“So, let me get this straight,” Alya said, leaning back against Marinette’s desk chair and steepling her fingers. Beside her, on a little table-cushion Marinette had made, Tikki slept soundly, having already heard the story a thousand times over. “You’re in love with Chat Noir.”
“You already knew that,” Marinette groaned from her chaise, hugging a cushion to her chest and leaning back like a Freudian patient. Lord knows she was about three sentences away from a therapy-inducing hissy fit regardless, so it was probably prudent of her to be lying down in such a way. She was preparing for her inevitable breakdown that’s all. It was the smart thing to do.
And she rarely did the smart thing nowadays it seemed, so she really needed this.
“You’ve been in love with Chat as Ladybug for like a bajillion years,” Alya continued, ignoring Marinette as she continued to rehash pointless details. Details which made Marinette want to bludgeon herself to death with her cushion.
It was most likely impossible to do such a thing but she was never one to back down from a challenge. Death by cushion- she’d find a way.
“Yes. We’ve already established that,” she replied through gritted teeth, said cushion slowly creeping up to cover her face.
“But last night you kissed him by accident,” Alya said.
“That is correct sir,” Marinette wiggled a finger.
“And he gave you a rose and kissed you back.”
It was indicative of Marinette’s deteriorating mental state that she’d said “Tru’ dat”. She’d never said “Tru’ dat” in her whole life.
“I see,” Alya nodded a few times. The fact her tone had remained neutral the whole time was doing nothing to help Marinette’s poor nerves, and so she swung her legs over the side of her chaise, sitting up to get a better view of Alya’s twinkling eyes. A sense of dread settled in Marinette’s stomach. Alya’s eye-twinkles were never a good thing, at least when they were directed towards her.
“I see?! Is that all you have to say? Seriously?! I thought you’d be freaking out right now, I mean I’m freaking out but then I ALWAYS freak out. You not freaking out is making me freak out harder! Can you please freak out with me? Join me in the freak out zone already!” Marinette blabbed, waving her arms and promptly dropping the cushion to the ground.
Alya said nothing, instead choosing to raise an eyebrow at her and cross her legs. At least she’d stopped steepling her fingers, Marinette thought gruffly.
After a short pause, Alya finally spoke, but her voice wobbled and strained unnaturally, her lips thinned in a way that was entirely too suspicious. “Firstly, stop saying freak out, secondly I’m not freaking out because this is the funniest thing I’ve ever heard.”
She barely made it to the end of her sentence before she doubled over and descended into giggles.
It was in that moment that Marinette realised Alya’s peculiar behaviour had been due to her hiding her amusement, and she felt fully justified in yanking the cushion from its position on the floor and hurling it towards her supposed ‘best friend forever.’
Unfortunately, Alya dodged the fluffy projectile with ease.
“Come on, this is serious! I’m in hot water here!” Marinette cried, crossing her arms across her chest.
“When are you not though? Let’s be real,” the redhead shot back with a wry grin, twirling in the chair and kicking backwards to check her hair in the small vanity mirror on Marinette’s desk. The sight made Marinette relax a little. Alya only checked her hair with such scrutiny when she was seriously contemplating something.
Suddenly missing the comforting embrace of the cushion, Marinette flopped down once more. As her back hit the large pillows adorning her chaise, she let out a long sigh and all the fear, the panic, the fight, left her in one fell swoop. Only tiredness and uncertainty remained.
“How am I going to face him?” she whispered. Her head tilted towards her small, round window, to the afternoon sun beaming down in a total antithesis to her feelings. She wondered where Chat Noir was at that moment.
Did she cross his mind?
Over the years Marinette had asked herself that question more times than she could count. But it was different now. Now she wondered if Chat thought of her, of Marinette, not of Ladybug. Did he dwell on it- how they’d kissed? She had. She’d thought about it all night, until exhaustion had finally overcome her and she’d woken up late, cold, wanting something she could barely comprehend.
For years, she’d thought about what it would mean to kiss Chat Noir, Dark Cupid incident aside considering she couldn’t even remember it.
