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“Oh Alya!” Marinette flopped onto her friend’s bed face down, groaning loudly into her pillow. “It was so bad .”

She sat down next to her, slipping out her phone to check the Ladyblog. “It couldn’t have been that bad. I thought you were gonna give him a letter?”

Marinette flipped onto her back like a walrus and sounded like one too. “ Aaaahahaaaaaa. It wasn’t even just that! First, I tripped going up the stairs. Who even trips up the stairs? Second, I dropped all of my papers so I had to find it. And then of course Chloe found some of my designs and started making fun of them. By the time I could give it to Adrien, I was so embarrassed that I just gave it to him and ran away. When I checked my bag, I saw that I gave him the wrong paper again!

Alya put down the phone in her nightstand. “Marinette...” Her friend started crying, facing the wall with her back to her. Marinette’s heart felt heavy in her chest, and breathing felt difficult and draining. Yet she couldn’t stop herself from crying harder. “I’m going to take it that this isn’t just about Adrien?” Alya placed a hand on her arm, running her fingers down from her shoulder to her hand. Gripping it well, she scooted closer to Marinette. “Do you wanna talk about it?”

“It’s just,” Marinette said wiping away some tears, “no matter what I do, nothing works. Chloe makes fun of me. I make a fool of myself. And Adrien just... he only sees me as a good friend. That’s it. I can’t even talk to him like a normal person. I’m even worse around him. The fact that everyone but him can see it means that... that... that Adrien won’t like me back.”

“That’s not true—”

Marinette sat up in bed. “Yes it is, Alya!” She sniffled a bit more. “Adrien’s said it himself that he likes someone else! And I love him so much but I can’t even do anything right for it. I’m just a loser.”

“No, you are not.” Alya held her by the shoulders, looking straight in the face said, “Mari, you are an amazing girl and just because Adrien can’t see that doesn’t mean you’re a loser. If anything, Adrien is losing an opportunity for happiness. Maybe you can take a break from the whole love game. Like just let things settle down and see what happens. Then if Adrien doesn’t speak up... well we can figure things out from there.”

“I don’t know about that, Alya...”

She shook Marinette, insisting, “Just rest for a bit. It’s the start of spring break so you don’t have to see him everyday. Just take a breather and clear your head.”

Wiping the tears from her cheeks, Marinette sighed. Adrien was just so kind and caring. The day he gave her his umbrella, she couldn’t think straight around him. Other girls love the image of him, but Marinette... Marinette loved him because he’s wonderful. But everyone also thought like that too, didn’t they? The only thing that made her different was that she was his friend, but Kagami was also his friend and she seemed to be a lot closer to him... 

Who was she kidding? She wasn’t special to Adrien anymore than Kagami or Chloe or maybe even Lila. Did Adrien even think of her outside of seeing each other? He swirled in her mind like sugar in a cotton candy machine and everyone wanted a piece of it. Once she reached for him, she would only get wound up in him.

“Should we have a girls night?” Alya asked.

Marinette gave it a thought and said, “No... I think I’m good. I’m gonna go on a walk for some fresh air.”

“Do you want me to come?”

“It’s okay. I think I’ll have some alone time.” Slowly, Marinette crept off her bed and grabbed her backpack. “I’ll see you later, Alya.”

 

Marinette walked past her house, not sparing it a glance, and turned the corner. Paris was beginning to warm up for spring. Flowers were budding and blooming in her favorite color. Even when the sunshine reached her cheeks, she felt cold inside. The negativity weighed heavy on her heart, something she knew was dangerous. With Hawkmoth around, she tried to keep herself up, but her heart felt so low.

Walking down the side of the Seine, she focused on breathing, putting herself in the moment and out of her head. The water gently swayed while the wind blew through branches. The weaker flowers flew in the breeze and fell in the water like little lily pads. Somewhere down the river, someone was playing a guitar. Marinette could almost hear humming, but it was lost in nature and city life. 

Then Marinette squinted her eyes and on the horizon, she could see the Couffaine’s ship docked down the waterway. On the deck rails, Luka sat with his legs dangling over the side. His guitar rested on his lap while his fingers expertly glided over each string. Her heavy trudging became lighter footsteps, instinctively brightening with the music before she stopped in her tracks. Her heart was doing lazy somersaults into her stomach. The feeling was somewhere between nauseous and... a sense of je ne sais quoi. She didn’t know if it was a good or bad thing.

“Hey, Marinette.”

She jumped back, almost tripping. Luka looked down her way with a gentle smile. Her cheeks warmed harshly while she smiled back in a thin pursed smile. She wouldn’t call what she felt on her face a smile, but she was really hoping it was. “ Heeeey Lu-,” she choked, “ka... What are you doing out here? Not like you can’t be, but um just wondering.”

“Come closer and I can show you.” He swung his legs over the rails before she thought to object. 

She could’ve bolted the other way, but she would’ve tripped and maybe even fallen into the water. Also, she felt it would be a jerky move. She groaned to herself before walking to the boat.

