Marinette gave up her crush on Adrien Agreste on a stormy Tuesday afternoon.
It had been a long time coming, she reflected as she raced home in the rain, dodging pedestrians the best that she could as she tried and failed to not get too wet without raincoat or umbrella. She had held a torch for him for ages, trying again and again to ask Adrien out with no success whatsoever, only managing to make a fool out of herself as she tripped and babbled and mixed things up when she tried to confess. It was a more recent revelation that she had compromised parts of herself and her beliefs and even her feelings to make Adrien happy- standing down and not making waves instead of standing up for injustice, for one, and feeling bad about celebrating when her long-time bully (and the school's biggest bully) was meant to leave the school- and she had sometimes even acted in ways that, when she looked back on them...
Well, that wasn't her. It shouldn't have been her.
The last straw had come when Chloe had bullied Rose that afternoon. Marinette had been comforting Rose (no, her scrapbooks didn't look bad, Chloe just had no taste and liked making people feel bad about their work because she herself didn't have an ounce of talent in her body) and Chloe had gone up to Adrien and he... just started talking to her like everything was normal. Like she hadn't just bulled someone into crying, even though she (and everyone else in Paris) knew better than to deliberately make people feel bad, because of the danger of akumas.
As though the person being bullied to the point of near-tears wasn't a friend of his, too.
The worst part had been when Rose had seen Adrien talking to Chloe, giving a small, polite smile in response to something that she had said. Her entire being had crumpled.
And Marinette could no longer make excuses for him. She wouldn't.
"Are you okay, Marinette?" Tikki asked as Marinette headed up the stairs and into her room, determination in every step. "You look like you've decided something."
"I'm giving up on my crush on Adrien." Marinette reached for the first of her photos, pulling it down as thunder rumbled outside. "I fell in love with him because he was so open and kind about the misunderstanding over the gum incident. But that kind of gets cheapened when he's too kind, even to people who certainly don't deserve it. It's just- whatever connection I thought was there- it wasn't."
It seemed like too often lately, Marinette was seeing the downsides to Adrien's kindness- he was giving people who certainly didn't deserve it too many second chances and tolerating people basically walking all over him and over the rest of their classmates. It was like he didn't see the consequences of not taking action against bullies and liars.
It wasn't attractive. And it was exhausting to have to deal with those consequences all the time.
"It's very likely that Adrien was raised to avoid conflict no matter what," Tikki said, flying higher to help Marinette pull down a couple posters that were too high to reach. "Just based on what I've heard of his father, it would be really, really likely. And it's frustrating to see, I know, but habits like that can be hard to break."
"I know, but you still have to have to recognize when enough is enough!" Marinette yanked down another photo, frustration bubbling under her skin. The lights flickered overhead as lightning flashed over Paris. "And there's a difference between avoiding conflict and actively enabling bullies! And there's a difference between avoiding conflict and telling other people that they should avoid it, too, or that they shouldn't be happy when a bully goes away! Like sure, it's not good to be celebrating someone else's misfortunes, but we weren't. We were celebrating the idea of being able to come to school without getting bullied, mainly. And he didn't like that. That was important enough to him to speak up about it, but watching Chloe bully people isn't, apparently."
Several more pictures came down, hard enough to pull off a couple specks of paint on the wall. Marinette scowled at that and then at the tape on the offending poster, then huffed and tossed it in the slowly-filling recycling bin.
"If I had been able to think straight then, I would have spoken up about that," Marinette added after a minute, dumping another armful of pictures in the bin with a scowl. She flinched at a too-close flash of lightning outside of her window. "I would have stood up for ourselves instead of getting all sad that I had made Adrien upset. Maybe he could have recognized that what he wasn't doing wasn't right then. He shouldn't be standing up against a bully's victims but not the bully herself."
Tikki flew after her. "You're not going to stop being his friend, are you?"
Marinette wrinkled her nose at the question. "I've not really been much of a proper friend to Adrien, have I? More of a friend of a friend, considering that we don't hang out with each other without Nino and Alya much. But no, I'm not going to stop being his friend. And I want to be a better friend."
"Oh, good!" Tikki landed on Marinette's shoulder, watching as Marinette pulled down her calendar to erase - well, not all of Adrien's activities, because she kept all of her friends' schedules on it so that she could help organize group outings that would be able to include everyone, but all of the extra notes that she had taken on what Adrien was up to. "Maybe with your help, he can grown past the unhealthy behavior that he's been taught."
