They say that if you stay for a week between September and March, you are guaranteed to see the Northern Lights at least once. Timing was everything and she was so determined to see them to fuel her inspiration, Marinette played it safe, came in late October, and booked a stay in Reykjavik for a whole week.
She braved the chill air that had yet to reach France and the cutting winds that made it difficult to walk while sightseeing waterfalls during the day. She sent Alya pictures of her freezing by a snow swept Gullfoss and acting surprised in Geysir. She packed in as many activities as possible in the day and reserved her nights for aurora-hunting.
Yet six nights came and went and she hadn’t seen a single cloudy, tangled form over head that indicated northern lights. She’d tried going out on her own around the edges of the city and closely followed a website tracking the lights. As the end of her trip grew closer, she took bus tours to search with professionals. Three of them; all turning up with nothing.
And thus she was leaving that afternoon, tired and broke, having blown the last of her available funds on wool souvenirs she absolutely needed to have.
Perhaps she could return next year, but it would depend on her work schedule. Being an independent designer didn’t exactly make for the most stable schedule. She was only able to go to Iceland this time because she had finished some designs on time and her small, usual client base was busy with fashion week.
When she returned to Paris, Alya and the others would ask: ‘Did you see the northern lights’ and would be answered with a disappointing ‘no’. Twenty five years old and it was the first time she left the country by herself. She had done her research and prepared as best as she couldn’t, but she couldn’t control nature.
Marinette exhaled slow and clutched her phone and passport in hand as she stood in line for the ticketing desk at the airport. She still wore her heavy black anorak and water resistant snow boots; neither went with her white shirt, dark pants, and blazer underneath, but she figured she’d change when she arrived in warmer Paris.
“Next!” A counter opened and she maneuvered her little pink spinner she hand painted with flowers towards it. “Good afternoon, miss. Where are you flying to?”
“Paris,” Marinette said, sliding her open passport forward to the pretty young woman on the other side.
The woman seemed to try to restrain a cringe. “Flight 4047?”
“I’m afraid we have bad news, miss.”
“A strike?” Marinette sat on a high stool, slumped over a table outside the donut shop in the airport. Her thick coat was on a chair next to her, shrugged off after she overheated pacing the airport in her panic. She managed to fish out a few krona to buy a coffee as she tried to figure out what to do with the help of Alya, who was going to pick her up at the airport in Paris, but was now fuming in her living room. “Are you serious?”
“Yeah, it was scheduled, but they didn’t think the flight would be affected. The airline was able to book me on the first flight out tomorrow, but it doesn’t leave until....” Marinette looked at the paper she had been given. “Nine in the morning!” She held back a wail as she looked at the time. It was already two-something in the afternoon; she should’ve been seated in the plane already.
“Well, are you going to go back to Reykjavik and stay over night?” Alya asked, looking concerned on the screen.
“It seems like such a waste of money and I already went over budget for this trip,” Marinette said. “Iceland is really expensive and I didn’t think I’d get stranded for an extra night.”
“The airport is open twenty-four hours, isn’t it?”
“Yeah, I suppose I can stay here and wait. I mean, I have all my things,” Marinette said, looking down at her luggage and the tote perched on top of it. “At least the toilets are really clean here.”
She offered Alya a weak smile, but the look on Alya’s face on her phone screen was filled with pity. “Okay, hang on, girl, I’m going to get you a hotel.”
“What? No!” Marinette nearly jumped off her stool. “You can’t! What about the wedding?”
Alya waved her free hand dismissively. “Please, what’s a few euro to help a friend. Besides, the wedding’s nearly paid for and someone is making me my dress for free.” She gave Marinette a knowing look and the young designed sighed.
“Can you find one that’s at least close to the airport?” Marinette asked. “I’ll pay for the ride there and back.”
“I’ll try to find one that had a shuttle or something. I’ll call you back soon!” Alya gave her a small wink and ended the call.
Marinette leaned forward, stretching her arms across the narrow table and staring at her phone. She’d calmed down a bit after her initial freak out when she found out her flight was cancelled and a wave of uncertainty took over. She really only had two options: wait at the airport or go back to the city and come back in the morning.
She began to calculate how much more she’d spend on a ride to the city - worst case scenario - and back in the morning. Then she had to scrounge up some food. She supposed she could just go to a convenience store and pick up some snacks to keep her going.
She groaned and buried her face in her arms. Why did she have to buy that wool blanket? And the wool sweater? And the bundles of yarn?
Then again, if she stayed at the airport, she could use the sweater as a pillow and the blanket to keep her warm. It was just one night. Lots of people stayed overnight at an airport. Sure, it wasn’t the most comfortable place in the world, but it was cheap.
Unless she wanted food.
Marinette glanced over at the donut shop that sold a few other things. She narrowed her eyes. It was unhealthy, but she could live on donuts and candy.
Suddenly, her phone vibrated and she shot up, nearly sending the thig phone on to the table in her surprise. She ran her finger over the screen and saw a text message from Alya.
She brought the phone closer to her face and read the message. Her face heated as she re-read it and then dragged her finger across the call button in an effort to stop Alya and the others before he called.
She paled as an old number danced across her screen, mocking her failure to stop it. For a moment, Marinette stared and the number and the name above it. An old photo she had of him appeared just above that and she wondered why she hadn’t updated it. He was no longer sixteen. He hadn’t been for over ten years.
The phone stopped vibrating for just a second before it started again, snapping Marinette out of her stupor. She swallowed a lump in her throat and took a deep breath.
She swiped her finger across the screen and brought the phone up to her ear. “Hello?”
“Hey, Marinette.” She bit the corner of her lip as she tried to stifle the little surge of excitement that ran through her body at the sound of the mellow, familiar voice. “Heard you need some help.”
She dug her fingers into her lap as she sat up and pursed her lips. He sounded the same, carrying the hint of amusement and thoughtfulness in his voice as he did the last time they talked. What was it? Five years ago? She’d lost touch after he finished university and immediately went on tour with Jagged Stone.
“Hey, Luka!” She forced a smile on her face, despite knowing he couldn’t see her. “Kind of. The airline is having a strike, so I’m kind of stranded.”
“Oh, man, that sucks,” Luka said. “Are you still at the airport?”
“Yeah. I’m really considering just going through the gate and spending the night in the terminal.” Marinette let out a heavy sigh. “It’s not the most comfortable, but at least I don’t need to go out and find a hotel last minute.”
“I heard. Can you wait a few minutes? I can get to the airport in forty-five.”
Marinette drew her head back a bit, confused. “What? Luka, I’m not in Paris. I’m in-”
“Iceland,” he said. “Right? Same. Juleka sent me a message and asked for help.”
She knew where this was going and felt guilty for troubling him. “I can’t bother you, Luka,” she said. “I’ll be fine.”
“It’s no bother at all,” he said. “The flat I’m staying at has two rooms. You’re welcomed to stay the night. I can drop you off in the morning.”
It was a painfully tempting offer. A spare room meant a spare bed. An actual place to rest her tired head and for free. No trying to get comfortable across multiple airport chairs and dragging her things to the toilet every time she had to use it.
However, Luka was nearly an hour out. He’d have to drive to get her and then drive her back, then repeat the next morning. Who knew what she was interrupting by having him drive her around.
“I can’t ask you to do that, Luka.” Though, she had to admit, it was very much in his personality to offer and follow through. “I’m sure you’re very busy.”
She heard a light chuckle. “I’m not busy at all. Besides, it’s been a while since we’ve hung out. I’ll buy you dinner.”
Oh no, he was going to buy her food, too! Food in Iceland was expensive. Just how much was the guitarist making? He wasn’t still on tour with Jagged, was he?
“Luka, I can’t-”
“Wait a sec. I just got another message from my sister....” His voice trailed off, probably reading the message. He began to sound concerned. “Marinette, are you broke?”
She groaned into her hand. Just what were her friends telling him? “I may have gone a little over budget with the souvenir shopping....”
“Was it the wool?” he asked, his voice lightening when he realized it wasn’t too serious. “I bought a sweater, too. I didn’t think they’d be that expensive, but it’s supposed to be the thing to buy.” She cracked a small smile.
“I didn’t know rock and roll guitarists bought wool sweaters,” she said.
“They do when it’s nearly freezing outside,” he said. “Listen, Marinette, I won’t push you, but my door’s open. I’ve slept in airports before; they’re not the best place for a good night’s sleep. If you decide you want to stay the night, just give me a call, okay? I don’t mind coming to pick you up.”
Her heart settled and she closed her eyes. Typical Luka. Five years didn’t seem to change that kind-hearted, patient, and perceptive, young man she battled feelings for as a teenager.
Her smile softened. “Thanks, Luka. I’ll keep you in mind.”
She slid her finger across the screen to hang up and buried her face in her arms once more. Just hearing his voice brought back cringe inducing memories as a teenager so blinded by her adoration of her now ex-boyfriend, Adrien, that she didn’t even respond to the straightforward, if not now obvious, interest Luka had in her.
Even if nothing came of it, he remained a good friend throughout their youth.
But she’d be lying to herself if she denied the heart pounding moments Luka caused. When they were alone, his attention was always on her. He was never aggressive in making his affection known, but neither was he shy about it.
Even when he gave that confession before Kitty Section’s first live television performance, he had walked away without pressing for an answer. What mattered was that she knew where he stood and it was up to her to make her decision.
Marinette closed her eyes. He didn’t hide how he really felt and made it easy to be around him.
However, she made her decision long before he confessed. Her eyes and heart were long fixated on Adrien. She saw no one else, even if her heart quickened for another.
Adrien was her prince charming. Her Mr. Right. She didn’t doubt it and was assured of that when they got together just before graduating lycée . Then she went to fashion school and he went to university. They made it work, but their chaotic schedules strained the relationship.
They took a break so they could each focus on their final year of school. When they came back from that break, something was off. Adrien was distracted and to further strain her life, she found herself back in the mask; another thing that required her attention.
A new villain appeared and Ladybug and Chat Noir were needed once again after a few years of peaceful inactivity. She’d cancelled so many dates to go off and save Paris when they already had so few with their clashing schedules.
Chat Noir professed that he still loved ‘Ladybug’ despite her insisting that she was already in a relationship with someone else. She failed to realize that someone else had grown distant.
One night, after nearly getting killed near the train station just an hour earlier as Ladybug, Marinette had her heart broken when Adrien admitted that while he loved her, there was someone else.
Marinette was devastated. She asked him who and Adrien refused to tell her, simply stating that it was someone he’d been in love with for years, but she disappeared. However, she suddenly came back into his life and he couldn’t stop feeling what he was feeling for her. If he didn’t try now, he might never have a chance again.
She remembered going quiet in the flat they shared. She lowered her eyes and held back the pain that filled her as Adrien cried out an apology. She couldn’t remember exactly what he said - that night was a blur - but the next day, she moved out of their shared flat that she had tried to make a home.
She blocked him on her phone and all social media.
She couldn’t remain ‘friends’ with him, at least not then. The wounds were too fresh and too deep. All she could think about was that the entire time they were together, he was in love with someone else . Her heart was his and his was another person’s.
In the end, she had to admit that part of it was her fault. When Adrien was involved, she only saw Adrien and loving him, and that was a problem. She never noticed that their relationship was more of friends than of lovers.
She lifted her head and looked at the phone she held across from her.
