Adrien came into school that morning with the weight of an entire future on his shoulders. His face pale, his lips tight in a line, and everything tense.
He bypassed everyone that wanted to talk to him, including his friends. Chloe and Lila seemed in a chipper mood, as they took turns hanging on his arms and blowing kisses at him.
It bugged Marinette more than she wanted to admit. Did no one else notice he was suffering?
At lunch, she dug down deep inside herself and asked him, before he could leave the classroom. “Hey Adrien?”
He cringed at her voice, but relaxed a moment later, sending her an easy smile. “Hi Marinette. What’s up?”
The smile reeked of stress and despair. Given their lose, almost-friendship, she didn’t know if she had the right to ask him, but plowed ahead anyways. “You seem…stressed. Are you okay? Anything I can help with?”
The question gained the attention of Nino and Alya, who were also packing up to head home for lunch.
“Yeah dude, you’ve been kinda tense all day…I just didn’t know how to ask.”
Adrien’s eyes flicked around the room. Chloe had already left, but it seemed like Lila had hooked an end of the conversation and walked down to them, placing a hand on Adrien’s shoulder.
“He’s just a little nervous, that’s all. Mr. Agreste has decided that he can finally have a girlfriend, and invited some worthy candidates to the mansion this afternoon!”
Marinette’s heart squeezed painfully. She hadn’t heard anything about this, so she obviously wasn’t invited. But if Lila knew, then…
“Are you a candidate?!” Alya nearly shouted, excited.
That only heightened the pain in her chest.
“Naturally! Adrien and I have a great working relationship, and we’re great friends! Mr. Agreste really respects me as an artist too! Of course he invited me!” She pet Adrien, like he was an animal, and not a person. “Adrien and I both know it’s already a done deal. But the…contest, it’s more of a formality.”
“It’s not official yet,” Adrien said, scooting away from Lila. “You still have to go through the interview.”
“Of course, but I’m a sure win.”
The quiver of his lip and tense eyebrows told Marinette otherwise.
Adrien took a deep breath and looked at his friends. “My father said I could invite a few friends, for morale support. Would you guys be willing to come?”
“Of course dude!”
“You’ll come to support me too, right Alya?” Asked Lila.
“Of course girl!”
Adrien’s beautiful eyes met Marinette’s, pleading with her. “Marinette? Are you in?”
“I’m sure she’s busy in the bakery, Adrien,” Said Lila, “don’t make her feel guilty.”
“I’m free.” Marinette blurted out. “I’d love to be there.” She really didn’t want to, actually, but felt it better to go and plunge the knife in and rip her heart out. With Adrien officially taken, she could finally move on, right?
At least, that was her hope.
Adrien smiled at her genuinely, looking relieved slightly.
He and Nino went to eat lunch together, while Alya followed her back to the bakery, quiet on the way.
“Hey…um, I’m sorry you didn’t get invited to participate.”
“I suppose that’s what I get for sitting with a thumb up my butt.” Marinette answered with a sigh.
“And, I know you don’t like Lila, but she’s just as deserving of Adrien’s affection as you are, okay? Please please please don’t be embarrassing and try to ruin this in a fit of jealous rage.”
Marinette wanted to say, ‘No promises’ but instead, she stated, “I won’t.”
“Kay, cause like…that wouldn’t be fair to Adrien, you know? This is his future girlfriend. He deserves a fair chance to look at his options and choose who he wants.”
Marinette glared at Alya, a million red flags popping up in her mind.
The sudden anger took Alya aback. “What?”
“You think this is fair?”
Alya just blinked.
“Mr. Agreste has decided that Adrien can have a girlfriend and selects a handful of candidates for him to pick from? What is he, a Prince?”
Alya shrugged. “I don’t know how the wealthy work! Besides, I think Adrien and Lila have real chemistry! Better than him and the Ice Queen.”
“You mean Kagami? I think he’s got better chemistry with her than Lila.”
Alya scoffed, “no offense girl, but I don’t think you can judge that objectively.”