A small, involuntary whimper left her when she recalled the night before. The kiss had been an accident… at first. But the second she felt Chat’s lips press into hers was burned into her memory, playing over and over again. The moment he returned her kiss had ignited something dormant inside her and she felt raw, emotions exposed and unlocked, with nowhere to hide.
She considered her question again. How on earth could she face him as Ladybug, knowing what she did, knowing him the way he didn’t know he knew her (and god wasn’t that sentence confusing in and of itself)?
For God’s sake Marinette, it was a peck of a kiss at the most, pull yourself together!
“You’ll figure it out.”
Alya’s voice sounded lightyears away, so stuck was Marinette in her own musings. She jumped, a little sheepishly, and realised she hadn’t noticed Alya coming over to her until the spinning desk chair was pressed right by the chaise. The next moment, Alya’s hands were in her hair. Having thoroughly fixed her own short curls, she now concentrated on the silky strands of Marinette’s loose locks, braiding little plaits as if they were children at a sleepover.
Marinette let her. Two perfectly groomed heads were better than one.
“You think you can talk to him about it? As you I mean, not Ladybug,” Alya suggested, quickly clarifying her meaning whilst tugging the red ribbons loose from Marinette’s dark hair.
Snorting in response, Marinette couldn’t help but roll her eyes. Talk? To Chat? The very idea…
“Yeah sure, let me just tweet at him Ayla. Hashtag balcony make-outs,” she giggled, feeling a little better as her hair fell around her shoulders.
Foregoing the braids, Alya reached up and began tying something new into Marinette’s hair, tutting in disapproval. “Slide into the DM’s at least girl, I raised you better than that.”
They shared a laugh, settling into a comfortable silence as Alya worked on both sides of her hair. Marinette sat back and mulled over her options. Truth be told she didn’t have many. She couldn’t talk to Chat, after all it wasn’t likely he’d be back and she had no idea who he was in real life. The notion that she could talk to him as Ladybug, thus revealing herself, made her rapidly descend into a panic so sharp that she quickly pushed that thought to the side.
Really there was nothing else to do but call it what it was. A blip. A crazy alignment of stars which had given her a taste of everything she’d wanted for the past four years, a reminder that it was probably all she was going to get.
She tried not to let the disappointment settle in her bones, yet it was fruitless. Her chest ached as though a hole had been carved there.
Suffice to say it was a familiar ache where Chat was concerned, but it was bigger now.
“There. Done,” Alya pulled back, pleased with her work, and Marinette stood. Stepping over to the vanity mirror, she leaned down to check her reflection. “Matching colours for you and the bae,” she teased, eyebrows wiggling from underneath her rounded glasses.
Marinette threw the cushion at her again, feeling a smug sense of satisfaction as it smacked her right in the face.
At the very least, she had the Gaming Club that night, that would provide a very welcome distraction.
Adrien was on the verge of a nervous breakdown.
Which was ironic, considering he’d joined the Gaming Club to avoid that exact thing from happening.
“I can’t do this, I’m going to cancel,” he whimpered, hiding out in the bathroom a floor above their usual meeting place like the coward he was.
“So cancel,” Plagg shrugged, busy amusing himself with unfurling a roll of toilet paper- as per his usual hobby.
“I can’t cancel!” Adrien replied, horror struck as he gazed at himself in the mirror. His fingers gripped the sides of the sink so hard that his knuckles turned white. “Are you insane?!”
“So don’t cancel,” Plagg’s disinterested monotone was really starting to grate on him. “Honestly kiddo what do you want me to say and will it get me food faster?”
The resounding groan from Adrien’s throat was so despairing in nature that he was afraid he’s start rumours of a ghost haunting the building. He leaned on his elbows, burying his face into his hands.
Stupid. He’d been so, so, stupid. And reckless! Totally reckless. What had he been thinking?!
It was worth it though, a small, unchecked part of him thought. Adrien squashed it flat in an instant. After all there was no time to consider the fluttering in his chest, the pleasant swoop of his stomach. Now was the time to face the consequences of his actions. His incredibly foolish, totally moronic actions.
