Actions

Work Header

Odette

Work Text:

Miraculous: Tales of Ladybug & Chat Noir © Thomas Astruc

“Do I have to be here?” Marinette whined, kicking the floor dramatically.

Her father smoothed out her hair, kneeling down to be on eye-level as he asked, “Don't you want to meet Aunt Emilie?”

“No,” she denied.

It was early, far earlier than they would've gone to the park when she didn't have school, and her father had suggested that she wear her favourite dress for the special day.

But it was her favourite last year.

“You want to thank her for all those gifts, remember?” he prompted, placing his finger underneath her chin to lift her head up. “She's been waiting to meet you again for so long.”

She stomped her foot. “I don't remember her!”

“That's because you were a baby, sweetheart,” he reminded her with a quiet laugh. “She's coming here to give you your birthday present in person.”

“A good present?” she asked.

“It won't be that scary doll again,” he reassured her. “It's safe and buried in the garden where it can't keep you up at night.”

Marinette's eyes widened. “Safe?”

“Not safe,” he soothed her, adjusting the collar of her dress. “Very unsafe and in the dark. It's suffering for its crimes of disturbing your sleep.”

“Good,” she muttered.

“Speak up,” he chastised.

Marinette batted his pampering hands away. “Good!”

“Good girl,” he complimented.

And when he stood up, his knees cracked.

Marinette giggled.

For as long as she could remember, she'd been told about Aunt Emilie. She was her mother's best friend, but she lived too far away. According to her father, the last time she'd visited was when Marinette had just been born—when her mother was sick and in the hospital—and it was tradition after that to exchange presents and cards via mail.

Emilie had a son her age.

He'd visited, too, and there were pictures of the two of them, but he was bald.

It said in the birthday card from last year that Adrien, the son, had been the one to pick the awful doll out.

She decided she disliked him from that.

Marinette had cried and signed her name in her worst handwriting when it came to his birthday, pointing out the ugly things she could see in the store when they were buying his present.

She hoped he hated it.

Adrien wasn't a class-mate from school. He wasn't there in the playground, never spoke to her on the phone when their parents called each other, and the few pictures she'd seen of him made her jealous that he still had a mother.

But there was never a father.

She had that, at least.

“Where are they?” Marinette asked, scuffing her shoe against the ground again.

The airport was crowded, and there weren't any empty seats for them to sit down. Her father kept trying to get her to hold his hand so she wouldn't get lost—but they weren't even moving.

“They'll be here soon,” he reassured her.

She pouted.

There were a few minutes where she was so bored, leaning against her father's leg and sighing loudly, asking why they'd had to leave her teddy in the car, and all her father did was pat her head and say that they'd be back there soon.

It didn't occur to her that she'd have to share the back of the car with anyone else.

Emilie and Adrien could be described in one word: yellow.

Their hair was bright, that was her first impression.

She'd seen pictures of them, of course. Emilie always looked pretty but—but Marinette had never seen her move. The way her dress moved as she walked, waving a hand and calling out her father's name as they were noticed, was something that she'd never given much thought.

Emilie looked like the princess from the films she loved to watch.

And Adrien—

He seemed okay.

After Emilie had finished hugging her father—the two of them talking too softly for Marinette to make out what they were saying—Emilie then turned towards her, and much like her father had done earlier, she crouched down to be on eye level.

“And you must be Marinette.”

Even her smile was pretty.

Marinette shyly nodded, holding onto her father's hand.

“You look just like your mother, you know,” Emilie told her, smiling widely. And it was when Adrien made a noise beside her that she said, “This is my son, Adrien. He's been very excited to meet you.”

“Hi!” Adrien said, clumsily waving and almost hitting his face in the process. “You're Ma—Mari!”

She blinked.

“Marinette's a hard name to say,” her father reminded her.

Other kids found it hard, too.

But she'd stubbornly learned to say it, alternating between stumbling over the syllables and sounding them out slowly until she'd get it right.

She was almost there.

“Hi,” she echoed back quietly.

Adrien smiled widely.

She thought that they could be friends, maybe. He didn't look dirty, not like the other boys in her class at times—

That thought lasted until he called her teddy ugly on the third day.

-x-

“It's not even my birthday,” Marinette pointed out, sulking.

Her father tucked some hair behind her ear. “They're coming to visit, not specifically for your birthday. We had fun last time, didn't we?”

She grumpily crossed her arms. “Did we?”

“I'm sure Adrien's learned his lesson,” he assured her, pressing a kiss to her forehead. “He didn't mean it really, you know that. And he even apologised.”

Marinette didn't stomp her foot that time. “Because Auntie made him!”

Only babies stomped their feet, that was what her new teacher said.

Marinette wasn't a baby.

“He was sorry,” he reminded her. “He even gave you some of his sweets. That was kind of him.”

Begrudgingly, she muttered, “I guess...”

Emilie and Adrien had stayed with them for two weeks, the both of them staying in the other bedroom in the house. When it had first been decorated after they'd moved into their new home, Marinette had been confused, asking who they were inviting to stay over.

For all she knew, it was her and her father left of the family. Everyone else was gone, along with her mother.

And then Emilie and Adrien had come along.

It was an okay time, but she would've preferred to be at school. It had been the end of the summer—three weeks before classes started again and her class had gained a new student who constantly tried to steal her pencil—so that meant ice cream, cool clothes, and a paddling pool in the garden that she loved to lounge around in.

The problem was that it wasn't meant for anyone else.

She didn't mind Emilie dipping her feet in, but Adrien kept splashing her

Marinette didn't want see him again.

She had to share her cereal, share her blanket when they all watched a film together, and even worse, he said that her pyjamas were ugly.

Marinette had squawked and called him ugly instead.

Her father made her apologise for that.

The plus side of them coming and leaving before her birthday meant that she didn't have to share her birthday cake again. It wasn't like the other kids at school that brought in sweets for theirs, giving them out to everyone.

They had to wait at the airport again.

Marinette wasn't holding onto her father's hand that time. He'd given her her teddy instead, telling her to hold onto it tightly and not lose it, and she was going to do just that.

Emilie wasn't in a pretty dress that time.

The car ride home was different to last time. Before, Adrien had been shy, so the two of them had barely spoken from their seats in the back, but that time, he was smiling and taking items out of his backpack to show her them.

She didn't move her teddy out of her lap.

Adrien didn't call it ugly again.

The summer was as hot as before, and Adrien didn't splash her as much when they were in the paddling pool. Emilie had put little umbrellas in their drinks—to make them fancier, according to her—and Marinette was so delighted with hers that she was sad when it fell out of the plastic cup and into the water.

Adrien gave her his.

Emilie hadn't even told him to do.

Her father framed the picture of her looking at Adrien wide-eyed and put it in their living room after the holiday was over.

She didn't entirely hate it.

And since the second year, it was clear that it was going to become a tradition. They still sent the card and present for Adrien at the start of November, even though her father always told her that his birthday was at the end of the month.

She signed her name nicely that time.

It wasn't like she disliked Adrien, but she didn't know him well. Marinette only got along with a few of her class-mates, preferring not to play with those that had pushed her over in the past, but when she was with Adrien almost all day for two weeks in a row, it was hard to make an excuse to run away.

She'd faked a stomachache during the first year, and Emilie had gone in and gently asked her what she could do to make it feel better.

The plus side was that Emilie was really nice.

It was what Marinette imagined having a mother was like.

The third year, she was excited to see them.

It was a stark difference to how she'd been before.

The time they were coming landed on her birthday, but she wasn't mad about it. She was told that Emilie was good at baking, and that they'd all make her birthday cake together that time, rather than picking one out at the store.

She was bouncing on her feet at the airport, no teddy in sight.