Marinette frowned, hurt and betrayal flashing through her head before she stomped it down. “Maybe I can’t. But Adrien’s happiness is still important to me. Even if he doesn’t find it with me. Kagami isn’t as much of an ice queen as she seems.”
Alya shrugged. “Okay, I might be wrong. I don’t really know her that well. Maybe she got invited too.”
“I’m sure she did. She was always Adrien’s professional date for events. Gabriel seems like the type to build up PR where he could.”
“Mmmm, you’re right. I bet Chloe’s up there too.”
“She and Adrien have been friends forever. I wouldn’t doubt it.”
They ate their lunch quietly, both mulling over their own thoughts.
“Adrien didn’t look too happy.” Marinette commented.
“He’s sure he’s just nervous. He’s never had a girlfriend before.”
Alya sighed again. “I can’t help but feel like this is really good for you, Marinette. This might be what it takes to get over him. You’ve been stuck on Adrien for a while now.”
“Come on, I’m not calling you silly!” She protested. “I’m just…it was frustrating watching you get all tongue tied over him. I want you to be happy, Mari. I desperately do. But Adrien might not be that for you. Take some time and then…who knows? Luka has his eyes on you.”
“I know.” Marinette said, some guilt popping up at the name. “Maybe…maybe someday.”
After school, the limo arrived to pick them up. Adrien told his driver that Nino, Alya, and Marinette were joining him, while Lila jumped in to grab a ride.
Marinette sat on one side of Adrien, while Lila sat on the other.
“So like, what’s this contest like?” Asked Nino, conversationally.
“Well,” began Lila, with a confident little flourish. “Mr. Agreste is going to interview all the contestants. We’ve all been given a five minute allotment to write a speech on why we would be a good candidate. Of course, he has files on all of us so he can see background, family income, achievements, charities, etc.”
“With all of your accomplishments, I bet you have a real chance!” Chirped Nino. “How many contestants are there?”
“I’m not sure.” Said Lila, with an honest shrug.
“Dude?” Nino probed Adrien.
Adrien shrugged too, as he had been quiet the whole ride. “I…I have no idea. I was just told about it this morning.”
Marinette sucked in a gaping breath next to him. He’d only had a day to think this through? This really was completely unfair!
Finally, they arrived at the mansion, and they were ushered inside.
Gabriel greeted them in the entry hall, as cold and professional as ever. He raised an eyebrow. “I believe I said you could invite one friend for support,” he said, by way of greeting.
“This is a…big decision. I wanted people around me with opinions I could trust.”
Gabriel glanced at the assembled, his eyes lingering on Marinette for a touch too long. “I understand. Come now. The other’s will arrive soon.”
They were escorted into the parlor, where three chairs sat in a line, then a table with two other chairs behind it.
“Miss Rossi, please take a seat. The other two contestants will be here shortly. Mr. Lahiffe, would you be so kind as to grab more chairs for you, Miss Cesaire, and Miss Dupain-Cheng?”
“Sure dude—er, yes sir.”
Gabriel took a seat at the table, looking at the three folders upon it.
Adrien begrudgingly sat next to him, as his three friends took up seats behind him.
Gabriel didn’t really want to do this. Match-making wasn’t something that felt worthy of his time. However, he considered this as killing three birds with one stone. 1) He’d get these girls to stop fighting over Adrien and being an embarrassment for Adrien’s career. 2) He’d have a controlled environment for Adrien to pick a girl. He wanted his son to pick a girl that was worthy of the family. After all, once Emilie came back, they would be a family again. 3) Whoever won or lost didn’t really matter. He’d get an akuma or two. And that made this all worth it.
And with the unsuspected surprise of Marinette Dupain-Cheng added, that added his 4th goal, to finally akumatize her. He wasn’t stupid. He knew very well that Marinette had feeling for Adrien. It was glaringly obvious. But since she had made no attempt to ask him out, he didn’t feel the need to invite her. Perhaps he should have anyways.
The second contestant arrived, as Chloe Bourgeois.
“Running late, are we Chloe?” Alya taunted.