Luka kicked over the bridge for her, and held his hand out when she approached. Marinette dazedly reached for his hand, softly gripping his. He, however, held her hand tightly and firmly. “Your heart is singing such a sad song, Marinette. Is everything alright?”

No.

“Yeah, I’m okay. Just a bit tired. Is Juleka home too?”

“No, she’s out with Mom getting groceries.” Luka didn’t let go of her hand. They also didn’t head back to the head of the ship. He helped her through the clutter that was slowly being sorted through. She could see more of the floorboards than the last time Kitty Section was practicing here. He took her to the living room, right in front of the stage set up. “Here.” He guided her to the couch while he took an armchair next to her. “You look a bit worn out. Is everything okay?”

Luka listened to her heart’s tune like a music box. He got her wound up, but she didn’t want to play out loud even when he already knows the melody she was keeping inside. Marinette forgot they were still holding hands until Luka let go to grip his guitar.

“Are you going to play what my heart sounds like now?”

“You don’t want me to?” He chuckled. It was a cute laugh. “How about I play a song for you instead?”

Marinette kept the opposition on the tip of her tongue, and quietly watched as Luka strummed. It wasn’t anything Kitty Section played nor did it sound like something they would play. Sometimes she forgot how soft his sound could be. He may not have been playing her song, but she could feel her heart racing against it. If there was a way to describe it in her limited musical vocabulary, it was like biting into the perfectly balanced airy macaron in your favorite flavor. It’s like hearing everything that she’s ever needed to. 

He fell into the music, shutting his eyes and playing from feeling. It was slow and deep. The kind of music that thrummed inside of you and tingled your fingertips and toes. Kitty Section wouldn’t play this. She knew every bit was pure Luka, and just for one person. The intimacy made it beautiful. And quietly, he was humming along.

When the music stopped, the river felt so far away. The moment engulfed her. Luka opened his eyes, meeting hers with soft warmth like a candle she needed to shelter from even the softest breath.

Marinette spoke softly. “That was amazing. I don’t think I’ve heard you play that.”

“That’s because I just wrote it today. Well, I finished composing it today.” He set the guitar aside and took both her hands in his. “I really wanted someone to hear it so when I saw you walking down the way, I knew it was fate.”

Her heart was singing, and she was urging it to stop. No boys. Not right now. But Luka, she knew, actually liked her if she wasn’t crazy and remembered his words correctly and didn’t jump the gun. “It does feel like that, doesn’t it?” She whispered. “Does it have any lyrics?”

Luka laughed again. “I’m working on it. I must admit I’m a better composer than a lyricist. However, I think I have a verse if you wanna hear that too.”

“Are you gonna sing it?” She shifted in her seat closer towards him.

He responded by sitting back, grabbing his guitar, and playing the song again. 

Well I’m right here, whenever you need me. I’ll be standing by to catch you when you fall. I’m not your number one, no I won’t be. But for you I’ll try. I’ll stay right next to you, standby. ” The song stopped sharply. “It’s not very good—”

“No!” Marinette grabbed his hands. “It’s really good. I like it.” 

Wide-eyed, Luka said nothing at first but took one of her hands and kissed it. To call what sound she made a squeal was to put it lightly. “Thank you. Thank you for being the first person to listen to my song. I want you to be the first one to hear the completed song as well. If that’s okay.” She nodded. “You’re an amazing girl, Marinette. You deserve to smile more like this.”

With her cheeks on fire, she could only muster up babbling. “I, um, uh, eh, I’d love you to hear your song. Another time, of course. I should be getting home now.” She dropped his hands and tripped through the clutter. As she stepped onto the pavement, Juleka and Ms. Couffaine was walking towards her. Marinette waved and started walking home, the song stuck in her head the whole way.

 

“Hey, Mamamarinette,” Luka said from the deck the next day. “Back for another verse?”

Juleka welcomed Marinette aboard, and despite it being a nice, sunny day excused herself in favor of the lower deck after helping her on.

Why did she come back? After she woke up and had breakfast, she grabbed her purse and started walking.  Down the road, down some stairs... with the flow of the river. The wind guided each step back to him.

“Maybe,” she said with little confidence. She walked up the steps to the bow, meeting Luka where he sat on the railing. “Or... maybe we could see what fate has in store?” She could just imagine Tikki groaning in the pouch. It was so cheesy. It was like saying his eyes were as beautiful and blue as the morning sky when the clouds parted, and Marinette was finally getting to see the sun.

He let out a small, amused laugh. “That sounds perfect.”

 

Chapter Text

Marinette was getting ready to leave, but stopped halfway down the stairs when her phone vibrated.

Luka

Do you mind coming later today?

Are you free tonight?

Marinette was never really “free” but this week it was like Hawkmoth had dropped off the face of the Earth. While the peace was nice, it was a little weird. She had so much free time that she hadn’t experienced since becoming Ladybug. Though she was spending every moment of it the best she could.

Marinette

Sure

Something come up?

Luka

Surprise

She slowly made her way into the bakery while texting and almost tripped on some flour bags. Her dad caught her before she could faceplant. “Honey, you should always look where you’re going. Don’t text your friends while walking, okay?”