Her thoughts wandered back to him. She was sure he knew that she and Adrien had broken up. Yet, when they did, Luka was on tour and didn’t reach out to her. Perhaps he thought it would be in bad taste to reach out to a friend’s ex-girlfriend, who he once had feelings for, so soon. He was always very conscious of things like that.
Not that she reached out to him during that bleak period. Sure, she fantasized a bit. After all, he was that attractive older musician with a heart of gold, but she always felt guilty for doing so. Luka was wonderful; he deserved more than being someone’s second choice. He deserved someone who always saw him as a great guy that he was. Someone who wasn’t so obsessed with her ex-boyfriend that all other men just faded into the background.
As the most recent phone call offering her a place to stay for the night suggested, it wasn’t as if she and Luka parted on bad terms and he was still comfortable enough to reach out to her as a friend. The butterflies in her stomach settled with that thought.
What reason did she really have to reject Luka’s kind offer? He was being his usual dependable self and she needed a place to stay for a night.
It’s not like they were doing anything wrong.
Plus, it had been a while since she hung out with an old friend.
Marinette sat up in her seat and slid her finger across her phone once more. She held it up to her ear as it dialed the number.
“Change your mind?” She could almost see his smile.
“The airport seats suddenly don’t seem very inviting,” she said, drawing little circles on the table top. “Do you mind?”
He chuckled once more and she felt her heart skip a beat. “I’ll see you soon, Marinette.”
She tugged on the cords that tightened the faux fur lined hood of her anorak and squinted into the cold. She could’ve just waited in the terminal, but that would require Luka to park and then walk over. Instead, she assured him that she would be waiting near the bus stops and by the parking lot.
Nevermind that the sun was already starting to set and the wind was making the near freezing temperature even lower. She wanted to be of as little trouble to her generous savior as possible.
She saw a small, blue hatchback turn into the lot and craned her neck. That matched the description of the car Luka said he was renting. As it drove closer, she could see a dark-haired man in the driver’s seat and pulled her luggage out from underneath the small covered area and on to the curb.
Marinette lifted her hand to wave him and received a small wave just before the car rolled to a stop in front of her.
Luka got out, a big blue scarf on and smiling as he circled the car to get to her. “Have you been waiting long?” She held her arms out to embrace him as he reached her.
She laughed as she tilted her head up and he leaned down. They exchanged kisses on both cheeks. “Not long at all,” she said. She could smell a lingering scent of cologne on him. Earthy and warm. That was new. “So how long have you been here?”
Marinette stepped back as Luka moved to the side to open the door for her. “A few weeks. We’re working on a collaboration album with some Nordic artists. Hop in, the heater’s on. I’ll put your bag in the back.”
“Thanks, Luka!” She took a seat on the passenger’s side and reached for her seat belt. She tugged down her hood, fixing her knit cap underneath. Luka grabbed her luggage and brought it to the trunk. As she watched him, she held a small smile on her lips. He didn’t seem to change much. His hair was still dark with colored tips, though it was now a dark blue rather than teal. He was tall and rather lanky when they were older teens, but he had filled out in his twenties.
Either that or it was his combination of black leather jacket over big wool sweater that added the bulk. The back of the car closed and he rounded it, cupping his hands in front of his mouth and blowing into them before opening the driver’s door and getting in.
“What time do you have to get back tomorrow?” he asked as he put his seat belt on.
“At least an hour and a half before the flight, so I’d say seven-thirty at the latest.”
“That means we need to leave around six-thirty. I’ll make sure we get up,” he said. The car moved forward. “So are you hungry? We can get something to eat before we head to the apartment.”
“How far is it from the city center?” she asked. “There was this Thai place that was really good.”
“Not far at all. The main shopping street is just a few blocks down. Let’s grab some food first. I’m sure you’re starved waiting at the airport.”
They pulled out of the parking and hit the main road heading to the capital city. Luka’s phone was connected to the car’s speakers and the rock music of one of the bands they were collaborating with was playing. As he began talking about the concept behind the album, the music faded and gave way to ringing.
She glanced at his phone attached to the air vent and saw his sister’s face. “Answer phone,” he said, his voice a little stronger. There was a beep and Juleka was peering through the screen. “Hey, Jule.”
“Did you go pick her up?”
“Why don’t you see for yourself?” He moved the phone to the side. Marinette beamed and waved, excited, at her friend.
“Hi, I’m glad he was able to come get you.” A relieved look graced Juleka’s usual stoic face, though through the layers of runway make-up, it was difficult to see. Her hair was a tangled mess with streaks of purple. Marinette wasn’t sure if it was her own decision or if it was part of the job.
“Thank you so much for contacting him for me. This really helps me out,” Marinette said, giving her friend a thankful look.
“Anything’s better than sleeping at the airport,” Juleka said. “All right, I just wanted to make sure he got you-”
“Juleka! In ten!” someone shouted in the background.
“I have to go,” Juleka said. “I’m about to walk out.”
“Knock ‘em dead, Jule,” Luka said.
“Good luck, Luka. See you soon, Marinette.”
“Bye, Juleka!” Marinette waved one last time before the screen darkened and the music faded back in. She glanced at Luka. “Good luck?”
“She thinks I’m taking you out.”
Her eyes went wide. “Out?” Her voice squeaked. “Like...on a date?” She wasn’t a teenager any more, why did the familiar surge of panic fill her?
Luka chuckled. “Probably. She called and said you needed help. When I offered my place, she asked if I was going to take you out first.”
Marinette swallowed. “Are you?”
She caught him glance over and raised a brow. “Do you want me to?”
Marinette tore her eyes away from him and fixed them on the road, hoping he didn’t see her blush. “I...no, of course not. I mean...you’re already letting me stay over night and you came to pick me up. You’re even dropping me off tomorrow! I can’t make you pay for dinner, too.”
“I don’t mind.”
He didn’t mind. Marinette’s mind screamed. What did that mean? Did he still like her? After all those years? And after she was so fixated on Adrien?
“You’re my guest and I don’t really have food at the apartment. I can’t let you starve.” She looked back at him with furrowed brows. Did that mean he was only being a good host? Her shoulders fell and she sank back into her seat. She found herself surprised with the disappointment she felt.
“I’ll pay for my share,” she said. “It’s the least I can do for all your help.
She saw the corners of his lips tug into a small smile. “In that case, it is a date,” he said. He looked back at her, almost smug. “And I insist on paying.”
Marinette could hear Alya’s voice in the back of her head saying ‘oh, he’s good.’
She blinked and drew her head back. “Luka....”
“Is a date with me so bad?”
“What? No!” She sat up straight. “Anyone would be lucky to go out with you.” She narrowed her eyes and looked at him, determined. “I would love to go out with you tonight, Luka.”
He chuckled, a small grin on his lips. “You don’t have to force yourself, you know.”
“I’m totally not,” Marinette said. “Who wouldn’t want to go out with the best guitarist in the world!”
He started laughing as mirth filled his eyes. “Don’t let Jagged hear you say that,” he said. “He’s going to sulk.”
“Well, I think it’s true.”
“The best guitarist in the world, huh?” Luka’s smile didn’t leave his face. “You’re still a funny girl, Marinette.”
“Hey, I have matured a bit since you last saw me, you know.”
“Oh, I know. You graduated fashion school and started up your own altier. Juleka told me.”
“I really owe her for doing some modeling for me.”
“Don’t mention it. She was excited to do it. She sent me all the photos. I always knew you’d do amazing work.”
She smiled softly to herself. She was sure he meant it. “Well, what about you? You started touring as soon as you finished university. We’ve hardly seen you.”
“It’s busy,” he said with a resigned sigh. “But I don’t hate it. I get to travel and do what I love. You understand that.”
She nodded. “I do. Designing and then getting the clothes made is stressful with all the sourcing and logistics, but it’s worth it. I really love my job.”
“I’m glad you do. They told me you were really stressed a few years ago after you graduated. Juleka and Rose were worried.”
She lifted her hand to give the thought a dismissive wave. “Things just weren’t going the way I planned after I finished school. Things were difficult outside of designing and then Adrien dumped me-” Marinette snapped her mouth closed.
Luka’s hand reached across to the dashboard and lowered the volume of the music. “Adrien dumped you?” He sounded confused and Marinette lowered her head. “I thought it was a mutual thing.” Her gloved hands curled into the fabric of her pants. She grit her teeth together, chiding herself for slipping. When she didn’t answer, Luka reached back and raised the volume.
A warm hand rested on top of the knit cap on her head and gave her a gentle pat. “You don’t have to explain anything. It’s okay.”
She swallowed once more. “Sorry.”
“You didn’t do anything wrong,” he said in a gentle voice. “It’s a long ride to the city. I think I know what Thai restaurant you’re talking about.” He lifted his hand off of her head after one last, tender stroke and placed it on the steering wheel. “Why don’t you take a nap? I”ll wake you when we get there.”
He was giving her an out.
Marinette drew her lips inward and gave him a small nod. “Thanks, Luka.”
He didn’t say a word, only returned her nod and changed the playlist on his phone to something a bit quieter.
Marinette curled into the seat, gripping the seat belt and looking out the window at the passing gray landscape littered with lava rocks. She thought she’d be over it after two years.
Marinette shut her eyes tight. Maybe she wasn’t as ‘over it’ as she thought.
She felt a slight shake and as she woke, she heard her name being called out by a low voice, as if it were afraid to wake her.
Marinette stirred and turned her groggy head towards the sound of her name. Her eyes squinted and a blurred being came into focus. “Hey.” Dark hair and blue eyes, pale skin, and an oversized blue scarf. “We’re here. Are you sleepy? Do you want to just get the food to go?”
It took her a second to remember where she was, what she was doing, and why Luka was in the car next to her, putting on some gloves.
“No, no, I’m up,” she said. She lifted a hand to her mouth to cover her yawn. “Let’s get something to eat.”
She looked out the window and saw that they had parked on the curb just outside a Thai restaurant.
“Did I get the right one?” Luka asked as he followed her gaze. Marinette nodded.
“Yeah... it’s the highest rated one in the city .” She laughed as they said the last sentence at the same time. Luka grinned and got out of the car as she undid her seat belt. As she opened the door, Luka swept up beside her and held it open for her. He offered his hand and Marinette gladly took it.
He held open the door to the small, near empty restaurant and gave the two women at the counter a wave.
“Ah! Luka!” they said with warm smiles before motioning to a small table in the corner. He thanked them in Icelandic.
“You speak it?” she asked as she took a seat in the corner. Luka pulled out the chair across from her to sit.
“Just how to say thanks,” he said. He repeated ‘ takk ’ as they were handed menus. He shrugged off his jacket and Marinette did the same in the warm restaurant.
As she looked down at laminated piece of paper with pictures of various dishes, she let her hand go down to her stomach. She wasn’t starving, but wanted to get something to eat before they headed back. “Everything looks so much better than airport food.”
“Spring rolls look good. Want to share?”
“Only if you’ll help me eat this pad Thai.”
“Done.” He raised his hand to call over the server. He pointed to the pictures on the menu and then gestured to her and him. “Two plates,” he said in careful English. The woman nodded and scurried off. “I also ordered some Thai iced tea. I know it’s not really the weather for it.” He glanced outside and they could make out some people walking down the street bundled in parkas. “But what else goes with the food, right?”
“Right.” Marinette said, tugging off her gloves.
“So, how long were you here for?”
“A week. I heard that if you stayed that long, you were guaranteed to see the lights.”