"Maybe." Marinette gave her calendar one more look before shutting it and returning to her desk, setting all of her pictures in the recycling bin under her rain-soaked window and sitting down at her computer to change her desktop photo. While Tikki's suggestion sounded good, Marinette kind of needed some time and space for herself before diving in to try to help someone else improve themselves. She couldn't keep giving and helping and being there for people if she pretty much burnt out already. "And speaking of not-so-healthy behavior, I think giving up on my crush will be good for me."
Tikki frowned. "What do you mean, Marinette?"
Marinette sighed, turning away from the computer to give Tikki her full attention. "I mean, there's a lot of things, I think. It's emotionally exhausting, getting all anxious about how Adrien sees me and if I should try asking him out. And then when I say dumb stuff because I'm all wound up, and then I hyperfocus on that and what Adrien probably thought afterwards, and it- I'm busy enough with other stuff without spending time on that, and it feels awful besides!"
"And that isn't all," Marinette admitted. There was more, a realization had been creeping up on her for a while now, but she had just done her best to ignore it until more recently. "I let myself get swept up in the whole get the boy thing. Like, at first, it was just Alya and I giggling over how cute Adrien was and over-analyzing it whenever he waved to me, and maybe I sometimes thought about asking him out, but it was different! It wasn't something I was trying to do every other day, or whenever I saw Adrien outside of school. Not that I saw him that often away from the rest of the class, anyway."
"Not until Alya and Nino started dating," Tikki finished, raising her voice so that Marinette would still be able to hear her over the slowly fading rumbles outside. "And there were more opportunities for Alya to set the two of you up." She frowned. "Alya really started pushing the two of you together after that, didn't she? Even when you said no."
"Yeah, but I should have pushed back more. The last time I got together with the other girls to plan how I could ask out Adrien, I remember feeling uncomfortable with the elaborate set-ups and the whole not-being-entirely-legal stuff and the suggestions about beating out my 'competition' with Kagami," Marinette told her kwami, her voice getting quieter with every word. "And I just- I ignored that and didn't voice any objections because I was too focused on the end goal of asking Adrien out successfully. Even though he told me that he liked Kagami, which- well, that should have been enough for me to stop trying to ask him out, considering that I pretty much already know what his answer would be."
Tikki blinked at her. "Are you sure he would say no? Has Adrien gone out with Kagami again after the ice rink, do you know? As a date, not as something that their parents had them do together?"
With a groan, Marinette flopped back in her chair and threw her hands up in the air. "I don't know! And if we were normal friends who talked on a regular basis, then I would know. And if we were normal friends, I would be able to call him out on stuff like what happened today, and I wouldn't- well, I think I would have done a lot of stuff differently."
Tikki only chirped and nuzzled Marinette's cheek in comfort. For her part, Marinette just let out a long breath, trying not to let the frustration at- well, at herself, at Adrien, and the whole mess- get to her.
Honestly, even though part of her was sad to let her crush go- she had made plans for her and Adrien's future together, and she had spent nights (and days) daydreaming about those plans, and having fun drawing out plans for couple outfits, and then giggling with Alya about each and every interaction that she had had with Adrien- it was really for the better, the splash of cold water that she needed to take a step (or several steps) back and look at how she had handled having a serious crush.
Now that she had recognized that she had let things get a bit out of hand, she wouldn't let it happen again in the future. Any future crushes would be healthy ones. And any attempts to ask her future crushes out would be in completely normal scenarios, not engineered ones because she wasn't confident enough to pull her crush aside for a minute at school or when they were out with their friends and confess.
(Looking back at their whole Operation Secret Garden fiasco with a clear head, Marinette could admit now that it was stupid and illegal and really, they should have just had a picnic in the area and when Adrien finished, she could have gone to say hi instead of harassing Adrien's driver to keep him out of the way. Marinette was glad that she had at least done the right thing in helping the struggling mom get up the steps instead of staying hidden during their Operation, but she really should have had at least some reservations at the time about the whole setup but she hadn't (or at least hadn't let herself really think about the reservations she had), and that- that wasn't her. She couldn't let it become her.)
