He was sure. Well, almost 70% at least. Adrien Agreste had figured out the secret identity of his Ladybug. Not that he had purposefully set out to do so, but the signs had been popping up more and more, and they were getting a bit difficult to ignore now. It all began when he began noticing the shy girl who sat behind him at class. It was then, and only then that he began seeing it. At first,he felt that it was just his brain trying to find and answer tothe mystery that was Ladybug. But then... he began remembering more things, like the time Nathanial was possessed by the akuma and for some reason Ladybug couldn't help until Marinette was completely out of the picture. Sure, it didn't occur to him then, but now it was all piecing together. She was also never there when an Akuma showed up and adding that to several other things, seemed to just suggest that maybe, just maybe, his shy classmate was a strong superhero who saved Paris (and himself too), time after time.
And as it seemed to happen so many times lately, his inner mind musings had distracted him from the real world; where they were walking to the gym with the whole class. Just how long had Nino been talking, and did he notice that he was lost in his mind? "…And that is why I will go and join the circus as a pink elephant"
Ah. So he had.
"Sorry, sorry" he told Nino, giving his friend an apologetic smile, "I was just… distracted".
"You've been really distracted lately" Nino said, brown eyes playfully flashing to where Alya and Marinette were walking in their group, animatedly chatting between themselves.
Adrien sighed, but said nothing, they were already at the track, and their teacher had begun talking. "Alright children, gather around" said the teacher, holding a clipboard in her hand as she waited for the students to pay attention. The track had what appeared to be a small obstacle course built inside of it, with several barriers that they had to jump over, all off different heights. It didn't seem to be that difficult to him, but he had been trained in several different disciplines that would help him power through, even if he didn't have the extra help that being Chat Noir gave him.
"Alright, we'll divide the race between boys and girls" the teacher said, ignoring the groans coming from the students "I'll sweeten the deal. The first three places on each race, will get a pass from the class next week. Yes, you'll get this period free next week" That caught the students'attention, and the teacher waited for a second before continuing "Alright then, I'll flip a coin to settle if boys or girls will start first. Heads girls, tails, boys" she said, before tossing the coin up.
Every pair of eyes looked at the spinning coin as the first group was decided. The teacher looked at the coin "heads. Alright ladies, line up on the start line. You have to make sure you don't trip the barriers, if you win the race throwing them all on the ground, you are not eligible" More groans could be heard but the teacher ignored them, to look at the group of boys. "You can wait by the bleachers" she said, before turning her attention to the girls who were chatting among themselves.
Adrien and Nino went and sat down on the bleachers, both of them looking at the assorted group of girls as they got in positions. Most of them looked concerned, which was understandable, given the difficulty of the class. The model chanced a look at Marinette, who was standing next to Alya, who was loudly complaining about the unfairness of it all. But Adrien noticed one thing; the look on Marinette's face was carefully blank, though the corner of her lips turned into a small smile, blue eyes twinkling in excitement. 'she likes this' he thought, wondering how his supposedly clumsy classmate would fare on this.
A sing song "Staaaaring" in a mock stage whisper by Nino, followed by a laugh, brought him out of his reverie.
"What?" Adrien said, feeling his cheeks heat up with the telling signs of a blush tinged his face. "I was just… uh" the blond rubbed the back of his neck "looking at the circuit…" he trailed off, knowing fully well, he did not fool his friend in the slightest.
"Uh huh" Nino said, "Just saying dude, ask her out or something. You're being weird." he added before turning towards the girls who were ready in position, waiting for the teacher to finish giving out the instructions. "Good luck!" he called out to them, causing both Marinette and Alya to turn towards him. The redhead gave him a cheeky grin and a flexed in jest, while Marinette shyly waved in their direction. A still flustered Adrien replied in kind, unable to respond to Nino now that he had called to the girls. Thankfully, the teacher spoke again, saving him from having to give Nino a lengthy explanation on how it was not like that.
"Alright, ladies. Once your marks…. set…. go!" she said, marking the beginning with a loud blow of her whistle.
The girls took off as fast as they all could, though the first obstacle began showing that not everyone was made for this particular race. Mylene, was obviously struggling, toppling several of the barriers, but carrying on with as much speed as she could. Alix was doing much better, but that was a given, considering that the girl was athletically inclined, though she still didn't manage to get a clean jump over every barrier. Chloe, however, was loudly complaining as she toppled the barriers, with Sabrina right behind, trying to right them up before the teacher noticed. She did not succeed.
