You might have guessed that Marinette would be late for school. You couldn't have been more wrong.
See, Marinette woke up just in time. Got dressed as usual. Did her makeup just perfect for her liking, with Tikki buzzing around her head, helping her with minor tasks like bringing her brushes and pens. The morning was not rushed, not chaotic, but just ordinary. She was prepared for this day, for she spent the last days of the summer break going over her morning routine.
After all, it was the first day of her last year in high school.
Terminale. The end of something. The end of summer, the end of sleeping in, of staying up late with friends and sharing secrets half-drunk on wine because goddamnit we’re French .
The last year of high school and with that, the crushing responsibility of the baccalauréat. And after that, university.
Easy enough, right?
Saying goodbye to all you’ve ever known, growing up completely.
Marinette was not ready. In fact, she wanted to cry. Standing in front of the stairs of the Françoise Dupont High School, her last few years appeared in front of her eyes. Undoubtedly the best years of her life yet. Countless mornings running up and down those stairs, because she was late, lazy afternoons spent with her best friends laughing in the sun. A safe space, even with the recurring akumatizations.
Ah, the akumatizations!
She became Ladybug, the superhero of Paris within these walls. This place allowed her to grow, to become more confident in herself and her hero abilities.
Nostalgia was kicking in hard today.
So many firsts. First true friends, first failures, and first loves.
"Hey, girl! Lost in thoughts already?" shouted Alya from behind her. She walked up to her and hugged her.
"I'm just so not ready for this. Remember, when we were in collége, and we thought that 17-year-olds were so grown up and practically adults?"
"Don't start this with me. I think this year's gonna be wonderful!" And yes, she knew. Alya's been pretty vocal about wanting to finally end their years at Dupont. She was pretty excited about going to university too.
Marinette? Not so much. And she wouldn't use the word for Nino either. It was evident that he did not sleep enough, as the boy walked to the stairs. He waved to them but didn't come to hug them.
"Uh oh. Did you guys have another fight?" Marinette frowned.
„Ah, you know. Just relationship stuff. Won’t bore you with the details.” She grinned, but it was fake. She knew Alya like the back of her hand. Almost four years of friendship, holidays spent together and countless sleepovers guaranteed that.
The fights between Nino and Alya became more and more frequent in the past few months. Granted, they had been together for four years, but these weren’t the little fights couples often fought. This was outright war now. Marinette had to endure the petty remarks from both of her classmates for weeks on end.
But really? Now? On the first day of class? She was not ready. She wanted to speak to Nino and to Adrien, who, just like her, was caught up in these conflicts. They tried to ease the situation as often as possible, but more often than not they just had to separate the two lovebirds, sharing an eye-roll, but staying supportive regardless.
They hadn’t been in the same class together as a quartet since they had been fourteen. Marinette was lucky, a trait that she knew she had only because of the little god in her schoolbag. She had at least one of her friends in her class every year, as well as other classmates they shared from collége.
This year, it seemed only Nino wouldn't be with them. When they got their schedules, they were all disappointed. Alya even shed a few tears, until Nino comforted her.
"C'mon, we have like, 15 minutes left, let's go in. Wanna sit next to me?" asked Alya as she grabbed her hand and pulled her up the stairs.
The students already gathered in the middle of the school, waiting for the principal's speech.
Marinette's eyes met with Adrien's. It was hard to miss him anyway, with his 191 cms height, he towered over them.
Puberty did him good. He was as tall as his father now, although his frame was not as slender as his. By no means was he muscular or buff, but his model diet and his still regular fencing practice showed. In a good way.
Not that Marinette was looking at him like that. Unquestionably not the case.
It's just that it's hard not to notice some things on the boy that was your sexual awakening.
He was with Nino. He smiled at her when she saw her, but didn't invite her to them.
Marinette looked at Alya, and she nodded.
"Go, say hi to him. It's not like I'll be alone. I'll say hi to the others."
She wanted to tell her that she and Nino could sort things out. That a little argument shouldn't mean the four of them were separated now. But they've been over this so many times already, especially during the summer. She and Adrien knew better than to force them into conversation or meeting when the pain of disagreement was still fresh. (They did it once and then never again. You can imagine the outcome pretty much like the morning after a typical high school party. Lots of headaches and a surprising amount of broken porcelain to clean up.)