“Not a bit.” Chloe flipped her ponytail over her shoulder. “You can’t rush perfection, you know.”
Gabriel twitched an eyebrow, and wrote down some notes. “Please, take a seat. The final contestant should be here soon.”
Lila had taken the middle seat, and Chloe took the one to her right.
Nearly as her butt hit the chair, the final candidate was escorted in. Kagami Tsurugi.
“Thank you for having me, Mr. Agreste.” She bowed politely.
“Thank you for attending.” He replied, cooly. “Please have a seat.”
As Marinette looked across the three girls, her stomach churned with unpleasant feelings. Nerves, nausea, dread…
And idea popped into her head, speaking in a voice that sounded a lot like Tikki. But she simply waved it away with a shake of her head.
‘Please please please don’t be embarrassing and try to ruin this in a fit of jealous rage.’ Alya’s voice piped up, as the angel on the other shoulder.
She swallowed, and looked to Adrien.
He was hunched in his seat, his leg bouncing quickly. She couldn’t see his face, but his body spoke of uncontested anxiety.
As far as Marinette was concerned, Kagami was the only one up there that deserved a chance to be with Adrien. She was honest and a hard worker.
But Marinette feared that she wasn’t affectionate enough to help Adrien.
Her voice crawled up her throat, resolution pumping through her veins, pounding in her ears, sweating through her palms.
This was a bad idea, a very very bad idea—
“Excuse me, Mr. Agreste?” She blurted, right as he was about to speak.
All eyes were on her, and she felt the immense pressure of it all. This was not like being Ladybug. These weren’t akumas and she had no authority in her civilian clothes.
“Yes, Miss Dupain-Cheng?” Gabriel looked right at her, staring her down. But his tone held no judgement or impatience. Just curiosity.
“I was hoping, if it isn’t too late. May I also throw my proverbial hat in the ring?”
“Yes. Of course, I know I wasn’t invited. So I understand if it’s a no.”
Gabriel was quiet a moment, thinking.
Adrien, however, was staring at her, mouth open, eyes wide. Utterly gobsmacked.
“Adrien, do you have any objections to having Miss Dupain-Cheng join the others in the interview?”
He breathed, his whole body relaxing in one sweep. “No, I don’t mind at all.”
Maybe it was the nerves, but Marinette could have sworn he looked relieved.
“Then I see no problem. Please bring your chair over with the others.”
“Thank you sir,” she said, humbly.
As she moved, Alya grabbed her wrist. “You promised!” She hissed.
“This isn’t a fit of jealous rage.” Marinette said calmly. She walked over and sat her chair next to Chloe, who looked furious. Lila gave her a smile that looked like friendly competition, but came off as a little smug.
Kagami just looked cold, and a little betrayed.
Marinette flicked her eyes meaningfully over to the other awful contestants, trying to send a message.
Kagami, smart as she was, seemed to get it, and quirked her lips in forgiveness. But her expression turned steely again. This was a competition, and she would not lose.
“Thank you ladies for all coming today,” Gabriel began. “I asked each of you here, because you have shown interest in Adrien in a romantic way. Relationships are important in our line of work, but Adrien’s significant other must reflect well upon the brand. Therefore, I have arranged this meeting. You will each be given five minutes to present why you would be the right candidate for this position. I will have a little say so, but ultimately the decision is up to Adrien.”
Alya and Nino shared a look, both getting the same vibe from the situation.
This was a job interview.
“Miss Kagami Tsurugi, the floor is yours.”
Kagami stood. “Thank you, Mr. Agreste.”
Marinette’s face paled. Kagami had note cards. She was prepared. She had probably prepared all week for this!
What was she doing!? Her whole speech was going to be her going “Da-uh--eh—cute boy—love Adrien!” And she’d be an embarrassment forever! She’d lose all progress she made with him! Their friendship was effectively over!
And judging by the way Alya was glaring at her, it wasn’t the only friendship that was going up in smoke.