When the two appeared, Adrien was the complete opposite of her; face pinched, dragging his feet, and looking incredibly reluctant as they walked along.

“He was sick on the plane,” Emilie revealed, brushing Adrien's hair out of his face. “Would it be okay if we stayed here for a bit?”

It was aimed more at her father, she knew that, but Marinette readily agreed. “Okay!”

Emilie smiled at her.

She grinned right back.

They sat on those cold metal chairs, the ones that had no cushions and were uncomfortable to sit on, but Adrien looked just as miserable as he was before as he leaned back on it and closed his eyes.

Her father quickly said, “I'll go get some water for him.”

Adrien still wasn't feeling better by the time they got home, but he wasn't pale any more.

It took a few hours for him to be fully recovered, and that happened near dinner time. He had a skip in his step, running fast as he chased Marinette when she'd taken his backpack, and his laughter meant that he wasn't annoyed.

She didn't cry when he tackled her on the sofa to get it back.

“That's cheating!” she accused, pawing him off of her.

“There's no rules when you're a thief,” he proclaimed, hugging the backpack to his chest. “You can't just steal.”

She crossed her arms. “But my present's in there.”

“Yeah, but it's not my backpack,” he huffed. “What are you? A toddler?”

“I'm almost nine!” she countered, throwing her hands up in exasperation. “You're barely older than me!”

“Barely?” he questioned. “You're a baby.”

Marinette pointed out, “We're the same height.”

“Have you seen your feet?”

“Oh, yeah?” she argued. “Not like yours are any bigger!”

He haughtily held his head up. “Mine are almost the biggest in my class.”

“That's—that's not a thing,” she spluttered, bewildered. “No one compares shoes!”

“Boys do,” he told her. “It's a thing.”

“Well, it shouldn't be,” she muttered. “It's stupid. You're stupid.”

Adrien glared. “If I'm stupid, what does that make you?”

She recited one of her father's lines. “An angel for putting up with you.”

Adrien stuck his tongue out at her.

“That's childish!” she accused.

Adrien laughed at her reaction. “I am a child!”

They had a lot of fun.

It was different to everyone else in her class; she didn't have to see Adrien everyday, didn't have him trying to one-up her with answering the teacher's questions, but that also meant that when she told her friends about him, they found it odd that she'd spend time with someone not at their school.

Marinette didn't mind.

She liked Emilie and Adrien coming to visit.

The cake Emilie made her was so pretty.

When it came time to blow out the candles—with everyone wearing party hats that Adrien had chosen out at the store—she failed to blow them out twice. She looked at Adrien for help, and he leaned forward and only managed to blow out half of them as well.

She giggled.

Her father blew them the same time as her, and they succeeded that time.

The cake tasted as good as it looked.

They weren't allowed too much, though, not when it was so late in the evening and they needed to go to bed soon. But it meant that they could have more tomorrow, and Marinette was even happier that the rest of her class-mates weren't there, because that would've meant that she'd have to share with them.

Adrien really did keep her present in his backpack the whole time, and Emilie was really surprised that she hadn't gotten it yet.

Marinette made grabby hands as she was passed it.

She beamed. “Thank you!”

Adrien smiled right back.

It was a teddy, the newer version of the one Adrien had called ugly before.

She hugged it to her chest immediately.

The day Emilie and Adrien left, she was sadder than before. She waved until they were out of sight at the airport, with her father even lifting her up so she could see over the crowd, and when they walked back to the car together, she was dragging her feet.

“Why do they only come now?” Marinette asked.

“Emilie's busy during the rest of the year,” her father told her. “It's also the longest holiday, so you can spend time with Adrien.”

“Adrien's fun,” she said.

Her father grinned. “I'm glad.”

“I thought he was mean at first,” she revealed, looking up at him with a smile. “But he's—he's nice now, and I like him.”

“Your mother would be so proud of you, sweetheart,” he told her.

She blinked. “Really?”

“Yes,” he confirmed. “Emilie was her friend she was your age now. And when your mother was pregnant with you, she really wanted you to get along with Adrien.”

“Oh,” was all she could say to that. “Okay.”

-x-

Adrien was always going to be older than her, but they were in the same year. He had his birthday in November, and hers was during the summer holidays, but the teacher still made her stand up and have everyone sing to her before they split up until the next year.

Her father did ask her whether she wanted a party with her class-mates, so Emilie and Adrien would come and leave before.

She said no.

It wasn't that she didn't like her friends—she did—but it was fun when Emilie was there. The house was more lively, there was someone to keep her father company, and Adrien had started to sneak into her bedroom to talk the last few days he was there before.

The summer was even hotter than before. Marinette had taken a handheld fan along to the airport, and she was sitting on an awful metal chair, her thighs sticking to it, and her father was dramatically fanning her while calling her a princess.

“Fan faster, servant,” she demanded.

He tapped the end of her nose. “Say please.”

“But I'm a princess.”

“Princesses are still nice,” he told her. “They're loved by their people because of their niceness, not because of their title.”

She looked at him suspiciously. “Are you sure?”

He smiled. “Have I ever lied to you?”

“Yes!” she accused. “The tooth fairy doesn't even exist, and—”

“Okay, okay,” he interrupted with a laugh. “Let's forget about that for now, shall we?”

“I'll forgive, but I'll never forget,” she whispered.

He pushed her damp hair away from her head. “Sure, sweetheart.”

Adrien brought sweets with him that time.

They shared them in the back of the car, snickering and whispering to each other.

Marinette had hugged both him and Emilie when they'd come out with their bags. She was at the point with Adrien where they had running jokes, mentions of their previous times together, and she was excited to spend time with him.

He was fun.

And she was comfortable enough with Emilie to ask her questions that she would've usually asked her father, to hug her whenever she wanted to, and barely felt shy around them any more.

Emilie liked to brush Marinette's hair in the morning.

Her father wasn't very good at styling, but he tried. He could do nice ponytails and simple plaits, but Emilie could do stuff that looked like they belonged on princesses.

Adrien demanded that he be included in the mornings, though that usually meant just brushing his hair until it was knot free.

While Marinette's was dark, much like her mother's was in pictures, Emilie and Adrien's hair was bright and looked golden in the sun. It matched their eyebrows and the ends of their eyelashes, and Marinette thought it looked ever-so-pretty.

She was a little jealous, especially since she didn't look much like her father, but the pictures she saw of her mother were pretty, and she liked looking like her.

As with before, Adrien came into her bedroom when they were supposed to be asleep.

Their parents were still downstairs, and he'd only caused one floorboard to squeak before he climbed into her bed. Marinette had moved over to make room for him, tucking the duvet around the both of them, and the small amount of light coming in through the window meant that she could only just make him out.

She whispered, “What's your favourite cake?”

“I don't know,” he told her. “I like them all.”

“That's not very helpful,” she muttered. “What did you have for your birthday?”

“Oh!” Adrien said, a bit too loudly. He put a hand over his mouth, the two of them listening out for a moment to see whether they'd be disturbed. “I had—I don't know? It was spicy and had some vegetable in it, but it was nice.”

Marinette made a disgusted noise. “Vegetable?”

“I know, but it tasted good!” he defended. “It was still sugary. Maybe the vegetable was to make my mother feel better or something.”

“I hope I don't have that,” she said.

Adrien kneed her while he got comfortable. “I hope you do.”

“Mean!” she accused, tugging the duvet more to herself. “You're not allowed in here if you're going to be a dick.”

“That's a bad word,” he shot back.

“You're badder,” she said.

“Badder isn't a word,” Adrien pointed out.

“Prove it,” she taunted. “You can't.”

Adrien's responded, “I'm not going to waste my time looking it up.”

