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Returning the Favor

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    Alya certainly wasted no time in sniffing out a story—Marinette started slightly as Alya had suddenly appeared, leaning against Marinette’s locker almost as soon as she’d shut it. But, honestly? Marinette had sort of expected this.

        “Spill!” Alya demanded as she leaned so far into her friend’s space that Marinette had to lean away slightly, fighting to keep an ecstatic, dreamy grin off of her face. “You come waltzing up to the school, laughing and joking with Adrien, and you don’t even come gushing to me first thing?”

    Ordinarily, this would be the part where Marinette grabbed Alya’s hands tight, squealed, and jumped in place as she rushed to recount every detail, even insignificant ones. Actually, ordinarily Marinette would have already sought her out, scrambling to tell her everything and barely coherent in her excitement—but ordinarily Alya wasn’t in the doghouse.

    It took every ounce of her self-control not to grin and spill it all anyways.

        “Well, gee, I don’t know…” Marinette said, her eyes narrowing good-naturedly at the friend currently occupying her personal space. “How much of what I spill is going to go directly on to Nino?”

    Alya only straightened slightly, still very much remaining inches away from Marinette’s face as she waved a hand dismissively. “What makes you so sure I told him about your crush on Adrien? He’s exactly not blind and you’re not exactly subtle, he could have figured it out on his own.”

        “Alya.” Marinette wasn’t dropping it. Alya knew she hated lying—there was no reason to do it right to her face. Crossing her arms over her chest, Marinette leveled her friend with a stern expression—an action made easier by the fact that Alya had had to lean down closer to Marinette’s level in order to get into her personal space. Sighing, Alya finally retreated slightly, taking a step back and straightening to her full height. At least she finally had the decency to look a little guilty.

        “I’m sorry, Mari, it just sort of slipped out after he told me that Adrien had been coaching him on how to talk to you. I didn’t mean to say it, it was just—come on, you have to admit the situation was hilarious.”

        “Alya,” Marinette said again, her shoulders slumping this time as she shot Alya a mildly scandalized and betrayed look.

        “Hey—at least what I did was an accident; you willingly agreed to set me up on a date with Nino without even getting my opinion on it that same day!” Alya defended, her hands moving to her hips.

        “Like that would have been so terrible!” Marinette protested, her arms windmilling every which way around her as if to emphasize her point. “You two have been practically joined at the hip ever since, anyways.”

        “That’s beside the point,” Alya said insistently, giving another wave of her hand. “Look, are you going to tell me what’s going on with you and Adrien or not? Because I guarantee you, Nino’s wheedling all the details out of Adrien right now, and if you don’t tell me, I’ll just get it from him.”

        “Nino talks about me to Adrien?” Marinette gasped, horror coloring her tone as she immediately reached for Alya’s shoulders. “Alya, that’s exactly what I didn’t want, oh my god, what if—”

        “No!” Alya was quick to interrupt her, shaking her head before her hands moved to frame Marinette’s face so she could level her with an earnest expression. “Not how you’re thinking; he wouldn’t tell him about your feelings or anything, he’s just—trying to nudge things along on Adrien’s end. I promise, girl. He just thinks you’d be good for him.”

    Marinette’s cheeks burned a little under Alya’s fingers at that, and she found herself straightening slightly. Nino was Adrien’s best friend, and if he thought she’d be good for Adrien—well, that was probably the most glowing compliment she could receive. And yet, the thought of Nino knowing, of him trying to get them together by nudging Adrien in her direction at every chance—the thought had her sort of mortified, wishing she could tug her locker back open, climb inside, and just sort of shut herself in there for the rest of eternity.

        “Oh,” she finally said, and Alya patted her cheek before moving her hands to her own hips again and shrugging Marinette’s grip off of her shoulders.

        “So?” Alya demanded, eyebrows lifting expectantly. “Are you going to tell me what happened with Adrien today or not, girl?”

    Marinette only hesitated an extra moment or two before she gave in—the words had been fighting to burst out of her from the moment she and Adrien had parted ways, anyways, and even her current embarrassment at having her crush known about wasn’t enough to keep excitement from bubbling up in her chest as she laid a hand over her heart dramatically and leaned against the lockers.

        “Oh my god, Alya, I thought I was going to die,” she admitted, words rushed. “He hugged me.”

    Alya’s eyebrows shot into her hairline and she grinned, teasing, “Wow, whoa, maybe keep it PG-13, girl.”