He looked intrigued as he leaned forward. “And did you see them?”
She tried not to look too disappointed. “No...I guess I was just in the wrong place.”
“They’re not like in the photos, you know. It’s pretty rare to see the actual colors.”
“I know...I went with guides the last three nights and we just couldn’t find them.” She gave him a weak smile. “Just my luck, right? Waited a whole week and didn’t see a single one.”
“That’s terrible. You came all this way,” Luka said, his expression softening. “It’s your first time here, isn’t it?”
“Yeah. It’s also my first trip abroad alone,” she said. “I mean, I’ve gone to London a few times with Alya and went to Italy with Adrien....” She closed her eyes and inwardly swore. She mentioned his name. Again. “Sorry.”
“Why are you apologizing? You haven’t done anything wrong.”
She took a deep breath to calm herself. She looked across the table. Luka was always a good listener and at that moment, she just needed to tell someone - anyone - the truth. Biting her lip, she leaned forward and met his eyes.
“Promise me you won’t tell Alya or your sister or any of the others,” she said.
Luka looked a bit surprised, but nodded. “I promise.”
Her shoulders fell once more and she lowered her eyes, boring them into the table top. “It wasn’t a mutual break up. I know I told everyone that, but the truth is...Adrien dumped me.”
“What?” Luka furrowed his brows and looked ahead of him, as if trying to process the information. “What would he...I mean...you were together for years.” He shook his head. “I don’t understand.”
“He was in love with someone else.”
She watched his expressions change. First confusion, then anger, then a clenched jaw and frustration. His voice lowered. “While he was with you?”
She nodded. “He told me that he loved me. Like, loved me, loved me as he did all his friends , but there was someone else he’d always been in love with.”
Luka’s voice was breathless and laced with disbelief. “That whole time? All those years?” Marinette nodded once more.
“Looks like it.” She wore a wry smile. “In a way, I’m glad that he broke it off when he did. At least he wouldn’t have to fake being in love with me any longer - Luka?” The chair scraped against the tiled floor as he stood up and seemed to squeeze his phone in his hand. Her eyes widened and she reached across the table to grab his arm. “What are you doing!”
“I’m going to call him.” There was a cold fury in his voice she’d only heard one other time and it sent a chill through her. The last time she’d seen him so angry, he was akumatized. “How could he do that to you? After everything , how could he lead you on like that?”
“He didn’t think he’d see her again,” Marinette said, feeling him pull against her grip. She remembered Adrien telling her those exact same words.
He shot her a critical look. “So he thought that made it fine? Knowing he was still in love with another woman when you lived for him?”
She remembered telling Adrien those words. She had invested so much time and effort and emotion into their relationship. She threw herself into it and the entire time, Adrien didn’t feel the same way and was only playing the part of a loving boyfriend. The entire time, he was still hoping for someone else and when that person reappeared...he tossed her aside.
She felt a sharp pain between her eyes and hot tears began to blur them. “Luka, it’s fine ,” she said, trying to keep her voice steady. “It’s over .”
A pained look filled his face. He slowly sat back down and took the hand that had been tight around his wrist. Marinette kept her face down as she wiped at her eyes with her free hand.
“He shouldn’t have done that.” She heard his quiet voice through her choked back cries. “You didn’t deserve to be treated like, Marinette. I’m so sorry.”
Warm lips rested against the back of her hand. She looked and saw him holding her hand clasped in his warm, larger one as he closed his eyes. Her bit her lips and looked down at the table.
“I was his friend and I know he wanted to make me happy. And I was.”
“But he was lying. The entire time, he was lying.”
Her chest hurt. Not because she didn’t agree, but because she did. As well intentioned and kind as Adrien thought he was being as her boyfriend - it had been obvious how much she liked him in such a way; he hadn’t been in the relationship the same way she was. She never doubted he loved her because he did. It just wasn’t the same way she loved him.
“It’s over now,” she said in a quiet voice. “I haven’t spoken to him since then and I don’t think we can really go back to being friends like before.”
Luka was still holding her hand. He lifted his head and met her eyes with a pained look. “So you’ve been keeping this to yourself since then?” She nodded, avoiding his eyes. He crinkled his. “Why?”
She had a good reason. Marinette met Luka’s gaze with a firm one that showed no regret with her decision.
“He may have broken my heart, Luka, but I still cared about him. And I know what would’ve happened if I told everyone the truth: that he dumped me because he was in love with another woman. Alya would’ve ripped him to shreds and Nino...who do you think Nino would have to side with? Everyone would’ve been angry; even you got angry and you’re the calmest, most patient person I know. If they found out he hurt me, it would’ve destroyed years of friendship.”
“But it wasn’t fair to you to have to hide what really happened.”
She shook her head.
“Adrien loves his friends. It took him so long to actually have them and build those relationships; no matter what he did to me, I couldn’t bring myself to take that from him. Besides, it wasn’t as if he did it in malice. We had fun as a couple and were supportive of each other, but in retrospect, it was almost as if he were always there for me as a friend rather than a romantic partner. I was just too blind to see it, of course.”
“My God, Marinette. I don’t know how you did it.” Luka lowered his head and pressed it against her pale fingers still held in his hand. He was quiet for a moment before finally lifted his head. “I still don’t think it’s fair and I’m still upset that he did that to you, but I’m glad you told me.”
She lifted her other hand to her chest. It felt a bit lighter.
Marinette smiled as he released her hand and reached across to wipe the tears from the corners of her eyes. “I’m glad I told you, too. It feels...better.”
“You can only hold those feelings to yourself for so long,” Luka said. “And don’t worry; I’ll keep my promise. I won’t tell anyone,”
“Thank you, Luka.”
A movement caught the corner of her eye as the server arrived with their spring rolls and iced tea. Her smile only widened as the drink was placed in front of her. Luka split the spring rolls on the two plates provided and moved it across the table to her.
“Eat up. You don’t want to get hungry when we’re out tonight,” he said.
She cocked her head to the side and swallowed her mouthful of tea. “I thought we were going to your apartment after this?”
“Actually, I was thinking that you have one more night here, whether you wanted it or not, so why not do one more attempt at aurora hunting?” Her eyes went wide; it never occurred to her to even ask because he was already driving her from and to the airport. Before she could refute his generous offer, he cut her off. “If you don’t mind extending the date, that is?”
“You did say you’d be happy to go out with me tonight.” He seemed completely at ease as he said it, but her face heated up. She had meant it, of course, however, to trouble him further....
“But I thought you just meant dinner....”
He wore that kind, gentle look she was familiar with as he ate his spring roll. He swallowed and looked back at her.
“You’ve had a long day,” he said, and she was sure he wasn’t just referring to the flight delay. “It’s up to you.”
Once more, he left the choice to her. Marinette reached down and picked up her spring roll. She bit into it and thought. She did have one more night. Maybe it was fate?
“Okay,” she said with a determined nod. “I’m up for it. Might as well give it another shot, right?”
“That’s the spirit,” he said. “We’ll drop by the apartment and drop off your things. Get your camera, a towel, and swimsuit.”
She finished her spring roll and looked over at him, confused. “Towel and swimsuit?”
He lifted a finger to his lips and smiled just a bit. “That’s a secret.”
Marinette giggled as a plate of Pad Thai was placed between them. “All right,” she said. “I trust you.”
It was dark by the time they left and Marinette was satisfied with the delicious meal and interesting company. The building Luka was staying in wasn’t too far from the Thai restaurant and still well within the city center. It was just a few stories tall and he was able to park on the street. Luka got her bags and dragged her luggage up the steps and into the building. The elevator was just enough to fit both of them with her bags between them.
They were on the fifth floor and as the elevator chimed and open, they stepped out with Luka digging into his pocket for the key.
“No way, is that who I think it is?” She heard a familiar voice and looked up. She almost didn’t recognize him dressed in a thick, black parka and knit olive green cap that looked like an alligator head. He wasn’t even wearing his usual rocker make-up, but she recognized his voice and stance.
Marinette drew her head back and squinted. “Jagged?”
“It is Marinette!” The tall rock star quickened his pace down the corridor to get to them. He held out his arms and scooped her into a big hug, sweeping her off the floor. “What are you doing here, little lady?”
Marinette laughed and gave him a quick greeting kiss on the cheek as she was set back down. “My flight was delayed until the next morning, so Luka’s letting me stay the night.”
“That’s just like him,” Jagged said, seemingly brimming with pride. He looked over at Luka, who had stood to the side with an amused look. “We can always count on Luka. He’s been instrumental in the collaboration we’re doing.”
Marinette couldn’t help but feel proud, as well. “I’m not surprised. Luka’s the best guitarist I know.” She gasped and held out her hands. “But not as great as you!”
Jagged let out a loud laugh and shook his head. He looped an arm around Luka’s neck. “Your praise is in the right spot. This kid’s got me and his mom beat.” He ruffled Luka’s hair. “I don’t know what I’d do without him.”
“I’m just doing what I can.”
“So modest.” He slapped Luka’s back and grinned “Good luck, my boy.” Jagged released Luka and began to walk past them. “Well, I best get going. I’m already late for-” A blaring sound of a guitar solo seemed to come from his jacket and he patted himself down to find the phone. He slid his finger across the screen to silence it and brought it up to his ear. “‘Ello? Yeah, Penny, I’m almost there!” He turned and gave Marinette and Luka a wink as he pressed the elevator button and the doors open. He stepped inside. “You won’t believe who I just saw. Marinette! Yes, that Marinette! She’s with Luka. It’s finally happening, Pen. I told you they’d make a good-”
The doors closed and Luka sighed. “We better get into the apartment before the neighbors come out to see what all the yelling is about.”
Marinette chuckled and followed behind him. “Good to see he hasn’t changed. Say, is Fang here, too?”
“It was too cold for him, so Penny talked Jagged into leaving him in France,” Luka said. “They have a small country house outside the city with a lake and twenty-four hour staff. Fang’s living the life.”
“So they really did settle down in France,” Marinette said. They reached his door and he unlocked it and held the door open to let her in. “What about you?”
“I plan on going back between the end of his collab and our next tour dates. The studio is in Paris, so I need to remain nearby,” Luka said. “Welcome to my temporary home. It’s pretty simple, but it keeps the cold out.”
Marinette stepped in and looked around. Everything was very modern and minimalist. A sleek gray and white kitchen with a small fridge. A few restaurant fliers were on the counter. The living area followed the same minimalist monochrome style. Aside from the three guitars, amps, and assorted music equipment littered around the living area, it didn’t look like Luka was the one decorating.
It must’ve come furnished.
“The spare room is this way,” Luka said. He led her down a narrow hall. “This will be your bathroom. There are some extra towels in this cabinet.” Marinette followed behind him, nodding as she took note of where things were located.
Her room was behind a white door and there was a simple double bed with a white duvet and a woven wool blanket over it. Luka brought her luggage in and set it on the bed before heading out to say he’d meet her out there in a few minutes.
Marinette quickly opened her luggage and began to rummage through her stuffed bag to find her remaining clean swimsuit and towel. She rolled them together and looked for a small plastic bag to stuff them all in. As she managed to pull one out of her luggage, she heard the sound of a guitar from outside her open door and turned her head towards it.
She smiled to herself. Luka had only gotten better.
