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Last Christmas

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Nathanael usually wasn’t much of a party guy. On late Friday nights, you’d be more likely to find him at home painting, or even at a museum, than at one of Kim’s parties.

Yet, here he was. To be fair, it was at Adrien’s house and not Kim’s. But the jock was the one who’d planted the idea in his head; ‘model-student who was a model student’ Adrien wouldn’t be the sort to sneak behind his father’s back and throw a party while the man wasn’t home, not without some poking and prodding. That was more of a Chat Noir thing to do.

Not that there was much of a difference lately. An akuma attack a few months ago had blown his cover; he’d used cataclysm too early and was forced to drop his transformation in front of the entire class. It was shocking to say the least, but ever since the line between Adrien Agreste and Chat Noir had been blurring more and more until it was impossible not to see the similarities.

Which might be why he was walking amongst the class, fully transformed, with a reindeer-antler headband on between his ears and a dorky christmas sweater and scarf over his leather get-up. He was laughing and joking around with just about everyone, something he’d only done with Nino previously.

Nathanael sighed and took a few cookies off the platter on the table. The smell of camembert made its way up his nose, and he couldn’t help but wrinkle his nose in disgust. Who’s idea was it to put stinky camembert right next to the chocolate-chip cookies?

A pink blur grabbed a few cookies from the platter before darting back into the crowd. His heart leaped to his throat. That kwami could only mean one thing; Marinette was here. He turned to see where the little fairy had gone, and saw the girl herself coming out of the restroom. Her eyes scanned the crowd until she found Chat, and then she darted down the stairs to find him. Almost immediately, they kissed.

Nathanael tore his eyes away, ignoring the whoops and cheers of the rest of his class. They were excited to see Ladybug and Chat Noir kiss--even if Ladybug wasn’t transformed. Out the corner of his eye, he saw a camera flash.

‘Probably Alya,’ he thought. He went to grab some punch and maybe find a place off to himself. But his attempt to escape was interrupted.

“Hey, Nathanael!” he stopped in his tracks. Even though everything in him said not to, he turned around to look at Marinette, who was making her way over to him. “I’m so glad you could make it!”

“Heh. Yeah, I… I’m here, so… yeah.” he murmured.

“Is something wrong? Where are you going?”

“Oh, um. Nothing’s wrong. I just was looking for a place to sit, I don’t really like standing and eating.” he barely stopped himself at the bad excuse he’d come up with. But Marinette took the lie.

“Oh, I get it. The dining room is over that way,” she gestured through the crowd to a door across the room.

“Thanks,” he mumbled, before fighting his way through the crowd to get to the other room. He closed the door behind him and let out a sigh at the resounding click. Finally, some quiet and isolation.

Isolation wasn’t necessarily the right word to use, but after the recent events, it was all he had felt for months now. He pulled out a chair and sat down, beginning to mill over the turbulent thoughts that had been tormenting him for months now.

The problem hadn’t started out as a problem at all. Marinette’s crush on Adrien seemed to be lowering in intensity, if not slowly fading. Nathanael had thought he had a chance of asking her out on a date. One day in March, he’d finally found the courage to do it.

“H-Hey, Marinette.” he’d started, his feet shuffling when he realized that he was so close to his crush, and so close to finally doing what he’d been wanting to do for over a year now. She;d turned and smiled at him, eyes aglow with the curiosity and spark that had made him fall for her in the first place.

“Hi, Nathanael! What’s up?” she asked.

“Um… well, I-I was wondering if, um… if you’d like to go with me to see, um, a movie this weekend?”

“O-Oh, I’m so sorry, Nathanael,” he couldn’t keep his face from falling. He should’ve known he’d be rejected, why’d she like him? The invisible kid in the back of the class who’d been akumatized and practically forced her to date him? He was stupid for asking, he was stupid for even coming over, he should have known-- “I promised Alya we’d work on our project Saturday, and I told my parents I’d help them with the bakery Sunday. But, next Saturday should be okay!”

Nathanael’s heart practically leaped out of his chest. She’d said yes! He quickly stammered out some sort of reply--probably something along the lines of ‘I can’t wait’ or ‘thank you so much’--and ran inside to try and get his wits about him before class started.

The next two weeks had whizzed by. His elation made science class tolerable, even when Mdme. Mendeleiv called him out for not paying attention or whatever excuse she could find to torment him. Every attempt couldn’t bring him down. His art seemed to be better than ever, more life, more excitement, more spontaneity than any of his pieces had ever had before. Little did he know, it wouldn’t last much longer.

Soon, the date had come. Nathanael had picked out his outfit and consulted both Rose and Juleka on it. They were excited for him, how could they not be, they’d been wanting this for ages! He texted them through getting dressed and doing his hair and making himself presentable. Not to mention, the akuma attack that had threatened his date.

Of course, there just had to be an akuma. The news and the authorities all said that it wouldn’t be safe for him to go out; his arrondissement wasn’t under attack, but the one of the theatre they had decided on was. Staying home would be the best option, the most logical option, the one anyone in their right mind would have taken.

But no akuma was going to stop him today. He popped his collar, gave himself one last glance-over in the mirror, and left the house. He walked the whole way there, through the chaos left in its brink. He stopped a few times to help people who were unlucky and had been trapped in its goo, but kept going. He had to be to his date on time.