Because, although a part of him ignited, burned in the best possible way, at the memory of Marinette’s lips against his own, another part felt thoroughly ashamed. It felt like he was tricking her in some way. Granted that had never been his intention. His plan had been simple. Leave the rose on her balcony for her to discover. She’d never know it was him and be happy at the gift from a secret admirer. Obviously, things hadn’t worked out the way he planned, though he should have anticipated that.
When had things ever gone the way he planned?
He needed to apologise to her, as Chat, and he was going to do so that night in fact. But before that Adrien needed to pretend, he needed to lie, to Marinette. To the girl he loved. He needed to act like he hadn’t heard her soft sigh, felt the warmth of her skin and the taste of her cherry-blossom lips. He had to fake it, act like it had never happened.
He had to pretend he didn’t desperately want it to happen again.
The idea of being so fake made him ill, and so he placed his hands under the cold water tap to splash his face, allowing the iciness of the water to penetrate his senses and offer him some much-needed clarity.
It didn’t really work but it was the best he could do.
When he entered the Gaming Club, Plagg tucked securely inside his jacket pocket, he was relieved to see Marinette talking to other people. He could barely look at her, the meagre glimpse he’d gotten from across the room had sent his heart cartwheeling down the corridor and somewhere into the next arrondissement.
Not wanting to look suspicious, and fully admitting that he was stalling for time, Adrien wandered over to the desk where Nino was hooking up an old Nintendo console for one of their signature Mario Kart nights.
Mario Kart…Marinette…partners… sitting close together… oh no.
“Hey bro!” Nino chirped, offering Adrien a fist to bump, clearly not noticing how the blood had completely drained from his friend’s face. “Everything ok?”
“H-hey! Everything’s good!” The first lie of the evening. How could Adrien have forgotten it was a Mario Kart night? More importantly, how was he going to survive the evening now? Sitting next to Marinette, shoulders pressed together, watching her tongue poke out in concentration like it normally did? How could he concentrate on anything knowing how close he’d been to said tongue the night before?
Grow up Adrien! You aren’t some horny teenager and Marinette isn’t a prize to be objectified. Show her some respect already!
If Nino had thought Adrien’s reaction was strange, he didn’t show it. Together they settled into an easy conversation, Adrien helping his friend set up the old console. Focusing on such a menial task did wonders for his nerves. He was almost starting to feel normal. Almost.
Of course, just as he was beginning to relax, Marinette had to tap him lightly on the shoulder.
She might as well have given him a 1.21 gigawatt electric shock, given his reaction to both was about the same. If he’d been Chat Noir at the time, his superpowers might have actually propelled him through the ceiling.
“A-Adrien?” Marinette tilted her head, taken aback by his startled shriek. “Are you ok?”
Subconsciously, Adrien’s hand reached up and he clutched his chest, fingers burying into his jumper as if it would cure the frantic beating of his wild heart.
Because she was there, right in front of him. Marinette. The girl he’d kissed last night.
His eyes flicked down to her lips before he could help himself.
The second time her voice permeated through his cloudy mind, something snapped inside of him. It was as if he were a character in a film, once played in slow motion, now fast-forwarding.
“Hey!” he cried, louder than he intended, and the people around him turned to stare. He looked at her eyes instead, with far more intensity than normal, mainly because he was so intent on not looking at her lips any more. “Marinette! It’s my friend- Marinette! My good friend, I’m good! How are you? You good- good? Yeah, I’m good, friend. How are you? Did you have a good Valentine’s day?”
WHAT?! Adrien’s brain-filter kicked in far too late, but began screaming at him nonetheless. Why would you ask her that? WHY?! You know how it went! YOU WERE THERE!
Marinette blinked, and it proved just how far gone he was that he found her blinking adorable.
“Umm,” she blushed, unsure of what to say and, honestly, Adrien couldn’t blame her. He sounded insane even to his own ears, and he’d just asked her something quite private. Actually, he was surprised she wasn’t berating him for it. Then again, she thought he didn’t know about her encounter with Chat Noir. His words may have seemed innocent to her ears.
What a mess Adrien had gotten himself into, and it only seemed to grow worse with every bit of word-vomit he expelled.
