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Serenade

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Ladybug looked at the clear CD case in her hand in bewilderment. She was sure her expression betrayed how she felt because she couldn’t help it. It wasn’t like Chat Noir to give her things. Gifts. Whatever.

Flirting she was used to. With him there was a constant barrage of remarks she at first would have described as flippant and cutesy, but now knew better - it was just his completely innocent way of showing his affection. It was annoying at times and his timing in particular was dreadful, but she was so used to it by now that she found it sweet. And while flirting back hadn’t even crossed her mind at the beginning, now she often found herself throwing jokey comments at him and taking extreme pleasure in seeing him get flustered. Her greatest ambition was to make him blush but it was yet to be achieved.   

He had once given her a rose which she had accepted with a blush of her own. It had been such a sweet and sincere gesture on his part that she had been unable to react in her cool and dispassionate manner. But this had been the first time when he had taken her by surprise. The next time she had refused. It had been only fair not to get his hopes up. 

Apart from that, he had never tried to give her anything. 

And now this. Completely out of the blue. And she was still unsure what exactly it was. 

“What is this again?” She asked hesitantly, trying not to sound rude. He must have seen that she was taken aback by his gift considering her slow reaction. He had waited patiently for her and now said slowly, with a soft smile at her,

“A CD. It has a song on it I’d like you to listen to.”

“A song.” God, she was so eloquent today. 

“Yes. I was listening to it and somehow it got me thinking about you. So I wanted to share it with you and hear your opinion. I thought you’d appreciate it more if you were able to listen to it at your leisure instead of me springing it on you in an impromptu singing session.”

The thought of Chat whipping out a guitar and bursting into song was so funny that she had to bite back her laughter. She didn’t want to give the impression that she was laughing at him. Still, a soft chuckle escaped her lips. 

“So this is like a 21st century serenade. A CD playing on a sound system instead of you yodeling under my balcony,” she teased him. 

“I’ll have you know that I don’t yodel. I sing perfectly fine.” He tried to look affronted but failed miserably and grinned at her. “Remember, I promised you a serenade this one time. But yes, I think this would work better. Have a listen and tell me what you think next time we see each other. Of course, if it’s during an akuma attack I’ll give you a rain check. I don’t want you to think that I’d waste time discussing the merits of 90s music while a villain is at large. Next patrol, right?” 

“Okay.” She said carefully. She still didn’t know what she was getting herself into. But she’d trust him. It couldn’t be that bad. It was just a song.

 ***

It was just a song. Then why was she looking at the CD sitting innocently on her desk as if it was a time bomb? What harm was there in listening to a song? This was Chat, for God’s sake! He wouldn’t give her anything indecent, right? 

Tikki zipped by with a curious look on her tiny face. 

“Come on, Marinette!. Aren’t you going to play it? I can’t wait to hear this song that made him think of you!”

With a huff, Marinette took the CD out of its case and dropped it in her player. There had been no writing on the CD, no indication of its content. A silent prayer and she pressed play. 

The music that started gave her no clue about the nature of the song. It didn’t sound like a love song, a ballad or something like that. It wasn’t familiar either. She’d have to wait for the lyrics. 

Then she heard a soft male voice sing: 

I'm going to take my time

I have all the time in the world

To make you mine

It is written in the stars above

The gods decree

You'll be right here by my side

Right next to me

You can run but you cannot hide

Marinette was sure her mouth was gaping in astonishment. That cheeky cat! To think she’d been willing to give him the benefit of the doubt and now this! How overconfident you had to be to say something like that! Well, it surely sounded like Chat. And this was not all, apparently. 

Don't say you want me

Don't say you need me

Don't say you love me

It's understood

Don't say you're happy

Out there without me

I know you can't be

'Cause it's no good

If she’d been astonished before, now she could practically feel she steam coming out of her ears. How dare he! This was… preposterous! Did he really think that she was in love with him but just for the hell of it was holding back? This made no sense!

Suddenly she laughed out loud. Literally laughed out loud. This was so ridiculous she had to appreciate it. This was so like him! She was still a bit angry but just couldn’t hold back the amusement. 

Tikki was watching her quietly, amusement colouring her red features. Marinette was about to voice her thoughts when the second verse started. 

I'll be fine

I'll be waiting patiently

'Til you see the signs

And come running to my open arms

When will you realize

Do we have to wait 'til our worlds collide

Open up your eyes

You can't turn back the tide

And Marinette totally forgot what she’d been angry about. Or what she found funny. She was now shocked. Could this be true?

“Tikki?” She could barely speak. 

“Yes, Marinette. Are you ok? You look a little pale.” 

“Is this true? Is it really inevitable for me to fall for him?”

“I don’t know what you mean, Marinette. Nothing is inevitable. Feelings might be confusing and it may seem that you don’t have a say in who you fall in love with, but you always have a choice. If you see that a person is cruel for example, you can always tell yourself it’s not worth it to have feelings for them and distance yourself from them. But to answer your question more specifically, there is no magic that binds you to Chat romantically. Yes, you have been chosen to complement each other, you are creation and destruction. You fit like yin and yang. But apart from that, it’s up to you to decide what your relationship will be. Just partners, friends or lovers. It’s something that comes naturally to you or time tells you what feels right for you. We know that for him it was obviously the first one. What you decide for yourself is up to you.” 

