The Credit of the Art goes to Luluana101 in Tumblr!
I want to thank slkworm for being my beta. I'm not a native English speaker and she made this readable for you. Thank you. Also thanks to x-rayLady for helping me with the song titles in french.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
To be honest, when Bob Roth announced that he and XY were leaving The Cataclysm a couple of months earlier, the first thing Adrien had felt was relief. XY was a nightmare of a bandmate, and Bob Roth resembled more a slave owner than a producer. He didn't hate them… that much. He honestly wished the best for XY in his solo career, but he was glad he didn't have to work with them anymore. Nino, Kim, and Nathaniel shared the feeling.
But then came the panic. The Cataclysm was now without a producer and was down one member, and they didn't know what to do.
The bad news kept coming when Jagged Stone announced he was taking a long break from writing music because he had lost his inspiration after Fang's tragic demise.
Adrien hadn't expected two bad things to make one good. Adrien and the rest of the band had almost passed out from shock when Penny Rolling showed up on their doorstep announcing that Jagged Stone was interested in becoming their producer. Adrien was pretty sure they had said yes before she even finished presenting the idea.
Several things changed after Jagged stepped into the role. They went from rehearsing eighty hours a week to a reasonable forty-eight hours. Jagged was eccentric, childish, and demanding, but, unlike Bob, he wasn't abusive.
Jagged seemed to care about the band members' opinions and feelings, and usually asked them for their input before making any drastic decisions.
And they had made drastic decisions.
Like changing the band's style. Neither Jagged nor the boys were fond of the generic, soulless songs and largely identical outfits Bob forced onto them. Some of their old songs were salvageable, but some were going directly to the trash can. But the clothes... none of them wanted to see those horrendous outfits again. The only thing they were keeping was Nino's iconic hat. Nino was fond of that hat and the fans loved it. They loved it so much that thousands of identical copies were sold every day to Catafans. It would be madness to get rid of it.
They had also decided to include a new member, because The Cataclysm had always had five members. They were a little unsure, since the fans were fond of XY and the boys weren't sure how well the Catafans would receive a replacement, but it was a new phase for The Cataclysm and fresh talent would do them good.
They decided to hold an online contest to pick a new member. The beauty of the internet was that people with talent didn't need to have the right connections, just internet access. All they had to do was submit the video to the official The Cataclysm website and voilá, they were entered into the running.
The sixty most popular videos (based on the number of views and likes) were going to get called for a closed audition, with the band members, Jagged, and Penny serving as judges. From among those, they were going to pick the twenty best for a second audition, this time live on TV. From among those twenty, they were going to pick their new member.
The idea was well-received by the fans, all things considered. Of course some of them hated the idea of a new member, but most of their Catafans were on board. In the six weeks that followed, they received thousands of videos.
Adrien didn't have a lot of time to watch the videos. Between the band and the occasional modeling gig for his father, he barely had free time. Yet he always found himself going on the website and watching the same video on repeat.
It was one of the first videos that had been uploaded to the website. Adrien would never admit it, but he had probably seen the video a hundred times. Even now, the day before they announced the Top Sixty, when there were thousands of other videos to watch, he always ended up re-watching that one video.
It had been submitted by a boy named Antoine Dubois-Yang, age nineteen. The boy in the video was wearing an oversized generic white t-shirt, black skinny jeans, and one of the Nino hats that the fans adored. He was really small and scrawny with chubby cheeks and the bluest eyes Adrien had seen.
The boy had picked Partir for his audition. Partir was one of the few songs from their old albums that survived their change of style. It was a generic song about becoming an adult; it was full of clichés, but it was a fan favorite and it was fun to dance to. The lyrics were a little convoluted, yet Antoine delivered them flawlessly. His voice was clearly untrained and could use practice, but his high-pitched voice actually matched the song better than the original voices.
It was not his voice that Adrien was obsessing over though. It was the dancing.
This Antoine guy knew how to move. Every time he re-watched the video, Adrien was invariably hypnotized by the way Antoine moved his hips and they way every part of his body was in synch with the song. This guy had talent. Every time Adrien hit play, his eyes were glued to the screen for three minutes and eleven seconds.
Adrien had watched Antoine's video at least once a day since the day it had been submitted until the very day before the Top Sixty was announced.
He really hoped this Antoine guy was in the Top Sixty. He was very talented. Besides, if Antoine submitted the video, it meant he dreamt of becoming part of The Cataclysm. If he didn't get picked, his dream was going to be crushed. Adrien understood the same could be said about every single participant, but there was something about Antoine's blue eyes that made Adrien hope his dream would come true.
Marinette had submitted the video as a joke. She had seen the announcement that The Cataclysm was looking for a new member, and she couldn't resist submitting a video. She was the number one Catafan. She knew all their songs and choreography by heart. So as a joke, she suggested to Alya that she could probably submit an audition without any preparation. She even matched almost all the requirements to be eligible. She was French, between eighteen and twenty-five years old, and she was fluent in English as a second language. The only requirement she didn't match was being a boy because of course it was impossible to be in a boyband as a girl.
One thing led to another, and half an hour later she was wearing one of her dad's old shirts, hoping to hide her small boobs under the billowing shirt. She put her hair up in a bun and put on her Nino hat (which she owned, of course) to cover her hair. And then she recorded an audition. She picked Partir because the dance was very fun, and she submitted the video under the name of Antoine Dubois-Yang.
She literally got that name from the most popular baby names in the year she was born, and the most common French and Chinese last names.
She was not expecting anything to come out of it. She was not expecting the video to gain any popularity at all. And she was sure as hell not expecting to receive an e-mail from Penny Rolling informing her that her (or rather Antoine's) video was one of the sixty most popular videos and she was supposed to show up for a closed audition the following week.
After screaming into her pillow for a few minutes, she ended up phoning Alya and explaining to her the situation in mild (absolute) panic.
"Calm down girl, it's not the end of the world. You can reply to the e-mail telling them the truth," offered Alya. "Maybe it's not too late for them to contact another participant."
At the lack of reply from Marinette, Alya added, "Or you could just ghost them. I mean, Antoine Dubois-Yang isn't a real person, so it won't be too hard for him to just disappear."
"Why would I do that?" asked Marinette in confusion, holding her phone with one hand and still browsing the e-mail with the other.
"If you have a better idea on how to avoid the audition…" replied Alya.
"I'm not trying to avoid the audition," explained Marinette. She was starting to feel like she and Alya were having two different conversations.
"Weren't you screaming in panic a few minutes ago?"
Oh, so that was where the misunderstanding was.
"I'm still in panic," said Marinette. "Also I'm in shock because I wasn't expecting to be selected. It was supposed to be a joke. That being said, I was selected, and Antoine is definitely showing up for that audition."
"Why?" It was amazing how Alya could convey all her worries about Marinette's sanity in one word.
"Both Adrien and Jagged Stone are in the jury," explained Marinette excitedly. "It's a once in a lifetime opportunity to meet both my future husband and my favorite musician. If I don't show up to the audition, I might as well forget about my dream of marrying Adrien in spring, wearing a dress I designed myself, and having Jagged Stone play a rock version of 'Here Comes the Bride'. I have to show up to that audition. I just have to."
Marinette was joking about the wedding, but she did want the chance to meet Adrien in person. And meeting Jagged Stone was a nice plus.
"Marinette… babe, I don't know how to tell you but I think you've lost your mind."
Why was Alya being so difficult?
"Girl, this is not like the online audition, where you only had to submit a video under a username. Antoine doesn't have an ID, a real address, or anything that they will probably ask you for," explained Alya. Her tone was the same one she might have used to explain to Ella and Etta why they couldn't have chocolate for dinner. "Besides, Antoine looked credible thanks to my awesome camera angles, but I don't think you'll fool anyone in real life hiding your boobs in your dad's shirt and your hair in that hat."
"My boobs aren't that big. I bet they can be hidden with bandages and a loose t-shirt," Marinette pointed out. "And I can always cut my hair. I can get a boyish haircut and after I'm done with the audition I can fix it with a pixie cut."
The line was silent for a couple of seconds, Marinette wondered if Alya was still listening to her.
"Let's say somehow you survive the audition without anyone discovering you are girl. Antoine Dubois-Yang is still non-existent person."
"I can just give them whatever papers."
"The words you are looking for are 'falsified documents', and I'm pretty sure that's a crime."
"But as you said, Antoine Dubois-Yang is not a real person. It shouldn't be so hard for him to ghost them. It's just one night, I get to meet Adrien, and then Antoine drops of the face of earth."
"And what if you get picked? You're an awesome dancer. What if you are selected?"
"There are fifty-nine other contestants, and all of them are awesome too. What are the odds I'll get picked anyway?"
Marinette heard Alya sigh. She recognized it as her 'Marinette is clearly insane, but I'll tag along anyway because I'm an awesome best friend' sigh.
Marinette smiled triumphantly.
Marinette and Alya were welcomed to Miraculous Records by a woman in her twenties holding a tablet. She introduced herself as Gabrielle, gave them their passes, and gave Marinette a nametag and a number.
"The judges and the contestants are divided in two groups," explained Gabrielle. "Your number is fifteen, and you belong to group number one. You're going to audition in front of a panel of three judges. This is a closed audition, which means only the candidate can be in the room with the panel of judges. Friends and family can be with you in the waiting room, but they cannot access the audition room. Understood?"
Marinette and Alya nodded.
"Great. Keep your nametag and number visible, and wait until you are called."
Marinette and Alya followed Gabrielle to the waiting room. It was a huge room, but it felt a little crowded with all the contestants and their companion there.
Marinette had cut her hair, bandaged her boobs, and contoured her face to appear more masculine in an attempt to conceal that she was a girl. She was still a little unsure about her disguise. She was not fond of the haircut; it looked too much Justin Bieber for her taste. She still felt like her shoulders were way too small, and she was way too short and way too slim to look like a boy. And it was quite noticeable she was wearing makeup.
When she entered the waiting room and took a look at the other participants, she saw that she did indeed have the smallest shoulders in the room. But she was not the slimmest nor the shortest. And she definitely not the only one wearing at least a little bit of makeup. Her nerves calmed a little. After all, boys came in all shapes and forms. And there was no reason for people to know she had contoured her face with her makeup. It just looked as if she was wearing natural makeup. There was no reason for anyone to suspect she was a girl.
About half an hour later, the auditions began.
Marinette understood why they needed to divide the contestants and judges into two groups. If all six judges had judged the sixty contestants, it would have taken too much time and these were busy people. But still, Marinette wasn't overly fond of the idea. If only three people were going to judge her, there was a chance neither Adrien nor Jagged were among her judges. If that happened, she would've done all this (including paying a dodgy guy for Antoine's paper) for nothing.
Marinette waited for her turn shaking nervously. She was not that nervous about auditioning - she was not intending to win anyway, so there was no pressure. She was shaking because there was a chance she was going to meet Adrien today.
"Number fifteen, you're next," said Gabrielle after what felt like an eternity of waiting.
Marinette walked to the audition room. She was shaking so much that if she were holding a glass of cream she would've turned it into butter. The door finally opened and she glanced at the judges.
The first thing she noticed was that she couldn't see a blonde mop of hair among the judges. Adrien was not here. Her disappointment felt like a physical ailment. She took another look at the judges. Sitting in the middle seat at the table was the one and only Jagged Stone. Some of her excitement returned. She didn't get to meet her future husband, but she at least got to meet her favorite musician. The other two judges were Lê Chiến Kim and Nino Lahiffe. Marinette was a big fan of them both. She was happy to meet them, she really was. She was just disappointed she was not going to meet Adrien.
"Hey man! What's your name?" asked Kim. It was the same Kim whose parts Marinette listened to on repeat because his was her favorite voice in The Cataclysm. Marinette figured that they knew Antoine's name already, probably listed in the papers they had on the table in front of them, but they still asked for the names to be polite.
"Ma...Antoine Dubois-Yang." She had almost slipped.
"How old are you dude?" asked Nino. It was the same Nino whose interviews Marinette watched faithfully because the guy was just so chill. The same Nino that once said in an interview he had called dibs on being Adrien's best man when he got married. Ever since, when Marinette daydreamed about her wedding with Adrien, she had included Nino as the best man.
"I'm nineteen." That was easier, since she was actually nineteen.
"Sweet, like the rest of the band," replied Nino.
Marinette only nodded. The members of The Cataclysm were all around the same age, except for XY who was twenty. But since he was no longer part of the Cataclysm and he had always been Marinette's least favorite member, he didn't count.
"And tell us Antoine, what have you prepared for us today?" asked Jagged. It was the same Jagged whose poster was hung on Marinette's wall and whose entire album collection was in her possession.
Everything was so surreal.
"I'm going to be singing Très Jolie," replied Marinette.
"Well, go ahead," said Jagged.
Even if she didn't intend to win, Marinette had prepared for the audition. She did it because she didn't want to embarrass herself in front of Adrien. Now that she knew Adrien was never going to see her audition, she felt deflated. But that was not a reason for her to do any less than her best. She still wouldn't like to embarrass herself in front of Jagged, Nino, and Kim.
She sang and danced to Très Jolie. She had picked it because it has always been one of her favorite The Cataclysm's songs and one of the least known. The song was about crushing on someone who was extremely beautiful. While the lyrics may have been a little superficial, the song was upbeat and had a happy feeling.
When the song ended she looked at Jagged, Nino, and Kim, the three of them looked back at her. She didn't knew how to feel.
Jagged was the first to speak.
"That totally rocked, man!" said Jagged. "It was very rock and roll."
Was Marinette seriously being congratulated by her favorite musician? What even was her life?
"Thank you so much!"
"It was awesome, dude!" added Nino.
"Yeah, you did a great job," agreed Kim.
Marinette kept repeating variations of "Thank you…"
"Thank you so much for coming," said Jagged.
Gabrielle took her back to the waiting room. She explained to Marinette that the top twenty candidates were going to be announced on The Cataclysm's website at midnight, and that if she were among the top twenty, she would also receive an e-mail with further instructions.
Marinette didn't pay much attention to that part. After all, she was not going to get picked among the top twenty, so why bother?
Marinette was feeling so many different things at once that she had trouble organizing her thoughts when she came out of the audition room. She was disappointed that she didn't get to meet Adrien. She was ecstatic that Jagged Stone (as in THE Jagged Stone) had told her she rocked. She felt guilty because she had submitted fake papers. She was scared she was going to get caught. But most of all, she felt relieved that the whole audition thing was over. Antoine Dubois-Yang was going to disappear forever.
Marinette ran to the waiting room and took Alya by the arm, who immediately bombarded her with questions about the audition. Marinette was totally taking Alya to get ice cream, where she would tell her about the whole thing, celebrate that she got to meet Jagged, and mourn her lost chance to meet Adrien. The very next day, she'd leave the whole thing behind by getting rid of her Bieber hair and finally getting her pixie cut.
Or so she planned.
Adrien was tired and sleepy. He had woken up at two in the morning for no reason and he had had trouble falling asleep again. When the clock read 5:00AM, Adrien gave up his hope of sleeping again. He was supposed to be awake by 5:30 anyway.
Everything was crazy after that. Since the auditions were that day, everybody was running.
Several hours and two coffees later, Adrien still felt dead. He, Nathaniel, and Penny had already heard fifteen contestants, and they were still supposed to hear fifteen more. Luckily they took a break after the fifteenth contestant. Adrien would probably have ended up falling sleep if they hadn't. The contestants were not boring; Adrien was just sleep deprived.
He used his break to get himself his third cup of coffee. He was absently watching through the window while he waited for the coffee machine to finish. It was not an interesting view, just the parking lot. Today, it was particularly full because of the auditions, and lots of people were going in and out. Luckily, the window of the breakroom was a one-way mirror, so nobody on the outside could see him.
"I'm just saying that in a fair fight, King Kong could take Godzilla," Kim was saying while he entered the break room.
"Dude, have you seen Godzilla? I don't think King Kong stands a chance," replied Nino heatedly.
Then they seemed to notice they weren't alone in the break room.
"Hey dude! I hope you've made enough coffee for me, too," Nino said to Adrien, pointing at the coffee machine.
"I hope so. I suck at calculating how much coffee I need to make," replied Adrien.
"Adrien, make Nino see reason and explain to him that King Kong could totally take Godzilla," interjected Kim.
"Adrien will take my side on this," said Nino smugly. "He loves Godzilla and he loves me so…"
"What's there to love? It's just a giant iguana."
"Well, King Kong is just a giant monkey!"
"At least he has thumbs!" argued Kim.
Adrien had to agree with Nino here. Godzilla would totally win the fight. He was organizing his argument with all the seriousness the topic deserved when he saw a familiar face in the parking lot.
He had seen the video countless times, and he could recognize the face anywhere.
Antoine Dubois-Yang was just outside the window.
He looked even shorter in person than in the video. His head was hatless, and for the first time, Adrien could see Antoine's dark hair. It suited him. He was having a lively conversation with a girl, both of them resting their arms on a bike that Adrien guessed was their vehicle.
Adrien knew Antoine was in the Top Sixty, but he was not expecting to see him. After all, Antoine was put in the other group and the judges were not going to have contact with the participants outside the audition.
He wished he could've seen his audition though. He was a talented boy, and Adrien could appreciate talent; he would've liked to see his performance. If he ranked in the Top Twenty, then Adrien would get a chance to see him in the second audition.
The coffee-maker made a sound indicating that the coffee was ready, interrupting Adrien's thoughts and Nino and Kim's argument.
"Hey Kim, do you want coffee?" offered Adrien while he served one cup for Nino and one for himself.
"Nah, not a fan," replied Kim.
"Sucks to be you," said Nino. Then he turned to Adrien, who was giving him a cup of coffee, and said, "Thank you dude, I love you."
"You are welcome, babe!" said Adrien, sipping from his coffee and glancing at the parking lot where Antoine and the unknown girl kept talking.
Nino jokingly blew him a kiss before he started drinking his own coffee. Adrien would've blown one back but he was distracted.
"What are you looking at?" asked Nino. He following Adrien's gaze. Out of curiosity Kim glanced too.
"Hey, that guy auditioned today! He was the last one we saw before coming here," said Kim, looking at Antoine.
"How did he do?" asked Adrien. Was it weird that he was asking? He hoped not. After all, Kim had mentioned Antoine had auditioned, and Adrien was just politely followed the conversation.
"He was awesome, dude!" replied Nino. "The dude's got moves. And Jagged thought it was very 'rock and roll'."
"Yeah, impressive," agreed Kim.
"So you think he is getting a second audition?" Adrien couldn't help but ask.
"We haven't watched the other half of the participants yet, but the guy stands a very good chance," replied Kim.
"Do you know him or something?" asked Nino.
"Y...no," replied Adrien. He had no idea why he almost said yes. It was true he didn't know Antoine. Maybe it was because he had seen the video a thousand times and because he knew his name that Adrien forgot he didn't actually know him.
"Then why were you staring at him?" inquired Kim.
"I wasn't staring at him, I was just distracted and I was accidentally looking in his general direction. Big difference."
"Were you staring at the girl?" asked Nino.
"Why would I stare at the girl?"
"Well, she's gorgeous," explained Nino, blushing a little.
Adrien raised one eyebrow and gave Nino a knowing smirk.
"Shut up, she is. I'm just stating a fact," replied Nino. "Do you think she's dating him?"
"Nah," replied Kim way too quickly. When both Adrien and Nino looked at him, confused by his sureness, he added, "That girl is way too hot to be dating him."
Adrien felt offended on Antoine's behalf. Yes, the girl was gorgeous, with her tan skin and her wavy hair, but Antoine was not bad looking!
"Dude is attractive too," replied Adrien. Nino and Kim stared at him as if he had grown a second head. "What? Just because I'm not into guys doesn't mean I can't recognize if another man is attractive."
"I agree with that last part, but that dude is pretty scrawny looking and that girl is way too hot for him," replied Nino.
Adrien disagreed, but he didn't want to continue talking about this topic.
"So, I never told you my input in the Godzilla versus King Kong debate…"
And just like that the topic was forgotten.
At midnight, Marinette's phone rang to let her know she had just received an e-mail. Half asleep, she opened it.
We are very excited to let you know you have been picked as one of the Top 20 finalists to be the new member of The Cataclysm…
The songs mentioned in this fic are not real.
Partir: To leave
Très Jolie: Very Pretty
Variations of 'I'm not into Antoine, I'm interested in him because he is very talented': Marinette is just a friend.
I want to thank my beta slkworm. I'm not a native English speaker and she made this readable for you. Also thanks to x-rayLady for helping me with the french bits.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Marinette was shaking so hard, it was a miracle the make-up artist was able to work on her face. She had been really worried when he had noticed her make-up and informed her that he would have to wash it off and re-do it himself. She feared that he would discover that she was a girl in the process. He didn't. If he suspected something, he didn't mention it at all.
Everything felt so surreal. She was having a hard time believing she was getting ready to be on TV. On a televised audition for The Cataclysm. And Adrien was going to be one of the judges. And she was pretending to be a boy. She was half convinced that this was a bizarre dream, and nothing that had happened since she had received the email inviting her to a second audition had been real.
After an hour-long conversation with Alya, she had decided to show up for the audition. Alya was not happy with her decision. She was still worried about the fact that Marinette had used falsified documents. To be honest, that worried Marinette too. At least three times in the past week, she had woken up from a dream where she ended up in jail for what she had done. She really shouldn't go through with it.
But this was her chance to meet Adrien. In the first audition, she hadn't had the chance to meet him, and this was clearly the universe giving her a second chance.
It was fine, she reasoned. She had gotten away with giving the fake papers last time. There was no reason why they should suspect anything now. Besides, there were nineteen other participants, all of whom were probably more talented than she was. It wasn't like she was going to get picked. She just wanted to meet Adrien.
So in the end, she had decided to do it. She had to move her appointment with the hairdresser to the next week. She'd have to keep the Justin Bieber hair until then.
Her parents had asked her about the hair. She just told them she was aiming for something different but the hairdresser messed it up. There was no reason for them to know about the audition. They wouldn't approve. They never watched that channel, either, so they weren't going to see her on TV.
Alya thought that this was her worst idea yet, but she came with her to the TV studio because she was an awesome friend. After getting her makeup done, Marinette went to the room where all the other participants and their companions were.
"Damn Antoine! You look fine!" said Alya when she saw Marinette. Alya handed Marinette her phone so she could see her reflection. Antoine did look fine. Marinette would totally date him if he wasn't herself under a disguise. She had her hair and makeup done professionally. And the clothes fitted her this time. Antoine had never looked so good.
Waiting for Antoine's name to be called was torture.
"Can you stop shaking?" whispered Alya. "Why are you so nervous?"
"Why am I so nervous?" repeated Marinette with a hysteric note in her voice. "I'm about to perform and probably embarrass myself on Live TV. Oh and let's not forget that Adrien Agreste is going to be there. There's no reason to be nervous. None at all."
"First of all, coming here was your idea…" replied Alya.
"Thanks Alya, but that's not really helpful," snapped Marinette, doing her best not to have a nervous breakdown.
Alya just glared at her.
"Second of all, you are not going to embarrass yourself. You're an awesome dancer and a decent singer," reassured Alya. Then she added as an afterthought, "Besides, even if you mess up, you won't embarrass yourself. You'd embarrass Antoine."
That was oddly helpful.
Antoine was not real. It didn't matter if she messed up. Marinette was not going to be embarrassed. Antoine was, and he wasn't real. He didn't have friends, family, old Lycée classmates or neighbors.
Suddenly she could breathe a little bit better, and she felt a little more ready for her name to be called.
Adrien was glad that being a judge was a one-time thing. He was enjoying the auditions, but there was too much pressure. They were going to decide who the new member was. Adrien didn't feel qualified to make that decision.
He had heard eight participants so far, and all of them sounded good to him, and he still had to hear another twelve. All of them came all the way here because they dreamed about joining The Cataclysm. He felt bad because nineteen of those people were going to go home with their dreams shattered.
Participant number nine was introduced.
Adrien had been glad to hear he was picked among the Top Twenty. The guy was really talented. He deserved it, and Adrien was looking forward to see him perform live. Before he knew it, a week had passed, and now he was here, sitting at the judges' table, about to watch Antoine's performance.
Antoine walked to the center of the stage. Adrien guessed it was Antoine's first time on TV because he kept staring at the cameras. No one who was used to being on TV did that.
"Hello, what's your name?" asked Penny. Adrien knew Penny knew Antoine's name. They all knew all the participants' name and age, but they still had to ask. It was to give them the chance to introduce themselves to the public.
"I'm Antoine Dubois-Yang." If possible, Antoine's voice sounded even more high-pitched in person than in the video.
"Nice to meet you, Antoine," replied Penny, and the rest of the judges murmured their agreement. "How old are you?"
"I'm nineteen years old."
"And what do you do? Do you work? Are you a student?" inquired Nathaniel.
"I recently graduated from Lycée."
Just like the rest of the members of The Cataclysm.
But maybe Antoine had gone to a normal school, unlike the band. They had graduated from Lycée by being educated by private tutors. His bandmates had attended a normal school before joining the band, at least, but Adrien had been homeschooled. If anything, he had had a more normal school experience after joining The Cataclysm; at least then there were four other people there with him.
"And tell us Antoine, what's your dream?" asked Jagged.
"I want to become a fashion designer one day," replied Antoine immediately. Then, after a second, he added, "But I also love to sing and dance and I would love to be part of The Cataclysm."
Adrien thought it was a little odd that he only added the part about singing and dancing as an afterthought. Considering that he was there auditioning to be part of a boyband, one would've thought that that was the first thing he would say. But, to be honest, it was not that unusual to have others dreams aside from joining the band. All the band members had other interests too. Nino was an awesome DJ, Kim was a really fast swimmer, and Nathaniel's art was breathtaking.
And Adrien loved the piano. He used to think he hated it. Looking back, he never hated the piano; he hated his father's choice of songs and his extended practices. After joining the band, he realized he enjoyed playing the piano when he picked the songs and practiced at his own pace.
"And what are you going to perform for us today?" Adrien asked the question he had been wondering since he'd heard that Antoine was invited to a second audition.
"Perform…I…I mean…Lentement perform, " stuttered Antoine. Adrien wondered what had happened to make him so nervous all of sudden. Maybe it was Adrien's question suddenly reminding him that he had to perform in front of an audience, on TV. Some people were not good at handling that. "Lentement… I mean… perform… Lentement is going to perform me."
"Are you going to perform Lentement?" asked Adrien, making sense of Antoine's mix of words.
Antoine only nodded.
The Cataclysm had around forty songs, and Antoine had to pick Lentement for his audition. Adrien hated that song. It had been one of the first songs they had discarded in their post-Bob Roth Era song purge.
Despite what the name might suggest, Lentement was not a slow song. It was a fast song about dancing slowly with the person you like. Probably. In Adrien's opinion the "dancing" was clearly an innuendo for something else, but he had never received any answer when he had asked about that.
It was not the maybe-innuendos what made Adrien dislike the song. He had no problem with those. It was just that it was so superficial. There were puddles deeper than that song.
Adrien's personal opinion on the song aside, this was Antoine's audition, and he was here to judge Antoine's talent, not his choice of song.
Antoine was shaking and he looked like if he wanted earth to open and swallow him.
This was not good. If Antoine was nervous, he was going to ruin his audition. And that would be a pity because the guy had potential. Adrien wanted to say something to calm him down, but before he could think of something, Penny replied:
"Awesome, let's hear it."
Antoine nodded again, and he breathed deeply as if he was trying to calm himself.
The familiar beat of Lentement started, and Antoine started dancing.
He was not doing The Cataclysm's official choreography for the song. He had clearly come up with his own choreography. Adrien liked his better.
Antoine moved at the rhythm of the song as if he was being controlled by the music. The Catafans often said that Lentement was their sexiest song, but Adrien had never agreed. Until now. At least he wasn't into guys; otherwise he'd be in a very difficult situation seeing Antoine move like that.
Adrien had to revisit his previous opinion of the song. It was not a bad song. Adrien had forgotten why he used to hate it.
Antoine's voice could use some training but it was good.
The song ended way too quickly. The public gave Antoine a round of applause, and before Adrien realized it, he was standing up and cheering with the public.
There were still eleven participants left, but unless one of them gave an even more stunning performance, Adrien was positive they had their winner.
There was something about enduring a stressful situation together that united people.
It was only the second time Marinette had seen the other participants, and the first time, they were a bigger group and she had barely paid any attention to them. Yet she was here, on stage for the second time in the night, waiting for the winner to be announced, holding hands with the other participants as if they were close friends.
Most people wanted to win first place of course, and to become part of The Cataclysm. But there were also prizes for second and third place.
"The third place winner going home with five hundred euros is…" Alec Cataldi made a dramatic pause. "...LOUIS MARCHAND!"
The audience cheered. Marinette was slightly disappointed. When she came to the audition, she wasn't expecting to win anything, but she wouldn't have rejected the third place prize. She wanted to go to design school, and a monetary prize would have been very welcome.
Louis Marchand came forward to shake hands with the host and the judges.
"The second place, winner of a full ride scholarship in the prestigious Flow Dance Academy is…" Another dramatic pause. "DION LEGRAND!"
When Dion Legrand came forward, he seemed to be really proud of himself. The audience started cheering. He was very charismatic and he had won over the audience easily. If he had been second place, Marinette wondered who could have won first place.
"And finally the moment we were all waiting for…"
Maybe it was participant number sixteen… Vincent something. He was very good in Marinette's opinion.
"The winner of the first place, and new member of The Cataclysm is…"
Or maybe it was that red-haired guy. Marinette had forgotten his name. He was not charismatic, but he was very talented.
The audience started cheering louder than ever before. For a second, Marinette waited for the winner to come forward. Then she remembered who Antoine Dubois-Yang was.
The world was spinning way too fast. She looked at the audience, but all she could see was a blur of people applauding. She looked at Alec, waiting for the moment when he told her that it was a joke, or said that he had read the wrong name, but that didn't happen. She looked at the judges' table and saw Adrien standing and clapping.
And then everything went black.
Marinette woke up disoriented. She blinked a few times, trying to remember where she was and how she got there. She was lying on a couch in a room she didn't recognize. She glanced around and found Alya sitting in a chair, looking anxious.
"Thank god you're awake! I was about to google how long a person can be passed out before suffering permanent brain damage," was the first thing her friend said.
"How long was I out?" asked Marinette, still trying to clear the fog from her head.
"Long enough to be concerning," replied Alya. "It was chaos, you fainting on live TV. We brought you to Penny's office. She went outside to deal with the chaos, but she'll probably be back any minute."
Suddenly, the fogginess in Marinette's brain cleared. The audition, Adrien clapping, The Cataclysm, Antoine…
She had been picked as the new member of The Cataclysm, and she had fainted in front of Adrien and a few million people who were watching the audition on TV. Not to mention the fact that she had used falsified documents to sign up for the aforementioned audition, and she was probably going to go to jail for this.
This was bad. This was beyond bad.
Penny picked that very moment to enter the office.
"How are you feeling, Antoine?" She sounded so sweet and so concerned for her well-being.
Marinette broke. She was scared and stressed. Penny looked like a nice woman. Maybe she wouldn't send Marinette to jail if she told her the truth. Maybe she would just let her go. Maybe she would simply pick another winner and tell everyone that it had been a mistake to pick Antoine or something.
"My name is not Antoine," she sobbed. "My name is Marinette Dupain-Cheng, and I'm a girl."
She could heard Alya face-palm beside her.
"Excuse me?" Penny didn't sound accusatory, just utterly confused. "I don't understand. We have a birth certificate and a photocopy of the ID of one Antoine Dubois-Yang, male. And that's most definitely your picture."
Marinette sobbed harder, if possible. And then she confessed the whole thing. Kind of. She told Penny how she had crossdressed for her auditions, how she had paid a guy for falsified documents, everything. The only thing she didn't tell her was her reasons. There was no way she could say, "I did it because I wanted to marry Adrien," without sounding like a crazy person.
She didn't think it was necessary to explain her motives. It would suffice to simply explain what she did.
She understood she was risking jail. Falsifying documents was a crime, as Alya had pointed out a few weeks ago, but she couldn't let this go any further.
Penny listened to Marinette's whole story in silence, looking more and more shocked and distressed. When the story was over, she looked at Marinette for a couple of seconds as if she was trying to digest what she had just heard.
Finally she asked:
"Do you understand the severity of what you've done? Falsifying documents is a crime. Entering a contest under false pretenses is fraud."
Marinette nodded, looking at her shoes. She felt her face getting hotter, the tears forming in her eyes again. At some point, Alya had put her arm around her, and she couldn't be more thankful. Right now, she really needed the support. She knew her friend had warned her this would happen and when the crisis was averted, Alya would tell her "I told you so", but right now she was just there for support and that was exactly what Marinette needed.
"How many people know?" asked Penny.
"Three. Just the people in this room," replied Marinette.
"I need a moment. Please stay in the room and don't tell anyone what you've just told me. Understood?"
Marinette nodded again. Penny left without giving them any further explanation. Maybe she went to call the police.
Marinette pictured calling her parents from jail to let them know she had been locked up for pretending to be a boy to meet Adrien.
Probably the only reason why she had not broken down crying again was that she had run out of tears when she confessed the truth to Penny.
Adrien clapped harder than anybody else when Antoine was announced to be the new member of The Cataclysm. He had known beforehand, of course – he had helped pick him as the winner after all – but it was still exciting to hear it announced for the world to know.
He was looking forward to Antoine's reaction. He'd probably be ecstatic. Would he cry for joy? Would he jump up and down in victory? Would he hug the judges in his excitement? Adrien wanted to know.
Antoine's reaction was nothing like what Adrien had imagined. After his name was read, he looked confused for a couple of seconds, and then he looked like he was about to throw up. Adrien figured he was still processing it. He clapped, trying to show Antoine his support. He thought Antoine would start celebrating any moment. He didn't expect Antoine to pass out in front of everybody.
Chaos broke out after that. The audience was murmuring in confusion. The judges were frozen. Even Alec looked lost.
Antoine's friend – maybe girlfriend – ran to the stage, somehow dodging the security guard who tried to stop her.
Penny was the first one at the judges' table to react. She told the security guards not to stop the girl, and instead to help carry Antoine to her office.
Adrien and the other band members followed Penny to her office to see how Antoine was doing, leaving Jagged to deal with the chaos by himself. Probably not a wise decision, considering Jagged was not known for controlling chaos, but rather for the opposite.
Penny wouldn't let them go inside. Her office was not that big, and she figured it would be better for Antoine to be alone in the room. The only person allowed in the room aside from Penny and Antoine was Antoine's friend, because it would do some good for Antoine to see a familiar face when he woke up.
Penny had come out of her office two times after she and the security guards and taken Antoine in. The first time, she had informed the band members that Antoine hadn't woken up yet, and then she went to help Jagged with the chaos. She came back shortly after and went to her office again.
The second time she come out of her office looking pale and stressed. For a brief moment, the absurd thought that Antoine had passed away crossed Adrien's mind.
"Antoine is awake," announced Penny. At least he was not dead, but there was something in Penny's voice that was making him worry. She sounded like she was panicking about something. "Please do not disturb him. He needs to rest."
With that, she left, without telling them where she was going.
She should've known better. She should've known that telling them not to do something was a guarantee that they would do that exact thing.
Penny was barely out of sight when the four of them barged into the room.
Adrien was expecting…well, he didn't exactly know what he was expecting to find, but this was not it.
Antoine was resting his head on his probable-girlfriend's shoulder. That itself was not weird. What was weird was the fact that he looked absolutely miserable. His face was red, his eyes were puffy, and he had clearly been crying. He didn't look like a man whose dream had just come true.
Adrien didn't know what was wrong, but he wanted to do something to make Antoine feel better. He just didn't know what.
"Are you ok?" asked Adrien, getting a little closer to Antoine.
Antoine looked at him in alarm and went three shades paler. Adrien wondered why his short and non-threatening question had freaked him out even further.
Antoine nodded, but Adrien was not convinced.
"Are you sure, dude?" pressed Nino. "No offense, but you look like someone ran over your puppy or something."
Nathaniel hit Nino with his elbow, but Antoine didn't seem bothered by Nino's words. Well, at least, he didn't look any more troubled than he already was.
"I'm ok, just overwhelmed."
It sounded kind of fake to Adrien, but what did he know? Maybe it was true. Antoine might be having a nervous breakdown. Adrien didn't remember a time when his name and face was not well-known in all of France, but Nino had told him that the change from being an unknown fella to part of the band had been nerve-wracking. Maybe Antoine was just nervous about what was coming.
"I know it can be overwhelming," agreed Nathaniel, smiling shyly at Antoine. "I remember I threw up after our first public performance."
Adrien remembered that. It had been at a small party where Nino was also DJing. Nathaniel had not been the only one who had thrown up after the performance. Adrien had too, but he had never told anybody. He was not overwhelmed about singing in public itself, but he was terrified about his dad finding out that he was in a band. He had been really scared someone would recognize him and tell his dad. It eventually happened, but that was a whole different story that Adrien didn't feel like revisiting at the moment.
"You did?" asked Antoine's friend-slash-girlfriend.
"Yeah, I got a video of the whole thing," replied Kim proudly. Adrien remembered that too. The video was eventually lost when Kim's phone fell in the pool – which probably happened because he was ogling Ondine or something – but for the longest time, Nathaniel had been mortified knowing that that video existed.
Suddenly, the door opened, and the four members of the band jumped in unison when Penny appeared in the doorframe.
"What are you doing here?" asked Penny, clearly exasperated. "I asked you not to disturb Antoine."
"We were just… inspecting your window."
Did Nino actually say that? Adrien couldn't believe it. His bro was usually better at coming up with excuses.
"Inspecting my window?" At least Penny sounded more confused than exasperated now.
"Yeah, do you think it's in the correct position? Are you receiving enough sun?" asked Kim.
"Out. The four of you!"
"We're heading out right now," replied Adrien. Then he gave Antoine a smile and said, "Welcome to the band!"
Before Penny shut the door, he noticed that Antoine had gone pale again. He wondered what he was doing so wrong to distress Antoine with what seemed to be friendly gestures.
"So Nathaniel," started Nino. "You weren't there last time when we were discussing this, and we'd like to hear your thoughts."
"If this is about the whole King Kong versus Godzilla debate, I already gave you my-"
"Yes, we already heard your wrong opinion that King Kong would beat Godzilla in a fight. I already forgave you for being so wrong," interrupted Nino. Adrien nodded.
"Don't listen to Nino. You are right and you should say it," interjected Kim.
"But that wasn't what this was about," finished Nino. Then, in a whisper, he asked, "So Antoine and that girl, is she too hot to be dating him?"
Adrien groaned, annoyed. They didn't even know if those two were dating. And if they were, they would make an attractive couple. Antoine was attractive, and that girl was attractive. Period.
"I don't know," replied Nathaniel, clearly not wanting any part in this discussion.
"Oh c'mon man! You're bi. You can judge them both and give us a fair perspective on this. Is that girl too hot to be dating him?" asked Kim.
"You're being assholes, you know," said Adrien. "The guy is our new bandmate, he passed out today, and you're here discussing if his maybe-girlfriend is too hot for him."
"Get of your high-horse, bro, you were invested in this argument last week."
"That was last week. It's weird you're still arguing about it. You two are weirdly invested in this," countered Adrien.
Kim was the first to say that the girl was too hot for Antoine. Considering how competitive he was, Kim was probably not going to rest until he knew most of the band agreed with him, even if he was not actually interested in the topic.
And Nino... well, Nino was being weird about this too. But Adrien had not missed how Nino looked at that girl.
"They are both pretty attractive, ok? Can we move on to another topic?" interrupted Nathaniel.
Both Nino and Kim looked betrayed by this.
But Adrien had to agree with Kim about something: Nathaniel was right and he should say it.
Every second that passed, Marinette convinced herself more and more that she was in some sort of bizarre dreamland. One moment, she was in Penny Rolling's office waiting to be arrested, then Adrien – and the rest of The Cataclysm – walked in to check on her.
And she had talked to Adrien! She had already done so at the audition, but just now she had talked to Adrien without cameras! And from a normal distance, not from a stage!
Or, at least, she hoped she had talked to him. He had talked to her, but she didn't remember if she had managed to reply with coherent sounds.
Then Penny came back, and the dreamland shattered.
To be honest, Marinette was half expecting Penny to come back with the police, but maybe they were waiting outside.
Penny sat in front of her. Marinette's stomach dropped when she realized she was holding her file… or rather, Antoine's file.
Marinette was mentally preparing for how she was going to explain this to her parents.
"You said your name was Marinette Dupain-Cheng, right?" asked Penny. When Marinette nodded, she turned to Alya and asked, "And your name is?"
Marinette felt the impulse to tell Alya not to reply if she didn't want to go to jail for being her accomplice.
At least Marinette hoped they could share a cell.
"Marinette, Alya, I hope you understand that what we are about to talk about cannot leave this room." That didn't sound ominous or anything. "What you have done is very serious. Criminal, even."
"We know. We're very sorry," apologized Alya. Marinette felt even worse. Alya shouldn't have to apologize. This had all had been Marinette's idea.
She hoped an apology was enough to avoid jail. She also hoped nobody asked them how she had gotten those documents. The guy who had provided them didn't seem like someone who would take it kindly if they snitched on him.
"And therefore, we have to get rid of these as soon as possible," continued Penny. Then, without hesitation, she put Antoine's file in the paper shredder. Oddly, all Marinette felt was relief seeing those documents being destroyed. "Are there any other copies?"
Both Marinette and Alya shook their heads.
"Good," said Penny. "Now, we're going to need Marinette's real birth certificate, photo ID, and for her to fill out the audition form again, this time with her real information."
"Do they need that to send me to jail?" blurted Marinette.
"Send you to jail?" repeated Penny. "Why would we do that?"
"You just said we committed a crime," replied Marinette.
Alya gave her a glare that clearly said, 'Stop talking'.
"You're not going to jail," explained Penny, still looking at Marinette as if she was crazy.
"Good. That's awesome. Thank you so much, Mademoiselle Rolling," replied Alya immediately, as if she feared Penny was going to change her mind about sending them to jail if they didn't thank her soon enough. Marinette shared the sentiment.
"Yes, thank you very much," agreed Marinette. "Why do you need my papers then?"
"Well, if you are going to sign for The Cataclysm, we're going to need your real documents."
Marinette was pretty sure she had heard her wrong… or that Penny had lost her mind.
"You still want me to be part of the band?" she asked her, trying to make sure she was not misunderstanding the whole situation.
"You are still the best we saw today," replied Penny. "Of course, you have to understand that if we do that, nobody can know that you're a girl."
Marinette was trying to process everything, but her brain was rebooting. Thankfully, she had Alya to do the talking for her.
"Why would she still have to pretend she's a boy? Why not just turn The Cataclysm into a mixed group instead of a boyband?"
"She came here pretending she was a boy. She was introduced to the world as Antoine Dubois-Yang. If it's discovered she's a girl, the contest would lose its credibility since one of the requirements for entering the contest was being a boy. Antoine is the new member of the Cataclysm, not Marinette."
"If Antoine is the new member of the Cataclysm, why do you need Marinette's real documents?" asked Alya. "Why not just use Antoine's?"
"Those documents were falsified. I'm not getting involved in that," replied Penny. "If we're doing this, I'm signing a contract with Marinette Dupain-Cheng."
"But how would that work? How can you sign a contract with Marinette for Antoine to join the Cataclysm?" pressed Alya.
"A few years ago, I signed a contract with Xavier-Yves Roth for XY to join the Cataclysm," replied Penny, as if the answer was obvious. And in hindsight, it was. Most celebrities didn't use their real names, anyway. She could sign a contract as Marinette, and introduce herself to the world as Antoine.
What was she thinking? This was madness! She couldn't just join the band. Why would she do that? She had already achieved what she wanted, and that was to meet Adrien.
"So let's say that I accept, what I am going to tell my parents?" asked Marinette, finally recovering her voice.
Penny seemed to consider this for a second.
"I don't like the idea of many people knowing, but I think you should tell your parents the truth," she replied. "Something like this will be impossible to hide."
"I have to agree with Mademoiselle Rolling here," intervened Alya. "I think your parents aren't even buying your excuse for that haircut."
Her parents would have a heart attack if she told them something like this. She wasn't planning on accepting anyway. She was just incredibly flattered by the whole thing. Now that she had gotten over her fear of being sent to jail, she could appreciate the fact that she was picked among all the participants. She was also trying to find a polite way to decline.
"Aside from your parents, only the three of us and our lawyer can know the truth," explained Penny.
There were five people missing in that scenario. Out of curiosity Marinette had to ask.
"What about the band? And Jagged?"
"God, no," replied Penny immediately. "I love them, but those guys couldn't keep a secret to save their lives. And Jagged doesn't have a filter. It'd be hard to hide, considering you would share an apartment with the rest of the band. But it can be done."
"They share an apartment?" She had seen hundreds of interviews and stalked their wiki page like crazy and she had no idea all of them lived together. She was surprised, but then, she supposed it was something that wouldn't be public information in case a crazy fan broke into their apartment or something.
Penny only nodded.
She had not planned on accepting. But if she accepted, she would share an apartment with the band. She would share an apartment with Adrien.
Alya looked at her oddly, as if she knew exactly what Marinette was thinking. She probably did.
"I accept!" announced Marinette cheerfully.
"Sorry?" inquired Penny, confused by Marinette's line of thinking.
"I'll pretend to be a boy," explained Marinette. Then she extended her hand to Penny. "Nice to meet you. I'm Antoine Dubois-Yang, newest member of The Cataclysm!"
Alya's facepalm could be heard on the other side of Paris.
Chapter 3: Chapter 3
I want to thank slkworm for being my beta. Honestly silkworm, I don't know what I'd do without you! I also want to thanks x-rayLady for helping me with the song titles in French.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
When Marinette agreed to join The Cataclysm, she hadn't been thinking clearly. To be honest, all she had been thinking about was sharing an apartment with Adrien, sharing meals with Adrien, sharing every moment of her day with Adrien, seeing Adrien rehearse.
Then her head had cooled, and the more she thought about it, the more it seemed like this was her worst idea so far (and there was some serious competition in that category from the past nineteen years). She'd have to perform in front of millions of people. Her parents were going to kill her. She wanted to be a designer, not a singer. She'd have to pretend she was a boy twenty-four seven. She almost called Penny to call the whole thing off.
And then… it stopped looking like a bad idea. As a member of the most famous boyband in France, she was probably going to make some serious money. She wanted to be a fashion designer and create her own label. Design school was not free, fabrics and supplies were not free, and founding a fashion label was definitely not free. Boybands didn't last forever. She could be with the band for a few years and save enough money to pay for school and fund her own company. Not everybody entered university right after lycée. There was nothing wrong with going a few years later than planned. Besides, she enjoyed singing and dancing. She finally made peace with her decision.
The days that followed were a blur.
She had so many things to do before officially joining the Cataclysm and so little time to do them.
To start, she needed to buy masculine clothes and a binder. If dressing as a boy was going to be a regular thing, it would not be healthy to keep bandaging her boobs.
She had to explain the whole thing to her parents. That had been an interesting experience, for lack of a better word. As expected, her parents were unhappy about the lie. They were worried about her moving away from home and living with four people she didn't actually know. And her mom didn't like that she wasn't going to go to university right away. They disapproved of her plan, and she knew it. But she also knew she could always count on them and that they would always be there for here if everything else went badly.