(Was it bad that he felt a tiny bit of pride at her blushing? Probably. But he was going to hell anyway so he might as well enjoy the slow descent at least a little bit.)
Tucking her hair behind her ear, Marinette glanced baffled at Nino, whom Adrien could see shrugging from his peripheral vision.
But he couldn’t care less.
Because he’d just noticed her hair. Or, more specifically, how she was wearing it.
In place of the red ribbons usually tied into her loose black locks, were two green ones instead. Vivid green. Chat Noir green.
His brain collapsed in on itself.
“I’m good-good too.”
Marinette was teasing him. She was grinning and she had green ribbons in her hair and Adrien was going to DIE.
“Good! That’s good!”
Great. He’d always wanted to die sounding like a partially strangled mongoose.
Marinette, mercifully, took pity on him and waved a controller in his face, offering him a place in the first race of the evening. He sighed, relaxing a little, but only a little. Gaming was fine. It was a welcome distraction, as long as he didn’t sit too close to her he’d be fine (who was he kidding? Of course he was going to sit close to her). At least, when he was focused on blue shells and Bullet Bills his brain couldn’t fixate on the meaning behind Marinette’s ribbons, if there was any hidden symbolism he was missing.
Suddenly the thought of seeing her that night, of apologising, seemed that much more dangerous- forbidden almost. But he had to do it. He owed it to her as her friend. Even if that’s all he could ever hope to be.
Nino still hadn’t finished setting up, and a few other members began helping him in their eagerness to get started. As a result, Adrien found himself more alone with Marinette than ever.
They sat down on the floor, controllers in hands, side by side. Their shoulders brushed, like they always did.
Adrien swallowed, wishing he’d worn a t-shirt instead of the woollen monstrosity currently overheating him.
He was fairly sure he was going to lose the game spectacularly.
His fears were proved right when, later that evening, Marinette’s knee brushed against his own and he ended up sending Donkey Kong careening off the end of Rainbow Road.
It was going to be a long night.
For the fifteenth time that evening, Marinette called herself an idiot.
Because she was an idiot. An idiot for standing on her balcony, an idiot for hoping lightning would strike twice in the same spot, an idiot for following her heart...
Tightly wrapping her cardigan around her, she gazed out into the mocking skyline. The bitterness of the cold February air was nothing compared to the bitterness she felt building up like sludge in her chest. Bitterness in her fortunes, bitterness in her decisions, bitterness in her own feelings.
Distantly, Marinette thanked the stars that at least it wasn’t as cold as it usually was. She was thankful she had a tiny shred of dignity left at least- that she wasn’t freezing to death in the vain hope that Chat Noir would show up again.
She reached up, fingers brushing against her lips, and remembered.
Furious with herself, Marinette shook her head, as if the rough gesture would expel all the unwanted memories from her mind. Honestly what was she doing acting like a silly sixteen-year-old with a crush? Again?! It was desperate, obsessive, ridiculous-
And totally in character if she was being honest with herself.
She needed a break. A breather. A respite from her own whirlwind emotions regarding the man in the black mask, the man who’d held her heart for longer than she cared to admit to anyone- not even Alya.
Stuffing her hands in her pockets, Marinette let out one last frustrated sigh before turning on her heels and making her way back to her room. Maybe her room would be less of a reminder, would save her from her torment.
But, as usual, fate had other plans for her.
Because, of course, Chat Noir happened to be standing there as if he’d suddenly popped into existence.
The shock of seeing him sent Marinette stumbling backwards with a cry, tripping over a flowerpot and tumbling to the ground.
“Whoa!” Chat called, rushing forward to catch her just in time. One hand gripped her flailing wrist, the other pressed against the small of her back as he pulled her towards him.
For a moment, both of them froze in place. Chat’s fingers splayed across her back, and she briefly felt the edges of his clawed-gloves scratching gently against the fabric of her cardigan. An involuntary shiver ran up her spine before she could control it.
Chat’s eyes widened and he stepped out of their half-embrace with awkward, jittery movements, casting his face away from hers. “Sorry,” he mumbled, scratching the back of his head. “Sorry I shouldn’t have startled you. I guess I have a bad habit.”
