Jeez this story is getting a lot of follows! :D Hello lovely people! I hope you enjoy the next chapter!
"Adrien," Plagg rasped, his cat ears flat against his head, "I'm begging you kid, turn off the damn phone or I'm going to cough a fur ball on it."
The alarm continued to pierce the air with its cheerful jingle and Plagg hissed, burying his head further into the pillow. Adrien screamed back a muffled response, lying flat on his back. He seemed to be attempting to smother himself.
"I almost kissed her!" Without a warning, Adrien sat bolt upright. Pillows flew everywhere, including the one which Plagg had been using. The poor Kwami went soaring half way across the room with a very cat-like screech. Adrien didn't notice. "I almost kissed Marinette! Plagg what do I do? This is so bad! I almost- My Lady- and I just- this is so messed up. I am the worst."
He had the sense to turn off his alarm before flopping back onto the bed, the mattress mocked him with a pathetic fwump. Somewhere in the room he heard Plagg cursing under his breath, but his brain didn't quite register it. All night long he'd been tormented, imagining his last meeting with Marinette over and over again; the way she'd teased him, laughed with him, listened to him whilst he rambled like a love-stricken fool. The crumpled blankets creased further as his nails sunk into them. He had to admit that it wasn't just how relaxed she'd been around him which set his heart racing; it was the way her eyes caught the reflection of the moon, the sudden shyness as she'd played with her hair, how her freckles had blurred as he leaned in to kiss her, and she'd leaned in too…
In the same night he'd declared how much he wanted to know Ladybug, the same night Ladybug had kissed him on the cheek. He'd all but declared his love for one girl and all but kissed another.
He was disgusted with himself.
"I can't do this," He whispered, covering his face with his hands "I can't. I'm not a play-boy and I have to prove that to Ladybug or she'll never take me seriously again."
"Would you please give it a rest? It's too early in the morning for this. I haven't even had breakfast yet!" Plagg grumbled, "and anyways, if you're so set on not being a play-boy, why'd you go to kiss Marinette?"
"I don't- I don't know!" Adrien cried, flinging the bedsheets off him in frustration. Slinking into the bathroom, the tired teen splashed some cold water on his face. The iciness of the water was a jolt to his skin, making his foggy mind more alert, but it couldn't save him completely. It was a mere plaster against a gaping wound. He glanced up from his bent position above the marble sink. A tired, conflicted reflection stared back at him, with dark circles under its eyes and scruffy hair. His shoulders slumped as though they had the weight of the world on them. Adrien sighed. He'd never looked less like a model in his life.
Why had he wanted to kiss her?
He let his thoughts wander to her. Marinette. After that fated day in the rain, he'd always considered her a friend, although sometimes he worried that she didn't return those feelings. After all she'd always been so shy around him and seemed to be a lot brighter and talkative around others, particularly Alya. Yet no matter what, she'd always been kind to him, sweet, and so bright and optimistic. In the past couple of years, she'd appeared to warm up to him more too, to his immense (and unusual) good luck. The times they spent together, playing video games with Alya and Nino or watching movies, had always been fun. In fact, those rare times he could sneak away from the Gorilla and just be a normal teen, she'd always been there. So much so that he couldn't really picture his civilian life without her. She was as strong a figure in Adrien's life as Ladybug was in Chat's.
The realisation shot through him like a bullet.
And then there was last night. There had been a moment where she'd been staring at him whilst he talked about Ladybug. She'd been hanging off his every word. Why? Why had she looked at him like that? In the very same way Ladybug had looked at him on their patrol, provoking a journey down a path which was the very definition of playing with fire.
"What am I going to do?" He whispered to his reflection, finding no comfort in the fact his mirror-self looked just as lost as he did.
"We could start with breakfast," Plagg suggested, landing on his shoulder, although it was more of a demand than a request. Adrien jutted out his jaw petulantly. He himself had absolutely zero appetite however, knowing what the Kwami was like, if he didn't feed Plagg then it would be yet another thing to add to his ever-growing list of stresses.
