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I can still hear Serenity's call

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Three days after they’d told him about Hawkmoth, Mr. Universe gave them a wave. Marinette crowded around the bridge’s viewscreen with Nino and Alya, anticipation beating around in her brain.

“You’re not going to like this,” he began, and Marinette’s stomach sank into the floor. “Hawkmoth is--MilCom never--it took three whole days of caffeine to break this, and poof, now all my java juice is gone. Do you know how hard it is to get that delivered here?”

“We’ll send you a gift package,” Marinette promised, wondering where they were going to get java juice at the end of the known universe. “What is Hawkmoth?”

“Who!” Mr. Universe began laughing, his eyes bulging in their sockets. “Who is Hawkmoth! He's quite the man; I bet he never had a love bot. Civil ceremony, you know.”

Marinette clenched her fists off screen until Alya gently touched one. Sighing, Marinette furrowed her brow. “Who is he? What’s his connection to--”

“Marinette.” Alya shook her head. “Don’t mention him by name.”

She could only be speaking of Adrien, Marinette deduced, realizing how wise the advice was. She nodded.

“Hawkmoth is a piece of love in your face that bathes people in regret.” Mr. Universe, as always, made no sense. “He’s the head of a unique little program.”

Now, there, that sounded like something interesting. Marinette leaned forward. “What little program?”

“Assassins.” Mr. Universe held up a finger and winked. “Assassins. They’re called Akumas. And Chat Noir, his best one, is missing.”

Marinette thought back to the way Adrien had pulled her close to him, coiling his leg around her hips while balanced completely on the other foot.

“Who’s Chat Noir?” she’d asked, wrapped up in his leg and pressed flush against his body.

His plump lips had slightly parted and his expression had been open and shuttered at the same time. “Me.”

Never before had a single word struck so much fear into Marinette’s heart. Adrien was an assassin? It made sense.

Abruptly, she knew she’d never let Adrien fall into Hawkmoth’s hands again. “Who is Hawkmoth?” she growled through clenched, painful teeth. “Who do I have to kill?”

Mr. Universe’s eyes danced on the screen. “Gabriel Agreste.”

Nino gasped. “Adrien and Chloe’s father?

Even Marinette didn’t know that. Apparently Nino had done some talking with Chloe. That was interesting but irrelevant at the moment.

She only had one more question for Mr. Universe. “Where is he?”

“Oh, yeah, Hawkmoth exists in like… Central’s haven.” There was only one place that could be, though Marinette dreaded the word falling from Mr. Universe’s lips. “Ariel.”

Marinette slammed her fist on the dash. “Ariel is crawling with Alliance.”

Alya cocked her head at Marinette, seeming curious about her reaction. “Then we’ll make him come to us.”

“Sure, that’ll be easy,” Mr. Universe drawled, appearing more coherent than he’d been in a while, much to Marinette’s relief. “You don’t have anything he wants.”

“Yes.” Marinette’s heart plummeted through her feet. She licked her lips, feeling nausea burn at the back of her throat. “We do.”

***

Adrien felt by turns full of affection and full of fear about Marinette. She held his life in her delicate hands, and would just as soon toss him out the airlock than kiss him.

Did he want her to kiss him?

Adrien didn’t know. He didn’t know anything about anything anymore; when he was a child he baked mud pies and his brain was roughly that consistency now. Full of dirt and dejection.

Was dejection a word? Adrien had a faint memory of that being true, but he’d always known he couldn’t trust his memories.

All he could do was trust the people around him. And Marinette, rough-edged though she was, had always been honest.

“Do you understand the plan?” she asked, jerking his attention back to the present moment, her beautiful, bluebell eyes full of what seemed like worry but could also be a sign of constipation. Adrien didn’t know, but the distress he felt blasted in his direction made him dizzy. “I don’t want to put you at risk, Adrien, but if it’s the key to luring out Hawkmoth…”

“My father.” Adrien knew the man’s eyes. They hovered around in Adrien’s subconscious, appearing in his nightmares so often, he was stunned he hadn’t connected Gabriel Agreste to Hawkmoth, the man who had trained him.

Marinette’s pretty, plump lips twisted, and her sudden anger--a red feeling--came over Adrien in waves, almost overwhelming him. He staggered, taking a few steps towards Marinette’s left across the hold’s floor.

