"I wish you could come by more often…" she pouted.
The boy smiled sadly, giving her hand a squeeze, "Me too. But mother and I aren't supposed to be here. If we come by more often, someone will notice, and then we won't be able to come at all."
Tears began to form in her eyes as she nibbled on the croissants from the bakery, and fought the urge to sniffle. The thought of never seeing her new friend again made her very sad.
"Hey, don't cry…," the boy frowned. "Do you want to know a secret?" Marinette quickly nodded her head, eyes growing wide. "You have to promise not to tell." Again she nodded her head, looking at him eagerly.
"Mother has these dreams. Dreams that tell her where to go, and when. She told me she's been blessed by a very powerful fairy, a fairy of fate," the boy paused, taking a bite out of his snack, chewing and swallowing before he continued," Mother told me visiting your bakery will result in something great."
Marinette thought for a moment over his words, then she flashed him a bright smile.
"I know us becoming friends is great!"
The boy laughed and she joined him, all sad thoughts from moments before vanished. Once they had calmed down, and finished their snacks, the blonde boy pulled a small box out of his pocket and handed it to Marinette. She looked between him and the box now resting in her hands for a moment, before the boy urged her to open it.
Inside was a beautiful silver ring. In the center of the ring, tiny emeralds formed little leaves, which encased tiny rubies that resembled rose petals. It was too big to fit on any of her fingers.
"Your papa said we missed your 10th birthday, so mother and I spoke to the jewelry maker."
She gasped, her whole face turning the same shade as the rubies and she tried to give the box back. "T-thank you! B-but I can't this accept - I mean accept t-this!"
The boy shook his head, looking at her fondly and laughed, "You have to. No one one else can have it, it was made specially for you. Please Marinette?" He gave her the puppy eyes he knew she just couldn't refuse, so she caved and threw her arms around him in a tight hug.
"I'll treasure it forever! Thank you A-"
Marinette sat on the floor, her back against her bed as she fidgeted with a ring in her hands. She had very few possessions, most of them lacking any monetary value; therefore she wasn't really worried about them being stolen. This however, she hide well. It was the only thing she still had from before coming to the Marchen, and its price rivaled it's sentimental value. It had been almost a decade since she received this ring from a precious, kind friend.
He'd stop by the bakery occasionally with his mother, and every time he would ask for her. They'd run off to the back yard, or into the woods, but always within shouting distance from the bakery. She couldn't recall their adventures in detail though. She rubbed the small scar behind her ear and frowned.
His name was on the tip of her tongue, but she still couldn't remember it. All she had was A…
Suddenly, her door swung open, pulling her out of her reminiscing and with a delayed reaction, she hide the ring to her chest and glared up at the intruder. Hazel eyes stared back, both hands resting on her hips, before her eyes drifted to Marinette's clenched fist.
"Haven't you heard of knocking first?"
Alya crossed her arms in front of her chest and she shot back, "I've been knocking. And calling your name. I thought something was wrong," she paused, looking back at Marinette's hand, "What was that? You've never been the type for jewelry."
"Riiiight, and Master Fu is my biological father. Whatever it is, it had you in a trance."
Marinette got off the floor and turned her back to Alya, slipping the ring onto a leather strap and tying it around her neck before tucking it inside her high collar tunic for safety. She turned around to face her best friend and hastily replied, "It's a very important keepsake. I was just thinking about someon-," she cleared her throat, "Something."
The fox smirked and Marinette groaned. Alya wasn't going to stop until she was satisfied. Forget about curiosity and the cat, this was much worse. She loved Alya dearly, but she was known for always getting to the bottom of things, one way or another. Mentally preparing herself for her nosy friend's questions, she slipped on her boots and walked past her and down the stairs.
The Marchen had quieted down significantly after the two large groups of refugees said their goodbyes and wandered off in different directions. Now the inn and tavern just held its usual tenants and a few stragglers. Nino and Chat sat conversing at one of the tables, munching on bread and sipping water.
Alya quickly grabbed Marinette by the elbow and dragged her over to them. Marinette made a face. Chat had been trying to start conversations with her a lot since the trip to the river, but she still felt apprehensive around him and kept the word exchanges short. The men immediately ended their conversation upon noticing the women approaching.
"You know I need to know more about that shiny you're hiding Mari," Alya laughed as she plopped down into a chair next to Nino. Marinette sighed and sat in the fourth chair, between Alya and Chat.