“Thanks, Dad,” she smiled sheepishly. There was a three-tiered cake nicely assembled on the counter next to them with bowls of icing, decorations, and even macarons. “Are you gonna put macarons on that cake?”

The cake was huge and chocolate flavored. Most of the icing was white, but there were some pink and blue bowls ready to be bagged and piped. The macarons were mint with either pink or blue polka dots. They were very cute.

Looking proud, her dad explained what his current project was. “I’m making a wedding cake for a nice couple who are getting married tonight. The wonderful bride had a cake design in mind, and so we worked together to make it just right. I just have to finish decorating. Someone will come later today to pick it up. Do you wanna help me?”

He had such a twinkle in his eye that Marinette was glad Luka postponed the day. She placed her bag by the door and rolled up her sleeves. “I’d love to help, dad."

He brought out a sketch of the cake design, and a tingle of excitement crawled up her arms. It was intricate and beautiful. There was a subtle balance of color that grew vibrant where it met the statuettes on top. Marinette absolutely adored it.

She used to imagine that her and Adrien’s wedding cake would be handmade by her and her dad. If she wasn’t in love with designing clothes, she would happily take after her dad and design cakes as well. It was a delicate balance of flavor and aesthetic to enhance to experience. Her inspiration and imagination was kicked into gear and started thinking about her future wedding cake.

In her mind, the cake always had a mirror glaze so that when they looked at the cake they could see their happy gazes as they cut the cake. That image wasn’t coming to mind now though. It was a smooth two layered cake. There were blue streaks in the white icing and silver flakes inlaid. She could envision fluffy peaks of blue icing roses with silver sparkles like vines streaming down the side. When she had the full new idea for a cake, she couldn’t even remember what her previous imagination looked like.

 


 

The sun was setting when Luka texted her again.

Luka

Feel free to head over whenever

I’m about done

Marinette

Okay!

Give me like 20min

As quick as she could slip on a jacket and shoes, Marinette found herself on the path to the Seine. Although, it was the first time she was walking down at night. Luka always wanted her to get home safe so by sunset he would walk her home halfway. She didn’t have a problem staying out at night or not. The streets were well lit and even without superpowers, she could run home quickly no problem. She had enough experience as Ladybug to keep her safe even through her clumsiness.

It was actually a little surprising that he wanted her to come at night. She kept the question of why at the back of her head, held at bay by excitement that was hardly contained. With light, quick footsteps, she glided through the lights of the streetlamps. It wasn’t like wandering down roads hoping they haven’t moved docks anymore. Every step forward was certain and familiar while seeing things from a different view. 

Their boat seemed the glow in the distance, and she picked up her pace at the sight of it. When she was close enough, she saw that fairy lights were the reason why. They were strung along the railing and the cabins on deck. The spotlights from Kitty Section’s stage were focused on an empty stage. The deck was unexpectedly clean as well. Marinette glanced around trying to find anyone who might be coming as well for such an elaborate set up.

Someone cleared their throat and Marinette set her gaze upwards to the deck. With lights so bright, Luka looked like an angel wearing a blue halo reaching out for her. “Looking for someone?”

“Uh.” She took a second glance around. “Is something special happening?”

Luka helped her on board, and she nearly tripped onto him. Gracefully, he led her back onto her feet and then to the stage. There were pillows and a blanket laid out on the floor in front, and she was ushered to take a seat. “Yep,” he replied. His guitar was neatly set up on a stand just outside the ring of light. Luka walked over to take it. “We’re having a concert.” 

He surprised her by plugging in his guitar. By the looks of it, she thought it was just a normal acoustic guitar. She followed him with wide eyes as he pulled out a mic and stand from the abyss beyond the sight of the spotlight. “Artist: me. Audience of one.” He tapped on the microphone to hear the feedback. “I know I usually ask if plans are okay with you beforehand, but I really wanted to do this. I hope you can forgive me.”

Marinette was speechless. Her face must’ve been red. She just knew it. If she opened her mouth, it would be nothing but incoherent babble. Don’t say anything. Don’t sound like a fool. Though, a fool was probably what she was becoming. No boys this break she promised Alya, but fate pulled hard on red strings to bring her to this moment.

“What are you gonna play?” she managed to say.

“Our song.” He strummed across all the strings once. “The one you inspired me to write. I want you to be the first person to listen.” When he smiled, she lost all sense and simply nodded.

Over the week, he’d play her the song over and over again. She heard the lyrics only as muddled melodic humming and mumbling until then. The only thing he was confident in singing loudly was the chorus though it changed a few times. Instinctively, she leaned forward in anticipation.

The first few notes were noticeably clumsier than before, but in no time he was back in his rhythm. Soft yet strong music filled the air, unaccompanied by his voice. She knew many seconds he planned between the beginning and his voice and she silently counted down. Five. Four. Three... Two...

"You and me. Could be one of a kind.

I’d be your one and only superman if you need me to.

Take you dancing all night long and say I love you too.

Your subtle smile. Your bright eyes.

They could be mine.

