“We are not doing this again,” Nino sighed, burying his nose in his textbook as Kim drummed his pencil against table.
“What’d I do?” Kim asked.
“The last ‘hypothetical question’ you posed nearly tore the class apart,” Max sighed, casually leaning over and changing an answer on Kim’s worksheet when he wasn’t looking.
“Oh, please,” Kim said, squinting at the answer Max wrote as he tried to make sense of it. “When have I ever-”
“Chloe almost tore Marinette’s hair out when she suggested that Chat Noir would beat Ladybug in a fair fight,” Adrien said, a dark look flitting across his sparkling green eyes.
“And that’s why you’re banned from posing hypothetical questions,” Nino concluded, stiffening a little bit as Adrien leaned across his lap to check Max’s answers. Perhaps it was natural for someone who was homeschooled to lack any sense of personal space, but that didn’t make it easier for Nino to have the subject of his affections practically sitting in his lap while he checked his answers against the smart kid.
“How about a peaceful one then?” Kim suggested.
“No such thing,” Ivan muttered, paging through the library’s copy of Metamorphosis while he waited for his friends to finish their homework.
“It’s always some kind of competition with you,” Nathanael added, sharpening his colored pencil. “Who would win in a fight; Ladybug or Chat Noir?”
“Who would win in a footrace; Ladybug or Chat Noir?” Ivan said in a shocking imitation of Kim’s voice.
“If you had to make out with Ladybug or Chat Noir, who would you pick and why?” Max said.
“Dude!” Kim hissed, turning a shocking shade of scarlet. “I told you that one in private!”
“Now that’s not a bad question,” Nathanael said, chewing on the end of his pencil thoughtfully. “Given the choice between the two…which one would you rather…?”
Nino tensed suddenly, skin prickling as a tentative silence came over the group. Homework forgotten, books closed, they glanced around the table, waiting for someone to be the first to broach the question at hand.
Finally, Nathanael—turning back to his artwork—said, “Chat Noir.”
Adrien’s ears immediately started burning. “R-Really?” He asked, sitting up a little straighter.
“Well…y-yeah,” Nathanael coughed, tucking his comics back into his folder as he was suddenly aware that all eyes were on him. “I mean…”
“Okay, hold on, are we talking like…a one off thing or someone you would rather settle down with?” Kim asked, holding up his hand.
“I believe the question didn’t specify,” Max said, pushing his glasses up on his nose. “Though, in that case, I would have to say my preference would naturally be Ladybug.”
Nino’s leg unconsciously banged against the underside of the table, drawing everyone’s attention as he tried to hide his blush behind a book. “I, uh…s-sneezed.”
“Bless you,” Adrien said, returning his attention to Max. “Why Ladybug?”
“The prestige, if nothing else,” Max said thoughtfully, leaning back in his chair. “To be able to say that I won the affections of Paris’ greatest hero-”
“What?” Kim asked.
“In the interest of not rekindling that argument, let me change that to one of the greatest,” Max said, holding his hands up defensively. “Certainly the most striking figure at least.”
“Again what?” Kim spluttered. “I mean, dude’s got the back muscles of an Olympian swimmer, granted, but you’re telling me the rather play tonsil hockey with the Boy Scout rather than the bad boy?”
“How is Chat Noir the bad boy?” Adrien mumbled, shaking his head.
Boy Scout? Nino thought with a small grimace that went unnoticed as Kim flagged a passing Alix down.
“Hey, back me up here,” Kim said, grabbing Alix by the arm. “Chat Noir is hotter than Ladybug, isn’t he?”
“Is this how we’re greeting each other now?” Alix sighed, crossing her arms. “No hey, no how-are-you; just straight to would you rather’s?”
“Just answer the question,” Kim sighed.
“I don’t know…I guess?” Alix shrugged.
“Ha!” Kim said, pumping his fist. “Three to one!”
“And here we go again,” Ivan sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose.
“I believe the question was posed to only those sitting at this table,” Max replied. “So two-to-one. Don’t pad your data like a doctoral candidate during finals. ”
“What happened to no hypothetical questions?” Adrien murmured in Nino’s ear. The proximity combined with the sensation of Adrien’s breath on his neck made Nino’s skin prickle pleasantly.
“Ivan?” Kim asked, leaning across the table. “C’mon; who would you rather make out with?”
“Ladybug,” Ivan said without hesitation and without looking up from the page. If he did, he would have naturally seen Nino flush a darker shade of purple and suddenly become interested in the contents of his homework.
“Ah, I see you’re a man of taste as well, Ivan” Max nodded sagely, bumping his knuckles against Ivan’s.
“Poor taste,” Kim muttered.
“Hey!” Nino opened his mouth to protest, only to find Adrien had beat him to the punch, standing up a little as all eyes trained on Adrien.
“I think that raises the count from two to three in favor of Ladybug,” Max said, leaning back with a smug smirk as Adrien quietly sank back into his chair. “No need to sulk just because Adrien has better taste in husbandos than you do.”
