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The One in Which Adrien Gets a Clue

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“Adrien!  Wait up!”

The blond paused in his slow walk, frown directed at the ground as his mind raced and his heart ached.  He didn’t turn, though, choosing to wait for the person who called his name to sidle up beside him. Hands in his pockets, he waited.

“Hey, dude, you, uh, you ok?” his best friend asked.

“Yea.  I’m ok, Nino.”

“I, uh, I heard about what happened- with Marinette.”

Adrien nodded, not surprised.  It wasn’t like anyone had been around to see, but he was sure Marinette had immediately run off to tell Alya all about it (if she hadn’t been spying from somewhere, that is), and that Alya would turn right around and tell Nino.

It was a miracle he made it half an hour without being flagged down.

“Do you…” Nino trailed off.  “Do you… wanna talk about it?”

Adrien sighed, pondering.

Did he?  Yes, he did, but he couldn’t.  Nino would want to now why, and he wasn’t prepared to tell him that.

“Not really….”

“Look, man, I think you should talk about it, and not because I want to report back to Alya-” here the bespectacled boy rolled his eyes “-but because it’s important for you to get it off your chest.  I’m not going to judge you, man. But I’m your bro, and bros are there for each other.”

A smile twitched Adrien’s lip unexpectedly.  Nino really was a good friend.

“All right,” he conceded quietly.  “Come on, bro.  Let’s go somewhere more private.”

Nino got a mischievous look in his eyes.

“Already, dude?  You haven’t even taken me on the first date yet.  I mean, I know I’m pretty, but that doesn’t make me easy.”

Adrien’s lip tweaked into a smirk.

“Shut up, man,” he mumbled, trying to hide his amusement.

Eventually they reached an empty classroom and walked inside, shutting the door behind them.  Nino sat on a chair, leaning back on its legs and he hitched his own up on the desktop in front of him, arms spread wide to rest on the table behind them.

“So, bro, what’s the deal?”

Adrien took the chair next to him, sighing as he sat.

“I guess by now you know what happened.”

“Bro, we are not here to talk about what I know.  Just give me your side of the story, and we’ll go from there.”

“Ok, well, Marinette wanted to talk to me after lunch, and I didn’t think anything of it.  So I followed her to the locker room, which was empty, and then she starts stuttering and stammering in the way she does-” Adrien got a warm feeling in his chest, a fond smile lighting his face, but he cleared his throat and schooled his feature with amazing speed. “-so she starts stammering, like she’s really nervous, and I mean, more nervous than usual, but I’m kind of following what she’s saying, and then she starts gesturing wildly with her hands, but she starts talking so fast, that I can’t keep up, and the only words I catch are “crush” and “love” and “you.”  So, I’m standing there, probably gaping like an idiot, and she just gets all red in the face, and her nose scrunches up and she says, ‘Adrien, date go out will you with me?’” Adrien brought his hands to his face. “Then I just lost it, man. I didn’t know what to do. I mean, yea, Mari’s cute and stuff, but I never thought about her that way before, and I couldn’t say yes and get her hopes up, so I told her I really didn’t have time to date anyone and I ran.”

When Adrien finally looked at Nino, the boy’s jaw was hanging so low, it was a miracle it was still attached.

“Am I a terrible person, Nino?  Please tell me if I’m a terrible person.  I’m pretty sure I just broke the heart of the sweetest girl in Paris.”

Nino continued to gape, speechless and shocked.

Finally, he spoke.

“Holy shit, man.  You ran?”

Adrien groaned, his face falling into his hands.

“Oh my Goood, I’m the worst person ever.”

“Man, I am totally not judging you, so don’t take this the wrong way, but- you ran?

“Nino.  Please kill me.  I’m dead. I’m not Adrien.  Adrien is gone forever. Please hide my body and never speak of this again.”

A hand came to slap on the blond’s back, startling him.

“You know, it’s really not that bad.”

The distraught boy emerged from behind the veil of his hands to give his friend a deadpan look.

