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Up Too Late

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“I’m never coloring another leaf again,” Marinette announced, halfway through shading another one of the countless spring buds that decorated the piece of board. “If it wasn’t for the fact that this is Mylene’s first performance live, on-stage, I’d probably have just given up and gotten Manon and Alya’s little sisters to color the rest in.” She sighed, putting down the pencil and massaging her wrist.

“Yeah, well, we did promise we’d help,” Nathaniel reminded her from his place near the roots. “And trees take a lot of detail; you can’t just fill them in, you have to shade them.”

“Easy for you to say, you’re only drawing the outline. Meanwhile I’m the one tiring my arms out making sure every shadow is at the right angle,” she grumbled. “Why is this taking so long?!”

“Good question,” the redhead agreed. “Actually, what time is it, even? We’ve been working for, what, hours?”

Marinette clicked on her phone and the digits 21:52 filled the illuminated screen.

“Nine o’clock?!” she screeched.

“Have we really been doing this for that long?” Nathaniel asked, looking up at her in shock.

“Ughhh, you know what? Screw this tonight, we’ll do more tomorrow. It is way too late to be doing this,” Marinette decided, putting her pencil down with finality.

Nathaniel put his things away too, yawning and stretching his arms.

“It’s too late to go home, now, though,” he pointed out.

“Don’t worry, you can just stay over for the night,” Marinette assured him. He stopped and blinked at her for a few moments.

“I’m sorry, what?” he asked, shaking his head.

“A sleepover, silly!” she giggled, tossing a pillow at his head. “Don’t tell me that working this long has tired out your basic comprehension skills.”

“Right, well, see, I don’t have my clothes, and I’m sure your parents wouldn’t want to be bothered with-”

“Relax. They’ll be fine, Alya’s slept over lots of times when we were working on projects that took too long.”

“Yeah, but that’s Alya-”

“So? Same thing; now help me put this stuff away. I think I’ll get sick if I look at another blank leaf tonight.”

Nathaniel sighed and assisted her in moving the board against the wall so they could get back to it later, and collecting all the pencil crayons from their sprawled places.

“I don’t have my pajamas, though...” he mentioned, leaning under the chaise to pick up a sky blue.

“That’s fine, you can just wear some of my clothes,” Marinette said. “I’m sure they’d fit you. I hope you don’t mind that they’re all pink.”

“No, it’s fine,” he agreed, standing up and dusting off his pants. Marinette stood up too, and went to her closet to find him some clothes. He took them and disappeared into the bathroom to change.

A moment later, he came back out in a pair of sweatpants and a T-shirt, both a light shade of pink that mirrored the light blush on his cheeks.

“You look fine!” Marinette smiled encouragingly.

“At least nobody else can see me like this,” he mumbled quietly. “Now what?”

“Hm..” Marinette thought. “I’m not really feeling like sleeping just yet. Maybe we could play a video game,” she suggested.

“Mm, I’ll pass,” Nathaniel replied. “You’d beat me on every level no sweat.”

“I’m sure you’re not bad,” she assured him.

“Yeah? You obviously haven’t seen me, then. I can barely figure the controls out, let alone use them.”

“Your choice,” she shrugged. “Hm, how about board games then. “Why don’t we play Monopoly, but it’s a race to see who can go bankrupt first.”

“Sure, why not?” he agreed, and so, a few minutes later, they sat before a board set-up and ready to play.

***

“What, no! That’s not fair! You landed on my house on purpose, dang it! At this rate I’ll have so much money I could buy the whole board and still have cash left over,” Marinette complained. Meanwhile, Nathaniel was rather smugly diminishing his cash stock to a few 5M bills.

“Well, it’s your fault for buying houses instead of hotels because you make less profit off of them,” he said.

“Well you don’t have to be so conceited about it,” Marinette objected, picking up her playing piece and tossing it at him playfully.

He responded by adding five extra bills to her stack. She raised an eyebrow.

“Dang it, I knew the game was rigged! I should have known you would cheat when I made you the banker!” she glared, picking up the entire game board and folding it in half. All the cards and pieces and houses fell to the floor.

“Whoa, sore loser much?” Nathaniel asked her, eyes widening. “I didn’t realize you’d take it so personally!”

“And I didn’t realize you’d play so dirty, so this game is void,” she replied, sticking out her tongue. He rolled his eyes, but they both knew that neither of them were particularly serious.

“Whatever, let’s just play something else. Monopoly takes forever to win, anyways,” the redhead suggested.

“Hm, how about ‘Never Have I Ever’?”

Nathaniel paled slightly.

“Don’t worry, there won’t be anything super personal. If you don’t want to answer, it’s okay,” Marinette quickly assured him.

“O-okay, sure,” he shrugged.

“Alright, then, I’ll start. Hmm, never have I ever...watched a horror movie alone at night,” she finally decided.

“That makes two of us,” he shuddered. “I can barely stand horror movies even if I’m not alone in broad daylight.”

“Would you watch one if I was with you?”

“Hmm...probably not.”

Marinette pouted.

