Marinette knew she should have tried to steer the conversation in a different direction. As soon as the topic of past relationships came up, she should have done something: talk about the weather, pretend she received a call, even dump her drink on her lap just to get out of the inevitable question.
“So, what about you? How was your last relationship?”
“It was…” Marinette searched for a word as her date began to look increasingly concerned. “Well, let’s just say it was an experience I’m glad is behind me.”
“Funny, you seemed to enjoy it at the time.”
Marinette turned to look in the direction of that irritatingly familiar voice. She should have known even thinking of Chloe would catch her attention and draw her in like a beacon tailor-made for blonde narcissists.
Chloe smirked from the table behind her. “Hey, lovebug.”
Marinette scowled. “What are you doing here, Chloe?”
“Wait, is she your ex?” Marinette’s date asked, looking between them. Clearly, Alya had mentioned Chloe a few times before setting her up with Marinette.
“Yes. And, I’m on a date, obviously. Same as you.” Chloe turned back to her date, a model Marinette recognized as one of Adrien’s coworkers. “Sorry, dear. I didn’t mean to interrupt you. You were telling me I could be a model myself?”
Marinette snorted. “Model? You know there’s work involved in modeling, right?”
“I have an excellent work ethic when I’m interested in what I’m doing.”
“So, the fact that you’ve gone through fifteen jobs in the past year is just… what, boredom?” Marinette asked, now fully turning to look at Chloe.
“I wasn’t challenged,” Chloe shot back.
“You’re enough of a challenge on your own.”
“Excuse you. I’m a delight.”
Marinette smirked. “The only delightful part of you is watching you walk away.”
“That’s cause I have a great ass.”
“I...should be going,” Chloe’s date murmured, gathering her things. “I’d hate to interrupt whatever this is.”
Marinette’s date shot to her feet. “Me, too. I’ll, um, call you.”
“Wait, I’m sorry. We can go somewhere else.” Marinette stood. “I’m not like this, I swear. She just brings out the worst in me.”
“Sorry. I just don’t think this will work out.”
Marinette slumped back into her seat, watching as the two women left, chatting between themselves.
Marinette turned to shoot Chloe a glare. “This is your fault, you know.”
“My fault? I’m not the one telling people our relationship was a mistake,” Chloe snapped.
“Just mind your own business.” Marinette snatched up her purse and stormed out. “And you can cover the dinner if you’re wrecking my dates!”
This time, Marinette found someone online. Someone who could have no possible idea of her history with Chloe. Someone who was interested in anything but her relationship history, thankfully, and appreciated fashion enough to hold a good conversation.
“So, did you design the dress you’re wearing?”
“Yes!” Marinette grinned. “It’s one of my favorites, actually.”
“It’s such a nice color on you.” She grinned. “Normally, I wouldn’t think yellow and pink would go so well together.”
Marinette’s mood soured when she realized exactly why she’d chosen those two colors, but she tried not to show it. “Oh, yeah, it was a bit of a challenge making sure they didn’t clash.”
“That’s because yellow stands better on its own.”
Marinette grimaced and closed her eyes. “Not again.”
“And it’s never been very flattering on you, honey.”
“Chloe,” Marinette ground out, “I am in the middle of something.”
“Is everything okay?” her date asked, glancing behind her at Chloe.
“Oh, of course.” Chloe smiled, her tone almost nauseatingly sweet. “I just wanted to go ahead and send this over on the house.” She set down a bottle of what had to be the most expensive whiskey on the menu along with a single glass, which she placed in front of Marinette’s bewildered date. “To help you through the evening. I know she can be a handful.”
Marinette glared back at her. “No, thank you. We’re fine.”
“Is there gold flakes in this?” her date murmured, staring at the bottle.
“Of course not. That would be overkill.” Chloe winked. “But, if you want something a little more rich, just let your waitress know. No charge.”
“We’re not. Interested.” Marinette picked up the bottle and handed it back to Chloe. “Go away.”
“That’s rude, Marinette.” Chloe smirked. “Your lovely date might want something to take the edge off.”
“You’re the one who’s being rude.” Marinette scowled. “As usual.”
“Really? I’m rude?”