She tapped her foot every so often as she found her small mirrorless camera and managed to put it in the bag with her suit and towel. She slung the bag over her shoulder and wandered back out of the hall. Marinette peered into the living room and saw Luka in his sweater, seated on the low, gray couch, guitar on his lap as his talented fingers moved along the strings.
She couldn’t identify what song he was playing. Perhaps it was from the collab he was talking about. Marinette leaned against the wall and crossed her arms. She closed her eyes to listen. Whatever it was, it sounded great. She giggled to herself. Honestly, when did Luka’s music not sound great?
“Marinette,” she heard his voice over the sound of a fading guitar and straightened up. She opened her eyes and saw Luka lifting the guitar off his lap. “Ready to go?”
“Yeah! I didn’t mean to interrupt, though.”
He shook his head and placed the guitar on a nearby stand. He reached for the leather jacket and blue scarf he had slung across the back of the couch before grabbing a worn and deflated duffel bag that must’ve held his own towel and swim gear. “Just a little practice; I always do when I get the chance.”
“Was that something new? Is it for the collab?” she asked as they headed out the door. He smiled once more and brought his finger to his lips. Marinette wrinkled her nose. “Trade secret, huh?”
“It’s not anywhere near done.” He locked the door and ushered her forward.
“I’m definitely going to buy it when it comes out.”
The cold night air hit them as they stepped outside and she tightened her anorak around her. They got into his car, tossing their things into the back seat before pulling out into the street. The heater was on and Luka had a map on his phone. Marinette tried to see where they were going, but couldn’t make out the address.
“By the way, where are we going to see the lights?”
“Outside the city. You can see them from the road and there are plenty of places to pull over if you want to stop and take a photo.”
“You know how to spot them?” she asked. Her guides had told her that the northern lights weren’t exactly clear to the naked eye and didn’t look like they did in photos. They’d look like a faint cloud that was changing shape rapidly overhead. If they didn’t tell her what to look for, she would just assume it was a cloud.
“You know what we did every night the first week we were here?” Luka asked. “Go look for lights; Jagged was determined to see them, he kept dragging us out. Don’t worry. When I see them, I’ll know.”
“Did you check the aurora forecast?”
“Yeah, while we were still at the restaurant. We have a pretty good chance tonight.”
Marinette could hardly contain her excitement. She tried to tell herself it wasn’t a sure thing; there was no guarantee they’d be at the right place at the right time to see them, but she could allow herself to hope just a little, right?
They drove out of the city and as the light pollution from Reykjavik began to disappear, she found them on one of the single lane roads that lead south. Every so often, Luka would glance up at the window and Marinette would find herself following his gaze in hopes of seeing those misty, cloud like shapes in the sky.
“Where’s your camera?” Luka said, drawing Marinette out of her distraction listening to the music.
“In my bag.” He was nodding and began to signal that he was pulling over. Marinette felt her chest tighten as her heart began to race. “Are we stopping? Do you see it!’
He pulled the car to the side of the road, just overlooking a small valley the road went through. “I think we’re lucky tonight. Put on your hat.”
She was already pulling it over her head, over her long disheveled French braid. The car stopped and as soon as it did, she was pushing the door open. “Where are they?”
Luka turned off the car and got out, his eyes fixed high above the horizon. “Come here, Marinette.” She circled the car as fast as she could to get to him. His large hands rested on her shoulders and moved her in front of him. He lowered his head next to hers. She could feel the heat from his skin against her wind chilled face as his warm fingers slid beneath her chin and tilted her head up. “There.” His voice was smooth in her ear and she suppressed a shudder as she tried to focus on the area he was directing her to. “Do you see them?”
Marinette squinted. Far above them, against the endless dark sky, she could see the faint white mists rolling over each other. They didn’t move like clouds and beyond them were the twinkling stars signaling a clear night.
Her eyes went wide as she relaxed against him. “I see them....” It took her a week. It took her a flight delay and a favor from an old friend, but there they were. “I finally see them.” Her lower lip trembled as she stood in front of him. Her hand reached and took one of Luka’s that remained on her shoulder. “I don’t see the color, but they’re so clear....I can see them moving.”
He chuckled behind her. “Aren’t you going to take a picture?”
“Right!” He lifted his hands off her as she whirled around to get to the car. Luka seemed to watch, pleased she was in high spirits as she dug out her camera and fumbled with the settings. She looked around and her face fell.
Luka tilted his head to the side. “Is something wrong?”
Marinette held up her small mirrorless camera. “I don’t have a tripod. The photo will come out blurry.”
Luke furrowed his brows and walked over. He stopped in front of her and took the camera from her hands. “Are all the settings set?”
She nodded. “Shutter is set for 8 seconds. That’s more than enough.”
“Perfect.” He opened driver’s side door and took out his phone. He placed it flat on top of the car roof and carefully placed the camera on top of it, slightly tilted. He adjusted it, aiming towards the sky where the northern lights were dancing. “Let’s give it a try.”
He pressed the shutter button and stepped back.
Marinette counted slowly, until twenty just to be safe. “Okay. Let’s see.”
Luka took it down and turned it around to look at the screen. Marinette held her breath as he turned it around to show her.
A glorious streak of glowing green and edged with purple filled the screen and she nearly screamed. “You got it! You got it!” She threw her arms in the air and jumped forward, wrapping them around Luka’s neck as she jumped up and down. He laughed as she squeezed him tight. “I can always depend on you, Luka! Thank you!”
“Don’t thank me, we’re just lucky to catch them tonight,” he said with laughter in his voice.
“But you’re the one who took me out here and found them; of course I should thank you!”
She found herself smiling, giddy as she looked up at him.
“Well then,” he said, his lips drawing into a smile. “You’re very welcome.”
She couldn’t take her eyes away.
Marinette never wanted to admit it when she was in Adrien, but Luka was a good looking man. He always had such a gentle air about him and that warm, comforting smile. He was pleasant to be around and even in those instances she tried to deny - those fleeting teenage moments where he made her heart race - she always knew she could be at ease around him.
Suddenly, they were close and she could feel his warm breath against her cheeks. Her heart was beating faster, just as she recalled, and yet, she couldn’t think of anywhere else she’d rather be. His lips drew her and her tongue darted out to moisten hers. She didn’t even realize her body was moving on its own.
“Marinette?” His lips moved and she lifted her eyes to meet his, a bit lost in a daze.
“Did you want to take more than one photo?”
She blinked. Reality came rushing in and she became all too aware of his body. He didn’t lower his head and he wasn’t hugging her back. Instead, he was holding up the camera with one hand and giving her a questioning look.
A fierce blush filled her face and she looked away.
“Yes!” She gave a weak laugh as she untangled her arms from around his neck. She took a quick step back gave him an awkward smile. What was she doing? What did she expect to happen? “Sorry, I was just so excited. I mean....yay! I can’t believe it, you know?”
Luka chuckled and gave her a nod as he re-set up the camera. “I get it. Jagged was screaming when he finally saw them. He couldn’t sleep afterwards and came to get me at 5AM for a jam session. I could barely keep my eyes open.”
Marinette laughed, but wanted to bury her face in her hands. She couldn’t believe she thought he was going to kiss her on the lips. They hadn’t seen each other in years and he knew she was still hurting from her break up with Adrien. Oh no...did she look desperate?
Humiliated, she looked at Luka once more. He didn’t seem at all bothered by her assumption, but she knew he was preceptive. He always had been. He probably knew she had closed her eyes for a kiss and tried to pretend that it didn’t happen to spare her.
She swallowed hard. Or did he pretend it didn’t happen because he didn’t want it to. And if that was the case, why did it hurt to think about?
“Marinette?” She lifted her head, unaware she was making a despondent face as Luka’s finger curled beneath her chin once more. He tilted her head up to meet his as he studied her face. “Are you all right?”
She blinked and forced a smile on her face. “Yes, yes, of course I am!”
Luka knit his brows together and touched her forehead. “You’re kind of warm.” She wanted to groan. Of course she was; didn’t he realize how close they were? “Do you want to go back?”
“No.” Marinette surprised herself with how quick her reply was. Even Luka looked surprised. She took a deep breath and pressed her small hands against his chest, gently pushing him back. “I’m just a little cold. And I want to see where this secret place you’re taking me is.”
He cracked a smile and lifted his hands to his neck. The next thing she knew, he was wrapping this thick, blue scarf around her neck. She stiffened as his deft fingers adjusted it around her, making sure it was on securely, but not too tight.
It smelled like him and she couldn’t stop herself from taking a long, deep breath. “Yeah.”
He smiled once more and tapped her on the nose with his finger. “How about we get a picture of you with the lights behind you?”
“You can do that?”
He was already opening up the back of the car. “Stand right there,” he said as he pulled out a plastic crate. He carefully positioned it several paces from her and adjusted the camera so it tilted just enough to get both her and sky. “I’m going to shine the flashlight on my phone on you for just a second, okay? Don’t move.”
She held her breath.
This was fine , she told herself as she watched him across from her. It was just a friendly night out hanging out with an old friend.
“You look great,” Luka said as he reviewed the photo. A smile filled his face and she felt her heart pound against her chest as her entire body heated up. It was just a casual compliment; nothing that should’ve excited her as it did.
The scent of his cologne wrapped around her and Marinette willed herself to calm down.
She chided herself; it wasn’t as if she hadn’t been around an attractive man before. One guy being nice to her shouldn’t be enough to make her heart flutter. Sure, she didn’t really date and Adrien was her last real relationship. It wasn’t just because she was still hurting. She was busy. And she just hadn’t met anyone new. And this was Luka.
“What do you think?” He held up the camera to show her the photo he’d taken. “It came out pretty good. Definitely something worth remembering, right?”
“Remembering...” Marinette looked at the screen. Maybe it wasn’t a matter of meeting someone new...but remembering how someone she already knew made her feel. She looked up at him as he checked his phone. His eyes widened just a bit.
“Oh, we should get going if we’re going to get in some swim time.”
“The secret spot,” Luka said as he held open the car door for her. “You’ll like it. I promise.”
He didn’t have to. She knew she would, too.
“When you said it was a secret....” Marinette began to laugh as she saw the crude sign posted by a small lot. A lone street light illuminated the words ‘Gamla Laugin’ - Secret Lagoon. Luka turned off the car as they parked and leaned forward on the steering wheel, looking towards the wooden building down the path.
“It’s not as glamorous as the Blue Lagoon, but I like it,” Luka said, smiling. “It’s dark and most tourists don’t come out this far this late, so there shouldn’t be a lot of people.”
She chewed on her lower lip as she looked out the window. That sounded fantastic; the perfect way to unwind after the stress of the day. “Let’s go!”
They left the car behind and headed into the building. A young man met them in the lobby and Marinette was given a similar instructions as she had at the other lagoon. She was to use the lockers in the changing rooms to hold her things, then shower, change into her swimsuit and then go out into the lagoon.
“I”ll see you outside,” Luka said as he walked into the men’s changing area. Marinette gave him a quick wave and rushed to the women’s side. She took the first empty locker and fished out her red one piece with a bold, black strip around her waist. The neckline plunged low and clipped together behind her neck.
She studied it for just a moment; it was a more daring piece she’d designed for one of her later classes and wasn't something she could actually swim in. Parts of her that filled out would’ve slipped out during actual physical activity. Still, it looked great on her and it wasn’t as if she was going to be doing laps in the lagoon. She slung it over the bench and placed her towel next to it before taking off her clothes and wrapping her towel around her.