But Adrien wasn't a scared-y cat. He was determined to face things head on, and maybe apologise to Marinette later (as Chat of course), providing he could figure out just how to begin to say sorry. First things first, though, was considering how in the heck he was going to survive meeting Marinette as Adrien, and play it completely cool. It was lucky he had years of modelling to train him, but even then he didn't think it would do much good. Especially if she laughed the way she had last night. Not even an Oscar winner could hold a straight face when she laughed, of that he was certain.
"She almost kissed you back you know, maybe you don't have to say sorry," some small, hopeful, and utterly inappropriate part of his brain whispered to him. He growled, acidic abhorrence churned in his stomach at his wayward thoughts.
It was going to be a long day.
"Marinette," Tikki chided softly, "if you don't stop brushing your hair you'll be late to school!"
The young girl gave a soft hum in response as she sat in front of the mirror. Her entire world seemed to be in a haze and she wasn't sure if it was good or bad thing. So she made another list. She was getting rather good at them.
Number One: She had kissed Chat Noir, as Ladybug. It was a cheek-kiss but that didn't really matter. A kiss was a kiss and the meaning behind it was abundantly clear, to her at least.
Number Two: She had met Chat Noir as Marinette later that evening. Fate had drawn them together like the thread in her beloved sewing machine, and she'd listened to his passionate cry to the heavens, his plea to find Ladybug, his desperation. To know he was just as scared as she was had moved something in her, had made her want to cry out and rip away the barrier their masks provided. The words had died before they even reached her lips. Which was probably a good thing because of-
Number Three: The fact they'd almost kissed. And she was most definitely not Ladybug when they'd moved in towards each other.
"Tikki," She whispered, delicately placing her hairbrush on the desk, "I'm so confused. What do I do? I almost kissed Chat."
Her Kwami flew to her side and Marinette was surprised to see Tikki's bright violet eyes light up with joy.
"Yes and he almost kissed you too! It's so romantic," She sighed, clutching her tiny paws to her chest.
Marinette wrinkled her nose, shuffling off of her chair to grab her school bag. "Romantic? I wouldn't exactly call it that."
"No but it is, Marinette! Don't you see? Chat Noir likes both sides of you! Otherwise he wouldn't have almost kissed you last night," The Kwami sighed, spinning around in excitement, "Isn't it wonderful? You always said you were worried about how he'd feel if you revealed your identities, but now you have proof! He's drawn to both sides of you!"
Despite herself, Marinette smiled. At first, after the initial shock, she'd been angry. So much for not being a play-boy, and all that. But truth be told she couldn't find it in her to think Chat would really play two girls at once. He wasn't like that, and he'd seemed just as shocked by his actions as she had been by hers. It took two to tango.
"What about Adrien?"
The smile on Tikki's lips froze, as did her enthusiastic twirling. Marinette had known Tikki for three years and inwardly groaned. "Lecture in three, two, one-"
"Didn't you say you wanted to forget your crush on him? Smouldering advertisement or not, Marinette, you said you wanted to leave things as they were, and, not only that, but that you were happy to stay as friends too!"
Marinette huffed feebly, reaching one arm across herself. The idea of giving up on Adrien completely always made her feel broken inside somehow. It wasn't like she couldn't get over him; she was sure in time she could. After all she was Ladybug, and heroes always made it through dark moments. Time healed many things. She'd heard all of those clichés before. But, like a delicate piece of china, a part of her heart chipped away whenever she truly considered it. There was a closeness in loving Adrien, a secret one which pulled her to him, filled her with warmth and safety.
To sever the silent bond she'd made with him, that distant closeness, would be a terribly sad thing indeed. Heart breaking even.