"What are you going to tell the girls next time they want to come up with a date?" Tikki asked after several seconds, jolting Marinette out of her thoughts. "The last time you thought about letting your crush on Adrien go so you could support him on his date with Kagami, they didn't really like that idea."
"Yeah, well, it's not their choice to make, is it?" Marinette did a quick couple clicks on her computer, changing her background to something more generic and deleting her entire folder of digital Adrien photos in one go. "I don't have to explain everything to them. I'll just say that I'm done with my crush."
"You might want to come up with a better explanation," Tikki advised her as Marinette deleted everything from her computer's recycling bin, getting rid of them for good so she couldn't be tempted to restore them. "Otherwise, I bet that they'll keep trying to set you up." She followed Marinette as she scooped up her recycling bin and hauled it towards her door, down to the rest of her family's home. "Are you going to go for Luka, then? If you've given up on Adrien?"
Marinette didn't even have to think about it before shaking her head. "I don't think that that would be a good idea. I don't want to jump straight from one crush to another, for one, and, well, I don't think it would be a good idea for me to try to date while I'm Ladybug."
That, too, was a more recent revelation, something that had been brewing distantly in the back of her mind and something that Marinette really should have paid attention to before. Her friends already complained enough about her missing get-togethers because of akuma attacks. If she had tried to date Adrien- if she tried to date anyone- while Hawkmoth was still active, the relationship wouldn't last long. Best-case scenario, they would just drift apart after a couple months and then break up. Worst-case scenario, a relationship would end in flames, with whoever she was dating getting so fed up with her that they couldn't even stay friends afterwards.
That- that would be devastating, especially if she really liked them.
On top of that, Marinette didn't have any time for dating. She had been overwhelmed by her responsibilities on more than one occasion recently, and she needed time to relax and unwind and catch up on sleep and design for fun, all things that were slowly getting showed to the side.
"That sounds smart, Marinette!"
Marinette couldn't resist the rueful smile that appeared on her face as she headed downstairs. "Yeah, well, it's about time I was actually smart about the whole dating thing. I haven't been for a long, long time." She rounded the last set of stairs, finally reaching ground level and ducking into the back room where her parents kept the bakery's trash and recycling bins. She glanced down at her recycling basket one more time, at the photos that she had built up over the course of the past year (past year and a couple months, really), hours of searching and clipping out and picking out her favorites to display, all shoved into the basket.
Decisively, Marinette emptied all of the pictures into the giant recycling barrel, watching them sift down between cans and collapsed boxes and vanish from view. As soon as the last one was gone, she headed back out of the room with her empty basket in hand, feeling lighter already as she shut the door behind her and headed back upstairs to replace the basket in her newly-cleaned room and to finally change into some clothes that weren't damp from the earlier storm.
Outside, the storm cleared away overhead as Marinette settled back in at her desk, feeling far more relaxed than she had earlier and already planning how she could redecorate her room so that the walls wouldn't feel so bare. It had been the healthy thing to do, letting go of Adrien. Her crush on him and how she had responded to her crush- well, it had gotten out of control and made her compromise her values and act- well, it had made her act not like herself. And...well, Marinette didn't want to spend practically her entire time in collège completely distracted by a boy who wasn't interested in her the same way that she was interested in him. It wasn't good for her, to keep holding on to that hope only to find herself disappointed or embarrassed yet again. That was no way to spend her time, and Marinette wasn't going to keep putting herself through it, over and over again. Not anymore.
Up in the sky, the first ray of sunshine broke through the clouds, making the rain-damp city below glitter and shine. It was going to be a lovely day.
a/n: Fun fact: this and Kill Shot used to be one story, where Marinette just did away with all of the stuff stressing her out in her life, but I broke them into two stories because having Marinette dealing with Lila and Chloe kind of took attention away from Marinette's emotions to focus on a different issue (and the show already does enough of that, thanks). I had the same issue with bringing up the fact that it's probably Adrien's upbringing that has him putting up with BS all the time- like, that's 100% something that I think Marinette would want to help him with once she moves past the 'omg I don't want to disagree with my crush' stuff, but that would take attention away from Marinette again. Deciding to move on from a crush is hard, especially after crushing for so long, but honestly, in the show, that would be the healthy thing for Marinette. It would bring her a whole lot less stress and more peace of mind, for sure.
As with most of my stories, this is a one-shot and is therefore complete! And as always, reviews make my day :)