Nino chuckled.

“I’m serious, A.  It could have been way worse.  You could have told her you were holding out for Ladybug or something.”

As he spoke those words, Adrien paled, and Nino’s smirk fell right off his face.

“Bro, please tell me you did not just turn down the sweetest girl in Paris because you’re holding out for a superhero.”

Adrien stared, eyes wide.  A few seconds of silence passed between them before:

“DUDE!”

“It’s not like that, really!  Nino, you don’t understand.”

Nino sat there, completely flummoxed, staring into space as he shook his head like he couldn’t believe it.

“All this time, Adrien.  Like, man, I know I’m not supposed to be judging you, but I am judging you so HARD right now.”

“Ugh, Nino, you don’t understand!-”

“Oh, really?” the boy retorted, silencing the blond in front of him.  “Then, enlighten me, man, because I honestly don’t understand how you can choose some anonymous person who you probably don’t have a chance in hell with-” ouch, that hurt “-over the sweetest thing to ever grace the face of this earth when she’s right in front of you.”

Adrien stopped, closing his eyes and sighing in frustration.  Nino couldn’t understand. He couldn’t possibly, not knowing who Adrien was, and there was no way he could tell him.

“Like, seriously, bro, what am I missing?  Just what does Ladybug have that Marinette doesn’t?”

Somewhat resignedly, Adrien opened his eyes, trying to figure out how to respond to that.

“It’s just- she’s so brave, you know?  She goes out there every time an akuma attacks and saves the whole city with a yo-yo of all things.  And she’s incredibly kind, like inhumanly kind.  I know she probably has her faults, but I’ve never met someone who could literally defeat hate with love.  And I’m not trying to sound shallow, but she’s beautiful.  Her hair- it shines like some sort of blue-black sea, and her eyes- they’re even bluer and brighter than the sky.  And holy shit, she’s so smart.  Have you seen some of the Lucky Charms she gets?  Who knew somebody could be that resourceful, that creative?  It’s the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen.”

Nino watched him in silence.

“I mean, yea, maybe she’s a hero and I’m nobody special, and I couldn’t ever hope to be worthy of her, but maybe someday, when she doesn’t have to keep her identity a secret anymore, I could have a chance with her.  The real her. The girl behind the mask, because she has to be even more amazing when there’s so much more that none of us gets to see.”

Adrien stopped, realizing he had gone way past “carried away.”  Chancing a glance at Nino, he realized the boy was staring at him with a very thoughtful look on his face.

“You know, man, everything you just said about Ladybug?  It’s all true about Marinette, too.”

“But, Nino-”

“No, man, just- hold on- just listen to me.  So, Marinette is brave, right? I mean, she fought with Chat Noir against Nathaniel when he was Evillustrator.  Girl didn’t even break a sweat about it. I heard she even got Chat Noir out of a trap. And then, you think there is anyone who is kinder than Marinette ?  The girl who literally brings cookies and croissants to us all the time, and is even nice to Chloe when she doesn’t deserve it?  And holy shit, man, Marinette is gorgeous.  Talk about blue-black hair and sky blue eyes.  Marinette practically patented them.  She’s got so many boys in our class wrapped around her finger without even knowing it, you don’t even know.  She’s like, a dead ringer for Ladybug, down to the pigtails and everything. And she’s creative as hell. She won that design competition for your dad last year for a derby hat.  Like, seriously, a pigeon feather?  Who would have come up with that? Now that’s amazing, and Marinette doesn’t even have superpowers.  She’s so much like Ladybug, in both looks and personality, she could basically be her.”

Nino stopped there, watching Adrien’s eyes widen dramatically as he appeared to have an epiphany.

“What’s the matter, man?  Everything ok?”

The blond looked into space, apparently alarmed, for another few seconds before shouting, “HOLY SHIT!

Then, he grabbed all his belongings in a scramble and stumbled out the door, yelling, “MARI, WAIT!

Nino only shook his head.

“Glad to see that boy finally got his shit together.”