Only you, I’d fall and fall for only you.

I’m right here, whenever you need me.

I’ll be standing by to catch you if you fall.

I’m not your number one.

Oh, I don’t think I’ll be.

But for you I’ll try.

I’ll stay right next to you, standing by."

Blood rushed into her cheeks as he sang. His voice was smooth and hypnotic, reverberating through her body. Was she crying? Everything felt warm. Her attention didn’t waver as he sang the next verse then the chorus. In his face, the emotions couldn’t be contained. Was it passion? But why did it feel so lonely? He couldn’t meet her eyes even during the break after the chorus and the bridge.

“Spare me one last glance. Let me know it’s not a losing battle. I’ll be fighting for eternity. Only you. For me and you, I’ll be standing by.”

Yeah. Marinette was crying. Small teardrops turned into gushing waterfalls overpowered by the emotion of the guitar. It was so lonely. Every string was begging her to do something. Do something right. Every note he played felt like everything she needed to hear and any and all pent up frustrations were collapsing inside of her. It seemed that was the same for him.

When the music stopped, Luka was panting softly into the microphone like someone who’d finished crying. Marinette tried to stop the tears but her eyes were still wet. If she could feel her legs, she’d stand up and hug him. She was afraid that if she stood, she’d fall for him instantly.

“Marinette.” Oh god, please don’t say her name. She was crumbling and falling apart. Her brain was doing loops and cartwheels so all her thoughts were jumbled. His voice was the hand trying to put her back together and started at the heart. He mended her with bits of his own heart so she’d never be without him. He fixed her with pieces she didn’t know she needed.

Suddenly, he was wiping off the trails left behind by the tears with his sleeves. 

“Marinette,” he repeated. “I’m sorry for doing this so suddenly. That wasn’t fair of me. I just knew how down you were, and I wanted to do something to make you feel better. But then I started writing this, and I couldn’t stop the words from coming out and now I can’t tell if I helped you but...” Softly, his hand cupped her cheek and pulled her gaze up to him. His eyes looked wet too. “I just love you too much to stand by and let you hurt.”

Love. Loving her. No one would want to, right? Adrien couldn’t even tell that she loved him despite everything she tried, and yet Luka would be right next to her and without trying he says he fell in love with her. Love was a confusing thing that snuck up to her and yanked her every which way. Now it pulled her back and dropped her onto Luka. Love was confusing and cruel and she didn’t know if she could trust it.

But Luka was still there, patiently waiting for her. “You don’t have to say anything. I can wait for when you’re ready. I’m the one who sprung it onto you. I just wanted you to know that I’ll be here no matter what—”

Marinette cried into his shirt, desperately holding on, and Luka let her. Settling on the floor next to her, he held her. It was a sweet moment that she was ruining with ugly tears and mucus, but she couldn’t stop. 

In the quiet night, all she could hear was Luka’s heartbeat. A beautiful song she hadn’t appreciated until now.

Chapter Text

The world stopped for no one, and Marinette had to get up the next day like she’d slept the whole night through. She looked just as exhausted as the nights where there were restless akumas so hopefully no one would notice anything. Though Alya might. She was observant to a fault. She had been in Spain the whole week so she had much to catch up on which she could probably tell from a glance and a hug.

Marinette trudged down the street and rather miraculously not being hit by cars with her head in the fog. What was she thinking? All of her thoughts were muddled, and tangled like a pair of earbuds. She shook her head, but they wouldn’t come undone. Heavily, she took up the stairs to her classroom. There were only a handful of people there, and thankfully it was the ones she was happy to see.

Alya hugged her the instant she saw her, and Marinette thought she could cry. Though, maybe she couldn’t do that in front of Nino. For her privacy and Nino’s sanity. Alya held her tightly and quietly before excusing themselves from the classroom. Until they made it to the girl’s restroom, Marinette tried her best to appear calm and collected. Once the door closed behind them, Marinette went in for another hug.

Marinette sighed heavily. “I have so much to fill you in on.”

She started with what happened right after she had left Alya’s place. How she made the same trip every day down the Seine. How Luka made her feel so high and inspired that she churned out a fashion line. How it felt like nothing else to be alone with him. And how hard reality fell onto her when she had to come to terms with Luka’s affections. She felt like crap taking advantage of his kindness when she knew he liked her, but everything felt right despite it all being wrong.

Alya mulled it over in her head silently while Marinette finished her story. The weight on her chest felt just the slightest degree lighter having been shared with one person. Marinette would’ve loved for nothing more than for someone to direct her to the right path. Fate had pulled her to this spot, but now the line has gone cold. It left her with a little red string that she was too afraid to find the other end of. 

“That’s...” Alya sighed. “I don’t even know where to begin.” She looked Marinette in her wide eyes, and spoke honestly. “I guess the most important thing is, do you like him? It’s okay if the answer is ‘I don’t know.’ It’s a starting point.”

