Christmas Crisis

BY : Cat_Eyes
Category: +M through R > Miraculous LadyBug
Dragon prints: 324
Disclaimer: I do not own Miraculous Ladybug. Miraculous Ladybug is the intellectual property of Thomas Astruc and released by Zag studios. No profit was made writing this story.

Madame Caline Bustier had the idea that the class should hold a Secret Santa this year. She told them it would teach them to see from their classmates' perspective, and appreciate the sprit of Christmas with the joy of giving. The idea was generally well received, but there was one flaw.

'I'm Jewish,' Nathaniel told them.

Caline nodded. Turning to the class, she said, 'whomever gets Nathaniel should keep this in mind. Unless you would prefer to not participate?' she asked him.

Shaking his head, Nathaniel replied, 'no, it sounds like fun. Cultural sensitivity works both ways, and it isn't a bad thing to get involved with other traditions.'

Caline beamed at him. 'Excellent. When one of you draws Nathaniel's name, remember to keep it tasteful and appropriate. Actually, that goes for all of you,' she said, eyeing Kim and Alix pointedly.

'I've got all of your names written on strips of paper in this basket.' She held up a small, pink, plastic basket. 'I will come to each of you, and you will pull out one piece of paper. You will then show it to me so I know you haven't picked yourself.'

Approaching Sabrina first, she held out the basket. Sabrina selected a piece of folded paper and showed it to Caline.

Caline nodded and moved on to Chloe. 'Remember, you are not to show anyone who you have. It would ruin the game. Also, everybody loves a surprise.'

'That depends on the surprise,' Chloe muttered as she withdrew a name. Her lip curled in distaste.

Everyone drew a name, and only Max had to take a redraw when he pulled out his own name first.

'You will have until Friday to get a gift. Including today, that makes four days. We'll have the exchange Friday morning before class. Dismissed.'

The last bell of the day rang as the students packed up and left, gossiping the whole time.

 


 

An akuma attacked that afternoon.

Adrien leapt out of his desk chair and transformed, heading to City Hall. Ladybug was already there, fighting a green and yellow enemy called Garbage Man.

Chat Noir arrived and jumped into the fray enthusiastically.

'Good afternoon, Milady,' he shouted gleefully over the akuma's cries of revenge.

She smiled at him, sending a thrill down his spine.

'Hello, Chaton. Nice of you to join us.'

The battle was short and brutal. The akuma was a garbage collector, fired by City Council for misconduct while on the job. He was enraged by the accusation and claimed firing him right before Christmas was cruel.

His power had been garbage manipulation, firing the contents of bins and dumpsters at Ladybug and Chat Noir. It was gross and dangerous, many sharp objects hurtling through the air with enough force to dent cars.

Ladybug, disgusted at the rubbish on herself and all over the ground, quickly called for her Lucky Charm. She used the hydrant spanner wrench to open a nearby fire hydrant, washing away the trash and the akuma.

She returned the site to its pristine condition, purified the butterfly, and bumped fists with Chat Noir.

'I'm sure you'd like me to stay and talk, but I've got a project to get back to,' Ladybug said. 'Until next time, Kitty.' She then launched herself to the rooftops.

Chat Noir watched her with a smile, before he, too, left for home.

 

He had taken the scenic route home, since he hadn't used Cataclysm. He was prowling along the edge of a roof above a nondescript alley, when a pink flash caught his attention. From the light came Marinette, a red blur spinning out of her earrings and into her hands. She began to talk to it, offering it a biscuit from her purse.

Chat Noir stared, transfixed, as Marinette looked around. She tucked the thing in her hands into her purse, before walking out the other end of the alley. He realised she had been talking to her kwami, and that, if she had looked up just once, she would have seen him. He had made no effort to hide, after all. Thinking on it, Chat Noir didn't know whether to feel relieved or disappointed about that. She would have been mad he had seen her, but at least she would know about it. She would also have accepted this turn of events sooner, and maybe see that identity sharing was not so bad.

Chat Noir ran straight home, conflicted and confused. He should tell her, certainly, but when and how?

He crept in through his bathroom window and destransformed. Plagg flew to his pile of cheese on the corner of the desk and dived in with a happy squeal. Adrien merely watched him with a flat expression.