"Marinette," Tikki touched her arm, sisterly worry poured from every line of her soft pink features, her antennae drooped, "All I've ever wanted is for you to be happy. I just don't want you to miss what's right in front of you. I'm not saying you should definitely give up on Adrien, or totally give your heart to Chat Noir. It's your decision at the end of the day. I just want you to be okay, and please don't make any rash choices. Be patient." She smiled then, and Marinette felt a rush of affection towards her companion. She leaned down to kiss Tikki's forehead. Really, she'd be completely lost without her.
Patience. Marinette wasn't particularly skilled at being patient, which had made her three-year crush on Adrien absolute torture. But it was a blissful torture, with an equal amount of highs as lows. Perhaps Tikki was right, perhaps patience would be a good thing. Mariette had to admit, she was stuck in the thick of things right now. If she waited, maybe things might become clearer. Particularly after a restful night, one which she was determined to get even if she literally had to do what she'd thought of last night, and throw herself down the steps of the Trocadero.
But first she had deal with the minefield that was school. However, she thought as she gripped her bag tightly, she was resolute in her belief that she could handle it. She could handle seeing Adrien. She could handle ridding her mind of Chat Noir and their almost kiss.
She could totally handle it.
"I can't handle this."
As it turned out, Marinette hadn't quite considered just how popular Adrien's first underwear photoshoot would be.
From the moment she'd stepped onto the school grounds, she'd seen his photos everywhere. There wasn't a room in school she could go in where people weren't talking about it or sharing the photos on their phones. Some had even ripped the pages out of the magazine itself to bring to school, along with cries of "oh my god! Have you seen this?"
Marinette felt like she was being suffocated. Suffocated by a smoulder. By a look of all things. It was impossible to escape. Adrien's eyes, Chat's eyes, Adrien's smile, Chat's almost-kiss, Adrien's body, Chat's body.
Either she was going to hell, or she was already in it.
Her first class of the day was History. Just when she was on the brink of deciding if she wanted to make herself history, and vanish from the building forever, she caught sight of Alya and Nino waving from their usual seats at the back. It was a welcome sight, and she felt herself relaxing almost instantly. This was one of the few classes they took together and if she needed anyone right now, it was her best friend's quiet emotional support. Marinette took two steps into the classroom before squinting in the direction of Alya's phone, which the reporter was waving and pointing at. The superhero's heart sank.
Alya was mouthing something about Adrien's photoshoot, her eyes blazed with a fire that surpassed the redness in her hair, and Marinette reversed her walking as if she were a character being rewound on an old-fashioned cassette tape. The decision to visit the school nurse and go home, was cemented in her mind and it would take a miracle to remove it. Yes, she was supposed to be a hero and face things straight-on, but she was pretty sure whoever made that rule had never been assaulted with about a thousand images of their secret crush's practically naked body, in the space of five minutes. A woman could only take so much.
It was as she was spinning around, preparing to flee like so many frightened cartoon mice before her, that she ran straight into her metaphorical cat.
Her nose collided straight into Adrien's chest and she leapt backwards with a yelp of pain, hands instinctively flying to her now throbbing face.
"Oh my god Marinette are you ok?"
Adrien was mortified to say the least. All morning he'd worried about meeting her, what he'd say and how to act normal. Not even the anxiety, twisting painfully in his stomach, had been able to prepare him for this colossal screw-up. Marinette was wiggling her nose, or at least that's what he thought she was doing, as her hands were still covering her face. Her eyes were watering and he prayed to every last deity he could think of that is was just the shock, and that he hadn't made her cry. She'd yet to even look at him.
"I'm fine," She smiled and waved her hands in his direction as a gesture of reassurance. When she looked up at him, the smile instantly dropped from her face "I just- I- I- I- uhh, ah-huh, A-Adrien. Good morning! The nose thing? I'm fine. It's broken so it's all bad. I mean, it's fine because it's NOT broken!"