She had an appointment with Penny and the lawyer, and that took all morning. First, she had to sign like a thousand documents. When that was done, Marinette Dupain-Cheng was officially part of The Cataclysm, and she was legally obligated to hide the fact that she was a girl.
The lawyer left shortly after that, but Marinette stayed afterward with Penny, who was supposed to fill her in with all the information she needed regarding her schedule and calendar.
The Cataclysm rehearsed eight hours a day from Monday to Saturday, unless they were working on new materials or were on a tour, in which case their schedule was adjusted. Sometimes those adjustments included working on a Sunday or during weird hours.
She was expected to move to The Cataclysm's apartment. She learned the apartment was actually rented by Miraculous Record for the guys to stay in during the week. None of the guys complained about having to stay there because it was convenient. It was on the same block as the Miraculous Record office building, their recording studio, and their rehearsing studio.
According to Penny, the guys usually only stayed in the apartment during the week. They left for home Saturday evening after their rehearsal. They usually came back Sunday night or Monday very early in the morning. But they could stay in the apartment during the weekend too, if they wished.
Penny gave Marinette a color-coded table with her routine schedule. She also provided her a calendar with the events that were not part of her daily routine for the next couple of months. Apparently, she was going to have a photoshoot on her very first official day in The Cataclysm. It was an "introducing the new member" photoshoot, so the focus was going to be on Antoine, and that was making her nervous.
She noticed with excitement that The Cataclysm was supposed to show up at the Prix de Musique des Jeunes in two weeks. Clara Nightingale was going to be hosting the award ceremony that year, and it was going to be awesome. Apparently The Cataclysm was nominated for Song of the Year for their single Feu. Marinette had spent months dancing to that song in her bedroom. It was the last song the band released before XY left the band. Marinette wondered if that was going to make things awkward at the PMJ ceremony, considering that XY might be there too.
She made a mental note of asking if she was supposed to pick her own clothes for the PMJ. She hoped she was; it was going to be fun to put together a masculine outfit for herself. She also wanted to ask if they could bring a date. She was sure Alya would love to go. She was supposed to start journalism school in less than a month, and this would be a chance to do something exciting together before Alya was busy with school and Marinette was busy with the band.
She also had a few band meetings on the calendar, and an interview with Nadja Chamack.
Marinette dreaded the idea of giving an interview. There might be plenty of chances for her to slip and reveal that she was Marinette on live TV. To make things worse, it was scheduled for a Saturday night, so she might as well give up her chance of going home that weekend. She did a double take at the date. It was going to be on Adrien's birthday. As far as she knew, the rest of the band was not going to be there with her, so at least they weren't going to make Adrien give an interview on his birthday. He probably wanted to spend that day with his family.
Penny warned her that there might me some last-minute changes or additions to her schedule, but at the moment, that was her calendar for the next two months.
Marinette looked at it again. She was still having trouble believing that an interview and a photoshoot were part of her activities now.
Marinette cried a lot when she said goodbye to her parents. Her parents probably cried even more. She was not moving to the other side of the world, just the other side of Paris. And she was still coming home on weekends. But Paris was a huge city, and it was Marinette's first time living away from home. She was also afraid that if Antoine got popular, she'd risk exposing her identity if she did go back home.
When Penny came to pick her up in a huge black car, it felt like the end of an era.
She tried to tell herself she was being overdramatic. Most kids her age left home and lived with roommates, sometimes without meeting them before sharing a room.
But her situation was a little different than that of most kids her age. She was not going away to university. She was moving in with the members of her favorite band, and she was their new bandmate while pretending to be a boy. It was a little bit unusual if someone wanted her opinion.
Penny said she couldn't ride her bike to the apartment, but Marinette refused to leave her bike at home. It was a gift from her grandma for her eighteenth birthday, and it was dead useful. In the end, Marinette won the argument. They put Marinette's bag in Penny's car, but Marinette rode her bike to the apartment, following the car closely.
It was a miracle she didn't crash, considering that all the way there, she kept checking her appearance in the rearview mirror. She was afraid someone would magically figure out she was a girl. She didn't know why. Her hair still looked convincing, her boobs were hidden under a binder (and it was way more comfortable than the bandages), and her outfit was brand new since before that week she hadn't owned many things that could pass for boy's clothes.
It took them almost an hour to reach the apartment because the traffic was especially heavy for a Sunday night.
The apartment complex was a very private building with strict security. That was to be expected, considering Miraculous Records had chosen to rent apartments in that building. The lobby was neatly decorated but impersonal. It didn't give the impression that people lived there. It looked more like a stock photo of a lobby.
The Cataclysm's apartment was number 10B. Luckily, there was an elevator. Marinette would have actually resigned if she'd had to climb ten sets of stairs several times a day.
The corridor of the tenth floor had about as much personality as the lobby, which meant none at all. Nervously, she reached the door of 10B without knowing what to expect. On the other side of that door was the apartment that The Cataclysm shared. It was surreal.
What exactly, she wondered, was on the other side of that door? An apartment as aseptic as the lobby or a home as cozy as hers? Were the rest of the band members there? Penny had mentioned they weren't always there on a Sunday night, so chances were good that they weren't.
Penny opened the door without noticing Marinette's crisis… and suddenly there was a round of applause.
Marinette walked inside the apartment.
The first thing she noticed was that Adrien was there. The first time she had seen him in person was the day of the second audition. That day she had been too worried about being thrown in jail to really appreciate the fact that she was meeting the real live Adrien Agreste. Adrien Agreste in the flesh, not one of her posters or her cardboard cutout.
Then she noticed Jagged Stone was there, and so were Nino, Kim, and Nathaniel.
They were holding a sign that read 'Welcome to the band'.
"What is this?" Marinette managed to ask.
"It's your welcome-to-the-band party!" replied Adrien, reaching to give Marinette a handshake. Marinette accepted the handshake, trying to commit to her memory forever exactly how it felt to touch Adrien's hand. Everything she had done until now was worth it just for those five seconds their hands touched. It ended way too quickly.
"After you passed out at the audition, we didn't get to greet you properly and welcome you to the band, and that was very un-rock-and-roll. So we decided to throw you a welcome-to-the-band party," explained Jagged, shaking Marinette's hand too.
"A party?" The Cataclysm was throwing a party for her? This was a dream come true.
"I hope they're using the word 'party' very loosely here, since the band has to be up tomorrow before dawn, and Jagged should be headed home soon." Penny was using the same tone a mom would use to remind her kids of their curfew.
That made sense. According to the schedule they usually started their day pretty early.
"And here we were planning to get black-out drunk and party until the sun came up," replied Adrien.
Marinette was not expecting that. She knew he was just kidding, but she really didn't expect him to be capable of sarcasm. He was always so sweet and polite in interviews. It was nothing bad, just kind of unexpected.
Penny was not surprised by the response, and she just rolled her eyes.
"Party is an exaggeration," explained Nathaniel. "We were just planning on making a toast to welcome our new member before going to bed."
"We even got non-alcoholic champagne and everything. We're behaving," added Kim, showing Penny the bottle as if to prove what he was saying was true.
They filled seven identical glasses, and handed one to each person in the room. Then they started arguing about who was going to actually make the toast, because apparently none of them knew what to say. In the end, Kim raised his glass and said:
"Let's keep this simple. Welcome to the band, Dubois-Yang!"
All of them took a drink from their glass.
After the toast, Penny dragged Jagged Stone back to his place saying he needed to be up early because he had a meeting. Jagged argued that meetings weren't very rock-and-roll, Penny countered by saying he should have thought about that before deciding he wanted to be a producer.
Penny told Marinette to make herself at home and that she was supposed to take XY's old bedroom; the guys would show her which one it was. She advised them to go to bed early, since they needed to be up before sunrise for a dance rehearsal, and then she and Jagged left.
Adrien offered to show her the apartment and to show her which bedroom was hers. Why did he have to be so nice? Her heart couldn't take Adrien talking to her while giving her a tour around the apartment.
The apartment was not as aseptic as the lobby, nor as cozy as her home. What it was was a mess. It was very disorganized and there was stuff all over the place. It was huge, too. It had five bedrooms - one for each member - a living room and a kitchen. There were only two bathrooms, which meant they had to share. According to Kim, Adrien usually hogged one shower while the rest of them had to queue to use the other bathroom.
"That was only one time," replied Adrien. "Honestly, I take one long shower and they bring it up again and again for months."
Nobody replied to that.
She walked into her bedroom. It was way smaller than the one she had at home. At home, she basically had a floor to herself, even a balcony. Here, she only had space for the bed (which was huge, to be fair), a closet, a mirror, and a dresser.
The rest of The Cataclysm followed her in. Were they used to just entering each other's bedrooms? That would be pretty inconvenient when it came to hiding her secret. She'd need to remember to lock her door.
"So, we really haven't had time to get to know you, Antoine," said Adrien, casually sitting on her bed. Marinette panicked. Adrien was talking to her from her bed, and that fact alone was enough for her to panic. To make things worse, he wanted to know Antoine. Marinette had not prepared a backstory for Antoine, which in hindsight was a huge mistake. "What part of France are you from?"
What part of France was Antoine supposed to be from? Should she say Paris? She was from Paris, but was Antoine from Paris too? Should she say somewhere else? Maybe she should say Paris. If she was planning on going home every weekend, it'd be odd if she said she was from somewhere far away. Besides, if she said Nice or somewhere else they may ask questions about that place, and she wouldn't know how to answer. Paris was a densely populated city. It was not like that they were going to figure out that she was Marinette Dupain-Cheng just because she was Parisian.
"I'm Paris here," she replied. Why did her brain have to fail her when she was trying to make casual conversation with Adrien? "I mean, I'm here, Paris."
She took a deep breath trying to calm herself, Adrien seemed to be waiting patiently for her to finish. "I'm here, from Paris."
"Cool, so am I," replied Adrien.
"Same here," replied Nino and Nathaniel at the same time.
"My parents are from Vietnam," offered Kim, "but they moved here before I was born. I was born and raised in Paris."
"My mom is Chinese," replied Marinette. "But I was born and raised here too."
So her brain could work in Adrien's presence as long as she was not addressing Adrien directly. Good to know!
She wondered if it was ok to give so much real information about her, but saying her mom was Chinese was nothing so personal that it would give away her identity. There were more Chinese people in the world than of any other nationality. Her mom could not be the only Chinese woman who had married a French man and had a kid around the same year. Besides, she had picked the last names Dubois-Yang, so Antoine obviously had a French dad and a Chinese mom.
They kept asking personal questions about Antoine and offering personal information about themselves. Marinette decided to stick to the truth as much as possible, since lies were harder to remember, and slowly she relaxed. She kept answering their questions, and the guys kept volunteering information about themselves.
Antoine was an only child. So were the rest of The Cataclysm, except for Nino who had a younger brother.
Antoine's parents owned a small business (she didn't want to risk specifying that it was a bakery).
Aside from singing and dancing, Antoine liked to design clothes (she had already said this during the audition anyway), Kim was into swimming, Nathaniel liked drawing, and Nino was passionate about being a DJ.
Antoine had never had any pets, but he wanted a hamster. The whole statement was truth for Adrien, too, but he also wanted a cat. Nathaniel had never had any pets either, but he was not interested in one. Nino had a turtle at home, and Kim had always wanted a monkey.
When asked if she was seeing anybody, all Marinette could say was "No comment." She had been single for a few years now, after dating Luka, but she didn't feel like sharing that. Kim told her he was dating a girl named Ondine, and Nathaniel was dating a boy named Marc.
The thing was, Marinette already knew all that information. She had read it in their wiki pages, in gossip magazines. She had seen it in interviews or on their Twitter account. But she could not admit how much of a crazy Catafan she was, so she acted as if she were hearing it all for the first time.
It was a different experience to hear it from them while they were making conversation with her, anyway. It felt as if she were meeting new friends instead of obsessively learning all she could about the band.
Well, that was exactly what she was doing, wasn't it?
The guys ended up leaving Marinette's room and going to bed way later than Penny would have liked, but what she didn't know wouldn't hurt her.
The next morning was going to be especially difficult because Marinette needed to be up even earlier than the boys to get Antoine's look done before any of them were up.
On top of that, she had trouble falling asleep in a new environment. When she last looked at the clock, it was just a couple of hours before the time she was supposed to be awake.
The first thing Adrien thought when he woke up was that they should really listen to Penny more often. Especially about what she considered a reasonable bedtime. He had a killer headache now. He should also double check if the champagne had indeed been non-alcoholic; he couldn't really trust Kim's word on that. Anyway, even if it was, they had drunk only a couple of glasses. It wasn't enough to be the cause of his headache. They should have just gone to bed at a reasonable hour.
But they had been curious about Antoine. They had barely had any conversation with the guy, and they wanted to know more about him, especially because he was moving in with them straight away. The guys had exchanged opinions before, and their only real expectation was that they hoped Antoine was more tolerable than XY, which was the lowest bar Adrien had ever heard of.
They decided to make a toast for him because why not? They wanted to start off on the right foot, and the first step would be to make Antoine feel welcome.
When Antoine entered the apartment looking like a lost puppy, Adrien had felt the weird urge to hug him and reassure him that he had nothing to worry about. But that would be creepy, so he wasn't going to do that.
The rest of the night went fairly quickly while they talked with Antoine, invading his bedroom. Antoine had told them a lot about himself (or, rather, had answered their questions).
The next morning, dance rehearsal was hell. Who thought it was a good idea to schedule a dance rehearsal first thing on a Monday morning? Adrien wanted a word with them. At least they were just working on reviewing choreographies from their old songs - the ones they had kept - so Adrien didn't have to memorize anything new.
Jagged and Penny had told them that they would start working on the new album soon. Apparently, they would have songwriters again, but the members were also encouraged to write songs and present them if they wished. It was a nice change from when Bob Roth just gave them the songs and told them to sing them.
In the meantime, though, they were just rehearsing their old songs.
Antoine also needed to practice. He was a very talented dancer and he knew most of their choreographies, but he was not used to doing them with the rest of the band and he needed to be coordinated. The band also needed to practice because they were used to doing all those choreographies with XY, and he was way taller than Antoine. Some parts had to be switched because Antoine was officially their shortest member, and that was throwing them off.
So yes, Adrien understood they needed to practice, but their dance instructor, M. Leroux, needed to chill. He had been working them especially hard this morning, rehearsing Va t'en, s'il te plaît choreography over and over again. Adrien was starting to hate their own song.
Adrien kept sneaking glances at Antoine, wondering how he was doing on his first day. Antoine looked red. He was clearly exhausted and Adrien could see the sweat drops running down his face and neck, but he seemed determined to keep up with the rest of the band.
Somehow, even if he looked as if he were moments away from his death, Antoine still manage to look good while he danced. That had to be some sort of talent, because Adrien didn't think he could pull that off, and he had been picked hottest man in Paris two years in a row.
They finished the dance rehearsal without Antoine passing out from exhaustion or asking for additional breaks.
They went back to their apartment for a shower and a quick bite.
They had neither dance nor singing rehearsal in the afternoon. Apparently the whole afternoon was going to be occupied by an 'Introducing our new member' photoshoot.
At least now they had more freedom to pick their own clothes. They still had to pick something from a list of pre-approved garments, and they had to keep a coordinated color scheme, but at least they weren't forced to wear the hideous outfits that Bob Roth had hand-picked for them and that no one aside from XY liked. Also, they were allowed to make some changes in the outfits if they deemed them necessary, which was something Adrien would never dream of doing when he did photoshoots for his father's brand.
Adrien was not excited for the photoshoot, but he didn't hate the idea either. He had done so many photoshoots in his life that they felt like routine for him. Adrien knew that neither Nino, Kim, nor Nathaniel were excited for the photoshoot either, though for different reasons. Having his picture taken was Nathaniel's least favorite part of being famous. Kim and Nino just didn't like playing dress up, but it was unavoidable in their line of work.
Antoine seemed nervous about doing the photoshoot, but he seemed to relax once they entered their dressing room.
The look on Antoine's face when he saw all the clothes was like that of a child entering a toy store. His face illuminated as if Christmas had come early, and he started browsing all the clothes while rambling about the different fabrics and color schemes. To be honest, it was cute to see someone so excited about something.
"You really like this stuff," commented Adrien, browsing clothes next to Antoine. For some reason, his bandmate jumped as if he were being electrocuted.
"Yes… I want… want…" replied Antoine, looking pale. Adrien was beginning to wonder if he intimidated Antoine for some reason. He didn't stutter like this when anyone else addressed him. "I want to…want to be a fashion designer."
Ah, yes. He remembered he mentioned that in the audition.
"My dad is a fashion designer, but I've never seen him so excited about clothes," observed Adrien. To be honest, he had never seen his father being excited about anything. His dad was the human version of the word apathy.
"He's been in the business for years. Surely he's used to all of this," replied Antoine coldly, looking Adrien in the eyes. Adrien was taken aback by the sudden change in Antoine's tone. "I design at home and sometimes pick my friend's outfits, but it's my first time having so many clothes to choose from. Forgive me for being excited."
Adrien couldn't help but notice that it was the first thing Antoine had said to him without stuttering. He would've appreciate it more if it wasn't because he seemed to be mad at him.
"I think your excitement is cool. It's great that you're passionate about this," clarified Adrien immediately. "I apologize if I didn't express myself correctly. I was trying to compliment you."
"Sorry, I misunderstood what you were trying to say," replied Antoine.
The conversation had turned awkward, and Adrien wasn't sure how to follow it up. He didn't have to though, because one of the assistants came urging them to pick something because they were on a tight schedule and they were supposed to be getting dressed already.
Antoine took another couple of minutes to pick an outfit. When he did, he took the clothes he had picked and walked to the door.
"We're supposed to dress here, dude," said Nino when he noticed Antoine was opening the door.
"I'll get dressed in the bathroom. Alone," said Antoine. He didn't give them time to reply; he took his stuff and left the room.
Adrien, Nino, and Kim exchanged a confused look.
"It took me ages to be comfortable getting dressed in the same room as you," commented Nathaniel. "I guess it's the same for Antoine. He'll get used to it eventually."
The rest of the band shrugged and proceeded to change their clothes.
The photoshoot was taking longer than they expected. Antoine clearly had zero experience modeling for a camera. He kept looking too stiff. Problem was, Antoine was supposed to be in all the photos, since the whole photoshoot was about welcoming him to The Cataclysm. He was supposed to have his individual picture taken and then a few group pictures. It was mid-afternoon and so far they didn't have a single photo they could use.
Vincent was clearly getting exasperated, and Antoine was clearly getting frustrated.
"Don't look as if you are prepared to fight something for your spaghetti," Vincent was telling Antoine. "Look like your mom just made you a huge lasagna! The tastiest lasagna ever. And it's all yours. Relax!"
Antoine looked confused by Vincent's instructions. Adrien couldn't blame him. Vincent's instructions were too much even for people who were used to them. When Antoine continued looking stiff and stressed, Vincent looked at Adrien and said:
"Help me! The new guy needs to relax soon. We're wasting a lot of time."
Adrien thought it was kind of a rude thing to say in front of Antoine. He certainly looked embarrassed. To try to defuse the tension, Adrien made a joke.
"Well, I'm great at giving massages," he said. Then he looked at Antoine and added, "If you're interested, that is."
Adrien was used to joking the same way with the rest of the band, especially Nino, so he didn't think it would bother Antoine. Maybe he shouldn't have done it though; Antoine looked as if he were hyperventilating.
"I was thinking something more like giving him a couple of tips on how to relax for pictures, considering you have been doing this since before you could walk," replied Vincent.
"Though if you want to give Antoine a massage, that's your choice and none of us will stop you," added Kim. "As long as Antoine is on board and it's done in your free time."
Adrien winked at Antoine, but Antoine looked even paler. So Adrien though it was better to just drop the joke and give him real, useful tips about modeling.
Antoine improved a bit after that, but clearly his talent was dancing, not modeling.
On her fourth night after she moved to the apartment, Marinette woke up past midnight in pain. It was a very familiar pain. She got out of bed and turned on the light. She saw the red stain in her bed.
This was bad.
This was beyond bad.
She had forgotten to check her calendar with everything else that had happened in the past month: doing the auditions, joining the band, moving to their apartment. The last few days had been especially crazy, sharing an apartment with her favorite band, rehearsing with them daily. She had forgotten to keep track of the days.
She had come prepared because she knew this was bound to happen sooner or later. She had pads, tampons, ibuprofen, and a secret chocolate stash, but she was not ready for it to be so soon.
In panic, she took the sheet off of her bed and put it in a plastic bag. She went to the bathroom, thankful that there was nobody else awake, or at least not in the living room. She took a quick shower and put her dirty clothes in the same bag as the sheet.
She made sure she looked like Antoine before she snuck outside, hoping to find the laundry room. She had never seen it. The Cataclysm had their own staff who took care of stuff like that. Besides, she had not lived there long enough for laundry to be done.
She actually found it, though, and by the time her clothes were clean and dry it was past two in the morning. She sneaked back to the apartment and the first thing she noticed was that the light in the living room was on. Was someone awake? How was she going to explain why she was carrying a bag of clothes in the middle of the night? Maybe she should just say she peed on the bed or something? Except she couldn't do that, because then she'd be dooming Antoine to a lifetime of embarrassment for however long he might exist.
Marinette heard the familiar sound effects of Mecha Strike IV even before she entered the living room. Marinette heart stopped when she noticed the blonde hair of the person who was lying on the couch playing the game. Of course, of all the people that could have caught her, it had to be Adrien.
However, Adrien's eyes were glued to the screen, and he didn't seem to pay attention to Marinette. He didn't even seem to notice that someone had just entered the apartment. Marinette closed the door as quietly as she could and sneaked back into her bedroom.
While she was making her bed, she couldn't help but wonder why Adrien was playing video games so late at night. She loved Mecha Strike, and she had stayed awake all night more than one time playing it, but what she found odd was that Adrien had not actually stayed up all night playing. He had gone to bed early and then woke up at stupid o'clock to play. That was a weird thing to do.
In the end, curiosity got the better of her, and she went to the living room. She breathed in and out and collected all her courage.
"Do you need a Player Two?" she asked. Adrien jumped, clearly not expecting the interruption. Marinette congratulated herself for delivering a whole sentence without stuttering.
"You scared me, man! I wasn't expecting anybody to be awake this late." Adrien paused the game.
"Sorry…I'm. Bathroom…I needed to use." Great. Now she was speaking like Yoda. She took another breath. She could do this. "I saw… I saw you playing, and I…I…I love Mecha Strike IV."
That was decent. She was getting better at talking to Adrien.
Adrien smiled at her, and her knees went weak. He offered her a second controller for the video game.
"Are you any good?" Adrien asked, setting the game for two players.
"Good? I could kick your butt before you even have time to press the first button!" replied Marinette. She noticed she didn't stutter, but she didn't have time to analyze that when her skill in Mecha Strike was being questioned.
"Oh! So Monsier Dubois-Yang talks big. Let's see how good you actually are," said Adrien playfully, hitting the start button.
Adrien was good, Marinette had to admit, but she was better. She won every single match they played. By the end of the night, Adrien was bowing to her superiority in Mecha Strike. They lost track of time, and they were only reminded of the hour when their alarm rang telling them it was time to wake up anyway.
"That was fun. I'd like to do that again sometime," said Adrien.
"What, get your butt kicked repeatedly in a video game at weird hours in the morning?" asked Marinette.
"It can be done at a more reasonable hour. And I'm going to win at least one match next time. But yes, I would like to play again."
"I don't think you're going to win next time, but I would like to kick your butt again too."
Adrien gave her a smile.
"Thank you," he said suddenly, and it was so sincere it was unnerving. "I was having a bad night, and you made it better."
Marinette wanted to hug him, but she didn't think that would be ok.
"Do you want to talk about it?" asked Marinette.
Adrien seemed to think about it while Marinette panicked, thinking she had overstepped her boundaries.
"Do most people need to make an appointment more than a month in advance to have dinner with their parents on their birthdays?" he asked. For a second, Marinette thought he was changing the topic, but then she realized that his question was probably related to why he was having a bad night.
She didn't have an opportunity to reply, though, because the rest of the guys started coming out of their rooms to get ready for that day's rehearsal.
And with that, their moment was gone.
Prix de Musique des Jeunes(PMJ): Youth Music Award
Va t'en, s'il te plaît: Go away please
Edit: I should put here that Marinette's methods to hide her boobs are not always safe.
I want to thank silkworm for being my beta. I don't know what I'd do without you!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Somehow Marinette survived her first week in The Cataclysm. Being part of the band was so much harder than she expected. Dance rehearsals were hard, and vocal rehearsals were even harder. She never thought that singing could be so exhausting. It was especially hard for her because, honestly, her voice was not that great, and unlike the rest of the guys she wasn't used to all of it.
When the last rehearsal ended on Saturday, the only thing that was keeping her alive was the fact that she was about to go home for the rest of the weekend. She couldn't believe it had only been six days since she had seen her parents last. She missed them like crazy.
After the vocal rehearsals, the guys went back to the apartment to retrieve their stuff before going home. She guessed Nathaniel and Kim had packed before going to rehearsals that morning. As soon as they entered the apartment, they grabbed their bags and left, wishing a good weekend to the rest of the guys. Marinette still had to pack because she was a 'doing everything at the last minute possible' type of person. At least she was not the only one; apparently Nino needed to pack too.
She went to her room and threw all her stuff in her bag without bothering to fold anything. When she exited her room with her bike helmet in her hand and a smile on her face, she found Adrien lying on the couch checking his phone.
"You look excited for the weekend," observed Adrien, glancing at Marinette.
"I am. I want to see my parents." It had been almost a week since she moved to the apartment, and sometimes she still had trouble speaking with Adrien, but she was getting more fluent day by day. "I miss them and their food."
Adrien chuckled at that.
"I hear you, buddy. I miss Nino's mom's food during the week too," he replied. "I'm just waiting for him to pack his stuff so we can finally go to his place and eat some real food."
Did Adrien usually go to Nino's place on weekends instead of his own? It was odd that he mentioned Nino's mom's cooking and not his own home or parents. She knew his mom had passed away five years ago; Marinette remembered the news coverage about the passing of the famous actress, Emilie Agreste. But what about his dad?
She remembered how sad he had been two days ago when she found him playing video games. And his question: 'Do most people need to make an appointment more than a month in advance to have dinner with their parents on their birthdays?'
Her heart ached.
"I'm going to eat as much as I can this weekend," she said, "because I'm not going home for two weekends after that." She had not stuttered yet, and that was called progress.
"Yeah, next week we are going to the PMJ," said Adrien. "What about the week after that? You're not going home?"
That was the weekend of Adrien's birthday, but neither of them mentioned it.
"No, I have an interview with Nadja Chamack." She was incredibly nervous about that. Even if she prepared for the interview and didn't mess up, what were the odds that Nadja didn't recognize her at all? Manon was a little too old for a babysitter now – she had just turned eleven a few months ago – but Marinette had babysat Manon for years in the past. How was she going to fool Nadja?
"Is this going to be your first interview?"
Marinette nodded. Alya had interviewed her countless times for the school blog, but it was her first real interview.
"You'll do a great job," reassured Adrien. "You're very talented, and you're one of those people that are easy to like. The public will love you."
Marinette felt her face heating.
"Thoo yanks…no, I mean you thank…I mean…thank you" Marinette wanted to slap herself. She'd been doing a great job speaking fluently, and as soon as Adrien complimented her, she regressed to stuttering. She was pretty sure her face looked like a tomato, but there was no mirror nearby to confirm it.
She took a deep breath and decided to change the topic. Adrien beat her to it when he asked:
"Are you excited for the PMJ next week?"
"Yes!" she screeched. "It's my first time going. I watch it on TV every year and I can't believe that this year I'm going to be there. And even more incredible is that I'm part of a band that has a song nominated for 'Song of the Year'. It's surreal!" She said all of that in one breath. Then she added "I mean, I know I wasn't part of the band when the song came out, so I'm not even sure If I'm supposed to go to the stage with you when Feu wins, but…"
"Of course you're going to the stage with us to receive the award if we win. You're part of the band," interrupted Adrien.
"Oh, thanks." Marinette didn't know what else she was supposed to say. She just couldn't believe she was going to see the PMJ ceremony in real life. Just last year, she had watched it from her bed eating popcorn with Alya. She remembered then that she wanted to see this year's ceremony with Alya too. "Do you know if we can bring a plus one?"
Nino came out of his room that very moment, carrying his stuff.
"Ready to go, dude?" he asked Nino.
"Yes, just give me a second." Then Adrien turned to Marinette and said, "We can each ask for an extra ticket. You just have to let Penny know in advance that you're bringing a plus one."
"Thanks," replied Marinette. "As soon as I get home, I'll text Penny to let her know I'm taking Alya to the PMJ."
She smiled picturing Alya's face. Alya had been excited for Marinette when she told her she was going to the PMJ with The Cataclysm. She could imagine her excitement when she told her she was going too.
"Alya?" asked Adrien and Nino at the same time.
"You met her; she was with me the day of the second audition," explained Marinette.
"Oh, yes. I remember her. I just didn't know her name," replied Adrien. Nino only nodded.
"Yeah, I love her to the moon and back," said Marinette. "We used to watch the PMJ together every year. She'll have a heart attack when I tell her we're going together."
"That's nice," replied Adrien, but his tone was kind of forced for some reason. "I hope you both have fun."
"Thanks, we will! Are you guys bringing a plus one?" she asked casually, as if she was not invested in whether Adrien was bringing someone to the ceremony.
"No," replied Nino. "I'm the DJ at the after-ceremony party, and I see no point in bringing a date when I'll be DJ-ing all night."
Marinette had been so focused on the fact that she was attending the award ceremony that she almost forgot they were also invited to the party. She was going to the PMJ with Alya, and then they were partying! It was going to be fun!
"I have a date," replied Adrien. Nino looked at him oddly, but Marinette didn't analyze that because Adrien had a date and the world was ending.
Was Adrien seeing somebody? How come she didn't know that? She was the number one Catafan! She hadn't gone to The Cataclysm fan pages since she joined the band because she had heard the worst thing you can do is look for yourself online, and the new member was probably the number one topic right now. But there was no way she would have missed if Adrien was seeing somebody. That was kind of big news.
"I have to go home now. Have a nice weekend," she said, but her voice came out weird. She left the apartment in a hurry, barely hearing Nino and Adrien reply, "You too."
"Dude, you don't have a date for the PMJ," was the first thing Nino said as soon as they got into Adrien's car on their way to Nino's house.
"I know," replied Adrien, not taking his eyes from the road.
"Then why did you say you had one?" asked Nino.
That was a very good question. Why did Adrien say he had a date if he didn't? Honestly, he didn't know. Something about Antoine sighing dreamily about taking his girlfriend to the PMJ had rubbed Adrien the wrong way. Why did he care? Antoine was allowed to be excited about the PMJ. It was his first ceremony. And it was only natural he wanted to bring his girlfriend.
Why should Adrien care if Antoine brought his girlfriend to the ceremony? And how could he explain this to Nino without sounding like he had lost his mind?
"I don't know, dude," replied Adrien, eyes still on the road. He was definitely not avoiding looking at Nino; he was just a very safe driver. "I kind of felt weird because Antoine was bringing his girlfriend to the ceremony and I didn't have a date."
"So?" replied Nino, sounding confused. "You weren't bothered by not having a date when Kim said he was bringing Ondine, or when Nathaniel told us he was bringing Marc."
That was true, and Adrien had no idea why it had bothered him when Antoine was the one bringing a date.
"Maybe it's because I feel like everybody but me has a date now," replied Adrien, half-convinced of his own explanation.
"I don't have a date."
"You don't count. You'll be DJing at the party. You said it yourself, there isn't any point in you bringing a date."
"Well dude, now you have one week to find yourself a date."
Adrien nodded, but he didn't reply. He spent the whole trip making a mental list of who he could take to the PMJ.
He didn't want to have a romantic date for the ceremony; it had to be somebody he was strictly friends with. It had to be somebody that didn't have a busy schedule, because the PMJ was next week, and most people he knew would consider a week's notice to be pretty last-minute.
The list of potential dates ended up being pretty short. There was only one female friend he could think of whose whole schedule was empty, and that was because she never had to do anything. She was spoiled by her dad.
As soon as he parked the car at Nino's place he sent two texts. One to Penny letting her know he was bringing a plus one, and one to his potential date.
After he went in and greeted Nino's family, who welcomed him as warmly as they welcomed Nino himself, he checked his phone. He had received responses for both texts.
[PR: Ok, thanks for letting me know! Have a nice weekend]
He replied immediately.
[AA: You too! :D]
He opened the other conversation.
CB: About time you asked me, honestly. I picked my dress ages ago. I'll wear burgundy.]
Why Chloé felt the need to tell him what color she was wearing was beyond him, but it was not the weirdest thing she had texted him.
[AA: OK. I'll text you the details.]
[CB: sure your outfit matches mine. I'll send you a picture of my dress, and I'll forward one to Nathalie too just in case.]
[CB: Attached one image.]
The attachment was a just a picture of a horrible and probably overpriced dress from Chloé's mom's collection.
Adrien tried to picture Nathalie's face when she received the picture. The thought of the confusion on her normally-stoic would have been hilarious, if not for the fact that Adrien was still mad at her. He knew deep down that Nathalie was not to blame for the fact that when he asked if they could have dinner together on his birthday, his dad told him that next year he should ask more than a month in advance because he was a very busy man. Still, Adrien was mad at her because it was easier to be mad at her than at his father, and because she was the bearer of the bad news. She was the one that had called him on Thursday evening to let him know his father was going to be busy on his birthday and that apparently it was Adrien's fault for not making an appointment on time.
Adrien had been so mad he had had trouble falling asleep. He'd finally given up somewhere around half past one and decided to just get up and play video games until it was time for Friday's rehearsal. The only thing that improved his mood that day was Antoine playing video games with him, maybe because he was too focused on trying (and failing) to beat Antoine to dwell on his misery. The guy was awesome at Mecha Strike!
He hadn't told any of his friends about his father and his birthday, not even Nino. He knew that if Nino knew, he'd want to fight his dad and then he would invite him to celebrate his birthday at his house. But Adrien was still clinging to the childish hope that Nathalie would call him to tell him his dad had cancelled one of his previous appointments just to spend his birthday with him.
[AA: I bet she loved that. What did she say?]
[CB: She hasn't replied yet.]
[CB: I don't care what she has to say anyway. It's her job to make sure we match for the PMJ]
That had not been Nathalie's job since he moved away from home almost two years ago, but there was no point in telling that to Chloé. He had tried in the past to explain it to her. He'd asked her to stop pestering Nathalie as if she was Adrien's personal assistant. But she didn't listen.
He didn't understand why Chloé wanted them to match for the PMJ. The PMJ were awards from young people in France to young French musicians. No ceremony made for young people by young people had a formal dress code.
AA: It's not obligatory that we match you know.]
[CB: It's good taste. Can you imagine not matching with your date? That would be ridiculous, utterly ridiculous.]
Adrien sighed, resigned.
He hoped he lived long enough to see the invention of time travel. If he ever got the chance of using a functional time machine, he knew exactly what his first destination would be. He would travel to about fifteen minutes ago, to the moment when he decided Chloé was the ideal date to the PMJ, and then he would slap his past-self for being an idiot.
[CB: We should have the same hairdresser too. I'll make an appointment and text you the details]
Adrien sighed again. He had made his bed, and now he had to lie in it.
Marinette didn't want to allow the fact that Adrien had a date for the PMJ to ruin her weekend. She was happy to go home. As soon as she saw her parents, she gave them the biggest hug of her life. Six days felt like a lifetime. She spent the rest of the evening chatting with her parents and eating pastries. One would think that after nineteen years of living in a bakery, she'd be tired of pastries, but she'd only been away from home for six days and she was already missing them.
She sent a text to Alya letting her know she was home so she knew she could drop by the next day, and a text to Penny letting her know she was bringing a date to the PMJ. Then she challenged her parents to a Mecha Strike tournament, which she won, but just barely.
Only later, when she was alone in her room, did she allow herself to drown in the fact that Adrien was apparently seeing somebody and that that person was going to be his date to the PMJ. Not only did Adrien have a date, but she'd have to see his date and interact with her all night. She couldn't stop herself; for the first time since Antoine was elected the new member of The Cataclysm, she logged into all her fan accounts.
She spent ages browsing all the Cataclysm news sites she knew (and those were a lot), and she found no mention of Adrien dating somebody. As far as the fans knew (and they were pretty invasive) Adrien had been single since he and Kagami split almost three years ago.
There wasn't a single mention of Adrien's girlfriend anywhere. The only topic the Catafans were talking about was Antoine. Most people seemed to be willing to give Antoine a chance. Some were commenting on how talented he was; others were commenting on how hot he was (Marinette blushed at those). Some comments were not G-rated. There were a few mean comments here and there, especially from XY's fans. Some were openly mean; others were giving Antoine back-handed compliments. She'd be lying if she said those comments didn't hurt her, but she tried to not to pay attention to a few mean people.
She logged out without having any answer about Adrien's mysterious date.
Overall, the rest of her weekend was fantastic. For starters, it was awesome to walk around the house without having to pretend she was a boy. She also got the package with her new sports bra; those dance rehearsals with the binder were killing her, and she had read online that it wasn't safe to wear the binder during exercise. She hoped a sports bra and a huge shirt would suffice to hide her chest during dance rehearsals; she'd use the binder the rest of the time.
The best part of the weekend was when Alya showed up on Sunday. As soon as Alya crossed the door, Marinette grabbed her by the shoulders and shouted:
"Guess who's allowed to bring a date to the PMJ next weekend and is taking her best friend because she loves her very much and she is an awesome friend?"
Years of knowing each other had made Alya able to understand Marinette even when she was shouting loud and fast.
Alya's face lit up like a Christmas tree when Marinette's words dawned on her.
"Yes way," answered Marinette.
"You're going to the PMJ! And I'm going to the PMJ! We're going to the PMJ!" shouted Alya excitedly, while she hugged Marinette.
"We're also going to the PMJ party," added Marinette. Alya hugged her tighter.
"I'm going to the PMJ's party!"
"And as the date of the second hottest member of The Cataclysm!" joked Marinette.
"Second hottest?" asked Alya.
"Well, duh! Adrien is the hottest."
"Babe, I hate to break it to you, but Adrien is not the hottest."
"Adrien is hot AF, but you are entitled to your wrong opinion," replied Marinette.
"While he's not my type, I have eyes, and I know Adrien is hot. I just don't think he is the hottest," explained Alya. "Antoine is hotter. He'd have to be if he wants to be my date," she joked, winking at Marinette. "And that hat-boy is not bad looking."
"Is that your way of saying you think Nino is hot?"
"Shut up," replied Alya, but Marinette didn't miss the slight blush on her friend's face.
They spent a good part of the afternoon planning the next weekend.
When Marinette returned to the band's apartment on Sunday evening – she didn't trust herself to wake up early enough to return Monday morning – she was in a good mood. She had spent a good weekend at home, even if it was short.
Her good mood was spoiled when she opened the door and overheard Kim and Nathaniel chatting on the couch.
"I can't believe Adrien is going with her to the PMJ," Nathaniel was saying.
With those words, Nathaniel had reminded Marinette that Adrien had a date for the PMJ, a mysterious date that Marinette knew nothing about but was already jealous of. It was her first time going to the PMJ. She didn't want to let Adrien's date spoil that, but she was aware that that was going to be extremely hard.
"Me neither," replied Kim. "She's a nutjob."
"Didn't you use to have a crush on her when we were younger?" asked Nathaniel.
"That I did. To be fair, Chloé is a very hot nutjob," replied Kim. "Don't tell Ondine I said that."
Did Kim say Chloé?
He couldn't mean Chloé Bourgeois, right? Because Marinette didn't think her sanity could survive if Chloé was Adrien's date to the PMJ.
Chloé was not an uncommon name, and Paris had two million people. There had to be at least two Chloés in the city, right? Kim didn't have to be talking about Marinette's old classmate and the bane of her existence. Statistically speaking, there had to be more than one Chloé in Paris.
But how many of those Chloés spent their whole time at school bragging about being close friends with Adrien?
How many of those Chloés were a nutjob, as Kim kindly worded it?
How many of those Chloés had Kim confessed to having a crush on in an old interview when The Cataclysm was just starting?
If Adrien having a date was a disaster, Adrien having a date with Chloé Bourgeois was – pun intended – a cataclysm.
"Hey dude!" she jumped at the unexpected sound of Nino's voice behind her. "Why are you standing in the doorway?"
"Oh, I was just in the process of entering," replied Marinette, because that sounded natural and not awkward at all. She turned around to find both Adrien and Nino waiting behind her to enter the apartment.
"Hey Antoine, did you have a good weekend?" Adrien asked. Adrien with his bright green eyes, soft hair, gorgeous smile, and a date with Chloé.
"Yeah, you?" she replied automatically.
They engaged in casual conversation as they entered the apartment, but Marinette didn't hear a word he said because all she could focus on was the fact that he had a date with Chloé Bourgeois.
They say that when you are expecting something, time goes slower, and when you are dreading something, time goes quicker. What if you are expecting and dreading the very same event?
Marinette was excited for the PMJ because she watched it on TV every year and she was going to be there personally. But she was also dreading it at the same time. The idea of Adrien going on a date with Chloé, and Marinette having to be there the whole time because the band was supposed to stick together, was about to make her physically ill.
She couldn't focus on anything. In dance rehearsals, all she could focus on was the fact that the hottie beside her was probably going to be dancing with Chloé at the PMJ party. In voice rehearsals, all she could think about was whether Adrien had ever sung a song to Chloé. During meals, she wondered if Adrien had ever taken Chloé on a dinner date. On Wednesday night, when Adrien challenged Antoine to a video game tournament, all she could think of was whether Adrien had ever played video games with Chloé. If Marinette knew Chloé pretty well – and she was confident that she did – then probably not.
Adrien almost managed to beat her, since her mind was elsewhere – almost being the operative word. Still, Adrien thought he was improving, and Marinette didn't have the heart to tell him any different.
She spent the whole week low-key waiting for Adrien to announce his date couldn't make it to the PMJ. When by Friday night it was obvious that that was not happening, Marinette decided to text Alya, for several reasons. One was that she needed moral support. Another was that if Alya was going to have to put up with Chloé at the PMJ, it would be nice to warn her beforehand.
[AC: Chloé? Chloé Bourgeois?]
[MDC: IDK for sure. I haven't asked, but I'm like 98% sure it's her]
[AC: Girl, that's bad!]
[MDC: IKR. IDK what Adrien sees in her to ask her out. And now our night will be ruined bc she'll be there. ]
[AC: Well, that too. But I mean, what if she recognizes you?]
She had been so focused on the fact that the love of her life had a date with Chloé that she hadn't thought about the fact that Chloé might recognize her. They had been classmates from Maternelle to Lycée. It was not completely impossible that she'd recognize Marinette.
[MDC: Well, I always said that all Chloé paid attention to was her mirror. Let's hope that's true and she doesn't remember any face besides her own.]
The only thing that managed to distract Marinette from the fact that Adrien had a date with Chloé and that Chloé might recognize her was that they were allowed to pick their own outfits for the PMJ. She had gone overboard with Alya's and her own. Of course she didn't have time to make something from scratch. But she made a couple of adjustments to the dress she was already preparing as a gift to Alya that she retrieved from her home the previous weekend. And she got a male tux for Antoine and made adjustments to better fit her body and her style.
Before she knew it, it was already Saturday.
Penny had rented a limo for the Cataclysm and their dates to go to the PMJ. They were given the afternoon off so they could get ready. The band was supposed to meet at the front door of their apartment building at seven o'clock, and they were going to pick up their dates in the limo.
The first person they picked up was Marc. Marinette knew very little about him, since he was not famous. All she knew was that he was an aspiring writer getting a degree in French Literature and that when his relationship with Nathaniel was brand new, paparazzi and Catafans used to follow him everywhere. Lately he had been keeping a low profile. He turned out to be a shy guy that was very nice to talk to.
The second was Ondine. Marinette knew a lot about her, because she was famous on her own. She was a swimmer, and she had represented France in the last Olympics. Marinette was not really into swimming, but she had taken interest in her when she started dating Kim. Catafans usually stalked any person that dated a member of the band (for instance Marinette could write a thesis about Kagami Tsurugi). She remembered she had stalked Ondine on Twitter and her Wikipedia page – she knew everything from her birthdate to her favorite food. Of course she couldn't say that without ending the night with a restraining order, so she stuck with casual conversation and pretended to be surprised by the little bits of information Ondine told about herself.
The third person they picked up was Alya. Marinette was glad for this tiny mercy. She didn't think she could have put up with Chloé without Alya being there with her. Her friend introduced herself to the rest of the people in the limo, giving them each a kiss on the cheek. Marinette knew that if she asked, Alya would deny that she took a couple of seconds longer than necessary with Nino.
"I love your hair," Alya said to Ondine. Marinette had to agree. Ondine's red hair looked absolutely gorgeous.
"Thanks! I seldom do anything with it, since I'll ruin it in the pool later anyway, but I wanted to do something nice today," replied Ondine. "I love your dress," she added, looking at Alya sincerely.
"Thanks!" replied Marinette and Alya at the same time. When the rest of the people in the limo looked at both of them in confusion, Alya explained. "Antoine designed and sewed this dress for me."
A series of different expressions of admiration followed Alya's explanation.
"You're very talented, Antoine," said Adrien, smiling. Marinette felt her face getting warm again.
"Trust the guy's word on this. He's seen more designer's dresses in his life than any normal person should," said Kim.
Marinette was looking for the words to give a coherent reply – why did she always lose her ability to talk like a normal person when Adrien complimented her? – when the limo stopped in front of Le Grand Paris.
"Why did I have to be the last one to be picked up?" was the first thing Chloé said when she got into the limo wearing that burgundy thing she had told Adrien she'd wear.
Not for the first time, Adrien chastised himself for his brilliant idea to bring Chloé as his date to the PMJ.
"You live the closest to the theater where the PMJ is being held. It made sense for you to be picked up last," replied Adrien, mentally prepared for Chloé to reply that that was ridiculous, utterly ridiculous. She didn't, because for some reason she was staring at Alya as if she had grown a second head.
"What are you doing here?" she asked Alya as if her mere presence offended her.
"What are you doing here?" replied Alya, sounding, if possible, more annoyed than Chloé.
"You two know each other?" Nino's question was drowned by Chloé's reply:
"What do you mean what am I doing here? I'm Adrikin's date."
"Well, I'm Antoine's date." For some reason that he couldn't explain, Alya's reply annoyed Adrien.
"Who even is Antoine?" asked Chloé. Adrien felt offended on Antoine's behalf.
"I'm Antoine. I just joined the band. There was a televised audition and everything." Antoine sounded annoyed too. Chloé turned her head toward him. Adrien was thinking about how to stop Chloé from making a hurtful comment on how XY was better or something like that when he noticed Chloé's eyes were open really wide. For some reason she got close to Antoine's face and started inspecting him.
Inspecting was a weird word to use in this context, but Adrien couldn't think of another way to describe what Chloé was doing.
All of a sudden, Antoine looked really pale. Adrien began wondering if Antoine had a condition that he was telling no one about. The guy got really pale all of a sudden pretty frequently.