“Adrien,” Kagami began. “You and I met in a duel. A match that was repeated over and over because we were in perfect sync. Perfect in rhythm and time, and perfect off the mat as well. We match in wit and grades, and in talent and grace. We match in family, and background. Our relationship will only be good for both of us, and our families. I strive for perfection in all that I do. Each task I come upon, I complete flawlessly. You are the only boy for me, as you have reached a level of perfection unparalleled in man. You and I connect and understand things that most people don’t. Fine manners, and public relations. You need a girl that can withstand the scrutiny of the media. A girl like me. I can be scrutinized and not bow to the pressure, for I have no flaws to display. Together, you and I will be perfect.” She nodded once and sat down.
“Thank you, Kagami.” Adrien said, sincerely. He liked Kagami, he really did. She was nice, and they got along…but the amount of times she dropped the word ‘perfect’ was a little unsettling. He didn’t forget Oni-chan. And while akumas couldn’t be held responsible for what they said, Kagami had announce that she deserved him because he was perfect.
But surely, there was more to her than that, right?
Gabriel said nothing, just wrote down some notes. Then, “Miss Lila Rossi, it’s your turn.”
Marinette watched Lila stand and take on this air of confidence that only came from living in a state of denial. “Adrien, as you and I have both discussed before, you and I make a wonderful pair. As you can see from my long list of achievements, you can see that I have a broad repertoire of skills, spanning from assisting with and upstarting charity work, leadership, academics, and of course, design. As the daughter of a diplomat, I am well spoken and naturally charismatic. I have a vast network of connections, and you’ll find it a benefit to join that network. Though I don’t doubt the power of the name Agreste, I can get you in contact with people you’ve wanted to connect with before. As an artist myself, I carry a fine eye to design, and can lend myself to the family business. I am acquainted with the workings of the modeling industry, and therefore require no training to pick it up. In fact, I can work as a liaison between different departments with my vast skill set. Along with all of this, you and I have good chemistry on the set as models. We work well together. And we’ll be even more amazing together.”
Marinette would have been impressed if that wasn’t all flaming garbage.
But judging by the way Alya was giving her a thumbs up, it must have sounded somewhat convincing.
Adrien nodded, “Thank you Lila.” He stated plainly. She sounded very professional for someone who just lied through her resume. But weirdly enough, it seemed like Lila was more presenting to his father than to him.
He already knew he wasn’t going to pick her, but he wondered if she was playing on her connection she had to his father. That would not be good…unless his father really was letting him pick.
That’d be a first.
“Miss Chloe Bourgeois. You have the floor.”
Chloe stood, a hand on her hip. “Adrikins,” she started.
Marinette couldn’t help but smile. Good old Chloe.
“You and I have been friends forever. You know what friendships are built on, right? Memories. And you and I have shared a whole lot. We were there for each other when our moms left. We survived that together, so why can’t we do more? Of course, you have no need of my money or fame, but business talk, we’re great. We’re already great. Adrien Agreste and Chloe Bourgeois, heiress and supermodel, beauty incarnate!”
That actually made Adrien chuckle.
“We’ll be the modern Brangelina. We’ll have fan clubs! We might even have a movie made about us!” Then she smiled, a smile that Marinette had never seen on her face before. One that was actually happy. “And you know, I like imagining a future with you. I think it could be fun.”
He quirked a smile at her. “Thanks Chlo.”
It was a nice sentiment. But he never had any feelings of romance towards Chloe. She was always a sister to him. And she had begun to fall out of his favor with her treatment of other classmates. It just wasn’t going to happen.
Marinette pressed her palms down hard into her knees to keep from trembling. Would it be awful to bow out now? Would that be rude and unprofessional? Would Mr. Agreste forbid Adrien from talking to her, since she was so flakey? She swallowed, once, twice, but her throat was still dry. Why did she do this?
Adrien looked at Marinette while his father finished writing notes about Chloe. Kagami had been somewhat predictable. She wasn’t being completely honest about her feelings with his father in the room. But, she did have a competitive streak in her. And…she always wanted the best.
Lila was also pretty predictable. It was all horse shit. Even if his father bought it and pressured him to pick her, she wouldn’t last because she wouldn’t be able to pull through on her promises.