"Come on Alya!" The cheery voice of Marinette brought his attention back to the front of the race, where Marinette was surprisingly among the leaders of the group. "You can do it!" she exclaimed as she jumped almost effortlessly over a barrier, a giddy look on her face.
"Alix is a shoe in for this" Nino said, following the two leads "I didn't think Marinette would be so…fast"
"They seem to be doing well enough though" Adrien said, watching the girls as they kept going. See, the display before him was nothing out of the ordinary. No one was flying through the circuit, and he had to admit, it actually disappointed him a little bit. If Marinette was his Ladybug, he expected her to zoom through the obstacles with the same ease and grace as she flew above the roofs of Paris. The blue eyed girl was doing well enough, but it was nothing out of the ordinary, and he hated to admit, that made a small pang of disappointment crush his chest. Maybe he had been wrong all along.
It was then that he saw it. Marinette had tripped over one of the barriers, falling down and getting quickly back up. See, this was nothing out of the ordinary, really, it was a difficult course and mistakes were obviously going to be made. It would have been shocking that any of students managed to get through the race without throwing over any of the barriers. However it was the look on her face that caught his eye.
"Oops" Marinette said, a smile on her face as she quickly got up, gracefully sprinting towards the next barrier, which she jumped effortlessly. Adrien looked back at Marinette's track. Sure, there were some barriers knocked down, however there were far less than the rest of the girls. Also, there was a certain… pattern to it all? It was like she got one wrong every four barriers, as if she couldn't make it, though she clearly didn't have trouble jumping. Even the way she fell, it was oddly calculated so that she stood up without much effort or any damage done (and Adrien had seen Marinette trip. It could certainly be a spectacle). But today, even the way she tripped the barriers was contrived… he was pretty sure she had pulled that last one down with her hand as she jumped over it.
An amused smiled appeared on his face as the realization hit. 'She pulling back' he thought, noticing how she seemed to alternate graceful jumps with contrived ways she could fall. She could have finished the circuit in way less time than the one allotted by the teacher, maybe even with a perfect score, but she'd chosen not to. Also, the look on her face betrayed just how much fun she was having today. And that smile he could recognize. He'd seen it while running on the roofs of Paris on his superhero companion many, many times.
Another piece of the puzzle was falling into place and that filled him with giddy excitement. Maybe he could up his 70% to a 80%? His Ladybug was very protective of her alter ego, it made complete sense for her to not give herself up by showing her prowess here. Besides, t wasn't like he could do anything with this knowledge just yet. Not while he wasn't completely sure. Also, even if he was, he wasn't quite sure how to approach Marinette with this. Sure, she had relaxed considerably since they'd met, but she still kept on fumbling about whenever he talked to her. This was still something that confused him to no end. He saw flashes of his Ladybug every now and then, but rarely around him, and almost never directed at him.
mm. Suddenly a thought popped up in his mind, 'Maybe it's all part of her façade. Maybe she did know that he was Chat Noir, and didn't know what to do with the knowledge just yet…'
Adrien turned his attention back to the race, amused as how he could see Marinette purposefully lagging behind when she got too close to Alix. It was clear she didn't want to win this race, even if she could definitely do so. Adrien smiled, before being elbowed by Nino.
"Doing it again…" his friend said, amused brown eyes glancing between the girls and his best friend "but it's not like that right?" he added, an amused look appearing on his face.
Adrien gaped like a fish out of water, there was no way to explain this to Nino, without betraying several secrets that were not his to give "I was just wondering… how we'll do when it's our turn" he said, in a sad attempt to defend himself, fidgeting as he tried to ignore the look on his friend's face.
Finally the first three crossed the line. Alix, Marinette and Alya, though a red faced Chloe was a extremely close place. Alya seemed rightfully exhausted, though she couldn't help but look smug at the disgruntled look on Chloe's face. Marinette looked excited, beaming at her best friend when she realized that were the first three to cross the finish line.
Adrien was doing the best not to stare and turned towards Nino, "Huh. Marinette didn't even break a sweat" his friend pointed out. It was true, while several of the girls were covered in sweat, their faces flushed red due to the effort to finish , Marinette was excitedly walking towards the teacher, side by side with her best friend.
The blond looked at the girls as he walked over to the track, his mind reeling with the possibilities. He caught Marinette's eye and gave her a thumbs up, thoroughly enjoying how the high of her success gave her the burst of confidence enough to smile back at him before realizing what had just happened and blushing nervously. Yes, just twenty percent more to go.