The bell had just rung and students began getting their things together before leaving for the day. As Adrien placed his tablet in his bag, Lila approached from behind and draped her arm around him while bringing her lips close to his ear. He recoiled but she did not move her arm. “I’ve found the cutest little cafe. Why don’t we go and get to know each other better.” Her words slithered out just above a whisper and made Adrien’s stomach turn. He did not want to spend time with her, absolutely not, but didn’t want to be rude. Being a gentleman, at least according to his definition, meant that he had to be nice at all costs, and do his best to never say no, even when absolutely uncomfortable.
“Sorry Lila, I can’t today, my Father wants me home right after school.” Ah, a solid excuse that was not a complete denial, his father came in handy in these situations. Lila was not deterred,
“Hmm, that’s too bad, but I can wait till tomorrow if I have to. We’ll have lunch together” This was a directive, not a question. As she said this she slowly lowered her hand to his upper chest and then lightly dragged her hand up and then around his upper back before giving a little scratch and strolling away, but not without looking back and winking.
Marinette had purposely gathered her belongings slowly to watch and couldn’t help her grimace. Adrien said he wanted to do nothing about her lies, and that’s exactly what he did. She felt uncomfortable for him, but didn’t think there was anything she could do without Lila jumping all over her and making outrageous claims. And Adrien didn’t want to make a scene or set Lila off in any way. Marinette wanted to protect Adrien, but had enough doubt to make her hesitate.
Alya knew why Marinette waited and as Marinette came to the door where Alya and Nino were waiting, told her “He doesn’t seem interested in her Mari, I wouldn’t worry too much.” Marinette wasn’t concerned about Adrien falling for Lila, he knew she was a liar, she wasn’t jealous, but Alya wasn’t convinced otherwise.
Marinette was not the only one to wait and watch. Chloe approached Adrien once everyone else had left. When the room was clear, he took a deep breath and slowly exhaled.
Chloe approached him as confidently as always, “Adrikins, why do you let Lila hang all over you?”
“What do you mean Chlo?”
Chloe frowned at him. This boy had no idea. Chloe was fully aware of his need to not make waves, but at some point, he would need to speak up for himself. “Adrien, you’ve been in school long enough to learn how people are. You let her drape herself on you and tell everyone you’re dating. And you say nothing, you do nothing. As your oldest friend, it seems like I’m the one that needs to do something about it since those other people you consider friends aren’t helping while you’re obviously uncomfortable.”
“I’m just trying to . . “
Chloe interrupted him harshly. “No, you’re a doormat.” Adrien slightly stepped back in shock. “You let people walk all over you, let them tell you what to do, how to live. I’m sick of watching you put on that fake smile and try to please everybody except yourself. You don’t belong to Lila, so stop acting as though you do.”
“I don’t want to make anybody angry Chlo, I need to . . .”
“No Adrien, it’s gone on for too long. You need to grow a spine. It’s ok to say no. Stop pleasing everybody. Being uncomfortable and unhappy while trying to makes others happy is a losing effort. And I’m not friends with losers. Do you see me trying to please people? No! I do what I want.” Adrien lightly laughed and nodded.
When it was just for Chloe, she enjoyed Adrien being a pushover. But now, with Lila (and Gabriel), it was no longer just for her. He was so afraid to live his own life, to fight for happiness, to do anything other than be obedient, that he was constantly unhappy. She may have wanted him for herself, and pushing him undeniably stemmed partly from selfish reasons, but better for him to not be with her and be happy. And once he was ready to appreciate Chloe’s help, she’d be there.
“At this rate she’ll have you engaged, or you’ll never move out of that toxic waste site you call a home. And before you spew more ridiculous nonsense, think about what you want. I’ve been trying to be a better person, and you can’t deny I’m a perfect queen.” Adrien chuckled. “Part of being a better person is helping people and you are in need of desperate help. So next time Lila gets near you, tell her to step away. I’m not going to help you, this is something you need to do for yourself. One day you’ll wake up and realize you wasted your life trying to please people, especially your father. I know you don’t enjoy modeling or all those activities he forces you to do. So stop being such a coward.” She paused and made sure he was paying full attention to what she was saying. “I’m doing this out of love Adrikins. You fought to come to school. What happened to that Adrien, the one that actually went for something he wanted?” She then walked away with a flip of her golden ponytail.