Adrien had stopped listening. Not because he was being rude, he honestly hadn't meant to stop. But there was one small, tiny detail about her, revealed only when she'd taken her hands away from her face, that had sent his brain hurtling out the back of his skull and straight into the part of the universe where rational thought was simply not allowed.
She was wearing her hair down.
It would probably take a few hundred years for Adrien to be able to explain, coherently, why such a simple thing had made him nearly pass out. All he knew was, in the three years he'd known Marinette, he could scarcely recall a time when her hair wasn't up in one fashion or another. Now, the night after he ("Chat", he reminded himself, "Chat Noir") had complimented the style, the night after they'd almost kiss, she'd decide to let hair loose, brushing against her shoulders like a delicate curtain of ink and midnight and oh god he was losing his god damn mind.
"OH MY GOD ADRIEN!"
"HE'S IN HERE GIRLS!"
The pair were brought out of their respective freak-outs by the sounds of squealing in the hallway outside. At least ten girls had crowded around the door, blocking the way and were now begging for Adrien to autograph their photos of his underwear advertisement. One quick glance told Marinette they were in the lower years. She frowned. Most new students quickly learned (some the hard way- through Chloe's wrath) not to ask Adrien for autographs and, from what Marinette had seen, he hadn't been badgered at school for a while. It appeared as though his new advertisement had scratched any modicum of decorum off the record. Her frowned deepened into an outright glower. Honestly, how inappropriate!
Adrien was attempting to turn them down with a flustered, nervous chuckle, but there were so many of them his voice was being drowned out. He peered over his shoulder at her, his eyes wide and pleading. She'd never seen him quite so panicked before, and her heart glowed. It would have been adorable, were it not for the situation.
Still, she was Ladybug, and she wasn't about to let someone down when they needed her. His look was a cry for help if ever she'd seen one.
"Hey Adrien, Alya needed to speak to us before class, which starts in just a minute," Her last few words were acidic as her focus locked onto the girls, sending them a poignant look and making a mental note to get Nino to talk to them later on. He was always the best at protecting his self-professed bro. Ignoring the whining which inevitably started, she led Adrien away from the girls, who at least had the sense not to follow them inside the room. Marinette almost forgot how completely panicked she'd been mere minutes before. Then Adrien had to whisper quietly into her ear, his breath tickling the nape of her neck.
"Thanks for the rescue there, I owe you one."
When the pair collapsed onto the seats opposite Nino and Alya, the latter practically jumped them both. She was so excited she seemed to be vibrating in her seat. Marinette had the sense to be wary.
"Guys, guys, you will NEVER guess what's happening. It's amazing!"
"And it has nothing to do with the underwear thing," Nino interjected with a smug grin. Adrien scowled, the pair sharing a silent conversation which Marinette couldn't quite fathom. Nor did she have any energy to. Her eyes were fixed on Alya simply because if she looked at Adrien, whilst recalling his photoshoot, her brain would most likely collapse in on itself.
Alya had the sense to ignore Nino, even as she shot Marinette a secret glance over the top of her glasses, one which clearly meant they'd be discussing it later. Once again Marinette fought the urge to run home, she could already imagine the her-shaped, cartoonish hole in the wall. If she transformed into Ladybug, such a feat would certainly be possible.
It turned out Alya's news was actually something to celebrate. Her cousin was opening a sports centre and day spa about an hour's drive from the city. It was supposed to be a place that only the super wealthy (aka Adrien) could afford to go. They'd known about it for ages, and talked excitedly about getting free day passes. Now it appeared that day had finally arrived, and the grand opening was at the weekend. Alya had managed to secure them all spot on the tennis court and some time in the basement Jacuzzi pool, which all four of them had reacted to with glee and eagerness.
There was only the matter of deciding the tennis teams.
"Ok so it's clearly doubles. How about girls against boys? Do things the old fashioned way?" Alya grinned, resting her chin on her interlaced fingers.
Nino blanched, leaning back in his chair as he twirled the straw, from his early morning frappe, between his teeth.