Marinette opened and closed her mouth so many times it was like she was talking in silence. It was almost painful to say, “I think so.” She quickly followed it with, “I don’t not like him, but I just... I don’t know. It’s hard to think of liking someone that isn’t Adrien. I spent so much time thinking that I’d live the rest of my life with him even though that’s just delusional, but switching from that...” She looked down. Her restless hands ran up and down her own arms in a feeble hug. “It scares me.”

Alya made an acknowledging noise. “Okay. That’s definitely a valid and smart starting point. Follow up question.” She waited a beat before she asked, “do you still like Adrien?”

And that was the question Marinette dreaded the most. New possibilities and adventures came readily to her, and that was part of what made her Ladybug. But now she was looking into her foundation. She’d liked him for god knows how long and was content in her daydreams of their forever, but just one week had shaken that down to shambles. Now the question was, did she want to fix it?

“I... don’t know. I want to hug him and hold his hand. I want to kiss him and have a hamster together, but everything just doesn’t feel as clear anymore.” Marinette suddenly messed her hair in a bout of frustration. “Two weeks ago I had a plan! Then Luka wrote me a song and now I’m suddenly reevaluating my entire life. I can’t even blame anyone but myself for being so stupid.”

Alya steadied her friend and held her face in her hands. “Okay. Stop saying you’re stupid. You wanna know who’s stupid? Nino when he asked me how do you say sushi in Japanese. Figuring out your feelings is hard and confusing and completely normal. Nino and I got locked in a cage together so we had a set time together to sort things out. Some things just needs time to sort out.”

“Are you saying I should be locked in a room with Luka and Adrien?”

“No,” she said, “but that’s an option. Consider it plan D.”

“What’s plans A through C?” Marinette looked at her curiously. Alya opened the door for them to walk back. Marinette walked in front.

“A, give some time to think and wait for the answer to come. Luka’s an honest guy. He’ll wait for a proper response. If he can’t then it’s not worth it although it's only right for you to at least address it. If you still can’t give a response then B, try going on a date.”

Marinette tripped on the last step. Her elbows took the brunt of the fall, and her face was a breath away from the floor. She tried to play it off, and she and Alya walked to the classroom. “I’ll what? What the heck is plan C then?”

“Not important,” Alya said and stopped Marinette at the door. She glanced inside before warning, “He’s in there. I think he wants to give you that paper back. What’d you give him?”

Marinette groaned. “A design. It’s a dress, I think. I don’t know. I just know I had four designs and when I looked through them later I saw three.”

With no time for delay, Marinette bit the bullet and braced herself. Adrien was ready to stand when she passed him on the way to her desk. He actually startled her a bit at the abruptness of it. Alya smiled encouragingly and took her seat.

He held the paper out to her. “I think you gave me this by mistake, but it looks really good. Sometimes I forget how talented you are.” Marinette sheepishly took it. She moved to her seat thinking he was done, but Adrien continued. “I showed my father on the way to London, and he really liked it! When I told him you were also the one who designed that hat, he was even more impressed.”

Marinette was now blushing severely. It was most likely she was really unsure what to do with herself and instincts kicked in rearing its ugly head. There was also the undeniable reason that Gabriel Agreste acknowledged her abilities not once but twice and that made her proud.

“You really have a knack for design, Marinette. If you ever need a model, I’d gladly help you. I’m sure my father would also be excited.”

She timidly nodded. “I, uh, thanks. I’m glad you and your dad like it. It means a lot to me.” Alya knocked their knees. “And, I also, uh, I also wanted to say sorry for freaking out a giving you that on accident. I kinda panicked and just... well gave it.” She quickly followed up in a barely coherent slur. “Butitsfinebecausetheotherthingwasntimportant.” 

Adrien was kind, and just nodded without saying anything about her babbling. “It’s okay. It was really cool so no worries.”

He sat back down next to Nino and easily fell into conversation with him. Alya scooted close to Marinette and whispered, “Well, you didn’t choke that much so good job. Any butterflies?”

She covered her face. “A handful. But not like I could throw up a swarm.”

Holding her friend close, Alya leaned into her. Until Miss Bustier came in and started the class, Alya stayed close to her. 

“It’s a starting point.”

 


 

Marinette waited for Alya at the foot of the stairs in front of the school. They were either going to go get ice cream or something else quick to eat. Something to do for the first day of school. She would say “celebrate” but school wasn’t such a great thing, and the day was a solid 4 out of 10. If anything, it was a consolation for the exhaustion that had amounted.

Alya had some loose ends to tie up for the school blog, but she said she would come out as fast as she could afterwards. Still, she was unsure when that would be and sat down on the bottom step. She took out her sketchbook and started drawing with nothing in particular in mind. In that moment of mindless doodling, she found something clear to draw.

Time passed peacefully with the soundtrack of Parisian life on play, lulling her into a better mood. She took a red pencil and started filling in the spaces. She had some experience in figure drawing. Every piece of clothing she drew, she knew perfectly how it would drape across muscle, and move with every motion. She just had to communicate that on the paper. Male bodies though, she had less experience. Often, she drew dresses and things that she imagined for a feminine frame. At this moment, her mind envisioned broad shoulders and lean build. Something that, if it were real, would feel warm and welcoming. She switched to her greens. She had no shame that it was thoughts of boys in her head that drove her inspiration then. She closed her eyes like her drawing, and tilted her back too.