"Marinette has something shiny? That's unusual. Now I'm curious too," Nino said.
Marinette smirked, "Of course you are. You're on Alya's side, like always." She threw a piece of bread at Nino's face, whose cheeks turned pink and he rubbed the back of his head. Alya giggled, then nudged Marinette.
"You don't have to go into all the details, but it's seriously going to," she glanced at Chat, "bug me-," he chuckled and Marinette rolled her eyes, "if you don't tell me a little bit more. Like who gave it to you? Were they the someone, sorry, something you were thinking about?"
Shoving a piece of bread into her mouth, Marinette thought while she chewed. After she swallowed, she took a deep breath and sighed, "Like I said, the ring is an important keepsake. An old friend gave it to me as a belated birthday present."
Three sets of eyes were focused on her and she shifted in her seat, feeling uncomfortable. She placed a hand absentmindedly where the ring lay under her collar. "Unfortunately I can't remember much. While the guards burned down the bakery, I ran into the woods, but I tripped and fell, hitting my head on a rock. Occasionally, in my dreams, memories play out…," Marinette frowned, "but come morning, it's mostly all foggy. I know his name starts with an A."
Looking off into the distance, her frown turns into a gentle smile, "I remember his eyes; the richest green I've ever seen, with flecks of gold dancing in the light. They would put any emerald to shame."
Alya and Nino were wrapped up in her explanation, hanging onto her every word, trying to picture the mysterious boy from their friend's past in their minds. Unbeknownst to the other three, Chat's hands curled into fists in his lap under the table and words threaten to spill off his tongue, but before any could muster up sound, Master Fu dropped off two plates of food for Alya and Marinette, his walking cane hooked on the crook of his arm.
"The boys have already eaten lunch, here's your share ladies," the old man said, then turned to Marinette. "What's this I hear about a ring? Did someone court you ladybug?"
Marinette blushed and choked on the water she had been attempting to drink, while Chat pulled his hands from under the table and used them to nonchalantly hide his face.
"No one has asked for my hand, Master Fu!" The bluenette gasped in between coughs. "I was talking about an old friend."
With an amused twinkle in his eye, Master Fu chuckled, "May I see this ring your….friend… gave you?"
Marinette frowned and hesitated. She didn't really want to share the ring, it was her little secret, a part of her past, but something inside of her told her to pull it out anyway and let them see it. She struggled back and forth in her head, weighing pros and cons, when suddenly a voice spoke up.
Her eyes widen as she looked over at Chat, the emotion in his eyes impossible to put a name to. Something in the back of her mind was screaming at her, and her stomach suddenly dropped, but she wasn't sure why. Before she even realized what she was doing, she pulled the the leather strap from around her neck and out of her tunic, holding the ring delicately between her fingers. The sun coming through the window caught the emeralds and rubies, casting a shimmer show of lights onto the ceiling.
Chat abruptly stood up, his chair legs scraping across the floor, his bangs covering his eyes. Marinette looked up at him with a questioning gaze, while Master Fu's smile widened. He tapped Chat's leg with his cane. "Chat, I have some heavy bags I need brought into the kitchen from the back room. Can you help me?"
He nodded and without saying a word to his tablemates, stalked off to the aforementioned room with Master Fu following behind him. Alya glanced between Nino and Marinette before shrugging and digging into her food. Marinette continued to stare at the door they disappeared behind, before placing the ring back around her neck and tucking it out of sight. She slowly picked at her own food, not having much of an appetite. Why did his plea weaken her resolve so easily? And why did it feel like deja vu?
"That ring looks expensive. Whoever he was, he must have had some serious coins." Noticing the weird air still surrounding the room, Alya spoke up again, "Soooo, what were you two talking about before Mari and I showed up?"
Nino fidgeted and Marinette was glad for the topic change. Nino however was not.
"It's guy stuff. I'd be breaking the sacred code between men if I tell you."
The redhead just rolled her eyes and laughed, "Probably gossiping about us I reckon. Don't worry, I'll get it out of you later, after Marinette and I get back from training." The man just flinched and began gathering up his and Chat's dishes, quickly heading off into the kitchen to clean them.
