounding hurt. "Let me just get off here then you can go ahead, I'll stay quiet until you're done."

When the notification popped up saying that he'd gone offline, she followed his lead and closed the game, switching over to their usual chat box.

gduiuightr [20:05]
we both know you're going to talk anyway

"I resent that—"

gduiuightr [20:05]
if you're fine with staying inside
I wouldn't mind if we continued doing stuff together and calling them dates?

Adrien questioned, "You mean through the internet still?"

gduiuightr [20:06]
it would be like a long-distance relationship?
only if you're interested in that

"It's a bit weird since I know that you're in the same city, but I can understand why you want that," he said quietly. And when he paused, clearly not adding anything else on, she felt a bit guilty.

gduiuightr [20:08]
you know you don't owe me anything, right?

He breathed out audibly. "I'm not asking you because I feel obligated to. I just—I know we said we'd be friends, but we've been talking for a few months, and I... I can't help liking you more and more."

That made her face feel warm.

gduiuightr [20:09]
I feel bad
I'm the one that messed this up by writing the wrong name

"Not really," he answered softly. "If you'd used your real name, I probably would've forgot about it—since I couldn't reply to you and all."

As guilty as she felt for hoarding his affection without the two of them being able to do anything, she knew him to be trustworthy. She knew that she couldn't tell him everything, as it wouldn't be safe, but a little bit couldn't have been too bad?

gduiuightr [20:11]
that's not really true
you've spoken to me before

The confusion in his voice could be heard when he asked a simple, "What?"

gduiuightr [20:13]
when I wasn't ladybug

There was a pause where she wondered if she'd said too much before he blurted out, "I—what?"

It was clear that he was lost. It was a decision she'd made by herself, without Tikki to give her encouragement, and she was determined to got through with it, regardless of his reaction.

gduiuightr [20:14]
that's why the card was in your locker
since there was a chance that you'd remember me

"We've..." Adrien trailed off, and she longed to know what sort of expression he was making. "You're not supposed to tell me this, are you?"

She swallowed.

gduiuightr [20:15]
I trust you.

"Do you—I mean—" Adrien kept cutting himself off, voice growing quieter before he cleared his throat. "Do you think we're close enough for disguises now?"

For a while, she just stared at the screen, trying to comprehend his words. She barely remembered uttering that when they'd met in the park, the blunt reply that she didn't trust him, and yet he'd stuck with her as a positive presence, insisting that they could be friends if she wanted to reach out to him.

Adrien hadn't revealed to anyone, not even Nino, that he was talking to her as Ladybug. Whenever he spoke about her, he made sure to call her the ridiculous name (much to his amusement), and he continued to insist that he was a girl that attended another school, not confirming the identity of the friend that had slipped the card into his locker in the first place.

And she'd learned about his schedule, the upcoming events and advertisements before they were revealed to the public, and kept all of it to herself. It wasn't as though she could sigh happily and talk to Alya about it as she'd done in the past. The situation was different—she was different.

gduiuightr [20:16]
are you sure you're capable of wearing one?

He laughed. "If you're so worried, why don't you dress me up yourself?"

gduiuightr [20:16]
okay

"Okay?" Adrien repeated, surprised. "I—are you sure?"

Running a hand through her dark-coloured hair, Marinette wondered what the worst that could happen was—well, other than him finding out that it was her. But Adrien liked her as Marinette as a friend, one that he was slowly growing closer to as she'd gradually stuttered less and involved herself in conversations, and he seemed smitten with her whenever they typed to each other; so, surely, it would translate well when they met each other.

gduiuightr [20:17]
I'm sure I can do better than sunglasses in the winter

"You're actually agreeing to go on a date with me?" he asked, glee clear in his voice.

gduiuightr [20:18]
long-distance couples still see each other sometimes, right?

His laughter was nice to hear. And when he spoke, it was a bit higher-pitched and breathier than usual due to his amusement. "I think we actually having to be dating to be classed as a couple, Ui."