Slumping back in his desk chair, Adrien stared at nothing.

A bright slip of paper beside his keyboard caught his attention. It was the name he had drawn for the Secret Santa. He picked it up and read the name printed in neat script - Marinette Dupain-Cheng.

Adrien blinked. Marinette, who he was supposed to buy a gift for. She sat behind him in class. Marinette was Ladybug, therefore, Ladybug sat behind him in class. He was supposed to buy a gift for Ladybug.

I'm supposed to buy a gift for Ladybug who sits behind me in class, he thought in rising panic.

Taking a deep breath, Adrien braced his hands on his desk and yelled.

'What am I supposed to get the most amazing girl in the world?'

This was Ladybug, brave, clever, and whom everyone loved. But she was also Marinette, sweet, funny, and incredibly talented.

'Plagg,' he wailed. 'Help me out, here. I'm having a crisis.'

Plagg's head poked out from under his stack of empty cheese containers.

'I'm having a moment, too. Can't this wait?'

'No,' Adrien replied, dragging it out like a petulant child.

Plagg shook his head with a sigh.

'All right, fine.' He wriggled free and sat on the computer mouse. 'You found out who she is, you tell her. The sooner, the better.'

'Duh, I know that much. But do I tell her as Chat Noir to Ladybug, or as Adrien to Marinette?'

Plagg considered this for a moment.

'Tell her as Chat,' he advised. 'She can't seem to string two words together around Adrien.'

Adrien nodded. He had noticed Marinette's weird behaviour, but chose to ignore it when talking to her.

'Then, what do I do about the Secret Santa?'

'You get her a present, obviously.'

'What kind of present? Flowers, chocolate, a diamond ring?'

'I'm sure she'd love to get a diamond ring from you,' Plagg snickered.

Adrien's face lit up. 'So, I get her the ring?'

Plagg stared at him, unimpressed.

Adrien's face fell. 'You're right. She wouldn't accept something expensive.'

Plagg slapped both paws against his face, dragging them down slowly with a long-suffering groan.

'What?' Adrien asked.

'Don't you think she'd find it strange, her classmate giving her something as emotionally laden as a ring?'

'Oh. Oh.'

'Yeah. Try again, Buddy.'

All Adrien could come up with was generic, impersonal ideas which Plagg shot down mercilessly.

He still wanted to get her a ring, though. Maybe one to match his own. It would have to be silver, and much smaller to suit her delicate hands. He liked the idea of a gemstone, jewel chips arranged to look like a paw print. A possessive part of him he hadn't realised he had thought the stone ought to be green. The part of him that had been raised in the fashion industry argued it would have to be blue, to match her eyes.

Adrien groaned in frustration.

'Ok, try this,' Plagg said. 'Think about what she likes. Her hobbies, interests, things like that.'

Adrien considered this. She liked fashion, particularly Gabriel's designs.

He had an idea.

 

In an unexpected stroke of good fortune, Gabriel joined him for dinner that night. After exchanging pleasantries, they fell silent, pre-occupied with their own thoughts.

'Can I have a dress from one of your collections?' Adrien asked suddenly, after he'd finished eating.

'Absolutely not,' Gabriel replied, shocked.

Adrien shook his head and waved his hands, realising he had skipped the lead up to his question.

'It's not for me,' he assured Gabriel quickly.

Gabriel raised his eyebrows and waited.

'We have to do a Secret Santa for class, and I got Marinette. She won your hat competition last year, remember?'

'I remember.'

'Well, I was thinking about what to get her. I ruled out a diamond ring.'

Gabriel choked on his wine. 'Very wise,' he wheezed.

'Then I thought about her interests, and recalled she's into fashion design. She's a big fan of you in particular, and wants to work for you some day. So, I thought, why not give her something made by her favourite designer?'

Gabriel set his glass down. 'Unfortunately, even I am not in a position to just give garments away. You'll have to think of something else.'

'But, Father, I have no idea what to get a girl. Especially this one,' he added quietly.

Gabriel regarded him carefully for a moment. 'You like this girl.'

Adrien nodded miserably, eyes downcast.

Gabriel sighed, rubbing the bridge of his nose. 'Really, Adrien, this one isn't that hard.'

Adrien looked up. 'What?'