Chloe. Chloe was a little refreshing. Informal, not really seeing a need to elaborate. They’d known each other forever, like she said.
But Marinette was a wild card. Sweet, kind, helpful, everyday Ladybug. As much as he detested this stupid stunt, having Marinette speak up to participate made it a little more tolerable. But…if she said anything like the other girls, he didn’t know if he could look at her the same way.
“Miss Dupain-Cheng. I apologize that you didn’t have time to prepare, but you have five minutes, just like the others. It starts now.”
She stood. “Thank you, Mr. Agreste.”
I’m Ladybug. She told herself. I’m worth it. I deserve my chance at happiness.
Adrien watched as she closed her eyes and breathed. When she opened them, she looked right at him.
Were her eyes always so blue?
“Adrien,” her voice was soft and tender. This wasn’t a pitch, this was a secret, just for him. “I love you.”
Adrien gasped slightly, warmth settling in his chest immediately.
“When we first met, I hated you. I saw this fancy rich kid who was friends with the other bratty rich kid, and I made an assumption. I misunderstood your good deed. It was never the fame or wealth that drew me to you.
“It was that moment in the rain. You humbled yourself, and confessed you didn’t know how to make friends. I scoffed at you, I was rude and you had every reason to write me off and never speak to me again. But you didn’t. You offered me that umbrella, and took the time to explain yourself, because you wanted to be my friend. That kindness was an arrow to my heart, Adrien. And every time I see that kindness, I find myself falling over and over again.” Her voice wavered, as she started to lose courage.
Adrien just smiled at her, and nodded her on, desperate to hear what she had to say.
“I don’t have much to offer you. I’m the daughter of a baker, which makes for a modest living. The Dupain-Cheng’s are famous, but just for our macarons, and only in Paris. I come with a lifetime supply of sweets and carbs,” she giggled. “And um, I can make things for you. I know you can get whatever clothing you’d like, but…I can knit you some mittens to match that blue scarf of yours. And…most of all, I can offer you me. My ears to listen to you when you have a rough day, or when you just want to make puns. My eyes to watch you at your tournaments and support you. My hands to play video games with you and massage your shoulders after a long photoshoot. My arms to hold you when you feel lonely. And my lips, to kiss you and reassure you when you feel inadequate.” Then she swallowed again, her eyebrows furrowing. “If…even if you don’t pick me. I still offer all of this to you. Because you’re my friend, and I care about you. I want you to be happy. Even if it’s not with me.” She smiled slightly and sat down.
For a while, Adrien just stared at her, struggling to breathe. He could see her trembling. He wanted to run to her and hold her. He had never felt this strong of an urge before, but that’s what he wanted to do.
“Marinette, I…thank you…” he finally managed out.
“Miss Dupain-Cheng,” Gabriel spoke. “I must ask, you’re a budding designer, correct?”
“Does a relationship with my son look like a in for you in my company?”
Adrien almost wanted to yell at the accusation, but stayed quiet.
Marinette thought a moment, then answered. “I’m here for Adrien. If I get a chance to work in the industry, that would be amazing. But if dating Adrien meant I sacrificed my own career…I think it’d be worth it.”
“Thank you, for being candid.”
“Now then,” Gabriel stood. “Adrien and I, and company,” he gestured to Alya and Nino, “will be stepping into the other room to reach a decision. Please remain seated.”
As the door closed behind them, Marinette let out a sigh of relief and let the weight fall off her shoulders. She did it. She confessed to Adrien. She made her shot. Now it was up to him.
In the other room, Gabriel, Adrien, Alya, and Nino gathered around a television projecting the parlor on the screen.
“What’s this?” Alya asked.
“People act different when they think others aren’t watching.” He answered simply, and turned up the volume.
Chloe hauled off and whacked Marinette on the arm. “What the shit, Dupain-Cheng!?”
“Ow!” Marinette cried, more from shock than pain.
“Yeah, what the hell were you thinking?” Lila asked.
“I thought you were my friend.” Kagami bit. “How could you do this to me?”