Marinette tried hard to take in her wise words. She was right after all. But this had hit too close to home. It would be foolish to deny that she had been attracted to Chat from the very beginning. It pained her to admit it, but it was true - he was charming enough to get under her skin even without trying. But before she knew it she was falling hard for Adrien so she had quickly stamped out the spark she had felt for Chat. And then she found herself a bit annoyed by his persistence, especially since she thought it was all a joke to him. Then it turned out it was real and she’d hurt him but it had been inevitable. 

Time had only made things more confusing actually. She was now friends with Adrien, she was much closer to him than she’d been at the beginning. But as far as confessing her feelings to him went, it was all hopeless. She still couldn’t find the courage to face him and lay herself bare in front of him, open to rejection and hurt. 

In the meantime, she also got to know Chat. She got to trust him implicitly. She got to appreciate his optimism and sunny nature, his courage and determination in the face of danger. And somehow resisting him had gotten harder instead of easier. The times she found herself with a soft smile on her face in response to something he’d said or done were steadily growing. Which had only made her feel more at a loss about what to do. 

“That’s the thing, Tikki. Time hasn’t helped matters at all. Yeah, I do know he’s the best partner I could ask for. And he’s a great friend, too. He was very understanding when I rejected him. I wouldn’t go as far as to say he’s backed down but recently he’s been barely flirting with me…” Her voice trailed off and she found herself gazing into the distance. She had actively avoided thinking about this and now she knew why.

“You sound kind of disappointed saying this”, Tikki said, for once missing the emotions playing on Marinette’s face. Or maybe she did this deliberately to provoke her.

“That would be so stupid, don’t you think? Marinette said self-deprecatingly. “After all, that’s what I wanted. I guess I just didn’t expect I would end up missing it in some way. Grr, you see what this song has done to me... “ she shook her head. 

“It got you thinking. I think that was the idea. And… maybe it’s not such a bad thing. You should be honest with yourself, not try to hide from you own feelings, it’s not healthy. Oh, Marinette, don’t look so shocked. I’ve watched you fight with yourself for quite some time, maybe even without you realising it. I think it’s not so bad to face the music after all.”

“Tikki, you think now’s the time to make a pun?” Marinette’s horrified cry sounded even louder than intended because the song had come to an end while they’d been discussing it. And then they both started laughing. Somehow Marinette felt like she’d just been through a therapy session or something. Kind of lighter. Maybe admitting that she felt something more for Chat wasn’t so bad, right? 

“But what do I tell him?” Yes, this was the main thing. 

“Be honest. He’s always been honest with you, even when facing rejection. So return the favour. Tell him what the song made you feel, that it got you thinking. And see where that goes.”

Yeah, easier said than done, Marinette thought. 

***

Adrien wasn’t nervous. Well, not exactly. Maybe just a little. Oh, ok, he was. But he didn’t know why. It was just a song, right? She wouldn’t get offended or angry or… Oh dear, this line of thought would only make it harder to wait until evening came. It was such a simple thing, giving her that CD, then why was he torturing himself like that, imagining the worst-case scenarios of her reaction? Anyway, it was too late to take it back so he’d have to face the consequences and deal with them. And first he had to survive school.

But thinking of the song made him want to hum it to himself all of a sudden. It was a catchy piece. And the lyrics… Oh God, the lyrics, she’d skin him alive!

He was so distracted by his own thoughts that at first hearing someone hum didn’t even register. Then he recognised the melody and was pretty sure he’d gone stark mad - he was actually humming, right? Out loud! But no. The sound came from behind him. Who was standing behind him humming “It’s No Good”? Had his tortured mind just conjured up a person equally consumed with the song? 

He was so tempted to turn around and see for himself, but he was saved from doing it when he heard Alya say:

“What are you humming, girl? Is this some new hit I haven’t heard yet?”

The laughter he heard was kind of bitter but familiar. Marinette. Marinette was humming his song? Now he had to physically restrain himself from turning and demanding an explanation right there and then. Thankfully, his good manners kicked in right before he did something stupid. But it was such a strange coincidence! And quite interesting…. 

He was distracted from his thoughts once again when Marinette’s reply came.

“Oh, no, it’s an old song actually. I just heard it and it got stuck in my head, you know how it is.”

Well, it made sense, didn’t it? It was a song anyone could listen to and it didn’t mean everyone was as obsessed with it as he was. 

“What do you think of this though…” Marinette added and then to his dismay went on to recite the lyrics of the chorus. He could practically feel his eyes widen hearing this and then…

“Whoa! What kind of a conceited person would say that?” Came Alya’s reaction.

Adrien was sure his mouth was gaping now and he was glad there was no one in front of him to see that. He quickly schooled his face into a more relaxed expression and tried very hard not to take the comment to heart. He failed. Oh, God, he was so screwed! 

“I know, right? That’s what I thought at first, too. But… what if that person’s right?” He heard Marinette’s comment but couldn’t make sense of it. 