Bad habit huh? Marinette had one of those too.
The silence which settled on them both was heavy, uncomfortable, and borderline unbearable. It was laden with memories of the night before, swirling around them, echoing in their minds as though they were standing in an empty theatre, watching their mistakes projected on a screen with no means of escape.
Because it was a mistake… wasn’t it? She hadn’t meant to kiss him, he probably regretted kissing her back. That was why he was here- of that she was sure. To think he was here for any other reason was just asking for a broken heart.
But, oh god, it hadn’t been a mistake. Not to her. She couldn’t ever consider it to be such.
Finally, Marinette could take the silence no longer. Taking a deep breath, she fixed a smile onto her face, painted a picture of a girl who had herself together at least a little, and placed a hand on her hip.
“No rose tonight?”
Chat’s cat-ears twitched. He peered over at her with a puzzled frown before he realised she was teasing. Something dark crossed his eyes and Marinette forgot how to breathe. The look was gone before she could concentrate on it fully, and she found that he was smiling back at her.
“Err, n-no. No. That is- I mean- unfortunately not,” he replied with his signature bow. “But I do have something far more important.”
“Oh really?” Marinette squeaked, inwardly cringing at how lame she sounded. She’d wanted her voice to be sensual and teasing, but instead it sounded like she’d inhaled a ton of helium instead. Clearing her throat, she tried again, arching her eyebrow for good measure and all the while thrilled at the fact that he was simply there. Chat Noir was there. He’d come back to her. “What’s that?”
Marinette’s blood ran cold.
“About last night,” Chat continued, shuffling from foot to foot, completely unaware of how Marinette’s body, mind, and heart had seized up all at once. “I feel like I made a terrible impression. I- well- I’m not the type of guy to do… what I did.”
From the depths of despair and panic, Marinette felt the faintest hints of confusion. She latched onto it. Confusion was better than rejection.
“What do you mean?” she asked, her voice small and vulnerable, wrapping her arms around herself.
“Well I’m not really a playboy or anything, despite what the media likes to speculate about me. I don’t kiss strangers on balconies. I guess, I didn’t want you to have the wrong impression about me.”
When Marinette hung her head, Chat felt a wave of regret wash over him. He’d practiced what he wanted to say, over and over again but it never seemed enough to fully explain himself- not without revealing to her that he was Adrien Agreste and he’d been lying to her this entire time. He was too afraid of the ramifications of that- so he needed to end this now- before he hurt her.
Damn it, he’d gotten so close though. So close to knowing what they could have- what they could be.
But it was a fantasy. Chat Noir was a large part of him, but it wasn’t all of him. The person he was behind the mask was locked away from Marinette, was a separate entity in her eyes.
Who was he fooling? They couldn’t be together. Not like this.
He had to try harder as Adrien and if she rejected him he would simply pick up the pieces of his broken heart. He would respect her, be her friend, move on, and certainly not use Chat Noir’s hero status as a means to trick her into loving him. She deserved better, deserved the world, even if he wasn’t the one to give it to her.
That’s why he had to leave. Right now. Being here, being this close to her, was crumbling his resolve. Every cute gesture she made was another step closer to his damnation. He had to leave before he said or did something he’d regret, before his principles were lost to the wind.
“It was Valentine’s day. I guess… it’s easy to get swept up in the romance of the day, right?” Marinette said. She was smiling, but the sparkle in her eyes was dulled somehow. Once again Chat’s attention was drawn to the green ribbons in her hair, as she quickly tucked a few strands behind her ears. He couldn’t bring herself to speak as she grew distant, deep in her own thoughts, and her shoulders raised. “But if we’re being honest Chat, I was worried you’d see me in a bad light too. Like- I mean- I’m not the kind of girl who kisses random celebrities and I’m certainly not the type to blab to the press about it either.”
“I didn’t ever think you were,” he uttered, swallowing thickly, and a little bit of sparkle returned to Marinette’s eyes. Her cheeks turned pink again.
Chat felt his claws digging painfully into his palms.
