It was all Alya’s fault.
To be fair Adrien probably should have been paying better attention to the conversation around him, but still…
One minute he was happily enjoying his iced chai latte, distractedly scrolling through the Ladyblog and only catching every third word of his friends conversation and the next he was drenched in said chai latte stuttering and blushing like… well like Marinette. He still wasn’t sure what that was about.
The two had been arguing about flirting. Nino and Alya that is. Something about chickens… he really should have been paying more attention.
The important thing was he had not been prepared for his best friend to lean over and whisper “you know you are incredibly attractive right?”
Then came the blushing and the spilling of drinks.
Alya had doubled over laughing while Nino had helped attempt to clean up the mess. But even his traitorous best friend hadn’t bothered to hide the extremely satisfied gleam in his eyes.
The afternoon just got worse from there.
It started small. An innocent ruffling of his hair, sitting just a little too close in class. Little compliments messaged between their tablets when the teacher wasn’t looking. At first Adrien was flattered. It was always nice when his friends were affectionate. Given the lack of physical and vocal attention he got at home, Adrien was always desperate for more of the casual affection he saw his friends display so easily. Sadly he was still not secure enough to generally initiate or ask for it himself.
Once class ended though, it picked up to a whole new degree.
They had made plans beforehand to go to the arcade together after school was out, given Adrien’s surprisingly free schedule.
They had barely made it more than 10 steps from the school when he felt Nino casually lacing his fingers through his own.
Adrien felt the blush returning with force while Nino continued his casual conversation with Alya, who shot them a glare before all but climbing on top of Marinette, who simply laughed and rolled her eyes before reaching back to toy with Alya’s hair.
It wasn’t that he disliked anything Nino was doing. In fact, he rather enjoyed the increased affection more than he wanted to admit. He just wished he had any clue what was happening.
By the time they reached the arcade, hand holding had morphed to Nino’s arm wrapped around his waist. At one point, he was pretty sure Nino had sniffed his hair before commenting that ‘all those showers are paying off because you smell really good.’
Adrien was fairly certain that his make up artist was going to kill him because his face seemed to have morphed into a permanent shade of red. Of course there was also the chance that Alya would kill him first. She had been shooting daggers at them while Marinette giggled and occasionally whispered things into her ear.
“Ok,” Adrien asked when Alya and Nino disappeared off to get tokens, “what is going on today?”
Marinette raised an eyebrow. “What do you mean?”
“What is with the two of them?” he gestured in the direction their friends had gone, “I mean you and Alya have been hanging all over each other- which is fine, I mean it’s not like it’s the first time but you are being kind of… extra, today. And Nino is… just what’s going on?”
Marinette’s expression morphed into a look of amused pity, not unlike the look Ladybug tended to shoot him after he had crashed headfirst into the pavement. It wasn’t very reassuring.
“Oh… weren’t you paying attention at lunch?”
“Yes… no… it wasn’t that interesting listening them to bicker about movie troupes so I kind of tuned them out.”
Marinette bit her lower lip in a clear attempt to bite back another giggle and Adrien felt his heart sink.
“So you’ve really had no clue what’s going on?” she asked.
Adrien said nothing, wondering if maybe his father had been right about sticking with home schooling.
“They’re playing chicken.”
“You have no idea what I am talking about do you?” Marinette sighed. “It’s a game… sort of. More like a contest. You try to see how far you can flirt with someone until you get scared and have to stop.”
“Oh,” Adrien said softly, not sure what to make of the swell of disappointment he felt at her words. “So all of this was just a game?” He tried to keep his voice light, but he saw Marinette’s eyes widen in understanding.
“Well, yes and no,” she said hurriedly, “I mean part of the challenge is that it should be someone you actually like. Otherwise it’s too easy you know?”
Adrien gave her a somewhat pained smile, still not sure how he felt about this whole revelation.
“Honestly we thought you knew,” Marinette continued, looking honestly concerned, “we just thought you were really bad at it.”
“Hey!” Adrien protested, although he felt his smile widen in genuine amusement at her guilty confession.
“Sorry,” she said, ducking her head in shame.
“Eh, it’s not your fault,” Adrien said, “I should have realised something wasn’t right when Nino started flirting with me.”