Marinette rubbed her arm. “I just…I just wanted a chance to tell him. Before it was too late.”
Lila scoffed. “It was absolutely pathetic. And you ruined your own chance! You said ‘I can’t offer much, but what I can offer, I can give as a friend too.’ Why would he consider dating you then?”
“At least I had something to offer!” Marinette shouted back. “Your resume is all lies!”
“Doesn’t matter! Mr. Agreste likes me more than his own son. It doesn’t matter if Adrien knows I’m lying, Gabriel doesn’t. And daddy pulls all the strings. I’m going to be Adrien’s girlfriend.”
“Whoa whoa whoa!” Chloe shouted. “No way! Gabriel likes me more! Who doesn’t? I have fame and notoriety! And I’m prettier!”
“Stop it!” Marinette shouted, genuinely upset. “Stop talking about Adrien like he’s a prize to be won! He’s not a trophy or a piece of meat! He’s an intelligent, kind, loving man! He deserves someone that will love him!”
“I love him plenty!” Chloe cried indignantly.
“I love him more!” Kagami interjected. “And Marinette’s right. He’s a person. He needs someone on his level that understands his life. Marinette…that person isn’t you. You don’t understand what kind of pressure he’s under. You don’t understand strict families and high expectations…you haven’t done anything to deserve him.”
Marinette closed her eyes, trying to keep from crying. That was a low blow.
Lila chuckled. “Did you see the look on Alya’s face when you invited yourself up here? She was so angry! Probably because she’s so sick of you embarrassing yourself.”
“It was really embarrassing.” Chloe added. “You super don’t belong up here. I’d be surprised if Adrien ever spoke to you again after that stunt.”
Lila grinned at that. “Hey, nice work! You did my job on your own. I told you, didn’t I? You’d lose all your friends, and Adrien would be mine. Jealousy really is a little bitch, isn’t it?”
Marinette screwed her eyes shut, rocking in her chair, and begging herself not to cry. This had been all a big mistake.
“So what are you going to do now?” Lila asked, taunting her more. “I hope you switch schools. It would be so much easier. But if you stay, I’m sure that would be even more fun. After all, I hold all the cards now. No one will ever listen to you again!”
Alya’s mouth dropped open as soon as Lila went off. “She…she lied?”
“She’s lied this whole time.” Adrien provided softly. “Marinette tried to tell you. I guess…I didn’t realize why you didn’t believe her.”
Gabriel muted the TV. “Well. We have four candidates, each with some benefit…except Miss Rossi, obviously.” He closed her file. “But, true to my word, the final decision is yours.”
“I know who I want.”
Gabriel nodded. “Then we’ll return.”
Marinette breathed and dabbed her cheeks with a handkerchief to wipe away her tears. If this was how it ended, she would remain dignified.
The door opened and the others returned. Adrien looked nervous again, but a lot more optimistic.
“Adrien has reached a decision.” And Gabriel gestured him forward.
Adrien swallowed. “I’m sorry that you all had to get involved in this. It hurts me that I have to break hearts today. That’s something I never wanted to do. Kagami…I’m really sorry. I did enjoy the fun we had together, and I hope we can still be friends.”
“Of course, Adrien. I understand.” She looked mildly forlorn, but hid heartache well, for Adrien’s sake.
“Chloe, you’re right. We have been friends for a long time. And I love you, but like a sister.”
Chloe pouted. “Ugh, save me your ridiculous pity speech.”
Lila sat up a little straighter, her smug smile emerging as Adrien turned to look at Marinette.
Marinette looked to him, steeling herself for the rejection that would come.
“Marinette…I…” he stepped closer. “I’m speechless. I…I’m so glad you spoke up!” And he rushed to her, scooping her out of the chair and crushing her to him. “Thank you. For seeing me.”
She blinked up at him, still in shock. “Does…that mean I won?”
“Yes!” He laughed, exasperated. “I chose you!”
Marinette trembled before clinging to him tightly, and sobbing. “These are happy tears!” She declared.
He laughed at her and just squeezed her tightly.