Marinette collapsed onto the ground, letting the damp grass press up against her exposed skin. She had long since thrown her cloak off to the side and rolled her sleeves up. Her chest heaved, gulping cold air into her lungs. It stung a little, but it wasn't unbearable. Her and Alya had started like usual, meditating and working on Alya's mental capabilities. They spoke for while telepathically, before getting up and stretching out their muscles.
Then came Alya's katanas, slashing and dodging the dummies Master Fu had enchanted months prior. Marinette had had to beg for weeks to be able to practice fighting before he finally gave in and agreed to it. And he figured moving targets that fought back would be much better practice than ones that just stood in place.
Marinette worked with her whip, focusing on knocking objects off the tree stumps and then snatching them off the ground, pulling them to her. The whip was an extension of herself and she pushed small amounts of magic through the leather, increasing its benefits. Both women's grunts and shouts could be heard between katana slices and whip cracks.
Afterwards, like always, Marinette would then focus on the ball of light inside her chest and repair any damage that had been done. But, unlike usual, Marinette had thrown herself even more into her training today, trying to keep the strange events from lunch out of her mind.
The fox sat on one of the stumps and took a moment to survey the area before saying, "You know, I think Chat might have a thing for you Mari."
The bluenette threw an exasperated look towards the redhead, who smirked back.
"What? I really think he does! He seemed really upset about you disliking him when he first got here. He's always sending glances your way and asking questions about you. And earlier, at lunch, he seemed jealous that you mentioned another guy with such fondness."
Marinette wanted to refute Alya's words, but nothing came. Frustrated, she punched the ground and finally grumbled back, "If he has a thing for me, it's merely based on appearance. He barely knows me."
"And whose fault is that? I mean, ever since you two went to fetch water together, you don't seem to actively be ignoring him anymore, but you still don't talk to him without myself or Nino around."
"I don't hate him. I just… its the weird vibes Alya. I'm still getting them. I want to talk with him, but at the same time I want to keep him at a distance."
Alya shook her head and stood up, beginning to walk back towards the Marchen. She paused though, and called over her shoulder, "He's not a bad guy Mari. I know he wants to be friends with you, but he's waiting for you to extend the branch first. You should open up to him a little. Friends for people like us are hard to come by, ya'know?"
Marinette watched her friend's retreating back until she disappeared beyond the slope of the hill. Taking a deep breath and throwing an arm over her eyes, Marinette was left alone to think over Alya's words.
It was a little ironic, Marinette mused. When she had finally decided to get to know Chat a little bit better, he was nowhere to be found. He'd leave early in the morning and not return until well past dark. The only person Chat spoke to was Master Fu, and occasionally Nino. Neither male told her much, in fact they seemed more interested in why she was suddenly inquiring about him. After receiving one too many amused looks from the old man, Marinette stopped asking.
It was midday when she settled onto the windowsill in her room, nursing a mug of warm tea with both hands, and looking out the open window. Rain fell, hitting the fallen leaves scattered across the ground and creating a soothing sound, though Marinette was anything but relaxed.
Was this how Chat felt when he first arrived? When she had gone out of her way to avoid speaking to him, or being near him? It felt unpleasant... She supposed this was karma's way of getting back at her for being so rude to him. Still, she had to wonder what exactly it was he did all day.
A gentle knock on her door brought her out of her musings and she quietly muttered a quick 'come in', still looking out the window. Her door creaked open, then creaked closed. She waited for her visitor to say something, but the only sound in her room was the rain. Taking a deep breath and holding it for a moment before exhaling, she turned her head. When blue eyes met green she almost dropped her mug.
Chat Noir stood there, debating something in his head, before finally stepping forward and taking a seat at the foot of her bed, flashing a bright smile at her.
"I hear you've been looking for me. What can I do for you m'lady?"
Marinette's mind went blank, unsure of what to say. She just stared at him.
"Is there something on my face? Or are you just entranced by my charm?"
She blurted out the first thing that finally came to her mind, "What do you want to know about me?"
The smile on his face dropped and was replaced with pure shock. Whatever he had thought she wanted with him, it certainly didn't compare to the question she had just asked. Marinette wanted to kick herself so hard. She hadn't spoken a word to him in days and that was the first sentence her brain could come up with?
Finally, the shock wore off and Chat grinned, resting his chin on top of his bent leg . "You've been searching for me, and you want to talk about yourself? I must have died and gone to heaven."
Marinette coughed and turned to look back out the window, taking a sip from her mug. "You can ask three questions, as long as I can ask three in return," she looked back at him and repeated her earlier question, "What do you you want to know about me?"