Marinette stared at him. “Just how oblivious are you?” she blurted, then immediately slammed a hand over her mouth.
“Seriously, what am I missing now?” Adrien sighed, trying to give Marinette his best puppydog expression.
“Well I already told you- the game isn’t fun unless you are flirting with someone you are actually at least a little bit interested in,” she said, tucking a stray lock of hair behind her ear.
“Oh…” Adrien said stupidly. “Wait, so Alya… and you… did you know?”
Marinette gave him a bemused smile. “She isn’t exactly subtle, and this isn’t our first game of chicken.”
“Oh… so are you guys, like an official couple then?”
Marinette flushed. “It’s complicated.”
“Something holding you back?” Adrien asked curiously.
“Well that answers my question about how oblivious you are,” Marinette muttered, no longer meeting his gaze, her cheeks still stained a charming shade of pink.
Before Adrien had a chance to ask her to elaborate on what THAT was about, Nino and Alya came back with two cups full of coins.
“So what are you two kids talking about,” Alya asked, leaning over and giving Marinette an eskimo kiss, which she happily returned.
“Marinette was explaining the finer points of chicken,” Adrien said.
“Oh, you told him? There goes half my fun,” Nino complained.
“Wait he didn’t know?” Alya said, her eyes lighting up. “Well no wonder you were beating me so badly! You were basically playing on easy mode.”
“Hey,” Adrien sputtered indignantly, feeling more than a little put out by this whole thing already, “maybe I will beat all of you at this game.”
All three of his friends gave him a wide eyed look before bursting out into laughter.
“Adrien you don’t flirt,” Alya said between chortles.
“Yeah dude,” Nino said, slinging an arm over his shoulder, “don’t get me wrong, you are adorable and I love you, but you are about as smooth as a cactus.”
Adrien glowered. “I can be smooth.”
“Don’t worry about it,” Marinette said soothingly, “besides as much as Alya hates to admit it, no one ever beats Nino at this game.”
“I will some day,” Alya said, smirking at the boy in question.
“Is that a challenge?” Adrien asked, looking at his gloating best friend.
“It’s not a challenge bro. It’s just a fact,” he smiled, leaning in a little too close, and Adrien forced himself to hold his ground.
“Trust me,” Nino continued with a smile, “there is nothing you could do that would phase me when I am involved in a game of chicken.
Adrien smiled as he got a terribly brilliant idea.
“Alright Plagg, I am going to do this,” Adrien said, trying to psych himself up as he danced nervously back and forth in his room.
“You realize that… actually no, I am not even going to touch this one,” Plagg replied, tossing another piece of cheese into his mouth.
“Just spit it out,” Adrien grumbled.
“Spit of cheese? Never! How dare you suggest such a thing.”
“I meant whatever you were going to say,” Adrien said, glaring at the small god who simply smirked in response.
“You really are no fun today,” Plagg replied, curling up in the now empty Camembert case with a contented sigh.
“Well how would you feel if you had been making an idiot of yourself in front of everyone all day? I don’t know what was wrong with me! I know how to flirt! Yet all I could do was stutter and choke.”
“Don’t forget spill drinks all over yourself and poor unsuspecting kwamis trying to sleep in your pocket.”
“I don’t know what’s wrong with me,” Adrien groaned, dropping down into his computer chair.
Plagg made an irritated little tutting noise and flew over to rest on Adrien’s shoulder. “OK kid, time to do the Tikki thing.”
“Just shut up and listen. You may be used to flirting as you say, but you aren’t used to being flirted WITH.”
“I am a celebrity, people flirt with me all the time.”
“No, people fawn on you all the time. There is a difference. Besides it doesn’t change the bigger point- that you aren’t used to being flirted with by people that you actually like back.”
“I guess it is different to get hit on by a friend.”
“Really not what I meant.”
“Come on Plagg, you aren’t seriously suggesting-”
“YES I am exactly suggesting. As much fun as it is to watch you be oblivious to yourself and everyone around you, you are an affectionate kid with a romantic streak longer than the Nile, and it pains me to see you so caught up in your own screwed up repression that you refuse to entertain the idea that people might actually like you back.”