'She likes fashion and sewing, right?'

Adrien nodded, looking at Gabriel with hopeful expectation.

'Then you get her sewing supplies.'

His face dropped in disappointment. 'But that's so boring.'

Gabriel shook his head. 'She won't think so. This is her craft, her passion. She will adore the idea that you support and encourage her ambitions. Furthermore, whatever you get her will be used or useful to her.'

Adrien thought about that, tapping his chin. It made sense, and he definitely wanted Marinette to know he supported her goals.

'Are there any items in particular I should get her? Like a new sewing machine, for instance. They come in pink, she loves pink.'

In a resigned tone, Gabriel replied, 'on the conference table in my office are some lengths of fabric. They're good quality and are unlikely to be something she's been able to purchase before. I'm sure there are some pink ones. Choose one and giver her that. She can get a sewing machine anywhere.'

'Really?'

Gabriel nodded, covering a small smile with his wineglass.

Adrien got up and ran to Gabriel's office. He jumped down to the sunken table piled high with soft, luxurious fabrics. Gabriel followed at a sedate pace and watched from the doorway as Adrien rummaged through the rolls.

Finally, Adrien pulled out a length of silk in a soft pink. 'Can I give her this one?'

He heaved it up for Gabriel to inspect, climbing out of the pit after it.

Gabriel rubbed a corner of it between his index finger and thumb. 'Yes, she will like this very much. You must care for her deeply.'

Adrien nodded, a gentle smile tugging his lips. 'She's the greatest thing that's ever happened to me.'

Gabriel nodded again and patted Adrien's shoulder.

'I have work to get back to.'

Setting aside the cloth, Adrien pulled Gabriel into a tight hug.

'Thank you, Father.'

Gabriel returned the hug stiffly.

'You're welcome, Son.'

Adrien then ran back to his room clutching the fabric, and giggling incessantly. 

 


 

The following morning, Adrien watched Marinette like he'd never seen her before as she stood in the courtyard, gossiping with the other girls.

Her smile is just like Ladybug's, he thought. Then he grimaced at his own stupidity. Duh, same person.

He brightened up again at the thought she had been so close the entire time. Then, he worried about what he had to tell her the next time she appeared as Ladybug.

Nino elbowed him in the side.

'Dude, what's with all the weird faces?'

Adrien hunched his shoulders and rubbed the back of his head sheepishly.

'Sorry. I just have a lot on my mind.'

'Like Marinette?' Nino asked with a knowing smirk. 'You've been staring at her.'

'I was not,' Adrien spluttered. 'I was just spacing out. It's not my fault she was standing in the place my face was pointed.'

Nino snorted a laugh.

'Sure. Whatever you say, Man.'

Adrien turned away, grumbling under his breath.

'If you want my advice,' Nino began.

'No,' Adrien interrupted.

'Just go talk to her. You're good with the ladies.'

'You have no idea how much I cannot do that.'

Nino placed his arm across Adrien's shoulders.

'I suggest you go talk to Marinette soon. Ask her out on a date. She'll say yes, I guarantee it.'

'Why do I have to do it soon?'

Nino pointed with his free hand across the courtyard. 'Because if you don't, Nathaniel might.'

Adrien glanced toward the far wall where Nathaniel sat on the ground, sketching. He looked up every so often at Marinette, before returning to his sketch. He was drawing her, without her permission or knowledge.

'Like hell he will,' Adrien growled.

Nino withdrew his hands and held them up in surrender. 'Whoa there, Buddy. Relax, he's too shy to say anything to her today.'

'What do you mean "today?"' Adrien squinted at him.

'Think about it. What if he picked Marinette for the Secret Santa?'

'I got her,' Adrien interrupted.

'Nice one. But what if she got him? That would give him the perfect opportunity to talk to her.'

Adrien considered this. He knew Nathaniel had harboured feelings for her before. Did he still carry a torch for her?  Adrien couldn't take that chance.

'I'll talk to her. Before Friday.'

Resolute, Adrien walked to class with Nino.

 


 

There were no opportunities to talk to Ladybug until Thursday night, when they had patrol.

Adrien sat through class that day, fidgety and restless, anxiously waiting for the night. His mind wondered off into daydreams, thinking about the different scenarios and how they would end. He blushed when he thought it could end with a kiss.

