Marinette took another look in her mirror, sighing at her reflection. Her outfit was cute, a red sundress with a white flower pattern, white cardigan, and low-heeled, peep-toe red shoes. However, she felt anything but cute.
“Marinette, hurry up girl! We’re going to be late!” Alya called from the living room.
Sighing again, Marinette grabbed her purse and walked out of her room. It wasn’t that she didn’t love Alya, she did, but she wasn’t looking forward to being the third wheel yet again when they met Nino for lunch. She just wasn’t in the mood to be around couples, being reminded of what she lost almost a year ago, but Alya never took no for an answer.
As they walked toward the metro, Marinette made a decision. Looking towards Alya, Marinette made a silent apology before stopping on the platform while Alya continued onto the train, her eyes trained on a message from Nino. She would pay for it, she knew, but she really couldn’t do it today. Marinette walked back out of the station, sent apology texts to Nino and Alya, and made her way to her favorite cafe a few blocks away.
The owners greeted her kindly and went about preparing her normal order. She smiled and thanked them before sitting at a small table near the window. The cafe had a beautiful view of the skyline, with the Eiffel Tower standing tall and timeless in the distance. Her order was delivered while she absent-mindedly sketched the tower, her mind wandering to the past.
It had been eight months since things had changed, and she didn’t know how to handle it. It was like she was living in limbo, unable to move forward. Hawkmoth was gone, which should have been the best day of her young life, but it was a bitter-sweet memory. She also lost her partner without knowing who he was, finding his ring and note at their meeting spot a few days after the final battle. Then Adrien announced he was moving to England to live with his aunt and cousin, as they were his closest relatives and he couldn’t bring himself to stay in Paris after everything that had happened.
Marinette was beginning to believe that, even with all her Ladybug luck over the years, that she would never find love. That she was destined to be like Master Fu, a lonely Guardian with a lost love until it was time to give the Guardianship to someone else. Marinette thought it would be better that way because then she wouldn’t leave her family without an explanation as to why she didn’t remember them.
A familiar, soft voice brought her out of her thoughts. She looked up to see a pair of aqua eyes framed by blue-tipped black hair looking back at her, a concerned frown marring his handsome face.
“Luka,” Marinette squeaked, startled at his appearance. “What are you doing here?”
“I was walking by when I saw you sitting here. Your song is so sad today, and I had to stop to see if I could help,” he explained as he stood at her table.
She smiled a little, waving at the chair across from her as an invitation. Luka had always been a sweet boy, supportive of her without pushing for anything more than friendship. Marinette knew he had feelings for her, but she never let herself consider them while Adrien was around. She was beginning to realize that she was a bit obsessive over the blonde. How many Lukas had there been in her life while she chased an unattainable dream?
“Would you like to talk about it?” Luka asked quietly as his coffee was delivered. He sat patiently, as he always did, waiting for her to make the first move.
“Just overthinking things, like always,” she replied as she looked down at her book. Next to the rough sketch of the tower stood a male figure, the beginnings of an outfit that already had a cat motif emerging. She sighed. “Luka, do you think some people are just fated to be alone their whole life?”
Luka tilted his head to the side, considering her question. “I don’t.” He watched as Marinette’s head snapped up, her melancholy eyes locking with his. “We always have people around us, who love us in different ways. I don’t think anyone is alone by fate, but by choice.”
Marinette nodded, taking what Luka said to heart. She had been pushing everyone away, keeping them at arm's length because of her secrets and her pain. Maybe, just maybe, it was time to let someone in.
“Thanks, Luka. I needed to hear that,” she replied, a small smile tugging at her lips. “So, how are things going for you?”
They spent the afternoon catching up. Luka was back from touring with Jagged as a backup guitarist and had learned a lot about the music industry. Jagged promised to get Luka an interview with Jagged’s record label since Luka’s sound was ‘rock and roll’. Marinette giggled fondly at the comment, knowing her pseudo-uncle loved the young musician. Luka was also taking online classes in Music Theory to broaden his knowledge.