Two older women were blow drying their hair as she passed. She made a note to do so before she left. She didn’t want to walk out with wet hair. With how could it was, she was sure she’d freeze. The open showers were all hers and she washed up before putting on her swimsuit. She put her hair in a high bun and checked herself in a mirror before she walked towards the door leading to the lagoon.
As soon as Marinette pushed it open, a wave of chill air slammed into her and she shuddered. The steam coming off the dark pool just a few steps away looked more inviting than ever. The pool was natural and lined by flat stones. A chain link fence on the other side separated the pool from its source; a small, active geysir.
The only thing illuminating the pool and deck were the yellow lights on the eaves of the building. From where she stood, it was a dark, inky expanse with steam raising and natural rock walls. Natural rock walls that held it nothing but hot water...and no other tourists.
Marinette tensed up. That mean she’d be alone with Luka.
“Stop...,” she muttered to herself as she shook her head. There was nothing wrong with that. In fact, it was a stroke of luck to get such a lagoon all to themselves. They could take their time and relax.
She wrapped her arms around herself and made tentative steps towards a wall with hooks to hold her towel. Her bare feet touched the cold puddles on the concrete floor left behind as a trail by earlier guests and she grimaced.
“Just a few more steps. You’re close,” an amused voice said to her right. She turned her head and saw Luka standing by a large box filled with colorful pool noodles. Her lips pulled into a wide smile as he waved a blue one in front of her. “Want one?”
“Yeah, give me a pink one,” she said as she made her way over. Luka leaned forward and she could make out the smooth muscles of his arms and shoulders as he dug around for a pink pool noodle.
So, it wasn’t just his bulky wool sweater under his jacket she noted. He had filled out, too. His shoulders were wider, chest broad and lean, and he looked taller. His long, slender fingers still painted black. As he pulled out a pink pool noodle he turned and she saw a mark around his left arm that she’d never seen before.
She narrowed her eyes and stepped closer. “When did you get that tattoo?”
He held out the pool noodle towards her and looked down at his left arm. He gave her a small smile. “A few years ago.”
“A cobra,” Marinette said. Her chest tightened as she kept her eyes on the black lines that literally snaked down to his wrist. “Does it have a meaning?” She was sure she knew what it was.
Luka tapped her head with the pool noodle. “Wisdom and bravery,” he said. “And think the wise choice right now is to get out of the cold. Are we going to get in?”
“Right! Yes!” She snapped out of her thoughts and snatched the pool noodle from him with an awkward laugh. She followed him to the steps leading into the pool.
“Whoa...that hits the spot.” Luka took a few steps in, his navy swimwear clinging to what she couldn’t help but notice was a rather tight butt. She shook her head.
“Eyes up there, Marinette,” she told herself. Luka sunk neck deep into the water and seemed to kick off the side, coasting through the steaming lagoon. She took hold of the railing and dipped her feet in the water.
She melted. The hot water was a welcomed change to the freezing air and she sunk in, resting her arms over the pool noodle as she leaned back and floated away from the edge. As she drifted to her right, she heard a low rumble and turned her head.
“That’s the geysir,” Luka said, swimming up beside her. He put his warmed hands on her shoulders and turned her towards one corner. “The closer we get to it the hotter the water gets.”
“Let’s see how hot!” Marinette’s feet touched the gravel floor and she bobbed towards a corner where the geysir was. “Ooh...you can feel it.”
“Don’t rush over there; get used to the water first,” he said, following behind her.
Marinette stopped, sweat collecting at her temples and she let out a breath. “No kidding...wow...it gets hot fast.”
“Here, why don’t you sit on the edge for a bit?” Luka said. “The cold air feels great when you’re in one of these hot pools.”
She bounced towards the edge of the lagoon and tried to pull herself on to the edge that was at her shoulder height. She’d manage to get part way up, only to slide back into the pool. She let out a low grumble. “Luka....”
“I’m here,” he said. She felt his hands on her waist. “On three.” She nodded and placed her hands on the edge of the pool to help lift her.
“Three.” She yelped as she was carried out of the water and turned to sit on her butt, now facing him with her feet dangling in the water.
“That wasn’t three.” She pouted as he laughed and kicked away from the edge, floating backwards across from her.
“The sooner you cool off the sooner you can get back it.”
The icy air did feel good. She kicked her legs in the water as she leaned back against her arms. “Thanks again for taking me here, Luka. To think, I could be trying to sleep on airport chairs right now.”
“I’m happy to help,” he said, floating back. “Wish I had known you were here earlier. You could’ve saved some money and stayed with me.”
“I couldn’t do that. You’re so busy. You’re here for work, aren’t you?”
“I can make time.”
“Jagged wouldn’t get mad? He did say he didn’t know what he’d do without you,” she said with a slight grin.
Luka chuckled. “He’s exaggerating. And he wouldn’t get mad if he knew it was you.”
She tilted her head to the side. “Me? Why?”
Luka paused an arm’s length away. He went quiet for a moment, as if figuring out what to say. It was a bit surprising; he almost always knew the right thing to say.
“Jagged always thought that we’d make a good couple,” Luka said. “From way back, when we were teenagers.”
She drew her head back. “Really?”
“I think it’s probably because you’re a favorite of his and I’m his guitarist. He’d ask if I heard anything about you every so often. A few times, he’d tell me I should have coffee with you the next time we were in Paris.”
She couldn’t help but smile. Jagged was always so kind and encouraging to her. She could see him saying such things. “And you weren’t bothered by that?”
“No.” Luka shrugged. “Even he knew how much I liked you.”
She lowered her head, blushing, as she kicked the water again. “Yeah, but that’s when we were kids. We’re adults now and I’m sure your tastes have changed.”
“Not much.” She lifted her head. The water moved against her legs as he stopped in front of her, his hands on either side of where she was seated. “I still very much like kind, thoughtful Marinette I met at the airport this afternoon.”
“Are you sure?” she asked with a small smile. “She’s still a handful who can barely manage her time and impulse buys wool sweaters.”
“But she’s still putting others before her,” Luka said with a sad smile. “Even if it means hurting alone.” He lifted his hand and moved aside a small tuft of her hair that had slipped out from her bun. His warm fingertips slide against her cheek and Marinette felt her heart jump at the touch.
He wasn’t being fair. A girl could get used to that.
He moved back and Marinette let out a breath she didn’t realize she was holding. She looked down and gripped the side of the pool.
“I should get back in,” she said, diverting her eyes. “My suit will start to freeze if I say out any longer.” She tried to make it sound like a joke, but it came out weak. She slid off the side and felt her feet land against a smooth, moss covered stone. Her arms shot up to try to balance herself as she cried out.
“I’ve got you.” She fell forward and landed against Luka’s chest. His arms held her up as she struggled to get her footing. Her feet dug into the gravel as her hands clung on to his biceps for stability.
“I’ve got it! I’ve got it!” she said. She froze, trying to make sure she was balanced. When she was sure she exhaled and looked up at him. “Sorry.”
“Don’t be. Are you okay?”
“Yeah, I just didn’t know the rocks by the edge were that slippery,” she said, looking over her shoulder and glaring at the water. She looked back at Luka and noticed just how close he was. Their skin was touching; her body only separated from his in some places by thin, wet fabric.
The light from the deck softened his features, but she could still make out his face. A stronger jaw than she remembered, a straight nose, and thin, peach lips. Then those blue eyes with dark hair falling just above them. She couldn’t stop staring at them.
She felt his lips and his hot breath against hers before she realized she had leaned upwards and kissed him.
For a brief moment, there was only him and her and her stress and worries gone.
Then she heard was a questioning ‘mmph’ that snapped her out of her daze. She opened her eyes and realized she was still pressed against him and ripped herself away. What had she done? Her voice trembled as Luka stepped away.
“I’m sorry.” She lowered her head, refusing to meet his eyes as she pulled her arms to her chest. “I didn’t mean to, I mean, I realize or I didn’t expect it, it just happened. Wait, no, what I’m trying to say is that it was an accident, but-”
“Marinette.” She didn’t want to look up, afraid to meet his disappointed or disgusted eyes. “I think I get it.”
“It’s been a few years since he broke your heart, but everyone moves on at their own pace. You don’t have to force yourself to.”
Her head shot up. Luka didn’t look at all upset. If anything, he looked concerned. Almost sad. She narrowed her eyes. “What?”
“I’m the first person you told the truth about the break up. That got it off your chest, but you don’t need to push yourself to get involved with someone else. Right now, you trust me, but you don’t need to act on it. It’s all right. It doesn’t have to go any further.”
What was he saying? Did he think she was forcing herself to be with him to get over her break up? She shook her head slowly and extended her hand. “No, no that’s not what this is,” she said as she reached for his arm.
Luka drew it away in a smooth motion before she could touch him. “Marinette, don’t do this. You’re just hurting and need someone. If you want to talk or eat or whatever else, don’t worry; I’m there for you. But-”
“But it can’t be you?” Her voice shook. Of course it couldn’t. She was deluding herself just because she was being treated with the tiniest hint of affection. She bit her lips and nodded. She looked away. He was right, of course. He wasn’t there be used for her benefit. Just because he might’ve still liked her didn’t mean she had a right to take advantage of him. “I see. I get it. I’m sorry, I crossed a line-”
“No, you don’t understand. I don’t want you to regret doing something with me,” Luka said in a careful voice. “Years may have passed, Marinette, but you’re still special to me.”
“But not special enough.”
“That’s not what I mean-”
“No, you’re right,” she said, drawing her arm back against her. “You deserve someone better. You always did. I never deserved someone like you to begin with. All I ever did was obsess over Adrien. After you told me that day you were akumatized at the studio when we were kids, I wouldn’t even let myself accept it, even though knowing you liked me made me feel....” She trailed off as her heart ached. “I’ve never felt wanted like that before.” She shook her head as she gave him a wry smile. “And now that my entire relationship with Adrien has fallen apart, I can’t just come to you and use you to make me feel better. That’s not right, but I want to make it clear that it wasn’t my intention.”
He gave her a sad look. “I know, Marinette.”
“I don’t want to hurt you, Luka,” she said. “Not again. You deserve better than that. Better than me.”
A pained look filled his face as he moved closer and raised his hand out of the water. He cupped her face and stroked her cheek as she stood there, neck deep in water with tears in her eyes.
“Just take all the time you need to heal,” he told her in a soft voice. “And when you’re ready....”
She sniffled back some tears, unsure if she was angry for picking Adrien over Luka or angry for only having realized it too late. “I don’t know when I’ll be ready.”
“But you will be one day and when that day comes, I’ll be there.”
She needed to make it clear, at the very least, that he wasn’t just a tool to help her get over her failed relationship. She needed him to know that she wanted more than just his friendship and support. Marinette dared to meet his eyes.
“You said we’re lucky. And several hours ago, I would’ve begged to disagree. My first trip here and I didn’t get to see the one thing I wanted. I spent all my money. My flight got cancelled. I was resigned to just...sitting at the airport overnight, hungry and disappointed,” she said, waving an arm off to the side. “And then you called and everything got better...and I thought that maybe I am lucky...so I should take a chance before it’s gone.”
He stared at her, his expressions going from uncertainty to worry. “Is this really what you want?” he asked. “I don’t want you to regret being with me, Marinette.”
She shook her head and held his hand against her face. “I won’t regret it,” she said. “I won’t. Not ever. My best memories of Iceland are with you, Luka. That won’t change.”