Marinette grimaced.

gduiuightr [20:18]
you're going to insist on calling me that, aren't you?

She could practically hear the smile in his voice as he replied, "I don't know what you're talking about, I'm just saying your name."

gduiuightr [20:19]
why didn't I wait until I had a nice name
things could've been so different

"You wouldn't have heard my beautiful poem, then," he quipped.

gduiuightr [20:19]
what a shame

"Ui!" Adrien exclaimed with a laugh, too enthusiastic to be truly hurt. "You're breaking my heart here."

-x-

Their plan was silly, but they took weeks to make sure that it was perfect. Adrien begged Nino to lie for him, so he'd say that Adrien was visiting his house for the day, and he used the excuse that Ui—his almost-girlfriend—was coming to visit for the weekend, and he wanted to see her without parental supervision.

It wasn't as drastic on her end. Marinette kissed her parents' cheeks before she departed, telling them that she was visiting Alya's place, and she promised to message them before dinner to say when she was going back home. It was a simple system that didn't require supervision, but she supposed that she wasn't well-known with her normal life, unlike Adrien, who was frustrated that he couldn't walk to school alone.

She was paranoid, though.

With the help of Tikki, Marinette made sure to pick out clothing that she wouldn't normally wear together in a casual setting, checked that the small backpack she put her belongings in was different to her usual one, and went as far as to change the cover on her cell phone, along with the picture on the background. She put it to silent and placed it into the pocket of her shorts to make sure she'd feel the vibrations in case anyone wanted to contact her, knowing that she'd have to excuse herself and walk away before she could look fully.

She was just nervous, that was all. Adrien was trustworthy, yes, but that didn't mean that she wanted to drag him into danger—to have him publicly known as someone close to Ladybug was dangerous to his well-being, something that had already been potentially harmed in previous fights as it was.

After going into the nearest public bathroom, she pulled out the supplies that she'd packed from her bag, making sure her hair was tucked behind her ears and secured safely in a high ponytail before she started to apply the make-up all over.

When Tikki stuck her head out of Marinette's bag to take a look, her giggles were reassuring.

Embracing how ridiculous she looked, Marinette put her cap on before stepping outside, her smile becoming wider with every dubious look that was sent her way. It wasn't how she'd thought her first date with Adrien would have been, but back then, she would've winced at just imagining him seeing her with smudged make-up, let alone the abomination that she'd practised for the past few nights in her room.

Unlike the last time she visited the park, she wasn't first, and it wasn't raining terribly. Adrien was leaning against the tree that she'd been at previously, hands in the pockets of his jeans as he stared up at the rustling leaves above him, and she approached slowly after smoothing out her outfit to make sure that she still looked presentable, and that her t-shirt was still tucked into her shorts.

She cleared her throat when she stood in front of him.

Adrien visibly jumped, head whipping around to look at her, and it took barely a few seconds for him to burst into laughter. He tried to muffle it by putting a hand over his mouth, but when he saw how wide she was grinning, his snickers were causing his body to shake. Eventually, he calmed down after a few minutes, and hastily wiped at his eyes to get rid of the moisture that had appeared.

"I really don't know what I was expecting," was the first words from his mouth, and his pronunciation was skewed from trying not to laugh again towards the end. "You look great, Ui."

Her smile met her eyes. "You're damn right I do."

They'd decided against wigs or trying to wear masks, as they were bound to get jostled out of place and reveal what was underneath. So, it was after some coaxing that Marinette convinced him to leave it fully to her, and she only told him to dress differently than he usually did when he met her.

Marinette gestured to her bag. "You ready for your makeover?"

Adrien's grimace was ruined by him laughing. "I'm going to look ridiculous, aren't I?"

"That's the point," she proclaimed, nodding in improvement when he sat down on the floor. With her bag settled beside them, Marinette reached within it to retrieve the make-up she'd packed again. "You're the one that gave me the honour of picking out our disguises."

After blinking furiously when she started to apply it to his skin, Adrien kept his eyes closed. "I thought you'd maybe buy some weird clothing, not dress us up as clowns."