“Maybe I should go?” Her date stood.
“No, please stay.” Marinette turned to look at her. “We can go somewhere else.”
“That’s alright.” She eyed Chloe, then Marinette. “I’m suddenly really tired.”
Marinette frowned. “Okay. I really am so sorry about this.”
Chloe watched her leave with the tiniest flash of triumph in her eyes.
“I hate you,” Marinette grumbled as she slumped back in her seat. “I can’t believe I spent an hour getting ready for this.”
Chloe looked her over, her lips curving into a smirk as she scrutinized every inch of Marinette’s appearance. “I seriously doubt that took an hour.”
“Shut up.” Marinette blushed and pushed herself to her feet, grabbing the bottle of whiskey on her way past the table. “This is coming with me, and you,” She jabbed a finger in Chloe’s direction. “You are not showing up to any more of my dates.”
“If you say so.”
“Excuse me, I’m going to need to ask you to leave.”
Marinette groaned when she saw who was standing beside them. “I don’t believe this.”
Her date stared up at Paris’ resident bee-themed superhero, eyes wide. “Is something wrong?”
“Yes. I’m afraid this area is dangerous.” She held out a hand. “I’m here to take you to safety.”
Marinette held her tongue, beyond furious that Chloe would use her powers like this, especially because Marinette couldn’t say anything that might expose her identity. “Oh, is there an attack nearby?” Marinette finally managed to ask through gritted teeth.
“No, but this date could be incredibly unpleasant and toxic.”
Marinette scowled. “Don’t you have anything better to do? Like saving people or keeping the city safe? Real hero stuff?”
Abeille scoffed. “Trust me, this is heroic.”
“It seems like a waste of time,” Marinette snapped.
“This is a public service, actually.”
Marinette’s date glanced between the two of them. “Do you two know each other?”
“No,” they snapped in unison.
“It seems like there might be some history…”
Marinette frowned and stood. “Let’s find another place to eat. This restaurant is terrible anyway.”
“Funny, you didn’t think it was so terrible the first five times you brought a date here,” the hero said, folding her arms over her chest.
“Well, I won’t be coming back,” Marinette snapped.
“I actually think I should be leaving. I just got a text that my aunt’s gone into labor, and I should be there.” Marinette’s date quickly darted away from the table, leaving a handful of bills and coins to cover the cost of her drink.
Marinette tossed enough money onto the table to cover the rest and dragged Abeille away to a hidden corner of the restaurant. “I cannot believe you showed up like this. You can’t abuse your power to scare off my dates.”
“I’m pretty sure you scared your date off on your own.”.
Marinette grabbed her arm. “Stop interrupting my dates and let me move on.”
“Hilarious. You think I’m the reason you aren’t moving on?”
“What does that mean?”
Abeille raised a brow. “You don’t know?”
“Know what exactly?” Marinette struggled to keep her voice soft, hoping to avoid a scene.
“Why don’t you call me when you figure it out.” Abeille then sauntered off, flying out of sight once she was away from the restaurant.
Marinette frowned and returned to her table. She ate the rest of her meal in silence, running through every possible explanation she could conceive of. Nothing made sense. Obviously, she wanted things to be over with Chloe. Sure, their relationship had been filled with ups and downs, and sure, they’d fought and made up at least a dozen times now, but Marinette had meant it when she said she wanted to end things. She wasn’t the sort of person to say one thing and mean another. Chloe knew that.
So, why in the world, would she insist that Marinette wasn’t moving on?
Perhaps it was asking too much of the universe for her to catch a break. Maybe she needed all her luck for when she was Ladybug and couldn’t spare any for her dating life. Maybe Chloe was just annoyingly persistent.
Either way, she really should have known that Chloe would be standing over her in a waitress uniform that fit her too well, holding back a smirk, and asking what she’d like.
Fine. If Chloe wanted to play that game, then she’d play that game.
Maybe Marinette was a little demanding and just maybe she’d given the most complicated order she could manufacture on the spot, but really what could Chloe do to wreck her date besides hovering and maybe spilling a drink or two.
Unfortunately, Marinette had vastly underestimated Chloe.