Nino snickered beside him.

'Dude, you're doing the weird face thing again,' he muttered in Adrien's ear.

Adrien flushed and turned back to the lesson. Madame Mendeleiev was hard on those who didn't pay attention.

 

Finally, it was time to leave for patrol. Tonight was the night. He had left it long enough and was determined to tell her. If he played his cards right, he may even get to tell her his identity.

Hit by a stroke of genius at the last minute, Adrien turned from the window and fetched some things. He may have a tough job ahead of him, but that didn't mean he couldn't try to soften the blow.

 

Chat Noir turned up to patrol, atop Notre Dame with his arms, torso, and legs wrapped in Christmas paper. An assortment of ribbons and bows circled his limbs and chest, and a big green bow sat atop his head.

Ladybug stared at him, nonplussed.

'What on earth?' she asked weakly.

Chat Noir smirked at her. 'I'm a gift,' he announced.

'To whom, exactly?' she asked, smothering a giggle as his ribbons fluttered in the bitter wind.

'To you, of course, my dear Ladybug. Care to unwrap me?' he wiggled his eyebrows at her.

'Sure, Kitty. Anything to prevent people from actually seeing you like this.'

A thrill shot down his spine as she started on the knots across his chest.

'Ugh. The thin ribbons have completely tangled around the wider ones,' she complained.

When she pulled the paper free, she tied the bundle with the ribbons so it wouldn't blow away.

After she was done with his torso, she knelt to unwrap his legs.

Chat Noir blushed furiously.

I have not thought this through, he thought, silently panicking.

She soon stood up, to his relief, and patted his head beside the largest bow.

'I like this one. It can stay,' she told him with  a cheeky smile.

Chat Noir nodded, still too shocked to talk.

She untied his left arm, still complaining about the ribbons.

'How did you even?' she asked as she picked at a particularly stubborn knot.

Chat Noir shrugged. If ordinary cats could use their mouths like people used hands, then he could too.

Finally, she moved on to his right arm.

'Nearly done. Gee, I wonder what it could be?'

'A real mystery, isn't it?'

They chuckled as she resumed untying the ribbon at his wrist.

'How did you get it under your cuff?' she asked, turning his arm around for a better angle.

'Talent,' he replied.

Ladybug grinned and found the knot by the heel of his palm.

'Here we go', she cheered.

She picked at the knot and unwound the ribbon as she went. The ribbons flapped in the breeze as she untied them, twisting around their fingers. She grunted in frustration.

'Never do this again, Chaton.'

'Ok,' he laughed. 'But there's no guarantee I wont find other stupid things to do.'

Ladybug rolled her eyes with a sigh.

They fell quiet as Ladybug continued to unwrap Chat Noir. Eventually, she growled in frustration and yanked the last of the ribbons away with both hands. Unbeknownst to either of them, the thinnest ribbon had looped around Chat Noir's ring during his run over there. When Ladybug pulled, the ribbon snagged tightly around it, removing it as well. She staggered back, landing on her backside when she lost her balance.

Chat Noir's transformation fell, and Adrien was revealed. They stared at each other, frozen, as the ring rolled across the stone to rest by Ladybug's feet. She stared up at him, eyes wide and face pale. Her mouth was moving, opening and closing, but there was no sound.

Adrien shrugged helplessly, and rubbed the back of his neck.

'Ta-da,' he said feebly.

Ladybug surged to her feet, babbling apologies and assurances of utmost secrecy. She looked like she was going to cry.

Adrien approached her, grabbed her shoulders, and pulled her into a tight hug. She gripped the back of his shirt, still sobbing apologies. He rubbed her back and petted her hair, whispering reassurances in her ear.

'It's fine, LB. It was an accident. I don't blame you.'

She hiccupped another apology.

'Shh, it's ok. Everything's fine. You're a great secret keeper. No one's gonna hear about this from you.'

She sputtered a weak laugh and pulled away. Looking over his shoulder, she saw his ring still laying where it fell. She picked it up and handed it back with a guilty expression.

Adrien suppressed a sigh as his nerves overrode his good sense. He convinced himself that telling her he also knew who she was would be too much for her right now. It would have to wait until next time.