“You're wasting my time by being here,” Marinette grumbled. “You're stupid.”

“You're stupider,” he retorted. “You're supposed to be my friend. Stop being mean.”

“You started it—”

“Marinette,” he interrupted quietly. “Don't call me stupid.”

She adjusted the pillow. “If I can't, then you can't either.”

“Deal,” he agreed, tucking the duvet under his chin. “I get called that enough at school.”

That surprised her. “You do?”

“Yeah,” he said, not elaborating any further than that.

They barely mentioned their friends when they were together. Marinette didn't want them to meet Adrien, and it was confusing when he mentioned his when he didn't have pictures to show her, so they preferred not to. It was like they were in a little bubble with their joint family for the two weeks, where outside presences weren't there.

Sure, they sometimes bumped into Marinette's class-mates when they went outside to get ice cream or go to the park, but they never stayed there for long.

Adrien was her friend, not theirs.

“Do people—do they call you anything?” he asked.

“Some make fun of my eyes,” she admitted. “But the teacher made them stop.”

His voice was quiet as he said, “That's stupid.”

“Yes,” she agreed. “But you're not.”

“You don't know that,” he muttered. “You're not in any of my classes.”

“But you've done your homework already, right?” she asked. “You never bring it here.”

He muttered, “That doesn't mean anything.”

“I hate doing homework,” Marinette countered. “But I have to do it before you're here, otherwise it's my last week just doing that and I don't get to play. Plus, I get ice cream if I finish it.”

“You get ice cream anyway,” Adrien pointed out with a laugh. “You're spoiled!”

She gasped. “Me?”

“Yeah, you,” he confirmed, reaching out and touching the end of her nose, a move that he must've seen her father do over the years. “You're treated like a princess, you know that?”

“Doesn't that mean you're a princess, too?”

He made a thoughtful noise. “Where's my tiara?”

“I'll get you one,” she promised him.

And even in the dark, she could faintly see his smile. “Deal.”

They sealed it by linking their little fingers.

She fell asleep with them still clasped.

And when it came time to send his birthday present months later, she included a tiara in the box, much to her father's amusement.

She didn't tell him the joke.

-x-

When they were thirteen, Marinette got her first cell phone.

It was only natural to get Emilie and Adrien's numbers in it first, as they were there when she opened it.

As before, her father kept asking if she wanted to have a party, but she always responded that she'd rather have their traditional two weeks. She'd been told that Emilie booked off the time from her work months in advance, along with the plane tickets, so she had to make her mind up long before her birthday actually came around.

She really, really liked it.

At that point, she remembered their favourite food, films, and what board games they liked. Adrien was particular; he didn't like spelling games, hated playing cards, and he disliked her favourite flavour of ice cream.

She made fun of him for that.

Adrien liked to respond with a lot of emojis instead of words.

The first day after he was gone—when the summer was horribly hot and he'd complained about it as soon as he'd landed back at home—Marinette spent all the credit her father had gotten her in less than twenty-four hours.

Her father was horrified.

She was given a strict limit and tried to last through the month before the next top-up, but it was clear that Adrien didn't have the same restrictions. For every message she sent him, he sent ten. Sometimes, he replied with one word at a time, or simply emojis before he added more on after it—

It made her a tad envious.

She even got a text from Emilie, asking her whether Adrien was bothering her.

Marinette said no.

Because he wasn't, not at all. They may not have been able to spend much time together, but when they were in the same room, Marinette's cheeks hurt from smiling.

Adrien didn't call her names, didn't make fun of her just because she was a girl—and he was nice.

Other than insulting her teddy, of course.

But she was over that.

Kind of.

They could laugh about it at that point, but she still pretended to be offended. She made a show of hiding the teddy from him when he was in her bedroom, keeping it out of his reach, stating that he was forbidden from touching it.

“It's my best friend,” she'd snootily said last time. “Not you.”

Adrien's pout had been terribly amusing.

When she was fourteen—after her birthday, where she'd accidentally burnt some of her hair on the candles of her cake—Christmas came with a surprise.

It was in the form of plane tickets.

Wide-eyed, she'd stared at her father in surprise, stuttering out, “Is this—is this for real?”

“Yes,” he confirmed, thoroughly amused. “It's about time we go see them, right?”

Looking down at the date, she asked, “But it's—this is for February.”

“You and Adrien both have a week off then,” he explained. “We agreed—Emilie and I, I mean—agreed it would be the best time, so they could still come for the summer.”

Her voice was loud as she questioned, “We're visiting them?”

“Yes,” he said again. “And we'll be staying at their house, too. But it'll be cold, so you'll have to actually pack a coat.”

She protested, “But I don't like—”

“You'll need to be warm,” her father chastised. “It might snow, and a cold Marinette isn't going to be any good to anyone.”

She sniffed. “I'm always good.”

“You're good when you wear a coat,” he countered. “I can always cancel these, you know.”

Marinette held the tickets to her chest. “You wouldn't.”

“I might.” He grinned. “Try me.”

They kept the tickets.

Marinette had never been on a plane before. She was nervous, foot bouncing as they waited in the airport, but her father didn't make fun of her for it.

They probably packed too much clothing. She'd kept saying that they didn't need that much, but her father insisted that they needed spares for the worst case scenario that something went wrong, which meant that their suitcase was too heavy for her to roll along on the built-in wheels.

She did have a backpack with some more of their personal belongings, and she'd been allowed to bring her cute one that she couldn't wear to school.

The ride was short, but she was jittery the whole. She'd packed a video game to play, but she felt sick after a while, so she'd settled with talking to her father about the film they'd watched the previous night instead.

When they landed, the roles were reversed.

It was Emilie and Adrien that were waiting for them by the exit, dressed in winter clothes and looking entirely different than she was used to. Marinette always saw them in thinner outfits, damp hair from sweat sticking to them, and they tended to get into their bathing suits more often than not when they were at home.

Marinette didn't care that she still had the same paddling pool from when she was little, not when she could ungracefully flop in it for a while before Adrien pushed her out of the way.

She could see that Adrien was wearing a turtleneck underneath his coat.

It looked so strange on him.

And as soon as he caught sight of them, Marinette was bombarded with a hug that almost knocked her off of her feet.

“You're here!” he exclaimed, pinning her arms down by her side with his embrace. “Your plane was delayed, so I thought it would be ages—

“Did you just eat a mint?” Marinette demanded, interrupting him.

He laughed. “Maybe.”

It was the first time she'd seen Emilie's car.

That thought was strange.

Unlike her home in the countryside, Emilie and Adrien's house was located in the city. The streets were busy, there was less grass and trees, and the stores that she could see were more in demand, rather than the few charity shops and one supermarket that was near her. While Marinette had to travel a while to reach an actual shopping centre, theirs was right around the corner.

It was a little jarring.

They'd travelled while she was growing up, sure, but it had been for amusement parks or a day outing. Marinette had never expressed an interest in going elsewhere, and they definitely didn't have the money to go on holiday abroad.

It was much different for Adrien, it seemed.

The home was twice the size of hers.

Marinette tried not to gawk.

The rooms were all decorated, the kitchen had multiple appliances that they didn't, and even the bed in the room she was sharing with her father had lots of cushions on it that they'd have to move off in the evening.

It was nice.

Really, really nice.

Adrien's room had a bookshelf with two shelves, that was the biggest surprise.

“Nerd,” she teased.

He grinned. “What does that make you?”

As they were together, they could finally play the same video game on the same network. Marinette had intentionally brought it along after he'd bought it first, recommending it to her, and it was as they were playing that and lounging over his bed—shoes off and left at the front door, of course—that Emilie knocked on the door as she opened it, beckoning them downstairs for dinner.