        “I’m serious, Alya, he’s never hugged me before!” Marinette protested, “It was a big deal! Well—to me.”

    Objectively, yes, she knew that after spending practically all of Rose’s birthday party slow dancing with him, a hug should not exactly have seemed like the biggest thing in the world by comparison. And she knew, of course, that it was just a friendly hug.

    That didn’t change the fact that she could still remember how nice it felt, the comforting and dizzying weight of his arm wrapped around her shoulders, the way her breath caught and her heart hammered—maybe it wasn’t a big deal, but, at the same time, it was.

        “Tell me everything,” Alya prodded, still grinning. Despite her teasing, she was clearly just as excited about it all as Marinette was. So, matching grin on her own face, Marinette did.

        “So you spent the whole lunch period with Marinette?” Nino looked way too smug for Adrien’s liking.

        “Nino, are you going to make a huge deal out of everything I do that involves her?” Adrien asked, exasperated. Nino just grinned, leaning back in his seat.

        “Well, let me think on that one, dude. Thinking… thinking… uh, yes, I definitely am. Dude, you spent your entire lunch alone with Marinette—”

        “We weren’t alone, her mom was right there the whole time,” Adrien protested, wondering what on earth he could possibly have done to deserve Plagg and Nino going at him like this over nothing. Marinette was a friend.

    With a scoff, Nino waved a dismissive hand. “Please, like Sabine would have stopped anything from happening; she’d probably be cheering you on,” he replied, and Adrien was reminded of what Marinette had said, about how most of the class had been over at least once or twice over the years. It floored him; were they all on first name basis with Mrs. Cheng? How could one family be so instantly warm and open and inviting to so many people?

        “Nothing was happening. Nothing was going to happen. There’s nothing to happen.” Adrien didn’t know how much more plainly he could state it.

    Nino, however, remained unfazed as ever, rolling his eyes as he said, “Whatever, man, that doesn’t mean a lot to me after you and Marinette spending all of Rose’s party slow dancing together happened.”

        “I thought you let that go!” Adrien protested, running a hand through his hair in frustration. He’d spent an hour on Saturday night just getting Nino to stop insisting that had meant anything, and Nino being back at it with even more made up ammo was not Adrien’s idea of a good time. “I told you, that was just Marinette helping me out, so that Chloe couldn’t corner me.”

    Adrien didn’t like the way the knowing look on Nino’s face only grew more self-satisfied, not one bit.

        “Are you still friends with Chloe?”

        “Of course,” Adrien sighed. This was exactly what he had been worried about Marinette thinking; that just because he didn’t always want to deal with Chloe’s overwhelmingly constant affection, it suddenly meant that he didn’t still—

        “So Chloe’s your friend, it’s just that you’d rather dance with Marinette?”

        “…Yes,” Adrien replied after a moment’s hesitation, narrowing his eyes slowly, because he knew Nino was going somewhere with this.

        “All right, man, so if Chloe’s your friend, and Marinette’s just a friend, how come dancing with Marinette literally the entire night is so much more appealing than dancing with Chloe even once?” Clearly having felt that he’d made his point, Nino sat back smugly, lacing his fingers behind his head. “It’s ‘cause you’re into her, bro.”

        “Or it’s because Marinette doesn’t wrap herself entirely around me and attempt to plant her lips somewhere on my face every ten seconds,” Adrien countered, irritation growing. “I don’t like Marinette that way.”

    Nino suddenly sat up straighter, one hand falling from behind his head and the other moving in front of him as he held up a finger, and the sudden light that appeared in his eyes was so expressive Adrien could practically see a lightbulb flash over his head. “Dude, hold on.”

    Immediately, Nino was leaning forwards, grabbing a spare paper and a pencil off of his desk and hurriedly scrawling what vaguely resembled some kind of equation (not one that actually resembled any real sort of math, Adrien noted) down. His hands moved with the sort of vigor Adrien would expect from someone who’d dedicated their life to—whatever mathematicians dedicated their lives to—rather than his schoolwork-hating friend. Abruptly finishing his gibberish equation, Nino dropped the pencil rather enthusiastically and looked back to Adrien pointedly.

        “I just did some calculations, and through careful analysis, I’ve been able to determine that you’re full of shit, bro.”

        “Oh my god.” Adrien was honestly speechless for a few moments, between being mildly impressed at Nino’s dedication to his stupid joke, and, quite frankly, questioning every choice in his life that had led him to being best friends with the dorkiest guy on the planet. “You’re a nerd,” he finally settled on informing him with a shake of his head. “And impossible, there’s no talking to you.”

