Adrien rolled his pencil across his desk.
Back, forth, back, forth, back, forth, back, forth.
"Kid, you gonna stop daydreaming anytime soon? Your girlfriend's going to be here soon, and I need my precious cheese... I can already feel my life force draining!" Plagg cried dramatically.
Adrien rolled his eyes, and said for about the thousandth time, "Marinette isn't my girlfriend, Plagg. We're only meeting up at my house for a project."
"Says the boy who called it a date."
"A study date, Plagg," Adrien protested.
"Still a date."
Adrien was about to respond when he heard Nathalie opening the door. "Hide, Plagg!" he hissed, lifting his outer shirt for Plagg to enter.
"H-hey, Adrien," Marinette greeted shyly.
Adrien sighed inwardly. Marinette was a bold, outgoing, and confident person, but never around Adrien. He'd seen her challenge Kim to an arm wrestle, for goodness sake. But when it came to him, she always clammed up and turned red. Was she embarrassed to be seen around him? Was he really that pathetic? Or was she scared of him? Surely he wasn't that intimidating. He'd built up a warm, approachable image. Did she... could she possibly have... liked him? As in, like-liked him?
The thought was too laughably absurd, so Adrien quickly disregarded it. Besides, it was impossible; he represented bad luck.
He chalked it up to his father's status in the fashion world; he'd once heard Alya comment on Marinette's aspiration—to become a fashion designer.
"Shall we start working on the project?" he asked, ushering Marinette into his room.
"S-sure," Marinette nodded.
After entering the far-too-large room, Adrien noticed Marinette staring around the room. It made sense; most people—by whom, Adrien meant Nino—were surprised by the enormity of it. Not to mention the gigantic plasma screen, three desktops, climbing wall, and arcade games.
"Let's begin," Adrien said, bowing comically. He quickly started up one of his desktops, revealing his mother's face smiling at the two teenagers.
Looking over at Marinette, he noted that her mouth was slightly open and her eyes were wide. "Is that...?" she trailed off, the implication clear.
Adrien nodded. "My mother when she was seventeen. She was pretty, right?"
A smile spread across Marinette's profile. "You have her smile," she said—without stuttering, Adrien realised—turning to look at him.
When he saw her face, though, the wind was knocked from his lungs. Marinette's face was dusted with pink, her eyes looking at him more confidently, but that wasn't what had stunned him into silence.
It was Marinette's own smile.
He had been assaulted with its familiarity. He had only seen a smile like that on two people: his mother and Ladybug. One of whom was no longer there, the other... happened to be standing right beside him.
"No," he breathed, feeling himself blush, "you have her smile," M'lady, he added internally.
And suddenly, Adrien felt himself falling all over again.
He looked at Marinette, her eyes. They were a bright blue. They were the sky on a spring day; they were the ocean on a beautiful summer morning; they were the feathers of a peacock, standing proud. They were eyes that darted away from his in hallways at school; they were eyes that challenged his on patrols every other evening. Adrien looked at her, truly looked at her, and saw in her eyes every important memory he had come to acquire. His mom and dad on a picnic, when Adrien was five. His first photoshoot. Mom singing him lullabies every night. The blue deepened, and he saw more melancholic memories. He saw his dad locking himself away in his office. He saw that his mother had vanished. He saw himself crying, crying with no one coming to help him. The blue softened. He saw more recent memories. Seeing her for the first time, twice. Bumping into her in the streets of Paris, both of them using their Miraculous the first time. Her telling him off on the assumption that he had placed chewing gum on her seat. He saw Nino offering to be his friend. He saw himself comforting her before she faced Hawk Moth. He saw him at her house, playing Mecha Strike and trying in vain to keep up with her. He saw her fierce determination. He saw her stand up against Chloé, standing up for justice. He saw her go on a date with an akuma to save a friend. He saw her close an umbrella on herself by accident.
He saw her make him laugh for the first time in a year.
He had fallen for her again, and was still falling.
"Uh... y-yeah?" he said, rushing the words out.
"Are you okay? I-I mean, not that you wouldn't be; you just looked a little—"
"I'm fine, Marinette," he squeaked. "Just... you remind me so much of her," he added, nodding at the picture.
"O-oh," she muttered, patting her purse. Was that where her kwami was?
After the project, Adrien watched as Marinette left.
Adrien swivelled around, making eye contact with his father. He straightened instinctively. "Yes, Père?"
"Are you interested in that Marinette girl?"
"Wh-what? No, I just—we're just friends, tha—"
"She has your mother's smile." Gabriel responded simply.
"Yeah," Adrien agreed. "She does."