He caught her breath and sealed his lips over hers as she was pulled against him. Her eyes were wide as she tensed in his arms. The pressure over her lips began to soften as he pulled away just enough to let her breathe. As she gasped for air, he rested his forehead against hers and closed his eyes.
“Sorry. I suppose even I have my limits.”
She could feel her heart racing as a trembling hand rose between them. She placed her palm against his chest, wet and hot from the water, and could feel a similar pace against it. She closed her eyes and relished the warmth she felt.
“Luka...” Her arms snaked around his neck and she pulled herself closer, pressing her body against his as she leaned upwards. “Kiss me again.”
His mouth was hot as she opened her mouth and ran her tongue against his. She felt him explore her mouth and taste her before gently retreating to allow for breath in between. Marinette moved her leg beneath the steaming water and brushed it against his long, lean legs. Her hips rubbed against him and she heard him let out a small moan.
No one else was in the lagoon. It was dark. They were in the corner, near the grumbling geysir.
She dared to move her hand lower, over his shoulder and down his firm chest and stomach. She could feel the waistband of his swimwear against her pruned fingertips and slipped a finger beneath it.
“Marinette.” His voice was a bit more hoarse and breathless. He pulled away and his hand that had been around her waist grasped her wrist to stop her. She knit her brows together, wondering if she had gone too far. Luka looked serious. “If you do that, I won’t hold back either.”
She sucked in a sharp breath as he held her gaze, as if trying to make out her decision. She pulled her hand away. Luka seemed to release a low breath before letting her wrist go.
Before he could move back, she grabbed his hand and brought it up, sliding it between the fabric of her swimsuit and her left breast. As if instinctual, his fingers curled and gave her soft mound a gentle squeeze before he could stop himself. She watched his eyes fill with surprise before she spoke. “I didn’t say I want you to.”
He studied her face a moment longer before he raised a brow and pressed his palm against her, molding her against his hand just hard enough to elicit a shudder. She grabbed on to his shoulder as she arched forward. She heard his low voice give her a final warning. “Don’t regret this, Marinette.”
His other hand slid from her waist and found the edge of her swimsuit right beneath the swell of her ass. He moved beneath the hem easily and she jumped as his fingers tugged the edge of the fabric higher and higher until it was trapped in the middle. He grabbed on to the bunched fabric and pulled.
She gasped, her feet lifted from the gravel floor of the lagoon for just a moment. The suit rubbed her perfectly between the legs, hitting that sensitive spot and making her legs grow weak. One arm remained hooked around his neck, if only to keep her steady, as her other hand nearly clawed into his shoulder.
She felt the side of the lagoon against the back of her shoulders and realized he had all but pinned her to the wall.
As he kept one firm hand beneath her, holding her up against him, the hand on her breast moved aside the fabric and she spilled out. He cupped her flushed breast in one hand, as if memorizing the weight of it, before lifting it up just enough for the peak to break the water’s surface. He lowered his head and opened his mouth.
Marinette’s grip on him tightened as she struggled to stay standing. She felt his mouth surround the pert tip before he licked her, pressing hard against her breast. He gave her a light nip. Then a harder one. Then a firm, but gentle hold as he tugged her nipple with his teeth.
She began to pant, trying to hold back her pleased whimpers as she pulled herself against him. Beneath the water, she desperately tried to feel him against her. “Luka....” The heat of the water, the feel of his mouth, and her gasping for air began to make her head spin.
She didn’t hear the sound of the doors to the changing room open or the chattering in another language as a dozen tourists walked out.
Suddenly, his hands were off her and her swimsuit was back in place. A hot breath rushed out of her as he pulled away; her arm around his neck the only thing keeping her upright. She lifted her head and saw that he had turned away, keeping her reddened body and breathless, pleasure-contorted face hidden from the newcomers.
“Oh, where did you get the pool noodles?” An Australian from the sound of the accent.
“There, by the wall,” Luka said. His English was better than hers, but it barely registered. She couldn’t help but feel disappointed that their private time was interrupted as several men and women joined them in the water.
Marinette turned away, separating herself from Luka in an effort to calm herself before any of the other tourists saw her and figured out what they were doing.
“Did they see us?” she asked, almost afraid to hear the answer.
“No.” He was right behind her and felt his lips against the side of her neck. “It’s too dark where we are.” He kissed her shoulder and she felt his arms go around her waist. He seemed content just to hold her as she floated in the water, but if she were being honest, she wanted to continue.
She glanced over her shoulder. The tourists were talking amongst themselves on the other side of the pool, completely lost in their own world. She looked back at Luka, whose head was tilted upwards.
She followed his gaze. “What are you looking at?”
“You can still make out the lights,” he said. He gave her a squeeze and kissed the side of her head. “Aren’t we lucky?”
She leaned upwards and kissed his jaw. “Very lucky.”
He blinked, caught off guard, before leaning down and catching her lips. She closed her eyes as she reciprocated. Under the water, she moved her hand along his arm around her waist and wove her fingers between his.
Then she led his hand lower.
He got the hint. “Are you sure?” he asked. “We’re not alone.”
She brought her legs together and squeezed his hand between them. She didn’t care. In fact, there was a bit of a thrill. She heard him give a low laugh as his free hand slipped between the low cut of her swimsuit. His hand glided without hesitation over her flat stomach to reach down and cup her.
She tilted her head back against him, her eyes closed as her mouth parted. He spread her apart, slowly moving his fingers between the folds before he pinched the tiny bundle of nerves. Her entire body jerked against his immediately. A wave of heat, hotter than the geysir water, swept over her as he moved his fingers against her, rubbing and pinching, rubbing and grazing the hot, oozing slit below it.
She whimpered, her hands grabbing on his arm as moved against her, playing with her between his fingers and sending shot after shot of pleasure through her. Her chest rose and fell rapidly as she struggled to breathe. It felt so good; nothing else seemed to matter.
Not the near scalding water, not the icy air against her flushed skin, not the other tourists.
Her legs began to shake and her body arched against his, almost fighting his talented fingers to keep the pleasure from hitting its peak and ending. But he didn’t stop.
His ministrations grew faster, harder...almost painful .
A voice whispered against her ear as her hips began to buckle. She drew her lips inward and bit hard. “Come for me, Marinette.”
Her scream was muffled in her mouth and blocked out by the loud churning of the geysir as another wave of heat drowned her. She wasn’t sure if it was the eruption or her orgasm; only that everything was hot and she could only float there, twitching.
Luka kept an arm around upper body to keep her steady as the hand that had been pleasuring her rose and pressed two fingers against her lips. “Shhh....” he whispered. She could make out the amusement in his voice regardless. He kissed her neck. Then her shoulder. “Didn’t I say we’re not alone?”
She closed her eyes and leaned against him, dizzy, overheated, and weak. The cold night air never felt so good.
How she managed to drag herself out of the lagoon and back into the changing room, she couldn’t remember. The next thing she knew, she was wrapped in her towel and seated on a bench alone, suddenly eager to get back to the apartment.
Hair was dry. Check.
Wet belongings in a plastic bag. Check.
Luka’s scarf wrapped around her neck. Check.
Marinette looked in the mirror for one final look over before walking out of the changing room. Her knit cap with the small poof ball was on her head. She had tucked her blow dried hair underneath it, having forgotten her brush. Her anorak was zipped up and her snow boots on.
She was ready to take on the freezing, albeit short, walk to the car. She headed out into the lobby, where Luka was waiting, his hair tousled from being dried. His duffel bag over one shoulder as he signed what appeared to be a poster. Her heart began to quicken at the sight of him and the fresh memories of his hands moving across her body just minutes earlier resurfaced.
Marinette fought down the blush and tried to ignore the urge to turn around and head back to the changing room. How could she feel so embarrassed now? After she practically shoved his hand down her swimsuit herself?
She almost cringed.
“Here you go,” he said, handing it and a permanent marker to an excited young woman whose poster he was signing. “Thank you for supporting us.”
“Thank you!” The young woman gushed as she looked at the poster. Marinette smiled as well as she got a look at it: it was a poster from one of Jagged’s concerts and right next to the legendary rock star was Luka. “I can’t wait for the new album.”
“I hope we won’t let you down.” Luka thanked her once more for her support before looking up and seeing Marinette. “Hey, ready to go?”
Her heart began to race and she forced herself to act casual.
“All set,” she said. He extended a hand and Marinette reached out to take it.
“Where are your gloves?” he asked as his fingers wove between hers and brought her hand to his mouth to kiss her pale knuckles.
“I pulled them off at the apartment and forgot to bring them,” she said. “It’s warm in the car anyway.” They thanked the remaining staff of the lagoon and scurried outside to get to the car.
As soon as they were inside and the car was on, Luka blasted the heater and Marinette reached across the center console and pulled him towards her.
He chuckled against her mouth as leaned forward and returned her sudden kiss with a long, deep one that left her breathless when they parted. She licked her lips and lowered her eyes. She didn’t notice it when he was standing and his sweater hung low but now, with it bunched at his waist, she could see the faint outline of a swell pressed against his jeans.
“Okay, buckle up. We’ll be home in - Marinette!” She watched him nearly jump from his seat as her hand stroked the bulge against his thigh. His wide, blue eyes looked at her as his mouth dropped.
“Let me,” she said, her fingers gently dancing over the denim as she looked up at him. “It can’t be comfortable.”
He exhaled slowly and kept his hands on the wheel. “It can wait until we get back.” She caught the redness in his cheeks as he said that. “I mean, I’ll take care of it when we get back.”
She continued to caress him. She wanted to do this. This was her chance to make him feel what he made her feel in the lagoon.
“Luka, just lean back,” she said. “I want to do this for you.” She pulled the zipper down and spread apart the denim. Even with just the distant street light, she could make out the bulge pressing against his clothes. She hadn’t seen that when they were in the lagoon.
His breathing was shallow. He looked past her, towards the building they had come from. “At least let me drive further away...so no one comes out and sees us.”
He was already driving out of the parking lot, his pants unzipped and his pulsing member peeking from between the folds of his navy colored briefs. He drove them further out into the surrounding countryside and pulled over.
Marinette unclicked her seat belt and reached for his pants. He leaned back, reclining his seat and lifting his arms as Marinette’s small hands worked between his clothes. She pulled him out and cradled him in her one hand as she moved over him. His skin was hot to the touch and firm, and she could feel herself salivating as she lowered her head.
Maybe it had been too long since the last time she was with a man.
He groaned as her mouth sealed over the tip.
Then again, maybe she just wanted this man.
She grazed her teeth along the sensitive flesh as one hand slid further down and began to massage the base. She could hear Luka’s broken breathes above her as she licked the sides, tracing the thick veins with her tongue before bringing his entirety into her mouth.
“Oh, God....” He grabbed the back of her head, curling his fingers into her knit cap before tossing it against her chair and running his fingers through her thick, dark hair.
His nails scraped against her and she began to move her head up and down, sucking on the long, thick appendage as she worked it further back. His hips were arching upwards, trying to meet her as released him for a breath before welcoming him back in.
Her mouth was tight against him, squeezing him as her other hand followed, alternating between tightening and tugging. He kept her head down and he got deep. Her eyes began to water. He was hitting her throat, but she didn’t want to stop the rhythm. He was close. She could feel his muscles begin to contract. His hand pressed her head down and clawed into her tangled mess of hair.