"What are you doing so close to my date's face?" asked Alya getting in between Antoine and Chloé. She must be a jealous girlfriend. Inexplicably, Adrien felt annoyed at Alya again.
"He looks a lot like…" Chloé was still staring at Antoine as if she were inspecting him, and for some reason, both Antoine and Alya looked as if they were hyperventilating. Then Chloé said, "Oh, forget it. Maybe they're family or something. I couldn't care less."
Alya and Antoine seemed to start breathing normally again after that. Adrien knew it was going to be a hassle to bring Chloé as his date, but he hadn't expected her to know Alya.
This was going to be a long night.
Hey guys! I want to apologize because I didn't update last weekend. We were in mid-year exams here, and I'm a grad student and a teacher so I barely had time to breath.
I want to thank silkworm for being my beta. ILYSM
The red carpet for the PMJ looked more glamorous in TV than it was in real life. Camera flashes were blinding Marinette. Several reporters were shoving microphones in her face, and the fans from behind the cord were waving and screaming at her. She was flattered by the fans, but they were overwhelming her, and she didn't even know where to look.
Honestly, she hadn't expected to receive so much attention. The other four members of the band were getting more attention than her, but that was to be expected considering she had been in the band for less than a month and that the band had not released new material with Antoine yet. She still got a respectable number of screaming fans and reporters asking questions.
Ondine also got a good number of fans cheering her and reporters asking her questions. Not as much as she usually got at her swimming competitions, but that was understandable because this was a music event; she was out of her element.
When they finally entered the theater, all Marinette felt was relief that the red carpet experience was over. Then she felt dread thinking of all the future red carpets she would have to endure.
She had to restrain herself from gaping when she saw the interior of the theater. She had seen it countless times on TV, but there was something magical about seeing it in person.
They reached their assigned seats with Marinette barely succeeding at not fangirling over all the other young musicians that were there too. The Cataclysm and their dates had been assigned seats C37-C45. When they checked the labels on the individual tickets, Marinette was disappointed to find that Adrien was in C37, while she was in C43.
Chloé got to be in seat C38, right next to Adrien. Of course.
Marinette could have been pissed over that, but all she really felt was relief that there were four people between her and Chloé. Not only because she didn't fancy watching the ceremony next to Chloé, but because of the risk that Chloé might figure out her identity.
She had almost had a heart attack when Chloé examined her face in the limo. For a second, she had thought Chloé recognized her. It was better to be as far from Chloé as possible for the rest of the night.
All her annoyance over the red carpet experience and her fear of Chloé finding her out were forgotten later, though, when Clara Nightingale came onto the stage and the ceremony officially started.
For the rest of the night, Marinette almost forgot that she was supposed to be there as part of a band. She enjoyed feeling like a lucky fan that by a miracle got the chance to be there. In a way, she was.
Marinette cheered loudly for the winners with Alya. The rest of the band didn't seem too put off by their excessive enthusiasm.
She was so into the ceremony that she almost didn't care that, a few seats to her left, Chloé was putting her arms around Adrien. Almost was the operative word, of course. Adrien's reaction to Chloé's behavior kind of reminded Marinette of those viral videos of cats looking annoyed by human behavior but putting up with it anyway. Not for the first time that week, Marinette wondered what was going on between Adrien and Chloé. As far as she knew, they were childhood friends. It wasn't that weird to bring your childhood friend as your date, right? But, what if they were dating? Was it a one-time thing? Or had they just crossed the line between friends and more-than-friends? Were they secretly lovers? Marinette didn't know, and it was driving her crazy.
Right next to them, Nathaniel and Marc were holding hands. It was so sweet that Marinette wanted to take a picture. Beside them, Kim and Ondine were commenting on the ceremony in what was supposed to be whispers. Besides them was Marinette, then Alya, and then finally Nino.
Marinette had felt bad for Nino sitting alone, but it turned out Alya was good at keeping him company. Despite all of her fangirling with Marinette, Alya had found opportunities to comment on the ceremony with Nino. It was hard to believe they barely knew each other, because by the third category they were already joking with each other.
The winner of the 'Song of the Year' award was going to be announced after a band called Les Fraises performed. Marinette liked a few of their songs, but she didn't know the one they were singing, and she was eager for them to finish up and get off the stage so that it would finally be time for the 'Song of the Year' category.
Marinette was a little ball of nerves by that point. She wanted The Cataclysm to win, but at the same time, she was nervous about going to the stage to receive the award. The boys had reassured her that it was nothing to be nervous about. All they had to do was go onstage, thank everybody, support Nino when he delivered the acceptance speech on behalf of the band, and go offstage. It looked simple enough. She was pep-talking herself into doing it. She had survived a televised audition; she could survive this.
She ignored the little voice in her head that reminded her that what she had done at the televised auditions was pass out, and that could hardly be called surviving.
When Les Fraises finally left the stage and Clara went onstage again, Marinette was so nervous she felt like throwing up. Suddenly she felt a surge of sympathy for Nathaniel, who, she remembered, told her that he had thrown up after their first performance.
"To announce the winner of 'Song of the Year'," announced Clara in her usually upbeat tone, "is why Kitty Section is here".
Why did Clara have to rhyme every time she talked?
Did she say 'Kitty Section'?
Did she mean 'Kitty Section' as in 'KITTY SECTION'?
When the band walked onto the stage, all her doubts were cleared. She indeed meant Kitty Section as in KITTY SECTION.
Since Iván was almost two meters tall, he should have been the first one Marinette noticed when they walked onstage, but her eyes were glued to Luka, who was still rocking his blue hair.
She didn't expect to run into them that night. She knew they were gaining popularity lately and their videos had tons of views online, but she didn't know they were popular enough to be invited to give an award at the PMJ. She had not been involved with the band since she broke up with Luka a few years ago, but she still felt proud of them. It was natural, she supposed. She was fond of all the people in the band. Even Luka, since their break-up was on amicable terms.
The fact that she was proud of them didn't change the fact that Kitty Section's presence at the PMJ was a problem for Marinette.
She had been classmates with Iván, Rose, and Juleka for ages, until they graduated lycée. And she had dated Luka for two years. If she went onstage, she risked being recognized.
"These are the nominees for the song of the year," announced Rose. The video with the nominees started to run while Marinette started to think of excuses to not go onstage if The Cataclysm won.
Adieu – Les Fraises
They showed a few seconds of the video clip of Adieu, with the four girls of Les Fraises singing about letting go of a toxic love forever. Marinette liked that song better than the one they had just performed. They should've picked Adieu to perform at the PMJ.
Vous – Babette Dupont
Ugh, no. Marinette had always found that song depressing and pretentious, with their black and white video clip and its depressing lyrics.
Danse avec moi – Belmont Feraud
Now, Marinette liked this song; it was fun to dance at parties. It was a pity it was against Feu. Even if she wasn't part of The Cataclysm, she still liked Feu better.
Feu – The Cataclysm
They showed a few seconds of the videoclip. Marinette could remember every second of it. She had watched it more times than she cared to admit. They decided to show that moment where the band was dancing on a stage on fire, it was one of the coolest shots in Marinette's opinion. Meanwhile, in the theater, the cameras focused on the band's reaction to their video clip. Marinette did her best to look natural.
"And the PMJ goes to…" said Rose after the clips finished. She was pausing for suspense. Should Marinette fake an aneurysm? They wouldn't make her go onstage with an aneurysm right? "Vous by Babette Dupont!"
Marinette felt relief and disappointment at the same time. Was that even possible?
On one hand, she was relieved that she didn't need to go onstage. On the other hand, she was disappointed that The Cataclysm hadn't won. Feu was awesome. It brought joy to the world, unlike Vous, which was just a depressing anthem to a lost love.
Seeing Babette Dupont walking onstage and greeting all the members of Kitty Section, she knew it was far better that The Cataclysm had not won. It didn't make it any less disappointing, though.
It had been a disappointment to lose 'Song of the Year'. They had even prepared a speech and everything. But Adrien tried not to be too down over that. They could always win the following year. Their new material was going to be great, without XY, and with more soul than their previous albums. He just knew that.
Nathaniel had mentioned that Marc was helping write a song, and that he wanted to present it at the next band meeting. Neither of them had much experience writing songs, but with Nathaniel's skill with the acoustic guitar and with Marc's skill with words, the song was sure to be awesome. Adrien couldn't wait to hear it.
It was also a pity they had lost the chance to receive the award from the hands of Kitty Section. They were a fairly new band, but Adrien had seen a couple of their videos online, and they had good songs. Maybe he'd have the chance to meet them at the party.
The hotel where the party was going to be held was just a few blocks away from the theater, but since so many people were leaving the theater to go to the party, traffic was really slow and it took them ages to get there.
As soon as they got into the limo, Chloé called Sabrina to rant about how she had endured the entire ceremony just for The Cataclysm to lose Song of the Year, to complain about the traffic, and to say it was 'utterly ridiculous' that the organizers of the PMJ had picked another hotel to host the party when Le Grand Paris was better and almost as close.
Adrien was pretty sure poor Sabrina hadn't been able to say a word since she picked up the phone.
Kim and Nathaniel were engaged in an argument over who deserved to win 'Best Rap Album'. The look on Kim's face when Ondine sided with Nathaniel was priceless.
"Et tu, Ondine?" he said in the most dramatic voice possible.
"I love you sweetie, but 'Poison' is a better album than 'Reine' and that's just a fact," replied Ondine.
"Actually I think 'Reine' had better songs. Les Fraises did a very good job with that one," added Marc. It was Nathaniel's turn to look betrayed.
Nino and Alya didn't seem to be paying much attention to the debate. They were chatting in their own little word. Adrien had noticed they had also been chatting during the ceremony. It looked an awful lot like flirting.
Nino shouldn't be flirting with Antoine's girlfriend. It was against the bro-code. Of course they had only known Antoine for like two weeks, or three if you counted when they met at the second audition, or a month if they counted since the first audition. Still Antoine was a member of the band, and therefore he was protected by the bro-code. Nino was a good bro, a real bro. So he shouldn't flirt with Antoine's girlfriend, period.
Adrien glanced at Antoine, but he didn't seem bothered that his girlfriend may or may not be flirting with Nino. Still, Adrien wanted to make sure Antoine was ok. He got up and sat next to Antoine, pushing Alya a little to the left. He bet she didn't mind being a little closer to Nino.
"Sorry," he said. He tried to sound sincere, but he was not sorry to get between Alya and Antoine.
"Ok," shrugged Alya, and then she just kept flirting with Nino. It was outrageous, especially because Antoine seemed to be so in love with her.
He decided to not mention the whole Nino and Alya thing to Antoine at all. It was not his place to say anything. Besides, Nino was his best friend, and he didn't want to create a problem. Instead he decided to make small talk with Antoine and try to take his mind off the whole Nino-and-Alya-flirting thing.
"Did you enjoy the ceremony?" he asked Antoine.
"I had a great time," replied Antoine. "Pity Feu didn't win 'Song of the Year'."
"I know. It would have been awesome to win another PMJ," agreed Adrien.
"You won one last year right?" asked Antoine.
"Yeah, for 'Album of the Year'." Adrien remembered that ceremony. XY had hogged the microphone and hadn't let anyone else speak despite the fact that they had agreed that Kim was going to deliver the speech. "It's a pity we lost this year, but at least we lost against a good song."
"I don't think 'Vous' qualifies as a good song," replied Antoine.
"You're right. Vous isn't good, it's better than good. It's amazing!" replied Adrien. He loved that song, and he wasn't just going to stay silent while Antoine insulted it.
"I can't believe you like it! It's cheesy."
"And the video clip is so pretentious"
"I obviously can't trust your judgment; you thought it was a good idea to bring Chloé Bourgeois as your date." Antoine looked as if he immediately regretted saying that, as if he suddenly remembered Chloé was there in the limo with them. They glanced at Chloé at the same time, but she was still engrossed in her phone call with Sabrina and didn't seem to have heard.
"I'm sorry. I shouldn't have said that."
"It's ok," replied Adrien. "I know she can be a little too… Chloé, but she's not so bad when you get to know her."
"Oh, I know her," replied Antoine.
"I thought you two just met on the way to the ceremony," replied Adrien, confused.
"I mean…I know of her," Antoine corrected himself. "She went to school with Alya."
And apparently they weren't great friends during those years, if their reaction to seeing in each on the limo was any indication.
"I guess they didn't get along?"
"That's the understatement of the century," said Antoine. "What about you and Chloé?"
"What about me and Chloé?"
"Well, she's your date. Are you like… more than friends?" asked Antoine. For some reason, he was avoiding Adrien's eyes as he asked.
"God, no!" replied Adrien way too quickly, resisting the urge to cross himself. "We're just friends. I've known her since diaper days. That's all. She's my date for the ceremony in a strictly just friends way."
"Oh, ok," replied Antoine, but something about his face and demeanor changed. He looked more relaxed for some reason. "So what do you like about Vous?"
They reached their destination without an agreement over whether Vous was a good song or not.
Adrien had said he was not dating Chloé. Marinette could have jumped for joy.
The party was not exactly what Marinette was expecting. Considering it was a party for young, famous musicians, she had expected the party to be wild. Instead it was kind of boring. At least Nino was playing good music.
According to Kim, the PMJ party was always boring because it was too public. Its famous attendees were trying to be on their best behavior because the paparazzi were waiting outside like vultures, trying to get a scandalous pic.
Apparently the real parties were the private after-parties. That's where stuff got fun.
The Cataclysm was not planning on going to any after-party, so Marinette figured she might as well enjoy this party since she was already there. She'd just try to ignore that Chloé was dancing with Adrien and putting her arms around him.
Adrien had said they were just friends, so she knew there was nothing to worry about, but it was still annoying. Adrien looked annoyed by Chloé's behavior, too.
Marinette danced a couple of songs with Alya and others with Ondine. She wanted to dance with Adrien, but she didn't think he'd want to dance with Antoine. After Ondine went to dance with Nathaniel, and Alya went to dance with Marc, Marinette went to get herself a snack.
On her way back, she accidentally collided with someone, smearing her éclair into his tie.
"Oh, I'm sorry. I'm kind of clumsy," she apologized.
"It's ok, Marinette." She'd recognize that voice anywhere. She looked up to find herself looking into Luka Couffaine's blue eyes.
"It's not ok, your tie is ruined and…" Suddenly, the fact that he had called her by her real name dawned on her. "Why did you call me Marinette? My name is Antoine. I don't even know any Marinette!"
She wished she could control the panic in her voice.
He laughed. It wasn't a malicious laugh, but it annoyed Marinette that he was amused by her response. It was pretty obvious that he didn't believe a word she had said.
"Nice to meet you, Antoine. My name is Luka Couffaine!" He looked extremely amused as he shook Marinette's hand. "Let's get you another éclair."
He took Marinette to the snack table, while she tried to convince him to let her clean his tie.
"It's ok. I don't like wearing ties. This is a good excuse to get rid of it," he replied, removing his tie and putting it in his pocket.
"If you don't like ties, why did you wear one tonight? It wasn't obligatory, you know," said Marinette.
"It was my first time here. I wasn't sure what to wear."
They each got an éclair and sat together at one of the tables.
"This is good, but your parents' éclairs are better," commented Luka, taking another bite.
"Thanks, Papa's chocolate filling is quite famous," Marinette replied. Then she realized what she had said. "I mean, what do you mean my parents' éclairs? My parents never… I mean, you never… agh! Why do I even bother?"
She lowered her head in defeat.
"It's ok. Your secret is safe with me. I won't tell a soul, and I won't ask any questions about it either. Scout's honor!" said Luka in all seriousness.
"You were never a scout, but I'll take your word," replied Marinette. "How did you find out?"
"Do you really think I wouldn't recognize you on the spot?"
"Chloé doesn't count," replied Luka. "But you should avoid the rest. They may recognize you too."
"Where are they?" asked Marinette.
"Iván and Mylène are dancing. Rose and Juleka are over there," replied Luka pointing at them.
Rose and Juleka sat together at a table. Juleka was laughing at something Rose had said. It was impossible to hear them; they were on the other side of the hall and the music was loud. But it was obvious that Juleka's laugh had been loud. It was an odd thing to look at, Juleka laughing so freely. Marinette noticed they were holding hands.
"Are they together?" asked Marinette.
"They just got together two weeks ago," replied Luka proudly.
"Finally!" replied Marinette, resisting the impulse to get up and make a celebratory dance. "It was about time."
"I know," agreed Luka. "It was painful to see them dance around each other."
"I can't believe I spent five years of my life trying to get them together, and they finally started dating after we graduated," complained Marinette. "I almost gave up because both kept insisting they were just friends."
"They were just in denial. I knew they'd come around eventually" replied Luka.
"I know, but they were friends for so long that I had lost all hope they'd actually start dating."
"Why wouldn't they start dating just because they were friends for a long time?"
"Well, once you become close friends with somebody, it's hard to make the transition to dating."
"I think it's better that way," said Luka. "Then one already knows the person, with their good and their bad traits, before dating. How can you say you love someone you don't know?"
Marinette didn't know whether that was a comment on their relationship or not. They had known each other for a few months before they started dating, but they had been flirting since day one.
Iván and Mylène chose that very moment to come to sit with Luka, so Marinette had to run before they could recognize her. She knew she made Antoine look like he had no manners, but it was a small price to pay to keep her secret.
They had to wait until the party ended to go back home, since Nino was the DJ and they all had to share the limo.
When they finally dropped Chloé off at Le Grand Paris, it was as if they could finally breathe inside the limo.
"Freaking finally," whispered Alya when Chloé got out.
"I hear you," agreed Nino, also whispering.
"Thank god she left," whispered Marinette. She glanced at Adrien to make sure he wasn't listening. He was talking to Marc, so she said, "I don't even know why Adrien invited her when he doesn't even seem to like her. The look on his face when she tangled herself around him!"
"He doesn't...it's not that he dislikes her," said Nino, but he seemed to be struggling to find the right words. "They've been friends forever, but Chloé is quite rude and she isn't great at respecting Adrien's personal space or boundaries, and that makes my bro uncomfortable."
"If he's uncomfortable around her, why is he still her friend?" asked Marinette.
"The poor dude was homeschooled, and he endured an entire childhood with Chloé as his only friend. By the time he made real friends, he was tragically already fond of Chloé."
"That doesn't sound like a healthy reason to keep a friend," commented Alya.
"It's not like that's the only reason. Every once in a while she can be a decent person," replied Nino sounding a little defensive. It gave Marinette the impression that he didn't mean to defend Chloé; he was defending Adrien and his stupid decision to still be her friend. "Like, when the band started she was super helpful."
"How?" asked Marinette, genuinely curious. She was trying to connect the picture she had of Chloé with the word helpful.
"Well, Adrien used to have to hide the fact that he was in a band from his dad," explained Nino. "And Chloé was always covering for him."
Marinette didn't dare to question any further because Adrien had stopped talking with Marc, and she was scared he might hear them.
She didn't know Adrien had to hide the band thing from his dad. The more she heard about Adrien's dad, the less she liked him. She couldn't believe she once used to idolize him.
She thought she knew everything about the origins of the band.
Adrien and Kim used to go to the same sport center, Adrien for fencing, Kim to swim; somehow they ended up becoming friends. Kim, Nino, Nathaniel, and another boy named Max had gone to the same school. Kim had introduced Adrien to the rest of the guys. The whole band thing started as a joke because Adrien was good at playing the piano, Kim and Max were good singers, Nathaniel could play acoustic guitar, and Nino loved music. They ended up singing at parties and stuff, but nothing big. Then Max left the band because he was starting university early. At a party, they met XY and Bob Roth, and the rest was history.
She hadn't had the slightest idea that Adrien was doing all of that behind his dad's back. Or that Chloé was covering his back.
Now that she thought about it, all she knew about the band's origin was what The Cataclysm had made public. There was so much more that she didn't know. Then it hit her: the same could be said about every single thing she knew about The Cataclysm… and about Adrien.
She had thought she knew everything there was to know about Adrien; from his favorite color to his shoe size. But she knew all of that because that was what Adrien wanted the public to know. Even what she knew about his hopes and dreams was what he felt comfortable sharing with the public.
She had only actually met him in person three weeks ago. She had shared an apartment with him for two. If he wasn't a famous person that she had stalked obsessively in social media, she wouldn't think she knew him. She had crossdressed and joined the band for someone she didn't know.
She thought she was in love with Adrien, but she was realizing now they were practically strangers.
Luka's words echoed in her head: 'How can you say you love someone you don't know?'
All she actually knew of Adrien is what she had learned in the past few weeks: that he was incredibly kind, that his dad was an asshole, that he had a horrible sense of humor, and that he was like seventy-five percent as good as her at video games. That was no basis to say she loved a person.
Marinette had been convinced that she loved Adrien for so long that the idea that she didn't actually know him was shattering everything she thought was true.
She was in the middle of her existential crisis when the limo stopped in front of Alya's place. Alya started saying goodbye to everyone in the limo, again stopping for a few seconds longer than necessary with Nino.
Marinette didn't want Alya to go. She needed a friend right now to guide her in her crisis. She also didn't fancy going back to The Cataclysm's apartment right now. She'd probably just spend the whole night analyzing her feelings for Adrien while obsessing over the fact that Adrien was just a few meters away.
When Alya leaned in to give her a good-bye kiss on the cheek, Marinette stopped her and said:
"Can I sleep with you tonight?" She really needed a sleepover with her best friend. She always had a spare set of clothes, underwear, and pajamas at Alya's place just in case, anyway.
"Sure babe!" replied Alya, enthusiastically jumping out of the limo. Marinette gave a quick goodbye to everybody and jumped out right after Alya.
"Wow, that wasn't bold or anything," commented Nathaniel after Antoine and Alya left the limo.
Adrien mentally agreed. He hadn't expect Antoine to be so bold. The whole thing bothered him for some reason. He couldn't explain, why but he felt upset about the idea that Antoine had just proposed sex to his girlfriend in front of everybody and then left almost without saying goodbye.
He sneaked a glance at Nino. Poor guy looked heartbroken. He had spent all night flirting with Alya, and now she had left with Antoine. But what else had Nino expected from flirting with a girl that had a boyfriend?
"Two people that are dating are having sex? The scandal!" replied Kim in a mocking tone.
"It's not that they're having sex. It's that he literally proposed sex to her in front of other six people," explained Marc.
"If you ever do that to me, I'll drown you," said Ondine.
Kim just shrugged.
"I won't do that to you because I know it'll make you uncomfortable," replied Kim. "But Alya seemed into it, and they're both consenting adults, so I don't see what the big deal is. Why should we care?"
"You know what? You're right. We shouldn't care," replied Nathaniel. "Let's move on to another topic."
So they did.
Adrien couldn't sleep that night.
I want to thank slkworm for making this chapter readable for you!
Adrien didn't understand why, but the fact that Antoine had stayed at Alya's house after proposing sex in front of everybody annoyed him. It shouldn't have bothered him at all. As Kim said, Antoine and Alya were two consenting adults, and it was nobody else's business. In the ranking of things that were Adrien's business, it ranked so low that it shouldn't even be on the list. It was not Adrien's business at all… but it annoyed him. And the worst part was that he didn't even understand why.
Scratch that, the worst part was that feeling in his chest and his stomach that felt an awful lot like jealousy. But why would he be jealous? Was it envy because Antoine had a sex life when Adrien had not been with a girl since he had broken up with Kagami eons ago?
The thing was, he had never felt envious when Kim stayed at Ondine's place, or when Nathaniel stayed at Marc's place, or when XY used to disappear every once in a while to a different girl's place.
He stayed up all night – if it could be called night, considering it was after 3AM when they finally got back from the PMJ party – trying to understand the tightness in his chest.
When the sun came out, he got up to grab something to eat. He ate a package of cookies, and then he finally fell asleep around half past six.
He woke up around noon and apparently Antoine had not yet returned.
That shouldn't bother him.
It shouldn't bother him at all.
It wasn't his business.
It really wasn't.
He spent the whole afternoon watching Marvel movies with Nino, who looked like a wreck too. Kim joined them in the middle of 'Captain America: The First Avenger'; and Nathaniel between the second 'Iron Man' movie and 'Thor'. Antoine finally came back to the apartment when they were about to start 'The Avengers' – around 8:23, not that Adrien was paying attention to the clock.
"Evening guys!" said Antoine cheerfully.
All the guys replied with variations of, "Good evening, Antoine!"
"Looks like you're in a good mood. Having a good day?" asked Kim. Adrien didn't miss the hidden intent in his words.
"Yes. It was good!" replied Antoine. "Alya and I went to visit my parents. It was fun! They were trying to teach Alya how to make cookies, but they should've learned a long time ago that she's useless at baking."
That was not what Adrien had expected Antoine to say. For some reason, that made his heart ache even more. Maybe it was because he had always wanted to have that kind of relationship.
His relationship with Kagami had been completely different. All of their dates and hang-out sessions were planned and had to meet with approval from both his father and her mother. They felt so clinical and cold. There was no warmth in it. He was fond of Kagami – she was a great girl – but their relationship had always felt aseptic to the point where he couldn't tolerate it anymore. That's why they had broken up.
He couldn't imagine just hanging out casually with Kagami and then going to her mom's place to bake cookies. The idea was ridiculous.
Adrien noticed Nino was carefully avoiding looking at Antoine. He really hoped the whole thing with Alya didn't create a problem with the band.
Suddenly Antoine noticed the TV screen and said:
"Are you watching 'The Avengers'?"
"We were about to start," replied Adrien, trying to sound normal lest Antoine figure out by his tone of voice that he had spent the whole Sunday obsessing over his whereabouts. "Want to join us?!"
"It's one of my favorite movies!" was all Antoine replied before sitting between Kim and Nathaniel. For some reason Adrien felt disappointed that he didn't sit next to him.
Marinette was happy to find the guys watching 'The Avengers', but she ended up not paying a lot of attention to the movie. She kept thinking about her conversation with Alya the previous night. She had actually broken down crying, in a crisis because she didn't know what she was feeling. The fact that she barely knew Adrien at all had hit her like a bucket of cold water. She had sworn she loved Adrien for so long that she didn't know how to handle the fact that they were practically strangers or the fact that she had joined a boyband for a stranger.
Alya had agreed that she didn't have any real basis to 'love' Adrien. However, she didn't view the whole situation as the crisis that Marinette did. First of all, while Adrien had been Marinette's main reason to join the band, he was no longer the only reason why she stayed. She was also there to make money to create her own fashion empire. She needed to remember that.
Second of all, she agreed it was impossible to love someone without knowing them. But it was possible to crush on someone without knowing them. That was common. Besides, it was especially hard not to crush on a boy like Adrien that was too kind and too attractive for his own good.
She might not be 'in love' with Adrien the way she had thought she was, but there was nothing wrong with having a crush on a guy she had only known for two weeks. Hadn't she had a crush on Luka that started the day she met him? And that ended up in a beautiful two-year relationship! Of course, they broke up eventually, but those were two wonderful years.
Alya had told her that instead of freaking out over not knowing Adrien, she should actually work on getting to know him. And that was what Marinette was planning to do. But she needed time to prepare, so she avoided going back to the apartment until she felt ready to face Adrien with the awareness that she didn't know him as well as she had thought she did.
Since the bakery was close to Alya's place, Marinette decided to stop by her house to say hi to her parents. She might not have time to stay a full weekend at her house, but she had a couple of hours to spend with them.
When she finally came back to the apartment, she was in a good mood with enough energy to face Adrien. She was resolved to get to know him. She just didn't know how to approach that task. She guessed she needed to spend time with him. They spent all day together, but they barely had time to talk during rehearsals.
She decided she needed to find a bonding activity. They could play video games, or watch movies together or… what else did he like besides playing video games and watching movies? Marinette didn't know, and again she realized how superficial her knowledge of him actually was.
She needed to find another common interest with Adrien, aside from video games or movies, since neither of those provided a lot of time for talking together or paying much attention to each other.
In the middle of the week, they had a band meeting with Jagged and Penny. They were told that soon they were going to have a meet and greet with their fans, but the date was yet to be confirmed. Nathaniel shyly told them that he had been working on a new song with Marc, and asked if he could present it. Both Jagged and Penny seemed happy that the band members were working on their own songs.
The song was called Notre Amour, and it was the most romantic thing Marinette had heard in her entire life. It sounded nothing like the The Cataclysm's old songs, but apparently the band was aiming for a more authentic style, and they all loved the song. Marinette made a point to let Nathaniel know how much she loved it.
Penny and Jagged decided to release the song as a single. They needed to release material with Antoine on it soon, and a single would give the fans something to listen to while the band worked on a full album. It'd be the band's first song with Antoine. Marinette was nervous but excited. Since it was a slow song, it was not going to have choreography. For the next few weeks, they'd increase their vocal rehearsals and decrease their dance rehearsals so that they'd be ready to release the song as soon as possible.
The fact that her first song with the band was going to be a slow song with no choreography was making her even more nervous, since her strength was dancing and not singing. As if that wasn't stressful enough, she was still worried about the interview with Nadja that was inching closer everyday.
After the band meeting, she stayed behind to talk in private with Penny.
"I can't do the interview with Nadja Chamack on Saturday," was the first thing she said when she was sure they were alone in the meeting room of Miraculous Records.
"Don't be nervous. You'll do fine," replied Penny. "We're supposed to receive the list of questions Nadja is going to ask, so you can prepare. And I'll be there with you the whole time."
"It's not that I'm nervous about doing an interview," said Marinette. "Well, I'm nervous about doing an interview, who wouldn't be? It's my first interview. I'm rambling, sorry. What I was trying to say is that I can't do the interview because Nadja knows me personally."
Marinette could see the realization in Penny's eyes.
"Do you think she might recognize you?"
"I'm not sure, but it's possible," replied Marinette. "I used to babysit her kid."
"I see," replied Penny. "A journalist recognizing you is the last thing we need. I guess we could cancel. It's pretty last minute, but not impossible to do. However, it won't make Antoine look good, and we can't afford that because you're a new face. You need to build a good image. Besides there's no point cancelling since we're not going to be able to dodge Nadja forever. You're going to be in the public eye for a while."
Marinette nodded in understanding.
"Furthermore, Antoine really needs to make appearances on TV. So far, you're unknown to the public. The fans were crazy over you when you won the audition, but their excitement is dying and we need to keep it alive," explained Penny. "Don't worry, we'll prepare you for the interview. Since we'll have Nadja's questions beforehand, we can prepare a script. All you'll have to do is follow it. And practice as much as you can."
Marinette felt a knot in her stomach, knowing there was no way out.
On Thursday, Nino approached Marinette after vocal rehearsals.
"I don't know if you know this, but Adrien's birthday is this Saturday," started Nino.
"Yes, I heard about it," replied Marinette.
Heard about it? She had had her gift ready for him for weeks.
Every year, she sent him a 'Marinette original' garment as a gift twice a year: once for his birthday and once for Christmas. It was kind of dumb, considering his father was a fashion designer and her gifts were probably drowned among all the other millions of gifts and cards Catafans sent him. But she couldn't imagine not sending him a gift for his birthday.
She had made him a jacket that year. She had retrieved the jacket from her house when she stopped by on Sunday, but now she wondered if it would be weird to send him the jacket. Or should she give it to him in person? Or should she not give him a gift at all?
"Ok, good. So we're going to celebrate his birthday on Sunday night," said Nino.
"Why Sunday instead of Saturday?" asked Marinette, curious.
"Adrien is having a dinner with his old man that day," explained Nino. Marinette was happy to hear Adrien's dad had the decency of having dinner with his own son on his birthday after all. "We're throwing him a party. It's not a surprise, so you don't have to worry about keeping it a secret. You're welcome if you want to join us and help us."
"Yes, of course!" replied Marinette, way too quickly. "How can I help?"
"Uh…We're still lacking snacks and decorations. You can coordinate that with Nathaniel since he hasn't decided yet what he'll bring. I'll be in charge of the music, Kim is providing the drinks, and Chloé is going to get us a place."
"Chloé?" asked Marinette. It was amazing the amount of bitterness she could imprint in a single word.
"We can't really throw a party here because we'll get evicted and Penny will have our heads, so Chloé is going to convince her dad to let us use a suite in Le Grand Paris," explained Nino.
"Should I bring a gift?" asked Marinette. It wouldn't be that weird to give him a birthday gift at his birthday party. She could give him the jacket without feeling awkward about it at all.
"It's not obligatory since the party itself is our gift, but I guess you can give him another gift if you want," replied Nino. "I'll be giving him another gift too."
That was it! Marinette was going to give him the jacket at his birthday party, and she was not going to be awkward at all. She could do it!
And she could also survive the increased vocal rehearsals because she needed a lot of training to be able to perform Notre Amour!
She could also survive an interview with Nadja Chamack!
She could do it!
Or at least she wanted to believe she could, and that was a start.
Adrien was touched when Nino told him they were going to throw him a party. He didn't know what he had done to deserve his friends, but he was glad. He offered to help them with the party, but they refused. They would take care of everything since they wanted to do that for him.
They were the best friends in the world - Chloé included, even if she could be a little too Chloé sometimes.
In contrast, Adrien was not a great friend. He had lied to his friends… well, kind of. Instead of telling them that his father was too busy to see him on his birthday, he let them believe he was planning to have dinner with his father that day. No one had actually asked him point blank, but the assumption was clearly there, and Adrien felt guilty because the only reason that the party was going to be on Sunday was so that he could have Saturday for his imaginary dinner with his father. And that wasn't fair, since everybody was going to be zombies on Monday morning, when they could've partied on Saturday and rested on Sunday.
Adrien should've told them the truth. He should've said that he didn't have plans for Saturday because his father had better things to do. But he didn't, because he was clinging to the hope that at any moment, Nathalie would call him to let him know that his father had changed his mind and that he was going to spend Saturday with him.
When he hadn't received a call or text from Nathalie by Friday, he should've already given up on having dinner with his father. But he didn't. Maybe his father would call him on his birthday to let him know he had cleared his schedule just for him.
On Saturday, he woke up really early. Before getting out of bed, he checked his phone, hoping for any message from his father. He got hundreds of notifications from fans wishing him 'Happy Birthday' on social media. He made a mental note to make a post the next day thanking everybody for their good wishes.
He checked his texts. He did have a text from Nathalie, but it was a simple 'Happy Birthday Adrien'. She didn't mention anything about his father. He tried not to be too disappointed; he still had the rest of the day. Aside from the text from Nathalie, he had one from Penny, one from Jagged, and one from the Gorilla.
He went to the living room, not really expecting to find the rest of the guys awake yet since it was still a bit early for their Saturday dance rehearsal. But to his surprise, all of them were waiting for him in the living room.
"Happy Birthday, Adrien!" they all screamed at the same time before taking turns to wish him a happy birthday. Nino's hug may or may not have crushed his bones.
Antoine was the last one to wish him a happy birthday, and he seemed nervous for some reason. Adrien guessed it was because he had an interview in a few hours. It was his very first interview, so it would be normal for him to be nervous.
"Do you like your birthday banner?" asked Nino, cheerfully pointing at it.
They had gotten one of those banners designed for little kid's birthday. It was bright, colorful and it read 'Congratulations! You are 2!' With a black marker, the guys had drawn a zero next to the two to make it a twenty.
Adrien couldn't help but laugh when he saw it. Oh, how he loved his friends!
The day passed without news from his father. Every time his phone rang, he ran to check it with the hope that it was a text from either his father wishing him happy birthday, or from Nathalie to let him know his father had cancelled his plans to spend the evening with him. He had no such luck.
When the afternoon rehearsal ended and he still hadn't heard from his father, Adrien knew he should just give up and tell Nino the truth. It was too late to move the party to Saturday, but at least he could go spend the evening at Nino's house instead of alone in the apartment. He knew Nino wouldn't say anything to the rest of the guys. It should be fine. But when he tried to tell Nino, he couldn't, because what if his father called and said they could have dinner together?
In the end, he said nothing. He went back to the apartment with the rest of the guys, and when they took their stuff and left, wishing Antoine good luck on his interview and Adrien a nice dinner with his father, Adrien said nothing.
Antoine rushed to take a shower before heading out again.
"I only came here to take a shower, but I need to get back to Miraculous Records right now because I need to get ready for my interview," explained Antoine. "So I'm kind of in a hurry. But I just wanted to tell you I'm happy your father is going to spend your birthday with you after all."
Antoine sounded so sincere when he said that, and for a second Adrien almost stopped him and told him the truth. But he didn't. Instead, he only replied, "Thanks Antoine! Good luck with your interview! I know you'll do great."
Antoine blushed. Adrien guessed he was not used to receiving compliments because he blushed every time Adrien gave him one.
"Tha…thanks!" replied Antoine. "Well… I gotta go. Bye!"
And with that, he left. Adrien was officially alone. He checked his phone once again, but he didn't have any news from his father.
To kill time, he started opening all the birthday cards and gifts from his fans. On each band member's birthday, fans sent gifts and cards to Miraculous Records – since the apartments' address was not public knowledge – and at the end of the day, Penny sent all that stuff to the band's apartment.
Adrien's pile of gifts was usually bigger than the rest of the guys', and they always teased him about it. He guessed it was because he didn't only have fans because he was a member of The Cataclysm, but because he used to be a model for his father's brand and even still did a gig for his father now and then.
He started digging through the pile of gifts, looking for a specific package. Among hundreds of gift, it was hard to find anything that stood out and even harder to remember the names of each of the thousands of fans that sent him stuff. But there was one gift he had come to expect. Somebody sent him handmade clothes every birthday and every Christmas. They were so neatly done they could've passed for professional stuff, but they didn't have any branding of any kind.
The fact that a fan took time to make something just for him was touching.
A birthday card usually accompanied the gift. It was always signed with the initials MDC and a drawing of a tiny ladybug. Adrien had never mentioned it to anybody else, but it was usually the highlight of his birthday. And that was why it was so disappointing when he seemed to be unable to find MDC's gift in the pile. To be fair, it was a huge pile, so maybe it was buried somewhere.
His phone rang, and Adrien ran to pick it up, hoping it was his dad, but it was only a vendor. He lay down on the couch, disappointed and hungry, and considered buying take out. But what if his father called him to have dinner and he had already eaten?
He noticed it was time for Antoine's interview, so he turned on the TV.
Antoine looked extremely nervous to be there. As Nadja introduced him, he kept glancing everywhere and seemed to be avoiding looking at Nadja directly. He seemed to relax as the interview progressed. He had this. Adrien had heard him practice the interview during the week. He knew he had this.
First, Nadja started asking about the audition and being the new member of The Cataclysm.
"I couldn't believe it when Alec said I was the new member," said Antoine. "I still can't believe it; it's like a dream come true."
Adrien was expecting Nadja to comment on the fact that Antoine had fainted during the interview, but she didn't. He knew Penny had reviewed the questions before the interview. He suspected she had vetoed invasive questions. His suspicions were confirmed when they touched the topic of the PMJ and Nadja didn't ask Antoine about his date. That was a little out of character for her.
They ended the interview with Nadja asking if they were releasing any new material soon, and Antoine saying they had a surprise for their fans. Adrien knew that question had been included to pique the fans' curiosity and prepare them for the announcement of Notre Amour, the date of which was yet to be determined.
Despite his initial nervousness, Antoine handled the interview decently. He smiled a lot at the audience, which was a good move on his part. It made him look approachable and nice.
Besides, he had a cute smile. His whole face brightened up when he smiled.
After the interview ended, Adrien checked his phone again. He still didn't have a message from his dad. He killed another hour trying to find MDC in the gift pile again, but again he couldn't find it. He was sure it had to be buried somewhere. When it was getting late and his phone still hadn't rung, he swallowed his pride and called his dad. When he didn't pick up, he called Nathalie.
"Adrien?" She sounded confused by his call.
"So…uhm." He didn't know how to approach the subject. Suddenly he felt like a fifteen-year-old boy again, asking Nathalie if his dad was going to spend his birthday with him. "I was trying to call my dad, but he wasn't picking up his phone."
"He probably turned it off. He's at a work dinner right now. Do you need anything?" replied Nathalie.
"Nothing urgent. Thanks," he said before disconnecting the call.
Adrien was not going to cry over this. Why should he? He was twenty years old, a grown up man! Besides, it was not the first time his dad had completely ignored him on his birthday. It wasn't a big deal. Who needed his dad when his friends were throwing him a birthday party the next day?
So he had no reason to cry.
Yet he felt the treacherous tears forming in the corners of his eyes.
Marinette had survived the interview with Nadja! She couldn't believe it! She just stuck to Penny's script and everything flowed smoothly. The interview ended before too late. She went back to the apartment wondering if she should stay the night there alone, or if it wasn't too late to pack her stuff and head to her parents' place. She would have to cross all of Paris on her bike at that hour, so she wasn't sure if it was a good idea, but it was tempting.
She opened the door, not expecting anyone to be there, so it was surprising to find Adrien lying facedown on the couch with his face buried in a cushion. What was he doing here? Wasn't he supposed to have dinner with his dad? Was he back already? She'd assumed he would sleep at his house after dinner. Maybe he just had dinner with his dad and then came back.
"What's up Adrien?" she asked. She was really getting the better at this whole 'speaking fluently with Adrien' thing. That almost sounded natural.
"Hey, Antoine," replied Adrien without moving a centimeter. "I saw your interview. You did a great job!"
He gave her a thumbs up without removing his face from the cushion, and his voice sounded weird, kind of raspy.
"Thanks! I was really nervous," replied Marinette, but she was more focused on Adrien's odd behavior than on his compliment on her interview.
Then it hit her. He couldn't have been at a dinner with his dad if he had watched her interview live.
"I didn't expect to find you here. I thought you were having dinner with your dad," she said, confused.
"Ye…yes…I mean no…I…um" was Adrien's eloquent reply. Marinette had never heard Adrien stutter before. And he still had not removed his face from the cushion. Adrien's stomach chose that very moment to make a noise that made it perfectly clear that he had not eaten anything in hours. "Something last minute came up, so he had to cancel."
While it was perfectly possible, something about his explanation sounded like a lie. Still whatever the truth was, Marinette's heart broke for the guy that was spending his birthday alone.
"It's not a big deal," replied Adrien in a casual voice, way too casual to be sincere.
She guessed his dad was a sensitive subject, so she didn't press any further. Instead she said:
"I'm starving!" It was not a lie. There was food in the apartment, but she felt like Adrien deserved something tasty for his birthday. "I was planning on ordering a giant pizza and eating it by myself, but I guess I can be generous and share it with you."
"Your generosity knows no bounds," replied Adrien in a joking manner. It was a good sign.
Marinette was about to dial the pizza place when she realized she had no idea what Adrien liked.
"What do you want on your pizza?" asked Marinette.
"I love Hawaiian," replied Adrien.
And that's when Marinette's world stopped and she finally understood what Luka meant when he said you can't love somebody without knowing them. She had sworn she was in love with Adrien for years, just to find out something like this.
This could not be happening.
She was beginning to accept Adrien was a human being, and therefore not perfect. She had mentally prepared herself for him to have some hidden flaw. But this was more than she could handle.
"You're one of those freaks that eat pineapple on pizza," uttered Marinette in horror before she could stop herself.
"Pineapple on pizza is tasty," replied Adrien, finally removing his face from the cushion. "And it gets a lot of underserved hate to be honest."
Marinette forgot her argument against pineapple pizza when she saw Adrien's face, and she finally understood why he was hiding it in the cushion to begin with. His face was wet, his eyes were red and puffy. He obviously had been crying not that long ago.
If Marinette ever got the chance to meet Gabriel Agreste, she was going to murder him with her own two hands.
She decided not to comment at all. She hated when people commented when she had been crying because it usually made her cry again. And he obviously was not in the mood to talk about it. Instead, she decided to do her best to improve what was left of Adrien's birthday.
Just sharing a pizza with him wouldn't do. Adrien deserved a proper birthday celebration with wine and cake.
"Pineapple doesn't belong anywhere near a pizza, but I'll give you a pass because it's your birthday," replied Marinette. "Can you order the pizza while I go to the supermarket? I need to buy some stuff."
Adrien looked at her in confusion, probably wondering why the hell she needed to go to the supermarket at this hour. "Sure man. What flavor do you like? I'll ask for half a Hawaiian pizza and half whatever you want."
"Pepperoni would be awesome," replied Marinette. Then she handed Adrien money and said, "In case the pizza comes before I do."
"Oh, it's ok. I can pay for it," replied Adrien without accepting the money.
"It's your birthday, so it's my treat," insisted Marinette, giving Adrien the money before going to her bedroom to get her helmet for the ride to the supermarket.
It was amazing how Antoine's sudden appearance had improved Adrien's mood. He guessed it was because he wouldn't have to spend his birthday alone. Besides, the fact that Antoine was buying him pizza was certainly a nice plus.
Adrien found it kind of weird that Antoine needed to go to the supermarket at this hour, when they had people that took care of their grocery shopping, but it was none of Adrien's business.
Adrien called the pizza place, and then called the lobby to let them know he was expecting a pizza, so they would allow the delivery guy to enter. Then he went back to try to find the MDC gift, but again, he didn't succeed.
Antoine came back to the apartment holding a bottle of wine and some bags.
"I don't know a single thing about wine, so I just got whatever was within my budget," was the first thing Antoine said as he put the bottle on the table. "I do, however, know a lot about cakes, and none of the cakes at the supermarket looked good enough, so I just got ingredients and I'll make you one."
Adrien's brain crashed. Antoine had gone to the supermarket to get him a cake? And he didn't deem any cake good enough, so he was going to bake him one? He was suddenly hit by a wave of gratitude, and he didn't know how to deal with it.
"You're making me a cake?" was the only thing he managed to say as his brain returned to normal.
"Don't worry, I'm a good baker," replied Antoine nervously. "I know it's late to start baking, but the only bakery I trust to make the cake you deserve is on the other side of Paris. I didn't know what flavor you like, so I decided chocolate was a safe bet because who doesn't like chocolate cake…"
Antoine's ramble was cut short when Adrien hugged him.
"Thankyouthankyouthankyou…" said Adrien so fast that it was almost impossible to understand what he was saying. "Nobody has ever baked me a cake before! Thank you!"
Adrien could feel Antoine freeze in his embrace. Adrien was used to hugging his friends; he didn't think much of it when he hugged Antoine. But obviously Antoine was not comfortable with it, so Adrien let him go immediately.
"You…you a-are we-welcome," replied Antoine. "I'll just st…start on the cake now."
"Can I help you?" asked Adrien excited.
"Sure," replied Antoine, looking more relaxed. "Have you ever baked a cake?"
"No, but I'm a fast learner."
It turned out that Adrien knew absolutely nothing about baking, not even the basics. But he was good at following instructions, and therefore he made a good helper. He seemed to enjoy the experience, and Marinette made a mental note of this. She had found another bonding activity aside from movies and video games. She could try to convince him to bake cookies or something next time.
The pizza arrived when they were starting the cake, so by the time the cake was finally in the oven, it was cold. She served a slice of the cold pizza and a glass of wine for each of them. The wine didn't really match the pizza, but it wasn't bad considering she had just picked whatever was within her budget.
Marinette was suddenly terrified by the idea that she was eating dinner with Adrien, and she didn't know what to talk about. She had had dinner with him plenty of times, but the other guys had always been there, too, to provide conversation. She had also been alone with him more than once, but playing video games and watching movies and baking didn't require a lot of conversation. Now that they were having dinner alone, the silence felt weird.