There was something special about it being at Emilie's.

It was cold, enough so that if she forgot to wear socks in the morning, the tiles in the kitchen shocked her awake from how awful they felt against her bare feet. The heating was put on in the morning, and Adrien kept offering her his hoodies and jumpers, trying to keep her warm and wrapped up.

Unlike at hers, they couldn't go outside for ice cream. Adrien did show her around nearby, including where he walked to school, and as long as they came home before it was dark, they were allowed outside for the day.

When they bumped into some of Adrien's friends—the ones she'd heard bits and pieces of over the years—Marinette hadn't known quite what to say.

Adrien's response was introducing her and then blurting out that they had to go, holding her hand and tugging her away.

“That's rude!” she chastised.

“It's my time with you, not theirs,” he retorted, stubborn.

She laughed. “But they were happy to see you. Don't you feel bad for just leaving?”

“I can see them any time,” Adrien replied, the two of them slowing down as they rounded a corner. “I already said no to meeting up today. They won't be that mad.”

Marinette asked, “What if I wanted to meet them?”

“Tough,” he said. “You're my friend, not theirs.”

Toxic!”

They did manage to find ice cream, but she regretted it when her lips felt numb from having to lick it.

Adrien stared her in the eyes as he bit it.

She scrunched up her nose in disapproval. “You're awful.”

“I'm stronger than you,” he boasted. “In many ways.”

“Yeah, no,” she denied. “You're just—weird. With your weird not sensitive teeth.”

“My teeth are superior to you,” he proclaimed.

She glared. “I'm still taller than you.”

“Yeah, for now,” Adrien said, tapping his temple. “I'm going to get a growth spurt soon and then you'll be sorry. I'll be towering above you.”

Marinette muttered, “Your ego already is.”

“I could just leave you here,” he threatened, pointing at her with his cone that was almost empty of any ice cream, a direct contrast to her own that had started to melt a bit. “You'll be left out here in the cold and the dark, crying for me—”

“I can call Aunt Emilie.”

He gasped. “You wouldn't.”

“She asks me to tell you to go to bed sometimes,” she pointed out. “I have a lot of power in this friendship, clearly.”

Adrien pouted. “Unfair.”

“Maybe turn your phone on silent at night, then she wouldn't have to get me to back her up,” she suggested. “I've already learned that long ago.”

“You never have yours on!”

She shrugged. “Eh, it's fine.”

“It's not when you ignore me!” he spluttered. “I have to wait for hours sometimes! How rude is that?”

“You're awfully demanding,” Marinette mused.

Adrien took a pointed bite of his cone. “I'm supposed to be your best friend.”

“One of them,” she corrected. “You can't have me all to yourself, you know? Sharing is caring.”

He pouted again.

-x-

On their ninth consecutive year of summers together, when Marinette was due to turn fifteen the following week, she was horrified at the airport when she realised Adrien really was taller than her.

It only became apparent when they'd straightened up after hugging.

Adrien's expression could only be described as gleeful.

She kicked him in the shin.

It was worth the telling off she got from both her father and Emilie.

The hot weather meant it was back to ice cream and fanning themselves to try and cool down while they were watching something. Marinette had thought of so many things that she wanted to tell him person—not on camera or through text—but when it came time for it, she'd completely forgotten all about them.

But when she was with him, it was easy to get carried away with having fun. There were only certain things she didn't enjoy—such as roller coasters and heights—but Adrien remembered that, and preferred to stay off instead of going on alone.

And with the added height between them, they really were too big for the paddling pool.

It popped when they tried to fill it up.

Marinette wanted to have a funeral.

Adrien completely agreed with her.

Her father threw it away, ignoring their dramatics.

And so, that led them to the decision of venturing out to the public pool. It was busy, packed full of people, and it was stuffy since it was an indoor one that they went to. Their parents had opted to stay home, claiming that they were old enough to venture there alone—as long as they text to say that they got there, and when they were going home.

Rather than separating, they went in a family stall to get changed.

It hadn't even occurred to her that they'd look weird going in together.

For as long as they'd known each other, she'd considered Adrien family; a cousin, that's what she told her friends. He was the closest that she had to one, after all.

Emilie wasn't actually her aunt, but Marinette didn't have any, so it was an honorary position. Emilie had known her mother almost all her life, which meant she qualified for it more than anyone.

As Adrien hadn't protested, she had to assume that she thought of her as family, too.

Sure, she'd had crushes on people, but she'd never be in a changing room with them—

She hadn't even looked in Adrien's direction.

But she wasn't embarrassed either.

He didn't mock her, never made fun of her body—and there was nothing but a familial relationship between them.

And to prove that, he put her in a headlock and dunked her head under water when they got in the shallow end.

She kicked him.

It was a fun afternoon.

Marinette had avoided the deep end for the most part, and although it was crowded, they made due with being silly together, splashing and laughing at their jokes. Marinette recognised a few people from her school that lived locally, and she only waved at them, not going over to socialise.

Which was fine—she didn't want to impose, and she didn't want them to come over to spend time with her.

It was selfish, but Adrien was the same.

She'd greeted some of his friends when he called her after school, but it was never anything more than that. In return, he'd waved at a few of hers from her phone, but that was it.

Marinette didn't think it was wrong.

When they got home, they smelled like chemicals, even after showering in their bathing suits at the pool.

Marinette jumped in the shower first.

There wasn't the problem of using up all the hot water like there was in the winter. She imagined if Emilie and Adrien came over during that season, they'd have to schedule the showers to make it more even for everyone.

Adrien continued to climb into her bed in the evening.

It was getting too small for the two of them.

“You're too big,” she grumbled, tugging the duvet over to her side. “You're kicking me.”

“I'm almost hanging off the edge!” he retorted. Then, as if to prove a point, he shuffled closer, making it so he was pressed against her. “How about this?”

Marinette moved until her back completely touching the wall. “Too hot.”

“Well, it's not my fault you've still got this bed—”

“It's fine normally!” she hissed. “I'll ask for one for Christmas or something.”

He frowned. “Uncle Tom's never going to give you a bed for that.”

“How am I going to get one, then, genius?” she asked. “Because it's too expensive to just buy one. And if anything, we'll get new carpet first. The stairs are horrible.”

“Priorities,” Adrien said. “Your bed's more important. You're a growing girl.”

“You're the one almost hanging off the edge, not me,” Marinette said, making a point to wiggle her toes under the covers. “You could always sit on the floor and talk to me.”

He sniffed. “I'm not a dog.”

“Could've fooled me,” she muttered.

“I'll tickle you,” he threatened.

Marinette deadpanned, “I'll pee.”

“Well, yeah, that's why you got a new mattress—”

“I did not pee!” she squawked. “I spilled my drink, shut up!”

Adrien reached out to pat her shoulder as he teased, “I'm sure.”

“Oh, fuck you,” Marinette retorted, slapping his hand away. “You're banned from coming in here. Go back to your lonely bed until Aunt Emilie joins you.”

“She steals the covers!”

Marinette tugged the duvet again. “So do I.”

“Yeah, but you're small,” he replied. “And easy to manhandle if I need to kick you out of bed.”

Marinette laughed at that. “I'm the one by the wall, idiot.”

“I'll push you off the end.” Adrien gestured to the bottom where his feet were out. “A smooth slide, you know? You'll hit the floor before you even when what happened.”

“I'm going to oversalt your food,” she threatened.

He grinned. “Worth it.”

When it came time to sleep, he wandered back across the hall to the guest room.

And to her surprise, the Christmas present she got from them that year was a bed—a frame and mattress, much more luxurious and bigger than she had before.