“Um, I don’t mean to interrupt.” Said Lila, obviously interrupting. “But Adrien, I think I should warn you. Marinette isn’t as innocent as you think—“
“Oh shut up Lila.” Alya spat. “No one’s buying your bullshit.”
Lila gaped at her. “But-But Alya! You know how Marinette gets!”
“Yeah, she’s not as bad as you. She didn’t have to lie to make friends. And she certainly cares about Adrien more than you do.”
“What? I would never—“
“Dude, there’s a camera. We saw the whole thing.”
Gabriel loomed over Lila. “‘Daddy pulls the strings’ hmm?”
“It's…a figure of speech?”
Gabriel wasn’t impressed. “Leave my house. If you so much as touch my son or Miss Dupain-Cheng, I won’t hesitate to file for a restraining order. Consider this your only warning.”
Furious, Lila stomped out of the mansion.
Kagami approached the couple. “Sorry for what I said, Marinette. I guess you really do deserve him.”
Marinette wiped her cheeks. “I forgive you Kagami. I’m sorry too.”
“You have nothing to apologize for. You love him, and you deserve to be able to tell him. I’ll see you guys around.” She bowed to them and then to Mr. Agreste. “Thank you for the opportunity.”
Then Chloe was left. She looked at them, and ‘hmph’ed. “I don’t approve. But…as long as you’re happy.”
“I am.” Adrien confessed.
“Break his heart, and I’ll ruin your life.”
“Good. Now, I’m off to shop my woes away. I might even pick out some things for you Marinette, now that you’re dating the son of a fashion mogul, you have to look presentable.”
“That’s very kind of you, Chloe.” Marinette smiled softly.
“Of course, I’m the nicest.” And she left as well.
“Now,” said Gabriel. “Miss Dupain-Cheng, please tell your parents to expect a call from Nathalie in the coming days. We will be arranging a time for us all to sit down for dinner and discuss this relationship going forward.”
Marinette nodded, trying to collect herself. “Yes sir, absolutely.”
“And, in regards to the question I asked. I don’t expect you to quit designing. In fact, perhaps I can give you a portfolio review, when you’re ready.”
“That would be wonderful, sir.”
“Now that that is settled, I must get back to work. Adrien, your friends may stay for dinner, but must leave before 8:00. Agreed?”
“Yes sir, thank you.”
He nodded once and then headed to his office.
Alya met Marinette’s eyes and just shrugged shamefully. “Mari I…I don’t know what to say. I’m glad you ignored me!”
Marinette offered a smile. “It’s alright Alya.”
“No, no it’s not. Lila conned us, all of us for a long time. What was that thing she said? ‘Your friends will all leave you and Adrien will be mine?’”
“Yeah, it was a threat she made against me, the first time I called her out.”
“God, I’m such an idiot. I thought about it two seconds after she admitted to lying about her achievements, and saw right through her stories. I have no idea how I was so blind!”
“Well, we have some damage control to do,” said Adrien.
“Nah uh.” Alya poked him in the chest. “We have damage control to do. You two, have a lovely first date!”
Marinette blinked, a blush rushing to her face. “O-oh!”
Adrien’s arm hooked around her waist. “We’ll pass the time somehow. Video games?”
Marinette breathed. Everything was fine. This was great. “Yeah, that sounds fun.”
“Catch you dudes later!”
Up in Adrien’s room, Marinette sat on the couch as Adrien glanced through his video game collection. “Let’s see, I knoooow you like Ultima Mecha Strike, but I want to win a little.”
“Aw, won’t let the girl win on the first date?”
“You’re cute, but you’re not that cute.”
She giggled, her face alighting with a blush. Adrien thought she was cute! “Rude!”
“Yeah, I forgot I’m bad at jokes.”
“You’re not bad at—“ The girl I love doesn’t like my jokes either. “Oh. Oh my god.”
“What?” Adrien returned, hearing panic come into her voice.
Marinette stood, preparing to leave. “Adrien, I…I can’t do this.”
He blinked. “What?”
“You don’t love me.”
