All in all, it was probably a good thing that the akuma attacked when it did, Nino thought. The whole situation with Marinette was getting far past awkward and even Adrien had seemed to be at a bit of a loss as to how he could have managed to turn everything around.
"Dude, I don't even understand," Adrien groaned as he lay on Nino's floor. His friend had come over as soon as Alya went home, confusion written all over his face. "You went from liking Marinette to liking- and going out with- Alya? What even happened?"
Nino grimaced a bit. "Ah, well, it was pretty obvious that Marinette didn't like me like that, so, er, that was the first bit of panicking." After all, it was sort of a dead giveaway when she offered her help to get him together with the person he liked. It was just totally and completely confirmed when she looked thrilled at the mention of his so-called crush on Alya.
"You couldn't have said anything other than 'Oh, yeah, I'm in love with your friend'?" Adrien looked a bit doubtful.
"Heh. Um. Heh." Nino couldn't even explain it to himself well. "Well, I might not have been totally telling the truth when I said I definitely liked Marinette. I'd, uh, been having butterflies in my stomach whenever I looked in their direction, and, well, she and Alya are always together, and I figured that it couldn't possibly be Alya since we've known each other since we were in diapers, and I'd always thought she was like a sister to me, so, uh..."
Adrien blinked. "Sooo... you decided to ask one of them out without being completely sure of your feelings? That seems a bit unfair to both of them, really."
"Yeah. Well. Yup." Nino rubbed the back of his head a bit awkwardly. To be totally honest, his confusion about who he liked and his worry about picking the wrong girl had been the source of most of his muscle-freezing anxiety. Once he was on his 'date' with Marinette, he started to doubt himself even more and the overwhelming feeling of shoot what did I get myself into made him freeze up even more. "Whoops?"
"Yeah, whoops." Adrien looked exasperated. "So what exactly made you decide it was Marinette and not Alya you liked?"
Nino winced. There was really no way to make this sound good. "Well. Um. It was easier to think that I liked Marinette- I mean, most of the guys in our class have had at least a little crush on her at some point, and it's really not hard to see why. She's smart, she's nice, she's class president, she stands up to Chloe, and she's a talented designer. Alya's awesome, of course- I mean, of course she is, I'm dating her- er, at least I think I am, I don't think we completely discussed everything, but. Um. Yes. I mean, even you assumed that it was Marinette I was looking at all of the time."
Adrien blinked at that. "...you couldn't have just told me that you liked one of them but were confused about who it was? We could have done a couple outings as a big group until you got your head on straight."
Nino groaned. "Yeah, yeah, I know that now. It would've been nice to know that before I went and made a fool out of myself."
"Yeah, you did kind of freeze up really badly. It was kind of painful to watch. And to listen to. So, how did you get from completely awkward date with Marinette to dating Alya? I missed everything after the panther ran by." Adrien was sitting up now, interested. Nino suspected that his friend probably wanted suggestions for how to deal in case he ever got a crush, since his own suggestions had been pretty useless.
Of course, if Adrien ever got a crush, it would probably take all of a minute for him to win her over. His friend was all grace and charm.
"Weeeeellll..." Nino thought about it for a long second, trying to decide what parts of the afternoon were okay to share and what parts were not okay to share. "Ladybug is an excellent wingwoman, I have to say. She locked Alya and I in a cage all afternoon to keep us safe, so we had a lot of time to talk. Alya suspects Marinette had something to do with it."
"Yeah. For some reason, Alya thinks that Marinette somehow flagged down Ladybug before she started fighting and somehow got her on board with trying to push Alya and I together." Nino rolled his eyes. "I think it has more to do with the fact that we ended up running from the animals together and Ladybug grabbed us both at the same time."
"That's convenient." Adrien frowned. "Wait, Alya was at the zoo? Why?"
"Yeah." Nino winced, just a little. Why Alya was at the zoo and how she overheard his and Marinette's conversation was definitely one of those topics that his sort-of girlfriend would consider off-limits to talk about with his best bro. "She, uh- well, let's just say that she overheard my entire conversation with Marinette, so being in the cage with her was really awkward at first, and, uh, then we talked a bit, and uh, yeah." Nino waved his hands around a bit aimlessly. The rest of the afternoon was definitely off-limits. "Ta-da?"
"Ta-da," Adrien repeated. He didn't sound terribly impressed.
"I realized that I liked hanging out with Alya a lot and she realized she liked hanging out with me a lot and so we, uh, yup. Decided that we liked each other."
"Dude, your stories are lame."
It took a couple hours for Marinette to get past the whole Nino and Alya got together eeeeee and really realize what had happened that day. When she did, a realization hit her like a freight train.
Adrien had tried to set her up with Nino.
Marinette flopped facedown on her couch with a groan., her heart clenching uncomfortably. Her crush clearly had no problem with seeing her with other people or even with actively trying to set her up with other people. It didn't take a genius to figure out that clearly Adrien didn't think of Marinette like that.
And the afternoon had started out looking so promising too...
"Marinette," Tikki sighed in exasperation, caught somewhere between wanting to comfort Marinette and wanting her charge to pull herself together in front of her crush. She finally decided that it was probably better to not have a despondent Ladybug. "Nino is Adrien's best friend. Maybe Adrien likes you a bit, but Nino comes first."
Tikki flew over to Marinette and poked her ear until she rolled over. "Marinette, Adrien really doesn't know you that well. Maybe if you hang out together more and don't act like you normally do around him, then he'll start looking at you."
"Yeah, maybe. If only I could act more normally around him." Marinette sighed, thinking back on her day. The entire zoo trip was awkward with more awkward on top, especially with Nino acting weird because apparently he had had a crush on her and... oh, no.
"It's really awkward being around someone who's acting awkward, isn't it?" Marinette asked after a pause, staring at the ceiling. If she made Adrien even a fraction as uncomfortable as she had been around Nino today, then she really needed to work on controlling herself around him.
Tikki nodded. "Yes, it kind of is."
Marinette groaned. "That means I'm probably making Adrien feel awkward, then. I should try to act more normal around him, shouldn't I."
"Yes, that would probably be best."