She didn't know whether to be offended or not that he'd actually managed to talk her father into accepting it. There was no way that Emilie hadn't double-checked with him to make sure that it was okay, and to be certain that it wasn't overstepping their boundaries.

“You'll love my gifts,” her father said.

It was a new duvet cover—as the bed was a double, and she only owned singles—complete with matching cushions to place on top.

Marinette threw a cushion at him.

He laughed.

She was convinced they were all against her.

-x-

Adrien got even taller.

Marinette didn't even bother trying to measure how much by.

He did make a point of standing in front of her, so their toes were almost touching, and holding his hand up to his head and staring down at her.

She stomped on his foot.

“Marinette!” he wailed in protest.

She promptly walked away, trying not to laugh.

-x-

For Marinette's seventeenth birthday, Emilie took her out for lunch.

It was just the two of them.

Emilie had borrowed the car to drive an hour to the nearest city, to a fancy café where she'd booked an appointment for afternoon tea.

It was fancy, presented so cutely that Marinette couldn't help but take pictures before they ate anything, and she loved everything about the afternoon.

As nice as Adrien was, it was nice to spend time with Emilie alone. It wasn't awkward, didn't feel forced at all, and she appreciated every moment with either of them.

“Do you know where you'd like to go to university?” Emilie asked her.

She shrugged. “No idea yet.”

“Well,” Emilie started, reaching out to gently put her hand on hers. “Our home is always open if you pursue one close to us.”

Marinette's eyes felt itchy. “Really?”

“Of course, sweetheart.” The smile reached Emilie's green-coloured eyes, ones that looked so similar to her son's. “And if you'd prefer to stay somewhere local, I wouldn't mind you coming to visit us whenever you wanted.”

She lamely replied, “It's expensive.”

“Marinette, you don't have to worry about that,” Emilie told her. “You know I'd help you if you ever need it, don't you?”

It was a bit hard to swallow. “Yes.”

“Good.” Emilie grinned. “Now don't let your drink get cold.”

-x-

Marinette got offers to a few universities, but the one she pursued wasn't near her home or Emilie's.

Her father helped her sort out her student loan, where she would be living, along with making sure that she'd be able to handle everything by herself. The day that he drove her there—the trip taking hours with the two of them stuffed in the car, her belongings almost blocking the windows—the both of them kept crying on and off.

He was where she got her habit of crying when she was overwhelmed from.

It didn't matter if she was overjoyed or angry; her eyes prickled with tears in an instant.

Living by herself was a strange experience.

It had only been her and her father for as long as she could remember—with the exception of when Emilie and Adrien came—so to share an student apartment with three others, each with their own bedrooms and tiny bathrooms, but a kitchen to share together, was odd.

She had almost all of the top shelf of the fridge, a top and a bottom cupboard by the countertops, and one of her flat-mates had made the decision for everyone that they would take it turns to take the trash out.

It was a bit surreal.

In comparison, it was even stranger to see Adrien's living situation from over his webcam. He was living alone—completely—and had his own washing machine and dryer.

There was a room for laundry on the first floor, but she had to pay online to put credit onto her laundry card to use any of the machines, and buy her own supplies.

And when he showed his kitchen, making it very obvious that they had the same cutlery sets, bowls, plates, and cooking tools, Marinette realised that Emilie must've sent the matching ones to her.

She called Emilie after Adrien had disconnected.

Emilie didn't try and tell her she was wrong.

Marinette saved up the money to go home for Christmas. She brought a few clothes in her backpack, knowing that she'd left a few back there since she hadn't wanted them, and her father was more than happy to let her borrow some of his when she realised she'd forgotten her pyjamas.

To her surprise, they had visitors on the twenty-seventh.

Adrien greeted her on her doorstep with a tight hug.

“Wh—you're here?” Marinette stuttered out, astounded.

Emilie was grinning behind him, her blonde hair tucked away in a large knitted cap that looked terribly out of place compared to her fancy coat. “Surprise.”

“Aunt Emilie!” Marinette barraged her with a hug. “You didn't mention this at all yesterday!”

“It's a surprise for a reason,” Emilie responded. “It's good to keep you on your toes, isn't it?”

Her father wasn't as surprised as her.

Marinette looked at him as she pointed to her eyes before at him, glaring.

He laughed.

With the change of bed came a change of sleeping arrangements. It wasn't a secret that Adrien had been crawling into hers for years, reluctantly going back to the guest room to share with his mother before their parents went to bed when he could, but that wasn't the case any more.

Marinette was trying to kick him out of her bed.

“Come on,” he complained, not even trying to keep his voice down. “What's weirder—me sleeping with you, or with my mother? Don't make me be a loser, Marinette.”

“This is my bed,” she retorted, making sure to press her cold toes into his legs. “You could always sleep on the floor, or even the sofa. There's plenty of options.”

He snorted. “And have my back suffer? I think not.”

“You're spoiled,” she accused.

“I deserve to be,” he responded without hesitation. “I'm adorable.”

Marinette scoffed.

He gasped. “How dare you.”

“You're very cute, Adrien,” she assured him. “But you still steal the fucking covers and I didn't sign up for this. I'll freeze to death because of your selfishness.”

“You know, the last time someone said that to me, that was because they wanted me to spoon them,” he mused.

She made a disgusted noise. “Gross!”

“What?” Adrien pretended to sound offended. “You don't want to hear about my love-life? I thought you cared about my happiness.”

“I care about getting some sleep!”

“You care about sleep more than me?” Adrien gasped. “I thought you loved me.”

She rolled over so she wouldn't have to look at him any more. “I love Aunt Emilie more than you.”

“I'm so offended—”

“Adrien,” Marinette interrupted. “I will actually kick you out of the bed—I've been working out. I've got the muscle to do it, I swear.”

He laughed. “I'm bigger than you.”

“My anger is bigger than you,” she retorted.

“Cute,” he cooed, patting her head.

She sighed. “Are you even tired?”

“No, that's why I'm here.” It was very easy to tell that he sounded happy with himself. “It's always more fun when we're together, isn't it? Actually in person. Adds something more than just talking over the phone or online.”

“When you're not trying to steal the duvet, sure,” she muttered.

Adrien's voice was quiet. “You really hold a grudge.”

“I'm going to hold something else against you soon,” Marinette mumbled.

“Marinette, that almost sounds like a pick-up line,” he pointed out, voice wobbling from restrained laughter. “You—that's so inappropriate.”

She whirled around, throwing the duvet over his face in the process as she spluttered, “I meant—I meant like a knife! It was a threat, not a come on!”

“No, no,” Adrien denied, laughing as he pawed the covers off of him so he could see. “It's too late, I know you're totally into me now.”

“Absolutely not!” she exclaimed.

Her face felt hot.

His smile was showing his dimples. “I don't believe you.”

“Get out of my bed,” Marinette said, horribly embarrassed. “I'm banishing you. Leave me alone, I need to wallow in my misery for a bit to recover.”

“You need to face your feelings first,” Adrien stated. “And ask my mother for my hand in marriage. It'll be a grand affair—I'm sure she'll be happy to pay for everything.”

Rather than reply to that, Marinette gathered up the duvet in her hands before pressing it over his face, trying to smother him. He was laughing loudly, squirming a bit to get away, but she persisted, telling him to be quiet and suffer—

Emilie did come in to see what the noise was about, and all she did was laugh.

-x-

The summer after her first year at university was a strange one.

Marinette was seeing her old class-mates around the town—all asking how she'd been, whether she was back for good or was only here for the holiday—and it was surreal realising that she'd become separated from most of them.

There were one or two friends that she'd stayed in touch with, enough to consider them good friends, but the newest ones she'd made she wouldn't see until the term started again.