Maybe she drew the boy on her mind or whoever was tied on the other end of her red string. She wasn’t sure. It did, however, feel cathartic. He wasn’t focused on his string either or whoever he ended up bound to. They were finding a spot to accept their new knowledge, and moving forward.

Her phone vibrated. She thought it was Alya saying she was running late, but it was a different name. It was a few sentences and an attachment.

Luka

Here’s the official vid

It’ll be on Kitty Section’s yt page soon

Just wanted you to have it first

[standby.mp4]

Logically, she knew she should put her phone away and not feed into her insecurities. Leave all thoughts that could easily tangle alone so she could sort herself out bit by bit, but she wanted to hear it so bad. With little self control, she pulled out her ear buds and plugged herself in. Hugging her knees and sketchbook close to her torso, she closed her eyes again and just listened. Watching the video felt too trying. After getting the tears out yesterday, she was ready to listen deeply and completely to what he wanted to tell her.

Not too long after, Alya met her outside. Marinette ushered her to sit next to her. Nino was also with her. She didn’t look back to see if Adrien was there as well. She passed an earbud to her friend and started the video again. Alya watched the picture for her. She didn’t hear herself, but Marinette was humming along.

“That’s... really amazing.” Alya handed the phone back when it finished. Leaning forward on her knees, she looked Marinette in her watery eyes. “Where’s our starting point now?”

She mulled it over in her head with the same snippet of the song playing over and over in her head. “I’m not your number one. Oh, I don’t think I’ll be.” Luka... did he know that she liked Adrien? Or was that how he felt really? Though now that she listened openly, she found more truth for herself. 

Isn’t that how she thought about herself with Adrien? As much as she wanted that they would be together, the belief in the possibility was never too great. It was based off of hopes and wishes in a miracle that could happen. The stars would align and give her and Adrien the perfect moment to connect and she would be on her way to happily ever after. But there wasn’t any budge to get on that path. It was a locked door in her way, and she couldn’t find the keyhole. This door wouldn’t open, but it could. Maybe if she tried harder, some piece of the puzzle would come undone. What if she just looked for another door instead?

It was like Luka handed her a key, but she couldn’t fathom that she could find his door. Maybe it was time to start looking. Though now it made a new fear. If she left Adrien’s door, would she find it again in this chaos she’s made? Did she even need to?

Maybe it was time for a new venture. If she untangled the strings, would it lead to Luka? Her head throbbed with questions packed so tightly. She would have to deal with them all at some point. Pulling from the top of the stack, the first question she wanted to deal with was how to take the first step. She had an idea now.

“Do you want to go on a walk after Andre’s?”

Alya furrowed her brows. It seemed to pique her interest rather than find an understanding, and she agreed.

 

Chapter Text

“And for you, hmmm, blueberry and mint. How’s that sound? A little bit here and there.” Andre handed her an ice cream tailored to her heart and sent her and her friends on their merry way. Alya and Marinette’s date turned into a group activity. Nino tagged along, and Adrien followed suit. Alya and Nino shared an ice cream because they’re cute. Andre was about to offer another couple treat, but Marinette hastily explained they’re not together. Adrien was a good sport and agreed to get separate cones. He admitted shortly afterwards that he was curious what their personal ones would look like. Adrien received strawberry and blackberry which he fawned over. Nino and Alya had chocolate orange and pistachio.

They followed Marinette on their stroll, but didn’t ask where they were heading. Alya was on her right. Nino was on Alya’s right. And Adrien, instead of continuing the right pattern, was on Marinette’s left. Therefore, Marinette tried to not look left, but she had to. One, she had to cross the street and looking both ways made her feel safe. And two, since Alya and Nino were chatting, Adrien wanted to try to do something similar with Marinette.

“So what’d you do on your break, Marinette?”

She took a scoop of her ice cream. “It was okay. I was doing some work for Kitty Section. Drew some stuff.” She swallowed a bite of mint along with some nerves trying to wrestle their way out. “I made a wedding cake. That was cool. What about you? I heard your dad went to England.”

With a smile, Adrien related to her how his father actually took him with him to England. “It was really amazing, but I wish we got to do more stuff together. Last time we went, I had to go to a lot of gatherings and business functions. It’s like, I know I’m really lucky to be able to meet and connect with these people, but I also know that it’d be worthwhile for someone like you to go instead of me.”

She looked at him with some surprise. “What do you mean?”

Adrien ate a scoop of strawberry. “Think about it. You’re into fashion and one heck of a designer too. Someone like you can go out there and network and learn. I’m there because I can be. That’s somewhere that not even Kagami goes.” He was sucking on the spoon when his whole face lit up with realization. So cute. Marinette shoveled some more ice cream in her mouth, and tightened her resolve. “Next time I go to a fashion event, I should ask father for you to come with us!”

Unfortunately, the scoop of ice cream got caught on its way down when Marinette gasped, so her surprise turned into hard coughing. They all stopped to make sure she was okay. Alya sent Nino to run into the nearby store to get a water bottle while she rubbed Marinette’s back.