"No way babe, I'm not going against you two together. I'd like at least a chance at winning," He said solemnly, shuddering at the thought of going up against the two girls "you two are a force of nature together and you know it."
"Fine have it your way, chicken!" She shrugged, setting her sights on Marinette and Adrien. The pair simultaneously felt like gazelles gazing into a lionesses waiting jaws, "So what do you say you two? Feel brave enough to take us two on? Not that you'll win of course!"
If there was one thing that Marinette couldn't resist, it was a challenge. Especially not from the likes of her best friend. She sat up straight, flicking her loose hair with a scoff.
"Please," She shot back confidently, "Adrien and I will wipe the floor with you two."
"Oh you're so sure of that huh?" Alya said, her smirk growing wider. Marinette shook her head, surprised at the confidence in Alya's countenance.
"Absolutely," She replied, resting her arm on Adrien's shoulder, "the fact that you think otherwise proves you don't know what you're in for!"
Halfway through her sentence she realised what she'd done.
Like a dying girl in a horror film, Marinette's head turned slowly to the side. Adrien was watching her with thin lips and wide eyes. He'd looked like he'd swallowed a lemon whole, and the bitterness was slowly unfurling on his tongue. She might as well have slapped him.
Marinette almost tore her arm clean from its socket with the speed at which she removed her arm off his shoulder. Wondering just how exactly she could recover from such a magnificent faux-pas, she was miraculously saved by their teacher, who marched into the classroom yelling something about moving to the computer suite. Her blunder seemed blissfully lost in the confusion of fumbling for bags, notebooks and phones, and the ensuing rush to the exit in order to secure the best computers.
"I can't believe I did that." Marinette thought dazedly "I can't believe I treated him like Chat Noir. Earth to Mari, ADRIEN IS NOT CHAT NOIR. You saw how he reacted! That's all the proof you need for god's sake. Get a grip."
"I'm not gonna lie hon'," She heard Nino say as he and Alya walked ahead of her towards the hallway, "you're hot when you're all competitive."
As Marinette rolled her eyes she noticed Adrien had yet to follow them. When she found him she was surprised to discover he hadn't moved from his spot, and was staring at seemingly nothing. His eyebrows knitted together, giving the appearance that he was deep in thought.
"Adrien?" She called nervously, "Are you coming?"
He shook his head like a wet dog and Marinette caught the random giggle that almost escaped from her lips. Ok so that had been a little Chat-like. But that didn't mean anything! Everyone shook their head in surprise from time to time, it didn't mean-
"I'm coming, sorry for making you wait!" He cried with a smile, jogging to catch up with her, and the pair made their way towards the computer suite. "Say, Marinette, this is going to sound kind of like a weird question-"
Her heart clenched. Oh god here it came. He was going to ask her what the hell she thought she was doing earlier by touching him so strangely.
"-But…what's your favourite colour?"
Adrien was a few paces ahead of her before he realised she'd stopped walking. Instead she stood stock-still, gaping at him. He couldn't tell it if was fear or confusion which caused the tension in her brow. Her lips formed a delicate o-shape and he had to fight to look away from them. He didn't trust himself anymore. Even as Adrien.
"W-why?" She coughed, "Why do you want to know that?"
He didn't know if her reaction was telling or not, he didn't know if what he was searching for could possibly be found. All he knew was, whatever was happening was absolutely, completely and wonderfully insane.
"It's a surprise." He said with a wink.
For a moment the pair stared at the other, wordlessly. Marinette recalled the night before, when all she'd wanted was for Chat Noir to look at her, to see and understand who she truly was. Could she really dare to hope that her wish was coming true? Could she really hope that Adrien's eyes were Chat Noir's, searching for his Lady? No. It couldn't be true. It was crazy. Beyond crazy, it was impossible.
Yet, even so-
"Pink," She whispered, "My favourite colour is pink."
Until the next time! Xx