"So, have you heard they're making a Mecha Strike animated series?" asked Adrien suddenly, and Marinette was thankful for the conversation starter. The conversation flowed easily after that because Marinette had strong opinions about the idea of a Mecha Strike animated series.
Somehow they ended up talking about their favorite TV shows. Apparently Adrien was a huge nerd, but Marinette found that endearing.
Time flowed faster than she thought, because could have sworn it had only been five minutes when her phone rang to let her know thirty-five minutes had passed and it was time to get the cake out of the oven.
Marinette made a note for her future self to never again try to get a cake out of the oven after a couple of glasses of wine. It greatly increased the chance of either burning herself or dropping the cake. But somehow, after several close calls, she placed the cake on the table without incident.
"It looks spectacular," exclaimed Adrien in amazement.
"We did a good job!" agreed Marinette giving Adrien a fist bump. "We have to let it cool before we can eat it though."
Adrien seemed disappointed by the news. Marinette guessed he was expecting they'd just eat it straight out of the oven. They ended up watching late night TV, drinking wine, and talking on the couch while they waited.
Marinette decided to slow down with the wine when she noticed everything was spinning. Considering she had a huge secret to keep, getting drunk wasn't a good idea.
She realized she should really have stopped even earlier because she had a hard time cutting the cake in perfectly even pieces. But she had to do it because the only other person there was Adrien, who had drunk way more wine than she had and who had no experience cutting cake whatsoever.
Decorating the cake with whipped cream and strawberries turned out to be even harder.
"This is the best cake I have ever eaten," declared Adrien as solemnly as he could considering he had whipped cream on his nose and he was slurring his speech.
"Thanks, that's my dad recipe," replied Marinette. If she had anything to thank the wine for, it was that it made her a lot better at talking to Adrien. "He taught me how to bake."
"Your dad is a gift to mankind," replied Adrien taking another bite.
"I'll let him know," replied Marinette, giggling. "Though he'll think I'm a disappointment and an embarrassment to the family for using a can of whipped cream. He always makes whipped cream from scratch."
"That's awful," said Adrien. Marinette didn't expect him to take her ridiculous claim seriously. "My dad thinks I'm a disappointment and an embarrassment for being in the band."
Adrien sounded so sincere, and Marinette;s heart broke once again.
"I'm really sorry, Adrien," replied Marinette. "I was just joking about my dad, but I'm sorry to hear about yours."
That was awkward, but Marinette had to say it.
"It's ok," replied Adrien, but it really was not ok. Marinette felt awful. "He's never said out loud that he's embarrassed or disappointed in me because I'm in the band, but it's obvious. He's been even more distant with me since he found out about The Cataclysm. I mean, he has always been cold and distant, but it got worse after my mom died, and it got even worse after he found out about the band, then it got even worse when the band started to become popular."
Apparently a drunk Adrien was just a very talkative Adrien. Marinette wondered if he would talk about those things if he hadn't had way too much wine that night. Probably not. He didn't seem to be expecting any answer because now that he started ranting about his dad, he wasn't stopping.
"I've been doing my best to fix my relationship with him. I keep doing modeling gigs for his company, even if my schedule is really tight sometimes. I call him sometimes, but he never picks up the phone or texts me back unless it's work related. He didn't even wish me happy birthday! Actually, he told me he was too busy to see me on my birthday, but I was hoping he would change his mind, because I'm an idiot like that."
"You are not an idiot!" declared Marinette, so upset she felt like she could cry. "Your dad is an idiot if he can't see what an amazing son he has. And if he doesn't want to see that, that's his loss."
Marinette wasn't expecting Adrien to react to her words. She thought he'd just keep rambling about his dad, but instead he looked at her as if he was just seeing her for the first time.
"Thank you," he said, putting a hand on her shoulder. Marinette was never washing her shirt ever again. He had hugged her earlier, and now he'd put a hand on her shoulder. This was obviously her lucky shirt. Still, the fact that Adrien was thanking her just for telling him that his dad was the problem and not him was upsetting.
"No need to thank me, I was just stating a fact."
"I need to thank you," insisted Adrien, getting closer to her face. This was the closest she had ever been to him and it was making her stomach do backflips. "You made my birthday awesome when I thought it was going to be awful. You didn't let me spend my birthday alone, you shared your pizza with me, and you baked me the most delicious cake I have ever eaten."
Adrien's words were making her heart beat so fast that Marinette was scared it was going to escape her chest. Her face must have looked like a tomato, if the heat she felt on her face indicated anything.
"It was no big deal, really," replied Marinette, while instinctively she got even closer to Adrien's face.
"It was a huge deal," replied Adrien. "You made me feel better when my dad made me feel like crap. Now that I think about it, it's not the first time you've done it, either. Remember a few weeks ago, when we played video games until sunrise?"
"That day, my dad made me feel like crap too, and you made me feel better. How do you do it?"
"It's magic!" was Marinette reply because she couldn't think of anything coherent to say. She wished she could blame the wine for the chaos inside her head, but the real culprits were Adrien's gorgeous green eyes staring at her, and his gorgeous mouth that was just a centimeter away from hers.
"It's magic, indeed," agreed Adrien.
Then the centimeter was no more, and their lips touched.
I want to thank Slkworm for being my beta. Slkworm, I'll probably die without you!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Their lips touched, and Marinette's brain short-circuited. Adrien's lips were softer than she expected, and that was saying something. He tasted like wine and whipped cream.
Out of instinct, she deepened the kiss, and he accommodated. Her heart turned somersaults inside her chest.
She didn't know how long they kissed. It may have been a couple of seconds or ten years. But eventually, sanity reached Marinette and she jumped to the other side of the couch.
What had she done? She was horrified with herself.
She'd never thought she'd be horrified because she kissed Adrien.
Well, to be honest, she wasn't horrified because she had kissed Adrien. She was horrified because she had kissed him when he was drunk – she might be drunk too, but he was clearly more so – and emotionally vulnerable. That felt an awful lot like taking advantage of Adrien. It had been only a kiss, but the principle was the same.
Add to that that she was dressed as a boy, and as far as she knew, Adrien was straight, so he was clearly not interested in kissing Antoine.
Seeing Adrien's panicked expression made her feel like the scum of the earth.
"I'm sorry," said Adrien. "I'm really sorry."
Why was Adrien apologizing? She should be the one apologizing! He had done nothing wrong. He was only opening up to her about his problems with his dad, and she had taken advantage of him and kissed him.
"I'm the one who should be apologizing," replied Marinette, wishing the earth would open and swallow her whole. "I'm really sorry, Adrien!"
"Why are you apologizing? I kissed you!" replied Adrien, looking distressed. "I'm sorry."
Wait what? Did he just say HE kissed HER. No, no, no. She was pretty sure SHE had kissed HIM, not the other way around.
"I kissed you," she assured him. "I'm sorry."
"I'm sorry. I kissed you," repeated Adrien.
This was becoming a never-ending cycle, and they were going nowhere. She was pretty sure she had kissed him, but he seemed convinced he had kissed her. The argument was getting absurd.
"Let's just forget this happened," she said, feeling like a jerk for kissing him and then telling him it didn't happen. But if she didn't, she was afraid they would just spend the night stuck in a loop.
"This never happened," agreed Adrien.
Marinette nodded, which was a bad idea because it made her feel even dizzier. Everything was awkward after that, so they both went to bed without speaking much.
Adrien woke up on Sunday not knowing if he wanted to drink water, vomit, or just die. When he tried to move and the whole room started spinning, he made up his mind: Dying was clearly the superior option.
His dad probably wouldn't have free time to show up at his funeral, but whatever.
He was still pissed off with his dad about the previous night, and he was pissed off with himself for acting like a fool and hoping that his dad would make time for him. He was thankful that Antoine had prevented him from spending the night drowning in bitterness.
Antoine was incredibly kind to him. He had baked him a cake, and no one had ever baked Adrien a cake before. The only other person that ever cooked for him out of kindness – not because they were getting paid for doing it – was Nino's mom, but she wasn't into baking. So this was Adrien's first homemade cake. And it was the most delicious cake he had ever eaten. Antoine was really multi-talented: he was an awesome dancer, designer, and baker.
Adrien had had too much wine by the time the cake was served, but there wasn't any amount of alcohol in the world that would make him forget the most delicious cake he had ever eaten. He hoped he still had some left. They couldn't have they finished it; it was too much for two people. But he didn't remember clearly.
Actually, he didn't remember much at all after they had started eating the cake. He kind of remembered telling Antoine the truth about the dinner with his dad, which was embarrassing. Antoine probably thought he was pathetic, but Adrien was sure he wouldn't say anything out of kindness.
He wasn't sure how much he had actually said since his memories from that part of the night were blurry and they kept mixing with an absurd dream where he had kissed Antoine.
He wondered what that was about, but he didn't question it too much. He once had a dream where he was in an alien ship made out of mint, so kissing Antoine was not the most absurd dream he'd ever had. But it was weird how real it felt.
He found aspirins in one of his drawers, but he spent ages in bed evaluating his options. On one hand, he could get himself a glass of water to take the aspirin, which would make him feel better. But in order to do that, he needed to leave the bed and he was not ready for that. On the other hand, he could just lie there waiting for his death. That didn't include leaving the bed, which was good, but his head was about to explode.
He was tempted to pick the latter, but in the end, he picked the former. At least the urge to vomit had receded.
In the kitchen, he found Antoine drinking a cup of coffee. The poor guy looked even worse than Adrien felt.
"Good morning!" said Adrien, trying not to stare at Antoine's lips. That dream was messing with him.
"Go-good mor-ni-ning A-Adrien" replied Antoine. For some reason his stutter had returned. "The-there's e-enough coffee in the machine, if you want a cup."
"Thanks, my head is killing me," replied Adrien. He took the pill with a huge glass of water, which quenched his thirst but made the nausea return for a second. Then he got himself a cup of coffee.
He sat next to Antoine, who was still not looking at him.
Adrien wanted to thank him for baking him a cake and for not letting his dad's coldness ruin his birthday completely.
"So about last night…" started Adrien, trying to find the right words to express his gratitude.
"I thought we agreed to pretend it never happened!" replied Antoine with a hint of panic in his voice. That was the most confusing response Adrien had ever received.
"We did?" he asked, just to be completely sure.
"Yes, we did. Therefore, it never happened," insisted Antoine. The panic in his voice was even more obvious now.
Adrien was having a hard time following the conversation. Why would they agree last night never happened? Was Antoine one of those people that was weird about others being thankful to them? Or was Antoine talking about something else? That 'it' sounded suspiciously specific. Suddenly, being unable to remember the last part of the night clearly became incredibly frustrating.
"Well, I guess it never happened then," agreed Adrien. He wasn't sure he understood the conversation, or even if they were talking about the same thing, but he had a killer headache and he didn't feel like trying to understand anything right now. Besides, Antoine was obviously not in a sharing mood. Maybe later, when he didn't feel like dying, he'd try to ask again.
Antoine was drinking his coffee really fast, as if he was in a hurry to finish it. Adrien noticed that despite looking like death, Antoine was wearing street clothes, unlike Adrien who was still in pajamas because he didn't have enough energy to change.
"Are you going somewhere?" asked Adrien. The cup of coffee had brought him half to life.
"I have to run some errands," replied Antoine, still not meeting Adrien eyes. For some reason that was bothering Adrien. Why was Antoine avoiding eye contact? He didn't know why, but he wanted to see Antoine's blue eyes. "I'm bringing macarons to tonight's party, so I'm picking them up at the bakery."
"I love macarons!" replied Adrien. "Growing up, I always wanted to try them, but I was on a strict diet. When I left home to live with the guys, one of the first things I did was buy myself a huge box of like forty macarons just for me."
"How long did it take you to eat all of them?" asked Antoine.
"A little over half an hour," Adrien replied. He didn't know why eating one macaroon per minute was something to be proud of, but he was bragging about it.
"Wow, that's fast," replied Antoine, looking reluctantly impressed. "Were they that tasty?"
"I mean, they were tasty, but I mostly liked them because they tasted like the freedom of choosing what I wanted to eat," explained Adrien. The aftermath had been a horrendous stomach ache, but he had never regretted it.
Antoine smiled at him. There was some sadness in his eyes that Adrien couldn't quite understand. At least he was finally looking at him.
"I'll bring you macarons from the best bakery in Paris whenever you want," said Antoine, and he seemed completely serious about it. "You'll see tonight when you try them. They are the best."
Adrien felt his face warming. Antoine was one of the nicest people he had ever met.
"Thanks! You are awesome, man!" replied Adrien. Then it occurred to him that he shouldn't accept Antoine's spending so much money on him just because. He'd accepted it last night because it was his birthday party, but accepting it today too would be too much. "I'll pay for them, of course."
"It's ok, I know the owners," replied Antoine, but there was a hint of playfulness that made Adrien think he was missing a joke.
"Do you need help picking them up?" He couldn't let Antoine try to carry a lot of boxes by himself on his bike. "We can take my car and put the boxes in the backseat."
For some reason, Antoine looked conflicted for a second before replying.
"Thanks Adrien, but I need to run some other errands too. I promised Alya that we'd go buy some stuff that she needs for school. She's starting school next Monday. So she's picking me up in her sister's car."
One would think Antoine and Alya were conjoined twins. Adrien shouldn't care.
"You and Alya are always together," observed Adrien with absolutely zero bitterness.
"I adore her," replied Antoine, and for some reason that stung Adrien. "Actually, I wanted to ask something. Can I bring Alya to the party? I mean I know it's your party so if you say no that's fine but…"
Adrien wanted to scream. Antoine absolutely couldn't bring Alya to the party.
"Sure," replied Adrien because he couldn't think of a sane reason to say no.
"Thanks a lot!" replied Antoine, smiling at him for the first time that morning. "I gotta go. Bye."
After Antoine left the apartment, Adrien finished his coffee, but it tasted bitter now.
While she was waiting in the front of the building for Alya to pick her up, Marinette took her time to panic. Something she couldn't do in the apartment because Adrien was there too.
She had kissed Adrien when he was drunk and sad, which was probably somewhere on the very first page of The Assholes' Playbook. So she had convinced herself that Adrien was going to be disgusted by her when he sobered up, thinking she was some sort of creep for taking advantage of him when he was drunk and then telling him to pretend it never happened. (A small part of her brain had told her that she was over-reacting and that all she needed to do was acknowledge the kiss instead of pretending it hadn't happened, and then apologize properly now that they were sober. But she ignored that part. The world was clearly ending.)
But when Adrien walked into the kitchen that morning, he acted completely normal around her. That confused her. Sure, she had told them to pretend the kiss didn't happen, but she didn't expect him to actually do it.
Did he hate her? Was he just faking being polite? Was everything ok between them? She wanted to scream because she didn't know. If she could have any superpower in the world right now, she'd pick mind-reading to get an inner look at Adrien's thoughts.
Of course, she could have let him talk about it when he tried to do it in the kitchen, but that would include having to talk about it. And she didn't want to talk about it. She just wanted to know what Adrien thought of her without having to do any talking. Besides, she wouldn't be able to handle it if Adrien hated her…or, well, Antoine.
When she reminded him they'd agreed to pretend the kiss never happened, she was kind of waiting for him to insist on talking about it. She didn't think he'd drop the subject and start acting normally around her, but she was glad he did. She followed his lead and started talking normally to him too, and in the end, she'd even put together enough courage to ask him if she could bring Alya to the party.
However, she couldn't help but wonder what he was thinking the whole time, and she couldn't stop over-analyzing every word that came out of his mouth.
When Nora's car drove up and Alya stopped in front of her, Marinette got into the car and before any sort of greeting, she screamed:
"I KISSED ADRIEN LAST NIGHT!"
Alya's face was pure poetry.
"And you just drop that bomb without any preparation or warning, and while I'm driving?!"
"Sorry," said Marinette. "I just needed to say it out loud."
"Geez girl! Here I was, about to ask you about your interview with Nadja, and you tell me you kissed Adrien!"
While they were in traffic, Marinette told Alya the full story, complete with her commentary and a panic attack.
"So, just to be clear, he kissed you or you kissed him?"
"I kissed him," replied Marinette, ashamed.
"If you kissed him, what was he apologizing for?" asked Alya.
"He was so drunk, he was talking some nonsense about how he kissed me," explained Marinette.
Alya looked at her for a second. "Have you considered the possibility that he did kiss you?" she asked.
"I'm pretty sure I kissed him," replied Marinette. Her memories from that part of the night were kind of foggy, but why would Adrien kiss Antoine? "I'm dressed as a guy, remember? Adrien isn't into guys."
"As far as you know."
"As far as I know," agreed Marinette. "But even if he were, it doesn't mean he's into Antoine."
"I don't know about that. He did kiss Antoine. Or do you think he just goes around kissing other band members when he's drunk?" Alya looked exasperated.
The last statement gave Marinette a flashback to various 'The Cataclysm' slash forums.
"He didn't kiss me. I kissed him," insisted Marinette.
"I'm not sure about that, but I wasn't there so I'll have to trust your word," replied Alya. "Did he say something when you saw him this morning?"
They reached the mall as Marinette finished telling Alya about the morning conversation with Adrien. Since Alya was starting school the following Monday, she wanted to buy a few things for her new apartment as well as some school supplies.
"So tonight is Adrien's birthday party, and he said you could come," said Marinette while they browsed shower curtains.
"That's awesome. Sure! Where is it?"
"At Le Grand Paris."
"So that means Chloé will be there?"
"Yes, but I bet we can avoid her in a bigger crowd," replied Marinette. "Besides, Nino will be there too."
Marinette wished she had had her phone in her hands to capture the exact moment Alya Césaire blushed. That was something you only get to see once in a lifetime.
"Why would I care if Nino is there?" asked Alya, but she sounded more embarrassed than anything.
"No reason." Marinette gave her friend a knowing smile.
"So, you didn't tell me about Nadja's interview?" was Alya 'smooth' change of topic. Marinette humored her friend and started telling her the epic story of her interview, when someone tapped her shoulder.
It was a blonde teenage girl a few years younger than them, maybe around thirteen or fourteen years old. She was with three other girls around her age that stayed back.
"Yes?" asked Marinette.
"Excuse me, are you Antoine from The Cataclysm?" She asked.
For a second, Marinette almost said no. She was getting used to being called Antoine, but she had never been recognized in public before, and it baffled her.
"Yes, I'm Antoine," replied Marinette, the name sounding less foreign from her lips than it used to.
The girls face lit up like a Christmas tree.
"Oh my gosh! I told my friends you were you, but they didn't believe me," screamed the girl. "My name is Aimée, and these are Anne, Jeanne, and Louise."
"Nice to meet you," replied Marinette because she didn't know what else to say. The four girls screamed, and Marinette would have found that annoying if it weren't for the fact that she used to be like that.
Who was she kidding? She was still a crazy fan. She'd just had to tone it down because she needed to act like a normal person around the band members.
"Nice to meet you too! We loved you at the audition!" replied another girl, Anne or Jeanne? Marinette couldn't remember which was which, but it was the red-headed one.
"Can you sign something for us?" asked the dark-haired one, who was either Anne or Jeanne depending on which one the red-head was.
"Can we take a picture with you? For Instagram," asked most-definitely-Louise.
"Sure," replied Marinette. As far as she knew, she was allowed to take pictures with fans.
Marinette took a couple of pictures with the girls. Then they asked for her Instagram to tag it. Marinette almost gave them her real Instagram without thinking, but she corrected herself just in time to give them Antoine's Instagram that Penny had set up. She needed to start posting there more often.
"Thanks so much!" said Aimée. "Can you tell the rest of the guys we love them too?"
"Especially Nino!" added Louise. "Tell Nino I love him. Someday I'll be Madame Lahiffe!"
Marinette felt Alya tensing beside her, which she found amusing. Her friend would never admit that she was jealous of a thirteen year old girl.
"I'll do that," replied Marinette.
The girls were nice, and the whole situation was kind of amusing. Louise wanted to marry Nino and she had no idea that the way his socks smelled could kill a man. Then Marinette cringed when she realized that she had wanted to marry Adrien when she didn't know a single thing about him. She was no better than them, and at least they were like thirteen. She was nineteen, for goodness sake.
The girls left, and Marinette stayed with Alya picking out a cute shower curtain while Alya teased her about being recognized by fans.
After Adrien finished his coffee, he lay back down in his bed for a few more hours, not wanting to do anything except rest. He made a quick tweet thanking the fans for their birthday wishes, and when he had enough energy to leave the bed again, he went to try to find the MDC gift with no success.
During the day, he became obsessed with the dream where he kissed Antoine.
The thing was, dreams always follow a pattern. They feel pretty real when you wake up, and they fade slowly during the day until you eventually forgot that they happened.
This dream refused to follow that pattern. Adrien had started his day convinced it had been a weird dream that he barely remembered. But the longer he was awake, it felt more and more real until it seemed like a foggy memory instead of a dream.
Except that it was absurd. They hadn't kissed. It was just a weirdly realistic dream… wasn't it? Why would they kiss? Antoine was pretty much in love with Alya, and he wouldn't be kissing other people. And Adrien… well Adrien couldn't actually think of a good reason why he wouldn't kiss Antoine besides the fact that Antoine was a guy and he was not into guys. Or at least he had never been attracted to a guy before, and he had met plenty of good-looking guys.
Was he attracted to Antoine? He had always thought his smile was cute, and his eyes were gorgeous, and that he was a very attractive man. But he thought Kim was attractive too. That didn't mean he was into Kim.
He tried to imagine kissing Kim, and the idea was a weird one. He didn't want to kiss Kim, like at all. Then he tried to imagine kissing Antoine, and he was not immediately opposed to the idea. Images of the maybe-not-a-dream of kissing Antoine came to him, and he realized that not only was he not opposed to the idea, he wanted to try it (again?).
He remembered Antoine's weird comment earlier that morning about agreeing something hadn't happened. Was the kiss that something? Had they kissed and then agreed it never happened? That was plausible, but Adrien didn't know for sure. He had never been more frustrated about not remembering something.
If the kiss did happen, it made all the sense in the world that Antoine wanted to pretend it didn't. He had a girlfriend… even if said girlfriend flirted with Nino right in front of his face.
To distract himself, he sat at the piano and started practicing random songs. He was alone in the apartment. He could practice as much as he wanted without disturbing anyone.
After extended hours of practicing Notre Amour, Adrien had the song stuck in his head. The song was supposed to be only guitar and voices, but Adrien was struck with the idea that it would sound awesome with a piano too. Each member of the band had sheet music for the song, so he found his and began trying different arrangements for an additional piano part.
When he was satisfied with the result, he recorded himself with his phone. Then he opened a message to Nathaniel:
[AA: Audio file attached]
[AA: What do you think?]
[NK: Is that a piano version of Notre Amour?]
[AA: Yeah, what do you think?]
[NK: That you need to send that to Penny and Jagged ASAP. I bet it's not too late to add a piano to the official version]
[AA: You like it then?]
[NK: I love it, send it]
Adrien sent the song to Penny and Jagged. Jagged loved it. Penny agreed it was awesome, but she was a little worried about making changes when they were supposed to record the studio version on Thursday. They'd barely have four days to practice. In the end, they agreed to discuss it on Monday meeting.
Before Adrien realized, it was almost time for the party. He had hoped that Antoine would come to the apartment before it was time to leave so that maybe he could ask him directly about the kiss while they were alone –and maybe try those macarons before the party- but there was no such luck.
Marinette wanted to thank whoever invented elevators. Otherwise she didn't know how she and Alya would have made it to the third floor of Le Grand Paris with several boxes of macarons and the gift for Adrien.
Adrien was still not there when they arrived, but that was to be expected. They'd told him the party started half an hour later so that everybody would be there when Adrien arrived.
The party was looking pretty good. Nino was playing awesome music as usual. Nathaniel had done a neat job with the decorations. Kim had procured way too much alcohol for the party considering the guest list was under thirty people, and a lot of non-alcoholic drinks too.
Chloé was there talking to Sabrina, who now had an unfortunate haircut. Marinette didn't dislike Sabrina, just her inexplicable desire to be Chloé's slave. But it'd be better to avoid her because she might recognize her.
Kim helped them carry the macaron boxes and they set them up at a table.
When Adrien entered the suite, the crowd erupted in a bunch of "Happy birthday, Adrien!" while Nino and Kim shot him with confetti.
Everybody started congratulating Adrien and hugging him. Marinette went to sit on a chair. She had mentally prepared to give him the jacket. She had been ready. But then last night happened, and she didn't know how to approach Adrien. He had been acting normal in the morning, but she was nervous about approaching him anyway.
She decided to wait until people had left Adrien alone to give him her gift. After people had finished congratulating him and the party had officially started, she approached Adrien, holding the bag with the jacket tight in her hands.
She tapped his shoulder and said:
"Happy birthday Adrien!" as she presented the gift to him.
She had never had problems sending him gifts, but now she felt incredibly dumb giving him a gift in person, especially when his dad was a fashion designer and her gift was a simple fake-leather jacket with golden decorations.
Adrien smiled at her, and Marinette's pulse increased ten-fold.
"Thanks, Antoine," he said, accepting the gift. But he didn't open it immediately, Marinette was thankful for that. She would have been disappointed if he didn't like it. "I've been meaning to talk to you about something. Do you mind if we go outside for a bit?"
"Sure," replied Marinette, confused by the odd request.
What did Adrien want to talk about? Marinette could only think of one topic that needed to be discussed privately, and she was not looking forward to that conversation.
Maybe it was better to just have the conversation though. She never should've told Adrien to pretend it didn't happen. It was a cowardly thing to do. What she needed to do was acknowledge the kiss, acknowledge the fact that she was a creep who had kissed Adrien when he was drunk and emotional, apologize for that, and be done with it.
They went to the corridor where they had more privacy.
"So, what do you want to talk about?" asked Marinette. It was better to just do this quickly.
Adrien moved nervously and he seemed to be looking for the right words.
"Last night I had a dream…well I thought it was a dream, now I'm suspecting that maybe it wasn't," started Adrien. "Look, I'm probably not making any sense, and I don't know how to ask without making everything awkward, so I'll just ask, ok?"
Adrien was definitely not making a lot of sense, but he was still doing better than how she used to talk around him when they first met.
Still, there was only one topic that could make him this nervous, and Marinette was not looking forward to talking about it.
Adrien took a deep breath and asked:
"Did we kiss last night?" There it was. Marinette had been mentally prepared herself for him to ask about the kiss, but still her stomach turned flips when he asked. "I'm like ninety percent positive we kissed, but my memories from that part of the night are kind of dim."
Another person would have taken advantage of the fact that Adrien didn't remember clearly and deny completely that the kiss ever happened. But Marinette was not that person. She already felt terrible for telling him to pretend the kiss happened. She needed to be a grown up, admit she did something wrong, and apologize for it.
"Yes, we kissed." There. She admitted it.
Adrien was looking at her in utter shock. For someone who was ninety percent positive they kissed, he looked surprised by this information.
She had already told him the truth. Now was the time for apologies.
"I'm sorry, Adrien. I'm really sorry. That should never have happened." There. She recognized she did something wrong and she apologized for it. She was a grown up! "I promise it won't happen again."
Adrien was still looking at her in shock. Then he seemed to recover a little and said:
"Oh, ok, awesome. Thanks for telling me. Let's go back to the party." There was something weird about his tone of voice, but Marinette was glad the conversation was quicker and less awkward than she had expected (and it was pretty awkward). Still, she wanted to know if Adrien was mad at her. He certainly was acting strange.
As soon as she opened the door to rejoin the party, Alya grabbed her by the hand and dragged her to the bathroom.
As soon as the door closed behind her, Alya said:
"Nino told me he's not interested."
Marinette had so many questions she didn't even know where to start. When had Alya finally admitted to herself she was crushing on Nino? Or what exactly just happened at the party? She literally only left for a few minutes. Or why did Nino reject her if it was pretty obvious he was crushing on her too?
Alya looked sad, so Marinette gave her a hug and said, "Tell me what happened."
As soon as they entered the party, Antoine was dragged by Alya to the bathroom and they locked themselves there. Adrien was not even surprised.
Antoine had been pretty clear that he regretted the kiss and it was never going to happen again. He was obviously pretty much in love with his girlfriend, and there was no way he was going to let a dumb drunken kiss with his bandmate ruin that.
At least he now knew one thing: He was attracted to Antoine. He had spent all afternoon overanalyzing his feelings for Antoine and he didn't come to a conclusive answer. Antoine's rejection, however, made him see things clearly. He was attracted to Antoine because there was no way that Antoine telling him he regretted the kiss would've hurt this much if he wasn't.
He looked around the suite, trying to find a place to sit without anybody disturbing him. It was his own party and he should enjoy it, but how could he when he was trying to accept the fact that he was attracted to a guy, and that aforementioned guy had rejected him before Adrien could fully understand his feelings?
He noticed Jagged was playing with the DJ console. Where was Nino? It was out of character for him to just leave his console unattended. He didn't like people playing with it, not even his producer/boss/musical idol.
Nino couldn't be in the bathroom because Antoine and Alya were there – and didn't that hurt - and he couldn't be in the hall because Adrien was just there with Antoine and he hadn't seen Nino exit the suite. The only place he could be then was the balcony.
He went to the balcony and found Nino alone playing with his phone.
"Bro, Jagged is playing with your console," was Adrien's way of making his presence known.
"Oh, hey dude" replied Nino not even looking at Adrien. The fact that he barely acknowledged Adrien's presence and didn't seem too bothered by Jagged toying with his console was worrying.
"Are you ok man?" asked Adrien, putting a hand on Nino's shoulder.
"Yes, I'm ok," replied Nino, but Adrien knew him well enough to know he was lying. "What are you doing here? Shouldn't you be enjoying the party?"
Enjoying? All Adrien wanted to do was lock himself in his bedroom and not come out until the whole Antoine thing stopped hurting.
"As if it's possible to enjoy it with Jagged as the DJ. Jagged is a man of many talents, and being a DJ is most definitely not one of them," replied Adrien. Nino laughed a little and Adrien internally celebrated that. "But seriously, what's wrong?"
Nino stared into the distance for a few seconds. If Adrien didn't know better, he would've thought Nino was ignoring his questions. But he knew his bro and that he'd reply in a second.
"So, you remember last week at the PMJ? That Alya came with us to the ceremony?"
As if Adrien could forget. He nodded, not knowing where that story could be going.
"Well, that day, I kind of thought we had a connection, and, well, we kind of flirted. I wasn't sure if she was dating Antoine or not. But at the end of the night, it became pretty obvious that they're together. So I thought I had misread the whole situation and Alya was not flirting with me, she was just being nice." It sounded as if it pained Nino to say this.
"So today, she came to me when I was getting myself a drink, and she was all flirty and stuff. I didn't know what to do, so I decided to take the direct route and asked her if she was flirting with me," continued Nino awkwardly. "She literally said, 'About time you finally noticed.'"
"She actually said that?!" asked Adrien. It was pretty obvious Alya was flirting with Nino, but he wouldn't have expected her to admit it.
"She did, and it sucks because I like her and she seems like an awesome girl, but it's disappointing that she would flirt with me when she has a boyfriend and he's my bandmate."
"And what did you tell her?"
"I told her I wasn't interested, of course," replied Nino.
"Of course," agreed Adrien.
"She looked hurt when I told her. It made me feel like an asshole," said Nino. "But I'm not interested in being anyone's side-guy."
"She couldn't be that hurt if she immediately locked herself in the bathroom with Antoine," replied Adrien. Nino flinched, and Adrien regretted saying it. "Sorry."
Nino shrugged and said, "It's not as if I didn't know they were together."
Adrien disliked Alya more and more every second.
He already disliked her for being Antoine's girlfriend, but he understood Antoine and Alya had been dating for eons before Antoine joined the band. If Adrien was dumb enough to develop feelings for Antoine – and he was still trying to understand them - then Adrien was an idiot.
What was making him mad was that she was toying with both Nino's and Antoine's feelings. She was hurting both of them.
"Besides, I've only met her a couple of times. I like her, but it's not as if she's the love of my life or something," added Nino. "Antoine, on the other hand… do you think I should tell him? I mean, I'd want my friends to tell me if my girl was flirting with someone else."
Antoine was going to be heartbroken and Adrien didn't want him to suffer, but he agreed with Nino. He wouldn't be a good bro if he hid this from Antoine.
"I guess it's better to tell Antoine the truth," said Adrien. "This is going to break his heart though. He seems to be so in love with her, and it's not fair that she would just do this to him. I mean, I know we kissed, but we were drunk and unlike Alya he seems to regret his actions."
"You kissed whom?" asked Nino, his eyes opening comically.
Adrien panicked, realizing what he had said. He thought about lying, but Nino was his friend and he needed to talk about what had happened. So he told him the full story. Nino only interrupted him once when Adrien told him the truth about the dinner with his father, and it was to tell him his dad was an asshole and he, Nino, hereby declared himself Adrien's new dad. Then he listened to the rest of the story in silence.
"Are you ok with that?" asked Nino when Adrien got to the conversation he'd just had with Antoine, the one where Antoine told him the kiss shouldn't have happened and it wasn't going to happen again. "Do you like him?"
"Ye…no…I don't know," replied Adrien honestly. He didn't know what he was feeling. All he knew was that it hurt a lot. "But it doesn't matter because he doesn't like me either way. Point is, he regrets the kiss. He seemed very remorseful, and Alya just flirts with you and as soon as you reject her, she locks herself in the bathroom with Antoine!"
Nino looked at the city. The third floor didn't have a good view, but he seemed to be lost in thought.
"Do you feel like we're missing something here?" asked Nino.
"I don't know. It's just that at the PMJ, Alya was flirting with me in front of Antoine and he didn't seem bothered by it at all."
"Maybe he's good at hiding his feelings," said Adrien, but he didn't actually believe it. Antoine's face was an open book.
"Or maybe he wasn't actually bothered about Alya flirting with me."
"Why wouldn't he care that his girlfriend was flirting with somebody else?" asked Adrien, confused. "Unless they're in an open relationship or something like that."
"It's not impossible. What do we know? We don't know a lot about their relationship," replied Nino. Then an idea seemed to hit him. "Do we even know for sure that they're together?"
Now that Adrien thought about it, they never actually asked. They just assumed.
"I mean, it's pretty obvious. You don't lock yourself in the bathroom with your platonic friend," replied Adrien.
"Is that coming from the guy that once locked himself in a closet with Chloé for two hours?"
"First of all, I didn't lock us in, Chloé did. And it was because she wanted to dress me up like a Ken doll. Second of all, we were like ten, it doesn't count. Third, I regret telling you that story. Lastly, I think you may have a point though."
"I think we should talk with Antoine and ask him what his relationship with Alya is," said Nino. "If they're together, it may hurt but at least we'll know. If they aren't, then I'm the biggest idiot in the world for rejecting her."
"Do you think we should wait until the party is over?"
"Yeah, or maybe even tomorrow," said Nino. "Now, I think Jagged has been alone with my console for far too long."
"Go, save your console," Adrien encouraged him. When Nino left the balcony, Adrien stayed behind. He still had Antoine's gift in his hands. Maybe he should put it somewhere safe before rejoining the party. A little card fell of the bag. Adrien picked it up and read it.
It simply read, 'Happy birthday, Adrien! – ADY' in a very familiar handwriting.
My laptop got stolen! That was on Tuesday, Chapter 7 was already finished by then and my beta already had it, that's why I was able to post it today. But I don't have a laptop to finish Chapter 8.
This story will have to go on a short temporary hiatus until I can get a new laptop. I'll need to get a new one soon for school anyway so I can promise it won't be a long hiatus, maybe around two or three weeks.
Thanks so much guys
Guess who is a proud owner of a PC?
I want to thank slkworm for being my beta and make this readable for you!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Why was Antoine's handwriting so familiar to him? Had he ever seen Antoine write something? That wasn't impossible, but he wasn't satisfied with that explanation. He opened the bag out of curiosity.
Inside, there was what seemed to be something made of leather. He took the item out of the bag, and upon further inspection, he realized it was a jacket made of fake leather. It had golden details. Adrien actually liked it a lot. Antoine had picked a good jacket for him. He wondered where he got it from. He tried to find the label, but there was none in sight. He examined the jacket and came to the conclusion it must be handmade. He was good at recognizing handmade clothes.
He remembered that at the PMJ, Alya had said that Antoine made her dress.
Had Antoine made him a jacket?
Had Antoine actually taken time to design a jacket and then actually put work into making it just to give it to Adrien?
Adrien didn't know what to do with that information. All he knew was that his knees were weak, and he didn't know what he was feeling. Apparently, his organs had decided to become Olympic athletes. His stomach had taken up gymnastics, and his heart was a speedrunner. His bubble exploded when he remembered the conversation he had with Antoine after he gave him the gift, and everything hurt again.
At least he got a nice handmade jacket since he hadn't even gotten a gift from MDC this year.
Then something clicked in Adrien's brain. He thought he remembered where he had seen Antoine's handwriting before. It looked similar to the handwriting on MDC's gifts. Could it be…?
He couldn't jump to conclusions. He needed to apply the scientific method:
Fact one: Antoine and MDC had similar handwriting. (Possibly. He needed to compare them just to be sure.)
Fact two: MDC sent him a gift every year except for this one (or at least he was unable to find it in the frankly enormous pile of gifts).
Fact three: For the first time since The Cataclysm had become popular, he hadn't received a gift from MDC. He however received one from Antoine, and it was exactly the same kind of gift MDC usually sent him.
Hypothesis: MDC and Antoine were the same person.
He didn't know how far-fetched it was. Was it unlikely that two people with similar handwriting made hand-made clothes for him? Or was it more unlikely that the fan that usually sent him gifts had ended up joining the band?
He needed to test his hypothesis. He kept all of his cards from MDC in a box in his room. He could use them to compare handwriting. He kind of wanted to run to the apartment that very second just to do that, but he couldn't because this was his party and it would be incredibly rude to just leave.
He spent the rest of the night with his mind on the gift and on MDC.
If Antoine was indeed MDC, that meant he had taken the time to make something for Adrien twice a year before he even met him. Adrien was melting just over him making him a jacket; if Antoine was MDC, his brain was going to crash.
Antoine spent the rest of the night dancing with Alya and giving Nino the stink-eye. It was making Adrien wonder what Alya's version of the story had been. He hoped she hadn't said Nino was the one flirting with her and not the other way around.
The party ended only a couple of hours before they were supposed to be up for Monday's meeting. Adrien should've gone straight to bed when they got to the apartment, but instead he went to his closet to get the shoebox where he kept his cards from MDC. It was impossible to keep all his fan letters - actually, it was impossible to read all his fan letters. He usually only read a few of them before they were discarded. It always made Adrien feel like an asshole, but it wasn't as if he could keep all that paper.
However, he just couldn't throw away MDC's cards. This person had taken the time to make him handmade clothes, and the least he could do was kept the card.
He opened the box and took out the first card he saw, which just happened to be the previous year's Christmas card. He put it side by side with Antoine's card. Adrien was not an expert in analyzing handwriting like a detective on a crime TV show, but he could tell it wasn't just similar handwriting; it was identical.
What did that mean then? Apparently Antoine had been a Catafan before joining the band (which, for some reason, Adrien found endearing). But did he send gifts to all the band members, or were the gifts just for him? None of the other guys had ever mentioned receiving gifts like MDC's, but then Adrien had not mentioned MDC's gifts either.
And what did MDC even mean anyway? He had signed the card that came with the jacket as ADY, which were his initials. But why sign the other stuff as MDC?
The fact that Antoine was the one who gave him his favorite scarf, dress shirt, vest, sweater and now jacket was doing weird things to Adrien's heart. It was beating so fast and loud that Adrien feared the other guys might hear it from their rooms. He tried to calm it…and then he remembered that Antoine deeply regretted their kiss and was dating Alya, and his heart almost stopped altogether.
Everybody looked like a zombie at the Monday meeting. They had only gone to bed a few hours earlier. At least Marinette had not drunk at all; since the kiss, she'd decided to stay away from alcohol for a while. She didn't know how Jagged, Kim, and Nathaniel were going to survive the meeting with a hangover. She was pretty sure she hadn't see Adrien drink either, but he still looked as if he had been dead for ten years. And Nino…
Well, Marinette didn't care about Nino.
That was a lie. She was fond of Nino. But she was mad at him, so she was not going to worry about the fact that he looked as if he hadn't slept at all either. She couldn't believe the way he had rejected Alya last night. She understood Nino was not obligated to date anyone, but there were gentler ways to reject a person.
Penny was not happy. She was the only person alive that morning, but she insisted that the meeting continue nonetheless. She seemed especially pissed at Jagged because 'He was the producer for goodness' sake.'
Penny opened the meeting by telling them that the interview with Nadja was a success and then congratulating Antoine. Had that interview really only been two days ago? It felt as if a lifetime had passed. Marinette blushed as the rest of the guys congratulated her in their zombie-like states.
Next, Penny presented the idea of adding piano to Notre Amour. She played the audio that Adrien had sent her and asked for the band's opinion. They all loved it, but the general concern was that they were recording the song on Thursday, and they didn't know if there was enough time for Adrien to practice.
"We can reschedule the song to be recorded Saturday instead of Thursday so Adrien can have more time to rehearse with the piano," proposed Penny. "I know it's only two extra days, but we can't postpone it for much longer. We need to release new material soon."
This was met with different noises of agreement.
"Also, this will mean that Adrien has to practice as much as possible this week," continued Penny, "maybe stay a couple of extra hours every day. Are you ok with this, Adrien?" She looked apologetic about it.
"Sure, no problem," answered Adrien.
Marinette felt bad for Adrien. Two extra hours meant a total of ten hours of rehearsals a day. It was too much! She understood the song was scheduled to be recorded on Saturday and Adrien had to practice, and the song would surely sound gorgeous with the addition of the piano. But still, two extra hours was too much.
After the meeting, Jagged and Penny asked Marinette if she could stay behind while the rest of the guys took a ten minutes break before they started the rehearsal.
"I'm sorry for making you lose your break, Antoine," started Penny, "but we wanted to talk to you about something."
Marinette wondered what it was. It couldn't be something about her secret because Jagged was there and he knew nothing about that.
"Man, you're an amazing dancer… but not the best singer, and you need to practice a lot for recording Notre Amour," said Jagged.
It was not as if Marinette didn't know all the rest of the guys were better singers than she was. And she knew Jagged wasn't mean on purpose; he just had the tact of a rock. But it still stung.
"What Jagged is trying to say," started Penny, glaring at Jagged, "is that you're a good singer, but clearly untrained. Your strength is dancing. And Notre Amour is pure voice; you won't have an opportunity to impress the fans with your dancing. So we need you to practice as much as you can before we record this weekend."
"Adrien is going to stay in the studio two extra hours every day, too. You can stay with him and you both can practice," suggested Jagged.
Two hours alone with Adrien every day this week?! Had Marinette died and gone to heaven?
"Wouldn't I disturb his piano practice with my singing?" asked Marinette. She wanted to spend those hours with Adrien, but she'd hate to disturb his practice when they were supposed to record the song on Saturday.
"It would actually make for a better practice to have you singing there while he plays the piano," shrugged Penny. "Now, go enjoy the rest of your break."
Marinette left the meeting room feeling as if she was in a dream. Having to stay behind two extra hours would be a bummer, if it weren't for the fact that those two extra hours were going to be spent exclusively in Adrien's company.
This had to be a dream!
The smell of coffee in the break room was stronger than usual, but most of the band needed a strong dose of caffeine. Nathaniel and Kim needed to survive a hangover. Adrien and Nino hadn't drunk much the previous night, but neither of them had slept at all, so they needed the coffee as much as their bandmates.
Antoine joined them around seven minutes into the break, with just enough time to quickly chug a cup of coffee before they went to the rehearsal.
"So, what did Penny and Jagged want?" asked Kim. All of them wanted to know, but of course Kim was going to be the one who actually asked.
"They said I need to practice my singing more to be ready to record the song," answered Antoine. He looked embarrassed to be telling them this. "I have to stay behind a couple of hours every day until Saturday."
"Oh, that sucks, man," replied Kim, giving Antoine a sympathetic pat in the back.
"At least you won't be alone," said Nathaniel. "Adrien has to stay a couple of extra hours, too."
"Yeah, Jagged and Penny said we could practice together," replied Antoine.
Jagged and Penny said what?
Adrien needed to practice and how he was supposed to concentrate with Antoine right beside him? Adrien was still having a crisis over the kiss, and a different kind of crisis over the gift. He didn't trust his brain to function correctly if he was left alone with Antoine.
"Awesome, then at least you'll keep each other company," replied Nathaniel, completely unaware of Adrien's mental crisis.
Neither Adrien nor Antoine said anything.
The rest of the morning was kind of a blur. The only memorable thing was that Kim and Nathaniel struggled to survive the morning rehearsal without throwing up.
Lunch was an awkward affair. Antoine was still sending death glares in Nino's direction. Every second, Adrien was more and more sure that Alya had told Antoine that Nino was the one flirting with her. Antoine should be angry at Alya, not Nino! Alya was the one flirting with another guy. Nino was a good friend and rejected her.
Of course, there was also Nino's theory that Antoine and Alya might not actually be together, but Adrien was not convinced. It kind of sounded like wishful thinking on Nino's part. However, he agreed with Nino that maybe they should ask them directly.
Adrien wanted to ask Antoine over lunch while he was shoving pasta in his mouth, but he didn't. If Antoine and Alya were indeed together, then there was the topic about the whole Alya and Nino thing. It was better to talk later, when they were back at the apartment.
Afternoon rehearsal ended quickly… or maybe Adrien's mind was elsewhere the entire day.
Nino, Nathaniel, and Kim left after the afternoon rehearsal, at the usual time they left the studio, leaving Adrien alone with Antoine. It was the first time they had been alone since Antoine told Adrien he regretted the kiss, and since Adrien found out Antoine was the one sending him gifts. It wasn't awkward or anything…
"So, two extra hours of practice," commented Adrien because he didn't know what else to say.
"I don't know how I'm going to survive. I have a sore throat from singing all day," replied Antoine.
Adrien was glad that Antoine gave him a way to continue the conversation; he really was bad at dealing with awkward silences.
"I know the feeling," said Adrien. "Nino taught me that a teaspoon of honey makes your throat feel better."
Antoine made a face when he mentioned Nino's name, but said nothing about him. As soon as they got back to the apartment, they needed to have a conversation with Nino about the whole Alya thing. It was overdue.
"That sounds good," replied Antoine. "Where can I get honey though?"
"We keep a bottle in the break room for this exact purpose," replied Adrien.
"I never noticed that. I thought all there was in the break room was the coffee machine, since it's the only thing I ever see you guys use," replied Antoine with a small smile.
Why was Adrien weak for that smile?
"I mean, the coffee machine is definitely a favorite," replied Adrien. "Let's go to the break room. We can take a short break before we start with the extra practice."
Antoine went with him to the break room, where Adrien got the bottle of honey and gave it to Antoine. Antoine poured the honey in a teaspoon and started licking it, and Adrien definitely thought that he shouldn't find that as cute as he did.
Everything about Antoine was cute, his big blue eyes, his smile, how he was clumsy sometimes yet super coordinated when dancing, and how he made handmade clothes for Adrien. He still hadn't asked Antoine about that, and suddenly Adrien realized that this would be a good moment to do it.
"This does make me feel better, and it's really tasty," said Antoine, pouring more honey in the teaspoon.