“You mean if the girl, I assume it’s a guy singing, right, actually feels like that about him? Hm, then she’s in trouble, I guess, because she’s not doing a good job of hiding it.” Alya laughed and Marinette joined in after mumbling “You’d think so, yeah”. 

Well, that was interesting. He hadn’t really expected to hear someone else’s thoughts on this particular song but maybe it was good, because it kind of prepared him for his lady’s reaction. There was still no way to know what it would be, but he sure hoped it was amusement. He had intended it as a joke. Mainly. He wasn’t some psycho after all. And he definitely didn’t want to frighten her and ruin their wonderful friendship for which he had worked so hard. He had almost accepted that he would only ever have her as a friend, albeit a very good and precious one, but sometimes… Well, a guy could dream, right? Anyway, he hoped he hadn’t ruined their relationship with this stupud joke… Why did he even think that a joke was a good idea, she obviously didn’t appreciate his sense of humour! Oh, he would certainly lose his mind before the day was over.

And then before he knew it, it was over and he found himself pacing on a Parisian rooftop. He was definitely nervous. What if she didn’t show up at all? Ignore him and when the next akuma attack came treated him as if he wasn’t there? He would totally deserve that. 

Adrein tried out a mental slap and almost recoiled from it as if it were real. There, this should work. He was Chat Noir. He would not be reduced to a nervous wreck because of a song he kind of dedicated to a girl. A girl who happened to be his superhero partner. And who could totally kick his ass. Whatever. He would be calm and composed and face whatever happened with dignity…

He almost jumped out of his skin when he heard a thump on the roof behind him and whirled around so fast he nearly fell off the edge. Great, so much for the composed, calm self he was trying to project. 

“Are you ok, Chat?” came Ladybug’s concerned voice. He still couldn’t meet her eyes and was trying very hard to make his legs stand still for a minute. 

“I’ve never been better,” he managed to spit out through gritted teeth. So it came out a little funny. And he was sure his face wasn’t a pretty sight right now, more like a grotesque mask. So he gave up on trying to smile and tried to relax his features. 

He took a deep breath and finally looked into his favourite blue eyes. Thankfully, they were not shooting daggers at him but seemed really concerned. And a bit amused. 

“Actually, scratch that. I feel terrible and you probably can see that easily. I’m sorry for acting weird, it’s just that I’m a little nervous. I hope you’re not angry at me…” he finished off and looked at her bashfully. 

“I should be, shouldn’t I?” Ladybug said haughtily. But then she shook her head and smiled at him. A genuine smile. “And I was. At first. But then I saw the funny side of it. I know you think I can’t stand your jokes but in a strangely perverted way I’ve come to appreciate your sense of humour. So yeah, I guess I know what you were trying to tell me with the song. You can breathe now,” she added softly. 

He realised he’d been holding his breath for quite some time. So he took her advice and relaxed. It was all ok. She was not going to kill him. 

“I’m so relieved!” He managed to say. “I was really worried I’d overstepped the mark. Things between us had been great lately. I would’ve totally hated myself if I’d managed to offend you with my stupid joke.” There. Honesty was the best policy. 

“Don’t worry, it’s all good,” she said and there was a softness in her eyes that he couldn’t believe he was seeing. It was as if she really wanted to comfort him. To make it clear that nothing was out of place between them. Then her gaze dropped to the ground and it was her turn to look nervous. Wow. She was nervous?

“I have to tell you something. But you know me and should realise that it’s not easy for me to admit it.” She kind of mumbled all this but he still heard every word. 

“What is it?” He said quickly to encourage her to go on. 

“Maybe this was the jolt I needed. The song made me realise some things.” She said and continued to look at the ground. 

“Ok,” he said, because he couldn’t think of anything else. What was that supposed to mean?

“I’m not saying the song is right.” Saying this, she shot him a hard look. The Ladybug he knew was back. “But… I’m willing to try and reconsider my feelings for you.” She added. Her eyes suddenly revealed her vulnerability. She was trusting him with this. This was huge. 

His hands formed tight fists as he tried to prevent himself from doing something stupid. Like reach for her. Hug her. Kiss her. No, no. Focus. He shouldn’t push his luck. Instead he opted for saying simply,

“I’m at a loss for words. Wow. I really can’t describe how I feel right now. But before I make a fool of myself by making a stupid joke or just saying anything stupid… I had this prepared for you. On the off chance that you didn’t kill me on sight.” He pulled the CD from his pocket and handed it to her. 

She looked a bit amused and very much confused. 

“Another one?” She said and laughed. He couldn’t resist and joined in. It was such a relief to be able to laugh at the situation, finally. 

“You see, I guess I’m kind of a masochist. Or something. I like torturing myself. Really. It’s just another song that I think you would like. And I really think you’d appreciate the humour this time. Like, I’m sure of it. I’m glad you did the first time too, but this one’s better, I promise.”

Adrien really hoped he was right. He had prepared the song as a kind of damage control in case the first one went horribly wrong. But it should work now too. To help things settle for a bit. Before he continued with his strategic moves. Because he had hope now. And he was not giving up.