She heard him groan as his hips jerked upwards. She felt him shoot hot into the back of her mouth and pulled her head back. She kept her mouth open to catch what she could as spurts of thick, white liquid hit her cheeks and lips.
Above her, Luka lifted an arm and draped it over his eyes as he panted. His face was red as his chest heaved. Marinette licked her lips and wiped the cum off her face with her fingers.
“Was it okay?” she asked, hopeful.
He lifted his arm and looked at her. He narrowed his eyes as he watched her lick him off her fingers, sliding her pink tongue between her pale skin. “Okay doesn’t begin to describe it.” He smiled. Luka reached across and wiped the corners of her eyes before stroking her sweat dampened hair back. “Was I too rough?”
She shook her head. “No,” she said as she leaned down one more and ran her tongue against his now half hard erection. “You were perfect.”
“Hmm....” His caresses were gentle once more. “Thanks.”
“Should I continue?” Marinette asked. She kissed his tip and he grinned.
“How about when we get back and cars aren’t passing us on the street.”
Color flooded her face. “Did someone see us?”
“Not with your head down there.” He leaned back against his seat. “Give me a minute and we’ll get going.”
“Take your time,” Marinette said. She tucked him back in with careful movements. “We have all night.”
“We only have all night,” he said. He looked back towards her with a thoughtful look. “You have to leave in the morning, Marinette. I want to make what time we have left count.”
There went her heart again, quickening with each sweet word that left his mouth. She rose and draped her arm around him. She nudged her head against his chest as his arm went around her shoulders to keep her close.
“How do you always know the right thing to say?”
She felt him laugh as he stroked the back of her head. “I don’t,” he said. “I just say what my heart says.”
Her chest tightened. “What does your heart say right now?”
“That I’m lucky.”
The door slammed shut as the motion activated hall lights turned on. He tossed their things aside, not caring where they landed on the floor. Marinette managed to kick off her boots as she walked backwards into the apartment, her fingers curled into Luka’s sweater as she held him close to keep her lips on his.
“Mmm...watch out,” he said between kisses as his arm shot out and closed an open cabinet door that was in their way. He returned to her anorak and tugged it off her, tossing it over the kitchen counter top as they passed. “Arms.”
She tore her red, swollen lips from his and raised her arms in the air. Luka grabbed the bottom of her sweater and shirt beneath and lifted them off her, pulling them over her head and arms before dropping it to the floor. She reached back to unlatch her bra as he shrugged off his own jacket and sweater.
He grabbed the black t-shirt underneath and lifted it up, over his head. He hadn’t even pulled it his arms through when she ran her hands against the side of his body and returned for a kiss. His shirt landed on the gray marled rug, covering her discarded pink bra.
“Luka....” She moaned his name as he cupped her butt and lifted her close. Her chest pressed against his as her arms wrapped around his neck.
His urgent, breathless voice rang against her ear. “Your room? My room?”
“I don’t care.”
“Then here is fine.”
They stumbled into the living area and only barely managed to avoid the guitars and amps. She heard the rustle of the vertical blinds as she walked back into them. Luka took a step back to undo his pants and Marinette took the chance to get out of hers. She pulled them off and hooked her thumbs around the sides of her panties.
Before she could pull them down, she was turned around and pressed against the cold glass of the balcony sliding door.
She gasped as the ice cold surface pressed against her hands and breasts. She could see the snow dusted balcony outside from the glow of the lamp in the courtyard below. All the balconies seemed to have gathered the first true snowfall of the season. Anyone could wander out to admire it.
Her heart shot to her throat. “Luka, what if someone sees us!”
“It’s late,” he said as he stood behind her, spreading her legs apart. “Everyone’s asleep.”
It’s true that she could only see one illuminated window and that was two stories below, but what if someone noticed the parted blinds and -
A hot, wet flick went her between the legs and all thoughts of any prospective voyeurs vanished in favor of the tongue tracing her wet entrance. She clawed the glass as she leaned against it. Her hot breath fogged the space beside her as a steady, slurping sound came from the man spreading her ass apart and tasting her.
She trembled as he inserted two fingers and drew them in and out. She was wet and she could hear an embarrassing sloshing sound as he confirmed she was. She moved her hips in protest. “Luka....” She wanted more than just this talented fingers.
“One sec....” He pulled out of her and she looked over her shoulder. He tore open a small foil square and slid the thin sleeve over himself. He leaned over and pulled her away from the glass, letting the blinds fall back into place as he turned her around. His hands took hold of the thin band of her underwear and hastily removed them. He moved closer and cupped her face, tilting her upwards to look at him. His eyes seemed to sparkle as he smiled.
She couldn’t help but blush. “What is it?”
“You’re amazing,” he said. “Still.”
He lifted her left leg and let it rest on the crook of his arm as he moved himself against her, positioning his tip against her near dripping entrance. Marinette bit her lip and braced herself.
The feeling of him sliding into her and slowly filling her made her eyes roll back and shut.
As he began to move forward and back, dragging himself in and out, she raised her arms and hooked them around the back of his neck. She leaned forward and buried her flushed, red face against his shoulder as she bounced against him. The angle was perfect and with each thrust and pull, he ran against her sensitive little pink nub.
She groaned out his name, begging him to go faster. She wanted that hot, burning feeling to fill her with each movement, just like at the lagoon.
She barely felt his other arm reach beneath her other leg and scoop her up, carrying her against him and moving her up and down. The friction was building up and she tilted her head upwards, parting her lips in an invitation for a kiss.
He seemed to almost devour her. His kiss was aggressive and hungry, laced with an unforeseen desire, but welcomed. She heard the crash of the blinds once more as she fell back against the balcony doors with Luka still between her legs.
His hands slid against those legs and brought them over his hips. She wrapped them around him, refusing to let him go as he ground himself into her. The feeling was almost as suffocating as it was pleasurable; a larger, firm body hot against hers as his mouth trailed down her chin to the base of her neck.
Marinette’s pale, manicured fingers dragged across his shoulders as he pinned her against the window, his arms on either side of her, bracing himself as he shoved her against the cold, hard glass over and over with each hard thrust.
His breathing was short and ragged against her ear, matching the rhythm of his movements as the heat grew and grew. The burning gratification was nearing its peak and she squeezed her legs around him.
She could feel the familiar tightness in her abdomen.
Her entire body was on fire.
One more thrust hit her and it sent her over the edge. A wave of blinding ecstasy coursed over her as she clung to him, crying out over his shoulder.
Her arms felt weak as her legs trembled. The area between her legs was pulsing around him as muscles twitched.
She didn’t notice him carry her back to the couch with her legs still wrapped around his waist. He fell back against the cushions and she collapsed, straddled on top of him, gasping for air as her mini convulsions continued.
A hand stroked from the top of her head to the center of her back, slow and gentle. It was unlike the rough, unrestrained movements just seconds earlier that made her shudder with pleasure at the memory.
She rested the side of her head against his shoulder, her sweat trickling down her temples. She brought her arm down, over to his chest and pressed her palm against it. His racing heart was calming down, too.
“No regrets?” he asked. She closed her eyes and nuzzled her head beneath his.
“Not any more.”
The sun wouldn’t raise for another several hours and by the time it did, she’d be boarding her plane back home, to Paris. Twelve hours ago, she wanted to be in her seat, flying to a sprawling city and the life awaiting her there. Now, she didn’t want to leave the soft bed that smelled of sweat, perfume, and cologne.
She wanted to stay with his arm around her while laying naked across him, her head tucked under his. She could hear the steady beat of his heart against her ear and the rhythm calmed her. With him, the weight of the truth of the fall of her first real relationship was taken off her shoulders and she felt light and relaxed for the first time in a long while. She didn’t need to worry about slipping or putting on an interested look when a friend spoke about the man who broke her heart.
For a brief few, blissful hours, Marinette was free.
But one accidental glance at her phone charging on Luka’s nightstand reminded her that in ten minutes, their alarms would go off and it would begin their parting.
“Are you okay?” She didn’t realize he was awake. Marinette lifted her head as his hand stroked her tangled dark hair over her pale shoulder. He turned towards her, his eyes squinting in the dark bedroom. She could make out his thin lips frowning. “What’s wrong?”
His fingertips caressed the side of her face and she closed her eyes to enjoy the feeling. “Nothing,” she said. “I just know I’m going to ache a bit. It’s been a while....”
She felt his chest vibrate beneath her as he chuckled. “I’m sorry if I was too rough.”
“Mmm....” She buried her face against his chest. “No, I liked it.” Her voice was muffled against him. Her arm tightened around his stomach as she kissed his collar. “Thank you. For picking me up and feeding me and giving me a place to stay.” She lifted her eyes to meet his. “Thank you for everything.”
His face softened as he held her gaze. “I wanted to come get you...to hang out, take you aurora hunting. Everything.” He leaned down and kissed her, lingering for just a second or two longer. “ Everything .”
She remained holding on to him beneath the warm blankets. Everywhere his skin touched hers tingled, but it didn’t fight off the dread that filled her knowing that morning was coming.
They said nothing as they laid there, relishing each other’s company until their phones simultaneously went off.
It was time to get up.
Luke rose first, telling her to take a nice, hot shower while he made breakfast. He walked naked to a wardrobe across the floor and fished out some clothes before slipping out into the hall, barefoot.
Marinette was left alone in bed and sat up. She curled her legs up and wrapped her arms around her knees. She buried her face against them as she choked back a pained, shaking cry. She didn’t want it to be over.
The fresh new pain in her heart seemed to constrict her breathing as she tried to take deep breaths to calm herself. This was her choice. She wanted to be with him, even if it was for just one night. And it was a wonderful night. There were no regrets.
The way he touched her. The way he said her name. The way he looked at her.
The way he made her feel .
Oh, God, how she wanted to make him feel the same. She wanted to deserve him; that wonderful man who she believed loved her like a friend, but made her feel like he was in love with her. She’d forgotten how that felt.
But she wasn’t so naive as to think that one reunion and a satisfying night, after several years, was enough to make him fall in love with her. He was a popular man. He had his own fan club and everything. He could have anyone; be anyone else’s first choice. Who knew who else he shared that very bed with before - and would after - her?
She shut her eyes tight and grit her teeth. She refused to think about that. That night, he was hers and hers alone and she would treasure that memory as much as she did any picture of the northern lights, if not more.
Luka had given her everything she needed while she was there. He was under no obligation to give her more.
Marinette kicked off the blankets and wiped at her eyes. She stood up and headed to the bathroom to shower. When she came out, dressed and ready to go, breakfast was made and Luka urged her to eat while he changed. She smiled and thanked him again, hiding her disappointment that she wouldn’t even get to share the meal with him.
Not an hour later, they were in the car, driving to the airport. Music was playing and he was back to talking about the collaboration project and recording it. It was just like when he picked her up, except she knew what they did in the car the night before and could still remember his hands running through her hair as he groaned and shifted in his leather seat.
She tried not to look at the driver’s seat and focused her eyes outside. Marinette nodded and interjected a ‘yes’ or ‘really’ or some other word to reassure him she was listening as he talked, despite her mind being elsewhere.
She wanted to ask him ‘now what’? She wanted to know if he’d like to see her again or if it was just once and they were to remain friends. She wanted to know if he still wanted to wait for her until she was ready. It was something she hoped for, but couldn’t and wouldn’t force him to. He was free to make his own decision, just as he always let her make hers.