    The sound of Alya letting herself into the classroom distracted him, and Adrien found his eyes drawn to the space behind her hopefully, looking for any sign of Marinette and thus a reason Nino would be forced to drop this topic—but there was no sign of her, and his shoulders slumped in mild disappointment. Glancing between Nino and Alya—whose eyes were locked on Nino with a look of manic excitement that gave him hope Nino would be distracted soon anyways—Adrien moved, starting to slide out from his desk.

    Because assuming Nino didn’t drop it, this was a battle Adrien wasn’t going to win before class started, so it wasn’t one worth fighting right at this moment.

        “Where are you going?” Nino asked, eyebrows lifting a little too triumphantly for Adrien’s liking.

        “Somewhere I don’t have to endure this treatment,” Adrien replied, gesturing between Nino and his fake calculations even though he knew Nino would take his retreat as some sort of sign that he was right—he wasn’t. But he also clearly wasn’t going to listen and was just going to keep driving Adrien up the wall no matter what, so aimlessly walking the halls until Marinette was in the room and Nino couldn’t talk openly about this was his best solution.

    Leaving his stuff at his desk, Adrien made it a point to ignore Nino and his self-satisfied expression as he made his way out the door. The start of class could not come fast enough.

    Watching Alya rush off to—with Marinette’s permission, at least, this time—swap facts with Nino, Marinette couldn’t help feeling like she hadn’t done a single detail justice. She probably could have sat there a good three hours longer just trying to describe the smile on his face when she’d showed him her impromptu changes to his suit jacket, the way it had felt having one of his arms wrap around her, how comfortable and content he seemed in her home, the casual way he’d taken her hand to examine the marks in her fingers that came from pricking them with her sewing needle.

    And she could have spent another four hours after that just trying to describe what it did to her—all the times she swore her heart forgot how to beat or set off at such a thunderous pace she thought it would beat its way out of her chest, the times she blushed so hard she thought she’d melt, the times she was certain she was going to faint.

    But they didn’t exactly have those seven hours to spare before class started, so Marinette had given the abridged version and her reluctant blessing for Alya to pass it on to Nino.

    Just talking about it had had Marinette reliving it all in her head, and it put a spring in her step as she started towards class, pace deliberately lagging so that she wouldn’t have to hear Alya and Nino compare notes on her and Adrien. She was on cloud nine, still trying to wrap her head around her luck with Adrien lately and feeling her heart soar even as she just thought about how much better she was getting at being friends with him.

    Knowing her luck, she really should have known better than to expect everything to stay sunshine and roses for long.

        “Marinette Dupain-Cheng.” The grating sound of Chloe’s voice hit Marinette like a bucket of ice water, washing away her euphoria from just moments before in a very rude awakening. Occupied as she’d been with her own thoughts, Marinette hadn’t noticed Chloe and Sabrina lying in wait at the top of the stairs until after they’d already ambushed her, but she realized even if she’d seen them coming, there was probably no avoiding this confrontation.

        “What is it with you and my full name?” Marinette grumbled under her breath as she crossed her arms, bracing herself for Chloe’s nonsense even as she rolled her eyes.

        “Just what do you think you are trying to accomplish with Adrien?” Chloe demanded with eyes narrowed, cutting straight to her point. Which was about what Marinette had expected. Chloe and Sabrina both faced her with identical posture, arms crossed and one hip cocked to the side, so Marinette dropped her own arms with an impatient sigh.

        “I’m not trying to accomplish anything, Chloe,” Marinette said, already weary with the conversation. Even if she was hoping for Adrien to fall madly in love with her so that they could get married and adopt a dog and have two-point-five kids and live happily ever after, Chloe had no business knowing her life plan.

        “Ha!” Chloe took a step closer, so that Marinette had to crane her head back slightly to meet her scathing gaze, but Marinette was no more likely to back down than Chloe was to let this go. “You’ve been trying to steal Adrien away from me practically since you met! You think I don’t notice the way you’ve started clinging to him, like you think you can come in between us? It’s pathetic.”

    Marinette wondered if Chloe even knew that any drifting away from her Adrien was doing was her doing and hers alone; Marinette had nothing to do with it. But that was their friendship, and it wasn’t Marinette’s place to speak for Adrien. “I’m not clinging to anyone, and I’m not trying to come between anything,” she reaffirmed, though she knew that wouldn’t mean anything to Chloe.