"Sadly, it's too late to turn you into a clown," Marinette mused, the paintbrush applying the face paint to his skin not faltering. If she was going to look ridiculous with different colours over her face, she was going to make sure that he matched her. "At least with this, no one's going to look at us and think we don't belong together."

He snorted. "Isn't that what the point of couple clothing is?"

"This is pre-couple face paint, then," she said, using her free hand to brush his blond hair aside so she could easily get the skin underneath. "I can absolutely say no one's going to predict you're Adrien Agreste under this."

After she'd finished and started to pack her belongings away, the first thing Adrien said after opening his eyes was, "You have a ponytail."

She reached back to touch where her hair was coming through the cap. "I can't only have one hairstyle, can I? It would be a dead giveaway."

"And I can see your eyebrows," he continued, and when she turned to look at him, he was smiling softly. "It's—I don't know, really. I've always wondered how they'd look."

She resisted the urge to touch them, not wanting to smudge the make-up. "And how do they hold up to your imagination?"

"They're very nice," he said, voice shaking as he tried not to laugh. "Don't we have a bus to catch soon?"

With her reassurance that they wouldn't be recognised—he'd fretted about it more than her, actually—their plan for the day went from simply getting coffee to something ridiculous when Marinette said that her disguises wouldn't work unless they were somewhere fun. Amused, Adrien had gone along with her plans, and after a few weeks of making sure they had everything prepared and their excuses were bought, the bus ride wasn't as awkward as she'd feared.

Their knees were touching as they sat side-by-side, lucky to have grabbed two seats before the bus filled up. They received a few odd looks because of their over-the-top face paint, and Adrien's reaction to realising that the staring was directed at him for a different reason was to laugh gleefully.

Their conversations weren't stilted. At first, Marinette felt a bit shy when she kept noticing him staring at her whenever he thought she was looking aware, but the way he smile when eh got caught showed his dimples and crinkled the corner of his eyes, a soft-looking expression that looked ridiculous when combined with his face paint.

It didn't take long to get to the amusement park.

They waited in line a bit, hands brushing twice before Marinette nervously fiddled with the long-sleeved shirt that she was wearing as a jacket, trying to ignore how she knew he was smiling from her reaction.

It was different than when they were just talking. Sure, their quirks were the same, and she definitely didn't hold back from teasing him like she did in class, but to actually see his reaction to the things she said made her heart beat fast at times. By the time they bought their tickets and went inside, her cheeks had already started to hurt from smiling.

They decided to make their disguises even worse. The first place they went to was a shop, and Marinette tucked her cap away into her bag, replacing it with a ridiculous hat, while Adrien ended up with large animal ears on a band. They'd tried to match their face paint accordingly, and from the looks that children were giving them as they walked outside, it seemed that they looked amusing, at least.

When they were trying to choose which ride to go on first, Adrien turned to her and asked, "Are you okay with heights?"

She stared at him.

He smiled sheepishly. "That was a dumb question, wasn't it?"

"I was a bit in the beginning," she admitted, tucking some stray hairs behind her ear. "That kind of changed when I learned to jump off buildings without a care. Sometimes, I wonder how different it would feel normally, and that freaks me out a little."

Making a noise of agreement, Adrien chimed in, "I can understand that. Do you ever have to doublethink things before you injure yourself?"

"Far too often." She grimaced. "I was racing a friend one time, and I thought nothing of the fence in front of me. I ended up running straight into it."

He reached out and patted the top of her hat. "I'm glad you're okay."

"But my reputation isn't," Marinette insisted, grinning despite her words. "I'm actually pretty clumsy normally."

"So they didn't think anything of it?"

The day she as referencing was one where he hadn't been present, too busy with his modelling work to go into school that day. "No," she said. "I did a few sympathy hugs, but they mostly made fun of me after my nose stopped bleeding."

They settled for going on the most extreme ride first.