"Glad to hear that," replied Adrien while Antoine kept having his love affair with the teaspoon full of honey. "So… I don't think I've thanked you yet for jacket."
"You liked it then?" asked Antoine nervously.
"I loved it," assured Adrien. Antoine's face lit up like a Christmas tree, and Adrien marveled at how cute he looked. "Thank you, it's the best gift someone has ever given to me."
"Now you're exaggerating," said Antoine, but he was still smiling.
"I'm serious here," replied Adrien. "The fact that you designed and actually made a jacket just for me is touching."
"Well, I'm glad you liked it." Antoine's cheeks were a lovely shade of pink. "I was kind of unsure because, I mean, your dad is a fashion designer, and he makes your clothes so I didn't know if…"
"My dad designs clothes that I model, and most of what I own is from his brand," interrupted Adrien, "but you are the only one who has designed something just for me."
A hint of sadness flashed across Antoine's eyes. Adrien didn't want the conversation to take a depressing route, so he said:
"And that is the best gift I have ever received." He paused for a moment, then he gave Antoine his best mischievous smirk and said, "Well, along with the others you have sent me in the fan mail these past few years."
Antoine eyes opened comically, and he made the most transparent panic face Adrien had ever seen.
Adrien had been completely sure Antoine was MDC, but it was still a relief to have his suspicions confirmed.
"Gifts? What other gifts? I know nothing about fan mail. Nothing at all," replied Antoine, but he was obviously and blatantly lying. If he was trying to convince Adrien he was not MDC, he was failing big time. "I don't know what you're talking about. What are you talking about?"
"Well, you see, every year on my birthday and at Christmas I receive handmade clothes as a gift from a fan, from somebody that sign their cards as MDC," explained Adrien happily. He knew Antoine knew exactly what he was talking about. He was just humoring him by answering his question. "It's usually the highlight of my birthday and Christmas too!"
"Do you like those gifts?" asked Antoine, blushing and looking at the teaspoon as if it were the most interesting thing in the known universe.
"I love them. I look forward to them, and then when the pile of gifts arrive, I dig among thousands of other gifts and cards trying to find them," said Adrien seriously. "So you can imagine my disappointment when this year I didn't receive a gift from MDC."
Antoine was still looking at the teaspoon.
"And instead I received the exact same type of gift from one of my bandmates."
Antoine was so red, Adrien was worried his head was about to explode.
"More amazing coincidences have happened in the world," replied Antoine.
"Truth," agreed Adrien, "but an even more amazing coincidence is that both aforementioned bandmate and MDC have the exact same handwriting."
"Maybe you don't remember MDC's handwriting as clearly as you think you do," countered Antoine.
"I'm not relying on my memory, I actually compared my bandmate's card with one of MDC's cards," smirked Adrien, proud of his detective work.
"Do you want me to believe you keep all the cards your fans send you? Because that's a lot, and I don't think that much paper fits in your room," countered Antoine.
"I only keep MDC's," replied Adrien nervously, unsure about how Antoine was going to take his words. "They made me so happy, I couldn't just throw them away."
Antoine finally looked him in the eyes and smiled at him.
"That's one of the best compliments I have ever received," said Antoine. "I mean, you must receive thousands of fan letters, and the fact that you like my cards enough to keep them is just…I don't know."
Antoine didn't need to say more. Adrien could feel how moved he was just by looking at his eyes.
Adrien felt as if his heart was trying to escape his chest. He didn't know how he was going to survive two hours of alone time with Antoine every day of this week if he was already dying in the first ten minutes since the rest of the guys left.
They looked into each other's eyes for a couple of seconds without saying anything, but somehow the silence didn't feel awkward. Adrien felt the impulse to lean toward Antoine. His mouth looked very inviting… he stopped himself before he could make a huge mistake. Antoine might or might not be dating Alya, but he had already made it clear that he regretted their kiss. Therefore, Adrien shouldn't be thinking about kissing Antoine.
"So, what does MDC mean, anyway?" asked Adrien, trying to get his mind off of kissing Antoine.
"It's just my…my…fan…username?" replied Antoine nervously. It kind of sounded more like a question than an answer. "Yes, it's my fan username. I didn't want to sign the cards with my real name, so I signed with the username I use on The Cataclysm websites."
"So, you are a Catafan!" said Adrien with glee.
"I mean, I like the band. Of course I like the band. I auditioned to be part of the band, didn't I? And I like your work, professionally I mean. That's why I sent you gifts," said Antoine while he played with the teaspoon in his hands. "But I'm not a crazy fan. I was never a crazy fan. I never stalked you obsessively on social media, or used a lot of pictures of you to decorate my wall. And I most definitely never used my savings to buy your used socks that a fan stole from your dressing room once."
"I never said you did those things," replied Adrien, confused by how the conversation was going and flattered because Antoine said he liked his work.
"Good! Because I didn't," Antoine assured him.
"Ok," agreed Adrien because the conversation was weird and he didn't know what else to say.
"Now let's go practice Notre Amour! We have a song to record and we don't have time to stay here while you wrongly suspect that I have a cardboard cut-out of you in my bedroom at home. Which I don't!"
Adrien followed Antoine to the studio wondering if Antoine actually had a cardboard cut-out of him in his bedroom. He suspected he didn't and he was just messing with him. But the idea of Antoine having a cardboard cut-out of him in his bedroom was flattering, hilarious, awkward, weird, and hot at the same time, so Adrien was fascinated by it.
Marinette wanted to dig a hole, get in, and wait for the sweet death that would save her from her embarrassment. She'd almost had a heart attack when Adrien confronted her about the gifts. And her reaction! She was not the best at reacting under pressure; she only kept saying embarrassing things.
She wanted the earth to open and swallow her whole.
At least she had never signed the cards with her full name. Otherwise, her secret would be exposed on top of her embarrassment.
To be honest, when she made and sent those gifts, she never thought that Adrien would pay attention to them. It was kind of flattering that he liked them and that he even kept the cards. That was doing weird things to her heart. And when he told her she was the first one to make clothes just for him… well all Marinette wanted to do was hug him and make him all the clothes he wanted for eternity.
She entered the studio and urged Adrien to start practice so that she didn't put her foot any further in her mouth.
They rehearsed the song over and over again.
The day Nathaniel presented the idea of Notre Amour to the band, Marinette had been enamored with the song. She thought it was gorgeous. Now, after rehearsing it over and over again, she wanted to punch Nathaniel and Marc. Couldn't they write something with a faster beat? They really had to write a slow song that not only prevented her from showing her dance skills but also required her to practice extended hours because her voice needed training?
"Notre amour est magique. Notre amour défie la logique. C'est notre amour," sang Marinette and Adrien, finishing the song for the Nth time that night.
"My throat is sore again," complained Marinette before grabbing her bottle of water. She was so tired she forgot to be embarrassed about their earlier conversation.
"Hear you, mine too," replied Adrien. "And my poor, poor, fingers."
"Ow. At least you're seated," replied Marinette. "My legs hurt from standing for far too long."
"You can sit on the bench if you want," offered Adrien, standing up.
Marinette really wanted to sit, but she couldn't sit on the bench. Adrien was playing the piano and therefore he needed to sit on the bench.
"It's ok, you need to sit there. If I take the bench, where would you sit?" replied Marinette. Adrien looked guilty about that, but he wasn't to blame. It was Miraculous Records' fault for not investing in putting some chairs in the studio.
"It's ok, I can play standing up."
"I don't think that will be too comfortable. You're way too tall to do it without bending your back."
"It can't be any more uncomfortable than standing up for hours, like you have been all day."
"Exactly, I already survived the whole day standing up. I can survive a little longer."
"I'll play standing up," announced Adrien. "You're free to take the bench or not, but I won't sit on the bench now that I know your legs hurt."
After that, Adrien actually stood up. Could somebody be thoughtful and annoying at the same time? Because Adrien was being both right now. Marinette wasn't sure if she wanted to kiss him or throw the microphone at him.
"Well, I won't sit if I know you're bending your back in an unnatural way," countered Marinette.
"The way I see it, there are only two possible solutions then," said Adrien. "Either we both sit or we both stand up."
"Let's both sit and be done with this," said Marinette, sitting on the left side of the bench. Adrien sat right next to her.
Marinette hadn't actually thought that one through. The bench was way too small for two people, so when they sat, the first thing Marinette noticed was that there was no way to keep their thighs from touching. They were so close she could smell his cologne and there was nowhere to put her elbow without touching his shirt. How was she supposed to concentrate like this?
Adrien's ears were red, and Marinette wondered if he was flustered by the situation the way she was. She didn't think it was the case, but then why were Adrien's ears so red?
"Ready?" asked Adrien, and Marinette almost stupidly asked, 'For what?' But just in time, she remembered they were supposed to be rehearsing.
She nodded, and Adrien started playing "Notre Amour" again.
"Notre amour es incroyable. Notre amour est incomparable. C'est notre amour."
The practice did not end with Marinette having a heart attack or passing out over Adrien's close proximity, so the way she saw it, it was an absolute win.
When they went back to the apartment, they found Nino eating a sandwich while banging his head to something he was listening to over his headphones. Marinette would have find it amusing if it wasn't for the fact that she was still mad at him for the way he rejected Alya.
"Hey bro!" said Adrien, but Nino didn't hear him. "Bro! Hey Nino!"
Frustrated because Nino didn't seem to hear him, Adrien took a small cushion from the couch and threw it at Nino with full force. That was one effective way to get Nino's attention.
"Dude!" It was amazing how Nino could express his indignation in a single word. He grabbed the cushion and threw it back at Adrien. "What did you do that for?"
"You couldn't hear me," replied Adrien.
"If I had choked on my sandwich and died, you would have had to live with the guilt for the rest of your life," Nino informed him before taking another bite of the sandwich.
"Where are Kim and Nathaniel?" asked Adrien, unaffected by Nino's words.
"Nathaniel went to bed as soon as we came from the rehearsal," replied Nino. "Kim tried to stay awake just to prove he was better at handling a hangover plus rehearsal than Nathaniel, but he ended up going to bed shortly after."
"So, only the three of us are awake now," said Adrien, and Marinette noticed that his words were laced with an intention she didn't understood.
"Yes, it's just the three of us," agreed Nino, looking from Adrien to Marinette.
"Let me get food in my system first," replied Adrien. Marinette was a little lost about the 'first' part. "That sandwich looks great. I think I'll make myself one."
"I'll make one too, I'm starving," said Marinette. Lunch felt like ages ago, and a sandwich was quick to prepare.
"Oh…I can make you a sandwich if you want," replied Adrien.
"Did you just offer to make my sandwich?" asked Marinette, trying to make sure she was not hearing things.
"I mean, I know I'm not a great cook, but I make good sandwiches. To be fair, there aren't many ways to mess up a sandwich," replied Adrien quickly. "You look really tired, and I thought since I was going to make a sandwich for me anyway I could just make one for you too and did I mention my sandwiches are good? Because they are, I make good sandwiches…"
"Bro, stop talking. You're rambling," Nino said to Adrien in what was supposed to be a whisper, but Marinette heard him anyway.
"Thank you, that's very thoughtful of you," said Marinette. "I'd love it if you made me a sandwich, as long as it's not too much trouble."
"Man, you made me a birthday cake. Making you a sandwich is really not trouble," replied Adrien. Neither mentioned it, but remembering Adrien's birthday cake brought back the memories of what happened that night. "I'll go now to make the sandwich," added Adrien awkwardly, leaving Marinette with Nino.
Marinette was still mad at Nino for breaking Alya's heart, so she didn't feel especially inclined to socialize with him. To avoid conversation, Marinette took out her phone and started replying to some tweets from fans. Antoine's account didn't have as many followers as the rest of the guys, but just by being a member of the band, she had accumulated a decent amount. Penny had advised her to reply to at least some of the tweets to keep the fans interested.
Adrien came back ten minutes later with two sandwiches and two bottles of orange juice that Marinette accepted happily.
"This is really tasty!" said Marinette after taking the first bite from her sandwich. Adrien wasn't lying when he said he made good sandwiches. Her dad's sandwiches were better, but Adrien's ranked pretty high too. "Thanks Adrien!"
"You're welcome," replied Adrien, but he was actually focused on exchanging meaningful looks with Nino, and they were now 'discreetly' hitting each other with their elbows. Obviously, they were trying to prompt each other to do something.
"So Antoine…" said Nino eventually, "about Alya… I…"
"Is this about what happened yesterday?" interrupted Marinette.
"Well, yes… I mean not only yesterday, but yesterday is pretty important to this conversation," said Nino awkwardly.
"Just to make sure we're all on the same page, what did Alya tell you that happened yesterday?" asked Adrien.
"The truth" replied Marinette, annoyed at Adrien for implying that Alya might have lied to her.
"Which is…?" pressed Adrien.
"That she was flirting with Nino here, and he rudely rejected her." For some reason, Adrien seemed surprised by her words. "Isn't that what happened?"
"I mean, I don't feel like I was rude, but yeah," replied Nino.
"Don't feel like you were rude? There are nicer ways to reject someone, Nino," countered Marinette. "I understand you're not obligated to date anyone, even if Alya is everything anyone could ever want, but could you at least be more tactful?"
Neither Adrien nor Nino said anything. They were just staring at her as if she had grown a second head. She took their silence as an invitation to keep ranting.
"The worst part is that you have been flirting with her since the PMJ. Why would you lead her on like that if you weren't actually interested in her?"
"Let me get this straight. You're mad at Nino for rejecting your girl?" asked Adrien.
"No," replied Marinette. "I'm mad at him for leading my girl on and then rudely rejecting her. Emphasis on rudely."
"Great logic! You're mad at Nino for being a good friend instead of being mad at Alya for flirting with him." Adrien seemed to be really annoyed at Marinette. Then he lowered his eyes and asked in what was almost a whisper. "Is your love for her really that blind?"
Marinette was feeling as if they were having two different conversations.
"Hang on, I'm not following," said Marinette. "Why should I be mad at Alya for flirting with Nino? And how would rejecting her make him a good friend? And what does my undying love for her have to do with anything?"
For some reason Adrien flinched at that last part.
"I mean, most guys would get mad if their girlfriend was flirting with someone else," spat Adrien. "And I think it was pretty decent of Nino to reject her on your behalf, even if you can't appreciate it because in your eyes, Alya can do no wrong."
Adrien looked extremely frustrated, but Marinette had no time to analyze his frustrations. She was too busy putting the puzzle pieces together to finally understand what was going on.
"Do you guys think I'm dating Alya?" she asked.
"Aren't you?" asked Adrien.
"No," replied Marinette, still processing the situation. "We're just friends."
"Well, you two look really close for 'just friends'," replied Adrien. He didn't look convinced for some reason. "You two are always together, and you keep praising her all the time."
"Going by your logic, you're dating Nino," replied Marinette. "She's my best friend, that's all. Not dating. Actually, we're both single."
"Just to be sure, when you say you're just friends, it also means there are no hidden romantic feelings between the two of you, right?" asked Nino.
"Alya is like my sister," replied Marinette. "I know she's smart, funny, and gorgeous, and I can imagine it's easy to fall for her. But she's like my sister. Even if I wasn't strictly into guys, I don't think I'd be into Alya. It'd feel too incestuous."
Adrien almost choked on his orange juice, and Marinette wondered why her sisterly love declaration to Alya was so shocking.
Nino looked thunderstruck too.
"Are you guys ok?" asked Marinette.
"I rejected Alya because I thought she was dating you. I'm just realizing how much of an idiot I am," replied Nino. "Alya must think I'm an asshole or something, leading her on just to reject her for no reason."
He looked really distressed over this. Marinette wanted to help him, but her girl came first so she wanted to make sure they were on the same page.
"Is that the only reason why you rejected her?" asked Marinette. "I mean, if you had known Alya and I were just friends, would things have been different?"
"Dude, if I have known you and Alya were just friends, I would have begged her for a date forever ago."
Marinette nodded, satisfied with his reply.
"I'm not gonna lie, Alya is pretty pissed," said Marinette, and Nino lowered his eyes. "But it was all a misunderstanding. I can explain everything to her."
"Would you?" asked Nino in a hopeful voice.
"Of course. You rejected her for my sake," replied Marinette. "I mean, you were completely wrong, but your heart was in the right place. I'm going to call her right now. I'll explain everything. Don't worry about it."
She ate the last bit of her sandwich before standing up.
"I gotta go, I have an important phone call to make," said Marinette, winking at Nino. "Thanks for the sandwich, Adrien, it was delicious."
She ran to her room, calling Alya's phone as she went.
'Even if I wasn't strictly into guys.'
'Even if I wasn't strictly into guys.'
'Even if I wasn't strictly into guys.'
'Even if I wasn't strictly into guys.'
Adrien kept repeating Antoine's words in his head over and over again. His sandwich was long forgotten on his plate while Antoine carried on the conversation with Nino.
Antoine was not dating Alya. Adrien had spent a lot of time hating Alya over nothing. She was probably a really nice girl and his jealous ass had pictured her as the evil witch of the story.
Antoine was single. As in not seeing anybody.
Antoine was into boys. Actually, he was strictly into boys.
"Can you believe it?" said Nino. Adrien had been too busy freaking out that he hadn't noticed when Antoine finished talking to Nino and left the table. "I rejected Alya over a misunderstanding."
"I mean, they did look like a couple. How could you have known that wasn't the case?" replied Adrien.
"Yeah, they do look a lot like a couple," agreed Nino. "I'm so happy to hear Antoine isn't even into girls, because I don't think I stand a chance if there was something between him and Alya. Those two obviously adore each other."
Adrien phone rang. He checked the ID card and was surprised to see it was from Nathalie. He rejected the call. His dad had stood him up on his birthday, so whatever he wanted could wait.
"And this is also good news for you," Nino was saying.
"Sorry?" asked Adrien.
"I mean, since Antoine is single and strictly into guys, that's good news for you. If you've sorted your feelings for him, that is."
Antoine was strictly into guys. Adrien happened to be a guy.
Antoine was single. Adrien happened to be single.
Adrien felt as if a balloon was filling up with helium inside of him, making him lighter and lighter. And then he remembered that Antoine had told him he regretted the kiss, and the balloon exploded.
"My feelings for him aren't the problem. His feelings - or lack thereof - for me are," replied Adrien. "He's not interested."
"Says him, when he told me the kiss was a mistake." It had already hurt just thinking that Antoine regretted the kiss because of his relationship with Alya. But knowing Antoine was single, into guys, and yet still regretted their kiss? That stung worse than he originally thought.
His phone rang again before Nino could reply. It was Nathalie again, and this time it was a phone call. Adrien debated whether he should pick up or not. In the end, he decided to reject the call.
His phone rang again. And Adrien rejected the call again.
"Dude, who is calling y…?" The rest of Nino's question was drowned by Adrien's phone ringing again, this time with a text.
[NS: Good Evening Adrien. I was trying to call you to talk about the details of the Tokyo Fashion Exhibition (TFE)]
[NS: Since you are unable to take my call right now, I'll call you tomorrow morning, before you start your rehearsals. Good night]
So many things had happened that it had totally slipped Adrien's mind that he was supposed to show up at the TFE!
Penny was going to skin him alive when he told her that he was supposed to leave for Japan in less than three weeks.
I know I don't usually update on Sundays, but it's been so long since I updated this story that I wanted to post this chapter as soon as it was ready.
I'm currently working on Chapter 9, but I'm super behind school work (thanks to the few weeks without a PC) so I don't know when I'll update next. I promise I'm trying to get back to my regular posting schedule.
Shout-out to slkworm for being my beta. ILYSM
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Adrien couldn't believe he had completely forgotten about the TFE. He had been so distracted with everything else that it had slipped his mind.
For a brief moment, he entertained the idea of telling Nathalie he wouldn't go to Japan after all. His dad couldn't just ignore him on his birthday, and then have his assistant contact him about the TFE as if he were any other of Gabriel's model.
Adrien had his phone in his hand, his finger hovering over the screen to tap out a message telling Nathalie that his dad could shove the TFE in his…but he decided against it.
He had indeed signed a contract to show up at the TFE. Regardless of his personal problems with his dad, he was obligated to show up. However, if his dad wanted to act as if Adrien was just another model, then he would act as if his dad was just another employer.
That started by not replying to Nathalie's message right away. Instead, he waited for her to contact him next morning.
He was tired and he didn't want to deal with anything, so he turned off his phone and told Nino he was going to bed. He thought he wasn't going to be able to sleep due to thinking about the trip to Japan and about the fact that Antoine was into guys but not into him. But the lack of sleep from the previous night made him fall asleep as soon as his head hit the pillow.
The next day, Adrien woke up a bit early to find a very nervous Nino walking around the apartment talking on the phone with somebody and a very giddy Antoine trying to eavesdrop on Nino's conversation and not even being discreet about it.
"He's talking with Alya," Antoine explained when he noticed Adrien's confusion.
"So, I take it you managed to fix things for them?" asked Adrien, trying to sound normal and not as if he were talking to the guy he had a crush on, knowing the aforementioned guy had already rejected him even though he was single and into guys which meant he had solely rejected Adrien for lack of interest which was a perfectly valid reason to reject somebody but it still hurt a lot. He was fine. Really.
"I explained the whole misunderstanding to Alya last night. She kind of thought it was funny that you guys thought we were dating, so expect to be teased about that the next time you see her," warned Antoine. "And while it hurt her the other day, she understands it was pretty decent of Nino to reject her if he thought she was dating me, so I managed to convince her to talk to Nino."
"How long have they been on the phone?" asked Adrien, glancing at Nino who was smiling like an idiot.
"Like, half an hour," replied Antoine. "I can see a date in their future. I'm an awesome matchmaker."
"You are?" asked Adrien.
"I've gotten almost all of my friends together with their SOs," bragged Antoine.
"Antoine Dubois-Yang, designer, dancer, baker, boyband member, and matchmaker. You really are multi-talented."
Antoine blushed and smiled at him before replying. "I'll also have you know I was class representative in school."
He announced that last part proudly, as if it were a huge personal achievement. It was the cutest thing Adrien had ever seen, and it made him turn into a puddle of goo. Great! He couldn't even handle casual conversation with Antoine anymore. Antoine had way too much power over him.
"Class representative?! Oh, I didn't know I was speaking with such an important man," replied Adrien.
"Well, now you know," replied Antoine.
"I'm honored to meet you, M. Dubois-Yang," said Adrien jokingly. He didn't get to see how Antoine would reply, because Adrien's phone picked that exact moment to start ringing.
As promised, it was Nathalie calling to talk about the TFE. He excused himself and went to his bedroom to take Nathalie's call. He resolved to act very professional, as if Nathalie were calling him on behalf of any other employer instead of his dad.
If Nathalie noticed his attitude, she didn't mention it.
Adrien confirmed the date for his trip to Japan. He was going to be away for around a week and a half, counting flight time. Adrien barely talked, wanting to end the call as soon as possible. The only time he openly objected was when Nathalie informed him that he would fly first class and sit next to his dad as usual.
It pissed him off. If he was just another model, then he should sit with the rest of the models. It wasn't that he minded being in first class, but he didn't want to sit next to his dad. He tried protesting but it didn't work.
"All of the seats are already assigned, Adrien," said Nathalie, clearly exasperated. "I don't understand why you need to change seats."
Adrien knew he was acting a little childish, but he refused to spend twelve hours being ignored by his dad while pretending he was fine with that.
"Well, we can just ask somebody if they want to switch seats."
"Whom exactly are we supposed to ask? All of the people in first class are highly important, and they are not supposed to be disturbed. Are we supposed to ask, say for instance, Tomoe Tsurugi if she wants to switch with you?"
That name caught Adrien off guard. He should have read the guest list more carefully. He didn't know Kagami's mother was going to be there. He wondered if Kagami was going to be there, too, but he didn't ask.
The phone call ended with Nathalie still refusing to move him to another seat. It was going to be a fun flight.
When he emerged from his room again he found that Nino had already finished talking with Alya and was having breakfast with Nathaniel, Kim, and Antoine. Antoine was drilling Nino about the details of his conversation with Alya right in front of Kim and Nathaniel, who seemed shocked to learn that Alya was not Antoine's girlfriend.
Adrien joined them at the table, but his mind was thousands of kilometers away. Nine thousands kilometers away, in Japan, to be more accurate. He had so many things on his mind about the TFE trip.
First of all, Penny was going to skin him alive for not telling her sooner. They had an autograph session with the fans and they were supposed to record the music video of Notre Amour around the same dates he was going to be away.
Second of all, he didn't want to spend the whole flight sitting next to his dad in awkward silence, playing the role of the perfect son when his dad was far from being the perfect dad.
Thirdly, he didn't know if Kagami was going to be there, and if she were, he didn't know how to feel about it. Things had been awkward between them since they had broken up, but he missed her a lot. Not in a romantic way – his romantic feelings for her had disappeared ages ago, while they were still dating, and that had been kind of messy – but they used to be friends before they dated, and he wished they could go back to that. He didn't know if Kagami still wanted to be his friend, but dreaming was free.
And finally, he was going to miss the guys from The Cataclysm. He'd be lying to himself if he said he wasn't going to miss Antoine the most. It was the first time since he'd met him that he was going to be away from him. A week and a half was not a lot, but still.
He finished eating, barely paying attention to what was on his plate. Before heading to the studio with the rest of the guys, he couldn't help checking the guest list for the TFE. There it was, in black ink: Tsurugi Kagami.
The rest of the week passed way too quickly. Maybe it was because Marinette was rehearsing ten hours a day, so she barely had time to eat and sleep. At least she was spending those two extra hours with Adrien, but he seemed to be distracted the whole week.
She had also been busy playing matchmaker, not that Nino and Alya needed any help. On Wednesday, Nino had eventually asked Alya on a date. Marinette had advised him to do it, because after being rejected last time, Alya was probably expecting him to be the one to ask this time. He asked her via text. Marinette would have preferred if he actually called Alya instead of texting, but at least she got to read the screenshots because Alya sent them to her, of course. They agreed to go out on Saturday because they had the afternoon off.
They only had a meeting planned for Saturday morning, and they were supposed to record Notre Amour. Marinette was incredible nervous about that part. She had practiced all week, and the guys had told her she had improved, but she still was nervous.
Saturday came and the morning meeting started with Adrien telling everybody he was supposed to leave for Japan in a little less than two weeks for the Tokyo Fashion Exhibition.
Marinette was excited when she heard the words Tokyo Fashion Exhibition. The TFE was one of the most important events in the fashion world. Designers and models would kill to be there. Then she noticed her favorite model didn't look too excited. She resolved to ask him about that if she got to talk to him alone later.
Penny talked after Adrien.
"Due to Adrien's absence, we'll have to alter our calendar a bit. Since I was notified at the last minute-" Penny glared at Adrien, who had the decency of looking guilty - "some things were not possible to reschedule. Like your appearance on the Nadja Chamack show to present the music video of Notre Amour. That happens to be the very next day after Adrien comes back from Japan. The video for Notre Amour was supposed to be recorded during the time Adrien was going to be in Japan, so I tried to reschedule the interview for a later date so that we could wait to record the video until after he got back. However, it was impossible to reschedule the interview, so instead we'll have to record the video earlier than expected. We'll have to finish recording before Adrien's trip."
Marinette spent the rest of the meeting taking notes about the new calendar. The only other event that wasn't possible to reschedule was an autograph session because Penny couldn't fit it anywhere else in their already busy calendar. Marinette felt bad for the fans. She would've been sad to be a fan and to go to an autograph session without Adrien.
She knew she didn't need to take notes because Penny usually sent them all the information they needed. But she was doing it anyway because if she was concentrated on that, she couldn't panic too much about recording Notre Amour.
The meeting ended sooner than she would've liked, and they went to the recording studio.
As usual, the first thing to be recorded was the instrumental version. Things went smoothly and the final instrumental version was gorgeous, if Adrien said so himself. It barely took him and Nathaniel a couple of tries to have the final version of the song.
After they finished with the instrumental version, they went straight to the vocals.
"Are you nervous?" Adrien asked Antoine, who was shaking like a chihuahua. Antoine nodded, but he seemed too nervous to talk. "Relax. You'll do great! You're talented and you've improved a lot this past week."
"Thanks, Adrien," replied Antoine, giving Adrien a smile. That smile that made Adrien weak every single time. Adrien smiled back. He wanted to hold Antoine's hand to comfort him, but he thought Antoine wouldn't appreciate that. Instead, he hoped that his words would be enough.
Watching Antoine while they recorded the song reminded Adrien of the audition. Antoine looked extremely nervous and uncomfortable at first, but as soon as the song started, he was all business. His practice had paid off. His voice had improved a lot, and his high pitch was a great addition to the band.
They had to re-do it a couple of times, but that was usual. They seldom recorded a flawless studio version the first time. The only time he remembered ever recording a studio version in one take was for Ainsi soit-il, and to be fair, the song was not that hard. Just another pop song Bob Roth had made them sing.
When they finally finished, they did a celebratory group fist-bump. It was a little cheesy, but they usually did it after finishing a project.
Afterward, Kim left in a hurry, barely saying goodbye, because Ondine had a swimming competition that afternoon and he wanted to be there to support her. The rest of the band went back to the apartment. Nathaniel only went to pick up his bag because he was going home that weekend. Apparently Antoine was going home too, but hadn't packed his clothes, because he went to his bedroom to start throwing clothes in a bag. Nino went straight to take a shower because Alya was picking him up for their date in less than an hour.
Adrien just lay on the couch playing video games. He was going to spend the weekend at Nino's house. He missed Nino's family and their food too, but he didn't want to go alone. He knew he was always welcome in the Lahiffe's house, even without Nino, but it was weird going without his bro. So he was just planning to wait a couple of hours for Alya to drop Nino back off at the apartment after the date.
Antoine exited the room with a bag in one hand and his bike helmet in the other, but he didn't leave the apartment. Instead, he sat next to Adrien, set down his bag and his helmet, took the unused controller, and asked, "Do you want to get your butt kicked?"
"I think you meant to ask if I wanted to kick your butt, but I'll let it slide," replied Adrien with more confidence than he actually felt. He set the game for two players while he asked, "Not that I mind playing with you, just asking, but weren't you going home?"
"I'm going home. I'm just waiting for Alya to pick up Nino," replied Antoine, as if the answer was obvious.
"Oh, is she giving you a ride home?" asked Adrien, confused because Antoine had his helmet, which meant he was planning to ride his bike.
"Nah, I'll drive there. I'm waiting because I did so much for Alya and Nino to go on a date, I think I deserve to at least watch them leave," replied Antoine as they started the game.
Adrien shrugged off Antoine's involvement in his friend's love life and started the game.
Marinette was surprised to discover that Adrien had improved a lot since they had last played. She was both annoyed and proud when he managed to beat her one out of the three times they played this time. They were about to start a fourth round when Alya came to pick Nino up.
Marinette admired how her friend managed to look absolutely gorgeous wearing casual clothes. She was a vision in a red blouse and skinny jeans. Nino was awestruck. Marinette watched them leave like a proud mom watching her kid going to prom.
"Where are they even going?" Adrien asked her after Nino and Alya left. The question was odd to Marinette. Hadn't Nino told him? Didn't guys talk about their plans for their dates? Marinette and Alya knew every single detail about every single date the other had ever had or had ever planned.
"I think they're going to the amusement park," replied Marinette.
"Oh, amusement park dates are cool," replied Adrien.
Obviously, he had only seen amusement park dates on TV, because anyone who had gone on a date to an amusement park in real life knew they weren't that cool. The parks were always too crowded, with too many queues and vomiting kids. Still, Alya and Nino wanted to go because there was a new ride they both wanted to try.
"Oh, I actually prefer arcade dates," replied Marinette in all honesty.
"I love the arcade!" said Adrien enthusiastically. "My childhood bedroom resembled more of a mini-arcade than an actual room. And I used to spend a lot of time in a nearby arcade when I moved here. It's been ages since I went, but I was an expert in all their games. I bet I can beat you on every single one of them."
Marinette's brain-to-mouth connection had been faulty since birth. Sometimes her mouth moved and said words before her brain could process them.
"Oh, aren't you cocky?" she said. "Do you want to go right now and see how true that is?"
She couldn't believe she had just asked Adrien to go to the arcade five seconds after saying she preferred arcade dates. She tried to fix it.
"Only if you want to, I mean. I just thought that since we have the afternoon off, we may as well go today. My parents don't know I had the afternoon off, so I can go home later. If you don't want to go, that's fine, I'll just…"
"Let's go right now," replied Adrien, and Marinette felt relieved that he was on board with the idea. She took her helmet and was about to put it back in her bedroom when an idea occurred to her.
"Have you ever ridden a bike?"
Adrien shook his head. "Only for photoshoots. I've never been on an actual moving bike in my life," he replied.
"Would you like to?" she offered.
Adrien nodded, and she went to her bedroom to retrieve her extra helmet.
She didn't know what possessed her to ask Adrien to ride her bike with her, but she quickly regretted it. It started when she realized that her hand was trembling when she went to start the motor. Then she soon found that it was impossible to concentrate on simply driving the bike - much less following the directions to the arcade - with him riding behind her. Her stomach was doing flips, and her face felt too warm, and it was not because of the helmet.
The arcade was a few blocks away from their building, and somehow they got there without causing a traffic accident. The place was rather small, but it was cozy. It was kind of empty for a Saturday afternoon, but she guessed it was because very few families lived nearby; it was mostly a business area.
"So, where do you want me to beat you first?" asked Adrien while Marinette took a look at all the games.
After thinking for a few moments, she replied, "Shall we start with Dancing Stage?"
Adrien looked at her as if she had smacked him.
"What? No!" replied Adrien. "I'm not going to compete in Dancing Stage with you!"
"Why? I thought you said you could beat me in every single one of these games?" smirked Marinette.
"That's cheating! You're a better dancer than I am and you know it."
"I didn't know you were such a coward."
Adrien stared at her eyes for a couple of seconds, before smirking back at her and replying, "May I have this dance, M. Dubois-Yang?"
As predicted, Marinette ended up kicking Adrien's butt in Dancing Stage, but he swept the floor with her in their air hockey match, so they were even. After air hockey, they went to get themselves a smoothie and sit for a bit before picking their next game.
They were seated together on a bench, sipping smoothies, when Marinette got enough courage to ask about the trip to Japan.
"So, are you excited about the TFE?" asked Marinette. She wanted to slap herself. The whole reason why she wanted to talk to him about it was because he didn't look happy about it in the meeting room. Why had she started the conversation by asking if he was excited?
Adrien shrugged and replied, "I guess."
"You don't look too excited."
Great job Marinette. You're doing a great job of approaching the subject, she congratulated herself sarcastically.
"It's not the TFE that I'm dreading," replied Adrien. "I've been there before, and it's just another modeling gig. It's not as awesome as people that aspire to be there think it is, but it's not too bad either. I don't mind going."
Marinette was slightly disappointed to hear that the TFE was less awesome than she thought it was, but that was irrelevant at the moment.
"Then what is it that you're dreading?" prompted Marinette, because for a second it seemed as if Adrien was not going to continue talking.
He took a couple of sips from his smoothie before replying.
"I just can't believe my father. He ignores me on my birthday, and then he still calls me about the TFE and expects me to travel next to him," he finally said. "I know this may sound childish, but I don't want to spend the whole flight sitting next to him while we ignore each other."
Marinette felt the urge to hug Adrien, but she didn't.
"It's not childish. Your dad is just an ass and I'll happily punch him." She couldn't believe she had just said that about her favorite designer. Then it occurred to her that as mad as Adrien was with his dad, he might not appreciate her talking like that about him. "I'm sorry… I just…"
"It's okay," replied Adrien. "I'm not offended, really. That's far from the worst thing I've heard about my dad."
Marinette didn't know how to respond, but she didn't have to because Adrien continued talking.
"The whole TFE thing wouldn't be that bad if it wasn't for the fact that I had to spend all that time with my dad. I do like Japan, and I really need to practice my Japanese because it's honestly getting way too rusty."
"You speak Japanese?" asked Marinette, surprised. She tried to think about all the information she knew about Adrien. She knew that – aside from French, obviously – he was fluent in English and Chinese. She didn't know he spoke Japanese.
"Not fluently, and I haven't practiced in ages. My pronunciation isn't too bad, but I suck at reading and writing," replied Adrien. "I think I still know my Hiragana, but I'm forgetting Katakana, and Kanjis are confusing because I keep reading them the Chinese way. Honestly, I'm scared of getting lost in Tokyo since I don't fancy staying next to my dad the whole week relying on him for translations. I think I'll just follow Kagami everywhere or something."
That last part caught Marinette off guard and she almost choked on her smoothie.
"Kagami is going to be there?" inquired Marinette way too casually.
"Yeah, we're going on the same plane," replied Adrien.
"Isn't it awkward to travel with your ex?" asked Marinette, pretending she was not interested in the response when she was actually agonizing to hear the answer and dreading it at the same time.
"I guess. I haven't seen Kagami in a long time, to be honest. I don't even know," replied Adrien. "I kind of miss her though. Maybe it's a good thing we're on the same flight. I'll get to talk to her again."
The floor below Marinette opened, and she felt as if she were freefalling. Adrien missed Kagami. Of course he did. She was gorgeous, smart, elegant, awesome at fencing, and she had so much in common with him.
And in a week they'd go to Japan together and they'd be on the same long flight. And they'd start talking again, and Adrien was going to tell her that he missed her. And Kagami would say she missed him too – how could she not? - and then he'd ask her out again. And they'd have a romantic date in Tokyo with the cherry trees blossoming. Marinette was aware it was not cherry tree season, but they'd probably blossom just to make Adrien and Kagami's date perfect. And then they'd go back to Paris holding hands. And then they'd get ambushed in the airport by fans, and Marinette was only going to find out because she was going to see #Adrigami trending on twitter.
Adrien kept talking as if he hadn't just utterly destroyed Marinette's heart. Marinette didn't know what he was saying. She was honestly just not listening anymore. She was too focused on the idea that Adrien still had feelings for Kagami. She felt the tears burning in the corners of her eyes, and she couldn't let them fall.
"Excuse me, I need to go to the bathroom," she said hastily, interrupting whatever Adrien was saying and running to the bathroom to try to control her feelings, because if the tears started falling there was no stopping them.
Adrien was in the middle of ranting about how he wished he had never dated Kagami because they used to be good friends and he missed her lots and wished they could be friends again, but dating had made everything weird between them, when Antoine interrupted him and excused himself saying he needed to go to the bathroom.
Adrien was worried. Maybe Antoine was sick or something. He decided to give Antoine a few minutes of privacy before following him to make sure he was ok. It wasn't necessary, because Antoine came out of the bathroom shortly after, looking pale and as if he was about to throw up.
"Are you okay?" asked Adrien, dumbly because clearly Antoine was not okay.
"Yes, I'm feeling great," replied Antoine in the fakest tone Adrien had ever heard him use.
"If you're sick, maybe we should go home and come back another day," said Adrien. "Was it something you ate maybe?"
"Adrien, I said I'm fine," replied Antoine, his tone a little colder than Adrien was used to. He was obviously not fine, and Adrien didn't know why he was being stubborn about it.
Adrien was about to reply when he heard a screech and an unknown voice saying the overly familiar words, "Is that Adrien Agreste?"
He had been in this situation a thousand times before, and he never knew how to react. Before he knew it, he and Antoine were surrounded by fangirls. Most of them were trying to get a picture with Adrien or his autograph, but a few approached Antoine too. Adrien felt this was a little unfair to Antoine, who was really talented too, but he also was envious of Antoine for not being mobbed by girls.
Mostly though, he felt bad for Antoine, because whether he wanted to admit it or not, the guy was sick and probably needed to be resting at their apartment instead of being here taking pictures with fangirls.
"It was awesome seeing you girls, but Antoine and I have a busy schedule," he said, getting closer and closer to Antoine. When he was close enough to him, he leaned in and whispered into Antoine's ears. "When I grab your arm, you run."
"What?" asked Antoine in a tone that didn't resemble a whisper at all.
"I wish I could take pictures with all of you, but we have something to do right now. Have a good day!" He kind of felt as if he were being rude, but he knew this whole drill and knew this was the only way to get out of there.
He grabbed Antoine's arm and they started running. Adrien's legs were longer and he knew the place better, so he guided Antoine to the parking lot without letting go of his arm. He tried not to concentrate on the warmth of Antoine's arm under his hand. The fans followed them all the way there. Adrien and Antoine jumped onto the bike, and as they put their helmets on, Adrien said to Antoine:
"Do not go to the apartment!"
"Why?" asked Antoine, confused as he started the bike.
"They'll follow you there, and it's better if they don't know where we live," replied Adrien. "Just drive around for a while until we lose them"
Antoine complied and started driving around. Adrien wanted to enjoy the fact that he was riding a bike with his crush around the city, but the moment was ruined by the fans following him, the dark sky and lightning that promised a thunderstorm at any moment, and the fact that Antoine was not interested in him.
It took them a while, but they finally lost the fans. By then it was already raining and they got back to the apartment completely drenched. When they entered, they noticed Nino was still not home. They went to change their clothes.
As soon as Adrien was dressed in dry clothes, he went to the kitchen and tried to look for soup recipes on youtube. Antoine was sick before they left the arcade, and Adrien guessed getting rained on was only going to make it worse. A bowl of soup would do Antoine some good. Adrien was not a great cook, but he bet he could follow simple instructions to make soup.
After Marinette changed her clothes, she hid her wet binder in a plastic bag and threw it in the bag she was going to take home. Luckily, she had been wearing a big shirt; otherwise, her binder would've been obvious through her clothes when she got wet.
It was raining way too heavily to drive home on her bike, so she resolved to just text Alya and ask if she could give her a ride home. She could pick Marinette up when she came to the apartment to drop Nino off. It took Alya a couple of minutes to reply, which could only mean she was having a great time with Nino because she usually had her phone in her hand at all times and replied immediately.
[AC: Of course girl! I'll be there in an hour or so]
Marinette briefly wondered what Alya was going to be doing in that hour, since it was probably raining heavily in the amusement park too, but then she decided it was none of her business.
Marinette exited her room and found Adrien cooking or at least trying to cook. He was watching some youtube tutorial and panicking. It would be cute to watch if it weren't for the fact that he was probably going to end up cutting himself trying to chop vegetables or burning the apartment down trying to turn on the stove… and if it weren't for the fact that she shouldn't find him cute at all. He was still into Kagami, and Marinette was going to die alone.
"What are you doing?" she asked, trying not to show the pain in her voice.
"Soup," replied Adrien. "I was craving soup, and I thought I'd make enough for the both of us, but this is harder than I thought."
And he even thought about sharing his soup with her. Why did he have to be so sweet?
"My great-uncle makes a great soup. If you want, we can make it together?" proposed Marinette.
Adrien face lit up and he said, "I love cooking with you!"
His words gave Marinette the familiar butterflies sensation in her stomach, but she tried to suppress it. He meant nothing by it. He was still in love with Kagami.
Together, they made her Uncle Wang's Celestial Soup. They had to change some ingredients because they couldn't find everything in the apartment, but it was still good. They were about to serve two bowls when Nino and Alya came barging into the apartment.
"Guess who we saw holding hands in the amusement park?" said Alya enthusiastically as soon as she entered the apartment without offering any sort of greeting.
"Who?" asked Marinette, curious. She wondered who was so important that their hand-holding was the first thing Alya mentioned as soon as she came back from a date.
"Jagged and Penny!" replied Nino.
"What?" asked Adrien and Marinette at the same time. Alya gave Nino a look. Knowing Alya, she probably wanted to be the one that revealed the news.
"Oh, I approve of this! They're so cute together!" added Marinette.
"Are you sure it was a date though? I mean, knowing Jagged, Penny might well be holding his hand just so he isn't let loose in the amusement park," replied Adrien.
"Dude, that was most definitely a date," replied Nino. "Alya took pictures and everything."
Alya handed Nino her phone so he could show them the pictures. Adrien and Marinette leaned in to see better as Nino went through them. Jagged and Penny were far from the camera, but it was still clear that it was them. There were a couple of pictures of them holding hands and one of them sharing a cotton candy. It was one of the cutest things Marinette had ever seen. Then, accidentally, Nino took them to the oldest picture in the phone instead of the most recent one.
Alya's phone was less than a year old since she always had the most recent one. The oldest picture in Alya's gallery was one taken the previous year during the Césaire family's trip to the beach. Of course Marinette had been invited. She was family too! And so the oldest picture in Alya's gallery was of Alya and Marinette at the beach, posing next to a sand castle Ella and Etta had built.
Horror filled Marinette because in the picture she had long hair tied in her usual pigtails... and a bikini. A very feminine pink bikini showing her very feminine body.
I promise I'm trying to get back to my regular posting schedule but school is absorbing all my time and life.
Translation: Ainsi soit-il : So be it.
I should probably let you know this story is going to have around 12-13 chapters + epilogue. I'm still deciding if I'm going to make a really long chapter 12 or if I'm going to split it in two chapters.
Also, I need your help. How do you think people that don't know Antoine is really Marinette would call Adrinette? Please give me ship names for Antoine/Adrien. Thanks.
I want to thank slkworm for being my beta. Thanks a lot, you are a lifesaver. I also want to thank x-rayLady for her help with the french bits.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Of all the pictures they could have accidentally seen of her, it had to be one where she was wearing a bikini that made it impossible to hide her feminine body. Marinette was frozen in terror and couldn't think of anything to say. She risked a glance at Adrien and Nino, but they didn't seem to have connected the dots yet.
Marinette felt the impulse to snatch the phone from Nino's hand and delete the picture before they could make the connection, but that probably would only make the situation look more suspicious.
"That's from my family trip to the beach last year. Marinette and I had tons of fun that day," commented Alya casually, and all the alarms in Marinette's head went off. What was Alya doing?! Had she gone mad? Why was she exposing her secret? "It's a pity you couldn't come, Antoine. Your sister and I missed you a lot."
Suddenly, Marinette understood what Alya was doing, and she felt relief wash over her body. She mentally thanked her friend for coming up with an excuse.
"Yeah, I was super busy with other stuff," replied Marinette, which wasn't vague or anything. "But my sister showed me the pictures you took that day and told me everything that happened. It was almost as if I were there because my sister and I tell each other everything."
It was so awkward and didn't sound natural at all. Clearly, Alya was better under pressure.
"You told us you were an only child, dude. I had no idea you had a sister," said Nino, and Marinette panicked again. She had totally forgotten she had told them she was an only child the first night she moved into the apartment. She'd thought it'd be easier to stick to the truth as much as possible, and she hadn't seen a reason to make up a sibling back then.
"Cousin, actually, but they were so close growing up they only refer to each other as brother and sister," explained Alya. She did it so naturally that even Marinette was almost convinced she had a cousin. It should've been worrying that a reporter in the making was so good at lying, but Marinette was thankful because Alya made up for Marinette's lack of skill.
"It must have been cool to grow up being so close to your cousin," replied Adrien. "You must have some awesome childhood memories together."
"Yeah, it was awesome," agreed Marinette lamely, feeling terrible for lying to Adrien.
"You two look a lot alike," observed Nino, looking from the Marinette in the picture to the Marinette in front of him.
"You think?" asked Marinette nervously.
"Dude, you practically have the same face," replied Nino.
"Your eyes and smile are identical," added Adrien.
"Some genes are just so strong. If you think that's similar, you should see my older sister with our second cousin. Now that's uncanny," replied Alya. "Anyway, back to Jagged and Penny. How long do you think they've been secretly dating?"