He took a moment, replaying her words to himself and staring into her eyes. Finally, he asked, "What is your favorite flower?"
Marinette raised an eyebrow. "Three questions and you wasted one on asking me my favorite flower?"
"I could always ask something worse," he smirked.
Glaring back at him, she shook her head. "Forget-Me-Nots. They…," Marinette hesitated, unsure of how much she was comfortable with revealing. "They hold a special place in my heart, and they mean a lot. They bloom twice a year, once in the Spring and again in Autumn."
Chat thought over her answer, before nodding and grinning at her. "You're turn m'lady. What is it you wish to know about me? I will try to answer it as best I can."
Her eyes wandered over his face, truly looking at him for the first time. What did she want to know about him? Her eyes followed the line of his jaw to his chin, then up to the dimples in his cheeks and then to his cheekbones where the edge of the mask began. Her eyes wandered to to his perfect narrow nose, which almost made you think he was an aristocrat, and finally down to his light pink lips. His fangs shone brightly and seemed to slowly move closer to his bottom lip. Marinette frowned for a moment, until she realized that his grin had turned into a smug smirk and his eyes held an amused gleam.
She quickly turned her gaze to her mug before turning it back to him stubbornly, refusing to let him faze her. "Why do you wear a mask?"
He tapped a leather finger on his chin before answering, "I've been told before that I resemble someone. After awhile it got annoying, so I donned the mask. Eventually it just became like second nature. Would you like to see me without it?" He raised his eyebrows suggestively.
She glared at him. "This is your second warning. You won't get a third. Whatever two questions come out of your mouth next are the questions I'll count."
Laughing, he held his hands up in surrender. Then he threw her for a loop by leaning closer and asking, "What do you think of Prince Adrien?"
Marinette just gaped at him, not sure where this question had come from or why he deemed it need-to-know information. "Um…," she didn't quite know how to answer. He looked at her expectantly, almost like a child eager to be praised. She frowned. "I don't know much about him. I never saw him. I know many people back home spoke of his kind smile, so unlike his father's, but… I mean… I wonder what happened to him. If he really isn't like his father, I hope he's alive and that he comes back to save his people from King Agreste's tyranny."
Chat had a strange look on his face, almost like he wanted to argue, before he winced and leaned away from her. Wanting to change the subject, Marinette quickly asked, "Were you born with magic, or.. cursed?"
"I wasn't born with it, I used to be a regular human boy but-," he looked at her with a sad smile, "I don't view this as a curse. I think changing into this," he gestured to his body, "Is one of the greatest things that's ever happened to me. Aside from meeting-," he coughed into his hand.
"Aside from meeting who?"
"Do you want that to be your final question m'lady?" He smirked. Marinette glowered. He was using her own words against her it seems. She waved her hand in dismissal.
"Lastly, about the boy you spoke of the other day… did you fall in love with him?"
Alya's words came flooding back to her again. "You know, I think Chat might have a thing for you Mari… He's always sending glances your way and asking questions about you. And earlier, at lunch, he seemed jealous that you mentioned another guy with such fondness."
Marinette's mouth felt dry suddenly, and the now cold tea didn't seem to help at all. She returned to facing out the window, hiding half of her face. Why did he want to know about her feelings towards the boy of her past? What did it matter to him?
A foggy memory suddenly flitted across her mind, and without realizing it, her fingers came up to lightly touch her lips as her eyes shut. It felt almost like a ghost had pressed it's lips to hers and brilliant green eyes stared back at her from the darkness. That's right...they had kissed once.
After another moment, Marinette finally replied, voice barely above a whisper, "I would love to see him again someday. If that day comes, I'll let you know…"
Chat remained quiet, and she wondered if he had even heard her, but then he spoke up, his voice sounding strained, "Wherever he is, I'm sure he'd love to meet you again too… What is your last question?"
Eyes still closed, Marinette sighed, "I think that's enough for today Chat…"
Chat Noir stood up from the bed and reached a hand towards her longingly, but his fingers curled into a fist and dropped to his side. With a deep bow, he left her room, closing the door behind him.
What is this? 2 chapters within 24 hours? And it's even longer than chapter 2 like I promised? MADNESS!
This is my way of apologizing for the annoying hiatus I took. PLEASE REVIEW. I'd love to know what you all think so far! :)