Afterwards, with flushed cheeks and an uncomfortable stomach, Marinette burst into laughter when she saw the pictures that had been taken of the two of them. They were both holding tightly onto their headwear, trying not to lose their purchases, but Marinette's eyes were scrunched shut while she screamed, and Adrien looked far too gleeful for someone that was going down the worst part of a ride that had an age requirement.

He bought a print out of it and clutched it in his hands before he came to the realisation that he didn't have a bag. Marinette let him use hers—for more than his cell phone and wallet that he'd put inside her bag for safety during the ride—before they set out to explore the park some more, taking their time by looking at the signs.

At some point, Adrien took his phone and started taking pictures of her. She was a bit nervous at first, wondering whether he'd look back on the images and it would suddenly click that she was his class-mate, but one look in a reflective surface to see the over-the-top face paint had her agreeing.

Marinette got out her own phone eventually, telling him to pose by the large pictures where there was a space for guests to put their head, and he was dramatic as he did so. She was laughing heartily by the time they got in queue for another ride, and after tucking their belongings away, she didn't jump when his hand brushed against hers.

Instead, she nudged his hand before intertwining their fingers, turning her head to grin when he looked at her in surprise.

"You—"

She squeezed gently. "Is this okay?"

"More than okay," he blurted, and she could see that his ears had turned red at the top. The face paint was preventing her from seeing how flustered he was, and she supposed that it was doing the same for her, too. "I... I wasn't sure if you'd want to do that."

She replied softly, "Well, this is a date, isn't it?"

"I—yeah," Adrien said, clearing his throat afterwards. "It is."

"That means we need to do more romantic things than having matching make-up, then," she announced, the surge of confidence not disappearing despite the odd looks that they'd gotten that day. Adrien hadn't judged her, or called any of her ideas honestly dumb, and the fact that he'd supported her absurd plan and gone along with it at all was endearing. "I'm not being too forward, am I?"

He reached up to touch the nape of his neck, a nervous tick that she didn't see too often. "No, its not that," Adrien answered quietly. "I just—I don't have much experience with this."

"Same," she admitted easily, adjusting their fingers as they came to a halt beside a sign. "Don't you remember my letter?"

"You don't seem like that, though," he said quickly before his eyes widening when he realised what he'd said. "No, I mean—"

The insinuation made her laugh rather than be offended. "I'm just comfortable with you, I guess," she confessed softly. "It's not that different than when we talk? Well, other than me not typing. Shouldn't it be weird for you since you barely ever hear my voice?"

His thumb started to trace faint patterns into her skin. "I'm just nervous that you might realise that you don't really like me."

She blinked. "I would've realised that months ago, back when we actually started talking, right?"

"Let me have my insecurities," Adrien murmured, putting his free hand into the pocket of his jeans. "I haven't been on a date before, let alone one with you."

"I'm just a normal person," Marinette said, pointing her index finger up to her painted face. "I have worries and feelings just like you. It may not look like it, but I was freaking out about meeting you earlier—not because I might not like you, Adrien."

He shifted his feet. "I know that, but you're—"

"Ui," she insisted, staring up at him. "I'm Ui to you, not anyone else."

The laugh that escaped him was wonderful to hear. "Yeah," he agreed softly, squeezing her hand. "But would you also like to be my long-distance girlfriend?"

Her lips curled into a smile. "Are you sure about that?"

"Well, only if you go on the teacups with me."

They went on that ride next. Afterwards, they bought some snacks to eat before walking around the park again, stopping off for food and drink every now and then when one of them wanted a break from standing in the queues for too long. It wasn't too busy, thankfully—it wasn't the warmest day in summer, but rather a bit muggy—but there was enough people to bump into them when they walked past at times, and enough so that her favourite flavour of ice cream was sold out.

"When do you have to get back home?" Marinette questioned as they started to trail towards the exit of the park.

He was enjoying himself by swinging their intertwined hands. "A while yet. I said I was staying over for dinner."

"And they believed you?"

Adrien shot her an offended look. "I'll have you know that I'm very trustworthy."

