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Corydoras

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It started with a post-it note.

You’re cute in the morning.

It was unsigned, taped to her locker, almost an afterthought in her frantic locker room rush.  She nearly tripped over herself when she saw it, croissant dropping from her mouth in confusion.

She stared, baffled, from the note to her lost breakfast, when the second bell rang.

“Not again,” She groaned, shoving the note into her capris as she took off running.

Red-faced, hungry, and late Marinette slinked into the classroom with an apologetic smile for Mme. Bustier.  It was harder to avoid attention, sitting in the front, but her teacher did little more than shake her head in fond exasperation.

“Cutting it close again, eh M?”

“My alarm didn’t go off,” She whined, slumping against her friend’s shoulder.

Alya grinned. “It didn’t go off or you slept through it?”

“I was distracted” Marinette said, pulling the note from her pocket. “I found this on my locker.”

Alya’s delighted squeal caught the attention of the rest of the class and resulted in a look from their teacher that was less scolding than it was gentle.

“Ladies?”

“Sorry.”

Quieter, Alya vibrated.

Girl,” She said, “You have a secret admirer!”

A delayed sort of thrill zipped through her as her thumb ran over the creases on the short message.  Her eyes, inevitably, went to the blonde in front of her.

No .

She shook her head. 

Adrien caught the movement, turning around to give her his brilliant grin and

Oh.

Her heart thumped, hope threatening to break through her chest. 

Maybe…?


 

The love letters, as Alya insisted on calling them, continued.

She found them slipped in between the pages of her textbooks, folded through the slats of her locker, even a few delivered to the bakery (a horribly embarrassing discovery, please Papa, just drop it).

Some of them were short, little compliments on her smile or her hair or her heart.  Others were longer, letters on lined paper with loopy scrawl. Those ones were her favorite, containing little drawings, notes from throughout the day, and silly flirts she was sure could rival Chat’s.

You may fall from the sky,

you may fall from a tree,

but the best way to fall

is in love with me.

It didn’t matter her admirer admitted to stealing it from the Internet, for all it made her giggle and blush.  They’d followed it up with a silly smiley face and a sweet, I’m not so creative as you .

Marinette tried her best not to speculate too hard on the who , knowing it would drive her mad.  It was already drawing Alya into an investigative frenzy to rival her pursuit of Ladybug’s identity.  An ultimately futile endeavor on both ends, especially as the letters became more dear, more private, and less shareable.

Not this time, Al, was quickly becoming her new mantra.

Her friend, bless her heart, tried to act like she wasn’t dying to know anyways.

“They’re in our class, M. They have to be,” She said, eyes straying towards Nino and Adrien as they headed over to join them.  Marinette’s traitorous, hopeful heart heard the insinuation even as a crumpled up Valentine preserved in her desk drawer told her otherwise.

The handwriting didn’t match.

“I don’t know, Marinette,” Tikki said, hovering over the ever growing pile of notes.  “They’re not dissimilar either.”

Marinette laughed, the sound frayed at the edges.

“I don’t need any encouragement to let my imagination run wild, you know.”

An understatement really.

But for the girl who was quick to plan her wedding, her children, and her runaway future there was something about getting exactly what she wanted that just felt too real to be true.

She always anticipated the worst.  What was Marinette supposed to do if the opposite came true?

She’s not sure her heart could handle it.

“You’re worth it,” Her kwami said, reading her thoughts. “This person clearly thinks so.”

And so she continued to hope.

(Secretly of course.)

Because Tikki wasn’t wrong.

There were little things that pointed more to Adrien than against. 

Similarities in cadence and style, anecdotes that trailed just this side of anonymous but lined up with things she’d overheard him say to others or shared directly with herself.  Small confessions about being tired, overworked, but how seeing her made it better.

Some letters, her secret letters, even whispered of more.

Respectfully of course.  But it made her palms sweat and her skin tingle all the same.

I wish I could hold your hand.  I wish I could hold you.

Among other things.

Days like that and letters like those had her flailing and spasming more than usual.  A blushing, flushing mess who could no more look in Adrien’s direction let alone anyone else’s.  Unfortunate really, as it wasn’t only Alya who noticed.

“Oh, Mme. Bustier,” Lila cried out, her voice laced with a concern Marinette couldn’t trust.  “Marinette looks exhausted.  Are you sure she’s not being overworked?”

“I’m fine,” Marinette, flushed and recovering from her latest letter, smiled thinly. “It’s nice of you to worry about me.  But I’ve got everything handled.”

“Thank you, Lila.” Mme. Bustier said.  “But I believe Marinette and Alya have it under control.”

“If you’re sure,” Lila continued, leaning forward to place a hand on Marinette’s shoulder.  “I can help take over some of your presidential duties if you want.”