        “Do you think I’m blind, Marinette? Do you think I wouldn’t notice you walking into the school stuck to his side like some gross leech? Did you think I would forget that you latched onto him for all of Rose’s party? As if that wasn’t the most obvious attempt to keep him away from me.”

    Chloe’s hands moved to her hips, and Sabrina copied the movement after a moment’s delay. It took all of Marinette’s self-control not to blurt out right then that Adrien had chosen to stay away from Chloe, but she couldn’t help some faint, petty satisfaction in knowing it as she endured Chloe’s attack. “Did it ever occur to you that Adrien and I are friends, and that’s actually why we’ve been spending time together?”

    An indignant gasp erupted from Chloe’s lips, and she loomed over Marinette furiously as she stepped closer. Marinette clenched her fists and stood straighter, but she refused to offer any stronger reaction.

        “Listen here, you little brat,” Chloe hissed, and Marinette’s chin lifted slightly. “I am Adrien’s best friend. We’ve known each other since we were little kids, and if you think some poor little upstart like you is good enough to be friends with someone like him, then it’s just pathetic. He’s too important to waste his time on some klutzy baker’s daughter, especially when he has friends like me, so you can just stay away from him.”

    Something inside Marinette snapped.

    Her blood boiled, rage bubbling beneath her skin—her heart pounding violently in her ears, she didn’t know what she was going to do, or say. She was used to Chloe’s jabs at her lack of money, at her clumsiness, but bringing Adrien into it, telling her she wasn’t good enough… it was too much, and she gritted her teeth, seeing red. Her own foot inched forward as she steeled herself to—to shout, to lash out, she didn’t know—when behind Chloe, their classroom door opened and Adrien stepped out.

    It didn’t exactly change anything—a sharp inhale forced its way in through Marinette’s lips, but she was still livid, still itching to do something, anything to get Chloe back for the effect of her words. But at the same time, seeing him afforded her some semblance of control over herself, her fists unclenching and fingers flexing, if only because looking like she was about to deck Chloe was probably not the best image to present to him.

    Turning towards them, Adrien seemed to freeze in place, his eyes drifting over Chloe’s aggressive posture, Sabrina mirroring her, and Marinette, who didn’t exactly look composed herself. He grimaced like he knew at a glance exactly what was going on, and Marinette’s posture relaxed slightly, some shame washing over her at the thought of him seeing her and Chloe at each other’s throats. Her eyes flicked back to Chloe, but before she could find anything to say, she saw Adrien set off towards them at a jog, clearly eager to intervene.

        “Chlo!” he called, voice unexpectedly cheerful as he distracted the blonde, who, with a blink of surprise, quickly straightened and turned to face him. She took a step back from Marinette, who took that as her own chance to edge away from Chloe, and then she offered him a bright smile like she hadn’t been scowling at Marinette mere seconds before.

        “Hey, I was looking for you,” he said as he slowed to a stop just beside Chloe, reaching to rest a hand on her shoulder. Marinette resisted an urge to raise an eyebrow at the way he smiled, as though he was completely oblivious to what he’d stumbled on. “Remember that physics class I missed last week? Nino’s notes are—hardly legible, I was wondering if I could borrow yours?”

        “Oh!” Chloe blinked, before batting her eyelashes at him, voice saccharine sweet. “Of course, Adrikens, gladly!

    She immediately turned to Sabrina to hiss at her to provide her own notes, and Adrien took that as his chance to make eye contact with Marinette, his expression a blatant message:

    Run. Run while you can.

    Marinette laid a hand over her heart with a grateful smile, mouthing, ‘My hero.’ He shot her a wink that had her heart skipping a beat as she took advantage of his distraction. Skirting around the other two girls, she made a break for it, walking swiftly down the hallway. Adrien and Chloe’s conversation picked up again—the sound of his voice following her along her path to the classroom filled her with affection, her heart fluttering a little at the thought that Adrien had just stepped in to help her.

    Slipping into the classroom, Marinette wasn’t surprised at all to find Alya leaning across her desk to talk animatedly with Nino, their words clearly being swapped in furiously enthusiastic undertones, and she sighed slightly. She supposed she was glad that at least she had two people on her side with this, but it still somehow seemed embarrassing to have her love life talked about like this.

    Still trying to brush off her lingering irritation with Chloe and the things she’d said, Marinette was quiet as she approached her desk, dropping her bag beside her seat before sliding into her spot beside Alya. Pausing their chatter, Nino and Alya both turned to her, a knowing grin on Nino’s face.