She tried to remember to respond to their messages, not forgetting for days before realising she was too awkward to text back and try and strike up a conversation.

The strangest part of it all was that Emilie and Adrien weren't coming.

Adrien had chosen to go abroad with his friends.

He'd told her before, of course; called her as soon as he'd booked it, reminded her constantly that he wouldn't be coming, and had pestered her to see whether she was okay with it.

And she said she was.

But when it came time to those two weeks that were usually filled with noises in the house, more than just her and her father, it was quiet.

Emilie called her on her birthday, wishing her a happy birthday.

It was nice.

Marinette made a cake with her father. It was lopsided, but she loved it still.

Adrien sent her a message, but the time difference meant that she got it just as she was going to sleep.

She understood that he couldn't call her, but it was still a bit odd without him there.

The weather was hot, the window in her bedroom was cracked open, and she'd bought a large amount of ice pops to keep in the freeze when she'd first got there, but they hadn't even gotten through half of them.

It was strange.

“Isn't weird without them?” Marinette asked in the morning as they were eating breakfast.

Her father's eyes crinkled at the corner as he smiled. “It's different, right?”

“Too quiet,” she agreed. “And I'm sleeping too much. I'm used to being kept up or woken up early.”

“I could always set an alarm for you,” he offered.

She wrinkled her nose at that. “No, thanks.”

“Stop complaining, then,” he teased.

Childishly, she stuck her tongue out.

-x-

They didn't come for Christmas either.

-x-

Adrien was messaging her less.

They were both busy with university, she knew that, but their communication started to dwindle down to messages which were little and far apart. She wasn't hearing about his favourite things about his new teachers, his plans for his projects, any new people he met—the little details that he'd been excited to tell her before.

It was understandable, of course. She understood, she got it—they were practically family, but they only saw each other once, or rarely twice, a year.

There were others around him that were closer.

So, she wasn't that upset.

Sometimes, something good happened and her first thought was to think of him, but she didn't pick up her phone to call him first.

It was that little bit of her that was stubborn, not wanting to reach out and be rejected.

And so, when her father had revealed that they had the money to go to their place for the summer instead of staying home, she was absolutely offended when they had to learn from Emilie that Adrien was already away with his friends.

“But what are you doing, Aunt Emilie?” she asked, voice not cracking despite her emotions getting the better of her.

“Me?” Emilie sounded surprise. “I—I don't know, to be honest with you. I haven't got any plans.”

With a glance at her father—to see the approving smile there—Marinette declared, “We're coming.”

And they did.

The fortnight was filled with laughter, staying up late and hearing Emilie and her father gossip, and, for once, Marinette was considered one of the adults. She had a glass of wine with them, learned things about family friends and her mother that wasn't considered suitable for children, and even some horror stories of Adrien coming home drunk and vomiting on the flowers in the front garden.

It was a lot of fun.

Adrien didn't message her once.

-x-

Emilie sent her a home-made jumper for Christmas.

It felt nice, however, the colours didn't match and some of the stitches were coming undone, but Marinette absolutely adored it.

When she sent a selfie of her in it to Emilie, she got one of Adrien wearing a matching jumper in return.

Marinette might've cackled at his disgruntled expression.

She didn't have any hard feelings about their distance. It was bound to happen eventually—she outgrew other friends throughout her life, but she was holding on tightly to Emilie.

Emilie was the closest she had to a mother, and she loved her.

She hoped Emilie felt the same about her, too.

And when it came time for the summer, Emilie asked her privately over the phone whether it was okay to come alone.

“I don't want to overstep,” Emilie assured her. “If you'd rather I not come without Adrien, I won't, but I believe he has other plans.”

“Aunt Emilie,” Marinette stared with conviction. “I'd love for you to come here, Adrien or not. You still need to teach me to knit.”

The laughter she got was wonderful to hear. “I don't know about that.”

“Oh, yes,” Marinette said. “You've got a talent that you need to share.”

“You're teasing me!”

She laughed heartily. “Maybe.”

That summer, Marinette found out that when her father and Emilie got drunk, they ended up snickering like children together.

Marinette put them both to bed, feeling like the parent in the situation.

She wondered whether she'd missed out over the years. It was normal for her and Adrien to sneak off, to chatter in the bedroom and gossip about their own topics, leaving the two adults to themselves—

But she felt in the last few times, she'd started to get to know the two more than before.

Sure, they still treated her like a child, but they explained inside jokes, told her the context to referenced situations of the past—

And she learned that Adrien's father, who wasn't in the picture whatsoever, was someone that had stolen her mother's homework once.

That was a strange detail to learn.

The picture they took of the three of them wearing ridiculous party hats, complete with Marinette wearing a birthday girl sash, was framed and put on the fireplace.

She really liked it.

-x-

Marinette graduated.

Emilie flew down to be there for her, arriving with a bouquet of flowers.

Marinette put them on her father's grave.

-x-

At twenty-three, Marinette quit her job at a local coffee-shop, moving out of the room she'd rented to travel across the country. Emilie had offered to pay for the transport for her belongings, and Marinette wasn't stubborn enough to reject that.

They were going to be within walking distance of each other, after all.

Marinette moved away from the countryside, moving to a busy city into an apartment she was sharing with one of her closest friends from university.

It was a happy coincidence that she wasn't going to pass up on.

A magazine had offered her a job.

The pay was better than the coffee-shop, and it meant she wouldn't have to dig into her savings if she lived sensible. The apartment wasn't awful, the cupboards were a bit worn down, but it had the essentials. There was a laundromat just down the street that she could walk to, and a shopping centre was close, too.

She could either walk to Emilie's for a bit of exercise or get the bus.

Adrien had text her to wish her luck with moving, but it didn't go any further than that.

They were still friends, somewhat.

She was closer to Emilie more than ever.

It turned out that when he'd graduated, Adrien had jumped on the chance to move in with his best friend. He'd found a well-paying job that he enjoyed, had friends that he constantly posted pictures with online, and he came to visit his mother almost every week (from what she'd been told).

Things were going well for him.

And Marinette—Marinette was fine, she was coping.

It was hard in the beginning, and when she'd gotten the news that her father had had a heart attack, the first thing she'd done was call Emilie.

Emilie hadn't moved on from her.

The offer had been there from the beginning to move in with them, to pack up after finishing university and not worry about trying to make it through herself—but Marinette hadn't wanted to leave immediately.

The fresh air, the trees that were on the border of her back garden was her home. It was all she'd really known.

From the stairs that creaked whenever someone stepped on them, to the peeling wallpaper in the living room—it was everything to her, and it was hard to leave it.

But Marinette couldn't afford to live there forever.

She didn't know if anyone had bought it.

It had been almost three years at that point.

Marinette was still getting to know the city. The streets were almost always crowded, driving was a bad idea so she hadn't even bothered to get a car, and she'd memorised the route she'd have to take to get the bus to work and where she needed to go to get her weekly groceries.

It was a nice system.

Her friend thought she needed to spice things up, though, so that's how they decided to go to a nearby pub. There was a karaoke night there, advertised with a discount on drinks if anyone performed, and Marinette wasn't opposed to the idea.

She had one drink before she got the guts to perform a duet with her friend.

It was dreadful, neither of them hitting the right notes, but they were laughing and leaning on each other, clearly enjoying the experience.

When she went to buy a second one, someone beside her said, “I'll pay.”

Surprised, she turned to look at them, ready to say that she earned the discount, only for words to fail to come out.

Even without seeing recent pictures of him, she would've recognised Adrien anywhere.

“It's the least I can do, right?” he quipped, ordering his own drink along with hers.

Marinette punched his shoulder. “You can buy me one at full price!”