“Well…” he rubbed the back of his neck, awkwardly. “Not…not quite. But I really like you, and I know if I just spend a little more time with you—“
“But, what about the girl you’re in love with?”
He wilted, instantly. “Oh. Right.”
“We have to redo this contest or something! She has to know! She needs a fair chance too!”
Adrien smiled at her. Even at the sake of her own heart, she was still thinking of others. “No, Marinette, that ship has sailed. I held out for her…but she rejected me. A lot actually.”
Marinette’s heart ached for him. She reached out and took his hand. “Adrien?”
He shook his head. “For a while, I believed that any other romance was being unfaithful to her. But, how can you be unfaithful to someone you’re not in a relationship with? It’s stupid.”
“No, no it’s not.” She insisted. “I know exactly how you feel.”
“You…you didn’t give up someone waiting for me, did you?”
“I turned someone down, but I didn’t love him. I was fond of him, and he’s a great friend…but I didn’t love him.”
“Oh…yikes, him too. And Nathaniel. Gee, I’m a heartbreaker.”
He chuckled. “No Mari, I think you’re just very lovable.” He kissed her forehead. “Don’t worry about that other girl, okay?”
“But like…I am going to worry. Can you tell me who?”
He pouted. “Don’t laugh.”
She blinked. “…Ladybug?”
“I know it sounds crazy, but…she’s saved me a few times, so…”
Adrien had never confessed to Ladybug. Unless he did it as Aspik and she didn’t remember, but she knows she would have said yes to him. Ladybug had gotten plenty of confessions, but not several from the same person, except for—
Marinette stepped away from him, her hands over her mouth.
“Oh great, now you think I’m some sort of weirdo, right?”
She shook her head, but didn’t remove her hands.
“Then what is it?”
Marinette was the new guardian. She alone held the responsibility of the Miraculous. But this thought kept nagging at the back of her head. Someday, they’d have to reveal their identities to each other. She’d need to know who he was incase of emergency.
Looked like today was that day.
She pulled her hands away, resting on her heart. Then she drank him in, letting the pieces come together.
Adrien’s eyes widened. “Wha—?”
“I’m so sorry for hurting you. You were the other boy.”
He choked on his breath, then took a staggering step towards her. “My lady?”
“Yes, kitty. I’m right here. You found me.”
He closed the distance, crushing her body to his once again, this time with tears of his own. “I knew I picked right! I knew it!”
“Oh Chat! It’s you! I’m so glad it’s you!”
“My lady!” He pressed his lips to her face over and over again, not caring if he connected to her mouth or not. He just wanted to shower her in affection. “I love you! I love you I love you I love you!”
“Adri—“ Her words were cut off by his kisses and her giggles. “I love you too, silly boy.”
He cupped her cheeks holding her like she was precious and delicate. “We have to be even. I can offer you my wallet, to pay for school and whatever supplies you could ever want. I offer my eyes to drink in your perfect face every day. My ears to listen to your adorable laugh at my perfect puns.”
“Like that! And I offer my hands, to hold you when you’re lonely. And my lips to kiss you senseless when you need a break from all your stress!” He kissed her deeply, making her hazy. “And I offer my abs, to carry you through the threshold when we’re married!”
“You lift with your legs, Dingus.”
“Then what can I offer my abs for?”
“Those are just for me,” she cheeked, running a hand down his shirt.
“I’m going to kiss you again.”
“I’m not going to stop you.”
He pushed her over to lay on the couch, as he leaned over her and kissed her again. Her fingers dove into her hair as his own cradled her. “My lady,” he breathed.
An explosion rocked the city, startling the two teens apart. They shared a look, and then laughed.
“Alright, four macarons says it’s Lila.”
“Hmm…five says it’s Chloe.”
A third voice, belonging to Plagg, spoke up. “And if it’s Kagami?”
“A draw.” They said together.
“Oh, one more smooch before we go, my love?” Adrien grinned.
Marinette rolled her eyes. Rolled her eyes at Adrien! “Oh, I suppose one wouldn’t hurt.” She pecked him gently. “You can have more afterwards.”