"I'm sure." She tried not to smile. "How did you explain away your cold from before, then?"

He grinned. "I said I didn't dry my hair before going outside that morning."

"Amazing," Marinette praised him sarcastically, reaching up to pat his head, trying not to dislodge the headband. "You must be really proud of that."

The laugh that escaped him was honest and breathy. "Well, there's no bars on my windows, so we're all good."

"Someday, you're going to get caught sneaking out to meet me," she murmured as they walked along the street, searching for where their bus would turn up eventually. They hadn't paid enough attention to the time to know when it was due to arrive, and decided to leave after they'd tried out all the rides they wanted to go on. "Aren't your friends going to get suspicious about the excuses, too?"

He shook his head, blond strands falling out of place and into his eyes before he brushed them aside. "It's not like we're going to meet all the time, is it?" Adrien questioned, squeezing her hand in a comforting way. "There's only so many dates we can wear face paint to before someone gets suspicious."

She snorted. "What if I'm just really into clowns?"

"Gross." He looked at her and wrinkled his nose in distaste to make a point. "I care more about your safety than seeing you in person."

She bumped her shoulder lightly against his. "That's what I should be saying to you."

"We're in agreement, then." His dimples showed as they came to a stop beside seats that were all occupied. "We'll pretend you live faraway and can't see me often."

It sounded too good to be true. As guilty as she felt for keeping it from him—it was for the best. Marinette didn't want to endanger him, no matter how often they'd be able to be close during their days. Having his sweet smile directed at her during class wasn't worth the trouble that came with revealing her identity, not when Tikki had warned against it in the beginning.

"I'm sorry," she started softly. "That—that you have to do this for me, I mean. I know that it's not ideal, but you don't owe me anything—"

Adrien interrupted her with, "I'm not doing this because I have to, Ui."

The use of her nickname made her crack a smile. "Even though I have a terrible name?"

"I admit, it was hard to find good rhymes for it." He grinned. "But I like you for you—for as much as I know, I mean. I really like you."

Her face felt warm beneath the face paint. "I like you, too."

"I should hope so," Adrien replied, smile reaching his eyes. "I put on this awful make-up for you. Can you imagine how bad our skin would be if we put this on every week?"

She made an exaggerated noise of horror.

Laughing, he nodded as he said, "Exactly."

The make-up had smudged throughout the day, especially around his jawline and eyes, but it still amused her when she looked to the side to see the ridiculous paint combined with the headband on his head. It was a look completely different to the usual one he wore—even the clothing, as she hadn't seen him wear any of it to school before—and the fact that he'd done it all to see her made her smile.

"So," he started, "we're dating."

She blinked. "Yes?"

"Does that..." Adrien paused, clearing his throat as his gaze flickered before meeting hers. "Does that mean I can kiss you?"

Her smile was as soft as her voice as she replied, "I—yes, of course."

Their shoes were almost touching as he turned to face her, one hand still intertwined with hers, but she could feel the way he way he was fidgeting nervously.

"Even if I get face paint on you?" he asked quietly.

"Sharing is caring," she quipped, smile reaching her eyes.

He returned the smile. "Okay."

As a moment passed with just the two of them staring at each other, not moving closer despite the little distance between them, Marinette let out a laugh, comfortable with him even though her heart was beating fast. And yet, her hands weren't sweaty, nor was she worrying about all the things that could have gone wrong; rather, she was looking up at him fondly, having not expected that outcome for the day.

Sure, she'd thought they'd get along, but the fact that it was her first date hadn't occurred to her until they'd shyly held hands. Adrien seemed just as inexperienced as her, and knowing him as well as she did helped to make her not freak out.

If he'd ever asked to kiss her before the Valentine's card, her reaction would've been horribly different. That had been before she knew the videos he watched when he was sad, the songs that were stuck in his head on a daily basis, and what he really thought about her.

So, Marinette was the one to lean forward, shifting the weight on her feet so she could reach higher, their noses brushing and his breath against her skin as she pressed her lips against his.