        “Hey, Marinette,” he said, in an utterly failed attempt to seem casual. “See Adrien out there?”

    He’d only just stepped out; she supposed she should have realized they’d know she had to have bumped into him on the way to the classroom. It probably wasn’t the response he was looking for when she answered him with a grimace, though.

        “Yeah. He just had to rescue me from Chloe.”

    She tried not to say ‘Chloe’ like it was some dirty, uncivilized word, but, well.

        “Uh oh,” Alya said, leaning her arm on the desk as her eyebrows rose.

        “That doesn’t sound good,” Nino agreed.

        “I didn’t really expect her to take Saturday lying down,” Alya sighed, and Marinette shrugged, not wanting to hint at exactly how furious she herself had been just a few moments before.

        “Well, she didn’t.” Marinette rolled her eyes like it was the mild inconvenience it should have been, instead of the rage-inducing event it had been. “And she wasn’t happy we came back from lunch together, either. I’m really glad Adrien came out when he did.”

    Alya waved a hand dismissively. “You didn’t need him, girl, you would have handled her just fine.”

        “That’s actually what I’m glad I avoided,” Marinette admitted, making Alya’s eyebrows raise. She shrugged, looking back towards the front of the classroom rather than meeting Alya or Nino’s eyes. “I think I might have been getting a little fired up just before he came out.”

        “Sounds like that would have been fun to watch.” Alya sounded more amused than she should have been, and the corner of Marinette’s lips twitched despite herself; it wasn’t exactly like she could say Chloe wouldn’t deserve it.

        “Or terrifying,” said Nino, the voice of reason in this particular conversation.

    The door to the classroom opened then, Sabrina, Chloe, and Adrien filing in—Chloe was clinging to Adrien’s arm as they walked, and Marinette fought an urge to wrinkle her nose. But he and Chloe were smiling as they chatted, no trace of Chloe’s earlier aggression in her face at all, and looking back on it, Marinette found herself impressed; it was downright masterful how quickly Adrien had defused that situation.

    Naturally, it only made her fall a little more in love with him.

    He slid into his seat in front of her, ‘Chloe’s’ (Sabrina’s in actuality, of course) physics notes in front of him, and after he pulled his own notebook out of his bag he seemed to pause for a moment. He turned back to face Marinette, and she froze—her breath hitched the way it always did when he paid her any attention, but she recovered faster than she usually did, so there was that.

    She tried to smile like he hadn’t just caught her watching him as he leaned his arm on the edge of her desk.

        “Hey, you said you missed physics on Thursday last week, too, right?” he asked, voice slightly hushed as his eyes drifted in Chloe’s direction, like he wanted to make sure she wasn’t watching. Marinette had to admit, his dedication to keeping the peace between them was admirable, even if she wasn’t convinced it was possible.

        “Uh—yeah,” she replied with a nod, hesitant smile strengthening a little.

    He returned her smile, the sight setting off a familiar thu-thump, thu-thump, thu-thump in her chest. “I can lend you my notes after I’ve finished copying down Sabrina’s, if you need them,” he offered, and after she fought off a dreamy sigh, Marinette’s smile turned rueful.

        “Oh—actually, I already got Alya’s notes,” she said, already mourning the lost chance at having something else of Adrien’s to use as an excuse to talk to him. “Thank you, though—for the offer, and for… out in the hallway.”

    He chuckled almost uncomfortably, like he was embarrassed to even have to rescue anyone from his oldest friend, rubbing at the back of his head in a way that was faintly familiar to her. “No problem, I was just returning the favor.” When she raised her eyebrows in question, he grinned and explained, “Just figured it was my turn to be your superhero, I guess.”

    Marinette felt her cheeks color a little, but she found it in herself to narrow her eyes playfully. “You’re not still on that Chat Noir thing, are you?”

    His grin widened, and he opened his mouth to reply when Alya pulled herself out of her separate conversation with Nino to interrupt. “Hey, you two are pairing up for the school fundraiser, right?” she cut into the conversation, looking between Adrien and Nino. “What are you guys going to do for it?”

    Every year, the ninth grade at Collège Françoise Dupont had a fundraising competition for the school; the class split into pairs and each pair would try to raise the most money for the school. Whichever pair raised the most money got to choose where in the school’s budget their funds went. Some kids sounded like they were going to take it seriously—Kim wanted more funding for athletics, Rose wanted more for the scrapbooking club, even Mylene sounded like she had plans if she won—but some cared more about the break from routine than the cause itself.