Nino was deaf to this conversation, largely due to the fact that Adrien had almost jumped to his feet in defense of his alleged hotness. It took every ounce of his willpower not to read too much into what was likely just a friendly game; surely Adrien was just suggesting that he would rather make out with him than Chat Noir if he had to.
“Never pegged you for a huge Ladybug fan,” Nathanael said, chewing on the end of his pencil as he studied Adrien’s flushed expression.
“Oh, w-well, I just…” Adrien cleared his throat. “I mean…who would pass up the chance to kiss Paris’ number one hero?”
“I know we’re having a who’s hotter debate right now, but if you want to drag up the who would win in a fight argument-”
“Look, I’ve got my preferences, okay?” Adrien said, holding his hands up before Kim could get too carried away. “I just…think he’s cute is all. Back me up here, Nino.”
Nino was thoroughly incapable of backing anyone up seeing as how he was currently fixating on the fact that Adrien actually said he was cute. To. His. Face. The mask didn’t cover all that much, so Nino was fairly comfortable taking credit for the fact that Adrien preferred him to his partner.
Somewhere, Chat Noir was probably coughing up a hairball knowing that he had competition.
“Uh…I…I mean, yeah, Ladybug’s good looking and all!” Nino laughed, scratching the back of his neck.
“So we can assume the final tally is four-to-two?” Max asked, teeth glinting as Kim’s head sank to the desk with a groan.
“I…w-well…” Nino said, fiddling with his cap’s bill. “Honestly, I would…much rather kiss Chat.”
There was a beat of silence before the table dissolved into a chorus of mixed reactions.
“Thank you!” Kim said, thumping Nino on the back.
“Pleb,” Max sighed, shaking his head as he returned to his homework. Nathanael and Ivan just shrugged, busying themselves with more interesting things. Adrien was the only quiet one, leaning on his elbows and cupping his nose and mouth in his hands.
“Really?” Adrien asked after a moment, drawing Nino’s attention away from the headlock Kim now had Max in. “You…like Chat Noir?”
“I mean, i-it’s just a game, right?” Nino laughed, closing his notes up as a distant bell signaled the end of the school day. “If I had to pick one, I’d just rather go with Chat.”
“Right…” Adrien nodded, swinging his bookbag up on to his shoulders as the pair made their way towards the front of the school. “No…particular reason?”
Yeah, because I can’t exactly make out with myself, Nino thought.
“I mean he has his…rakish…charm I guess?” Nino said, scratching the back of his neck. “Cute in a scruffy teenage dramedy sorta way, y’know?”
“I guess I’ve never really thought of him like that,” Adrien said, adjusting the strap of his bookbag.
“You’re probably the only one,” Nino chuckled. “Paris seems to have a thing for blondes, don’t they?”
“No accounting for taste,” Adrien shrugged. “Personally, I’m with Chloe, Max, and Ivan.”
“Don’t let Marinette hear you say that,” Nino said, bumping Adrien’s shoulder with his. “She sewed up that Chat Noir hoodie out of pure spite, you know.”
“I’m sure Chat Noir appreciates having such an enthusiastic fan,” Adrien chuckled.
“…you just happen to prefer Ladybug though, right?” Nino said, licking his lips as they approached the street they usually diverged at.
“Well…yeah, I mean…” Adrien trailed off, a flush of color rising to his cheeks. “L-Let’s just say that I’d would kiss Ladybug whether I had to or not…”
It was a miracle that Nino didn’t drop dead of a heart attack.
“It’s just a little crush though,” Adrien laughed, an almost wistful look in his eye as he leaned against a nearby lamppost. “Not like I have a real shot with him or anything-”
“H-How do you know?!” Nino blurted out, drawing the attention of a passing crowd of Japanese tourists. “I-I mean…you don’t know that you don’t have a shot with him, right?”
“Come on,” Adrien scoffed. “He’s a superhero and I’m just-”
“Handsome, funny, smart, talented,” Nino cut himself off with a cough before he started blabbering at length about Adrien’s finer qualities. “Who’s to say he wouldn’t bite if you tried flirting with him?”
“Oh…call it a hunch,” Adrien said, turning on the lamppost to face Nino.
“He seemed pretty happy to kiss Chat when that whole Dark Cupid thing went down,” Nino pointed out.
“What am I supposed to do; kiss him full on the mouth then?” Adrien said, looking flustered for some reason.
“Well…” Nino said, heart pulsing in his ears in time with the rush of foot traffic brushing past them. “Wh-what’s the worst that could happen?”
Adrien opened his mouth to respond, but the light flicked green and the crowd of people began shuffling between them across the sidewalk.
“I’ll keep that in mind,” Adrien said, shooting another wave over his shoulder as he jogged down the sidewalk, disappearing in the crowd as Nino watched him go with a small sigh.
“I’m proud of you,” Tikki chimed in his ear as he turned and headed down the street. “That was almost a confession.”
“Button up, bugaboo,” Nino said, fishing a tiny cookie from his pocket and passing it to his kwami tucked into his hood.