Luckily, the picture was quickly forgotten.
Marinette offered Nino and Alya a bowl of soup, and the four of them had dinner together while overanalyzing every single interaction they'd seen of Jagged and Penny, trying to pinpoint when that had begun and coming up with theories about their relationship. After dinner, they parted ways.
"That was a close call," was the first thing Marinette said when she was alone with Alya in Nora's car. "Thanks for coming up with the cousin story."
"Girl, I almost had a heart attack," replied Alya. "We should delete the pictures of you from our phones."
"You think? I mean, they think I have a 'cousin' now."
"Yes, but it'll be suspicious if you have more pictures of your cousin than of yourself," replied Alya and Marinette nodded. "Anyway, spill. What happened today?"
Marinette looked at Alya, confused. "Shouldn't I be asking that? You were the one that went on a date today."
"Yes, and I came back from aforementioned date to find my best friend looking like a kicked puppy. Do you think I missed the sad look on your face? I was just waiting to be alone with you to ask you about it."
Marinette felt it'd be self-centered of her to whine about how Adrien was still in love with Kagami when Alya just came back from a date with the boy she liked and she probably wanted to talk about that too. Besides, the ride to the bakery wasn't long enough for her to fully express how much she was hurting over the whole thing. She had been doing an amazing job suppressing her tears since the afternoon, but she had a suspicion that when she started talking, she was going to start crying.
"Why don't you sleep over at my house?" replied Marinette. "You can tell me about your date, and I can tell you what happened."
Adrien had a good weekend. Noël's school had a festival, and Adrien went with the whole Lahiffe family. Nino thought it was kind of boring, but Adrien had the time of his life. He reckoned it was because Nino had attended lots of festivals when he went to school, but it was the first time Adrien had ever been to one.
Adrien started the week in a good mood, but as the week progressed, it was replaced by worry. Something was wrong with Antoine. It wasn't something obvious. Actually, it was hard to notice unless you were paying attention, and Adrien paid Antoine a lot of attention. He wasn't his usual cheery self. He still did his best in rehearsals, and he still joked with the guys or bantered with Adrien when they played video games, but there was a spark missing in his eyes.
At first, Adrien thought maybe Antoine was feeling sick. After all, he was obviously sick when they left the arcade on Saturday. But upon further analysis, he realized that Antoine was not sick (at least physically). He looked sad.
He tried to think of what might have upset Antoine, but he had nothing. He tried to recall what had happened after the trip to the arcade. When they'd come back, they'd made a soup together. Then Nino and Alya had showed up, and the four of them had eaten the soup. He wondered if maybe they had accidentally offended Antoine in their conversation, but the only memorable part of the conversation was the gossip that Penny had something with Jagged, and finding out Antoine had a cousin that looked a lot like him.
He hadn't said aloud how freaking hot he thought Antoine's cousin was, right? He didn't think he had, but even if he had, that was no reason for Antoine to be sad, considering Antoine was not interested in Adrien. Besides, Adrien was not seriously interested in Antoine's cousin. He thought she was a very attractive girl that he would've liked to meet if the circumstances were different, but he was too far gone for the aforementioned girl's cousin to actually be interested.
After dinner, Antoine left with Alya.
Adrien guessed something must have happened over the weekend, then.
He wanted to let Antoine know he was there for him if he wanted to talk, but he didn't know how to approach the subject. He wished Antoine would tell him what was going on, not because he wanted to gossip, but because he wanted to be there for Antoine.
The days passed, and Adrien still didn't know how to approach the subject with Antoine. He didn't want to press him to talk about it if he wasn't comfortable.
Whatever was bothering Antoine didn't stop him from sharing knowing smiles with Adrien or Nino every time Jagged and Penny interacted in any way, shape, or form in front of them. Adrien was glad for these little moments. He loved seeing Antoine's smiles, and those were scarce lately.
On Thursday, Penny surprised them with the news that the music video of Notre Amour was going to be recorded in Etretat Beach in Normandy. Adrien checked his schedule for the following week. They were supposed to be in Normandy from Tuesday to Friday next week. The audio of Notre Amour wasn't going to be released until next Thursday, so they needed to be extra careful when recording the music video. They couldn't let fans get near the filming location; security would probably be making sure of that.
Then they would come back from Normandy on Friday. and Adrien was going to board the plane to Japan on Sunday. He was probably going to die from exhaustion next week.
"Have you ever been in Etretat Beach?" Adrien asked Antoine as the two of them walked out of the meeting room.
"I've been in Normandy, in Deauville Beach, but I've never gone to Etretat before," replied Antoine.
"I like Deauville too, but Etretat is gorgeous," replied Adrien. "I wish we had more time to go sightseeing."
"We'll be there for four days and three nights," said Antoine. "How long does it take to record a music video?"
"It depends on the concept of the video, how many hours a day we work, and how many takes are required. Then it takes like a week to edit it," explained Adrien. "Bob Roth used to make us work eighteen hours a day, so we usually finished recording in two days or even a day and a half."
"What a jerk! That's abusive!" Antoine looked horrified. "I can't believe he still works in the music industry."
"I'm glad we don't work for him anymore, but I'm worried about whoever he's producing now," replied Adrien. "This is our first music video since we started working with Jagged, but I don't think he'll make us work eighteen hours a day. Knowing him, it'll probably be somewhere around eight or nine hours, and that's why we're scheduled to be there for four full days."
That didn't seem to calm Antoine, who spent the rest of their break ranting about how Bob Roth was an asshole who deserved to be in jail.
On Tuesday, Marinette found herself riding The Cataclysm's bus to Normandy. It was surreal. Not because of the bus itself – though the bus was nice, it looked like a mini-apartment – but because she was on her favorite band's bus. It was every fangirl's dream. Only the band traveled on the bus; the director and his crew had their own transportation. Penny followed the bus in her car, and she was only going to be there the first and last days of filming.
Marinette spent the first fifteen minutes freaking out internally about being on the bus and inspecting the bus while faking being calm. Then she sat on one of the couches (that, according to the guys, also worked as beds when they were on a tour) and spent the rest of the trip listening to music while she stared at the road absentmindedly.
In less than a week Adrien was going to leave for Japan. Marinette was dreading the idea ever since learning that he still had feelings for Kagami. The TFE was the perfect opportunity for them to get back together. When she had talked to Alya, her friend had suggested that she stop assuming stuff and just talk to Adrien, but what was she going to achieve by that? Adrien had already told her he missed Kagami. What was the point of talking to him just to get her heart broken again? It just hurt too much. She at least hoped she was doing a good job of hiding her pain. But every day that passed mocked her with the knowledge that they were one day closer to the day Adrien got back together with Kagami.
Two and a half hours passed quickly. Etretat Beach was beautiful; the cliffs looked like something out of a movie. That was probably the reason why they decided to shoot the music video there. She guessed the beach was usually full of tourists, but the part of the beach where they were recording was closed for the next four days, so they had it to themselves.
They had barely been off the bus for five minutes when their wardrobe staff showed up with their clothes and hurried them to change. Marinette had been nervous about the clothes since learning that the music video was going to be set on the beach. She hoped they didn't expect her to show her chest, since there was no way she was going to keep her secret if they did.
She was relieved to find out she was going to wear tight black jeans, a black t-shirt and a red jacket with black polka dots. The rest of the band didn't even blink when she locked herself in the bathroom while the rest of them changed on the bus. They'd gotten used to her hiding to change her clothes; they just thought Antoine was a very shy guy.
She exited the bathroom to find out the rest of the guys had similar outfits but in different colors. Adrien looked incredibly sexy wearing black from head to toe, and once again Marinette mourned because that gorgeous boy was never going to be hers.
"Ready?" asked Penny. When the guys nodded, she replied, "Great! The director, Monsieur Bisset, is setting up some stuff with the audio staff. Let's just wait a couple of minutes for him, and then he'll explain the video concept to you."
"Are we going to work with models?" asked Nathaniel. "I mean, usually they're here too when the director explains the video to us."
Marinette was about to dumbly ask what models he was talking about until she realized he meant models to play their love interests in the video.
"No, M. Bisset, Jagged, and I talked about it, and we decided not to use models. It'll only be the five of you on the beach," replied Penny, as her phone started ringing. "Excuse me, I need to take this call."
"It's for the best," said Nathaniel after Penny left to talk on the phone. "Every time we make a romantic music video, Catafans are really mean to the models."
Marinette wished she could say that this was not true, but she had been in the fandom for so long that she knew that, sadly, that was the way a lot of fans behaved.
"Remember Sauvez-Moi? Catafans sent death threats to the girl that played my girlfriend in that video," added Adrien. "It was awful. What did that poor girl even do? She was hired to play my girlfriend and that was all she did. She even had to close her social media accounts because Catafans kept harassing her."
Marinette felt her cheeks burning. She hated those people that sent death threats; they were the scum of the fanbase. However, she still felt embarrassed because she remembered how jealous she had been watching the Sauvez-Moi video, watching that girl play in the snow with Adrien. Of course, she would never have sent a death threat, but she had been jealous. She felt so stupid now.
"I don't understand why they do that," said Marinette in a very small voice, embarrassed over the fanbase's behavior.
"They're crazy, man!" replied Kim. Marinette flinched. That was what the band thought of the Catafans? "Not all of them of course, most of them are really nice, but there is this part of the fanbase that is just batshit crazy."
Marinette was relieved to hear they were aware not all fans were like that. It would've broken her heart if they hated all the fanbase due to the behavior of a few.
"Yeah, I love most of our fans. They're really cool," said Nino. "But there are some fans that are just nuts. They harass anybody that plays our romantic interests in music videos, even though most times we only meet the models for the days we record, and then we never see them again. It's stupid, really."
"It's even worse when they find out you're dating somebody in real life," added Kim. "You should see some of the messages Ondine receives."
"Yeah, Marc doesn't use social media anymore because people are just mean," replied Nathaniel.
How someone could be mean to Marc or Ondine was beyond her. Marinette admitted to herself that she had stalked them on social media when they started dating Nathaniel and Kim, respectively, but that was only to satisfy her curiosity about who they were.
"Most fans are great, and some are really thoughtful. I have a favorite fan that sends me amazing gifts," said Adrien, winking at her. Marinette blushed again, and she felt as if she were floating. The rest of the guys didn't notice Adrien winking. "I love Catafans. They're so cool. It's just a really small part of the fanbase that ruins it. You know, like those fans that convince themselves that they're going to marry me even though they don't even know me personally. And when I start dating somebody I do know in real life, they get jealous and feel entitled to harass the other person. Ugh, I hate those."
Marinette was not floating, she was free-falling. Adrien hated fans that wanted to marry him without knowing him. Adrien hated fans that got mad when he dated somebody in real life. That last part was practically a description of her, except that she had never harassed Kagami. She was jealous of Kagami, but the idea of harassing her had never crossed her mind.
She knew Adrien didn't mean that last part as a dig against her. He had no idea she'd picked the color scheme for their wedding years ago. All he knew about her being a Catafan was that she sent him gifts, and apparently he found that cool.
Actually, he had said she was his favorite fan (even if the rest of the guys didn't know he was talking about her). However, she couldn't help but think he'd change his mind if he found out how much of an obsessive fan she used to be.
Would he hate her for it? He said he hated those fans.
M. Bisset picked that very moment to show up and start giving them the instructions for the video. Marinette was having a hard time keeping up with what he was saying, but at least trying to keep up with him was preventing the tears from falling.
On the first break they had, she was going to send a million texts to Alya.
Unlike their apartment, the bus only had one shower. So after they finished their first day of filming, they had to queue to take a shower. Kim was the fastest of them all, so he ran to the bus and got to go first while the rest waited. Nino and Nathaniel were fighting about who was going after Kim.
Adrien was desperate to take a shower. He felt as if he had sand everywhere. He noticed Antoine was lying on one of the couches not even bothering to argue about the shower. He had been sad all day. Well, he had been sad for the past week and a half, but today he looked even sadder.
Enough was enough.
Adrien walked over to Antoine and sat on the couch, right next to where Antoine was lying.
"Hey," said Adrien.
"Hey," replied Antoine.
"What's bothering you?" asked Adrien before he could change his mind about approaching Antoine.
"Nothing is bothering me," replied Antoine, but it was obviously a lie.
"I've noticed something has been bothering you recently," insisted Adrien. "You don't have to talk about it if you don't want to, but I'll be here to listen to you if you need it."
"Thanks Adrien, but I don't think that would be a great idea."
That stung. He felt as if he could talk to Antoine about everything. It hurt to discover Antoine didn't feel the same way about him. Antoine seemed to notice that he had come off a little harsh, so he immediately added:
"It's not that I don't trust you. It's just that well… uhm.. I..."
"It's okay if you don't want to talk to me," said Adrien, even though he wanted Antoine to talk to him, "but you should still talk to somebody. What about Alya?"
"I've talked about it with Alya," replied Antoine. Adrien was not surprised at all. "She said…well…"
Adrien didn't find out what Alya said because Antoine said nothing more. He stayed silent so long that Adrien wondered if the conversation was over and if he should just leave Antoine alone. But he didn't move. And to his surprise, a few minutes later, Antoine started talking again.
"It's just that well… there's this person," started Antoine, and Adrien felt glad he finally decided to trust in him. "I've been in love with this person for a while now."
"Oh," was all Adrien could say while his brain rebooted. Antoine was in love with someone else. This was not what Adrien had signed up for. He was not prepared for this.
"And, well, recently I realized it's never going to happen." Antoine sounded so sad, so broken. Adrien wanted to punch whoever made him feel like that.
"Did he reject you?" asked Adrien. He was having a hard time believing somebody could reject Antoine.
Antoine sat straight up on the couch with an alarmed look on his face.
"He? Who said it was a he?" asked Antoine nervously.
"You said it, a couple of weeks ago when you told me you were strictly into guys," replied Adrien, confused by Antoine's attitude.
Antoine looked at him for a couple of seconds, and then some sort of realization hit his eyes.
"I said that, didn't I?" he asked more to himself than to Adrien.
"Yes, you did," confirmed Adrien. How could Antoine forget that?
Antoine looked at him for a couple of seconds; he seemed to be thinking about something.
"He didn't reject me exactly," he said after a short silence. "In order for him to reject me, he needs to know I'm interested."
"If you haven't told him yet how you feel, why do you assume it's never going to happen?" asked Adrien. He only asked because Antoine looked as if he really needed to talk about it, but honestly, he wanted this conversation to be over.
"Well, he told me he still wants his ex," replied Antoine. "I don't think he even sees me that way."
What kind of blind idiot was that guy?
"Well, that's his loss," said Adrien. "I don't see why he would want to get back with his ex when he has this amazing and attractive guy interested in him."
For some reason, that was the wrong thing to say because Antoine looked even sadder.
"I'm not that amazing. That's the other thing," said Antoine. "He thinks highly of me, and I'm flattered, but I've kept secrets from him. There's a big secret, humongous actually, that I have no choice but to keep from him. There's also a smaller one that I never thought was serious or a big deal, just embarrassing. Until I recently learned that if he found out about that secret, he'd be repulsed by me."
In that moment, Adrien realized tears had started falling from Antoine's eyes. That broke Adrien's heart more than knowing that Antoine was in love with someone else did.
He put his arm around his shoulder, wondering if he was overstepping his boundaries. Antoine didn't move, so he guessed it was okay.
"I don't think there's a secret you can keep that's going to make anyone be repulsed by you," Adrien assured him. "I mean, you said yourself that it's nothing serious, just something small and embarrassing. If a guy is going to be repulsed by you because of something small and embarrassing, then that guy is a complete idiot."
"He isn't an idiot," replied Antoine, and Adrien felt the jealousy burning a little stronger in his chest. He wanted to scream that the guy was an idiot. He had to be to make Antoine suffer like this.
Nino's voice interrupted suddenly.
"Dude, are you ok?"
Both Antoine and Adrien looked up to find Nathaniel and Nino looking worried.
"We heard you crying and we were worried about you," added Nathaniel.
"I'm ok. It's just allergies," replied Antoine. Neither Nino nor Nathaniel seemed to believe him, but they got the message and didn't press further. "Thanks for worrying, guys."
Kim exited the shower that very moment, and Antoine ran faster than anyone else to be the next one. He locked himself in there for close to an hour, but no one in the queue felt like hurrying him up.
Only later, after everybody else went to bed, did Adrien allow himself to drown in his misery over the fact that Antoine was in love with someone else.
Marinette didn't know if she achieved anything by following Alya's advice and talking to Adrien. To be fair, Alya probably had in mind that Marinette would tell Adrien he was the guy she was talking about, but she couldn't summon enough courage to do it. It was clear Adrien appreciated Antoine, but that would probably change if he found out about Marinette's past obsessive behavior. Besides, even if he seemed to appreciate Antoine, that didn't change the fact that he was still in love with Kagami.
She had been surprised to learn Adrien knew she was talking about a guy, since she didn't remember Antoine's sexual orientation ever being discussed. She didn't even notice when she had said she was 'strictly into guys'; it had just slipped.
When she found out Adrien thought Antoine was gay, she went along with it. It was true that she liked guys, and it'd be less confusing to talk about her crush using male pronouns. However, she felt like trash for pretending to be gay when real gay men still faced a lot of struggles.
Marinette would've thought she would feel worse as the day passed, considering that every day brought them closer to the TFE and Adrien's reconciliation with Kagami, but oddly enough, she felt better in the following days. Maybe it was because she was so busy with work that she didn't have a lot of time to dwell on her heartbreak.
Recording the music video was harder than she expected. Marinette was not great at acting – which was odd, considering she was already faking being a guy – and the music video required acting. She also sucked at riding a horse, and there was a scene in the video where all the band members rode horses on the edge of the water. The horse trainer was right there with them, but Marinette had still been extremely nervous and they'd had to re-do the scene a few times. It was exhausting.
Every night they spent in Normandy, Kim and Nino insisted on going to a club, but they were always so tired at the end of the day that the idea always ended up being discarded.
Notre Amour came out on Thursday afternoon. Immediately after they finished the video shoot for the day, they ran to the bus to see how the song was doing. Everybody was extremely nervous since it was the first song the band had released after XY and Bob Roth left the band. It was also the first song with Jagged as a producer, Nathaniel's first time as a songwriter, and Marinette's first song with the band.
They were happy to find that the song was actually doing awesome. A few fans were complaining about the change of style, but the majority of people loved it.
"So, this is our last night in Normandy and our song is successful. I say we should celebrate!" said Kim, to the surprise of absolutely no one. "Let's go to a club."
"We have to wake up early tomorrow," said Nathaniel. "If you really want to go, why don't we go tomorrow after we finish the music video?"
"Because as soon as we finish we're going to be sent back to Paris. I wanted to see some clubs here," replied Kim.
"Yeah, but we don't have to wake up early the next day because Jagged gave us this Saturday off," replied Nathaniel. "We can go tomorrow to celebrate the success of Notre Amour and the fact that we finished recording the video, and to say goodbye to Adrien who's leaving on Sunday."
Nathaniel's idea met with approval from everybody except from Kim who still wanted to party in Normandy.
"Besides, Alya, Marc, and Ondine are in Paris," added Nino, placing emphasis on Ondine.
"Tomorrow it is then!" agreed Kim.
Adrien wasn't exactly in a mood to go clubbing. He hadn't actually been in the mood for anything since he found out Antoine was in love with someone else. Antoine didn't seem to be in the mood to go either. However, Kim and Nino had argued that Adrien was leaving for Japan the day after tomorrow, so they needed to go clubbing together one last time. One would think he was leaving for a year instead of a week and a half.
He didn't even know where they got their energy from. After recording all day and then travelling from Normandy to Paris, one would think they'd be dead on their feet.
Somehow he found himself in Kim's car, cramped in the backseat with Nino, Nathaniel, and Antoine. Marc was seated on Nathaniel's lap. On the way there, Kim was driving and Ondine was shotgun; on the way back they'd switch since Ondine was going to be their designated driver.
They picked up Alya last because she lived the closest to their favorite club, Le Château Rose.
"How do you expect me to fit in there? It's already cramped as fuck!" said Alya upon opening the back seat door.
"It's ok, you can sit on Nino's lap," replied Antoine, smirking.
"You can sit on Adrien's lap. You're small," countered Alya.
Alya suggested what? Why was she so cruel? Adrien was going to have a heart attack if Antoine did that.
"Well, you and Nino have something going on, so it makes more sense for you to sit on his lap than for Antoine to sit on Adrien's lap," said Nathaniel, oblivious that he was rubbing the fact that Adrien and Antoine didn't have anything going on in Adrien's face.
"Oh, I was planning on sitting on Nino's lap anyway," replied Alya casually. "I was just thinking that we'd be more comfortable if Antoine sits on Adrien's lap. I mean the back seat is designed for three people, and there are six of us here, so it makes sense that three people sit on the other three people's laps."
If looks could kill, Alya would be dead, considering the way Antoine was looking at her.
"Fine," said Antoine. Then he looked at Adrien and asked, "Is it okay if I sit on your lap?"
The French language was extensive and Adrien was very fluent considering it was his native language. However, at that moment, he couldn't find the words to reply, so he just nodded.
Antoine moved to sit on Adrien's lap. Adrien was pretty sure his face was a brand new shade of red unknown to mankind. He kind of convinced himself that this was how he was going to die, from blushing so hard. At least his blood was concentrated on his face and not on other places that would make the ride much more uncomfortable and embarrassing.
They reached the club with Adrien still alive, so that was good.
Le Château Rose was crowded as usual, but luckily the VIP area still had a table. They ordered a round of shots to toast for finishing the video shoot and to celebrate the success of the song. All of them had a shot, with the exception of Ondine, who never drank.
Despite Adrien's initial reluctance to go to the club, he ended up having fun with his friends. Antoine looked as if he was having fun too. Adrien was glad. Antoine had spent so much time being sad over that idiot that broke his heart; it was good to see him having fun.
At some point in the night, Alya asked Adrien to dance with her. He thought it was kind of weird. Not because she was dating Nino - Adrien had just spent a good part of the night dancing with Ondine; it was just harmless fun. He thought it was weird because Alya insisted so much that they totally needed to dance together that Adrien couldn't help but think she was up to something.
Maybe he was overthinking things.
Alya dragged him to the dance floor right next to where Antoine was dancing with Marc. They had barely been on the floor for two seconds when Alya said, "I want to dance with Marc now. Let's switch couples."
Before anyone else could react, she grabbed Marc by the arm and pushed Antoine to Adrien. Then she left to dance with Marc on the other side of the dance floor, leaving Adrien and Antoine standing awkwardly.
"So, you want to dance?" asked Adrien awkwardly, almost sure that Antoine was going to say no.
"Sure, if you want to," replied Antoine.
Adrien wasn't sure how to proceed, but luckily the song ended and was replaced by a song with a faster beat that was a hit when they were younger.
"I love this song!" said Antoine enthusiastically.
"Me too!" replied Adrien. "When I was a kid I didn't actually understand the lyrics. I remember that when I heard it again a couple of years ago, I was surprised to find out that the song was not G-rated"
"That makes two of us. It wasn't until I was a teenager that I understood why the principal didn't let me sing it at a school talent show when I was seven."
Adrien laughed to picture a seven year old Antoine trying to sing that song in school.
The music and the noise didn't provide a great environment to continue the conversation, so they just danced.
Seeing Antoine dance was impressive. Dancing with Antoine? Now Adrien was about to have a heart attack. The way the guy moved his body as if he was being controlled by the music just did things to Adrien, okay?
When they started dancing, there was a respectable distance of fifty centimeters between them. Several songs and a few shots later, a paper sheet wouldn't fit in the space between their bodies. He didn't know what the rest of the guys were doing anymore. He was too focused on Antoine, lost in their own little bubble.
He knew Antoine was in love with someone else. He knew Antoine had rejected him. But dancing like this with him, with the way Antoine glued himself to Adrien's body, with the way Antoine looked at him, it was hard to believe there was no attraction there.
What if Antoine was in love with this other guy, but he was still attracted to Adrien? What if the reason why he rejected Adrien was not because he was not into him, but because he wanted to be faithful to that other guy that was too much of blind idiot to notice Antoine?
A small hope that Antoine was attracted to him was making itself at home in Adrien's heart.
Antoine's mouth looked so soft, so inviting, and he was so close to Adrien. Adrien resisted the temptation and gave Antoine a quick peck on the lips.
What was Adrien doing? Antoine had already told him a kiss wouldn't happen again. Adrien was ready to apologize, but before he could start talking, Antoine took Adrien's face in his hands and kissed him on the mouth.
Marinette was shocked when Adrien gave her a peck. Where did that come from? She risked a glimpse at Adrien and he looked distressed. Before she could actually think, she kissed him.
He was so much taller than her that she needed to tiptoe to kiss him, but it was worth it. For a second, she was terrified that he was not going to go along with the kiss, but he started kissing her back enthusiastically.
She couldn't believe this was real life. She knew that the last time she had kissed Adrien, she had said that was never going to happen again, but this was different from the last time.
Last time they were drunk, now… well, they were not exactly sober, but they were not as drunk as the last time. Last time, Adrien had been sad and venting to her about his dad; now they were dancing together at a club. Last time, she had kissed him and she had been pretty sure he wasn't into it; now, he had been the first to kiss her, and he was kissing her back when she kissed him.
She knew he was in love with Kagami, but with the way he danced with her, with the way he kissed her, there was no denying he was attracted to her too.
They danced through several more songs, stealing kisses along the way. They started with just touching lips, but by around the third song, they were already in a full make-out session.
Their kisses just kept getting bolder and bolder, until one of them - she couldn't remember which one - dragged the other to the boys' bathroom. Making out in a club's bathroom was hardly classy, but Marinette couldn't care less. All she could think of was Adrien, the taste of his lips, the smell of his skin, the way his tongue danced with hers.
Marinette was aware he was still in love with Kagami, but it was obvious that Adrien was attracted to her too. She knew that to him, this was probably just a drunk make-out session with his attractive bandmate and he was going to forget about it by the morning. She knew that in less than forty-eight hours, he was going to board that plane to Japan and he'd come back to Paris being Kagami Tsurugi's boyfriend. She knew that tomorrow morning, she'd be hurting, but she couldn't care less at the moment.
Right now he was hers, and she was planning on enjoying that, even if this was all she was ever going to get from him.
Marinette's hands wandered to Adrien's back while Adrien left her mouth for a second to pay a little attention to her neck. He seemed hesitant, but Marinette's appreciative noises encouraged him to keep kissing her there. He planted a trail of kisses from her neck to her jaw to finally take her mouth again.
Feeling brave, Marinette lifted Adrien's t-shirt to explore his abs with her hand. She had always dreamed about doing that, but she had never thought she'd actually get the chance.
Adrien opened up the first button of Marinette's shirt and Marinette was too far gone to care. Sure, let's get rid of the shirt, they were wearing too many clothes anyway. He went for the second button and Marinette's sanity finally returned.
She couldn't let Adrien carry on opening her shirt! If he opened the second button, he'd see her binder and her secret would be revealed.
In a split second and with her mind clouded with panic, she pushed Adrien as hard as she could and bolted out of the bathroom.
Nino's brother's name is Noël (Christmas), it was changed to Chris (tmas) in the English dub.
Thanks for sending me ship names for Antoine/Adrien! I'll use them in a later chapter.
Sauvez-Moi: Save Me
Le Château Rose: The Pink Castle
I want to thank slkworm for being my beta. You are awesome!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Everything happened so fast that Adrien couldn't react. One minute he was dancing with Antoine, then they were kissing on the dance floor, and he could hardly believe that was happening in real life. Then the next minute, they were locked together in the boy's bathroom, mouths devouring each other, hands beginning to explore each other's bodies. At this point, his brain had been on autopilot; his hands were moving, but he was not capable of any coherent thought.
Suddenly he had felt Antoine's hand pushing him so hard he was pretty sure he stumbled to the other side of the bathroom, and then, in a blink of an eye, Antoine was gone.
Adrien stayed in the bathroom for a few seconds just processing what had happened. He was still having trouble believing he had just made out with Antoine, and in a club bathroom of all places. And then, of course, he had ruined it somehow and had made Antoine ran away.
Why had Antoine run away? Antoine had been the one that dragged Adrien to the bathroom, so he was into it initially at least.
Antoine may have gone willingly to the bathroom, but maybe he had changed his mind? Or maybe they were going too fast? Either way, Antoine could just have said so, and Adrien would have stopped immediately. Surely Antoine knew Adrien would've respected his decision and that Adrien was just going to go as far as both of them were comfortable with.
He felt an awful mixture of horror, panic, and dread filling him when he considered that maybe Antoine thought Adrien would not stop. Maybe Antoine thought Adrien would've forced him to continue.
Suddenly Adrien wanted to throw up, and it was not related to the alcohol at all.
He went to the sink and splashed water in his face, trying to calm himself down. He felt the impulse to go after Antoine and try to talk to him. He wanted to know if Antoine was ok. He wanted Antoine to know Adrien was going to respect his boundaries and never force him to do anything he didn't want. He wanted to apologize and beg on his knees for forgiveness if he had made him uncomfortable somehow.
But he thought Antoine probably didn't want to see him right now. Mustering all his courage, he opened the bathroom door and exited the bathroom. Suddenly, he felt embarrassed, not knowing how many people in the VIP area had seen him and Antoine lock themselves in the bathroom lip-locked.
He scanned the area and he couldn't find Antoine.
Nathaniel was dancing with Ondine, while Marc, Kim, and Nino were at the same table. Kim was doing some weird trick with a cup and Nino was filming it. Alya was nowhere to be seen. Adrien didn't feel like joining the guys. They looked so cheerful and happy and everything that Adrien was not at that very moment. He didn't want to ruin their night with his sour mood.
Besides, Antoine was probably going to reappear any moment, and he'd probably be more comfortable without Adrien there. Adrien wanted to talk to Antoine, but maybe tonight was not the right moment.
In the end, he decided it was in everybody's best interest that he just went home. Without saying goodbye to anybody, he snuck to the door and called a taxi. When he was in the taxi, he tapped out a message to Nino so that he didn't look for him later.
[AA: I left the club and I'm on my way to the apartment.]
[NL: Ok dude! Have fun, be safe and all that]
The 'have fun' part of the message confused Adrien. Have fun doing what? Beating himself up over the whole incident with Antoine?
He didn't give it much thought and put his phone back in his pocket. He spent the rest of the ride to the apartment wondering if he was a coward for leaving the club, if he should've stayed and tried to talk to Antoine instead. He argued to himself that Antoine probably didn't want to see him right now, but he still felt like a coward.
After Marinette escaped from the boys' bathroom, she immediately entered the girls' bathroom because it was the closest door and she didn't fancy going back to the dance floor that very moment.
Only after she entered the girls' bathroom did she realize that she looked like a boy and therefore she was not going to be well-received there. Luckily, the bathroom was empty, so Marinette took her time to try to calm her heart, which was beating so fast she was scared it was going to escape her chest.
She could hardly believe she had just made out with Adrien. She had never expected that to happen outside of her dreamland. Probably it was never going to happen again, but she had this memory to treasure forever.
Admittedly, the end of the makeout session was far from ideal. She shouldn't have bolted like that from the boys' bathroom, but she couldn't let Adrien see her binder and in that moment, Adrien's mouth, the alcohol, and the panic had messed with her head and she couldn't find anything coherent to say. So she had just pushed him and ran away.
She didn't know how long she stayed in the girls' bathroom trying to organize her thoughts - maybe about five minutes, but she didn't trust her perception of time at the moment - when the bathroom door opened and Alya came in. Alya stared at her as if she were seeing an alien.
"Weren't you with Adrien in the boy's bathroom?" she asked.
"You saw that?" asked Marinette, suddenly embarrassed over the whole incident.
"The whole club saw that. You weren't exactly discreet, you know," replied Alya. Marinette felt her cheeks burning.
"Did the rest of the guys see us, then?" asked Marinette. Alya nodded. "What did they say?"
"All of our jaws are still hurting from hitting the floor so hard," replied Alya. "I think the guys were shocked because it was pretty out of character of Adrien to just make out with someone in public. Also, they didn't seem to have a clue that there was something going on between you two."
"There is nothing going on between Adrien and I," said Marinette, but Alya ignored her.
"The only one that didn't look that shocked about Adrien and you was Nino, so there is something to be investigated there," said Alya. "Do you think Adrien told him about having feelings for you or something?"
"Adrien doesn't have feelings for me. He's in love with Kagami," said Marinette, the words tasting bitter in her mouth.
"It didn't look like that just a few minutes ago. You should've seen the way he was looking at you. I bet Kagami was the last thing on his mind."
"I mean, yes, he's attracted to Antoine, that much became obvious today," agreed Marinette. "But that doesn't mean he has feelings for me. Being attracted to someone is not the same as having feelings for them."
"I agree, but you gotta start somewhere, and attraction is a way to start something," replied Alya.
"It won't start anything because he'll board that plane to Japan on Sunday," replied Marinette. "And then he'll get back together with Kagami and this will just be a dumb memory for him."
"You don't know that for sure because you don't ever talk to him," replied Alya, clearly frustrated. "I mean, how do you know this will just be a dumb memory for him? What did he say about what just happened between you two?"
Marinette suddenly felt very interested in analyzing the pattern of the bathroom tiles. It was a bit of an odd choice to have black and white spirals in the design when most people that came here were probably not sober.
"What did Adrien say?" pressed Alya.
"I don't know, we didn't talk," replied Marinette.
"Oh, you didn't talk," repeated Alya in a suggestive tone.
"It's not like that. It's just that I couldn't let him figure out you-know-what," replied Marinette.
"Now you lost me," replied Alya.
Marinette proceeded to explain to Alya what had happened in the bathroom with Adrien. She didn't give her a lot of details about their makeout session since that was private and something she wanted to keep to herself, but she did tell her that Adrien tried to open her shirt so she had to escape.
"I want to beat you with a stick," deadpanned Alya after Marinette finished talking.
"What did you want me to do? Let him figured out my secret?" asked Marinette, annoyed with her friend.
"You could've found a nicer way to stop him," replied Alya. "Don't get me wrong. I totally support - hell, I encourage - physically attacking him if he were forcing you in some way, but that wasn't the case here. Since the only reason why you wanted him to stop was to keep your secret, a simple 'not yet' while gently pushing his hands would've sufficed, don't you think?"
Marinette understood Alya was right. She just wished Alya understood that she hadn't had time to think about what to do. She had to react in real time, and panic was not a great advisor.
"I know you're right. I just panicked, ok?" replied Marinette.
Alya put her arm around Marinette shoulder. "I know. Look, when you're ready, let's go back with the guys. You can talk to Adrien and explain what happened."
"Oh, what do you want me to say? 'Hey hot stuff, I had a great time making out with you. The only reason why I ran away is because I couldn't let you figure out something that I cannot tell you because it's a secret'?"
"Or 'Hey Adrien, I'm sorry for running away. I felt we were going too fast, and sometimes I overreact. I'm not mad at you and I would like to try this again eventually' would sound better," suggested Alya.
Marinette gave Alya a look that said she wasn't going to say that last part, but the 'going too fast' excuse sounded good. However, she wasn't sure she was going to be able to talk to Adrien. She felt self-conscious about what had just happened, and she was afraid she was going to start stuttering again or something.
She stayed with Alya in the bathroom for a little while until a girl came in to use the bathroom for its intended purpose, so they had to go back with the rest of the guys. She couldn't see Adrien with them or on the dance floor.
"There you are, Alya. We were about to send Ondine to look for you in the bathroom. We were afraid you were kidnapped or something," said Kim. Then he noticed Marinette and added "What are you doing here, Antoine?"
"Way to make me feel welcome," replied Marinette in a half attempt at a joke.
"Don't mind Kim, you know how he is," replied Nathaniel. "It's just that we assumed you left with Adrien."
"Adrien left?" asked Marinette, feeling it was somehow her fault. She could feel Alya's eyes on the back of her head, and she knew Alya probably thought so too.
"He sent me a text saying he was going back to the apartment," replied Nino. "And we didn't see you anywhere, so we assumed you two left together."
Marinette felt her face heating up at the implication. She was thankful that the lights of the club were dim enough to hide a blush.
"Well, since Antoine is here now, I'm wondering why Adrien left," said Ondine.
"Maybe he wasn't feeling good?" suggested Marc.
"Or maybe he just wanted to go home. Remember, he didn't even want to come in the first place," said Kim.
"I'll text him to make sure he is ok" said Nino.
Marinette sat down next to Marc, feeling the crushing weight of guilt. Had Adrien gone home because of what happened? Or maybe it was a coincidence?
"It's okay," whispered Alya in her ear. "This was not the best setting to talk to him anyway."
"You can talk to him tomorrow."
Marinette wanted to run home and talk to him right now, but at the same time, she wanted to talk to him never.
"Yes, Sunday sounds good."
"I meant Saturday."
"It's 1AM, it's Saturday already, therefore tomorrow is Sunday," argued Marinette.
"You know I meant Saturday," replied Alya, exasperated. "And that's not the point. The point is that you should talk to Adrien soon."
"I'll talk to him on Sunday before he leaves for Japan, ok?" replied Marinette.
Alya didn't seem convinced but they didn't want to keep arguing in whispers. It was awkward.
They left the club less than half an hour later, but before they headed home, they stopped for fried chicken. When they finally got back to the apartment, Adrien was already in his room, apparently asleep. Marinette didn't know if she was relieved or disappointed. She went to bed straight after coming back.
After Adrien got home, he threw himself on his bed and replayed every single moment with Antoine since they had started dancing together. He needed to know where things had gone wrong, how he had made Antoine so uncomfortable that he needed to run away from him.
A little later he received a text from Nino asking him if he was okay. Adrien was the exact opposite of okay, but he didn't want to ruin Nino's night so he told him he was okay, just tired. He didn't know if Nino believed him, but he didn't press him.
The rest of the guys came back around 2AM, which was a little earlier than he expected them to be home. Adrien was still wide awake and he didn't think he was going to be able to sleep, but he didn't want to talk with anybody, so he faked being asleep.
He spent the rest of the night jumping from analyzing every single one of his interactions with Antoine that night to rehearsing an apology. Contrary to what he expected, he did end up falling asleep. He didn't know what time that was, but the sun was already peeking through his window.
He woke up a little before midday with someone knocking his bedroom door. He mentally thanked Jagged for giving them this Saturday off. He didn't know if he would've survived waking up early for their usual Saturday rehearsal.
He opened the door to find Nino holding two cups of microwave instant soup.
"Good morning dude!" said Nino, handing Adrien one of the cups that Adrien happily accepted. "I decided to go to my parent's place later. Are you coming with me?"
"I'd love to, but I should probably stay. I haven't started to pack yet," said Adrien. "Thanks for the soup. You have no idea how hungry I am."
"When was the last time you ate, man?" asked Nino, watching Adrien absorb the soup.
"I don't know, lunch yesterday?" said Adrien, but it came off as a question.
"You didn't eat anything after coming back last night?" asked Nino with a worried look on his face.
Adrien shook his head.
To be honest, the previous night, Adrien hadn't remembered that food was a thing that humans needed. All that was on his mind was what happened with Antoine.
"After leaving the club, we stopped to get fried chicken at that place Kim loves. I would have brought you some if I had told me," said Nino.
"Don't worry, dude, I just wasn't hungry last night," replied Adrien.
"Were you feeling sick or something?" asked Nino. Adrien was feeling sick, just not in the way Nino was thinking. "I mean, you kind of left the club all of a sudden. First I thought you'd left with Antoine, but then I saw Antoine was still there, so I don't know why you left."
So, the Antoine topic finally came up. Adrien had been hoping that maybe Nino had not noticed anything, but he knew it was unrealistic to expect that considering they had made out in the middle of the floor.
Adrien was about to say something about how he left just because he was tired. It would've been believable considering that they had worked on the video all day the previous day, and had then travelled by bus almost three hours and had then gone clubbing. He decided against it; he needed to talk to someone, and Nino was his best bro and sometimes his external common sense.
"I didn't feel like clubbing anymore," replied Adrien. "Something happened with Antoine and-"
"Man, we all saw something happened with Antoine," interrupted Nino. Adrien blushed, embarrassed by his behavior the night before. "Sorry, go on."
Adrien was not actually sure how to continue since he didn't want to give more detail than was strictly necessary.
"Well, we were kissing in the bathroom." That was probably the understatement of the century. "And suddenly, he pushed me and ran away."
Once he said the words out loud, the reality of what had happened last night hit him like a wave. He had made out with Antoine. Antoine had pushed him away.
"That sucks, dude," said Nino simply, putting the empty soup cup in the trash can. "Why did he do that?"
"That's the thing, I don't know!" replied Adrien, resisting the urge to pull his own hair in frustration. "Maybe I was going too fast or pushed him too much?"
"Maybe," said Nino. "I mean, I know you wouldn't do it on purpose, but maybe you unknowingly went past whatever he was comfortable with."
Adrien wanted to slap his past self.
"Look, instead of beating yourself over it, just talk to Antoine," suggested Nino. "Just ask what happened and, if it's necessary, apologize."
"That was pretty much the plan," replied Adrien. "I was just waiting for the right moment."
He was also scared, but since he didn't know exactly what he was scared of, he just didn't mention it.
"Well, Antoine isn't here anyway," replied Nino. "He went to visit his parents and said he's coming back tomorrow evening, which now I realize is after you leave for the airport, but it might be a coincidence. So I don't know if you want to call him or something, because otherwise your right moment is going to have to wait until you come back."
"Maybe that's for the better," said Adrien. "A week and a half is enough time to let our heads cool."
"Suit yourself, dude," said Nino, though he clearly disagreed with Adrien. "But I still think it's better if you talk to him before leaving. I know you, and if you don't, then you'll just spend all your time in Japan torturing yourself over the thing with Antoine."
Adrien knew Nino was right, but he didn't want to admit it, so instead he changed the topic.
"I forgot to ask you if you could drive me to the airport," said Adrien. "I was planning on driving myself, but I don't want to leave my car parked at Le Charles de Gaulle for the entire trip, so I was wondering if you could come to the airport with me and then drive my car back here."
"Sure thing, dude," replied Nino. "I was planning on sleeping at my parent's place tonight; at what time do you need me to come back tomorrow?"
"I'm supposed to meet with Nathalie and my dad at 2PM, but instead of you coming here, I can pick you up at your parent's place and then we can head to the airport. That way I get to say goodbye to your family."
"Man, at this point I think they're your family too," said Nino casually, unaware of how warm that made Adrien feel.
"Thanks," said Adrien, but his voice was so small he didn't think Nino heard him. Less seriously, he asked, "Should I go to the airport wearing my black hoodie?"
"Do you mean that hideous hoodie with the cat ears?" asked Nino looking at Adrien as if he had lost his mind.
"It's not hideous, it's high fashion," said Adrien.
"Well, you should know more than I do about fashion, but that doesn't change the fact that hoodie is hideous," replied Nino.
"My dad hates it," commented Adrien.
"Probably the one and only thing your old man and I have in common," replied Nino. "Why do you even want to wear it to the airport?"
"My dad hates it," repeated Adrien, since Nino was clearly missing the point.
Nino seemed to suddenly understand, because he said, "You know dude, I think that hoodie looks great on you."
Marinette decided to spend Saturday at her parents' home.
She didn't fancy being in the apartment. Adrien was there, and she was feeling so many things about what happened at the club that she couldn't face him. She felt guilty for pushing him without an explanation. She felt dumb for making out with him when she was in love with him but he was still in love with Kagami. She felt like an idiot for letting things go too far when she had a secret to keep. She also wondered if she was maybe overreacting to everything. What if the whole thing in the club was no big deal to Adrien, something he would never think of again, while she was here drowning in her thoughts?
On Sunday, she hung out with Alya. They went to the movies and had the theaters to themselves since not many people went to the movies on a Sunday morning. Then they had pizza for brunch.
"Want to go to the band's apartment and binge watch television on that huge TV you guys have?" proposed Alya.
Marinette checked her clock. Adrien was still at the apartment, and she didn't feel ready to face him just yet. It was better to just let him go to Japan, and face him when he came back when their make out in the club was just a distant – if it were even existent - memory for him.
She knew Alya wouldn't approve of her plan, but Alya didn't know what time Adrien was leaving for Japan, so she couldn't pressure Marinette. Of course, eventually Alya would find out, by the time they got to the apartment at least, but it'd be too late for her to do anything since Adrien was going to be on a plane to Japan by then.
"What about getting ice cream?" proposed Marinette.
"We just ate a giant pizza, I'm too full," replied Alya.
"Well, I'm never too full for ice cream," countered Marinette. "And I also need to go to the shopping mall. I was hoping you'd accompany me."
She dragged Alya around the city looking for André's Ice Cream stall, and then after she found him and had her ice cream, she dragged Alya to the shopping mall where they browsed for ages but bought nothing.
Marinette only accepted going to the apartment when she was absolutely sure Adrien had already left for the airport. It hurt her heart knowing that she wouldn't see him for a week and a half, but it was for the better.
"Where is everybody?" asked Alya, entering the apartment and setting her bag on the couch.
"Kim, Nathaniel, and Nino are probably in their own families' homes," replied Marinette. "They usually go home on Saturday and come back Sunday evening."
"Oh, yeah. I was texting Nino yesterday and he mentioned something about playing video games with his little brother all evening," replied Alya. "Where is Adrien? I thought he'd be here getting ready for his trip."
"Oh, he's probably on a plane to Japan right now," replied Marinette, not looking at Alya. She entered the kitchen and opened the fridge. "Do you want a popsicle? We have lots of different kinds. Technically speaking, they're Kim's, but he won't mind if we eat one."
Since Alya didn't reply, Marinette turned around slowly to find Alya looking at her as if she wanted to murder her in cold blood.
"You avoided coming to the apartment until you knew Adrien had left in order to avoid talking to him about what happened?" asked Alya slowly.
"Technically yes, but everything sounds bad if you say it in that tone," replied Marinette.
"It's bad in any tone I say it," countered Alya. "Now you won't be able to talk to him until he comes back."
"I don't even know what to say," replied Marinette vehemently. "It's not like I can explain to him that the reason why I ran away is because I couldn't let him figure out I'm a girl."
"I already told you he doesn't need to know you're a girl," replied Alya. "It would suffice to explain that you pushed him because you didn't want him to open your shirt. He ought to respect that. Then you accept that pushing him was a bit extreme, apologize for that. Finally add that you don't actually regret making out with him and are very interested in doing it again, just for good measure."
"Why do I need to add that last part?" asked Marinette. "I'd just embarrass myself since he's going to get back together with Kagami."
"Marinette Dupain-Cheng!" said Alya in the very same tone Marinette's mom used to indicate she was mad at her. "You exasperating woman! You keep whining about how Adrien is going to get back with Kagami, yet you seem to be doing everything in your power to get them back together!"
"What am I doing to get them back together?" asked Marinette. She was starting to get mad at Alya. She was not trying to get Adrien together with Kagami, but she needed to be realistic.
"For starters, you're not clearing up a misunderstanding with him right before he leaves on a trip with her," replied Alya heatedly. "If that's not pushing him in her direction…"
"You, you're… you..."
Marinette and Alya jumped at the sudden interruption. They turned around and found a dumbfounded Nino looking at them with eyes comically wide.
Panic started filling Marinette, and she felt her heart beating fast and her hands sweating. How much had Nino heard? She hoped nothing, but going by his shocked expression, she guessed that he had heard enough.