“Are you okay?” Adrien bent over to look at her in the face, but she only started coughing harder. She fell into a crouch with her ice cream held out in front of her. Like this, she hoped she wouldn’t cough on Adrien. If did already, she might cry though at that point the tears may just be from the painful coughing.

“I’m—” she coughed, “okay.” Nino nudged her with an open water bottle when he came back. Marinette switched her cone for the bottle and greedily drank as much as she could. When her throat stopped feeling like she swallowed sandpaper, she tried talking again. “Sorry, I think I accidentally inhaled instead of swallowing.” She thanked Nino who waved for her to keep the water. “You just surprised me is all.”

“What’d you say to her?” Nino asked.

Adrien offered his hand to Marinette who awkwardly reached out to him. She hesitated, but finally decided to swallow some nerves and take a progessive step forward. “I just had an idea that what if Marinette came with my father and I to his fashion world meeting stuff. I’m there because he wants me there, but if I bring Marinette, she gets to connect with other designers, and I get to hang out with someone my age. I thought it was a good idea.” He doesn’t quite let go of her hand. For a few strides, he’s still holding on. Marinette is blushing red like a ladybug, staring at Alya and Nino in disbelief until he lets go slowly and gently.

“You know,” Adrien said, “over break I spent most of it alone. I mean, I went to those parties, if you can call them that, but I just was there. If I had someone who was genuinely happy to be there with me, I feel like it would’ve been better. That’s why I really want to ask Nathalie if you can come next trip. I guess that would be a little weird though, wouldn’t it?”

“No!” Marinette objected. “I don’t think it would be. I’m not going to lie, I would love to go and meet fashion designers. That sounds like a dream come true b—”

“So if I ask Nathalie, and she miraculously says yes, would you come with us?”

He had the prettiest set of puppy eyes Marinette had ever seen. So innocent and hopeful, she answered “yes” without so much as a thought. 

“Awesome! I mean, I don’t know if she’d say yes, but I’ll try. I think next month we’re heading to Barcelona for a weekend. We should work something out.”

They had wandered in a circle back to where Marinette choked. No one pointed it out, but Marinette felt dizzy finding herself there again. The fact she was coherent and not tripping mentally or physically was already hard to understand, but thinking about travelling with Adrien excited her the same way tipping forward on a roller coaster did. Fear and exhilaration had a thin line blurred by action. But Marinette was still heading up on ride, uncertain how high up she’d reach before plummeting down. Gravity wanted to pull her down to instinct and follow the plan she thought she had for the one hour leading up to this moment. Her feet had taken her to Luka all during the break, but now that Adrien was on that path, she wasn’t sure where to go. Not when he was almost asking her to come back and walk down the road to pining after him.

Marinette scooped another bite of blueberry into her mouth and closed her eyes. Her head was steady like a chair with a broken leg. Maybe if she didn’t use it too much, she would be okay. Maybe. Maybe she could fix it right now and figure out what to do. 

“Can we sit down for a bit?” she asked.

Alya took the lead saying she had the perfect place in mind. It was two blocks away down some stairs. Benches by the Seine. Was Marinette that out of it that she couldn’t find her way back here? Where was the fate now that had took her down this path? She was just as lost if not more than before break even started.

The benches could sit three comfortably so Alya and Nino opted to take the bench a few yards away on the other side of the tree. Adrien sat on one end of the bench, and Marinette felt it would be rude to sit all the way on the other side. Plopping herself on the middle of the bench, there was only a small bit of space between them that she didn’t want to cross.

Adrien didn’t mind the space and reached out to her forehead. “Are you sure you’re feeling okay? You should drink some water if you’re not.” If she was feeling warm to him, she could assure him that it wasn’t a fever. The healthy pink on her cheeks from her raised temperature was probably nerves. It was her heart fluttering because his hand dropped and was almost cupping her cheek. Did he know he was doing this? Did he really not understand that being this close to her face, touching something as intimate as her cheek so close to her lips, and caring so much about her wellbeing made her fall in love with him?

Because you’re such a great friend. A close friend. If she was Alya, he probably wouldn’t act differently. If she were Chloe or Lila, would his reaction change. Actually, maybe with Lila. He’s the only one who agrees that she’s not who she seems. And that week that Lila had done everything to get Marinette suspended, Adrien was the one who believed in Marinette. That kindness made Marinette her heart soar but it quickly fell when she knew it wasn’t for her. It was for anyone.

“I’m fine, really,” she told him and gently moved his hand. “I should finish my ice cream before it melts completely. I’d feel bad since Andre makes all of it himself.”

With the mint gone, all that was left was a light blue blueberry scoop. It was the color of an open, cloudless sky. One with such an even solid color, it could crack when she reached for it. It was a soothing color. One she could fall into with a smile.

It took three scoops to finish the last of it before she started biting the cone. Sweet and crunchy like sugar sand.

“He’s really amazing,” Adrien said. “I know it’s impossible for him to know what someone’s heart says, but when he gives you a cone, you want to believe in it, don’t you?”