“What if I buy you two now?” Adrien said through his laughter, putting a hand over the part where she'd punched him, as if it really hurt. “That has to earn some brownie points, right?”

“You can't buy my love,” she replied. “But fine, sure.”

He asked, “What do you even like to drink?”

It never really occurred to her that they hadn't done that together.

Emilie knew what she liked.

They'd taken to having a few cocktails when Marinette stayed over for the night, the two of them watching a dramatic television show as they snickered at the absurdity of it all.

“I wondered if I'd ever see you around here,” Adrien started, reaching up and running a hand through his hair.

It was a nervous tick she knew well.

“But this is a big place, so I wasn't getting my hopes up,” he told her.

“You've never turned up when I'm with Aunt Emilie,” she pointed out. “I've been here—what, four months now? And it's like—you always know when not to come.”

He smiled sheepishly at that. “I didn't want her there to awkwardly hover between us.”

“Well, not like you ever asked to meet up,” Marinette said, taking a sip from the first drink that was delivered. “You don't have to, like, feel obligated to spend time with me or anything. I'm sure you're here with your friends.”

“I am but...” Adrien trailed off, gesturing behind her. “Thought I'd say hi before we tackle that awkward situation.”

There was a guy talking to her friend, and she had to assume that was what he was referring to.

“Oh.” Marinette took another sip. “Do they... know each other?”

“Yeah,” he confirmed. “We all went to school together.”

She was puzzled at that. “Really?”

“Secondary,” Adrien elaborated. “Haven't seen each other since then, so that's probably why you don't know.”

She blinked. “Okay.”

It was a little awkward at first, but the alcohol made it easier to talk to each other. By the time she'd finished her second drink, they were leaning on each other and laughing about jokes they hadn't brought up in years—getting on as if no time had passed.

Their friends were overly happy from learning that they'd grown up together.

They never mentioned her father, and she was happy with that.

Marinette woke up with a text from Adrien the next day, saying that they should meet up again.

She didn't say no.

-x-

Being with Adrien felt like home.

It was like their two weeks in their summer was all the time; joined at the hip, snickering at inside jokes, and lounging in each other's bed at night before the one of them reluctantly left to go back home.

All it took was that first night, a few drinks to break the awkward tension, then it seemed that she was never getting rid of him.

They were back to how they were before.

The texts were constant, they called when they wanted to hear the other's response to a stupid video or describing a certain situation, and Marinette was happier than she'd been in forever.

Emilie didn't question why they were suddenly side-by-side when they turned up at the same time.

But when they all went out for lunch, Marinette chose to sit beside Emilie.

She wasn't going to make the mistake of throwing away all the time she'd spent with Emilie after her friendship with Adrien had drifted.

The easiest part of it all was that their friends already knew each other. There wasn't any awkward introductions when Adrien came to her place the first time, nor when they all met up to do something together.

If anything, Marinette regretted not meeting his friends when she was younger.

But there had been that childish selfishness—not wanting to share his time with anyone else, the same one that he'd shared all that time ago.

He didn't seem to mind it any more.

And Marinette—

Marinette didn't have any complaints about the sudden shift in her life.

The city was still strange to her, even after living there for half a year at that point. She'd barely seen any of it, too busy with work or preferring to stay home instead of going out, and it was mostly Adrien that was the one to lure her outside.

He took her to an arcade.

“Really?” Marinette asked, raising his eyebrows in disbelief.

He was making jazz hands at the sign. “Aren't you excited?”

“Last time we went to an arcade together, you threw a tantrum because I beat you,” she told him.

A loud laugh escaped him. “Let's forget that bit, shall we?”

“You've been waiting for this, haven't you?” she asked, allowing him to tug her inside by her hand, making their way through the countless children that were running around. “For your redemption.”

His smile showed his dimples. “I don't know what you're talking about.”

She hummed. “Sure.”

“Really,” he insisted, looking around for a free game before dragging her in the direction of it. “Now, it's time to find out who the real winner is, yeah?”

“Yeah, we'll see,” she agreed, amused.

Marinette won.

Three times in a row.

Adrien's smile didn't slip, and there was no childish anger from losing to her.

And when he proposed that they go for ice cream afterwards, she didn't say no.

He remembered her favourite flavour.

Marinette was touched at that, even if he still didn't like it himself.

“More for me, then,” she said.

Adrien stared her in the eyes as he took a bite of his.

She grimaced for him.

It just felt so—so natural to be with him. Marinette wasn't embarrassed when she knew she'd done something even more embarrassing when she was a kid, and she'd seen worse on him than a bit of food stuck to his cheek while they were eating together.

He was taller, had lost the baby fat on his face, but he was almost the same. Adrien hadn't grown out of his sense of humour, he hadn't completely changed what he liked and disliked, and it was those familiar little things that made her feel so relaxed around him.

“Am I even that different?” Marinette asked.

They were on the sofa in her living room, lounging on each other and barely paying attention to the laptop perched on the coffee table in front of them. Marinette had closed her eyes as he started to play with her hair, idly braiding it from the awkward position of her leaning on him, and it felt so reminiscent to him wanting to be included in Emilie doing her hair.

“Eh, a little,” he replied.

“Give me a bit more than that, please,” she said.

Adrien sighed. “I don't know what you want me to say here.”

“Well, what's good about me?” Marinette questioned.

“You're pretty, that's something,” was his response as he continued to braid her hair. “What more do you need?”

She made a disappointed noise at that. “Just pretty, okay.”

“What else is there, am I right?” he joked.

Marinette shuffled around until she was sitting upright, her half-done hair falling down and out of his reach. “I thought it would be—I don't know, weird to see you after all this time, but it's not.”

Adrien reached out and ruffled her hair out of the style to stay neat and flat. “It was a bit.”

“Yeah, but not now,” she pointed out, gesturing between the two of them. “I mean, I'm pretty sure we, like, had baths together when we were little. I'm too used to you.”

“For your information, we did not,” he responded, ears turning a little pink. “I did ask. Yeah.”

She laughed. “Really?”

“I barely remember! I had to be sure!”

“You would've stolen all my bubbles, knowing you,” she muttered.

“Let's not talk about being wet and naked, shall we?” he suggested, shaking his head. “Let's stay on the more appropriate topics—like talking about how pretty you are.”

She batted her eyelashes. “Very, right?”

“Very,” he confirmed, dimples showing as he grinned. “You should be proud.”

“I am, thank you,” she confirmed.

“Uncle Tom would be, too,” he softly told her.

Her smile became tight at that. “I—yeah,” she stuttered out, not knowing what else to say.

They didn't mention him often.

She'd started to with Emilie—but it was different with her.

It was enough that Adrien had been there at the funeral. They may not have been as close as they had been, but he was there. Marinette had just been too upset to really try and talk to him; she'd wanted nothing more than to leave.

He'd been there, and it wasn't just to comfort her.

Adrien was a part of her small family, the few remaining that would mourn her father.

“He'd be so proud,” Adrien whispered, reaching out and smoothing her hair down. “I just know it.”

Her eyes felt hot.

“Did you—did you know your father's a thief?” she blurted.

Adrien's eyes widened. “I—what?”

Emilie hadn't told him, then.

Marinette grinned. “Oh, it's quite a story.”

-x-

It wasn't a sudden thing.

Marinette liked to think it was gradual, but that she just hadn't noticed it. She was never very experienced at understanding signals, let alone realising her own feelings.

But she liked Adrien—he was a constant in her life, one of the healthy parts that kept her happy.

She just hadn't realised the type of like had really changed.

It was one day, when she was recounting the previous night to Emilie, telling her how Adrien had burned the sauce for their dinner because he'd been too invested in venting to her about a new plot hole in a show he was watching, that she realised it.