"Hey Nino," said Alya, but it didn't pass as casually as she probably intended. "I thought you were at your parents' house. How long have you been here?"
"I drove Adrien to the airport and then came here," replied Nino, but he still looked shocked. "I heard your voices in the kitchen so I came and I heard that you… well you are…"
Marinette needed to know what exactly Nino knew. She hoped he would say something like 'You're in love with Adrien.' She was going to die of embarrassment if that were the case, but it was better that than him discovering her secret.
"You are what?" urged Marinette, because she needed to know.
"You're your own cousin-sister!" said Nino. The sentence may have sounded absurd without context, but Marinette knew what he was talking about and she felt her soul leave her body. "You're the girl in the picture! I knew you looked too identical."
"You got it wrong. She isn't, I meant he isn't…" Alya tried to fix it, but Nino clearly did not believe it.
"I didn't get anything wrong, you called her Marinette!" replied Nino, then he turned to Marinette. "And you said the reason why you ran away from Adrien at the club was because you couldn't let him find out you were a girl."
How long had Nino had been there? They were so focused on arguing that they didn't notice him entering the apartment.
There was no point denying it. Marinette knew when she was trapped.
"Ok yes, I'll admit it. I'm a girl!" said Marinette. "My name is Marinette Dupaing-Cheng, not Antoine."
Marinette started rambling. She told Nino the whole story about how it all started as a joke. She omitted the part where it was all to meet Adrien.
"You know you can't say anything about what you just found out, right, Nino?" asked Alya in a serious tone after Marinette finished talking.
Nino looked from Alya to Marinette, and then gave her a friendly smile.
"Of course I won't say anything, dude," he said as if it were the most obvious thing in the world. "But do you understand how serious this is? We spend a lot of time in the public eye! What if the press finds out? Or one of the fans, they can be pretty invasive, you know? Or what if Penny finds out? She can fire you for this… wait… Penny knows, right?"
Marinette wondered if she should tell the truth, but she was done lying.
"I told her after the second audition. How did you know?"
"Because you had to sign a contract. So either Penny knows or you used fake papers, but you're not that dumb."
"Yeah, that would've been a dumb idea." Marinette decided to omit the part where she had actually tried to use fake papers.
"Does Jagged know?" asked Nino.
"Do you think Jagged could keep a secret?" replied Marinette.
"Well, he kept a secret about his thing with Penny."
"Touché," conceded Marinette. "Jagged doesn't know though. Only Penny, Alya, my parents, the lawyer, and now you."
Nino took a moment to evaluate what she just said, and then said, "I think you should tell Adrien."
"No," said Marinette simply. "I'm not supposed to say anything. It's part of my contract."
"I suspected that, but you still need to tell Adrien," insisted Nino.
"Well, for starters, the poor dude has been beating himself up over what happened at the club," said Nino. "You should tell him the truth so he knows it's not something that he did."
"I know you're right about Marinette needing to talk to Adrien," said Alya. "But she's also right, she isn't supposed to say she's a girl. I think she should just tell him it wasn't something that he did without mentioning the part about her being a girl."
"Look, while I don't think it's cool that you're lying to my bro, I do understand you're contract-bound to hide the truth," said Nino. "However, starting a relationship with lies is a bad idea and the lie is not going to last forever. Adrien is going to find out sooner or later, and it's better if you tell him right now than if you tell him later in the relationship, or even worse if he finds out without you telling him."
Nino would be right if she were about to enter a relationship with Adrien, but that was not the case, so it didn't make sense to tell Adrien the truth.
"We're not starting any relationship. He's still in love with Kagami," replied Marinette. She could see Alya rolling her eyes. Marinette knew she sounded like a broken record, but they weren't understanding that so she had to repeat it.
"Yeah, I heard you say that earlier. I don't know where you got that from," replied Nino.
"He told me."
"I don't know what he told you, but that man is not in love with Kagami Tsurugi, or at least not anymore."
Marinette wanted to believe Nino. As his best friend, he should know who Adrien was in love with. But Adrien himself had told Marinette he still wanted Kagami.
"He said he missed her," insisted Marinette.
"I miss Wayzz – that's my turtle – when I'm here. Doesn't mean I'm in love with him."
Marinette tried to recall the whole conversation with Adrien in the arcade, but as much as she tried, she couldn't remember him ever mentioning still having romantic feelings for Kagami. She just remembered him saying he missed her. However she had tuned out the last part of the conversation, so there was a chance he did say it and she missed it.
"Are you sure he's not in love with Kagami?" asked Marinette, hopeful.
"Nah. Actually he…" started Nino, but he stopped, seemed to think about what he was about to say, and instead said, "You know what? This is not a conversation you should be having with me. You need to go talk to Adrien right now. There are a lot of misunderstandings between the two of you and you need to clear them up. Otherwise, you'll just spend the rest of your life running in circles."
"I agree with you there," Alya said. "But Adrien is travelling to Japan. So right now isn't possible, unless you expect her to grow wings and-"
Nino interrupted. "Actually, he's supposed to board in like forty-five minutes, so he's still at the airport."
Forty-five minutes? The Charles de Gaulle was like half an hour away. Before her brain had made a decision, her body was moving on its own and she was walking to her bedroom to grab her helmet.
Nino had dropped Adrien at the airport at the hour he had agreed upon with Nathalie, which was like an hour and a half before his flight. Adrien didn't know why he had to be there so early, but whatever. After saying goodbye to Nino with a hug, Adrien had reunited with his father and Nathalie.
His dad had a displeased expression on his face. Adrien didn't know if it was because Nino had been the one to drop him off at the airport – his dad didn't like Nino very much – or if it was just his perpetual bitterness. Nathalie was tapping on her tablet, as usual.
"Hi, Nathalie," he said smiling. Sometimes he would get mad or at least annoyed at Nathalie, especially when she forced him to do stuff he didn't want to – like sitting next to his dad the whole flight – but at the end of the day, he understood that she was only following his dad's orders, that she was not to blame.
"Good evening, Adrien," she said, smiling back. Then she went back to tapping on her tablet.
"Surely you're not planning to wear that horrendous thing during our trip?" asked his dad, looking at his hoodie.
"Good evening to you too, father," replied Adrien, ignoring his question about the hoodie.
Adrien knew his father hated the hoodie with a passion, but there was nothing he could do to make Adrien change it. Adrien was twenty years old and had moved out of the house a couple of years ago, so he didn't have a choice but to stare at the hoodie with his 'disdainful face number five.'
It gave Adrien a satisfaction he couldn't properly explain with words.
He walked with his dad and Nathalie to one of the VIP lounges as usual. The Tsurugis were already there. Kagami was reading a book and hadn't spotted him yet. Seeing her gave Adrien a mixture of nostalgia, longing, and guilt. He felt nostalgia for the days when they were just friends, before dating had made their life complicated. He felt longing because he wanted to be her friend again, but he didn't know if she wanted that after how their break up went. He felt guilt because he was the one that fell out of love first and the one that broke up with her all of a sudden.
He hadn't enjoyed their romantic relationship. Every detail was controlled by their parents, every date, every gift, everything. But he missed his friend. He missed talking to her, he missed going ice-skating before it became a date-thing for them, he missed their fencing practices, and he missed those times they skipped their fencing practice too.
He sat down next to her, unsure if she wanted him there. It had been years since their break up. He hoped they could be friends now.
"Hi," he said shyly.
She put her book down and smiled at him. Adrien felt a little better and smiled back.
"Hi," she said.
Adrien didn't know what else to say. What do you say to a girl when the last time you saw her, the two of you were breaking up horribly?
"Interesting fashion choice," said Kagami, looking at his hoodie with an amused smirk.
"Of course. Everything I wear is fashionable. I'm a French model after all," joked Adrien.
After that, the conversation flowed easily. It wasn't the same as before they dated, of course. They hadn't seen each other in years, unlike before when they saw each other often. And there were so many things said and done, so many touchy subjects between them. It was not the same, but with time, he hoped they could be great friends again.
Before he realized it, they had moved to another table, leaving his dad, Kagami's mom and Nathalie at the other one.
When it was almost time for them to board, he was laughing over a funny story about Kagami's trip to Germany the previous month, when suddenly she interrupted her own story and pointed at the glass door and said, "Isn't that the new guy from your band?"
He lifted his glace and did a comical double take. What was Antoine doing there? It felt surreal. The last time Adrien had seen him was during the bathroom incident, and suddenly he was here, at the airport. Maybe Adrien was seeing things? No, Kagami saw him too, so he couldn't be Adrien's hallucination.
He vaguely heard Nathalie ask where he was going, but he ignored it. He walked as though he were in a trance through the lounge door and approached Antoine.
"What are you doing here?" asked Adrien. It came off as rude, but that was not his intention. He was still half-convinced that Antoine was a hallucination, and he was trying to come up with a reason the real Antoine would be here.
"I… I…here…I mean… here I because… I mean because I here…" Adrien had not heard Antoine stutter in a while. He took a deep breath and tried again. "I'm here because I need to do... sorry, I mean, to say something."
"What?" asked Adrien confused.
Before he could react, Antoine jumped up and threw his arms around Adrien's neck, pressed his hand against the back of Adrien's head, and put his lips on Adrien's lips.
Marinette didn't know what possessed her to kiss Adrien. Maybe it was because she couldn't find what she wanted to say. Maybe it was because time was of the essence since it had already taken almost forty-five minutes to reach Adrien.
By breaking several traffic laws, it had taken Marinette only twenty minutes to reach the airport. Once she had gotten inside, she realized that she had no idea where Adrien was. She was in the largest and second busiest airport in Europe; how was she supposed to find a person there?
She had walked aimlessly for a few minutes until it hit her he that must be in one of the VIP lounges. Then she had tried to find a map or something, but she honestly had no idea what she was doing.
Somehow, after walking like a headless chicken for ten minutes, she had seen Adrien's blonde hair in one of the VIP lounges. He was seated at the same table as Kagami Tsurugi. Marinette knew Nino had said he was not in love with her anymore, but Marinette still felt like she was punched in the gut when she saw them together laughing about something. At the table beside them was Adrien's dad, Tomoe Tsurugi, and another woman Marinette recognized as Gabriel Agreste's assistant.
A few months ago, Marinette would've fainted seeing her favorite designer, but now she had a long list of reasons why she wanted to punch him in the face.
There was a security guard at the entrance and she had guessed he wouldn't let her enter. However Adrien could go out. She had done her best to grab Adrien's attention. He seemed surprised to see her, but came to see her anyway.
He had walked to the door and instead of planning what she wanted to say, the only thing Marinette could think was 'what the heck is he wearing?' It was a black hoodie with cat ears on his head and green neon letters on his chest that read 'Je suis un chat'. The hoodie was ridiculous, but it looked cute and, dare she say, even sexy on Adrien.
So when Adrien asked her what she was doing there, she found her mind completely blank, and so she kissed him.
He seemed surprised at first, but then he relaxed into the kiss and started kissing her back. He put his hands on her back to pull her closer. They kissed and nothing else mattered, just the two of them. She was not listening or seeing what was happening around them. It was just her and Adrien for a moment; just her lips on his lips, their hot breath, their arms embracing each other.
And then the moment ended when Adrien took a step back.
"Just give me a second. I don't even know what's going on," he said. "I thought you hated me after what happened at the club. Now you're here and you're kissing me, so I guess you don't hate me and that's a very good thing, but I still feel as if we need to talk about the club thing. I wanted to apologize if I made you uncomfortable or if I overstepped your boundaries and went further than I was allowed to go, I wanted you to know…"
"Adrien, about the whole club thing," said Marinette, interrupting Adrien's rambling. "I came here to tell you that you're not to blame for what happened and to stop torturing yourself."
Adrien stared at her. "I must have thought…" he said. "I mean, everything was going fine and then I made you run away and I'm really sorry from the bottom of my heart…"
Adrien kept rambling apologies and blaming himself. Marinette felt terrible. Nino was right; the poor guy had been beating himself up and he needed to know the truth.
Before she could think of a reasonable excuse to give to him, she found herself blurting it out. "It's really not your fault. I just couldn't let you open my shirt because then you'd figure out I'm a girl."
I apologize for the delay with this chapter, but I've been really busy. I finished grad-school! I just need to finish my thesis now so I can change my name to Tete93MSc. On the same note, I want to apologize if I didn't reply to all reviews, I swear I read them all and I appreciate your kind words. I was just crazy busy. I'll try to catch on tonight.
JFYI: This story is going to have 13 chapters plus a small epilogue. So the next chapter is the second to last.
Je suis un chat = I'm a cat
EDIT: I got the idea for Adrien's hoodie from a review Lunalayosa1031 left in Chapter 9. I forgot to include this in the author's note and I apologize for that.
I want to thank slkworm for being my beta! slkworm you are a wonderful person!!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
"You couldn't let me open your shirt because then I'd have figured out you're a girl?" Adrien repeated Antoine's words in the form of a question because they didn't make any sense.
Suddenly panic took over Antoine's expression, and he looked around as if he was trying to make sure they were alone. The thing about being in an airport as busy as Le Charles de Gaulle was that it was always full of people. Adrien looked around too. There were people everywhere, but nobody seemed to be listening to them. Everybody seemed to be minding their own business. Nathalie, his dad, Kagami, and her mom were still in the VIP lounge, and way out of earshot, but they all were staring at him with the obvious exception of Kagami's mom.
Antoine lowered his voice before continuing.
"I'm a girl. I've just been pretending to be a boy to be in the band," explained Antoine. "If you had opened my shirt, you would've seen my binder. And I couldn't let that happen, so I ran away. I'm sorry, I didn't mean to make you feel as if anything was your fault. I just sort of panicked."
Adrien saw Antoine's lips moving, and he heard the words he was saying, but he was having a hard time understanding them. What he was saying was absolute madness.
Adrien brain seemed to have gone on a sudden vacation. The whole thing was really confusing.
To make matters worse, he could see Nathalie out of the corner of his eye trying to get his attention from the VIP lounge. He guessed it was about time for him to board the plane. He made a vague gesture at Nathalie asking her to give him a moment, and then he looked back at Antoine. Oh... well... her name was probably not Antoine.
He examined Antoine's face and remembered the picture on Alya's phone. So, that was her, right? He felt like an idiot now. It was so obvious looking back at it.
Antoine was looking at him anxiously, and he realized he hadn't replied to her confession at all. He was having a hard time finding words.
What was the name of Antoine's supposed cousin?
"Marinette?" he tried, asking because he couldn't think of anything else to say. "That's your name, right?"
"Yes, Marinette Dupain-Cheng," she replied. "I'm sorry I didn't tell you the truth any sooner. I was forced to hide everything because of my contract."
"Uhm…wha…ho…I…why?" was Adrien's eloquent reply. He was aware Nathalie was trying to get his attention again, but he refused to look at her. They were already late and if their eyes met, Nathalie was going to start urging him.
"I submitted the video as a joke! I wasn't supposed to get selected, but then I did, and I showed up at the first audition because I wanted to meet you - I mean, all the band and Jagged, but especially you because I had plans for our wedding in spring - but then I didn't get to meet you at the first audition, but I got called again for the second audition and I thought it was my chance to meet you. I wasn't supposed to get selected, but I did, and things got out of hand. I just wanted to meet you! It wasn't supposed to go this far!"
Adrien was surprised by Antoi… Marinette's sudden outburst.
"You wanted to meet me?" asked Adrien. Honestly, his brain hadn't returned from its forced vacation. Then he processed what she said and asked, "Wait, did you just say you had plans for our wedding?"
She opened her eyes and Adrien realized she hadn't meant to say that out loud. She looked to be in the most absolute panic and started rambling again.
"The wedding in spring thing was mostly a joke! It wasn't a real wedding. Just a joke. I jokingly kept telling everybody I was going to marry you! But it was just a silly, dumb joke! "
"So you don't want to marry me?" asked Adrien. Honestly the whole conversation was so confusing and he didn't even know why he had asked that. All he knew was that he felt disappointed that he…she had been joking about the wedding.
"I was joking because I didn't think I had a chance, not because I wasn't interested," she replied. Then she lowered her gaze. "I know you don't like those fans that claim they want to marry you when they don't even know you. I know you´ll probably think I'm a dumb fangirl or something. But in the spirit of clearing all misunderstandings and being honest, I used to have a gigantic celebrity crush on you. That's why I originally dressed up as a boy and joined the band. I stayed for different reasons, but… well yeah, that's why I joined."
Adrien was feeling so many things at once, he didn't even know where to start. He was still confused and having a hard time seeing Marinette instead of Antoine, while at the same time it felt as if it was painfully obvious they were the same person. He felt betrayed because she had been lying to him all along. He was flattered by him… her saying she used to have a celebrity crush on him. He felt disappointed because the 'used to' implied she didn't anymore.
"You 'used to' have a gigantic celebrity crush on me. What changed?" asked Adrien, wanting and dreading to hear the answer at the same time.
"I met you and I got to know you," replied Marinette. Adrien felt as if she had punched him. Those words hurt more than anything he had ever heard. So she was crushing on the Adrien on the billboards and music videos, but the real Adrien was not good enough. "And then I fell in love with you for real, instead of just having a silly celebrity crush."
He didn't expect to hear that. It took him a second to process her words, and when he did, his feelings did a 180° degrees flip. Suddenly he felt on the top of the world. As if he was the luckiest man alive. He wanted to hold Antoi…Marinette and kiss her and tell her he loved her too. But the words died before they reached his lips. And his excitement died.
If you had asked him two hours ago, he would've probably made a speech about how he was in love with Antoine. The thing was, Antoine was not real. He was a girl called Marinette, and Adrien had just met her. Logically, he understood they were the same person, but everything was too much to take.
She seemed to notice the hesitation in his eyes and added, "I know you probably don't feel the same. And I know you weren't expecting this confession out of the blue. You don't have to reply. I just wanted you to know. I don't want to keep secrets from you anymore."
He never got the chance to reply, because Nathalie approached them.
"I apologize for cutting this conversation short, but it's time for Adrien to board," she said in a tone that implied that if Adrien didn't board right that second, she was going to have the Gorilla carry him to the plane.
She didn't let him finish the conversation or even say goodbye properly before dragging him back to the rest of the group. As he walked to the boarding area, he kept sneaking glances at Marinette who just stayed there in the same place where they kissed a few minutes ago, looking at him as he left.
Only then did it dawn on him that he had kissed Marinette in front of his dad, Nathalie,Kagami (who was his only ex-girlfriend), and her mom. If he had to pick a list of people he didn't want there when he kissed someone, they would probably be the top four.
He did his best to avoid talking or making eye contact with anybody as they boarded and braced himself for twelve hours of awkward silence sitting next to his dad.
Marinette felt the tears forming in her eyes, but she refused to let them fall. She had just bared her heart to Adrien. That was it. No more secrets. She didn't know what, exactly, she wanted the outcome of the confession to be, but it certainly wasn't shocked-looking Adrien getting dragged to the plane before he had time to either accept or reject her confession.
Now they wouldn't see each other for a week and a half. At least she had time to brace herself for the rejection. He seemed to be attracted to her, if the way he had enthusiastically kissed her back was any indication, but as she said to Alya, attraction didn't equal love. He was attracted to her, but that didn't mean he was going to be receptive to a love confession. Maybe it was just attraction. Maybe he was just attracted to Antoine and that attraction was going to fade away now that he knew she was actually Marinette.
She didn't want to cry in public, but she also knew she wasn't going to be able to stop the tears, so she hid herself in a bathroom. She didn't even know why she was crying. Maybe she was just emotionally drained from telling Adrien everything, maybe it was because Adrien was going to be gone a week. Maybe it was because she had poured her heart out to Adrien and she had no idea what he felt for her.
She only exited the bathroom after the tears had stopped, her eyes stopped looking red and puffy, and her face didn't look swollen anymore. She then drove back to the apartment.
She opened the apartment door to find Nino and Alya making out on the couch. The sound of the door closing behind her seemed to startle them, and they jumped to opposite sides of the couch. Before Marinette had time to say anything, she was ambushed by Alya.
"Did you tell Adrien the truth? What did he say? What exactly did you say? How did everything go?"
Marinette was used to Alya's habit of asking five hundred things at the same time and expecting an answer to every single one of them.
"I told him the truth about everything."
"And when you say everything you mean…?" inquired Alya.
"I mean everything," replied Marinette. "My crush on him, my reasons for dressing as Antoine, what happened at the club, everything."
Alya looked at her, shocked. She clearly hadn't expected Marinette to say that much.
"That's awesome, dude!" said Nino. "Honesty is the best!"
"What did he say?" asked Alya.
"He seemed shocked, and then he got dragged away to board before he could react," said Marinette sadly. "He didn't seem very receptive to my love confession though."
Saying it out loud made everything hurt more, but she had cried so much in the airport that she didn't have any tears left.
"I somehow doubt that," replied Alya.
"Yeah, dude, my bro just doesn't go around making out with random people in airports," added Nino.
"I mean he seemed to be into the kiss, but that was before I told him the truth," replied Marinette. She was still unable to shake the fear that Adrien was only attracted to Antoine and not Marinette.
Then she realized something.
"How do you know we kissed in the airport? Did Adrien text you or something?"
"Girl, it's online everywhere!" replied Alya. She tapped on her phone for a couple of seconds and then gave it to Marinette. "Look!"
To Marinette's horror, there was a picture of her kiss with Adrien. It looked as if somebody had taken it from the distance but it was clearly them. Whoever took it had a good camera on their phone. There was no way to deny that the picture was of her and Adrien. It was posted by somebody named Number1Catafan with a little description:
Number1Catafan: First time travelling and I'm blessed by seeing this at the airport! I have a new OTP! TheRealAdrienAgreste AntoineDYOfficial
The picture had already been shared over ninety thousand times, and it was barely posted an hour ago.
This was horrifying, mortifying and many other things ending in ifying. After her confession, Adrien hadn't looked like he reciprocated her feelings, and now there was a picture of them kissing, people were under the impression they were dating, and the likes and shares just kept increasing every time the app refreshed.
"Everybody is talking about Chatbug," added Alya. "And girl, that kiss didn't look like the man is not interested in you."
"Chatbug?" asked Marinette, confused and ignoring the last part.
"It's what people are calling you and Adrien," explained Nino.
"We have a ship name?" As mortified, sad, and humiliated Marinette felt about the whole thing, there was something amusing about having a ship name with Adrien. She'd fantasized about having a ship name with him before, but in those fantasies, she'd been Marinette and not Antoine, so the ship name she'd imagined was Adrinette.
"Of course you have a ship name. Catafans are going crazy right now," replied Alya.
"What does ChatBug even mean?" asked Marinette, reluctantly curious about the whole thing.
"Well, Adrien was wearing a ridiculous cat hoodie, and they say you look the size of a bug next to Adrien, so Chatbug," explained Alya.
"I'm not the size of a bug!" replied Marinette in indignation. "I'm only a little below average for a French woman."
"Well, they think you're a guy, and your size is way below average for a French man," replied Alya.
"Besides my bro is kind of tall, so next to him you look really small," added Nino unhelpfully.
The whole situation was so absurd that she was having a hard time believing it was real. Maybe she should take a nap. Maybe she'd wake up and find out she was still in Normandy and she hadn't made out with Adrien in the club and that she'd only dreamed the whole chain of events that followed.
It turned out that twelve hours isn't a long flight if you have a lot on your mind.
Adrien spent a good part of the flight thinking about the fact that Marinette was in love with him. His feelings about it kept changing. At moments, he was so happy he wanted to laugh or cry for joy. That wonderful person that had stolen his heart loved him back. How could he be so lucky! Then he remembered she had been lying to him the whole time and he started second guessing his feelings.
Even the nice things that she had done for him, things that had at one time brought joy to his life, felt somewhat ruined now. Like the gift from MDC. She had told him MDC was Antoine's fan account's username. Only now he realized that was a lie. If her full name was Marinette Dupain-Cheng, then MDC were her initials. It was a silly little white lie, but it made Adrien wonder how many more lies she had told to protect her secret. How much did he actually know her?
So far, he knew for a fact that her 'Marinette is my cousin' and 'MDC is just a username' were lies. How many more lies there were? He understood she'd been contract-bound to hide her identity, but that didn't mean it didn't hurt discovering the person he had been sure that he loved had been lying to him the entire time.
In the sixth hour of the flight, it randomly hit Adrien that the guy 'Antoine' said he was in love with was him. He had hated that guy so much and it was him all along! Now he understood what Marinette meant when she said she was keeping a huge secret from the guy she liked. He remembered how he had wanted to punch the guy for being an idiot that would break 'Antoine's' heart over a little tiny secret. The situation was so absurd and so ironic he actually laughed out loud.
Once he started laughing, it became impossible to stop. He didn't even know why he was laughing; the irony was not funny. Actually, everything hurt, and at the same time he was happy to know he was the guy Marinette was in love with. Maybe he was laughing because he was feeling so many confusing things at once, to the point where it was either laugh or cry. He kept laughing until tears rolled down his cheeks and his stomach hurt.
His dad and Nathalie were staring at him. They both looked concerned about his mental health. It must have been confusing for them since he had been utterly silent, lost in thought, for over six hours, and then suddenly, without any visible catalyst, he had started laughing like a maniac.
It took him a couple of minutes to put himself together, and when he finally stopped laughing a flight attendant handed him a glass of water.
"Are you okay, Adrien?" asked Nathalie, looking worried.
"Peachy," replied Adrien, before taking a drink.
Nathalie and his dad kept eyeing him as if they were expecting him to start laughing again. In an odd way, it was kind of nice to know his dad was concerned that he was having a mental breakdown or something. Then he realized how sad it was that he was glad his dad seemed to care at least a little bit about his mental health, when that was the bare minimum a dad could do.
Adrien spent the rest of the flight unsuccessfully trying to sort his feelings for Marinette, and reconciling the picture he had of Antoine with the knowledge that she was actually Marinette.
When they landed in Tokyo, Adrien was tired and about to fall asleep on his feet. It was barely 10AM, but he had travelled for twelve hours — he hadn't slept at all on the whole flight – and it was around 3AM in Paris. He was also hungry since he had barely eaten on the plane. He was not a fan of airplane food, and he was not in the mood for eating anyway.
When they finally checked into the hotel in Tokyo, all he wanted to do was eat a nice meal and fall asleep until the next day. He couldn't do that, of course; they had the inauguration of the TFE that night. But he at least could try to sleep a decent amount of hours before he had to wake up to get ready for the inauguration.
He had barely been in his room for ten minutes, which he had used to set down his suitcase and send a quick e-mail to Penny, Nino, and Jagged to let them know he had survived his trip and was already at the hotel but it was going to be really busy for the following week so it was not going to be possible to get in touch with him until the last day, when he heard a polite knock on the door. He had lived with her for long enough to recognize Nathalie's knock when he heard it.
He let her in, confused by what she was doing in his room. She seemed uncomfortable for some reason. She seemed lost for a place to start, which was unusual for her.
"Your father asked me to talk to you about your involvement with Antoine Dubois-Yang," she finally said. To her credit, Nathalie looked as if she wanted to be having that conversation about as much as Adrien did.
Adrien felt his blood boiling. The nerve of that man! He ignored him most of the time and only contacted him for work-related reasons, and now he wanted to have an opinion on his love life. But he couldn't even be bothered to talk to Adrien personally, so he had sent Nathalie to do his dirty work.
"Well, tell my father that if he wants to stick his nose where it doesn't belong, he should at least do it in person instead of sending his assistant." Adrien was trying his best to control his temper. He understood Nathalie was not to blame for his father's insanity. But he was jet-lagged, hungry, and confused about his feelings for Marinette, so he really wasn't in the best mood to begin with.
He left the room without giving Nathalie time to reply. He wasn't entirely sure why he left the room instead of kicking Nathalie out, considering it was his room, but he was hungry anyway, so he went to the hotel restaurant hoping they were still serving breakfast.
In the restaurant, he ran into Kagami, who was grabbing something to eat too. Apparently, the Tsurugis were staying at the hotel despite owning a house in Denenchofu, because it was more convenient considering the TFE was being held at the hotel and all Tomoe Tsurugi's business partners were staying there.
They had breakfast together, but Adrien spent the whole time in silence. Kagami seemed to notice his sour mood and kept sending him concerned glances. After a while, she spoke.
"Adrien, I know you and I aren't as close as we once were, but I want you to know that if something is bothering you, you can talk to me about it."
Kagami said this as if she were repeating a script, but Adrien didn't doubt the sincerity of her words. She was an incredibly kind soul with terrible social skills. Despite his sour mood, he smiled at her.
He considered Kagami's offer. He needed to vent. But at the same time, he knew he couldn't tell Kagami everything. He couldn't tell her about Marinette's secret and he didn't fancy sharing Marinette's love confession.
"Uh-m, my dad sent Nathalie to talk to me about what happened at the airport," he replied, because it was safer to rant about his dad than about everything Marinette had told him. Besides, Kagami usually sympathized when he ranted about his dad, since her mom was just the same.
He told Kagami about the extremely short conversation with Nathalie and the several reasons why it had ruined his already awful morning. He did not explain why his morning was already awful.
"Your dad is just like my mom," replied Kagami, sipping the tea they had ordered after the meal. "I don't know why they feel entitled to have an opinion about our love life. We're adults!"
Neither of them mentioned that their parent's involvement in their love life what was killed their romantic relationship.
"I know!" agreed Adrien, frustrated. "I can already see where the conversation was going, "public display of affection" blah blah blah."
"To be fair, that boy shouldn't have kissed you in public," said Kagami.
Adrien didn't felt like discussing the kiss. It had made his lips tingly and filled him with warm feelings, only to get a bucket of cold water poured on them soon after.
Since Adrien didn't reply, Kagami continued talking.
"It's just that I saw that there's a picture of the kiss online. And as far as I know, you haven't come out about being interested in boys, and I don't think it's fair for him to decide for you when to inform the world and kiss you in public," she said. Adrien was taken aback by the information that there was a picture of the kiss online. He shouldn't be surprised, they had kissed in one of the busiest airports on the continent.
"Of course, if that was how you wanted to come out and had agreed to the public kiss beforehand, then more power to you, but you looked pretty surprised to see him there and even more surprised by the kiss, so I'm guessing it's not something you agreed to or had previous knowledge of," added Kagami.
Adrien didn't appreciate Kagami criticizing Marinette. It made him feel protective of her and her stupid decision to kiss him in the airport. But at the same time, he understood Kagami was just looking out for him. Besides, she was right. From her point of view, it looked as if 'Antoine' had kicked Adrien out of the closet with that kiss. Kagami didn't know Marinette was actually a girl.
The thing was - now that he thought about it- that neither did the rest of the world. Or Adrien for that matter, until after the kiss had happened.
Had Marinette kicked him out of the closet? To the rest of the world, it would look like it, at least. Had he been in the closet to begin with? Now that he thought about it, he wasn't even sure if he was attracted to guys. In his entire life, he had only been attracted to one man, and said man turned out to be a girl.
However, to be fair, he had fallen for Antoine/Marinette thinking she was a man.
Every kiss they shared, every smile, all the feelings she made him feel, every time he felt the jealousy consuming him over the idea of 'Antoine' being in love with someone else, all of that was with Adrien thinking 'Antoine' was a guy. He had easily accepted his feelings for Antoine. And he hadn't even tried to conceal them or pretend otherwise.
So, the verdict was: NOT straight.
He wasn't gay either, he knew that much. His feelings for Kagami had been genuine. And the reason that finding out Antoine was actually Marinette was distressing was not because she was a girl, but because she had been lying to him the entire time they had known each other.
Maybe he was bisexual? Or maybe he was pansexual? He didn't know for sure. He had never stopped to analyze what was his sexual preference was. What he did know for sure was that this was something extremely private that he would like to discover at his own pace before finally coming out to the public. It was distressing knowing there was a picture of the kiss and that people were probably speculating about his sexual preferences.
He wanted to be mad at Marinette for kissing him in public, but he couldn't be. If she hadn't kissed him, he would've spent the whole trip thinking the club incident was somewhat his fault. Then again, she could've picked a more private setting to tell him the truth. She could've talked to him on Saturday at their apartment, instead of hiding at her parent's place. So maybe he was a little bit mad at her. But then, that kissed had turned his brain to mush and warmed his heart, so maybe he was not that mad at her. Besides, he was pretty sure Marinette didn't mean to kick him out of the closet. She probably hadn't thought about the consequences of the kiss in public.
"He kissed me on impulse," explained Adrien, not knowing why he felt the need to justify Marinette's actions. "There was a misunderstanding between us, and, well, he followed me to the airport to talk. The kiss just sort of happened."
Kagami's expression softened, and she gave him a smile.
"Well, for what's worth, I think you two make an adorable couple."
Adrien gave her a sad smile.
He and Marinette were not a couple, and it just hit him how much he wanted them to be.
After his breakfast with Kagami, he returned to his room. His plans of sleeping a few hours were frustrated when he found his dad waiting for him outside of his room. Clearly, the universe didn't want him to rest.
"Nathalie informed me you preferred to speak to me personally," said his dad. Adrien was pretty sure Nathalie had given him an edited version of what Adrien had said. "I have to be in a meeting in less than five minutes, so let's make this conversation short."
"I would actually prefer if this conversation didn't happen at all," replied Adrien under his breath. He wasn't sure if his dad heard him or not since he continued talking.
"As I say, I don't have a lot of time, so let's go straight to the point: Antoine Dubois-Yang." Adrien wondered when his dad had learned Antoine's name, but he wouldn't be surprised if his dad had made Nathalie investigate during the flight.
"What about him?" asked Adrien, as if he didn't know exactly what this was about.
"For starters, I had no idea you were in a relationship."
Adrien was not, and it hurt, but he was not discussing this with his dad.
"How could you know?" murmured Adrien. 'You hardly speak to me' went unsaid.
"And I had to find out in the most distasteful way possible. I know you understand that your actions represent the Agreste brand and that such public displays of affections shouldn't happen," said his dad, checking his watch before continuing. "Furthermore, as the face of the brand, it's not only your actions that are important, but also the actions of the people you associate with. Clearly, M. Dubois-Yang is not someone who understands the image you have to uphold and not someone you should be associating yourself with. If you are interested in dating men, it can be arranged for you to be introduced to more appropriate men to date than M. Dubois-Yang."
Adrien was relieved that his dad didn't seem to be too concerned about him liking guys, but that was overshadowed greatly by his anger that his dad was trying to control who he dated. Of course his father didn't care about his happiness. He only cared about how it would affect his public image.
"Do you try to control the love life of all your employees?" asked Adrien, trying to keep his anger under control.
"Don't be ridiculous," replied his dad. He was wearing his 'Adrien is giving me a headache' face. "The personal relationships of my employees don't concern me. However, who my son associates with…"
"Oh, you do remember I'm your son," interrupted Adrien. "Because you behave more like my employer than like my dad. You only ever talk to me when it's about work. And you never reply to any of my calls or messages." There he'd said it. It felt good to get that off his chest. His dad looked shocked that Adrien had dared to speak to him like that. Before his dad could react, Adrien shoved open the room of his door and said, "It's getting kind of late for your meeting and I was planning on sleeping a couple of hours, so see you later, boss." He stepped through the door and closed it in his dad's face.
He knew he still had to see his dad every day for another week and a half, and his dad was not going to be happy with his actions, but he honestly couldn't care less anymore.
Marinette was never known for keeping her cool, so in her humble opinion, she deserved a medal for not having a mental breakdown on the days that followed 'The Airport Incident'. Especially considering how stressful everything was. Fans were losing their minds over Chatbug, and all the fan sites were full of pictures of the kiss, theories about their relationship, headcanons, fan art, and fanfictions. Marinette had always loved fan content, but it was disturbing to see it with herself as the protagonist.
At first, Marinette had thought that as long as she stayed away from fan sites and social networks she could ignore the issue, right? Wrong! She had forgotten they had scheduled an autograph signing with the fans and that was absolute madness. Fans kept asking about her relationship with Adrien, and she didn't even know how to respond. She wasn't used to dealing with fans, and being on the spot like that was overwhelming and unnerving.
The fans were not the most stressful part though. The most stressful part was that she couldn't reply to their questions about her relationship with Adrien even if she had wanted to (and she didn't), because she didn't know where her relationship with him stood. It was torture knowing that Adrien knew about her feelings and yet having no idea how he felt about her.
As the days passed and the day of Adrien's return was getting closer, she was getting more and more nervous. How was her relationship with Adrien going to change now that he knew her secret and her feelings for him? Things were probably not going to be the same. Worst case scenario, he was going to reject her and marry Kagami in front of her. No biggie really.
Adrien came back to Paris on a Wednesday afternoon. Jagged gave Nino the afternoon off so he could go to the airport to pick up Adrien. The rest of the band was stuck in their usual Wednesday afternoon dance rehearsal. Marinette was in the rehearsal physically, but she wasn't really paying attention. She was a little ball of nerves thinking about having to face Adrien. Why had she ever thought confessing was a good idea?
Eventually M. Leroux, their dance instructor, gave up on working with only three people, especially with one of those people not paying any attention, and just sent them home early. They went back to the apartment.
Marinette's hand trembled as she reached for the doorknob, thinking she was going to open the apartment door and Adrien was going to be there ready to reject her.
To her surprise, they found an empty apartment. Adrien's flight was supposed to arrive an hour ago, so they should already be back. What if Adrien was avoiding her and had asked Nino to drive him to Le Grand Paris because he'd rather rent a suite there and put up with Chloé than go back to the apartment where Marinette was?
Kim and Nathaniel were watching a movie, and Marinette joined them to try to distract herself. She was startled when she heard the familiar sound of a key unlocking the door. Her heart was beating so hard she was pretty sure the whole city could hear it. The door opened, revealing Nino, who was carrying two large boxes of pizza. That explained why it had taken them so long to get back to the apartment.
Behind Nino followed a very tired-looking Adrien. His hair was disheveled and he had bags under his eyes, yet somehow he looked as attractive as usual. Marinette guessed that was something only Adrien could pull off.
"I'm home at last!" Adrien announced dramatically. Kim and Nathaniel ran to greet him and ask him about his trip, while Nino set the pizza boxes on the table. Marinette just stayed on the couch, quietly hyperventilating.
"Hi, Antoine," said Adrien, waving at her. But it was too casual, and there were some emotions hidden there.
"Hi, Adrien," she replied nervously, fighting the impulse to bite her nails. They stared at each other, but neither said anything else.
"Thanks for bringing pizza, guys, we were really hungry," said Nathaniel, as if he had noticed the sudden awkwardness and was trying to provide some conversation. Marinette guessed Kim and Nathaniel must be aware that there was some sort of drama going on between her and Adrien. How could they not after 'the club incident' and then 'the airport incident', and Marinette's moping while Adrien was in Japan? But neither had asked her anything directly. "So, Adrien, how was your trip?"
The rest of the evening was spent eating pizza while Adrien told them about his trip. Apparently, he hadn't had time to be a tourist since he was busy with the TFE the whole time. And then they told him about the week without him. Marinette even summoned enough courage to ask him about the TFE and to tell him the story of the dance rehearsal when they accidentally locked themselves in the dance studio.
After the pizza, they decided to finish watching the movie that Adrien's arrival had interrupted. Marinette and Adrien sat on opposites sides of the couch. After the movie was over, they watched the sequel and then the third part.
Nathaniel excused himself and went to bed during the sequel. Kim fell asleep on the couch during the third part. Nino woke him up and suggest that he go to bed, which he did, staggering and nearly falling asleep again in the middle of the hallway. Finally, Nino headed to bed almost right after Kim. He didn't look very sleepy, and Marinette had the impression he was leaving her alone with Adrien on purpose.
"So, do you want to finish watching the movie?" asked Marinette, trying to not look at Adrien.
"Sure" replied Adrien.
They stayed in silence for the rest of the movie. Marinette was doing her best to concentrate on the movie and to ignore the elephant in the room.
"How come you're not falling asleep?" asked Marinette out of genuine curiosity when the movie ended and Adrien was still awake. "I mean, you just came from a long flight and you must be jet lagged."
"It's morning in Japan already, and I guess I'm still functioning on their time," explained Adrien. "But there's a huge chance I'll fall asleep tomorrow during the interview with Nadja."
Oh, yes, that was another reason for Marinette to be on the verge of a mental breakdown. The very next day, they were supposed to be on Nadja's show to present the video of Notre Amour. She had already survived a trip to Nadja's show without being recognized; she didn't want to tempt her bad luck.
"Maybe you should try to sleep right now. I know it's hard because of the time difference, but you should try," said Marinette, standing up.. "I'm going to go to bed. Good night, Adrien."
Marinette was opening her bedroom door when Adrien called out.
The use of her real name was unsettling. It reminded Marinette that 'the airport incident' had happened; it was not a weird dream. It reminded Marinette that Adrien knew her secret.
"Yes?" asked Marinette. She felt her phone vibrating in her pocket, letting her know she had just received a text. She ignored it for the moment.
Adrien stood up and walked to her. He breathed in and out as if he was trying to calm himself or gather the courage to do something. It was unusual for him to be nervous about approaching her.
"I've been thinking about what you said at the airport, and I wanted to talk to you."
Marinette's heart stopped. That was it, the topic she had been avoiding.
"About me being a girl or about… the other thing?" She couldn't bring herself to say 'me being in love with you'; she had already said it once at the airport and she didn't have the guts to say it again.
"A little bit of both, to be honest," replied Adrien. "I've been thinking a lot these past few days and well.. about the second thing you said - I mean, about you being in love with me and all that." He rubbed the back of his neck. " And I wish I could look you in the eye and tell you I feel the same, but the truth is…well truth is... "
Marinette knew where this was going, she could recognize rejection. It hurt, even if she had been mentally prepared for this to happen. Adrien looked incredibly distressed, so she decided to make this easier for both of them, so they could finish the conversation quicker and she could lock herself in her room to cry all night.
"Adrien, it's okay," she said. "I know you don't feel the same way about me. I didn't tell you because I was expecting you to say it back. I just told you because I was done with secrets. You don't have to say anything."
"But I have to say something," insisted Adrien. Why was he trying to make this longer and more painful than it needed to be? "The thing is, I fell in love with a wonderful person."
"If you're going to start singing Kagami's praises, you can save them," said Marinette. "I'm sure she must be a really wonderful person, but you don't need to rub it in my face."
Adrien looked at her as if she were crazy and said, "Kagami is indeed a very wonderful person, but I wasn't talking about her."
"You aren't in love with her?" asked Marinette, confused. Nino had said so last week, but they looked so happy together at the airport. Then again, would he have kissed her in front of Kagami if he had feelings for Kagami?
"No," replied Adrien simply.
"You said you missed her," Marinette accused him, ignoring her phone which was vibrating with another message.
"Well, she was one of my dearest friends and I want to have that again with her, but we really didn't work as a couple," explained Adrien. And suddenly Marinette felt very foolish.
However, the fact that Adrien was not in love with Kagami did very little to calm her pain. He was in love with someone else, anyway. Someone he had labeled as a wonderful person.
"Well, I wish you happiness with whoever it is you're in love with," said Marinette. "But you don't have to rub it in my face, given that you know my feelings for you. Good night!"
Marinette had barely moved to reach her door when she was stopped by Adrien's voice.
"The person I'm in love with is Antoine Dubois-Yang!"
Marinette had gotten used to being referred to by that name, but the way Adrien said it made it feel as if it was someone else, and it confused her for a second.
"And you see, that's a problem because Antoine is not real," continued Adrien, getting closer to Marinette. "Marinette Dupain-Cheng is. Learning that made me feel as if Antoine had disappeared and left a stranger in his place."
Marinette had feared before that Adrien might be attracted to Antoine but not to Marinette. Having her suspicious confirmed would've hurt. But knowing he was in love with Antoine, not just attracted to him? Marinette didn't even know how to handle that information.
"It messed me up for a few days," continued Adrien. "I questioned everything. How much did I actually know 'Antoine'? How many lies were told to keep the secret? How many more things were being hidden from me?"
Every word Adrien said felt like a punch in the gut. She felt her phone vibrating with yet another message and she wondered what could be so urgent.
"But then I realized that whether the name was Antoine or Marinette, male or female, this wonderful person baked me a cake for my birthday," said Adrien, smiling at her, and Marinette didn't even know what she was feeling anymore. "This wonderful person cheered me up when my dad made me feel three inches tall, this wonderful person got their butt handed to them in air hockey, and taught me how to cook the best soup."
Adrien looked her in the eyes and added, "I have feelings for you, strong feelings. I realized that the things I love about Antoine are actually things I love about Marinette." With those words, Adrien stopped her world from spinning and made her brain crash. He then adopted a serious face. "However I can't properly return your confession. I wasn't kidding when I say I feel as if Antoine disappeared and left a stranger in his place. It's confusing and distressing."
"What are you trying to say?" asked Marinette. She didn't want any more misunderstandings between them. She wasn't sure if Adrien was telling her he loved her or rejecting her.
Adrien seemed to think about it, as if he was looking for the right words before replying.
"I guess what I'm trying to say is that I want to get to know you before I give you a response to your confession," said Adrien. "I can see myself falling as hard for Marinette as I fell for Antoine, but I need to get to know Marinette first."
The seriousness of the moment was kind of ruined by Marinette's phone, which vibrated yet again to inform her that she was receiving texts.
"We're the same person," replied Marinette. "Everything you know about Antoine is true about me too."
"Except that you don't have a cousin named Marinette. That was you, right?" countered Adrien.
"Is it really that important if I have a cousin?" asked Marinette, confused.
"Not really, but it proves my point that just because I know something about Antoine doesn't mean it's true about Marinette too. It makes me wonder how many more lies were told."
"I couldn't just tell you the truth! It was in my contract!" Marinette tried to explain.
"I know that, I'm not saying I blame you and I'm not trying to accuse you of being a liar. I'm just trying to explain why this whole thing makes me feel as if I don't know you," explained Adrien. Suddenly his expression changed, and he looked at her with a mischievous grin that made her feel as if he was up to something. "Lucky me, that is something we can easily solve."
"We can? How?" asked Marinette, raising an eyebrow.
"You can go on a date with me, and I can get to know you."
"A date?" asked Marinette dumbly, as if she had never heard the word before.
"Yes, a date," repeated Adrien. "A date where you're just Marinette, and you're not pretending to be Antoine."
"I don't think I can go out dressed as Marinette. It's too risky," replied Marinette.
"Oh, I didn't mean your clothes. I know you have to look like a boy in public," replied Adrien. "When I say I want a date where you don't pretend to be Antoine, I mean that you don't have to tell lies to keep your secret since I already know it. I want a date where you're just yourself."
"That can be arranged," replied Marinette, finally returning Adrien's smirk.
"Great," said Adrien simply, but he was looking at her as if she were the sole reason the sun rose in the morning.
Their moment was ruined by Marinette's phone vibrating yet again. Giving up on ignoring it, Marinette took out her phone and found a couple of missing calls from Alya and thirteen texts. Worried that something had happened to her friend, Marinette opened the texts.
One of them was a link to a video, and the rest of them was Alya panicking, urging Marinette to open the video and telling her to contact Penny. Confused, Marinette opened the video and found something that immediately filled her with worry.
It was a video of her and Adrien at the airport, taken from a closer position than that from which the viral picture of their kiss had been taken. From the look of it, the person who took the video couldn't have been more than a meter away. That was too close, close enough to listen to the conversation.