        “Yeah, I guess so,” Adrien replied as he turned to face her, and Marinette found herself wondering if he wanted the money for anything. More equipment for the fencing class, maybe? “What do you think we should do, Nino?”

        “Dude, I don’t know,” Nino slumped back in his seat slightly, pulling his hat off to ruffle his short hair a little before shooting a grin Adrien’s way. “Probably just sell signed posters of you, we’ll make bank. I can practically see that upgrade for the school radio station already.”

    Adrien groaned, looking genuinely miserable at the idea. “Nino, you know I hate signing autographs, and I’m tired of being the literal poster boy. How about we sell signed prints of you for a change?”

        “Fine by me,” Nino chuckled, turning back to grin at Alya, “You’d buy a signed pic of me, right?”

        “Uh, no,” she said bluntly, raising her eyebrows and reaching to pat his cheek. “Why would I pay for a picture when I get to see the real deal every day?”

        “Ouch,” he replied, playing up an overdramatic wince to the sound of her amused chuckle. “Harsh, girl. The radio station needed that money.”

        “I think you and the radio station will live.”

    Adrien, who’d been watching them with mild amusement, turned again to look between Marinette and Alya as he asked, “What about you two? What are you doing?”

        “I don’t know,” Marinette admitted, her mind shifting to designs she could make on a small budget that would sell easily, and for more than it cost to make them. “I was thinking maybe I could design some t-shirts, or hats would be easy—”

        “Ohh, no,” Alya interrupted, reaching to lay a hand on Marinette’s arm. “We are not doing anything design-related, girl. If I let you pick that, you’ll run yourself ragged doing all the work. No, we’re doing something we can both do, so I can help you. I was thinking baking. Cookies.”

        “Oh.” Marinette blinked, and after the extra moment or two it took her brain to shift back out of design mode, she had to admit, that did sound easier. And definitely profitable. “That is a better idea.”

        “You can already count on a purchase from me,” Adrien said eagerly, eyes lighting up in a way that made Marinette’s heart stutter a couple beats as she met his gaze, slightly wide-eyed. “Any baked goods made by a member of the Dupain-Cheng family are bound to be delicious.”

    Marinette’s cheeks flushed slightly, and she ducked her head to avoid both his bright smile and Alya’s pointed smirk.

        “Bro, not cool, you can’t support the competition!” Nino protested, throwing his hands in the air. “They won’t help us out, we can’t give them any charity.”

        “Hey, you come up with something I want to spend money on, and I might help you out,” Alya replied with an affectionate roll of her eyes.

        “How about… a kissing booth?”

    A resounding “No!” sounded from Alya, Marinette, and Adrien in unison, and Nino quickly threw his hands up in surrender. Marinette found herself sort of relieved that the others had found as much objection with it as she did—because if she’d been the only one to shoot the idea down so vehemently, it probably would have called attention to the fact that she had no love for the idea of Nino and Adrien in a kissing booth where Chloe and a mountain of Adrien’s fangirls could spend a fortune on kissing the love of her life.

    On the other hand, though, it would have been an ideal opportunity for her to grab a kiss… Marinette’s mind drifted slightly as the others kept talking, Adrien and Nino continuing to bounce ideas off of each other with the occasional suggestion from Alya. Her eyes strayed over the side of Adrien’s head as he talked, and she tried not to think about what it would feel like to slide her fingers into the hair there if she did kiss him. Or what it would be like to grip the front of his shirt to pull him closer, or if his lips would be as soft as she imagined—

    She clearly wasn’t trying very hard to control her thoughts.

    Marinette had lost track of the conversation, but Adrien suddenly groaned again, before turning to face her. She stiffened, trying not to look like she’d been watching him as intently as she had when he said, “Okay, your turn.”

    Oh, god. What? She really had no idea what they were talking about anymore.

    Blinking, she said, “Uh—my turn…?”

        “Yeah,” he replied, his face shifting into an exaggerated pleading expression, “As long as we’re going back and forth saving each other from our friends, please save me from this weirdo.”

    He jabbed a thumb in Nino’s direction, Nino looking playfully offended, and comprehension and relief washed over Marinette as she realized she didn’t have to own up to tuning out of the conversation. Blinking again, she let out a faint chuckle and leaned forward a little. Shaking off the last of her previous line of thought, she propped her hand up on her elbow and grinned in amusement.

        “I’ll see what I can do.”