Adrien had been far too invested in explaining how it was wrong to pay attention to the pan behind him, and Marinette had been thoroughly amused by how passionate he was to notice what was going on behind him.

The blooming fondness within her at his actions had always been there; he frustrated her, sure, and she got angry sometimes, but they always made up in the end.

She just hadn't realised how much she liked him.

“Oh, my stupid boy,” Emilie said through her laughter, covering her mouth with her hand.

Marinette had to agree with her.

Because he really was stupid, in the best of ways.

Adrien couldn't see the most simple answer sometimes, ended up misplacing his belongings more often than not, and even asked her the previous week if she knew where he left his phone while they were talking on it.

She liked to think she was the brains of the two of them.

The sudden shift wasn't that strange, though—she loved him before, but it was just blossoming into something new.

She wasn't embarrassed from all their past encounters; she'd seen him with ice cream down his front, in his bathing suit more times than she could count, and sobbing grossly because his favourite character died and didn't have anyone else to vent to about it.

And he'd seen the same for her, too.

Nothing really changed after the realisation.

Marinette found herself smiling at him when he wasn't looking at times, but he never called her out on it when he noticed her.

They'd been sharing a bed to talk for years, so there wasn't anything weird about it when she was almost twenty-four. It was comfortable to talk in, a routine that they had instead of respecting their bedtimes and snoozing while their parents were downstairs—and Adrien left before it got too late, going back to his own home.

But when his eyes were drooping as they quietly chatted, Marinette proposed, “You can stay here, if you want.”

Adrien smiled lazily. “You sure?”

“Yeah,” she agreed. “But my only rule is that you have to take your socks off.”

He took off everything but his shirt and underwear, and there wasn't anything sexual about it.

It spoke wonders about how comfortable he was with her.

And when he stretched out after turning the light off, Marinette asked, “Are your feet are hanging off the end?”

“Yes,” he confirmed. “Time for me to buy you a new bed again.”

She punched him lightly. “Don't you dare.”

“I might,” Adrien said through his laughter. “It's your birthday soon—I'll have free reign on what to get you. My mother can't talk me out of anything now that I'm an adult.”

“Adult?” she questioned. “You? I don't think so, buddy.”

“You're an adult, too,” he pointed out, shuffling closer until their knees were touching underneath the covers. Unlike her childhood bedroom, her window wasn't near the lights out from the street, so there wasn't any faint outline to see him. “Don't you feel responsible and put together?”

She could almost feel his breath against her face. “Not really, no.”

“Me neither,” he whispered. “But I think the closest I get to that is when I'm with you.”

Marinette asked, “I make you feel responsible?”

“Maybe not that far,” he said with a laugh. “But you—I feel... nice when I'm with you.”

“I make you a nice guy?” she questioned, amused. “You've always been nice—well, when you're not insulting my loved ones.”

He snorted. “You can't call your teddy your loved one.”

“I can and will,” she retorted. “He's in my wardrobe right now, listening. Watch out or he'll get possessed and beat your ass.”

Adrien's laughter was loud. “I think that would've happened by now, don't you?”

“Okay, I'll be the one fighting you,” Marinette clarified, forming a fist with her hand and blindly reaching out to tap him lightly. She had to assume it was his shoulder from the fabric touching her. “Put 'em up, loser.”

His hand wrapped around her fist gently. “Trying to get me to tussle with you in bed, are you?”

“I'm not coming onto you!” she exclaimed.

“What a shame that is,” Adrien proclaimed dramatically. “The continued rejection is getting to my ego.”

She snatched her hand back. “Gross.”

“Have you—” Adrien started before cutting himself off by inhaling audibly.

He didn't continue.

Marinette prodded him.

He slapped her hand away.

“What is it?” she asked.

There was the rustling of the duvet from movement, then his voice was muffled—surely by the pillow—when he said, “Shut up.”

Marinette blindly reached out to feel where he was before stretching out and resting her head on his back. “Tell me.”

“No,” he responded.

“Come on,” she encouraged, stretching her arms out and pressing her cheek into his shirt as she turned towards where his head was. “You're not keeping secrets from me now, are you? I know almost everything about you—and, yes, that is something to be proud of.”

She didn't expect him to ask, “Am I still your cousin?”

There wasn't anything wrong about how she felt about him—they weren't actually related, and he'd confirmed that they'd never bathed together as children.

Maybe, if they'd lived closer and seen each other more, she would've thought it was weird.

“You're family,” she told him.

It wasn't a lie.

“Oh,” he said. “Okay.”

And if she wasn't imagining it, he sounded disappointed.

Her breath felt like it was caught in her throat.

Marinette started to question, “Adrien, what—”

“Forget about it,” he interrupted, abruptly sitting up and causing her to fall in his lap form the sudden movement. “It's—it's stupid, and it's late.”

And as he started to get out of the bed, surely going over to turn the light on to grab his belongings, she clumsily reached out to grab onto his arm as she said, “Wait!”

He cleared his throat. “Can we forget this happened?”

“If you sit down and talk to me,” she replied.

For once, he listened, sitting down on the edge of her bed. “Okay.”

There was that little part of her that was hopeful, that wanted to look more into his reaction—but she wasn't going to push for something so suddenly.

She sat up, pushing the duvet away so she could shuffle to be beside him to ask, “Why'd you get upset at that?”

Adrien sighed. “It's stupid.”

“Let me be the judge of that,” she responded.

“I don't—are you sure we can't just... forget this?” he asked.

Stubborn, she told him, “No way.”

Adrien flopped back against the mattress, surely staring up at the darkness of her ceiling. “Fine.”

“Fine,” she agreed, following his lead, rolling onto her side to face him despite the lack of light. “Talk to me. You've never had a problem with this—with me before.”

“I don't have a problem with you,” he quietly explained. “Really, I—it's not that. I love you, Marinette.”

“Yeah, I love you, too,” she patiently replied. “But why the freak out? Your clothes are already off, might as well commit and sleep here, right?”

“No, I—” Adrien sucked in a sharp breath. “I think I love you.”

It took a moment to sink in.

Her response was eloquent. “You—what?”

“Yeah.” The laugh that followed didn't have any humour in it. “That's—that's kind of weird, isn't it? I didn't want to make anything weird, but we're—I don't do this with anyone else, and I'm getting... this is really confusing for me.”

That was how she was feeling, wasn't it?

And that thought really did make her laugh.

It didn't occur to her that it would come across as her laughing at him. The last thing she wanted to do was offend him—

“I'll just—” Adrien started to say, sitting up once more.

“No, no,” Marinette interrupted, clumsily tugging him down onto the mattress again. “You just—you took the words right out my mouth. I was... surprised.”

Adrien was as good with words as her. “...What?”

She wetted her lips.

“Well,” she said. “If you date someone, you—you consider them family eventually, right?”

“...I think that's marriage, but sure,” he slowly replied.

“We just skipped a few steps,” Marinette proclaimed. “But I'd—I'd like to do everything with you, if you want.”

“Marinette,” he whispered, ever-so-quietly. “It really sounds like you're propositioning me right now.”

The noise that escaped her was one of exasperation. “I will actually end you.”

“Humour's my go-to, I'm sorry!” he exclaimed, laughter clear in his voice. “But, come on, you have to agree with me. You really were, for once.”

She huffed. “I regret ever saying anything now.”

“You can't, you've already proposed to me,” he denied.

“I did not.”

“You did.” He sounded gleeful. “I accept your proposal.”

Marinette kicked him.

“That seals the deal,” he told her. “Like a pinky promise, but better.”

She was the one to turn over and press her head into the duvet that time. “You're horrible.”