Marinette grit her teeth, resisting the urge to shrug off Lila’s hand.  Behind her, Adrien sent her an encouraging smile.

The high road.  

Right.

“I’m sure. But thanks.”

Returning to her seat, she ignored Alya’s knowing look.  The one that said, See, she’s not so bad.

Marinette hated that look.

She hated the way it dismissed every awful, horrible word Lila threw at her in the bathroom all those months ago.  She hated the way it undermined every good and honest act Marinette ever did. But most of all she hated the way it chipped at their friendship, piece by piece, and the way Alya didn’t even seem to notice.

But someone did.

In the form of a post-it note, taped to her locker, in familiar loopy scrawl.

I’m proud of you.

 


 

Chat Noir was full of it tonight.

Paws over head, tail dangling down by his grinning eyes, his tongue flicked out between his teeth, he was doing everything to grab and keep her attention.  Ladybug felt guilty for disappointing him.

“I’m sorry, minou,” She said, when he finally gave up, falling gracefully to his back beside her, pouting.  “I guess I’m just distracted tonight.”

“Anything I can help with?”

“I…” She hesitated.  How to reply when the answer was unequivocally yes and no.

Chat Noir heard the truth in her silence.

“Oh.” He said, suddenly serious.  “I can.  But you don’t want to tell me how.”

Ladybug reached for his hand, entwining their fingers.  He brought them to his lips.

“You’re my best friend.” She said, quiet.

Chat Noir nodded, squeezed her hand, sat up,

and let her go.

“Your boy?”

To his credit, the words didn’t come out nearly as hostile as she knew he must be feeling.  She leaned into his side, resting her head on his shoulder.

“Maybe.”

“You don’t know?”

Ladybug bit her lip, kept her shaky hands to herself, and willed her voice steady.

“He’s… he’s been sending me letters.  I’m finally going to answer one.”

Beneath her, Chat was tense.  But his arm wrapped around her side and hugged her to him all the same.

“I’d wish you luck, bug.  But I don’t think you want mine.”

She knew what he meant though and only hesitated a moment before kissing his shoulder.

“Thank you, Chaton.”

 


 

She found him in the library.

It was study hall and Alya, bless, made sure to claim Nino so they wouldn’t have an audience for this.

“Go get him,” She’d said with a smile and a wink, confident in all the ways Marinette was not.

She wasn’t sure why she was so nervous.  After all, Adrien had been sending her letters for the better part of a month.  Lovely, wonderful letters that made her fingers shake as she tore through each new envelope, poured over every word, laughed at each joke and blushed at every...

Well.

Marinette thought it was only right she return the favor.  And while writing her feelings was as easy as putting heart to paper, handing the letter over was proving to be another thing entirely.

Adrien sat in the back of the stacks, shoulders slumped in a way that let her know he thought he was alone.  Hair slightly less than perfect and with dark circles covered by light concealer Marinette wondered if she’d ever seen anyone look so sad and so beautiful.

“H-hi,” She said.  “Do you mind if I join you?”

“Please,” He said, sitting up.  “I could use the company.”

“Rough night?”

Adrien laughed.  “You could say that.”

“I’m sorry.”

“It’s better now that you’re here,” And oh , the way he smiled made her fall all over again. 

Then his eyes landed on the letter in her hand and she froze.

“What’s that?”

“I–” Her tongue felt like lead in her mouth as her hands tightened on the pink envelope, suddenly unsure.  “It’s…”

Adrien’s eyes, soft like summer, waited patiently to find her words.  Beside her, she could feel Tikki’s encouraging pats through the fabric of her purse.

She could do this. She could do this.

“Here,” She said, shoving the letter into his unwaiting hands.  “It’s for you. A… a thank you. Sort of.”

She could feel the heat radiating from her cheeks, the scraping of his nails against the paper deafening in her ears.

“A thank you?” He said, smiling and confused.  “For what?”

Marinette could pinpoint to the second the moment the world fell out from underneath her.  It was the moment his confusion gave way to her own, the way his cheeks turned as rosy as anything Chat Noir had ever given her, the way words formed and unformed on his lips as electric eyes bounced between her and her letter.

The way laughter, lilting, lying, echoed out somewhere behind her.

Horror, swift, and heartbreak, sharp, shocked her like a livewire.

“It wasn’t you was it?” She whispered.

Adrien was coiled, his eyes misty and confused.

He shook his head.

“No.”

“Oh.” A traitorous tear escaped down her cheek.  “Okay.”

Adrien’s trembling hands reached for her own.

“Marinette,” He said. “I’m so sorry.”

“Please,” She took one, two steps back. “Don’t be.”

And ran.