Marinette didn’t do complicated.
Or, to be specific, she didn’t deal with complicated people.
She didn’t deal with complicated friendships, relationships or problems.
Sure , her alter ego was a ladybug heroine who always came up with convoluted plans but that didn’t reflect Marinette as a person.
She liked to think she was relatively simple.
Naturally, that went out the window when Marinette realized she wasn’t as simple as she wanted to be.
Her entire world was a complex mess and she tangled herself into a web of lies.
“Marinette, stop lying to me!”
The words rang in her ears like a gong.
Stop lying to me.
A voice spoke in her head, silencing all other rational thoughts.
Liar. Liar. Liar. All you do is lie to everyone you care about.
You are no better than Lila.
All you do is push them away.
It was true. Marinette wished it wasn't, but she was, in fact, a liar.
And truth be told, she was tired of it.
She was tired of pushing all her friends away. Tired of lying to the ones she loved most. She was unable to pull herself together, let alone love herself . All she could do was carry the weight of the world on her shoulders.
She was exhausted .
There was no one she could talk to. The one person that she could always count on, be it about her responsibilities as the new guardian or about her daily life, was Master Fu.
He was gone.
And it was all because of her. She did this to herself.
Now, she was shouldering this burden. Alone.
And all she wanted to do was tell them the truth. To break down and explain all the pressure she was under.
She loved Tikki, and she was very good company but there was only so much help her kwami could give her. It wasn’t the same thing as confiding in another person.
So for now, all she could do was Lie, Lie, Lie.
“Alya, I’m not lying to you,” Marinette rubbed her temples to soothe her newfound migraine, “I really do have to help my parents in the bakery today.”
Alya cocked a brow, “Like you have every single day for the past three weeks?”
“They’ve been packed this month!”
"Even on weekends?" Alya shot back.
"There's been lots of deliveries?" Marinette tried, but it came out as a question, not a statement, and the fluctuation of her voice at the end was a dead giveaway.
"Bad excuse, try again." Alya shot her an unimpressed look and Marinette winced, “Listen Marinette, you’re my best friend. Whatever is going on with you, I hope you know you can tell me.”
Marinette’s eyes widened in alarm at the insinuation Alya made and how she almost looked... hurt. “Alya, I trust you! I honestly wish I could tell you but I can’t . I wish I could, and for that, I’m sorry.”
The redhead simply rubbed her temples before sighing, “Alright, Mari. Whatever you’re working through, I hope you can figure it out. I’m here for you. I just want you to know I’m pestering you because I care about you.”
Marinette almost teared up at her kind words, “I know, Alya. I love you and you’re my best friend. I just...need some time to pull myself together. I’ll see you.”
She gave her a smile that never reached her eyes and turned towards the exit. As soon as she thought she was out of eyesight, her entire posture slumped.
Nino quickly approached Alya and slung an arm around his girlfriend’s shoulder, Adrien following close behind, “Everything okay?”
Alya melted into the half-hug, “I’m worried about her, Nino. Something’s up and she won’t tell me.”
“She looked exhausted today," Adrien added, just as concerned.
That's not all he noticed about her as of lately. He noticed how much quieter she's become. He noticed how her beautiful bluebell eyes were dull and the bags under them. He noticed how every time someone requests to hang out with her, she makes up a flimsy excuse and runs off.
“Adrien, maybe you should talk to her,” Alya added, concern still written across her faith.
This wasn’t a ploy, nor was it a trick. Alya genuinely thought Marinette might open up to Adrien. Regardless of what she was going through, she deserved to feel like she could confide in someone.
Whether it was her or not.
It stung, but Mari probably had her reasons for not telling Alya whatever it was.
Although her inner journalist senses were going insane, she knew that it was better not to press in a delicate situation like this.
“Me? ” Adrien asked, flabbergasted, “Why would she open up to me?”
He wanted to help her truly, but he wasn't sure if Marinette wanted to see him right now.
“Honestly, Adrien? I just have a feeling she will.” Alya looked him in the eyes, practically begging him. “She could use your support.”
Adrien hummed in agreement, “I don’t mind, I’m really worried about her, but...”
“But?” Alya encouraged him to continue.
“I’m not sure if she’d want to talk to me.”
Nino furrowed his eyebrows in confusion, “What makes you say that?”
“Well...” Adrien rubbed the back of his neck nervously, “I think she’s been avoiding me.”
Alya had noticed that a little bit too. Every morning, Marinette will quickly greet him before mumbling something unintelligible then sprints off to class at full speed.
She hadn’t thought Mr.Oblivious-Sunshine-Boy had picked up on it either.
At any rate, he was still her best bet.
“I’m sure it’s all in your head,” Nino replied, causing Alya to nod fervently. “She’s always had a soft spot when it comes to your talks. Please ?”
Adrien looked at Alya and Nino’s joint puppy dog eyes, “Okay, that’s not fair, there’s two of you!”
The pair were relentless and he eventually slumped in defeat, “Okay. If you think that I’m the best person to talk to Mari, then I believe you. I’ll head over there now.”
“Attaboy!” Nino said, slinging his other arm around Adrien’s shoulders to pat him on the back, “Also, did your dad give you the clear to come over for game night tomorrow?”
Adrien’s eyes lit up with excitement, “Actually, yes! I’ll have to do a make-up photo shoot for it, but he has a conference all day anyways. He might as well let me go out.”
“Is your bodyguard tagging along?” Alya asked as they all walked towards the school exit.
“Yup. Don’t worry, he won’t come inside. He’s just going to guard the car.” Adrien joked to try and lighten the mood.
She mused, “ Very effective.”
Nino opened his mouth to add something when a giant cloud of mist suddenly descended on the area.
The mist left Adrien feeling uneasy, like there was something off about it. It wasn’t normal fog.
He watched as people became assumed by the mist and through it, he could barely make out a glowing turquoise light that flashed every time a person succumbed to it.
The mist was alive .
It was moving of its own accord. He squinted his eyes to try and see through the fog and caught a glimpse of a glowing female figure in a luxurious toga.
It was an Akuma. She was controlling the mist.
“We have to go,” Adrien muttered hurriedly, turning around to push Nino and Alya to safety. “Now.”
He was rattled by the screams and cries for help coming from the fog.
When it finally cleared up, all the people were now dressed in togas and robes and had glowing blue eyes. It was like an alternate universe where everyone was living a greek mythology horror story.
They curled in on themselves as if they were reliving the worst moments of their entire lives.
“Go, go!” Adrien whisper shouted so as not to draw attention to them and they all fled.
Alya whipped out her phone to film it but Nino quickly snatched it from her and grumbled, “ The hell you’ll film this and stay here!” before grabbing her hand and sprinting away.
Adrien searched for the nearest alleyway and spotted it a little farther away. He sprinted as fast as he could before he saw another figure making a mad dash for the same alley.
Wait ...he knew those familiar blue pigtails and pink pants!
The fog was getting closer to them now.
They just made it when Adrien called out puzzled, “Marinette?”
Her head snapped up and she looked like a deer caught in headlights. She opened her mouth to reply when her eyes widened and she cried out, “Adrien look out!”
All he heard was a scream piercing the air.