It was a little awkward. Adrien was mirroring her uncertainty and lack of experience, fumbling before he put a hand on her waist, before he started to kiss her back. It wasn't a passionate moment that she'd read about before; it was hesitant, his soft lips moving slowly against hers, and the warmth of his breath reassured her that it was happening, and that it wasn't a daydream that she'd indulged in from time to time.

There was the distinct taste of face paint within her mouth after a while, but she didn't mind it too much.

They clashed teeth at one point, her laughter muffled by his mouth, and she could feel him smiling against her as she reached out to clasp onto the front of his t-shirt to steady herself.

When they parted, the first thing she saw was his dimpled smile as he kept the hand on her waist, a position far more intimate than the rest of their day.

She returned the grin when she noticed his reddened lips and the smearing of face paint around his lower lip.

"I'm so happy that you're my girlfriend," Adrien murmured, putting his forehead against hers.

She wondered whether her make-up had streaked enough to show her flushed face. "The feeling's very much mutual."

"...I can't believe I named my own girlfriend."

Her laughter was loud.

-x-

Their relationship didn't change much once they started dating. Marinette was still careful, only signing into her computer, and whenever she came home to find messages from Adrien earlier in the day—specifically when they were at school, and he got his phone out in the breaks—she laughed from the silly comments that he sent her. With his busy schedule, along with her having to disappear suddenly at times because of attacks, just typing to each other was ideal.

Adrien didn't pressure her for a phone number, her real name, or other personal information that was off-limits. He knew most things about her; her favourite colour, foods she preferred, the songs she preferred, and even what she feared in life, and she knew the same about him in return. She felt a bit guilty at times, but he reassured her that he wasn't expecting anything from her.

"It's fine if you just type to me," he said when she'd apologised for not having a microphone plugged into her computer. "Can you imagine how awkward it would be if one of your parents came in and said your name? I'm not going to risk that."

He absolutely had a point there.

At times, it seemed like he was the one in charge of keeping her identity a secret. Adrien was the one to say no to them just wearing wigs the next time they met, and she found that it made sense—a wig would've shown her face far too much, and since he saw her everyday, there would be no mistaking it. So, they tried to come up with suitable places where they could turn up in face paint again without looking too out of place, since it had worked so well the last time.

There wasn't many.

With Adrien talking about the future, Marinette had to ask what would happen if his friends asked to meet her. She knew that Nino had questioned about Ui—freaking Ui, she still thought the name was ridiculous—and had shown an interest in learning about Adrien's new girlfriend, especially once Adrien had returned to school the week after their date with a dopey smile and was more than happy to tell his best friend vaguely about what had happened.

He didn't miss a beat as he replied, "You'll meet them at a costume party, then. A perfect disguise."

She didn't reply that it needed to be a party that Marinette was mysteriously absent from.

As she'd started to know him more, she stopped getting the knowing looks from her friends when they were all together. She was able to talk to Adrien normally whenever they were involved in a conversation together, and she didn't actively seek him out to try and spend time with him. She kept her comments to herself, not stumbling over her words when eh directed a question at her, and was happy to glance at him every now and then and be satisfied whenever he took out his phone to send her a message that she wouldn't see until hours later.

Although they could be classed as friends, they weren't anything more, and he was too involved with Ui to think there was anything more to her as Marinette. If he ever suspected anything from her voice, he never showed it outwardly.

Alya was the one to ask her, "Are you over Adrien?"

She grinned, a bit amused from her friend's bewildered look from her reaction. "That's not it," Marinette admitted softly. "I just... I see him as more than a crush now, you know?"

"I thought you'd freak out a bit when he got a girlfriend," Alya confessed, tucking some of her curly hair behind her ear.

"Same," she said with a laugh. "But he seems to really love her."

Bumping her shoulder against hers, Alya announced, "I'm proud of you."

"For being mature?"

Alya snorted. "For not turning into a raging monster from jealousy."

"I think that's the same thing," Marinette replied, amused.