“Oh, man, looks like you aren’t the only one who got delayed yesterday,” Luka said. Marinette tore her eyes away from her pale reflection in the side mirror and looked out the window. There were definitely more people looking to depart than yesterday. “I guess a lot of people went back to get a hotel for the night.”
“Better than sleeping at the airport,” she heard herself answer. Luka parked his car and as he reached for his seat belt, her hand flew out and stopped him. He looked up.
She stared at her hand for a moment before pulling it away. “Sorry,” she said, moving to her own belt buckle. “Grabbed the wrong one, heh....” It clicked and released. As she turned to the door handle, his hand took hers.
“No,” he said. She turned back to him and saw his blue eyes fixed on hers. “Don’t hold yourself back again, Marinette. If it’s important to you, tell me.”
She bit her lips and shook her head. “It’s fine,” she said in a quiet voice. “I just...I had a great time with you. I almost don’t want it to end....”
His look softened and she swore she saw a glint of relief in his eyes. “I don’t either.”
“Is that bad?” he asked, his voice hesitant.
“No, no, it’s just....” She struggled to put her concern into words. As she looked down at her lap, her shoulders slumped down and her eyes dampened. “You’re so great, Luka. You always were and I...I never even gave you a chance. I don’t want this to end, but I also don’t want to take advantage of your kindness.”
“You’re not...and I’ve never felt like you were,” Luka said. He cupped her face and gingerly tilted her face towards him. “Marinette, I’m a firm believer of second chances. Sometimes, things don’t work out the way we want them to the first time, so we if we’re given a second chance, why shouldn’t we try?”
She sniffled and tried to keep from crying. “Do you think this is a second chance?”
“I didn’t set the bracelet, but yeah. It’s been five years since I last saw you and suddenly, your flight is delayed and puts us in front of each other again. It’s a coincidence, but didn’t I say we were lucky?” He gave her a hopeful smile and she giggled. Maybe he was right.
She wiped at her eyes. “You don’t have the bracelet on you anyway.”
“Well, next time you see Sass, you can tell him that we made a second chance work anyway.”
She opened her mouth to tell him she’d be sure to drop by and let the kwami know when his words hit her. She froze in her seat and stared at him.
“Wait, what?” She drew her arms back and leaned away from him. “Who’s Sass? What are you talking about?”
He grinned just a bit and gave her a knowing look. “Marinette,” he said. “It’s okay, I won’t tell anyone.”
“Tell anyone what? What are you talking about, Luka? Haha, who’s Sass?” She began to ramble and Luka just sat there, waiting for her to finish. When his relaxed expression didn’t falter, it dawned on her that there was no way she could stumble out an excuse plausible enough and let out a low, defeated sigh. She dropped her head. “How long?”
“I kind of had a feeling since Mom was akumatized.”
“And then when I was akumatized, your noticed voices were the same. That was probably what gave it away to me.”
Marinette buried her face in her hands and groaned. “No....I can’t believe it....”
“I was sure when you gave me the snake Miraculous the first time. Why would Ladybug give something so important to a stranger? You must’ve known who I was before then. And the way you were kind of fawning over Adrien....”
She groaned once more. “Please don’t bring that up.”
She heard him laugh and felt his hand stroke the side of her head. She gathered her strength to look up and meet his eyes after being so mortified that he knew.
“Marinette, do you remember what I told you all those years ago, in that sound stage before my first on air performance?” he asked.
How could she not? It was the first time that someone confessed to her - to clumsy, rambling Marinette .
A hot flush filled her face as she nodded. “As clear as music note. Sincere as a melody.”
“Yeah.” He leaned forward and kissed her, soft and sweet, on the lips. “And it’s been in my head all over again the moment you picked up the phone.”
She drew her head back and crinkled her eyes. “What are you saying?”
“That I want to keep listening if you’ll let me.” She opened her mouth, but nothing came out. As if seeing her uncertainty in her face, Luka smiled once more. “Marinette, I want to see you again.”
“Really?” she asked. “Even...even though I don’t deserve you?”
He looked taken aback. “Deserve me? Marinette, you don’t deserve another person. Just ask yourself if you want to be with them.” He gave her a hopeful look. “Do you?”
She nodded her head. “Yes. Yes, I want to see you again.”
“Then we’ll see each other again.” He brought her hand to his lips and kissed the back of her fingers. “Why don’t we start when you land and give me a call to let me know you’ve arrived safely?”
She squeaked out an answer, as if afraid the wrong one would have him change his mind. “Okay.”
“Okay.” He gave her a broad smile and released her hand. As he got out of the car to pull her luggage out, Marinette let out the breath she was holding in.
As his words settled, a wide smile filled her face. That magical night in Iceland wasn’t ending at all.
She jumped out of the car and met Luka beside it. As he maneuvered her luggage and bag over to her, she reached out to embrace him. He pulled her close and kissed her once more on the lips before pressing his against the side of her head.
Marinette buried her face against the crook of his neck and the blue scarf that smelled like the cologne she’d grown fond of. Her fingers dug into his jacket as he stroked her back.
“Anytime.” She pulled away and wiped at the corners of her eyes. She felt something around her neck and looked to see him adjust his scarf around her. “To keep you warm for me.” He kissed her forehead as he stepped back. “Have a safe flight, Marinette.”
She took hold of her luggage and nodded. She pulled it on the curb and just as she heard him open his door, she turned around.
“Luka!” He stopped and looked up, over the top of the car, with a questioning look. She tightened her hands on her luggage. “ À bientôt. ”
He smiled once more and brought his fingers to his lips. He seemed to send a kiss in her direction and despite herself, she blushed. He gave her a little wink. “ À bientôt, Marinette.”
She headed into the airport, occasionally looking back. Luka didn’t leave until she was inside.
Once more, she approached the check in counter and handed a young woman her passport.
“Miss Dupain-Cheng,” the woman said. “Thank you for being so patient with us. You must be ready to go home.”
Marinette smiled, feeling surprisingly satisfied as her hand rose and touched the blue scarf wrapped around her. “Yes. I’m ready.”
What was he doing?
Why was standing in front of a building, staring up at the third floor like an idiot?
Adrien played with the bouquet of pink flowers in his hands. He took a deep breath and pressed the numbers for the lower door into the keypad. Nino had managed to get it from Alya and slid it across to him after their lunch yesterday.
It had been several years since he contacted Marinette and, unable to contact her after being blocked and too embarrassed to seek help from their mutual friends, he decided go to see her in person and try to mend their friendship.
Marinette had been one of his first and closest friends, and it always bothered him how they were unable to stay friends after their break up. He knew she still cared; she didn’t tell their friends the real reason they broke up, though he insisted it was his fault. Everyone believed he was just talking about his schedule.
He couldn’t fault her for cutting him off. He knew how much he meant to her. He knew how much she loved him. It was painful to even look at him and he willingly gave her space.
Two and a half years was enough space, wasn’t it?
Perhaps she could come to see him as a friend again?
He most definitely wasn’t crawling back to her after having his own heart broken by Ladybug.
“To be friends again,” he said, as if to convince himself before stepping into the lobby. He looked at his watch. She should be home at that time. Nino said she was busy, but was giving herself a small break after the New Year. If Adrien was going to catch her and talk to her, now was the time.
As he walked up the stairs, he began to rehearse his words in his head. First, a greeting, then he’d ask to come in and talk. If she said no, he’d just give her the flowers and tell her he was sorry and hoped they could be friends again one day.
After she blocked him when he revealed that he was - still - in love with someone else, he assumed she didn’t want to talk to him, and he couldn’t blame her after breaking her heart. It was the most difficult thing he’d ever had to do, but he was convinced it was for the best. He loved Marinette, even if he wasn’t in love with her. He couldn’t continue to lead her on when his heart still belonged to someone else.
Someone he ran into a few nights earlier who, when asked what they were doing New Years Eve, said “Nothing much. My boyfriend’s in town, so we’re spending it together.”
Ladybug had blushed beneath her scarlet mask and had a dreamy look on her face as his heart sank.
“Boyfriend?” His voice almost broke as dejection filled him. Since when? She hadn’t mentioned one in a while; not since some idiot broke her heart a few years earlier. “I didn’t know you were seeing anyone again....” The ache had almost been too much.
The blush and thoughtful smile didn’t leave Ladybug’s face. She looked almost proud. It made him feel even worse. “We were friends when we were younger and reconnected.... He’s always traveling, but is moving back to Paris, so he’s staying at my place while he’s arranging things. I’m kind of hoping he’ll move in with me. We’ve talked it over and are planning to tell our friends and family about us soon.”
“Oh....” Chat Noir wanted to jump off the tower that moment. Moving in together was a serious step. He’d done it once before as he thought it was a normal progression in a relationship. Marinette had been so excited and his father even commented that his flat would be acceptable to start a family. That implied marriage...was Ladybug going to get married? “That’s great....” His hand had tightened around his extended staff as the thought tore at heart. “What’s he like?”
“He’s very caring and patient...wise beyond his years and brave enough to take a chance.” Ladybug trailed off. She smiled a bit. “And he loves me.” She looked at him with such an elated expression that Chat Noir wished that he had been the one to make her smile that way. “Not Ladybug...just the girl under the mask.”
That was who she was. Ladybug was just her mask and while he knew a lot about her, he didn’t know who the lady was that wore the red and black. He never felt so lacking.
“Does he know?”
She drew her lips inwards and smiled. “Even if he did, it doesn’t matter. Actually, you’ve met him before.”
His eyes probably doubled in size. “I have?”
Ladybug giggled and nodded. “It was a long time ago.” He racked his brain. He’d met so many people in his life, even just as Chat Noir.
“Did we save him once?” That could be anyone. “Was he akumatized?” Once again, that could be anyone. He couldn’t remember every single person they’d ever come across fighting.
Ladybug just held a finger to her lips. “Yes and yes.” Her earring began to beep, signaling that she was going to detransform soon. “That’s my cue, Chat! Have a great New Year!”
She swung off the tower and Chat Noir remained standing numb on the metal beam until he detransformed.
Ladybug had a boyfriend who loved her and she very clearly loved back.
And it killed him.
He almost didn’t want to transform and fight alongside her earlier that day; his heart still aching from the revelation. However, Chat Noir’s duty came before Adrien Agreste’s heart. He’d learned that before and forced himself to acknowledge it once more.
He did his best to pretend that nothing was wrong. He tried to act like his usual charming, witty self, but as she mentioned getting home early for dinner, he had deflated and nearly missed his call to cataclysm a support beam. Ladybug yelled at him and he apologized. She sighed and just told him to pay closer attention next time.
When he transformed back, he made the decision to go through with what he had hoped to do the last few weeks and make-up with his once good friend, Marinette.
Maybe it was the heartbreak driving him or the crippling loneliness he felt during those nights away from home and missing the welcoming environment she created when she was around. Maybe it was the guilt and the desire to ‘make everything better’ by being friends with her again. Whatever the reason, it now brought him to her doorstep.
Adrien took a deep breath. His hand tightened around the bouquet as he took out his phone and checked himself in the front facing camera. He looked fine. Hair was in place. Clothes looked good.
He double checked the number of the flat and then knocked on Marinetten’s door.
He heard some muffled footsteps approaching the door and held his breath. The locks were undone and a click sounded as the door was pulled open.
Wide blue eyes looked at him with surprise. “Adrien?”
His blood ran cold.
“Luka?” The words spilled from his mouth before he could stop them. “What are you doing here?”