"Okay. I'll meet you after, or in the classroom. The first one to get there picks the seat!" She smiled at her best friend and made her way to the boys.
She hugged Nino, then Adrien. You would think that more cheek kisses would be in place, because Europe , but she always found them awkward. She only considered them appropriate with family members. Also, cheek kisses were something... more intimate. She once gave a kiss to Adrien to thank him. It had nothing to do with her crush. She kissed Chat Noir on his cheek plenty of times. Of course, that was not exactly the best thing to think about right now.
"So, did you sleep at all?" Marinette asked Nino, who, up close looked even worse. His eyes were red behind his glasses. Adrien looked at him with commiseration.
"Nah, it's cool dudette. It be like that sometimes. But I would prefer it if we didn't speak about this like always. Besides, we have bigger things to talk about here." He motioned towards Adrien who in exchange turned slightly red. "And I don't mean the size of this lad, because will you ever stop growing? Like, I'll have to start to look up basketball jokes soon."
They laughed, Adrien even patted Nino on the head. It was a constant joke between them, how Adrien reached model heights, and the fact that Nino was still not done with puberty entirely.
And while they all knew that he used humor to hide his pain, they went along with it. If it helped Nino, they were happy to assist.
"Well, tell me what happened? Did your dad finally let you have a birthday party or something?" Marinette asked. It was a joke. Adrien's dad, however surprising, didn't change. Or, you could say that he let him out just a little bit more during the summer. See, Adrien picked up some tricks in school, and he could dispute like a lawyer at this point. He convinced his father to let him stop Chinese lessons after he excelled at a language proficiency test. He now only performed piano on his father's events when he felt ready. However, all of them doubted that they could celebrate his eighteenth birthday later that month. Alya and Marinette had a plan, but it was not yet set into motion.
"It's nothing big." Did he just actually blush? Adrien wasn't the type to be flustered when people paid attention to him, but now he seemed to be embarrassed under Marinette's gaze. "It's just that I finally decided what my college major is going to be."
"Oh yeah, nothing big. Just your whole future, I get it now." Marinette laughed, and the boys joined in soon. "Are you going to tell me or is this still a secret?"
"International Management at PSL." His words disappointed Marinette. Nino's enthusiasm seemed to dissolve.
"So, anything that is not your father's idea?" Nino asked after a few seconds of tense silence. Adrien watched his shoes with unprecedented interest and said nothing.
Marinette felt sympathy for him. The crushing burden of terminale , the grip of time and deadlines, as well as the responsibility of making life-altering decisions at 17 years of age. It was too much, sometimes even for her, and she was a fucking superhero in her free time.
"C'mon, I thought you were free to choose your major after completing the bachelor of his choice!" Nino poked Adrien's shoe with his to get his attention, but he spoke more softly, to calm him.
"Yeah. But now I get to do the CPES Multidisciplinary Undergraduate degree as my bachelor's. Which is not all that bad. And the curriculum could lead to different credentials, in case I choose something else."
He was right. Adrien Agreste was perfect as he needed to be. It was a given that he would attend the best university in France, one that had prestige all over the world.
The microphone squeaked a little as Monsieur Damoclés stepped in front of it. The student started to quiet down.
"We're not done talking about this, Adrien." Marinette hissed at him before she turned towards the podium.
Oh, how she wished she could be Ladybug right now and leave! She absolutely hated these unnecessary speeches, the school choir only lengthening the torture.
She had not transformed for some time now. She missed the rush and the power somewhat, but she was more than terrified of meeting her partner again.
Not after she broke off whatever they had over the spring and summer.
"No, think about the bac and the university. Oh no. Now I have anxiety." The inner narrator in her head, which sounded a lot like a blend of Alya and Tikki, was kindly asked to shut up by her consciousness, and so she just tried to listen to the meaningless melodies the choir produced.
That is how her days went for the past few weeks, this day no exception either. She tried to listen to the teachers, who disclosed the curriculum. She tried to understand what Alya's and Nino's fight was about. She tried to watch Adrien's hair in front of her without thinking about Chat's blonde mop of tangled bananas he referred to as his hair.
But to no use.
She had to figure it out and fast. She needed to focus this year, no more undone homework, no laziness.
This year will be perfect because this is her last year in high school, and she will be damned to let is pass by her just because she felt awkward around her superhero partner and side-best friend.