“I’m serious,” Tikki said through a mouthful of crumbs that spilled on Nino’s lapel. “You should be more honest about your feelings.”
“Says the bugmouse who has been soul-bonded to a talking cat her entire life,” Nino mumbled. “Not that easy…”
“He’s been pretty clearly crushing on your alter ego so you know he would be open to-”
“A relationship with his best friend?” Nino said, sighing and scratching the back of his neck. “There’s a lot of moving parts where he’s concerned and I don’t really want to take a chance and make it weird, y’know?”
“So you’re just going to spend the rest of your life consumed with romantic desire for your best friend and never tell him?” Tikki asked.
“Sounds like a good plan,” Nino said as a scream came from down a side street. A moment passed, followed by a chorus of more screams as people started running past him.
“Please be a bank robbery,” Nino silently prayed. “Please, please, please be a bank robbery.”
“It’s never a bank robbery and you know it,” Tikki sighed as Nino flipped his hood up and ducked into a nearby alley.
“So much for finishing my homework on time tonight,” Nino sighed, adjusting the silver studs in his ears. “Tikki, transform m-”
Nino trailed off a flash of movement caught his eye. A bright, black and red akuma was harassing a group of people hunkering down near the entrance of a café. At the head of the group, wielding a large patio umbrella like a lance, was Adrien, trying to distract the akuma from the group of civillians cowering behind him.
“That idiot,” Nino groaned. “That handsome, handsome idiot! Tikki-”
“On it!” Tikki said, disappearing into his earrings and transforming his clothes into the familiar black and red spotted cowl of Ladybug. Latching on to a nearby lamp post, Ladybug kicked off the sidewalk, swinging around a parked van for momentum as he kicked hard against the side of the akuma that was shredding Adrien’s lance to pieces.
“What are you doing?!” Ladybug said, batting away a long, sharp claw with the end of his yo-yo. “You need to get off the streets!”
If Adrien was flummoxed by the sudden arrival of his hero, he didn’t seem to show it. “I was trying, but these people were getting cornered and-”
“You were gonna fight the akuma all by yourself?!” Ladybug said, ducking another attack and riposting with a swift flick of his yo-yo that knocked the akuma ass over teakettle into the street. Taking his chance, Ladybug ducked back, wrapping an arm instinctually around Adrien’s waist. “Come on; we have to get you out of here!”
Amidst Adrien’s cries of protest, Ladybug latched his yo-yo on the ledge of the roof, yanking the pair of them up and onto the ledge of the rooftop. The akuma followed, claws outstretched as Adrien’s batted him away with a well-placed kick in the noggin that sent him tumbling into a dumpster across the street.
“Are you okay?” Ladybug asked, setting Adrien down on the roof.
“I’m fine,” Adrien said, brushing himself off. “You need to get going; that akuma is chewing up anything that gets in its path.”
“Not until you’re clear of all this!” Ladybug insisted, scanning the horizon for another place to latch his yo-yo on to.
“I’m fine; you should be more worried about them,” Adrien said, nodding down at the crowd below. “I can handle myself!”
“With what; a beach umbrella?” Ladybug said, head swimming as he remembered the way the akuma bore down on Adrien. “I can’t fight this thing and worry about you at the same time!”
“A superhero is supposed to be concerned with everyone; not just one person!” Adrien insisted.
“I’m not!” Ladybug blurted out before he could stop himself, heart hammering in his ears as Adrien recoiled a little bit. “I know; I know I need to be the Boy Scout who’s worried about the greater good and-and ‘Paris as a whole’ and all that stuff but…I’m not. I wish I was but…I can’t think straight if I think you’re gonna get hurt.”
Adrien was quiet, brows knit together as he stared at Ladybug for a long moment. Then, without warning or preamble, he grabbed the lapels of his black hood and kissed him square on the lips.
It lacked any of the grace or perfection Nino thought it would have; in fact the first thing Nino registered was pain as Adrien’s nose bonked against his. But the fact that Adrien’s lips were so imperfectly pressed against his was enough to obliterate most rational thought from Nino’s mind for the few seconds they kissed.
Air and rational thought returned in a blur as Adrien pulled back, licking his lips as his cheeks flushed a deep shade of pink.
“Go save the day and I’ll treat you to dinner tonight,” Adrien murmured as Ladybug’s brain slowly rebooted enough to process that Adrien was asking him on a date.
“Uh…h-hold that thought?” Ladybug said, stumbling backwards and flipping off the roof on to the head of the akuma. “I-I’ll call you!”
Adrien watched, heart hammering in his ears as Ladybug wrestled the akuma to the street.
“I’m gonna vomit,” Plagg gagged, poking his head out of Adrien’s collar.
“Just shut up and transform me,” Adrien said, pulling his cell phone out. “Hello, Mrs. Cesaire? This is Adrien Agreste. I was wondering if there’s a table for two at Le Gran Paris’ restaurant for the evening…”
He was going to have to figure out some way to thank Nino for inspiring him to take charge.