“Are you all right?” Her concern blunted her sharp edges so he was no longer cut. She gripped his arm, holding him upright, which he tried to smile about but couldn’t quite remember how. “Should I get the doc, or--”

“No.” Adrien was so sick of needles. Chloe had promised she wouldn’t put him to sleep, but Chloe had lied. “The pots and pans of my brain are just a blizzard today.”

Marinette furrowed her brow, her confusion evident in every thought she sent his way. “Does that mean you don’t understand the plan?”

Dangle him out like a carrot for a man arrogant enough to come fetch him himself? No, Adrien thought he understood the plan perfectly. “I make a broadcast. Moving pictures with whetted sound.”

“That’s right.” Marinette still hadn’t let go of his arm, which Adrien thought was just dandy. Was he a dandy?

Kiss me. Adrien didn’t know whose thought that was. He wanted it to be Marinette’s. Adrien, please…

Adrien's breath hitched, breathing in her breaths. He knew she wanted him as much as he wanted her, but never before had the yearning been so crystal clear. Her feelings for him had never been vague--Marinette was always honest--but it had taken Adrien a little while to sort through whether he actually wanted her or was just experiencing her own emotions about him.

Desire burned inside of him, a raging fire roaring to life that her close proximity stoked. He found his was chest tight, and all he wanted to do was to graph her curves, work out the quadratic equation of her jaw, draw his fingers along her lines with absolute values and therefore positive slopes.

Math had always made sense to Adrien. Math didn't lie, and neither did Marinette.

When she raised her hand to stroke his cheek, she moved slowly, telegraphing her every move even though Adrien could ‘see’ her moves before she made them. It was like watching someone move in stereo, with the actual moves appearing as an after-effect.

An aftertaste of Marinette, Adrien thought, wondering what the real Marinette tasted like. He found himself drawn closer to her, leaning into the feather-light touches on his cheek.

His nose was so close to her, Adrien could breathe in her scents. Cloves. She smelled of cloves and salt.

“We lure him to the meeting place,” Adrien continued, wishing he could just broadcast his thoughts into her just like she was doing to him. Fondness, tender fondness, tickled his senses and suffused him in warmth. His cheeks burned, though he didn’t know why he had the good sense to be embarrassed. “And then kill him.”

“Yes.” Marinette’s emotions were by turns knife-like, stabbing into Adrien’s brain, and cocooning, wrapping him up in a love so compassionate, he could cry.

He really could.

In fact, he was crying now, tears sliding down his cheeks without his drive or permission.

“Adrien?” Marinette cupped both his cheeks, tugging him down to her level. “Are you okay? Does the plan upset you? We don’t have to--”

“Kiss me?” Adrien found himself begging, the words out of his mouth before he could control his lips. “Please.”

Adrien didn’t know if he’d like kissing Marinette. But the desire had built up inside him for so long, he didn’t know if he could hold back.

Marinette’s surprise slammed into him--followed by her mouth, which crashed into his immediately, stealing his air. She clawed at the back of his head, jerking his face down to her height, her frantic lips darting against his in a way that showed him she would rather devour him.

As Adrien kissed her back, he felt not only his lips moving on hers, but her lips moving on his. Again he thought of a stereo effect, but the staggering waves of desire wafting off of her like a pungent perfume nearly overwhelmed him.

Having no idea how to kiss, Adrien gladly allowed her to take the reins, parting his lips for her questing tongue and letting loose a moan that would have embarrassed him had he been paying attention to anything but her, her, her.

Even as her hands pulled on his hair, a sensation he felt from both his own roots and the pads of her fingers, Adrien cupped the back of her head, threading his fingers through her inky black tresses. Marinette felt thrilled by this change; apparently people playing with her hair was her weakness, and it hadn’t happened for oh! Too long.

Greedy as she was, Marinette took and took and took, and Adrien gave and gave and gave. He licked her palate, feeling his own tongue plundering her mouth. She closed her teeth around his lip and nibbled, trailing kisses across his jawline and down to his neck.

Deluged with her passion, Adrien’s chest heaved against hers; breathing had become difficult even after she’d left his mouth. He wanted to be buried by her love. Inundated. Saturated. He wanted to wrap himself around this woman and never let her go.

Yes, Adrien decided. He liked kissing Marinette indeed.