 


 

Friday morning, Adrien was late for school.

Patrol had been quiet and tense, Ladybug's guilt palpable. His own guilt at not telling her the truth just as weighty. Troubled, he had laid awake for hours after, staring at his ceiling.

Now, he was rushing around because he had overslept. He gathered his books, pens, and bag in a frenzy. It wasn't until he was half way down the stairs when he realised he had forgotten his Secret Santa gift. He swore and ran back up to get it. He grabbed the large bag holding the fabric, hoisting the ties of the drawstring over his shoulder. He then sprinted for the car, struggling under the additional weight.

He had just ran inside the school entrance when the bell rang. When he reached the classroom, Caline was already addressing the students, explaining how they would proceed.

'When I call your name, go to the person you drew and give them their gift. When you receive your present, thank your Santa politely. Just to mix things up, I'll be calling from the roll in reverse order. Lila, if you would like to begin, please.'

Lila nodded and stood up. She walked down to Ivan and handed him a small square, neatly wrapped in green paper. 

'Joyeux Noël,' she said coolly.

'Thanks,' Ivan replied, equally indifferent. He unwrapped it to see an early release of the next Zombie Skull Crushers album. 'Thank you,' he said sincerely.

Lila shrugged and went back to her seat.

Sabrina got up next. 'Joyeux Noël,' she said to Alya.

She had gotten Alya a new phone case, red with black spots.

'Awesome,' Alya squealed. 'Thanks, Girl.'

Sabrina blushed and sat down.

'Kim, your turn,' Caline reminded him when he didn't move. The class tittered until Caline silenced them with a look.

Kim ducked under his desk to retrieve a poorly wrapped bundle he then threw at Alix.

'Joyeux Noël, Short-stack,' he hollered as it hit her shoulder.

'Thanks,' she replied drily, rubbing her arm. She unwrapped the mess of paper and sticky tape to find new wrist and arm guards.

'Thanks, Dork,' she said with a grin.

Rose had gotten Sabrina a selection of bath bombs and lotions.

Nino had made Mylene a CD of his own work, telling her the sweet music reminded him of her. He'd even made an album cover.

Nathaniel gave Kim a beautifully drawn portrait of him with his favourite sports stars. He'd even found an understated, but tasteful frame.

Adrien couldn't help but sigh in relief at the knowledge that Nathaniel hadn't drawn Marinette's name.

Alix was next. She reluctantly got to her feet and slowly circled the desks until she stood before Chloe.

'Joyeux Noël,' she said brusquely, dropping a yellow gift bag on Chloe's desk.

Chloe rummaged through a copious amount of tissue paper and pulled out a silver compact and matching comb.

'This isn't horrible,' she admitted, surprised.

'My Dad made me do it.' Alix walked back to her seat.

Adrien heard Alya stifle a snort of laughter.

It was Max's turn. He had gotten Juleka a silver bracelet with a snake pendant, which she promptly put on with a mumbled thanks.

Mylene had bought Rose a pink beanie, gloves and scarf set. She shrieked her delight as Mylene blushed.

Then Marinette was called. Adrien held his breath, but was disappointed when she walked to the back of the class. He swivelled in his chair to watch where she went.

She stopped next to Nathaniel and held out a beautifully wrapped package. The paper was blue, decorated with snowflakes and fully lit menorahs, along with a matching card.

'Happy Hanukkah,' she beamed.

Nathaniel blushed and gave her a shy smile, accepting the gift with murmured thanks. He opened it to reveal a new roll-up bag for his art supplies, a cleverly made strip of turquoise canvas, trimmed in red, with pockets of all sizes on the inside.

'It matches your eyes and hair,' Marinette giggled before returning to her seat.

Adrien fumed, clenching his fists and grinding his teeth until Nino elbowed him sharply. Adrien turned around to the front, hanging his head.

Juleka leaned forward in her seat to give Max his present. 'Joyeux Noël,' she mumbled.

'Thanks, Juleka,' he replied, pulling the new Mecha Strike game out of the gift bag. Pushing his glasses back up his nose, Max turned to Kim. 'Juleka's my best friend now.'

The class laughed as Kim bemoaned his loss theatrically.

Following Juleka's example, Alya leaned over her desk to give Nino his gift.