“And what if I was close enough that I could hug you during the scary parts?”

Nathaniel thought it over.

“Mm…...maybe...” he relented. “Not this late at night, though,” he added quickly.

“Works for me,” she said. “Your turn.”

“Let me think, uh….never have I ever dreamt of kissing a marshmallow,” he finally came up with.

Marinette choked on air.

“What kind of confession is that?!” she asked.

“Well, it’s true. Rose told me that she had a dream once where she had to pick between marrying a unicorn or a marshmallow.” he shrugged. “Couldn’t think of anything else.”

“Well, uh, neither have I...” Marinette answered. “Or any kind of edible for that matter.”

The redhead chuckled.

“Well I did dream about blueberries once, but that was a long time ago,” he admitted.

“That’s so weird,” Marinette giggled, oblivious to the odd look he sent her way.

He shrugged.

“I dream weird things sometimes...” he told her. “What’s the weirdest dream you’ve ever had?”

Marinette frowned, thinking.

“Well, I don’t usually manage to dream most nights because I end up staying up super late doing homework or sewing or something, but, uh...the weirdest dream I had? I think this one time I had a dream where Chat Noir was telling me he was in love with me and then he started chasing me and I was running away, but then he stopped and turned into Adrien and I felt so bad because why on Earth would I ever run away from Adrien?” she sighed dreamily. “But anyways, I was so confused and scared that he wouldn’t like me anymore that I woke up, and thank goodness it was only a dream...” she froze, clapping a hand over her mouth.

“I said too much, didn’t I?” she asked embarrassedly, lowering her hand.

Nathaniel laughed lightly.

“It’s okay, I already knew,” he confessed. When she looked confused, he went on.

“I mean, not to sound creepy or anything, but since no one usually talks to me, I just end up watching people. You seem kind of awkward around him, so I figured...” he trailed off.

“Am I that obvious?” she asked softly.

“No no no, not at all!” he assured her quickly. “I’m pretty sure I’m like the only one. Adrien’s too oblivious to notice anything, and I wouldn’t tell anyone,” he promised.

“It probably doesn’t even matter, anyways,” she sighed sadly. “He’s never going to see me the way...”

“Don’t say that, Marinette, he’ll have to figure it out some way or other. Once he discovers how lucky he really is, there’s no way he could turn you down!”

Marinette looked up.

“You really think?”

“I know for a fact. You’re an amazing person, he just hasn’t realized just how amazing you really are yet,” he said.

“That’s so sweet of you, Nathaniel,” the bluenette told him.

“Anytime,” he smiled. For once he found himself able to smile at her genuinely, and, despite the little pain that still throbbed in his chest, he realized that if he could have her even as a friend, that would be good enough for him.

“Okay, enough of this. I wanna do something,” Marinette decided suddenly, a mischevious glint in her eyes.

“O-kay...?” Nathaniel raised an eyebrow. “Any reason for that not-at-all suspicious expression on your face right now?”

“Oh you’ll see,” she grinned evilly, producing her cell phone out of thin air. “We’re going to have some fun.”

“Um..okay...but I don’t know if this is a good ide-”

“Shush,” she cut him off with a finger on his lips as she dialled a number and waited for someone to pick up.

“At least dial *67 first!” he said, staring at the screen.

“Oh? Why?” she asked.

“The caller ID shows up otherwise!” he screeched. “Have you never prank-called before?!”

Marinette blinked.

“You’ve prank-called before?” she asked disbelievingly. “I’d never have imagined you...but anyways, I’m using an internet calling service so it’ll just show up as an unavailable number,” she explained.

“Okay, phew,” he sighed in relief. “Let’s just hope we don’t get caught. Don’t do anything extreme.”

“Relax, I got this.”

Marinette hummed softly until the person on the other end finally picked up. Nathaniel moved closer to hear what they were saying, and she put the call on speaker.

“Chloe Bourgeois; who dares to disturb me at this time of the night?!” Marinette flinched and held the phone away from their faces, stifling a giggle all the same.

“You got the stuff?” Marinette spoke, voice ridiculously exaggerated since she had pinched her nose to disguise it. She had apparently been attempting some variation of a gangster voice, but was failing miserably at it. “I’ll be waiting in the back alley. Be there at midnight, or else.”

Who the hell is this? Are you threatening me? Oh, just you wait until my father hears about this. You’ll be sorry you ever-

Marinette calmly cut the line. Nathaniel sighed.

“You are honestly such an amateur,” he told her, shaking his head. She rolled her eyes.

“It wasn’t that bad,” she said. “It’s not like you could do any better.”

“Oh, really?” he asked, arching an eyebrow. “Try me.”

Marinette looked at him, surprised.

“Fine,” she decided. “Show me what you got.”

“Oh I will,” he assured her. “You can pick the number, by the way.”

“I’ll do that,” she murmured, scanning the local directory and finally choosing one at random. She passed him the phone once it had started dialling.

Allo?

The voice sounded like it belonged to a high school girl. Marinette wondered if Nathaniel would be able to handle this one, but one look at his remarkably relaxed posture and the easy smile on his face told her he’d be just fine. What?