“Oh my gosh, where did you get that dress?” Chloe exclaimed as she looked over at Marinette’s dress. “It’s so flattering.”
She blushed. “Oh, thank you! It was a gift.”
“Darling,” Chloe leaned in closer to brush her fingertips over the woman’s shoulder. “You simply must tell me where it came from.”
Marinette frowned, a flash of something she refused to call jealousy searing her heart. “Shouldn’t you be getting our order?”
“Of course.” Chloe straightened and shot Marinette a wicked smile over her shoulder. “What would you like, honey?”
Once she confirmed both meals, she walked off, her hips swaying too much to be anything but intentional. Marinette almost considered chasing her down and throttling her.
“So, what do you do?” her date asked, shifting uncomfortably at the tension in the air.
“I’m a designer for-”
“Oh, madame!” Chloe hurried back to the table. “I’m so sorry to inform you we’re out of the meal you ordered. Is there anything else I could get you?”
The words “another waitress” were on the tip of her tongue, but Marinette just smiled instead of speaking them. “What would you recommend?”
“Well, you could get the same thing as your date. She seems to have exceptional taste.” Chloe even had the audacity to send the woman a wink.
Marinette chuckled. "I have to agree with you on that." She reached over and squeezed her date's hand. "I'll have what she's having, then."
The look on Chloe's face almost made what came next worth it. Clearly, Marinette wasn't the only one who was struggling with a touch of not-quite-jealousy.
When Chloe returned with their food, she slipped a piece of paper over to Marinette. "I was a little nervous about doing this, but..." She lowered her voice so Marinette and her date were the only ones who could hear what she said next. "Here's my number again. You must have lost it the first time I gave it to you."
Then, she did the unspeakable. She leaned down and pressed a soft kiss to the corner of Marinette's lips, smirking as she drew back.
“It’s nice to see you around here again, gorgeous.”
Of course, she left Marinette with the mess as always.
"Bravo." Marinette glared at Chloe once she returned to the table. "That was a great performance."
"Maybe I should have gone into acting." Chloe sat in the empty seat across from Marinette, a smug look on her face.
"I suppose you're proud of yourself for driving another one away."
Chloe smirked. "I'd say it was a team effort."
"Right, of course you'd try to pin this on me," Marinette grumbled.
"Well, you were the one who got upset when I flirted with your date."
Marinette frowned. "I think that's a pretty normal reaction."
"Really? Why should you care if I flirt with anyone?"
Marinette could tell they were venturing into dangerous territory again, hinting at what Chloe had implied last time she'd interrupted one of Marinette's dates. Something about Marinette not really wanting to move on. Was Chloe convinced Marinette still had feelings for her?
"Besides, you weren't exactly on your best behavior, either." Chloe leaned in and chuckled. "You were staring."
"Yeah, well, you do bring out the worst in me," Marinette shot back, perhaps a bit more vicious than she meant it.
Chloe tensed and looked down, trying to hide the reaction by picking a piece of lint off the table. “Don’t blame me because you made a bad impression.”
“If you hadn’t been here, I would have made a great impression.”
“Please,” Chloe scoffed. “I’ve been on dates with you. I know exactly what kind of impression you leave.”
“Buzz off,” Marinette spat as she stood and stalked off.
By now, Marinette expected the intrusion. She’d been watching for any sign of blonde hair out of the corner of her eye, and her date quickly picked up on her distraction.
“Is everything okay?”
“What? Yes!” Marinette straightened. “Sorry. Everything’s fine. I just thought I saw a bee.”
She heard the stifled laughter before she saw Chloe, once again sitting near her. This time, Chloe had a date again, and Marinette was irritated to note that Chloe’s latest partner looked and dressed an awful lot like Marinette.
“Careful, I hear bees can sting if you get them mad enough,” Chloe commented as she flipped through the menu she must have known by heart now.
“I thought bees only stung in self-defense,” Marinette muttered.
“Actually,” Marinette’s date jumped in. “Bees sting when they perceive you as a threat.”
Chloe smirked. “That sounds about right.” She turned to Marinette’s date. “Do you know a lot about bugs?”
“My dad was an entomologist, actually,” she said with a smile.