Marinette shrugged. “I believe his ice cream is the best in all of Paris. I think it gives you the push you need to believe in what you want.” The base without the stem was a wafer coin. One side was flat while the other had the dimple where the stem used to be.

He softly laughed. “Maybe. I think it’s more making you realizing what you didn’t want to believe. Hear me out. When you’re trying not to think about something, it’s like everything reminds you of that thing. When I see the flavors he chooses for me, I instantly think of that person.”

Pursing her lips, it’s like her heart was dropping faster. Adrien has a person he thinks about like that. She forgot about that.

“I didn’t really think of anyone when he handed me mine.”

“Maybe you don’t right now, but it might hit you later. Yours was really blue.”

Marinette glanced at his eyes before directing her gaze past him to the stairs. A few people were walking down. Mostly couples. “And green. Blue and green.”

“That sounds really peaceful. Maybe that person is the one who makes you feel really calm?”

“Calm?” Someone was carrying their bike down the stairs. “I don’t know who does that.” Her thoughts were slowly catching up to her eyes. She was staring at the bike’s owner their entire way down and only when he placed his bike on the pavement did it click that it was Luka. His bike had no packages on it, but the bright yellow of his helmet definitely threw her for a loop. When he placed the helmet into the empty basket and the mellow teal of his hair met the sky, her thoughts finally met with the present.

Adrien finally looked to where her eyes were staring so intently. Yeah, Marinette thought, maybe he was a bit oblivious.

“Is it that, Luka?” he said happily. This, of course, caught the attention of Alya and Nino. The boys were calling out to him gladly. Alya as well but less energetically. “Hey, Luka! Where are you heading?”

“Home,” he said looking between him and Marinette. His eyes wandered to Marinette, and she thought his smile grew a bit like a blossoming pink tulip. “I had to stop by the store for more strings for my guitar, and Juleka was running low on eyeshadow so I picked some up for her while I was out.”

“Wow,” Marinette blushed, “you’re a really good brother. You know what brand and shade she wears?”

Luka smiled and chuckled as he explained, “Mom’s not really good at makeup so I picked up some tricks online when Juleka wanted to try.” He held up his black nails and shrugged. “As you can see, I practice some on myself too. So I was the one who took her to get some in the first place. I go with her when I can.”

Alya sat on the arm of the bench next to Marinette. “Man, if I told Nora when I first started using makeup, she’d lock me in my room until I promised to never touch it until I die.”

“I kinda get that. If I could, I’d keep Juleka little as long as I could, but I figured it’s better to support her along the way rather than keep looking back while she moves on without me. Her happiness is more invaluable. What about you guys? Hanging out on the first day of break?”

“Yep,” Nino replied. “We went to Andre’s. Have you been?”

“Not yet. Sweethearts’ ice cream, right? I’d love to go with someone that means a lot to me. Sounds like the perfect date.” He motioned between Adrien and Marinette. “Did you two share a cone?”

“No!” Marinette objected. “I mean, we got our own because we just, we wanted to, you know, find out what Andre saw in each of us. Or, like, for Adrien and I, not for Adrien with me because like we’re not together or anything. Yes. That’s what I was trying to say. I’ll stop now.”

Luka was laughing adorably at her babbling. The only person who could do it, and it feel like a compliment. “I understand. You’re still holding the cone by the way.” Quickly, she jammed it into her mouth. “What are you guys doing after this?” They didn’t know. Marinette was hoping a walk could clear her head, but it was jammed tight with thoughts. With thoughts how Luka was the perfect light blueberry blue. Serene, melodic, mesmerizing blue. Blue like the Seine. A lovely blue. But he wasn’t mint. Minty refreshing breath of cool air. But he wasn’t mint. Mint like—

“I might have to go soon for piano lessons,” Adrien said.

“That’s a shame,” Luka said. “I was going to say if you guys want, you could come to my place. Kitty Section is practicing, and it’s always more fun with an audience.”

“Oh yeah!” Nino quickly whipped out his phone so much that it almost flew out of his hand. “Oh jeez. Dude! You put a new solo song on there! Alya showed me! It’s already got a couple hundred views!” His eyes widened even more before he turned to show his phone to everyone else. The video of Luka sitting on stage and hypnotically strumming his guitar started playing. “Scratch that, dude, you’re at a couple thousand.”

Marinette shot Alya a look in shock. Then she turned to Luka next to Adrien. 

“You and me. Could be one of a kind.”

“Woah,” Adrien said. “You look so cool.”

Luka was smiling at Marinette. Her heart was tightening and exploding at the same time. 

“Thanks,” he said, still looking into Marinette’s eyes.

“Only you, I’d fall and fall for only you.”

If Adrien looked away from the screen and at her, Marinette might just break. With wobbly knees, she fell into the bench. Don’t look at me, she thought. I need to think. I need to know. I want to know what to do because I love you so much.

“I was really inspired over the break. It was like everything I needed to say just fell into the page.”

And everything I need to say, Marinette thought, I don’t know how to say.