Hey babe, I was wondering when I’d get to hear that sweet, sweet voice of yours again...” Nathaniel’s voice took on a completely unprecedented smoothness, and Marinette was left staring in surprise....wHAT???

I’m sorry, who is this?” the girl on the other end sounded very confused and a bit embarrassed, from what Marinette could tell.

It doesn’t matter,” he whispered, voice low and even smoother than it was before. “All that matters is me and you tonight.”

Marinette’s brain was short-circuiting; what the hell happened to the shy, sweet guy who was sitting there just a few minutes ago???

Oh, um, okay? Er, what do want to do, then?” Marinette very much pitied the flustered receiver.

That’s really up to you, honey. What do you wanna do tonight?

Well, uh, my parents aren’t home, do you maybe wanna…?

Nathaniel suddenly choked on air, dropping the phone. Marinette hurried to pick it up before it hit the floor, quickly closing the call while Nathaniel launched into a coughing fit.

“Well that backfired,” the aspiring fashion designer remarked.

“She must have been a high schooler,” the redhead managed between coughs. “I wasn’t expecting her to go that far!”

Marinette couldn’t help but giggle.

“We’re lucky she didn’t go to Françoise Dupont, at least,” she said. “I never knew you could talk like that.”

“I don’t usually,” he admitted. “But Alix loves prank calls and I basically ended up practicing in anonymity. I also watch a lot of movies, so there’s that...”

“Hmm..that gives me another idea...” Marinette said slowly.

“Do share.”

“I wonder if you could pull the same thing off with someone who we actually know in real life...” she said, half to herself. Nathaniel paled.

“What exactly do you mean by that?”

“Oh, you’ll find out soon enough.”

***

“How many times are we going to have to pause this?” Nino asked, exasperated, at the sixth time the phone must have rung this evening alone. “Your sisters wouldn’t leave us alone for two hours, and now that they’re asleep, we get another phone call every five minutes.”

“I hope it isn’t Chloe this time. Why does she think you’re trying to deal drugs with her?”

Nino shrugged.

“Beats me. Just answer it so we can get on with the movie already.”

“It’s from Marinette,” Alya frowned, tapping the screen.

They were met with a high scream that would’ve woken Alya’s sisters if her phone had been on speaker.

“Marinette?! What happened?” she asked worriedly. No response. The brunette anxiously held the phone closer to her ear to pick up some kind of hint.

“AHHHHHHAHAHAHAHahahahahahahahaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhh...”

“Marinette? What the heck is going on-”

“I’m not letting go until you say it!”

“Nathaniel?! The heck are you doing at-”

“Ah-ah-ah-ahahahahahah-I-can’t-I just-ahhhhahahahah...”

“...are you okay?”

“Say it...”

“NOOOOO-ahahahahahahhhh..”

Nino looked up at Alya, expressing mirroring hers.

‘What the actual hell is going on?’ he mouthed at her. She shook her head in bafflement.

“Say my name and I’ll let you go..”

“Na-agh-ahah-stop-nath-I-ohmi-ahahaha-NATHANI-AHAHAHAHAHAH”

“Come on, say it…..”

“Ahhhahahahah-nath-aha-natha-ack-NATHANIEL-aghh-now let me GO, goddammit!”

Alya turned to her boyfriend, wide-eyed.

“You don’t think they’re...”

“But from what it sounds like they’re doing...” He shook his head quickly.

“No. it can’t be.”

“But then again...” she gestured at the phone, which was currently transmitting sounds of rather heavy breathing. They both stared at it for a few long moments.

“You know what, I think I’d rather just continue the movie.”

“Yeah, definitely.”

***

“Aw, she hung up on us,” Nathaniel complained, moving so Marinette had space to catch her breath.

“Damn, Nathan, who knew you’d get so aggressive in a tickle fight?!” she said between pants. Her face was as red as his hair as this point.

“Need some water?”

She nodded vigorously and he poured her a glass from the jug on her vanity. When she’d finally gathered herself, she put the glass down and looked at him.

“I guess that’s enough for one night, yeah?”

“Mhmm...” he yawned. “Where are we sleeping?”

“I’m sure you can fit onto my chaise lounge,” she told him. “Unless you want the bed, but after what just happened on the phone, I think that might bring up some questionable stuff,” she noted.

“No kidding, I’ll take the chaise. I might be up for a little while later, though. I have trouble falling asleep, especially in unfamiliar places.”

Marinette nodded.

“I guess I’ll just keep you company until I fall asleep. I’m not really in a mood to get down to bed just yet, either.”

“You sure?” Nathaniel asked, glancing at her drooping eyelids and slouching posture.

“Mmmhm,” she responded in assurance.

“Yeah, no.”

“Mmmm..” she mumbled, resting her head against the chaise. They sat like that in silence for some time, before he spoke up.

“Marinette?”

She didn’t respond.

He shrugged and, with some effort, picked her up and lay her down on the chaise. Then he curled up beside the piece of furniture, and, before even realizing it, he, too, had fallen fast asleep.