The theatre was covered in goo, a ton of goo, so much goo that it looked like all of the akuma’s fury was towards that specific building. Perhaps it had started here? He let his eyes wander around the green-coated building as he wondered what could have caused this akuma--perhaps an angry theatre employee, or someone who got a bit too scared during a horror movie?

Soon enough, the goo disappeared. And just in time for him to get good seats for Marinette and him and food. But, Marinette wasn’t there yet. He’d have to wait for her.

It had been about ten minutes. Nathanael was just beginning to fear that he’d been stood up when she came around a corner, running, apologizing for being so late. Apparently, she’d gotten caught up in the akuma attack, which was why she was late. He didn’t know just how true that was.

The movie was great, but what was even better was their third date, a month later. Dinner and a movie this time. Dinner, a movie, and a kiss. Nathanael still felt his cheeks heat up at the thought of their kiss--of his first kiss--with a girl that had seemed unattainable just a few months ago.

It was the only time they kissed. Because then May happened. And that May may just have been the worst month of his life so far.

Because May was when his class and half the school had been trapped in the school by an akuma who had sealed them in before they could get out. Something about ‘now, the big kids were having a time out’, the akuma had said before phasing through a wall to cause more chaos outside. Chat Noir had already used his cataclysm on a section of the floor, and Ladybug had lost her Lucky Charm just outside the door before it had been sealed shut. No windows worked, no other doors worked; they were stuck until they could use their powers again. Which would require them detransforming.

They both had tried so hard to get free, to escape to a more private place to detransform, but in the end it was no use. They both detransformed right in front of the students, in front of each other. And they were Adrien Agreste and Marinette Dupain-Cheng.

No wonder nobody could find them in the chaos.

It took a bit to get everyone to calm down. Alya was the most excited out of all of them, but Chloe was certainly screeching the loudest. Nathanael, however, was the most devastated. Not that he showed it. But all his fears began to come true within that month. Adrien and Marinette, now closer than ever before, were practically dating but not officially dating. And then they were dating. All in the course of two or three weeks.

Not once had Marinette spoken to him in that time. Not once had she even waved at him, or even given him a sideways glance. Technically, she’d never officially broken up with him. It had taken her two weeks to forget him, and seven months to remember him enough to say hi.

Even then, he couldn’t find it in him to blame her. He couldn’t find it in him to hate her. He’d given her flowers, he’d painted a huge portrait of her, he’d given her his love and his time and his devotion and all of the passion he could muster in him and anyone else would see it as a waste, right, but he just couldn’t. Surely, she’d just been excited and hadn’t been expecting things to move so fast. Maybe he’d driven her off somehow? She was far more outgoing than he was, maybe his quiet nature was too restricting for her. But, whenever he looked at Marinette, it wasn’t hate or resent that he felt. Rather, something lost, something he’d been able to taste for a short moment before having it ripped away from him.

His hands had unconsciously traveled to his lips, he’d realized. He tuned back into the world around him, the beat of the christmas song on the stereo vibrating through the walls. Sounded like… who was that American singer… Mariah Carey? His classmates were singing the song at the top of their lungs, in English, really badly. They kept slipping back and forth between French and English and stumbling over the lyrics until eventually he could barely tell what it was they were singing.

He laughed softly to himself at this. His class was still his fun-loving, meme-loving class. Even if it hadn’t been including him lately. Not that it ever had. But, he felt far more alone now than he ever had before. His heart panged for some sort of connection, but he didn’t have it, couldn’t have it.

Is this what heartbreak felt like?

He still wanted her. He’d wanted her for so long, he didn’t know how not to want her. If she came in that room right now and kissed the living daylights out of him, he’d be ecstatic.

But that wouldn’t happen. She had Chat Noir. She had Adrien freaking Agreste. He couldn’t beat a model, or a super hero, let alone a model that happened to be a superhero.

Not even Dupain-Cheng cookies could heal the ache in his chest. He’d eaten all five he’d brought in with him. Granted, the smell of camembert had mixed in with their usually-heavenly taste, but still.

He sighed, leaning back in the chair and staring at the ceiling. Mistletoe was the very last thing he wanted to see up there. He’d always dreamed of kissing Marinette under the mistletoe. He’d drawn it endless times in his comics. He couldn’t help but let out a bitter laugh. That fantasy seemed further than ever now.

Could he possibly sneak out? This party was supposed to be a sleepover. People might notice if he was gone. Or possibly not. Who knew? Who cared? He drank the last swig of punch left in his cup and tossed his plate in the trash. He was determined to leave when his phone buzzed in his pocket.

FoxInABox: hey, tomato, are you still at that party? I was thinking about coming.

Nathanael smiled at the message. Lila had been a good friend to him, a great friend. She’d come to find him when the big reveal had happened, had been there whenever he was feeling especially down and alone, whether in person or through heart-warming messages that made him smile and sometimes even laugh through the tears. Who could cry when your friend was sending you pictures of baby foxes?

SuperNathanael: yeah, I’m here. This party sucks without you.

FoxInABox: alright, help is on the way.

SuperNathanael: actually, I have a better idea.

SuperNathanael: wanna just hang out at your place and watch movies? I can drop by a store to get snacks and a movie.

FoxInABox: sounds great! We’ve got pretty of movies here though.

SuperNathanael: perfect. I’m on my way.

FoxInABox: sounds like a date, then.

Nathanael grinned. Sounds like he had a plan for tonight. He headed to the living room, grabbed his coat, and faced the cold dark world outside. The blush in his cheeks kept him warm the whole way.