“I know that people like me back, I have friends-”
“Again, not what I meant and you know it.” Plagg sighed. “Look, instead of arguing about it let me just say this. It’s ok to be happy, Adrien. It’s ok to be selfish and to go after what you want. And it’s ok to want more than you thought you did. Just… just try to keep that in mind tonight, ok?”
Adrien looked at Plagg, trying to discern what had brought about this strange mood in his usually apathetic friend. “I’ll try?” he said at last.
“Then let’s do this thing.”
“You aren’t going to try to talk me out of it?” Adrien asked, skeptically.
“Talk you out of your misguided quest to prove your virility by flirting with your closest friend, under the guise of your alter ego? Despite the fact that you will only gain a personal sense of victory, since you won’t be able to tell any of your other friends that you have reclaimed your missing honor without completely jeopardizing your secret identity? On the contrary I wholeheartedly support it.”
“You’re being sarcastic, aren’t you?” Adrien muttered.
“Nope,” Plagg said sincerely.
“So you think it’s a good idea?”
“No I think it’s a terrible idea. I just think you should do it anyways.”
“Why should I do something if it’s a terrible idea?”
“One thing I know from being the God of destruction- sometimes you need things to fall apart in order to create better things. I think there is a good chance that this is going to crash and burn and blow up in your face, but I also think that maybe that’s what you need right now.”
“Ok you really aren’t making me feel better about this whole thing.”
Plagg sighed and rolled his eyes. “See, this is why I leave all the complex philosophical life stuff to Tikki. OK. How about this- I bet you 3 wheels of Camembert that you can’t out flirt any of your friends even with the mask. If you win, I will make sure that your schedule is conveniently clear the night of that insipid class party you keep whining about wanting to go to.”
“You can actually do that?”
“I am a GOD, there are a lot of things I can do if I put my mind to it.”
“OK, deal,” Adrien said, with more confidence than he actually felt.
“Alright then, let’s transform and pay Mr. Chicken a visit. Oh and Adrien?”
“Just try to remember what I said, alright?”
“Sure. Plagg, Transform me.”
Chat Noir couldn’t believe his luck when he saw the figure lounging in a lawn chair on the balcony, head bobbing to the sound of whatever song was playing through the headphones, while working on what he was willing to guess was this week’s maths assignment.
He stealthily crept his way across the rooftops and silently landed behind his target, carefully posing against the railing in a way that he knew would show him off to his best advantage.
Plagg was wrong. This was a fantastic idea. Maybe Adrien couldn’t handle some playful flirtation, but Chat Noir was a CATsannova of the first order. Maybe it was true that his friends would never know, but that was ok. He could deal with their teasing and poking, and the large pile of sly comments that seemed to constantly go over his head. He would know better. He would know who the TRUE king of chicken was.
He shifted slightly, checking to make sure he was perfectly situated in the small sliver of light pouring out onto the balcony.
“Well,” he drawled, loud enough that he knew he would be heard through the headphones, “aren’t you just a sight for sore eyes.”
“Oh my god!” Nino cried, jumping up at the sound of someone else on the balcony, and then jumping back another two feet when he realized who was speaking to him. “It’s Chat Noir! Chat Noir is on my balcony! OMG this is the best! I so need to call Alya!”
“Come now,” Chat purred, rolling his shoulders back and lowering his eyes into a predatory smoulder, “we don’t need anyone else interrupting this little tête-à-tête. After all, intimate gatherings are so much more pleasant, don’t you think?”
Chat had to bite back a smile of triumph as he watched Nino’s eyes go wide, his cheeks darkening visibly even in the dim evening light.
“I… uh… yeah I guess,” he stuttered, hastily pulling off his headphones and straightening his glasses. “So, what bring you out this way?”
Chat took a couple of steps forward, his smile widening. “Do I need an excuse to want to see the best looking guy I know?” he asked with a playful eyebrow raise.
“Holy shit,” Nino breathed before flushing in embarrassment as he realized he had said the words aloud. “I mean… can I get you anything? Tea, coffee, hot chocolate?”
“Am I giving you the impression that I’m thirsty?” Chat teased, reveling in the fact that Nino seemed to be completely speechless. “You do seem to have a pretty good grasp on my taste though- hot, dark, a little sweet.” Just to reinforce his point, he gave Nino a deliberate wink, holding back a cry of triumph as his friend gawked, completely flustered by this unexpected turn of events.