Marinette, on the other hand, was hard at work getting her Fashion degree from a well-known university near the apartment she shared with Alya, who was attending the same school for Journalism. Marinette told him about her classes and how much she was learning. Her hands became animated as she spoke, only adding to her excitement, which Luka found himself quickly getting swept up in. He may not understand a lot of what she was saying, but he couldn’t help but listen with a sort of awe and fondness. Marinette had always been the girl he wanted to date, maybe even marry one day, but he had stepped to the side when he realized she had eyes for one person, and that wasn’t him.
“Do you wanna walk around for a while? I was thinking about heading to a nearby park,” Marinette asked shyly, which was a complete 180 from her earlier excited and bold speech.
“Sure. I’d love to play for you again,” Luka answered just as shyly, motioning to his ever-present guitar sitting on one of the other chairs at the table.
“I’d love that. It’s been so long since I’ve had a private concert,” Marinette remarked, standing and gathering her things. She stopped abruptly, as her words sunk in, cheeks tinting a bright shade of red. “I mean, that is...not like a private, private concert. You know, but just playing for me, alone. I mean, not alone…”
Luka placed a hand on her shoulder, stopping her rush of words. “I understand, Marinette. You don’t have to explain.” He held out a hand to her. “Shall we?”
Marinette released the breath she had been holding, slung her purse over her shoulder, and took his hand in hers. “We shall.”
The park they stopped in was a few blocks from the cafe. The late spring air was warm on their skin as they sat on a park bench. There were a few families around the playground, with kids running after each other and playing on the equipment. Marinette was quietly sketching an outfit for Luka for his interview while Luka strummed on his guitar. He had noticed her song wasn’t as sad anymore, but not quite what it was the last time he had seen her. He began to play what he heard, a beautiful melody, but with a bit of a sad undercurrent that spoke of loss and uncertainty. Something was still bothering his friend, but he would never pry. She got enough of that from her best friend. Luka was patient. He could wait for her to come to him if she wanted to. He would be just as content sitting here in the comfortable bubble they found themselves in.
“What do you think?” Marinette asked, bringing Luka out of his thoughts.
He looked over the page. The figure was dressed in a pair of distressed black skinny jeans, an aqua shirt, and a black hoodie, all with teal and black accents in a snake motif. It was nicer than his usual look, but still looked comfortable and played to his style. Marinette always had a way of bringing a person’s personality and style into her designs, much like he was able to put a person’s feelings into music.
“It looks great, Marinette. Where did you get the snake idea from?”
Marinette startled, trying to figure out how to explain she knew he was Viperion at one point, but then remembered the Miracle Queen incident. She didn’t want to ruin the mood they found themselves in, so she decided to steer clear of it. After scrambling her mind, she found another reason. “Well, you remind me of a snake. Quiet and hidden in the background, happy to be left alone. However, you will strike to defend those you love. Also, your music could charm even the most savage of beasts.”
Luka’s cheeks tinged pink at the compliment. “Thanks, Marinette. That means a lot.”
“What was that song you were playing? It was really pretty,” Marinette inquired, putting her sketchbook away after making a few notations about fabrics and a reminder to get Luka’s measurements.
“Oh, it was, uh” Luka began, not sure how to explain. “It was the song I heard from you,” he finished quietly.
“That makes sense,” she replied quietly, placing a hand on Luka’s thigh. “Could you play it again?”
Luka nodded and started playing. Marinette once again got lost in the music, the sounds soothing something inside her heart. For months, her thoughts had swirled with endings, disappointments, and loss. Now, she began to feel hope again. A feeling that things would turn for the better, that the beginning was within reach if she had the courage and strength to grab it. As the song finished, she opened her eyes slowly to see Luka looking at her, and she made a decision. One she should’ve made long ago.
“Hey, Luka? Would you like to go to dinner sometime?” Marinette asked quietly, hope and nervousness lacing her voice.
“I would love to, Marinette.” Luka reached up and cupped her cheek, watching her face for signs to stop as he slowly leaned in. When she offered no resistance, instead of tilting her head slightly, he closed the distance between them.
Marinette gasped as Luka’s lips touched hers softly. She moved her hands to his neck, playing with the fringe, before pulling back slightly to look into his eyes. She pulled him back to her, smiling into the kiss as she realized that this was it. She was ready to let the past go, and with Luka, she would begin again.