'Here you go, Loser,' she said, giving him a kiss on top of his head.

'Awww,' Rose squealed.

Alya had gotten Nino the headphones he had been eyeing for the last two months.

Adrien thought he was going to cry.

'Thanks, Babe,' he choked.

Ivan got Adrien a light blue beanie and gloves set, 'to match his scarf.'

Touched, Adrien thanked Ivan sincerely. Ivan gave him a rare smile in return before going back to his seat.

Chloe had to be prompted by Caline to give her gift. Chloe unwillingly got up and walked to Lila.

'Here,' she said, handing over a plain white gift bag.

'Thanks,' Lila replied, equally stony. She tucked the bag under her desk, unopened.

Caline tsked at their behaviour, then called on Adrien.

Adrien moved to squat in front of his desk, retrieving the large fabric bag from the floor. He heaved it up and presented it to Marinette.

'Joyeux Noël, Marinette,' he said with a nervous smile. He leaned the bag against her desk. It stood as tall as his shoulder.

Slowly, she reached up to tug the drawstring open at the top of the bag. He had to hold it steady for her so it wouldn't roll down the stairs. She finally worked the top open enough to pull the bag down.

'Adrien, is that a whole bolt of silk?'

'Yeah,' he replied enthusiastically.

'You got her some material? Lame,' Kim ridiculed him.

'It's Mulberry silk. That's ok, isn't it?' Adrien asked, suddenly unsure.

Marinette choked and fell back into her seat.

Rapidly losing confidence, he asked, 'is this all right? I can get you something else.'

She stared at him, face slack with shock.

'How did you get an entire bolt of Mulberry silk?' she shrieked.

Adrien nearly dropped it on her.

'Uh, Father let me pick it from his supplies,' he admitted quietly, feeling inadequate.

'You didn't even pay for it yourself? Adrikins, I'm disappointed in you,' Chloe told him.

Adrien shrank in on himself. 'I'll get you something better.'

'Don't you dare, I love it,' Marinette yelled, standing up to hug the fabric possessively.

'Really, I can get you something nicer.'

She tilted the bolt away from him, protecting it with her body while she eyed him warily.

'No. It's mine and I'm keeping it.' Her expression shifted to puzzlement. 'I just don't understand how you could have a whole bolt of it. It usually only comes in small twists and is extremely expensive.'

Adrien shrugged. 'Yeah, well. Father.'

Marinette smiled at him, small and sweet. 'Thank you, Adrien.' She hugged it. 'I'll make something special with it, as soon as I have a design worthy of it.'

'Isn't that stuff normally used for bedsheets?' Alya asked with a raised eyebrow.

'Hush, you,' Marinette told her, as she hugged her silk.

Adrien grinned and returned to his seat. Gabriel may have been right, after all.

 


 

Saturday night, Adrien promised himself he would tell Ladybug that he knew her identity. Akumas had been few this week, so the chances of seeing her outside of patrol had diminished. But, they were scheduled to have a patrol that night, and Adrien was eager to get this burden off his back.

He found her sitting on a rooftop near the Business district, staring at the city lights with a faraway look in her eyes. He approached her with exaggerated casualness, hands clasped behind his back and whistling softly as he looked around. She was beautiful that night, bathed in the glow of the lights.

He sat next to her, taking a moment to admire the view as well.

'Hey,' he said.

'Hey,' she responded slowly, still not looking at him.

Chat Noir suppressed a sigh. He had already reached his conversational limit.

Ladybug turned to him, then, looking downcast.

'I really am sorry about before,' she said.

Chat Noir shook his head. 'You don't have to keep apologising. I was never mad at you.'

'I should have been more careful,' she insisted.

Chat Noir wobbled a hand side to side. 'Eh, maybe. No one saw, at least. But, you know, maybe this is a good thing.'

'How? I never wanted to share identities, not like this.'

Chat Noir resisted the urge to sigh again. 'I know, but you knowing now has actually evened us out.'

She looked at him questioningly. 'What do you mean?'

Chat Noir took a deep breath. Preparing for the worst, he confessed. 'I mean, I already know who you are, Marinette.'

Ladybug sucked in a breath. 'How do you know?'