“If...,” Nino croaked, “if I didn’t know better, I would think you were flirting with me.”
“Who’s to say I’m not?” Chat countered, leaning in close just like Nino had done to him earlier that afternoon.
“Are you?” Nino pressed, his lips trembling as Chat leaned in just a hair more.
“You tell me,” Chat replied, his eyes sparking with triumph as he anticipated Nino’s inevitable crack.
All the telltale signs were there- the deep flush, the trembling limbs, the wide eyed look of disbelief. Any second now Nino would trip, or stutter, or come up with any sort of excuse to turn around and run, just like Adrien had time and time again this afternoon. Any second his resolve would shatter, and he wouldn’t be able to hold on anymore. Chat leaned forward one final centimeter.
And break Nino did- he surged forward the rest of the way, hands clasped against Chat’s face, and dragged the unsuspecting cat in for a hot, desperate kiss.
Three things happened during the 5 or so seconds that it took for Chat’s overwhelmed brain to register what exactly had just happened. First- he realized that he had grossly miscalculated this entire scheme. Second- his entire face turned the color of his partner’s suit. And third- he finally accepted that Plagg had been 100% correct in his earlier observations.
“Oh my god,” he gasped breaking away from the kiss and throwing himself against the wall in panic, “oh my god you kissed me!”
“I thought you wanted me to!” Nino shot back sounding equally hysterical.
“Well yes! No! I mean… I don’t… I mean now I do, but I didn’t… you weren’t supposed to kiss me!” Chat stammered out shrilly.
“Then why were you flirting with me?” Nino shouted back, his own expression colored with embarrassment.
“I was playing chicken!”
Nino’s expression instantly morphed into a look of complete confusion. “What?”
“Chicken, it’s a game where-”
“I know what chicken is,” Nino interrupted flatly, his face still furrowed in puzzlement, “I mean, why would you be playing chicken with me?”
“God this was a terrible idea, I am gonna kill Plagg.”
“Uhhh… a friend of mine?”
“It’s from an anime,” Chat lied.
“Huh. I’ll have to ask Adrien about it.”
Great , Chat thought to himself. Now he was going to have to make up some fake anime too.
“So, you still haven’t told me why you’re playing chicken with me. Did this Plagg person just dare you to play chicken with a random stranger?”
“What? That doesn’t even make sense! Marinette said you only play chicken with people you actually like!”
“Wait you know Marinette?”
“Did she put you up to this? Wait… is Mari Plagg?”
“What the hell is going on man?” Nino said, crossing his arms and glaring at Chat, his eyes full of confusion, frustration, and maybe just a little bit of hurt.
“Look, it was stupid, ok! I’m stupid. I just wanted to prove that I could flirt with you is all, and clearly I can’t because this whole thing is a complete disaster, and I don’t know why I thought this was a good idea, but I just wanted to make you as flustered as you make me, because I can’t stop thinking about it!” Adrien blurted, his heart sinking to his stomach as it clicked in his mind exactly what he had been feeling all day. God he was an idiot. An oblivious, clearly very confused, idiot. “Look, I should go,” he said quietly, dropping his gaze to the ground and sidling towards the edge of the balcony from where he had arrived.
“Hey, hang on,” Nino said, catching him by the shoulder and nudging him to turn around, “did you…”, he coughed awkwardly, “you got flustered by me? Seriously?”
“Well, yeah,” Chat admitted, trying and failing to meet his friends eyes, “but I should-”
“You get me flustered too,” Nino interrupted, ducking his head so that he caught Chat’s eyes, and giving him a hesitant, hopeful smile. “I mean, you’re pretty much the most amazing guy I’ve ever seen.”
“Oh,” Chat breathed, “uh… thanks. I mean, good. No! That’s not what I… wow I suck at this, don’t I?” he laughed.
“I can work with that,” Nino grinned.
This time when Nino leaned in for a kiss Chat saw it coming, and he didn’t push away.
His whole world seemed to be shattering around him, but for once he didn’t let himself care. Plagg was right, he deserved to be selfish.
He leaned into the embrace, lips pressing against lips with increasing urgency, hand fumbling clumsily for purchase. Everything was hard and soft and dizzying and calming all at the same time. He moaned softly as he felt Nino gently nip at his lower lip, his own hands snaking around the other boys waist to pull him tighter as the kiss deepened.