“Well… that’s a relief. I mean I always admired you,” Marinette stammered out the confession before she meant to, quickly covering her blunder with half-truths. “You know you saved me once- from an akuma. You didn’t notice me at the time, and it was years ago, but I never forgot.”
Chat felt as though he’d been physically struck by her words.
He’d saved her? He’d saved Marinette? And he hadn’t noticed her?!
“I wish I’d seen you,” he said before he could help himself. The rest of his desires remained unsaid, as new possibilities, new what ifs, formed in his mind- like an alternate reality.
Chat inwardly cringed. No way in hell was he going to get any sleep that night.
“I wish you’d seen me too,” Marinette admitted.
Chat’s hand was halfway to hers before he yanked it back, his heart beating wildly, his mind screaming at him to leave. The pull was almost tangible, magnetic, drawing him closer to her. It was dangerous, and he needed to leave.
“I hate to be a sundae, but I have to split!” he laughed, high and fake, all the while cringing at what was perhaps the worst pun he’d ever made. And that was saying something.
Marinette didn’t say anything, but laughed once.
Ok, she thought, maybe she was ridiculous, but he was equally so. Maybe that’s why she loved him so much.
She watched him make his way to the edge of the balcony and something stirred inside her, the raw feelings which had sparked when their lips had met woke from their slumber, and she reached out to touch his shoulder.
“Chat?” her voice matched the soft tremors echoing through her body, and she tried to remember to breathe. She couldn’t let him leave like this, she’d been so close. “How about…one last kiss?”
Chat stilled, statue-like. His lips parted, and Marinette panicked.
“I mean!” she corrected, face turning to flames, “I mean sorry that was dumb- so dumb. It’s just that I- I liked that kiss and I thought- I don’t know what I thought- but I wanted to-”
His lips crashed into hers, and the rest of Marinette’s sentence was lost forever.
Chat kissed her, kissed her with a resolve thoroughly destroyed and a heart so indescribably owned; owned by her, possessed by her, consumed by her. His hands were frantic, and Marinette matched him in every way as they pressed into each other. Her fingers gripped the back of his head, tangled in his hair, and pulled him closer.
Like he needed an excuse to get closer to her.
The pair of them moved apart to breathe, great shuddering breaths, and then their lips were together again- as neither of them could stand to be apart for a moment. Chat’s fingers slid from her hands to grip her hips, a primal, dark part of him triumphant as he heard a moan slip from Marinette’s mouth.
They stumbled backwards, towards the wall, and Chat pressed her against it, hands roaming her sides- never going too far- always listening to her reactions. Desire coursed through him, a need to please her, to make her moan again, without pushing too far.
She must have sensed him falter, sensed his caution, as a frustrated hum rose from the back of her throat, almost like a purr of her own. Her hands moved from his hair, gripping the bell around his throat, and she tugged him down towards her, kissing his neck.
Chat was having a hard time not passing out from that alone, but then she rolled her hips, making it so there wasn’t a sliver of streetlight between them, and he was fairly certain he died and was reborn on the spot.
Dangerous was the word whispering in his mind, the word he was ignoring as his hands cupped the sides of Marinette’s face, tilting her head back. She arched into him again, countering his movements like a dance, and he gasped.
It felt too natural, too perfect… almost…familiar.
Dangerous he thought as his tongue flicked against her lips.
Dangerous- he thought as her mouth opened and he was rewarded with another moan.
Stop. Stop before you can’t, he pleaded with himself as Marinette’s hands wrapped around his shoulders, her fingernails scratching against his neck.
He didn’t stop.
They kissed for what seemed like hours, passion moving from an explosive force to one of slow-burning sensuality, settling into a rhythm that was far too natural, but neither of them could bring themselves to mind.
It was a long time before Chat could bring himself to leave her, to stop kissing her. It was addictive, intoxicating, and filled with promise. For months his heart had been starved, yearning and wishing, and now it was real. Their kisses were real, her affections were real.
And so was her voice, ringing out in the coldness of the night, in answer to his question, "May I see you tomorrow night, Princess?"
There was a pause, both of them treading on thin ice, ice which slowly creaked and groaned beneath their feet.
"Yes," she breathed, and the ice shattered, plunging them both into unknown depths.