Marinette tapped play with shaking hands, hoping it was just another video of the kiss and not a video of the conversation. Her world came down crashing when the Marinette in the video said: "I just couldn't let you open my shirt because then you'd figure out I'm a girl."
We have art!!! You can see it in Chapter 1. Credit goes to Luluana101 in tumblr!!
Also, thanks a lot for sending me ship names for Antoine/Adrien. I needed a ship name for this chapter. Lunalayosa1031 gave me the idea of combining nicknames instead of their names, thus Chatbug was born.
So, this is the second to last chapter and then a small epilogue.
One last thing, tomorrow (Oct5) is my 26th birthday! :D
English is not my first language. When I started writing this story I was really self-conscious about my English's skills, and I almost didn't publish it. I only ended up publishing it because slkworm offered to be my beta. So thank you slkworm, from the bottom of my heart, without you this story would've ended up in the recycle bin of my pc.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
The world was spinning too fast and Marinette felt as if she was going to be sick. The video lasted around thirty seconds, but it was just the same five-second clip of her admitting to being a girl repeated six times. She checked the number of views and it was already at six digits and rising.
Marinette's heart was racing and she felt dizzy. She felt as if a rug had been pulled from under her feet and now she was free-falling. Her secret had been exposed, and the video was going viral way faster than the infamous picture of their kiss in the airport. How could she have been so dumb, telling Adrien everything in a public space?
"We'll figure this out," said Adrien hesitantly putting one hand on her shoulder. "Don't panic, everything is going to be okay."
His voice was soothing and Marinette wanted to believe him. She was having a hard time calming down. On impulse, she hugged Adrien, for her own sake because more than anything else she really needed a hug. She barely had time to wonder if it was okay to hug him because almost immediately Adrien hugged her back and melted himself into the hug.
It was nice to have his arms around her while he kept reassuring her everything was going to work out eventually. Her head rested on his chest and only then did she understand what fans meant when they claimed she looked the size of a bug next to him.
Eventually they had to let go and she had to call Penny. She was dreading making the phone call. She felt as if she had disappointed Penny somehow.
They sat on the couch again and Adrien held her other hand while she dialed Penny.
"Penny Rollings, how may I help you?" said Penny when she picked up the phone. It was a miracle how Penny managed to sound professional even her voice indicated she clearly was asleep until the phone rang.
"Penny, it's me, Marinette," said Marinette nervously. "I know it's really late for a phone call, but it's an emergency."
"Are you okay?" asked Penny, sounding alarmed and more awake.
"Not really," replied Marinette, squeezing Adrien's hand harder before adding. "Everybody knows."
"Everybody knows what?" asked Penny, confused.
"That I'm a girl. Everybody knows Antoine is a girl," explained Marinette.
Silence followed her explanation and Marinette felt her panic increasing.
"I'm sorry, Penny. I'm really sorry!" added Marinette. "I didn't mean to expose my secret. I'm sorry! I know I wasn't supposed to tell anybody, but there was a misunderstanding so I wanted to tell Adrien, but I was careless and said it in the airport, and now there is a video of me saying I'm a girl and it's already going viral and I'm sorry."
Adrien let go of her hand and Marinette was about to protest when she realized that he had only let go of her hand to put his arm around her shoulders. This was even better.
"Thanks for letting me know. This is serious," admitted Penny after a few moments of silence. "But to understand the full impact, I need to study the situation. Will you please send me a link of the video after this conversation ends?"
"Thanks. I'll go to the apartment tomorrow morning to talk about this. Your morning activities have been cancelled, and please do not make any public statement in any form of media. If they are awake, please extend this message to the rest of the band, but I'm going to send them an e-mail anyway to make it official."
"See you tomorrow then," said Penny. Then she added, "I know it's stressful, but please try to sleep at least a few hours. Good night!"
"Good night," replied Marinette. After she disconnected the call, she said to nobody in particular, "but I don't think I'll be able to sleep."
"Well, if you are not sleeping anyway, what do you say about a few rounds of Mecha Strike?" asked Adrien. Marinette knew exactly what he was doing. He knew she loved Mecha Strike and he was trying to get her mind off the situation by engaging her in a Mecha Strike tournament.
She was tempted, so very tempted, but it wouldn't be fair to keep him awake just because she wasn't going to be able to sleep.
"Thanks, but you just travelled from the other side of the world and are probably jet-lagged, and it wouldn't be fair to keep you awake with me."
"That sounds like a coward's excuse because you know I've been practicing and can kick your butt at Mecha Strike now."
That was it, he was going down.
"Bring the controllers," replied Marinette.
They ended up falling asleep on the couch after god knows how many rounds. Just for the record, Marinette won most of those.
The next morning, Marinette woke up to the sound of knocking on the door. It took her a second to remember she was not in her room, and to realize that what she was cuddling was not her pillow, but Adrien. A few months ago, she would've screamed in a pitch so high it was unknown to mankind if she had woken up cuddling with Adrien Agreste. Now she just smiled at the sleeping boy, filling with warmth when she remembered how he had kept her from drowning in panic the previous night.
She heard the knocking again. It was definitely not Penny since Penny had a key. Marinette opened the door to find Alya there, with a worried expression and a huge paper bag with the logo of Marinette's parent's bakery.
"Hey girl! How are you doing? Did you contact Penny?" asked Alya, hugging Marinette.
"Hey. I've been better. Yes, she's coming later," replied Marinette, hugging Alya back. "Don't get me wrong, I'm really glad to see you here, but shouldn't you be in class? It's Thursday."
"Last night when I saw the video, I was so worried about you I almost ran here. Be thankful I actually waited for a reasonable hour to come, even if it means I'm missing my morning classes," replied Alya. Then she added, "I stopped by the bakery to pick up cookies because they're good for the soul and your parents decided to send you a bunch of croissants. They're worried about you. Apparently they watched the video on one of those morning gossip shows."
Marinette wanted to die of embarrassment knowing her parents had seen the video. In the clip, she had clearly said, "I couldn't let you open my shirt." There was no way her parents didn't know what kind of situation that implied. Maybe she should just dye her hair, change her name legally, and move to England to start over.
She made coffee for herself and Alya, which they drank while sitting in the kitchen, eating the croissants for breakfast and talking about the video. There were way too many croissants for just the two of them, but a few minutes later they were joined by Nino and Adrien. The latter seemed to be royally pissed at Nino.
Apparently Nino woke up and found Adrien asleep on the couch and decided it would be fun to push him off the couch in revenge for that one time Adrien hit him with a cushion while he was eating a sandwich.
Nino seemed to be surprised to find Alya there, and it was kind of amusing to see him run to the bathroom to brush his teeth and wash his face before joining them again.
When he took a seat, he patted Marinette on the back.
"I saw the video, and saw the message from Penny," he said, as he took a croissant. "I know it must suck, dude, but trust me, the public will forget about it eventually. They always do."
"I hope so," replied Marinette. Even after Nino had discovered she was a girl, he kept calling her 'dude'. She had assumed it was to keep her secret, but now her secret was out, and he still called her dude, so she wondered if he just used that word as a gender neutral term.
"Nino is right. The press and the public will be breathing down our necks for a while, but as soon as a more scandalous story comes up, they'll forget about it," said Adrien.
"And you have your bros here that have your back too, so no worries" added Nino. Marinette felt the impulse to give him a thank you hug, so she did, and somehow she ended up pulling Alya and Adrien into the hug too.
"Though I think she and Adrien are not exactly 'bros'," said Alya, after the hug ended. She gave Adrien a knowing smirk.
Adrien turned a lovely shade of red, and Marinette bet she did too.
"So, what do you think of the croissants?" asked Marinette in a far-from-smooth attempt to change the topic.
"Delicious!" said Adrien, taking another pastry.
"I know, Marinette's parents make the best croissants," replied Alya.
"These are homemade?" asked Nino, confused. "I thought they were bought in a bakery."
"They're from my parent's bakery," explained Marinette.
"Oh, I didn't know your parent's had a bakery, that's neat dude!" replied Nino.
"Yeah, it's cool, I had no idea either," added Adrien. Then he seemed to think about something and said, "but it's obvious looking back at it."
"Is it?" asked Marinette, confused.
"I mean, you told me you knew a lot about cakes and then you made that delicious cake for my birthday and it looked so professional," replied Adrien. "And you brought those macarons for the party and told me it was okay because you knew the owner of the bakery."
"Oh," was all Marinette replied. In hindsight, she should have been more careful with the information she gave out about herself, but then she supposed it didn't matter anymore.
A few minutes later, they were joined by Kim and Nathaniel. Marinette offered them croissants. Both of them were in their pajamas, so Marinette guessed they had already read Penny's message that their morning activities had been cancelled. Besides, Nathaniel was addressing her as Marinette. She hadn't read Penny's message, so she didn't know if she had been the one to tell them her name, or if he had just picked it up from Nino, Alya, and Adrien.
Kim spent a good part of breakfast staring at Marinette; the rest he spent staring from Nino to Nathaniel to Adrien.
"So, am I the only one who didn't know Antoine was a chick before today?" he finally asked. "Because I woke up with a message from Penny explaining the whole situation, and saying that our morning activities had been cancelled because of the scandal, and I saw the video at the airport and everything. I'm still trying to wrap my head around all of that, and you're all here acting as if you've always known she's a girl. I assume Alya knew everything…"
"You are correct," said Alya.
"...and I know Adrien found out the day he left for Japan because I saw the video," continued Kim. "But what about you guys?" He looked at Nino and Nathaniel.
"Same as Adrien," replied Nino. "Well, she didn't kiss me at the airport or anything, I'm just saying I found out the same day."
"I found out today just like you," replied Nathaniel, "so I switched to calling her Marinette instead of Antoine."
"Oh. Ok then," replied Kim, as if his only issue with the Marinette/Antoine situation was wondering if he had been left out of the secret.
Penny and Jagged showed up a little after that. When they did, Alya left, saying she should see if maybe she could get to her 11AM-1PM class on time.
Marinette had been in meetings with the band, Jagged, and Penny at least once a week since she joined the band, but something felt different about this one. It wasn't just the fact that it was in their apartment's kitchen instead of their meeting room in the Miraculous Record's building, either. She felt as if she were a kid in trouble that got sent to the Principal's office. However, it was hard to truly imagine M. Damocles and Jagged being of the same species, so her brain immediately dismissed the comparison.
Jagged's eyes landed on Marinette's face as if he were examining her.
"Penny explained everything to me in our way here," started Jagged, "and it's so cool!"
"Cool?" asked Marinette, confused. That was the last word she was expecting him to say.
"Dressing as another gender to join a band sounds like the plot of a movie, it's cool! Even if it's not cool that the whole thing isn't a secret now," explained Jagged, shrugging. "Also, it wasn't very rock and roll of you to keep me in the dark about it."
Marinette gave Jagged a guilty look, but Penny didn't look as if she regretted hiding it from Jagged.
"Sorry," she said, unsure if it was the right thing to say. Jagged didn't look pissed or anything. He had to be the only producer in the world that found out about a situation like this and thought it was 'cool'.
After that, Penny took over the meeting to explain the current situation.
Apparently, the original video of the conversation was posted in another account the same day Adrien left. But since it was an account with only three followers, it didn't become very popular. That video was longer than the one that became viral, but it was impossible to hear the rest of the conversation. The only part that was audible was Marinette screeching that she was a girl.
So, apparently, Volpina2001, one of the Catafans most famous blogs, found the video, edited it into the video that looped Marinette's confession about being a girl, and then posted it. That's when the whole thing became viral.
Marinette didn't even know who this Volpina2001 was in real life, and she wanted to throw this person from the Eiffel Tower.
In less than twenty-four hours, the video had reached a million views and the views just kept rising.
"There's no way to stop this from spreading now," explained Penny. "People are expecting us to make a public statement about it, and we have to do it. There are only two possible routes to take. We could either make up a lie to cover it, but the truth would come out eventually and the scandal would be even worse, or we could confirm you are a girl and then wait for the storm to pass. It's your secret and your decision, but I would advise the latter."
It was a no-brainer.
In an ideal world, the secret would've never come out. Marinette would have been in the band for a couple of years and then she would've retired with enough money to fund her fashion empire. But the secret was already out, and she didn't want to keep digging herself in another hole made of lies. It was over.
"The latter, confirm I'm a girl," said Marinette.
"I think you made a good choice," agreed Penny while she wrote something on her tablet. "I'll be releasing a public statement soon. Until I do that, all your public presentations have been either cancelled or moved to a later date."
"What about the interview with Nadja that was scheduled for tonight?" asked Adrien.
Marinette was curious too. Not that she was complaining, since an interview was the last thing she needed now, but it she wanted to know. Penny had said the previous week it was impossible to reschedule the interview with Nadja. She guessed it would be even harder now since it was the last possible minute. Besides, she would assume Nadja would want the scoop about the "I'm a girl" video.
"Oddly enough, Nadja accepted to re-schedule despite having previously told me it was impossible when I tried to reschedule it due to your trip to Japan," explained Penny.
Marinette suspected that Nadja had made the connection between Antoine admitting she was a girl and 'him' having the exact same face as Marinette, and that she had then agreed to reschedule the interview as a kindness to her. She didn't have any evidence though.
"Now, just because your public presentations have been cancelled doesn't mean the rest of your activities have been cancelled. Your routine rehearsals will continue as scheduled starting this afternoon, so I expect to see the five of you there after lunch."
The rest of the band's agreement noises were drowned by Marinette asking:
"Why wouldn't you have to be there?" asked Penny, confused.
"I mean, if I'm no longer part of the band, what's the point in going to the rehearsals?"
Everybody looked at Marinette as if she had suddenly grown a second head.
"Are you quitting?" asked Jagged.
"What do you mean quitting? I'm already fired," said Marinette confused.
"You are not fired," Jagged assured her, dismissing the idea immediately.
"It's not as if I want you to fire me or anything, I love being in the band, but I'm confused," replied Marinette. "The day I joined the band, Penny told me I couldn't tell anybody I was a girl or the contest would lose all it's credibility," said Marinette.
"That's true, everybody is already speculating about the credibility of the contest and if it's cheating that a girl won," replied Penny. "But kicking you out of the band won't solve anything. It won't give the contest it's credibility back, and we'll be down one member."
"Besides, you're already part of the family, and it's not very rock and roll to kick out a family member!" added Jagged.
"Thank you!" replied Marinette, moved because Jagged had said she was family.
After that, Penny started to explain their new schedule. Marinette was in such awe that she was still in the band after everything that had happened that she was even excited about seeing Penny's Excel spreadsheets.
Penny released the official written statement the next day. It was a pretty simple statement, with barely any details, explanations, or apologies. It only explained that Antoine was actually a cis-girl, that her name was Marinette Dupain-Cheng, that she was still going to be part of the band, and that their next public presentation was going to be on Nadja's show the Tuesday of the week after the following.
Penny forbade them to speak to the press or give public statements on the subject in any sort of media (including social media) until their presentation on the Nadja Show, where the questions and answers were going to be reviewed beforehand.
Adrien guessed that the reason a written statement had been released in lieu of a press conference was to avoid being questioned further. He had been in the public eye long enough to know that the less information you gave the press, the better.
The day after statement came out was madness. Paparazzi, reporters, and fans were waiting for them outside the Miraculous Records Building, and they had to dodge them all just to go to their usual rehearsal. Luckily it was Saturday, so they wouldn't have to deal with them again until Monday.
After the Saturday rehearsal ended, Marinette went to her home. When she came back on Sunday night, Adrien had to do a double take.
The first thing that he noticed was the hair.
Okay, that was a lie. The first thing he noticed was that she was not trying to hide her chest anymore. She was wearing a blouse instead of a huge t-shirt, and she clearly was wearing a normal bra instead of her binder if the shape of her breasts were any indication.
The second thing he noticed was the hair. It was shorter than before, but in a way more feminine-looking pixie cut. And it had a cute hair clip to style it.
Instead of her usual tennis shoes she was wearing pink flats, the only piece of clothing she wore that Adrien recognized was her dark skinny jeans.
Adrien had had two weeks to absorb the fact that Antoine was actually a girl, and he had seen that one picture of Marinette before, but he had not been prepared for her to enter the apartment looking like a girl. He felt as if he was staring at a stranger. A very attractive stranger, but a stranger nonetheless.
"Now that everybody knows I'm a girl, there's no point in continuing to dress as a boy," Marinette explained when he asked about her look.
"It's going to take me some time to get used to it. I'm going to miss 'Antoine,'" admitted Adrien "Luckily, Marinette is drop dead gorgeous too."
"Flatterer," replied Marinette, but Adrien could see she was blushing. They sat together to watch a movie and they were joined shortly after by Nino, Kim, and Nathaniel, who seemed equally shocked by Marinette's look. Adrien guessed that just like him, it didn't truly hit them that Marinette was a girl until she stopped looking like Antoine.
Adrien had hoped that by Monday, the crowd of reporters, paparazzi and Catafans waiting outside Miraculous Records had decreased. He should have known better. Every day, it seemed as if a bigger crowd was gathering to wait for them like vultures.
Some of them were annoying but fairly harmless. They were just trying to get their statement or get pictures of Marinette now that she had dropped Antoine's look. But some were more aggressive or invasive. Some shouted things at Marinette about how she had cheated in the contest and had stolen the spot from another contestant. Others tried to ask extremely personal questions about the nature of the relationship between her and Adrien. And on Wednesday, a very insistent reporter tried to follow them home after the rehearsals and they had to drive around the city to lose her before going back to the apartment.
Marinette was looking more and more stressed every day. Actually, all of them were stressed, but Marinette especially because she was in the spotlight of the controversy. Adrien didn't know how to help her aside from offering support and comfort and reassuring her that the scandal was going to die eventually.
"Finally, this week is over!" exclaimed Marinette, laying on the couch when they got to their apartment after the Saturday rehearsal. As usual, Adrien was waiting for Nino to pack his stuff so they could go to Nino's home, so he was killing the time on his phone. "I just wish I could go home."
"Why can't you go home?" asked Adrien.
"Apparently, my last name was enough for the press to find my parent's bakery," explained Marinette. "My mom sent me a text telling me that since yesterday, reporters have been waiting for me outside the bakery."
"That's awful. I hope they're not harassing your parents to answer their questions," replied Adrien.
"They tried, but my mom handled them beautifully. I don't think they'll try to keep bothering them," replied Marinette. "But my parents and I agreed it's better if I don't go home this weekend. So I'll just spent the weekend here bored and alone."
"Just because you can't go home doesn't mean you have to be here, bored and alone," said Adrien giving her his best smile.
"I guess I could go to Alya's place, but she has a huge project to turn in on Monday and I don't want to bother her," replied Marinette.
"I bet Alya won't think you're a bother if you asked, but I wasn't suggesting that you should go to Alya's," replied Adrien. "You promised me a date."
"Well, if it's okay with you, I would like it to be this weekend."
Marinette give him a sad and apologetic smile and, for a second, Adrien feared she was going to tell him she had changed her mind, that she wasn't interested in him anymore and she didn't want to go on the date.
"I'm really looking forward to that date, but right now it'll be impossible to go anywhere without being harassed by the press or Catafans. We'll have to wait until the whole scandal has died down," replied Marinette. She sounded sad about it, but it was somewhat reassuring to know she was as eager for their date as he was.
"We could go somewhere where they can't ruin our date," Adrien suggested hopefully.
"Like where? They're everywhere, I can't even go home," said Marinette, frustrated. "Right now, our only options for a date would be either here in the apartment watching movies, which is something we do all the time anyway, or going to the other side of the country where nobody is expecting us to be and having our date there."
"That's a splendid idea," replied Adrien.
"I mean, I thought you were going to Nino's house, but if you want to stay we can have a movie marathon and order pizza," replied Marinette.
"I was talking about going to the other side of the country," replied Adrien. "How does Nice sound?"
"Oh, I hear Nice is gorgeous this time of the year," replied Marinette. "I've always wanted to see the sunrise on the beach in Nice."
"Beaches are too touristy for a long stay, but if we get there early enough, we can see the sunrise before it's filled with tourists," said Adrien. "Let's say we leave in an hour since we need to pack, and we should stop at a gas station to fill the car and buy food for the trip. I think we should still get to Nice a couple of hours before sunrise."
Marinette looked at him as if she were trying to understand something.
"You were being serious about Nice," she finally said, looking at him as if he had lost his mind.
"One hundred percent," replied Adrien. "Were you not?"
"I want to go on a date with you, and I do want to see the sunrise in Nice, but I didn't think you were seriously suggesting we go to Nice right now," replied Marinette.
"Why not?" asked Adrien.
"It's 7PM, and Nice is eight hours away!" replied Marinette, with a face that suggested she thought Adrien was insane.
"Perfect, we'll be there in time to see the sunrise," said Adrien giving Marinette his best kitten eyes.
Marinette smiled at him.
Who is crazier, a man who suggests going to the other side of the country at the spur of the moment just for a date, or a woman who takes little convincing to jump in the car with him?
Marinette texted her parents and Alya to let them know she was going to be out of Paris, while Adrien let Nino know about the change of plans. Adrien and Marinette packed their clothes, filled Adrien's car with gas, and spent around eighty euros in the gas station market buying the same stuff an unsupervised nine-year-old would've bought: several bags of chips, sodas, and a pint of chocolate ice-cream. They also bought several bottles of water and tiny bottles of toiletries because they were responsible adults.
They left Paris around 9PM.
After about fifteen minutes on the road, they decided to eat the ice-cream because it was going to melt if they didn't eat it soon. Besides, they hadn't had dinner and they were hungry. Adrien needed to stay awake if he was going to drive eight hours and some sugar would help him with that. Marinette had to spoon-feed Adrien the ice-cream because it was safer if he kept both hands on the wheel. She was proud of herself because her hand didn't tremble at all while she did it.
They spent a good part of the trip singing along to Jagged Stone's full discography. One would've thought that this would be the last thing they wanted to do considering they spent all day singing at the rehearsals and Jagged was their producer, but Jagged's songs were just the best, and they were a great soundtrack for a road trip. Marinette loved working with Jagged, but she also wished he would make music again.
"Do you want to play a game?" asked Marinette around 2AM, trying to keep both of them awake. "It's called truth."
"Truth?" asked Adrien. "Like Truth or Dare?"
"Yes, but without the dares," explained Marinette.
"Aw, the dares are the exciting part, but I guess there aren't many dares we can do in the car." replied Adrien "How do we play?"
"We ask each other questions and we have to answer with the truth."
"Simple rules, pretty straightforward, I like it," said Adrien.
"Want to start?" asked Marinette.
"Sure, let me think of something," replied Adrien.
He took a couple of minutes to think of a question, and Marinette was getting nervous. There was no reason for her to be nervous; there were no secrets that she was keeping from Adrien anymore. He already knew about her embarrassing crush on him and everything, so what did she have to fear? But she was nervous.
"What is your favorite color?" he asked after a while.
"You thought for a billions years to finally decide to ask about my favorite color?" asked Marinette, baffled. Didn't he tell her a week ago that he felt as if he hardly knew Marinette? This was his chance to get to know her, and he decided to ask her favorite color?
"I'm saving the harder questions for later," replied Adrien, shrugging. "So, which one it is?"
"Pink," replied Marinette.
"I don't know why, but I feel as if that was obvious all along," replied Adrien.
"Well, now you wasted your question asking me something with an 'obvious' answer, now it's my turn," replied Marinette. "What is the deal with that hoodie you were wearing at the airport? You know, the one that got us the nickname Chatbug."
"My dad hates it, but he can't make me change clothes anymore," replied Adrien. Marinette had been aiming for a lighthearted question. She was not expecting that answer.
"Well, it suits you," said Marinette.
"Thanks," replied Adrien, but both of them knew she was not talking about the hoodie, but about the freedom of making his own decisions despite what his dad might think. "My turn, what is your favorite food?"
Marinette started rambling about how many foods she actually considered her favorite food.
As the game progressed the questions got deeper than 'What is your favorite…?'
"What's your story with Chloé?" asked Adrien in the seventh round. "At the PMJ, you told me that you didn't like her because she went to school with Alya, but now I'm curious about the full story."
"Actually, we went to school together. I couldn't tell you before because Chloé went to school with Marinette, not with Antoine," answered Marinette. "She was really mean when we were younger, and she seemed to dislike me specifically. She got better in Lycée, but we were never friends."
"I'm sorry," said Adrien.
"It's not your fault," replied Marinette. "My turn. Not counting for video-clips and photoshoots, how many people have you kissed on the lips?"
She didn't know what possessed her to ask that, but the number of people you have kissed was an incredibly cliché question for these kind of games. It had to be asked.
"Two," replied Adrien. Two? Marinette was having a hard time wrapping her head around the fact that a man as attractive as Adrien had been in this world for twenty years, and he had only kissed Kagami and her? Then he seemed to think about something and said, "Or three if you count those two kisses with Chloé, but I usually pretend those never happened, so two is my final answer."
"You. Kissed. Chloé?" asked Marinette emphasizing every word. "Twice?"
"My turn!" replied Adrien. "How many people have you kissed?"
"Two, you and my ex-boyfriend," replied Marinette. Before giving Adrien time to say anything she added, "My turn. What is the story behind those two times you kissed Chloé?"
"That's two questions in one, which is cheating, but I'll answer anyway," said Adrien. "The first time was when we were around five years old, her dad bought her a white dress so she said she wanted to play bride. Of course, that meant I was stuck playing groom. She made her butler officiate the ceremony and when Butler Jean said 'You may kiss the bride' and I didn't kiss her, she hit her lips against mine. It actually hurt a lot."
"Poor you," replied Marinette, shuddering. "Chloé and I were already classmates back then and now I'm imagining the five-year-old Chloé I remember wearing a white dress and clashing her lips against you. So much for a first kiss."
"See why I pretend the kiss never happened?" replied Adrien. "However, horrible first kiss aside, it was a pretty touching ceremony. Mr Cuddly was the bear of honor."
Marinette giggled at that.
"And the second kiss?" asked Marinette.
"It was three years ago," replied Adrien. "I was the one that kissed her then."
"Oh," replied Marinette simply.
After hearing the first story, she thought the second kiss was another childhood kiss that Adrien cringed remembering. She was not expecting it to be so recent or for Adrien to be the one that kissed Chloé and not the other way around. It made her feel all kinds of unpleasant things.
"When the band was just starting, I hid from my dad that I was in a band," said Adrien. For a second, Marinette thought he was changing topics and that he was not going to elaborate on why he had kissed Chloé three years ago. Then she remembered Nino had said at the PMJ that Chloé used to help Adrien hide the band from his dad and she realized the two topics were related. "I knew he wouldn't approve and was going to forbid me being in the band, so I snuck out all the time to be able to rehearse and perform with the band. When Chloé found out about the band, she started covering for me. She kept saying I was hanging out with her every time I needed an excuse, which worked fine for a while, until we started getting more performances at odd hours of the night. There are only so many times I can claim to be with Chloé at midnight before my dad started to get suspicious."
"So, your dad assumed you were sleeping with Chloé," said Marinette.
"Funnily enough, he didn't," replied Adrien. "He assumed – correctly – that I was hiding something and Chloé was lying to cover for me. So I lied to him and told him I was in love with Chloé and we were together, and that's why I went to visit her at odd hours. I don't think he bought it, especially because my break up with Kagami was kind of recent back then. But Chloé and I did our best to try to convince him, including putting a picture of us together on my phone lock screen, and kissing her on the lips once when I knew my dad was coming, and then acting shocked as if my dad just walked in on us kissing."
All the unpleasant feelings that had filled Marinette when Adrien admitted kissed Chloé - feelings an awful lot like jealousy - dissolved and were replaced by anger at Gabriel Agreste. Adrien had had to go to great lengths that included but were not limited to kissing Chloé just to keep the secret from him because Gabriel couldn't bother to be a decent father and support his son.
"I want to punch your dad," Marinette informed him.
"I think there's a line for that, but I appreciate the sentiment," replied Adrien. "My turn, by the way."
"In the airport, you told me you originally joined the band because you wanted to meet me," started Adrien, and Marinette blushed. "But you also said you stayed in the band for several other reasons. What are the other reasons?"
"I love being in the band, I really do, but my dream has always been to be a fashion designer," explained Marinette. "Boy bands don't last forever and being in the band was a good way to make money to fund my fashion empire while doing something I enjoy."
"You're very talented, Marinette," said Adrien. "I'm sure you'll create a fashion empire in no time." He said it matter-of-factly. It didn't look as if he was trying to compliment her; it looked as if he was so confident in her abilities that there wasn't a single doubt in his mind that someday she was going to be a successful fashion designer.
"Thanks," said Marinette blushing. It was unfair how easily Adrien made her blush.
They arrived in Nice around 5AM and headed straight to Bains Militaires Beach because all the other beaches they could think of in Nice were either private or really touristy.
The thing about Nice is that even a small beach like Bains Militaires was full of tourists at any hour. It was amazing the number of people that were already at the beach considering it was not even dawn yet.
They still had an hour before sunrise, and it was too dark and too cold to explore the beach or to do anything really, so they sat in the sand to wait for the sun to come out.
"Earth to Adrien!" said Marinette because he seemed lost in thoughts.
"Sorry, I didn't mean to get distracted," said Adrien. "I was just thinking about what you said in the car."
"About what?" asked Marinette, confused. They'd been in the car all night and had said many things.
"About how boy bands don't last forever," replied Adrien. "It got me thinking, I don't know what I'm going to do after The Cataclysm."
"Well, what would you like to do?" asked Marinette.
Adrien thought about it for a moment before replying. "I don't know." He sighed, frustrated. "I feel like everybody but me has figured out what they want to do when the band is over. You are going to be a fashion designer, Nino is going to be a DJ, Kim wants to be a swimming coach, and I don't think I need to say anything about Nathaniel's art, you've seen it. And then there's me."
Adrien lowered his gaze, and Marinette put her hand on his shoulder.
"I don't know what you're talking about. You're good at plenty of things," replied Marinette. "Off the top of my head: modeling, singing, dancing, fencing, playing the piano, you're multilingual…"
If what Adrien needed was someone to remind him what he was good at, Marinette was the girl for the job. Poor Alya surely could testify of the endless hours she'd had to endure hearing Marinette listing Adrien's multiple talents.
"I'm really attractive too," added Adrien.
"Don't forget humble!" replied Marinette.
"Yes, of course, that's my best quality," replied Adrien jokingly. Then his expression turned serious again. "But it's not exactly about what I'm good at, but what I'm passionate about."
"How come?" asked Marinette.
"Modeling, fencing, learning multiple languages, and playing the piano are all things my father forced me to do growing up," explained Adrien. "I do enjoy most of them now, but I didn't learn them because I was passionate about any of them. I enjoy singing and dancing, but they aren't my true passion either. I joined the band mostly out of teenage rebellion, for the freedom of doing something my dad didn't order me too."
Marinette nodded, understanding what he was saying even if she couldn't relate. She had known she was going to a designer before she learned how to talk or walk.
"Well, twenty is still young. I know you'll find you passion someday and you'll be brilliant at anything you decide to do", replied Marinette.
"Thanks, Marinette," replied Adrien.
Marinette was never going to get bored of hearing her real name in his voice.
The first rays of sun shined in the horizon.
"Look, the sun is rising!" Marinette said, pointing. Within a few minutes, the sky was illuminated in all kind of yellow and red tones. Marinette loved Paris, but she had to admit Nice had the best sunrises. "It's gorgeous!"
"Yes, you are," replied Adrien, looking at her instead of the sun.
"That's the lamest thing you have ever said," replied Marinette, but her face felt warm. "You are so cheesy!"
"Only for you!" countered Adrien not looking a little bit ashamed.
"I take my previous statement back, that was the lamest thing you have ever said," replied Marinette, but she couldn't resist giving him a quick peck on the lips. They hadn't kissed since the airport, but somehow it felt natural to do it.
Adrien blushed when she gave him a peck, which was adorable because they'd made out in the past.
After the sunrise, they went to see what other things they could do. They hadn't packed swimming suits so they couldn't go swimming, but they took a walk on the beach before it was too full of tourists to move. At some point, Adrien took Marinette's hand and she was pretty sure she had died and gone to paradise. Of course, they had made out in the past, but there was something innocent and romantic about holding hands that was making her heart race faster than the make out session in the club had.
They left the beach and went to explore the city. They stopped at a café to have a proper breakfast, since humans didn't survive on chips and ice cream alone. They took a tour around the city stealing kisses along the way. They took a few pictures, but didn't post any on social media, fearing that if their location were known, they would get ambushed by fans.
Sadly, all good things had to end eventually. If it was up to Marinette, the date would have lasted forever, but around 2PM the lack of sleep was catching up to them and they were falling asleep on their feet. They hadn't slept since Saturday morning, and they needed to head back to Paris soon since it was eight hours away and they had rehearsal the next morning.
"You're not driving after being awake for thirty six hours!" said Marinette when they were discussing the subject of their return. "You're already about to fall asleep. You'll get us both killed."
"And who's going to drive?" asked Adrien. "You've been awake for just as long and are more used to driving motorbikes than cars."
Marinette knew Adrien was right about her being an even worse choice of driver, but she was not letting him drive for eight hours after being awake thirty-six.
"We should sleep a couple of hours," suggested Marinette. "We can rent a room and sleep maybe two or three hours before hitting the road. If we leave the city around 5PM, we'll be in Paris around 1AM, we'll still get several hours of sleep before we have to get up for the morning rehearsals."
"Sounds like a good plan," agreed Adrien.
They looked online and found a small hotel to stay at. There were bigger and more luxurious hotels in the city, but the bigger the hotel, the bigger the chance they'd run into someone that recognized them. Besides, the small hotel looked cozier and they were only planning to stay a couple of hours.
They rented a room for the night even if they were planning to leave around 5PM because no hotel was going to rent a room for three hours.
They had agreed beforehand to rent only one room with only one bed because it was only a couple of hours and it would be a waste of money to rent two rooms or a room with two beds. It was mere logic and good management of money really! Besides, they had already slept in close proximity of each other in the past.
It was not a big deal.
Except it was.
Soon they discovered it was one thing to pass out together on the couch of the apartment they shared with three other people, and another thing entirely rent a hotel room for themselves with only one bed.
"What side do you want?" asked Adrien, staring at the bed with an unreadable expression on his face.
"I'm okay with either," replied Marinette. "Let's just go to bed."
The silence barely lasted a heartbeat.
"To sleep, I mean I want to go to bed to sleep because we're tired and sleep deprived. I didn't mean go to bed to do other stuff," she said. "I'm not saying I'm against other stuff, that'd be awesome someday, but I'm not pressuring you and besides we really need to sleep… I think I'll shut up now."
Was it too much to ask for earth to just open up and swallow her? Adrien just laughed, but he didn't seem malicious about it, just amused by Marinette's rambling. At least one of them found the humor on it.
"Let's go to sleep," he said picking a side of the bed, Marinette laid on the other. Embarrassed by her ramble, Marinette just stared at the wall and avoided looking at Adrien. She was so tired, she felt her eyes closing as soon as her head touched the pillow.
"For the record, I agree with you that other stuff would be awesome someday too," murmured Adrien on his side of the bed before finally falling asleep.
Adrien woke up with a ringing noise piercing his head. He opened his eyes and noticed that, in their sleep, he had ended up cuddling Marinette. Despite being almost thirty centimeters taller than her, somehow Adrien ended up being the little spoon and he was so good with that.
It was the best sleep Adrien had had in awhile, and he could definitely get used to it. It was perfect, sleeping like this in her arms. The only thing that was ruining the moment was that annoying ringing noise, which he finally realized was coming from his phone.
He took his phone and saw it was his morning alarm. Oh, what a pity! He wanted to stay in the bed cuddling with Marinette for the rest of their days, but he needed to get up and get ready to go to the rehearsal…
The rehearsal in Paris.
They were nine-hundred kilometers away from Paris.
"Marinette," he said, shaking her. "Marinette, wake up!"
"Five more minutes," replied Marinette, without opening her eyes.
"Marinette, we're supposed to be at rehearsal in an hour, and we're still in Nice," Adrien said urgently.
Marinette opened her eyes in alarm, took her phone, and checked the time. She cursed.
"I can't believe we slept straight through until morning!" she said. "Penny is not going to be amused."
"She's going to skin us," agreed Adrien. "Let's hurry."
"There's no point in hurrying," said Marinette. "Even if we hit the road now, we won't be in Paris until mid-afternoon. We'd miss most of the day's activities, anyway."
Adrien had to agree with Marinette. Unless they teleported, there was no way they were going to be in Paris in time, so there was no point in hurrying.
"Since Penny is going to skin us anyway, whether we leave now or in a few hours, let's sleep a little longer," suggested Adrien. It didn't take him a great deal of effort to convince Marinette.
They slept a couple of extra hours. When they woke up, they had brunch together and then headed back to Paris. As predicted, Penny was not amused when they showed up to Miraculous Records at the end of the afternoon. The rest of the band had already finished the rehearsals for the day, but they had to stay behind reviewing the questions and practicing their answers for the interview with Nadja the next day.
Not only did Adrien and Marinette have to endure Penny's reproachful looks throughout the session, they had to also endure the rest of the band – mainly Kim and Nino – making sly jokes about the reason for their disappearance.
Adrien noticed that Marinette seemed to be less nervous about this interview than the last one. Maybe it was because she didn't have to worry about hiding her secret anymore, maybe it was because she was not going to be the only band member at the interview, or maybe it was just because this wasn't her first interview ever. Either way, she seemed more comfortable in the practice, and Penny didn't have to give her a word-for-word script of what she had to say, unlike last time. It was enough to give her the general idea of the answer and some pointers about what she could and couldn't talk about.
The next day, she seemed more nervous than she had in practice. She was shaking slightly when they were getting ready backstage, just waiting to be called by Nadja. Adrien put his arm around her shoulders.
"You got this," he whispered in her ear. "Just relax."
"If you think I'm nervous now, you should've seen me backstage before my first interview," replied Marinette, but she melted into his embrace anyway.
They were called shortly after, and Nadja introduced them. They walked on stage waving to the audience, greeted Nadja, and took a seat.
The first part of the interview went smoothly. They had agreed to talk about Notre Amour first. Nadja asked them about the inspiration for the song; they let Nathaniel handle that part since he and Marc had written it. They answered a few questions about their experience filming in Normandy and about the concept for the music video, and shared a few funny anecdotes.
"I'm pretty sure that horse hated me," stated Adrien. "He never seemed happy to see me, but he was perfectly tame with the rest of the guys"
"And talking about the music video: in it, we are going to see five boys, but right now in front of me there are four boys and a girl," said Nadja. "What's the story behind Antoine and Marinette?"
They all knew that question was coming. Penny told them it would be impossible to avoid the questions about Marinette being a girl, so it was better to approve a few and answer them. That way they were also in control of what was being said about the topic.
Marinette answered the questions in the way they had practiced, by giving a brief summary of how she dressed as a boy for the audition and how she ended up being selected.
"Marinette, you won the audition, and the rest of the guys were among the judges, so this question goes to the whole band: How do you respond to the people that claim that it was cheating for a girl to win the contest?"
Adrien knew that question had been included by Penny to give them a chance to shoot down the accusations of angry fans that Marinette's joining the band was cheating.
"How is she being a girl cheating?" asked Nathaniel.
"Well, the contest was for boys exclusively," replied Nadja.
"We have to agree that her signing up for the contest as a girl was against the rules," conceded Nathaniel. "But, ultimately, it was a singing and dancing competition. It's not as if being a girl gives her an advantage in those fields. She won because she was the most talented of the participants."
Nadja seemed satisfied by the answer.
"Finally, the question we've all been dying to know: What is the status of the Chatbug relationship?" she asked looking from Adrien to Marinette.
Adrien felt the heat on his face. They hadn't agreed on this question! Damn Nadja and her habit of asking about people's love lives.
Since neither Adrien nor Marinette gave her a coherent answer, Nadja pressed further.
"We all saw the picture of you two kissing in the airport, and the videos that have been going around indicate that Marinette's confession about being a girl came just after that kiss, so what was the status of your relationship?" insisted Nadja. "And does this mean Adrien Agreste is into boys?"
These questions were never approved by Penny, but Adrien decided to answer them anyway because he was tired of the speculation about his sexual preference.
"Yes, I'm into boys." There he said it, and it felt so good to say those words out loud. There was an audible gasp in the audience. "Not exclusively though."
"So are you saying you are bisexual?" asked Nadja.
"I've been thinking about it, and I don't have an answer yet. Maybe I'm bisexual, maybe I'm pansexual. I don't know yet," replied Adrien. "I need to educate myself on the subject and get to know myself better before I can figure it out. When I'm sure what my sexual preference is, I would like to share it with the public for all the younger people out there who are struggling to find theirs too, or that know theirs and would feel validated by a famous person admitting being of the same sexuality as them. In the meantime, all I can tell you it's that I'm in love with this wonderful person sitting beside me. I loved her when I thought she was a guy, I love her now that I know she is a girl."
The public started clapping after his little speech.
The interview continued with Nadja going back to talk about the video clip.
Marinette ambushed Adrien after the interview was over. She grabbed him by the hand and took him to one of the empty dressing rooms.
"Did you mean what you said at the interview?" asked Marinette once they were alone. She needed to know. She wanted confirmation that the words that made her world stop and her heart beat faster than ever before were sincere.
"Yes, the horse from the Notre Amour video hated me, I just know it," replied Adrien jokingly.
"That horse was perfectly nice. You must have done something for him to hate you," replied Marinette. Then she gathered all her courage and said, "But I was actually asking about when you said you were in love with me."
Their eyes met. Marinette could get lost in those green eyes forever.
"Of course I love you," replied Adrien, as if she had asked him if he breathed air.
"When you came from Japan you told me you couldn't properly return my confession," observed Marinette.
"That was twelve days ago, I'm older and wiser now," replied Adrien, his lips dangerously close to hers.
"Is that so?" asked Marinette, closing the distance between them a little bit more.
"I love you. I love you so much it hurts. I've been in love with you for a while now," replied Adrien. "I was just having a hard time adjusting to the knowledge that my bug was actually a Ladybug."
"That was terrible," said Marinette. "Horrible sense of humor."
"You love me anyway."
"Against my better judgment, but yes I do."
Marinette closed the distance between the two of them and their lips met. It was far from their first kiss, but it was the first with both of them knowing their love was requited. She put her hands on his neck and he put his hand on her hips, each trying to get closer to the other. Her lips parted and he deepened the kiss. It was just the two of them in the world for a second. Her brain was not working. Her legs were jelly and her stomach was doing flips.
Adrien was an unfairly good kisser for someone that had only kissed three people in his life. Marinette had to gather all her self-control to make herself stop kissing him.
"Why did you stop?" Twenty-year-old Adrien was pouting.
"We're in a television studio. It's a pretty bad idea to make out here," replied Marinette.
"Don't look like a kicked kitty, it's not as if this is the only chance you'll ever get to make out with your girlfriend."
"Girlfriend?" asked Adrien, looking confused. Marinette felt like an idiot.
"Well, I kind of assumed we were dating," she said, mortified. "I mean after our little escape to Nice and the confession and everything, I assumed we were together, but if you don't want to..."
"I want to!" replied Adrien quickly. "Of course I want to. I was just surprised you were doing me the incredible honor of calling yourself my girlfriend."
Marinette smiled at him and said, "As long as I get to call you my boyfriend."
"You have no idea how good I am with that."
Lunalayosa said in her review in chapter 9: "What!? Our bug was actually a ladybug?!" and I liked it so much I had to include that in the story.
I can't believe this story is finished. There is only the epilogue left, but it's really short.
Thank you guys for all the support you gave me and the story. Honestly every time I see this story got another review it makes me smile.
Chapter 14: Epilogue
I just want to thank slkworm for being my beta. I will always love you!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Even after over five years of knowing him, dating him for the majority of that time, and being engaged to him for over a month, Marinette was never going to get tired of seeing Adrien's face first thing upon waking up.
Of course it would've been nicer to wake up cuddling in their bed instead of on the couch of the tour bus, with the other band-members sleeping in close proximity and with a backache from sleeping on the bus for weeks.
"Good morning, gorgeous," said a half-awake Adrien, who had noticed she had opened her eyes.
"Good morning, hot stuff," replied Marinette, yawning and putting her head on his chest. "Please tell me we still have a couple of hours left to sleep."
"We aren't in Paris yet. You can sleep a couple of extra hours," replied Adrien. "I think I'll do the same."
Marinette was thankful for that. She felt like death itself since she hadn't slept much in the last few months. With the upcoming separation of the band, they'd done three goodbye tours in a row: first a Euro tour, then a world tour, and finally a tour in France. The very last concert was scheduled to be in Paris, of course. Since it was the city where the band was born, it was only right for it to be the city where the band ended.
The separation was on amicable terms, of course. All of them adored each other. But they had different dreams and wanted to take different paths. Marinette was having mixed feelings about it.
On one hand, she was sad. She was going to miss the Catafans, the excitement of being in the band performing for the public, and most of all, she was going to miss the boys, Jagged, and Penny. They were planning to keep in touch, of course, but it was not going to be the same.
On the other hand, she was excited. She was starting design school next fall, and it was a dream come true. She felt a little odd because she was going to be the only twenty-five-year-old in a group of kids that had just graduated from Lycée. However, she had spent the years between Lycée and starting design school singing and dancing onstage with her favorite band. It had been the best years of her life.
"What are you thinking about?" asked Adrien. She didn't know how he knew she was still awake since she had her face resting against his chest.
"The future," replied Marinette. "The upcoming end of the band."
Adrien pressed a kiss to the top of her head. "I still can't believe this is our last concert," he replied.
Marinette couldn't believe it either. It felt like yesterday she had given her first concert with the band since the day the world had found out she was a girl. In hindsight, it was a relief that the truth had come out before she ever went touring with the boys. It would have been impossible to keep her secret from them while being stuck on the bus together twenty-four seven. Besides, concerts were an extremely exhausting experience. She would've passed out if she had been obligated to survive a full concert wearing a binder.
"Well, it's my last concert; you still have plenty of concerts to go, Monsieur Pianist," replied Marinette.
She didn't need to look at his face to know he had smiled at that. He had told her at great lengths about how he loved to play. He used to hate it growing up because his dad forced him into it, requiring him to practice boring songs that nobody but his dad liked for hours on end. But now that he was free to play whatever he wanted, he had realized that he loved it and he wanted to keep playing the piano after the band was over.
"And I'm planning to enjoy every single one of them, but I'll miss the band," admitted Adrien.
"I'm going to miss the band too," said Marinette. "But we can always make a come-back when our songs are so old that they become popular again. Maybe in twenty-five years, when we're fifty."
"Won't you be too old to dance?" teased Adrien.
"The fans would be too focused on your baldness to notice my dancing anyway," replied Marinette. She didn't really think Adrien was going to go bald if his dad's healthy hair was any indication, but it was fun to tease him.
"Why must you hurt me this way?" asked Adrien.
"You'll live," replied Marinette. In a more serious tone, she added, "I know we'll all be busy and we'll have vastly different schedules. And it'll be hard to reunite the whole group, but at least this year, we'll still have three opportunities to see everybody: Marc and Nathaniel's wedding, Alya's graduation, and… our wedding."
"It always cheers me up remembering you agreed to marry me," replied Adrien, kissing the top of her head again.
"Cheesy," replied Marinette, giving him a small kiss on the lips.
I'll miss you guys…