Adrien was then the last person to leave the classroom. So much was said, so much was heard, that he wasn’t able to consider it all then. But Chloe’s words cycled on repeat in his head. “You’re a doormat . . . think about what you want.” He’d considered the impossibility of pleasing his father before, but what choice did he have?
As it was the end of the day, Nino was waiting for him on the front steps.
“What did the queen want?”
Adrien lightly smiled. “She tried telling me that I was a doormat and needed to let Lila know that she made me uncomfortable.”
“She’s right dude. You do need to speak up for yourself.”
Adrien was taken a bit back by Nino’s quick response. “And make her mad?”
“Dude, I don’t usually agree with Chloe, but she’s absolutely correct. You do whatever your father wants, you do whatever you think is expected of you, you don’t let people know the real you, you let Lila pretend she’s your girlfriend. And you used to do the same with Chloe, though she has gotten better. I want to see you happy bro, same as Chloe. We care about you. You’re allowed to be happy dude. Just think about it”
Adrien looked at his feet and exhaled, “I’ll think about, I promise.”
Nino held out his fist: “Alright bro, see you later.” Adrien bumped his fist, “later.”
Adrien then walked down the school steps to his waiting limo. After the typical silent ride home, he went straight to his room without seeing or talking to anyone else in the house, his usual welcome home greeting. His schedule was thankfully free until piano practice later.
After closing his door, Plagg flew out of his shirt pocket. “Cheese, now!”
“Yeah, yeah, one sec.” Adrien walked over to his cheese stash behind his bed. “Here glutton.”
“Hey this glutton is what allows to showboat around Paris.” Adrien shook his head with a small smile. “Plagg, do you think Chloe and Nino are right, that I’m a pushover?”
Plagg swallowed, “100%. You’d think after spending so much time with me that you’d rebel a bit,” He then added sarcastically, “but nope, sneaking out is an adventure for you.”
“I don’t want to make a scene, and people expect me to have a certain image.”
“That’s your terrible example of a father speaking, not you.”
Adrien had heard this argument before, from Plagg, Nino, and Chloe. “Not this again. Look, he loves me, he just has trouble showing it.”
“You need to open you eyes and use your mouth, just like the harpy and musicman said. From what I’ve seen, it doesn’t matter what you do, it’s not enough for your old man and it’s about time you realized that. He treats you way more as an employee than a son. You’ll be 18 in a few years, are you planning on living here and doing whatever he says? Modeling even though you don’t like it? Dating whomever he tells you to. Only eating what he allows? Not going to university?”
Adrien’s denial ran deep. “I. . . . “
Plagg flew right in front of his face, made sure he had Adrien’s full attention, and locked eyes on him. “Look kid, I care about you, I don’t always do a great job of showing it, but I do. And not just because you buy the good stuff, though it helps. You don’t have to wear a mask as Adrien to get people to like you. And not everyone needs to like you. Your father is strangling you. Yes, you have Chat as an escape, but most of the time you’re the obedient son, who does anything Daddy says. And what’s that gotten you huh?” as he poked Adrien in the chest. “Nothing. You had to fight to go to school and sit there all day, which is incredibly boring, you must be the only teenager in the world that gets such happiness from attending school. And that’s another thing, you find happiness in the smallest of things. And you father grants you just enough happiness to keep you on the leash.” The entire camembert wheel was gone as Plagg took the last bite, with a few crumbs falling to the floor.
But he wasn’t finished, “And Liar Lila? She treats you like an object, like a possession. Like the loudmouth used to. Hmmm, actually, kind of like how you treat Ladybug.”
“What! I do not! I love her!”