Chat Noir looked away. 'I saw you detransform after we beat Garbage Man. No one else was around, no one saw, other than me. I promise,' he added hastily when her cheeks turned ashen.

An awkward silence stretched between them.

'So, now what?' she asked quietly, turning back to the view.

'I don't know,' he replied, just as quiet. 'But things don't have to change.'

'They already have.'

'My feelings for you are still the same.'

Chat Noir snapped his mouth shut. He hadn't meant to say that aloud. He blushed and turned away.

Hopefully, she wouldn't think he was trying to emotionally manipulate her.

'So are mine,' she murmured.

'What?'

'I still have feelings for you, too.'

He gasped softly, gazing at her. 'You do?'

'Yeah,' she replied hesitantly.

'You don't sound sure,' he tried not to sound hurt.

Ladybug blushed. 'I just don't want to rush into something right now. We have a whole new dynamic now, and I don't want to spoil it before we have a chance to find out how we fit together in this,' she waved her hands around helplessly as her sentence trailed off.

'You want to let something build organically?'

'Yeah, I guess. I'm not shutting the door on a relationship with you, I just want to be cautious. What do you think?'

'I think that is very sensible. You're right, this is new ground for us. While I feel like I know you, there are parts of you I've never met. There are also sides of me you've never seen. Agreed?'

'Agreed,' she answered with a small smile.

Chat Noir grinned in return. 'We don't have to start anything simply because it's expected. We can take our time and build something just for us. I'm really looking forward to it.'

'You're a sap, do you know that?' Ladybug said as she rested her head against his shoulder.

Chat Noir wrapped an arm around her. 'Yeah, and I'm all yours.'

 


 

Adrien met Marinette outside the school on Monday morning, just a few days before holidays began, greeting each other with small smiles and shy glances.

The snow had finally started to fall, and it began to feel like Christmas, at last. As pretty as the first snow was, Adrien wasn't especially fond of the cold. He found he appreciated Ivan's gift a lot more than he had when he first got it. 

'Remind me to thank Ivan profusely when we see him,' Adrien said, rubbing his hands together. 'These gloves and beanie are truly a Godsend.'

Marinette just giggled at him, a suspicious light in her eyes.

'What?' Adrien asked warily.

'Don't you think it's a little convenient that the colour matches your scarf so well?'

Adrien blinked at her, then held his hands against his scarf to compare.

'Huh. It's identical. How did he manage that?'

'He commissioned me to make them,' she admitted with a rueful laugh.

Adrien looked at her, confused. 'You made these? I got two presents from you? You spoil me, Milady,' he smirked at her.

Marinette opened her mouth to say something, but then closed it again, shaking her head with a smile.

'So, how did you match the colours so well?'

'I have an eye for these things,' she said as she headed up the stairs ahead of him.

Adrien followed, wondering if she'd like to do something fun over the holidays. Ice skating sounded nice.

Feeling bold, Adrien caught up to walk beside her and gently grasped her hand as they crossed the threshold. Marinette smiled up at him, and gripped his hand in return.

Their moment was interrupted by a scream before Alya tackled Marinette out of his hold. He frowned at her as she squealed in Marinette's ear, bouncing around like a lunatic.

'Dude, you finally did it,' Nino said from his other side.

Adrien gave a shy chuckle, rubbing the back of his head. 'Yeah,' he replied, blushing.

Alya pulled Marinette over, thrusting her into Adrien's arms.

'So, you two are officially dating?' she asked.

'Yeah, but we're not ready to go public yet,' Marinette said with a pointed stare.

Alya only looked mildly chastised, clearly too happy for Marinette to be brought down by something so small.

'Congrats, Bro,' Nino slapped him on the back.

'Thanks, Man. We're taking it slow for a while, though.'

Nino and Alya nodded, agreeing that was wise.

'I'm surprised you can hold yourself back, Girl,' Alya said to Marinette with a wink.

Marinette blushed. 'Alya!'

Adrien looked at Marinette, taking her hand once more. She smiled up at him, her cheeks still red.

She hugged his arm as they drifted to class, warm and cosy. It felt as if she belonged there.

The path ahead was not guaranteed, but Adrien was determined to make the best of what he had. He thought that would be very easy as long as he had Marinette by his side.



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