“Tell me, what do ladybugs do when they’re threatened?” Chloe asked with a sugary sweet smile Marinette wanted to kiss.
No, she quickly corrected internally, a smile she wanted to wipe away, hide, ignore, or flip upside down. Not kiss. Definitely not kiss.
“Well,” her date answered, “They secrete a liquid that deters predators. It smells and makes them taste unappealing.”
Chloe snickered. “So, when Ladybugs are scared, they make themselves smell?”
“At least they don’t hurt other people,” Marinette grumbled.
“The bee is killing itself when it stings you, though,” Chloe’s date chimed in. “It’s kind of sad.”
Marinette and Chloe fell silent, each unwilling to voice the obvious while Marinette’s date explained that not every species of bee had that problem. An instinctive, barbed comeback sat on the tip of Marinette’s tongue, almost as painful to hold in as venom, but she swallowed it down and turned back to her date anyway.
“I’m not feeling so well,” Marinette lied, ignoring Chloe’s eyes on her. “Can we just head back to my place?”
“Sure,” her date answered, brows furrowed. “Did you want to reschedule?”
“That’s probably best.”
Marinette considered what had been said as she walked home, her pace slow and steady. She could have sworn she caught glimpses of blonde hair in the shadows of buildings overhead, but she ignored it every time she noticed, hoping Chloe would take the hint. By the time she reached the front door of her apartment, she half expected to see Abeille on her couch, staring up at her as she walked in. The window had been left wide open. It would have been so easy for Chloe to sneak in while Marinette was walking home.
Instead, there was nothing to greet her but the nighttime breeze and Marinette’s lingering thoughts.
Marinette spent the entire day insisting she was fine right up until the moment that she arrived for her date and actually sat across from the well-dressed woman waiting for her.
Her eyes weren't blue enough. Her hair wasn't the right shade of blonde. She was too sweet, and she probably should have been absolutely perfect for Marinette.
Except the only thing she could think about now was Chloe interrupting her date. She couldn’t stop obsessing over it, startling at each laugh that was almost the right pitch and looking twice at each hint of yellow in her periphery. Of course, none of them were actually Chloe. Part of her wondered if maybe her last date had finally scared Chloe off.
Well, that was better, wasn’t it? Marinette could finally enjoy a date that was completely Chloe-free. No more bee jokes or insults or warnings about what a terrible girlfriend Marinette was. She could make a good impression and maybe walk away with a pleasant story for once.
Only, it was half an hour into an uninterrupted date, and she was still making a terrible impression. Her attention kept wandering at the worst possible moments, and she couldn’t stop glancing at the clock nearby. Every time she caught herself, she wanted to scream. She knew better. She knew this wasn’t how to treat a date. This was the sort of thing that Chloe would do.
Where was Chloe anyway? It was long past the time she usually showed up with some snappy remark or obvious plan to sabotage Marinette’s evening. Not that Chloe kept much of a schedule, but she usually didn’t keep Marinette waiting this long.
"Are you alright?"
Marinette's attention snapped back to her date. "Oh, absolutely. Sorry."
"That's okay. You seem a little tense. Is there anything you want to talk about?"
The only thing Marinette wanted to talk about was how she absolutely didn't deserve this absolute angel of a date. "No, I'm fine. I just thought I saw someone I know."
"We could go over and say hello,” she offered.
"Oh, no. It isn't her." After a second, Marinette added on a half-hearted, “Thank you, though.”
No matter how many times she looked, it continued to not be her through the entire dinner. Not-Chloe would laugh, and Marinette’s eyes would snap over to check. Not-Chloe would walk by, smelling of overpriced, floral perfume, and Marinette would make a face in the middle of her date’s joke. Not-Chloe would flick her hair over her shoulder, the light catching in the wrong shade of blonde, and Marinette would try to pretend it didn’t make her skin itch with a need to correct all of it by finding the right person instead.
Marinette's date was more than pleasant throughout the miserable experience. Not that Marinette didn't try to be equally pleasant. She just couldn't seem to focus on anything that didn't involve Chloe in some way.
In the back of her mind, she could only imagine Chloe's reaction to that. She'd probably find it hilarious, Marinette thought sourly.