Plagg stayed floating directly in front of Adrien. Although he rarely spoke seriously with his charge, he recognized that this could a vital moment. “Sure you do kid. Sounds like what Lila would say. And tell me this Sherlock, how can you date with masks, hmmm? Can’t talk about anything, can do things, can’t introduce her to your friends. That’s not dating. The only way you can date someone is as Adrien, there’s no getting around that. Look, you don’t even know her name. How many times has she rejected you, but you still get in her personal space and push. You said so yourself, it makes you uncomfortable when Lila or Chloe hangs all over you and speaks to you like you belong to them. Have you ever considered that you make the bug uncomfortable with all the flirting and forcing yourself on her?”
Plagg paused and carefully considered his next words. If done correctly, Adrien could move on to the other side of Ladybug. Plagg was certain Adrien had feelings for Marinette, he just needed a push. For god sakes, he saw the note, but just couldn’t accept that pigtails had real feelings for him. He couldn’t understand that people were awkward and indirect in romance. Yes, Marinette denied liking Adrien and sent him mixed signals, but she was pretty clear with the Valentine and kiss at the picnic. “Kitten, she’s been clear in her feelings towards Chat, it’s time to let go.”
Adrien blinked slowly and sat down on the couch. Was he really like Lila, was he being such a bad person? “Have I really made her uncomfortable? I’m just showing her how I feel.”
“Jeez kid, like I said, she rejected you. Once should’ve done it. She’s not yours to own, she’s allowed to love whoever she wants.”
Adrien responded quickly, “What do you know about love?”
“I’ve had countless holders, most of which fell in love. I think I can comfortably say I have more experience than a 15 year old just watching anime.”
“But she likes when I flirt!”
“You’re as dense as ever. No, she doesn’t. She’s nice about it because she cares about you and wants to win the fights, but not in the way you want, and you can’t make her. Your obsession with her is unhealthy. And what I see is obsession, not love. I should’ve brought this up sooner, but DJ and harpy did it for me. It’s distracting both of you during akumas.”
“I love her Plagg, I’m sure of it, and if I keep showing her, she’ll change her mind. I know it.”
“Or you’ll drive her away. You sound like a stalker, you gonna kidnap her next?” In a rare monotone not unlike how Gabriel spoke, “I want you to be happy Adrien. That’s not going to happen by being a passenger in your own life. You need to make your own choices, make some mistakes, and learn. I know Tikki is much better at this kind of stuff, but I really can’t take it anymore. It’s gone way past entertaining into sadness. All you do is listen to other peoples’ orders. It’s about time you did what you want. Hell, you should tell your old man you quit and move out.”
Adrien shook his head, “I can’t till I’m 18 and he’s put all the money I’ve earned from modeling into my trust fund.”
This didn’t seem like much of a challenge to Plagg. “So get it.”
Adrien didn’t understand, he had never had access to his money. “What?, get it?”
“Yeah, it’s your money. Get it, put it someplace only you have access to it.”
Adrien quietly responded “I. . . . I wouldn’t even know how.”
“Ask the blond witch, seems like something she’d know.”
Adrien responded weakly, “I guess I can ask her.” She would know about lawyers and is probably the best person for him to go to actually.
“Good. And listen to her, tell that akuma magnet to leave you alone, and then stop being a creep with Ladybug.”
“It’s not creepy. . . . . is it?” Adrien’s denial was still strong, but Plagg had made progress. But while Plagg wanted Adrien to move on and truly see Marinette, Adrien was thinking about how Ladybug reminded Adrien of Gabriel, how he did whatever she wanted, how he had no say as Chat in anything, how he wasn’t allowed to know anything, how Fu and Ladybug kept him in the dark, just like Gabriel.
Plagg shook his head and frowned. “How many times does she need to say no for it to actually mean no? Focus on growing a spine and during akumas, focus on them.”
Adrien still held on to his romantic notions of fate and destiny. “What about yin and yang, two halves of a whole, soulmates?”
Plagg laughed, “Mystical nonsense from the old man. Yes, some bugs and cats ended up together, many did not for a variety of reasons. And yin and yang? That’s more for me and sugarcube. We’re a pair, doesn’t mean our holders always are.”