Eventually they had to pull apart, panting for air, noses nuzzled against each other in an eskimo kiss as they both laughed quietly, full of wonder and warmth.
“Wow,” Nino said at last, “That was-”
“Kind of fantastic?” Chat finished with a grin.
“Um, more like unbelievably fantastic,” Nino replied, leaning in for another, more chaste, kiss. “I can’t believe I just made out with the savior of Paris.”
“Well, one of,” Chat replied, dropping his head against Nino’s shoulder and reveling in the affection that he had always wanted, but never been courageous enough to pursue.
“Eh, Alya can have Ladybug,” Nino teased, cuddling the purring catboy tighter against him, “I think I got the better end of the bargain.”
It was like a bucket of cold water had just been dropped onto his head. Ladybug- the partner who he had thought he wanted. What did this mean for his feelings towards her?
After all, he couldn’t pretend anymore that he didn’t want this too.
But how was this even supposed to work? How was he supposed to face Nino or Alya or Marinette as Adrien? Was he allowed to do anything? Had he boxed himself into a corner by allowing himself to act on these feelings as Chat Noir?
Nino was looking at him questioningly, clearly aware of the sudden tension.
As he lost himself in the shining golden eyes of this boy that he loved, because that was the only word that could truly encompass this feeling of complete and total safety, of contentment, that he was feeling, he remembered what Plagg had said earlier.
It’s ok to be happy, Adrien. It’s ok to be selfish and to go after what you want. And it’s ok to want more that you thought you did.
He could find a way to make this work. He had too. Maybe his world had blown up in his face tonight, perhaps nothing tomorrow would ever be the same. But maybe that was exactly the way it should be.
This time, he was the one to initiate the kiss. It was more hesitant. Soft and sweet, but full of promise.
“I don’t know when I will be able to see you again,” he admitted as he pulled away. “At least, like this,” he gestured to his costume, “but I want you to know that I am not going to give up on this. I can’t really explain exactly, but know that I will make this work.”
“Okay,” Nino nodded, a little confused but grinning never the less, “I trust you.”
“Things are… complicated, but I’ll find a way.”
Nino nodded, giving him another light kiss of reassurance.
“That doesn’t mean you should sit around waiting for me,” Chat said hurriedly, “I don’t want you to think-”
“You want to make sure that if some random hot blonde with a penchant for puns starts flirting with me, I don’t just tell him to hit the road?”
“Something like that,” Chat muttered, and Nino laughed.
“Tell you what, how about this? I will lay down a rule that I don’t get involved in relationships with anyone without knowing their first name. Meanwhile I will be cautiously optimistic that my love life might take a turn for the better in the foreseeable future.”
“I can work with that,” Chat grinned. “I should be on my way, I am probably already late for patrol,” he admitted, unhappily detaching himself from Nino with a pout.
“Stay safe out there,” Nino said.
“Always,” Chat grinned with a wink, hopping easily onto the balcony rail.
“Hey Chat?” Nino called before he could jump away.
“I know I said no relationships, but if you want to just try for some nice, no strings attached making out while you’re figuring things out,” he smirked knowingly, “well you know where to find me.”
Chat felt his entire face flame as he picture just that.
“I gotta go,” he said, and then ran off into the night.
“Is everything ok, Kitty?” Ladybug asked, as they sat together at the end of patrol two hours later.
“I just made out with my best friend,” Chat said, turning to face her.
Ladybug raised an eyebrow playfully, “I think I would remember that.”
“Not you, my other best friend.”
“Oh,” she said, surprised. “Well did you like it?”
“Well that’s great then! Is she cute?”
Ladybug shot him another surprised glance. “Oh, I didn’t realize you liked guys.”
“Neither did I.” Chat replied with a small smile.
“Well, regardless, good for you,” she smiled, and his heart gave a traitorous skip.
He could deal with that later.
Chat stared out at the skyline of the city. Yes his life was complicated. But for the first time in a long time, he was fairly sure that that was a good thing.
If nothing else, he was certainly looking forward to the next day at school. He wondered how hard it would be to talk Alya into starting another game of chicken.