"Well, I had a great time."
"Me, too," Marinette answered, a beat too slow to sound sincere.
"Thanks. I'll call you." She sounded tired, and Marinette's stomach churned with guilt.
"Look, I..." Marinette grimaced. "I'm so sorry. I know this was a bad date, and I know it was my fault. I'm still getting over an ex, and I was..." She heaved a sigh. "Please just know that it wasn't you. You seem really nice, and I hope you meet an amazing girl who falls for you."
Her expression softened. "Thanks. I hope things work out for you, too."
Marinette waited until she was gone to transform. Ladybug took off through the streets of Paris to land on Chloe's balcony and knock insistently until Chloe answered.
"What are you doing here?" Chloe asked, folding her arms over her chest.
"I had a date tonight."
Chloe stepped back. "Congratulations. Did you come here to brag?"
Ladybug released her transformation, leaving Marinette, still dressed in her heels and handmade dress, to approach Chloe. "Why didn't you stop it?"
"You asked me to leave you alone."
"That didn’t stop you the first twelve times."
Chloe scowled. "What do you want from me? You’re upset when I don’t listen and now you’re upset when I do!"
Marinette was quiet for a moment before she finally asked the question she wasn’t entirely sure she wanted to voice. "What did you mean when you said I had another reason for not moving on?"
"You really want me to answer that?"
Marinette nodded. One constant in their relationship had been Marinette's unwavering respect for Chloe's honest opinion. Even after breaking up with her, that hadn’t changed.
"You kept bringing dates to the restaurant attached to my father's hotel." Chloe raised a brow. "If you really wanted to move on, why would you keep bringing them to my front door?"
Marinette tensed. "I..." Of course, it seemed so obvious now. Every date, she’d been the one to pick, and every date, she’d always picked the same place. She almost wondered how she missed it before now. "I did, didn't I?"
"Look, I'm not interested in killing myself trying to hurt you," Chloe murmured, the exhaustion in her voice tearing at Marinette's heart. "I'm done. Just take your dates somewhere else."
Marinette bit her lip and stepped closer. When Chloe flinched away, she paused and looked down. “I couldn’t stop thinking about you tonight.” She sighed. "As much as I hate to admit it, you were right. I didn't really want to end things." She reached out, waiting for Chloe to take her hand. "I'm sorry."
Chloe stared down at her hand for a moment. "I'm sorry, too. I was just mad. I thought you knew I didn't mean it."
"I know now."
Chloe finally reached out to lace her fingers in Marinette's. "I do love you."
Marinette tugged her into a hug. "I know. I love you, too."
"But you thought I didn't." Her grip tightened around Marinette's waist.
"I was hurt, too, you know," Marinette murmured, the echoed memories of their last fight still ringing in her ears.
For a moment, she didn't realize that Chloe's shoulders were shaking with quiet sobs. She almost missed the tears gathering on her shoulder, but the hot breaths over her collarbone caught her attention.
"Chloe..." Marinette hugged her tighter, rubbing her back as tears pricked at the corners of her eyes. "You can't cry. If you do, I'll cry, too, and then you'll ruin my makeup."
"Your makeup looks terrible anyway," Chloe mumbled.
Marinette chuckled, her vision blurring. "You're horrible."
"You bring out the worst in me."
Marinette grimaced. "Okay, I earned that."
Chloe finally peeked up at her. "The best, too, though."
Marinette's expression softened as tension eased from her shoulders. "You, too."
They spent the night cuddling in bed while cheesy movies played in the background. By morning, they were both dressed in Ladybug pajamas, makeup long since gone and replaced with a moisturizer Marinette could never hope to afford on her salary. Empty containers of ice cream sat on the bedside table, left behind after Chloe's midnight call to room service.
Waking up beside Chloe felt natural, and Marinette was sure she hadn't slept this well in days. She smiled, drinking in the warmth of finally sharing the bed with Chloe again, and turned to kiss Chloe's forehead. "Morning, honey."
"Mmm..." Chloe blinked and looked up at her. When they locked eyes, her smile was brighter than the sunshine filtering in through the window behind her. "Morning, lovebug."